Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Fiction: The Tree

I struggled to keep my voice from cracking as I peered through the branches to yell down to my father standing on the ground.

"I didn't mean to. It was an accident."

My father lowered his head and didn't say a word. That was never a good sign. He was not one of those parents who yelled. He never yelled. He always spoke in a calm voice but if he stopped talking I knew I was in a world of trouble.

I climbed higher to see over the house. The ashes from the pig barn were still smoking. Grandpa was raking out the nails and bits that wouldn't burn. My parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles had all run out there when it was still blazing to keep it from spreading to any of the other buildings. My cousin Tony and I used that opportunity to scramble up into the tree. The danger to the barn and sheds was over, but that didn't mean I was safe.

Tony had found Uncle Jerry's Zippo lighter in the window sill on the back porch. Grandma wouldn't let him smoke in the house, so he always stepped out back to have a cigarette. My cousins and I usually followed him to see his lighter tricks. He could flick it open with one hand. He could snap his finger and make the fire start. Sometimes, he would hit it against his leg to start it. We loved those tricks and he had a hundred of them, but he would never let us try. He would say, "A lighter is not a toy" and put it back in his pocket. I never wanted to play with anything more than that lighter.

Earlier that day, Uncle Jerry set the Zippo in the window instead of back in his pocket. I didn't notice, but Tony did. He snatched it and showed it to me later. We didn't want to get caught with it, so we went to the old pig barn. Grandpa hadn't kept pigs for years, but he stored a few things in there. We crouched down behind the hay bales to try some of Jerry's tricks. When I dropped the lighter, it all happened very fast.

The hay on the floor caught immediately. Tony and I looked at each other in horror and ran out of the pig barn. My cousins Samantha and Emily saw the smoke and ran inside to tell the adults. We knew we were in trouble and shimmied up the tree on the other side of the house. When Jerry found his lighter in the ashes, they all knew what had happened. Tony and me cowering in the tree made us the prime suspects.

Our parents came to the tree and angrily demanded we come down. We started down despite knowing we were doomed. As soon as Tony swung his legs down, his dad grabbed him and spanked him all the way to the car. He threw him in the back seat and the family sped off. I could hear his mother screaming at him as they drove off.

I stopped my descent and retreated back to my original branch.

My dad narrowed his eyes and glared at me, "Get your butt down here now."

I knew what awaited me as soon as my feet touched the ground. Maybe even before then. "No. I'm never coming down."

Uncle Jerry showed up with a stepladder and my dad started up the tree. I climbed higher. I was younger and faster. He would not be able to catch me. Jerry called up to my dad, "You're just gonna have to wait him out." That was over three hours ago.

Every member of the family came out to coax me down, but I knew what would happen if I did. I didn't even come down for dinner.

By the time the sun set, everyone had gone home except for my family. My mother had begged me to come down and cried when I refused. Dad didn't even try to bargain. He just warned me to come down and take my punishment like a man. A punishment that was growing bigger and bigger the longer I chose to drag this out.

It had gotten very dark when Grandpa came out and set his hand on my dad's shoulder. "It's getting late. Take your little ones home to bed." My dad shook his head, "Tomorrow is Monday. He has school. I can't leave him here."

Grandpa reminded him of the stalemate we were in. My father agreed, but pointed out how happy it would make me to see him drive away. Grandpa said, "Don't worry about that." He pulled out his pocket knife and ambled over to the fence row. He cut off a long switch and whipped it through the air a few times so I could hear it swish. I have felt those switches before. This was not getting better.

Dad helped Grandpa pull a picnic table under the tree for Grandpa to sit at and he got comfortable with a Louis L'Amour western and a pitcher of lemonade. My dad gathered up my mom and sisters and they pulled out of the driveway.

With dad gone, I called down, "Grandpa, can Grandma bring me some of the chicken and biscuits. I haven't eaten since lunch."

Without looking up, he replied, "You grandmother is not talking to you or even coming outside. And you and I have nothing to discuss unless we are face to face." He poured himself another glass of lemonade and got back to his book.

I looked around for a thick branch to get comfortable on. This was going to be a long night.

This is NOT a true story. It was my first attempt at flash fiction. This story is a response to the prompt from the lovely Red at Doesn't Speak Klingon. The prompt was TREE.

Friday, May 10, 2019


Every week, a blog called Sunday Stealing posts a list of questions they found (stole from) somewhere on the internet. This week's questions were found somewhere on Facebook. It is called FILL IN THE BLANK.

The sentences were provided, but with blanks. My additions will be in red.

It's always nice when a new restaurant opens near my house.

Oh, that pizza. Yeah, we've met.

It's a sure sign of hunger when I'm awake.

Are we having vegetables again??!

My heart is immune to bacon grease and donut-related cholesterol.

Do you believe in diets? I agree only under a drug-induced coma!

I'm a gonna have another piece of pie.

I was full, but I didn't know you had ice cream. I'll find space.

 Eat cheese when the moon is full.

When we stack the plate properly, we don't have to make as many trips back to the buffet table.

Paula Deen is the best!

Underneath it all is an OREO cookie crust if it's been done right.

Oh! And thanks for the extra butter and sour cream.

And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting to bed early, tomorrow my plans include traveling to Laos and Sunday, I want to be able to sleep and not work!

I absolutely did not have the "food theme" planned when I started this, but look what happened. I think this offers some pretty deep insight into my priorities.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Marriage is Work

Red and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary.

Well, not really celebrated. I contracted food poisoning two days before and spent the next three days doubled over in pain. Most of that time spent on the toilet. It was magical.

So, I guess I can honestly say, we survived our fifth wedding anniversary.

I really wasn't sure I was going to make it.

The fifth anniversary is the 'wood' anniversary and I had so many good jokes saved up about giving her some wood for our anniversary, but the sickness killed it. There's always next year. Although, year six is the iron anniversary. The jokes won't come as easily. Especially since I am slightly anemic.

It has been a great five years. And I have no trouble admitting that I am the reason for that. It has been great because I made sure of it. Here are some of the things I do only because I am married to this wonderful woman.

  •  I put my dirty clothes in a clothes hamper. Instead of tossing my smelly unmentionables in the corner (which is more than capable of holding them), I place them in a receptacle that was apparently designed specifically to house them. This is a new practice for me and I don't completely understand the dynamics of how it functions differently than my method, but I do it because it makes her happy.
  • I make the bed. I have always been of the opinion that making the bed is the physical manifestation of a non sequitur. The logic just doesn't follow. However, I have been informed that it protects the bed from dust and a negative state of mind. Two things I had never been concerned about before, but I have learned to avoid the latter when possible.
  • I use a bath mat. I had never owned one of these before. I thought they were for people with sensitive feet who were afraid to touch cold tile after stepping out of the shower. So, even when one was purchased for me, I stepped over it to avoid dampening its fluffy surface. Now, I know it is to catch the drips. Even though I always thought the drips didn't matter in a tiled room. After all, that's why we don't carpet bathrooms (except gross people).
  • I eat a vegetable at least once a week. I only do this one if she is looking. Not going to waste that one.
  •  I don't flirt with other women. Why would I? The last thing I would want is to be successful in my effort and then have two women in my house. That would mean two bath mats, two clothes hampers and two vegetables a week. No…thank you.
I am very happy with my life the way it is. In the next five years, I am aiming to convince her of some stuff.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Thunder, Music, Swinging & Bacon

With the A to Z Challenge finally over, I do not want to just stop writing. I wrote every day for an entire month and would like to maintain that pace, so today I am cheating. Every week, a blog called Sunday Stealing posts a list of questions they found (stole from) somewhere on the internet. This week's questions come from the site Question Meme.

1. What Did You Have For Lunch?

It is still morning, so I have not had lunch yet. Yesterday, I made some eggs with potatoes, onion and fish cake mixed in. I love me some fish cake.

2. Do You Dance In The Car?

Well, I haven't owned a car in almost three years. In China and Vietnam, cars just aren't practical. Although, here in Vietnam, I have a motorbike and I have been known to get a rhythmic bouncing going as I bebop down the road. Now, I just need some music.

3. Favorite Animal?

In general, penguins are awesome cool. I always want to see them first when I go to the zoo. However, I have different favorite animals for different things.

To Ride: Water Buffalo
To Eat: Whatever animals go into sushi
To Tickle: Baby Hedgehog
For Protection: Dragon
For Picking Up Girls: Bunny Rabbits
For Funny Sidekick: Capuchin Monkey
For Midnight Snack: Chicken wings
For a Pet: Three-foot Tall Talking Tarantula
For Riding into Battle: Black Rhinoceros
For Night-time Snuggling: Jessica Rabbit

4. Do You Watch The Olympics?

I got really excited about the Olympics when I heard about Tonya Harding smashing Nancy Kerrigan with a police baton to get the upper hand in the competition. But then nothing exciting happened when the cameras were actually rolling. The best I can hope for is a catastrophic bobsled pileup.

5. What Time Do You Usually Go To Bed?

That actually varies immensely. I am in bed some nights as early as 8:30. However, sometimes I will stay up until 4 a.m. There are many factors that determine what happens here.
  • Sometimes my local Vietnamese friends will not let me go home.
  • How well are the beers going down that night?
  • Is there anything good on TV?
  • Am I still hungover from the previous night?
  • What is the temperature? (I live in the tropics and only the bedrooms have A/C)
  • Am I tied up in a great book?

6. Are You Wearing Makeup Right Now?

Not right now.

7. Do You Prefer To Swim In A Pool Or The Ocean?

I am allergic to chlorine, so swimming in a pool is pretty rough on me for the next few days. I live about a mile away from the ocean (South China Sea - central coast of Vietnam), but almost never go. I don't get excited about the beach and swimming does nothing for me. If I have to choose, I will choose the ocean. But I haven't been in the water since the jellyfish attack I experienced last year.

8. What Was The Last Thing You Ate?

An extremely unhealthy amount of bacon.
NOTE: This side of the planet has no idea what bacon is for or how to prepare it. When I was in China, if I ordered a burger with bacon, it looked and tasted like they had boiled it. It was disgusting. The few places that had bacon for breakfast, destroyed it before bringing it to you. It was such a waste. However, now, I live across the street from a homestay that provides breakfast for their guests each morning. A couple of times a week, I will go over there and buy their breakfast. It is all Vietnamese food except for a huge pan of bacon. PROPERLY-COOKED BACON!!! It is amazing. And since I basically have not had any bacon for the last three years, I figure I can eat a half-pound a day for the next six months before it will be a problem.

9. Bottled Water Or Tap Water?

It is not safe to drink the water here, so we must use bottled water if we are talking about drinking water. However, for bathing, the use of bottled water can get pretty expensive. I use tap water for that. For swimming, I just don't swim. For throwing at the neighborhood children, I use coffee. But made with bottled water.

10. What Makes You Happy?
  • The first squeeze out of a new tube of toothpaste
  • The feud between Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Netflix remembering exactly what episode I am on
  • My wife's yoga outfits
  • Bacon
  • Falling asleep with a boob in my hand
  • The moment I realize that I love the book I am reading
  • A really, really good gut-relieving fart
  • Not bleeding from my genitals every month
  • The smell when it first starts to rain
  • Setting up a brand new computer/phone/printer, etc
  • People who are constantly offended
  • Waffles - something we can't get here 
  • A really good horror movie
  • Morning wood
  • Working from home
  • A phone call from my kids (I assume)
  • Being proud of a finished blog post

11. Did You Like Swinging As A Child? 

My parents told me that I would not be able to swing until I was an adult. And, even then, only if I had a willing partner.

Do You Still Get Excited When You See A Swing Set?

I believe I grossly misunderstood the nature of these questions.

12. Do You Work Better With Or Without Music?

Depends on the kind of work. If I'm doing dishes or cooking, music is great. If I am trying to work at my computer, then no music. I can not read or write when there is music playing.

13. Do You Make Your Bed In The Morning?

I do, but only because of the woman I am married to. A made bed means nothing to me, but it makes her happy.

14. Do You Like Your Music Loud?

Totally depends on my mood, the type of music, time of day, amount of alcohol consumed the night before, who else is in the room, the proximity of neighbors, etc

15. Do You Fear Thunder/Lightning?

Much like bears or sharks, I cannot say that I am especially fearful of thunder/lightning. However, if I were to walk into my bathroom and find it in my shower, I would freak out.

That's enough questions for now. Feel free to use these questions for yourself. Let me know if you do. I'll drop by.