Tag Archives: #BlogBattle

A Tax Of The Furry Sharks

We haven’t had the warmest or driest of summers, and the weather for August is presenting more like September, but we have managed a fair number of days with chairs set up in the orchard. There have to be four chairs, one each for myself and my partner, and then one each for the cats. Strictly speaking, there are four cats, but only two of them insist on spending sunny days relaxing in the orchard, and only one of them can get there under his own power.

Oatmeal is not well. Seriously not well. He can walk back from the orchard, but only does that because his food is at the house, and it can take him an hour to cover the distance. Piper can do it in under two minutes, unless there are chickens chasing him, in which case it’s under one minute, with dirty looks for his people if the kitchen door isn’t open for the dash to safety.

Preparing the nose for action

So, Oatmeal requires transport. He rides up to the Orchard on my arm, which isn’t too stressful as he is down from the six-plus kilos of his prime and is now a very bony three kilos. He expects all the facilities to be ready when he arrives. The chair should have the towel on it, there should be water in the bowl, and food on hand, to be presented on demand and kept out of reach of chickens at all other times.

Above all, the service staff should be attentive and ready to respond promptly to the needs of the Compass Nose. When something is required, Oatmeal sits, quite neatly in spite of his serious leg problems, and points his nose in the air to indicate what’s needed. Unfortunately, the Compass Nose only ever points upwards, so the service staff have to become adept at interpreting the requirements.

This is your final warning

Piper, six and a half kilos of prime, podgy cat, makes his own way to the orchard and indicates his needs by walking on the service staff.

Now that everything is set in the orchard we can sit, have lunch out there, and supper if the evening doesn’t cool off too fast. Provided, of course, that the necessary taxes are paid.

The lunch menu is quite simple – home-baked bread, cheese, fruit, and just at present, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes out of the greenhouse. Supper can be more varied, but just lately there has been a definite theme of egg-related dishes since the hens are laying prolifically.

The taxation system is also quite simple. It is calculated in cheese or omelette and collected primarily by Piper. Oatmeal prefers his kitty biscuits, or perhaps this revenue collection business is really far too much effort. So, Piper gives meaningful looks at plates, whilst Oatmeal quests with the Compass Nose.

The Compass Nose, to the point.

In the period before the taxes fall due, Piper can be invisible, having wandered off to explore the hedges, check for interesting things under the apples trees, and generally be absent, but his finely honed senses detect the subliminal signs of plates passing nearby and as if from nowhere he is there, in the chair, appraising the taxable items.

The rule is simple – three pieces of cheese and he is done. Once the levy has been paid, he will stop trying to balance his weight, on one paw, on the nerve in your leg, and retreat to his own chair to let the tribute settle in. That said, we have noticed in recent weeks that the rule of three now applies to each diner separately.

That’s my bit, right there.

The supper tax is rather more complex. An omelette is easy and just like the cheese – three pieces, per diner, and then you are free to eat. Pancakes, though, are a different matter, and have to be paid in related food-stuffs. The clear winner, in general, is yoghurt because we often have diced melon, or something similar to go with the pancake, dressed with syrups, sauces and miscellaneous dairy products.

Take me home, driver.

On those occasions that cream is involved, the taxation rate increases dramatically.

We haven’t risked tuna-related meals in the orchard since last year when Ginge (three kilos of single-minded persistence) climbed out along the length of my out-stretched arm in her attempt to reach my plate and apply the basic sea-food taxation rate of one hundred percent. (When we eat indoors, that’s Squeak’s territory and Ginge doesn’t venture in.)

There it is, the taxation system, apart from transporting Oatmeal back to the house. He is generally very clear when it is time for his medication, although it’s probably the concealing snack that comes wrapped around the medication that is foremost in his furry mind.

There’s only three certain things in this world, death, taxes and cats.

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This was written for the #BlogBattle August prompt of Tribute.

Taking The Myth

My new client turned out to be a bit of a killer. What she actually said on the phone was,

“My name is Stheno and I need some help finding my feet in the city.”

Foolishly, I told her, “I have an hour free this afternoon.”

Miss Stheno arrived promptly and my first impression was that she needed to find more than just her feet, and that might be made easier with binoculars. Clad in ragged clothes that smelled like they were taken from the grubbiest tramp, she was tall, well over six feet, with an olive complexion, a rather wide and flat face, a vast array of grubby blond dreadlocks down below her shoulders, and mirror shades, which were the only thing about her that was clean and polished.

“I have to keep them on,” she told me, grinning to show big, ragged teeth that needed an hour or three with an orthodontist. My first lifestyle tip for her would be mouthwash.

“No problem, Miss Stheno,” I assured her, keeping my breathing shallow. “Come in, take a seat and perhaps give me some background. You’ve moved to the city quite recently, I take it.”

“It’s the trend, isn’t it? I’ve been living in the countryside for thousands of years, but times are changing.”

“Sorry? Thousands of years?”

She grinned again. “Didn’t I say over the phone? I’m a Gorgon. One of the immortal ones. Not like my stupid sister Medusa, getting her head cut off like that.”

I have previously had a client who claimed to be Napoleon, but it turned out that he was just taking the mickey.

“You know I’m not a therapist, don’t you?”

“Lifestyle Coach it said in your blog. Guiding people to a more fulfilling and contented life, and that’s what I need, some guidance on lifestyle, how to fit in to the city. The countryside is getting cluttered with people from the city taking a break, so I decided to move here.”

I fiddled with my phone and set up a call to the police, ready to dial, just in case.

“Uh, Miss Stheno, you know that Gorgons are mythical creatures, don’t you?”

“Do I look mythical?” She briefly clasped her hands in front of her chest, and then spread her arms wide. “Mystical, yes. Mythical, no.”

If only she’d take off those damned mirror shades maybe I could see if there was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. Something to tell me whether this was a wind-up or a potential danger.

“So, you’re supernatural.”

“No, I am perfectly natural, it’s just that you humans have a very narrow understanding of nature. I’m a natural, mystical being, and I want some help settling in to the city.”

She sounded so reasonable.

“Right. OK. Let’s start with the basics. Where do you currently live?”

“In the park. I’ve been hanging out, as the local kids keep saying, just before I eat them.”

“Really?”

She paused and thought. “I suppose not. They say things like hanging out long before I eat them. But just before I eat them they say you bitch and argh. So not everything has changed in this modern age.”

“Um, as a lifestyle hint, you probably shouldn’t eat the local kids.” What am I saying? “How many have you eaten? So far? Roughly?”

“Four. Maybe five. There were also the ones I turned to stone. I’ve done three of those.”

I suddenly recalled some recent news headlines about missing kids and mystery statues appearing in the park. Just like that, I was starting to believe that Miss Stheno really was a Gorgon and not just a delusional client.

Or a delusional client who probably keeps up with the news.

“At least you didn’t do a pillar of salt.” I tried to laugh at my own weak joke, but Miss Stheno titled her head, a simple threat, the mirror shades could come off. “Right. So. Lifestyle.” Humour her and get it over with, and don’t make any future appointments, or any more jokes. “Stop eating kids in the park and don’t turn any more of them into stone. Um… what do you do for a living?”

“A living?”

“Your job.”

Miss Stheno nodded and set her dreadlocks swaying. “Someone told me that I needed a job if I’m going to live in the city. He also said that I have a future in garden ornaments.”

“Really. What else did he say?”

“Nothing. I turned to talk and forgot these.” She tapped her mirror shades. “Life was simpler in the countryside. People came and I ate them, or turned them into stone.”

“Right. Perhaps you ought to turn people into something other than stone. Is that possible? Something a bit less… rigid.”

“I don’t do pillars of salt.”

“No, no, I mean something less… I don’t know… something that means people survive being turned. I mean, once you’re stone, it’s pretty much over, isn’t it. If you want to fit in to city life, it’s best if you don’t kill people.”

“Thank you. Progress. That’s perfect.” She raised her mirror shades and her dreadlocks reared up like a nest of vipers. “How’s this?”

I died. I know I died. I just felt pain and ending and a deep wrenching something that filled me with a single word, posted.

“What happened?”

Miss Stheno hummed contentedly. “I turned you into a blog.”

Another wrenching something ran through me, updated.

So, my last client proved to be a bit of a killer, but I can keep going, writing about her, warning others of the danger.

Miss Stheno growled. “You will not turn me into an urban myth.”

“Hah! I am words on a screen. I live in the cloud now. I will tell the world, warn the world and there is nothing you can do to stop…”

Deleted.

404 – Page not found.

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This was written in response to the July #BlogBattle prompt of Myth.

Images from pixabay.com

Still Thinking

My latest project is distilled wisdom, which is nearly as tricky as finding the Philosopher’s Stone. The sort of thing that led Elgin to lose his marbles.

I commenced with suitable raw materials in the biggest sudden retort I could make. At the bottom I put a layer of Emmanuelle Kant, and then for safety, I piled on some religious cant before adding the full works of Descarte, a small hay cart and some fake art. Finally, I threw in some Bertrand Russell, the neighbour’s annoying Jack Russell and enough brown paper to make a serious rustle. I think I may have dropped my thought-a-day motivational calendar in by accident.

I added a tin of peas, such an overlooked letter, and a spoonful of eye’s cream along with other pureed pronouns, because when you’re looking for wisdom it’s best to know who’s who and what’s what, what?

Beneath my sudden retort I stacked Aristotle with Plato and let the debate heat up.

Meanwhile, I built a fractious column, fully exaggerated at ten feet tall, packed it with editorial marks, some Karl Marx, TK Maxx and a sprinkle of typographic details, and finally sealed it to the retort with tight-packed conjunctions, and so.

When you’re distilling ideas, the devil is in the detail, which you don’t want leaking out.

After months of warming to some of the ideas, and watching the slow churn of concepts, I saw the first wisps of vapid wisdom floating up the fractious column. At the very top, tiny drops of the lightest fractions, the high falutin, gathered where I could cream them off and make a little money selling them to Christmas Cracker manufacturers.

I may have drunk a few, just to check the taste.

A week after the last empty idea passed my lips, a tide of bees rose up the fractious column. Be the best you can be dripped into a small, glass receptive audience, followed by be confident in yourself. When a sludge of be true to yourself formed beneath the lighter aphorisms, I realised that it was just the remains of my motivational calendar.

First principles gathered in the condenser, working their way out with nothing else to go on. Being quite unstable, they reacted with trivial problems and condensed into pure solutions. I resolutely scraped off these resolutions and put them in my diary for January.

Pure truth bubbled at the bottom of the column, too heavy to rise, too volatile to stay in the mire of boiling opinion and conjecture below. I was prepared for this when I built the fractious column and had put a light-hearted article near the bottom to draw off anything too dangerously weighty. I pulled up a chair and watched the bubbles, hard and heavy, stark and simple, and like most people, such truth was more than I could stand.

As a final precaution, I took the truth, the whole truth, the utterly unforgiving truth, and buried it in the garden. If you want to know the truth, I can introduce you, but honestly, you may not like it.

Straight and true, but safely devoid of truth, my fractious column got on with the business of refining wisdom, of separating fact from fiction. After eight months, I saw little sparks of inspiration, so I wrapped the fractious column in layers of flannel, because those little sparks can get out of hand and turn into explosions of dangerous ideas.

At nine months I thought I heard ideas chiming, but after I leant, and bent my ear, I realised I was simply fooled by verse, and mere doggerel at that. It was nothing more than the neighbour’s Jack Russell dogging my efforts.

I reached the sticking point, probably fetched by the Jack Russell, when the fractious column cleared completely in a final editorial frenzy. As thin as air and impossible to truly grasp, the purest wisdom rose incrementally toward the very top.

After a year of my life, a single drop of the most rarefied concepts teetered on the cusp, unsure whether to rise or fall, so ephemeral that I had to use the edge of my Occam’s razor to raise it to my eyes and gaze upon my success. True wisdom is so clear that most people see right through it, but through my ongoing efforts to refine the finest of intellectual refinement, I made a bit of a rose-tinted spectacle of myself, just enough to clearly see anything that was too clear to see.

The heaviest fraction balanced on a knife-edge, ready for me to think the unthinkable, drink the undrinkable, and curse the inevitable.

I think.

Their four.

Ay! Yam.

That’s the trouble with distilled wisdom, it’s so easy to get contamination with bitter words, or bits of words, and stray vegetable matter from the paper.


# # #

This was inspired by the #BlogBattle prompt of Abstract.

Images from pixabay

Edgewise

It’s a sure sign of a dissatisfied customer when my toes can’t reach the ground. Nevin the blacksmith was at least as big as the battered warrior holding my throat, but he just stood back and watched. No loyalty there, just a business arrangement.

“Broke.”

That’s not my fault. In fact, that is Nevin’s fault. He does the metalwork, I add the magic. That’s how magic sword manufacturing works. The magic can’t stop the steel from breaking, but the really good stuff can make it cut through sorcerers, demons, other magic swords and…

Urk?

“Broke how?” Nevin asked gruffly.

“In battle.” The warrior lifted me higher, which was fine because toes far off the ground hurts just the same as almost touching.

“Broke how exactly? You hit something with the sword, or something hit you?”

The warrior dropped me, turned on Nevin, and then thought better of it.

“Another sword did it.”

Nevin scratched at his beard. I used to think he must have a really itchy chin, but it’s his way with stroppy warriors in the smithy. It reminds them that his fists are big and his forearms are thicker than the average leg.

“Show me the bits.”

The warrior kicked at the rough sack he’d dropped when he first came in – you want to see, you pick it up.

Nevin scratched his beard again until the warrior crouched, rummaged, and held up a sword in two parts. It was one of the really cheap ones Nevin knocks out and calls a Bearkiller, because the sort of fool who buys a cheap sword will always go for something called Bearkiller, or Demonslayer. I’m no expert in this stuff, but I know swords break, and I know that the Bearkillers can snap if the user sneezes too hard.

“Fix it.”

Warriors are like children. It broke, fix it. They don’t ask can it be fixed? With a broken blade like that, Nevin would hammer out the pieces and make something like a chunky dagger, and one of the skinny, flashy blades he calls a Windslicer – cheap, fragile, but makes a really impressive whistling noise cutting through the air.

“Needs magic to fix,” Nevin said, more to me than the warrior. “I’ll get the heat going.”

I don’t do magic, I collect magic. Applying it to the swords is easy, but nothing I’ve got can repair a sword. Like I said, Nevin does the metalwork.

The smithy is poorly lit and once Nevin starts pumping the bellows, all you see is the glow of the coals, unless you know where to look. While the warrior was bedazzled by the sparks, Nevin slipped a freshly-made Bearkiller off the pile and set it close by. We ought to practice this misdirection routine for the next dissatisfied customer, but there’s no real point. Warriors who buy cheap swords rarely live long enough to complain about workmanship.

“Come on, man,” Nevin growled, and he was right – I was daydreaming, whilst the warrior was inching closer to where he might see what we were doing.

“Stand back,” I said, as commanding as I could be, and the warrior inched closer instead.

I picked a jar of whispering prayers off the shelf and tossed two into the fire. I like the prayers – I buy them a dozen the farthing from a decrepit monastery a half-day’s walk away. A sword bound with one of those prayers will tell the wielder how fine and proud they are. You can see it the moment they pick one up in the smithy – yes, yes, I am!

Never burn a whispering prayer. A banshee scream of terror ripped through the smithy driving the warrior two clumsy steps backwards. I already had my fingers in my ears and Nevin – well the big lump doesn’t hear so well after so many years of hammering.

Next I took a sun potion and flicked a drop into the cherry coals and just for a moment a blinding noon light flared out. I usually use a drop mixed with a little brandy and work it into the blades to give them that alluring glint in the dark that says look here, I’m a magic sword. I’m told that glint can attract goblins in the night, but none of our customers has ever complained about that.

“Are you ready for this?” I called out, reaching for the edge charms. “This can be…”

I had no idea what would happen to an edge charm in the fire. When I attach one to a blade, it holds the edge forever, provided you keep the metal out of the sun. I suppose I ought to mention that when we sell a sword.

“Ready,” the warrior grunted.

“Just give me a moment. This third one is tricky.” Instead of the edge charms, I eased the stopper from a jar of whitefire I bought from a warlock. It was supposed to be pure magic – I think he lied, but far safer than edge charms. “Here… third one…”

I tossed a piece of whitefire into the forge and bright, white light even stronger than the sun potion blinded everyone. When my eyes cleared, Nevin was standing before the forge, holding forth a brand new Bearkiller, smoke just curling around the blade. I still don’t know how he does that, but it impresses the customers.

“Your weapon,” he said and held it out.

The warrior took it, almost reverentially, and then tried a few test swings.

“Do that outside,” Nevin growled.

As soon as we were alone, he pulled the broken pieces of the old sword from the forge.

I went to the door and watched. The warrior took a few more good swings, gave me a glare, and then stamped off eastward which is where they say the armies are currently fighting.

“That third one…” Nevin pushed me out into the daylight so that he could see the warrior go. “Was that a charm?”

“No.”

###

I wrote this in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Charm.

Image from Pixabay

Greenhouse Party

Come in, come in… let me take your coat. It gets hot in here.

So, let me introduce everyone. The small, spindly one draped all over the place is Latah, and no amount of training or coaxing makes any difference. Just there is Ethel Watkins, been around here since… No, no, the shocking pink is Grushkova, a recent arrival here, and…

Look, I know the pink is startling, but if you’re going to make unkind comments about skin colour then you can take your coat and go. Grushkova is a perfectly decent early tomato and…

No, it’s not Russian. OK, sort of Russian. From Siberia. And Latah is from Idaho and…

Sorry? Proper English tomato? You do know that tomatoes were introduced here from South America in the sixteenth century, right? There’s no native tomatoes. I mean, seriously, the nearest relative is belladonna, and you don’t want that in your salad.

And yes, those are cucumbers. What is it with you and colour? Yes they are white instead of green, but they are very nice cucumbers and… yes, they are small, and they’re called miniature white, so you’ve got it all there in the name, small and white. Not big and long and green. Go on, taste one… see? It’s a very nice cucumber.

Sorry? Proper English cucumber? I know you’re think cucumber sandwiches, all part of the essence of the traditional English summer but seriously, you know that cucumbers were originally introduced from India, right? First recorded cultivation here in the fourteenth century, so they’ve been around longer than tomatoes. And there, behind you, the melons… originally from Africa and southwest Asia, brought to Europe by the Romans and…

Right. Yes. Got that. You prefer boring commercial green cucumbers. Here. Try one of these…

No, it’s not English either. It’s called Achocha, from South American, part of the cucumber family… yes, I’m pretty sure it is supposed to be green.

Right. The door’s there. Go out into the orchard. Pick yourself an apple. Proper English varieties out there. Proper Cornish varieties. Normal colours, normal shapes, nothing funny or foreign.

Originally from Asia, of course.


This was prompted by the #BlogBattle prompt of Exotic, and the strange things we grow in our greenhouse.

Image from Pixabay.


Hidden Treasures

I lost my steel rule today, exactly the same steel rule I lost last week, although today I also lost my five-metre tape measure and my ear-defenders. These are not high-priced items, but their value lies in their contribution to the project. In the middle of building a new box gutter between two roof sections, not being able measure or use high-decibel power tools is seriously inconvenient.

There’s an interesting thing that I’ve noticed over the years – amongst the vast array of highly specialised and expensive tools I could have in the workshop, the most valuable and heavily used are often the cheapest. That steel rule has seen a lot of use, and those tape measures are recent minor purchases to replace my old measure which had become so worn that the markings were getting illegible on the first metre or two.

Losing those simple but vital tools can bring a job to a halt.

Unlike last week, the missing steel rule wasn’t so critical yesterday, and I still had the eight-metre tape measure as a substitute for the five, even though it’s a bit cumbersome and awkward for small measurements. The really disastrous absence happened to be the ear-defenders as I needed to run some remarkably noisy power-tools.

Three lost tools, or if not actually lost then seriously hidden.

The steel rule is a shade of grey, and I was working outside when I lost it last week, with plenty of places of a similar shade of grey where it could be perfectly camouflaged. I got by, using the tape measure, but there are times when the only tool for the job is the steel rule. I spent time hunting for it, looking in all the obvious places where I may have set it down, but there came a point where it was more important to get the job finished and make do without the steel rule. As I worked, I even considered the fact that I was going to be shopping in nearby Launceston in a few days time and could buy a new steel rule. Perhaps I ought to get more than one in preparation for losing it again – they cost two, maybe three pounds each, unless you really want to push the boat out and pay a fiver.

At the end of the day, I decided to have one final search. At ground level there was the spot where I had the power tools stacked up, but that wasn’t it. I looked behind a small waist-high retaining wall because it’s a perfect place to put a tool down only to have it tumble off the back, and then all the odd nooks and crannies where I might have put it down. Finally, I climbed the tallest ladder that I had out, to look down on the whole work area, because there’s a whole mess of roof, beams and joists where I might have laid a steel rule.

From my high vantage point, I saw it clearly. There is a white electrical utility box set into the wall that protrudes by just over an inch. I know it’s just over an inch because the steel rule is an inch across and there it was, lying on the rim, which has a modest downward angle making it easier to see the missing tool when standing on the ground. Not only that, but it was at about chest height for all of the occasions I had walked past it in the preceding hours.

So, not so much lost as hidden in plain sight. So plain, in fact, that it shouldn’t have been hidden at all.

Today, at the start of work there were three things missing, and I could only conclude that I had failed to put everything away as darkness fell last night. I was sure that I had tidied up properly, really, really sure, but after the steel-rule incident last week, anything seemed possible. So how hard can it be to find three missing tools? Whilst the steel rule is that unobtrusive shade of grey, my ear-defenders are bright red, and the tape measure is bright yellow – hard to miss, really. Perhaps some part of my subconscious took that as a challenge, because I managed to miss all three during a twenty-minute search.

Fortunately, I have two pairs of the ear defenders, same make, model and shade of red, and the second pair were easy to find in the back of my van.

Then I found the ones that I had lost, hanging up exactly where I left them in the workshop last night, right beside where I was standing when I realised that I had lost them. Sadly, there was no sign of the other items, but now armed with the essential ear protection (and a spare pair) I could get on with the job.

In due course, I reached the point where I needed to cut some small pieces of timber. I did the measurements with that clunky eight-metre measure, headed to the chop saw and there, on the bench, exactly where I had been using it to measure small pieces of timber yesterday, was the five-meter tape-measure.

I looked there. I really did. I’m sure…

Some hours later, standing at the same bench, I glanced at one of my plastic tool boxes. Laying along the bright yellow compartment in the lid, in the plainest of plain sight, was the steel rule…

I put it all down to advancing middle-age, because I never used to lose things so often and so clearly in plain sight. Sometime in the last few years I appear to have lost my youth, but I don’t suppose there’s any point in going looking for it. Of all my lost treasures, I doubt that one will turn out to be in plain sight.



This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Conceal.

Tea Is For Tramadol

In a long-forgotten time, somewhere around my childhood and quite possibly the twilight of traditional tea-time, the rules were simple: tea was drunk from a cup, on a saucer, whilst vulgar mugs were for coffee and cocoa. Of course, back then, tea was also drunk with milk and sugar until I egregiously broke with tradition and stopped using sugar. I think I was about eight, or nine, so a bit of a revolutionary when I was younger.

Sacred tea-time was dealt another blow when I went to university and I stopped putting milk in my tea. That wasn’t so much revolutionary as the end of civilisation as we know it, and it stained my mother’s tea cups. At some point, when visiting my parents, my mother took to putting my tea in a mug, probably one with a dark glaze that didn’t show the tannin stains.

In spite of the demise of traditional tea-time, and those cup/mug rules, we do still have tea-cups around the house, somewhere, and I’m sure I could find one if I went looking. They hide, you see, lurking at the back or in dark corners of the cupboards, probably forming self-help groups where fine china can grumble about how much better it was in the good old days. What we definitely do have is saucers. Lots and lots of saucers, although we could do with a few more, because sauces are useful. Tea cups have been supplanted by the more aggressive mug species, but their long-suffering support act, the saucer, has found new niches in the domestic eco-system. However, the saucer is also becoming rare.

In the time between the twilight of tea-time and now, there was a decade or two where saucers were easy to come by – church jumble sales and charity shops always had stacks of random crockery, and saucers could be re-homed in significant numbers, whilst angry cabals of tea-cups grumbled in boxes out of sight, bitter that they couldn’t even claim to have been left on the shelf.

That has all changed – the jumble sale has become the car-boot sale and charity shops have gone upmarket (at least around here) and only nice crockery is to be found. Saucers are not allowed out without their cups, and even then only in matching sets offering safety in numbers and the possibility of swaggering all the way to the dishwasher.

No matter, we still have a supply, although every attempt to establish a breeding program for saucers in captivity has failed. For now, we have saucers to stand plant pots on, to put cat treats on, to test jam for setting, to… well, saucers are just useful, and we really could do with more, especially at present, when every spare saucer is needed for Oatmeal.

That’s three kilos of furry feline called Oatmeal, not the stuff for making porridge. A year ago, Oatmeal was nearer to seven kilos of fluff, but in March this year he was diagnosed with a serious bowel problem which has been managed with high doses of steroid, which he will happily take with three grams of cream, twice a day, on a saucer.

Start counting – that’s two saucers, per day.

Then there’s the cat biscuits, delivered wherever he is currently sleeping – in the house would be ideal, but Oatmeal has made it clear that outside is his preference. Currently, that is under a fuchsia bush, whilst a week or two back, he was under a fern on the edge of the lawn. Wherever he chooses, the location is highlighted by the technicolour array of our recycling bags arranged and rigged to keep the rain off him. So, add another saucer, per day, with a few slugs on the underside.

In the last month, Oatmeal has clearly been struggling and, not to put too finer point on things, he has trouble pooing. It causes him enough discomfort that he puts it off until things are truly desperate, which only makes the problem worse. Our vet has prescribed tramadol for the pain, which is a brilliant idea, but has one tiny drawback: flavour.

Prednisone in milk or cream is absolutely fine, but tramadol… no. We’ve tried tuna, sardines, Marmite (well, you never know) and all have failed, and it makes no difference what colour saucer we use. When Oatmeal doesn’t fancy his medication…

Here, puss, puss, puss, try the tasty tramadol.

Pah. Tastes like poo. Smells like poo. Here. I’ll spit it out. You try it.

Come on puss, just swallow…

Look, I can spit it out the side of my mouth too.

Here, puss, I’ve wrapped it in some tasty meat…

I can spit that down inside your shoe.

How about this. I mixed it with sardines.

A challenge… I can ignore that. I so can ignore that. See? This is me ignoring. Hah! Gotcha.

The tramadol option appeared doomed until we discovered Royal Canin Pill Assist. It’s brown, it’s squidgy, it passes the Oatmeal taste-test, and when placed on a pile of cat biscuits on a saucer of any colour, it gets picked off the top in preference to all else. Honestly, given a choice, I think he would probably just live off Pill Assist. He generally swallows them whole, but every so often, he bites into one in passing, enough to get a taste, but then it is too late, it’s already on the way down, and all he can do is give me that frozen what did you do look before clearing up the biscuits that don’t look, taste or smell like Tramadol.

We do have more than five saucers, but it does become a challenge, and then there is Piper, seven kilos of black and white cat who knows that saucers mean treats. So, add another saucer, or two, and then there’s Ginge, half his size but capable of consuming just as many treats. That saucer supply is looking shaky.

It’s just as well that saucers are washable.

So, saucers are for Tramadol and Oatmeal is a high and happy cat.

Mug of tea, anyone?


This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Tea,  inspired by a lifetime of drinking tea and the trials of medicating a sick cat.

Hurry

In the car, hurry, worry,

Running late, worry, hurry.

Turn the key, come on, start it

Clicks and whirls but doesn’t catch it.

Growl and grind, and fading power

Turn and turn, and turning slower

Wretched beast, I hear what happened

Click and nothing, battery flattened

Out the box, the biggest hammer

Instead choose the ratchet spanner

Turn and turn the clicking ratchet

Drop it, curse and fail to catch it.

Down beside the engine block

Out of reach and really stuck

Scrape my knuckles, fail to reach it

How I hate the wretched ratchet.

I hate the car, its fickle state

All the worse when running late

Now I’ve really lost my cool

Gotta have the wretched tool

Dripping blood I gotta get it

Cursing blue of course I blew it

Straining hard could barely touch it

Failed to reach the wretched ratchet.

Need a stick to poke it loose

Saw the hammer resting close

Reached and grabbed and… darn it… NO…

The wretched hammer hit my toe

Darn it all, the wretched rush

Now can’t walk to catch the bus.


This piece of vaguely rhyming alliterative nonsense  was brought to you by the July #BlogBattle prompt of Wretched.

Outside The Box

Hey, Chazos, you gonna open it, or what?”

Maybe…” There’s a sinking feeling when you realise you’re talking to a god, and you know that never ends well. “I mean… didn’t work out so well for my sister.”

Chazos, man, you gotta have faith… I mean, honestly, your sister has the brains of a mouse. The Gods gave her a box with all the ills of the world in it and… well… I did say…. I mean they did say, don’t open it. I kept telling them that free will is nothing but trouble. So… you gonna open yours?”

It’s true about Pandora, not the sharpest tool in the… never mind. They gave her this jar, not a box, but telling her not to open it… that’s like a big sign, open here. If they’d said, it’s fine, open it any time, she might never have let all the ills of the world loose.

Some hope, but it might have bought a day or two.

My jar is different. It could do with a label to tell me what’s inside, but they never said not to…

Wait… who are you, exactly?”

Hermes. You know, messenger of the gods. Get about a bit. Everyone knows me. I was thinking of changing my name. How does Mercurius sound? A bit pompous, maybe? I was looking for something a bit more low-key, but hey, this all about you… So. Opening the box?”

Jar. It’s a jar.”

Hermes shrugged and did a little shuffle-dance with those winged sandals. “Call it a box. Trust me. Everyone else will. There’s marketing potential in calling it a box. Think of the publicity. Everyone’s heard of Pandora’s Box, but let’s face it, Chazos’s Jar… doesn’t really cut it.”

Apparently, one day, people will say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Tell that to Pandora. She’s never got over being blamed for everything bad in the world.

What’s in my jar… I mean, box?”

Apparently, one day, clear labelling and safety information will be the norm.

In the box?” Hermes did that shuffle again like he wanted to be somewhere else. “Nothing much. Just all the wonders of the world. Go on, open it. It’s gonna be great.”

Gods are tricky at the best of times and when one drops by for a chat, that’s it, your life is basically over. You can’t even say no, go torment another mortal. Once you’re it, you’re it, and doomed.

Or I could choose not to open the box. Just because Pandora was told correctly not to open hers doesn’t mean this isn’t some sort of double bluff.

Maybe if I just open it a crack…”

It was a perfectly ordinary box, that just happened to look exactly like a jar, red clay, nicely fired, decorated with depictions of the gods in black. The cap was a carved piece of wood, caulked with some wax and painted with Hermes’s wings. I gave it a little twist, broke the seal and just lifted it for a heartbeat.

Wowza!

A hurricane blasted past me, wild and hot and yet strangely comforting, leaving me filled with joy in its passing. For a moment I couldn’t breathe, and then I looked at the world anew.

Good one, huh?” said Hermes. “We call that one love. A truly great wonder of the world. We had a few false starts, but don’t worry, we put the rejects – lust and greed and obsession – in another box. Oh. Damn. That was Pandora’s box.”

I had never felt anything like it. “So… that was love. Right. So is that it?”

Hah. Of course not.” He did that shuffle dance again and then caught me staring. “I can teach you, if you want. Heel to toe and a little slide… Gonna be all the rage one day… or you could just finish opening your box.”

I was tempted – learn the dance of the Gods – but that wasn’t going to end well, was it? Look at the fella as stole fire from them. Whichever way you cut it, gods are a bloody vengeful bunch. I could just see it – learn the dance and then spend eternity pushing a rock up a hill or having my eyes pecked out by enraged sparrows. When you think about it, gods are not the smartest – why the same rock, up the hill, forever? Imagine the commercial possibilities of people condemned to move an infinite pile of decent building stone to a conveniently placed builder’s yard.

Come on, you know you want to,” Hermes said and I cracked the box open gain.

Oh… my… that is… ahhhh…”

Yeah. I wanted to call that one ooh-ooh-ohh, but I got overruled, so now we call it beauty.”

I wanted some more of that, and amazingly it had already spread out and was all around me.

Right…” I pulled the cap off my jar… box… and let out all the remaining wonders of the world. Except for something small and pale, like a tuft of wool, stuck in the bottom. “What’s that?”

Hermes did the dance again. “Not sure. Give it a poke.”

I did.

Ow. That’s sharp.” I poked more cautiously, and it spooked, leaping out of the box and biting the end of my nose in passing. “What was that?”

Surprise.”

Yes. Very. But what was it?”

No. The second greatest wonder of the world – surprise.” Hermes pointed to a tree where the little tuft of wool was perched. “See… oh. My bad. It’s not surprise after all. Another failed prototype. I was supposed to put that in the other box. But I thought, and it really is a wonder of the world.”

My nose was bleeding.

What is it?”

Stupidity…” Hermes shrugged. “A wonder of the world. It’s out now. Sorry. People will always wonder why you thought it was a good idea to let it out. Anyway, got to dash…”

What did I say?

Never ends well.


“Outside the Box” was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt Liberate.

Images from Pixabay.

Short Fantasy

And for our trusty dwarf… there’s a map to the Orchard of Lyre.”

Locrian of the pointy-ears knows I hate being called a dwarf. I’m not. I’m really not. I just need more time to reach my full vertical potential.

Lyre? Really? Is that a joke? You know I can’t sing.” Which is another point that says I’m not a dwarf, because everyone knows that all the little fellas can sing like a bird.

No, no, it’s just the map says it’s not far, and you’ve got the shortest legs.”

One day I’m gonna rip those pointy ears off his head and shove them up his nose. Instead, I took the map, which looked genuinely old and potentially real, and went to gather supplies. It’s hard to stay angry with Locrian when he waggles his ear-tips, and this was serious stuff – questing time to fend off the latest attack.

This year, Dark Lord Agnion has sent a plague of ravening gator rats. There’s not many of them just now, but by harvest there will be hundreds of thousands, devastating our crops. So, I got the Orchard of Lyre, and the possibility of a magical instrument to tame the gator rats and lead them out of our lands.

I sharpened my sword, took up my walking staff, and strode off westwards towards the fabled Orchard of Lyre. It was a truly uneventful journey, no more than three gangs of bandits that barely slowed me down, a grove of beguiling maidens that took me a week to escape because leaving too soon would be rude, and a really nasty splinter gathering firewood one evening. After barely a month, I found myself in a field of blue bells, graceful stalks higher than my head, and impossibly vast trilling bells that summoned rabbits from all around. Given a heavy cart and a team of oxen, I might have been able to get one of them back home in a year or two.

A ragged wind-chime bush clinked and chinked, and I could have stripped it and gone, but as any magical gardener will tell you, wind-chimes are just noise, not music, and will never tame any sort of beast, let alone a gator rat.

Beyond the blue bells lay the orchard itself, long lines of tall and stately fiddle trees, with bark so smooth I could never climb it, and the windfalls were nothing but smashed wood and broken strings. In the heart of the orchard I found a ring of duets, plump golden fruit in pairs, singing sweet arias, and easy to reach, but picking pairs is impossible – one fruit always comes away first and then they both shrivel and die.

Then I came upon the orchardess, who looked me up and down, but mostly down, and she told me,

Go down the far end.” She gestured and the bangles at her wrist glinted in the dappled light – simple brass bands but powerful symbols of her devotion to the orchard. “You might find something in your size.”

I thanked her and walked on, out of the towering fiddle trees, through a rolling rock garden, and then behind a rough hedge of wild plectrum shedding their flaky seeds, dotted with soulful jasmine and clusters of lively bluegrass. I skirted round a compost heap of faded melody, weedy arpeggio and chord wood, and there were the nursery beds of experiment and improvisation. Hybrid poppies and whistling reeds jostled with wild drum trees, humming reeds of all sizes and grumpy bass staves, but nothing was properly ready or seasoned, or even well-tempered.

In a corner, almost forgotten, was a shrubby piccolo tree, still too tall for me to pluck, and adorned with thorns to keep me from climbing. After all my efforts, my quest was going to end in failure, so I sat under the tree to think. From the low vantage point I saw a shadow, a hint that all was not lost. At the back, barely visible and tangled into a stand of whispering willow, was some wind-damaged wood, a branch slightly bent and drooping. Just in reach, and fully ripe, I found a low-hanging flute.


(This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt for May – Flute.

Image from Pixabay

https://pixabay.com/users/schwoaze-4023294/

https://pixabay.com/photos/subject-musical-instrument-3647587/

)