Do you miss summer already, too? (A ramble and a flash fiction piece)

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A small mantis watches me & vice versa.

Let’s see. In summary, my summer’s been about parenting, copywriting, parenting, parenting some more, mowing grass, seeing a few critters here and there, working at weeding, parenting again, a too-short vacation and time with my husband, and, (unfortunately) a car wreck (bright spot is that no one was injured beyond minor aches).

I hope your hot or dry or windy or wet season has been much more fruitful or at least enjoyable. How’d you spend it?

Here’s today’s vignette, followed by a flash fiction piece . . .

As tides of laughter and shrill screams cascade over LEGOs and reverberate off walls into my writing room (a.k.a., the couch; tomorrow, it might be the kitchen table), I realize, with some mush of sadness and trepidation, that yet another summer is ending.

But I’m ready. It was a busy season; not necessarily a creative writing-productive summer, although I did do a bit of copywriting for the dough.

In a few days, I hope to have a few fascinatin’ features and facts about my friends’ endeavors (like this one) the last few months, as I (I hope) fall into a more regular pattern of blogging about all things literary, spec-fic, ghosty, dystopian, horror-ific, and whatever fancy strikes me in the head that day. [Also, in short, I’ve missed reading & commenting on your blogs! What can I say; full-time, full-on summertime parenting takes precedence.]

Anyway, less rambling and more story-ilization, right? Here’s an odd little throw-away that I hope you’ll enjoy; coincidentally, it has both fire and fury in it (but was written months ago for a 100-word challenge I couldn’t cut enough for).

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Hot Fur

GENRE: Weird, futuristic, dystopian

By Leigh Ward-Smith

“As you know, we’re here to commemorate the crumbling of 21st century institutions. To a man, you each had a role in slaying the dragon that is—or should I say was?—the prevailing mentality.”

The crowd bellows a series of whoops and howls, but fidgety coughs, footshuffles, and unholstered AugReal guns give them away.

Rich, you’re losing ’em. Do something dramatic.

I pull out the cannister hidden behind the flag-strewn lectern. “You all know what this is!” I waggle the can to massive cheers.

“And this.” The realization of the clear tub’s contents spread like our accustomed rolling blackouts.

The chant went up: “Pour it, pour it!” From there, the spark was mere formality.

BLOG_anarchy bear by Gerry Lauzon

Image by Gerry Lauzon, Creative Commons license 4.0 (CC By 4.0).

“Gentlemen, witness the death rasp of the 21st century and all her attendant scum!”

As flames lick the air, I pull a fast-disintegrating specimen out with tongs. I shake a clump loose, and the pallid throng wriggle onto its fallen char.

“It’s Burn-a-Bear Workshop now, ain’t it, boys?!”

END

The Garden Avenger Versus The Scourge: A Not-So-Fictional Story

Trigger Warning: Contains descriptions of insecticide, gore, and, of course, insects.

Day 1

Not only are the butternut squash anemic-looking, but now they are writhing. The novice gardener had noticed that the vines had been in decline for a couple days. She’d wondered whether the wilting meant they needed to be watered more. She had surveyed her raised beds at a remove, not getting20150821_090237 her fingers or eyes down into the dirt.

For which she paid dearly.

On Day 1, The Scourge made their presence known. Legions besieged the squash that had once thrived.20150821_090251

The war had begun in earnest.

The Garden Avenger was born.

Day 2 (early)

As fortuity would have it, the Avenger had a bag—and then some—of diatomaceous earth, a natural solution she used for dusting her duck coop.

Bellows in a steely vise, she wanted to feel as light-hearted and buoyant as Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” She wasn’t. So, she went a’poofing (no, not that kind, definition 2).

After 30 minutes spent squash patch–squatting, she had made that section of the garden look like Narnia during the Long Winter.

Insectoid forms skittered and scattered far and wide. Victory had been seized from the pincers of defeat!

Day 2 (later)

The fecking foe had returned after a few hours. Presumably some had scuttled away and succumbed to the pale pixie dust.

The Garden Avenger suited up, bellows again in pink-gloved adamantine hands.

The land was again white.

Day 3

The rains came. And came. And came.

And the persevering pests returned, trying to make inroads in the melon patch.

The Garden Avenger shrieked within: “Oh, hell no! You do NOT take my watermelons!” (Again, novice gardener that she is, she had never gotten a melon to reach full maturity and loved—nay, worshipped—the sweet red ambrosia as much as Ralphie’s old man in “A Christmas Story” loved turkey. Yes, indeed, squash bugs were the Garden Avenger’s version of the Bumpus hounds!)

The Avenger promptly went into full-on “Après moi, le deluge” mode, spraying far and wide, chasing each little blighter as it tried to flee under a leaf, along the garden board, under the garden board, or into the snake’s den in the splitting railroad tie flanking the upper garden.

In the Garden Avenger’s mind, the work was either done or, as per her trusty Farmer’s Almanac, the level of infestation was so great, it was time for more drastic measures.

Day 4

This day, Mister Green-Eyed Hornet Lantern Arrow Man made an appearance, because the Garden Avenger was busy slaying the Green Blades (of Grass) gaily swaying. (Okay, they were mocking.)

Seeing his work and the quick return of the brown beasts, the Garden Avenger was sore wroth. She dusted. And dusted. And dusted.

And then, she could take no more as the wary wrigglers returned.

Pity had fled. She vowed to slaughter them all.

She chased, and she crushed. She felt revolted and merciless when one body exploded in a pus-green confetti-sludge, then the next. Then the next.

Tiny ones. Slow ones. Fast ones. Old ones. Gray ones. Brown ones. In the back. In the face. Some separated into segments, head and body asunder. Some merely . . . smeared.

She wanted them gone. Yesterday.

Mister Green-Eyed Hornet Lantern Arrow Man had suggested a blow-torch, but lacked some of the parts needed after searching the shed.

She rationalized that she had saved them from fiery deaths. After all, they are called squash bugs, she punned. They’re meant to be . . . well, squashed. Right?

That night, her brain lay awake, wriggling, worrying, troubled by her malice. She knew what would need to come next.

Day 5

It needed a burning.

. . . saga to be continued

Summer Peels off its Mask: Story and Gallery

The yellow leaves twisted, icarean, as they helicoptered down from the trees. A soft breeze teased the grass, except where I’d tonsured a path to, from, and around the pool, raised bed gardens and duck yard, shed, and flattened miniature Stonehenge where the kids like to swing on the forgiving branches of the maple tree. A plastic orange horse with unruly blue mane lies sideways on one fallen pillar, and various play paraphernalia punctuate the circle of leviathan stones: an insect-patterned soccer ball stares you down, a blue-green geodesic dome ball peeks from behind blades, a baseball mitt is upended on another flat rock. Other spheres are caught in the trough of the stones’ belly, but a pair of girl’s well-worn tennis shoes, size 10, still tied in double bows but unfooted, wait outside the sacred almost-ouroboros. Their occupant has tromped away on purple-flowered roller skates, lifting her legs as if hoisted by cranes at the knees.

“Look, Mom, I walk like C-3PO in these.”

These scatterings seem to me a forlorn solar system, guideposts gone, lessons unlearned.

Farther back, fresh human dreck of a tricolor beach ball and a spent pool filter litter the ground, half-mown, where the orange snake threads a path among the stones, and meets its dark counterpart in a charged union of opposites.

Mating and molting, and switching one mask for the other, are already underway. The sun metes out its blight to all within blindness’ field-sight, the sky’s flash bulb freezing a moment in the white-heat of infinity.

And the dog days of August lope off in search of dead smells and living motions, that they may loll in the bed of September’s early, protean decay.

Cicada Shadow

Cicada and molted cuticula. By Leigh Ward-Smith