Writing Exercise – Sarah Alstott March 19 2014

 Apocalypse Dinner Party

Gary swirled the tilted dish of melted lavender ice cream with a spoon until the blood was blended and the pale purple turned a stout mauve. Beryl flitted over dead guests at the dinner table poking the ladies’ coifs and picking at the ties of their dead husbands.

“I don’t know what their hurry was! Dead at eleven is just as dead as dead at nine-thirty!”

Gary kept his head down but looked at his wife over the rims of his glasses. Their dead host, an old money businessman, rested his dead head on the side of dish tipping it sideways. No more blood was going to be dropping out of the late Mr. Cole’s nose. It had congealed and hung from his nostril like a soft ruby. Gary stopped stirring and set the spoon down.

“Who’s next? You said we received an invitation for next week, yes?”

“Oh,” Beryl paused, her hand on the back of Ms. Timmons’s French braid pushing the woman’s face further into a half-eaten soufflé, “The Maxwell’s. Oh, but that’s no good. I told them we’d be attending here. How will I explain myself to Marcie? ‘Oh yes, I know I declined your invitation for the 17th because we were all set to die in the most elegant of company on the 13th. But you see we had this flat tire, and our driver didn’t bother to have the spare fixed because of the apocalypse and we had to walk four miles to the Cole’s and wouldn’t you know it? They had already served dessert.’ No, she’s been properly snubbed and is just lady enough to know it and just common enough to hold a grudge.”

“Well, we were deceived weren’t we?” Gary said taking a fistful of Cole’s hair and shoving the dead man’s face into the crotch of his dead business partner, Mr. Faust. He then walked over to Mrs. Cole and pulled her brassiere from under her dress up onto her head. The dead woman’s arms flopped into the lap of her dead husband on one side and her brother on the other. “Look at how they were behaving! Incestuous affairs? Blatant carnal lusts? Hardly civil. Hardly the sort we would want to be caught dead with!”

Beryl smiled. “Tomorrow we’ll call the news stations, let them know of this scene and how we left after the first course, disgusted and shocked, SHOCKED, by how they began to loosen their hair,” she ripped out Mrs. David Allen’s seed pearl comb and twirled it into Mr. Poaches’ thick curls, “and threw themselves at each other!”

“Braying like donkeys!”

“Howling like monkeys!”

“Oh the headlines: End of Days Dinner Ends in Debauchery!”

“Everyone will be talking about it and I’ll call Marcie.” Beryl said smearing marmalade on Lord Geoff’s nipples, “I will be contrite and full of remorse over my own poor judgment and ask if she would be so kind as to set out two dishes of Baked Alaska ala cantarella on the 17th.”


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OH Lord, another limerick! :( by Jim Hilton

There was a mauve monkey of note

Who often Bill Shakespeare did quote

Though his tongue was quite civil

It mostly was drivel

And we tired of his nattering rote!

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Writing Exercise October 2 2013 Joshua Masterson

Running with Contraband
Contraband.  The child was too young to know the word, but nevertheless understood, in a visceral way, its meaning: that which she should not have.  Were she able to express her thoughts on the matter, she’d have complained that everything interesting was contraband—the television remote, spoons used to stir sugar into coffee, rocks and dirt and the corpses of flies she sometimes found in the window sill.  The silky ears of the dogs and their bristly tails.  Toothbrushes, which were sometimes left within reach on the bathroom sink and tasted of mint, were perhaps especially contraband, which was too bad, because the dogs seemed to enjoy tasting them at least as much as the little girl.  In her mind, everything fun was ripped from her hands by parents who were, from her perspective, sadistic in their willingness to deprive her of anything of value.
The little girl hated for things to be taken from her.  When she heard her name called in that deep-toned way that meant she was in trouble, she’d run, as best she could, in the other direction.  She had a stiff-kneed gait and she swung her entire upper body when she ran, her fists balled up and held tight to her chest, all of which gave her little directional control and led to her crashing into walls and furniture and floors as often as it helped her get away.
At fifteen-months-old, she had command of maybe twenty words, and she loved to climb.  She climbed onto couches.  She climbed onto beds.  She climbed up ladders and onto desks. If left at the bottom of the stairs, she climbed up them—though she hadn’t yet figured out the trick of climbing down.  
Recently, she’d learned that she was able to push away from the kitchen table its chairs, which she could then climb.  This was exciting, because it afforded her access to all new kinds of contraband—the cereal bowl that her brother left out every morning, cell phones and I-pads and wallets and keys—formerly safely out of place on the table, were now hers to grab and run and play with.
Mommy and Daddy, of course, were quick to learn of her new skill.  She had one glorious day of returning to the table again and again and finding something new that someone had left on it.  Daddy’s I-pad and cell phone in the morning.  Brother’s laptop in the afternoon.  Mommy’s purse in the evening.  One day of pushing the chairs away from the table and climbing up to find some new contraband, and then everyone in the house learned not to leave things on the table, and to listen for the screech of the heavy wood chairs scooting across the tile floor, and to come to her and take her down from the table and to push back in the chairs she’d pushed out.
For weeks, nothing was left on the table, though the little girl still climbed up to investigate whenever she could.  And one day, her efforts were rewarded.
Mommy and Daddy had left in a grand show of goodbyes, with more hugs and kisses than usual as they carried their luggage out the front door, and the old lady who stank of stale cigarettes—the one big brother called Granny—moved herself and her stinking bags in.  At first, the little girl was upset, and she cried, but then Granny and big brother played games with her, and that was alright.
And then Granny sat at the table.  She pared, with a brightly handled knife, a green apple, from which she cut little slices for the girl and her brother, which everyone loved.  And then Granny stepped outside—just for a minute—to smoke.
The little girl, who’d seen and was interested in the brightly handled knife, pushed a chair away from the table and carefully climbed up.  She had to then crawl onto the table, because she hadn’t used a chair very close to the knife.
Climbing down holding the knife by its handle—which she did because she’d seen how Granny held it—was a challenge, but she managed; as soon as her little feet hit the tiled floor, she started to run in her bouncing, out of control way, knowing that as soon as anyone found her they’d wrestle her contraband from her tiny fist.

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For July — T. Lee Harris

Daniel Durand cast a final surreptitious glance at the gleaming row of single malts before he lifted the candy-sweet mango daiquiri. No scotch today. Today he was still Denny La Croix, Florida real estate wunderkind, and Denny liked frou-frou. Hence the rest of the tourist uniform: colorful Hawaiian shirt, flashy gold neck chains and wristwatch topped off with expensive UV blocking sunglasses. Tossing a couple bills to the bikini-clad bartender, he wandered outside and took possession of an umbrella-shaded table with an unobstructed view of the Pacific across the Kahala’s famous lagoon.

Someone dropped into the deckchair beside him. “A gracious good afternoon, sir.”

His eyes slid sideways. Wonderful. Wes Yarborough of Army Intelligence reclined just outside the shade of his umbrella, apparently intent on a paperback novel. Would have been nice if his own Air Force handlers had given him a heads up. Oh well, someone would have to pick up the ball once it was in play. Yarborough was more than capable of that.

“Relax, man. We’re on the same side. Mom, the flag, apple pie and all that.” Yarborough paused thoughtfully. “Well, okay. The flag and apple pie.”

“You the cavalry or something?”

“Perish forbid! You know these upscale places have no decent horse parking.”

Durand/La Croix hid a smile by swigging at the daiquiri.

“Whoa! Smells like an explosion in a fruit stand. What is that stuff, anyway?”

“Adult Kool-Aid. Part of the camouflage.” He regarded the skewer of fruit terminating in a garish paper parasol. “Well, sorta adult, anyway.”

A petite, dark-haired woman crossed the lagoon via the wooden footbridge and settled into a deckchair. Putting a portable CD player on the side table, she inserted earbuds and leaned back. Right on schedule. Linda Lou, youngest princess of the Courtland Chemical empire. A lovely young woman– outwardly. Inside, something dark festered. Something dark enough to make her engage in chemical weapon research and twisted enough to sell that research to the highest bidder.

Without looking up from his book, Yarborough muttered, “People like Missy over there baffle the hell outta me. Rich girl like that could have anything she wanted. Why sell weapons to the very people who want to wipe her from the face of the Earth?”

“You and I both know money rarely has anything to do with it. The real reasons are usually buried deep.”

“Too, too true — don’t look now, Kimosabe, but it’s showtime.”

A man in jogging shorts and tank top came out of the marine center and veered toward the beach. In the middle of the bridge, he seemed to have trouble with the CD player clipped to his belt. He pulled it off and walked on, absently fooling with it. On the other side, he clumsily knocked into Ms. Courtland’s table sending her player skidding. Apologizing profusely, he handed it back to her before heading onto the beach and jogging away.

The switch was made and his part was over. Actually, it had been over at eight o’clock that morning when Denny La Croix had invited himself to share her table at breakfast and exchanged the CD in her player while flirting obnoxiously. It had been kind of fun. Now that disk, containing false data, was winging its merry way into the hands of the bad guys.

He had a flight to catch, too, one where Denny La Croix would arrive at LAX, disappear, and Major Durand could continue to Washington DC. To home and the bottle of 12 year-old Glenlivet waiting to wash the taste of frou-frou Kool-Aid out of his mouth. An altogether more pleasant reception than Ms. Linda L. Courtland would find when she returned to her room.

He stood, stretched and headed into the hotel.

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Writing Exercise July 16 2013 Phyllis Patterson


Flag  Mango  Horse


By Phyllis Patterson/AKA PM Smith


I bite into the juicy over-ripe mango as I gaze out my window. A half-dozen teenage boys are oblivious to the fact that they are being watched.

The young men are sweating profusely as they bound around under a basketball hoop in what I would guess is a game of horse. Although, I really don’t know what a game of horse looks like.

Every so often one of these youngsters gets knocked on his ass and I wonder at how they can take such punishment without real injury.

Oh, but to be indestructible again. At their age I believed I could do anything and feared nothing.

Now, I tread carefully so as not to invite a broken hip.

The game has been in progress for an hour or more and does not show signs of ending soon. The sheer joy they exhibit makes me smile. How wonderful to be so without responsibilities that chasing a round leather sphere is allowed so much of their day.

I glance at the clock and frown. I have just enough time to shower and get ready for work. I glance wistfully at the basketball court and one of the players has thrown a flag on the play. I have no idea what caused the call because I don’t understand any of it. It just looks like wild chaos with tall young men racing about with abandon. But I certainly applaud their enthusiasm.

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Writing Exercise July 15 2013 Jim Hilton

Me and Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill

keywords:  horse   flag   mango…

This was hot work.  First we had to fight our way past El Caney as cavalry, and now that we are at the foot of San Juan Hill we find that it’s too steep, and we’ll have to dismount.  Good lord! Cuba is hot enough at any time of year, but now, in July, it’s a furnace.  My uniform is chafing me terribly and sweat is pouring down my body in small rivers.  I’ll be twenty pounds lighter this evening, if I survive the coming charge.

One of our more artistic boys has made us a flag with a big mango on it.  Seems we maybe ate too many of those things and got a reputation as the ‘Mango Boys’, or something like that.  I hope Col. Roosevelt doesn’t mind a little gaiety in the ranks. A fair number of us won’t be going home from this campaign, so maybe some lightheartedness will be permitted.

Now that we’re dismounted, we seem to have lost what little breeze that was afforded us while we were on our horses. We’re hunkered down in the undergrowth, feeding the insects and trying to conserve our water.  The water is almost too hot to drink, but we know better than to try drinking from the streams here.  That doctor who talked to us really scared the boys; lots of alien parasites there, apparently.

Now here comes Col. Roosevelt, still mounted, coming at the gallop, looking like he’s having a bully time of it.  He thunders up before us and jumps down, cigar clamped between his teeth, eyeglasses glinting as he bobs his head in animated discussion with the officers.  I couldn’t hear what he said, but there was a lot of head-bobbing by the officers, and they all started shouting orders.  “Get in line there,” followed by, “Close ranks, form up!” The sergeants are going berserk trying to bring order to this chaotic mass of men.

Finally we get things together and start moving up the slope, Col. Roosevelt right up front.  Bullets are whizzing down at us from the thousand or so Spaniards at the top of the ridge, but he doesn’t flinch, just keeps shouting at us to, “Follow me!”  So, we follow, and follow, slowly making progress up the steep incline.  Occasionally, a fellow on my right or left lets out a mighty shout, or maybe just a surprised groan, as he absorbs the impact of a bullet and then tumbles back downhill. Hard work here, living or dying. Damned hard work.

Occasionally we’d get the chance to fire off a round if one of the Spaniards showed his head, and a chorus of wheezy cheers would go up when we got one of ’em.  Up and up, losing more men, almost wishing to get a wound of some sort to give you a chance to lie down.  You have crazy, horrible thoughts when you’re exhausted.

Not sure how we did it, but at the end of the day we had that ridge cleared of Spanish troops and we were looking down at the city of Santiago.  Only a matter of time now, and we’d throw the boys from Spain outta there.  Wish we hadn’t lost so many boys gettin’ up here. They’d have enjoyed seeing this.

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For July Marian Allen

Sure Thing

by Marian Allen

I used to say I never met a Greenhorn I didn’t like, but Middle-C-F-Sharp-A was about to become the first exception. Maybe I shouldn’t have took him to the track with me, but there was always a flock of them there, having a good time, so I took him.

He knew I was ticked when I whistled his real name instead of calling him by the official Earth American one Immigration assigned him: Peter Bluefeather.

Pete was about my height, his green skin dark from working next to me on the farm. Two tufts of yellow feathers stuck up like horns from the sides of his head; the one blue one on the left gave him his Earth American surname.

Orange beak, red flag, like we say, and Pete’s was orange now. He was a sucker for a racetrack tout; bet a hot tip every race and lost every time. He’d just paid another ten bucks for another one.

I whistled the Greenhorn phrase for Don’t start.

He clacked his bill twice then held it open a couple of seconds, working his round pink tongue.

Between the Earth American he’d learned and the Greenhorn whistles he’d taught me, we did okay on the farm. Harder for him than it was for me, though, because I always been a good whistler, and he had to make lip sounds without any lips.

“Man go,” he said.

“What man goes where?”

Man-go. Mango.” He shook his racing form at me and handed it over.

There was a circle around a horse in this race – the last race – named Mango, at 11-1.

“Oo, too,” Pete said.

So far, I had picked my own horses and broke even, plus enough to buy us hot dogs and beers. Maybe that second beer wasn’t a good idea for Pete, because now he wanted to seal our friendship by sharing his hot tip with me.

“How about you bet on my horse?”

I could tell by the way he cocked his head, he’d sulk for days if I didn’t give in.

I whistled agreement and we put our money on Mango.

When they played the Call to the Post, Pete twittered laughter along with the other Greenhorns; seems that phrase was a smutty joke in one of their languages.

And the horses raced.

The one I would have bet on came in first. Mango is probably still running, if he ain’t died of old age.

You never seen a sorrier-looking Greenhorn than Pete, outside of moulting season.

When we was about halfway home, I heard him mutter something the first guy he worked for taught him:

“Pete’s a dirty bird.”

It like to broke my heart.

“Pete ain’t no kinda bird.”

I whistled his real name – Middle-C-F-Sharp-A, then I whistled The Isle of Capri, which I learned early on is the same tune as a Greenhorn formal statement of friendship.

We whistled it in harmony the rest of the way home.

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