Straw to Gold; Flax to Linen

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The serf, intimidated by the palace representative’s rich velvet livery, sipped a cup of courage and rechecked his supplies. “You want straw? For spinning? It’ll never work.”

“The queen said straw. Strong stalks, not brittle.” The page shifted from one stockinged leg to the other, resisting the urge to hold his nose against the smell of manure from the fields. “What you drinking?”

“Try some. My own grog.” The farmer proferred his cup. “Flax. That’s it. Makes a nice linen. I got some presoaked, ready to spin.”

The page wiped his mouth. “I’ll take a sample, see what she says.”

Today’s Word:Acnestis (akˈniːstɪs)

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Acnestis. It’s the itch you can’t scratch. There, between your shoulder blades. A complaint that won’t leave you alone. A retort you don’t think of ’til it wakes you at night, meanly appropriate and well deserved by the jerk who prompted it. Destructive fake facts based on dystopian fantasies.

You can’t scratch that itch because: the complaint can never be satisfied, your retort is not suitable for work, the lie is one of many seeking freedom from being scratched.

Define the parameters and set up a fair fight. Keep scratching until truth bleeds through. You’re not the only one itching.

Close the Door Behind You

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“Diana,” Janus said, “So glad you could come.”

The goddess entered through the door of beginnings. She brought the moon’s fertility to Janus’s Table for All Times. She sipped his tea of memories past and future.

“Janus, dear,” she said, “I wish the night would never end.”

“But we must let the sun shine. Start over. Correct past mistakes.”

“Yes,” she said. ”We must think good thoughts- health, happiness, peace, prosperity, especially for the sick, the sad, the beleaguered, and the poor.”

Once again, they closed the endings door, watching the past recede and seeing the present open to change.

Christmas Coal

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La Befana, the Christmas witch, and Old St. Nick sipped eggnog in front of an electric fire.

Befana said, “Here’s to generosity and goodwill.”

St. Nick said, “How long have you been giving gifts?”

“A lady never reveals her age, but I’m from that old time religion.”

Nick said, “Eons?”

“You’re right and also very wicked. I’d leave you coal in your boot, but it’s out of fashion.”

St. Nick said, “Don’t I wish. If they keep burning that stuff, the North Pole will melt away. Mermaids will replace elves in the workshop. For the sleigh, porpoises instead of reindeer.”

Grandpa, How Did You Meet Grandma?

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“My favorite story.” Surrounded by many grandchildren, King Charming smiled. “I needed a wife. ‘A commoner,’ my father said. ‘Why else invite every young lady to the ball?’ ”

“It seemed fair, reasonable, and what better way to find love at first sight than a full dance card? Your grandmother appeared and before I knew it, midnight had arrived.

She hurried out of my arms and lost her crystal slipper. Touching the glamoured glass turned it to an ashy wooden sabot.

“I took it to every house in the kingdom. But it only fit your uncommon grandmother, to my great delight.”

Peace on Stage

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The ballerinas found runs in their tights, tiny smelly turds in their slippers, and nibble marks on the blocks at the bottom of their satin toes. They took it as a declaration of war. But Clara insisted that evidence of merriment is a sign of the season; like peppermint sticks in a stocking, brandy in eggnog, and fireplace ashes.

She said, “Think of it, other dancers mirroring your steps at night.” They stood backstage, where telltale claw marks had opened holes in the velvet backdrop. Peeking after dark confirmed their hopes. They joined the mice to dance the night away.

Can’t Catch Me

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It was the season for gingerbread. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other delicious smells wafted through the village from the bakery at the edge of the forest. It was the year the old woman who had baked him and the old man he called father had passed.

The Gingerbread Boy kept the business going, paddling cookies in and out of the ovens. On the day he learned that the estate went to the man’s brother, who did not accept him as a nephew, the orphan decided to make headlines. He ran for his life, beating every Olympic record and securing his future.

Frog to Princess

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“I want a frog, not a dog.” Merrilee stamped her foot, shaking her pretty mane like a recalcitrant horse until a crowd gathered around. Her mother turned ten shades of crimson. Some mothers would have marched her out. If her mother had that in her, Merrilee would never have perfected such a performance.

“Sorry, darling, I misheard. A frog, then.”

Merrilee pointed to a princely amphibian. The store clerk readied a cardboard carton with holes on top. As he lowered the frog into the container, Merrilee said, “Stop, I need to kiss him first to confirm that he’s the one.”

Lamp Luck

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Aladdin served sheiks and veiled ladies at Bosphorus Square Lamps.

On slow days, he cleaned the trade-ins. Noting the component materials, he checked for dents, damage, and neglect. He assessed usability: plugs, wires, oil wicks. He cleaned the lamps up and set a price. But none of them was magic. Aladdin could tell.

An elderly gentleman came in with an old fener. “It needs a good home,” he said.

Holding the lamp, Aladdin felt a nervous energy inside. “I’ll keep it for myself,” he said.

“It needs tea and baklava. Four o’clock, without fail.”

Aladdin did a happy dance inside.

Heisenberg Cat and Mouse

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Late as usual, HJ Rabbit sat down at the hookah bar and pulled in smoke, hiccuping and shedding huge tears.

Cheshire Cat materialized. “What took you so long?”

HJ snuffled into a linen handkerchief. “Couldn’t catch the queen.”

One-half of a smile appeared across the mushroom table. “You do know, she’s just a placeholder? Something of a nothing.”

“Really?”

The entire smile emerged. “So she’s easy to find.”

“However will we manage to do that?”

“You speed down x in real time. I’ll pop in and out of the imaginary axis. She never goes anywhere. We’ll meet her at zero.”