Here’s the Thing, January 17, 2022

This Show Case features three pieces submitted in response to our eighth Writing Prompt: Here’s the Thing. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for this 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:

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Those submissions are due by the end of Monday, May 30, 2022, and will be published here the following Friday. Please attach yours as a .docx, .doc, or .pdf to an email to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. (Guidelines: any genre, approximately 6 – 1,000 words.)

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

Here’s the Thing

by GD Deckard

It was a beautiful day, mild and clear, but Alabama north of Highway 84 just across the Chattahoochee River was heavily wooded and rough going. Bob and Piper walked in silence while their alien companion, Old Spice, one eye pointed inward, searched his Braincrib Notes for directions. The three-foot tall rotund visitor had asked his two best native friends to walk with him to the aliens’ final departure point. No use staying. Earth’s civilization was doomed. And Spice was hoping that a walk in the culture one last time might give him a clue as to why.

By midday, exhaustion sat in as one by one, they heard the sound of drums in the distance. Topping a hill, they looked down on an open valley. Below was a one street town. The block-long street had houses on both sides and at the edge of town it turned into a dirt road that wound away into the woods. “Down there,” Spice pointed. “We follow that road. It goes north-west into the woods and therefore towards Departure.”

“If you say so.” Walking downhill appealed to Bob. Drawing nearer, they saw crowds of people and the drums became a full band milling in the short street. Booths lined the street.

Someone must have spotted them for at the town’s edge they were greeted by, apparently, the mayor. “Welcome to Gay Camellia, Alabama! Home of the world famous annual and grand Diversity Street Faire!” The little bearded man wore a pink camellia in the lapel of his leprechaun suit.

“Thank you Sir or Madam,” Piper shook his hand. “We could use some freshening up first. If you can show us your public conveniences?”

But the Mayor was not to be put off his talking points. “Nowhere else will you see all these groups assembled peacefully together! The Gays have sheathed their claws; the NRA is unarmed. Even the Abortionists and their Antis are sharing booth space.” He beamed and waved at his town. “Isn’t it all just so gay!?”

“Gay,” Spice nodded, “Adjective. Being in or showing good spirits > happy, jolly. See cheerful. Full of color > rich, vibrant, vivid. See colorful.” He read with one eye inward while the other eye took in the panorama of booths richly painted in primary colors and telephone poles wrapped in vibrant purple ribbons topped by vivid gold banners against a heavenly blue sky lining a street that bounced with the cheerful rainbow colors of dancing harlequin and jester band members. “Supererogatory, too.”

“Super, yes!” the mayor clapped Spice on the shoulder. “You’re an Alien!” he suddenly realized, genuinely pleased. Then he took Pipers’ hand, “Come, have some refreshment. You must need it; nobody walks to town anymore.” To Bob he said, “Don’t worry, we welcome all sorts.”

Everybody was as friendly as they were colorful. At a booth constructed entirely of organic lumber, Environ-Mentalists served them a delicious reclaimed salad and explained how they knew the planet should be managed. The Alabama Police Union Comedy Troupe performed a skit titled “Common Ground,” with black activists and local militia members hanging pedophiles from lampposts. At Bob’s suggestion that they, “Get the hell out of this crazy town, now!” Spice retorted, “This is the only reason you people still exist. It takes all kinds if anyone at all is to survive extinction events.”

A delegation from Fugitive Nations Without Borders welcomed Spice so warmly that he signed their petition to unite all activist groups worldwide into one, theirs. “What unexpected cooperation!” He glad-handed all the booths, zigzagging down the street as they worked their way out of town. A feminist, smiling at Bob, handed Piper a PETA neutering kit, remarked for human use.

At the edge of town, they stopped for “free bottled water” from a booth manned by a couple wearing pins that read, “It’s all about the children.” Crude pictographs on the walls showed stick figures strangling, shooting, clubbing and decapitating smaller stick figures. “Oh,” breathed Piper, “Children! Wonderful. Do you have a brochure?” she politely inquired.

“We’re fairly new,” replied the woman. “Donations are still slow.” She pointed to a chalk board behind her.

“Support Infanticide. Vote Yes on Amendment 2,” Piper read, confused. “What? What do you want?”

“Well, we’re not asking for any new rights, we just want the current prohibitions loosened a bit.”

“How,” Piper paused, “Loosened?”

“To 26.” The man explained. “If they’re still living at home when they’re 26, they need to be put down.”

Piper staggered back, reaching out. “Bob.” Feeling his hand close on hers she turned to him and gasped, “They are so sincere! These people….”

“Here’s the thing, Piper. They are all sincere, but they are all wrong. Solutions that alienate so many people will never unite us.”

The two followed Spice into the woods.

End

Ya, here’s the thing.

by Mimi Speike

The piece I meant to write, I’m not up to it. I haven’t done enough research on John Dee. 

My second idea: Sly has crossed the channel from France. He’s back home in England, on a mission. He’s uncovered a despicable plot. He hooks up with a pig, Hislop, and a cow, Bovinella, and convinces them to join his crusade to save the queen. 

He gets hold of a cart. The cow, in harness, will pull. A scarecrow, the featureless face shielded by a wide-brimmed hat, is propped up on the driver seat, giving them a measure of cover on infrequently traveled county roads. They’re in business. They head off to find the queen. Every summer, queen and court traveled on a ‘progress’, visiting here and there, being fed and feted at her subjects expense. 

I had meant for Sly to work out a coded salutation on a letter he is carrying. It’s addressed to John Dee! He says to his companions: “My friends, here’s the thing: I do not join the court. I must locate Dr. Dee, and as soon as possible. From here I travel solo.” 

I can’t even manage that, for several reasons. Here’s Sly, telling us the story of his early years.

______________________________________

The cat’s spirits lifted. He began to take an interest in his surroundings and to point out to his companions the occasional ruin or historical site. He compensated for gaps in his knowledge with a filigree of fantasy and romance, constructing stories of brave barbarian kings and thrilling pageantry.

“Grand days they were,” sighed the cow. “Tell me, be there suchlike heroes today?”

Sly was in his element. “There are!” he pronounced, a twinkle in his eye. “Many go unrecognized. A few make a career of their triumphs, boring one and all with retold tales. Others are content to hold their good deeds in their hearts and to thank their stars that they were able to make a difference. Such a one, boys and girls, am I. I have sought to advance the common good with no thought of personal gain. I abandoned a substantial foreign property to come home, and I do not regret it.”

“Nellie an’ me, we’re nothin’ special,” said Hislop. “A pig, a cow, that says it all. But YOU! You’re a rabble-rouser, I can see it! What about YOU? Let’s ’ave your story!”

“I was raised, like you,” said Sly, “on a farm. Now, I could tell you my tale, or I could sing it. I wrote a ditty some years back, as an exercise. I’ll try to recall it. Bear with me.” He hummed a few bars to get the rhythm of the piece.

 Well now! A bitty lad was I, dear friends, upon me mother’s knee.
See here! A rover like yer Da I’ll never have o’ you, said she.
That one! He’s here and there, to home, then off again, a misery.
I’d bind ye, laddie, to the miller, for to stalk the bold mous-ie.

And so I stood my station proudly, just as watchful as you please,
but soon the barley groat I sniffled up and I began to wheeze.
I swear I was a credit to me Ma, to all society,
but when I took a coughing fit, I fled that grind to go to sea.

Puss had written his verse to the meter of an old work song, one which he had often sung to himself on shipboard patrol. It was a rollicking air which lent itself to chorus and refrain. Hislop was tempted to join in, but Sly gave him no chance to do so.

I turned a handsome, healthy two that year
on board the Rose Marie.
I’d had my fill of salt pork, double shifts, and gray monotony.
I hated, friends, to pass my life upon the briny bounding main, 
again assigned to guarding them same rodent-ridden sacks of grain.

I had my chance to bolt that April in the bay of Napoli,
as frolicking a port as any soggy salt could hope to see.
I bet and brawled and caterwauled. I had more than my share of fun.
And many were the hearts I broke, as many as I wooed and won.
And many were the hearts I won, as many as ever I met.
And many were the kits I spawned,
may none o’ them their Da forget. 

I fin’ly was prevailed upon to mend my wicked, wicked way.
I took an innocent in hand and taught him what to do and say.
A plot to cheat him of a large bequest was soon in disarray.
His brothers came to rue the day
they had bethought them to betray.

Sly paused here. Hislop, thinking the song done, started to cheer, but the cat, motioning him to silence, continued.

My triumph being widely advertised, my reputation made,
I took myself forthwith to court to be admired and displayed.
While there, I learned to sagely sputter and elaborately sneer.
I always held the right opinion, but it never was too clear. 
What’s more, I flattered with distinction, I dissembled brilliantly.
Thereby, I made myself an asset to a minor Royalty.
 I advocated for his interests. I deceived cunningly,
proving myself a skilled practitioner of high diplomacy.

I garnered accolades: a title and a medal and a post
and gained a hundred other honors. Have I not a right to boast?
Though I appear to be a rascal rogue, if not an outright knave,
I am in fact an honest English cat, trustworthy, loyal, and brave.

Hislop squealed his approval. “Wonderful!” he cried. “Oh, it’s catchy! Makes me want t’ jig! Sing it again, eh? Say, is it true? Ye ran off to sea an’ worked yer way … what? … up n’ down an’ all around. By golly! We’ve got a reg’lar Frankie Drake here an’ didn’t know it! Ain’t that a kick in th’ head!”

“It’s a hoot.” muttered the cow.

And I Say, Here’s the Thing

by S.T. Ranscht

Far-away Landscape of the Screaming Man (Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht)

People will tell you

what they want you to believe.

Truth is optional.

14 thoughts on “Here’s the Thing, January 17, 2022

    • You’re welcome!

      I wonder if we aren’t saying the same thing here, GD. I do enjoy these excursions that expose Spice, Piper, and Bob to satirical versions of what might be everyday occurrences on the earth we know. But sometimes, Bob’s world-weary observations hit too close to the heart. Is there really any hope for us?

      Like

  1. mimispeike says:

    Sue: Delightful.

    I wish I could be as brief as you for a change.

    Hell! No I don’t!

    Could Sly be brief once in a while? You’ve inspired me to try. Thanks.

    Interior. That one’s a piece of cake. You’ve thrown me a softball. Thanks for that also.

    The entries are dwindling. As long as you can bear to hear about Sly, or Maisie, I’ll keep it coming. Like I said previously, these exercises spur me to develop my thinking on episodes not yet written, existing only in loose notes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are welcome, Mimi, for everything you feel you gain from this project.

      I know everybody has a life outside Writers Co-op, but I’m also sure they will all participate when they can. Sometimes we just need to take a step back.

      I’m always happy to hear about the world you share with us. This latest visit with Sly the songwriter holding court on a cow-drawn cart with a passenger pig and a scarecrow decoy driver was especially cinematic. Thank you for that!

      Liked by 2 people

      • mimispeike says:

        This part of the story is two decades written, but because I discovered John Dee, it will be partly revamped. This scene takes place in book four.

        On their journey to save the queen, the pig and the cow bicker nonstop. I’m going to keep as much of that dialogue in the new version as I can.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    I’m still working on less terrific rhymes. Here’s a new version of one section. A big plus: a marvelous piece of information.

    __________________________

    I fin’lly was prevailed upon to pause with my hey-nonny-nay. I took a down-cast boy in hand and told him what to do and say.

    His brothers had it in their heads to cheat him of his rightful share of a magnificent estate. Half-siblings, greedy, overbearing, filthy scoundrels had discovered a scrawled-on-the-deathbed will.

    Rollo was disinherited, or so it seemed, that is, until I got involved. That new-found document was soon revealed to be a fraud. Those morons rue the day they tangled with this here bawbee.

    __________________________

    Hey-nonny-nay: A period phrase denoting high merriment.

    Bawbee: A Scottish coin of small value. Would have been known to Sly, who was raised on the Scot border. Probably shortened from Sillebawbe, the territorial designation of Alexander Orrok, Scottish master of the mint in the 16th century.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sue: “Sometimes we just need to take a step back.”
    Yup.
    I’ve noticed that the first of the year is usually slow for non-essential activities.

    The Vikings even had a rune for this: The Futhark Rune of Stillness originally represented ice and came to represent the essential stillness out of which life itself sprang – because ice becomes the roaring rivers of Spring. The rune is depicted as “I”.

    “‘I’ refers to the deep, personal renewal to be found by simply quieting your thoughts and feelings. A rune of wisdom, ‘I’ directs your attention to inner stillness. ‘I’ means the absence of thought and emotion that allows the renewal of thought and emotion.”
    – GD Deckard, The FUTHARK Rune Oracle, Cosmic Circle Press, 1988

    (OKAY, I once knew a Wiccan Princess who had me research & write a book to go with the rune sets she sold to a Japanese gift shop in Tokyo. But that’s another story.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I suspect if I had been a Viking. I might have welcomed a theory that supported taking the worst of winter off from marauding and pillaging.

    A similar slow-down gave us entry into a homeschooling program because the program historically experienced an “exodus” of families in February. After a few years, I understood why. The dead of winter seems gray and discouraging.

    I wonder how a Wiccan practitioner acquires the title of “Princess”. Must she be the child of a Wiccan King and Queen? Or does one self-coronate?

    Liked by 1 person

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