By Robert Stanhope
It had been a long time since anyone had visited the attic. There was an exterminator that Dad hired from Craigslist to remove a rat and her babies. If memory serves me correctly, his name was “Vermin Vernon”. I’m not sure what odor was worse, his body or the rat’s afterbirth. He wasn’t a clean man, but he was efficient at removing rodents. Plus, he was affordable. Mom offered him fresh meatballs and he accepted, refusing cash for his services. I remember him carrying a closed cardboard box of rats in one hand and a Ziploc bag of meatballs in the other as he walked across the front lawn, his ass crack showing as his pants slipped without a free hand to pull them up.
Dad passed a couple of years ago and Mom’s mind isn’t too sharp these days. Now it’s my responsibility to rid the attic of a rodent. I’ll see if “Vermin” is still on Craigslist. I’ll search “pest control” under the services section. Only three results. “Got a rat? Let’s Chat!” is the first post. “Have a Rodent Problem? We have a Potent Solution.” is the second result. Do these guys go to poetry school? Ah, this one must be “Vermin Vernon”, “A Man Has to Eat, I’ll Remove Your Critters.” Click. Sure enough, a short description of service and a phone number to call Vernon.
“Go for Vernon!” said a raspy voice on the line.
“Hi Vernon, I’m Valerie Moses. I don’t know if you remember me, but you removed some rats from my parent’s attic a few years ago.”
“Sure do, Ms. Moses. Your Mom makes a mean meatball. Sure am sorry to hear about your Dad passin’.”
“Thanks, Vernon. We sure do miss him. Mom isn’t cooking these days. The reason I’m calling is because a neighbor saw a raccoon crawling into the attic. We hear him scratching and making a ruckus. Can you remove it for us?”
“A raccoon, huh?” asked a hesitant sounding Vernon.
“Yes,” I replied and asked, “Is that beyond your services?”
“You mentioned your Mom isn’t cooking these days. How are your meatballs?”
“Vernon, I’d be happy to pay you cash.”
A disappointed Vernon replied, “I think I’ll refer you to “Rascal Rick” for this one.”
“I saw his ad on Craiglist. Is he a good man?” I asked.
“He’ll get the job done and treat ya fair.”
“Okay. Thank you for the referral, Vernon. I need to tend to my apple pie in the oven now. Take care.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Did you say apple pie?” exclaimed Vernon.
“Sure did,” I replied.
“I’ll be right over to take care of your raccoon problem, Ms. Moses.”
Restriction of function
creates dysfunction in production,
the possible becomes the impossible
until I let frustration settle
and allow creativity to meddle,
open to new perspectives
like those of top detectives,
instead of a scene frozen in a frame,
words return to reclaim their game,
I can't raise my camera for a story,
but I have a thousand words, don't worry,
the photograph won't be blurry
My writing goal is to be steady,
at a time.
I steadily fail. I never quit.
Lotan Brown, aka Ian Gough, on Twitter offers up the #7daytale. The writing challenge is to write a story using 7 tweets, one per day, for a week. I decided to give it a go. I'm a pantser. I didn't outline the story or write ahead. What you'll read is what came to mind each day that I sat down to add to the story. I have not edited the story. Each day below is a direct copy from my daily tweets. I titled the story at the end. Writer or not, give it a try.
Not What It Seems
By Robert Stanhope
From a safe distance, I observed something I never thought I'd see. It happened quickly. A young blonde girl riding a bike down the street. A gray van pulled along side her. A side door opened. Two men hurried out, grabbed the girl and the bike, and pulled them inside.
The van raced away and I followed. After turning onto Main Street, the van slowed to the speed limit. I kept my distance a few car lengths back. After a right onto Elm, the van stopped in front of a warehouse. Three men in black, and the girl, got out. I called 9-1-1.
The police dispatcher heard my report & kept me on the line. The police were en route. "They are coming out!" I shouted as four people, dressed as clowns, exited the warehouse & climbed into the van. "I know the small one is the girl." "Okay, sir. We'll be there soon."
A fifth clown rolled bicycles to the van. They drove off. I was conflicted. Follow the van? Wait for the police? I followed. "The van is moving & I'm following them," I told the dispatcher. A stern, calm voice replied, "Step down, sir. We'll track them down." "Sorry."
"Sir? Sir!" The dispatcher called out. I ended the call. I thumbed through my apps. I wanted to go live on Facebook. I placed the phone in its holder and started streaming. Why are they pulling into the elementary school parking lot? Another van pulled alongside them.
A police van? How did the police know where they were going? A half dozen officers got out of their van & walked around the gray van. No guns drawn. No urgency in motion. They slid open the door on the gray van. The clowns exited and hugged the officers. I was shocked.
An officer walked in my direction. He was carrying what looked like a suitcase, but larger. He stopped at the street corner, opened the case and stood it up. A sign. "POLICE DEPARTMENT CIRCUS - TONIGHT - 6:00 PM" A circus! I turned down a side street and drove away.
In life, don't be afraid to lean in and lean on, to embrace and to be embraced, for we are not alone, we are not one without love, we are on a journey together, sharing love.
A few times in my blog I have discussed writing prompts. You can search Google for writing prompts. You can open a Twitter account and participate in daily prompts from various authors in a variety of genres. The great thing about prompts is that they get the muse going. You can adapt them to your writing style. I use them primarily to practice writing concise lines. Since I enjoy writing poetry and flash fiction, being concise becomes extremely important when I want to enter writing contests with limited line submission guidelines or limited words.
WRITER TIP: Keep a log of writing prompts and your prompt writing. This journal can be a useful reference if writer's block strikes.
Today, I practiced with the prompt for #MuseMon which was the word save. Here are a few samples.
I saved the moment I fell in love with you, like an instant Polaroid picture, slowly coming into frame, pinned to my heart. #MuseMon
She needed saving, but her salvation was locked away in a broken heart, filled with hatred and confusion. She was a lost soul. #MuseMon
I'm saving my final words for you. The words will reflect my life, a life I couldn't have lived without you. #musemon
Never on a pirate vessel
has a lavish and gaudy man
offering peace written to paper.
A king, soon to be,
knocked flat on his ass,
stripped of his gold rings and teeth
by a ruthless, blacklisted captain
laughing in the face of
a weak monarchy.
I closed my eyes and opened my mind.
I tried to access the neurological freeway.
The ramp was closed to traffic.
I followed the orange detour signs.
A left turn and then another
Into a dimly lit valley of my cerebrum.
A storm was brewing in the distance.
Flashes of light lit my unknown route.
The road suddenly came to an end.
The only exit from the valley
A ladder to the left, a door to the right.
Or, I could have turned back.
The top of the ladder wasn’t visible.
The door was chain locked.
The return route had turned pitch black.
I chose to climb the ladder.
Each step to the next rung was stable,
The flashes above brighter.
My legs began to burn as I climbed,
My hands remained firmly gripped to the rails.
Blue, orange, and white flashes,
An eerie shadow and an ominous growl
A pit of fear formed in my stomach.
A pair of eyes appeared with a bright flash.
I had climbed too long to turn back.
I had to face the unknown shadow.
The growl became a constant.
Everything was suddenly pitch black.
The darkness drew silent.
The shadow grabbed my arm and threw me.
I was tossed deep into the darkness,
Helpless, screaming, and fearing where I might land.
I began to feel weightless, as if in space.
Motionless as I came to a sudden stop.
The bright flashes no more,
Just pitch black, the night starless.
As my heart raced, I tried to calm down,
Talking to myself and counting through deep breaths.
My chest throbbed as the void began to close.
The pitch black world turned to anxiety.
I screamed to break the silence.
Not a sound, not even my voice.
I felt as if I were being buried alive.
A great weight crushed my body.
Then a light appeared beneath me.
An opening to what appeared to be a large tube.
I began to fall with great speed into the tunnel.
Brighter and brighter, the light glowed.
A blinding white flash in a freefall,
Nothing to grab to slow my rapid decent.
I could hear myself screaming,
A heat mounted as I went deeper,
I was burning up in the core of my brain.
I awoke buried in sand up to my neck.
At first, I noticed a few mischievous children,
Forming a circle around me with an evil grin
On their faces, all with the same maniacal laugh.
Their numbers grew and grew
Casting a shadow over my face.
Darkness returned to my world.
The children were still laughing.
I could no longer see their faces.
Sweat formed a puddle around my neck
Rising to touch my bottom lip
I couldn’t move an inch as I tasted
A salty liquid coating my tongue.
I began to drown, surrounded by children
Laughing as I gasped for fresh air.
The liquid engulfed my mouth,
The children’s laughter ceased.
I was dying in a pitch black world.
I jolted from my bed, gasping for oxygen.
I turned and saw the time on the clock.
It was 5:22 in the morning.
I reached for my cell phone.
I had my oneirologist on speed dial.
A groggy voice came from the speaker.
He questioned, “Pitch black again?”
Then a child began to laugh.
Damn that smarts!
Under the skin.
Cut the finger off!
To stop the agony!
Son of bitch!
Precision surgery begins.
Focused on removal
Of a micro-spear.
Picking at the epidermis,
Peeling it away,
Flake by flake,
Suck on the wounded digit.
Pick, pick, pick.
Ah! Much better.
Admire the wood splinter-
A respected foe.
Rain pouring down,
Washing away the pain.
Emptying bottles of booze,
Curing depression and blues.
Pull on weathered boots,
Spreading the news, grassroots.
Thank the Lord,
Cut the cord,
To a man that used to be.
A man that used to be.
Rise up tall,
Show them all,
that needs to be.
Change a broken life,
There are kids and a wife.
No more drunken nights
And late night fights.
Thank the Lord,
Cut the cord
To a man that used to be,
That used to be.
Today's a shining day,
Here to stay.
One more chance to pray
For a man that needs to be.
Writer and photographer.