Thursday, January 27, 2011
Weekend writing contest!
The Devotion of Suspect X is one of the books I'm most looking forward to cheering on in 2011. I beguiled the editor into sending me a copy so early it was still in manuscript form, but he got his revenge: I didn't have anyone to talk to about the book for months!
Well, let's solve that problem. Let's have a writing contest and the prize will be a copy of the book! You'd kill to get your hands on this if you knew how good it was.
So, write a story using 100 words or fewer. Post it in the comment section of THIS blog post starting Friday at midnight (that is 27 hours from now: Eastern Shark Time)
Use these words in the story:
Mulligans or do-overs are fine. I'll take the last version posted. Try not to post more than once though, ok?
Previous winners can compete.
The contest runs for 24 hours, midnight Friday to midnight Saturday. You snooze, you get eaten by envy for losing out.
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The thing about writing squibs is that nobody reads them, not
even me, and I’m the one writing them. I mean, who gives a
shit? They’re made to be squeezed into residual column inches,
always below the fold. So, I was surprised to answer
my door and find myself staring at a pair of Feds with my mouth
full of unchewed sushi.
Two badges flipped shut.
“Special Agent Tingo, we’re gonna talk about the piece you
wrote for the Bugle.”
I choked down the spring roll. The heater in my apartment
“What do you know about Operation Firefly?”
Tina's blood is still warm when it drips on my cheek. Squibs and Tingo loom over me, panting.
The scent of death mixed with wet dog makes me heave and I taste the grocery store sushi Tina and I had for dinner.
Three years of peace left us weak and naive. For five crucial seconds, we thought the firefly that landed on our space heater was organic.
I'm probably supposed to be scared now, but I'm not. It’s over. And even with my wife's blood staining their fur, corgis just look friendly.
The stuntmen on Firefly used belts to protect themselves from squibs. Vinny took the explosions on his stomach, and was rewarded with four purple bruises. But it worked. The men left after Clarice "shot" him. Still, shooting the entertainer at a kid's birthday party?
Vinny took off his torn up Tingo costume and cranked the heater. He opened the dinner she'd left him. Sushi. Extra wasabi.
He didn't see the picture scribbled underneath the rolls of rice and crab until he finished. Clarice's drawing: A winking smiley face. His throat swelled shut.
The coroner nicknamed him "blueberry" the next morning.
Juggling keys and a bag of takeout Japanese, he groped for the light. Where was the goddamned lamp?
His neighbor must have “borrowed” it. F*cking hipster visits Easter Island and now he’s practicing tingo.
Setting down his stuff, he marched next door. “Yo!”
Leaf answered the door in a batik robe, blond dreadlocks in a leather thong “the way the Rapanui do.”
“Give it back.”
Suddenly, a series of pops as wasabi packets burst like squibs—he’d left the sushi on the heater.
“You have much to learn, firefly.” Leaf’s smile aims for serene, lands on smug.
That’s “grasshopper,” asshole.
Martha was one of those squibs. Not like that magic-can’t-do-nothing-born-like-a-muggle crap. She was simply not good at anything. She did have a good dog, however, Tingo. Yes, heaven help us, her dog was named after the orange Sesame Street ESL character.
Martha would cook sushi, well, “cook” is the wrong word, in the dead of winter over the heater in her flat, rolling nori, that gaudy black crepe, while Tingo laying on the faded hardwood, dreamt, drooling, snapping at fireflies and at cascading tobiko, flying-fish roe, dyed salty red and orange.
Vladimir Rozhko could see shapes and colors for the first time in seven months. A surgeon’s lamp warmed his face like a heater.
“Your blindness is cured,” said the doctor.
“Damn that Jack Squibs,” said Vladimir. “That tingo stole one treasure at a time. My fiancée…my house…my sight.”
Outside, a Tokyo lamppost glowed in the rain like a firefly. The doctor leaned closer and spoke with sushi breath.
“What will you do now?”
“I will marry Kokoro, the nurse who reads to me every night.” Vladimir lifted a delicate poetry book to his nose, smelled perfume, and smiled.
Fireflies warmed men like embers. The men built heaters in the King’s image, fireflies gathered, and burst like squibs.
When the last died, the King whispered, “I heard God.” and stumbled from the statue’s lips with a rouged cheek.
The King returned to his island.
They gathered every egg--yellow and orange, nests of sushi—and shattered them against rocks. The King nestled against the statue until his ear was raw.
“Tingo!” wailed the statue and was gone.
Today, if you place your ear against an Easter Island statue—so tight that blood reddens its lips—you will hear nothing.
“You worthless man! You left the sushi tray on top of the garden heater! Are you trying to poison us or burn down the house? And what is that?” She peered at the box. “Fireworks?”
“Only squibs,” he said. “For the children.”
“Listen, you — if you ruin my Oshogatsu party with your nonsense, I will leave you for good! Do you hear me?”
A little later, a child pointed. “Look! A firefly!”
Mrs. Tingo squinted at the lights floating through her winter garden. Her eyes opened wide.
“Tin-GO!” she screamed as all the squibs ignited.
“Please turn down the heater.” She sat very still. Movement would lead to badness.
“So, I’m scanning newspaper squibs when I notice I have no toaster.”
“George, the heat.”
“Cid borrowed it, just like a hundred other freaking things he never returned.”
“It’s too hot.”
“Then it hits me. Tingo. While I’m sitting on my ass watching Firefly reruns, my brother is borrowing me blind. Can you believe that?”
He glanced at her expectantly. And as the car fell into another pot hole, Ellen’s sushi made its encore appearance.
There probably wouldn’t be a second date.
God, I needed it.
My fingers tightened around a tray heaped with dirty dishes and leftover sushi.
Outside a window of the cafe, a woman raised a cigarette to her glossy lips. Her eyes closed as she inhaled. The end of the paper and tobacco cylinder glowed like a firefly.
My heart kicked into overdrive. The never-ending cravings tackled me, almost muscling aside my resolve to remain smoke-free.
My trance broke when the restaurant's heater banged to life, sounding like squibs going off.
No! I left smoking behind. Besides, as a reward, I'd booked a trip to Tingo.
"What the hell's a 'tingo?'"
"It's in Peru," Sam said.
"I don't care if it's next door. If it's not in the dictionary, it doesn't count. God, I hate playing Scrabble."
"It's better than watching Firefly and eating take-out sushi."
Maria pointed a warning finger. "Don't fuck with Whedon."
"I gave you 'squib.' Just finish the game."
"Squib's in the dictionary!"
Sam sighed. "It's your turn."
"I don't want to play any more. Did you fix the heater yet?"
". . ."
"God. . ."
"Fix the heater before I stick a squib up your sushi-hole while quoting Firefly, you. . . you. . . tingo!"
"Good resemblance, hey?"
"May I help you?"
"Here to see Martin Goethe. I scare people."
"No, it's my job. Martin wants to fire Flynn Weber; I'm here to help."
"Martin didn't warn you?"
"Martin lacks, as employers go."
"Heh. Can't fire his own people."
"Can't foresee me intercepting you."
"Last fellow was a barbarian imitator. He ate raw meat."
"Er. Repent, sinner?"
"Dieu, sauf moi des débiles qui B.S. You know Martin's superior also wants him fired?"
"What? You mean--?"
"Quite. Always nice to meet a colleague; good day, sir."
(bold letters indicate where the chosen words are hiding)
A firefly flaps its wings in Ontario, and there's global warming in the land down under. The squibs rush to fill their attics with aluminum sheeting, electrocuting a few contractors.
The shocking news sends chills up Canuck spines, and many crank up their heaters. The price spike in heating oil spreads to coal, fuel oil and propane.
An Aussie skips the gas for the barbie and has sushi instead.
"I hate raw fish," says a Canuck.
"'Tis a tingo beauty," says an Aussie.
‘Turn the heater down,’ said Growler, hurling his exhausted body into an armchair, and loosening his flying jacket. ‘I’m famished. Any sushi?’
‘I’ll look,’ replied Hoppy. ‘How did the raid go?’
‘We lost four planes,’ snarled Growler, bitterly. ‘All the bombs were squibs again. Tingo wasn’t touched. A firefly could have done more damage. Why are they always squibs?’
‘I know!’ A livid Mikey had appeared at the door. He threw a small object at Growler, who caught it deftly. It was a detonator. ‘Read it,’ ordered Mikey.
Growler read out the inscription on the detonator. ‘Made in Tingo.’
This entry is from my eight year old daughter. Without any prompting from me, she dashed off her first story last night, then decided to revise it this morning with speech. I have simply corrected some spellings, added the odd punctuation mark, and typed it in.
The wind whistled and the rain poured. A little firefly slept in his leafy bed. He’s called Munch.
Munch’s best friend popped up. He’s called Squibs.
Squibs announced himself, ‘Hello!’ he said. No reply. ‘Wakey-wakey, rise and shine,’ he cried.
‘Shut up,’ muttered Munch. He turned round, looked at his Sushi, and dozed off. The heater was an overheated battery from Tingo.
I didn’t tell my parents I drove home from Tingo Maria to Vancouver by myself. They’d never stray off the gringo trail. Much less into the jungle. My mother freaks out if a firefly gets too close.
A few things I have missed. I stopped for sushi in Lima, Mexico City and Albuquerque. However, I could do without the northern cold.
I turned on the car heater while the officer at the Canadian border ran through the litany, “No firecrackers, squibs or fresh fruit allowed. And ma’am, do you have any protection?”
“Condoms?” I must be warming up.
OK, I will have a go!
She lay near the heater to serve him sushi off her body. Outside, an insect kept trying to get through the French doors.
‘Looks like a firefly’ she thought.
Finally, he walked in.
He glanced at her. ‘I am busy. Must finish these squibs for tomorrow. Do you know what tingo is?’
‘Tingo? ‘She cried, jumping up. ‘Honestly? I am naked, for God’s sake! With your favourite dinner all over me!’
The bug hit the glass door, and he glanced back. ‘What was that?’
‘I think it was a firefly’ she said quietly, picking up her clothes off the floor.
We ate sushi afterwards.
“The Japanese police have a clue?” I ask.
“They think it was a random mugging,” he says.
“One less Nazi breathing.” I adjust the heater in my shoulder
holster. “Where to next?”
“Peru,” he answered.
“We gonna use squibs for distraction like in Brazil?”
“Never set a pattern,” he replied.
“How’d you find this one?”
“Leads. You follow each one like a firefly in the dark.”
“What happens when the last Nazi’s dead?”
“Sins of the father. We go after the sons.”
“Works for me. You know we gotta hunt something.”
Abraxas corralled the swarm of fireflies into the cave where they settled on the roof above Capone.
She kicked him awake, and startled, he swung his gun in her direction.
"Put the heater away fool."
"Yeah I know, syphilis turned your tongue to sushi," she sat opposite him. "We'll fix that.” The fireflies fell in a pulsing halo around Capone’s head as Abraxas magicked the firefly bioluminescence forth. A squib went off in his head setting his ears ringing.
He licked his lip - testing. “The tesseræ stone... it’s in Chicago,” he said.
“Great. You drive, I’ll fly.”
“How do you like your squibs sushi?” I asked.
“It squid,and I like it,” she said. “This place is known for sushi, why did you order tempura?”
I swallowed some vegetables. “The sushi is too rare, it tastes much better after a few minutes in the heater." She grimaced. I continued, “Alice told me you‘re a tingo instructor.”
“That's tango,” she nearly shouted.
Those were the last words she spoke to me on our blind date.
My hope for someone else with a silly sense of humor faded like the flickering of a distant firefly.
The flight from Tingo to Buenos Aires was horrible. Sitting at a curbside sushi kiosk, eating Tuna from god only knows where, I realize I love her.
The electric heater by my boots kicks on, trying to push back the damp chill. Another epic fail.
Memories flood back. The kid who can't kick the soccer ball and it only squibs along the field, that single firefly lighting her face last night as she cried.
It's better this way, better for her. I would only have done something stupid and hurt her later on anyway. I always do.
Tingo hangs over the gunnel, the reek of sushi assaulting him as the squibs glide over the water. It should be loud – the sound of crews yelling, sails snapping. It’s not: it’s quiet like the hush in a mortuary. Silent yet serene.
Sweat slides across his face, burning his eyes as he winces. He imagines a firefly swarm touching down on the waves. Their sparks sizzle on the swells out ahead of the bow.
A clunk like an oil heater rankling to life snaps his head back into the boat.
“Tie off that line,” he squawks, their lead now spent.
“Squibs!” declares the child, pointing at the adjacent tank.
“Squi-duh, ” sighs the father balancing sushi on chopsticks. He turns and I see it’s Josh. Older, but unmistakably the boy who bought me a firefly in a jar as the chemo fought the cancer for the right to kill me the first time round.
Our eyes lock. He sees me!
Josh points at me. “That one.”
Steam rises from the pan over the propane heater.
“Hurt lobster?” asks the child.
“Not really. Maybe it tingles a tiny bit.”
“Tingo...” says the child as the chef lowers me into the steam.
Tingo's round eyes stared fixedly at the swaying strands. The brightly colored balls were intriguing. He moved closer, but not that close; never too close.
He shifted his body to look back at the others. Heater waited patiently, his head barely visible from his concealed alcove; minute electric shocks frayed the sands beneath him. Deeper still he could make out the tiny glow from Firefly's latern. They were all squibs, terrified of being turned into sushi, but not him. It wasn't their time; not yet.
A flick of his tail sent him scooting along, away from the nets of man.
Having just finished the messiest assignment in Tingo, the assassin was eager to travel to the Chabu region of Japan. His mouth watered, imagining the platter of assorted sushi and udon that would greet him.
The phone rang.
"Firefly? Squibs, here. Green light on operation 'hot zone.' Remember the heater must be completely destroyed. The owner will be picking up the pieces."
Gently, he placed the receiver down. No matter how many times he heard this, his reaction was always the same. Slowly he raised his hand to his heart and lowered his eyes. Another life would be taken.
Anna ate her sushi much as usual – with wobbly chopsticks – but tonight she blamed her nerves more than her uncoordinated American genes. Niko sat across the porch, behind a thick silence. His face shone in the flickering sparks from an old space heater. A lone spark jumped, igniting a few carelessly discarded squibs. A hissing symphony and pop of glowing embers rose into the night sky, quickly given chase by their frisky firefly brethren.
Maybe Niko, himself a tingo expert, would admire Roger’s skills at wooing her from next door. Anna swallowed and tensed. “Niko, darling…” Time to find out.
The oil from the sushi still fresh on his fingers made it difficult to work the squibs into place. By the time the explosion lit up the mountain home like a firefly in the night, he would be on his way to Tingo and freedom. There was just one piece of business left. He could hardly wait to see the fear on Jaoquin's face when he pressed his heater hard into the little fuck's sternum. Pulling the trigger would be the icing on the cake.
“The meaning of 'tingo'?”
A reflective bite of sushi, a sip of tea, considering the question.
Shingtao, cross legged before a heater in the teahouse, a brazier really, providing little heat against the night’s chill.
The youth, opposite sat; expectant.
“Ask the firefly why it glows, or Squibs why they aspire to mages. Or why tea leaves reveal a mystery despairing a future—your murder. All beyond our ken.”
A katana’s flash, its blade slicing clean, blood arcing, a scarlet ribbon. The youth’s blood flowed.
“The meaning of 'tingo'?” Shingtao repeated to the dying youth. "Meaningless. As was your life."
Yikes. What happened to my italicized word?? Apologies. Last try:
Noah draws his net filled with gyrating crustaceans and catfish, his smile arching like an upside-down rainbow. “God’s finest provisions, dearest.”
“Indeed.” Namaah squibs an armadillo across the deck. “Did He send any baked cobra?”
“Our maker humbles us, love. The Lord giveth…”
“But sushi giveth the elephants gas.”
“Perhaps they’re…heaters for chilly nights?”
“Bah! A firefly’s warmth is preferable.”
“Wouldst thou have me forsake an entire species for one meal?”
Nearby, a giant tingo belts, squeehaaahhhhn! Noah jumps, losing his grip, sending the day’s catch back to sea.
Namaah nurses his rope-burn. “Betcha tingo tasteth like chicken.”
A firefly landed on G34 the same moment the MC announced it. I smothered the bug and number with a chip. “Tingo!”
“That’s not how you pronounce it.” Jennifer sighed and regarded the rest of the ancient Tingo hall: “Sorry folks, drinking turpentine will do that to you.”
My face burned like a space heater. I jabbed at her to-go box of sushi. “Eat your nasty squibs and shut the hell up.”
“Fine.” I grabbed my Clock .40 from my purse and shot her phonetically correct ass. A touch of brain splattered on her card.
I cringed in the darkness and listened for the rustle of Tingo's silk robe.
Her whisper punched the breath from me. "Squibs, come out. I won't kill you."
The heater moaned. Light flickered from the neon firefly on the bar across the alley. I
still tasted the sushi from our dinner.
I waited, straining for the whisk of silk.
The firefly blinked again. I saw it on the floor. Her robe.
Cold metal pressed the back of my neck. Her breath puffed in my ear.
“You will never win.” Her voice goose-bumped me, even now.
She kissed my shoulder.
“Kobe beef?” Misato offered a tray to the elder from Okinawa.
Yasuko wrinkled her nose, “I only eat Sushi.”
When cultures collide, Misato mused. She checked the fondue heater.
Yasuko offered the younger woman firefly wine, a phosphorescent green liquid that glowed.
Small fibers like eyelashes swirled in the bioluminescent liquid. Misato sipped and grimaced. “I prefer the luciferin from the female Photuris. I find it more…picante, don’t you?”
“Don’t be squib with me.
“Did you know Photuris is the femme fatale of bugs?”
“No, why would I?”
Yasuko’s youngest husband entered the room.
Misato leered, “Easter Island tingo, anyone?”
“Hey, Eddie, want some sushi?” Butch asked, while digging through the garbage.
“You lousy bugger … We’ve got work to do! Now, hand me those squibs.”
“Next to that heater!”
Eddie took the sticks of dynamite and taped them onto the handle of the safe. “We’re going to blow that door from here to Tingo!”
In one loud explosion, the safe was open.
“Look, Eddie, it’s a firefly.” Butch said dreamily while transfixed on an ember floating through the air.
“You idiot! Come on … help me grab the money. Let’s get out of here before the cops get here.”
My apologies for the re-post. I thought it best to correct a bit of unintended ambiguity.
Bored to tears while shoving sushi into my mouth I hit randomwebsite.com, click randomlink and end up at tingo.blogspot.com. A little introspection. 5 years old. Perfect.
“Take that heater and throw it out the window” says the voice in my head.
“Screw you!” as I kick the thing and it squibs across the cluttered floor.
“Firefly, firefly burning bright. I'm going to have some fun with you tonight.”
Looking at the gun on the table, he cries, knowing what will happen, eventually.
A plate of uneaten sushi and an empty bottle of Firefly vodka sat before him.
"Waitress, I need another drink," he slurred. "And this squibs--swigs--squid stuff is raw."
"What kind of Oriental are you?"
"You know, Chinese, Japanese – nevermind, it don't matter. Take it back and cook it. Hell, put it on the heater for all I care, just warm this shit up."
She brought him a hot dish.
"Tingo velly much," he said with a mocking bow and promptly fell, landing face-first in the steaming fish stew.
“And for dessert?” She couldn’t resist asking.
It started with the damned heater. Friends borrow but this is going too far, Paula thought, as she watched Darlene return, tottering on too-high-for-her Jimmy Choos.
“You’re drunk,” she said.
“A little. I’m celebrating the anniversary of Howard’s ‘departure’. God rot his shriveled squib of a soul.”
“How many Jamaican Fireflys have you had?” Paula said, ignoring Darlene’s reference to her unlamented late husband.
“Dunno. Two? Four?” Darlene said, then slid under the table.
“Hah! You forgot to ‘borrow’ the bag that matches my shoes, ‘Tingo Queen’,” Paula said, and speared a sushi roll from Darlene’s plate.
As far as squibs went, Tingo was the most pitiful of the lot. Magic flew from his hands with about as much spark as a firefly exhibits in winter. It was like corks had been hermetically sealed to the ends of his fingers, plugging everything up.
I felt sorry for the lad. Without magic he would end up working for the Witch’s Auxiliary as a broom boy, or at the Dragon’s Breath pub as one of those seat heater-uppers. The whole affair smelled like week old sushi, but I stamped his diploma and hoped for the best anyway. Certified: Non-Magical.
Janice thrashed out of bed aggravated that the heater would not stop blowing. Air sprayed like blood from a squib on her kissable, once-touched-by-love cheek.
Pacing around in the dark kitchen she swung the fridge door open. A putrid smell blew her back. Pushing unidentifiable items around on the cold aluminum shelves, she discovered a decaying piece of sushi noshed on days ago.
A tiny light sparkled outside the window. Pulling the curtains back she pressed her nose against the glass. There was one lone firefly twinkling and dancing to the rythmatic tango, tingo, tungo, coming from beyond the woods.
Maribel chokes down sushi and laments her decision to go on a blind date to a costume party. While she tries to look sexy in a firefly costume with a light-up butt, Mr. Hell No is dressed as a Star Wars Squib.
"Did you read in my bio I've been to the convention seventeen times?" he asks, lighting a heater. "Last year I road tripped to the convo in Tingo, Peru."
Maribel shakes her head. "You can't drive to Peru."
Smoke dribbles through his lips. His eyes drift to her breasts. "Y'know . . . you're better looking in your profile picture."
“What? No squibs about my cooking tonight?” I’d grown accustomed to his lack of eyelids.
I sipped a scalding taste off his spoon. “Needs more firefly.”
My midnight heater wrapped his scaly arms around my waist. “Save them for the sauce.”
A rat frothed to the surface of the kettle. He grabbed it and chased me until I yanked it out of his claws and finished the job with one gulp.
“Let’s tingo the last pickled-dork and add it to the sushi.” He growled. His tongue snaked down my neck.
My pulse sputtered. “I’ll get there first.”
Sushi Girl squints into the sun, realizes she's left her Firefly sunglasses behind in the love hotel—along with a tube of neon pink lipstick, squibs and her heroin kit. Forget the kit, she thinks and shivers. The overhead heaters click on.
She spies Tingo in the bleachers of The Forbidden Zone. In one hand, he holds an immense package of Doritos. In the other, he clutches a glittery thong to his nostrils. Snorts.
Fucking trick stole her Gucci thong.
Somehow, Tingo’s Doritos package crinkles over the loudspeakers. Jesus, she thinks. He’s a junk food omnipotent. A salty God.
A reporter sat across a filthy, peeling table and listened to the half drunk ramblings of a man in worn fatigues.
"So, this one time, we give Ralphie the firefly special..."
"What's that?" asked the reporter.
"You take a bunch of squibs and stuff 'em into a plate of tuna rolls."
"Because Ralphie hates sushi. He hates all fish, see, but says sushi's like eating bait, so we know he'll cook it. He sets it on this little heater..."
"And the heat ignites the explosives?"
"Yeah! Now you get it!"
He'd never understand mercenary humor.
Yuki’s back was turned to him. The firefly pattern on her kimono dissolved into a pile of yellow and red fabric as the garment slid to the floor.
As the silk nuzzled the space heater, Squibs McGee nuzzled her bare neck, her bare shoulders.
“You make me tingo all over,” she said.
He felt more than a tingle himself as she pushed him onto the futon.
“Now you show me American sushi roll.”
The neighbors heard the explosion.
“What am I supposed to do with a sushi heater?” I hissed.
Martin winced. “I know, Firefly, just... she’s my mother. Please try...”
Mrs Stephenson returned with a tray. “Eggnog, eggnog,” she said sweetly, handing cups to Martin and his father, “green tea.”
I hesitated, hand in midair. “Perhaps you didn’t buy enough?”
“Not at all, dear. I didn’t think you’d want one.” She glanced at my hips.
After five days of holiday-mandated proximity, our verbal weapons had devolved into pathetic squibs. I needed something armour-piercing.
It was time to tingo. Tango.
Wait, what was in that tea?
“Tingo!” Akiko yelled, as she swung the bat into knotted sheets. “Tingo!!”
Seven months ago the Peruvian diplomat had fed her sushi on one of his squibs, then made her love him while fireflies danced across the shores of lake Chauya.
Winking flits of hope.
“Tingo!” The bat crunched sheets.
A baby in two months, but better without him, her diplomat, whimpering now, blood spotting linen. He'd given three months of lust and four of short temper--quick and cruel affections.
“Tingo,” she said, missing, then hitting the heater. It psshhd hot steam over fading firefly dots.
Love speckling out.
“What happened here, Inspector Tingo?”
“Death by sushi, Ma’am.” He resisted calling her “Squibs.” He’d do that after dinner somewhere between a smooch and a nuzzle. “He was heating those - things - on the radiator.”
“There’s radiation involved?”
She was gorgeous, but Peroit’s little gray cells did not descend to his granddaughter.
“The heater; that thing.” He pointed to it.
“A firefly landed on the plate.” He paused, aware of her doubt. “We found its body. Its weight flipped the plate, and a toothpick pierced his jugular.”
It'd help if I read the rules! :-)
Crossing to Easter Island, I upended Paul's sushi heater. Fire flashed across the deck.
"What have you done!" Paul screamed when I woke him.
"It... was a crash gybe!"
"Focus!" The fire spread to the sail. Battens popped like squibs in a Hollywood set. Night-fishing natives homed in, rescued us.
They laughed at our story, called me "tingo". On returning home, I looked it up: a "tingo" borrows things from a friend one by one, until there is nothing.
So I bought a boat, named "Firefly", and presented it anonymously. "Tingo no more," read the post-it.
"Tingo and Cash, now that was a good one."
"It's Tango and Cash and it sucked."
"How about Firefly?"
"Oh my God, it was Dragonfly. Where do you get your movie info from - squibs?" I finished off the last piece of Walmart sushi and wrapped the blanket tighter around me as I snuggled closer to Eric on our beat up couch to watch the Oscars.
"What about Heater?" He teased.
"You're such a moron, you mean Heat?"
He nodded as he reached for the remote with a sly smile.
"No way. You promised to watch the entire thing with me."
Language was his first love, silence a close second. Hideo Takazawa should have been a poet, not a Tokyo office drone. Fireworks fizzling in squibs, the neighbor’s unruly children shrieking at fireflies, the surreptitious rustling of his wife trying to fix the kotatsu under-table heater: all were purgatory. But the unmellifluous, unJapanese words in “Toujours Tingo” were hell. Welsh, Inuit words, choking on their own consonants. Torment to a poet’s ear.
He thrust the book aside.
“Where’s my sushi, woman?” Hideo shouted. “I’m dying of hunger here.”
The coroner’s verdict, though, was that Hideo Takazawa died of fish-borne food poisoning.
Maggie knew Valentine's Day was the worst day to have a first date. The chemistry failed like day old sushi in July. The only thing working was the heater in his velvet lined van.
"Nothing like squibs to get chicks screaming at a show," Jonathan bragged. "Bees to honey."
Maggie felt like a trapped firefly held by a hyperactive kid. Hopefully he wouldn’t shake the jar. Her sister had set her up; otherwise she would have been out of there. A "sweet, sensitive guy" turned out to be the aging drummer for an occasional 70's glam rock band, Sticky Tingo.
He hands me his Firefly, the video already playing. I see a bullet enters my son’s chest, exit, and leave an excessive, albeit impressive, amount of blood on the wall.
“How long did she ground you for this one?”
“Two weeks,” he says with a mouth full of sushi. “And I can't use squibs anymore.” In his eyes, there is a subtle request for intervention.
I want to help him, but I can't. Not anymore. “Listen to your mother; you're too young to make those kind’a movies, anyway.”
He hides his stuffed Tingo under the kotatsu, and looks away.
The temperature plummeted with the sun, so Tingo switched on the heater. Edging nearer, he rubbed his fingers to ease the ache. Since the day he signed on this fishing expedition for the allusive sushi grade tuna, his entire body hurt. Never again!
As he did each evening, Tingo scribbled a short letter to his beloved, telling her it would not be long now. They would dock in Sapporo next week. Distracted by his squib, Tingo did not see the giant wave. Swept overboard, frigid water rushed his lungs and fireflies danced behind his eyeballs. Tingo cried an anguished goodbye.
“I hate sushi, damn it,” said Clark buttoning his collar and pinning his cuff-links. His wife cooed from the doorway. “The promotion,” she said. She’d already turned off the heater. He slammed the door on their way out.
“Such admirable modus tingo on the new Renoir, yes?” his boss opined. I’ll modus your tingo thought Clark, wanting nothing more than to explode his bosses squib-looking cigar into his bratwurst face. Such incessant cooing in his ear.
Clark saw a light behind his eyes, growing. Florescent bulbs, a menorah, maybe a flare. A trail leading nowhere, lit by a firefly.
“How was the date?”
“Where’d he take you?”
“Squibs for sushi.”
“Love it. My husband used to take me there before we were married. Later?”
“The Tingo for drinks.”
“Great margaritas! My hubby and I used to go there too.”
“So, did you end up at his place or yours?”
“How was that?”
“He’s a little out there.”
“He’s got a tattoo of a firefly on his...”
“How’d you know?”
She unbuttoned her jeans and flashed a cheek. “We match.”
“I’m the other woman?”
“I’ll be an ex-wife.”
There is but one who knows the fates of Brahm and Wu:
The former (tingo impulse: high) is at Wu’s door (again); this time, to beg a bit of sushi.
As Wu turns ‘round to fetch the fish, Brahm spies the squibs stacked (foolishly) atop the unlit heater. . .
Unable to resist, he reaches out to pilch a squib! Just as he does,
a firefly (exacting sweet revenge against the swatting Wu)
swoops down! Its flash ignites the heater, which ignites the squibs, and then, the two!
The witness to their grand demise? Just one, with tiny compound eyes. . .
Bartholomew Turkleson eschewed soft cheeses, sushi, raw eggs, and beef. He wore his seat belt, kept his water heater at 110, and never ended a sentence with a preposition. He didn't fear death, but he wasn't going to leave the door open for her either.
Then last Sunday, in a fit of wild abandon, he pulled out the squibs he'd been saving for New Year's and lit them all. At once. In his bathtub. Naked. Well, not really. He was wearing a tingo, er, tanga. So death, that errant firefly, caught him with his pants down, as they say.
Kill one abusive husband and the whole town looks at you like you’re a maniac. It's not like I squashed an innocent firefly. Danny had it coming. Hell, I wasn't the first to try and off him. He never did find out who put the squibs into his sushi. After that Danny started sleeping with his heater, and moved most of his money offshore to Tingo.
Luckily I am a planner, I learn from past experience. It's hard to deflect a blow you don’t see coming, and the flat side of a shovel sends shards of skull into the brain.
They came at dusk.
They always did. It was their dinner time, and lucky us, we were on the menu.
“Five seconds,” Tingo whispered. At only fifteen, she sensed the Stalks better than anyone, even Heater, who’d earned his nickname for a reason. The air rippled, then sparked, like a single firefly warning us of The Tear.
“Now!” I barked.
Six bombs hit the quivering air. Four exploded, but two were squibs. That’s it, I thought. We’re screwed.
The Tear ripped completely open, eight Stalks stepped out, and in perfect unison, they swung their sushi faces to us.
Thanks for such a fun contest!
She gave Dad one last chance: A Valentine's Dinner.
But he was a terrible chef.
"Sushi!" I suggested.
"Brilliant!" he said.
Unfortunately, the raw salmon and Atlantic trout were set on the heater, the union causing a military-like explosion of squibs. The fizzing noise sent my winged nocturnal pet of a firefly into spasms, its luminescent chemicals lighting up the kitchen like the Fourth of July.
Dad apologized for the untimely demise, but I hid my face and laughed. The look on my mother's face was worth the fantastic tingo of love.
And mercifully, she smiled too.
My second flight in TingoAir's prototype Firefly jet almost killed me.
Yesterday her heater failed midflight and I set her down with a rime of frost inside the canopy. Retooled overnight, she roared down the strip, leaping into the sky at a nudge.
Ninety seconds later we were in a hammerhead stall, falling out of the sky like a set of keys. One second after the squibs blew the canopy I realized my eject instructions had been taped to the cowling.
I lost my lunch fighting to land her.
I still can't face sushi.
The sushi wasn’t working. I was gonna kill my brother. The bank closed in 20 minutes. 20 minutes ‘til foreclosure. Desperate to recreate the magic I witnessed yesterday, I stuffed another chunk of raw fish into the glass jar. The firefly within remained uninterested.
“You said it liked spicy tuna.”
Squibs shuffled into the kitchen. “Maybe today he likes shrimp.” Squibs shivered. “We still got heat?” He kicked the radiator and the heater clanged to life.
“This better work,” I warned. Squibs winked as the rare gold coin clinked to the base of the jar. “Dude. Don’t doubt the Tingo.”
We sat in silence. The smudged windows cast fun-house shapes of street traffic.
He didn’t share his Friday night squibs with just anyone.
His tongue prickled across his ragged lips and he took a long haul of his cigarette. The heater blazed light into the car, reminding me of a firefly trapped in an old mason jar.
The skin on his chin puckered. It was as crusty as an old sun-dried, seaweed-slapped curd of sushi.
I waited patiently and tried not to stare.
“Tingo.” His voice was gritty as he finally exhaled.
Jesus. He was on about John Tartaglia again.
He suspends a maraschino over my seltzer, the syrupy thing glimmering like a firefly in the flickering light. “Lo tingo rosso?” he asks, dropping the cherry into my glass. Then he tweezes unagi with the same fingers.
He speaks clumsily, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I’m not even Italian; I haven’t told him. I also haven’t told him he’s eating dangerously old sushi.
My smile evolves into a shudder.
Misunderstanding, he holds out his arms, cajoling in English, “Let me—my body’s a heater.”
Just as I’m warming to him, he ruins it by pinching my squibs.
Harrison moved to Antarctica for more than penguins and exotic sushi. He called his gleaming ice fortress Tingo and borrowed God’s every treasure to construct a world of emerald fronds and turquoise waters, overflowing with whiskered tamarins and the rarest breed of eggplant firefly. It was his masterpiece, his only escape.
Until they found him.
He watched the workers shepherd squibs from heater to generator to purifier as he clutched the detonator to his heart and raised the pistol. The ear-splitting scream of the explosion drowned the bullet’s ring as dreamer and dream died together in the ruin of paradise.
On their eighteenth birthday, members of the Westing family received a box covered in fireflies. Squib found his sitting on his bedroom heater.
Rumor said the box held your destiny, but Westings never talk about their boxes, like destiny was something to be ashamed of. For all Squib knew, the box could hold rotting sushi.
Squib pushed aside a firefly and found a torn card with the word tingo’—maybe they meant lingo?—scrawled on it.
He flopped backwards. He could still run away. He could—he sat up and drew the box towards him.
“I make sushi out of you!” old Mr. Yamoto yelled, shaking his fist. His wrinkled face was contorted in rage. He looked like one of his rutabagas.
I threw another heater into his territory. The squibs were going off like fireworks. It was hilarious to watch him duck and dodge.
“Look at that fire fly!” I yelled and lobbed another cherry bomb.
“Where did tat tingo?” He scurried, searching his garden for the dud that didn’t go off.
Me and my buddies were laughing our… uh oh! “Incoming!”
He took out my little bro!
“Take of the heater!” I yell. My lungs are bursting and I struggle to catch my breath. “Faster Squibs!”
A hand rubs my skin and the heat is gone, only to be replaced with a dull chill. It races through my veins and freezes my brain. Vomit hits the back of my throat and I taste sushi. A firefly drops before me and the lights go out.
“Tingo, where are you boy?” Squibs calls. Tingo doesn’t answer. There are no movements. The blast caught him, I know it.
Nora was eating store-bought sushi when her new neighbor invited herself in. “I hate store-bought sushi,” said Amanda. She was a firefly, flitting from room to room in dark silence, lighting up at random. “A portable heater! My apartment is freezing.” You can borrow it, said Nora. “Are these firecrackers?” Squibs. Exploding blood packs. My boyfriend is a stuntman. “Can I borrow some?” No. “Do you have any good CDs? DVDs?” It was only a matter of time before Amanda went totally tingo on Nora. A week later she was dating Nora’s stuntman and eating all her store-bought sushi.
Hoshi filled Yamada’s bento box with sushi and mochi. Yamada was the boy she was going to marry in 8 years…or at least by the time she was 20. Only Yama didn’t know that yet. She smiled.
The bento box had yellow Tingo Anura pocket frogs on it. They both loved the pocket frog game. She sighed. After Yamada finished as squibs boy at his father’s Firefly Fireworks factory, they would meet and picnic together under the weeping willow by the lake. And watch the moon. And never get cold, Yamada’s body would be her heater. She closed the lid.
“Bingo!” He waves wildly waiting for acknowledgement of his spastic dance.
“You’re such a freak, Squibs.” I say as a burp reminds me of the sushi dinner I could have been enjoying. Instead, I am in the town of Tingo, in the basement of a church, where heaters clank in unison with the balls in the bingo wheel.
He nods like he cares which I know he doesn’t.
The tip of my cigarette glimmers like a dizzy firefly. Blue haired ladies walk by and instead of redemption all I can think.
Is how much I hate cotton candy.
We’d been living on sushi and beer all week but needed more. The apartment was fucking freezing when I got back. I plugged the heater in.
“Yo! What are you, stupid?” Chase said and unplugged it.
“It’s tengo,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“Whatever! I’m cold.”
Chase put the wires he was twisting together down. He tapped the box near the heater with his boot.
“These aren’t squibs, my little firefly. They’re the real deal.”
“I told you I wasn’t fucking around.”
I reached for him. “You do know how to warm a girl up.”
“I torture fireflies,” snarled Frankie. “I eat goldfish like sushi. I’ve exploded squibs in my bare hands! Bet you don’t even know what ‘squib’ means.” I cowered against a heater in the corner of the lunchroom.
“Bet you don’t know what ‘tingo’ means,” growled a menacing voice. A barrel-chested sixth-grader strode up, wearing a necklace with a stone pendant – a Moai!
“Y-y-you’re from Easter Island too?” I sputtered.
He nodded. “C’mon. I’ll show you the ropes.” He snickered at Frankie. “We’ll tingo this haole later.” Frankie swallowed hard.
And for the first time since my arrival to America, I smiled.
He found Caleb asleep on the couch, his personal four-legged heater curled into his side.
John smiled as he carried his son to his room, faithful Tingo following on silent paws.
Out of his son's bedroom window the burning house on the hill almost looked like a firefly on drugs was celebrating a wild party with its friends. John smiled and closed the blinds. He was going to be Father of the Year again. The unfortunate sushi food poisoning incident would finally be forgotten.
It was amazing what damage two small squibs, aided by an unfortunate gas leak, could do.
The house was cold.
They'd left on the Fourth. He saw used squibs in the trash, on rotting sushi and crumpled tissues.
He wondered how the heater worked.
A dead firefly slept forever in a jar. The air holes weren't enough after the days and weeks. They were like a phone call on Thursdays, except when he forgot.
Her letter was in cursive, so Sam couldn't read it, except for his name. He'd highlighted it in green crayon. “Sam says you're kidnapped in Tingo. I told him you're not but we both like the idea.”
He sat, cold, alone.
Flicking the oven light on and off like a firefly wouldn’t make the cookies bake faster. But what could Marie do? This dinner had to impress her in-laws, a pair of flatulent squibs.
“Can I borrow a space heater?”
Marie jumped. Why couldn’t her neighbor Darcy ever knock?
“It’s in the closet,” Marie sighed.
“Thanks,” Darcy said. “Nice spread.”
Marie nodded and turned back to the cookies, now a perfect golden brown. After watching them cool, she scooped them onto a tray and darted to the dining room.
Her face fell. Sticky-fingered, tingo-ing Darcy had taken everything, even the sushi.
Heaters. I hate ‘em. They warm the menses on the walls then duct the stench through the whole fuckin’ hospital.
“It smells like pyscho sushi in here,” Ringo laughs.
“Tingo, don't be such a squib,” I say, tired of the old joke. I never call him by his name. It hurts too much. Ringo worked with John and Paul. I work with bat-shit-crazy smearers.
Night shift is over, I drive to the pond. Fireflies offer the night's, no the world's, only light. Waylon and a bottle of Jack soften my misery; but not much.
Life imitates art
At the last minute, the director changed the scene from the interior of an Italian restaurant to an exterior at a sushi place called “Tingo.”
He wanted a firefly to dance across the frame as he filmed and was surprised that fireflies aren’t available in December. Warmed by a heater at his feet, the director was also oblivious to his star’s discomfort as he waited in the cold.
The squibs went off perfectly, polka-dotting the star with fake blood. It took a minute for anyone to notice that the director’s coat was also bloodied.
On-set accidents happen all the time.
Lauren licked her again. The others were right; girls did taste like sushi.
High in the Tingo district of Peru, hunkered over the remains of the red haired flight attendant, the pretty one, Lauren wondered how she and the three other squibs had survived. The plane was gone: a fuselage ribcage, contorted by heat, silhouetted against orange flames.
The warm glow of the fire reminded her of the farm. She saw herself as a child, cozied on the porch next to her dog, Heater, watching fireflies draw arcs against a chalkboard sky.
“I’m still hungry,” she said to the others.
I propped the kitchen door open with an old brick we kept there for that purpose. It was a sweltering Georgia night and firefly lights danced through the parking lot. I lit up too, inhaling deeply.
“Dammit, Tingo . . . Teebo . . . whatever the hell your name is! Get that sushi away from the heater. It’s gotta stay cold,” I bellowed.
My sous chef hurried to follow directions, knocking over a tray of . . . dammit, what were they called? Squibs, squads . . . squabs, that was it. It was official. I was Alzheimer’s bitch.
“But why?” Ronnie held back a sob.
“He’s a firefly and you’re a squib.” She slung the duffle bag over her narrow shoulder.
“A what?” The sushi Ronnie had just eaten was threatening to come back up.
“A dud.” She stepped towards the door, like she’d already forgotten him.
“He barely speaks English. He smells.” Ronnie kicked the malfunctioning hotel heater.
“He’s teaching me Quechua.” She waved her Lonely Planet phrasebook at him. “We’re a tingo.” The tips of her lovely forefingers met, in midair ballet.
Ronnie clutched at his stomach.
“You should have tried the local food,” she said.
The three fairies swooped down in a daring line attack, a firefly trapped in each bonnet for illumination. Tingo glanced back once to indicate she was ready, her goggled eyes showing no expression. Then in she dove, using the purloined spark-heater to set off the squibs. The barb flew straight and true, burying itself with a clang in the hideous metal leg. Then the three flew round and round, wrapping all three legs with their silver cord. The Martian war machine tripped and fell into the water, like a child’s top in its last spin.
“Eat sushi!” cried Tingo.
“Melina! Get that heater up here! Damn sushi is warmer than the friggin room.”
“Ven que idiota a ti mismo!”
“How many times I gotta tell you to speak English!”
“A mail order bride from Tingo, what the hell was I thinking.”
“And what the hell is this big firefly on my wall?” he shouts
Another rumble of angry Spanish comes from closer by as the heater squibs across the floor.
Pulling his laptop closer, he Googles “latina.com refund policy” and reads.
After that unfortunate tiger attack last month, zoo officials have finally re-opened the park with a whole new exhibit! First we have the liger, a lion-tiger crossbreed that is fun-loving, friendly, and completely harmless. Can you guess his favorite food? That’s right, sushi! And next we have the zonkey, a cross between a zebra and a donkey. He’s as bright as a firefly, and as hot as a heater on high. But the doctors say that’s normal, so let’s move on. Finally, we have the tingo, a tiger-dingo hybrid. Don’t be squibs, folks. I promise, this tingo won’t steal your baby!
Tingo Peru. A dumpy little town in the armpit of South America and he hated it.
The crosshairs of his scope were fixed on the door down the street, the door his target would come out of.
As the shot rang out he confirmed a perfect head shot before pulling the rifle back in and bumping his arm on the heater.
He gathered his gear and left his mark, a firefly figurine. Calmly slipping down the stairs he remote activated the squibs creating the diversion, allowing him to slip away, unseen, into the shadows, again.
Walking down the street, they're there, like every night. Rapping.
“Yo Tingo, ain't no Gringo, but I gotta have my say, better put that heater 'way”
“Man's burnin' bright, like a firefly in the night. Who da Hell is she? Just another piece of sushi.”
“Just walk away, you know I got dibs, go play wit you boys, those wannabes called the squibs.”
I can't hear any more as I walk away. God I hate that shit.
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