2020 was almost over. The election? Still not decided.
"Let's pick randomly," Ms. Bell suggested.
"Liberty, no. We need to all agree; need to find someone to join our team," Uncle Sam retorted.
"Nothing positive happened this year," Mr. Baldy squawked.
"His lackadaisical comment aside, does anyone have someone to nominate?" Ms. Flag asked.
"The winner will join the ranks of us quintessential symbols of the United States of America!" Statue of Liberty exclaimed. "Who exhibited such bravery, heroism, compassion, and strength this past year?"
National Anthem thought a moment, then belted out, "What about Front Line Workers?"
Love this concept a lot!
The morning broke queasy, punctuated with pieces of a dream in a snot green medium.
Pulling the slack from some remaining brain cells, the green crap became a sofa
The glass of tea on the floor wasn’t tea. Suppressing a gag, I saw flecks of something like rust on my hands.
Struggling to the bath my eyes popped open, then shut, then wouldn’t pass a squint. In the tub was the dream, in pieces; that wasn’t rust on my hands.
The morning broke queasy is a perfect phrase.
She keeps the screams in the cushions, the strain in the sofa seams, the tears in the tea cups, the cracks in the broken plates, the pain in the squint of the photo frame, the shame in dark corners; sadness in cupboards, dismay in closed doors, sadness in blankets, wounds in loose clothing; her courage in the chink of the curtain, her hope in the green of the trees. Her plans in the blue of beyond, her mettle in a suitcase.
and, Mari McKay saunters in and drops perfection on the desktop.
This is just plain amazing.
It's not quite a story but who the hell cares.
All she has are suspicions.
Her husband and her best friend, Paige.
Confronting them would be messy. Paige's son, Jimmy, is her own son's best friend.
With tea in hand and a desire to deny, she joins the teenagers in the rec room. The boys lie sprawled on the sofa watching the game.
"Who you rooting for?" she asks.
"Which team is that?"
"Green jerseys," Jimmy says.
"They're blue, dumbass!" her son chides.
The words thunder in her brain.
She steps back slack-jawed and squints to hide her tears.
"Hey, mom! Jimmy's colorblind just like dad."
oh my godiva.
“It’s further than it looks, old sport, but it’s always there."
I followed his gaze out to the slack water, steamed with fog. Squinting, I could see the green light in the distance.
So familiar, yet different.
This time I didn’t tell him I was a time traveler or that I had lived many variations of this moment. I didn’t say that sometimes the light was red or blue. I didn’t warn him of the fate that awaited him, because he was always succumbing to it. Overdosing, hanging, drowning.
The only thing that ever remained the same was the dream.
It took me three reads to get this.
How about you?
"I can make you a star, sweetie. But first..."
"Whatever it takes," she teased, lying back on the sofa, flattening it.
"Cut!" I yelled.
"I simply can't work like this," Rex whined, throwing up his tiny arms.
I agree not everything had gone as planned. Indeed, this quintessential labor of love of mine appeared headed for divorce. On paper, it looked perfect; in reality, it's lacking a plot, competent actors, and passion.
"Perhaps I could lose weight," Vela offered.
Not before the asteroid hits, I thought. Some movies simply should not be made. Apparently "Jurassic Tart" is one of them.
After I stop laughing, I will be able to tell you how much I love Michael Seese's pun-ch lines.
Me: So, 2020, coronavirus has kinda stolen your thunder like the green grinch stole Christmas. Wanna give me a gift early and share what the tealeaves say for 2021?
2020: What’s the fun in that?
Me: Gotcha. But a lot of people would appreciate it.
2020: Sorry, no.
Me: Holding your cards close, huh?
2020: I’ve done a good job so far, haven’t I?
Me: Yeah, but you haven’t trumped us, yet. How about a squint at next month?
Me: ...and maybe 2021 will cut us some slack.
2020: Hindsight is 20/20!
oh god, this is right up there in the Punchine Pantheon!
I don’t normally do art, but Rob insisted. Said my brain was slack and I needed a fresh perspective on life. That’s what friends are for.
So they say.
So, fact is, I went. Not that I agree. Not for any reason other than to placate Rob.
It was all weird, but the weirdest was the crowd around the last painting. Their scowling faces seemed so angry.
The painting was a mess. Lines and colors that had no cohesion.
Just like me, I thought.
And then I saw the title:
“Sea with Squint Tea Ice”
And it changed my life.
What is it about this week that you're all playing with these punch lines so deftly?
It took me two reads to get this, but I finally did.
Welcome to the Greenfield Library Online Catalog: Place Holds.
Quintessential Kale Cookbook 978-1510738164
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 978-0141988511
Slack: Getting Past Burnout 978-0767907699
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea 978-1416954125
What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters 978-0399581892
Didn't See That Coming 978-0063010529
Personal Bankruptcy Laws for Dummies 978-0471773801
Unf*ck Yourself 978-1473671560
So Far from God 978-0393326932
A Promised Land 978-1524763169
Error: Not yet available.
How to Build a Time Machine 978-1250024220
No Time Like the Future 978-1250265616
We need a non-fiction category in these contests!
If she tilts her head and squints, she sees it clearly:
The odd green that never matched anything
(they were young, hopeful, it was on sale)
Firm cushions supporting breastfeeding babies
Increasingly stained, kids climbing, jumping, napping
Snuggling close with books
Remnants of spit-up, grubby fingers, embedded pet fur
Cushions sagging, muffling tear-filled nights
Waiting up, corners worn thin as slackened faith
Relegated to the playroom, still no match
Seldom used now, kids grown, moved out
All things have their time
Careful, she tells the junk removers, that sofa is far heavier than it looks.
The only thing missing here is the residue from the week I spent on the SGS with the second worse case of bronchitis I've ever had. Couldn't sleep lying down at all, so on the couch. I'd put on DVDs of The Wire, a show I know so well I can nap through an episode and not be lost in the slightest.
I think I watched all five seasons at lest three times that week.
By the time I could stagger down to the trash bins, I had three 13-gallon bags filled with used Kleenex
C. Dan Castro
The massive, blood red demon squashed my sofa. Despite log-like fingers, he picked up his teacup and sipped.
He stopped, phosphorescent green eyes squinting at the ceramic.
I quavered. "N-needs sugar?"
"Tea's excellent. Almost...heavenly." He seized the teapot. Guzzled it. Belched. "Your soul's due. Today."
"Millennials. Trade for a fortune, then slack off ten years."
"I didn't. I researched. Contract expires if the demon expires."
"And if you drank holy water..."
The demon looked at the teapot.
Ugh. Sulfurous demon guts everywhere. But I can pay someone to clean.
I've got a fortune.
I'm so glad I have a vial of holy water from Lourdes.
Who knows when a demon may show up!
"I quite agree," nodded Watson. "So far, the experience has been less than convincing. I'd even say it's lacking its quintessental aspects." He passed the steaming beverage under his nose, once more.
"Indubitably, my dear Watson," the master detective replied, putting down his own cup. "When it comes to the great British tradition of infusing hot water with subtle flavor, it is every gentleman's honor-bound duty to not short-change himself."
"Quite so," the doctor confirmed eagerly, walking toward the door of the scarlet study. "I shall teach the new cook how to prepare a decent cup of coffee, at once."
He placed the old green book back on the table beside the sofa. “Le Masque de la mort rouge,” talk about one a day plus irony. He thought about all those slack jawed people. He squinted at the clock on the wall… “Fuck it, might as well check the numbers,” he switched on the tv.
“… so, you’re saying that since mammoths roamed the earth, mankind’s instincts have only ever been fight or flight?”
“Exactly… now with this pandemic there is no fight or flight… we have to do something else… let each family isolate.”
“Shouldn’t be that hard.” (coughs)
One a day plus irony is a great phrase.
(will younger folk get the allusion?)
Sofia adjusted her apron, took the tray Chef thrust at her and on silent tread entered the dining hall. After a careful curtsy, she served the old tyrant his buttermilk radish soup.
“Green pepper oil, sir?” She held out a small bottle.
At his nod she trickled a teaspoon over the hot soup. Stoppered the bottle. Took a step back.
He slurped from his spoon. Paused for a rattling breath. Slack-jawed he squinted at her, his face turning a sludgy toad green.
“So-fa.” Drool slid down his chin.
Sofia slid the indenture-ending bottle of green peanut oil into her pocket.
ohhh, clever clever!
If only she could have known.
Starry eyes finally collide.
After three stints, quints.
Dolly tea parties, little jeans with green knees.
Seven snuggled on the sofa for nursery rhymes, story times, movie nights.
Their silver anniversary, five contributing to society, her second master’s degree.
Wrinkled hands writing letters: lacking stop sign, lights to prevent crime.
Volunteering on that hotline.
If only she could have known.
Very very subtle.
This is a classic illustration of leaving your reader wanting more and resisting the urge to fill in
all the details. A very delicate balance.
I have a winner in mind but I'd like to hear what you think.
Did I miss anyone?
Did I overlook something amazing?
Let me know in the comments column.
Final results later today!