Blanket Politics

via Daily Prompt: BlanketBlanket

When two people share a bed, their religious views are laid bare.  There is ritual and tradition attached to the peculiar institution we call sleeping.  The mattress is our altar which we cover with sheets, blankets, and pillows before we lay down our bodies in sacrifice to Morpheus.

My sister untucks the blankets to allow her feet freedom to roam in case they get restless. I like my toes securely tucked in where they are safe from things that go pinch in the night.  I recently witnessed my sister engage in the untucking ritual. It shocked me; I thought she was a toe-tucker like me.  All these years, I had been living in a fool’s paradise.

The question was: “Would our relationship survive?” Could she accept a toe-tucker for a sister? Could I live with her freedom-loving feet? These are essential questions that can lie dormant for years until the night two people have to share a bed when they are visiting their mother who decides to put her daughters in the back bedroom.

When we were children, I did not like waiting for my sister to get up in the morning so we could make the bed together. I had places to go, people to meet, and things to do. So I made my half of the bed in the morning before I left for school. It was something I did religiously.

I can still make one half of a bed. The gods are pleased.

Halfmade Bed

Carl and the Grey Rhino

via Daily Prompt: GrayGray

Grey Rhino

This affair must all be unraveled from within. These little grey cells. It is ‘up to them’–as you say over here. Hercule Poirot

The Famous Detective inspected the scene of the crime. His friend Carl peered out the window.

“You say the body was found slumped over this box?” he asked. “What is this box anyway?”

“The zoo is sponsoring a one-day contest to name our new acquisition, a grey rhinoceros,” said the zookeeper. “Zoo visitors were given a ballot upon entry which they then could mark and deposit in this special box between noon and eight o’clock at night. At 8 P.M., volunteers arrived to process the entries, and that is when the body was discovered. If word gets out, it will really put a damper on the naming festivities.”

The detective pounced on a small scrap of paper on the floor near the box.

“Aha! A clue! It must have been dropped by the victim.”

He scrutinized the paper, turning it over and upside down.

“This is very mysterious,” he said, “and therefore must have great bearing on the case. The victim must have written it before he died. But its significance escapes me.”

He showed it to the zookeeper.

“Does this mean anything to you?”

The zookeeper also turned the paper over and upside down before shrugging his shoulders.

“Not a clue,” he said

The detective turned to his friend Carl.

Mon ami, what do you make of this?”

Carl looked at the paper. On it was written a definite integral. Carl looked at a large whiteboard above the box on which were written a series of numbers in two rows and five columns.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “this symbol represents the average number of entries in the box.”

He did some quick calculations.

“Furthermore, the number is 10.6875.”

“Ah, 10.6875!” The detective addressed the zookeeper. “What is the meaning of this number? I insist you tell me.”

“Hey, I don’t know anything about it,” the zookeeper protested. “It could be a phone number, a license plate, a ticket number–anything!”

Carl coughed up a hairball. Then he strolled to the far end of the room.

“Yes, you are right,” said the detective. “It could be anything, but what? All we know is that it was obviously important enough for this poor fellow to write it down.”

“Found it!” Carl called out. “It refers to employee number 106875. Find the person who matches this number and you’ve got your killer.”

The zookeeper and the detective hurried over to Carl, who was standing in front of a time clock. There in the third row of a cardholder was a punched card with the number 106875; the name next to the number was Walla, B.

“B. Walla,” said the detective. “That name is familiar. I am certain I have seen it somewhere.”

Carl rolled his eyes and pointed to the door. There, in large black letters, was the name of the zookeeper–B. WALLA, B.S., D.D.Z., P.D.Q.

“YOU!” exclaimed the detective, grabbing at the zookeeper as the latter scrambled for the exit. The detective missed, and the zookeeper sprinted for the door. Suddenly his legs went out from under him, and he fell heavily to the floor. He had slipped on Carl’s hairball.

In the meantime, Carl had sounded the zoo alarm. While the zookeeper struggled to his feet, a team of security guards arrived with their weapons drawn.

“STUPID CAT!” shouted the zookeeper.

The detective addressed the guards.

“Here is your murderer,” he said. “If you search his apartment, you will find the murder weapon, a newly issued passport, and a ticket to the French Rivera. And if you unlock the box with the entries for naming the grey rhinoceros, you will find a winning lottery ticket stolen from the mob and hidden in the box for safekeeping. Mr. Walla, B. tried to retrieve the ticket before it the box was opened. Unfortunately for the victim, he had strict orders to guard the box because he had heard rumors of a planned ballot stuffing. It was Walla, B who started the rumors to ensure the safety of his stolen lottery ticket. When the victim refused to allow Walla, B. to open the box, your ex-zookeeper put a bullet through his temple. The victim knew that Walla, B. would not know the meaning of this definite integral and could thus identify his murderer without Walla being aware of it. It’s as simple as that.”

Carl coughed up another hairball.

 

 

 

 

Roosevelt High School

via Daily Prompt: ZipZip

RHS

Roosevelt High School was built in 1928.  That makes it one old school.  It is so old the skeletons of dead cockroaches, spiders, and earwigs have accumulated in the walls, adding to the insulation.  In my first year there teaching, one of my fellow teachers told me that dust from the insect skeletons blew through the air ducts and found its way into my lungs every time I took a breath.  Funnily enough, I was not comforted by that thought.  The teacher wasn’t either, which is why she felt compelled to share it with me.

Note to self:  If a thought is unpleasant to think about, it helps to share it with others; it distributes the burden of thinking it.

Roosevelt High School’s zip code is 93702.  A recent article in the paper stated that children living in the area have three times the rate of lead poisoning as children living in Flint, Michigan.  For years I drank the water out of water fountains at Roosevelt High School.  Zip code 93702.  The thought makes me feel like a mutant with insect skeletons in my lungs and lead in my blood.  However, I am not going to share that thought with anyone; I will keep my mutancy to myself.

Note to self:  If I wake up some morning and find I have turned into a large vermin, I will write a note to Kafka, saying “It’s true!  It’s really true!”

Searching for Lucy’s Story

Seigna-DianaIn Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a girl named Lucy peruses a magician’s book of spells. She reads a particular spell “For the Refreshment of the Spirit.” It turns out to be a story, the best story that Lucy has ever read. I have read a few Lucy stories myself and am always looking for a few more.

For me, a Lucy story succeeds in its characters, content, and complexity, whether the genre is history, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, or society novels. Examples include: Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, Phantastes, Robot Series, Foundation Series, The Chronicles of Barset, Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse mysteries, and the Crystal Cave.

The characters in these books are utterly engaging; I care what happens to them. They live interesting lives; they think and say interesting things. If I do not care about the characters in a novel, I usually do not finish the book. If the characters are boring, annoying, clichéd stereotypes, or dysfunctional without redemption, then they are definitely not in a Lucy story.

In a Lucy story, the content is complex and inspires reflective thinking. The language is fresh, and the vocabulary is varied; the text contains words and phrases worth remembering. However, excessive profanity takes it off the list.

A Lucy story also contains wit and humor; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are many best selling books that are not on my list of Lucy stories because their characters are so grim. Everything they do is overcast with the same shade of grey, whether they are fighting a battle, hunting a rabbit, or combing their hair. I like a sense of fun in a book–that is an integral feature of a Lucy story.

To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, I respect anyone who writes a book, no matter what genre it is. Every day authors present their handiwork for the reading public to enjoy. I hope that there are a few Lucy stories among them that will refresh of my spirit.

 

The Deity of Harmony

Harmonyvia Daily Prompt: Harmony

When I decided to visit the glassworks at Harmony, California (population twenty-eight), I had no idea that I would encounter the deity that presides over it.  He is a benevolent soul that has been around for thousands of years.

Glassworks

He first came into being when God said, “Let there be light.”

And the lightening struck the sand, and from the sand came the race of the Fulgurites.  From this humble origin, the Fulgurites multiplied and grew in strength until their descendants spread over all the Earth, some even reaching to the stars.  And now, as the prophet had foretold, “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”

Glass is everywhere, in every home, in every town, in every state and nation.  And their deity–the high priest of silicon–resides in Harmony.

When I met him he was sitting in the sun, reflecting.  He was laughing to himself.  I asked him to let me in on the joke; he said humans are more fragile than glass, and how shattered they would be if they knew that.  I don’t know if he was right, but I did give his words some thought.  After all, he has been around for thousands of year, and I was in Harmony with him.

On Being Subtle

Rhino Photo

On March 31, 2017, The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation by S. M. Hart was released on Amazon and on Smashwords. I found it on Smashwords, but I could not find it on Amazon until a week later when I asked FBP for help. So far, the release has been a low-key event.

I’ve observed that other authors put out advance notifications of their books’ release dates. They have drawings for give-aways; they have contests, scavenger hunts, and cover teasers. I once saw a book cover wrapped in brown paper; the paper was torn away piece by piece (like a strip tease) until the entire cover was revealed. And, of course, Twitter and Facebook are flooded with book promotions and advertisements. Compared to all that, my book release was very low-key.

I shared with my friends on my private Facebook page that Rhino was published and got a lot of positive, supportive responses. It was wonderful. After a week or so, I finally posted the news on my public Facebook page and on Twitter. Low-key.

The thing is, I don’t know what to do. If I follow the advice I’ve read online, I will aggressively promote my book in a passive sort of way. No SPAM is the most prominent message about book promotion. It’s the most obvious and obnoxious way of marketing; but there are also subtle ways to promote your book that are blasted all over the Internet.

Ten (subtle) ways to market your book. Twelve (even more subtle) ways to attract readers. Five (extremely subtle) rules to write a best seller that are so subtle, so surefire, we cannot list them here–you’ll have to buy the book.

However, with so much subtlety floating around out there, everyone knows everyone else is being very subtle about marketing their books–but at least they are not SPAMming. Too subtle for that. I suppose in my own low-key way, I, too, am being subtle. Oh, well.

Note to Self: When Jack and I visit Yosemite, we enjoy riding on the shuttle bus; we call it “The Subtle Shuttle.” We love calling it that, but I don’t know why. Maybe it was because our very first conversation was onboard the Subtle Shuttle. We road around the valley floor for about an hour, while Jack was subtly sizing me up and deciding if he wanted to marry me. Very low-key.

Carl and the Golden Ball

Upon a great adventure he was bond.

That greatest Gloriana to him gave,

That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie Lond,

To winne him worship, and her grace to have.

Edmund Spenser ~ The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1

Waterhouse-Knight Lady

The Gentle Knight rode through the wood, following the sound of someone in distress. His companion Carl walked at his side. Presently they came to a clearing and beheld a Lady weeping by the side of a small stream. So intent was she on her mournful state, she did not hear the Knight’s approach.

“My Lady,” said the Knight. “Why do you weep?”

Startled, the Lady looked up in wide-eyed wonder at the Knight. Then she buried her face in her hands and began weeping anew. The Knight immediately dismounted and knelt as a supplicant.

“If you would but tell me the cause of your tears,” he said, “I will banish it ere this day is done.”

The Lady raised her fair head and placed a trembling hand on the Knight’s arm.

“Good and Gentle Knight,” she said, “you have truly shown yourself to be most noble to stay your journey for a poor maiden’s trouble. I would not delay your high purpose…yet my heart is so grieved that I will forego the usual courtesies and pour forth my tale of woe.”

At her words, Carl rolled his eyes and went chasing after a moth. The Lady continued.

“See yon stream? Early this morning I was playing with my golden ball, tossing and catching it in all manner of merriment. But misfortune stayed my hand on my final toss, and my golden ball landed in the stream. From there, the water swiftly carried down, down, down to a tunnel through with the stream flows. And now my golden ball is stuck like a pig in the mud.”

“The worst of it is the clouds have gathered together in preparation for a mighty thunderstorm. The rain will eventually cause the tunnel to overflow, and my golden ball will be lost forever.”

Having told her tale, the Lady recommenced her weeping. The Knight said not a word but followed the stream until he espied the tunnel. Casting himself on the ground, he reached into the tunnel in an attempt to snatch the runaway ball. When that failed, he grabbed his lance and poked it into the tunnel, trying to push the ball to freedom. But however skillfully the Knight wielded his lance, the ball remained beyond his reach. At length the Knight withdrew from the tunnel and returned to the Lady, defeated and dishonored.

“I am defeated and dishonored,” he cried. “I am no longer worthy to bear the title Gentle Knight!” With a wail of anguish, the Knight began removing his armor. Seeing that her golden ball was still stuck in the tunnel, the Lady joined in the general lament.

In the meantime, Carl, who had overheard the Lady’s tale, started taking measurements and gathering data. He determined that the rate at which the rainwater would flow into the tunnel was modeled by the function cubic feet per hour. The rate at which water drained from the tunnel was modeled by the function cubic feet per hour. It was his intent to use these two functions to determine the time at which the amount of water in the tunnel would be at a minimum and what the amount would be. His biggest problem would be getting the Knight and the Lady to stop their wailing long enough to listen to him.

“Gentle Knight! Lady!” he shouted. “I have a plan for retrieving the golden ball!”

With these and other words, Carl finally persuaded the Knight and the Lady to stop crying.

“Listen,” he said, “I can figure out the minimum amount of water in the tunnel; if it is not too deep, I can go into the tunnel and get the golden ball. Will that work for you?”

The Knight and the Lady were awed by his words and could only nod dumbly. Carl set to work with his calculations. As the minutes passed, and the sky grew dark, the Lady began to fret.

“Oh, Sir Knight, what if your brave companion cannot find an answer? Can there really be a solution to such a problem?”

The Knight groaned in response and began removing his outer garments.

“Whatever the outcome, I have proved myself a knave and a beast.”

Carl ignored the two of them and continued to calculate. After about quarter of an hour, he threw down his notes.

“Done! The amount of water in the tunnel will be at a minimum of 27.9945 cubic feet in approximately 3.2719 hours. Now all we have to do it wait; then I will retrieve the golden ball.”

So the Knight, the Lady, and Carl sat down and waited. At the end of 3.2719 hours, Carl went into the tunnel and found the Lady’s ball. He carried it over to her with a warning to be careful of where she tossed it. The Lady was so thankful that she asked Carl to name his reward–she would give him anything, even her own hand in marriage. This, however, Carl refused.

“Lady, I appreciate the offer,” he said, “but I am a cat.”

Then he told the Knight (who by this time was naked) to put on his clothes and his armor. Carl was thoroughly wet from his excursion into the tunnel and wanted to get indoors to the nearest fire as soon as possible. Because the Knight was a gentleman and Carl was a cat, they took the Lady with them, along with her golden ball.

 

 

 

Insensible Exercise

Lucky Knot-MobiusOnce in a while, in the process of scrubbing the toilet, I reflect that this is something that Alexis Colby would never do. Neither would Alicia Florrick, Diane Lockhart, or Annalise Keating. But I don’t mind; toilet scrubbing is part of my Insensible Exercise Routine.

Insensible Exercise: Exercise that burns calories of which one is unaware because one does not think one is exercising. Insensible exercise includes (but is not limited to): doing dishes, ironing, cooking (110 – 160 calories per hour); making beds, mopping, sweeping, vacuuming (170 – 240 calories per hour); scrubbing toilets or showers and changing sheets (250 – 350 calories per hour.) I figure I burn as many calories during my Insensible Exercise Routine as I do during my Sensible Exercise Routine.

Insensible exercise is the reason I do not mind walking between my car and the store when I go shopping. It’s the reason I return my shopping cart to the designated shopping cart area instead of abandoning it in the parking lot. Insensible exercise is good for the body. However, I have learned that not everyone appreciates this easy and inexpensive way to exercise.

On my first day of class at Cal State Fullerton, all of the regular parking lots were full and the only spots left were in a field adjacent to the campus. There was row after row of vehicles so it took about ten minutes to find an empty space. I parked my car and hustled to class, a good twenty minutes away. At the end of the day, I returned to my car, tired and drained from all of the insensible exercise I had done that day. There was a note stuck on the window.

“If you park in front of me again, I’ll break your f***g head.”

I looked around, shocked. My car was not parked in front of anything; the parking lot was nearly empty. This note was obviously written by someone who did not appreciate the insensible exercise of backing his car out of the parking space. He apparently had wanted to pull through and felt I should have instinctively known this and found another parking space. I was annoyed and then grew angry. How cowardly of this person to leave an anonymous note on my car! He (the handwriting screamed “male.”) should have waited for me in the parking lot to express his outrage in person.

But then I reflected on my situation. Did I really want to confront an insensible exercise hater in the middle of a deserted parking lot? No. So I tried to understand his position. He, like me, most likely had a long day listening to lectures and taking notes. He was tired, hungry, and just wanted to go home. He was looking forward to the pull through, and instead, he got the back up. I can understand that–I like a good pull through myself. But in terms of calories burned, I don’t think backing up takes that much more energy than pulling through. And his vehicle was not a fifth wheel where a pull through is a pearl of great price.

No, he was just a grouchy college student who did not want anyone to park in the space in front of him. But I can remember him more charitably if I think he is one of the thousands of people who do not do insensible exercise–like Alicia Florrick, Alexis Colby, and Diane Lockhart.

 

Note to self: If I were obedient and accommodating, I would have never again parked in front of anyone in any parking lot lest I inadvertently park in front of Note-Writer. Fortunately I am neither.

Out of the Silent Planet

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was born in Belfast, Ireland, the son of a solicitor and a clergyman’s daughter. He taught medieval literature at Oxford University and at Cambridge University and was a prolific writer. C. S. Lewis’ better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in his space trilogy.

Silent PlanetOut of the Silent Planet is one of my favorite fantasy novels. Set in England, it is the story of middle-aged scholar named Edwin Ransom who is kidnapped and taken to the planet Malacandra. Once there, he escapes and eludes his captors, crossing paths with one of the Malacandrans, a sentient being named Hyoi.

At one point, Ransom and Hyoi discuss their meeting. Hyoi tells him:

“When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly; it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. “

This passage means something to me. I do not yet know how to articulate it; it simmers in my vast reservoir of unknown knowledge.

But I do know that somehow, it made its way into The Book of Rhino. It is there, waiting patiently to be discovered; it is there, and I am glad. Most likely, when I end my days, I shall understand what this means to me, and how it influenced my writing. Until then, I am content to know that it has.

 

Long Journey’s End

Fairy LandA Flash Fiction challenge from Terrible Minds. My story was inspired by Phantastes by George MacDonald whom Madeleine L’Engle describes as “the father of us all.”

“Look at him! Look at him! He has begun a story without a beginning and it will never have any end.” George MacDonald ~ Phantastes

Anodos climbed up the stairs, weary beyond thought. He paused for just a moment at the door before entering his room and casting himself on the bed. He was grateful to be home.

I will never go anywhere at any time ever again!

He reached for his pillow and pulled it over his head. It occurred to him that Fairy Land was not very comfortable. To be sure, there were strange wondrous sights to see while one was on the move, but the sleeping arrangements were not at all accommodating–unless one were a fairy. No wonder Pocket was so ferocious about her hammock. Anodos looked at his hands; yes, her bite marks were there even though he never once tried to steal her hammock. On second thought, he did threaten to hide it, but she would not behave herself.

Anodos sat up and leaned forward, with his head in his hands.

Oh, Pocket! Pocket! Will you ever learn? And now that I am gone from Fairy Land, who will keep you from mischief?

He groaned aloud–it was a deep, satisfying groan. Anodos liked it so much he commenced to groan again; however, something on the floor stopped him mid-groan. Anodos inspected it more closely; there was debris on the carpet! It was detritus from the stream of water. Curious, he touched one of the bed posters. Particles of dirt and bits of leaves were lodged in its crevices. He walked over to his dressing table; fragments of real tendrils of dried vines mingled with the carved ones. Fairy Land’s intrusion had left its mark.

Anodos' Room

Anodos was puzzled. He had assumed that just as Fairy Land had appeared in an instant, it would leave without a trace. He never thought that Fairy Land would be messy. It entered his spotless room but did not leave it in the same condition. At first, Anodos was annoyed–Fairy Land should know better! But then he reflected that in his journey through Fairy Land, he had also left his mark.

His footsteps had bruised the grass and had disturbed the soil. His body had crushed the leaves of every bower in which he slept. He recalled breaking a large branch from a tree and swinging it from side to side as he walked. He had not left Fairy Land as he found it.

The thought bothered him. He did not intend to intrude, but there it was. He thought of Pocket. Surely if she heeded just a tithe of what he had said to her, she would also be changed–he had left his debris in her little heart.

Not only Pocket, but the old woman, her daughter…Oh! The woman in the alabaster coffin! I sang her awake, and now she no longer sleeps. I have left my mark on Fairy Land!

Anodos remembered the whisper of the beech tree: “I may love him; I may love him; for he is a man, and I am a beech-tree.”

Is love entombed forever in her heart because of me? Did she even want to love or was she better off without it? Oh, what have I done! I wish I had never passed through Fairy Land!

Anodos groaned again, but not for satisfaction; his soul was troubled and his heart was grieved. There was something familiar about his condition. He had been in this place before. He walked over to his window and stared at the wind, reflecting, remembering.

It was last week at a social gathering. The topic under discussion was technology. Someone had stated that those who influence our culture should be those who share our values. Anodos had disagreed, saying that currently there are people in high places who share our values but discredit them by their words and actions.

My opinion was not well received. A few people argued against my position. It seemed that they were more interested in proving what I said was wrong instead of trying to understand why I said it. I said something contrary to the group consensus that provoked anger and…what was it…something more.

Anodos suddenly recalled what their faces looked like. It was fear! They were frightened by what he had said. Anodos realized that, just as he had done in Fairy Land, he had intruded on their world and had left his mark. He had spoken his truth, and they were left with the scattered debris of his words.

Now he was in a quandary. Another engagement was scheduled for next week.   He wondered whether or not he should attend. He felt he was faced with an impossible choice.

On the one hand, I could keep my contrary opinions to myself, giving the impression that I agree with the group. But if I do that, then I am not only being untrue to myself, but I am deceiving the others. On the other hand, I could express my thoughts and feelings, even when they are in opposition. However, that may cause others discomfort–even fear–which is the last thing I want to do. What shall I do? What shall I do?

“Anodos, Anodos, has Fairy Land left nothing in you?”

Anodos turned, startled, at the voice. There was his little sister, standing in front of him, arms akimbo, with a stern expression on her face.

“What do you mean?” he asked. “I do not know what you are talking about?”

His sister shook her finger at him.

“Is that all the understanding you have gained in a journey through Fairy Land? Truth is much, but honesty is nothing. It is a mere matter of convenience. Well, let me remind you that it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land.”

“And I suppose I should learn to forget the idea of doing so,” said Anodos, “and take everything as it comes–like a child.”

His sister smiled.

“Of course,” she said, as she made for the door. “Why else does one journey through Fairy Land?”

 

The next week, Anodos attended a social gathering.