Clarifying Shampoo

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Betsy over at Parenting is Funny was recently musing over a bottle of clarifying shampoo (yes, it’s a real thing). Her blog is a hoot, and I encourage you to visit. Her post popped a story into my head. I hope you enjoy.

Clarifying Shampoo

Clara was born a Libra. Not the normal kind of Libra with a smattering of other signs in her chart to balance her scales. She was an anomaly, an astrological case study, solid Libra from her Sun all the way across the galaxy to Pluto. She vacillated like a seesaw and simple decisions were intolerable with all the second-guessing.

Worst of all, she was the epitome of annoying. Potential friends stopped calling after a week, and romantic relationships unraveled before they had a chance to knit. She frustrated counselors. Even her mother had stopped answering the phone.

Clara had to do something, and the only thing she hadn’t tried was consulting a psychic.

Madam Bea’s Fabulous Fortunes occupied the basement below a hair salon. She specialized in Tarot, but the handmade poster on her sandwich-board advertised results, and that was exactly what Clara needed. Results.

At the bottom of the concrete steps, a peeling door led into a tight space cordoned off by red sheets tacked to the ceiling. A disorienting combination of odors—garlic, mildew, and sandalwood—assaulted Clara’s nose. A card table separated two folding chairs, complete with a sparkly glass ball on a plastic stand.

Madam Bea, a beak-nosed woman with painted eyebrows, sat at the table finishing off a pizza. She waved to the unoccupied chair while munching on the crust, and then tossed the pizza box behind the makeshift curtains.

Clearly, Clara had made another mistake, but she accepted the seat and laid out the saga of her peculiar horoscope complete with runny mascara—another miscalculation. She should have applied the waterproof variety.

The fortune teller listened intently while picking her teeth with a ruby fingernail. “I have joost the thing,” she said and disappeared behind the sheets. When she returned, she placed a half-empty bottle of shampoo on the table.

“Shampoo?” Clara frowned.

“Clarifying champoo.” Madam Bea’s eyebrows arched higher than already arched. “Trust me. I give you discount. That be fifty dollars.”

Clara forked over the cash with a sigh and drove home. Before dropping into bed, she washed her hair.

In the morning, she shuffled to her closet and ruminated over what to wear. Slacks or a skirt? Maybe a dress. Or slacks in case the office is cold. But what if it’s warm? A dress with a sweater? Although a skirt…

The lavender suit.

Clara froze. The whispered voice seemed to originate from somewhere above her head. She glanced up and then peeked over her shoulder. Alone. Was the voice real? Inside her head? She backed up and sat on the edge of her bed. Should she make another counseling appointment?

Ivory blouse and low pumps. Pearl studs but skip the necklace.

Clara jolted up with a yelp. She rifled through her closet and wriggled into the lavender suit. Studs in her ears, she dashed from her apartment to the sidewalk, the low heels a wise choice with all the running.

She inhaled a lungful of sunshine to calm her racing heart, shoved the morning’s weirdness from her thoughts, and wavered over whether to walk to work or take the bus. Or drive. Or walk. What if she got blisters? And then there was city parking…

Walk. It’s a nice day. You need the exercise.

Clara frowned and casually swept a hand over the top of her head. Was her hair giving her instructions?

I’m clarifying.

“Clarifying?” She wrinkled her nose. “Why? But what if—”

Clarity never hurt anyone. Now, no time for waffling or you’ll be late.

Still suspicious of her hair, Clara set off for work, and for the first time in three years, she arrived on time, a fact noticed by Harry, the tall, dark, and hunky cubical-occupant across the aisle. Her hair urged her to have tea instead of coffee and to check her emails before returning calls, decisions that would have taken an hour.

By the time the clock struck noon, her lips curved into a relaxed smile, the day’s decision-making handled entirely by her hair.

Harry cleared his throat. “Clara, would you like to join me for a quick lunch?”

“Oh, er, hm.” Clara didn’t know. Should she? What would she order? Maybe she shouldn’t. But then he might not ask again. So, she should. But what if she did, and he ended up being a creep, and then he’d ask her every day? She might have to quit her job. Or he could be nice. “Um, I…”

Gah! Just say yes!

“Yes,” she blurted.

Eighteen years later, while Clara unpacked her shopping bags, her daughter, Elizabeth, sauntered into the kitchen, phone in hand. “Mom, there’s a bonfire at the park tonight. Chantelle and I were planning to go, but her mom needs their car. Can I take ours? I’ll be home by nine.”

Clara wanted to say yes, but driving after dark… And what if there was beer? And boys? There would be boys. Was Elizabeth old enough? Should she say no? Eventually, she’d have to trust her daughter’s choices. She could drive the two of them. But that might be humiliating. Was it worth a fight?

She’s a responsible kid. She said she’ll be home by nine.

Clara sighed. “All right, you can go. I trust you to make good choices.”

“Awesome, mom. I have to hurry and hop in the shower.”

“Oh!” Clara perked up and searched through her bags. “I bought you some shampoo.”

Sign #writephoto

Image: Sue Vincent

Belladonna Shadowbend climbed the creaky stairs of her dead aunt’s ancient Victorian home. Gossamer cobwebs draped the corners like grayed wedding veils. The eyeballs in the portraits tracked her progress, and a transparent child hissed from the next landing. Belladonna rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh. Honestly, so cliched.

Witchcraft had become so trendy among modern teenagers that Belladonna considered it passé. Gone were the glorious days when witches drowned tied to chairs or sizzled at the stake.

Was she feeling sorry for herself? Probably. Her dreams of building an online clearinghouse for magical accessories had shattered. She’d believed people wanted quality over crap and would pay for it, but Amazon was a start-up’s nightmare. Cheap magic wands, love potions, and cursed amulets were as popular as iphones. Everyone owned at least one, and the local bodegas sold them beside the tabloids and gum.

Her options were limited. No one was making any money in fortune telling, casting hexes, or selling souls. The white witches complained about global warming and saving the bees, but few listened to them. They needed a little help from the devil if they wanted someone to pay serious attention. She chuckled at the thought. An unexpected visit to hell would do wonders in Washington.

No, selling the old place with it’s slamming doors and undulating curtains would buy her some time while she figured out her next venture.

Another staircase led to the attic, a rat’s nest of iron-strapped trunks, twig brooms, and garment bags stuffed with black capes. Shelves along one wall held dozens of peaked hats. She picked one up, brushed off the brim, and coughed in the cloud of dust. The stuff appeared authentic, but what the heck? How many hats did one old witch need? She half expected a stash of pointy shoes and blurted a laugh when she flipped the lid on a trunk and found them. Cleaning the place out would take a year. Generations of witches in her family and her legacy amounted to a house full of vintage… oh… oh my…

Belladonna smiled. All she needed was a sign.

**

Written for Sue Vincent’s magical #writephoto prompt.

 

Diana’s February Story: The Elephant Child

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

I actually recorded this if you want to listen along.

The Elephant Child

by D. Wallace Peach

An elephant child, carefree and wild
Walked into the wintry woods
He followed fox tails and jackrabbit trails
Ignoring his mother’s “shoulds”

Of course, he got lost and chilled by the frost
As night began to fall
To his rump he sunk and tooted his trunk
But no one answered his call

Oh, that cold night, to the elephant fright
The clouds began to snow
He sniffled and shivered, shook and quivered
His nose he needed to blow

The blizzard swirled and snowflakes twirled
He plodded on wobbly knees
His head grew stuffy, the snow so fluffy
He blew out a honking sneeze

Losing hope, he started to mope
When in an evergreen tree
He spied a house, just right for a mouse
And he let go a trumpet of glee

Alas the place hadn’t the space
To fit an elephant’s bulk
The lost little guy plunked down for a cry
His head hung low in a sulk

The house was quite nice, chock full of mice
Who whispered quiet and low
What was that? Did you hear a cat?
Lurking out in the snow?

Across the wood floor, they dashed to the door
Flicked on the outside light
In a rodent flurry, they squeaked and scurried
An elephant! What a sight!

Let’s offer a seat for a tea and a treat
Said a mouse who felt overly bold
I think he is lost so covered in frost
And surely his ears are cold.

Full of care and courage to spare
They crawled out on a limb
They slipped on the ice those brave little mice
And their mission turned quite grim

But they held on tight with all their might
And called to the elephant
Come in from the storm, come in and get warm
But the elephant said I can’t!

Though I’m only four, I’ll bust the door
I’ll break the branch from the tree
I’ll crack your stairs and squash your chairs
I’m far too heavy, you see.

You have to try, hurry in and dry
Get up! Please give it a go!
The elephant groaned, he mumbled and moaned
Though he longed to get out of the snow.

With strength galore, he pushed on the door
The tree branch started to bend
The home nearly fell, and the mice had to yell
Please stop, or we’re end-over-end!

The elephant frowned as the flakes tumbled down
His trunk a bright shade of blue
Oh, what a glitch, mice-whiskers did twitch.
What were the rodents to do?

Now, due to their size, mice aren’t very wise
Their brains are as tiny as seeds
They may not be smart, but they have lots of heart
And sometimes that’s all that you need.

They sketched out a plan as only mice can
And piled his back with sweaters
And blankets and sheets, and curtains with pleats
Tiny coats of wool and black leather

With the elephant warm, and safe from all harm
They dialed their old-fashioned phone
We’re seeking his mother, a father or brother!
This elephant’s all alone!

Well what do you know, because of the snow
His parents were suffering fits
They dashed to him fast and hugged him at last
And stayed for some tea and biscuits.

Thus ends the plight of the elephant’s night
Be careful when out in the woods
You might meet some mice who are caring and nice
But just in case…
Remember your mother’s shoulds.

I won the Terrible Poetry Contest!

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I’ve posted about Chelsea Owens’ Terrible Poetry Contest before. It’s ridiculously fun, and I try to participate every chance I get.

Well… this week I WON. Finally. After weeks of terrible effort. I’m so honored to be chosen as the terriblest poet among a bunch of astonishingly terrible poets. The prompt was annoying sounds (or something like that).

And now, on to the winning terrible poem, which I’m honestly embarrassed that I wrote (not really):

Poots

There once was a hairy old coot
Who loved to squeeze out a poot
It was stinky and smelly
Gurgled like jelly
And popped off a sound like a toot

But he wasn’t close to the worst
My granny caught poots in her purse
She saved up the sound
For when grandkids came ‘round
Then out of her purse they would burst

Now MY poots are dainty as roses
No trouble for delicate noses
They make a small putter
Wheeze or soft flutter
But they won’t curl your hair or your toeses

**

I encourage anyone who loves to read or write terrible poetry (or just loves to laugh) to follow her and give her contest a try. 🙂 Plus she has a great blog. Thanks, Chelsea!

The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Every week, Chelsea Owens offers a prompt for her Terrible Poetry Contest. The submissions are all unequivocally terrible… soooo terrible that I eagerly await them, knowing that I’m going to laugh myself silly. This week’s topic should offer up some side-splitters. Want to try your hand at some terrible poetry? It’s harder than it looks!

**

From Chelsea:

1. The topic is ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. This is my LEAST FAVORITE poem in the entire world – whenever it’s parodied. Therefore; I normally feel that every idiot who goes about with “‘Twas the night before Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart; but this week you’re getting a pass. Strangely enough, I love the original. I have at least three favorite stanzas in there.

2. What’s the limit? For the love of my own sanity and yours, please keep it to eight or nine stanzas, maximum. That’s about the point of the original where we read I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

3. It’s gotta rhyme. At the end of the line. Make it fine.

4. Remember, remember: the poem needs to be terrible… 

(For the rest of the rules, the deadline, and to read some terrible poetry entries: The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest)

**

And here is my terrible entry for this week:

Tis the afternoon that comes just before Christmas Eve
And I’m rushing around like you wouldn’t believe
The dog’s barfed up tinsel, my tree lights are dead
I couldn’t find any clear ones, but the minimart had red
Just like Trump’s hall of fiendish stalactites
Or with the points up, does that make them stalagmites?
I burned a batch of cookies for jolly old Saint Nick
Defrosted some corn dogs from July that even then tasted ick
No carrots for the reindeer. No veggies! I’m out.
January better hurry up, cause I’m all tuckered out.
Fa la fella fa, dee da dee da
Fifi folly duh, ta da, ta da!

Ani’s Advent Calendar 2018! Talking Turkey with D. Wallace Peach

I’m fowling around with Ani and her four-legged, Sue Vincent, today with a short story called Talking Turkey. Ani also shares some tips on foods that aren’t safe for dogs. 🙂 Hope to see you there.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I always hate this bit. With all the nice things to eat that you two-legses will be making for Christmas, and the whole spirit of sharing, Christmas can be a wonderful time for pets. Trouble is, most of the things we would like to eat, we can’t. Or, if we can, we can’t have anywhere near as much as we would like.

Take turkey, for instance. Really nice…and good for us too… but only if you cook it without anything added… no oils, butter, and definitely no stuffing…and we shouldn’t have much at once either. (We won’t mention the ‘borrowed’ turkey episode…)

Chocolate. We almost all love chocolate. Not allowed. No nuts. No fruitcake or mince pies. Nothing with onions. No gorgeous, greasy sausages and bacon. We shouldn’t really have ham either, becuse it is salty. (We won’t mention the ‘borrowed’ ham episode either…).

And, in the interests of interspecies…

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Naked shapeshifters? A writing problem.

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I’m about 21,000 words into my latest WIP after a week of NaNo. Can I keep up the pace? Not a chance! But it feels good that the words are spewing – yeah… spewing. 🙂

But I have a problem… naked shapeshifters. They’re distracting, and I refuse to bog down the story to deal with all the nudity or the logistics of finding clothing. I’m curious as to how you might handle it.

The challenges of keeping your clothes on while shapeshifting

My human characters are shapeshifters. The story is an adventure that takes place over four large territories. Shapeshifting is a convenient way of traveling, spying, stealing, protecting oneself, and escaping some sticky situations. There are extreme drawbacks to shifting, so it’s a choice that has to be carefully weighed.

Anyway, when a human shifts into a bird or leopard or beetle, for example, their clothes don’t fit anymore and, logically, are left behind. (Yes, exceptions abound, but I’m not going there .)

So the animal travels or escapes, and then shifts back into human form somewhere in the mountains or jungle. It would follow that their tidbits are fully exposed to the elements, to the terrain, and to each other. Naked shapeshifters dangling and bouncing, wrapping themselves in handy fern fronds, or keeping a thousand stashes of plastic-wrapped outfits all over the vast territories doesn’t work for me. What to do?

Of course, I googled this problem, and I’m not the only one to face it.

Here are some ideas based on my research:

1. Clothing is a part of the shifter’s physical organism and when he changes, his clothing goes along for the ride. It’s part of his being. Damaged clothing could regenerate just like physical injuries.

2. Shapeshifters transform by rearranging the space that their physical organism and clothing occupy. The matter that makes up clothing transforms with them.

3. Similar to fey glamor, a shifter doesn’t physically reconfigure matter or change form, only appears to. Thus clothing is optional, and only the shifter knows the truth.

4. A shifter’s pattern, or archetype, is not limited to the physical body and appearance, but includes, personality traits, quirks, instincts, and training, as well as a distinctive choice of clothing. Just as the pattern of a wolf or bear includes a specific coloring of skin and fur. When a shifter changes into another archetype, the clothing disappears with his humanness. When he retakes his human form, the human imprint reappears. The shapeshifter simply transforms from one archetype to another, and back.

5. Another take on patterning – Magic is a form of energy. It interacts strongly with matter and can be controlled consciously. A shifter transforms by mentally reforming his self-image into an animal. The mental image provides a pattern for the magic, and they shift to match. Same thing in reverse, with clothing.

6. Shifters perform a ritual using the carcass of the animal they wish to turn into. They wear the skin or furs of that animal, and when they shift, the ritual pulls through the “bonded” matter around the shifting body. When transforming back, the spell returns the shifter’s body and other matter to its former arrangement.

7. Shifter clothing is crafted from animal skins and furs so it can morph with the shapeshifter. Inorganic items cannot shift and are left behind.

8. Clothing is made for a child-shifter using hides, hair, feathers, and other animal materials. During a ritual, the clothing is patterned to the child, who eventually learns to shift with them. Until they learn this skill, they are shifting in the naked human form.

9. A shifter imbibes a substance that permeates the body and gives the shifter control over his physical organism, integrating consciousness with anatomy. The substance reacts based on the conscious commands of the shifter.

10. The clothing is made of psychoactive fibers that meld into a shifter’s body when he transforms, completely hidden from view.

11. Shifters wear some kind of charm that allows them to change or create appropriate clothing.

12. Magic requires no explanation – it just works.

13. Clothing doesn’t exist in this world.

14. Deal with the nakedness.

15. Have everyone wear ponchos.

Is there one or two of the above that appeal to you? Any other ideas?

Happy Writing!