Category Archives: Motley Microfiction

Motley Microfiction: Happy Birthday

Today I congratulate you on another successful trip around the sun!

May your next trip be better

faster

wilder

so you have to dig your nails into the dirt as the orbit rolls on

all seven billion of us screaming

in harmony as the planets stream past…

one! two! eight!

…the trees torched by friction

the windowpanes shattered

the Rockies worn down to nubs

us huddled in our bomb shelters praying for mercy…

…and when you wake up on your birthday next year,

we’ll say

“My, how the year flew by

and anyway weren’t we just celebrating your birthday yesterday?”

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Today is the birthday of my wonderful little sister, Kristin! I wrote this by way of celebration. Kristin, I hope your next trip around the sun is a wonderful one, and lasts longer than 24 hours, because otherwise we’re all going to need a landscaper to take care of all the damage from your wild, wild “year”!

Now go eat something shaped like a dinosaur. Now.

File:CakeGaga5Serbia.jpg

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Motley Microfiction: Abode of the Darned!

“Our unique corner of the afterlife was once part of our larger neighbor,” explained Damon, steering the New Arrivals Bus through Heck. “At first they considered the darnations typos, but over time we distinguished ourselves through mildly unpleasant torture of our clientele: rappists and pedophobes mostly, with your occasional grammar Nazi.

“Across our heckscape, the darned endure an eternity of daytime TV, Taco Bell, and N*Sync.”

Suddenly, a tire blew. “Dang it to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks! Fu–” shouted Damon. He clapped his hands over his mouth.

Too late. A maw opened beneath the bus, and from it, the smell of fudge…

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The road to Heck is paved with good intentions…

It’s been a while since my last microfiction, huh? Well, here’s something a bit goofy to start off your week!

Language and linguistics is an area of special interest to me, as both a writer and a professional in the world of literacy. One thing I find particularly interesting is the way “bad words”– that is, profanity or taboo words — operate in cultures around the world.

For example, I remember when I was learning my first non-native language, and how much we children loooooved learning all the naughty words in Italian. We would spend whole lunch breaks with our Italian-to-English dictionaries hunting down all the words we weren’t supposed to say in English, but were somehow okay in Italian because no one knew what we were saying.

There is something about separating the sounds and meanings that takes the sting out of those words.

I rather wonder if that’s why we have words like “darn” and “heck”, surrogate words that let us communicate frustration and anger without the full extent of the ill-will behind the words. After all, it’s not a very nice thing to wish hell or damnation on anyone.

But what if the intention carried over, anyway? What if all we’ve done is to wish a place called Heck into existence, and proceeded to darn everyone to it? And what if it’s filled with Grammar Nazis? Oh, the horrors!

What is your opinion on taboo words, and the funny things we say to avoid them? Got a favorite example?

A Christmas Elegy: Advent Ghosts 2013

“A Christmas Elegy”

A funeral on Christmas Eve will forever haunt you.

Your uncle’s eyes closed now and forever. Those hands, which once shaped shadows with his ghost stories and supported you like a crutch, folded upon a lifeless breast.

Before you fall asleep exhausted by weeping, you’ll find yourself longing for ghosts. Haunt me, you pray. Terrify me, convict me, but don’t leave me alone.

When the clock strikes one, the spirit will visit: your merry uncle, Christmas personified, reborn once a year on the day he loved best.

Tiny no longer, you climb upon his lap for one more ghost story.

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Candles

This story was written as part of Loren Eaton’s “Advent Ghosts 2013” shared storytelling event! Check out Loren’s site for other great ghost stories written around a holiday theme, going live all over the blogosphere today. Make sure to check back often as he’ll be adding contributions as they come in.

Can you write a 100-word ghost story?

Motley Microfiction: The Toymaker’s Dilemma

In the North lives a man, a giver of gifts, a Saint. He spends his days making toys and brooding over the airwaves, which bring in affirmations from around the world. Out there, they believe in him. So the songs say.

But as he broods and makes toys, he has his doubts. Who knows if they exist at all, out beyond the endless snowstorms? Their faith has never been a problem, but he’s not sure he believes in them.

Once a year, he rises, dons his red coat, and goes to find out.

He brings the toys– just in case.

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English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...
He goes into the world with arms full of toys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello, friends! Sorry for the long absence – I’ve had my hands full with a lot of stuff for the last several weeks, and as a result, the poor blog got neglected. But I’m back, and for the next several days, I will be posting reams of Christmas-themed flash fiction to gear up for the holidays!

Today’s piece was recently published on the Drabblecast Episode# 305, and now I’m happy to present it to you on my blog as well. I would highly recommend listening to the episode, because the production took the story to another level.

One theme I love to explore in my writing is radical acts of faith in the face of the unknown, and this story is an example. Santa is famously connected to the idea of belief. I’m reminded of The Polar Express, where those who believe in Santa can hear the bells of his sleigh, while those who have lost their faith can’t. In this story, the choice to believe in Santa shapes your external reality.

Well, what if belief were a two-way street? What if Santa, in the isolation of the North, isn’t sure whether he is just making all of us up, because we’re equally wonderful and magical to him?

I like to imagine that if we were to pick up where the end of this story leaves off, everyone involved would be pleasantly surprised. Santa would find the children waiting for him, after all. The children’s faith would be rewarded. A long hoped-for relationship, a source of deep longing, would finally come to pass. That’s the essence of faith, and the essence of Advent.

Of course, it could all go the other way. Santa might find nothing but endless snowstorms. But I think there’s still something to grabbing that bag of toys, going outside, and taking a look.

Motley Microfiction: Days of Rain

When the wind smelled savory and the clouds looked like burnished gold, Mom would send us outside with all the pots and pans, buckets and basins in the house, which we’d tuck beneath the rain gutters.

We’d barely sleep from anticipation, the rumbles above echoing ones in our tummies. At dawn, if school was out, Mom would let us play in the chicken soup that poured down in warm sheets. For hours, we’d splash in fragrant puddles swirling with noodles and earthworms. Mom always called us in too soon.

All winter, we’d sip mugs of rain and feel warm again.

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Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food ...
Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food that might be found across cultures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in the Jones house, we’ve been taking turns being sick all week. I was, unfortunately, Patient Zero, developing one of those nasty viruses that runs the whole gamut of autumn misery: sore throat, fever, and all kinds of crud in the sinuses. So you can imagine I’ve spent some time this week indulging in self-pity over the tragedy of adult life: that when you’re sick, you’ve got to carry on with your responsibilities in spite of it.

Still, don’t we all long for the days when we were children, and someone would come take care of us when we were sick? When your mom or dad, or grandmother or grandfather would offer you orange juice every couple of hours, make special soup, let you watch Wheel of Fortune in your pajamas instead of going to school? That’s what today’s story is about. I wanted to evoke that warm, nostalgic feeling of what it means to be a kid, and the healing powers of chicken soup. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope my cold is not catching through the internet nowadays.

Stay safe and healthy, my friends!

Motley Microfiction: Girls With Guns

The night’s broken by frenzied clack-clack-clacking. French Couture Barbie leads the charge, flanked by her lieutenants, Lifeguard Barbie and Olympic Skater Barbie.

And they’re all clutching little pink assault rifles in perfectly manicured hands.

They cover ground on painfully long legs, running on heels and tippy-toes. Long hair snaps like flags. Those eyes never blink, those smiles harden at the corners.

Schoolteacher Barbie floors the Dream Car. Riding shotgun, Astronaut Barbie operates the turret. Wheelchair Barbie lobs grenade after grenade from the periphery.

Stewardess Barbie, old and worn, hops along one-legged with a flamethrower and dares anyone to disrespect her.

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Last week, the Barbies descended on the Jones household.

It started when a friend of mine asked to leave something at our house for a mutual friend to pick up later. Much to my amusement, she carried in a couple large boxes full of Barbie dolls, still in their packaging.

So tell me, what would YOU do in a situation like this?

Jason’s approach was to build a tower of sparkly princess goodness out of them, which you can see on his blog here.

Me? I chose to write a commemorative drabble, of course!

While I find Barbies inherently funny as an adult (French Couture Barbie – LOL!), I wanted to capture a sense of dignity for the poor things in today’s story. They’re condemned to a frozen existence, always poised and smiling no matter what may really be going on beneath the surface.

I think they’re ripe for a revolution.

GI Joe better watch his back.

Motley Microfiction: Canny Maggie

Nessie’d goon belly-up in the Loch.

“Nessie’s deid!” cried the seven Alisdair lads.

“Dunderheids, haud yer wheesht!” said canny Maggie. “The tourists gonny be here soon. Take ‘er oot o’ the Loch.”

Malcom, nae one to footer about, flayed Nessie’s hide clear off. The Alisdair lads formed the lang neck while their seven sisters sewed them in. Maggie clouted ‘em, arse-first, into the watter, where they bobbed about like blootered choobs.

The lads took a maddy, neck and limbs flailin’ about. The bus arrived. The tourists, none th’wiser, took pictures o’ Malcom’s arse.

All’s fish that comes to the net!

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English: Apparently a sighting of the Loch Nes...
Nessie. The middle lump is Malcom’s arse! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Call this story the Loch Ness Monster meets Voltron: “I’ll form the long, skinny neck!” It pays when people work together for the common good, even if that good is duping tourists out of their money. They paid to see Nessie, dangit, so Nessie’d better make an appearance!

Really, though, this was just my excuse to browse websites chock full of Scottish dialect words. Can you figure them out without looking them up? Like every good dialect, there were a plethora of, well, “colorful” terms of a rude nature that I wish I could’ve found an excuse to use. Instead, though, you’re stuck with a tame rendition!

I do apologize to Scotland, however, for what is probably terrible usage of the words I did include. It’s so hard to write accurate dialogue for a dialect that I don’t already speak. I always love reading well-written regional accents, but I worry about being disrespectful if I try to recreate them myself.

For today’s piece, in addition to referencing some dialect dictionaries and checking on how the words are used in context, I spent some time reading the poems of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns to get the feel. Check out “Tam O’Shanter”, one of my personal favorites, if you enjoy poetry.

Do any of you writers out there like to write in a dialect from time to time? What do you do to ensure accuracy, and more importantly, what’s your favorite strategy for dealing with dead Loch Ness Monsters when YOU run across ’em?

Motley Microfiction: Smonday

I slipped sideways into the space between Saturday and Sunday.

That’s where you can pawn away your weekend goals for extra time: your three-quarters-finished steampunk novel (stalled at Chapter 13), blueprints for the shed (mouldering since Christmas), a sincere apology to Sarah (drafted but undelivered), the ‘64 Barracuda you mean to restore (running to rust in the driveway).

Things you’d do if you could find the time.

“Buying time?” asked the pawnbroker.

“Nope. Redeeming.” I flourished my Z’s, a chainsaw orchestra’s worth, scraped together from a lifetime of mortgaged hobbies.

If you play your hand right, Monday will never come.

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Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, also known as Leadb...
Cockatoo: a self-portrait of myself before I started reading Eric’s blog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, unfortunately for me, Monday did come, because here we are. But what a great Monday! I had an awesome weekend as things stand. Got to spend time with some wonderful friends, work on my writing projects, and had an unexpected encounter with internet awesomeness (long story there).

To top it all off, I wake up this morning and see this post on my friend Eric Alagan’s blog naming Medical Microfiction as his blog pick of the month! Just… wow! I admit it: I got all teary-eyed. Eric is a writer himself, and a gifted one to boot, with a range that spans from deep and contemplative to silly and hilarious. You’re already following his blog, right? …Right? Because, if you’re not, I should warn you that not-following-Eric’s-blog can cause Vitamin D deficiency, and may lead to delusions that you’re a cockatoo. Just sayin’.

I’m headed out the door now, but later today I’ve got plans to finally put together a “Best-Of” list of posts for anyone who’s new to these here parts and wants to get a sample of what we’re all about, and for longtime readers who’d like to revisit some old favorites.

Happy Monday, all, and may you redeem those weekend goals with extra time you didn’t know you had.

Motley Microfiction: Catastrophe

Everyone’s gotta die somehow. Umet died flinging cat food at strays at 2AM, which isn’t a safe thing to do in your car while topping 90.

Welcome, thrummed a thousand purring voices. Last thing Umet remembered was faceplanting the telephone pole. Now it was a swarm of cats.

“Where am I?” he asked. “What happened?”

It not total useless. We has accept its worships. Seize action of divert from traditioning sapiens afterlife.

“I don’t understand.”

The cat swarm parted, and Umet noticed the lounge chair.

It sittings. Pleasures cat forevers. Welcome!

Claws plucked at his pant leg. Like licking flames.

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Cats Eyes
That wide-eyed innocence hides an evil plan to rule your lap for all eternity. (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I wrote this piece after hearing a friend’s story of someone who drives around at night feeding stray cats. I love the fact that someone like this really exists, don’t you? He strikes me as a sort of cat Batman (Catman?), champion of the strays, and I’m sure that powerful forces of karmic feline alignment are taking note.

But that raises another question: if cats have their own afterlife, and their gods decided to reward you, how would these rewards stack up to what the human afterlife has to offer? Every cat I’ve met leads me to believe that for cats, Heaven would be a weird and wacky place, dominated by strings and laser pointers and nice, warm laps.

Someone’s got to provide that lap, y’know. Poor Umet. Let’s all thank him for taking one for the team.

Want more cat stories? Check these out:

Motley Microfiction: Revision History

When Danny turned eight, reality warped. All the dinosaurs un-extincted, schools imploded, and broccoli went AWOL, preserved in our minds only as a sense of relief at its absence.

By 2018, the year of his surprise World Cup victory, Danny’s army of naked babes overran everything: Hogwarts, Asgard, Gondor, Irkutsk, Canada, and Narnia. Even the Jedi Council obeyed him.

As we hated him, so we loved our god-king.

We know how he did it, of course. The problem’s the anonymity. Without knowing which Wikipedia articles he edited, we can’t be sure what changed, or even who existed before his coming.

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Fifa world cup org
Don’t YOU remember when Danny won the World Cup? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Wikipedia. It’s one of the best worldwide collaborations to arise from the internet. By allowing anyone to edit while simultaneously enforcing and rewarding proper research and adherence to an academic standard, the Wikipedia has put together a body of knowledge that covers a breadth and depth that no single encyclopedia to date has managed.

Of course, the downside to  Wikipedia is how much we come to rely upon it for quick answers. It’s only a problem when we read an article that’s not so rigorously put together, and come to accept things that are either untrue or biased. Such implicit trust is not a wise habit, but it’s hard to resist when Wikipedia is just so dang convenient.

In today’s story, Danny literally has the ability to bend reality by editing Wikipedia articles. What lazy teen wouldn’t love that superpower? Of course, the world would look much weirder if shaped by the whims of a child in this way. We’d definitely have more awesome dinosaurs, and I’d imagine the plots of several movies and books would come true. Oh, well! Best to pack our bags for Hogwarts and enjoy the ride!

So you tell me: what would the world look like if you could change it by editing Wikipedia? What fictions would become fact, and what facts fiction? How would the past and future change? And what role would you write for yourself?