Monthly Archives: December 2014

WESat – You Knew

Len’s challenge this week was to twist the reader’s emotions — start happy and end sad, or similar.
Unfortunately, this is the Christmas season and I have two young girls who are going stir-crazy. I have no time to write something new. So, I am recycling my response when this challenge was posted on Gather, which itself was recycled from an even earlier Gather Two-Word challenge. So, if it feels a little limp, that’s why.
My ancestors must have been Puritans: nothing goes to waste.

~~

Aidan.

I don’t know where you are, but I hope this finds you. I never got a chance to thank you and now this is the only way I will be able to.

I want you to know that AnnieBell is doing fine. That is her name. Of course everyone calls her Annabel. They just don’t listen, or they hear what they want to hear. But don’t worry, she knows her proper name and she will know how that came to be. She is nearly two now, and she is talking. She says AnnieBell quite clearly and my mother and father keep correcting her. “It’s Annabel dear” they say patiently and proudly and they laugh gently at her. She simply answers with AnnieBell. Again and again and again.

I wish I could talk to your mother Aidan. I wish I could let her know that her bloodline and her name are carried on, but you never told me anything about her other than that.

That night we talked until daybreak. I’d never talked so much in my life which was funny, considering. I told you everything there was to know about me, even the bad things, the secret things that gave me the scars and clamped my mouth shut whenever anybody pressed too close. The things the doctors never knew, with all their tests and their interviews and their opinions borne of study and degree and interrogation – I never trusted a White Coat, but then none of us did, did we?

But at the end of that night I knew almost nothing about you. I knew your name and your mother’s, and that was it. And much later when I asked, after you had gone and when they knew about AnnieBell, they claimed it was Private Information. They said they were Unable To Divulge. They said I must go through the Proper Channels. And then they wiped their hands of me and closed the doors and locked the gates. And I was here in the world with the one thing that kept me to you. They don’t know what happened that night and that’s fine; it was none of their business. I told them nothing. Maybe that was why they spited me later on.

You listened Aidan. You looked at me and you listened. You didn’t ask, and you didn’t judge. You didn’t take notes or offer explanations. And you laughed when I laughed and you cried when I cried and you were still when I was quiet. You knew Aidan. You knew what I needed even though you’d never met me before.

There are times here at home when I will cry all day and my mother and my father will come into my room with concerned looks take AnnieBell away from me and call Doctor Matthews, and he will come over and count my pills and make sure I am keeping to my schedules. But they just don’t understand that I cry because I need to, and when I’m done it is gone. Then they let AnnieBell see me again and I look at her face and she looks at mine and we both know it is all right.

You are no longer here, and maybe that was your choice or maybe it wasn’t. I don’t understand it but I’ve accepted that things don’t need my understanding. Things happen or they don’t. You happened to me: you gave me what I needed and you gave me AnnieBell, and then you found the path you had to take.

I don’t know how these things are supposed to work. I haven’t done this since I was a child, but I needed to tell you these things, and for you to know that I am grateful. So I’ve written it all down and AnnieBell and I are going to walk down to the church tomorrow morning and give this to the Reverend, and then I’m going to start telling her all the things you knew about me, and the things I don’t know about you.

Amen.

WEMon – Fun Facts

In this week’s Monday Humour challenge, Greg would like us to use exaggeration as a tool. Fair enough. He also said steal an idea, and as you read on you’ll see I stole a fair few of ‘em.

To start, I would like you to take a small test. Below are three interesting facts; your job is to decide which one is not true:

Fact #1: Page Three glamour model Katie Price has released no less than five autobiographies.
Fact #2: There are a total of one billion bacteria hitching a ride on and in your body.
Fact #3: I was named 2006 Person of the Year by TIME magazine.

Bing! Your time is up. Did you guess the fake fact? Of course you did. It is fact #2.

As any microbiologist will tell you, there aren’t a total of one billion bacteria on you right now. The true total is closer to… 100 trillion. Yep, you read that right. In fact, every square inch of your skin is home to 32 million of them.

Yuck.

And that is where I see a slight problem with this week’s prompt. For exaggeration to work as a tool for humour, it must be patently ridiculous. Yet for every silly exaggeration you can think of there will be a fact ten times as ridiculous.

Here’s another: there are over one and a half billion US $5 bills in circulation right now. Eighty percent will have traces of cocaine on them, and thirty percent will have, at some time in their lives, been stuffed into a stripper’s G-string. You might want to remember that, when handing your little darlings their weekly pocket money.

So sure, I could employ exaggeration to comical effect in this post.  I could tell you for example, about the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth: 7.2 trillion degrees Farenheit or, to put it another way, just a little bit hotter than the filling of your average McDonalds apple pie.

I could also tell you that the average 4-year-old asks 400 questions a day, which is why one of the first things I taught my daughter to do was to Google.

But I’m lazy. I don’t want to think up comic exaggerations, and real facts don’t require them. The human condition can serve up enough laughs all on its own, for example:

  • More than 2500 left handed people are killed each year, using equipment made for right-handers.
  • Vending machines kill four times more people per year than sharks do.
  • 58% of British teenagers think Sherlock Holmes was a real person, and Winston Churchill was not.
  • 55,000 people in the US are injured by jewellery each year, while 33,000 are injured on the toilet.
  • Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns.

Or how about these oddities from the natural world:

  • The total weight of all the ants on the earth is greater than that of all humans.
  • A mouse can fit through a hole the size of a ballpoint pen.
  • Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.

Seems like nobody has a bigger sense of humour than Mother Nature.

* Oh, and yes, I was named 2006 TIME magazine Person of the Year. So were you, your spouse, your children, your idiot cousin, and anybody else who so much as posted on Facebook or commented on an online forum. TIME magazine pretty much phoned it in that year.

Maxwell and the Sassenach

This is my response to this week’s WESat challenge: to write about castles. I am working from Len’s train of thought, and writing a fictional tale about the building by the Maxwell clan, of a triangular castle similar to Caerlaverock.

~~

The scene: a low hill, somewhere in Scotland during the Middle Ages. On that hill are two groups of men: the first, a company of labourers, is fronted by a great bear of a Scotsman. Has has a beard big enough to hide a haggis in, and is wearing the red and green of Clan Maxwell. He is looking at a sheaf of papers and chewing on a pencil.

The other group is led by an impatient Englishman in impeccable armour. He glares at the Scotsman, while his servants stand at a respectful distance.

Eventually the Scotsman straightens up and takes the pencil out of his mouth. “Well, y’see, there’s gonna be some problems wi what yer askin’ fer.” He scribbles on the paper. “This ground canna hold the weight of them walls yer want.”

The Englishman stamps his steel-shod foot. “Rubbish!  Lord Duncan’s castle is only a stone’s throw away and his walls are just as large.”

“Yeah, well, Laird Duncan built his castle on a tor. Good, solid rock under ‘im. This is just a bleedin’ hillock. If we build what yer askin’ fer, Laird Duncan could chuck that stone at yer front gate an’ knock it straight over.”

“Hrrmph, complete balderdash!  My castle in Hertfordshire is built on ground just like this. Good, English ground, and never a problem.”

“Hmm, had many battles in Hertfordshire recently?”

“Well, no.”

“Guessed as much. Look, I’m not sayin’ it canna be done yer way, just that it’s gonna cost yer to do it.” He writes a number on the paper and hands it to the Englishman.

“Are you kidding me?” The Englishman reddens, screws up the paper and throws it to the ground. His air of superiority dissipates into indignant rage. “Seriously, you bloody Scots are all the same. See an Englishman coming and you immediately jack up the bloody prices.” He waves a metallic finger under the Scotsman’s nose. “Well, let me tell you something. I’m Lord of this bloody place now, you bloody peasants better get used to it. My word is law, and that means you bloody well do what I bloody well say. You understand?”

The Scotsman is unimpressed. He waits for the Englishman to finish, then casually lobs a glob of spit on the ground between them. “Oh really? Yer think I ne’er come across your sort before pal? Yer sassenachs come ridin’ o’er the border, kill a few bloody farmers and call yerself a Laird, an’ we’re supposed to tug our forelocks? I dunno who yer bin speakin’ to pal, but I’m no peasant. I’m a Maxwell, and I’m a bloody master builder, an’ I got more than enough work from yer mates to keep me busy fer years. I don’ need yer shite.”

He tucks his papers under his arms and turns to his workers. “Okay fellas, let’s go. I hear Laird Duncan’s lookin’ fer a kitchen extension.”

“Alright, alright. I take it back.”

“That’s better, pal.”

“What would you recommend, then?”

“Well, I hear there’s been some intrestin’ things done wi concrete recently.”

“Concrete?”

“Yeah. Dead easy. An cheap. Just pour a bloody great slab, hoist it up, an’ there yer go. Course there’d be some concessions to make.”

“Such as?”

“Well, them ramparts would have to go. And the battlements, the bastions, the arrow-loops, the barbicans , the bartizans, the parapets, the towers, the turrets… ”

“Leaving me with?”

“Well, a wall.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

“Not much of an option, is it?”

“Better than a pile of rocks on a hill.”

“Is there anything else?”

The Scotsman makes a show of narrowing his eyes and sucking air between his teeth. “Well, there’s one other thing, maybe. If yer set on using stone…”

“I am.”

“… we could possibly lose one o’ the walls.”

“One of the walls? Are you bloody serious?”

“Sure. We’ll build a trianglar castle instead.”

“A triangle… Lord Duncan will think I’ve gone insane!”

“Nah. Tell ‘im it’s the latest thing in castle design.”

“But it isn’t.”

“It will be, once we build it.’”

“He’ll never believe that!”

“Yes he will. Laird Duncan’s a feckin’ idiot.”

“What about the moat?”

“Well, yer were never gonna get a moat on this hillock anyway.”

“I don’t know… there’s nothing else you can think of?”

“Not fer yer money.”

“And definitely no moat?”

“Definitely.”

The Englishman slumps in defeat. “Oh well. Sign me up. I guess I can always add a moat later.”

“Only if yer learn to swim first, yer bloody sassenach.”

“What was that?”

“Nuthin, my Laird.”