Saturday, February 28, 2015

Flash! Friday: Beached & Fury

by Michael Seese

Something old, something new for this week's Flash! Friday. Here is the photo.


And our conflict had to involve man vs. nature. Seeing the picture reminded me of something I wrote for Indies Unlimited last March. I tightened it up a bit. So here is the refurbished "Beached."

The police struggled to restrain the grind of onlookers. Oblivious to the din, Dr. Newton’s attention and energy remained focused on the immobile black mass before him.

"Damn it! That’s the third this month. Why do they do it? Why do they beach themselves? Pity. She’s a beautiful specimen," he said as he ran an appreciative hand along the smooth skin.

"How can you tell it's a female?" asked Simone, his assistant.

"When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you sense it."

"What if it continues to happen?"

"Worst case, widespread extinction."

"There must be—"

"Shhh!” he hissed. "I feel something!" He placed a sensor against the leviathan, and listened. "She’s still alive!"

An audible buzz surged through the crowd.

"She’s severely dehydrated." Newton called to the crowd. "Everyone! We need your help!"

Without a word, the throng lined up beside the imperiled creature. Taking turns, each plugged a finger into her lubrication port, and delivered a small quantity of oil. Newton checked her levels, then rebooted her.

Propellers churning the sand, she began lurching toward the water. With a titanic splash, she entered the surf.

As she sailed out to sea, a metallic cheer arose from the crowd.

When I first saw the photo and began contemplating, I had an idea of a story told by a sailor whose crazy captain implores them to pull a ship across the desert, because it's a shortcut. I wanted to have the sailor speak in a unique voice, for example, referring to the captain as cap'n. But that just made me think of Cap'n Crunch cereal, which ruined it.

Then I came up with the opening line "I stand in the fury," and the rest flowed. Below is "Fury."

I stand in the fury.

Arms outstretched, I curse Mother Nature, slathering her with every epithet in my vocabulary. She responds with a haughty huff, hoping it will send me scurrying. I refuse to yield.

I am Ahab! "Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."

She changes tactics. Needles of sleet sting my face. I do not flinch.

I am Lear! "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!"

The sane have long since sought safety. I seek a fight. My defiance only deepens her spite, and fortifies her resolve. She wraps an icy fist around the brine and hurls her watery vengeance at me. She fills the air with a banshee's wail. Roaring rumbles pummel my chest. Blue bolts of electricity turn the sand around me to glass. The battle leaves us both spent. But I am still here.

The clouds retreat. The rains cease. She has ceded.

And I have lost.

I have lost because I could not convince her to take me, as she took my family in a cataclysmic clash of harbor and homestead.

In the end, I am Martin Luther. "Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying."

Please share your thoughts on either.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Castle: The Wrong Stuff

by Michael Seese

Funny. Funny. Funny. Funny. Funny. 

Did I make it clear that "The Wrong Stuff" had some humorous moments in it? It was a thigh-slapper to be sure, though it surprised me with some bonus depth at the end, specifically, Beckett comparing the astronauts' close-quarter plight with theirs.

As is typical, they seem to follow the dark episodes (in this case the deep dark Resurrection and Reckoning, back to back) with a light one. I filled a page with quips before the first commercial break.

Nice touch aside: Replacing the skyline of NYC with Mars.

(Bear in mind, it's not always the words alone, but the delivery as well.)

Castle: "You're playing laser tag without me?"

Castle: "Are those my pajamas?" And though I didn't write down the full line, I loved his follow up which noted that they were his softest pajamas, and now he had to "burn them."

Beckett: "We've got a murder. To solve. Not commit."

Beckett: "We're bound to step on each others' toes."
Castle: "Yeah, but there were a lot more toes tonight."

Beckett: "You signed up to go to Mars? When?"
Castle: "A couple of years ago."
Beckett: "Where was I?"
Castle: "We were fighting."
(And then reversing the conversation later.)

Beckett: "Even when you whisper, everyone can hear you."

Then four great cultural references:

Castle: "One small murder for man. One giant mystery for mankind."

Castle: "Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of Castle and Beckett. They're ongoing mission to explore strange, new motives. To seek out new witnesses, new suspects for murder. To boldly go... Oh, right over here."

Jansen: "She's more Siri than HAL."

Castle: "There goes my Rise Of The Machines theory."

(And to make sure everyone got in on the parade.)
Alexis: "Wow, you guys. Get a room."
Castle: "We would if there was any place left."

Castle: "I'm checking you for bites and scratches. Just making sure you didn’t somehow get impregnated."
Beckett: "If you think that’s how I’d get pregnant, we need to talk."

Whew! That's plenty.

Plus there was joy a-plenty. Castle's slow-mo Mars-hop, and Esposito's chase ("Where are you going to go?") come to mind.


This may be the first time Castle ever had a triple homicide, though in this case, "triple" refers to the murderers.

I do have to mention my picky aside, since this dances right up to being such a gaping logical flaw that the whole enterprise (pun intended) falls apart. Simple question: why kill Richwood? No doubt the debriefing would include thoughts on the personnel. If everyone (or even 3 of the 5) said "This guy would drive us nuts," he'd be booted.

Oh well. I still enjoyed "The Wrong Stuff." How about you?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Flash! Friday... The Professor + Mooning

by Michael Seese

I think the folks at Flash! Friday delight in torturing us. Last week, we had to incorporate a gladiator as a character. This week we had to focus on setting, and use...


Plus we had to work off this photo.

Luckily, we're given some leeway in how literally we have to use the prompts. I started working on "The Professor" in the shower, coming up with the beginning and the ending. 

Professor Huggins scrawled furiously. Chunks of chalk bounced off his oblivious nose and collected at his feet. The maid had long since given up sweeping away the white footprints – a sort of mental travelogue – throughout the house.

"You see, it is possible, if supported by a proper counter, you see." Professor Huggins tended to end sentences the same way he began them, though he rarely completed them.

The slate which lined the walls of his study had lost their ability to contain any more of his equations. Luckily, he still had one-third of the floor. In his clouded yet clear mind, these numbers always took precedence over others. Like birthdays, and dosages.

"A far better solution. Rockets! Bah! An elevator! Far better!"

The knock on the door registered, but failed to motivate.

"One moment, carry the, one moment."

"Let's go, Professor," said once of the white-jacketed technicians standing in the door. "Your... " Madeline nodded. "Your launch vehicle is ready."

"One small step, goodbye Maddy, back in a, giant leap," he said, almost connecting a kiss with his wife's cheek.

When he saw the sign on the van's side he gasped with elation, failing to notice his things piled by the curb.

"Wild blue! Wild blue!"

Blue Moon Sanatorium.

Later came "Mooning."

Barren. Cold. Lifeless.

David cast a weary glance at the moon, and tried to remember when other adjectives – luminous, shining, full – described their marriage. But the moon's face changes as she slips through her ordained phases. As did Deborah's.

"So that's it?"

Her non-answer said more than words could.

Even as Deborah spun on an out-of-control axis, David held onto a hopeful dream, one which saw them some day growing closer. But he knew that just like their celestial counterparts, once gravity took over, it would have to lead to an inexorable death spiral, culminating in a spectacularly fiery ending.

So they remained destined to never again touch.

The Swiss Psychiatrist Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross posited five phases of grief. David had managed to claw his way to the final: acceptance. But Deborah remained fixed in depression, unable to cast off the curse of grief that comes from losing a child.

As David waited for the movers to rescue the various sundries of his life – clothes, photographs, and dreams – stacked outside the home on Hope Street, he looked back one last time and waved. She stood frozen. Frozen in time, on that day. David knew he was saying goodbye to a ghost. He just wondered whether Deborah realized it.

Let's see what the judges think on Monday.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Castle: Reckoning

by Michael Seese

I think I have to christen a new category of Castle. There are the straight-up murders. There are the Scooby mysteries. And now we have Castle rescuing someone he loves, which is just a whole new level. Like Hunt several years back, Reckoning was a great episode.

Let me launch the SPOILER ALERT by saying I SO CALLED IT!

This episode was less about lines and looks -- in fact, I wrote down one funny line -- and more about exchanges. 

It was great to see Captain Gates warming up to Castle when she spoke with him and told him what Beckett said she saw in him.

I loved the dialogue between Ryan and Castle. "I could have had him," Ryan lamented. 

Castle was great when he met with Tyson's former cellmate and convinced him to share information. A minor kudos the writers here. When they showed Castle driving out by himself, I screamed, "Idiot!" But then we heard the cellmate say, "When he sees the cops coming..."

The conversation between Beckett and Dr. Nieman was so cool, and cold. Of course, the Dr. Nieman character oozes creepy coldness. And I will cite a line here: "Please do not scream. It's tedious and no one can hear you."

Quick aside: a bottle of Malbec on the table at Tyson's hideout. At least he has good choice in win.

And finally, the standoff between Castle and Tyson was just breathtaking. Here, I will gloat...


... that the minute they started talking, I said something to the effect of, "Castle set this up." My thought was that he was carrying an unloaded gun (which he knew Tyson would take) and had a loaded gun hidden elsewhere.

Major kudos for what I thought was a very cool camera trick. Specifically, the part where Captain Gates is briefing the squad, and Castle looks to his side and whispers, "We're not going to find her. Not like this," ostensibly to himself. Later, the camera pans around, and we see he was talking to Ryan and Esposito. They we get the quick fill-in on the plan.

I do need to serve up a few nitpicks...

- I know Ryan ran up and checked Tyson. Still, he's escaped death before. So I would have liked cold, hard closure, as in someone saying, "He's dead." (Though the red spot in the middle of his chest would largely clinch it.)
- So if I understand it, Dr. Nieman's plan was to cut off Kate's face and then... surgically remove her own, and sew Kate's on?  And do this herself?
- I understand they wanted the "Hollywood ending." But Castle, Ryan, and Esposito were in the middle of nowhere. Unless Beckett was being held at the next farmhouse over, there had to be some other NYPD officer who could have gotten there first.

Still, these little gripes don't detract from the overall quality of the episode.

And let's close with the one funny line.

Castle: "I'm being un-banned?"

Next week looks like another Scooby episode. So what did you think of Reckoning?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Castle: Resurrection

by Michael Seese

3XK is back! Or is he...?

I suppose I should start with SPOILERS! Proceed with caution.

One constant in the 3XK episodes is that there is more darkness, and less levity than usual. "Resurrection" fits the mold.

Quick slant rhyme aside: Lanie did say lividity, as in "Based on the lividity, she probably was put in the Dumpster after she was killed. 

This was just an overall good show. 

I really enjoyed the flashbacks to the previous 3XK episodes. I'm sure they were put in to benefit folks who didn't see them. But even though I had seen them all, I thought they added to the overall atmosphere by reminding us of just how bad he is. I also enjoyed Castle's bit at turning the tables, when he visited Tyson down in the tombs.

I did pick out a few good lines.

Martha: "Richard, it pains me to have to admit it, but I am in your debt."
Castle: "Yes. Deeply. But if you want to start paying rent."

Dr. Nieman: "I never forget a face. Especially if I cut it."

Beckett: "What did you expect? Dead animals? Shrunken heads?"
Castle: (pause) "No."

Castle: "Now I have a chance to put the genie back into the bottle. Which is a really terrible analogy. Because who would want three wishes from that guy?"

I really loved the tension at the end, as they kept cutting between Tyson in the interrogation room, Dr. Nieman in the waiting room, Captain Gates in her office, and the boys just outside as they waited for the DNA analysis to come back. Which leads to my...

BIG picky aside: So, they let "Michael Boudreau" go free because the DNA extracted from the tooth (known, or reasonably assumed, to be Tyson's) did not match the DNA taken from a beer bottle they just happened to find at the apartment. Hello! Maybe the real Boudreau did drink from that bottle, before Tyson killed him. But, hey, here's a wacky idea, NYPD Forensics: why don't you swab the mouth or take a hair sample from the guy you actually have IN CUSTODY! And, really, the DA is going to free some guy who looks exactly like a serial killer (and nothing like the man he purports to be) based on the claim that he got plastic surgery which just happened to make him look EXACTLY LIKE A SERIAL KILLER.

Feel free to share your thoughts on "Resurrection." And let's get ready for "Reckoning." Here is a prediction. If you saw the trailer at the end of "Resurrection," Castle finds Beckett tied up in a chair, looks at her face, and says something to the effect of, "No!" I think we are supposed to believe she is dead, or has been scarred. So here it is...

That wasn't Beckett. It was another victim, a woman who resembles Beckett, surgically altered to look like her. 3XK and Dr. Nieman still have Kate. And finding her is what will bring Castle officially back into the NYPD fold.

You heard it here first. Or not.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Flash! Friday: The Killing Field

by Michael Seese

A somewhat gritty story for Flash! Friday this week. We were tasked with including as a character a gladiator. It didn't necessarily have to be a literal gladiator. Still, you don't tend to associate those guys with rainbows and unicorns. And yet, this was the photo.


So there is "The Killing Field."

He was tired of the blood. The blood, the death, the senselessness of it all. He exited the arena to a silent roar; the cheers no longer reached his ears. This day's victory would earn Gaius considerable geld. But the emotional tax far outweighed the gain.

The Gods had graced him with strength, speed, and stamina. Yet they cursed him with the soul of a poet. Would it comfort the vanquished if they knew that in his heart he recited a brief elegy for them before he drove his sword home? Doubtful. A small measure of humanity bled from Gaius each time he washed another man's blood from his face.

As he sat in a field a furlong from the Colosseum, salving his wounds with leaves of the yarrow, a light tickle teased across his lower back. His turned to see a white kitten nuzzling his scarred skin. A soft purr rumbled in its belly. Gaius gathered the bundle of fur and innocence in his arms and stroked its back. It burrowed its head deep into his chest. Gaius allowed himself a single tear.

He wondered when would come the day he could look at his reflection and not think "Murderer."

"Not today," he said, snapping the kitten's neck. "Dinnertime."

What do you think?

PS: No animals were harmed in the actual writing of this story.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Frigid Photo #64

by Michael Seese

I snapped a photo of my car's dashboard on the way to work this morning. (While stopped at a light, of course.

(In case you can't see, that's -4 degrees Fahrenheit.)


But I still didn't wear a jacket.

Stay warm, friends.