a #talesfromblackfriday short story

Hidey-ho, lovelies!

Today is so-called Black Friday here in the good ol’ USA, and I have many opinions about it. I shan’t delineate them all here. All I’ll say is that I’ve never participated in Black Friday, and I never plan to.

Also, I wrote the following short story, the tone and content of which should tell you enough plenty about my Black Friday thoughts. 😉

So. Here ya go. Happy reading!

Oh, and I wrote this story in a series of tweets. Because Twitter’s kinda my thang.

BOOYA.

blackfriday

When You Look This Good, Nobody Cares If You’re Murderous

by Courtney Cantrell

I stumble into a crowd of shoppers. They brandish hand mixers like pitchforks. Unholy light flickers in their eyes.

Atop a La-Z-Boy display, a man in Target red screams, “THE SPECIAL BEGINS NOW. MAY THE PRICES BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR.”

With yips and barks, the crowd surges forward. They carry me with them. A man goes down under a sea of trampling feet. Someone’s mixer tangles in my hair, pulling me into a nightmare aisle of pink and Barbie.

I have no mouth, and I must scream.

In their shiny boxes, the Barbies turn to look at me. “WE GIRLS CAN EAT ANYTHING,” they chorus, blood in their teeth.

Whimpering, I lunge away. A woman grabs my arm and swings me toward the Barbies. “They just want to play, dear.” Her eyes are big and blue and flat. Painted on.

Like the dolls’ eyes.

I try to pull away, but she pushes me into the Barbie boxes. A cascade of inarticulate limbs and blond hair washes over me. I fall to the floor. Inside their boxes, the Barbies claw at the clear plastic. Their fingers are razor-sharp talons, shredding plastic. Those talons slash toward my face. Toward my eyes.

“WELCOME TO #BLACKFRIDAY,” say the Barbies.

Moving jerkily, a Ken doll crawls into the mĂȘlĂ©e. Followed by another Ken. And a third. They’re attached to each other.

KENTIPEDE.

Baring bloody, point-filed teeth, the Barbies whisper in chorus, “MEIN LIEBER DREI-KEN.”

I scramble backward. My back hits somethng solid. I look up. Life-size Santa doll stares down at me with solid black eyes.

“CHRISSSTMASSS ISSS COMING, PRECIOUSSSS,” says Santa. Maggots squirm from his lips. “I SSSEE YOU WHEN YOU’RE SSSLEEPING.”

Darkness closes in. I feel the Barbies’ teeth and claws sink into my flesh. There’s the stampede of shoppers’ feet as each clamors for their portion. “BEST DEAL,” cries the Kentipede. “90% OFF LONG PORK.” Barbies giggle.

The crazed retail vultures descend on me, slavering. “HAPPY HOLIDAYSSS,” hisses Santa. I hear discordant jingle bells.

Then, nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

THE END

The world I want to live in

I want to live in a world where I can be unrestrained, passionate, an artist, a writer, a poet, a sci-fi/fantasy/superheroes geek, a quantum physics dabbler, a Jesus-follower, a wife, mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a photographer, a foodie, a singer, a collector of ridiculous junk, a lover of everything about the cramazing human body, a tinkerer, a plotpantser, an advocate of even the most difficult truths, a ray of sunshine.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay that in addition to most of those roles, I’ve also been a mentor, a counselor, a mediator of conflicts, an innkeeper, an events organizer, a language instructor, a treasurer, a dollmaker, a carpenter, a construction worker, an archivist, an historian, an editor, a vice president, a genealogist, a hair stylist, a caterer.

I want to live in a world where functioning in all of these ways does *not* mean I’m “indecisive,” “rootless,” “aimless,” “absent-minded,” “careless.”

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be whomever the spirit leads me to be at any given time.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be me.

I want to live.

I can fit my whole fist in my mouth (weirdness + #amwriting update)

Me: I would seriously throw up if I had to remove somebody’s eyeball. Makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

Ed: Don’t think about it. You won’t have to do it anytime soon.

Me: I might. There could be a zombie apocalypse and somebody could have a tumor in their eye.

Ed (in Schwarzenegger voice): It’s not a tumah.

____________________

Ed: I hate that story.

Me: What? “The Three Little Kittens”? Why?

Ed: Because I’ve read it about a million times!

Me: Well, the good news is, I can still fit my whole fist in my mouth.

Ed: I… what? Why are you–? Your whole fist?

Me (with enthusiasm): Uh-huh!

Ed: But…what are you doing, just sitting in here all by yourself, stuffing your fist in your mouth?

Me (with enthusiasm): Uh-huh!

Ed: But…I…okay. (walks out)

____________________

In the car….

Toddler (from backseat): I need a pah*!
(*pacifier)

Me: You don’t need one right now. It’s not naptime.

Toddler: I need a pah!

Me: No, not right now.

Husband and I converse for several minutes. Suddenly–

Toddler (singing to tune “Wheels on the Bus”): A baby in a bus say, I need pah, I need pah, I need pah. A baby in a bus say, I need pah, all through the town.

Me: Well, that’s the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever heard.

____________________

In other news,

my January progresseth apace with editing every moment I get.

Legacy (Legends of the Light-Walkers #3) (working title) is still underway: I’ve finished Draft 0.1-1.5 (I’ve lost track of which version this actually is by now) and am now in the throes of editing and rewriting based on feedback from three beta-readers. Since all three know what they’re doing, I have my work cut out for me. I’ll write a more comprehensive Writing Life update soon.

Also, I really can fit my whole fist in my mouth. Cheers.

_______________________________________________________________

This is why I should stay off of Pinterest.

Ed: What are you *doing*?

Me: It says to reblog this with my tongue.

Ed: Okayyy….

Me: According to this, 95% of people can’t do it.

Ed: I don’t doubt it.

Me: My touchscreen won’t respond. I have to dry my tongue first. How do you dry your tongue?

Ed: You probably don’t.

Me: Nnng. Mmmp. Guh. Shoot, I have to start over.

Ed: …

Me: There. I did it. I am so superior to 95% of people.

Ed: *sigh*

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I’m a carrot-buy-aholic.

Me: So, umm…I think I have a problem.

Ed: What?

Me: I bought carrots today.

Ed: …

Me: Two different kinds.

Ed: …

Me: A package of baby-cut carrots and a package of frozen, sliced ones.

Ed: …

Me: Sliced like Ruffles potato chips.

Ed: You know we already had carrots in the fridge, right?

Me: I realized that later.

Ed: We didn’t need any more carrots.

Me: I know that now. That’s why I’m saying I have a problem. Like with nail polish.

Ed: Nail polish.

Me: Yeah. I go to the store, I feel like I need to buy nail polish. That’s why I have so much of it. It’s the same with the carrots.

Ed: We didn’t need any more carrots.

Me: It’s like a compulsion. I go to the store, I have to buy carrots.

Ed: …

Me: Buying carrots. It’s a sickness. I need help. I need Carrots Anonymous.

Ed: A little K.A., huh?

Me: Well, we’re speaking English, not German, so it would be “C.A.,” but yes.

Ed: Oh, yeah. That’s spelled with a “C” in English.

Me: I have to go now. I have to find a place for all the carrots.

The Night Before Christmas, Oklahoma Style

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN OKLAHOMA*

by Courtney Cantrell

with thanks (and possibly apologies) to Clement C. Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my home
Dishes rattled and shook like when buffalo roam!
The stockings, they fell from the chimney and stair,
But it wasn’t St. Nicholas — he wasn’t yet there.

christmasdeco2013Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap
Came gasping awake from our long winter’s nap.
The children plopped, startled, right out of their beds.
They bumped every elbow and all their wee heads.

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
The moon set off sparkles on inch-thick ice
And then I saw something that just wasn’t nice.

It made my eyes wonder, it made my brow frown:
Inflatable Santa had toppled right down.
I guessed that tonight there would be no St. Nick,
But my wife hurried over and hugged me right quick.

“Oh honey,” she said, “don’t make no mistake.
We’re gonna have Christmas in spite of that ‘quake!
Now dash and now dance, and now get to fixin’.
We’ll clean up the mess with some fast cleaning blitzin’!”

So that’s what we did — you’d think we could fly.
Our Christmas was back ‘fore the sun gained the sky.

Our children’s eyes twinkled! Their dimples were merry!
Our Christmas was saved! That ‘quake? Not so hairy!
For bestest of all, we still had each other,
Momma and Daddy and sisters and brothers.

I’d panicked when thinking we’d have no jolly elf,
And now I just laughed in spite of myself.
Sure, snowman Frosty had just lost his head,
But an earthquake should give me nothing to dread.

I spoke not a word as the kids went work
Emptying their stockings, no present to shirk.
I first wiped my eyes and then blew my nose.
Tearful prayers of thanksgiving to heaven arose.

With my wife in my arms — kids played on the floor —
I knew that no harm could come through my door.
Forget that dumb ‘quake! Family’s a beautiful sight.
So, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

___________________

I took complete poetic license with the extent of the damage we suffered, which amounted to none. ; )

MERRY CHRISTMAS, DEAR INKLINGS! Hope it’s been a great one.

christmastree2013edited

Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Resource: Ent Larva and Dances With Testicles

Or: Writerly shenanigans with words, cuz that’s how I roll.

In case you didn’t know, I grew up in Germany and speak German fluently. I also speak a fair amount of French and a smattering of Italian, and I’ve had four years of Ancient Greek. This is the reason why in many of most of my novels, I make up words such as “Saltmarch” and “banegold” and have characters who speak in dialects. (I’m trying to dial back the dialect stuff, since it turns off some of my readers. See? I love y’all enough to kill my darlings!)

*ahem* Where was I?

Oh. Languages. Yes. Well, today I read something German that included the word “heimsuchen.” I’ve always considered it a peculiar word. It’s used to describe uncomfortable or scary events, mostly related to natural disasters. It’s translated as beleaguer, infest, devastate, afflict, obsess, haunt.

So, a stalker “heimsucht” a victim. Or Moore, OK, was “heimgesucht” by tornadoes on May 11th. Or the spirits “heimsuchen” the graveyard. Et cetera.

But directly translated, “heimsuchen” means “homeseek.”

That just flips my bangerang switch penchants all over the place. Homeseek. It could be a verb: the action of a specially programmed missile. It could be a noun: a tiny creature you carry around with you on your quest, only for emergency use when you’re hopelessly lost in Thornbird Forest. It could even be an adverb, although I don’t recommend those and don’t know how you’d use “homeseekily,” anyway.

Ooh. A title. Pillars of the Twelve: Homeseek (totally arbitrary number). Go do something with that.

The more I thought about this strange word “heimsuchen” and its incorrect translation “homeseek,” the more excited I got about finding other German words or phrases to translate into fantasy/sci-fi inspiration. So I did some pondering and came up with the following. Use at will–it’s all free inspiration! Credit me if you like, or not. But don’t be surprised if I use some of these myself. ; )

German word: PECHVOGEL

Correct translation: jinx, unlucky person

Direct translation: tar bird

A mech bird that dumps tar or something equally unlovely upon citizens for public infractions? A bird made of tar, created by a wizard to plague people?

German word: SÄUFERSONNE

In this case, the correct and direct translations have to be one and the same, because I don’t know of an English phrase for this. The word translates to “drunkard’s sun” and refers to the moon: Either the person is too drunk to tell the difference and thinks the moon is the sun; or s/he spends the day sleeping off a hangover and never sees the actual sun, so the moon must suffice.

But it makes me think of the phrase “drinker’s sun,” which leads to “drink the sun,” which could be really creepy in some evil ritual by the bad guys in a fantasy story.

German phrase: HEILIGER STROHSACK

Correct translation: Holy mackerel!

Direct translation: Holy straw sack (Batman)!

German word: HEUSCHRECKE

Correct translation: grasshopper, locust

Direct translation: hay scare

German phrase: SCHWEIN HABEN

Correct translation: to be lucky

Direct translation: to have pig

I think this would be awesome in a fantasy novel with villager characters. : )

German word: EISBEIN

Correct translation: knuckle of pork (in cooking)

Old usage: ice skate (noun)

Direct translation: ice leg

German word: ENTLARVEN

Correct translation: to unmask

Direct translation: to de-larva

Maybe Tolkien’s ents start out as larva? I dunno. O_o

German word: ELFENBEIN

Correct translation: ivory (the dentine, not the color)

Direct translation: elf leg

What’s the connection between elves and elephants? Write it!

German word: HOTTEHÜ

Correct translation: horse (babytalk)

Direct translation: rightleft (noun)

German word: FRIEDHOF

Correct translation: graveyard

Direct translation: peace yard

German word: EIERTANZ

Correct usage: to beat around the bush

Direct translation: egg dance

BONUS: can also translate to “testicle dance” O_o

German word: JEMANDEN MUNDTOT MACHEN

Correct translation: to muzzle someone, to shut someone up

Direct translation: to make someone mouth-dead

So there you have it, folks! Some of my favorite, inspiring mistranslations. Feel free to share which of these inspires you — and then go write it! Or draw it, or paint it. Whatever you want!

Me, I’m having visions of mouth-dead elves made of ice, tending to peaceyards full of larva that hatch into tiny trees, all whilst dodging the tar birds sent to drink the sun.

Dances With Eggs. Because really, why wouldn't you?

Dances With Eggs. Because really, why wouldn’t you?

I own a banana slicer. And I am not ashamed.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I took a day and instead of tweeting, just emailed myself everything I would’ve tweeted. I did this knowing I would eventually blog it all. I don’t know why. There’s no particular goal of this, just the fact that the blog is a laboratory and I get to mush stuff together on it and see what goes kablooey.

So here are my tweets, including the stuff I would’ve re-tweeted (RT). Make of the mess what you will.

kablooey1

Stereoscopic vision really freaks me out sometimes.

It is not a happy thing when the baby eats a dead bug. *SIGH*

RT @lecrae: Peace doesn’t mean you won’t have problems. It’s means problems won’t have you.

HEY I JUST MET YOU, AND THIS IS CRAZY
BUT LET’S TELL RIDDLES AND I’LL EAT YOU MAYBE.

(I tweeted this one after all. Had to.)

(I tweeted this one after all. Had to.)

RT @scalzi: Most nerdy t-shirts just don’t seem that clever to me anymore. Clearly, my next t-shirt should read WHY ARE YOU ON MY LAWN

Your choices change the direction of other people’s lives. You are not isolated.

RT @AdviceToWriters: There’s a word for a writer who never gives up: published. JOE KONRATH
#amwriting #publishing #writing

RT @BenHoward87: If you see a centaur, remember it is not your friend. It is a mythical creature and as such does have the capability for rational thought.

Sometimes you just gotta take a few minutes and shave your legs.

Me too. RT @YMinisterswife: Sometimes I am compassionate. Sometimes I am not.
I am working on it.

This floor is messing with my head.
tilefloor

RT @PassiveVoiceBlg: Misguggle http://t.co/h8dCtF0HCM

RT @BenHoward87: Peanuts cartoons + Morrissey lyrics = the hilarity of existential despair http://t.co/DkfxO50Kw6

I am in my favorite place in the entire universe. Walmart checkout. #notreally

I’ve been beta-reading things for people lately. Good to work on #amwriting stuff, even if it’s not mine.

RT @LeVostreGC: Thou: subjecte. Thee: objecte. Thy: possessif (:thyne, yf yn front of a vowel). Now thou knowst, and the knowinge ys wel half of the battel.

Trying to clean my carpet with baking soda and vinegar.
baking soda and vinegar carpet

I own a banana slicer and I am not ashamed.

Remember when Scully wore shoulder pads?

Remember when desktop monitors were the size of anvils?

RT @pattonoswalt: Be a warrior, that your son may be a doctor, and his son a poet, and his son a podcaster, and his son a resentful Libertarian.

Remember when we couldn’t Google anything?

RT @LeVostreGC: Siri, wher ys the horse and the ridere? Siri, wher ys the horn that was blowinge?

.@LeVostreGC Wher in the worlde ys Carmen Sandiego?

Remember when payphones?

Just so you know, Kinesio-taping your stomach to pull your abs together is not for sissies. #diastasisrecti

That awkward moment when you look in the mirror and there’s an ant crawling in your hair.

It occurs to me that I haven’t performed a solo in 7 years.

Rain. Thunder. Contented. Sigh.

RT @BenHoward87: If I blame everyone alive for all the things that have happened in existence, will the internet still have a reason to exist?

Three Poetry Faves: Existentialist Slithy Flues

I had the following stuck in my head earlier today, so I thought I should share it:

A fly and a flea and a flue
Were in prison,
So what could they do?
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
So they flew
Through a flaw
In the flue.

~Ogden Nash

I’ve read the fifth line with a different word order, namely: “‘Let us fly!’ said the flea.” But I’ve written it as I learned it back in 8th grade or whenever that was.

The fly and the flea and the flue naturally reminded me of another favorite, which goes like this:

There was a young man who said, “God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.”

REPLY
Dear Sir:
Your astonishment’s odd.
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by
Yours, faithfully,
God.

~Richard Knox

That one just gives me a little existentialist chuckle. ; )

And finally, I’d be quite remiss if I didn’t make note of the master of all nonsense poems, in which the poet tells a complete and comprehensible story by way of words that make no sense at all because he made them up. BRILLIANT.

Jabberwocky

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

~Lewis Carroll