“I ever tell you about the Water People, Len?” Dad drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
“That’s not real,” she said, not turning from the hardwood trees lining the road.
“You have to watch out for them when you’re driving. They’re almost invisible.”
Dad felt his daughter roll her eyes.
He waited, then screamed as he flicked the switch for the wiper fluid.
Len screamed too, but her look of horror turned into an embarrassed smile after Dad started laughing.
Neither of them knew what to do when the car lurched, hitting something that didn’t seem to be there.
Author’s Note: I pulled this on my little sister once. I thought I was so clever. It’s a good thing the Water People aren’t real, right?
The butcher’s knife landed with a thwack, cutting short the chicken’s clucking. Alan carried it to the makeshift altar with the reverence of a pallbearer. He painted the signs on himself with the animal’s blood, and muttered the prayers as he struck a match.
Alan stood in the circle. “Dad?” he said, a begging in his voice. “Are you there? What should I do?”
The words croaked out from the chicken’s beak. Alan shivered as a draft blew out the light. “Put your money on the Cubs. Something tells me they’re going to have a very good showing this year.”
Author’s Note: I have a photographer friend who has another photographer friend who won a photo contest for taking a picture of a religious cult member performing an animal sacrifice. I have yet to see this picture, but I was blown away that this kind of thing is still happening. I wonder who (what?) the offering was for.
At third watch, Chancellor Gao climbed the eighty steps to the throne. Brass braziers lit his passage, the smell of incense heavy in the air. The moon was hidden behind the clouds. An auspicious omen.
Emperor Leung sat beneath a canopy, wearing a mian guan with jade tassels.
“Lord of Ten Thousand Years,” Gao said as he kowtowed, presenting the alchemists’ latest attempt at the immortality elixir.
The emperor drank. The chancellor waited.
The clouds moved, and Emperor Leung’s remaining ear fell off.
Gao withdrew, smiling, kissing the floor. “Your forgiveness, Son of Heaven. I will have them try again.”
Author’s Note: I took a course on ancient Chinese history recently, and learned about how certain emperors were obsessed with finding the fabled elixir of life. Unfortunately, a lot of the potions that were offered to them were made from toxic ingredients.