THE GLUMS, PART II

By Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Today is National Ice Cream Day!  So, have a bowl and forget your glums!

Here’s an 1820’s tale about my great-great-grandfather, the Carper. (An excerpt from Tales of the Fiction House)

*    *    *

Mariner spins and spins for Carper. Next tale, “Pharaoh’s daughter, the beautiful Princess, she discovers baby Moses agrowin’ ‘mongst the Nile’s bulrushes and reeds. He’s a mighty foundlin’. Sproutin up, leadin ‘is people through torturous deserts to freedom. Still leadin em yet today.”

Carper’s eyes spark. “Still?”

Mariner nods. “So jus’ maybe you’ll grow up to do some leadin’ of yer own.” He strokes Carper’s face. His crinkly lines of melancholy begin disappearing. “N’ then Carper, there’s Romulus and Remus. Foundlin’ twins suckled to survive by mama she-wolf in a grassy valley of seven hills. Them boys went on to found the great city, ROME, twixt those hills. I ported there dozens a times. Bee-youtiful’ Carper. You’ll go there one day.”

Carper’s eyes spark.

Mariner picks a couple of ratty-tatty books from the shelf and opens them to pictures of ‘M’ in the bulrushes and ‘R’ and ‘R’ at the teats.

Carper’s imagination is entree into the pages. Escape to imagination begins washing away the GLUMS. The tunnel begins shrinking, then, zap, like that, disappears.

Carper wades out to meet Moses. Princess lifts the future prophet, but wait – a cratered old gator is sliding their way. His vibrating growls quake the pages. The Princess’ delicate gold bracelets and necklace chime as they brush her silken gown. Growl isn’t from the gator. His snout is closed. Carper glances out from the pages, to the wanted poster. Laza Bones Thibidioux turns Adonis-side profile and shows his mangled gator side. He’s the growler. He peers at the helpless trio retreating to shore.

He snorts, ‘Git em ol Uncle. Feast on der bones den toss one out ta yer kin.’

Uncle ratchets mouth, snaps inches from Princess’ waist. Her golden belt rips away and tangles in his pointy teeth. Looking victim to an overzealous ancient dentist Unc leaps above water. ‘CHOMP!; Just misses swaddled Moses.

Carper uproots a rigid reed, taller than he is. He parries, thrusts, as he did battling Turt. He realizes what he must do to save Moses, but not the same thing that saved him from Turt. With free hand, he plucks another reed. He slaps Uncle Gator’s snout with one while jabbing with the other. Unc winces, but he’s a comer.

‘Git that Carper, Uncle,’ Laza Bones shouts.

Carper lets him get just so close, then rams reed between Uncle’s upper and lower jaw. It sticks, holding open snout. Squealing, frightful noises no Princess should ever hear! She covers ears. Carper, to the rescue. To give her majesty time to get away he begins spinning the uncle like a bottle, pushing him to shore. He upends him with the reed as he did Turt with Harpoon. He stands triumphant atop flopping reptile. Poised rigidly with reed he looks a miniature of Mariner’s ‘Poseidon with trident’ picture.

‘Curse you Carper,’ shouts Laza Bones Thibidioux.

Suddenly Carper finds himself watching from a few pages on as loving wolf mother nurses Romulus and Remus. A galloping gator descends a hill and heads toward the unsuspecting trio. ‘Git em Auntie,’ shouts Thibidioux. ‘Keill the beetch and adopt the boys fer yeren’ own. Haul em back to the bayou where dey can be learned the swamp things that’ll let em rule the world.’

No reed. No harpoon. Carper knows he must make do. He looks about barren valley. He spies a ropey snake and grabs it. Auntie lunges. He snaps snake like a whip, coiling it around her snout. (Just like Kunta did to save the Reverend at the river, James lauds. Maybe Carper and Kunta met somewhere along the way?) Carper loads Romulus and Remus onto mother’s back. She smiles thanks, R & R gurgle, and off to safety they ride.

‘GRR,’ Thibidioux growls. His teeth chatter as terbaccy stick he chews sticks in his craw. He chokes it out. “Ye’s not seen de las a me’s, mon fishboy.’

Carper exits the book.

The GLUMS! Gone. But remnants remain. Carper shakes; cries out. “I’m not Moses. Not the twins. You tell me I’m Carper. But I know I’m not. Who’m I Mariner?”

Turt cranes neck so his calming, hypnotic eyes are parallel to Carper’s. ‘Relax Carper. Breathe slow, deep. Count the twinkling starfish as they swirl.’

Ol Tom purrs, gently slipping his head to Carper’s cheek.

Mariner squints. “You have to be someone son. Least for a while. Up to me to help that along, til you can decide who you be. I didn’t just pluck your name from the sea. I named you after one of the noblest foundlings of all time, the renowned Carpier of Lindia, a great poet and storyteller who inspired his people. He led them to freedom of not only body, but of spirit.”

“Carpier?”

‘Carpier?’ James, too questions, right along with his great-great grandfa. I know that name.’ James stands invisibly next to Carper. Their shoulders rub, but neither feels other.

“Patience. I’ll be spoutin ‘a the Carpier right soon.” Mariner rights up the slouching boy.

Suddenly Mariner begins peering over to the space – where James ain’t. He whooshes his hand, right through James.

For a moment, James thinks he can read Mariner’s thoughts, ‘You be there, but a haint you ain’t. I’ll untangle that mystery knot.’

Then Mariner continues talk with Carper. “In Carpier you have a great legacy to live up to. But I saw right away when I fished you from under that cart that you got it in you.”

Mariner runs fingers over Turt’s shell as a sea captain would a globe. He stops at a thin, turbaned man. “I tried my hand at carvin’ one time. Carved Carpier, sittin lotus-leg next to Kunta’s village. He’s tellen ‘em tales to make their days go easier since they lost their beloved Kunta to the slavers. He’s tellen em, ‘Kunta forever resides now with their ancestors in Polaris’.”

Mariner looks back over at James. Again, James is deciphering Mariner’s thoughts, ‘I’s sure you taint a haint. Just as sure as I knows you ain’t the Carpier; ‘cause I knows the Carpier. Say, are you the little Kunta returnin’ from his restin-place Polara for a spell?’

You want to break down time barriers and shout the surprise: ‘Kunta’s growed and alive, Mariner. A ropin’,’ariling downriver.’ Sure wish some way I could let you know that.

(To see Part I of the Glums, go to Post No. 162.)

(Read more of Carper’s tale in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.)

(Tales of the Fiction House ©2012  is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2012 Raji Singh

©2015, 2017 Raji Singh (New Material)

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THE GLUMS

By Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

In case you need something to cheer you up after the 4th of July fireworks have faded, here’s an 1820’s tale about my great-great-grandfather, The Carper.  (An excerpt from Tales of the Fiction House)

*   *   *  

THE GLUMS

– is what the Mariner sees in Carper when he stops his story. Crinkly lines of melancholy envelope Carper’s face. Ol Tom senses sadness. He leaps – from Mariner’s shoulder to Carper’s. Licking the boy’s cheek caringly, he mewls, ‘AHEM, TURT. Little help here.’

Turt breaks his distracted gaze from a fish glowering up at him through the wharf-shack’s planked floor. Carper’s look mirrors Turt’s own sadness, when he thinks of Kunta or of his own foundling-shelling days. Turt trills soothingly and with beak-snout, pets Carper’s hand.

Laza Bones Thibidioux reaches from his wanted poster and grabs Harpoon. He points it at you. ‘I gotta use for this. I’ll be a seein’ you in a century or so boy. I’ll deal with YOU, then.’

Mariner takes sad Carper onto his lap.

THE GLUMS. Mariner’d seen it among fellow sailors: A blanket of fog that smothers, first mast, then souls. “Keep spirits up mates,” he’d say. “Soon we’ll port. There ya can breathe agin’.” ‘Til then, all Mariner could do was keep spinnin’ yarns, hopin’ some tale’d restart the sweet music of their hearts. For this young mate he’d do the same.

“None of those damnable, blue GLUMS, Carper. I know yer feelin bad. But ya hasta’ remember, as a foundlin’ ya come from a mighty proud line. Holy Moses! Could say, our likes date back ta times’ beginning.”

Mariner’s words stick, briefly, to Carper’s thoughts. Slowly, away they peel. So suddenly, so craw-wrenchingly, Carper feels he is spiraling down – alone, helpless – through a dark tunnel in his thoughts. These are the GLUMS. Mariner’s words are a net but Carper slips through. He reaches for Ol Tom’s paw and Turt’s fin-claw: in vain.

Laza Bones leaps from poster and shifts Harpoon away from you and toward Carper. He pokes at him. ‘Git you on down, down, and stays yaz der at de bottom, mon fishboy.’

You try to pull Laza Bones away from Carper but your arms slide right through him.

There is a lil’ Carper existing in Carper’s mind. Eeensy, so teensy. Carper knows, small though he is, he is mightier than all the bad Laza Bones’ of the world. So gently, but oh so forcefully Lil Carper whispers, ‘Listen to Mariner. Let his words be your line. Hold tight. Don’t fight when he reels you in.’

Mariner’s arm encompasses Carper’s waist. With other, he flails, animating the story he tells, about Kunta, “even as a little boy, so brave a boy, Kunta saved many lives though enslaved by the worst of GLUMS.” In Carper’s half-real – half-tunnel world, Mariner’s arm seems sword fending off Harpoon. The more he concentrates on Mariner’s tale, the further off Laza Bones Thibidioux drifts, until again he’s imprisoned in his poster.

Laza Bones poses handsome side out, as if he’s Honest Abe on the penny. ‘Who me? I wouldn’t harm a soul.’ He’s not fooling Carper, or James. Both know there’ll be a next time.

(Read more of Carper’s tale in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.)

(Tales of the Fiction House ©2012  is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2015, 2017 Raji Singh

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CINCINNATI’S FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE – A WHIMSICAL TALE

by Raji Singh

 Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

 Welcome to our annual 4th of July parade from  Tales of the Fiction House. Have a wonderful holiday!

Cincinatti, July 4, 1826

The Cincinnati wharf-shack sways in a light breeze. Close your eyes, you’ll think you’re drifting out to sea. But Carper’s are open and he glares at Laza Bones’ wanted poster and Laza Bones glares back. Carper asks Mariner as they eat upon tabletop Turt. “The sweet little baby Bontez really grew up to be that – ‘thing’?”

“Yessuh, he did.”

Laza Bones ‘grrrs,’ at Carper, pulls out ‘trusty blaubuster’ and shoots. ‘BAM! BAM!’ Flouted barrel smokes. Wharf-shack rattles. Carper ducks. Projectiles ‘ziinngg’ off Turt’s shell, ricochet with a ‘tiinngg’ off wall-leaning Harpoon, deflects straight at Ol Tom, who leaps, ‘MEE-OWW-OWW-OWW,’ straight up from Mariner’s shoulder.

Mariner just keeps chowin’ chowder and talin’ tales and explorin’ Turt’s tattoos.

Turt, he’s really only yawning.

Ol Tom, just napping.

“The whoppers we conjure up in our imaginin,’ eh Carper,” Mariner says. “They make for some right good tellin ‘bout to others. Bet yer imaginin’ a whale-of-a-tale now.”

Carper glances at the poster, board-stiff.

The gunfire is real. It’s outside. Old Cincinnati’s tower bells begin tolling midnight. People are whooping, shouting, running wildly about.

‘AHEM! AHEM!’ Thibidioux’s alive again and he’s prying into the worlds of others. Slyly he grins at Carper. ‘After hearin’ mah story, dontcha’ feels sorry fer me, boy?’

Carper thinks he sees the evil sneer of King Creole on Thibidioux’s face. ‘Not one bit, Laza Bones. Don’t know how you got how you did. Only knows you did. N, that’s that. I’ll jus be like the Mariner, and ignores yer hair-trigger ways.’ Carper refreezes him, and, with little boy impetuousness, glances out the wharf-shack’s porthole and becomes transfixed by the doins’.

“Nuf a my jaw-jackin, Laddie,” Mariner says. ‘Good, the boy’s seein’ more than what’s right in front of ‘ims.’ He scratches chin stubble. “This tiny ship’s not big enough to net in all your thoughts and dreams, hmm Carper.”

Carper gazes out the round, 19th century version of a television to the world. Turt joins, then Ol Tom awakens and with his Cyclops eye, he does too. “Well all right,” Mariner says, rising to pull a raggedy curtain as if pushing an off button. It barely closes and they continue peeking out. Mariner strokes Carper’s hair, pats the nape of Turt’s ropey neck, then tickles Ol Tom.

“All that hoopin’, hollerin’. It’s turned Independence Day, Carper. Country’s independence as well as yourens’. Probably the first one you’ll remember. What say we make it real tootin’ special. Takin’ a part in it. Not just watchin’. Yes-sir-ree! 1826 America. This great lands a’ enterin’ its second 50 years and two of its great makers are still ‘akicken: Tom Jeffers… and Johnny Adams.”

Mariner takes a wooden crate from his sea trunk. He tosses a glob of matches atop the conical and stick-like contents. “China-man gave me these when I docked Singapore. We’ll light up the Cincinnati sky right well to celebrate.” He picks up tiny American flags mounted on pencil-like sticks. “I got it Carper. What this stodgy ol city needs is a parade. We four ‘ll start it. The gaul-dondest’ a parades.”

That captures Carper, Tom, and Turt’s spirit. Carper observes the old salt. Aglow like crystal are his eyes, showing his excitement. It’s worth more than any gold.

“Blow the horns and git set. The si-reen, she’s abeckonin’. Time to hoist anchor.”

Turt trumpets. Ol Tom mews, and Carper claps hands as a seal he’d once seen in pictures.

“All aboard,” Mariner orders. Ol Tom leaps on his shoulder. Mariner lifts Carper to his other shoulder then climbs atop Turt. He leans the fireworks crate between his legs and the back of Turt’s head. Turt exits the shack and trumpets shrilly, excitedly down the pier then soon, onto a street. Ol Tom screeches as torturously as he would if he were perched on a fence wailing to virginal felines.

Carper sings made-up songs with words he’d heard Mariner say. “America, America, Tom Jeffers and Johnny Adams. America, America. Yessirree we’re still a tootin’ and akicken’. 50 years and for always.”

Crowds gather along wooden sidewalks. They cheer the motley paraders.

You see their faces. They glisten in the streetlamps’ glitter and look wondrous with joy. And they are looking at you. Smiling. You know, by a fresh, new, and keen instinct, that you are bringing them this joy. It makes you, the floundering Carper, happy.

Mariner lights fireworks then holds them above his head for launch. ‘POW!’ Earth is stinking sulfur smoke, but the sky explodes into a glittering bouquet of red, white, and blue.

You feel more and more of your sorrowful pain slipping, disappearing, into the colors. You hear a soft voice that comes from amongst them. ‘Bonnie boy – live forever with this joy you now feel.’ Embers from the wilting colors seem soft fingers, wiping your tears of joy.

More sky bouquets. Onlookers line up behind your fours’ parade. Hootin’, hollerin’, shootin’,and fireworkin’ continue on down the street. The crowd joins in your child’s simple ditty. “America, America, Tom Jeffers, Johnny Adams…”

You learn from this that if you speak, people will listen to you – enjoy what you have to say.

And, on this day, little does Carper realize – BORN, is a showman.

The parade, introducing boy to world, exhilarates Mariner. He has chosen so much joy in a life that began so ill fated, yet he considers this his happiest time. Boy seems to have made ancient, young again. Mariner’s hopin’ he can teach every of life’s lessons he’s learned, to him.

Ol Tom ignores the fal-de-ral. He’s had a lifetime of cheering crowds among the swabbies, every time he’s cleared a pack of rats from a ship. Warm milk, an albacore head, and a soft warm feline brought on deck at the next port are the rewards he’s craved.

Turt cranes his neck high like a ship’s mast. He’s the vessel, sailing his friends through an ocean of people. Today, much as for the Carper, this is the beginning of a new life for Turt. The joy he found in old friend Kunta, then in Mariner and Carper, is now suddenly emanating from all those surrounding them. Decades of hatred of two-legs melts away. He suddenly realizes – it seems so simple now – all he has to do is to just let the hatred go, loosen fin-claw and SWOOSH! Forever, his burden – banished.

He blares out his pride of being a trumpeting creature, louder than ever.

As he does, the crowd’s cheers for he and his mates, boom. “INDEPENDENCE FOR ALL.”

Turt makes his vow this day – to forever care for the Carper, and for those he cares.

Cincinnati’s first annual Fourth of July parade begins with these four – unlikelys. The country will remember the half-centennial – bitter sweetly. On this day, the country-makers Tom and Johnny will die within hours of one another. Cincy will remember it for the shelled ship, its stooped, ancient Mariner captaining it with his one-eyed first mate and the little singing boson.

When the city celebrates the centennial 50 years hence, every blauhard ‘tween ages of 15 and 60 will have stories to tell how they or relative rode along. In 100 years, giant floating balloons and wheeled floats will depict Turt, Carper, Mariner, and Ol Tom in the first parade. In 150, at the Bicentennial, Presidents, future Presidents, and also-rans will be seen buttonholing voters – claiming Tom, Johnny and the original 4 paraders all would have supported them.

Turt will be at each of these events – watching from the Ohio River, maybe a secluded park, or, quite conspicuous in the crowds’ midst – though quite invisible midst the hundreds of concrete or styrofoam Turt replicas. He always returns. He will be at the next you can bet.

With this first parade Carper’s reputation as fixture on the streets and piers of Cincinnati – it is set. No more is he a ‘bastaad son-of-a nickel-a-night whure’, but, friend to nearly all, with words for them that are listened-to, revered, because he’ll have gleaned wisdom at the pulpit of the Mariner.

“This parade, she’s far from over. So don’t be a leavin’ yet,” shouts Mariner.

You smile. So do all the parade watchers, who’ve become paraders.

©2012 Raji Singh  (Tales of the Fiction House)

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories.  My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013 Raji Singh

Posted in Children, Children's stories, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

In Honor of National Pollinator Week, we hope you enjoy a Fiction House favorite, a poem from Tales of the Fiction House

    *     *     *
I am James Thaddeus Fiction, the Fifth – a true Fiction.  Typhoon tears me from my parents.  I alone survive.  I become an orphan foundling, taken in by new loving parents Dr. Ben and Indira Singh.  Now I am Raji.  These are my found and foundling tales.

THE BUTTERFLIES

In royal raiment we come to you Carper, and you James.

Our flutters say, ‘We are here for you foundlings.

We light by – fly by you.

(Maybe, one day, you too.)

What can we do for you?

Quietly bring pleasure and peace.

Protect you, in this world of ugly, of beast,

That, the gentleness of our beauty may,

For a moment, help you subdue.

Calico (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Calico
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

(Read more of the poetic beauty of Calico in the novel, Tales of Fiction House.  Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.   My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013 Raji Singh

©2014 Raji Singh (New material)

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DREAMS OF CALICO, BUTTERFLY FANTASIES

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

This is National Pollinator Week, a time to celebrate the billions of small creatures who bring flowers and food into our lives.  In their honor, we revisit one of our favorite Fiction House creatures, the butterfly Calico.

From Tales of the Fiction House:

… A calico butterfly of silver, ruby, and gold had lit on the youth’s head. “I see one of my friends been keepin’ ya company.” Mariner winks at it as it flits away, “Happy sailen’ Calico.” He bends to the boy. “So what’s youren name? What you been rollin’ round in? And what in the name of Poseidon’s ocean you doin’ schoolin’ here?” Sniff. “Eew! Yer rank as my giant pal Turt after e’s swum the Atlantic.”

Boy wants to say, “How can you smell me over your owen’ self?” Manages only, “Umm…”

(Mariner rescues Carper and takes him to his cabin.  There, the boy sees a most marvelous sight….)

Calico in a frantic flight from the goblins (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

You stare intently, entranced by the array of Mariner’s exotic objects never before this moment have you seen. BOOKS – bound in leather dyed blue, black, and red. The bindings’ wild animal pungency – primal; the pulp pages emit sweet, pleasant mustiness of the forest. These soothing scents overpower the wharf-shack’s odor. These scents, intoxicating, will draw you under their covers. Soon you will sleep. Dream. All their pages of excitement, knowledge, mystery will awaken a passion for life’s grandeur in you that never will dull.

There is no way that at this moment can your child’s mind perceive all you feel so deeply. You only experience…

The BOOKS: They begin leaping from the shelves. They slide down Harpoon. Its long face, snaggled with sharp-barbed tooth, is still gleaming with the sweet ardor of some past battle glory. When they reach the floor, BOOKS, in cadence begin marching round a three-legged stool and toward you. ‘Hup! Hup! Hup, hup, hup!’ In parade. Voices echo in unison, ‘JOIN US, CARPER. DON’T LET US PASS YOU BY!’

How do they know your name? Other books are open on rickety stands and on the floor. You smile as an artist’s drawing of a wiry pooch ‘WOOFS’ at you. On the page next to him, a little wooden boy dances clip-cloppity. You want to tweak his funny, ever-growing nose. But, ‘Ouch!’ You are afraid of splinters.

On the pages of a floored book, a pretty, golden-haired girl in a silver gown looks down from atop a leafy tree. She reaches for you. She has wings of silver, ruby, and gold. She reminds you of the butterfly that spent the night with you under the cart. You whisper, “Calico?”

‘COME FLYING WITH ME CARPER!’ she sings. She swoops down, takes your hand, and off you go go go, landing on the picture’s cloudy mountaintop. You lock hands and sing, skip and play ring around rosy, pocketful of posy. Ashes, ashes… all…fall…

‘No! No! You fist your hand in defiance. The fire-breathing monster won’t eat me,’ your thoughts shout, as you partly remember the nightmare. You blink. No longer do you hold her hand. You’re still clasping Mariner’s.

“Ouch! Carper, you got a clam’s grip there,” Mariner says as he bends creakily and closes the fairy tale book. Butterfly girl winks good-bye. Carper doesn’t feel scared or sad. He feels protected by Mariner and this place. He can visit the butterfly girl any time he wants. He will find many joys like her in – BOOKS. Carper will have read and absorbed each one in this dry-dock library before he turns eight. BOOKS. They will become his life.

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2017 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FATHER’S DAY SCENTS AND SENSIBILITIES

by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

(A Favorite from our family’s past.  Happy Father’s Day!)

  *    *    *

PART I – FATHERS’ SENSIBILITIES

I am James Thaddeus Fiction, the Fifth – a true Fiction. Typhoon tears me from my parents and my realities strip away. I enter another world, one of imagining, surviving. Eventually new, loving parents, Dr. Ben and Indira Singh, take me in. Now I am Raji.

But, before then…

*     *     *

The ironies of my foundling fate blessed me with three additional males to consider Fathers.

I wish on no other person the brutality – the disregard and abuse – that most in my situation must become part. I desire for all, the kindness and trinity of paternal love my other Fathers offer.

One of them, I conjured in my imagination, to ferry me through my lonely times. Who could be a more sensible guide? He too had been a foundling.

The second is real, but not human: He – an offshoot species akin to a giant land-sea turtle, a multi-centarian – is named Turt. Charles Darwin writes of him in Fiction House Publishing’s The Beagle Has Landed, ‘He is no turtle, yet they call him TURT. page 21, Chapter 19, Verse 23.

Turt was my salvation. He ferried me to shore atop his shell, and then through the dangers in the deep Lindian Woods – animals of prey, humans of prey – before delivering me to the Father who would raise me. So I might survive the journey, Turt demonstrated the sensibilities of foraging: How to sneak up on fish as only his kind could, and then how to bake them on sun burned hot stones.

My third Father, you might be hard-pressed to guess if he is human or animal if you met him in the Woods, which Turt and I did. He dressed part tiger – part man, his actor’s persona. His name is Balu Baiku. A travelling troubadour, he lived and breathed the ancient art of the Tigerman, melding cat-sly movements with human dance. His gift is that of creating a meditative calmness in his audience, peaceful as any Gregorian chant.

This sensibiliity – that he demonstrates to Turt and me to this day – taught me how to soar above my ill fate, and reach the crescendos of joy and love we all desire.

The sensibilities of my Fathers, of most all our Fathers: Where would we be without them?

PART II – SCENTS OF THE FATHERS

The first Father I described, his name James Thaddeus ‘Blackjack’ Fiction, he was my great great grandfather. I met him only in my imagination. Names, we no longer share, but his position I inherit, editor of Fiction House.

Late at night in the office, he yet comes to me, as when I was a Woodland foundling. I know it is he when the warm hand rests comfortingly on my shoulder and I smell the smooth brandy and rich cigar mix of his breath. No mistaking that scent, it still permeates the walls and trimwork of Fiction House though he ascended from his worldly realm many decades ago.

I imagine I hear Blackjack’s Editor-Godlike edict, his words peppered with the ‘Come on. Take a chance’, sensibilities of publishers, from the dawn of Stone-Age tablets, up to tablet e-books of today. He proclaims. “For every six queries you reject, My Son, you must accept one.”

Then he’ll josh, because Blackjack is no humorless Editor-God.

“There might just be a whale-of-a-tale in those endless seas of words. Never forget, I let Melville slip through my nets when I should have harpooned Moby and just reeled him in.”

The Fiction House roots stem from the burgundy incense of the tobacco leaf of which Blackjack became so fond. As a boy in the 1820’s and early 30’s he made a steady income as a reader in cigar rolling factories – cavernous, giant humidors along the piers of old Cincinnati. High on a stool above the tables he sat Lord-like, relaying the great literature of the day to hundreds of anxious listeners. Six cents of a worker’s daily incomes was tithed to Blackjack. Morale, production, most important, a desire to be literate skyrocketed among workers and their families.

Born, is just one of many future markets for Fiction House Publishing’s books.

I imagine – a sixth sense, if you will – that I have much in common with Father #1, my g-granfa Blackjack. One of them however, never will be smoking. I’ve no desire to have smoldering embers near my face, nor whatever impurities they may contain, to penetrate my body.

That same desire cannot be said for Fathers Two and Three. (To each his own…)

Turt, more than once I can remember him pulling some unknown-to-me thin-leafed plant to a campfire, and imbibing of that acrid wafting smoke he draws deeply into his strongbox lungs, his deep-shelled air pockets. A bleary of eye look always follows, and then comes the munching upon whatever slithery thing he can find that crawls nearby.

I suppose there are no laws in Lindia or any of the 50 United States governing what Turt’s species may smoke or devour.

Father Three, Tigerman, a sensible man, takes a sensible approach to the scents he inhales. An ancient ‘smoke’ from Lindia, the ‘Krekal’, is his choice. Made of sage and rolled in light paper, its addictive properties lie only in the pleasantly savannah-arid aroma it produces, and the calming ‘krekal, krekal’ sounds the smoldering leaves makes. It is like the clatter of a roller coaster continuously striking its track. Only, it is nearly silent.

When Tenille, our children, and I go to a carnival, I cannot help thinking of Father Three. Listen! In those briefest of moments that there is quietude along the midway, and there always is, I hear ‘krekal, krekal’. I breathe deep. Midst the sweet wafting of kettle corn and cotton candy, I detect the sharp piquancy of krekal. I peek like an ever-curious youngster, into all the show tents. I am just sure I’ll find my Tigerman performing. I cannot wait to see him again.

*     *     *

These other Three Fathers of mine: The scents and sensibilities they evoke meld as one – INTO LOVE.

I close my eyes. I sense their presence even when they are not there. Because of them, I am never a lonely foundling.

Thank you, Three Fathers. And, of course, Father Ben, and my late father too.

(Read more of my Fathers in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2014 Raji Singh

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A PARROT’S LIVE (A TALE OF TWO BIRDS-CONTINUED)


by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

In honor of our other-than-human friends who add so much to our lives and National Pet Appreciation Week, a piece from the Fiction House archives:

My wife Tenille asks quietly from the next room, “Has Captain Polly arrived?”

“Yes.” I answer.

“Good, the children will want to play with her after dinner.”

I know Tenille’s smiling.  Captain Polly’s been close in her, my, and our children’s  time of need.  She’s always there.  For everyone.

Captain Polly dozes – slight “peh, peh, peh” snores.  She sways lightly on her perch beside my desk.

I’m busy archiving, archeo-apologizing Fiction House Publishing manuscripts that date to the 1850’s.  I pet her.

She sighs, content:  Deservedly so – after over 20 decades of high-flying living.  Ever young is Captain Polly.  Feathers are the vibrant yellow, blue, orange of when she was in her 20’s:  Just some frays about the edges.  Sunflower seeds, a worm, grub, or bug here and there, gives her vim; keeps her trim. Vision’s sharp.  Probably 20-20.  One eye’s askew.  That’s how she sleeps.

Still, I can’t help thinking she’s somehow fact-checking notes I’m making about she and my great-great granduncle, author William ‘Golden Boy’ Golden – and their abolitionist exploits.

In this writing, he’s tending to tracts about the Underground Railroad to garner support by sympathetic, yet apathetic mid 19th century readers.  He ‘tells-embellishes’ how various message delivery birds played a vital part in the abolitionist cause.

 –Raji Singh, Publisher, Fiction House

 LAST WEEK: 

Captain Polly’s mistaken for a ‘do-gooder’ Jawhawk by pro-slave ‘border ruffians’ in anti-slave ‘Bleeding Kansas’.  She feigns taking a bullet, and performs a dying swan into a pond – all for the sake of getting vital information delivered for the abolitionist cause.

THIS WEEK:

HOW CAPTAIN POLLY CLIPPED THE INFORMER’S WINGS.

As the soaked parrot paddles quietly to shore her archenemy, Hawk, the pro-slaver’s air minion, swoops to intercept her.  He grips the muddy bank with one claw.  Raising the other for battle, he screeches.  ‘I can take a Macaw with one claw tied behind my wing.’

~ ~ editor noteAs in many wars throughout the centuries, hawks were trained to attack couriers of opponents – whether they were carrier pigeons; or humans on horseback, wagon, or ship.  ~ ~

Hawk’s speed, swiftness, and brute strength while airborne are unmatched by Captain Polly.  But Captain Polly is grounded – in cunning.  In this, no other flyer is her equal.  This is her reason for feigning being shot – to drop before Hawk attacked mid air.

Land advantage now – Captain Polly:  At least in her mind.   She shakes off water as she emerges from the pond.  It slicks up the clay bank:  Part of her scheme.

Hawk screeches as he motions with his beak.  ‘Right here, taped to my leg, I have human words that tell just who your mistress Willamina is, Captain Polly.  She is your Master, Golden Boy, a stinkin’ abolitioner is disguise.  I plan to deliver this information soon as I finish parsimoniously dissecting the voice box of one way too talkative prairie parrot.’

Captain Polly inches nearer Hawk.  Even from a few feet away his breath reeks carrion rot – from eating other flyers.  Captain Polly despises any creature that eats its own kind.

She glares into the glassy ebony eyes.  She knows the cunning eye flick hawks make before attacking their prey.  When it comes, Captain Polly will be ready; will react instantly.

Frogs inch out of the pond.  To savor the battle they sense is coming.  Crickets and grasshoppers leap onto the greenback’s slick shoulders, to ‘givva gander’.

Closer, ever closer Captain Polly inches.

Hawk must remain in place to keep his claw firmly in the clay.  He pulls his saber beak as far back as possible.  One lightening lurch will fell the macaw.  This is what Captain Polly knows he’s thinking, and she’s ready.

“No two-leg is my MASTER,” says Captain Polly.  “No bird, animal or human is master to another.”  Her words are clear as any humans.  “You, HAWK, choose to do the bidding of evil humans who seek to enslave.  In that, you willingly act their slave.”

‘Talk, talk, talk,’ chatters Hawk.

Closer, ever closer, comes Captain Polly.  She hears Hawk’s feathers ruffling – at the thought of sky king being dressed down by a mere pretty bird.  She sees his throat dryly heave at the contemplation of his mighty air throne challenged, with lowly, slimy pond creatures witnessing a forced abdication.

Pride goeth before a …

Hawk acts impetuously – just a moment too soon – just as Captain Polly was sure he would.  He lurches.

Captain Polly bends, avoiding his saber beak.

Hawk teeters, having no parrot head to grasp to help keep his balance.

Captain Polly dives, not at Hawk’s throat, but at his leg.  She seizes it in her gnarly beak.  She vices, tighter, tighter.

“SCREE!”  Hawk collapses.  His talons can’t catch hold in the wetted clay.  He slides like a ball, tethered by Captain Polly.  Topsy-turvey, round-about.  Saber beak gets nowhere near the ever moving parrot.

Frogs “ribbit” and crickets ‘whistle-screech’ hearty congratulations to Polly.

Captain Polly knows her next move must be swift, smooth, and flawless.  NOW!  She releases Hawk.  She flies at his neck with talons outstretched, beak open wide.  Instantly she’s on him.

“CRAA-CC-KK.”  She snaps his neck.  She claws away the implicating note on Hawk’s leg, and shreds it.

Hawk has one last laughing gasp in him:  ‘There… is… one… other… who… knows…, Captain… Polly.  The two-leg who wrote the note…’

COMING SOON:  HOW TO WARN GOLDEN BOY, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

©Raji Singh, 2012

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories.  My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013, 2017 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A TALE OF TWO BIRDS

by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

In Honor of our feathered, furry, crawly, and scaly friends during National Pet Appreciation Week, a post from the Fiction House archives:

LAST TIME – Golden Boy as Willamina, escorted by ardent admirer Jake, a beau in hoping and pro-slaver, infiltrates the pro-slavery picnic.  He is attempting to ascertain their plans to take over the government of ‘Bleeding Kansas’ via his Willamina guise and his clandestine activities.

As, nearly always, his partners-in-abolition, watery Turt and airy Captain Polly, aren’t far away.

NOW…

“Ma, Pa.  Got me a bead on a jayhawk,” the gap-tooth, ten year old little dickens shouts from amongst the picnickers.

“BAM!”  His rifle blast stings the calm air.

“EEE,” Captain Polly screeches, expelling blue and green bird poop onto the delinquent-to-be.

She falls-swoops from the azure sky and lands with a discernible “PLOP,” in a pond hidden behind a grove of trees.  The picnickers “ohh, aah, and gah” – not only for the marksmanship, but at the feathered thespian’s aerial death scene worthy of Madame Defarge.

‘Good fade.  Fine acrobatics, Captain Polly,’ Willamina thinks.  ‘A water burial is a nice touch for your audience.

‘Who ever said reconnaissance work is easy, eh Captain?’

“Jayhawk stew for me and you,” the little dickens chants.  He dances about, not even thinking to wipe the ‘foo’ from his hair.

As he runs to retrieve the carcass, Willamina grabs him.

‘You’re well aware everyone’s eyes are upon you – a stranger ‘a touchin’ one ‘a there’ns.  But, here’s an opportunity – a golden one – to ingratiate yourself to them.

“That bird’s meal for the turtles already, young ‘un.  But, here, just try a breast of my jayhawk.  It’s all plucked, fried and just right to gnar on.”

You open your basket. 

The spicy and sweet aroma of chicken wafts out.

“Jayhawk galore,” the boy shouts, grabbing a piece.

He can’t eat it fast enough, so you thigh and leg him too. 

The crowd’s all smiles for your gentle kindness, then when the little dickens tugs at your wrist and blurts, I want a wife just like you when I grow up – Jackpot!!  You know you’ve won most of them over – and all because they taught the tyke to hate so well. 

You grit your teeth when he mumbles through a foul, fowful-ful mouth,

“I kilt that damnable jayhawk, didn’t I ma’am.  Iffen I come across a wingless variety, I’ll kilt him too.”

Enough of all this fal-de-ral.  You know Captain Polly has a message for you – even sopping she’ll find some way to deliver it.

You take Jake’s arm, to shed yourself of the young admirer.  Hmm.  You’ve got to find a pleasant lady-like way to excuse yourself and go meet your Captain.  Just when you think of one, you feel a cold hand on your shoulder and hot breath on your neck from a man saying,

“Well well if it’s not Willamina.  But I do believe I know you from another place, and by another name, and looking a tad different.”

He spins you around.  You know him.  As William, once upon a time, you beat him unconscious for pistol-whipping a slave in Missouri – then you stole the young woman and booked her passage to freedom aboard the Underground Railroad.

STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK as A TALE OF TWO BIRDS continues – with a bird battle so intense it will take days for the flying feathers to settle.

© 2012 by Raji Singh

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories.  My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013, 2017 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LEATHER, WHIPS, AND GUN-RUNNING ON THE RANGE–WHERE THE ARMS ARE BOUND

by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

In honor of National Pet Appreciation Week,  here is a piece from our Archives

As I archive the mid 19th and early 20th century Fiction House Publishing, I am finding bits and pieces of rough drafts and published works.  Some of the roughs were gnarred-on by carrier pigeons that delivered them from chief writer William ‘Golden Boy’ Golden to Editor James Thaddeus ‘Blackjack’ Fiction.

This piece is predominantly in the words of Golden Boy – 90, 95 percent; however, I took the liberty of deducing the ‘gnarred-on’ and missing sections and adding them in.  No doubt, when I discover corroborating works my deductions will prove truly Sherlock Holmian.  That said…

     (Somewhere along the banks of the Kaw, in Free State ‘Bleeding Kansas’, in the 1850s)

The longwinded banner hanging between two walnut trees cheerily announces to those entering the glade, ‘WELCOME TO THE BORDER RUFFIANS PRO-SLAVE, ANTI-ABOLITIONING, and MONTHLY JAYHAWKER-PLUCKING PICNIC.’

Just up the river ‘apiece’….My ‘wonder-flee eccentric’ great-great granduncle William turns into Willamina to clandestinely infiltrate the after ‘Sunday come-to-meeting’ gathering.  He leans, looking into Turt’s eyes, clear mirrors.  Carefully, Willamina applies the last of his rouge.  Not too much.  Can’t shock the steadfast churchers – even if they’re a pack of hate mongering, lower than rattler, rabble.

~ ~  editor’s note  Turt’s an enormous land-sea creature thought extinct – a Trumpeter turtle:  A friend, guardian, helper to Blackjack, Golden Boy, Captain Polly.  Turt’s been a Fiction from the day he met Blackjack when Blackjack was four.  Charles Darwin found Turt on his way to the Galapagos Islands, although Turt was never lost.  See Turt’s tale in Tales of the Fiction House ~ ~

Willamina’s in his most conservative ankle-length gingham and calico.  His golden locks, that norm-ly, umm, usu-ly flow like crystal white wine, are properly bunned under his bonnet.  He’s looking properly plumpish for this crowd, because underneath he wears his cowboy jeans and canvas shirt, in case a quick change becomes necessary.  His Colt revolver’s ‘neath the bowls of tater salad, baked beans, and fried chicken in his wicker picnic basket.

“Wait in the river.  May need you,” he tells Turt.  “Don’t suppose I will, but in this business – be prepared.  Oh I know you’d as soon snap off a pro-slavers arm as look at them fella, but the information I gather today, mark my word, will garner us a hundred victories.”

Turt starts to trumpet of his trepidation of such a high risk being taken by his Golden Boy – today Golden Goddess Willamina.  Willamina clamps his beak-snout shut with his gnarly fingers (didn’t get to that soak and manicuring last night).  He edges Turt along the slippery bank and into the water.

Just in time, because approaching is his pro-slaver date for the afternoon, Jake.

“There you be My Sweet Pea, Willaminee.  Come, My Little Legume.  Lots of folks chompin’ at the bit to meet you.”

Willamina quickly slips on white gloves.  “Land sakes, Jake.  Papa dropped me off almost an hour ago.  Been biding my time for you.”

Jake moves to peck Willamina’s cheek.  Willamina turns it.  “Not now.  That’ll have to wait.”  Your penalty for keeping a lady waiting.”  Keep leading him on.  Bill and coo like Captain Polly taught you how.  You’ll get what you want from him, and maybe he’ll get a visit from John Brown or any of his equally fiery and sadistic ilk, as payment.

Willamina sees the rise of sexual adrenalin reflected in Jakes rheumy eyes; feels it momentarily when Jake pulls him close, hears it an almost animal growl that percolates from deep in his throat, smells it in the wild musk endorphins that’ve been set astir.  Willamina can barely breath – Jake’s ranker than any bear cave he’s had to hole up in to shake free of pro-slavers tailing him for his gun-running to abolitionist.

He pushes Jake away, but then takes his arm.  ‘Escort me, you vile creature, into the hating lair of mine adversary,’ Willamina mentally writes to help stay calm.  ‘As you read my tome, be it known my fellow abolitionist in the east and in New England,  that I’m scribing – by the seat of my dress.’  (All of Golden Boy’s postings are printed within days of their birth-ing by Fiction House Publishing, thanks to Captain Polly air mail or, quicker yet, the Fiction House carrier pigeon c- mail service.)

Flying high above the picnic, unnoticed by nearly everyone, is Captain Polly.  ‘Got to get Golden Boy alone,’ calculates Captain Polly, ‘to let him know his cover’s blown.  Soon to arrive is that sly, dirty bird of an informer that’s tipped its wing.’

   NEXT TIME:  See how Captain Polly clipped the informer’s wings, in, A TALE OF TWO BIRDS.  

~ ~  editor’s historical addendum:  The pre-civil war Free State strugglers of Bleeding Kansas (“ad astra per aspera,” their motto) were bound together in warding off pro-slave border state ‘ruffians’ seeking to end racial tolerance in their Kansas neighbor.  (‘Border ruffians’ was a too kindhearted nickname for the murderers.)

One of the numerous terms for the mid-westerners with anti-slave sentiments were, Jayhawkers.  Of course, no such bird existed.  The jayhawk was a composite of many types.  Repeated observer accounts tell of the appearance of a real bird, strangely arrayed in various plumages, as if Picasso could have been it’s ‘feather- ier’.  Mud and grime often sullied its many colors, as if it were in disguise.

This bird did exist and was thought to be the model for the imaginary jayhawk.  It was a parrot.  Her name was Captain Polly.  She was author-adventurer Golden Boy’s abolitionist cohort and friend.  She so hated slavery.  Why?  She, herself was one, on a ship for many years.  To a ‘master’ Captain so vile he’d…

Read accounts of her horrible fate from which she emerged victorious, in, Tales of the Fiction House.

©2012 by Raji Singh

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories.  My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SHERALEE, YOU’VE COME BACK TO ME

By Raji Singh

In loving honor of the creatures in our lives and National Pet Appreciation Week, Fiction House presents this story from our archives

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

“Messages, Sheralee and the other heroic carrier pigeons delivered in their Abolitionist flights, led to a victory in our Abolitionist fight.”  James Thaddeus ‘Blackjack’ Fiction

Blackjack reaches across the shadows of time and puts his hand on my shoulder.  Though cold centuries separate us, his touch is warm.  When he comes to meet me, whether he’s at age 4, 14, 40, or 94, always he has his reasons.  Maybe he’ll come to protect me, or comfort me.

Maybe to remind me of things I oughtn’t to forget.

I sit midst the glorious organized clutter of my archiving the Fiction House.  Blackjack had honed a method of PURPOSEFUL DISARRAY so intricate; first, to conceal vital secrets of the Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad, later to conceal information leaks to rival publishers.

Secret hideaways, nooks, crannies, I’m still discovering…  False bookshelves, and doors leading hither, thither and who knows where…

I hear a gentle “pip, pip” sound as something wet drips onto the nape of my neck and shivers down my back.  Who doesn’t know that feel – of someone else’s tears.

‘Sheralee, you’ve come back to me,’ Blackjack whispers as he reaches past me and into the tiny coffin to strokes Sheralee’s feathers.

‘My archiving brought him back,’ I think.  Though a man in my 40’s, I feel like a toddler once again when I ask, “Does my archive work please or displease you, Great-great granfa?  Shall I continue it?”

Trepidation of his answer:  I don’t want to stop.  I’m discovering so much.

Anticipation of his answer:  I breathe deep.  I smell the smoldering sweetness of the hand-rolled cigars always meticulously lining his breast pocket, permanently infusing into his dapper waistcoat; and the bold charred oak pungency of brandy – it is, ever, slightly, on his breath.  I look up into his gaunt face and at his lean frame.  I see the bon-vivant James Thaddeus ‘Blackjack’ Fiction in his 70’s this visit.  His face is lineless, though hairline has just begun its recession.  The perpetual desire to stay young, battles at the onslaught of his aging.  Why?  How?  Because his always-youthful actions and attitudes, they continually stave off that eventually winning opponent.

Blackjack’s words – reminders about family that I, or no one, mustn’t forget – are brief, reassuring.  ‘All those of our Fiction House will live on if our stories are told.  Keep telling them and we will live, forever.’  These are words tattooed on my soul and emblazoned in my mind.

Blackjack says, with a curious inflection in his voice, as if a rhyming hint.  ‘Too heavy a load is she to take back with me.  To your hands now I pass Sheralee.’  He pretends to hand me the tiny coffin.

Then, he’s – GONE.

I lift Sheralee’s coffin, so he can see it as he departs in the ether of mid air.  The little thing’s heavy.  I remove Sheralee.  She’s light as her feathers.  So why’s this box heavy?

Luny Mum pokes her beam through the window.  ‘Just you be lookin’ a might closer, me shining always, and forever lad.’

~ ~ For orphaned foundlings as Blackjack and I, the sun, and moon sometimes became our only constant companions:  real, in our imaginations, as any human.  Luny Mum, Poppy Sol, and I know I’ll be their ‘lad’, even when I reach 100.  (I tell how Mum, Sol, and I first came acquainted in Tales of the Fiction House.) ~ ~

Mum’s beam’s my flashlight.  I examine Sheralee’s resting place.

With my knuckles, I tap on it, all around.  Solid, except for one place.  The coffin’s floor.  “Tap, tap.  Blonk, blonk.  It’s hollow, or partly so.  ‘Could it be…?’  I don’t finish speculating because a certainty takes its place.  ‘This is another of Blackjack’s hiding spots for his secret Abolitionist plans.  He wanted them, at last, revealed.’

Gently I pry at the bottom.

No movement.

I get a screwdriver and poke with it.  Fruitless.  I get a hammer.  No better not.  No resting place can be desecrated.  An archeo-apologist such as me must understand this more-so than anyone.

“Tap it thrice.  Tap it thrice,” I hear a voice repeat outside the window.  I look up.  A shadow passes in front of a smiling Luny Mum.

“Oh it’s you Captain Polly.  Nice of you to visit.”  She lands on the windowsill.  She stares at Sheralee.  She opens her beak wide.  Her tongue upturns, just slightly.  That’s her melancholy smile – but a smile just the same.  “You knew her well, didn’t you Captain Polly?”

She coos softly, “Sheralee.  Sheralee.”

I follow Captain Polly’s instructions as she motions with her head and says, “Bottom.  Tap.”

Gently on the coffin’s floor, “rap, rap, rap”.  The wood lifts, as if it’s slow spring loaded.  I lift it.

Revealed:  ‘Today’s find.’

Well, that would be understatement.  It’s a tightly packed stack of paper.  I remove carefully.  Don’t smudge, crinkle, or tear – an archeo-apologist has no room to make apology for a wrong move.  His or her mistakes can never be corrected.  I leaf gently through the pages.  The words.  Written so small.  “But I have my magnifying glass that’s so powerful I can even see Higgs boson in a single squint.”  I say to Captain Polly.

‘You’ll never get a chance to see a single word,’ I hear.  I look up.  Captain Polly’s beak hasn’t moved.  A shadow slides behind me.  I turn quickly hoping Blackjack’s returned.  It’s not him.  I squint, trying, but unable to see clearer – the man – who has a rusting, ancient-looking handgun, a kind I’ve never before seen – something of another era.

Surely, he’s not after vital information – vital over a century and a half ago, not today.  Yet, he cocks the gun and aims at me.  Captain Polly doesn’t react.  Either she can’t see him, or she’s pretending not to – coming up with her own scheme on how to foil him.

‘I’ve been trailing Blackjack through too many centuries and I aim on taking that information back with me.  Hand it over,’ he growls.

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. Learn more about Shelva in Shelva Fiction, available at Amazon.)

©2012, 2017 by Raji Singh

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