Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Meal Nomenclature for the Living

My fellow living beings, I write today to urge the adoption of a new word for lunch and dinner: foodening.

Why do we need a new word, you ask. We need to distinguish ourselves from the undead, and one of the surest ways to do so is use unique words to distinguish our eating habits.

The word lunch has got to go. Lunch rhymes with munch, and that conjures up visions of zombies chomping down on human flesh. So stop saying lunch. Ditto brunch. In addition to the rhyming problem, brunch is a two-faced meal. Is it breakfast or not? Dang thing's more conflicted than a werewolf checking phases of the moon. We don't need hybrid meals, so we definitely don't need words for them.

Dinner must also be abolished from the vocabulary of the living. It's too easy to make the word sound sinister. Try this: say, "Of course, you will stay for dinner" in your best Count Dracula voice. Creepy. "When do we dine?" Same thing. No thank you.

What about the word supper? Forget it. No one 'sups' anymore.

No, the only word that works for the second and third major meals of the day is foodening. It has a delicious heft to it, like 'reckoning' but with more ketchup.

Feast is another acceptable living word. Yeah, a lot of undead use it...feast upon the living, etc...but it has a strong enough party connotation that we should take it back.

You may be wondering why I haven't said anything about breakfast. It's a fine living word that we don't need to change. Most of the undead don't get up early enough to have breakfast, so the word and the hour are ours!

Go forth, glad living, and define your world!

To the foodening!!

- M. M. Wells

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mutant(s) of the Week - Friday, July 8.


Don't worry, I'm sure Jesse Garson of Quantum Duck fame has his creations under control.  There is no chance these creatures are going to run amuck. 

I hope.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No Fracking Way - Part 18. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 18 of a serial story.

My parents came into the apartment with a determined air.

“FYI, the evacuation has been lifted. I've confirmed that your house is still standing,” I informed them.

“Praise God,” my mother said.

Dad nodded, but he clearly had something else on his mind. He looked at me, hard. I nodded. It was time.

“Imogene, get the watch,” Dad said. He looked over at Charlotte then back at me.

“There's no reason for her to leave,” I said. “Charlotte's learned a lot about the supernatural in the last year. I never wanted to involve her in anything, but she's stumbled into the middle of more than one case.”

“You have cases?” Dad asked, surprised. “I have targets, not cases.”

I spread my hands wide. “This is what happens when you combine a law degree with the supernatural.”

“Sometimes she brings her work home with her,” Charlotte complained.

“One ghost, Charlotte. And he's more of a co-worker than a case.” I caught a glimpse of the odd expressions on my parents' faces, and smile weakly.

“We'll flesh out the explanation for that later,” decided Dad. “Let's focus on vampires for now. Your mother tells me you made your first kill years ago. Why did it take you so long to say something, Maryanne?”

“I didn't think you or Mom would believe me. Why didn't you tell me vampire slaying is a family tradition?”

“Each slayer makes their first kill on their own. After that, the oldest in the family line explains the traditions to the new slayer.”

Charlotte gasped. “Wait, you mean this is normal in your family? Traditional, like my family's Christmas Eve parties?”

Dad nodded. “The Wells family has been hunting vampires since Count Dracula seduced and murdered Lucy Westenra. Dracula hypnotized one of the maids in the house as she stood guard. Poor thing never forgave herself for the death that followed. It drove her mad.

“Her brother and father blamed it all on the vampire, and they wanted revenge. They tracked down Van Helsing and begged him to share what he knew. He told them the vampire was dead, but they didn't care. They were convinced that evil like that still walked the earth, and had to be stopped. It took time to persuade Van Helsing, but he in the end he did train them.”

I'd read Bram Stoker's Dracula dozens of times, and never read this. Absola Trotsky, my trainer and good friend, told me that there was more truth than fiction in the book. Who was to say Stoker hadn't left out some truth to fit in the fiction? Maybe he left out the maid. “More detail than I remember in the book,” I informed Dad.

“The play came a little closer to the truth about Miss Wells, but it mixed up the rest,” interjected Mom.

“There's a play?” asked Charlotte. Her eyes were bright with interest.

“Written in the 1920s.”

“So Van Helsing trained my ancestors?” I confirmed.

“Yes. But he didn't train just the Wells family. There are others. One family of slayers for each house of vampires.” Dad smiled at me. “You can guess which house we prefer to hunt,” he said.

I nodded. “House Seara. The House of Dracula.”

“Exactly. And that's why your mother and I agreed to let you do a study abroad program in Romania. We knew that if you were destined to be a slayer, your instincts would take over in the land of Dracula.”

“Thanks for the heads-up,” I said bitterly.

Mom came out of the bedroom. She placed a small black pouch on the table and took a seat.

“So that's it?” asked Charlotte. “You hunt vampires?”

“Isn't that enough?” Dad asked.

My mother sighed. “Sometimes it's too much.” She looked up at me. “Here it is,” she said; “the Wells Family Watch.”

Everyone waited expectantly. I could only stare at the pouch. You would think I'd be anxious to see this mysterious family heirloom, but I wasn't. Instead, every cell in my body was screaming for me to get away from the thing.

“Well? Aren't you going to look at it?” asked Charlotte.

Dad studied me carefully. “Don't take the watch out of the pouch, unless touching it is your strongest desire,” he warned me.

“It's the complete opposite,” I said.

He smiled again and shared a look of relief with Mom. “Glad to hear it. Charlotte, would you do us a favor and take the watch out of the pouch so Maryanne can see it?”

The timepiece looked like it belonged on a wristwatch. There were two prongs sticking out at the top and bottom that could have attached to a band. The face was yellowed with age. I peered at it and noticed it had a second dial on the face where the number six would normally be. The small dial counted seconds, and took the place of a second hand on the main dial. The hour and minute hand were both locked on the number twelve.

“Is it broken?” wondered Charlotte.

“No. But it isn't time for it to work,” replied my Dad.

“Time to work?” murmured my mother.

Dad grinned. “I punned,” he recognized. I rolled my eyes.

“What's the story of the watch?” I pressed.

“This was your great-aunt's watch. The Wells Family Watch before this was a pocket watch, brought over from England. Your great-aunt grabbed the pocket watch when the challenge came. She lost, and the pocket watch disintegrated. The challenge power passed to her wristwatch.”


Dad pointed at the watch and said, “A challenge is a pivotal moment in the battle of good versus evil. The slayer will have one chance to turn the tide of battle. When the challenge moment draws near, the slayer will feel an irresistible urge to touch the watch. As soon as the slayer makes contact the watch begins to function. The slayer has twelve hours to discover the nature of the challenge and make the right choice, from the watch's noon to midnight. Succeed, and the watch winds itself to midnight and stops. Fail, and you die.”

Charlotte dropped the watch on table and took a step away from it.

“My Aunt Melinda lost a challenge, and paid with her life. The power of the challenge timepiece passed into her watch as a reminder to future slayers of the perils of challenge,” said Dad. He stared at the watch.

“I thought great-aunt Melinda died in a plane crash,” I said.

Dad nodded.

“Am I supposed to guess what crashed the plane?”

“Do you need a guess?”

“Not really.”

“I didn't think so.” Dad gestured for Mom to pick up the watch. She slipped in back into the pouch and passed it to him by the pouch's strings.

Dad took the pouch and offered it to me. “Do not touch the watch unless you find it irresistible. Even touching it accidentally when there is no challenge present will start the clock. But with no challenge to give you a way to stop the clock, the watch will become a deathtimer. Twelve hours.”

“Charlotte, take the watch from Dad,” I said. I clasped both my hands behind me.

Dad shook his head. “You can pass it to Charlotte to hold for you, but you must first accept it from me. From oldest living slayer in the family line to the youngest. That is the tradition.”

I took the strings gingerly. Once I felt the weight of the watch dangling from my hand I shoved it at Charlotte.

She took the pouch and stared at me numbly. “What do I do with it?” she whispered.

“Stick it in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box,” I said sharply. Charlotte ran into my bedroom to stash the watch.

“I'm so glad Charlotte knows. It's good to have someone to confide in,” said my mother. “And it's good to have someone without Wells blood in their veins who knows where the watch is. Look what happened with the wildfire, and your father out of town.”

Dad poured himself a fresh cup of coffee and gulped it noisily. “What made you decide to speak up, Maryanne?”

“Roger told me you played for Mom in a poker game against vampires from two houses,” I replied sourly.

“Ah, the competition at the Ol' Ap.” Dad looked at Mom with great tenderness, and she stared back with admiration.

“You were so gallant,” Mom told Dad.

My family is weird.
© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 4, 2011

No Fracking Way - Part 15. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 15 of a serial story. 

When it rains, it pours. That's how the saying goes. Apropos and ironic.

The quickest road to the university goes back my parents' subdivision. It's a straight shot through the city, from one county into the other. Yes, our city is in two different counties. And when you're driving down this road, you can be in one county and stare into another.

I stared into the next county and saw smoke...lots of it.

Quickly, I grabbed the cellphone and hit the quick button for my Dad. “It's Maryanne. How close is the smoke to the house?”

“Hi, sweetie. What smoke?” my Dad asked.

“I'm on the main drag, headed to the university, and I'm looking at a wall of smoke.”

There was a long pause. “You think there's a wildfire near the house,” Dad said slowly.

“Yes. Where are you?”

“I'm out of town. Maryanne, your mom's car is in the shop. She's home alone without a way to get out.”

“Maybe the wildfire isn't that close,” I said hesitantly.

“And if it is?”

I made up my mind in an instant. “I'll drive over to the house and check it out.”

“You won't get in trouble with your boss?”

“I'm out on a case. Anyway, this is about family.”

I could feel Dad's relief over the phone. “Thank you, sweetie. Call your Mom and tell her you're coming.”

“Okay.” Hang up on one parent, and call the other. I was trying to focus on driving carefully while talking on the phone, but I did speed up. There were two colors of smoke coiling up from the ground, white and black. So at least two different things were being consumed in the fire. In my mind's eye, one of the things being consumed was my parents' house.

An anagram for “consumed by fire” is “obscene dim fury.” And me doing anagrams in my head is not a good sign. Clearly, I was about to freak out.

I pulled over and called my mother with my foot firmly pressed against the brake pedal.

“I can't talk!” my mother yelled into the phone. “There's a fire!”

“Mom, it's me! Don't hang up.”

“Maryanne, your father isn't here and I don't have a car.”

“I'm coming.” I hung up the phone, pulled out into traffic and floored it.

There was a barrier set up outside the subdivision. I brought the car to a stop and rolled down the window. An officer stepped over and leaned down.

“Road's closed, ma'am. We're evacuating,” he said.

I tried to look receptive. “Okay. Good to know. My mother's in there, and I'm trying to get her out. How long does she have to pack?”

“Twenty minutes.”

I stared at him. “Twenty minutes. Are you kidding me? It takes her that long to order dinner. There's no way she'll be packed and out of the house in that amount of time.”

The officer stepped back and pointed behind him.

Smoke was rising in the scrub field across the road. As I watched, a plane flew over the field and dropped a load of fire retardant. The red powder fell, half rain and half cloud, in a thick line. But it didn't seem to halt the fire. I could hear the building roar of the fire and smell the charred ashes of plants that would never green again.

“I'll get her out,” I said.

He waved me in.

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 1, 2011

No Fracking Way - Part 13. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 13 o f a serial story. 

After Matt left, Charlotte made me a sandwich for lunch. She insisted on sitting at the table with me and watching me eat it. I guess my 'grief' made her fearful for my appetite.

“Of course, he really shouldn't have said anything to either of us,” Charlotte said as I chewed the last bite. “He just worries about you. We all do.”

I swallowed. “What are you talking about?”

“Matt telling you about Belinda's death.”

“Oh. Oh right.”

Charlotte took my plate. She brushed the crumbs off the table and held the plate near the edge to catch them. Such a neat freak. “Will you go to the funeral? Matt will know the details, I'm sure.”

Funerals. Religious services, churches...not good, I thought. “I'll go to the viewing or the wake or whatever, just to say a few words to her parents,” I decided. Charlotte nodded.

“So, how's your day going?” I asked.

She smiled at me. “You're having a bad day, and you're asking how I'm doing? Sometimes you are really thoughtful, Maryanne. Thank you.”

“Who says I'm having a bad day?”

“You never come home for lunch,” Charlotte pointed out. “And even when you got here, you sat in the car talking business on the phone. And you just found out about the death of a friend.”

“Good points, all.”

“Want to talk about it?”

“No.” I picked up the open can of Dr. Pepper in front of me and took a noisy gulp.

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Fine. To answer your question, I've had a surprisingly busy day. I've been rehearsing all morning.”

She couldn't be in a new play. It was summer. “Rehearsing for what?”

“The guest artist for church this week canceled, and I've been asked to sing the anthem for all three services,” Charlotte informed me.

“That's nice.” I took another gulp of soda.

“Will you come?”

I stared at her over the rim of the can. I set it down slowly. “Too church?”

“Yes, Maryanne. That's where church is held...in the church.”

“I'll think about it,” I lied.

“You haven't been to church since you moved back.”

“You don't know that.”

“I do know it, and so do your parents.”

And apparently they've discussed it with my best friend / roommate. Crap. “I'm exploring my spirituality. It's a very private thing.”

“Since when?”

“Do you mean since when has it been private?”

“No. Since when have you questioned your religion?”

I could feel the blood pulsing around the sfi slave brand in my skin. Around, but not in. Like a part of me was dead and despised the rest for living. “A lot happened in law school,” I explained. “I went through it without having time to process much of it. I moved to the big city right after graduation and started a job at a high-powered firm; more of the same. Always in action, without any time for reflection. Now I'm home. The pace is slower here. Lots of wide open spaces.” I gestured to the vast fields outside the front door. “I've finally got time and space to think.”

“What does any of this have to do with going to church on Sunday?” Charlotte asked.

I frowned. “Can't you understand that I'm not sure which church is right? Just because our parents dragged us to one church when we were kids doesn't make it the only religion.

“All through law school I had people stuffing information down my throat, telling me what to believe. The law firm in the city did the same thing. I need to decide on my own what I believe. And that includes religion,” I finished.

It was the most elaborate lie I had ever told. To my ears it sounded pretty good. Thank you, law school and vampires, for making me such a perfect liar. And damn you all for putting me in a position where I would lie to my best friend.

“I didn't realize,” Charlotte said quietly. “I'm sorry, Maryanne.”

I hate myself, I thought.

“So you'll come to church this Sunday?” Charlotte asked brightly.

Huh? “No, I won't. I thought we just settled this.”

“I'm asking you to come hear me sing. That's not the same thing as asking you to church. This is something I want you to do for me. Please, Maryanne.”

Charlotte Hawthorne gets her own way, always. Sometimes its because she's too dang pretty for her own good, and people like to do things for pretty people. The rest of the time its because she wears her opposition down, bit by bit. I could either agree right then and on my own terms, or find myself dragged later.

“Fine. I'll be there. But I won't sit in that pew all the way up front,” I added quickly. “If I sit up there the pastor will see me and I'll get lectured after the service about my poor attendance.”

“Tell him that you're looking for yourself spiritually.”

“Yeah, that'll go over great,” I said sarcastically. “I'll sit in the balcony.”

“Okay. And after church we can all go out to lunch together.”

“Who is we?” I asked suspiciously.

“You, me, your parents, and my brother Matt.”

“Your brother is going to be there?”

“Yes. Because unlike some people, Matt goes to church on Sunday,” Charlotte said significantly. “And would it kill you to have a little social contact with a member of the opposite sex?”

I thought about Bradley, the pseudo-date we were supposed to go on, and Joe's warnings. “I've already had enough of that this week,” I muttered.

Charlotte leaned forward. “What?”


“You said something.”

“No, I didn't.”

“Well, you muttered something.”

I sighed. “I've been..asked...to go on a sort-of-date.”

Charlotte squealed and clapped her hands. “This is fantastic! You haven't been on a date in forever. When is it? Friday? I'll pick out something for you to wear.” She ran into my bedroom and started tearing through my closet.

Okay, now I'm having a bad day.

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Mutant(s) of the Week - Friday, June 1

And now, a double dose of Mutant magnificance from Jesse Garson's Quantum Duck, of eYE iN tHE hAT productions.