The Goldfish and the Robin

Paint Chip Quintilla or Two

This poem was inspired by Linda Kruschke’s Paint Chip Quintilla or Two Challenge. The idea was to use two of these color names in a poem in quintilla format.

A goldfish in his glass-bound pond,

Feels limitations of his space,

As he looks through window beyond,

He spies a nest among tree fronds,

A peaceful and unhampered place.

A robin’s egg of pastel blue,

Sits in that nest upon its perch,

A fish can’t fly – now that is true,

But it can wish for freedom too,

And a share in that robin’s mirth.

© Susan Joy Clark 2021

This was an interesting exercise. I’m not sure I would have come up with this particular poem outside of the challenge. Once I selected my two color words, I began to think about the contrasts between the two animals and how they live.

Photo by Ahmed Hasan on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

A Stroll in the Park with Luce

Haibun, Haiku, Travel Writing

Photo by Susan Joy Clark, bridge in Verona Park, Verona, NJ

I want to take you on a virtual walk with me, inspired by Restless Jo’s Monday Walk, with a little haibun (Japanese poetic prose,) haiku, park photography and a little down-to-earth information about our experience.

On Saturday, I walked with a new doggy client, Luce (pronounced Loochay,) a handsome dog, a Brittany spaniel and dachshund mix. We walked through Verona Park in Verona, New Jersey, and as it was a nice day, the park was busy with people doing everything possible to do in the park: fishing, cycling, walking dogs, playing tennis, paddleboating and using the playground and the exercise stations around the walking path.

Luce, (pronounced Loo-chay,) a Brittany spaniel and dachshund mix

Haibun

We traipse along the paved path, Luce moving ahead of me, waving his tail like a feathery fan. We pull to the water’s edge where the sun glints against the smooth surface. The blurred reflection of the trees in the water resembles an impressionistic painting. A central fountain shoots its spray, creating a relaxing soundtrack, while distant swanboats glide through the pond.

Other swans dock at the shore, awaiting passengers, their beaks face to face, creating a heart in the negative space between them.

Intense pink dianthus greet us, lifting their frill-framed faces to the sun.

The shadows of the trees create lacy patterns on the wide stone path bordering the lake while a paddleboat floats under the arch of a stone bridge.

A cluster of irises grow at the water’s edge, their yellow teardrop petals drooping gracefully.

A weeping willow’s tendril-like branches sweep the water’s surface. They hang like a fairy maiden’s hair prepared for a wash. Its branches majestically arch and curl above the reflective water.

Luce, though placid, is drawn to the sight and smell of two ducks in the water.

Haiku

A green-headed mallard

and his mate float together,

on a man-made raft.

© 2021 Susan Joy Clark


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Luce and I had some refreshment at the Snack Shack at the boathouse after our walk. I had forgotten to bring water or a dog bowl, and as I was too distracted to notice the signs forbidding dogs on the dock, I carried Luce over to the Snack Shack order window. I bought a drink for myself and a bottled water and asked if they could give me a bowl for the dog. The kind employee at the window alerted me to the "no dogs" rule but provided a bowl for me. I thought they might have a disposable one, but he gave me a melamine plastic one. We sat at a nearby lakeside bench to refresh ourselves, but I didn't break the rules again in order to return the bowl, so I hope that they were able to retrieve it from where I left it. I appreciate the kindness of that employee. 

Rube Would Approve

A Short Story (Funny)

Photo by Burst on Unsplash

It’s too bad, I thought, that it is not possible to send back a library book from my home to the library via pneumatic tube. I grabbed my mouse (the computer mouse, not my pet, Harpo) opened my Outlook calendar and reviewed the day’s activity, and, as each square and each slot was packed with text, it seemed that every moment of my time was more than fully booked from now until Kingdom Come. In the mean time, there was the matter of my sinking reputation with the town librarian – I could just see her disapproving frown – and a steadily accruing fine. What about a carrier pigeon or a trained hawk? I shot my gaze in the direction of the clock on the wall but without really seeing anything. These were the kind of strange musings that kept me awake at night.

Photo by shaquon gibson on Unsplash

I looked to my right at my bookshelves across the room and, scanning them, spotted the yellow spine of my overdue library book. I sighed. Today, I had two Zoom conferences and two client calls on the schedule, plus an impossible list of computer programming projects in the to-do pile. It was almost more than a mere mortal could handle. Alas, no one had yet invented a pneumatic-tube-home-to library-return-system. I did not own a carrier pigeon or a specially trained hawk, and neither Harpo nor any of my other pets was cut out for the job. What I did have was a Smart House and a variety of robotic and remote control tech. Surely, it was possible …

My Roomba kicked into motion just then, and as it began traveling in neat parallel tracks around my home office, I pondered the possibilities. My imagination went wilder than a croc-wrestling Steve Irwin.

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

After minimizing my current window on the computer, I opened the Smart House controls. Clicking a few keys, I sent the command for my robotic picker device to take the yellow-spined library book from the shelves. A vertical pole slid along the shelf units from the center to the left, and then a robotic picker slid down the pole like a firefighter until it was level with the correct shelf, pinched the yellow book in its pincers, slid down to the level of the floor, rotated and dropped the book. I took a sip of coffee and watched, but then glancing at the clock, remembered my Zoom meeting.

I opened a new window and clicked on the link to join the meeting, quickly running my fingers through my hair and hoping I looked presentable. “Hello everyone,” I said.

A chorus of “Hi Steves” followed.

I turned again to my right watching as the Roomba came by the bookshelves. Would it be able to push the book along?

I turned back to my meeting. “I’m glad we are able to meet this way through Roomba,” I said. Perhaps, multi-tasking is not always my forte.

“Zumba? Isn’t that an exercise class?” asked my client, Jane, CEO of the Chic Boutique.

“Uh, yeah,” I said. “I tried it a couple of times and discovered I have no rhythm.”

“No, I think, he said rhumba,” said her partner. “That’s a classic Latin ballroom dance.”

Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

“Zoom,” I said. “I meant Zoom.” In my peripheral vision, I could see the Roomba pushing the book ahead of it as if it were a snowplow.

After this silly introduction, we got down to business, but by toggling windows, I could access the Smart House controls and, spy on the hallway via my home surveillance system. After a few passes, the Roomba plowed the book to the edge of the stairs and then nudged it over on the right side of the steps where it bumped and slid down a narrow ramp, landing on the first floor with a thud. The ramp was really set up for my dachshund, Zeppo, but it worked perfectly Stage one of Operation Impossible was complete.

Stage two would be a little more challenging.

“So, you, basically, need a program to track your store’s inventory,” I told Jane. “Sure, I can do that for you.”

I toggled again, getting the surveillance view of the living room on screen. Zeppo, was, at this moment, in the living room, lying down on the top of the sofa’s back rest, where he could bask in the sun and see outdoors. At some point, in stage two of the operation, it would be necessary to distract Zeppo. I pulled open a desk drawer and pulled out a remote control for a hobby model pickup truck and then a second remote for a front end loader.

With a remote in each hand, smiling into the screen, I attempted to work the controls to scoop up the book with the front end loader and load it into the back of the pickup. I tried listening to my client explain her programming needs as, just as I feared, Zeppo lolloped down from his couch-top perch to better observe the remote control action.

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

“Sure. I can create a database for you,” I told my client. The front end loader scraped its bucket along the floor in front of the yellow volume, but it wasn’t aligned just right in order to scoop up the book. I continued speaking to my client, “that can track all of your sales and returns and your, uh, your library books.”

“Library books?” said Jane. “We’re a clothing boutique.”

“Right,” I said. “That’s uh … something else I’m working on.”

She laughed. “But wouldn’t it be great if you could track our library books and tell us when they were overdue?”

I laughed. If she only knew.

I maneuvered and re-maneuvered that front end loader, making it roll back and forth in a strange sort of dance, as I tried to align it with the book. Now, Zeppo was transfixed, and so was Groucho, my tiger cat, who lay nearby, inching forward to it as if ready to pounce.

Photo by Patrick Reichboth on Unsplash

Luckily, I had a distraction device, one of those Furbos that has two-way communication and can toss treats. Pressing a few keys in my Smart Home panel, I launched a few treats into the air, and both animals raced away from my hobby trucks and into the center of the room for the treats. I spoke into the phone via the Furbo app, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?” in a ridiculously sappy talking-to-the-dog voice.

Photo from http://www.trustedreviews.com

My client laughed again. “Well, not me. I assume you’re talking to the dog … or cat.” She proceeded to talk to me about animals, but I was frozen with my hand gripping my hair. My personal zoo was rebelling against me.

With the pick up successfully loaded and, with Zeppo and Groucho busy playing disappearing acts with the treats, I piloted the model pick up through the doggy door in the front door. In seconds, both animals raced outside after it. That was the moment when Chico, my yellow Indian ringneck parakeet, decided to say, “Alexa, open the gate.”

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

“No! Alexa, close the gate,” I said. But it was too late. Zeppo, that rebel, had run out the gate in the fence bordering my yard. “Alexa, turn on the sprinklers! Alexa, open the gate!” I furiously backed up the truck from the sprinkler’s reach as sprinklers at the road verge shot their spray through the air, chasing Zeppo back through the gate and onto my property. “Alexa, close the gate.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Is this a bad time?” asked my client.

“Uh … no,” I said. “My dog just got out, and I have a bird that knows how to work Alexa and use the smart technology to open the gate in my fence.” I realized how ridiculous it was after I said it.

“Well, I have a dog at home,” she said, “so, I know strange things can happen with animals, but this is a first.” She shook her head of auburn hair, but she smiled still.

I made a mental note not to act like I was two steps away from the looney bin. While continuing to take mental notes of my client’s needs, I pressed a few keys and opened the garage door. Yes, Alexa could do it too, but I could see it wouldn’t go well to continue to make a lot of verbal commands during a conference call. Now, that my garage door was open, I launched a drone from the garage that swooped down like a hawk to pick up the book from the pickup and continue its journey to the library.

Photo by Dose Media on Unsplash

I ended the conference call with Jane and her Chic Boutique partners and breathed a little easier. Then, I started working on another program for a different client. I needed to do a few finishing touches before presenting the finale to the client the next day. With combined GPS tracking and the drone’s acoustic camera, I could trace its path very well among other things.

Strangely, I couldn’t seem to get as much height with the drone as I expected. As it continued along its winding way, I swerved it out of the reach of electrical wires and tree branches. Instead of rising through the air, it seemed to be sinking. I realized now, that I had chosen a different drone than I had intended, one that wasn’t equipped to handle as much weight.

As it passed over a town sidewalk busy with shoppers and sidewalk cafe tables, things got a little strange. Just as I was in the vicinity between Tito’s Pizzeria and Hot Bagels, a woman peered up into the camera. “Nazis!” she shouted, screwing up her face. “Fascists!” She reached into her purse. “Big Brother!” Then, she squirted something at the camera.

Pepper spray? No. Something white and creamy, hand lotion maybe, was now obscuring the lens. I could no longer see if I was clearing obstacles, and, soon afterwards, I didn’t. The drone got hopelessly caught in what I assumed to be a tree.

I tapped a pencil against my desk. What should I do now? I had come too far to abandon Operation Impossible. I decided to call Jake, my neighbor’s thirteen-year-old. I had paid him to do a variety of odd jobs for me before, including walking Zeppo, washing the car and mowing the lawn.

I dialed his number on my cell phone, and Jake answered. “Hi Jake. I have an odd job for you, not just an odd job, but an odd odd job.”

Photo by Lisa Wall on Unsplash

“Okay.”

“I have a drone caught in what, I assume is a tree, on Maple Avenue right where Tito’s Pizzeria and Hot Bagels are. It was carrying my library book.”

“Okay.” He had a little disbelief in his voice.

“I want you to get on your bike, rescue my drone, broken or not, then find my book, take it to the library and drop it in the book drop. Can you do that?”

“Sure, Mr. Rose.”

For a while, I got lost in my work project, with only occasional pangs of anxiety about the state of my drone. It seemed a long while before I heard back from Jake, and I resisted the urge to call him and micromanage.

Then, I got a ring at the door. Turning on the camera angle from the front door, I had a view of Jake on the front steps. The image wasn’t that clear, but he looked dirty below the knees, more than I would have expected. I spoke to him through the intercom as I opened the door, “Jake, come on in.”

I raced down the stairs, as Zeppo and Groucho came to greet the newcomer as well. As we stood by the door, Jake handed me the drone. I turned it around in my hands. It seemed fairly unscathed with just some minor damage I could fix. Jake, on the other hand, looked like he was a participant in a survival of the wild reality TV show. Both knees were skinned, bleeding and dirty, and his shoes and socks were wet.

“Did you get the book returned?”

“Sure did.”

“Well, take off your shoes and socks, and come sit down.”

As Jake sat down on the leather couch, I pointed out his knees. “Now, how’d this happen?”

“Well,” he said, stretching out in the reclining seat, “you know how there’s that shortcut through the park to the library, over that little bridge that crosses the stream?” Zeppo sniffed at Jake’s now bare feet, and Groucho climbed up on the sofa beside him.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

“Yeah.”

“Well, I was on that bridge with my bike, on my way to the library, when some other kid tried to do some cool stunt on his bike and crashed into me.”

“Wow,” I said. “I didn’t know returning library books was a contact sport.”

“Neither did I,” he said. “I’m okay. Hurts a little though.”

“I’ll get you cleaned up and bandaged in a minute,” I promised. “Wait … how’d you get wet?”

“Well, the book slipped out of my bag and went over the edge of the bridge.”

My stomach sunk. “You mean you returned a sopping wet library book with warped pages?”

“No,” said Jake. “You’d hardly believe it. Uh … what’s the word? My teacher was talking about it the other day. It’s seren … seren … something.”

“Serendipitous?”

“Yeah. Serendipitous,” said Jake. “The book just landed on a big, flat rock in the middle of the stream, but I got a little wet going after it.”

“Amazing.”

“And I really like the book you’re returning, you know, the one on the Rube Goldberg inventions? I think I’ll check it out next week.”

I pulled out my wallet, so I could pay Jake for a job well done. Aside from a few credit cards and a debit card, it was empty. “Jake, I have no cash on me. I’ll pay you this weekend. In the mean time, I’ll bandage you up and make you the biggest ice cream sundae known to man. Here, hand me your phone, and let me call your dad.”

Photo by Madeline Tallman on Unsplash

I called his dad. “Hi Ray. Jake is with me. I had him do a job for me, and he got a bit scraped up in the process, so I’m going to bandage him up and feed him some ice cream.”

“What did he do? Start a fight with your hedges and lose?”

“No, he wasn’t trimming hedges this time. He was doing something much more adventurous,” I said. “He returned a library book.”

© 2021 Susan Joy Clark

This story was originally published on Reedsy Writing Prompts, from the prompt, “Write a story about someone who goes to extreme lengths to return an overdue library book.”

A Walk Among the Flowers

Lenape Trail and Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

Photo taken at Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

Today, I took a walk at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. First, I made a silly little mistake which turned out to be what Bob Ross would deem a “happy little accident.” The garden is situated between two parallel streets in Montclair, New Jersey, Upper Mountain Avenue and Highland Avenue. I wanted to park my car on the top side of the garden, on Highland Avenue, and walk down. Instead, I made a turn too soon, onto Edgecliff Road which turns into Old Quarry Road. I drove down to where there was a little gravel parking lot on the side of the road and thought that might be related to the gardens.

Right by the parking lot was a sign for the Lenape Trail, a 34 mile hiking trail that connects many parks and winds all around Essex County in New Jersey. I like walking in the woods, and I have walked other sections of the Lenape Trail, so I thought I would take the trail for a bit, assuming it would intersect with the streets where the garden is situated. I was wrong.

I talked to a couple of other hikers on the trail who informed me otherwise. I still explored a little bit further, and though the hikers suggested a way I could go to reach my destination eventually, I decided to walk back to my car and drive to where I had intended to park initially. It turns out I had entered Mills Reservation which I just blogged about, but in a different entrance from where I had ever approached it before. It gives me ideas for future walks and exploring a different area.

This is still the beginning of the season, so the gardens were not as full of blooms as they will be a little later. According the garden website, they have 10,000 irises of 1,500 varieties that will produce 100,000 blooms over the course of the season.

The garden is so vast that the blooms seemed sparse, but I still found plenty of pretty flowers to photograph.

Below is one of them. Introducing … Empress Ann.

And Lady Emma …

The names of these irises are so interesting. As a lover of words, I’ve always felt so. So, I took note of them. I think that should be my new vocation — naming flower varieties.

Now, this little frilly guy has a really funny name.

This one is Footnote. I really love its shimmery purple bottom and its white ruffly top.

These next ones are my favorites from this time … Santa’s helper. I’m not sure why they are Santa’s helpers. They are not red or green.

And this next delicate beauty must belong in the North Pole with Santa’s helpers. It’s called Baby Snowflake.

I’m not sure how these irises would feel about decorating a church altar. The name of this variety is Pagan Butterfly. They do look delicate and exotic, so, perhaps, that is the thought behind the name.

Starwoman iris — I love this intense purple and ruffly flounces.

Autumn Elf irises. These must belong in a fairy garden.

And my second favorite from this trip … Fantastic Blue.

Which of these are your favorites?

If you are not tired yet of irises, you should visit Cee Neuner’s page where she took some beautiful photos from Shreiner’s Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon.

Cricket Doodle, #doodlewashMay2021

I saw that Doodlewash has daily doodle and watercolor prompts for May. Although it is late in the evening where I am in the world, it is still Wednesday, and Wednesday’s prompt was “crickets.” It seemed such a cute idea, and the example by Charlie O’Shields was very cute.

I’m not sure I can commit to posting a doodle a day, but I think it would be good to share one here and again. It’s good practice for me and it would be good to introduce you to some of my Creature Kingdom characters planned for future children’s books. So far, there is no cricket, but there are a lot of other critters like mice and bunnies, moles and otters and beavers.

Sharing a doodle is quicker than sharing a full illustration. I’m fairly happy with my little green guy. Perhaps, I could add a little shading later.

I did not use watercolor, but I used Tombow water based dual tip brush markers.