Dueling Perfumes

via Daily Prompt: PerfumePerfume

High school freshmen are not subtle when it comes to the cologne or perfume they wear. In their world, what smells good to them (a) must smell good to everyone and (b) must be used in copious amounts.  Sometimes the fumes were overpowering as each scent competed with the others for world domination.  It reminds me of a song.

“Dueling Perfumes”

I’m sweet and just a little cloy…

Oh, yeah, well, I smell like a boy…

A hint of fruit, a flower, a rose…

A shove of musk right up your nose…

I’ll linger after I’m away.

You will choke on what I spray.

I will tease your nose.

I will bomb your clothes.


Just who will win our duel of scents

Is hard to say; it makes no sense.


Messiah Matrix ~ Book Review

Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity

The Messiah Matrix is similar in genre and plot to The Da Vinci Code.

The main themes involve question~answer and problem~solution on a local level because they are resolved within the context of the story. However, they do touch on global issues.

The characters are interesting and only slightly clichéd. The best thing about the protagonists is that they display a sense of humor.

The language varies between fresh and formulaic, but that is probably due to the technical information necessary to understand the plot and the conflict.

The narrative is brisk and engaging, and there is no graphic or gratuitous sex, violence, or profanity. There are no noticeable or distracting grammatical or typographical errors.

The conflict of the story is based on a social compact that demands community participation and obedience from its members, those communities being the Roman Catholic Church and the Society of the Jesuits. Both are bound by rules and secrets that set them in opposition to one another.

Overall, I found Messiah Matrix a satisfying read and recommend it to fans of The Da Vince Code.

 One thing I noticed in the unfavorable reviews was that some of the reviewers were offended by the subject matter; they responded to it as if the book were non-fiction. They disagreed with its basic premise; one reviewer, in his ire, revealed the whole plot of the book. (I don’t think the author appreciated that.)

H.L. Mencken wrote: “I believe that an artist, fashioning his imaginary worlds out of his own agony and ecstasy, is a benefactor to all of us, but the worst error we can commit is to mistake his imaginary worlds for the real one.” What I Believe

Despite Mr. Atchity’s careful documentation of facts and evidence, I did not mistake Matrix Messiah for the real world, and that is most likely why I enjoyed reading it.





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

Clark 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 Clark 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 Clark.

Mon ami, what do you make of this?”

Clark looked at the paper. On it was written a definite integral. Clark 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!”

Clark 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!” Clark 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 Clark, 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.”

Clark 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 Clark’s hairball.

In the meantime, Clark 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.”

ClarkCarl Grey Rhino coughed up another hairball.





Roosevelt High School

via Daily Prompt: ZipZip


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.


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.

Clark 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 Clark 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, Clark 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, Clark, 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, Clark 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. Clark 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.”

Clark 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 Clark sat down and waited. At the end of 3.2719 hours, Clark 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 Clark to name his reward–she would give him anything, even her own hand in marriage. This, however, Clark 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. Clark 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 Clark 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.