Apples to Oranges

You are an alien who has been sent to earth.   You arrive in the heart of New York City and land in the middle of a city block.  The first thing you encounter is an unidentifiable object (known to earthlings as a melting chocolate chip).  Study it.  Send a transmission back to your planet about your first earthly discovery!  Begin with:

We have met our first
inhabitant, and we are attempting mind-transmission.  The inhabitant is a strange color, not like our own purple bretheren of the continent of Blaxxo.  I cannot identify this color-- it seems to resonate in the upper ranges of our cloxnam perception.  It almost hurts to look at it, and it has these strange ripples down both sides of what looks like the petals of the flammoba flowers of the Craxon Federation.

Transmission from the shipcommendant: We cannot acheive contact.  What is this strange creature?  It was larger at the beginning of this transmission, but slowly it seems to be losing shape.  I am frightened to touch it with my tentacle-- it gives off a strange odor unlike anything my sniffglands have sensed before.  I cannot say that the sensation is unpleasant, but it does not titillate my glands the way the gentle scent of Blxtora's mouth modules used to before she Morphed.  It is almost a foodscent, sort of like the mnixies Blxtora chewed for me.

It seems to be transmogrifying into a liquid, like Blxtora's mother did on her final Morphing.  Perhaps it is a new kind of female!  I must breathe upon it with my mouth module, and perhaps it will then respond!  Oh, but its shininess makes my eyes squint.  I must focus!  Transmitting: Will you speak with me, O Flargian creature?  My mouth modules tingle!  But no response.  Perhaps I should transmit harder, but, oh, my orbritral ridge is hurting.

Shipcommandant?  Yes, please amplify my darka waves!  I will need some pain medication when I return. Speak with me, please!  I implore you!  Your beauty reminds me of Blxtora...  Ouch!  The morphing continues-- the flammobish shape has vanished, and a puddle of the dark goo remains underneath.  Are you dying, O Flargian?  Might I help?  There is no response.

Shipcommandant, might I touch this creature?  Yes?  It is soft to the microsensors, but thick, and, oh Graxfax!  I have some of the Flargian upon my tentacle!  When I bring it to my scentglands, the smell is intoxicating!  I must taste this portion of the Flargian.  Shipcommandant?  You do not wish me to taste?  We must investigate for the children back home.  Yes, I may, Shipcommandant?  Ah, it is a lovely flavor, even though the color is painful to the eye.

Shipcommandant, you might wish to taste before the Flargian Morphs completely.  Yes, we may wish to bring this back to Zoxxor.  The children will be very happy, Shipcommandant!

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Smell a rat...

Write three smells you love. Write three smells you hate. Use all six scents in a piece starting with...

Three smells I love:

Three smells I hate:

I pulled into the gas station, running low on not just gasoline, but on self-esteem. I was running, running like the wind, from the city, and the stench around me. The stench of unwashed bodies and urine. The stench of my ex-boyfriend’s drunken belches. The rank fecal odor that clogged the urban air like the laughing gas the dentist used on me when I was a child. But I could only go so far before I had to stop and breathe. There was only so much diesel I could take before I had to close the vents. The semis clogged the roads tonight, and I had cursed and sworn as they cut me off again and again. The gas station had beckoned me like a cowbweb laden yellow bulb lures bloated and stupid moths. That’s how I felt right now, bloated and stupid and hormonal.

I pulled into the station, the fluorescent lights drawing my old Lumina to the cheerful red and yellow candy-colored pumps. I tapped my brakes and pulled up the parking brake. I shut off the engine and stared at the kids streaming in and out of the mini mart. They laughed and pushed each other playfully. I remembered those carefree days in my own life twenty years ago, those days when the future stretched out ahead of me like a road stretching forever into the horizon. But it was empty and went on into infinity, unlike the clogged artery I was traveling tonight. It wasn’t broken, jagged, and full of potholes like the interstate or my heart. I remembered smelling the jasmine and the peppermint as I danced under the stars with Josh, sneaking out after my midnight curfew. Those beautiful days, when fragrance danced on every gentle breeze, were over a long time ago.

I got out of the car almost wistfully, and the gasoline stench combined with the oppressive stink of nearby dairies slammed me back to reality. The chocolate cake I’d imagined Josh feeding me on the beach at sunset dissolved like a salted snail.


I cursed under my breath as I slammed my debit card into the slot on the pump. It screeched at me as the screen demanded I punch in my zip code. I tried to conjure the delicate strains of the Himesh Reshammiya song I heard on Namaste America this morning, but a huge F-350 screeched into the station blaring Shania Twain. I groaned as I unscrewed the gas cap and shoved the nozzle home. Stupid Central Valley!

A big, burly guy shoved the door open as Shania caterwauled. His bright red face was seamed with deep smoker’s creases, and it floated above a stereotypical checked cowboy shirt. A huge, filthy cowboy hat perched atop it, and his hands ferried a half-smoked cancer stick to and from his mouth like an assembly-line robot. There wasn’t any wind, but the stench of the cigarette smoke he was emitting like a chimney hit me and nearly knocked me over. I started coughing and nearly jerked the nozzle out of my tank as I doubled over.

“What’s yer problem, lil lady?” he yelled.

I sputtered, and I felt the rage come back. For every insult Josh had slung in my direction over the last decade, I felt another six pounds of lava build up inside, kept back only by the lack of oxygen in my lungs. Josh used that tone with me every time he came home late and drunk from the bar, usually five or six times a week.

“Well, what’s yer problem, purty one?” he demanded, as if no one should have the very audacity to cough in his presence.

“Will you put out that fucking cigarette?” I screeched, gasping for air at the end.

“Only for such a purty lil lady as you,” he said, and winked. Oh Jesus. He dropped the cigarette to the ground with a flourish, and ground it out dramatically with his scuffed but stereotypical boot. Gross.

Ever since the gas prices started going up, it took me longer and longer to fill the tank. The Lumina used to take three minutes to fill when gas was only a couple of bucks a gallon, but lately, with gas at over $3.50 a gallon, it took what seemed like hours. Yuck.

“So, what’s a purty lil lady like you doin’ in a place like this?” he asked as I stared at the pump. Only three gallons in. Just frigging great.

I glared at him.

“Aw, come on, now! My name’s Hank,” he said, extending a filthy hand that reeked of tar.

“Sorry, I have to get going,” I said, and shoved the nozzle back into its pump slot. Three and a half gallons, and I’m in the middle of nowhere, I thought. Gonna have to stop in another hour. Crap.

“Don’t go, little one,” he said.

I scrambled for the gas cap and jammed it home. It kept slipping as I tried to tighten it. I shoved the tank door shut, and as the pump screeched at me, I grabbed at the receipt which was printing far too slowly for my taste. I missed.

“I’ve been waiting...” he crooned in his gravelly but loud voice, “for a girl like you...”

Shit, Foreigner? I snagged the receipt, shaking my head. I never imagined myself just off I-5 listening to some old croaky fart in a cowboy hat singing light rock to me. Really, this moment just screamed Sartre to me, if Sartre had ever visited 21st century central California. A Huis Clos indeed.

“Don’t go, little one!” Hank bellowed as I wrenched the Lumina’s door open and shoved myself in.

I slammed the door as I saw his mouth move. I could have sworn he was saying, “I love you!” I buckled myself in and tore off into the distance. Down the pike, I could feel Pea Soup Andersen’s beckoning me.

As I drove away, I thought to myself, “I’m swearing off men for awhile. A convent sounds really nice...” Then I started laughing, and I could feel Josh’s boozy stench drifting away from my heart. Old cowboys were good for something, I guess.


Memory Lane

Take a few short trips down memory lane. Write the truth, embellished memories, or just make everything up! Use the starting phrases to get you started down the path.

I remember learning... how to cook pancakes back when I was ten or eleven or twelve or some relatively miniscule age compared to my current ancient number. My mom always made pancakes for us out of whole wheat flour and a bunch of other things that were heavy-duty and sat in your stomach like lead weights or a McDonald's Sausage Biscuit. You weren't going to be hungry for hours after eating a couple of them. There was an elaborate procedure that consisted of mixing about five kinds of dry ingredients, including baking powder (what's that for? I still have no idea), eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and a bunch of other things that I can't even pretend to remember. When heating the griddle, you'd wet your hand and then flick drops of water onto its stinky cast-iron surface. If they danced, you'd have to rush with the big bowl of batter and then drop three or four even dollops onto the griddle quickly so they wouldn't cook at different rates. I never got that part down. When bubbles popped on top of the pancakes, it was time to flip them. Of course, as thick as they were, the other side always ended up a little dark and slightly scorched, at least when I made them. Nowadays, I just use Bisquick with better personal results. Modern convenience tastes much better...

I remember biting... into an orange and nearly puking at the rotten taste. Oh, yes, it looked fine on the outside, but inside, yeeech! I wanted to vomit, but the best I could do was spit out the offending bit of flesh and try to flush out the taste with the bland wintergreen candy heart taste of Peptol Bismol.

I remember the balloons... choking the sky in a vast, transparent globular array of color. They were so beautiful that I wanted to jump up and float with them into heaven. I watched them drifting on the breeze up and up, taking their precious cargo with them: letters we'd all written as a class project. Three weeks later, my postcard was returned from a spot a couple of hundred miles away. I wanted to attach myself to a balloon and see where I ended up after the postcard came back. Maybe I'd end up in Hawaii.

I remember falling... in love with the Fuzz the first time I saw his little kitten-face. He was tiny and long-haired, a little brown tabby fluffball who I wanted to cuddle. He ran behind my stepdad's desk and hid for awhile the day the breeder brought him to our place. His beautiful amber eyes peered out and seemed to say, "Don't cuddle me just yet. Throw me a piece of paper first!"


What I did on my summer vacation...

The classic assignment! Start with the given letter and fill in each line with something you have done on summer vacations... [Assignment includes each letter of the alphabet]

Ate tons of avacados. Belted out choruses of Veterans of the Psychic Wars. Choked on pollen and dust. Dove into refreshing pools. Eschewed thinking about work or school. Fanned myself with programs at outdoor concerts. Got to musing about Lord of the Rings. Hit punching mitts during hardcore boxing workouts. Itched the Fuzz's soft and luscious fur. Jumped rope. Kinged my husband rocker of my world. Luxuriated in a fizzy bath. Made iced tea. Nodded off in the sun. Often dreamed of Santa Cruz waves. Piddled the time away doing nothing constructive and loved every minute of it. Quested for the perfect Nepalese thangka. Rented a boat on Lake Chabot. Sat on the balcony and read about computers. Taught myself how to do handstands in the pool. Under a shaded canopy, read the paper and shared waffles with my husband. Valiantly struggled not to give in to my urges to loaf on the Santa Cruz beaches, but failed. Watered my peace lilly. X marked Sacramento on the map. Yanked pumpkins off the vine a month before Halloween. Zonked out in the warmth.



Write a letter congratulating yourself on something you did especially well today. Perhaps it is staying on a diet OR avoiding someone who usually gives you grief OR taking procrastination to a new high OR doing this exercise!!!

Dear Elizabeth,

I commend you for the fine job you did today not falling asleep in today's meandering Windows Server 2003 class! Well done! Well done! I know it was a major struggle when your teacher ambled on and on about how great a website Sysinternals is, and how you should immediately download PageDefrag and run it on your virtual server after you'd already finished the labs and powered the machine down, despite the fact that you were hoping he'd FINALLY hit how to set up Disk Quotas, for which there was no lab. But you survived! And you triumphed!

I know how that funky French accent can get on your nerves or can lull you into the deepest depths of blessed slumber. I know how sometimes as you stare at the Powerpoint slides that he attempts to lecture from while telling you how to obtain illegal copies of Star Wars, your mind drifts off into nothingness. But you fought the doldrums and you won! Bravo! It is a feat worthy of the mightiest of warriors!

Congratulations again, my brave soul! You have conquered the demon of boredom and ridden away victorious in the final chapter of your server book! A fine job indeed!

Thank you for this wonderous feat!


Those were the days...

THOSE WERE THE DAYS... Finish the story. Start with...

Back in 1938, before I ever heard of sliced bread, One Nation under God, and saw my first television, I was a captain. I like to say this because what I was a captain of inevitably disappoints many people. I mean, does hearing, "I'm a team captain for the Modesto String Beans Corps," disappoint you at all? Funny how that works, isn't it?

My favorite days as team captain were those odd July 16th casserole bake-offs when the town's leading moms would get together in Town Square and compete for the hearts and stomachs of the judges. I have to say, I was a pretty damn good captain. Each year, on July 15th, our team de-stringed pounds and pounds of the beautiful beans String Bean Jane, as we used to call her, grew in her acre of land out back. We de-stringed and we parboiled. And then we opened cans upon cans upon cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. It was like a factory, like an assembly line. Lines and lines of us all operating with robotic precision. I was amazed to see us churn out 60 casseroles in a single day each year. But, then again, I was an organizer in those days. I could set up a system like no one's business. And those casseroles tasted like heaven! We'd won the bake-off fair and square for nearly a straight decade. String Bean Jane's string beans tasted of the blessed earth of fair Modesto.

But that was before Calamity Louise came to town and destroyed everything. Calamity was a calamity-- there was no way else to describe her. She swung those cans of Progresso soup like they were twin pistols right from the holster of her apron. I'd never seen anything like it, nor had String Bean Jane, who immediately befriended her.

"You have to show me how to do that, Louise," she said on July 14th, one day before our baking fest.

"I'm starting a new team, and I need all the help I can get. You join me, I'll show you the soup trick..." Calamity was indeed a foul calamity.

"Sure! I need a few new tricks around the house to amuse Harry," String Bean Jane said.

"Your dog?" Calamity asked.

"My husband. He's dreadfully bored all the time, and I can't figure out what to do about it," String Bean said.

"You've got it. Your beans and my soup will nail this year's contest."

"I wouldn't count out Joanna's team. They've won every year since 1928. She's pretty mean, and damned if she's not a great captain. She runs a tight ship." High praise indeed from String Bean.

"You just come by tomorrow, and we'll whip up a bit of delight with these little cans of mine. Campbell's makes crap soup."

String Bean dropped by later that day to drop me the news. "Sorry, Joanna... You can't have my beans this year-- Louise and I are entering the contest together."

"What?" I bent over to retrieve my jaw from the floor.

"You're just going to have to go to the market tomorrow instead. I'm teaming up with Louise this year."

"Are you joking me? Why?"

"I can't talk about it, Joanna. It's really too embarassing..." She turned and left, slamming the door behind her.

I phoned up the team for an emergency meeting. We were all equally flummoxed, pissed off, and despairing all at the same time. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, really. And we'd have to use those horrible canned beans from Joe's General Store. Bleech! I hated those, much as I love a real string bean casserole.

I hung my head as my team paraded our measly 30 casseroles to the Town Square. Jane and Calamity were already there, beaming with an intensity I'd never seen on anyone's face before. Dammit!

After the competition was over and the judges had, of course, declared Calamity the winner, Jane stopped by our stand. "I'm sorry guys, but Harry's been really bored, and I needed to you know... turn him on in the intimate way... I just love that soup can trick! I can't wait to try it out on him tonight over dinner!"

Poor Jane! She'd told me about how boring her night life was, and I sympathized. While Harvey wasn't exactly exciting, he did leave me reasonably satisfied. Still, we didn't have a friggin' trophy, and that made me a most grumpy of the grumps to poor Harvey that night.

The next day, I was taking my mid-day stroll and did a bit of a double-take. I'd have thought I was facing Harry, but for the large black circles surrounding both eyes like a tar pit.

"Harry! What on earth happened to you?"

"I can't tell you, Joanna. Really, it's quite embarassing. Do me a favor, though, and stay away from that Progresso soup stuff. It really hurts!" Harry turned and bustled away.

I couldn't stop laughing when I ran into String Bean Jane later that day. She blushed a bright red, and said, "I just couldn't get the hang of it, Joanna... Will you let me back to your team next year?"

"Sure," I said, laughing.

"It's not funny!" she said, and then a guffaw escaped her pursed lips.

Flu time... and Far Far Away

Been down for the last several days with the flu, courtesy of my Windows Server teacher giving me the bug when he had a weird "conversation" with me that involved a cliched, yet oh-so-sexist comment. Sexist comments apparently really do make me sick ;-) That, and not getting any real lecturing from this class. Thank the gods for the labs... Suffice to say that I'm writing this next little vignette in his "honor."

Think of a person who really bugs or annoys you. Think of a place you'd like to send this person. Then-- mentally-- send them there!

The post card arrived on my doorstep a week ago, and I was a little surprised, since every little bit of mail is usually crammed impersonally, and often incorrectly, by our loafer of a mail carrier, who can't sort for crap, into our huge bank of apartment mailboxes. But this one was different, and it was a Sunday delivery, which I have never ever seen in all my 34 years. Something was different about it, all right.

I picked it up with trepidation, my heart slamming in my chest. There was no address, no return post office box, nothing. The front of the post card glowed a bright neon pink, like those stupid plastic bracelets I used to wear in middle school. Yeeech! I thought, and nearly dropped it in disgust. But part of me was intrigued.

Touch this to your enemy, and you will live happily ever after! What on earth? At the bottom was a line of fine print: Look into the pink, and you will smile for the rest of your existence! I cleared my throat of the sick phlegm that had dripped down from my stuffed-up nasal passages.

A quick flash of anger sliced through me like a lightening bolt. Damn him! I thought. I remembered, and cursed him. "Behind every great man is a woman!" he said, and coughed over my lab computer screen.

I dragged myself into the classroom two days later, still reeling from the fever. I was an hour early, so I was surprised he'd still beaten me there. No one else had, however.

"Good evening, Elizabeth!" he said.

"Hello, I have something for you!" I said, handing him the card.

"For me?" he said, and reached for it. The second the card touched his calloused hand, he was gone. There were no sparkly transporter effects a la Star Trek. There was no fading into nothingness. Just boom! Gone. The card drifted to the ground like a piece of down fluff.

I bent over to pick it up, and drew my hand back from its shiny neon pink surface. It rippled for a moment and then something formed gradually, almost like a Polariod. Purple waves splashed over the side of a boat that was heaving in an ocean that reminded me of the crab boating promo I'd seen of a show on the Discovery Channel.

It can't be possible, can it? I asked the universe. The waves seemed to jump toward my quivering hand.

Almost against my will, I picked it up. Eventually, as always, curiosity overwhelmed my good sense. I stared at the waves-- the picture reminded me of a pink-tinted video iPod. And I stared at the boat. As I looked harder, the card seemed to zoom in on the boat's occupants.

"Get to work!" I heard someone yell. Jumping, I looked around. The room, though, was eerily empty.

"You! Get to work!" The picture zoomed in on an irate captain or first mate or something (hell, I don't know), and then zoomed out to focus on the teacher, who stared, stunned, as the boat slammed him from port to starboard and back again.

"How am I? How did?..."

"Get back to work!"

"But I! What?"

"Pick up the goddamn net, and work!" the captain or first mate or whatever yelled.

A wave slammed over the port side and drenched my teacher.

"Pick up the fuckin' net, lazy ass!"

He grabbed a hank of net that was lying near his drenched shoes and screamed as the picture zoomed in on a crab's claw that clamped on to the webbing between his left thumb and the rest of his fingers.

The card was sure right! I chuckled as I drove back home, occasionally glancing at the teacher shivering as Alaska's waves periodically washed over him as he struggled to keep up with the crew.

I wonder what's going to happen when crab fishing season's over...

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