Today I congratulate you on another successful trip around the sun!
May your next trip be better
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,
“My, how the year flew by
and anyway weren’t we just celebrating your birthday yesterday?”
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”!
“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…
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
“Darling, I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mistake,” said James in a strangled voice.
Cynthia set down her purse on the kitchen table between two adders and a rattlesnake, taking care not to disturb the squirming mass covering the floor. “So I see. Care to explain?”
James colored pink. “Ordered something homeopathic online. For our anniversary. Something to bring a little… spice into the bedroom.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Such as?”
He winced. “Pheromones. Must’ve broken in the mail. I took a nap and woke up as you’ve found me.” James jerked his chin toward the python encircling his body.
Also called Jacobsen’s Organ (stop snickering!), the vomeronasal organ (a.k.a. the VNO) is a primitive and perhaps vestigial scent organ located at the base of the nasal cavity. In other animals, its primary purpose is to detect pheromones. Evidence is shaky on whether we humans get much use out of ours. Compared to other mammals that rely on scent much more strongly than us, ours is underdeveloped, and tends to shrink while we’re still in fetal development.
Snakes, however, undoubtedly get a lot of use out of their VNOs. You know that whole tongue-flickering thing they do? That’s part of their pheromone-sensing system. When they retract their tongues, they touch it to their VNOs, thus transferring the tasty, tasty hormones to their nervous system for sampling. Deeelicious! Moral of the story: you may not want to buy products with pheromones in them. You might attract the wrong kind of attention!
In writing-related news, I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, since the start of November, which has led to a drop in my blogging. I try to get at least one post out a week, but keeping pace with my word count quota has taken up all the writing time I can usually find in a day. The good news is that in December, I should be able to catch up on a ton of posts that I’m excited to share with you, so stay tuned!
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!
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.
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?
When the sunset is slanting, what keeps the ones who prowl at bay?
The guardians do.
There, just beyond that stand of pines, they’re waiting like a pair of hands to spring upon the spider, a noose to choke off hot breath.
Children linger in the fields. The sunset slants in, and the prowlers come running with quick little legs, their great big jaws a-gaping.
And just beyond the stand of pines, the guardians spring upon them, saying, This far you may go, and no further.
They do not relish their work. They hold the line and pray for mercy.
I always get excited when I write a blog post about something related to my happy little corner of science (namely, Speech Science). Today we’re talking about the glottis, which is found in your larynx, or voice box. It produces the buzzing sound that gives you a voice. If you place your hand on your throat and hum, you can feel it vibrating.
The glottis is made up of your two vocal folds (also called vocal cords) and the space between them. This area is the gateway to your lungs. Its responsibility is to make sure we don’t let anything liquid or solid down the wrong pipe. Think of them as the guardians in your throat, ready to snap closed and hold the line against bad things that want to enter.
Why might they be unwilling at the end of my story? This is to illustrate how they work when we’re speaking. While they can seal the throat during eating, the vocal folds don’t shut all the way when speaking. They’re in a state of flux, tensed just enough that the air pressure from your lungs can break through their seal, thus producing vibration and speech.
Of course, on another level, I think the reluctance of the guardians in today’s story is an illustration of profound goodness. Even when fighting something we all agree is evil, the best among us may feel a little sadness and regret that the evil exists to begin with. The best soldier may long for a day when war is unnecessary. The best doctor may hope to work herself out of a job by curing diseases.
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.
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.