Saturday, 10 October 2009

Saturday Wordzzle 84

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 original rules of the game and some excellent advice.

This week's words were challenging, to say the least! I said this last week, but boy!

Most awkward words this week: blood drive, powder puff

The Mini (the sky is falling, variations on a theme, bravery, powder puff, empty soda bottles)

Powder Puff was not known for his bravery. In fact, he was afraid of just about everything, including his own shadow.

Mophead and Haggendass, who were old enough to be orange, would tease and bully poor little pink and fluffy Powder Puff mercilessly. Their pranks were always variations on a theme. They would lie in wait for Powder Puff behind a pile of old tin cans or inside an old cardboard box (the dump where all the gribbles lived had plenty of these) and they would then jump out at him with ear-splitting yells, pulling hideous faces. They would then fall over laughing as their victim shrieked and ran off in terror.

Eventually Powder Puff had had enough. He trekked across the dump to the Westinghouse Snow Palace where the Great Gribble lived. The Great Gribble was old and very wise so Powder Puff hoped he would help him deal with the problem of Mophead and Haggendass once and for all.

Eventually he obtained an audience with the Great Gribble, who was so old he looked for all the world like a rather large untidy dust bunny. His two little black eyes, though, were bright, kind and intelligent. Once Powder Puff had explained his predicament, the Great Gribble thought long and hard before giving his advice. Powder Puff listened intently. Yes, he thought, it just might work.

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Yelled Mophead and Haggendass, leaping out from behind a pile of soggy newspapers. Despite being really quite scared, Powder Puff bestowed upon them his sunniest smile.

"That's OK," he said sweetly, "the Mighty KolaMonster will save me."

"What?" cried the two bullies in consternation. This was no fun: where was all the shrieking, the running, the laughing?

Powder Puff gave a shrill whistle and from around a great big pile of old TV sets lumbered a hideous beast. Its head was covered in shining, clanking metal plates, its body was covered in thick hairs of all different colours and lengths and the beast was making a shocking racket with its tail.

Mophead and Haggendass took one look and ran for it.

Now it was Powder Puff's turn to fall over laughing. The KolaMonster was in fact a stray dog that had recently taken up residence in the dump. Powder Puff had made friends with it and over the weeks had trained it to accept having flattened tin cans, old electrical wire and whatnot tied to its head and body. He'd even trained it to wag its tail, rattling two empty soda bottles, now half full of old washers and nails to make a fearful din.

Powder Puff had not been altogether certain that the Great Gribble's advice would work, but the old fluffball had been right: bullies are cowards at heart and all you needed to do was stand up to them.

The 10-worder (plaster, cottage cheese, hallowed, hard working, food for thought, blood drive, broken finger, ceiling fan, pastry chef, production)

Betty had a great idea to get people to come along to the local blood drive, she organised a promotional event called Food for Thought. People could come, donate their precious pint and then they could stay and help themselves to food and drink, and watch a light-hearted stage production featuring songs, sketches, poems and whatnot all on the subject of blood.

She managed to rope in a friend who was a pastry chef to create some delicious pies and cakes, while she and a team of hard-working volunteers put together all kinds of buffet dishes - vol-au-vents filled with cottage cheese, sausages on sticks, vegetables and dips, sandwiches, chips, nuts and suchlike. Meanwhile, the performers had been diligently rehearsing their show.

Eventually the hallowed day came and they were all set. Fortunately, it was a fine evening and lots of people showed up to donate, most of which stayed around for the food and the show.

It was during the final rousing song-and-dance number that disaster struck. The cast had been encouraging the audience to stamp and clap along to the music - which they had been doing with great gusto all evening. Unfortunately, the building was old and the plaster had weakened over the years. All the bumping and stamping jarred loose a large, old-fashioned ceiling fan which crashed down onto the stage in a great cloud of dust.

All was dead silence for a few seconds then a lone voice piped up.

"I think I've got a broken finger"

It was Mr Henderson. Everyone burst out laughing and a spontaneous round of applause followed: Mr Henderson had been wearing a huge papier mache costume in the shape of a hand. The fan had sliced clean though the outstretched "index finger", missing his head by inches.

It was the best blood drive ever!

The Mega (plaster, cottage cheese, hallowed, hard working, food for thought, blood drive, broken finger, ceiling fan, pastry chef, production, the sky is falling, variations on a theme, bravery, powder puff, empty soda bottles)

New to Harold's story? The story so far is here  Apologies in advance for the length of this post.

Mr Teeth was not happy at having to meet Mr Peck so early in the morning, but the latter had insisted as he wanted to provide an update before leaving town for a couple of days.

The two men met for breakfast in the Mayflower Hotel. Mr Teeth didn't go in for the sort of fancy breakfasts these places dished out, usually contenting himself with some crackers with cottage cheese and a protein shake. He had to admire the artistry of the pastry chef here though. His creations, all variations on a theme, were little short of stunning. Glazed pastry animals of all kinds were set out alongside the more usual fare of bacon, eggs, beans, toast, fruit salad and whatnot. They must have had to set up a veritable production line to turn these things out in such numbers. Hard-working waiters bustled about the place, getting coffee and toast for the patrons while overhead, an old-fashioned ceiling fan turned lazily under the intricately moulded plaster of the ceiling.

"What have you got for me?" said Mr Teeth, setting aside his orange juice.

"Well, the person we're looking for left town by train at about four in the afternoon, the day of the fire." replied Mr Peck, flicking a pastry crumb from the sleeve of his Armani suit with a perfectly manicured fingernail.

"You sure?" asked Mr Teeth. Mr Peck looked at him in silence for a few moments before replying.

"Yes. I have seen camera footage taken at the train station which confirms it. I have some still images if you wish to see them."

Mr Teeth waved the offer away. If Mr Peck said he'd seen that little trumpet-playing punk get on a train, that that's what the little punk would have done, you could bank on it. That's what fifteen hundred a day bought you: certainty. So he was probably out of town when the fire got started – unless...

"Maybe he snuck back into town later by bus or something," he rumbled, "keep checking."

"As you wish," said Peck smoothly.

The little trumpet playing punk in question was passing time mentally composing his latest jazz piece. He was going to call it The Sky is Falling and it would feature some deliciously creepy harmonic minor scale runs. Yeah that ought to do it. Harold wondered if these hostile, hard-eyed humans would actually let him have his trumpet back any time soon. Probably not, but at least composing music kept his mind off what was probably coming.

If he had understood the situation correctly, they were going to send him back to the Basement. Most demons really hated this, it was a badge of abject failure to be so summarily ejected from the world of men and, because of the way a Dismissal worked, they could not return for at least a year and a day. Harold knew that his father would be furious with him for messing up so spectacularly after such a brief spell on the Brightside - and Harold's father's wrath was legendary. Demons with more bravery than Harold possessed had withered under it.

It wasn't entirely his fault though, surely. After all, no-one had told him about the crazy humans and their crack-of-dawn raids. Come to think of it, he had not really been told that much at all about what to expect once he got here. Harold was self-aware enough to know that he was not the most attentive and focused pupil that had ever lived, but he could absolutely not remember anything about these agents with their tasers and hallowed words of power. Food for thought, indeed! He made a mental note to ask Teatime about it if they ever got the chance for a private talk.

Agent Mercury appeared in the doorway to the break room.

"You." he barked, pointing at Harold, "With me."

Harold followed Agent Mercury out of the room. Agents India and Othello fell in behind him, tasers still drawn although there was no need, Harold wasn't about to try any "funny business". Teatime, perched now on Harold's shoulder, took the opportunity to have a good look around as the little group walked through the operations room to Opal's office. It didn't look good though, he had to admit: these Shepherds were annoyingly vigilant and well-prepared. Escape was going to be extremely difficult.

Director Opal was a distinguished-looking African American man of late middle age and if he was surprised to see a little monkey perched on Harold's shoulder, he didn't show it. As Harold and the others entered, he pointed wordlessly to a seat in front of his desk. Harold sat down and saw that they had emptied his rucksack onto the desk for some reason. There was a small pile of spare clothes, his shoes, a couple of paperbacks - The Case of the Broken Finger and Murder at the Blood Drive – that he hadn't got around to reading, two empty soda bottles and (hooray!) his trumpet. Opal leaned forward and indicated this last item.

"What is the purpose of this?" he demanded. His dark eyes boring into Harold's baby blues.

Harold was nonplussed, of all the silly questions to be asking! Surely the human knew what a trumpet was? Did he think it was some kind of secret demonic weapon? Its music could be beguiling for sure, but honestly, it usually took more than a pretty tune to ensnare a soul. OK, not much more in some people's cases, but still. As he pondered these things, Harold became aware of an unpleasant prickling sensation which was gradually worsening: a warning from Agent Mercury's Binding that he'd better play nice and answer the question.

"It's a musical instrument. I enjoy playing music." Harold explained. The prickling receded. "Would you like to hear something?"

Opal looked at him as though he had suggested something incredibly filthy. That would be a no then, thought Harold. He was beginning to wish that they would just do the ritual and send him back home already, if that's what they were planning. This relentless suspicion and hostility was getting old! Oh, wait, the human was speaking again.

"What do you know about the disappearance of the demon, Baron Samedi?"

That was an easy one for Harold. "Nothing at all," he said, "Except what I heard on the news." Opal frowned.

"You're in the club's CCTV film, what were you doing there?"

"I went to see if the Baron would let me play at the club, it is the best jazz club around, you know – or was, anyway."

Opal grunted, "And the Baron said 'no', I take it?"

Harold nodded. He was not proud of the stupid blunder he had made in trying to set up shop in another demon's turf.

"OK," said Opal, leaning back in his chair, "We're done here. Mercury, you know what to do."

"Yes, sir!" said Agent Mercury, pleased to be doing something at last.

Oh well, this is it, thought Harold. Back to the Basement. If he was lucky his father would get over his rage in a couple of hundred years or so. If he was lucky.

They had ordered Harold to pack all the stuff on the desk into his rucksack and bring it along. On leaving Opal's office, Agent Mercury took the little group towards the double doors leading to the reception area and the outside world. Seeing Harold's look of surprise, Mercury couldn't help himself.

"Bet you thought we were going to send you home, didn't you?" He said, "Well, we were going to do just that, but it seems that HQ has requested the pleasure of your company."

On Harold's shoulder, Teatime stiffened. Oh, this was terrible news! He would definitely have to do something now.

As they got outside the building, the first light of dawn was just beginning to creep across the sky, edging the powder puff clouds with pale light. Well, it's now or never, thought Teatime.

All of a sudden, the little monkey leapt off Harold's shoulder and was away around the corner of the building in the blink of an eye. Harold was about to go after him but Agent Mercury would have none of it.

"Get in the van!" he ordered.

"At least let me try and get him to come back," pleaded Harold. The prickling sensation was beginning again.

"Now!" insisted Mercury.

Harold reluctantly got into the van.

He hoped that Teatime knew what he was doing.


  1. Argent - well done as usual! I love the little powder puff standing up to the bullies! Your imagery in that one was so complete! Fortunately, it was just visual and not pungent like a real dump!

    The second one about the blood drive was also very good! It made me go to Google to find out what vol-au-vents meant! We don't call them that here...I don't think we do anyway. Maybe people more cultured than I do!

    And Harold...ah, poor Harold. He's such a NICE demon. If they'd just let him play music somewhere he'd be so happy. I hope Teatime has something in mind that will make Harold look good, but the little weasel hasn't been all that interested in Harold's welfare up to this point...

  2. Three great contributions. Loved the powder puff bravery lesson and the clever way you got broken finger in on the 10 word... and of course I always enjoy Harold's story. I'll bet that monkey has something up it's sleeve.

  3. Three great stories. Those bullies learned there lesson.
    I wish I had been at that blood drive.
    But the best still has to be Harold. I love his adventures. I just wonder what the monkey can do.
    Now I have to wait until next week.

  4. Very good stories but did you have to use every word in the dictionary. These are not long they are extra long.
    Perhaps you should try writing Friday 55's.A story in 55 words.
    We like your stories. They are very well written.
    They use al the words well.
    But we have other blogs to visit.

  5. Oh that Teatime - can't wait to see what he's going to do! I was wondering about the Harold story - do you know basically what's going to happen, or is it coming to you week by week?

  6. @Raven - Thank you. I quite enjoyed writing the Powder Puff thing - it's not my usual style. It's nice to try different things now and then.

    @DrJohn - Yes, you'll have to wait just like we do for Agent 012's adventures :-)

    @Fandango - I hear you.

    @Bug - I do have an overall plan for the whole story and some milestones, as it were, that I want to get to along the way. The shape of each individual episode is determined to some degree by the set words each week and I never really know how I'm going to accommodate the words until I actually sit down to write.

  7. I loved the first story and it's use of names - very inventive.

    I understand what Fandango is saying about on-screen wordage, but i think you have to write to a length that you feel works for the story and not worry about it too much. The story is definately worth sticking with. Perhaps it needs a bit more sense of danger? Excellent stuff though and interested to see what Teatime has up his sleeves!

  8. The story about Powder Puff and how the other gribbles teased and scared him and how he got even was good and had a funny ending. The story about the blood drive also had a funny ending, with the finger of a giant hand costume getting broken. It looks like Harold has bigger things ahead of him, if they want to take him to the main headquarters. Teatime, or someone, had better rescue him soon. It was another good episode in the story.

    I also enjoyed last week's stories, about the Monsters in the Closet Masked Ball at the White House that was turned down in favor of bowling, and the zombies next door, and Harold and Teatime being taken to the local headquarters in back of the old cheese cake shop.

    Stephen from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

  9. @Stephen - Thank you once again for your kind and considered comments. I was interested to see from another comment of yours that you were a programmer at one time. So was I (I'm still in a technical IT job even today while my brain lasts). Maybe that's why I'm drawn to your writing.

  10. Well.. t'was worth the wait (self induced) :-)
    More fundamentally fantastical thingies spewing forth from your fertile mind. :-P


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