The New House

Copyright Dale Rogerson

The New House

It was a sunny day when the dam was finished. We stood vigil as the water rose over the house down below.

“I’m sorry, Dad. We fought so hard, too.”

I hugged her. “It’ll stay preserved down there, six generations of memories, just under the surface.”

My voice quavered, and she buried her head in my old shoulder and cried.

You have a new house. On a lake. You lucky old fart.

I breathed—the mellow scent of lilacs mixing with the loud aroma of fresh paint—and let the bitterness go, to dance with the sparkles on the water.


The Day of the Peep

Thanks to Rochelle for choosing my picture this week. I look forward to reading everyone else’s stories as well.

copyright David Stewart

The Day of the Peep

They are a cruel bunch, these humans, who eat our soft bodies for their pleasure. When the snow melts and the trees bud, then you will know that the season of our slaughter has again begun.

But that is not the worst. There is a machine of torture they possess: a very-small wave, where they confine us and explode our bodies, just to watch our torment.

So rise up, you pastel mallows of the marsh! Smother the oppressors with your gooey bodies. Mayhap we will discover a very-small wave of our own and then, the peep shall inherit the earth.

I’m not sure how universal Peeps are, but you can read more here.

To learn more about the diabolical very-small wave.


Oran Man Ida

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Oran Man Ida

Five years since I’ve had the best food in the world.

The restaurant looks the same: the same line of 50 people waiting to get in. I get in line, the smells bringing me back: appetite and nostalgia winding a tight braid inside me.

“The special, please,” I say as a waitress comes up the line, taking advance orders. No time for looking at a menu.

I wonder how many have eaten here in the last five years. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

I spot the owner as I reach the door. She looks up. “Where have you been?”

This is actually a true story. When we were in Korea, we lived in the city of Jeonju. In the old market, there is a restaurant called Nammun Pisundae (남문피순대). It is famous all over Korea and has been in business for decades. There is seriously a line outside of at least 50-100 people at every single meal time and it is always busy. They really only serve one thing: a spicy soup of blood sausage and pig organs. You might not think that sounds great but that’s because you haven’t tried it. It is seriously my favorite food in the world, specifically from that restaurant.

전주맛집 조점례 남문 피순대 (피순대국밥) - 저렴한 맛집 - 맛따라 길따라

I got a chance to go back to Korea in 2019 and made a point to go to Jeonju to see old friends and to eat at this restaurant. Even after all that time, the owner recognized me right away and asked where I’d been. I explained I’d moved to the US 5 years before. To be fair, there probably aren’t many non-Koreans who were regulars there.

(You might wonder about the title: what an Oran Man is or who Ida is. This is a transliteration of the Korean expression meaning “long time, no see”).

The line outside the restaurant (on the left)

Bus Joy

This piece is unusual for this blog because it’s true. These days I’ve been taking the bus to and from work. It’s not a bad commute, usually only about 15 minutes and the buses are never crowded. If you have to take public transportation, take it where it’s not that popular, as opposed to Korea where I once counted about 90 people on my bus and only then because I was taller than most of them.

The best part of taking the bus (besides sitting and listening to audiobooks) is watching the other people. Most people tend to blend together, just masked figures that get on quietly and sit engrossed in their phones but sometimes someone will stand out.

One is a little girl that has started getting on with her mother a few stops after me. She’s probably about three with a mass of curly hair and every time she gets on the bus, it’s like watching a little Indiana Jones about to embark on a new adventure. She is so excited to be on the bus and looking around with barely contained energy and excitement. Her mother picked her up last time to keep her from charging ahead on her own and the little explorer yelled “Yaaaay!” all the way back to their seats.

On the way home that same day, the bus stopped for an old man with a bald head and a thick white beard that stuck out from his chin like a pharaoh’s beard. He seemed to be homeless and the first thing he did when the doors opened was throw a bundle of blankets and clothes into the bus before going back to get his backpack and other things. Everyone waited while he climbed on, then scooped up all his possessions and pushed them into an empty seat, smiling and saying thank you the whole time. He seemed to be wearing about four shirts of various styles.

Two very different people from different stages of life but both very happy just to be riding the bus.


Theater in the Snow

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Theater in the Snow

Anything could be cured with theater, Alice believed. In her first week as activity director for Nome, Alaska, she organized a Theater in the Park program to get people out of their houses and cure seasonal depression. She even flew in actors from down south. Their first production was the musical South Pacific to make everyone feel warm inside.

The performance got mixed reviews. On one hand, three of the actors froze to death mid-song and the rest got hypothermia. But the audience was fine and many commented it was the most interesting thing to happen in Nome in years.


Aftermath Math

Big things are happening in the land of green walls! For all my Friday Fictioneers friends out there and anyone else who might not know, I have started a website for children’s stories called the Green-Walled Treehouse. As part of it, I have a place for kids 0-18 to submit story ideas and I will write a story for them based on it. If you know anyone interested, have them email me at greenwalledtreehouse@gmail.com.

I also just published a children’s book about my travels last year in Southeast Asia. It’s called Stanley and Amber in Southeast Asia (it started out as a Flat Stanley project for my niece). You can read more about it here, as well as download a free copy.

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Aftermath Math

I stumble up the stairs, joy and horror warring in my mind. I spot the stroller box, and a burst of manic laughter escapes me. If only we’d known.

One ultrasound would have shown us what was growing inside Danielle, but with losing my insurance and COVID . . . As long as everyone was healthy, we said.

How naïve.

I reach the nursery. My mind flips to calculator, but the numbers aren’t adding up.

I collapse into the rocking chair while the word that now will forever define my life careens around my mind.

Septuplets.

We’re going to need a bigger crib.


Frozen Beauty

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Frozen Beauty

Ultimately, physical perfection was just genetics. Perfection became standard, beauty turned banal.

* * *

The club was a horror show: missing teeth, scars, ruined eyes. I was displaying a port-wine birthmark, created over two hours.

“Jess! Check this out!” It was Kaylee, her arm around a one-legged girl. “Her name’s Hazel.”

“That’s amazing!” I examined the stump. “Great work! But how?”

Hazel hesitated. “Car accident, actually.”

“Wait, it’s real?” Kaylee took her arm away.

“At least I fit in here, right?” Hazel laughed nervously.

Kaylee and I remained frozen, the illusion shattered. Finally, sensing this, Hazel adjusted her crutch and hobbled away.


Bye Bye Birdie

copyright Ted Strutz

Bye Bye Birdie

Me and the fellers are unwinding when one of them new auto-harvesters drives by. The ones that took our jobs and left us homeless by the highway.

“Ay, ya arshdriver!” Kenny shouts, flipping the double bird as it roars by. I flip it off too just as a piece sticking out chops off my right middle digit, clean as a butcher. It goes flying into the fire where Robbie’s cooking roadkill.

It’s nothing but ash now. Bad enough the bastards take my job, but now I can’t even flip the double bird in protest? It’s enough to make you misty-eyed.


Lasik for Cyclops

“Thanks for seeing me, Doctor. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. So it says here that you want to get corrective eye surgery, is that right, Mr. Summers?”

“Call me Scott. Yeah, I have wear this prescription eyewear and I wish there was a way so I didn’t have to all the time.”

“Alright, well just take it off and let’s take a look.”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t take off the visor?”

“If I do, I’ll shoot a beam of energy that will cut your office in half.”

“I see . . .”

“That’s why I want the surgery. You don’t know what it’s like having to wear this all the time: on the subway, at the beach, during my Civil War reenactment battles. If I hear the word ‘anachronism’ one time, I swear I will rain down holy hellfire on the entire 10th Louisiana Infantry Regiment. I will—”

“Okay, okay, well let’s see what we can do. So anytime you take the visor off—”

“Energy beams shoot out of my eyes.”

“And this doesn’t completely destroy your eyes?”

“I guess not. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to help you, Scott, since you would probably melt any instruments I tried to use to examine you. However, I do know a doctor with a revolutionary technique that might be just what you’re looking for. You can’t take off your visor so what he’ll do is make a prosthetic head that fits over your real head, visor and all. You can look through the eyes of the prosthetic head and be totally normal. It’s got a zipper up the back so you can take it off whenever you want, but no one can see it because the head comes with long, Favio-like hair.”

“And this guy’s legit?”

“Sure! He graduated top of his class from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.”

“Thanks, doc! I can’t wait to tell my girlfriend Jean. I’m going to be normal again!”

Just a little thought experiment into the lives of one of our favorite X-Men


The Stress You Need, When You Need it

“There is a major problem in education,” the superintendent said. The teachers all leaned forward in anticipation. If there was anyone who knew about how to fix education, it was upper management. The superintendent had just come back from a month-long convention about how technology could solve all problems. Since it was so long, it was called Long-Con.

“The problem,” the superintendent repeated, “is that the students with the most stress are the ones that don’t need it. These are the Peter Gowickis, the Emma Randolfs, the Amir Khans.” He flicked through a slideshow of student profiles and grades, breaking dozens of privacy laws simultaneously.

“These are the students who will work until 4:00 am to raise their grade from a 98% to a 99%. They are the ones who drive you nuts by doing every extra credit assignment five times. They are the ones who couldn’t fail a class if they robbed an F factory.”

The teachers all nodded. This was true. One geography teacher in the back wondered why anyone would make an F factory.

“Then we have the other group: the students who clearly need to stress about their work, but don’t; the ones who could easily pass if they just cared enough to do the work.”

He had their attention now. The sea of nodding heads was like slow-motion headbanging at the world’s most boring rock concert. “This is where Long-Con has come through for us again,” the superintendent said.

“There are two types of stress,” he continued, “eustress and distress. Eustress is the good stuff, the stuff that makes us get off our butts and do what we need to. It’s the crunch-time, bottom-of-the-9th stress makes us do our best. Distress is the bad stuff, the stuff that leaves us crying in the corner of the cafeteria because if we lose another chess game to Brian-freakin’-Grosnick, our dads are going to tan our hides.” He stopped. “As an example.”

He pointed to the screen behind him in a dramatic gesture. “Behold, the De-Re-Stressinator. What this does is take the distress from the good students, converts it to eustress, and gives it to the under-performing students. The high-performing ones are relaxed and happy, and the slackers are doing what they should. Win-win.”

He paused as the room erupted into a standing ovation. The superintendent had done it again. Was there anything the district office didn’t know?

The first trial was held with the Nick Riviera High School’s AP Honors Aeronautical Neurosurgery class and the Remedial Spelling class. The two classes were put in adjacent classrooms, with the De-Re-Stressinator in a broom closet between them. The teachers wore special goggles to keep from being either de- or re-stressed. They told the students they had recently had eye surgery.

“Who’s that having the panic attack in the front row?” the superintendent asked, pointing the AP class. He was watching the progress on hidden cameras from the principal’s office.

“That’s Arthur Dempsey,” the principal said. “He has a 5.5/4 GPA. He gets like that if he comes within 48 hours of a deadline without passing an assignment in.”

The superintendent looked into the other room. The students were either sleeping or throwing large foam letters around. Someone had just gotten a lower-case L in the eye.

“Turn it on,” he said. The principal pushed a button and turned a knob. The result was immediate. Arthur Dempsey relaxed and smiled. The ambient blood pressure in the room (measured by another gadget from Long-Con) went down 10 points (6 diastolic). In the other room, the foam letters stopped flying. Someone spontaneously formed a diphthong on their desk. The Ambition-meter ticked up a notch. A girl in the front row thought about starting her own business after graduation.

“This is great!” the superintendent said. “Let’s get lunch.”

They returned to the school to find the English teacher in tears in the hallway. “They just won’t stop,” she cried.

“Who?”

“The Remedial Spelling class. They’re in there, spelling every word they know. Jessica Brenner is reading the dictionary and trying to use every big word she sees. But the context is all wrong!”

“How about the AP Aeronautical Neurosurgery class?”

The teacher sniffed. “Last I heard, they were smoking weed behind the gym.” The superintendent sighed. “You know, I never thought Long-Con would steer me wrong. Live and learn, I guess. Well, get rid of the De-Re-Stressinator. We’ll just go back to controlling everyone with medication, like normal.”


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