Jangling, February 11, 2022

This Show Case features three pieces submitted in response to our tenth Writing Prompt: Jangling. 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.

Jingle-jangle on, my friend. I’ll miss you forever.

by Mimi Speike

At Miss Florinda’s Academy of Dance and Acrobatics in Wichita, Kansas, Maisie was always cast as a fairy, an elf, a bumblebee, etc. (Once she was a spider, paired with her best friend’s Little Miss Muffet.) She had no say in the matter. She was allowed to participate to please Polly and, therefore, Polly’s papa, Miss Florinda’s landlord.

Here is her Christmas-Elf costume, cowboy hat and bootees (not these; see explanation above) added, for a western-themed recital. 

MAISIE MULOT is the protagonist in Maisie in Hollywood, a screwball novella illustrated with a paper doll depicting Maisie’s journey from a cornfield in Kansas to her days in Hollywood to her ignominious end in a cramped walk-up in lower Manhattan. I was her dedicated caretaker in her final years. I have taken on the task of telling the story of a long-forgotten icon of early Tinseltown.

Maisie was a character. I never met anyone I was more in sync with. 

Neither of us was in a ‘relationship’. Neither of us had any wish to be. In my case, I’d just come out of a sad situation. All I wanted was to be left alone. Maisie early on had decided the life of a Kansas mouse-wife was not for her. She told her mother, “Me popping out brood after brood? Don’t count on it.”

Her mama always said, “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right male.” 

She always replied, “I won’t. I know I won’t.”

Her mama didn’t believe her. I believed her. Same thing happened with me. Neither of us had the maternal instinct.

I was leery of marriage. I viewed marriage as a quicksand. You got stuck in it, unable to pull free. Like what (I observed, surmised, was horrified by) had happened to my mother. As for Maisie, all she wanted from life was to dance. Most of all, she wanted to get the hell out of that cornfield. (Maisie, for those not acquainted with her, is a mouse.)

When I met her, her glory years were long past. Water under the bridge, was her attitude. You pays your money and you takes your chances. She did not anguish over her fall from grace. 

But she hadn’t lost her distain for the life she’d been expected to lead back home. (Her inclinations did not go in that direction anyway. Read the book to learn more of that.)

Maisie and me, we loved our martinis. One-two . . . three, sometimes. I’d yak about my childhood in Florida. She’d slam Kansas. And she’d sing to me. She’d climb on ol’ Hoss, the beanbag horsey I gave her for her birthday, and she’d squeal one cowpoke ditty after another, for hours. 

Back in the Saddle Again, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie. Let’s see . . . what else? 

She loved–we both loved:

Drink that rot gut, drink that rot gut, drink that red eye, boys;
Don’t make a damn whereso we am, the red eye is our joy. 

Drink that rot gut, drink that red nose, when you get to town;
Drink it straight, early to late, while this mean world goes round!

Coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya, youpy ya, coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya.

This refrain wasn’t part of ‘The Cowboy’s Drinking Song’, but by the time we were on our third martini, we hitched it to anything we sang.

I’d forgotten this one–until Sue gave the prompt. Thank you, Sue!

I’ve got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle
As I go riding merrily along
And they sing, oh, ain’t you glad you’re single?
And that song ain’t so very far from wrong.

Maisie added her personal refrain:

Oh, mama mine! Oh, mama mine,
to be popping out th’ young ‘uns is no part of my design.

I’d add mine:

Oh, mama dear!  See here, see here.

To be beaten down as you were is my very biggest fear.

We always went at that one a good while. We made up a bunch of alternative lyrics. They don’t come to mind at the moment. This old brain ain’t as nimble as it was.

Those were the days! When you had Maisie for a friend, you laughed all the time. She taught me to yodel! (Many a cowboy song back then incorporated a yodel.) Once I’d got the hang of it, I yodeled anything and everything. Silly stuff, the sillier the better. I cracked myself up with my nonsense. 

The other residents of my building, when we met on the narrow stair, I’d yodel “mornin’, folks.” They’d stiffen and hug the wall and let me pass. That cracked me up too. Everything seemed to crack me up in those days. The decade I lived with Maisie (she passed over in 1988), I was never depressed. Those years were the best years of my life.

Jingle-jangle on, my dear, dear friend, wherever you are. I’ll miss you forever.

A Love Story

by GD Deckard

In the beginning, there were only a few. But their numbers grew. Inevitably. New people continued to be born and died and the dead soon outnumbered the living.

“Five percent?” Riley hadn’t been paying attention to the new doctor. He was sitting in the hospital room with his dying wife. The unexpected woman standing by him wore a name tag, Dr. Lorelei Jangles.

“Roughly, yes. That is all we can sense. Everything on Earth, everything possible to observe with instruments, adds up to less than 5% of the knowable universe. The rest is dark energy and dark matter.” Doctor Jangles smiled kindly at him.

Something about the woman with the kind smile and the white coat irritated Riley. And he didn’t understand what she was saying or why. “How does that help my wife? She will be dead soon.”

“Converted. Life is a fundamental property of the universe. Life cannot be created or destroyed.”

Riley regarded the doctor as if she were a simpleton.

She nodded as if to encourage Riley’s understanding. “Your parents did not create the life in you. They only passed life on to you from their own parents.” 

“What kind of a doctor are you?”

Doctor Jangles shook Riley’s hand. “Astrophysicist.” With her other hand she pulled up a chair. “When your wife converts,” she leaned in close, “Would you like to go with her?”

“Uh.” Now that Riley saw her up close, he found her quite unattractive: A bulbus head, not enough hair, skin the pallor of old tennis shoes, a nose obscured by nostrils, lips thin as a razor cut, and crossed eyes which she managed to individually animate by twitching her brows at random.

“I can make it happen,” Jangles winked.

Suddenly nervous, Riley averted his stare and stood. “I wish to be left alone with my wife just now, thank you.”

Jangles stood, a motion that seemed awkward, as if moving her limbs failed to give her balance. She rose to her full height, a few inches taller than Riley, and teetered. “Very well. I will take a seat in the hall in case you change your mind before it is too late.” With that, she turned, and muttering something about physics and gravity, she fell towards the door, managing to open it at the last moment to complete her exit without incident.

Riley turned and took his wife’s hand. “That woman was getting on my nerves.”

Orlana smiled up at him. “I believe her.”

“Believe what?” He’d always loved holding her hand. The hands, he knew, connected to a disproportionately large portion of the brain’s sensory input. Riley could not imagine never sharing her hand again.

“That I’m not really dying.” Orlana had the same look on her face as when she propped herself up in bed on one elbow to tell him something in earnest. But she lacked the strength for that now. “Come closer.” He leaned to her. “Come with me.”

“What do you mean, love?”

“I think she can do it. Send you with me, I mean.”

“Well, yes, but….”

“Good,” he heard Jangles say from behind. Had he heard the door open? Riley whirled. “What the devil!? Get out of here.” Just as suddenly, he felt his flare-up fade. This was no place for anger. He waved a hand dismissively, “Just go.”

“But I understand her. I was married once.”

Numb, Riley could only ask, “What happened?”

“He died. I put him in a box and called a freight company. Shipped him back to his ex-wife.”

That did it. Riley exploded. “Get the fuck out of here!” He glared at Jangles. “You may be a woman but if you keep acting like … like death gone crazy, I will throw you through that door!”

Lorelei Jangles returned Riley’s glare. “Why does everyone assume death is a man?”

Stunned, Riley barely felt his wife’s hand squeeze his. But she knew him. He felt her squeeze tighter.

“Hear her out, dear.”

“I mean, why can’t women meet a woman death?” Dr. Jangles looked about for a chair and sat. “Excuse me.” She breathed deeply and settled in. “I never will get used to this physical universe. But look, I’m not the cause of death. And everything in this damnable universe has to have a cause, doesn’t it? I’m a facilitator between existences and I’m here to help you with your transition, Orlana. And you,” she locked eyes with Riley, “You’re one of those close couples. You’ll follow her in a short while, anyway.”

“I believe her.” Orlana whispered.

“Where?” Riley wanted to know. “Where are you taking her?”

“Somewhere in the other ninety-five percent of the universe. The realm of the dead. I can’t describe it.”

“Try.”

“It’s bigger.”

“The dead outnumber the living, huh?”

“By far. Obviously. And no, I can’t describe being dead to you, either. We don’t share words for that.”

Riley didn’t want to die. But he was not going to let go of Orlana’s hand. “How does it happen?”

“Well, you get the reference to my first name, don’t you? Forget my last name. It was assigned. But I chose Lorelei because of the legend that the sirens lured sailors to their death.”

“Sailors are known to have questionable tastes in women.”

“They rarely love the way you love her, Riley. Orlana’s your siren. Listen to her.”

And he could. The feel of her hand spread through him like a song. Something happened. But there are no words to describe it.

Anticipation

by S.T. Ranscht

Hugh, Heart Leaping (Image credit: S.T. Ranscht)

Sitting waiting not

for his master’s voice but when

keys jangle heart leaps

30 thoughts on “Jangling, February 11, 2022

  1. Thank you kindly for your excellent contributions. I’m always wonderstruck to see how each interpretation of the prompt differs from the others. A fine tribute to your creativity.

    Mimi, you have imbued Maisie with so much personality that it’s easy to see why you love her so. It pleases me to read this not only as a Maisie memoir, but also as your own.

    GD, I love your take on death as a conversion to a vaster realm of reality and Death as a personification of science. The little things you do to eliminate any need to explain are both perfectly rational and ironically amusing. Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Thanks Sue. Yes, my husband has always said, in reference to Sly and Maisie – “I know you’re writing your autobiography there.” And I am.

      I never wanted kids … I proclaimed it over and over from about the age of twelve. It was MY mother who told me, you’ll change your mind when you meet the right man. And I always told her, NO I WON’T.

      And I never wanted to be married. After living with my parents’ dysfunction, I wanted no part of it. But a magical man showed up on my doorstep twenty years ago. We were married in six months. I’ve never met a man I was more in sync with.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I’m the second of 5 sisters — no brothers. I never wanted to get married either, which my dad reinforced by telling me over and over, “Never get married. Learn to take care of yourself.” I believed he said that to all of us, but according to my sisters, I was the only one. (The very thought of being married gives me the heebie jeebies.) I also planned to never have any children. At 30, I thought I might be pregnant and then found out I wasn’t. That’s when I realized I’d be sorry if I never got to be a mom.

        Congratulations on finding a magic man. All I ever found were tricksters.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, GD. I will cherish that compliment, but have to acknowledge that the form lends itself to sharp focus, and expressing emotion-filled moments most easily defies the supposed thousand word value of a picture.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It does. Do you think the form is sharply focused because the words exclude meaning other than their own? I ask because it just occurred to me that a photograph can evoke multiple meanings depending on what the viewer sees, whereas words tend to be more distinctly defined. (I’ll post a couple of photographs this evening to show what I mean.)

        Liked by 2 people

        • I think it would be possible to construct an ambiguous haiku that invited varying interpretations, but having so few syllables to work with, it’s challenging enough to put the words together to express one clear message. (And now I feel a need to write an ambiguous haiku.)

          I agree completely that photos tend to be open to interpretation. Without the words, this one of Hugh could mean he’s waiting for a treat or a walk or a tossed toy. But then, each of those situations would still imply his anticipation, so I guess the base meaning is still accurate. It’s the viewer’s emotional response that differs.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Just did a quick Google on “ambiguous haiku” and found this.

            Haiku: Ambiguity in Japanese Culture
            Haiku is one way in which ambiguity is embodied in Japanese culture. My girlfriend embarked on a photography project at the beginning of the year in which she illustrates one of my haiku every week using her Instax camera, thus reconnecting haiku with its introductory roots: using modern technology to create a multimedia experience of setting.
            https://ethanzierke.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/haiku-ambiguity-in-japanese-culture/

            Liked by 2 people

            • Interesting. I’m trying to imagine giving ambiguous travel directions because I don’t want the person I’m addressing to believe I think they know nothing. I wonder if there are more frequent miscommunications within Japanese culture than in cultures where being understood is valued more highly than the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings.

              I guess it’s time to review An Introduction to Haiku. I remember all the English translations being so clear in meaning. Now I’m thinking the notes about the original versions might speak to ambiguity, and I just don’t recall that part.

              Liked by 2 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    Sue, your thought is charming as hell. Unfortunately I do not have that charm in my life. I am a life-long cat person. What do cats’ hearts leap at? The sound of a can being opened?

    Just kidding. My cats are very affectionate. Pip craves, nay, demands affection. She sits on top of my keyboard and hits me when my attention is not trained on her, when I’m trying to do some work. I suppose that’s charming. In a way.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Until Hugh came into my life when my son (Hugh’s owner) ended up in a no pets apartment complex in LA, I was a life-long cat person, too. Mine were all affectionate, but as you say, their hearts never seemed to leap just because I came in the door — except for one fixed male who seemed to believe that everyone who came to the house was there to pay attention to him. He was a gregarious sweetheart, much like Hugh.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    Sue, your prompts are invaluable. ‘Kicking Off’ is pushing me into new territory with Maisie.

    I will tackle something I’ve wondered about but dismissed as unnecessary to the main storyline. If I get to a fourth book, it will consist of glimpses into unexplored corners of her life. With appropriate wardrobe, of course.

    Okay, I’ve just spent half an hour researching Ted Shawn. There are many aspects to his personality that make him an excellent candidate for believing he could communicate with a mouse.

    This is what I do with Sly, and now with Maisie. I have to explain to my satisfaction how/why a human being could possibly talk to an animal. Ted Shawn was a lovely screwball, viewing dance as a religious experience, pushing boundaries, a passionate advocate for all creatives. I believe he sees Maisie as the reincarnation of a Kaw or Kiowa (tribes of Kansas) shaman, sent to him to teach him spiritual lessons.

    Maybe she’ll be an Osage shaman. The Osage word, “howa” (pronounced hoh-wah) is a friendly greeting.

    Oh this is going to be fun.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    I just finished a piece for the weekly forum. Now I tackle Ted Shawn and Little Feather.

    There is a photo of Louise Brooks and Ted Shawn in costume for the dance ‘Feather of the Dawn’. I’ve discovered a second photo (by the looks of it, from the same photo session), with ‘Little Feather’ (Maisie) also in the picture.

    I have four days to pull this together.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. victoracquista says:

    In spite of being more a dog person than a cat person (I’ve had both), I find the cat character that Mimi has created quite intriguing. Taz, our dog has that look of unconditional adoration when my wife comes home. He is somewhat less enthusiastic about me. I enjoyed both the poem and picture that Sue shared. I also enjoyed GD’s blend of the physical and metaphysical. Thank you, all!

    Liked by 3 people

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