“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsey were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe…”
“Is that all she says?”
“Yes. Over and over. Same thing.”
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”
“What sort of rubbish is that? It doesn’t even sound like English.”
“Well it is, and it isn’t. It’s Jabberwocky. You know. The poem by Lewis Carroll?”
“That the guy who wrote about the magical wardrobe?”
“Not even close. What the hell kind of childhood did you have anyway? Didn’t you ever read Through the Looking Glass?”
“Irrelevant. Does she say anything else? Anything at all.”
“Well… not really.”
“You hesitated there. What is it?”
“Sometimes it’s as if she’s gotten stuck. She’ll repeat the same word over and over like she can’t remember the next line.”
“After a while she just kicks back in as if she’d never hit a glitch.”
“And what is this Jabberwocky…”
They think I can’t hear them, they think I don’t see what’s two feet away. Catatonic, they say. But I’m just ignoring them. They don’t know anything, and they’ll leave the room eventually. They always do.
Continue reading Tulgey Wood
The west end of the beach was a picture of chaos framed by the orange of the sinking sun.
Donna watched, curiously detached, ignoring the sand that was creeping into her shorts.
The wind blew her hair into her face, and she reached for the purse she’d never wanted. Mothers’ purses were full of scraps of paper, crayons and trash. She dug through the folds of the imitation leather bag, pushing aside the comb. Her hair would only re-tangle in this wind. She was too much like her own mother, she thought, as she shoved the empty wrapper from a stick of gum into a corner. There it was. A tattered green ribbon lay twisted around a McDonald’s straw in the bottom of her purse. One never knew when they might need a straw. The ribbon was short, but it would hold her hair back for now.
She scooped up a handful of sand, plucking out the quartzite pebbles and precariously piling them on her knees. Once her collection was complete she wiggled her leg, dropping the carefully gathered stones to the sand. She felt stronger for destroying something she’d made.
The rescuers were still hard at work, their chains clanking together like so many little bells. With the sun as a backdrop, they were featureless profiles. The cry of triumph was quickly followed by one of dismay. Someone in the rescue boat held aloft a dripping empty baby stroller with seaweed dangling from the wheels.
This dark flash fiction (exactly 250 words) was written as a challenge to include one or more of the following: pebbles, ribbon, gum wrapper, baby stroller, seaweed, straw, comb. As a smartass, I used all seven.
Dean let out a sigh as he settled himself in front of the old IBM Selectric. Completing death certificates could be tedious, yet there was something rewarding about getting every last detail correct. There were so many places to get hung up, but decades of small-town medical practice had refined his skills. He’d been working on this one for days, although he’d been anticipating it for some time. Some things were inevitable.
The state of Minnesota had moved to electronic death reporting, and many of the fields he’d been able to leave blank in his early days of practice were now required. The Office of Vital Statistics had streamlined and standardized the documentation of death, but the process wasn’t any easier. As county coroner, Dean had done enough of them, and no one was as familiar with the finer nuances as he. Things would not be the same with him leaving. So few physicians understood the importance of accuracy, and that included his well-intentioned successor. Proper death reporting was an under-appreciated art.
Continue reading The Good Doctor
Birth does not always call attention to itself. It is not necessarily a thing of beauty. There is not always screaming, although sometimes that simply comes later.
The stainless-steel kitchen sink was half full of water so cold the bare sides above were fogged and condensing. The shiny silver faucet was dotted with sweat, and droplets slid one by one into the pool of water below. Two recently clipped peonies floated on their petal heavy heads, their stems sticking straight up in the air like some sort of backward bouquet. Small groups of ants gathered in the green cup where the stem joined the blossom. Some had climbed the stem to hang precariously on upside-down leaves. Floating lifeless in the water were the casualties who had not made it from their places deep within the flower before the deadly flood reached them.
Continue reading Peony
Long ago the Earth was more wild, and the forest of the world held great power over humankind. The face of the world has changed, but some of this remains true.
In the shadows of Schwartzwald, the Black Forest, lived a powerful king known as Erlkönig, King of Alder. He stood over seven feet in height and was easily as majestic as any tree in his domain. His robe was the blue-gray color of mist. On his head he wore a crown of leaves, of a kind never found on any tree, perpetually held in the bright tints of autumn. He carried a staff as tall as himself, and although it could have been an imposing weapon, it was never needed. Erlkönig was one of the fair folk, and while human children saw a grand figure, their parents could see only an old gray willow, battered by the elements.
Alone in his vast forest, Erlkönig might have become quite lonely. Spotted woodpeckers, red deer, and badgers could participate in conversation on only a limited number of subjects, even such creatures as have been surrounded by magic. Foxes served him by choice rather than fear or obligation. Of humankind, the children were the most like him. They alone could laugh with abandon, and found pleasure in the simplest of things. Alas that human children grew up and took on the world’s troubles as responsibilities, extinguishing the spark within and blinding their eyes to his visage. It was the tragic fate of the human born. Their lives were short, and they lost all joy in the world so quickly. But he had a solution.
Continue reading Der Erlkönig