NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge Round 1: The Towkay, The Seamstress and The Coconut Tree

Since I’ve quit my job, I’ve been focusing on my writing, something that I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl.  The Boobook has been really supportive of me throughout this process, so that’s always a blessing.

It has been some time since writing was my main source of income, so I’m a little rusty.  To get me back into the right mind frame for wordcrafting, DebsG encouraged me to join NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction challenge.  Each round of the challenge, I have 48 hours to craft a 1,000 word flash fiction story from the given location, item and genre.

Here’s my response to the first round of that challenge.  At 996 words, it comes in just under the word limit.  I hope you like it!


The Towkay, The Seamstress and The Coconut Tree

In which trees are climbed for profit and a seamstress comes up with a clever plan to protect her modesty.

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Location:  Tropical Island
Item: A Brick

“If you’re talking about coconuts, I like them very fresh.” Chan Benghock murmured as he leaned lazily against the tall tree, “And I’m willing to pay top dollar for the fresh fruits from this tree.”

The handsome young son of the local towkay fanned himself with an expensive sandalwood fan as he addressed the small crowd of lovely young peasant girls.  The fan’s heady, sweet perfume was like a breath of fresh air in the stale, humid afternoon heat.  Some of the girls clutched their cheap sarongs and pretended to swoon as he proffered the prize money for his coveted coconuts, a whole fifty ringgit.

“Of course, at these prices, I can only really afford for one girl to get them for me.” Benghock intoned with comically feigned sorrow, “So, who will it be today?”

There was an intense clamour as the girls bounced on their heels with hands raised, eager to please the rich young man.  Fifty ringgits was no small sum, and climbing trees was an incredibly easy feat.  Besides, there was always slim chance that one of them might be chosen for his bride.  He took his time watching the girls, enjoying the sight of ripe coconuts bouncing in the sun.

Eventually, he pointed at one of the girls and gave her an especially charming smile.  The other girls sighed as the chosen woman, a voluptuous teenager by the name of Aishah, stepped forward and gave Benghock a shy curtsey.  The young man waved his hand dismissively and the crowd dispersed in a matter of seconds, leaving the pair to their business.

In a trice, Aishah was climbing the tree with the practised ease of a farmer’s daughter, her sarong stretched taut between spread legs, slowly riding up her body as she rose up the tree.  When Aishah reached the top, she collected a coconut and was about to come down, when she noticed Benghock waving at her from below.

“Don’t carry them down!  It’s dangerous!” He shouted, “Just throw them!”

“They’ll break if they hit the ground!” Aishah retorted.

“I’ll catch them!”

Aishah took careful aim and sent the coconut tumbling down into Benghock’s waiting arms.  He did little to hide his obvious delight.

#

“He did what?!” Rosmah spluttered.

“He caught them, perfectly!” Aishah beamed as she related the events of the day, “You should try it, Rosmah!  Young Mr Chan is pretty generous.”

Rosmah sighed and shook her head, rubbing the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger.  She had known her friend to be a little ignorant, but she hadn’t expected her to be quite so stupid.  Then again, if Benghock had been able to trick the rest of the village girls, it stood to reason that he could trick young Aishah too.

“I… see.” She said slowly, “I suppose I could use the extra ringgit.  The seamstress business hasn’t been very good lately.  Not many weddings during this season.”

“You’re the prettiest and smartest girl in the village, you’re sure to catch his eye.”  Aishah beamed and gave Rosmah a conspiratorial wink, “Who knows?  Maybe we’ll be celebrating your wedding soon!”

“Oh, don’t you start, Aishah.  You know I’m already taken!”

“What, by Ahmad?” Aishah groaned, “Come on, Rosmah, a rich man’s son will make a way better match than a poor bricklayer.  I’m only looking out for you.”

“I like Ahmad.  He’s good to me.”

Aishah sighed, “I suppose he is.  I do wish you had a little more ambition, dear.”

Rosmah rolled her eyes, “Don’t call me ‘dear’, you’re three years younger than me.  Should I start calling you ‘Auntie Aishah’?”

“No way!  I’m not that old!” Aishah protested.

The rest of the conversation dissolved into teasing and laughter.  While she prattled away, Rosmah began to scheme.  It was time to put a stop to Benghock’s nonsense.

#

The next day, Rosmah was among the girls vying for Benghock’s attention as, once again, the little pervert was picking yet another patsy for his coconut scam.  She far outshone the other contenders in the beautiful batik sarong she’d made especially for the occasion, her cheeks pinked with safflower powder and eyes lined with charcoal to match.  There was no contest.  Benghock’s finger picked her from the crowd as soon as she appeared.

Rosmah produced a thick piece of cloth, looping it around the tree and tying it to her wrists.  Using the rope as an anchor, she began walking up the tree, keeping her knees together.  She almost laughed when she noticed Benghock squinting and moving his head from side to side.  He wouldn’t see a thing.  She’d spent an evening sewing shorts to the inside of her sarong.

When she reached the top, Rosmah plucked an object from her pocket and called out, “I’m dropping it now!”

Benghock hollered as the heavy red brick smashed into his hands.  Rosmah started lobbing coconuts at the ground around him.  The fresh fruits burst open upon impact, covering the young man’s fine clothes in sticky juice.

When she had exhausted her arsenal of coconuts, Rosmah shimmied down the tree.  She dabbed the perspiration off her brow with her climbing cloth, then turned to face the towkay’s son.

“I hope you have a hundred ringgit for all the coconuts I brought down.” She said cheerfully.

“You ruined my clothes!  I’m giving you nothing!”

Benghock turned to run, but collided into Ahmad’s solid chest.  He fell backwards into the mud.

Rosmah moved to stand over him, “The next time you decide to peek up girl’s skirts, coconuts or no, I’ll have Ahmad here tell the Imam what you’ve been up to and you’ll be catching more than just one brick.  Bagus?”

“…bagus.” Benghock squeaked.

He threw the money down at Ahmad’s feet and scampered away.  Rosmah and Ahmad caught each other’s eyes and started laughing.

“Remind me never to cross you, my love.” Ahmad guffawed.

“I’m sure you never will.” Rosmah chuckled.

“You are the best woman in this village.”

“I know.”

~FIN~

Easy Listening (Part 1): Short and Sweet

I’ve been pretty much bedridden with different varieties of the hideous flergy for the last month, coughing up nasty goo and generally being icky.  I couldn’t even watch TV or play video games because the fevers made it a little difficult for me to pay attention to what was going on onscreen.

Thankfully, I managed to avoid a case of yellow wallpaper madness by entertaining myself with podcasts!

I love podcasts.  I learn primarily by hearing stuff and I like having a bit of chatter going on in the background.  That being said, I’m very picky about what I listen to and even though my subscribe list is about a mile long, I’ve only stocked it with stuff that I feel is engaging and fun.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to divide my listening list for sharing as some of the shows I listen to cover a plethora of different topics, sometimes even in a single episode!  I’ve settled on splitting them by average length per episode.  So, without further ado, here’s a list of everything I listen to that’s short and sweet – 15 minutes and under.

HAalbumart.jpgThe Hidden Almanac with Reverend Mord by Dark Canvas Media

Written by acclaimed children’s book author, Ursula Vernon and brilliantly acted by her husband, Kevin Sonny, The Hidden Almanac is a witty and brilliantly surreal adventure comedy.

Each episode, Reverend Mord shares useful gardening tips, historical events of the day and various advertisements for an alternate universe in which miracles, magic and librarian conspiracies are a daily occurrence.  While the good reverend would like nothing more than to devote himself quietly to managing the Hidden Almanac test garden and his thrice weekly radio broadcasts; he is often reluctantly sucked into adventures with his “friend” and colleague, Pastor Drom the Miracle Worker.

At under 5 minutes per episode, The Hidden Almanac is easily the shortest podcast in my list as well as the most frequently updated.  It’s pretty much child and AgedP friendly, containing no cursing and very few sexual references, particularly since both Reverend Mord and Pastor Drom have taken vows of abstinence.

This is a series that needs to be listened to from the very beginning.  While the earlier episodes suffer from a little bit of early installment weirdness, they’re still worth listening to just for the world building alone.  The characters are lovable and become more so the more you get to know them.

That’s the Hidden Almanac.  Be safe and stay out of trouble.

Det_Pod_MF_1400x1400-2.jpgDetective by Panoply

At roughly 15 minutes per episode, Detective is a quick and interesting true crime series.

Each season of Detective covers the experiences of homocide detectives from various backgrounds and walks of life, with each episode discussing a different aspect of their career.  Unlike most true crime series, Detective steers away from the gruesome and grizzly murder details and instead focuses on the human interest part of how the detectives go about their work.

The series covers a range of topics from motives for murder to the social work that the detectives do in their spare time.  I highly recommend the first season, which follows retired Detective Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs police force.  He’s an engaging speaker and has a wonderful matter-of-fact manner that makes me imagine him as the crusty old sheriff in a cowboy film.

Detective is AgedP friendly, but may not necessarily be child friendly.  Despite the slightly gruesome topic (murder is never pretty) and the occasional curse word, the series never strays towards being overly foul or gratituous.  It’s definitely worth listening to.

downloadEOS 10 by Justin McLachlan

A science fiction dramady podcast, EOS 10’s episodes run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes each and follows the adventures of a Dr Dalias and Dr Urvidian, a pair of misfit doctors aboard the space station EOS 10.  Joining them on their adventures are Jane Johns, their slightly unhinged charge nurse; Levi, the hypochondriac foodcourt dishwasher who claims to be the deposed prince of an entire planet; and Akmazian, Destroyer of Stars.

EOS 10 balances issues like addiction and death with hilarious comedy without cheapening the seriousness of said issues.  It’s a fine line to walk, and EOS 10 does it very well.  The dialogue is always engaging and the characters are well-rounded, quirky and fascinating.  Even though I’ve listened to this series several times over, I’m still discovering new things about the characters and haven’t gotten sick of it yet!

EOS 10 is possibly AgedP friendly, but definitely not child friendly.  While the show doesn’t contain any cursing, it does contain a lot of sex, though it is never handled in a puerile manner.  That being said, the fourth episode of the series (Up, Up, Up) is primarily comprised of penis jokes and doesn’t ever stop being funny.

If you’re looking for a clever, lighthearted and cheerful podcast, I cannot recommend EOS 10 highly enough.

So, there you have it.  These are the three shortest podcasts on my listening list right now.  I hope they entertain you as much as they do me!

The Good Life: Shelling Beans

Hey Debs! As stated before, I’ve had a fantastic bumper crop of beans this year!  Take a look at it!

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Check out dem beans!

Unless they’re picked at very early in the season for stirfrying, beans need to be shelled.  This takes some time and practise.  I had left the beans on the vine to dry so that I could get some good soup beans.

I’ve learned that unless you pull the strings out of the beans just right, the pod will fight you all the way and you end up with a pile of beans and a pile of tiny bits of ripped up pod as you massacre the pod just to get the beans out.  This may also result in the occasional massacre of the bean as well.  Do it right, however, and the pod will split perfectly into two halves, making it easy to get to the beans.

By the time I was done, I had two piles of beans.  Not all of the beans ripened at the same time, so I divided them as I shelled them.

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The beans divided

The most ripe beans went to the pile on the right, where they would be dried for next years seed.  The unripe flagolet beans and the others that didn’t finish developing a thick skin were put on the left.

The seed beans were spaced roughly apart and placed on a towel to dry for several days.

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From Right to Left: Australian Butter Beans, Rattlesnake Beans and Borlotti Beans

In a weeks’ time, they had shrunk and were ready for planting.

I only managed to save about ten of each bean, but that’s more than enough to plant out my field next year!

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Seed beans are about half the size of freshly picked beans.

As for the rest, well, I cooked the youngest flagolet beans into a delicious chilli using my friend’s freshly dug up sweet potatoes.  They were delicious!

I also saved some up for precooking and drying, but more on that later!

Permission to Grieve (Part 1)

When I was in my first year at University, I met an interesting girl.  Now, this girl was cool.  And I mean cool.  She had an interesting life.  She’d done all these things and seen all these things that I wished I had done and seen.  She was talented – a fantastic artist, singer and dancer.  And I wanted ever so much to be just like her.

We became friends.  And for that first year of University, life was a whirlwind of me trying to impress her with how cool I had become/was becoming.  I did and said a lot of things that I regret now, and did and said more things that I will never regret.

We used to do crazy stuff together – on the weekends, we’d go to Chatswood and busk outside the St George bank.  Not because we were poor or anything, but because it was fun.  And I had a LOT of fun when I was hanging out with her.  With her, I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally have done.

She taught me how to live.  She taught me that if I wanted to do something, that I should go out and do it instead of waiting and fretting until the opportunity passed.

But…

She wasn’t a good friend to me.  Things were said (I only regret some of them).  We had a huge fight (it was horrible) and after that, we stopped being friends.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t the nicest to her after the fight either – I was free to others with my reasons for the friend break-up, as it were, and added a lot to the drama surrounding her life.

So, I didn’t speak to her or see her again for almost 13 years.

Last week, I heard that she’d died.  A car accident.  It was very sudden.

I went to her Facebook memorial and there was a great outpouring of grief.  People left well wishes.  And it seemed that from the time we stopped being friends and the time she died, she’d become a completely different person.

A much better person.

Thing is, though, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole situation.  Her death made me feel my mortality, but that was really about it.  I didn’t have many good memories of our time together and what memories I did have were tainted by the messy end of our friendship.

Sometimes, however, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve, even if it’s over someone we didn’t know well, or whom we didn’t get along with.  They were still part of our lives.

Whether she’d changed or not, though, her death is still sad.  Still sudden and unexpected.  She had a lot of life in her and though she wasn’t my good friend, she had been a good friend to many others.

Her loss will be mourned and it is a tragic waste that she was taken so young.

So, I cried a little, and then I was ready to face the next day.

The Good Life: Make $$$ in Your Spare Time!

I am a huge sucker for seed catalogues.  So, when my favourite gardening company, The Diggers Club, restocked their selection of Autumn and Winter bulbs, I had to buy some.  Besides, The Boobook had recently purchased a special bulb planting tool for me.

I stocked up on Saffron Crocuses, nine bulbs in all.  Saffron is, after all, the most expensive ingredient on the planet.  At today’s prices, saffron costs about USD$1,500 per pound, about $250 more per pound than gold.  My accountant brain was mesmerised by the possibilities!

I was going to be RICH!

On my day off, I planted the crocuses using the tool that The Boobook had bought.  It was a relatively simple tool to use.  Simply shove it into the ground and twist it until it reaches the desired depth, then pull it out and empty the dirt over the side.  Unfortunately, the ground in my area is as hard as rocks, so shoving the tool into the ground was not the easiest thing to do.  The clay also gummed up the works, making it harder to empty than I had initially thought.

Still, I persevered, and in-between hanging up laundry and feeding the rabbits, I finally got all nine of the bulbs in the ground.

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Behold my glorious handiwork!

Having completed all my chores, I took a nice hot shower and then had a nap.

When I woke up, my arms had fallen off.

This was not conducive to productivity.

You see, arms are essential tools to doing a lot of things, like getting out of bed, for example.  Also, I couldn’t post about my exploits because typing requires hands, and armless people don’t have any hands.

The Boobook returned to find me wriggling around on the couch like a dying fish, arms flopping uselessly by my sides in a futile attempt to get up and cook dinner.  He sighed and then went to fetch the hot water bottle.

The heat on my sore muscles felt glorious.

Also, he sent out for pizza, which was really great.

A week later, the saffron crocus plants bloomed.  Each tiny flower had two little strands of saffron in it.

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Saffron crocus in full bloom.  Each flower is about the size of an Australian 50 cent coin.

Ah well, so much for my get rich quick scheme.  At least I can still cook some saffron rice to make myself feel better.

The Good Life: Field of Beans

Good soil is the foundation of any garden.  Fertile, well-drained soil is necessary to support plant life.

Unfortunately, the soil around my home is absolute rubbish.  It’s a lifeless clay-filled mess, which will probably take me a few years to get up to speed.

Thankfully, there is a solution to the problem.

BEANS.

I love beans.  They’re nutrient-rich, buttery little packets of awesome.  They’re a great source of proteins and trace minerals and contain hardly any fats or cholesterol.

They’re also excellent for marginally conditioning the soil.  Their roots contain nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that pull nitrogen from the air into the ground, fertilising it in a form that is easily usable by other plants.

Beans are seriously the best plant in any condition that I know of.  They’re easy to sprout and grow, needing only a little bit of water and warmth to get going, which is why they’re a favourite of Primary School science projects.  I pretty much ignore mine once they’re in the ground past the sprouting stage.  As Ursula Vernon of Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap says, “If God wishes the beans to be watered, He would send the rain.”

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Check out dem Beans!

I mean, just look at them.  All I did was stick them in the ground with a tiny bit of compost and they thrive!

Admittedly, I did have to stake the beans to ensure the best harvest – we grow pole beans at the New Castle of Corke.  However, particularly lazy gardeners can always plant a bush variety of beans, like green beans, which don’t need staking at all!

We’ve had a pretty good harvest of Borlotti, Rattlesnake and Butter beans here, but more on that another day!

Check out the rest of The Good Life challenge series here.

Aldi Adventures: Episode 1 – The Quest for the Cookie Spread Begins

Last week, one of my colleagues brought this delicious spekulatius cookie spread to work.

Spekulatius cookies are a variant of the Dutch/German spiced shortcrust biscuit that are made out of sugar, spices and almonds and joy.

This spekulatius cookie spread tasted like sugar, spices and almonds and joy.

So, of course, the Boobook and I just HAD to get some.

My colleague told me that she got it at Aldi.

This was going to be a challenge. Shopping at Aldi is like, in Forrest Gump’s own words, “a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Aldi’s goods are seasonally influenced and rotate about twice a week. So, each time you walk into a store, the items are completely different.

And thus, began the Aldi Adventures.  Here’s what we found this time (hover over pictures for helpful captions!):

The Muesli Clusters were actually pretty tasty, though I’m unsure as to their nutritional value. We used the stud finder to mount the TV on the wall.

The Boobook was satisfied by the Mountain Bar.

Well, we couldn’t find the cookie spread, but… maybe next time on Aaaaaaaldiiiii Adveeeeentureeeees!