Wars, Words and Testy Judges

Back in the mists of ancient history a Norman army from France crossed the English Channel and battled the Anglo kings at Hastings.

Back then the Brits lacked a BBC and a Winston Churchill to rally the troops with:
“We’ll fight them at sea and we’ll fight them on land; we’ll fight them in the fields and we’ll fight them in the ditches…etc. We will never surrender.” In those days of poor communications one doubts there was any kind of significant country-wide clarion call of “Rally the troops!

Consequently the Normans took control of England. Lacking a successful counter attack and rout by the inhabitants, they claimed everything, grabbed all the castles, fortresses and whatever other good stuff they spied— as invaders are wont to do. They settled down to enjoy the spoils and make the Anglo-Saxons work for them.

They brought with them many weapons of war — and their language. There began at this point a steady trickle of French into the Saxonized English of the day:
“Non, non, stupide anglaise chef! Quelle offence! Such ignorance. This is NOT a spitted cow. This is a roti de BOEUF. And this is NOT pig. Non, non, this is PORC. We do not have zee PIG to feed us at our table!”

The phlegmatic cook, having sprung from an old English “Farmer in the dell” lineage, hadn’t adopted the Saxon swine yet — which was just as well. She didn’t do so well with roti de boeuf, either, and slurred it to roast beef. She was pleased, though, to be elevated from cook to chef. (Wouldn’t you be?)

Fast forward almost a millennium, to where a Yank calling himself Fandango gives us the word prompt: PENDING.

Thus today we’re prompt-writing about this word, originally forced onto the French by the Roman conquerors of Gaul, then delivered via the sword and the trickle to the Brits. As Norman rule was suspendu over Britain, this word slowly wormed its way into the emerging English language. By now it’s established itself in oodles of English subdivisions — much like Norman DNA in general. And from there it’s crossed the Atlantic.

Definitions given by my Collins Canadian Dictionary, First Edition:

Pending:
– while waiting for
– not yet decided or settled
– imminent

Impending:
something (esp something bad) about to happen

Suspend:
– hang (something) from a high place
– cause something to remain floating or hanging
– cause to stop temporarily
– to remove (someone) temporarily from a job or position, usually as a punishment

Depend:
– to put trust in; rely on
– to be influenced or determined (by)
– to rely (on) for income

Expend:
– to spend or use up (something)

Real Life Uses:

Judge Smith was motoring sedately along the highway, expending serious thought on the impending decision over custody of the Watkins’ dog. Considering the vicious ongoing battle for ownership, she’d suspended all visiting rights pending a dog psychologist’s report on the dog’s behaviour in the presence of its master and its mistress.

Little did Judge Smith know that Sam Slatter had expended a lot of energy intoxicating himself on a suspension of fermented barley and hops, and was heading toward a STOP sign to her left.

The county had suspended a flashing red light above the intersection to doubly warn motorists that they MUST, MUST come to a complete stop at the white line. How well Sam perceived this sign and/or light was dependent on how clear his vision was. And it wasn’t. Sad to say, his befuddled brain’s reaction time was as impaired as the rest of him.

The impending arrival of Sam’s vehicle was not noticed by the judge, distracted as her thoughts were. She only caught a glimpse of the oncoming vehicle on her left periphery and the question flashed through her mind, “Will it stop?”

Sam made a brave attempt to brake when the Judge’s vehicle swept in front of him, but the momentum of his vehicle couldn’t be checked. There was a dull crunch as he clipped the tail lights and rear fender of the Judge’s car.

Several days later Sam’s fog had mercilessly left him to his fate. Worse, he could see clearly now that the person whose car he had damaged was sitting in the judgement seat above him. What could he say? What could he do but sniffle as his license was suspended indefinitely, pending a police report on his past behaviour behind the wheel.

The Watkins’ case came up next. Worse luck for them, Judge Smith was in no mood to be patient. The dog was awarded to the husband’s aged uncle and all visiting rights were denied.

Writing Delights

Writing is a delightful pursuit. As some great author once said, “It’s easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”

And then there’s the joy of editing, which I’ve tried to capture in this senryu:

editor slings red ink
bloodied words fly here and there
novel shavings
🙂

Alas! Those days are long gone when writers handed their books to an editor and the editorial staff did the fixing. Now it’s up to the writer to have the manuscript error-free and print-ready. Which usually means hiring a freelance editor.

Self-Publishing Options:
Print-on-demand companies like Amazon make publishing a price-painless proposition. Download a pdf, hit publish, and you’re good to go.

Now comes the joy of marketing. If a traditional publishing company is selling your book, they expect hands-on involvement from you. If you’ve self-published with Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or any similar company, your hands are the only ones working the Ads & Sales desk. Unless you have kin and friends who’ll help promote your book, you’re on your own.

Thankfully companies will help in small ways. I recently made a deal with PrairieView Press, the printer/seller of my children’s book, The Rescuing Day, to list it in a flyer they are sending out to bookstores.

Rescuing Day cover.jpg

Plus, I’ve just made an agreement with Amazon.com to do a special free book offer for my e-book, Silver Morning Song.

SMS Cover page
As you see in my side bar, my book will be free on Amazon.com this coming weekend, November 22 to 26. So if you enjoy my blog, with it’s mix of short fiction tales, poetry and micro-poetry, take this opportunity to get your free copy. Here’s the LINK.

NOTE: I wasn’t given the option to list this on Amazon.ca, so I’m not sure if you’ll find the FREE COPY listed there. If you’re a UK reader, I plan to make the same offer on Amazon.uk next month.

And of course, if you do pick up a copy, I’m really hoping you’ll leave an honest review on Amazon. Even a couple of sentences will help. Thanks much!

Thanksgiving Revived

A week ago I  read an interesting, humorous post over at the blog, Tales From the Mama Duck. If you liked my story about Firecracker the rooster, you’ll get a chuckle from her post, titled I Can’t Have A Relationship With My Turkey. Click here to read it

Her post brought to mind the account of another dinner menu that was changed in a hurry one Thanksgiving morning. I first posted this in Nov 2013, so I guess can make a second appearance now. This account appeared in New England Scene almost 25 years ago in a collection of humorous Thanksgiving memories. It was submitted by a lady from Tuscon, AZ, USA. I’m retelling her experience as I remember it.

Turkey

Photo from Pixabay

The Thanksgiving Turkey
A Raw Experience

One year someone gave a young wife, new to the farming life, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. She got quite enthused and decided when Thanksgiving rolled around she’d invite both her family and his for this Thanksgiving feast.

So she set out to raise the turkey that would grace their festive platter. She decided that a happy bird is bound to be a delicious bird, so she fed her turkey chick by hand. No hard scrabbling for this bird. To encourage optimum growth, she gave her bird many an encouraging word.

The chick grew into a fine specimen of its breed that summer and by fall it had plumped up nicely. In spite of its maturity, it still came running if it saw her outside and tagged along after her. She smiled and pictured a family feast with all the relatives commenting on her tasty turkey. Thanksgiving Day was around the corner and she had issued her invitations.

Over time, though, she smiled less when she looked at her turkey. On the Eve of the event she knew it was time to deal with the Thanksgiving platter’s guest of honor, but a strange sadness niggled at her. When her turkey came running to meet her as she stepped out the door, she burst into tears. She went back into the house sobbing and told her husband, “I can’t do it!”

“Just leave it to me,” he comforted her. “I’ll take care of it. You make room in the fridge.” He went out and came in half an hour later with the limp turkey in his arms. She sniffed the air as he passed and caught a vague whiff of… Chloroform?

Hubby opened the fridge door and stuffed the turkey in, feathers and all. “It can chill in here overnight and we’ll pluck it in the morning.”

She was good with that. Avoiding opening the fridge that evening, she and her husband passed a few relaxing hours. Then, thinking of the busy morning ahead of her — and perhaps feeling some unconscious stress over poor bird — she said,  “I’m sleepy; let’s go to bed.”

She woke up quite early the next morning, her mind on the task at hand. She was anxious to have the turkey plucked, cleaned, and dressed for the oven in good time. She dressed and headed for the kitchen. And when she opened the fridge door the turkey leaped out at her. Its garbled gobble would have translated as “Mom! Save me!”

She screamed and fell in a dead faint. Her husband came running and found her out cold and the well-chilled turkey staggering drunkenly around the kitchen. He must have thought he could avoid the merry chase around the poultry yard and bloody-axe episode by drugging the bird, but hadn’t used enough chloroform. He grabbed it and ran outside, dumping it in the yard. Then he came back to revive his wife, and face the music.

His parents and siblings arrived on time for the Thanksgiving dinner and heard the sad tale of the Thanksgiving bird that got away. The couple invited all the family to a nice meal at the local restaurant. Strangely enough, no one ordered turkey.

From that day on the festive bird enjoyed an unthreatened existence in the farm yard and lived to a ripe old age.

Firecracker

Fandango’s prompt word for today: BELONG

FIRECRACKER: A Feathery Tale

Rooster 2

See that handsome young rooster over there. That’s Firecracker. Raised him from a chick, I did, fed him, fussed over him, gave him lots of TLC so he’d be nice and plump come fall.

He was a cute little guy back then, especially when he started following me around the yard. I’ll admit, I’m going to miss having him tagging along after me, but now that he’s full grown, he’s going to be the star of our Thanksgiving table.

He wasn’t very old when the grandchildren named him Firecracker — and we thought it was kind of a cute name, so it stuck. I’ll tell you why he got that name. Oh, yes, he can make enough noise when he wants to, like at 5am when you’re wanting another hour of sleep. But you should hear him explode when he catches sight of a mouse or rat around the chicken yard. One day the grandchildren were in the yard fussing over him like they do, when he spied a mouse in the grass nearby. They said he went off just like a firecracker and went dashing over to do battle.

He’s been really good that way. Every time he sees a rodent he goes after the thing, calling all his ladies to come help him. He has a certain kind of squawk that says, “Enemy spotted!” and the hens come running. Our dog, Duchess, dashes into the action, too, when she hears that sound. Between them all, they make short work of rodents. I’m thinking poor Duchess will miss Firecracker. The hens will, for sure, but he belongs on our Thanksgiving table.

One thing I’m happy about is how good Firecracker is with the grandchildren when they come over — maybe because they’ve fed him grain and other tidbits ever since he was just a spring chick. Roosters can sometimes be cantankerous, but not him. You know how kids are. As soon as they get here, they rush out to see Firecracker and he usually comes running when he hears their voices, to see what treats they might have for him.

When I told the youngest grandchild last week that Firecracker is going to be our Thanksgiving dinner she got all sober and sad-looking for awhile. I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I guess they’re all going to miss seeing him around after next week.

One of the grandsons must have heard the news, too, because he phoned a few days ago specially to ask if I was really going to cook Firecracker for Thanksgiving. He sounded so blue about it. I told him that Firecracker has had a good life and now it’s time to say goodbye, because he belongs on our Thanksgiving table. That’s what we raised him for.

I’ve got the bread cubed and in the freezer for the stuffing. Next Tuesday my husband’s going to dispatch Firecracker. I’ll tell you, plucking that bird is going to be hard. Oh, hang on a minute…my phone’s ringing. I see my son is calling.

“Hi, Jason. How are things going? Glad to hear it. By the way, I wanted to let you know we’re planning to have our Thanksgiving dinner at 5pm this time… What do you mean, you’re not coming? … Are you saying NONE of you are coming? … But why? I have this huge meal planned… Your kids are all refusing to eat Firecracker? … But he belongs in our Thanksgiving meal. What am I supposed to do with him if… What!?”

Doesn’t that beat all! The grandchildren have emptied their piggy banks and say they want to buy Firecracker. They want to keep him as a pet, of all things, and we can just let him live here. And the family is offering to bring fish for the meal. Jason says none of them know any fish.

Oh, well. Anything for the grandkids, right? The hens will be more content having a rooster around the place, too. And Duchess will be happy if Firecracker stays around, seeing she’s grown so fond of him.

I’m not especially sentimental, but I have, too, if truth be told. 🙂

 

Flashes of Fantasy

The grass was white with frost this morning, but the sun’s still warm enough to dry it up fast. The temp today is supposed to reach 12 C. Nice!

Re: Techno-troubles I mentioned yesterday

Same story, sad to say. This morning Fandango’s blog came up squashed left, but a click on the title brought it back into normal focus. Word of the Day prompt came up just as it always does. Clicking on the Ragtag Community e-mail got me nothing. The link appeared in my browser strip, but a blank screen. I tried three different ways to access it and got a blank screen each time. Just now when I clicked on the e-mail notice again, the blog came up fine.

So I never know whether Word Press and my computer will cooperate or not. I’m thankful I can still post, but this situation may well require a trip to some t-expert for an internal exam.

Of Flash Fiction and Fantasy

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working at compiling a book of flash fiction stories. But perhaps I’m laboring under a false ILLUSION that my JOVIAL, “happy-ending” stories will sell in today’s market? To study the competition out there, I’ve downloaded several e-books of short stories and read a number of flash fiction tales online. Judging from what I’ve read so far, I’ve concluded:

— Flash fiction stories today are, for the most part, NOT upbeat.
Yesterday I read one tale about a ragged, grizzled fellow sitting in a bar mumbling to an imaginary friend. (Himself in the mirror, I guess.) He rehashes his guilt because he’d ignored his father’s middle-of-the-night moans — the dad was often moaning — and the father died. He sits there until the bartender tells him to go home, so he goes back to his empty apartment. The end.

—Endings are often tragic. Sweethearts walk away. A loved one dies.
Like the one about the guy sitting in a café half-listening to the general BURBLE around him, when he sees a woman walk past the window. There’s something about her… It’s love at first sight! He follows and catches up to her just as she’s standing in front of a store window. She turns and smiles. He smiles back. A terrorist bomb explodes. He comes out of it with minor injuries; she’s killed. It ends with his wondering “Why do things happen this way?”

—There are often fantasy or supernatural elements.
This is getting to be quite common all across the board. Like someone in a coma after an accident, sent off in body (and perfect health) to accomplish some goal. Strangers/angels appear and disappear. That kind of thing.

—There’s often a reverse twist to the tale.
A technology wizard is feeling bored one morning, so he finds an ingenious way to hack into the city’s traffic signals system. He turns all the lights green and is entertained by the resulting chaos. After awhile he finds the repetition of car crashes and sirens so boring.

A fellow driving home from work sees a beautiful rainbow and thinks of the old story of “a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” He pulls out his phone to send his wife a quick picture, loses control, his car crashes and he dies just a few feet from a shining pot of gold. Talk about heartbreaking!

My Well Dressed Hamburger’s Adventure

This morning my mind’s been spinning out a story that will incorporate a lot of these elements. Because I’d rather see upbeat endings for people, I’ve been working on a tragic ending for the “well dressed hamburger” I mentioned in my last post. A lachrymose tale indeed! (For those who like obscure words.)

Yes, total fantasy — but it’s given my imagination a good workout. Plus, no people have been injured or depressed in the weaving of this tale. Mind you, some younger folks may find my sense of humor deplorable or laughable. (Pardon the pun.) 🙂

Have I made you curious? Another element of flash fiction can be an unsatisfying ending, one that leaves you hanging, not knowing how the situation turns out.

Fandango’s Prompt: ILLUSION
Ragtag Daily Prompt: BURBLE
Word of the Day Challenge: JOVIAL

Heart’s Ease

The HeartsEase Tea Shoppe was almost deserted when he stepped inside that morning. Lianne, who was filling salt shakers, looked up when the little bell at the door tinkled. She rolled her eyes when she saw the hopeful smile Mike beamed at her.

“Is it just happenstance that he shows up now, or has he been watching for a slack time? Persistent he is.” Lianne grabbed her order book and walked over to the table he’d chosen.

“May I take your order, sir?” She felt the corners of her mouth wanting to curve into a smile, but she ordered herself to smarten up. She was not falling for this guy’s charm.

“Hello, Sweetie. Fancy meeting you here.”

“I doubt if there’s anything fancy about it. I’m thinking just plain persistence. Weren’t you in here last week, too?” She glared at him sternly. If only the corners of her mouth would stop trying to turn into a grin! She waved her pen at him. “May I take your order please.”

He put on a dejected look. “Do I dare order coffee in a Tea Shop…since I’ve dared to come in here in the first place? The waitress doesn’t seem friendly.”

Lianne glanced at the only other occupied table, where two elderly ladies were having tea. She saw one of them adjust her hearing aid. “All the better to hear you with, my dear.” She tried to hide the smile that came with that thought.

When she looked back at Mike, he was grinning mischievously. “Can you find me a sweet cookie with a heart on top,” he asked her, giving a wink to the tea grannies.

Lianne heard a little twitter from the other table and heard one woman say, “We’d be able to see out the window better if we moved over a bit.” Both ladies slid their chairs over as far as they could in the direction of Mike’s table.

Lianne rolled her eyes. She gave Mike an exaggerated frown. “Can you hurry up and order.”

He chuckled. “Now, Lee. Is that any way to treat a paying customer? Why, I might even buy a cinnamon roll and leave you a big tip when I leave.”

“Perhaps I should leave you a big tip, too.”

“If you can tell me how to impress a girl I’m madly in love with.”

She slid into the chair across from him. “We have a special Healthy Harvest whole grain bagel with low-calorie spread. It has no sugar, no cholesterol, no spices, no cream cheese. It’s perfect for people with heart problems.”

He sighed and put his elbows on the table. “I was hoping for something with dates in it.”

Lianne laughed in spite of herself. “You’re a nut.”

The two old ladies at the other table giggled between sips of tea.

“Just think of me as a big teddy bear with a huge attraction to a certain honey tree. I can’t help myself; I just keep coming back, hoping. If you give me some heart’s ease here, I promise I’ll straighten up and make something of myself. And I’ll always treat you right, Lee.”

“So you say. But what if…”

A shrill voice from the next table interrupted her. “For pity sake, young lady, give the man a chance!”

Lianne grabbed a white napkin off the table and waved it in the air. “Alright, Mike. Let’s talk about it.” She glanced at the two ladies, both of them nodding and wearing big grins. “After work,” she added.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fandango’s challenge word for today: HEART