Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flash x3

by Michael Seese

Man, I was a profligate writer today. 

Wait... That's not right!

Frequent Flash! Friday contributor Tamara Shoemaker often posts two stories. Well, last week, she took third runner up honors (though I got second) AND the top prize.

And I saw a challenge.

Here is the photo prompt for this week.







 













I had thought about it in advance, and figured there would be a Christmas theme. I wanted to write something in the gothic horror vein... something that just dripped with dread all the way through. Then I would follow up with a comedic piece. But when I came up with the opening line for "Regifting," I wanted to work with that, even though it wasn't horror. (Though, neither is it anywhere near merry.)

So here is "Regifting."




No kid expects a dead parent for Christmas. But that’s exactly what I got one year.


My Mom was a cop. The good kind. The kind who actually helped folks. One Christmas Eve she tried to stop some loser from stealing another family’s joy. He put one in her chest.


I stayed with my Grandma. But she had her hands full with her boozing husband. So they put me in foster care.


The Christmas season always makes me a little crazy. The state psychiatrist would say I needed to find a way to release my anger.


It’s a good thing the malls don’t conduct background checks.


As a little freckled cherub settled into my lap, her mother beaming and flashing away, I smiled, thinking about the .45 in my boot. I wanted to say, “This is reality, kid. There ain’t no Santa Claus. Just creeps, like the one who offed my Mom. And me.”


But actions scream louder than words.


Then I wrote "Elfnip."


Sssh! Someone will hear us!”


I can’t help it. This stuff makes me giggle.”


It’s true. Elfnip is a powerful agent. Especially when mixed with eggnog and huffed, as these two diminutive delinquents were doing.


I can’t wait for this night to be over. I need a break.”


You? You never work. You keep snowing the foreman with that ‘I want to be a dentist’ crap.”


Shut up.”


And if that doesn’t work, you throw the insanity card. The Abominable Snowmensch. What a load of—”


Shut it!”


You’re just ticked because your name sounds like an STD.”


Would you stuff it! Someone’s coming!”


“Damn! We’ve got to get rid of the stuff.”


“Just stash it somewhere.”


Where?”


In the sleigh.”


But what if it’s him? We can’t let him enter U.S. airspace with it in his possession.”


“Relax. It’s only a controlled substance in about half the states.”


And that is why the North Pole is now automated.



But about halfway through -- literally as I'm writing down Elfnip ideas -- I came up with "The Watchman."




Tick tock tick tock.

Just try to ignore it. The Watchman’s clock.

Red midnight looms, it’s almost time.

You’d best be silent by the 12th chime.


I see you sleeping. And I see you awake.

He gives and gives. I take take TAKE!

Visions of sugarplums, and flying reindeer.

Take care, my pretties. Be still. I’m right here!


Draw up your sheets, pull tight your cap,

Prepare for an eternal winter’s nap.

A barren tree. A rancid goose.

No silent night with me on the loose.


Complain not about a lump of coal.

It’s nothing next to losing your soul.

I crave your sugar. I crave your spice,

so naughty, naughty, naughty, nice.


Am I Santa? God? No, someone else.

Beware The Watchman on the shelf.

Wake up, my pretties, you’ve won reprieve.

I’ll see you all next Christmas Eve.



Whew! I need a break. Maybe I'll wrap some presents. How about you guys?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finish That Thought: "Fugly"

by Michael Seese

I once read a review of a Lyle Lovett concert, in which the writer noted that he introduced the song "Here I Am" by saying something like, "I wrote this song. I don't know why. I'm going to play it for you. I'm sorry."

I feel the same way about my latest Finish That Thought entry.


The opening line was The entire family had undoubtedly been hit with [the ugly stick], but they had been [blessed] in other ways.

Our special challenge to include four of the following.

A pair of binoculars.
A fur coat.
A stencil.
A potted plant.
A painting.
An aromatherapy candle.
A pair of sunglasses.
A Kindle with a copy of FlashDogs Anthology on it. ;-)
A courgette.

Here is "Fugly"


The entire family undoubtedly had been hit with the ugly stick. And we’re not talking about a Texas leaguer; they were knocked out of the park.

But they had been blessed in other ways. They could move things with their minds. Potted plants. Paintings. Even the occasional Rottweiler. How the Flying Duckman family came to possess this singular talent is the interesting part of the story.

Young Miss Capulet waxed

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Our histories are forged by our names. An Eisenhower is destined for military greatness; a Clooney, for dashing good looks and a proclivity to marry a woman 17 years his junior. And if you are a Flying Duckman....

The Flying Duckman family can trace its ancestry back to a small Bavarian village named Unsinn, renowned as the home of the Yoder Yodeling Academy. (“Frightening Sheep Since The Reformation.”) The Fliegend Dückens, as they were know then, and there, were inventors. One of their most controversial devices was das Fliegend Ding, translated literally as “the Flying Thing.”

Unsinn also was home to the Scheiße Brücken family. Brücken, you might have guessed, translates as “brick.” As for Scheiße... let us just say it is a word one should use only in the presence of Herr Proktologist, and leave it at that. The Scheiße Brücken family were the wealth behind Unsinn, owing to their ownership of the only brick factory north of the Alps. Many people wondered how the Scheiße component tied in, but were too afraid—or too disgusted—to ask.

Regardless, the town’s mayor, Bürgermeister Scheiße Brücken, longed to be the first man to soar above the green fields of Unsinn in the Fliegend Dückens’ Fliegend Ding. And seeing as how he personally bankrolled the venture, he had a certain expectation of reciprocation.

What's in a name? For one named Scheiße Brücken, it’s an aversion to heights, along with the attendant rolls, loops, and dives of a prototypical aircraft. One particular dicey maneuver prompted the good mayor to let go of... a personal Brücken, shall we say.

Regrettably, the aerial bombardment inadvertently targeted the walkway in front of the home of the village’s witch, Drusilla Malfoy (and before you ask... yes, she is) just at the moment that a young couple, Hansel and Harry had happened upon her cabin of candy, and were about to be lured in to a lurid life of lollipop lechery.

But the “gift from the sky” frightened the children away, and sullied the witch’s fur coat, a gift from the village’s designated crooner, Liberach. So angry was Drusilla that she cast a spell upon the Fliegend Dückens family, saddling them and their lineage with a “face like a duck, and a nose like a courgette.” But owing to her poor eyesight and poorer command of Bavarian sorcery, instead of concluding the curse with “terrible sneezes,” she uttered “telekinesis.”

And there you have it.


And I am sorry.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Funny Foto #62

by Michael Seese

Spied at my office building.



















A good idea on paper, but...

This placard appears outside the elevator on the first floor. If I'm on the ground floor of a burning building, and my first impulse is to take the elevator somewhere, then perhaps the world is better off without me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flash! Friday "The Betrayal"

by Michael Seese

Let's see if I can get back on the winning Flash! Friday track. Here is our photo of the week:



















I decided to be very literal in my use of the picture. 

One of the two judges said she likes "stories that contain a healthy bit of suspense and intrigue." Hopefully "The Betrayal" delivers.



“I’ll wait.”

A sunset, like a glass of Cabernet, never lasts long enough. At least the taste lingers. Though he knew Sophie was trying to help, Tom wanted to enjoy both in silence, unsullied by empty promises. Or hope.

“Thirty years isn’t that long.”

An incarcerated man, like a glass of Cabernet, longs only to breathe. He tacitly refused her extended hand. Why dream of warmth, when time—like his offshore accounts—had been frozen? Lying in their bed, Tom spent many sleepless nights wondering how the Feds found out.

The glance at her watch confirmed it.

“And with good behavior—” She coughed a little, then put a napkin to her dry lips. The spot of blood caught her by surprise. She looked at Tom, unaware that her face had taken on a shade not unlike his final swallow, which he now swirled contentedly.

Revenge, like a glass of Cabernet, is dry, yet somewhat sweet. And the taste lingers.


What say you, friends? Does this one age well?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Castle: Kill Switch

by Michael Seese

I don't have a lot to say about "Kill Switch." Don't get me wrong; I did enjoy it. But perhaps because of the previously mentioned delays in seeing its conclusion, I felt less invested in it.
 

I thought it delivered what it promised. A tight, confined thriller (unlike the average episode which alternates between "We're in trouble" and "OK, now we're not.") which gave Esposito a chance to shine. So in that regard, it succeeded. 

I really enjoyed the car-ride conversation about parenthood between Esposito and Ryan. Serious stuff.

"What kind of father do you think I'd be?"

Which, of course, they had to deflate.

Esposito: "Can you hear that? That sound?"
Ryan: "No. What's that?"
Esposito: "That's my biological clock ticking. Tick, tock."
Ryan: "We were having a genuine, honest moment, and you had to ruin it by being a jackass." 

The writers somewhat bookended that bro-scene with another equally genuine, honest interaction at the end.

Ryan: "You had me scared."
Esposito: "That's because you're a wimp."

About the only other line worth noting is:

Castle: "We'll take the subway. Too soon?" And of course the bad pun follow-ups, "token" and "out of line."

The take-down was well-staged. When Aragon started unlacing her boot, I wondered why. But when she wrapped the lace around Stone's hand, it made sense.

Picky aside: It seems to me that when Stone stared at the hidden camera for like, 10 seconds before shooting it, that could have been a good time to go. Just sayin'

And I do have to say...

SPOILER!

... I thought the motive was a little iffy, as was the convenient deus ex machina revelation that Jarvis's husband was an attorney in the Erin Wilson case.

Oh well. One man's opinion. What are yours?




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Castle: Bad Santa

by Michael Seese

We finally managed to catch the end of "Kill Switch" before this week's show. Look for the review tomorrow. On to the present, there sure were a lot of moving parts to "Bad Santa." And before I go any further...

SPOILERS! LOTS!

I enjoyed this episode. Somewhat like "Kill Switch," where Esposito was the focus, it was nice to see Castle step out a bit and take the lead. Which (SPOILER!!!) foreshadowed the ending, and (based on the previews) at least one future episode. 



On occasion, Castle has been known to be jittery when flying solo. But I thought he maintained good composure in the face of Dino who, despite calling him a friend, is a mob boss after all. Dino was a great character, and I hope we do see him again when Castle has to cash in his favor.

But THE character of "Bad Santa" was Rita, the mob's tech guru. In fact, I enjoyed her so much that I'll start the "lines" with hers.

Castle: "Stolen credit cards? Why would he want those?"
Rita: "So he could buy things without paying for them." (Implied "duh!" followed by Castle's look.)

Rita: "Only because I don't want to sleep alone on Christmas."

Other greats:

Beckett: "What word rhymes with I'm screwed?"

Beckett: "I could write you a haiku."
Castle: "That's against the rules."
Beckett: "Since when do you follow the rules?"
Castle: "Since I made them."

Pissy aside: Once again, Time Warner Cable saw fit to fail to tell my DVR when to start recording. As such, we missed untold seconds at the start; we knew that Beckett had to write something, but didn't learn it was the Christmas card until the very end.

Castle: "Squeezing down countless chimneys. Delivering millions of presents in one night. It was bound to happen. Santa finally cracked."

Tech aside: I liked the reference to the Hitch app. How au courant.

Castle: "Field trip to a strip club!"

Beckett: "REALLY?" (When the stripper walked past Castle and ran a hand across his back.)

Beckett: "Castle, this just sounds like an epitaph."

Beckett: "So you believe Dino because he gave you a paper cut?"

Dino: "I don't like that word."

Dino: "I'm processing this news."

Picky aside: Even though Castle would have been caught off guard when Dino pulled the gun, you'd think he would have had the presence to say (more or less) what he said to Beckett. "Dino! My wife, the cop, and all my friends, the cops, know I'm here."

Castle: "Mafia 2.0"

And the kiss on the Castle's cheeks, courtesy of Rocco, was a great touch.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the sub-plot with Lanie presenting Espo as her fiance was great. The first scene, where she lured him down to her lab and then dropped the bomb, was just overall fun in terms of lines, looks, and body language.

Lanie: "My parents kind of think we're engaged."
Esposito: "Why do they think that?"

The interactions with her parents were hilarious. Then the ending was sweet.

And I would be a horrible reviewer if I failed to say, "WOW! What an ending!" I never saw that coming, though based on Captain Gates's description of what happened to Detective McBride and the discovery that Castle had been involved with organized crime figures, it made perfect sense. I expect his exile to last two weeks, three max, just like Beckett's Washington DC job.

How long do you think we'll see "Castle  P.I.?"



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Flash! Friday "My Dresden"

by Michael Seese

Another three-hankie effort for Flash! Friday. Since this is Rebekah's "Flashversary," it's a special two-step process. You can read all the details here. The quick and dirty: from yesterday's (and today's) entries, the top 25 will be chosen. Those authors will write another story. The top ten will be picked and voted on by the folks at Flash Fiction Online, with the winners announced December 16.

Here is the photo:


 





















Here is "My Dresden."


The war is almost over.

I stand among the ashes that once were my future, and ask the questions that don’t want to be answered.

Why?

Why me?

Iron vultures circle overhead, ogling their target. The bombardment leaves me blind, deaf, and tasting steel. Wave after wave have made me weak, numb, tired.

So tired.

There is no pain greater than watching, helpless, as your childhood crumbles. But I no longer possess the strength for depression. Anger bled from me long ago. I’ve come to accept that the world has given up on me. It’s moved on. I should do the same.

My parents call me their “brave little soldier.” They don’t understand how the chemotherapy turns my insides to mush, and the radiation treatments set my brain on fire. So I say I’m doing fine. For their sake.

The war is almost over. I look forward to the surrender.



The contest is open until 11:59 tonight (Saturday). So if you have an inkling to write, now is the time.