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

By Raji Singh

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

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

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

*     *     *

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

LABOR’S DAY SMILE

by Raji Singh (editor, Fiction House Publishing)

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)

Happy Labor Day!  In honor of the laborers, we offer our thanks and a favorite post from the Fiction House Archives.

*      *     *

“…he died at age 52,” reports the network anchor, breaking the news of the death of….“A successful business person, he was known to proudly brag of working 16 hours a day, usually 6 to 7 days a week.  Doctors report he died of sudden…

“Associates say, ‘He worked himself to death’.  It’s reported his personal net worth exceeds one billion dollars.”

“Jack died doing what he loved most,” says his widow as her face comes on the screen briefly.  “Making money.”

***

“I believe she was smiling just a little, when she said that, don’t you, Raji?” Tenille says playfully, as she comes from the kitchen and turns off the TV.  “’He worked himself to death.’  They never say, ‘He took-it-easy’d himself to death,’ hmm Raji.”

I smile.  “I knew him.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Not well.  But enough to know he never took a break from the money chase.  He was always pestering me, trying to buy one of my businesses.  Just so he could turn around and sell it.  I overheard a conversation at a restaurant between him and his wife.  She kept telling him, ‘Slow down, Jack.’  He was on the phone through their entire meal.  He obviously didn’t hear her.”

Tenille sits beside me on the couch, brushes her fingers across my cheek, and kisses my mouth.  “I’m glad you’re not like that anymore, Raji.”

“Well, I was never quite like Jack. Still, you and the children changed me.”

My Sweet Ancestor, Shelva Fiction

Tenille’s  josh, “They never say, ‘He took-it-easy’d himself to death,” is something I agree with wholeheartedly.  It’s a sentiment I’m certain most, maybe all my ancestors here at the Fiction House practiced.

“Fortunately, it does not appear, mine sweet druzhyna husbant Raji, you will be featured in a news story like that anytime soon, eh?”  Tenille is mimicking, kindly, my Russian immigrant great grandmother, Shelva Fiction.  Tenille knew her very well.  (I wish I had known G – Gra’ma Shelva.  I didn’t, growing up so far away from her.)

 My Pet Calico (©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Shelva’s Lighthearted Friend, Calico
(©2013 Image by Joseph Rintoul)

Shelva was always involved, fully, with life every moment of her over 100 years.  Her thousands of stories, many of which we’ve been publishing at Fiction House, certainly prove it.

Tenille imitates in a loving way the odd little Muscovite sayings Shelva incorporated into her ‘Amerika talk’.

“I learn English; Russian steppes by steppes.  The consonants of North and South Amerika, they are an ocean away from the consonants of Asia and Europe.  That distance – it is good.  Because, then there is no worry about the Czar’s Cossack butchers disemvoweling you.”

This is what Shelva’s ‘husbant’, her sweet druzhyna, said when George Bernard Shaw published Pygmalion.  “My Fair Lady, Shelva.  It wasn’t long before she was speaking English as well as Professor Higgins, and writing like Shaw in never-ending journals.”

Shelva and Jack:  I wonder if they had anything at all in common.  Jack made money, and at age 52 that money made his widow smile, slightly.  Shelva at over double that age was still traveling, still helping raise children, still helping fellow Muscovites to freedom, still writing of past, present and yet to come experiences that thousands would come to read.  So many ‘stills’ for Shelva.  She was always smiling.

I don’t think, of all the times I saw Jack, I ever saw him smile.

©2013 Raji Singh

(Join me 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, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, 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)

As the summer wanes, why should our imagination?  Join us at the Fiction House for a favorite fable, 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 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

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AUGUST TALES: 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)

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

We hope you enjoy this piece of August whimsy from our files at Fiction House Publishing

*     *     *

Lore of the Lindian Woods as related by Raji Singh  

On a recent August 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  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 Raji Singh

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APOLLO 11: TALES OF SUPERMOONS, SCUPPERNONGS AND SUMMER

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)

By Raji Singh

Fifty years ago tonight, Neil Armstrong danced on the moon.  We at the Fiction House know that Luny Mum welcomed such dreamers on her surface.

Here’s to you, Explorers!

Here is a summer moon story from long ago and far away from Fiction House Publishing, The Seasons of My Giving Back by Mark Rogers.

Enjoy.

  *     *     *

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 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.)

©2019 Mark Rogers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CINCINNATI’S FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE – A WHIMSICAL TALE

by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we 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)

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

Cincinatti, July 4, 1826

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

“Yessuh, he did.”

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

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

Turt, he’s really only yawning.

Ol Tom, just napping.

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

Carper glances at the poster, board-stiff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2012 Raji Singh  (Tales of the Fiction House)

(Join me 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.)

©2013 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)

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

  *    *    *

PART I – FATHERS’ SENSIBILITIES

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

But, before then…

*     *     *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART II – SCENTS OF THE FATHERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*     *     *

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

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

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

(Read more of my Fathers in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me 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)

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.

For the next series of postings, I will be ruminating on pets of all sorts. I hope you’ll recognize some similarities to critters you know. And what more appropriate time than May, National Pet Month?

 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

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

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

“Today Thibidioux chil’ to be born.

Butterflies come and tell me so.

‘Come Mama Lucy – time to go.’”

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

“13’s be wild

Bad tidins’ for comin’ child

Ups to me to potion free

The innocent born to be”

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

“Should be gay – this First of May

But twelve plus one crayfish

Black pussy, at my door, lay.”

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

“My only beget,

Son,

He,

Alligator ‘et’.”

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

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

“Rotten egg smell.

‘Yea, do foretell

Fomentin.’

Bad day be born

Today’s chil’

Lifelong forlorn.”

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

Mama Lucy feels the air, suddenly dank.

“Hundred yards yonder

13 gators, dey bask.

Dey no hinder

My carin’-for task.”

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

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

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

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

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

This, be their ancient bayou ‘way’.

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

“Skeeter, take mah blood.”

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

“I trick you, mah shaz a mio.

My blood floods into you, King Creole

So now hast you strode

Over your own precious code”

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

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

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

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

‘I trick double.

My mojo’s workin

Gainst your lurkin’

No’ting a better fixer,

Den gatah-spit elixir.’

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

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

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

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

“…ta be a realizin’

Life way-too shoat

To be a grievin’

A pirogue

Cain’t no longer float.”

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

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

“Grinded an’ pulverized leather hide

‘a gators long gone-away.

Let descendents see yer evil fate,

If today, on humans

You darest to prey.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2013 Raji Singh

©2014 Raji Singh (New material)

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