20 January, 2023

Fiction Friday - Big Cat, Little Cat

The Cat sat on the deck, looking below. He watched the Tiger roam around earth, pouncing here, causing trouble there, making the unexpected happen. Tiger had been inexhaustible from the start of his reign, wasting no time in getting that one guy to invade his neighbor. Mere weeks into Tiger's rule, that invasion happened. What a mess.

The Cat licked a paw and smoothed it over his ear. Tiger would come back to the palace in a few days, smug at all the chaos he'd created. Cat had watched it all unfold. That one country made up of islands had ruined a new leader in a matter of weeks. Their figurehead royalty died, too. Of course, that death probably had nothing to do with Tiger, but he'd take the credit.

He'd really outdone himself this year. In the Cat's opinion, the Tiger was one big cat who needed to take a nap.

The pandemic had been calming down but the Tiger managed to make some effective chaos as countries loosened restrictions. Especially in that big kidney-shaped country. They'd tried to shut the pandemic down, but too hard. Tiger had a ball over there, finally getting things to open up, resulting in a sudden upsurge of disease. Now everyone was scared to leave their houses even though they could. Like Pandora's box, Cat feared even he might not be able to put the lid back on that mess.

The Cat looked out from the deck of Buddha's heavenly palace, gauging the sun. He moved to a better position to lie in a puddle of sunlight, soaking up the last rays of Tiger's reign. He was on the deck, and "on deck". Soon it would be his year.

In his year, the Cat would be sure to have plenty of fun - parties with all the people, high tea, coffee meetings. He couldn't wait to see what the intelligentsia would get up to in his year. There was a lot for them to learn, and he could help. 

Political upheaval created by that annoying Tiger would have to settle down. The Cat was on it. 

The Cat was a stickler for justice. He'd get the wheels rolling on resolving issues left ambiguous by the Tiger.

The Cat sighed. He didn't like taking charge after Tiger. There was always a mess. That's just the way it was. But Buddha had determined their ruling order and there was nothing to do to change it. 

It was too bad he couldn't bring back the dead. That Japanese prime minister didn't need to die. Cat was just sure Tiger was behind that one.


Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. Today's fiction was inspired by the coming Lunar New Year. NOTE: Chinese folklore says the coming year (Jan 22, 2023) is year of the rabbit. But Vietnam calls it Year of the Cat. I don't know why, but I live in Vietnam, so will espouse this tradition.

If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

17 January, 2023

Tuesday Twist

Morning thoughts:

  1. It doesn't matter if I get up today.
  2. No one requires anything from me today.
  3. I have no obligations.
  4. I am superfluous.
  5. I could literally just lay here playing games on my phone all day.
  6. ... Until I need to recharge the battery.

How long will I stay in bed? Not all day. Even at my most depressed I can't do that.

I have saved onto my phone a few yoga workouts that are suitable to do on the bed. Days like this, I eventually sit up, play one of the workouts, stretch myself out, and then get up and start my day.

It's a break in routine, and it means the floor probably won't get swept, but that's not the end of the world. 

Does anyone else have days like this?

07 January, 2023

Fiction Friday - Forbidden

Corinne waited at the kitchen table, pretending not to wait. The newspaper lay open on the table and she filled a number into the Sudoku puzzle, not really paying attention. Where was the mailman? He was late today.

She refilled her mug of coffee and nearly dropped the carafe when the letter slot clapped in the door. A soft rustle of paper falling alerted her that mail had arrived.

"Dear Cori..." she read, skimming the letter quickly. Yes, yes... love... he's reforming... hoping for parole... "With love, Darius."

Now to decode it.

When they'd come up with the code, sitting at the little table during prison visiting hours, her crazy, forbidden, romance had seemed like a game. But their relationship grew and Cori was now obsessed with him: the visiting, the letters, the hidden messages he included, and - let's be honest - the bad boy. She kept hoping...

"What is this?" She asked the open room. He had encoded an address, plus the words "third stone" and "dig". Something was hidden under the third stone at that address. She sighed.

There was no time to go find out what he buried there. The mail had come late, and she'd have to be at work soon. Leaving the letter, she pocketed the decoded message and pulled on her coat. Maybe she could find the place after work, and return to dig tomorrow.

Whatever could it be?

This Fiction Friday post is coming to you from a coffee shop early on my Saturday morning. I downloaded the Blogger app to my phone and I'm not 100% familiar with it yet. If this looks different, that's why.
Today's flash fiction is from the prompt we followed in my Monday morning writing group this week: "woman befriends a prisoner who reveals a secret".

04 January, 2023

Old Year New Year - Tuesday Truths

Technically it's Wednesday, but I forgive myself. 

It's that time of year when everyone looks at what they did in the past year and sets goals for the next. So let's just take a peek, shall we?

In 2022, I read 32 books. It would be more, if I added in all the plays I read for my old theatre group, but I didn't bother because I'd hit the mark.

In 2022 I exercized over 300 hours. Not too bad. I usually get in 40-50 minutes a day. Some days more, some less. Yoga everyday, some cardio, some others, some cycling. This is tracked through my phone, so the steps (not shown here, except for in the distance) are inaccurate. 

In 2022 I watched 104 movies. I don't track them electronically, though, so there's no quantifying genres or lengths. I will say we definitely boost the Horror numbers in October.

In 2022 we flew to Hanoi twice, but other than that didn't travel much at all. I'm hoping to do more traveling in 2023.

So what's up for 2023? Things are always changing. We'll just have to see how the year plays out.

Happy new year!

30 December, 2022

Fiction Friday - Seeking Safety

In my recent Bible reading, I read a prophecy that I know well, but I wanted to portray it in a different way. I hope no one will be offended by the literary license I took with this passage.

Mila crouched in the rocks and watched for movement. The valley below was well-sheltered, and she'd stay there all night if it looked safe. But safety could change in a moment. The floor of the valley was littered with old bones, which could mean it was abandoned, or could mean it was an active dumping ground. So she watched for movement. Animals, people, anything coming out of hidden crags or caves in the shadowy rocks.

"Show yourselves," she whispered as she made herself comfortable and pulled a dried cake of fruit and nuts from her pack. 

Soon enough an old man came out of a pathway beneath her vantage point. He was walking with a staff, and appeared to be talking to himself. She smiled. One crazy old man was not a major worry. The old man was undeterred by the scattered bones, and walked straight into the middle of the valley, looking around at the bones and scrub brush around his feet as he went. He'd probably cross straight through and be gone in a minute.

He stopped and stood still, apparently listening. Mila listened, too, but heard nothing. Not a whisper of wind. What a strange old man!

With a jerk he raised his arms up to shoulder height, the staff in one hand, the other splayed, palm facing down. He called out loudly in a language Mila did not know. After calling out a few sentences, he lowered his arms and waited.

Mila was so intent on watching the curious old man that at first she did not see the movement on the ground. It started as a stirring of dust, as of mice or moles digging their way out of holes in the ground. Then she noticed it. No mice. No moles. The bones themselves were sliding around. More bones were coming up out of the dirt. The movement increased, sped up, and intensified as bone connected to bone. Her eyes widened in shock. She wanted to move but found herself glued to the spot. Dozens - no, hundreds - of skeletons were coming together and standing around the man. More and more emerged every moment.

She squinted down at the skeletons she could see best. Was that - tendons? Mila felt a convulsion in her gut and controlled her sudden urge to vomit. Tendons were growing out of the bones, connecting them together as they stood there, as even more dry bones came together into bare skeletons. There were surely over a thousand skeletons growing in the valley now. Her jaw dropped open and her throat dried up. When muscles knit themselves together around the shoulder of one tall skeleton, Mila's own muscles found their strength and she scooted back from her hidden perch.

The old man was shouting to the valley full of bones again. It was more like a valley full of disgusting, skinless people, now. Whatever he said, those bones started moving, and so did she. 

As quietly as Mila could manage, she got her feet beneath her and rose into a low crouch. She wanted to keep eyes on what amounted to an army of the dead, but she'd have to turn around to run. 

She rose slowly and stepped backwards with care. One of the muscle-covered skulls turned it's eyeless sockets in her direction. Could it see? Without eyes? Mila froze, petrified by the red, fibrous, muscles moving the face into a gruesome, eyeless, sneer. The skulls atop the skeletons around that first one were now turning in her direction, too. She needed no more proof of danger. She turned and ran as fast as she could back the way she came.

The sound of bones clattering against the rocks as they clambered up the side of the valley followed her. Or was that merely the echoes of the terror in her mind?

Reference: The story of the Valley of Dry Bones is a famous passage from the book of  Ezekiel, chapter 37, verses 1-14. I've been reading too much Stephen King lately, and wanted to consider this from a horror perspective. The only characters in the Biblical story are the prophet Ezekiel, God - who was telling him what to say, and the bones themselves.

04 December, 2022

Non-Fiction Friday on Sunday

No fiction this past weekend. I got Covid.

Actually, I think I got it last weekend. Starting on Sunday I had a tickle in my throat. Monday the tickle was gone, but I was sneezing a lot. I figured I had a cold. Colds move through my system more quickly here in the tropics than they used to up north.

By Wednesday I had a low-grade fever. On Thursday I told Brett that if the fever was still active the next morning, I should go get a Covid test. Friday morning we went to the clinic.

To be honest, I've been staying home and avoiding my husband since I started feeling bad, so it was less about diagnosing myself and more about the fact that on Sundays (today) I'm supposed to be at our school to help with homework. 

Not with Covid!

I tested positive, so Homework Help was off. Since I've been presenting symptoms for a week already, I figured a follow up test on Wednesday should be fine and I'll be back in action by the weekend. I'm sleeping on a cot in the living room, and Brett has been fine.

Until today. This morning he told me he has a sore throat. We can guess what that means!

Personally, I blame this on being social. On Thanksgiving we were down in the historic district of our town, hanging out with a new friend - a tourist who was only here a few days. That night, when we parted ways, I gave her a hug. We'd had fun! I felt like I had a new friend! Brett is not a hugger. He did not hug her. Days later I presented symptoms of what turned out to be Covid. 

This interaction is the only break in my usual social activity. I've messaged her to check on her health, but heard nothing in return.

And THAT, my friends, is as good a reason as any for me to remain a confirmed introvert!


26 November, 2022

Fiction Friday - The Prophet

I read the Bible every year, and catch myself thinking about backstories to minor characters, or musing about particularities of a situation. I recently read about one of Isaiah's prophecies that struck a funny chord with me. I hope you like this story that was inspired by it.

Abigail walked her cousin up the lane into her house. "I'm so glad you came, Cerina. Judea must seem provincial after your move to Damascus. You'll have to tell me all about it."

"Nonsense," Cerina said. "I can see that a lot has changed here since I left. Like what do you do for entertainment these days?"

Abigail shook her head. "Not much lately, with the kids' school and - oh, you know, in this depressed economy - I've actually started working." Seeing her wealthier cousin's eyebrows go up she back pedaled. "Oh, nothing major, just a little sewing work when I have time. Every little bit helps. It can go on like this forever." There were entertainments for the wealthy, of course. She hoped Cerina wouldn't expect her to pay for something like that. 

An idea came to her. "Oh! While you're here we should go see the prophet!"

"Prophet? Like a seer?" Cerina had been to seers and mediums in Damascus. She never would have thought Abigail would open her mind to that.

"Well, sort of. Only..." Abigail hesitated. If she said he was a prophet of the Most High God, Cerina might think she was backward or old-fashioned. "You'll just have to see. Let's go today!"

As they were walking out toward Isaiah's usual hill, she said, "I hope he has good things to say today. He's always right."

There was only a small crowd when they arrived. "Oh good," Abigail said, "We can get nice and close." As they moved nearer, she noticed the crowd was in flux. People were coming and going, only lingering for a few minutes, not like his usual speeches.

Up at the front, Isaiah's son Shear-Jashub approached them and explained. "My father has been commanded by God to demonstrate symbolically what the Lord plans for Israel's enemies among other nations." He continued talking but the women were too stunned to hear him. Abigail blushed in embarrassment at the naked prophet sitting in the dust before them. Cerina's look of shock turned to amusement. "Great Prophet, indeed!" she smirked. 

Abigail caught Shear-Jashub's arm before he moved on to a group of newcomers. "Won't he say anything? Please. My cousin has come so far."

He looked at the two women, Cerina openly staring at Isaiah. He looked at Isaiah, then responded, "He may. It's not a vow of silence. He's not spoken much these months, but you may wait if you like."

Months? Seeing her cousin agape at what, to her, must look like a dirty pauper, Abigail grabbed her arm and tugged her away. "Let's visit the marketplace instead." 


A year later, Cerina returned to visit Abigail. "Is that Great Prophet still around?" she teased.

"Oh, that was such a failure!" Abigail could laugh about it now. "Of course he's still our local prophet, but I haven't tried to go back since that day."

"No? I'd've gone back every day. We must!"

"We must?" She didn't love revisiting the past.

"Of course!" Cerina looped her arm through her cousin's. "I believe you, you know. That he knows things." She began moving them to the front door. "And that young man explained it was just a kind of visual demonstration, whatever it was supposed to mean." Cerina was content to let greater minds decipher such mysteries. It had been an amusing day back then, but she wanted her cousin to have her chance to show off.

"Oh, okay," Abigail turned to pull the door shut behind them, thinking surely by now he'd be normal again.

The women bought some raisin cakes off a street-side vendor as they walked through town, chatting, laughing, nibbling their treat.

Almost no one was around when they arrived. Abigail felt a knot grow in her stomach. Isaiah's son approached them with no sign of recognition and walked the last hundred feet with them. He recited the same spiel about a visual demonstration.

"No! No!' Abigail hurried ahead. She began shouting at Isaiah, still naked, only much dirtier. "What kind of prophet are you? You're out of your mind! What is the point of this? Tell us something!"

Cerina pulled Abigail away with Shear-Jashub's help and he explained further. "Isaiah has been speaking the Lord's prophecies of warning, but many do not hear. They close their ears. Now he must show them. They will close their eyes. The prophecies will happen as the Lord has said. Let those who see and hear understand." He ushered them off the small hill with a blessing.

That evening, Abigail was quiet through the family dinner. Cerina quietly explained to Abigail's husband what happened. He turned to his wife and reminded her, "Isaiah is a great prophet. Remember the things he has said that have already come true in just the last few years? We cannot always understand these things."

A year later, when the Egyptian captives were led away naked, Abigail remembered Isaiah. She went to his usual hill and there he was, dressed as normal and prophesying that a virgin would give birth. "That'll be the day," she muttered as she left. "Then again..."

Reference: This story is based on a brief mention in the book of  Isaiah, chapter 20, verse 3. The culmination of Isaiah's "3-years of nudity" prophecy is told in  verses 4-6. I love this because Isaiah was a prolific Major Prophet. If you've heard Handel's Messiah, a lot of that comes from the book of Isaiah. As I read this tiny selection recently, I thought of Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and their portrayal of prophets. We have Isaiah's words, but what did the common people think of him?