Near 500 Words: The Snuggly-ugla-puss

In days of yore, there were thousands of snuggly-ugla-pi roaming the earth. They lived in the wild and considered every creature their friend. When God created the snuggly-ugla-puss, he wanted a creature that was exceptionally gentle. A creature that wouldn’t harm a fly. So He created the unicorn.

From the ancient records, there was a problem with the unicorn. The horn kept getting in the way of making friends. So God being God tried a new tact. He made the panda. But the bamboo were not happy about that.

God knew the third try would be the one to take. He reached down and took a blade of grass, some water from the kindest of streams and some good red dirt, and He made the snuggly-ugla-puss. Unlike the other creatures, it was neither carnivorous nor vegetarian. The way the snuggly-ugla-puss got its nourishment was from hugs.

On that first day, the snuggly-ugla-puss hugged God, then it hugged a lion, then a whale, then an earthworm. It hugged and hugged and hugged until there was nothing left to hug. Then it went and sat on God’s lap and hugged real hard. God was very pleased.

For centuries, the snuggly-ugla-pi roamed the earth in the wild. They were free as a bird. Every creature loved the snuggly-ugla-pi. And plants did too. When a tree saw a snuggly-ugla-puss, he smiled. He just knew he was going to get a big fat hug.

Unfortunately the snuggly-ugla-pi came into contact with man. Man did not know what to do about these wild creatures. He’d be sitting around his fire, roasting marshmallows. Out of nowhere, a snuggly-ugla-puss rushed him for a hug.

Now man may be a hunter. He may be a farmer. He may even be an engineer or an actor or a artist. But one thing is for sure. Man is not a hugger. Just ask his wife. So it was not a good thing when that snuggly-ugla-puss rushed the marshmallow roaster. The roaster did not know what to do.

For years and years, man hunted the snuggly-ugla-puss. Soon it looked like the great hugger would go the way of the buffalo and the dodo.

Finally a group of scientists got together and formed an organization, the S.O.S. Union. The Save Our Snugglys Union. It was made up mostly of Canadians. Oh sure there were a couple of Norwegians. But mostly Canadians.

The S.O.S. members went out in the wild and started catching the snuggly-ugla-pi before this gentlest of all God’s creatures went extinct. Today there is nary a snuggly-ugla-pus in the wild. The S.O.S. created a preserve for the the hugger somewhere south of Canada, west of Norway and north of the United States. It’s called Snuggly-ugla-polis and the caretakers are known as Snuggly-ugla-politans.

Before a caretaker is allowed to work at The Preserve, they have to take hugging training. Once someone has gotten a Masters of Huggology, they have a lifetime position on The Preserve. But the degree program is a rigorous one. You think it’s hard to become an astrophysicist or an astronaut. It’s ten times that hard to become a huggologist.

Once a year, on International S.O.S. Day, there is a Snuggly-ugla-pi-thon to raise money to support The Preserve and its occupants. The Preserve receives no government support. Only the generous donors can keep this important work continuing.

A very young Snuggly-ugla-pus

A Snuggly-ugla-puss longing for a hug.

An adult Snuggly-ugla-pus in a state of hibernation.

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Near 500 words: Grammar-ing rhymes with hammering

Note: For all who wanted the mystery, “The Great Squirrel Caper”, it’s in the works and on its way. 

In need of a writer, I’m your man. I can make a screwdriver sound sexy. You want to spunk up your orange juice, just pour in some vodka. Then turn it with a screwdriver and that screw goes write in. Folks, as you can see. I have those mixed metaphors down pat. And talk about similes, well, we shouldn’t gossip.

If you want your house to stand, you want to use a screwdriver that’s going to drive in them screws good and hard. (Now get your heads out of the dirt. I’m not talking sex here. ‘Course if I was, same words might work in reference to condoms.)

When it comes to clichés, I’m your man. My philosophy is why take the road not taken when you can hit the hammer of the head and take the easy way out. That road not taken is going to have a lot of weeds and burrs. Who knows? It might even have some lions and tigers and bears, oh my. I know I would prefer being a cowardly lion than a dead one. So I’m taking heart and using my brain. I’m taking the Yellow Brick Road. If it was good enough for Dorothy, it’s good enough for me.

I just want you to know I got those parts of speech all wrangled and branded. Why, ladies and gentlemen, there isn’t an -ly adverb I haven’t used. And talk about split infinitives. Isn’t “to boldly go” so much sexier than “to go boldly”.

I think so. And so did James Tiberius Kirk. Otherwise he wouldn’t have written it in the Captain’s Log so many times. And after taking so much gup from Spock over “to boldly go does not compute”. Of course, it computes. It’s write there in the Captain’s Log. It may not be logical, but it sure is a Kirk-ism. Absolutely.

There I did it. I managed to put in an interjection. Don’t you think it spices up my writing a punch?

Unlike grammarians everywhere, I have a passion for the passive. When you think about it, you never want to take a pass on the passive if you want to be passionate. Why I used to date a girl who was all the time asking me, “Where were you last night?” If that ain’t passionate, I don’t know what is. And she said it so passionately. In spite of everything.

Uh-oh. I done gone and done it. I can hear them grammarians chomping at the bit, telling me not to use a sentence fragment. Here I go fragging my sentences all over the place. I can see the smoke coming out of their ears. Well, all I have to say is there just ain’t any pleasing some people. Like Abe Lincoln said, you can please some of the people all the time and you can please all the peeps none of the time. That leaves no time left for pleasing moi.

Anyway. (There I went and did it again.) If you’re looking for a writer who can write all formal like, I’m not your man. My motto, after all, is why not end a sentence with a preposition. Everybody does it. Oh, I know what my mother would say. “If Everybody jumped off a cliff, would you?” Of course, I wouldn’t. It’s a cliff, and I am afraid of heights.

Near 500 words: The day the wizards lost it.

Wizards were common in my younger days. Now you don’t see them much. Once a year, they showed up in the forest near the house and had a Wizarding poker game. For some reason, they seemed to love poker. Instead of chips, they used bags of Old Toby. While they played their game, a bard came and sat by the fire near them and sang songs of the olden days and the wars between the black arts and the white magicians.

The wizards were not always a gentle folk. One year one wizard, the one with the gray beret, lost every one of his bags. He was not too thrilled about that. Had a real surly attitude when he left. It was said that dragon puff spat from his ears. If you’ve never seen a wizard with dragon puff coming out of his ears, take my my word for it. It is not a pretty sight. You’d just better get out of the way.

The next year Gray Beret showed up and cleaned everybody out. The others thought he might have cheated but he proved them wrong. He showed them he had nothing up his sleeves and they believed. They believed they were not as good at poker as they had thought.

Well, those wizards didn’t take well to losing their bags of Old Toby. No, sirree. Talk about surly. They pointed their wizard wands and zapped just about everything in sight. In case, you’ve wondered about Humpty Dumpty. He was a victim of those wizards. In case, you haven’t seen the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy lately. They too came down with a bad case of wizarding wand flu. Thank the gods that the Queen of the Fairies heard all the ruckus. She showed up and kicked some wizarding butt. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been any forest left.

Unfortunately, that was the last year the wizards came to the forest. Oh, sure we heard rumors. Rumors about rings and something about the One Ring. There was even stories about Hobbits. How they went adventurin’ and journeyin’ with dwarves and with rangers. There were stories about elvin folk helping those Hobbits and rangers and wizards and dwarves and men out.

Me, I’ve never been much for rings but give me a good pipe and a good bag of Old Toby and I’m in Hobbit Heaven.

Near 500 words: The Mother of All Living

–from the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

One of the most moving statues, for me, is “The Penitent Magdalene” by the Italian artist Donatello. With it, we get the figure of Mary Magdalene after years of wandering in the desert. It’s a statue that I love.

After spending some time gazing at pictures of it, I began to think of Eve. The Genesis story doesn’t give us much after she and Adam left the Garden of Eden. All we know is that Eve had three children.

One, Cain, murdered his younger brother, Abel. After Cain was banished to only God-knows-where, Eve and Adam had a third son. His name was Seth.

It seems to me that something is missing from that story. What was it like to leave the comfort and security of the Garden of Eden and spend their years wandering in a world that was so large and people-less? I began to imagine those two wandering souls and their regret for losing Eden. How they must have felt being cut off from God. The depth of their homesickness. Especially Eve, who gets the brunt of the blame for their banishment.

As I thought about the story, I remembered Psalm 137. This particular Psalm was written while the Jews were exiled in Babylon. It begins, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The Psalmist was speaking for anyone who has been forced from their homeland and cannot return.It’s the story of the African slaves. It’s the story of the Jewish, the Armenian and the Irish diaspora. It’s the story of the Syrian refugees and refugees everywhere.

So I wrote this poem.

“My heart is breaking,” 
Eve told the Earth. 
Then Eve scribbled the words
with the ink of her tears

into the dirt upon the Earth’s back. 
“My son murdered my son, 
and the murderer is a ghost 
haunting the valleys 
and the mountains.” 

Eve sat by a tree 
mourning her first born, 
mourning her second child, 
the blues in her eyes shedding  
seven hundred seventy-seven tears each day  
‘tween the sunrise and the moon. 
“Tree, my heart is bleeding,” 
she sang, her grief rising 
like smoke up to the ears of God. 

Eve went down  
to the church by the river Cry. 
She lit a votive candle 
and prayed the rosary 
one hundred and fifty times 
for the souls of her sons,

one whose life was taken away, 
one who took the life
and a third,
a new beginning. 

Near 500 words: The gift no one wanted

Dean loved cameras. The expensive ones. The cheap ones. The in-between ones. The smart phone cameras. There wasn’t a camera he didn’t like. When he found an antique camera he didn’t own, it made his day. He was like a kid in a candy store when he went into a camera shop. The salesman handed him the camera and he turned it this way and then that way. He looked through its lens, then he checked out its heft. Then he scanned the room with its viewfinder. Next he tried the focus. All this trial and error could take an hour or more. But the salesman knew he was in the presence of a true professional.

Since he was five years old, cameras were Dean’s life. He couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t have a camera in his hand. He took pictures of everything. You name it, he had taken it. War zones. The poor and the rich. Refugees. Presidents and politicans. Runway models and fashionistas. City streets and country roads. People from all walks of life. He especially loved getting someone working in his frame.

He was seventy when he took to teaching a photography class. It was a new phase of his life, something he never expected. Just when he thought of retiring and cataloguing all his photographs, suddenly there was this new thing that excited him. To show others a love of the thing he loved.

On the first day of class, he had his class grab their cameras and follow him. He took them to the dingiest ugliest kind of place and then said, “Shoot.” They spent a half day there. Then they returned to the classroom and he asked, “What did you learn today?” No one raised their hand. All he said in response to their response was “Um hmm.”

The next time the class met Dean took them to another dingy ugly spot. After a morning there, they went back to the classroom. “What did you learn?” he asked. Nada was the answer. He cancelled the following class one morning with a note, “Go shoot some pictures.”

The next class Dean walked into the classroom. “Okay,” he said. “Who took pictures?”

They all raised their hands.

“Let’s see them.”

Each of the twenty students showed him their shots. They were all selfies.

Dean shook his head, then said, “Go home. Get a job. But don’t take pictures. You’re not worthy.”

Then he walked out of the room, walked over to the Department Head’s office and resigned.

“Dean,” the department head wanted to know. “Why are you quitting?”

Dean shook his head, then said, “I’ve got some pictures to take and I don’t have time for this nonsense.” Then he was gone.