Before Your Eyes, October 21, 2022

This Show Case features seven pieces submitted in response to our twenty-eighth Writing Prompt: Before Your Eyes. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for the Show Case page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.

And please share this Show Case with your family, friends, and other writers.

Before Your Eyes, Before Your Time

by John Correll

“You saw him right before your eyes. Here? At this bus stop?” 

“Yeah. It was insane. He waited for the 19. I was catching the 12 over there.”

“This is 1975. That’d make him 86. He’d be super decrepit.” 

“Sure. He was all gray. Even the mustache. And bent over old fogey-like. But it was him.”

“And what did you do?”

“I walked right over, and at first, I figured I’d ask him his name. But that wouldn’t do, would it? Too obvious. So, I clicked my heels.”

“In your tennis shoes?” 

“Okay, a bit stupid. Definitely didn’t have the effect I hoped for. So I waved my hand. You know?” 

“You could be arrested for that.” 

“I did it discreetly. And I said, ‘Victory hail.’”

“Like that?”

“Maybe a little louder.”

“And what’d he do?”

“He shook his fist at me and called me a long-haired bum and traitor, unfit for the military or the Empire.

“You’re joking? He said, Empire?”

“Exactly, the 3rd Empire. In that ranting, unmistakable mean voice.”

“No way. Then what?”

“I went back to wait for the 12.”

“And that’s it.”

“No. Some punks went up to him.”

“Punks? You mean those shaved head, dressed in black, combat boot-wearing punks?”

“That’s them. The ones that kick your teeth in if you dare to look in their general direction.” 

“They’re the worst.” 

“I know.”

“So then what?”

“I tried not to look at them.”

“Good idea.” 

“But I made a hole in my school newspaper like this. And then watched. They marched up and gave him the forbidden greeting just like asking the time of day.”

“Jesus. And he returned the salute?” 

“Not at all, but his hand shook like he really wanted to, but he was fighting the urge. Then he smiled.”

“Smiled?” 

“That’s what I said. Smiled and pinched their cheeks like the old newsreel in history class when he’s giving metals to those kids at the end.”

“That’s totally ridiculous. Impossible. He couldn’t be here. After all that time.” 

“It’s pissing genius. No one would think to look here. In Berlin. I bet he’s hid here since that pretend suicide of his.”

“But everybody saw his body and his girlfriend’s.”

“Wife.”

“Yeah, yeah. That’s right.”

“He used a body double. All dictators have them.”

“Oh, come on. You’re making this up.”

“No. This all happened. Right here.”

“So then, what happened?”

“The war ended.”

“No. Here. At the bus stop.”

“Oh, that. Adolf and the punks got on the bus.”

“The 19.”

“Right.” 

“And?”

“I’ve staked out this stop for over a month. And he’s not come back. Totally gone.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“I know. Funny, isn’t it. It’s like he knows I’m on to him.”

A Late Summer’s Bug

by John Correll

The fly before your eyes won’t die. Won’t lie in peace, squashed by your bare feet. 

No fly. No.

Circle round and round with angry sound. Orbiting your head in the hazy heat.

Where fly? Where?

Dancing to insect’s pirouette, stomping and swinging to bug’s mean beat.

Sing fly. Sing.

And, when flower’s essence sprays on stage, your star bows once.

And sadly, before your eyes, the fly dies.

The Be(e)ing of a Tyger

by Boris Glikman

Image credit: Vladimir Kush

Prose Version

The identical coloration of tigers and bees is no random coincidence, without any significance. The real reason for this pun of evolution is actually quite astounding, almost beyond belief.

The simple truth is that the animal that the world knows as a “tiger” has never existed. The true nature of this creature is revealed if you are brave enough to give it a good shake. Once you have done so, you will witness an incredible transformation unfolding before your eyes: the tiger will begin crumbling into pieces until there is nothing left of it, not even a piece of hide, and in its place…thousands upon thousands of bees will appear, as if out of nowhere, buzzing angrily and flying off in all directions.

For you see, a tiger is not a genuine animal. Rather, it is a great collection of Africanised honey bees, also known as killer bees, that have formed themselves into the shape of a tiger. They use this particular configuration to satisfy their great hunger for fresh meat.

All the characteristics of a tiger can be easily explained by this state of affairs: the tiger’s roar is really the collective humming of countless bees; the colour of its stripes comes from the hue of bees’ bodies; its sharp teeth and claws are, in fact, bees’ stingers and its ferocity is due to the notoriously aggressive nature of the killer bees.

.

Poetic Version

Tyger, tyger 

making hay

in the middle of sunny day.

.

Yet look closer

you will see

all is not what seems to be.

.

Bees and tiger

the same colour

a coincidence?

Surely that makes

little sense!

.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Catch a tiger by the toe.

Shake him hard

and make him hiss.

This reveals

he’s made of bees.

.

Once you stir him

you will find

bees are gone,

naught left behind.

.

In their hunger for fresh meat,

bees are practicing deceit.

Alas, the tiger we all adore

is but nothing but a roar.

.

Romancing the Wart

by GD Deckard

Sometimes, the path of life is not wide enough for two to walk side by side. That changes everything. Without another person to see more than you see, the scenery becomes predictable and eventually, you don’t see the world around you at all. You turn inward.

It took Claire to set him on a wider path. When a job applicant came into his office, Roy never looked up. He just waved them to a seat while he pretended to read their resume. That kept him in control. But at first glance of Claire, he became flustered, he upset the carefully stacked papers on his desk, and he said the wrong thing. “It must be hard to be you.”

Her radiant smile was infectious. The curves of her face and neck and shoulders pulled him down faster and faster and then hurled him into the sky like a ski jump. He was free-falling. “You’re -“

“Beautiful,” she said. “That is hard. Men can’t really see me and women don’t want to.”

“I was going to say exhilarating. Beautiful is inadequate.”

Claire’s expression turned business like. A hint of resignation entered her tone. “I know you’re going to offer me the position. I just want to hear why.”

“Don’t say position. It’s distracting.” Roy shook his head to clear it, but she immediately refilled it. So, he said the first thing to come to mind. “You need a wart.”

“A wart?” A smile tugged her lips.

“A big hairy wart. On the tip of your nose.”

Claire’s face changed from business-like to annoyance to laughter. “That’s brilliant!”

“And that’s why you need to work for Roy Enterprises, NLC. Here, we all have warts. You will fit right in.”

“NLC?”

“It’s like LLC. The N stands for No.”

Claire began her career by resetting Roy’s artificially intelligent proctoscopes. Some had gone rogue, selling photos to coprophiliacs on the dark web.

Roy was pleased. “That wasn’t the image we wanted to convey.”

Claire became Roy’s doppelgänger, acting as troubleshooter to her troublemaking boss. There was money in troublemaking, but someone had to cover their backsides.

Roy’s Mooning Service was a success on campuses and golf courses. His secret fraternity, College Mooners, had proven popular among students, and golf courses had discovered that donations to the fraternity kept the mooners away.

Not so easy to monetize were political rallies. “I simply do not understand young people, young lady!” Mayor Janus was clearly distracted by the wart on her nose. “First, they disrupt my public appearances and now you show up to defend them with that thing on your face. Why, for God’s sake, I want to know.”

“Are you making fun of my appearance?”

“What? No. It’s a fake wart!”

Inspired by her association with Roy, Claire said, “It’s a religious symbol. And I’m recording this conversation. Can you imagine the course of your political career once voters learn that you made fun of a woman’s face and her religion?” Problem resolved. The city contributed to the fraternity’s scholarship fund.

“Think of it as a tax refund,” Roy congratulated her. “That’s a rare accomplishment.”

Unfortunately, Claire realized she wanted more from her association with Roy. She wanted Roy.

Fortunately, Roy saw his chance. “That wart,” he needlessly waved a finger at the obvious, “I love it, but you needn’t wear it for work anymore.”

“But then you find me distracting.”

“Oh, anytime we’re alone together, you should wear it.”

Encouraged, Claire leaned slightly to him. “And? Anything else?”

To be clear, Roy enunciated clearly, “No. Just the wart.”

Here, right here … before your very eyes …

by Mimi Speike

Photo credit: Ardea wildlife pets environment

I sort out my thinking regarding my convoluted assassination plot. 
Do the facts fit my fanciful skullduggery? 
Can I get myself to believe it?

Barn Elms sat on the south bank of the Thames, a few miles out of London. A working farm, actually two farms, Home Farm on the east of the peninsula and Windmill Farm to the west, it sent produce down-river to London, and it had some of the most profitable eel ponds in England. But Barn Elms was much more; the manor house was the headquarters of the Secret Service. Queen Elizabeth bought the lease in 1579 for Sir Francis Walsingham, rewarding his value to the Crown.

Walsingham had set-up Britain’s first counter-intelligence network. He received reports from twelve locations in France, nine in Germany, four in Italy, and four in Spain. It was claimed that communications sent from Rome were read in London before they reached Madrid.

He’d established a spy-school in his London house. His school taught cipher and forgery and gave potential agents training in field-work. He himself spent most of his time on his country estate. The main house was a gentleman’s villa. A building at the back contained the records of the Secret Service. He trusted them nowhere else.

As long as Mary Stuart lived, Elizabeth’s life was in danger from Catholic fanatics seeking to return England to the Catholic fold. Elizabeth was reluctant to execute her cousin. To kill Mary was foreign to her impulse for clemency and to her dislike of drastic action. Walsingham was a Puritan, the most extreme of Protestants. His devotion to his faith made him feverishly alive to the perils which threatened the kingdom.

There was the Ridolfi plot in 1571, and the Throckmorton Plot in 1573. (The Babington Plot would not be implemented until 1585.) The Ridolfi Plot has been called ‘one of the more brainless conspiracies’ of the sixteenth century. But an even loonier plot has gone unreported. The Queen never learned of it. It was masterminded by her lifelong friend who was also an ally of Francis Walsingham. 

Walsingham was more solicitous of the Queen’s security than she was herself. He pushed Elizabeth in directions she was not willing to take. She harbored a personal antipathy towards him and his ‘gloomy prophecies’. He detested her procrastination. The Queen of Scots had been her prisoner since 1568, but she was unwilling to make the needful decision about the rival’s disposal. 

His health had never been good. He used it as an excuse to absent himself from the tiresome ceremony of the court. At Barn Elms, he pursued his own interests. He was an avid falconer, and he was a patron of the arts. In 1583, he gave orders to the queen’s Master of the Revels to create an acting troupe, to be known as The Queen’s Men. (That in itself was an odd interference into a sphere that was none of his business.) The troupe toured both nationally and internationally. If he personally briefed certain of them on his needs, it was not done at his spy school. He’d have them out to Barn Elms, to one of his ‘evenings’.

He hosted gatherings, the only requirement for admittance being that one should be fashionably dressed and well-spoken, and prepared to make a contribution to the evening’s entertainment by singing, or playing an instrument, or displaying a delightful skill. An odd assortment of folks converged on the property once a month. Some of them were there to enjoy themselves, and some were there on business.

***

The elongated shadows of towering elms draped a courtyard which, considering the gaiety to be spied through the windows of well-lit rooms in a sprawling manse, was surprisingly empty of conveyances. But the river was the highway in these parts. Roadways, aside from a few fragments from Roman times, were furrows. Dee’s house sat two miles southwest. The northerly sweep of the Thames between the two residences would have been a journey of twice the duration, not to mention the wait for one of the public transports that worked the river to respond to his hail and tie up to his dock. He had come by carriage.

***

Dee was set down at the front entrance, and the coach continued on to the stable yard. Shelter for thirty horses lay two hundred yards beyond the residential complex. Thirty, for a household of eight: a sure sign the site supported doings beyond placid domesticity. 

The driver climbed down from his perch and greeted a stable-hand. “Hogarth! We meet again! My turn to treat. I have an excellent whiskey along. Sir Francis will have his jollify, and we’ll have ours.” 

Sly’s ears perked up. Sir Francis! Would that be Sir Francis Walsingham? Who else could it be? Elizabeth’s head of security, yards away! Just the one to approach, certainly, about the dastardly intentions of a foremost courtier. How to proceed, it being an extraordinarily delicate business? He’d discuss it tomorrow with Dee. Tonight he meant to enjoy himself.

His head emerged from the baggage hold. His excellent night vison immediately made out a face peering up at him from behind a bale of hay. “Evening, ma’am,” he said. “Fine night.”

“Tis a night,” the female replied, “to make ye glad you’re alive, whatever fate has in mind for you.” She cackled bitterly. “Them fools yonder be nibbling at my best pal ‘bout now, I guess.” She collapsed into a quivering pile of feathers and bawled. 

Sly approached her respectfully. “Pardon, Madame, he murmured, I don’t dismiss your pain, but a monumental mischief is afoot. Your queen is in grave danger.” 

“My queen! Does I care? What be the queen to me? Broil her butt on a spit, as has been done this cursed day to sweetest chickadee you’d ever want to meet.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“I does!”

“I can’t fault you for that view, all things considered,” replied Sly. “Me, I’m for our queen heart an’ soul. I’ve lived years abroad. I’m home with the intention of showing my face up north. I’ve paused my sentimental journey to intervene in a situation that affects everyone in this grand land of ours.”

“Grand, is it? Easy fer you to say. Folks don’t look at you an’ see dinner.” 

“True,” said Sly. “I hurt for such as you. For the sake of me old mama up in Cumbria, can ye put aside your resentment and assist me a wee bit? I wish to join that frolic. To beg admittance at the front door gets me nowhere. I must creep in undetected.

“I appeal to you as a mother, as I expect ye be many times over. Ma’s had no word of me since I deserted. We were a large family, the common thing on a farm. Who of us was her favorite? The bad apple. The big-head brat who felt he was meant for finer than to butcher mice for his living. She encouraged me in my outrageous expectations until my arrogance knew no bounds. 

“She agonizes over that, I don’t doubt it. In what Spanish hell-hole do I rot, me an’ my shipmates, captured off Cartagena? To go to sea was my proclaimed ambition. I thrilled to the sea lies of my uncle Declan’s circle of former sea swinks.1 The state she must be in! It eats at me.

I hope to set her mind at ease, to prove her imp of a son has done well for himself. I long to display myself hale and hearty and, more importantly, sound of mind, for it was widely debated, and to promise her the world is a better place for my involvement in a number of tricky situations. I have counseled crowned heads, to their flourishment. Who knows but I may be able to help you.” 

This was too fantastic a notion to be taken seriously. The hen thought, He’s a loony, surely. She replied discreetly. “Help me? How, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Don’t mind in the least, but I can’t at present say. I’ve learned not to chase solutions. They suggest themselves, if I have patience. Mistress! You have touched my heart. Give me a name to recall you fondly by.” 

“A name! My sort doesn’t get a name, as does a cat, or a dog, or a horse, or even a damn milk cow. We, ever’ one of us, be this-un, that-un. Cook looks us over, tells the man-of-all-work, fetch me in this-un, plucked clean, ready to fry. We hold our breath. Who gets the axe today?” 

“Ye’ve not bethought to give yourselves names?”

“Some did. That practice is mostly abandoned. Attach a name to a face, grow close, then see your dear companion manhandled away? I made one friend. Today she got the short end of the stick.2 Nevermore do I reach out. I can’t go through this pain again.”

“May I not give you a name? As a token of my esteem. We’ll keep it between us two.”

“I would be honored to bear any name ye care to bestow on me, kind sir.”

“My mama is Delilah, Delly for short. I’d call ye Delly.”

The hen leaned into him, and he embraced her. “Follow me,” she told him. “A mud room off the kitchen has the door kept ajar. From there, you’re on your own. Good luck to ye, then. Give me regards to yer ma. She raised her a good-hearted …” She thought to herself, loon, but she uttered, lad. “You tell ’er I said so.” 

“I will,” whispered Sly. “I absolutely will.”

***

  1. Swink: hard work under difficult conditions or for long hours. Archaic.
  2. Some language experts suggest that the “Short end of the stick” originates from the 1500s. During the Middle Ages, the rich would clean themselves with fabrics after relieving themselves, while the poor would use leaves or a stick with a slight curve, known as a Gompf stick.

Viewpoint

by SL Randall

Sunset at the beach by SL Randall

Monday morning, a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, I open my laptop to check in with my characters.

Dunia’s arm reached from under the nest of blankets to silence the alarm clock. She emerged with a groggy expletive. “What the hell kind of dream was that?” 

I chuckled softly as she felt herself up, making sure her body parts were in the right place. 

“Goddamn creator. That better have been a dream. What were you thinking? A man?”

More curses as she got up and disappeared from my view. 

Good enough for me. MC was right, Dunia is a woman. 

‘Now, what’s Bepé doing?’ I switched screens. Another surprise. Bepé, nowhere in sight, but there’s Sophia searching his desk. Now I’m annoyed. I unmute the microphone. “Sophia, what are you doing?”

Smoothly, she turns and stares directly at me. No hint of guilt, just smugness. “Just looking for a pen,” her smile is wicked as she holds up the pen, accentuating her middle finger.

Furious, I say the first thing that comes to mind, “I can kill you any time I want.”

Her smile broadens. “But you won’t. You need me.” Before I can respond, she leaves the room.

On a post-it I angrily write,

Don’t kill Sophia, just make her wish I did!”

I slap the post-it on the notebook labeled Sophia.

My coffee cup is empty. How did that happen? 

The Word

by S.T. Ranscht

Image credit: S.T. Ranscht
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47 responses to “Before Your Eyes, October 21, 2022”

  1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    Thanks to each of you for your entertaining entries. I am always delighted to see how widely they vary from each other.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Boris Avatar

    Before your eyes quickly turn away to look at another page, link or website, feast on what’s before your eyes on this page.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Boris Avatar

    Sue, I don’t know if I interpret your poem correctly, but it seems to me to be set in utero. If that is indeed so, then you are saying that the unborn fetuses already have knowledge about the world through sound?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      That’s right, Boris. You can’t see till you’re born because there’s no light in there, but sound vibrations travel through. (Probably the first sound is the mother’s heartbeat.) That’s one of the reasons many parents follow the advice to play music, talk, and read out loud to their unborn child. There is even evidence they learn to recognize the voices of those who speak to them most — usually their parents.

      Liked by 5 people

  4. Boris Avatar

    Sandy, your story is a nice piece of meta-fiction, which is always fun to write. One can create some really mind-spinning scenarios through meta-fiction.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

      How did we manage for so many centuries with [meta-] used only as a prefix for [physics] to form a name for a blather-prone branch of philosophy utterly unlike physics?  Now we have metaglop for glop about glop (with a multitude of interesting replacements for the placeholder “glop”).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Boris Avatar

        Mellow, that’s an interesting meta-commentary there about my commentary.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sandy: You’re a lady after my own heart. Marvelous!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Boris Avatar

    John, your first story sets up an interesting alternative history scenario. I’d be interested in seeing it extended to a longer format. It could make a really fascinating novel.
    There is another book with a similar set-up actually, titled “Look Who’s Back”. Maybe you have read it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_Who%27s_Back

    Liked by 5 people

    1. John Correll Avatar

      Oh, yes. I remember seeing the previews. Very interesting idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. GD Deckard Avatar

    First impressions (before coffee.)

    “Before Your Eyes, Before Your Time” is proof positive, John, that street cams can miss the obvious.
    “A Late Summer’s Bug” brought to mind the window sills when I was a child. I learned early that’s where flies go to die.

    “The Be(e)ing of a Tyger” is right about everything. The pointillists were on to something, Boris.

    “Here, right here … before your very eyes …” is a perfect story for this theme, Mimi!

    Clever, Sandy. Very. And well done.

    Absolutely, Sue. “The Word” was dominant in preliterate peoples who couldn’t see through the jungles but could hear all around them.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      Before your eyes: the total truth, GD. My first stab at recreating my long-written assassination plot to include John Dee and Francis Walsingham. Every bit of this is off the top of my head, no pre-planning.

      And Delly is a brand new character, also imagined on the spot. She will assist Sly and Dee with prognostication during their seances.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Survival of the fittest, right, GD? The sense that gathers the most information would be an advantageous adaptation.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Boris Avatar

      Thank you GD! The pointillist connection didn’t occur to me as the artist, Vladimir Kush, is not a pointillist, but what you say does make sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sue: You are on my wavelength now.

    Proof 1 – The Word
    Proof 2 – The next prompt. You’ve given me exactly what I need for my next installment of Sly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Mimi, you know I’m always happy to help — even if the help is serendipitous, lol.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    John: Those a-tad-slower, end-of-summer bugs seem to take special pleasure in taunting me by settling on my computer screen, as if they know they’re safe there. Nothing, not even your graceful piece, makes me feel sorry for them.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Sandy Randall Avatar

    I love Showcase Friday! Every piece a treasure to savor … I wonder if that’s how my dog feels when Bark Box arrives? Hmmm

    Anyhow,

    John, Again your versatile style shines through, from dark enigmatic history standing in front of us, to dancing with flies. It’s terrifying that a leader, who’s atrocious mark on the world, may have secretly survived and continued to practice his genocidal dogma in secret. I will also have to follow Boris’ link and read that tale.

    Boris, I love your perspective on the Kush works. You tap in to the wonder I believe we are all born with, but tend to lose as indoctrination sets in. As for both pieces, If I chose a favorite, your poetic version captures the artwork better for me. I love your lyrical style. If I could write music, your style would inspire me to create music for it.

    GD, Roy has met his match. Claire is truly his spiritual double. Opposite sides of the same coin. I look forward to their antics. Both are clever, but Claire is polished while Roy is honed. One sparkles and the other shines. I’m looking forward to seeing what this Duo gets up to.
    As for the Phoenix Diary, I’m just starting chapter 9. Stene is starting to reveal the complexities of his character. I haven’t decided if I want him dead or not yet. I know you asked me to tell you about the girls maturity. I haven’t decided yet. The timeline isn’t clear for me. I am enjoying the setting. I grew up in Colorado and many of the places you mention are familiar. I grew up in Hotchkiss on the western slope. High school sporting events took us far and wide. Plus my Dad loved camping and fishing. We did a lot of rough camping when I was a kid. You capture that well. Better than Stephen King in “The Stand.”

    Mimi, Sly is so sly, he can woo a chicken who’s lost her best friend. He had to work a bit, Delly’s not your average brainless clucker, she has a bit of jaded skepticism, which has likely kept her out of the frying pan so far. Also thank you for reminding me of Walsingham. In my many travels to the UK I remember running across his story in the library in Manchester. My mom’s side of the family emigrated from Kingswinford, Stffordshire in the early 1600’s. I hoped to locate some info on them while I was there. Their last name, Southwick was originally Sethick, which is all I learned beyond what our family already knew.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_and_Cassandra_Southwick
    Your tale happens just prior to theirs.

    My story … I hated to miss posting in the show case, but there was no way I was going to have and update on MvA, not with all the family visits, etc. Plus with all the feedback, I had a lot of noodling to do. This piece was a window into my thought process.😁 A very structured view … I would not subject anyone to my raw thoughts! The picture has nothing at all to do with any of it, other than catharsis. One reason I paint is to ease the jumble of thoughts, sort of like a siphon to rid myself of the extraneous bits which do not move a story along …

    Sue, I envision those quiet moments of pregnancy, where you wonder about the life you carry. The promise that life holds. You capture those moments of introspection an expectant parent has, whether they be joyful, fearful, content etc. Beautifully written and illustrated. I’m glad to see you pulled out your artwork. I don’t know if it’s been awhile or not for you but I get the sense your artwork is an old friend you haven’t spoken with in awhile and can feel the joy in your re-connection. The painting is an exquisite companion to your words.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Thank you, Sandy. I’ve only been pregnant once, but it was nine months of those moments. (My baby is turning 40 next month. How? How did that happen?)

      As a former art student, my most proficient skills were in sketching and drawing. I haven’t dedicated nearly enough time over the years to exceed or even maintain whatever level of competence I eventually attained. I never really explored painting deeply enough to claim being a painter. Besides, there were other satisfying arts to pursue: wood working, sculpture, photography, fabric (Batik, tie dye, cross stitch, rug hooking). Costuming. I especially love the design process in any of those areas, and I think that’s helped me develop a decent aesthetic sense of composition, color, chiaroscuro, balance, and space.

      Several years ago, I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t draw well enough to illustrate my fantasy/adventure serial. Then I watched a demo iPad creating art with Procreate. Even I could do that! And that’s what you see behind The Word: an image I “painted” with Procreate, just for that haiku, from my mind to the digital page. Mis-strokes are easily undone, and there’s no mess to clean up at the end of the project. Perfect!

      I do occasionally revisit my older art. Sometimes I marvel at parts of it, but overall, it looks a lot stiffer than I would like it to. That has to be okay because I’d rather be writing.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        I love Procreate … It’s actually what got me started with my actual painting. I do admit a bit of anxiety in knowing that once the paint is on the paper, there is no amount of undo to fix an errant stroke, but I have learned that some mis-strokes can lead to other bits of unintended art.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. John Correll Avatar

          Water color is unforgiving. Oil and acrylic is the slower, messy version of Photoshop.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Sandy Randall Avatar

            It’s funny my mom says the same thing… I actually find watercolor very forgiving, perhaps it just fits my style better than oil or acrylic?

            Liked by 3 people

    2. GD Deckard Avatar

      Sandy,
      Thanks. The Colorado setting for The Phoenix Diary is authentic because I lived there for years. And I used Google Earth to zoom in on specific locations in the story to refresh my memory as I wrote the scenes.
      Amazing, isn’t it? The Internet puts the sum total of human knowledge at our fingertips and allows us to look down on any part of the planet. I could not have imagined chapter 9’s dinner scene on my own. But thanks to the ‘Net, ancient Sumerian dinners are only a click away.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Boris Avatar

      Thank you Sandy! I am glad you are enjoying my interpretations of Kush’s paintings although I should point out that my interpretations, in most cases, don’t correspond to what he himself meant by them.
      You are right regarding the child-like wonder. I don’t think I have ever lost it and I still try to experience and write about the world and life with that pristine wonder and awe.
      Regarding the prose and poetry versions, I just thought it would be an interesting creative exercise to write the same piece as both a story and as a poem. I haven’t done that for any other piece of mine.
      It is interesting that you prefer the poetic version as Carl seems to prefer the prose version, which has more details and information in it.
      Regarding creating music, I actually been working with various musicians for some years and they have set a number of my poems and stories to music.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Something has just come to me. All because of a brand new character that I meant only as a treading-water bit of business, until I figured out what happens next.

    I suddenly see a whole new way of telling this section of my story. There is much to be gained by not planning too much. Let the story pour forth as it will.

    I am excited by what I see Delly contributing to my nonsense.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sandy Randall Avatar

      I’m so glad! I’ve fallen in love with Delly! I’m sure there’s some wisdom in her that Sly and John Dee literally cannot live without!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      I still don’t know (exactly) what happens next. Sly enters the house, overhears a few conversations (my problem, what do they consist of?), and is a big hit playing the violin.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Mimi, I find myself writing that same sort of conundrum. One character says something like, “I know the secret of the ….” and I the writer am left hanging on the cliff like the reader … dammit! what’s the secret?? 🤫

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    For what it’s worth, here are my comments:

    First off: congrats to everyone who contributed!
    ……………………………

    Before Your Eyes, Before Your Time
    by John Correll

    “He shook his fist at me and called me a long-haired bum and traitor, unfit for the military or the Empire.”

    This doesn’t sound like Hitler; this sounds like a 1960s-era American conservative.

    Also: fascinating and chilling concept, but I don’t buy that Hitler would remain in Berlin of all places. Hitler hated the Berliners! Too bohemian and free-spirited for his tastes. (Now Munich, Nuremberg, or somewhere back in Austria . . .)

    ………………………………….

    The Be(e)ing of a Tyger
    by Boris Glikman

    I found this a startling, arresting concept artfully articulated. (The prose, not the . . . let’s move on.) My god; what a great idea for a weird tale! Worthy of Borges or Bradbury. (Bradbury would have loved this!)

    ………………………

    Romancing the Wart
    by GD Deckard

    Amusing, GD! As Fred Flintstone used to say to Barney: “Droll; how very droll.”
    ……………………………………

    Here, right here … before your very eyes …
    by Mimi Speike

    Re:

    “The elongated shadows of towering elms draped a courtyard which, considering the gaiety to be spied through the windows of well-lit rooms in a sprawling manse, was surprisingly empty of conveyances. But the river was the highway in these parts. Roadways, aside from a few fragments from Roman times, were furrows. Dee’s house sat two miles southwest. The northerly sweep of the Thames between the two residences would have been a journey of twice the duration, not to mention the wait for one of the public transports that worked the river to respond to his hail and tie up to his dock. He had come by carriage.”

    This is such a professional, masterfully executed paragraph—description, pacing, incisive historical “you-are-there” detail—that I wolf-whistled at it. Bravo!
    …………………………………

    Viewpoint
    by SL Randall
    Sunset at the beach by SL Randall

    I think Sophia’s about to learn who’s boss!

    …………………………….

    The Word
    by S.T. Ranscht
    ………………………

    Marvelous, moving and evocative haiku, Sue!

    However: I find the phrase “your eyes” in the second line somewhat . . . pedestrian.

    Would the haiku be sharpened—hit harder—if “your” was changed to a sharper, more startling, adjective? “long before ____ eyes could see”

    If you needed an extra syllable (for strict adherence to the traditional form) you could lose “long” at the beginning of that second line, re:
    Awake in the dark / Before ______ eyes could see / your ears knew the world.

    Just riffing . . . Obviously, I liked it enough to play around with the phrasing.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      I, too, tinkered with that phrase, Carl.

      Awake in the dark
      before emblazoned eyes see
      hushed ears know the world.

      To me, this proposes an observation to an anonymous world of thoughtful adults. It may or may not be artful.

      The version I used has two qualities I wanted for this piece that I feel the other version lacks. First, it uses the precise prompt (I know this isn’t mandatory), not as the spacial description most commonly adopted, but as a temporal description, more directly than the alternative version does. Second, using the admittedly more pedestrian “your” is meant to convey the intimately personal nature of a mother sharing each human’s unremembered beginnings with her child.

      Which do you prefer? Or have I failed to excel with both of them?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. mimispeike Avatar
        mimispeike

        I think it has to be your eyes/your ears, or they both have to change.

        Shut eyes/opened ears? Our eyes/our ears?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          I agree they need to be the same. That was my main reason for dropping both pronouns in the alternate version. I tried “our” for both, but it took away from the direction of the parent’s teaching. Saying “you” to a very young child makes it more personal than “our”. To the very young, parents are merely an extension of themselves.

          Liked by 4 people

      2. Carl E. Reed Avatar

        The second (published) version is definitely better.

        I stand by my original criticism.

        “Have I failed to excel with both of them?” is a defensive question.

        I found your haiku “marvelous, moving and evocative”. Which it is. Then suggested a possible way to make it even more memorable. You heard that most mild of mild suggestions and ignored (disbelieved?) the initial praise.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          I’m sorry, Carl. I know you didn’t hear it, but I was laughing when I asked the question. It wasn’t meant to be defensive, but now that I look at it again, I see how you could read it that way. I didn’t (and don’t) disbelieve your praise. Considering it came from you, a poet, it holds at least as much value as your suggestions, and I thank you. I understand why you prefer the second version, and I respect your preference.

          Liked by 5 people

      3. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

        I don’t like the word [emblazoned]. Too icky-poetic, like [o’er] for [over].

        Liked by 3 people

    2. John Correll Avatar

      Thanks, Carl. Hitler was mostly an authentic experience. In 1976, or maybe 77, I stepped out of the Dahlem-Dorf Library with books for a high school project, and there he stood, waiting. I wandered over to my bus stop and thought about getting closer, but then his bus came, and he vanished. This was all before the soviet archives opened up with Stalin’s Dental record proof that Hitler had indeed killed himself. So, in my fifteen-year-old mind, anything was possible.

      The “long-haired bum” came from a conservative East Berliner, the worst kind of ‘conservative’. This was also in the 70s when I had a habit of visiting the east with my American passport. And I usually occupied my friend, the American embassy’s Charge d’affaires’s son.

      The punks? Well, they don’t fight fair. I was hit in the back, presumably for looking at one.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. Boris Avatar

      Thank you Carl!
      I have read quite a bit of Borges but only one story by Bradbury (“A Sound of Thunder”) so I am not that familiar with Bradbury’s writings and style.
      I am just wondering: when you say ” what a great idea for a weird tale” are you suggesting that this story can be expanded further or do you think that it is complete in itself?
      It’s interesting that you prefer the prose version, as Sandy mentioned above that she prefers the poem version. The prose version does have more details and information in it. I just thought it would be a fun creative challenge to write the same piece as both a story and as a poem. I haven’t done that for any other of my pieces.
      I’d be interested to hear why the poem version doesn’t work for you, but I understand if it is just a matter of you going by your pure feeling about the two versions. Sometimes one’s aesthetic preferences cannot be explained.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

    @ John

    In the Berlin dialog story I found a lot to like and 2 speed bumps.

    A big thing to like is that the story is pure dialog, uncluttered by things like “Fritz said” (which would encourage untimely speculation about the relevance of the speakers’ nationality).  The difference between italic and roman font is enough to keep the speakers straight, and what little I need to know about them emerges naturally from what they say.

    The identity of the old fogey also emerges naturally, along with the striking contrast between who the old fogey is (Wow!) and what he is doing (ho-hum).  The story is a fine example of showing rather than telling.

    Speed bumps are at the start and at the end.

    The initial sentence looks like a statement of fact.  I had to read on to see that is really a question conveyed by a declarative sentence that is voiced with a rising pitch in speech and punctuated with a question mark in writing.  It should have been so punctuated here.  Dunno whether the missing question marks here and later are just typos.  The later ones were less distracting because I was already aware of the situation, but they were still distracting.

    Near the end, the guy who saw Hitler claims to have “staked out” the bus stop for over a month.  How often does the 19 bus run?  This guy has the leisure for serious staking out all by himself?

    At the very end, this guy finds it funny-peculiar that Hitler seems to know he has been recognized and to be avoiding this one bus stop.  But this guy previously gave Hitler a stiff-arm salute and said “Victory hail” a little louder than conversationally.  Hitler was evil, rash, and prone to wishful thinking.  But he was not dim-witted.

    What would be a better ending?  That’s a tough one.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. John Correll Avatar

      Thanks, Mellow. I’m glad you liked the story. Yes, it’s funny how I plainly see the typos after I send something off. Very annoying!

      I think a teenage concept of “stake out” involves a lot more leisure time than would be professionally acceptable. Maybe I need to make their age clearer?

      As with my actual sighting, I hoped it was recognized that there was no definitive proof of the old man being Hitler. But, damn, he really did look the part.

      And indeed, the ending I wasn’t sure about. I was under time constraints. But now, I’m open to suggestions.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

        I’ve seen typos on STEM papers I wrote, even after coauthors and reviewers and copy editors had all combed over them.  😦

        I doubt it’s worthwhile to make a fuss about an amateurish stakeout.  I’d go with something quick like [Never saw him after that.].

        Years ago, I had a coworker who could easily win a Karl Marx lookalike contest.  (Nobody ever thought he really was KM.)  In your story’s imagined world, my take was that a teenager or young adult (whose knowledge of history was pretty good) did see AH, not an old unrepentant Nazi who just happened to sound like AH and look like AH at age 86 or so.

        Still have no positive suggestions for the ending.  It’s been long enough now that AH is surely dead, even if a body double burned in that bunker.  But his spirit is still around, flaunted by “leaders” like DJT in many places around the world.  That gave the story extra resonance with me, but I don’t see how to use it at the end.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. John Correll Avatar

          Sorry to bother, but would this be a better ending:

          “I’ve staked out this stop for over a month. Sort of when I didn’t have any homework. And he’s not come back. Totally gone.”

          “I don’t believe it.”

          “I know. Funny, isn’t it. It’s like he knows I’m on to him. Did you study for Partenheimer’s test tomorrow?”

          “We have a test? Tomorrow? Fuck Hitler, I gotta go.”

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

            Love the swerve from [Did you study …] onward.  It’s LOL with an appropriate dark side.

            The transition from [Totally gone.] to the swerve still does not work for me.

            Liked by 3 people

          2. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

            Here’s a possible way to add a twist while smoothing the transition near the end.

            “… Totally gone.”

            “He knows you’re on to him.  Maybe he got antsy and changed his routine.”

            “Yeah, looks like I’m not gonna ace Partenheimer’s journalism course unless I do it the hard way.  Did you study for the test tomorrow?”

            “We have a test?  Tomorrow?  Fuck Hitler, I gotta go.”

            Liked by 3 people

  14. John Correll Avatar

    Boris, what a marvelous and totally frightening idea. I still can’t shake the image of a tiger like the shape-shifting robot in Terminator 2, The Blob, or The Thing. Nightmarish. I can never visit the tiger at the zoo again.

    GD, Claire’s great. A superb counterweight to Roy’s proctological fetishes. I love the way you transform the prompt into a wart. At the end, I was like, where’s the prompt? Ohhhh (slap on forehead).

    Mimi, a great history and mystery. I only hoped to see Sly a little earlier in the Walsingham description.

    Sandy, honest and wacky. I was hoping this was part of the story, but I wasn’t sure.

    Sue, a perfect match of image and poem.

    Thanks, everyone.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Boris Avatar

      Thank you, John! The connection to the Terminator 2 robot didn’t occur to me but I can see it now. Can I ask which of the versions you preferred – the prose or the poem?
      I actually have a whole collection of bizarre animal stories that were inspired by bizarre animal paintings. I might share some more of them here if the theme is right.
      Actually, did you see my pieces about a lion turning into a mouse (“Of Mice and Lions”) and an a city turning into an octopus (“Octoworld”) that appeared in earlier showcases?
      Here are links to them, if you wanted to take a look: https://writercoop.wordpress.com/volatile-july-29-2022/
      https://writercoop.wordpress.com/wips-2/question-may-20-2022/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John Correll Avatar

        Boris, I think, for me, the prose and the poem go together, in the order presented. The prose prepared me with a better understanding and appreciation of the poem. Octoworld is horribly wonderful, by the way.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Boris Avatar

          John, thanks for taking a look at “Octoworld”.
          And I think you are right – the two versions reinforce each other and create a sum greater than their parts.

          Liked by 1 person

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