First Two Chapters of Pinholes as a FREE audio!

Pinholes book cover

As a New Year’s gift to you all (which has absolutely nothing to do with book promotion), I’m making the first two chapters of my latest book, Pinholes: Traveling Through the Curtain of the Night, available as a free audio! Here is the link for its Internet Archive page below. Enjoy!

FREE AUDIO LINK: https://archive.org/details/pinholes-promo-podcast-2chapters-released-january-2022

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If, after listening to the first two chapters, you can’t wait to find out what happens next, you can buy Pinholes: Traveling Through the Curtain of the Night as a Kindle ebook for only $5.99! And if that still isn’t enough for you, I’ve included obligatory legal information to read below. You’re welcome.

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*The sound effects were provided by Zapsplat.com.

*The music was used via Free Music Archive: Kevin MacLeod’s Aurea Carmina and his Impact intermezzo via Creative Commons License. Both the sound effects and the music were modified for this recording, and their use does not imply endorsement by the creators.

*The book’s cover image was included purely for promotional purposes.

Cover Art: Stars Forming Like Pearls In A Clam https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=151450

Cover Artist: Nona Lohr https://nona-lohr.pixels.com/

POEM: Plague of Dragons

picture of fire-breathing dragon on top of a building
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com
Plague of Dragons

the world opens up as a new monster
looms on the horizon, belching fire,
slaughtering victims without thought
to gender, creed, or age: the smallest
of the small, resistant to her older
brother’s charms, no longer spared
infectious breath.

not content to massacre millions by breath alone,
she melts crematoriums whose iron frames soften,
run from the heat of so many bodies burned
in so few hours, days, weeks of death; chimneys
crack from overuse, appalling mockery that mimics
hospital beds buckling from the influx of live bodies
they strain to save and might despite their failures.
Parks no longer host festivals but burning pyres
that brighten twilight like bonfires left behind
by the wyrms’ warm feasting

or colossal candles lit in earth’s cathedral
for each of those extinguished lives, bright enough
to catch the eyes of the gods in their heavens
or the demons down below.

the beast that plagued last year seems tame
beside his younger sibling, the serpent virulent
exhaling flame who does not deign to spare
the lives of children.

Will she leap across the waters, span
the ocean, leave that far off land
to spread her curse upon
our slowly awakened shores?

Does she await our recovery
only to make her scourge more felt?




#
Thanks for stopping by my blog. If you’d like to read about the crafting of “Plague of Dragons,” check out my Patreon next week for a free technical breakdown of the poem.

I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be reading selections from my book, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, at Barberton Library on Saturday, September 11th at 2pm! I will also be selling and signing copies of the book for those who are interested.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and read often!

*inspired by the Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus.

CURRENT EVENTS: Books Read in 2020

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy New Year! Hopefully, 2021 will be less problematic than 2020. 

In the meantime, I’ll share the books I’ve read in the past year. Due to the recent interesting times, many of them are books I’ve read before. When I want a comfort read, I’ll often reach for old favorites: Cyrano de Bergerac and The Walking Dead graphic novels are among my favorites. Since the list is pretty long (I’ll reach 100 one of these years!), I’m listing them by title. If you would like me to go into detail about any of these books, just leave a comment or contact me on social media. I love discussing books!

If you’d like to read one of these selections yourself, I’ve included links. Many of the reads were ebooks and audiobooks via various platforms, often through local libraries. I’ve always loved digital format, but in the past year it’s been more important than ever. Enjoy the list! Maybe you’ll find something you’ll like too.

BOOKS READ 2020:

1 Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (audiobook via Librivox.org)

So Marvelously Far (poetry collection) by Nick Gardner

3 The Ugly Side of the Lake (poetry collection) by Jason Baldinger and John Dorsey

4 Triple Threat (poetry collection) by John Dorsey

5 The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (ebook via Overdrive)

6 Our House on the Sand by Elaine Schleiffer (chapbook)

7 The Answer Is Not Here by Lisa M. & Sean Thomas Dougherty (chapbook)

8 Jigsaw Con Life 3 via Beautiful Blasphemy (ebook/ mini chapbook)

9 Siron: a Kaiju Thriller by S.T. Hoover

10 Mothmaw by Faryl (Hoover) (ebook)

11 The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley (audiobook via Audible)

12 Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (ebook via manybooks.net)

13 Resident Evil volume 1: The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry (ebook)

14 Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (audiobook via Overdrive)

15 ODD LOTS, SCRAPS & SECOND-HAND, LIKE NEW Poems by Will Wells (trade paperback/poetry)

16 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (ebook via Overdrive)

17 Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Audible audiobook)

18 Paradise Lost by Milton (NOOK ebook)

19 The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (HOOPLA Digital ebook)

20 Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (ebook)

21 ETERNALS by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel via HOOPLA)

22 The Abortion by Richard Brautigan (Audible audiobook)

23 The Walking Dead vol 1: Days Gone Bye by various

24 The Walking Dead vol 2: Miles Behind Us by various

25 The Walking Dead vol 3: Safety Behind Bars by various

26 The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire

27 The Walking Dead vol 5: The Best Defense by various

28 Quintessence by William F. Devault (ebook)

29 Meat and Bone by Sandra Feen (paperback)

30 The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life

31 The Walking Dead, Vol. 7:  The Calm Before

32 The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer

33 The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain

34 The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become

35 A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. Macdonald (ebook read on NOOK app)

36 The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear The Hunters

37 The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life Among Them 

38 The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone

39 The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out

40 The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves

41 The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World

42 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

43 The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After

44 The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War

45 The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War, Part 1

46 The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War, Part 2

47 The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning 

48 The Walking Dead, Vol. 24: Life and Death

49 The Walking Dead, Vol. 25: No Turning Back 

50 The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms

51 Appalachian Frankenstein Vol 2 by John Dorsey (paperback poetry collection)

52 The Poems of Sappho: An Interpretive Rendition into English (ebook via Manybooks.net)

53 The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War

54 F**K: An Irreverent History of the F-Word by Rufus Lodge (Kindle ebook)

55 The Walking Dead, Vol. 28: A Certain Doom

56 The Walking Dead, Vol. 29: Lines We Cross 

57 Ariel by Sylvia Plath (NOOK ebook)

58 A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca (ebook via Overdrive)

59 The Walking Dead, Vol. 30: New World Order

60 The Walking Dead, Vol. 31: The Rotton Core

61 The Walking Dead, Vol. 32: Rest In Peace

62 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (ebook via Overdrive)

63 Wonder Woman volume 4: War (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

64 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 1 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

65 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 2 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

66 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 3 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

67 Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (ebook via Overdrive)

68 The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (ebook via Overdrive)

69 The Short Stories Volume One by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)

70 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)

71 Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage (Audible audiobook) 

72 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / retold in modern prose, with prefaces and notes, by Jessie L. Weston. (NOOK ebook)

73 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (NOOK ebook)

74 The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (audiobook via Audible)

75 Drop Jaw by Rikki Santer (Trade paperback)

76 Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (NOOK ebook)

77 Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Overdrive)

78 Unbound (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)

79 The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (ebook via Libby)

80 Revisionary (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)

81 Orpheus and Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr (poetry collection ebook via Hoopla Digital)

82 Fort Pitt Tunnel Blues by John Dorsey (free ebook)

83 Wonder Woman: The Circle (graphic novel via Hoopla)

84 A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen by Kari Gunter-Seymour (Trade paperback)

85 Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (ebook via Overdrive app)

86 Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (ebook via Overdrive app)

87 i saw god cooking children/ paint their bones by john compton (handcrafted chapbook via Blood Pudding Press with Sandra Feen modeling on the cover art)

88 Trekonomics by Manu Saadia by (audiobook)

89 The Circus of His Bones: Poems by Steve Brightman (Trade paperback)

90 13 Ways of Looking at Lou Reed by Steve Brightman

91 The Divine Comedy by Dante: translated by Clive James (Audible audiobook)

*Currently reading/listening to:

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Lord Byron’s Don Juan (ebook via Manybooks.net)

An Introduction to Haiku with translations and commentary by Harold G. Henderson

If you’d like to hear about my favorites from this list, a free complementary post appears on my Patreon. Until next time, stay safe and well and read often!

Friday Flash: An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

forest-fire

Favorite Things Journal

Wednesday, December 20th:

I suppose, in light of what’s happened and happening, I should try to look on the bright side. I kept a Favorite Things Journal before recent events caused the world to fall into chaos, so in the interest of trying to keep spirits up and sanity intact, I shall keep up the practice of only writing the good things going on in my life.

Today I was given the gift of life. An early Christmas present perhaps? We live in a smallish town about sixty miles outside Cleveland, so luckily we were spared the brunt of the explosion. We have sufficient food, toilet paper, and–Thank goodness our well water tastes awful!–cases of water. The food and water does not require refrigeration. We have plenty of batteries. It would seem we prepared for eventualities, but I’m simply a bit of a hoarder when it comes to things like that. So that came in handy.

Monday, December 25th:

Merry Christmas to us. My son and I still have enough food to last awhile. We are avoiding tap water, since some unpleasantness in the neighborhood has led me to be suspicious of its contents. However, thanks to some forward thinking, unusual for me, I have been collecting snow to melt over the fire. We don’t normally use the fireplace, so in the absence of firewood I have been burning things around the house. Some things work better than others, though I confess burning the bills was the highlight of my week.

I actually haven’t had to burn any furniture yet. It’s amazing how much crap we can rid ourselves of in a pretty good fire. I had some broken chairs, treated wood unsuitable for burning anyway, so I broke them down and used them to board up the windows and the door. I turn on the small battery powered radio once a day to keep informed. Since we live in a less populated area, the looting has not made it to our house yet.

Monday, January 1st:

I should probably write in this journal more, since it’s a new year and all. My son and I are home all day every day, so we have been reading the paperback books and magazines we have, rationing our food supplies, and brainstorming survival strategies. For fun, we imagine breaking into bookstores for new reading material, as well as requisite materials from other places: gas, matches, batteries, food.

Since we no longer have a car, we are not tempted to drive anywhere far, which is probably for the best anyway. The longer we stay home, the safer we probably are.

I’ve found a way to strain the melted snow through cloth and double boil it to rid it of contaminants. I’m sure we’ll be able to go to the doctor, just to be safe, once everything gets back to normal. In the meantime, I will keep writing. When this is all over, this might make me famous, right?

Wednesday, January 3rd:

So far the new year continues to smile on us. One of our neighbors finally noticed the smoke from our chimney (why did it take them so long?) and managed to get into our garage. Luckily, I was able to club him over the head with a shovel. I’m contemplating crossing the street to his house and raiding his cabinets for supplies. He might have some meds that will come in handy, since ours are running low. Hopefully, he will have something to help us recover from whatever is wrong. He doesn’t look good, so maybe he was sick too, but now we can raid his supplies so blessing in disguise, right? Only positive things in this journal. Plus, he was pretty thin, so disposing of the body shouldn’t be a problem.

He broke into our home. Breaking and entering. When things get back to normal, we have an airtight case. It was self defense.

Friday, January 5th:

Positive things. Positive things. The radio still works. The garage is emptying fast so less to clean come springtime. Hair falling out so less hair to clog the drains. No electricity, so don’t have to worry about a short causing a fire.

Saturday, January 6th:

My pen still works. One less mouth to feed. I’d say he’s in a better place, but there’s no such place…just nothing. I’m glad there’s nothing. I want nothing. I have plenty of aspirin left, so hopefully my exit will be painless. It shouldn’t take many anyway, since I’m so weak. I’m glad there’s no afterlife, because telling off any sadistic deity I’d meet would take too much energy anyway.

*Today’s flash was inspired by the fact that I do, in fact, keep a Favorite Things Journal. When things don’t go well, it’s sometimes a struggle to find a positive thing to write, so this story is a natural extension of that. I hope you enjoyed it.

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

POEM: The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge

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“The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge”

 
In a netherworld of eternal nights,

The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge sets

within its murky depths, the stage for yet

another act beneath its neon lights.

 

Nina Simone’s piano they replace

with guitars and mics; her solo ended.

It’s hard to run a lounge that’s attended

by those who nightly drink and also grace

 

that same stage–yet it works. Jimi and Jan

tend bar; there are drinks passed round. Martinis

and shots-they disappear like Houdinis,

as Hendrix holds the mob’s attention span

 

with variations on his famous tricks,

Joplin adjusts her maladjusted bun

of stringy brown hair, not to be outdone

by his performance–she chews swizzle sticks

 

as his feet perform feats unhygienic;

they mix drinks, change place settings, and break through

a new status quo. A bar so strange. Who

thinks it’s sanitary? Cacophonic

 

sounds echo meanwhile from the abandoned

stage. Audio being tested, Janice

eyes the mic just like a Praying Mantis

eyes its prey. Soulful melody unplanned

 

erupts as she leaps across the bar, not

waiting for the test to be done, and she

shakes her hair loose, and runs onstage–a bee

to honey. Jimi knows tonight’s her spot

 

anyway. Tomorrow is his solo

with his guitar. They will do a duo

afterwards, no hard feelings. Their pseudo-

rivalry lost to time, tunes, and tempo.

 

Smoke clouds drift, generated throughout the

room by the exhalations of humans

from every era. Through the haze, fuming,

each cigarette, each pipe, each cigar a

 

glowing red eye in the dimness. No one

seems to mind as long as the speaker works.

Janice dances with twirls and whirls and jerks;

she’s heedless, unworried that it’s been done

 

before. What’s more, when they hold Poetry

Slams, the Shelleys hold hands, recite their planned

rhymed words without one cough; a promised land

found within their eyes. Ingenuity

 

not confined to poems alone, but drinks

as well. Alcohol and opium mixed

–laudanum–preached to each free love amidst

the hungry, thirsting crowd. And Mary winks

 

to her freethinking spouse. It’s rather sweet

that after all their years together, they

still have magic. A marital display

when tending bar, moving to the quick beat

 

of words and sound, orders filled, they’re thrilled to

be around each other. Mistakes have been

put behind. Other times, the darkened den

silences them into wild watching who

 

next mounts the stage. A young man, blonde D.A.

haircut pulled smoothly back from his high cheek-

bones and blazing eyes may begin to speak

on The Method and acting in a play.

 

A full-lipped platinum blonde beauty with lips

the color of rose, may rise singing, her

voice ringing loud and long. A performer

in a billowing white dress onstage, hips

 

swaying softly as she exits to read

Shakespeare by the flickering candlelight

at her table. There, her companion’s white

hair seems to fly from his scalp at full speed,

 

the shimmering lights caught in each stray hair.

Each wrinkle he wears deeply cut within

his paper skin, yet a great youthful grin

begins, while watching her his old eyes flare.

 

As Jan finishes her set, the quiet

descends upon the crowded room. Silence

falls like a heavy curtain. The giant’s

midnight mane, baby blues, and a riot

 

of rhinestones adorning his sparkling

outfit–outshine shining spotlight. The King

has arrived. Rhythm rings, he starts to sing

Hound Dog. He sways his wide hips, hearkening

 

to the voices of his fans. He shakes and

quakes, his own voice quivers as he croons Love

Me Tender. Smiles and tears. He stands above

his audience as a man, proud and grand.

 

So many more mount the stage, work the bar,

so far beyond our home world. The artist

once known as Prince, and Bowie, guitarists

and comedians taken past our star,

 

its yellow glow- dim memory in this

land filled with neon twilight, ignited

by dreams–the only starlight provided

by its denizens. Replicators hiss,

 

create doppelgangers complete in each

detail–except for the spark of new life–

Explain their unexplained removals rife

with Why. Their originals forced to reach

 

a darkened sphere light-years away. No day

everyday, just night, they perform before

an unnoticed audience evermore

of little green men, -women too, who pay

 

to view the highlights of our alien

culture. An extraterrestrial zoo

to educate and entertain them too,

no politics, just delights mammalian.

 

They are cast into a forever lime-

light, each one a cultural icon of

their generation. Their sublime fans love

to mourn their loss on Earth, but they’re in prime

 

up there, these famous homo sapiens.

For all this artificial world’s a stage,

its eternal players forever share

spotlight within this enclosed stadium,

a neverending audience to rage

before, away, and with those stars up there.

 

 

 

*Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed my scifi stretched sonnet!

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

Friday Flash Revisited: Pucked Up

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

Puck looked at the watch and pondered the nature of time.

It was almost as fickle as he was.

What marriage – or a good binding-spell brought on by too much drink and a serious lack of judgement – had bound together, time would tear asunder. At least it would if Puck had anything to do with it. Robin Goodfellow was not a fairy that would remain tied by one woman for long, no matter how fun bondage might be.

Belching loudly, he sat up, snapped his fingers and produced two ice-cold cans of his favorite fizzy intoxicant. Crumpling and tossing the empties, he re-loaded his beercap. He stood, scratched his hairy belly, and brooded over his newly acquired wife.

Buttercup lay frozen on the flowery bed, a beatific smile softening features that would otherwise have appeared harsh in the early morning light. No, who was he kidding? She looked angelic, no matter how much spandex she was wearing. Still, if he was tied to her by the terms of her nefarious binding-spell until “the end of time,” the obvious solution was to stop time, right?

Puck contemplated the charmed silver band that graced his finger. Buttercup was many things, but a fool was not one of them. In fact, he might even go so far as to say she was as shrewd and knavish as himself–a perfect match. So his solution seemed almost too easy. Was it another trap?

However, Robin Goodfellow was not known for his caution. Snagging the watch from the fairy king had been risky, but he knew his boss would be too busy “making up” with Titania to notice its absence. He removed the magically-binding wedding ring, then turned to face his lovely bride. He’d make the bitch pay, but there was no reason her punishment couldn’t be fun for both of them. He pressed a button on the watch’s side.

Time once more in motion, his blushing bride opened her eyes; her smile slowly widened as she took in his appearance.

“Hello, darling,” she said. “Want to play?”

##

*I hope you enjoyed this! If you are a fellow fan of the Bard, I suggest you check out the Ohio Shakespeare Festival page and find out their schedule for the rest of this year! They are incredibly talented.

I will be concentrating on some longer-term projects in the next month, so I thought I would repost another of my favorite Shakespeare sequels. The text has been edited slightly since its original appearance on my blog several years ago.

***Today’s post is an expansion of a flash I wrote at the six minute story site as a continuation of an earlier flash, Puck’s Surprise. The kernel of today’s post is still there.

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash Revisited: Puck’s Surprise

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

Fairies were neither prudish nor temperate by nature, but when Puck’s pranks graduated from tipping old ladies to strategically placing whoopee cushions, he crossed a line. Something needed to be done.

“But what?” asked Oberon. Puck had served as his wingman for years, so he wished to handle the situation delicately. Several compromising photos were at stake.

Titania suggested an intervention, though Oberon thought the idea unproductive.

“I agree,” called a voice. “He’ll think it’s a joke, take it as a challenge, and be worse than ever.”

“Who speaks?” called Titania.

A delicate fairy woman appeared out of the crowd and knelt before the thrones. “Buttercup, my liege.”

“Well, do you have any better ideas?” said Oberon.

She grinned.

#

Later that afternoon, Oberon searched the woods.

“Puck! Robin Goodfellow!” called Oberon. He’d thrown dignity to the wind when he told Titania that he’d fetch Puck for the party, but he didn’t dare disappoint her again. He’d never live it down.

A nearby bush moaned softly, and Oberon pushed aside some leaves. “Puck? What are you doing here? I’ve been calling for nearly ten minutes!”

The wayward fairy rubbed his temple and moaned again. “Sorry, my liege. If I had been conscious, I would never have dared keep you waiting. Do you have some aspirin?”

Oberon produced two small pink tablets. “I’m always prepared.”

Puck sat up, scratched his hairy belly, and fished around on the ground for his beer cap. Fitting it to his scalp, he popped the pills and sipped from one of the cap’s straws. “What do you need, sire? Having trouble with the Queen again?” He rose unsteadily. “You know, I could get Cobweb and Mustardseed for you. They make a mean–”

“Really, Robin, you’ve been around mortals too much! That’s depraved, even for you, and–”

“–chocolate cake.”

“What?”

“Oh…oh! You thought I meant–”

“No, of course I didn’t–”

“Of course not. Not after last time, right?” Puck nudged the King and winked with one blackened eye.

After an uncomfortable silence, the King asked, “What happened to you?”

Rubbing his forehead, Puck said, “I really don’t remember, sire. There was this party–”

“Of course,” said Oberon.

“And all I… ah, I remember. Fraternities have no sense of humor no matter what they say.”

“What did you do?” asked Oberon. “Make an ass out of yourself again?”

Puck grinned. “No, but I think I made one out of them!”

Oberon sighed. “Not the donkey head again. What is it with you and donkeys? That’s the oldest joke in the book.”

“Actually, pardon my liege, but you’re thinking of the chicken that crossed the road.”

After another pause, Oberon continued. “Anyway, you need to come to your birthday party.”

Puck perked up. “Party?”

“Oh, I know- you don’t get enough parties, do you? But yes, and Titania won’t let me cut the cake until you blow out the candles and–”

“Cake?” The color returned to his face. “Did Cobweb and Mustardseed make it?”

“I don’t know. It’s a cake: chocolate with–”

Puck took off towards the court. Thunder boomed. Puck returned, bowing low. “After you, sire.”

“That’s better,” said Oberon. “Now, let’s get some cake.”

#

The crowd formed a wide circle around the large multilayered cake. Titania sat on her throne, resting her chin in her hand.

“Can I come out yet?” a muffled voice called.

“No, not yet. You know your cue!” snapped Titania.

“Yes, your Highness,” said the cake.

Just then Oberon entered the hall, followed closely by Puck. Everyone quieted and knelt before the King. The Queen straightened up and offered her hand to Oberon, who kissed it before sitting beside her. With a small nod from the royal couple, the Fairy Court rose again.

Puck ran to the cake.

Everyone sang a tune roughly kin to ‘Happy Birthday’, and on the final line a scantily dressed fairy woman popped out of the cake. “Surprise!” she said. Puck pulled her out and kissed her passionately.

“This is going to be the best birthday ever,” he said.

She guided a straw to his lips, so he could swig more beer.

#

The next morning, Puck awoke in the arms of the lovely Buttercup. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, licked some frosting from her hair, and patted her affectionately on the butt. He grabbed his boxers from a nearby twig and started to dress. “Thanks for a good time, but I gotta split.”

Buttercup rolled over and regarded him through heavy lidded eyes. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Puck tried vainly to put on a boot before realizing it wasn’t his. “Oops. Sorry.”

Buttercup sat up. “No, but you’re going to be.”

“Hey, relax, babe. It was an honest mistake.”

“That’s not what I meant,” said Buttercup.

“Okay, whatever. Have you seen my shoe?”

“Look at your finger.”

Puck looked carefully at his finger. “What? My shoe…?”

“No,” breathed Buttercup. “Look.”

Puck looked. A small silver band glinted in the morning sun. “What the…”

“We’re married.”

That brought him up short. “Married? How much did I drink last night?”

Buttercup smirked. “Quite a bit, but that’s not the best part.”

Worried, Puck asked, “What’s the best part?”

“The binding spell I put on your ring. You’re bound to me for life. I know your tendency to stray, but from now on, wanderer…,” she smiled again, “your ass is mine.”

Puck mulled this over. He liked bad girls; maybe this would be fun.

“What do you think about open marriages?” he asked.

A wicked grin crossed her face. “I said you’d be obedient,” she cooed. “Get rid of your whoopee cushions this instant!”

“Yes, Mistress.”

##

*I hope you enjoyed this! I will be concentrating on some longer-term projects in the next month, so I thought I would repost one of my favorite Shakespeare sequels. The text has been edited slightly since its original appearance on my blog several years ago. In two weeks, I will post a followup to Puck and Buttercup’s romance.

**I realize I’m not posting on a Friday, but I felt I should post sooner since my INKubator announcement is no longer relevant.

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Short Story: Cliffhanger

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

*warning: some profanity (three F-bombs)

cliff-o54b

George Griffith, affable and lovable nice guy, stood at the cliff’s edge, hands raised  high in the air. He was accompanied by his loving wife of twenty years, their next door neighbor, Bob, and the neighbor’s annoying dog and cat. They mirrored George’s stance to the best of their ability. Bob, however, was only able to comply with one upraised arm–as the other cradled a goldfish bowl. Inside the bowl, however, his betta fish (who was also named Bob) hovered in the tank’s cloudy waters, his long floating fins in an attitude that suggested that he held his fins up in lieu of hands. The dog and cat merely lifted their heads.

“Now, jump.”  Mary Sue motioned with the revolver’s long nose toward the cliff’s edge.

George tipped slightly to view the depth of the proposed descent, then seemed to think better of it and edged slightly away. His companions did the same, mirroring his movements half a beat behind his own. The collars of the cat and the tiny dark pug made little tinkling sounds when they moved. Wet Bob leaned further away in his small glass prison. You may think it’s impossible for a fish to lean, but I assure you, with determination anything is possible.

“Uhhhh…no,” said George, shaking his head from side to side.

His companions shook their heads from side to side. The little bells on the collars tinkled. Wet Bob swished in his tank.

It was annoying.

“Go on now,” Mary Sue said, motioning the characters toward their imminent doom. “Jump.”

George shook his head again, and his companions followed suit. They looked to George as their spokesperson. “What’s my motivation?” he asked.

Mary Sue rolled her eyes, slowly inhaled, and silently counted to five before answering. “Motivation? Are you serious?” She looked at the gun, then back at George.

George gave a quick, nervous laugh before answering. “Well…yeah. I mean, if we are going to jump off a cliff…en masse, I assume…?”

Mary Sue nodded, and he continued, “If we are going to jump en masse off this very steep and scary cliff to certain death, wouldn’t we need some pretty powerful motivation?”

“I’m holding a fucking gun on you,” Mary Sue answered through gritted teeth. “That’s your fucking motivation, asshole.”

“But is it? Is it really?” George’s voice had taken on the condescending tone of someone reasoning with an idiot, rather than a man bargaining for his own life and the lives of others. “Because from where I’m standing, I don’t see how diving off a cliff is better than being shot.” Just at that moment, an updraft from the unseen depths blew his hat dramatically from his head, whistling mournfully as if to emphasize the point. The other characters on the ledge followed the Fedora’s progress with their eyes, heads turning as the wind whipped the accessory over the edge, until it was lost from sight. “See what I mean?” said George.

Mary Sue sighed and sat down on a conveniently placed boulder, careful to keep the revolver’s barrel aimed at her intended victims. “Crap, crap, crap,”  she  muttered, then added an extra crap just to emphasize her point. “I was afraid this was going to happen.”

“What?” asked George. Taking a tentative step toward her, his movements were mirrored half a beat later by his companions. When Mary Sue made no additional threats, they took a few more steps. “What was going to happen?”

“That the characters take control of the story,” she moaned. “I mean, sometimes that makes my job really easy, you know? But others, like now, I have to worry about proper motivation, backstory, did I give enough foreshadowing. I mean, I should be able to just throw you all off a cliff if I want to, right?” She turned pleading eyes on her wayward creations.

“Well, maybe you just haven’t come up with the right scenario yet?” said George, affable and lovable nice guy. He wanted to help her, even though she wanted to off him and everyone he cared about. That need to please at any cost was hardwired into him; it was one of the things that really didn’t work about his character. She hated that.

“What better motivation could there be but a gun aimed at you and your loved ones?” Mary Sue was intrigued by his line of thought, despite herself. Well, because of herself, seeing how all her characters were just different manifestations of her own thoughts, but let’s not quibble.

“Maybe…hmmm,” George mumbled to himself, then brightened. “Maybe my wife was cheating on me with Bob!” He grinned. His wife looked horrified, but he continued. “Yeah, and I’m so distraught that I force them all off the cliff, then jump myself!” By this time, he had made his hatless way to her side and gave her a friendly pat on the back.

Mary Sue put her head in her hands. “No, same problem, right? You would just shoot them. How is a cliff dive better than being shot?”

“Because I don’t need to worry about disposing of the bodies?” ventured George.

“He could threaten to shoot me in the groin!” volunteered Bob the neighbor (not Bob the fish). “That would be pretty horrific!” He looked pleased.

“Shut up, Bob. You’re just a side character,” answered Mary Sue. “I didn’t even intend for you to have any lines.”

Bob deflated, but George carried on. “No, he has a point. Some ways of dying are better than others, right? Painful versus painless, heroic versus cowardly, that sort of thing?”

Bob nodded his head in agreement, but Mary Sue glared at him before turning on George again. “Yes, but that is the point. I’ve just always wanted to throw my characters off a cliff when I’m sick of them, alright? Call it a writer’s sadistic fantasy. I make no apologies for that.”

“You’re sick of us?” said George. Being threatened with different types of death had been off-putting, but that really hurt. “Why?”

Why?!” countered Mary Sue, incredulity dripping from her lips like venom. “Because you are annoying, alright? Your character is flawed, and you say things like en masse. What real person says such a douchey thing? The characters I surrounded you with in the story are just window dressing, not fully developed people–which is why I have them mostly just react to you, George. Maybe I’m just a lazy writer, but it’s easier to have them follow the main character around rather than come up with full personalities for each and every one. It’s a short story, so is it even worth the trouble? And the animals! Holy frakking hell, what was I thinking with the animals? Half the time I forget they are there, so why’d I include them in the first place?”

“Maybe humor? You were being quirky,” said George, unrealistically helpful, as well as affable and lovable as ever. Half a beat later, his supporting staff nodded agreement–including his wife, the dog, the cat, and the Bobs.

“They don’t advance the story,” she replied.

“What’s the story about? ” asked George.

“Me throwing you off a cliff.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m sick of writing about you.”

“Well…damn,” said George. He swished his foot in the red dirt at the cliff’s edge. The other characters did the same, except Wet Bob–who swished in his tank. “What about the gun?” He pointed to the gun pointed at himself. “That’s interesting, right? Imminent danger, all that…you could describe what it looks like, the long silver barrel coated in dust, the way Chekhov is engraved in elegant script along the side, the way you pulled it dramatically from the mantel to point it at us-”

“What mantel? There’s just rocks here and a huge fucking drop.”

“You’re the writer, right? Couldn’t you just say there’s a mantel?”

“It’s like I’m talking to myself.”

“You are, remember? We are all just different manifestations of your own-”

“Shut up.”

“-thoughts, but let’s not quibble.”

“You are missing the point.” She glared. She sighed. She hung her head in frustration. She found many ways to express herself without actually moving from the spot, adding additional dialogue, or forwarding the plot in any significant way.

“Can’t you just stop writing about us?” asked George, and his supporting cast…know what? You get the idea.

“No, it doesn’t work like that,” she answered. “The story needs to be resolved in a believable and consistent way.”

“But how is throwing us off a cliff believable?”

“You see my problem.”

“Well, for one thing you aren’t throwing us off a cliff… ”

“Because you won’t listen.”

“No, not to criticize, but I mean, you are trying to make us jump–which isn’t the same as throwing us off.”

Mary Sue brightened. “You know, you’re right. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”

“Technically you did,” said Bob the neighbor (not Bob the fish), “seeing how we are just different incarnations of your own thoughts-”

“Shut up, Bob,” said Mary Sue, and she shot him. “I don’t want to lose my train of thought, and I told you, you weren’t supposed to have lines.”

“-but…but…,” sputtered Bob as the life drained from his body, “but…let’s not…quibble.”

George looked at her in astonishment. So did his surviving supporting cast. Bob the fish flopped helplessly on the ground, where Bob the neighbor had dropped the now empty tank when he was shot. Both Bob’s burbled. It wasn’t pretty.

“So…,” mused Mary Sue, nudging both Bobs over the the cliff with one steel toed boot, “if I just shoot you first, I can throw you over the cliff myself. Then I don’t need to worry about your motivation.”

“Nudge, not throw,” corrected George.

She shot him. “And thanks for helping me establish my motivation.”  In quick succession she dispatched his supporting cast: the unnamed wife who resembled her own nosy neighbor, the dog that resembled the stray that tried to bite her every time she went out her own front door, and the cat that resembled the one that kept her up till three every morning with deafening feline orgies.

She set the gun back on the mantel that was mysteriously present in this deserted location. Then she bent down and shoved each one of her deceased creations off the cliff, whistling a joyful tune all the while.

Close enough, she thought.

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com
**Thank you for visiting my blog. I will post my next story in three to four weeks, due to scheduling issues. I hope you enjoyed my little piece of meta, and have a lovely weekend!

POEM: Beware the Hipster

 

“Beware the Hipster”  

(inspired by Jabberwocky)

.

‘Tis sunny on the day I see

the Hipster–bowler hat on head,

round Lennon glasses jauntily

perched on his nose. I nearly fled.

.

“Beware the Hipster!” I’d been warned,

“-the lips that sneer, the fierce eyes that

view everything, yet also scorn

whatever thing they’re looking at.”

.

He takes his cellphone well in hand,

long time the wifi here he’s sought,

to marvel at this small town’s quaint-

ness, if and when it can be bought.

.

The coffee shop is where he “hangs”

–its rooms his natural habitat;

He lounges in his Vera Wangs,

entitlement of alleycat.

.

He orders his speciality cup

and sits within a booth to tweet

over soy latte–bottoms up!

He contemplates his balance sheet.

.

The poetry slam will soon begin,

knowing this he preps his words,

adjusts his vest, neat as a pin,

and readies himself for the herds

.

of onlookers that will attend

to listen to his performance

art, anti-prose, and apprehend.

He preys upon his audience;

.

he paints a picture odious,

each finely chose profanity

he picks to shock his audience

as payment for his vanity.

.

One, two! One, two! His sharpened tongue

leaves all aghast! Wholesome, family

places won’t stand that kind of dung.

He won’t be back.

.

“Oh, have they cast the Hipster out?

Come have some Earl Grey tea on me!

Or coffee! There will be no drought

of drinks on the house, happily!”

.

‘Tis sunny on the day I see

the Hipster–bowler hat on head,

round Lennon glasses jauntily

perched on his nose. I nearly fled.

 

 

Friday Flash: Trapped

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

Trapped

From my pilot’s seat, I watch the contents of the aquarium tank strapped to the plane’s inner wall. My cargo’s withstood shipment far better than I anticipated. Mermen bodies are less valuable dead than alive, so I’m glad I took extra precautions to ensure this package is cared for properly. Thank the gods I took him to the vet and had him sedated before shipment. Though the tank is shatter-resistant, I wouldn’t want to test it, because if he becomes violent, he might damage himself.

Usually, men alone track mermen, but their rarity coupled with their ferocity makes capturing them almost impossible. No one expects a woman to bag such a vicious creature. But it pays to know the science. By synthesizing mermaid pheromones, I’m able to use them to my advantage. I’m actually surprised how easy it was to lure the thing into a cage.

Still, he is a handsome beast. The way his emerald hair floats in the tank’s water, the way his sea-green eyes sparkle–

He’s watching me.

He’s watching me, capturing me in the depths of those startling eyes.

I feel myself change course, away from land and back towards the sea. My hands are moving; I feel the plane’s weight shift now that the nose is aimed for those beautiful, calm waters.

The merman lifts himself from his tank. I smell salt air and realize just how wrong I’ve been about everything.

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

** I used a random word generator to get the three words I used as prompts: trap, weather, runway.