A Tisket, A Tasket

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“A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow …,” the soft baby voice singing came to a stop.  Madison turned, looking up at the woman seated nearby in a lounge chair.  “Miss Terry.” The little blonde cherub pronounced the name as “Terwy”.  It had been endearing the first time. Now it was just plain annoying.

Terry glanced up from the Sunday paper.  “What?”

“I forgot the next word.”

“Gasket,” Terry said.

A questioning frown covered the young girl’s face.  “Gasket?  Is that right?”  

“Positive.” Terry knew it was wrong, but lying to the child was somehow deeply satisfying, irresistible actually.  

It was early spring and the day was warm enough to make the slight breeze heavenly. Reading under the porch had been peaceful and relaxing until the neighbor’s daughter appeared like a meerkat on the rise of earth that separated their adjoining backyards.  Terry had been tempted to warn Madison away by telling her there’d been a recent pesticide application and it was too dangerous to walk on the grass. It was her most effective maneuver to keep the pesky little rodent from invading her yard.  But, since it was the beginning of the season, she didn’t want to overuse her primary weapon for maintaining her solitude.

Terry had made the mistake of being friendly when the couple and their three kids moved in a little less than a year ago. Their two older children were boys and neither of them had one iota of interest in a middle aged woman. She became invisible as soon as she admitted she had no children, not even a dog they could play with.  All she had to offer was a crotchety old husband.

Madison had been different. The four year old had taken an immediate interest in everything about Terry.  Her flowers, her house, the mailbox with the painted bluebirds.  The child’s obsessive behavior reminded her of the squirrels from their previous residence.

Their old neighborhood was full of towering trees and squirrels. Frank had trained a threesome to accept pecans from him, holding out the nuts with his bare hands. They’d rest one little paw on his finger while quickly grabbing the pecan with the other paw and then scurry up a tree.  It was cute at the beginning. They nicknamed the critters Gopher, Digger and Big Balls. The frequent feedings soon led to their entire backyard looking like a mine field with holes dug to bury the nuts. It was amusing until the day that Big Balls appeared next to Terry as she was planting a bed of bulbs. He was standing upright on his haunches, front paws square on his hips, his posture signaling he expected to be fed. When she couldn’t shake the little beast, she retreated to the safety of the house. But the bugger followed her, flinging his body against the aluminum door. That was the last of Frank’s nature experiment.

Terry listened as the child sang the modified nursery rhyme. “A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow gasket.” 

She chuckled, wondering how old Madison would be when she finally discovered she’d been duped.

A Broken Seal – “gasket”

A short writing exercise inspired by the word “gasket”.

Farolos de Valladolid  / Streetlights of Valla...

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The tree was massive and solid, not planted in the earth like a shrub but jutting out like a column. Its leaves rustled in the enormous branches, and a patch of torn, light wood shone out from among the dark, dirty bark like a wound.

Doug touched the bare wood lightly. It wasn’t deep, a scratch for a tree this size. A thick, jagged splinter stuck out from the patch, and Doug pressed it back against the tree, smoothing it out.

He turned his back to the tree, leaned against it, closed his eyes, and sighed. Evening was coming and the air was starting to cool. Everything had a dreamlike quality except the solid tree at his back. Feeling a trifle unsteady, slid down the tree, jacket scratching loudly, until he sat in the tuft of weeds at its base.

He opened his eyes and looked at the patch of churned up earth before him. Dark and moist, bits of grass and rock poked through the big clods of dirt and deep ruts. Strangely, he thought of his mother’s garden when he was a boy, and the fresh smell of dirt when she got it ready for planting.

A sharp point stuck from the ground in front of him, and Doug reached for it.  Shaking off the loose dirt, he rubbed off a layer of oil and grease onto his pants. It was a small metal ring, a gasket. He stared at it blankly in the palm of his hand, rubbing it back and forth with his thumb.

A radio chattered nearby, and Doug looked up to see a police officer watching him quietly. The officer moved as if he might come over to Doug, but instead simply gave a brief nod. Doug watched as the officer got into his squad car and left. The tires crunched as he drove across the thick, black skidmarks in the road that led straight towards the tree. Towards Doug.

Doug was alone. The officer was the last to leave, having made sure the motorcycle was cleared away. The flatbed had left with it about five minutes ago, the twisted pile of metal barely recognizable. The car was gone ten minutes before that, much easier to tow since it did not have to be pulled from the dirt.

His brother’s body had already been taken from the scene before Doug arrived. Doug clenched his hand around the dirty gasket, the edges biting painfully into his fingers. Overhead, the streetlights began to flicker on.

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creative writing exercise – gasket

A 1973 photograph of the Sun from Skylab, show...

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We sat in rapt attention as the lead scientist continued his demonstration.

“At just two millimeters in thickness, the Burgenstar gasket represents the current state of the art in the prevention of dispersed-by-air particles from being transferred across a barrier in either direction.  In short, we can’t smell them, which has a positive effect on our quality of life, and they can’t smell us, which has an extremely positive effect on life itself.”

A slender hand shot up from someone seated a few rows ahead of me and to the left, amidst the group from the New Era Examiner, my news agency’s primary rival.  After being acknowledged, the hand’s owner stood to ask her question.

“Some have argued that the specimens should just be exterminated or at the very least be placed under more secure conditions.  How would you respond to that, sir?”

Certainly one of the questions that was on everyone’s mind so it was no surprise that it was going to be asked by someone here today.  I was just glad that I didn’t have to burn my one chance with that one, given that my agency, the Changing Times was typically known for much less mainstream statements.

“Well, we of the scientific community feel that extermination is out of the question, since there is still much that can be learned by examination of the specimens.  As for moving them to a more secure facility, that is more in the realm of politicians and, of course, the commerce sector which has built up around the display of the specimens to the curious public.”

No news there, these guys were rolling out the accepted answers.

Over the next half hour we engaged in round after round of dodge and weave as questions were met with the expected, status quo answers.  I had been able to work in a question about the little known effects of solar flares which formed the basis for my current assignment.  The lead scientist took extra time in answering me, latching on to the fact that it apparently didn’t have anything to do with the specimens at all and was therefore a welcome diversion.

Hah, I guess he didn’t realize that I worked for the Changing Times.  I’m sure he cringed and took some heat when my headline ran the next day: “Increase in Burgenstar Failures – Solar Flares May Be to Blame”.  I’m sure he would have rather I stuck to questions about the Earth specimens instead.

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Six short stories about a “gasket”

Gaskets: # o ring # fiber washer # paper gaske...

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As part of our tinkering with this blog and the content, we’re next going to be each doing a short piece derived from the word “gasket”.  The word was Finn’s suggestion, so we’re running with it!

This exercise is something we do in our writing group to keep us writing when we hit slumps. The word just has to inspire an idea, and may not show up in the final work itself.  Sometimes there is poetry, sometimes a dialog exercise, or sometimes just a really bad pun (Shockingly: not usually from me!).   We’ve posted a few of these in the past, but never all of us posting from the same word.

We would love your feedback on the ideas we come up with over the next two weeks, and how they differ.

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