Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holiday Reruns: The Littlest Turkey!

The return of a beloved classic, touching the hearts of dozens since 2005! Gather around the children and leave them with emotional trauma that will take years of expensive therapy to overcome! IT'S TIME FOR THE LITTLEST TURKEY!

(First published in one post on November 24, 2005.)

D.B. Echo

Once upon a time there was a farm where turkeys lived. All of them were young and plump, big and strong and proud. All of them except one. He was smaller than all the other turkeys. He was called the Littlest Turkey.
The Littlest Turkey wanted to run and play with the other turkeys, but they didn't want to play with him. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," they would say. "Come back when you've gotten bigger."

But the Littlest Turkey was sure he was as big as he was going to get. He tried to eat as much as he could, but he never seemed to get as big and plump as the other turkeys. And he knew that unless he got big and plump like the other turkeys, he would never get to go to the Laughter House.

The Laughter House was a wonderful place. The Littlest Turkey had never been in there. He knew that only the big and plump turkeys would get to go inside the Laughter House. He had seen them go in once, and had heard their squawks and gobbles of laughter for a little while. It must be wonderful in there, the Littlest Turkey thought. All those turkeys go in to laugh, and none of them had ever come out again. How much fun they must be having!

The Littlest Turkey decided that, big and plump or not, he would get into the Laughter House the next time they let the turkeys in.



Part 2
D.B. Echo

The weather started getting cooler, and the leaves on the trees started to change colors. All the turkeys knew that soon it would be time for the biggest holiday of the year, Turkey Day.
"Just before Turkey Day is when they take the big and plump turkeys into the Laughter House," thought the Littlest Turkey. "But this time I'm going to get in there, too!"

It wasn't long before the big day came. All of the big and plump turkeys lined up to go into the Laughter House. The Littlest Turkey waited near the entrance of the Laughter House, then squeezed in between two very big and plump turkeys. No one noticed him because he was so little.

The Laughter House was dark inside, and there was a sort of moving sidewalk there that was taking turkeys into another room, where he could hear gobbles and squawks of laughter. One by one the turkeys hopped up to ride the sidewalk. The Littlest Turkey hopped up, too.
The turkey in front of him, whose name was Tom, turned around. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Yes, go away," said the turkey behind him, whose name was also Tom. "They do not want little turkeys at the Market. Only big and plump ones."

"No," said the Littlest Turkey. "I want to go to the Market with you." He had never heard of the Market, but he realized that it must be even better than the Laughter House.

A Man spotted the Littlest Turkey. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Oh, please, Mr. Man," said the Littlest Turkey. "I do so want to go to the Market with the other turkeys."

"Very well," said the Man. "We've got a quota to meet, anyway."

The Littlest Turkey rode the sidewalk into the other room. He wondered what things would be like at the Market.


D.B. Echo

The Littlest Turkey was cold. He was colder than he ever remembered being before. But then again, it was hard to remember much since they had chopped his head off.

He was in a case with the other turkeys, the big and plump turkeys. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were coming to the Market to pick turkeys to take home.

They always seemed to want the big and plump turkeys. One time a little girl had seen him in the case. "Mommy, mommy, look at the little turkey," she said. "I want to take home the littlest turkey."

"No, dear," her mother said. "We are having many people over for Thanksgiving. We need a big, plump turkey."

One by one the other turkeys left the Market to go home with people. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were taking away more and more of the big and plump turkeys. But no one wanted the Littlest Turkey.
Finally, the day before Turkey Day came, and the Littlest Turkey found himself all alone in the case.

"How sad," he thought. "No one wants to take me home."

It was late in the day, and the Manager was about to close down the Market for the night. Suddenly a Man came into the store.

"I have a coupon," he said, "for a free turkey. Do you have any left?"

"You're in luck," said the Manager. "I have one left." He showed the Man the Littlest Turkey, all alone in the case.

"It's a little small," the Man said. "But I guess beggars can't be choosers. Besides, it's just me and my wife this year. A little turkey might be just what we need."

The Manager took the Littlest Turkey out of the case and traded him to the Man for the coupon he was holding. "Happy Thanksgiving!", he said to the Man.

"I'm not going to be left behind for Turkey Day," thought the Littlest Turkey happily as the Man put him in the trunk of his car. "I'm so happy. But I'm so cold." He rolled around a little as the car pulled out of the parking lot. "I sure hope I'm going someplace warm."


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The faceless, nameless stranger

It's time for another one of those "where I've been" posts. (It's also time for the reposting of "The Littlest Turkey", which I'll get around to soon.)

I've been busy, delightfully so. I've been spending a lot of time with my writing group, and writing, and going to poetry and prose open mics, and trying and failing to list and publicize all of those events, because there are just so damned many, and what kind of area is Northeastern Pennsylvania where you can run yourself to the point of collapse just going to open mics and poetry readings? Plus I've been allowing myself to develop a personal life beyond the personal life I already had. It may all end in tears someday, but for now I'm having the time of my life. And getting healthier as a consequence; I need to go out and buy some new clothes soon, but in the meantime I guess I'll have to rely more and more on suspenders to keep my too-large pants from falling off.

On Saturday morning I met with my writing group in Scranton. We were all still basking in the afterglow of Thursday's open mic night, the biggest and best and most successful open mic we've had in a long time, or ever, in my brief experience. The group was small but most of us had stuff to read. I read a poem, the new one I had read on Thursday, since KK missed the open mic and I wanted him to hear it. One of our newer members, a published author of hard-boiled crime stories, read the first chapter of his current work. Chaz, the founder of our group, pulled out a bronze bull, wrapped in newspaper, and presented it to me. I was deeply honored to receive this gift. The meeting ended just after three, so I called my mom to tell her I was on my way, but maybe she should get alternate transportation to church so she wouldn't be late. I tossed my phone and my coat and my little blue notebook into the car, carefully secured the bronze bull in the back, and drove off.

I stopped at the first traffic light, the one on Adams and Lackawanna. It seemed to take forever, but eventually turned green. Lucky thing I told her to get a ride to church. I hit another traffic light, this one on Lackawanna, just before the turnoff to 81. In a little bit I would be zooming along at highway speeds, but for now I was stuck at an endless red light, a line of cars behind me. I fiddled with the radio as I waited.

Finally the light turned green, and I immediately heard a banging on my car. Did someone just hit me? But no, it sounded like someone slamming on my car with their hand, and as I turned to my left I realized that that hand probably belonged to the torso that was filling my window.

I rolled down the window a few inches, not wanting to take chances with a random Scranton crazy person, and said "Yes?" Without a word the figure outside of my car removed my black binder from the roof of my car and passed it through the opening in the window. He didn't bend down; I never saw his face. He just handed me the binder and walked away.

I thanked him profusely before I sped off through the green light and around the curve that would lead me to the highway.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fiction: The Writer's Imp

This story started off as an alternative to punching someone in the face. But it grew to incorporate all the fears, misgivings, and doubts that plague any writer - or anyone. Note some NSFW language toward the end.

The Writer's Imp
copyright 2013, Harold Jenkins

Doug rolled out of bed, hung over and headachey. He trudged to the kitchen, stepped over his beagle Towser, and squeezed past the small folding table and its two chairs. He ignored the assorted monster-branded cereals on the counter,  put a small pot of water on the stove to boil, and started the coffee maker. He pulled the milk and a container of yogurt out of the refrigerator, grabbed a grapefruit out of the fruit bowl, and added a scoop of oats to the boiling water. Leaving the food on the counter next to the stove, he stepped out to get the morning paper.

A few minutes later he poured the coffee, gathered together the bits and pieces of his breakfast, and carried them back to the breakfast table.

The Imp was perched on the back of one of the chairs, eating out of a box of Frankenberry.

"What the hell are you making all that crap for?" he demanded. "This shit's delish. Why'd you buy it if you're not gonna eat it?"

Doug had always wondered if the Imp was average-sized as far as imps go. It would be small as a human, barely four feet tall, though its bald, leering head seemed far too big for its body. Its feet and hands seemed disproportionately large, too, while the little bat wings that poked from its shoulder blades seemed too small to be good for anything. And the less said about the stubby, prehensile worm that lurked on its crotch, the better.

"Oh, I get it," the Imp said, his lips pulling back to show a mouth filled with overlapping, yellowed teeth. "You're trying to eat right. Lose weight. Impress her. Pathetic." He grabbed another fistful of pink cereal. "It won't work. You're old and fat and ugly, and you're not gonna change that. Now, how about getting to work? You haven't written anything in ages."

Doug ignored the Imp, unfolded the paper, and read it as he ate breakfast. Towser stood up, looked at the Imp warily, then lay down at Doug's feet.


"Oh, what the hell is this crap now?" the Imp demanded as the bus headed downtown.  "You're supposed to be meeting your group, didja forget? Or are you just too embarrassed 'cause you haven't written shit in weeks?"

Doug continued to ignore him, swaying slightly as the bus bumped along the road. The other passengers had no difficulty ignoring the Imp, even the one whose head he was sitting on.

"Your group is on the other side of town. What are you doing, going to the farmers' market?"

Doug got off the bus at the farmers' market.  He paused at a few stalls to look at their wares, then slipped into a small shop that sold herbs.

"Sage? Rosemary? Thyme? You forgot parsley, you dope," the Imp said from atop a refrigerated display case. "And how stupid are you? Yarrow's a flower, not an herb, everybody knows that. What are you gonna do, get a reading from the I Ching? The way moves, I could tell ya that much. There. Saved you the trouble."

Doug stepped into a flower shop and told the tiny Korean woman behind the counter what he was looking for. She nodded and brought out a bundle of flowers. After he paid her, she directed him to another shop.

"What the frick are you doing?" the Imp demanded. "Anything but writing, that's what. I been hanging out here 'cause you showed promise, you putz. But you're not gonna get anywhere as a writer if you don't write! You just keep mooning over what's-her-name, half your age and ten times the writer you'll ever be if you keep this up. Now, if you're not going to the group, howabout heading home and getting down to writing?"

The last shop on Doug's list was a junk store of sorts, with a hodgepodge of  stuff from all over Asia. It didn't take long to find a Tibetan brass bowl of the right size. The clerk showed him how to brush it gently with a padded mallet to produce a deep, pleasant tone.

"What is this crap?" the Imp yelled from inside a garbage can. "You better be working on a story, I'll tell you that. Wasting a whole Saturday here! Now, if you're done with your little shopping adventure, how about heading back to the bus so...are you even listening to me? Where are you going?"

Doug walked across the street to a parked Mini Cooper. The driver's window rolled down and a beautiful woman smiled at him broadly.

"What's she doing here?" The Imp was outraged. "I thought she was gonna be in...what, Lancaster or Hershey or something? Wait, you had a conversation with her last night when you were drunk! You know I don't like when you get drunk! What the hell did you two little sneaks talk about last night?"

She passed a small parcel to Doug through the car window. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. Doug took it, leaned down, and kissed her.

"You sick bastard! She's, what, twelve? OK, twenty, whatever, doesn't matter, same thing. You're more than twice her age! What are you, a pedo perv? Sheeut, you're gonna be doing your writing from inside a Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison! Get away from her before somebody sees the two of you together!"

Doug squeezed her hand, turned around, and headed for the bus stop.

"Better," the Imp said, sitting on the peak of the Bus Stop sign. "Well get home, put all this nonsense behind us, and you can get down to writing again. We'll make you the writer I know you can be!"


Towser barked and wagged his tail as Doug came home. Doug pulled some newly-purchased treats out of his pocket and gave them to him. The dog growled briefly at the Imp, then went back to his treats.

Doug set the packages on the table. He pulled out the bowl, gave it an experimental ping, and produced a rich, deep tone.

He headed into his bedroom and came out with a stack of paper.  Sheets, some loose, some stapled together, some worn with age and heavy use, others fresh as the day they were printed.

He put the paper into the bowl.

He pulled a chair away from the table and set it in the middle of the floor. Tentatively, he stepped onto it.

"What the hell are you doing?" the Imp asked. "You're gonna break your damn fool neck."

Doug pulled the cover off the smoke detector and removed the battery.

"Smooth move, Holmes," the Imp said. "Now you're in violation of the fire code. What would you do if the fire inspector came in here right now? Look like an idiot, that's what, and you'd have some 'splainin to do."

One at a time, Doug removed the batteries from every smoke detector in his house.

"So now what, boy? This ain't gettin' you any closer to writing. Just sit your fat ass down and start writing."

Doug poured a glass of wine and set it on the kitchen table.

"Better. But clear all this crap off the table, and...hey, are those your stories in that bowl?"

Doug took the parcel he had been given and removed the string. He unwrapped the paper to reveal an old book, possibly hand-bound. He set the book aside and began laying the yarrow, rosemary, sage, and thyme out on the wrapping paper. He rolled the whole thing up into a sort of fat cigar and tied the bundle up with the string. He got up from the table, went to a cabinet, and pulled out some matches.

"Wait. What the hell are you doing?" The Imp looked confused. Worried.

Doug sat back down at the table. He opened up the book to a place indicated by a ribbon, read silently for a minute, and set the book aside. He lit the herbal bundle, passed it over the paper-filled bowl three times, and dropped it in.


Doug picked up the book again, opened it to the same spot as before, and began mumbling quietly.


Doug smiled. "It's a hex book, over a century old. Homegrown magic for all sorts of occasions. Including banishing malicious spirits." He continued to read aloud from the book.

The imp's skin had begun to turn gray. "I'M NOT MALICIOUS! I'M HELPFUL!"

Doug looked up again. "You are annoying as hell."

Smoke curled from the bowl but didn't spread through the house. It formed a cloud over and around the Imp.

"STOP IT! STOP THIS RIGHT NOW AND WE'LL PRETEND IT NEVER HAPPENED!" The Imp's skin was charcoal and ash, flaking like the charred paper in the bowl. His eyes were beady and red.

Doug set down the book, smiled at the Imp, then looked into the bowl.


"I dispel you," Doug announced, and blew into the bowl.

The ashes stirred slightly and flew into the air. The Imp, shriveled and defeated, let out a final croak.

"I knew I shoulda been a gargoyle."

There was a long, deep sigh. Then Doug was alone in the kitchen with Towser.

Doug sat there for a while, then looked down at the book Kim had brought back from Lancaster. He noticed that he had been reading from a recipe for shoo-fly pie.

He pulled out his phone and dialed Kim.

"It's done. He's gone. Your plan worked." A pause. "You are. That's why I love you." Another pause, then a laugh. "That too. But, hey, I gotta clean up and take a shower. See you for dinner? OK, see you then."

He looked at the mess. Charred flakes of everything he had written while under the direction of the Imp were scattered everywhere.

"Damn, that guy was annoying," Towser said.

"He sure was," Doug agreed.