When One Should Not Compromise the No


Michael Fishing

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions, which I shall not choose to answer.”
Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice

The Daily Prompt is Compromise  which reminds me of Shaun White at the Olympics.

Derailing a Press Conference
In the 2018 Winter Games, Shaun White won his third gold medal in snowboarding. He deserved it. His winning run was amazing; it was poetry on the half-pipe. He gave a news conference afterward on what it was like to win a third gold medal. It was going along well until a reporter asked him about allegations of past sexual misconduct. Awkward. White was prepped and primed for questions about the Olympics, his medal run, snowboarding, his competitors, and suddenly he was faced with an off-topic question. He cobbled together an answer that some people judged as unsatisfactory. But who could blame him? His mind was racing down one track when it was blindsided by a reporter on another. In my opinion, Shaun White’s problem was that he attempted to answer the question in the first place. He needed to realize that not all questions deserve an answer, especially the ones that are off topic.

Diverting a Class Lecture
Students are adept at asking off-topic questions. They do it to divert the lesson from a boring subject to one that is more interesting. I used this tactic myself to great effect. Once, at the beginning of a class on business law, I asked the teacher about his stint in the navy. What followed was an entertaining fifty-minute monologue about life on a navy ship. It was hilarious. A wise teacher would have recognized what I was attempting and would not have been distracted. (On the other hand, perhaps the teacher was just as bored by business law as we were and was glad for an excuse to change the subject.) The point is: Not all questions need to be answered.

Delivering a Sale
Phone solicitors use questions as a selling tool. They want to know all sorts of things about you, trying to get you to compromise your privacy. What was your energy bill last month? How much do you pay for homeowners’ insurance? What is your social security number? Do you wear boxers or briefs? (Okay, I made up the last one.) Whatever the questions, phone solicitors know if they can get you to answer, then they have a chance at selling you something. However, one is not under any obligation to answer their questions.

Dissembling an Opinion
Donald Trump seems to have learned this lesson since he became president. He provides all sorts of non-answers to the many questions reporters lob at him. Of course, that then becomes the story.

  • Donald Trump refuses to answer questions on immigration.
  • The President ignored repeated questions about Rob Porter’s wives.
  • BREAKING NEWS! When asked if he planned to release his 2017 tax return, Donald Trump looked out the window.

At each press conference, I can sense the reporters’ frustration as their questions go unanswered. I feel sorry for them; after all, they are human, they have a job to do, but they are going about it the wrong way. Pestering Trump with off-topic questions only strengthens his resolve not to answer them. There is a way to get people like him to answer questions, but it involves emotional manipulation, something I consider unethical.

Declining an Answer
I stumbled on the power of emotional manipulation accidentally when I was a teacher, sort of like Andrew Fleming and penicillin. Actually, it was more like discovering how to split an atom. It was a powerful, yet dreadful tool. It was like Ice-Nine in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle. Once I used it the first time, I just could not use it again. That is why if anyone wants to know how to get people to answer off-topic questions, I will not answer. Not every question deserves an answer. I do not compromise my no.



Yarn Tree

Hands are really wonderful things, when you think about it. They can do all sorts of handiwork like knitting and sewing. They craft birdhouses and beanies and benches in the park and are conveniently attached to the body. They are handy anytime we need a hand.

Handiwork can be an intimate thing as experienced hands guide younger hands in the act of creation. Hands joined with other hands knit heart to heart together in a shared process. It’s no accident that the defining image of The Sistine Chapel Ceiling is the hand of God stretching forth to touch the hand of Adam. We recognize the power of touch, hand joined to hand.

But as wonderful as hands are, they are also terrible. They contain both the power of creation and the power of destruction. Hands can devise weapons; hands can be weapons, used against fellow creatures to inflict pain and terror. Why do hands do that anyway? Don’t they know any better? Could it be that there are hands that have never joined with another hand in love, compassion, or mercy?

I think we need to take care of our hands and treat them with respect. We should make sure that every new hand that comes into the world is knit together with another hand, one that will guide it and nurture it. Teach it the artisan crafts. Show it how to make things, beautiful things for the benefit of others. Let every hand learn by example the healing touch. I am sure there are enough old hands out there that know a thing or three about such handiwork. Let them teach; let us learn.

Daily Prompt:Knit

Salute to Gremlins

“It must be the gremlins.”

That was my father’s explanation for any unexplained and unacknowledged mischief around the house. It could be the reason why a nude photograph of U. S. Representative Joe Barton wound up on Twitter. Oh, of only his constituents could be persuaded to believe that’s what happened! It was the gremlins!

However, Rep. Barton has owned up to his conduct, stating that he had “sexual relationships with mature adult women” while he was separated from his wife. What I find interesting about this statement is that he qualifies that the women with whom he had a sexual relationship were mature adults. That is not by accident or the work of gremlins. I call it the “Roy Moore” effect. Rep. Barton wants people to know that he did not have anything to do with underage girls. These were women—mature, adult, wrinkled, saggy, grey-haired—sorry, I exaggerate. The key point is they were NOT GIRLS! They were not cute little mogwais; they were gremlins.

Ah, youth! That is really the big deception about it. All the cute little mogwais eventually turn into ugly-looking gremlins if they live long enough. Gremlins are reputed to be dangerous and mean. I think I would be too, if I suddenly found I was no longer valued because I had a few grey hairs and wrinkles. I, too, might go on a mischievous-making rampage. A gremlin may as well live down to expectations, right?

So I’m going to acknowledge Rep. Joe Barton’s indirect salute to mature adult women. Long may they live!

(Note to self: No matter what, don’t go on a rampage. It’s inconsiderate and a big waste of time.)

Daily Prompt:Gremlins

Curious Cats Do Strut


The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Strut . Friday’s are the days l like to write about authors and books connected to the prompt. Today’s word reminded me of two writers, a poet, and a singer/songwriter. The first offering is by T. S. Eliot and the second is by Brian Setzer. I hope you enjoy their works.

Rum Tum Tugger by T. S. Eliot ~ Cats

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat.
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes, the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He’s always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he’s at home, then he’d like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can’t get out.

Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish, then he always wants a feast.
When there isn’t any fish, then he won’t eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream, then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;

So you’ll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle;
But he’ll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there’s nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

Stray Cat Strut by Brian Selzer ~“The Stray Cats”

Black and orange stray cat sittin’ on a fence,
I ain’t got enough dough to pay the rent.
I’m flat broke, but I don’t care.
I strut right by with my tail in the air.

Stray cat strut, I’m a ladies cat.
I’m a feline Casanova, hey man, that’s that.
Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man.
Get my dinner from a garbage can.

Don’t go crossing my path.

I don’t bother chasing mice around.
I slink down the alleyway looking for a fight,
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night.
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry,
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy.”
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
But I got cat class and I got cat style.

(Note to self: My sister recently pointed out how many expressions we get from cats: cat nap, pussyfoot, hightail it, scaredy cat, curiosity killed the cat.)

Clark and the Anticipation

Clark was just settling down to a challenging math problem when Skunk burst into the room.

“Clark! You’ve got to help me,“ he gasped. “Mole is in trouble!”

“What? Slow down. What kind of trouble?”

“Oh, terrible, terrible trouble! Mole is in a boat two miles from the nearest point on the coast. She is trying to get to a shelter three miles down the coast and one mile inland, but her strength is nearly gone. She needs to know where to point the boat so that she makes to the shelter in the least amount of time.”

“Okay, okay,” said Clark. “Do you know how fast she can row and how fast she can walk?”

“Yes,” answered Skunk. “She can row at three miles per hour and walk at four miles per hour—that is, if she has any strength left. Oh, this is just terrible! I should never have let her go.”

Clark made no reply; his paws were already flying across a sheet of paper, making calculations. Skunk danced from one foot to the other in anxious anticipation. After a few minutes, Clark threw done his pen.

“Done,” he said. “Now, how will you communicate this to Mole?”

“This way,” said Skunk, grabbing Clark by the arm. He hurried him down to the beach. He climbed a small rock and pointed out to sea. Clark jumped up next to Skunk and saw a small boat bobbing on the horizon. Skunk lit a lantern and waved it over his head. An answering light came from the boat.

“Now,” said Skunk. “Where should she row?”

“Mole needs to row towards a point one mile south from here, got that?”

“But how will I know where a mile is?”
Clark thought for a minute.

“Run for six minutes as fast as you can. Do you know the song ‘Boomdiada’?”

“Is that the one that starts, ‘I love the mountains and the rolling hills’?”

“Yes, that’s it. Sing that song…uhm, eighteen times, repeating the ‘boomdiada’ at the end. That should take you one mile.”

“Got it,” said Skunk, as he leaped from the rock and began running down the beach. Clark followed him, singing to himself.

Approximately six minutes later, Skunk stopped and began waving his lantern. A faint light shone from the tiny boat. A minute or two later, Clark was at Skunk’s side.

“While we are waiting for Mole, would you please tell me what she was doing in a boat two miles from the coast?” asked Clark.

“Oh, you know Mole. She read the story of the owl and the pussycat going to sea in a pea-green boat and just had to try it for herself. Whatever it was she anticipated she would find, it was not what she found.”

“Er…what did she find?”

“That it’s a silly thing to launch yourself out on a boat when you haven’t the faintest idea what you are doing! I mean, really!”

Skunk continued to wave his lantern as he fixed his gaze on the boat.

“Oh, do you think she is getting any closer, Clark? I don’t know; she looks as far away as ever.”

Clark did not answer. Instead he started singing.

“I love the mountains and the rolling hills. I love the flowers and the daffodils. I love the fireside when the lights are low. Boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada.”

At first Skunk looked startled; then he, too, started singing. Together Clark and Skunk sang the Boomdiada Song one hundred and thirty times. After each chorus, the tiny boat was a little bit closer to shore, closer and closer until they could see Mole, tired but triumphant, pulling on the oars. Skunk dropped his lantern as he and Clark plowed into the water and dragged the boat onto the beach. Sturdy arms lifted Mole from the boat and set her gently on the sand.

“Mole! Mole! I am so glad you are alive!” Skunk was near to tears. Mole smiled weakly.

“Hullo, Clark,” she said. “Glad to see you. How’ve you been? You look well.”

“What do you mean, how has he been?” Skunk yelled. “He’s been great! I’ve been great! The whole world is great, except you, Mole, who just had to go out on a boat. What were you thinking?”

“Well,” Mole sighed. “Whatever I was thinking, the anticipation was a lot more fun than the action. Clark, thanks for helping Skunk. You probably saved my life.”

Clark licked his paw and smoothed an ear; then he patted Mole on the head.

“Remember the words of Spock.”


Daily Prompt:Anticipate


Chapter Five: In Which Skandar Becomes Enamored of Amalia


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

The morning after his mishap, a servant helped Skandar to dress and guided him to the common room for breakfast. Sitting at one of the tables was a girl about his age. Also at the table was the innkeeper Virgil.

“Good morning, my lord,” Virgil greeted him. “This is my daughter Amalia. If it pleases you, she will be your companion.”

Amalia smiled and Skandar found he was very well pleased. He noticed that she had placed a large serving of sausages, bread, and jam on her plate and he followed suit. Virgil left the young people to their occupation. It was several minutes before either spoke. At length Amalia set down her knife.

“I heard about what happened. I am very sorry for you. I fell into a bush of nettles once when I was five years old. I will never forget how much it itched. I thought I would die.”

“How did you happen to fall into the nettles?” asked Skandar.

“I was climbing a tree trying to catch caterpillars. There was one beautiful caterpillar just out of my reach. I stretched out as far as I could to seize it and lost my balance and fell. It wasn’t very far to the ground and fortunately, there was a bush to break my fall; unfortunately, the bush was a nettle bush.”

Skandar was duly impressed. She was a person after his own heart.

“What would you like to do today?” asked Amalia.

“Whatever you would like,” answered Skandar.

“Well, then, shall we go?”

Amalia took Skandar’s hand and led him through the common room, into the kitchen, and out the back door of the inn.

As they walked, Amalia pointed out the various sights such as the large oak by the riverbank, the blacksmith’s pet rooster, and the village green. The shops were open for business and the shopkeepers were glad to share samples of their wares with the innkeeper’s daughter and her guest. Amalia told Skandar about her brother, Cyril, her sister, Anna, and her cousins Finn and Bethna. Skandar longed to tell Amalia about his brother, Alanar, but he had strict instructions to no longer speak of him. Instead, he told Amalia that he would reach his twelfth year on the twenty-first of October. She promptly shared that she would be twelve years of age in August, which was in two months time.

Presently, Amalia turned to Skandar and said, “Most people here call me ‘Mole’, it’s short for ‘Amalia.’ You may do the same, if you like.”

Skandar nodded his acquiescence. His companion could have been called anything for all he cared. In his eyes, no name could diminish the sparkle in her grey eyes or the sheen of her glossy brown hair. He considered telling her his nickname; he wondered if she would laugh.

After some hesitation, Skandar cleared his throat.

“I have a nickname, too. It was given me by my bro – by someone at my father’s house.”

Amalia looked at him expectantly.

“It’s ‘Skunk.’” Skandar’s heart pounded. His rash covered the deep blush that crept from his neck to the crown of his head.

“‘Skunk?’ Why are you called ‘Skunk?’”

Skandar pulled his hair back from his face, exposing the two golden stripes of color in his hair.

Amalia’s face lit up.

“How wonderful! Of course, now that you’ve shown me, ‘Skunk’ is a very fitting name.”

Amalia continued. “I have always thought that skunks were some of the world’s most beautiful creatures and were most unfairly misunderstood. Aunt Beryl says that a skunk’s odor is the best cure for a head cold, so whenever I smell one, I breathe deep. ‘Skunk!’ That is a wonderful name! Does everyone call you that? May I call you ‘Skunk?’”

Again Skandar nodded. You can call me anything you like, he thought. Having spent most of his life in the company of his brother, Skandar had never considered that he would encounter another person whose tastes were so similar to his own. And to think that she was a girl!

Daily Prompt:Enamored


Parrish-Pierrots Lanterns

“Once in a while, without rhyme or reason, I am cast in a supporting role in someone else’s drama. I wouldn’t mind so much if they would at least tell me about it and supply me with a script. If I have to improvise, I much prefer a comedy.”

Amalia ~ The Book of Rhino (Between the Lines)

Daily Prompt:Rhyme

Solitary Characters

Korin-Underground Man

It is not only true that humility is a much wiser and more vigorous thing than pride. It is also true that vanity is a much wiser and more vigorous thing than pride. Vanity is social—it is almost a kind of comradeship; pride is solitary and uncivilized. Vanity is active; it desires the applause of infinite multitudes; pride is passive, desiring the applause of only one person, which it has. Vanity is humorous, and can enjoy the joke even of itself; pride is dull and cannot even smile.

G. K. Chesterton ~ Heretics

I equate the novels of Ayn Rand with the word “solitary.” The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged both have as their central character a solitary man, a rugged individualist, who stands alone against the tide of popular opinion.

(Note to self: Are all individualists necessarily rugged? Could other adjectives also apply? John Galt, fluffy individualist. Howard Roark, simpering individualist. Not quite the same magic. No, I think that if a character insists on being an individualist, he (rarely she), must be rugged.)

Solitary characters populate the landscape of Rand’s novels—they are her heroes and heroine’s. One knows they are because (1) only the bad guys travel in packs and (2) the heroes couldn’t tell a joke if their lives depended on it.

(Note to self: Remember that scene where John Galt is tortured by electrical currents? His tormentors want to know where his secret hideout is located. Wouldn’t it be funny if they were trying to force a joke out of him? They would have a better chance of getting him to disclose the hole-in-the-wall gang.)

“What is the joke about a skunk, a mole, and a rabbit who all walk into a bar? Say it, or you’ll get another jolt. Say it! Say it!”

Stubborn—make that rugged—silence.

“Alright, boys, give him another!”

“Wait! The coordinates are 39.1911 degrees north by 106.8175 west. Now may I be excused please?”

Actually, I am not quite correct in stating that Randy characters cannot tell a joke. Sometimes they are the joke. In one scene, Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon are sitting in a restaurant having a decidedly unsolitary dinner. Their conversation includes comments on how self-conscious all the other diners are. If these two rugged (and apparently hungry) individuals are so hell-bent on being solitary, then why do they even notice the other people in the room? I’m sure their fellow diners did not give Dagny and Henry a second thought.

(Note to self: Don’t tell Dagny and Henry. I mean, what is the good of being a solitary character if your efforts go unnoticed? To stand out in a crowd, one not only needs the crowd, but the crowd must acknowledge one’s solitariness)

Daily Prompt:Solitary

Character Quotes


Sometimes I scatter words haphazardly across a sheet of paper without any conscious awareness of pattern—just spontaneous outpourings of thoughts and feelings. But when I step back and regard what I have written, I see the universe meant something after all. And I am willing and not willing to have it so.

Trevor ~ The Book of Rhino

Daily Prompt:Willy-nilly

Children of the Con

Children of the Con

“I’m telling you, Ms. Lamont, it’ll be colossal!” the young man said.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You want to make a movie about an alien race of vampires who lure their victims by means of children wearing dollar bills?”

“That’s right,” he said. He placed dollar bills on the ends of his fingers, and walked his hand across my desk.

“It’s like this. People will see these little kids toddling along wearing shoes made of money. They’re greedy, see, and follow the kids, thinking to grab the dough. The kids lead them down a dark alley and BAM! An alien vampire nabs ‘em.”

“Sorry,” I said, “but it’s just doesn’t send me. It’s not spicy enough.”

“What!” he shouted. “It’s got everything! Aliens! Vampires! Babies!

“No,” I said, as I shook my head. “I’m not interested.”

He rose from his chair. “You’ll regret this. I’ll get financing…I’ll do GoFundMe. It will be a HUGE success!”

In his haste to leave, he lost his footing and did a magnificent pirouette to keep from falling.

“That’s it!” I said. “Make it a musical! Call it ‘Children of the Con.’”

Daily Prompt:Spicy