Friday, September 27, 2013

Ziggurat



Friday Fiction with Sara is hosted by 
Karlene @ Karlene A Jacobsen    
Links for more inspirational fiction await you there.  

This following fictional story, 
based on the Biblical story The Tower of Babel,
 was written for a FaithWriters challenge
 with the topic "Measure."  

Ziggurat

I hear their hushed babbles; they watch me. They recognize the clothing I wear; clothing that proclaims my royal position. I am the one honored by Nimrod himself, selected from the workers for this task. I am Akkade of Shinar.


An acrid odor clings to the plain; my eyes burn. Bricks outnumbering the stars in the sky are baked in the fires that continually flame. Workers form the bricks in order to build our city and the great tower that will reach to the heavens, up to God himself. Nimrod proclaims that no power on earth can stop us. The task assigned to me, Akkade of Shinar, is to measure the tower progress. I will give a report each araḫ1 to Nimrod.

Araḫ Samna2
The work begins. The tower foundation has been laid. I have measured and certified the perimeter at 73 nindanu3 square. Bricks are continuously being produced.
--Akkade of Shinar



Most workers now ignore me, but not he. I see him; he still stares. Jealousy and hatred flare from his eyes, eyes that mirror the fires he continually feeds. I should forget him; he is just a worker, a common fire-stoker.

Araḫ Kislimu2
Rain has slowed the progress. The tower height is two nindanu3.
--Akkade of Shinar



Bricks rained down, and one struck my shoulder as I prepared to measure the tower today. I hurriedly climbed the steps and saw him scurry away. It was the common fire-stoker, as I’ve come to think of him. He is becoming a threat. I must speak to Nimrod concerning him.

Araḫ Ṭebētum2
The rains have ceased and progress has resumed. The tower height has reached two aslu4. Brick production is not keeping up. We must find a way to turn out bricks faster.
--Akkade of Shinar



The tower is reaching to heaven, up to God. Nothing can stop us. We will soon walk into the presence of the Most High. Generations from now, when people see the tower, they will remember what we accomplished.

Araḫ Šabaṭu2
The tower is approaching four aslu4. Good communication among the workers is aiding the progress. I propose we inscribe your worthy name, Nimrod, on the capstone of this great tower.
--Akkade of Shinar



Nothing further hinders our progress. We have birthed this tower and nourished it. Some mornings as I see clouds surround the top, I almost believe it is the breath exhaled from the tower. I must ask permission of Nimrod to inscribe my name on a stone at the top. I, too, will be praised by generations who see this great marvel. They will see the tower and remember Akkade of Shinar.


Nimrod has given permission to do whatever pleases me concerning the common fire-stoker. Today, I will confront him. He will bow to me or he will be reassigned. The air holds an excitement; all my dreams are coming to pass. I’m pleased with the great height reached by our torre5. ¿Qué pasó? ¡No entiendo! El trabajo se ha parado. ¡Contésteme ahora! ¡Soy Akkade de Shinar!6
***
~~ Fictional story based on The Tower of Babel from
Genesis 11:1-9 ~~

***

1 Araḫ - month
2 Samna, Kislimu, Ṭebētum, and Šabaṭu – Babylonian month names
3 one nindanu, an ancient Mesopotamian unit of measure = 6 meters
4 one aslu, an ancient Mesopotamian unit of measure = 60 meters
5 tower
6 What happened? I don't understand! Work has stopped. Answer me, now! I am Akkade of Shinar!

written by Beth LaBuff - (c) January 2013

Friday, November 2, 2012

Junk Food National Historic Memorial


Friday Fiction

The beefy hand of the park ranger slid the pass to me and droned, “Please don’t remove or consume any historical items from the memorial.”  My eyebrows puckered; silently I queried the dusting of powdered sugar near his lower lip.


It had been ten bland years since the prohibition against all forms of junk food.  The military was pressed into service, called upon to round up junk food from manufacturing plants, warehouses, store shelves, and even from the private sector.  It was transported to a rural area, where confections and snacks were bulldozed into a misshapen obese mountain.  Within months of the junk food ban, the Bible was also banned.  Of these two dangers to society, only junk food was memorialized with a National Historic Memorial.


In the penumbra of the gastro-monstrous mountain, the concrete Visitor Center and Museum beckoned.   After the greeting by the sticky museum door handle, I felt the need to slide my hand down the spinach-green slacks I’d chosen to wear.    Inside, a standard gray movable sign on the left announced, “Junk Food National Historic Memorial -- mountain tours begin on the hour.”   I checked my watch; I had thirty minutes to explore the museum before the next tour began.


The adjoining room to my left was labeled “Snacks.”   I entered its dimness, allowing my eyes to focus on the bright displays.  The first told the history of the potato chip, its origin and packaging through the years.  Memories of fun-filled days spent with Jimmy at the county fair flooded as scents of popcorn and chips were vented into the room.  The adjacent display used glaring geometric shapes and blaring neon colors with a chilling reminder of the calorie content and emphasized bodily damage from potato chip consumption.


Next, my buff non-junk-food-contaminated body hurriedly perused the snack cake display with its similar history followed by a consumer warning.  Nostalgia smacked my lean six-pack with longing for those crème-filled delights of bygone days.   Other rooms off the main hall were labeled, “Soda Pop,” and “Pastries.”   I had my choice of which junk food rooms to sample next.


The last room I visited was labeled “Experience the sluggish life of a junk-food junkie.”    This room was set up to be an experiential warning, where the participant could suffer through two minutes in the life of a junk food addict.   This was the room I secretly and eagerly anticipated.  This National Historic Memorial was the only place in the country where junk food was legally sold—in limited quantities.  Just before entering, I purchased my artery-clogging, blood-pressure-raising junk food of choice.  There was an overstuffed couch along the back wall of the lamp-lit room.   I plopped onto the overstuffing and set my feet atop the coffee table that fronted the couch.   The opposite wall sported a mounted television with a football game already in progress.    I kicked-off my two minutes when I popped the soda can top and ripped open the single-serving bag of chips.    The salty crisps and the fizzy liquid were an explosion of enjoyment, reawakening smothered and forbidden sensations.   The two-minute experiential warning was pure ambrosia.


As I awaited the mountain tour, suddenly warning whistles blared.  Uniformed personnel swarmed from every direction like ants looking for the last picnic crumb.   The loud speaker announced that a praline had been stolen from the historic mountain memorial and recent mountain tourists would have to undergo a search.   Then came a saccharin apology, “We regret that due to the theft, there will be no more Junk Food Mountain tours today.” 


I gave a quick wave to the park ranger as I left the National Historic Memorial.  His double chin pumped his head in my direction as his mouth remained fixed and his hands seemed preoccupied with something beyond my vision.    The sign at the park exit warned, “We remember; lest we go back.”  


I plan to return next year, just to be warned again.

  © Beth LaBuff -- September 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Fiction

Plain Crash
by Beth LaBuff -- October 2011


A zephyr swept savanna's plain.
The African sun blazed.
A crash* of rhino's searched for food,
Their grassland overgrazed.

A league of scholars heard their plight
And since it's common knowledge
That "Information holds the key,"
They rallied at their college.

They formed, to raise awareness,
The Rhino-Smarts Foundation.
They gathered funds for laptops--
Tax deductible donations.

The rhino boasts keen hearing,
Though poor eyesight overall.
It's also common knowledge that
His brain is somewhat small.

An herbivore with thick gray skin,
Each foot displays three toes.
He's none too bright, quite comical
With horn atop his nose.

The Rhino-Smarts Foundation
Presented to the crash,
A laptop for their personal use,
With giga-memory cache.

The rhinos, grateful for the gift,
Began appropriation.
They plotted ways to ascertain
Some prudent information.

With keywords, "vitamins" and "grass,"
Each word spelled with precision.
They searched which grass variety
Would boost their feeble vision.

They googled which would strengthen
The horn atop their nose
And which would banish athlete's foot
Between their triple toes.

They also searched for recipes
To turn the grass to mash
That promised thick-skin softening—
Grass lotion for the crash.

Just as they sought to google
Specific grass locations –
Their laptop flashed a message,
Caused arrhythmic palpitations.

"Warning! Virus Warning!"
Spread confusion like a flash.
Poor vision, plus their pint-sized brains—
A virus struck their crash ? ! ?

They googled, "virus symptoms."
They yahooed, "rhino pain."
Resultant—"rhinovirus"
Confused their rhino brains.

It started with a sniffle, then
Progressed to horn congestion
"The virus" rampaged through the crash—
The powers of suggestion.

While virus through the laptop spread
To giga-memory cache,
The monitor went haywire then
Their laptop system crashed.

Sometimes a little knowledge
Can misdirect the brain.
The ailing, fevered rhinos crashed
And burned upon the plain.
***
*crash—a herd of rhinoceroses

***

Friday Fiction is hosted by
Rick @ Pod Tales and Ponderings
Head on over for links 
to more inspirational Fiction.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stellar Appellations

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by
Karls (Karlene Jacobson) at Voices...
Head over for links to inspirational fiction.

Stellar Appellations
by Beth LaBuff

An aging brick façade, sat decomposing on the lane,
Held a rusty pock-marked door that was weather-beaten, stained.
Inside, a single dangling bulb launched shadows in a hall
That pointed to a doorway, set mid-center on the wall.

Inside the room, Sir Abram toiled while fifty years accrued,
His livelihood for fifty more if wishing stars held true.
Sparse furnishings—a single desk presided o’er the space.
“Twas daily here, Sir Abram’s methodology took place.

The walls and ceiling of this room were painted midnight blue
With tiny starlight pinpoints plotted—prompting easy view.
Beside each tiny stellar point, in pristine script of white,
The name he’d chosen to bestow upon that distant light.

A list each morn, with newest stars was tacked up in the hall,
And by day’s end, each star was named and charted on his wall.
He’d satisfaction in the fact that each star known to man
Had carefully received a name by his own thoughtful plan.

Each working day Sir Abram rambled down that shambled lane,
Regenerated once again inside his starred domain.
As father with his children, he recited starry names,
Then when at rest, sat at his desk, a job well-done—acclaimed.

At mid-point of the fifty-second year of his employment,
A shadow loomed that dimmed his light and halted his enjoyment.
It seemed a ruthless act, to slide a pink slip ‘neath his door,
But there it lay, a bearer of bad tidings on the floor.

“The Appellator, Bureau Office, Stellar Appellations,
We hereby give you notice of our budget lacerations.
For due to lack of funding, we inform you to our sorrow,
We’re shutting down this office; it’s effective on the morrow.”

So voila! Unemployment, his reward for fifty years!
This pink slip proclamation predicated life to veer,
At workday’s end, he offed the lights— symbolic— darkened-day.
But satisfied each star was named, he sadly trod away.

Despite his melancholiness— new stars that offer light,
Though still unnamed, regardless, go on shining just as bright.
And if uncharted nor assessed—the distance from our sun,
These unnamed stars, unfathomed lights—still have been named by One.

***
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Psalm 147:4

Look up at the heavens and count the stars...So shall your offspring be.
Genesis 15:5

© Beth LaBuff -- January 2012

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Nightmare Before Thanksgiving on Cranberry Street

The Nightmare Before Thanksgiving on Cranberry Street
by Beth LaBuff

'Twas the eve 'fore Thanksgiving on Cranberry Street,
Our cottage was brimming with victuals and sweets.
The pumpkin pies cooled, as had marshmallowed yams,
And raisin bread slices awaited plum jam.

The turkey was nestled all snug in its pan,
A five a.m. stuffing— accorded the plan.
The lists on the counter would free-up my head.
With tasks for each hour, I climbed into bed.

When out on the porch I heard clunkings and bams.
I ran out the doorway, then tripped on canned Spam!
Now what kind of prank had entangled my feet?
What lunacy lurked here on Cranberry Street?

For hundreds of cans lay in haphazard heaps,
Who sent this fool Spam? Am I still fast asleep?
Did Cranberry Street have a luncheon meat war?
I entered my cottage, securing the door.

Befuddled, I sat in my swivel desk chair,
I pondered the front porch; I whispered a prayer.
I switched on my laptop, my brain in a stew;
I thought to read emails for something to do.

Then what to my listening ears was THAT sound?
My inbox was flooding with emails— inbound.
More rapid than vultures, from whom and from where,
Converged on my inbox, left messages there.

Prolific as rabbits, more forthcoming mail
Assaulted my thinking—I feared to exhale.
These emails could cause such outlandish fixations—
Proposing that Spam be the pride of our nation!

Suggestions: That canned Spam would pair well with tea break,
At Christmas time— canned Spam in lieu of a fruitcake.
Have roasted stuffed Spam served on Thanksgiving Day,
Tie ribbons on Spam and attach to bouquets.

Then flanking my email were ads from cafés.
Each advertised dishes like Spam Fudge Parfaits,
And touted the flavor of Simmered Spam Stew,
Or boasted the glories of Cubed Spam Fondue.

While haunted by roasts of our Thanksgivings past,
Now, luncheon meat cans on my porch had amassed.
I feared for tomorrow, for our turkey meat.
Such strange things had happened on Cranberry Street.

I may eat Spam pudding and suffer this scheme,
I may add some Spam to my coffee with cream.
I may grill Spam steaks on the Fourth of July,
But don't dump your Spam in my sweet pumpkin pie.

I swiveled my swivel chair, lost deep in thought.
This whole Spam fiasco had left me distraught.
It rested on me, so I must find a way—
I couldn't let Spam be the rule of the day.

And there, a solution for streets out-of-kilter,
Alleging a swift comprehensive spam filter.
I added my addresses—email and house,
Then dispatched it posthaste with a click of my mouse.

I'll never know how that this task was completed—
But all the Spam cans on my porch were deleted.
The filter-fix helped purge our porch of Spam meat—
Put life back to normal on Cranberry Street.

***

—with apologies to Clement C. Moore, Dr. Seuss, and Hormel—

***
Spam © Hormel Foods LLC
© Beth LaBuff -- 2011
***
If you enjoyed reading this
you will find more great reading
by clicking the following link.
Friday Fiction is hosted this week
by Vonnie at My Back Door

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Hermit Crab's New Shell

Friday Fiction is hosted by
Sara over at Fiction Fusion.
Head that way for more inspirational fiction,
or add a link to your own.
***

The Hermit Crab's New Shell
--with a nod to "The Emperor..."--

By cutting out her plankton snacks

An urban legend states,

A hermit crab, by dieting

Had scaled down her weight.


Her toned-up exoskeleton

With dwindled fatty cells,

Necessitated acquisition

Of a slimmer shell.


The shop she chose to patronize

Was Decapod Boutique.

She'd clams to barter for a shell

To show off her physique.


Inside the shop, all eyes on her,

That gave them pause from work.

At once she was converged upon

By two aggressive clerks.


They sized her up from cheliped

To abdomen to claw,

Then grabbed some shells suspended from

The hangers on the wall.


The first shell for perusal was

A modest a-line shell,

Her thoughts—Improper dry-cleaning

Had left a briny smell!


The next shell was a bit risqué,

Très scant –décolleté.

When "scandalous" escaped her mouth,

They whisked the shell away.


The third shell's prior owner had

A heart with "MOM" tattoo

Emblazoned 'cross the backside that

Could not be hid from view.


The next one, a bit worse for wear—

For wrinkles lined the shell,

Apparently 'twas slumbered in

By former clientele.


'Twas then that one clerk winked an eye

As she began to tell

The attributes and glories of

"The shell to end all shells."


"A shell that was exquisite,

'Twas of antiquated fame.

A shell that sensed its wearer's mood

And warranted acclaim."


But there was one disclaimer,

"Though an ancient work of art,

The only crabs that see this shell

Are crabs with cheerful hearts."


They sashayed as they hauled it in,

'Twas plastic-wrap encased.

With pageantry and circumstance,

The clerks were stoic-faced.


Then hanging ties, unknotted by

The sales clerk entourage,

But was this just a shell game

Or an optical mirage?


She squinted thrice then scrunched her eyes

And dread began to swell,

Was not her crab heart cheerful?

For she couldn't see the shell!


Then they commenced to help her—

Incredulity dispelled.

They pulled and tugged and shoved on her

To wedge her in the shell.


Not sure if it was fitted straight,

She tried to shift the shell,

Not only could it not be seen—

It couldn't be felt, as well!


She could not let them ascertain

Her crabby heart lacked cheer,

Though obviously the reason—

That much was pretty clear.


She paid the price in clamshells

Then departed the boutique.

But breezes filtered through the shell,

'Twas felt by her physique!


She scanned the eyes of passersby,

In shock, they turned away.

And mothers shielded children's eyes.

They quickly went their way.


She thought, They harbor malice!

No cheer, their heart's possess!

It's clear my shell can not be seen.

It left her in distress.


Oh, somewhere hearts were cheerful,

Though here, they were appalled!

'Twas vocalized by one young crab,

"She wears no shell at all!"


***
© Beth LaBuff --May 2011
***
The woman Folly is rowdy;
she is gullible and knows nothing.
Proverbs 9:13 HCSB

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Brigadier and the Merchant's Daughter

Friday (slightly delayed) Fiction is hosted by
Rick over at Pod Tales and Ponderings

The Brigadier and the Merchant's Daughter
by Beth LaBuff – June 2011

The sun was a fierce inferno that blistered the barren way.
The wind was a dervish dancer that mesmerized her prey.
The sagebrush clung to the parched sand, atop the desert floor.
And the brigadier came drifting—
Like a tumbleweed roamed—drifting—
The brigadier came drifting, up to the merchant's door.

His mount was a roan that carried the faded Johnny Reb.
The gray forage cap of a soldier was slouched upon his head.
A minié ball from a musket of a blue-coat Yankee squad
Had shredded his arm at Shiloh—
It shattered his soul at Shiloh—
When they buried his arm at Shiloh, beneath the sullied sod.

His eyes were occluded windows and his thoughts lodged faraway.
The dust caked beneath his kerchief, sweat stained his worn chambray.
He passed through the door then halted, for stocking the shelves with lace
Was the merchant's comely daughter—
Rose, the merchant's daughter—
The merchant's only daughter, coal wisps enwreathed her face.

His heart met its Appomattox, was besotted at first sight.
It was reveille to his spirit and cessation of soul blight.
The battle smoke that had haunted, now wafted from his life.
He'd entered to purchase coffee—
He bought hardtack and coffee—
Then clutching hardtack and coffee, he beseeched her to be his wife.

She noticed his faded gray cap and his sweat-stained chambray weave.
She examined his dust-caked kerchief and queried his empty sleeve.
His eyes sought hers while they pleaded, she sensed the sorrow there.
Then the merchant's comely daughter—
Rose, the merchant's daughter—
With a nod, the merchant's daughter—she tossed her coal-black hair.

The drifter added a purchase, a lace-trimmed wedding gown.
Then he married the merchant's daughter while the parson was in town.
In the shadow of a mesa, they picnicked at high noon.
They ate hardtack with coffee—
On their makeshift honeymoon—
And the wind was a dervish dancer for the bride and the one-armed groom.

Her pledge of love to the drifter emancipated his heart,
Held sway by the wind-blown dancer, they saw a serpent dart.
It struck with the speed of a bullet in the heel of his comely bride.
Its fangs were laden with venom—
As the bridegroom eyed the puncture—
Like a bayonet to his own soul, his heart within him died.

He reached for his muzzle-loader, with one arm loaded lead.
He aimed then he pulled the trigger, He shot the rattler—dead.
The sand of the wind-blown desert seeped through the bridal lace
Of the gown of the merchant's daughter—
Rose, the merchant's daughter—
And the wind danced with coal-black tresses across her ashen face.

He made one final purchase, as the sun was ebbing down.
Then he carried the merchant's daughter to the plot at the edge of town.
The strike from the deadly viper had stilled her coal-black locks.
He buried his love at sunset—
Entombed his heart at sunset—
He buried the merchant's daughter in a rough-hewn pinewood box.

They say on a summer's noonday, on the blistered barren way.
When the wind is a dervish dancer that mesmerizes prey.
When the sagebrush clings on the parched sand, atop the desert floor,
That the brigadier comes drifting—
Drifting—drifting—
The brigadier comes drifting, up to the merchants door.

His mount is a roan that carries the faded Johnny Reb.
The gray forage cap of a soldier is slouched upon his head.
He walks through the door then he stops short, for stocking the shelves with lace
Is the merchant's comely daughter—
Rose, the merchant's daughter—
The merchant's only daughter, coal wisps enwreathe her face.

***
—with apologies to Alfred Noyes – The Highwayman

© Beth LaBuff - June 2011