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Hiding Behind the Hydrangea, A Few Words Popped Into My Head. These Are Not (All Of) Those Words.

If you don’t remember the origin of this series (or, more likely, you’ve just stumbled upon this posting in your quest for pictures of naive boy scouts and have no idea what I’m on about), you can catch up here with Part I, here with Part II, here with Part III, and here with Part IV. Just don’t expect reading those entries to help any of this make sense and you’ll be fine. The rules are simple: using the writing prompt book Write the Story, include the ten provided words (underlined in this text) in a story using the given title. Failure to do so results in a disappointed and judgemental “Tut-tut!” from your mother.

An Unexpected Union

The key to finding the nurse was her ex-boyfriend. Not me, but the former boyfriend who came after me. Yes, after the tug-of-war between my wife and my carnival companion ended with me still married, my medical indiscretion moved on. I admit I kept tabs on her, even before my wife threw in the towel, sued for divorce, and took me for pretty much everything, including my prized hydrangea. So I know my lost love had played the field after me, casually dating, at different times, two brothers who owned a now defunct potato farm, a dentist, and then, more seriously, him.

The political cartoonist.

The major influence in her life since me.

The most recent ex.

I’d been more than keeping tabs on her at this point. I’d been following her, watching her, trying to find a way to win her back. The day they met was a terrible blow to me. They’d bumped into each other in line at a common, everyday sandwich shop. They chatted as they waited, then ended up ordering the same sandwich: ham and cheese on rye, Russian. He invited her to sit at his table, and soon they were brushing hands and laughing. Instant connection. I watched her scribble her phone number on the back of her receipt and hand it to him.

“Call me,” she said as she walked past me. I was in disguise as a broken homeless man, so she didn’t recognize me.

I had to recite the alphabet backwards three times before I was calm enough to get up and follow him to his place of work. I spent the next six months tracking him, learning his patterns and his secrets, preparing.

They broke up the night I’d planned to dispose of him. Money had been spent, wheels were in motion, but I called it off anyway. I felt sorry for him. He’d prepared an intimate dinner for two in the gazebo in his backyard. An exquisite meal. And over the salad, he proposed. And crying, she said no and left. Hiding behind a thriving hydrangea (that looked suspiciously familiar), neither noticed me.

I lost her after that. Gone from her usual haunts and from her clinic job; she was nowhere to be found. But he, the current ex, was obsessed. Desperate to find her, he looked high and low. He let himself go, lost his job, his house, his reputation. But none of that mattered compared to his quest.

Frankly, I found it more than a little disturbing.

Given our goals intersected, I let him do the work and just followed. And tonight, after months of searching, he finally found her.

And has drawn a knife! No!

I stopped him. I saved my beloved. Passed off my presence as a coincidence leading to a fateful but unexpected reunion. No, union. For she has taken me back! I am loved again!

So successful was this turn of events that I have won her complete and total trust in addition to her undying love. And so tonight, before sharing her bed, I will be sworn in to the Brotherhood of the Carnival. To be with my true love and her true family forever.

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Posted by on 12 November 2018 in Writing, writing prompts

 

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The Controversial President Weight Loss Diet is going to be HUUGE! The Biggest, Most Beautiful Diet Ever!

So two weeks ago I announced my intention to see how fad weight loss diets worked on curing me of being an a-hole. The first diet covered was the Watermelon Diet, and it didn’t work out so well. I gained four pounds and was served with divorce papers. For more details on that diet, or the protocol I’m following for this study, see my first post here.

My examination of the next diet on my list ended up getting delayed because I unwittingly decided to try the Really Sick Diet (brought to you by Kiddos Who Don’t Cover Their Mouths When They Sneeze™). While the Really Sick Diet is great for weight loss, my informal canvassing of those within hearing range of my sickbed suggests it makes you more of a whiny jerk rather than less.

So not very comfortable or helpful on the asshole front.

Just as well, if you ask me. I’d rather be an asshole than sick like that again.

So now, a week late, I bring you, just in time for the midterms, the Controversial President Weight Loss Diet!

The way this diet is supposed to work: you listen to every piece of audio and watch every snippet of video of the President of the United States that you can lay your hands on. That includes any and all Access: Hollywood hot mic recordings out there.

Although it’s been around for decades, lately proponents of this diet have been swearing by it. In the last two years alone, adherents have seen the pounds just roll off. To the point of endangering their lives!

Some limitations of this diet:

  • Tends to only work in four, eight, or if the VP gets elected, twelve-year cycles. A sixteen-year cycle is theoretically possible, but far too depressing to consider. Occasionally, if you’re lucky, an impeachment might break this cycle.
  • If you like the current president, this diet indicates that you may suffer from a severe case of psychosis and weight loss is the least of your problems. You may also experience grossly inappropriate bliss that results in blackout eating.
  • If you don’t like the current president, you will lose your appetite, your will to live, and all sense of hope. You will gain a newfound sense of urgency and an overwhelming desire to vote in the next election. Also, in addition to weight loss and dark thoughts, blackout drinking is not uncommon.

Now those are the weight loss considerations of the Controversial President Weight Loss Diet. But my thesis is on the impact of said diet on making me a better human being and less of a shifty prick.

Here, I am sad to report, the benefits are less clear.

Week 2
Diet: The Controversial President Weight Loss Diet

Description: Basically, endure as close to a lethal dose of exposure to the sitting president as you can without causing permanent brain damage. On the other hand, you can eat and drink as much as you want, should you retain the urge to eat.

Purpose: Leave you so nauseous as to be incapable of feeding yourself.

Amount of president consumed in the last two years: Way, way, way too much.

A-Hole Index score: (Mine, not his!) 5.0. Respondents rated me either a 0 or a 10 on the A-Hole index, with nothing in-between. I had an even number of respondents, the 0s and 10s were evenly split, and so the average was 5.

Net result: Now this is where it gets interesting. About half the respondents, when interacting with me during this period, said I displayed newfound humanity, filled them with warmth and hope, and they looked forward to seeing me at our polling station Tuesday (whatever that means). The other half blocked me on Facebook, but not before telling me to (variously) “Eff off, snowflake!”, “Go back to your own country, snowflake!” and, most perplexing, “Maga, snowflake!”

I’m not sure what ‘maga’ means, but from context I’m guessing it’s pretty bad.

So a mixed result. Stay tuned for next week’s update, when I look at the All Peanut Diet. Hopefully my legume allergy won’t cause any problems with this one.

And no matter what party you belong to, VOTE!

 

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Dammit, Jim, I’m a Doctor not a Writing Prompt follower!

If you don’t remember the origin of this series (or, more likely, you’ve just stumbled upon this posting in your quest for pictures of naive boy scouts and have no idea what I’m on about), you can catch up here with Part I, here with Part II, and here with Part III. Just don’t expect reading those entries to help any of this make sense and you’ll be fine. The rules are simple: include the ten provided words (underlined in the text) in a story using the given title. Failure to do so results in a slow, agonizing death (or equivalently, parenthood).

In my last “Write The Story” writing prompt post, I closed by promising the next entry would be out of this world. Given that a significant portion of the Earth’s orbit has been traversed since that post, the description is even more apt now.

Chasing the Enemy

Captain Kirk stared at the viewscreen, his escaped quarry but a blur far ahead of them.

“Scotty, I need more power!” Kirk shouted. The demon carnival cult nurse, possibly from the future, possibly from the past, but definitely not from this time, would not elude him again. The memory of the singing lute saleswoman, an innocent bystander phasered into ash in front of the Church of the Empty Void cathedral, hit him like a hammer. Kirk would not return to 55 Cancri B and the elder high priests without that nurse in his custody and ready to be turned over to the Church and its harsh justice.

Kirk remembered the solemn oath he’d made to the Church’s Popess, her ceremonial parakeet flitting back and forth across the cavernous audience room as he spoke: “I will not rest, your Holiness, I will not pause or deviate from my task, until I have captured that freakish time-travelling medic and placed her in your custody.”

Popess Hildegard Penelope Fiona Fabberblast III nodded. “We hear your oath, Federation Captain James T. Kirk, echoing majestically in this Empty Void, and we are pleased.” The parakeet, Father Commander Toby Hashtag McFizzBin IV, alighted on the Popess’ shoulder and pooped his approval. “Ah yeah,” he warbled.

The Popess smiled. “It is destiny, Federation Captain James T. Kirk. See the poop of approval the Empty Void has bestowed upon your words.” She gestured to the greenish brown blob slowly spreading across her ceremonial tank top, settling in among the older, fainter stains already present. “Go in Peace. Go in Justice.”

The Popess sat down on the Holy Folding Chair of Receiving and lifted both gilded loafers high. Kirk, following Church custom, knelt and kissed both heels to seal his commitment to the task. Then he rose, smiled rakishly, and said, “You’ve gotten something on your tank top. Do you need any help taking it off?”

Now, three days and four dead red shirts later, the diabolic nurse was within his grasp. Once he had her, he could return to 55 Cancri B, return to his Most Holy of lovers, and deliver sweet, downy justice.

“More power, Scotty! She’s getting away!”

The lights flickered, the engines rumbled, then all fell silent as the ship came to a stop. The devil nurse moved out of sensor range.

“Tha’s done it, Captain,” came Scotty’s response. “We’ve cracked a dilithium crystal!”

Kirk pounded the arm of his chair, hissing in frustration.

 

 

 
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Posted by on 6 October 2018 in Writing, writing prompts

 

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I’m not getting older, dammit! The world is just getting darker!

So I have a problem. One that requires more than a little blue pill to resolve.

Oh, if only a pill could solve this problem!

Or, for that matter, even a suppository.

I am deeply saddened to report that when it gets dark, and I mean very, very dark, I can’t see.

This is particularly disturbing because I do my best work at night. When it’s, you know, dark.

Yes, when my body most desperately needs to rest and rejuvenate itself, my brain is all, “Hold my beer.”

But in a good, non-alcoholic, non-electoral sort of way.

As you might be starting to suspect, I wrote this entry during the day. But I had no choice, given I can’t see at night.

You see, since everyone else in my household have brains that listen to their bodies, they’re all asleep at night.

Or should be. Get back to bed right now, Kiddo!

Sorry about that. Because of this (nearly) mass slumber, I can’t just flip on all the lights, crank up the volume on my .mod files, and take care of business.

Oh no. Everyone else in my household gets cranky when I turn the productivity up to 11 past, well, eleven. Suddenly the Missus and the one kiddo who actually does sleep at night are making snide remarks about needing rest and don’t I have work in the morning and look you’re making the dogs bark and oh my gawd what is that racket you are listening to it should be illegal to distribute it!

(My hearing is fine. Spider by They Might Be Giants is meant to be listened to loud.)

In order to appease the Missus, I turn everything off, go to bed, and when dawn’s surly light finally returns, make yet another medical appointment.

My doctor always sort of wilts and sighs when he walks into the exam room and sees me, like a blow-up punching bag suddenly deflating after one punch too many, then mutters “Oh no, not again.”

While most people would see this reaction and think, “Uh oh, I must be really sick!” I’m not worried. I’ve been here before. Seen the doc about this many times. And after the poorly hidden but inevitable eye roll, he always tells me the same thing:

“Still not getting more exercise? I really think you should focus more on that. Not being able to see in the dark? That’s nothing to worry about. You’re just getting old. Try turning on the lights.”

I am not getting old!

And turn on the lights?? Did he not read the above paragraph about other people in the house wanting it dark so they can sleep?

Since modern medical science has cast me aside despite my numerous co-pays, I was forced to do my own research.

My own experiments.

And I figured it out.

(So start writing up those Nobel Prize nominations, in case they won’t accept my self-nomination.)

I’m not getting older. Nope.

The world…is getting darker.

Hear me out. Once you see the evidence you will drop your jaws in amazement.

(Or disbelief. But if you stay silent, I can still imagine it’s amazement. So hush.)

Here’s a modern-day keyboard. Notice anything about it, aside from the dirt?

Peek-a-boo, I can't see you, goddammit!

Who uses this? Members of the band Disaster Area?

That’s right. It’s super dark.

Here’s what it looks like at night with all the lights in the house in the mandated OFF position:

I see London, I see France, I do not see this freakin' keyboard

The real reason schools started mandating touch typing classes…

Now you can see my problem (or more specifically, can’t).

And don’t tell me to get a back-lit keyboard! I’ve tried that! They require you to press a key combo to turn on the back-lighting.

Can you see any of the keys in the dark on the above keyboard? Can you? Then how the hell am I supposed to see them, hmm?

Think about it. Their design solution when you can’t see the keyboard is to require you to hit specific keys on the keyboard so you can see the keys. On the keyboard! It’s Kafkaesque!

They’ll be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes, let me tell you!

But, I perceive you mumbling as you nervously edge away, what do keyboards have to do with my supposition that the world is getting darker?

Well, aside from black reflecting back less light into the environment (ergo, making the surrounding environment darker), we once had, long ago, better keyboards.

And by better I don’t mean clickier (though that was better too). I mean beige:

Seriously, does it get any better than an IBM mechanical keyboard?

If my sunglasses were handy, I’d put them on before using this keyboard

See what this pinnacle of keyboard engineering looks like in normal lighting? Compare that to yet another modern keyboard (this time grey):

The Great Computer Compromise of 1995 between IBM and Apple solved nothing and only punted down the road the final, disastrous decision to switch to black for computers and accessories that future generations would lament for all time.

“We think beige is too bright. Waa waa. If black is too dark, how about we meet in the middle and try gray?” No. Just no.

But check it out what happened when I photographed my, if the Keyboard Industrial Complex PR hacks are to be believed, “old, tired, and passé” vintage keyboard in the dark.

WTFtl;dr! It actually got brighter:

OK, even I agree that white is too bright. Turn it up to beige AND THEN STOP!

CAPS LOCK on because DAMN IT, YES, I’M EXCITED ABOUT THIS KEYBOARD! AND NO COLLUSION! TOTALLY NO COLLUSION! COVFEFE!

Beige is a color I can type on in the dark. Because with beige, the cold encroachment of darkness is stopped in its sneaky, disabling tracks. I can look down and see the damn keys I need to press and then press them.

Presto! No back-light, front-light, or side-light required.

And it’s not just the keyboard. Tell me, how am I going to find that black CD eject button, cleverly placed, of course, right next to the black power button, on this particular, recently manufactured computer?

Stephen King's got nothin' on this scary beast

Hell, in this photo I have a spotlight on the chassis and I’m using a flash, and you still can’t see anything (except the dust bunny residue)!

But take away the above modern, fancy-pants, 1080p, USB 3.0, multi-core and multi-threaded (guess the color of the thread – hint: it’s BLACK) super computer and replace it with a late-80s, early-90s computer, and what do you get?

You get this, a right proper computing machine:

This. This I can effin' see.

The IBM “Just Try And Make The Room This Is In Dark” PS/2 P70. They don’t build ’em like this any more. Can’t afford to. Too much lead needed for the chassis.

That’s right. I closed the curtains, turned off the lights, and then tented the entire house (due to termites) before taking this picture, and it still looks like I’m standing outside on a bright summer day.

That’s how much frickin’ light beige computers give off!

Now it might be the termiticide talking, but I think I’d be able to use my computer at night just fine…if it were made out of beige. But sadly, as amazing as the above computer is, it does lack one feature deemed unnecessary in the 1980s and 1990s:

WiFi.


Do you have tales of horror trying to use an albedo-challenged computer in the wee hours? Share them in the comments so we can commiserate together and maybe put together a kickstarter to make a modern beige computer!

(Please comment. The Missus thinks I’m nuts and I need you to help me prove her wrong.)
 

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If H. P. Lovecraft had written for the New Yorker

Bit of a break from my writing prompt series, but don’t worry, I’ve got three more entries written and that fiendish carnival cult nurse is eager to return.

Instead, I want to write about something new: an entirely different writing prompt exercise!

After you’ve finished rolling your eyes, but before you click off to another site, let me explain. Not too long ago, a friend of mine posted a blog entry about a creative writing book written by Jeff VanderMeer called Wonderbook. She made it sound intriguing enough that I went out and bought it.

The book is about the creative process, has a lot of pictures and essays and, well, read my friend’s blog post. It’s late and I don’t feel like describing it when someone else already has. I will say that while I find the book interesting, it does require…focus, and because of that and my current circumstances¹, I have struggled a bit with it. Not to say I don’t like it, because I do, but it feels, to me at least, like a well-written textbook on an interesting subject rather than a light read that you tear through in one sitting.

Oh no, definitely not one sitting.

In keeping with this textbook feel, it has exercises. I just finished Chapter 1 and got to my first writing prompt, which I will reproduce below. This prompt is different from the WRITE THE STORY prompts in my other posts, in that WRITE THE STORY is a writing journal where each page gives me a bunch of words to integrate into a story. This exercise from Wonderbook just presents me with a picture and says go.

So, without further ado, the writing that resulted from the first prompt! Temper your expectations – this is no carnival cult nurse escapade…

I don't know. There's something fishy about this whole thing...

Insert New Yorker caption contest entry here. Mine? I’m pretty sure that isn’t the book I’m looking for.

 

Adolfus stared with no small amount of irritation at the apparition rising before him. The Emperor would be displeased with his fallen angel if Adolfus’ failures continued along these lines. An explosion or a smaller, more colorful conflagration, while still failures, were at least entertaining. But a giant, winged singing fish, conjured from a painter’s palette? That had been done before.

The owl on Adolfus’ right shoulder clicked with consternation, while the cockatoo on his left issued forth a stream of obscenities. “That last variation should have worked,” Octavius, the owl, finally sputtered. Tersius just continued to swear until Adolfus flicked her beak sharply and she fell silent.

“If you can’t be helpful, be quiet,” Adolfus scolded. Both familiars lowered their heads, in thought, submission, and shame as Adolfus stroked his chin, going over the incantation silently, trying to see the source of the error.

The winged fish, oblivious to the trouble it had caused, burped and then broke out in a wet, throaty rendition of Fidelio.

“I’m sure it sounds better under water,” observed Octavius.

¹ Life has been a little more…chaotic and uncooperative of late, and I’ve been using these writing prompts to break out of the funk I keep finding myself in. That, along with an improv class I’m taking, have been surprisingly effective, so I will continue to use this tool until such time I either feel better or the head honcho at Simon and Schuster stumbles across these vignettes, offers me a huge, multi-million dollar contract, and I find myself catapulted into literary fame. Or once I’ve gotten through the two books I’m currently using. Whichever comes first. I’m kinda hoping for the multi-million dollar contract option, but I don’t think Simon and Schuster can really afford me these days…
 
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Posted by on 22 July 2018 in Art!, Life, Story, Writing, writing prompts

 

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I had a fever for cowbell and all I got was a blood sample drawn

It’s that time again. I’m behind schedule, utterly bereft of ideas, and have a few writing prompt pages, not so freshly inked, waiting for their shot at the big time. If you don’t remember the origin of this series (or, more likely, you’ve just stumbled upon this posting in your quest for pictures of naive boy scouts and have no idea what I’m on about), you can catch up here with Part I and here with Part II. Just don’t expect reading those entries to help any of this make sense and you’ll be fine.

Drama In and Out Of the Lab

The carnival cult nurse had taken my blood samples back to her lab. Beginning to suspect there was more to her than met the eye, I picked up the telephone, called my wife to let her know I’d be late getting home, and followed my uncanny medical companion.

The shoe was on the other foot, I quickly discovered, and had to stop to swap them.Walking was far more comfortable after that, but more than one bystander had looked askance at me during the switch. I rushed to catch up with my quarry and in my hurry I tripped, despite the re-shoeing, and fell inside a roadside trench being dug as part of the More Canals for Gondolas initiative that was recently passed by the city council after a team of international boating enthusiasts, led by the world-famous microbiologist and amateur mountain climber, Gloria Pffitz, lobbied heavily for the ordinance.

The carnival cult nurse at this point revealed the hitherto unknown hidden heights of her diabolical genius. Somehow, while I’d been scrabbling my way out of the precursor canal, she managed to persuade multiple pedestrians, bicyclists, and other innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders to obstruct my forward progress.

Soon the nurse was but a distant blip on the horizon, the location of her secret lab still a mystery to me. Discouraged, I headed home where a suspicious wife and kids were chatting with my wife and kids, filling their heads with preposterous innuendo about infidelity. I assured my wife, to no avail, that my interest in the cultist was purely scientific, and passed the night on the sofa, where even the dog deigned not to keep me company.

If only I knew where that lab was, I could have spent a comfortable night there on a cushy lab bench rather than this lumpy sofa.

I promise you, the next entry in this series will be out of this world!

 
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Posted by on 10 July 2018 in Writing, writing prompts

 

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