Slight fiction for a Thursday

Emotion is an interesting topic. Some people won’t – can’t cry. Some people blubber at reruns of “Homeward Bound.” What if you were programmed? A look at a though in a Fiction in 58:

Claws

She was stripped down, uncovered, devoid – a living, breathing popsicle; she walked with brazen, indifferent nakedness.
Cool kitten, this one. Go for the id, stroke it, produced no purr.
Nickname: Iron Box.
Only in the dark did the tears run. Blots of emotion dried on Egyptian cotton.
Warrior princess conceived with vicious precision. Calculated.
Her heart slowly withering.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are opportunity, quarrel and service.

The Oldest Profession 2.0
Parents, man – it’s not like I wanted to be living in the basement of their split ranch, sleeping on a twin bed on sheets with cowboys on them.
I had plans, man. Dreams. Opportunity was knocking.
(They didn’t see it, especially when my schedule included several hours of Warcraft, followed by a power-nap or two.)
It wasn’t an intervention. Not exactly.
“Get a job,” they said in tandem, arms folded in angry, mock solidarity on the loveseat with the plastic slipcover.
So I got a job. A purveyor of novelties.
I sold shit, door-to-door, out of a case with a face. And fur.
I started in my neighborhood first. But you know how tough that is, in this economy? Nobody’s home during the day. And nobody wants to be bothered with a sales pitch at night, not over their delivered eggrolls and broccoli beef and American Idol.
I moved my operation to the ‘burbs. The big neocolonials, the neoeclectics, the Mcmansions with all those the lonely, stay-at-home Mcwives. Paydirt.
Mrs. Robinski was my first customer. And remains one of my best. What a woman, well-connected and willing to share her new toy. Kinky, though. Pilates flexible.
By word of mouth, I came to service the whole tri-state area.
And realized I was going to die – with a smile on my face, yeah – without some help.
And that’s how I ended up setting up franchises. Strictly a cash operation. Cash cow, man.
You know how many young adults are living in basements, their old rooms that their parents tried to turn into a sewing room or a workout room?
We even have a ladies division, strictly office temps, and that looks to be a growth market.
I still service my regulars, but with all those franchise fees coming in, I’m pretty particular on new referrals. Mostly, I think up new concepts in the trade – I’m toying with a same-sex division – and find legitimate investments for all that cash.
I bought a five bedroom in a gated community, moved my parents in and hooked myself up in the guesthouse by the pool.
Dad asked about the money, worried that it was drugs, so I told him. Squealed like a pig. And pressed into his palm the keys to a new Cadillac XLR-V.
He didn’t quarrel.

The NaisaiKu Challenge

It’s Tuesday, the day when people start posting for the NaiSaiKu Challenge. It’s a poem with a strict syllable count. The title is the third line, in all caps. An interesting exercise. Try creating one yourself.

Thunderclouds posture,
rain taints the air with sweetness,
lightening cackles,
WATCHING SPRING SHOWERS
lightening cackles,
rain taints the air with sweetness,
thunderclouds posture

Simplicity

For 21 days, the diet was simplicity itself.
No meat. No dairy. No alcohol. No processed sugar. No caffeine. No bread, save for whole wheat tortillas.
Some called it a fast, but there was plenty to go around.
All vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and legumes and olive oil. In healthy portions.
And lots of water.
It was a little more expensive, some more preparation, thought. But a funny thing happened in the process.
The aches went away, the headaches, the insomnia. Weight melted off.
It was easy, simple really.
No meals eaten over the sink. A lot of roast vegetables and brown rice. Dessert, always. A piece of fruit, or organic, pure fruit juice frozen into slushies.
After it was all done, there was 12 pounds less of me. There was happiness, less stress.
And then I started adding things back, caffeine, meat, alcohol.
The aches came back, the insomnia.
Lessons learned.
Simple.

Sunday Scribblings: Follow

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “Follow.”
“I find this whole concept of following very intriguing. Sunday Scribblings, for example, can be followed in Blogger, in Bloglines and Google Reader to name just a few. Who do you follow? How do you decide what to follow? Do you follow anything else? People, pets, television shows, careers, really slow drivers, toddlers, family lines, rules, regulations, paths, routes, celebrities, all need to be followed in one way or another. Tell us your take on ‘follow.’ ”

Let’s look at this in a Fiction in 58.

Swine Flu
I wasn’t born to follow.
Nor do I want to lead.
The dichotomy of being, I guess.
Left to my own devices, I’m most happy.
Put me in social situations, I twitch.
The brilliance of the pathogen will be my greatest gift to humanity – well, to me anyway.
See, I’m immune.
You’re not.
Finally, some quiet already.

Yes, it's Sunday. I will be Scribbling

There's a Scribble in me somewhere. Just waiting to come out. The prompt at Sunday Scribblings is "Follow."

I'm the Sunday reporter, so I will follow my assignments with a Scribble.
Did you know that April 26 was the ending of Turn Off Your Television Week?
It's one of my assignments (the other being a car show, meh).
So, while I'm out asking the questions, please enjoy Ned's Atomic Dustbin and "Kill Your Television:"

A little bit of fiction

I wrote this for publication somewhere else, but it may or may not have been turned down. Not sure.
See what you think:

Moniker
The punch in the mouth was expected really, standing there in front of the woman who takes your picture at the DMV; unexpected was the tears, the profuse apology once she calmed down.
Expected, too, are the angry stares at doctor’s offices, the Jiffy Lube, restaurants that call out your name when your seats are ready.
Not that I blame anybody, not at all - unfortunate happenstance, really.
My parents, devout Catholic missionaries, probably thought they were doing the just thing, pious and sincere; I wouldn’t know, as they were killed and eaten by a fierce tribe of Asmats in New Guinea before I got old enough to question their motives.
Jesus H. Christ.
Yep, that’s my given, Christian name.

Slinging a Fiction in 58 at you

Day feels right for a Fiction in 58:

Suspension
She’d be right back.
That was a year ago; in the interim, he left everything where she left it, a museum of unnatural history.
He struggled with guilt, while nothing in her demeanor suggested the restlessness to flee.
On Thursday, he entered the flat and there she was.
“It was a longer walk than I thought,” she said.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are deceit, indulge and oath.

The Meadow

I am awakened by a sharp, cautious whine from my dog, Shadow. Through a haze of sleep-coated eyes, I see what’s got him riled.
In the clearing past the apple orchard rages a bonfire. Half-naked men gyrate to the rhythm of drums, their faces obscured by shadow and smoke.
My heart quickens; I plead for Shadow to be quiet and then I’m out the window where I shimmy down the drainpipe to get a better look.
Wet grass cools the soles of my feet as I creep nearer the fire. It rages with a fierce intensity, fueled by logs from winter’s slash pile.
From the fire, and the full moon, which burns bright in the sky, I realize they’re Aztecs, performing a reenactment of myth. On an altar of stone lies a boy, about my age.
It’s a blood sacrifice.
The boy’s black hair shines in the firelight; the high priest runs his hands down the boy’s chest, lifts a bronze dagger in a high arc into the night sky. The men stop moving, but continue to chant in low, guttural tones.
I want to speak out, but the fear has me transfixed.
The high priest screams, plunges the knife into the boy’s chest; the men whoop, chant.
That horrid moment releases me from a paralyzing terror and I make a run for the house.
Where my mother sits on the porch, sipping a cup of tea.
I collapse at her feet, try and explain what I’ve witnessed through tears and gurgling snot.
“Shhhhh, it’s OK,” she says, wiping my wet cheeks with the corner of her apron. “Ever since your father died, I’ve had to indulge them. They pay handsomely, and they’ve very well taken care of last year’s storm debris. Except of the blood, I’d say it’s a win-win for us.”
I’m horrified at the deceit.
And pledge an oath: No more human sacrifice on the homestead.

The American Sammie

For Sunday Scribblings, Sweet Talking Guy wrote an American Sandwich – three American Sentences written together to tell a story.
An American Sentence is a haiku-length poem created by Allen Ginsburg. He suggested they be limited to 17 syllables, like haiku in Japanese and like the Heart Sutra in Buddhism.
So, an American Sandwich.

He drops to his knees in the soft green grass of spring, eager and willing. Sunset coats everything with a lush orange; his heart sings as tears tumble.
Devotion, motivation was questioned; acceptance unlocked his soul.

For the love of the craft

Fresh off a week’s unpaid “vacation” and thoughts and ideas viewed through goggles tinted with the desire to stay home and take care of my dad, I watched the minutes tick away on the digital clock.
Another sleepless night, after a week of deep slumber.
At 4 a.m., enough was enough. And I talked myself into parting ways with her.
Journalism.
Even got up and applied for two job openings.
Funny how a good week of words can sway the whole argument of leaving the business, give up the craft.
The highlight came Thursday, when I went to a tiny community to listen to the second day of public testimony for and against building an oil refinery in SoDak (the first new refinery built from the ground up in the U.S. since 1976). We’d send another reporter for opening testimony; I was there to wrap things up, write something short (12 to 15 column inches, or 240-280 words) for way deep inside the paper.
But as I sat in a high school gymnasium, I watched how this issue was tearing people apart. Normally polite and quiet Midwesterners were getting in the face of the town’s elderly mayor; supporters sat on one side of the gym, opponents on the other.
That division, which has split friends, family, whole neighborhoods, could be felt at the café, the gas station, on Main Street.
That’s the story I brought back.
I delivered nearly 40 inches of copy, 770 words, and warned an editor.
“I wrote a kick-ass story,” I said, headed to the bathroom. “See what you think.”
I wrote myself onto the front page.
It felt great. I accomplished what the craft is all about – observe, write, tell the stories that need to be told.
I fell in love with her all over again.
Oh, she’s a fickle one, this journalism thing. And her days of being America’s darling is tarnished. Everyone waits to see what the next business models is, while corporate owners take an axe to newsrooms to cut costs and keep profit margins high.
She's dumped me before - there’s a lot to hate about the business - but the craft…
There’s nothing better than writing stories that captivate, educate, inform.
Damn her.
For the time being, I’m smitten all over again.
And I’m sticking around.

Sunday Scribblings, "Language"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is Language.

“Language. What we use to communicate. Different languages (how many do you speak?), exotic alphabets. Language can be a barrier and it can be what connects us, what elevates us above animals. We use it to tell stories, to profess love, to record events, to function in just about every conceivable way, and even to curse at each other. What do you have to say about it?”


The Capo of St. Ignatius Elementary

Me and the Penguin, we don’t see eye-to-eye.
I may be the Capo of the student body of St. Ignatius Elementary, but the Penguin, she’s nearly got the whole Special Dispensation thing down, if you know what I mean.
Ever since I rose to power in what’s come to be known as the Timmy Mortinelli Affair, it’s been tough keepin’ the Penguin off my back. I mean, I may be a third-grader and all – but still I run all the rackets, from the gumball sales on the playground to the lunch money shakedowns. And I rule with an iron fist.
But the Penguin, sheesh. She’s always askin’ for – and begrudgingly gets – a cut. An “honorarium” she calls it. A “donation” to the order. Twenty percent. It kills me.
My crew boosts a shipment of pudding cups bound for the cafeteria. We was tipped off by the delivery guy who accidentally let the cases fall off the truck in trade for some Marlboros we had in stock. Man, we was getting great action with ‘em, specially with the fifth-graders. And all of a sudden, she was like, 50 percent. Like right now.
But what’s a guy to do? Cross her and it’s a close encounter with the Golden Rule.
No shit, a foot-long ruler made out of 24-fuckin’-carat gold. She brings that thing like Thor drops a hammer, I tell you.
But what do I do? I resist. No need for any of Mortinelli’s crew to smell blood in the water. No sir.
“Chrissakes, you’re already getting’ 20 percent on the backend, now you want 30 up front?”
“Language!” she says, brings the Golden Rule outta that black wool habit of hers. “Kneel here Mr. De Luca, you know the drill - fingers on the desk.”
I gotta do it.
She raps me on the knuckles.
“Jesus, but that smarts,” I scream.
“LANGUAGE!” and comes down all Medieval and shit.
I take it. I take it with a smile on my face.
And she doles out more harshness – then in frustration, sends me to the office.
As was my plan.
I spill my guts. Quietly ask for - and get – full considerations.
I’m ushered back to class by the Big Man hisself. A reassuring hand on my neck.
“Sister Mary Eunice, a word,” Monsignor Rossi said. “My office, please.”
And all it cost me was 15 percent on the front-end, plus a pledge my parents buy a grand in parish raffle tickets.
Language my ass.

R.I.P. Lenny

Vladimir “Lenny” Lenin, a Siamese “betta” fighting fish, was found dead in his bowl Friday. He was of an undetermined age.
Lenin came to Sioux Falls from Thailand, where he lived in a rice paddy. Lenin’s bowl was decorated with jet-black cobble and one piece of Sioux quartzite in dazzling pink.
Lenin joined the clan Gabrukiewicz on July 28, 2008.
The death was due to natural causes and authorities do not suspect foul play. An autopsy was not performed.
A confirmed bachelor, Lenin leaves no survivors, but a host of friends and loved ones – both human and animal.
Lenin was buried at sea.
Entering the swirling, brilliant blue waters of the toilet, he was given a full military salute while Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” was played.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that all flags be flown at half-staff and that a 30-second moment of silence be observed.

The NaisaiKu Challenge

A NaisaiKu is a poem with a specific syllable count that builds toward the title. A fun, challenging exercise.

Tender kiss ignites
forgotten passions in her
heart flutters, sweat, doubt
LIKE A SCHOOLGIRL CRUSH
Heart flutters, sweat, doubt
Forgotten passions in her
Tender kiss ignites

Let's cook the Polish way

My mother was a fantastic cook.
But I can't remember, for the life of me, her ever reaching for "The Culinary Arts Institute Polish Cookbook: Traditional recipes tested for today's kitchen."
It was published in 1976, when I was a self-absorbed 13-year-old.

"How to prepare a Polish feast * history of famous Polish foods * menus and recipes your family and friends will love * glossary of Polish food items..."

I am positive she didn't buy it to impress her mother-in-law, my Polish grandmother, since my parents wed in 1952 and I know mom was well past the trying to impress stage.

Just what are famous Polish foods? Pierogi, hunter's stew (bigos), stuffed cabbage, noodles and cabbage and something called fire vodka.

"Beyond bringing the size of Polish cooking under control, we have also, by diligent testing, brought you a rich cuisine that is matched to American kitchen equipment and that contains only those ingredients that are easily found in American markets. We have done this without sacrificing Polish tradition or that great Polish taste. Our testing is the guarantee."

A guarantee like that, well, I swiped the book.
Here's the recipe for hunter's stew, which my Polish grandmother made a lot:

Hunter's Stew (bigos)
* 1 cup chopped bacon
* 1 pound of boneless pork, cut into small cubes
* 3 cloves of garlic, minced
* 3 onions, quartered
* 1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
* 2 cups beef stock
* 2 Tablespoons sugar
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed under cold water and drained
* 3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
* 2 cups canned tomatoes, with juice, cut into pieces
* 1 cup diced cooked ham
* 1 and 1/2 cups Polish sausage, cut into small chunks
* salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: sour cream, served on the side

Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven, to render the fat. Drain the bacon on the side and reserve. Then toss the pork chunks, garlic, onions, and mushrooms into the rendered fat. Saute on medium low until the meat is browned--about 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock, tomatoes with their juice, sugar, bay leaves, sauerkraut, and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Stir in the ham and sausage, then cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 30 more minutes.

When ready to serve, remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the reserved bacon, and serve with boiled potatoes, a bowl of sour cream, and thick, crusty bread.

Cancer sucks

His head is covered in silvery fuzz and he runs a palm over it and erupts into a coughing fit before settling down in his easy chair with a couple of blankets.
I reach for the breakfast dishes, oatmeal that he made for himself.
“No, leave it. I need to start doing things for myself.”
I check the pill box, see if he’s downed the morning meds.
“I took them. I need to remind myself of that, too.”
I retreat into the kitchen.
A bit lost.
He knows I’ll be gone in a few hours to step back into my life.
He wants to be as independent as possible.
All I want it to be there, just in case.

Sunday Scribblings: "What scares you?"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “What scares you?”
In the spirit of the Easter season, here’s something scary:

Purgatory

I died on a Tuesday; the somber, lightly-attended funeral was on a Friday.
And as a Vatican II-indoctrinated Catholic in my youth (and a disinterested, near-agnostic, casual sinner as an adult), I awake in a room of white. A cell really, a windowless space measuring 8 feet by 10 feet.
You could barely tell where the floor ends and the walls start; the ceiling glows with soft, white light – all of it.
I stand up, get my bearings.
There’s a twin bed on a simple white platform; the sheets are industrial white, as is the single pillow. There’s a white, porcelain toilet next to a white pedestal sink. There’s a white, single-door cabinet with a second set of pajamas, a single face towel (white) and a second set of linen in the same, seamless industrial white.
The pajamas I have on are the color of freshly-fallen snow.
There’s a single door, with no lock. I open it, stick my head into a long, white hallway with white doors spaced every 5 feet.
The hallway stretches to the left and to the right into infinity.
I slam the door shut, close my eyes, try and breathe.
My eyes snap open and I walk to the small white table and pull out the single, white chair and sit. On the table is a white feathered quill pen and an alabaster jar of ink. Next to the inkwell is a leather-bounded bible; the grain is rich and luxurious, like cream. I flip open the cover and find that it’s empty, just page after page of smooth, colorless parchment.
I close the book, run the side of my index finger across my lips, my thumb holing up my chin, and ponder the vast emptiness of this place.
Above the table, a rectangular screen activates, glowing white as the ceiling, which dims in response.
A single message appears:
“Fill it, and thus executes your obligation.”
There’s a lump in my throat, which has gone dry, scratchy.
I go pallid.
My brain swells with a single nugget of wisdom, some ache of a memory, a long-ago lesson in Catholic Christian Doctrine I had tried to ignore; the final responsibility for the wicked, us casual sinners.
The color refuses to flush into my cheeks.
See, I’d never quite got around to reading the Bible, cover to cover, word for word.
I take a deep breath, exhale.
And into my shaking hand, I grasp the quill, dip the nib into the ink. I take another deep breath and hold it. I flip to the first page and write:
“In the beginning…”

An American Sentence

An American Sentence is like a haiku, structured with 17 syllables.

"A family gathers, each childhood role eased into like comfy shoes."

Cherry, darling

I wrote this bit of fiction for a dear friend who gave me an idea in conversation.

Cherry

Black boots on wet concrete, like a shuffle cross broken glass, hollow footfalls, doubt that fades with each echo.
She walks alone, without a hint of uncertainty. There’s a lingering melancholy, faint, a shroud of sadness that life has delivered - seemingly in overnight express.
It started with a death, which led to a marriage unhinged. She had questions, unanswered. Whispers she just avoided.
She’s weathered the worst of it, retracted herself in tight, found strength within and with the new spring, emerged in Technicolor.
The black boots were a sign of her blossoming independence; a willingness to reinvent herself, speak for herself, like her own First Amendment.
She now marched on wet concrete, those black boots stomping out a cadence that seemed to grow stronger with each step. While retracted, she had filled notebooks with ideas, poetry, plans; they were about to become the blueprint for the next great thing.
If she could just grasp what that was.
She stopped cold in front of a pawn shop window. Among the power tools, snowboards and gaudy gold pieces was a red guitar.
She knew at an instant.
She splayed her fingertips wide, and with puffs of fog on the cold glass, whispered:
“Cherry, darling.”

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at flirt, ploy and stunning.

Department of Juvenile Delinquency
I’m stealing a swig of milk straight from the carton when I look out the kitchen window and see Mrs. Wilcox sitting on the lawn, coloring our sidewalk with chalk.
I am in love with Mrs. Wilcox’s daughter, Liz.
Like her mother, she’s stunning. Both have been blessed with large hazel eyes, auburn hair, perfect skin that always seemed roasted to perfection. Curves that made grown men weep (at least, that’s what my dad says).
Mrs. Wilcox, however, has this enormous rack.
She liked to water her begonias in tight, white T-shirts and sunny, frilly skirts that danced in the lightest breeze. Neighbor women whispered scornfully; the neighborhood men tended to whistle under their breath – and said absolutely nothing.
And let’s face it, the vision of Mrs. Wilcox entered every neighbor boy’s thoughts and led straight to carnality and eventual confession behind the Gas N Sip on dull Saturday nights.
I walk out the front door and casually amble up to Mrs. Wilcox.
She’s dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl’s outfit, white button-down blouse, pleated skirt, white knee-high socks, black patent-leather shoes.
“Mrs. Wilcox?”
“James, so good to see you. Lovely day for some chalk art, don’t you think? Here, help me fill in the skin tones of the angels there.”
When she bends forward to give me the hunk of peach chalk, I can tell she’s not wearing a bra. Everything goes flush, hot.
“James, please, have a seat. I promise not to bite. Well, not very hard.”
She puts a finger to her lips, flips her hair, gathers a deep breath and giggles.
“Can’t a woman have a little fun, flirt with one of the most handsome boys in the whole neighborhood?”
I fall hard onto the grass, clutching the chalk like a knife.
Mrs. Wilcox is sitting Indian-style and as she skitters a piece of blue chalk across the concrete, I get glimpses of her white panties. Her sheer, white panties.
I readjust to a kneeling position, which at once eases the pain of my erection – and gives me a way better view up Mrs. Wilcox’s red-checked skirt. She says something, and all I can do is stare into that triangular patch of sheer fabric, mesmerized.
“I knew it,” she says, clamping her thighs shut. “Just like all the rest.”
And she sticks two fingers between her lips and whistles.
Up the block, a white panel truck squeals, and lurches to a stop in front of my house. Out hop two men, dressed in black jumpsuits, black boots, black ball caps. They’re both swinging nunchucks, haphazardly. They stare me down through creepy-black aviator sunglasses.
Painted on the side the truck, in black letters highlighted in goldleaf, is:
“Department of Juvenile Delinquency.”
And I realize it’s all a ploy, some sick test. I’m 17 and I’m about to become a convicted juvenile delinquent. Forget Liz, forget senior prom – forget going to the college of my choice and a decent, high-paying career. I’d be rolling hardpack of smokes into the sleeve of my white T-shirt and boosting cars in no time flat.
“I had such high hopes for this one,” she says, drawing a finger across my now-dry lips. “Take him away, boys.”

Time warp

Sleeping on the bed from your childhood, nestled under your old sleeping bag (covered with ‘60s slogans), quite possibly is one of the steps to stop time.
The other steps remain a mystery.
The dark coolness of the basement is filled with familiar noises, the house as it groans and creaks, the snore of dogs, their noses tucked under paws because of the chill (the desk thermometer says 55 degrees, which is perfect for long, luxurious slumber).
Time is caught here. Oh, it moves, always advancing, always forward, but there’s this chance to breathe, to think. Unhooked from the harried pace of real life.
It isn’t a vacation. Those require backpacks and sunscreen, fishing gear, climbing equipment, snorkels, passports.
This is a time to ponder. To get caught in the warp of time and to savor friends and family – and decide which steps need to be taken. Listen to the calm, the quiet and take comfort and solace that when you enter back into the stream of time, the current of your life that you’ve stepped out of for this week, thinks need to be done. Plans laid out, your future tracked.
Hopes and dreams realized.

Monday fiction, in 58 words

Propositions
He traces patterns on her back in the darkness, circles nonsensical shapes. She giggles softly as the lightness of his index finger raises goose flesh.
He switches to writing words in cursive, asks her to guess.
“Window?”
He swirls a fingertip, like it’s dipped in ink.
“Will you?”
He leans in, whispers in her ear:
“Forever and ever?”

Sunday Scribblings, "Celebrate"

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is Celebrate.

It’s Not A Party Until Somebody Gets Hurt

It’s my 75th birthday.
I know my family has gone all-out for the celebration, I’m a little deaf, but not senile, at least not yet anyway. They talk around me like I am, but I guess I don’t mind.
There won’t be a surprise party – no coming home and having a house full of people jump out from the shadows and my heart giving out and I drop like a stone to the floor – this much I know. The triple bypass was years ago, and they still treat me like a child on the titty.
I agree to wear the shirt they got me for the occasion, a gaudy Hawaiian number that I guess is supposed to bring back fond memories of my Navy days with the Pacific Fleet.
I draw the line on the paper party hat, glitter-covered dunce cap, you ask me.
There’s Champagne, the real stuff, since I sprung for it. Of course, we’re drinking it from paper cups with stars and what? -comets on them.
The shindig is catered by the local supermarket, which isn’t so bad, really. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes (reconstituted from flakes, looks like), rolls, a fruit salad that slowly congealed into paste.
I settle into my favorite chair and await the presents, the new underwear and undershirts, the handkerchiefs (please God, no more ties), the ugly shirts, the fruit-of-the-month gift certificate and all the other plastic squares, those gift card things, from people too uninspired (when really what I’d like is a bottle of Johnny Walker Black and a couple of Cubans, hell, Dominicans in a pinch – but they never ask).
And my younger daughter bursts in (the black sheep, our little fuck-up, bless her), late (as usual) begs forgiveness, gives me a big wet one on the cheek and immediately finds a Champagne bottle and takes long, slow pull. My other daughters immediately surround her, push her into the kitchen. Then, low murmurs, accusations, tears.
“Daddy, Christine would like us to do the cake first,” says Claire, the oldest, smoothing out her silk blouse (and frowning).
“Pops, I outdid myself, really,” Chrissy says. “Wait here - Jimmy!”
And some guy in a leather biker outfit pushes this gigantic, three-tiered monstrosity in from the French doors. With a small propane torch, Mr. Scruffy lights a series of silvery sparklers, filling the room with hot embers and thick, acrid smoke.
And out jumps a scantily-clad woman – a scantily-clad mature woman – who looks a little like Lana Turner (if you squint, maybe; and I knew Lana, as that sweet blond bombshell got me through several long nights at sea).
This artificial substitute (a poor one at that), starts to gyrate as much as the obvious artificial hip will allow and with a flourish, she undoes the lacy bra with the scarlet tassels.
And her tits cascade down her chest landed on her stretch-marked-scarred belly (maybe I just imagined the thud).
Everyone stares in horrified silence.
Until Claire walks up, quietly hands the dancer her husband’s suit jacket and with both hands on her hips, and hisses:
“Jesus, Christine!”
“What? Lana Turner Right? Daddy, am I right?” Chrissy bawls. “You know how hard it is to find anyone who even knows who that is? I mean, chrissakes, Claire, it's daddy's birthday!”

NaisaiKu Challenge

Darkness harbors sin,
soulless canopies dictate
the evils of man
DARKNESS HARBORS SIN
the evils of man
soulless canopies dictate
darkness harbors sin

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are crush, knack and varied.

The Crush

She hadn’t had a hit in hours; the twist in her guts was like a schoolgirl’s crush, but sour like bile.
She hugged her knees to her chest on broken concrete steps littered with cigarette butts and bits of wind-torn plastic. The landing was dark, the only light shed by a bare bulb in the hall that was the only sign that the big Victorian wasn’t vacant and abandoned, like all the others on the block.
The slivers of leaded glass in the oak door had long ago been kicked and punched free; bits of yellowed newspaper covered the holes and swelled and pulsed with the breeze, a dying patient in an already dead neighborhood.
Her eyes, once brilliant hazel, were sunken, hollow. A sore on her lip that never healed; the place where the hot crack pipe delivered its sweet relief.
There’s a smell about her, sweat, dirt, despair. She knows this and there is a tiny square of shame about it that the drugs can’t seem to dissolve.
Her 18th birthday is next week and she’s planning to take one more hit and that’s it. Then it’s back home to Kansas, Dorothy, back to school, back away from the streets. Yeah, she thought, one more hit. One more. And shuffle on down the road.
The drugs hadn’t pushed away all the plans. Not just yet.
But then, she had a knack for big dreams when she tripped. Lives varied upon the day, how much she was able to score. In them, she wasn’t emancipated, a talking skeleton with brown, picket-fenced teeth. She ate in fancy places, with real silver, and not that cheap, sugary bagged cereal – stale mostly – with water instead of milk. Milk’s hard to boost and, well, it cost money and money is for drugs, silly rabbit.
She released her legs, stretched them to their full length. She put a filthy hand on a bent metal rail, brought herself to standing. She scanned the block slowly, knowing what she had to do. It still bothered her, and that gave her hope.
The men who shuffled like zombies liked it even more then drugs, needed it. Their sex, their money.
Her last hit.