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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Once Gramps Had Come - A Christmas Story


An essential piece of Christmas has been missing forever, almost as if it has hidden itself. In the story Once Gramps Had Come by Matthew Sawyer, that hidden piece comes out to perhaps breathe clean air, eat or maybe stretch its legs. Whatever is done, this short tale starts in a Nursing Home. A homely man who calls himself "Gramps" offers immortality and the holidays are coming up...

Once Gramps Had Come by Matthew Sawyer


Once Gramps Had Come
Matthew Sawyer

Thursday, November 21, an ugly, old man comes to the Nursing Home. He is not the slightest seemly; not handsome like the weathering of a familiar leather jacket, nor noble like the bark of a gnarled oak.  The man is ugly. Frightening, yet he looks a lot like that knotted tree and ragged hide coat. Presumably present for the terminal long-duration care and rehabilitation available here at Nueva Buena Vista, the terrible creature introduces himself to other residents. He calls himself, “Gramps.”

Mr. Breckell, who regularly assesses his own hearing, believes he has misheard the name. He shouts from his seat of padded linoleum. “What did you call yourself? Cramps?”

Mr. Breckell assumes and also asks, “Is that what's wrong with you?”

The ugly old man lumbers near the only fellow whose spoken to him. This Gramps or cramps sits down on the stiff, yellow cushion next to Mr. Breckell. The new old man creaks and his joints crack when he bends his legs then he adjusts his seat. The racket is disquieting to everyone in the day-room. Mr. Breckell tells the creepy, wooden man next to him, “You sound like you're going to break.”

“I do fear it,” Gramps answers.

Before he forgets, Mr. Breckell asks him again, “What did you call yourself?”

“Cramps,”  Mr. Breckell swears he's heard again.

He suggests to the badly weatherworn stranger, “Cramps, I would change that nickname. You could then go talk to someone else.”

“I think you are mispronouncing it,” Gramps tells him.

“Me? How about you?”

Gramps, or still possibly cramps, immediately interrupts the fresh argument. “Are you afraid of dying, Mister...”

“Breckell,” Mr. Breckell automatically replies.

“Sure,” he then insists. “Yeah-”

“I can help you live forever.”

Mr. Breckell finishes his thought. “But I get less fidgety the older I get.”

He then pauses, gazes into impossibly seeing and dense cataracts then tells cramps, “I don't think you can help yourself. By the look of you...”

Mr. Breckell shakes his balding head.

“I know the worst of it,” Gramps promises his indignant comrade. “You can help me.”

The idea makes Mr. Breckell chuckle. “I will see what I can do.”

With yet no response, he asks the ugly stranger directly, “Who are you?”

“Everyone has forgotten me.”

Mr. Breckell tells him, “Welcome to Anonymous-Anonymous. The ladies across the room cry about the fact at weekly meetings.”

Gramps adds, “And any who do remember me, and if they still believe, they think I have gotten lazy over centuries.”

Mr. Breckell assures him. “That's just how it feels.”

Pink light glows behind the opaque eyes of the stranger. “I'm telling you, Mr. Breckell, there is another way. You can live forever.”

Mr. Breckell laughs and the sound grows. He stops his guffaw when Gramps admits, “But there is a horrible exaction. There are crimes you must commit.”

“Go figure,” Mr. Breckell says entertained and newly curious. A meager rush of adrenaline reminds him of the shadow of being a young man and alive. Enthused that little bit, he grins and banters. “What evil things must I do. How many children do I need to eat?”

“The children are never eaten,” Gramps declares.

Mr. Breckell tells him, “Then that explains why you're so scrawny. Tell me, mister, who are you?”

“I told you.”

“Oh, no you don't. I am not about to wake up tomorrow and remember my name is Al Z'heimers. Who are you?”

The ugly stranger next to Mr. Breckell tells him, “The Krampus. The, the Krampus.”

“Huh?” Mr. Breckell grunts without purpose. His recollection is vague. He goes on and says, “Remind me who that is. Are we talking about Christmas? The elves and the magical Saint Nick, right? Not the Jesus and Christian Santa Claus, correct?”

“And not the American who drinks Coca Cola,” specifies the Krampus.

The name, or its shaded memory, fits the horrid personification here in the ugly stranger. The monster tells Mr. Breckell, “I am his nemesis, his companion and cohort. The folklore all across the world will tell you the same.”

The Krampus rants. “But I refuse to do his work. I won't do it and I only want to pass away – and join our brothers. Somebody else can be remembered to be the Krampus. And he or she can be that until the end of time.”

“End of time, you say?” Mr. Breckell repeats. “That's the part that includes living forever you were talking about?”

“If you do those things you must do.”

“And what does that mean? What do I got to do?”

The Krampus scowls when he says, “Make toys.”

Jokingly, Mr. Breckell answers, “Well, how do we get this operation done? I can live forever and do that.”

“Hell, what are all the toys for?”

The Krampus reveals in earnest, “They are the years of your life. Each toy is a day, you live one day for every toy you make. And you must keep them secret.”

Carried by high spirits,  Mr. Breckell continues to play with the ugly man. “That can't be bad. I suppose I can make seven toys in a day, or make fourteen or even seventy.”

“Saint Nicholas takes them away,” replies the Krampus. “And you will die if you do not have even one made and hidden away. Then, at least, you will live that single day. You can use that time and make a new toy that you can stash away.”

Having never truly stopped, Mr. Breckell laughs aloud once again. “Are you telling me Santa Claus steals your toys.”

The Krampus alludes, “A thief by any name... what would he do if he was ever successful and he murdered me?”

“You are telling me, you can die if Santa takes away all your toys.”

“You will die, Mr. Breckell,” declares the Krampus. “When you become me.”

“Hold on,”  Mr. Breckell says and stunts the conversation. “You told me you wanted to retire. What did you say? Pass away. You can do that if you let Santa have all your toys.”

“There is something else you must do,” states the Krampus solemn and cold. “Someone must take your place. Someone else must always be the Krampus or we will never be at peace.”

Unswayed by any prospect this whole week has presented him, Mr. Breckell remains engaged in his lively discussion. “I don't know about your offer, mister. I heard that Saint Nick character was one tough hombre. You know, burglary is his thing – creeping down chimneys and eating cookies and all.”

An idea occurs to Mr. Breckell. “Hey, I have never seen the jolly old man. I know for a fact my parents put all my presents under the tree. I never heard from you, either. Or were you part of all those pagan parties before the twentieth century? Before my time?”

“I was hidden,” answers the Krampus. “Me and my toys and my workshop have been hidden all your life and longer. Saint Nicholas had no toys to give to good girls and boys.”

Mr. Breckell rambles, “So Santa Claus canceled giving away presents because he couldn't rip you off...”

“What about his little helpers? Where are his elves?”

The Krampus shakes his head, gasps then sighs. “I am so tired and I cannot bear the things I do. I can no longer bear my guilt.”

Mr. Breckell wonders aloud, “Why? What have you done? You make toys.”

“Listen,” musters the Krampus. He leers into Mr. Breckell's face. “You can't just take them – I never did. I gave them warnings. They get two?”

“What are they and who are them?” Mr. Breckell asks. He is not one bit interested in hearing any admonitions.

The Krampus tells him, “The first warning I give is a lump of coal. I put it in their stockings.”

“Are you talking about kids?” indicts Mr. Breckell. “I was just kidding when I mentioned earlier that I was hungry. Certainly no veal.”

The Krampus ignores the man's comments and he continues speaking. “The second is a bundle of twigs bound together with reed. After that second year, I just come and take them.”

“Where – where to?”

“The North Pole. I hide my workshop there in a cave washed out by ocean waves.”

Certain who they are talking about, Mr. Breckell shouts, “Why?” Not one deaf head in the day-room turns.

The Krampus confesses, “Children can make your toys for you. That's allowed if you keep them under your control.”

“Slaves?”

“I use a potion brewed from an extract of mistletoe. I mix it into their porridge of ice and snow.”

Mr. Breckell mumbles at a volume hardly overheard. “You brainwash children with poison.”

He then judges aloud the beast by his side. “Inhumane.”

“No, no, the potion makes them happy.”

The Krampus' speech sounds scrambled.

“Don't you see? Saint Nicholas has no workshop in the Arctic Circle. He doesn't have any elves. All of that belongs to me. He takes away my toys and the children who are glad they help the Krampus stay alive.”

“What does Santa do with the kids?”

“I suppose he takes them home. I don't know, I don't know... I don't care.”

Mr. Breckell says proud, “It's good to know he is still a good man.”

“Is he?” cries the Krampus. “Is he, Mr. Breckell? The Sinter Klass hunts us, sir. He will not let our souls rest and he only wants to keep us desperate. We are forced to desperately make toys to stay alive.”

“Hold on,” Mr. Breckell states and mimes as if he physically pulls in an equine's reins. “Who are you talking about when you mention 'we'? Certainly not you and me.”

“There is only now you,” replies the Krampus.

“What do mean?”

The gnarled creature tells the man, “Mr. Breckell, you agreed to take my place.”

“No,” Mr. Breckell objects. He has stopped laughing. “How did that happen?”

“Because you spoke to me.”

****

The nursing home vanishes from all around Mr. Breckell. The Krampus goes, too. Rather, old Mr. Breckell has himself gone. The elderly man discovers he is alone atop snow and an iceberg larger than his poor eyesight might measure. He shivers only a little because the air and ground are both cold. Mr. Breckell does not already know it, him standing outside fully dressed overlain with his nursing home bathrobe, but for some inexplicable reason the man is lucky he is not shaking more. Foremost in his audible mind is, “I have been teleported to the North Pole.”

“The dirty scoundrel,” grumbles Mr. Breckell. “What am I going to do now?”

He recognizes a scraggy voice whispering from out of his own ears. The voice of the original Krampus tells him, “Watch out for Saint Nick. Your brothers are watching you.”

“Hey, get back here,” Mr. Breckell shouts. “Send me back! I didn't agree to anything.”

As the voice falls further away, Mr. Breckell hears it say, “The souls of your brothers depend on you to keep our peace. Hide. Hide and make toys.”

“Wait a minute,”  Mr. Breckell begs the voice before it is gone. After no answer except a frigid gust of wind, one that chills his limbs, he appeals to the overcast sky. “Where am I suppose to go?”

“He said he made a cave,”  Mr. Breckell tells himself. As if he knows the direction, he marches toward the ocean side.

Along his solitary journey, he first asks himself, “Who are the brothers?” Further along, Mr. Breckell answers the question.

“I bet it's you,” he says to himself, meaning the voice he recognized was the Krampus he met tonight in the day room at Nueva Buena Vista.

He chides the Krampus he knew while tramping downhill into deepening snow. “Some wretched fiend looked at you and found a fool to pass a curse onto.”

“That's what this is, isn't it?”

The question is rhetorical. The hypothetical answer is, too. “Some eternal life this is, I tell you.”

A gunshot makes his insane reality legitimate. A bullet immediately blows snow and steam from a hole made into a snow drift concealing most of his thin and aged body. Hidden so, he has avoided injury.

“I got you,” declares a hoarse old man with yet a jolly shout. “I found you. Where are your toys?”

Mr. Breckell says without hunting the horizon for the shooter, “Santa Claus, is that you?”

A skinny man wearing a long gray beard and longer, hairy, green coat shouts back. “I'm Ole Nick, to you. Ho.”

Ole Nick pauses and asks the rookie Krampus, “You're a new Krampus aren't you? 'Course, I haven't seen you for over a hundred years. And I've been looking. I promise you that. I guess I'm just lucky everybody hasn't forgotten about me.”

The stretched elf laughs aloud. “Ho, ho, ho,” then he fires a shot into the air. An AK-47 then swings over his head once more and unleashes a burst that drowns speech.

Dropping the weapon, Ole Nick tells the new Krampus, “I said, Christmas is coming this year. Show me where you've hidden all your toys.”

“I don't know,” pleads Mr. Breckell. Challenging the safety of his snowdrift, he raises his head and looks over his shoulder. Saint Nicholas comes up behind him, following his target's fathom-deep foot prints.

“I am feeling charitable all of a sudden,” promises Santa Claus, “I'll give your a break because you're so brand new. Look at you – your wrinkles haven't yet turned into bark. Give me all your toys and I'll let you live this year – well, at least until Spring.”

“You're going to kill me?” asks the unbelieving remnant of Mr. Breckell.

Ole Nick grows serious. “You, your kind and your undead hive mind are an abomination.” He spits. “Ptah, you all-in-one and everlasting...”

“The Krampus is a dreg of Creation, the root of jealous anxiety. You don't feel it yet, but you will quick enough. I exist to clean you up.”

The human that yet survives claims, “This is crazy. Please, let me go. Take all my toys. Please, just allow me to make more.”

“Your type of immortality is a mad idea,” judges Santa Claus. “Well, I'm the balance. You must die – after Christmas this year is sorted out”

The Krampus stammers. “Just take my toys, leave me in peace.”

“I will rescue the kids, too,” Ole Saint Nick pledges.

“What kids?”

“The ones you hypnotize and they make all your toys.”

The Mr. Breckell inside the Krampus tells Santa, “Take them. I'll make my own toys.”

Ole Nick chuckles. “And just like all your brothers, you will be disappointed to find you can't keep up.”

Mr. Breckell asks even though he sort of knows, “Who are my brothers?”

He is ignored. Instead,  Ole Nick waves a rifle into his face and commands him, “Show me your toys.”

“Yes, yes,” replies the Krampus. He then takes Saint Nicholas to his lair.

The entrance to the ice cave is near. Truly, the two eternal spirits have almost always shuffled through snow over the length of saltwater carved caverns. Having arrived at the cave mouth, the Krampus points toward the dark hole. Uncertain of the intention of the man with the gun, he invites Saint Nicholas inside using only a nod and an arm gesture.

“There is candlelight inside,” promises the Krampus and Mr. Breckell knew.

“You go first,” Santa responds. “I'm right behind you and I've got an automatic weapon pointed at the center of your back.”

Before either spirit steps further toward the underground, gaunt and pale children fizz out of the hole as if they were bubbles jumped from a boiling cauldron. All of them smile. They shout in song,  “The Krampus!” Apparently impervious to the freezing cold, the skinny kids banter with each other in the snow wearing only pajamas and slippers.

“He doesn't look like the Krampus,” one boy observes.

A smaller girl tells him, “He smells like the Krampus.”

And the boy replies, “He doesn't look like him.”

“He will look like one in a hundred years,” another child answers.

Boggled, Saint Nick wonders rhetorically, “What poison?”

Ashamed because of this evidence left by a guilty brother who had come before him, the one who had been Mr. Breckell claims, “I'm sorry – it wasn't me.”

“You will commit this same crime one day soon. You always do,” Santa retorts. “I'll be back and shoot you. You can join your brothers... and there will always be another one like you. There has always been.”

Although the children are reluctant, Saint Nicholas gathers them together and puts all the boys and girls the Krampus has kidnapped behind him. He tells the Krampus, “You can make as many toys as you want until then... enough for next Christmas, I expect.”

“You want the toys for Christmas?” reiterates the desperate Krampus. “But they are the days of my life... I'm sure we can work something out.”

The inconceivable notion brings another, “Ho, ho, ho,” from Ole Nick.

“Give me your toys,” Santa Claus orders the Krampus with no condition or exception.

“Please,” the Krampus begs Ole Nick while the children go directed back into the cave to haul out all the unwrapped Christmas presents.

Santa salutes the Krampus, “I loathe your kind – that is just the nature of Creation. Because of you, it has been a hundred years since the world has truly seen what Christmas was meant to be.”

The Krampus presents a feeble defense before the dangerous elf goes away. He says, “Is Christmas all about gifts? Toys that are better made to save the life of a man?”

“You are not a man,” answers Ole Nick.

Near sundown, after a day that seemed to last months, Saint Nicholas tells the Krampus, “I'll be back before sundown to clear out the rest of your lair. Merry Christmas – you better be gone by then.”

Confused and having nothing sensible to say, the Krampus who had once been Mr. Breckell watches Ole Nick go. The tall, green elf presses the rear of his caravan of gift-bearing slave children. Establishing distance between them and their slaver, Santa Claus calls back to the Krampus from across tundra. “You're going to die... I'll kill you myself.”

You can't hide forever. - you will come out and find another...”

“Even before that, you'll start collecting slaves...”

“Then I will find you again.”

“You better get those toys made!”

****

After the once been Mr. Breckell finds the recipe for mistletoe poison, and he's discovered a new lair for his toy workshop, the following news is broadcasted on Christmas day. While half of the United States still awaits dawn, WSIN television newswoman Sue Niam reports in an urgent voice,

“How do I describe it? These worldwide incidents of the opposite of breaking-and-entering are simply pandemic. Homes all over the globe – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and even Israel – everywhere – have seemingly been forcibly entered by persons who resemble the sixteenth century Father Christmas.”

“Father Christmas is the Jenny Craig Santa Claus who wears green instead of red. Viewers are probably most familiar with him as the Ghost of Christmas Present in the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol.”

Ms. Niam pauses on-air live and she asks an off-camera someone, “Is this a hoax?”

The preened television personality then continues describing, “Images and videos captured all over the world portray a single identical intruder in all these incidents – intruder is not the word for him – because he leaves wrapped presents then disappears”

Her cameraman is told, “Charlie, this is one man. How can one man appear at once in millions of homes?”

The response from the cameraman is loud enough to register on the recording. “I hate wrapping presents.”

“Hold on,” Ms. Niam tells Charlie and her viewing audience. “Reports are coming in saying the intruder carries an automatic military firearm. Our Santa Claus is shooting pets.”

After a moment spent quietly listening to her earphone, Sue Niam tells her audience, “Gunfire has been exchanged... witnesses have reported skirmishes between the intruder and armed homeowners”

Interrupting herself, she states, “We have a caller from Arizona.”

“Hello, Mister Rood? You said you exchanged gunfire with the man dressed as Father Christmas.”

“I sure did.”

Eager to curb the mania in her caller's voice, Ms. Niam says, “We're just now learning about the hundreds of incidents. These armed encounters seem focused in the Western half of the world.”

“America!” rallies Mr. Rood. “Damn, yeah.”

Ms. Niam cautions the man from Arizona. “Please, language, Mr. Rood. And it is Christmas Day.”

Mr. Rood grumbles, “Libtards.”

Refocusing the report, Ms. Niam asks her caller, “Can you tell us what happened to you this morning?”

“Yeah, sure,” Mr. Rood grants with heavy breaths. “I heard that sucker rattling my front door at four AM. I don't go work at Walmart until six fifteen so I heard what was going on.”

The caller raises his voice.

“He come in my house with the 'Ho, ho, ho' and touting his rifle. Well, I brought mine.”

Interested in summarizing the witness, the television reporter asks, “How was the gunfire initiated?”

Yelling because of adrenaline, “I shot first – the man was in my home. He shot at me but I think I got him. All the authorities got to do is follow the blood trail. That's red enough for Christmas for you all.”

- End -


If you liked my story, the least you can do for me is send me a Christmas card. You can do that by buying this story on Smashwords. Merry Holidays (how does that sound?).

- Matthew Sawyer

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Listen Up - Doctor Who Fan Fiction

The scene that might make the whole problem with the Doctor Who Episode 'Listen' go away...



Listen Up

SCENE: The tar caverns of the planet Mywurt Five. The DOCTOR lies on a tarry rock floor of a pit DOWNSTAGE CENTER.  The DOCTOR is also bound hand-and-foot and his arms are behind his back.


MISTRESS enters UPSTAGE CENTER

MISTRESS (descending tractor beam into pit): There is nothing to be afraid of, Doctor – nothing and no one except me, of course.

DOCTOR (angry and exhausted): What are you twaddling about, today? Every day you have held me for ransom, I have suffered your pretentious staggering.

MISTRESS: Doctor... Be quiet.


MISTRESS stands CENTER STAGE over DOCTOR 

MISTRESS (sing-song voice): Shut up, shut up, shut up.


DOCTOR sits upright. 

DOCTOR (sarcastic): All right, tell me what you have to say about fear. Let's get your speech done already.

MISTRESS: I don't write them down, Doctor.

DOCTOR: Yes, yes... impromptu... a regular Philo, you are.

MISTRESS: Me? A great orator? A master, perhaps?

DOCTOR: It's getting old. Come on, exercise your lungs. My ears are your treadmill.

MISTRESS: Humph.

DOCTOR: Well, you sound like a comic book character – one of the baddies.

MISTRESS (angry): Your brave speech...


MISTRESS walks a circle around DOCTOR

MISTRESS: About fear making us stronger...

MISTRESS: About making us better people.

MISTRESS: Fear can be a superpower


MISTRESS halts STAGE RIGHT

MISTRESS: Did you lift that little speech? I swear I've heard one of your human pets say it before I heard the same irritating pathos from you.

DOCTOR: Oh, who are you talking about?

MISTRESS: Your quaking companion, Doctor. Clara.

DOCTOR: What does she have to do with you?

MISTRESS: Clara visited me, now you know, when I was a little boy. Oh, I do miss my old pantaloons.

DOCTOR: What are you saying?

MISTRESS: I used to be afraid, Doctor. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of monsters under my bed.

DOCTOR (urgent): Have you done anything to Clara? I'm warning you...

MISTRESS: Relax, this was long ago.

DOCTOR: We both know what that means to people like us.

MISTRESS: I'll tell you what happened.


MISTRESS sits down STAGE RIGHT next to DOCTOR

MISTRESS: Do you remember the Magellan columns when we were toddlers? Those storms were nothing but pure electricity, but the sound was terrifying. It scared me. I slept in my family's barn where I knew I was protected by its static haze insulation.

DOCTOR (sarcastic): Some boys cuddle teddy bears.

MISTRESS: Clara cuddled me.

DOCTOR (dismissive): You say.

MISTRESS: Really. She visited me during a storm– that must have been the summer when my first application to the academy was rejected. Their doctors were concerned with my mental stability. Imagine that, way back then.


MISTRESS stands

MISTRESS: Clara was hiding under my bed.

DOCTOR: That is convenient.

MISTRESS: I'm telling the truth. She grabbed my ankle.

DOCTOR rolls his eyes.


MISTRESS: Then she whispered softly into my ear, “It's all a dream.”

DOCTOR: I expect.

MISTRESS: Tsk, I can prove it. Do you still have that plastic army man, the one you took from me?”

DOCTOR: I don't know what you're talking about.

MISTRESS: You, Doctor, are a kleptomaniac. Some worlds believe your neurosis is worst than murder.

DOCTOR: I expect I'm probably wanted on all of them.

MISTRESS: Probably.

DOCTOR: You would do them a favor by killing me now.

MISTRESS: Doctor, that isn't what this is about. Besides, the bounty on your head is pathetic. I think Earth will give me all its weapon-grade uranium for your safe return.

DOCTOR: Why, what do you need it for? You could make a big batch for yourself.

MISTRESS: It's a game. You know us.

DOCTOR: All too casually.


MISTRESS guffaws

MISTRESS: I guess I should go back and act more professionally. 


MISTRESS walks backwards toward UPSTAGE CENTER

MISTRESS: There is something I wanted to say before I bring back the burning cockroaches.

DOCTOR (shouts over his own shoulder): Good, they'll give me something to do. Maybe I can use their teeth and cut the bands on my Immobilizer Cuffs.

MISTRESS (riding tractor beam from pit): If you must try... what I wanted to tell you – my answer to you that you refuse to hear... about that night long ago Clara came and visited me. I listened to your TARDIS fly away.


MISTRESS exits UPSTAGE CENTER

MISTRESS (from OFF STAGE): Fear will destroy you those times you are all alone. One must Master fear.


[CUTSCENE]



Listen Up is a fictional story. Doctor Who and the characters in this story are properties of Doctor Who. I submit this tale as a fan for fans of the BBC Doctor Who television series.

Listen Up by Matthew Sawyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Share away!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sour Grapes And A Fox




Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour...

- Aesop's Fables


Somewhere the Sixth century B.C., Aesop said... "A fox strolling, through an orchard, spotted a bunch of ripe grapes hanging from a vine grown up a tree. That fox was hungry, so hungry that he talked to himself. He said, 'I'm so hungry, I'll even eat grapes.'

“When he jumped up to snatch a bunch off the vine, he missed. He took a running jump and he still could not reach the grapes. A crow told him – and the fox was so hungry that other animals spoke to him, too – that fat black bird said from high up in boughs, 'You will starve.'

“'You, fox, you will die because you lack ambition.” The bird squawks, “Take what is available to you. Eat the grapes there in the dirt. Take what has fallen off the vine and rotted.'

“The bird cackles.

“'The ripe grapes are all mine.'

“The fox complains. 'The grapes in the dirt are covered with biting ants. And the fruit is fermented, all the same.'

“'Eat them,' screeches the bird. 'The ants are extra protein in a diet such as yours. And the spoiled grapes will make you drunk. Foxes like you like to get intoxicated. Eat so many grapes that you no longer care you are hungry.'

“And the fox is famished, so he eats grapes that have fallen off the vine. He takes ants into his mouth and they bite his tongue and his throat when he swallows them down. The fox feels the insects' poison or the fermented fruit spin his mind. All the while, the elevated crow devours ripe grapes. The bird isn't even hungry.

“The crow eats the good grapes and teases the fox. 'Jump, jump and get the ripe grapes. They are so sweet. They are so full of fresh vitamins.'

“The fox gets an idea. He tells the bird, 'Don't eat all the grapes. I will reach the vine, I can do it.'

“His tongue lolls from his mouth and the fox slurs his words when he speaks. 'Let's play a game, fat bird. We can play a game you will like.'

“'My grapes are not your prize,' stakes the crow.

“'No,' the fox promises. 'I will get the grapes. And you can laugh at me when I try.'

“'Try,' the bird says. He eats the good grapes all around him and he asks the fox, 'What is your game?'

“The fox says, 'You will eat one of your good grapes every time I fail to grab any grape.'

“'I will eat one of my grapes every time you jump and fail?'

“'Yes.'

“'I already do,' chuckles the crow. 'That's why I don't fly away and I wait.'

“The fox says, 'Then that is what we will do.'

“He staggers beneath a bunch of grapes he can never, ever reach. When the fox jumps up, his angle is awkward and uncoordinated. His leap is weak and already he is tired. The fox acts inebriated, that is what the crow sees.

“The fox failed his attempt, so the bird caws aloud and swallows a fruit whole. The crow would do the same even if it did not play a game. He was overstuffed and he could never quit.

“All day long, the crow eats a grape each time the feeble fox jumps into the air and fails. He eats two when the fox falls to the ground painfully onto its back. Even while the intoxicated animal rests, the bird consumes fruit there appears no room for beneath its round shawl of feathers.

“Near sunset, after the fox has spent the day never claiming a prize other than sour ants and alcohol, the overfed crow wobbles on the branch on which it is perched. He is drowsy then falls off.

“The bird topples to the earth and lands knocked senseless near the panting fox. That fox tells the stuffed crow, 'I do this all day. I jump all day and I seldom ever eat. It's all I do. Now, tonight, I find a foolish bird and I dine on fat and wine.'

And the morale is...

“EAT WHAT YOU DESPISE.”

- Matthew Sawyer




Quote the Wolf


"Lil' red

 lost her head.

 So I

 told the girl,

'Your hood

 is no good

 anymore.'

 And I

took it."

- Mr. Binger

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fashionable Tails

Tails of Fashion by Matthew Sawyer


Twelve-year old Tabi says to her three girlfriends, “I don't like having a tail.”

The four Middle School girls are sleeping-over together at Katy's house. Katy is a happy hostess. Everybody calls her 'Cat,' and she even spells her nickname with a 'C.'

Next to her, sharing a sleeping bag on the floor, Tabi repeats herself. “I don't like having a tail because people can guess the color of my pubic hair.”

Cat answers, “You're lucky you started puberty. You're even getting your boobs.”

Late at night when the girls should be sleeping and staying silent, they keep a reading lamp on. It is mounted over the empty bed. Hardly any light reaches all the way down to the carpet. A plug-in nightlight by the closed bedroom door does not help at all.

Tabi whines, “I know. I just don't like my tail.”

“I like my tail,” Julie tells her friends. No one acknowledges the statement. “It's still small, so I don't have to show it off. And there's only fuzz on it.”

Riley recommends to Tabi, “Shave it.”

Tabi says, “No.”

“You don't have to keep it outside your panties,” the meek Julie suggests. Everyone there in Cat's room forgets the quiet girl is present, almost in the shadow under the bed. She touches the darkness and blends right in.

More bleak, Tabi states, “My parents say I should be proud.”

Accidentally mindful of her friend, Julie, and in agreement with her, Cat says to Tabi, “Put it away when you go to school.”

“I do,” Tabi says.

“She does,” Riley testifies. “We have classes together in the morning and in the afternoon. I see her.”

“I don't pay attention,” Cat admits.

“Shave it,” Riley says again. “The models in New York shave their tails.”

“She's not a model,” Cat opines.

Tabi tells her, “Thanks.”

“I mean you're cuter.

“Thanks,” Tabi replies flat.

“Let's see,” Cat pressures her friend. “Let's look at the color of your hair. I bet it's blond like your head.”

Riley tells everybody, “It's dishwater brown. I saw it. It's darker on the tip.”

“Riley,” Tabi gasps.

Sleepy and silly, Cat guesses. “Are you brown down there?”

“You know,” Tabi snarls. “Shut up.”

Defensive and full of adrenaline, she raises her voice and lectures her friends. “Not everybody has the same hair color all over their bodies. People around this town are mostly brunette. That's fine.”

Riley interrupts. “It's consistent.”

Without affirmation, Tabi practically yells, “And redheads don't draw any extra attention.”

“I bet they'd look like they were on fire,” shouts Cat in laughter. Her parents pound on their shared wall then Cat giggles, “Shh.”

The girls go as quiet as Julie has always been. Almost below the surface of utter silence, the unspoken one hiding against the bed skirt says, “Most people just wear them in their trousers.”

“Trousers?” snickers Cat. She and all the girls keep their volumes low.

Riley whispers, “People have them cut off and bobbed.”

“Or,” Cat specifies.

“That's plastic surgery,” moans Tabi. “And there is my Mom and my Dad.”

Julie tells everyone from somewhere unseen, “Those boys in High School cut theirs off.”

“Some of them,” Riley retorts.

Cat says, “The whole football team.”

Riley tells her, “Not all of the boys play football – three. I watch the news. And those were expelled.

“I've been in the High School,” reports Cat. “I've seen some tails there, boys show them off. The little ones are cute.”

Curious, Julie whispers, “What color were they?”

“I don't know.”

Dismayed and wishing for the topic to quickly change, Tabi answers, “You can guess black.”

As if she has fumbled and she scrambles to recover respectability, Cat ponders aloud. “There's like a bald spot at the base of your tail, huh? Tabi?”

More outraged at Cat then she was with Riley, Tabi exclaims, “Cat!”

“Shh,” Cat sprays back at her friend.

Once the room has been hushed, Cat says, “Everybody has one – a spot. It's suppose to be sexually attractive, like ankles in the Victorian century.”

“Huh?” Riley questions.

“Touch it,” Cat instructs Tabi.

“What?”

“Maybe it's extra sensitive. Is it? Is it a Hot Spot?”

Tabi tells her, “Now you're gross.”

Julie is genuinely sincere when she asks, “What is she talking about?” If anyone there could see in the dark, they would observe her nodding her darker head.

Cat volunteers, “Tabi knows, hair grows on a tail from the tip to the other end and underneath. But it doesn't come together on the top near the spine in your back. It's naked there”

Everyone is quiet while Cat chuckles.

“You said you were growing a tail,” she accuses Julie. “Rub it. Rub the base where there isn't any peach down.”

“Huh?”

“Where you got no hair.”

“Don't,” Tabi demands.

Already, Julie reports, “I don't feel anything.”

“Do it harder,” Cat suggests.

Joining the understanding again, Riley says, “She's too young.”

“How old do you have to be?” wonders Cat.

“Stop,” Tabi issues. “This is sick.”

“I'm cutting it off. I'm going to cut off my tail.”

The other girls say in descending chorus, “What? No.”

Excited, Riley tells Tabi, “You can't cut off your tail. That's like cutting off your finger.”

“Worse,” adds Cat. 'Worse' is the only word of caution Cat gives her friend.

Decided, Tabi says, “I'll try that first.”

Confused once more, Riley wonders, “What?”

Tabi asks her friend, “Katy, do you have any scissors?”

“No,” she answers. “Well, yes, but no.”

“You want to do it now?” Julie whispers with an encouraging tone of voice.

“My finger.”

Tabi then says after nobody answers her statement. “If it doesn't hurt too bad, we can do my tail.”

“I'm not helping you,” Cat asserts.

“It will hurt,” Riley says. “Let her try it and she'll stop.”

Julie only nods her head and the room seems to grow darker.

Shocked by the ridiculous support her life-long buddies give their equally bound soul sister, Cat tells everyone, “I'm not stopping her.”

Immediately, Riley says, “The little finger. Try to take off the very tip.”

“I don't have scissors,” Tabi states.

Riley urges their friend. “Cat, c'mon. Get the scissors.”

Katy's resistance is broken once Julie whispers to her, “You can let her try.”

After an “Oh,” and being poked and hearing her name chanted, Cat gets up off the floor and leaves Tabi alone in the sleeping bag.

“Move over, Julie,” she solicits her friend. “I keep scissors under my bed.”

“Why?” Riley jokes. “Are you giving weapons to monsters?”

“Maybe its not for monsters,” Cat replies and straightens upright. A long pair of sewing scissors stays coincidentally concealed behind the young girl's pale nightgown.

Before she hands the chrome surgical instrument to her friend, she says, “So we get to see it... your tail.”

Tabi seizes the scissors and admits, “If this doesn't hurt.”

“It will,” Riley says again.

“Too much,” defines Tabi.

Un-synchronized with the conversation, Riley repeats, “I've seen it, her tail.”

“What do you think?” Cat whispers directly to her friend. The room is so still, she is unable to hide her voice from the other girls.

Riley sums, “It's not bad.”

Tabi says more flatly than last time, “Thanks.”

“It doesn't matter,” she states and sits down cross-legged on top of the sleeping bag. “If this doesn't hurt too much, it's gone.”

The same time Cat asks her friend, “What are you going to tell your parents?” the scissors make that distinctive noise, “Snick.”

A whole mute minute passes that not one girl remembers before Tabi screams. Her screeches rattle the bedroom window, Katy's father shakes the wall. Tabi had ruined the first knuckle of her little finger on her left hand and her agony now summons her friend's Mom and Dad.

The same time responsible adults enter the room, Riley advises her hurting friend. “You need a bigger scissors. You're gonna need bigger scissors if you cut off that, you know, thing.”



-Matthew Sawyer


Please, Read my fiction at Smashwords

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