Category Archives: Challenge Accepted

Can GISH Cure Cancer?

It is kind of hard to write something funny about getting a diagnosis of breast cancer, but it helps if you were signed up for G.I.S.H. (W.E.S) before even a hint of trouble arose on the horizon. GISH(WES) stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the World has Ever Known.) It may not cure cancer…but it sure cured getting the diagnosis.

If this week had a sound track, it would be Cosmo Sheldrake’s “Come Along”:

If you ever wondered what it would look like if I went off the deep end, this one’s for you.

My week of GISH started with…

A Bull Named Fu Manchu

Item #14 – No Bull About It. Ride that bull like the zen master you are.

I developed a funny walk after doing this…

My next genius decision took me, my autistic son, and a cousin (who made the mistake of saying, “Sure, why not?” before reading the fine print) on a very long road trip to make music at Niagara Falls. Don’t worry; she got her revenge. She had to practice the recorder in the car all the way there. I may never get those high notes out of the crevices of my brain where they are lodged.

Trip to Niagara Falls, sort of

GISH Item #30. Perform the Kansas song, Wayward Son, at a natural world wonder.

This was the final take. Almost perfect despite the lack of tuning on the plastic instrument.

I can’t take too much credit for the performance at the falls. All the kudos go to Anna. But, we did manage to drive almost all the way there and back again in a 24-hour period. If I could do anything different, it would be to stay at the falls and give us all a better morning. But, there was more GISHING to be done!

But, as we crossed the border home, it seemed a waste not to knock out Item #166 “Love has no borders, play a game at an international border crossing.”

This required playing a game like charades which would not require crossing of the boundary nor passing any item back and forth. We were pretty punch drunk by midnight, so take our giddiness with a grain of perseverance.

Too Perfect Not To:

Most of the GISH Items were beyond my skill set–requiring a team or the ability to wing walk a bi-plane while painting the landscape below–but others seemed like I had been training for them my whole life.

Item #91–A Cairn Terrier Named Rocky. (Hint: he won’t come when you call him.)

I’ve been collecting rocks for years. My garage is littered with them. Rock hoarding for the win!

I’m fairly sure my family is starting to become concerned about my over enthusiasm for this scavenger hunt. But they gamely play along.

I beg on Facebook and an obliging family who barely know me offer up their basement and their children (but only in an advisory capacity) to accomplish the next hunt-worthy construction. Lego Shoes!

Gish Item #3 Sounded Sooo Easy

I have so much more respect now for the ‘play’ of little boys and girls (and their parents too!) I started by sorting my blocks into piles of color to best determine what color the shoes should be made of. (It is entirely possible a person with some sort of OCD disorder shouldn’t be handed LEGOS!) Despite the excellent instruction provided by Noah and Jonathon, it took me much longer than I thought to build a pair of shoes! Honestly, this project was time and labor intensive. I will never call what people do with LEGOs silly again.

After hours of building the stupid things, it turns out my foot is too big. My mother-in-law’s feet are tiny…but her balance is a bit iffy. She nearly fell trying to walk the required three steps. So, I sent a hail mary request on Facebook. And Mary answered. My mother, Mary, to be precise…

Mary Mother Full of Grace, bless these feet so they may walk…and let no tripping hazard sunder the bones in twain!

Bouncing back and forth in activities required a lot of energy. Fortunately, I always had a handy supply of sweet relief.

Truly-Epic-Sweet-Tooth Undergarments

As I was making this dessert-worthy entry, I did wonder if I was sending my child the right message. But, since he ignores all my good advice anyway, I decided to tackle a little foundational feng shui. Candy Man Style!

Item #61: Funderwear!

This particular item seemed a no-brainer. What could be more fun? I worried that I might have picked too obvious a selection. So, I doubled-down on my craziness.

I made both a Life Saver brassiere as well as Twinkie, Ho-Ho, and Hostess Cupcake Spanx.

My breasts were minty fresh and I could honestly say, “Eat my shorts” and be perfectly appropriate.

I did not eat the treats at my right knee. I just didn’t realize there was a blank spot until after the pictures were taken.

I highly doubt anyone else made an outfit quite like mine. Mostly because nobody would be that crazy! I needed help getting into both items. I wore a shirt and shorts underneath because I wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be a wardrobe malfunction at some point. In fact, I had to hold the pants up for the entire photoshoot. The combined weight of that many baked goods was threatening my structural integrity. And my blood sugar levels.

GISH was surprisingly touching at times.

My mother-in-law chipped in where she could before heading home to California. When an item came up that called for someone over the age of eighty, she was my go-to-gal.

Item #49 – Diorama Digressions

I’m putting the long version of the video interview here. (Most entries had to be under 14 seconds, but this one had a whopping 30 second allowance.)

After Laura related the momentous facts surrounding her favorite memory/day, I had several days to create a diorama of the events. But I dithered trying to come up with the perfect idea for how to make her item unique and personal to her and not just reflect anybody’s wedding day. So, I went to my favorite antiques store to hunt for inspiration. And I found it:

I worked very hard on this. The wedding dress was sewn to 2:00 a.m. and I used an antique apron to get an old-fashioned feel.

I made a calculation error in timing. The little Hugo clothespin doll was achieved simply by painting the wooden peg with acrylic paint. Which dries in 20 minutes…if your house isn’t soggy with humidity. Guess what!??

The damned peg just wouldn’t dry. It’s Tuesday night, and the mom-in-law is scheduled to catch a flight out really early on Wednesday. So we end up fudging the reveal by handing Laura her still-tacky husband to juggle while she fumbles with her box. (Insert your own joke here. No, wait. I think I’ve just made a very crude and inadvertent reference to my mother-in-law’s box. Nevermind.)

Consummate performer that she is, Laura tackled the late-night recording of her reaction to her diorama with panache and grace. It was truly a labor of love…and it’s the piece I will remember when the years pass and other things fall away.

Item #127 – Moose Call

I think this was the easiest one, overall, but the pace of filling my many obligations was starting to show.

All we had to do for Item #127 was go to a Tim Horton’s, dressed as a moose. Moose costumes aren’t that simple to come by, but headgear was. Since I was dragging a moose-sized child around with me, I just slapped a pair of antlers on him and called it good.

A kid will do just about anything for a donut…but you can’t make a teenager happy about it. #ResentfulDoughboy

You may be sensing a theme by now…

I generally tried to pick things that appealed to me, or that I could do in a reasonable amount of time with some accuracy. I can make a loaf of bread crisp…but can I make it do anything else?

As it turns out, I’m not a particularly exact entomologist.

Item #79 – Bug Nuts

When invited to “make icky bugs great” I grabbed my glutinous flour and ran with the instructions to “Create a realistic-looking, oversized detailed sculpture of an underappreciated arachnid or insect out of bread…”

Done and slightly over done!

Dung Beetles have long been a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, I suspect my masterpieces look more like ticks. Eww. (Dung ball is actually a beach ball covered in crunchy peanut butter and shredded wheat.)

Of note: if you decide to bake black-colored bread, put the dye in the bread machine. If you try to hand-knead it, like the far dung beetle pictured above, you get mottled results.

I tended to opt for a lot of kitchen based challenges. Thinking that I had a home court advantage. But some of my efforts fell flat.

One in particular was a most spectacular failure!

Item #23 – You have something on your…everything.

This video wouldn’t be possible without the help of a really good friend who stopped by to film. If you listen, you can hear her laughing in the background as well as making salient commentary. The Best British Bake-Off this ain’t! But, I dare any of those contestants to do better. The basic instruction: bake a cake without using your hands or any measuring tools. The only implement allowed? Your face!

Face Cake Fails: Parts I and II

If you are in a hurry, this is the high speed version.

I probably lost points on execution, but in intent? I nailed it. I was laughing so hard throughout this enterprise, I’m surprised I didn’t snort more flour than I did.

There are two videos because the longer one (below) filled up the SD card on the camera. The first video is high-speed reformatted (above.) The one that follows should include commentary. Really, you need to hear the snarky commentary.

If you have six minutes to kill and really want to see me make a cake of myself….

The cake was inedible. But the instructions were very clear. It had to be eaten by you and a loving family member. Thank goodness Alexei is so very fond of Easy Bake Oven cakes. When they are cooked better than this:

I baked a second sample using the exact same techniques. Admire, if you can.

Carrot cake is my favorite dessert…so this segue shouldn’t hurt too very much.

Item #97 – So very, very orange…

Food was a definite theme for me.

The only instruction given for this was the following: See Item #97 (pictured below) only said “8554J46H+FH. You, the Carrot God, have summoned them.” I couldn’t figure out what the code stood for, so I decided to get some grease paint and hair spray and do my best.

I was ridiculously proud of the results:

Beware the Great Orange One’s Return!

It wasn’t until I went to upload my most excellent Carrot God interpretation that I figured out what the code: 855 J 46H + FH stood for. Apparently it’s a way to write global coordinates and it is somewhere in the Newport Beach Civic Center in California. (California friends and relatives, you lucked out that I didn’t figure this out in time to corral your assistance, otherwise I might have asked you to paint yourself orange and dash about with fistfuls of carrots.)

From carrots we move to espionage with one simple leap of deduction.

SO, you want to be on a CIA watch list?

Item #50 – Write a letter to the director of the CIA. How could this possibly go wrong?

All I had to do was crypto-translate a sculpture that the finest minds at spy headquarters hadn’t managed to translate. No biggie.

and post the letter to a social media account.

…tagging the CIA so they couldn’t miss it.

If I’m audited next year, this is why. #StillGladIMailedThatLetter

What Exactly is the Point of GISH again?

While all this is going on, I have been fielding calls from various doctors’ offices and doing my best to stay on top of feeding and watering the child. During one of the ABA sessions, the tech eyes me for a while doing various goofy tasks and finally asks me why I’m doing this. I briefly explain that the registration fees for participating are used to remove landmines from farms in Laos.

Her response, “What does dressing like a carrot have to with charity? Couldn’t the money you spent on this stuff go directly there?” #She’sNotWrong

I don’t think I gave her a very satisfactory answer. Up to that point, I was doing all the fun items. The crazy ones. The slightly quirky and downright ridiculous ones. But the main purpose of GISH is to raise funds for charitable goals. And I haven’t mentioned those once!

So, I took the list and checked it twice, to find out to whom I could be nice.

So, Saturday, on the last day of GISH, and with the help of my son, I:

Donate Socks:

Hulk Glad!

Made up gift baskets and visit the elderly…

Dressed to the nines, tens, and elevenses.

We also try to do a good deed in our neighborhood while also encouraging my child toward philanthropy–not an easy concept to get across for anyone, none less a teenager with autism.

Time was starting to fly, and I decide to teach my son the importance of sharing would do for a good, concrete lesson.

I’m not sure whether my son saw it as charity so much as highway robbery as I gave away his popsicles.

Good-Bye Gish

My last GISHY act was to buy a tree to be planted in Kenya. I wish I could say Kenya was my intended destination, but no, it was the default option when you went to the OneTreePlanted website. From what I could see, many people made the default donation. Kenya should be nice and leafy real soon.

Doing charitable acts to participate in a scavenger hunt might seem like a waste of time and money to most people. It also feels somewhat wrong to do nice things for credit. But, this week helped to make up for getting some pretty bad news. I had fun. No one was hurt…much. And maybe, just maybe, a little good was accomplished.

And, at the end of the day…and a very long week…that’s not a bad thing.

Kudos Go To…

To all the friends who helped me along the way, thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you. I’d stop to express my gratitude personally, but it is almost 2:00 a.m. and I’m falling over exhausted. I may just sleep the next week away.

How Do I Love Thee Nano?

Allow me to count the ways I love NaNoWriMo:

One – I wrote 5,000 words yesterday; I am still riding the high. There is a effervescence of spirit that comes from writing.  Words arrive in a pell-mell rush which my brain regurgitates onto a screen.  (Hopefully in a shape that vaguely resembles what I see and hear behind my eyes.) This is the honeymoon period after the storm of words and before the tempest that is self-doubt and editing—the halcyon days of loving your creation.*

Two – Yesterday I sent my heroine on an adventure. There was a horse, of course. And plastic fruit and a tragedy for the hydrangeas—though now I am thinking petunias might be a funnier flower.

Three – I brought frenemies together and then forced them to climb deadwood to safety—only to fall like tumbling blocks—spelling out embarrassment and trouble in their awkward landing.

Four – I have yet to release the monkey—but I am cackling in anticipation.

Five – Today I rest while Officer Dettweiler removes the thorns—one prick at a time.

Six – And I haven’t decided who is getting the spring-loaded trap the heroine left for her anonymous hero. Perhaps the busybody Mrs. Bridewell is going to get her just desserts at the Fudge Festival after all?

Seven – I have no regrets, except that this pace can only be maintained for so long. Sooner or later, something is going to explode—most likely the laundry room.**

A picture of my actual laundry room!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*At least, I think this is caused by the writing. It could be the lack of sleep and caffeine talking, now that I think of it.

**I plan on blaming the monkey.



Would we do it differently, if we had the chance?

Knowing what comes, could we suck the fresh air, replacing it with fumes and chemical perfumes to stain the lungs and wilt the flowers?

Would seas rush out and dry with salted sands the scorched planetary face—eclipsing centigrades beyond mercury under the heat of a grinding sun?

No atmosphere to cloud the judgment of solar condemnation.

The ghosts of tomorrow say “Never,” but I would disagree.

I travel this slow-motion path of destruction and see our unshadowed future–no wind to rustle the memory of leaves.

We stopper our ears so we can’t hear trees weep.

The moon hangs her head—a ghost-shaped reflection of a desolate Earth.


Note to Self: Watching Interstellar may have imbued your writing with depressive fatalism.


Daily Prompt courtesy of The Daily Post.

Brain Trust Vault Bankrupt

Wily Stapler

Sorry, I was sucked into the vacuum that is Spring Break with a hyperactive child who has an overdeveloped sense of curiosity and underdeveloped sense of self-preservation. 

The brain trust is drained.

For your amusement, pictures I took with my Samsung phone at work today:

Brain Trust - Stapler

This entire post is in response to something at Writers of the Rain said about there not being an interesting picture of a stapler.  I disagree! I now challenge everyone else to find or create their own interesting stapler photo.*

 Tardis Stapler

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Because it’s Monday, that’s why.



I Literarily Have an Offer You Can’t Refuse…

MY Original Fiction – Title suggested by David Marks from Chuck Wendig’s Epic Battle

The Second Street Writer’s Syndicate

“I tell you, Boss, Dewey’s got to be remaindered.”

I stare at the twitchy face across the desk, assessing what my copy editor has said. Anton is overly pessimistic—it’s his nature. But in this case, I have to agree.

“Yes. He’s gone off book.”

I finger the Mont Blanc I inherited from my father—he was old school that way. He’d have nipped this little rebellion in the nib. A bead of red ink wells and drips on my fingertip.

“Any idea where he’s taking it?” I ask.

“Word is, he’s at a random safe house.” Anton steps back at my expression.

I look down. I’ve broke the reservoir. Ink bleeds down my wrist and pools on a manuscript tossed over the transom this morning. Red obscures the cover page but you can just make out the title: Betrayal by the Book. After Anton’s report, it feels eerily prophetic.

I’d known about the missing product for a while. At first, it was just a few shorts here, an anthology there, but with Dewey’s departure, taking the much-anticipated final installment of his series, a book aptly titled Everybody Dies, with him, it’s  clear. Someone is trying to take us down.

“Thank you, Mr. Nym.” I dismiss him.

I pull the black, rotary dial phone nearer, tossing the massacred manuscript on the slush pile for later disposal.

My fingers move automatically, the number is so familiar.

It may not be fashionable, but I like the feel of a rotary phone. The heavy handset, the hypnotic pull of the wheel as the round, plastic windows spin like slot machines to dial a number. In days where digital piracy rules, an old-fashioned landline with a scrambler built-in provides just as much security and is impervious to digital surveillance. Plus, I have never accidentally run one through the laundry.


The voice at the end of the line brings me up.

“Mr. Quick, I have a job for you.” I explain the problem and wait. He is as good as his name.

“Mr. Dewey is contractually obligated to write a finale to the Better Off Dead series. He can’t sell to another publisher until he’s met his obligations and he can’t take his characters with him.” Quick says.

As he talks, I frown, swiping at the red ink that refuses to come off. My mind races to piece together where a coward like Dewey would get the balls to face us down. It made no sense. Finally, I give Quick his head.

“I hate to pull a Penguin, but put the screws to the bastard until his royalties bleed.”

“Madam, I’ll have an injunction to you by the end of the day.” Quick says. His voice is clipped, as if he’s already mentally dictating the reams of legal palaver he will bury Dewey with.

Speaking of burying…

I hang up the phone and push the speakerphone.

“Psue, track down your brother, Moe, for me?”

I almost miss her answering: “Yes, Ms. Dox.” Her voice is almost as soft as the silent ‘p’ in her first name.

“Thanks. When he gets here, just send him in.”

I don’t bother to wait for a reply. Odd first names aside, I have utter faith in the Nym family’s ability to follow orders. It’s one reason Paradox Publishing has kept pace with the bigger book giants. Loyalty. Or, at least it used to be.

While I wait, I open the file Anton brought and review the contract the family took out on Dewey. Scanning the tome, I chuckle at the nearly invisible amendments to the boilerplate language. Is it my fault the idiot didn’t read the fine print practically selling us his literary soul? A minimum ten books with a denouement that precludes a resurrection or continuation of the series. Dewey had been dodging Anton’s calls for weeks. I’d sent him an invitation to meet me or to expect Moe. Dewey begged for a month’s extension, citing artistic exhaustion. I gave him a week and a promise to break a finger for every day he’s late. Writer’s block is an excuse as old as time itself, but I recognize the noxious stench of treachery—Dewey reeked of it.

“They say a pen is mightier than the sword. I say it depends on how well you use it.” M. Dox

I’m reviewing our erratic circulation numbers—trying to find a pattern—when there’s a thump at the door preceding Moe’s arrival. Moe is hard to describe—you’d have to use short adjectives that pack a punch. Words like ‘thick’ and ‘meaty’ spring to mind. It probably comes from the name his mother gave him. Heaven rest her soul, but nobody could understand why she’d picked it. Least of all Moe who lived to pound flat anyone who made the mistake of using his full moniker.

I can sympathize—having the last name Dox isn’t easy, especially for a girl. You can imagine: “Dox sucks…” I shake my head, exorcising old ghosts, and get back to the business at hand.

“Have the copy boys deliver a message to our friends at the Arbitrary Abode.” I murmur, careful not to name the corporation directly. “Make it elegant. Something Dickensian would be appropriate: A fire sale in a set of first editions, I think.”

Moe nods and he turns to leave when he stops, turns back.

“That’s sale—with an S.A.L.E.? Right?” His face contorts with the effort of thought but smooths out when I nod.

After he’s gone, I try to imagine how he would have interpreted fire sail?

Probably would have torched the marina just for good measure.

The phone rings. That isn’t unusual, but the fact that it’s coming in on the unused, second line is. I hesitate, then pick it up before a fifth shrill ring abrades my nerves.

“Hello?” I pause. Maybe it’s a wrong number? The muffled voice on the other end kills that hope dead.

“Ms. Dox, I hope you are enjoying the fruits of my labor. Again.”

“Who is this?” My voice is steady, ignoring the insinuation.

“How quickly she forgets the little people she’s trampled on along the way.” The man—for I believe it is a male voice—chides, tut-tutting for good measure.

God, how predictable. I bet he twirls a fucking mustache when he ties a women to the railroad tracks. I know I’m following a damned script—a formulaic victim-to-villain exchange—but I can’t help myself.

“What do you want?” I grind my teeth.

“Do you hear them yet?” The voice is garbled but the sneer comes through loud and clear. “Can you hear them clucking? Those’re your chickens coming home to roost. Ms. Dox.”

Great, now I get to suffer through moronic metaphors. Just kill me now. I wait in silence, because I won’t stoop to clichés. And anything I have to say to this man would likely qualify.

“I expected more of a fight from you, Ms. Dox,” he goads.

Tell me who you are, you bastard and I’ll give you a fight.

Okay, I will grant myself a little melodramatic license in private. But, I won’t give the caller the satisfaction. I won’t blink first.

It takes him a few minutes to realize I’m not following the script. So he moves from insulting taunts to veiled threats.

“Go ahead, play dumb, Doxie. You’re so good at it.” His pitch drops to a guttural snarl now. “If you won’t play, I’ll just let my work speak for itself. Let the Times bring you down. I hear there’s a best seller in the works; too bad you threw it on the slush pile.”

I’m left with a dial tone and hollowed pit in my gut. I haven’t heard that damned nickname since I worked after school as a novice copy editor in my father’s cosa nostra.

“Don Dox doesn’t raise sissies.” He used to say. And he expected his kids to fight their own battles.

It had taken knocking a few teeth loose to keep people from using the name in my presence. But I knew it still floated around behind my back. I’d had to grow a thick skin—and hard fists—to put up with it. And here it was, being thrown in my face along with the specter of past mistakes. What could he mean?

I strain for a memory, anything to place the mystery voice. Wait. What had he said about the slush pile?

I sit back, relieved. It’s a reject. It has to be. Some poor shmuck writer who thought he’d written a fucking Pulitzer. I want that to be it. But something else tugs insistently at edge of my consciousness, nagging me. Something else the guy’d said. What was it?

Then, my stomach rumbles. I laugh.

It’s just hunger gnawing at you, idiot.

I stand to go when the flash of red staining my fingers reminds me I’d first have to get some solvent to get the ink off. Reaching into the drawer for my bag, I freeze.

“Playing dumb.” That’s what he’d said.

I drop back into my chair, the leather protests and the wheels squeak, rolling back to hit the cabinets behind me. I review everything—everything that’s happened this morning—everything that’s led up to the phone call. My brain ticks the seconds past. Playing dumb. Fruits of my labor. Chicken’s coming home to roost. Cliché’s! The man had spouted a glut of clichés.

The slush pile!

I snatch up the ink-spattered manuscript—feverishly pouring through the opening pages:

“She never thought the past would catch up with her. She thought she’d covered her tracks. She thought wrong.”

I hadn’t been able to get past the first page. It was so predictable. A story of betrayal and revenge. That it hadn’t been slated for the top ten was apparent from the tired storyline…but what about the phrasing was so familiar?

I scan down the page, until I get to the last paragraph of the prologue:

“The woman ignored the pigeons cooing on the ledge outside her office. She was oblivious as she took off her shoes, climbed out of the ten-story high office window. It was only as she jumped that it occurred to her, they sounded just like chickens—chickens coming home to roost.”

It takes me an hour to skim the work. I turn to look out the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. There are no pigeons, not today, but I am ten stories up. The publishing house located on Second Street overlooks a busy sliver of New York real estate. Below, traffic clogs the FDR and the East River sullenly shuttles water taxis and tourist boats to and fro. My father’s empire, built by him and his father before him. My empire now. And someone wants to bring it crashing to the ground—bring me down.

I walk to the window and look out. I know someone is watching. He had to be to know I’d tossed his work on the reject pile. His manifesto of hate—of lies twisted into barbs of near-truth.

I could take the hit, but the business would be hurt by it. I won’t let that happen.

I hold up the battered manuscript—looking for all the world like I’m  waving a white flag of surrender. Grabbing a Bic™ my dad left behind when he retired, I hold the book by a corner and light it on fire. He likes clichés, I hope he likes this one.

I can take the heat. Can you?

I hold it until flames scorch my fingers. The hate burns like white phosphorous. I throw the mess into the nearest metal trash can and walk to push the button on the speaker phone.

“Psue. We have a small fire that needs to be cleaned up.”

Seconds later, my assistance rushes in, waving a fire extinguisher looking for a target. When she hones in the trash can, I hold up a hand to stop her.

“Let it burn.” I tell her. “Let it all burn.”

“My advice to writers? ‘Try not to earn a Kill Fee.'” M. Dox

Friday Fictioneers – It Burns

Friday Fictioneers is brought to you each week by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who leads our band of merry writers, in weekly photo-prompt flash fiction. You can find other 100-word stories on Rochelle’s blog, Addicted to Purple. Join us, or just enjoy the wide variety of stories.  ** Please leave a comment. I welcome constructive feedback. Play nice.

PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright – Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

In the distance, flashlights race and bob heading toward the light. They are too late in their rush to judgment. I have already passed sentence. This fire burns to cleanse the inner demons. I will incinerate them all—those hell-bound thoughts which howl and gnaw within. I take each poisonous self-infliction: WORTHLESS, HOPELESS, PATHETIC, and toss it, another log on the fire. From the dust, I will rise anew.

Friday Fictioneers – Photo Prompt

House on Hill
PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright by Bjorn Rudberg

There is a house, hemmed by hundred-year-old forests.  It sits wedged at the crack where the mountain and the trees argue about property lines; each takes a small step here or there, reclaiming what was lost.  The crenellated highway cuts through and, playing referee, takes no sides. From the uppermost window you could see traffic zoom by.  Only birds know this was once a palace of an impoverished people.  Zigzag stairs dash haphazard footpaths—dizzying, transitory indecision leading nowhere.  And flower pots wait at the end of the world for owners who are never coming home.

On How To Shave Your Legs When You Are Middle Aged

Image courtesy of Let’s see if their lawyers are paying attention.

 (This is in response to a writing challenge from the Writing Essential Group to ‘Write a set of step-by-step instructions detailing how to do something (prose or poetry).   It is also a reminder that I need to shave.)


  1. After getting dressed in a pair of shorts for the first time after winter, go outside in good lighting and determine what grade of razor you require to level the growth attained:

a. Just peachy fuzz – Single-edge ladies razor (available only in pink)

b. Low nap carpeting – Double-edge safety razor

c.  Impending jungle – Norelco ‘Weed Wacker’ Shaver*

d.  Sasquatch-esque – Save your blade, use a DOW-approved chemical depilatory cream. Have burn unit on speed dial.

  1. March back into home, select hair-assault tool of choice and grab the manly shaving cream you use because, dammit, why do they charge women more for half as much product?
  2. Strip down to a layer of clothing comfortable with doing gymnastics in a porcelain tub. Keep in mind that if you have a terrible accident, your bra and panties should match, because that’s important when the ambulance comes to pick you up.
  3. Determine, in advance, the line you won’t cross and, using a permanent marker, draw the stopping point of the razor. If you have committed to full limb nude-ification, then clear your calendar and set your razor for stun.
  4. Before you proceed, ask yourself this question: “Do I really want to do this? Am I willing to do this every week this summer and suffer the burning, itching annoyance as the tiny army of hairs returns?” If the answer is “No”, put down the mini scythe and walk away. Be hairy, be proud.
  5. Turn on shower to a medium warm setting and get your extremities moist. NEVER dry shave.** Take my word for it.
  6. Once your legs have been zoned for construction and pre-moistened for your convenience, squirt an excessive amount of shaving cream into your palm. (It is impossible to squirt just the right amount and squirting too little is annoying and leads to dry spots on the back of your ankle. (See: Step 6 above.) Slather cream up and down in thick blankets. Then you get to pretend your razor is a mountain skier in the Alps. Feel free to yodel.
  7. Contorting yourself in painful mimicry of a blade-wielding Cirque Du Soleil performer, extend your implement as far as it will reach and commence hacking. Immediately nip a section of flesh just over your ankle bone right where the strap of your sandal will rub it as you walk. Swear in several languages and watch pink, foamy swirls circle the drain. Proceed with greater caution but, as you move ever upward, forget that you have to run the blade sideways when you hit the knee cap—for god-only-knows-what reason—and chop a successive slice across each furrow of skin. Bleed profusely. Swear even more so.
  8. After you manage to finish one leg (meh, good enough) tackle second leg. Never, ever allow a phone call, a whiny child, or a house fire prevent you from finishing—no one likes a lopsided fashion statement. Shaving the same leg twice doesn’t count either.
  9. Now that your razor is nice and dull from hacking through the forbidding forests, you are faced with the unenviable prospect of shaving your pits. May god have mercy on your soul.

Shaving Image
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Watch out for blowback.

**Dry shaving is on the list of acceptable torture methods used by the CIA—right alongside waterboarding and cranking up death metal music beyond ear-bleeding levels.