Multiply Stuff 7


Rosiebeck’s Challenge

What would you do for your last 48 hours on earth?

If I knew for a fact that I had only 48 hours left on this planet, I don’t know that I would do a whole lot different than what do now. I spend time with my family and make sure they know that I love them, but they also know how to take care of themselves. I might try to finish up a couple of projects, but not by sacrificing time with the important people of my life.

I think back to my dog Sadie. She was a gorgeous black lab/boxer cross. Sadie was strong as a horse. She would pull us in a cart when we lived out in the country. She was also smart, winning top dog at her obedience class. Unfortunately she started having seizures her personality changed. We made the heartbreaking decision to put her down. So the day before she died we took her out for a long last walk. She ran and played and wagged her tail all day.

If I am going to go, take me for that long last walk with my family, then I will rest easy.

We were playing Pomp and Circumstance as grandioso as our conductor could take. It was in preparation for the visit of our Prime Minister. Of course, being in High School meant that most of the band was too young to vote. (this was a few years back). The auditorium was convenient for a gathering of rabid liberals, and we, like the auditorium were convenient. The fact that our band jackets were red probably had nothing to do with it.

So we practiced. To find out how long it would take for dignified politicians to glad hand their way to the stage, we played the piece backwards. While our fearless leader walked out. It took two and a half repetitions of the already slow piece for Doc, our conductor, to be happy that there would be enough time.

The night came and Doc made us remove the NDP buttons that the clarinet section had handed out. We set up and played background music while liberals schmoozed and waited. It was unthinkable that a politician this important be on time. He was an hour and a half late. We had played through our entire repertoire twice and turned our chops into rubber. Thankful for the grandioso pace we play P and C three times over the wild cheers of the liberal supporters. Our task finished for the night, we packed up and left the PM to speak to his adoring constituents.

Days, weeks, months went by and one day Doc ranted at band practice that for all that we had put ourselves out for PM et al, not one thank you had arrived from PM’s office or our more lowly MP. It was then that he finally agreed that my suggestion for a more appropriate  tune for the grand entrance was a good one – Send in the Clowns.

The leader of the opposition did ask us to play at his rally a month or so later, but his request was denied. Doc had had enough of politicians.


Wrath’s Challenge

Write me a tale of fiction on being very busy and needing to make choices based on priority!

Joan ran through her house again. She couldn’t resist the urge to sweep up that little bit of dog hair and toss it in the garbage. Dog food, she would need dog food. She grabbed a bag and shoveled hand full of the multicoloured pellets into it. How much would she need? How long would she be gone? She ran out to add the dog food to the car trunk. It wouldn’t fit. There wasn’t room in the back seat either, or the front seat. Mitsy needed her dog food. The toy poodle lay quietly in her crate on the floor by the front seat. Joan grabbed a bag of shoes out of the back seat and wedged the food into their place. Those shoes had been the result of years of guerilla shopping. No time for regrets.

Joan looked at the car, piled so full that she wasn’t sure that she would fit into the driver’s seat. When had her life got so out of control? She had started with the CD’s with her pictures, than the stuffed animals she had collected. Soon quilts and throws that she had sewn had been jammed on top. Clothes had been stuffed in at random. She wasn’t even sure that she fit them anymore. She glanced at her watch. Time to go.

Joan dove into the car and somehow got it into gear. The radio shrieked at her with dire warnings of the coming storm surge. In just minutes it would hit the barriers, they would fail, and minutes after that her home would be washed away. Everything that wasn’t in the car would be gone. She gunned the engine and squealed out of her drive, crushing the bag of shoes.

She made it to the County Road, then it was a straight run to Mullholland Hill and safety. Joan saw the tumbling water in the rear view mirror. Even with the engine screaming the water was faster. But not fast enough, she felt the back wheels lift, and blessed the sensible front wheel drive car. Then she was safe.

She slowed to a safe speed and drove to the arena that was their evacuation zone. Joan pulled in with her hands shaking. People came out some yelling at her, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. She let Mitsy out of her crate and waited for the shaking to stop. Someone helped her into the arena. People were everywhere, most in their pajamas. There weren’t enough blankets. Joan knew what she needed to do.

“I have blankets, and clothes in my car,” she said, scratching Mitsy’s head, “The only thing I need is the dog food.”

Writer’s Block Challenge 47 

It is a wonderful thing this curiousity that we have. It makes us open boxes we have been told to leave closed; go through doors that have been forbidden us. I also makes us travel to see what is on the other side of the horizon or across the room to talk to someone we have never met. Maybe they just traveled the other way across that horizon.

It was curiousity that lead Brother Thomas to peek through the door of his monastery that on that fateful day had been left ever so slightly ajar. Brother Thomas had never been accused of having an imagination (hence the name he had been given upon taking the vows of his order), but the vision of that warm golden staircase spirally down as far as he could see into the depths haunted him. His dreams were so full of its helix that he began to have visions of it awake. He imagined that his prayers were being pulled down those steps instead of wafting up to heaven. He might have mentioned his concern to his confessor, but the Rule of his monastery emphasized obedience, not mercy.

He wandered through the hallway always hoping that the door would be left open again, but it never was. Not until many years later, when the visions of golden stairs had become transparent allowing his prayers to ascend again in the proper manner. He was old now and though not so devoid of imagination as he once was, Brother Thomas still liked to be able to touch what he believed in.

The door stood open, so he looked through. The staircase was just as he recalled. This time he slipped through the door. It clicked shut behind him. There was no mechanism to open it from the inside, though Brother Thomas didn’t look. He began descending those stairs.

At first it was hard. He was old and his knees creaked and complained with each step. He began to pray as he descended, beginning with the Matins office and continuing through to Vespers. Somehow he became less tired as he descended, his knees less painful. He prayed through the offices again, then did something that he had never thought of doing before. He prayed his own words, his own thoughts. He felt stronger than he ever had. Brother Thomas thought he could run down those steps, leap down them, fly down them.

The golden light grew thicker until he could only see the light. He walked the steps trusting that they would continue. He had stopped praying with words. Thomas let the joy in his heart sing its own wordless song to his creator. The light grew brighter – less golden and more white. If he hadn’t been so filled with joy he might have laughed out loud. Here he was just him and God in the midst of the greatest mystery of his life.

“Not the greatest, my son,” said the familiar voice out of the light, “Just the greatest so far.”

Zafreud’s   Challenge 75

Write one of the past challenges you haven’t responded to. You may even combine two or three together, if this suits you. Use any style you choose.

Zues2u’s  Challenge 73

 The big fall moon is on the way!
So my challenge is for you to write a story (fact or fiction) about the scariest thing that ever happened to you.

Ribs flexing with the effort
of each next breath.

A child’s courage accepts

this body’s betrayal,


His hand reaches out

to offer, and receive, comfort.

The rasping of air belies the

simplicity of breathing.

Yet here is God,

in reaching out,

in being held,

in breathing.

in breath.

Each next breath

an answer.

My son was eight when I wrote this poem.  He had come home from riding lessons and complained of a headache, so I gave him a children’s ibuprofen. A short while later he was wheezing and complaining that he couldn’t breath. The puffer didn’t help so it was off to the hospital where they put him on a Ventolin mask. That helped so after an hour or so they sent us home. That was Friday night. By Saturday morning his breathing was worse and I took him back to the hospital. They put him on the Ventolin mask again. His breathing continued to deteriorate. I sat beside his bed and breathed for him. In, out, as if what I did could make a difference. I called his mother (we were separated then) and she came and helped him breath too. His blood oxygen level was under 80%. Nurses and doctors came and went. I stayed. For three days and nights I sat by his bed and breathed with him. Gradually his chest relaxed and he was able to sleep. I dozed listening for the slightest change in his breathing.

Finally on Tuesday his breathing was normal and his blood oxygen level was 99%. I took him home. We watched TV, then he had his bath and went to bed. I lay in my bed all night and listened.

He never had another asthma attack as bad as that one. It was almost ten years ago, but I still remember the sound of his struggle to take the next breath.

Writer’s Block Challenge 46

Jane and Hank sat at the table at Wong’s Grill and picked at their Chinese food. Tomorrow they would find out. After all they had put each other through in the search to bring a child into the world, tomorrow they would learn if they were to be parents.

It had started when Hank’s mother had switched from ‘Don’t you dare make me a grandmother before I’m forty,’ to ‘Where’s my grandchild?’ with hardly a breath in between.  They had been through tests from thermography to sperm counts. They had tried everything from endocrinologists to boxer shorts. Nothing worked. The pills, the schedules, the pitying looks from their friends who had their 1.6 children already, all of that brought them here to this place and this conversation.

“Are we doing the right thing?” asked Jane.

“It is is a little late if we aren’t,” said Hank.

“It’s going to change everything.”

“Good. I want a change.” Hank watched his wife’s face crumple. “Not you, me. I want to find out what it means to be a Dad, to carry my kid’s picture in my wallet and be able to talk about school and ….” He paused as the waiter brought their bill, and took their mostly uneaten food to be boxed.

“Here’s your cookie,” he said tossing the plastic wrapped fortune cookie to his wife. Hank crushed the cookie in his fist and picked out the tiny slip of paper. “Strive to be loving more than loved, ” he read, “What does yours say?”

“You will enjoy success in all you adopt,” read Jane in a shaky voice. “I think I am ready.” she said.

The next day the social worker called to tell them they had been chosen to adopt the little girl they had only seen in pictures and videos.

Years later they would tell her this story to explain why they had a fortune cookie paper framed on the wall of their kitchen.

 The fortune cookie is real. We still have it. Our son is 22 now.


Alice carefully checked herself one last time in the rear view mirror. Everything looked like it was in the right place. She picked up her folder and headed into the office. She was five minutes early. Early enough to look organized, but not so early as to look desperate. This job interview was an essential step in her self recovery plan.

After her husband left with the red head half his age she had sat down and reassessed her life with brutal honesty. She wasn’t interested in being take care of by any of the male species. In fact Alice found living on her own restful. There still was the small matter of paying the bills. Since her children were all grown and independent, there was no reason to have any intrusion from her ex-husband in her life. Monthly checks were a too frequent reminder of how much he actually valued her.

The receptionist was pleasant. They chatted for a minute or two before a man with steel gray hair stuck his head out of the office and asked for Alice to be sent in.

The interview was exactly what Alice had been told to expect. It was all about job skills – whether she was good with computers, and could she do filing. It wasn’t until the end of the interview that his mask slipped a little.

“What is that on your leg?” he asked. It took Alice a moment to spot what he was talking about. It was a green blob almost six inches in length. She adjusted her bifocals to get a better look. That is when it moved. Her interviewer jumped about a foot in the air and came down with his chair between him and the invader.

“Oh, it is a manteidae, a praying mantis, ” Alice said, “A very nice specimen too. My youngest son is a nut about bugs. He used to bring them home all the time.”

“Right,” the man said nervously, “It doesn’t bite?”

“Not usually, they use them for natural pest control. They have a particular fondness for aphids.”

“I see.” The man sat down and peered at the immense insect. “When can you start? If you can handle that, I am sure you can deal with any of the people who come in here.”

My wife did actually find a praying mantis on her pant leg during an interview for a job. She and the interviewer freaked out . She didn’t get the job, but we had a good laugh about it.

Which would be more ethical – to operate immediately without informed consent or to wait and operate too late.
Dr. Franke strode down the hall of the University Hospital followed by his usual entourage of interns and students. He was the single most important doctor in the hospital, and he knew it. No one questioned him or stood in his way. He used his assistants’ research and treated his students the way a pro sports franchise treated their players. Deliver or get traded.

The odd thing was that Dr. Franke was also an ethicist. He was constantly on the watch for the slightest breach of medical or research ethics. Behind his back his colleagues called him psuedoethical, since he only followed the rules when it suited him.

On this particuler day he was in rare form. He diagnosed and consulted with a scintillating and scathing wit. Students gritted their teeth and smiled under the onslaught. It was better to be harrangued than ignored. Then a the end of the rounds, just  as he was commenting on the ethics of excessve iv’s, tubes and machines he collapsed. His following sprang into action performing CPR and calling a Code Blue. They had him hooked up and running tests with a speed that would have left some of their others patients gasping with shock.

Dr. Gor arrived to take control. He impressed everyone present with the even handed way he treated the case. You would never know that the two doctors were sworn enemies. The diagnosis was a rare form of aneurism that had first hyper stimulated Dr. Franke’s brain, then deprived it. The only treatment was a risky experimental surgery that Dr. Gor himself had developed. Dr. Franke was prepped for surgery and ready to go under the knife in the blink of an eye.

“What about consent?” asked one of the interns. “It is an experimental procedure.”

“Very true,” remarked Dr. Gor, “but any delay could cause irreversible brain damage. Does any one know who his next of kin is? No? Then I will operate. I am sure Dr. Franke would prefer to retain his faculties.”

No, insisted the hospital administrators, everything must be done right. The next of kin were called and permission given.

Sadly the delay in performing the operation meant that there was permanent damage to the brain.

 The Day After
There always seems to be a day after. The day after the wedding, the day after the funeral. Whatever happens, as long as we are alive in this world, there will be a day after. So what do we do with it?

Today a friend came by and helped me paint the hall that my wife and started as renovation therapy back in July. It is amazing how good white primer looks when it replaces bare plaster.

Today we had friends over for dinner, with intervening doors closed so the paint smell didn’t ruin the taste.

Today my wife drove back down to the hospital, ready to be discharged tomorrow.

Tomorrow I go back to work, my son goes back to school, my wife comes home and chooses the colours for the hall. Life continues.

Thank God for that.


I talked to a group of young people this summer about living courageously. The conversation ranged across many areas, but what it kept coming back to was that courageous people take the next step. The people we often see as heroes may be brave, or they might just be fortunate. The real test is when they meet something bigger than they are. How do they react? Some will change their path, some will reverse, some will collide with the obstacle and crash. What will determine if they are courageous is whether they pick themselves up and take the next step.

As long as we always take the next step, even the next breath, we will be living courageously.


“I want to be a misogynist when I grow up,” Bobby announced proudly at the dinner table. His mom choked on her snow peas and had to be thumped on the back by Bobby’s older sister who glared at him like he was an idiot. In other words, the way that she usually looked at him when she paid him any attention at all. His dad took the announcement in much calmer fashion, mostly because he didn’t have and food in his mouth and could hide his smile with his napkin.

“What’s a misogynist?” asked Katie, Bobby’s younger sister. Nancy had her mouth open to educate her younger siblings when her mom waved her to silence. So Bobby answered.

“A misogynist rubs people with oil and makes their muscles feel better. I saw it on TV.”

“Oh, you mean a massage therapist.” Said his mom, silently trying to figure out what shows Bobby had been watching lately.

“Yeah, doofus,” sneered Nancy, “A misogynist is someone who hates girls.”

“I gues they had older sisters too,” remarked Bobby as he helped himself to more mashed potatoes. Nancy’s retort was lost in the confusion as her dad choked on his milk and Katie thumped his back.


Dateline Aug 27, 2105

The world parliament passed into law today a bill allowing the replication of a human being. The advance technology is an off shoot of the still unsuccessful research into a functional transporter beam. Replicated animals have become popular and cheaper than nature ones. The technology was instrumental in reversing the endangered status of several species. Protesters point to the Australian disaster as a grave warning that once again humanity is suffering from hubris.

Supporters of the technology insist that the replication technology worked perfectly, but agree that it was unfortunate that the kangaroo picked for the species restoration project appeared to be a flesh eating vampire. Rumours that a mosquito got into the chamber with the kangaroo are nonsense. Everyone knows they are extinct.

Once the bill is signed into law by the Heriditary World Leader Britney the Third, it will be legal to make replicas of your loved ones, or even yourself.


Dateline: Aug. 28, 2106

After a year of legal human replicating it has been confirmed that human replicants are virtually mindless. It appears that the human thought processes are more complex than can be duplicated even by the immense power of the quantum computer. More research is being done. The Holy Place of Everything is claiming that this finding demonstrates conclusively the existence of the soul.

In related news, it was discovered that the entire World Parliament has been run by replicas for the past half year. Since there is no perceptible difference in the quality of government no action is being taken.


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