A-TAX ON SYNTAX: HAPPY TAX WEEKEND

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)

National Limerick Day and a delayed deadline for taxes? Sounds like a time to kick up your heals and enjoy.

*     *     *

Here’s a little celebratory prose and verse,

To lighten the burden of the tax day curse.

It’s the 1890s. Fiction House’s hired hand, Efraim Ephraim, lounges alone in his cavernous Man Cave’s hot springs-hot tub. His moonshine still bubbles, almost in cadence to the burbles of the mineralized water. He lifts a jar of freshly dispensed crystal-clear White Lightening to his nose and sniffs. It has the same earthy bouquet of the plant root ingredients. He proudly toasts himself.

“My Dear Efraim, your recipe is unmatched.” He sips, and reconnoiters. “Ahh! An alcohol for the ages.

Angels would sing and dance in unheard of delight,

If on my special recipe they could get tight.

He tells himself, “I should send that ditty to Nellie Bly’s newspaper. They’d print it. On second thought, better not. Gov’ment men’d come and smash my Angel makin’ happy apparatus.”

Efraim contents himself on his reading material, a dilapidated 100-year old copy of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack.

‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’

“How right, your Almanacky is, dear Benny.” Efraim toasts the long-passed statesman, as if they were not only compatriots in philosophy, but also in their choice of ‘stump juice’.

A Perfect Vessel for Making Stump Juice (Photo by Mark Rogers, 2014)
A Perfect Vessel for Making Stump Juice
(Photo by Mark Rogers, 2014)
Inspired by Franklin’s adage verse, Efraim draws himself another jar of ‘the lightnen’ of the Seraphim’, and commences composing.

Revenuers keep away from my still.

Don’t make me witness your bitter, nectar destroyin’ drill.

You say, ‘No tax from your moonshinen’ do we accrue,

So, into the dirt must we dump your brew’.

The Angels will weep, Oh you Gov-ment men,

So ‘steada usin’ your axes for destructin’,

Join me in toast and drinkin’, Mine Frien’.

* * *

“The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time congress meets.” Will Rogers

(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.)

©2015 Raji Singh

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

MOTHER’S DAY MAGIC

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)

by Raji Singh

In honor of mothers, we offer this tale from the archives of The Fiction House…

I am James Thaddeus Fiction, the Fifth – a true Fiction. Typhoon tears me from my mother and father on board a sinking ferry near the Lindian coast. A thousand minus one perish. 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.
*      *      *
MY THREE MOTHERS

She was well over 100 when I was still a little boy.
I am not even sure I met her, though I am told I did.
Yet my memories of her, my Russian immigrant great grandmother Shelva Fiction, they are vivid as the two mothers who raised me. My memories of Shelva come from letters and stories ‘Mother’ Shelva composes throughout her lifetime:

She tucks the writings away in obscure hiding places in the Fiction House.

Who can say why?

Securely they wait, until I discover them.

The find, purely by accident?

“No,” Tenille tells me, as we sit in front of the fireplace on a still brisk May evening – Mother’s Day. “Fate led you to them, Raji. In spirit, she was watching over you, leading you to them.”

Here now is how Shelva accomplished this mystical feat – on a magical Mother’s Day, of the previous year.

Shelva Fiction: One of my Three Mothers

* * *

It’s late. Luny Mum is full. Dark clouds drifting by occasionally obscure her orb. Scarlet-hued rays streamed ominously from Poppy Sol before he retired for the evening. Tenille and our children are asleep upstairs. It is quiet. Other than a squeaky floorboard, or rattling water pipe, the grand rambling Fiction House is so peaceful this time of night. I am drawn to Shelva’s portrait gracing an alcove. I cannot say why, maybe I’m under a spell or in a trance.

Shelva’s a smooth-cheeked brunette, her neck thin and willowy. She’s stately as any Czarina. The flash of her blue eyes radiates against her glowing olive skin. Ageless, I cannot tell if she’s 25 or 45 when she posed Breathing, deeply, I think I smell borscht and caviar, her favorite repasts: Maybe she and the artist noshed midst the sitting, and now a tangy beet-earth scent and a wisp of the sea life permanently saturate the canvas.

I crank her old oak Victrola, and turn the volume low so I won’t wake anyone. The only ones aroused are the spirits of old Russia as the soft strains of balalaika music sift around me. Suddenly and for no reason the music spikes.

The noise – like a thousand Cossacks crowding me, doing a foot-clapping kazatsky dance.

Fortunately, the doors upstairs are closed. No one stirs.
Shelva’s portrait tilted slightly from the vibration.     The tilting, along with Luny Mum’s obscuring shadows make it look like Shelva’s mouth moves. It must be my imagination, but I hear her say, “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time Raji. Catch me as I make the leap into your world.”

Her portrait begins to teeter-totter, as if somehow it is unbalanced. Then I hear a fanning-shuffling, like a deck of cards. She falls toward me. As I hold her upright, hundreds of envelopes spew from around the back of the frame. They cover the floor.

The very first one I open is a word map, giving directions to her hiding places. Squirreled into nooks, crammed into crannies, filed behind false-paneled walls, I find more envelopes, containing what I’d describe as “word-hoards”.

Furiously, curiously, deliriously I read her tales of the Fiction House. They give me clues – as to who I am, and the history of forebears I never knew; and knowledge of all the residents, saints to sinners, whose lives helped mold me –

The Fiction House residents: Blackjack Fiction, Laza Bones Thibidioux, The Mariner, Kunta Kiinder, Efraim Ephraim, Captain Polly, Turt, Cecily Cobra, Luny Mum, Poppy Sol and all the others I’ve never met.

I sit on the floor and weep, in joy. For the first time since the ferry accident, I truly feel I am James Thaddeus Fiction – the Fifth, besides being Raji Singh.

I feel re-born –

As James.

Thank you great gra’ma, Shelva. Happy Mother’s Day.

Calico (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Calico
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

To me, an orphan foundling who knew little of his past, or the people he came from, it is Happy Birth Day.

(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.)

©2013 Raji Singh

©2014 Raji Singh

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

MAY DAY ON THE BAYOU IN POEM AND STORY

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“Tis 1800, there ‘bouts, early morn.

A May Day tale to take your mind to another place and time…..

     ***     ***     ***

From the Archives of the Fiction House.  Happy May Day!

“Today Thibidioux chil’ to be born.

Butterflies come and tell me so.

‘Come Mama Lucy – time to go.’”

110 year-old healer and midwife Mama Lucy chants these words as she walks sprightly along the bayou road leading to the Thibidioux cabin. Amulet necklaces of critter teeth and bones click together in time to her pace.

“13’s be wild

Bad tidins’ for comin’ child

Ups to me to potion free

The innocent born to be”

She cups hands behind her back and catches a floating 13-pointed leaf. For luck, she extends ritual by popping it in her mouth, swallowing.

“Should be gay – this First of May

But twelve plus one crayfish

Black pussy, at my door, lay.”

Mama Lucy’s words that come, seldom, yet sublime, often arrive in singsong rhyme. ‘Dems of the bayou forgive her this crime. They know the tragedy that fraught this

“My only beget,

Son,

He,

Alligator ‘et’.”

Shoeless, her worm-thin toes wriggle in the dirt. Dress looks a gunnysack containing rattly-bony frame. Never tall, with age she’s shrunk to the length of a yard-and-a-third stick, almost as thin. She’s pliable, like willow; no dry twigs of arthritis. Easily she carries a 40-pound carpetbag of potions, lotions and cures weighing half herself. Ghost-white hair sprouts sparsely from atop once onion-round head that is now withered, avocado shape. You can’t tell if she’s white or black because time has blended her skin to a neutral gray. Blind, eyes shriveled pits; she views with eagle vision the world through her senses.

From seemingly nowhere lightening crisscrosses the azure sky, occasionally igniting burbling swamp gas. The explosions are like popping firecrackers. They frizz thick moss swaying from trees. Mama Lucy sniffs,

“Rotten egg smell.

‘Yea, do foretell

Fomentin.’

Bad day be born

Today’s chil’

Lifelong forlorn.”

She plans to dose the mother with a tonic of foamed mushroom and boiled spleck to delay birth ‘til past midnight, when a new day would bring fresh charms.

Mama Lucy feels the air, suddenly dank.

“Hundred yards yonder

13 gators, dey bask.

Dey no hinder

My carin’-for task.”

She doesn’t veer: BLIND PERSISTENCE; BLINDING STUBBORNESS!

Rouge dust stirs at Mama’s feet as she meanders to, then among the lounging reptiles: All are tan-tinted 8 to 12 footers – biggest in the swamps. [1]

  Senses tell Mama Lucy that today they scheme as they lounge. She feels their fear and apprehension as they nervously swing open their snouts. Teeth brush her knees. They cry out at her intrusion.

Their instincts – to stave off riling-up two-legs, thus, preventing wholesale gator slaughter – dictates their bayou code:

GATOR BRETHREN EAT A TWO-LEG. THEN THEIR RELATIVE BE UNTOUCHABLE. SO, NONE MAY HARM MAMA!

This, be their ancient bayou ‘way’.

Mama Lucy plucks gently into balmy air and catches mosquito. She holds it, as New Orleans gentry hold teacup between thumb and forefinger.

“Skeeter, take mah blood.”

She lets it sting, then, bayou-lightening fast, moves her hand and places it near the biggest gator’s battle-cratered snout – that of King Creole. King Creole instinctively scissors open, shuts jaw. He snarfs insect cleanly, not touching human finger.

“I trick you, mah shaz a mio.

My blood floods into you, King Creole

So now hast you strode

Over your own precious code”

Again, this cunning ancient human who knows him well has duped him – the KING!

She, who took him in as foundlin’ gator, hardly bigger ‘n a human finger. He were dehydrated, floppin’ down-side up, hunnerd yards from the bayou. Doctored ‘im day n’ night; wet-nursed scratchy, wee-toothed beast right alongside own boy ‘til ‘e could ‘et solids: Let ‘em both sleep together; raised ‘im into a fine young specimen, she did, then set im free in the swamps so ‘e could live ‘mongst own kind.

N’ ‘ow ‘e repays ‘er? By, years later returnin’ and ‘etten her grown son, his own crib, then sandbox, then pirogue, brother.

Creole snaps, bellows. Slimy reptile saliva spatters Mama’s face. She wipes it into a bottle she snakes from pocket.

‘I trick double.

My mojo’s workin

Gainst your lurkin’

No’ting a better fixer,

Den gatah-spit elixir.’

–Poppy Sol reflects philosophically down at the alligator conclave. ‘As humans do what they gotta; so to, gators do, but not necessarily what they oughtta.’–

Gators stare warily at their king. Grumbling growls. Some wonder. Should they doubt his ability to deal with the bayou two-legs.

King regains composure. He brings the conclave to order by thumping gavel tail. He needs their full support in their long-planned, REVOLUTION against humans that begins today. He raises tail, proudly, and then dangles it, disgusted. Embedded into it is a squirrel that failed to hustle past with a nut.

Mama Lucy: No longer does she despise Creole for ‘etten her only offspring right in front of her 3/4’s century past. She began rhymin’ – that’s how she stays sane. It took Mama nearly half-a-century,

“…ta be a realizin’

Life way-too shoat

To be a grievin’

A pirogue

Cain’t no longer float.”

She pats Creole’s snout. Though blind, she believes she can see her son’s eyes in Creole’s eyes. Imagined though that might be, it’s the only vestige of his life she’d ever have. Because of that, never would she harm Creole, she long-ago vowed. [2]

“I know you be a plannin’ somethun’, King Creole,” says Mama Lucy. “I be keepin’ eye on you wif’ my soul.” She slides a bottle from her carpetbag and sprinkles sparkly contents over gators. She chants,

“Grinded an’ pulverized leather hide

‘a gators long gone-away.

Let descendents see yer evil fate,

If today, on humans

You darest to prey.”

Gators sneeze, quiver, and shiver, at feeling the dust-touch of ancestors. Some run.

Huey Long, ruthless politico, demagogue in the making – King Creole’s top Lieutenant and held back only by King Creole – stops them with a growl that sends treed birds flying. ‘Do not let the old witch bad-omen us and stop our revolution. If you do, I will hunt you down. Your fate will be worse than that of becoming your ancestors’ powder.’

Gators of the conclave crouch. They fear staying but fear even more, going.

Mama Lucy re-commences trek toward the Thibidioux place – just up the way. Gators mill, always with two on lookout for Thibidioux cousins, uncles who might pass by with glistening explosion sticks deadlier than any razor fang.

[1]Perilous tannicus: Nicknamed ‘Gatemouth Browns’, because these muddy-complexioned perils have snouts that thrash wildly as gates in a gale. The swinging produces a twangy bluesy melody. Perilous tannicus live five times longer than most gator breeds, and some bayou folk claim it’s because their baby-cry-like songs relieve tension, subdue worries.

[2] ~~Editor’s note:  You, too, can see Mama Lucy’s son’s haunting eyes.~~

(Read more of Mama Lucy, King Creole, and the gators in the novel, Tales of Fiction House.  Join me 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, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE TALE OF AN EASTER LILY AND A DESERT RESURRECTION IN POETRY AND PROSE

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)

It is a time for Easter, Passover, and various human (‘two-leg’) celebrations. Plant, bird, butterfly, and creature (the ‘four-legs’) celebrate, too. They call it Transformation: The Time of the Great Desert Pilgrimage.

For your two-leg reading pleasure, here is the magical, surreal poetry we at the Fiction House cherish.

LET ME TELL YOU THE TALE OF PRICK LILY THE SAGE

A ragin’, sagin’12 feet tall

Green

Cactus Queen

Prick Lily

Whose wisdoms come

Quite Willy Nilly

To partake of her

East Tehas Wit

Far away Critters

To her desert

Will flit

But not too close…

For fear of being

Pricked Silly

The towering Prick Lily mystically emanates to her butterfly sister, Calico. ‘Know what today is, Calico?

My heart flutters like Calico, A Foundling's Gentlest Friend (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

My heart flutters like Calico, A Foundling’s Gentlest Friend
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

As magical as Lily’s communion, is Calico’s reply from off in the desert. ‘But of course, Lil. On this day, at this hour, for thousands of years, never interrupted.’

Lily emanates,‘Yes! The Great Desert Pilgrimage. Lead them to me.’

‘Indeed Lil I will.’

The gulf breeze tips Prick Lily’s forever-upright arms. Bastion trunk firmly anchors her. She doffs white, ten-gallon – Doves sail. Lily sings: ‘Ya hoo and rippity doo. It’ll be a rip-roarin’, rootin’-tootin day deep in the heart of Teharoo.’ Lily’s emanations spring forth from her prickers, thousands of tuning fork transmitters. Critters, plants and varmints of the territory, their sensations, preened from millenniums of nature’s honing, absorb her vibrations. Lavender petals, the shape of fine porcelain dishes, and, just as delicate, forever blossom on Lily. Their lacey antennae-like pistils are her sense-sound receivers.

Calico becomes – hundreds of butterflies – and her shifting colors bewitch all who see.

Luny Mum suddenly seems to glow above the desert, making a rare, full, daytime appearance. She gleams to a just-as-anxious Poppy Sol. ‘A parade, Poppy. Wouldn’t miss it.’ Her beam streaks the blue sky, touches, and holds Poppy’s warm ray tightly.

The hundreds of Calicos – they swoop down and light upon Lily – then become one Calico again. No one can ever be jaded to butterfly magic.

Creatures of the desert sand will witness a parade few humans can imagine. What a tale could be told.

Spider-webbings royally cloak Lily’s shoulders

Calico perks antennae. ‘Do you feel the vibration Lily?’

‘Indeedy do. ‘bout time. I ‘xpect you’ll be the one to lead em all in.’

Calico affirms with the flit of a wing, then flies off, to beyond the horizon. Lily beams to her subjects near and far. ‘As the heat Orb shines his brightness and the night Goddess honors us with a daytime audience, come all! Gather for the royal procession that will transform our desert – into – our Paradise kingdom.’

LILY’S ROYAL TALE

Creatures stream across the sand to Lily. Most are timid, like lizards and armadillos, but also copperheads, coyotes, Gila monsters. Prick Lily trusts all, fully. In turn, she is trusted infinitely. Creatures convey to Queen Lily their most private thoughts. Passing leaves, migrating birds, deliver news; plants, other cacti, relay messages. She collates, stores all; interprets and disperses desert sage.

Lily achieves near harmony among her subjects through her fanciful mix of cowgirl frivolity and Solomon edicts: ‘Coyote territory – north of me; wild hogs, south; all insects are fair game to salamander, and sal, for snakes; snakes for birds of prey – but only if those doing the preying rely first on the dying for their diet. ALL must gather for sunset vigil with others of their kind…’

Stray bulls might charge Lily to challenge her desert dominance – but only once. “Youch!”

If humans wagon by, they stop and look in awe of her majesty. For those lost in the desert, parched by torturous heat, she provides sustenance by easing the sharpness of lower prickers, allowing them to gouge trunk to suckle her liquid.

THE SKY PARADE COMMENCES

What all the critters spent the year anticipating BEGINS.   The sky becomes awash with colors, yellows, ambers, reds. Calico leads hundreds of thousands, maybe a million butterflies.

The parade’s spectators’ eyes widen. They are fanned by the cool flutters as the promenade surrounds Prick Lily. The critters feel they are swept up into it, swaying gaily, airborne within the hues. Any sorrows are deadened. Their world is beautiful, loving.

‘If only we can keep these feelings forever’; they think. No more pain, sadness. Just joy. They’re certain the world has chosen only them to savor its beauty.

Butterflies’ flutters thunder louder than any herd of horses. They barely see Lily because so many of the paraders encircle her. Lily yells, ‘Yahoo, rippity roo…’

Sweet music is this peacefulness. This all may last a minute, or five, or maybe an hour. Maybe a year, a century. Creatures cannot tell; so lost they are in their reverie.

Then, the music disappears.

A TALE OF RESURRECTION

Calico now is dying – a butterfly’s natural death. She lights upon Sister Lily’s cheek and flutters one last time.

Calico whispers, but all desert creatures hear her. ‘Do not feel sorrow for the dying. They live on in those for whom they cared. Grieve only that they no longer feel life’s glory.’ She drops onto Lily’s arm. Instantly, she shrivels to a larva, no bigger than a dot. She rolls, falls, and then catches on a flower near Prick Lily’s trunk.

Begins the magic of instantaneous re-chrysalis – the domain of Calico alone. Larva morphs to caterpillar, hatching, devouring flower. Chrysalis sack becomes big as a worm, absorbs sky’s colors, burns with them. The image of Calico shines over the desert; almost out-glowing Poppy Sol.

Prick Lily shouts out to the desert creatures surrounding her, ‘Look skyward, All. You’re seeing the glory of commencin’-on.’

Then, a re-born Calico appears.

Prick Lily weeps joyfully at the beauty she sees. Her falling flower petal tears brush the sand-bound creatures’ faces, replacing their ‘glums’ with smiles.

My heart flutters like Calico, A Foundling's Gentlest Friend (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

My heart flutters like Calico, A Foundling’s Gentlest Friend
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

(Read more of sisters Calico and Prick Lily in the novel, Tales of Fiction House.  Join me 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 (additions)

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

ST. PATRICK’S DAY TALE– RRROSE HEATHER, A DAUGHTER OF OL’ IRE-LAND

By Raji Singh

Just one of the 1,001 Tales residing for all eternity in the Fiction House.

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)

St. Patrick was a fine story-teller.  He passed on his gift to all who loved him.  In his honor, we share with you the tale of a sweet colleen loved by all at the Fiction House

*     *     *

(James is a four-year-old foundling.  His ill fate causes him to loose his memory.  Turt is a long-lived sort of giant turtle, ferrying James to safety in the Lindian woods. )

NOW COMES THE TALE OF JAMES’ FIRST MUSE

1966 – The Lindian Woods

James has the grandest view as he rides atop Turt: His butterflies play beneath the woodland’s vine canopy; treed monkeys screech, pointing at, scrutinizing the foreign flutterers; harmless blue-gold ground snakes retreat to behind bushes when Turt’s trip-hammer fin-claws ‘CLOMP’ close.

It is at this moment James looks to one side and sees – HER.

She wasn’t there moments before. So different then anyone he’s ever seen: Feather-laden hat, shoes that button at sides, and slender, not quite petite – so curvy in a rose-printed ankle-length dress. To keep within confines, continuously she boosts sleek bosom. Gleaming in the sunlight and separated by an emerald-jeweled shamrock brooch, those mounds seem, to the four year old, to encompass all of her.

But, ‘aah, her face.’ Hypnotizing.

“You are so pretty.”

‘So all the gents say, lad. I’ll not blush at the compliment. No innocent colleen, I.’

“What’s your name?”

‘I be Rrrose Heather, Jamie.’ Her R’s roll. Saucy brogue sways in cadence with swiveling hips as alongside travelers she tags. ‘Comes I from old Cincinnat’, via old Ire-land. Your and my bedrooms be adjacent one another, though separated by over a century.Remember blarney tales of me? No? How about of me’ friends Mariner, Carper?’ James’ face is blank.

Under The Kissing Tree: Where First I met Rrrose Heather (Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

Under The Kissing Tree:
Where First I met Rrrose Heather
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

(Carper is James’ great-great-grandfa, a foundling 140 years earlier.  Blackjack Fiction would one day build his publishing house on the site of Rrrose Heather’s burned bordello. Many years later, Dr. Fiction would add onto it for his clinic. )

‘Well we’ll keep company, handsome, and I’ll tell ya’. So one day ya’ be all-rememberin’.’

She stretches, tiptoe, for hanging moss. James’ eyes widen. She shields bosom. ‘Ooh, Lad! They almost leaped out: Can’t be lettin’ ya’ be glimspen’, now can I.’ She rubs James’ mosquito-bit legs with the moss. Cool, soothing. ‘Seen me Mariner use somethin’ like this for healin’. Works, suren’ it does.’

It is similar to the same green substance James has seen in vials in his father’s medical valise.

A feeling of joy suddenly brims within Turt. Because, out-of-nowhere he thinks of lovely, ageless, Rrrose Heather: Hasn’t seen her in a century. He breathes deep. Her floral scent swells his senses. Though he cannot see her, he is remembering, mesmerized by her sweeping black hair, the forever purplish-pink flower of cheeks from whence came name, Rrrose of the Heather.

Her face is lineless at 18 years or 80, eyes, weepy, smiling all at once. They glow, so blue, emblazoned with curiosity, knowledge, with an impassioned desire to fully partake of life’s pleasurable mysteries – which, she has.

Turt, he feels her presence, as if she was beside him, painting a heather-garlanded rose onto his shell as she had done so long ago. Though faded, its kiss, unlike so many of the other paintings on him, miraculously has withstood the ravages of sun, sea, and time. He saved her life, or had she, his? Neither really knew which. (But that’s adventure for another day.)

Turt hears James talk to her. He trumpets low. Will she hear my greeting?

Turt imagines she pets his head. Her touch is soft, warm.

James feels her fingers combing through his hair. He’s reminded of his…

‘Your mother, Jamie, nay could she be here. She sent me.’

“I don’t remember her, Rrrose Heather.” Gentle hands cup his cheeks.

‘Poor chil’. Course not. But see her in me. Though we be different – traveled such different paths – deep within, we are alike as twin shamrocks of a meadow. We both be women of the flesh business. Hers was in helping heal it, and me, in bringing it pleasure. Most-importantly, though, oh how we loved, fully. She; you and your fa. Me; Carper and the Mariner. And of course Turt…’ She strokes the flower on his shell.

Turt sighs. Thinking of Rrrose lightens his burdens.

Calico (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Calico
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

‘…and I loves’ ya’, Jamie; and young Master Jamie will come to love his Rrrose. I’ll be here when ya’ need me. Just as my sister Calico is.’ She opens palm. There’s Calico. The pretty butterfly flies to and nestles in his hair.

James yawns; so tired – so much to feel.

‘Sleepy chil’. Lie down. I’ll tell a grand tale where you’ll experience what’s rosy, and what’s not; and be learnin’ from the lessons.’ She strokes his forehead. He feels the soothing motion of being tucked-in by Rrrose Heather as a blanket of butterflies flutter barely above him. ‘Once upon a time…way down in the Leezianna swamps, lived the dreaded Thibidioux, Jamie…’

‘Who is this Jamie?’ he wonders.

Next Time:  You’ll meet Calico!

(Feel welcome to visit Rrrose Heather’s bodacious bordello in the novel, Tales of Fiction House.  Join me 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

©2019 Raji Singh (New material)

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

VALENTINE, COME WITH ME TO THE KISSING TREE

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)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Does Valentine’s Day ever disappear?  Not as long as we can remember the sweetness of love. Especially our first loves. We like to be reminded every year at Fiction House Publishing.

Please enjoy our Valentine’s Day memory from  The Seasons of My Giving Back by Mark Rogers.

cover the seasons of my giving back

*     *     *

Who would ever think? A broken furnace boiler leading to my first real kiss.

Oh, there’d been plenty on the cheek – by Mother, all the Aunties, by my imaginary muse, Luny Mum, and yech phew!  Fickle Marr-grr-ett from school.  Often came tickly pecks from Captain Polly.  From Turt, slurpy beak-snout nuzzles.  I’d feel butterfly wing flutters caress me when I walked through the Woods.

But none of them was anything like what was to come – and on a day so appropriate, Valentine’s Day!

(Had my joys of giving back to others, made me appreciate the giving backs to me?)

*     *     *

No matter, that it is the coldest day in all of Cincinnati history, I stay warm because I burn with ecstasy as I run home from Mrs. Florsheim’s fourth grade classroom.

Before I can herald the ice-shattering headline news – “NO SCHOOL, MOTHER; FOR AT LEAST A-WEEK-AND-A-HALF!  UNTIL THE NEW BOILER ARRIVES” – Mother greets me, even more excited than I, from atop the stairs.

“The principal called, Raji.  This means we will be able to accompany your Fa on his trip.  So hurry.  Come and pack your clothes.”

Within an hour, we are on the plane to New York to connect to a Lindia flight.

“You’ll get to see Reena,” Mother whispers so she won’t disturb other passengers; or maybe she wants to share a private moment.  Perhaps she doesn’t want to embarrass me in public.  “Valentine Day is big in Lindia as in America, Raji.  I knew you might not have time to get Reena a card.”

She hands me a red envelope.  “You can give Reena your heart.”

My Heart Flutters like Calico, A Foundling's Gentlest Friend (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

My Heart Flutters like Calico, A Foundling’s Gentlest Friend
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

I mostly turn red, as the envelope.  But inside my smile fills me completely. ‘Reena!’ I haven’t seen her since last summer.

I sleep most all the way over the ocean.  I dream of Reena, working alongside as volunteers helping feed the poor, and then later playing together – jacks, cards, exploring the Lindian Woods.

When I drowsily awaken, I look out the window.  ‘Reena!’  Her semi-cupid smile and sweet chocolate hair sway gently in dreamy cloud drifts.

Our plane lands in Lindia City.  Fa goes to consult on a free clinic he and other doctors are establishing.  Mother and I visit the smooth-face Aunties and gray-bearded Uncles.

After so many cheeky kisses, both bristly and soft, Mother brings out a costume the Aunties have made for me.  The scents of their exotic perfumes, absorbed by the yellow silk cloth as they sewed it, lingers as I put it on.  A scarlet-teethed betel nut chewing Uncle whiskers my face with black paint and marks my bare arms with orange blotches.

I am to be a young tiger, alongside dozens of other similar young human cats, at a benefit for the clinic.  Another of my Uncles, Uncle Balu, a real life Tigerman, will be the entertainer.

~ ~  editor note:  The art of the Tigermen is ancient, its Lindian origins unknown.  The performer in tiger costume and regalia dances lithely as the big cat, and sings-growls hauntingly of its plight.  Tigerman troubadours traveled cities and villages entertaining just as circus, movie, and tv do today.  In the 21st century, Tigerwomen have joined in this resurging cultural phenomenon.  You can see a demonstration and learn more of the art of the Tigerperson in Raji Singh’s novel Tales of the Fiction House.  ~ ~

The curtain falls on our performance.  The tiger kids gather around Uncle Balu, adulation, as if he were a rock star.

I feel a paw on my shoulder.  I turn.  ‘Reena!’

She’s a face painted young tigress in golden slacks.  She was a dancer too.  I just hadn’t seen her in the masquerading tiger troupe.

Uncle Balu motions with his claw, ‘Go with Reena, Raji.  We’ll see each other often while she’s in school.’

Welcome to the Lindian Woods (Image ©2014 Raji Singh

Welcome to the Lindian Woods
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh

Reena and I walk into the bright sunlight, paw in claw.  I had thought that when we first saw each other we would screech and howl like wild cats, and pounce into the Lindian Woods.  Instead, we walk slowly and our words, especially mine, come like timid purrs and near-silent meows.

Purr!  Its been so long since I’ve seen you, Raji.”

“Meow.”

Reena takes a paper lace heart from her small purse.  “Happy Valentine’s Day, Raji.”

“Meow!”  I reach into my pocket.

Oh no!  I left the card on my suitcase when I changed for the show.  If only there was some tiger-magic that could make it bound through the window and fly to me.

Before I attempt to stammer, “I…I have a card for you too Reena,” I hear a voice saying, “Aark!  Ark!  I know what you’re thinking.  I’m on it.”  It’s Captain Polly.  She’s in a tree, camouflaged by colorful leaves.  I should have expected her to be spending a tropical few weeks here, while it’s 20 below in Cincinnati.

Inconspicuously, she swoops away.

Reena looks around.  “Did you hear someone calling for someone named, Mark?”

“Meow!”  A cat that swallowed the canary, I.  “I don’t think I heard anything, Reena.”

We walk through the woods, our purrs, our meows slowly becoming human words.

“Will you be coming to Lindia this summer?”

“Definitely, and for the whole summer.  We’ll work alongside each other, again.”

Behind the golden face paint, Reena’s smile becomes sun-bright.  I’m emboldened.  I twist my neck so our faces are inches apart.  Reena closes her eyes.  I wet my lips and I ready to…

A trumpeting blare coming from the close-by river startles us.  We pull away from each other.

Of course, I should know by now.  When Captain Polly is, nearby, Turt probably is too.

‘Darn it!’  I suddenly realize.  Turt’s blast was intentional – my shell fellow’s good-natured ploy of scaring, enabling me to take Reena into my protective embrace.

I hear,“Aark!  Aark!” once again.

Reena once again hears “Mark”, and walks around the woods looking for someone by that name.

Captain Polly carries the red envelope in one talon.  Swift as a falcon she swoops down, lights on my shoulder, and slips it down the back of my shirt.  She whispers so Reena cannot hear, “Take her on a romantic cruise.”

I’m confused.

“Upon Turt, silly boy.”

I know my facial expression asks, “Where?”

“Turt knows,” Captain Polly says, and flies, disappearing among tree leaves before Reena returns.

I open my mouth, no words, not even a timid meow or purr, come forth.

“Raji.  Are you okay?”

Suddenly Captain Polly’s voice becomes deep, and it’s as if she’s talking for me as Cyrano de Bergerac talked for the stupefied Christian to Roxanne.  “Mi Lady, your card.”

I remove it from my shirt.  With jittery fingers, I take it from the envelope and give it to her.

“Oh Raji.  It is beautiful.”

“Take my hand.  Come sailing with me,” Polly-Cyrano requests.

We walk to the river and board Turt’s carriage of a shell.  We sit close to one another and hold hands tight.  As an excuse, we say, “So neither of us might topple into the water.”

Turt sets sail, always looking straight ahead to allow us to be alone.  Neither of us talks as we drift; free of all school and playground worries.  Our winged Cyrano keeps her big beak out of our privacy by flying parallel to us, an unseen chaperone hidden in the woodland.

The warm breeze pushes through the round curls of Reena’s hair.  I feel I’m drowning deliciously in the jasmine perfume of her shampoo.  I put my head to hers.

She doesn’t pull away.

I know we both are feeling the pulse of each other’s temples beating as one.  Even when a curious alligator swims up to investigate the goings-on on his or her river, and Turt opens his razor-sharp beak-snout to ‘HISS’ him or her away, we do not separate.

Are we oblivious, or are we blissfully in lo…No, I’m sure I’m too young for that.

After 20 minutes, Turt ports riverside.  Gently I hold Reena’s hand and we disembark.

Captain Polly-Cyrano de Bird-gerac re-emerges from her quiet.  “Come Mi-lady.  Walk with me.”

Turt motions with his beak-snout the path we should take.  Slowly he trails us.

I’m dying to speak for myself.  Just when I start to, Captain Polly shows herself and squawks,

Aark!  Beware, Raji, Reena, Turt.

”Behind you!”

When danger arises, Turt can step sideways on his fin-claws fast as a spinning top.  The entirety of his sharp-edged shell frame becomes a deadly cudgel if need be.  As Reena and I turn, Turt is already facing a 600-pound tiger that has leaped from the underbrush, and is within one bound of us.

The beast’s scream-roar vibrates the trees in the Lindian Woods. Small creatures shriek and scatter.

The Lindian River and those of fin within it tremble.

Reena pulls my arm.  “Let’s run, Raji.”

Aark!  Stay where you are,” squawks Captain Polly.  “He’s jealous, Reena, Raji.  Braak! You make prettier tigers than he will ever be.  Turt and I will cure him of his rage.”

Captain Polly flies, talons bared toward the top of the tiger’s head.  She gouges, again, again, grounding him, mid-pounce, as he leaps toward us.

That’s when Turt rams the tiger’s stomach with his shell.  His automobile-equal weight winds the beast, and he flops lamely to the twiggy floor. Turt’s been traversing the Lindian Woods for well over a hundred years. He’s an old pro at handling its tigers. He clamps his fin-claw atop the breathless tiger to imprison him.

Turt winks and motions with his beak-snout proudly raised high, as if to say,

‘You three proceed.  I’ll have no trouble making sure this one doesn’t follow.  If he even tries anything, well, I pity him. I loyally await your return.’

“Follow me,” beckons Captain Polly.

Reena and I hold hands, tightly.

In a few minutes, we arrive at something so majestic, so overpowering, so like I’ve never before seen, that my eyes water.  A lump forms in my throat and I am speechless.  Towering above us is two Lindian Fan Trees.  By their height, and the sturdiness of their entwined roots that grow together as bastion legs just above the ground, I know they’re well over 100 years old.  Their lean trunks grow at a slight angle upward, and then veer inward 15 feet in the air, merge, as two mouths meeting, before continuing their separate paths skyward.

“The…the…”  Reena can hardly speak either.  “I’ve heard stories of it.    But I never really thought it existed.  It is so grand.”

Aark!  The Kissing Tree,” squawks Captain Polly.  “Kiss her you, fool.”

I take Reena in my arms and our mouths meet.

Come With Me to the Kissing Tree (Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

Walk With Me to the Kissing Tree
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

(Join me 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.)

©2015,2018 Raji Singh

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

LIKE THE NEW YEAR, LIFE IS FULL OF BEGINNINGS

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)

We at the Fiction House, as so many of you, leapt with joy as the new year burst into existence.  A chance to begin anew, to take what we learned from the last horrific year and shape it into the year we hope to have. We wish you a year of health, healing, and joy….Happy New Year!

     *     *     *

On this new beginning, we remember the origins of our home, The Fiction House and James Thaddeus Fiction, our founder.

Out of the Fiction House Archives: THE CARPER’S TALE   (From Tales of the Fiction House)

1826 

Daylight for just 15 minutes and already summer’s heat has dried dew from the Cincinnati pier.  A stoop-shouldered ancient mariner in an age-cracked slicker gamily trudges the seemingly un-ending stretch.  Alone.  Sunken jaw ratchets, way to below Adam’s apple, as he grumbles,

“How long I gonna live?”

These would be the first words my great-great grandfa, four-year-old James Thaddeus Fiction, would remember hearing for the rest of his life.  From beneath an abandoned fish cart, he mimics squeakily, “How long I gonna live?”

Mariner looks about, swigs Kentucky stump juice to relieve an aching molar.  “Ahh!”  He squints curiously down at his fresh-caught carp wrapped in yesterday’s Cincinnati Daily Opine.

The boy echoes, “How long I gonna live?”

The sing-song reminds Mariner of albatross he heard while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope.  He clunks down his bamboo fishing pole and peers under the cart.  “Why, you little carper.  You just parrot me?”  He reaches for and reels into the sunlight a soot-covered boy still trembling from the night’s chill.  Mariner’s knobby knees blink at him through dungaree holes.

Our Friend Calico (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Our Friend Calico
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

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 sailin’, 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 squints at his first catch-of-the-day and grumbles to it.  “Likes that one too, I do. Don’t think I’ll throw ‘im back, either.”

Boy’s face crinkles prune-wrinkly as he flinches; not so much from being level with something looking so like the fire-breathing monster of the nightmare he’s just awakened from – wild silver hair, blood eyes, warty cheeks and knife nose – but from  the sour smell reeking from pebbly-textured mouth.

Everything before this moment – who he is, where he’s from, how long he’s been here – is blank, dark as his previously alabaster torso.  He wears only short pants with pockets hastily stuffed with childhood trinkets, marbles, tin soldiers, a spinning top.

Escaping bed and building during the fire.  His mother ferreted away.  Wandering aimlessly.  Collapsing here from fatigue.  36 hours have since passed.  For him it easily could have been 36 days or 36 minutes.  The wrenching scars his memory – as happens with most foundlings.  Yet, after all that, he doesn’t fear this living monster.

     “I said, what you doin’… Oh never mind.  I start you carpin’ and you look like the type’ll never clam it.”  He engulfs the boy’s hand in his bony fingers – arthritic from a lifetime of casting nets and setting sails – elevates him, until toes are level with his whale-bone belt buckle; surveys him as he would a catch.

A passing paddle-wheeler on the mucky Ohio steam-whistles out a baritone ‘ahoy’ to old salt and young dawg.  “Let’s sail, Carper.  My stateroom – she’s up the way.  I’ll get ya cleaned and chowed.  Then we can find youren.  Unless yer a stray.  You stray from the orphanage, Carper?  If that be, well…all the more power.   Believe me,” he rasps, angrily clenching fishing pole, rap, rap, rapping its hard butt against the dock….”I know first-hand how’s ya don’t wants to be in a place like that!”

The boy’s thoughts are blank as they walk and he clutches Mariner’s hand:  No happy or sad as he looks up into a face equally expressionless as his, only a primitive gratitude for the presence, for the touch of another human.

(Join me 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. (2020)

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YOU WILL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT, RAJI — A LINDIAN CHRISTMAS LESSON

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)

I hope you’ll enjoy this Christmas tale from Fiction House Publishing’s book, The Seasons of My Giving Back, by Mark Rogers.  Happy Holidays!

*     *     *

Chapter 6

YOU WILL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT, RAJI – A LINDIAN CHRISTMAS LESSON

Just like the bespectacled Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story, as a youngster I yearned for a Red Ryder BB gun.  Growing up in Cincinnati’s Lindian community – not big meat eaters or hunters – no one truly listened when I said I wanted this.

I dreamed of making grand safaris into the magical, mysterious Woods not far from home. Many long hours I’d spend in congratulating myself, ‘You will be giving back to your beloved Cincinnati by helping keep it safe.’

“With my Red Ryder…” quite often I excitedly boasted to a kindly, yet unsympathetic old Uncle or Auntie.  “…I could fortress in the wilds and protect the city from errant tigers.”

They’d reply, all the while laughing gently at their own impromptu humor.  “Pshaw!  Precious Raji.  50,000 Bengals fill the football stadium every other week.  You could never keep enough BB’s in stock.”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Then these wizened elders, the tiny bells on their sarongs jingling, the beads on their shirts beating as they jiggled from the laughter, would add something like, “Cobra and Mongoose from our homeland have yet to find a way to traverse the oceans.  So we need no protection from them.  What then remains, Dear Boy, for you to save us from – the furry little rabbits and squirrels?  They are not so vicious.”

Then, just as Ralphie’s teacher, his mother, and even Santa replied to Ralphie, the Uncles and Aunties guffawed to me, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

But Ralphie’s fa, ‘the old man’, had a Red Ryder when he small.  He surprised Ralphie with the pump-style air rifle on Christmas.

An equally understanding – at least, seemingly, at the time, old Uncle came forward for me on my Christmas.  He always dressed nattily, in starched, pressed cotton pants, and a vest over a dhoti shirt white as his wavy hair.  Every glance, every eye flicker, and every movement of his lean body professed to the world his philosophy of life: ‘To stand on ceremony is the duty of all.’  (He must have come from generations of British Colonial influence.)

The BB gun –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

He presented it to me as ceremoniously as if he had been a Royal Brigade officer back in Lindia, and he was pinning a medal of valor on my jacket.

I remember vividly to this day standing as if frozen briefly in time, a new recruit in front of Colonel Uncle.  The lofty emotions I felt – They are indelibly imprinted in my thoughts: That day…That day…  

The Red Ryder isn’t shiny and new like Ralphie’s.  The wood stock is worn and faded.  Nicks, gouges, and dents tattoo the tarnished barrel.  But I feel just as lucky as Ralphie.

I run my fingers over the cold steel and splintered wood.  All my childhood senses absorb the ardor of battle my Red Ryder must have encountered over the decades.  I smell the decaying rot of defeated cobras saturating the stock.  I can almost taste the dank of the fur of a charging tiger, “brought down by just a single BB”, I imagine someone bragging over ale at a bistro.

As if it were a seashell, I put my ear to the barrel hole.  Instead of ocean, I hear the calamitous trumpeting of a herd of elephants scared away from an isolate village’s garden, and back into the jungle.  I stroke the splintered teeth marks of a vicious mongoose that tore wildly into the weapon before being subdued.

After a ceremonious pat on the shoulder from crater-faced old Uncle and the even more ceremonious statement, “Now go forth young Gamesman” –

Into the Woods, I foray, to take my place among the tribe of humankind known as, Intrepid Hunter.

Welcome to the Lindian Woods Where I Was Found (Image ©2014 Raji Singh
Welcome to the Lindian Woods Where I Was Found
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh

I dribble a handful of copper BBs into the holding chamber.  I pump the cocking handle.  I take aim skyward, at Poppy Sol.  He glares, reprimanding me with a stinging ray.

So I move my point, toward a gluttonous cloud.  ‘I’ll pop that belly.’

I feel like Papa Hemingway readying to bag his first Rhino.  My hands sweat as I pull the trigger.

The loudest cannon fire BANG!

That is what I expect.

A…phht!  is what I get.

The BB arcs like a rainbow, for not more than 20 feet.  I see where it goes…toward the pond…toward the rubbery lily pad where the Frog Brothers, Frer and Brer, rrriibiit on about the daily news of the Woods.

Plink. 

The BB lands between them, breaking their conversation, and then it bounces off, plunking into the water.  Their sudden stares and immediate deep CRROOAAKS indicate they mock me.

‘There’s that Raji kid again.  The one who almost shot his eye out with the slingshot, last week,’ says Frer.

‘A nuisance he can sometimes be,’ replies Brer, sticking his tongue out at me and simultaneously nabbing a fly.

In unison, they croak loudly, ‘You’ll shoot your eyes out, kid!’

Again and again my shame heightens among the Woods inhabitants as the velocity of the BBs lessen with each shot.

(Seems the relic Red Ryder can’t hold the charge of hand pumped air for more than a few seconds.  But I wouldn’t discover that cold fact until later in life.)

Another shot strays into the water, splashing between a circle of ten napping otters, who hold hands as otters outta whilst sleeping, to keep from floating away from each other.  Seemingly, one at a time their eyes open and they berate me for disturbing their slumber.  ‘You’ll shoot your…’  I get a feeling they’re readying to turn together on their sides, like a wheel, and roll over the water to chase me from their Woods.

I quickly scamper to a meadow where birds are singing joyously.  I shoot the Red Ryder skyward.

POP!

The singing abruptly ends and the birds scatter.  Out of nowhere, the Woods Sky Patroller, Hawk, barrels in from out of nowhere, grabs the BB mid air, flies, just feet over my head, and flings it down hitting me on the head.

“Ouch.”

That is the fastest one of the projectiles flew that day, or would ever again fly from that dilapidated Red Ryder.

‘Never do that again,’ I know is Hawk’s plaintiff cry.  Hawk eyes me viciously and then missiles out of sight.

Sigh!  I guess I may now know just why we Lindians are no hunters.  Likely, we’d starve.

O.K., I will shoot at trees.  Not one barks at me as I take aim.  So I fire.  Relic Red Ryder suddenly takes on a life of its own – but unfortunately, it is in the form of a death gasp.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The BB spits weakly from the barrel, barely going two feet before it drops.

I hear a screech.  In animal parlance, I believe it means – “Hey, whattaya think yer doin!”

I look down, just as the BB bounces off the head of a rabbit, then ricochets as the little fella jerks its head.  The BB flies five feet horizontally, and nearly takes out the eye of a squirrel.

The rabbit’s screech, the squirrel’s angry, loud ‘CHHIIRRP!’ tells me, “Run, Raji!!  Like your life depends on it.”

As angry as the critters sounded, I am sure my life really did.  (Harmless creatures, as Uncles and Aunties claimed; Hhrmph!)

The squirrel and rabbit give chase.  They’re on my heels, snapping, grr-ing, for hundreds of yards, until I am well clear of the Lindian Woods and onto a city street.

I near my Lindian neighborhood, out of breath, and I see my ceremonious old Uncle.  He is sitting cross-legged, on a small rug under a Lindian Fan Tree.  It is as if he has been waiting, patiently, for me. “And how went the hunt, young Raji?”

Wait, is that what some would call a ‘knowing smile’ that slightly crescents his face.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I return the gun as ceremoniously as it was given to me.  I summon enough breath to say, “Take it Uncle.  Never bring it back.  No matter how careful, it’s only a matter of time, before, I shoot my eye out.”

Thank you, Uncle, for giving back to me, of course not only my eye before I might lose it, but also the simple importance of respecting our feathered flyer, slick swimmer, and furry four-leg friends.

(The Fiction House is 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.)

©2014 Mark Rogers

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

THANKSGIVING AT THE HOME OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S NE’ER DO WELL BROTHER (a delicious holiday repast)

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)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Though this Thanksgiving is likely to differ in many ways from the past, we have so much to celebrate.  We are here, together…either in reality or virtually. Please accept our best wishes for a safe holiday

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 For those of you who might suffer trepidation because of familial strife, we hope you remember the bonds that you all share.  And if that isn’t a comfort…remember you are not alone in your struggles.  Join us as Fiction House looks back, way back, to what our admired early American leader endured on a very early Thanksgiving…

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The Ancient Mariner, the scruffy sea salt who raised my great-great grandfather, told this curious holiday story.  It’s been handed down for almost 250 years.  Enjoy!

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“To the GOOD life!”  Benjamin Franklin toasts.  A dozen of Franklin’s relatives, and a spiffed up Mariner, all “clunk” tankards.  They gather in the Philadelphia home of Franklin’s half-brother Franklin Ulster.  The men, all finely dressed in vests and jackets:  The women, in best subtle gray long dresses.    

     Ulster’s already woozy having sneaked many-a-nip to help cope with Benjamin’s incessant boasts.

They give thanks, sit, pass the food, and eat steamy sweet potato, tart cranberry compote – all the usual, with all the sweet scents of banquet, but turkey.  No one would dare offer up Ben Franklin’s noble favorite creature, which he backs as the new nation’s symbol.

BETTER than any ale you’ve had, eh Ulster.”

The host limply nods.  On that, he must agree.

Franklin proudly thumps his chest and sniffs.  “A woodsy scent this batch has.  I must say, this is the BEST stump juice yet that Mariner and I have had the privilege of brewing.  Fitting nectar for the heroes of the Colonies who lie at rest in their Elysian Fields.  A place you shall need not worry of ever residing, being battle shy midst our Revolution.”

Ulster starts to defend his weapons merchant status, but his wife kicks his ankle under the table.  Brother-in-law Benjamin just might be convinced to float a loan to keep the creditors from the door.  The home, though not a hovel, is faked; garish below the surface.  Plaster of paris Louis XIV statues stand in for the real marble.  Sturdy walnut furniture is replaced with rickety pine lookalikes.

“Concerning our stump juice, as with all things in life, as I always say, Ben Franklin says, ‘Good, Better, Best.  Never let it rest.  Until the good is better and the better best.’  That’s what I always say,” Benjamin Franklin says.

“Oh you do,” Franklin Ulster challenges.  Ulster had pre-dinner fumed for an hour as the honored guest told of his Paris diplomatic exploits that help borne a new nation.  Now he’s caught brother braggart in a lie.  He maliciously spits out, “We both know those words you quote were written on the sign at Goode and Betty Bests Bakery when we we urchins.”

Benjamin squints down on Ulster through his bifocals, and calmly honeys a bun.

“And just who do you think sold them that adage.  Moi!  Mr. Ulster.  And for a pretty penny.  That coin built up through the decades made me the wealthy man I am today, Sir.  As I always say, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’”

Franklin Ulster grits his teeth, but Benjamin Franklin is just beginning his pillorying.

“I am truly sorry your Shoppes and various ventures failed.  If only you’d listened to my sage brotherly advice instead of wagering at cockfights.  You could very well be in the financial position I reside.  So, there!  F.U.”

Some of the younger ladies at the table attempt to hide their eyes with their handkerchiefs.  Some matrons titter at the bawdy inference.  Elder statesman, Uncle Benjamin smiles pleasantly at each of them.

Ulster abruptly rises and his brass cock belt buckle upends his plate, sending his Thanksgiving fare down the front of his pants.  “Damn you, Ben.  My name is Franklin Ulster.  I demand the courtesy of being addressed as such in my own home.  Not being treated as some bastard kin.”

“My full apologies Franklin Ulster.  In amends, let me personally serve you the escargot I’ve made for our repast.”  Benjamin Franklin nods to Mariner and Mariner kindly returns the courtesy.  “The Mariner taught me his special recipe when we first met in Paris.  It was the talk of all the French society.  The grand chefs of the city paid my friend quite handsomely for his recipe.”  Franklin goes to a rickety sideboard, and gets a clean dinner plate.

Franklin Ulster impetuously grabs it.  “Snails we eat to appease the grand Doctor Franklin.”

Benjamin Franklin responds, “You’d not offer eagle to those who want it for our national symbol.”

Ulster spits out the crawly foreign fare after the first bite and throws the full plate against the wall.  It smashes into a dozen shards.  “I’m off to slaughter a turkey.”

Before he gets to the door, the normally talkative Mariner, who has been quite quiet throughout the afternoon, shouts, “I’ve ‘ad enough of yer performin’, mate.  Show yer respectins’ for the honored Doc Franklin, F.U.”  The wiry, but sturdy seaman quickly intercepts Ulster, and in seconds, from the long sea line he always has in his pocket, keel hauls him, and hangs him from a ceiling post beam.  There he dangles until a leisurely meal is complete.

~ ~ editor note:  (Keel haul – to tie line to each arm and hang from the bow of the ship.)

The accounts that various Franklins relate in memoirs and letters in the archives of Fiction House Publishing tend to back the overall story. The reader must take into consideration, the Mariner, known for his proclivity for tale telling, and this is his telling, after all – he may have embellished his part in the holiday affair.

You may read A Thousand And One more of Mariner’s tellings in Tales of the Fiction House.  ~ ~

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sincerely,

Raji

© Raji Singh 2012

(Join me 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.)

©2015 Raji Singh

©2018 Mark Rogers

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

A HALLOWEEN SPOOKER: THE DISPUTIN’ RASPUTINS OF THE HIGH SEAS (AND THEIR WALK-OFFS)

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)

Everyone needs a creepy story about this time of year! We hope you enjoy this tale unearthed from the tombs of the Fiction House, a Halloween re-treat.

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The High Seas players:

The Pirates- a scurvy lot

Their Capt’n- a lice-ridden fiend

Captain Polly – Capt’n’s enslaved parrot

Turt- a good-natured land sea creature – almost a garnishment for the pirates’ meal

The Captives:  Buzzard, Mariner, R-r-rose Heather, Kunta- enslaved by the pirates.

The Walk-offs- The lopped off part of the foot, from the tip of the toe to ‘on back just a tad’.

(Buzzard is telling tall tales.  They mask the captives’ clandestine mutiny)

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     Buzzard strokes the mast then pulls away with a dramatic flourish.  “Slick-as-a-badger, gents, Kunta slid down the mast, unseen by all but me.  Before I could get here to stop him, he tangled his feet ‘round the throat of your unsuspecting mate.  Wrung his neck.”

Buzzard invents as he tells.  By playing-into audience’s endless superstitions brought on by the fog and grog-life of the sea, he manipulates them into believers.

“Kunta’s the cunning deceiver that sliced out the Moroccan’s tongue.  Fed it to his ravenous Turt, who ingests our languages – to use against humans in the future,’ I’ll wager. [1]  That beak-snouted demon is heartless.  So Kunta cuts out the heart of the Algerian for him to devour while it beat.”

([1] Morrocan’s now a mute, driven mad by the cutting – so he can’t relay what really happened; that Mariner’s the slicer-dicer.)

‘A vile, contemptuous evil pervades the ship,’ thinks Captain Polly.  From her perch, she watches the sallow-faced crew.  Their attention never leaves Buzzard who is wending about the deck.  Parrot knows she must do something to save herself from the stealthy young badger-human Kunta and his shelled beast that her Buzzard warns of:  But, what?  With leg chained.  ‘Only hope,’ she thinks, is this dream-lover bird, Buzzard – but, ‘oh how to woo a human?’

“Kunta stalks,” Buzzard rails.  “LOPPING more walk-offs for his necklace; PLOPPING his victims overboard.  Some of the walk-offs are quick, devious.  They escape.  BEWARE!  These walk-offs gone-feral hate humans.  They lie in wait to destroy us.”

“What the Buzzard says gotta be true,” a pirate belly-aches to the others.  It’s after lunch.  They sit on crates near the railing – so they can vomit.  The Rasputin-of-the-word – Buzzard, his sly comrade Rasputin-of-the-poison, Mariner, has upped the dosage – just a smidgeon – so that the savvy-to-the-tricks-of-the-sea, dregs, don’t notice.  They think only, ‘the waves are having their way with gullets.’  They tremble continuously, and sweat so much that their raggedy limp clothes seem starched from saturating then drying so often.

(The poisons keep Capt’n stupor-fied.  The pentad of mutineers know he may prove an asset if alive.  One of them always guards him in his quarters turned prison.)

Crew’s superstitions beckon irrationality.  In their poison-induced hallucinations walk-offs come to life; stalk.  They begin believing they sail on what is becoming a ghost ship that may be overtaken anytime by the walk-offs.  As Buzzard spins his tale, the dregs mutter vows in a dozen languages, about skirting the mast after dark and keeping near the rail to avoid Kunta.

“That’ll never do,” Buzzard counters.  “Kunta and his shelled vampire straddle the ship’s sides, leaping on the unsuspecting.”  Dregs look warily over the rail, wishing for land.  It’s a thousand miles off.

The usually mawkish-squawkish Captain Polly is quiet.  ‘The monster walk-offs will see I am no dreg.  I will reason with them.  Teach them the humans’ many languages.  (Captain Polly knows at least a dozen.)  Oh so valuable I can be.’  None of Captain Polly’s self-assurances quells her horror of, while still alive, being plucked, de-beaked and de-clawed by Kunta and Turt.

When not stalking the deck with his flapping, Buzzard’s usually arguing in the galley with Mariner about the tactics of their tightly schemed mutiny.  But they agree, fully, with the results.

“How’d it get to this?” the crew whispers to each other.  “Turt’s curse, for ravaging his island for the shell and meat of his relatives?”  Others think hexing, by a tribal witch in retaliation for stealing Kunta.

Ominous signs of the walk-offs – stinking dried blood trails staining the deck – swell superstitions.  A once-tranquil voyage of plunder and pleasure is now, nightmare.  “Why’s our Capt’n keepin’ to quarters?  Even at his sickliest, he’s stayed the deck wielding his whip.  Why’s he issuein’ orders through Buzzard?”

Buzzard, in this short time, seems to have been elevated to acting Captain.  Many pirates are loyal to him – ‘only way to survive’ – as they struggle to man-the-ship to get close to land.

THE TALE OF MAMA L’S SECRET SLICKENS

Mariner, allowed enough chain to come up for daylight, listens to Buzzard’s tales from the galley doorway.  Captain Polly watches Mariner wipe fish blood from cleaver onto his neck-to-knee apron.  In futility, she gnaws her chain, wary of the time he might want her for a ‘fixin’.  From the first meal, he cooked – it smelled sweet as any Amazonian jungle cuisine –

– pirates shoveled it in.  When they spooned some into Captain Polly’s bucket, she sniffed, recognizing ingredients humans cannot.  (plants from Leezian’ bayou; recipes, come courtesy of Mama Lucy.)  Flying over the ‘Big Easy’ Captain Polly had seen their effect on critters.  They went battier than during a Gone Luna.  So now, Captain Polly is subsisting on the array of bugs flying close to her perch.  ‘Oh,’ growls Captain Polly’s stomach, ‘but to fly free of this ship.’

Mariner found the slickens – kegs of North Africa’s plants, almost cousins to poisonous Leezian’ claw-root and twig-lick – during his first day in the galley.  “One dasha’ claw banish evil spirits.”  Creviced old Mama Lucy had ‘scienced-up’ Mariner in her cabin’s kitchen-lab.  “Cure most ills.  Two dasha’ twig cures yer patient of inflictin’ devils.  Three-’a-each, ‘n the devil escape; slitheren’ inta another ta inhabitate.”

Mariner always uses two-and-a-half, insuring deferred insanity.  He can’t give three to finish the job – crew’s needed to get ship to shore.  If it appears madness may arrive before land, he lessens the dose.  For Buzzard, Rrrose Heather, her ladies and himself he prepares simpler fare.  For Capt’n, who killed most of Mariner’s dear friends from the commandeered ship, Mariner prepares meals with another cousin-berry – the dung-flower.

“Gaarente-ad’,” Mama’ll testify.  “Tuz cause most-vile hallucinatin’, yea inde-ad’.”

Mariner looks from Buzzard, who is finishing a tale, and glances at Captain Polly.  She imagines he’s saying, “Ready to join yer Capt’n, Captain?”  She gnaws shackle even more desperately.

TALE OF A SAIL

“Hoist starboard keel.  Set jig-rigging north, northwest.”  Buzzard mangles the orders of the ‘silent-Captain’, Mariner, rendering them illogical.  Doesn’t matter; bedraggled crew sails by rote.  No doubt, Rasputin-Buzzard steers the emotions of fear; Rasputin-Mariner helms the mayhem triggering it.

TALE OF HOW THE WALK-OFFS ‘REALLY’ CAME ABOARD

Late at night:  Cleaver descends.  “WHAP!”  A piercing scream, ‘THUMPS’, of running.  Scream stops with watery “PLOP”!  Someone yells:  “MAN OVERBOARD.”  In the shadows, Mariner wipes cleaver clean and oysters-out slimy walk-off from the tip of leather shoe.

All the crew now wears shoes.  ‘Does ‘em little good,’ Mariner grins.

From her manacled spot near the helm, Captain Polly quivers midst a new revelation:  ‘New Cookie’s got a key.  He can come for me anytime.’

Mariner eases back to the galley and re-shackles himself.  He stows walk-offs in the Capt’n’ humidor.  In a few days, as just another small way to nudge Capt’n closer to insanity, he’ll have Rrrose deliver it to Capt’n’ new quarters – a six by six dungeon-like room, rancid from 50 years of storing smoked mackerel.

Capt’n sleeps constantly, awakens only to his own screams caused by hallucinogenic dreams of sea creatures devouring him alive – more of the effects from Mariner and Mama’s ‘slickens’.

THE TALE OF A ‘GOOD’ LIFE FOR SOME

Buzzard, Rrrose Heather, and the ladies they now occupy Capt’n’ plush quarters.

“You’ll live with the bloody walk-offs throughout hell’s eternity,” Rrrose Heather, veiled as fortune tellers Capt’n always visited when in ports, soothsays to him – her personal revenge for what he’s done to she and her ladies.  She leaves the humidor with him in his dungeon.

THE TALE OF A ‘WORSE’ LIFE FOR OTHERS

Midst hot-cold sweats, Capt’n removes lid and reaches for a cigar.  The slimy walk-offs feel like jellyfish, their stench, worse than the rancid mackerel.  He pushes humidor.  Contents spill.  His eyes widen as hallucinations spiral into a parade of the moldy gray-green walk-offs tip-toeing to come choke him.  Too paralyzed to move, he screams, continuously, curdling-ly.  

     Reverberations echo through ship and shake the mast.  Crew looks up at the sails, expecting to see Kunta and his monster, their arms, fin-claws stretched in victory sign to show that they now control the ship.

Buzzard swoops from the ship’s wheel.  What to expect?  He is sure he’ll find Capt’n, dead.

Captain Polly hops on the wheel to steady the ship as Capt’n has trained her for times when an automatic parrot is necessary.  Though she loathes Capt’n, she feels pangs of sorrow.  That lasts just seconds.  She sings in an ecstatic combination of a half-dozen languages.  “Blow the man down, mate.  Blow the man down.  You gave us time, we blew the man down.”

The crew doesn’t share her joy.  If Capt’n is dead, hope for survival is with Buzzard.

‘Who will be at his mercy?’  Many silently vow ‘to become his slave if he protects them from Kunta and Turt.’  Captain Polly’s had enough of being a chained slave.  She has another idea.

Buzzard returns to the wheel, relieved that Rrrose’s act of revenge hasn’t killed Capt’n.  Captain Polly hops to his shoulder, brushes plumage sensually against his neck, gently nibbles ear, coos, “Lover bird.  Loverbird.  I’ll be true to you.”

© 2012 by Raji Singh

(Join me 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.)

©2014 Raji Singh

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