This Show Case features eight pieces submitted in response to our thirty-second Writing Prompt: Free. 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.
The Ismity of Postmodernism
by John Correll
Ismities, or the philosoid of knowledgoids, and sophoids1. Or, to put it differently, falling in love in the age of -isms.
Commonplace suffixes, the transformative string of letters at the end of a word, like -ed and -ing, are fine and necessary yet elementary. And at the next level, the more powerful verb-to-noun converters, such as -tion, -sion, and -ment, hold their own in intellectual engagement. However, Intellectuals and academics have learned to master the might of more meaningful word manipulators such as -oid1, -ization2, -ology3, -ity4, and the all-important -ism. These tools create new abstractions, domains, limits, concepts, and ideas that offset, relate, complete, negate, and expand upon each other to express meaning, harmony, and discord. They provide the verbal equivalent of mathematical brackets, parentheses, and functions, to shape, control, and define great ideas. In short, they’re fun.
For now, I’m just concerned with the -ism, or to be more academic, the Ismity (or the state of -ism, which should not to be confused with the Ityism).
I’ll not scribble all over the whiteboard; the beauty and raw power of Ismity is king. The -ism is “a productive suffix in the formation of nouns denoting action or practice, state or condition, principles, doctrines, a usage or characteristic, devotion or adherence” (from Collins dictionary). Basically, almost anything.
For instance, take a word, I mean any word, like poop, and add an -ism at the ending, and that word, poopism, automatically gains academic validity through the process of academicization. The Ismity fires the forge of meaning, creating terms of intellectual steel.
Let me introduce some strong untamed Ismity lions:
Alterism – the concept that everything changes, which builds on from Becoming and Buddhist Anicca. Alterism fosters a hope that changes are for the better but considers the reality that this is seldom the case. Entropism, the lowest point of Alterism, results in the complete atomization of the universe, or worse. And I don’t want to go there.
Destruktionism – from Heidegger, and contrary to Zerstorung, the English translation being destruction, but also meaning annihilation, yet has nothing to do with Annihilationism, is where Heidegger considers the process of taking apart specific meanings in order to discover the true nature of being, which is closely related to Reverse-engineeringism or Rückgängigemaschinenbauizeirung.
Distortionism – the belief that time and space are irrelevant to physicality. This practice allows a person with a girth of 300 inches to sit in the middle airline seat of 20 inches width, 24B to be exact, without feeling ethically responsible for the death by suffocation of the window seat passenger in 24A who happened to be a dear friend. Doctor Who introduced this concept in the early 1960s with his Tardis.
Feralism – the belief that everything should be in a state of ferality, and also related to Barefootism and Not-house-trainedism.
Freeism – contrary to urban myth, this has nothing to do with the equitable distribution of capital to create a freer society. Freeism is a blend of Realism, which is free but not fair, and Cynicism, which is also free and grumpy. For example, if the world is your oyster, then you can be quadruply sure that you are allergic to seafood. Or, if the world gives you lemons, then the store won’t have any sugar, or you won’t have the money to buy it, or everyone you meet, including yourself, will be on a sugar-free diet, or you’ll have gotten so drunk off limoncello, I mean the falling asleep in your own vomit kind of drunk, that just the first syllable of lemonade makes you spew.
Frustrationism – the understanding that scarcity increases with urgency, especially regarding inner city car parking or the need to find the toilet in a shopping mall.
Grannyism – the belief that every damaged or broken entity must be nurtured back to wholeness regardless of the dire evolutionary consequences. But everyone loves Granny, so I can’t say more.
Ityism – the conjecture that complex suffixes can alter the future of human enlightenment and entertainment. Some scholars refer to this as utter BS, followed by more of the same (MS), just PHD.
Labelism – the belief that everything is yours and should be marked as such. Not related to Labeling in the sociological sense, but similar to Ownerism, where everything is yours, and everybody better bloody-well know it.
Obstinatism – a mindset against changing anything, tied to concepts of Backupism where everything should be restored, which established the foundation of Jurassic-Parkism and Museology.
Oppositionalism – a position opposed to everything and the dialectic of Agreeableism, closely related to Absurdism. If you understand this, then you’re wrong.
Roboism – the belief that everything is a robot built to serve a higher order (see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)
Unrealism – the belief that limitations, whether social or physical, are meaningless. The 45th president of the United States provides the most robust example of this in practice.
The Ismity is great, and in the spirit of Feralism, feel free to release your own Ismities into the wild. Perhaps another day, I’ll present the equally fascinating academic beast, the -ity or Ityism (see J. Correll, Kolnosity: The Kolnos Adventures Volume 6, 2017).
- -oid – a suffix meaning “resembling” or “like.”
- -ization – a suffix forming nouns denoting the act, process, or result of doing something, or of making something (Wikipedia).
- -ology – a suffix commonly used in the English language to denote a field of study (Wikipedia).
- -ity – a suffix showing quality, state, or degree.
For your further enlightenment, I’ve included a list of familiar philosophical, political, psychological, religious, and sociological -isms:
This diatribe manifested itself as a severe symptom of a disabling bout of Poststructuralism which later developed into the life-threatening condition of Postmodernism. Luckily, my wife keeps copies of a number of philosophical tomes, from Aristotle to Žižek, in the medicine cabinet, which provided some relief but not a cure1.
Footnote – Appendix B: 1. I am not sure if I’m on the mend or not.
Porcelain Blues – formerly Dullard’s Dance – ending
by John Correll
Kurt found his partner by the exit, studying his watch. “Where did Frau Polansky go?”
Bert pointed at a crowd waiting for the tram. “She’s there. But the tram doesn’t arrive for fifteen minutes. We’ll walk to the next stop and avoid jumping in front of the tram again.”
Without a word, Bert dashed off. But a minute later, a puke green dump truck raced by him with a horrid flash of past destruction. Memories crushed his ambition, and he stopped. Turning around, he found Kurt meandering like a parking ticket warden a hundred yards behind. Bert scrutinized his watch again but waited.
“Wow. I thought the old Bert was back — eager to jump ahead,” Kurt said as he approached. “But that dump truck hit you. Didn’t it?”
“Shut up.” Bert ground his teeth and stared straight ahead to shut out the world.
“Come on. Everyone knows the rumor. The great Bert. No one got away from you. Until you almost got away yourself.”
“Lies.” He jerked his head to the side like a stalked deer.
“Oh, really? Who could blame you when Gudrun left. You must have been heartbroken.”
Bert’s fingernails cut his palms. “I’m going to punch you in the face, Kurt.”
“Sorry. I went too far.” Kurt raised his hands, and Bert’s fists relaxed.
The pair continued in silence until Bert broke down, “I wasn’t running away. I’d never do that to my son. Never. When that escapee smashed the dump truck into the wall and ran off to the west with a limp, I knew I could grab and drag him back. So I jumped over the rubble and…”
Kurt shook his head. “But the border police didn’t see it that way.”
“They shot me.” He rubbed the lump on his arm where the bullet hit. “Assholes. I showed my badge. I shouted that he’s getting away, but that didn’t matter.”
“At least Major Gehorsam believed you.”
“I’m not sure. Why do you think I’m with you?”
Kurt’s already pink cheeks flushed like a stoplight. “Because I’m a loser. A failed athlete and never-has-been. Is that what you mean?”
“Yes.” Bert stopped and snatched Kurt’s arm. “No. Damn you. I’m envious.”
Kurt faced him with a hand on his chest. “What? Me?”
“You. You have it all. You enjoy this job. You have a loving family and those stupid hobbies; porcelain and handkerchiefs. But what about me? Nothing. I just get Sundays when I can see Peter. And now she’s signed the papers, and it’s over.” Bert pulled out a cigarette and stuck it between his lips but forgot to light it.
“Why did Gudrun leave?”
“I didn’t cheat, if that’s what you mean. I was — just never home. Not for dinner or weekends. It’s easier trapping people than talking to them. But I still…” He threw the unlit cigarette on the ground. “Being the best had its price.”
“But you have plenty of time now. Why don’t you talk to her?”
Bert laughed at Kurt’s honesty. “If life only worked that way.”
“Sometimes it does.” The tram passed them, and Mrs. Polansky waved and winked from the rear window. “Should we run, Bert?”
Bert punched his hands in his pockets, hunched his shoulders, and walked on. “No.”
Barbara kept a firm hand on Jo’s leash and checked her watch. Only five more minutes. The envelope rested on the bench, and Jo strangled himself to reach the ducks on the fountain’s edge. The birds mocked his begging howls with mindful sleep. But then, an old woman, gray and stiff as a starched World War One trench coat, marched up to Jo and locked her skeleton fingers around his chin.
“My little schnauzer-shin, don’t you want to wring those horrid fat bird’s necks,” she said. Then, with motherly familiarity, she sat next to Barbara. “It’s a crime to have to keep him tied up. I used to have a dachshund, little Maaxy. What a hero. If no one was watching, I’d let him go, and he’d clip those pooping pests right in the ass. But he got old. Like me.” She reached into her coat, pulled out a silver flask, and offered it to Barbara.
Barbara shook her head. “Thank you. No”
“Oh, you’re English.”
Barbara pretended to look at her watch. “American. Sorry. It was so nice talking to you, but I need to meet my husband for lunch.” She stood and walked away. For some odd reason, she found lying to the old woman — easy.
The old lady picked up the envelope and waved it. “Madame! You forgot this.”
Barbara turned and glared. Technically, she hadn’t forgotten, and the envelope belonged to the US government, so it wasn’t really hers. “That’s not mine. Someone must have left it,” she admitted. That someone just happened to be her.
“Ah, then it’s mine.” The lady gave the envelope a shake as Barbara scurried away with pride. She managed not to lie — much, and she completed her mission.
She exited the park where two men shuffled behind a bullet-scarred, soot-covered statue guarding the entrance.
“Hi, Bert and Kurt.” She waved. Kurt smashed his nose against the statue’s belly, and Bert locked his eyes on his shoes. They refused her greeting, and she didn’t bother waiting. Instead, she rushed down the street for the tram.
“She’s passed on the envelope,” Kurt whispered.
Bert tugged on his arm. “If we arrest this old spy on the bench, we can be heroes again.” He took out his badge and rushed the old lady.
“In the name of the State Security Police of the German Democratic Republic, you are under arrest.” The lady ignored him, looked in the envelope, sighed, and placed it back on the bench. Bert thrust his ID in front of her face. She snarled, snatched his arm, twisted sideways like a kicked-open door, and tossed Bert over the bench into a rose bush.
Kurt rushed up. “You can’t throw my partner…” The lady locked her fingers onto his coat lapel arched backward and sent Kurt sailing into the bench, where he crashed into Bert attempting to climb out of the bush.
“Young man. Do you know who I am?” The old lady brushed herself off. Kurt reached into his pocket and yanked out his pistol, but the swishing lady’s foot kicked the weapon like death’s sickle into the air. It sailed into the fountain and sank. “I am FRAULEIN OBERST TIEFENMESSER, SSP and KGB self-defense instructor, retired.”
“The Tiefenmesser. But you’re a myth,” Bert said as he struggled to remove his pistol from his shoulder holster.
Tiefenmesser Battered Bert twice in the head, and he collapsed like a drenched motel towel to the ground.
“But you have the envelope,” Kurt moaned.
“Nonsense. That’s not mine. Your spy waltzed away with her adorable schnauzer, you fool.” Kurt tried to stand, but she gave him a lightning kick in the gut sending him back to the bench. Then she took a drink from her flask and paraded off.
Kurt held his stomach and gazed skyward. He pulled out the envelope he sat on and checked its contents. It contained a packet of flattened camels and an embroidered handkerchief with the letter B.
Shaking his head, he staggered to the fountain, retrieved his pistol, and soaked the handkerchief. Then he returned to the bench, where Bert tried to pull himself up.
Kurt helped him and gave him the handkerchief.
“What’s in the envelope?” Bert asked as he cooled his swollen forehead.
“It’s on your head. And these.” Kurt pulled a crooked cigarette from the packet and stuck it in his mouth, then offered one to Bert, who pulled out his lighter.
The two men inhaled and blew smoke together. “The envelope was empty, right?” Bert said.
“Exactly. And what about that woman?” Kurt coughed.
“Tiefenmesser? Only a myth. She’s not real.” Bert inhaled again and shook his head which made him grimace in agony.
“Lucky for us, she’s an ancient and slow myth.”
Bert laughed with closed eyes, and Kurt joined him, coughing and holding his middle.
Two tram stops back toward the Spree river, Barbara sat over lunch at the Palasthotel, and Jo sulked under the table, daydreaming of duck pâté. “I like this red cabbage. Is it the garlic?”
Abe shrugged his shoulders. “You still have the red handkerchief.” He frowned like a three-year-old whose ice cream disappeared down a dog’s throat.
“Of course, dear. You said it was important.”
Abe leaned forward and plucked the cloth from her pocket. A small East German flag unfurled over the table. “What the? You did lose it.”
“Was I supposed to?”
“Now, come to think of it, it was a bit stiff. Like a message was hidden in a double lining. Why would you have a double-lined handkerchief anyways?”
“I thought I lost it on the tram, so I ran into the Centrum. You know. Ah, then again, you don’t go shopping.” Abe shook his head. “Anyways, they didn’t have red, so I got this flag. A bargain for one Mark. But the tricky bit was folding it, so only the red showed.”
“That’s why I love you, Barb. You’re so resourceful.”
“That old man on the tram. Did he take it?” Abe surveyed his hands. “No. It was already gone by then. It must have been before. The flower lady. She stuck those flowers right against me. It was her, wasn’t it?”
Abe extinguished a smile. “There are times when you shouldn’t ask so many questions.”
“When is that, dear?”
“But I saved the free world. I have a right to know.”
“All I can say is little acts of lying help people too.”
“Seriously, dear, you shouldn’t lie to your loving wife. It was the flower lady, right?” Abe laughed, and Barbara crossed her arms, waiting for an answer.
Abe looked from side to side to check no one was watching, then nodded, “yes.”
“Well, dear, you must seriously reconsider the ethics of employing old ladies to do your dirty work.” She took a bite of cabbage and molded a devious smile.
I’ve rewritten part one to hopefully fix some of the issues Mimi and GD mention. I’ve placed it here under my pseudonym if you’re curious: https://mikelorcler.wordpress.com/2022/12/09/porcelain-blues/
In the mood for flinging phrases at the door.
by John Correll
Too many times, my words fall flat. Odiously dull to drab despair. And as much as I hum to myself, the recorded tunes screech with salted mediocrity. Emotionless and gray.
I weep for a forlorn mood, my timid terror, the I-can’t-give-a-fuck-what-you-think trance. Impossible to tackle and hug. Come back, please.
Lonely strangers pass; insanity, fatigue, sickness, and drugs fanning whispers of inspiration. And music’s vibrations? Not distracting melodies sung — but tunes reverberating in my soul. Echoes yanking a secret trigger to past and present feelings and pains. Agony, love, despair, and bliss. The horror and joy of hearts freed. Emotions fleeing and flying away.
Listen, dear friend, heed my scream; never scribe without strains of discord.
by Mimi Speike
In his younger years, Dee had refused a professorship at a prestigious European university, choosing to return to London, where he invented the navigational tools that made England the greatest sea power the world had ever known. He’s proud of the contribution he’s made to national security. He is, heart and soul, an English patriot. He never speaks of his current involvement with Sir Francis Walsingham (aside from a mutual interest in music), but to boast just a bit, to a cat, of his connection to Elizabeth’s Spymaster, he feels is an acceptable indiscretion.
* * *
John Dee starts for the house.
“Doctor!” cries Sly, “A word to the wise, sir. Gado’s using you.”
Dee won’t let that comment go unchallenged. “He’s not using me. I’m using him.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I know the scrut.”1
“I don’t need to explain myself,” spits Dee, “but I will. In the Red Room, at a table well away from other gamesome folks, openly, no secret convocation, but big ears at a distance, he and I engage over our game of Primero. During a spirited confrontation, plenty of cursing and hurling of glassware adding to the merriment, Gado makes his report, and I apprise him of matters Mr. Secretary wants looked into. We put nothing in writing. He has no documents to shop around, as we have discovered to be his way. The man has his sticky fingers in many a pie; he is watched by several embassies, and others. I do not associate with him but for these evenings, during our well-advertised running rivalry: A crackpot mathematician is obsessed with outwitting a notorious blackleg,2 a reasonable story, I believe.
“Señor Del Gato has talents, and connections, and credentials no one can match. He reads people like no one I ever met. He ingratiates, discovers what one longs for, gives it to him. But, who’s to say he might not fall for his own joke? Money, he’ll lay hands on it one way or t’other. What doesn’t come so readily? Status. Solid-gold status. Could I work a miracle for him? Not a title, but an aristocratic pedigree — he’s a younger son gone wrong — that snags him a wife of position, of unassailable lineage. Him an out-and-out thug, that’s a tall order. Anyone else making that pitch, he’s skeptical. The Magus of Mortlake, maybe not so much.
“He figures me for a scamster. That’s his read of me. I’ve been content to have him think it, builds fellowship. Tonight, I reveal myself adept at arts I have denied being master of. I will offer him his own heart’s desire, to live well, yes, but more than that, to be respected. He’ll certainly want proof I can deliver. Give me something on him, something I would have no possible way of knowing.”
Sly grins. “Ask but this: What came of Feo? Tell him: Feo did right by you at La Rochelle. I trust you’ve done right by him. Watch the crud go white. Caramba! He is a seer! When the Clara was nabbed by a privateer, Gato, Feo, Pedro, and I were transferred to the Turbulent. Off La Rochelle, one of our captors was bribed to arrange an escape. Almost to shore, a fist fight upset our skiff. Pedro swam to safety, me grabbed onto to his coat. We wasted no time melting into the bustle of a market town. John Cole took off in Gado’s boots, convinced a trick heel housed a fortune in gemstones. Gado lay flat on his back on the sand, bleeding from a head wound, Feo beside him, the faithful companion comforting an injured comrade. Anyone who didn’t know those two like I do might have been touched by the sight.”
“Interesting,” says Dee. “Gado appeared at Seething Lane six months ago, some the worse for wear. It was a fortunate timing. Sir Francis had him in mind for a particular assignment. He recommended him to Lord Robert for a resourceful villain. The Earl took to him, just what we’d hoped for. He’s grand company, when he wants to be.”
Sly sighs. “Everybody’s goomba,3 same as on the Clara. Answer me this: the man’s a weasel. Dudley’s no dunce. How come he’s not figured that out? Well, we don’t know that, do we? Maybe he has. Something to think about, eh?”
“Your Honor! Gado’s on his third pint by now. He’ll be good for nothing if I tarry much longer. But before I join him… This Feo. Give me more on him, more to work with.”
“A low-life!” snarls Sly. “Takes advantage every chance he gets. Honor is for fools, and he prides himself on being no kind of fool. He’s the ugliest, filthiest, vilest tom I’ve ever run into, and I’ve run into plenty of ’em. Feo was my superior on the merchantman. Tempersome from the first, an’ that his pleasant side. ‘Twas him hired me onto that cursed tub. I thank him for that at least, or poor Pedro would’ve been done for. It was Feo alerted freebooting-filth to my boy hid beneath a pile of sail. Them jack-slicks would’ve seized him at some point, but the black beast made swift work of the ransack.
“Two piss-pots took to one another like a dung beetle takes to a new-laid pile of poo. Gado convinced the English he could solve a problem for them, but refused to be pulled safe off a splintered wreck unless Feo was salvaged also. He dragged the varmint ashore at La Rochelle, refused to abandon him in that situation. He’s clawed his way back here. He’s got Feo’s with him, unless that slimeball met with some mischance, I’d bet my cojones on it. I’m quite attached to my cojones. I wouldn’t risk being relieved of ’em. This is as sure a wager as ever I made.
- An unscrupulous adventurer, living from plunder. Derived from Dutch vrijbuiter (vrij-buit. Free-plunder). First recorded use 1570.
- A low, meant person.
- Blackleg: A card-playing swindler. The term implies the seeking of subsistence by dishonorable betting, but does not always imply direct cheating. The expression originated from the rook, a bird with black legs. Rooks are cunning thieves.
- Goomba: from Sicilian cumpà: ‘mate’ or ‘fellow’. Sly picked up the term during his travels in Italy.
Freedom’s Just Another Word
by Perry Palin
Four years after my mother died my grief was an open, painful wound. It wouldn’t heal. We lived a long way from town. I had no neighbors of my age. We were poor. Our father was always working. My sisters had their own griefs and grievances. School had little to offer, easy lessons, long boring hours, and no close friends. I heard Janis Joplin singing on my sister’s radio, and I knew that if I had nothing left to lose, at least I was free.
The country where we lived was second growth forest north of the Lake Superior shore, abandoned to the bears after the loggers took all the big pines, and it was small profitless farms that hung onto narrow gravel roads. Small streams ran for miles between the roads. I followed the paths to good fishing. The woods were aspens and hardwoods and balsams, with the rare pines on the hillsides, and leaning white cedars in wide swamps. In the spring everything smelled sweet and fresh and green. Bloodroots carpeted the ground and marsh marigolds bloomed in quiet places. In the spring I heard geese calling overhead and grouse drumming in the woods. Redstarts and warblers chased mayflies over the water. I found moose tracks at the edges of the streams, and I watched mink hunting along the banks, and there were otters in the water at times and beavers in their deep ponds. In slow places a great blue heron would rise ponderously into the air and fly upstream.
Fishing was a relief from the ruins of a family and the tedium of school. There was nothing at home or in school to compare with laying on a high bank to watch the brook trout shift in the current over golden gravel to catch the drifting flies. There was nothing to compare to listening at night to the barred owls calling across the forest, or laying on my sleeping bag and watching through an opening in the treetops as the Milky Way turned a million stars in the sky. Nothing to compare with waking to the songs of the small birds in the trees, pulling on dew-cold shoes, stirring my cooking fire, drinking boiled coffee and eating fried eggs and buttered bread, and walking down to the stream to fish in a summer dawn.
by SL Randall
“Goddammit! He’s late!” I curse and light another cigarette. The first drag quiets the trembles of my hands a bit.
I glance at my watch. We’re up in twenty minutes. Dammit! Where is he?
I finish my cig and enter the bar. Blue Spider is ending their set with a cover of Mr. Brownstone.
A spasm wrenches my gut. I’m on my knees.
A tap on my shoulder, “Dude, you look like shit.”
No words, I hand over my cash and crawl to a dark corner of the bar to get well.
“Yowsa!” Blue Spider finishes, as my illness subsides.
Terms And Conditions
by GD Deckard
Roy’s FREE STUFF MARKET introduced a new retailing concept: Free goods provided by advertisers. His store was immediately swamped.
“People just want free stuff.” Roy knew he sounded unctuous. But he was talking to a reporter. “If you offer, they will come.”
“How can you afford to give away free merchandise?” Janus Fabulist asked, mainly for the sake of injecting skepticism into the interview.
“I’ve been very fortunate in life, Janus.” Roy bowed his head and clasped his hands to his chest. “I just want to give back to the community.”
The camera panned out to show the line into the store extending down the block. “You’re a Good Man, Roy,” the reporter had to admit.
In the sanctuary of his office moments later, Roy grinned at his attorney.
“You’re covered,” she assured him. “No one gets through the revolving front door without pressing the thumb print button. And that button is clearly marked, ‘I Accept the Terms and Conditions.’”
“Which you wrote.”
Claire beamed. Among attorneys, she was known for her ability to present legalese in fine print that looked like barcode. “The button also records their DNA.” Selling customers’ personal information is how Roy made money.
“Of course. We don’t use anyone’s name. That would be unlawful tracking.”
Roy drummed his fingers on his desk. “What else?”
“Store cameras analyze the unique ways customers tap and fumble with their smartphones. We get phone numbers, social media connections, political views -and facial recognition lets us track customers on public cams after they leave.”
“Good. And?” Roy prompted.
“Our free phone-to-computer smart link provides us with IP address, web cookies, host information, approximate host location, pages visited, services used, online purchases, banking details, stuff like that. Anything on their computer, really. Resumes, reference letters, email address, details of any institutional affiliation, registration information for events, even what news biases they prefer.”
Claire shrugged. “Well, we also gather public information. Date of birth, gender, nationality, marriage licenses, property records, court cases, employer and job function,” she paused. “We uh, -and you don’t want to know the details- but we sometimes have to dig a little deeper for protected information like social security numbers and medical records. But we get it.”
Roy grinned and shook his head, amazed. “And it’s all disclosed in the Terms and Conditions.”
by S.T. Ranscht