Falling

I am delighted to announce that one of my pieces of short fiction, “Falling”, was selected for the January issue of the delectable TUCK magazine.

Comments are appreciated and welcome here or there.

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Open Orchidae

“But Jana insisted to see this little miracle, this antidote for the mundanity of existence.”

Photo by Arad, Wikipedia. Permission to share by Creative Commons License.

 

For the rest of the short story, you are most welcome to read it here, and leave your lovely (or muddy, if need be) footprints on this blog if you could not leave them over at Fictionaut. Your kindness in leaving feedback will be most appreciated.

The snow blower

Photo credit: Stock photo from http://www.123rf.com

 

“The snow blower” is a short story that I wrote and submitted to the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest 2012. Yesterday the winners and runner ups were announced to the submitting authors. My story did not receive a place in this contest. It was, however, an extraordinary experience for me to participate in this contest and I look very much forward to reading the winning entries in the Winter issue of the Ploughshares Literary Magazine. Meanwhile I hope to receive some feedback from other writers and/or readers on my story. I have posted my short story, which is just short of 4 000 words on Fictionaut and it can be read here. If you are not a member of Fictionaut, please be so kind as to leave your comment here (below this blog post). I would appreciate any feedback from the bottom of my heart.

I have read my story again and see things wrong with it, but I am blinded by my own subjectivity, and at the same time I am afraid to ruin it. Criticism is therefore most welcome!

Mental hijack

He holds my water bottle, and he unscrews the lid. I watch his every move. He is talking to me about herpes, and I see this blister looming on his lip. His mouth is dry and his thirst is urgent and it is my bottle. Why did he have to take my bottle? I specially made a separate one for him and he left it in the car. But we have walked miles, and we’re tired, we’re hungry. Above all we are thirsty. I’m saying to myself that I cannot drink from that bottle. And another thought stubbornly pops up like a spam window telling me that I should drink water, because I could feel a flu coming on. My throat was raw. Flu. Herpes. Flu. Herpes. Which one do you want? Drink water. No don’t. Drink water. And he starts drinking water. Out of my bottle. Don’t drink it, I said to myself. Drink it, or you’ll get dehydrated, said the spam window blinking in that irritating manic sort of way. And I want to frantically search the mouse in my mind to click that window closed. He is drinking water, my precious flu-preventing water. Water envy overcomes me. Oases hallucination. Don’t drink it. Don’t. Don’t! He gives me back my bottle. I want flu, I remind myself. I love my sore throat. I am holding my water bottle, and immediately he starts talking again, continuing his monologue where he had left off. He is still talking about herpes. I can’t bloody believe it! I start drinking the water. And I can’t fucking (!) believe I just did that.

Copyright © Quirina Roode-Gutzmer 2012. All rights reserved.

The king’s three sons and a princess

(The beginning of this fairy tale, written in italics, originates from a source unknown to me. The ending of this fairy tale was written, for a homework assignment, by my twelve-year old son, Jörn Gutzmer. He received the best possible mark for this work. The original text was written in German and can be read here).

Once upon a time there was a powerful king who had three sons. All three of them loved the same princess, whose beauty and intelligence was unrivalled by any other woman in the land. When the time came for all of the three sons to marry, they asked their father for advice. He contemplated this for a long time, because he was equally fond of each of his three sons and did not want to favour one of them.

Finally he summoned them and said: “My dear sons, as only one of you can marry the princess, I have decided the following: Travel the world, each of you in a different direction. Explore foreign countries and search for the most wondrous object you can find. The one who can show the most wonderful gift can acquire the princess as his wife!”

The three sons of the king were all in agreement and on the same day they all went out into the world, each in a different direction …

The first and oldest son went to Bulgaria to pick a rare Damask rose. The fragrance from this kind of rose is ten times stronger than an ordinary rose. The second oldest went to Mexico to bring back a cacao fruit and a piece of chocolate. The youngest went to Africa to find something undiscovered.

The first son came home with a rose, the second son brought something that resembled a  melon, and a piece of chocolate. The third one came on an elephant, a small one. The first son held the flower behind his back. The elephant ate it and trumpeted with delight. The second son heard this, got a fright and dropped the chocolate, which the elephant then trampled on. These two brothers then had nothing and ran away. The youngest son, however, went to the princess and told her that this elephant was the last of its kind. And they lived together with the elephant happily ever after.

Copyright © Jörn Arne Gutzmer 2011

Translation copyright © Quirina Roode-Gutzmer 2011

All rights reserved.

Die drei Königssöhne und die Prinzessin

This has been translated into English and can be read here.

(Der Beginn dieses Märchens, in kursiv geschrieben, stammt aus einer Quelle, die mir unbekannt ist. Das Ende dieses Märchens wurde von meinem zwölfjährigen Sohn, Jörn Gutzmer, für eine Hausaufgabe geschrieben. Er hat dafür die Note eins erhalten).

Es war einmal ein mächtiger König, der hatte drei Söhne. Alle drei liebten dieselbe Prinzessin, die an Schönheit und Klugheit alle Frauen im Lande übertraf. Als nun die Zeit gekommen war, dass die Königssöhne heiraten sollten, fragten sie ihren Vater um Rat. Dieser überlegte lange, weil er seine drei Söhne gleich lieb hatte und keinen von ihnen bevorzugen wollte.

Endlich rief er sie zu sich und sprach: “Meine lieben Söhne, da nur einer von euch die Prinzessin heiraten kann, habe ich Folgendes beschlossen: Zieht in die Welt hinaus, jeder in eine andere Richtung. Reist in fremde Länder, seht euch gründlich um und bringt mir den wundersamsten Gegenstand mit, den ihr finden könnt. Derjenige von euch, der das wundersamste Mitbringsel vorweist, soll die Prinzessin zur Frau bekommen!”

Damit waren die drei Königssöhne einverstanden und zogen noch am gleichen Tag hinaus in die Welt, ein jeder in eine andere Richtung …

Der erste und älteste Bruder ging nach Bulgarien, um eine der seltenen “Damaszenerrose” zu holen. Dies ist eine Art Rose, deren Geruch zehn Mal so stark ist wie eine gewöhnliche Rose. Der zweitälteste ging nach Mexiko, um eine Kakaofrucht und ein Stück Schokolade mitzunehmen. Der Jüngste ging nach Afrika um etwas Unentdecktes zu holen.

Der erste kam mit einer Rose heim, der Zweite brachte etwas, dass wie eine Art Melone ausgesehen hat und ein Stück Schokolade. Der Dritte kam auf einem Elefanten, einem kleinen. Der Erste hielt die Blume hinter den Rücken, und der Elefant fraß dies und trötete vor Vergnügen. Das hörte der Zweite und ließ vor Schreck die Schokolade los und der Elefant trat drauf. Die beiden hatten nichts mehr und suchten das Weite. Der Jüngste ging aber zur Prinzessin und erzählte, dass sein Elefant der letzte seiner Art war. Und sie lebten zusammen mit dem Elefanten bis zum Ende ihrer Tage.

Copyright © Jörn Arne Gutzmer 2011. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

All about Phee

MJ was what Transistorians called him, which was short for Master of Jugudzi. He found himself at a junction of sorts in the middle of nowhere with a multitude of high-tech highways crossing over this way and that. He didn’t exactly know where he was, because the satellite signal to his GPS system was interrupted. Consulting his e-map was only something he would consider if the adventure turned epic.

He stood in a queue and experienced time-perception failure. His gaze roamed along the floor trying to discern patterns on the tiled floor, but alas this was in vain. There were lots of people around him, but they were not as interesting as the floor. He was aware of someone behind him and someone in front of him. Too close to him. Nobody looked at him. He looked at nobody. There was a kind of minimal stranger acknowledgement. People were just here to get phee—a beverage, bitter tasting, but addictively consumed because of the alkapheeloid content. The food was not really important.

Despite diminished neuronal activity in his cranium, he was in a unique position to contemplate life, which took the form of surveying the behaviour of the woman who took the orders and operated the cash register. He had plenty of time to decide his order and prepare his speech logistics before it became his turn. He found that this minimised the chances of being misunderstood and possibly sparing him some social agony. She was the same as everybody else and made no eye contact. He was just a number, like one of the highways. He was strangely aware of the fact that she would never see him again and that he would never see her again and nobody seemed to care about that.

The moment he could establish the group symmetry of the patterns on the floor, he knew that the phee was authentic. Other things that mattered suddenly started to occur to him, like the fact that his vehicle needed to be refuelled. He also made the conclusion that he needed to leave as soon as possible, because under no circumstances did he want to remain in this anonymous state.

MJ was different to other Transistorians, who were known to have a fetish for electronics, whereas he was dead set on learning how to do the programming of robots. And this was the reason for his mission. He spent a very productive day at a workshop and was feeling particularly pleased with himself, because he now knew how to program his robot to climb a particularly knotty kind of tree. He had had this idea to program a robot to harvest the oval-shaped fruit of a Pheetum tree. His simulation project resulted in a yield of 82.6 % of fruit harvested. Soon he would test his robot in the field on a real Pheetum tree.

Celebration was in order, he thought, and called up his friend Vortius, who he met at a local bar.

“So, which route did you take this time, MJ?” Vortius enquired curiously.

“Don’t really know the sequence of highways, but I did end up in this weird junction place.”

“Oh, the one where everybody makes no eye contact.”

“Ye-hes?”

MJ wriggled uncomfortably on his bar stool.

“I hope you didn’t drink any of their phee.”

MJ did not like where this was going. He considered for a while what this might mean, because there was a brand of phee that was recently taken off the shelves, because the Shuranigans put a particular cockroach poison in it to get it to look the right kind of brown (to make it look like coffee—the stuff humans used to drink thousands of years ago). This poison contained a neurotoxin, which accumulates within brain tissue, and then slowly over many years releases a weird chemical that results in irreversible neurological damage manifesting as extreme paranoia.

“I had to. There was no way out of there without the alkapheeloid. Why?”

“A lot of people died because of that pfee.”

“Fyghee joly hownosis!”

Colour drained from MJ’s face like a shocked chameleon on white paper. He worried about neurotoxins. He worried about his brain. He worried a lot about paranoia. Eventually he got paranoid about paranoia. He stared at Vortius, dreading what he would say next.

“It wasn’t fair trade pfee. That’s why.”

He gloried in his relief for a while. No neurotoxins, he thought, breathing out heavily.

“People died?”

“Don’t you remember? This news made it to the Galactic Times. The Golon people were colonised by the Ubanites, and they were ruthless MJ. They surgically removed their digits if they didn’t harvest enough nuts from the Pheetum trees, which the Ubanites then used to brew phee.”

“Where was I when this happened? How come I don’t know this?”

“If you thought that was bad, you should hear the rest of the story. What the Ubanites did not realise is that upon their blades were traces of a strange kind of bacteria, to which the Ubanites had no immunity whatsoever. They had no antibiotics either. Their wounds went septic, and they died a most terrible death.”

MJ started convulsing, eventually falling off his bar stool. Vortius had seen this happen before. MJ suffered an apoplectic fit, involving exclusively his conscience. Once he came round he considered what a privilege he had of a fine unadulterated brain, because he didn’t drink the stuff with the neurotoxins in it (because that time he had read the newspaper), and that he was now in the position to contemplate his complicity in the mass murder of all those Golons.

“Excuse me, Vortius, do you think it is too late for me to projectile vomit that stuff out of my liver.”

Copyright © Quirina Roode-Gutzmer 2010. All rights reserved.

This story was published on my old blog In the write mind in December 2010.