It’s Fiction Fridays numero 9!
And it’s also the last weekly Fiction Friday.
What did you feel when you read that? Sadness, relief, or apathy?
If you felt relief I can’t help you, but if you felt sadness, it’s the last weekly Fiction Fridays post. It’s not the end of Fiction Fridays.
Weekly posts are too much. For the past three weeks I have received zero entries to the contest, and I have posted old fiction that I just edited a little. I’m hoping that extending the entry deadline will get more entrants, and giving myself more time to write new stories will get me actually writing new stories, which was the point in the first place. Fiction is supposed to be a release for me, not a burden, and Fiction Fridays was supposed to be motivation, but it’s become more of a nuisance. So I’m going to try doing it every other week and see if that helps. I’ll come up with some other cool stuff for the off-Fiction Fridays, don’tjaworry.
Anyway, as I said, no entries=no blogger to feature again this week. Sad. Instead I’ll invite you to check out the update and final call on Maria’s fundraiser, which is closing on Monday. So this weekend, scratch that: right now is THE time to donate just $10 and help her access therapy for Postpartum Depression.
Here’s the week in review for Betty’s Battleground:
On Monday I had the extreme honor of hosting a guest post by a professional child therapist, and member of Mindfulness Therapy Group, in the “Tales From the Other Side” series about how to help a child who has experienced trauma: “When It Happens To Your Child”
On Wednesday I revealed that I had been nominated, by Maria, for the Blogger Recognition Award, and posted my blog story and nominees: “Blogger Recognition Award-2017”
I still want to rip my ear off my head, despite having run through the full course of antibiotics my doctor prescribed. If any of you reading this have a magical recipe for relieving ear pressure after an ear infection, can you please drop a link in the comments??
Otherwise, as I always ask on Fiction Fridays, if you comment on this post, please make sure to say something about the fiction! Or the prompt! Or share it with people who may enter the contest and tell me about that!
This story, like I mentioned earlier, is not super new. Oddly enough, and I absolutely swear this, I wrote it in December of 2015. So, like, maybe I should join the delegation.
Finally, it’s incomplete. Let me know in the comments if you want to read more, see an ending, all that jazz! Thank you; let’s get to it!
A Gathering of Geniuses
by Elizabeth Brico
Four fat telepaths sat alongside nine meager mind-readers, the difference being (between a telepath and a mind-reader, of course) that telepaths came from Northern Yarn and the mind-readers, naturally, came from the South. In the Southern region of ‘arn, it was quite in fashion to be very thin. In the North it was important to be fat. Therefore those from the North were quite distinguishable from those from the South, and everyone knew who everyone was, with the exception of one delegate. She was not quite fat enough to be fat enough, thought the telepaths, and she was not quite thin enough to be thin enough, grumbled the mind-readers, unless she was simply very unfashionable indeed. It would have been quite uncouth, among this particular gathering, to ask her where she was from aloud. The cut of her clothes suggested South, while her hair was Northernly nuanced. Several delegates from both regions sent her inquiries via telepathy or mind-reading, but none were met with a response.
Though, truth be told, rarely did they get a response when they talked that way.
A rustle rose among the fourteen delegates (four from the North, nine from the South, and one still undetermined) as the fourteen delegates rose to greet the President. The President was a Southern man who had spent much time in the North. He was beloved by both regions, though there was at least one telepath among them who remembered a time when the President had been derided for his thinness and sour Southern temperament. During that time the elderly delegate had sent (via telepathy of course) his Northern brethren jokes at the President’s expense, but when they were met with only silence, he determined that the President must be loved in the North and decided to love him as well.
The President stood on his podium. The delegates sat in their seats.
“Greetings, Countrymen,” spoke the President aloud.
The telepaths and mind-readers lowered their eyes. This verbal speech was not for them, but for the cameras, which filmed each proceeding diligently, to ensure no philandering occurred.
“As you all know, I stand before you today faced with two doubly grim propositions. I need not state them aloud, as we are all aware of the situation.”
Nancy, an especially fat Northerner with many handsome suitors, attempted to hide her blushing cheeks. She did not follow the news and knew nothing of the grim propositions.
Norman, who had recently been reprieved of a tapeworm, which had caused him to suffer much weight loss, noticed her softly blushing cheeks and blushed himself in turn. He decided he would eat three dinners that night, in the hopes of winning Nancy’s eye.
The President continued his speech, which the delegates tried hard to ignore. “We have gathered our fourteen delegates, the most brilliant minds of our lands, these rare geniuses gifted with the gifts of mind-reading, so that we may discuss among ourselves the best solution for our terrible dilemma. I will now turn the floor to the delegates.”
The President looked down from under his bold golden hair, which it was rumored had been woven from the hairs on an elegant golden ass. The delegates looked up. The delegates looked around. They waited, and then they began.
“The Tranconian terrorists must be stopped,” thought skinny Sammy, who was certain that the question of the day was to bomb or not to bomb.
“The taxes must be lowered for the rich! Our riches make the poor richer,” thought skeletal Saul as loudly as he could. “And since the poor will be rich, the taxes must be raised for the poor!” he added frantically before anyone could interject.
“We must enforce an abortion mandate,” Nancy thought quietly, then blushed at the respondent silence. “Well there won’t be enough to eat if we allow everyone to keep having babies whenever they please,” she appealed. Still, only silence. She blushed, and looked down.
“I love you,” Norman whispered in his mind, meaning Nancy, hoping everyone else was too busy with the proceedings to hear. When she said nothing, he avowed himself four dinners and spent the rest of the meeting attempting not to think.
Each delegate had his project and his say. The President stood above them, calm overlord in a toupee.
Simon of the South was in the middle of arguing with Norman of the North.
“It is more important to maintain historicity than build,” he growled in his mind-readerly way. He couldn’t quite hear what Norman had to say, but he knew it must be nasty, because Norman refused to meet his eye.
Simon felt slighted when the President spoke while he was still mid-sentence.
“Is my opinion unimportant?” thought Simon to the President.
The President confirmed his suspicion by giving no reply.
“Thank you, delegates. I have indeed heard your cases.” He smiled around the stadium. Simon sighed with relief when the President gave him a gracious nod. Certainly the old clock museum would be saved.
The President paused, and raised his hand high. “Tomorrow we close our borders!” he thundered.
There was a pause, and then the delegates roared with approval. It was not the debate which Nancy had entertained, nor Norman nor Simon nor Saul, but surely Sally or Samantha, Nicholas or Nate, had been involved.
The President prattled the details for the public and posterity. Naturally, none of the delegates deigned to listen to this verbal redundancy. Norman watched Nancy blush deeply, and was deeply aroused. Nancy would never have admitted it, but she did listen intently to the President’s speech. She had been too busy being ashamed to hear the delegates’ discourse.
None of the genius delegates would ever have admitted it, but they all listened intently to the President’s speech.
“Violence plagues our country,” roared the President, with a very deep and Presidential tenor. “The criminal element is rampant! They sell drugs to our children! They give guns to the deranged! They cheat, they steal, they molest, they kill! They are the very incarnation of,” he inhaled deeply, “evil.” His nostrils flared with vehemence. It was an impassioned speech. “And where does the criminal element come from? Nancy knows!”
Nancy started. Her eyes widened and her cheeks deepened an even deeper scarlet. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words would come out. It was very fish like, and it made Norman swoon slightly in his seat.
The President continued. “Simon knows!” Nancy sighed with relief. “Samantha, she knows! Our delegates all know,” he waved his arm inclusively around the small room and looked into the center camera. His brow glistened with sweat. It was the sweat of passion. It was the sweat of brilliance. “The criminal element comes from outside of our borders.” He paused to inhale noisily. A short statured man who stood in the corner scurried forward, holding forth a glass. The President took the glass, drank deeply, and returned it to the courier.
“We all know the troubles of Tranconia. The bombs, the radicals. We know the plight of Peroshka. The illness, the poverty. We know the malaise of Mundow. The drugs, the violence. Does Yarn breed killers? Rapists? Drug dealers? No! We do not! These corrupt peoples are abusing our generosity, our kindness, our open borders and they are destroying the honorable fabric of our good land. We must keep them out, and today thanks to genius of our democratic delegates,” he smiled graciously at the cohort, “we have unanimously decided to close our borders! That means no one in and no one out! Any and all unnaturalized immigrants are hereby ordered to leave our great land within two months’ time. Any and all citizens currently outside of our borders must, should they wish to remain citizens, return within that same time. Yes, no one in means no one out, but would any decent, hardworking patriot wish to leave the safety and abundance of Yarn? They would not! There is nothing but terrorism and disease outside of our borders. Thank you delegates, for ensuring that it remains outside. Good evening Yarn! I wish you abundant joy and prosperity on this as on every night.”
The delegates roared with approval.
The President bowed his head, signaling that the cameras should discontinue their feed.
He smiled at the delegates. The delegates craned their necks and extended their foreheads, listening, listening for a final, personal word from the President. The President met Nancy’s eye. She smiled graciously. She hadn’t quite caught the complement, but she was certain it deserved a very gracious smile.
The President left the room.
The small man in the corner, who was not a genius and therefore not a telepath or a mind-reader (though he was certainly from the South, judging by his slight frame and tight trousers) approached the Presidential podium. When he stood before it, he seemed much taller, and the delegates became a bit more interested in what he had to say.
Perhaps it was their penchant for mind reading, but none of the delegates were surprised by his words.
“Refreshments, as usual, are in the lobby. Please help yourselves,” he announced nasally.
The Northerners stood first. It was Southern practice to show disdain for food before consuming it, so they paused for a while before exiting. Soon they met their Northern counterparts in the lobby. Much of the menu had been devoured already. The Northerners all wished to show their gratitude and good manners by eating as much food as quickly as possible. Some Southerners nibbled upon what remained. Most clutched glasses of water and stood sipping them at strained and uncomfortable intervals.
It was a lively gathering. All of the delegates had something to say. Norman sent Nancy many telepathic love confessions, but she was too involved in sharing recipes with Sally, who declined to listen as she was debating with Samantha about the newest rumors of debauchery by a certain famous actor who we need not name, though Samantha was much more interested in commenting upon Saul’s quite manly slimness, but unfortunately Saul was still battling with Norman about whatever they had been battling before. All of these excellent conversations, and more, continued upon the special frequency that only the genius delegates could penetrate, until the long and lively silence was unceremoniously broken.
“So what do you all think about the new closed border policy?” asked the unknown delegate aloud.
Nancy dropped her handpie. Norman swept it up and took a large bite, an obvious sign of passion, but Nancy was too shocked to notice.
Saul coughed into his glass. The water muffled the cough, so he coughed again, louder, into his sleeve. It was still muffled, so he cleared his throat. That then was loud enough to express his disapproval.
“I’m sorry,” he said aloud, shooting a smug smile to the nearest mind reader. “What is your name again?” Feel free to tell me through mind reading my dear, he added, mindfully.
“Clara,” replied the delegate.
A murmur moved through the group.
“Clara,” spoke Samantha sharply, “but we’ve never had a delegate from the center before.”
“No,” Clara confirmed, “you have not.”
“I assume you passed the telepathy test?” Norman demanded. He was a naturally timid man, but this evening he was emboldened by Nancy’s blatant rejection. Trim waistline be damned, he deserved at least respect, if not love!
Clara shrugged. She smiled. “Yes,” she said. “It was quite easy.”
“Well for a genius,” said Saul and he looked around at his Southern brood. They all smiled in approval.
Clara narrowed her eyes. “It doesn’t take a genius to-“
It would never be known what she was going to say. She was interrupted by the sudden unexpected arrival of a very important guest.
The President entered the room. The room fell silent. Even Clara flushed red and lowered her eyes.
He smiled, he nodded. He made eye contact with several appreciative delegates. Norman was not among them, nor did he hear any of the words of approval the President was so obviously doling. How did he make private frequencies like that? Norman would have to learn. He was certain the other delegates were using them to make fun of his pathetic passes at Nancy. Oh Nancy…
Norman was even more mortified when the President asked Nancy to join him in the hall.
He watched her blush beautifully. He watched her body bounce as she lumbered seductively toward the President. I love you, he cried in his mind, but she gave no reply. No reply. No reply. A deep depression fell over him as the President left with Nancy in tow. Unfair, unfair that such an ugly, skinny man should hold such power, and should use it to take such a voluptuous prize!
Nancy could not fathom why the President wanted to see her. She admitted, to herself only, that her telepathy had not been very good recently. If the President was giving her a secret message, she could not hear it. She could only guess at his intentions. His intentions? Why, they must be political, musn’t they? She knew that in the South, where the President was from, her heaving curvature was quite uncouth. But perhaps he had acquired a taste for Northern women during his time among them? Once again her face grew hot as the President turned to face her. She had forgotten that of course he could hear her every thought. She apologized profusely. He placed his hand upon her shoulder. Was this a sign of forgiveness? Oh how she wished her telepathy functioned! How long could she keep up this fraud?
The President looked deeply into Nancy’s round, fearful eyes.
“I want to thank you,” he spoke aloud.
Why are you speaking out loud, she asked in her mind, but heard no reply. He knows! Of course he knows! His telepathy is on point!
The President spoke again. “I do not wish to invade the privacy of your mind by using telepathy outside of the diplomatic functions.” He smiled. “I hope that you will grant me the same respect.”
“Oh of course,” Nancy rasped. She cleared her throat, blushing. “Of course,” she repeated in her most musical tone, followed by her loveliest puff-cheeked smile. She hoped that it was not too flirtatious.
Nancy was rewarded by a puff-cheeked smile from the President. His hollowed cheeks looked strange distended with air, but Nancy had to admit that it was sweet of him to adopt the Northern custom.
“I want to thank you,” the President repeated.
“You’re welcome,” Nancy nodded. “For what?”
“For your contribution today. I took it very seriously you know.”
“About the abortion mandate!”
The President frowned. “Your other contribution,” he said after a moment’s pause.
Nancy looked down. She only remembered talking about the abortion mandate. It was very important to her. Her own neighbor was pregnant with a fourth child, and the foodblock had already granted a permission to give her more rations. They said it didn’t mean Nancy would get less, but she knew that was a lie. She didn’t get so luscious by mistaking a half and quarter pound of potatoes for a pound!
“What you said about the border policy was truly profound,” the President nudged. “I truly believe it was the most important influence on our new genius policy.”
Nancy shook her head. She didn’t know what to say. “But, Mr. President,” she looked up at him, her eyes glistening. “I don’t remember saying anything about the border policy.”
“My dear woman!” The President clapped her upon the back. “How can you not remember that impassioned speech? I almost wish the proceedings had been aloud so that we could have a recording of it.”
Nancy blushed. “Oh but that would be, that would be so unsafe.”
“Quite, quite. Treason, sedition, subversion, verbal proceedings would lead to all these things of course. But, my good woman,” he lowered his voice and dropped his lanky neck so that his mouth was near to Nancy’s ear. “You truly are a genius. What you said about how the food rations were affected by the influx of immigrants, how the Northern culture was being drowned out by the needs and wants of so many foreign influences.” He raised his eyebrows.
“Well that does sound like something I’d say.”
“Like something you’d say! Why, you did say it! You must remember?”
“Well, oh well,” she smiled as sweetly as ever she could. “I do, I do. I had forgotten but now I remember. Of course. And oh, the abortion mandate as well! The child limits I had proposed last session? Have you given them any-“
“Yes, yes, due time,” the President twirled his bejeweled right hand. “Right now the focus is borders.” Hand slammed into fist, eyes gleaming. Even though he was such a skinny man, his fervor made him quite attractive.
Nancy pinched her lips into a Southern style smile. The President’s eyes glanced off of her. She was glad he could not see her respondent blush.
“Now that new delegate, that woman, remind me her name,” the President inquired.
“Clara? We have not had a delegate from the Center in quite a while.”
“Not since I’ve been here,” Nancy agreed.
“She had some very interesting things to say as well.”
“Oh yes,” agreed Nancy.
“Oh yes,” said the President.
“Oh yes! And in the reception as well.”
The President looked down sharply at Nancy. He cocked a trim eyebrow. “You spoke to her in the reception?”
“She spoke to me. Well, to all of us really.”
The eyebrow rose higher. “Telepathically then?”
“Oh no,” gushed Nancy, “it was quite uncouth.” She hushed to a whisper. “She spoke aloud.”
The President hummed musingly. He crooked a finger to his pursed lip. “And what did she say aloud?” he spoke around his well-manicured finger.
“She, well…” Nancy realized she did not know. She had been reeling from the shock of hearing a live voice. Truth be told, she had for a moment thought she was finally receiving a telepathic message. Well, ‘finally’ was not the right word, she corrected herself quickly. After all, hadn’t she passed the telepathy test? Nancy lowered her eyes. “My President,” she spoke in an embarrassed hush. “I am sorry to admit that I just don’t remember.”
“Nevermind.” The President twirled his lanky hand. “Have her come see me.” He smiled down at Nancy. “Thank you again, for all of your inspiring words.”
Nancy blushed. She knew she was quite pretty when she blushed, maybe that was why she did it so much, but she could not help feeling embarrassed to blush before the President. Her embarrassment made her blush deeper.
“That will be all,” the President prodded.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and returned to the reception.
So what do you think? Leave me your feedback. This story was a huge experiment in voice and I’d love to know if you think it was a success or a major fail. Every time I read it I teeter between those two extremes.
And now for your prompt. Remember: The deadline has been extended! You now have two weeks to write 300 words minimum and be featured right here on my ever-growing blog!
This story was originally written in 2015, but is more relevant today than ever. It is the time of polarized politics! Lots of blogs shy away from political topics for fear of alienating certain readers. Well I’m once again the blogger who’s taking a different route.
For this prompt, let’s get political. Choose a polarized topic. It can be related to governmental politics, or religion, or ethics, etc. Now satirize it, in the style of a favorite author.
I’m going to embarrass the hell out of myself and reveal that the author I was trying to emulate here was George Saunders. If you’ve read George Saunders, you know he’s a genius. Like, an actual genius, not the type of genius from my story. And my story really doesn’t come close to being on par with his writing, so admitting him as inspiration is embarrassing. But it’s also the truth. Take my boldness and use it to your advantage! You don’t even have to reveal who your author is if you don’t want to! I think it would be really fun to see some entries that are by authors who don’t typically write satire. A challenge, but definitely worth a read!
To enter: “Like” and follow the Betty’s Battleground Facebook Community Page. Find the Fiction Fridays 9 entry post (I’ll pin it to the top to make it easy for you) and leave your entry in the comments. Make sure it’s between 300-1,000 words. It can be fiction, poetry, script, essay, etc..whatever your chosen author would do! Good luck! I look forward to reading what you write.
Fiction Fridays is a collaborative effort. It only works if people read it. And people can only read it if they find this page. Could you do me a HUGE favor that will take very little effort from you and click a share button or two? It would mean the world to me if you could help spread the word!
Til next time!