An interview with Yertle, Former King of all Sala-ma-Sond 

YTT_largeFollowing the dethroning of King Yertle, the residents of the pond returned to their idyllic life, unaware of how much things would change once their new king, Mack, was coronated.  It seems that while King Mack’s aspirations were not as lofty as those of the previous ruler, he nevertheless had plans for the pond-dom that would soon lead to ruin.

In an attempt to make sense of the events that followed the regime change, I contacted Yertle the Turtle, former King of all Sala-ma-Sond, who agreed to set the record straight.

Me: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Your Highness.

Former King Yertle: *winces* Please, just ‘Yertle’ is fine.  I am a private citizen now earning an honest living providing much-needed mud products to my fellow turtles.

Me: Of course, thank you, Yertle.  It’s just that this is my first interview with royalty and I’m a bit nervous.

Yertle: Understandable.  I was quite the imposing figure in my day, but again, I’m merely another turtle in the pond now.  Not that there are many left after the mess Mack made of things.

Me: Yes, about that… What happened?

Yertle: Honestly, it all transpired so quickly, I’m still a bit fuzzy.  One moment I was King of all Sala-ma-Sond, exalted higher than any turtle has ever been, adored and respected by my subjects and wielding power rivaled only by the Great A’Tuin, and then, suddenly, I was nothing, coated in the most amazing restorative mud–available online at KingMud.com–and Mack was perched on my throne, belching like a cretin.  It was frankly the most disgusting display I had ever seen.

Me: That must have been hard for you.  Did you anticipate what would happen next?

Yertle: Of course I did! I caught a glimpse of the creature as the moon rose over my head.  I’m still slightly peeved about that, I must say. The nerve! In any case, I saw the huge shape approaching but there was nothing I could do.  Mack wouldn’t allow my beautiful throne to be rebuilt and there was no other way to verify what I had seen.

Me: How did the pond-dom react to your news and specifically, what did King Mack do to prepare?

Yertle: Nothing.  *sniffs*  They didn’t believe me. They actually thought that all I cared about was power. As if I hadn’t given my entire existence to serving my pond-dom as king for the majority of my life.

Me: Did King Mack make any preparations at all?

Yertle: *laughs* Of course not.  The only talent the usurper had was belching the alphabet and writing his name in the snow with his own urine. *pauses* That last bit is kind of impressive for a turtle, but still, he’s nothing but a fool.

Me: Wait… I thought that King Mack–

Yertle: *interrupts* Please stop calling him that.  He is no more King than I am a parrot. Sure, he sits on my throne and wears a cat-tail circlet that his mother made for him, but he’s no King.  

Me: Uh, okay, so didn’t… didn’t Mack’s greed destroy the pond?

Yertle: Greed?  That simpleton doesn’t have a greedy spot on his shell.  Oh, and speaking of shell spots, Yertle’s Miracle Mud–patent-pending–fades imperfections and restores your shell to its original youthful appearance.  Only $59.99 for a year supply!

Me: So, how did the pond come to ruin?  What happened?

Yertle:  What happened? Why, nothing.  Except that a kaiju arose from the depths and destroyed the entirety of Sala-ma-Sond while Mack lit his own farts on fire.

Me: …

Yertle: Oh, don’t look so surprised.  Kaiju are nothing new to Sala-ma-Sond.  They normally leave us in peace–we are, after all, only turtles–but this time was different.  It seems that the creature was in a foul mood because all of Mack’s idiotic admirers had begun imitating his disgusting displays of flatulence. The stench alone drove the creature to seek out our pond-dom specifically and destroy it. Only the restorative powers of my therapeutic aromatherapy calming mud were able to sway the creature from annihilating us in our entirety.  It seems kaiju don’t have access to the internet for shopping. You could say that I saved us.

Me: You saved the pond?

Yertle: Well, admittedly not the whole pond.  I mean, it did take me some time to discern what would be the best product to help the kaiju get a good night’s sleep for a change.  The poor thing had only gotten a few centuries and was frightfully grumpy.

Me:  Well that’s… that’s a story we hadn’t yet heard.  Do you have any designs on reclaiming the throne?

Yertle: *laughs* No, I’m done with all that.  I have found a modicum of joy in mud and plan to climb to heights never before seen as a purveyor of these quality products. Be sure to visit KingMud.com for our complete listing.

Me: Thank you for speaking with me and I’ll be sure to check out your website.

Yertle: I have a sample of the restorative mud used to calm the kaiju.  Would you care to try it?

Me: Oh, yes!  Thank you.

This has been Tawn Krakowski reporting to you from Sala-ma-Sond.  Thank you for reading.

Repeat! (a microstory)

“Did you hear that?” I whispered, my eyes drinking in the darkness surrounding the car.

He stopped kissing my neck long enough to mumble a distracted “No” before returning his attention to my skin.

Thump.

“There it is again!” I crowed and then quickly lowered my voice, not wanting to alert whatever had made the sound to my presence.

He sighed and sat back, listening in annoyance. After a moment, he said, “I don’t hear anything.”

Thump. Thump.

His eyes widened. “Wait…”

Thumpthumpthump.

The sound began to repeat, its frequency and volume increasing as if it were getting closer. And closer.

“I’m creeped the fuck out,” I hissed. “Let’s get out of here.”

“You don’t have to ask twice,” he said under his breath as he scrambled half-dressed over the seat back and positioned himself behind the wheel. He wrenched the key in the ignition, but the car only clicked.

“What the–”

THUMPTHUMPTHUMP

The sound was so loud now that it drowned out the beating of my heart in my throat. I couldn’t see anything beyond the rolled-up windows, no matter how intently I stared into the darkness.

The driver’s side door flew open and something blacker than the night slid into view for an instant, and then both the man and the creature were simply gone.

“Damn it,” I spat.

I got out of the car, slamming the door in irritation, and stomped to the hood. Reconnecting the battery took almost no time at all, in direct opposition to the difficulty I had disconnecting it on the sly in the first place. Thankfully, it was usually easy to entice a man to look under the hood of a ’76 Firebird; even a man who couldn’t tell a battery from an oil pan.

I closed the hood and sighed. I had almost seen it this time. I guess I’d just have to try again.

Imprisoned: A Micro Story

In an effort to up my game and get back in the swing of things, I’ve decided to write an occasional micro-story from a roll of the Story Cube dice. This is one such exercise.

Story Cubes: Hand or palm, Tower, Apple, Alien, Lightbulb, the letter L, Fountain, Moon, Flower

 

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Photo by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

She sighed and rested her chin in her palm as she gazed out the open window onto the lush fields below.  Flowers swayed in the breeze, glittering like diamonds as the dew on their petals caught the faint light of the crescent moon.  Leaves rippled as the wind played in the orchard, the apple trees lined up at attention, as stiff and reticent as the Imperial Guard.

She sighed again as she pushed herself away from the window and padded across the room, ornate rugs muffling the sound of her bare feet. Her quarters in the Tower were luxurious, if cramped. Exotic textiles from all corners of the Empire were brought to make her imprisonment comfortable, as befitting a woman of her status. But that did not change the fact that she was confined to this gilded cage for the unlikeliest of reasons: love, with a capital L.

Recalling the day they met still brought a flutter to her stomach. She had just returned from a hunt and stopped at the fountain to water her horse as she had, once again, overtaxed the poor beast. A loud bang startled her as she handed the reins to a groom. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so she began to search for the source of the noise. Rounding a corner within the palace, she nearly bowled over a figure crouching to pick up the shattered remains of a lightbulb.

The figure rose, locked eyes with her, and she was lost. She fell into the depths of those eyes, frozen, mesmerized. It was only an instant, but she now belonged heart and soul to the creature before her. Spindly grey fingers wrapped around her own and the alien led her away in silence. They had almost reached the spaceship when the Imperial Guard captured her and dragged away from her Love. She had since been left to rot in the Tower Cell, her Empire forgotten as she pined each day for the alien to return for her.

A Limited Treatise on Why I Hate My Cat Right Now

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How can I hate all that cuteness?  Easy.

It’s 5 AM.

Can’t my cat read time?  Should I get her a wristwatch?  I don’t know.  I’m too tired to puzzle it out this early.

I am not a morning person.  I have never been a morning person.  I hate morning people.  Waking up before noon is a sign of mental illness.  If I did not have a family that forces me to keep a schedule that matches theirs, I would become fully nocturnal and sleep the days away.

My cat, however, is a morning person.

I tried to ignore the incessant caterwauling coming from the twenty pounds of annoying stuffed into five pounds of fur-covered noise.  I really tried.  But alas, the cat knows that the threat of her singing the song of her people to my daughter is usually enough to get me up.  One small irritating creature at a time, thank you very much.

I suppose I should be grateful that she doesn’t keep me up all night zooming around the house like a tiny F-16 with unlimited fuel following the orders of overzealous generals with ADHD.  I should be grateful.  But I’m not.  I’m too damn tired.

To stop the noise, I trudged like a rotting reanimated corpse down the stairs and slid open the glass door to free the beast.  Did she appreciate this?  No.  She only cares about herself, the narcissistic furball.

As I sit here barely conscious, I recognize that this is the best time to let the cat roam in our postage stamp of a backyard.  The heat of the day hasn’t yet fallen over the backyard like an electric blanket set to char-broil, the paver stones are not yet baked to a temperature approaching that of lava, and the birds–the adorable little hummingbirds not the obnoxious mourning doves–are whizzing happily around the patio, high on the sugar water from my feeder.

But that fact does not make rolling out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn any easier.  I wonder if cats can learn how to make coffee?

Story Cubes Writing Practice: The Exam

My daughter has a set of dice called Story Cubes, which she uses to tell us fanciful stories before bed.  It didn’t take long for me to see the benefit of using these dice to practice my own storytelling skills.  And since this is my blog and I do what I want, I decided to share these little stories with you.

My roll:  House, Teepee, Phone, Beetle, Sheep, Flashlight, Magic wand, Direction/wheel (compass), Tree

THE EXAM

“Oh, for the love of—” Sheep swore, ending the call with a decidedly unsatisfying stab of her hoof at the red image on the phone.  She had been in a snit all morning, and being unable to reach Beetle since dawn had not helped matters.  Only the thought of kicking his shiny carapace into next week seemed to soothe her temper.
She stomped around the house, making a point of ignoring how the gingham curtains and cozy, overstuffed chairs that decorated her cottage normally put her in a better mood.  Sheep was so intent on being annoyed by Beetle’s insufferably lackadaisical attitude about her very real concerns, that it slipped her mind to check in again with Gus at Flying Squirrel Cargo.
Honestly, that insect couldn’t find his thorax with a compass and a flashlight, she silently groused, slamming the phone down on the faux granite counter.  They needed to meet Buffalo at his Teepee by noon, and traffic is always a mess, and all of this was just too much stress for her.  She didn’t need Beetle and his ‘just relax, Sheepie, we got this’ hippie talk grating on her very last nerve all the way past the Heart Tree and back.  Not today.  Today was too important and she was not about to let one annoying insect get in the way of her god given happiness.
“Yo, Sheepie!” came a bright call from her porch.  “We should probably get a move on if you want to hang with Buffalo today.  That dude has no chill, right?  I keep tellin’ him his chakras are whack, but does he listen?  No, he does not.  He just—”
“Let’s go,” Sheep interrupted him as she swept through the cheery red front door and turned smartly to lock it behind her.
“Hey, Sheepie, I was think—”  Beetle began, his antennae spread wide in friendliness.
“I said let’s go.”  Sheep cut him off again, channeling her anger into the biting tone of her words.  “I swear, Beetle, if you make me late again…”
“Nah, nah, Sheepie.  We’ve got all the time in the world, right?  The Universe will provide,” he rubbed his front legs together apologetically, and follow the clearly annoyed Sheep to his Volkswagon.  “Besides, it’s not like the old guy is going to fail you if you’re just a little late, right?”
This was exactly the wrong thing to say to Sheep.  She whirled around and glared at Beetle, hooves on her hips.  In a low voice, she spat, “Get. In. The. Car. Right now, before I do something I’m going to enjoy thoroughly before they lock me away in the Big Barn.”
Cowed, Beetle did as she demanded, silently starting up the little car and pulling out of the driveway.  Once headed in the right direction, however, it didn’t take long for his usual cheerful attitude to creep back.  “So, Sheepie, I was just talking to Gus, and—”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she muttered under her breath.  “I completely forgot to check in with Gus.”  To Beetle, she replied, “Just drive.  I don’t have it in me to chit-chat on the way to my exam.  I swear, if I don’t pass today, I’m holding you personally responsible.  You know how hard I have been working to even get the chance to test with Buffalo.  I really can’t even think about anything else right now.”  Even as the words left her mouth, she knew it wasn’t true.  She had been obsessing about the delivery ever since she was notified that it had shipped two days ago, and her studies had suffered accordingly.  She wasn’t confident in her magic, and she was terrified that Buffalo would see right through her illusions.  And she blamed Beetle, just like she always did.
Beetle  shrugged and decided not to finish his thought.  The Universe will provide, he mused to himself, carefully driving just under the posted speed limit.  It always doesEven when you forget to pay shipping on your new magic wand.

Zen and the Art of Typewriter Adaptation: The Beginning

     Ever since I was young, I’ve had an affinity for typewriters.  As a preschooler, I would occasionally go to work with my mother, a radiology tech, and play for hours with one of the hospital’s electric typewriters.  The clickety-clack of the keys, the weight of them on my fingers, felt… right.  I may have been too young to type in complete sentences, or much more than my name really, but I think this may have been an early manifestation of my desire to write and I would type out my name over and over again like Jack in The Shining without the homicidal insanity. Mostly.
     I was a whiz in my high school typing class.  I may not have been the quickest, but I was certainly the most accurate.  I played the oboe the same way.  My fingers were not very nimble, but I was able to produce lovely music, earning primarily first place medals in school solo/ensemble contests.
     Recently, I purchased a Spectre X2 convertible laptop so that I could be more mobile when writing.  It’s light and thin and I love it, but there was still something missing.  The keys feel better than writing longhand–hell, anything feels better than that–but there is still something that doesn’t quite work for me.  Just the other day, I realized what it was: the noise.  Or rather, the lack of noise.  I seem to have a hard time “getting in the zone” without some background noise.
     Looking back, I realize that sound was always a part of how I worked.  I would have the television on for background noise while I was lost in my head writing term papers, but I never got the hang of taking notes during a lecture.  Every time I tried, I missed important points while concentrating more on making my handwriting legible than whatever the professor might be saying.  I can’t listen and write at the same time, but noise seems to help me access my thoughts more easily.
     Somehow, somewhere along the way I had lost that critical part of my writing process.  Now, whenever I listen to music I usually just end up singing along instead of working.  The television has become a time-sucking nightmare thanks to all the good shows available on Netflix.  And my beloved Spectre, well, it has access to Facebook and I’m weak.  So very, very weak.  I have, however, found a solution.  It is possible to convert a manual typewriter into a computer keyboard!
     And so my journey begins.  I have purchased a 1950s-ish Royal Keystone typewriter, cleaned it—okay, mostly just dusted it–, and have conscripted my wonderful, computer genius husband into helping me transform it into a Retro Writing Tool of Awesomeness!
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I’m so pretty!

     Stay tuned for updates on my progress and happy St. Patrick’s Day, my homesnakes!

Finding My Way Back

“Hello.

It’s been a while.

I’ve missed you.”

This is what I’d say to my muse if I had the courage to reach out. Sometimes keeping in touch with my creativity gets away from me, and before I know it, it’s been so long that I feel awkward just trying to make a connection out of the blue.

What if it’s busy? I don’t want to be a distraction. What if it has moved on to some other author who lavishes it with attention? What if it hates me for neglecting it? What if it’s gone? Gone…forever?

It would serve me right for treating my inspiration that way. Always pushing it to the side, expecting it to be true while receiving no loyalty in return, callously allowing it to wither in the darkness. I couldn’t blame it for turning its back on me, seeking comfort with another. The fault is entirely my own.

But what if it hasn’t left? Would my muse welcome me back? Would it even speak to me after I treated it so?

I have to know. I can wait no longer. I close my eyes, breathe in deeply, lightly run my fingertips along the keys…

…and we connect.

Relief washes over me and ideas spring to life as we chat like old friends over coffee. No judgement. No admonishments. Only a warm embrace and a bouyant hope that we will never again be so long without one another.

It is only now that I realize that, without me, my muse does not exist. For what is inspiration without someone to inspire? However, without creativity, a part of me is missing, like a flash of lighting without thunder rumbling in its wake. I’m incomplete. Empty. Unfulfilled.

I don’t wish to feel that way again. I said I missed my muse, but that statement doesn’t capture the ache of knowing something isn’t quite right but not being able to put your finger on it. The tightness in your chest when you’ve lost something–something important–but what it is remains elusive. The drudgery of dragging yourself through days, weeks, sometimes months of mind-numbingly ordinary activities with a piece of yourself absent.

I reach out and grasp my muse by the hand. No more will I be alone on this journey. We are one once again. And together, we will dream, tell stories, and create.

Reach out to your muse. Find that piece of your soul that makes you feel alive and once you do, don’t ever let it go. Live, love, dream, create. Trust me, you won’t regret it.