This Show Case features five pieces submitted in response to our twelfth Writing Prompt: License. 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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Stop Continental Drift!
by GD Deckard
They watched the portly three-foot-tall Alien walk until he was half a block away. Old Spice wanted to join his people on the last ship leaving earth but thanks to nationwide power blackouts, public transportation was unreliable.
“He looks so forlorn.” Piper sounded empathetically sad. “We have to help him.”
“Yeh,” Bob chuckled. “I never knew a spherical person could walk hunched over like that.”
“Bob!” She squeezed his arm.
“OKAY. Hey,” he yelled. “Spice! You can’t walk to Denver! It’s two thousand miles away.”
Piper was now tugging on his arm. “We can’t let him go alone.”
“Don’t worry. He’s doing the math. See -he’s stopped.”
“1,632 miles,” Old Spice announced. “That’s 544 hours if we don’t stop.” He read the street signs at Central Avenue and Oak Street in Valdosta, Georgia. “The way is well marked.”
Piper’s insistent grip on Bob’s arm, pulling him towards the Alien, made it decision time. Go with her or fall on his face. “OKAY.” He stumbled to her, muttering. “But I ain’t walking. We hitchhike.”
“What is hitch hike?” Spice asked.
“You stand by the road and hook your thumb out like this,” Bob showed Spice, who stepped into the intersection holding up his thumb just as a blue bus covered in colorful lettering careened from around the corner into him. The spherical Alien concaved like a collapsing beachball then rebounded ahead of the bus now screeching to a halt. The bus and Spice rolled to a stop in front of Bob and Piper.
She rushed to him. “Spice! Are you alright?”
People piled out of the bus. “OMG!” and “It’s an alien,” some said while others checked the front of the bus. Bob helped Spice to his feet.
“Are you injured?” A bearded young white man broke from the group of diverse young people around the bus. He looked twice at Old Spice. “You’re an alien! Not that that’s bad,” he hastily added. “Aliens are welcome.”
“You’ll take us to Denver?”
“Uh. Well, we are headed west.” He extended his hand. “My name is Jackson, Jackson Pfizer.”
“Pleased to meet you, Jackson Jackson. May I call you Jackson?”
“Please do.” Jackson’s smile broke through the confused look on his face. “I just received my Doctorate in Environmental Social Media. It’s a license to save the planet,” he added proudly. The confused look returned. “Well,” he backed away. “If you are OKAY….”
“I am, Doctor Jackson. Let’s go.” Spice boarded the bus.
Bob studied the bus. It was hand painted in the style of wall graffiti; a blue base sprinkled with orange volcanoes erupting over yellow buildings toppling in earthquakes. Scrawled below the windows in big fluorescent lime green letters was, “Stop Continental Drift!” and “Pin The Plates!!” He grinned and followed Piper aboard. They headed west.
It didn’t take long to meet the other Doctorates on the bus, it being a short bus. Each had recently completed their PhD in a socially acceptable field and were doing their Residency on a government funded tour.
A girl with an angry look on her Oriental face served them tea. “We have to save the planet.” She offered Spice her hand, “Wang Fang. My name means aromatous flower in my language.”
Spice sniffed her hand. “If you say so.”
Wang wiped her hand on her cheongsam dress, straightened and archly said, “Continental drift is causing deadly earthquakes.” She leaned forward conspiratorially, “That’s what killed all those people in Tiananmen Square.”
“What?!” Bob sprayed her beautiful silk dress with sipped tea.
“Tian’anmén Guangchang in Standard Mandarin,” Spice said, one eye consulting his inner almanac. “Also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace.”
Bob stared at the girl in outraged amazement. “That’s about the dumbest thing -“
“Hush!” Piper kicked him. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Bob!”
The group twittered assent.
“Science has proven conclusively,” Jackson intervened, “That continents drift.” Speaking with smooth authority, he calmed his group by announcing what they already knew. “Our computer models predict that the present rate of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions will increase, and civilization will be destroyed in 37 years.”
Piper nodded, obviously impressed. “Computers don’t lie.”
“We stopped using computers long ago,” Spice said. “The input always predicts the output.”
“I’ll bet,” Bob smiled around at the group, “That you don’t need donors. With computer models that predict the future, you make your money on the stock market. Am I right?”
“Of course not,” Spice corrected him. “Science cannot predict the future. Empirical science is based on observation. One cannot observe what does not exist.”
“Unbeliever!” someone hissed.
Disturbed by the drift of the conversation, Jackson coughed for attention. “The majority of scientists believe we are right. As do prominent public figures and most of the taxpayers. All of which is borne out by numerous polls. You have to believe us.”
“Anyone who tells you they know the future wants something from you.” Bob nudged Spice, laughing. “Keep your eye on the money.”
Jackson looked alarmed. “Surely you are not saying that the majority of informed scientific opinion is wrong?”
“Check your inner almanac, Spice. See what our history has to say about other ‘proven scientific facts.’ Look up Eugenics. Really,” Bob repeated for emphasis, “Eugenics. It’s worth looking up. Scientists and politicians and ordinary people believed in that ‘science,’ too. Check out the harm that insanity caused.”
“Really!” Jackson huffed. “We are not promoting racist theories to Nazis.”
“Or selling Thalidomide to pregnant women,” reflected Wang Fang.
“People willingly give their money to save the planet.” Jackson waved an arm at his group who again twittered assent. “It’s a good thing.”
“They’re giving us a ride, Bob,” Piper said with finality. “Drop it.”
“Well, it’s not my decision to make,” Bob conceded. “I just think all that money and talent could be doing something useful.”
The group’s agreeable twitter changed to an angry buzz. They texted one another on their satellite phones. When Jackson’s phone chimed, he looked and announced, “We cannot give rides to deniers. To do so risks losing our grant money. Sorry.” He signaled the Haitian bus driver who pulled over and stopped. “You must get off now.”
“The Alien stays,” Wang Fang held up her hand to Spice as he rose to depart. “I notified my sponsoring agency, DARPA, about you. They are sending a helicopter to take you to Denver.”
Spice pushed past her. “Thank you but no. My handicap is fear of flying. A helicopter is unthinkable. I’ll hitch hike.”
Standing by the road as the bus sped off, Piper had to ask, “Who ever heard of a spaceman afraid to fly?”
“We all have some handicap. It was a mission qualification for relating to humans.”
“Well, I’m glad to be off that bus,” Bob said, heading into a nearby stand of trees. “I have to pee.”
“Me too.” Piper followed him.
[Adapted from a story published by Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine, November 2019]
The Toast of the Peppermint Lounge
by Mimi Speike
Maisie’s gone these forty years. What am I left with? Memories. And a pile of scrapbooks that I am gleefully plundering for my tribute-in-progress to the remarkable Miss Mulot.
As I poke through discolored, disintegrating clippings, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that she embroidered her story a good deal. She was to a considerable degree a creature of her own imagination. I get that. I’ve done pretty much the same thing.
I lived with her for a decade, knew her well, yet there were aspects of her past that she withheld from me. I had thought she was taken advantage of by Svengali after Svengali looking to make a buck off an old has-been. (Once an important star of the silent screen. Read my book.) I begin to understand that it was the other way around. She took advantage of them. (Ha! Make that us.) She chose her companions carefully. Not everyone would have put up with her nonsense.
She lived a veritable wrecking ball of a life. Her life swung back and forth between triumph and tragedy. No wonder we got along so well. We were truly two of a kind. She had her secrets, and I have mine. The version of my life I’ve put out is miles from the uglier reality. We’ve both cobbled prettified versions of ourselves.
One of the stories she fed me, the Cheese Whiz gag . . . when I learned the truth of it, I was crushed. The lady had a flair for publicity. She worked that gambit for a number of years, got plenty of mileage out of it.
That story, I had taken it as gospel truth. Germany, a cheese lover’s paradise, the birthplace of Cheese Whiz? How did I fall for that? In my defense, let me say this: she was a damn good talker. She talked circles around me, but that’s not hard to do.
The cheese goop that sold under several names, the stuff was part of her myth-making. I’ve researched the product, and what I’ve learned makes me question everything I thought I knew about her.
Kraft food scientist Edwin Traisman invented Cheese Whiz in 1952. Sure, a Cheese Whiz type substance was devised decades earlier, in Switzerland, but I don’t believe it ever was marketed, much less caught on.
FUN FACT: Today, there is little-to-no real cheese in Cheez Whiz. You may have guessed this based on the fact that the packaging spells “cheese” with a “z.”
USEFUL TIP: I do not recommend Cheese Whiz as a foodstuff, but you can use it to remove grease and oil stains from your clothing. This according to Joey Green, who wrote Clean Your Clothes with Cheez Whiz. Apparently, Cheez Whiz contains compounds that fight oil.
To harness the oil-busting magic of Cheez Whiz, apply a liberal amount of the substance directly onto the stain on your shirt, pants, rug, etc. Let it sit for ten minutes, then run the item through the washing machine. After this treatment, the stubborn grease stain should vanish.
The story of goopy cheese begins in the Swiss Alps. In 1911, Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler created a product that could resist melting when shipped to tropical climes. It was a cheese sludge, remained a sludge at nearly any latitude.
An American named James L. Kraft registered an American patent for the formula. Its long shelf-life resulted in a massive success. A competitor, Easy Cheese, later named Snack Mate, was advertised as “instant cheese for instant parties.”
None of these products were available before 1952. Maisie claimed she’d discovered the–tasty, she insisted, if you were a bit blasted–goop during her year of decadent filmmaking in Weimar Germany. She would smear the stuff on her love interest of the moment and lick it off at chess-goo orgies, which were all the rage in the wild set she ran with.
Maisie dreamed that up. It was most likely a fantasy of hers. I can tell you with certainty, it never happened. It had them in stitches at the chi chi cocktail parties she attended in the forties and fifties. She may have come to believe it herself. I early on apprehended that she made stuff up. You were wise to buy, at best, half of what she told you.
Another possibility (that I sign onto wholeheartedly): she was a performance artist. Artistic license, dramatic license, narrative license all refer to deviation from fact for artistic purposes. Artists or writers distort reality to make their work more interesting. It’s an accepted practice.
I am reconciled to her harmless deceptions. I even laugh about them. That ‘Anything Goes’ outlook was what I loved most about her.
But now when I visit her grave up in Central Park (to be buried near Strawberry Fields was her last wish. She was a big fan of the Beatles), I tote a jar of Cheez Whiz along with a flask of Mulots. (Her twist on the martini. Read the book.*)
I dump cheese goo on top of her, save the gin for myself. (She was also a big fan of gin.)
*Currently available on medium.com. The print edition is nearing completion. It will be fully illustrated.
by Perry Palin
“Throw a little more water on the rocks there, Bobby.”
“Come on, Ray, it’s hotter than Hell in here already.”
Ray said, “It’s maybe 185 in here now. Let’s get it up to 200 or so. That’s a good sauna.”
The two boys were sitting in pools of sweat on the top bench in Ray’s family sauna, a small two room wood structure seventy yards from the house and without electricity or plumbing. A kerosene lamp cast a soft glow from a shelf outside a small window to the outer room. It was the kind of sauna the Finns have used for ages. The building was tight and warm, with optional ventilation that Ray kept closed. The wood fired stove was made of a 50 gallon steel boiler topped with a metal frame that held several hundred pounds of smooth close grained rocks from the Lake Superior shore. It was hot in the sauna, but it would be an admission of weakness to move to the lower bench or retreat too soon to the outer room.
Bobby breathed through his mouth. The hot air was burning his nose. “Come on, Ray. It’s hot enough already.”
“What’s the matter there, Bobby? Is it the weak Norwegian blood that runs in your veins? Your family came from a place that was warmed up by the sea in the winter. We Suomalaiset are used to cold winters. And then we like a sauna where we don’t have to shiver or wear a sweater.”
Bobby wanted to move away from talk about his struggles at a mere 185 degrees. “I guess you’ll be making All-Conference this year.”
“No, I don’t think so. There are some other tight ends with better numbers than me. Our school didn’t win enough games this year. They’ll name just one from our team to All-Conference. That will be Olaf. He had a good year running the ball.”
Bobby said, “How about me? What do you think?”
“Ha, no. No one cares about the blocking linemen. What kind of job is that anyway? You wait for the ball to be snapped, then you go and lean on the guy across the line from you, and he leans on you. The play goes the other way, the ref blows his whistle, and you line up and do it again. That’s not one of the high skill jobs, Bobby.”
Bobby needed to level the conversation. “Talking about leaning, I saw you leaning on Debra a couple days ago. Has she given you license to kiss her yet? Or is she still holding you off in a fit of virtue?”
Ray leaned over and picked up the saucepan they used as a dipper. He gathered a pint and a half of water from the rubber bucket on the bench in front of him and threw it on the rocks. The steam rose with a loud hiss. It reached the low ceiling and turned for a clockwise run around the room. Ray watched Bobby wince in the heat.
After a short pause Ray said, “Debra is a nice looking girl. I don’t mind talking to her. If it looked like I was leaning on her, I’m not going to argue the point with you.”
Bobby said, “The story around school is that she had several guys leaning on her over the summer and into the fall. Have to wonder how far that story goes.”
Ray reached for the dipper again, and he smiled when Bobby reached down to stop him from raising the heat once more.
Ray said, “I don’t think that story goes very far. I heard those guys all turned out to be interior linemen.”
“What about that license I asked you about? Why don’t you answer my question?”
Ray looked across at the stove. Rivers of sweat poured down his face and shoulders. “Let’s just say that I have a learner’s permit.” He paused, then smiled. “I can’t blame those linemen for trying, but I think they failed at the early questions. I got all the right answers so far.”
THE CHAIN OF EVENTS (OR WHY EVERYTHING IS NOT ALRIGHT WITH COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT)
by Boris Glikman
2 am New York Time/ 7am London Time
Overcome by the loving and sharing spirit of Easter, Susan Renee of Buffalo, New York, decides to share an audio file of her beloved “Everything’s Alright” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” with a few online friends.
3 am New York Time/ 8 am London Time
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber wakes up to a beautiful spring morning in his lavish country estate just outside London.
3:15 am New York Time/ 8:15 am London Time
Getting into a shower, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber lathers his hair with an ample amount of his personal shampoo, created especially for his own particular needs.
3:16 am New York Time/ 8:16 am London Time
To his bewilderment,Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber finds water from his shower tapering off into a trickle, then to a few drops and finally stopping altogether.
3:17 am New York Time / 8:17 am London Time
With shampoo in his hair and soap in his eyes, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber stumbles out of the shower to call his personal assistant, only to find that his phone line has gone dead.
3:20 am New York Time / 8:20 am London Time
By now feeling increasingly perplexed and bothered, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber reaches for his cell phone to call his wife, who is having a quiet day away at the French Riviera, only to discover that all functions of his cell phone have been disabled.
3:30 am New York Time / 8:30 am London Time
There’s furious pounding on the front door of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s house.
Incredulous as to how anyone could have gotten through the high security of his mansion, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber answers the door, dressed only in his bath towel, with soap still in his eyes and shampoo in his hair.
3:31am New York Time / 8:31 am London Time
Confronted by burly figures and four removal trucks parked on his immaculately manicured lawns, a thought momentarily passes through Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mind that this will not be just another delightful and carefree day in his privileged and luxurious life.
Gruff voices inform him that they are here to pick up all of his possessions.
4:15 am New York Time / 9:15 am London Time
In a private and exclusive boarding school located just outside the university town of Oxford, the headmaster walks into the middle of the geography class being taught by Andrew Lloyd Webber Jr’s favourite teacher.
In an official tone of voice, the headmaster announces that Andrew Lloyd Webber Jr. is to go to his room, pack up all of his belongings and leave the school grounds immediately. The headmaster adds that his school will not for a moment tolerate those students whose parents are seen wrestling naked in public with members of the working class.
12 pm New York Time / 5 pm London Time
Having caught the first available plane back to London, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wife rushes to their country mansion to tell Sir Andrew she cannot go on with him like this any more and that she is taking the kids and leaving him for Tim Rice.
1pm New York Time / 6 pm London Time
The top story on the BBC 1 Evening News is the announcement by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s knighthood is being revoked immediately and henceforth he is to be known only as Andrew Lloyd Webber.
3pm New York Time/ 9 pm London Time
In arough area of London’s East End, an unkempt and disoriented-looking man, bearing a strange resemblance to Andrew Lloyd Webber, is seen beseeching passers-by to lend him a pound for a hot cup of tea and some bread.
5pm New York Time / 10 pm London Time
Following reports of a man causing a disturbance, police arrive at a shelter for the homeless, to find a white, middle-aged individual screaming incoherently over and over again: “This is all your fault Susan Renee, this is all your fault Susan Renee, this is all your fault Susan Renee!!!”
All attempts to calm him down are in vain and police are left with no choice but to call an ambulance.
5:20 pm New York Time/ 10:20 pm London Time
Unable to get a sensible word out of the above-mentioned individual, it becomes clear to the ambulance men that they are dealing with someone who has irrevocably lost their mind. The local asylum is called to ascertain that there is a free cell available and the man is carried by force into the ambulance where a straitjacket is fitted over his body, still aquiver with rage.
7pm New York Time/ midnight London Time
Having tried all available tranquilizers and sedatives, the nursing staff at The East London Asylum decide that any further medication will be of little effectiveness to this new arrival. Straitjacket is left on him as a precaution against any self-harm.
The entry in the Asylum’s observation notes reads: “The newest patient is clearly in leave of his senses. His verbal communication is limited to a ditty he half-sings and half-mumbles again and again: “Susan Renee, Why did you do this to me, don’t you see, I can’t close my eyes and relax and think of nothing tonight, everything’s not alright, everything’s not alright, everything’s not alright, everything’s not alright … “
by S.T. Ranscht
“It’s almost your birthday, Robin,” his mother said. “What would you like?”
With a mischievous sparkle in his eyes, he answered, “Cake.”
She arched one eyebrow. “Of course, cake, Silly. Chocolate?”
He nodded. “Choc’lit.”
“What about a present? What would you like Dad and me to give you?” she persisted.
He seemed to think about it as if he hadn’t asked for the same thing every day for the last year.
“That’s a mighty big present, honey,” she cautioned, “and you don’t have a license yet.”
Robin’s face drooped.
Putting her hand on his shoulder, she kissed his cheek. “Don’t be discouraged. Dad will be home from the fire station tomorrow, so he and I will talk about it.”
When Robin woke up the next morning, his dad was in the kitchen cooking omelets and bacon. His mother was pouring orange juice. The coffee maker was steaming, and the kitchen smelled delicious.
“Hey, Robby!” his dad boomed. He was a huge man — almost as tall as the doorways and bulging with muscles. His skin was so dark he looked like he was coated in hot fudge. Robin looked at his own arm. It was only as dark as the dirt in the vegetable garden. He slumped into his chair.
Folding an omelet, Robin’s dad said, “Maybe I should call you Rob now. Any boy who’s old enough to want a car for his birthday deserves to be called a man’s name.”
Rob sat up a little straighter.
His mother set his breakfast in front of him before sitting and taking a bite of hers. He started on his bacon. She hummed around a mouthful of egg. “Mmm. You’ve outdone yourself — again.”
“Not too much sriracha?” his dad asked.
“No,” she said, “It’s perfect.”
Rob’s dad turned off the burners and brought his own plate and coffee to the table. As he chewed, he studied his son’s face.
“I want to tell you a story, Son.”
Rob kept eating, but he looked up at his dad.
“I didn’t have a car till I could buy one for myself. All the white kids I knew had cars when we were in high school, but I worked a part time job that whole four years, trying to save money to afford something better than an old junker.”
Rob looked at his mom. “Did you have a car?”
She glanced at his dad and said, “Yes, I did. But I had to use it to run errands for my mother, and I wasn’t allowed to drive my friends around.”
Shaking his head, but smiling, his dad said, “Your mother lived in a neighborhood where every kid got a brand new car for their sixteenth birthday. That wasn’t my neighborhood. Senior year, I was quarterback of my school’s championship-winning football team, but I didn’t have a car.”
“And not many dates, either,” his mother laughed.
His dad pulled in his chin. “Lucky for you,” he said. “That may be the only reason I hadn’t been snatched up by the time you set eyes on me.” They both laughed.
Rob’s dad fixed him with a look. “I want you to know, it never occurred to me that anybody should give me a car.”
The boy sat looking from his dad to his mom and back.
His dad cleared his throat. “But today, because I want my son to have advantages I never had, I’m going to give you a little driving test. Now don’t get all excited. You won’t be driving my Camaro. You don’t even have a learner’s permit yet. I’m gonna drive and ask you some questions about the Rules of the Road. So finish your breakfast and let’s go.”
Ten minutes later, they were rolling down the driveway. “What should I do when I get to the street?”
Robin brightened. “Stop,” he said.
“That’s right. How will I know if it’s safe to pull into the street?”
“Look both ways,” the boy answered.
‘Good. Should I signal?”
Rob looked both ways and pointed to the right. “That way.”
As they approached the corner, Rob’s dad pointed. “What’s that?”
“A stop sign.”
“So what should I do?”
Saying, “I talk about these things every time we get in the car, don’t I?” he stopped the car. “What about that kid walking her dog? I think they want to cross in front of us.”
“Walking people — and dogs — go first.”
“You’ve been paying attention. I’m proud of you.” They watched the girl and her dog cross the street. Rob’s dad asked, “Now what?”
“Look both ways. Go slow.”
A little further on, they came to a traffic signal.
Rob’s dad asked, “What does the red light mean?”
“How about the green light?”
“Okay, how about the yellow?”
Rob grinned, “Watch out, I’m gonna turn red!”
His dad laughed a deep, warm belly laugh. “You know what? I think you’re ready. What color car were you thinking of?”
“What?” his dad asked, “Not fire engine red?”
Rob shook his head. “Blue.”
On Robin’s birthday, a special blue envelope arrived in the mail. The card inside had a photo on the front of all the firefighters at his dad’s fire station next to their fire engine. They all had pointy birthday party hats on top of their helmets, and were doing goofy things like jumping and waving or flashing peace signs or blowing on those roll-up noise makers. A banner hanging from the ladder hooked to the side of the truck read, “Have a red hot birthday, Robin!”
Inside, where each firefighter had written a message and their name, was Robin’s license.
“Gosh,” his mom said, “now all you need is a car.”
His dad said, “Come with me, Son.”
He and his dad went outside where the garage door was already open. There, parked right next to his dad’s fire engine red Camaro, was his brand new, bright blue Jeep. A little over three feet long and two feet high, it was just his size.
His mom came out with his cake. It was covered in frosting so dark it looked like hot fudge. Three sparklers sizzled on top of it.
“Uh-oh,” she said, “looks like you already got your birthday wish.”
“That’s okay,” he told her, “now I’ll wish I never have a accident.”
He hopped into his car and started down the driveway to greet the first of his pre-school friends arriving for his party.