This Show Case features five pieces submitted in response to our thirty-third Writing Prompt: Generally speaking. 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.
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by GD Deckard
The children watched it approach, a dark spot on the horizon becoming a dust cloud then a dust cloud following a truck on a road through the savannah. Others came out of the village to watch, excited.
“It’s the NGO!”
“Yes! The NGO is coming.”
“We’re saved,” they told each other. “Food is coming.”
The children were very hungry. Malnourished and too weak to cheer, they watched the truck arrive, U-turn and back up to the people. Brisk young men and women jumped out. They set up a solar charged satellite station and wired it to a TV on a table and got back into the truck and drove off. Everyone gathered around to watch the cooking shows.
In New York, Roy studied the invoice and smiled. “Giving needy people a TV is expensive.” He waived the invoice at his attorney. “Donors will pay handsomely for this one.”
Claire winced. Sometimes, she despaired of Roy’s understanding. “Aren’t non-governmental organizations supposed to do things like end starvation? Wipe out preventable diseases? Lift people out of poverty?”
“Generally speaking, they never do any of those things.”
Roy regarded his beautiful attorney sadly, as if she didn’t know where babies came from. Or profits. “They’d go out of business, Claire.”
Golden Duo Due Do
by John Correll
“Generally speaking, no, not at all.”
“But this isn’t normal. I mean, if what you’re saying is true, which I’m not saying it is.” Allan put a hand on his stomach and grimaced.
“Why would I make this up?”
“You won the lottery, and you’re playing with me, right?”
“Shit, it’s heavy.” Allan tossed the object in his palm. “For a year? Wow. But if it were me, I’d be worried, like running to the doctor for every test they have.”
Mike raised his chin with assertive experience. “Did that.”
“Better than normal. My blood pressure’s down. Heart’s perfect. No more joint aches. The doctor joked I was getting younger. But I’m still worried. Every other week. Pop. On schedule.”
“Jesus. And you pick it out?”
“It comes out clean. A perfect egg. Nothing else. I know when it’s coming. There’s no denying that.”
“Come on. This isn’t possible. And what does your doctor really think about all this egg business?”
“But you said…”
“I didn’t mention one detail. Think about it; what would happen to me if this got out?”
“They’d get a bunch of experts to study you.”
“They’d lock me up. Or worse, someone would kidnap me to be their own little golden goose. That egg is worth about $150,000.”
“Holy sheat.” Allan raised the egg to the light and squinted. “Yeah. This is one hell-of-a dilemma.”
“Dilemma? No. I’m careful and make regular trips to the island.”
“The tax haven? Clever.”
“You should come. My treat.”
“Really? Sure, why not if it’s free.”
“I’ll retire soon with a nice nest egg or eggs. Then I’ll stay there.”
“But what about Sara? What does she say?”
“I told her I got a promotion.”
“Mike — that’s not right.”
“I know; I tell her everything. But this? I don’t know where to begin. It’s embarrassing.”
“You told me. It shouldn’t be hard.”
“You don’t believe me.”
Allan shuffled his feet, stuck his hands in his pockets, and slowly rocked his head back and forth. “No. No. Maybe.”
“What am I going to say to her? ‘Dear, you know all those vacations, I’ve been paying for those by pooping deposits at the bank.’” Allan snorted a laugh.
“I see your point. Have you changed your diet, or something?”
“Are you kidding? Since this started, I’ve changed everything. Distilled water, decaf coffee, vegan, raw vegan, all meat, all fish, all chicken, all fat, salt, whiskey, you name it. Nothing stops it. And my blood tests? Perfect every time. But I don’t know if I really want it to stop.”
“I guess, if it’s not hurting you, just keep it going. Say, maybe a little gnome sticks it up your ass when you sleep.” Mike burst out laughing and rolled to the side.
“I need to go.”
“What? We just started.”
“No. I’ll be right back.” Mike grabbed a large pot from the kitchen and then disappeared into the toilet. After a minute, Allan heard a metallic clank, and Mike returned with the pot.
“Here.” He presented a second golden egg, but Allan kept his hand securely pocketed. “It’s not shitty.” Mike went to the sink. “Fine, look, I’ll even use detergent.” He wiped it dry with a paper towel. “There. All spiffy.”
Allan took the egg and pretended not to smell it. “What if this is some sort of radiation poisoning thing?”
“Nope. I got a Geiger counter.”
“Okay. Alien abduction? You know the old rumors?”
“Probably the most logical explanation, but I’ve set up security cameras and everything. And not a sign.”
Allan clanked the two eggs together, hard, and a chip cracked off one egg revealing a gray metal under a golden patina. Allan shook and nodded his head then both men collided in breathless laughter.
“I almost had you.”
“You bastard. I still want a free trip to the island.”
“Sure. I didn’t lie about the promotion.”
“And these eggs?”
“Samples for the gold enamel project I’m heading. There’s still a thousand dollars worth of gold on each egg.”
“You’re shittin’ me.”
Mike reached to take the eggs. “Not this time.”
Allan handed over the broken one and pocketed the other. “After all the practical jokes, Mike, I deserve a memento.”
Mike closed his eyes and nodded. “But don’t expect me to stop.”
The Sanest1 Noddle She Ever Met
by Mimi Speike
Sly’s pacing, and he’s fuming. “He’ll come for me, will he? Screw that! I’m not waiting to be come for. I’m marching in there, now.” He spots Delly under the coach. “And you, m’darling, you’re marching in there with me.”
Delly, peering through the spokes of a wheel (she’s been there all this time), is aghast. “Me? You mean well I’m sure, but… Sir! I must respectfully decline. I can’t see it working out. A cat might maybe be let in. A chicken? Not a chance, but she be plucked and gutted.”
“Trust me, my girl,” says Sly. “An idea is just now come to me. Back in a sec.” He claws up the side of the coach and through a window. In a few minutes, articles of clothing drop to the ground. He’s raided a lost-found box under the seat, selecting an infant’s bonnet, a child-size set of fancy sleeves–possibly shed on a sweltering day, not to perspire into them,2 an embroidered apron. Tied backward around Delly’s waist area (she can’t be said to have a waist, per se), it will be an elegant skirt with a train. He has chosen for himself a green-and-purple-striped sash which, wound round and round his mid-section, ends tucked into the wrap, will make an eye-catching cumberbund, the smart style in Haute-Navarre.
He attires her, stands back, and observes his work. “You look damn presentable, m’darling,” he assures her. “Show me a dainty gait. Glide. You can glide, can’t ye?”
“Don’t rightly know,” says Delly. “We’uns don’t glide, normally. Mostly, we run for our lives. From a dog, a fox, the cook. No, we don’t do too much gliding, I can tell you.”
They’ve attracted an audience. Hens. A sow. And a goat, whom the children of the house had gifted earlier in the day with a velvet beret. He’s been wearing it all afternoon, proud as punch. They’d awarded him also a name, Frenchie. Frenchie ducks into the stable, emerges with a broad-brimmed straw hat, worn to tend the garden under hot sun. It’s kept, handy to all, on a peg on the wall next to other items of workaday gear. He perches it on the sow’s head. Sly, delighted, snugs the drawstring under her chin.
“I glide!” insists Frenchie. “Look!” He demonstrates, the hens cheering him on. Prancing critters circle the coach as Sly beats a rhythm on the side of the conveyance with a trowel clutched between his two paws. Once, twice around, and they collapse, giggling.
“Tonight,” says Sly “Dell an’ me are worming inside that entertainment, but I’ll slip out and fiddle you a tune, special. We can’t let the swanks have all the fun, can we? You folks pull your weight in this establishment. Tonight, boys and girls, them toffs, us nobodies, we all jollify.
Sly had trained himself to ambulate upright (for a few paces) as a member of the King’s Archers, in Haute-Navarre. He demonstrates the step-pause-step-pause of that unit during the ceremonial changing of the guard in the throne room. “Can you handle this, Dell? Give it a try.”
The hen waddles fetchingly, it’s the best she can do. “I’m no good at this, am I?” she peeps.
“Don’t fret, hon. I’m no great shakes as a stepper myself. I fake it for a few yards, then I collapse onto all fours. We’ll work around it. You have other contributions to make. You’ve a handsome bulk to ye.”
Delly shudders. “Ya, making me a top pick for the next-month dinner dance.”
“I won’t lie, sweetheart, ’tis a distinct possibility. The simples among us would counsel you to come to terms with your God-ordained fate. Me, I’m a life-long rebel, ever chasing the better. There is a richness on the world, abundant pleasures that make life a sweet thing despite the pain none of us escape. I swear to see you have your taste of wonderful before ye end a tough old bird enriching a poor man’s soup. I perceive a low center of gravity makes you exceptional steady on your feet. If you don’t mind, Mistress, I’d lean into you. If I were to wrap an arm around you, I believe I could balance on my hind legs handily. May I do so?”
“But of course, kind sir.” Delly’s low mood is done. She’s in high feather. There’s an immediate change in her bearing.
Inside the house there will be walls to hug. An elbow artfully deployed against a wall on the one side, the hen supporting him on the other, Sly might mimic a blade attending a lady of fashion quite decently. And a charming couple will not be summarily ejected.
“We proceed single file,” instructs Sly. “You first, I follow. I’ll hoist your train so it doesn’t get filthy from the yard. We don’t thread through the cook’s realm. Doctor Dee has shown me a side way. Through that door, we find ourselves in a parlor. Once in, we strut as if we own the place. Act like you know what you’re doing, like you belong, people take you for what you pretend to be. It’s worked for me all my life.
“If I hadn’t envisioned, then willed a determined, take-no-prisoners critter into existence, I’d be back in Cumbria, tasked with slaughtering mice whose only crime was trying to earn a modest living. A dozen barn cats didn’t suffice for old MacGuffy. He set traps, all over. I made it my business to discover them, and extract the morsels of cheese without injury to myself. I was one crafty slurp.”
“Still are,” says Delly. She gives him a peck on the cheek.
“I disabled those diabolical contraptions when I spied one, dispersed the goodies in safe locales. To crow–I’ve seen it plenty of times from plenty of the so-called crown-of-creation types–to rhapsodize over a poor wee thing dying a slow, painful death in a devilish trap, that turns my stomach. Eat-or-be-eaten survival, it’s the way of the world. That I can live with. But an elemental urge is one thing. Celebrated cruelty is another.
“It was poor ma caught hell for that, as if it was her fault. Pa scolded her. Mother! You encouraged this one in his fancies, now see the result! This is none o’ my doing. It’s you ’n that broke-brain brother3 o’ yers fills ’im with these notions.
“I was a dreaming lad. ’Twas a pleasant thing, on a fine day, to sit on a slope of meadow, watch goings-on near and far, and wonder. At night, I’d look up at the stars and wonder more, in a grudging land, hard to pull a living out of, otherwise, rich as could be. Smells. Tastes. Music surrounded me… the buzz of dragonflies, canbottlins cheeping, the nesting caw of the rooks. Good, ill, it all had a part in making me the lunatic I am.”
Delly looks at him askance. “You’re odd, yes. A lovely odd. Lunatic? Nay, dear friend. You’re the sanest noddle4 ever I met.”
- Generally, also relatively, speaking. (All things considered.)
- A sleeve on an elaborate costume was often a separate item, replaced as it became stained or worn, or to refresh the look.
- Sly’s Unk Dek, his Uncle Declan, yearned to see the world as a ship’s cat but hadn’t the guts to pull free of his safe life in Borrowtown, Cumbria. He planted the idea in his nephew’s brain, and Sly, as we know, acted on it.
- Noddle: the head or brains. The term ‘noodle’, a stupid person, came before the culinary sense in English, probably thanks to the earlier noddle, first recorded in the fifteenth-century. May be related to the verb ‘nod’, meaning to briefly incline the head.
A Glimpse of Dunia
by SL Randall
“We can’t use it.”
Dunia looked up from the computer, “We can’t keep the portal open long enough to get our people back. Generally speaking, the hole we punch into the membrane snaps back like a rubber band. We run the risk of stranding the research team, or worse killing anyone passing through when it closes.”
“Does it matter?” Darren checked the clock on his monitor.
“Of course, it matters! We’re talking lives.” Snapped Dunia.
Darren stood up, straightened his tie and shrugged on his suit jacket, “It doesn’t matter. That’s not our problem. Sophia wants a working model yesterday. That is what matters.” He picked up his briefcase and moved toward the lab door.
“It’s lives, Darren. Human lives. How can you be so unconcerned?” She glared at him and sneered, “I know Sophia is a cold bitch, but even she has to realize deaths cost her bottom line!”
Darren sighed heavily. “You have until ten a.m. tomorrow to work it out. Either way we present a working model to Sophia at noon.”
Dunia slumped back in her chair. “What happened Darren? When did the bottom line become more important than human lives? What’s happened to you?”
Darren hung his head. “Dunia, you more than anyone, know what I have been through. When do I get my fair shake?”
“Get out.” she said wearily. “I don’t know you anymore, and I like you even less.”
A screwdriver whizzed by his head and clattered off the wall behind him.
“Bitch!” he swore and slammed the door as he left.
“Dick.” she muttered at the closed door and slumped back in her chair.
She frowned at the divot in the wall, then sat up straight. A moment of inspiration energized her. “A divot.” She murmured. “What if ….”
Notes from the Author:
This is a brief moment in the development of Dunia, for the Multiverse Anthropologist story. Originally, she was meant to simply be a tech worker assigned to an Anthropologist. She has become so much more. Currently she is the one who has developed the tech which allows Adventravia to explore other Universes.
The problem? Dunia has a heart and a conscience as well as the brains to figure out how Quantum gravitational membranes work. Something, I as the author am deeply, woefully, and exponentially deficient of such knowledge. But I am researching. Which has been a fun exploration. So far, I have read about biological cell membranes, (which resurfaced long forgotten memories of high school biology) and I am currently burning brain cells on listening to a nearly three-hour lecture from Quantum Gravity Research. The beginning of their mission statement is quoted here, “QGR’s mission is to discover and communicate the geometric unification of space, time, matter, energy, information and consciousness.”
Hopefully by the end of this process, Dunia and I will have a working model of safely traversing the Multiverse. Despite Sophia’s lack of care, and Darren’s weak character, we will save lives!
by S.T. Ranscht
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