Friday, April 17, 2009

Wordzzle - The eyes have it

This is my contribution to this week's Wordzzle. Wordzzle is a game in which each week word lists, used to create stories, are given on the blog Views from Raven's Nest. Participating users post their stories on their own blogs.

This is the third time I've played the game.

Ten Word Challenge:

art festival,
income tax,
chicken noodle soup,
jump rope,
Dutch Treat,
flowering plum tree,
bats in the belfry,
diamond earrings,

"I brought you a Dutch Treat," he said, and took some wooden shoes out of the shopping bag and set them on the table in front of her.

She paused, a spoonful of chicken noodle soup halfway to her mouth. She put the spoon back in the bowl and took them. "Are you sure they'll fit me? They look kind of small."

"Well, they're more in the nature of something to display on a shelf than actually wear. I imagine that they would be too stiff to be really comfortable, even if you could get your feet in them. Not that your feet are too big, of course."

"Of course. I understand now."

She looked at a picture on the table of tigers wearing diamond earrings, with flowering plum trees in the background. They'd had to get rid of all that, she thought sadly. The art festival hadn't brought in nearly enough money. With the economy as it was, people were reluctant to spend their money on paintings. Now the only animals they could afford were the bats in the belfry, and they had to share those with other people. On the bright side, they didn't have to file an income tax form this year, not enough money came in to require it. Who knew, though, who would have thought, that her whole life, that their whole lives, would have led to this point, like a word with an odd prefix or suffix suddenly attached to it, one that didn't relate to the word at all and totally changed it.

"I have something for you, too," she said, and took a jump rope out of her shopping bag.

"Oh, thank you," he said. I've been really needing some exercise." He took it in his hands and looked it over. "I used to do quite a bit of this when I was young. Hour after hour sometimes. It'll take a little while to get back into practice, of course."

"Of course," she said.

"We could take turns using it. And maybe sing songs with each other."

"That would be nice," she said.

And so they celebrated their anniversary, there in the dining hall of the Salvation Army. It was not as fancy as some past anniversaries, but it had more meaning than many of them.

Mini Challenge:

book club,
organic tea,
the cow jumped over the moon,
paragon of virtue,

The reporter was looking over the art exhibit, occasionally taking notes, when he was approached by someone.

"The best ones are over here," the man said, making motions with his hand, arm, and most of his body. "I should know, because I did them."

"Sounds like I should take a look, then," the reporter said.

They walked over, talking, to where some statues were exhibited. The artist led him to one and said, "I did this. Can you guess what it is?"

The reporter looked it over. It was fairly large, and seemed to be some type of farm animal, though it was fairly shapeless, with things sticking out at odd angles. It had horns, so it couldn't be a horse, and it was too big for a goat. "Is it a cow?" asked the reporter.

"It is!" said the artist. "Do you remember the story where the cow jumped over the moon? Well, this is that cow."

The reporter stared at it. "Ummm... Why does it look like this?"

"Re-entry was difficult, and then there was the landing. I call it 'Babel,' because it tried to reach to Heaven and paid a terrible price for it."

"Very Biblical," said the reporter.

"Yes, I am a paragon of virtue," the artist said. His eyes twinkled. "No matter what people may say."

The artist led the way to the next statue, which turned out to be of a man holding a small monkey in one hand, about to toss it into a large, dangerous-looking machine, filled with rods and large, toothy gears. The monkey was wearing a little dress, and did not appear to like what was happening at all.

"This sculpture is a protest against the tyranny of technology," the artist said. "The man is fighting against it, and is about to, as they say, toss a monkey wench into the works."

The reporter turned and stared at him. "I think that's supposed to be monkey wrench, not wench."

"Oh, well, close enough, close enough," the artist said.

They looked at the sculpture for a while, silent. The reporter finally spoke. "What do you call it?"

"I call it 'Hilda.'"

The reporter turned and looked at him. "Hilda?"

"Yes. That was her name. The monkey. The one who posed for the sculpture." The artist looked a little uncomfortable. "It was the least I could do." He turned and looked again at the sculpture, somewhat sadly. "She never quite trusted me again after that."

He suddenly moved on, going to the next sculpture. "Now this one is my masterpiece, my greatest achievement. At least so far," he said, moving his hand in a slow arc in front of the sculpture.

The reporter moved forward and stood beside him. This statue showed a caveman menacing a man dressed in modern clothes, down on one knee, with a hand up trying to protect himself. The caveman had a thick stick with what looked like a large divided rectangular axe head bound to one end, and was holding it high in the air, about ready to strike. There was something odd about the axe head, though. It looked almost like a representation of an encyclopedia volume, one that had been opened up, laid across the end of the stick, and lashed to it. The reporter peered closer at it. He could faintly see "Encyclopedia" carved on it.

"This represents the tyranny of the information society," the artist said. "We are overwhelmed with information. It is burying us. It's too much for us to ever process or understand, and there is no escape from it."

"What do you call it?" asked the reporter.

"I named it after the weapon depicted in it. It is called 'The Book Club.'"

"I see," said the reporter. He made some more notes and said, "I think I've got enough now."

"Are you sure? I have some more. We could get some cups of organic tea from that vendor over there, and stroll along, visiting each of my works, taking our time to get to know them."

"No, I've really got to be writing this up. I've got a deadline to meet."

"You will make a good story for me?"

"Oh, I'll make a fantastic story," the reporter assured him.

"Very well, I will let you go then." He paused. "You don't have to go into detail about the monkey."

"Yes, I understand. The sculpture speaks for itself. No need to go into extra background detail."

"Okay, then. Go do a good job!"

"I will, I will." The reporter turned and left. He would do a good job, too. Strange art, and strange artists, were things the public never tired of hearing about.

Mega challenge:

art festival,
income tax,
chicken noodle soup,
jump rope,
Dutch Treat,
flowering plum tree,
bats in the belfry,
diamond earrings,

book club,
organic tea,
the cow jumped over the moon,
paragon of virtue,

He examined the drawings of tigers on his drinking glass. They seemed to be looking at him. Of course, he also felt that the knotholes on the fence boards were looking at him, and it was hard to tell how much importance to attach to these things. He finally propped his napkin up against the glass, hiding it. That would have to do for now. He lifted up another spoonful of chicken noodle soup, looked closely at it, and finally put it in his mouth. He was going to have to hurry up a bit, he thought. The soup was starting to cool down a little. He sighed.

Maybe he did have a few bats in the belfry. He sometimes heard people whisper things to that effect, though usually in less flattering terms. Sometimes it was even himself saying it. Or he supposed it was, since sometimes no one else was there. Unless the things that were looking at him could talk, too. He thought about it a bit and finally decided that if they did talk, they probably didn't sound like people. At least he hoped they didn't. If they did, that could be terribly confusing. He shuddered a bit, then lifted the bowl up and swirled it around. looking intently into it, then put the bowl to his mouth and drank the rest of it, chicken and noodles and all. He reached for his cup of organic tea and took a sip. At least it was still warm. Was it really organic, though? How could one really be sure about such things?

He finished the tea and picked up the bell to summon the servant girl to take the dishes away. She would uncover the tigers in the process, and they would look at him again, but maybe it wouldn't be for very long. She didn't come, though. No one did. He frowned. What could have happened? He was on the porch, not in the house, and that might make the bell a little harder to hear, but that had never been a problem before. Surely at least one of the servants had heard it. He rang it again and then again, louder and more insistent.

Finally a woman came up and started picking up things. "You're not going to call me a serving wench, are you, like you did the maid? You do remember that I'm your wife don't you?"

He didn't say anything, distracted for the moment by her diamond earrings, which were of complicated design. They had a moon and a cow, formed of diamonds, on different ends of a silver loop, and as she moved about her movements caused the loop to rotate, like a wheel on an axle, and the cow jumped over the moon and then the moon jumped over the cow, over and over again. He wondered if the cow was looking at him.

"None of the servants want to come near you anymore. You're just too strange, and they're afraid of you." Her mood softened, then. "Here, have a Dutch Treat," she said, offering him a chocolate bar. "It's imported from Holland and very expensive."

He took it and looked at the fancy wrapper. It did say imported, but how could one really know? He opened it up and looked at it, then sniffed it, and finally took a bite. It did taste good.

His wife said, "At least you could say thank you! I'm a paragon of virtue for putting up with this!" She turned and left, then, taking the dishes with her, including the glass with the tigers. He felt a little better now, more relaxed, knowing they were gone. He took another bite, and wondered what was in the chocolate. It did taste good, but you could hide an awful lot in a food colored dark brown, especially when it had a strong flavor, too.

He wondered what to do next. They'd hidden his jump rope from him, not wanting him to have ropes. He still belonged to a book club, but it was difficult to read the books now. He felt that the people on the covers were looking at him. Duct tape had been put over the faces, hiding them, but he still knew they were there, waiting, and it disturbed his concentration. At least not all the books had pictures of people, and that helped some, though he wondered sometimes if they should have had pictures, or once did have pictures, and if that information had been suppressed.

He wondered if it was getting around income tax time. It seemed like it might be. He remembered doing the tax forms himself, long ago. He'd had other people do them for him for years, though, even before he'd fallen into such a state. He wasn't even sure how much he made now, if anything. He was scheduled to direct an art festival later this year, but he knew he wasn't going to do it. All those paintings, all those sculptures. Too many things with eyes, or with things that might be eyes. They had probably already picked someone else to do it. He wasn't going to be doing any directing jobs for a while, and maybe not forever. He was an ex-director, pretty much ex-everything. What a terrible prefix ex was, he thought, when placed in front of everything.

He felt it should bother him more, but he was strangely serene about it. It was the eyes that really bothered him. The eyes. Looking around, his gaze fell on the flowering plum tree in the yard. The flowers looked like eyes. Lots of eyes. He finally turned his chair around, so that he couldn't see it. He could feel it back there, though, watching him. He finally turned the table on its side and crouched down in front of it, hiding himself from the tree and its flowers. When that wasn't enough, he went all the way down to the floor and lay there in front of the table, curled up into a ball. After a while a bird hopped up onto the porch and stared at him. He flinched and hid his face in his arms.

Inside, his wife watched him through the window, talking on her cellphone. "Yeah, he took the chocolate again. No, he still doesn't suspect anything, at least not enough to keep him from eating it. He looks pretty bad right now. I don't think it will be much longer before we can have him institutionalized, and then we can have everything."

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Blogger Raven said...

All three are wonderful. The first and last are so sad but delicately written. I enjoyed the middle one and the eccentric artist the best, I think, but they were all little masterpieces.

10:53 PM, April 18, 2009  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

Oh very well written! I particularly liked this:

...toss a monkey wench into the works."

The reporter turned and stared at him. "I think that's supposed to be monkey wrench, not wench."

8:35 AM, April 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent Stephen. I really enjoyed these and I too liked the monkey wench...had me rolling :)

5:54 PM, April 19, 2009  

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