Sparked by Words

Posts tagged ‘humor’

A Balcony Scene

The banquet room was set more formally than in past years, with tablecloths and napkins. The staff at Polly’s Restaurant was always gracious to us, maybe sensing our stressful concerns. What should we choose for next year’s insurance? I liked the new arrangement, tables set in a square so everyone would be able to see everyone else. Perhaps this more genteel ambiance would calm our nerves. We always had a thousand questions at the meetings, and hearing other folks’ concerns generated conversations worth listening to.

Each year I had to determine which part D option for my mom’s Medicare plan was the best choice before committing in December for the supplementary insurance I’d sign for her. The yearly formulary was a thick enough tome to boost the youngest child to the Thanksgiving table. None of us had time nor skill to read or figure it out. Think new annual tax codes. The presenters explained the new plans’ pros and cons in understandable bites and comparative columns. I’d make a decision based on determining which health care plan would provide the lowest cost for mom’s medications, wheel chair rental, and ambulance service.

If we could not be persuaded to attend these meetings by dint of their importance to our (mom’s) health care for the next year, Polly’s sent each of us home with a fresh pie of our choice. How can you not show up for pie? Some of us came for information, some came for pie.

I was early but three gentlemen were already seated. It didn’t surprise me that they were fifteen or twenty years older than me. I was often the youngest at these meetings since I came on my mother’s behalf, not my own. By paunch and jowl and sartorial casualness, they were certainly the right demographic for the meeting.

They, however, sat gape mouthed at my entrance, too stunned even to speak. I smiled and said hello. They asked what I was doing there, my youth obviously confounding them.

“I’m here for the meeting,” I said, smug in my certainty of purpose. Only in my early sixties, I didn’t yet qualify for Medicare. They were envious of my tender years, astonished by my presence among their venerable company. I’m way too old (and married) to flirt, but their expressions demanded response. I smiled and tossed my curls. A little feminine confirmation of their masculinity couldn’t hurt.

“But we’re the Romeos,” one said.

Adorable. How can you not fall in love with a grandpa who knows Shakespeare?

“Well then I’m Juliet,” I said and rearranged the place setting so I’d have room for my notebook.

“No, we’re the Romeos,” he said, as if an explanation of their right to vote.

I looked at the three men. What could they be so worried about? I wasn’t the only person to attend these meetings on behalf of someone too frail to attend for themselves.

“Romeos,” he repeated, emphasis on the last word. “Retired Old Men Eating Out.”

The tablecloths and silverware. The square table arrangement. The recognition of circumstances. This Juliet was standing on the wrong balcony, seeking the wrong man.

How many names can we ascribe to red? Magenta, burgundy, cerise, cherry, scarlet, crimson. I didn’t have to see my face to know it blushed every shade in and out of the rainbow.

I’d come on the wrong day. My meeting was the next week.

Thank you, Romeos, for a charming ten minute date. Like many affairs it didn’t last long but I’ll always remember you. Seems I’d been looking for love in all the wrong places.


Painting: Romeo and Juliet Farewell by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, courtesy Wikimedia Commons




Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent Hdroski; (I’m pretty sure I spelled your name right but don’t know if you’re are male or female.)

I’m sending you my entire book Going for Cold as an attachment to this email, so you don’t have to bother asking me for it. Its a Gothic historical fiction steampunk romance adventure novel, and you’re gonna love it as much as my mom does. If you don’t count the chapter titles its 175,000 words long, give or take a few. I love to write as you can tell.

I had been reading a whole lot about how to write a really good kwery letter, and I want you to know I pay attention to advice. (WOW!!!! You cannot believe how many blogs out there give advice about how to write a kuwery but I think I’m following the best one!) So I read someplace that you were born in Outer Slobovia. Since I made my story happen in Outer Slobovia, I knew you’d think this is really intresting as well as unique. Of course, I haven’t been able to visit Outer Slobovia, as I can’t afford the plain ticket much less the hotels and renting a car there and everything, so I wouldn’t mind at all if you made a few corrections in my story, but only if neccesary.

My book is about this really beautiful girl in this little village in Outer Slobovia who is looking for her long lost lover who sailed away to find his fortune in some other country and never came back. Well not right away anyway. She was pregnant at the time he left even though, they weren’t married (I know that’s kind of a no-no, but that’s what makes books exciting isn’t it?) so she gave their baby away to Gypsies who were traveling around on the most beautiful Gypsy wagon, you can imagine. (You don’t actually have to imagine it because I describe it at great lenghth in my book but I wanted to keep this qwuery letter short so I’m not putting it in here.) So the baby, a really adorable little boy who looks just like his father except his father doesn’t know he exists, goes all over Outer Slobovia with the Gypsies………

The Gypsies are really nice people except they steel and cheat a lot, but only from people who are not Gypsies, and the whole group of them end up in a really cold part of Outer Slobovia. (I’m hoping you can tell me what part of the country is colder than the rest because I couldn’t find that out on Google. I figured you would’nt mind since you’ll want my story to be as ackurate as possible as its really about your country.) So anyway, the little boy’s mother ends up getting sick and dying but mostly she really dies from heartbreak because she had to give her baby away after her boyfriend whom she really really loved didn’t come back in time for them to get married!!! Its so sad, isn’t it?

So meanwhile the boyfriend, whose name is Igor Igor (isn’t this a clever idea to give him two first names that are the same? I just loved it when I thought of it and almost named the girl Alma Alma but I thought that might be too much so she’s only Alma, just one name. And Alma had named the baby boy Igor Two but the Gypsies changed it to Timbo. I looked it up and it really is a Gpysy name) comes back to the little village where he and Alma fell in love when they were teenagers. He’s very sorry that she had died a long time ago but its really for the best because he happened to get married to someone else along the way to getting rich and now he has a wife and six children. (Six more children! – yikes this guy is a busy bee, right?) And he did find his fortune in a gold mine.

So now someone in the village (I’m not sure if this person should be the village priest or the village gossip, you might want to make a suggestion) tells Igor Igor about his first son being given away to the Gypsies. So of course Igor Igor decides to leave his wife and six other children in the village while he goes in search of his oldest son, whom he thinks is still named Igor Two. All he knows is that they went to the coldest part of Outer Slobovia, and so he has to go to this very cold place to find his boy. But he’s made his fortune in a gold mine, so he has lots of money and other stuff at hand.

So now you get the title, right? Going for Cold instead of Going for Gold like most people would ordinarily say. I have to admit that the title at first was Going for Gold but then I thought of this really GENUIS idea for the new title Going for Cold!!! Everyone is going to want to read the book just to figure out if the title is a typo, right? And of course, all the symbolism about what’s the real gold or the real cold in the sory but I’ll leave all that to other people to figure out.

So back to my story. The rest of the book is about all the adventures Igor Igor has trying to find his baby son who is already a young man by now and very good at steeling and cheating people who are not Gypsies. You can see where this is going, right? Igor Two, who only ever went by the name Timbo, runs into his father but doesn’t know its his father, but he figures out this guy made his fortune in a gold mine, and so he plans to cheat him out of his fortune. It takes a lot of exciting scenes and unexpected things to happen before Igor Igor finaly figures out whom Timbo is, and although I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, its when he’s dying that he finds out. So its one of these really sad but really deep stories about all the truth of everything getting found out but only at the end of the story when its too late for anyone to end up happy.

You might think I told you the whole story here so how could it be 175,000 words long, more or less? Well, you’ll just have to read the whole story to find out. That’s why I attached it to this email. When you decide to call me, try not to call until after 8:00 AM (remember I live in California so you have to allow, for the time difference) as I like to sleep in a bit. But anytime after that is fine. I am excitedly looking forward excitedly to hearing from you so we can talk about how much money you expect this book to make and who would be a good director for the movie version. This will be so fun!!!

Your friend,
Tawny Lionheart; Author  

(It’s my nome de plume. I made it up since my real name is Myrtle Margaret Agnes May Brown and thats just too awful for anyone.)



Johannes Vermeer painting A Lady Writing, circa 1665

Lion cartoon courtesy Pixaby


It’s the Best, the Absolute Best


Laughter – still the best medicine. The biddies from the Old Wives Club had it right all along. It protects my heart because it makes my blood get up and flow throughout my system, and blood pumping into and out of those bellowing chambers is better than the gridlock some folks suffer. It releases my endorphins, the giddy little proteins inside our bods that suppress pain and make us feel good, or at least better. And who doesn’t want to feel better? It gives a wake-up call to my hormones by nudging my immune system into overdrive, producing anti-bodies that fight the good fight – against the bad grunge like illness and disease and sour temper.

Who can laugh without relaxing? Isn’t that why some of us (not me of course, and certainly not you, but other unnamed folks) pee their pants when laughing raucously? Losing all control is not a bad thing, even if you must change your whitie-dities, because when you’re having that much fun – who cares about all the rest? Oh, and it’s contagious! In a good way, not like the flu, but like having enough cup cakes for everyone in the world. So now I not only feel good inside my own world weary bod – I feel good because everyone around me also feels good. Motto for today: Spread cheer – laugh out loud.

My physical health improves. My bod doesn’t ache any more. Not as much anyway. Laughing that hard must have worked the kinks out of the system, kind of like untwisting the hose and letting the water spray all over the yard. Or sitting in a giggle spa while warm bubbles tumble all over achy joints until the pain realizes it isn’t welcome.

It’s the perfect size for my emotional health, a one-size-fits-all remedy. I can do what I must, even all the miserable tasks I dislike, and I’ll be fine. I’ll just make a list like the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado and mark off each accomplished task until I can’t do any more until tomorrow. Laugh! Now I feel good about myself. What was I afraid of in the first place?

My social life gets a boost, and heaven knows I’ve been a bit lacking in that deportment.  The stranger next to me is grinning big time, now she’s leaning over, telling me how much fun it was to watch me laugh, and now she’s laughing, spreading the good news that something out there is fun-nee! We’re not strangers any more – we’re two goofettes laughing about something so funny we can’t even remember what it was – but it made us laugh.

Laughter – find it in your grocery store in the chocolate aisle where you can decide on extra dark or milk, or be like me and take both. Then a third because it’s buy two, get one free. Dessert for the whole week. Yippee!

Or in the ripe veggie bin where the bananas have been pinched by every shopper with opposable thumbs and have brown marks looking just like thumbprints. Gonna be someone’s banana bread by tonight. (Yeah, that was me too.) Gonna be someone’s banana bread by tonight.

Or by the checkout line next to the guy with a full cart unloading on the stand clearly lit up with the “15 items or less” sign.  OK, so he can’t read but he sure does like his beer and his microwavable dinners. Whoopee – the guy doesn’t have to cook tonight. Whoop-de-do.

Or at the magazine stand whose well thumbed pages of multiple brand new issues assure you are not buying a new magazine should you indulge but a well loved one, even if previous lovers left bent pages and wrinkled covers. Grandkid’s getting a present sent by mail and cushioned in old magazines. Hooray!

If you can’t find anything to laugh about, search for comics and jokes online or replay the opening monologues from the late night TV shows. A bit of computer navigation, and voila: a guffaw explosion. Cat, dog, and baby videos are good for a giggle. Speaking of, pet your pet, and if you don’t have one, find a neighbor’s pet. Give Rover or Tuna Breath some finger play behind the ear, a hand smoothie down the back. Homes for the old folks are letting in animal residents free of charge because the Cottage of Furries relieves stress in the Kingdom of Worries.

You can be a grump all day and go to bed wrestling with every demon, identified and improvised, known to the human body. Or you can laugh all day and go to sleep relaxed, content, ready to take on the night with sweet dreams and the morrow with delight.

Better yet – go write a book. That’s what I did. I wrote three, a fourth well on its way, and three earlier children’s books. All of them have moments of funny. Just a spoonful or maybe a whole gallon – good medicine just as the doctor prescribed it. And the biddies from the Old Wives Club.


A thank you to my dear friend Judith Westerfield, whose wisdom, guidance, and friendship inspired this post.


Baby laughing courtesy Google images public domain:



Short Story


A challenge:

Eee – no time!

I struggle,

O, for immutable vowels…

U-turn; re-write.




Pen and ink image, public domain,

Shari Pratt’s 10 Anti Resolutions for 2014

Here find my response to the December 31, 2013 prompt posted on Today’s Author Write Now! to compose an Anti Resolution List for 2014. I invite you to improve on my list by composing your own!

Being of simple wit and unsound resolve, meaning that I have yet to write any resolutions that I have ever adhered to for more than the time taken to write them, and some even less than that, by breaking them even as they were being written, I hereby submit for public viewing and community humiliation my 10 Anti Resolutions for 2014, in no particular order because that would require organization, and organization is one of the issues my resolutions should address, but obviously will not: ( I can’t count so maybe there are 11…15…)



H is for Hats Off for Helping Hands

Hat Off Monkey

Mom taught you to be gracious. She reminded you to say thank you and to write notes after birthday parties. Should you be so lucky, getting your book published is not the time to forget all the good habits she pounded into your head. Because let’s face it: your book did not get published without the generous attention of about a dozen or a hundred or a thousand other folks who dedicated their precious time to assisting you with your special project. Perhaps you slaved away in an ivory tower, unaware of the party outside your arched window as you struggled to tame and taunt your writing muse. Other folks traipsed up and down the narrow staircase, checking up on your progress, offering advice, reviewing your work until it was ready to be seen by the rest of the world. You got your book published because you created a masterpiece, but someone else out there in Writerland helped, and you know it. (more…)

F is for Finding My Voice

Don’t know about you, but I’ve had a voice ever since I was born. A piercing sound box that I used to alert the armed forces that I was hungry or of other uncomfortable physical situations. I continued with that wail until I learned to speak, first with a decidedly New Jersey slur, not too dissimilar from the Southern drawl I later adopted the year I lived in Alabama and attended kindergarten. Even later I picked up a bit of pidgin from Hawaii when my family lived there for a few years. Finally I settled on California’s western twang after moving here on my 13th birthday and making it my permanent home except for three crazy years early in our marriage when we lived in Detroit. (Don’t ask, just don’t.)

My writer’s voice came in about as slowly and with as many distractions along the way as my baby and childish ones. I learned to speak and anticipate because I learned first to listen and observe. I even fidgeted when writing my first book with present tense versus simple past tense. Though this is not exactly the same thing, it does affect the writers’ voice. Fortunately I recognized that present tense is an awkward attempt to sound edgy and urgent while simple past covers content and character more comfortably. My developed writer’s voice sounds like my alter ego, notable for the realization that this is a desirable state and I should be so lucky to maintain my voice throughout my novels. Every writer reveals her voice in her work though the subject may be unique, book to book. It’s the way she observes landscape, the style of her sentence structure, and the grasp of dialogue.

Not a very specific strategy for defining the single most personality driven quality of our writing, is it? Confused? Shouldn’t be, because voice is as recognizable and distinct as other identifiable traits. After all, I’d know Beyoncé’s music from Taylor Swift’s even if they’re belting songs I’ve never heard. I can tell the difference between Beethoven’s rousing classical symphonies and the contemporary vernacular of Aaron Copeland’s ballets. I can distinguish impromptu jazz from free style rap no matter which I prefer (not telling you here.) I can look at a landscape painting of bold, thick oil strokes and declare it’s a Van Gogh, or at a delicate watercolor painting of an animal and know it’s by Albrecht Durer. Writing voice is not much different, though the characteristics of voice description are a bit more nebulous.  Maybe a bit harder to pinpoint, to fit into rigid templates, but still unique.

More important than being fluent at describing writing voice to comprehend the distinctions is being honest about presenting my voice in my writing. I learned early that I had to drop the pretense of mimicking Shakespeare, whose luminous and melodic voice I can’t assume on the best of my days, or Barbara Kingsolver, whose deft mind creates stories that stick with me years after I’ve read her books but whose masterful style eludes me. Still, I have begun to write with my own voice, a skill confirmed by readers in my critique group. It comes most vividly when I allow it to come most naturally, letting the material dictate my story and the way I present characters and plot.

Aspects of my writing style come to me from my crazy quilt background, not just the way I heard and adopted dialect when I was a kid, but the way I noted how people lived in different parts of the country, how they interacted with each other and conducted their lives. It came from the sights that lured me to explore the outdoors, from the smells that tempted me in the kitchen, from the various cultures across the country, and from my joy or distress over those experiences. I discovered that reading my WIP aloud gave me a sense of what was powerful: short sentences, driving hammer-like against steel nails. Or what was poetic: comparisons between unlikely subjects, forcing them to dance duets. Or what was insightful: drawing conclusions from mystery.

My voice is subjective, wet clay of my thoughts molded by my imagination. I hope my readers will love my voice. I’ll settle for them liking it, but I have to remain true to who I am or my story falls apart like broken pottery. My rhythm and syntax must engage my reader because let’s face it: as original as I try to be, as all writers try to be, there are only so many themes and plots out there. It’s the writer’s voice that seduces the reader. I mewled as an infant. Now I howl, I whisper, I recite, I shout, and I chant. Come read my work, come listen to the sound of my stories. Hear my voice.