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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Word Prompt: Soap

“If I ever hear that filthy word come out of your mouth again, I’m going to wash it out with soap.”

“Wash what out?” my lil’ sis challenged.

“Your mouth. Dirty words demand clean mouths.”

That’s what my momma said when my lil’ sis scrunched up her eyes real beady-like and spit a bad word at her. Lil’ sis was touch and hardy. She paid no mind to my momma’s threats. Nothing scared lil’ sis.

“Oh, yeah?” she countered. “Well, go ahead. I don’t give a damn.”

My momma’s face hardened like stone. Faster than a cat twitching its tail when a mouse scampers across the room, my momma pounced on lil’ sis and grabbed her by the arm. Lil’ sis fought to wriggle free, but when our momma was set on discipline, no amount of wiggling could free you from her clutches. She meant business.

She dragged my lil’ sis, kicking and screaming, to the bathroom. I wanted to follow and watch how she cleaned the dirty words from my sis’s mouth, but my momma slammed the door in my face and shut me out. All I could do is sit on the other side and listen to the muffled rage of my lil’ sis as she lost the struggle.

Later, when she recounted what happened, lil’ sis said our momma shoved a whole bar of wet soap in her mouth and made her hold it there for a whole minute.

“What it did taste like?” I asked.

“It tasted nasty. Like salty bubbles.”

I was curious what salty bubbles tasted like. I didn’t so much mind the salt part. Momma hated how much salt I dumped on my dinner plate to make her diet food taste good. That night, in my bath, when no one was around, I held a bar of soap and worked up the nerve to put it in my mouth. I settled on touching it with the tip of my tongue. Don’t you know, my sis was right?! That white bar tasted just like salty bubbles. I didn’t mind it so much, but then again, I didn’t have to hold it in my mouth for 60 seconds. I hoped I never had to endure that uncomfortable punishment. I was gonna try real hard to keep my mouth clean on my own.

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Word Prompt: a Puppet

Smiles. Tilts his moppy head. Gazing with mixed wonder and amusement at the audience before him. His finest moments are on stage, among a crowd. These are the hours he feels his purpose jiggling through steel mesh and fibrous veins.

His darkest days are confined to a stuffy box. His coffin, he thinks. One day, they’ll forget about him and he’ll be trapped forever. No small hole where the light on the other side can sneak through. He’ll never feel the sun. Preservation, they say as they lower him to his grave.

“We want you to stay this way forever.”

He wants to roam free. Bounce along sidewalks, peering into storefront windows at those poor mannequins forced to stand all day in one pose. He wants to be like the frog on TV. The frog that’s in movies and who everyone loves.

His soft purple hands will never be green. He can’t speak with a noble nasal voice. Deep down, he knows he can’t only be the puppet he was made to be. With a big smile and round eyes. Rosy indigo cheeks and skinny arms that know how to hug a sick child and make her smile again.

“Well, who do we have here?Is this the Sally Jensen? Oh, my, I’ve heard about you, Miss Sally. The nurses tell me you’re the bravest girl in the whole wide world! Is that true?”

“It is, Bennie. I’m the bravest girl.”

“Can you teach me to be brave?”

“Okay, Bennie. I can teach you.”

“Yay! I was hoping you’d say that. Merlin, you don’t mind if we stay with Sally for a while so she can teach me, do you?”

“Not at all, Bennie.”

“Okay then! Sally, where do we begin?”

“Well, Bennie, we should start with doctors, who come into your room with long needles so they can take your bad blood away.”

“Wow, Sally, that sounds really scary.”

“It is, Bennie, but I’m very brave.”

“That’s right! I’m so glad I have a great teacher like you!”

Bennie sees Sally glow from inside. Another child made to feel like she can conquer the world. And maybe, maybe she will.

Word Prompt: Seagulls

Prancing around the sand, chests puffed with pride over ownership of the coast along which they roam. Kings of their beach. Scavengers of what isn’t theirs. They take sandwiches and french fries. Poop on those plebes who don’t share or who appear as though they’re having too much fun. Squabble with their greedy peers when they try to encroach on their territories.

“This is my land! Don’t you see my castle over there?!” they squawk at the webbed enemy who tiptoes too close to his neighbors’ property line.

The poor, dilapidated castle, built on weak foundation, sags under the sun’s watchful glare. The looming tide will inevitably claim it as its own. The displaced seagull will have to find another home.

Word Prompt: Porch

The old people rock in chairs on the porch, reminiscing about the good ol’ days while youth slumps across the street, smacking gum, playing with their phones, and moaning about being misunderstood. Old people hold all the cards, they complain. The young people need to grow up, respect their elders, act like adults, the geezers wheeze across the yard. They have forgotten themselves as teens, losing their minds when Elvis appeared on-stage and smoking cigarettes behind the five-and-dime.

I was working at the age of five, one exclaims. These kids today live at home until they’re thirty! Don’t get jobs because they think they’re too good for hard work. They want it easy. Well, tough sh**. Life is hard.

The youth scowl. Don’t you see? You made us this way. You didn’t make us work at five. You coddled us, showered our rooms with the toys you never had, told us we were special and could be anything we wanted in the whole wide world. You wanted to give us the lives you didn’t have, and now you take it back. You resent us for being young, for experiencing the world through a different lens. You gave us the looking glass. If anyone is to blame for who we are, it’s those in rocking chairs, always nagging about what we don’t do for you.

The old people grumble, stand on creaky limbs, and shuffle inside. Leaving the porch bare.

While the young snap their gum and ruminate how they’ll be more tolerant of youth when they grow up and have kids of their own.

Word Prompt: Library

Will the library ever disappear, fade quietly into extinction like the dodo bird or the woolly mammoth? Will children fifty years from now know what a library is? Why it was here for communities to gather and share a common love? Will they know the musty aroma of an old, weighted tome? The feel of brittle paper flaking at the corner edge?

I admit it’s more than a dozen moons since I visited a library, but on some days I’m compelled to go, driven by the fear that those doors will soon close because of negligent people like me. People who get too busy to borrow a book, much less read it. It’s possible I might get more reading done if I was willing to use a Kindle, but I have no interest in staring at another screen. I stare into a computer’s glare for nine hours a day, five days a week. I don’t equate “screens” with leisure. I view them as work. I want the firm binding in my palm and the tactile experience of touching cool, crisp paper as I turn it with my forefinger when I read a book. I want to anticipate what I’ll find in the next page when I flip it over. In a tangible book, I can lose myself within the characters’ world. I can’t lose myself in an electronic device. There is something cold and impersonal about it. I don’t want to reside among ones and zeros and metal drives. I want to rest my hand in a book’s open arms. I want to stroll through open aisles to browse titles, running my fingers over cracked leather and glossy paperback bindings. Feeling texture, smelling hundreds of ideas collected under one roof. Being among like-minded people who come to the library to find their next adventure.

I hope these simple pleasures never disappear, but as technologies hypnotize the youngest generation at infancy, I wonder if they’ll eventually view libraries as wasted space. Why should books dwell on shelves when they can be stored in clouds. Because clouds can’t be touched by human hands, because they dissipate and separate from themselves. Clouds separate us  from our communities on the ground, wedging us farther from each other. But a physical book can be touched by many lives, connecting us as one.