Stuff From Sarah and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So, I’m back home, and working at finishing my first draft of Guardian, which means I’m not going to be fully “on” for the next week or so, but more “on” than I’ve been.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guest posters.  Heck, I know you did, to the point I felt a little superfluous.

Meanwhile, I came home to news I didn’t want to hear.  We all know human life is finite and a bad side effect of having friends older than oneself is that one knows one will lose them.  I’m going to miss Jerry Pournelle terribly until I see him again in eternity.

I wrote his obit for PJmedia and I refuse to write another one again.  So, the link is here:

Farewell To A Friend: Jerry Pournelle

Before that, while still in France I’d written something, which is here:

Where Do I Park My Yacht?

I have other things to write about my experience, and the things I saw, but not till this afternoon.  I still feel a little stunned.  It’s the side effects of a giant falling.  Or maybe falling isn’t the word.  He took wing and flew, leaving us alone, in the silence.

I suppose this means we’d better shift to do the best we can.  We wouldn’t want to disappoint Jerry.  Well, I wouldn’t at least.

He gave me the lifeline to rebuild after the 2012 election, when it seemed socialism was inevitable.  He said something like, in a blog post, and in emails: Just build, work, keep yourself building and making things, and they won’t win.  He also told me that if I couldn’t do anything else, just clean and repair the house, which would pay off later when I didn’t have time to do it.

He was right, and once I’d done enough of that, I found the strength to fight again.

As a remedy for depression, or just as a way of life, you can’t go far wrong from his advice: build, make, clean.  By itself, that mocks those whose idea of the world is a fixed pie and a need to redistribute ad nauseum.

In the end we win, they lose, and Jerry was one of the people who helped me find that path to sanity.


Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is:present

44 thoughts on “Stuff From Sarah and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. The young writer looked at the stack of papers and documents in the box handed to him by his agent.
    “What is this for?” He inquired curiously.
    “Consider it a present for your new research. Although, I think you may not look upon it that way soon enough.”

  2. He stood in the file while the D.I. stood there screaming at them for no reason that he could discern. Ever since he had announced “Present!” when his name had been called out, he had started to wonder why the hell he had decided to do this.

  3. “Present! Spears!” came the call, and the Fyrdsmen stamped forward to drop their spearshafts between their shields as a solid wall. Moving forward as a block, they thrust at their unarmoured foes who rapidly backed away. The exposed sides of the enemies’ ranks were plunged into chaos and peeled away.

  4. “A-ten-HUT! PRE-sent…ARMS!”

    The private did, and promptly fell over sideways. Dominos fell, one after another, tearing a ragged hole in the neat, precise ranks.

    The DI barely managed to restrain himself from facepalming. He was going to find whoever had made him a present of this particular recruit…

  5. I would like to contribute to today’s vignettes, but fear that my mind is preoccupied with other thoughts, other visions, lacking direction and flitting thought to image. So it is that I regret being unable to write fifty words in response to the prompt: my mind simply is not present.

  6. Not a Vignette– A little bit at a time. I am dealing with shingles this week. My doctor said to slow down… hard to slow down when i am always at a crawl. Still, I am doing a little bit at a time… I like those words– build, make, clean.

  7. “You wouldn’t recognize common sense,” said Josette, her tone so withering that Lilac flinched, “if someone presented it to you with a label.”
    “Guess I wouldn’t,” said William. “Who’s coming with me?”
    Lilac drew a deep breath, took up a pack of food, and walked over. Carolus picked up the navigation device.

  8. His voice sounded very formal. “I think, sir, that you can help my daughter again. There is a device here. I think that it can track you both. But now that you are here, you can confirm whether the path it shows was indeed yours.”
    Edmund nodded, unable to speak.

  9. The stairway was empty. A nice enough present, but one that could end at any moment. He glided down it, judging sound more of a danger that someone’s realizing he was flying. As soon as someone looked at him, they would recognize their escaped captive.
    The office would have records.

  10. The bright-eyed little girl who was dressed all in pink from her T-shirt to her skirt handed me two post-it notes with crude drawings.

    “Happy Birthday,” she said. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t give you more.”

    It was the only present I received that year.

  11. I response to hearing the Great had passed, I promptly went out in the garage and worked on wiring a new work area.
    Instinctively I did what he told Milady Sarah to do after 2012 without remembering ever hearing about him saying such.
    Footfall, Lucifer’s Hammer, and Fallen Angels etc. trained me, I guess.

  12. “Hello, I need to place an order-”

    “What do you mean- pardon, someone is at the door.”

    “Sign here, please.”
    “The items you were about to order, sir.”
    “Anticipatory inventory, sir. You’ve a history of buying habits that our AI has analyzed.”
    “You mean…?”
    “Yes, this was pre-sent.”

  13. “We’re not going to be able to make it for Christmas dinner. There’s just too much going on. We’ll try to arrange a time to stop by tomorrow and drop off the presents.”

    “Well, thank you, I suppose, but it was your presence, not your presents, that we really wanted.”


    And speaking of presence, don’t kid yourself, Sarah. Your guest posters all did a fabulous job, and I enjoyed all of them, but you are the reason that we come here, and new posts from you are like Christmas every morning!

    1. Aye, there is only one of her (or does her mother have a picture of her when she was 2?) and she’s it. While I have on a rare occasion had something guested here (rather to my shock, really) I have NO presumptions that I could keep up Sarah’s pace and maintain anything near the quality. I unashamedly tip my horns to her.

          1. I’ve read that that movie was not as bad as Mr. Benny always said it was, but I couldn’t watch it long enough to dispute him. Perhaps, some day, when I am couch-ridden…

            1. I recall seeing bits of it. I was pretty tired from things unrelated, so didn’t get the full effect one way or the other. Nothing truly grabbed me that I can recall, but neither did anything really put me off.

  14. The mission? Naw. The hard part comes when you secure the hatch and go home. Then you check the air, bios, rads, and monitors, and, if those are okay, step outside and talk to someone just to make sure. The trick isn’t returning to the present, but the right present.

  15. He’s sexy and mischievous, and they’ve shared many flirtatious moments, but he habitually complains about politics. She’s challenged him, amicably, but he’s thickheaded and can’t present a solid argument. His bitterness could dampen her interest, but today, she scrolls past his latest rant, clicks on his rodeo photos, and fantasizes.

  16. ‘Now don’t fool yourselves, boys,’ Sandringham was saying from his place in front of the futurian cabinet with its twinkling lights and veering needles, ‘even when we get home to the present, after all the mucking about to and fro we’ve done and had done to us, it really might not look much like home at all.’ He turned to face them, only the last fall of the main lever left to do, and smiled quite broadly and most unexpectedly like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. ‘But you all know as well as I do what they say in the copybook headings, “Dum Spiro Spaero” or whatever it is. “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”‘
    And he met the eyes of everyone in turn, his gaze like a limelight at the theatre, until every head — tow or pitch, chestnut or ginger — had nodded in agreement.
    Then and only then did he reach back to the console and pull the shining brass knob of the lever on its right side, smoothly and resolutely, from full up to full down.
    And all around him in the circle of its influence, they waited with literally-bated breath.
    For the familiar rooftops and misty streets of Her Majesty’s London of 1857 to re-form solidly and dependably around them again at last.
    Or not.

    1. Vignette. Ideally 50 words, truly ideally counted ones.
      And like some *far* more illustrious personages, typically it’s far easier for me to write straight (often far worse than others’ “write long”) than write short. And faster.
      Especially if I take the easy way out and let the characters do it for me, see above under “he had touched me…” (typically, they write better anyway).
      So I *finally* get something down to “a decent length” or a “true vignette” and I get,

      “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

      Well, since I’m not Bumble, and since I truly and roundly despise non-ending endings on half-stories offered for whole ones, here we go… only that “tin shilling brass sovereign” bit is pre-existing (from a character in “Miraculosity”). And of course Part 1.
      BTW, the weird punctuation is more or less British standard.

      Part 2 takes up right after Part 1.
      And I hope you all like it.

      The transition, as always, came too slow at the first and too quick at the last.
      Suddenly, there was only that same fast-fading eldritch blue will-o-the-wisp glow, and the surrounding dim smoky hint of light through obscurity.
      Then there was a crack in the clouds above, and the full Moon the almanack had told them to expect rode halfway up the sky. Above cobblestoned streets that looked and felt like home. Past rooftops and chimney-tops just the same.
      And the smell blowing on the breeze into their former little bubble of foreign space was so closely like what Coleridge had written of Cologne; and yet the miasma compounded of the effluvium of far too many coal stoves and two millennia of Londinium swamp mist was to them the sweetest and dearest of perfumes.
      There was a sound, too, deep and resonant if a little ragged from the fog. The great bells in the Tower clock spoke twice more, then fell silent. (Double bull, spot on.)
      It was a moment to be savored, tasted, so no one broke the seconds of near-silence that followed.
      It was the crack and sizzle that did, the muted soft thunder that went with the familiar lightning-colored line drawn through the calm night, quite unmistakably a blaster bolt.
      Men reached quickly for their mismatched personal weapons, but to no avail. For the controlling hand had never left the lever, and Sandringham had shoved it back upward quite as strongly and quickly as he’d just lowered it deliberately and methodically.
      The odd foggy half-being of the Between now surrounded them, not the fog of London. And the similarity was there, undeniably, but so pale and shallow, like a badly-counterfeit note, like a tin shilling or a brass sovereign.
      ‘Report. Injuries?’ came the brisk voice of August Sandringham, almost parade-ground quality by now though he’d never served a day in his life. Well, before this.
      ‘Just a little nick, sir’, came the quiet and only slightly-strained tones of Elisha Williams, ‘Lye’ to his friends. ‘Fog took most of the force, you know how it is, hit me in the meat of the shoulder.’ The West Country had got stronger in his voice, but only a little.
      ‘You should’ve said something right away’, Madeleine Adler said half under her breath, half scolding and half worried, cursing the unfamiliar trousers she wore routinely as ever. And thinking for what had to be the thousandth and first time, it’s a benighted century indeed that’s forgot how to make dresses. She opened the medical kit, fruit of halfway through the 20th from a dodgy rancid stew of a place called Dunkirk, and got her first look at the wound past the shirt Lye had already unbuttoned and opened himself.
      ‘See, not so bad. Barely a long musket shot, from a generation before us.’
      She figured it didn’t need any of the precious yellow powder, but ointment was common enough and she could at least pack the hole, long and thick as the first joint of her thumb and already cauterized from the shot. And bearing none of the insidious little bits of cloth a ball or a bullet likely would’ve carried. The carbolic should see it right enough.
      Someday, she vowed again, the people back of all this would pay, their bill now just a bit longer. As she turned to give Sandringham the old thumbs-up signal they’d all picked up, well, somewhere or when.
      ‘Just the one injury, then. And not so very serious a one, either.’
      August Sandringham waited a beat or two.
      ‘Take heart, lads. Unless there’s some noisome surprise in this–‘ (he tapped with his foot the half-sodden newspaper the machine had just ‘picked up’ in London)
      ‘We’ve just proved we *can* go home again.’
      And the smile that came to his face was like a queen lioness’ hunting on the savannah, and the twinkle in his eye was like the flat white light from the tuyere of a blast-furnace three days into its campaign.
      ‘Now all we have to work on, is how we all survive the doing of it.’
      The spontaneous and instantaneous ‘Huzzah!’ would’ve shaken the rafters of Heaven, if the perfidious oddity of the Between had had any to shake.

      And had they only had the conviction to speak their thoughts aloud, it would have been in near-unison they’d said it, and not thought themselves each alone in it: just as the poet had said, in words that had come to them like so many things, a little out of time:

      ‘But oh, beware my Country,
      When my Country grows Polite.”

        1. Thank you for the kind words (or word). And if I expand it to a full story (which would take some doing), I’m pretty sure the title would have to be something very close to “”Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.

  17. The naughty girl theory
    during the holiday seasons please remember:
    good boys get a present
    naughty boys get a lump of coal.
    girl girls get a present
    naughty girls get much better present

    1. We all know why Santa keeps a list of those who are naughty, those who are nice, and those who are so nicely naughty!

  18. “Now that everyone is present,” Father said, “it is time to present the present to the birthday girl. No time like the present!”
    “Presently,” answered Mother. “I must first present her to my dear aunt.”
    “I thought that was your uncle!”
    “She likes to present herself as male.”
    “That could present some difficulties in later perusals of the family photo album.”
    “There really is no time quite like the present,” Mother said.
    * * *
    “As a remedy for depression, or just as a way of life, you can’t go far wrong from his advice: build, make, clean. By itself, that mocks those whose idea of the world is a fixed pie and a need to redistribute ad nauseum.

    In the end we win, they lose”


  19. The speaker waved her on stage, I thought, ‘Great, just great.’

    John, next to me, said, ‘Wow, she’s hot!’

    We sat there in the auditorium watching the speaker, ‘There is no time the the present, so let me present to you your new principal.’

    I groaned inside, ‘That’s my mom!’

  20. Memo to all Shepardsport personnel:

    It appears that one of our newest arrivals broke pre-flight quarantine and has introduced an unusually severe rhinovirus to our community. If you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms, it is essential that you report to Medlab immediately for evaluation, and observe all necessary restrictions on activities until you are fully recovered. Presenteeism is neither heroic nor a virtue, and in fact risks spreading this highly communicable disease to essential personnel. This goes double for Flight Operations personnel. Remember, all of Farside depends upon us for support flights.

    /signed/ Barbara Bhin Thi Thuc
    MD, Col USMC, Shepardsport Chief Flight Surgeon

  21. It was amazing how much time could be wasted, thinking of all the things that needed to be done; after which there was no more time to do them. All because she couldn’t – wouldn’t – keep her thoughts and actions in the here-and-now.

  22. Thorg poked at the creature with one sharp-nailed finger. A stream of red fluid welled from a gash in its scaleless integument, and it made a high-pitched noise that, hurting his ears, put his fangs on edge.

    Strange sort of present to receive from his uncaring-seeming parents.

  23. I never met Dr. Pournelle, nor did we ever converse via other means. He never replied to anything I posted, which is no surprise. I do not recall ever reading any of his fiction. That’s not to say I haven’t, but that I do not recall such. It is entirely possible I read some short story and long ago forgot the authorial attribution. What I do recall was his Chaos Manor column in Byte magazine. It was a column that if I saw it, I read it. I recall the fondness for the CP/M Kaypro and that the early Compaq was considered a better IBM compatible computer than machines actually made by IBM. And I was most pleasantly surprised when I did him comment here.

Comments are closed.