Monday, December 19, 2016

Tuesday Prompt: Ellen Hawkins: Straw


One day I harvested a straw hat, tied it on with a yellow ribbon then went in search of the last straw but the camel had already buckled at the knees. It gasped and wheezed while I shouted in my loudest voice.

            “Hang on, old chap! If you could just give me a little room, I’ll sit down here beside you and massage your hump with my feet. There, does that feel any better?”
            The camel moaned.
            “Help is on the way!” I called, removing one straw, then another.
            One hundred and forty-two straws later, I felt the camel move.
            “I know you!” I said, “I saw you waiting at a crowded railway crossing on the outskirts of New Delhi.  You were peering down on a jumble of cars, lorries, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians. Everyone was waiting for the train to pass but people kept ducking under the barrier and leaping across the track, deaf to the whistle and roar of the oncoming train. But not your Excellent Self, of course.  You were wise to wait, Camel. Is it possible you were carrying straw that day?
            “I’ve been told that you can be mean; that when you’re annoyed you spit at whoever’s bothering you. I’m sure you’re justified in taking this attitude. I would, in your place. Not only do you have to heft all that straw, you also have to put up with the incessant presence of Holy Cattle, creatures that are free to go wherever they like. As an outsider, I’d say you got a rum deal, but without the rum.  You should complain to the Association of Beleaguered Camels, insist on better working conditions.
            “What’s that?  You like the idea? Great! Let’s put our heads together. On second thought, maybe not.  I detect a whiff of eye-watering halitosis. No offence intended. You’ll need a slogan. Maybe, ‘Camels for a Better Future!’
            “Boring? How about: The Most Daring and Salacious Campaign to Bring Camels into Modern Society-- MDSCBCMS for short.  A bit clunky?  Then let’s try, ‘The Last Straw: Out with Holy Cows! In with Camels!’
            “No? Maybe we should do a straw poll. I’ll get the straw, you can count. No, hold on. Why don’t you toss each straw onto your back while I count? Ready? One, two, three… four hundred and seventy-eight, three million, five hundred thousand and sixty-two.  You’re going a bit cross-eyed. I’ll slow down. Four zillion and three quarters… five zillion and--
            “Is that it? Is that the Last Straw you’re holding up? Wait. Don’t move. Try not to grimace. I’ll just take your picture. That’s brilliant. Your expression is so original, so in harmony with nature. Wait, wait! You’re fading.  I must take a selfie in case this goes viral.  Here we go:  Me and The Camel, one straw short of the last—.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Prompt: Suzanne Roberts: Traffic Light

Traffic Light


We were all piled in my Toyota Tercel hatchback: three friends in the back and three of us in the front, one on top of the handbrake, straddling the gearshift. Everyone had a beer in hand. This was freedom – f&#$ the seatbelts, f&#$ the open container laws, f&#$ that we might crush this car with so much weight. The windows were wide open, warm humid night pouring in, radio music seeping out.
            We came to a red traffic light on North Avenue and a Chicago Police car pulled into the left turn lane. The passenger side policeman’s elbow out the window almost brushed mine. He turned and nodded to me and I nodded back… casually. Seconds passed like minutes and I knew what is coming. When the light turns green, he will turn back into my lane and follow me, pulling me over along the curb I can see from here. And have me on how many counts?
            But, no, he went left and I went forward. This should have felt good – the adrenaline and escape, but it has just felt wrong for years now. By the age of fourteen, I wanted more from the world than its being based so embarrassingly obviously on looks; that night, above all others, my young, whiteness was thrown into relief.
            I’m not looking for pity. How many countless other times has this fact saved me or put me first?
            I always cursed not looking Latino (“Yeah, sure your dad is from Chile”) until the day I entered the United States through Miami with Ignacio and our daughter Clara and we were sent to the detention hall to wait while they questioned him. An hour later and he still couldn’t get even one of those Latino-US Citizen Immigration Officials to respond to him with a word of Spanish or any other less complicit expression of solidarity or brotherhood for an innocent Latino.
            Donald Trump hates almost everyone. He is like a nerve stripped of its body, stripped of its protective casing, whipping around, reacting all the time. A nerve does not create, it reacts. His hate is attractive, “Oh, you’re angry? Terrific, let’s hate. See how good it feels? Hate your next door neighbors and the ones who’ve gone before and will come after. Hate the ones who don’t follow the rules, but let’s change the rules. I hereby solemnly swear to keep the fires of controversy and confusion burning so bright over the next four years that you’ll be able to hate and hate without ever having to feel the stark, lifeless void that follows.”