Should I Warn the Neighbors?

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

We are lighting a smoke bomb today. I’m good at this. If the wind is favorable, the smoke will travel to the top of the old, oak tree that towers over my driveway. No one called the fire department in a panic last time. The man across the street lingered in his own driveway sweeping leaves that didn’t exist just so he could watch, but we avoided the sirens and red and blue lights.

Still, it’s a dilemma. Do we alert people or not?

This time we are shooting a stop-motion video in Barbie-doll scale. The smoke bomb for this shoot is full, human-sized. I could engulf a pink, plastic convertible many times bigger than the one my Ken doll occupies. That is a lot of smoke. It should make for a good sequence of stop-motion pictures, unless I am engulfed in smoke too, in which case I will simply keep snapping and hope for the best.

We are using fake blood for this video as we did for the last, “The Fake Guy”. I know a recipe that looks convincing and has a great splatter property. It is made almost entirely of powdered sugar with just a bit of cocoa and a massive amount of red food coloring. Yes, it’s edible. Yes, it’s gross. What is the amount of blood needed for a Barbie-doll bombing accident? Last time, I mixed a cup. I needed a teaspoon. Those dolls were small. I am good at math, but I tend to overdo things.

Ken’s doll double required some post-apocalyptic mutilation. I didn’t want to damage him too much, so I used a small hammer and tapped. That was pointless. Who knew that plasti-Ken had #absofsteel? I grabbed my industrial goggles – no selfies here – and the big hammer and pounded away with all my might. An exhausted 30 minutes later, and Barbie’s beau has a few gaping wounds.

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

What would you say? “Hey, I’m shooting a stop-motion video with Barbie dolls in my driveway. I’m going to be spilling fake blood and lighting a large smoke bomb. Please don’t panic when you see the mini-mushroom cloud rising above my roof line.”

My children think I’m weird and funny. That’s a good thing. It keeps them interested, laughing and engaged. My antics also teach them to think outside of the proverbial, collective box and take creative risks. We will be all hands on the “deck” of my driveway. At least one of them will be standing by with buckets of water should anything go wrong. What could possibly go wrong?

My only real dilemma:

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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Quotas

The St. Louis

On May 13, 1939, the ocean liner, St. Louis, sailed from Hamburg, Germany, for Havana, Cuba. The Third Reich allowed more than 900 Jews aboard. We are counting now. When souls become quotas, numbers matter. The number was 937, most of them were German Jews. They carried what they thought were valid permits that guaranteed them temporary stay in the United States until proper visas could be granted.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis had no clue.

The German-Austrian immigration quota for the United States allowed only 27,370 souls annually. The wait list for entry stretched for years, pages filled with longing names numbered. When souls become numbers filling quotas, what has humanity left to do but count? So we counted them. Number one got in. Number 27,371 did not. She received a free train ride out of Germany to a place called Auschwitz that reeked of smoke and shit and death, where she was given a new number. She died in a gas chamber and was burned to ash. We are counting now. She took her place among six million dead.

That was Europe, the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Louis safely reached Cuba, where 29 Jews were allowed to disembark. Cuba had immigration quotas too. We are counting now. 29 souls found a refuge. The ship was ordered out of the harbor in Havana. To be sure that number 30 didn’t sneak in, Cuban police boats followed the St. Louis. Several passengers attempted to commit suicide.

For three days, the St. Louis drifted off the coast of Miami, close enough to see that city’s sparkling lights. Pleas went out via cables from the ship. President Franklin D. Roosevelt never responded. The White House never responded. The State Department finally sent a telegram to the ship explaining plainly that the United States had immigration quotas in place and that the souls on board would have to apply for the proper visas and take their turn on the waiting list.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis now understood.

How did we explain to men, women and children that they were nothing more than numbers in a quota-filling game? What words of comfort did we give? Were we present when many of them were torn from their families and piled like cattle into cargo holds after their bitter return to Europe? Did we travel with them sharing their terror as they were sent to concentration camps? Did we hold their trembling hands as their flesh rotted away from starvation? Did we hear their screams? Did we see them die? They each were given a number. We are counting now. They took their place among six million dead.

We laud a statue that reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Were these not tempest-tossed? The lamp went dark, blown out by xenophobic winds.

We have recycled those winds today in the forms of quotas, restrictions, deportations, bans and walls. We fear.

Souls become numbers, leaving humanity with nothing left to do but count.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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The Writer’s Arrow 2

Little quill on an inkwell rests. The keyboard idles in its frame. Moguls in stretch limos arrive for Coronation Day, mere minions surfing the golden-crested wave of hair soon to fill the ever hollow crown. Silence echoes your nothings. A raccoon digs at the ice on your frozen koi pond with intensity that chips his claws. He needs to drink.

The poor thirst. Their bodies wither.

You sip a cool drink of Evian while you surf the net on your cell phone. You shake your head in dismay at the state of the world and such things.

No one sees you from your leather chair with the oversized ottoman where your feet rest crossed. Your finger slides on the screen of your phone and leaves a greasy streak behind. You wipe it with your sleeve. At least your sleeve has found a purpose. It polishes your screen so you can read the dismal headlines clearly. That picture of starving refugees from Sudan sparkles. You glide your finger across the screen, magically erasing it from view.

Don’t you see the problem?

Your fingers are uncommitted. They simply flip through the pages of life, smudging the screen with the oils of indifference. How can you sit there? Why are you stagnant? Your country is about to crown a Baron King in the oasis of the global desert.

Little quill on an inkwell rests.

Writer from passion rests.

World thirsts.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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The High Tower

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted as he rode his tall steed through the kingdom’s cobblestone roads for his coronation parade.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower! Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly off the walls of stopped ears.

The High Tower, symbol of the kingdom’s former glory, spiraled to a height never before achieved in any other nation. Chiseled stone on chiseled stone, long ago carried on the whipped backs of imported slaves, rose into the clouds. Along the lines of human chains each brick was painstakingly laid. The mortar mixed with blood displayed a uniquely rusty hue. The subjects of the kingdom exported the excess stones at great profit. That was long ago.

The High Tower was built among the Emerald Hills, a verdant, rolling paradise selected after the native population had been culled, its survivors driven off to desolate grounds on the outer edge of the world. Cleared of its original inhabitants, the garden variety slaves were free to dig, plant, weed and harvest an abundant and varied crop of produce, watering the ground with their sweat and tears as they toiled. The subjects of the kingdom grew fat with joy and exported the excess produce at great profit. That was long ago.

“The slaves won their freedom. The native inhabitants won the freedom to live on ‘their own lands’.” That’s what the history books read. (In truth, the slaves won the right to no longer be slaves, and the native inhabitants lost everything important to them; but, if you tell this to the now cheering subjects of the kingdom, it will fall on stopped ears, lost in the continuing reverberations of stupidity. I digress.)

The Emerald Hills rotted, first with overuse, then with neglect. Decaying foliage filled all its stagnant pools. The High Tower cracked and crumbled. The stone steps that spiraled to its peak, providing a view all the world’s kingdoms, was no longer safe to climb. The subjects were embarrassed but not enough to become stone workers or gardeners. They coveted their own sweat and blood, and labor in brick or dirt brings a meager pay. This is now.

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories & satire. Bookmark the permalink.

 

The Writer’s Arrow

Little quill on an inkwell rests. The stationary lives up to its name. Ideas die in wait on a solid oak desk where an empty chair defies its game. Silence echoes your nothings. A woodpecker pecks on your window frame with intensity that rattles his brain. He needs to eat.

The poor starve. Their bellies ache.

“So it is with the world!” you shout into the pillow.

No one hears you from your bed where you scratch notes. The pencil line you draw with those words simply chases its tail around your margins. You break the lead. You crumple the paper and throw it across the room. At least the paper sees some action. It flies through the air and lands just short of your garbage bin. You leave it there with a few of its cousins. You pull up the covers and sleep among your eraser droppings.

Don’t you see the problem?

The pencil is uncommitted.
It changes its mind at every whim.
It cracks under pressure and requires constant sharpening.
Who has time for that?
Why are you in bed?
The alarms are all ringing.

Little quill on an inkwell rests.

Writer from passion rests.

World starves.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories. Bookmark the permalink.