Saturday, 3 October 2009

Saturday Wordzzle 83

Each week, Raven gives us a set of 15 words - 5 for the mini, 10 for the 10-worder or all 15 for the mega challenge. The idea is to create a passage which includes the words

You can go to Raven's Nest for the rules of the game and some excellent advice.

This week's words were challenging, to say the least!

Most awkward word this week: laugh and the world laughs with you

The Mini (monsters in the closet, roughly, bowling, menu, Pennsylvania)

You are cordially invited to the Annual Monsters in the Closet Masked Ball the gilt-edged invitation card said. Chuck tore the card roughly into two pieces and dropped them into the wastebasket.

"Are you crazy?" cried Martha, "You can't possibly turn down an invite like that!"

"Can and will," replied Chuck with a finality that Martha had come to dread over the years: there'd be no changing Chuck's mind now. Mind you, that didn't mean she couldn't try.

"Have you even looked at the menu?" she sighed wistfully, retrieving the pieces of the invite, "There's caviar and smoked salmon and three kinds of –"

"Not interested," he cut her short.

"But –"

"No buts." he snapped, "You know it's my bowling night and I NEVER miss my bowling night." He stomped out of the room, putting an end to the discussion.

Martha sighed. The invite card was so thick and the finish so smooth and creamy under her fingertips. In beautiful golden lettering in the bottom right of the invite was printed:

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington,
DC 20500

The 10-worder (family, cheese cake, 20 years ago, refrigerator, laugh and the world laughs with you, bath brush, zombies, African violets, butterflies, holding hands)

About twenty years ago, a family of zombies moved in next door. Now, I know it's pretty commonplace these days to have undead living with the living (so to speak), but back then it was something of a rarity and folks didn't really know what to make of it. The Goldsteins were friendly enough though, in their slow way, and a few days after they moved in, they knocked on our door to introduce themselves. My mother grabbed up a bath brush and would have chased them down the street with it if my father hadn't stopped her. She was kind of old-fashioned that way. Live and let live, Dad said, but she didn't think that applied to people who weren't alive like us. Anyway, we invited them in and it turns out they'd brought us a gift of some African violets in a pot and a homemade strawberry cheesecake – very neighbourly, and all. We children were so excited to meet our zombie neighbours that we stood together holding hands with butterflies in our stomachs. They had just the one child, a grey-faced boy called Edward who shambled in wearing a tee-shirt with Laugh and the World Laughs With You on it, which seemed a little odd as I don't think I ever saw any of them laugh, ever. My mother put the cheesecake into the refrigerator "for later" and thanked our guests coolly but politely. They stayed for just a short while, long enough for a cup of tea and then they shuffled back to their home. When they were gone, my mother scrubbed the teacups with bleach and threw the cheesecake away uneaten because the thought of eating something a dead person had made was disgusting to her. She kept the violets though.

New to Harold's story? The story so far is here

The Mega (family, cheese cake, 20 years ago, refrigerator, laugh and the world laughs with you, bath brush, zombies, African violets, butterflies, holding hands, monsters in the closet, roughly, bowling, menu, Pennsylvania)

Even as a child, growing in a small town in Pennsylvania, Agent India had never been afraid of monsters in the closet; as a teenager, she had yawned her way through countless movies about zombies attacking small towns in search of the inhabitants' brains. These things did not scare her because she had always had a firm idea about what was real and what was not. Zombies and closet-dwelling monsters were not real. Demons, on the other hand, very much were. For as long as she could remember, India had been able to sense them when they came near.

At first, she had had no idea what it had been about certain people that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She had asked her parents about it and they had not known what to tell her. Eventually, she had plucked up the courage to speak to the priest in her local church. He had explained her gift to her and had put her in touch with the Order of the Good Shepherd, who, he said, could make good use of it.

How right Father Nolan had been! India was full of elation as she and the other members of Joshua squad, along with their captive, bounced around in the back of the van which was now bowling along at a good clip away from the warehouses and back to base.

Harold, on the other hand, was decidedly not full of elation. He had fallen straight into the humans' trap. Honestly, even someone with the IQ of a bath brush would have realised that they had left the doorway so invitingly unguarded on purpose, but not him, oh no!

The paralysing effect of the taser had not had chance to wear off before the leader of the humans was standing over him, reciting the words of Binding. Few humans even knew these words and fewer still had enough faith to make them stick, but stick they did. Harold could feel the effect of them like a cocoon of barbed wire wrapping him from head to toe. At the moment, because he was sitting quietly and not causing any trouble, the wire was only loosely wrapped and he could only just feel it, but he knew that if he did anything out of line, the wire would tighten. No wonder Teatime had been so insistent that he put as much distance as possible between himself and these humans. Harold hoped Teatime was alright - the little monkey hadn't said a word since the female driver of the van had thrust the pillowcase with him in it roughly into Harold's arms with the stern injunction that he sit still and keep the monkey quiet, or else.

Agent Mercury had been about to begin the words of Dismissal to send this fiend back where it belonged when the approaching wail of a police siren had interrupted proceedings. Someone, it seemed, had heard the noise and had called the cops. OGS agents had no more powers than any other private citizen and it was unlikely that the police would be even remotely understanding if they were to come across a small group of people performing some strange ritual in a deserted warehouse. There had been nothing for it, therefore, but to de-camp to base and do the ritual there.

Agent Prada brought the van to a halt outside what looked for all the world like a small industrial unit in a nondescript business park just outside town. A fading sign on the unit even proclaimed that this was the home of Aunt Aggie's Mouth-Watering Family Cheesecake. Cheesecake production had ceased more than twenty years ago, however, and the unit now served as OGS's local base of operations.

Agent Mercury slid open the van's door and ordered Harold out with a jerk of his thumb. Cradling Teatime's pillowcase carefully, Harold complied. He desperately wanted to talk to Teatime, make sure he was alright. He didn't dare risk it yet though because, although he had not specifically been told he couldn't, he wasn't sure how much leeway the Binding permitted, if any (if only he'd paid more attention to his teachers!). Also, the humans might be suspicious if he started talking to his "pet" in Infernal, which was the language the two of them had always used.

The deserted reception area of Aunt Aggie's was much like any other: there was a counter, some fabulously uncomfortable seating, a coffee table bearing out-of-date magazines and on the wall, a picture of a bowl of African violets and butterflies which was a triumph of anodyne mediocrity. This was, of course, all a front and Harold was surprised to discover, upon passing through a set of double doors, that a bustling, brightly-lit operations room lay beyond.

"...was actually holding hands with her, can you believe it? I know! Oh, wait, I'll have to call you back." A fresh-faced young man quickly put down the phone as the small group passed his desk.
"Sir?" He called out, "Agent Mercury, Sir?"
Mercury turned to face the youngster, a look of irritation on his face.
"What is it?" he barked.
"Opal wants to see you in his office right away."
"Tell him I'm kind of busy." Mercury gestured vaguely in Harold's direction.
"He knows that, sir. That's what he wants to see you about."
Mercury sighed. More delays! Was he ever going to get rid of this demon?
"Ok," he said, addressing the squad, "Go and wait for me in the break room. You –" he said, turning to Harold, who had been gawking like a hick tourist at the bright lights, computers and whatnot, "Go with them and don't try any funny business".

Funny business was the farthest thing from Harold's mind as he sat in the OGS break room with Agents India and Othello, et al eyeing him in a less than friendly fashion. On top of the refrigerator next to him someone had left an old Pizza Hut menu and an unwashed mug with a cartoon of a weeping clown on it, along with the words laugh and the world laughs with you. They got that right, thought Harold.

Feeling Teatime stir, Harold loosened his grip on the pillowcase and the little monkey poked his head out and looked around.

"Excuse me, can I let him out now?" Harold asked Agent India, "He won't be any trouble."
"I suppose so," she replied. He's just a little monkey after all, where's the harm.


  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that "just a little monkey" can probably get into quite a bit of trouble.

    I'm enjoying your story!

  2. Three great stories. The last greatest of all. I am so loving this story. I have a feeling this is not the end of Harold. He will monkey around for awhile yet.
    Just great use of really horrible words.

  3. Oh Argent, I was on the edge of my chair for Harold! You set that scene perfectly. I think Teatime is like Curious George but with a twist of evil! I can't wait to see what havoc he will wreak!

    And, yes, there is a real Hershey, PA. It's where Hershey Park is. It's the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference's most popular location! See more of the park at

  4. Good stories as usual! :) You're getting quite a balance there now between India on the one hand and Harold on the other... Interesting to learn a bit of her back story today!

  5. Just a little clever bleeder of a minky methinks! (and hopes) :-).. I just want to give Harold a nice cuddle.. he's fairly handsome in my head, lol.. all your stories this week were fab as always, knew it was gonna be a good-un round here when I saw Zombies! lol.. :-D

  6. These are so clever. I think Martha should dump Chuck, at least for the evening of the ball. I loved the Zombies next door story. And of course I love Harold and am hoping for his escape even if he IS a Demon.

  7. Great stories as usual - keep 'em coming!

  8. WE loved all three but Harold is still our favorite. We can eat Harold you know because he really isn't human. We don't trust tha monkey not one little bit.

  9. Hmn, I'm not sure I'd let anyone keep me from attending an event at the White House; particularly bowling!

    Great stories; you clearly enjoy writing them!


  10. I have to say my favourite was the story of the zombies next door - such an interesting way to approach the subject of predjudice


  11. Once again, copious showers of thanks to all who have commented here, I love how poeple are engaging with the Harold story, speculating about what might happen and so on. It really spurs me on to write more.

    @Sara - I'm almost beginning to regret that last line now. Lots of people are really expecting something amazing from Teatime. Hope I can deliver it now!

    @DrJohn - Yes, indeed, the words WERE horrid this week. I had to insert the whole stupid scene in the break room just to get rid of refrigerator and menu! I'm pleased you're still enjoying.

    @RestonFriends - I'm not hugely familiar with Curious George (will do some research). Teatime is mainly bitter about what humans have done to him in the past and thinks they've got it coming.

    @DawnTreader - I'm glad you liked finding out a bit about India's back story. I think it's important for me to try and make her less two-dimensional (plus I got to use up zombies and monsters in the closet LOL).

    @Watercats - I'm sure Harold could use a cuddle right now. He is handsome in my head too (imagine a sort of young Owen Wilson of You, Me and Dupree fame).

    @Raven - I agree that anyone who would pass up a ball at the Whitehouse for bowling (much as I love it) doesn't deserve any sympathy. I'm working on the next Harold episode although these new words are just as tricksy as last week's (moan, gripe).

    @Bug - I'll certainly try to keep em coming. I've having loads of fun with this each week.

    @Fandango - Please try not to eat my main character or I'll not have anything to write about each week :-)

    @MommyWizdom - Thanks, I really do enjoy writing these stories.

    @DFTP - Thanks for noticing the allegory on prejudice. The piece really only coalesced into that right at the end, I hadn't really planned it that way - not consciously, anyway.


Without your comments, I am but a wave without a shore...