Faces

I put the flower in a cup of water so it will not wilt. The cat puts her face in it as well. She wonders what that flower is doing here. The flower isn’t doing anything. It would have preferred to remain where it had been attached to its true source of nourishment and understanding, its roots. They miss each other.

Birds sit on a railing watching me approach. They aren’t struggling to survive. Survival is not that hard. They are not afraid I will pick one of them and put it in a cup of water so it will not wilt. I have no crumbs for them. They don’t mind.

SUMMER FLOWERS CUT
KIKI DRINKS BLOSSOM WATER
BIRDS WATCH AS I WALK.


Linked to dVerse Haibun Monday. Toni is hosting on any topic.  Come join us to write a haibun.
Photos: “Kiki Hiding Her Face” and “Birds on Boardwalk”, below, both by the author. These are linked to K’lee and Dale‘s Cosmic Photo Challenge with the theme “faces”. My cat Kiki’s face is hidden.  The birds don’t mind showing their faces anywhere.

Birds on Boardwalk

Coconut Oil, Bad Guys and the Rising Sun

I don’t think the brain wants coffee as much as coconut oil. I put a large tablespoon of it in my coffee each morning. I know that sounds gross, but milk is just as gross, if you pause briefly to think about it, and don’t get me started on what coffee shops do with whipped cream. I prefer coffee strong and black in a real mug, but the brain doesn’t only need coffee to see straight.

Truly true stories don’t have bad guys. There aren’t as many out there anyway who want to feast on us like we feast on whatever we can. It’s not that there aren’t bad guys, people who, even with the gates open, even with there being no gates, even with there being no outside, feel unworthy to enter paradise. It’s more like we need some coconut oil in our coffee to see them better.

I take for granted that the Sun will rise in the morning. Is that because the Sun or the Earth loves us? We don’t like to think so, but what we like to think doesn’t matter when it comes to reality. Besides, we will abandon them before they abandon us. If I were the Sun, or the Earth, I would love to indiscriminately scatter crumbs to whomever was out there, good or bad, like an offering.

Some people drink coffee out of the skin of an avocado–or so I’ve heard. That drink must be hard to hold. All they’re lacking to make a really bad mess is whipped cream.


Linked to Jill Lyman’s Day Two post in the series 28 Days of Unreason based on reading Jim Harrison’s Songs of Unreason. The theme is about the Sun forgetting to rise.
Photo: “Rising Sun” by the author

Message — #writephoto Messenger

If my imaginary friend had more brains I’d trust her advice, but when Alice tells me something I have to examine it from all angles, especially those angles I forget to check. It might be the best advice I’ll get today, but I really should be getting it tomorrow–or yesterday.

I once told her that a neuroscientist would likely think she was some configuration of neurons acting up in my head. She observed, “They don’t know jack. Do you really think I’m a figment of your imagination?” She expected an answer, and silence wouldn’t do, so I tried dodging the question by saying, “I don’t even know what my imagination is!” She didn’t think I had one either.

“What do you think that crow means in the sky?” Alice gazed at some bird.

“What crow?”

“The one in front of your face. And you think I’m in your imagination? You’re too dumb for me to fit in there.”

Then I think I saw what she was referring to: “That bird?”

“You better get your phone out before it’s too late–Ah!! Too bad. It’s too late. It’s gone.”

That saved me from getting out my phone.

“So what do you think it meant?” Her questions are not speculations for someone sitting in a parallel universe or falling through a black hole or bobbing back and forth in some time wormhole to contemplate. She demands real answers in the real world.

“Well, you know, it could mean anything.”

“Come on, brainless! Black crow, blue sky, flying by. What’s the message?”

“Do you know?” I might as well ask the one with brains.

“Nope.”


Linked to Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt — Messenger #writephoto.
Photo provided by Sue Vincent for the prompt.

Sue Vincent's #writephoto icon

The Message — #writephoto Flight

Bernard lived with his aunt, a widow without children, for the spring semester of the third grade. He was familiar with his aunt’s home where she held Christmas Eve parties late after Midnight Mass. His parents enrolled him in the nearby parish school.

His aunt would send him on errands to the grocer. On his first errand he brought back a loaf of bread, among other items as requested, and his aunt frowned. “See how you’ve pressed this loaf? It is ruined. How can I toast it? You think my money grows on trees! You’re selfish!” On future errands he paid special attention to the bread.

Realizing Bernard didn’t have a rosary, his aunt gave him one. She pointed out the five sets of ten beads for the Hail Marys separated by a bead for the Our Father. She explained the three sets of five mysteries that one had to think about when reciting the prayers. Although eager to learn and fascinated with the beads’ magic, Bernard was confused. He had more questions than his aunt had time for. One night he walked into her bedroom holding the rosary. “I don’t know if I skipped one. My fingers slipped. Does it count? Do I have to start over?” She told him to go back to bed and not bother her. The next day he was sent to the rectory after school.

In the rectory Bernard was told that his aunt wanted the priest to talk to him about “scruples”. Bernard was embarrassed and he didn’t remember what the priest said, but this was his first realization that the magic was very deep. Over the decades he came to understand that it was not just Catholic or Buddhist rosaries or Hindu mantras. The magic included every single word humans said or even thought to each other. He looked back on that five-minute visit with a parish priest as a life-changing miracle.

After that semester, his parents took him back to his old school. The parties at his aunt’s stopped. In a few years, his aunt moved to a drier climate for her health. He did not see her again, except unexpectedly once many years later when Bernard rented a house with five other graduate students.

As Bernard was heading toward the kitchen, he saw the top half of his aunt appear about ten feet in front of him. She was walking away as she turned to him. Her words appeared in his mind: “I’m sorry.” What could she be sorry for? Bernard remembered the deformed bread. He mentally thought, “It’s OK.” She vanished.

Three days after seeing his aunt, his mother called him. She told him his aunt died a few days ago. They were just informed. His aunt did not want his father to drive the distance to the funeral and what little she had she left to the church.

Bernard told his mother that his aunt appeared to him. He didn’t tell her about his aunt’s message. He never told his parents about that damaged loaf of bread and he didn’t want them to think badly of her now. Simply saying he saw a ghost would be enough of a shock and maybe worth a joke the next time they met. He didn’t mind. He was too old to be sent to the priest.

I met Bernard when he was retired living in a high-rise condo. Looking out the window at a party, we saw two pigeons playing like children over the tops of houses as the sun set deepening the shadows. They reminded him of his father and his aunt, now both deceased. He found it hard to imagine either of them as children although now he had no problem imagining them as birds. It occurred to Bernard that maybe his aunt’s message wasn’t for him but for his father, her brother, and he failed in his task that day to pick up the phone and tell his dad that he should give his sister a call.

After hearing this story from Bernard, I teased him. “Hey! Did all this really happen?” He thought for a while and said, “I suppose this story is a mixture of truth and fiction. The part I can’t forget, and the part you probably found unbelievable, is the part that actually happened. The rest, the parts you probably found believable enough, are the parts I can’t remember so well. It is as close to the truth as I know but telling the full truth about anything is thankfully impossible and unnecessary.”


Linked to Sue Vincent’s Flight #writephoto.
Photo provided by Sue Vincent for the prompt.

Sue Vincent's #writephoto icon
Sue Vincent’s #writephoto icon

Service — #writephoto The Tunnel

Wounded King Herman was on his deathbed. His sons were killed fighting the warlord Zutom who was overthrowing the independent city-states. His wife died with the birth of Charlotte who was by his side. General Kim was also there. The plan was set and ready. King Herman asked his daughter if she would lead in his place and finish what they started–now. She said, “Yes.” Minutes later, and without ceremony, nineteen-year-old Charlotte became Queen of a debilitated city-state under siege by Zutom whose walls would fall within the month.

Word quietly spread of the King’s death because Zutom’s men were listening for sound and reported the increasing smell of decaying flesh. Inside General Kim gathered the inhabitants around the ruins of the chapel each knowing their accepted tasks. Queen Charlotte stepped up to the platform and placed her hand on the remains of the altar and whispered: “This ends today!” She approached General Kim who bowed, “It is our honor to serve you, our Queen. We will not fail you.” Queen Charlotte whispered in reply, “And I will not fail any of you.”

Queen Charlotte took her lead in the tunnels, the ancient, forgotten tunnels, unknown to Zutom’s spies, built a century ago for defense and escape and recently reopened. General Kim arranged the surrender of the city-state to Zutom. Twenty among the many volunteers of men, women and youth were previously selected by King Herman to accompany General Kim unarmed onto the field of surrender. Zutom didn’t think so many were still alive. To celebrate his victory he would show the world his power in case anyone were foolish enough in the future to rebel against him. On Zutom’s command, General Kim was bound while the others were executed.

“Take me to your King’s stinking body and then you will be permitted to join him.” General Kim led Zutom and his close defenders through the open gate of the city to the chamber where King Herman’s body lay. As Zutom prepared to decapitate the body, General Kim thought, “It worked!” They got Zutom inside the city on their terms. He had one final task. He pushed his foot on the floor panel setting off the explosion destroying the chamber. This triggered the gate of the city to shut. Archers emerged from hidden recesses. When they removed the threat of Zutom’s men trapped inside, they brought Zutom’s body above the city wall directly over the gate hanging it in the presence of Zutom’s forces. As Zutom’s body swayed, hundreds of archers in unison rose with their attention held on the field. They waited.

General Kim, with those inside the city, did not fail their Queen.

At the sight of Zutom’s body hanging above the center of the gate, his conscripted forces fled. Queen Charlotte signalled for the firing of the explosions in the tunnels concentrated under Zutom’s core forces, the only ones they did not want to escape and regroup. Fires blocked their retreat. Guerrilla attacks and confusion pushed them onto the field within range of the archers.

Years after the coming Unification, and then the Federation, and through the Renaissance and up to the present time, children grew healthy, strong, proudly recalling to their children how Queen Charlotte did not fail them either.


Linked to Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt — The Tunnel — #writephoto
Photo provided by Sue Vincent for this prompt.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or people is unintended.

Sue Vincent's #writephoto icon

Midsummer Daydream

I walk toward Sunset Ridge Woods busy dreaming while this summer day is busy being beautiful.  Last night I read a fable telling about fairies guarding a forest glen.¹  They punished cutting trees in their creative ways using the imaginations of the trespasser. They were more effective than fines–and swifter. Natural retribution could take years or generations. Those fairies kept the riff-raff in line–if you believed in them.

Today governments take over guarding forest preserves. Perhaps they do permit what some might call over-harvesting where it’s out-of-sight and wild. Like beauty, one guy’s rightful use is another guy’s misuse. Governments keep the opportunists in line–if you believe they can.  I wonder how my mind would survive a trespass on a fairy glen? Maybe they still rule in these subtle ways even without my acknowledgment of their existence. If so, who could stop them?

SOUNDS OF SHRILL TRAFFIC
SUMMER WARMS THIS SUNSET TRAIL
SHELTERED BY STILL TREES

¹“The Man Who Had No Story” in Jane Yolen’s Favorite Folktales From Around the World.


Linked to dVerse Haibun Monday hosted by Grace with prompt “Summer”.
Photo: “Green Midsummer Madness” by the author linked to K’lee and Dale‘s Cosmic Photo Challenge with prompt “midsummer madness”.

Shanti, the Dragon — #writephoto Twilight

The dragon watched the evening twilight darken the valley into deeper blues. He was well-known, but the only one who ever saw him was a monk who thought his cave would make an ideal retreat from the banalities of civilization–until he saw the dragon. Cautiously, the monk backed away mumbling, “Shanti, shanti, shanti.” The dragon thought that was his name and for the purposes of describing his encounter with the damsel that is what I will call him.

The villagers in the valley knew all about Shanti’s treasure. It was worth more than any wealth on earth because it also contained, besides the piles of gold, the Master Gem. This gem gave anyone who saw it twinkle in the cave’s dim light eternal youth–and all that dragon did was sit on it.

However, to get one’s hands on these treasures, one needed, according to legend, a pure damsel whom the hideous beast had to capture. One also needed a brave knight who, under cover of darkness, would lure the fiendish dragon out of his cave and save the damsel. These two, damsel and knight, would be legally entitled to take as much of the hoard as they could carry away before the cave closed forever.

The part about the damsel raised concerns. Youthful females, whose purity was not in doubt, did not want to have such a dangerous part to play in getting the gold. Furthermore many a brave knight wondered, “Why not kill the stupid dragon and keep the gold for myself?” Every now and then some fool would remind everyone else that no one had ever seen this dragon. No one had ever seen his gold, nor this magical “Master Gem”, except for a mythical monk who probably made up this tall tale of how to get the treasure. Most of the townsfolk felt such people could be ignored.

Given these stories, you would think many brave knights and pure damsels would have visited Shanti, but until this evening he had not seen any. That’s why he found it odd when she poked her head into the dimness of the cave and asked, “Hey! Are you the dragon?”

“I’m a dragon,” said Shanti.

“Do you mind if I stay?”

“There’s room for both of us.”

The damsel waited for Shanti to do something distressful to her, but when nothing happened, she asked. “Are you a real dragon or not? Can you even breathe fire?”

“You mean like this?” Shanti took a deep breath and exhaled a flame that lit up the cave. As he did so the damsel screamed and Shanti jumped.

“Help! Help! I’m being held by a fire-breathing dragon!”

At the entrance of the cave, Shanti saw seven knights with drawn swords. “Prepare to die, dragon!” said one, who, unlike the others, couldn’t see very well what was in the shadows. When Shanti stood up, he was over ten times their height and his scales looked harder than their swords.

The smartest of the knights countered, “We mean you no harm, dragon. Move outside the cave so we may tend to the damsel and we will depart in peace.” Shanti felt this was reasonable. Maybe they could convince the damsel to leave? He moved to the cave’s opening.

“Watch where you sling that thing!” The damsel scolded seeing Shanti’s tail slide a bit too close to her.

Shanti saw them pick through his treasure. One knight found a rusted bar of iron and discarded it, but the others found nothing more exciting than broken pottery. The hoard looked like garbage left by long forgotten peasants. The damsel noticed something sparkle, but raised it to her eyes in disappointment. She tossed it. As they left she observed, “Your treasure is a pile of junk. Loser.”

Shanti went into the cave and sat upon what he now knew was junk. He looked around for Sparkie, that stone the damsel discarded, and found him on the ground. Shanti held him to his face and smiled. The thought never occurred to him that someone might want to take Sparkie away. Why would anyone want to do that?

Sparkie scattered the increasingly faint twilight through the cave with soft playfulness. Those watching this scene, if any damsel, knight or dragon-fearing peasant ever had the opportunity of doing so, would have seen the twinkle in the dragon’s eye.


Linked to Sue Vincent’s Twilight #writephoto.
Photo provided by Sue Vincent for this prompt.

Sue Vincent's #writephoto icon