Center, November 4, 2022

This Show Case features eight pieces submitted in response to our twenty-ninth Writing Prompt: Center. 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.

Perfect Balance

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit- ESO/UltraVISTA team

The Giant Egg

by Boris Glikman

Artwork by Vladimir Kush

Where exactly the giant egg was found is no longer remembered clearly.

What is certain is that an egg of such a size had never been seen before and it dwarfed the sightseers who gathered to gawk at it. The immediate instinctive reaction was to attempt to crack it open right where it lay to see what was within, but a high-pitched voice screamed out above the din of the excited crowd that something rotten, perhaps even a half-decayed gigantic monstrosity, could be inside. 

It was therefore decided to drag the giant egg to a nearby beach so the sand could absorb any putrid liquids that might leak out once the shell was broken, and the ocean could then be used as a trash can to dispose of every trace of this abomination’s existence.

Engineers arrived on the scene to draw plans for the most effective way of breaking the shell. Environmentalists gathered to ensure the surrounding land would not become too contaminated, should the egg release any foulness. Scaffolding was erected all around the egg, upon which an army of labourers hammered relentlessly at the egg’s thick, concrete-like shell. 

No one can recall how long it took for the workers to make even the slightest dent in the shell or how long it was before the first visible cracks started to appear on the surface of the mysterious egg. The spectacle of the egg unveiling its secret was just so overwhelming that all the other details fade into obscurity. 

An awed hush swept over the crowded beach as the inner contents slowly came into view. Some could not bear the stress of the suspense and turned their backs; others even started to run away. But those who stayed to watch are unanimous in their recollections of the wonder of the moment when a golden star, bathing the surroundings in soft, warm light, drifted calmly out of the centre of the broken shell and settled cosily upon the horizon, as though it had always belonged there.

Rolls Recycle

by John Correll

Jo smelled a tree on Unter Den Linden with utter disgust. Just another dachshund in a city full of sausages. He fancied better. Maybe a shaggy shepherd. But Mrs. Polansky, the wife of the American ambassador to East Germany, thought otherwise and gave her schnauzer a tug. 

“You will not inspect every tree on this street, Jo.” She pulled him along and ambled towards the Brandenburg gate. A gate where the number of pedestrians diminished, and the mindfulness of the border police expanded. 

Jo strained for another tree when Mr. Klomeister, a dear friend, surprised them by zipping around the corner. He sprinted like the school bell had bonged a minute before. Yet he didn’t belong in school.

He noticed them, slowed to a brisk walk, and tipped his hat.

“Good morning, Frau Polanski. Terribly sorry, but I have no time.” He raced by without a handshake or a wink. And a flustered Mrs. Polansky blinked and whipped around to give chase. Mr. Klomeister was quite nimble for a 67-year-old retired piano tuner. 

“Franz, Why the rush? Slow down,” she shouted.

But he didn’t slow. Instead, he jumped sideways and barely avoided two pot-bellied gentlemen walking in the opposite direction in gray trench coats. Mrs. Polansky didn’t jump. She crashed into the hidden wall of two secret police officers instead. 

Bouncing off a belly, she staggered back, and Jo’s leash wrapped around the other agent’s legs.

“Sorry, sorry,” she apologized like an electric echo.

“No problem, Frau Po…” the tangled man started, but the other man elbowed him in the ribs. 

“We beg your pardon, madame. The fault is ours, isn’t that so, Kurt?” Smoke escaped the elbowing agent’s nose like a dragon deciding which damsel to devour for dinner. 

“Yes, that’s right, Bert. I must apologize. I thought you were Frau Polka from the canteen.” Kurt forged a counterfeit laugh and let Jo pass. 

Mrs. Polansky ignored the apology and whispered a final sorry before trotting off. 

“Not yet, Kurt. Give her space.” Bert took a drag from his cigarette and touched his comrade’s shoulder. “I should report you for that stupid slip.”

“She surprised me. But what’s up with Klomeister? Why can’t he just walk?” 

Kurt, once a fit Olympic long jump hopeful, had overindulged in the state prescribed pharmaceuticals. The drugs resulted in early-onset arthritis. A dream-ending condition. And his new superior, Major Gehorsam, assigned him to Mrs. Polansky because he deemed her a sluggish old lady of low priority. On paper, she promised to be a perfect match for two lackluster, overweight, has-been old spies. But the major was wrong. 

Bert and Kurt started to give chase when Mr. Klomeister and Mrs. Polansky disappeared around a building. 

But, a minute later, Franz stopped. The glowing red lamp-man forced him to. He stood obediently on the curb, waited, and marveled at the empty street. Mrs. Polansky joined him, and Jo sat beside her, his tongue hanging down like a grounded fighter pilot’s scarf.

Mrs. Polansky looked back and forth between the old man and the traffic light. “Franz, there’s no traffic. Let’s cross.”

“It is forbidden to walk on the red.” Franz checked both ways.

“But we are stopped by a red light resembling Jesus on the cross wearing a World War I British helmet. It just doesn’t feel right.”

“It’s scientifically superior at stopping people.” Franz crossed his arms and tapped his fingers.

“That’s not science, Franz. That’s people.”

Lamp-man switched to a green goose-step, and the old man, woman, and dog sprinted off.  

Not so close behind, Bert and Kurt rounded the corner and rushed after them, but lamp-man turned red again. 

Bert stepped back onto the curb. “These stupid lights know you’re coming.” He sighed and let his cigarette relax. “They’re headed for the city center. We’ll catch them there.”

Sweat dripped off Kurt’s forehead like a sponge demanding a squeeze. “I’ve been thinking, Bert. It’s not actually the center. More west of center. I mean for the east. Very westish, not at all centerish. If you know what I mean.” He extracted a stained handkerchief from his coat. 

“Are you disparaging the socialist worker’s paradise?” his comrade asked. 

“Oh no, never. It’s just sort of, perhaps a little — funny.” Lamp-man swapped crucifixion for a Prussian march, and the men proceeded.

“Kurt, we are the State Security Police, the Stasi. We don’t have a sense of humor.” Bert sucked his cigarette like drinking ice cream through a straw.

“I wasn’t laughing. Were you laughing, Bert?” Kurt wiped his brow.

Bert coughed a thick cloak of smoke and refused to answer. 

A hundred yards ahead, Jo fretted over all the missed scents. Dachshunds, pinschers, poodles, boxers, rottweilers, Spitzes, and Pomeranians flooded passed without a whiff of sense. The stories whizzed too fast for him to make heads or tails of them. But Mrs. Polansky remained tight on Franz’s tail. 

“Where’re we going?” she asked.

“The Centrum.”

“The Zentrum. You mean downtown, city center?” 

“Yes, that’s where it is.” He waved ahead.

“What?” She only saw a repeating row of gray bullet-scarred buildings.

“The Centrum,” he persisted.

“Mr. Klomeister, you’re not making any sense.” 

“Frau Polanski, I have it on good authority from my cousin whose son attends the same Gymnasium as the son of Dr. Ecker, the urologist, who heard from a patient, a policewoman – sorry, I forgot her name – but she spoke to a baker who happens to play canasta with the janitor at — and get this — the Centrum.”

“And the point is?”

“A shipment will arrive…” Franz glanced at his watch. “Right now.”

“What shipment?”

“Something that hasn’t been in any store for over a month.” 

“Like caviar?”

“No. I can get that on the black market anytime. Cheap. The Russians bathe in it.”

“They do?”

“I’m talking about a necessity, like air.”

“Beer?”

“No. Toilet paper.”

“What?” Mrs. Polanski almost tripped over herself.

“The most sought-after treasure in the German Democratic Republic.” 

“Did you say, toilet paper?” 

Mr. Klomeister nodded and pointed. “Right now, in the brand-new department store. The Centrum.” 

Across the expanse of Alexanderplatz, a giant box pretended to be a building. A massive blue C followed by the word “Centrum” hung over its doors.

“But Franz, I could have brought paper from the west.”

“That wouldn’t do. My landlady would demand some, my sister would steal the rest, and I would end up with nothing. Besides, I’m used to the rough recycled stuff.”

“Recycled?” People pushed against her as they entered the store.

Franz cursed, “Damn, the toilet paper’s on the second floor.” He led the way to the escalator, where they waited in line to go up. “The border police confiscate all the bibles, decadent magazines, and books from naive western smugglers. Then they ship them off to the mill.”

“For toilet paper?” Mrs. Polansky shook her head, and Franz nodded.

They reached the second floor, and the crowd carried them along. Someone up ahead shouted, “Sold out,” and the horde vanished like the morning mist on a sunny day. 

Within minutes, Franz and Mrs. Polansky stood almost alone in front of the empty toilet paper stand. Franz cried without noticing the two men on the opposite side of the rack. A few yards away, Kurt waved, and Bert held up a single battered roll like Putin on parade.

Then a store attendant appeared with an “Out of stock” sign. Jo barked, “hello,” and she stared at the strangers in disbelief. 

“What are you standing there for? Are you all stupid? There’s a delivery in ten minutes at the convenience store on Friedrichstrasse.”

Note:

The Centrum was East Germany’s premier department store; unfortunately, I can only find a German Wikipedia reference: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrum_Warenhaus But it does have a photo of the Alexanderplatz store.

The Cat and the … *Sigh*
No fiddle here. Ain’t there yet. Maybe next week.

by Mimi Speike

Artwork by Francisco Bayeu y Subias

Sly threads his way through kitchen, pantry, and scullery. Beyond those utilitarian spaces lie richly paneled corridors leading to grand reception rooms. He advances cautiously. The staff would seize him if they could, and eject him into the yard, latching the mud room door, eliminating the obvious point of entry. 

Barn Elms was for centuries the residence of the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Francis Walsingham1 took possession of the estate in 1579. The main structure is a house on a grand scale. The first floor is comprised of a large central hall and four intimate parlors, a dining room, a game room, a library, and an office, one of several in the complex.

The style is rich but not ostentatious, with intricate wainscoting of the finest workmanship. Historic touches abound. Tonight, the house has been thrown open to guests, who are encouraged to wander, marveling at the magnificent detailing, and interacting, perhaps casually, perhaps not.

This crowd is not your cream of society, although that sort is present as well. Actors are here in numbers, at Walsingham’s urging. He is an enthusiastic patron of the arts, and the driving force behind the Queen’s Men, a troupe of players but lately assembled from top talent of several foremost companies. His ‘evenings’ are the place to see and be seen, to network, as we say.

A string and wind ensemble stationed on a mezzanine provides music for dancing, and an accompaniment to antics presented on a small stage directly below them. This is not a stuffy event. Virtuosos of several stripes have their moment in the sun, but novelty acts are also part of the fun. 

Sly wanders packed rooms looking for John Dee, not sure what will ensue once he finds him. Dee will not be pleased to see him. Can O-ek2 bully the man into allowing him a turn on what is apparently a valuable violin, no poor man’s fiddle, such as he handled during his tenure as assistant to a street corner busker years earlier? 

He discovers the dining room. An extravagantly furnished buffet is closely monitored by a wait staff; he will not be allowed to help himself. He looks around, spots Dee seated at a table, in conversation with, by the looks of him, a fine, prosperous fellow, sharply dressed in silk and velvet, not a frayed cuff or worn elbow to ruin the effect. (The same cannot be said for Dee.)

Excellent! The cat popping up here, Dee won’t explode as he might, were they unobserved.

Sly trots over to the table, nods cordially, and receives an ice-cold acknowledgement.

Dee’s dinner companion is hailed by an acquaintance just come through the door. He turns to respond to the greeting. Sly jumps onto a chair and whispers, “How’s about you get me a nice mess of that beef?”

Dee takes a slice of sirloin off his plate and sets it on the floor. The cat jumps down, goes at it. The men resume their conversation. He’s not seen the face. But that voice! He knows that voice! Or is his ear playing tricks on him? This is too bizarre to contemplate.

He gulps down his stingy meal, emerges from under the tablecloth, looks up. He mounts the chair, then the table, and settles himself nose to nose with a man who might be a twin of a former associate.

“Who’s this?” asks … well, we don’t know what he calls himself these days. In The Rogue at Sea, he went under the name Hernando Del Gado. “Does this creature belong to Sir Francis? I suppose so. He acts as if he owns the place.”

“He’s my animal,” growls Dee, “carried here by accident. The sweetheart tails me around as a puppy dog would do. Excuse me while I return him to my coach, where he will spend the remainder of the evening, if he knows what’s good for him. Señor! Meet me in the red room in half an hour. I feel lucky.”

“You, lucky? That’ll be the day. The mathematical genius wants to try his newest strategy, on me!” hoots Del Gado. “Doctor, you’re a glutton for punishment! I’ll take your money, sir, any time, and willingly.” Chuckles ripple through the room. Dee’s passion for, and ineptitude at, cards are well known.

* * *

They’re out a side door, into the yard. Dee clutches the protesting cat firmly in his arms.

“I know that one!” shrieks Sly. “That’s Hernando Del Gado. I sailed with him on the Santa Clara. Last time I laid eyes on him, he was knocked out cold on the sand outside La Rochelle, in France.”

“His name is Diego de la Hoya. I’ve known him for years.”

“You sure about that?”

“Certainly, I’m sure. I was the one put him in touch with Sir Francis. I fished him out of Bridewell on the advice of one placed there to scout talent. He’s a slick’s slick. He speaks several languages, has extensive contacts in the foreign community. He’s tops with ciphers, the stand-out student of the mischief in Seething Lane.3 He’s one of our most valuable operatives.”

“Our?”

“I assist Sir Francis in a number of ways.”

“Del Gado or de la Hoya, I know the creep. He’s a piece of garbage.”

“Of course, he’s a piece of garbage. He wouldn’t be half so useful to us if he weren’t.”

“He’ll turn on you.”

“I think not. We compensate him handsomely.” 

“You disappoint me, Doctor. You’re known as a cunning man,4 yet you’re hook and sinker for a snake of snakes. And for Kelley. Or at least for his bullshit. That dick-head communicates with His Honor, Uriel the Magnificent? C’mon!”

You talk to me. No huge difference.” 

“I’m not Uriel. You think you rate a top hoo-hah to advise you? You think a damn lot of yourself, my friend. You were at the center of the academical universe once. You taught at the University of Paris! Now you record Kelley’s gibberish, and pretend to understand it.” 

They’ve reached the stables. Dee seats himself on a bench and settles the cat beside him. They sit, lost in thought. 

Sly softens his remarks. “Sorry, I’m being harsh. But you need a good slap in the face to wake you up. And I’m in a rotten mood, frankly. This lunatic,” he bats himself on the noggin, “is mad to work your fiddle.”

“A cat playing a fiddle. How does that go? Insane!”

“These sensitives can be damn delusional. You know it yourself, or ought to. Look, all he wants is to crank out a tune or two. Is that too much to ask? I told ya, we gotta coddle him some. He’s not going to damage your instrunent. I’ll see to it.”

Sly, as himself, emits a series of disgruntled sounds. As O-ek, he screams, “Shut up you! Just shut up!” He implores, “Doctor! Give way here, like I did on the mint jelly. Get the brat off my back, please. My final word on the subject: I can’t help you if you can’t help me.”

It looks like this relationship, that will endure for quite some time, is going to be a rocky one.

* * *

  1. Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, the man known as her ‘Spymaster’.
  2. See my last Showcase entry: ‘Questions Answered. Problems Solved.’
  3. Walsingham had turned his London residence into a spy school. He lived at Barn Elms, five miles outside London.
  4. One of mystical powers. (A caster of spells, a healer, a seer, etc.)

Kizzing Z

by John Correll

She bit him, kicked his dog, and almost killed a dead man. But Mike loved her. He collapsed in his car seat, exhausted, and imagined the center of the universe, the deadman, and himself waiting in the ER and laughing over a silly mistake. Or maybe he’d wake up.

Nope. He started the car and kept his other hand pressed against the bleeding gash on the side of his neck. Her bite.

The night before, Dave, his friend, Mr. I-work-for-the-government, asked for one last favor. Nothing special; no guns, no knives. And a bonus. He could keep his distance. Easy.

“One hour tops,” Dave said. “Find out who she meets in the park this evening. That’s all. Walk Sam. You do that anyway.”

“Why don’t you just say her name, Dave?” he asked.

“Come on. I introduced you two. Remember?” 

Remember? He’d never forget the first time he kissed her. She tasted of rum and coke and tongue-pressing passion. And this evening, his desire returned, but the redness stopped him. She studied his face, smiled, and licked the blood from her mouth. And, he couldn’t believe it, he still wanted to kiss, but…

She rested her arms on his shoulders. “I like you.” Her weight shifted, and she held tight against him. Her blood-covered face smeared his cheek, and his dog growled behind them. More than anything in the world, she trusted him. She couldn’t recall why, but she suspected he shouldn’t be there.

“Stop it, Sam,” he commanded. Sam’s growl grew into an uncertain whine. “Tracy, you’re drunk. You’re in shock. And, this blood. Is it — yours?” 

“Nooo. I’m the center of the universe, and you’re nice. What’s your name?” She rested her head on his shoulder like the night they first met. She wanted to remember what he had told her. Nothing, only darkness. He pressed against her and closed his eyes as her blood-moistened mouth massaged his shoulder. All Wrong.

She desired, with the gentlest touch, to tear his heart out. To cherish and not eat. Not like the man in the alley. The lifeless lump in the dark. That was Dave’s question. Now meaningless.

“It’s me. Mike. Remember?” Her mouth pressed deep against his neck. Ever so nice. Even more painful.

In confusion, he held her until she jerked, and Sam yelped. Her teeth rammed deep into his neck, and she latched on until he shoved her off. They both screamed as she pounded his chest. 

“That beast bit me.” She swirled around, kicking Sam. And Sam retreated with a beaten squeal into the park. 

Mike grabbed his burning wet neck. “Tracy, what happened? Why? No. I’m sorry. Sam’s never bitten, anyone. Ever. Maybe it’s the blood. I don’t know. Sam!”

She leaned over. Rubbed her leg and cursed at the ground. He had saved her. But not this time. She’d save him.

And like before, he reached for her. “You need to sit down. Please, Tracy, listen to me.” 

“No.” She shook her head, rejecting his weakness. Scorning words with action. Both her hands swung in a locked, bowling ball-sized fist that cracked against his lower jaw. A punch far worse than her bite. Her stinging ejection sent him flying like mishandled airport luggage. And when he returned to earth, his head thumped. Hard.

The next thing he knew, Sam licked his forehead, and the bite on his neck throbbed. He sat up to smell the blood on his fingers and wondered why she meant so much.

She was gone. But the mysterious lump in the dark remained.

Mike grabbed Sam’s leash and staggered towards the dark because Dave demanded it. With his phone light, he stood over a body on its back. Then Dave rang, and Mike turned away to answer.

“Go away. I need to go to the ER. I need to do my lesson plan. And — you said, one hour.”

“Calm down, Mike. Did she meet someone? ER?” Dave asked. Mike faced the body.

“My head hurts. She bit me, and Sam bit her, and this doesn’t make any sense. And I want to go home.” The deadman’s shirt was yanked up, exposing a massive cut below his ribs. Part of his intestines dangled out like a string of half-eaten blood sausages.

“She didn’t meet anyone?” Dave continued. Mike nudged the deadman’s foot with his own.

“He’s dead.”

“What? Who? Turn on your camera.” Mike complied, and Sam sniffed the man’s feet. Sam knew dead, and this wasn’t it.

“Leave it, Sam. Jesus, Dave. What is this?”  

“Let me see his face.” Mike moved. “That’s him. Did anyone see you? Or her?” Dave recognized the error and horror. “Listen. Leave him. Go home, now.” But Mike didn’t listen.

Sam growled, and the body groaned with a twitching arm.

“Sheazzes, he’s alive.” Mike pocketed the phone and kneeled to feel the deadman’s neck for a pulse. Nothing. Sam barked right as the deadman’s fingers seized Mike’s wrist like a lobster’s claw. Mike pulled away, but the grip tightened as the deadman sat up like Dracula from his coffin. 

“Lie back, sir. Please. You’re hurt,” Mike twisted his arm free. And the man’s insides sloshed into his lap, and he puzzled over where his bits fit. Sam switched to a growl, and the man tried spitting but slobbered like a leaking car radiator. Sam backed off.

“Sir, lie down. I’m calling 911. You need an ambulance. Seriously.”

The man shoveled his bowels back into his abdomen and looked over his shoulder. Mike followed his gaze and saw it.  A pistol by the wall. Before Mike could act, the man snatched it and waved the weapon like trying to shoot a fly.

“Sir, you need help. Just lie down, please. You don’t need a gun.”

The man stood with one arm holding his middle and then with feet firmly shaking on the ground, he stumbled away. Mike followed at a safe distance until the man found a car, got in, rolled down the window, and fired.

The bullet sizzled into a tree, and Mike ran.

Note:

This is supposedly the beginning of a much longer story which is stretching my writing comfort zone. So I’m curious for any feedback. Is it interesting enough to want to read on? Does the protagonist seem likable at this stage? Anything would be most helpful. And many thanks in advance just for reading…

At the Edge of Centrifugal Force

by SL Randall

Sophia’s Edge (Artwork by SL Randall)

As I dig further into the characters of MvA, Sophia has insisted I learn who she is. This little scene is simply to help me understand her. I must give thanks to my daughter-in-law, who understands fashion far better than I. Give me T-shirts, jeans and a pair doc martins and I’m happy. Sophia would be horrified. Thanks Rachael, for introducing me to Manolo Blahnik, he is afterall, the man who designed shoes for lizards.

The title? I just picture Sophia wrapped up so tight, that as her world crumbles, centrifugal force will pull her apart… We’ll see… 

Was that a gray hair? No. wait. 

Sophia turned her head. Light shimmered off her sleek black hair, creating a silvery illusion. She exhaled relief as she stepped back to review her entire outfit in the mirror.

Smugness curled her lips.

The simplicity of a black silk blouse, atop flared scarlet slacks drawn together with a bold Gucci belt would remind everyone who held the power in the room.

She smiled coldly at the mirror as she slid it aside to reveal her shoe closet, organized by brand, color and occasion. Sophia dabbled in high end shoe shopping, but her loyalty, cultivated as a child, was to designer Manolo Blahnik. His designs, functional works of art worn on her feet, she fondly called my Manolos.

Neerja Gola, her mother, had frequented Manolo’s New York shop, attracted by the affluence of the patrons, yet always remained in the background, too intimidated to interact with her peers. Young Sophia in tow, was embarrassed by her mother’s timidity. Once, when the designer was in town for a fashion show she slipped from Neerja’s side at the back of the crowd and walked straight up to the designer to introduce herself. Wooing the powerful was instinctual for Sophia. She was rewarded with her first pair of Manolos, designed specifically for her. Neerja’s fearful lecture all the way home, advised against such boldness in the future. Sophia wore the Manolos to tatters, and ignored her mother’s advice.

She selected a pair of black patent leather shoe booties. Bold, no nonsense shoes, which would echo smartly as she walked Adventravia’s corporate floors. She finished her look with gold knot earrings. A glance at her hand, she considered removing her wedding band, but decided it would telegraph her intentions. Bepé’s disappearance was known to only three people. With any luck, Bepé hadn’t realized it yet either.

One last look in the mirror. Perfect.

“Gillian!” She called for her assistant as she made her way down the wide staircase to the main floor. The foyer on her left led to the ornate entry to the house. To her right the house opened with vaulted ceilings and glass walls. Situated atop the hill, she had a one hundred and sixty degree view of the lake and forest below. Gillian was no where in sight. 

“Gillian, we need to leave!” Still no response. Pursed lips, Where was she? 

Sophia rarely worried about giving interviews or standing in front of a cameras. In fact, she enjoyed the attention, but today was different. Everything, from research, to money, to time was invested in today’s outcome. Careful planning. Careful steps. Sacrifice. Loose ends knotted, severed or burned. Her constant mental litany, ticked off possible problems. 

A commotion off to her right, interrupted her thoughts. The sliding glass door to the Arboretum was open. Gillian’s loud, angry curses emanated from the dense foliage. A brisk, tok,tok, tok announced her assistant’s angry arrival. Before Sophia could open her mouth Gillian dropped a bloody, hairy mess on the tiled floor. The woman’s hair and makeup looked like she had just rolled out of bed after fighting a rooster.

“What the hell?” 

Gillian held up an angry hand, “Don’t even think of reminding me what today is,” the menace in her voice made Sophia step back. “I just had this fucking piece of meat dropped on my head. Then, as if I wanted to steal it from the fucking bird that dropped it on my head, it attacked me. Now, I don’t give a fuck how late we are, I need a bath!”

“But,” was all Sophia could say, before Gillian tok, tok, tokked her way to the guest bathroom and slammed the door.

Sophia glared at the mangled corpse. Somehow, this was Bepé’s fault. If she hadn’t already arranged his exile, she’d murder him and feed him to the bird in the arboretum.

I Played Center

by Perry Palin

My mother and her mother were friends, and I knew Dana and her older brother and younger brother and sister when we were still in elementary school. I knew them better than the eight country miles between our homes would ordinarily allow. My mother would visit her mother, and my sisters and I would be brought along to play. Dana and I were the closest in age. She was one year younger. There was teasing by the others, suggesting a romantic interest between us, but I weathered this fairly well for an elementary school boy.

Later, in high school, there was a kind of a romantic interest between us. It was a small school, and everyone knew everyone else. Still, groups formed and there were barriers between the groups. The Shore kids hung together. They were the social elite of our little school. We country kids were lacking in certain social graces, and while some of us might have been nice kids, we were, after all, country kids. I once had a girlfriend from the Shore but it didn’t last. She tired, I think, of having to explain away my rural address, and I lost out in the end to an older guy with a newer car. After my mourning period, during which I resolved to have nothing more to do with girls, I learned that Dana did not mind my country address and lack of style, and a little at a time we grew close. Dana and I were both country kids.

Dana was quiet and undemanding, and she was good to me. My limited experience with girls had not prepared me for someone who would agree with most of what I had to say, and defer to my wishes on where we would go and what we would do with our time, and I liked her very much. We would go to school parties and out to eat and to the movies, and I suppose we gave the impression of being a couple, though Dana never pressed me to make a specific commitment. When her friends urged me to take her to the prom, and I did not want to go, Dana did not complain, and I liked her very much.

Dana had brown hair, and clear fair skin, and brown eyes, and she was slender and moved with a quiet, strong grace. She was a cheerleader for our school, and I played center on the basketball team, and when she hugged me, after a game, or other times, her body was warm and she smelled clean and fresh, and my chin rested very nicely on the top of her head. But I’ve gotten way ahead of myself . . . .

Balance

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit: R. JAY GABANY/COSMOTOGRAPHY
Advertisement

60 responses to “Center, November 4, 2022”

  1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    Thank you for adding your creativity to this Show Case. Each story is a centerpiece on its own.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Boris Avatar

    “Centre”/”Center”
    sound the same.
    Two can play
    this spelling game.

    “Scenter”/”Centaur”
    There’s two more.
    But who spells “centre” like that?
    I’m not sure.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Boris Avatar

    Sue, there are two typos in the last sentence of the second last paragraph of my story:
    “The spectacleof the egg unveiling its secret was just so overwhelming that all the other details fadeinto obscurity. ”
    Also, I haven’t received the email that you usually send out regarding the show case.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      There’s something about your formatting that sometimes joins words together in the paste portion of the copy/paste process. I don’t retype people’s stories, so they aren’t typos. It happens with John’s sometimes, too, but if it doesn’t generate the squiggly red line, I don’t necessarily notice it. So thanks for pointing it out, Boris.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Boris Avatar

        Thanks for amending it, Sue. And I received the email too.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    A quick note to John, since you asked. The first paragraph’s summary piqued my interest. The biting led me to think she was a vampire. The flashback that follows seems to be rushing blindly to somewhere else, leaving confusion in its wake. Maybe a bit more scene setting would help — this doesn’t seem to be a story that dialogue alone can communicate. There are several exchanges (and other statements) that don’t quite make sense. One example:

    “Why don’t you just say her name, Dave?” he asked.
    “Come on. I introduced you two. Remember?”

    The first line seems to indicate her name is somehow famous, infamous or notorious, but we soon learn it’s just “Tracy”. Why would it be so important to Mike that Dave say her name? The second line makes it sound like Dave never has to say her name again because he introduced them. However, if Mike had asked, “Have you forgotten her name, Dave?” it almost makes sense, except it seems a strange and purposeless question for Mike to ask in the first place.

    From the beginning, it seems clear Mike is the narrator, so the story is told from his point of view. But very quickly, the POV starts switching from Mike to Tracy and back and forth, at one point becoming Dave’s POV, and then, most bizarrely, even Sam’s. It’s head-spinning. I’m all for finding out what everybody thinks and feels, but each character needs their own separate section or chapter to make that work. Remember, Mike cannot know what goes on in anybody else’s head.

    I find Mike likable, but scattered. I have no idea what his motivations are or why he loves Tracy, who is apparently a zombie. She hasn’t shown any positive characteristics yet that anyone would find attractive. If it’s just because he kissed her and liked it, well… that might have carried the weight 60 or 70 years ago, but now? Not so much.

    If you can slow things down a bit and flesh out the story so it carries the readers with it instead of dragging them along behind at breakneck speed, this story has promise.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    What Sue is pointing out here is called “head-hopping”, a cardinal sin in fiction writing (unless you are writing from the hyper-corny omniscient POV).

    Why is this frowned upon? Because every time you leap into another character’s head within the same scene you muddy focus, lose narrative tension and confuse the reader.

    As Sue noted: If you must leap into another character’s head in the same scene do so within that character’s own distinct POV text block separated by white space from the other characters’ POV text blocks.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. GD Deckard Avatar

    John,
    I agree with Sue. Slow down.
    When I write something that best expresses my own thoughts, I write fast like you did with Kizzing Z. I forget a story needs to pull the reader in and give them a chance to contribute to the story’s meaning. In my case, it happens when I express my thoughts about something rather than express the something. (If that makes any sense?)

    And watch the PoV breaks:

    (He)
    Remember? He’d never forget the first time he kissed her. She tasted of rum and coke and tongue-pressing passion. And this evening, his desire returned, but the redness stopped him. She studied his face, smiled, and licked the blood from her mouth. And, he couldn’t believe it, he still wanted to kiss, but…

    (She)
    She rested her arms on his shoulders. “I like you.” Her weight shifted, and she held tight against him. Her blood-covered face smeared his cheek, and his dog growled behind them. More than anything in the world, she trusted him. She couldn’t recall why, but she suspected he shouldn’t be there.

    But I like Kizzing Z. Especially the story’s pace and kaleidoscope of imagery.

    P.S. John,
    Kizzing Z’s getting attention because the story is interesting and worth some work.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. John Correll Avatar

    Thanks Sue, Carl, and GD. This is exactly the criticism I hoped for. I knew something didn’t sound right with Kissing Z but I couldn’t see it. All very helpful!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Sandy Randall Avatar

    It’s Showcase Friday! I enjoyed all of the reads and the opportunity to try out my critique skill (or lack thereof) Please take any of my critique with a grain of salt. First and foremost, I read for pure pleasure and none of you disappoint. Second I appreciate being able to have my own work appear alongside everyone else. It’s the same as being in a small local band and showing up on the same stage with other well known rockers. I get to perform and still be a fan!
    With that, here are my thoughts below.

    Sue:
    Perfect Balance

    Sometimes, I think you can read my thoughts. You capture infinity in the middle of a few words.

    Boris:
    The Giant Egg

    The story Kush’s painting evoked from you is wonderful, but I feel it requires a bit more depth.

    “What is certain is that an egg of such a size had never been seen before and it dwarfed the sightseers who gathered to gawk at it.”

    For instance, I am aware that you are referring to the image in the painting, but it seems you have allowed the image to speak for itself while explaining what’s happening. If I were blind, the beauty of the Kush artwork would be lost on me. In past writings, you capture the impact of the artwork.
    You did capture the all to human response to something profoundly unusual, the scientists, the engineers etc.

    “An awed hush swept over the crowded beach as the inner contents slowly came into view. Some could not bear the stress of the suspense and turned their backs; others even started to run away. But those who stayed to watch are unanimous in their recollections…”

    This was a good visual for me. I could feel this moment.

    John:
    Rolls Recycle

    I love clever titles. It doesn’t given anything away from the story, but it gives you that satisfied ah-ha at the end, when you realize its meaning.
    I love the quirky humor, but I admit I’m a bit lost in regard to the policemen. There are delicious tidbits dropped throughout that I want to know more about, especially regarding the illicit things the police are talking about. But this takes me away from what I perceive to be the main event, which is the mad dash of Herr Franz, followed by the confused Frau Polansky and her poor pooch who simply wants to gather his messages. Is this part of a larger story? It feels that way. I think Frau Po and Jo the schnauzer must get up to a lot of shenanigans. I’d be interested in seeing more of their antics.

    As for Kizzing Z.
    Sue, Carl and GD covered the gamut, but I will say you did a wonderful job with your first line. Like Sue I thought “she” was a vampire at first, and it took me a moment to get the zombie idea. Keep going. I love Zombie stories, even though I have not watched even one episode of the walking dead. I think it was too long. At some point there has to be a way to end the zombie menace cycle.

    Mimi:
    The further adventures of Sly.

    I’m hooked. I love the interaction between Dee and Sly. Sly with his agile “Catness” keeps a few steps ahead of Dee, I keep waiting for him to trip over Sly both actually and figuratively. I’m also curious to see how you manage a cat playing a fiddle.

    Perry:
    I Played Center

    I picture sitting on the porch step, conversing with my Dad as he talks about his yesteryears. It’s poignant, sweet remembering, looking back on youth, when the narrator suddenly realizes they’ve been lost in a memory and comes back to the conversation…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      Sly will handle the violin as one would handle a cello. But it may end up being an Irish harp. (An Irish harp, a small instrument, would be exactly his size.) And he’ll only have to pluck strings with his claws.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Nice! A “harpful “ cat! 😎😁

        Liked by 3 people

        1. mimispeike Avatar
          mimispeike

          I’ve been debating what comes next. I just googled “How high can a chicken jump”. (Can she climb up iron fold-out steps into a coach?) I have my answer: she can, indeed.

          Sly has been exiled to the stable yard, told to wait in the coach. He invites Delly to join him. There is a ‘lost and found’ box of items under the seat in the for-hire conveyance.

          Delly loves sitting on the upholstered seat, chatting with a companion, as any fine lady might do. Sly dresses her up in finery out of the box: a little girl’s straw bonnet, a neck scarf, a fancy dangling coin purse, etc. An embroidered apron tied backwards around her middle gives her a lovely skirt with a train. He finds items appropriate for him to wear also.

          They are going to crash that party – no one would think to toss them out, they are obviously intended to put on a skit during the ‘open stage’ portion of the evening, after the dancing. In the meanwhile they will sashay around, Sly looking for Walsingham. Dee, playing cards with Gado in the red room, will not immediately be aware of Sly’s new intrusion.

          Sly borrows an Irish harp from a collection of instruments next to the stage, and strums, and sings a sweet love song to his lady fair.

          What happens then? Your guess is as good as mine. I take this stuff step by step.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Sandy Randall Avatar

            So delicious!! I can’t wait!

            Liked by 3 people

            1. mimispeike Avatar
              mimispeike

              Overnight, I figured out how the evening is going to go. But there’s probably too much here to get me to the harp scene in this installment.

              The good thing is, I see how to touch upon stuff I want to work in but didn’t see an economical way to do it.

              I’ll get in a mention of Feo, Sly’s nemesis aboard the Santa Clara, his hard-bitten supervisor, an old cuss of a ship’s cat. Feo had been adopted by Gado. He’ll turn up here, eventually. (He has to. He’s too adorable a baddie not to continue with his meanie-meddling.)

              I solved a lot of problems last night. Didn’t get a lot of sleep, lay there fretting, what next? How about – no, that’s no good. What else? There’s gotta be a way to make this work.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Sandy Randall Avatar

                If it’s going to keep you up all night, at least the problems should get solved! I know exactly those kind of sleepless nights.

                Liked by 2 people

              2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

                For me, those quandaries are most often resolved during long walks or in the shower. Occasionally during dreams, but I’m satisfied not to lose sleep over them.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Sandy Randall Avatar

                  Sue … my wordle guesses today presented an interesting piece of micro writing … it summed up my writing energy this weekend:
                  Tired, slept, stale … It may further expand to the next showcase. After Mimi’s all nighter thoughts, I think some decay will fit nicely in there somewhere. lol

                  Liked by 2 people

    2. GD Deckard Avatar

      Sandy,
      FYI, the best scene in The Walking Dead is some guy looking back at a horde of zombies who have just ran him off the family farm. The actor ad-libbed the line, thoughtfully, wonderingly,
      “I know Jesus promised us resurrection, but I thought he had something kinda different in mind.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Great line! My daughter tells me I need to watch it … this line may push me over the edge! lol

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          I resisted watching it for several seasons, but I finally relented. To be honest, the first two seasons made me wonder how it had become so popular, but by the end of season 3, I could hardly wait for season 4. While all but one of the zombie attacks are predictably and almost boringly similar, the real story is about the living — how they adapt, the kinds of social groups they form, and the “rules” those groups adopt to govern their behavior in a world where there is no government. It gets pretty dark during the last two seasons, but overall, worth watching.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. GD Deckard Avatar

            Enceinte* observation, Sue. Zombie stories really are about how groups of survivors reform their world. Maybe all such stories are about how people form societies out of adversity. Never thought about it before, but it fits with my memory of “us vs enemy-types” -and we have always needed enemies to contrast with ourselves. I remember, as a kid, that American Indians were portrayed to make even the roughest-hewn cowboy look civilized. Whether it was bug-eyed-monsters from beyond space (wherever that might be), mutants, giant robots, or the truly deranged madman, the story has always been about who we are in comparison.
            (*French. Sorry. I didn’t know that word. Found it by accident just now & liked it.😏)

            Liked by 3 people

          2. Sandy Randall Avatar

            In the effort to avoid skinny comments …
            I agree GD. I’ve often wondered what a peaceful Earth would look like. I don’t think I’ll ever know, because as a species we seem to need adversity to thrive, whether environmental or self inflicted (or both). I was watching Star Wars … Andor and thinking about how the strife against the empire never ends, it just seems to recede a bit. While it makes for great cinematography, it also captures our need to have an enemy, a problem to surmount. As a writer, it provides plenty of opportunity for relatable stories to tell!

            Liked by 2 people

          3. Sue Ranscht Avatar

            I agree, GD. I think there’s also another aspect that comes into play before we choose our enemies. Once circumstances upend “normal”, people either seek a way to recover that familiar way of life or acknowledge it will never be the same. Most of the people in the second group look far enough into the future to set about creating a new normal that will serve society. The short sighted seem to decide having no normal means they can do anything they want, which usually involves indulging their basest instincts. They might believe they’re at the top of the food chain for a while, but that’s when the far-sighted choose them as the enemy.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Sandy Randall Avatar

              Sue, did you ever see the movie “The Postman” with Kevin Costner? I always liked that one because it explores what you are talking about. I also liked it because Tom Petty was in it as himself.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

                No, I never did. But I think we’re at the beginning of that search now, in terms of both public health and politics. As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.”

                Liked by 2 people

    3. Boris Avatar

      Sandy, thank you for your feedback about my story.
      Regarding capturing the artwork and conveying its beauty in my story, I wanted to make clear that my stories (that are inspired by imagery) don’t aim to describe, explain or provide an interpretation of the paintings. Rather, for me the inspiration provided by the paintings serves as the starting point, and I then create a whole new scenario/world based on that starting point. That’s why these stories often only focus on one particular detail or feature of the painting, The paintings provide the initial spark and I then proceed to weave new worlds from that spark.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Perry, I love your straight forward, graceful storytelling set in a world we both grew up in.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Perry Palin Avatar
      Perry Palin

      Thank you, Mimi. I got to the deadline for Show Case submissions and again I had nothing. I could only think to send the first four paragraphs of an old story that had the word “center” somewhere in them. I sold that story to a magazine for $100 in ~2010, and later I put it in my first short story collection. I’ve recited these paragraphs spontaneously when I needed something short for writers’ group meetings, I impressed a girl (now an old woman) who thought I might have been writing about her, and I use the passage as a meditation when I’m tied up in traffic in the city, or I’m waiting for a fishing partner to find his way back to the truck. I’ve gotten fair mileage from these paragraphs.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

        The mileage is well-earned.

        Liked by 6 people

    2. GD Deckard Avatar

      Perry,
      What Mimi said. You invoke the world I grew up in: Fishing in the Licking River that ran near our home, getting up before dawn and sneaking out to the nearby Ohio farmland to hunt squirrels, reading every Field & Stream or Outdoor Life magazine I could. Good way to grow up. And I made sure my kids had that exposure.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sue, a clever front and back presentation. I too prefer to be off-center.

    Good thing I prefer it, I’ve never been any other way, there’s no choice to it. How about with you?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      I used to work very hard to fulfill all the expectations the adults in my life let me know they had for me. Once I learned to listen to myself — sometime during high school — I found my true off-center nature. It hasn’t been happy-ever-after since then, but most of it has been happy and very satisfied with the life I’ve made for myself. Where would we be without challenges?

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Sandy Randall Avatar

      Exactly… thanks Mimi, you had the right words for Sue’s post placement 🥰

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

        I thought of them as bookends. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  11. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Boris, this has the feel of a creation myth with its:

    … had never been seen before
    No one can recall …
    … so overwhelming that all the other details fade into obscurity.
    … as though it had always belonged there.

    You have an egg, from which emerges a sun of some kind. Then what happens? This telling of a mysterious, vaguely recalled, or fantasized event leading nowhere puzzles me.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Boris Avatar

      Mimi, you are quite perceptive! I do indeed have another (unfinished) version of this story in which the origin of the Sun is attributed to a star coming out of an egg on a beach in Melbourne, Australia. Here’s the start and the end of that version of the story:

      “The seaside suburb of St Kilda in Melbourne, Australia is known internationally for its hipness, cosmopolitanism and bohemian atmosphere. Tourists from around the world flock to see its sights, taste its culinary delights and walk on its beach.
      What is not so widely known is that the inhabitants of St Kilda hold a number of rather peculiar beliefs about the world and their place in it, the strangest perhaps being their view of how the Sun came into existence.
      This is the story a wizened, old St Kildean told me one evening, over cups of cappuccino and croissants in one of the chic cafes that dot the area:
      “This happened back in the old days, when I was a young one, with mother’s milk still on my lips. There was no Sun back in those days, only candles, light bulbs and street lamps. A giant egg was found in St Kilda, although on which street is no longer remembered clearly…
      …And that is how the Sun came into being, right here in St Kilda!” he concluded triumphantly, with visible pride.
      Not wanting to destroy the old man’s delusions, I thanked him profusely for sharing this with me, and then left abruptly, making a mental note never to visit the suburb again.”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Boris Avatar

      Mimi, regarding the version of my story that was posted in this showcase and how it leaves you puzzled, I see your point. However, I wanted to say that I don’t believe that stories should always have tidy resolutions and endings in which everything is explained and all the loose ends are tied up. I think that stories that end in puzzling, abrupt, confusing ways have their own validity and worth, and such stories actually have particular advantages over stories that end in conventional and neat ways. For example, when a tidy ending is not provided, the reader is then obliged to do some thinking of their own and is forced to provide their own interpretation of the story’s meaning. And so, in those cases, the story becomes a two-way group effort, a creative piece that requires as much input from the reader as from the author in order to make it work.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    Congrats, once again, to all who contributed to this showcase!

    Dashed-off thoughts as follows:

    S.T. Ranscht: PERFECT BALANCE: Ooh, I really like this! Nicely done.

    Boris Glikman: As usual, your writing seduces and piques interest. Expand this and ensure it has a point. (see: J. G. Ballard, “The Giant”)

    John Correll: “Kizzing Z”: A fun, fascinating, messed-up mishmash of POVs. Unentangle for intelligibility, please.

    Mimi: Your Sly! stuff rolls on! Huzzah! Re: “The first floor is comprised of a large central hall and four intimate parlors . . .” What telling detail(s) make the parlors “intimate”?

    SL Randall: “Sophia turned her head. Light shimmered off her sleek black hair, creating a silvery illusion. She exhaled relief as she stepped back to review her entire outfit in the mirror.

    Smugness curled her lips.

    The simplicity of a black silk blouse, atop flared scarlet slacks drawn together with a bold Gucci belt would remind everyone who held the power in the room.

    She smiled coldly . . .”

    I would eliminate one of these differing descriptions, as Sophia sounds insane. Certainly mercurial of mood, heh! (Forgive me.) For instance, try reading this passage with “smugness curled her lips” excised. Better, yes?

    Perry: Your “aw shucks, ma’am; taint nothin’, really” unadorned yet unerringly precise literary style affects the reader as surely as John Boy’s journal passages vocalized as eye-misting voiceovers atop Walton Mountain. As in: “I once had a girlfriend from the Shore but it didn’t last. She tired, I think, of having to explain away my rural address, and I lost out in the end to an older guy with a newer car.” That cannot be improved upon!

    S.T. Ranscht: I hope you’ll pardon a rewrite as follows (stop inspiring me!)
    …………………….

    OFF-BALANCE

    In my centered sphere
    off-set from your perspective:
    sharp breath in—breath out.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      I looked high and low and found no description of Barn Elms. The ‘large central hall and four parlors’ I took from a layout of an adjacent grand home. In relation to the hall they would have had to be more intimate, but I’ll think about that.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Carl, I see your “Off-Balance” not so much as a re-write, as your own contribution to the “Balance” series. With your centered sphere still centered regardless of my perspective and the sharp intake of breath followed by a duller exhale, my off-center perception infers an image of the Death Star with a Darth Vader voice over. I make no suggestion that this was your intent, but how delightfully nerdy if it were, lol.

      My own OFF-BALANCE would read:

      On tiptoe leaning
      into hurricane’s wail, cast
      gasping in its eye.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Sue, you and Carl need to collaborate on a book and call it Balancing Act, or for a more humorous take, Teeter Totter or Dancing around the center … lol It would be an entire conversation in poetry and so much fun to read.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          That’s a fun idea!

          Liked by 3 people

      2. Boris Avatar

        Carl, thank you for your thoughts about my story.
        Can I ask how you would suggest expanding it?
        I actually have read Ballard’s “The Drowned Giant” and from what I remember, there is a dead giant that washes up on a beach and people gawk at him and take pieces of him for souvenirs etc So, I am not sure what point that story has that mine doesn’t have. Perhaps you could clarify as to what point you would like to see my story as having?
        Actually, as I mentioned in my reply to Mimi above, I do have another unfinished version of this story in which this story becomes an origin myth of the Sun. Perhaps that could be the point of it? You can see an excerpt of that version in my reply to Mimi above.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Perry Palin Avatar
      Perry Palin

      Thank you, Carl, for the comment. I always liked that line.

      Liked by 4 people

    4. Sandy Randall Avatar

      Thanks Carl, I toyed with that line … eliminated works for me. I appreciate the eagle eye!

      Liked by 3 people

  13. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

    @ John (Rolls Recycle)

    The humor with Bert and Kurt reminds me of Laurel and Hardy. Comic relief is welcome in this dismal election season. The whole story is in the same spirit as the cynical jokes told by disillusioned residents of “workers’ paradise” countries when they felt safe from being overheard.

    Was puzzled by the inconsistent level of formality (“Franz” vs “Mr. Klomeister”). Similarly, if FK and Mrs. P. are old friends and she calls him by his first name, why does he address her formally?

    @ John (Kizzing)

    Apart from seconding the points several others raised (including the one that the story has promise), I want to bring up a related point that made it hard for me to follow the story.

    Both the current action and 2 flashbacks (“the night before” and “the first time he kissed her”) are in the plain past tense. Hard to keep track of which details are from when. The obvious first step for clarification is to put flashbacks in the pluperfect. My own preference is to be a little daring: keep the plain past for the flashbacks and put the current action in the present tense. It’s that kind of story anyway. Putting flashbacks in italics might help too.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. John Correll Avatar

      Thanks for the helpful insights for both stories. I like the idea of changing the tense in Kizzing. In Rolls, Mrs. Polansky and Franz addressing each other wasn’t intentional on my part but engrained, enforced, and instinctual in the language. German was, but is becoming less so, a language structured around the formal and informal address. There are two you’s, Sie -formal and Du -informal. And these come with a whole set of grammar rules that make German annoying. In this story, Mrs. Polansky is the ambassador’s wife, and Franz is just a piano tuner. I don’t think Franz would dream of using the informal case with Mrs. Polansky. This actually might be a good point for Mrs. Polansky to bring up (most Americans do at some point).

      Liked by 5 people

  14. GD Deckard Avatar

    Boris, it occurs to me that you have the makings of an art critic. Art speaks to you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Boris Avatar

      GD, I appreciate you saying that.
      However, as I mentioned in my reply to Sandy above (and I quote): ” My stories (that are inspired by imagery) don’t aim to describe, explain or provide an interpretation of the paintings. Rather.. the paintings provide the initial spark and I then proceed to weave new worlds/scenarios from that spark.”
      So, I am not sure whether I would fulfil any of the criteria of what an art critic is supposed to be and do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. GD Deckard Avatar

        Maybe, it works both ways? Stories inspired by Starry Night may offer insights into the painting itself. You might invent a new, fuller approach to art criticism, Boris.

        Like

        1. Boris Avatar

          GD, that’s an interesting and exciting idea. There’s just one other thing though, that you might have noticed. I only get inspired by bizarre and surreal imagery. I have never written any stories or vignettes based on depictions of ordinary people or everyday life or the everyday reality. Those paintings just don’t inspire me.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. GD Deckard Avatar

            I don’t paint, I photograph, but I feel the same way about unusual imagery. Oh, I appreciate the sense of the times that I get from old family photos. (They used to make sure their hair was combed, and they posed in their best clothing on the sunny side of the house because the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye required full sunlight for proper exposure. Wonderful fodder for writers.) But I know what you mean, Boris: great images stimulate the imagination.

            Like

  15. GD Deckard Avatar

    I just realized why Mimi’s characters and their world are so engaging: She lives there with them.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      Last night through Google I found a Ph.D thesis on Walsingham with just the information I need to bolster my scenario, that I’ve found nowhere else. My ass has been saved on a couple of iffy points that I thought I would have to walk back.

      Liked by 4 people

  16. GD Deckard Avatar

    Congratulations, Sue! Perfect Balance defines a new genre:
    Quantum Poetry.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Thank you, GD. I wonder if a haiku successfully stating a unified field theory might be considered for a Nobel Prize in physics and/or literature. Hmm…

      Liked by 4 people

      1. GD Deckard Avatar

        Maybe, 😏 when the scientific mind catches up to the poet’s.

        Liked by 2 people

  17. Boris Avatar

    Sue, your poem “Perfect Balance” brings up an interesting mathematical question as to whether an infinite shape (if our Universe is infinite) can have a centre at all and whether it is at all possible to rigorously and consistently define a centre for an infinite object.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Think of it as the radii extending from any and every point. All are equally infinite. That makes each point the center point. It is an abstract because infinity cannot have a shape. Shape requires boundaries.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: