Monday, June 29, 2015

A second flash fiction challenge

Hmmm... I'm kind of getting addicted to these flash fiction challenges.  If you can call 'twice' getting addicted.  But I like the challenge.  Or - at least I've liked the last two.  But see, the thing is, you have to put a LINK to your story in a comment on the page that posted the challenge.. and this is the only place I have to link to.  If this goes on much longer, I'll start a separate page on teapot musings, to keep the challenge submissions separate from my usual posts... maybe.

This week's challenge  (well, actually the challenge was posted last week, but it's due this week) was to use a randomizer to choose a song title, and base a story of 1000 words or less, on the title (the actual words of the song were irrelevant).  I keep most of my music on Spotify these days, and I found a website that incorporates a randomizer.  You 'click here', and one of your songs pops up.  I got "Somebody that I used to Know", by WOTE (Walk off the Earth).  Pretty cool song, even better video.

Somebody that I used to Know

“Thanks, Charlie.”
I tossed the nickel and three pennies that the clerk had given me as my change into the dish labeled ‘take one, leave one’, grabbed the paper bag holding a couple of turkey sandwiches, some chips and two bottles of water, and walked out into the sunshine.
I was early.  It was just barely 11:00, the park was only two blocks away and I wasn’t scheduled to meet Lisa until noon, but that was ok.  I had some thinking to do.  I took the long way around to the bench where we were supposed to meet, which meant I turned right and walked counterclockwise on the path that went around the park.  But even so, I found myself sitting on the bench forty-five minutes before she was due to arrive.  I stared off into the distance, and started to let my mind wander when I became aware of someone else sitting down on my right side.  I had intentionally positioned myself near the middle of the bench so as to discourage anyone else from joining me.  I didn’t want any company now, and I most certainly wasn’t going to want any company once Lisa showed up. I turned to the interloper in annoyance and began to say “There’s another bench…” but even as I was raising my arm to point, I froze. For a moment it felt like there was no longer any oxygen in the air.
“Hey, Davey.”
I stared, speechless.
“Oh come on, bud, I know it’s been awhile, but I can’t believe you’ve forgotten my name.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, and then opened them.  But I was still looking at a young boy who was the spitting image of my best friend, Jack, exactly the way he had looked on the day I last saw him, nearly thirty years ago.  He was in those black jeans with the bleach stain on the bottom of the right leg, and that stupid Monty Python shirt he liked to wear all the time.  And as I looked closer, I was able to discern the faintest faded trace of the black eye I’d given him about a week before he’d left.
“There you go.  I knew it would come back to you.”
He always was a smart ass.
They'd done a great job finding this kid.  I looked around the park, trying to find the hidden camera crew and sound van.  But I couldn’t see them.  I looked back at the kid.
“What’s going on?”
“What’s going on, Davey boy, is that I need a quick word with you.”
Almost no one but Jack had called me Davey, and absolutely no one but Jack had ever called me Davey boy.  Ok, so if this wasn’t a prank, then it must be a hallucination.
And then he punched me in the shoulder.  Even at twelve he’d had a hell of a jab, and it hadn’t changed.  I rubbed my arm, thinking ok, so maybe it isn’t a hallucination.
“Hey?  What did you do that for?”
“Davey, I don’t have a lot of time.”  And then he laughed.  “Well, I kinda do, but I don’t have a lot of time to talk to you right now.  So I needed to get your attention.  You’ve got this decision you’re stewing over, and it’s a real big one in a global sense.  I’ve seen the outcome both ways, and it’s important that you make the right choice.  And the silly thing is that you know what you should do.  So just do it.”
“But how can you be here?”
He shook his head.  “Come on.  Do I have to remind you of all those times we talked about time travel?”
I just looked at him.
“Look, I told you I don’t have much time to talk to you.  Here’s the scoop.  We were right about some things, and wrong about others.  The bit about not running into yourself or you’d tear a hole in the fabric of time?  We were pretty much right about that.  But what we didn’t know was that when you visit people from your past, you show up exactly the way they last saw you.  And then there are all sorts of complicated rules about who you can visit, and for how long… which is why I don’t have much time. But the important thing is — this decision you’re pretending you haven’t already made?  Don’t overthink it.  Do it.”
“But how do you even know..?”
Jack sighed.  “Future.  Time travel.  And besides, did anyone ever know you as well as I did?”
Well, he had a point there.  “So when you and your folks moved away, is that when ....”
He looked at his watch.  “Sorry, bud.  Gotta go.  Maybe I can catch you later.”
Just then, I heard Lisa call out “David!”  I turned around and saw her strolling toward me, and I stood up to give her a hug.
“Who was that?” she asked.
I turned back around and watched a twelve year old boy run down the path and out of sight.
“Oh, just somebody that I used to know.”
She frowned and started to say something.  But I interrupted and pulled her down to join me on the bench.
“Look. I have something I need to tell you. I’ve been thinking about this a long time, and I know it’s the sort of thing we probably should have talked about and decided together, but it never felt like the right time to bring it up.  And now - well I just feel like there’s really no choice.”
She gave me a concerned look and started to talk, but I held a finger to her lips to quiet her.  I looked down the path where Jack had disappeared, looked back at my wife, took a deep breath, and said “I’ve been offered a position with Stephen Hawking.  And I’m going to take it.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Sex ....

....of zucchini blossoms

Yes, I realize that Same Sex Marriage is a BIG topic, what with the recent Supreme Court decision -- and yes I would agree that the Court's decision is important, both for what it says, and what it does not say ...  but that's not what I want to talk about right now.

I want to talk about my garden.  More specifically, I want to talk about my zucchini.  Well, my summer squash as well, but zucchini is a funnier word.  And even more specifically, I want to talk about my zucchini blossoms.

Last year my garden was overrun by deer.  While I like deer, I'd prefer that they ate wild plants, or even somebody else's garden -- just not my garden.  This year, I've used a combination of bird netting and strategic placement of tomato cages, and at least so far, I've been successful at keeping the deer away.

My garden isn't large, and the variety of veggies that I grow is limited.  I'm growing two different types of tomatoes, some peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini and summer squash.  Not only does everything seem to be doing well, but this may actually be my best garden ever.  I have lots of tomatoes - still green, of course, and even more flowers waiting to become tomatoes.  Similarly, my pepper plants have loads of flowers, and even several small baby peppers.  The cucumbers seem a bit behind schedule this year, but we've had an odd spring, and I have faith that they will quickly catch up.  But this is my first effort at yellow squash and zucchini, and I'm pleased to report that the plants seem quite healthy.  No flowers yet - but this is New England and it's still a bit early.

Now, I've heard that an average family only needs one - or at most two - zucchini plants.  Apparently your typical zucchini plant produces 6-10 pounds of zucchini.. and that's a lot.  But they come three to a pack, and the thought of simply throwing one or two plants out, made me sad... so I've planted all three. Plus the three yellow squash.

So in anticipation of a monster yield of yellow and green, I've been perusing the internet for recipes. Sure, there are lots of recipes, but most recipes take some silly amount like "1/3 of a zucchini". Hmmm, I guess I'd assumed that a typical zucchini bread took 3 or 4 LARGE zucchinis... but apparently not.

And then I starting coming across recipes for zucchini blossoms.  Really?  It never occurred to me to eat a pansy, or a snapdragon.  So it certainly never occurred to me to eat a zucchini blossom.  And besides, what if I eat all the blossoms, and then decide I want more zucchini?

Turns out that the answer to that last question, is very simple.  You see -- on each and every zucchini plant, there are boy blossoms, and girl blossoms. And while the boy blossoms are necessary for the process, only the girl blossoms make zucchini.  So as long as your girl blossoms have (ahem) clearly been fertilized  (by which I mean they have little baby zucchini growing)... you can snip off the male blossoms, and eat them to your heart's content, without adversely affecting the zucchini produced!

So, while trying to put visions of Lorena Bobbit out of my head, I next considered how one went about determining which blossoms were boys, and which were girls.  Turns out it's very simple, and can be done without putting any of the parties involved in compromising positions.

The girl blossoms are the ones that are very close to the center of the plant, and are on very short, stubby stalks.

The boy blossoms are the ones on the end of long stalks that kind of wander through the plant.  Ok, sounds simple enough

So now I'm heavily armed with my recipes for zucchini dishes, and my recipes for zucchini blossom dishes.. and I'm waiting for Mother Nature to finish doing her thing.

Hmmm...  Still waiting.

Guess I'll have some tea while I wait.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Automatic Voter Registration

I'm generally not a political person, and I'm definitely not interested in discussing politics with people. But this post is just about voting, it has nothing to do with politics.

Nearly 60 MILLION Americans who are eligible to vote, aren't even registered.  In case you're wondering, that's 60 million out of 206 million.  That's right, over one quarter of the American adults over the age of 18 haven't even bothered to register.  And according to Rock the Vote 12,000 Americans turn 18 every day.  So why don't these people register to vote?

Let me stop you before you start trying to figure out the answer to that one.  Because it doesn't really matter.  Candidates spend tons of money trying to persuade you to vote for them, many organizations - including Rock the Vote and MTV - spend tons of money trying to persuade you to vote for anyone, and Rock the Vote and others are spending money trying to persuade unregistered voters to register, so that they at least have the option of voting.  That's tons and tons and tons of money.

A politicion received a lot of attention when she recently called for universal automatic voter registration.  And my thought was 'Hey!  What a great idea!  How come no one thought of this before?' But then I decided I didn't care why no one had thought of it before, because now that the topic had come up.. we should just do it.

Except that it turns out not everyone thinks this is a good idea.

A number of politicians have gone on record as being opposed to this suggestion, arguing that it .. wait, what was it?  Oh yeah, since being registered to vote means your age and address now become public record, it's an invasion of your privacy.  Yeah, right.  As if you can't get the age and address of almost anyone, on the internet.
And one of the politicians said that it should be a matter of choice, not a mandate.  Really?  We're not forcing anyone to vote... they still have a choice whether they vote or not.
And apparently there has been some discussion as to whether people should be required to exercise their responsibility to register, in order to exercise their right to vote.  Again - really?  Why don't we just leave it that they have the right to vote?  Do we really need this extra layer of paperwork?

So.. let's see... the only requirements to vote  (other then minor things like 'not being a felon') are a minimum age, and the act of registration.  We want more people to vote.  Implementing automatic voter registration would remove an obstacle to voting.

Seems like the math is pretty simple.  Automatic voter registration = more registered voters.  More registered voters = more people who might vote.  If we implement automatic voter registration, now all we have to worry about is making people care enough about the issues that they go to the polls.

I vote for automatic voter registration, and I vote for more tea.  Very different issues, but both - in their own way - important to me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Flash Fiction

This is different from what I usually put on here -- very different.  
Someone challenged me to do a Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction thing.  Who's Chuck Wendig?  Well, he's a lot of things, but what's important for now is that he's a writer with a blog, and he periodically puts up 'assignments' for readers of his blog. Here's the link to his blog. This week's assignment?  Write a story of no more than 1000 words  (super short stories are called flash fiction), and the story MUST begin with a dead body.
The story isn't my best effort, it's been a very busy week, the sun was in my eyes, and I had to walk uphill both ways, in the snow.  Excuses out of the way - here's my submission.

I’m Ready

         Magda poked at the lump of clothing and flesh, but it didn’t move.  With a determined look on her face, she poked again, harder this time.  The result was the same.  Frustrated, she stomped her foot, although there was no one around to either see or hear her.
“I can’t believe this has happened again,” she muttered.  “But at least this time there were three.  I wonder where the other ones are.”
Taking her time, Magda explored the area, inch by inch.  Back and forth, she went, taking care to inspect every possible hiding place, every resting spot.
“Aha!” she said, as she found the second body beneath a pile of old newspapers.  She took care to remove the newspapers without disturbing the body, but as she pulled away the last few papers, she could tell that this body wasn’t alive, either.  Nonetheless, she poked at it, in the hopes that she was wrong.  Perhaps it was only sleeping or even just seriously ill.  But when she poked at the lump, it was definitely old and mushy, and it had a bad odor as well.  She didn’t bother poking at it a second time. 
Magda chewed on her finger nail, as she considered.  “Let’s see… they always say the third time’s the charm, and good things come in threes, and all the stories give you three wishes.  Well I did begin with three of them.  That’s probably good enough.”  But after a moment’s hesitation, Magda closed her eyes and clicked her heels three times, snapped her fingers three times, and then blinked her eyes three times.  If that wasn’t enough threes for good luck, well - she was out of ideas and didn’t know what else to do.
She continued her slow, thorough examination of the area. As she neared the end without finding the third one, she had to resist the temptation to rush.  She refused to consider what she would do if her search came up empty.  And finally, in the last corner she was searching, she found the third one, curled up into a tight ball.  Holding her breath, she reached over and gently touched the body, prepared to jump back if it moved.  There was no movement.  Not yet ready to give up, she gingerly tried to uncurl the body.  And that’s when she realized that this body was as dead as the first two.
        “Mom”, she called again.  Still no response.
Magda sighed.  When her mother was in the middle of project, you had to get in her face to get her attention.  She headed for her mother’s office and walked in without bothering to knock.  She walked over and waved her hands in front of her mother’s face, and her mother finally looked up.
“Hello Magda. Do you need something?”“Yes, I do.  I need you to come with me.”
Her mother smiled, stood up, and took Magda’s hand.  “Ok dear, let’s go.”
A few moments later, they were both staring at what Magda was starting to think of as ‘the scene of devastation’.
“Look.  There.  Just like last time.”
“All three of them?”  Her mother peered closely at the nearest body.  “Are you certain?”
“Of course I’m certain.  I poked all three of them.  None of them moved, and one of them smells really bad.”
“Well you know what the pet store owner said, dear.  He warned you that earthlings are the most difficult pets to keep alive.  That’s why your father and I tried to talk you into starting off with martians, or even neptunians.”
“But I wanted earthlings!”
As Magda began to wail, her mother put a comforting arm around her.
        “I know you’re sad, dear. But these things happen.”
The wailing grew louder.
“Hey, how about a tropical fish?”
The wailing stopped.
         “Maybe one of those fish that has black and orange stripes?”
Her mother laughed.  “Yes, one of those.”
Magda clapped her hands.  “Oh goody!”  She picked up the small aquarium and ran into the bathroom.  A moment later the toilet flushed, and Magda came out of the bathroom with the empty container in her hands and a big smile on her face.
“I’m ready!”