Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Egg Foo Duh

I normally don't expect too much from my fortune cookies. Evidently, they also don't expect much from me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stories on Demand: Part Two

Submitted words: catechumenate, apoplectic, joy, nefarious, hemorrhoid, cellar door, plethora, facetious, caterwaul, implied vulgarities.

Chiquita seemed like the perfect pet name for his late wife (as she was rather diminutive), but the general public understood that it was bestowed in the same spirit as calling a hefty man Slim. Although she may have been tiny, her temper was larger than life. Passionate and volatile, she was prone to dramatic outbursts and fits of apoplectic rage, one of which had proven quite literal and left Harvey a widower three years earlier.

There had been few attendees at her funeral, and no one had anything especially glowing to say. Even the priest officiating fought the urge to describe her as “eight feet of trouble in a five foot body,” and he’d known her since her catechumenate.

Harvey, for his part, found Chiquita exciting. He rode out her wild mood swings as others might ride a roller coaster – both hands in the air and screaming. He emerged from each encounter disheveled and perhaps a bit dizzy, but thrilled.

He assumed she took equal joy in their exchanges, though he never asked directly. She could unleash a plethora of insults at the slightest provocation. Rather than calling him a pain in the ass, she referred to him as a hemorrhoid that she simply could not get rid of. She often hurled this invective at him when they were running errands together in town. Believing her to be facetious, Harvey seemed oblivious to the stares.

Most people who knew her heaved a collective, albeit guilty, sigh of relief when this nefarious little woman went into the ground. The more immediate neighbors gave silent thanks for an end to the frequent late-night caterwauling. And Harvey, bereft of any dynamic influences, settled into a predictable life free of both implied vulgarities and companionship.

He visited her monthly, without fail. While others seemed more than willing to forget her, Harvey worked hard to remember. He found it comforting to see her name etched carefully into the headstone. “Beloved wife” proved that she had, in fact, walked next to him for a time; he liked to trace the words before leaving.

On this visit, however, his finger encountered a new pattern of grooves. Scratched faintly into the stone just below the dates, barely legible, were two words: "cellar door."


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stories on Demand: Part One

Submitted words: stalker, fantastic, omelet, Chiquita, sphygmomanometer, Branagh, strenuous, pompadour, luminescent, hypothetical.

When Harvey Branagh left his house that day, he had no idea that he would never return. Nothing about the morning’s events indicated that things would be any different than usual. 

He woke before his alarm, showered, shaved, fixed himself an omelet and ate it standing over the stove. Another person might have considered cooking in the nude a tad dangerous, but he was careful. It was eggs and vegetables, after all, not weld spatter. And if a neighborhood stalker wanted so badly to see his junk, he supposed he oughtn't disappoint.

He didn’t squeeze into his suit until the last possible minute. Although threadbare and a bit snug, it matched his shiny pompadour as woefully out of date. People passing him on the street couldn’t tell whether he was being ironic or simply behind the times, but he gave the impression that he thought he looked rather fantastic.

Well, there was something to be said for self-confidence.

You’d think that a large, impressively coiffed man the wrong side of 50 grinding up a hill on a 10-speed bike might draw some attention, but you’d be wrong. Passersby witnessing this strenuous effort were accustomed to the spectacle. It was the first of the month.

He was red-faced and huffing when he reached the top. To his eternal relief, the ground leveled just as he felt his heart would burst from his chest. He knew he was not the picture of health. His doctor, brandishing a sphygmomanometer, had recently informed him that he should be wary of exerting himself this way. Regular, low-impact exercise was the first step, he’d said. Start slow, he’d said. But he had to press on. He was late.

After another mile and a quarter, the cemetery slid into view. He wound down a narrow path, his tires slotting expertly into the grooves they'd worn in the grass.

Though the grounds were overgrown with weeds, there was one well-tended headstone in the northeast corner. The plastic flowers lent a splash of color by day, and the solar landscape lights bathed the plot in a soft, luminescent glow at night. He'd stayed till dark after he installed them, just to make sure.

Leaning his bike carefully against a nearby tree, Harvey paused to collect himself. Hypothetically, this should be getting easier, not harder. He pressed his palm onto the warm granite.

"Hello, Chiquita."