The Iron Writer Challenge #110

The Iron Writer Challenge #110

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge #109 Champion

2015 Spring Equinox Finals

Brett Paul

The Authors:

Richard Russell, Matthew Barron, James Farner, Vance Rowe

The Elements:

catcus couch

A cactus couch

A new born baby

A judge’s gavel

A bull Mastodon

Bang the GavelJames Farner

James Farner

Lawrence smashed his judge’s gavel down upon the head of the new-born baby he’d procured from the baker’s shop two streets away. Its whimpering mother was in front of him now, screaming and sobbing.

“Take her away. She has broken the rules of the Republic of Gardenelle and must be punished.”

Two guards on either side hauled her from the floor and dragged her kicking out of the other side of the courtroom. The crimson and dark grey colours of Gardenelle fluttered for a moment as the air rushed in.

Lawrence leaned back in his seat and looked to the junior judges on either side of him. He didn’t know their names. He didn’t need to. Judges never associated outside of the courtroom.

Banging his gavel down, the last case of the day arrived. Guards dragged a man covered in chains across the floor. He didn’t struggle against his bindings.

Lawrence waited until the chains had finished jangling. “Name?”

The man stayed silent.

Gesturing to the junior judge on his left, he read the document. “Nathan Crandall…Crandall. What would your father say? A respected public official bearing a son who finds himself in court. What is the charge?”

The right judge handed him another document. Below the dark grey bull mastodon of the Republic of Gardenelle, he traced the letters with his finger. “Ha, another one for the cactus couch. Impure thoughts.”

“Ready to speak yet? No? Then on we go. You are accused of harbouring impure thoughts, and we can prove it. Testimonies from fifteen witnesses have been presented to me in this booklet here. What is your defence?”

Nathan shrugged.

“Pathetic. You will be my fourteen hundredth execution. I look forward to it. Even at the higher end of our society, we must cut. The cancerous leaves will infect the rest.”

Nathan shook his head.

Lawrence raised his eyebrows. “Ah, you want the choice? Silly me, I would never think someone like you would even consider it. Nevertheless, I will hear it. Nathan Crandall, you may beg the Republic of Gardenelle for forgiveness and receive an immediate execution, or the couch will drive the sins from you over several days. Prostrate yourself before this court and receive the mercy you do not deserve.”

The guards unchained all but the ankle restraints and shoved him forward.

Nathan stumbled for a moment.

“Go on,” said Lawrence. “Beg for your life. Beg for a quick death. Beg for mercy and repent for what you have done. Impurity must be wiped out. All must conform to the will of Gardenelle.”

“I…” Nathan paused and cleared his throat. “Not bothered about Gardenelle. Impurity makes us strong. It makes us better than you.”

Lawrence snickered at him and pulled the gavel close to sentence him to the cactus couch. He was going to enjoy this.

Nathan watched the judge’s hand twitch on the polished wood and whipped his wrist forward. A small metal ball fell into his palm.

The eyes of everyone who could see it widened.

Nathan launched the homemade grenade into the judge’s lap. Judge Lawrence’s body count stuck at 1,399.

The Contest

Vance Rowe

Narina clutched her newborn baby close to her and wept when she received the news that her husband was killed by a bull mastodon while out hunting. A month later, two cavemen named Zog and Nikko attempted to court her and she had trouble deciding between the two as she knew both men would be good providers for her and her baby. However, she did like Zog a little more than Nikko, but would be happy with either man.

Both men then approached her father and presented him with gifts to try and prove which one was worthier to be with his daughter. Narina’s father talked with her about them and she couldn’t make up her mind without hurting either of their feelings, so her father had come up with an idea for a contest for both men to prove their worth. Since her husband was killed by a bull mastodon, the winner of the contest will be the first man to cross the finish line with a mastodon head. The contest is set for the following week.

The people of the village gathered on the day of the contest and wished both men good luck and they went off on their quest. It didn’t take long for each man to find a mastodon and the battle was on.

The bull mastodon charged at Zog angrily. These two have been battling for the better part of fifteen minutes but it seemed like fifteen hours. Zog felt the warm crimson liquid leak down his face from a wound on his forehead where the mastodon had struck him with one of his tusks. When it hit his mouth, he wiped it away with his big, meaty, forearm and when the mastodon was close enough, he grabbed a tusk and swung himself up onto the back of the beast’s neck. He pulled a big knife from is sheath and blood sprayed all over the giant caveman as he sunk the blade of sharpened stone down into the back of the beast’s head. The mastodon fell and sent Zog flying ass over tea kettle to the ground.

A few short hours later, a gathering of people cheered and grunted in celebration as Zog limped down the road to the village, holding the bloody head of the mastodon high into the air. The judge slammed his gavel down on the table just as soon as he made it across the finish line. Nikko, the other contestant, stumbled down the road carrying the same sort of prize and he was just as worse for wear.

Narina was happy that Zog had won but Nikko was not. His prize for his troubles was a cactus couch. Although he was unhappy, Nikko graciously accepted his loss and congratulated Zog on the victory. The couple walked off to start their new life together and Nikko just looked at the cactus couch and shook his head in disbelief.

Mastodon MartyrMatthew Barron

Matthew Barron

Judge Turner slammed the gavel, but that didn’t silence the crowd. The anti-cloners wouldn’t be so supportive if they knew my true goal.

Cranston pointed at me from the stand with his good hand. “It was him! No one else was near that freezer.”

Judge Turner banged the gavel again and finally silenced the crowd.

The prosecutor strode before me. “The evidence is clear. Your card accessed the door. Cranston saw you at the freezer. You were angry about being fired.”

“That’s not why I did it!” I blurted.

“Of course. Estimated value for an ounce of bull mastodon semen is 20 million.”

The crowd jeered.

Cranston, still on the stand, raised his mangled left arm. “You know what I went through to get that sample!”

Dr. Bates and Cranston whispered with the prosecutor, and they called my lawyer over. Cranston scowled, but Bates looked worried. He was a good man, just misguided.

They surrounded me, the lawyers, Cranston, and Dr. Bates.

Bates said, “If you return the sample intact, we’ll drop—”

“Recommend leniency,” Cranston corrected. “Not drop charges. He’s been on the run for over a year, we can’t drop charges!”

My lawyer put her hand on mine. “Take the deal. You got what you wanted, public awareness. If you’re out of jail, you can write a book and—”

I took a deep breath. “I don’t have the sample.”

Dr. Bates put his hand to his mouth. “You threw it out?”

Just then, my accomplice wheeled in a crate. She lifted the lid and gave me a large bottle of warm milk. A tiny gray trunk pulled my arm gently down. Nessie, the newborn mastodon, closed her eyes contentedly as she suckled. I couldn’t help but smile.

Dr. Bates gasped. “The Farm never maintained a natural pregnancy!”

“I tried telling you. Your mastodons aren’t happy. We gave momma plenty of room and let the herd roam.” Nessie jerked my arm, and I extricated myself to get a fresh bottle.

“May I?” Bates asked. Bates beamed as Nessie suckled. “We must drop charges.”

“We can’t!” Cranston argued.

“This is what we wanted all along!” Bates insisted. “A natural birth.”

My previous supporters murmured in confusion. This isn’t what they wanted.

Cranston’s face was red. “He stole from us, ran, and never returned the sample!”

Bates argued, “He gave us something better!”

Judge Turner banged the gavel again. “This isn’t just up to you anymore. He must be sentenced.”

Nessie fondled Bates’ glasses with her trunk. “We can’t throw him in jail or fine him for this.”

Cranston smirked. “I have a suggestion…”

***

I expected prison and for my career to be over, but I wasn’t prepared for this. Mastodons weren’t the Farm’s only creation, although I hadn’t deduced the purpose for this one. Cranston smiled as I plotted my descent onto the cactus couch. I tried to find the spot where the fewest spines would pierce me, or at least spare my most sensitive bits, but the quills were everywhere. I sat, and Cranston smiled. At least my sentence was only ten minutes.

It was a very long ten minutes.

The Game ChangerRichard Russell

Richard Russell

I met her at a party. We were both drunk, and ended up back at her place. After that, I just kinda hung around. She seemed ok with that, Eventually, I moved in, and we got married. I should have seen it before, but now that I look back, our relationship was based primarily on sex. We didn’t actually have much in common.

One of the first issues to come up was house-keeping. She had a place for everything, and everything was in its place. I was not very conscientious of order. I think it was an issue with laundry that caused our first serious argument.   If I remember, most of my laundry ended up out in the front yard that day; along with half a room-full of various other belongings of mine.

That incident was smoothed over, but ever since then she seemed different; she seemed more agitated, or hostile. She began to complain about how I did things, or didn’t do things. She didn’t like how I dressed, or how late I stayed up. The complaining turned into nagging, and then it began to get almost abusive; like she was trying to inflict pain.   Once in awhile, she would come on all nice, and considerate, and we would make love, but then she would revert back to the hostilities. Honestly, I never knew what mood she would be in from one moment to the next.   It was as if she would lure me in with one hand, and lash out at me with the other; all in the same motion. She’d pet me and say, “Come closer,” and then she’d scream, “You jerk!,” and hit me.   It got so bad that living with her was like lying together on a large bed of cacti which she was immune to; sweet and sour.

Eventually, we filed for divorce, but before a decision could be made we found out she was pregnant.     With loud finality, the judge’s gavel resounded. The divorce would not be allowed, in light of the child’s future.

So, here I am, feeling like a huge bull mastodon in a confined space; clumsy, and awkward, but trying my best to accommodate her needs, and help out. I run to the store, help with the laundry, clean the house, and fix meals. I have no idea what I’m doing, but for some strange reason, when I look at our newborn, and see how helpless and innocent she is, I feel a desire to be… responsible.

I don’t know what’s happening to me.

My wife seems to be much kinder these days, and we’ve actually talked quite a bit about … things.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I had been a selfish jerk, and had been ignoring her. She was starving for my attention, and when I never responded, she got angry about it. I just took it all as baseless criticism, and kept pulling farther away to protect myself.

She says she’s glad I’ve finally decided to grow up.

Challenge 108 – 2015 Spring Equinox Open – Preliminary Round, The Kurt Vonnegut Bracket

The Iron Writer Challenge

2015 Spring Equinox Open

Preliminary Round

The Kurt Vonnegut Bracket

 

The Authors:

Steph Mineart

E. Chris Garrison

Johnna Murphy

Vance Rowe

Mamie Pound

The Elements:

Artemis

Artemis
A Dilettante
Jello Wrestling
A Moon Rock

Tangerine, TangerineMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

In the blue wash of fluorescent light, she changed out of jeans and into a gold lame’ body suit. White silk wings sprung from the back of her costume. Even in the grey din of the Chevron restroom, she looked other-worldly.

Her purse was clinched between her front teeth while she dressed. No part of her clothing touched the filthy concrete floor. It was after all, mostly white..

Meanwhile, a man waiting on a gas pump watched her emerge from the restroom. Long blonde hair swung back and forth as she used her hips and elbows to open the door.”Artemis” was stitched across her chest. Feathery wings caught the wind, fluttered. She strutted across the cracked asphalt parking lot, stacked platform heels causing her knees to bend a little, invoking the appearance of a giant bumble bee.

The man, fascinated, stepped out of his car, ran his hands through his hair and made his way toward the freaky, waspish woman, now at the back of the parking lot.

“Excuse me,” he said. She was digging for something in the front floorboard of a conversion van.

“Ma’am?” he knocked on the window.

She slid backward and stood up, dusting off her knees and thighs.

“Yeah?” she said, hands on hips.

“I’m Jack,” he said.

She crossed her arms and said, “Artemis.”

“You live in this van or something?” he asked.

Piggly Wiggly bags were seat-belted like passengers into the back seats. Tupperware, Nilla Wafer boxes and Mountain Dew bottles poked out of their tops.

She slammed the door.

“Sometimes,” she said. Mascara was smudged under her blood-shot eyes.

He nodded.“I love a good road trip, too.”

Dogs barked inside the van.

“I’m on a cross-country Jello Wrestle-a-thon,” she said. She wiped at her face with her sleeve and looked away.

“Oh, yeah?” he said.

“Yeah,” she raised her chin. Her wings flattened as she leaned back against the van.

“I’m a professional Jello Wrestler, hence the outfit,” she checked his expression.”But I’ve lost my good-luck charm.”

“Really? Wow.” He let his eyes wash over her.”Pro, huh? I would’ve definitely taken you as a dilettante.”

She smiled.

“What exactly are you looking for?” he asked, glancing into the van.

“Moon rock,” she said,”about this big.” She held up her hands, made a circle about the size of an orange.

“You lose it in there?” he thumbed toward the van, where the dogs had worked themselves into a frenzy.

She smiled.

“You volunteering to go in after it?”

“Maybe,” he said.

“Because the last guy never made it out,” she warned.

He nodded, considered the challenge.

“Is there a particular flavor?” he asked.

“Flavor?”

“You know, for the jello wrestling,” he rolled up his sleeves, prepared to go in.

“Oh.Tangerine. Sometimes there are marshmallows.”

As he crawled over the front seat, she called, “Watch out. They bite.”

He wasn’t sure if she was mad or just a world-class heart breaker.

But there was only one way to find out.

Tangerine, Tangerine

I was her love, she was my queen…

Moon Rock Dream

Vance Rowe

While watching his favorite sports show, the WCJW, World Championship Jello Wrestling, Tommy got excited because his favorite competitor won and she retained her World Jello Heavyweight title belt. Her wrestling gimmick was Artemis, Goddess of the hunt. She would enter the arena carrying her bow and arrow and had a greyhound dog by her side. She was dressed in a white toga but took that off before she stepped into the ring of jello. Underneath her toga she wore her wrestling gear which consisted of white shorts and and a white sundress, in trying to keep with the theme of a Greek goddess or what a Greek goddess would wear if she was wrestling another Greek goddess.

Coming down off of the high of his favorite jello wrestler winning her match, Tommy turned of his television set and went into his moon rock room. It was a room where he kept the moon rocks he is collecting. He has no formal knowledge of moon rocks but he is considered a dilettante on the subject.

The rocks were in glass cases setting on lush black velvet and some of the cases had a black light in them as some of the minerals in the rocks glowed under the light. He was in awe of their majestic beauty.

Tommy finally got ready for bed and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face. His favorite jello wrestler won her match and the moon rocks also brought him joy. As he slept peacefully, Tommy was awakened suddenly and found himself floating in the air and looking down at his body on the bed.

What is going on? Have I died? I can’t die. I am too young,” he thought to himself. Then he tried to “swim” back down to his body but it was all in vain. Like a shot from a rifle, he flew upwards out of his home and up, up, up into the darkness of deep space.

Tommy was unconscious as he fell to land from space. When he awoke, he looked around and saw complete darkness and tried to figure out where he was. Suddenly there was a bright light and in the light he saw the Greek Goddess Artemis. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Tommy rubbed his eyes and she was still there. Without saying a word, Artemis pointed off to her left and slowly Tommy looked in the direction that she was pointing. Then he saw it. A large rock that glowed and was encrusted with precious gems. It was the most beautiful moon rock that he ever laid his eyes on. He then realized that the Goddess of hunting was helping him hunt moon rocks. As he approached it, it grew even more beautiful. Tommy reached down to pick it up and as he grabbed it, he suddenly woke up in his bed as the alarm clock sounded. He got his bearings and realized the whole thing was a dream and was saddened.

When Tommy drove off to work, he never saw the moon rock that was sitting under the bushes, glowing brightly.

Kara’s PuppyJohnna Murphy

Johnna Murphy

Moon rock!” Grunt held his treasure high for Kara to see. She squinted at it skeptically.

Is not, dum dum!”

Da said so!” The boy turned up his face in consternation, grunting his frustration.

Grunt thought all his rocks were something special. He could tell you which one was crystal (a piece of broken bottle), which one was granite (obviously blacktop), and now his newest treasure, the moon rock, which suspiciously looked like a hunk of broken sidewalk from the other end of the block.

He’s a liar; rocks don’t fall down from the moon!” Kara turned away angrily. She knew all about lying; she knew it too well.

She had learned about it the day she walked in to see her uncle watching jello wrestling on TV. He had told her the women had been playing nicely until one of them ruined the pool water. She had only half been paying attention. “Oh,” she replied, skipping off.

But she had accidentally walked in on him other times, too, and he always had a lie. She wished her mother had never let him come stay at her house. She didn’t like the way he looked at her or touched her, his hand resting on her shoulder in public, and other places in private. And she had never felt more alone. Only one she had to talk to was Grunt, and she didn’t think he really understood.

Not wanting to go home or be alone, Kara turned back to the neighbor boy. “Do you go to school? I never see you in class.”

Special class. Not everyone gets in.” He turned his rock over and over in his hands.

They teach you about mythology in your class? We’re learning mythology. I like Artemis.”

Moon rock!” Grunt held the hunk of cement out to Kara again, beaming from ear to ear.

Well Artemis was goddess of the moon.” Kara agreed, even though she knew Grunt would not understand. “I learned that in school. But I read other things at the library. Artemis protects girls and she protected herself. Once when she was bathing in a stream, someone tried to touch her. She turned him into a stag and he was killed by his own hunting dogs.”

Kara reached out to admire the chunk of cement, and Grunt made the noise that gave him his nickname among the neighborhood kids. He hugged the hunk of cement close to his chest. “Mine!”

Kara dropped her hands, not wanting to chase away the only person who would listen. “I like Artemis. “ she said with a mysterious smile. “I like dogs too. Momma’s going to get me a puppy, but I think he’ll grow up big. He’ll protect me, the same way Artemis was protected by dogs.”

Grunt shook his head, not understanding Kara’s words, or the strange gleam in her eye. His simple mind only interested in one thing. “Rocks!” he cried, holding up a piece of broken glass, worn smooth by time. “quartz!” he added proudly as Kara’s sly smile grew.

That’s right, Grunty, I’m going to get a dog!”

Hunter’s MoonEric Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

“You have no idea how honored I am to be your guest,” I said to the tall, beautiful woman who met me at the airport.

She nodded at me without so much as a smile and snapped her fingers. Several hairy men stepped out of the crowd in unison and flanked us as we made our way to Baggage Claim.

Diana Archer walked a step ahead of me, the click of her heels like staccato hoof beats, audible even over the terminal’s din. “I trust your flight was comfortable?”

I did my best to keep up in my flats, trying not to scurry. “Well, you know O’Hare. I’m just glad to be here in Memphis. I see why you make it your home, ma’am.”

The wolfish men took my bags from the carousel, and soon we were all in the back of Ms. Hunter’s limousine, cruising along the highway toward her fabled resort residence. The tinted windows turned daylight to twilight.

Her dark gaze pierced me. “Dr. Sutton, we have spoken in brief already, but you know my interest in the Moon. I have, in my collection, the capsule from Apollo 18. It is my wish to travel there, and you claim to have a way. Explain.”

So intent was her stare that I had to catch my breath. “Well, yes, in theory…”

“In theory? Please, don’t waste my time like those amateurs in the Artemis Project.”

“N-no, not like those guys. I mean, they mean well…”

She interrupted me. “Yes, but so is the Starfleet Command club. I’d sooner back those lunatics lobbying to make Jello Wrestling an Olympic sport. I want results.”

“Allow me to show you something,” I said, and opened my purse. I reached within and drew out a small wooden jewelry box.

She took it from me and the hinges creaked as she looked inside. Her eyes flicked from the contents to me. “Is this?”

“Yes. Regolith,” I said, struggling to keep my smile from cracking into a grin.

“If real, this sample is worth… a quarter of a million dollars, I’d say.”

“At least that,” I said. “But since you have pledged such a generous amount to our Kickstarter, you may keep it.”

She snapped her fingers again, and one of the wolfish men handed her a loupe. Its light pierced the gloom of the limo’s interior. “Very generous for a project strapped for funds. How did you get it?”

“Our prototype quantum translocation device. We sent a modified Roomba through a portal to bring this back. It will need a lot more power and equipment to send humans through. Not to mention spacesuits.”

She snapped the box shut. “A portal? So there is no rocketry involved? Pity.”

“This is far safer, ma’am.”

She waved a hand. “Never mind. A portal has other symbolism that pleases me. That and your name.”

“My name?”

“Yes, it pleases me. You have my patronage, Dionne.”

We shook hands, and I had a desire to howl with joy.

She Couldn’t Find How to Push ThroughSteph Mineart

Steph Mineart

When the ghost that lurked in her home was eaten by shadows, she began to doubt she had ever seen him at all.

The quiet old house became alien. She couldn’t make the finish on the second floor banister match and three posts had to be re-turned. She began to doubt herself; she was a dilettante. Her plaster work was uneven, and she couldn’t sand and smooth it properly. Maybe seeing him was mold-induced madness from this house. Weeks passed. In frustration she left off restoration and began cleaning out the attic. She daydreamed of a beach somewhere warm.

It was April when she saw him in the mirror above the fireplace, when the moonlight hit it from the plate glass window in the parlor. Her own reflection was missing. His pale face was pressed against the glass; his expression one of terror, body hidden behind the fireplace as though it were a wall. She touched his hand against the glass and felt it give. She could feel him for a moment, until the shadows in the room behind him came to life and dragged him away as they had that night in the kitchen. The next night the same thing happened, and every night until the moon waned. Her reflection reappeared.

In May she was ready. The jeweled pin he left behind had no reflection either. She pressed it through the wavering glass, and he took it, but he couldn’t use it to banish the shadows. They swallowed him up each night, until the moon waned.

In June she used mirrors to direct the moonlight and saw him for five days instead of three, but couldn’t save him. She found his trunk in the attic. An army uniform, a sword, a photo and papers. His name was Delias. His sword had a reflection in the mirror; he could not grasp it.

In July, she discovered a marble statue of Artemis from the attic had no twin on the other side. She placed a lunar meteorite in the parlor and the statue glowed an unearthly blue in the amplified light. She touched the huntress and fell inside her, and the statue grew and molded to her like armor. The air around her was thick, like wrestling through jello, but she forced her way to the mirror. Her face was unseeing stone. Catching up his sword, she heaved herself over the mantle and through into the mirror room beyond.

The shadows leapt forth immediately in response to her arrival. She stepped in front of him, brandishing his sword. A voice in her head said the weapon was wrong; Diana preferred a bow. But she did her best, cutting through the dark like fire. She banished the shadows back to where they belonged.

Danger past, she turned to him. “My darling!” he said, and put his hand to her face, but it passed through her skin. On this side of the mirror, she was the ghost.

“I’m afraid you’re trapped,” he said in sorrow.

The Iron Writer Challenge #107

The Iron Writer Challenge #107

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 106 Champion

Tina Biscuit

The Authors:

Kara Kahnke, Mamie Pound, Vance Rowe, Daniel J. Sanz, Ellen Howard Attar

Judging:

Each story is scored by a panel of Iron Writers

based on three categories:

(Grammar/Spelling, Use of Elements, Story Arc/Plot)

The popular vote is the tie breaker (SO VOTE!).

The Elements:

'Challenge 107 March 19, 2015<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
First Challenge for the 2015 Summer Open</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Writers please note: As I will be on vacation when the submissions need posting, please use Facebook to send your stories to me. I suspect it will be easier than trying to access my email on the road (long story, but accessing my email on my iPad is tortuous). </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Also, please comment or like this post so I know you have received the elements and will be participating. Thanks</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Writers: @[1375160699:2048:Kara Ann], @[1619662900:2048:Mamie Willoughby Pound], @[1370498536:2048:Vance Rowe] (again? Okay by me but two in a row?), @[697063044:2048:Daniel J. Sanz] and  @[1605463911:2048:Ellen Howard Attar].</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>@[100000792336166:2048:Ian] is handling the judges henceforth.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The elements:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The Tiger Next Monastery (see image)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
An imponderable question (such as, but not this one: Can God make a object too heavy for him to lift?)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
A debutante<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
The person who cleans public restrooms'
The Tiger Next Monastery
An imponderable question (such as, but not this one:
Can God make a object too heavy for him to lift?)
A débutante
The person who cleans public restrooms

Go DeeperKara Ann

Kara Kahnke

Feed the mosquitoes with me,” he said.

Excuse me?” she said. “What do you mean?”

I mean I’m Buddhist. I believe even the tiniest creatures deserve love and attention, even the ones people find annoying. I don’t kill mosquitoes. I feed them.”

You’re crazy.”

What? Do you think you’re some kind of spoiled débutante parading around waiting for the world to adore her? You don’t have the time for someone or something worse off than yourself?”

Hey! That’s not fair. Yesterday, I gave a homeless guy money to buy a sandwich.”

I’m sorry. That true. I did see you do that. I’m just saying you can always go deeper with things. Buddhists believe there’s nothing too demeaning if it’s in the name of helping others. Didn’t I ever tell you that I had to take a job as a janitor to make ends meet once? Plunging a public toilet isn’t a classy job, but I did it. Come on. Go deeper with me.”

There was something intriguing about him. She had spent time watching his patient eyes in their Philosophy class, getting a mild headache trying to keep up with all of his deep thoughts. He was the type of guy who said things like, “If God were a piece of music, what would he sound like?” She didn’t even know how to begin with a question like that, but that’s why she liked him. Because he was deep. So, she agreed to go deeper.

#

It was a hot, sticky July day in Minnesota. He rented a row boat and took her to the lake at sunset. The mosquitoes descended immediately. A black cloud of hungry mouths pricked their soft, delicate skin with the precision of acupuncture needles. She put her arms around his neck to stop her natural impulse to swat them away. She paid attention to the ridge of his shoulder blades and ignored the pain.

They stayed until the last flash of sunlight faded from the clear water.

We should be getting back,” he said. It’s getting dark.”

Wait. Go deeper with me.” And she kissed him. It was just like she thought it would be. The way he kissed her made her feel like she was the most important living thing on the planet.

#

Now, he was gone. She had misheard him at first. “Tiger Next Monastery? Where’s that?”

No, Tiger Nest Monastery. It’s in Bhutan in South Asia. I’ve been studying more and more about Buddhism. I have to continue my path toward enlightenment. I want to live with the monks. I love you, but can you go deeper?

I can’t leave my family.”

I’m so sorry. I have to go.”

When will you be back?”

I have no idea.”

Please don’t leave me.”

I have to. I’m sorry.”

#

She went to the lake at sunset when she missed him. She sat in a boat without his shoulder blades to protect her, and she never swatted the mosquitoes away.

Skin of the Tiger

Ellen Howard Attar

As Gloria handed me a towel to dab my lipstick, I asked “why do you work here? These people are horrid and condescending. Don’t my parents pay you enough for cleaning their house each week to keep you from scrubbing toilets at the country club?”

“I’m doin’ a little extra, saving up money to help Jason go to medical school.”

“Gloria, you know he wants to be a writer.”

“Your dad sent that boy to Harvard because he’s brilliant. I ain’t gonna waste his money by letting him wait tables an’ write stories. “

At the table, Tommy asked “why are all the waiters black?”

Father explained, “it’s just another of life’s imponderable questions. It’s impossible to know what motivates people. Some become bankers, some wash dishes. Wouldn’t it be presumptuous for us to question such life decisions? ”

I ordered another Sazerac by simply raising my left eyebrow towards Jason, who was waiting tables.

“I’m going to the Himalayan Mountains next week”.

Mother choked on her chardonnay. “You’ve only been through three months of your debut; the season lasts all year. We’ve got hundreds of parties lined up; we’ve had all those dresses made.

“I’ve had enough conversations about fishing, hunting and football to last a life time. Sorry, mother, but I’m done. “

“We know you broke your trust three years ago. Living in New York undoubtedly decimated the last of your funds. You won’t get another cent from us until your wedding day!”

“World economics and marketplace analytics are still fascinating. After one semester, I had the sense to use my own money, and quadrupled my investment. I continue to invest and don’t foresee any financial difficulties in my lifetime.”

“As he came closer, I could hear his loud purring and the thudding of my own heart. He gently took the meat from my hand, and when finished, he lay in the warm sunlight cleaning his paws. ’Take me away’ I whispered. He looked into my eyes, asking ‘where do you want to go’. I answered ‘far, far, away, where no one can find me; where I can be free to live my own life; to think my own thoughts; to speak my mind freely’. He nudged me gently. I rubbed his head and scratched his ears. I slowly crept onto his back. He got up and stretched. I wrapped my arms around his neck. He started running. Faster and faster he went, until the trees were blurring by, the wind was roaring past my ears, water running from my eyes. I felt free, unafraid. I nestled my head into his soft fur as he leapt into the air, and we flew far away. “

Tommy rolled towards me, “where did the tiger take you Emmy?”

“A beautiful monastery perched on the side of a mountain. Soon, I will go back. When you’re older you can visit me. Don’t forget the Tiger Nest Monastery. Now go to bed, sweet darling.”

The next morning, Emmy and Jason were both gone. No one listened to Tommy as he explained that they were in the Tiger Next Monastery.

Tootsie-Roll Pops and AzaleasMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The woman dunked the mop in a plastic bucket.

In wide swoops, she moved the suds from one corner of the bathroom to the other, stopping short of the stalls.

“Is there a wedding here today?” A woman opened the bathroom door and asked, breathless.

“Down in the Big Top,” the cleaning lady replied.

“Thanks!” The woman yelled and ran down the hall, sandals clacking.

Dirty water squeezed from the mop. She shook her head,“Who would’ve guessed, a circus in the old Monastery, and now a wedding?”

The Strong Man and the Ballerina were to be married under the Big Top. The bride rode in on an African elephant, wearing a spangled pink leotard and white tights, carrying a bouquet of Tootsie Roll Pops and watermelon-pink azaleas. An enormous plume of white Ostrich feathers crowned her crayon-yellow curls.

The groom walked the tightrope. After an impressive summersault, he landed just to her left, a red plastic boutonniere stuck in the button hole of his lapel.

He lifted a hand to the tiny, beautiful dancer. She slid off the elephant’s trunk and joined him center stage. A pair of clowns and the Shortest Man on Earth played ukulele, classical guitar and harmonica, first performing a Beatles melody, then the wedding march, then another tune by Leonard Cohen.

“Larry!” A woman’s voice yelled from outside the tent. The musicians paused mid-song.

The lion raised his fur. The bride looked at her groom and Larry shrugged his shoulders, nodded for the band to carry on.

A gunshot pinged against something metal. “I’m warning you, Larry,” the woman yelled.

Larry, who was now called Steven the Amazing, unhooked his bride’s arm from his own and held up a finger to say, “I’ll be right back.” He strode out of the tent into the late afternoon sun. His red tuxedo jacket flapped behind him, creating a wake of ruffling faux-silk and dust.

The crowd was silent.

The bride shifted her weight from one ballet slipper to the other. Her silver sequins catching the spotlight with every movement, flashing like a million tiny polaroids, welding-torch, burn-out-your-retinas bright. But the crowd could not look away.

She was after all, a star.

Loretta knew who was out there. The thought of the debutante ex-girlfriend in the parking lot, crying to her almost-husband, made her bite into one of her petal pink fingernails.

People started to whisper.

Larry was shouting now. The debutante yelled back.

The lion paced.

But Loretta wasn’t scared. She had known it was dangerous, leaving her job at the bookstore to join the circus, then stealing another woman’s man.

It hadn’t been her intention.

The circus just happened to be there. And so did Larry.

It wasn’t her fault about the flat tire, or the fact that he’d wanted to help, offered to show her the way to Arab, Alabama, to the old Monastery. He’d laughed when she’d told him she was joining the circus.

But somewhere between the flat tire and the Alabama state line, Larry fell in love.

The JudgeDaniel J. Sanz

Daniel J. Sanz

The gunshot echoed, shattering the night as the weapon discharged. Derek was upon the attacker, redirecting the firearm and shoving him back against the graffiti choked wall. Behind the obscurity of the dumpster, tucked neatly between concrete and glass giants, the struggle continued.

The man fought for control of the weapon but a crack across the jaw impeded the effort. Derek disarmed him and flung him to the pavement.

Derek looked down at the young woman, scantily clad and shaken from the ambush. So naïve. These young, upper-class girls were so preoccupied with social statuses that these “débutantes” often neglected their own safety. Walking alone in this city they were prey among predators.

Next door, bass percussion of Club Tiger Nest rattled the alley. Constructed in the likeness of a Himalayan Buddhist Monastery, laced with neon and cheesy retro motifs, this establishment was no doubt the source of the young woman’s misadventures.

The thug charged again. Derek greeted him with a knee to the manhood and cast him down again. Brushing off his black overcoat and adjusting his flat cap to keep the shadow over his eyes, Derek peered down disdainfully. Trash.

Derek spent thankless days sweeping garbage and scraping away filth in the public bathrooms down at Festival Square. However, hitting the streets after work was where he would find the real dirt.

He offered a hand to the fallen maiden but her sudden white complexion told him the thug had recovered quicker than expected. He whirled around in time to divert the barrel away from his face. In an array of sparks and thunder the bullet exploded against the dumpster. Derek delivered a boot thrust to the knee, buckling it sideways and stripping the handgun away. He brought the metal grip down upon his attacker’s exploding nose. The man collapsed with hands up, choking on blood.

Derek coldly pointed the weapon at panicked eyes. What difference could I make here? The scum was no different than the crap he chiseled every day. Getting rid of it only to have it return again.

This man is a seasoned criminal, he justified to himself. She is probably not his first victim, but I can make her his last. Derek stepped over his bulk and pressed the barrel into his forehead, prompting a futile protest of coughs and sputters.

Perhaps by killing him, I save five others? Ten?

He tightened his grasp on the weapon. Do I have a right to judge this man and condemn him in an unspeakable act? Is permanent justice worth the cost of morality?

His hand trembled and the thought became too impossible to ponder. Snapping himself from his trance he chucked the gun into the dumpster as red and blue danced down the avenue. He turned away from the defeated man. I’m not you.

Sirens wailed as they approached and Derek scaled the wall at the rear of the alley. The question burned inside him but he knew his answer. He’d do what he always did. I’ll just come back and clean it up again tomorrow.

An Imponderable Bathroom

Vance Rowe

Jim works in a large hotel as a janitor. It is usually his job to make sure that the floors are swept and mopped, carpeted areas are vacuumed and all of the public rest rooms are cleaned. Today was especially important as there is going to be a débutante ball in one of the ballrooms tonight so he was purposefully assigned to make sure the rest rooms are all kept clean before, during and after the event. Other janitors were assigned to floors details and trash details as well. Jim hated cleaning the rest rooms because they were usually nasty and filthy but it was quieter in the rest rooms and this meant that he could think. While Jim was cleaning a rest room, he thought about the débutante ball tonight and how it would be nice if he could marry a débutante because they come from “upper society” and upper society means money. If he could marry into money, then he would no longer have to clean rest rooms. During the cotillion that night, Jim was in awe of all the beautiful young ladies that were there dressed in all their finery and each one looked like a princess to him. He watched them being paraded around the ballroom and then watched them dance with potential beaus and he grew jealous. He was thinking of the grandeur of it all, as he cleaned a ladies’ rest room. Then one of the débutante’s walked in and was surprised to see him in there. They struck up a conversation and after a few minutes, Jim asked her if she would date him. She wanted nothing to do with him but gave him one chance, “If you can answer this question, then I will date you.” Jim replied, “Okay, lay it on me.” The young lady smiled and asked, “Why is a delivery by car called a shipment and a delivery by ship called cargo?” “Oh no, not an imponderable question,” he thought to himself, The young lady wrote down her phone number and handed it to him and said, “Call me when you have the answer.” Jim knew he would not easily find the answer and didn’t really know about how to find it out and then it hit him. He knew where to find the answer. The next morning, he grabbed a flight to Bhutan and then proceeded the trek up to the Tiger Nest monastery. He knew the Buddhist monks would have the answer. He was excited because he was done cleaning rest rooms now. Nothing but a life of luxury and leisure was ahead of him. Jim entered one of the temples and found a monk and asked him the question. The monk seemed puzzled and finally he told Jim to follow him. They walked to the main shrine where the head Lama resides and was told to ask him the question. When Jim asked him the question, the head Lama thought about it for a minute and left the room. Soon he returned with a mop and said, “Clean our restrooms and the answer will come to you.”