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~

Schindler’s List (1993): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

Schindler's_List_movieRight, so I have been wanting to watch this movie for literally years.

I mean, I was thirteen when the movie first came out in theatres and all the grups were talking about this forever and EVER and there were even a couple of teens who even snuck into the film by putting on salaryman uniforms and carrying briefcases whilst slouching and looking troubled, you know, basically trying to look old and responsible and many years older than 21 years of age.

But when I turned 21 and wanted to watch this film, NOBODY wanted to see it with me. It was all ‘Yes yes yes you should totally watch Schindler’s List it’s a very good film’ but also ‘No no no I can’t watch with you I just can’t watch again it’s too horrible’.

Finally, The Barn Owl decides that he will watch the movie with me so it was quick get hold of a copy of the movie from anywhere before he changes his mind!

As far as holocaust films go, this one is particularly interesting, especially since the main characters, Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth, are both members of the Nazi party – and you see the similarities and differences between them. The horrors of the the holocaust are plainly depicted – elderly men and women made to run naked in the mud so that the sick and ill can be weeded out, the randomness of executions, SS soldiers going insane from the atrocities they are committing…and there’s also the little girl in the red coat, whose brief and tragic story is only hinted at. Ralph Fiennes is chilling as Amon Goeth. He’s always good at playing bad guys. He makes you actually feel a little bit sorry for the demonic Amon Goeth because that guy is just so unhinged and he just loathes himself for his attraction to his Jewish maidservant.

And for course, there’s Liam Neeson.

Debs G Recommends: Watch this film together with “Life Is Beautiful” for a full evening’s emotional holocaust.

P.S. Get Schindler’s List here

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Couch Potato series here.

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.

A Conversation between Siblings (or, Big Brother is Watching You)

We’re sitting around the table, enjoying an ice-cream treat. J is 9 years old, Little E is 6 years old and Thumper is nearly 2 years old.

J: I wish I lived in a Bungalow. Then I could have extra rooms for all my ornaments. Every time I get a new ornament, I’ll put it in a triple locked cupboard. Every week I’ll take out the ornaments and polish them. I’ll have to buy lots of polish. And the front door will be quadruple locked for extra security!

Debs G: Okay.

J: SECURITY!!!

Debs G: I feel sorry for your wife.

J: Why?

Debs G: Because she’ll have to spend all her time polishing your ornaments.

J: No no no no no. She’s not allowed to touch the ornaments, because they are MY ornaments. She’s only allowed to look at them while I polish them.

Little E: I don’t want to live in a bungalow. I’m going to live in a farmhouse. I’m going to have a cat and a dog to keep me company. And I’m going to marry my friend Ben.

J: WHAT?! Who is this “Ben”? You’ve never talked about him before. Who is he?

Little E: He’s the one who gave me a kiss on the cheek last week.

Thumper: (waving his spoon) NO NO!

J: (enraged) He did WHAT?! Why didn’t you kick him?!

Little E: He asked me nicely if he could give me a kiss and I said ok.

Thumper: (pointing his spoon at Little E) NO NO!

J: You can’t just go around letting weirdos give you a kiss! If he tries to pull this stunt again, you should give him a kick! A BIG KICK!

Little E: He’s not a weirdo! He’s my friend!

Thumper: (frowning) NO NO! NO NO!

J: Well, we haven’t met him, so he’s must be a weirdo or you would have introduced him to us first before letting him give you a kiss! This is nonsense! He’s not worthy of marrying my sister! If I see him, I’m going to kick him!

Little E: That’s why I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to freak out!

J: WHY WOULD I FREAK OUT?! I’m not freaking out at all. I am totally normal!

Debs G: Little E, the next time somebody in your class asks to give you a kiss or asks you for a kiss, you should tell them that you need to ask your mummy and daddy first, okay?

Little E: Okay, Mummy.

J: And then I will find him and give him a kick.

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Enjoying ice-cream at Udders Cafe

Queen of Konmari Challenge: Stage 2 – Books

Well, I thought that sorting out the books would be a piece of cake, but it turns out I was so, so wrong. Putting my books through the Konmari wringer was very difficult for me, basically because it was just so labour-intensive!

I started off by walking around the house, just picking up every single stray book and putting them on the spare room bed. This took me about half an hour, and as you can see from the picture below, I hadn’t even emptied my book shelves before the bed was completely covered in books.

Once I started emptying my bookshelves, that’s when I started feeling nauseous and lightheaded. My thoughts were all over the place. How could I possible get rid of any of these precious books?! It was unthinkable! What am I doing? WHY am I doing this? THESE ARE BOOKS!! Also, why have I put random bits of paper and all sorts of rubbish around my books?

I was almost going to stop, but I decided to press on. I broke out into a cold sweat and started retching whilst trying to get all the books out of the cupboard and into stacks as quickly as possible. I also managed to gather together a bag of garbage, mostly half written notes, receipts or grocery lists, even junk mail that had somehow found their way into the pages of my books.

It took me a whole hour to get all my books together.

konmarie-marie-kondo-books

On left: All the books from around the house. On Right: All the books.

After I emptied my bookshelves, I had so many books stacked on the floor and on the bed, that I had essentially blocked off my exit from the spare bedroom! Additionally, the books on the bed weren’t staying in neat stacks but had started to slide all over the place, and I risked knocking the whole lot onto the floor.

This is probably why Konmari advises one to lay everything out on the floor. It’s much easier to step around piles on the floor to get things that are out of arms’ reach, and if anything starts to tip over, at least it won’t fall too far! I shall keep this in mind once I reach the part where I have to handle breakables.

Fortunately, the spare room is connected to the children’s room by a balcony, so I had the kids let me in through their balcony (you can see how this could have gone VERY wrong, huh?).

I shut the spare room door and told the kids not to enter, then I went to get a drink of water and sit down for a few minutes to calm down. Then, I threw away the bag of rubbish that I accumulated. That was where I decided to stop for the day, because I knew I didn’t have the emotional strength in me to start sorting through the books as well.

The next morning, I was feeling slightly better, so I started out by going through the children’s books first. I slowly took out books that I never really liked, completed books that the kids would be unlikely to read again, or books that were repeats (surprisingly we had many of these). I kept all the books that I loved and that I loved to read to the kids, or books that I loved to see the children reading on their own.

Then, I went back and looked through the stack of children’s books that I didn’t like, and removed all of the ones that I knew that the children loved.

Then I sorted the ‘keepers’ into piles using my Volcano Method. This is when I pile stuff of the same category together until they form a chain of volcanos. Eventually, things start to flow down the sides to form new islands of interrelated topics. You can see in the picture below, the neat stacks of book volcanoes on the far left.

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Sorting the books using the Volcano Method

At the end of the second hour-long tidying session, I had a tall stack of children’s books that I (and the children – I let them eyeball the books first) had decided not to keep but could be donated or given away (you can see them in the pictures above), some random textbooks that could probably be given away, and a bunch of books that needed to be returned to my friends! I also kept finding random brochures and magazines which totalled TWELVE plastic bags! I threw all of those into the recycling bin.

I spent the third session just putting all the children’s books back into the cupboards. By this time, the cupboards had been well aired out, and I’d also replaced the dehumidifiers to keep the books from getting musty.

I organised the books by reading level, and I’d also tried to arrange them vaguely by height, putting the taller books to the right of the cupboard. I put books that I wanted the kids to read at their eye level – that is, picture books right at the bottom for 1 year old Thumper, early readers and easy chapter books for 5 year old Little E on the bottom and middle shelves, advanced books on the top shelf for 8 year old J.

The next two sessions were spent sorting through and organising our collection of novels and reference books. I took all the books that I wasn’t terribly interested in and showed them to the Barn Owl, and he decided which ones he still wanted to keep. I got rid of all our outdated textbooks and manuals. I listed all the novels that we didn’t want (and weren’t worth keeping for the kids) to be given away on a freecycling website – and someone picked them up at the end of the week.

I put all our books back into the cupboards, making sure that our favourite books were at eye-level, and putting darker coloured books or book series towards the left, lighter coloured books towards the right.

Here’s what our shelves looks like now:

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Tidy and organised!

I have to find some props to hold the books up so that they don’t fall over, but the best thing about all this is that I’ve now got some space for more lovely books! YAY!

I’m really glad that I kept the books that were the kid’s favourites, even if they weren’t my favourites. They were so happy to see their beloved books displayed neatly on the shelves, it was totally worth it.

P.S. Why am I doing this? Here’s why.

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Queen of Konmari series here.

If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

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!

In Conversation With the Barn Owl: Spam Emails

Barn Owl: *checking his email* HAHAHAHA!

Debs G: What? What’s so funny?

Barn Owl: Look at this! Guess! Guess! Which email is the spam email?

spam-emails

One of these email is not like the others

Barn Owl: Oooh ooh I know I know! Is it the one from Question Questionmark? Is it? IS IT?No it can’t be! I know so many people called Question Questionmark, it’s not spam at all click me click me I’m super important!

Debs G: Wow. It’s like they are not even trying. I feel so insulted. At least put some effort into it. Offer some gold bullion or diamonds or tell me a tragic tale about your late father and your evil poisoning uncle.

Barn Owl: Maybe I will! Maybe I will click on this email! Maybe I will write back to Question Questionmark! He has many questions and needs my help!

Debs G: You are too late. James Veitch has already beat you to it.

Barn Owl: Well then, goodbye Question Questionmark!

deleted

Email = Very Spam