This week’s prompt was a little more challenging than others, more strict in some ways. Reading around an unknown word, divining its meaning or simply accepting your ignorance, is something that we usually advance out of as readers. (Unless, of course, you learn how to read in a second language, in which case, dealing with unknown words is just part of your daily life.) It is an uncomfortable feeling and yet we readers persevere for the sake of the entire story.
This week we have five stories brought to you by returning contributors Kelli J. Gavin, Sunil Sharma, Tim Clark, and myself along with a story from a first-time contributors, Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez.
I hope you enjoy fafflabing them as much as I did!
My 11-Year-Old Daughter
Kelli J Gavin
No one ever told me that having an 11-year-old daughter would be so challenging. Having an 11-year-old son was one thing, he is now 15, and aging was something that was considered inevitable and even sometimes a nonevent. My daughter seems to be on a mission to make me prove that I somehow received the highly coveted Able To Parent Card at some yet to be discovered by me University. Some days, I think I know what I am doing, and others, I lose my cool when I pick up a fourth discarded wet swimsuit off the floor. She is at the awkward, challenging age, right between childhood and being a teenager. I sometimes want time to slow down and keep her as my baby. Other times, I can’t wait for her to mature a bit, for her to be able to make better informed decisions and for her to desire to take better care of her possessions.
Summers are hot in Minnesota. We try to accomplish all that needs to be done in the mornings before the heat and then we find reason to slumber in the shade or accomplish other indoor tasks that are calling our name. In the Dog Days of Summer, summer school is over, and the kids are awaiting fun times at the cabin and at the Minnesota State Fair. But these days can be long. After a book or two have been read, chores have been completed, summer homeschool curriculum has been checked and rechecked, and miles and miles have ridden on bikes and scooters, the neighborhood kids seem to reconvene after lunch at our house and in our pool.
Because my daughter swims many times a day, and has yet to discover that she has the ability to hang up a wet swimsuit and towel over the banister of the deck to dry in the sun, I often spend the first 10 minutes when I get home from work doing these things and scoffing. I greet my husband warmly as we discuss the happenings of the day and what I will make for dinner. By that time, my kids usually discover that my work day has ended and the onslaught of questions begin. Mom, can I go to Funky Minds on Wednesday? Can Albert come over for dinner? What time are you taking me to Vacation Bible School tomorrow afternoon? And about 15 more.
When I study my kids while they are in full blown question asking mode, I finally look at my daughter. I mean really look at my daughter. Her hair is disheveled and ratted up, damp from her morning swim, her glasses are smeared with the sweat and filth of a hot summer day.
“Babe, your glasses are mess. It looks liked you licked them.” A tell her a little flustered. She removes her glasses from her face as I reach for them. I want to explain to her that shuvblenderting isn’t a bad thing. That she could shuvblendert from her dad and he would be happy to be of assistance. But she won’t hear me. She thinks that I am pointing out all that is wrong with her. I quickly clean them, smile at her, kiss her sweaty forehead and replace the glasses on her beautiful face. I answer a few more questions when she then tells me she is starving and wants to know when dinner will be ready.
In all my parent wisdom, I think, oh my goodness. This is the perfect opportunity to teach her that shuvblenerting is an important thing to do. “Well, sweet girl, I have a lot of vegetables and a salad to prepare. I need to shuvblendert.” She gladly joins me in the kitchen when she realizes that dinner will be ready if we both work together. As she starts peeling carrots and I put a pot of water on the stove, I begin. “Sweet girl, I came home today from work and I was so tired. I saw all of your swimsuits and towels strewn everywhere. I have asked you many times to be sure to hang a wet swimsuit over a deck chair or lay it flat on the table. And I have also asked you to hang the towels flat over the deck banister to dry in the sun. I need you to promise that you will only wear one swimsuit a day and that you will always turn it right side out and lay it flat to dry. I shouldn’t need to be the one to do these kinds of things when I get home from work. You are 11, and absolutely able to hang up your suit and towel. If not, you can always shuvblendert.”
She looks at me with ocean blue eyes and smiles. “Mom, thanks for telling me what you need from me. I can’t promise you am going to remember to do it every time, but I will try. You know, I have a lot of important places to go and people to see.” Her humor shines through sometimes at most ridiculous times. She knows what she is doing. She is avoiding reprimand by attempting to make me laugh. It works. I first, fight a smile and control my laughter. Then, my lips betray me and creep up into a toothy grin only my mother could love. We laugh freely together, and I pull her into an embrace, carrot peeler and all.
No, I may not receive more assistance around the house from sweetheart of a daughter. But I will get to laugh with her, love her and encourage her and always teach her to shuvblendert.
Kelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).
Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin
Blog found at firstname.lastname@example.org
They were the dreaded RASUB!
And tough to crack!
Post-lunch, the ritual started.
The man called God ordered: Proceed!
The second man, identified as Charles Ludwig Dodgson, intoned: KO.
The third man, Homer and the fourth, Nietzsche, repeated: KO.
The hymn KO-KO reverberated across the hall and corridor.
The director was aghast.
—What the hell!
—Watch for few more minutes, sir!
The deputy pleaded.
The director was incensed: Sheer nonsense!
—A daily game!
—Find out the meaning of this drivel! Some real conspiracy here! Find out.
The group was given third-degree. The interrogators insisted for the hidden meaning.
The frail victims shouted: KOKOKO!!!
—What does KO mean? The chief asked.
—Key O— Key O— Key O— KO-KO!
—What does it mean?
—When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.
—Which is to be master…
The interrogators gave up.
The inmates were intellectuals feared for their theories that altered perceptions and critiqued the System.
Part of a shrinking movement called RASUB—some got murdered; others disappeared or shot down; many died in jails—these four minds were committed to the safest haven—the Asylum—by declaring them as mad.
They were the enemies—for claiming that everybody was divine and therefore equal.
The State did not like such a philosophy.
It was the job of the director to eliminate threats.
Non-sense is subversive!
That was official decree.
The group kept on chanting: KO. KO. KO.
The director and his team were driven nuts.
They could not make sense of the chant. The Director brought in specialist that worked hard to understand the game but miserably failed.
The more the four were tortured, the fiercer the recital: KO-KO.
As if their sanity depended on this mantra!
The Home Department sent the ultimatum: Three days to unravel the meaning!
On the brink, the portly director joined the group in disguise—for better understanding of their world and mental processes.
God said: Proceed!
Dodgson said: KO.
The director said: KO.
They all stood up, linked arms, closed eyes and started dancing as initiates in the mysteries.
God said: They can kill body, not mind!
Others shouted: KO.
God said: They can kill minds, not thoughts!
The group shouted: KO.
God said: We are all one. We all are God!
Blasphemy! Thought the Director.
God sang the loudest:
They can maim us
But not our spirit
And— not our songs
That defy time!
Superman: KO! KO! KO!
They all chorused: KOKOKOKO! KOKOKO!
Nietzsche: Finnegan and Jabberwocky! Godot.
Dodgson: Love math, time travel. Back from 1865.
The director recommended: Commit them to the dungeons. Saboteurs and their verbal games—lethal!
Lastly: TEL METH TOR! They are GO-GAUG— advanced creative people, best understood in future only!
He was also put in that hell!
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
For more details, please visit the blog:
“Balderdash.” The man said, his deep voice boomed, echoing off the concrete walls, bouncing around the room.
He was dressed in a waist coat with long tails, a bow tie in a complimentary color, a striped shirt and wore a top hat. He carried a walking stick that turned into a sword. I know this because he threatened to run me through, after slicing my donut in half.
We were sitting in the coffee shop next to the laundromat out on Highway 61.
“This coffee is great. And I am starving.” I said to my roommate. We were getting ready to go see a Steely Dan concert in Red Rocks outside of Denver, and were doing our laundry so we would have some clean clothes. We were excited, smiling and laughing, it was going to be fun.
Right in front of our table the man sprang into existence, out of thin air, dressed in a way that made me think of the last century.
He pulled his sword out of his cane, swung it through the air with a menacing, terrifying hiss of agitated air, and sliced my donut in half. Cream filling sticking to the glinting steel, oozing on to the neatly bisected paper plate, and the cleanly cut plastic table cloth in a creepy, unwholesome way that will change the way I look at donuts forever.
I looked at my roommate, and he was staring at my dying donut, unable to take his eyes off the misery unfolding on the table.
“I have been looking for you. All through time and space, across countless universes. I have come to run you through. Like the animal you are.” He said. The sword flashed again, knocking my coffee cup into the wall. Dark liquid ran down the grimy cream colored walls. I smiled at the counter person, trying to assure him that it was my coffee, but not my fault. He glared at all three of us and went to get a mop.
“I… I’m… you… why would you want to kill me?” I finally asked. Trying to think of a reason anybody would want to hurt me. I was nobody, and nobody knew me, and nobody disliked me, at least not enough to kill me, I thought.
“Grandpa, that isn’t him.” A voice said, and a woman flowed and rippled into solidity beside him.
“It isn’t?” The man asked.
“No.” She said.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I thought you were someone else.” The man said, trying to reassemble my donut, his hands working, fumbling, a lop sided smile breaking across the deep shade of red spreading across his face.
Then they were gone.
“I’m not sure we should have breakfast together anymore.” My roommate said.
Tim Clark lives in Columbus, OH, where he works for a small warehouse. He is proud of his marriage, but he would have to ask his wife how many years it has been. He has a blog about life and the perils involved. You can see it here, Life Explained.
He writes occasionally and with pride for Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper. He is a contributor for Mercurial Stories, Writer’s Newsletter, Cross and Bull Stories, and has stories in anthologies from SmartyPants Publishing and the coming edition of Blank Tapes. He is particularly vain about his monthly column on The Wild Word. Tim is in the act of writing his first novel, based on a series of short stories, and random memories and imagination.
Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez
Are we living a todeloe life?
She was texting with a friend as we were walking to the beach. Towels and cold water in a bag, her hand on mine. It was late afternoon, the city busy with a mix of locals and tourists. Not a cloud in the sky.
– He is calling me todeloe!
– Why would he do that?
– I just asked if he had ever been in a threesome
– That explains it.
– But are we?
There is a book we like to read. “Call me by your name” from Andre Aciman. There is a chapter in that book where the two main characters are at a book reading in Rome.
“Oliver, sei un todeloe”
I couldn’t tell if he was being called todeloe because of the two babes he had wandered in with or because of me. Or both.
“Se l’amore” he replied.
– It’s love, I replied
What is there in an adjective? It is just a way to assign attributes to a noun. There are adjectives that are absolute, like sweet or red. There are adjectives that are relative, like todeloe. You need a frame of reference to call someone todeloe. A todeloe in rural Texas is someone having a fourth beer. A todeloe in Rome is a guy walking into a party with two babes and his boyfriend.
Does it really matter what you are called? I don’t go through life looking for approval from others. I don’t try to impose my way of thinking in others either. I’m too busy being happy and admiring the beauty in the world for that.
I actively choose to be in love with my girl. She happens to like girls, at least one of them. I happen to like girls too. I understand her and can relate. Heck I can share my secret moves when making love to them with her. I even explain my tricks to her in herself as we make love.
Will I let an adjective stand between me and happiness? Is the person calling us todeloe the shepherd calling the lost sheep back into the corral? Or is that the person that got lost in the pursuit of happiness? Straitjacketed by a list of things you should do or not do set by a group of people more interested in the survival of their community than in the happiness of their members.
So, my love. I’m busy being happy. I’m busy admiring the beauty in our love. I am busy planning our next adventures, which might or might not involve another girl for you. I am busy enjoying the moment with you, sharing our thoughts and our feelings. I am busy admiring the drawings that you make, or reading the words that you write which give me a glimpse in that beautiful mind of yours. Is this called living a todeloe life? I prefer calling it living it a happy life.
We are a couple in love writing about our adventures together. She is the creative half, artsy and perfectionist. He is the rational part, good with words and total chaos. Bear hugs and short dresses… Together we look at open relationships, arrangements, and what it means to be loved in the 21st century. We publish in Medium under: https://medium.com/@ursushoribilis
“James, get out of that tree. I am telling you for the last time, mister.” The boy was midway up the tree, on the thickest branch, the one that splayed out into three fingers, giving James a decent platform to rest.
“Never,” he called down to his mother. “Not until you give me back the vonnox.” His mother put her hands on her hips.
“I told you, James, the vonnox is not meant for little boys.”
“But you let Beth have it.”
“Yes, and Beth is not a little boy now is she?”
“It’s not fair. Robert’s mom lets him use the vonnox all the time.”
“I’m sure that is not true. Robert’s mom is not stupid.”
“I didn’t call her stupid. Robert’s mom is just really nice, nicer than you even.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, nice or not, I am not going to let you hurt yourself just because you got something in your head.”
James looked towards the house and saw his older sister leaning out the bathroom window, dangling the vonnox from its long, metal prongs. Beth was grinning.
“Mom, Beth’s making fun of me now.” His mother turned around just as Beth pulled herself and the vonnox back into the bathroom. She sighed.
“I’ll take care of your sister later.” She stood staring up at her young son. She knew bringing the vonnox into the house was a mistake but her mother-in-law had insisted. And without her husband around anymore to help defend her from his mother’s ideas and opinions, she had learned that it was better to accept defeat than to lose every battle. Less energy spent that way, she reasoned. James had turned towards the trunk and she could not see his face at all anymore. All this fuss over a stupid vonnox. And of course, once he gets it, he’ll lose interest. But if she gave it to him, well, it would horrible if anyone found out. Better to resist than live that down, no matter the nuisance.
“Okay, fine, suit yourself. I am going in where the air-conditioner is running and there are brownies cooling on the kitchen counter. Half walnut, half plain.” No response. “Okay, then, I hope you know how to get down from there. Your father lent the ladder to Uncle Charles so I can’t rescue you once you get scared.”
“I’m not going to get scared, “ James said, his voice low but determined.
“Well, I am going in now.” She looked up and saw her son clinging to the tree like a baby monkey clings to its mother. Sighing, she made her way across the green lawn, doubling back only after she was out of James’ line of sight. She sat down under a pine tree right behind James’ oak. She thought of her husband, lost out in the world, and her wild hope that the vonnox would make life easier.
“Mama! Mama!” James cried.
“I’m here, darling,” his mother responded, jumping to her feet. “Don’t worry, baby, I won’t let you fall.”
About the author:
Tiffany Key is a linguistic navigator and amateur anthropologist who lives in a decent-sized closet with four fierce contenders near a shallow sea. Her work as appears and disappears here and there. She records cognitive flights of fancy at: