Thursday, November 20, 2014

FictHaus8 Mortified

                       by Headley Hauser
I remember it started the Halloween my frat brothers hauled a keg out to Woodland Cemetery. While I’m as brave as the next guy – or at least some of the next guys, I spent the night in front of the tube. Why go to a graveyard on the one night of the year when the dead are supposed to rise?
The next morning I felt like a coward. Why was I shy about graveyards? What was I worried about, ghosts, zombies, vampires? I wasn’t a child anymore. I was a grad student. It was time to do something stupid.
Anyway, it was All Saints Day. Wasn’t that supposed to be an undead-free holiday?
That night Woodland didn’t look very spooky, though it wasn’t exactly tidy. Toilet paper hung limply from a marble Jesus, as it did from a massive oak tree. Beer cans leaned against William A. Mayberry’s (1870-1921) stone. That had to be high school kids. Even the dead won’t drink Coors Light.
Meeting Godfrey gave me a start. Suddenly he was just there, standing straight but not stiff. His clothes were perfect without looking metrosexual. Even the wind didn’t bother his natural-looking perfect hair.
Of course, I hated him immediately. He extended a manicured hand and flashed a cold smile.
Godfrey Hamilton.”
Stan Plotz,” I said, shaking his cold hand and feeling inferior. It reminded me of shaking the priest’s hand after mass. “You’re very nicely dressed for graveyard walking,” I said.
I was just saying something to make noise. What did I know about graveyard-walking attire? Was there a uniform, maybe from a business fashion magazine? What would that be, Graveyard Quarterly?
First impressions are important, Stanley,” Godfrey answered. “People judge you by your outward appearance. They’ll never take the time to appreciate your finer points if your presentation shows a lack of self-respect.” Pausing, he took in my flannel shirt, grass-stained blue jeans, Demon Deacon jacket, and three-year-old Nikes. So much for my “presentation.” “You’re a grad student?” he asked.
That would be MBA or law school?”
I’d been turned down for both, so I lied. “No, I decided not to go the money route. I’m getting my MSW at Wake.”
Master of Social Work.” Godfrey frowned. “Yes, I suppose it’s important to have qualified people in every field.”
I felt vindicated. Why, I didn’t know.
As long as you’re striving,” said Godfrey, “to be the best you can be each and every day.”
One never knows what to say when encountering a Dale Carnegie cultie. I hated him more, but I sucked in my gut and straightened my jacket. Then, rebelliously, I unstraightened, earning another frown from Godfrey. I’ll be damned if I’ll change my appearance to earn the approval of some upper crust Ken doll.
So, Mr. Hamilton,” I said in what I hoped was a superior tone, “why is it so important to give a good first impression to perfect strangers one meets in a graveyard?”
Godfrey showed no sign of irritation. “Well, Mr. Plotz, in some cases, hardly important at all.” He gave me a glance that made it clear I fell in that category. “However, once in a while you’ll run across a more formidable type. It’s important to keep them off balance so you can do this.”
I was flooded with a mix of sensations and emotions. Incredibly powerful hands grabbed me by head and shoulder. I felt a sharp, two-pointed stab in my neck. Racing through my head was fear, anger, embarrassment, and the feeling that this all would be a lot better for my self-esteem if Godfrey had been a hot woman.
Everything went black.

It took a few moments to realize that I was no longer unconscious. It was that dark. The air was stuffy, and I had a disgusting flat taste in my mouth. I shifted to ease a lump in my back and bumped into walls to my right and left.
That’s when I heard an odd muffled sound, like someone else’s phone conversation bleeding through the line. It seemed to be a human voice or a number of human voices. It sounded far away and close at the same time. There was a musical quality to it like singing or, more accurately, chanting. I strained my ears to hear the words, but the harder I strained, the less distinct they became. Whatever I was hearing, it wasn’t with my ears.
Did I have new sensory organ? I touched my face expecting to feel a lump or mutant zit. There wasn’t anything there, but the chanting got louder. What do you do with a new sense? I had no recollection of using my eyes or ears for the first time. Maybe that’s why babies sometimes look so thoughtful.
Reaching up, I felt cushioned fabric. I was in a pretty tight space. Normally I’d be trembling with claustrophobia. I was never good with closets, elevators, or even small cars, but I felt fine, even comfortable. I pushed against the ceiling. I heard wood cracking and metal complaining as I pushed the roof several inches. Did I just do that? I’d never been particularly strong, as every bully in my middle school could tell you. Maybe the wood was rotten? Freshly turned soil and sand poured down on my face.
The voices were clearer now, and much louder. Working my way through dirt and debris, I got to my knees, then to a crouch. I reached up till I felt a breeze on my fingertips. The earth parted above me like water, but when my hands gripped the topsoil, the ground held.
I stretched to loosen tight muscles. It was a delicious sensation. I felt both light and strong. With one heave I not only cleared the surface, but sailed several feet into the air, landing majestically on a stone.
A grave stone.
My grave stone.
So this meant what, I was a vampire?
Some might have been horrified, but I felt great. I was a lord of the night. No more fear of brawny troglodytes like those who had, a decade past, beaten me with my own violin case. I was now a creature to be feared. Gathered around me was my new brotherhood, fellow members of a mighty pack. I was secure in our mutual admiration. Why else would they be gathered to sing me out of my grave, imbue me with their mighty spirit, and… laugh?
Around me the dread fraternity of vampires rolled about, cackling like so many Shriners at a whoopee cushion trade show.
Plotz,” Godfrey said, “you haven’t any pants on.”
It was true. I was in my best shirt, tie, and suit coat, but with nothing but boxers below. I suppose I should have been grateful for the boxers, but I didn’t feel gratitude at that moment.
Who did this!” I sputtered.
The vampires laughed even louder. Godfrey, however, only snickered. “Plotz,” he said, “you might want to check with your undertaker.”
How do I do that?”
The cemetery office. You’re newly buried; there’ll be a file.”
I disliked Godfrey Hamilton, even in my newly glorified state. I was also afraid of him, but I took his advice.
The file identified my undertaker as Mr. Feeley Nuzbetch, who ran his establishment in the West End. I knew the place – up the hill from Burke Street Pizza.

There was a light burning downstairs at the Feeley Nuzbetch Funeral Parlor. I didn’t have a watch on, maybe Feeley took that too, but it felt really late or, more likely, really early morning.
I went to the door and silently broke the deadbolt. I planned to sneak in and spring on Nuzbetch. That’s what vampires do, right? I opened the door, but I couldn’t cross the threshold. I’d heard something about thresholds and vampires. Breaking into the cemetery office hadn’t been a problem, but no one lived there. Maybe this was Nuzbetch’s home.
That was sort of creepy. I tried to imagine living in a house with a continuous flow of dead bodies. Of course I was dead now, so I guess I had no reason to be judgmental.
I circled the building. Through a window I saw a pudgy man in his fifties or sixties. He was working on a body using a machine with tubes attached. The process fascinated me. It also made me hungry. Then I realized – the man was wearing my pants.
And my pants fit the guy. I couldn’t be as fat as he was. Maybe he had them tailored.
Something nagged at me. A clock inside read five-fifteen. What time did the sun come up?
I wondered if the government kept records of vampires’ mortality or re-mortality on their first dawn.
Maybe you got a mulligan if the sun toasted you on your first night out.
Maybe not.
If dawn meant certain death, or whatever it’s called when dead people expire, how much longer could I afford to stand by this window in my boxer shorts watching this pants-altering mortician? If I didn’t do something soon, Nuzbetch would find himself a matching jacket. But where could I go? I looked around me. There were plenty of homes I couldn’t get into. There were also shops and restaurants, but if I could enter those, they might not appreciate a corpse resting the business day away. Even worse, they might move my body, and once outside…
So where to go? Saint Paul’s Episcopal?
Too chancy.
Inside Feeley shut down the machine and pulled a large plastic bucket from beneath the bench. He headed toward the back of the building. Silently I moved with him. Should I cross my fingers? Crossing anything was probably not a good idea for a vampire.
Before the door opened I smelled blood in the bucket Nuzbetch was carrying. I could also smell the mortician’s blood. His was more appetizing, like prime rib holding a bucket of chipped beef. I waited for Feeley to clear the door, then I slammed it behind him. He spun around, sloshing blood from the bucket onto his pants – no – my pants.
Who are yo…?” He never finished the question, maybe because he recognized me. I could smell his fear, but he was also laughing.
I wanted to kill him; I wanted to drain the blood from his body, but most of all I wanted to scare the hell out of him. I knew I couldn’t do that partially dressed.
First of all, give me back my pants.” I tried to sound scary and mysterious, and I guess I succeeded, because he wasted no time stripping down to his green and orange boxers.
Instead of getting fancy, I put my pants on one leg at a time. With my new undead abilities I could probably jump ten feet up in the air, have my shoes off, pants on, shirt tucked in, and shoes back on and tied before I hit the ground, but I didn’t want to give Nuzbetch a chance to escape. I sure didn’t want to botch it and have him laughing at me again.
I zipped up; the pants fit. It had to be a vampire thing. No way was I as fat as Nuzbetch.
The mortician shot glances at the door and at me. I made a point of pulling the belt in an extra notch as I casually stepped between him and the door. The move might have appeared more ominous if I hadn’t burned my hands on the silver belt buckle. Wasn’t it supposed to be werewolves that hated silver?
You know, it’ll be dawn soon.” Feeley sputtered. “You can’t enter my house, so you’ll be nothing but a pile of dust unless I help you.”
The man knew his vampire lore – certainly better than I did – probably came with mortician training. Still, how certain could he be about everything? “It’s very simple, Feeley,” I told him. “After I kill you, your home will be as open to me as any other abandoned building.”
I leaned in and smelled rising terror in his blood. The scent was intoxicating. No wonder vampires didn’t just bonk people over the head and drag them off to feed.
I was glad I got my pants back before I scared him. A stream of yellow ran down Feeley’s leg, forming a puddle by his right foot.
The smell of urine, while unpleasant, did nothing to stem my appetite. The urge to kill and feed was strong, but there was another force inside me.
I never liked my great aunt Agnes. When I was a child, she used to hector me about proper behavior and table etiquette. As much as I wanted to ignore her, I always buckled to her irresistible will. I was the only kid in summer camp who ate his hot dog with a fork.
Here she was again, nothing but a dead woman’s voice ensconced in my supposedly demonic, undead brain. “Don’t slay your food,” she said. What did that even mean? Ridiculous, how could I survive if I didn’t slay?
From Nuzbetch’s perspective my inner battle must have looked ominous. The man was on the ground, his bare bony knees in mud and urine, shaking and blubbering for mercy.
Don’t kill me!” he cried. “I can help you. I’ll do anything. Please, don’t kill me!”
He was a pathetic mess. He stole my pants. But I needed his help.
I waited, feigning uncertainty. The sky was going pink in the east. As much as I enjoyed the groveling, I needed to get under cover. I grabbed the mortician by the chin and forced him to look me in the eye.
Invite me inside, Nuzbetch.”

I suppose things could be worse. Nuzbetch’s basement is dry and blocks the sunlight during the day. He set me up in a lovely coffin and asked if I wanted it lined with Transylvanian dirt. I declined; it seemed more messy than exotic. The funeral business keeps me well supplied with blood. Dead blood makes an uninteresting dietary staple, but it keeps Great Aunt Agnes quiet.
I went back to school, taking only night classes. People were pretty surprised to see me, but it raised less fuss than you’d think. My frat brothers thought it added prestige to the house. They try not to eat too much garlic when I’m around.
I make money for tuition and death’s little extras as a night watchman. The black uniform suits me. Feeley packs me a thermos each night.
I do get tired of dead blood all the time.
Maybe someone will show up and make trouble.
Great Aunt Agnes would never defend a troublemaker.

Monday, November 3, 2014

fictmcfa7 Out of Season

Out of Season
By Stanley W. McFarland

Yusuf hated camels. He hated the spitting and the ill-temper. He hated how high you had to sit in order to ride one. Most of all, he hated the smell.
Yet here he was with his wife and son. His was one of only two parties in Antiochus-the-Syrian’s caravan with a donkey, and for the first time in his life, Yusuf considered that he might be better off with a camel.
The donkey was no longer young and Yusuf was asking a lot of the beast. His wife, Mari was pregnant with their second child and young Yeshua was too little to keep up the pace. Then, there were Yusuf’s carpentry tools and camp supplies, and the family’s secret wealth of gold, incense and rich ointment. There was little enough of each, but more than enough to get his throat cut if one of these Syrians, Samaritans, or Ishmaelites knew what he had. They wouldn't care about the treasure being gifts from exotic eastern mystics. Yusuf wouldn’t believe such a story himself if he hadn’t been there to see it.
Last night, the donkey looked to be getting lame. When Yusuf mentioned it, little Yeshua fussed over the beast for a bit. The animal seemed better this morning. Yusuf had no idea what the family would do if the donkey died. Here they were, in the midst of strangers, halfway to Egypt, a place he feared only a little less than this wasteland they were traveling through to get there.
At least Mari wasn’t nearly as pregnant as she was the last time they traveled. They had barely made Bethlehem, when little Yeshua was born two years before. It seemed a miracle that the jostling of the trip hadn’t caused her to give birth on the side of the road.
Many strange things revolved around little Yeshua.
Yeshua was the reason they were taking this trip. Yusuf had dreamed that the king wanted to kill the boy. Why a king should care about a two-year-old child was hard to imagine. Yes, both Yusuf could trace his line back to King David, but so could more than ten thousand others if the census was to be believed. Yusuf wasn’t sure that half that many were of David’s lineage. There are always those who claim a royal ancestor to help cover their own short-comings. Yusuf didn't see why. Here I am, a descendent of the great King David and I’m still just a carpenter with a sharp-tongued wife and a bastard son. Whatever that odd stranger meant about Yeshua being of the spirit of Yahweh, all I know is that the boy isn't mine. Now, because of that boy, he was on the road to Egypt fleeing a king who shouldn’t know Yusuf from a host of other working men in Southern Judea.
He had to admit, he liked the little fellow. No, he loved him. Even if Yeshua wasn’t his by birth, Yusuf couldn’t have asked for a better son. He had a mind of his own and a stubborn streak like other two-year-olds, but at least he didn’t have his mother’s tongue – yet. He hoped the child in Mari’s womb would measure up to his older brother. Of course, the baby might be a girl. Imagine the shame of having some other man father a boy with his wife and Yusuf’s children all be daughters.
Mari had strange, disturbing plans for Yeshua. They could have used a camel, or a second donkey, for this trip, and they had more than enough gold to buy one. But, Mari refused to spend the gold and told Yusuf that it was for the boy’s army when he comes of age. King Herod couldn't have heard about her saying such things, could he? Maybe that’s why they were in the midst of the wilderness with an old donkey and hostile strangers all around. It never pays to stick your head up where the great will notice you. Where did Mari get these notions of exalting the lowly and making the mighty grovel in the dust?
Yusuf didn't trust this Antiochus. In Syria, Antiochus was a fine name but to a Judean it was the desecrator of the temple, the enemy of the Macabees. They were riding with a man named for the evil king, headed for the land of captivity. All they needed was a neighbor named Haman to make the trip complete.
The donkey balked. It wasn’t such a big surprise. If I were he, Yusuf thought, I’d balk too.
What do you want, old jack-ass?” Yusuf growled.
He says he’s hot and tired and thirsty and wants to rest,” said little Yeshua. He said the strangest things at times, yet that’s probably what the donkey would say if he could.
Let me down, Papa. I can walk with you.”
Yusuf guessed it couldn't hurt to let the boy down. The donkey wasn't moving.
Damn it, jack-ass, move!”
Are you sure about that dream, Yusuf?” Mari asked. “Maybe we should have stayed in Judea.”
How can I be sure of anything, Mari? With you speaking sedition at every well, it’s no wonder the king wants to kill us.”
Did the dream say Herod wants to kill us, or the boy?”
I told you,” said Yusuf. “The dream said the boy.”
Then it was a true dream. My son will change the world.”
Her son again. Yusuf wasn't the father but she still could say “our son” just to let him feel included.
The boy let out a bray that sounded for all the world like the donkey. The donkey started walking again. Little Yeshua ran over and grabbed Yusuf’s hand.
What did you say to the donkey?” Yusuf scowled.
I told him there is an oasis ahead, and he’ll have figs to eat when we get there.”
Yeshua, we ran out of figs days ago.” The boy just looked at Yusuf as if the man was a dullard. “I guess it doesn’t matter what you promised a donkey, Yeshua, as long as you got it to move.”
The boy’s legs were short but at least he didn't dawdle like other children his age. The boy walked for two hours without complaint. Maybe, he’ll be a soldier. I hope not. I want him to be a carpenter, have a family, be happy and support me in my old age.
Ahead was an oasis. Three palm trees towered over the little water hole. In front of the water hole was a fig tree. The tree had fruit on it.
Figs weren't due for months yet, and any tree on a caravan route would be constantly picked clean. The leading members of the caravan were already gathering the figs. Ordinarily, Yusuf would expect the tree to be picked bare before he got there, but somehow he knew there would be enough for his family, and even some for the donkey. Little Yeshua patted the donkey and trudged on to the oasis.

What kind of child was this?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

fictwrig6 Minerva

by Will Wright

Minerva’s belly was full. She wasn’t a kit any longer. She had to hunt for herself. It was good to feel satisfied.
Her den was far away, and she was sleepy. The night was cold and windy. Foxes have thick fur, but she wanted to find a warm place to sleep.
She found a small den. She sniffed at the opening. There was a badger inside. A badger will not share a den with a fox.
Two coyotes were in the dry creek bed. They were curled together. They looked warm. She missed her kit mates. It was warmer sleeping together.
A rabbit hopped by. The rabbit saw Minerva and hopped faster. Minerva wasn’t hungry; she was cold. She let the rabbit go.
There was a clearing. It wasn’t like she remembered. The trees were gone. Now there were only stumps.
Minerva spied the trees. They were all lying down in a pile on something tall and hard. The thing smelled strange. It looked dangerous.
The trees looked warm in that tight pile. She would be comfortable if she burrowed into the trees. Her den was far away. She could be cozy right here.
She jumped up on the tall thing, and burrowed into the trees. She was warm. She fell asleep.
After a while, Minerva woke up. Something was wrong. The trees were shaking. There were strange sounds coming from the tall thing. It smelled like fire!
She climbed to the top of the pile of trees. It was difficult. Everything was shaking. The wind was blowing. It didn’t feel like any wind she’d felt before.
The pile was moving. It was going very fast and taking her with it. How could a pile of trees run faster than a fox? The tall thing must be a beast—a beast that smelled of fire.
Other beasts like the one that held the trees moved around the pile. The near ones ran with the pile, like wolves run in a pack. The far ones ran past them, going the other way.
They were loud and smelled like fire. Each one had large eyes that spread light like the moon in front. They had smaller red eyes in back.
Minerva wanted to jump. She wanted to run away. She wanted to find her den. She was frightened.
The pile of trees ran too fast. She couldn’t jump. She burrowed back in the pile. What else could she do?
She didn’t like the noise. She didn’t like the rumbling. She didn’t like the smell of fire. But, she was warm in the pile. She went to sleep.
Minerva woke up. The pile had stopped running. She climbed to the top of the trees. The running beasts were still near. Their eyes were open but the moonlight wasn’t shining out.
The stars were very close. They hung from trees and steep hillsides all around her. Most of the stars were white. Some were red or green or blue.
“Merry Christmas,” an animal barked. She had seen one of these animals before. It was a human. They were dangerous to foxes.
Minerva jumped from the pile. “Look, a fox,” barked another human. “Call animal services.”
Minerva ran. The hills were tall and in every direction. They were too steep to climb. Narrow valleys ran between the hills.
Everywhere she went, Minerva saw more steep hills. Humans were everywhere. So were the running beasts, some with moon lights shining, but most without.
There were trees. Trees only grew in the valleys. Each tree was by itself, far from other trees.
There were animals too. There were squirrels and birds. There were animals that reminded her of coyotes, but they were different.
There were cats. There were almost as many cats as humans. The cats didn’t like her but they left her alone.
“There it is,” a human barked. Minerva heard a bang. There was a tooth in her side. She ran in a circle to see her attacker but couldn’t find one. She fell asleep.
Minerva awakened. She was in the clearing. There were stumps all around. A human was nearby.
“Merry Christmas, little vixen,” barked the human. He walked away to a running beast. The beast made a roar. Moonlight shone from its eyes.
She was in the woods again. There were no more tall hillsides and narrow valleys. The trees grew in clumps.
Above her, the stars were far away. Only one was a little red. There were no cats. The running beast went away.
Now she knew the human greeting bark. It was, “Merry Christmas.” They didn’t harm her, but she didn’t want to see them again.
Minerva started walking. She was walking back to her den. She decided it wasn’t so far away after all.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

ficthaus4 Toto in Munchkinland

Toto in Munchkinland
by Headley Hauser

The house never used to move like that. At least Toto didn’t think it moved that way, but he spent all of his time with Dorothy, and she wandered around outside singing a lot, so he couldn’t be sure. This was a lot like being in the basket when the bad dog rode on her bicycle over the rocky, hilly road, except that now he didn’t see any way to jump out.
Well, there wasn’t till now.
Oh, Toto,” said Dorothy, “look at all the colors!”
What was a color? Dorothy was the love of his life, but Toto could never understand this thing she had about colors. Then she completely ignored the most interesting smells.
Dorothy was a very strange dog.
What was this? Toto ran out of the house and around to the side. There was something under the house – something either newly dead or just dying. It was the foulest, nastiest smell he’d ever smelled in his life. Was it food? Maybe he should roll in it.
He’d better check with Dorothy.
Dorothy!” Toto barked, “You gotta come smell this dead thing!”
Toto,” said Dorothy, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
Talk about changing the subject! Sometimes it seemed like Dorothy just wasn’t listening.
Dorothy went around looking at flowers while Toto sniffed for really interesting things. Of course, the dead thing was pretty hard to ignore, but Toto wasn’t a puppy anymore. He knew how to sniff for little things. There weren’t many things to smell, no rabbits or squirrels or even those bag things with all the hard kibble in them. Unless that dead thing was food, they might be in trouble.
But there were dogs – lots of them. They smelled different than Dorothy, but so did Toto. Dogs came in all kinds of scents. Dorothy was so busy looking for colors that she didn’t even smell the pack.
Toto wasn’t worried. The pack smelled like they were afraid. Toto gave a growl to show them that they had reason to fear. Three dogs smaller than Dorothy and a big bitch with white fur came out of the weeds so Dorothy could see them. Toto prepared for a fight.
They just talked. They didn’t even growl, but at least they showed Dorothy respect.
The pack showed Dorothy the dead thing under the house. They didn’t say it was food, so Toto lost interest and went around marking the small trees that didn’t smell like real trees at all.
It was too easy. No dogs had marked any of them.
What’s wrong with you dogs!” Toto barked.
Dorothy giggled like Toto had made a joke and held out her arms. Toto jumped into her arms. She never understood the things he tried to tell her, but she was nice and warm.
They talked some more – not about food or territory or anything useful. They talked about witches and a wizard. Unless they were the witches and wizard of food, Toto didn’t care.
Then it got weird.
Everybody started saying, “Follow the yellow brick road.” They said it over and over again. Even Dorothy said it. Dorothy started walking while saying, “Follow the yellow brick road.” She motioned for Toto to follow her.
Toto followed. He always followed Dorothy. He loved Dorothy.
But when do we eat?” barked Toto.

And what’s yellow?”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

fictwrig5 The Isle of Figgamaroo

The Isle of Figgamaroo

by Will Wright

Twas my first voyage
And a fine voyage too
Bound with six others
For Figgamaroo

There was Narli and Parlie
And Otter and Barry
Gastro, the ship’s cook
And old Captain Harry

With me as their seventh
A cabin boy true
In search of the island
Of Figgamaroo

Our cargo was taffy
And three kinds of jade
Fish hooks and teacups
That we hoped to go trade

For the finest of riches
That your thoughts could construe
Found no-where on earth
But Figgamaroo

Gastro would serve us
Goose eggs on a platter
Which he’d cook mixed with shell
Said the Captain, “No matter

For there’s oat-cakes and gumbo
With jelly-drop goo
When we get to the Island
Of Figgamaroo”

Thin Parlie, our lookout
With knots was quite handy
To the deck he’d drop wrappers
From sugar-free candy

To the captain he shouted
(Quite a hullabaloo)
There’s a storm lies between us
And Figgamaroo”

So Barry struck mainsail
While Narli checked jump
And Otter went ’lo decks
To clean out the sump

And Gastro, now queasy
Cried, “What shall we do?”
Sail through her,” said Harry
To Figgamaroo”

I admit that I doubted
As I tied myself fast
The winds were so calm
Not a creak from the mast

Then the softest of whispers
Like an eerie preview
Made me wish for the safety
Of Figgamaroo

The change was so sudden
A bare minute was all
From the lightest of breezes
To a full-blown sea squall

There was thunder and lightning
As our deck was blown skew
I despaired ever seeing
Fair Figgamaroo

The waves were so mighty
That they fell from the sky
Dropping down a great sea bass
Looking me in the eye

The wind tore from us flotsam
Even my own left shoe
I clung to rope, and to hope
Of Figgamaroo

The salty spray whipped us
Making everything wet
From the top of the mainmast
To the cook’s shell omelet

But Narli stood bravely
Tight the sheet line she drew
As our ship struggled onward
To Figgamaroo

Just as I figured
Our ship couldn’t last
The waves ceased to tip us
As the storm rushed on past

And I saw Barry dancing
As the bowline he threw
To the merry inhabitants
Of Figgamaroo

The natives, Trifoggles
Saw with three eyes apiece
Their pets, furboggles
Had luxuriant fleece

They handed us shells
Full of mackarine stew
They treat sailors kindly
On Figgamaroo

There was bo-bread with berries
And fru-fruit, cut fine
And we washed it all down
With cocopop wine

Not nearly,” griped Gastro,
As good as shell almondu”
But no one agreed
There on Figgamaroo

They gave us dessert
Parlie his stomach pattening
Asked wasn’t there something
A little less fattening?

The Trifoggles looked puzzled
The Furboggles barked, “Woo?”
They like their sweets rich
There on Figgamaroo

Barry went hopping
Through the tickle-me heather
Narli twisted a headdress
Made of fling-a-bye feather

Now to business,” said Harry
As he put down his brew
Will you trade with me here
On Figgamaroo?”

They showed us nuzguzzles
And twoops of laparnet
And intricate cozmulles
Encrusted with garnet

For this they asked taffy
That they so love to chew
For taffy, they’re daffy
On Figgamaroo

A groan came from Otter
Whose job was to save
Our cargo from damage
From leak or from wave

For the taffy was sodden
Cause the sea had soaked through
It’s great,” said the natives
Of Figgamaroo

Now I’ve been all over
By boat, ship and liner
And I’ve always loved travels
But there never was finer

Than that trip of discovery
When Harry’s old crew
Traded salt water taffy
On Figgamaroo.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fictwrig/haus3 Kinda Like

Kinda Like…
by Will Wright and Headley Hauser

It’s kinda like this
Imagine a hamster
He spends all day in a converted fish aquarium
He’s left alone
Except for two five-minute periods a day
When some giant says a few meaningless words
Does a few chores
And replaces the water and food pellets

The rest of the day
He’s on his own

Now there’s only one interesting thing in his cage
The running wheel
Not surprisingly, the hamster starts to run

He runs because he likes to run
He runs because there’s nothing else to do
He keeps running
Even when he needs to poop
He runs
It doesn’t matter
The poop falls right through the wheel
And lands on the floor
The hamster keeps running
He poops again
And keeps running

Running, running poop running poop
After a while
He looks down
He thinks
“Hey, that’s kind of interesting
When the poop falls through the wheel
It looks different than regular poop
It’s in an odd pattern
I wonder if I can do this
On purpose”

For the rest of the day
The hamster runs
And poops
With a purpose
Sometimes he moves to one side of the wheel
Sometimes to the other
He tries it while running extra fast
He tries it while walking
The pattern gets more and more interesting
When he has to eat and drink
He’s really careful getting down from the wheel
He doesn’t want to disturb the pattern

Just as the sun goes down
The giant returns
He grunts in human speech
“Gee, you sure made a mess today!”
He takes the paper from the bottom of the cage
And rolls it up carefully
He puts down new paper
And gives the hamster
Water and pellets

The giant leaves
The hamster lies exhausted
He looks at the clean paper
He looks at the food and water
And he finally understands
“He gave me food and water for my pretty pattern
He put down more paper for a new pattern
I must be an artist!

I’m underpaid”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fictmcfa7 Hazel Part 6 Hazel and the Dragon

Hazel Part Six
Hazel and the Dragon

It took us an hour to get home from the airport. In all, it had been just over five hours since Karl and I left campus. We found a box and shredded some newspaper and settled Hazel in it. She pooped and urinated immediately. The newspaper in the bottom of the knapsack was clean.
I didn’t think a rabbit was capable of such control. My parents were very impressed. I told them about the x-ray and the luggage screener. They didn’t say so but I think they thought I was putting them on.
If Hazel felt uncomfortable with the sudden change of environment, she showed no sign of it. She hopped around my room, exploring. She nibbled a little on the side of my bookcase and would have gone after the wires if I hadn’t stopped her. She was so bright in other ways, why did she want to eat electrical wires?
Mom, Dad and I did some taste testing with foods Mom had in the refrigerator. Hazel had never tried cantaloupe, honeydew or grapefruit before. She liked the melons but didn’t care for the grapefruit.
Her favorite is tomatoes.”
Regular tomatoes or cherry?”
She’s never had cherry tomatoes.”
Let’s find out.”
My Dad was a scientist and I think the experimental aspects of the taste testing especially appealed to him.
When given the choice between a sliced tomato and a whole cherry tomato, Hazel chose the sliced. When we sliced the cherry tomato in half, she had no interest in anything else until she’d eaten both halves.
I guess she has a new favorite.”
I bet I know something she’d like better.” said Mom.
What’s that?”
Mom left the room and returned with a Hershey bar. She broke off a piece of a square and sliced another cherry tomato.
I don’t suppose it’s very good for her,” Mom said.
A little won’t hurt her,” said Dad.
Hazel went back and forth between the cherry tomato and the chocolate several times. She sniffed the chocolate thoroughly and then returned to examine the tomato. She looked genuinely torn.
She chose the chocolate.
And a new winner!”
Mom was very intuitive and a great fan of chocolate herself. It didn’t surprise me that she knew what Hazel would like.
You know, Carol Lynn and Bruce are arriving tomorrow.”
I think they’ll like Hazel.”
They’ll be bringing Grendel.”
Grendel was my sister’s cat. She was a year old but still more like a kitten than a cat. Grendel’s second favorite game was playing fetch with the hoops that came from the caps of plastic gallon milk jugs. Her favorite game was violence and mayhem.
Grendel would lie in wait for people to pass by. Her favorite ambush was on a stairway where she could be at eye level with her prey. When her victim got close enough, Grendel would lash out with claws unsheathed.
If the people around her got wise to her stair attacks, she would hide under chairs and attack the ankles of anyone who sat down.
I suppose that’s what happens when you name a cat after an ancient dragon.
You couldn’t spend a day in the same house with Grendel without a few claw marks to show for it. It wasn’t a big problem. It was even funny most of the time but we were humans.
It might not be so funny for Hazel.
I guess I better make a cage.”
There was no worry about finding materials. If I needed to make Hazel a one bedroom cottage, the only materials I wouldn’t find in Dad’s workshop would be the concrete foundation and the waste pipe to hook up to the town’s sanitation department.
Dad, do you have some chicken wire?”
Yes, but you should use hardware cloth. Grendel’s paws can get through chicken wire.
I didn’t make a fancy cage. We were only there for a week. Dad wondered if we should put hardware cloth on both sides of the supports so Grendel’s claws couldn’t extend and scratch Hazel.
I’ll just keep my door closed while Grendel’s loose anyway.”
It was a smaller cage than Hazel had at school but she didn’t seem to mind. Even in a larger cage, a rabbit can’t get much exercise. She had the run of the room when I was there to watch her.

* * *

Carol Lynn made a great fuss over Hazel. I wasn’t surprised. My sister was a great fan of Christmas, Disney movies and small animals. She agreed that Hazel and Grendel should be kept apart.
Everyone will be here tomorrow for dinner. I’d like to bring Hazel downstairs for a while so she can be a part of it.”
We can put Grendel in a room for a while so Hazel can have some family time.”
My sister Cammy arrived early the next afternoon and my brother Mitch and his wife Robin followed shortly afterward.
Everyone was sitting in the living room waiting for dinner and Carol Lynn grabbed Grendel and closed her into the bedroom she and Bruce were staying in.
I came in and asked Hazel if she was ready to meet some people. She pooped before I lifted her out of her cage. It seemed a wise precaution on her part.
I brought her down to the living room and set her down on the carpet. The family was sitting in a circle around the room. Hazel started moving in a clockwise motion; greeting each person she came to. Hazel took her time and got a good scratch from each person before she’d move on to the next.
My sister in law was talking about some book about rabbits that I wasn’t familiar with. She barely looked at Hazel as she bent over to pet her. Hazel looked curious. She wasn’t used to being ignored.
The last person in the circle was my brother Mitch. He was sitting back in a big cloth chair we’d had as long as I could remember. Hazel started sniffing at his pants leg as he bent over to pet her.
Hello Hazel.”
Hazel leapt up into my brother’s lap and rubbed her head against his stomach. There was something about Mitch that made an immediate connection for her, and she didn’t just want a short scratch behind the ears.
My brother was at first surprised and then looked very pleased. He knew he’d been honored.
Hazel and he were content to sit like that till dinner was ready.
There was some rumbling from my sister’s room and it sounded like Grendel wasn’t happy. Mitch handed me Hazel and I took her back to my room while Carol Lynn went to release the feline dragon.
I plopped Hazel in her cage and ran downstairs to eat. I thought I shut the door but I guess I just pulled it to.
Grendel began the meal in her usual fashion, lurking under the table and attacking any foot that moved. You could gage where Grendel was by the sudden jerking movements of the people around you.
I hadn’t seen any Grendel spasms in some time.
I peeked under the table. She wasn’t there.
Where’s Grendel?”
Mom looked over at me. “Is your door closed?”
I ran up the stairs with Carol Lynn and Mom close behind me. My door was open about four inches, just wide enough for a cat to slip through, or, for that matter, a rabbit to slip out.
I had put Hazel in her cage but I didn’t think I’d put the top down. She could have hopped out at any time or Grendel could have hopped in.
We hadn’t heard any noise. Neither Hazel nor Grendel was more than ten pounds but if there were a struggle, wouldn’t we have heard? Could Grendel have killed Hazel without a struggle? Maybe Grendel was still stalking her. Even if Hazel was unharmed, she had to be terrified.
I didn’t want to open the door but I didn’t dare hesitate.
They were both there. Hazel was in her cage with the top off. Grendel was on the outside looking at Hazel…
And Hazel was nose to nose with her, looking back. Hazel didn’t appear to be the least frightened and Grendel the dragon cat wasn’t acting hostile.
Both heads turned to me as I entered the room as if I was interrupting a conversation.
Carol Lynn entered and swooped Grendel into her arms. There wasn’t anything to scold the cat for; she was being perfectly civil.
Hazel was happy to see me but no more than she ever was. She hopped out of her cage. She didn’t give a thought to the predator only a few feet away. She knew when I was there, she could hop around and that’s what she liked to do.
I was much more frightened for Hazel than she was. It left me with some questions. Was Hazel ignorant of how dangerous cats were? Didn’t all rabbits have an instinct that detected predators? Did my presence in the house give her a false sense of security?
Or was Hazel ever really in danger? Grendel did not seem hostile but a cat will stalk before pouncing. Was Grendel lulling Hazel before her attack or were they actually just have some sort of amiable animal conversation, as they appeared to be having?
Were all rabbits like this?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

fictmcfa9 Hazel Part 5 Bunny With Wings

Hazel Part 5
Bunny With Wings

My parents sent me a plane ticket to come home for spring break. They didn’t know about Hazel. I’d had her a month but I wasn’t very good about writing letters home.
I knew that a week was too long to leave her alone and I already had the ticket so I figured I’d better bring her home with me. I just didn’t know how I was supposed to take a rabbit on a plane.
I didn’t want to chance putting her in a box and checking her. I didn’t know if they pressurized the luggage compartment I’d seen the way the baggage handlers threw things around. I would have to take her as a carry on.
I had a suitcase and two knapsacks. The suitcase was too big for a carry on and I needed it to pack things in but the knapsacks were limp and they’d be confining for Hazel.
I went out to the trash room where most of my best ideas came from. There were several boxes there including a thick walled one that looked about the right size to fit under an airplane seat.
Would they even let me bring a rabbit on board the plane?
They had to, I decided. People travel all the time. A lot of people must bring their pets along. I’d never seen a pet on a flight but I’d only flown four or five times and that included Nana’s funeral when I was only eleven and not paying too much attention.
Still, I wasn’t sure if they’d give me trouble. Maybe they wouldn’t even notice if I could make things less obvious than a box with holes punched in it.
The larger of my knapsacks stretched over the box without any room to spare. It was as if they were made for each other. Hazel’s lucky rabbit feet held great sway over my dorm’s trash room.
I removed a side of the box that matched the mouth of the knapsack. I could close the knapsack with the flap but Hazel would still get air through the canvas.

Al had gotten a new used car but refused to loan it out. I couldn’t really blame him but I needed a ride to the airport.
Karl, whose position as Hazel’s Uncle had improved his social life, was able to borrow a car and volunteered to drive us. I lined the knapsack box heavily with newspaper both to catch her urine and to make it more comfortable for her.
This time there was no rabbit urine on the car seat.
As I walked up to the airline desk, Carl had that same smile on his face that he had the night Miles met Hazel. He thought I was in trouble and I was starting to agree with him. They had to let pets ride on airplanes but would they just let me carry her on?
Good morning sir!”
Good morning.”
I handed the agent my ticket.
Do you have any bags to check?”
Yeah, I have this suit case and I’d like to carry on these two knapsacks.”
Oh, I’m sorry, Sir. We limit you to only one carry on per flight.”
My knapsack hopped.
Sir, is there an animal in there?”
I opened the flap and Hazel peeked out.
Isn’t that an adorable bunny! I’m afraid that’s not an approved animal carrier though. We can rent you one for twenty two dollars or sell you one for fifty.”
I had six bucks.
Karl searched his pockets. “I’ve got eighteen.”
And then, of course, you’ll need a ticket.”
There’s my ticket.”
Yes, but you’ll need a ticket for your pet. Let’s see, you’re going to Logan airport? That’s one hundred twenty seven dollars round trip or eighty three one way.”
Karl stopped smiling. Seeing your friend get in trouble is fun but he liked Hazel almost as much as I did. Besides, his last three dates were with women he got to know with her assistance.
I can take her back to school but I’m leaving for home tomorrow.”
We don’t have enough money,” I told the ticket agent.
Do you have a credit card?”
I’m sorry, sir. I can’t let to take the rabbit into the cabin with you. It’s against regulations.”
I tried to check my smaller knapsack but the ticket agent must have guessed I was going to try to smuggle Hazel aboard and refused. I was stuck with an extra carry on and no way to get Hazel to Massachusetts.
Are you still flying today, sir?”
Yeah, I’m going.”
She looked at me suspiciously. She had reason to. I knew I had to try to smuggle Hazel on and I’ve never had a good poker face.
After she handed me my seat assignment, Karl and I left the counter.
What are you going to do?”
Go outside and let her go,” I said. I said it loud enough to let the ticket agent hear. I didn’t think she’d buy it but if she warned the flight crew, we were sunk.
Oh man!” At least Karl was convincing. He believed me.
When we got back to the car, I began going through my smaller knapsack picking out things I had to have and putting them in my pockets.
Karl, will you take this knapsack back with you.”
Sure, what are you going to do?”
Smuggle Hazel on the plane.”
You can’t do that. You heard the ticket agent. You could get in serious trouble.”
I don’t think they’ll send me to prison for bunny smuggling. Besides, when did you ever worry about me getting in trouble?”
Karl’s smile returned. “I can’t believe you’re doing this.”
I don’t see that I have much choice.”
When I went back into the terminal, there was a different agent at the desk. Was that good news or bad? The agent at the desk had no reason to suspect the knapsack I was carrying but was the other one away because she was reporting me?
Karl looked nervous.
I think I’m going to go.” I guess he didn’t want to really see me get in trouble.
OK, thanks.”
Yeah, good luck.”
I headed for the gate.
There was something new. In the late seventies they started x-raying all the carry-on bags before people got to the departure gates. I looked to see if there was a way around it. There didn’t seem to be.
Maybe, I could walk around on the outside and get in that way.
That would look pretty suspicious and they probably had chain link fences to keep people from doing that. I didn’t see any other options.
Do x-rays hurt rabbits? I’d had x-rays at the dentist office and when I broke my arm. Were these any worse? I hoped not.
I stood in line, holding my knapsack to my chest. There were seven or eight people in front of me.
I mumbled into my knapsack. “Hazel, you’re going to have to stay perfectly still.”
I don’t know if anyone heard me. College kids tend to be a bit strange anyway, maybe they just thought I was talking to myself.
I laid the knapsack carefully, flat side down on the conveyor belt. I should have been scared but I was actually pretty excited. I rushed ahead so I could see the screen as Hazel passed through.
The luggage screener didn’t seem surprised that I was watching the screen so closely. It was a new thing; probably a lot of people ran up to see. The novelty had evidently worn off for her. She looked so bored; I half expected to hear snoring.
Her expression changed when my knapsack came into view. The two bags before had been a mish-mash of confusing images. I’d been able to make out a pair of scissors in one bag but everything else was just non-descript shades of gray.
There was no question about what was in my bag. There was a rabbit clear as a bell and nothing else.
She stopped the belt and I held my breath. She looked over at me and I tried to smile casually. Thankfully, the x-ray didn’t show a beating heart, a skeleton or any interior organs. It was just a bunny and to my eyes at least, there was no way to distinguish Hazel from any stuffed bunny you might find in the toy department. Her pose was the same with her front paws evenly before her chin and her hind legs folded beneath her. Her tail was up and her ears were back. And she wasn’t moving, not an ear twitch, not a whisker, she didn’t even look like she was breathing.
The screener was not at all bored now. The expression on her face was so confused it was hilarious. My adrenaline was running high and every cell of my body wanted to laugh out loud. Hazel was doing her job but I was going to blow it! I bit the insides of my cheeks and tried to breathe normally.
The screener looked at Hazel about twenty seconds though it seemed much longer to me. Other than her shape, she showed no sign of being a live bunny. The screener hit the belt control and Hazel didn’t even jump then. She just placidly rolled to the end of the belt where I picked her up and tried to keep from laughing.
I practically floated to the departure gate. Though I’d feared the flight crew only ten minutes before, after the luggage x-ray, I had complete confidence in Hazel.
I got on the plane and found my seat without the slightest self-consciousness. I had the window seat and I put Hazel’s knapsack on the floor between my legs.
A woman in her thirties sat next to me. It occurred to me that we were pretty tightly packed on the plane. A lot of people are allergic to animal fur. Was I condemning a fellow passenger to a miserable trip?
You’re not allergic to rabbits are you?”
She looked a bit confused by my question. “Not that I know of.”
I had to put Hazel under the seat for take off but pulled her knapsack up into my lap as soon as the seatbelt light went off. Her nose pushed up around the flap of the knapsack. The air couldn’t have been good in there.
Oh my!”
My neighbor saw the nose.
Would you like to meet Hazel?”
You actually brought a rabbit on the plane?”
I was glad she kept her voice down. We were in the air but I could still get in trouble if the flight crew learned of her.
I unfastened the flap but Hazel stayed in the box while we were in flight. My neighbor helped me keep watch for flight attendants and even shared some of her salad. Hazel gratefully accepted the lettuce and even the carrots though I knew they weren’t her favorite. I guess stress will make a bunny hungry.
Mom was waiting at the gate when I arrived.
Is Dad here?”
He’s parking the car.”
I have someone I want you to meet.”
Mom looked around at the people nearby. She must have thought I was bringing a girlfriend home.
My neighbor from the flight smiled and waved. My mother looked concerned. The woman was nearly twice my age.
No Mom.” I walked a few steps away from the gate with all the airline personnel and undid the flap of my knapsack. Hazel popped her head out.
Oh my goodness!”
Mom, meet Hazel.”