#FridayThoughts: #HappyNewYear! Once again, “In with the Old”

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It’s that time again, which I’m really struggling to believe. It’s been a rough year for me and so many other people, but on we bravely go into the next one, with the eternal hope that it holds wonderful, happy, good, healthy things. Thank you for spending your time with me this year.

It’s funny, once again the numbers in the story don’t match, but hey, it’s fiction, right?

And, in what is now firmly a tradition, here is a short story from my collection, Better Living Through Gravy and Other Oddities:

In with the Old

“It’s nothing personal,” she said as kindly as she could muster, “it’s just time.”

“But I’m not nearly as used up as they said I would be,” the other one said, “not nearly at all. I’m not wrinkly, or old – I’m kind of in prime time.” She gave herself an once-over, careful not to break her bond with the contraption behind her.

“Unfortunately, we really need the machine.” She sighed and tapped her pen on her clipboard. “We only have a few more hours.”

“We?” said the woman in the machine. “We only have a few more hours? You’re going to install that thing,” she gestured with her head toward the giggling baby making faces at the man in the white coat at the other end of the room, “and go on with your routine. You think don’t have it down by now? Daily dial turnings, just one click. Then you, with that pretend-serious look, yanking that lever. You think I didn’t notice you enjoy those lever pulls? Well I did. And you do.”

“Now come on, Wanda, there’s no need to be this way. You can go out with dignity.” She shot a look across the room to her coworker. He was too enthralled with the baby to get her message for a little help.

“What am I supposed to do now? I was huge, I was everything.”

“You’re sounding like a bad movie.”

“They don’t tell you what you’re supposed to do when it’s over.” She relaxed her grip on the copper handles inside her chamber, her visible gears going slightly slack down her arm toward her shoulder, the teeth just a bit looser. The worker took that as a good sign. She quickly tamped down her encouragement, in case Wanda saw.

“There are always retrospectives,” the woman said. “You know, ‘Best ofs.’ And there’s still plenty to do in the first few months, while people are getting adjusted. You know, rent checks, 18-month calendars, that kind of thing.”

“And then what?” said Wanda. “Then what happens? Where do I go? What do I do?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” the woman said, finally able to return to her script. “You see, we have this lovely facility, all of you go there, you know, when you’re finished. Here,” she slid a glossy folded paper from beneath the clip of her board and held it toward Wanda. “There’s even a brochure.”

The pictures were bright and multicolored, with others sitting and laughing, eating, strolling by the water, the patina of their clockwork innards glinting warmly in the setting sun. It didn’t look too bad. She nearly let go of the handle to take the brochure, to open it, to see what kind of crafts there were, as promised on the cover, when she remembered.

“No,” she said.

“Wanda,” said the woman, her tone sharpening, gaining hardness around the edges, “I’m afraid you haven’t got a choice. It’s time.”

She shook her head as much as the chamber allowed, which wasn’t much. “I’m not going.”

“But what are we supposed to do with him?” She pointed her pen at the baby, who turned, stared at them and burst into a full beam, his tiny gears engaging as he reached his arms toward Wanda. “It’s his turn now. Don’t you want to give him his turn?”

Wanda closed her eyes. It wasn’t fair, she thought. It went by so quickly, her lifetime of usefulness, her purpose, and now she was supposed to retire off with the rest of them, with some anonymous body of water and a dining hall and crafts. Though crafts are nice. But still, this was her machine, it was hers.

The worker had moved away, but she could hear her talking softly, her sentences interspersed with the cluck of her two-way handheld.

“No, no, I’m telling you it didn’t work.” Something unintelligible garbled through from the other side. “No. Clamped on, completely. Like a vice.” Again, soft electronic murmuring. “It’s like Oh-Three all over again.” More garble. “What? She can’t hear me. I’m away from the chamber.” Indistinct chatter. “Fine, fine, Trinity. Like Trinity all over again.” She waited for the response. “That would probably be best.” After a long interlude of murmur, the handheld fell silent.

“Umm, Wanda?” said the worker several minutes later, the ice in her voice retreating. “I’d like you to meet someone.”

“Not interested,” she said, her eyes still closed. She knew the truth, the worker had practically said so herself, with the conversation she thought Wanda couldn’t hear. She was only a number to those people. Oh-Three indeed. “What do you call me when you’re out of the lab?” she said, her eyes still completely shut. “When you’re talking to your buddy over there at lunch or wherever it is you go?”

“Wanda,” the woman said, her discomfort obvious even to Wanda and her closed eyes.

“What do you call me? One-One?”

“Wanda, really, there’s someone here you should meet-“

“Or Eleven? Do you call me Eleven? A number to you, that’s what I am after all this time.”

“I thought she couldn’t hear,” she said to someone, though Wanda wasn’t going to bother to open her eyes to see who it was. “I swear, I wouldn’t have used the technical–“

“Technical?” said another voice, a new voice, a male voice. “Technical? Really? Is that how you’re describing it?”

“Well-“

“Her name is Wanda, you know,” he said, his tone both relaxed and oddly engaging despite the rebuke. Wanda couldn’t help herself, she opened her eyes a crack.

“I’m Oden,” he said with a half-smile. “I’d shake your hand, but I understand your position. Obviously,” he said. His gears were slightly rainbowed with a healthy dose of age. Wanda thought they made him look distinguished.

“Oden,” she said. “So I?”

“Replaced me, yes.” He took a step toward the chamber, careful to keep a distance. “Flip of the switch and it was me in there. And you over there,” he said, and smiled at the baby, a real smile, not a put-on one.

“What did you do?”

“I went,” he said. “It was time. It’s how it works, you know.”

“I know,” she said, looking at her feet, so comfortable in the only spot they’d ever known. She glanced up and met his gaze. “I know,” she said again.

“The place really looks like the brochure,” he said, offering her his hand to help her to step out. She considered it, but didn’t lessen her grip on the handle.

“What about the crafts?”

He took the hand he’d been holding out and dug into his pocket, his gears gliding smoothly along. He pulled out a wallet. “I made this,” he said. “Stitched it myself.” She took in the uneven stitches and frowned. “I’m not a very good crafter,” he added quickly, “but they are fun to try.”

“Hmm,” said Wanda. She glanced at the worker who looked at the clock on the wall and back at Wanda, her face full of cautious hope. Oden set out his hand again.

“The sunsets are every bit as pretty,” he said, “and the best part is there are no more dials, no more levers. No more chamber.”

“But I like the chamber,” she said, scooting back to be further back within it.

“You like the chamber,” he said, “because all you know is the chamber. Take a leap.”

“No, no,” said the worker, “that’s him.” She pointed at the baby.

“You understand you’re not helping the situation?” Oden asked her.

“I do, yes, realize that now.”

“So what do you say, Wanda?”

She gave her chamber and the lab a final look over. She could probably make a better wallet. She could certainly make a better wallet. Maybe they’ll have pottery. Slowly, she released first her right hand and then her left, and placed it in Oden’s outstretched palm. The machine beeped behind her while the worker anxiously watched the clock, the man with the baby leaning, ready to place him.

She stepped out of the machine.

The woman grasped a crank on the side of the box and turned it furiously so that the chamber got smaller and smaller and the arms shorter and shorter. The man, watching the clock rather than her or the baby, placed the baby where she had been moments before but where she would never fit now. The baby giggled.

Without looking back, Wanda took Oden’s arm, and together, they headed toward the door. They reached it and disappeared into the flash of sudden white light.

The worker leaned against the machine, her hands shaking. “Happy New Year, everyone,” she said weakly.


Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#ThursdayThoughts #ThursdayTen (photo prompt): Tale

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Today’s ten word photo prompt, aka #ThursdayTen, is another collaboration with Dall-E, the AI drawing software. In this case, the style was that of a fairytale, and I think that it works.

I know there is a great deal of controversy about using AI art images, and I’m not sure what I think about it. I don’t think I’d use it to replace art that I’d need an artist to create, but that said I have some very inspirational images among all of the weirdness I got playing with it this month.

So who knows. It’s a tool that’s here and it’s staying and we have to figure out how it is used going forward.

But I digress.

Using the image above write a ten word story. EXACTLY ten words.

But you knew that.

Ready? Here’s mine:

The Widas Touch, he soon found, was deliciously wheat based.

#WednesdayWisdom: Winners sometimes quit.

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This morning I selected a dance workout on YouTube, wanting something a little different. And let me tell you, this thing went from 0 to 1000 in the first five minutes. After a bit, I looked at my watch thinking it must be halfway done.

I was only 8 minutes in.

Still, I didn’t want to give up. I pressed on. And on. And on. I wondered if, for the rest of my life, I’d just be doing that dance video. I modified. I took advantage of the ads to catch my breath or at least attempt to do so.

As a side note, I do cardio most days a week, often 5 days. This was a whole other level of intensity.

Through it all, though, I told myself not to stop. I needed to finish it. I needed to push through.

When it finally, finally, mercifully finished, it took a while for my heartrate to come down and it really dawned on me that I could have pushed myself into injury or even worse. How do I feel now, hours later?

Like I took it too far, I think.

We absorb all these messages about quitting and stopping and not finishing, and they start to become a measure of worth, a measure of our very value. And you know what?

They aren’t.

Sometimes the smart thing is to quit. Sometimes the best way to take care of yourself is to quit.

It comes in many forms and covers all of life’s events. But I’m not sure where this whole idea that misery is the stuff that makes us came from. Probably from the people who profit from our misery, or profit when we are distracted by it.

So if you needed permission, here it is.

If you needed a sign, here it is.

Winners sometimes quit.

Have a great Wednesday.

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#TuesdayThoughts: The smallest adjustments.

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First #ChatTuesday, “Broken wheel holidays.” And now Tuesday.

It’s very sunny today, and a little less cold which is a weird way to say it when you think that it means the temperature is a higher number. Or maybe I’m thinking about it too much.

I do that.

But at least it’s not below zero, so that’s a plus. Get it?

A plus?

I’m weird today. I mean weirder than usual. I got a decent amount of sleep, that must be why.

Anyway yesterday I set out to clean out the fridge and make granola and I am pleased to tell you I did both. I mean I took out the shelves and the glass from the shelves and the drawers and the effort was worth it, in the end.

The granola, on the other hand, is very easy, you just mix the stuff together in a bowl and then bake it on parchment (key: parchment), stirring once halfway through. And it’s so good in my yogurt.

Since I took out that shelf in my cabinet with my baking pans, it’s made it so much easier. I made caramel nut bars and a very simple fudge, and it was nothing to find the pans I needed, versus when they were all stacked. For the granola, big baking pan out, big baking pan in, all without removing other pans to get to them.

The smallest adjustments can make a difference. And you don’t have to do them all at once. One thing at a time. They add up.

Anyway that’s it for me today. Have a wonderful Tuesday.

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#MondayThoughts: Unprompted.

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No prompts today, only a reminder to start typing. “Get on with it,” the interface is telling me.

I will. Eventually.

It’s gray again and cold again but not nearly as cold as it’s been. I’m on tea now after my coffee.

Wildly exciting tasks fill my agenda today, including cleaning the fridge (oh fun!) and making granola which actually is more fun and ridiculously easy, believe it or not. But these things don’t do themselves.

Usually.

I slept poorly with a whole lot of vivid dreams, which I remember only in vignettes, and one batch of which I don’t remember at all. If only there was a way to order your brain to relax in magical beauty. I mean they’re dreams.

Anything is possible.

Instead I got the kind that, even though you can’t remember why, you’re not terribly eager to go back to sleep. Which is fine, it’s a quiet part of the year at least.

Anyway, that’s it for me on this frosty Monday. Have a great day and a wonderful start to your week.

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#FridayThoughts: Freezing

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First, our #TVWatch, “Redemption in the Big Easy.” And now Friday.

It’s really, really really cold today, bone-chillingly cold, and though I’m cozied away inside I can still feel it radiating through the windows.

It’s that cold.

I suppose living in Chicago it shouldn’t shock me that much but it’s not only here. States that aren’t supposed to see subzero temps are seeing them today. I’m telling you the planet is mad at us.

Very.

Instead of promptly starting this post, I found myself in a Youtube tunnel of dough. One video offered different things you can do with bread dough, and that was pretty interesting; the other promised pastries that people thought had come from a bakery.

Those were less interesting. More work than I think the eventual flavor would yield.

But then again, I like things that don’t require too many steps.

Baking does seem like the right kind of thing to do on a day like today, with the wind howling and the skies a monochromatic gray. There’s a good chance I’ll be making something at some point.

Anyway that’s it for me this week. Have a WARM Friday, a wonderful weekend and happy holidays whatever you may or may not be celebrating.

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#ThursdayThoughts ten word photo prompt: Wiped.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It’s THURSDAY! Which means it’s time for our #ThursdayTen!

Using the image above as a prompt, write a ten word story! EXACTLY ten words.

A lot of us will be snowed in so what else is there to do?!

Well probably a lot and probably a lot aren’t going to be snowed in, but still.

ANYWAY, ready?

Here’s mine:

87 yule logs later, Annie was finally finished. Christmas complete.

#WednesdayWisdom: Don’t pretend to be anything else.

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It’s Wednesday, and the sky is gray, getting ready for the big storm, I imagine. And then frigid temps.

Fun ahead.

Today I am tired, my brain is tired, my thoughts are tired, and maybe it’s the weather, and maybe it’s the year ending, and maybe it’s just because I’m tired.

All three are possible.

But I’m not going to pretend to be anything else. Not today. Today I am tired and while I am tired I will be tired. I won’t try to make myself untired.

We’ll see how that goes.

We spend so much time pretending to be things we aren’t. Pretending to feel things we don’t, giving impressions of moods that we’re not in.

What happens if we stop?

What if we don’t pretend to be anything else?

Today. This hour. This minute.

You can go back any time you like, but try it on for size.

And see how it feels.

Have a great Wednesday.

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#TuesdayThoughts: Just get it done.

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First, #ChatTuesday, “Things we don’t understand.” And now Tuesday.

The sky is looking pretty ominous right now. We’re not supposed to get snow until Thursday, something I had no idea about until my friend Sherry (HI!) warned me over on Twitter. I blithely said “oh I don’t think so” and then looked at the forecast.

Dramatic for sure.

And now it looks like it wants to get going early. I am not on board.

Yet somehow I don’t think the weather is going to listen to me. Weird, right?

So obstinate.

The last several days I’ve had things to do and at some point I realized if I tried to do them perfectly, they’d never be done. Perfection is a very cruel siren, always beckoning.

Always bashing you against the rocks.

That’s my gift to you this week, if you need outside permission. Don’t worry about perfection.

Just get it done.

And with that, this post is now done. Have a great Tuesday.

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.

#MondayThoughts: Getting going.

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Somehow it’s Monday again, with fewer and fewer Mondays left in the year. That’s a weird thought.

I think it’s sunny though it may be cloudy, and I’m not feeling great with another bug…the only masked person in a sea of the unmasked, I keep picking them up.

Doubt it’s COVID but I’ll test anyway.

I’m still in that phase of much to do that I am not in the mood to get done, and I’ve got to say I like it better when things aren’t like that.

Which is a super unique perspective, I know.

I’m sure I’m the only person in the world to feel that way, and everyone else loves getting all things done, right?

Right.

ESPECIALLY on a Monday. Mondays are for sure the crowd favorite day of the week, right?

Right.

OK that one was difficult to keep a straight face. Anyway, I should get going on the stuff I need to get going on, and you should get going on the stuff you need to get going on and we’ll meet back here tomorrow, stuff done.

Have a great Monday!

Check out  my full-length novels: 
Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   
Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 
Her Cousin Much Removed
The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.
And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s quick and weird and FREE!
Peruse Montraps Publishing
See what I’m writing on Medium.