Long Way Home

leonards-legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap 

The sound of running feet echoed across the desert.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

After years of threatening to do so, Leonard’s legs finally ran away with him. And he was suffering for it. His bones ached, his lungs burned, and his blood beat a steady tattoo in his ears. He glanced down at the road and groaned. He had crossed another state line.

Leonard was annoyed with his legs; this was a most inconvenient time for them to leave. He had deadlines to meet–appointments and obligations. Although he felt the burden of his responsibilities, apparently his legs did not. They didn’t seem to understand that if one is a writer, then one has to…well…write! His legs were so unreasonable!

And yet, Leonard had to admit that they had a point. He had grown increasingly distracted, like he was in another world. Well, he was sometimes. Actually, he always was, but lately the occasions that he emerged from his little cottage had diminished. It made contact with the outside world even more challenging; it was like having to learn to speak all over again. He groaned. He had become so disconnected that he recently misunderstood a writing prompt from a blogger. The blogger had asked for three-word titles; Leonard thought he was supposed to write a three-word title story. He wrote a lovely story with a three-word title and posted it on the blogger’s website. He wondered why there were almost three hundred responses to the prompt. Then he began reading them and realized they were all titles, not stories. How humiliating!

It was such a nice story, too, thought Leonard. It really cracked me up. All about that bull moose at Cabela’s. I even included a picture I took at Cabela’s when I visited there with my brother. What a shock that place was! Stuffed animals everywhere! I saw the lion my cousin killed in Africa mounted on one of the shelves. Strange seeing that lion in Cabela’s–I first saw it at my cousin’s house, along with his other trophies. The rhino was the worst; I hated seeing the stuffed rhino head. I love rhinos.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

Why? he thought. Why are my legs doing this? Was Chesterton right? Must we propitiate the barbaric god of legs with fire and wine?

A few days ago, Leonard’s arms got wind of what was happening, and they wanted a piece of the action. They demanded that the legs stop every hour so that they could do push-ups.

Oh, Lord, no, pleaded Leonard. Not that–I just couldn’t.

So far, the legs had refused to listen to the arms’ demands. Leonard’s arms were not pleased, and to show their displeasure, they waved themselves about as Leonard’s legs ran.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

It’s just like that play I saw–“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”–and the scene with Ophelia, running back and forth across the stage waving her arms. I was in Ophelia’s section of the audience, chanting “Maybe, maybe not. Maybe, maybe not.” I guarantee that if you say that a hundred times, you will remember Ophelia running and waving her arms. Now that I think of it, my arms were with me at that play; that’s probably what gave them the idea. 

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

I saw both versions of the play, one with three male leads and another with three female leads. I wonder which version my arms preferred–or my legs, for that matter. See, this is just the sort of thing my legs are protesting. I never even asked! I should have talked about the play with them. We could have compared the two Hamlets. I loved the female Hamlet; she reeked of sincerity and forthrightness. Did my legs feel the same way? Strange, but I liked the male Ophelia as much as the female one.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

It bothered Leonard that he did not prefer the male Ophelia; it disturbed his sense of symmetry. He reviewed the two performances, looking for differences between the male Ophelia and the female Ophelia.

“Aha!” he shouted. “I have it!”

The female Ophelia too easily accepted going to that nunnery, Leonard thought. The male Ophelia had just the right touch of resistance. That’s probably because the guy was channeling his personal repugnance at entering a nunnery. I don’t blame him. Nunneries are strange places, housing fierce women. Our fifth grade class met in the basement of the nunnery. We were forbidden to go upstairs. Funny. However curious I was to see where the nuns ate, slept, and had their being, I never entertained the tiniest idea of crossing into the forbidden territory. It was holy ground. I had this idea that if I ever did go upstairs to the nuns’ quarters, I would be lost forever. There are some places that even a child knows are best left alone.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

Leonard wondered how long before the dawn. He was tired of running and wanted to go home. Suddenly Leonard could no longer feel the impact of his feet slapping against the pavement, although he could still hear the sound. He looked down. No wonder! He was miles above the ground! Somehow his feet were still running, but he himself was floating above the Earth. A slender thread was all that held him bound to his feet. He continued to soar upward, the thread growing thinner even as it grew longer. He was a long way from home.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

How easy would it be to break this thread? Leonard thought. It wouldn’t take much effort; it’s stretched so thin. Just the slightest pull, the faintest tug, and POOF! I’m gone. My arms and legs can go on without me…but do I really want to let them go?

 Leonard floated in space for a while. Then, with a sigh, he began to reel himself in.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.  

Next town–Albuquerque

~

Writing Prompt from Terrible Minds:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/02/10/flash-fiction-challenge-ten-titles-from-you/

Sailing to Byzantium

nolde-sailing

“I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes from the Underground

The Underground Man writes like an Enneagram Five; he observes Life from the safety of his solitary existence. Sadly for him, he does not enjoy the view. It fills him with contempt for his fellow humans and with even more contempt for himself. Being a Five means living with an elevated level of consciousness, and sometimes, as the Underground Man says, too much consciousness is a disease. (By the way, if that is true, I know some very healthy people.)

I also am a Five so I sympathize with the Underground Man, but I also think that being a Five is a “very charming thing too.” It all depends on your perspective.   I picture myself on a sailing ship. As it moves through the waters, I observe Life passing by. On one side of the ship, there is sunlight and on the other side there are shadows. I see things that are appealing and things that are appalling; depending on which side of the ship I stand. People like the Underground Man spend the entire journey on the shadow side of the ship. That’s why their observations bring them such misery. I spend more time on the sunlit side, observing that which is great and glorious.

I started losing my hearing seventeen years ago. It began with tinnitus in my left ear and then my right ear. At first, it was the constant ringing in my ears that interfered with sound, but then, sound itself grew distorted and muffled. I started wearing hearing aids five years ago to amplify sounds enough to compensate for the tinnitus and the distortion. Yesterday, my hearing took a turn for the worse, and now, even with hearing aids, I can barely hear sounds and distinguish spoken words. It is discouraging because it has increased my isolation from other people. But it has made me thankful that I can still see–I still am an observer, sailing on my ship, only now I am the only passenger.

One of the odd things I have observed about my hearing loss is that the sounds I hear do not match what I see. A wave crashes; I hear a splash. The wind roars; I hear a whisper. Someone shouts at me; I hear them from a distance, their voice barely carrying across the great divide. On one side of the ship, I see a face distorted with hatred and rage, but I cannot hear the words. That’s a good thing. Instead of retreating to the other side of the ship, I can stay where I’m at and smile and wave.

It’s like how Merion, a deaf woman, explains it to a girl in The Book of Rhino.

“So do you ever miss it, hearing, I mean?” the girl asked.

“Some things I do.” The woman replied. “I miss the trill of the lark but not the screech of the crow. I miss the sound of cows lowing but not the bleating of sheep. The chatter and gossip of busybodies, the curses and taunts of bullies, and the fawning flattery of sycophants I am pleased I no longer hear. I miss hearing truth spoken in due season but do not miss the easy lie. But above all, I miss the sound of my brother’s voice. If there is anything I could give to hear his music, his tales, and his laughter, I would. And what about you? If you suddenly found yourself in a world of silence, what would you miss?”

The girl thought about it and then laughed. “I think that I, too, would not miss the bleating of sheep. I wonder why that is. Certainly in the sheep’s opinion, they have a right to express their sheepish thoughts. Their peculiar noises are no doubt pleasing to other sheep. But sometimes they go about it so relentlessly. Perhaps that is why I do not care for the sound; the bleating of sheep reminds me of people that make noise just to hear the sound of their own voice. That is a sound I would gladly forego. However, I would miss the sound of a friend’s voice. The kind word, the tender endearment–these are pearls beyond price, even if the cost means having to listen to the bleating of sheep, both animal and human.”

The girl and the woman surveyed the pastoral scene before them in contentment. At length, the girl turned to the woman. “Not everything needs a spoken word; nonetheless, I am very glad that you allowed me to hear your voice. Thank you, Merion.”

My mother is coming to visit today. She can no longer see well enough to read and write; I can no longer hear will enough to understand what she says. We will have to create another way to communicate. I trust that Love will find a way beyond the written or spoken word. I will bring my mother to the sunlit side of the ship, and together we will taste the salt air, smell the briny water, and feel the wind in our faces.

 

Titled, Untitled, Entitled

moose

The bull moose raised his massive head and surveyed his surroundings. Although he had only arrived yesterday, he was already acting like he was in charge.

“Listen up, all you dumb animals,” he bellowed. “This place is a mess; it’s a disgrace to the animal world. Well, there’s a new sheriff in town and I’m going to fix it!”

The other animals paused in the work, looked at the moose, and then at each other. After a few seconds, they went back to their business.

“I said, I’m the new sheriff,” the moose began.

“Excuse me,” interrupted a deer, “but we don’t understand the word ‘sheriff.’ Is that your name?”

“Sheriff! Sheriff, you idiot! You know, chief, ruler, tsar, king, head honcho!”

The deer shook her head and turned to the other animals.

“Do any of you what these words mean?” she asked. When no one answered, she shrugged her shoulders at the moose.

“Sorry but your words are alien to us. However, if you want to be called Sheriff, that is just fine. We have a Sharif here; perhaps you two could get acquainted.”

The bull moose stamped his feet.

“Sheriff is not a name– it’s a title. My name is Greg and my title is sheriff. You do know what a title is; or is that word alien, too.”

“Oh, no, we are familiar with titles,” said the deer. “For example, my title is Greeter; my job is to greet every newcomer. Welcome, Greg, to our little community. We look forward to getting to know you and to working with you. Now as soon as you tell us what Sheriff does, we will set you up so that you can do whatever is it you do.”

“What do you mean what I do!” the moose roared, his chest heaving. “I DON’T DO ANYTHING! I TELL OTHERS WHAT TO DO! MY TITLE IS SHERIFF! GOT THAT?”

“My, my, you do have a temper, don’t you?” said the deer. “If you want to tell others what to do, that can be arranged also. For example, Nora over there is great with woodworking. If anyone wants to know how to work with wood, they go to Nora and she tells them what to do. So if you will just tell us what you do, we will let everyone know so that if anyone wants to learn how to do whatever it is you do, then they will come to you and you can tell them.”

The deer beamed.

“It’s very simple really.”

At these words, the bull moose became quite incoherent. He stormed; he raged; he flung curses to the sky.  In the meantime, the deer held a quick conference with the other animals.

“He seems to be having a hard time sheriffing,” said the beaver, “whatever that is.”

“Perhaps we should recommend that he give up the title,” suggested the ibex. “Not everyone around here has to have a title–he could be Untitled Greg.”

“Oh, no, I think the title is very important to him, “ said the deer. “The problem is that he wants to be called Sheriff and we haven’t a clue of what that is.” She looked over at the moose.

“…AND ANOTHER THING, YOU MAGGOTY, RUST-INFESTED, ROACH HOTELS…”

“Definitely he needs a title. Let’s see. He can’t articulate what he can do; he says that he does nothing and that he tells others what to do. What title lends itself to that?”

“I know, I know,” said the bear. “Let’s call him Entitled.”

“Hmm…Entitled,” said the deer. “You know, I think that will work.”

So the other animals gave Greg the title of Entitled. At first he did not like it, but the deer recruited a group of volunteers who, once a month, went to the bull moose and asked him to give a speech.  This turned out to be an equitable arrangement. The bull moose was kept busy writing and giving speeches, and the other animals could go about their business.

~

This is a flash fiction from Terrible Minds. It was inspired by “Li’l Abner”, Star Trek, and Cabela’s. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/02/03/flash-fiction-challenge-we-only-need-a-three-word-title/

 

Berried Secret

berry-farm

Mrs. White waited nervously for the others to arrive. Although she knew the meeting was necessary, she dreaded it. She would not have even called the meeting, but her character demanded it of her, and Mrs. White was not one to shirk her duty. She touched her hat to reassure herself just as Mrs. Blue entered the room, followed by her daughter Miss Adeline.

“Mrs. Blue,” said Mrs. White, “how lovely to see you, my dear. Dear Miss Adeline, what a pleasure!”

“Oh, what a lovely hat,” said Mrs. Blue. “The basket is a delicious touch–and so daring. Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama,” said Adeline, echoing her mother’s words. “It’s a lovely hat, delicious and daring.”

“Thank you, ladies,” said Mrs. White. “I appreciate your responding so promptly to my invitation, especially as it is not our usual meeting day. But there is something I must discuss with you–a very serious matter. You see…”

“Oh, I knew it!” twittered Mrs. Blue. “Adeline, didn’t I tell you that Mrs. White had a serious matter to discuss? Otherwise, why would she call a meeting for today when we just met last Monday?”

“Yes, mama, it is a serious matter even though we met last Monday.”

“Is it about Mr. Green?” asked Mrs. Blue. “Oh, say it isn’t so? Or is it Miss Yellow? No, it can’t be her because Adeline and I had the book drive with her only yesterday. If it was about her, I am sure I would have noticed it. There is always something about the eyes that gives it away. Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“No, Mama; I mean yes, we would have noticed her eyes.”

“Ladies, please!” said Mrs. White. “The matter I wish to discuss with you concerns me. The issue is–and here I must demand your fullest assurance, your most solemn promise that you will keep what I say in strictest confidence, no matter how sorely you are tempted to repeat the matter to others–my drawers.”

“Your drawers!” said Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline in unison. Mrs. White sighed. It was out now, and there was no getting around it. She straightened her spine and looked directly at her guests.

“My drawers are stuck,” she said. “They have been for several years.”

“Oh, Mrs. White! How dreadful! But…but how could such a thing have happened?”

“How could it not happen? My drawers have not been opened for a long time. And what is worse…”

“There is something worse? Oh, how can we endure it?”

“Mrs. Blue, please. Your interruptions only make this more difficult. Yes, it’s worse. My drawers are not only stuck, but they are full of bottles. What’s more, some of the bottles are so old their contents are beginning to smell.”

“Mama, remember you said something about…”

“Never mind, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, looking uncomfortable.   She turned to Mrs. White. “Oh, Mrs. White, words cannot express how deeply I feel for you. Full drawers that are stuck are so…so…well, full! If there is anything I can do, just name it.”

“Yes, there is,” said Mrs. White. “You can help me get them unstuck and emptied. I need my drawers emptied immediately. Now pull. You, too, Adeline.”

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, “pulling one’s drawers is such a delicate matter. Are you certain it’s appropriate–I mean, with Adeline present.”

“Adeline is well over forty so I should think it’s appropriate. Now pull!”

The three ladies commenced pulling at Mrs. White drawers. They pulled and strained and groaned and grunted until finally Mrs. White’s drawers popped open. A dreadful odor filled the room.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue. Mrs. White was fierce in her embarrassment. She immediately began emptying her drawers; Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline followed suit. In minutes a pile of old bottles lay on the floor at Mrs. White’s feet.

“There,” she said, “that’s the last one. I can finish the rest of this on my own. Thank you, ladies, and remember that not one word of this must be spoken. It must forever be our secret. I am only sorry that I kept it to myself for so long.”

“We will be silent as the grave,” said Mrs. Blue. “Isn’t that right, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama, silent as the grave. And, Mama, is this what you mean when you say better out than in?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebellion at Sea

In former days the heretic was not proud of being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. G. K. Chesterton Heretics

The little rock noticed three, no, four bodies washed up on the shore. They looked battered and bruised; the rock wondered if they were alive.   A few hours earlier, there had been the sound of an explosion at sea; the rock wondered if the bodies were somehow connected to it. At any rate, the little rock realized that if the bodies–alive or dead–were left unattended, the tide would eventually wash them away. The little rock decided to help. It positioned itself between the water and the bodies, intending to protect them.

When the other rocks saw what the little rock was doing, they were scandalized. Rocks did not ever attempt to hold back the tide. To challenge the sea was considered the height of arrogance. The large rocks were especially disapproving.

“We are rocks,” they rumbled. “We stand in our place, firm and resolute, despite the moving of the waters. It is beneath our dignity to notice the sea. To stand openly against it would acknowledge its presence and its power. You are fomenting rebellion.”

The little rock had no desire to be arrogant or rebellious; it merely wanted to help those who could not help themselves. It considered appealing to the sea to halt its progress but abandoned the idea. The rock knew the sea was too old and set in its ways to change. So the little rock maintained its position.

“You radical, you rebel!” The large rocks bellowed. “You will pay for this. The sea will not be stopped. Its many waters will overpower you, and its waves will crash down upon you. It will fling you against our granite hardness, grinding you to pieces. And don’t think that we will move to avoid the collision; we are rocks. Nothing moves us, neither the sea or its storms, nor the mighty ships–and certainly not an insignificant little rock like you.”

The little rock said nothing but remained at its post. It was true what the large rocks said. It would be shattered in its attempt to stop the tide. Nevertheless, the little rock felt compelled to do what it could to help. It prepared itself for the onrush of the sea. Suddenly the little rock felt itself being pushed and jostled. It was other little rocks, climbing over and around and beneath it.

“We are going to stand with you,” said the other rocks. “We will help you protect the bodies from the tide.”

rocks-jeanieThe small group of rocks built themselves into a tower, a determined bulwark against the sea’s mighty power. A huge wave crashed onto the shore, sending streams of water edging close to the rocks. However, one rivulet of water did not retreat back into the sea. Instead it traveled up the beach and encircled the small tower of rocks.

“We, too, will stand with you,” whispered the voice of the water. “We will capture the drops of water from the tide as it passes by.”

The little rock was too joyful to speak, but the sea roared in indignation, furious that any of its waters would defy its purpose. As soon as it could, it would swallow the rivulet into nothingness.

~

A team of searchers stood on top of a cliff overlooking the beach. One of them stiffened and then pointed.

“Do you see that?” he asked. “I swear I saw a flash of light.”

His two companions looked in the direction he was pointing.

“It’s only a gleam of sunlight reflecting off that tiny pool of water,” said one of them. “See? It’s the one around that small pile of rocks.”

“That’s strange,” said the first man. “The rocks almost look like they were placed there on purpose. Wait! Maybe it’s a signal! Let’s go down there.”

The three men picked their way down the side of the cliff. When they reached the bottom, they headed for the rock tower. As they drew closer, they spied the bodies on the beach. They began to run.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/01/27/flash-fiction-challenge-acts-of-rebellion/

Elephant Has Left the Building

Carl was tired.  More than that, he was sick and tired, tired of being ignored and treated like he was invisible.  No matter where he went, no one looked at him, spoke to him, or even acknowledged his existence.

They don’t even know my name, he thought.

“It’s Carl!” he shouted to the afternoon sun.  A nearby seagull was startled into flight at the sound of his voice.

“Ha!” said Carl. “That got your attention.”

Maybe that’s the problem.  Only a birdbrain is be savvy enough to notice me; and here I am surrounded by mammal brains and reptilian brains.  Well, not anymore.  I’ve had enough.

Carl was leaving.  He realized there was no room in other people’s lives for someone like him.  Once he left, people would just have to ignore someone else.  He was going to make a new life for himself. He would no longer be the elephant in the room.  He was going to be Carl, The Elephant by the Sea.

elephant