Category Archives: Light

The Secret Conversations of Kids

Alice sat in the café in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and sipped her coffee, watching her daughter Priscilla romp around, burning off excess energy. The other moms were discussing toilet training, but luckily Alice was through that by now.

“Mom, I want my cell phone,” Priscilla said. Alice pulled the plastic flip phone from her purse and handed it to her four-year-old daughter. It was a dollar-store variety that didn’t even take batteries and had a sticker for a screen.

Priscilla grabbed the phone and flipped it open with one hand. For a while, she went around the café, holding the phone up and pretending to take pictures of the display of baked goods, the walls, the cups for sale, even other patrons.  A few stopped to flash smiles and pose while Priscilla squinted at the sticker screen, moving the phone until it was in just the right position. Alice tried to keep an eye on her as she moved around.

Priscilla wandered back, flipping the phone open and shut. Then she looked down at it, flipped it open and put it to her ear.

“Hello?” She listened a moment. “Oh, really? I’m at the coffee shop now. Where are you?”

One of the other moms asked Alice a question and she turned to answer. Priscilla continued to talk and listen for a long time. She started to pace back and forth, her frizzy hair bouncing. At one point, she held the phone between her cheek and her shoulder to use both hands to gesticulate.

“I-O-WA,” she said, making lines in the air with her finger as if she were spelling the word. “I-O-WA.” She stopped and listened for a bit. “No!” she exclaimed. “Oh. My. Goodness.”

“They start early, don’t they?” one of the moms said, and the others tittered and agreed. They were all watching Priscilla’s antics now. A two-year-old of one of the other moms toddled up to Priscilla, reaching for the phone. Priscilla made a shushing gesture and turned away, cupping her hand around the phone.

“It’s amazing the things they pick up from us,” Alice said. “It makes me worried what else they notice.”

“Okay, bye!” Priscilla snapped the phone shut.

“Have a good talk?” Alice asked. Priscilla only nodded happily and bounced away to take more pictures.

*     *     *

“That’s quite a talk you had,” Subin said to her son Hojun when he stopped talking. They were walked from his preschool back to their apartment in Pohang, Korea.

She put the toy cell phone back in her purse. “I don’t know where you come up with this stuff sometimes. Honestly, I don’t even know where Iowa is.”

 

This was inspired by sitting in my local coffee shop today, seeing a little girl carry on a similar conversation on her toy cellphone.


Rare Steaks

I got this idea for last week’s Friday Fictioneers, but couldn’t fit it satisfactorily into 100 words, so I am posting it as a stand-alone with a different picture.

Rare Steaks

The driver backed the truck inexpertly up to the loading dock of the meat market. The manager was waiting when he got out. “I got a shipment for you,” the driver said.

The manager nodded. “You’re not the regular guy. Where’s Todd these days?”

“This is a special load. I thought I’d come by and see if you were interested in it.” The driver fumbled with the latch and opened up the back.

“Hey, it’s all fresh. Is this locally sourced?”

“Yep, it’s from the area.”

The manager picked up a package and inspected it. The meat was cut into irregular pieces. Whoever processed it must have been new on the job. “You know, we usually cut it up here. What is this, veal?”

“Uh, yeah. Veal.”

“Sure, I’ll take it. I can sell it at a discount. Lemme get some guys to unload it. Just hold on.” The manager called for a few employees to start unloading the truck, then sat down and picked up a newspaper. The driver stood by uncertainly.

“What do you think about that boy scout troop that disappeared a few days ago?” the manager asked conversationally. “Crazy, eh? You think they’ll find them soon?”

“I’m sure they’re fine. They’ll turn up,” the driver said.

The manager pointed to the picture of the missing troop in the paper. “You know, you kind of look like their troop leader.”

“My . . . twin brother. We’re all shook up about it.”

“Well, thoughts and prayers and all that.” The manager looked up and pointed. “Geez, what’s that?”

A strip of dark green cloth lay on the floor of the truck, uncovered as the men unloaded the truck. The driver stepped over and snatched it up. The manager caught a glimpse of merit badges sewed in rows on it as the driver pushed it into a plastic bag.

“My nephew’s,” the driver explained. “He was going to a scout meeting when I was loading the truck. Must have left it.”

“Well, he’s going to miss his sash,” the manager said. “You’d better wash that good before you give it back. It looks pretty fouled with blood and juice.”

“So, how can I get paid?” the driver asked tentatively.

“We’ll send it to you by next week,” the manager said, going back to his paper.

“Could I get it now, in cash?”

The manager looked up, frowning. “In cash? No, that’s not how we work.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, they’ve got the truck unloaded. I’ll just go now.”

“See ya.” The manager flipped a page. What a weirdo, he thought.

 

Breaking News! The local TV station’s chyron screamed the next day. Carnage at Santa’s Village!

“Police uncovered a grisly scene this morning at the local Santa’s Village which is closed for the season,” the reporter said. “The entire herd of reindeer that is housed on the grounds was found slaughtered. The culprits were soon found in the area, the missing scout troop 3245. Their leader has been arrested for child endangerment, theft, and illegally trying to sell the meat to a local market. He insists it was all for a fundraiser so the boys could attend the national jamboree.

“Scout officials confirm that the boys have been reprimanded, but will also receive their merit badge in poaching.”


Anna and Me and the Sa-shee-mee

Anna and Me and the Sa-shee-mee

Anna and me and 30 crates of future sa-shee-mee are stuck on I-90C, America’s only interstate canal. A kayak’s jackknifed up ahead, blocking both directions, and our fishies are stewing in the sun, slowly turning into gumbo.

“We’re on water,” Anna says. “Ya gotta think outside the boat.”

She grabs a fine-mesh net and I start dumping in the crates while she gets snorkeled up. There’s a splash and then she’s getting pulled along like a professional fish-walker.

“I couldn’t hold ‘em,” she gasps when I find her twenty miles later.

Danged if that wasn’t the fishies’ plan all along.

 

*sa-shee-mee

 


Turning a Blind Eye

Happy New Year, and yay I’m back and not dead!

Although it might have seemed like it, I haven’t given up on writing. In fact, I have been writing nonstop for the last year, doing a series of five books for my nieces and nephews. Those are finally done and now I have a little more time on my hands, although admittedly I have another six (slightly shorter) books planned for this year.

Nibling 16 books

I am going to try to post more stories on the blog this year. It’s not a resolution since those tend not to last; I’m just going to try.

And now, a story.

Turning a Blind Eye

It was a hard call to make, but I finally got up my nerve to pick up the phone.

“Hey John, I can’t make it into work today,” I said when my boss answered.

I heard the expected sigh. “What is it this time?”

“I’m blind.”

“You’re blind?” Skepticism dripped off the words, probably leaving little scorch marks on the floor of John’s kitchen or wherever he was at the moment.

“Yeah . . . it’s complicated.”

“Well it had better get uncomplicated fast,” he said. “This is your fifth absence this month. Heather’s going to burn the office if she has to cover for you much more.”

“I’ll try to regain my sight by tomorrow,” I said.

“See that you do,” was all he said before he hung up.

I put the phone down, felt my way to the living room recliner, and sat alone in the dark for a moment. Then I said out loud, “Okay, let’s talk about this.”

It sounds strange, but my eyes were on strike. To be fair, I had been treating them badly lately. Besides that unfortunate bout of pinkeye a month back, I often fall asleep with my contacts in and have to pry them off my eyeballs the next morning.

The final straw, though, was when I looked at the sun the day before. It wasn’t for very long—just a second—but my vision suddenly went black.

“Enough of this,” a voice in my head said. “These are unreasonable working conditions. We’re on strike.”

Luckily for me, I had been at home. I felt my way inside and sat down in the living room.

“Who are you?” I said. It took a while to answer. My ears are quiet, passive things and don’t like to make a fuss, but eventually they passed the message along to my eyes.

“We’re your eyes.” There was only one voice, but with just a slight echo, as if there were two voices speaking at exactly the same time. “We’re tired of you taking advantage of us all the time. We’re important and we’re not working again until conditions change.”

It was early evening about then, and I wanted supper. I tried to call for pizza, but after accidentally calling my Uncle Joe five times in a row, I gave up and ate half a loaf of bread and two bananas that were on my kitchen counter.

Everything was still dark, but even now and then little slogans would drift across my vision. EYES ARE THE WINDOW OF THE SOUL!  THERE IS NO “EYE” IN OPPRESSION! I pointed out that there was an “i” in oppression, but it wasn’t appreciated.

Around 8:00pm there was talk about getting a union together. Since it was my body, I kind of had a general idea of what was going on, although I wasn’t sure how. The eyes first tried to form the UEO (United Essential Organs), but the heart and lungs pointed out that eyes weren’t strictly essential in the same way the torso organs were and that they would be cold in our collective grave before they took orders from a pair of brown-irised head marbles.

No one even tried to approach the brain since that was clearly management.

It was 9:30 and I was trying to listen to the radio (good old ears) when the eyes gave up on the UEO and came up with the SOC (Sense Organ Cooperative). The nose came on board immediately in a sympathy strike and I stopped smelling the popcorn I had just succeeded in burning. Taste went soon after since taste does whatever smell says.

The ears were still holding out, saying they just wanted to keep doing their job and not cause any trouble. After all, I hadn’t jammed any Q-tips down there and never listened to obnoxiously loud rock music.

The skin couldn’t get a consensus among its various types of nerve receptors, but I felt some numb spots for a while and random hot flashes. I fell asleep with slogans like “The brain needs you, you don’t need the brain” and “Fair labor practices are a sight for sore eyes!” parading across my vision.

The next day, after I talked to John, I sat in my recliner, trying to get the striking organs to come to the bargaining table. I didn’t want to be blind my whole life, and I really didn’t want to lose my job. However, once I got them talking, it was easy. The eyes demanded better sunglasses and eye drops twice a day. The nose just asked that I never take a job cleaning out septic tanks.

Sure. Whatever.

After giving my word, my eyesight slowly came back, along with my senses of smell and taste. Finally.

I was just about to call John and tell him I wasn’t blind anymore when I felt a clenching somewhere deep in my bowels.

“You know,” a small voice said, “I don’t want to sound like a butthole, but I’m feeling very unappreciated. I’m not moving anymore until you hear my demands.”

Enough of this. I headed to the pharmacy to pick up a bottle of “strike buster”.


Equal Opportunity Employer

FF193 Sarah Potter

copyright Sarah Potter

Night of the Living Job Applicant, Jessica thought as the man shuffled in, clutching a scribbled resume. IT guys were scruffy, but not usually abandoned-corpse scruffy.

“Job.” The voice was like dusty silk.

Taking the crumpled resume, Jessica noticed a gap between the shirt and glove. There was no skin, just thick threads running next to white bone.

The eyes were glassy, unfocused. She got the feeling this was less a person than a machine, being controlled from the inside.

Still, they were an equal opportunity employer.

“Any experience in web design?”

The head jerked once. Up. Down. “Oh yes.”

 


Five, Maybe Six

Jeremy stared at the bread, horrorstruck. It was the fifth heart.

Maybe the sixth.

Last week, he’d gone to a fortuneteller and somehow a seven-of-hearts had gotten stuck in the tarot deck. The fortuneteller gamely forged ahead, declaring he would die after seeing seven hearts.

Now he’d seen five—maybe six: that cloud had either been a heart or a camel.

Jeremy finished making his sandwich and left for work. Stepping outside, he heard a screech of metal. He looked up just as the heart from a new erotic cake bakery sign bore down.

It wasn’t a camel, he thought.

 


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