Saturday, March 8, 2014

ficthaus9 Psychic Roach

Psychic Roach
by Headley Hauser

Its appeal was strong. Something in the smell, a sweet, almost enchanting fragrance, like an open can of peas, compelling him to enter. Over the last few days, everyone else had gone in. He hadn’t seen any come out. Now he was alone, alone with the box.
Why hadn’t he followed all the others? It wasn’t as if he missed them. He was small, and they always picked on him. The others kept him from food, banning him from the prime spots under the refrigerator and stove. No female ever invited him to mate. Not a single roach cared for him.
He wasn’t sorry to see them go. Now he could wander under the refrigerator to his heart’s content. He was number one! Of course there was no number two or three, but that made him more special.
He was the only roach left.
Why did he spend so much time staring at this box? There was… something – something he couldn’t explain – that warned him of danger. Could there be a killer in the box? Perhaps some great beetle lurked inside. Maybe it killed all the others and ate them slowly. Only Roach’s antennae twitched involuntarily. No, it wasn’t a great beetle, but that was close enough. There was danger and death in the box, he was sure of it. He longed for whatever made the sweet scent, but now he could ignore it. He could resist the scent. He wasn’t going to die in the box.
He rummaged beneath the refrigerator and then under the stove. Food was everywhere, far more than he could eat. He was in paradise, if it weren’t for this odd feeling. Maybe… he should travel? A roach never travels when he has all he could want right in front of him.
Again, that feeling…
He decided to travel, though he didn’t understand why. He thought there was another tribe somewhere in the house. The other tribe would kill him, just as his tribe killed strangers. Well, they used to kill strangers. Only Roach was his own tribe now, and he didn’t feel like killing strangers.
He also wasn’t about to talk himself out of this nonsensical urge to wander. He set out.
For the first time in his life, Only Roach moved off the smooth ground – no, not ground… tile floor, and onto the high grass – no, not grass… carpet. It was harder walking on carpet than on tile, but he could climb it. He had plenty of legs, more than humans or dogs, not so many as centipedes, but these legs were good for climbing. He even liked climbing.
Then he saw something really worth climbing.
Several hills lay stacked on each other – not hills… stairs. He could climb up the wood part as long as it ran straight up, but each stair had a lip that blocked his way. Carefully he scaled the back and sides of the… carpet runner. If the light came on, he knew this was a place where humans step. It was a foolish risk, but everything he’d been doing seemed foolish. Was he any more foolish than the other roaches? After all, he was the only one left alive.
At the top of the stairs was an open area ringed with… doorways. The carpet had an old, musty scent. The smells spoke of the journeys of many roaches, but none from his tribe. Ahead loomed a small room with tile on the floor… a bathroom. All signs pointed to this room being the home of a mighty tribe. Even though he was afraid, he crossed the carpet to the cold floor beyond.
The bathroom had thousands of scents: some subtle, some strong. One scent, coming from a piece of plastic struck in the wall, was so strong and shrill it was difficult to appreciate the softer sweeter aromas.
He hadn’t been attacked. Even more surprising, all the tribe traces here in the bathroom were nearly as old as those in the carpet outside. Where were they?
There was the scent again, like an open can of peas, the same as in the kitchen. Following the scent was easy, almost as if it wanted to be followed. The box looked just the same, though it was at a different angle from the wall. The drawing power was strong. He wanted to go in the box. He knew it was death, yet the only thing he wanted was to go in the box.
The box must have killed this tribe just as the box downstairs had killed his own. Maybe there were no more roaches, only him. Why was he the one to survive? What was so special about him?
Maybe the tribe’s death was a mistake. Maybe his survival was the mistake. He wanted to know, but whom could he ask? Lately words popped into his head when he thought about places and objects, but the words didn’t answer questions. What would he do if there were no way to ask?
Asking wasn’t what was important; living was important.
Suddenly he felt powerful – a new sensation for him, and he liked it! He needed to leave traces in every room in the house. He was Only Roach, and leaving his trace mattered.
He scurried across the carpet and into the room to the left of the stairs.
The room had a large padded platform jutting out from the wall on the right, a… bed. A smaller, firmer platform, a… table, with a… chair stood to the left. There was also a… dresser in the far corner and several boxes scattered about the floor. To the far left of the doorway was a… closet, and though there was something intriguing about the closet, the room as a whole smelled dry and uninteresting. A spider hung from a web behind the door. The spider eyed him hungrily, but the web was high up and easy to avoid.
Moving back to the hall, he felt disappointed. He hoped the rest of the house had more to offer. There was light from under the door at the end of the hall. Since light meant danger, he crawled under the door at the near end.
This was more like it! Right by the door stood a… diaper pail, and if he didn’t have so much to explore, he would have crawled inside for the rest of the night!
There was a small bed across the room. It was higher than the last bed and had rails on each side. The infant human’s chest was rising and falling as he slept. Such an aromatic creature! Urine and mucus were the predominant scents, but he could also smell perspiration and even some excrement. There were also unnatural scents, which were less pleasant. There was a painful, piercing smell from a box of wet clothes and a dry, mind-numbing fragrance from a bottle of powder that had somehow spilled all over the infant and much of the bed clothing.
He hoped the powder didn’t harm the little human. He didn’t know why he should care, but there was something appealing about the way the creature slept so peacefully. Should he crawl up and remove the powder? He could work all night and not get it all. There were other places to explore.
I wish you well, human infant,” he sent across his antennae toward the baby. The baby’s lips twitched, and he let out a sigh as Only Roach left the room.
Three doors remained unexplored on the other side of the stairs. Light shone from the middle door, so he chose the one to the right. This room was small, crowded, and dark. It had no… windows. It looked like Only Roach was in a closet. Most of the smells in here were unpleasant, more powder and soap, and two of those plastic things that hung from the bathroom wall. There were pieces of dead roaches sifted into the carpet. He was in a death place.
Was he in a death box? He couldn’t smell anything like canned peas. He wandered to the back of the closet, and his leg caught in something springy. He tried to move his leg away, but the springy thing moved with him. It wouldn’t let go. There was some sort of cord traveling up from the floor to the back wall of the closet. He sensed movement. Above him two clusters of luminous facets sparkled. The clusters moved towards him.
A spider! A large spider was coming to eat him, and he couldn’t break free from its web. He could feel his leg begin to loosen but he needed more time; the spider was too close. If only… a sparrow would come and eat the spider. He didn’t think sparrows visited dark closets, but he pictured the sparrow anyway as he worked to free his leg.
The sparrow is scanning the web, looking for his supper. He knows that where there are webs, there are usually fat tasty spiders.”
The roach looked up and saw that the spider’s eyes were dimming as it retreated to the back of the web. Giving another tug, Only Roach’s leg came free of the web. He scampered under the closet door and out into the hall.
He had made the spider see a sparrow that wasn’t there! But many roaches had died in that closet. Why hadn’t any of those roaches made the spider see a sparrow? He couldn’t remember a roach from his tribe doing anything like that.
Is that why I’m alive?” he wondered.
Two rooms remained. He took the darker one that was now straight ahead of him.
This room was larger than either the empty bedroom or the baby’s room. A large bed framed by two windows stuck out from the far wall. To the left of the bed was another closet with its own window. Against the right wall was a long dresser under yet another window.
It took him a moment to realize that two humans were lying in the bed. He wondered if each knew the other was there? Surely this warranted some closer investigation.
A thick comforter made an easy path to the top of the bed. From there Only Roach could see that they must be aware of each other because the man’s arm was resting on the woman’s shoulder. Both were asleep, though neither as soundlessly as the baby down the hall. They had escaped the powder that covered the baby. Each had mostly pleasant, natural smells, though the female had a faint artificial flowery scent coming from spots around her neck.
The female’s eye flickered, and suddenly the comforter erupted, landing tangled on the floor.
Get it!” the woman screamed. There was now more light poking through the folds of the comforter.
Get what?” the male groaned.
A roach! He was up here on the bed.”
I don’t see him.”
Only Roach knew he had to get out of the room. He zipped through the folds of the comforter, found the carpet, and ran as fast as he could toward the hallway.
There he is!” the woman shouted.
Only Roach couldn’t understand why the woman hated him so. Seeing a doorway a little to his right, he scrambled through.
He wasn’t in the hall. The screaming and getting tangled in the comforter had thrown off his sense of direction. There were boxes and shoes and a hamper of laundry. He was in another closet. He felt a towering presence looming behind him. He wanted to get in the hamper, but he knew the male would get him before he was halfway up the side. One pair of shoes smelled especially good, but they were too far away. He ran around the box in front of him and crawled in from the other side.
Outside the box he heard things moving around. Then the box started spinning. For a second or two he felt like he had wings, but he couldn’t control where he was flying. The box crashed into something and fell to the carpet upside down. The box lid was knocked ajar. Only Roach fell out of the box and onto the carpet. Quickly he climbed back onto the lid and the box’s side as high as he could go. He wedged himself in where one piece of cardboard flapped over another.
Don’t look in the shoebox!” he wished as hard as he could. He heard things flying around outside. The box was jostled again, but this time it didn’t fly. “Don’t look in the shoebox, don’t look in the shoebox, don’t look in the shoebox!”
The rustling outside the box stopped. “I’m not going to find it honey, let’s get back to sleep.”
I’m not about to sleep after that! Besides, it’s almost six o’clock.”
There was a clicking sound, and suddenly there were other voices in the room. The voices changed frequently, and with them music and sounds that didn’t belong in a human bedroom. Only Roach recognized that he was hearing another of the talking picture boxes, a…TV, like the one in the kitchen.
Only Roach cowered in the shoebox and wondered. Did the adult male forget to look in the shoebox, or was he wished away? Antennae nervously twitching, Only Roach decided not to leave the safety of the shoebox until the humans were gone.
Finally the TV and other people sounds stopped. Just to be sure, Only Roach waited in the shoebox until he saw patterns of sunlight illumine the carpet by the box’s edge.
Cautiously he made his way down the stairs and returned to the familiar sights and smells of the kitchen.
Three humans were in the kitchen, the adult female, the infant male, and the female child. The adult female was attempting to manipulate food into the infant. The female child noticed Only Roach and shouted, “Bug!” The adult was too concerned with the infant to notice.
The infant was a symphony of brown. Having the good sense of the human young, he hadn’t sent his excrement cascading down a toilet, but wore it within easy access in his diaper.
Still, it wasn’t his diaper that drew Only Roach’s attention. The baby was eating some soft brown goo that looked a lot like excrement but smelled much sweeter… pudding. The mother was spooning the pudding into the infant’s mouth. Each spoonful was enough to bathe in! This was opportunity that couldn’t be ignored! He had to take a chance. He had to try to send a wish to the infant.
Throw the pudding!” The words fizzled across his antennae. “Throw the pudding!”
The baby became noticeably more restless. His legs pounded the high chair as his arms flailed. Even the mother seemed distracted. Could he be reaching her as well?
Splat! A puddle of pudding appeared a few steps from where Only Roach stood. More pudding fell to his left and right. The infant giggled as the woman sighed.
Only Roach ran through one of the smaller puddles, dipping his thorax into the goo as deeply as he dared. He wasn’t stupid, like a fly. He knew better than to get stuck.
Again the female child spotted Only Roach and this time got up from her chair and approached Only Roach in an unsteady hurried gate.
Quickly Only Roach ran beneath the refrigerator.
Mommy, buggy unda here!”
Move away, honey, Mommy’s going to move the refrigerator.”
Only Roach was cornered. If he ran, the humans would spot him, and he was much slower now, weighed down with pudding. “Don’t look under the refrigerator, don’t look under the refrigerator.” Somehow he knew that wishing wasn’t going to work this time.
What else could he do? Could he make the mother see an enemy like he had done with the spider? What beast could possibly be big enough to threaten a human? He might be able to distract the child, but what good would that do? It was the woman who was the real threat, and there was something immovable about the way she was thinking.
Above him the refrigerator rocked. There was only the mother, the child, and the infant. They had no enemies; he had no allies. Or did he? With the same intensity he had used with the adult male earlier, he wished to the infant. “You’re very bored, you’re very sleepy, you’re very cranky… that’s it! You’re very cranky! You’re very cranky!
The infant erupted into the squeals of the most beautiful music Only Roach had ever heard. Suddenly the woman’s mind wasn’t so immovable. “You should check the baby, you should check the baby!” Only Roach felt the mother’s resolve crumble and then fall away. The refrigerator stopped rocking.
What’s wrong, sweetheart? Is your world coming apart? Ewww! I see what’s wrong. Let’s go upstairs and change that right now.”
As the mother carried the infant up the stairs, Only Roach peaked out from under the refrigerator. Staring down on him was the child… Cassie.
Hello, Cassie,” Only Roach wished at her.
“’Lo Buggy,” the child replied. If she thought it was strange to be talking to a roach, she didn’t show it.
You almost got me squished.”
No, I want to play.” The girl looked sorry.
Only Roach studied the girl in front of him. She was enormous, but she was tender and little inside. It surprised him that he liked the little girl, just as he liked her little brother. Even the adults were better than most of the roaches he’d met – if you get past them trying to kill you all the time. It was as if a space had opened inside Only Roach allowing Cassie and her family to move in.
Hey, Cassie,” Only Roach wished, “can you find me some cookie crumbs to go with this pudding?”

fictwrig6 Noble

Note:  This story appears in the chapbook, Salt for the Journey, available on

by Will Wright

The brute was going to die but he didn’t know that.
Myra circled and spun in a corkscrew flight. A hand swung through the air, snatching at a spot of air she’d flown through an instant earlier. She stifled a laugh. He’d been quick enough to kill Phoebe like that earlier. Humans looked clumsy, but it was a mistake to underestimate the species.
The sound of paper movement cautioned her to stay low. He was alert and armed. She trolled through the shadows, blending with the carpet.
She’d requested canine work for her squadron this morning. They were more pleasant smelling and less likely to kill.
“I’m sorry, Commander, this is top priority: pre-cancer. We need at least five effective doses today or we’ll lose him.”
“I don’t suppose we could just let him die? He’s a mass murderer after all.”
“He is one of the nasty ones; there’s no doubt about that.”
The brute was seated again. Myra spun around to see if the weapon was still in his hand. He wasn’t holding it but it was nearby. Daphne’s wing and one leg still hung off the edge.
Daphne had been a friend. Myra didn’t know how many sorties they flew together. She could only count to nine and it was more than that. At least Daphne had brooded. There would be many more than nine just like her. Myra wanted to live to see them.
With Daphne’s death, Myrtle was now her second: a solid veteran. “Report, Myrtle.”
“I have confirmed three solid injections, Commander. There are two other partials. There may be more.”
“Daphne, Phoebe and Rosemary, Commander”
“Did you see how Rosemary died?”
“Invisible barrier, Commander, she tried to fly through it.”
The humans called the barriers, windows; invisible and frequently mobile, their flat impenetrable surface exposed flyers to the swat and the spray.
“She dodged his first attack,” said Myrtle. He stunned her on the second pass and then crushed her against the barrier. I don’t like it, Commander. Canines don’t use invisible barriers.”
“No, they don’t. I think the humans use windows just to kill us.”
“I heard it was to keep killer birds away.”
“Maybe, but I know this one’s type. He likes to kill. I think he moves the barriers to trap us.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t fly for the light when we hit a barrier,” said Myrtle. Maybe we should just bounce off them.”
“Just do what the trainers tell you, Myrtle. I have seen more than nine sorties. The advice of the trainers has kept me alive all this time.”
“Have you saved a human before, Commander?”
“Two, they are disgusting and dangerous creatures but our purpose is a noble one.”
“I wonder,” said Myrtle. She buzzed the human’s head and it’s large grotesque turned, exposing the bald blunt features of it’s face.
The brute’s hand swung through the air. Myrtle rode the wind current up above the hand but Myra was knocked from the air to the body of the brute. She found an opening in his clothing and burrowed in. He wouldn’t attack if he didn’t know she was there. The clothing was a dark and dangerous place. Few lived who found themselves who so entangled but the mission came first.
“Damn mosquito, where’d you go?”
Did the brute expect an answer?
Myra wondered what was so important about these creatures anyway. Dogs, horses and deer were admirable. Their fur made good resting places. Their manure enriched the soil. Their blood brought strong broods. They even tasted good.
Humans acted as if the planet was there for them alone. How could they think such a thing? There were many more than nine of her kind for every one of them. How did the humans explain that: a mistake?
The humans erected barriers and traps. They released murderous gasses. If they could, Myra thought they just might kill every one of her kind.
Of course, if they did, the humans would die as well. Without midges, biting flies, ticks, horseflies and especially mosquitoes cancer would run rampant, human males would go sterile and their bowels would malfunction. Surely creatures who could build barriers and create killer gasses would know a simple thing like that.
They certainly didn’t act like they knew. A human blessed with life giving attention cursed and killed and sprayed and whined as if they were being wronged.
It wasn’t her place to question her mission but she could tell Myrtle was having her doubts. There were mosquito factions intentionally transmitting disease, instead of curing. It was a reasonable response to the abuse they suffered. Similar rebel factions rose whenever humans desecrated swamp lands.
The rebels would stop. They always did. The mosquito was a noble breed. In the end, the great calling always brought them back. They were the keepers of life, not takers, even when the value of the life the protected was hard to understand.
Myra heard a buzzing. Myrtle used her wings to send code. Of course the human could hear it too. Myra hoped that Myrtle was being careful.
“Forth dose confirmed; Yvette badly mauled; will not survive.”
Only one more dose was required to save the brute.
Myra knew what would happen if she dosed him now. He could reach this spot easily. She would die soon after she saved his life.
Her chances of escape were remote. It didn’t make sense to ask her squadron to take more risks. She could finish the mission from here.
Myrtle knew this. She would hold the rest of the squadron back waiting for the slap that would tell her the human would live even as Myra died.
Myra was glad she had brooded. Because of her, nines and nines and nines again flew the swamp land, saving lives and doing the good work. She wondered if this human would ever do anything to justify her sacrifice and those of her squadron.
She hoped Myrtle would lead them well. Surely, in spite of her doubts, she wouldn’t join the rebels.
There was no time to worry about such things. It was time to do as she must, as she was born to do. Duty was paramount.
She poked, injected. She went ahead and took blood though she knew she’d never brood again. She moved her wings in code.
“Five injections.”


fictwrig8Timothy Worthy Teddybear Spring Cleaning

Note:  This story appears in the Bethlehem Writers Group anthology, Once Around the Sun, available on Amazon.

Timothy Worthy Teddybear and Spring Cleaning
by Will Wright

It wasn’t that Timothy Worthy didn’t like spring. He loved how the air came alive when the windows were first opened, taking walks in the field with Milly, and holding a buttercup blossom under her chin to see if she liked butter. Then there was the rain. Timothy Worthy would stay awake at night and listen to the soft rain tapping on the roof and window pane. He liked almost everything about spring, except . . . Spring Cleaning!
Spring cleaning meant nearly constant activity throughout the house. Mom kept the children busy every moment cleaning the garage, cleaning the closets, cleaning the basement, cleaning the attic. They never had time for Timothy Worthy.
Hey Andy, how about letting me ride behind you on your bicycle?”
Sorry Timothy, I have to paint the shed.”
Terri, wanna play checkers?”
Sorry Timothy, I have to beat the throw-rugs.”
Milly, would you like to play house?”
Sorry Timothy, I have to fill my donation bag”
Timothy Worthy shuddered. Every year Mom gave each child a donation bag to fill with old clothes and toys for the needy. One year, Andy put his Sunday suit with the scratchy wool trousers in his bag. Timothy told him that Mom wouldn’t allow it, and sure enough, the following Sunday, he was wearing the suit, looking more miserable than usual. To Timothy’s dismay, old friends sometimes found their way into one of the bags. Timothy Worthy knew his friends were going to loving homes and that the children would never send HIM away, but the idea of the bag disturbed him.
One year they sent away the bear’s favorite cookie jar! They replaced it with a much larger jar shaped like a pig.
Looking at the pig will help me keep my weight down,” said Mom. Timothy Worthy, who couldn’t imagine wanting to be less than completely full of cookies all the time, moped for days until Terri pointed out that the new one held a lot more cookies.
One of the most frustrating things about spring cleaning for Timothy Worthy how hard it was to find a place to snooze. No sooner would he settle into a comfortable spot than that comfortable spot would be invaded by Mom’s army of obedient workers. Even the doll house offered no relief. When it came to cleaning, Mary, the porcelain doll, was just as eager as Mom.
Timothy propped himself against the wall in Andy’s room to catch his breath. Andy always tried to do the least spring cleaning, so it seemed the safest place. He was just nodding off for a much-delayed nap when he sniffed a strange scent. “Hmm,” thought Timothy, “I suppose I’m going to have to open my eyes and see what it is.”
The first thing Timothy Worthy saw was Sebastian. There was something different about his friend. He looked strange. It wasn’t just that smile was crooked, or the smell, for it was Sebastian that Timothy Worthy smelled, much about the hippo had changed. His dark gray hide, was now brighter, almost shiny. His teeth shone white instead of a dull yellow. Strangest of all, his right side seemed overstuffed and tight, while his left was loose and baggy.
What happened to you Sebastian?”
The hippo stomped his left front hoof. Some of the stuffing shifted, and he looked a bit more like himself. “Spring Cleaning, Timothy,” he said. “Do you remember that spring when Terri was five?”
Sure, Sebastian, that was the year we moved from Andy’s room to Terri’s.”
Do you remember what happened to US that spring?”
Timothy scratched his head. He was good at remembering hugs and cookies and comfortable places, but less important things slipped his mind. Suddenly it came back to him in a flash. “The machines!”
Yes, the machines,” said Sebastian. “Mom threw me in with a lot of towels. I’m still dizzy.”
Do you think Mom will throw me in too?”
Sebastian sniffed at Timothy Worthy, and then wrinkled his nose. “I’m pretty sure she will.”
Oh, I hate spring cleaning!”
Timothy!” said Sebastian, shocked.
He’d never heard Timothy use the word, hate before.
Timothy gave Sebastian a stubborn look. “I won’t go through that again. I have to find a place to hide until spring cleaning is over.”
Where are you going to hide during spring cleaning? Every bed and chair is moved. All the closets are turned inside out. Every box and drawer is sorted.”
I could go to the attic.”
I heard Dad’s supposed to work there tonight.”
I bet they won’t find me if I hide outside.”
Maybe,” the hippo agreed, “but there are dogs and cats out there, and what if it rains? I think you’re better off getting washed by the machines.”
Timothy Worthy rubbed his stomach. “I wish I had a nice big chocolate chip cookie to help me think.”
I don’t think that would help,” said Sebastian, who was, after all, not a big lover of cookies like Timothy Worthy was.
I’ll hide in the basement!”
The basement’s no better than any other place. The whole house gets cleaned.”
I know,” said Timothy, “but Andy always cleans the basement and there’s one place I know he never cleans!”
How do you know that?”
I’ve watched him. Every year, Mom tells him to be sure he cleans the space between the loud metal box and the big drum, but it’s too small to get a broom in there. Andy always leaves it dirty and I’m just small enough to climb in there and hide.”
I’m not sure this is a good idea, Timothy.” The hippo shifted another lump to the left. “The machines weren’t as bad as I remembered. I think it just surprised me the first time. You’re going to get washed sooner or later. Why not get it over with?”
Timothy jumped to his feet. “Whose side are you on, Sebastian? Are you going to help me or not?”
Sebastian sighed. “I’ll help you.”
Getting from Andy’s room to the basement had never seemed dangerous before. Discovery could come from any hallway or door. Of course Sebastian wasn’t afraid, since he was already clean, so he led the way. Timothy hung back cautiously. The hippo urged him to move faster.
I’m too afraid,” said Timothy shivering.
If you stay here, they’ll find you.
But I’m scared.”
Just as Sebastian’s patience was nearly at an end, the bear made a run for it, all the way to the basement door.
Sebastian,” Timothy whispered.
Will you get me a cookie before I hide? A nice big chocolate chip cookie?”
Sebastian frowned.
Please,” Timothy begged. “It may be a long time before spring cleaning is over.”
The hippo grumbled as he waddled into the kitchen. “Why am I doing this? He’s going to get caught.” Getting to the jar was no problem, as the family was busy outside, but, the first cookie that came up was fudge nut.
I don’t see why it has to be chocolate chip.” He fished around in the jar until he found a large chocolate chip cookie. He padded back to the basement door and handed it to Timothy.
Thank you Sebastian!”
They had to grope their way in the dark once they passed inside the basement door. They could hear movement above. Timothy felt his way to the big drum, ducked under the pipes and squeezed himself into the hiding place. The metal box wasn’t being loud at the moment, but the walls that rubbed against him felt furry, soft and a little wispy, not the way concrete or metal should feel. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he thought he saw spooky threads dancing around him. Was something crawling up his leg?
I don’t know if this was such a good idea,” said Timothy.
I never thought it was,” replied the hippo.
Timothy could see the machines on the other side of the big drum. He heard a steady drip echoing from the sink. The basement door opened and light tumbled down the stairs. Mom and Andy followed.
This year, young man, I want the whole basement clean. I want no dust, dirt or cobwebs left when you’re through.”
The light above Timothy came on. He could see that his arms and legs were covered with black soot. Cobwebs formed a shawl about his shoulders and draped the top of his head. “Oh my,” he muttered, “how am I going to get all this off?”
And one more thing, Andrew. This year, I want that space between the furnace and the water heater cleaned out! It’s filthy in there!”
But Mom, It’s too small to get the broom in.”
That’s why I got you this hand broom. Crawl in there and clean it. Do it now.”
Timothy Worthy froze. “Of all the places to hide,” he muttered. Andy was still putting up a feeble protest, but Timothy knew that wouldn’t last much longer. He searched the area for some way to escape. Five feet away was a laundry basket with sheets in it. Timothy crawled under the pipe, dove into the basket, and hid under a sheet. Timothy heard the sound of a stuffed hippo laughing from the basket next to him. A minute later, he heard Andy lie down and scrape out his hiding place with the hand broom. Timothy wasn’t quite close enough to hear what the boy was muttering.
Look at how filthy it was!” Mom sounded very excited. “Look at all that soot, and those cobwebs... and what’s this? Half a chocolate chip cookie! How did that get in there? We’re lucky we don’t have mice! No, no, don’t stop now, young man. I want you to sweep that spot again until we know it’s clean. While you do that, I’ll throw this load of sheets in the washer.”
At first, Timothy didn’t realize what was happening. Suddenly he felt the basket move as Mom lifted it up toward the machines. Now that all was hopeless, he wasn’t really afraid of being washed. He just felt silly. Tip, thud, shake, slam, whirl, and click. Timothy was in the dark. Water poured down from above, slowly soaking him and the sheets. He thought about crying for help, but he didn’t. It was useless, and besides, he was too embarrassed. The water felt warm, like the time Terri had brought him into the bathtub with her.
This isn’t so bad,” he thought.
The machine gave a loud thud. Suddenly, everything began to move. For the next half hour, Timothy could think of nothing other than trying to keep the sheets from twisting round his arms and legs.
When it finally stopped, Mom threw him, along with the sheets into the other machine. This machine was very hot. It spun so fast Timothy thought he would never see straight again. He had no choice but to press against the wall and feel his stuffing shift.


It was morning. Timothy, with Milly’s help, had moved all his stuffing to the right places. His fur looked brighter and he smelled better too. Milly was whistling in the bathroom, getting ready for pre-kindergarten. Timothy lay back among the pillows, and looked out the window. In the yard a dogwood tree was budding. Soon, it would explode with blossoms. In the branches, a spider was weaving a web. Timothy remembered the cobwebs from his basement hiding place, and shuddered. The webs in the trees were different, though. They seemed cleaner. Morning dew hung from the strands, and the early sun reflected off the drops.

I guess I could learn to like spring,” the bear mused, nestling back against his pillow, “but right now, I think I’d like a cookie.”


 Garumplefink’s Parade

by Walter Bego

I sought the company of wise and honored friends
My desire, to be considered just the same
For prestige is something free that your companion lends
So they added with their presence to my fame
A disturbance down the street upset our tête-à-tête
But before I faced offenders to upbraid
My attention was distracted by this martinet
Leading forth in Garumplefinks parade

Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Many colors, many glories are displayed
Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Find your place in Garumplefink’s parade

Strutting to the fore – a sprightly gnomish man
In a purple vest with shiny buttons brass
Green spot and striped bellbottoms with a Chinese fan
And “power of pride” was stickered to his ass
Following in his step an odd and motley troop
As I had ever hoped to see arrayed
That I felt compelled to leave behind my Vichy soup
And find my place in Garumplefink’s parade

Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Many colors, many glories are displayed
Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Find your place in Garumplefink’s parade

I ran and fell in step beside a man red-haired
God loves the Irish” printed on his hat
On the other side a woman in a coat threadbared
The Polish number one” on her cravat
A striking couple marched ahead, fair blond and thin
Staying to the side to catch the shade
With pretty dimples in her cheeks, as well as in his chin
Showing off in Garumplefink’s parade

Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Many colors, many glories are displayed
Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Find your place in Garumplefink’s parade

The glittering of diamonds marked the heiress proud
With a knowing smirk, the Marxist’s head did wag
For his virtues did the preacher thank his God out loud
While the patriot unfurled an eight-foot flag
The bigot said his ancestry was lily white
The five-percenter gloried in a darker shade
Maybe just as well they were both too proud to fight
And spoil the festive Garumplefink’s parade

Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Many colors, many glories are displayed
Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Find your place in Garumplefink’s parade

To a cinder building the gaudy gnome then led us in
And I asked him of the purpose for this run
I’m grateful you forgot,” he said, “that pride is deadly sin
For now I get to eat you, every one.”
I laughed at his fine wit from the conveyor belt
And denied my peril till I saw the blade
Repentance at this point seemed rather gauche, I felt
So I saw the end of Garumplefink’s parade

Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Many colors, many glories are displayed
Garumph garumph Garumplefink
Take your place in Garumplefink’s parade