This Show Case features seven pieces submitted in response to our thirteenth Writing Prompt: Mashup. 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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P.U. Tin, Soldier
by GD Deckard
The sign on the stained-glass window of the door read, “P.U. Tin, Soldier.” From inside the office, the Soldier’s aide de camp watched the approaching silhouette in the hall grow until it covered the sign. The door swung open to reveal a woman in a svelte black dress and matching wide brim hat. She posed with her hip against the door jamb, a purse in one hand and a long cigarette holder in the other.
“Got a cigarette, handsome?”
Dunga Din sighed and rose. He would have thought Ukrainella beautiful except for her manly jaw, and the fact that she was his boss’s ex. He motioned for her to have a seat.
She sat and returned the gesture. “Have a seat, Dung.”
He remained standing. He didn’t need to ask why she was here. “The terms remain the same, Ukrainella. You must agree to never remarry, recognize the independence of your children, and stop trying to evict him from your house. Otherwise, he will continue to contest the divorce.”
She angrily poked her cigarette holder at him. “The divorce has been final for years. Pu kidnapped Donet and Luhan and Chimeria! And he must leave my house! As for remarrying,” she composed herself and took a cigarette from the open pack on his desk. “I will be protected by Sir Nate. Oh, of course I must marry him.”
The aide de camp took a cigarette for himself, lit both, and offered in a reasonable tone, “Pu will withdraw, you know, from most of your house, if you acknowledge his right to that one small room. The one overlooking the sea. And if you accept his other terms.”
“For how long? Without the protection of Sir Nate, oh, damnit, you know he will return anytime he disagrees with anything I’m doing. He will still govern my life!”
“You have no such protection at the moment. And this is the moment in which you must decide!”
Ukrainella reached into her purse and brought out a coffee mug. “I bought this for myself, but you can have it.” She slammed it down on his desk. “Use it. Reflect on it every day.”
He picked up the cup. It was decorated with a drawing of Snake Island and the words, “Russian Warship: Go Fuck Yourself!”
After she huffed out, he poured himself a cup of coffee and grimaced at his new cup. Some people will never forget, he thought. After all these years, even after he retired and altered his name, some remember.
The inner office door erupted in doorknob rattling. When it failed to open, the occupant pushed doggedly, again and again, growing increasingly frustrated. The rattles turned into blows and kicks.
“It’s a fucking pull!” yelled the aide de camp.
In the silence that followed, the door swung inward and a pasty round face with piggy eyes emerged at its edge. “She is gone?”
“Never, I’m afraid,” replied his aide de camp.
The Apple Cosmos
by Boris Glikman
Throughout his academic career as an astrophysicist in the physics department of Lublov University, Professor Klekspan was haunted by a striking cosmic coincidence: that the number of varieties of apples exactly matched the number of types of celestial objects, as set out in the Yerkes spectral classification system.
With the luxury of time and financial freedom that retirement offered him, Professor Klekspan was, at last, able to devote his full intellectual powers to developing a theory that would explain this puzzling phenomenon.
The main thrust of his hypothesis was that planets and stars were actually gigantic apples. To prove this supposition, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) meticulously and painstakingly went through every known variety of apple (well over 7,000 of them) and compared their chemical composition and physical properties to those of celestial bodies, hoping to find a match.
Years of disappointments and setbacks crawled by as he struggled to make progress with this approach. The wasted years piled up on top of one another and encumbered him with their dead weight.
Having exhausted the initial means of attacking the problem, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) decided to turn his attention to creating a purely mathematical proof of his conjecture. Yet this approach proved to be just as intractable and problematic. Disillusionment set in as he despaired of ever succeeding in his goal.
And then, just as he was about to throw it all away, an extraordinary realisation lit up his mind like an exploding supernova and effortlessly blew away the confusion and gloom of the preceding years. It was to him the most beautiful idea of his entire life, and he would often look back at that moment and bask in the warm memory of its glory.
Yes, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) saw the crucial step his mathematical argument needed, and was finally able to prove to his satisfaction that planets and stars are indeed oversized apples. Yet, as he stared at his completed proof, doubts assailed him. The notion that apples and celestial bodies are one and the same was such a bizarre state of affairs that even he, the originator of the hypothesis, could not quite bring himself to accept what he had just demonstrated to be true. For, despite trying to prove this theorem for many years, nothing had prepared him for the eventuality of it being correct. Like any experienced scientist, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) was acutely aware that a huge chasm exists between a hypothesis and its proof, and that no matter how ardently he believed in his idea, it had no truth or validity to it until it was actually shown to be true. And so, now that the hypothesis had for the very first time assumed full reality, he beheld it with shock and disbelief.
The chain of the mathematical steps in the argument, however, was incontrovertible. The final equation of the proof had Earth on one side and a Granny Smith apple on the other, and between them stood a small “equals” sign. This is what all his years of intellectual struggles came down to — a tiny mathematical symbol consisting of two parallel lines.
Now that the equation was complete and correct, it seemed to emanate its own unique soft glow, like a light bulb that has been plugged properly into the electrical grid. It was as if, having made the connection to the wellspring of Eternal Truths, the equation now shone with that special inner radiance that all truths and only truths possess.
To savour the proof and to convince himself of its reality, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) wrote down its last line again and again, until there was no room left on the sheet of paper:
Earth = Granny Smith
Earth = Granny Smith
Earth = Granny Smith
One simple equation, yet what consequences flowed from it! What was truly miraculous about this equation, and this is what Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) was most proud of, was that its two sides came from, seemingly, totally unrelated fields of science — Astronomy and Botany. It didn’t just equate two physical concepts or two mathematical quantities, which is what standard equations of physics and mathematics typically did. Rather, in a unique and unprecedented way, his equation was somehow able to unify what until now had been completely separate branches of knowledge. From now on, Astronomy and Botany were to be subsumed into one indivisible entity.
After that momentous breakthrough, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) utilised the same mathematical tools to prove, in rapid succession, the equivalence of the Sun and Golden Delicious, as well as the equivalence of Mars and McIntosh Red. He was also able to show, on the basis of the data available, that the red giant star Betelguese was either a Red Delicious or a Gala.
However, it proved to be impossible to show the equivalence of Sirius and a Fuji by using the original mathematical method. Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) eventually realised that a new approach was needed to deal with that particular case, and a reductio ad absurdum argument was found to be the one best suited for the task. By showing that if Sirius did not equate to a Fuji, then an absurdity would ensue, enabled him to conclude that, ipso facto, it must indeed be the case that Sirius is a Fuji.
His crowning achievement was to demonstrate that not only was there an equivalence between stars and apples, but that the connection went much deeper and was much more intimate than that. Namely, he was able to prove that every time a new variety of apple was created on Earth, a new star or planet was born somewhere in the Universe. Thus, through apples, mankind could wield direct power over Cosmos. 1
Despite the indisputable validity of his theory, vehement opposition and vociferous ridicule emerged from within the scientific community and from the general public. As a way of dispelling their claims that it was just a crank theory created by a crackpot, and to physically demonstrate its veracity, Professor Klekspan (Emeritus) resorted to digging up and eating dirt, saying how much it tasted like the apple puree he was fed as a baby.
So, if you see a disheveled man walking around town with pieces of paper covered with numbers and symbols, sticking out of his pockets and clods of earth in his hands, please do not laugh or make fun of him. For that’s Professor Klekspan (Emeritus), the discoverer of the most incredible revelation in all of scientific history.
1 Interestingly enough, the converse situation did not hold, so that it was not necessarily the case that every time a new star or planet was formed, a new type of apple appeared on Earth. Thus, Professor Klekspan’s theory had the paradoxical implication that mankind had more control over the Universe than the Universe had over mankind. (The exact reasons as to why the converse situation does not hold are not as yet entirely clear.)
by Mike Van Horn
I sat lotus in meditation in the garden at dawn, doing my best to watch my thoughts and emotions. The first was joy, for sitting in this beautiful spot, watching the sun rise above the ridge, with its rays of penetrating warmth.
As the sun rose and shone over the city below, all the buildings were lit up with its light. I had an indescribable feeling of connection with beauty.
In the distance I heard a strange noise: wup wup wup. It got gradually closer. My emotion was curiosity.
Three helicopters flew in low just above the rectory behind me, making a deafening racket. I felt annoyance, then alarm.
One helicopter fired two rockets that struck the fountain and the chapel, creating fiery explosions, black smoke, and fragments flying everywhere. Terror filled my soul, and incredulity that such a thing could happen. Then a flight reflex–but where could I go?
Two of our teenage students emerged from the basement entrance, carrying a long tube. The girl shoved something in the back end. One helicopter, circling, fired a machine gun, hitting the boy. His body crumpled, spewing blood. Horror does not capture what I felt. But I was immobilized. Paralysis.
The girl picked up the tube, pointed it toward the helicopter, and fired the small rocket it contained. It disappeared in a fiery, smoky blast, and pieces rained down everywhere, including body parts of the crew members. I can scarcely describe my cascade of emotions. Disbelief; I had never before experienced anything remotely like this. Sickness and nausea. Look out! Falling pieces could decapitate me. Caution, as I finally arose and went to the boy. Grief, that I shared with the girl as she bent over his lifeless body. Burning screaming anger, shared with her.
I stood and watched the remaining helicopters fly down over the city below us. Bright flashes of light followed by rolling smoke from buildings, pieces falling to the streets below, followed by echoing rumbles a few seconds later. Deep booms; I only imagined I could hear the people screaming in agony. I felt numbness, the inability to feel.
Needles of smoke arose from the city streets, striking the helicopters, first one and then the other, destroying them with blinding flashes and showers of metal fragments. It truly looked like a fireworks display, and I felt shame that I made such a shallow connection.
The girl was tending the fallen boy; I went to see if I could help. Amazement that his eyes were open—he lived! And deep relief.
Horn honks and sirens wafting up from the city, signaling success and joy. They had defeated the invaders! More people emerged from our cellar and cheered. I felt pride of belonging, connection with my people.
Oh my I am so stirred up. In meditation, I aim to clear my mind of all, yet the real world intrudes, creating a mishmashup of emotions! The very opposite of nothingness. What kind of a monk am I? I must meditate on this.
But first, some tea.
Understanding the Mashup
by Scott Vander Ploeg
I have always felt an unease about this word. “Mash” is pulpy, the base for extracting something else, but in and of itself, it just seems to be nasty in some gross-inspired way. Adding the “up” suggests that something else has been brought into contact with the “mash,” perhaps unhappily so. At best, it means some sort of informal combination of disparate entities, or people. The term was first identified in 1859, according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, in the sense I have indicated to this point. Though there is nothing really wrong with this term, more elegant words can convey this meeting, such as conflation, juxtaposition, collaboration, joint-effort….
I’m imagining a bar-scene in which the pick-up line involves this term: ‘hey, you want to have mashup with me?’ or ‘let’s leave this joint and go to your place for a mashup,’ or ‘got mashup?’ Somehow it just doesn’t seem appealing, beyond raw carnality.
More recently, it has been used to label a kind of music production that typically melds an acapella song with separately produced instrumentals, though it probably is loosely just any melding of musical streams. A quick google search shows a handful of popular mashup, such as: “Taylor Swift and Nine Inch Nails? We know it sounds crazy, but by some musical miracle “Shake It Off” and “The Perfect Drug” come together for a blend that actually works.”
The same has been applied to video productions which create a product using two or more sources. On youtube you can find 100 movie dance scenes which begins with a French movie, Bis, then a segment from Footloose, followed by segments from Rocky II, Sister Act II, Kickboxer, Les Compres, Love Actually, Napoleon Dynamite, and onward, each segment lasting just a few seconds.
Another more zany mashup involves putting different video games together: Contra vs. Duck Hunt, Mortal Combat vs. Donkey Kong—you get the picture.
Most recently, it is a buzzword in the tech world, involving online combinations, originally referring to cloud-dynamics and such. In a sense, a hypertext constitutes a mashup, as would many websites that offer multiple audio-visual-textual deliveries.
She’s the Latest, She’s the Greatest, Ya, Ya, Ya, Ya
by Mimi Speike
So I was digging into Maisie’s scrapbooks, right? Maisie was out like a light. We’d had a late night: stopped by Café Wha, run into friends who dragged us down to Chinatown for chop suey and all the trimmings. Long story short, we’d had one hell of a good time. We kept to home most nights. My monthly checks don’t go far. My brother and sister help me out, so I don’t descend on them begging to move in.
Not my intention, believe me. We get along over the phone. I’m okay for an afternoon. Too much up close and personal, I can’t handle it. I had to create a world of my own, in which I could relax and be myself. The real world wears me out. I get cranky. But not with Maisie. I never get cranky with her.
Anyway, the previous evening, we’d been celebrating Maisie’s birthday. Not that we knew when her birthday was. Back in the cornfields no one kept track. She’d picked a date out of thin air years back. Everyone she knew had a birthday. She wanted one too. She chose March 21, first day of spring. First day of spring is a big deal when you live in a hole in the ground.
Mookie at the Wha, he knew it was Maisie’s B-Day. Drinks, nibbles, all on the house. Suki and Seymour, God bless ‘em, treated us to a multi-course feast on Mott Street, sent us home in a taxi, my tote furnished with egg rolls and a container of wonton soup for breakfast.
Anyway, I was rummaging through Maisie’s scrapbooks, waiting for the birthday girl to show signs of life, when I came across an item. Item in hand, I poked her awake. She was groggy. The moutai with dinner had done a number on both of us, but especially on her. Body mass, etc.
“Maisie,” I demanded, “What the hell is this?”
She opened her eyes, grumbled at me. Couldn’t make it out.
“Really, who’s this here? Is this you?”
“Course it’s me. Who’ja think it is?”
The photo was faded, in poor condition. (I’ve jazzed it up, my usual bag of tricks.)
“The wig! The dress! Was it Halloween?”
She turned over, went back to sleep.
Long about noon she perked up. It was the smell of coffee, I think. And she knew she had a fine breakfast waiting for her. Knew also I wouldn’t dig in until she was ready to join me. I always made sure she got her fair share. Of anything, even chocolate, which she loved, though we both knew it’s wasn’t good for her. Hey, if it wasn’t for that little lady, I’d be, well, God knows where. What Maisie wanted, Maisie got. I couldn’t find it in me to deny her.
So we’re sipping our coffee and scarfing our goodies. I hold up the photo. “What’s with this?” I asked again. “Fill me in.”
She grinned. “Truman Capote,” she said, “loved to throw parties.”
“You knew Truman Capote? You never mentioned it.”
“Knew him from the Peppermint Lounge. He, same as Norman Mailer, took a fancy to me. Something about writers, I guess. A special breed of folks. Truman would sit me down in a corner, we’d have long chats. He started as early on his path – the writing – as I had on mine – the dancing. We had that in common. Breakfast at Tiffany had just been turned into a film. He was the man of the hour. Yet he found time to sit with me. I shared my sorrows with him. He confided in me. He’d spent time in Kansas, researching In Cold Blood. I filled him in on the Jayhawker mentality. He suggested he might be able to get me a movie deal.
“Truman had an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, in a Greek Revival townhouse. He rented the basement apartment, but lived there like he owned the place. Broadway producer Oliver Smith was his landlord. Truman took it over when Smith was out of town, and staged lavish, high-society parties.
“He threw parties with a theme. On one occasion, his theme was Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, you beautiful doll!”She sang the line.
You know the song, I expect. If not, look it up on YouTube.
Her then companion thought it would be a riot if she went as a Barbie Doll. Barbie had come out three years earlier and was taking over the world. Maisie a Barbie, with those impossibly long legs? An insurmountable problem. No. Astrid had it all worked out.
“This photo, m’dear,” Maisie groaned, “is me as a toilet-roll dolly, the kindergartener’s delight. Astrid found the goofy thing in a thrift on Second Avenue. The torso went bye-bye. I inherited the skirt and the hair. Looking at the photo now, I see more troll-doll than Barbie, but I felt like a Barbie at the time. I had the flowing locks I’d always dreamed of. Astrid transformed herself into a passable Ken. Ken and Barbie, we were in business.
“Truman had a photographer taking snaps of his famous guests to plant in the papers. He loved publicity. Peter Beard had a brilliant – as he saw it – idea. They’d perch me on the commode. Clever, no? The creeps were cracking up. I was whisked to the potty, screaming No! No! Astrid, tell these fools no! I couldn’t escape, I was wedged into that roll of toilet paper.
“To the right and left of the sink, ornate figures supported bowls of orchids. Sit me up there, I begged, and I’ll pose all you want, and no complaining.
“Joey Dee was on hand to provide the music. We’d, or, rather they’d, Twisted and Watusied all evening. I’d watched. By then, I’d had it. Tall, elegant, it’s for the birds. I’m a dancer. I need to be able to move.
“Joey launched into Mashed Potato Time. I spotted Astrid among the faces at the door. Astrid! I screamed. Get me out of this thing. I want to dance! She pushed forward, yanked me free of the butt-wipe roll, and set me on my feet. I hitched up my skirt and mash-potatoed, grinning like an idiot. My audience sang along to Dee’s vocals in the front room: “She’s the latest. She’s the greatest. Do it honey, ya, ya, ya, ya.” This here Barbie-half-doll is me, honey, mashing them spuds, mashing them but good, in Truman Capote’s powder room.
“Tru had this shot blown up and framed. It hung in his foyer in Brooklyn, and later on U.N. Plaza. So I was told. I never got asked up there. By that time, we were on the outs. I heard he’d drawn a handlebar mustache on me. Did I care? I had better things to worry about. In ’65, Peppermint’s liquor license was pulled. The joint shut down. I was back to hard times in Alphabet City.”
She sighed. “He perceived slights where none were intended. He was petulant, and vindictive. He betrayed confidences. That razor-sharp tongue of his severed many a friendship, mine included. He ended a pariah. His own fault. He was his own worst enemy.”
“Are not we all?” I said, thinking of my own neurotic behaviors.
“You got that right, lady,” she snorted. “You are damn sure damn right about that.”
by Curtis Bausse
‘Whose side are you on?’
There was a time the question made me afraid. I wouldn’t say I trembled, let alone quaked, but it sent a shiver, as they say, down my spine, which somewhat surprised me as I consider myself to be a spineless individual. Perhaps the shiver was elsewhere.
I could have answered with a question of my own. Must I be on a side? But I don’t think I ever did, despite it being, without a doubt, most apposite. Such a question would be incomprehensible to the soldiers. ‘It’s a war, old man. If you’re not on our side, then you must be on the other.’ Belligerents, rather, as they never wore a uniform for the obvious reason that it would tell me which side I ought to be on. They left me no alternative but to guess.
All this was a long time ago, yet they still come and ask me, albeit with less regularity. So it seems in any case, but I’ve never kept statistics, so I can’t be sure. Nor am I sure that if correct, it would be an encouraging sign. Would it make any difference to be visited sporadically rather than often? If I may venture an opinion, the point is ludicrously moot.
My wife died. Not, as I recall, at the hands of a belligerent but of hunger. I find this disturbing. It implies that I took the last of the food to stay alive myself. I may well have done. It’s plausible, after all.
Heads or tails. The fact that I’m still here raises the possibility that against all odds, I answered correctly each time. Perhaps, despite the absence of insignia, I detected a subtle sign that they were fighting either for Mish or for Mash. Often, though, they fought for Hodge or Podge, so the sides in fact made a square, or a hexagram if one also considers Helter and Skelter. In the end there were so many sides that I suspect the belligerents themselves grew confused. It would have been better for them if they’d worn a uniform. I further suspect that this confusion, rather than my aptitude at guessing, was the real reason they left me alive.
Or else they wanted to punish me for taking the last of the food.
Daylight Savings Bank
The first time I used my Facebook — oops, sorry, META — Daylight Savings Bank card, I bought 15 minutes of daylight to avoid having to wake up in the dark the next morning. It was a special occasion — my birthday — and I was leaving on a jet plane for a long-planned, well-deserved vacation in the tropics. If I had jet lag, I figured I wouldn’t miss the 18.3 minutes (15 minutes at 22%) of additional darkness that would trim sunshine off the end of that day to pay for it. If I didn’t suffer from jet lag, I could pay the higher interest rate of 33% (19.95 minutes) to defer payment up till the end of the test period.
At only 25 years of age, I was one of Daylight Savings Bank’s lucky beta testers. Tens of millions all over the world had applied, but only a hundred thousand were chosen by lottery to experience the freedom of deciding how many hours of daylight their days would hold.
You’re probably wondering how this could possibly work — I think we all were. First, every applicant had to read and agree to the 10-page TOS on DSB’s website before META held the lottery. This was meant “to give applicants the opportunity to inform their consent and withdraw their application if they so choose.” Then it got pretty technical — something about transactions “disrupting/resetting circadian rhythms” and extended use “realigning applicable relative longevity standards”.
To me, the most important part was the sliding interest rate scale. I just wanted the longest, sunniest days I could afford. Of course, as beta testers, we didn’t have to pay any money for the extra light or dark. We chose extra light (or dark) at one end (or both ends) of the day, and had to accept an equal amount of dark (or light) plus interest, either the same day or by the end of the 30-day beta testing period.
Second, the actual process sounded like a METAverse thing on steroids: After DSB’s thorough physical and mental examinations to establish each selected participant’s beginning health baseline, each participant would be “surgically fitted with temporarily permanent lenses” that would enable them to “experience sunlight and darkness on their own schedule.” At the end of the beta test, DSB conducted both examinations again, and traded their lenses out for the participant’s own lenses, which I guess must have been cryogenically frozen, just as rumor had it META’s founder, Mark Z. had been fifty years ago.
When I won a slot as a beta tester, I was ready. I paid for my own vacation, but the sunshine would be courtesy of Daylight Savings Bank.
After my first timid appropriation of extra sunshine and a daylong flight, there I was, on one of those little South Pacific islands that’s dominated by a super-luxurious resort that looks like it could sink the place. I was so energized, I added five more hours of sun that first night and deferred all payments from then on. From the golf course, you could whack a ball right into the ocean. Imagine snorkeling near a coral reef among exotic tropical fish, giant sea turtles, and sharks. (Just watch out for those golf balls.) Sailing, surfing, wind surfing, parasailing. Hiking, fishing, swimming, canoeing. Waterfalls, bamboo groves, volcanoes. Meal after extraordinary meal. Sea grapes. I did it all, I saw it all, and I needed only five extra hours of daylight every day for 23 days. No wonder I was moving more slowly toward the end.
But my exit examinations established a different explanation. While my body and my mind had successfully reset my circadian rhythms to my eighteen hours of sun/six hours of darkness schedule, my applicable relative longevity standard was now that of a 70-year old woman.
Even worse, my deferred payments were due. I had to live the next seven days in total darkness before DSB would trade out my lenses. Seems to me setting the clock ahead to permanent Daylight Saving Time would have been a much healthier option.