Archive for May, 2012

15th May
2012
written by amber

Brother Dog

In the beginning there were two tribes of men – short, fast men and large, slow men. But they did not live at peace with each other.

The short, fast men were always thinking of new ways to catch animals to eat but the large, slow men would just wander into their camp and take what they wanted. They would leave pretty stones in exchange for the meat and berries that they took, but what good were pretty stones?

Sometimes, if all the short, fast men were off chasing animals and the large, slow men came into the camp and the women were struggling to carry water in baskets or reach fruit down from the tall trees, the large, slow men would help them, but this only made the short, fast men angry. They did not like the idea of the large, slow men spending time with their women and doing jobs the women ought to be doing themselves.

The large, slow men built sturdy woven houses out of large leaves and vines. The women of the short, fast men saw these woven houses one time when they were foraging far from the camp and soon they began to clamour for their men to build such fine houses for them. But the short, fast men had no free time left after chasing down animals and lying around the fire while they ate, so they refused to build woven houses. Caves and depressions in the dirt were good enough for them.

The large, slow men collected snail shells from the lake and made small holes in them and strung them together on vines and wore them around their neck. When they came by the camp of the short, fast men to take food, the women pointed to these strings of shells and indicated that they wanted to have them in exchange for the meat and berries. So they had strings of shells around their necks when their men returned from hunting. And the short, fast men were angered.

The men threw the bodies of the animals they had killed to the ground and the women skinned and gutted the animals and threw the meat into the fire. While the men ate their meat, the women danced and the shells made a pleasing sound but still the men were angered by the large, slow men.

As the night descended, the men’s stomachs were full of meat and they allowed the women to eat and when the women’s stomachs were full, they threw the scraps to the bold wolves who hovered just outside the perimeter of the fire’s flickering light.

“How can we stop the large, slow men from coming into our camp while we are off chasing animals?” one of the men asked.

They asked this question of each other every night, but not one of them ever had an answer.

However, on this night, the youngest of the short, fast men, who only recently had been a boy to be left behind in the camp and not invited on the hunt, answered the question.

“I think the large, slow men are afraid of wolves. I saw them running once, when wolves were chasing them.”

“You saw the large, slow men running?” The other short, fast men were very surprised by this.

“We should make the wolves stay here during the day so that the large, slow men will be afraid to come into our camp.”

“But how can we make the wolves stay here?”

The young man answered, “We must give them more meat and make them come close to us to take the meat right from our hands. And when they are no longer afraid of us, we should put a vine around their necks and bind them to a tree near our camp.”

And this is how Brother Wolf became Brother Dog, and how the short, fast men overcame the large, slow men who vanished from the face of the earth and were never seen again.

StoryADay suggested that we write a fairy tale today. I wrote a fable inspired by a headline about dogs helping homo sapiens overcome the neandrethals.

14th May
2012
written by amber

The Get-O

I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Get-O, surrounded by Get&Fetchits.

Or, to be more politically correct, surrounded by Digicerians. But who calls them that?

I’d been around them before, but usually at a distance. In an eatery, for example, where they would be wearing aprons and clearing tables, or at some wealthy person’s estate where they would be wearing coveralls and raking up leaves.

I’d never been afraid of them before, but I was now. For one thing, they were naked. I should have expected this. I know they wear clothing for our sensibilities, not for theirs. Their home planet is quite cold, so they find our preferred temperature oppressive.

For another thing, they seemed taller. I realized that they are always slumped when serving us, and I guess I’d thought that was their regular posture, but in their part of the city, they stood much straighter. In fact, most of them were taller than I am.

They didn’t act threatening toward me, but they bunched together and jabbered in their strange-sounding language and looked at me with their odd eyes and I couldn’t help but recall the circumstance of their being among us.

The first intelligent species we encountered when we began to colonize other planets, and we destroyed their home world. It’s no excuse that we didn’t know they were there, that we didn’t know harvesting oxygen would destabilize the atmosphere; we turned a green forest world into an airless wasteland. And so we brought them to live on our planets.

Our biggest fear when we set forth into the universe was that we’d meet a race superior to us. Some hoped such advanced beings would elevate us, but most expected them to despise us and enslave us. And now we have done that to the Digecerians. That we’ve done it more through accident than intent does not excuse it.

And coming face-to-face with them in the Get-O, confronting my fear which arose from my guilt and not from their loud outcries which might have been anger, I ultimately felt sorry for them. They were in the wrong place through no fault of their own, and no right place for them existed among the known planets. We had ruined the world they call Earth in their tongue, and halted the progress which may have brought them a future as bright in knowledge and technology as our own.

StoryADay gave us the suggestion to write about someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.

13th May
2012
written by amber

The Trek

All she wanted to do was stop walking.

“No, Mom,” her son said, pulling her by the wrist. “We have to keep walking.”

They’d spent half an hour deciding what to take, twenty minutes driving until the highway snarled into a standstill, another five minutes deciding what to carry, and now they’d been walking for five hours. The only ones who’d stopped walking were the very old or the sick. No one else felt they were far enough away to be safe.

Safe from what she didn’t know, nor did anyone else. There had been explosions, that was undeniable. There were planes in the sky. The power had gone off, halting the radio announcements of ‘possible terrorist activities’ and ‘potential contamination of the water system.” She hadn’t seen anything that looked like the mushroom cloud she associated with a nuclear bomb, but some people walking near them had spoken of ‘suitcase bombs’ and ‘dirty bombs’ which might not make such a huge blast but were just as dangerous, maybe more.

She remembers when people had bomb shelters. Downtown there are still some buildings with the radiation sign indicating that a safe haven is found someplace within, presumably in the basement or subway. But out in the suburbs, the only potential safety was found in distance.

She stopped walking. “I’m tired and really thirsty,” she told her son. They had finished the water they were carrying over an hour ago.

“Just wait a minute.”

He tried the doors of several of the nearby abandoned cars, finding them all locked, just as they’d left their car locked, as if the world was still a place where people had possessions they protected. He found a rock beside the highway and hurled it through a window, then reached inside and grabbed one of the bottles of water those strangers had planned to take with them as they drove to their sanctuary.

She drank and after that, her son expected her to start walking again. She did, thinking sourly that ‘I’m tired,’ had been the first and most important fact she spoken.

They walked through the night, taking only short breaks which were not restful due to the constant speculation fermenting among their fellow travellers. Some imagined that they felt ill with symptoms of radiation poisoning, others fretted that it was all a hoax perpetrated by master thieves who were even now stripping entire neighbourhoods of all their valuables, others spoke of strategic targets in the direction they were moving, proclaiming that no place was free of whatever contamination had been visited upon them.

They took food from cars, they took water. When the night became cold, they took blankets and sweaters. Her son broke the window of one car and opened a pet carrier to set a small dog free. She couldn’t imagine why the owners had left it in there.

And still they walked.

Her son walked and every hour he tried his cell phone again, but there was no signal.

Dawn was a faint blush behind them, studded with bright explosions as the night had been, when she told him she would not go one step further. He allowed her to rest, sleeping fitfully in the front seat of a truck which had been left unlocked. After a time which seemed very brief to her, he returned with a cane.

“Surely someone didn’t leave their cane in their vehicle,” she told him.

“No, they didn’t,” he replied, and wouldn’t discuss it further. “We have to get to Aunt Sally’s house. It’s an older house and I think it has a bomb shelter.”

She thought it actually was a root cellar, but she said nothing. It was a goal. When they got there, she could stop walking.

StoryADay suggested today that we write a story in which the protagonist wants something. The long hike I took today was inspiration, though hardly a forced march.

11th May
2012
written by amber

Solomon

The guests at the Mount Solomon Lodge became aware of his presence gradually. When Doreen and Jessica were doing yoga before breakfast, just as they were finishing off with savasana, lying prone and relaxed with their eyes closed, the room’s door creaked open.

“We’re just about done,” Doreen said softly, hoping not to break the peaceful feelings washing over her.

Jessica sat up. “There’s no one there,” she stated. She jumped up and walked over to the door, looked down the hallway. “No one at all.”

“That’s weird.” Doreen rolled over and sat up. “Must have been a draft.”

At breakfast, they joked about their ghostly yoga-mate. Camille reported that she’d heard a knock on her door in the middle of the night, but no one was there when she opened it.

Crystal, the co-ordinator of their meeting, had had her own nighttime experience. “I heard footsteps going by my room, but when I looked outside, I couldn’t see anyone.”

“Oh, I don’t like this.” Camille shivered.

Doreen suggested, “Let’s ask at the front desk if this place is haunted. At least then we’ll know.”

The hotel clerk said, “Oh, you’re very lucky. Not many of our guests have seen Solomon, our ghost.”

“We didn’t actually see him.”

“Well, you might, but don’t worry. He’s completely harmless. We think he’s an old guy, a trapper, who died in this valley and loved this valley, so he’s hanging around.”

That evening, they saw Solomon, or thought they did. At dusk, they were enjoying cups of hot chocolate while sitting in the gazebo and watching glorious autumn leaves toss around in gusts of warm wind.

“Someone’s walking across the field,” Jessica announced.

“Where?”

Jessica pointed.

“I think I see something,” Camille said.

“He’s gone now.”

“It was kind of a fat guy, with a leather jacket, right?”

“That’s what I saw.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Doreen complained, aware that she had somehow felt a sense of ownership of the ghost, having been the first to hear him knocking and the only one to think of asking hotel staff about him. Why hadn’t he revealed himself to her?

Over the next two days, many people in their group had encounters with Solomon. More doors received late night knocking, things in rooms were moved around (although the strong wind could possibly be blamed for moving lighter objects), he was seen in the yoga room (by Camille who’d been looking for Doreen and who fled upstairs in a panic) and on the balconies.

“This is so strange. Months and months can go by without any sign of Solomon. You guys are really lucky,” one of the waitresses told them.

On the last night of their stay, Doreen was woken at 4 a.m. by a knock on the door. “At last,” she thought, and rushed to open it, expecting to look out and see his portly form walking away. Instead, it was Camille, in pajamas with pink teddy bears. She was crying.

“He knocked and he knocked,” she told Doreen. “I’d get up and answer and no one would be there, then I’d go back to sleep and it would happen again. All night long! I know they say he’s harmless, but this is just mean. I have a long way to drive tomorrow.”

“Come in – there’s two beds. You can have the other one. He never knocks on my door.”

But as Doreen stepped outside to take Camille’s arm and lead her into the room, she smelled something. “Is that smoke?”

The fire was small, in some trees next to the parking lot, but it could have been quickly spread to the Lodge by the wind if they hadn’t raised the alarm.

“Solomon was just protecting his namesake hotel,” Jessica said to Doreen as they were driving away the next day.

“And us,” Doreen added.

The May 10 suggestion from StoryADay was to write a story with a ‘hidden protagonist.’  My thanks to our guests at the Black Cat Guest Ranch for suggesting the ghost theme.

9th May
2012
written by amber

Open-minded

– “Oh, when I was young, I was quite prejudiced, you know, but thanks to my daughter Jan, I’m really open-minded now.”

– “Well, she did it mainly by marrying a man from Pakistan. Oh, my ex-husband still calls him ‘the Paki’ but I never use that term any more.”

– “Yes, I must admit that I was not in favour of their getting married. When they first started dating, we let her know about our concerns – you know, that people would talk about them and insult them, that if they did get married their children would always be at a disadvantage. And she called us every kind of bigot because, you know, I especially had encouraged her to make friends with Rahul when he moved into our neighbourhood. He looked so lonely, I thought it would be charitable for her to show him some kindness. My ex-husband is the real bigot. He agreed to attend their wedding, but he didn’t give them a gift at all.

– “Oh, they’re doing very well. Rahul has a very good job, he’s a good provider. I certainly didn’t expect that.”

– “Because his father was a clerk at a pharmacy. And they had so many children. Rahul was the sixth. It seemed impossible that they could afford to send so many children to university. But I must say, those people take education very seriously.”

-“No, I don’t see much of his parents. It’s not that I don’t think they are very lovely people, but it’s awkward. I had them over to my house before the wedding, but they don’t eat meat so I had no idea of what to cook. I did some kind of strange rice dish, and they ate a little. I’d also made shepherd’s pie for Jan, because it’s her favourite, and would you believe – they both ate some of it!”

– “Yes, they have two children, and they are real darlings. Smart as can be, and beautiful children with their big brown eyes. And their skin is very fair, so unless you saw Jan and Rahul together you wouldn’t even know they’re, you know, part dark.”

StoryADay’s suggestions today was to tell a story entirely by what one person says. Sorry to say that I have known people like this.

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