Here I am, back to do my duties for the Sunday Ragtag Daily Prompt, and today the word is ICE CREAM.
I picked this prompt a few weeks back when I thought the weather would be pretty hot, but we’ve had about the coolest summer I can remember here on the prairies. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little tale.
THE NEW DIET PLAN
One evening Abby dropped in to visit her friend and noticed an unusual poster on the wall. “Hey, Terri, I see you have a new poster. But what’s with the chicken and ice cream cone?”
“It’s a great new diet plan. It’s called the ‘Death By Association Diet.’ You know how much I love ice cream, right? So the idea is, I look at this poster everyday and think of a chicken pecking at an ice cream cone. Then, by association, whenever I’m hungry for ice cream I’ll think of a chicken messing in it. That will kill my craving for ice cream.”
“Well… I guess that is a new approach to dieting.”
“So what do you think? Should work, shouldn’t it?”
Abby considered the poster a moment before answering. “I think it’s making me hungry. Why don’t we get some nuggets and fries at Chick-Fill-Eh?, then stop for dessert at Dairy Duchess.”
“Sorry I asked! You just fried my new diet plan,” Terri exclaimed, ripping the poster off the wall. “Now I’ll never get that association out of my mind.”
It’s time for another Crimson’s Creative Challenge
Every Wednesday she posts a photo (the one below) and bloggers can respond with something CREATIVE:
An answering photo
A short story (flash fiction)
A newly minted proverb, adage or saying
A song—the lyrics or the performance
She gives only two criteria:
Your creative offering is indeed yours
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less
I’ve read various reports lately about statues coming down because of their association with past evil. While I understand this principle and don’t find fault with it, I recall what a wise man often told his children back in the early 1900s. Once people get started, will they know where to stop? Which gave the “seed” for this tale:
Another One Comes Down
“Here by this door,” Alix pointed. “Great place for another charge.”
Tonya eyed the structure. “Isn’t this overdoing things? I mean…”
“No way! These temples of opulent indulgence were built on the suffering of starving peasants, slaving to pay crushing rent to greedy lords. And think of all the wars plotted here…the blood shed to defend this place.”
“True. But still…the tourist revenue.”
“Money has triumphed over human rights too long,” Alix declared. “Just think of the debauchery that went on behind these walls. Lecherous nobs forcing themselves on helpless servant girls; wives enduring philandering husbands; unwanted babies hustled away to a nunnery; thousands of daughters pressured into wretched marriages to forge political alliances. And tourists are worshipping all this evil!”
“Not exactly. It’s the history…”
“Right! All these castles are coming down.”
Tonya shook her head. Didn’t Grandpa always say, “There’s no moderation in the human race”?
At the family picnic our cousin Devern’s new bride, Chloe was warmly welcomed by everyone in our extended family circle. At the picnic table I noticed that she sat next to great-uncle Herb, so I sat across from them in case she needed a little help. Uncle Herb wasn’t the greatest conversationalist.
As we all enjoyed our food, I heard Chloe ask Uncle Herb, “So, who do you think will win the presidential election this fall?”
His noncommittal response was, “I won’t even try to guess.”
She seemed taken aback; nevertheless she made another stab at it. “At this point it’s pretty hard to predict, I guess. Who do you think Joe Biden will choose as his running mate?”
“I doubt it will matter much. Politicians are all about the same.”
Looking a little miffed, Chloe glanced at me and I gave her a sympathetic smile. She didn’t know Uncle Herb yet.
I leaned forward. “Say, Uncle Herb, I saw a bird in our yard yesterday, small and brownish with a lighter breast. It had a short tail that kind of stuck up. A wren, wouldn’t you say?”
“Oh, yes. Very likely, if its tail was short, somewhat blunt, and pointed up. A dusky flycatcher is small and brown, too, but its tail’s longer, more tapered. House wrens and duskies both have a ring around the eye and you may confuse the two by that, but the dusky is slightly larger, 5 3/4”. Also, duskies have a rather yellow belly and clear white wing bars, where the wren’s belly is creamy and its bars, on both wings and tail, are smaller black and brown. Look more like ripples. However, the upright tail will give the wren away every time. And its song, of course.
“Now, as to what kind of a wren… If its back was definitely brown and barred, it was a house wren. A sedge wren is much like a house wren, slightly smaller, only 4 ½”, but it doesn’t have that distinguishing thin ring of white around its eye. Also, a sedge wren’s throat is whiter and the belly more orange. Did you happen to get a good look at its throat or belly?”
“Um.. No. It was in the bushes and…”
“Too bad. Now, marsh wrens are slightly lighter in color and clearly distinguished by a line above the eye, going from the beak to the back of the head. Winter wrens are smaller than a house wren, though; a house wren is 4 3/4″ whereas a winter wren is only four inches. But winter wrens nest in the pine forests of northern Canada, so you’ll rarely see one here, except in migration. They don’t have a clear line above the eye, either.”
“I hope I get another chance to see it.” I also hoped to think of some topic that would stop Uncle Herb’s ornithological flow.
Suddenly he turned back to Chloe. “What kind of birds have you observed?”
She searched for an answer. “Er… Robins. I’ve seen robins.”
“Robins?” Uncle Herb looked puzzled. “Is that all? Surely you’ve seen other birds.”
Chloe got that deer-in-the-headlights look. “Uh… And pigeons. And sparrows. I’ve seen lots of sparrows.”
“Are you referring to native sparrows or English sparrows?” His tone was rather demanding.
Uh-oh! I knew where this was going.
Sadly, poor Chloe had no clue. “Is there a difference,” she asked.
“There certainly is.” The glare Uncle Herb gave her would have frosted the Sahara.
Seeing her wilt under his disapproval, I jumped up and said, “Want to come with me, Chloe? I think Mom’s ready to set the desserts out. I think she’ll need our help.”
“Sure!” She sprang from her chair and hurried to join me. We headed for the food table and stood beside it, since desserts weren’t being set out yet.
Chloe sighed. “I had no idea he’d be so passionate about sparrows?”
“Yeah. You’ll get the cold shoulder talking politics with Uncle Herb, but he’s a real windbag if you get him on the subject of birds. I guess we all know him by now and humor him if we can, or find somewhere else to be if he gets going full throttle. Don’t worry. You’ll catch on.”
Chloe chuckled. “Guess all families have them. Once my Uncle Tim gets started on state versus federal authority he can expound for hours. We’ve tried redirecting him but it’s futile. He has to wind down on his own.”
Going through some of my files, I came across a flash–fiction tale I wrote about Harv & Bert. I decided to do a second story with these two old-timers. I’ll call this one…
Harv and Shamus
When Bert heard the double-rap on the door of his cottage soon after breakfast, he knew it’d be his friend Harv. That was their signal.
“Morning, Harv,” he said as he opened the door. “I expected you’d be along soon. You’ll be wantin’ a cuppa tea after your long walk.”
Harv entered Bert’s kitchen, followed by his dog, Shamus. “Thanks much, Bert. Shamus doesn’t let me sleep in when he wants his morning stroll. And I guess it’s good for me to get moving.”
Bert patted the spaniel. “You’re a good dog, gettin’ the old guy outta bed bright and early. He needs it.” He turned to his friend. “Sometimes I think I should get a dog, too. But I’m a slow starter in the morning — don’t know if I really wanna get rousted out at 7:00 in the morning to walk a dog.”
Harv chuckled. “No, you still need your beauty sleep. There’s no hope for me anymore, so I might as well be up.” He suspected Bert was too easily irritated to be a very good dog owner, but he kept these thoughts to himself. Bert was his friend, even if he was rather crotchety.
“Got anything special planned for today, Bert? Doctor’s appointment…or maybe lunch with some rich widow?”
“No hope there. No, I have zilch planned for today. ‘Course I’ll have a quick look through the paper, but with the news these days it doesn’t do a person’s blood pressure any good to read the whole story. Back when I was young there was none of this protesting and tearing things down. Everybody minded his own business and behaved himself.” He handed Harv a cup of tea. “Crooks are getting off too…”
“Well, I’ve heard some good news! I got a letter from my daughter yesterday; she and her family made it to Australia safe and sound and are enjoying their time in Sydney.”
“Glad to hear it. That’ll set your mind at ease. Though why in the world they’d want to go there for is beyond me. I’d rather go to England myself. See the old country; look up some relatives. If there are any still alive.”
“And will you look at this.” Harv pulled a post card from his jacket pocket. “She sent a picture of the Sydney Opera House. Ain’t it a marvel?”
Bert studied the card for a moment. “The power bill for that place would probably give you heart failure.”
Harv frowned. “Maybe, but I’m not payin’ it, so they can do what they like. She says this place draws thousands of tourists every day, and it looks so pretty all lit up at night.”
“Wonder whose idea it was to build it with all them loops? Must be hard to heat in winter.”
“They don’t have the winters we do, so heating costs maybe aren’t so high. And you know, young designers are always wanting to try something different. See if it’ll work.” Harv slipped a dog biscuit out of his pocket and gave it to Shamus.
“All these fancy twisted new buildings. Give me a solid four-square building any day.” Bert handed the card back to Harv. “When we were young, plain and simple was…”
“That’s a great idea. How be I come back this afternoon and we head downtown, look at some of the old places, then stop for pie and coffee at the diner. I got nothin’ else up today myself.” Harv stood up and whistled to Shamus.
“Sounds good. I’ll be waiting.”
A few minutes later, Harv was taking in all the sights and sounds of the morning as he and Shamus walked home. He thought about Bert, then leaned over to pat his dog. “Just think what sort of a rut I might be stuck in if I didn’t have you to get me up and going every day, old pal. Good ol’ Shamus.”
I sat down awhile ago to begin, a short story, thinking I’d like to do one of these three-short-paragraph ones, and I was going to pick a quote as my inspiration. But my plans went awry and I ended up with a long, maybe soppy, tale.
Here’s the quote I chose:
“What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better.” — Wendell Philips
And here’s the tale I wrote to illustrate it:
THE LOSER WINS
“Hey, girl. Why are you looking so sad? Lost your best friend.”
Finch looked up at the teen leaning on the door frame. One of the Senior boys. She swiped at a tear. “What do you care,” she grumbled.
“No, really, you look shattered. What’s bothering you.”
She glared at him, but could see he honestly wanted to know, so she spilled her sad story. “We played baseball at recess. I hate baseball! I’m not good at it and the others all know it, so when it came time to pick teams, I was picked last. In fact, I wasn’t really picked; I just ended up on Jenia’s team because I was the only one left. She rolled her eyes like ‘Do I have to.’ Then she says, ‘Okay, come on then,’ like I was such a zero. I was, like, totally humiliated.”
“Hey, that’s tough. Some people don’t do tact. They care zip about anyone else’s feelings.”
“That’s her. Miss Always-the-Leader. Then when we played, I was so nervous I couldn’t hit anything, and the others on the team grumbled straight time about me being so slow. The teacher told them to ‘be nice,’ but they just did it when she wasn’t looking. I don’t ever wanna go back to school again.”
“I know where you’re coming from. I got the same thing when I was a twig.”
“You! But you’re a natural at baseball. I’ve seen you play and you make great hits and catches.”
“Now, yeah, but I remember singing the same song as you. Back when I was in grade school, I was the last one picked. Couldn’t run, couldn’t hit. But I really wanted to play so I joined a team playing sandlot baseball. It was misery. I was slow; I fumbled; if I hit the ball it was luck.”
Finch stared at him. “I don’t believe it. What happened!”
“I was ready to quit after the second game, but one of the dads, Bill, was acting as umpire, and he saw I was in the dumps. So after the game he came over and gave me a hug. Then he rattled off this bit of wisdom. I’ve typed it up and pasted it on my wall.”
‘What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better’.
“I got a life-lesson that day, thanks to Bill, who cared enough to help me out. He told me I wasn’t going to just drop into a game and be a star. He said, ‘If you wanna get good at baseball – or anything else in life – you gotta work at it.’ He got me and a couple of other boys to meet him a couple evenings a week at the ball park and we’d practice. He brought his young boys and met us there for a few weeks, explained the game, the moves, and worked with us. After that we went back on the team and all three of us are good players now.”
“Wow! You were lucky. Not all dads are like that.”
“I didn’t have a dad – and I needed one badly. I think he caught that. Same with the others. He did what he could to set us, and his own boys, on a better path.” He fell silent and his smile told Finch he was remembering those good times.
“And maybe you got an education today, if you take it that way.”
“Huh! So what have I learned? I’m a loser? Nobody wants me on their team?”
“You found out you can’t just jump in and be awesome. You can’t be a fast runner if you don’t regularly run. You can’t be a great hitter if you don’t regularly work at it. Have you got a friend or kid brother or sister that’ll play ball with you sometimes so you can get some practice pitching and hitting?”
“And take up running. Work at it when you have some free time and you’ll get faster. I promise you. What that dad told me back then has held true for everything I’ve tried so far. Playing ball. Good grades. Making friends. Staying out of trouble. Life isn’t going to hand it to you; you gotta work for it.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“So don’t let today get you down. Call it an education. Do something with what you’ve learned.” He reached down to give her a hand up.
A fresh wave of courage washed over Finch. She was ready to begin again. She reached up and took his hand. “I’ll try.” She let him pull her to her feet. “Thanks a lot…for what you said…and for caring.”
“Sure. See you around.” With a quick wave he headed off.
If Finch hadn’t seen him on the senior boys’ team, she could almost have believed he was an angel.
Sue, over at JibberJabber, has issued a mega-challenge: to use as many words as possible from the May daily prompts. So here’s my tale, using most of them:
The Cooking Adventure
Sherry, a lively, active thirteen-year-old, was late coming home from school one day. Her mom was already home from her job at the office when Sherry walked in carrying four large books.
This surprised her mother, who’d never seen Sherry do that much reading before. “Do you have a lot of studying to do this weekend,” her mother asked, eyeing the books. “Or some essay to write?” Then she took a closer look. “Cookbooks?”
“I am going to learn to cook,” Sherry announced.
Mom looked through the stack Sherry set on the counter. “Old Time Favorites. That sounds good. Baking: The Science Behind Success.Explore Mediterranean Cuisine.” Mom’s eyebrows arched. “What brought this on?”
“I got a letter from Marlys yesterday. She said…” Sherry’s tone was frosty…”I’ve never had to anything around the house. She thinks I’m so pampered because we have a housekeeper. She says I’m just like a flower in a greenhouse: if I had to keep house or cook, I wouldn’t know where to start. Well, I’m going to show her. I’m going to create some fabulous dishes and invite her over to try them.”
“I suppose your cousin has to help a lot at home and may be a bit jealous of you, but you shouldn’t let her comments grate on you. Still, it would be good for you to learn. I’ve been so busy with work all, I just haven’t had the energy to give you cooking lessons, but I’m happy that you want to learn. I’ll give you all the support I can. I see you brought A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking. That author has made a name both as a celebrated chef and as a class instructor. I think this is an excellent book to start with.”
Sherry’s first creation was a lemon soufflé. Mom showed her how to break the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites and whip the whites to stiff peaks. Sherry followed the recipe carefully and soon had the smooth batter in the pan, ready for the oven. She slid it in and turned on the timer. Mom gave her a short lesson on how to tell when the pudding was done, then went to do some laundry.
Sherry was delighted with her success thus far. She had to call her friend Heather to relate the story of her new cooking adventure. She was still on the line when the timer went and she didn’t hear it. At one point Mom rushed by and a moment later Sherry smelled something burnt.
Sherry hurried to the kitchen, but the damage was done. The soufflé had risen as it was supposed to, but now it was ruined. Sherry let out a wail of anguish
“There. You’ve just had a free cooking lesson. Distractions can spoil the best food.” Mom put an arm around her shoulder. “Don’t worry. You’ll have better luck next time. Learning to cook is a challenge, but if you stick with it and don’t give up, you may be a great chef someday.”
Prompt words used:
old, time, create, food, line, letter, relate, smooth, story
luck, free, explore, break, light, science, hurry, flower
name, short, carefully, support, book, challenge, happy