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Ballerinas are always lovely. Guess that’s because they are ballerinas. In those dresses with those graceful moves. At what cost? I’m told they do things that the body was never supposed to do. That’s because they are ballerinas. Giving the music a physical substance. Making the music alive with their toes and their legs and their arms and their complete bodies. Sailing across the floor as if the floor was water. A calmness at first. Then their bodies turn the water into a sea and then a sea of storms. Faster and faster they move. Their whole bodies telling a story. These dancers creating magic with their bodies as if they were magicians. Their arms rising and falling. Then the sea calms. The dancers make for shore and become beach bathers as they fall on the floor, returning to what has changed from water to a wooden stage. Ballerinas are always lovely.

My Stuff Writing Challenge

I don’t usually do writing challenges. But, then again, who can resist a challenge from Greg at Almost Iowa. That’s the very Greg who keeps posting about the fiendish Stan. Yes, that Greg. Greg’s challenge: Look around me and see an object and write a flash piece about it. So here goes:

The lamp’s name is Irving. I am not sure how he came up with that name. He tells me his mother at the Ikea factory gave it to him. I don’t believe him. He has told more fibs than can be counted in a month of Sundays.

Ever since we moved into this house, Irving seems to have a hiccup problem. I keep asking what the problem is. He keeps replying that he’s hungry. It’s getting to the point that I am going broke supplying him light bulbs. I even gave him one of those new fangled LED lights. He keeps saying, “More, more, more.”

I do like Irving. He was given to me when I was in college. Getting rid of Irving would be like getting rid of a pet. I would never ever get rid of Rover or Kitty. My wife keeps saying that I should just get rid of him. I keep threatening him but he just won’t listen. What am I to do?

Then I hear a voice coming from Irving. It is not Irving. Irving has a high pitched voice. This one sounds very low pitched in the bass range. All of a sudden Irving’s lampshade is spinning. It’s getting out of control. The voice is laughing. It’s telling me that it wants my soul.

Can somebody help me? Can somebody suggest an exorcist for a lamp?

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Derek Walcott, Poet

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is the poet, Derek Walcott:

Derek Walcott on writing and painting.

Oh, what a beautiful language we have, this English. We strip it and we tear it down, we ignore it and abuse it and lose a bit of it along the way. It not only survives. It rises like a phoenix and soars. Especially when it is in the hands of a poet. William Shakespeare was that kind of poet, and Seamus Heaney too. So was Derek Walcott.

Derek Walcott was an island man, so he gave us islands and the sea. He showed us that poetry could rise out of the least of places. That it was possible for a black man from a very small place could become a great poet. And he did it with this magnificent language of ours.


A Thursday Special: Short Stories

There are a lot of novel recommends out here in the blogosphere but very few short story recommends. So I thought I would remedy that.

I love short stories. I love to read them, and I love to write them. For me, there’s nothing like finding a good short story. So here’s sixteen absolutely perfect short stories. Some are well-known, a few not-as-well-known.

If I were building an anthology of short stories, these would be the ones I would choose. Each I have read at least ten times. Some more. So, if you are looking for a quick read, here are some suggestions. Enjoy.

1.       Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken
2.       Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin
3.       An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
4.       Killings by Andre Dubus
5.       Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
6.       The Last Leaf by O. Henry
7.       The Dead by James Joyce
8.       A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri
9.       To Build a Fire by Jack London
10.   Walker Brothers Cowboy by Alice Munro
11.   The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
12.   I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen
13.   The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
14.   A Perfect Day for Bananafish by J. D. Salinger
15.   After Rain by William Trevor
16.   A & P by John Updike

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 9: Haggismarshe and Its Ghostly Ways

What would an English manor house be without a few ghosts?

Previously our heroine arrived back in England with a casket but no husband. Her husband’s casket, with his body in it, had been lost at sea. The captain of the ship happened to have a spare dead sailor, so he subbed the dead sailor for Lord P.P The casket was a closed door affair at the funeral. There was a move in Parliament to take away Lady P.P.’s titles now that hubby had left this earth.

In the days that followed old Lord Dunnie’s funeral service, Lady P. P. retired to her estates at Haggismarshe Manor. The servants went about their regular duties and left the lady of the manor to herself. For months, she perambulated the grounds of her new estate in a haze of hallucinogenic stupors.

This haze, the servants believed, was caused by the mists coming off the moors nearby. Even the groundskeeper took notice of her condition and said to his twelve-year-old son, “Avoid the missus. There’s bats in her belfry. She’s a bit loony-toons herself these days.”

Finally Marye buried herself in a vault in a tower overlooking the estate. It was one of several dingy, dampy place spread throughout the manor house and its adjoining residences. With a cask of amontillado for companionship, she began to search her heart, contemplating her next step.

Should she return to her beloved Dilly and dally in New York Society? She had loved Dilly O’Jones with all her heart, had been heart-broken to leave him. But things were different now. If she went back to Dilly, she would have such a trivial existence for someone of her capacities and nobilities. She had experienced the devotion and worship that a Lady of the British Realm received. She had been put on a pedestal. She was not sure she was ready to step off it and marry a commoner. An American commoner, at that.

Then there was the problem of New York Society. They totally disliked her parents. They still held it against her father, John Smith, that he won the Pocahantas Shipping Line in a poker game. That was gambling and there was no way that a gambler and his hussy, Lady P. P.’s Moms, would be ever, ever accepted in New York Society. No matter what English lord their daughter had married.

After a few stiff drinks, she began to see things clearly through her drunken haze. “I am a lady, aristo…aristo…cratically speaking. I want to have some … fun. Burp! No more plain jane Mary-Mary Smith for me. From now on … burp … it’s Lady Ma-ma-rye Wimplethead Prittypott of H-h-h-haggitmore Etate.” Then she passed out and fell to the floor.

Like so many of the great houses in Great Britain, Haggismarshe Manor House had been the residence of ghosts for centuries.No aristocrat considered themselves an aristocrat unless they lived in a haunted house. The higher an aristocrat was on the aristocratic scale the more ghosts for their homes. Each of the Queen’s residences had at least fifty.

However, there were not enough ghosts in England to go around. The Brits being the Brits came up with the perfect plan. Invade other countries, colonize them and demand an annual quota of ghosts. Even though the Americas had more than their share of the specters, they resisted this wholesale theft of ghosts.

It was not the raising of taxes but this stealing ghosts that had led to the Colonial Rebellion in 1776 and the War of 1812. Britain gave the Americas their independence but never returned the stolen ghosts. It just wasn’t done.

Haggismarshe Manor had three ghosts. One of these was a peculiarly American fellow. Originally there were only two ghosts from the Prissypotts past, Earl “Early” Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohns Prissypott. The position of the Wimpleseed-Prissypotts required a three-ghost haunting for their great manor. A third was demanded. Otherwise the Wimpleseed-Prissypotts would be reduced in rank.That would never do.

Fortunately, for the Wimpleseed-Prissypotts, General Cornwallis came to the rescue. After his defeat at Yorktown, he sneaked away from the Colonies with a boatload of ghosts. Early in 1782, he gifted these ghosts to nobles falling short after King George 3 received his share. There was a sigh of relief throughout the land. Cornwallis had saved the nobility from being commoners. Needless to say, Cornwallis was everybody’s hero.

One of these ghosts given to the Wimpleseed-Prissypotts was Benjamin Patrick Nutt and his horse, Sally Mae Nutt. Needless to say, she was a chestnut. Benjamin Patrick was from the Nutty Nutt Nutt family.

Not the Headless-Horseman-New-York Nutts. Though his mother Meg was from that part of the clan, Benjamin came from the Georgia branch of the family. He was a circuit riding attorney and partner of the law firm of Peck & Nutt. Had seen the War for Independence as a chance to party, take a few British scalps, then go home as a regular Yankee-doodle-dandy. Sometimes things never work out the way you plan them. It had been his scalp scalped. He would have gone on to haunt some high-falluting Georgia patriot’s mansion if it had been up to him. Instead he had been hog-tied and dragged off to England.

This Yankee ghost hovered above Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott’s passed-out body. Having wenched with the best of wenches, he recognized absolute perfection in the bosoms below him. “Oh, my my and a skip-to-my-lou-dy too-dy,” he said, staring with large, round saucer-like amazement.

His two associate ghosts floated beside him. They nodded their agreement.

“Now that’s a lady,” Early Grey said. “Dunnie done himself proud.”

“My liege lord Richard 3,” Sir Long John Longjohns. said, “would have locked her in the Tower to keep her safe for himself and his hump.”

“Shall we give her our two pennies worth, fellows?” Benjamin Patrick asked his good buddies. “She does seem a bit distressed.”

“I say aye,” Early said.

“I am an aye too,” Longjohns voted. “That makes it anonymous. I mean, unanimous.”

The three put their three heads together and worked to think up a plan.

“Wha-wha-what?” Marye slowly pulled herself awake and out of her stupor. She looked up. “Oh, lordy, I have a headache. It’s a real dilly. Not the real Dilly. Dilly is off in America. I’m here alone.”

“Having regrets, ma’am?” Benjamin Patrick settled onto the floor.

“What?” Marye couldn’t believe her eyes. She blinked her blinkers a number of times to make sure she actually saw three ghosts hovering above her. “Who are you?”

“Oh, we’re ghosts,” the Yankee ghost said. “We haunt places. Right now we’re haunting Haggismarshe Manor. My name is Benjamin Patrick from Georgia Colony but y’all can call me B. P. Everybody does. At least, my friends.”

“I’m Earl Grey Wimpleseed.” Early removed his hat, a broadbrimmer with a big feather sticking out of its top, and bowed a very deep bow.

Sir Long John bowed as well. “And, madam, I am Sir Long John Longjohns Prissypott, your late husband’s great-great-great-great-great uncle thrice removed.”

“What do you want with me?” her ladyship asked from her place on the floor. “Oh, my head.”

“We’re here to give you our quid’s worth of advice,” Earl. said, “if you will allow.”

B.P. said, “I been elected spokesman for the we three of us. We thunk and we thunk and in all our palavering we could only thunk one thing for you to do.”

“What would you say that would be?” Her ladyship was sitting up, interested. At least, as interested as someone with a hangover could be. She’d been after a solution for days and days and days. None had come to her.

“Leave this place. It’s loaded down with the past. Don’t go back to your dilly dallying with that silly boy, Dilly. He’s only after one thing.”

“That’s what Moms says,” she said.

“It’s not your companionship,” B. P. continued his agreement with Moms. “Get out and see the world. Have some fun. You have your daddy’s cash. He’s given you enough money to tide you through anything for the rest of your days. So, enjoy. Lying low here and moaning and groaning is a waste. You have a life to lead. And who knows?”

Early piped in, believing later was better than never when it came to advice, “Only the shadows know,”

“And they are not saying,” L. J. said, pulling up his long johns that seemed to be slipping into the aether.

Poof. Her ghost friends were gone.

Marye rose and refreshed herself with a jolly good stiff spot of tea. Then she viewed herself in the mirror. She liked what she saw. She admired the buxomness of her bosoms and her hourglass figure that flattered every dress she wore. Indeed she was not a plain-jane Mary-Mary Smith any longer. She was nobility, and nobly she must act.

Her smile melted into a frown. But how could she be a real woman? Look at the effect she had on the only man she had ever come close to knowing in the Biblical way. He lay in the bed of her memory limp as putty.

She choked back her discouragement and thought about what the ghosts had said. “You’re a grown-up woman and a lady at that,” she said to the mirror. “It just won’t do to stay all locked up in an attic when there’s a world out there to explore.”

So it was decided. Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott, the former Mary-Mary Smith of Brooklyn Heights, would travel. She would see the hither and the thither and see the world and all that lay beyond. And she would do it all by herself. No Moms, no Daddykins, no Dilly, no Lord P. P. No one but she herself.

If it was her fate to remain a virgin, so be it.

Next week: A train ride and a mysterious woman