Sunday, January 27, 2013

Punintended Consequences

She’s ninety-one, has arthritic feet and a gimpy knee. “My short-term memory stinks,” she complains, as she cleans my clock in yet another game of Scrabble. She plays poker and Bingo three times a week, and is a charter member of the weekly cribbage crowd in her seniors’ building. Her friends call her Gert. I call her Mom.

Mom’s conversation is peppered with puns - a trait that runs in our family. Ask her how she feels, and Mom will reply “with my hands.” In our family, noses run and feet smell. A conversation can turn into a marathon punning competition - one that Mom usually wins.

A few years ago, Mom decided that it was time to move to a apartment building with more services and activities. The new living room was far too small for her 45-year-old sofa - a large custom piece constructed with care by my Uncle Marvin, and reupholstered several times. Mom advertised the sofa and found a buyer. But there was a minor problem. The owners of her current building had replaced the aging elevators a few years before, and the ceilings in the new elevators were only seven feet high. Her sofa would not fit! Nor was the buyer interested in carrying this monster down seven flights of stairs - even assuming that he and the sofa could negotiate the sharp turns in the stairwell. The sale fell through, leaving Mom with a dilemma. She had to get this Sherman tank of a sofa out of her apartment!

When my cousin Hilary (who is the proud inheritor of a double dose of the family pun gene) heard about the problem, she turned up at Mom’s apartment, accompanied by two hefty heroes - her older son, Jeffrey and her friend, Frank. They came well equipped for the task - Frank brandishing a circular saw and Hilary, as always, wielding her state-of-the-art digital Canon.

While Mom held court on her easy chair, serving up an endless supply of pun-gent verbal offerings - punctuated with belly laughs, giggles and snorts of amusement - Jeffrey and Frank sawed the sofa in half so that it could be carted downstairs to the trash. Hilary photographed the dismemberment in detail, and recorded the entire episode for the amusement of the many followers of The Smitten Image, her blog site.

With her out-going personality and ready wit, Mom quickly developed a circle of friends and card-playing buddies in her new building. Her only complaint was that Mondays were 'boring' - no organized card games or bingo. 

Just after the first of the year, life stopped being boring - Mom developed bacterial pneumonia. It was a close call, but she confounded the dire predictions of the medical staff and survived her illness with her punny bone intact. Yesterday, when I asked her how she was doing, Mom replied, “As I please.”

Here's to you, Mom - to many more years of doing as you please and feeling with your hands!

©2012 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

A Note of Explanation: This story evolved from the prompt "My mother laughed hysterically when ..."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dierdre Goes To Manhattan

Dierdre woke as the early morning prairie sun streamed through her bedroom window. Suddenly, it was summer and each streak and mote of dust from the accumulated spring rains was highlighted by the uncompromising rays of sun.

Sixty-ish, graying, tall, thin, and slightly stooped, Dierdre was the epitome of a prairie recluse. She lived on a scrapply few acres in her old farmhouse, which had gone begging for a spring sprucing ever since her husband died and their last kid left for college.

“Better get the hired girl to wash them windows, I reckon,” Dierdre muttered to herself as she creaked out of bed. “Can’t see myself clambering up no ladder, no how. Besides, got my gardening to tend to.”

Sighing, she started her morning routine - fed the couple of hens she depended on for her eggs, milked the goat, and sat down to read last week’s Times as she sipped her morning coffee. “Better get a move on,” she muttered, glancing at her watch. “It’s almost time to go to town. Can’t be late my first day.”

Dierdre finished dressing, donned a light jacket and headed for her beat-up Chevy SUV - just the right vehicle for the wind- and dust-swept back roads. The turn-off for Tuttle Creek Lake warned her that she was nearing her destination. She glanced down to check her map. Left on Kimball, right on N. Manhattan Ave, then take the first right after Claflin Rd.

She turned into the entrance, and followed the signs to Call Hall. Parking the car, she began to feel a little nervous. Would she be welcomed? Or would she be seen as an interloper? She entered the building and spoke to the receptionist. “I’m looking for Dr. Fung,” she said. “Is he in?”

“Oh, you must be Dr. Devonshire, our new Adjunct Professor of Food Safety,” the receptionist exclaimed with a smile. “We’re thrilled to have you back at Kansas State after so many years. Dr. Fung will be right with you.”

A Note of Explanation: Manhattan, Kansas - which calls itself 'The Little Apple' - is the home of Kansas State University.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dog's Ear

“From your mouth to dog’s ear.” 

No, that’s not a misprint. Didn’t you know that ‘dog’ is ‘god’ spelled backwards? 

It was a crisp October morning; the sky was clear and the breeze that stirred the multicolored leaves whispered that the first frost of the season was soon to come. Mitzi picked up her dog’s leash and called, “Want to go for a walk, Skippy?” As the little Maltese scampered towards her, Mitzi bent down to clip the leash onto his collar.

Suddenly, she felt her right arm tingle, then go numb. The leash fell from her hand and landed on the tile floor with a clatter. “Am I having a stroke?” Mitzi wondered, and told herself that she’d better get to her phone. But, her body wasn’t cooperating. She couldn’t stand. 

Terrified, Mitzi started crawling across the room to the telephone. Each inch gained seemed to take an eternity. Five feet to go. Four feet. She focused on the phone, sitting in plain sight on the coffee table. Three feet; now two. The phone seemed to fade out of focus and began to pulsate, growing larger and smaller. Just beyond reach of her goal, Mitzi’s world went black.

Skippy, wondering what this new game was - and what happened to his promised walk - ran over and nudged Mitzi’s hand. No reaction. He nudged again. Still nothing. Whimpering, Skippy began to lick her face, stopping now and then to give her another nudge. Finally, Mitzi stirred, and opened her eyes to see Skippy standing over her.

With a desperate surge of willpower, Mitzi heaved herself to the phone and dialed 9-1-1. “Help!” she gasped. “I’m having a stroke. I need help. Please... hurry…..”

'From your mouth to dog’s ear' is an expression that some consider blasphemous. But don’t ever tell that to Mitzi.

©2013 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

A Note of Explanation: For this prompt, each participant was asked to share a favorite word. We then were told to write a story that included one or more of the words on the list. The list of words included: enchanting, egregious, serendipity, joy, brilliant, god, introspection, reflection, eternity, fabricate, wunderbar, Sunday (or sundae), idiosyncrasy, and chocolate.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff

“The fiscal cliff,” George grumped as he flipped through the channels on his 55-inch high-definition TV. “Is that all anyone is talking about these days? What about world peace, the cholera epidemic in Haiti, starvation, or the lack of sanitary toilets in India? What about the Oscar nominations? Who cares about the ‘fiscal cliff’ anyway? Just a bunch of Washington politicians playing their usual games.”

“Huh?” asked Paris, looking up from examining her new pedicure. “Fisted Clique? What’s that – some new rock group? Never heard of ‘em.”

Sighing, George turned back to the TV, flipping channels as quickly as his remote control would allow. Trancelike, he watched the various talking heads flash by, the images hypnotic in their monotonous diversity.


George jumped as a harsh voice suddenly yelled in his ear. “Where am I?” he asked, “Who are you?”

“In India, of course, with the cholera expedition. Dr. Koch is waiting for you. You’ve held up the day’s schedule by half an hour. Get up. RAUS! We have work to do!”

George pried his eyes open and looked around at the tent, its six canvas cots neatly stowed, with a tidy stack of bags and baggage beside each one. Slowly, he rolled off his cot, and stumbled to his feet on the dirt floor.

“Koch?” he asked, groggily. “Who’s that?”

“Dr. Robert Koch, of course. What are you thinking? You signed on for his expedition. Koch is studying the cholera epidemic. He is trying to isolate the bacillus that he believes to be the cause of this dread disease.”

George shook his head to clear it. None of this sounded familiar. Koch? Looking for the origin of cholera? That was during the 19th century, not the 21st. Somehow, he had teleported back in time more than 150 years.

He threw open the tent flap and walked into the camp. Directly across the clearing was a large lean-to with canvas walls. He strode over and looked inside. And there they were. The superheroes of bacteriology: Koch peering into his microscope, Petri pouring small quantities of gelatinous liquid into his eponymous glass dishes, and Walther Hesse carefully smearing small bits of brown sludge over the surface of what looked like Jell-O.

“Dr. Koch, I presume?” George extended his right hand as he approached the legendary father of German bacteriology. “My name is Clooney, and I’d like to talk to you about the movie rights to your story.”

©2012 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

A Note of Explanation: We were asked to choose a famous person from a list of twelve names, and combine the person with a superpower selected from a separate list to form the basis for a story. I chose to combine teleportation and George Clooney, with a cameo appearance by Paris Hilton.