Friday, February 22, 2013

A Better Alternative

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“Hi, Val.”

Valerie tossed her dishtowel toward the sink, cradling the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she wrestled with the bowl she had been drying.

“Hi, Chris. How are you?”

“I’m not sure. I’m fine—I think, but I just did something totally wild,” came a voice at once nervous and exultant.

“What’s up?” Valerie put the bowl down on the counter and, pulling a kitchen chair out, sat down. This sounded like it could take a while.

“I just locked Sarah and Bonnie in the shed.”

For a second, the world held its breath.

“You did what?”

Sitting was a good idea, thought Valerie. Otherwise, she might have fallen over. Sarah and Bonnie barely exchanged pleasantries when they met. They tried not to meet, but in a small church, it was hard to avoid the occasional contact.

“I locked …”

“Yes, I heard that, but what on earth did you do that for?”

“They need to talk to each other and sort out their issues, and since they wouldn’t do it on their own, I decided to help facilitate their reconciliation.”

“Facilitate their reconciliation? By locking them in the shed?”

“It will force them to face their problems and communicate with each other.”

That theory had some holes, but Valerie’s curiosity about the shed won out over logical, or illogical, conclusions.

“How did you get them both into the same shed at the same time?” Valerie asked.

“Well, you know how they both admire those old gardening tools that I have out there. They are both into shabby chic. So I invited them to come out and have a look.”

“They came together?”

If they had, that would have been a small crack in the ice wall that existed between the two women. Maybe there was some chance Chris’s crazy plan would work.

“No, I roped my darling daughter, Mitzy, into meeting Bonnie at the gate and bringing her in the back way. I took Sarah in the front, and then we both scooted out and barred both doors behind us. They’ll have to sort out the problem before I let them out.”

Valerie took a deep breath. “Chris, I think there is a law against kidnapping and holding people against their will. Besides, you left Bonnie and Sarah within grabbing distance of sharp instruments? You’d better pray that those weapons of grass destruction don’t turn into anything more dangerous.”

“Oh, come on, Val. They are Christians, after all. They surely won’t do each other injury. You don’t really think they would, do you?”

Chris was beginning to wonder if her plan had not only been ill-advised, but dangerous. The exasperation in Valerie’s voice caused her “facilitating” friend some doubts.

“Why not?” chided Val, “They have already done injury to themselves and to the rest of the church by not resolving whatever this problem is that they have between them. There aren’t too many more steps to take before the cold war heats up. Besides, how do you know they are even sorting things out? Do they know what it is they are supposed to be doing in the shed? They could be hatching a plot on how to escape, or planning how to freeze you out of their world when they do get out. Instead of Bonnie and Sarah not talking, it will be Bonnie, Sarah, and Chris not talking. How will that have helped the situation?”

Dead air reigned once more as Chris chewed on Valerie’s words.

“But I was only trying to help, honest. It never occurred to me that they might not even know why I had locked them in the shed. It seemed obvious to me.”

However, you’re not the one with the unforgiving spirit clouding your vision, thought Valerie.

“Chris, have ever actually talked to Bonnie and Sarah about how this problem is affecting them and damaging the church?”

“Well, no.”

“Well, neither have I, so I don’t have much room to criticize. I’m going to hang up now. I’ll be at your place in ten minutes. We will go into the shed together, you will explain why you suffered this momentary lapse of judgment and we will, Lord willing, sit down at your kitchen table, have a nice cup of coffee together and talk this out. Hopefully, Bonnie and Sarah will be so mad at you that they will look at each other more favourably.”

“What should I do while I’m waiting?” asked Chris.

“Pray, sister, pray.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Would The Real Devil Please Stand Up

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“Listen to this! ‘These little cannibals have bad-tempers and will fly into a maniacal rage if threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending their dinner.’ They gotta have a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock to publish this stuff. Gross exaggeration, that’s what it is.”

A sharp flick of the rat-eared magazine added emphasis to Tom’s words.

“Easy on, Tom, your ears are turning red and you’re scaring the ankle biters.” Trixie pushed one of her remaining young into her pouch with a not too gentle shove. “It’s not as if it isn’t true, is it? You’re grouchy most of time."

“And you’re not grouchy? Who are they to point their useless, wimpy appendages at us. Humans fly into rages ‘if threatened by a predator’ too. We got driven off the North Island—and it wasn’t chauffeured in any Yank tank either, was it? Mark my words; it won’t be long before we go the way of the tigers…”

Trixie could tell that Tom was just warming up. His ears were the colour of ripe cherries and their tree hollow began to fill with an unpleasant smell—and it wasn’t from the rotting carcass her mate had uncovered and eaten last night. The devil was in the “Devil.”

“ …As far as fighting for a mate is concerned, those drongos do that too.”

It had been a big mistake to go through the garbage at the campsite. The magazine had been wrapped around a rather tasty bit of dog’s eye. Unfortunately, the grease had not soiled the article on Tasmanian wildlife.

Trixie admitted that hers was a violent community, though she kept herself to herself, as did most of her kind. Then again, humans killed their own young too. Maybe Tom had a point—those people had no business criticizing. Personally, she resented being called a "devil." Trixie wasn’t sure exactly what that was, but the fear and disgust that lent emotion to the word spoke volumes. Lost in her thoughts, Trixie hadn’t realized that Tom was silent. She looked over to his corner of the hollow. Her mate had fallen into a state of tupor. She kept still, knowing that the slightest movement would instantly rouse him to full alertness. He appeared dead but appearances were deceiving.

If people left us alone we wouldn’t…

A sharp sneeze sounded from outside the hollow. Immediately, Tom’s mouth stretched wide showing 42 lethal weapons ready for action. Fear? Uncertainly? They couldn’t see, but they could hear growling, the sure signal of a fight about to take place. Tom, taking the lead, poked his nose out into the night. In the shadows cast by a full moon glowing through the trees, he saw two forms locked in deadly combat. The snarling, snapping, and growling grew fierce and Tom drew back into the safety of the hollow.

“Who is it?” asked Trixie.

“Buzz. He’s finishing off old Charlie.”

“Isn’t he the one with all those lumps around his mouth? Poor old duffer hasn’t eaten in weeks.”

“That’s the one. Some kind of disease.* I hope Buzz doesn’t get more than indigestion from old Charlie.”

Trixie paused, lost in the thought of the carnage outside her door.

“I guess that magazine is right, then.”

“What?” said Tom.

“Buzz just killed Charlie and is probably feasting on his bones. I’d guess that makes us cannibals just like they say.”

“Trixie,” Tom shouted, ears suddenly darkening to the colour of old blood. “I’m getting fed up to the back teeth with you. We’re supposed to be violent, mean, and without conscience—we’re the animals. They, on the other hand, are supposed to be improving into something better. We’ve got an excuse—which is more than can be said for them.”

Tom’s mate shook her head in solemn assent.

“Now that’s the duck’s guts. I guess the devil is in the details.”

Kangaroos loose in the top paddock = the lights are on but nobody’s home, a few bricks short of a load, not all there
Ankle-bi = meat pie
Drongo = stupid, dimwit, a fool
North Island = mainland Australia
Yank Tank = an American car
Tigers = the extinct Tasmanian tiger, a relative of the Tasmanian devil
Duffer = silly person
Fed up to the back teeth = losing patience
Duck’s guts = the heart of the matter

*Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), which threatens the survival of the Tasmanian devil population

Friday, February 8, 2013

Illusions, Delusions and Conclusions

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“Don’t just lie there; talk to me.”

“Go away, can’t you see I’m crushed. It’s too late.”

“It’s never too late. Here, I found this big chunk and …” the man paused as he carefully placed the piece he had picked up near the base of the wall, “…I think it goes right here.”
The speaker gingerly bent down in an effort to get closer to the ground without crunching any more of the myriad of shell pieces scattered around him.

“Forget it,” moaned the object of his compassion.

“Not until you tell me which one of the stories about you is true. I’m not going to let you ooze away until you do.” The soldier, for that’s what he was, put another piece in place.

“What stories?”

“Well, there’s the one about the cannon. They say the Roundheads were giving the Royals a really rough time of it…”

“I know about Kansas City, but who do the Roundheads play for?” came the feeble interjection.

“Save your strength and let me finish.” Not waiting for a reply, the man continued to talk and to look for pieces that fit the broken puzzle lying on the ground.

“Anyway, the Roundheads had laid siege to Colchester and the Royals had mounted this huge cannon on the wall beside the church bell tower. Course the wall couldn’t stand up to the constant battering. The Roundheads took out the tower and the wall—down came the cannon. The Royals couldn’t put it back together no matter what they did.”

“Nope, that’s not the story I grew up with.” The shattered shell on the ground took a ragged breath. Keeping himself together, what little there was left of him, was getting harder.

“Then you were the one-eyed gunner who was up there firing the cannon?”

“Nope, not him either.”

The soldier scooped up some yellow matter and gently placed it inside a cup-like bit of skull.

“At least this stuff is prettier than what I usually have to collect,” he said to himself, thinking of all the grey matter he had been exposed to during his military career.

“What was that?” said the dying orb.

Embarrassed that he’d been heard, the man quickly moved to the next question.

“Okay if it isn’t that one, how about the one about this Cardinal Wolsey who couldn’t manage to get King Henry a divorce, so he lost his job at court and got sent down to his country home in disgrace.”

The disaster lying on the ground, grunted. “Do I look like a prince of the church to you?”

“Well,” admitted the soldier, “not now. But you did fall from a high place and end your career badly.” He carefully applied a bit of spit to his repair job.

“Yuk, be careful where you put that,” exclaimed the victim.

“Then you have to be Prince Humperdinck, right?” his helper continued.

“Now that’s a yoke,” came a weak laugh. “I told you I wasn’t a Cardinal, and now you want to make me a prince?”

“Well, the story fits, doesn’t it? They say there was this prince from some obscure country in Europe who liked to walk along the walls of his father’s castle. Trouble was, he must have been given to daydreaming or something. Anyway, one day he fell off. Broke every bone in his body. Does that sound familiar?” For a moment, the man thought the poor creature beside him had finally passed. There was no sound, certainly no movement, from the mangled mess before him.

“Hey, Humpty, answer me. You can’t quit yet,” the soldier urged.

“Why not?” came back the answer. “You know how the story ends, so why bother with the futile repair job. Just let me go.”

“Because I don’t know how the story started. My mother always said I had a curious streak. You know; taking clocks apart to find out how they ticked …”

Humpty laughed. “Now I know why you’re insisting on fixing me. Tell me, how many pieces were left over after you got your clocks back together?”

“Ah, Humpty, come on, tell me. We’re running out of time here.”

“Alright, alright. Then maybe you’ll let me die in peace. It’s the bar story.”

“Bar story?”

“Yeah, a Humpty Dumpty was a drink made of brandy boiled in ale.”

“No cannon or cannoneer?”


No cardinal?”


“No prince?”

“Nope, just falling down drunk.”

“I’m shattered,” sighed the soldier.

“No, I’M shattered. Now will you go away and let this story finish?” replied the egg.