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.

Getting My Tuckerization On

Do I have to explain Tuckerization? Probably not to this crowd, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s when you put a real person in as a character in one of your stories/books. Popularized by the late Wilson  “Bob” Tucker who made a habit of it. While there are all kinds of legal implications for doing such a thing of your own accord (like revealing a real embarrassment about a real person in terms so thin anyone could figure out who you meant), it’s usually just for fun and with everyone’s cooperation. Charities will even raise money on the chance to be immortalized by being killed horribly in, say, a Stephen King novel.

In all my time making up stories I’ve never felt the need to do one, because that’s not the way I work.  All my characters emerge from whole cloth. And by “whole cloth” I mean they’re amalgams of my own inner landscape plus bits drawn from  everyone I’ve ever met in this life.

That is, until now.

I’ve spoken about the local flash fiction group I belong to. Every week (almost) I have to come up with a piece of flash in addition to whatever else I may be working on. Lots of stand alones, but one or two have turned into new series. One of those is about a pub called “The Black Dog,” a place which is sometimes there and sometimes not, with a rather…different, shall we say, clientele, aside from the normal humans who through fate or good (or bad) luck stumble across it. They’ve been fun to write and I’ll likely turn them into a collection when I have enough. Regardless, our group leader likes them so much she asked to be made into a character in one of the stories. I was so astonished at the idea that someone wanted to be in a story of mine that I agreed.

So next week I’ll be keeping my promise, in a character who literally doesn’t exist in a pub that sometimes exists. Writing is always hard work, but it’s fun, too.

Sometimes I can use that reminder.

It’s a Puzzle

Every week (except this one, since the Library is being renovated) the Flash Fiction group meets and we read our pieces out loud, based around a “trigger” (word, not warning) from the previous week. Last week’s word was “comely.” Our group leader pronounced it differently than I always had, even though it’s an “archaic” word not used often these days.

I’ll also note that most of the writers’ work at these parties fits on a single page. Mine almost never do. Why? I’m too big a fan of dialogue to let that happen. So here is last week’s flash to illustrate my point, an almost completely dialogue driven, totally imaginary conversation on the correct pronunciation of “comely.”

It’s a Puzzle

She: “Thirteen down, six letters, ‘having a pleasant appearance.’”

He: “Comely.”

She: “It fits, but I believe it is pronounced with a long o.”

He: “Why in the world would you rhyme it with ‘homely’ when it’s the antonym of homely?”

She (shrugging): “Easier to remember. Besides, I think I’m right.”

He: (Pausing to Google): “It’s neither right nor wrong. Merriam-Webster says both are correct.”

She: “Rubbish. They can’t both be correct. One is right so the other has to be wrong. Ergo, you’re wrong.”

He: “Let’s not get Latin involved in a simple pronunciation dispute. Actually, now that I look at the definition again, I am wrong.”

She (Smirking the tiniest bit): “Told you.”

He: “I was only wrong when I said both are correct. There’s actually a third way to pronounce it, but it looks Swedish.”

She: “I’ll leave the Latin out if you’ll leave the darn Swedes out. It’s not a Swedish word.”

He: “I said it looked Swedish. I look Irish but I’m actually Italian on both sides.”

She: “You’re actually annoying on both sides. And there has to be a correct way to pronounce that word.”

He: “Nope. Merriam-Webster says all three are acceptable. You want to argue with Merriam or Webster?”

She: “I’ll argue with anyone I know is wrong.”

He: “Should have stopped after ‘anyone.’”

She: “Smartass. Besides, it’s not acceptable to me, no matter what Merriam or Webster say. They’re both wrong, and according to you I should say it as if it rhymes with cum-ly? That borders on obscene.”

He: “I’m saying I pronounce it as if it rhymes with ‘bumb-ly.’ You can pronounce it however your perverted little heart desires.”

She: “Did I ever say I love it when you talk dirty? Well, I lied. It’s pronounced ‘combly,’ and that’s all there is to it. As in comb your hair, if comb was an adverb and not a noun or verb.”

He: “Did I ever say I love it when you do crosswords, because it’s a relaxing hobby?”

She: “Not once did you say that within my hearing, so I guess you didn’t lie. That is where you were going with that little bit of business, wasn’t it?”

He: “More like a bit without the business. In the sense of a comedy bit.”

She: “Then that bit didn’t do the business. In the sense of being funny.”

He: “You’re never going to finish that puzzle at this rate, you know.”

She: “It’s never about the destination, it’s always about the journey. A good discussion beats a bad puzzle any day.”

He: “I thought we were arguing.”

She: “You also thought that word rhymed with bumbly, so what do you know?”

He: “Can we just move on? What’s the next clue, because I obviously need one.”

She: “When you’re right, you’re right. Fifteen across, nine letters: Unyielding or inflexible.”

He: “Obstinate.”

She: “That doesn’t sound right.”

He: “I’m staying out of this. Look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls’.”

 

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.