Dangerous Conditions are Imminent

I got a flat tire on my bicycle and that is why I am walking it back home.  It looks like a beautiful sunrise, but hurricane Ian is headed this way, and the old adage “red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” is in play here.  My dog Jake has no clue of what is happening, but it is scarry for me.  I have lived in Florida my whole life and I am sort of used to hurricanes, but this one looks like a direct hit and evacuation orders are in place.  The current trajectory has it hitting Tampa Bay at 6 AM Thursday as a category 2 with winds around 90 miles an hour.  The thing is that nobody knows exactly what will happen with this storm and other forecasts have it off the coast of Tampa Bay and heading for the panhandle.  It is not that I am wishing this storm on anybody else, but I don’t want it landing here.  It would be nice to have a better idea where this hurricane is going and what its intensity will be, but I am going to make some preparations in case it hits me.  The closer it gets, the more urgency I feel.  I have taken all of the patio furniture into the house and tomorrow, I will move my gas grill into the garage and take my American flag down.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #186.

Constant Chronic Headaches

Headaches are one of the world’s most common conditions, as every year, almost half of the adults in the world will experience this.  Adalynn was able to get temporary relief from the pain by squeezing her head with both of her hands, while her fingers were outstretched.  This pressure that she applied usually worked, but if it didn’t then she would take out her trusty elastic band and secure it around her head with Velcro to keep a constant pressure on her brain.  The main problem with this, was that when she finally released the elastic band there was a good chance that her pain severity would steadily increase.  Adalynn had been experiencing severe headaches her whole life and she tried everything to get rid of them.  None of the over-the-counter medications seemed to help her and she even tried Botox injections, but this treatment didn’t help either.  She applied ice packs and heating pads and none of these methods worked for her.  Adalynn purchased this device that she saw on the internet which gives off a magnetic pulse to stimulates part of her brain, while she held it against the back of her head, but this turned out to be a gimmick and it did nothing to relieve her pain.  The only thing that seemed to help were the do-it-yourself scalp massages that she gave herself, but this was a hope and pray remedy, as it didn’t work all the time.

Shocking, excruciating, life-denying, throbbing horrible migraines have haunted Adalynn since she was ten years old.  The pain made her eyes water and drove her into her bed, where she would hide from the world, to escape the torment that she suffered on a daily basis.  When she was young, her migraines were bad, but over time, they got worse.  The throbbing pains in her head were occasionally manageable, but when they got bad, all she wanted to do was be alone and away from everyone and everything.  They became more frequent, they lasted longer, and the pain steadily worsened till her migraine attacks disrupted her whole life.  The pain rendered her totally useless as a functioning person and the realization that they could hit her at any time influenced all of her decisions and her actions.  The sheer unpredictability of her migraines made it impossible for her to work, or to socialize with anyone.  She lived in fear, not knowing when to expect the next attack.  Her last hope was to enter this study that she found on the internet where she would be part of a small trial group of volunteers to undergo an observational analysis and take part in this clinical trial.  Details of this study were being kept confidential, but she had to sign a release form in case she had an adverse reaction to the doses of this new drug they were testing.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #185.

Victim of Subduction

Juno’s husband Jupiter lusted for Juturna, and his heart was conquered by exceeding love from the first day that he saw her.  He pursued after her, when he saw her hiding in the woods among the hazel-thickets, and then bathing naked beneath the waters of the river Tiber.  Jupiter asked the nymphs to catch her for him, rationalizing that she should not shun the advances of the supreme god because their union would be for her own good.  He told the nymphs to look to her interests and to his, for what would be a great pleasure to him, would also benefit everyone.  He said that if she flees, that they should stop her on the edge of the bank, before she is able to plunge into the water of the river.  The nymphs all agreed, and they helped Jupiter catch Juturna.  Some say it was a love affair and others say that Jupiter forcibly took Juturna’s virginity, but either way Jupiter turned Juturna into a water nymph after the encounter.  Juturna’s spring and shrine were located close to the temple of Janus the god of Gates and Doors and they eventually married.

Life on Mount Olympus was never dull, and it must have been a little bit like keeping up with the Kardashians, with one scandal being bigger than the next, as they all enjoyed gossip.  Juno was a very jealous goddess, and she had this uncanny knack for finding out who her husband was screwing around with.  All of the nymphs agreed to keep quiet about Jupiter’s affair with Juturna, except the nymph Larunda, who enjoyed talking too much.  Juno learned about the affair that Jupiter had with Juturna from Larunda who betrayed this secret, so Jupiter got his revenge by cutting out Larunda’s tongue and making her mute, as a punishment for her being incapable of keeping secrets.

Jupiter told the other nymphs, “Your sister is her own enemy, because she is incapable of holding her own tongue, and telling my wife that I made love with Juturna.”  Jupiter called his son Mercury and told him to take Larunda away to the place for the dead, and Mercury obeyed.  On their way they came to a grove, where Larunda seduced Mercury.  She was unable to talk, but she stripped out of her clothes and let her body do the talking for her and Mercury became smitten with her.  Mercury had his way with Larunda, and he knew that she didn’t want to go to the land of the dead, so he took pity on her and turned her into a tree nymph in a dark forest where nobody would ever find her.  He told Jupiter that he took Larunda to the land of the dead, but she became pregnant and bore twins, and they were worshiped at the crossroads where Mercury and Larunda did the deed.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #183.

Picking Up the Pieces

Joe and Carla are still practicing social distancing, and they have picked up a new hobby, assembling jigsaw puzzles.  They have the finished picture on the puzzle box, so all they need is patience to finish this.  COVID-19 threw their lives out of whack and doing these puzzles together gives them a sense of control over the outcome.  It will take time and effort to complete this, but this challenging experience will provide them with the feeling of accomplishment when it’s finished.  In these uncertain times, seeing a pile of pieces come together as a finished puzzle is extremely satisfying.  Joe and Carla laid out the puzzle on a rug, so they could both be comfortable putting this together.  Joe looks at this as a good way to cozy up with Carla and they both enjoy seeing the patterns come together.  Carla seems to enjoy the snuggling also.

They have the perfect amount of lighting for this task, and they started out by turning all of the pieces picture side up.  Since it is easy to identify the edge pieces from the center pieces, they figured this was a good way to start and then they could work inward.  Next, they sorted the pieces based on the pattern and color, so they could work within the framework.  The texture, or shape of the puzzle piece, is what allows them to line up with each other and they decided to work in small sections of the puzzle, knowing that some sections would be easier and faster to assemble.  When they got stuck, they would start on a new section.  This particular puzzle contained a lot of pieces, so they knew it would be difficult, but they were both resolved to not give up till it was completed.  They took breaks for the bathroom and to enjoy sodas and snacks and getting up allowed them to look at the puzzle from different angles giving them a fresh perspective which usually helped.  When completed it would be a picture of the riot that took place at the Capital on January 6th and even though there were a lot of pro Trump signs in it, they were both glad that the puzzle did not show the face of the most pathetic man in America.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #182.

Here Comes the Rain Again

As we passed each other in the rain, I asked, “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?”  He rushed past me and said, “I got to get going, because it is a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard and it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”  For me it’s just a state of mind that makes me want to walk in the open wind.  These are the seasons of emotion and like the wind, they rise and fall.  There’s a calm before the storm.  I know, it’s been coming for some time.  My life is filled with gloom, so day after day, I stay locked up in my room.  I thought love was more or less a giving thing.  Seems the more I gave the less I got.  What is the use in trying, all you get is pain?  When I needed sunshine, I got rain.  Sitting down by my window, looking out at the rain.  All around that I felt it.  All I can see was the rain.  I listen carefully to the sound of my loneliness, like a heartbeat, it drives me mad.  In the stillness of remembering what we had.  The thunder only happens when it’s raining.  What I feel has come and gone before, so there is no need to talk it out, as we know what it’s all about.  Hanging around with nothing to do but frown, as these rainy days always get me down.  I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.  I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.  Only love can make it rain, the way the beach is kissed by the sea.  I’m only happy when it rains.  I feel good when things are going wrong, so I only listen to the sad, sad songs.  I set fire to the rain and watched it pour as I touched your face.  It burned while I cried.  Nothing lasts forever and we both know hearts can change.  It’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain.  I’m gonna rain on your parade, no, I won’t take it again.  I’ll keep raining, raining, raining over you.  It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya?  It pours, man, it pours.  Let it rain, let it rain, let your love rain down on me.  Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down, I feel the wind, and I taste the rain.  A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through.  It’s all-night pouring, pouring rain; Lord but not a drop on me.  We will not speak but stand inside the rain, and brave the storm to come, for it surely looks like rain.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #182.

Birding

Birding and bird watching might seem like the same thing, but they are actually quite different and that distinction is based on commitment, dedication, passion and intensity.  Viewing birds makes you a bird watcher, while the act of traveling to seek out birds is known as birding.  A birder recognizes birds by their songs and calls.  Carol is a birder and she is mostly interested in gulls, which are members of a large, widespread family of seabirds.  These birds are often known as seagulls, although no species is actually called a seagull, and many are found far from the sea.  She finds these beautiful birds to be intelligent, and has noticed that they demonstrate complex methods of communication and they have a highly-developed social structure.  They are very adaptable relying on kleptoparasitism (deliberately taking resources from another) to get their food even though they sometimes get a bad reputation for stealing chips.  There are at least twenty-eight types of gull species seen in North America.  These numerous long-winged web-footed aquatic birds are fairly well distributed throughout the continent along the coastlines and at sea.

In general, gulls are robust, long winged birds that have bills that are stout and hooked and fully webbed feet except for the hind toes.  Unlike terns, which are found in similar habitats, gulls have broader wings and squared-off or rounded tails.  Many gull species exhibit different colorations due to seasonal changes or maturity level and it is often very difficult to identify a given gull’s species.  Bill and leg coloration are excellent distinguishing characteristics to use identifying gulls, but these birds can be some of the hardest birds to easily identify.  The plumage of the juveniles of different species takes from three to four years to achieve an adult plumage.  Some of the gull types have a non-breeding and a breeding plumage that change throughout the seasons.  To make this even more challenging, gulls cross-breed with other types of gulls, forming hybrids that reflect the looks and characteristics of each of the parent birds.

The gulls that Carol feeds are able to identify and remember her, and they seem to enjoy interacting with her.  The average lifespan for a seagull is 10-15 years in the wild, but there have been cases where they have lived up to 30 years old.  Gulls have an impressive sense of smell that allows them to detect the faintest trace of food from over 3 miles away and they have incredible vision, as they can see clearly from as far away as 2 miles.  A gull can eat up to 20% of its body weight in food each day mostly eating seafood like crabs, clams, mussels, shrimps and small fish, but they also scavenge for scraps of human food left behind by tourists or trash cans when humans aren’t looking.  A group of gulls is called a colony and these birds will mate for life with their partner.  All gulls fly in an erratic pattern to protect themselves from predators.  This behavior is called “jinking”, and the aim of it is to confuse any predator that may be pursuing them.​​​​​​ ​ These patterns are completely unpredictable and always changing, which makes it hard for the predator such as falcons or hawks to know what they’re going to do next.

Carol has been warmed many times not to feed the gulls, as some people feel that they are becoming a public health risk.  They say that feeding them increases their population and in turn that increases the risks of e-coli, salmonella and botulism.  They see these birds as nothing more than pests, like rats that can fly.  Some people complain that these birds are keeping them from being able to sleep and once people start feeding them, they will repeatedly call for food.  It is thought that feeding them will embolden them to become more aggressive and the more food they are fed, that will make them act like that scene from the Alfred Hitchcock horror film “The Birds”, as they divebomb at you while you are enjoying a snack on the beach.  Carol never listens to these people, because she finds it fun when the gulls take food right from her fingers.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #181.

Zoom, Zoom

The pull of gravity is taking these three children down the hill, but they seem to be going totally out of control.  Karen the older sister thought if they had the proper weight distribution, that would allow them to go faster, so she decided to sit on the hood (or bonnet for those of you that live in the UK) of the red toy car, directly over the front wheels.  This was their third speed trial going down this hill and Karen had dreams of becoming a physicist, so she was testing out different placements of the weight to see which one made the greatest difference.  Her youngest brother Kyle wants to be a NASCAR driver when he grows up, so he is behind the wheel.  His favorite driver is Kyle Bush and his dad drinks Busch beer because it has a refreshingly smooth taste that’s crisp and cold as a mountain stream.  The middle brother Kevin volunteered to be the pusher, as he is the kind of guy that is always pushing boundaries and pushing the envelope, but he is not a drug pusher.

Karen told Kevin to make sure that he gave the car a good push this time and she said that he should think about delivering a baby and having an overwhelming urge to push it out.  She told him to trust his instincts and take a few deep breaths so he could gear up for pushing this baby out of the starting gate.  Karen told him that he has the hardest part, as once he let go, gravity would take over.  Kevin asked Karen and Kyle if they were ready as he lined up behind the car and when they gave him the signal, he started to push with everything he had.  Kevin shouted out, “It’s all downhill from here”, but for some unknown reason, he just couldn’t seem to let go of the car.  Gravity and momentum combined together so rapidly, as the car kept gaining speed going downhill.  Karen was loving it with her optimal view of what was going on from her spot on the hood and her hair being blown back in the wind.  Kyle was also enjoying the hell out of this ride, as he said, “I think we may be approaching a land speed record.”  Kevin was hanging off the back of the car parallel to the ground shouting, “Brakes, hit the brakes, before you kill everyone!”

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #178.

All the Old Dogs

Zipper the great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Nipper the Mongrel that is part terrier who was featured in the His Master’s Voice painting is getting together today with a bunch of his friends to host a charity party.  An ancestor of Hachikō the Japanese Akita dog who waited faithfully for his owner each day at a Tokyo train station to come home for nine years till the day he died has responded that he will be coming to the party.  A descendant of Laika the Soviet space dog on Sputnik 2 will also be at the party.  An offspring of Balto the Siberian Husky sled dog who rushed medical supplies to Nome, Alaska to prevent the spread of diphtheria is expected to be there.  The granddaughter of Honey Tree Evil Eye who is better known as Spuds MacKenzie, the bull terrier who became Budweiser’s ultimate party animal and the daughter of Gidget the Taco Bell chihuahua also RSVP’d to the party.  The progeny of the film stars Rin-Tin-Tin the German Shepherd, Lassie the rough collie breed, Toto the Cairn Terrier and Pete the Pup the dog from the Little Rascals with the ring around his eye are all expected to show up for the event.  They have not got a response back yet from the relations of Higgins the mixed-breed dog who played Benji, and also appeared on Petticoat Junction.  Sadly, the offspring of Bullseye a white bull terrier who became the Target logo will be busy shooting a commercial that day and will not be able to make it.

The party planners decided to go with an extravagant indoor affair decorated with a Victorian period theme that prominently features an old-fashioned record player (aka gramophone) in the room in honor of the famous RCA dog.  The party is being held as a prestigious benefit to help shelter dogs and hopefully save them from suffering.  All of the guests are supposed to come dressed in costumes, or at least they should be wearing a colorful bandana.  Each dog will be given a new squeaky toy and a box of biscuits to take back home with them.  There will be outdoor activities and they will try to get the dogs to run an obstacle course and form a Conga line.  They set up statues in the garden of Snoopy, Kujo, Underdog and Scooby Doo for the dogs to interact with.  There will also be a statue of Cruella Deville for the dogs to urinate on.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #177.

Cats Love Milk

My wife Judy called me into the living room and when I arrived, she said, “Look at what your little girl is doing?”  I said, “That is just like you, when she is doing something wrong, she is my little girl, but I am not the one who gave her a cup of milk without a lid and her sippy straw.  You know that Erica is only supposed to get milk during her meals or snack time, as the pediatrician clearly stated that could lead to tooth decay.  I think it is a very funny picture, so I will get my phone and post this on Facebook.”  Judy said, “Don’t do that, as I don’t want everyone seeing our daughter eating off of the floor like an animal.  We might be questioned by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency and end up having Erica taken away from us for because they think that we are bad parents.”

I took the picture with my phone, but I didn’t post it online and then I picked Erica up off the floor and told her that there are probably germs on the floor and that eating anything that is on the floor could lead to health problems.  I told her about the 3 second rule, where it is ok to eat something that was dropped on the floor only if it is picked up in 3 seconds or less and if it is laying there for more than 3 seconds, then it has to be thrown away.  I asked Erica to count to three for me and she did, and then I told Judy, “Now she is my girl, as she is so smart.”

Judy remarked on how the cats were enjoying their special treat and that as soon as they were done, she would mop the floor.  I chased the cats away from the spill and told Judy that this is probably going to make them all sick.  I said, “Kittens can feed off of their mother’s milk, but after they reach 6 months old, they lose their ability to produce the enzyme lactase, so then they can no longer break down or digest lactose, resulting in bad news for their stomach and digestive system.  Kittens lose their ability to process milk after being weaned, so our cats are too old to be lapping up milk.”  Judy said, “I always see cats drinking milk on TV and in the Tom & Jerry cartoons, Tom waits for the milk deliveryman to bring a bottle of milk to the door.”  I told Judy that there is a big difference between real life and cartoons.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #174.

The New Divide

Beccy has a class in Political Science this semester and she brought this new book along with her on this camping trip.  She is enjoying the book so much, that she can’t put it down.  Her friends went out for a walk and she decided to stay in the tent to finish reading more of the book.  Beccy never had any interest in Politics before, but she loves the way this author writes who calls himself Fandango.  This author tells it like it is and doesn’t hold anything back and maybe that is why he chose an anonymous pen name.  His book is titled “The New Divide” and it is all about the problems that Americans are facing now.  Chapter One was titled Shoot Em Up and it covered all the gun violence going back to the Columbine massacre and that actually happened on the day Beccy was born, so she was hooked from the start.  Chapter Two covered the Opioid Epidemic and it showed how pharmaceutical companies and doctors colludes together to get people hooked, so they could get rich.

Chapter Three went into Black Lives Matter and it showed a light on those groups of people who oppose racial justice.  She finally reached the chapter that she had been waiting for called Start The Steal which is about the shameful President that this country once had.  Fandango knew everyone involved with the January Sixth Committee and he had one on one interviews that disclosed all of Trumps dirty little secrets.  Fandango even went to the prison where Trump is being detained to interview the creep, and a big smile came to her face when she read that he still believes that he won the 2020 election.  What a crazy world!

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #173.