SCHEHERAZADE’S 1,001 BYTES // A Paltry Fate

Once upon a time there was a paltry palt named Kolobok. He was a good guy, but he also had micaphobia, an irrational fear of breadcrumbs. He fled the bakery where he was made as it was there that he was surrounded by a hell of a lot of crumbs.

So, he ran and ran and ran—or rather, rolled—leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs as thick as his arm. He was sometimes so out of breath that he needed to stop, but whenever he looked back all he saw was… well, crumbs. So, he kept going. It was a minor miracle that there was anything left of him to run from.

His flight of fear took him to different countries. In Germany, two strange children gave chase through a dark forest, yelling expletives after him. Fortunately for Kolobok, he didn’t know German—nor specifically the Hessian dialect—so their expletives had no impact on his emotional state. It was only the fear of being caught that did, for they seemed excessively hungry given the plumpness of their bodies. Of course, how Kolobok could have concluded they were swearing at him in the first place is another question for another time.

The children kept picking up Kolobok’s breadcrumb trail wherever he went, and throwing said breadcrumbs to slow his progress. They were relentless in their pursuit. They wouldn’t quit until they were sidetracked by a candy house tucked away in a quiet forest clearing. Loud cackling and shrill screams were the last thing Kolobok heard as he ducked back into the dense foliage to make good his escape. Served them right for being ill-mannered, gluttonous brats!

Somewhere near the border of France, Kolobok rolled over something. It felt alarmingly soft and squishy. When he looked back, he immediately wished to unsee what he’d seen. Poor kid! No bigger than a thumb, said kid was now no more than a pathetic mud puddle. Kolobok could only hope that he’d led a rich and full life before his unfortunate demise. But then… the kid began to splash about in the mud puddle, crying bloody murder. Kolobok hadn’t killed him after all! Huzzah! But when he listened closely to what the kid was shouting, it caused him to shudder. Yes, unlike German, Kolobok could parle français pretty well.

Few things are as terrifying than the sight of a thumb-sized child uttering curses in a ground-trembling, ominous voice. He was dooming Kolobok to a lonely death in a labyrinth of his own making. The palt was so frightened at this pronouncement that he was unable to grasp its meaning. He only knew that it couldn’t be good, and fled the scene as fast as he was able. Of course, Kolobok’s French wasn’t perfect. It can be too easy to mistake “la mort” for “l’amour”, which is exactly what he did—now his mind was awash with visions of a googly-eyed thumb pinching his soft, delicate buns. Holy gluten!

So it was that Kolobok moved speedily on, trailing more breadcrumbs. His fairy tale took a turn for the worse at the border of Italy. Said border was closed because the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun, so no one was allowed in or out. Also, no one in charge bothered to note that since Kolobok was made of simple flour and water—not frankenfood and gluten—he posed zero threat to the general public. Actually, that wasn’t strictly true about the gluten. He did have a little gluten in him. People would have been scandalised! Still, as it stood, the Italians were adamant that he was riddled with contagion, and so he was required to move on.

That’s when Kolobok headed for Spain. When he passed through the puddle again, that nasty child (let’s call him a schmendrick) shouted more words after him. Maybe it was “la tombe” this time, but Kolobok couldn’t be sure. It’s just what it sounded like. He was too busy trying to outrun his own crumb trail to listen very closely. His fright and flight response took him past the child as far as the borders of Belgium and Switzerland, both of which also declined entry. It seemed everywhere was closing its borders because of COVID-19. Where was a poor palt to go?

He eventually ended up rolling around on a beach somewhere, trying to avoid the incoming tide as much as possible. Getting wet would mean instant death, and he couldn’t have that. He still wasn’t sure if there was a hell for wayward foods like himself, and he was convinced he hadn’t racked up enough brownie points to get into heaven quite yet, so he’d have to live for a little while longer.

It was a terrible shame. So many difficulties had presented themselves on Kolobok’s long journey here, in the form of rocky terrain, unending border queues, and one bullying chiffchaff from the rough end of the Black Forest. These had caused Kolobok’s gravity centre to slowly and irrevocably become displaced. Instead of his usual, solid, near-perfect spherical shape, he’d turned into something reminiscent of a spitball with a crippling side dent. Of course, this made it hard for Kolobok to roll in a straight line. He would skid left all the time, so getting from point A to point B in a non-circuitous route became an absolute ordeal. He was as murky dish water circling the drain of doom.

And that’s how the hapless palt eventually died. He’d gotten lost in a maze of walls formed from his impossibly long and convoluted crumb trail. The thumb-sized child’s (or shmendrick’s) prophecy had come to pass, and it was only moments from death that its meaning dawned on Kolobok. So, he lay in a malaise of deteriorating pastry and… well, malaise. He’d always dreamed of being a Rolling Stone, not this! Now, all he could look forward to was having his guts carried away by armies of ants. How horribly, disappointingly banal. He should have been a chocolate éclair.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

100 WORD SKITTLE // McDhamma® Nooky

The tiny Buddhas are wailing in full force tonight. I can hear them in the jungle, calling for Ganesha their master. But Ganesha is busy. He’s making goo-goo eyes at a pretty, young dibbler in the McDonalds next door. He’s ordering two McBuddhas® and some ghee in milk. I think he’s hoping to score.

Meanwhile, I’m laying here with a pillow over my head, trying to sleep. The tiny Buddhas are fucking deafening. The pairing of incessant wailing with that rusty sound from my neighbors’ bedroom window has become a serious contender for ‘Best Worst Lullaby’ at this year’s Grammys.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

BUT IS IT POETRY? // Cynisca (One-Horse Consolation Race)

“Sorry, we’re closing.”
…and she leaves the battlefield
on her gala-shield.

Jingling with armor,
she fumbles with a jammed lock
in the half-light hall.

In the cold bedroom
she kicks into the corner
a chlamys on which

two heraldic cats
with apathetical smiles
claw a lonely heart.

And then stands face up,
mixing her tears with water
and Bloody Caesar.

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TONY: So, I wonder…

TATI: Again?

TONY: Okay then. You start! Tell me what I’m wondering.

TATI: If this poem is about puppies and kittens.

TONY: How the hell did you know?

TATI: Oh my god! Are you serious?

TONY: Erm… yes?

TATI: I was fucking kidding!

TONY: Anyway, I want to ask you about Cynisca. Is she a personal hero of yours?

TATI: Cynisca was a pretty ambitious chick. And she was the first woman to win at the Olympics. She even bred horses on the side. But… nope. She’s not a personal hero. Should she be?

TONY: Not necessarily, I suppose. But, hey, you forgot the most important thing about her. Her name means ‘female puppy’ in Ancient Greek! And since everyone loves puppies, I naturally assumed that you’d see her as a bit of a role model. I mean, isn’t that why you wrote about her in a poem?

TATI: No, that isn’t why I wrote about her, Tony.

TONY: Oh. Okay.

TATI: Anyway, while she was the first woman to win at the Olympics, it was only in a manner of speaking. She didn’t actually participate, you see. She was merely the owner of the winning team. The chariot was ridden by men she’d hired.

TONY: Fair enough.

TATI: Doesn’t this interest you?

TONY: I still can’t believe you’re so unmoved by the puppy thing.

TATI: It’s a silly name.

TONY: It’s not silly!

TATI: Stop kidding around! I’m talking about serious things here.

TONY: Woof.

TATI: Anyway, I have read another version of Cynisca’s story where it was her brother who planned for her to win. He wanted to discredit the Olympics by directing her to join the competitions. By having a woman win, he hoped to show how unmanly and trivial this sporting event was.

TONY: So, what about the puppy thing? You mention cats on her cloak in your poem. Do you think Cynisca got along very well with felines, given the meaning of her name?

TATI: Tony, are you going to discuss the poem or continue to say bullshit?

TONY: It’s a legitimate question!

TATI: Fine then. Just for the sake of argument, why would someone who was named after a dog have worn a picture of cats on her cloak? No. Unless, of course, it was a dead cat with its tongue stuck out.

TONY: And two little crosses for eyes.

TATI: Exactly. Crosses for eyes. See? Even you understand. But, wait a moment. Did I write something about crosses in the poem?

TONY: No.

TATI: Then the cats were alive.

TONY: Oh, god. Don’t tell me this has something to do with Schrödinger’s cat!

TATI: No, this was before his time. Stop being silly!

TONY: Meow.

TATI: I can see there’s no point me telling you about a Russian expression we have that literally means: ‘Cats claw on a heart (soul).’ Look, just go and bring me a cappuccino. You would do a better job of that than conducting a serious poetry discussion.

TONY: But how is that remotely connected to what we’re talking about?! I thought this was about feminism, about someone who could be considered a symbol for the rise of women in ancient society. But did this newly found status make her any happier? Even with the cool puppy name thing?

TATI: Scat, you wretched cur!

TONY: Grrr. Hiss.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

treehouse of horror (the rejected bits)

your face occupies the entire doorway
or has the room become suddenly small?
i feel like thwacking your smile with a death ray
or smacking it fervently into the wall!

your nasty moustache with its fried egg stains
those urticating bristles on caterpillar lips…
just one look has given me stomach pains
i’d soon as not kiss you as cut off my nips!

when you lean over me with your fresh garlic breath
i feel like a vampire that’s getting ready to die
so i wouldn’t mind overdosing on some meth
if it meant i could avoid you in sheol’s by and by

you whisper, ‘what can i ding dong diddly do?
for you?’ sounding suspiciously diddly ho sweet
and you adjust those glasses you’re peering through
making my flesh want to crawl away up the street

at the altar of the temple of ghastly dreams
i am ready to swear on the shiny shinning
anything to expunge all the flanderish screams
visions of red and yellow cartoon skinnings

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

GUEST POST // The North Wind Shall Blow… as Introduced by Christine Mallaband-Brown

The North Wind doth blow
and we shall have snow,
and what shall poor Robin do then?
Poor thing.
He’ll sit in a barn,
and keep himself warm,
and hide his head under his wing,
poor thing….

 

Introduced by CHRISTINE MALLABAND-BROWN
Public Domain Poetry