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My second fairy tale is not doing as well in the polls as the first one did. So, if you liked it, please throw me a vote or two to keep me alive in LJ Idol.

http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/508975.html
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THE HAT TRICK
By Rabid1st
Beta Babes: [livejournal.com profile] keswindhover and [livejournal.com profile] thisficklemob
Rated: E for Everyone
Summary: Another fractured fairy tale.

Thomas Augustus McGuire was cursed at his birth with discernment. At first, it seemed more of a blessing. His parents were certainly pleased. They bragged of their baby’s quick mind, gleefully recounting his many accomplishments. He spoke early and came straight to the point. Young Tom had a good head on his shoulders. Everyone remarked upon it.

“That boy will go far,” they proclaimed.

But within a few years, Tom’s outspoken discernment began to take an unnatural toll. He knew precisely what to do to correct any situation. Was Cook’s oatmeal a tad bit too lumpy? Tom showed her the proper way to stir. Was Mama eating too many pot pies? Tom pointed out that fats made her frumpy. Suspecting his Papa was a fraud, Tom exposed his maleficence with a flourish.

Everyone agreed Tom was brilliant. Everyone declared he would know. But as time wore on fewer and fewer people took his advice. Nobody sought it. In fact, they began to avoid him. Not wanting to waste his gift, and well aware of the old adage about prophets having no honor in their own country, Tom set out to seek his fortunes on the road. Only his mother waved him on his way.

His first day of traveling led him to a crossroads. Tom used his gift of discernment to choose the proper path and headed into the forest. It wasn’t long before he met an old man wearing a ridiculous hat.

“That hat is too large and quite yellow,” Tom said.

“Oh, I know,” said the man, “and it jingles. But it makes me agreeable.”

“But how can a hat--?” Tom started to ask, momentarily baffled. But in the middle of speaking, his excellent mind went to work on the puzzle and prompted a different question. “Is it magic?”

“There’s magic in it. Yes,” the man said, though a side shift of his eyes and the tone of his voice indicated there was more to the story. The picture of gruff embarrassment, he tugged on his collar and scuffed a toe in the dirt. “You see, I once had a frightfully short temper,” he confessed, before lifting his gaze to meet Tom’s squarely. “My wife and my children despised me. My village sent me packing. It took years on the road to learn self control. But, now, I am as patient as a mountain top.”

“Because of your hat?”

“Anyone who wears it is instantly more likable.”

Tom did like the man, but he doubted his story. “I think it just makes you look silly.”

“Too true!” The man said pleasantly. “But that’s a small price to pay for goodwill.” Removing the hat from his head, he held it out to Tom. “I can see you are a man of discernment. So, here! Try it on.”

Tom’s gift told him to wave away the offer, but it also informed him he was not very likable. Torn, Tom decided a few minutes with the hat wouldn’t hurt. He put it on his head and instantly felt like a fool. Attempting to take it off again, he found it jingled quite a lot, but wouldn’t budge.

“It’s stuck.”

“Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention that,” said the man. “Once you’ve learned your lesson, you’ll find someone willing to take the hat from you. That’s part of the magic.”

“You tricked me,” Tom said, amazed that anyone could.

“I did,” the man admitted. “But, on the plus side,” he called over one shoulder, as he hurried on his way, “I like you much better already.”

Tom tried to follow the old man, but the hat kept interfering. It flapped in the breeze. It flopped into his face. He became so preoccupied with the unwieldy thing that he stopped watching where he was going. He tripped, fell and raged for a bit. But stomping about made the hat even harder to manage. Dangling strips of cloth wrapped around his throat. When he clawed those free, they swung in a wide arc. A jingle bell caught Tom in one eye. Momentarily blinded, he staggered into a bush. It took some time to untangle the hat from the brambles. Head to one side, as he worked to get free, Tom overbalanced. With a flail and a hoot, he blundered blindly downhill into a stream, slipped on the muddy bank and sat down hard. Water flowed around him as he sulked, hat over his eyes and arms crossed.

A trill of laughter accompanied by a chorus of titters rose above the babbling of the brook. Tom’s stomach lurched. The last thing he wanted was an audience. He peered out from under his hat. To his horror he found himself surrounded by a bevy of maids doing laundry. The most beautiful maid, the one with the tinkling laugh, seemed to be gazing at him with more goodwill than anyone had ever shown him. Tom noticed she had no idea how to scrub a shirt collar.

“You are doing that all wrong,” he told her, nodding at her work.

“Indeed, sir?” she said with a grin.

“Hold the brush firmly,” Tom said, attempting to get up, but sliding and splashing and jingling instead. “Make small circles as you…oof…bother…*Jingle*…oh, for Heaven’s sake…REALLY?” He forced himself to focus on the beautiful maid. “You must never use borax to…*Jingle*…aaahhhhhgh. Can somebody, please, help me?”

Tom had never asked for help in his life, but to his amazement it worked like a charm. All of the maids rushed forward to assist him. Many hands lifted him up and carried him to shore. The most beautiful of the maids cradled him and kissed his forehead. No one had ever assisted him before, even as a child. His parents had been far too intimidated by his capable ways. But the humble maids coddled him. They petted him and giggled and seemed to find his discerning remarks adorable. Tom left them feeling, that for once, someone had listened to his advice with an open mind.

The hat still weighed on him, of course. It was a fashion disaster and he longed to be rid of it. But he couldn’t deny, as he traveled on, that everyone he met seemed to view him with goodwill. Robbers let him pass unmolested. Knights gave him due consideration. Matrons and maids seemed charmed by his pronouncements, attending them as never before. Whole villages would turn out to greet him as his reputation for wisdom spread far and wide. He fell down quite a lot and was often disheveled, but his discernment had never been more welcome. Eventually, he was invited to the palace to serve as an advisor to the Queen.

“Tom,” she asked him one day, “What is more useful to a queen, great wisdom or great will?”

“Both are handy, Majesty,” he told her. “But I find what helps most in life is wearing the proper hat.”

The Queen touched a hand to her crown and laughed. “That’s very discerning of you,” she said.

***********************************************************

This is my entry for The Traveling Travesty, LJ IDOL ROUND 8. You can find all the entries for this topic HERE!
rabid1st: (Default)
If you enjoyed my entry, The Obliging Wardrobe...http://rabid1st.livejournal.com/339995.html

Please cast your vote my way...HERE!
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The Obliging Wardrobe
by Rabid1st
A bit of original fiction
Rating: E for Everyone
Beta Babe: [livejournal.com profile] keswindhover
Summary: This is something of a humor infused fairy-tale.

On a balmy evening in late summer, Belinda Collins, age 5, was eaten by a Lesser Horned Bandersnatch. The snapping, salivating horror burst out of an old wardrobe and devoured every scrap of her, right down to the illuminated patches on her Tinkerbell pajamas. A tragedy, of course, but it wasn’t an entirely unexpected occurrence. Belinda had, in fact, been expecting the monster (and dreading her demise) ever since her family had moved in to their creepy new home on Grimshaw Lane. The wardrobe had simply obliged.

Belinda’s sister, Becca, age 7, saw it happen. A sensible child, she hadn’t been expecting a monster to leap out of the wardrobe, and so she had survived to tell the tale. She tried in vain to explain what she’d witnessed, first to her parents, and then to the police, and finally, inevitably, to a series of psychiatrists. Nobody would listen or believe. Previously regarded as quite promising by her parents, Becca became a source of embarrassment to them, even as the missing Belinda became sanctified in memory.

Her father thought it might be best to move away from the house that had brought them so much grief, but Becca’s mother wouldn't hear of it. She hoped for the return of her vanished angel.

“What if she comes home and we aren’t here?”

“She’s never coming home,” Becca said, exasperation sharpening her tone. “She’s been eaten.”

“Take your medicine,” her father said. “And stop upsetting your mother.”

Becca took her medicine and, eventually, stopped telling her upsetting tale. She kept to her room, for the most part, keeping an eye on the obliging wardrobe. With daily practice, she schooled her mind to always expect the best. Clean sheets. Pretty dresses. Fluffy kittens. Satchels of cash.

By the time her parents died, Becca was as much a fixture in the Grimshaw Lane house as the wardrobe. She grew quite set in her ways. And if those ways were strange, the townspeople made allowances. Though they worried about her from time to time and wondered if something ought to be done about her weird and isolating lifestyle. Becca remained relentlessly untroubled by the expectations of others. She lived simply with half a dozen fluffy cats. Her life wasn't lonely from her perspective. She belonged to a book group, regularly attended church and kept a prize-winning garden. She never wanted for anything. The wardrobe always provided.

Until, one day on the far side of eighty-five, Becca thought she heard her sister calling to her. She went upstairs to her bedroom and pressed an ear against the wardrobe door. Surely, that was Belinda’s voice, she thought. And just for a second, before she opened the door, she had the slightest expectation of visiting her sister in heaven.

**************************

“Vanished,” Officer Ted Taylor said, while searching the Grimshaw Lane house later that month. “Just like her sister.”

“People don’t vanish, Ted,” Louisa Garza, his long suffering partner, countered. “She’s dropped dead somewhere. Her mind was starting to go, you know.”

Garza could smell something rotten, figuratively and quite literally, in the musty old home. She followed her nose up the stairs, dreading what she might find. There was sure to be a decomposing body up there, beside the bed or in the bath. She pushed open doors one after another, peering into rooms and closets, until she reached the obliging wardrobe. The stench of death nearly overwhelmed her as she moved closer to it.

Garza hated this part of her job. She knew exactly what she would see when she opened the wardrobe. Old lady Collins would be long dead, curled up in that tiny space. The poor, poor woman, trapped and dying alone, Garza thought as she reached a hand toward the door. But before she could turn the latch, one of Becca Collin’s abandoned cats leaped down on her. Louisa Garza reeled backward, catching the cat, but losing her balance. Her heel tangled in a throw rug. She gave a small yelp as she staggered to one side.

“You all right there?” Ted asked, laughing as he came into the room.

“Stupid cat,” Garza snarled.

Gently dropping the tabby to the floor, she straightened to see Ted reaching for the wardrobe handle. Before she could formulate a proper expectation of what was to come, he’d opened the door. The scent of decay evaporated in a puff of lavender and vanilla spice.

“Just as I thought,” Ted said, staring into the bare cupboard, “bupkis.

**********************************************

This is my entry for LJ Idol Round 7. Find All Entries For This Topic HERE!
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THE CANDY MAN

I once knew a portly man in a brown, three-piece suit. He had a quiet dignity. His fluffy white hair made him seem ancient to my seven-year-old eye, but he moved with the effortless grace of a young man. Every afternoon he walked down the dirt road past our rented bungalow. Coming home from work, I assume. I have no idea what he did for a living, maybe he was a banker or a lawyer. Wherever he came from each day, I noticed him soon after we arrived. He had little choice but to notice me. I bounced out to say hello on the third day of our acquaintance, and every day thereafter, frisking around him like a colt. We traveled the road together for the short span that kept me within sight of my house. One of my mother’s rules was to always stay within sight of the house. I could talk to him, though, because he wasn’t a stranger. His habits were like clockwork, so I always expected him.

One day, quite unexpectedly, he offered me some candy. He fished a cellophane-wrapped peppermint out of his pocket and held it out to me. I told him I would have to ask my mother. She didn’t generally allow me to eat candy. He told me he would wait. I ran back up the street and burst into our house with the grand news that some man in the street had offered me candy. My mother went to the window, twitching the curtain aside to peer out at the man in the brown suit. Then, she told me to remember to say thank you. I didn’t realize it, then, but that day marked the beginning of the end of my quiet walks with the portly man in the brown three-piece suit.

Word gets out about free candy. He brought me sweets every day for a few weeks. Single peppermints gave way to rolls of Lifesavers. Spontaneity gave way to planning. He began to ask me for my order and let me choose from several flavors. My mother had a weakness for the Butter Rum ones. I wasn’t much of a candy fan, though I would eat an occasional Wild Cherry from the Five Fruits. Mostly, I selected the Butter Rum.

I don’t know how the news spread, maybe someone saw us together. Maybe my mother blabbed. But the promise of free candy became the talk of the neighborhood. Soon I had a dozen other kids waiting with me, dancing attendance on the man in the suit. I became a sort of bait to catch his generosity, but in the rush and clamor of his arrival, my slight figure was quickly shunted to the back of the crowd. “Candy! Candy! Candy man!” the other kids would sing, hands out for the bounty.

The man in the brown suit didn’t seem to mind the press of children, the grasping hands. He would laugh over their antics, but I felt as if our special time had been stolen. Still, he always made me feel special. He waited until the rest were gone, some of them took forever to leave, and then he would draw out one final roll and hand it to me. “Butter Rum for my girl,” he would say, then I would with him to the corner. Before we parted, he always asked, “And what would you like tomorrow?”

The Candy Man became legendary in our neighborhood. Kids said he had a treasure room full of candy. There was talk of a daring raid to liberate the loot. The bigger kids hunted down his house. It was only two blocks away, a huge Tudor-style mansion, lurking behind a seven-foot tall hedge with an ornate wrought-iron gate. My babysitter's kids turned out to be his neighbors. They were not the best neighbors to have.

They tormented his wife, a stick-figured female of delicate elegance who seemed to hate children. They called her the wicked witch and challenged one another to get as close to her as possible, springing out of the hedge to make her scream. I didn’t play those games, because I thought the Candy Man might like his wife and I liked him. I once asked him why he didn’t have kids of his own and he said, “I do have kids, just not here.” I didn’t ask if his wife was really a witch, even though I was strongly tempted. We never asked too much of one another, we just liked to walk along together at the end of our days.

Years later, discussing him with my mom, I learned that she’d always known who he was. Grown-ups? Go figure! They never tell you anything! It seems the Candy Man was famous in our town. His only child, a son, had died in a private plane crash. After that, his wife had fallen into a hopeless depression. She never left their property, except to go to church. He did all of the shopping and chores. He lived a lonely isolated life, walking home every day to that cheerless house behind the tall hedge. I guess it was a good thing I introduced him to those other kids, even if they were annoying, because when I moved away, he still had everyone else to keep him company. But I've always wondered if, after I was gone, he looked for me in the crowd...if he missed me...if he always kept an extra roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers in his pocket, just in case.

****** This is my entry for LJ Idol Week 6 *****
Find All Entries For This Topic HERE!
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Everyone is free to vote, even non-members...so if you enjoyed my story about the AMC Gremlin...vote for ME...me, me, me!

http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/497416.html

SIGH! This narcissism stuff is exhausting.
rabid1st: (Default)
So far on LJ Idol, I haven't felt confident recommending anyone. The level of writing is pretty consistent and I didn't want to pick out one person from all of the rest. But for the first time, an entry did such a good job on the Topic, in my less than humble opinion, that I feel I must recommend it to the more general audience of my FList.

It is on the current topic: What Does Narcissism Have To Do With Me?

And I think, since we all share this experience, my FList will easily relate to the particular form of narcissism this entry illustrates. I give you [livejournal.com profile] monkeysugarmama stressing out over her Facebook....

http://monkeysugarmama.livejournal.com/52917.html
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If you’ve heard this one before, feel free to start laughing at me now.

This is a story about fossilized sheep shit. Twenty years of the stuff and how I set out, with youthful idealism and zeal, to save thirty or more innocent little lambs from festering away in a bog of it.

Once upon a time I was a shepherdess. If you are picturing one of those ceramic figurines…me with a newborn lamb in my arms and a collie dog at my feet, perhaps…please allow me to slap you with some reality and otherwise disabuse you of all of your romantic notions. Shepherding isn’t picturesque. And commercial sheep keeping isn’t pastoral. Well, technically, it is…quite literally, if you can believe the dictionary.

pas•to•ral
   [pas-ter-uh l, pah-ster-]
adjective
1.
having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or othercharacteristics generally attributed to rural
areas.
2.
pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural;rustic.
3.
portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the country, as a work of literature, art, or music:pastoral poetry; a pastoral symphony.
4.
of, pertaining to, or consisting of shepherds.

Of course, anyone who has read The Professor and the Madman knows half of those dictionary writing chaps were out of their minds. I certainly wouldn’t call anything pertaining to shepherding charming, serene or idyllic.

Shepherding in my experience is messy, tedious, backbreaking and thankless work. It is basically chasing sheep around, for hours on end, day in and day out. All of those stories about lost sheep exist because sheep excel at getting lost. They can get lost in a gas station restroom. They can get lost while being followed by Google Satellite tracking. They can get lost in an open air pen measuring thirty-feet across with only one exit. That’s why they need herding, while most other animals herd themselves.

And it was once my job to herd sheep. Armed only with a long stick and my supposedly superior intellect, I attempted to outwit, outplay and outlast two hundred lanolin-excreting, vermin-proliferating bundles of wool on legs. If you have never tried maneuvering a flock of sheep from pen to pen through a series of heavy iron gates and maze-like chutes, while simultaneously slipping and sliding in four to five feet of rotting sheep poo, count yourself blessed by the gods. These pens I speak of had been home to countless generations of sheep before I arrived on the scene.

And the pens had never been cleaned.

Let me repeat that! The pens had never been cleaned. Not once. Not in over twenty years. It was a point of pride for the farm manager. “These pens,” he told me, “Have never been cleaned. Because sheep shit is biodegradable.”

Maybe! But, trust me when I say, biodegrading is best admired from a distance. Up close it creates an odiferous swill with a crust of slippery stink. Furthermore, it is a breeding ground for all manner of infestations and infections. And our sheep were dropping newborn lambs into this quagmire. I was outraged by such callous treatment of our dumb chums. Sheep might be incredibly annoying, but they didn’t deserve to live in abject squalor. I was, also, by this time, mighty tired of slipping and falling into filth sixteen times a day.

So, I took a stand. I walked straight into my manager’s office and demanded something be done about the condition of the sheep pens. The farm manager handed me a shovel. I took the shovel to my coworker, Tim, and explained our moral obligations, little lambs counting on us, etc. Tim took my stand in stride. I liked that about Tim. And he, quite sensibly, went to find a backhoe.

We worked diligently on cleaning the Aegean stables most of that day and were feeling mighty proud of ourselves, heroes to the helpless lambs, when we hit a small snag. The blade of the backhoe struck a water main. There was a mighty rumble, followed by an awful pause. And then a fountain of fossilized (and, unfortunately, all too fresh) sheep shit shot twenty feet into the air, carrying along with it a bevy of nature’s own biodegraders--millipedes, roaches, worms and other dung eaters. Creepy, crawly crap showered down on Tim and me for what seemed like an eternity. We danced about. We cursed. We sputtered. And we retreated in defeat. The sheep watched us go. After a minute or two, the passing of time put all of our commotion out of their wooly minds. They advanced as a flock and started swilling down (what I have to believe was) some pretty shitty water from the farm’s fancy new fountain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*fossilized dung (usually the dinosaur kind, I believe). But I've never herded dinosaurs, so I am working with what I know.

This is my entry for The Real LJ Idol Entry #3. I would really appreciate a vote (or 46) if you have that within your power. But other very talented people have also entered. Find All Entries For This Topic HERE!
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Here we go. Here we go.

This means war. War is hell. What the F***!

Give me liberty. Give me death.

Keep it simple. Shake it up.

I love you. We are through.

I’m just kidding. We are one.

Time is fleeting. Yes, it is.

I love words. As a writer, they are the tools of my craft. As a poet, I play with them. I don’t know when I first became fascinated by them, but there is actual evidence that I’ve been a poet since childhood. I offer you my first poem:

The cat sat on a mat.

The cat saw a rat.

I want that

said the cat.


It doesn’t scan very well, I know, but I was only in the second grade when I wrote it. I have, also, begun to suspect it isn’t very original. But the point I am making here is that words are a big deal to me and always have been. Words can wound. They can heal. Even the smallest ones can have a huge impact, changing the shape of reality in the space of a heartbeat.

Mom is gone.

Words have resonance and associated connotations. Let them linger. Savor them on the tongue. Remember they are metamorphic, symbols of things and always transitioning. Take the word gay. Once a happy-go-lucky fellow, it is now often spoken in the dramatic stage whisper with accompanying shifty-eye syndrome. Is it a bad word? George Carlin assured us there are no bad words. “There are bad thoughts, bad intentions. And…words!” I would apply the same principle here. There are little ideas and petty intentions, and then there are…words.

One little word can change the meaning of an entire document…for example, when “I” becomes “we," responsibilities shift. Lives are irrevocably altered when moving out becomes moving in. Or I love you becomes I love him. As for the littlest words, the all too common articles, “a, an, the”, well…as the Doctor told Harry Sullivan, “You might be a doctor, but I’m the Doctor. The definite article, you might say.”

One little word is all it takes to turn a positive into a negative. Yes or no. String three little words together and you might just change the world. Yes, we can! No, we can’t. I did it. You did it. This means something.

*****
This is my entry for Round 2/Topic 2 of LJ Idol at [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. The BBC would like you to know that other entries are available on this topic and you can find them HERE!
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Every day I’m shuffling. Like it or not. Sore feet or not. Shamans dance. We shuffle. We sway. We face right. We face left. North. South. East. West. Never mind my twisted joints, my muscle spasms…my lack of rhythm…I just keep moving. To live is to suffer. Or so the Buddhists tell us. Life doesn’t wait for you; it is like the city bus in that respect, and in many others. Life. Death. Sick. Well. Happy. Sad. The wheel of life turns on and on. A shaman turns in imitation of that wheel, around her group, her tribe, measuring out the circumference of the sacred circle. We bless endeavors and spaces. We pray. The circle was the first church, according to those who’ve studied these things.




It was a shaman who designed Prehistory’s medicine wheels. Like Bighorn, above, they were drawn in the sand, often outlined with small stones. Or majestic ones, in fact, because Stonehenge might well be such a sacred circle.

But a circle is, also, by its very nature, exclusive. One day you’re in and the next day you’re out. Who likes them odds? What if you feel unworthy at your core? What if you are not the same as everyone else? What about those who exist outside the blessed space? Are they unprotected? If we are us, then they are them. But the universe is a whole thing, one thing, though it has many parts. Shamanism teaches us there is nothing outside or beyond creation. No us. No them. No space that isn’t blessed and safe and sacred. The Great Everywhere Spirit is everywhere.

So why circle at all?

We circle to remind ourselves that life is about wheels not walls. There are no corners. We cannot hide. There is no way to get lost and forgotten forever. When you move in a circle, whichever direction you take leads you back to your starting place, back to yourself. We have met the enemy and they are us, according to Pogo. But then, we quite like us, right? We always have the best ideas. If only everyone else could be part of us. It has always been the job of a Shaman to define the tribe, to set the parameters of the circle, but it is not coincidence that a medicine wheel in sand is easily erased and recreated. I move my feet as I pray, because I know someone is out there waiting to have a circle drawn around them.

This has been an entry for Real LJ Idol: Topic 1 To Find All The Entries For This Topic CLICK HERE!
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How many of you have asked yourself, "When is this journal going to feature some interesting writing again?"

Or, really, any writing that isn't a sketchy review of Supernatural or Doctor Who or a reiteration of my grumpy attitude toward SUV owners?

Well, count your lucky stars my patient readers, because, not only is there a good chance that Wild Geese 2 is on the way (seriously, and for sure) but I have also decided to join LJ Idol to force myself back into the writing game. No longer will I sit idle on the sidelines. I will struggle and puff. It will not be exactly like that time I tried to force myself back into my prom dress, but there will be some startling similarities. Obviously, most of the strain will be on me, but help out if you feel motivated. You could push or pull or cheer or call some fireman.

What is LJ Idol, you ask? It is a writing competition that is on its Eighth Season. It has come to my notice, and yours, due to a link for it on LJ Spotlight. Basically, it is an elimination competition where contestants journal on a "topic of the week" and face the vote.

You will have something new to read each week. I will hopefully be inspired to write more. And you will be empowered to vote me off the island. Or save me from the dreaded walk of shame, down the plank, into a shark tank, where I will be forced to room with Muppets or the cast of Gossip Girls.

You can also compete. Just go here and sign up...

http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/485253.html

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