Sunday, September 29, 2013

poemwrig1 The Deep End

The Deep End
by Wim Wright


Move your feet
Like you’re riding a bicycle.
That’s it
You’re doing great!

Don’t let go!

I won’t let go
Till you’re ready.
Look at you
You’re swimming!

I’m not really swimming.
You’re holding me up.

I’m not holding you up.
I’m just holding your hand.
If I let go
You’d see.

I’m scared.

That’s alright
I’m here.
I won’t let you drown.

Even if you let go?

Even if I let go
I’m still here.
I won’t let you drown.

Patricia Gebhard Wright
born: 3-25-1925
died: 9-29-2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

fictmcfa6 Hazel Part 3 Hazel Charms the Head Resident

Note – this is the third installment of the story of Hazel the rabbit Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.


Hazel Part 3 Hazel Charms the Head Resident

by Stanley W. McFarland


I had a basement room. There were three other rooms on my floor and a wing of three rooms for grad students. Storage, the showers for everyone in the dorm and an extra large bathroom took up the rest of the floor. With so few neighbors and the cooperation of the three other undergrads on my floor I was beginning to think I might be able to keep Hazel’s presence a secret after all.

Miles, our head resident lived in an apartment on the first floor with his wife Cindy and two year old daughter, Myla. I never knew another Myla, before or since. Maybe she was supposed to be a boy and named Miles Jr.

Their living room was directly over me.

Miles must have heard me in the lobby because he came out his apartment less than a minute after I arrived.

So what are you building down there?”

It didn’t occur to me that Miles would hear me and be worried that I was damaging the room.

Karl, one of my fellow apple stealers turned to me. “You better show him.”

Show me what?” Miles was a seminary student across the street. Though he was an old married guy in his late twenties, he liked hanging out with the rest of us. He wasn’t the sort of head resident that tried to get guys in trouble. I had to trust him.

C’mon downstairs and meet Hazel.”

Hazel? Who’s Hazel?”

Karl just smiled. When you’re in your late teens and early twenties there’s a fiendish delight in watching someone else get in trouble. Of course you don’t want to see your friend arrested or thrown out of school but this was just serious enough to be trouble and not serious enough to get me thrown out.

Karl was in heaven. I couldn’t blame him. I’d feel the same way if it had been him.

You don’t have a dog down there, do you?”


I figured that if I told Miles I had a rabbit, he would just tell me to get rid of it. My only chance was if Hazel could win him over. Miles, Karl and I walked down the stairs through the oversized bathroom and toward my room.

Miles looked at Karl several times along the way but Karl didn’t say a word. He just kept smiling.

I opened the door and Hazel was out in the middle of the floor. She turned her head to see who was coming in but made no attempt to get out of the room and showed no fear at the presence of a new stranger.

A rabbit!”

This is Hazel.”

As soon as Karl closed the door behind us, Hazel started hopping around the room. She cautiously approached Miles who reached down his hand. She leaned into his hand as he scratched behind her ears.

She’s pretty friendly.”

She likes people.”

Aren’t you afraid she’ll poop on your floor?”

She has her box for that. You see any poop on the floor?”

Control is hard for young bunnies and Hazel had left little brown balls around before. I was glad she hadn’t this time.

How’d you box train her?”

I just asked her.”

Miles gave me a look like I was putting him on. I didn’t blame him for not believing me. I was having a hard time believing it myself.

Karl, who could see I wasn’t in any immediate trouble, reached over and petted Hazel. “She does tricks, Miles.”


Karl and I sat on the bed while Miles sat at my desk. Hazel started running around the room and from that into her sliding game. She bumped into a few things and we all laughed.

Karl nodded at Miles. “Stand in the middle of the room.”


Don’t worry about it. The bunny’s not going to hurt you.”

Miles shot Karl a look but he stood up from the chair and stepped out on the floor. Hazel had only done her jump look once. Would she do it again? Miles was more than half a foot taller than me; could she jump that high?

Hazel circled around to the farthest corner from Miles and began to charge right at him.


Hazel did fall a couple inches short of Mile’s eye level but the result was impressive non-the-less. As she had with me, she looked him straight in the eye at the top of her leap, turned a hundred and eighty degrees in the air and hit the ground running away from him.

She meant to do that?”

I can’t think why else she’d do it.”


I think she likes the reaction.”

She has a sense of humor?”

Can you think of any other reason?”

Miles was baffled but he was also charmed. He sat back down in the chair. Hazel went and used her box, then hopped out and jumped up in my lap.

You’re really not supposed to have pets here, you know.”

I didn’t say anything. Whatever I said would only break Hazel’s magic.

Miles tried to look serious but then started laughing. “Cindy’s gotta see this rabbit.”

fictmcfa5 Sister Esther

Sister Esther

by Stanley W. McFarland


Barry winked at Esther as he dumped the dishes from his table in the soak bucket. “You should have been a nun,” he said.

Esther laughed. “I don’t think they take Lutherans.”

Barry was the last ‘customer’ of the morning. Esther ran a wet rag over the counter, though she would be cleaning it more thoroughly in a few minutes. She wished, not for the first time, that Community Care Center served lunch as well as breakfast and dinner. She would like to stay a few more hours.

“Whew!” said Andrea, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Barbara, the director. “I sure am glad that’s over!”

“You don’t like the work?” asked Esther as she stacked the serving trays.

“Not at all!”

“Then why do you do it?”

“Why do I do the breakfast shift? Cause if I didn’t, Mom would make me work dinner, and then I wouldn’t get any time with my friends.”

“You could move out.”

Andrea snorted. “With what – play money? The only jobs out there are part time – nothing pays enough to get a place of my own.”

“I see,” said Esther, sorry she had asked.

“Yeah,” said Andrea. “If I’m going to be a slave five hours a day, I might as well get it over with early.”

Esther nodded her head, and then placed the trays on the cart with the soak bucket and rolled the cart into the kitchen before Andrea could say anything more about the time of the day that gave her life meaning. Barbara was in the kitchen working the dishwasher. The steam had plastered a lock of her curly blond/grey hair flat against her forehead and into her eyes. Esther parked the cart and pushed the unruly lock back under her friend’s hair net.

“Thanks,” said Barbara. “Everybody happy today?”

“We got a few thank yous,” said Esther.

“Any complaints?”

“No – not from the customers, anyway.”

Barbara lifted the sides of the commercial dish washer – a used gift from Carlotta’s Italian Restaurant when they upgraded to a newer model. A cloud of steam rushed out of the machine into Barbara’s face. She was already red and looked exhausted.

“I could do that,” Esther offered.

“Thanks, but no,” said Barbara. “This thing’s a little temperamental. I know its idiosyncrasies.”

“Alright,” said Esther, rinsing one of the cleaner pans and filling it with water. She added a mixture of soap and bleach, tossed in a scrub sponge and threw a dry cloth over her shoulder. “If you taught me – I could give you a break once in a while.”

“You’re a saint,” said Barbara. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Esther took the pan out to the serving counter. Andrea was sitting at one of the tables smoking a cigarette. She put it out when Esther came in.

“You won’t tell - will you?” she asked.

“You’re not twelve,” said Esther. “Why should it matter?”

“I’m not supposed to smoke in here,” said Andrea. “They passed a law.”

Esther only nodded. She didn’t pay much attention to that sort of thing. She got to work on the serving area, scrubbing from the top down. Andrea stared at her briefly. Maybe she was waiting for Esther to agree not to tell on her. After a while she retreated to the kitchen – returning with the bucket and mop. Esther didn’t recall Andrea sweeping the floor, or even wiping down the tables, but she didn’t say anything. She just worked the serving area – cleaning as if it were an operating table.

After a few desultory strokes, Andrea gave out a deep sigh and leaned on her mop. “What’s your deal, anyway?” she said.

“My deal?”

“I mean, you’re here every day. Nobody pays you. Why do you do it?”

Esther didn’t have a ready answer to that question – at least not one she thought Andrea might accept. “Your Mom’s here every day too,” she said finally.

“She gets paid,” said Andrea.

It was true that as director, Barbara got a salary, though it wasn’t the kind of job anyone would take on for the money alone. Barbara took the job for the same reason Esther volunteered – it gave her life meaning, but how could she explain that to someone like Andrea? Instead, she just shrugged and worried a hardened spot of egg off one of the chrome supports.

“You’re gay, right?” said Andrea at last.

Esther looked up. Andrea was smirking as if she had discovered a secret Esther was trying to hide.

“I mean,” said Andrea, “you’re not married – no kids. You don’t even have a dog. Do you have a thing for my mom?”

Now it was Esther’s turn to sigh. It wasn’t the first time she’d been asked something like that. “No,” she said. “I don’t have a thing for your mom.”

“Cause my mom’s straight,” said Andrea, “just so you know. Back before Dad left they used to go at it like wild animals. She made these sounds like…” Andrea started mimicking her mother’s sounds of passion.

Esther bit her lip and said nothing. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to scream or cry. She finished the soap and bleach wash and went back into the kitchen to get rinse water.

Barbara was rinsing down the last rack with the sprayer before loading them into the dishwasher. Esther waited till she was done before changing out the water in her pan.

“Oh, Esther,” said Barbara, “I’m supposed to be in Fairview on Sunday to talk at the morning services at St. Sebastian’s. It’s an oatmeal and granola day, and I can get everything started. Would you mind closing up for me?”

“Of course,” said Esther.

“Just rinse down the dishes – get the oatmeal and honey off and I’ll run them through the washer when I get back.”

“Not a problem.”

“You’re great – you know that?”

Esther took the rinse pan out to finish the serving area. Andrea was standing by the kitchen door with her bucket and mop. “I hope it’s not me you’re into,” said Andrea. “Even if I felt like experimenting – you’re not my type.” Andrea ducked into the kitchen before Esther had a chance to respond.

Done for the morning, Esther walked down Third Street on the way to her one bedroom apartment and a pile of medical billing to keep her busy the rest of the day. In spite of Andrea’s unpleasantness, there was a smile on her face. She loved volunteering at Community Care.

Esther knew she wasn’t a saint, and she didn’t think she was a lesbian either. She would be lonely without Community Care. It wasn’t the kind of lonely that made her want to get married – or even get a dog. She just wanted to be part of something – to be in a community and be useful. Why did people have such a hard time understanding that?

Barry was standing at Third and Forest, waving the morning paper for late commuters to buy. It didn’t give him enough money to live, but it bought him enough booze to get through the day. She walked across to the median and bought a paper from him.

“Thank you, Sister Esther,” said Barry. “I’ll see you at breakfast.”

Esther smiled. “I’ll see you then, Barry.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

fictmcfa4 The Caress

The Caress
by Stanley W. McFarland

What now?

Dylan rubbed his mother’s bony shoulder. She slept, as she did almost all the time now. Even awake, she just stared off into space, showing less interest in the world around her than a fish in a fish tank.

“I guess I can’t pretend anymore,” said Dylan, “You’re not even here.” His mother’s shallow breathing didn’t change. Her skin was almost translucent. She looked like his Nana had, lying in a box long ago. The slight rhythmic movement of his mother’s chest and occasional twitching of her lip was all that betrayed the difference.

Dylan tried stroking her thin, white hair. Her forehead creased, but she slept on.

“Am I bothering you, Mom?”

She didn’t answer.

“Where are you?”

Dylan thought about all the times his mother had tried to reach him – the unwanted kisses and hugs when he was a teenager and much more interested in the music on the stereo than anything his mother had to say. He never had enough time for all the attention she wanted.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

No response.

Damn! There wasn’t even a song in it. Harry Chapin already wrote Cat’s in the Cradle. The world didn’t need another. So what was he supposed to do with these feelings?

Other people had families – husbands and wives, children, even pets who shared feelings. Dylan didn’t have room in his life for that – he didn’t even have close friends. He had his music. A small circle of listeners were Dylan’s family as he uploaded his songs and videos. That was all he wanted in life.

At least it was usually all he wanted. He was looking at the only person in his world that loved him – knew the way he was and loved him. She was still there, lying on the bed, but she wasn’t there.

“Where are you, Mom?” he repeated. “What do I do now?”

She didn’t answer. She didn’t even twitch her lip or crease her brow as if she wanted to answer. She didn’t want a hug, a caress, an endearment – any of those things she craved decades before that Dylan gave infrequently and grudgingly. The woman lying before Dylan wanted nothing from him except possibly to be left alone so she could sleep in peace.

“So that’s how you felt all those years,” said Dylan. He wanted to be angry; to pretend that his mother was exacting payback from the cold, unaffectionate son that prized music, concerts, even damn TV sitcoms above her.

It was just pretend. Dylan knew his mother would never turn him away. So who was this person laying there?

An old Beatles tune ran through his head. – Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love. Could it be anybody? I want someone to love.

But it wasn’t true. He was hurting – much as he’d hurt others who were unfortunate enough to care about him, but that didn’t mean he needed someone to love. In the past such pain had driven him to relationships – relationships that ended with him emotionally abandoning a ‘love’ he no longer needed. It was cruel and manipulative, and Dylan had stopped pretending differently years ago. He’d lived alone for years – far better than adding more victims to crap up his karma.

You can hire a prostitute for sex, but who can you hire to love you through the blues?

Hmm, he thought. That kind of sounds like a country song.

Dylan got up off his mother’s bed and picked up the 40-year-old Gibson he’d written his first song with. He’d planned to play for his mother, but there was no audience here. Prostitute wasn’t a very musical word, and it wouldn’t look good in the title. Whore was too harsh. Maybe the tune would bring the right word.

He hugged the hard wood to his body. He ran his hand gently up the neck, and pressed down three strings to form a minor chord.

fictmcfa6 Hazel Part 2 Making Her Home

This is the second installment in the story of Hazel the rabbit. Part one is here

Hazel Part 2 Making Her Home

by Stanley McFarland

Hazel liked the apple a lot and nibbled on the lettuce. She ignored the carrot sticks.

Fifteen years of Bugs Bunny cartoons had deceived me.

There were a few stray brown balls in the room but no puddles or even any sign of dried ones. The newspaper in her box was soaked and a respectable pile of poop leaned against one corner.

I changed the paper as she hopped around the room. She made no effort to dart out the door when I opened it. When I returned she started running a few paces to pick up speed and allowed herself to slide across the tile floor.

It looked like fun. I took off my shoes and joined her. She didn’t mind though she wisely kept a safe distance when I started sliding. I think we were both glad I had a double sized room.

In spite of the newspaper, the box was already beginning to smell from rabbit urine. I knew I wasn’t going to find enough good-sized boxes in the trash to change one every day. She needed a more permanent cage that I could keep clean.

I didn’t have enough money to go to the lumberyard and buy new materials and Al couldn’t loan me his car to go. If I were going to build her a cage, I would have to find the materials for free and on the campus.

I got my hammer, pliers and screwdriver and started my search.

There was an old house on campus that was waiting to be torn down. Last Halloween, one of the civic clubs had used it as a haunted house and raised money, giving tours.

I started there.

One of the displays was included a large papier-mâché rock for their haunted forest. It was no longer in the house but out in the back where four months of rain and snow had not been kind. The wood and paper were rotted but the chicken wire was still good. I stripped it away.

I found wood in the house, but it all looked usable for future haunted houses. I didn’t think it was right to rob the civic club in order to house my rabbit. The chicken wire was a good start. I headed back to the dorm, stored the wire, petted Hazel, left her food and water and went off to class.

When I got back from class Hazel was hopping around the room. I looked around for puddles and poop. Her box needed changing but the rest of the room was clean.

Did I really need to make a cage for Hazel? Maybe all I needed was a litter box.

We played her sliding game until we were tired and I decided to sit do some studying before dinner. I pulled a book from the shelf and noticed something about it felt different. There was damage to the binding.

I looked down at the shelf and saw two other books were damaged as well. As I was wondering what might have caused it, Hazel hopped over and started gnawing on the bookcase.

She still had food in her dish so I knew she wasn’t eating my books because she was hungry. Maybe she needed to chew on hard things for her teeth.

There weren’t marks on any books except those on the bottom shelf where I kept my textbooks. I decided it was OK.

That night at dinner, three of us walked out of the common eating apples that found their ways to Hazel. There was also more lettuce along with cucumber, crackers, radish and half a tomato.

“Do you think rabbits eat tomatoes?”

“Hey, it’s a vegetable.”

“I thought it was a fruit.”

“Whatever, if it grows in a garden, I think a rabbit will eat it.”

That evening we decided to experiment to see what Hazel liked best. We put different foods a few feet apart and put her down in between. She would go and sniff one food, then the other. Sometimes she seemed torn like when we offered her radish and lettuce. Sometimes it was easy like between carrot and apple.

The other guys didn’t believe me when I told them she wasn’t wild about carrots. Either Hazel had unusual tastes or Bugs Bunny had fooled an entire generation.

Hazel seemed to understand the game and I think she enjoyed our reactions as much as she liked the food.

“Well, it looks like her favorite is apple.”

“Yeah, she sure seems to like that best.”

“We didn’t try the tomato.”

“C’mon, she’s not going to like tomato.”

“You don’t know that.”

“We’ll, try it against the carrot.”

“No, try against the apple.”

“She won’t eat it.”

“So what? Try it.”

We sliced some more apple and cut a chunk of tomato and put them down.

Hazel looked up at us. Was she trying to draw out the moment? She went over to sniff the apple and then wandered over to the tomato. She took twice as long sniffing the tomato than she had with any other food.

She ate the tomato first.

“I don’t believe it.”

“Told you.”

We left all the food piled on a single dish and sat down. Hazel finished the tomato and left the rest for later.

“Watch what she does.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just watch.”

On cue, Hazel started playing her sliding game. Her enthusiasm got the better of her and she bumped into the wall a couple times.

We laughed but it didn’t deter her.

“Will she hurt herself?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t know rabbits played like that.”

I stepped into the middle of the room to block her path.

Hazel ran right at me but instead of sliding, she stomped her feet right in front of me and sprang into the air. She rose all the way to eye level, looked me in the eye and then turned a hundred and eighty degrees in mid-air. When she hit the floor she ran back to her original spot, turned around and looked at us.

“No way!”

“Did she mean to do that?”

“I don’t know; she didn’t do that before.”

Rabbits don’t have very expressive faces or maybe Hazel liked keeping us guessing but she looked to me like she was enjoying our reaction.

She hopped off to use the litter box.

“How did you train her to do all this stuff?”

“I didn’t train her to do anything. She’s doing it all on her own.”

“How old is she?”

“I don’t know, maybe ten or twelve weeks, I think.”

“Are all rabbits like this?”

“I don’t think so. All the other rabbits at the store looked dumb and scared. Hazel’s the only one who came up to me to be petted.”


Hazel scampered across the room. There was a smell of ozone in the air.

“What was that?”

“I think she just shorted out your extension cord.”

Sure enough, there were teeth marks not only on my extension cord but the cord to my alarm clock and my radio.

“That can’t be good for her.”

“Why would she want to eat plastic?”

“Maybe she’s not as smart as we thought.”

“I’m going to have to make her a cage.”

Until I had a cage, I needed to find another box. I had a stack of newspapers from the trash room but even though I’d changed her box the night before, this one already smelled bad.

Would a cage have the same problem?

I found a new box in the trash room along with some newspaper and also several pieces of wood lath. The lath was a little thin but if I put two pieces together, it would be strong enough for the cage structures.

I figured Hazel’s cage needed to be at least a foot and a half by two feet. I did calculations in my head as I lined the new box to see if I had enough wood lath and chicken wire to make a cage that size. I had more than enough for the walls and top. I still needed a floor.

Hazel waited patiently while I fixed her new box and hopped into it as soon as I put it down. She peed and pooped immediately. There was no doubt that she understood what the box was for but I couldn’t help wishing she done it in the old box so the new one would last a little longer.

I rolled up the newspaper in the old box and took it out to the trash room. It was getting dark so I had to turn the light on. Behind one of the cans where I hadn’t noticed it before was an old piece of plywood leaning against the wall. It had cobwebs all over it. It must have been there for months. I wiped off the cobwebs and some of the dust and was surprised what good shape it was in. I brought it back to the room and started working on the cage.

My father was one of the Boy Scout leaders in my town. Though I had dropped out of scouting after Weblos I was still raised with the saying, “be prepared.” I had a remarkably complete set of hand tools, nails, screws and fasteners. I had a workable cage finished in an hour.

The plywood measured twenty inches by thirty and so that was the size of the cage when it was done. I was left with two lengths of lath each less than a foot long and barely any chicken wire. What kind of lucky charm made me find just about exactly the amount of materials I needed and all of it for free?

Hazel did have four rabbit’s feet.

Hazel nosed around the cage as I put it down. I realized why I had lath left as Hazel started gnawing on the cage. I propped a piece against the side of the cage and she gnawed on that instead.

I ripped up strips of newspaper and dropped it in the cage. Hazel jumped inside and raced around inside kicking the paper strips and knocking them in the air.

I went up to the lobby to tell the guys about the cage.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

fictwrig6 The Money Mountain

The Money Mountain

by Will Wright

Mary was a hard working farmer in the land of Monet. She raised carrots, and turnips, and lettuce, and squash. She had apple trees, and peach trees, and cherry trees too. In the same small town were Larry the carpenter, Shari the mechanic, Perry the artist, Kari the seamstress, Jerry the mechanic, and George the printer.

It was a friendly town, but they had one problem. Mary needed Larry to fix her barn, but Larry didn’t need carrots, or turnips, or lettuce, or squash. He didn’t need apples, or peaches, or cherries either. Larry needed his truck fixed and Mary didn’t know how to do that.

It got confusing giving apples to Perry, who painted a picture for Kari, who made shirts for Jerry, who fixed a truck for Larry, so that Larry would fix Mary’s barn.

That’s when Bonnie banker moved to town.

You see,” said Bonnie, “all these problems will go away if you just use money.”


That’s right,” said Bonnie Banker. “With money, you can pay for goods and services instead of trying to trade.”

Where do we get this money.”

I will provide it,” said Bonnie Banker.

So all agreed. It was easier to trade money than goods and services, and George the printer was especially happy, because Bonnie Banker paid him to print the money, even though she paid him with some of the money he just printed.

Now Mary, and Larry, and Jerry, and Kari, and Perry, and George had to work just a little bit harder because Bonnie the Banker didn’t produce a useful good or service. She just provided money.

That was all right; money solved problems.

But they still had problems. They disagreed about how much money each good or service should be worth.

That’s when Donny the Judge moved to town.

You see,” said Donny, “all these problems will go away if you just have a civil court.”

A civil court?”

That’s right,” said Donny Judge, “with a civil court, a unbiased person will decide a fair settlement for each dispute.”

Where do we get this civil court?”

I will provide it,” said Donny Judge.

So all agreed. They let Donny Judge decide things, instead of wasting time arguing about how much money each good or service was worth. George the printer was happy because Donny Judge hired him to print lots of impressing sounding legal pronouncements.

Now Mary, and Larry, and Jerry, and Kari, and Perry, and George had to work a little bit harder because Bonnie the Banker and Donny the Judge didn’t produce useful goods or services. They just produced money and judgement.

That was all right; money and judgement solved problems.

But there were still problems. People had no idea what Donny Judge would decide before they went to civil court.

That’s when Ronny Politician moved to town.

What you need,” said Ronny, “is a set of laws.”

Set of laws?”

That’s right,” said Ronny Politician, “with a set of laws you will know in advance how Donny Judge will decide his cases, because his guidelines will be written down on paper.”

Where will we get this set of laws?”

I will provide it,” said Ronny Politician.

Now, not everyone was sure they needed this set of laws, or another unproductive person in their community, but Ronny Politician produced his set of laws anyway, and George the printer was paid more money that he had printed in his shop, so he could print a set of laws.

Now Mary, and Larry, and Jerry, and Kari, and Perry, and George had to work harder because Bonnie the Banker, Donny Judge, and Ronny Politician didn’t produce useful goods and services. They just produced money, judgement and laws.

That was all right; money, judgement, and laws solved problems.

Didn’t they?

Then Connie the Lawyer moved into town. She didn’t ask permission, she just moved in, and if anyone wanted Donny Judge to give him or her justice, they had to pay money to Connie Lawyer.

So Mary, and Larry, and Jerry, and Kari, and Perry, and George were working very hard because of Bonnie, Donny, Ronny and Connie…

Tawny moved into town. No one really knew what she did, but she demanded that George print more money, so that she could move that money around. A lot of the money ended up with Ronny Politician.

What is it Tawny does?” Mary Farmer asked George the Printer.

I’m not sure what she does,” said George, “but she calls herself a lobbyist.” George couldn’t answer any more questions, because he was very busy printing laws, and legal pronouncements, and bank statements, and petitions, and money – lots and lots of money. Money was pouring out of the back of George’s print shop, and getting swept up by Bonnie, Donny, Ronny, Connie, and Tawny.

It was just as well that George couldn’t answer, because Mary had to get to work. She saw Perry on the way outside George’s print shop. He looked sad.

What’s wrong, Perry?”

George won’t print my pictures and poems and stories and photos.”

Why not?”

Because I don’t have enough money to pay him to do it,” said Perry, “and besides, George is too busy printing money.”

That’s when Mary noticed that even though there was lots of money getting printed, she didn’t have very much of it. Neither did Perry, Kari, Larry, or Jerry.

Mary almost didn’t notice when Lonny the investment broker moved into town. The reason Mary almost didn’t notice was because he only spent time with people with money. The people with money were Bonnie, Ronny, Connie, Donny, and Tawny.

Ronny, Connie, Bonnie, Donny, Tawny, and Lonny hired Larry to build them big homes that they stuffed with money, but they didn’t give him very much for his work.

Ronny, Connie, Bonnie, Donny, Tawny, and Lonny hired Jerry to fix their big cars that cost lots of money, but they didn’t give Jerry very much for his work.

Ronny, Connie, Bonnie, Donny, Tawny, and Lonny hired Perry to fill their homes with art. They sold the art back and forth to each other for lots of money, but they never paid Perry very much for his work.

Ronny, Connie, Bonnie, Donny, Tawny, and Lonny hired Kari to make them wonderful clothes. They called the clothes, high fashion, and valued them for lots of money, but they never paid Keri much for her work.

Ronny, Connie, Bonnie, Donny, Tawny, and Lonny bought lots of food from Mary. They bought far more than they could ever eat, and called it gourmet, which meant it was worth lots of money. But they never paid Mary very much for it.

How did this happen to us?” asked Jerry.

They don’t produce anything,” said Keri.

They don’t help us,” said Perry.

But they couldn’t live without us,” said Larry.

I don’t understand it either,” said Mary, “but I don’t like it.”

I don’t like it either!” said Jerry, and Keri, and Perry, and Larry, all at once.

It’s all because we needed something to exchange for goods and services,” said Mary. “If we went to George and had him print a different money – money that we control, then they would all go away.”

YES!” said Jerry, Keri, Perry, and Larry.

And so, together, they went to George’s print shop, but it wasn’t like they remembered it. There were hundreds of people swarming all around it. They were clerks, accountants, tax preparers, and collectors. There were comptrollers, and auditors, underwriters, and risk analysts. There were investigators and regulators, financial advisors, and retirement specialists. They were all so busy doing things that looked important, but as far as Mary, Jerry, Keri, Perry, and Larry could see, they were things that didn’t help anyone.

They moved money; they inspected money; they counted money; the argued about money. They shouted, laughed, cried, and drooled over money. The town was buried under a great mountain of money spewing from George’s print shop, and no matter how much money poured out, all these busy people kept shouting, “print more money!”

Mary, Jerry, Keri, Perry and Larry went into the print shop. There was George, drenched in sweat, feverishly printing money as fast as he could.

George!” shouted Mary. “You need to stop! You’ll have a heart attack if you keep working so hard.”

I know,” said George, “but they want more money. I have to print more money.”

More money!” shouted the people outside. It sounded like there were twice as many people as there were when Mary, Jerry, Keri, Perry and Larry first came in.

But George,” said Mary. “These people aren’t helping anyone. They don’t make food, or fix cars. They don’t make clothes, or build houses. They don’t create art, or even print. If you stop printing money, they will all go away, and leave us in peace.”

But then what will we do?” asked George as he shoveled great piles of money out his back door. “We’ll be back to trading like we were before.”

More money!” shouted the people outside. The shout was so loud that the rafters shook in George’s print shop.

No we won’t,” said Mary. “We can print our own money, a very small amount of money, just for us – just for people that do useful things.”

More money!” shouted the people outside and the floors trembled in George’s print shop.

George stopped printing. He looked at Mary, Keri, Perry, Larry, and Jerry. “You’re my friends,” said George. “What you say is a good idea.”

Yes!” said Mary, Keri, Jerry, Larry, and Perry.

But I can’t do it,” said George.

Why not?”

And George pointed to a very small pile of money. It was so small that it was hard to see in his print shop full of money. It was a really tiny pile of money, but it was different than all the other money in the print shop, because on this tiny pile of money, was a little label that read, ‘George’s money.’

You see,” said George. “If I do what you say…

My money will be worthless.”

poemwrig4 The Sleeper King

The Sleeper King

by Will Wright

Not Arthur or Ramses

Louis or Agustus

Hamarabi or Fredrick

Though each great and robustus

Not Alexander or Kublai

Or David with sling

Reigned as long or as far

As the great Sleeper King

Now Eduardo worked hard

And not for much pay

Sorting the mail

In Murphysville Bay

His lifestyle was frugal

With no family, no flash

So he had in the bank

A fair bit of cash

In choosing investments

Risk did not attract

At Dewey and Howe

He found this contract

This fund” said the broker

Is for your situation

It always pays one point

Over inflation”

It’s simple and stable

With no legal string”

That sets my mind easy”

Said the man to be king

Arriving at home

Hanging coat with his cap

He yawned and stretched out

For a short mid-day nap

He slept through the night

And the noise from the tram

And he slept right through breakfast

No biscuit, no jam

A no-show at work

And for bowling and beers

He missed every day

For ten thousand years

But Dewey and Howe

Each year in the Spring

Gave inflation plus one

Till Eduardo was king

For a percentage so tiny

When compounded will grow

From molehill to mountain

The kind covered with snow

For money is power

And power gets wealth

So our hero gained both

Doing nothing himself

When Eduardo awakened

Now what did he see?

They’d moved in a throne

And moved out his TV!

A man came in and bowed

I’m Howe 394

Dewey 386

Is right there by the door

Our firm has worked long

That percentage to bring

You own so much now

You’re the great sleeper king

You own continents and oceans

And planets and moons

From the greatest of rubies

To the smallest of spoons

Now we earn it through taxes

For you own all the lands

Taxing aglets and gumballs

And big rubber bands

We tax birth we tax death

We tax those that retire

We tax those that play tennis

Or just simply perspire

At first we taxed low

A third part seemed fine

But now our percent

Is ninety-nine point twelve nines”

The brokers sighed deeply

It’s no party, no fling

Yes, our jobs are quite taxing

Oh, great sleeper king”

Now Eduardo considered

This might be a dream

But his couch stood on emeralds

With gold thread through the seam

From mail handler to king

Was a largish promotion

He preferred something quiet

This was too much commotion

Bring jugglers cried Dewey

To rouse the king from his sleep

Bring singers and dancers

And a box that goes beep!

Now the juggler was good

Though he tended to babble

Eduardo kept thinking

He’d rather play scrabble

Then Howe announced

The bard Ivy would sing

A song written especially

For the great sleeper king

Ivy, though compact

Had a voice full and strong

And though the words sounded sweet

They claimed Eduardo was wrong

She sang of justice

Of a people made free

And she sang it so clearly

That Eduardo could see

The startled king shouted

I should never have hired

Either Dewey or Howe

You both are fired”

Look,” said the brokers

What the contracts require

We run your portfolio

Until you retire

Lie down, get some rest

The couch bugs won’t sting

We will manage the realm

You just be the king”

Eduardo, though king

Was unable to rule

The people were suffering

He felt like a fool

Power seems nice

Till you grab it by tail

Ruling worlds was more stressful

Than sorting the mail

There is one, thought Eduardo

Who could be a queen, true

She had wisdom and poise

A nice singing voice too

Abdication’s my choice

For my people now moan

If Ivy will take it

I will give up the throne”

Dewey just laughed

You still own everything

She’d just be a puppet

Of the great sleeper king”

But Ivy laughed back

Check your books and inquire

If abdicate might be

The same as retire

And the tax books say clearly

On the forty-fifth line

The retirement tax rate

Is 99 point twelve nines”

When they figured the numbers

The ex-king got to keep

His jewel-bedecked couch

And the box that goes beep

And Dewey and Howe

Their commission now due

Got two cumquats, a hairbrush

And a left footed shoe

Wise Ivy, now queen

The bards praise as they sing

And she plays scrabble each evening

With the retired sleeper king

Thursday, September 19, 2013

fictmcfa6 The Prodigal's Ring

The Prodigal’s Ring
by S. W. McFarland

So now he had it in his hands. All those years of bitter longing and Stephen just handed it to him. His brother didn’t ask a thing in return, not a plot of land, not a better house for his family, not even a crust of bread.

Benjamin turned the ring in his hands. He watched for the sparkles off the bloodstone.

There was one! just as he remembered, just like when Papa wore it.

It had sparkled on Stephen’s hand too. When Stephen wore the ring, Benjamin always tried to ignore it, tried to pretend it wasn’t there. He even gave his brother work that hid his hands in mud, or muck. The ring always seemed to come away clean.

Benjamin studied the ring. There were marks in the gold, a few more than he remembered back when Papa wore it. Maybe he shouldn’t have given Stephen such hard work. He didn’t want to hurt the ring, he never wanted to hurt the ring. It was his legacy.

It was always supposed to be his.

Benjamin once contemplated cutting off his brother’s hand, and might have done it if it would have made the ring his own. But then the elders would never have let him keep the ring. Stephen would just wear it on his other hand. Then Benjamin would be forced to give Stephen land and beasts for the hand’s loss.

He couldn’t just kill him. He was his brother, and killing a man is not so easy a thing to do.

Benjamin clenched his hand and pain shot through to his wrist from squeezing too tight. He forgot he was holding the ring – his ring. It was his now.

Stephen had just handed it to him.


Esther said nothing, as if she had not noticed. Stephen didn’t like the pretending. He preferred it when Esther spoke her mind. He knew she was against giving away the ring, especially to Ben. It was because of Ben that her dowry was gone, spent on grain, while Ben’s storehouse remained full.

Work the worst land, but give his brother shares as if it were the best. Would Ben actually have let them starve?

He’d find out now. They had nothing left – no dowry, no treasure, no ring, not even an extra pair of sandals.

It didn’t matter; he could never have sold his father’s ring. Other than little Jacob, Ben was the only person under heaven Stephen would surrender the ring to, and he couldn’t take money for it – even from Ben.

Now it was gone. He and his family were at his brother’s mercy. Another bad harvest and Ben couldn’t expect Stephen to make up the difference from his purse – he didn’t even have a purse anymore.

Jacob padded in from outside, his little bare feet raising clouds from the dirt floor. There was a thick reed in his hand. The boy let it trail behind him, leaving a lazy snake trail in the dust. Jacob dropped the stick, and clung to his mother’s back as she squatted in front of the fire.

Is that reed for the fire?” asked Esther.

The boy looked down at the reed, considering, then picked it up and handed to Esther.

Clever boy,” said Esther. “Can you find me more? Dry reeds are best.”

But nothing from near Uncle Benjamin’s house,” said Stephen, “unless if falls to the ground on its own.”

Jacob’s round, over-large eyes peered back at Stephen. Did he understand? He looked as though he did, but how could Stephen be certain? The boy never spoke. The boy kicked at a tuft of dead gorse on his way out the door.


In the early morning Benjamin set off to market in Jericho. It was the third day of the week, and Bethany’s market was only open on the fifth and sixth days. Benjamin told himself that his business couldn’t wait, but that wasn’t true. He had little enough to sell; the cart was only half full. The Galatian slave led the donkey, a long knife hanging from his belt. There were too many thieves on this road. The Galatian watched for bandits, while Benjamin watched the Galatian. Some masters felt comfortable with their slaves, like they were sons. Benjamin was a kind master; he hadn’t beaten the Galatian in years, but he still felt uneasy. The creature followed orders, but he was sullen.

Benjamin studied his ledger, counting the bags he could see. Dried dates, dried peas, grain that had gotten wet – he needed to sell it before it sprouted. Maybe there was reason enough to hurry. He probably should have had the grain ground months ago; flower was easier to store, but the new miller was taking half instead of a third.

Everything was harder now.

Ben rolled his ledger. There were no mistakes. He was glad, wetting a reed with ink while on the cart was difficult, but he liked to read when he was up so high. Being able to read and write so well was a sign of his wealth. Ben was a wealthy man, in spite of the troubles he’d had lately.

And in spite of his brother’s wastefulness. The cart would be full; they’d have more land, more cattle, more everything if Stephen hadn’t wasted so much.

Benjamin spit off the side of the cart, and the Galatian twitched as if he expected a lash on his back. There was no reason for that. Why would the Galatian fear him? Benjamin got down from the cart, drawing his staff as he came. “Why did you start like that?” he asked.

The Galatian drew the sword.


Stephen saw the servants sitting under the tree. They were drinking wine and laughing. He glanced over at the herd. The grass beneath their feet was either eaten, or trampled. The herd needed moving. The water trough was almost empty. A goat was eating out of a grain sack. It was the good grain.

Benjamin would never let this happen.

Stephen trapped the goat and penned it. He spoke sternly to the servants, as he’d heard his father do, not in anger, but not in weakness. He set them to moving the herd, and filling the trough. He took the wine skin, and brought it into his brother’s home. The house servant was sleeping.

Where is my brother?” said Stephen.

Gone to Jericho,” said the servant.


Three days ago.”


Benjamin walked slowly along the Jerusalem road. He no longer feared robbers. He wore peasant’s clothing and had no purse. The cart was gone, the beast was gone, even his father’s ring, taken by the Galatian.

Even what Benjamin had was only by the generosity of a stranger. The stranger asked nothing in return; he would even have allowed Benjamin to stay longer, eating the man’s food, drinking his wine, sleeping on his bed, but Benjamin left when he was able to walk.

The man’s generosity shamed him. Perhaps he should have stayed another day. Healthy, he could walk this road in three hours. Now it looked as though he would have to sleep a night by the side of the road.

Benjamin wondered what he’d find when he got home. They probably thought he was dead. Stephen and his wife would be drunk and celebrating their good fortune. How long would it take for his brother to waste all that Benjamin had worked to preserve?

There was an armed man ahead. With him was a boy on a donkey. They were searching the ditches on each side of the road, beating the gorse with sticks. Perhaps they were searching for a loved one, or maybe just hoping to plunder whatever the robbers had left behind.

It was Stephen, with little Jacob. Stephen was wearing their father’s sword, a sword so precious that Benjamin never wore it, fearing someone might take it from him.


Stephen shaded his eyes as he looked back. “Benjamin?” Stephen pulled a wine skin from the donkey, and ran to Benjamin, embracing him.

Here, Brother,” said Stephen, “you must be thirsty.”

It was water, not the wine that Benjamin expected from his brother. Little Jacob jumped from the donkey, and led it to where they stood. “Let me help you get up,” said Stephen, entwining his fingers for Benjamin to step up onto the beast. A sigh escaped Benjamin’s lips. He had been so very tired.

You wear our father’s sword,” said Benjamin.

Forgive me, Brother,” said Stephen. “I did not know what became of you, or what we might find on the road.” Stephen began unwinding the sash that held the sword to his body.

It was a wise precaution, Benjamin decided. If he had taken the sword, the Galatian might never have attacked him. “Leave the sword on, Brother,” said Benjamin. “There are miles to go before we get home.”

Stephen looked pleased, and rewrapped the sash. “The herd is well, Brother,” he said, “and the servants are working again. Esther is watching them now. They mind her.”

Benjamin hid his surprise by nodding his head. “She is a good woman,” he said.

Stephen did not hide his surprise. “Yes, Brother,” he said. “She is a good wife and mother.”

Stephen,” said Benjamin, “I lost Father’s ring… your ring.”

Your ring,” said Stephen.

Both men were silent for a while, as the donkey’s smooth gate drew Benjamin closer to home. Then he motioned to little Jacob. “Come up with me, nephew. The beast can hold us both.”

The boy climbed up without his father’s help. He whistled a clever tune that made the donkey prick up his ears, and quicken his pace. Stephen kept pace easily.

Let the robbers keep the ring,” said Stephen. “I am happy to bring you home.”

No,” said Benjamin. “I think we will search for the ring when we can. I want Jacob to have it someday.”

They crested a hill, and saw first silhouette of Jerusalem in the distance.