Evolve, December 2, 2022

This Show Case features seven pieces submitted in response to our thirty-first Writing Prompt: Evolve. 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.

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Et Voila!

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit: Nina Sesina, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Universe watched.

A singular speck, scarcely worth noting, divided over and over again, yet clung together as though fearful of the vast, expectant space surrounding it.

The Universe waited.

The breathing speck joined other specks. Generation after generation, their budding intelligence devised ways to use their environment’s resources to make their own lives longer and easier than their parents’.

The Universe smiled.

The specks multiplied and swarmed across the face of their globe until their hunger could be satisfied only by searching the stars for a new home.

The Universe sat back. 

“Look at us,” the specks demanded as they huddled in their miniscule ships drifting through the ever-present night.

The Universe listened.

“We are truly the most magnificent conquerors of all time!” they declared as gravity tugged gently on their lives, tilting them toward the unseen, patient center of a galaxy.

The Universe laughed.

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Dullard’s Dance

by John Correll

“Would I ask you to do anything dangerous?” Abe asked. The American ambassador to East Germany placed a red handkerchief into the breast pocket of his wife. 

And she shook her head. “No. But you could ask, maybe once and awhile.” She held the empty manila envelope he had given her with both hands.

Abe kissed her forehead, then stepped back and inspected the handkerchief. “Not with these thugs. Just make sure this is plainly visible.” He tugged it up a little. “The secret police will be looking for this. Two other operatives will leave the embassy after you with the same red cloth to confuse their agents. They won’t know who’s got the real message.”

Barbara waved the envelope lightly. “Which, from the feel of this, isn’t me.” He shook his head. “Then you won’t mind if I add a little present? An empty envelope isn’t convincing. Is it?”

Abe grinned. “Barbara, the envelope is enough. I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it wasn’t important. I mean, life-saving important.”

“But dear, small acts of kindness can save people too. Without them even knowing.”

“I doubt it. These men, the Stasi, are brutes.” Abe crossed his arms.

“I can be hopeful.” She pressed the stiff red cloth against her chest to ensure it stayed in place.

“Now remember, take the tram from Spandauer Strasse to the Märchenbrunnen and sit on the bench by the entrance for ten minutes. Then leave the envelope there. Your duo…”

“Bert and Kurt.” She interrupted. 

“Yes. That’s their aliases.”

“I know.”

“Anyways, they’ll waste time waiting for an imagined agent to come and retrieve our ruse.”

“Märchenbrunnen? That big fountain?” She looked down at her schnauzer, who sat at her feet and wagged his tail. “Do you expect Jo to sit around a bunch of ducks for ten minutes?”

Abe pointed a stern finger at the dog. “Play dead, Jo.” Jo presented his paw, and Abe ignored it. “He’ll be fine. I’ll meet you for lunch at the Palasthotel, okay?”

Barbara gave her husband a peck on the cheek. “Later, sweetie.”

Before she left the embassy, she stopped by Ms. Winkles’ office, the head of document disposal. 

A marine guard by the door stopped her. “I’m sorry, Mam, but you don’t have authorization…”

“Nonsense, young man. Just ask Ms. Winkle.” She reached around the guard and knocked on the door. From inside, machine sounds, like oxen plowing concrete, muffled the reply. The marine held one arm to block her, turned, and opened the door to hear the answer.

“Ms. Winkle? The ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Polansky, would like to…” he shouted, but Barbara pushed the marine aside as Jo distracted him by peeing on his trousers.

“Hi, Nancy,” Barbara shouted.

“Oh. It’s okay, Tom. Let her in. Just give me a minute.” Nancy fed three industrial paper shredders with multiple documents. “These EBA machines do a fantastic job making cat litter out of the unclassified junk.”

Jo howled at the noise of the shredders. “Nancy, would you happen to have a new pack of Camels?” She tugged Jo’s leash to shut him up.

“What? You smoke?”

“Good Lord, no. It’s for an East German acquaintance.”

“Of course, only the good stuff.” Nancy pulled a fresh pack from her pocket and handed it over.

“Thank you so much. I owe you.” She blew a kiss and then left the embassy with a noticeably fatter envelope.

She crossed the river Spree to Spandauer Strasse and waited for the tram with a handful of locals. On the opposite side of the street, an elderly lady with a bouquet of Alyssums stared at her. Then like Humpty-dumpty learning to walk on mismatched legs, the lady crossed the street for Barbara without heading in her direction. Pensioners in East Berlin were desperate for extra cash, and Barbara’s attire acted like an ice cream truck in August. She didn’t wear the latest fashion, but her clothes sparkled against the drab grays and browns of the East Berliners.

The lady stuck the bouquet under Barbara’s nose. “Would you like to buy a flower, Madame?” The petals rubbed her chin.

“No, thank you.” Barbara turned away to keep from sneezing. So the old woman toddled from one hopeful tram passenger to the next, and one by one, they shook their heads until the lady tottered off.

Within a minute, a crowded tram arrived, forcing Barbara to pick up Jo and fight her way onto the rear entrance. She squeezed in just before the doors closed. But then the doors changed their minds and reopened because a man, clearly from outside, shouted, “Halt.” Barbara stood on tiptoe but failed to discover who had the power to stop the tram. Instead, she heard the driver yell, “You can’t stop the tram. I have an important schedule to keep, you stupid mor… Oh, sorry. Get in.” The doors closed again, and the tram continued. 

Pressed against strangers, Jo began to fidget and bite at Barbara’s breast pocket. “Stop it, Jo.” She looked down and realized that her all-important red handkerchief was missing. “Damn it. What did you do with it, Jo?” She tried to look down, but the press of passengers prevented any chance of checking the floor. “Stupid, dog. Now we need to get off and buy a new one. Thank goodness the next stop is Alexanderplatz.”

An old man in a brown trilby standing directly in front of her smiled. “Darf ich behilflich sein, Gnädige Frau?” he asked. At least he didn’t have flowers. 

“What? No. Thank you. I’m just rattling off to myself.” Barbara replied in English. 

The man shook his head. “Alexanderplatz, here.” He tried pointing, but his hand bumped Jo’s chin, and the man ended up petting Jo’s head instead. “Here,” he repeated.

The tram halted, the doors opened, and the man nodded.

“Danke schön, very much!” Barbara said as she jumped out. She headed straight across the mall to a vast box-like building called the Centrum, East Berlin’s largest department store. Hurrying to the store, she didn’t notice her tram screech to a sudden stop only 50 yards from her exit. Two pot-bellied men in gray trench coats leaped off and pretended not to follow her.

“She’s trying to shake us,” Bert said. He held a cigarette in his mouth like a baby’s pacifier. 

Kurt, his portlier companion, nodded. “She’ll try to confuse us in the Centrum. It’s got three exits.” 

“We’ll stand between the porcelain and the register. You can see all the exits there.” The pair ran into the store entrance just in time to see Mrs. Polansky take the escalator to the second level. There was no escape. 

Kurt ran over to the porcelain, like a puppy finding its mother. “Look, they have the new Karlovarský collection. My wife would love these. They used to be Bohemian porcelain which started in 1804. Can you imagine that? But our Meissen porcelain from Saxony they’re over 260 years old. I got one of the rare 1960 commemorative plates. Just imagine an artistic process that hasn’t evolved over the centuries, except in the West, which has giant robots and massive factories. That’s what I like about our country. Things don’t change.” He held up a coffee cup for inspection.

Bert took his cigarette, knocked the ash into the cup, and blew smoke at his colleague’s face. “Stop talking rubbish and watch the exits.”

“Rubbish? These are collector’s pieces. You just wait.” Kurt ignored his colleague and put items into an empty cardboard box.

Within five minutes, Bert dropped his cigarette on the floor, stomped on it, and puffed smoke like a campfire hit by a bucket of water. “There she is, coming down the escalator. Put that junk down.”

The store clerk by the register noticed the improperly discarded cigarette and screamed, “Hey, you. We have ashtrays over there. Pick that up.”

Bert pulled out his badge and rammed it in front of her face. “I don’t have time for ashtrays, Fraulein.” Then he ran after Mrs. Polansky. 

Kurt didn’t follow. He approached the clerk with his box instead. “Sorry about my comrade. His divorce papers just came through yesterday.” Kurt handed the collection of porcelain to her. “This is for our office. I’ll come back later to pick it up. Thanks.” He smiled and ran. The clerk swallowed like eating an unchewed meatball and placed the box behind the counter with shaking hands. 

To be continued.

Notes:

Picture of Kurt’s plate:

Image source: http://www.delcampe.net/stores/klugmi

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REVELATA SUBTERRANEA

by Boris Glikman

One day,

my friends and I descended

into the sewers

beneath the metropolis

and discovered the most unusual eel-like creatures

lounging indolently

on the concrete banks of the subterranean river.

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There they were,

lying close to the river’s edge,

only deigning to bestir 

and dip their heads languidly

into the passing current,

when a particularly choice morsel

of human waste floated by.

.

Their appearance overpowered me

with its repulsiveness.

.

“How could Evolution ever

conceive and give birth to such a horrible abomination?”

I remember wondering to myself,

“How could Nature ever allow

such a glaring insult against Herself

to arise and flourish;

such a  travesty,

such a betrayal,

such a perversion of the very natural order?”

.

Yet when I looked closer

at these anathemas,

a most astounding feature

revealed itself to me.

.

Somehow, through some playful whim

of the Goddess who directs 

and oversees the evolutionary process,

these overgrown worms

developed human faces.

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Nay, not just human faces,

but visages of angelic beauty

such that no earthly woman

would ever dare to possess,

lest the Gods become spiteful and jealous.

.

This discovery was so unexpected,

the radiance of their mien so intense,

I stood transfixed,

unable to take my gaze

even for an instant

away from these heavenly subterrestrial creatures.

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Their eyes looked at me

with all the cognition of a person;

Their facial expressions were those

of  kindness, serenity, wisdom.

.

There were two over to the left,

holding their heads close to one another,

gazing deeply, just like two lovers,

into each other’s eyes.

.

Suddenly I felt an odd sort of compassion for them.

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Recording:

Program recording:

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2009/11/aim_20091128.mp3 

Program transcript:

 http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/dive-into-your-gene-pool/3089372#transcript

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No fiddle yet. My plot evolves at its own pace, by its own logic.

by Mimi Speike

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John Dee is annoyed. “Listen, the both of you.” (He’s addressing Sly and, he believes, the cacodemon O-ek.)

“I’m off to the Red Room. After that, a string sextet, of which I’m proud to be a founding member, will perform. Eventually, you’ll have your chance to do whatever it is you do, but not on my violin. How the hell does a cat work a fiddle? I don’t really care to find out, but it seems I’m going to. Not, however, on my instrument.

“I’ve begged a lend of a pochette. A pochette will do for you.1 It has to. It’s that or nothing. I’ll come for you. Until then, you don’t move from this spot, got it?”

O-ek warns Sly: “Got that, my friend? We sit tight, wait to be summoned.” Sly sputters a response. O-ek translates: “The catkin says, Jack Daw has a line on something. Something dire. Sir Francis must hear of it immediately.”

“You do not,” screeches Dee, “approach Mr. Secretary on your own. Any contact is made through me.”

“The wise thing,” agrees O-ek. “But if we should cross paths with the First Secretary, we want to know it. How’s he dressed?” 

Dee is alarmed by the nightmare idea of an unfiltered conversation between the cat and one of the queen’s foremost counselors. “You will not cross paths with him, or anyone. You will wait here, out of sight, until I return for you.”

Sly gives him a look to stop a heart. (Think Grumpy Cat. I’m sure he was a sweetheart, but that face!) 

Uh-oh. Best not to offend a demon you’ve only just met. Dee softens his tone. “Sorry, your Honor. Sir Francis is in black. He’s always in black. When I fetch you in, I’ll point him out, I promise.”

“Ah!” cries O-ek. “I may have espied him then, earlier. He was in conference with, plainly, servitors. I took him for the butler, all mim2 and careful, his coat black, a simple frill at the throat. I would expect the great man to be grandly put together.”

“He’s one them Puritans. Troublemakers, the lot of them. Pack ’em up, ship ’em out, say I, to America, to preach to the turkeys. Well, not Sir Francis. He can stay. He’s got to stay. We need him here.”

“Doctor! There is a threat to England’s security, worse than any Puritan. Sir! The queen is in grave danger.”

“The queen is always in grave danger. Tell me something I don’t know.”

This treason is the work of … this is on the level, I swear… the instigator, this time, is Leicester.”3

“Dudley?” Dee sighs. “He’s a rascal. You’ve got that right.”

“He’s plotting murder. No, I’ll be more precise. He’s plotting regicide.”

“Regicide. Dudley? Ridiculous!”

“Sir Francis is certainly the one to deal with the ultimate court insider.”

Dee rubs his chin. “How come you by this nonsense?”

“Jack Daw overheard it at his Ma’s alehouse in Dover.”

Dee snorts. “A squirt ragamuffin, raised in a dockside dive. A credible source, certainly.”

“He is credible,” insists O-ek. “Highly credible. The kit-cat and I can vouch for him. Can we not, pal o’ mine?” Sly shakes his head vigorously, in agreement. 

“How’d you discover the little beggar?”

“I was summoned. By accident.” 

“Oh? How does that work?”

“Don’t you summon Uriel?”

“I do not. Kelley handles all that.”

“I could give you the phrase to whistle me up but, you no receptive,4 you wouldn’t apprehend me. Jack Daw called me forth, not meaning to. Him’s no sensitive neither. It was this acute-minded cat who caught on to me. We had an instant rapport.” 

“I think I’m losing my mind,” moans Dee.

“The laddie was frantic to report what he knew, but who might take such a one as he, of unprepossessing appearance, to say the least, seriously?” Sly lets go with… Damn! Sure sounds like a chuckle to me. Actually, a series of chuckles.

Dee mutters, “Zooks! Is this what Kelley deals with? I’ve always imagined a spiritual would be more, well, dignified.”

Sly smirks. “You want dignity? You’re outta luck. Daw should better have called up, oh, Juul, maybe. Me, I’m a demon of the imp variety. You’ll have a whole lot more fun with me, I guarantee it.” 

“Lucky me.” 

Look, what were we to do? We couldn’t approach just anyone. It had to be someone with connections, able to intervene. Someone of tenacious curiosity, not dismissing a bizarre accusation out of hand. Someone neither baffled by nor afeared of the mystical, for obvious reasons. The cat and I kicked around a few names, settled on you.” 

“Well, I just hit the lottery, didn’t I?” 

Doctor! Let me give you a run-down of the situation. Just the high points. Won’t take long.” 

“Got to go, damn you. I am expected in the Red Room, by your buddy Del Gado.”

“He’s no buddy of ours. He nearly got poor Pedro first almost throttled, then almost drowned.”

“Pedro. Who’s Pedro? No, don’t tell me. I’m overdue for my game. Finish your tangled tale on the return ride home.”

Sly shrugs. “If we must, we must.” 

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

“Before you fly, one last thing.”

“Oh?”

“This ‘a pouchette has to do you’ crap… We’ll decide what does us, thank you very much. And it ain’t a dumb, dinky pouchette. The kit-cat is with me on that. Right, critter?”

Sly arches his back in emphatic agreement.

* * *

1 The pouchette is a small stringed instrument. The kit-violin, as it is often called (also known as a travel fiddle), was designed to fit in a pocket. From the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries it was widely employed, by dance masters and street musicians in particular, and in situations where full-size violins were too cumbersome to carry, or too expensive to own.

2. Affectedly modest.

3. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

4. John Dee did not speak directly with the spirit world. He communicated with one Uriel, and a host of others, through a clairvoyant, Edward Kelley.

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The Long Evolve

by GD Deckard

He hung in blackness, devoid of senses, unable to discern his form or his location. He sought a body. There. She was healthy, young. Her baby new. The blackness parted and withdrew behind him. He looked back to see the blackness recede to a tiny dot. He could not remember what lay past that black dot.

He was being lifted up, past (he identified later) crib rails. A varnished wooden plaque on the wall showed a farm scene. The split rail fence fronting the farmhouse ran along a dirt road. A farmer hoed in the garden and a cow munched grass in the yard. There were yellow flowers. Lifted higher, he saw his grandmother facing his mother, holding him out to her, showing her how to hold a baby.

The outhouse sat at the end of the back walk, past the stand of hollyhocks, the hand pump for water, and a small vegetable garden. He and Phyllis were two years old and playing with their pants down. They weren’t the same under the pants.

At four, he was crying, bawling, really, watching his mother crawl up the cellar stairs. His father had knocked her down the stairs. He hit her again and she slumped unconscious.

Earning money from a paper route at fourteen, he bought a .22 rifle from Sears. He didn’t have an alarm clock, but he imagined setting one to ring at 5:AM and dropping it into the river and watching it slowly sink as he went to sleep and that worked. He awoke at five and slipped out of the house to go squirrel hunting in the Ohio farmlands at sunrise. He became a crack shot with that .22 but traded it in on a shotgun for more serious hunting.

Coming down the stairs into the kitchen for breakfast the first thing he saw was his mother’s black eye. She was sitting quietly at the table as were his father and his younger brother. He turned and went back up to his room. He made certain that the shotgun was loaded and that the safety was off. Then he returned to the foot of the stairs and sat with the gun pointed across the table at his father. His father had earned a Bronze Star for valor in combat during World War II and knew exactly what the muzzle of a gun meant.

“The gun is loaded and the safety is off. If you ever hit my mother again, I will kill you. They will put me in jail for a while. But you will be dead.” In the silence he thought of another detail. “If you take my gun away from me, I will get a kitchen knife while you sleep and I will slit your throat.” No one said a thing. They just looked at him. When he was sure they understood, he took the gun upstairs to his room, unloaded it, and went down to breakfast.

His mother had passed by the time that he last saw his father. The man was eighty-four, sitting in a wheelchair, breathing through an oxygen mask. By now, a war veteran himself, he understood PTSD. He knew that despite his rages, the old man had worked hard to provide for his family and in all other ways had treated them well. His mother had accepted that.

After college, jobs, marriages, family, and retirement, the blackness came again. He hung in that blackness, devoid of senses, unable to discern his form or his location.

“What have you learned?”

“A shotgun lets you get up close and personal.”

“Don’t be a wise-ass. Did you evolve at all?”

“I think -now- that my mother was stronger than my father. Her devotion overcame his abuse.”

“Good. You evolved.”

The blackness parted. She looked behind her to see the blackness recede to a tiny dot. She could not remember what lay past that black dot.

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Fully Evolved Narcissist

by S.T. Ranscht

“Artists are not necessarily guilty of narcissism simply because they are self-aware and practice metacognition; they are only guilty of being (psychologically-speaking) eternal, inward-fixated infants if they demonstrate through art and action a psychotically-inflated sense of their own egos’ self-importance and permanence.”

Carl E. Reed, (1/16/17)

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I copy the greats

in my own style. Thus I am

better than them all.

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61 responses to “Evolve, December 2, 2022”

  1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    I can see you all evolving as writers. Thank you for your heartfelt work.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Boris Avatar

    Oh Yeah
    Life evolves on
    Long after the thrill of living is gone.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      😀 You knew Jack and Diane? 😁

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        That song went off in my head too GD

        Liked by 2 people

        1. GD Deckard Avatar

          😏Boris does things like that to peoples’ heads.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Boris Avatar

            Jack and Diane? Who are they? I only know Jack and Jill who went up the hill.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sue: I copy the greats and non-greats, in my own style (for the most part).

    “This belief that everyone adores you is a craze of yours.” I see this in one of my Vocabulary docs, that I’ve been adding to for thirty years. God knows where I found it–I didn’t note sources until ten years ago. I never thought Sly would be published.

    I haven’t used it yet, but I will, sooner or later, rewritten a bit. Sure sounds like Sly to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Mimi, the difference is that it you don’t have “a psychotically-inflated sense of [your] own [ego’s] self-importance and permanence.” 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Boris Avatar

    Just to provide details regarding the recording and the 2 links that are included with my poem:

    1) The recording is of me performing the poem “Revelata Subterranea”.

    2) The first link is to my appearance on Australian national radio (ABC, our equivalent of BBC), where I performed both “Revelata Subterranea” and “Revelata Dysmophologia” (which appeared in the previous showcase), and discussed their meaning. The theme of this program was evolution, mutation and transformation. It is a 30 minute program and on this program there also appeared Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould.

    3) The second link is to the complete transcript and details of this radio program.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sandy Randall Avatar

      Yay I finally have time to comment! lol
      Boris, I found the whole concept of the radio program so much fun. In many ways it reminded me of the old time radio programs when they broadcast “War of the Worlds” but also because radio is one of my favorite mediums. When I am driving or doing house chores, listening to something to distract me from the mundane, makes the tasks almost fun. I listen to a lot of audible books as well, which for me is an ‘evolution’ because there was a time I was loath to give up real books.
      I also feel the radio broadcast gave me some context to the piece you wrote. I do not have Mimi or Sues experience with poetry and lack the ability to discern the finer points they see.
      So for me I probably read poetry like I do prose and miss some things. To the passage both of them pointed out, I do understand your objection to the word truth. I have contemplated truth myself and find it to edge on the matter of personal perspective. Having said that, and having watched the crazy polarization of people in my country, I think truth is going through a very difficult process here, which I find incredibly dangerous. While each individual has “personal” truths based on personal experience, they also have to understand that those truths are fluid. New information can invariably change the perception. A definite rabbit hole. SO I guess what I’m saying is while truth has some fluid edges, there has to be socially recognized truths that are measured by society as a whole, and demonstrated when people decry an individuals action. Possibly the closest example I have in relation to your piece is when someone recoils at the sight of someone who was born disfigured. At one time in the not so distant past, bullying and shunning people who were “different” was an acceptable societal norm. Then people began to speak up and advocate for people with disabilities, changing public perspective and public norms for how people with disabilities are treated. I think what possibly glares, in the passage that has been referred to, is finding any natural creation abhorrent. (Ok to that point I detest cockroaches and mosquitoes). Which your protagonist redeems themself in their initial revulsion and has another look and allows themself the possibility their judgment was incorrect. Which for me resolves the passage and provides the possibility for your protagonist to grow and change through the experience.
      Anyhow those are my thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sandy Randall Avatar

    Well done everyone. I have read, but now I must go make coffee. Tonight I hope to get some time to comment on the wonderful work.
    Also, Bravo Carl …. You made the showcase! lol

    Liked by 2 people

  6. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Boris, this is beautifully written, and your voice on your audio is thrilling. But this line stops me in my tracks:

    “How could Nature ever allow
    such a glaring insult against Herself
    to arise and flourish;
    such a travesty,
    such a betrayal,
    such a perversion of the very natural order?”

    This is stunningly untrue. The natural order is what it is, takes offense at nothing. If it did, we would be the prime target of its resentment. In the end, perhaps we are. The answer to that won’t be obvious for a century or more.

    Yes, this line is a device, building toward a conclusion, I understand that. But it trips me up in the reading.

    Every time I open my mouth on this site filled with brilliant people (you definitely one of them), I think I frequently make a fool of myself. But this is my reaction. If others have an opposite opinion, I am happy to learn from it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      I had the same reaction, Mimi, but having read and commented on that same thing in several earlier pieces, I have come to recognize it as a trait of Boris’s writing.

      In order to reveal truth, an author first has to find truth. That’s notoriously difficult, but I think that’s what great — even good — poetry does. Short of that, stating anything as if it were a deep and universal truth in “poetical” form may convince indiscriminate readers to accept the author’s ruse.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Boris Avatar

        Sue, in regards to the line that trips you up, I responded about that in my comment to Mimi above (or below, depending on where this comment will be placed.)
        When you say “a trait of Boris’s writing”, I find that interesting but I am not entirely sure what is the trait that you referring to. Would you be able to elaborate on that?
        In response to what you say here: “In order to reveal truth, an author first has to find truth.”. I find that this statement brings up a lot of deep philosophical issues. Namely, how can and does one define what truth is?
        I would argue that apart from certain mathematical statements such as
        1 + 1 = 2 (and some philosophers might even dispute the validity of that statement), there are no universal or absolute truths. In particular, there are no universal, absolute truths in the human sphere, there are no universal, absolute truths in human relationships, there are no universal, absolute truths in human society, there are no universal, absolute truths that apply to human emotions etc . Therefore, unless an author is writing a mathematical text, it is a futile and pointless task for an author to try to find a universal, absolute truth, for authors usually write about the human world, about human relationships, about human emotions etc and there are simply no such universal, absolute truths in the human sphere.
        I would argue that with any statement about the human sphere that presents itself as a universal, absolute truth, one can find exceptions to it or people who would disagree with it.
        So, there’s no point or use for a writer to try to search for absolute and universal truths, as there aren’t any. The best that a writer can hope for is that his/her words resonate with at least some readers.
        In any case, I would be interested to hear what you think are the universal truths in the human sphere.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          Boris, I will respond because you asked me to, but I don’t anticipate that it will change what appears to me to be a narrow, blinkered representation of my initial response, and I don’t intend to discuss it any further than what I’ve written below.

          “How could Nature ever allow/such a glaring insult against Herself/to arise and flourish;/such a travesty,/such a betrayal,/such a perversion of the very natural order?”

          You seem to present the idea that anything other than the status quo, any unpleasant qualities or unexpected differences are, as an unquestionable universal truth, outside the “very natural order”. Poetic license? Or stunningly untrue?

          From the beginning of time, the “natural order” has included mutations, defects, and aberrations. Evolution depends on such changes. They are an integral part of the natural order. Any description of the natural order that rejects these things is demonstrably false. That is the truth that Mimi and I responded to. To reject readers’ honest responses to something they consider “stunningly untrue” serves neither the reader nor the potential growth of the author. It’s not a matter of “poetic license”. It’s a matter of being open to opinions that question the basis of some of an author’s ideas.

          My use of the word “truth” referred specifically to the human, emotional truths revealed in great — or even good — poetry. My use of “universal truth” referred only to the lines quoted above.

          I am not sure how you justify comparing elementary mathematical facts with the truths great writing has for centuries revealed about life, humanity, and human nature. That approach — minutely focusing on a single specious argument in an attempt to build a supposedly solid case against someone else’s broader and more nuanced opinion — is one I have seen recalcitrant teenagers take when they skew someone else’s words, thinking it will undermine any view that contradicts their own. It is merely unsupported defensiveness.

          I find the most effective parts of your writing are in your often cringe-inducing images, which seem to be the point and purpose of much of your writing that I’ve seen so far. I hope to glimpse some deeper, profound truth about our humanity in some of your future work.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. Boris Avatar

      Mimi, thank you for listening to the recording of my poem and for your feedback.
      You make a valid point about the line that trips you up. I have 2 responses to it.
      The first response is that as this is a poem and not a scientific article, I have a (literal) poetic license to express within this poem any ideas regarding Nature and how it views things, regardless of those ideas’ objective truth value.
      The second response is this: Consider animals that are born malformed with, for example, extra limbs, two heads, a single eye in the middle of their heads etc. When one sees photos of such animals. one feels that they are an aberration and a grave biological mistake. Therefore, one can’t help but feel that such mutated animals are an offence against Nature and the natural order. This is exactly how the narrator/protagonist of this poem feels about the creatures, when he sees them from a distance.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. John Correll Avatar

        Boris, by anthropomorphizing nature, you have called upon the classic trope of mother nature, Gaia, or whatever other spirits there are. Therefore, one would expect some judgment and reason to be available to a thinking spirit. I imagine this is as valid a truth as any other myth, legend, or fairytale. Often stories of truth come disguised in clothes of lies or half-truths. That could explain why the ancient and absurd tales, like Gorgons, Pegasus, Cyclopes, Sirens, et al., persist. These tales warn us that the ‘truth’ is more challenging to distinguish than we might wish. But then we can just let the philosophers and theologians murder each other over the honest-truth nuances as they have for ages. Or, to quote the Firesign Theater, I think in their ‘How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All ‘ album, “What is reality?”

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          John, I love the Firesign Theater reference! And we’re all familiar with the idea that philosophers have been known to “prove” that black is white, life is death, and there’s no such thing as reality.

          Then there’s Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram and world reknowned philosopher, and his Edge-of-the-Ledge philosophy. After listening to his fellow philosophers and their intellectual contortions that led logically and inarguably to the conclusion that there is no such thing as gravity, he brought them all to the roof of his 10-story building and challenged them to prove their claim by stepping off the edge of the ledge.

          Their unanimous refusal to offer such proof seems to indicate their honest belief that there is such a thing as reality, and gravity is part of that.

          We live in a world of probabilities, not possibilities. Perhaps we’re all Bozos on this bus.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    John … You tell a multi-installment story, several characters appearing in two or more episodes, but you’ve given me no reason to care about any of them. I don’t know who they are, I don’t know what’s at stake.

    Some nice touches, but, overall, I am mystified. Am I missing something?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. John Correll Avatar

      Mimi and GD, you’ve pointed out the story of my stories; failure to develop a concern and interest for the character or protagonist that will successfully motivate my audience to read on to the end. I definitely need to learn not to take that for granted.

      Okay, I hope it’s obvious that Barbara is the protagonist. Would you be more interested if she hated telling lies (character flaw), but her husband asked her to work as a spy and potentially lie?

      Bert also has a significant flaw revealed in the next part, but perhaps I should foreshadow something about him to garner interest?

      Yes, GD, I see your point about the marine and Ms. Winkle interaction. I was unsure of that part from the beginning, but now I wonder if Ms. Winkle can have a more active role, she could have a red handkerchief too, which allows Barbara to share her fears about lying.

      Many thanks, and thanks to Sandy, who suggested writing more about Mrs. Polansky after Rolls Recycle.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Thanks John!
        I was happy to see another story of Mrs Polansky.
        The more I learn about her the more I want to know. I also like the descriptions of Berlin. I’ve never been there, but I have lived in Nederland 🇳🇱. I always loved that every town had a Centrum. Sometimes I wonder why I left.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

        John, I think characters need more than flaws for readers to care about them. We need to understand how they feel by their body language, facial expressions, and what they think, say, and do. We need to feel their inner conflicts/turmoil. We need to see their growth. We need to identify with them.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Sandy Randall Avatar

          John
          What Sue says here rattles around in my head as well… because I struggle with “showing” the same character depth as well.
          Mimi’s observations of your characters is the same she pointed out with mine. Which got me to thinking… how do I create compelling characters?
          Since then I have done a number of things … painted the characters, written short scenes of a particular character where they are self reflecting and I’ve been listening and reading my favorite writers and paying attention to why I like their characters.
          I know many writers can use devices such as psychology or personality types, but for me it doesn’t work… I feel like I’m dressing manikins.
          I think mrs polansky has the potential to be a fabulous character, but you’ve just started her story… you don’t know her yet. Keep writing her. That’s how you’ll find out who she is… Mimi has been writing Sly for years. He is an aspect of her she knows well.
          I suspect Roy is the same for GD. They can pull those characters out and know how they’ll behave in any situation… and have demonstrated that because we all “see” Sly and Roy as members of writers Co-op. Whether their authors have intended that or not. That is character mastery….

          Liked by 3 people

  8. GD Deckard Avatar

    Dullard’s Dance by John Correll
    Similar to Mimi’s comment on your otherwise well written story, John, I believe that you could pull the reader deeper into your world and bring your characters alive by using “Show don’t Tell.” (You can Google “Show don’t Tell” for tons of info/advice on this aspect of writing.)

    But consider sentences like:
    Barbara gave her husband a peck on the cheek.
    she stopped by Ms. Winkles’ office
    A marine guard by the door stopped her.

    Telling the reader what is happening is essential of course, and an effective technique of doing so is to “show” them. Anton Chekhov may have explained this best when he said,
    “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

    Liked by 4 people

  9. GD Deckard Avatar

    Fully Evolved Narcissist by S.T. Ranscht
    YaY Sue! That is a very well-written recognition of Carl’s talent.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Hmm . . . I think Carl’s talent may stand on the shoulders of the greats, but I wouldn’t ascribe to him the arrogance of believing that makes him better than them all. That is a distinction saved for lesser talents than Carl’s, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. GD Deckard Avatar

    Et Voila! by by S.T. Ranscht
    “We are truly the most magnificent [insert laudatory title] of all time!”
    That is an eternally human thought, is it not?

    This piece reminded me of Mark Twain’s short-short story about the oyster on the beach watching the waves rolling in and reflecting on the millions of years of evolution required to produce him and thinking he was, obviously, the pinnacle of evolution.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Yes, and the Universe laughs every time humanity (or oysters) think such things.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Boris Avatar

      GD,

      It’s funny that you should mention a story about an oyster on a a beach, because for the upcoming showcase I am submitting a story about exactly that. Having never read Twain’s story, I am assuming my story will be different. In fact, in my story the oyster doesn’t at all think that he is the pinnacle of evolution.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. GD Deckard Avatar

    No fiddle yet. My plot evolves at its own pace, by its own logic. by Mimi Speike
    And a marvelous romp it is, Mimi!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. GD Deckard Avatar

    REVELATA SUBTERRANEA by Boris Glikman
    I most enjoy reading anything that leaves bits of itself in me. I’ll remember the lines,
    “visages of angelic beauty
    such that no earthly woman
    would ever dare to possess,
    lest the Gods become spiteful”

    Thank you, Boris!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Boris Avatar

      Thank you for your feedback, GD.
      Can I ask what you like about those lines or why they made an impression on you?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. GD Deckard Avatar

        Good question, Boris. I had to think about it.
        It was that last line,
        “lest the Gods become spiteful”
        which tied the images in the stanza together in a context of beauty as status.

        😉 And also reminded me of a young man I trained to be a retail store manager. He was handsome & his wife, beautiful. He once confided to me that life was easier for beautiful people because they were offered more opportunities.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Boris Avatar

          GD, this is one of my pieces that has received dozens and dozens of different interpretations. I myself don’t really know what its exact meaning is.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Sandy Randall Avatar

            Funny… I thought I had commented on your piece Boris, and I did … in my head … I realize no one here is telepathic so my words are still in my head! 😂
            I’m at work right now with 4 minutes left on my break… so I’ll comment once I’m home.
            I just wanted to say I listened to the entire radio program and was enthralled… so more comments later!
            Cheers for now

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Boris Avatar

              Sandy, thank you for taking the time to listen to the whole radio program and for reading my poem. I look forward to your feedback about the radio program and the poem.

              Liked by 2 people

  13. John Correll Avatar

    GD, your story sounds autobiographical, but I know the place. Almost exactly like my American grandparent’s farm in Indiana; the outhouse, the handpump, where you needed to save a bucket to prime it, the vegetable garden, the .22 (my father’s), and the shotgun (my grandfathers, a single shot from 1890). I even went squirrel hunting with the local experts, but I felt so bad about killing a poor little thing that never meant me any harm that I decided to stick to shooting at tin cans.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      John
      Well, the last part is not autobiographical 😏

      My uncles taught me to skin & clean small game. Unless the liver was spotted, we ate what we shot. That tradition was taught to my own son when he and a friend were taken into the Rocky Mountains for camping by the friend’s father. When the kids shot squirrels out of a pine tree, the father, a major in the military, made them clean and cook and eat them. To this day, son associates squirrels with the taste of pine tar.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    My mom gave me a little porcelain dinner plate when I was about 4, that had a bucolic scene very like the one GD described, hand-painted on it. I always felt as though I were in the scene when I looked at it. I have it to this day.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Sandy Randall Avatar

    GD … I read all of the Evolve pieces on my phone and somehow missed yours. Having read your bio, I know this comes from your own experience. Very powerful. I am inclined to think the dialogue about evolving isn’t even necessary. Consider eliminating that and just ending with the next birth. The next life makes it clear that each life the spirit lives is a step in it’s evolution.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      Sandy,
      Good point. But while I’m comfortable sharing that story here, it’s not something I’d publish. Those bits are better used as motivators in other stories.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Your evolution as a writer 🥰

        Liked by 2 people

        1. GD Deckard Avatar

          LOL! Ever notice that a writer can’t avoid evolving?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Sandy Randall Avatar

            Of course!!
            Along with being a skill you’re compelled to practice… you can’t help but try to find a more efficient and effective way to communicate your point!
            If only we were as immortal as our words…

            Liked by 2 people

            1. GD Deckard Avatar

              If only we were as immortal as our words…
              Some might say we are.

              Liked by 2 people

  16. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    GD, this is lovely, and haunting. Two sentences especially strike me:

    “Her devotion overcame his abuse.”

    Devotion wouldn’t have worked for my mother. The thing that might have worked would have been confrontation, early on, before the abuse (mental, not physical) got entrenched. She wasn’t capable of confrontation, never, her whole life. Not with her mother, not with my father, not with me.

    “She could not remember what lay past that black dot.”

    How I long not to remember so many things.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Boris Avatar

    Hello Everyone,

    I wanted to let you all know that I will be leaving the Showcase permanently and will no longer submit, comment or participate in any future showcases, for reasons that I explain below.

    But firstly I wanted to say thank you to Mimi, GD, Sandy, John and Carl for all your writings and for all your feedback on my posts this year, which I have much appreciated and valued.

    I am leaving because I believe that writing forums should be run professionally and that the moderator of the writing forum should set example by their actions and words.

    Yet, I have not experienced that here. In fact, quite the opposite.

    I take great exception to the comment above that begins: “Boris, I will respond because you asked me to, but I don’t anticipate that it will change what appears to me to be a narrow, blinkered representation of my initial response, and I don’t intend to discuss it any further than what I’ve written below.” I find both the tone and the content of this comment to be deeply offensive and completely unacceptable, superior and abrupt.

    This is not the first time that the moderator of this forum has attacked my character and my words in such a way, but I let it go in the past. But this is the final straw and I will no longer put up with being attacked and spoken to in such a way. I will no longer accept having such judgemental aspersions cast against me, my character and my words. I have had enough of this moderator’s abusive, spiteful, angry, vitriolic, intolerant attacks upon me, my character and my words.

    If anyone cares to look at all the previous comments that I have posted in these showcases this year (I only joined it in March this year), you will find that I have never descended into personal gutter attacks and have always kept it strictly professional. Yet, the moderator of this forum shows no qualms or hesitations whatsoever upon descending to the gutter level in their attacks upon me time and time again. It is not something that I have ever experienced on any other writing forums and I refuse to put with these personal attacks upon me, which go beyond all standards of decency and professionalism, any longer.

    So, goodbye to all of you, and thank you again Mimi, GD, Sandy, John and Carl. If you wish to keep in touch with me, I would be happy to do so. All of you either have my email or are connected with me on Facebook, so we can maintain contact that way.

    Farewell!

    Like

  18. GD Deckard Avatar

    Hmm, first time anyone ever left for those reasons.
    I read the exchange in question.

    Boris wrote:
    “How could Nature ever allow
    such a glaring insult against Herself
    to arise and flourish;
    such a travesty,
    such a betrayal,
    such a perversion of the very natural order?”

    Mimi commented, “Boris, this is beautifully written. But stunningly untrue. The natural order is what it is, takes offense at nothing.”

    Sue wrote, “I had the same reaction, Mimi”

    Boris asked Sue to explain her reaction. Sue did. Boris took issue.

    Me, I saw nothing in the exchange that was “abusive, spiteful, angry, vitriolic, intolerant attacks upon” Boris. I know that the critiques in question are objective. And I know that we benefit from a frank exchange of views.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Thank you, GD. I appreciate your objectivity. I acknowledge there are two levels to my response to Boris: one is a critique of his writing and the other is a critique of his response to my critique of his writing. Neither offered any comment about the character of Boris the human being — about which I know only what he has shown us. But what he has shown us about how he accepts, rejects, or feels the need to defend against criticism has been quite revealing about Boris the writer.

      Liked by 3 people

  19. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    In this forum, and anywhere, I want to hear only completely frank assessments, opinions, etc. I will not take offense, at anything.

    I’ve never felt personally attacked, not even by JoeTV, who savaged me on Book Country. I merely felt he was as wrong as he could be.

    Sue, I respect your honesty. I want the same for anything I write. I’ll thank you for it, no matter what it consists of.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      What Mimi said, Sue 👍

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Thank you, Mimi. I’m with you — I refuse to take offense even if someone means to offend. And I respect honesty. I also work to understand why people say the things they do in any venue. That may actually be easier to do in a critique than in casual conversation where we might not be privy to all the essential background, but I have to grant that there must be a reason for what they say. Sometimes the reason proves to be lazy reading, lol, but sometimes it’s that I haven’t communicated clearly enough. In any event, the critiqued author’s job is to consider each critique without becoming defensive. Historically, this group has excelled at that.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        No matter how good of a writer you are, you are still at the mercy of the readers perception. Perception comes from personal experience or lack thereof. Perhaps when I was in my teens or twenties, I would have considered some of the critique here harsh, rather than honest and upfront, simply because in my teens or twenties, most of my feedback had been, “great job, or you’ve got the makings of a good writer” Encouraging, but at that age there is no real feedback to let me know what my pitfalls were, so then jumping in to the a more experienced group of critiquer’s (did I make that up?) I may have been dismayed to learn I had fallen short of the mark at which I thought I operated. It’s certainly tough to swallow if you’ve not had an inkling of perhaps greater skill to acquire, or if you’ve ignored the warning signs.
        In any area of my life, blatant, up front and honest discourse is not for the faint of heart. It’s like having loads of sweetener in your coffee all the time and then being handed three shots of undressed espresso. A drink with a definite acquired taste.
        For myself … give it to me straight. If it sucks … it sucks and tell me why it sucks. Likely I’ll already know, but it really is good to have a second, third and fourth opinion when you are trying to get it write. (HAH! Unintentional pun …. I think I’ll leave it there.)
        My final thought … Never ask the question you don’t want to hear the answer for.
        Sue your critique, professionalism and communication are above average. I consider you a role model. Thank you for all you do.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          Thank you, Sandy. I agree that even constructive criticism was hard to take at a young age. I was in fourth grade when Quest Magazine wanted to publish a book report I wrote about W.H. Hudson’s Green Mansions. They offered suggestions for revisions, and I remember thinking, “If they think it’s good enough to put in their magazine, then why do they want to change it?” So, inexperienced author that I was, I never sent them a revised MS. But I recall receiving a copy of the magazine with my book report in it. I just don’t remember if they made the changes themselves or let it be, lol.

          Now, I seek out other peoples’ feedback. I like a combination of non-writing readers and writers who know what makes good writing. I can see how my writing keeps improving because of their honest critiques.

          Hahaha — “critiquer’s”. You get that red dotted line, too, huh?

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Sandy Randall Avatar

            I can’t help but think of Carl’s critique story, where he was absolutely shredded, then pulled himself up and rewrote the story. To me, that is inspirational. It’s also separating yourself from your writing and looking at it objectively. I think the advice to put your writing aside and look at it later, with fresh eyes, can help you do this. Case in point. I just posted chapter 7 of the Grass Dragon story. I read and re-read and revised that chapter so many times, that by the time I posted it, I hated it. I read it once after I posted it and found some errors. Since then I am letting it sit. In order to fix those errors, I need some distance. I have two other pieces I am doing the same with. lol. That’s my example of being to close to my work.
            After even a few short months here, I find myself trying new things with writing and revision. At the moment I feel like I’m a mess, but I’m ok with that because I’m learning. Everyone here has had such wonderful insight, not just to my writing. Your comments on Johns work, opens my eyes on my own. GD and Carl’s wicked abilities to turn a phrase, gets my mind thinking. Mimi’s research process has given me all sorts of ideas and Ah ha’s. Your poetry has inspired me to dabble in it as well.
            Perhaps that’s the reason I feel I meed to name my Motley page, Mama’s little workshop of mayhem. I’m blowing up my craft and trying new things. Best part it’s fun. It’s fun to see what works and what falls flat.
            I’m just grateful I’m at the stage of life where I don’t take things personally.
            And yes … critiquers is underlined in red … kinda funny that … considering the teachers red pen is the first critique we usually get as writers … lol

            Liked by 2 people

            1. GD Deckard Avatar

              GD and Carl’s wicked abilities to turn a phrase
              Carl’s the wicked one. Really. My heart is pure.

              Liked by 2 people

        2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          One more thought. Professional agents, editors, and publishers don’t worry too much about sparing a writer’s feelings when they comment on the work. It’s true not every agent, editor, or publisher is right for every genre or writer’s style, but that’s why they let you know what they do and do not want to receive. You just have to find a good match, and hopefully they can see your potential.

          Liked by 4 people

  20. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    It is always a good thing to have our thinking challenged.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      Yup, Mimi. If no one challenges your thinking, there’s nothing new there.

      Liked by 3 people

  21. John Correll Avatar

    I want to add a big thank you to Sue for the tireless and consistent work she does voluntarily every fortnight. I imagine it is no small task collecting, compiling, converting, and vetting all our stories into a web page for the benefit of all. Sue, I genuinely appreciate the constructive space you create, and I’ve found it invaluable in improving my writing. Your dedication, imaginative prompts, and insights are inspiring, and I assure you that, for my part, they are not taken for granted. You deserve a massive round of applause.

    Liked by 3 people

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