The Bermuda Banishment

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Friday Fictioneers photograph courtesy of Marie Gail Stratford. Be sure to check out her fiction and other works, too.

Flash Fiction by Leigh Ward-Smith

Genre: Modern Fantasy

For Friday Fictioneers, 26 Sept. 2014

 

A swell of laughter pushed through fleshy lips the color of the Calypso Deep.

“The Egyptians got it wrong with all that Isis prattle.” He traced the rough underside of an amber bottle with his thumb.

“Me, I relished washing impertinent man ashore.”

He marveled at his collection, which now filled thirty-three warehouses and the bar in Bermuda.

“Even Zeus’ conquests cannot rival mine. From every ellipse of the Earth and practically every nationality and language!”

His hubris drifted to rage about the banishment. At least I have these glass reminders of measly man, he gestured.

“In the end, I judge all humans’ hearts are the same.”

He picked a bottle at random and hurled it to the stone floor.

“Puny.”

 

Mellowing into Fall: Essay and Photos

Leaves Etc._20140924_0928

Hope you like the cotton-candy clouds, JannaT!

If you didn’t know better, you’d think furry brown Cheetos were crossing the road, crawling from cornfield to cornfield. I’ve done a lot of swerving as a consequence. I flick my eyes up to the rearview and watch their little forms rolling around like horseshoes in the sand. And I hope they’re okay.

Yesterday, a hummingbird flitted into our garage, taking refuge, perhaps, from the autumnal cascade that I almost caught in this photo (believe it or not, that spot in the middle right quadrant is a leaf).

It’s that golden time of year again. When none or few still do hang. Shackled by bony branches. Or are they caught up in some Cthulhu’s claws?

Leaves Etc._20140924_0912

Goodbye, Summer.

The rose bush is putting on a small show next to our driveway — a sole spray of pink popping out of the greens. The chives are preparing for lean times, too. Their ends are droopy and brown.

But two watermelons and one cantaloupe cling to life, desperate to ripen. Before snow, or some other surprise, settles in.

When I was a child, fall upset the philosophical applecart of happiness. The animals and plant lives I loved to follow by limb and with eyesight seemed to have drawn in. Hunkered down. Sloughed off. Or gone under.

The main good things to be said for autumn in the Northern hemisphere — it certainly wasn’t returning to school, apart from cross-country running when I was a teenager — were the twin surfeits of sugar and tryptophan. And the mere prospect of snow made my imagination effervesce, especially when I lived close to the ocean.

Leaves Etc._20140924_0939

He’s playing amid the fallen leaves. I’m learning to relax.

Now, I tend to view fall through a yellowed lens. No, not jaundiced exactly, but mellowed. Relaxed. (It’s the medication. Ha!) Embracing the slowing-down of natural processes. Ah, but what to make of the diminished thing? Perhaps we ought to consult a certain bird of Mr. Frost’s? He did remind us, after all, that nothing gold can stay.

In the meantime, enjoy some other autumnal offerings from around the world of WordPressland. For instance: An essay and photo meditation. A re-blogged poem. A poem reimagined (after Chinese poet Li Po). A stream-of-consciousness fiction piece.

 

 

The Lone Egg: Flash Fiction

Photo from Lee's Birdwatching Adventures Plus. Check out her informative blog.

Archival photo of eaglet and parent, before the extinction (from approximately 2014), by Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus.

Levant Davis gently rearranged the simulated nest but wasn’t having much luck with the lone egg. As lead researcher for the Lorax Project, even he could do only so much prodding of natural processes. The recovered eagle DNA from which he’d helped create Phoenix, first of her kind in 22 generations, was rebelling in her parthenogenetic offspring.

“The sim-nest isn’t adequately insulating.” The bio-console picked up his pique. “We must maintain a core temperature of 99.67 degrees from now until pipping.”

He blew out a long breath, then muttered. “One time when cool is not cool.”

“Bio-con, erase previous statement.”

He hid his hopes. Emotions aren’t data.


Flash fiction written for the Light and Shade Challenge of 19 September 2014. My gratitude to the Raptor Resource Project Blog and the American bald eagle resource unit from The Learning Technology Center at Vanderbilt University, which provided invaluable data in which to “ground” this flash.

“Cool is not cool.”
– Matt Smith in Doctor Who, written by Steven Moffat

 

 

 

Me and the Running Man

runningman (1)

No, not that one!

 

First he was smiling. Then falling.

If his pelvis had been a shovel, the heave of dirt would have landed on me. I had just pressed the rectangle of the angry red “stop” button with my knuckle. My water bottle, mobile phone, and balled-up borrowed towel waited in the recesses of the treadmill to the left and right of the console.

His cell phone started it all. He stepped on the adjacent machine. From the peripheral view, he looked like Alex, a guy I knew in high school who later went in the Army and lost lots of weight. He was a sandy blond with close-cropped hair. About 6 foot tall and barrel-chested.

He started his workout routine, then within about 15 seconds, the phone dropped like a lead zeppelin (mind you, he wasn’t on the stair-stepper to heaven) and flew off the back of the treadmill, looking like a small, sailing gray claymore mine before the steel balls explode out of it.

Thunk, whirr.

I turned at the sound, and our eyes collided. His were an electrocuted blue. Still, he smiled.

Perhaps that was his biggest mistake.

He hit hard on his left hip, which I guess was better than hitting face-first or knee-first, the latter of which I’ve done on a home treadmill (or dreadmill, as I often call it).

In short, his manparts were probably saved, but I doubt his pride was. He bounced off the back of the treadmill and out into the aisle as I winced inwardly.

Of course, he didn’t need help. He was a dude, and, as such, refused my knobby little proffered hand. Two other people, both women, rushed over to his aid. Perhaps it was his lucky day, or his unlucky one, depending on how he narrated the situation to himself.

Either way, I second-guessed. Should I have called out I’ll get it, then hopped down and scooped the phone off the sparkly blue carpeting? Should I have looked at him? Did I breach gymnasium etiquette by not ignoring the phone-drop? Could I have done anything to prevent his fall? Should I have grabbed at him as he fell? (Yeah, as if I could have stopped him.) Do I dare to eat a peach? (Never mind those singing mermaids.)

I apologized to him and asked him if he was okay. At least twice.

I was sorry I’d seemed to distract him, I said. Or perhaps that’s wishful thinking, in addition to being at least a little self-centered.

In any case, now perhaps I should go polish my best Blanche DuBois accent. With fading youth as my focus.

Clearing throat and rolling out the drawl (yes, I’ve still got it way down in the bag of tricks):

“I don’t want realism, I want magic! . . . Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!” (from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” by Tennessee Williams)

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Arthropods’ Last Stand

One morning, when Samantha Gregson woke from what she could only hope were mangled dreams, she remembered it.

It was a whatchamacalit. She followed the ant trail of taffy-like memories. It was at my bedroom window, backlighted, silhouetted by the street lamps. In profile, it looked like all pincers. Snapping at what?

Copyright Janet Webb

Copyright Janet Webb

She shook off a shudder as she rose from the bed to begin the day, pausing only to mute a stridulating alarm clock.

A heated bath to steam up the room will make my sinuses chirp hallelujah!

As her gaze flitted around appraising the newly remodeled bathroom, a quick shimmer near the window drew her eye.

The thick window sections resembled segments of a skeleton. A living insect exoskeleton. And it seemed to be steadily extracting itself from the lacy cocoon of wall, curtain, and window casing.

By the time of the first citizen sightings of window-sized lobsters and transparent bugs as large as compact cars, a towel was all that remained of Samantha in the flooded bathroom.

 

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 86: “Decapoda” by Ernst Haeckel. Decapods are an order of crustacean, and Crustacea is a subphylum of Arthropoda. Via Wikimedia Commons.


A speculative flash fiction piece that’s a little bit long, at 170ish words, for the latest Friday Fictioneers. Stop by and read the stories, show some appreciation to Janet Webb for contributing her photo (and story), or create your own.

 

Six-Word Stories: On School

School Start

“How small a part of time they share/That are so wondrous sweet and fair!” from “Go, Lovely Rose,” Edmund Waller. (1606–1687)

 

For me, school is indeed out forever. But philosophically speaking, not so much, because  the world is a schoolroom if I let it be.

Nonetheless, teacher strikes and other issues notwithstanding, here in the States most children are back in school. So I’ve been ruminating on and writing about school days: mine and those of the kidlets.

I also noticed that the good people of SMITH magazine and Six Words are tripping down the halls of recollection. Through Friday, 12 September, they are harvesting your memories of academic successes and failures in their back-to-school Six Contest.

Perhaps you’ll consider taking part over there.

Here are some of mine. (And here are some not school-related sixers from Dr. Joe in Dublin. A tip of my writerly cap to this scientist writer!)

Six-word stories on back-to-school (and all things school, really):

Nimbus of curls hovers, then evaporates.

Son rising: Doe-eyed daredevil outclimbs himself.

Trust me, I’m no good at math.

Shyness 101: Feigned illness, skipped graduation.

Kindling at home, school; youth combusts.

Hot teacher motivated my good grades.

Sprinting from self, running on teams.

Abandon hope: Moving during high school.

The words shall set you free.


And now for what some would consider very dark humour (this is the ‘cleaner’ of the two memorable “Rowan Atkinson Live” sketches, usually called “Fatal Beatings”)! Hope you enjoy . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September’s Guest Storyteller, Leigh Ward-Smith

Speculative fiction maven and haikuist Sarah Potter has graciously featured me as her September guest storyteller. Pop in for a read of my short fiction story about two among a special pack of enhanced beings and the researcher who chronicles their struggle for dominance. Then sit and visit a good while with Sarah’s imaginative prose, poetry, and photography.

Sarah Potter Writes

Leigh Ward-Smith

Leigh Ward-Smith has a journalism and editing background, but fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction occupy most of her current brainspace. She blogs at Leigh’s Wordsmithery  but also tweets, tweaks her wordcraftery, and sometimes opines on Twitter @1WomanWordsmith or on Facebook.

[quote] “I credit Serendipity with helping me discover Sarah’s blog, for which I’m very grateful, and I thank you all for taking the time to read my work”.

Out of a group of genetically enhanced humans with canid capabilities, a female and male study subject battle for dominance with increasing aggression. One researcher monitors them from a distance, mindful that the study could spiral out of control but determined to see who will emerge as Alpha.

The Enhanced: Prologue

“Observation is the most pervasive and fundamental practice of all the modern sciences, both natural and human.” — Histories of Scientific Observation, edited by Daston and Lunbeck

Brandon tore a…

View original post 715 more words

When We Are Our Works: Flash Fiction

An arborist works his magic at the Missouri Botanical Garden, summer 2014. Photo by Leigh Ward-Smith.

An arborist works his magic at the Missouri Botanical Garden, summer 2014. Photo by Leigh Ward-Smith.

In honor of Labor Day, and all the hard-working people out there, worldwide, I am taking the day off, with an “oldie” but, I hope you’ll agree, an existential goodie (of flash fiction) that I wrote a year or two ago.

Speaking of which (and to be very serious for a moment), I offer big props to one such dad-blogger, Andy Chih, whose blog is, sadly, on hiatus. But understandably so. He is taking a break so he can support his daughter by working hellacious hours at two jobs. My kudos to you, Andy.


 

When We Are Our Works

Copyright Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Almost nothing was under my control. That knowledge began to leach into me one day when I got back to my soda can–forted workspace.

Hunched over a crumby communal keyboard at the Weekly News, referred to by our sports editor/graphic designer/advertising supervisor as “Weakly, News,” I was jolted to learn that my neighbor, Candy Mangold-MacGuffin, had plummeted to a pancake death (Dale’s term) about an hour prior in the elevator shaft. It was exceedingly strange, made more so by the fact that there was no elevator in our building.

The pizza grease–laden telephone handle almost slipped out of my hand.

My roommate, photographer Marcy Heart, said she’d gotten a few decent shots of the scene. But it had defaulted to me to do the story. Everyone in this Everglades sinkhole of a newsroom had naturally assumed I’d give my eye teeth to write it. Although I was as curious as the next person—I mean, what horrible luck for Candy: recently finding love or something approximating it after 46 years of widowhood, with playboy and visiting artist Maximilian Capricorn—murders weren’t my beat. Really, they weren’t anybody’s beat around here. Those sticks had been dropped long ago, if they ever existed. In short, this place was too boring to have anything other than garden-variety deaths. More likely: deaths in gardens. Lots of old people equal lots of gardens, I learned here, if nothing else.

When I got to the scene I saw only a seeming rivulet of red hair hanging from the metal gate drawn across the shaft, now bereft of elevator. Five floors below lay a human jumble in a scarlet dress. From here, she looked sickeningly akin to a swastika with a couple little red and apricot Pollock splats next to it. That would be her poodle, Pepé, and what apparently was her auburn wig.

I hadn’t even noticed it was the 13th, and a Friday, until I glanced at my watch. I’m not sure why I did that just now, because I normally am content to let the time sift by. Maybe it was the building excitement of a new kind of story. In any case, the damn Timex was so tight on my wrist that you’d think someone else had put it on me.

The reporting flew by that afternoon, and soon I was back at my desk, typo’ing away.

I almost began to marvel at the taut phrases that muscled their way onto the screen, and the sound of the keys clacking made me feel I was conjuring Joplin at the ivories. The ghosts of Chandler, Carver, and Christie (Agatha, not Chris) thundered in my ears, cinching the writer’s garrot, from forearm to heart to head, tighter.

When I woke up at my desk, I was surprised to find a Denou Mint dangling from a cleft of curls. More startling still, the iron-y taste of epiphany:

Holyshit! I, Paige Turner, am inside an actual book! Does that mean instead of blood I have words—of course! it all makes sense now—coursing my veins, adjectives sardined into my arteries, hyperboles latched onto teats of hemoglobin like similes on this hack’s half-blank page? Was I the only character outside Faulkner or Joyce to escape the prison of the page, to become self-aware? I mean, the story here, it’s basically what happened to me. 

And now that I’ve spilled my Vonneguts to you, dear reader, maybe you can enlighten me on the sense of existence. Help me transcend this setting, assist me in copyediting the meaning, or the lessness, of my life. By relinquishing control to you, maybe I might yet win some of it back.

Unless . . .

Are you written, too?