Beat It

Age caused him to lose some dexterity, and now his joints aren’t able to absorb all the shock of the heavy bashing like when he was young, but his stiff fingers still want to play, because that is what drummers do and his whole life, he has been a drummer.  His rhythm is right on the money and he still has good listening skills, so he never misses a beat.  For as long as there has been music, there have been drummers and he put in years of hard work and tireless practice to get where he is, and this persistence has gotten him to where he is today.  He worked as a session musician as part of the L.A. Wrecking Crew and he spent a short time being in the Funk Brothers, as well as the Swampers, but repetitive motions have led to bursitis flareups, so he is thinking about retiring and possibly going into production or teaching.  This will be his last show and he is going to beat the hell out of his drums tonight.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #152.

The Great American Novel

Paula sat by the window hoping to pick up inspiration, as she has intentions of writing the great American novel.  She has ideas floating through her head and she wants to embrace the essence of American life, which she feels that she is qualified to express.  She doesn’t have a title yet and that can come later.  It may not turn out to be Huckleberry Finn, Gone with the Wind or The Grapes of Wrath, but she feels that she has a unique perspective on what it is to be American after raising her three daughters.  So many people have asked her if she was trying for a boy on her third child and she always responded by telling them that although she tracked her ovulation cycles, she never used any special positions or timed copulation to coincide with the full moon, or cared in the least if her child had any dangly bits or not.

Paula lost her husband to cancer after their last daughter was born, and she admits that most of the time she was winging it, and she thinks that it will be a miracle if they can all turned out to be successful.  Like all single parents, Paula struggled, but she realized that people come in two classes, those that have and the have nots and the only way to make it as a single parent was for her to swallow her pride and do whatever she could for her girls.  Paula read Hillary’s book It Takes A Village and she got her shit together knowing that she could no longer be a stay at home mom and that she needed to become a working mom working toward a constructive goal.  Paula sold her house and moved back in with her mom to help raise her children.  She majored in English in college and she got a job as an editor for a publishing company and after reading all of the garbage that everyone else was writing she decided that she could do much better with her own stories.

When Paula sat at this desk, her children knew that they shouldn’t be bothering their mother, as this was her quit time and it should remain free from interruptions.  Her eldest girl Phoebe was cooking dinner tonight making raviolis which should have been easy, but she was unsure of the instructions, as they just said boil water, add raviolis and cook for five minutes.  She barged into her mom’s space to ask if she needed to turn the flame down after the water had boiled.  Paula told Phoebe to pretend that she was Tina Turner and that she needed to keep the water rolling and then she broke into a chorus of Proud Mary “Rolling on the river.”  Paula said that somethings can be done nice and easy, but you never do Proud Mary nice and easy, as you have to keep that water rolling.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #151.

Research Topic

Kiara knew that she didn’t have her whole life figured out yet, but she loved learning about new things and she was willing to do the work.  She went to the library to collect data for her term paper and of course she would get an A on this project as she always did.  It is for her history class where they are studding North American Indians this semester.  She figured that she could write her paper on the watercraft structures that the Native Americans built to navigate the rivers, lakes and catch fish off the ocean coasts.  Her uncle took her on a ride in a canoe and they paddled down the Delaware River and this is what piqued her interest to decide on this topic.  After finding mountains of information, Kiara was having second thoughts, hoping that she didn’t bite off more than she can chew with this vast topic, as there are a lot of different tribes and it seems like they all made their own unique boats.  Her favorite is the birchbark canoe and she thought that it might be wise to just concentrate on this, as there seemed to be plenty of information available for her to fill up this paper.

Kiara learned that around 900 AD, North American Indians started using the birch bark canoe.  These Indians didn’t keep much in the way of written records, so historians had a difficult time trying to trace this any information on the canoe back to the beginning.  Some scanty records left by European explorers after the 16th century exist, but this canoe probably existed for a thousand years.  The birchbark canoe was first used by the Algonquin Indians in what is now the northeastern part of the United States and adjacent Canada.  The birch bark canoes designed by the indigenous peoples of North America were completely biodegradable, so not much archeological evidence remains, but we know that birch bark canoe making skills were perfected a long time ago and remained unchanged for centuries.  This Indian canoe was as close to a perfect engineering feat as most inventions are likely to come, improvements were made until it was just right and this knowledge was handed down from generation to generation.

There were many advantages of using the birch bark canoe for travel, as this craft drew but a few inches of water, so it could be used anywhere as long as there was a trickle of water.  The birch bark canoe could be easily carried on men’s shoulders and portaged over land, as it usually weighed less than 300 pounds.  This canoe had a tough light wooden frame with a skin of bark and it could shoot rapids and sustain the burden of a crew along with freight.  It had an ideal hydrodynamic form, it allowed a paddler to face the direction he was going, and these canoes could be made in short order from materials at hand in the forest.  The birch bark canoe was built entirely of forest products with the aid of a few simple tools, and without the need for nails or other scarce items.  Birch bark canoes were an invaluable tool for natives, as they proved to be ideal for travelling the numerous streams, rivers and lakes of North America.  These canoes were indispensable to the Indians as a form of transportation and a way of life.  The birch bark canoe served as a hunting vessel, as they were light, easy to paddle and they were resilient and waterproof.  The forests contained man large birches from which they peeled a sheet large enough to cover the entire canoe.

Kiara learned that after the bark was stripped from the tree it was fired to shape, seal and make it watertight, then molded into a low-freeboard flat-bottomed craft.  The frames were usually of cedar, soaked in water and bent to the shape of the canoe.  The joints were sewn with spruce or white pine roots, which were pulled up, split and boiled by Indigenous women.  Because birchbark is waterproof, no sealing material is required, except to cover cuts or seams.  The seams were waterproofed with hot spruce or pine resin gathered and applied with a stick, and during travel, paddlers re-applied resin almost daily to keep the canoe watertight.  Seams on containers for liquids were normally covered with pitch derived from white birch or black spruce trees with a touch of deer tallow added.  Often a bit of finely pounded charcoal was mixed in to render the pitch a deep black.

Navigating a birch bark canoe on a peaceful river before the white man arrived must have felt like floating in the wind.  The peaceful silence must have made the rider feel at one with nature, listening to the sounds of rippling water, bird singing, and the wind in the trees.  Floating in a canoe, looking at the sky, the water, the shores and traveling the magical waterways observing the beauty, the solitude and serenity must have been truly magnificent.  Europeans quickly adopted the use of the birchbark canoe from Natives, while at the same time European tools made canoe construction easier.

Kira had the perfect ending for her paper knowing that her teacher was a big fan of Henry David Thoreau, as she found a story about him a going on a two-week canoeing trip with his brother John on rivers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, just six weeks before he moved to Walden Pond.  Thoreau saw that the Industrial Revolution had taken a toll of the fish and that they were having trouble swimming upriver from the sea to spawn and he knew that they would eventually be obliterated or reduced to fractions of their former plenitude.  Thoreau developed a philosophy based on environmental and social responsibility, resource efficiency, and living simply and this is why he went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if he could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when he came to die, discover that he had not lived.  Kira was smiling ear to ear, knowing that she nailed this paper.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #150.

Future Entomologist

Annie held the magnifying glass close to the insect and exclaimed, “You don’t look life you would bite or sting me and you are sort of cute.  You have six scrawny looking legs, three distinct body regions (a head, thorax (a chest area located between your neck and abdomen), and an abdomen), a pair of antennae and a pair of wings, making you a true insect, but since there are many different types of insects, I will have to do some more investigation to figure out what kind of insect you are.  There is no need to fret little fellow (assuming that you are a guy), as I am not planning on keeping you as a pet, and I am not going to pull off your antennae, or hurt you in any way.  I guess I should start off by giving you a name and I am going to call you Scruff.  I am on a mission to educate myself about all the different animal species in the world, and I feel that if I know more about you, then I will be able to take better care of everything.  Since most of the insects in the world belong to some type of beetle or another, I am thinking that you are one of those shiny iridescent green beetles which are often called jeweled beetles, or June bugs, or Japanese beetles.”  Annie took a closer look and said, “I read that iridescence is used as an effective form of camouflage, confusing your predators and making it harder for them to find you.  If I could see inside your mind, I wonder what I’d find, but don’t worry Scruff, as I have never eaten an insect and I am not planning on starting with you.”

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #149.

Doctor Appointment

I said to my wife, “Honey I have been on hold for 20 minutes now and I will make sure that they see you today, but the message said that were very busy and short on staff.”  Just then someone at the doctor’s office picked up the phone and said, “How can I help you?”  I gave her my name and told her I was calling for my wife who had some nasty skin condition on her ankle.  The girl asked for my wife’s name and her date of birth, and I gave that information to her.  I told the receptionist that my wife was not very good at handling pain and that she was in agony because of the open wound she has on her ankle.  She asked me how she got the open wound and I told her that we are not sure, but she first realized it a few days ago and it has just gotten worse since then.  She said that she would mark this as a priority and give the message to one of the nurses and that someone would call us back by the end of the day.  I told her that would not be good enough, as my wife needed an appointment today, because it looks like she may have that African flesh-eating disease, or she could have been bitten by a brown recluse spider, or maybe even a Wuhan bat.  The girl said she would mark it urgent and have someone call us back.

When I hung up my wife asked me what all that nonsense was about the flesh-eating disease and the Wuhan bat, and I told her that by saying that she would be assured that the doctor would see her today.  My wife put her feet up on the ottoman and kept moaning about how much her ankle was hurting her.  The nurse called a half hour later and asked about my wife’s ankle and I told her that we are not medical professionals, and we have no idea how she got this wound on her ankle.  She asked if the wound was leaking any discharge and I told her that we were treating it with hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin and keeping it clean and that we have not noticed any puss coming out of it.  I told the nurse that my wife was frightened as I made a mistake trying to cheer her up, because I have a weird sense of humor.  She asked me what I meant by that, and I said that when my wife asked me how her ankle looked, I told her that if I was her doctor that I would start scrubbing up for an amputation operation.  I told the nurse that she needed to help me fix this, or my wife might never talk to me again.  The nurse said that the doctor could fit us in at 11:15 this morning and I told her that we would be there.

I told my wife to change out of those long pants, so it would be easier for the doctor to examine her ankle and she put shorts on.  We arrived at the doctor’s office, and they took her back and put her on the scale, but she told me that she didn’t want me to look, so I turned my head away.  We sat in an examination room for a while and then the doctor came in and asked to see my wife’s ankle.  She said that we did the right thing by coming in, as being diabetic you have to be really careful with any bite or injury on your feet or ankles, as any scrape or cut will be slow to heal because of the poor circulation that you get in your extremities.  I asked the doctor what she thought it was, and she said that it could be an insect bite, but that it looked more like a scratch that got infected.  She told us to stop using the hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin and to just wash it with soap and water and she gave us some patches to cover it up.  She called in a prescription to our pharmacy for an antibiotic and told us to make another appointment for next week, so she could check on how it was healing.  As we were driving home, I told my wife that I was sorry about her sore ankle, but that getting antibiotics was a lot better than having an amputation and she said that she was still not talking with me.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #148.

Gimme Jimmies

My dad asked me, “What would you like on your cake cone Jim?”  I replied, “What the heck is a cake cone dad?”  My dad said, “Would you rather have me say a wafer cone, waffle cone, or sugar cone, but you know what I mean, those light, flaky, and subtly sweet things that ice cream is put into?  They not only make it easier for you to enjoy your ice cream, but they also enhance the taste and texture for you.  I know that you want a twist cone with soft chocolate and vanilla ice cream mixed together, but I am not sure if you want a topping or not.  The sign says that you can have a hard chocolate coating, or hot fudge, or caramel, or whipped cream, or melted marshmallow, or Jimmies.”  I told my dad that I wanted sprinkles, the dark chocolate kind and he said that sprinkles are used for cupcakes and when you have ice cream, they are called Jimmies.  I told my dad to gimme some Jimmies then.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #147.

She Said She’d Always Been a Dancer

She worked as a nightly cabaret performer at a neighborhood bar and grill because she was passionate about her dancing and aspired to become a professional ballerina, but she had no formal training.  She had this act where she would have water dumped on her and then dance around while she was soaking wet.  The water would fly around everywhere, and her body looked great, because of the sheen that the water produced.  It was similar to the Flashdance movie, except she danced wearing only heels and it drove all of the men crazy.  The stage needed to be almost totally dark, so the sparkling water would show up.

Feminist groups criticized her act for objectifying women, but she had legs and she knew how to use them.  Her legs were the first thing that you would notice about her, and her mother encouraged her to go outside every time that it started raining.  She took joy in the sounds of the rain and walking through puddles.  This dance always brought back these childhood memories for her where everything was fun, and she was free and uninhibited.  As an adult, the rain still calls out to her, but now she gets paid very well to have her fun and maybe someday she will become a ballerina.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #146-2.

The List

Rebecca from Sunnybrook Farms carried a lantern through the snow heading toward a log cabin at the edge of a forest where she was supposed to meet Santa.  She got an official invitation from the North Pole saying that she was on the Nice List and that because of the shipping problems and the break down in the supply chain that were occurring now, that she could tell Santa in person what she wanted as a Christmas present this year.  When Rebecca reached the cabin, she noticed two young girls fighting outside.  Apparently Little Bo Peep thought that Mary’s little lamb was one of her lost sheep who ran away when she fell asleep.  When Little Bo Peep woke up from her nap, all of her sheep were gone and she was lying next to Little Boy Blue, who questioned, “What did we do”.  Little Bo Peep didn’t have a clue about what went on between them, and she wondered why her sheep were not in the meadow and why somebody let the cows into the corn field.  She saw the goats getting into the oats, the bees were into the peas, and all the animals on the farm were running amok trying to consume the entire food supply.

Little Boy Blue told Little Bo Peep that he had every intention of marrying her and making an honest woman out of her, but she said, “You silly boy, I don’t want to be married, all I want is my sheep, so help me look for them.”  Little Boy Blue was happy because he was off the hook so he agreed to help Little Bo Peep look for her lost sheep.  When they reached the log cabin and saw Mary standing there with her little lamb, Little Boy Blue said, “I found one of your sheep.”  Santa came out of the log cabin when he heard the commotion from these girls arguing and he said, “Who wants to be put on the Naughty List?”  Santa was wearing a mask because he was afraid of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus and he knew that this was not something that the Democrats invented to scare people as Blitzen had just contracted this new strain and he was undergoing social distancing.  Little Boy Blue took out his horn and he asked Santa if he could get some new clothes, as the stuff that he was wearing had all turned ragged.  Santa checked his list and saw that Little Boy Blue was scheduled to receive a new bright blue jacket that matched the blue of his eyes and a pair of blue trousers with silver buckles that would hold them up.  Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms asked Santa about Mrs. Clause and she said that if he was having marital problems that she thought one of her aunts might be perfect for him.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #146.

What the Hell

“It was totally insane, like a scene out of a movie”, George told Kathie.  Kathie unpacked her saxophone and took a seat next to George and said, “What are you going on about now?”  George said, “The smash-and-grab near San Francisco, which is struggling with a surge in crime this year, had this group of 80 criminals wearing masks and carrying crowbars ransack a Nordstrom department store and they drove away in at least 10 different vehicles.  Last Friday night a series of similar lootings occurred, including at a Louis Vuitton store, a Burberry store, a jewelry store, a Walgreens, a Bloomingdale’s, cannabis dispensaries and even an eyeglass shop.  The mayor and the police chief are planning crackdowns on crime, but my buddy Fandango is sick and tired of the rising crime, and he has decided that it is time to take this matter into his own hands, so he bought a pit bull.”

Kathie said, “Yes I met Fandango and he can blow a mighty fine horn, but that crime spree is nothing compared to what happened in that parade yesterday, when that SUV plowed through that crowd, leaving 5 dead and more than 40 others injured.  Everyone loves a parade and people went to that Christmas celebration to see Santa, not bodies flying through the air.  I saw some footage of this carnage that took place, with crumpled up bodies and scattered pom poms and I had to turn my head away in horror, wondering what kind of person would do something like this.  Wisconsin used to be such a nice place to live in, but that Rittenhouse acquittal has sent the wrong message.”

George said, “Our timing is perfect for our trip to Haiti, as they just released two of the hostages that have been held for 37 days by that gang.  I guess that they must have paid some type of ransom to these kidnappers, but this gang fueled violence happens so often in this lawless country, that we probably should not accept any more gigs to play there.”  George got up and asked Kathie is she would like another coffee before they started to practice and then they both heard a shot ring out and somebody yelled, “Take cover”, as panic spread through the airport food court.  George and Kathie waited under a table till they heard an “All clear” message broadcasted and then Kathie said, “That was very disconcerting.”

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #145.

A Rare Bird

I am a birder and I do birding, which means that I watch birds which is a popular pastime that is growing rapidly.  I came to love both birds around the same time that I developed an interest in cameras and sometimes these two things live in perfect harmony with each other, but some photographers feel that the birder is trespassing just to check a bird off their list, and birders have the opinion that photographers are terrifying birds just so they can get more likes on Facebook.  I like both of my hobbies and I don’t want to be classified in either category.  I have an excellent pair of binoculars and if I get the chance, I like to take photos of the birds that I see.  Birds are all around us if you keep your eyes open and this hobby makes me feel like I am connecting with nature.  I can wait for the weather to be nice and fit bird watching into my schedule.  I have learned a lot about birds and the more I know, the more fascinating these creatures become to me.

It is usually an inexpensive hobby, that is if you can enjoy doing this in your own backyard, but costs will mount up as you start to become more serious, like if you keep a journal on the birds that you have seen and if you start traveling to record a certain species that you desire to see.  Bird watchers can become fanatical searching for rare birds and it can be a great thrill to spot one of these.  I have seen a Rainbow Lorikeet, a Golden Pheasant, a Quetzal, a Hoopoe, a Bird of Paradise, a Puffin, a Macaw and a Kingfisher in my travels.  I hope that one day I will see a Pochard, a Flowerpecker and a Bristlefront, but today I came to this tropical island hoping to see a Nuthatch, and since none have been observed since 2018, that would totally make my day getting to see this very rare bird.

Written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #143.