A Tribute to Geoff LePard of TanGental

I’ve wanted to replicate Geoff’s style for awhile now, but he is a very …unique sort of writer. Take Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Mark Twain; then add a little brain injury or late night staring at hedgerows and you’ve nearly got him.

Since I’m not those authors and lack any hedges (I’m American), I’ve vowed to do the best I can. Geoff writes spot-on reviews of plays or movies, brags about his amazing garden (with pictures), and includes the occasional stint into poetry. Most of the time, however, he comes up with the strangest of short stories (supposedly) based on photo prompts.

The final sort is what I chose to mimic. I give you, therefore,

Tricks and Stones #writephoto

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‘What d’you think, Francisissi?’

‘Hard to say, hard to say…’

‘But you do say it’s him; tell me you say that, at least.’

Thomaquinas scratched a gravelly spot near his ear. He attempted to pull at his robes near another, equally irritated area, but failed. ‘Hard to say…’

A puff of dust exited Fran’s facial orifice that once resembled a mouth. He should’ve expected this; should have brought along Patrireland or even Thérieux. No, maybe not Théri. Last time she’d literally talked the ear off the poor soul –

Thom shifted uncomforably. He always shifted uncomfortably, of course, but managed to convey that this particular discomfort came from his needing to answer Fran and not, as was usual, from a necessarily stiff figure.

‘So is he a close enough resemblance to try it?’

Thom considered, his features a blank slate as he did so. He nodded, dropping a few chinks of neck in process.

‘Right.’ Fran raised his arms stiffly to meet Thom’s. Their palms touched in a small crumble of grey dust. Fran winced.

Aiseray isthay oulsay omfray ethay astpay, the two intoned. Aiseray isthay oulsay omfray ethay astpay!

More dust and chips of rock fell as they attempted to raise their arms. The ground rumbled. Grass wilted. A doe, as surprised by talking stone as readers are to find a doe suddenly inserted in a paragraph, leaped away. The statue before the chanting pair shook slightly, else shook because the ground beneath it did.

Beginning with a muffled ‘Eeeur,’ and ending with a shouted, ‘Rrrrraugh!’ the man before them began moving. Dust, bits, and the odd bird excrement flew at Thom and Fran from his stretching limbs. Uttering a final, Omfray ethay astpay!, they stepped back apace and dropped their hands.

‘Yeaurgh!’ the third man said. He shook and twisted at his immobile robes, then fixed blank, grey eyes on his rescuers. ‘What’s this, then?’

‘Francisissi.’

‘Thomaquinas.’

‘Eh?’ Tilting his head to the side, he smacked at an ear. Smallish rubble and powder drifted from the downward side of his face and rained on the wilted grass.

‘Are you,’ Fran queried, ‘Simeter?’

‘Who?’ Their companion tilted the other way, smacking more grey detritus to the ground.

‘Simeter,’ Thom ventured, ‘Or, maybe …Paulsus?’

‘Who, me?’ The once-statue’s face nearly broke as he broke into a grin. ”Fraid not, boys.’

Thom turned and fixed Fran with a stonelike stare. ‘Well,’ Thom gulped, coughing from swallowed dust, ‘Who are you?”

‘Dominizza,’ Dominizza shrugged, ‘The pizza deliverer.’

——

I probably murdered it, so sorry to Geoff. To the rest of you, try him out if he’s your cup of tea.

 

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoZac Farmer

©2019 Chelsea Owens

A Tribute to Stephen Black of Fractured Faith Blog

Tonight I visit Stephen Black’s blog, Fractured Faith. As I wrote in my review of his bookThe Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square, I’ve known Mr. Black for a long time. We’re like those college students whose friends were friends, and found ourselves drawn to the same awkward punch bowl at those friends’ parties.

Stephen’s blog deals mostly with life issues and his observations and encouragements in dealing with them. He also promotes his book, has hosted some writing prompts, written rap-reminiscent poetry, and occasionally talks about marathons and running.

In tribute to an old friend, I give you my attempt to mimic a typical Stephen Black blog post:

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Has Life Ever Surprised You?

This morning en route to another working day, I was surprised to see into the back garden of a house I passed. I could see into their garden because the fence and tool shed were smashed in, done for. Debris from fence and shed, scattered tools, and the churned earth bore testament to what caused the damage, but whatever vehicle had done it was long gone.

I imagined the owners of the house coming out to the same scene as me. What if they only discovered their back part in pieces that morning? Would they feel the shock and surprise I did? How would they react to this unwelcome discovery?

Sometimes in my life I’ve felt like those owners, an unwitting party to unexpected disaster. I’ve written about some. My father’s death, for example. Failing to make the time I wished for on a run. Rejection e-mails or no response to my book queries.

At those times I did not react as would be best. I stood in shock at the damage. I turned to bad habits. I turned away from my wonderful, supportive family and toward shallow friends and the world’s attention. I gave up, and even granted power to the demons of OCD to tell me how wrong I was to try. I stood in the car tyre ruts in my back garden and despaired of any positive outcome.

But the old me is someone I don’t have to be anymore. I am not he. I can look over the scattered debris of my life and choose to act, instead. I don’t need to cry over broken wood and tools when I know I can pick up the pieces and move on.

Maybe cleanup will take time. I might need assistance from loved ones. I may need to seek professional help to repair the damage, to build a new fence and shed. It might take time or a few pints of honeycomb ice cream, but I won’t be alone to solve it.

We are masters of our lives, even when we do not feel like it. We may not be able to control whether something drives through our lives and leaves us in shock, but we can control our reactions. We can control what we do next. I know we can.

Have you ever had an unexpected event take you by surprise?

What did you do to recover and rebuild your life?

——

If you enjoyed my wee tribute, head over to Stephen’s blog and drop him a ‘Follow.’ The poor guy’s only got about 11,000 followers.

 

Photo Credit: Image by Thomas Schink from Pixabay
©2019 Chelsea Owens

WINNER of the Fourth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Sheeeesh, people. Though not as close a tie this time, I still think first place was split about three ways. I had to delay the contest to allow for time to climb the highest mountain in Utah, in order to consult with The Guru of Poetic Awfulness. Going off his advice, plus past winners and slight aspects I liked more than others… the winner is:

O! Radio!

by Michael B. Fishman

The radio’s antenna is bad.
When it first broke: “Oh, egad!”
I fixed it with glue,
what else could I do?
Huh?

My head: stuffed like the brick. Oh, antenna, desist.

With frustration I pace, “Ah,” I to frustration. “Why do I tarry? Why not I make merry?”

Dash the radio. (Mary?) Hosanna! From where? From my despair do I dare to pose such a posing question?

Remove your madding thoughts. Becalm like the bluebird.

Explain, voice, my choice. Will my radio play? Will my hips again sway?

I wait sans answer.

The faucet drips leathery through my vino-filled veins. The antennaless radio’s static-buzz, like the vivific current of the vacant velvety Vermillion river vaguely venturing via Verndale home to Victoria.

(plop . . .) Oh Mary, forsake me not.

(buzz . . .) Yet I stand

(plop . . . ) like the deerskin covering the thorny tree,

(buzz . . .) forsaken.

Congratulations, Michael! You are the Most Terrible Poet of the week.

Michael’s poem almost had it all: awful meter, a tirade of alliterations, made-up lingo, and plenty to get me thoroughly lost and wishing to smack my head against a good pentameter to make it all stop.

For the almost-first-placers, great job! I had to really dig to pick a winner from amongst you.

For the not-almost-first-placers, you still write too pretty. Try breaking out of a pattern, making fun of poetic angst, or leaving readers hanging at the end of a perfectly reasonable stanza like an unresolved chord progression.

Thank you all for entering! PLEASE enter again next week. I will post a prompt tomorrow more promptly than I did today.

Here are the other fantastic (and terrible) entries, in order of submission:

Untitled piece

by Ruth Scribbles

The foundation stays broke

Doors and Floors

Sway and sag

Stick and scrape

Tilt and twirl

Well if you are a marble

You twirl from one side

Of the room to another

Then the windows

All are stuck shut

Foundations are finicky

This poem is icky

—–

Untitled piece

by D. Wallace Peach

Fie to electric appliances
A freezer of thawed burger
Lightless, coldless, and iceless
Spoiled-milk refrigerator

Woe to the washing machine
Growing microbes of mold
A soup of dank undies and socks
Mildew makes me blow my nose

A pox on the dishwasher
I weep at the caked-on guck
Plates spotted like a chicken
It won’t scrape off and that really sucks

I could go on and on forsooth
About the vacuum clogged with mutt hair
The blender, micro, crockpot, and other stuff
But my appliances are dead and don’t care

—–

WonderWoman and SuperGlue.

by Bladud Fleas

Oh, Honey!
what did you do
with the glue?
In the drawer?
Oh, heck, it
seems to be
stick-
ing!
Yes, it’s stuck!
good and true,
Hon, that one where
you put the glue.
You did what with
the glue top, Dear?
Oh.

—–

The Banshee Toilet

by Peregrine Arc

Oh woe is me, for I dearly have to pee.
But the truth is, our toilet, why, it’s a banshee.
Every time I go to attend the flow,
it gives off an unearthly bellow!
Eeeek, it cries, after I thrust the lever down.
Eeeek, it sounds, down the hall and across the town.
What is one to do, when nature calls and your knees are crossed?
When you’re hopping around downstairs, until you’re suddenly quite lost?
Grab some toilet paper, my dear
and don’t let the Banshee know your fear.
For urinary tract health is a real concern.
Never hold it, our mothers said–listen and you’ll learn.

—–

That Object That Always Breaks in My House

by Bruce Goodman

Day after day, at home, the same thing breaks;
‘tis not the dawn that breaks o’er yonder hill,
(although of course it does for goodness sake),
‘tis something else that is my bitter pill.

Perhaps my car doth brake when I come home,
but that’s a different spelling, I perceive.
The brakes of cars could break, as could a drone’s,
but that is not the break that is conceived.

The thing that almost daily breaks that’s mine
pains me to the core and can’t be glued.
It’s not the breaking eggs at breakfast time,
nor be it breaks for lunch to eat some food.

Know when you leave for work and we’re apart,
each day, and all day long, you break my heart.

—–

Untitled piece

by TanGental

When I come back as a potter
In the next like, I will stop
My nemesis that makes me utter
rude words; the curse of the china tea pot.

The lid never ends up in its groove
It just follows its own trajectory
As if it just has to prove
Its aim is it’s out to get me

into trouble. I’ve dropped it more times
than the cups it has brewed
And while I really don’t like to whine
If the tea ends up stewed then I’m screwed.

I’ve repaired the lid, I’ve even soldered the spout
When they try and stop me, I cry ‘get off me’
I just have, on my own, to sort this mess out
After all if I don’t then the alternative is we will just have to drink coffee…

—–

Optically Challenged

by Jon

Called CD player on the box,
that should have been a clue;
The gadget oughtn’t be
considered as having
the remotest thing to do
with performing any function
‘ere it went kerploo

—–

Ode to dirty house

by Ruth Scribbles

Oh house you are dirty
The dust is flirty–flurrying
Finding its way up my nose
Ahhhchoo

The crumbs are thirty or forty
Too many crumbs
The rubbish is overflowing

Where are my cleaning fairies
When I need them.
Dirty house I hate you

Please, please, please enter next week’s contest. Some of you just need to tweak your poetic taste buds down a level or two. Do not try for merely day-old leftovers; try for yesterday’s lump of green putty you found in your refrigerator one midwinter’s morning.

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Skinwalkers, XXVIII

Nathan scuttled nearer the cannibalized sensory modules as his friend got right to work. Before he fully settled onto the hard ground, however, something flew through the air and smacked him on his shoulder. It was the last meal bundle. “What the-” he began, looking up in time to see the tartlet falling toward him as well. In startled automatic response, he caught it.

“Smooth,” Shin said, glancing over. He laughed, deactivated power to the area, and began removing restraining bolts with the autodrill.

Nathan relaxed into a sitting position on the hard floor and watched Shin. He attempted to eat the food station’s final offering, and was not surprised to find the tartlet as tasteless as the rest. “Good effort,” he told the machine, mock-toasting it with the singed dessert.

“I can quit, you know,” Shin replied, in a bit of a grunt. His left hand was up inside the wall, twisting his back in odd convulsions. His gaze flitted to the scanscreen clutched between his right hand and the wall, checking to see when he made the appropriate connection. “There!” Dropping the scanscreen to dangle from a twist of wires, he marched to his satchel and pulled out a few more tools.

“Hey!” Nathan exclaimed, as Shin trod heavily very near to Nathan’s slipshod feet in passing.

Shin feigned innocence; began adjusting an interior mechanism. “Soon’s you’re done, sleeper, get over here.”

Although he’d had no desire to finish it, Nathan took a deliberate, minuscule bite of the tartlet. He kept his expression empty, in an overall appearance of nonchalance. Another nibble. Then another.

Shin stopped, turned, and put his hand on his hip. One of his eyebrows drew upwards as his mouth puckered in a twist. He even tapped a foot. The worn soles echoed dully in the near-empty apartment.

The treat in Nathan’s hand proved too small to keep him from action for long. Besides, the suncycle was moving on and he needed to rest. His wristwatch beeped in agreement.

“What was that?” Shin asked, saw the watch, raised a truly curious face to Nathan’s.

“A wristwatch.”

“Well, obviou-”

“Whatcha need me for?” Nathan interrupted. He rose and walked to stand near his friend, waiting.

Shin drew in a breath, a bit hurt, but not pressing the question. “Drag the tools closer, if you can.” Grunting, Nathan complied. Shin worked in near silence for half a tick, keeping further comments restricted to which tool he needed or whether he wanted Nathan to support a crucial piece.

“I’m trustly, you know,” he said, finally. His focus shifted briefly to meet Nathan’s eye, then back to the screen.

Nathan sighed. “I know.” He pushed tantalizing thoughts of forever friendships and open trust far from his imaginations, and left the conversation where it was.

“Time for the cover again,” Shin said. They hefted it in place and secured it. Shin reactivated power and the machine defied Nathan’s gloomy expectations by whirring to life. They could hear the cooling mechanism humming, even more quietly than it had before. Shin smiled. “Try it.”

Doubtful of the outcome, Nathan leaned in and pressed the Midmeal button. An indistinct whir of gears came to him from the food station, and a countdown lit up the display. “I didn’t know it could do that!” He said, and laughed.

Shin smiled a ghost of his usual expression.

*Ding* sang the machine, and a perfectly-prepared meal bundle landed in the vending area. It was even steaming.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XXVII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XXIX.

Reckon You’re My Neighbor

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Windstorms were frequent visitors to the valley; at least, they had been as long as Beck’s and Kirk’s families remembered. The only thing more frequent than wind, in fact, was their petty neighbor disputes:

Kirk called the police on Beck for some fireworks.

Beck’s wife blamed Kirk’s kids for broken gate slats.

And everyone said Kirk’s dog was just plain yappy.

But the day after the panel blew down between their yards, Beck showed up, right at Kirk’s door. “Reckon you could use a hand with that there rotten post,” was all he said.

And they got to work.

 

Carrot Ranch Entry

Out with the Wash

Our clothes washer died last month. We were surprised to see it go so soon. It was our new washer; our fancy one with a glass-domed front and a song at the end of its cycle.

It didn’t go quietly. Of course, that’s how we learned it was planning to perish. “Loud spinning” on webwashermd told us the bearings were shot.

“Can you save her?” I asked the repairman, my eyes tearing up.

“I’m afraid it’ll be cheaper to buy a new machine,” he drawled. The old toothpick held between his teeth moved somewhat as he tried to shape his cowboy features into one of sympathy.

“I’m sorry, Girl,” I told our faithful appliance. I patted the sci-fi door.

A few hundred computer searches later, we finally settled on a replacement. The options were tempting: two-in-one machines, cycle-sensing, vibrant color options, and consumer report favorites.

In the end, we picked a mid-grade model of the top load variety. I figured: if the fanciest model wasn’t able to grab my clothes, wash them, dry them, and fold and put away; I wasn’t going to spend a dime for more than basic clothes-bathing.

The purchasing session timed out midway, which may have been an omen. It may have been the old one’s electrical interference in protest. It may have been our spotty connection, frequently occurring between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.

I gave The Internet a good hour to figure things out, then tried again. The order went through and immediately, stalkingly told us by electronic mail that the purchase was done.

After a week of scrubbing our clothing on the washing board of our nearby creek (conveniently inside a couple of neighbor’s houses), the delivery truck arrived.

I sunk to my knees in gratitude, ready to kiss the unshaven faces of our deliverymen. They could not have known the first-world issues I’d been facing all week, or that I was wearing pants that had not been cleaned during that entire interim.

“So, you bought a washer and dryer, right?” Deliveryman One asked. He stood near two boxes, each with our last name inscribed in a diagonal up the side.

“No,” I said, confused. “Just a washer.” We looked more closely. The boxes were identical.

Apparently, I was so grateful for washing machines, I had ordered two.

A few phone calls later, and we hoped everything was worked out. Our old washer was dragged, dripping, away. She left behind a few marks on the floor where her feet had agitated, two old hoses from whence she drank, and the mold of a decade that only a front loader can accrue.

Our new machine, meanwhile, was separated forever from its twin. Installed upstairs near a strange dryer, it opened its transparent lid in a final farewell wave.

We never saw the other washer again. Perhaps he was adopted by a nice family nearby, raised near hot water sources, and enjoys having his drum cleaned monthly by an attentive old lady with no other projects pressing on her time.

I’ll miss him, but he’s probably happier where he is now.

As to our old machine, may she mildew in peace. Perhaps her parts will live on, thanks to generous junkyard donor programs. Thanks for the songs, Old Girl.