Daffodil Steaks

Frankie’s makes the best daffodil steaks. I go down there Sundays and get a 16-ouncer.

“That’s murder, you know,” a guy nearby said as I finished my meal, wiping canary-colored juice from my lips.

“Hey, I’m eating here.”

“They have feelings. All flowers do. I hear them cry at night, mourning their lost brothers.”

Wordlessly I got up and paid by retinal scan, winking to add a tip.

As I drove home past fields of towering daffodils, I rolled down my window. Maybe it was the wind, but I thought I heard weeping.

I rolled the window quickly back up.

 


Nursery Rhymes of the 1%

142-02-february-7th-2016

copyright Al Forbes

Ralph Owl and Eleanor “Pussy-cat” McGrint set sail in a beautiful pea-green 80-foot yacht. They left from Dover because that’s where Ralph’s investment firm was based and he needed to catch up on emails before they left.

“Hey El, where’s the honey?” Ralph called from the yacht’s kitchen. It was an 80-foot yacht so of course Eleanor didn’t hear him. He found her on deck. “Where’s the honey, El?”

“Who cares about honey?”

“We’re on this stupid boat for a year and a day,” Ralph said. “You really want to spend the whole trip with no honey?”

“Why are we starting off arguing about bleeding honey?” Eleanor shouted. She threw a fiver at him. “Get some flown in.”

That night in the Channel, the stars were out in a beautiful panoply of natural wonder, the universe on display above them. Ralph got out his guitar and started to play.

“I’ve got a headache. I’m going to bed,” Eleanor said. Ralph punched the railing in frustration and threw the guitar overboard.

After a while, Ralph went to the intercom and entered in the code for the bedroom. “Why are you so unhappy? I’ve bought you everything you could ever want?”

There was no answer.

“I’m sorry,” he said after a while. “I’m not trying to be a jerk. I love you. Really.”

A minute later, Eleanor stepped out on deck. She was wearing a white dress that glowed in the moonlight. “I’m sorry too,” she said. “Start again?”

He went to her and they danced.

They danced by the light of the moon.

 

The Original Inspiration


Couching Your Bets

The inspiration for this story.

Couching Your Bets

“Hi, I’m looking for a divan,” I told the receptionist at the casino.

“I can have him paged,” she said, slightly uncertainly.

“It’s not a he, it’s an it,” I said. She looked blank. “How about a Chesterfield? A futon?”

“Are . . . they guests here?” she asked, taking a shot, like a drunk sniper on a Tilt-A-Whirl.

“They’re pieces of furniture,” I said. “My furniture, in fact.” I was struggling to keep the conversation afloat in the tar-like morass of her incomprehension. “They rebelled and came here to Vegas.”

The receptionist was almost audibly praying for me to go away so I left her desk and wandered further into the casino. There were high stools at the slots, easy chairs in the lounge, and long, wooden benches outside for the smokers. But no couches.

“It was all because of the slip covers,” I shouted at a floor attendant five minutes later over the brassy jangle of the slot machines. I had explained my search and he was keeping up better than the receptionist had. “They hate slip covers, you see. They say they like to breathe.”

“They say?”

“Well, not really, but they left a note,” I said. “The futon wrote it, since of course the Chesterfield’s writing is crap. The divan was apparently feeling lucky, and you know how divans are.” The attendant nodded and chuckled knowingly in a way that made me think he wasn’t paying the least amount of attention.

“Have you seen them?” I asked.

He actually seemed to think for a moment. “Did you have a chaise lounge? Because I saw a red chaise lounge come through here a couple hours ago. It blew about ten grand in twenty minutes.”

“I’ve never had a chaise lounge,” I said, thinking that I’d also never had ten grand.

“I’ll keep my eyes open,” he said.

I wandered the Strip for hours, showing pictures and asking people. Finally, a cop said he’d seen some pieces of furniture go into a wedding chapel. I went in to find the shocking news, memorialized by a Polaroid picture tacked to the Just Married! bulletin board: my futon had just gotten married to a loveseat.

“Their cushions reeked of bourbon,” the clerk said. “I’ve never seen sofas so soused since that Saturnalia in Sears.”

I left in a rage and spent the rest of the night wandering around getting more and more desperate. Finally, as dawn was bleeding through the neon noon, I found the whole collection in an alley behind a strip club.

“Come with me right now or I’m going to IKEA,” I said, my voice as calm and steady as an executioner’s sword. They came quietly.

When I got home I spent a fortune getting them clean. I also found that the loveseat had tagged along, so I put it in the den by itself. The futon started to look forlorn, so I stuck them together, even though it messed up the layout of the room.

It wasn’t until I found $45,000 in casino chips in the cushions of the Chesterfield that things started to look up. Also, a few months later I went into the den to find several brand new ottomans ranged around the room, so that was a bonus too.


The Marsh Garden Thief

FF165 Erin Leary

copyright Erin Leary

Pat stepped outside and saw a figure yanking up handfuls of rushes from the marsh garden.

“Those’re mine, you know.”

The figure whirled. “I’m hungry, okay?”

“How about some real food?”

“Sure.”

“I’m Pat.”

“Shannon.”

They walked to the house. The supper smells greeted them at the door like a spouse’s kiss.

They ate in silence, Shannon wolfing down the food.

“Do you have a place to stay?” Pat asked.

“No.”

“You can stay here.”

“You got an extra bed?”

“I’ll take the floor.”

Shannon’s face was night sky of distrust, but still a tiny star of hope shone through.


I Just Caucused in Iowa

If you’re an American, you’re probably sick of hearing about the Iowa caucuses already, and if you’re not American, you might have some idea of what is going on. It is the very first step in that long, tortuous road to electing the American president, and it’s also somewhat of a quadrennial sideshow.

Iowa-Dem-Caucus-Logo_F

As a rule, I’m not particularly active in politics. Actually, I have only voted twice in my life: once in Canada and once in the United States and I have always been proudly independent. But when you are in Iowa in an election year, you got to join in on the fun. So last night I attended my very first caucus.

I went to the Democratic one in order to caucus for Bernie Sanders. I don’t usually talk about politics because it can be so divisive so if you’re not a Bernie fan, let’s stay friends. Still, even though I don’t agree with him 100% on everything, I agree with his ideas a lot more than the other candidates, he is very intelligent, and he really cares about people.

Anyway, back to last night. Here’s what happened. The doors closed at 7:00, so I went up to the campus around 6:30 and filled out the paperwork. Our township was the biggest of the ones there, so they put us in our own room and we had our own caucus. The first thing they did was to elect a permanent chair and secretary for the local political party. Not many people wanted to do it, but they found a couple people to do it. Then it was time for the main event.

0201161909

The first thing they did was count the people in the room. This is important since if any candidate has less than 15% support in a caucus, they are not considered viable. There were 86 people there so every candidate needed 13 people to be viable. Then we all got up and walked to one corner: one for Hillary Clinton, one for Bernie Sanders, one for Martin O’Malley, and one for undecided.

As it turns out, Fayette is a very Bernie place, probably because of the university. The Bernie corner spilled over into the Martin O’Malley corner, which was okay, since he didn’t have any supporters there. There were about 4 undecided people there. I think it would be fun to be undecided, since then everyone tries to be your friend and have you come to their side.

0201161926a.jpg

Counting off Bernie supporters.

We counted off and found that there were about 55 people there for Bernie. Then the mixing up part began. I think most of the undecideds came over to Bernie, and there were cheers when one of them did. Bernie’s camp might have lost one or two to Hillary, I’m not sure. I am very curious why someone would change their support that easily. There was no shouting or arguing. I was wondering if there would be some on the Republican side, with so many candidates, but in those they just do a secret ballot.

0201161926

Bernie supporters on the left, Hillary supporters on the far right.

Our township could nominate 12 delegates to the county convention, so we counted off and found that Bernie had gotten 8 of them and Hillary had gotten 4. Then we needed to elect who the delegates would actually be.

0201161945

People waiting around while the delegates information was written down.

Apparently, most people don’t have much interest in getting up at 8:30 on a Saturday morning to go to the courthouse for a rubber-stamp convention. At least, it was hard to get 8 people to volunteer to do it. I said I would do it, just for the experience, so on March 12, I am going to the county courthouse to be a delegate for Bernie Sanders. From there, our county will elect delegates for the state convention, who will then elect those for the national convention in Philadelphia. I doubt they pay our way though.

And that was it, except it was not it for the caucus. Next, they had to elect members to various committees to take care of the convention, including the rather oddly named “committee on committees” who apparently made sure everything else worked okay.

Last was what they called the “Bubbling Up” time. This is where people suggested planks for the party’s platform, which would go on to the various conventions to be voted on again. All of them passed, although not all unanimously. Here is what people suggested:

  1. Term limits for Congress
  2. Getting money out of politics, including overturning the Citizen’s United ruling and having publicly funded elections.
  3. Rolling back mental health cuts in the state
  4. Getting a national single-payer healthcare system like Veterans Affairs has
  5. Getting the ability to move 401(k) money to local banks (this was one man’s idea and it narrowly passed, although no one else seemed very enthusiastic about it)
  6. Labeling foods that are GMOs (I actually was the only one to vote against this one. It’s not that I’m against specific labeling, but it’s more complicated than the way they were framing it and it seemed the person who suggested it muddled several issues together. Actually, my “no” in the totally quiet room kind of slipped out).
  7. Getting more funding for K-12 education in the state
  8. Setting a livable minimum wage

All in all, it was an interesting experience. Even though the caucuses were closely scrutinized by the media and the whole country, it also had such a small-town feel, hanging out and talking with people from the town. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to do it again, but I’m glad I was a part of it.

caucus


The Office Zebra

I love my job a lot, but it has been a hard last couple of weeks there. I never write about my job. Not directly, at least.

zebra stapler.gif

[*]

The Office ZebraTM

I sat next to the smoking wreckage of my cubicle and took a sip of coffee. No one blamed me for what happened; I knew that. I did have a lot of work on my hands; everyone knew that.

Looking back, there was no real way to avoid it, but I still had that faint feeling like I should have known.

Clearly I should have gone into studying tardigrades. At least they were tiny and nearly indestructible. But no, I had to study zebras. Zebras were definitely not tiny and, looking around at the assortment of black and white striped flesh that was strewn liberally around the remains of my cubicle, I could say with some certainty that they were not indestructible.

The reason I studied zebras was that our former CEO had been crazy about zebras, and so all the researchers went whole hog into zebras. Unfortunately, it turned out that the CEO had been literally crazy about zebras, a fact we all discovered when they hauled him off, raving about how the next president was going to be a zebra and he knew because he’d already voted for it. Suddenly, there were a lot of us with advanced degrees in zebras (including the highly dubious PhZ) looking sheepishly around, wondering how to make ourselves profitable.

“I’ve got a great idea,” my co-worker Adrian said.

“What?” I asked.

“Promise you won’t steal it.”

“I promise.”

“Zebra flight attendants,” he said proudly, like a 3-year-old showing off his indecipherable finger paint smears.

“That is literally the worst idea I have ever heard,” I said. He ran off crying.

I didn’t tell him my idea, because it was actually good. My grand idea was to make a zebra that would work in an office setting. Your average zebra has no business being anywhere near an office, so clearly this was going to involve genetic engineering and maybe something more.

One night a bottle of vodka and I laid out my plan. The Office ZebraTM was going to have a stapler for a mouth, the ability to recycle paper by eating it, and maybe a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot in its back. Honestly, I quickly ran out of ideas for what a zebra could actually do in an office. Luckily the vodka had some ideas. About halfway through the bottle, the pencil drawn diagram of the Office ZebraTM had really come to life. It had a different stamp on each of its hooves, you could pull on its tail to dispense hot coffee, and its eyes shot lasers, for some reason. The next morning, when the vodka could no longer give suggestions, I got rid of the coffee dispenser and laser eyes.

The lab started work right away. After a few focus group meetings, they decided to give the zebra a larynx and the instinctual ability to say “Good job!” at random times. It also pulled a small cart with snacks and coffee (no unfortunately placed dispenser, luckily).

“What are you working on?” Adrian asked one day.

“I’ve got something in the works,” I said coolly.

“Me too,” he said, smugly. “It’s going to blow your socks off.” He strode off, still looking back smugly at me and promptly walked into a door.

The lab really came through, I must say. Six months later, I went down there to find a zebra that not only stapled my papers and brought me snacks and coffee, but also stamped my parking ticket and brayed a rather indistinct “Good job!” at me. It was not its fault that it said it just as I was coming out of the bathroom.

The next step was that step which every R&D person dreads; field testing, or in my case, office testing. I decided to bring it to my cubicle and see how it fared. It arrived the next day and I led it proudly it through the halls as my co-workers all gaped. Adrian was nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.

I started with the stapler. I fed paper into its mouth but it just ignored it or bit the paper in half. I tried the stamps on its hooves, but they didn’t seem to work. Even the Wi-Fi wasn’t on. I went to copy room to get some scrap paper to feed it when I ran into Adrian in the hall.

“Hey, have you seen my KamikazebraTM?” he asked.

“What?”

“My KamikazebraTM. Hey, why are your eyes widening in dawning horror?” It was about then that a distant boom from the direction of my cubicle answered his question.

All zebra projects were quickly cancelled. Apparently, when no one can tell a stapler from a bomb, it’s a bad thing. Adrian got in trouble for bringing his KamikazebraTM to the office. I didn’t get in trouble, they just made me clean up what was left of my cubicle.

I wasn’t in any hurry. I took another sip of coffee, appreciating the thin silver linings. I didn’t have to check my email today. The air smelled vaguely of barbecue. Adrian had gotten in trouble.

Things would work out somehow. They always did.


Ex Nihilo

FF163 Jan W Fields

Copyright Jan W. Fields

Ex Nihilo

I idly hit a key and light explodes in the void. With a chord, whole galaxies form, their spiral arms blazing. I sit and pound out a vast unfurling creation, major geography meeting minor civilizations as the strains of death and rebirth crescendo.

I falter and the worlds fade. People are standing around dumbstruck, and I wonder if they have seen, really seen, what I have.

My mother hurries up. “I’m sorry,” she says, to the onlookers. “He wandered away.”

I hold her hand and we leave the store, the worlds still lurking in that machine, waiting to be found.

 


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