OLYMPIC GOLD: GOING FOR THE PYRITE

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)

Here is our traditional Olympic Tale, “Go, Shelva! Go!”

A curious letter to the editor appeared in the Moscow Times-Oppressor on May 1, 1895 under this banner headline:

‘BRAMBLE SURFING FOR SUMMER AND FUTURE OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES?’

     The query by my great grandmother, Shelva Fiction, a Moscow immigrant to Cincinnati, U.S.A, came in the form of a detailed proposal.  She postulated:

‘If ever there was a first-ever most extreme sport to include in these first modern-day Olympics, this, my Mother Russia, is it.  I would be willing to lead a team to Athens…’

Her earnest though unconvincing letter is of little relevance to its reader 120 years later.  But g-grama Shelva’s personal account of how she comes to discover the sport’s ultimate thrill makes for seat-of-the-skirt, edge-of-the-bramble board reading.  We at Fiction House Publishing discovered her original accounting in the archives while doing archeo-apology work.

A side note:  When notified the 2014 winter games would be in Sochi, Russia, we sent a copy of her letter to the Sochi Olympic Bureau, hoping to generate interest in adding Bramble Surfing to their menu of sports.

Unfortunately, their definitive one-word reply was, “NYET!”

Hear now, Shelva’s accounting.  Enjoy!

*     *     *

 SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA    Mine husbant, mine sweet druzhyna may be a doctor, still, all the women in my family back in Russia insist on a midwife.  “So, I ask mineself – “Vy shoult I be different?”

(Note to yourself, Shelva:  You may sometimes talk like a gibbering greenhorn, young Mrs., but try to write clearly, like the famous American, newspaperwoman, and adventuress Nelly Bly.)

The midwife, an affable but formal Ohioan, gently pats my still-flat belly and looks softly into mine eyes.  Her hand is warm, her words, caressing.  “You are doing well, Mrs. Fiction.  Just be sure you get enough exercise in the many coming months.”

“It is a lovely day.  I will start now,” I tell myself, buttoning up my blouse and tucking it into my cotton skirt.  I leave horse and shay near her house downtown.  Our hired hand Efraim Ephraim can pick it up when he comes in for supplies.  I walk – shank’s mare – the Amerikans call it – the three miles home.  I remove my patent leather city shoes and put them in my purse.  Summer’s heat-baked soil caresses my feet.

Ahh!  So refreshing:  Like my young girl treks through the gently rolling Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) with Mother and brutter, Ivan.

By walking, I am able to notice for the first time, the seeming ocean of brambles overtaking the lush green land folds near the Fiction House.  The dense, prickly vines twist and twine together, some 15 feet high at their crest.  Their pin-sharp points are no longer than my pinky fingernail.  Even their thumbnail-size leaves have little stickers.

Ach!  So thick:  To get to the sweet smelling fruit-berry yield, how could even a sly rabbit enter the brambles tangling morass?

“If not stopped,” I tell myself, “they will creep into mine bedroom window some dark night and strangle me in mine bed.”  (Similar horror lore our Moscow cook, Vampira, told Ivan and me when we were small – about her Carpathian Mountain village.  Her stories still give me nightmares.  Even now in the bright sunlight, I shake a little from fear.)

“Efraim Ephraim,” I shout when I see him currying our nanny goat, Galena.  Efraim:  He’s always wiling away time with anything to detract from the thousand more important things needing doing.  “What on earth, Efraim?”  Before I can finish…

“Well it’s like this Mz. Shelva.”  He hikes his britches, runs the comb through his chin hair then continues.  “She’ll give a lot more milk if…”

I block out what he says until he finishes.  It is easier to let his stream of tall tale run its course, then to hush him.

“Why are all these brambles here, Ephraim?”

“Doc Fiction brought ‘em from Lindia for special berry elixir.”

“Does he need so many?”

“Nope.  It’s like this Mz. Shelva.  Doc let ‘em grow wild.  Seems he had a Dr. Heartfield on one side of the property as a neighbor.  A Dr. McCoy, the other.  They were always raiding his medicine supply when he was out.  No honor ‘mongst some of them physicians you could say.  The Lindian brambles kept ‘em at bay.”SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

“Is there any bit of truth in that, Efraim?  I am not that green.  Hatfield and McCoy.  Surely!”

“They was here before your time Mz.  Moved on when they couldn’t raid Doc Fiction’s patents no more.”

I retrieve lopping shears from the tool shed.  “To work, Efraim.”

Efraim tries one more gambit to maintain the E-Z life.  “What say we put all the goats to chawing and chewing.  I’ll just bet they could handle it.”

“That won’t do Efraim.  It would make their milk too sticky.”

I catch Efraim Ephraim off guard with my nonsense.  For once, he is speechless.  I take the goat by the horns and hand him the loppers.  “This landscape needs a woman’s touch, and your muscles need developing beyond what currying provides.  We’ll make the outside of the Fiction House look like my lovely Vorobyouy Gory.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAEfraim looks at me crookedly then glance away quickly and shyly as if I’ve said something indecent about female anatomy.

“For gosh sakes, Mz. Shelva.  You shouldn’t talk like that.”

Feh, Efraim.  To work!”

I return an hour later wearing durable country clogs so I don’t get stickers:  Little progress do I see, though Efraim tries hard.  A pile of rigid clothesline-diameter branches that he has cut – they razor into the ground.  Dozens of little nicks and gouges stain his cheeks and arms red.  An errant bramble, catches in Efraim’s wild black hair, encircling his head, making him appear gallantly ready for ancient crucifixion.

“Oh, no.  This will never do,” I say.

“You’re right, Mz. Shelva.”  Efraim grins, just a little too quickly.  I realize, real as his sustained injuries are, they’re not too painful, and that Efraim most likely has embellished his appearance with the crown of thorns.  He starts to mosey to the shade tree where I tethered Galena.

“Oh, no.  This will never do,” I repeat.  I take Efraim’s hand.  “Come with me, sir.”  My mind whirls.  ‘How can we solve this sticky situation?’  We go to a storage shed.  Suddenly an answer clicks into my thoughts.

“Take these boards to the bramble bushes Efraim.”

They are planks, about three feet in diameter and six feet long.

I lift one upright, and then lean it onto low growing brambles.  As I begin to walk onto it, and slightly upward, the springiness of the plants makes me bounce lightly.  Efraim’s eyes widen in surprise.  “What are you doing?”

Ah, exercise, just like the midwife advised:  Feels so refreshing.

“Hand me another board, Efraim.”  He does.  I extend my platform-path outward another six feet and upward slightly.  I walk up it, and bounce as if I am on a trampoline.  My heart beats faster as the board pushes the hardly-giving-in plants down ever slightly, yet evermore.  Just as some women in my condition crave odd foods, I’m realizing that I’m craving excitement – of the extreme variety.

“Be careful, Mz. Shelva,” Efraim shouts.  In the distance, Galena adds her “Nays”.  Efraim’s arms twirl like windmill blades as he signals me to come down.

“We’ll lay the brambles flat.  One board at a time.  Then you and Sir Winston (the mule) can plow them out, Efraim.  Hand me up another board.”  Befuddled about what to do, he grants my request.

Another and another.  Nearly breathless, I reach the crest.  I’ve pushed it down, from 15 feet high to ten feet.  I stand straight.  My breathing is deep and powerful.  My heart races.  I raise my hands over my head.

Queen of my world!

I bounce, springing high above the board nearly a foot and a half:  Sweet freedom of the open sky.  Captain Polly flies to and lights on my shoulder.  She whispers.  “Aark!  Now you know how I feel while soaring, Shelva.”

What happens next is scary and exhilarating all at once.  The potential energy of the bunched brambles turns kinetic.  The thick springing-loose vines push back at the board I am on.  I’m instantly lifted five feet.  “Whee!  Oh, no!  Any control I once felt, vanishes.  Captain Polly clutches painfully into my shoulders and flaps her wings, as if to balance me, to keep me from falling into the even more painful, clutching brambles.  On the ground, nothing Efraim can do but echo Galena’s no – nays.

Suddenly, from the berries being crushed and making things slick, the board with me on it begins sliding, surfing downward.  There I am, bending, crouching to stay on it.  I extend my arms to steady myself.  I maneuver the board this way and that, in smooth semi-circles, to keep myself upright.

I travel ten, fifteen, thirty, fifty feet.

I imagine I am on an ocean wave, riding to shore, the bramble stickers, sharp sharks’ teeth readying to devour me.  Am I crazy?  I love it.  I twist, turn, feel like doing a somersault.  If I did, I just know I’d land feet first on the board and continue my wild ride.  Captain Polly echoes me as she holds tight.  “Whee!  Ooh!  Ride it Shelva.  Ride it on down.”  The pain of her talons no longer bothers me.  Any fear of falling into a prickery netherworld disappears.  All that is there for me is the ride, the wild trip downward into oblivion and heaven all at once.

Has even my heroine and idol, Nelly Bly, ever known such adventure.

“Wait until winter,” I excitedly tell myself:  “When my bramble slope ices over with snow.  Then I’ll put my Russian skiing expertise to the ultimate test.

“Maybe invite Nelly up to my slopes.”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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

©2014 Raji Singh

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

“IMAGINE…DREAMING AS A KING, INSPIRING AS A GANDHI, UNITING AS A MANDELA (or simply – using laughter to lighten another’s load)”

by Raji Singh

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

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

In celebration of Dr. King Day, we remember the heroes in our lives. This post was the foundation of the novel, The Seasons of My Giving Back.  It reminds us of the power of caring for one another.

* * *

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

*     *     *

     At least twice a year – from kindergarten to high school – Lindia bound with my parents.  Away from comfortable home quarters at the Fiction House Medical Clinic in Cincinnati, we’d fly, to some impoverished hospital half-a-world away.

Side by side, they ‘cared for’; with me fetching blankets, ferrying bandages, filling water bottles.

“You are learning of one of life’s greatest and yet simplest gifts,” Mother would tell me after a long day.  “Giving!”

Fa, ever the believer that, “there are good lessons to learn in every situation, son,” would add, as if he were prescribing a long-known miracle drug.  “Every unselfish act, Raji, helps you avoid, septem peccata mortalia, those seven deadly sins that tempt all humans:  Lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, envy, wrath.”

I enjoyed helping the sick by assisting my parents, but a nurse or doctor I’d never be.  Soon, they sensed this.

“Many are the ways for you to help people, Raji,” they agreed.  “You will find one if you use that vivid imagination of yours.  In the meantime, we have just the right thing for you while we are at Hospital.”

As any other ten-year-old – Adventure – that is what I yearned:  I’d just read Robinson Crusoe.

So, as we traveled, to where this mystery assignment would commence, I was allowing my imagination free play, as a way to wile away the early morning hours.  Never ending are the tales a tyke can create while riding alone in the back seat of his parent’s sedan.

I smiled broadly and said to myself.  “My parents will sense my desire.  They’ll let me ‘give’, by allowing me to work on a cobra-milking farm – where the venom is transformed into healing medicines.  I’ll become the Number One Squeezer in all Lindia.”

I hear a deep ‘Hah!  Hah!’

Did Fa hear my thoughts; or sense my thoughts?  No he and Mother are chit chattering about illnesses.

Poppy Sol, bouncing brightly along the treetops of the Lindian Woods, looks through my window.  He’s nearly out of breath from trying to keep up with our vehicle’s pace, but still he’s able to sputter.  ‘Hah, lad.  Kidding ye must be.  Never would your Fa, let alone your Ma allow you to become a Squeezer.’

My aspiration of adventurous altruism skids to a dead stop.

But one of Poppy Sol’s stray rays allows a flickering rebirth of hope.  ‘Holt on a minute now, me young bloke.  Just perhaps, I may have a gra-a-a-nd way to bring about a change of mind in them.  Let’s say we…’

I am so excited, but I cannot understand the rest, so, to the glass I put my ear, to, better hear.  Sol can be a mighty prankster – at least in my tyke imagining.  But I’m just sure this is no pranking.

Luny Mum’s beam enters, right through the window glass on the other side of the vehicle.  She taps my shoulder.  ‘Don’t you be believin’ a word that fabricatin’ ol Sol be tellin’, Raji.’

Loving Mum, she’s readying to bid adieu to the day, but still she takes time for me.

‘Raji, as your earth mum says, “use your imaginin’.”  Dream like a King, mi lad.  And Think.  Of how might you inspire?  How might you unite?’

Hmm!  I wonder.  How?  Then a flash of brilliance comes.  ‘I know what I’ll do Luny Mum.’  Poppy Sol glares through the window at me, anxiously awaiting my decision.  This time I know he won’t guffaw.  My great idea burns in my thoughts hot and bright as Sol.  I sniff.  I think I smell my brain afire.  Burning brain:  It smells rubbery.  I never took time to notice the acrid scent of smoldering synapses in the hospital, if ever there was an occasion to notice such a thing.  I look around:  No smoke billowing from my ears.  Look up:  My cowlick isn’t a red flame lick.

‘THUMP!  THUMP!  THUMP!’    

The sedan hit a pothole, causing a flat tire.  That’s what I smell.  Fa retreats to repair it.  Mother keeps him company.  As we sit, a line of chauffeured silver and gold Rolls Royce and Bentley pass us.  I blink.  No, I’m not imagining this.  I see it – with my own eyes.  I just hope not all those well-dressed passengers had my grand idea at the same time I did.  And now they’ll beat me to the punch; or in their case, the champagne.

Luny Mum interrupts my thoughts.  ‘Tell us your plan, young ‘un.’

‘I’ll become a tiger trainer.  We’ll take the big cats to the hospitals to entertain the sick.’

Whaat ho, lad?’  Queries Poppy Sol.

I look out; think I see laugh lines creasing Sol’s glow.

‘Hah!  Hah!  The patients are there to be cured.  Not get eaten.  Don’t be daft, lad.  They wouldn’t let your creatures past the front doors.  Hah!  Hah!’

     ‘Sol’s right, Raji.  You must think of other ways to help.’

But I thought it was such a good idea.

My parents get back in and we’re off.  Curious, I ask.  “What are all those fancy cars doing so far from Lindia City?  On such a desolate road?”

Mother turns, squinting to see me midst Sol’s glow of curiosity.  He also wants to find out why.  Mother’s soft face is aglow with compassion as she explains.  “Often these days, Raji, such royal caravans may be seen.  They too make pilgrimage, for a sole purpose – to give food to poor people.”

“HA!  HA!”  This time the laugh isn’t from Poppy Sol, but Fa.  He looks briefly from the road ahead to address Mother.  “You know well as I Indira, why they journey.”

“But at least they do, Ben.  That is enough for me.”

Fa begins carrying on a ‘prescription’ conversation with me, glancing at me in the rear view mirror almost as much as he does at the road.  “As Goddess Nardesha proclaims, Raji.  It is easier for an elephant to traverse safely through an active beehive than for gentry to enter the glorious hereafter.”

Mother laughs.  Luny Mum joins her.  I wish the two could meet.  I know they’d enjoy the others company.  Maybe one day they will.  Mother says, “Goddess Nardesha has an irascible sense of humor that your Fa likes, Raji.  And she is right.  To appease Nardesha:  That, I believe is why the royal caravans have come into existence…

“Watch the road, Ben.”

As their front seat chit chattering focuses on elephants, beehives, and gentry, Luny Mum’s gentle beam strokes my shoulder.  ‘Other ideas lad, other ideas.  You’ll not want to become one of Nardesha’s pachyderms.’

‘I know just the thing, Luny Mum.  To the sea, I could sail.  Train otters to catch fish for me.  Then I’ll bring the nets-full, to the poor.’

‘Never,’ glares Sol.  ‘Fish!  Where’s the ADVENTURE?  Besides, those you mayest ‘elp be land bound.  In your journey, the floppers would half-bake in me heat.  Would do more hurt than ‘elp.’

‘You’ll have to imagine another way to help the earthbound,’ Mum glows.

“Ben, watch the roa…”  ‘SCREECH!’  Fa swerves to avoid creating road kill of a mangy mongoose.

I’m pushed against the door.  The jolt frees the answer that must have been in my thoughts all along, but trapped.  ‘I know Poppy Sol.  I know Luny Mum.  I shall give back, by helping.  This solution will be unbeatable.’

The celestial glares and glows show that Sol and Mum are interested in this latest proposal.

In unison.  ‘Go on lad.  We await your decision.’

I am so excited I talk so fast I hardly stop for breaths.  ‘Poison tip dart artisan for tribesman to use in their blowguns.  To defend their forests from foreign tree rustlers who ravage the land for selfish profit motives.  Those, elephants, care not a whit about the people, animals, and plants they displace and destroy.’

Sol glistens.  ‘Blimey, lad.  Poison tips.  An excellent idea to rid the undesirables.’

Mum’s stern reaction.  ‘Nonsense you two.  Never ‘ave I heard anything so ridiculous.’

‘No, no, Mum.  Fa has medicines that deaden but do not kill.  The rustlers are unconscious, just long enough for the tribesman to inform authorities to come and jail them.’

I see I’ve convinced Sol, but Mum, she still needs work.

“Watch the road, Ben.”  ‘SCREECH!  THUMP!’  Fa slides into the back Rolls of the royal caravan.  To protect from injury Mother braces her hands against the dashboard, and Fa holds tight to the steering wheel.  I am tossed, over and into the front seat, landing, jostling safely onto Mother’s lap.

‘Youch!  That’s gotta hurt lad.’

“Not really, Sol,” I say aloud.

“What say, Raji?”  Mother asks, gently stroking my cheek.

“Oh, just imagining,” I say.

Luny Mum strokes my other cheek.  ‘It is time I take my leave, lad.  Glad everyone is safe.’  With no fanfare, Mum fades, disappearing into the blue.

We get out of the car just in time to see the train-like chain reaction of Rolls and Bentleys slowly bumping, one at a time, undamaged into the car preceding it.  Their natty sarong and dhoti-attired owners are too occupied to notice, or care.  They’re quite conspicuously appeasing Nardesha by directing their tuxedoed butlers to distribute, from porcelain tureens, sweet smelling delicacies, to the unending lines of raggedy passers-by.  Some of these poor stop to taste, but only for a moment.  Most continue the ongoing movement forward, as if some holy destination lays ahead, some nirvana worth passing up the caravan’s mere morsels.

As Mother, Fa, I, and, Poppy Sol follow, I notice dozens of youth, around my age.  They load unfortunate road kill onto carts, then they also move forward.

I squint upward.  Anxious in my curiosity I query Sol.  ‘From your position, you can see what is ahead.  Where is everyone going?  Is the reason they’re not stopping to eat the gentry’s food, does that have something to do with it?’

‘HA!  HA!’ is Sol’s reply.  ‘Raji, I can see quite clearly from here the job your folks have arranged for you.’

‘Tell me.  I am so anxious to know.  What it is?  Tiger tamer?  Cobra Squeeze?  Poison tipper?  Otter fisher?’

‘You’ll not like it, young bloke.’

‘You’re wrong Sol.  Any helpin’ kind of daring-do adventurin’, ‘ll do me fine.’

‘Well then, brace yourself, lad.  Your ‘elpin’ ‘ll be…

On the road kill gang.  Surely that’ll ‘elps ya from becomin’, a elephant.’

It’s a good thing our whole conversation took place in my imagination:  Because my mental shout of ultimate disappointment would have deafened all within a mile.

What possible good for humankind could the road kill gang provide, I ask myself?

And, just where, oh where – are all the poor, bound?

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

©2014 Raji Singh

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

Happy New Year and best wishes for a year of joy and occasional whimsy!

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

©2013 Raji Singh. 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.”

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.”SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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 –

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.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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.”SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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

©2014 Mark Rogers

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SUPERMOON, LUNY MUM IN HOLIDAY FINERY

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)

Tonight is your first and last chance of 2017 to see a Supermoon, Luny Mum in all her glory! She, the story-teller’s muse, will appear again in January…and give us an eclipse at the same time!

We at The Fiction House are impassioned by Supermoons, so here is one of our favorite posts from  The Seasons of My Giving Back by Mark Rogers.

Look up tonight, next month, and enjoy your inspiration!

*     *     *

OF SUPERMOONS, SCUPPERNONGS AND SUMMER

The blissful harvest of all our autumn experiences yet-to-come: Quietly it approaches.

I hope your fall is bountiful as was my first Lindian road kill crew summer of giving back. The yield from that time, a blaring brass band of the warmest of memories, preserves in my heart.

Almost every night of the remainder of that summer after I return home to Cincinnati, the starry sky and twinkling fireflies light the Singh family pathway that leads from the Fiction House Medical Clinic and into the nearby Woods.

Mother, Fa, and I take strolls – just as millions of other families do – after supper and before dessert. For many the repast is watermelon, ice cream, or pie. For us, it is Scuppernong grapes. They grow wild near the pond.

This is a time of evening for us to converse about our day while we feast on the tantalizing fruit of the vine. Our senses bombard us at once. The sweet pulp of the Scuppernongs plays gently across our taste buds.

Mother smiles and says, “It’s like a piano concerto and your tongue is the keyboard.”

The tart of the grapes’ thick skin, as its scent wafts into our nostrils, mixing with the damp of the Woods, seems to calm us.

“Feel your chest,” Mother says, putting her delicate hands to her blouse. “It makes your heart beat soft and slow, as if you’ve entered deep slumber.”

cover the seasons of my giving backWho can hear the squish of the grape you bite into, against the cacophony of nature?

The Frog Brothers, Frer and Brer, from atop their bachelor lily pad, romance the lovely Toad Sisters on the shore with their ribbit, ribbit chorus.

The Ten Otters of the pond gently slap the water as they stare skyward.

Turt is trumpeting a Satchmo rift.

Crickets come out from hiding beneath leaves and join Turt’s serenade.

Though a breeze is slight, there are small waves on the pond. I cannot contain myself. I jump about excitedly.

“Hey, look everybody. The grasshoppers are surfing on the water.”

We look at the water world. The grasshoppers are actually ‘Hanging Ten’, (or however many a hopper has to hang).

Just then, all becomes eerily quiet as a broad shadow passes above us.

I squeeze Fa’s hand, probably remembering a similar occurrence from some little-boy nightmare.

Mother pulls me close. I feel her tremble and I grasp her. Is some vulture-like apparition circling above us?

Suddenly we hear a shout.

“Look up, you Singhs.”

Instinctively we do.

Wheh! Relief. It is Captain Polly flying overhead.

Mother calls, “Why did you scare us, Captain Polly?”

Captain Polly doesn’t answer. She squawks loud. “Aaarrk. See how close Luny Mum is, Singhs. She wants to say hello. In a big way.”

All the creatures of the Woods peer skyward. We follow their glance, leaving our own little world, and our own worldly concerns.

Ahh! Luny Mum’s way of giving back.

We enter her celestial wonder. There she floats, bigger than any of us ever remember seeing her. Her beams overwhelm the Woods, and turn the pond sheet white, like milk. We look at her through the clusters of grapes we hold, and it is as if she is gowned in the most beautiful shades of purple and red.

Neither Mother, Fa, nor I can speak. We can only enjoy the spectacle of light prisms our orb provides us.

I can almost hear Luny Mum speak to me as when I was an orphan foundling and had only she, Turt and Poppy Sol for my friends.

‘I am glad you brought your family to see me, Raji. From now on, I’ll help look after them, as I did you.’

Of course, science disputes the magic of the moment I am feeling.

We are seeing a Supermoon, the first of three this year. Technically, my Luny Mum is a “perigee moon’. Mum is massive, and extra bright, because she is about 50,000 kilometers closer than her regular full moon self, an “apogee”.

All science aside, to me Luny Mum and Poppy Sol are living celestial entities, just two of the few friends any orphan foundling creates in his or her imagination so we are not alone in a cold world.

My perigee Mum would visits many times that year.

She watches with Mother and Fa, as I discover the joys of spitting Scuppernong seeds.

‘He’ll shoot my eye out if he achieves any more distance or accuracy,’ Luny Mum laughs. She eyes Mother squeezing Scuppernong juice into a pitcher of lemonade. ‘Mmm! I can just taste it, Raji.’

Mother pours the mix into glasses, which we raise.

“Here’s to Luny Mum,” we toast.

“May everyone appreciate her brightness tonight!” Fa adds.

I remember seeing on TV, that people all over the world can see our Super Mum – from outside the Taj Mahal, atop Eiffel Tower, alongside the Pyramids at Giza, beside the Great Wall of China – all they have to do is look up.

*   *   *

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

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

One night while we were ‘Scuppernoning’, my butterfly friend Calico flitted by to visit us.

She seemed to hover in the sky for hours. Luny Mum’s brightness shone through the multi-colors of her wings. The Woods and pond became an effervescent rainbow glow.

The eyes of all the Woodland creatures turned from red to orange to blue to green and back, over and again. Anyone lucky enough to be moseying the Woods at that time would have been treated to a light display more dazzling than any Fourth of July fireworks show.

Thank you Luny Mum, for a summer the Singhs and billions of others will never forget.

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

©2015, 2017  Mark Rogers

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

By Raji Singh

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Latest from The Fiction House. A Parrot’s Delight!

We at the Fiction House are proud to announce the latest tales from The Fiction House, a feast of fables from our feathery friend, Captain Polly. We hope you enjoy Captain Polly’s Lore of the Lindian Woods, a bird’s eye view of the Lindian Woods and the creatures who live there, The Frog Brothers, The Ten Otters, Toad Sisters, Ollie the Octopus, and Turt.

     *     *     *

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)

 

 

 

 

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!

*     *     *

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

©2015 Raji Singh

©2017 Mark Rogers

 

Posted in Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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)

Unearthed from the tombs of the Fiction House, a Halloween re-treat.

*     *     *

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)

*               *               *

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

©2014 Raji Singh

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

THE FROG BROTHERS MEET TURT

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)

Lore of the Lindian Woods as observed by aerialist and oral storyteller Captain Polly. 

As squawked to Raji Singh       

When last we saw the Frog Brothers atop the tattooed rock…

They were leaping from the clutches of the half-gator/half-human monster tattoo image called Laza Bones. The sunlight had brought the drawing to life. But, quite sadly, the Frogs jumped right toward the wide-open beak-snout, sharp as a razor; of a shelled creature.  They’d never seen the likes of him.  Ever.

The creature snatches Brer and Frer Frog. (And now we’re caught-up.)

                                *     *     *

The beak-snout closes and holds them tight.  The Brothers feel squished. They peek out.  They see a large fin-claw belonging to the creature. It reaches up and slaps Laza Bones flat as a monstrous lily pad.

The pancaked, ‘grrring’ monster squirms, trying to re-inflate himself. The creature spits out Brer and Frer, right atop that mad pad. They edge quickly away from it. Before they can hop to safety, the fin-claw moves. It hovers over them. They cannot move.

Frer realizes. ‘We’re not on a rock at all.’ He whispers to Brer. “We’re on the creature’s shell, Brother.”

The creature rises up and now three more fin-claws show. Its strange beak-snout moves, until its sleepy blue eyes are inches from the Frog Brothers.

“Don’t leap away, Fellows. I’m Frog friendly.” He removes his fin-claw from above them.

Brer and Frer stand up – half scared-half intrigued. Brer is brave, or tries to appear so. His glare meets the creature’s stare. “Aren’t you afraid that we greenies may eat you?”

Laughter blares from the beak-snout. The trumpeting sound is sweet, but the breath smells sour.

“Ooh,” Brer whispers to Frer. The Brothers try not to flinch. “He eats raw fish.”

“My name’s Turt,” says the creature as he starts to mosey toward the Lindian Woods.

Welcome to the Lindian Woods (Image ©2014 Raji Singh

Welcome to the Lindian Woods
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh

“The pond is lovely there, so I hear. I’ll just bet that’s where you were heading.” All the while Turt is telling Brer and Frer this, his beak-snout remains frightfully near them. The Brothers have no thoughts about trying to hop away – this shellster is too quick. “What are your names, Friends?” Turt asks.

“We’re the Frog Brothers. He is Brer. I am Frer.” The Brothers lose some of their fear. Still they feel leery about the monster carved into Turt’s shell.

Turt senses the wise caution. He informs them. “That’s Laza Bones. He’s one of the meanest creatures to walk the earth and swim the seas. I must flatten him now and then to keep him from doing his mischiefin’.”

“Where did all the pictures on your shell come from?” Frer casually asks. He wants to remain on Turt’s good side, his friendly side.

“I travel the world. Many two-legs, and many creatures also, they like to leave their mark on me. If I like them, I let them. If I don’t, I let them know. I’ll show you how.” He trumpets a vicious growl, but considerately aims it over the Brothers’ heads.

Still they flinch.

Turt feels bad for scaring them and for his saliva that rains down on them. They aren’t about to risk any quick movements to wipe the sliminess away. To try to let them know he is really, truly friendly he says, “If you want, I’ll let you draw on me.”

Brer says boldly. “You’re awfully big for a turtle.”

“I’m like a turtle, but I’m called a Trumpeter.” Turt notices that the Frogs keep staring over toward Laza Bones. Their expression of anger, almost hate of the he/it is the same as was Turt’s, when he first noticed the he/it scarring his shell when he craned his neck and saw the he/its tattoo for the first time. Turt is sure, that like so many animals, Frer and Brer too must have had bad experiences with Laza Bones. “The he/it is no friend of mine, Dear Brothers. He carved his picture into me while I slept. The reason I don’t scratch it out: So others will see and realize that such evils crawl and slither the earth. Beware!”

Calico…We’d much rather see her than Laza Bones! (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Turt suddenly rap, rap, raps his beak-snout against Laza Bones’ squashed picture.

Laza Bones groans, and Frer and Brer hear his muffled threat, “I’ll get you Turt.  Just you wait.”

Turt looks away from the Frogs – to give them a chance to hop away if they wish. He says to himself. “I hope they won’t. I like the little guys with their bold curiosity.” Turt sniffs the air, smelling the sweet fruit of the Forest they are coming to. He smiles: Because Frer and Brer don’t hop away.

They’ve become too anxious to introduce Turt to all their friends in the Lindian Woods. And so they too may see close up the dangers of the Laza Bones’ of the world.

“Just think,” Brer says to Frer. A real Laza Bones could saunter into the Lindian Woods. All the while, they pretend to be friends. All the while they’re scheming.”

Turt’s smile crescents even more. Two new friends has he made today. Maybe soon a whole lot more at the Woods and in the pond. “At least the Laza Bones of the world won’t bother anyone in the Lindian Woods, Brer and Frer,” Turt says. “Not while I am around.”

Turt reaches into a pocket of his shell for pencils he always carries.  He gives them to new friends so they could leave their mark on him.

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

©2014, 2017 Raji Singh

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

THE FROG BROTHERS SL-O-O-O-W DOWN

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 summer fades, let us welcome fall with as much curiosity as our Frog Brothers welcome Turt

 *     *     *

Lore of the Lindian Woods as related by Raji Singh  

On a recent evening, Tenille, our family, and I relaxed in the Fiction House garden. Captain Polly entertained us with her whimsical account of Turt’s first visit to the Lindian Woods.

(Turt’s a giant of a land-sea beast, species Trumpeter, akin to a Galapagos turtle. He’s tattooed with the images humans added to him as he traveled the world.)

Captain Polly perched on Turt’s beak-snout, big as an ostrich egg, tough as an anvil. Turt was cooling his shell in our fountain as he listened intently to the colorful macaw’s even more colorful tale. Turt cannot speak human words as Captain Polly can, so he couldn’t contradict the talkative bird’s version of what happened. He didn’t take a bite out of her plumage either, so I am supposing the story is accurate.

*     *     *

Once upon a time…

As the Frog Brothers Brer and Frer amble down the road to get to the Lindian Woods, they come upon a big, half-round brown rock. It wasn’t there the day before.

“Couldn’t have just fallen from the sky,” says Frer.

Brer ribbits agreement. “Too heavy to have dropped from a cart, Brother Frer.”

Frer sniffs it. Fishy. “I don’t recognize it from our pond. River’s too far away. So it couldn’t have washed in.”

Brer pushes at it with his willowy leg. We have a mystery, Brother Frer. “Is it real or am I just imagining it?”

“You are not imagining, Brother.”

Welcome to the Lindian Woods (Image ©2014 Raji Singh

Welcome to the Lindian Woods
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh

They hop atop its dome for a closer look. They study the dozens of carved, drawn, and painted pictures. The Frog Brothers’ eyes widen with excitement, as the magical glow of sunshine brings the images to life. They see armored ants doing battle with ferocious, sword wielding ladybugs. The weapons crash together, but make only tiny, tinny sounds.

There are people depictions. They keep ever busy with people chores.

So many pictures – Animals playing, birds flying.

A cricket rides a snail. He leaps, somersaults and shouts to Brer, “Race ya.”

“Yer on.” Brer hops. He goes so far that he almost gets to the Lindian Woods. He looks back. The cricket and snail have barely moved. Brer hops back. “I win.”

Cricket and Snail grin. “Whoa Frog. We win. You have to SL-O-O-O-W DOWN to win.”

Mad, Brer stomps. When he does this, he feels a rumble, as if he has caused an earthquake. Brer looks to Frer and questions. “Did the rock just move, Brother?”

Frer nods. “I do believe it did, Brother. Maybe we should take our leave before it might rocket away as fast as it arrived here?” As Frer says this, his spindly green foot brushes against a drawing of a dozing sloth, and bring her to life.

She advises, before returning to sleep. “SL-O-O-O-W DOWN Frog.”

Brer laps his long tongue into a pictured pan of fricasseed flies and gulps them. He suddenly starts vibrating like a rattlesnake’s rattle. Even his eyes shake. When he sticks his tongue back out so he can catch his breath the flies are slithering all over it. They didn’t disappear into his belly, as they ought. In chorus they buzz, “SL-O-O-O-W DOWN. If you must et us, as Frogs are ought, do it slow or in your throat we’ll be caught.” They fly – to freeze back into their picture pan, once a’gan.

Suddenly there is a feline scream.

“Me-o-o-o-w! Pick on someone your own size.” A painting of a scowling cat challenges the Frogs. Puss stands on hind legs. Actually, he is their size only if Brer were to stand on Frer’s shoulders. The feline wears boxing shorts. His paws are fisted. “I’m Puss ‘N Gloves. Champion of the world,” he screeches. “Put’em up I say. I’ll sl-o-o-o-w you two hoppers down a notch.”

The riled up Brothers hop and duke. Their blows touch only – AIR.

Puss ‘N Gloves is so swift not one punch lands.

Frer and Brer huff and puff until they are so tired they barely move. “We’ve met our match, Frer,” says Brer. Brer nods. SL-O-O-O-WLY they crouched into frog squats.

“Let that be a lesson,” Puss ‘N Gloves meows. He leaps, clicks his boot heels, and stretches his paws skyward. “Victory belongs to me.”

“You are right,” Brer and Frer croak sl-o-o-o-wly, as sl-o-o-o-wly to sleep they drift.

Theirs would have been a contented and happy sleep – but

Suddenly water splashes them. The moving pictures go still. All, but one, and Frer and Brer wish they’d never seen it. It is the carving of a monster living in a scummy bayou pond. Its flopping-about splashed the water. One side of its body is gator – all rough, scaly. The other is human – with long, flowing hair, smooth skin, as handsome a human ever there was.

He ambles toward the Brothers. “You Frogs shouldn’t be a listening to the do gooden’,

SL-O-O-O-W DOWNERS. Now you sl-o-o-o-wed down enough for us Fasters to et ya.” He clamps his scratchy gator claws on their heads, opens his mouth, and then stuffs in Frer and Brer.

It is so dark the Brothers have to feel around to be sure the other is still there. Frer remembers what the Flies did to him. “Hold tight to the tongue, Brer,” he shouts. They do. Just in time.

The monster swallows. He coughs. He chokes. He cannot get the Brothers to slide down his throat.

The monster slyly smiles. The Brothers look out into the bright world from behind the prison bar teeth. “You boys SL-O-O-O-WED me down.” But I’ve got all the time in the world. I’ll just wait you out.” He lies down and basks his gator side in the sun.

Frer and Brer tremble. “What shall become of us?”

They hear “psst, psst,” from the Puss. Puss ‘N Gloves quietly creeps beside the monster’s snout and whispers to the Frogs. “Do what I say and you’ll get free. Miss a punch and you’ll be down his gullet for the count.”

Brer and Frer stare at each other. Their eyes ask, “Can we trust him?”

Puss ‘N Gloves punches at the rock’s top. The rock begins moving, shaking, and then quaking violently. “I’ve awakened it,” Puss excitedly purrs.

“How can you wake up a rock?” the confused Frogs ask one another.

Startled, by the rock almost roll motion, the monster inadvertently opens its mouth and says “Huh.”

“Jump,” Puss ‘N Gloves shouts to Frer and Brer.

Brer says to Frer. “Cat and creature might be in cahoots. ‘We let loose the tongue for even a moment, down the throat we may go.”

“Jump, fools,” meows the Puss. “Know the time to be SL-O-O-O-W and the time to act fast.”

They jump. Mid leap, they find themselves heading right at a giant beak-snout that wasn’t there a moment ago. “Tricked,” they croak to one another as they close their eyes and ready themselves for the worst. “Why did we ever climb this rock?”

They hear a loud trumpeting sound that seems to say, “What makes you think I am a rock?”

They open their eyes and see that the question is coming from the beak-snout. It is at least four times their size. They go flying right into it. They see the cable sturdy neck it is attached to, but they cannot see that it comes from within the rock.

“Well its down one hatch or the other today for us,” Frer consoles his brother as they lock arms and prepare for doom.

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT WEEK: THE FROG BROTHERS MEET THE STRANGE ROCK-LIKE CREATURE

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

©2014, 2017 Raji Singh

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

THE LEGEND OF THE SCARLET TOUNGED, BLUE MOUTH DEMONS

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)

To commemorate the new school year, here’s a whimisical excerpt from The Seasons of My Giving Back.

*     *     *

School’s JUST starting for some and forever out for many. Here’s a school daze reminiscing that nearly scared the “be-jeezers” out of me, and made me truly experience how much more satisfying the giving back is than the taking.

*   *   *

From the sidewalk, you believe you hear terror in the voices of the Aru brothers.  When you peek through their bookshop door, propped to allow in the morning breeze, you think you see fright on their faces.

Moher often tells you, “Never eavesdrop, Raji.  It is impolite.”

You wish you had heeded her admonition.  Nightmares, sweat drenching sleepless nights, and a discombobulated first month of school result from what you overhear.  The street traffic is noisy.  So you make out just pieces of the conversation.

“…They may well overrun all Cincinnati, those, those…”

Ari Aru finishes his brother, Sari’s sentence.  “…Those scarlet tongued, blue mouths…”

Though it is still warm September, Ari and Sari’s next words freeze you, as if you’re a January snowman.

“…4th grade boys…”

“…turning them into…”

“…so hideous, so scary…”

You clench your school lunch sack and remind yourself, ‘You are a 4th grader, Raji.’

“Hi Raji,” Ari shouts, thawing me.

“Hello, Mr. Aru.”cover the seasons of my giving back

“Come in Raji.  The book your father ordered arrived.  We’ll wrap it up for you to give him.”

Even though you’ve known these bearded and ancient Lindian neighborhood Uncles as long as you can remember, suddenly it seems you don’t know them.  You hesitate entering their shop.  The always-there baggy, blue-black puffs beneath their eyes, seeming gentle smiles, suddenly appear sinister.

“Do not just stand there, Raji.”  Ari takes you by one shoulder.

Sari seizes the other.

These friendly bookish confines you’ve been in hundreds of times, becomes a trapping lair.

The brothers lead you to the counter.  The business has an out of place scent, burning saffron.  Strange chants, in a Lindian dialect you do not understand, emanate from tinny speakers in a back room.

Ari and Sari dress in white cotton dhoti shirts and multi-color silk pants.  They keep, oddly, to the old world Lindian ways.  They chew teeth reddening betel nut, yet worship Goddess Nardesha who forbade the addictive habit.  They speak perfect English, yet stock only Lindian language books and newspapers.  These things, that for you had been ‘just the way the brothers are’, now are ominous.

You begin believing – If you were a stranger passing through our neighborhood…those red teeth, and blue-black under-eyes…you’d keep right on going, lickety-split.

“What grade are you in this year, Raj?”

You stammer.  “Four…fourth.”

“Hmm!”  Ari looks to Sari and back to me.  “Well you be very careful, Raji.  Because boys your age…”

You don’t hear the rest of what he says, because you grab the package, and run out.  You’re just sure you hear Ari say to Sari, “I just hope our Raji doesn’t become one of those scarlet tongued, blue mouths.”

Don’t know what one is:  A zombie, giant lizard, horrific monster.  Don’t want to find out.

*   *   *

Throughout September, you avoid walking by the bookshop.  With time and distance, you start realizing your distrust of the Aru brothers is unwarranted.  What you should fear is the scarlet tongued, blue mouths of whom they speak.

You look twice into alleys you must cross.  You never know if a scarlet tongued, blue mouth may lie in wait, or what they may do to you.  You shutter your mind to the possibilities.

~ ~ You may very well enquire, Dear Reader.  “Why aren’t you asking an adult about the scarlet tongued, blue mouths?” ~ ~

It is because of another conversation you overhear.  Sari Aru is on a street corner talking to a parent of a classmate.  “So it got your son.  I am sorry to hear that.  But he will survive.  Embarrassment will be his only illness.  That is fortunate.”

Then Sari says.  “If only they’d stop talking about it, then they would all be safe from the scarlet tongued, blue mouths.”

That convinces you.  Your lips are sealed.

The next day you look close at the talked about boy.  There it is, hardly noticeable, a slight tinge of blue to his lips.  When he speaks, you see a slightly scarlet tongue.

You look at the mouths of other classmates.  You lean too close to a girl’s face.

“What are you doing, Creep?” Margaret cries and backs away.  “Are you spying on me?  Mom wants you to report if I wear makeup.  Doesn’t she?”  She quickly wipes off bluish lipstick. “I hate you Raji Singh!”

Margaret runs from the room.  You sink low in your seat as everyone looks at you – glaring, smiling, as if you two were a 4th grade ‘item’ and it was revealed at that moment.

Maybe confronting a scarlet tongued, blue mouth would have been easier than dealing with Marr-grr-ett.

*   *   *

That afternoon on the playground, ‘The Mystery’ solves itself.

Boys line up to climb the ladder to the slides.  Mop-haired Joshua, a sly trickster, secretively shares one of his gimmicks.  He takes a plastic pen from his pocket.  He says, “The Aru brothers carry these at their store.  If the pens go bad, they may look at you funny, but they’ll give you a new one.  When you’re almost out of ink, just suck on the air hole, like this.”

The boys watch curiously.  The ink rises slowly.  Something strange happens.  Maybe it is high readings in barometric pressure that day.  Maybe Joshua is showing off and applies too much suck effort?  The blue ink suddenly spurts from its tube – like red mercury from a thermometer in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Joshua spits, phhts, and phews as the ink coats his lips and seeps onto his tongue.  His mouth turns blue, and his tongue scarlet.  He runs wildly around the playground, spitting, phht-ing and phew-ing as he wipes crazily at his face.

*   *   *

The question you will always have for Ari and Sari, but will always be afraid to ask, “Did you know I was listening to you that September morning when I was in 4th grade?  And, was it for my own good?”

“It was a giving back to me, simple lesson in honesty, wasn’t it? Thank you Ari, Sari.”

©2015 Raji Singh

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Read more about Shelva and meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story.  It’s available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)

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