The Burning Question

The teacher placed the stack of papers on the table and addressed the class. 
“Thank you for your essays. Are there any final burning questions?”

Most deliberately avoided her gaze, but one girl raised her hand, initiating a chorus of groans.

“Yes?

“Why do you always wear black?”

Insolent laughter erupted around the classroom.

The teacher nodded. “Fair question. It’s camouflage for my sense of humour— or my soul. You choose.”

She shrugged, and the collected papers behind her burst into flames then powdered into ashes.

She smiled at their silence. “Perhaps you’ll all be more respectful from now on!”

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The Final Blow

Image by Geanette Saad 2019. Used with permission.

“How many times do I have to tell you not to pick your nose?”

Sam sighed. All he wanted to do was dislodge those crusty bits that stabbed the inside of his nostrils every time she made him blow into a tissue, and remained there stubbornly regardless of his efforts with the tissue. Those things hurt, and they didn’t let go on their own.The best way to remove them was gently, with his favourite finger, and then flick them into the bin.

She should just be thankful he never wanted to eat it. He didn’t understand how other kids could. Just the other day when they had gone out for lunch he had watched another boy in the restaurant eating his booger off his finger before picking up a chicken nugget and eating that. He shuddered at the thought.

“You don’t know what damage you might do in there, Sam. Please, just use a tissue and blow your nose, and let me get this last jack o’ lantern done for tonight.”

As his mother turned away to finish carving the pumpkin, Sam defiantly slid his finger back up his right nostril, where he found a great big pointy one, shaped just like the witch’s hat that already sat on a carved pumpkin on the porch by the front door. This was possibly the biggest and pointiest one yet, like a miniature mountain that had grown to dominate the inner landscape of his nose. Just as his fingertip reached for its peak, his mother looked over at him. 

“Sam! Get your finger out of your nose! Now!”

She ripped a couple of tissues from the box on the sideboard on her way past and almost slapped them over the lower half of his face. 

“Blow!” she demanded. 

As he exhaled, she pinched the tissue around his nostrils. Sam began to protest as he felt a sharp stab deep inside his nose and the powerful jolt of a momentary headache, followed by a strange sensation of being lighter and freer than he had been only a moment before. Sam fell silent and limp  as his head imploded, collapsing in on itself like a punctured ballon, leaving his mother with an unsoiled tissue in her hand and a grimace of shocked surprise on her face.

His sweet face lay shrivelled and flattened on his shoulder on a bed of dark brown hair, eyes still clenched shut as they had been when he felt the pain in his head.

She gathered Sam into her arms and cradled him there, his face flat against her skin and a thin trail of bone dust and ash falling from his left ear. She rocked him, keening and weeping as dusk began to fall outside and late into the night that followed. 

When the moon rose high in the sky, a small, ghostly hand touched her shoulder, then took her hand and led her outside into the silvery light. She watched as the small boyish figure walked up a bright moonbeam, then turned to wave goodbye. 

She waved languidly with one hand, the other still clutching his lifeless body to her chest. 

When he was so far up the moonbeam that she could no longer see him, she laid his body on the ground and fetched a shovel. The shovel crunched into the ground beneath the willow tree time after time, until she had dug a small trench in the earth.

She leaned the shovel against the trunk of the tree, and then gently gathered Sam’s body into her arms. Silent and sombre, she carried him across the yard, whispered a few words, and lay down in the grave with him in the waning moonlight to await her fate. 

©2019 Joanne Van Leerdam

Classy Humour.

The teacher stood at the front of the room, textbook in hand, as the students settled down to business. 

“Please open your text book to page four hundred and four, and… yes, James?”

The teacher looked with anticipation at the young man sitting in the second row, hand raised and an awkward smile on his face. 

“That page cannot he found.” 

His classmates looked confusedly at James, and then at the specified page in their own books.

The teacher frowned. “Are you sure? There must be some kind of mistake.”

James’ smile became a triumphant grin. “It’s an error 404.”

***

Credit for this story must be given to my student, James, who actually did this in one of his classes, and gave me permission to write it as a drabble.

A Unicorn or Nothing.

“I want you to come in to work tomorrow.”  

“But it’s my day off!” Cassie pouted. 

“I realise that, but tomorrow’s meeting is important.” 

She remained silent.

“Look, I’ll give you a day in lieu a little further down the track.” 

Cassie almost snorted. “A day in lieu? Might as well be a unicorn.”

He frowned. “How so?”

“People like to talk about them, but everyone knows they don’t actually exist.”

“Cassie–“

“No. I must be owed ten days in lieu by now.  It’s a unicorn or nothing.”  She resumed typing, but the silence lingered until he walked away, defeated.

What’s Cooking?

A powerful new aroma rose drew demons from near and far to the enormous kitchen. 

“I smell sea salt,” moaned Festus as he wiped his drool on his sleeve.

“Do you really? I smell Vegemite!” exclaimed Provokus.

“You’re both wrong. It’s meat pies! That smell of melting, bubbling flesh is unmistakeable.” Cocky and confident, Argumentus sneered at the obvious errors of the others.

“Damn, I wanted some January 26 lamingtons, or a pavlova.” Minimus, the smallest of them all, who also had the sweetest tooth, looked very disappointed.

“Hey boss, what’s cooking?”  Festus asked.

Satan snickered as he answered: “Australia.”

Copyright 2019 by Joanne Van Leerdam

Final Notice.

Listen,
Now that you’ve made it clear
That I don’t matter to you,
I need you to return my things:

The time you were always asking for,
Countless borrowed hands,
The respect you mistook for deference,
The love you took for granted,
My confidence,
My dignity,
And everything else you took
When I wasn’t looking.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Facing The Monster.

2018-11-26 23.55.57

 

Defiant, I stood as tall as I could and faced the enormous beast.
Towering over me so that I was lost in the cold of its shadow, the monster met my bravado with silent derision.

I carried no sword, nor any other weapon, but deep within, I knew I could win this fight by using my wits. With all the strength and conviction I could muster, I growled, “As intimidating as you are, remember this: I created you, and I will defeat you.”

No longer able to maintain its composure, my to-be-read pile barely held itself together as it laughed and laughed.

 

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Mind Blown

“I still don’t know what to do.” Greg’s words hung in the air, the atmosphere pregnant with frustration as his classmates’ faces mirrored the teacher’s umbrage.

The teacher glared, deliberately silent as heat flushed, dark red, up his neck and across his face. His mouth opened, but no words came. The sound of his pulse reverberated around the room, growing louder and faster as he fought for control.

The explosion, accompanied only by a vague squelch, spewed bloodied flesh and grey matter across the room. A disembodied eyeball on the floor continued to glare at Greg.

“Whoa!” he gasped. “Mind blown!”

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Full.

“I’m full of good ideas,” I told him,
“Full of something,” he promptly said,
And he was right: there’s always more
Than just bright ideas in my head.

Vivid memories stream on a cinema screen,
To a soundtrack of favourite songs,
A maple tree full of autumn leaves
So my heart can visit where it belongs.
There’s a flowing river of storylines
And a deep well of imagery,
A box full of timely lessons, hard learned,
And useful facts from world history.
The walls are lined with shelves of books
And pictures of beloved faces,
There’s a graveyard to visit with those who have passed
And doorways to favourite places.

And right at the back, where no-one can see,
In the darkest part of my brain,
There’s a very deep hole where I throw away
Things I don’t want to think of again.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

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