Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday Thirteen

The other day I started thinking about what foods come in the color orange. Here’s what came to mind:

1. carrots

2. apricots

3. pumpkin pie

4. sweet potatoes

5. acorn squash

6. marmalade

7. oranges (makes you wonder why that wasn’t first; doesn’t it?)

8. orange juice

9. tangerines

10. peaches

11. Colby cheese

12. cheese puffs

13. egg yolks

This proved tougher than I thought, though I doubtless missed some obvious ones. Writing them as they popped into my head, I found it interesting how my mind clung to fruit when I got desperate. And technically, peach is its own color but it's my list. So there.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday

Christmas Balls

The stainless steel bucket clattered to the table on top of the Christmas cards he’d promised to help write. Was this my gift? Golf balls! What was he thinking?

“Merry Christmas, baby!”

“Another bid to get me to join you on the course,” I griped. “You have really outdone yourself, Sean.”

I didn’t understand why he was so insistent that I play the dumb sport. Most guys clamber to get away from the girls. My boyfriend thinks we should be attached at the hip.

He had no hope of making me give up that rare free-time alone. Those afternoons he did go out with the guys were precious, the few times I could blast industrial music and read or write to my heart’s content.

“Don’t be mad,” he begged with that adorable pout tugging out his full bottom lip. “I’ll help you finish addressing the envelopes as soon as you open your gift.”

It looked pretty “open” to me all ready. At least he’d saved money, obviously having collected this assorted lot from the public course he frequented.

“I don’t know," I protested, objection softening. “These need to go out tomorrow or they’ll be late. We really don’t have time for you to tell me the virtues of every one. I can see you worked hard gathering them and I do find it sweet, babe. It’s just a bad time.”

Every time was bad these days, truth be told. We clashed over money at every turn.

“Okay,” he seemingly yielded. “You’re going to make this difficult. Can’t you be like most girls and figure out there’s more than meets the eye? Maybe I’ve hidden something inside.”

“Like what?”

“You’re supposed to want to look and find out. The present is sort of a two-parter. Or par two, if you will.”

“Ha, ha, very funny.” I continued to complain, “So what’s the first part? That you have my first day’s supply to get me through a game?”

“No, silly. These are for me, actually. No more spending our money on new. Promise,” he stated disarmingly.


“So. Dig in! There’s a secret hidden inside.”

“Okay. Okay,” I couldn’t help replying with a laugh.

He really did irritate me sometimes. Equally, I couldn’t see living without him. Despite myself, I grew vaguely intrigued.

Maybe he put a nice pen set at the bottom. Or could it be a reservation to that writing seminar I’d had to forgo for silly things like, oh, rent?

No. That was not possible. He’d been laid off from real, steady employment for longer than either of us cared to consider.

He surprised me by adding something else to the tabletop. He had a stack of egg cartons. What was this?

“You can put these in as you pull them out of the bucket. That way there won’t be my crap lying all over the place,” he suggested comically. “I know how you hate that.”

“You are a clever boy. Have I ever told you that?”

“Only every time I make you grind your teeth in ecstasy,” he taunted.

With a lurid eye roll I pulled out the first of many dimpled spheres. Sean hinted that I needed to look at each with a little bit of interest.

“Every one? There must be dozens!”

“Don’t worry. It’ll be obvious, but the secret is actually part of one of them. I had Ralph mix them up before we poured them in from a box. That way we’re both in suspense.

“Okay,” I assented.

Glancing at each in turn, I soon filled up the first carton. Halfway through the second, a seam through the middle made apparent this object's difference.

I held it up triumphantly, wondering what could possible be contained within. Not a ring, I hoped. He should know we couldn’t afford a wedding.

Even a small one seemed unobtainable done the way my mother would approve. I shook the orb, relieved at a lack of metallic rattle.

“Open it.”


He admitted to additional assistance from Ralph. His buddy had used his woodworking tools in a most unorthodox manner to drill out the center. The halves came apart much like a ring box and I held my breath.

Inside was a wadded scrap of paper. What in the world was this?

“Read it.”

Scanning the tiny print, I easily read over the crinkled surface. A squeal escaped my lips.

“You got the job! The one you’ve been losing sleep over!”

“Yes,” he concurred slyly. “And after you get back from your writing seminar next spring we can be married, if you’ll have me.”

From a pocket he held a purple box of velvet. This one had a very prominent stamp from a local jeweler.

“Yes,” I answered, rising to kiss him.

~the end~

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thirteen Snapshots of Nature

After recent conversation with a friend I began recalling fond experiences with animals. Mind you, they are generally pedestrian, but I prefer staying toward the top of the food chain.

1. Butterflies licking the sweat off my skin on a hot day

2. A pod of killer whales in Prince William Sound

3. Forty buzzards roosting in the tree behind my house

4. Reeling in a giant fish head after a barracuda ate my catch

5. Watching a hawk nab its prey from an easy stone’s throw away

6. Crow-sized pileated woodpeckers visiting my window feeder

7. Holding a sea cucumber at the aquarium in Key West

8. Being threatened alongside my mom by a mole not much larger than my big toe

9. Watching days old kittens use a litter box

10. Moose strutting through downtown Seward, Alaska

11. Alligators seen up-close from an airboat in Florida

12. A baby groundhog following its mother through my backyard

13. Watching two fighting cats become nothing but a blurry ball of action with the occasional clawed paw – I always thought cartoon animators made that one up

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday

This is a brief follow-on the my ficlet "Unflinching" though I like to think it stands alone. I hope you enjoy whether you read the original or not...


I look at the summoning court clerk with heavily lidded eyes. I try to look bored. My brother is dead. So what? I have no reason to lie or in any way act like I loved the guy. Hell, everyone in our platoon hates him. I mean, used to hate him. Sometimes I still can’t believe he’s dead. Sometimes I still can’t believe I killed the SOB. I can still hear the last words he said to me.

“Just promise you’ll kill the rest of these piece-of-shit Martian bugs, T…,” he stuttered at the end as he died, unable to say my name.

Tazz. I always hated the rhyming nickname, saddled on me by a drill instructor when Razz and I were in boot camp together on Earth. We had our moments. But boot camp days ended a long time ago. And from that fateful day on Mars soil I became T. Just plain T. Our new leader decided it the moment he heard the initial stammered from a dead man’s lips. I suppose I could have done worse for a tag. I could be dead as a result of many follow-on campaigns. But dead or alive, right now I need to focus and try to relax.

Why is the army even bothering with this? We’re at war! The weapon that killed Razz was bug technology, so I’m not really a suspect. I concentrate on breathing, feeling sort of disconnected from my body as I walk to the interrogation chair. The seat is still warm from the last occupant. My pal Comet, acting the opposite of what his name suggests, sat in this one spot for over an hour defending the simple truth that none of our soldiers had seen the shooter. Nobody had witnessed the fatal attack on our former commander.

I can do no less. After all, we’re brothers in arms. And if the truth gets out we’ll all be in a world of hurt. Though I looked through the scope that day and pulled the trigger, we all signed the death warrant. I’d simply been the poor jerk who drew the short straw. Any one of us could have been assigned the task and every one of us to a man would have followed through.

“Sergeant McMillan,” the woman barks, “is it true that you stood by your brother as his life slipped away?”

Why’d she have to put it like that? I square my jaw and blink slowly, trying even harder to look nonchalant. “Yeah,” I drawl.

“In fact, you were there for several minutes before his last breath. Isn’t that right? Records state that you didn’t radio for help. Is that true? You were that certain he was doomed. Tell us about how you came to that conclusion, Sergeant McMillan.”

“He died trying to say my name,” I answer, clearing my throat. The sound echoes in the chamber, a quiet space despite a crowd of coconspirators and superiors. “T was all he managed to get out before he died or I’d probably still be known as Tazz.”

“And what was he trying to say?”

“Objection,” her lawfully appointed opponent booms so that I jump. “This is irrelevant to proceedings. It’s a private moment between a decorated war hero and his dying brother.”

Lieutenant Smith had been hand chosen to stand before this tribunal because he’s lawful and tenacious. He is not, however, impartial. The only other besides me who knows details of Smith's identity is my current commander, who stepped into the combat boots of Razz McMillan that day two years ago. Razz’s first wife, Sharleen, is survived by a baby brother Razz never had the pleasure of meeting. Sharleen had been abused physically and mentally before big, bad Razz found religion and a new wife. Whatever. I always doubted the religion bit.

But I can’t help but glumly recall the look on Becka’s face when she called me after hearing about Razz. He had been pretty good to his new family, apparently. But I can’t think about that now. I keep my gaze like flint on the female officer appraising me.

“Next case,” the presiding general announces.

Dismissed, I rise stiffly from the chair. My muscles don’t want to work right, as if I’ve been trapped in that chair for hours instead of a few minutes. My too-tight dress shoes, once property of Ray “Razz” McMillan, click loudly as I stride steadily from the military hearing room on Earth.

I'm on Earth. It's surreal. Most of us spacer grunts never get invited back. Razz would be proud, whatever the reason.

Reaching the hall, I barely acknowledge the congratulatory men gathering in the hall. It seems we’ve been cleared of any possible charges. The fervent investigations of this current regime won’t touch us. I expect we'll be leaving Earth's atmo by this time tomorrow. I'm glad. There are too many memories here.

I keep moving toward the nearest public bathroom. Breakfast, it seems, wants to come back up. Just keep walking, Tazz.

The end

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday 13

While I am much more fond of writing than watching movies these days, I realized that there are some quirky favorites that I’ll still pull off the shelf now and then. Here are thirteen of them, randomly listed as they came to mind.

I’ll be amazed if anyone has heard of the majority. Anyway, I hope you’ll be inspired to check a few of them out. To get an idea of what they’re about and some opinions from the general population, please check out a great movie lovers' resource by visiting the Internet Movie Database.

1. Nemesis – the
reluctant hero in this sci/fi action slowly becomes more and more of a machine in the line of duty; while this is awesome, definitely skip the sequel

2. Circuitry Man – also heavy on the science fiction and action, this one is more of a tongue-in-cheek comedic romance that has been followed by a similarly bad follow-on

3. Deep Rising – I seem to be more of a geek than I realized, but this sci/fi treat has monsters instead of cyborgs

4. Clay Pigeons – Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Pheonix in a dark comedy/crime drama; ‘nuff said

5. Demon Knight – an everyman fights an epic battle against evil through the ages until time runs out and he is forced to find the next protector of the key (cue ominous music, though there is actually an excellent hard rock soundtrack)

6. Howard the Duck – I liked it and I won’t apologize, so there; okay, maybe I don't find it as re-watchable as some others (Dark City, Pitch Dark, Sin City, but now I'm cheating by padding the list even if there is an amusing repetition of words in the titles)

7. Idle Hands – Seth Green is brilliant and Jessica Alba is every bit as sweet as she is hot (Hey! I’m a girl but I’m not blind)

8. The Professional Рbefore she portrayed Padm̩, Natalie Portman played a precocious orphan who attaches herself to a hit man to learn his trade and avenge her murdered family; Jean Reno and Gary Oldman are beyond memorable

9. Jacob’s Ladder – an anti-war movie with a mind-bending plot

10. The Cell – another Vince Vaughn triumph featuring what I thought was a shining performance by Jennifer Lopez

11. Thirteen Ghosts – Tony Shaloub plays an admirable parent in a horrifying situation; DVD special features on the background of the ghosts keeps me captivated

12. Dodgeball – I guess I really like Vince Vaughn when I think about it, but this one makes me feel good no matter how bad a day I've had

13. Ghost Ship – every character is interesting and quirky in this chilling supernatural tale

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction


As battlefields go it wasn’t so different from any through the centuries. Heavy rain fell, had fallen for hours, mixing blood and mud into gory sludge. Tazz stood over his brother with arms crossed, legs spread for balance or fatigue would take him to his knees beside the dying man.

“You didn’t flinch,” Razz noted approvingly. “It’s about time you fight like a man instead of a frightened little girl.”

There was a reason for the nickname, the elder McDyver brother notoriously hard on his sibling. In fact, Razz had been slated for death long before by his whole platoon. Tazz, saddled with the rhyming name thanks to a smartass drill sergeant, had simply drawn the short straw the week before.

“I finally had a worthy target,” Tazz countered after a long moment. ‘What else should I suspect? Of course he’ll be a smartass to the end,’ he thought to himself.

Razz blinked the rainwater from his eyes, wincing as if even that hurt. Perhaps it did. Tazz doubted he could feel much of anything, though. He wished the smarmy son-of-a-bitch would die, already.

His head was the only thing that he could move, now. Vision graying, Razz figured his time was just about up. Simply sorry he wouldn’t see his wife again, the man didn’t fret over the cause of his demise. He’d never expected to die in a rocking chair. Friendly fire or not, one bullet was as good as the next. The ever-demanding man prided himself on not having tried to stuff his guts back in. Something about his brother’s eyes had told him help would not be summoned before credit for the shot had been taken.

“Just promise you’ll kill the rest of these piece-of-shit Martian bugs, T…,” the dead man said with his last breath.

Another soldier approached, the unexpected hand on Tazz’s shoulder not quite making him jump. ‘Razz would be proud,’ he thought angrily. ‘Unflinching. I’m finally becoming like him.’

“Come on, T. There’s nothing more to see here,” the new platoon leader asserted.

“What did you call me?”

“T, man; I called you T. I heard Razz. It’s your new name. Now come on. We got to hump our gear over the next hill. There’s bugs to squash.”

The end

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Thursday!

Learning Japanese struck me as a good way to expand my mind. Hopefully the software is making the old gray matter develop faster than my waistline. And, admittedly, it could be practical since the parent company of my employer is in Japan.

Perhaps I can be of use on a business trip someday. You never know. In the meantime my quest for knowledge caters to my love of language, which brings me to this list of favorite Japanese words. I’ll spell them in Romaji, the phonetic Anglicized version of the words.

1. Green – midori is pronounced me-doe-dee; say it, it’s fun, and the kanji character is lovely

2. Cat – neko has allowed me to practice sentences while jabbering at my oblivious pets

3. Car – kuruma is the first Kanji I learned to recognize and makes me feel good for having done so

4. Blue – ao sounds like I stubbed my toe badly enough to exclaim my pain in two syllables

5. Police officer - kesatskan gave me trouble at first but I like how it rolls off the tongue with practice

6. Library – toshokan are places I’ve often found refuge as well as good reads

7. Science – rika which starts with a "d" sound reminds me of the word for beaker, making it easy to recall and bringing my favorite Muppet to mind, that long-suffering lab assistant named for the test tubes

8. Paper – kami is pronounced like the name of a beloved drummer for a Japanese “visual kei” band before his tragic demise

9. Blond – this word I won’t try to transcribe sounds like it uses the word for metal as a base; though I’m not knowledgeable enough to say for sure if that’s true, it sounds cool

10. How to say a thing is the “most” (oldest, largest) – ichiban is part of the name for my favorite Japanese beer, Kirin Ichiban

11. Egg – tamago is a word I’ve long known from sushi dining

12. Fish – sakana has a nice ring to it and is part of one of the earliest phrases I learned (the cat watches the fish)

13. Actually a phrase, asking someone to repeat a statement you didn’t hear properly is simply fun to say

Anyone who wants to correct any words I might have butchered, feel free. I’m always happy to learn. Maybe someday I can draw up a list of favorites that are all phrases!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's a Jungle Out There

Still painfully new to the world of blogs, I decided to take a random look at what others have to offer. It was both enlightening and entertaining.

First, I started with the musings of a long-time friend. I saw the same entry from back on November third and the dude really needs to update. He’s way too witty to let it sit. Anyway, in the spirit of research I hit the “next blog>>>” button. Then I did it again, and again, and again.

I briefly scanned each page before moving on. Usually I like to leave a kind comment out of respect but the hour was getting late. Besides, I can always go back through my view history another day. Right?

What struck me as interesting was the common thread that quickly emerged. There is a consistent ode to animals from one blog to the next. Wild, domestic, marine life, insects, they were all represented in my sampling. First there were my friend’s stories about his wife’s cat. You can find Mike’s blog "The Ends Justifies the Means" under my blog listing to the right. It's worth checking out.

On the very next page I found beautiful big cats of Africa photographed for the BBC. Following that I discovered a gentleman from England who commented on the large number of birds referenced in pub names. His sidebar included three wonderful animal photos. On another blog I read poetry honoring the virtues of domestic life beneath a darling image of kittens mixing cookie dough for the holidays. Upon scrolling down I discovered that her husband is an avid and talented photographer of butterflies and birds.

In just minutes I saw seals, horses, dragonflies, and everything in-between. But by far the biggest contributors to my random treasure hunt have been the birders. A particularly interesting one featured birds from Norway. As a lover of language, the sprinkling of Norwegian terms made the stunning avian images even more intriguing.

The experiment turned into a virtual bag of potato chips as I couldn’t seem to stop. The last one before bed was by a fabric designer from the Netherlands. Guess what she specializes in? Did you guess birds? You’re right.

It’s somehow comforting that so many blogs are dedicated to honoring the animal kingdom. Perhaps I’ll take another random peek tonight. Who knows what I might find next?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Flash Friday

More Than Meets the Eye - Rated PG


I couldn’t help myself, the wheelchair-bound man hadn’t been kidding when he’d said he could run as wolf. I couldn’t imagine how his animal form enjoyed complete motor function while his human shape remained crippled. For that matter, I knew someone who had grown back a severed limb after lycanthropy infection, which made me wonder why Howler couldn’t heal similarly. Granted, his accident had been the decade prior. There just seemed to be something more to his situation.

Though I’d only known him for a few hours, he’d shared a lot of himself. This candidness and Howler’s intrepid nature had charmed me into his bed like some kind of spell. At least that’s what I told myself. It made me feel a little better about being so easy. I’d only discovered an interest in the same sex recently and took pride in being a one-man guy, even if it was technically an open relationship.

I thought about Howler’s expressed attitude toward disability. The boy, Seth, had been born healthy to a rich family: the first-born, his parents’ golden child. By his own account they’d rallied around him as opposed to treating him like a dirty secret, determined Seth could still have a fulfilling life. The young man had instead turned his back on any help that money offered, forsaken his heritage, and abandoned all his father’s plans for a beloved son. They’d lost contact with Seth long before the werewolf attack transformed him into Howler.

The only thing he’d accepted from them had been the van. He was independent, not stupid. His battered vehicle wore the thousands of hard miles more heavily than its owner. Howler thrived on his nomadic lifestyle.

It was as if his studied devil-may-care attitude not only stemmed from his injuries, the injuries themselves had created the completely intrepid person I was quickly growing to admire. This beautiful wolf before me represented almost a split personality, I decided. I’d heard of people who looked differently and had varied physical strengths depending on which personality prevailed at the time. How was this any different? Mind over matter.

The dark creature growled impatiently. I couldn’t blame him. If I enjoyed running as wolf, how much more desirous was the freedom when the man couldn’t even stand unaided? But my desire would force him to wait at least another moment. I stroked his flank, my hand nearly vanishing in the plush coat. Pawing the ground communicated more plainly than words. Ignoring the message, I rubbed my cheek in the ruff at his neck. I trailed my hand down his chest to toy with the lighter patch there.

We were nuts to transform right beside the hotel. But if he already had how could I back out? Besides, there were deer on these dunes. And I wanted meat for breakfast.

He turned his head and nipped my elbow playfully. I thought of what square teeth had done to my neck and shoulder earlier, the remembered sensation making me shiver in the cool morning air. Fangs pinched again and I laughed.

“All right. You win. One four-legged Ryan coming right up.”

I’d sort out where all this might lead after our run. What werewolf didn’t think better on a full stomach?

The end

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why I Like David Sedaris

There are so many things that draw me to the essays and fiction of talented writer David Sedaris.

The author has earned both my audience and respect. I’d like to share thirteen of his wonderful attributes.

1. The man's droll delivery, whether I open a book or listen to his staged readings, is his classic signature

2. Mr. Sedaris turns the most absurd ideas into poignant writings

3. Chapter Make That a Double from his book “Me Talk Pretty One Day” is so funny I almost hurt myself laughing; guffawing is not a wise activity while on a ski machine

4. His irreverence for all things is witty and unpretentious

5. David’s ability to turn tears into laughter and back again never fails to amaze me

6. The frank way he embellishes upon chemical dependency is both alarming and hilarious; his tell of ongoing recovery inspiring

7. His exaggerated memories of childhood are a treasure

8. David Sedaris expresses devotion to family and friends that I greatly admire

9. The man then unabashedly writes anecdotal tales about those very people by name

10. Conversely, he expresses guilt over broadcasting these foibles of his loved ones in ways both touching and entertaining

11. The author describes both personal acceptance and private/public address of homosexuality in ways that move and amuse me, as well

12. His humor is often self deprecating, which I definitely appreciate

13. David avoids addressing governmental politics overmuch while succinctly and humorously expressing his beliefs