Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sometime In The Future, A Saturday Centus


Jenny Matlock

We’re back once again to bust out another heaping pile of delectable literary morsels with week 21 of that fabulous writing meme that all the cool kids around the world are flocking to in droves, Saturday Centus! 

And whom do we have to bow and give reverence to for bestowing upon us this blessed gift of Centushood?  Only that minister of mirth, that champion of chutzpa, that virtuoso of vivaciousness, that high muckety-muck of hilarity, that queen of quips, that wunderkind of witticisms - Jenny Matlock at her blog, off on my tangent!

I would have been more descriptive, but my thesaurus suddenly burst into flames.  Sorry.

So for those of you who haven’t been initiated into the Centushood let me briefly explain what this is about and where to send your monthly offering what the rules are.  This is a themed writing meme designed to help writers focus on making every word count without all the extraneous chatter that weighs down so many stories.  (I believe those at Simon & Schuster refer to it as “chopping your babies,” though I could be wrong about that.) 

With the Saturday Centus our contributors are allowed 100 (get it, Cent-us…100) words maximum to tell a story using a prompt supplied by Jenny, aka the Exalted One.  The prompt words do not count in the total word count. 

(Why yes, Jenny.  Eddie Haskell was my hero.  Why do you ask?)

As Jenny says, you cannot use pictures (even fuzzy bunnies or sad-eyed beagles) to illustrate your story, and the stories can be fact or fiction.  Also, the prompt must be left intact as written and not sliced and diced in your story.  The rules had also prohibited vulgarity, but if you feel strongly that a certain word or words are essential to your story, just send Jenny an email with the words you wish to use in the subject line of your email. 

Jenny will get back to you right away.

You have a whole week (which you can break up into about 15 words per day if you like) to link your work to the meme and can submit multiple stories if you are so inclined.  And after you have written your story, link it to Jenny’s meme post so that all of your fellow Centusians can have a chance to read your contribution and shrink in awe of your magnificent talent comment on it. 

This week is very special to me because I am the inspiration for this week’s prompt!  The intelligent, beautiful and extremely talented Jenny Matlock crafted this prompt in honor of my birthday this Wednesday. 

While I am grateful beyond words for such an honor, I feel it’s only fair to recognize my mother and father (allegedly) whose efforts some 48 years and approximately nine months ago made this day possible.  And while I refuse to visualize it, I thank each of them for their genetic contributions and that whole raising to adulthood thingy.  Thanks!

But most of all, thank you Jenny for the best birthday card I could ever dream of.  And thank you all my Centusian friends for your well wishes also!  You are such a great gang of people to pal around with each week.  And I don’t have to get a tattoo or shoot anyone!  Bonus!

Without further ado, I present this week’s prompt which is in honor of ME!  Quiet, humble, shy little ME!  ME!  ME!  ME!  As in not YOU!

He never dreamed when he blew out the candles on his cake...

Here is my contribution for this week’s Saturday Centus.  I have entitled it:

Sometime In The Future

It was Grandpa Tom’s 117th birthday party and everyone was there waving, smiling and chatting away with one another on the huge screen.  

Though science had finally conquered old age, the perception of crotchety old people persisted.  Relatives now interacted via pre-recorded videos and holographic images instead of visiting. 

As the family sang “Happy Birthday” one more time, Tom thought about this and lamented the lack of personal contact.

A holographic image of a cake appeared before him with candles aflame.

He never dreamed when he blew out the candles on his cake that he would break wind, but he did. 

He cackled with laughter since no one would ever know.

Jenny Matlock

You are only young once, 
but you can be immature for a lifetime.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Losing It, A Saturday Centus


Jenny Matlock

“Welcome to the 20th week of Saturday Centus, that wildly popular literary game show hosted by Jenny Matlock at her blog, off on my tangent!”     

(Uproarious applause explodes from the audience as they rise from their seats in a frenzy of enthusiasm.)

“As you know each week writers battle each other out trying to write the most amazing little stories with only 100 words using a supplied prompt, a phrase or sentence that must be used in its original form anywhere within the story and does not count toward the word limit.   And what are the other rules of this meme, audience?”

“No pictures and no vulgarity!” they loudly exclaim in unison.

“That’s right!  That means you can’t use words like &#$@ or $#*^!  or even &#@*$ - #%!  And you can’t post pictures.  And once they finish writing their stories, our partakers of petite prose link them up to Jenny’s meme post so that we can all share their takes on the prompt with one another.  How does that sound to everybody?”

“Yay!!!  Hooray for Centus!  Hooray for Centus!  We love you, Jenny!”

(The crowd goes wild.)

“And now friends, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.  This week’s prompt comes to us courtesy of Tina!  And heeeeerre it is!”   

"This is never going to come out," she thought as she scrubbed at the spot on the worn carpet.

“Now all of you wind up your thinking caps and get busy writing those 100 word dinky dramas!  And for all you watching at home, you are all welcome to join in and play Saturday Centus too!   Go, Centusian, go!!!"  

(More thunderous applause is heard.)

Here is my attempt at this week's Saturday Centus challenge.  I hope I win.  I really want that collection of ladies watchbands from Speidel. It's always been a dream of mine.  I don't know why.   I have entitled this one:

Losing It

At 92, Agnes was a spry and happy resident of the Sundown Vista Retirement Home.  But seeing her rubbing a wet washrag against her bedroom floor, you could tell she had other issues.

"This is never going to come out," she thought as she scrubbed at the spot on the worn carpet.

“Why not use the awesome stain-fighting power of OxiClean, Agnes?” boomed a voice from nowhere.

“Who said that?  Is that you Billy?”

The image of Billy Mays shimmered before her eyes.

“It cleans, it brightens, it eliminates odors from imaginary stains,” he said.

“I know, Billy!”  Agnes replied as she held out her Super Poligrip. 

“I’m not just getting it clean, I’m getting it OxiClean!”

Jenny Matlock

Try it!  You'd have to be crazy not to!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Death Of Innocence, A Saturday Centus


Well I’m back again to stretch my mental muscle for this, the 19th week of Saturday Centus.  For those of you who still don’t know what Saturday Centus is (and if you don’t by now you must be either living in a cave somewhere in the Antarctic cut off from any communication with intelligent society or are living in Alabama) it is a themed writing meme forged from the endlessly fertile and creative mind of Jenny Matlock at her blog, off on my tangent.

In brief, the rules are that participants have to write a really tiny short story, or paragraph, or blurb if you will, of 100 words or less using a supplied prompt.  This prompt, which can be a sentence or phrase, must be used in its original form anywhere within the story and does not count toward the total 100 word limit.  The only other rules are no pictures and no vulgarity.  Once written, the stories are linked up to Jenny’s meme post so that we can all share our inspired literary inventions with one another.

As a somber tribute in honor of those fallen heroes of the September 11th terrorist attack and the great sacrifices they and their families have made, this week Jenny has decided to muster our clever collection of wordsmiths and tasked us to write our narratives about this mournful occasion.  She has allowed us to include a picture to accompany our stories as well.

Obviously such a solemn task precludes the use of any of my typical humorous devices, so I will put aside my snarky ways until next time and give this subject the respect it is due.

This week’s prompt is:

I stood frozen in front of the flickering images on my TV

Here is my contribution to this week’s Saturday Centus.  I have entitled it:

The Death of Innocence

September 11, 2001 will forever be etched into our collective consciousness as the day America suffered its harshest blow as Muslim extremists attacked, killing almost 3,000 men, women and children. 

Like many others that day, I stood frozen in front of the flickering images on my TV as the unimaginable horror and chaos of those scenes and the videos of the plane crashes preceding it stunned the world and changed it forever.

Gone were our safe, carefree lives, a casualty of sinister ideologues.

Nine years later, the memories of that tragic day persist in the fearful eyes of our children as they face an uncertain future.

That is their sad legacy.

Jenny Matlock

Entertaining readers with ADD since May, 2010!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mephisto Rises, A Saturday Centus


Jenny Matlock

Here we go again with the 18th weekly installment of Saturday Centus, that incredibly difficult writing meme that only the very cleverest of writers dare attempt lest they fail miserably and have to run the gauntlet of ridicule and humiliation.

This isn’t like some childish N.Y. Times crossword or Sudoku puzzle.  Jenny Matlock of Mensa fame has devised this terribly sophisticated meme for those of us whose mental capabilities easily dwarf the rest of society and require greater mental stimulation than that which can be derived through normal means.

Those that feel they are worthy of the task may accept the challenge from Jenny at her blog, off on my tangent, and will be provided with a prompt, a  phrase which they are required to use within a short story of 100 words or less.  The prompt is not included in the word count.

The only other provisions of this challenge are that no vulgarity or pictures are allowed and that the prompt must be used intact anywhere within the story.  The writers are given until next Saturday to write their stories and link them back to Jenny’s original meme post so that we may all bask in the warmth of each other's creative conflagrations.

I hasten to point out that only the very best writers can be Centusians and that if you wish to be counted amongst our talented elite then you are invited to submit your stories.  Through the comments received you will be able to determine if you are truly the right fit for our extremely gifted assemblage of literary minds.

Maybe through this masterful exercise you will come to discover that you too have that creative spark of brilliance that exemplifies the likes of essayists such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson and H. L. Mencken.  If so, then possibly you have what it takes to become a Centusian and revel in the glory that it conveys.

For those whose skills would make them unqualified for membership as a Centusian, don’t be melancholy.  Your gifts are just designed to be targeted to a wider audience of readers who will hang onto your every word and praise your gifts while hoisting cans of beer into the air before pounding them down all at once and smashing the cans against their thick, protruding foreheads.  To you we say be proud of your achievements and don’t doubt your ability to go out there and “Git er done!”

This week our prompt is the most famous of classic literary prompts,

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Here is my treatment on the prompt which I have entitled:

Mephisto Rises

My mother remembers it vividly.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Eerie clouds settled over our town like an icy shroud while a chill wind howled through the trees.

An inexplicably uneasy feeling filled our home with fear and dread like the cold hand of death was resting on our shoulders.

Our family cat, Astrid, hissed loudly from under the bed as if expecting some terrible evil to be unleashed.

News of several churches suddenly bursting into flame and the panicked, tear-streaked faces of the true believers decrying it as the end of days filled our TV screen.

That was the day I was born…again.  

Jenny Matlock
Creative Writing At The Speed of Dark!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Goodbye Daddy Part Two, A Saturday Centus

Jenny Matlock

Centusians Assemble! 

And with that rallying cry echoing out across the planet, the Earth’s mightiest short, short story writers converged once again to put their literary skills to the test against the evil forces of verbosity, superfluousness and the nagging discomfort of logorrhea. 

Disguised as a mild-mannered writing blog, Jenny Matlock’s off on my tangent was also the super secret domain where the Mighty Centusians, those brave and crafty wordsmiths whose fertile imaginations could propel a reader into unimaginable realms of wonder, would come each week and devise ever-elaborate creative stories and poems using a maximum of only 100 words.   

As quickly as 60 words per minute they were there, at the Centusian secret compound, waiting for their instructions for the week. 

“I heard she was going to have us write a fake obituary for someone we really can’t stand,” said Synoptic Chick.

“Ha ha!  That’s cool!” chuckled Laconic Lad.  “Someone told me she was going to have us write a 100 word essay from the perspective of the proverbial fly on the wall, only the fly is supposed to be at your crazy neighbor’s house.”

“What’s this I hear you say about a fly on the neighbor’s wall?” Captain Concise asked as he floated into the room, his cape gently falling to his side.  “Why, that sounds like a hoot!”

“I know,” Laconic Lad laughed, “It’s just the sort of thing that Jenny….er, I mean The Fantastic Fictionist, would think up.  She’s so crazy creative sometimes it makes you just want to split infinitives for no reason.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, LL,” chimed Synoptic Chick.  “You are still not out of the doghouse for those dangling modifiers from week seven.”

They all laughed and then waited as more of the Centusians arrived and took their places around the C-shaped table.  Captain Concise greeted them all briefly, as that was his way.

“Good to see you, Succinct Scribbler!  Welcome back, Epigrammatic Girl!  Hello again, Compendiary Kid!  How’s it hanging, Abbreviated Boy!  Condensed Chronicler!  Pithy Prose Man!  Welcome, welcome! 

Oh, it’s you again, is it Baby Chopping Dude?  Hmmm.  Oh well.”

One by one they entered and sat before the huge video monitor on the wall waiting for it to hum to life with this week’s challenging meme assignment.

Well, except for Anecdotal Arnold.  He wasn’t really a part of the group.  He just cleaned up around the place and told amusing stories about his cat, Nuisance, and the funny road kill items it would bring to bed with him.

Suddenly there was a crackle sound and a flash (as you know good internet service is so hard to get in some parts of Arizona) and before them rose the ten foot tall, thirteen foot wide face of their fearless leader, The Fantastic Fictioner! 

“Greetings fellow Centusians!  And thank you for joining me so quickly.  I have this week’s assignment to pass along to you, but before I do, I wanted to ask you a question.  Do my pores look alright to you?”

She asked the same question each week and every week the Centusians answered in the affirmative.  In all honesty some were getting kind of sick of it and were to the point that one week very soon they were going to spring an answer on her that she wouldn't like at all just to get back at her.  Some even fantasized about her reaction with much delight.

“Blackheads?  Dry scaly skin?  Enlarged pores?  Auuuugghhhhhh!”

Fortunately they were in the minority and most were perfectly happy to tell her that, yes, she had lovely skin.

“Centusians, I am proud to say that the enemies of Centusland are in retreat!  The evil Lady Tautology and her nefarious partner in crime, Lord Loquacity, have fled rather than tempt us to go over the word count with our 100 word essays.  It is a very great victory for us and for short, short story writers everywhere!” she exclaimed.

“Good riddance to bad Tau Taus,” quipped Baby Chopping Dude, though, as usual, no one laughed.

“Here is this week’s assignment.  You are to take a previous Saturday Centus story, one that either you or one of the other Saturday Centus writers wrote, and write a continuation of it including the original story with your post.  There is no prompt, no special title and no extra rule other than the usual keeping it to no more than 100 words total.  Just link it to this week’s meme post and we will stop by to read it and comment on it.  You got that?”

A hand rose up from the table.

“Yes, Impossibly Short Short Story Guy?  You have a question?”

“Ummm.  Yeah, FF.  I was wondering if rather than do a continuation, if I could do a prequel.  You know, because at the end of my stories everybody always dies.  And I’m not comfortable working with zombies or that genre.”

Now it must be mentioned here that not all of the Centusians were blessed with that spark of brilliance that made their stories flow like a mountain stream through a verdant redwood forest.  For Gilbert, who had picked out his own name, Impossibly Short Short Story Guy, his stories flowed more like a teenager on a rollercoaster – apparently after taking LSD.

“No.  Just deal with it,” was FF’s brief reply.

“I’ll expect your stories within the week.  Remember, 100 words!  I’m looking at you, Master Supercilious!”

A few loud groans could be heard from the group.

“And remember…it is of the utmost importance that we keep our secret society a secret.  If other people knew that Centusians were super creative beings, and had a clue about our true identities, then the world of short, short fiction writing would be in great peril.  Do you understand me clearly, Baby Chopping Dude?”

“Yeah, whatever,” came the impassive reply.

OOPS!  Did I just hit the Publish Post button?  Oh darn it!  Sorry about that Jen…er, I mean FF!

Here is my Saturday Centus contribution for this week.  It is a continuation of my very first Saturday Centus endeavor from way back in week two.  (Ahh, I was such a bright and promising Centusian back then.  I wonder, what happened?)  It was some poetic verse I called “Goodbye Daddy.”  I’ve included the original in italics as well as my continuation.  I hope you like it.

Goodbye Daddy (Part One)

Back home.

I walk the dirt path I’d known as a child.

Memories rush forth,

filling my senses like so many vivid dreams.

The smell of barbecue hangs heavy in the air,

mixing with the dingy air of poverty, rusted

factories and cotton fields.

Daddy’s life and love had been the river.

Oh, the times spent catfishin’, daddy singing

the blues to music flowing from a nearby juke joint,

or playing his harmonica.

Damn, but the man could play.

I look back over my shoulder, 

squinting into the late afternoon sun,

gawking with stunned alarm

at the broad rolling muddy waters

of the Mississippi,
wondering if daddy is up there in heaven now,

smiling and listening to his delta blues.

The tears flow.

Goodbye Daddy (Part Two)

That he will be missed,

there is no question.

I’ll remember the gleam in his blue-gray eyes

as they sparkled in the pale moonlight,

and his gentle, loving voice as he calmed my fears

as we visited Mama’s grave.

I’ll miss the roar of his laughter,

His crooked smile as I’d catch him cheatin’ at cards...again.

But my tears are his tears today.

To never again hear the whippoorwill call,

watch the herons glide across the dusky sunset,

nor see them steamboats churnin’ that muddy water

That he loved so much.

Oh the Sunday fishfrys he’ll never know,

drinkin’ Pabst Blue Ribbon,

Eating his favorite biscuits with red-eyed gravy,

and singing the delta blues.

As far as Daddy was concerned,

He was already in Heaven.

Jenny Matlock

Join The Centusians!  
(Unless You Are Tom Cruise)


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