Solitary Feather

Solitary Feather

Mara spied the feather on the sand. She picked it up and sniffed it. It was hers.

Another one, she thought. That makes the sixth one this week.

“Why is this happening?” she cried aloud. “I’ve done nothing wrong!”

Mara sat on a nearby rock, brooding.

I’m not so bad. Perhaps I’ve despised a bluebottle but that’s no great wickedness. I admit I’m not always kind but it’s not an obvious sin.

Twirling the feather between her fingers, Mara thought it would be so much easier to be condemned and have done with it, to face the great Day of Judgment with all its delicious terror.

But the daily choice over little things was irksome and Mara did not want to be bothered. She briefly wondered if Screwtape was right—that the road to hell is a gradual one. Then she shrugged and slouched away, leaving another solitary feather in her wake.

Daily Prompt: Quill


Bear Magnet


Eleanor knew what she was getting into with Roddy. She knew that bears are solitary creatures, coming together only for the mating season. She also knew that Roddy in particular was a bear magnet.

Every spring it was the same. Females from all over the county made their way to her territory for a chance at Roddy. No puffery displays from him! She knew that everybody wanted Roddy and that Roddy knew it.

Eleanor also knew that Roddy hated clingy females so she hid her feelings behind a mask of indifference. Roddy had no idea how she burned with jealousy. Jealousy! Heaven forbid that Roddy should ever suspect her of that most clingy and hated emotion.

But Eleanor also knew where the hunters were camped, and if she “accidentally” led them to his den, then she would have a mate for life. Roddy did not know that.

Daily Prompt: Magnet

Master Coenred


Then the great old, young, beautiful princess turned to Curdie.

“Now, Curdie, are you ready?” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Curdie.

“You do not know what for.”

“You do, Ma’am. That is enough.”

George MacDonald ~ The Princess and Curdie


“Look, Skandar!” Amalia said. “It’s a sunny day. That means we can go visit Master Coenred and his blacksmith.”

“Who is Master Coenred,” asked Skandar, “and what does he have to do with a sunny day?”

“Master Coenred is a magnificent rooster. He is amazingly tall and thin, with a sweeping black plume for a tail and a red comb. His feathers are bluish-black, laced with a sort of dark orange color, like the sunset. Egric is his blacksmith.”

“What do you mean ‘his blacksmith’? How can a rooster own a blacksmith?”

“I’m not entirely sure of the arrangement, having never read the contract,” said Amalia, “but Egric has assured me on more than one occasion that he belongs to Master Coenred.”

When they arrived at the blacksmith’s workshop, Amalia introduced Skandar to Egric and Master Coenred. The latter was indeed a notable rooster. Egric assured Amalia and Skandar that Master Coenred was pleased by their visit.

“Is it because it’s a sunny day?” asked Skandar.

“Yes, it is,” said Egric. “Sunny days are the only days Master Coenred doesn’t crow so he catches a few more winks of sleep. It makes him more sociable, if you know what I mean.”

“Why doesn’t he crow on sunny days?” asked Skandar.

“Well, the truth is Master Coenred fancies himself a better blacksmith than me, and it smokes his toast for me to do anything at the forge without his supervision. He doesn’t crow on sunny days because he doesn’t want to wake me. Since I fancy a few more winks of sleep myself, I go along with him.”

“That means he only crows on cloudy days,” said Amalia.

“But what about people that don’t want to sleep late?” said Skandar. “When we walked through the village this morning, there were all sorts of people out and about. Who wakes them up?”

“If it’s a sunny day, then the sun does the job,” said Egric. “Master Coenred doesn’t want to supervise everybody; he has enough to do managing my life. It’s only on cloudy days, that he gives them a little extra help. Otherwise, he assumes anyone with an ounce of wit can determine that the sun is up, and the day has begun.”

“Master Coenred is a very strict about interfering in anyone’s life—except Egric’s, of course,” said Amalia. “He’s really a rather remarkable bird.”

“I’ll say,” said Skandar. “He could give lessons to people on when and where to crow, especially on sunny days.”

Daily Prompt:Sunny

Clark and the Paddle Wheel

Miro-The Farm

“Hello, Carl,” said Mole. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”

“Yes, it is,” said Clark, “and, by the way, my name is Clark.”

“Clark! I thought it was Carl.”

“Well, it thought it was too, but I made a mistake.”

“If your name is Clark, how you mistake it for Carl? Don’t you know your own name?”

Clark shrugged his shoulders.

“I was distracted. I’m working on a problem for Little Troll. You see, he wants to ride around the paddle wheel at the mill, but he’s afraid of heights. I’m going to figure out the maximum height of the wheel for him. That way he can decide whether or not he wants to ride the wheel based on data.”


“Come now, Mole, don’t be so triangular. It’s just a simple sinusoidal function. Here, you can help me; hold this timer.”

Clark, the cat formerly known as Carl, placed a funnel-shaped object into Mole’s paws. It was filled with liquid. Mole sniffed it cautiously. Then he tasted it.

“Not bad,” he said. “What’s in here?”

“Wine,” said Clark. “Now, when I say go, start counting the drops of wine that drip from the bottom of the funnel. Ready? Go!”

Mole started counting the drops of wine.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.”

“STOP!” shouted Clark.

He came over to Mole, looking very pleased.

“This is great!” he said. “Now I can figure out the maximum height of the paddle wheel for Little Troll. I have been trying to do this myself all morning, but I just couldn’t count the wine drops and watch the paddle wheel at the same time.”

“Er, what do you do with the leftover wine?” asked Mole.

“Oh, I drink it,” said Clark.

“And you’ve been doing this all morning?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“I think I figured out why you forgot your name.”

Daily Prompt: Wheel

Puncturing the Ego

(Or Rhino-Between-the-Lines)


Susan Calvin stared steadfastly at the floor, “He knew all of this.”

Lanning looked up, “You’re wrong there, Dr. Calvin. He doesn’t know what went wrong. I asked him.”

“What does that mean?” cried Calvin. “Only that you didn’t want him to give you the solution. It would puncture your ego to have a machine do what you couldn’t do.”

Isaac Asimov ~ I, Robot

Wilfred groaned.

“I’ll never figure this out. Euclid can take his mucky elements and shove them…”

“Wilfred!” interrupted Rhino. “No mental pictures, please.”

Wilfred ignored him and turned to Skandar.

“You’re always wanting to invent things,” he said. “Why don’t you invent a machine that solves problems? You just give the machine a problem, and it tells you the answer.”

“What?” Skandar laughed. “That’s ridiculous. Why on earth would anyone want a machine like that?”

“Oh, I might,” said Trevor. “Think of all the time it would save. If people didn’t have to solve problems, they would have more time to be creative, to devote themselves to other things, like art and music.”

He leaned back in his chair, waving his hands.

“O Wise and Wonderful Machine,” he said, with his eyes half-closed, “Why is Wilfred so…so… Well, why is Wilfred?”


Wilfred tipped Trevor’s chair onto the floor.

“The first thing I’d ask is how to handle you!”

“And that,” said Rhino, “is why such a machine would not work. If there were a machine built solely to figure out solutions to humans’ problems, it would eventually figure out that humans are the problems. Get rid of humans, and it would solve all their problems.”

“Ah, but then the machine would have created another problem,” said Skandar. “Given that its purpose for existence is to solve problems for humans, without humans to give it problems to solve, it would cease to function.”

“Alright, then, the machine would keep a few humans around to create problems,” said Wilfred. “It could keep them sort of like pets.”

They all laughed.

“How many humans would it take to cause problems?” asked Trevor.

“Well,” Elbert replied, “according to the book of Genesis, it only took two, Adam and Eve.”

“Adam and Eve and a thinking machine!” Trevor mused. “All living together in Paradise.”

“That wouldn’t be my idea of Paradise,” said Rhino. “There are just some things I want to figure out on my own, even if I fail royally. If we had a machine that solved all our problems, people might forget how to think, how to take risks, and how to fail. Why, there could be people who get so addicted to always thinking they are right, they may never recognize when they are wrong.”

“Now you’re talkin’ nonsense,” said Wilfred. “I admit the idea of a problem-solving machine is a little far-fetched. But it’s pure fantasy to imagine that someone would never think that they are wrong.”

Skandar shuddered.

“That would be my idea of Hell.”

Daily Prompt: Puncture

Black Spot on the Sun

Black Spot on the Sun

Stay away from the light—that is what they all say (or is it “go towards the light”). It doesn’t matter; there is no light to speak of anyway, except from the window.

I can see it all from this great height. I can see myself sitting at my usual table, surrounded by the usual empty tables and chairs. How nice I look, almost as if I were alive.

Wait! What’s this? That couple over by the window…something is wrong! They—I can’t believe it—they are not distant from one another. One could say they are close.

It’s just the two of them, sitting across from one another, face beholding face, eyes to eyes, breath to breath without any shield, any barrier. How can they stand it? Oh, I can’t bear to look.

Yet I feel drawn to them. Perhaps I should edge a bit closer… No! There is no protection. I must remain distant. Stay away from the light.

Daily Prompt: Distant

A Trace of Mischief


She had a heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,

Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere

Robert Browning ~ My Last Duchess



“Which would you rather be?” asked Trevor. “A hero with a trace of villainy or a villain with a trace of heroism.”

“I would rather be the hero, even if it meant having a bit of the villain,” answered Wilfred. “I figure the good qualities of a hero would keep the flaws of the villain in check.”

“I’m with Wilfred,” said Skandar. “I’d rather be a flawed hero than a defective villain. Although it is rather odd to think that a villain with a trace of goodness is defective. Why do you ask?”

“Just curious,” said Trevor. “I’m writing a story and couldn’t decide whether to make it about a hero or a villain, so I decided to incorporate both into one character. What do you think, Rhino?”

“Hmm…I can see the advantages of both,” said Rhino. “A hero with a trace of evil can empathize with the villain; and a villain with a trace of goodness has a hope of redemption.”

“So, Trevor, which did you decide for your character?” asked Wilfred.

“I’m making her a good woman with a touch of evil.”

“You’re goin’ to write about a female?” Wilfred was scandalized. “Now why would you want to do that?”

“If you ever read, you would notice that most literature is about men and that women are just part of the background, like furniture. I want a woman to have fun for a change. If I make her a villain with a trace of heroism, she won’t have a chance to do any good. Sure as anything, as soon as she shows up, she’ll be burned at the stake. But if I make her good, then she’ll have a chance to sneak off and get into mischief.”

“It sounds like you’re writing about Amalia,” said Skandar.

“Maybe I am. Amalia is not above breaking a few rules, and we all love her for it.”

“Whatever you write, don’t let my sisters read it,” said Wilfred. “They are trouble enough without getting any radical ideas.”

“Wilfred, they have you for a brother,” said Elbert. “That makes them all heroines; would you begrudge them their share of fun?”

Daily Prompt:Trace

Mobius Trip


Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other. It all depended on the point of view. C. S. Lewis ~ Out of the Silent Planet

“Well, if that wasn’t a mucky waste of an evening, I don’t know what is,” said Wilfred. “Of all the tin-plated twaddle! What in the world does it mean to ‘transfigure the adoration of the contemplation’?”

“I think he was trying to be inspirational,” said Elbert. “Even if the meaning was obscure, the song itself had a nice melody.”

“Hmph!” Wilfred replied. He cast a warning glance at Trevor. “If you ever start singin’ that way, I’ll bonk you in the head.”

“And I’ll bonk you in the backside,” said Skandar.

Rhino laughed.

“And I’ll bonk you in the…well, never mind where I’ll bonk you,” he said. “You’ll just know you’ve been bonked.”

“All right! All right!” Trevor raised his hands in mock surrender. “I couldn’t sing like that if I tried; I don’t know half the words he used. At any rate, the ladies were impressed.”

“Ugh!” said Wilfred. “He should be banned from court.”

“Now, Wilfred, don’t be so hard on the fellow,” said Rhino. “Remember what Master Altman says: Much of what passes for Complex is merely Complicated in disguise. If you think of his song as complex, it’s ridiculous; but if you think of it as complicated, it’s rather impressive.”

“Rhino is right,” said Skandar. “Think of the hours he must have spent to cram all those big words into one little song. It must have kept him up at night.”

“When you think about it, the singer is really to be admired,” said Elbert. “Without him, we never would have heard ‘the twilight of my life relegates my consciousness to the requiem of being.’ It is rather interesting.”

“Well, I’ll accept your point,” said Wilfred. “But I could have done without the reference to the pig.”

Daily Prompt:

Notorious Characters

Notorious characters populate the literary world. They are the essential evildoers, the vicious villains, and the compulsory cads that generate conflict and drive the plot. The bad guys of both genders give the other characters something to do, namely avoid their evilness.

The interesting thing about notorious characters is that they are all notorious for the same things. They are cruel, wicked, unfeeling, pathological liars who crave power and world domination, and, oh, yes, they are usually late for dinner. (I made up that last one.)

The point is they all share common traits of notoriety. But what if they each had a unique quirk for which they were notorious among their minions, slaves, and intimate circle of friends?

For example, what if Darth Vadar was notorious for having bad breath? Suppose it was a well-kept secret that he tortured his enemies by breathing on them? That’s one way to strike fear in everyone’s heart.

“Luke, turn to the dark side, or I will Huhh….Huhh…”

Imagine Lord Voldemort as a notorious nose-picker. That could explain why his nails were so long; with such a flat nose, he would probably need a set of heavy-duty claws. I can just see him at Malfoy’s mansion working on his nose while the Lestranges give their weekly terror report. (Ev’ry body’s doin’ it, doin’ it, pickin’ their nose and chewin’ it, chewin’ it. They think it’s funny, but it’s snot.)

A final example is Sauron. We all know him as Black Master of the land of Mordor, the Eye of the Dark Tower, the Enemy of the Free Peoples, and the Lord of Barad-dûr. But what if he were also notorious for being late to everything?

The cover story is that his ring was lost for thousands of years before Gollum happened upon it. But what if Sauron just missed it due to his lack of punctuality? Gandalf said the One Ring was trying to get back to its master, sending out signals. I’m over here, over here. Look in the river, you idiot! The ring probably got tired of waiting and ordered a pizza.

Like Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always something.” It’s the same with notorious characters. They are either terrorizing the world with their evil, or they are annoying it with their incessant humming.

Daily Prompt: Notorious

Martian Spy

Daily Prompt:Hospitality

I received the communication last night: “Mission Terminated. Return Immediately.”

Terminated! Oh, no – not when… that is… Rats! The truth is I don’t want to leave. They warned us about this in training – the perils of deep cover. They warned us, but they didn’t know the extent of human hospitality.

No one told us the delights of ear scratches and belly rubs, of morning walks and butt sniffing. Ah, butt sniffing – one of the many olfactory pleasures known only to us dogs. And what about bacon? Does headquarters expect me to say goodbye to bacon?

Well, I’m not ready to come in from the cold. I’ll just tell HQ that their transmission was garbled, that it went astray and I never received it. The invasion isn’t scheduled until next year anyway. In the meantime, I’ve got my disguise ready for the upcoming holiday. I’ll just stay here and enjoy Independence Day. I must be hospitable.

Martian Spy