(Where’s the muffin man, I ask you.)
Dolores Keye Smythe-McTaggart Rumpole Doolally (“Dot” to her friends) loved baking pies. Pies of all kinds. Once you’d had a bite of one of her pies, after you got over the initial shock, a shock a bit like being thrown out a bus or tumbling up some stairs, why, you never quite lost that craving for her deliriously delicious pies. No matter the flavor. “I’m a pecan man, through and through,” Dave “Jacuzzi” Johnson crowed one day, before taking a bite of her cherry pie. That man never took another bite of a pecan pie til the day he died; forlorn roaming through diner cherry pie never filled that aching void. Dot’s kitchen always smelled of something or other baking in the oven. Indeed, it seemed like that oven never got turned off. Good luck finding the knob to do that. It did get pretty hot in there and Dot drank copious amounts of iced tea and lemonade with the occasional mint julep when things were getting harried. Kids were always just wandering in and out all the time, hoping for a taste, grabbing a little dough on the way, maybe a pitted cherry or a cooked apple. Some even tried to steal cooked pies, but no one yet had succeeded. Kids would occasionally form gangs of conspirators to try and plan a heist, some plans getting quite convoluted for the 7-12 set. The older ones would just sort of linger and sigh, rolling their eyes, until Dot took pity on them, remembering her own time wandering through adolescent purgatory. Frankly, the adults weren’t much better, but Dot had less sympathy for them. “Man up, Frank!” she’d say, “You’ll get your slice when it’s ready.” No one knew what spurred Dot to bake so frumiously day after day, but she did and she seemed to take some pleasure in it. Funny thing, no one ever saw her take a bite.
(One thing I’ve never seen, like, a whole mess of them bouncing down the road.)
Sometimes there are some ideas and they bounce around, all around. Other times it feels like a stagnant pond and maybe there’s some smelly algae in there, but not much else. Maybe a salamander or something. Sometimes things are quiet. Other times there’s that mysterious hum that won’t go away. Sometimes I can barely keep my eyes open. Other times I can’t put them shut. Sometimes each step in the process feels like wearing cement shoes. Other times it’s smooth sailing and where’d the time go? Sometimes other times. Sometimes things are opposites. Other times they’re not related at all.
(But it came out more like Bigfoot.)
“I’m not saying names have power,” Gregor Von Climpten said, terrifying horn rims perched ominously on his nose, “but let’s put it to a vote, shall we?” The room shuddered in unholy silence. “All in favor, please say ‘Aye’.” Silence there and nothing more*. “All opposed?” Still more silence. Silence like a thick, dark pudding long past its sell-by date. And maybe left out in the sun for a bit too long. “Yes. Yes. I see.” That second yes had been drawn out a little too long for just about anyone’s comfort. There were some who’d quite forgotten when the meeting had started. Others who were no longer sure when it was set to end. At least three glanced mutinously at wristwatches that were no longer there, having been replaced by the silenced phones in their pockets or satchels. “Clive.” Clive shuddered and spilled cold coffee on his tie. “Clive.” Gregor seemed to relish saying that name, the power it invoked over Clive, who had somehow managed to spill more coffee on his tie while mopping up the first. “Would you please read the minutes from the previous meeting?” Clive stammered a bit and knocked his glasses off his nose. As he fumbled for them, he said, “But I just read them–at the start of the meeting, I mean. Like we normally do. Don’t we?” he squeaked at the end. “Clive. Clive, Clive, Clive. I think you’ll find you’re wrong about that.” Gregor smiled, if you could call it that**. Clive read the minutes again.
* I know, I know. Geeze, we all sometimes indulge our worst impulses. Sometimes.
** You couldn’t.
(But at least they’re not limericks.)
Once upon a time there was a nonsense factory. Boy, was it ever great at pumping out nonsense! It started out small, of course, like these things do, with a man with a plan, a simple man with a simple plan. This man (because of course it was) thought, you know what the world needs more of? Nonsense! And so he set to work building a nonsense factory. At first, it kind of seemed like it was just all in fun. People bought some nonsense and then more people bought more nonsense. They just couldn’t seem to get enough! Everyone (on the inside) laughed uproariously, who would have thought nonsense could be so popular! True, the nonsense factory did produce a toxic byproduct that seemed to cause “temporary” brain damage, but in small quantities, eh. After a while though, the man opened up a second factory, because darn it, there was just so much nonsensical demand! He had to admit, it felt pretty sweet falling asleep on his massive pillow stuffed with cash. Also, the nonsense started to seem pretty appealing to him too and he’d wake up every morning to a big dose of it (oh and also at lunch and at bedtime and also pretty much all throughout the day). One day one of his Idea Guys rushed into his massive office, basically screaming: Boss! We can pump our nonsense right into people’s dreaming brains! They don’t even have to be awake! Well, the man was pretty excited about that. So they set to work building a massive nonsense dream pipeline. Some people tried to speak out against it, but they kept choking on all the thick clouds of nonsense floating around in the air. It was hard to see any sense in all that nonsense. The nonsense man started dreaming of nonsense bombs and nonsense parakeets and a giant hamster ball of nonsense that he could use to just roll around all over the place. All of his employees thought that these were great ideas.
(In a certain light it looked green.)
Once upon a time there was a green panda that was pretty much almost certainly green especially when viewed in a certain light. Sightseekers (almost entirely rakes, scoundrels, ne’er-do-wells, and vagabonds) came from all around to try to spot the green panda. It was pretty hard to spot among all that bamboo. One day a local businessman (and a ne’er-do-well and possibly a rake) decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided that, if the green panda was hard to find in all that bamboo, why, he would just cut down all the bamboo and the green panda would be super easy to spot! Bing bing bing, bang, biggity, boom. Done! All the bamboo was cutdown and sort of mushed into a big pile. Sure enough, that green panda was a lot easier to spot. Weirdly, though, it no longer looked green at all. It looked completely normal surrounded by all that not-bamboo. They half-heartedly tried to feed the panda some doughnuts with green frosting (it was almost bamboo colored), but the panda would have none of it. Later, the panda died of sadness or hunger, no one could tell which. Pandas aren’t super talkative or self-aware, people figured. The businessman lost a ton of money on the deal, but for some reason neither he nor anyone else really seemed to care that much. The pile of bamboo mush rotted in the sun.
(Not the gluteny kind. More like… what you’re doing when you’re not doing anything much.)
Scrap Harrington dashed through the blistering hatchway as blaster fire burst all around him. “You’re in the thick of it now, old boy!” he muttered to himself, as he always did, to add flavor to the exciting, though somewhat repetitious, space exploits that propelled him at every turn into some other adventure or scrape. Why, just yesterday Scrap’d gotten into fisticuffs with a five-armed Zlorg barbarian from the planet Zlorg (well, really the moon orbiting around it, but you’d really have to be a local to care enough to make that distinction. I mean, it’s not like Zlog or its moon were really great shakes in the tourism department. Unless you liked bubbling tarpits and vast and noxious fields of stinkgrass). That hadn’t ended too badly. A couple scrapes, but Scrap had definitely given better than he got. He fired his blaster wildly behind him, purple light spraying and pewing everywhere. There was the sound behind him of bodies diving frantically out of the way. Also, a high-pitched scream. Scrap rolled through a doorway, not because he needed to, but because it just felt right. “Yes, I’m a creature of impulse, a man of action, a florid being of instant–” Scrap ran straight into a glass door and fell to the ground stunned. Moments later, he was dragged away. “Prison escape it is!” Scrap muttered between gritted teeth, nose swelling purple and bloodily. His captors rolled their eyes. Every last one.
(And I don’t mean the poetickal kind.)
There’s a kind of reading that doesn’t do much. A kind of reading where the words sort of ping pong around as they whoosh past. Popping like popcorn kernals, tasting oh so good, greasy fingers scooping up great handfuls with much gusto, but later, maybe not feeling so hot, bellywise. Also, with that saltiness caught at the corners of the mouth and oh-so-thirsty. Pretty sure this isn’t the ever-present Now that they were talking about. Instead, it’s a kind of Red Queen’s race chasing after the ever-wasn’t Then. As fast as you go, you can never eat them all. All the words, I mean, reading. We’ve never created more words ever in the history of everything in such a short span of time and what do we have to say for ourselves? Tappity tappity tap. So much typing. I know my handwriting’s gotten worse. Sometimes, I’ll slow down and read a thing, but my attention wanders, thinking of fast words, no doubt. And then I drag it back to focus on that slower reading, searching for that flow, that rhythm, where large chunks of pages just whoosh by, but in a slow, satisfying way, like a whale gliding by. Or sometimes, slowing almost all the way to a stop, to read just a few sentences of a thing someone clearly labored over for hours. Yeah, I know how much effort it can take to write something well. I also know the joy of typing something out FAST while the thinking trails along behind, those too short legs playing catch up, all the while, only to end up right where you started. Or have you?
(Unless you get stuck.)
The waterpark was full of people and some people seemed happy and some people seemed tired and just about everyone was wet because there was water flying practically everywhere. The food was terrible and the place was echoey and loud and some children were tired and wanted to leave after 20 minutes which was awkward because it had cost so very much money to get in there. The floor was damp and cold and slippery. Everywhere, not just in a few spots. It was impossible not to think of foot fungus. It was both cold and humid at the same time, which seemed weird. And yet, and yet, the time spent with children, even the cranky ones, felt like a gift, watching the other children zoom by with manic grins, while some sat and moaned in an irritating way, a way that endeared with a sort of fierce affection, the kind with teeth perhaps, the kind that the slight smile doesn’t even begin to hint at, realizing perhaps what a small blessing it is to comfort a small child who has no problems at all except a little tiredness, a little hunger, a slight irritation at the surrounding hubbub, a general feeling of boredom. Yes, I’m here for the little things too.
(It’s really not.)
Ordinarily, Ogden Forbes McDougleflaps wouldn’t have taken the second sugar in his coffee, but today was a special day! There were only sixteen slices of cake and he’d gotten the 3rd and 15th, one more than that scoundrel, Nefario Von Babbeesnatch, had gotten. Ogden had despised Nefario from the moment he’d set eyes on him, the way he combed his hair in a spiraling circle around his head, the way his bowtie glimmered greenly in the sun, the way his spats seemed to repel the muddiest of streets and remain glistening and pure. Yes, Ogden thought, it was the spats that did it. Ogden didn’t begrudge him the spats, oh no, it was the purity of the spats that really troubled him. No self-respecting person would let their spats remain so pristine, especially on the muddiest of days. How could a person walk across a muddy field and not get muddy? It smacked of angelic presumption, it did, and Nefario was no angel! Even his moments of charity were suspect, like when he offered Ogden the 14th piece of cake. Ogden had refused, but through some–yes, let’s go there–miracle all others had declined that 15th slice. Mmm mmm, Ogden thought and said, before taking a large bite of the cake. He did. And promptly cracked a tooth on the silver coin hidden inside the cake. “Nefario!” Ogden cried, in fury and in pain.
(I could’ve sworn it was Sephiroth, but apparently that’s a Final Fantasy character.)
Jane had been out front with the chalk and the sidewalk for quite a while. Ma put the final touches on the bronze sculpture she’d welded together from scraps she’d picked up at that old scrap heap down the way. Dad popped those apple turnovers he’d been fussing over for the past hour or so into the oven and brushed some flour off his hands. They both peeked out the window at their little sweetie scribbling furiously on the sidewalk with her piece of chalk. Awww, they said, or something like. They they went back to their parenty to do list items.* A while later, after several to do list items had been crossed off, they peeked out the window again. Jane was standing next to the sidewalk while some neighbor kids hopped along the sidewalk in a line. How cute, they said, then noticed that the line stretched down the block. Those parents wandered outside to see what was what. “OK, Bobby! You can’t land on Hod or Chesed! Those are blocked off!” Jane cried. Bobby tried to hop along the sidewalk, faltered, and one foot thudded down. “Aww shucks,” Bobby said. “Back to the end of the line,” Jane said, “You’ll never reach the divine hopping like that!” Bobby raced back down the line, grinning. Kids these days, the parents said and wandered back inside.
* A little cross-stitch–a centaur battling a hydra–and the car’s oil change.