A Little Short Lark

Let me describe to you the view outside my office window. The green young tall trees are growing stronger by the day. Their weaving lovely many branches have seemingly accepted, finally, that they are not to be chopped down by glimmering buzzing many saws, as have much of their kind. No, they are to remain, a homage half-hearted to a city’s need for nature.

In these swaying softly trees, there is a certain one spot with a horizontal particularly branch that seems to be the place of honor supreme. All the little small stars of this patch of wood have perched there at time one or another. The crows, their black shiny feathers unkempt, like to gather in a row and hurl little many nasty insults at me, or so I imagine from their disdainful dark looks. The bright golden beautiful butterflies are better, for they pay no one any mind, content to chase each other around the trunk, up and up, till they are lost among the leaves few that have begun to turn yellow themselves.

The most dignified of the trees’ visitors was a speckled large hawk that once drove the chattering several crows away. The hawk held its private own court on that branch for nearly an hour, and I am sure he gave wandering many squirrels a fright. Let them be startled out of their fuzzy fat skins, for all I care. There are too far many of them, and there’s one in particular that likes merely to ascend to the top tallest branch, and rip the innocent poor leaves off. That’s all he does; rip a leaf, and watch it drop. Rip a leaf, and watch it drop, for just for kicks, I assume. What a little strange creature.

If, sweet dear reader, you have made it through that wandering strange description and noticed nothing amiss, let me enlighten you. You see, English has odd many rules that perhaps we knew at one time and then forgot. One that I perhaps had learned and certainly never thought of since then is the order of adjectives in proper modern English.

Apparently, adjectives are to be written in this particular order: quantity or number, quality or opinion, size, age, shape, color (and there are a few other ones that can come after that, should you be describing something excessively specific, such as original, material, purpose). Should you choose to deviate from that order, to describe the several chattering crows as chattering several crows, and their little many nasty insults instead of their many little nasty insults, you sound a bit like the the bard who wrote Beowulf…or maybe just a slightly addled person.

And me? I’m just a some-time procrastinating strange writer, fiddling with the English language just a little for a lark.

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For Emily, in the Fall

“If you were coming in the fall,”
She dreamed, “I’d brush the summer by,
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.”

So I, like her, fondly mused,
And dreamed of all I could do,
Of both quiet actions and eternal deeds
And what and where, and who.

“If I could see you in a year,”
She wished, yet “centuries delayed”
And she finally was left, “ignorant of length,”
With goblin’s sting unstaid.

Likewise my dreams, and wishes too,
That fall was charged to bring,
When summer’s sum was all but spent,
Fall gave me not a thing.

So fall’s months were gathered, and put aside,
“Each in a separate drawer,”
And I waited for the time to drip away,
And for winter to bring me more.

Then winter came and failed to bring
Just what I thought it ought,
Yet third is the charm, though long the nights
‘Till spring, whose aid I sought.

Yet when she came, Spring but smiled,
And what I wanted she refused to send,
But instead she tossed my old dreams away
And bade me begin again.

So through summer I plotted anew
An autumn course of my own fair making,
You may not come, or perhaps you may,
But this time’s my own for the spending.

Inspiration and quoted passages courtesy of Emily Dickinson, “If You Were Coming in the Fall.”

Dear Sir

Dear Sir,

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How may I fully express the thrill of flattery that I felt as I unfolded thy note and discovered those two sonnets written for my eyes alone, not for some other supposed vision of perfection! But my pleasure was short-lived, for though the lines sounded sweet, to tell the truth, I could not at first make head nor tale of them. I was forced to spend a full hour unraveling their serpentine turns of phrase, and, to be frank, sir, thy sonnets are not as attractive as first they appeared. Poetic verse really is quite the cloying perfume. Dissolve it with a good bucket of prose and thou wilt be able discern the wearer’s true sourness.

I do not quarrel with thy first conclusion that “…never resting time leads Summer on, to hideous winter and confounds him there.” I know, as do all with any sense, that one far off day my eyes will loose their luster, my hair will whiten, and my skin will shrivel. There is not much gallantry in reminding me of that. What is more, thy solution to this natural ill does not seem very efficacious: “That’s for thy self to breed an other thee.” Hast thou perhaps spent too much time in the company of my mother? For she and thee are alike in thy eagerness for me to bear children. Yet, it cannot help but occur to me that producing children will most likely leave me bereft of beauty much more quickly than natural aging. And, though a parent may be fair, who is to say that their offspring shall be likewise as lovely? A tree may be strong, and yet bear wormy fruit. Or perhaps there shall be no fruit at all. Hast thou not considered that?

Of course thou hast not. Thou seest but a rosy world where rosy women have their own rosy babes. Thy sonnets are constant in their idolization of my beauty and the need to preserve it, as if nothing else about me mattered, not even myself. “Be not self-willed,” thou sayest, “for thou art much too fair, to be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.” When the frost has finally done its work, it seems as if none shall mourn any aspect of my character, nor any good work I have done. My appearance is all I shall be missed for, and heaven help my soul should I have failed to produce any natural progeny.

Be that as it may, I yet propose another course of conduct. As thou suggest: “Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where, then were not summer’s distillation left a liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass…flowers distilled though they with winter meet, leese but their show, their substance lives sweet.” I shalt take thy first advice, and disregard thy second. Deep roots are not reached by the frost, and thus I shalt keep summer’s distillation in my heart. I will do so, and perhaps, when winter has done its outer work, and I lie barren upon my deathbed, those nearby will remember me, myself, in love, and not cluck their tongues in pity for what is lost.

To come to the point, sir, it seems that thou art infatuated with my beauty and its supposed contagion. Not a sonnet I have received has been addressed in praise of any other facet of me. Thus, sir, I must order you to stop hanging round. Depart and attempt to ensnare some other bird with thy tangled web of pretty little words. After all, my parents have not been much pleased with my unfortunate fancy for a mere scribbler.

Yours (no more),

Lynn

 

 

Our Fireworks

Listen up, folks, and you shall hear
Of the late-night fireworks that took place here,
On the Fourth of July, maybe 2002?
I didn’t bother to see if anyone knew
Or remembered that particular day and year.

Mom said to us, “Here’s the plan,
We’re going to Grandma’s for dinner tonight,
And, if she says you can,
If you wanna do fireworks, that’s all right –
Just be very careful, and don’t blow up your face,
I just read an article where that was the case,
Gruesome things happen when there’s explosives and fire,
Stop laughing, it’s not funny, the stakes are dire,
If I see you being careless, you’ll feel my ire,”

Or something like that, but we didn’t care,
For, at Grandma’s, something caused us to stare.
As my brother and I walked onto the porch,
Our aunt arrived, and with a lurch,
Placed a huge package on the ground.
Peeking forward, there we found,
A mountain of fireworks, pound upon pound,
Whose grand power was magnified
By the vibrant illustrations on the side.

But we still had to eat, and it was still light,
So we wandered, watching eagerly,
As the sun slipped down most meagerly.
For, to us kids, the dinner was a bore,
Waiting and waiting with all our might,
‘Til at last, Mom said, most agreeably
“Y’all can go now” – and we were out the door.

We opened the package our aunt had brought,
And there was the cornucopia of dreams.
There black cats lay in reams and reams,
And fountains beyond our wildest thought.
Smoke bombs in pink and blue and red,
Enough sparklers to keep a festival fed,
And spinners and candles and parachutes,
And novelty tanks the size of little troops,
And, one giant bottle rocket, last,
That we were sure would give such a blast
One loud enough to wake the dead
And brighten up the shadowy night
Enough to rival the moon’s light.
A sparkling flower that would fly
Up, up, up, high into the sky.

So we dived right in, and with matches we lit
The fuse of many a cracker that eve,
As screamers buzzed over and into the tree,
And a fountain exploded in an angry fit.
That wasn’t all! In the gloom of the night,
Who knows how many sparklers we did light?
Black cats exploded with all their might,
And candles combusted for all to see.
But the best we did with the novelty tanks,
As we lined them up, rank upon rank,
Just on the edge of an ant pile grand,
And set them in motion, and watched them sputter,
As forward they began to putter,
Shooting sparks into the ant-filled sand.

It must have been ten by the living room clocks,
When we called the family to come outside.
Onto the porch they filed and stared,
As the giant rocket we prepared,
And since they refused to put on shoes over socks,
Or leave the coziness of the rocking chair,
Do you think they saw it at all,
When the rocket exploded high in the air?
Or the little pink crystals softly fall?

Nope.

Yet, through the evening we fired on,
Every last candle and spinner and spark.
We heard every last black cat bark,
Until every single one of them was gone.
No more crack in the darkness, or pop in the night,
No more echoing, shimmering light.
But, borne on on the night-wind of the past,
Through all of my memory, down to the last,
In the hour of darkness and laughter that is free,
I will remember, though now it is gone,
That box of fireworks that once I did see,
And the July Fourth Fireworks that once shone.

A Good (Sleepy) Story

Well, I may be something of an optimist, but I am also no fool.  I knew perfectly well that attempting to get a solid night’s sleep while camping at a music festival would present some challenges.  But I could handle it, I gamely assured my brother, my traveling companion.  Here’s some earplugs, just in case, he said anyway.  I tucked the earplugs away in my bag, and we set off for the main festival, intending, and having, a good time.

Midnight was rolling around, and neither of us really cared about the final performance of the night, so we ended up turning in earlier than the majority of the crowd.  In the sweet near-silence of an airy spring night, with only crickets and the nearby gurgling brook as punctuation, I curled up in my sleeping bag and determinedly closed my eyes.  Perhaps, if I fell asleep soon enough, I’d be too sound asleep to be woken up by the returning revelers.

Alas, it was not to be.  The crowd returned, and their incessant “YAK yak yak yak” SCREECH “YAK yak YAK yak” SCREECH “yak YAK YAK yak” SCREECH woke me up quite thoroughly.

So it begins, I thought, grimly.  Oh get a grip, I told myself.  You lived basically across the street from your college town’s bar district for two years.  If you could handle that discordant noise Thursday through Sunday on a regular basis, you can handle this.  Yes, so I can, I agreed, and began to fall back asleep.

Of course, I forgot to mention, this particular festival encourages folks to bring their acoustic instruments and to initiate jam sessions with all and sundry. So it was that I soon heard a double bass player began a line of notes that, in the words of the Charlie Daniels Band, sounded something like this:

BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM

Repeat to infinity, or the closest thing to it.

“Well, if the player knew eight notes, that’s actually not so bad…” a friend, a bass player himself, later protested.

“Eight notes, exclusively in that order,” I clarified.

“Oh,” said my friend.

Still, thought I, staring at a tent pole, at least the bass is an acoustic instrument.  I really can’t complain all that much.

BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM, continued the bass player.  I closed my eyes…

…and opened them again when the violin began screeching along.  All right, perhaps that’s a bit harsh.  It actually sounded rather mellow, a soothing voice capable of swinging me to sleep, if I’d let it.  It worked, too, for a little bit.  I focused on the violin’s melody, and felt myself drifting away.

And that was when the trumpet started.

To describe its tone as “blaring” doesn’t quite cut it.  It sounded like a particularly peeved goose with a piercing array of pipes.  And I was going to wring its neck.

I sat up, disentangled myself from my tent, marched in the direction of the squawking trio, and in summary, Officer, that’s how I ended up wrenching a trumpet away from a complete stranger and tossing said trumpet in the nearby creek.  Now, can I go back to sleep, please?

Oh, all right.  In reality, Buttercup remembered the ear plugs her brother gave her, and managed to suck it up and doze fairly comfortably.  When she woke up a few hours later, the trio had ceased, and she actually slept fairly well.

She would have slept better, of course, if the solo bongo drum player hadn’t decided that what the world needed now wasn’t love, sweet love, it was his sweet solo bongo-ing. I think someone eventually told him to cut it out.  However, the fact that I didn’t toss said bongo drum in the creek first is, to be completely honest, a slight regret.  It would have made a good story, after all.

A Confession

Why did I do it, you ask?  Why is there now a corpse in the bedroom, befouling that soft, nice carpet?  What did you do to deserve it?  It’s quite simple, really.  Just a simple tale of revenge, with a bloody, deadly end.

You went away, again.  Leaving me, again, and again, like you always do.  You barely even said goodbye. Just a quick caress, then you shoved me aside and walked out the door, shutting it, locking it, making it clear I was not to follow.

You didn’t tell me where you were going.  Of course not.  You weren’t with me, so where else good could you be?

Sure, you were no kinder nor crueler the day before.  We ate breakfast.  We watched television.  I slept while you piddled with your instruments.  I’d tried to help make lunch, but you waved me away.  I tried again, but you wouldn’t let me near the sizzling meat.

You never like my help.  You like to do things yourself.  You want me near when you want companionship, but if I make too much racket you just chase me away.   You wander off, but if I do the same, you claim to “worry.”  Other times, you smother me, pulling at my hair and telling me what a mess I am.  You think I’m fickle?  It takes one to know one, wretch.

That’s why I did it.  That’s why I left that rat on the bedroom rug.  Let’s see you waltz in from a three day absence with a “Hey, kitty, kitty!” next time.  I will make you fear me yet.

As the Founding Fathers Intended

“I’m sorry to be so slow today, James, but could you please re-read Article 5 one last time?  I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around all that futuristic lingo.”  Mr. Lewis turned to his other companion.  “You don’t mind, Mr. Stevenson?  I’m sure your mind is quite made up, but I’m still coming to grips with how much technology will have changed in two hundred years!”

“Not at all.”  Mr. Stevenson nodded graciously.

“One moment, then, Mr. Lewis.”  James looked down at the paper in front of him, entitled the Technological Borders Freedom and Protection Act, located the section in question, and read it aloud.  He then looked expectantly at the two old gentlemen sitting across from him.

There was a pause, then the one who had first spoken, Mr. Lewis, sighed.  “I hope you’ll agree with me, Mr. Stevenson, but I, for one, never would have written a law like that.”

Mr. Stevenson nodded.  “Nor I.  I find it far too restricting, and I say have the good sense to leave well enough alone.”

“So, you did not intend a law like that?” James prompted.

“No, we did not intend that,” assented Mr. Stevenson.

With unconscious flourish, James clicked off the recording device next to him, turned to the computer, opened a document, and clicked print.  Two pieces of paper emerged from the printer slot, and he placed them in front of Mr. Lewis and Mr. Stevenson.  “Thank you, gentlemen, and you know the drill from here.  Please mark the box at the bottom labeled ‘Unintended’ and affix your signature on the line below that.”

“Where do these document go next?” Mr. Lewis inquired as he checked the appropriate item. “I know you’ve explained this process to me before, but I do grow so forgetful these days.”

“Well, gentlemen, I’ll send these documents and the transcript of your conversation off to our legal team, who will produce a nice, streamlined summation and amendment.  This will be sent onward to Congress for passage, though this, of course, is a mere formality, and then it will be officially added as an amendment to the Constitutional Volume, for our posterity to gratefully read and thereby direct their course of action by it.”  

Mr. Stevenson snorted as he passed his form back to James.  “Don’t be naive, James.  You know as well as I do that only half those reading it will be pleased, since they’ll now officially be on the right side of history and have the blessing of us, their forefathers.  The other half will be decidedly miffed and grumble about us old relics – quietly, of course.  It doesn’t do to speak too ill of the founders of your country, I imagine.”

Mr. Lewis also returned his paper.  “What year will this here Technology Act we’ve just read be passed?”

“In the year 3051,” replied James, “Exactly two hundred and five years in the future.  And now, gentlemen, it is time for lunch.”

“What are our afternoon engagements?” inquired Mr. Lewis.

“Another delegate, this time from the year 3052, and about the same topic, actually.  Apparently the representative who sponsored the act you just rejected tries to make another go of it the next year, with some modifications based on your feedback, of course.”

Mr. Stevenson sniffed. “Really?  This is his fourth attempt to craft such a law, and we’ve already shot down the other three.”

“I understand he is known for his persistence, sir.”

“Persistent does not equal mind-reader,” observed Mr. Stevenson, “for he has yet to correctly divine our intentions when we founded this country and wrote its laws.  I’m surprised his contemporaries don’t step in and cut him off at the chase, instead of wasting valuable resources sending delegates back in time to talk to us.”

“Quite so,” agreed Mr. Lewis.  “They’re just taking the easy way out.  But we founders aren’t getting any younger, you know, and our present time is not limitless.  One day they’re going to have to figure these things out for themselves, without sending travelers from the future to consult us.”

“I hope the day will not come too soon,” replied Mr. Stevenson.  “I must admit I do enjoy laughing at our posterity…they’d make such a mess without us.”

A Romantic Realist’s Valentine

First, the piano plays.  It’s a simple, delicate tune, with a touch of fancy added by one or two grace notes and a warbling little trill.  The listener is given a taste of the melody to come, and then a woman’s deep, deep voice begins.  Sings she:

I’ve heard of all those sad, sad songs where he and she are parted

And she dies for the love of him and he dies broken-hearted.

He lies in St. Mary’s kirk and she lies in the choir

And out of her grave grows a rose and out of his a briar.

So at last their souls entwine and now as one are climbing…

This, the final song on June Tabor’s album Rosa Mundi, a collection of songs concerning the titular flower, is called “Maybe Then I’ll Be a Rose.”  A violin will join the melody a little later, but overall, the orchestration stays simple and true. After all, what older, more classic trope than this, the two lovers that die for want of each other?  And that final rosy touch (pun quite intended) of the blossoming briars tangling together?  Why, I can think of two other ballads off the top of my head that use such a motif: “Fair Margaret and Sweet William” – depending on which version you’re listening to – and the penultimate track of Rosa Mundi itself, “Barbry Ellen.”  In both, circumstances and not a little pride keep two lovers apart, but only until death.  Now that’s love, no?

But then, in that last song, “Maybe Then I’ll Be a Rose,” as the melody soars with the climbing souls, Tabor sings:

Ten out of ten for true, true love, naught out of ten for timing.

And with that, we wryly land back on earth.

It’s true, you know.  We idolize the Romeos and Juliets of the world, forgetting that if the hero had just delayed his death by a few minutes – perhaps given another sobbing soliloquy – his lady would have awoken and all might have been well.  Truly, 0/10 for timing.  Tabor, or rather, the original poet, Les Barker, wants a different fate:

I don’t want that kind of love that grows so high on sorrow,

I want you today my love and I want you tomorrow.

A quick Google search for “famous lovers of literature” reveals lists of well-known couples, a good chunk of whom suffered unpleasant fates, often torn asunder and dying in fits of passion.  We read of them and sigh over them (well, some of us do, at least, and then only over some of them; others deserved their fates, in my opinion), but perhaps, as Tabor reminds us, there is nothing wrong with true love being happy.  I’m reminded of another tongue-in-cheek passage from the short story “The Stolen Princess,” by Robin McKinley, a favorite author of mine: “…they became the sort of lovers that minstrels make ballads about (although it was certainly unpoetic of them to be married to each other)…and the court became a more joyful place than it had been for many a long royal generation.  And minstrels did make ballads about them, even though they were married to each other.”

There is a time and place for roses, and many consider that time to be St. Valentine’s Day.  But I, the Realist, charge you, oh Romantic, to not idolize new roses growing from young graves; there will be time enough for them to blossom on old graves later on.

Here and now let’s drink the wine of life while life is ours.

Here and now my love entwine; it’s not just for the flowers.

And when time takes all away and death snuffs out this fire

Maybe then I’ll be a rose and you, my love, a briar.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I knew why my mother had come, but I still pretended to be surprised. Not moving my gaze from my watch on the valley, I spoke to her. “Careful, mother. This is the third time you have visited me in as many weeks. One would almost think us a close-knit family.”

“Olwen,” she simply said, coming towards me.

“I’m touched, of course, as much as I can be…”

“Olwen,” she interrupted me. “He is not coming.” She sat down next to where I stood, motionless, still looking down into the valley.

“Yes, he is,” I told her, clinging to the fading hope that the very next moment, or the moment following, or the moment after that, I would see him riding over the valley’s edge, coming to me.

“Olwen, it has been two full cycles of the moon,” my mother pleaded. “It is not meant to be.”

“Why not?” I snapped. “There is still time. He could simply still be mustering his forces, or maybe misfortune befell him on his quest to find me and he is still untangling himself, or maybe…” I broke off, for even I could hear the ridiculous desperation in my voice.

I expected her to offer a rebuttal, to tell me the road from his castle to my mountain was a short journey through pleasant country, and that the only calamity he might have met was that his horse could have thrown a shoe or a rain shower might have doused him. But she did not, for she knew that I knew.

She had always said I was the most cunning of all her children. I remembered the first time I saw him, how I knew instantly that he was the one I wanted. How I had used all my skills and wits to entrap him. I thought I had done everything right. I thought he would come for me, my prince, my knight in shining armor, and what games we would play before his end. And yet here I was, alone, spiritless and hungry.

I finally dropped my gaze away from the horizon, and stared down at the gray stone at my feet. “Why, mother?”

My mother let out a sound of contempt. “He is a coward, Olwen, plain and simple,” my mother told me. “He is afraid to face you, as he ought. He has always been afraid. Why else would he travel with so many guards, as you described? You told me that was why you did not go to him at once, when you first saw him. He is not worthy of your devotion”

I knew she spoke the truth, but I was not ready quite yet to let it go. “I thought I had done everything right,” I fretted. “I made myself known to his subjects, I displayed myself within sight of his walls, I even killed and ate his bride-to-be…”

My mother waved her claws. “He is a weak, fickle human,” she said, matter-of-factly. She rose on her hind legs and sniffed the air. “Come, my daughter. Let us go down into that valley of yours and catch us a deer, for I smell the scent of many on the wind.”

I got up and stretched, unfolding my wings. I let out an experimental breath of fire. Man or no man, I was still myself.

After the hunt, as we feasted on twelve of the deer that ran rampant through the valley, my mother turned to me and bared her teeth in a smile. “You will learn, my child. But in one thing you have done very well. You have chosen a good spot for your lair, my little dragonling.”

How to Get the Guinea Pig

“I suppose it would be too much to ask you to cook normally?” Beth pleaded, fiddling with the zipper on her jacket, with a hopeful face despite her despairing tone.

Linnie barely paused as she continued working grated yellow cheese into a pale dough, and she didn’t look up from the kitchen counter.  “I haven’t the slightest idea what you mean.”

Beth, a normally congenial soul, had no patience with that kind of attitude.  “You do too.”

Linnie did eye Beth this time, but it was a glance with mischief behind it, and her answer, in Beth’s opinion, was not helpful at all.  “I am simply following the recipe I found for garlic and cheese biscuits, which is what you requested for the party tonight.  At this point I am to ‘gradually add cheese to the dough and toss with flour until no longer sticky.’  I grant you I am making a mess, but I am following the instructions, unless you can think of a better way to ‘toss’ dough.”

Beth frowned at her roommate.  “That’s a new recipe, isn’t it?  I know what you do to new recipes, I’ve lived with you for two years.”

“You don’t want to be my guinea pig?” Linnie inquired, in a falsely hurt manner.   

“I just want to eat garlic and cheese biscuits!” exclaimed Beth.

“Well, you don’t have to be the first one to try them,” replied Linnie, in that ridiculously reasonable tone that so infuriated Beth.  “Just wait until someone else does, then feast to your little heart’s content.  Or feed it to Rachel’s dog.”

“Rachel said she’s not letting us feed any more of your new stuff to her dog, as she’s not letting us torment her poor little ‘honey’ anymore,” complained Beth. “And everyone else who’s coming tonight also knows not to be the first one to try your new recipes, and the ones who don’t will probably be warned by Mary.”

“What was that?” came a voice from down the hall.  The third roommate, Mary, quickly bustled into the kitchen.  “I heard my name mentioned and something about a warning, and that scares me and I felt the need to be here to defend myself.”

Beth pointed accusingly at Linnie.  “She’s making garlic and cheese biscuits, out of a new recipe!”

Unfortunately for Beth, Mary had had a long day.  She’d had two midterm exams and the deadline for a grad school application, and thus, she had very little sympathy left and had become of Linnie’s ilk of reasoning.  “Didn’t you ask her to make garlic and cheese biscuits, because you just really wanted them?” demanded Mary.

“Yes,” admitted Beth.

“And didn’t you hear her say that she’d never made them before and would have to find a recipe?”

“Yessss,” Beth said again, exasperated.

“And you know what she does to new recipes,” continued Mary.  “You are the one who wanted garlic and cheese biscuits, and so you deal with this.  I’m going to my room to take a nap.  Call me when people get here.”

“But…” began Beth.

“No buts!” called Mary, disappearing with a slightly manic giggle.

After a short silence, Linnie spoke.  “Actually, I invited a new person tonight, one who won’t know any better.”

“Who?” Beth asked, surprised.

“Just a guy from Spanish class.  He and I really hit it off.”

Linn-ie,” demanded Beth, “Is this your weird way of vetting a potential boyfriend?”

Linnie began shaping the biscuits.  “Mayyybeee.”

“That’s terrible,” Beth said.

“Yes,” agreed Linnie, placidly.  “But if all goes according to plan, it will tell me a great deal about his character, in particular his ability to take a joke.”  

There was a pause, during which Beth wondered for the 999th time why she was roommates with Linnie.  

“Look,” continued Linnie, “it’s too late at this point.  The dough is already set and I used the last of the milk.  So unless you want me to throw out the dough and we can have no garlic and cheese biscuits…”  

Beth’s desire for said biscuits was stronger than her empathy.  “No,” she said, in a forlorn tone.  

Linnie gave a satisfied smirk, and continued her work.  Beth watched her for a bit, before interjecting: “Add more garlic.  There’s no such thing as too much garlic.”

“I already added plenty,” replied Linnie, absentmindedly checking the oven temperature, “and too much might counteract the sp…” She managed to grab the garlic container as Beth lunged for it.  “NO!” Linnie barked.  “This is my cooking.  Out of my kitchen, it’s small enough as it is.”

Your kitchen?” exclaimed Beth, as she retreated into the living room.  “My parents pay rent here too, you know!”

“Oh, suck it up, Buttercup,” growled Linnie, as she placed the biscuits in the oven.

Seven o’clock arrived, the hour when Beth and Linnie had told everyone to come over for “dinner and a movie.”  True to form, Ross arrived precisely on time, while everyone else showed up at intervals of five, ten and even thirty minutes later.  Linnie’s proposed conquest, who was introduced as “Trent,” knocked on the door at the ten minute mark.

“A ten minute buffer zone…could be better, but not bad,” murmured Linnie, as she answered the door.  Beth rolled her eyes.

But she made no protestations as Linnie – with a dirty look towards Ross, who was the most liable to spoil the trick – told Trent to help himself to some food.  She especially recommended the garlic and cheese biscuits, saying, “I’ve never made them before, so whoever tries them first will be the guinea pig!”  Eagerly, Trent thanked her, reached for a biscuit, and stuffed it in his mouth.

No one who knew Linnie was at all surprised when, with a soft pop, Trent transformed into a guinea pig.

Well, there was nothing to be done about it now.  With a sympathetic sigh, Beth stepped over the poor creature, who was squeaking in confusion on the carpet, and put two garlic cheese biscuits onto her plate.  Oh, he’d transform back into a human in a minute or two, and they’d see whether he was the sort of fellow who could stomach her roommate’s weird little brand of magic.