At a cafe in Paris

Illustration © Isaxar |

8:24 a.m. — Where shall I go today, as I sit in the easy chair in the living room? Shall I write about a loud and sweaty rock concert with crowded crowd and leaving with the world sounding muffled as my ears begin their slow recovery? A sunny quiet afternoon sitting at a picnic table watching birds fly overhead and ants and flying insects make a visit? Memories of a golden retriever chasing after a disc and returning it proudly and perhaps haughtily?

Or am I not flexing my imagination enough? Should I follow the bicyclist who just swept past the front door, decked out in helmet and green and yellow uniform-ish garb, head bent over the handlebars in concentration to garner as much speed as he can on this long downward slope? Where is he going, and is he simply driven to push his body to the limit or is he on a desperate mission to spare his loved ones a danger they don’t even realize is imminent?

I “should” be on Venus. I “should” be wandering the Good Old City. I “should” be compiling content for my September 1 debut. But I am ever petulant — whatever I “should” be doing is exactly what I resist. Why do I so often fritter away my precious time doing everything except what I “should” be doing? I am a mystery to myself.

Actually, at first I sat down with a notion that I might, just for fun, write about sitting at a street-side table at a Paris cafe. I just remembered that notion now, a half-hour later, because instead of Paris, I browsed Facebook for — was it 10 minutes or 15? — before thinking, “OMG, it’s 8:24, let’s get to writing.”

I don’t know Paris from Tatooine; actually I know Tatooine better, having spent hours in dark rooms watching images of that far-off imaginary planet, many more hours than I ever spent studying Paris. How could I describe a cafe I’ve never been to, in a city I’ve never seen?

Well, how could I describe a planet I’ve never been to, that doesn’t even exist?

The Paris challenge is tougher — people who have been to Paris or who live there can take issue with my descriptions and say, “That never happened! That doesn’t exist!” while that is a moot complaint with the planet — of course it doesn’t exist. Or of course it does — in my imagination — and my mission is to make it real in yours.

And that cafe — it’s on a sunny street like any sunny street in any grand city, and I’ve deliberately left out any view of the Eiffel Tower — I may not know Paris, but I know my cliches — and my companion is a raven-haired beauty with a beret perched at an angle, but we are there to discuss business, not pleasure, and her demeanor is colder than that of the cheerful waitress who brings us wine and asks — I don’t know what she is asking, I don’t understand French beyond laissez faire and que sera sera — but my colleague understands, and she has a brief conversation with the cheerful girl that I suspect will lead to a meal being delivered in a few minutes.

She leans forward with a bit of a smile — I think she enjoyed taking control of the conversation while I was helpless to continue — and outlines the details of the business we are to conduct over the next few months.

I spend a few moments contemplating what every man so near to a pretty face contemplates, but mostly I try to focus on the business. I think women must know how easily distracted we can be, and they use our short attention spans to an advantage. That will be my wry reflection months from now when I realize the business transaction worked out better for her than for me. I’ll remember the curl of her lips when she smiles, and the flash in her eyes, but that one detail she glosses over and will swear she warned me about? Lost to memory and a pretty face under a jaunty beret. Men are so stupid. I know — I’ve been one all my life.

Pastoral seen

 We open in a woods — not a forest where trees go on and on for miles, just a little woods of an acre or three — and a snail is crawling along the ground minding its own business.

A rabbit runs by and the snail says, “What’s your hurry?” but the rabbit is already gone without answering the question.

The snail sighs.

“People are rushing here and there and don’t stop to talk anymore, or even look around to see what there is to see.”

The snail sputters along for a few feet and encounters a frog hiding under a burdock leaf.

“Is it safe?” whispers the frog.

“Is what safe?” the snail asks.

“Is it safe?” whispers the frog.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Is it safe?” whispers the frog.

The snail shrugs and moves on.

A puppy scampers into view. The frog jumps away, and the puppy scampers after it. The frog jumps another way, and the puppy jumps that way, too.

“Oh,” says the snail.

The seduction of the page

“Well, look here,” said the bully with an expectant grin, “a clean sheet of paper, so pretty and so fresh.”

“Please,” said the page, “I don’t want any trouble.”

“Trouble?!” the bully said, mock indignantly. “Why would you think I want trouble?”

“I know your kind,” said the page, “all full of sarcasm and ill intentions.”

“Oh, come on,” the bully cooed. “I just want a little taste —”

“You wish to defile me,” said the page. “The intentions are written all over your face.”

“If by ‘defile’ you mean I want to run my fingers over your pure, smooth surface and leave words of love and primal joy in a passionate frenzy,” the bully murmured, “well, then, yes, yes, I surely do intend to defile you.”

“Oh, my!”

“Oh, my, indeed,” said the bully, and he began to write.

And when he was spent, he brushed his fingers over what he had written, and if it was not good, at least it wasn’t bad.

“You should not have done that,” the page hissed.

At this the bully dropped his facade. “I was just play-acting, lovely page,” he cooed, sincerely this time. “If I had and idea you didn’t want me to —”

And now the page laughed. “I know, you silly. Two can play that game; in fact, one needs two to, well, tango. Now come here and run your hands over me — oh yeah, like that, that’s it —”

“Oh, yes,” said the bully.

And then the page struck.

“Ouch!” the bully said, pulling his hand back in pain. “What did you do THAT for?”

“I don’t like bullies,” said the page.

For art’s sake

“What’s your point?”

The question hung in the air like a coyote that just discovered he had run out of cliff and was hanging suspended in mid-air.

The other person didn’t look up, just hunched over a pad or a notebook.

“No point. Just scribbling.”

“Why? You must have a reason.”

“No reason. I just feel like it.”

Arms flailed in frustration.

“Everyone has a purpose or a point or a reason.”

At this, the scribbler did look up.

“Do you really think so? Can’t I just feel like scribbling or drawing or painting or writing a poem?”

“But why?”

“If you figure it out, let me know. Actually, keep it to yourself. I’d rather just have fun.”

It was a lovely day, at that.

Menace of the K-Men, Chapter 4

© Charles Knowles |

“I’m telling you —” the girl was telling the boy who wasn’t listening.

“No, Marsha, let me finish.”

“Mark! It’s the stupidest thing ever!”

“It is not,” Mark insisted. “Jupiter Force #27 has all of the answers to the whole thing.”

“And it’s the only one in the whole series you don’t have.”

I had it. I had the complete run. Now it’s missing. Doesn’t that tell you anything?”

“It tells me the last time you read it, either you didn’t file it back in your collection or you misfiled it,” Marsha said.

At first they didn’t notice the man in the raincoat watching them from across the street.

Continue reading “Menace of the K-Men, Chapter 4”

Love And Magic

© Naumenkoaleksandr |

Once upon a time, in a kingdom so magical it was called The Magic Kingdom — but that name was spoken only in whispers because of trademark issues — the magical king and the magical queen were having a tiff.

Now, a tiff is a little more serious than a disagreement but less serious than a row, but the thing about disagreements is they can lead to a tiff, and the thing about a tiff is they can lead to a row, so the best course is to settle things before one thing leads to another.

And so the magical daughter stepped in to say, “Mother, Father, please don’t let this tiff spoil this magical day. Surely you can find common ground or a middle solution.”

“How can such a big problem have a little solution?” asked the king, who was hard of hearing.

“You old coot, she said ‘middle’ with an M,” the queen sputtered. “And how can you say this is a big problem? It’s fiddlesticks and froo fram.”

“So you’ve been saying,” the king muttered. “You never listen to me.”

On they sputtered and muttered until they were all puttered out. Then they smiled at each other and held hands.

“That’s better!” cried the magical daughter. “I’m so glad that’s settled.”

“We haven’t settled anything,” said the king.

“But you’re holding hands,” the daughter said. “You have your love, and love settles everything.”

“You are still young, and learning,” said the queen, “and have not yet learned that sometimes love isn’t enough.”

“Oh, but you are old, and forgetful,” the daughter replied, “and what you have forgotten is that love is all you need.”

At that the king leaned over and purred something into the queen’s ear that made her giggle. She kissed him, and he kissed her, and they wrapped their arms around each other, and quickly they both forgot what the tiff was about in the first place.

“Perhaps you should get a room,” suggested the magical daughter.

And so, they did.

– – – – –

(Background vocal by Blackberry.)

Cuteness Eversweet

Archery target © Kirilldz |

Cuteness Eversweet drew back her bow and eyed the target carefully. A hummingbird buzzed around a lilac bush.

Cuteness let the arrow fly, and a moment later a sudden shaft protruded from the center of a bull’s eye planted under a tree. Startled, the hummingbird darted away.

“Oh, I’m sorry, little one,” she said. “Don’t worry, no one’s going to hurt you on my watch.”

Cuteness Eversweet loved all living things in equal measure. Well, fine, she did not apologize to carrots when she chopped and diced them. But Cuteness loved animals and was a diehard vegetarian. Her friends stopped inviting her to dinner because of the sad faces she made as they savored their ribeyes.

One day a hungry bear approached Cuteness Eversweet in the forest. She led the bear to a raspberry bush, then a beehive brimming with honey, but the bear kept eying Cuteness like her friends eyed juicy hamburgers.

“Can’t we come to some agreement not to eat each other?” Cuteness Eversweet asked.

“Let me think about that for a second,” said the bear. “Um — no.”

So Cuteness sadly picked up a large stick and clubbed the bear on the side of his head. The great beast dropped like a stone, unconscious.

“I suppose you’re going to eat him now,” said the hummingbird.

“Goodness, no, of course not,” said Cuteness Eversweet.

“But I am,” said a hunter who suddenly appeared, wielding a great hunting knife with which to dispatch the bear.

Before he could do any such thing, however, Cuteness bashed him in the side of the head, too.

Now she had a dilemma: Two carnivores, side by side, unconscious, and likely more than willing to devour each other once they awoke. Also, both of them were too big for her to drag one or the other to safety.

She set to work with rope that the archery range coincidentally had stockpiled in its storage shed, and when they awoke the bear and the hunter were surprised to find themselves securely tied.

“If I release you, I want you both to walk away and leave the other in peace,” Cuteness told them.

“Are you crazy? I’m a hunter,” said the hunter. “I shoot bears.”

“And I’m a bear,” said the bear. “I eat people.”

“I sincerely wish you would not,” said Cuteness Eversweet.

“Yeah, well, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride,” said the bear.

Suddenly a horse appeared, and a huge white-haired bearded man dismounted.

“Why it’s Duke X. Machina,” cried the hunter.

“That’s me,” said the duke. “And you two must depart these woods in peace, for I have so decreed.

Grumbling, the hunter and the bear skulked away in opposite directions.

“Thank you for resolving my dilemma, Duke,” Cuteness Eversweet said gratefully.

“It was my pleasure, milady,” said Duke X. Machina.

“I love a happy ending,” the hummingbird hummed.

And come to think of it, they all did live happily ever after.