I don’t care what brand.
Boris swallowed another aspirin and washed it down with the mostly melted disgustingly bright blue slushy. He rolled his shoulders and stretched his hands. He hated growing older. There was a time when he take on any six men. Now he counted himself fortunate to get out of bed in the morning.
He ran his hand through his thinning hair and looked around at the bustling crowd. No one paid him the slightest attention. Not like it was thirty years ago. He grunted as he slipped under the rope and in the back of the tent. Thirty years ago, he had both hair and muscles, not to mention those six men chasing him for the tiny speck of negative that was going to mean the difference between the West and the Motherland coming out on top of the Cold War.
The tent was deserted and Boris tried to glide soundlessly over to the make up table. He was afraid it was more of a shuffle than a glide, but no one was there to know. He looked quickly through the detritus on the table, but didn’t see what he was looking for. He decided to sit and rest while he thought out his next move. Spies shouldn’t have to sit and rest after searching a clown’s makeup table, but then spies shouldn’t live past seventy either.
“Hey, Bubb,” a friendly voice said behind him, “You must be the new clown. Help yourself to the white paste. Let me know if you need anything.”
Boris looked up at the speaker and saw the clown from the newspaper article.
“You look pretty old for a clown.” the man said.
“I’m just pretty old.” Boris said.
“Well knock yourself out.”
Boris took a sponge and started painting his face white. It couldn’t be harder than any other disguise he had used over the years.
“Not bad,” said the other man, “but you need some colour.” He pulled out a few sticks of colour and started drawing on Boris. “I hope you don’t mind, but you can develop your own character another day. Maybe we should play up your age.” His hands were busy as he talked. When he held up a mirror in front of Boris, the old spy didn’t recognize himself. He looked a hundred years old and yet somehow also ageless. The other clown pointed him toward a trunk overflowing with clothes.
Other men and women had come in and sat silently putting on their faces. Boris picked out and old suit and a rubber cane. A black fedora fit his head like a glove. He was half way tempted to look for his label under the brim.
“I think that hat’s the oldest thing in the trunk.” The other clown was painted and dressed in baggy overalls. He carried a bucket. It was probably in the bucket Boris thought. He followed the other clowns to a doorway through which came the cacophony that seemed to pass for music in this place. “I don’t have time to give you a part. Just run around and try to look funny.”
The music swelled to deafening volume and the clowns poured out into the ring. Boris followed them. There was a tub in the ring and the clowns started a routine of trying to fill the tub with buckets that Boris saw had holes in the bottom. The crowd’s laughter was even louder than the music. Boris hung around on the edges, trying to find his way to the tub. He could see the object of his search sitting on a ledge. He made a dash for the soap just as a bucket with no hole splashed water all over him.
The soap flew into the air and the clowns started a wild melee as each tried to claim the soap for themselves. Every time Boris was sure he had it, some other painted face would leer at him and grab it. He tried hitting them with the rubber cane, but it just bent. Finally he needed a rest and tried to sit on the edge of the tub. Another clown bumped him and he fell right in. The bar of soap landed right on his stomach. The other clowns picked up the tub like a wheelbarrow and took him and the tub out of the ring.
“Well,” said the other clown, “You’re pretty funny for an old guy.”
“I’m taking the soap,” Boris said.
“Don’t you have any at home?” said one of the other clowns.
“I left it here years ago, and I need it back,” Boris said.
“Not that soap,” the first clown said going over to the make up table. He opened a drawer that Boris hadn’t seen beneath all the clothes and paint. “You want this soap.” He held out a tiny sliver of soap to Boris.
“I was just learning the trade with my Dad, when I slipped on this piece of soap in the ring. We could never figure how it got there, but the slip got a laugh.The soap became my lucky piece. It started getting thin, so I put it away.”
“I dropped it, trying to escape with a microfilm.”
“That had to be thirty years ago,” said the clown. “What good is it now?”
“I don’t know, but information is always useful.”
“Really?” asked another clown. “I’d rather be funny than useful.”
“You are information,” said another, “You’re a clown.”
The other looked in a mirror and made a face. “Well I’ll be, so I am.”
“You’re a pretty fair clown yourself.” The first clown still had the soap held out. “You can have the soap, or….”
“Or what?” Boris said.
“You could join us.”
Boris looked at the soap. He thought of all that had gone into getting that information. It made him sick to his stomach.
“Call me Boris,” he said, “and put that away.”
“Great,” the other clown said, and tossed the soap into the drawer. “Call me Chuck, this is Flowers, Dinky, Fingers…”
Since a number of people (including moi) have been using that august personage in our writings from time-to-time, it is probably befitting we devote a Challenge to him.Write a story that includes the devil. You may use the out-of-the-box variety, or some mutant variant of your own making, but it should be clear we are dealing with the devil, whatever form it takes.
Any word length, prose or poetry.
My children were running wild with anticipation. It seemed like there were hordes of them. I had stopped trying to count them. The desire to go on this outing would be enough to get even the most obstreperous on the bus. Whoever said that children were angels hadn’t met my brood.
I laid the last layer of necessities in my bag and closed it up. I am old fashioned. No wheeled luggage for me. I liked to feel the weight at the end of my arm. I didn’t need it, but it set me apart from the others. I climbed the steps of the yellow bus and sat behind the driver. He was sweating in the heat, or perhaps it was nerves. He was rolling his eyes like a steer being lead to slaughter. Whichever it was, he honked the horn quick enough when I tapped his shoulder.
The children screamed with excitement and ran toward the bus. They pushed and fought to get on, then continued their battle for the best seats. I saw a grossly fat boy deliberately sit on a waif thin girl. His smug grin turned to a pained grimace, then panic. I allowed myself a smile. She must have found some tender part. The boy lumbered away and I saw her sit up and wipe her mouth. She saw me watching and gave me a cheeky grin. Clever girl; I would have to watch her.
An especially brave imp chose to claim the seat beside me. There was one on every trip who foolishly thought they could claim a part of my space. The others watched to see what I would do. I smiled and patted him on the head. He made the mistake of looking at me. They all do. His grin faded, then the rest of him until I was alone on my seat again.
The level of chaos on the bus dropped far enough that I tapped the driver on the shoulder again. He closed the door and shifted the bus into gear. I could hear the wailing of those left behind. The children always wanted to know how far it was, though they would never dare ask. The truth was that I couldn’t answer. Far didn’t have any meaning where we were; neither did long. The ride felt like an eternity because it was a piece of eternity.
Yet it wasn’t quite eternal. I felt the sudden heady pull of time and knew we had arrived. The driver lasted long enough to put the bus into park before entropy took over and he fell to pieces. The children poured off the bus into the light of the created world. Some of them couldn’t hold themselves together in the time stream and vanished. Most managed to adapt and spread out into the world to explore and play.
The mortals that surrounded us were unaware of our arrival. A couple of the most sensitive wrinkled their nose at what might have been a smell of death. Even if they could see us, they wouldn’t believe. We have been relegated to the status of fairy tales appearing in a certain class of fiction. I watched some fights break out between mortal children who had been playing peacefully. My children were quick learners.
I looked around the park and spotted the person I was looking for. They were always there; torturing themselves with their temptations. His desire oozed from his pores. I sat beside him and soaked it all in. The furtive looks, the aborted searches on the web, the fear that someone like him would find his own children, the envy of the ones who dared to act on their desires. I left him staring avidly at a little blond child who played in the sand while two bigger children threw sand and punches at each other.
While the man clenched and unclenched his fists fighting either his desire or his fear, I sauntered over to a woman eating an ice cream while she watched the children play. I stood beside her and watched too. My children had thinned out. Causing strife was easy, but once it was done, it was done. There was no real sustenance to it. A punch, some tears and then it faded away. The ones who didn’t learn that quickly faded away and learned that the trip back was much shorter than the journey here.
The real food was in the struggle to choose between desire and restraint. The woman beside me frowned as she saw one child, larger than the others, struggle to keep up. I glimpsed her view of herself in the mirror. Buried deep was the loathing for all the perceived imperfections; a wrinkle here, a bulge there. Even the ice cream she was eating tasted of both guilt and vanilla. The woman wanted to throw the cone away, but she was even more fearful of wasting food than eating it. The turmoil was delicious.
There was a disturbance on the other side of the playground. A tall thin woman was berating the man who had been watching the little girl. I could feel the waves of self-righteousness from where I stood. The ice cream woman gathered her children and took them protesting away. Her internal struggle over the sweet forgotten in fear for her children.
The waif like imp from the bus was standing to the side of the arguing pair. She saw me watching and shrugged then went back to her feast. She was more subtle than the others, but still had a lot to learn. The shouting match drew in others and I heard the sound of sirens approaching. There would be plenty of drama, but it would vanish as quickly as it built.
I walked away from the park. The tiny blond girl followed me.
“Why do you do it?”
“You know why,” I said. I wanted to be anywhere but here, talking about this. She was new, probably on her first trip.
“I know what they tell us.“
“It sustains us,” I said.
“You don’t need it,” she said,
“The light would sustain you.”
“The light!” I said and choked on the word. For a brief moment I felt the cloying light that permeated everything. I felt the pull to let it in, and the fear of what it would reveal.
She shook her head sadly.
“It would set you free,” she said. She reached out a hand as if she were going to actually touch me, but stopped. The last thing I saw were the tears running down her face.
The familiar darkness and fire surrounded me. Others surrounded me sensing weakness. I growled and disemboweled one while I tore out the throat of another. The rest backed away, this time.
The girl was right, the light would set me free, after it opened all the shadowed depths of my being and cleansed it of the envy and pride. The mortals think hell is fire and brimstone, but is is worse than that.
Hell is knowing what I could be, and what I have chosen to become.
You may shrink from writing poetry, but it engenders discipline when you follow the rules.
My challenge to you is to write a SONNET. A sonnet has 14 lines.
Those 14 lines may also consist of 7 couplets -or- 3 quatrains and 1 couplet.
Have fun with this.
Aging is no occupation for men
gradually slipping into weakness
joints neither straighten nor easily bend
and memory fades to blurry likeness.
Youth laugh and run ahead to claim the world
Gravity has no hold on their smooth limbs
They leap boldly on paths twisted and curled
And see hope in life that no wisdom dims.
So this life is in constant division,
Between those who do and they who once did.
Though each may hold each in deep derision,
Yet both youth and age in each other’s hid.
To live and breathe and get each day bolder
And find the strength to grow each day older.
Write a short story, not less than 500 words, using the following words …
You might need to remind yourself of some meanings …
The words can be in any order you wish, but must be highlighted or underlined for easy observation.
I went visiting my Auntie Deluvian the other day which is quite the chore considering how badly behaved her pug Nacious is. That nasty little critter bit me on the ankle severe enough to pierce my socks and even puncture my skin. I put a bandage on right away and slathered it with Quint’s essential ointment. I was going to report the beast to the authorities.
“Nugatory,” my Dad said, “that Auntie Deluvian is the richest relative we’ve got, and we gonna keep her happy. Carry on with your bleeding ankle.” So that was that. No one argued with my Dad. Not twice anyway.
I decided to limp over to my cousin Joe’s for supper since he fancies himself an epicurean and puts on a mean table. Unfortunately it was Robbie Burns and he was serving haggis. I have no problem swilling down his scotch, and that reeking pudding might be the quintessential Scottish dish, but it wasn’t passing my lips.
I made my way to a mom and pop restaurant whose antediluvian decor didn’t bode well for the coming meal. I mean I haven’t seen flocked electric blue roses on orange wallpaper since Ma had her surgery to rectify her bad taste and the doctor thought she was talking about her living room, not the slime that was giving her halitosis bad enough to send the skunks scurrying. But surprisingly the food was good unlike my other Aunties dish, a stab at airy skin on pudding. I left a substantial tip after eyeing the pugnacious look of my server. He reminder me of my uncle on my Dad’s side. Not the one that was never wrong, but the one that you’d never dare tell him he was wrong.
So after suffinciating my insufficiencies, or as my Dad says, filling in a few cracks I wandered down to find a suitable drinking establishment. It’s not that I’m a heavy drinker mind you, but I felt the need for something to ease the ache in my ankle. There was a pub called the Mass Ich Nation,with a sign of a bunch of fish out front. I thought it should be good for a pint or two and some chips.
The place was pretty near deserted, but I took my pint of brown and sat in a corner. Soon enough a couple of young women dressed such that Ma would never look at them but would notice well enough to sniff at come over to chat. I’m a friendly guy so I bought them each a drink and learned that one was Floss and the other Nass, I couldn’t tell you which was which and I’m pretty sure that by the end of the evening neither could they. We were getting right chummy when a chappy came in and dragged them out of there. That was too bad cause I’d hoped that either Floss or Nass ‘d be pillow vacating in the morning, if you know what I mean.
Being that it was getting late I traipsed my way home and decided to forgive Aunti Deluvian’s pug Nacious. It was a nugatory gesture in light of the riches of Auntie Deluvian.
You come home from work and open the door.
Sitting in the middle of your living room is… What?
Write a story about what you find there.
It must be something that doesn’t belong in a living room.
Tell us how it got there, how you feel about it, and what you do with it.
I got home from work and there was an elephant in a pink tutu slumped in my recliner flipping through the channels. Peanut shells were scattered around it.
“Do you realize that you have five hundred channels with nothing worth watching?” The elephant’s voice sounded exactly like John Cleese.
“You were in my dream last night.”
“Duh,” said the elephant. “You woke up and dragged me here, and now I’m stuck.”
“Alright,” I said, “This is getting weird.”
The elephant just looked at me and kept flipping through channels.
“How do I get rid of you?”
“Well that’s nice,” the elephant said, “I just got here and you’re trying to get rid of me. Didn’t your mother teach you to be nice to your guests?”
“Do you want me to take you over to my Mother’s place?”
“Hell no!” the elephant looked terrified, “I’ve seen her dreams. If you want to send me back you need to have exactly the same dream.”
“You want me to dream about falling in love with an elephant ballerina?”
“Look mate, I don’t make the rules. You think I like wearing this atrocity?”
“I’ll try,” I said, “In the meantime, do you think you could clean up after yourself?”
“No hands,” the elephant said, waving its feet at me.
“If you can work the remote you can push a broom.”
The elephant and I watched TV and played cards. I’m sure the beast cheated. He slept on the bed while I tossed and turned on the couch trying to force myself back into the dream where it made perfect sense that I was desperately in love with a ballerina who happened to be an elephant. Somehow the elephant and cleaning got mixed in my head. When I woke up there was a very disgruntled elephant dressed in a french maid’s outfit and waving a feather duster.
“Think you’re funny, don’t you?” the elephant said.
“While you’re there, could you just give the top of the shelves a swipe?”
“Have you ever seen an elephant on the rampage?”
“I’ll try for something more dignified tonight.”
The elephant snorted and went back to dusting..
I came home from work and my place was immaculate. The smell of cooking wafted from the kitchen. The elephant reclined in my chair watching decorating shows on TV.
“The place looks great,” I said.
“Hmmmph” the elephant said, but I think it looked pleased.
We watched an old movie before the elephant sent me to bed.
“Try to dream up something more….dignified,” it said.
In the morning I smelled coffee brewing and went to the kitchen to find the elephant in dungarees drinking coffee from my favourite mug.
“I was hoping for a tuxedo,” the elephant said, “But this will do.”
I’ve got used to having the elephant around. He isn’t a bad room-mate. I haven’t had any problems with my dreams escaping, except for that one incident with the panda….