BCS #300

I’m running so far behind now that I thought about saving this for Monday, but I need to get my act together. Anyway, the new  Beneath Ceaseless Skies went live yesterday. Here’s the ToC:

The Hummingbird Temple—C.C. Finlay

Uzumaki of the Lake—Richard Parks

Bound by Sorrow—Maurice Broaddus

Additional stories go live April 2nd, including an audio version of Uzumaki. I’ll just note for those who keep track of these things that “Uzumaki of the Lake” is the first new Yamada Monogatari story since The Emperor in Shadow nearly four years ago.

Survival Skills

Slightly political. If that’s not your thing, turn back now. Fair warning.

Ahem. Yes, survival skills. Most of which I’ve been practicing for years without knowing it. Wash your hands? Absolutely. Social Distancing? That’s my default position. Never thought of it as a virtue, except in the sense that it’s almost the only way to get any writing done, but with COVID-19? Suddenly it’s a whole new hashtag.

Can we be honest here? Covid-19 is not even remotely at “The Stand” level bad, but it’s bad enough. Made worse by a WH that won’t tell the truth even when it really, really needs to do that. 45 (Mr. “I take no responsibility”) is clearly incapable of dealing with the situation nor wants to do so, except for how it might affect the stock market and re-election. So as a result, except for a few sane voices in the CDC and some state and local level entities on the ball, we’re pretty much on our own.

It really shouldn’t be this way, folks.

Take the disbanding of the US pandemic response team in 2018. The logic is that “we shouldn’t have people getting paid when we don’t need them” and that we could just rehire the people in an emergency.  The same logic would require disbanding the fire departments, since fires don’t happen all the time. Does anyone think that’s a good idea? It’s pure business logic, where having more people than  you need doesn’t make any financial sense. On the other hand, you get a fire? It’s too late to rehire and no time to retrain. The building’s burned down by then, and probably taken out most of downtown. Does anyone really believe we can reassemble and hire a trained pandemic team with experience and the right expertise on short notice? Does the WH even believe that? So why haven’t they already done it? We all know the answer.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Trying to run a government like a business is a really bad idea, because a government is not a business. It’s an entirely different skill set, with different goals and different expertise required.

Even a good businessman in that position is not a good idea. As to what we have now?

Again, we’re on our own.

 

 

So What’s Your Superpower?

Like most who do what I do, I started as a reader. The voracious sort, of anything I could get my hands on that had words on it. Fiction, non-fiction, cereal boxes, whatever. Comics were a big part of that.

Which brings me to “What’s Your Superpower?”

We’ve all seen that meme. “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Always a little tongue-in-cheek, but there’s a serious element to it because you can tell a lot about a person by what they desire. Once you eliminate the obvious and over-used (super strength, flying and such) it gets a lot more interesting. Things like “I want to time-travel at will” or “Solve any crossword in under ten seconds” are not unheard of. Anyone who wants “People to do what I say” probably needs counseling, or at least a safe distance. It’s a sort of mini-test for the state of your head.

Me, I’m torn between two. The first is that I’d like the power to understand and speak any language I hear, and read and write any language I see. Forget super-strength, I think this would be incredibly cool. Not especially heroic in the earth-saving sense, but certainly very useful. We’d finally know what the Phaistos Disk is talking about.

The second is dangerously close to the “People to do what I say” option above. I’ve even written a couple of pieces with this notion: I’d like the ability, for example when I’m hearing a politician speechifying or a preacher preaching, to simply say, “Tell the truth.”

And they would.

Now, I’m not talking about catching lies as such, though this would often do that. Just make them say what they really feel is true. Facts are facts, but the truth of facts is they are open to interpretation. Facts are what is, truth is what they mean. Facts are dispassionate; truth is personal. Does a person really mean what they say? Even when they’re spouting absolute nonsense? I figure we can sort out the nonsense on our own; that’s our job. Also doesn’t mean the person speaking isn’t a vile waste of oxygen, but at least we’ll know if they’re a sincere vile waste of oxygen.

It’s a good thing to know.

So what’s your superpower?

Flash Fiction: Invasive Species

I’ve chosen this portrait of Sheffield the Cat to illustrate the following. The reason will be clear enough later.

Again, I’m nose down on a story issue with no brain cells to spare. So this week’s blog post will be another piece of flash titled “Invasive Species.” The trigger word was “Arboreal.” I have no one to blame, really. It was my word.

 

Invasive Species

I’m watching the pitbull from a lovely old oak just across the neighbor’s fence. Nice place—plenty of green leaves to hide behind, plenty of dry leaves to build my crèche come fall. One or two limb holes where the beetles have cleared out the wood. Perfect for hiding acorns.

I think I’ll move in.

First thing’s first, though. There’s more at stake than my comfort. I show myself. The dog’s reaction is instantaneous and gratifying. Barking the tone I know means “Squirrel!” It’s a warning. Dogs know. They evolved here. They know who doesn’t belong and what to do about it. Fortunately for me, it’s a good strong fence and most of the acorns will come down on the neighbor’s side of that fence. They, on the other hand, don’t have so much as a goldfish. I know. I got a good look yesterday at their weekly supplies. Food and foot powder, mostly. One of them must have some world-class bunions, but I digress.

The barking means I can wake up the neighborhood any time I want, and they’ll blame the dog. This location is too strategic to pass up. I bark myself, but a proper bark, a squirrel’s bark. I get answered from the south, across Cedar Street. That’ll be Lukan. He’ll relay my new position to command. I should have approval by this evening. I’m one of many, spreading across the neighborhood day by day. Soon we’ll have it covered.

Tree rats, some call us. I prefer the term “Arboreal Warrior,” because that’s what we are. The indigenes think we’re natives because we’ve been here a long time. So have dolphins. Don’t get me started on those guys. Real party animals, but we don’t want the same habitat, thank the Maker. We’re persistent, but they’re wicked smart when they want to be. Fortunately for us, they just goof off in the ocean.

Now, if only the cats would do the same. I see one now, and I freeze, down close to the branch. A big gray queen, but I don’t think she saw me. Not sure which indigene family she’s with. She could be a free agent just passing through, but I’m not that lucky. Cats have been here as long as we have, and in some ways they’re doing better. They’re not trying to displace the indigenes; they’re developing a symbiotic relationship. They get fed and cared for, and all they have to do in return is look cute.

I can do cute. I just can’t resist chewing on the cables. The indigenes are way too fond of cables.

That cat could complicate things. They’re evolved hunters, and like my people with cables, they just can’t help themselves. Plus I suspect, now that they’re established, they’re not above helping the humans out.

No matter. We will prevail. We are patient. We are resourceful.

“There are a lot more of us,” I said aloud.

“Good. More for me,” said the big gray cat, grinning behind me.

Oops.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Liminal Conversation

Since I’m currently torn between conflicts and thus not able to concentrate properly on any of them, I’m posting a piece of flash fiction in lieu of having anything to say. Except in a story.

The key word, in case there was any doubt, was “liminal.”

 

 

Liminal Conversation

Tisha was looking thoughtful. That was nearly always trouble. Then she looked at me, and I knew that the trouble had arrived. “Why does no one use the word ‘liminal’ in normal conversation?”

Dinner was over. Dishes were done. Tisha’s focus was almost scary, but once we were finished with the mundanities of the day, then a brilliant mind has the chance to wander, and hers could wander further than most. There had been a time when such questions left me bewildered, but that was mostly because I had been both smitten and impertinent enough to want to understand the thought process going on behind those haunting green eyes. After a few years together, I had learned to just go with it. “I imagine there are people who do, yet I’m not surprised there isn’t more of it. You have to admit, it’s a fairly obscure word.”

“But why then? It’s so useful.”

I blinked. “Well, in the esoteric sense of useful….”

She dismissed that. “Rubbish. I’m not talking Schrodinger’s Cat, here, where you need to express whether the cat is in a state neither alive nor dead, but in a transitional non-state. I mean mundane things, like a bridge. Liminal is the best description for a bridge I’ve ever heard.”

“Because it’s neither one piece of land nor another?”

“Silly. Because it is by definition the transition from one place to another. Once you set foot or wheel on a bridge, you are literally in a liminal state, neither here nor there.”

“And that state doesn’t change until you reach one side or the other?”

“Exactly. And let’s not forget its cousin subliminal, which I’ll admit does get used more often, but only because it expresses a concept that is defined by the liminal root. Liminal in that sense meaning ‘barely at the doors of perception.’ Subliminal is something a part of your brain recognizes and acts on, even if the conscious mind has no idea why.”

“As in just below the liminal threshold, whereas a faintly red sky near sunrise is at the liminal threshold if you recognize that it’s red.”

“You got it. Now how about a dock? A transitional state between land and sea, or rather land and ship. Completely liminal.”

“Or a shading between the colors red and pink? Neither pink nor red?”

“Absolutely liminal. Or how else would you describe the state between one breath and the next? You’re probably going to take that breath, but if you didn’t then it’s not between one breath and the next, it’s between life and death.”

“Or a bottle that just needs to lose one more bubble of air before it sinks?”

She nodded. “Really, anything of that sort. See how useful it is?”

“I do.”

Tisha was looking thoughtful again. “Do we still have that bottle of zinfandel? I could go for a glass.”

“Me too. I’ll get it.”

Three repeats of “red” and one mention of bottle. Liminal? Very useful, but subliminal? Winner, hands down.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.