Note to the Mother Ship
When I’m driving down a residential street in my car, I often see signs on people’s lawns that say “Watch For Children.” I note that the only time I’m not watching for children in the road is when I’m reading these signs. I think it would be better if the signs faced the front door of the house and said “Watch For Cars.”
The magazine I sent my very wee story to has accepted it. I am pleased. I find it nice to be appreciated even if it’s by humans. I just don’t know why. They asked if I had anything else to submit and so I’m working on something else presently.
Also in the mail I got a bulk letter today from the OAF asking for a donation. OAF stands for the Organization for Animal Freedom. Nick refers to them as “The Animal People.” I think there’s an intended double meaning there as he doesn’t warm to their passion. This is a group that is protesting the use of animals as pets (and as farm laborers, and egg layers, and it’s really kind of a long list). But their main thing is that animals shouldn’t be used as pets. The mailer has a picture of a Corgi dog wearing a sweater. Underneath is a caption that says, “Would you want an animal to put a sweater on you?” I feel I’m too new to the scene here to have an opinion, but I’m choosing to not send them any money until I have more information.
People here protest things, a lot, and not just here but all over the world. I see this on the news. The thing that’s curious, though, is that while you might view, say, people protesting something in Iran—which leads you to think, “People in Iran are really not happy about something,” or people in America are protesting and you think, “People in America are really not happy about something,” there’s no scale presented. You have to wonder if you’re watching the country being pissed off or just a couple hundred people being pissed off. You might see even a large event on the news where it says “Ten thousand people protested dogs being forced to wear sweaters today,” and that’s pretty striking, but then it should be followed up with, “And twenty million people didn’t, and instead spent the night watching Batman on Netflix.” So, civil anger is hard to gauge.
Note to the Mother Ship
I think each generation of humans considers itself more enlightened than the last, thus feeling no compulsion to reflect on the lives or perspectives of their parents, and consequently makes all the same mistakes as the previous generation. Just a theory.
I also think all the people who think Elvis Presly was the greatest thing since the invention of individually wrapped butter patties are the same people who were horrified by him in the fifties, then just transported into the future. Again, just a theory.
Note to the Mother Ship
Came across a quote today by Eleanor Roosevelt: “People would worry a lot less about what other people think of them if they realized how infrequently other people think about them at all.”
That’s a good’n.
Note to the Mother Ship
Rory has a motorcycle. It’s very loud. This is another reason I don’t like him. I don’t begrudge anybody wanting to feel the wind in their hair and the freedom of the road, I just want them to do it more quietly. I don’t understand why automobiles have to have a muffler and if they don’t their owner gets a ticket, but motorcycles don’t. What’s the point?
I don’t like loud things. I like quiet things, preferably in a minor key. Ralph Vaughan-Williams is a quiet thing and often in a minor key. Minor keys are sad. I like music that is sad. It makes me feel less alone. The music is like a companion. There’s an old song called Send In The Clowns. It’s the saddest damned thing I’ve ever heard, but I like listening to it. Now, I don’t like being depressed. Being depressed is different. Being depressed is like having a black cloud over your head. Being sad, though, is like being inside the cloud and consequently a part of it. When I’m sad I feel like an entire person. When I don’t feel sad, I feel like two-thirds of a person. I’m particularly fond of Vaughan-Williams second movement of his London Symphony and Norfolk Rhapsody number 1. They both tend to quietly encircle me, come close in, and then cover me like a warm blanket, or Temple Grandin’s hug machine. A lot of people like polka music and zydeco because it makes them happy. This is music in a major key. This is traditionally known as the “happy key.” I do not like it. It does not make me happy.
Note to the Mother Ship
I don’t recall how this started, but it did seem organically: Tuesday night has now become Netflix Movie Night for myself and Rika. She likes watching movies as much as I do. I don’t know where everyone else in the house is on Tuesday night, but Rika and I find ourselves pleasantly alone. And so we have Netflix Movie Night with popcorn (she insists on using a hot-air popper. I think the microwave bags are way better, but she insists they have some toxic substance in them and so I endure the steamed and chewy popcorn).
The Loadstone: Simply Short Issue 18
Fiona the Fair
By Alvin Zaronsky
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a wise and good queen named Fiona the Fair, daughter of Nellie the Nice and Peter the Pithy. And once a year on her birthday she would hold court and listen to all grievances and disputes as presented by her subjects for the purpose of finding just resolutions. This was held in the great hall and people from all over the kingdom crowded in to both listen and be heard.
“All rise for Her Majesty the queen, Fiona the Fair,” called the Lord Counsel. And all did as Fiona entered and took her seat at the end of the hall upon the dais.
“Number one?” Fiona requested, looking about.
“Here, Your Majesty,” replied Gristle the Barber.
“State your case,” said Fiona.
“Farmer Zoot stole my cow.”
“It was my cow!” cried Farmer Zoot, pushing his way forward. “You stole it from me! I was taking it back.”
“Two wrongs don’t make a right, Farmer Zoot,” the queen informed. “Next?”
“Anna the Beggar stole a chicken from me,” said the Woodcarver.
“Step forward, Anna the Beggar,” said Fiona. And so Anna did. “Is this true? You stole a chicken?”
“I fine you ten ducats.”
“But, Your Majesty, I’m but a poor beggar. I couldn’t possibly afford to pay ten ducats.”
“Hm. Very well. I fine you one chicken. Do you still have the one you stole?”
A man dripping wet holding his hat in his hands stepped forward. “Nabob the Fisherman, Your Majesty.”
“I got caught in the hurricane. My boat sank. I was able to swim to shore and escape with my life, but my boat is gone because of the hurricane and now I have no means of income.”
“Call my Weather Prognosticator!” exclaimed the queen, and an echoing series of calls for the Weather Prognosticator swept through the hall and into the corridors until a moment later he hurried in and stood before Fiona the Fair.
“Did you not foresee the hurricane?” she asked him.
“I did, Your Majesty,” he replied.
“And you posted it in the town square?”
“And you said it would be bad?”
“Really, really, really bad?”
“Well, no, I just said–
“Silence! You will buy a new boat for Nabob the Fisherman as his hardship is the result of your lack of clarity. Moving on.”
A couple hesitatingly shuffled forward with their teenage son between them. The father spoke. “Your Majesty, our son is sixteen years old but remains in the third grade and seems incapable of progressing forward. We’re at our wits’ end and don’t know what to do.”
Fiona eyed the boy. “What is your name, lad?”
“Why are you so poor at your studies, Harold, so that you can’t progress to the level you should be at?”
“I’M NOT INSPIRED!”
“Where is the School Teacher, Myrtle the Weary!” Fiona demanded, her eyes darting about the room.
“Here, Your Majesty,” said a middle-aged woman stepping toward the middle of the room.
“Henceforth,” Fiona said, “you will inspire Harold to do better at his studies so that he may progress to the level he should be at.”
“You will say inspiring things.”
“How do I know. You’re the School Teacher. I’m the queen.” Fiona tilted her head and studied the School Teacher further. “On second thought, I’m removing you from the position of School Teacher. Alice of Whimsydale, step forward.”
A twenty-three-year-old young woman sprinted to the middle of the room. “Yes, Your Majesty!”
“You have been Assistant to the School Teacher for the last six months, is that correct?”
“Yes, Ma’am! And I have enjoyed every minute of it. Being in the kingdom’s education system has been my dream since I was a little girl.”
“From now on you are the official School Teacher.”
“Really?! Really?! Oh, gee willikers, this is great! I love teaching kids, especially the teenagers! That’s the time when their minds are evolving and they’re challenging things–
“and they question things. And their minds are like these vortexes sucking in information like a sponge–
“and they’re open to new possibilities and, oh, I’m sorry, yes Ma’am?”
“Get a hold of yourself.”
The Lord Counsel, who had been standing just to the queen’s right, stepped forward. “If you will forgive me, Your Majesty, I’m afraid I must object to this hiring of so young and inexperienced a person for the position of School Teacher. I happen to know that in the large kingdom of Gub they have a similar problem of teenagers not meeting their full potential, and their school administrators attribute this to, as do I, their lack of older and thus experienced teachers.”
“Hm,” said Fiona, “You might have a point. Alice, I’m returning you to the position of Assistant to the School Teacher.”
“Myrtle the Weary.”
“I mean yes, Your Majesty?”
“You will remain in your position of School Teacher.”
A young man with a plume in his hat and a sword on his hip and holding a dwarf by the neck gestured to the queen that he would like to be next.
“D’Artagnan, is it not?” inquired Fiona.
“Yes, Your Majesty. I’m flattered you remember.”
“You have I’m D’Artagnan embroidered on your shirt.”
“Your power of observation is exceeded only by your keen and just wisdom, Your Majesty.”
“Uh huh. What is your grievance?”
“I and my fellow musketeers were playing cards with Arnold the Jester and we caught him cheating.”
“You’re not a musketeer.”
“Okay, well, me and the three actual musketeers, Athos, Aramis, and… …the other one, were playing cards with Arnold the Jester and we caught him cheating.”
“Is that true, Arnold? You were cheating?”
“I was losing.”
“Hm. Seems like a good reason. Unhand him, D’Artagnan, and return to him any money which you and the real musketeers may have won from him.”
“But he cheated!”
“He’s a dwarf. Don’t be unkind. Next!”
“Roger the Sheepherder here, Your Majesty. Arthur of Argyle burned down my barn.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean it. Next!”
A man with a stubbly beard and dirty clothes stepped before Fiona the Fair. “Mornin’, Majesty. I have a complaint. I was not able to attend the Corn Festival recently and consequently I could neither vote for Miss Corn Festival Person nor enter my daughter Eugenia’s name as a candidate for Miss Corn Festival Person, and I’m pretty sure she would have won. She’s a looker. So I would like to know what’s being done to make sure everybody in the kingdom is able to exercise their right to vote as well as be able to run for Miss Corn Festival Person.”
“Who are you?”
“Ickbert the Manure Merchant, Ma’am.”
“Why were you not able to attend the Corn Festival?”
“My wagon’s broke.”
“Why didn’t you ride your horse?”
“He threw a shoe.”
“Why didn’t you walk?”
“It was raining.”
“Why didn’t you wait for the rain to stop and then walk?”
“The road was all muddy.”
“Why didn’t you put on some boots?”
“I don’t have boots.”
“Why don’t you buy some?”
“I don’t have any money.”
“Why don’t you have any money?”
“I don’t have a job.”
“Why don’t you peddle your manure?”
“My wagon’s broke.”
“Dear me.” Fiona the Fair took a deep breath. “So as to guarantee that all may be included in this yearly festivity, I decree that henceforth the Corn Festival will be held in Ickbert the Manure Merchant’s yard.”
“Ewwww!” cried the entire crowd.
“Oh shush! And I’m declaring his daughter this year’s official winner of the Miss Corn Festival Person…thing, as she obviously would have won had she had the opportunity to compete.”
“Bless ya’, Ma’am, bless ya’,” Ickbert cried. “You truly are the fairest of the fair.”
“Thank you, Manure Merchant. Being fair is good. Now, everyone, dancing!”
And as everyone in the hall proceeded to dance, Fiona the Fair slipped out quietly and went up to her chambers. And there she stepped before a great mirror, and spoke to it:
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
And the mirror replied, “You are, Fiona the Fair. You are.”
And she was glad. And she lived happily then, before, and ever after.
Rika brought a bowl of popcorn from the kitchen and set it down on the table in front of the two of them. Alvin tried some.
“Good?” she asked.
“Mm. Chewy, yes,” Alvin said. “Chewy goodness. Like tasty Styrofoam.”
“And no chemicals.”
Alvin had the Roku screen all set, ready with remote control in hand to move forward.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Wait.” The Roku screen had this interesting montage of simple but identifiable pictures, which panned across in an unending stream, as though traveling from one house, one event, one concept to the next, as though they all existed in the same neighborhood and on the same street. They were representations of all different movies. But it wasn’t obvious which ones.
“Okay,” she said, “can you identify all these movies? Let’s see how many we can get.”
“Psycho,” Alvin quickly responded, seeing the creepy Victorian mansion.
“King Kong,” Rika registered.
Rika stalled on the next. “What is that?” she asked.
“Clocktower from Back to the Future.”
“Oh, you’re good.”
“What’s the volcano?”
Alvin narrowed his eyes. “Mmm, Volcano. No, Krakatoa: East of Java, even though Krakatoa is west of Java. No idea actually.”
“Oooh, Emerald City, Wizard of Oz. Point. Island with floodlight going into the water.”
“The Island of the Gigantic Floodlight.”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“Oh, Alcatraz, with Clint Eastwood. Big building with light going upward.”
“Monster coming out of the sea.”
“Flying saucer over Big Ben.”
“Mmm, also no clue,” Alvin annoyingly confessed. “I should know this. What is it, what is it. Invasion of the Saucer Men, Plan Nine from Outer Space, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Day the Earth Stood Still! Yes. No. Big Ben is in none of those movies. What is it?”
“How many flying saucer movies have you seen?!”
“All of them. I love flying my saucer movies, especially when they blow everything up. I can’t get this. It bothers me.”
“Oh, War of the Worlds! That’s it. I got it and you didn’t.”
“Nope. That’s a flying saucer above Big Ben. War of the Worlds had triangular shaped vehicles with necks coming out of them. Martians yes, saucers no. Try again.”
“I have to Google it now,” she said, grabbing her I-Pad. She typed in ‘movies with Big Ben and flying saucers.’ “This Island Earth.”
“Here’s ’12 Times Big Ben chimed in movies.’” She started down the pictured list. “The Thirty-Nine Steps, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, V for Vendetta, Mars Attacks!”
“Bingo!” Alvin yelled with confidence. “That’s what it is. That was great. They blew the hell out of everything. It was funny too. Could have cut a half an hour, though.”
She read further. “’Alien invaders annihilate the British icon alongside Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal, and Easter Island’s mysterious faces.’ They were thorough.”
“You seem to be excessively familiar with movies about aliens destroying the Earth. I’m not sure that’s healthy.”
“It makes me happy. What can I say? No, but the best one,” he said turning to her, “the best one was The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not the crappy one with Keanu Reeves, the real old one with Michael Rennie from 1951. He didn’t blow up anything, he just said he was giving it a lot of thought. I love the ending—great ending.” Alvin stood up from the couch. He walked further away from Rika, then turned and faced her again. He looked to her left, then right, and above her head, viewing the entire crowd of which she was one attentive member. He became Michael Rennie.
“I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly,” he began. “The universe grows smaller every day. And the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom—except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this, when they made laws to govern themselves, and hired policemen to enforce them. We of the other planets have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets, and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is of course the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one, and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action, is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war—free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection. But we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.”
With his final words, Alvin fixed a long and silent stare down at Rika. She found it unnerving, but then Alvin broke his quasi-trance, smiled, and said, “Good huh? I always wanted to say that to somebody: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. I haven’t been able to work that into a conversation yet, though.”
“I can’t believe you memorized that whole thing.”
“Why not? People memorize the preamble to the Constitution, the Hail Mary, the Robert De Niro ‘are you talking to me’ thing, endless quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare, why not that? I think that’s a good thing to memorize.”
She had no counter-argument. “Okay, so what do you wanna watch?”
“That,” said Alvin without hesitation.
“You don’t want to skim through the selections a bit first?”
“No. Let’s watch that.”
She picked up the remote and started searching for the movie. “I’m not seeing it.”
“They have the Keanu Reeves one, though.”
“Alright, what do you want to watch then?”
Alvin pursed his lips and squinted in the deepest of concentration. “Mmmmmmmm Back to the Future!”
“I’ve never seen that,” she said, then began entering the search letters for it.
“If you say so. And they have it.”
Note to the Mother Ship
I was walking down the dark hall here in the house last night because I had to go to the bathroom. As I walked down the hall, from the far end of it, from the darkest part, a living human skeleton approached and passed through me. It didn’t frighten me. I knew it wasn’t real. But I don’t know why it didn’t frighten me and I don’t know why I knew it wasn’t real. Nonetheless, as it passed through me, I felt it. I felt its cold and its emptiness. And once it passed through my body, it was gone. I’m not sure if this is a normal human experience. It might not be, so I don’t think I’m going to address it with anyone.