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Trope-Tastic Thursday #002 – “Never Was This Universe” – #WOEGTTT

Howdy all, and welcome back to Trope-Tastic Thursday, my weekly writing challenge, where we explore the world of fiction through tropes!  What is a trope? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what our pals at TVTropes.org have to say about it:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

In a way, tropes are like cliches (but not boring), in that they define what a reader has come to expect of certain elements of fiction. That could be the normal expectations of what to expect of an Evil Overlord, or the standard elements found in a type of fiction, like, say, Steam Punk! The point is, a reader will naturally expect certain things, and those things are defined as tropes.

And my challenge to you, each week, is to take this week’s trope and use it in a piece of fiction that is 1,000 words or less in length. You can use that trope however you wish, either playing it straight (using the trope as it is described, more or less) or turning the trope (going against the expectations defined by that particular trope). Either way, the goal is to explore the trope and see what kind of awesome fiction we can come up with. Don’t feel restricted by genre, either – just because a trope is common in, say, Fantasy, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to use it in a drama!

Last week’s trope was “Vocal Dissonance” – check out the awesome stories that came from it:

“Songbird” by Quietude’s Junction

“We Are Roma” by Naomi Harvey

“The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” by Mark Baron

“Zit-Faced Idiots” by Helen Espinosa

“The Boat” by Kate Spyder

“Vocal Dissonance” by Kate Loveton

And wow! Let me say, I am so glad we decided to open up this challenge a bit. What an awesome response from some excellent writers. If I missed your entry, let me know, and I’ll pop it in there – and remember, tag your stories with #woegttt to make it easier for me to find them! :)

And now, for this week’s trope….

NEVER WAS THIS UNIVERSE!
(follow the link for examples)

From TVTropes.org:

Alternate History provides a method for creating a setting which is almost like our world, but varies in large enough ways that they couldn’t plausibly actually be ours.

This trope covers settings which feel like Alternate History in this way, but don’t actually have a specified point of divergence: no matter how far back in history you look, their history has always been different from ours in some way (frequently, though not always, because it contains un-Masqueraded fantasy elements). In Spite of a Nail is necessarily in effect, in order to keep the setting approximately similar to the real world—indeed, sometimes the histories of these settings are more different from reality than their presents.

Compare Alien Space Bats; it’s nearly always possible to Retcon this sort of world into an alternate history with Alien Space Bats, by adding in a point of divergence that’s earlier than any other history you’ve introduced. Also compare Historical Fantasy. See also Close Enough Timeline and Rubber-Band History. Contrast Plausible Deniability.

What a fun trope! Definitely be sure to look at the examples given – this kind of thing covers comic book universes, parallel dimensions, and so much more.

Your challenge is to write a story in 1,000 words or less. Your deadline is next Thursday, August 28st, by noon Eastern time. Play with the trope, have fun with it, and when you are done, post it to your writing site, and come back here with a link to your post. If you can, include the hashtag #woegttt in your tags, to make it easier for other writers to find and read your challenge. Next Thursday, I’ll include a link back to your blog so that everyone can get a chance to read your story!

And one final caveat – next week, I will be at DragonCon, from Wednesday night through Monday afternoon. I should still be able to get a challenge post made, but if I get delayed by the biggest nerdfest on the East Coast of the United States, I do hope you will forgive me. ;)

Oh! And if you happen to be going to DragonCon too? LOOK ME UP! I’d love to meet some of my writer friends there!

If you have any questions or need clarification, let me know here! I’ll help however I can!

On your marks….

Get set…

Trope!

 

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“Jacob’s Ladder” – Song Lyric Story Saturday prompt from Naomi Harvey!

This week, the lovely Naomi Harvey of So I want to be an author… created an intriguing new flash fiction challenge! Called Song Lyric Story Saturday, the idea is a fun one – Naomi posts a random lyric or two from a song, and our job is to create a story in 1500 words or less inspired by that lyric. It doesn’t have to use the actual words of the lyric, but the story should be clearly influenced by it. I thought this was a fantastically fun idea, and couldn’t wait to throw my hat into the challenge.

This week’s lyric?

When the end has come and buildings falling down fast, when we’ve spoilt the land and dried up all the sea…

So here, at 1500 words, is “Jacob’s Ladder”

“Your persistence is admirable, I’ll give you that,” said the man in the impeccable suit, “but really, Jacob…don’t you think it’s time to call it quits?”

Jacob sighed, and put down the binoculars. He turned to look at the man in the suit, the man that had no name. The man that wasn’t actually there.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jacob snarled. He reached down for his canteen, shook it. Empty. He turned his gaze back to the horizon.

Up ahead, he could just see through the haze of heat and dust the remnants of an old office building. It swayed in the never ceasing wind like some sort of giant, manmade reed, and even here, from so long a distance, he could hear it creak and moan.

Fuck. There was supposed to be a lake here! He looked down to his tactical bag, opened it, dug through the pockets and pulled out an old, worn map. His fingers, grimy with dry, thick dust, scanned across the lines and creases, trying to determine which was which. The groan of steel, bitterly complaining about its burden, filled the air.

“Fuck,” he said aloud. It was getting harder and harder to find water. This place, this building, should have been on the edge of a large lake. He looked through the binoculars again and for a moment, the dust cleared just enough for him to see a long, deep hollow beyond the tortured high-rise, its surface cracked and crumbling. And dry. Bone dry.

The impeccable man chuckled.

“I told you there wouldn’t be anything there,” he chided, “but would you listen?”

“I said, shut the fuck up.”

“Is that what you really want, Jacob? Honestly? Because I think you might regret saying that later.”

Jacob pulled the binoculars from his eyes, squeezed them tight, and rubbed them hard. He blinked several times, then turned back. The man was still there. The impossible man. Wind and dirt and grime blew all around him, but his suit remained clean. Perfect. Unruffled by wind, untouched by dirt.

Imaginary.

He couldn’t quite remember when the man had first appeared. He had vague recollections of it being after he had wakened from a fevered dream. His eyes fluttering, his head throbbing, and then, there he was. The impeccable man.

A rollercoaster of emotions swept through Jacob at that moment. First, fear, panic. It had been a long damned time since he’d seen another human being, and that had not been a pleasant encounter. His side still ached from the memory of the club that had probably broken a rib or two. Then, befuddlement; the man’s incredibly fine, tailored clothes were incredibly jarring in the post-Fall world, where one scavenged what one could, regardless of cut or style or fit. And last…relief. Much as he hated to admit it, he was relieve to see another human being, to have someone to talk to, argue with, listen to. Even if he was a figment of his mind.

Jacob remained silent.

The man nodded, sagely. Jacob wished he could smack him. Instead, he tucked the binoculars away, pulled his worn, old scarf up over his face to block the dust, and began walking towards the building.

“What are you doing?”

He nodded towards the building.

“Could be something left inside. I need water, and a lot of buildings were only looted on the lower levels after the Fall. That one’s tall enough, there could be an old water cooler tank or case of bottled water or something.”

The man frowned. Even his frown was perfect, balanced, symmetrical.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Doesn’t look very safe.”

“What do you care? You’re imaginary.”

The man stopped.

“Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m not. Either way, and end to you could mean an end to me. Shouldn’t I get a choice?”

“Sure,” Jacob said with a huff, “Let’s thumb wrestle for it.”

The man’s face went cold. Jacob felt inwardly pleased at calling him on his lack of physical form.

“You know what? Do it. Go in there. I don’t have to go. I can make the choice not to. So go, get yourself killed. As I said, maybe it’s time to call it quits.”

“Maybe it is.”

Silence.

Jacob looked again. The man was gone. Not unusual, entirely. There were plenty of times he’d vanished in the past. He’d be back, no doubt, to gloat if Jacob found nothing or to sulk if he scored big.

Time to find out which.

***

He’d spent at least an hour looking for any other way up but the fire escape, and failed. The ground floor had been, predictably, well looted, but he guessed from the look of the barricaded stairwells that there may well still be something worth having on the upper floors. Plus, it wasn’t like he had much of a choice. He was already getting a little woozy from dehydration.

That fire escape, though. Rusted, rickety, swaying in the breeze. He could see how it pulled away from the wall every so often as it wobbled. And the ladder was so far up. Still, he might have a chance. He opened his pack again, rummaged around, and pulled out his rope and the makeshift grappling hook inside. It was ugly, pieced together from old car parts, but it worked. He tested the weight, gave it a few spins, and sent it sailing.

It hit with a clatter. A quick tug confirmed that it had caught, and he began heaving it towards him. The metal groaned, low and loud at first, then a higher shriek as the rust began to give way to the relentless tug of his rope. Then, with a final desperate shriek, the escape ladder shuddered and surrendered, crashing down with a bang. Jacob coiled his rope, and walked over to the ladder. He gave it a few shakes, gingerly set a foot on the first rung, then the second, and bounced a few times. It held. Good.

He went up, up, up. The first three floors were completely inaccessible, the windows completely boarded up. Further still, then. The same for the fourth, the fifth. By now, he could feel the sway of the building with every gust of dust-laden wind, and once, the fire escape pulled away from the side of the building entirely, leaving him grasping the ladder with knuckles gone white with stress and pressure. But then the building swayed again, and the rickety old ladder smashed against the side of the building with a bone rattling clank. Jacob had to catch his breath. His heart pounded ferociously beneath his chest, and for a moment, he wondered if the impeccable man had not been right after all.p

“Of course I was right,” the man said, sitting calmly on the platform just above Jacob.

“I thought you weren’t going to come,” Jacob growled, but he couldn’t fully hide the gladness he felt at not being alone.

“I couldn’t leave you here, Jacob. Not alone. Not so far up from the world below. How far are we now, Jacob?”

He’d lost count. Jacob looked down, and saw only swirling clouds of dust and ruin, the microscopic remnants of the spoiled land below. The building teetered. He looked up, and saw the fire escape climb and climb, only to disappear into another cloud of dust, the dehydrated remains of a sea bed now gone. God, he was so thirsty.

“I think you’ve gone far enough, Jacob,” the man said, but this time, the edge to it, the sarcasm was gone and in its place, something more akin to…concern? Tenderness?

“Can’t stop,” Jacob said, gritting his teeth as the ladder swayed again, “Gotta find a way in. Find water. I’ll die otherwise.”

The impeccable man stared at him for a long while, silent. His eyes, a strange, watery blue, seemed fit to burst with tears, but none escaped. He just sat there, watching Jacob, who clung to the ladder and could not find the strength or courage to move against the swaying, blowing storm. Finally, he nodded.

“Very well. I can do no more this time. Good bye Jacob.”

He stood, walked to the edge of the platform, and leapt.

“NO!” screamed Jacob, and he instinctually shot out a hand to grab for the man who wasn’t there. As he did, his body weight shifted, and a horrible, deep cry shook through the entire building. Timbers creaked and snapped in thundering cracks, as brick began to crumble. Jacob cried out, but his voice was lost in the tumultuous crash of the high rise.

***

“We were close this time, Phillip. We almost had him free.”

Phillip turned to the impeccably dressed man, and nodded.

“Perhaps next time, Doctor Jennings? Perhaps next time, we can bring him back to the real world, and out of this fantasy he’s built.”

Jennings, dressed impeccably, looked in at Jacob as he thrashed against the padded wall. His watery blue eyes swelled with tears.

“Perhaps.”

“Wayward Son”– #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 33

flash-fiction-badge1A super-short tale this week for Thain in Vain’s #FFC52 Flash Fiction Challenge! For week 33, we have a fun little prompt –

Open the book you are reading right now (or a favourite if you aren’t reading anything, oh, and shame on you!), turn to page 33 (or 33% on e-readers) and write a super flash fiction about the first proper noun (person, place or thing) on the page! Word count is 500 as usual, but feel free to use 33 as your word count for this week!!

What did I choose? Stick around after and find out. Here is “Wayward Son” in 33 words.

 

She rose before me, high atop Kolvir, her legendary stair winding up her steepest cliff.

I’d ridden hard, through hells and heavens and all the Shadows in between.

Amber.

Soon, she would fall.

Though I’m actually reading a couple of different books at the moment, I knew from the moment I saw this prompt that I would return to my very favorite, the amazing universe of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Imagine my delight when the very first proper noun was Amber herself! I was tempted, SO tempted, to write a 500 word piece for this, but I enjoyed the challenge of telling a story in far fewer words. Here’s hoping I did her justice.

“The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” – Trope-Tastic Thursday #001 – #WOEGTTT

Greetings, fine readers! Today I felt inspired to write to my own challenge, Trope-Tastic Thursday! This week’s theme trope was Vocal Dissonance…but I decided that, since I never did write a story for the final Turn-a-trope Tuesday challenge, I’d combine that one’s Verbal Tic Name with this to create a story that challenges both. Mostly played straight this week, though the use of the former nicely turns the latter on it’s head.

Here is “The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” at 1,000 words on the dot…and an introduction to another character in the Pinky Black universe (though Pinky himself is absent from this tale).  I do hope you enjoy!

Ugh was not Ugh O’Malley’s actual first name. No one really knew what his given name was, save, perhaps, his poor departed mother, but even she may have forgotten it by this point were she still living. God rest her. No, Ugh got his name by the sound he made in response to near any verbal communication directed his way; with a strange, guttural growling grunt that was as brief as it was gruff.

Not that anyone questioned his monocabulary. Ugh was the kind of man that one did not try to speak to, if one could avoid it. He was a towering brute of a man, hard bodied and a face that looked like rough poured asphalt, all craggy and scarred. It was a wide, flat face, his nose barely poking beyond the vast plain of pockmarked meanness, and where it did, kinked in odd directions from innumerable breaks he’d gotten from his chosen profession.

You see, Ugh was the right hand of Pappy O’Bannon – though, it was more like the right fist. And the left. There wasn’t a place Pappy went that Ugh wasn’t his shadow, and a menacing one at that. Rumor had it that Ugh didn’t have a tongue at all, that Pappy O’Bannon had removed it because Ugh was the only one who knew all the family secrets, besides Pappy himself. Where that the truth, though, one would think Ugh would be more resentful towards his employer, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Ugh served the old man with a devotion of a favored son. Far more likely, then, that Pappy merely encouraged the rumor, taking advantage of his monosyllabic henchman’s fierce reputation to enhance the ferocity of his own.

Not that he needed much help with that. Pappy O’Bannon was one of the most feared crime lords on the East coast. His family, the O’Bannon mob, was known for the swiftness of their anger and the honest brutality at which they pursued their idea of “justice.” Pappy was particularly known for the zeal in which he went after his Italian adversaries – the man hated them with a keenness and fury that was, in a word, remarkable.

No one quite knew why; some said it was on account of his first wife running off with an Italian. Others, that the Italian mobs had not shown Pappy proper respect when stepping into his domain. Still others, that her was part Italian himself but that he hated his dad, or granddad, or whomever it was the speaker alleged bore that Mediterranean seed. It was even said that Pappy took his hatred as far as the dinner table; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph be with the man who laid a plate of pasta in front of Pappy. But, there was one thing Italian that Pappy loved, and that was the opera. It was, in fact, one of Pappy’s favorite sayings – that opera was the only thing the Italians did right. Old man O’Bannon went to every possible one he could attend, and by his side, faithful, went his good man Ugh.

It was quite a shock, then, when Pappy passed away in the night, that Ugh was not present to attend his body from the start of his wake. It was a fine wake too, sure, and well attended. The women all a-keening and the men whispering their condolences, to then find solace and comfort in a stout whiskey and a quiet laugh of days gone by. Someone had even thought to place a big plate of spaghetti out with the rest of the reception’s food, and while some might have found it distasteful, there were plenty who knew Pappy would have appreciated the humor there. So it went, with tales of bygone glories and mad adventures, of Pappy in his youth and his rise to power over the East side districts. Songs were sung, laughs shared, drinks downed and filled and downed again.

And then, the door flew open with a start. Standing there, almost perfectly framed within the door, his broad shoulders nearly filling the passage and his wild, red hair brushing the door jam, was Ugh. His rugged face was red and nose a-blossom with drink, no doubt, and his eyes puffed and sore from tears gazed slowly about the room, taking in an account of every face he saw. There was an emptiness to his stare that chilled the very air.

The room fell silent. Not even a glass clinked as Ugh made his way to Pappy’s side. Large men, strong men, quivered slightly and shrugged aside, unwilling to face that stare. The behemoth stopped just shy of his late master’s body, and for a moment, the silence lingered. All eyes were on that hulking, red-headed form. A tear rolled down through the canyons of his face. His mouth opened slightly, and from it…sound.

The most beautiful sound any one there had ever heard, soft at first, like he had forgotten how to produce any noise, then louder. His voice was clearer than a crystalline lagoon, his tone, perfect, unwavering. He grew louder still, and then it became clear that what he sang…was opera. His voice roared now, with fury, passion, sadness, loss. It was torrent of sound, the lamentation of an angel, so beautiful and pure it nearly hurt to give listen. Then, he peaked, the crescendo came and crashed into the hearts of all that gathered like a great tsunami on a hapless shore. Tears fell freely, from Ugh and all who gathered there. Then it was over. Ugh turned, sharply, and paced from the room as if a man on a mission from God.

And perhaps he was. Ugh never returned to the O’Bannon mob. Rumor was he’d caught a boat back to Ireland, and there, found his way into the priesthood. No one dared to follow him. No one dared to check. For they had long feared the demon that never spoke…but feared more the angel that did.

Trope-Tastic Thursday #001 – “Vocal Dissonance” – #WOEGTTT

(OOPS! This was supposed to be a scheduled post, but I hit the wrong button. *blush!*  Since several have already seen it, I’ll leave it up – but next weeks will actually post on Thursday!)

Howdy, my writerly friends, and welcome to the first edition of Trope-Tastic Thursday! As explained in yesterday’s lead up, Trope-Tastic Thursday is my weekly writing challenge, where we explore the world of fiction through tropes.

What is a trope? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what our pals at TVTropes.org have to say about it:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

In a way, tropes are like cliches (but not boring), in that they define what a reader has come to expect of certain elements of fiction. That could be the normal expectations of what to expect of an Evil Overlord, or the standard elements found in a type of fiction, like, say, Steam Punk! The point is, a reader will naturally expect certain things, and those things are defined as tropes.

And my challenge to you, each week, is to take this week’s trope and use it in a piece of fiction that is 1,000 words or less in length. You can use that trope however you wish, either playing it straight (using the trope as it is described, more or less) or turning the trope (going against the expectations defined by that particular trope). Either way, the goal is to explore the trope and see what kind of awesome fiction we can come up with. Don’t feel restricted by genre, either – just because a trope is common in, say, Fantasy, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to use it in a drama!

And this week’s trope is….

VOCAL DISSONANCE!
(follow the link for examples)

From TVTropes.org:

While it may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, it’s something that happens. You see a person, you expect certain things. This extends even to their voice. If you see a muscular man, you expect a deep macho voice. The Vamp will have a sexy, sultry voice. A child’s voice is high pitched. And so on.

This trope is about when those expectations don’t match up e.g. when the muscular man has the sultry voice, The Vamp has the childish voice, and the child has the deep voice. This trope is generally played for comedy, since the idea of a squeaky voice off a big person or vice-versa is generally seen as absurd.

For better or for worse, this can sometimes come about by chance, depending on how casting in a voiced work goes. It also can occur because people tend to expect all the inhabitants of a given country to look basically the same, so hearing, say, a British accent and then realizing it’s issuing from the mouth of an ethnically Chinese person can be quite a shock.

Cute, but Cacophonic is a subtrope of this, specifically referring to when “an extremely cute and/or tiny animal turns out to have a surprisingly loud cry.” Instant Soprano, another subtrope, occurs when the Vocal Dissonance arises in response to a Groin Attack. Not to be confused with Larynx Dissonance, which involves an actor attempting to impersonate their opposite gender, or Lyrical Dissonance, which involves song lyrics.

So there we have it! Your challenge is to write a story that involves Vocal Dissonance, in 1,000 words or less. Your deadline is next Thursday, August 21st, by noon Eastern time. Play with the trope, have fun with it, and when you are done, post it to your writing site, and come back here with a link to your post. If you can, include the hashtag #woegttt in your tags, to make it easier for other writers to find and read your challenge. Next Thursday, I’ll include a link back to your blog so that everyone can get a chance to read your story!

If you have any questions or need clarification, let me know here! I’ll help however I can!

On your marks….

Get set…

Trope!

“To Boldly Go” – #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 32

flash-fiction-badge1Howdy folks. Here I am, back again with another entry in the ever awesome Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt?

A celebrity of your choice (alive or dead) applies for a job and gets an interview.

This week’s entry is a strange one for me – I’ll explain after the story, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Stick around after.

“So tell me, Ryb’neor, what makes you think you are qualified for this assignment?”

Ryb’neor smiled as they orbited slowly over the surface of the planet that glimmered the same blue as his eyes.

“Supreme Commander, I’ve made the study of primitive life forms my life’s work. This is the first chance we have to truly study and understand an alien culture on the cusp of star travel. I’ve studied this species extensively, analyzed their media, absorbed their understanding of the universe. It’s my hope that perhaps I can guide them. Help them understand their own condition, before they reach out to the stars.”

The Commander furrowed his eyestalks, one turned towards the blue orb below and the other staring intently at Ryb’neor.

“You know the Law. You are not to directly interfere with their progress. You are not to directly change the path of their civilization. I know you’ve grown fond of these…children…and I fear you will be unable to resist the temptation to sway them with knowledge they are not ready to have.”

“Your concerns are noted, Commander. I know the consequences of breaking the Law, and fond as I am, truly, of these people, I would not risk breaking the Grand Treaty to push them where they are not ready to go.”

“Even if they are a danger to themselves? To their very existence? Can you let them go that path, if it the path they choose leads to their own destruction?”

Ryb’neor fell silent. He knew that what his superior suggested was a possibility. For all their wonder, their exuberance, their joy, they were still a violent, chaotic, mad species. In truth, it was that madness that sang to him, drew him, inspired him. His race had long since evolved past the passions that drove this species, but the spark of passion burned within him. He hid it well, but perhaps there, on that polished blue orb, he could find himself. Could he, then, let them destroy themselves?

“If it is their path, it is their path…but perhaps I can sway them, discreetly.”

“How?”

“Laughter. Tears. Anger. Sadness. Hope.”

“Emotions? Primitive things…”

“Perhaps…but are they not a primitive people?”

The Supreme Commander sat quietly for a while. Finally, he nodded.

“Understand, if I give you this, it will be permanent. You will not be reassigned, you will not be allowed to leave. The surgery will be…extensive. Painful. Are you truly ready to go through all that, for a species that may kill itself off before it ever reaches the stars?”

Ryb’neor nodded.

“Very well. Assignment granted, Ryb’neor.”

***

Ryb’neor smiled. It took getting used to in this funny new body. Waiting in this room, he could not help but remember the last interview with his commander. And here he was, about to embark on a new adventure, on his new home.

The door opened.

“Mr. Williams? Are you ready for your audition?”

Ryb’neor…no, it was Robin, now…smiled broader.

“Nanu-nanu,” he whispered, and his eyes twinkled blue.

I started this story last week, after struggling with deciding what kind of story I wanted to tell.  I ended up choosing Robin Williams because I thought it would be fun to imagine a world where he really *was* Mork, essentially. Mork and Mindy was a favorite of mine as a child, and is something that, believe it or not, I think about all the time. It’s kind of hard not to when your name is Mark and your wife is named Myndee. And yes, she’s named after the show.

So here it has been, sitting in my drafts, waiting to be edited down from the 630 word story I started with to the 500 word limit of the challenge…when yesterday happened. I will be honest, I thought long and hard about deleting my draft and not posting the story. I didn’t want to seem as if I were jumping on some band wagon or taking advantage of the death of one of the few celebrities I have ever genuinely admired.

But in the end, I decided I’d publish it anyway. RIP, Mr. Robin Williams. I hate that sadness overtook you.

Total Badass

Ages back, when I was but a wee and punkish youth, my friends and I took it upon ourselves to head to the local fly-by-night carnival that had set up in a dingy field on the edge of town. There was the usual assortment of pricey games for crappy prizes, and rides that rattled and moaned like they were inches away from shaking themselves to oblivion.

Dauntless, we chose to ride one, the Gravitron, one of those spinning deals where you get pressed against the wall. As the ride is loading, a couple enters with a very young daughter, whom the male of the couple decided to hold on his chest – this seemed like a very bad idea, but who were we to question? The ride continues to fill, and across the drum from that couple, a big, mean looking biker dude settles in to his spot. The ride operator, in a little booth in the middle of the ride, starts the gears in play, then puts on his headphones and starts reading a magazine (of the adult variety – does this tell you about the kind of carnival this was?) as the ride begins to spin.

Sure enough, about halfway through the ride, disaster strikes. The wee girl slips from the guys chest, and rolls to the side, her head slipping between the slats that everyone was pressed against…the slats that, when the ride stops, pinch closed. People start screaming, imagining what is going happen to the little girl. Some folks are trying to get the ride operator’s attention, but he is otherwise occupied, and their shouts can barely be heard above the din of the machine.

Suddenly, above the din, we hear a roar like a lion. Across the way, we watch the biker dude straining and roaring, as he pulls himself from the wall. He forces himself forward, his muscles straining, and reaching out, grabs a rail that is in front of him…and then slowly, carefully, fights the force of the Gravitron as he pulls himself around to the little girl all the way across the ride from him.

Placing his feet to either side of her, he continues to fight the tremendous force to lower himself down carefully. We could see every vein in his arms, his neck his head, straining against the motion of the ride. He reaches down, scoops the terrified little girl into his arms, and brings her to his chest, holding her tightly against the power of the spinning monstrosity.

Finally, the operator looks up, sees what is happening, and slows the ride. The biker guy hangs on as the ride slows enough that people can move again, then finally sets the girl down as the spinning stops. He looks as if he might collapse. He drops to a knee for but a moment, but then stands up, gives the girl’s (presumed) dad a stern, you’re-a-fucking-dumbass look, then turns his mighty, vengeful gaze on the ride operator. He leans over the rail, and in a deep, menacing tone, says “You need to pay more attention to your work, boy.”

And then he exited the ride, as the rest of us checked to see if our undies needed changing.

Sheer, utter, total badass.

“Super Sexy” – Turn-A-Trope #7, #WOEGTTT

I know, I know, deadlines, right? Better late than never! Here is my entry to this last week’s Turn-a-Trope Tuesday, “Good People Have Good Sex.”  Sometimes, it just isn’t so…

“Silver Fox, you vixen, you!” cried out the Scarlet Saber with delight, “Don’t think I haven’t heard!”

The Fox blushed, and on her silvered skin, it glowed a deep, dark crimson befitting her BFF’s nom-de-vigilance.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Scarlet.”

“Please, sweetie. I have super senses, remember? I heard your door close three miles away, and the voice, thanking you for a wonderful night…at breakfast? If that wasn’t Captain Amazing, then I will hang up my bloody saber right now and never fight crime again!”

The Fox sighed. Well, if one couldn’t be honest with her besty…

“You’re right…it *was* Captain Amazing. He…uh…well…he came over for dinner…”

“And stayed for breakfast?” Scarlet interrupted with a wink. Silver Fox nodded shyly.

“Oh, you have to do better than that, love,” Scarlet prodded, “This is Captain Amazing we’re talking about! So tall, so broad shouldered, so perfectly chiseled, so impeccably dressed…such a large…codpiece…”

A glimmer of something crossed the Fox’s face, and Scarlet, her senses being super, after all, caught it immediately.

“By my sword,” she gasped, “Don’t tell me…Captain Amazing isn’t….”

She held up her fingers about an inch apart. Fox couldn’t help it. She broke into a laugh, which Scarlet joined. A few moments later, she wiped a tear from her cheek.

“No, no…It’s not that. He’s perfectly adequately, um….equipped. Not too big, not too small, just…”

“Spill it, sister,” Scarlett urged. The Fox swallowed, hard.

“Well, let’s just say that, romantically? He’s not so awesome.”

“Do tell! Is he too aggressive? I do love an aggressive man. If he is and you don’t want him…”

“No, it’s not that either. He is definitely sure of himself, and likes to take the lead, but…”

The Silver Fox paused. Was she really going to get into this? She sighed again. May as well.

“Let’s just say…maybe he and the Minuteman should change names,” she admitted, blushing.

Scarlet roared. At first, it irritated Fox, but soon she found herself rolling with laughter as well.
“That’s ok sweetie. Minuteman would be better off as ‘The Living Plank’, anyway. He’s dreadfully boring in the sack.”

“What? Scarlet, don’t tell me…”

Scarlet nodded.

“Remember the Kxylyntll Invasion? Right after that. It was terrible…for someone so passionate about patriotism, he sure is mechanical in bed.”

Fox laughed.

“But I thought you were with the Pimpernel then!”

“Ha! The pimp part is right…I caught him cheating on me with that floozy, the Silk Psychic!”

“No! The one that looks like…”

“…Charlie Sheen in drag!” the pair said in unison, before falling into more laughter.

“Maybe you should have gone after the Mighty Hammer instead,” Fox suggested.

“Gay,” Scarlet sighed.

“Nightshift?”

“Prude.”

“Cardinal Justice?”

“Way, WAY too kinky.”

“Scarlet! Now you’re just being silly…is there anyone in the super community that you haven’t bedded and rejected?”

“What can I say, sweetie, a girl has needs. And it’s a limited dating pool when you have a supernaturally strengthened libido! I was going to aim for Captain Awesome, but now…”

Fox grinned, her blush still evident.

“Surely, there has to be someone out there who has met up to your needs…”

It was Scarlet’s turn to blush, and Fox jumped on that eagerly.

“There is! Oh, you have to tell me who!”

“Only if you promise to never whisper a word about this to anyone! And not to judge me!”

Fox crossed her heart. Scarlet nodded.

“Darkstar,” she said, barely above a whisper. Fox’s mouth fell open, her eyes widened in shock.

“Darkstar?! The villain???”

Scar frowned, looked away, but Fox touched her shoulder and turned her.

“Do tell..I promise I won’t judge.”

Scarlet sighed.

“I didn’t know it was Darkstar at the time. Nor he that I was the Scarlet Saber. We met in our mundanes…he was Derrick Devlin and I was Samantha Smythe. We met on one of those dating sites…I was trying to, you know, scratch the itch without dipping back into the pool of Super Disappointment. But…oh, Fox…”

Tears fell from Scarlet’s face, and Fox took her in a comforting embrace.

“It’s just…he was so gentle, Fox. Sweet. Tender. Caring. And by the stars, so very, very talented in bed.”

Fox was flabbergasted.

“Are we talking about the same Darkstar? The one who wants to rule with an iron fist? The one who tried to conquer at least three different nations just last week?”

Scarlet nodded.

“He isn’t all bad, you know. He just can’t stand chaos, conflict…so he tries to solve it by taking over. But on the inside…he’s so much different. And alas, in prison now. Again.”

“I’m sorry, Scarlet.”

“It’s ok, sweetie. I’ll…”

An explosion rocked in the distance, interrupting the two heroines. In a flash, they were up, and on their way to the scene. Moments later, they stood outside the Metro City Maximum Security Prison. The Mighty Hammer and Captain Amazing were already there, talking to the guards.

“What happened?” Fox asked.

“Breakout!” the Mighty Hammer said, his eyes gazing longingly at Captain Amazing’s tights. Captain Amazing turned, and approached the trio.

“Fear not, ladies…me and the Hammer can handle this one. Darkstar is loose…but we can take him.”

“We’ll pound his ass into the ground,” the Mighty Hammer exclaimed, high-fiving Captain Amazing, “and have him back behind bars in less than a minute!”

Fox and Scarlet burst into laughter.

They couldn’t help it.

The End of My Adventures in Pawnbroking…

What feels like a lifetime ago, I was an assistant manager at a pawn shop. It was a pretty stressful job, but nothing stressed me as bad as the day I had to call 911.

This sweet little old lady came in one afternoon, while I was the manager on duty. She was a bit frail looking, but dressed very nicely, a sweet smile, but eyes that looked far sadder than I had ever seen eyes look. She hesitantly came up to the counter, and I approached with an easy smile and calmly asked if I could help her. I expected she was there to find something that had been stolen – we had that happen far too often; grandkids would steal their grandmother’s jewelry and pawn it for a quick buck, and it was always hard to break the news to the grandmother that we’d have to get the police involved to get them back their things. Like I said, stressful job, so I was already mentally preparing myself for the speech I’d given a thousand times at least.

I asked her gently if I could help her. She smiled, and reached into her purse. She pulled out a collection of really beautiful looking jade jewelry.

“I was wondering if I could get a loan on my jewelry,” she said quietly, her eyes cast down, refusing to meet mine.

Fuck. This was worse than I was prepared for. The problem was, my shop, hell, most shops, won’t lend on jewelry that isn’t gold, silver, or diamonds. It’s too hard to verify that it’s real, and unlike Pawn Stars, we didn’t have a TV network flying in experts to verify something’s worth. As it was, I had already gotten in trouble that week for giving too much money to a young mother pawning a very cheap wedding ring set, in order to buy diapers and formula for her kids (yeah, I know, classic sob story, but her very hungry looking, smelly infant had me convinced there was a glimmer of truth to it).

I looked at the jewelry, and swallowed. I could probably give her $20 for it. That way, even if it was plastic and not actual jade, I wasn’t going to be out so much that I couldn’t cover it out of my own pocket if need be. But I didn’t want to insult her. I could tell be the tremble in her hands that this was breaking her pride, and I’d be damned if I contributed to that.

“How much are you trying to get?” I asked cautiously.

She sighed.

“I was hoping, maybe $300?”

Fuck. There was no way. No way at all, that I could get her that kind of money.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I really don’t think I can help you with this. We don’t have the ability to test jade, and we’re very limited in what we can offer you.”

“Please,” she said, looking up with tears in her eyes, “I’ve tried every other shop. I need the money, please. They’ve raised my rent and I can’t afford to move. Please.”

F U C K.

I sighed. There was no way. But…

“Let me call my boss,” I said, “And see what we can do.”

I spent the next 15 minutes or so on the phone with my boss. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he didn’t want to take it in at all. We argued back and forth, and finally, we agreed that we could go as high as $75, but no higher.

I came back to her, and as gently as I could manage, I told her that the best I could manage would be $75.

Her face paled. Her mouth gaped. And then suddenly, she twitched, her eyes rolled back, and she fell over with a brief convulsion. I leaped over the counter and tried to get a response, but she didn’t seem to be breathing. I jumped back up, grabbed the phone, and called 911.

She was gone before they got there, I’m pretty sure. They still tried to resuscitate her, as they wheeled her out on the gurney and into the ambulance.

I was in a state of shock. It wasn’t until about a half hour later that I’d realized she’d left her jewelry on my counter, along with her ID. I contacted the police (non-emergency) and they sent an officer to gather her things.

I never found out if she made it or not.

Three weeks later, I turned in my resignation.