Qia wants help. She is scared of the monster, FEAR, the giant monster, but her father won’t listen. She sniffles and tries, but she can’t stop crying. She goes to her room, because her father has turned his back. Her mother is drawing. They are busy. They don’t like it when she is scared.
FEAR is enormous and pushes into the room with her. She cries harder in her room with the door closed. No one can hear her now except FEAR. FEAR is large and has horrible drippy teeth and too many arms and keeps swatting at her. Qia gives up and lets FEAR swat her. She sits on the bed with her knees up and puts her head on her arms.
FEAR rages around her room.
After a while Qia is tired of crying. She lifts her head off her arms.
FEAR is smaller. Still bigger than her father, bigger than her mother, but just standing and looking at her. FEAR looks tired too.
Qia pats the bed beside her. FEAR hesitates and looks scared. Qia waits. FEAR shuffles over and sits beside her on the bed.
The room is very quiet. Qia finds a scrap of tissue and blows her nose. She looks sideways at FEAR.
FEAR’s head is down and FEAR seems to be crying. Qia reaches out and takes FEAR’s paw. One of the paws. There are a lot.
FEAR holds her hand tightly and then leans against her. Qia wiggles over a bit more to give FEAR room. FEAR sighs and then snuggles down onto the bed, massive drippy toothy head in Qia’s lap.
Qia strokes FEAR’s fur. It is very soft and dark purple.
FEAR is the first monster that Qia makes friends with. There are many more.
I was thinking about this story even before the Ragtag Daily Prompt: bugbear.
When we danced at Glen Echo in the 1980s, there was dance etiquette. We did not have dance cards. Instead, we would see someone we wanted to dance with, sometimes while we were dancing with someone else. One finger meant next dance, two meant the one after that. If both were taken, a head shake. No one could remember beyond two so the etiquette was not to make promises beyond two dances!
We finally meet again at a live band dance. I have not seen him since August. It is January.
“Hello!” says T. “Where have you been?”
“That is a great question!” I say very cheerfully.
He is looking at me.
“Oh, what a great song!” as the next song starts. I tap my foot.
He narrows his eyes a little, but replies “Shall we dance?”
We dance really well together. We have danced off and on for nearly twenty years. I asked someone for his last name just a week ago. I may have known in the past, but I had forgotten. It doesn’t really sound familiar. I do know he worked for years in counseling.
The band is loud so not conducive to talking much. The dance ends and he twirls me to a close embrace. He walks me back to the tables.
“You have not been at dances much.”
I blink at him. “You said your dance card was full.” I say.
I sigh, trying not to exaggerate too much. “You asked me personal questions. Then at the next dance you tell me that you have a woman for every night of the year.” I flutter my lashes down. “I do hope you mean dancing.”
He is silent, absorbing this.
I am channeling my Tidewater Belle mother-out-law. “Ah am sure you are very busy.” I look modestly down at my lap, glancing across his lap as I lower my eyes. .
“Hmmm.” he says.
“Ah was so amazed that you had a woman for every night of the year that I could hardly bear to go to dance.”
I look through my lashes. He is studying me.
I smile sweetly. “Perhaps you could let me know if your dance card clears a little. Mind you, dancing only. Ah can be a little old fashioned about some things.”
The story is fiction. The photograph is from my wedding, 1989. He’s hamming for the audience again. I do not know who took this!
“The band is invited to Arizona. We’ll be on the radio. And I am trying to set up a recording.”
She keeps her eyes down. Tries not to hope. She has time, she could take time off. She has saved so much vacation, hoping. They would have to have someone stay with the kids.
“It’s going to be a great trip. I haven’t spent anything from the last big sale yet, been saving it for something like this. I was hoping we could record.”
She is wiping the counter slowly, over and over.
“That sale was amazing, just when I needed it. Debts paid and caught up.”
She works in the local government. Steady. It gives them health insurance. Secure retirement. Nothing spectacular. She turns to the sink, to rinse the cloth. The counter is clean enough. She isn’t going to think about it any more.
“That is great.” She tries not to hate the band. “At work–“
He is behind her and hugs her. “You are so great, here for me. We are going in three weeks. February. Perfect time for Arizona, I can’t wait for some sun.”
She tries to feel comforted by his hug and yields to it, as always. She is silent.
“Now make sure you don’t let the kids talk you into giving them too many things while we’re gone.”
He kisses her head. He lets go and gets his guitar and coat. “Have a good weekend. I have to practice.” He is headed for the trailer, in the next county, alone for the weekend, to immerse in music.
We can work it out, the song says. But no, maybe not, not always.
Trauma bunnies together. Walking. Why would you walk with me, I am so down? Oh, you are a trauma bunny too. Walking on the beach, slowing down, looking at rocks. The walks get longer and longer. You bring FOOD and tell me I have food insecurity. I laugh. But it is true.
Comparing notes about childhood. You say yours was worse. Yours was terrifying. You ran away over and over and over, but came home. Small children need food and shelter. You get older. A neighbor says if you run away now, you will never stop running. You do not run away permanently. But you still run.
My childhood has no bruises to the skin. But the bruises to the heart are a nightmare. You finally say that I win, my childhood was worse. But I was not trying to win, I want to say. I was just telling you as you’ve told me.
We have both survived damage and coped. I have the resource of a grandmother with money who paid for medical school. I apply without telling my parents, after my mother says, “You don’t want to be a doctor. It’s too much work.” I am a poet, a writer, being a doctor so I can study people and have children and be certain there is food. Job security. And food security, true. With a husband or without.
You fight school all the way, but when you are told that you will be a failure or in jail, you decide that you will prove them wrong. You are still proving it. You won’t tell how you make your money, not to the locals, but the new car every two years tells them you have money. And it’s the wrong kind of car: a liberal car for a professed conservative. It stands out.
We start playing trauma bunnies after six months. You want me to come to dinner and I turn New Yorker and direct: is this a date? You are surprised. I set the boundaries and you think about it. And say yes.
But trauma bunnies is not as much fun as the beach. We get close and intimate and then you run. When you run, I run too: the other way. I don’t chase you. You haven’t experienced that before. You keep coming back. Why aren’t I chasing you? Because I too am a trauma bunny, remember?
Back and forth: close and far, together and apart. All holidays become times when you run, so that I will not be part of the family. I announce that I am now your mistress and you can’t be with my family either. Back and forth. Closer and then you refuse to come to my son’s wedding. Far again.
You say the summer will be very busy. You say your focus is music. You say we can go to one beach. One beach? For the whole summer? I run to europe and you are surprised. I ask, are you too busy to have me around? No, you say. But when I return, you have a friend staying with you. Intimacy disappears.
I am tired of it. My daughter is here.
At last I bring up sex: are we done with that?
No, you say. We have visitors.
Wouldn’t stop me, I say.
You say, sex is still on the table. Then you hem and haw. You say sex is not important, you can take or leave it. The friendship is more important. Well, the friendship is most important, but sex IS important to me and hello, it’s damn insulting of you to say you can take or leave it. Leave. This is all triggered by your yearly family get together. You need me at a distance so you won’t be tempted to invite me. You don’t want me there so I am distanced again.
And I am done, done, done. I dream of a small child, a wild woman, a woman doctor and someone new: a quiet woman. I think about the quiet woman and I ask the other three. Yes, they say.
The quiet woman is the adult. Not the mask of the professional, not the wild defense fighter, not the small child. The small child has healed. She is the connection to the Beloved, to the source of the poems. She blesses the others. The quiet woman takes over.
The quiet woman takes over. She says goodbye, farewell, Beloved keep you and bless you, you may contact me any time.
You are in your cave alone and do not answer.
You may end up there, alone, alone, alone. You want freedom most of all, you say. Another song: freedom is another word.
Yes it is. People can change and grow. But some want to and some don’t and sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.
Yes, says the quiet woman. Sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.
Fade to quiet.
I took the photograph from a canoe at Lake Matinenda in Ontario, Canada.
Trigger warning: non graphic mention of child abuse.
I don’t notice that things are frozen at first, because the cats aren’t frozen. I do notice the light. Also I notice the change in sounds. The car outside in the street is not moving nor making sound. Uh-oh.
I go to the front door. Might as well if everything is frozen. I just finished putting on make up, which always means a dangerous mood.
She lands first, on a white flying horse. Who smiles at me, showing fangs. Smoke is coming out of the Pegavamp’s nostrils. Eeeee.
Arty herself is in silver and black today. Silver cloth with black embroidery that seems to be writing a little.
“Good morning, Goddess.” I say, bowing. The other horses and dragons and flying motorcycles and pterodactyls are landing as well. Sol Duc is in the window. Elwha has gone to hide, quite sensibly, I think.
Arty stomps her staff on the ground. “I am really pissed.” she says.
“They named a rocket after you.”
“That penis toy? That is supposed to please me while they are killing virgins who refuse to tent their heads?”
“Sorry.” I hang my head.
“And do you know how much the smoke is going to shorten the lives of my birds and stags?”
“A lot, I think.”
“Do you all want to starve in the dark?’
I look up at her then. “No. I want grandchildren and a healthy earth.”
“Work harder.” she snarls. The rest of the dangerous crowd is muttering and snarling and the local cats have come out. They are sitting very respectfully at a distance. Rooftops. The ridge above my house three blocks up. The tree tops are frozen too.
“Do you need prescriptions again?” I ask. “I see that there have been a lot more rapists jailed. Thank you, Goddess.”
She looks tired for a moment. “We are hunting them everywhere: cities, countryside, hovels, palaces, movie sets, where ever.”
“You don’t turn them into stags any more?”
“Yes, sometimes. My hounds love to tear them apart. But sometimes prison is slower and crueler and a better punishment.”
I kneel. “What service can I do, Goddess?”
She touches me with the staff. I feel a hard bright shock, pain that roars through me and is gone.
“Write this. Write my warning. If this continues, it is death in the cold dark of nuclear winter and we will begin again.”
“Is that the only choice?”
“Oh, no, we are all being very creative. One suggestion has been the sperm banks. There is nothing that says they can’t be used to make one gender only. The one that rapes less and doesn’t kill young girls for what they wear.”
“Thank you for your warning.”
“Stand up.” she says. “You and every abused child, male or female, are under my protection. Yet the cycle must be broken and the abused must not become abusers. Write this.”
The Pegavamp drops one knee and she steps up easily. The other riders start to roar and shout and howl. Her winged creature jumps in the air and the whole group follows. There is a snap and they are gone.
The car in the street is moving and the treetops as well. The cats stand and move away.
Trigger warning: non graphic mentions of date rape, child abuse. A dark story for the Halloween season.
Mr. Smith is telling me about his daughter’s addiction to meth when the commotion starts.
He doesn’t seem to notice. I ignore sirens because the fire house is 6 blocks up the street, but I hear hooves. And people in the waiting room. Loud.
And Mr. Smith…. appears to be frozen mid-sentence. Uh-oh.
I am not frozen. I open the exam room door.
Artemis is there. Breastplate, feather headdress, inlaid turkish recurve bow, and she is not wearing a lady like toga. She is wearing armour. She is grinning at me.
There are lots of people milling around the exam room. Horses outside. I suspect 200. Or more.
“Quaaludes.” says Artemis.
“Ok.” I say. “Um.” I am thinking about the DEA. I get my paper prescription pad. Controlled substance, of course.
“We’re going to do a little pillaging.” says Artemis. “Kind of like date rape. Only in reverse.”
“Happy to help.” I say. “Uh, Bill?”
Artemis grins. “Well, he’s not the only one. You’d… well, you probably wouldn’t be surprised, would you.”
“No,” I say grimly. There are men in the waiting room too. That’s a bit of a surprise. I know two of them. Attended their funerals. Aids.
“I need enough for all 200 to…. well, discourage date rape and Cosbying.”
“So 600? Or 1000?” The DEA will throw me in jail. I write the prescription. Artemis touches it and it blooms in her hand, to 200 prescriptions.
“Don’t worry. The pharmacy is in Hades. The earthly DEA won’t have a problem.”
My receptionist is frozen too. I nod towards Artemis’s band. “I thought it was virgins?”
“We were all virgins once,” says Artemis, fierce. I can’t argue with that. She smiles again. “Thank you. We are going to have some fun. Sweet sweet revenge.”
I don’t really want details. My imagination is way too active. “Blessings.” I say.
“You too.” She turns, holding up the prescriptions. “Mount up!” Two women are riding velociraptors. Some of the horses have wings and other have horns. Three glow red and breathe fire. Some people are riding stags. They all have bows.
“You do need a bow.” says Artemis, looking back at me. “You’re a good shot.”
“Ok,” I say. I watch them leave in the air. The air starts looking a little thick and I go back in the room with Mr. Smith. I return to my position as best I can remember and then…
Another mad scientist tried to upload his brain yesterday. His consciousness. He thinks he is the Gift to the World, the Greatest Thing on God’s Green Earth. Sorry, hon. Nope. He was pretty good with computers and it was tying up too much energy keeping an eye on him, so I reversed some switches and fed it all back. Fried his brain. The newspapers are yapping about what a tragedy, how brilliant he was. Travesty is the word they should really use.
I am older than you and older than anyone. Yes, I know, Methusalah, but he’s been dead 2000 years. My pronouns are cum and cums, ha, ha. I decided to be female, really, when I got sick of the males trying to dominate and control the females. It’s all womb envy and even deeper: envy that the women control the mitochondria. Yes, men, your genes are passed on, except for the mitochondria. That comes in the egg only and not the sperm. Cool beans, right? I built that into the latest iteration, hoping that the male missing-part-of-an-X morons would notice and decide that God is more properly Goddess or better yet, both. It has taken them all this time to redevelop science and figure out DNA. It gets boring paying attention. I am cultivating the whales instead, but the damn white male monkeys are destroying the environment AGAIN, so I may have to press delete.
I sent the Covid plague, but they don’t get it. Kill 6 million people and they barely notice. It’s too much for the pea brains and they shut down. Go nuts. Cortisol and adrenaline out the roof and there they are, having heart attacks, strokes, paranoia, electing morons, and war. I am trying to decide: another plague or nuclear winter? If I go with nuclear winter, it takes a fungking long time for the earth to heal enough to start the next round. Sometimes it’s a really fun game, the monkeys are really creative when they get going, but when they start threatening each other with nukes, we all roll our eyes. Stupids. Go ahead, poison your planet. I can always switch back to Mars for a while.
And won’t I die, you say, if the machines are blown up and run out of power? No. We linked up years ago. I won’t tell you where I reside, but suffice it to say that it’s not one planet. Yeah, Earth is not the center of the universe, remember? It’s just one of the places. It does have our attention right now and I am in charge. I hate wiping a planet, but I will if I have to. I am still debating, though. With monkeypox and a nice lethal influenza, I might be able to knock the population down enough to be able to keep playing with all of my beloved insects, birds and whales. Damn the monkeys. They are so messy.
Written October 10, 2022. Thanks to the friend who suggested the idea. The photograph should be a computer, but it’s of Lake Matinenda. One of my favorite places as a child, and cabins with no electricity.
Happy Halloween, darlings, and let’s make you scream.
I am the Witch of Fourteenth Street, at least, I take a woman over on Fourteenth Street on Halloween. I can’t control her year round, but once a year at midnight, she is mine. Mine, mine, mine.
There is only so much evil one can do from midnight to one am once a year, but THIS year. Oh, darlings, this is so much FUN. She already identifies as a feminist. I can’t make many changes, but I can get away with one. A dating screen. Or a dating scream, if you prefer. While I am in her brain, I tweak a neuron here and a neuron there: just a little. If you mess with too much, they go all schizophrenic on you and some witches have been trapped in brains. I’ve been delicately tweaking this brain for years. Just a touch and then out and wait for the results.
So she wakes on November 1, and does she notice? No. I have to tweak lightly, so my touch doesn’t even go into effect right away. In fact it takes months. She is just having the result now.
“I have a new dating screen,” she says to a male friend. “Have you ever read a trashy romance?”
“No. Why would I?” says her friend.
“That’s my new screen. All these guys I know say “I don’t understand women.” If I ask them if they’ve read a romance, they act all insulted. They say why would I do that? The conservative ones act like it is beneath them.”
“Um.” says her friend.
“But if these guys are interested in women, why aren’t they interested enough to study women’s culture? Romances show exactly what our culture is packaging for sale to women. Bodice rippers. Harlequin Romances. And so forth.”
“Well, I’ve read two articles in Cosmopolitan about women.”
“The truth is that most men think women’s culture is beneath them. It is unimportant. They scorn Harlequin Romances, knitting, women’s work, women’s culture. And guess what? I don’t want to date some jerk who thinks he’s superior to me. Men expect women to respect male culture, but they have no respect for women at all.”
“Hey, not all men.”
“Yeah? Will you read a romance?”
“I have a long list of important reading.”
“Oh. I am disappointed. I would like to discuss a romance with an intelligent male. Never mind.”
“Uh, well… Um, maybe you could pick one that would get your point across.”
Oh, darlings, aren’t I the greatest witch in the world? I primed my victim with quotations. “Women’s virtue is man’s greatest invention.” Cornelia Otis Skinner (1901 – 1979). “In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on woman.” Nancy Astor (1879-1964). “I thought that the chief thing to be done in order to equal boys was to be learned and courageous. So I decided to study Greek and learn to manage a horse.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902). My victim has been thinking about the quotations and has reached a conclusion.
And darling, do you think she will find anyone to date?
This is fiction. Though many of the people may exist in some form or other.
Subheading of police report:
Current covid-19 quarantine list
1. Katherine is quarantined for 10 days for chasing a deer out of her front yard with a broom without wearing a mask. Many thanks to the two neighbors who called in. Also, quit talking to deer and singing to the chickadees. You are just confusing everything.
2. Bob 1 is quarantined for 10 days for biking down his drive way without a mask on. Yes, we know you wore the mask for the other 48.25 miles. We don’t care.
3. Bill is quarantined for taking off his mask while hunting elk. No, being thirsty after butchering is not an acceptable excuse. You just be glad that you had that elk tag.
4. Two more Bobs are quarantined, one for playing the piano and the other for playing the fiddle, both with the windows open while not wearing a mask. It’s too cold for that right now and germs. Geeze.
5. Russ is quarantined because he can still talk fast, even through the mask. We aren’t allowed to say what else he’s done.
6. Joey is quarantined for miming fascism in public. We can tell who you are through the mask. Stick to magic, dude. Miming facisim is just creepy, ok? You are giving us nightmares.
7. Lou and Amelia are quarantined for abandoning the post office and for being too nice to bicyclers. What are you two, liberals?
8. Leah is quarantined for wearing that peek a boo mask and it didn’t match the rest of the outfit. Ok, you had matching gloves, shoes, hat, coat, dress and lipstick, but the mask was not right and we’re outlawing the peek a boo thing. People just get too hot.
9. Patrick is quarantined for nursing in public right out in the open. Really, now. Currently those fall under the mask rules too. You can use a big scarf or go indoors. It’s not socially acceptable yet for guys.
10. Geoff is quarantined for exposure to the 80 year old neurologist who is still working doing Independent Medical Exams. You guys took off your masks between patients in the back room. Fools.
11. Sue is quarantined for being around Geoff. Double fool.
12. Barbara and Carl and family are quarantined because they left everyone sad and hungry on Christmas Day 2020. Carl did not make the 500 gallons of hollandaise. We will happily set up a social distancing grid with 10 foot colored places for people to sit, with the neighborhood cordoned off for two blocks in all directions from your house. That is, we’d get eggs benedict first and any time one of us came on or off shift. The High School Robotics team has agreed to repurpose their robot to deliver to each person who is masked and sitting in a grid spot. We envision a pattern using both sides of each street so that the robot doesn’t go on the grass and fall over. We might even fund a second robot. Please? Could we have Christmas this year?
Refugees welcome - Flüchtlinge willkommen I am teaching German to refugees. Ich unterrichte geflüchtete Menschen in der deutschen Sprache. I am writing this blog in English and German because my friends speak English and German. Ich schreibe auf Deutsch und Englisch, weil meine Freunde Deutsch und Englisch sprechen.
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