Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FictHaus4 Tender Vitals

Tender Vitals
by Headley Hauser

"Look!" said Dander. "There it is again. They named a candy after you, Skittles!"
Skittles pouted. "It's not named for me. There are lots of fairies named Skittles."
"But not near this Seven Eleven! Look, some of the candies are green like your eyes, some of them are yellow like your teeth, and some of them are red like the color your cheeks get when you're angry."
"Stay back in the flower bed!" scolded Skittles. "A human will see you - or worse, a cat!"
Dander gave a little jump at the mention of the C word. There were a lot more of them now, and they weren't staying in houses and getting fed small cans of meat and meat byproducts; they were out hunting for birds, rodents... and fairies!
"A-ha!" laughed Skittles, "worried about your tender vitals, I see."
"The humans never should have named their cat food that. The cans turn every content house tabby into a fairy hunter."
"The humans named the cat food Vittles," said Skittles.
"Close enough!"
"And they don't think cats can read, or even understand their language."
"They don't think cats can read," said Dander. "They don't think cats can turn door knobs, or drive an SUV, or load and fire an M16. Humans aren't very bright."
"Most cats prefer Uzis. They're easier to carry."
"It's not like the old days when we twitched our wings and flew out of the cat’s reach."
Skittles bobbed her antennae. "It's hard to out-jump a nine millimeter bullet traveling at four hundred meters per second."
"I'll give the humans one thing," said Dander, "Their veterinarians help slow the rate of fairy-folk genocide."
"Yeah,” said Skittles. “They get those cats right in the bob-o-links.” Like most fairies, Skittles chose her euphemisms from among the names of small flowers and birds.
"Shush," said Dander in a whisper. "There's a calico at five o'clock."
"What's she packing?"
"It looks like a Kalashnikov."
The two fairies hid among the marigolds. Marigold scent was unpleasant, but it masked their fairy airy from the hunting feline. The cat must have heard them, or seen movement because she was staring at the marigolds. Three banana clips hung from the cat's collar, and she wore a small medal with the word, "Neverland" inscribed at the top. This was no casual Sylvester, but seasoned campaigner. A lot of Tink's best fairies bought it in the catastrophe of '07.
A mole scampered across the path, catching the cat's attention. The calico released the Russian-made automatic weapon's safety and followed after the small rodent.
"You know," said Dander after the danger had passed, "maybe we fairy-folk should consider a new career as house pets."
"Like the canaries? You want to live in a cage?"
"We could avoid cages by using a litter box, and making ourselves useful. We could help them find their house keys after the imps steal them. They might even feed us Skittles!"
"Very funny," said Skittles, "but count me out. Humans claim to love their pets but how is it that the world is filled with homeless cats? Remember what happened to Charlotte’s 4H friend, the pig. Instead of feeding us sweets, the humans are more likely to feed our Tender Vitals to their cats."
You’re right,” said Dander. “We should stick to fairy stuff. You go paint a water stain of the Virgin Mary on that Seven Eleven, and I’ll grab the candy while the humans are staring at it.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

FictWrig9 Bease

by Will Wright
I rarely criticized Bease's taste in girls. Claudia was gorgeous, and unlike many beautiful girls, she never had an unkind word for anybody. Maybe that's why Bease hoped she'd go out with him. Most of the girls in our school kept their distance from Bease. One told me she wouldn't spit on Bease ‘cause he might think she was trying to kiss him. Though awkward, and perpetually lovesick, Bease remained irrepressibly hopeful.
Bease's real name was Thomas. He'd been Bease since second grade when Jeremy Del Clate noticed that his scrunched-up features and thick glasses made him look a little like Mrs. Beasley, the doll that the little girl, Buffy carried on the show, Family Affair.
Nine years later, only his mother and Principal Pappel called him Thomas. Once I heard his Mom slip and call him Bease. If the name bothered him, he didn't show it. All Bease seemed to care about was finding a girlfriend. He'd been that way back before most guys even wanted girls around.
"Claudia is nice," said Bease.
"That's true," I said. It was my policy to be honest with Bease. If he asked me if Claudia would go out with him, I'd tell him no, but I couldn't deny that she seemed like a nice person.
"And she doesn't have a boyfriend," he added.
"That's true, too," I said. As a matter of fact, I'd never seen Claudia with any guy. She didn't seem to be into girls either. She was always there, looking gorgeous, pleasant to all who spoke to her, but almost always alone.
I don't know about the other guys, but the reason I stayed clear of Claudia was because I found her intimidating. Any girl that nice and that good-looking was too good for me. I wondered if she was alone because other guys felt the same way.
"I think she's lonely," said Bease.
"Could be," I admitted, though it hadn't occurred to me until that moment.
"She's like me," said Bease.
"She likes you?"
"No, she is like me."
"Bease," I said, "how in the world is Claudia Diamente like you?"
"Well, we're both lonely."
"Bease, Buddy, you're doing it again. You're setting yourself up for another heart-break. Claudia will not go out with you."
"Why not?"
"Because she's gorgeous!"
"And she's lonely - like me."
I might as well have saved my breath. Once Bease got it into his mind that a girl might like him, nothing stopped him short of crushing rejection. I'd been there to watch the inevitable disaster enough times to know, girls at school, girls in the neighborhood, the lifeguard at the pool, the girl at the pet shop.
Bease had a cage full of canaries from the summer he pursued Kaitlin from the pet shop. Kaitlin, two years older and a bird lover, was friendly to Bease longer than any other crush, largely because she couldn't believe that such a pathetic guy had any hope that she might be interested.
Hope was a commodity Bease had in abundance. Perhaps he had so much hope that there was no room left for common sense. I mean, he still wrote letters for heaven’s sake, but he only got one written reply. It was a stern letter from Emma Watson's agent telling him that Miss Watson was in a committed relationship and asking him to please stop sending her lyrics to love songs he had written.
Bease showed me one of his songs. It was predictably awkward, but I give him credit for finding so many phrases that rhyme with Hermione.
You had to figure with so many crushes that several of them must have overlapped. Could a guy be madly in love with two or three girls at the same time? For all his social failings, Bease had more capacity for love than any other guy I knew.
And that's how he was until one Sunday when he got involved with a female that was happy to love him back.
Her name was Stargirl; at least that was her name after Bease named her. Stargirl was a stray cat that must have lived with people sometime because when Bease called to her, she ambled right up to him. Stargirl was a gray tabby with a torn ear, two-thirds of a tail, and a sore on her side that didn't look good at all.
It didn't smell good either, or maybe that was Stargirl's natural scent.
"Really, Bease?" I asked as he picked up the putrid cat.
"She likes me!"
"She'd like you to feed her."
Bease held the cat towards me. Stargirl hissed. "No," said Bease, "It's me. She likes me."
A smelly half-hour later, the cat was still attached to Bease even though he hadn't fed her anything.
"All right," I agreed. "She likes you, but she's still an ugly, stinky cat. You should take her to a shelter."
"They'd kill her in the shelter!"
"They might be doing her a favor."
"Don't say that."
"You can't keep her, you know. You've got a cage full of canaries, and isn't your Mom allergic to cats?."
"Yeah," said Bease, rubbing his face into the cat's putrid coat. "Hey! we can keep her at your house!"
"No, Bease. I'm not having that stinky cat anywhere near where I eat, or sleep, or... brush my teeth."
"Well I can't just let her go."
"Why not?" I asked. "She was on her own until today; she'll be fine. Cat's do great in the wild."
"Not this one," said Bease as he pulled out the tail of his shirt to wipe the puss off the cat's smelly wound.
"Look - the cat doesn't even like me. Even if I was willing to keep her, she'd just run away." Stargirl gave me a look that I'm pretty sure was the cat equivalent to, Up yours, Fella.
"Aw," said Bease. "There's just gotta be a way."
You'd think somebody who'd been told, "No way," by so many girls would stop believing that there had to be a way. I breathed a little easier. The last thing I wanted at my house was a typhoid feline that hated my guts. If I wanted someone around who hated me, I could ask Mr. Learishaw, the gym teacher to live at my house. He'd probably hang a rope from my basketball hoop just to make me climb it all the time.
"Claudia," said Bease.
"She won't go out with you, Dude."
"No, but she's the answer."
"What's the question?"
"I'll give Stargirl to Claudia! Stargirl will have a good home, and Claudia will love me!"
I know it was cruel, but I couldn't help it. I laughed. "Bease, please! Think for a minute."
"That's the answer," said Bease. He must have been talking to himself because he was ignoring me, lost in his hopeful fantasy.
"Bease, are you hearing me? Claudia is not going to want a diseased stray! She's going to think you're weird or sick, maybe both."
"I'll do it at school tomorrow!"
"Bease, you can't bring a cat to school! At least not unless it's dead and soaked in formaldehyde, which," I sniffed at Stargirl and nearly got a claw across my face, "this cat almost qualifies. But you don't want to give the girl you like an animal to dissect in Bio. Nobody does that, Bease!"
"I just need a place to put you for one night," he said to the cat as she licked his nose.
Then both Bease and the cat looked at me. I swear, they did it together like some grotesque dance routine. One moment they were staring into each other's eyes, and then they moved in unison to point four eyeballs at me. For one eerie moment, they looked related.
"No, Man! I told you. I don't want a cat in my house! I don't like this cat. I don't like the way she smells. I don't even like healthy cats that aren't trying to scratch my eyes out. There is no way I'm running a hotel for diseased hell cats."
I was as firm as I knew how to be. That's why two hours later I was moving boxes and junk in the basement.
I'm not sure if it was the sound of moving boxes or the yowling and hissing that brought Mom down.
"What is going on down here?"
I was doing my best to coral Stargirl into a corner. I didn't want her wandering around all night. Cats, I was learning, were not easy to contain.
"Is that a cat?" asked Mom.
"Yeah," I said, "but it might also be an evil zombie."
"What is he doing here?"
"She actually. Mom meet Stargirl."
"You got a cat without asking? You don't even like cats!"
"I don't want her, Mom. Bease picked her up from the street. He's going to give her to a girl at school."
"Oh... Surely not."
"That's his plan."
Mom stared at Stargirl, taking in her numerous deficiencies. "Your friend," she said at last. "It just breaks your heart."
I suppose it's possible that Mom's heart was breaking for Stargirl, but I think it was more likely for Bease, who never seemed to find a reasonable way of showing his affection for girls. Never-the-less, Mom applied her considerable compassion on the stinky hell cat, cleaning her wound, combing her fur, making every effort to make Stargirl less hideous.
For her part, Stargirl didn't hiss at Mom or try to scratch her as she did with me. Maybe the can of tuna had something to do with that.
Bease was jumping up and down when I answered the door next morning. He didn't need to pee; he was excited.
"Where is she?"
"Down in the basement."
"She didn't sleep with you?"
I didn't have to answer. Bease was already bounding down the basement stairs. I heard Stargirl make a hideous sound that might have been hell cat for 'where have you been?" Moments later Bease was running back up the stairs with Stargirl mounted triumphantly on his shoulder.
Even after all of Mom's work the night before, the cat looked disgusting, but she was a happy disgusting, that was clear. She and Bease had made a connection. I shook my head. There was no way this was going to end well.
We ended up walking to school because even Bease recognized that Grundy the bus driver wouldn’t let Stargirl on her bus.
Jeremy Del Clate, the top jock in our school, and the class Romeo pulled over his Mercedes convertible when he saw us. In many ways, Jeremy, who had given Bease his nickname, was the anti-Bease. Girls swooned over him. Freshman year, he had taken three dates to the same dance, and none of them complained.
I hated him. I don't know how Bease felt. Jeremy was always a jerk to him, but Bease's focus never strayed from the current girl of his dreams. I wasn't even sure he noticed Jeremy.
Maybe that's why Jeremy was such an ass with Bease. Jeremy didn't like being ignored.
"What's that on your shoulder, Bease," he asked, "VD of the esophagus?" Not content to hurl an insult and drive on, Jeremy slowed his German status symbol to our walking pace.
"This is Stargirl," said Bease. "I found her yesterday."
"How, was it clogging your plumbing?"
"No," said Bease, looking unannoyed and still walking purposely towards school. "She just walked up to me."
"So you're putting her back?"
"No, we're bringing her to school."
Jeremy shot me a look of amused contempt. Unlike Bease, I was not immune to scorn. It was so unfair. I wasn't bringing Stargirl to school. I was just there for moral support. But if I said that in front of Bease, that wouldn't have been very supportive, so I just kept my mouth shut and tried to think of at least one snappy come-back I could hurl at Jeremy.
"Hey Bease," said Jeremy. "I think the road kill is supposed to be dead before you dissect it."
Alright, I felt a little ashamed there. I had had almost the same thought the day before, and as embarrassing as it was being Bease's best friend, there was no way I wanted to be like Jeremy!
Half a mile from the school parking lot, Jeremy finally pulled away. "He's probably gone to make trouble for you, Bease," I said. "You're really not supposed to bring pets to school."
"I'm just bringing Stargirl to Claudia."
"And what if Claudia doesn't want her?"
Stargirl's head, previously resting on Bease's chest as she rode his shoulder, rose up to look Bease in the eye. "How could Claudia not want her?" he asked.
I had a lot of answers to that question, but I knew Bease, and my answers wouldn't mean a thing to him - if he even heard them. I was there for moral support. Bease wasn't looking for advice.
By the time we got to school, Jeremy had raised a small welcoming committee. Nine or ten guys - mostly jocks, gave us a mock cheer as we walked onto the grounds.
"Is that your girlfriend, Bease?" asked Jordan Strong.
"Maybe it's his sister," said a kid I didn't know.
Just as Bease was deaf to unwanted advice, he seemed not to hear abuse either. He looked happy and proud as he marched through the gauntlet, up the steps, and into the school. With Stargirl firmly attached to his shoulder, he walked by the school office as if he had nothing to hide. If it had been me, Vice Principals would have streamed out of the office, zip tied my arms and legs, and carried me off to permanent detention.
With Bease, nobody said a word. I wondered what the homeroom teacher would say, when Claudia came around the corner.
"Hey, Claudia!" said Bease.
"Hello, Bease," said Claudia.
"What?" said Jeremy, who I hadn't realized was right behind me. "Is he hitting on Claudia now? Nobody's good enough for her!"
"She turn you down, Jeremy?"
"I caught her on a bad day."
Claudia was still talking to Bease, but I couldn't hear what they were saying. Bease was holding Stargirl, and Claudia was petting the cat hesitantly.
At least Stargirl wasn't hissing or biting.
"He brought a stupid cat to impress a girl!" said Jeremy. "What a Beasely!"
That's when Claudia kissed Bease - not on the forehead, or even the cheek, but right on the mouth!
"What?" said Jeremy. "She's just being nice."
"Claudia is nice," I agreed.
Claudia took the stinky cat from Bease's arms, and you would have thought she'd been given an academy award, she looked so happy. The two of them - no three of them walked off as if there were in a world of their own.
"Uh," said Jeremy.
"What can I tell you, Jeremy," I replied. "Some guys got it."
Stargirl looked near dead the Sunday Bease found her, but it was eight years later when she finally passed peacefully away. I was there with Claudia and Tom (Claudia got everyone to stop calling him Bease,) and their two children (who thankfully resembled their mother,) as they laid her to rest in their back yard.
Bease was still girl crazy, but his affection was limited to four girls now, Claudia, his little girls Leia and Uhura, and Novagirl, a cat they kept from Stargirl's last litter.
Like her mother, Novagirl smelled bad and hissed whenever I came near. I didn't mind.
I'd learned never to criticize Bease's taste in girls.

Friday, October 9, 2015

FictMcFa7 How Nana Saw Lima Beans

How Nana Saw Lima Beans
by Stanley McFarland

It was Nana who taught me the right way to view people, and it all started with lima beans.
Nana had come to live with us when I was a kid, and early on it became clear that I would have to adjust my behavior.
“Lima beans?” I shouted one day. “I hate lima beans!”
“Don’t say hate,” said Nana calmly. “It’s a word you should use with great discretion. Say that you don’t care for lima beans.”
“But I do care about lima beans,” I said, being a smart-mouthed eleven-year-old. “I really hate them.”
“Hate is a word for extremes,” said Nana. “You might say that you hate fascism, or genocide, but you should never use the word with people, and it is simply ridiculous to say you hate a food just because its taste doesn’t agree with you.”
“Wait,” I said, thinking I had caught her, “you say I shouldn’t hate people?”
“That is correct.”
“But it was people that created fascism, and people who committed genocide.”
“That’s true.”
“So if Hitler were alive today, it would be wrong to say that I hate him?”
“It would.”
“How does that make any sense?”
“It’s all a matter of seeing things from a higher perspective.”
“You mean, like… God?”
Being a pre-adolescent know-it-all, I stopped listening right there. I didn’t go to church, and neither did Nana. I wasn’t about to listen to a sermon about Hitler and lima beans.
But she got me thinking. How would seeing things from God’s perspective make a bad person seem any better? For that matter, what WAS God’s perspective?
I imagined being a thousand feet tall. My head was so high that I had to stoop to avoid low-hanging clouds. Below me were swarms of tiny people that I’d step on if I closed my eyes. These tiny people were like ants to me. Would I care if one ant killed another ant, or thousands of other ants? Was that what Nana meant?
I liked the idea, especially about stepping on people I didn’t like, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t what she was talking about.
The next day as school we got back our science tests. I got a D minus. Mr. Hubble just didn’t like me; that’s why I failed. I imagined God as this giant brain. He would look down on Mr. Hubble and say, “Do you think you know science? You know NOTHING! You fail, Mr. Hubble!”
The thought made me smile, but as I pondered it, I realized that God wouldn’t say that. For one thing, he would call Mr. Hubble by his first name.
Weeks passed without me thinking about it much. Nobody told me why Nana had moved in with us, but I noticed that she was moving slower and getting skinnier. Finally she went into the hospital. When we went to see her she looked terrible. She had a tube in her arm and she was coughing a lot. I hated seeing her like that.
I didn’t say anything because I remembered what Nana said about the word, hate. Instead, I decided I wouldn’t go back to the hospital. I’d just wait until Nana got better. I made every excuse I could think of over the next week when Mom asked if I wanted to go see Nana. Every time I thought about the way she looked I got the creeps.
One night at dinner Dad announced that as soon as we were through we would all get into the car and visit Nana.
“I better stay home,” I said. “I still have homework, and I’m failing science.”
“You can bring your homework with you,” said Dad.
“But I don’t want to go,” I said more honestly. Mom looked like she was about to cry and left the table. She’d hardly eaten anything.
“Stanley,” my father said after she’d left, “you know your Nana has cancer.”
“I know she’s sick,” I said.
“It’s worse than that. She’s not going to get better.”
“She’s going to die?”
“Yes, and soon. Tonight might be the last time you ever see her. It’s important for you to tell her that you love her. And it’s important that you be there for your mother. Nana is her mother and this is very hard on her.”
“Um… okay,” I said.
My older sister, Stacey took my hand. “I’ll stay with you,” she whispered.
The nurses on Nana’s floor insisted that only two people see Nana at a time. Mom and Stacey went in first. As they opened the door, I could see Nana on the bed. She looked like a skeleton with tubes not only in her arm, but in her nose, and a mask over her mouth.
“When Stacey comes out, Stanley, you go in.” Dad wasn’t using his angry voice, but it was clear he didn’t want any argument from me. I sat on a plastic couch and stared at the cover of a magazine. All I could see was Nana. I didn’t want to go in that door.
I don’t know how long Stacey was in there. It felt like both forever and not nearly long enough.
“Stanley,” said Dad, “you go in now.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“You can and you will.”
I just turned and walked away. I could hear Dad get up from his chair, and then Stacey’s voice say, “I’ll go with him.”
I kept walking and moments later Stacey was walking beside me. We didn’t speak – just walked. The hospital consisted of several buildings tacked together with walkways. We left one building and entered another. We ended up in pediatrics and stopped in the viewing room.
“Look at the babies!” said Stacey, stepping up to the glass. There were five babies in normal bassinettes. Three of them had pink blankets, and two had blue. There was also a bulky machine with a window in the top. Inside the machine was a tiny wrinkled baby. I didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl because there was no blanket in the machine. The baby wore a mask with a tube in its nose and another tube in its arm.
Just like Nana.
“Is it going to die?” I asked Stacey.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“Why not?”
“I don’t think they’d have her out here if she was in danger. She’s just a little premature.”
“How do you know it’s a she?”
Stacey pointed to a name card on the machine. It said, “Dora Mitchell, 3lbs 5oz 3/7/70. Tiny Dora was three days old and still looked like a pink raisin. I shook my head. “Those poor parents.”
“I don’t know,” said Stacey.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Look at her!”
“She looks bad,” Stacey agreed, “but she’s alive, and she’ll probably look a lot better in a couple of weeks. Dora’s parents are probably thrilled to have a daughter. Daughters are much better than sons, you know,” and Stacey poked me in the ribs.
Together we walked back to Nana’s wing and instead of dread, I thought about tiny Dora and what my sister said about her parents. Maybe that’s what Nana meant when she spoke of seeing things through a higher perspective. My mind was in a muddle. I felt like I was thinking too much and not at all. My head hurt, but I wasn’t afraid anymore.
When I walked into Nana’s room she looked just as bad as she had before. The machine by her bed made hissing noises like something out of a horror movie. I still saw all that stuff but I concentrated on Nana’s eyes. They were still the same eyes they’d always been when she teased me, or played cribbage with me. I cradled her hand in mine and she gave my thumb a little squeeze. Through her breathing mask it looked like she was smiling.
“I love you, Nana,” I said.
She died a few hours later.
I still get angry with people. I get frustrated or afraid, but sometimes I remember that lesson I learned from Nana. I look at the person I’m having trouble with and I see a baby. Babies get sick; they get cranky, grabby, even mean, but because they are babies, they are lovable.
But I still don’t care for lima beans, and I hate cancer.

I don’t think Nana would mind me saying that.