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 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)

As we stay safely inside, our imaginations are free to join Life’s parade. Welcome to our annual 4th 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 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 novels are available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)

©2020 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, 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)

Whether your fathers are near, far, past, or present, they live forever in our hearts. Here is a favorite from our Fiction House family’s archives. 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 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

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

PETS ON MEMORIAL DAY

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)

As we stay inside with our pets, they love us, comfort us, and remind us what a warm place in our hearts they occupy. To honor them, here is a favorite from the Fiction House Files…

*     *     *

In honor of National Pet Month, our Memorial Day Tribute to our other family members…

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. 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.

*        *        *

Being a foundling on Memorial Day is difficult. You want to memorialize past generations. How can you, if you don’t know your relatives? Pet lovers, like me, we can remember a Fido or Puss passed on.

But what if your beloved is a parrot? My Captain Polly may live well over 200 years.

Or your beloved pet is a Trumpeter? Turt is my Trumpeter’s name. He is a rare form of giant land-sea turtle that may live just as long.

“They may very well outlive you, Raji,” my wife reminds me.

Maybe they will parade by my headstone to honor me one last time.

I can just see it – Captain Polly rides on Turt’s huge shell. I smell the sweetly pungent sardine – my favorite food – Turt, in my honor tosses from his beak-snout onto the sod that sits six feet above my head.

I smell the warm, dry brimming-with-seed sunflower – my favorite snack – that Captain Polly drops from her talons alongside Turt’s offering. Then Captain Polly warbles a rhapsodic melody and Turt trumpets a coronet-like accompaniment.

Such is the life of a foundling for Memorial Day: Just imagination, dreams.

I love my pets. I know they love me.

 My Pet Calico (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

My Pet Calico
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

(Read more of Turt, Captain Polly, and Calico 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.)

©2014 Raji Singh (2020 new material)

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, 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 our mothers, 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.

As  we search for healing…

     ***     ***     ***

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)

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EYES OF A LIFETIME: A BAYOU POEM

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)

As we struggle across the world with our mortality, it is good to remember that we will always live on in the thoughts of those who love us.

*     *     *

FROM THE FICTION HOUSE FILES:

A Farewell to Lucius Abel.  That last day with him, his Mama relives every day.

*     *      *

All is dark. Just one thing she sees – her son’s eyes – perpetual eyes.  Mama sees them from his beginning to end.

“He has your eyes darlin’ Lucy. We’ll call him after you”, young husband, now, so-long deceased, tells her.

She holds newborn tight. “And after you Abel. We be so happy – dans notre paradis de jolie.”

Her man strokes her perspiring jet hair and she feels so proud –

A tiny fragile body has her life in him.

Then she sees Lucius Abel a boy; eyes gleaming excitement when he catches first catfish by hand…

…as groom, determined eyes set on beautiful bride and their new life…

…then as new fa, to a boy destined to be their only child – excited, nervous eyes…

…as his wife and teen-age son are pulled from him during the hurricane; cold,despairing eyes…

…as his eyes now go dim, as the gator pulls him under for the final time.

She sees the turquoise eyes again of the newborn she once so tightly held.

“Sleep tight mon chil’.”

(Read more of Mama, Lucius Abel, 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, 2020 Raji Singh (New material)

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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)

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BOOKS: WILD ADVENTURES FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR COUCH

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)FrLast week: It’s 1826, Cincinatti.  4-year-old orphaned foundling Carper is taken in by a sea-crusted ancient mariner.

As we stay safely inside, our hearts still yearn for adventure. If your pathway opens inside a book, we think you will enjoy this fantastical look at a boy’s discovering of reading. From the archives of Fiction House Publishing. Happy Travels!

*     *     *

In only a few minutes Mariner and Carper are at Mariner’s isolated ‘STATEROOM.’ A barnacle on the backside of an abandoned warehouse, the ten-by-ten foot wharf-shack juts out over the Ohio. It’s built of rancorous vegetable crate-wood. The river’s fishy odor is less offensive. Two nose-smudged porthole windows peep out. The oilskin tarp door groans a tired welcome when Mariner moves it. Inside, Carper scrunches his face and breathes cautiously.

One can see the sloshing water between inch-thick gaps in the planked floor. The structure sways like a ship in even moderate knot breezes and this makes it truly home for the Mariner. “I built ‘er seaworthy, Matey. Can launch this ‘skiff’ if I’ve a mind. Sail away wheres I choose iffa the city starts overtakin’.”

Firmly anchoring the wharf-shack are shelved books. They line the walls. Mariner can’t read, but pretends. For hours, he will stare at the print and mouth words he believes should accompany pictures.

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.

Carper will grow up to become James Thaddeus ‘Blackjack’ Fiction, publisher and abolitionist. (See picture)

(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

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, 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

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