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#FlashFictionFriday: The Marriage Counselor

I shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment… the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”

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I lifted my pen from the notepad and regarded the couple seated across from me. “Would you listen to yourselves? You make marriage sound like hell. It doesn’t have to be that way. You both sabotage it every chance you get.”

“Of course marriage is hell,” said the husband across from me, dressed in a double-breasted, blue suit, giving him an almost nautical appearance. Add a captain’s hat and he’d look like a cast member on The Love Boat. “It’s the absolute worst thing that could possibly have happened to a once studly man like myself. But just like the moth flying into the flame, I had to do it. ‘Don’t go toward the light,’ my friends all said. But did I listen? Hell, no!”

His wife snorted. “Luke always does the exact opposite of what anyone advises him to do. That’s what he gets for being a devil-may-care, I’m-gonna-do-it-my-way sort of a guy. He’s Satan. That makes me Satan’s wife. Of course it’s hell—it comes with the territory. If I can put up with him, he can put up with me.” This week she wore little makeup, and was neatly coiffed with not a hair out of place. In a counterpoint to Luke’s dashing attire, she wore a beige wool suit, cut to just below her modestly crossed knees, with low-heeled pumps. Mrs. Haydes could have been a proper matron from any Protestant congregation, right down to her puritanical sense of morality.

This forty-five minute session of misery began promptly at two o’clock every Thursday. They booked their appointments under the pseudonyms, Lucifer and Persephone Haydes. He preferred to be called Luke, and she preferred to be called Mrs. Haydes. After six months of working with this pair of nut cases, I was beginning to suspect they were playing a game of mess-with-the-counselor.

Last week she’d been dressed like a teenaged skateboarder, and he as an English literature professor. The week before that, she was a hippie, complete with headband and love beads, and he was a cricket player.

Every week it was something different but always opposites. Mrs. Haydes seemed to choose her wardrobe based on what she thought would annoy him most, and he went with the opposite because he really couldn’t do anything else. He had the worst case of oppositional defiant disorder I had ever seen.

“Why are you here?” I had to ask, despite knowing I wouldn’t get an answer. “I no longer understand what you are trying to save here. You never take my advice. And you’ve been aware since the outset that I am a pastor, not a magician. What do you hope to gain from this?” I tapped my foot and looked at the clock. We were only fifteen minutes into this session, and I was already exhausted. “What you really need is a good divorce lawyer, not a counselor. I can tell you every reason why you should stay married, and if you are looking for religious affirmation, I can give you chapter and verse on the apostle Paul’s views regarding marriage. Over the last six months, I have done so repeatedly.  We’ve discussed what you originally saw in each other and what you each want from your relationship, but you’re still at this impasse.  I think that at this stage divorce is the only answer for the two of you.”

Luke snorted. “Don’t bother telling me anything the apostle Paul said—I wrote that book. I was delusional.”

“I think the pastor is right,” said Mrs. Haydes, primly folding her hands. “Divorce is the only option. I’m sure no one would blame me for leaving a devil like you.”

“I’m not giving up half of everything I own,” said Luke, clearly aghast at the notion. “Do you know how many divorce lawyers she has access to? No way am I going to let her off so easily.”

“I come from a broken family,” said Mrs. Haydes, discreetly wiping a tear. “I don’t want our children to grow up in a broken home. But it would be better than Anaheim. It’s a bad environment to raise children in. I want to move back to our palace in Hell. All it needs is a little remodeling.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I had to ask it. “And you think Hell is a good environment to raise kids in?”

“Well, at least there’s no crime in hell. We have the finest law enforcement professionals in the universe.” She glared at me defensively. “Where should I be raising them? Seattle? I’m not exposing my children to a bunch of pot-smoking vegans who ride bicycles and wear socks with sandals.”

Luke brightened up. “I love Seattle—perhaps we should move there. I could get some goats or raise alpacas. They have the best coffee in the world!”

Mrs. Haydes sniffed. “The place is full of vulgar vegetarians. They’re always taking their children to yoga and soccer, where everyone gets a trophy whether they win or lose—it’s just wrong. We will most certainly not be moving to Seattle.”

“Enough,” said Luke. “I’m going vegan and we’re moving to Seattle and that’s final.” He turned to me and missed her small, satisfied smile. “What I really want to talk about is the stint we did on ‘Home Hunters.’ She destroyed me in front of millions of people, and I have to watch it every time they rerun that episode, which they seem to do three times a week.”

“Well dear, it airs on one of your networks, and you make the rules. You’re the one who decides why the television viewing public has 999 channels available to them, and all but three of them at any given time are showing the same reruns of Pawn Shop Heroes, Home Hunters, or Gator Boys.”

From the look on Luke’s face, Mrs. Haydes had the knife and was twisting it for all she was worth.

She continued, “Besides, I said very clearly that I wanted the extremely modern condo, with all the sleek furnishings and the gorgeous terrazzo floors. I said it at least six times. It’s on the videotape of the show.” She smiled at him smugly. “You just had your heart set on that cozy, little pink bungalow with the seventies’ décor and the orange shag carpet. You insisted, and so, of course, I gave in. Once you make up your mind, it’s impossible to change it.”

“See?” Luke exploded. “See how she manipulates me? How could I not go for the house she said she didn’t want? It was like asking the dog not to eat the chocolate you left on the coffee table. I’m Satan! I’m not really an agreeable sort of guy, and she knows exactly how to manipulate me, so now, twice a week, everyone in America gets to watch me buying grandma’s overpriced, decorating nightmare. It’s been voted the most popular episode of all time! She embarrassed me in front of God and the world.” He dropped his head into his hands. “We’re moving to Seattle now, and it’s going to be hell trying to sell that dump in Anaheim. I won’t even be able to rent it out for enough to cover the carrying costs. What a life!”

I knew this session was going nowhere. Their sessions never went anywhere positive because they were masters at circular reasoning. “What is it you want from me? You must have some reason for putting me through this agony every week.”

“I despise him, so I want a divorce, of course,” said Mrs. Haydes, with a smug, little smile. “I’ll be happy with my half of everything, and, of course, alimony. I gave up my career to raise our children, you know, and they will need child support.” She aimed her tight, fundamentalist smile at me. “We won’t waste your time any further.”

“No. No. No!” Luke’s eyes widened and he leaned forward. “No divorce. I adore you, Persey—you’re the love of my life!” He kissed her hand.  “I would be lost without you. Think of the children.”

“I love you too, Luke—I just hate being around you. And now you’re going to be forcing all your hippy, vegetarian food on me.” She turned away from him, primly pursing her lips. “You know how I love steak.”

“No dear, not vegetarian. Vegan. It’s good for you, you’ll love it. Why, I’ve a recipe for smoked tofu that will put a smile on that pretty face in no time.” Luke smiled his most charming. “If there is one thing I understand, it’s how to barbecue. You’ll adore my smoked tofu salad.”

“If you say so, dear. I’ll likely throw up.”

The two rose and left my office. I sighed.

Luke might claim to be Satan, and yes, it was even possible given how contrary he was, but if that was case, Mrs. Haydes ruled in Hell. There was no mistake about that.

I heard my receptionist speaking in the anteroom. Yes, Mrs. Haydes was scheduling another appointment…two o’clock next Thursday.

Satan might move to Seattle, or he might not. Somehow, I knew his new penchant for tofu and coffee wouldn’t get me off the hook.

I shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment… the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”


The Marriage Counselor, by Connie J. Jasperson © 2015-2018, All Rights Reserved, was first published on 06 March 2015, at Edgewise Words Inn. Reprinted by permission.

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, writing

#Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch (reprise)

Merry Christmas from my home to yours. This post first appeared here last year, and several of my friends asked to see it again, so without further ado, live from the Other Side of Seattle, I bring you everyone’s favorite were-dragon, Dan Dragonsworthy, and Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch. No vampires were harmed in the making of this tale.


Vampires have a sick sense of humor, especially Alfredo, although he pretends to be cultured. Just over a year ago he got me banned from here, by switching my orange juice for an orange soda… that dirty trick was more than embarrassing. Covering the cost of the damages to the scorched floor, replacing the furniture, and buying Sylvia Wannamaker a new coat ate into my hoard quite heavily.

Worst of all, I was banned from participating in November’s pool tournament.

However, I’m a were-dragon. We like our revenge served up cold and well calculated.

The anniversary of my disgrace has passed, which would have been the obvious day for me to seek retribution. Most people have forgotten the whole incident.

But not me.

I know I look like any other old has-been reporter—I’m still hanging in there, digging up the political dirt in Seattle with the best of them, and I know I tend to go on and on about the glory days. While that observation isn’t real flattering, it’s true. I drink more orange juice than is good for either of my livers, and I hang out here at the Drunken Sasquatch because I have nowhere else to go.

I don’t discuss it for obvious reasons, but during my years in the Middle East, Dan Dragonsworthy was far more than just a flying battle wagon. I spent a lot of time on covert missions, and one thing I learned was how to be patient, and how to spot the chinks in your opponent’s armor.

I’ve been watching Alfredo since New Year’s Eve when Bloody Bill finally lifted my punishment and allowed me back. I don’t intend to harm the old blood-sucker, but I’m going to give him a taste of his own medicine. I’m a reporter—I know for a fact there are substances vampires shouldn’t ingest, and Alfredo may have forgotten that.

A vampire tripping on chocolate is bad for everyone. I’d never do that, especially to Alfredo. Fortunately, they don’t like the flavor of it. However, they do have a passion for maraschino cherries, which can cause problems for the weaker willed vampire since those fruity morsels of goodness are frequently found wrapped in dark chocolate. With one exception, the smart ones don’t succumb to temptation inside the Drunken Sasquatch, because Bloody Bill won’t tolerate that sort of behavior.

Most importantly for my purposes, vampires can’t tolerate coffee. On tiny amounts, they tend to pee themselves copiously, which the rest of us find hilarious. Vampires get quite huffy when their vampiric dignity is besmirched.

As if MY dignity meant nothing to me.

When you want to impress Alfredo, you buy him a jar of the special maraschino cherries from Italy, made with the best cherry liqueur. He can smell maraschino liqueur from anywhere in the room and, being a vampire, he lacks a conscience.

No maraschino is safe from Alfredo.

The annual Christmas party and the gift exchange drives him mad. Every witch, wizard, or elf has a recipe for that most wonderful of traditional holiday treats, maraschino chocolate cordials. These kind friends are always generous with their gifts to those of us who lack their magical culinary skills.

It’s more than his old vampire heart can stand, and despite having received his own jars of cherries sans-chocolate, he takes incredible risks.

I’ll give Alfredo credit—he’s good. I’ve watched him sneak up behind Grandma and suck the cherries out of a box of cordials without getting his fangs dirty. She suspected it was him, but could never prove it. Fangs do leave holes, but it could have been any vampire.

It takes a brave (or desperate) vampire to mess with Grandma. I’d tell you to ask the Big Bad Wolf, but you can’t.

She’s wearing him.

So, anyway, last week, Grandma and I had a chat. I got on the internet and ordered the finest ingredients. They were delivered the day before yesterday, and she immediately got busy in the kitchen.

This year, one unattended box of cordials under the tree at the Drunken Sasquatch will have cherries in liqueur with unique centers. This particular batch will be vampire safe—no chance of accidental hallucinations here. Grandma created white-chocolate shells filled with Cherry brandy, with a maraschino cherry floating in the middle.

However, each cherry will be filled with a special coffee liqueur .

It will be a joy to watch Alfredo try to deny his culpability in this year’s draining of the maraschinos as the evidence spreads around his feet.

I hope vampire pee isn’t too acidic, although I’ve heard the stench is an excellent Zombie repellent, and no matter how you scrub, it’s impossible to get rid of the odor. Sylvia Wannamaker swears by it in a diluted form as a slug repellent in the garden, as using it there will turn your hydrangeas the brightest blue. They don’t make good cut flowers though, as they smell too bad to keep in the house.

I’m sure a pool of vampire urine won’t be as dangerous for the innocent bystanders as when he caused me to inadvertently belch fire in close quarters.

Come the day after this year’s Christmas party at the Drunken Sasquatch (even though his cash outlay won’t come near matching the damages I had to pay when he slipped me the Mickey) at least Alfredo will be out the cost of a new pair of boots. And if he can’t find a good drycleaner, he’ll be out the cost of replacing that gaudy, lace-trimmed, purple velvet suit he thinks is so stylish.

Grandma and I are both looking forward to this year’s party. Christmas could just become my favorite holiday.


Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch, © 2016-2017 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved. Originally published 02 December 2016, on  Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

Whole and split Cella chocolate-covered cherries, By Evan-Amos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Author’s Dilemma—Milking the Dragon

Milking the Dragon was first published in its proto form here in May of 2012. It was one of the first flash fictions I posted here, and with a little polishing and reshaping, it has become one of my favorites.


Writing fantasy has its drawbacks. For one thing, your creativity must never flag, which is my current dilemma. My work-in-progress is stalled. I keep repeating the same old crisis with slight variations. Readers notice when you milk an idea over and over, no matter how you change the scenery around it. Unfortunately, my head is stuck on dragons, and I’m not sure what to do at this point. It’s a medieval fantasy, and dragons are the medieval thing, right?

I could probably do better without all the interruptions, though.

“Ahem. You there.” Sir Belvedere stands at my elbow, looking over my shoulder. “Are you the person plotting this book?”

Surprised, I nod, wondering where this is going. Usually, my heroes just leave me to the task of writing and don’t feel compelled to harass me.

“Well, the dragon is dead. Did you notice?”

Again, I nod my head. “Yes. I wrote that scene, and if I do say so myself, you were magnificent.” Heroes require obscene amounts of praise, or they become sulky, and Sir Belvedere is no exception.

“Thank you,” he replies, attempting to appear modest and failing. “Well, the thing is, Lady Penelope has thrown herself into wedding preparations.”

“Yes, I did know that,” I reply. “I’m designing the dress.”

“Well, I’ve been booted outside. Apparently, no one needs the groom until the big day so, heh-heh, here I am… bored… looking for something to do.”

I never noticed it before, but my hero is rather unhandsome when he scowls. Note to self: give Sir Belvedere a charming pout to disguise his serious lack of a chin.

Sir Belvedere taps his foot. “Well, really, what sort of author are you? Here we are 32,527 words into your novel, and you’ve already shot the big guns! You wasted the big scene! I mean really, unless this romantic comedy is a novella, you just blew it big time.” Apparently, he also whines.

I’m shocked that this man who owes his very existence to my creative genius should speak to me thusly. “What are you talking about? I have lots of adventures and deeds of daring-do just waiting to leap off the page, and occupy your idle hands.” See? I can give a dirty look too, and I don’t whine about it.

“We-e-ell?”

I despise sarcastic heros.

“You have 70,000 or so words left, and I hope to heck you don’t intend to spend them on wedding preparations.” He looks at me expectantly. “I have nothing to do! Find me a Quest! With a capital ‘Q.’”

By golly the man is right. I have timed my big finale rather poorly, and now I must come up with something new for him to do. Hmm… maybe trolls. No, too reminiscent of Tolkien… I know! A magic ring! Nope, still to Tolkienesque.

I need to reflect on this for a while. I gaze at Sir Belvedere, wondering what I was thinking when I designed this air-headed piece of eye candy in a tin suit. “I can’t work with you staring over my shoulder, so find something to do for a few minutes.” Good Lord, I should have made him less impatient and given him a few more social graces. “Look, why don’t you sit here, and play a little ‘Dragon Age’ for a while?” I park him in front of the TV and give him the game controller.

“What the hell is this?” he looks first at me and then at the object in his hand. “I’m sure you find this odd-looking thing quite entertaining, but what is it?”

Sighing, I show him how to turn it on, and help him set up a character file. For some reason, the palladin wants to play as a dwarf-mage. That takes an hour.

Go figure.

Finally, I can sit down and invent a few more terrifying plot twists to keep this bad boy busy. The trouble is, all I can think of is dragons, but he’s already fought one, and killed it. Reviewers turn vicious when you milk plot twists. Of course, that means he has acquired a certain amount of skill in dragon molesting… heh-heh… but what good is that sort of expertise?

“Ahem.”

I look up, only to see Lady Penelope’s stepmother, Duchess Letitia, standing at my elbow. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry to bother you, but we’re in desperate need of a certain magical ingredient for my special anti-aging cream.” She looks at me expectantly. “My stepdaughter’s wedding is a big deal. As you’re no doubt aware, I’m being forced into retirement after this, as the plot you originally designed said Belvedere and Penelope will assume the throne upon their marriage. You published it on your website, so it’s canon now. That means I’m done, kicked to the curb in the prime of my life.” She dabs the corners of her squinty eyes with a silken handkerchief. Her voice turns crafty. “Since this wedding is doubling as my retirement party, I simply MUST have my beauty cream.”

“And that ingredient is…?” I hope it’s not a complicated thing because now I have two bored characters nagging the hell out of me.

She beams and says, “Dragon’s milk.”

How odd. Another thing I never realized until this moment—Penelope’s stepmother looks positively evil when she smiles like that.

“I’m sure our dear Sir Belvedere can get me some since he’s just sitting around pretending to be a dwarf.”

Duchess Letitia’s malicious smirk offers me no end of possibilities. I consider this for a moment.

I could rewrite the original battle scene, add a bit here, tweak a bit there, and subtract the dead dragon part… ooh! Sir Belvedere could get singed milking the dragon… Lady Penelope would have to rescue herself and then him… but what the hell, he’s a hero, right? Bad days at the office come with the territory.

I look over at Sir Belvedere, who is now bashing my coffee table with the game controller. Okay, this boy definitely needs to get outside and play in the fresh air. “HEY! Sir Belvedere, I have a task for you! Take this bucket and get some dragon’s milk. It’s a matter of life and death.”

Yes, folks, I have decided to milk the dragon.

He looks up, wild-eyed and sweaty. “I will in a minute. I need to get to a place where I can save. Gah! No, no, no! I only have one health potion left!”

That’s another good plot twist. Note to self: have Duchess Letitia volunteer to supervise the stocking of Sir Belvedere’s kit with “medical supplies.”


Credits and Attributions:

The Author’s Dilemma—Milking the Dragon, by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2012-2017 All Rights Reserved. Milking the Dragon was published in its first incarnation on Life in the Realm of Fantasy in May of 2012

Illustration from The Romance of King Arthur (1917). Abridged from Malory’s Morte d’Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. This edition was published in 1920 by Macmillan in New York. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/324_The_Romance_of_King_Arthur.jpg

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#flashfictionfriday: Scrofulous Mudd (reprise)

Scrofulous Mudd was first published here in May of 2016. The story itself was prompted by the first line. Once I had that, the rest of the story followed. 


Scrofulous Mudd was a dirty old man.

By that I mean he was an elderly man who sorted through the leavings in ancient privies and wrote highly boring papers detailing the history of what he uncovered. He kept himself moderately clean, and took baths every Saturday unless an additional effort was required, such as for his mother’s funeral.

I suppose his fascination with filth began with his elegantly disease-ridden name. His was a difficult delivery, and when the elderly volunteer came around asking about the new baby’s name, Maude Mudd was still a little out of it. A scholar of Roman Literature, what she had actually said was “Rogellus.”

The volunteer, a retired nurse of infectious diseases, had misunderstood her mumbled words. Thus, Scrofulous, or Scroffy, as he was known at school, was given a name difficult to live up to.

Young Scroffy never knew his father, nor was any father named on his birth certificate. He assumed his had been a virgin birth, as his mother had never said otherwise and to his knowledge she never had gentlemen callers.

In truth, Maude’s single night of passion with the Professor of Antiquities had occurred after both had consumed far too much sherry at a faculty mixer at the at the beginning of fall semester. Hung-over, embarrassed, and terribly disappointed by sex in general, she immediately accepted the offer of a research position at a University far, far away, in Scotland to be exact.

It wasn’t until several months later that she realized she had a little Mudd in the oven. Things were different in those days, and rather than lose her position at the University for being morally unfit, she padded her chest, making herself appear to be merely stout. She hired a live-in housekeeper and continued with her work until the day of his delivery, which occurred just at the beginning of summer break. When the next term began, a much slimmer Professor Maude Mudd returned to school as if nothing had happened.

via wikimedia commons

Nanny MacDuff cared for young Scroffy as much as she was able, which was not a lot, as she had a pinched heart, but she did do her best by him. Many times Scroffy and his pram were left parked outside the post office, forgotten until Nanny arrived home and suddenly wondered where the washing powder she had tucked in his carriage was.

However, she saw to it he was as clean and well-fed as any other child. Both the infant Scroffy and Maude Mudd’s house were vigorously scrubbed daily, and both shone like polished chrome.

Never having been a maternal woman, Maude felt she had fulfilled her parental obligation, by hiring a nanny. While she did occasionally ask after his health in a general sort of way and whether he was doing well in school, she rarely had any reason to communicate with him.

As a small child, the books in his mother’s library fascinated him, but that room was strictly off limits. Nanny explained that little boys had dirty fingers, and so he should never touch the ancient, irreplaceable tomes. However, he often stood just outside the door, peering in, wondering what mysteries lay concealed within those pages.

Scroffy spent his childhood at boarding school. He did well in primary school and was a good student during his secondary years. It was there he discovered history could be uncovered by digging through the garbage left behind by our ancestors, and it was a science called Archaeology.

Perhaps it was his lifetime of rigorously enforced cleanliness at the hands of Nanny and the various Matrons, or perhaps it was the only rebellion he could think of, but dirt, and what it concealed, attracted him.

He was rarely invited home for holidays, and thus, Maude had nearly forgotten about her son when she was surprised to receive a letter from him thanking her for his education. He also explained he would be taking his newly earned Doctorate in Archaeology to London, and hoped she would understand.

In London, he indulged his passion for filth, digging up medieval midden heaps and privies, sifting the soil, and exclaiming over dubious treasures. Unlike his fellow scientists, he didn’t mind the filthy conditions, and relished a good, big find, feeling as if the night-soil of generations past somehow filled in the blank, far-too-clean slate of his childhood. He also began acquiring his own library of rare books, and manuscripts of historical significance, all of them shining a little light on the dark, dirty realities of medieval life.

It was said by his peers that Scrofulous Mudd knew more about the dark ages than the people who’d actually lived through those times. Had he been told that to his face, he would have agreed.

Forty years passed, during which time Maude Mudd rarely gave any thought to her absent son, although he thought of her at times. At first, he’d hoped for a letter or card, or an invitation to Christmas dinner but eventually gave up believing there was any connection there.

He had a brief, cordial conversation with his mother at Nanny’s funeral. Maude was heartbroken at Nanny’s loss, and terribly concerned she would never find a cleaner with as much respect for the many irreplaceable manuscripts in her library as Nanny had embodied. Scroffy had agreed it would be difficult. On the train back to London, he comforted himself with the thought his old nanny was in floor-polishing heaven.

He was a congenial, if obsessed, guest at faculty dinner parties, and was always willing to talk about his work. The more fastidious guests suspected he was invited as much for shock value as anything else. Conversations would stutter into pained silence when he began describing how the layers of earth and ancient human waste concealed the shards of history, things tossed into the privy or accidentally lost.

The arrival of the main course would inspire the observation that usually he found evidence of what people in various strata of society dined on, in their petrified dung. Then he would casually mention he didn’t watch the telly, as he spent his evenings with his microscope, puzzling over samples.

Time passed, the world changed, and having been born and raised in a life of academia, Scroffy evolved with it. He rose to a high post at his university. He had a team of several young women and men who were as intrigued by the waste and garbage of the past as he was. The BBC made several documentaries on what his work digging up medieval privies had unearthed, and how our ancestors had really lived.

When Scrofulous was sixty-five, he received a letter from Maude’s solicitor informing him of his mother’s passing. He had inherited the house and her library, which, as a child, he was never allowed to touch.

After the funeral, he walked through Maude’s house, looking into rooms that seemed so large when he was a child.

Walking through each room, he saw his mother had found another cleaning person as deeply offended by dust and dirt as Nanny MacDuff. Every room smelled of furniture polish and gleamed in the light shed by windows so clean he had to look twice to see they were there.

The ancient tomes that were his mother’s closest companions seemed as much a mystery to him as she had been.

Old Restored booksA book lay on Maude’s desk, with an envelope sticking out of the top as if marking a place. A pair of clean, white, cotton gloves lay beside it. He opened the book, seeing it was a first edition of a famous treatise on an archaeological dig in Mesopotamia. It was a book which he also had in his collection, albeit his was a later edition. Then he saw the envelope was addressed to him, from his mother.

“I never really knew you, as my work precluded everything else. Nevertheless, I have always been pleased you were successful in your career. But whatever you do, wear gloves when you handle the pages of these books.”

Scroffy reflected that even in death Maude cared more for her books than her son. Yet, the scientist in him realized she must have left something behind for him to dig up about his own history, and he intended to discover it.

He looked down at the book in which he had found the note. The author had been one of his professors, a solitary man obsessed with antiquities, and who only came to life when discussing some of his more obscure finds. He’d learned a great deal from him, finding a kindred spirit when it came to unearthing the past.

He wondered why Maude had chosen that book, when she had been a scholar of Roman literature, and inherently unable to discuss anything else. He sat down suddenly, his knees giving way under the realization she had chosen the only way she knew to tell him something important, something she had withheld from him for all those years.

Nanny’s words came back to him, about little boys having dirty fingers. He was aware of how little had changed, that he was in actuality a dirty old man, due in part to his advanced age, but mostly to his profession. Accordingly, he drew on the white gloves and opened his mother’s desk. He pored through his mother’s papers, physician’s instructions, tax returns, payroll receipts–being who she was, Maude had been unable to dispose of any. She had kept everything, but had filed them as neatly as she had kept her library. He searched and sorted until he came to the year prior to his birth.

The light had begun to fade when he refiled his mothers papers as neatly she had originally, and shut the drawer. For a long while, he sat in his late mother’s study, staring into the gloom, thinking.

Having met both his mother and his father, and found them to be exceptionally solitary people, he concluded that his existence could only be explained as a miracle. And while, as a boy, he’d often wished for a less arduous name to explain to new acquaintances, he was terribly glad his mother hadn’t named him after his father.

If ‘Scrofulous Mudd’ had been the cause of the occasional fist fight at school, he suspected Hamza Pigg Jr. wouldn’t have been any easier.


Scrofulous Mudd © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, All Rights Reserved

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#flashfictionfriday: Hope in the Desert of Plenty

Sunset_in_Dubai_desert_12I dreamed of a green oasis, and woke this evening, feeling disoriented at the normality of our desert home. A little voice in my head kept saying this is wrong, this is not how it’s supposed to be. The voice was mistaken because this is how it is, and what it is.

Grandfather frequently moans that it wasn’t always this way, blaming this and that technology we can no longer use, but it doesn’t matter. Yes, I remember those days, and maybe it’s not supposed to be, but it’s life, and we live with it.

At sunset, I went out to work in the garden and found the wind had blown the muslin sun shield off the dandelions. I replaced it, but don’t know if they were harmed by the direct sunlight. The wind usually rises later in the day, so perhaps they weren’t exposed to too much. I don’t know what will happen if they don’t make it.  I do have plenty of the leaves dried and have saved every seed, but fresh greens are essential, and dandelions are the faithful greens that produce all year round and keep us alive no matter what happens to the other vegetables.

Other plants frequently fail when the temperature reaches the high 120s. With luck, we’ll get one more crop of beans harvested before the rains.

The Himalaya blackberries are covered with small berries and with constant care they might survive the drought. The berries are a staple, lending sweetness to our food and blackberry wine makes life pleasant. They’re also attractive to the wasps that pollinate our crops, so we desperately need them.

But it’s been a hard, hot year, and even the Scotch broom, which we’ve come to depend on for everything from fuel, to building materials and fibers for cloth, is struggling. Hopefully, I’ll have enough water to keep the plantation alive. My fog traps have grown steadily less productive, as they do every year at the peak of the heat, but we’re not going thirsty yet.

Water is an issue, but when is it not? It’s always darkest before the dawn, someone once said. I like to think of it as “driest before the monsoon.” November is coming, and the downpour will begin, those brief weeks of dangerous weather and devastation, fearfully clinging to hope we won’t be washed away in the floods.

But this year, if we make it through the winds, it will be a blessing and not a catastrophe. Yes, it’s too much water all at once, but we’ve adapted. Where we once lived on the ground, we have raised our shacks on tall stilts. Our dandelion, blackberry, and broom plantations are situated on high, raised platforms, with muslin sun filters, as are our goat pens. I know, it seems odd when for eight months out of the year there is no water for many miles, but we’re safe from the wildcats and feral dogs, and they can’t get to our goats. The wild rabbits can’t destroy our farms.

Our village of twenty families has survived when the others failed because we learned how to shield our crops from the both the broiling sun and the punishing downpour with sturdy awnings. This year, the moment the rain stops, we’ll be more than an island of shacks on stilts in a shallow sea. This year we will become an oasis.

Every year until now, we’ve struggled to save that water, as within a month the sea becomes large puddles and within another month we’re left with scant barrels of water and our fog traps to get us by for the rest of the year.

This year we’re prepared for the monsoon, and will be able to save the runoff in a cistern. It’s impossible to labor outside during the day, but we spent our chilly nights building it, covering it with soil to insulate it from the heat, so it resembles a small, perfect hill. We lined the interior with fired ceramic tiles, and made sure every roof is pitched and has gutters to channel the water into it. This last year there was no rest for the wicked, as they say, but it will be worth it. Next year we won’t have to choose between thirst and watering the livestock and plants.

Grandfather is filled with doom and gloom, but not me. Next year will be a year of lush gardens, of cool, sweet blackberry wine at sunrise when the work-night has ended. Next year all our babies may survive.

Next year.

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#flashfictionfriday: October Sky

Louis_Français-CrépusculeIt had been the coldest October I could remember. Rafts of ice floated up and down the lake, blown by the winds, breaking up and re-forming as if dancing a ballet. The leaves had been off the trees since the end of September, almost as if they couldn’t fall fast enough.

It was in the last, quiet hour before sunset when the real beauty of my rustic lake home was revealed to me. The sun drifted its way behind the hills as the wind died off to nothing. The lake became a mirror reflecting the pink-blue-purple-gold of the sky and the deep green of the evergreen forested hills. It was a green so deep that it appeared to be black.

I would sit at my frozen picnic table with a steaming mug of coffee warming my hands, watching the snow geese and the western grebes. Only the voices of the loons and the geese pierced the blanket of peace I had wrapped about myself.

When the colors had faded, and I could no longer feel my fingers, I would go back into the house and stoke up the fire, still in the thrall of the lake’s spell. Then, only when I had absorbed the tranquility of my lake, would I pick up a brush and enter my world of canvas and color.

On the first morning I saw the naked trees stark against the incredible sky, I knew I had to somehow capture the power. Attempt followed attempt and soon my house was littered with the “almosts.” The bones of the trees were right, but the essence of the sky was missing. Each night I worked longer and more feverishly until one day I realized that I had to back off and gain some perspective.

And so it was that in the small hours before dawn one morning I put away the brushes and paints, and covered the canvasses, frustrated by my inability to capture the essence of the lake and the sky that was mirrored in it. Exhausted, I fell into my bed drained and unable to concentrate, yet sleep escaped me. My mind was filled with the loons and the trees and their sky.

At last, knowing it was futile to try to sleep I rose and made myself tea. Wrapping a blanket about myself I walked out to my small sitting room to watch the trees greeting the pale dawn. The warmth and fragrance of the steaming cup of tea made me feel rested as my bed never had, and the familiarity of the ritual soothed away my frustrations.

The serenity of the moment deepened, a sense of sacredness pervaded the garden. Willingly, I gave myself to the experience, allowing the essence of the moment to seep into my soul.

The air felt strange, alive and crystalline, and the trees beckoned to me. I could feel them calling me to come out and greet the sun with them, and bemused, I answered their call. Stepping outside, still wrapped in my blanket, I walked through the frozen grass, until I was in the orchard among the trees on the shore of the lake.

Looking west to the black-forested hills, I held my breath, overcome by the feeling of anticipation that infused me. Something told me I stood on the verge of an event, vast and unfathomable, though what it could be I couldn’t imagine.

Gradually I realized that the ground was vibrating, and had been for a while, shaking as if a giant walked nearby. As I became aware of the vibrations beneath my feet, a deep rumbling began to penetrate my reverie, shattering the peace. The unfamiliar thunders grew louder with every moment, and the birds fell silent as if waiting to see what approached.

Huddling nervously in my blanket, my eyes were drawn to the north and there, emerging from the mist I saw machines—great, huge, monstrous machines I had no words to describe. They came slowly and relentlessly down the middle of my lake. The waters rolled and boiled around them as they passed me by, paying me less attention than they did the trees. The ice floes broke and tipped crazily, riding the waves that danced about the giant treads.

The line of machines continued south, grinding through the swamp, going I knew not where and coming from where I could not imagine. As they came, the waters grew, and waves began splashing at my feet and then my knees. At last, realizing that I was in trouble, I turned and raced for the higher ground and the safety of my house.

Still the waters rose, following me, and still the machines came rolling down from the north.

I closed the door and stood to gaze out the window at the rising waters and the monstrous machines that continued their unrelenting journey south. The waters rose, and my house began swaying, creaking and groaning under the water’s assault.

I fell to my knees praying to the God I didn’t believe in, but he wasn’t listening.  My house shook and rocked, and lifted with the rising water, turning slowly as if to say goodbye to the lake and the hills to the west. Dishes and furniture careened off paintings and walls—my life in small objects passing before my eyes. I looked, disbelieving, through the shattered windows and saw the inconceivable sky spinning around like a child’s top spins.

I covered my head, and screamed my prayer, but the only answer I received was the sure and profound sound of breaking glass and furniture shattering.  At last, when I believed it would never stop, the floor I clung to gave a great lurch and the noise of destruction stuttered into silence, a silence every bit as loud as the din had been.

Throwing back my blanket, determined to get out of the wreckage while I could, I saw the last of the machines going south into the broken swamp. The trail they blazed through the marshland was a great scar that would never heal, and I wept at the sight of it.

I surveyed the damage to my home with stunned eyes. My house was now perched all askew upon a slight rise that had been perhaps fifty feet behind it before. Everything I had ever owned was now in full view of anyone who might choose to make a leisurely visit to my remote home. Every item of clothing, every bit of dish, smashed or whole, everything dangled from the branches of the broken trees, displayed everywhere.

Despite the carnage, the sky hung pink-blue-purple-golden and unchanged while the naked trees made lewd gestures with my most personal of possessions. The ridiculousness of the situation penetrated my shock, and I began laughing, and falling to my knees I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. Eventually, my laughter became sobs, and I howled until I was spent.

The silence was too much, making me intensely aware of my frail mortality. Stepping through the rubble, I gathered my canvasses, paints, and brushes. Miraculously my easel was untouched, and so I did the only thing I could think of.

I painted the pathetic wreck of my house reflected in the perfection of the lake and the hills.

I painted the obscene trees against the incredible sky as they proudly displayed the debris of my life.

And then I painted those awesome machines as they paraded past me, not realizing that I was there and not caring.

When I was done, three paintings leaned against my ruined fireplace. Exhausted, I found my bed and righted it. Crawling into it I finally fell asleep, resting dreamlessly.

When my eyes opened, I was disoriented. I awoke in my bedroom and looking around, I could see no signs of the previous day’s events. In disbelief, I went to the kitchen and found all my kitsch and accumulated knick-knacks still to be there, whole and in their tasteless entirety. There were no broken dishes, no broken furniture.

Awed and amazed at the power of the dream I had just experienced I set about preparing my breakfast. “Idiot,” I muttered, still feeling rather giddy. I wondered what my sister would say when I called to tell her about it.

Making a cup of coffee, I went to sit by the window in the sitting room.

As I passed the fireplace I froze. Three pictures leaned against the uninjured hearth.

One was of obscene trees decorated with my personal possessions, silhouetted against an incredible sky. In the second picture, my sad house perched askew on the hill, broken and sad, framed by the astounding sunset.

And the third picture was a terrifying image of gigantic, grotesque machines tearing up my lake, plowing through the swamp with the waters roiling wildly about the monstrous treads, beneath the sky that had eluded my skills until that night.

Even I had to admit that the power of the paintings was overwhelming.


October Sky © Connie J. Jasperson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Written circa 1992 and originally published On Wattpad, December 2012

Republished on Edgewise Words Inn, April 2015

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Cat, the Jeweler, and the Thief

Barliman gazed at the statue of the cat, and then out the polished window, not seeing the passersby. His eyes turned back to the stylishly dressed thief who stood before him. “It’s a nice enough  statue, well-made. What makes it worth the amount you are asking?”

Scuttle smiled. “It’s more than merely well-made. It’s brilliant. Look at it—have you ever seen such detail rendered in marble?” Thin, with a face slightly resembling that of a pleasant, well-favored weasel, he kept his desperation tightly tamped beneath a business-like demeanor.

Scuttle’s lady, Mari, was so ill that an ordinary herb doctor wouldn’t do. Their landlady believed she had contracted river fever and insisted only a healer from the Church could resolve it. But the Church never healed the poor; only the wealthy could afford a Church Healer. For that reason, Scuttle had to have those coins. He put on his most persuasive voice. “This is a miracle of art, created in marble. The hand of a master freed this cat from the stone.”

“I agree it’s beautiful, but I doubt you came by it honestly. I will be limited in who I can resell it to. Who made it? If I can at least tell a prospective purchaser whose hand created it, I will understand its value, and be better able to get a fair price for it.”

Scuttle snorted. “A fair price…usury has no concept of ‘fair.’ But all right, I’ll tell you who I believe to have made it. Benevolio.” Raising his hand, he forestalled Barliman’s comment. “I have no proof, and there is no maker’s mark on it anywhere.” Picking up the statue he held it to the light, turning it to reveal the remarkable craftsmanship. “Look at the face. Each hair, each whisker, every feature is there in the most minute detail, as if a cat had turned to stone as it sat there. Even soles of the paws which can’t be seen unless one picks the statue up–only Benevolio himself could have created such a masterpiece.”

Silence reigned in the shop as Barliman digested that comment. He pulled his magnifier from his pocket and examined the life-sized statue inch by inch. Scuttle had expected he would, and occupied himself with calculating the value of the objects displayed in the shop. Silver tea services, gold-handled cutlery, delicate jewelry set with precious stones—all rested on dark velvet in glass cases, gleaming in the light cast by wide diamond-paned windows. The fact they were on display meant those items had been purchased from more reputable sources.

The thief had come to Barliman because the jeweler sometimes supplied the wealthier class with things they could acquire nowhere else. Scuttle was a discreet thief, a man who ordinarily only stole on commission. However, the cat had been liberated from the house of a prosperous merchant newly in town, something he had only done because of Mari’s illness. The fact he was there in person to sell the statue indicated to the jeweler that this had been a private matter, making Scuttle’s bargaining position perilous. The jeweler was his only resort–no one else would have given him a copper for the statue, much less what he needed.

What Mari needed.

Barliman set the cat back down on the counter. He replaced the magnifier in the pocket of his vest. “With no maker’s mark, I can’t guarantee authenticity. That will substantially lower the price I can get for it. Therefore, I can’t give six golds coins. Three is my offer–consider, it please. It comes to three months wages for an ordinary man.”

“Five would be less than fair for a statue of this quality, and you would still make an absurd profit. If you can’t offer five, I must withdraw it.” Scuttle had no idea what he would do if Barliman refused. He didn’t dare take the time to go all the way to Westerberg. Three days there and back—Mari would be dead before he returned.

Barliman pursed his lips, deliberating. “Five golds, then.”

Though he felt like dancing, Scuttle comported himself with dignity as the coins were handed over. Barliman placed the cat statue beneath the counter and bowing, the thief departed the shop.

>>><<<

As the door closed behind the thief, the curtain behind the jeweler whisked open. Cardinal Valente stood framed in the doorway. “Good.” The Cardinal’s acidic tones fell like lead in the shop. “Here is your five golds, plus fifteen more for your trouble.”

Barliman handed Valente the heavy, marble statue. “Whose hand created this cat?” he asked. “Even Benevolio could never have done such fine work.”

Instead of answering, the Cardinal set the statue on the counter. “Observe.” He muttered some incomprehensible words, passing his hands over the cat.

Fantasy Desk With Books And Scrolls © Unholyvault | Dreamstime.com

Fantasy Desk With Books And Scrolls © Unholyvault | Dreamstime.com

To Barliman’s surprise, the statue stretched and yawned, then stood up and jumped down. Twining about the Cardinal’s ankles, the cat purred.

“God’s hand created this cat. A spell turned it to stone, and I placed it in the home of my concubine. Then I allowed rumors of its existence to come to Scuttle’s ears.”

Barliman could not conceal his dismay. “Why? Was it to trap him? He has…skills. He’s useful, and not only to me. Imprisoning him would be bad for my business.”

“He is indeed useful. However, a personal matter  interfered with my thief’s ability to gain an artifact I must have. He needs coins to resolve the issue but he is not a man to ask for charity, and I am not known for my generosity. Hence, I devised a way for him to help himself.” The Cardinal laughed, a grating sound. “By the day after tomorrow at the latest, my thief will resume the important task I have set before him, and soon I will have my artifact.” A sly smirk lit his bony features. “And now I know what matters most in the world to my thief, and where to lay my hands on it if I should ever need a bargaining chip. That knowledge alone was worth twenty golds. Never forget this: knowledge is power, Barliman. It’s good to be the one with the knowledge.”


The Cat, the Jeweler, and the Thief © Connie J. Jasperson 2016 All Rights Reserved

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#FlashFictionFriday: Scrofulous Mudd

The following bit of fluff and nonsense was prompted by the first line. Once I had that, the rest of the story sort of followed.


Scrofulous Mudd was a dirty old man.

By that I mean he was an elderly man who sorted through the leavings in ancient privies and wrote highly boring papers detailing the history of what he uncovered. He kept himself moderately clean, and took baths every Saturday unless an additional effort was required, such as for his mother’s funeral.

I suppose his fascination with filth began with his elegantly disease-ridden name. His was a difficult delivery, and when the elderly volunteer came around asking about the new baby’s name, Maude Mudd was still a little out of it. A scholar of Roman Literature, what she had actually said was “Rogellus.”

The volunteer, a retired nurse of infectious diseases, had misunderstood her mumbled words. Thus, Scrofulous, or Scroffy, as he was known at school, was given a name difficult to live up to.

Young Scroffy never knew his father, nor was any father named on his birth certificate. He assumed his had been a virgin birth, as his mother had never said otherwise and to his knowledge she never had gentlemen callers.

In truth, Maude’s single night of passion with the Professor of Antiquities had occurred after both had consumed far too much sherry at a faculty mixer at the at the beginning of fall semester. Hung-over, embarrassed, and terribly disappointed by sex in general, she immediately accepted the offer of a research position at a University far, far away, in Scotland to be exact.

It wasn’t until several months later that she realized she had a little Mudd in the oven. Things were different in those days, and rather than lose her position at the University for being morally unfit, she padded her chest, making herself appear to be merely stout. She hired a live-in housekeeper and continued with her work until the day of his delivery, which occurred just at the beginning of summer break. When the next term began, a much slimmer Professor Maude Mudd returned to school as if nothing had happened.

via wikimedia commons

Nanny MacDuff cared for young Scroffy as much as she was able, which was not a lot, as she had a pinched heart, but she did do her best by him. Many times Scroffy and his pram were left parked outside the post office, forgotten until Nanny arrived home and suddenly wondered where the washing powder she had tucked in his carriage was.

However, she saw to it he was as clean and well-fed as any other child. Both the infant Scroffy and Maude Mudd’s house were vigorously scrubbed daily, and both shone like polished chrome.

Never having been a maternal woman, Maude felt she had fulfilled her parental obligation, by hiring a nanny. While she did occasionally ask after his health in a general sort of way and whether he was doing well in school, she rarely had any reason to communicate with him.

As a small child, the books in his mother’s library fascinated him, but that room was strictly off limits. Nanny explained that little boys had dirty fingers, and so he should never touch the ancient, irreplaceable tomes. However, he often stood just outside the door, peering in, wondering what mysteries lay concealed within those pages.

Scroffy spent his childhood at boarding school. He did well in primary school and was a good student during his secondary years. It was there he discovered history could be uncovered by digging through the garbage left behind by our ancestors, and it was a science called Archaeology.

Perhaps it was his lifetime of rigorously enforced cleanliness at the hands of Nanny and the various Matrons, or perhaps it was the only rebellion he could think of, but dirt, and what it concealed, attracted him.

He was rarely invited home for holidays, and thus, Maude had nearly forgotten about her son when she was surprised to receive a letter from him thanking her for his education. He also explained he would be taking his newly earned Doctorate in Archaeology to London, and hoped she would understand.

In London, he indulged his passion for filth, digging up medieval midden heaps and privies, sifting the soil, and exclaiming over dubious treasures. Unlike his fellow scientists, he didn’t mind the filthy conditions, and relished a good, big find, feeling as if the night-soil of generations past somehow filled in the blank, far-too-clean slate of his childhood. He also began acquiring his own library of rare books, and manuscripts of historical significance, all of them shining a little light on the dark, dirty realities of medieval life.

It was said by his peers that Scrofulous Mudd knew more about the dark ages than the people who’d actually lived through those times. Had he been told that to his face, he would have agreed.

Forty years passed, during which time Maude Mudd rarely gave any thought to her absent son, although he thought of her at times. At first, he’d hoped for a letter or card, or an invitation to Christmas dinner but eventually gave up believing there was any connection there.

He had a brief, cordial conversation with his mother at Nanny’s funeral. Maude was heartbroken at Nanny’s loss, and terribly concerned she would never find a cleaner with as much respect for the many irreplaceable manuscripts in her library as Nanny had embodied. Scroffy had agreed it would be difficult. On the train back to London, he comforted himself with the thought his old nanny was in floor-polishing heaven.

He was a congenial, if obsessed, guest at faculty dinner parties, and was always willing to talk about his work. The more fastidious guests suspected he was invited as much for shock value as anything else. Conversations would stutter into pained silence when he began describing how the layers of earth and ancient human waste concealed the shards of history, things tossed into the privy or accidentally lost.

The arrival of the main course would inspire the observation that usually he found evidence of what people in various strata of society dined on, in their petrified dung. Then he would casually mention he didn’t watch the telly, as he spent his evenings with his microscope, puzzling over samples.

Time passed, the world changed, and having been born and raised in a life of academia, Scroffy evolved with it. He rose to a high post at his university. He had a team of several young women and men who were as intrigued by the waste and garbage of the past as he was. The BBC made several documentaries on what his work digging up medieval privies had unearthed, and how our ancestors had really lived.

When Scrofulous was sixty-five, he received a letter from Maude’s solicitor informing him of his mother’s passing. He had inherited the house and her library, which, as a child, he was never allowed to touch.

After the funeral, he walked through Maude’s house, looking into rooms that seemed so large when he was a child.

Walking through each room, he saw his mother had found another cleaning person as deeply offended by dust and dirt as Nanny MacDuff. Every room smelled of furniture polish and gleamed in the light shed by windows so clean he had to look twice to see they were there.

The ancient tomes that were his mother’s closest companions seemed as much a mystery to him as she had been.

Old Restored booksA book lay on Maude’s desk, with an envelope sticking out of the top as if marking a place. A pair of clean, white, cotton gloves lay beside it. He opened the book, seeing it was a first edition of a famous treatise on an archaeological dig in Mesopotamia. It was a book which he also had in his collection, albeit his was a later edition. Then he saw the envelope was addressed to him, from his mother.

“I never really knew you, as my work precluded everything else. Nevertheless, I have always been pleased you were successful in your career. But whatever you do, wear gloves when you handle the pages of these books.”

Scroffy reflected that even in death Maude cared more for her books than her son. Yet, the scientist in him realized she must have left something behind for him to dig up about his own history, and he intended to discover it.

He looked down at the book in which he had found the note. The author had been one of his professors, a solitary man obsessed with antiquities, and who only came to life when discussing some of his more obscure finds. He’d learned a great deal from him, finding a kindred spirit when it came to unearthing the past.

He wondered why Maude had chosen that book, when she had been a scholar of Roman literature, and inherently unable to discuss anything else. He sat down suddenly, his knees giving way under the realization she had chosen the only way she knew to tell him something important, something she had withheld from him for all those years.

Nanny’s words came back to him, about little boys having dirty fingers. He was aware of how little had changed, that he was in actuality a dirty old man, due in part to his advanced age, but mostly to his profession. Accordingly, he drew on the white gloves and opened his mother’s desk. He pored through his mother’s papers, physician’s instructions, tax returns, payroll receipts–being who she was, Maude had been unable to dispose of any. She had kept everything, but had filed them as neatly as she had kept her library. He searched and sorted until he came to the year prior to his birth.

The light had begun to fade when he refiled his mothers papers as neatly she had originally, and shut the drawer. For a long while, he sat in his late mother’s study, staring into the gloom, thinking.

Having met both his mother and his father, and found them to be exceptionally solitary people, he concluded that his existence could only be explained as a miracle. And while, as a boy, he’d often wished for a less arduous name to explain to new acquaintances, he was terribly glad his mother hadn’t named him after his father.

If ‘Scrofulous Mudd’ had been the cause of the occasional fist fight at school, he suspected Hamza Pigg Jr. wouldn’t have been any easier.


Scrofulous Mudd © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, All Rights Reserved

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#FlashFictionFriday: Edna’s Garden

Fairies Looking Through A Gothic Arch John Anster Fitzgerald

Fairies Looking Through A Gothic Arch, John Anster Fitzgerald

This morning I noticed there were fairies in the back garden.

I was a little surprised. At first, I thought they were a side effect of my medication. But hallucinations were not listed on any of the labels, which, by the way, I had to read with the magnifier. I decided they weren’t, and several hours later they were still there.

At first, I couldn’t see them well, and wasn’t sure if they were bugs or birds, but no…when I looked closer with my magnifier, I could see they were definitely fairies.

It seems odd to me, to think that after all these years of wishing for a fairytale ending in my life, I should finally have a garden full of fairies. But life is what it is, and sometimes the things you want elude you until you no longer need them.

When I had lunch, they had progressed to building a rather large bower in the yew hedge. I was glad to see that because it meant they were staying, and they’re a lot more interesting to watch than birds.

They ignored me as they went about their business, rather like the rest of the world, probably just seeing a really old lady, nothing to worry or fret about. I was concerned that Rufus would pester them, but they didn’t interest him. He is the laziest cat, but he does sometimes work up the energy to bother the birds.

I thought about sharing the information with Violet, as they’re something she would enjoy, but she worries about me too much. If I were to call her up and say, “Violet, guess what! Fairies are nesting in the back yard,” she would say, “That’s nice, Edna. Have you a unicorn now too? Perhaps you should stop driving.” She would immediately call my daughter.

That would be bad.

Violet should talk…she’s as bad off as me or worse. But I think we’re doing quite well, for a couple of old crackpots. Funny how ninety-two doesn’t feel as old when you’re wearing that birthday hat as it seemed when we were young and whining about turning sixty-two.

So now I have a garden full of fairies. I wonder if they eat the same sort of things the birds like? Maybe I should get some of that fancy wild-bird food with all the sunflower seeds. And I should probably fill the birdbath.

Then I’ll give Violet a call and invite her over for coffee on the back porch, just to see if she notices anything out of the ordinary. If she does, I’ll pretend like I don’t see them.

She’s always moaning about how nothing exciting ever happens in this town, so this should be good for a laugh.


“Edna’s Garden” © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

Click here to read part 2

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#flashfictionfriday: The Iron Dragon

Earl Aeddan ap Rhydderch turned his gaze from the mist to the strange iron road that emerged from it, and then to where the road entered the cave. “Tell me again what happened.”

The peasant who had guided the earl and his men said, “The mist, the iron road, and the cave appeared yesterday, sir. We saw the beast entering its lair, and a fearful thing it is, too. No one dares to enter, but the monster can be heard in there. It’s a most dreadful dragon—we found the carcass of a large wolf that had been torn to shreds, trampled until it was nigh unrecognizable.”

The man’s companion said, “Everyone knows wolves are Satan’s hounds. It must have angered its hellish master. We found it lying cast to one side of the Devil’s Road.”

Aeddan looked back to the iron road, seeing where it emerged from the mist. He walked to the low-hanging fog bank, seeing that the road vanished just after it entered the mist, leaving no marks upon the soil. He turned and strode back to the peasants. “I agree it’s the work of the Devil, but why does the Lord of Hell require an iron road that leads nowhere?”

A faint grumbling sounded beneath Aeddan’s feet. “A light! Look to the mist!” shouted one of his men.

Turning, Aeddan saw a white glow forming in the fog, as if a large lamp approached from a great distance. “That’s no ordinary lantern. Mount up!” Moving quickly, he leaped into his saddle and turned his steed to face the demon. He freed his lance from its holster and settled it in the arret attached to his breastplate under his right arm. His fingers fumbled as he struggled to fasten the grapper, but at last it held firm. The peasants, knowing they were no match for whatever approached, had run for shelter up the hill.

The light deep within the fog grew and strengthened, as did the rumbling noise.  The light waxed brilliant and the earth shuddered as if beneath the pounding of a thousand hooves. Smoke filled the night air, reeking of the sulfurous Abyss, combined with a howling as cacophonous as the shrieks of all the damned in Hell.

What emerged from the mist was impossible—an Iron Dragon of immense height and girth.

“Courage men! For God and King Gruffydd!” His bowels had turned to water, but Aeddan and his men stood firm in the face of the demon, sure that death would be their reward.

Dragon-Linda_BlackWin24_Jansson

Dragon, Linda Jansson PD/CC via Wikimedia Commons

The fiery light emanating from the burning maw lit the night, and the ground shook as the beast roared and raced ever closer. As the beast sped toward him, a burning wind blowing straight out of Hell knocked Aeddan and his horse to the side of the Devils Road, and using that opportunity, the Iron Dragon thundered past him, heading into its lair.

Stunned, Aeddan scrambled to his feet, staring as the length of the beast passed him by, the body taller than a house and long, like an unimaginably giant, demonic centipede. The length of the beast was incomprehensible, lit  by the fire within and glowing with row upon row of openings. The faces of the damned, souls who’d been consumed by the ravening beast peered out as they flashed by. Sparks flew from its many hooves.

Terrified his men would be crushed by the immense creature he shouted for them to back off, his voice drowned by the din.

Abruptly it was gone, vanished inside its lair. In the sudden, deafening silence, Aeddan wondered how such a thing could possibly have fit into the cave. Yet it had done so, and other than the stench of its passing, there was no sign of it.

He remounted and settled his lance in the holster beside his stirrup, then turned to his men. “Rouse the village. We must seal it’s lair with stone and mortar. We may not be able to kill it, but at least, we can stop it from marauding and decimating the countryside.”

>>><<<

Mist shrouded the small valley just outside of the village of Pencader. Engine Driver Owen Pendergrass looked at his pocketwatch and opened the logbook, noting the time and that they had just departed Pencader. He said to the fireman, Colin Jones, “We should be approaching the tunnel, though it’s hard to tell in this mist. We’re making good time despite the fog. We’ll be in Carmarthen on schedule.”

“Sir! Look just ahead! What…?” Colin pointed ahead.

A group of mounted men dressed like medieval knights, complete with lances lowered as if prepared to joust, appeared out of the mist, attempting to block their path. “God in heaven—what next!” Blowing the whistle to scare them off the tracks, Owen pulled the brake cord but there was no way the train could stop soon enough. In no time at all, the train was upon the knights, scattering them and blowing past. Owen looked out the window, to see if they’d survived but they were gone as if they’d never been.

“Vanished,” said Colin. “Like the ghosts when we passed through here yesterday.”

Hiding his trembling hands, Owen shook his head. “It was a close call, but no harm was done. We’ll not be mentioning this to the authorities, eh? Not after the way our report was received yesterday. It’s a haunted valley, but it’ll do us no good to mention it to anyone important.”

Colin agreed, and turned back to fueling his fire, shoveling coal as if he could work the fear out of his mind.

The connecting door opened and Harrison, the chief steward, entered. Pendergrass told him the same thing, and the old man agreed. “We got in enough trouble at the yard yesterday for mentioning the ghosts. I’ll go soothe the passengers.”

“Tell them it was just the mist and the dark playing tricks on their eyes.” Owen shook his head and glanced out the window, seeing they had emerged from the tunnel into a clear, cold evening and would soon be at the next stop, the village of Llanpumpsaint. “Playing tricks indeed.”


“The Iron Dragon” © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

For more stories involving what may or may not be dragons, check out today’s post by Chuck Wendig–he has posted a writing challenge and over the next two weeks the links to many great stories will be filling the comment section:

Terrible Minds/Chuck Wendig: Flash Fiction Challenge: the Dragon

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Dragons, writing