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Funny Fantasy Mystery

‘Please, don’t do it—it just doesn’t help—don’t cry over spilt milk,’ my parents would say. Growing up, I’d tip over a glass of this or a bowl of that, crack a tear, and that tried and tested adage would be uttered accompanied by a ruffle of my hair and a mop to clear up. But that was then. Now I know there are things that can’t be fixed with a platitude, ruffle and mop.

And don’t despair at my use of “tried and tested”. I know it’s a cliché. I’m endeavouring ironic interplay with the audience. It’s the prerogative of anyone breaking the fourth wall. But I digress. Sitting there, reading this, you’ll be wondering how I got here and what things couldn’t be fixed.

Obviously, it started before the cat got my tongue, or this would be a very short tale. I’ve thought long and hard—more irony—Dad’s affair with his secretary was the catalyst (another cat, perhaps one that leans). I never liked Dad’s secretary. Martin always tried too hard when I visited Dad at work. The affair shattered Mum’s confidence. It’s one thing to have your marriage routed by a temptress. It’s an entirely different matter for your marriage to be torpedoed by a muscle-bound Bull intent on bench pressing your husband.

Sorry! Again with the digression. Anyway, I overhead a conversation between Mum, her bestie, and three bottles of overpriced sauvignon blanc. Amongst the tears, there was tired philosophy: Dad was a bald-faced liar who’d be back after he’d let his hair down.

Putting aside the homoerotic imagery of a man letting his hair down, I thought about those clichés a lot. Perhaps, if Dad didn’t have hair to let down, he’d not have strayed. Like solid food for a baby, my conclusion was strained, but sometimes one plus one equals three. The next time I saw Dad, he was shedding hair like a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Martin didn’t like the glabrous look, so they parted ways. Who knew? It was a victory of sorts, although I’m not sure for who. Dad didn’t come back—there was a whole bald, gay man scene to explore—and Mum re-married. She chose the straightest, manly man she could find. That marriage didn’t last either. Apparently, there’s a straightish, manly man gay scene. Again, who knew?

After that, I stuck to vanilla clichés and my ghost chilli imagination. Collectively, we ruled. At my high school fund raiser, the inedible, partly cooked hotcakes I mixed up in a bucket literally sold like hotcakes. I mean literally! To add a cliché to the bonfire, those hotcakes flew out the door! And it just got better. Anything I tried, and I mean anything, I hit the ground running. A single swallow made a summer, and each autumn was Indian.

But if a benefit accrued to me, there was a rub for someone else. Each drinking game I won relying on my ability to imbibe like a fish, a friend had to wash mud from their eye. After some experimentation, I realised revenge was a dish best not served at all, if it involved anyone getting a bug up their ass. It’s not the discomfort—forceps and a steady hand fixes all—but the fear eggs were laid.

But worse was any devil laden cliché, of which there are many: he’s in the details; it’s him or the deep, blue sea; he’s the advocate for the alternative; he’s that crafty guy; he makes a poor dance partner; he’s that handsome dude; he creates work for the unemployed. Beelzebub banalities poured from my mouth until I realised regardless of the circumstances, Satan gets his due.

Over time, I learnt to exercise my cliché superpower responsibly, but it wasn’t to last. I took a knock playing basketball, and my abilities disappeared, before creeping back, like a dog after a thunderstorm. But it wasn’t the same. When others got lazy and leaned on a cliché, I bore the consequences, good or bad.

‘The grass is always greener’ a friend said, and I jumped into a vicious cycle of job-hopping, souring my future prospects and reducing me to minimum wage. Thinking it would be fun, I joined the office football pool. At the midpoint of the season, I was last by 1760 yards in a rural setting (I’m doing my best here). The organiser forecast I’d be ‘dead last’ at pool end. Joint last—a dead heat—was no better. Either way, I was dead, unless someone commented on my heritage. I wore green for weeks, claimed to have won the lottery several times, and screamed ‘Begorrah’ at every opportunity. Finally, someone said to me that those from the Emerald Isle were fortunate, and I won the office pool with a miraculous series of unlikely picks.

Knowing I was living on time loaned by others (you’re right—it’s not as catchy as the truism it replaced) and needing to avoid the cliché ridden World, I retreated to an isolated house off-the-grid. And I would’ve got away with it, if it wasn’t for a couple of well-to-do, if not well meaning, college kids. They wandered onto my property on a hiking trip. Unable to keep their privilege on a lead, one expressed a cliché laden opinion on my lonely lifestyle.

‘At least I’m alive,’ you say. And I am. I live with the cat that got my tongue. She’s 120 years old, having exhausted just six of her nine lives. I’m older than her, much older: the spring in my step has sprung. No wiser though, sadly. The college kid’s cliché took time to kick in, but it sure did the job. I developed locked-in syndrome: literally, a living death. Except for my eyes, I’m completely paralysed. Being the reigning King of Cliché, I have a unique strain: no sustenance, yet I live. My only comfort is the cat. Occasionally, she slinks through an open window to sit in my desiccated lap and knead me with her paws, purring with contentment.

And what old chestnut struck me down?

‘Off the grid? God! That’s a fate worse than death,’ one college kid said, laughing.

June 17, 2022 08:58

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2 comments

Rama Shaar
13:16 Jun 23, 2022

I really enjoyed a lot of these cleverly written lines. One of the lines that stood out to me was: "It’s one thing to have your marriage routed by a temptress. It’s an entirely different matter for your marriage to be torpedoed by a muscle-bound Bull intent on bench pressing your husband." The cliches were strung together quite well too (befitting the title). If I had to critique, as instructed, I'd say that though I found the writing very crafty, I was sort of confused as to what the main gist was.

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Mark Sheehan
02:03 Jun 24, 2022

Hi Rama. I guess post-modernism says it can be anything you want it to be! For me, it was about two things. I wanted to write a story sub 1000 words. The final version weighed in a little over than that, but it was close enough for the cigar. The second was a comment about writing. Review most stories, and you'll find a cliché lurking between the lines. As I found writing the piece, cliché's are a convenient tool. They can be used to deliver complex messages in only a few words but are beyond tired. It's much harder to come up with something...

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