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

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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/

 

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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: Con Games

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Buttercup, could you help me with this, please?

Really, Wesley! What am I, your mother?

What?

Can’t you get it yourself?

Well, yes, but I’d rather you helped me.

Why do you need me to do things you are perfectly capable of doing yourself?

Huh? Buttercup, don’t be ridiculous.

It’s hardly ridiculous. So far this morning, I’ve gotten your breakfast, made sure you had all your things together for the day, now I’m checking your clothes…

I don’t need you to baby me. Just because I like having someone do things for me, doesn’t mean–

When you first came to the farm, you never told me about your family. The only thing you ever said to me was, “As you wish.” You can’t base an entire romantic relationship on a single phrase.

I was a servant boy! Why would you want to hear about the servant boy’s family? For all you know, my family–

For all I know, your family could be a bunch of sociopaths. Seriously, I know nothing about you, except now you claim to be a pirate and look dashing in black, and–oh yeah–you rescued me from that obnoxious…which I never asked for, by the way. Remember, I rescued you in the swamp.

I remember you betrayed me in the swamp–

Ha.

Ha?

You heard me.

That’s not what it looked like in the movie. Want me to rewind so we can watch it again?

Nope, no time before the costume contest. Besides, the movie is totally male-centric anyway, even though it’s supposedly about me. What’s up with that?

Seriously? It’s not like you do a lot in the film other than pine for me and get kidnapped and–

EXACTLY my point. It’s skewed.

Skewed?

Obviously.

How the hell is it skewed?

I actually had a plan to catch the kidnappers, expose the prince, and you ruined the whole damn thing!

I ruined it by saving you?!

Of course.

I don’t believe this.

Right, completely unbelievable. That I would just sit and wait to be rescued and not act on my own behalf. How complacent and stupid do people think I am anyway?

You’ve read fairy tales before, right?

Yes, but this is a satire.

Still…

That’s it? That’s your comeback. How witty.

I thought you loved me.

Love you? I barely know you. This is the longest conversation we’ve ever had, and we’ve been around each other for years. Though I do admit, you do look pretty hot in black.

Well, it is roasting. In summer, I’m on fire.

Not what I meant…but I’ll take it.

So what do you want now?

Now? Well, I’d like to get to know you a little bit. Maybe if you get over yourself and we have some common interests, we might have a future.

Are you always this acerbic?

I don’t know. I didn’t have enough lines in the movie to find out.

I thought you said you had plans.

Yes, I did, but I never had many speaking lines. Hell, the movie was supposedly named after me. My name isn’t PRINCESS BRIDE; it’s just my role. My name is Buttercup–or was until recently. But I’m going by Antiope now.

Seriously. You changed you name?

No, it was always my middle name. I just never got to say it in the movie. I was actually a sleeper Amazon.

An Amazon? No, you’re not. You’re just capitalizing on the Wonder Woman movie. How many female leads are you playing anyway?

No, really.  I age well.

Fine, Does that mean you are…err…experienced?

Smooth, Wesley. Real smooth.

What do you–?

Shut up, Wesley.

Fine. By the way, did you put Amazon armor on underneath the Princess Bride dress?

Yeah, I thought it would be a cool cross-reveal during the costume contest. The Buttercup dress has Velcro in back, so I can take it off easily. I’ve even got an Amazon sword stashed in the back!

Now that’s hot!

Shut up, Wesley.

I get that we’re getting into our roles for the con, but are we going to keep role-playing all day…and night?

I said, Shut up, Wesley.

I love you too, Buttercup.

 

 

##

***Due to some personal matters, I had to take an extra week to post. I apologize and hope that you enjoyed my little homage to two of my favorite movies.
***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

POEM: Moans

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“Moans”

 
The long low rumble

of never-ending hunger

for flesh

for blood

for life

              stolen too soon

 

The cry from deep within

made without tears

just tears in the flesh

tears flesh from bone

                                          with outstretched arms

 

This voiceless voice

the only thing still mine

without words

without control

over a body no longer my own

                                                          I reach out

 

You hear the approach of a monster

You hear the sound of my hunger

You hear my shuffling lament

You hear my deathless prayer

                                                        raise your arm

                                                        and grant me sweet oblivion

 

***Thank you to my followers for your patience. I know it’s been three weeks instead of my usual two, but I’ve had some technical problems and other things crop up. I’ve also been writing and editing and submitting to different markets. I hope you enjoyed this bit of dark poetry. Keep following the blog, and have a lovely week!

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash Revisited: Puck’s Surprise

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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

 

 

 

Friday Flash Revisited: As You Liked It –or– As You Like It, Part 2

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“Father, the seating arrangement simply must be changed.”

“Why, Rosalind! Whatever do you mean? The couples are all seated next to each other, as befits an Anniversary dinner–”

“But whose Anniversary, pray you? Nay, not just mine and Orlando’s, but others’ as well!”

“Yes, of course, my dear. Don’t you see? I seated Celia and Oliver across from you.”

“But what of Touchstone? And Audrey?”

“They’re to have an excellent feast in the adjoining room, just as lavish, I promise you.”

“In the adjoining room! You did not seem so hard a year ago.”

“Well, it simply isn’t proper to have commoners seated at the table with nobility.”

“What of the Forest Arden! There you were content to sit alongside the beasts of the forest, and indeed, have your daughter married in the same ceremony as a fool and his lady.”

“A wise man does not argue with a god, Rosalind, no matter WHAT his rank.”

“The god, Hymen, is a rather agreeable sort.”

“The god of marriage wished to marry you. I will not quibble with a god about his own business.”

“It seems uncivil, somehow, to separate the celebrations now that we are back.”

“Then we were, as you so kindly observed my dear, in the forest. Manners in town must needs differ from the forest, and indeed, differ widely from Court.”

“What will your friend, Jacques, have to say about that, I wonder?”

“No doubt he will soliloquize awhile, and then wander off to be melancholy.”

“He does love to do that sort of thing; does he not?”

“Yes, my dear, though I fear he may not wander far enough. He’s rather fond of our fool.”

“Of Touchstone? I had forgot, but mayhaps he shake Jacques from his melancholy.”

“Oh no, my dear! For his happiness is more a terror than his melancholy. God save me from his mirth.”

“Now, Father, you are not in earnest. I see the curl of your lip and the sparkle of your wit. But come now. What of Audrey and Touchstone? Shall we seat them near Celia and her Oliver?”

“That depends. Has Oliver the patience for it?”

“Dear father, he is, of course, a patient and kind man. How could he be otherwise, when sired by Sir Roland and brother to my dear Orlando?”

“That same brother, whose life he aimed to end, I recall.”

“A miracle, I grant you. No doubt, my dearest friend, Celia, tamed his rage with her beauty.”

“I should hope so, for her sake. He wooed in haste.”

Give thy thoughts no tongue. You do not suggest–”

“No, my dear. I know your friend to be honest, though I do not trust HIS mind. False face may hide what the false heart doth know.”

“Father!”

“So the seating arrangement stays the same.”

“I have not agreed to such a thing. What of Silvius and his Phoebe?”

“The shepherd! I grant you, allowances are made for a licensed fool. It is the nature of his craft to be allowed liberties, but a shepherd-”

“Married by the god, Hymen, in the same ceremony as your own daughter and her friends.”

“The god is hardly going to come to the anniversary feast, now, is he?”

“—!”

“Oh, my lord Hymen! Pardon this poor mortal. I did not observe your august presence. Of course, I shall seat them together.”

“Lord Hymen, my father and I are grateful for your interest in our humble feast. It doth-”

“Left in a flash, did he not, my dear?”

“That was laid on with a trowel.”

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.

“Too true, dear Father. They treat the world as their stage, and they are the stage managers.”

“So, my dear, I suppose you shall have your way. All the lovers shall be seated at one table, as they were wed in one ceremony.”

“What shall we feast upon? Indeed, for I mean to make merry.”

Cakes and ale, my dear! Venison, and all manner of meat. The sauces shall be rich, and our wit more so.”

“What of your brother, Frederick? Will he not dine with us?”

“He is most welcome, as always, in my house.”

“Did not my Uncle eschew meat when he vowed a monastic life?”

“He need not eat it. I shall, for my own part, eat a pound of flesh, for my salad days are well behind me.”

“But your melancholy friend, Jacques… Will he not object to the venison?”

“Mayhap my head will ache all evening, and YOU may deal with Jacques! All the world’s a stage, indeed!”

“But father, I thought him your dear friend!”

“A friend, my dear, but his philosophy is too much for my mind. Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”

“Then it is a good thing Touchstone and his lady will be seated nearby. His merry wit may counter Jacques’ philosophy.”

“Rosalind, my dear, send for the apothecary. My head doth ache.”

#

 

*In honor of Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s premiere of As You Like It, I can’t help reposting my flash sequel. For fun, I bolded the lines that I stole… er, borrowed from Shakespeare!

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Twisted Tales 2016: Flash Fiction with a Twist!

Twisted Tales 2016 Cover

I know it’s a bit late, but the publication of Raging Aardvark‘s flash anthology is finally here! Please visit FaceBook for the Launch Party if you’d like to congratulate the authors, and I’m including some helpful links below for purchasing the book. I’m very happy to say my flash story, Mirror, appears in this anthology!

https://www.createspace.com/6652118 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206

If you’d like a paperback copy of the book, it’s selling for only $6.25. Twisted Tales is being sold without a profit, in order to promote the art of flash fiction. If you feel generous, please write a review when you are done. Flash Fiction, for those of you not exposed to it before, is simply very short fiction–usually a complete story under a thousand words. Every year there are events for (Inter)national Flash Fiction Day, and this anthology is a celebration of both the event and the writing itself.

If you can not afford to buy the paperback, you can also read the stories online at the publisher’s personal website, linked below. Simply scroll back though the stories, and enjoy!

https://annieonwriting.wordpress.com/category/twisted-tales/

I’m very happy to have been included in this anthology, and I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I have. Now, go read some flash fiction!