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    09 Mar '17 04:39
    There are 10 entries in 2017 RHP Prose Contest.

    You are invited to read, comment and vote in this thread.
    Deadline - March 19, 24.00 Greenwich time (*i.e. ca. 10 days from now).
    Voting system is the same as last year:
    1st place - 5 points
    2nd place - 3 points
    3rd place - 1 point.

    I invite contestants to send me PM if they prefer to stay anonymous when results are published.
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    09 Mar '17 04:39
    Entry No 1
    IT'S ONE O'CLOCK AND TIME FOR LUNCH

    Scrambles through the undergrowth, stopping here and there to nibble at random shoots or tear up a root as he journeys through the garden. He knows his way, has marked every jutting twig and stone on his escape route from the hutch to the apple tree, through the long grass behind the log store, beneath the laurel hedge then into the brambles where he now rests. Emily has lost interest in him for the moment and is busy in the fruit garden. He languishes in his respite and settles on his belly, his cottontail relaxed between his giant dusty rear paws.

    Emily hums to herself as her fingers seek out the ripe raspberries. Her hands are pink with trickles of juice that has now bled upon her formal linen dress. Her humming quietens as she pops each berry into her juicy mouth. She closes her eyes to savour them. She steps forward a little deeper into the tangle of canes which are intertwined by wild blackberry vines. She fingers between the leaves for the cooler plumper fruit. The undergrowth of twigs and dead leaves are crushed beneath the advance of her small feet. She steps tentatively to avoid scratching her bare legs.

    He enjoys the moment snipping at random weeds with his sharp incisors until the anticipated approach of Emily's new sandals. They are shiny and new yet already scuffed by her garden pursuits. He edges back a little, his whiskered nose twitching, pauses then with a start capriciously hops from his shaded hiding place out into the sunshine. He squints his dark eyes. It is noon in the bright and deepest June. Not a breeze or a flaw in the high blue sky except for a sparrow-hawk floating featherlike high beyond. He hops then stops, distracted by the freshly mowed short grass.
    Emily gazes across the lawn then suddenly catches sight of him. She squeals his name in delight. She is off again, the fabric of her dress is momentarily snagged by the bramble in her enthusiasm to pursue him. She untangles herself then runs across the lawn towards him. He hops away in zig- zags then pauses. Emily crouches on the ground beside him. She tilts her head sideways then rests it on the ground in front of him to look him right in the eyes. She eagerly strokes his soft fur then examines his ears, forever fascinated by the semi transparency of tiny capillaries beneath the surface. So soft and warm, so buttery. Mama has told her to be gentle with him and not to pull them. She knows she is not to pick him up but finds him hard to resist. She clumsily scoops him up to cradle him against the embroidered bodice of her dress. He wriggles. Mama calls her from the kitchen but she ignores her and half walks, half runs across the lawn whilst cooing in his ear telling him that he is a very good boy. He struggles against the sticky hands that grip him so tightly. She finds the spot where Mama can't see her from the French doors. She positions herself on the ground then lowers him to her lap to wrap him up in the full skirt of her dress. She knows that he will run away if he can. His nose peeps out from her skirt with a look of defeat. He now has to accept his fate and be babied by her for the afternoon. He'd much rather be left alone to his fickle pruning in the flower bed or doze in his grassy den but he will bide his time then later escape. He feels for his pocket watch and flicks his ears irritably whilst Emily sings Bright Eyes to him.
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    09 Mar '17 04:421 edit
    Entry No 2
    PERRY FLUTTER AND THE SEWER OF DREAD

    Perry Futter lived a life of ease and opulence in the penthouse suite of Dursley Towers until he was kidnapped one day by the half-squirt, Shagrid, on a flying Harley and carted off, kicking and screaming, to St. Pancreas Station, platform 9-7/8, there to be bundled aboard the Frogwarts Express. As the train pulled out, Perry mooned through the window, revealing the amazing birthmark on his left buttock.

    "I say, that's a remarkable birthmark," remarked the lad on the seat next to Perry, "you must be Perry Futter!"

    "Maybe," Perry shot back. "Who wants to know?"

    "Foulboy," the lad answered, "Sluggo Foulboy. My dad's a bigwig at the Ministry of Malcontents. You'll be my friend, if you know what's good for you."

    And so before the train arrived at Frogwarts, Perry had made a fast friend and everyone on the train knew of the amazing birthmark, including saucey Trollopione Danger, who was already heavy with Ron Measley's illegitimate child, though Ron was too dense to connect his previous two-minute epiphany with her presently rotund appearance.

    "Shush!" Professor McConical chided, as Perry proceeded to show everyone else at Frogwarts his amazing birthmark immediately upon arrival, "there is plenty of time for that later. First we shall snort the saplings into their houses."

    The names of the saplings were read out, and, one-by-one, they slipped on the Snorting Hat and were assigned to their houses:

    "Trollopione Danger, Pifflespoof," the hat snorted.

    "Viktor Crumb, Mufflefart."

    "Colin Greasy, Smurkwicke."

    "Ronald Measely, Oh God, not another Measley -- don't your parents know about birth control?? Oh well, go and join the other fifteen Measleys in Drivelfish."

    "Perry Futter, Smithereens."

    "Mortimer Flinch-Bletchley -- go home, now!"

    "Who's that next to Professor Grumbleboar?" Perry asked his new mates, having seated himself to a tumultuous reception at the Smithereens' table. "The stern-looking one who keeps staring at my trousers?"

    "That's Professor Septicemius Grope," Sluggo's now second-best friend, Drabbe, answered, "lecturer in Dark Arts, curses and psychological diseases."

    "Coool," Perry cooed. "Do you think he'd like to see my birthmark?"

    "I'm sure he knows all about it," Drabbe said. "He and your murdered father were tight, so they say."

    Perry suddenly turned pale. "What?!" he gasped incredulously, "tight?"

    Perry quickly endeared himself to Professor Grope and excelled in Dark Arts and psychological diseases and it surprised no one at Frogwarts when Miss Danger gave birth, some three months later, to a two-headed piguana which subsequently became Colin's animucus and constant companion.

    Professor Goldenboy Flipchart (narcissism 101) and Professor McConical (numerology) caligulated Neville Shortbutt and his squidroach, 'Neville.' Until, that is, the arrival of Mad-Eye Mouldy, the new lecturer in poisoned darts, lycanthropy, and philately.

    Having crept through the dank sewers to Frogsmeade tavern and stuck himself under a table like someone else's abandoned chewing gum, Perry overheard Mad-Eye Mouldy and Asthmaticus Cough conversing in hushed tones about the strange and untimely demise of his father, Protagoras Futter, in the Sewer of Dread.

    "'Ee dint slip, oi sez," Mad-Eye Mouldy was sezzin. "'Ee were shov-ed!"

    "He knew of the secret invisible map," Cough coughed. "Why didn't he swim for the other side and climb out?"

    "Maybe 'ee were under a curse of, ya know, the one we ne'er speak out loud," Mad-Eye Mouldy murmured conspiratorially.

    "But only two people are master of the curse of, you know, the one we never speak out loud."

    "An' one'a dem be..."

    But just at that instant Shagrid rent the tavern with a fierce flatus which drowned out the name of the only other person who, you know, knew the curse one never speaks out loud.

    Professor Fumblehore was not amused: the kitchen-dwarves had been unionized by that brat-chick, Trollopione, and walked out on strike for pay and conditions. The silly old fool, Dribblesore, engaged Venal strikebreakers and the menu was poached Druids three meals a day. Perry and Sluggo Foulboy had no choice but to act; they stole the secret invisible map and swam the Sewers of Dread to far-away Ascorbate where they came under the tutelage of its warden, Jocular Black, who taught them the secret magical imprecation to reverse the curse holding Professor Babblelore's once brilliant protege, Todd Piddle, captive in a secret cheese cellar deep beneath the vinaigrette vault of Frogwarts.

    "In flagrante origami!" Black taught them to chant in unison, for only thus could they wake Todd from the spell of somnambulismatoxis.

    Ludicrous Foulboy, Ministry of Malcontents, saw to it that Bulbous Bumblemore (who kept forgetting his own name) was dispatched on permanent sabbatical to an Alzheimer's clinic in Peoria and replaced by his own former most-brilliant and now-rehabilitated acolyte -- Lord Walmart!

    The End (buy the sequel: Perry Futter and the Stoned Philosopher)
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    09 Mar '17 04:44
    Entry No 3
    FIFTEEN MINUTES OF CARE

    From bed to chair, Mr Johnson was moved like a pawn pushed without care to e4. The smell of latex and flowery talc was accompanied by the twang of tight fitting rubber gloves and the low grumbling of a carer who didn’t want to be there. She checked her watch before plunging the well-used flannel into the tepid water and then up without warning into his face, ravaged by time and hard living. Mr Johnson gasped and was once again back in the ocean, no trace of his Spitfire save the burning fuel on his skin. A hero they had called him, pinned a medal to his chest. But out in the ocean he had not felt like a hero, painfully alone in the uncaring blackness of existence God himself having forsaken him, if he had ever been there at all.

    The flannel had done its brisk work on his face and was now back in the squeaky plastic bowl collecting more of the unholy water. The carer checked her watch, mindful always of the endgame, her next opponent. Although words had long since abandoned Mr Johnson he tried to speak, his reward a wet flannel across his chest and down the full length of his arms, cold water dripping onto his bare feet. The carer liked her opponents silent, punished him ever so slightly with the roughness of her wipes; reminded him who was the master, who controlled the play. In a lucid moment Mr Johnson was embarrassed by his nakedness, his stark vulnerability in a home that was no longer his own. A faded room where the curtains never opened and his wife’s redundant vanity table had been acquisitioned by small tubs of pills and a shiny red folder, where his fifteen minutes of care were recorded. Mr Johnson had become a pawn, shoved around on an alien board.

    A worn towel followed the damp tracks of the flannel before finding a new home on the bed. The carer checked her watch before dressing him methodically, odd socks and heavily stained trousers not impeding her strategic flow, a sustained attack of dominance impressive for its speed, if not its basic human kindness. Fifteen minutes of care did not accommodate such sentiment. There was nothing in the red shiny folder about basic human kindness, no allocated time for a gentle word, a reassuring touch. Seventy years had passed since the hero endured the loneliness of the ocean, but again found himself in the uncaring blackness of existence. God himself had forsaken him, if he had ever been there at all.

    The carer checked her watch.
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    09 Mar '17 04:46
    Entry No 4
    ORIGINALITY

    It was always the same, there was an idea for a short piece, and he went and offered it to obtain a forward payment. Money had a tendency to be spent before actually reaching the purse. And the short piece which seemed to be a bit of work, but manageable in short time proved to be the umpteenth iteration of the same idea published times and times again.

    The writer was deeply frustrated about his job. Instead of telling interesting tales to an attentive audience he kept telling tepid tales of old to an audience which projected the desire to be somewhere else. Readings were worse than submissions. Editors often were unhappy about quality and originality of contributions, but audiences could judge his merit by not turning up at all.
    Anything original about this career? Not really, so it might be better to go on for any odd job, frying Freedom Fries all day.

    Hardly original. How about going recluse and work on a BIG new book on a completely new world? Done before? Done before often, Done before without success? Check. Check. Check.
    When he spoke to the foreigner in the bar after a few beers, he sounded like a spineless wailer to himself. But the foreigner just smiled and said: “You know that everything is new? Each smallest alteration makes something different, so don’t worry.”

    It should have been encouraging, but the writer thought: “I have heard more original things Mr. Heraklit” he went home and penned the umpteenth version of his old tale…and still got it sold.
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    09 Mar '17 04:491 edit
    Entry No 5
    A BRIE ENCOUNTER

    The shopping trolley came out of nowhere, well actually it had been on a squeaky collision course with Her trolley for the last 8 or 9 seconds. Jane felt the sudden jolt, an instant later she found herself facing forward into the equally traumatised face of a fellow shopper who, apparently, like Jane had been fixated on the display of continental artisan cheeses to her right and his left.

    The white hatted, plastic clad purveyor of continental artisan cheeses managed to snort and wince at one and the same time. Jane and her fellow cheese lover, Maurice, exchanged
    gushingly awkward apologies before they both dragged their trolleys over to the glass covered display of 'Cheeses from around Europe' underneath this legend and seemingly without a hint
    sarcasm was the proud announcement ( Pre-Brexit prices ). This politically charged selling point was lost on Jane and Maurice because they had them at 'Cheeses'.

    Maurice was the first to offer a more considered apology concerning their unfortunate initial
    meeting. Jane politely cut him short and assured him that she was at least as complicit as him and explained that she was very easily distracted by cheese, Maurice smiled in what he hoped was a conspiratorial manner but backed his smile up by confessing that he too, was "very easily distracted by cheese", especially ones that he had not tried before, and especially continental cheeses. As he spoke about his love of all things cheese related Jane couldn't help but notice three things about Maurice:- He was quite attractive even in the unforgiving light of 'The East Sussex Food Emporium', He was well dressed in a conservative sort of way, and He wasn't wearing any sort of ring on any of his fingers. Maurice for his part congratulated himself on his ability to converse in great detail about his penchant for fine continental cheeses whilst noting exactly the same three visual markers concerning Jane.

    They spent an enjoyable twenty minutes savouring, and discussing the merits of the various free cheese samples, eventually, and in the hope of attracting some paying customers with his free samples, the plastic clad man handed them both a flier advertising a cheese tasting event due to take place the following night.

    On their way to the checkout Maurice surprised himself himself by asking Jane if she was thinking of going to the cheese tasting and if so would she like to accompany him for the evening. Jane was equally surprised at the calm and collected manner in which she accepted his offer and it was agreed that Maurice would pick Her up at 7:30pm. The event began at 8:00pm but they wanted to get to the cheese tableaux before it attracted to many probing fingers and accompanying finger based bacterium.

    Jane was pleased but unsurprised when Maurice arrived at 7:30 on the dot and Maurice was just as pleased but slightly less unsurprised to find that Jane was ready with her coat draped over her arm when she answered the door. Jane volunteered to navigate because her late mother was actually a member of the local 'Women's Institute' which had organised the tasting as part of a charity drive in aid of the refugees who had found refuge but very little comfort after making landfall on the southern shores of the 'Continent' from which their favourite cheeses originated.

    In between issuing left and right commands, often at the last possible second, she regaled Maurice with announcements of the pleasures to come from the list of cheeses printed on her flier. Maurice who had already avidly read the same list on his flier before leaving home managed to match Jane's mounting excitement with every fresh disclosure. Just as Maurice was turning into the W.I car park Jane, who by now was uncontainable, thrust her flier in front of Maurice's face and
    squealed, "look, look they have 'Brie de Meaux' The 'East Sussex Food Emporium' delivery van came out of nowhere...
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    09 Mar '17 04:521 edit
    Entry No 6
    RED HOT PORN STORY

    Otto is a retired soccer manager, with residence in East Europe, but it’s under no circumastances life in roses, even with savings he’d earned in Austrian and Belgian clubs in eighties. It’s not so question of finance, but it’s boring routine that’s killing him. He sometimes thinks there are almost no pleasures left. Due his high blood pressure pills he has difficulties to ejaculate (when he takes cialis, of course). He’s living in an old 6 storey building in a controlled-rent apartment. Elevator is in service, thanks God – he says each time he mentions his address in some conversation.

    He recently came to a sad conclusion that he has only three pleasures left. September summer journey to Greece in cheap out-of-season-package for retired couples and lonely senor citizens, digging his nose, and sex with his heighbour, fifteen year younger widow of a communist general (whose pension she receives each month, minus 30 % ). He caught himself thinking of Greece 11 months of the year. He analyzed himself with help of bunch of family magazines with regular columns “Ask our psychologist” and couldn’t help noticing that he only watches “scientific” programs on National Geography and Discovery Channel which deal with tropical islands and exotic resorts. He developed cold feet syndrome, and began to wear cashmere socks. He was sitting in his armchair, watching Explorer channel’s show about Hawaii, wiggling with his cashmere-wrapped toes and listened rattling in radiators – exactly like Charlie Citrine in Saul Bellow’s novel Humboldt’s Gift, Otto’s favorite. (Of course he read it in German translation.)

    He loves to dig his nose. Dry air (due hot radiators) gives him huge pleasure. Sometimes he sniffs sea water in order to free nasal passages and help getting slime out of his stuffy nose. He discovered it quite accidentally when he rushed in to the water in Greece and almost drowned himself in high waves – so much longed he for the Greek sea water! He took couple of small bottles of sea water with him that September, and he did it ever since. A liter of sea water lasted almost til the next trip.

    He is doing it now. March is still cold enough that he can benefit from cashmere socks. Radiators are rattling, he is watching Explorer Channel’s reportage from an exotic island and is digging his nose. He scrutinizes each part of his mucus on the index finger before he wipes it with a paper tissue. This mucus collection on the tissue reminds him on a butterflies collection. The he notices that his nose is stuffy again. He goes for a bottle of salt water from Greece. He sniffes a little of the water from his palm above the sink in the bathroom, takes new paper tissues from the closet and returns happily to his armchair. When he sees warm day on some tropical island he doesn’t know what’s warming up more: rattling radiators or tempting reportage from to him inaccessible place where snow never falls. He soon feels urge to blow his nose. There are a lot of mucus in his nostrils. He rushes to the kitchen and grabs an old, lonely, cracked coffee cup which he uses to dissolve sodium bicarbonate to wash his feet twice a week (because of his foot problem). Then he soon fills the cup with the mucus to the rim.

    The phone rings. He hates to be interrupted in his digging, but caller ID says it’s his neighbor, the lonesome widow. He answers. She gets an itch gain, as it turns out, so she is inviting him “for cup of coffee” which in East Europe is a code for getting laid. She casts a look on the cup full of mucus and thinks “I blew so good”. Something in this thought excites him and he gets half-boner. He takes a cialis with half a glass of tap water, locks the door up and goes to widow’s apartment, 2 floors down. She looks good when undressed. When she only lift her skirt and just pull her breast out of her bra so that it supports them. Otherwise they roll down right to her slippers. That is, on such occasions she wears shoes and fishnet stockings he knew she always washes in foam from liquid for cleaning curtains. Today she is willing to give him a blow job. He cannot ejaculate. Bloody high blood pressure pills. She says she is hungry for semen.

    He gets an idea.

    “Wait a minute”, he says. “I have a cup full of it. Err, from yesterday’s jerk off, you know...” Her wrinkled face brightened. She had so many holes on her stockings. Otto felt nauseous.

    “Can I get it, please, Otto?”

    “I’ll be right back!”, he said with a vicious smile and disgust on his face.
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    09 Mar '17 04:541 edit
    Entry No 7
    BILL

    Bill owned a bar in Chicago. When he retired from the snow, the smoke, the bums, the drunks, and the dames he moved south. Not knowing where he was going to land. Driving down he stopped in various southern towns and cities in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida stopping finally in a one stoplight town with four bars and 28 churches – Melrose, Florida. He thought that a workable mix. He bought himself a prefab house in High Castle Estates. High Castle Estates was none of these. It was neither high, nor a castle, nor an estate. It was a conglomeration of manufactured houses in the interior of the Estates and the more permanent kind of housing near the edges. Bill lived in the middle of the estates where abandoned homes, decaying trailers, and drug and alcohol use and abuse were common - Bill’s choice abuse being the latter. On the outside edge of the “Estates” was one of the town’s four bars (seven if you count the bars in the Vets organizations). Bill was also a veteran of the Korean War which put his age near 80 when we knew him.

    We also, my wife and I, live in the collapsing center of the estates in a prefab, manufactured house whose time came and went five years ago. Now it looks like a squat where the homeless alcoholic or druggie can be found sleeping it off under the house or on the porch. We know them all. They’re our neighbors without houses.
    We live across from Bill and his girlfriend.

    Mostly downwardly mobile people live here. We were among them.

    High Castle was different in many ways from the rest of the town. Melrose has more prayers than drinkers. That’s typical for towns in this area. If there’s a downtown it’s near the stop light where Rtes. 26 and 21 cross. High Castle was the town’s first attempt to make itself a respectable place to live and raise families. It served that purpose for a while but time and troubles made it into a cheap place to have a house. All the lots come with a hookup for electrical and plumbing. All you have to do is buy a house and they’ll plop one down for you, plug it in and drive away. There it is- a brand new house! The first residents here bought a plopped down house which have a life span of many years if someone wants to take care of it. It seems no one in High Castle cared - or couldn’t afford to care would be better - for the property.

    As went Melrose so goes High Castle. There were very bad years, almost thirty years of drought and overuse of water resulting in dried up lakes and no fish. When the lakes dried up so did Melrose.

    It was in the middle of this drying up that Bill first rolled into Melrose. Loving the bar life he went to the Keystone Saloon at 8:30 a.m. on his first day in town and he’d never really left it since. Mary and I moved to Melrose many years later. We’re also bar people and we gravitated to the Keystone which was a nice bar in the mornings and afternoons. Evenings it is turned over to the younger drunks with their rap music and drugs and sex – different from the day crowd only because they chose rap over country and western and NASCAR over Bonanza.

    Bill’s place at the bar was toward the end of the bar where it elled off to the bathrooms. We’d generally show up at two or three to watch Bonanza and shoot the breeze with the friendly crowd. Bill was generally asleep at the bar when we got there. He’d awake every so often, fill up his beer and then fall back to sleep after a couple of sips. I was surprised to find out that he drove what with his ailments and alcoholism. A couple of months back he had a car wreck – he was driving out near the Piggly Wiggly and ran head on into a car headed to Melrose. Neither party was hurt badly but Bill was in the hospital for a while with multiple bruises and cuts and something with his lung.

    Bill always wanted to die at the bar and had survived so that he could. After the crash he had a big tank of oxygen that helped him breathe. He was still alive at five when the kids arrived. The goofy one, Eddie, had a gun and shot Bill and his wish was granted.
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    09 Mar '17 04:57
    Entry No 8
    LACKAWANNA

    Doc Gallagher sat in the window seat of Tommy Riordan’s bar on Ridge Road watching the snow fall lightly on the street. The new snow barely covered the piles of gray, soot covered snow fallen, then shoveled into piles by city residents the week before. Doc loved these times at the bar. A professional wrestler by occupation Doc’s work schedule varied and today he was free from the choreographing of Saturday’s match. As the professional wrestling matches were televised throughout the area, Doc and his tag team partner and brother, Mike, were minor celebrities. At Tommy’s he was just another regular.

    The bar was dark and morning light penetrated only half way down, disappearing among tables toward the back of the establishment, typically for bars in area around steel mills it was Lit only by a couple of sconces and back lighting of liquor bottles. You could see many such places along Lake Erie.


    Tommy’s opened at 8:00 a.m. and closed at 4:00 a.m. everyday thereby capturing a portion of the hard drinking steel workers from all three shifts.

    Doc had arrived at 11:00 a.m. in order to watch the snow storm that was blowing in off the lake. The last of the overnight shift men were huddled around a table in the back drinking. These were younger men with the least seniority forced into overnight labor by the union contract. One day they would move into the earlier shifts as the elder workers took their retirements. This was the way of steel plant work and had been for 100 years.

    Today, however, was a different. The bar mill, a crucial part of the plant, was closing. The young men at the back table were in deep discussion over their futures. They were all in their twenties and had married, had kids and taken out mortgages based upon their continuous work at the plant. The closing of the bar mill was a sign that this security was in jeopardy.

    The bar’s morning patrons, beside the overnight workers, began coming in at opening time. These men were the defeated, the helpless and hopeless, retired steel workers, flour millwrights, auto workers, chemical workers and other industrial workers who had, after years of work, found themselves without anywhere else to go. Divorces, deaths of spouses, alcoholism, physical distress had all left their mark. Psychologically they were there and not there at the same time. It was the quietest of times at Tommy’s. When the overnight shift workers had left there was a deep silence in the bar with only the sound of patrons pushing back bar stools to go to the bathroom or the requests for still another drink.

    The younger guys from the overnight shift referred to the morning bar crowd as “the future” and indeed they were. There was no getting away from it. Here, in 40 – 50 years, these young men would replace those who had permanently retired from life. This would be their “final shift” – next stop Holy Cross Cemetery.

    The shutdown of the bar mill cast a pall over the already dark bar. Everyone knew what was coming. No work, no pay, no groceries, no houses to go home to, defeat, more drinking. A third world economy. You need only to look at Republic Steel whose workers were all laid off a year and a half ago. Unemployment checks ended at 26 weeks. There would be no work that would ever pay for the mortgage. Car payments due, bills, anxiety, repossession, family breakdowns all ate at society’s now fragile fabric. Everyone knew someone irreparably damaged.

    Doc had moved away from the window into the deeper gloom at the end of the bar. He was 45 years old. Mike, with severely arthritic knees, was 50. They were well over their prime and the the new wrestling “good guys” were bucking for recognition in the ring. Doc put this out of his mind for now and ordered another Old Crow on the rocks. He looked down the bar at the worn faces of the drinkers and sipped his drink.

    The snow was falling even more heavily now as another wave of workers moved to the bar and tables to discuss the news. These were the top seniority men whose jobs would be safe unless the entire plant was shut down. This too was in the wind.

    The daytime patrons gave in to their alcoholism and went home to empty houses, nightly news and their own despair.

    Doc watched as the steelworkers grappled with the news over boilermakers. Outside the early winter evening settled in. Doc pulled on his coat and headed home. He looked back at the bar from across street. The dim red lights from within were the only signs of warmth he could see through the frosted glass.
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    09 Mar '17 04:58
    Entry No 9
    SPHERES

    When the recon mission landed on the surface of the planet, they found what they expected: a desert planet surface. They set up their camp in the open plane as planned and went to sleep.

    The next day they found those small spheres, the size of basket balls distributed around their camp. They went to investigate and found them to be hollow spheres of milky Quartz.

    This started the discussion about the water question. During the observation time several measurements had found water in the atmosphere and several had found none. This was one of the questions that warranted a manned search. The unmanned rovers had just found the sandy desert, consisting mainly of Silicates with very low amounts of metal ions.

    A hollow sphere is not a very common feature to be found on desert planets without geological activity. So the team decided to open one of the spheres to find out more.

    They collected three of the objects which seemed to be blown around by the wind in very strange patterns and brought them into their lab module. There they set a drill to the first one. Due to the spherical form and the sand polished surface it was hard to handle. It seemed like it had a life of its own. But after a few attempts they managed to fix the sphere to drill a hole into the Quartz.

    After a few inches the drill hit the hollow volume. Surprisingly a big amount of dust came out of it, indicating that the pressure inside exceeded atmospheric. Of course the drilling had created some dust, so the planetologers had put on face masks, but the dust coming out of the sphere seemed to make breathing impossible.

    While the Leader of the team was switching the air conditioner to higher flow to filter the dust the two other spheres, which they had brought in began to roll around the laboratory in astonishing speed, kicking the humans off their feet. They fell to the floor and observed how the trail of the spheres was virtually free of dust.

    But then there were tracks on the floor...
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    09 Mar '17 04:59
    Entry No 10
    VULTURES

    Up. Later than yesterday by two hours. Cats fed. Dishes out of the dishwasher. Garbage out. Tuesday is garbage day here. It’s cool this morning but behind that cool is the humidity. It’s July in Florida.

    Awaiting the day to begin I was reading the paper and having my coffee when out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a large shadow passing over head. I know what was making the shadow and where it’s headed. A gray headed vulture has just landed on the outside deck. It wasn’t coming for me but for the cats’ food. Not unlike the beautiful cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers, vultures take to the cat food for an easy and much cleaner meal than their usual fare.

    It’s hard to call a vulture a pretty bird, some people would though. It is certainly a necessary bird. A ride down any Florida road could tell you that. Vultures have dark brown unattractive feathers and a black featherless head with a beautiful gray face unless it’s a turkey vulture, then the head is red and equally bald. They hop once or twice before taking flight which looks kind of funny as they are a big, ungainly bird a foot and a half to two feet tall. When they spread their wings to air them out the covert feathers, those at the end of the wing, look like skeletal fingers getting ready to grab something. When they sit in trees they look quite impressive as herons and egrets look when they settle in the trees. When they are flying they resemble eagles or large hawks and are quite graceful. Like the pelicans they should stay in the air and off the ground. This, of course is impossible.

    The rib cage of a deer at the side of the road. Yesterday it was nearly an entire deer. Today nothing. Our roads are cleaner because of the vultures. I only wish they’d eat a beer can or two to supplement their diet.

    I saw a vulture on the beach one day in Daytona. They aren’t what you’d call a shore bird. There was plenty of roadkill out there but for some reason this vulture preferred the sand where he sat amid the crowd of bathers, wings outstretched drying his wings or beseeching some vulture god to get him out of there.

    At least twenty vultures surrounding something on the roadbed. Others circling above the tree line. Come on down! Vultures dance on one leg sometimes – hopping to get some kind of lift. It looks like dancing but I think it was something else.

    When I see vultures I like to stop and observe them. Sometimes I will draw them. One day a vulture landed near where I was drawing. “This is why you are looking at us?”, he asked. “Your grays are really nice.”

    Others are less polite. Sometimes I get “Stop looking at us!!” It’s rare but it happens.

    Mary and I once went to the Ocala National Forest where there are a number of springs and little parks inside the great expanse of forest. There was at one spring a large number of vultures roosting on trees
    beautifully decorated by Spanish moss but leafless. The vultures were everywhere in those trees looking like large black notes on a musical staff. You’d have thought it would have made people nervous them being watched so intently by this bird identified so intimately with death. But the swimmers and fisher folks paid them no mind. It takes a northerner to notice something like that. Being one I wasn’t scared or made nervous by their presence but I was observant of something that southerners take in stride. Vultures are not attack birds. They’d never swoop down and carry off your child or your kitten. Perhaps there was cat food around the spring somewhere but they rarely left the trees remaining perched and alert – guardian angels with a twist.

    I found this pretty ghoulish. In Florida when people die in car accidents their friends and relatives will put up a memorial of a cross or a wreath or a Mylar balloon near the site of the fatality. On one such wooden cross sat a red skulled turkey vulture contemplating the scene below crossbar. Too late…too late.
  12. SubscriberBigDoggProblem
    The Advanced Mind
    bigdogghouse.com/RHP
    Joined
    26 Nov '04
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    120556
    09 Mar '17 05:27
    Looks like the title for entry 1 is incorrect (it's also the title for #5, and clearly belongs with that piece).
  13. Account suspended
    Joined
    10 Dec '11
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    09 Mar '17 05:34
    Originally posted by BigDoggProblem
    Looks like the title for entry 1 is incorrect (it's also the title for #5, and clearly belongs with that piece).
    Thanks for the correction.
    I repeated the title of the 1st story in fifth story, and I have just rectified this.
  14. Joined
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    Moves
    38845
    09 Mar '17 06:54
    Originally posted by vandervelde
    Thanks for the correction.
    I repeated the title of the 1st story in fifth story, and I have just rectified this.
    And thank you for organising the competition.
  15. Gothenburg
    Joined
    11 Mar '16
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    09 Mar '17 14:391 edit
    1) no 3 - 15 minutes of care

    2) no 5 - A Brie Encounter

    3) no 10 - Vultures


    Good stories all of them.
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