Monday, 30 January 2017

L'Attaque de le Frenglish Monstre (une belle histoire en le Français)

Un jour je marchait, quand j’ai vu une personne très bizarre. Ses vêtements ont fait de moquette, une moquette avec beaucoup des peluches. Quand il m’a vu, j’avais déjà arrêté à se regarde. “Bonjour monsieur, comment ça va?” J’ai dit.
“Ah, vous savez, okay.”
“Pardonnez-moi? Je ne vous ai compris pas.”
“J’ai dit that je suis okay.”
Maintenant, je seulement parler le Français, alors je ne lui ai compris pas. J’ai décidé présenter moi-même. “Bonjour, monsieur, je m’appelle Anne. Anne Falaise. Et vous?”
Il m’a regardé. “Moi? Je am le Frenglish Monster.”
Monster? Monster… Je me demande si c’est similaire à monstre? Probablement. “Vous êtes un monstre? Pourquoi? Vous ne semblez pas un monstre. Vous me confuse, monsieur.”
“Ah, but je suis a monster, monsieur. Je corrupt le beau Français with le vile Anglais, chaque jour.”
Anglais! Anglais! C’est terrible. Je ne peux pas mensonger; j’ai paniqué. “Ah, zut alors!”
J’ai couru, mais je suis très lent. Il m’a plaqué, et je suis tombé. “Non, non, lâchez-moi, maintenant!” J’ai dit, avec beaucoup de peur.
“Mais, no, monsieur. Vous see, vous seulement parlez le beau Français, and I vous peux seulement vouloir parler Anglais. Comprenez?”
“Non!” J’ai dit, les deux parce que je ne lui ai compris pas et aussi parce que je n’ai voulu pas l’Anglais, quel est quel j’ai pensé qu’il parlait vers. Puis, j’ai entendu une chante très bizarre:
“English… Anglais… Ingilizce… la Anglan… Englisch… Speak! Speak! Speak!”  
‘Speak’? Qu’est-ce que ‘speak’ mean…? Oh, I know. Gaah!
“You… you… what did you do to me? Why do I speak English?”
“Ah, monsieur, j’ai enseigné you parler le vile Anglais… oui oui?”
This time I did once more not understand him, but was horrified to realize that it was not the English I didn’t know, but rather the French. I fell to my knees. “Noooooooooooooooooo!”
He laughed, that strange man in carpet clothing, laughed and left, and his vague “hon hon hon hon” haunt my dreams till this day.
I have long struggled, since that horrible night, to understand why what happened to me did. But I can find no reason for it: he was just there, I was just there, and he chose to cast his dark magic over me for reasons unknown. Nor have I heard of him since. I am alone, his sole victim, utterly alone.
Nor have I been able to relearn French, my beautiful French. Even the vaguest word, no sooner have I learnt it, flies from my mind, and I am left once more to the vile depths of English.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Louise Dot and the Xylem Phloe

Louise Dot and the Xylem Phloe
    One fine misty spring day my good friend Louise Dot, who I’m sure I’ve told you of, was out studying in the forest. She was studying plants for her biology course (a most regrettable state of affairs created by her desire to become an oenologist), and so had decided to study out in the woods near here school to perhaps… drive home the message? She wasn’t very sure. It just seemed like a good idea.
    Well, there she was studying when all of a sudden the fronds of plants descended out of her notes and promptly enwrapped her, before dragging her in. I’m not sure how it happened, but the disturbing frequency of these occurrences is such that I’ve taken the liberty of calling my occultist friend, Artimaeus Jy, for advice. But moving on.
    She popped into existence at the bottom of some stereotypical plant, a variety she knew not. She was at its foot, near the roots. She noticed leaves not a short distance above her, which told her that the plant was small. As she watched, a pair of guard cells on the stomata opened to take in oxygen, though they accidentally released gas and water vapour as they did so, the process known as transpiration.
    She knew that more water would need to be absorbed through the roots and transferred up the xylem to replace this, and resolved to enter the xylem and see this process for herself. She was here, after all; what else did she have to do? She temporarily violated the laws of plant biology (Hark, but how scandalous!) in order to enter the xylem, and found herself traveling upwards through its very strong, thick walls. They were impregnated with lignin, and made very rigid, in order that they might withstand low pressures without collapsing (occasionally this did occur, in a process known as cavitation, but this was very rare).
    The xylem, she remembered as she traveled, was long and continuous, and dead when mature, and as a result of this the flow of water had to be passive. This happened in that oxygen had a partial negative charge, and so was attracted to the partial positive charge of hydrogen as well as the hydrophilic parts of the xylem, in a process known as cohesion. This was helped, as she recalled, in that when water was lost to evaporation adhesion caused water to be drawn through the cell wall to replace it which generated a low pressure pulling force transmitted through the xylem (down to the roots) called the transpiration-pull.
    Although, admittedly, no water would enter the plant if the roots didn’t have an ultra high concentration of mineral ions that drew in water by osmosis. She would have entered via the mineral ions via active transport (the movement of ions across cell membranes to an area of higher solute concentration) at protein pumps, but protein pumps were in the roots so she couldn’t have done this.
    “Speaking of solutes”, she began to laugh to herself as she was drawn into the phloem. She was at a source (area with a surplus of solutes), which had gathered via phloem loading (active transport) a large number of organic solutes such as sugar and amino acids in order that it may transport  them to a sink (area with a deficiency). This high concentration of solutes attracted water from the xylem by osmosis, which was all rather ingenious as the rigid walls of the phloem combined with the incompressibility of water made for a buildup of pressure and water, as we all know, will go from an area of high pressure to one of low pressure moving the solutes with it.
    She found herself drawn upwards via translocation (the aforementioned process), a reminder that sources and sinks were interchangeable and could work both ways, through the sieve tube (each of these was composed of specialized cells called sieve cells which were separated by perforated walls called sieve plates), until she found herself slowing down. She was at the sink: here, the sugars and amino acids were either broken down for use or else turned to starch, and so this decreased the solute concentration and resulted in the water being osmotically pulled back into the xylem (ah, how cool!).
    She suddenly found herself in the shoot apex meristem, the location responsible for growth in the plant. She knew that this growth was indeterminate, which was unique to plants, and would only stop when someone removed the meristem. This was because the meristem was composed of undifferentiated cells undergoing mitosis and cell division.
    With cell division, one would remain in the meristem to continue dividing and the other would specialize (ie. differentiate) and get pushed away from the meristem region and go off to help with stem growth or become leaves and flowers. Speaking of stem growth, she was interested to see that there was an influx of auxin while she was standing there (how convenient).
Some phototropins nearby must have been absorbing sunlight, because they’ve conformed to its wavelength and can therefore bind to receptors that control the transcription of specific genes (gene expression). This resulted in PIN3 (glyco)proteins moving the auxin from cell to cell towards the shadier side, this being called an efflux pump which sets up a concentration gradient that promotes cell elongation in the shady side of the plant and therefore pushes the plant towards the sun.
Clearly, however, this sun must have stimulated the phytochromes sufficiently, and with the right light. There was red light, PR, and far-red light, PFR. She knew that short-day plants needed less red light and long-day needed more red light. When a long-day plant like this one received enough light (which could take months or even years) it would leave the vegetative phase and enter the reproductive phase. When it occurred, the apex shoot meristem began producing parts of flowers instead of leaves. This flower was a rose, as it turned out.
“My love is like a red, red rose… and when travelling the roads of life one should always stop and smell the roses. I suppose I should smell my love?” Louise commented drily.
It was a very nice flower, its anthers dusted in pollen. As she watched a pollinator, a bee, land on it it removed some pollen and put more from another plant on (this was a mutualistic relationship, she knew; the bee would remove nectar for food and the plant would fertilize itself). Louise knew that wind or, occasionally, water would also work, but most pollination was bees.
Well, next fertilization occurred in that one tube from each grain of pollen grows down the anther to the ovule, inside the ovary. This fertilized the ovule, whşch became a seed, while the ovary became a fruit. Now, these seeds would need to disperse, but since seeds can’t move themselves they need to do so by seed dispersal. This is intended to reduce competition between adults and their children and spread the species, and is often achieved via the structure of fruit. Dry and explosive, fleshy and eaten by animals, feathery or winged to catch the winds, or with barbed hooks to catch onto the coats of animals.
As the tulip fruit departed it seemed almost prophetic, for Louise found herself departing from the note with them. She awoke on the lawn with an intake, the air alight with birdsong and the scent of flowers.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Louise Dot the Introvert, Part One (of two)

Louise Dot the Introvert, Part One
    One day my good friend Louise Dot, who I’m sure I’ve told you of, was sitting in her small room studying biology miserably (she needed it for her oenology degree, you see) when all of a sudden she inexplicably found herself drawn into her notes. Or, at least that was what she told me. These notes in question were on the human body, and it appeared as if she was in a human body, so there are other options. But she believes it was her notes, and I am but a transcriber, so I shall take her point of view.
    She found herself falling down the trachea, a pipe in the human throat responsible for the transmission of oxygen. It was a straight path, but began to curve as she entered the bronchi. It then began to branch, the bronchi turning into a variety of bronchioles. It was into one of these that she fell, and landed on a cluster of alveoli (coincidentally, the name of her favourite Italian pasta).
    She knew she had to leave soon: ventilation, which was the pumping mechanism that moves air in and out of the lungs efficiently (this being done, as she recollected, for the purpose of maintaining the concentration gradient in the alveoli - it should be high on oxygen, but low on CO2, the latter having been drawn out by air and blood flow), was done via the contraction of muscles to create pressure changes, and she doubted she could survive such contractions and pressure change in her tiny one cell shape. Fortunately, different muscles were responsible for inspiration and expiration, because muscles only do work when they contract and they can only contract one way, so she was safe for the moment. But best not to push her luck.
    She began to walk across the alveoli, but they were thin and circular so as to have a large total surface area and thereby increase the amount of gas that can be diffused across, and so she slipped a little. She stepped off one alveolus and onto another, only to learn to her horror that she had stepped onto a type II pneumocyte. Type I pneumocytes were okay, on accounting of the fact that they were merely extremely thin cells that were adapted to carry out gas exchange, but type II pneumocytes were a problem.
    They secrete a solution containing surfactants that make the surface inside the alveoli moist. This was intended to prevent the sides of the alveolus from adhering to each other by reducing surface tension, which would have been great had it not been for the tiny human trying to walk on its back. She slipped and, already loose on her feet and buffeted by passing oxygen and carbon dioxide, fell off and diffused into the capillary. She was then carried down to the pulmonary vein, which began to take her to the heart.
    She breathed a sigh of relief, but she knew it would not be for long. She would not last long in the heart, for it was a giant contracting muscle. Interestingly, she noted she didn’t need to breath in the bloodstream, so there was one problem gone. Then she realized this was probably because there was oxygen in the blood. She made a mental note to avoid most veins: the veins outside the lung system were wider, and didn’t have as much pressure, but they contained no oxygen (the lungs were the only place in the body where arteries carries deoxygenated blood and veins oxygenated; everywhere else was reversed). She resolved to get to a capillary as soon as possible, and diffuse somewhere safer.
    Capillaries also carried oxygenated blood, but their intention was to get rid of it and so rather than possess a thick, strong elastic wall composed of collagen fibres and smooth muscles which would enable them to pump blood at high pressures and in pulses through their narrow lumen, the capillaries only had an endothelium that was one cell layer thick and so were much more permeable. They also had pores to assist in the transfer of materials such as plasma, phagocytes, and tiny oenologists. This made their narrow lumen slightly less disconcerting.
    In the meantime, she enjoyed the ride down the vein. Because it was the only oxygenated vein, it was the only one she could travel on, which was a pity. The vein was much wider, it traveled without pulses at slower speeds, it was under low pressures, and had a wide lumen coupled with a thin muscle layer which would occasionally offer her a glimpse of some nice looking cell layers. She wanted to examine the muscles more closely, but that would have to wait for next time.
    Then she arrived in the left atrium of the heart. She slowed down immediately, and was somewhat confused until she recollected that the heart had an innate pacemaker, a group of specialized muscle cells called the sinoatrial (SA) node, which was present in the right atrium. It would send out a signal soon, (a myogenic signal, one that didn’t need neurons but would happen at regularly spaced intervals) a contraction that would pass through the walls of the atrium then the walls of the ventricles (with a slight diversion when the signal reached the fibrous tissue, so as to let the atria have time to pump blood into the ventricles before they contract), hitting the septum before it hit the ventricles.
    She knew she would not see the pulmonary artery again, as it would take deoxygenated blood back to the lungs. Rather she would go through the aorta, the main artery. Deoxygenated blood, she knew, entered via the vena cava and into the right atrium, before passing into the ventricle (the rate of flow would be preserved by the atrioventricular valve, which would stop backflow. These were also present in veins and the semilunar valve), before going to the aforementioned pulmonary artery. The left atrium would connect to the left ventricle, and thereby into the aorta (with the semilunar valve preventing backflow there - she’d have to make sure there were no problems there).
    She prayed as she went that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) of the cardiovascular bundle in the medulla of the brain, which was involuntary, would be sending out an impulse from its vagus nerve, which would decrease heart rate (parasympathetic action), rather than the cardiac nerve that would increase it (sympathetic branch of the ANS). She would also run into risk if the body was experiencing a ‘fight or flight’ response, because then the adrenal gland would be releasing epinephrine which would increase the heart rate.
    Increased heart rates tended to be bad for survival.
    As she was dragged through the left atrium and into the left ventricle, she had one brief moment to hope for the best before everything went black: the sheer force of the pressure as she was dragged through the artery was too much for her, and her senses were overwhelmed. She must have traveled along the bloodstream for quite some distance, for she didn’t awake till she had left it, and that was some time later.
    She landed and awoke in the small intestine, where she knew digestion was done. Pausing, she quickly thought back to what she knew about the digestive system. It started as food entered the mouth (all of a sudden a memory of her bio class snapped through her head; laughing as the teacher commented that the mouth performed mechanical digestion voluntarily and the rest was chemical digestion, not at the notion of chemical versus mechanical digestion but rather at the notion that the human could have involuntary usage of the mouth, which would be awkward in the extreme) and passed down through the esophagus via peristalsis, entering the stomach just after it passed the liver (which was responsible for detoxifying substances, producing proteins, and the production of the biochemicals necessary for digestion) and the gall bladder (which made and stored bile for distribution to the small intestine, so she should watch where she leaped).
    She shivered, imagining the ill fate she should have come to should she have landed in the stomach. Perhaps she should be careful the next time she traveled the blood stream. Anyways, after it had been broken down by the stomach it entered into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine that led to the jejunum (the second part). Along the way she knew the pancreas would have injected amylase, lipase, and endopeptidase into the lumen through the pancreatic duct, into the duodenum. This would be joined by maltase, lactase, nuclease and sucrase, the seven of which would aid in the process of digestion by breaking products into smaller ones. She herself appeared to be in the ileum, the final section of the small intestine.
    All of a sudden the circular and longitudinal muscle that formed the small intestine contracted via peristalsis, which is a fancy way of saying that since it had few mitochondria it could only move one way. The villi along the epithelium of the ileum flowed, absorbing starch, glycogen, lipids, and nucleic acids into it for digestion (but not cellulose, which just sadly went on its way - poor cellulose). She knew that beyond that epithelium was the mucosa, which was folded, then the unfolded submucosa and before that the circular muscle (which was the thing contracting) along with the longitudinal muscle after that (also contracting). The serosa was beyond that, the outer layer of the small intestine. Louise was interested in seeing it, for it was often destroyed when she looked at cross sections, but that would involve dying so she decided not to.
    Damn folded mucosa, it made standing so hard. But she was thankful, for she knew that it was the mucosa that was responsible for absorption, and the folding increased surface area. She cursed as she noted the monomers, mineral ions, and vitamins around her that were formed by digestion being absorbed by the villi. Realizing that she was not food and so couldn’t be digested, but was at risk of having her vitamins absorbed right from her (possibly; one knows that humans don’t think that well in these situations), she resolved to escape. She realized she would have to take the fastest route, especially as she couldn’t leave via the bloodstream (that would involve absorption, and death).
    She sighed. This wouldn’t be fun.

Louise Dot in WonDNAland

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written as a study guide for my DNA unit test, and so is not meant to be particularly entertaining as it is to be informative. If you dislike it and don't want to see any more of its ilk, please indicate so in the comments. I won't be offended, as I'm writing these regardless. Alternatively, I have a small form pinned to the top of my Facebook page which will take you five minutes to fill out, and which will determine the future literary path of this blog (based solely off of whoever responds to it), so you could go there.

Louise Dot in WonDNAland
Well, some of you may recollect my good friend Louise Dot, who I am certain I have in past told you of, who had the grave misfortune of attempting to take biology (a necessary requirement, I am sorry to say, should one wish to become an oenologist). Well, one day she was studying her notes and, upon yawning with the ennui that is to be expected while studying,  she suddenly found herself being sucked into them. I’m not sure how, nor even how she returned, but she landed shortly thereafter in a sea of white, semitranslucent goop. “Eww… cytoplasm.”
She commented, then climbed out, shaking herself a little as humans mostly do, and observed that she was standing on an island, a nucleus of safety in the seas of glub. A man in a bizarre, multihued jacket and lime green top hat smiled and waved enthusiastically at her. “Good evening, madam. I am the ringmaster. Welcome to WonDNAland: could I interest you in coming to the Traveling Circus of DNA? The show’s about to begin.”
Not having anything better to do or any knowledge of how to leave, she acquiesced and followed. It was a circus, after all. It stood to be pretty interesting regardless. It was a large tent near the center, empty in the center except for a piece of poor, writhing DNA, which was staked to the ground, and which they had forced to uncoil itself. Louise shivered, but forced herself to keep watching. It had no neurons, after all: it was merely DNA. As the show began the ringmaster gave a running commentary to her, as the circus’ sole audience member.
Firstly came the clown, Gyrase, who calmed the creature and released its tensions, before Helicase came up with a machete. Louise gasped as Helicase began shattering the hydrogen bonds, separating the two strands of the creature into two template (parent) strands.
    They began to reconnect, and Louise was strangely hopeful, until the Single Strand Binding Proteins (SSBs) came along, holding the creature down to keep it from reannealing. They did so even as Primase came and attached his RNA primers, although these were less to keep it from reannealing and more to allow his friends the Polymerase brothers to connect to it, as Polymerases are cowards and no good at connecting to the beast by himself.
    Well, DNA Polymerase III comes along, and he begins gluing his dNTPs to the strands, complementary, so as to create two identical strands, continuously along the leading strand though regretfully discontinuously on the lagging strand, which led to the creation of many okazaki fragments (she noted that DNA Polymerase III’s energy drink had a lot of condensation, and contained the energy of the broken bonds of the first and second phosphates). Then DNA Polymerase I came along, and excised the RNA primers before replacing them with the complementary dNTPs (NA bits, as she sometimes liked to call them, though mostly to herself).
    Some Phosphodiester bonds wandered near and, noticing the okazaki fragments, stole them to fuse with DNA along the sugar-phosphate backbone created by DNA Ligase, who merely pouted at the thievery. After they had left, the two DNA brothers proofread their creation for errors, fixing them, before removing one of the two strands from the room.
    Well, it sat there for a little while until it began regulating. It didn’t regulate for the genes that needed to be expressed continuously, but it did for those that only needed to be expressed for varying times or amounts. Additionally, Louise noted that the weather and outside chemicals affected it epigenetically, changing it (this was the only way, she knew, that prokaryotic DNA could regulate itself, but this one appeared to be eukaryotic; or perhaps it was ukuleyotic, she could never tell).
    After a while it decided it wanted to regulate differently, and so promptly began creating mRNA. RNA Polymerase, another one of the brothers, was called into the room, and he wandered to the A-T conglomeration, which he broke apart carefully. He then got on one strand and slid down, attaching an identical strand as he went (baring for the fact that he used uracil rather than thymine, as he wanted RNA), before he reached a terminator gene and jumped off, breaking off his pre-mRNA and reattaching the other strand. This, Louise knew, was called transcription.
    The pre-mRNA wandered about all confused like until, a mere few meters from leaving the tent, it was attacked at its front by a 7-methyl guanosine. Then some spliceosomes came and removed all the useless non-coding introns, reattaching the exons in their place. After this a poly-A tail of 100-200 adenine nucleotides comes along to the back and was attached by Polymerase, who then left the room. The remainder was mRNA, and Louise knew from all her grea studying that this was translation.
    “Want to see something cool?” The ringmaster suddenly asked, and Louise nodded. Cool stuff was always cool.
The ringmaster came and removed a segment of DNA, which he put in his fancy machine hidden nearby, a swirly thing with a lot of bulbs and switches and electrical wiring coiling all about. He then pulled a switch on the side, and it was heated up to 95 degrees which made it separate in half, breaking the H bonds, before it was suddenly cooled in the presence of lots of excess primers which bonded to keep it from reannealing. Then it was raised to 72 near Taq Polymerase, which bonded to it so that there was now twice the strands of DNA. Louise knew that if it kept doing this then it could double every couple of minutes, and turn from a few dozen into billions of pieces in an hour.
The ringmaster looked at her appreciatively as she thought this, for he was likely psychic and so knew such things.
Then he took the segments and began dropping them into wells in a giant gel to the left of him. He grinned, removing a small bag of a DNA ladder (some pre-measured pieces, she knew) and dropped it into an extra well. Then he added an electrolyte buffer solution from his beaker that he carried about for fun, before connecting the wires to a direct current power source. He cackled as the DNA was distributed according to its length, longer near the negative cathode because it was slower and the shorter pieces near the positive anode because it moved faster. He stained it to show the bands.
Observing this, Louise noted that he could use the stained bands in DNA profiling to determine whose father/mother a baby’s was (though he’d need the mitochondria for the mother, and both the mother’s and father’s DNA for the father, and Louise knew not where this DNA came from so she doubted that this piece would work), or to place a criminal at the scene of a crime (though it couldn’t prove guilt, it was damning evidence with circumstantial pieces, and could also help prove someone’s innocence if no DNA was there).
The ringmaster bowed. “The show is complete, madam, and all in under 1237 words. What did you think?”
“It was very nice.” She said. As if sensing something, the world suddenly transmuted about her and rejected her, spitting her back out and into the university. She blinked. “Ah, well. I suppose I’ll just have to go back to studying.”

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Murder of the Musical Lawyer

A woman lay sprawled on the ground in her apartment. It was a nice apartment, all things considered, sparsely furnished but those pieces present were nice, tasteful, Nordic chic (which is to say, almost barren but with that pleasant artificial suburban feel), but this tasteful scene was somewhat marred by the waterfall of blood pouring out of the gaping hole in her chest, and pooling about the floor. Her eyes and mouth were open near as wide, as if in shock that something so horrific could have happened on such a nice day, as the sunlight twinkled in the air like diamonds.
Detective Murphy Ottern, Canada’s second best paranormal investigator and a longstanding, if presently unattached, member of the police force, looked up from where he knelt beside the body. He motioned to the body of Ms. Desdemona Avocat, Pemblyton defense lawyer, and at the violin bow impaled in her chest. “While this is most assuredly tragic, I’m sorry to say it’s a little outside my purview.”
Officer Morrison of the Pemblyton constabulary stared at him in consternation. “I invited you here, Detective Ottern, because your purview is the strange and unusual. This case fits that bill, I can assure you.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Where, pray tell, is the violin?”
Detective Ottern’s face was, as usual, blank. His eyes searched about for only a moment, before settling on the sole ajar door. He walked over, peered in. The fiddle was hung from the ceiling with wires over a chalk pentagram. At each corner there was a photo, dribbled with blood, with an image of a smiling young person hidden under all the gore. The corners of the room were stuffed with trash… cans, bottles, dirty diapers, a fancy cigarette… Most interesting, given the state of the rest of the apartment. Ottern noted it down for later.
“You were supposed to ask me where it was,” Morrison complained, walking up, then noted Murphy’s fixation on the photos. “Dead. Killed when a tossed smoke burnt down a derelict house they were crashing in.” He simply remarked.
Ottern said nothing, but examined the faces a moment more, and a touch of melancholy entered his face. “I presume you have the file for the house fire?” He commented, instead.
Officer Morrison coughed, embarrassed. “It appears to have gone… missing.”
Detective Ottern sighed, and left the room. He paused, for a moment, looking at the body. “If you would be so kind as to find some kind of a file, or preferably video, from her last court case, that would be much appreciated. Assuming that one is not missing too, I’ll be at your station.”

Detective Ottern sat in a chair at the police station, sipping coffee from a travel mug. Officer Morrison approached, stopped. “Excuse me, but I believe that is my chair you are sitting in.”
Detective Ottern took a long, loud slurp from his mug, and gazed languidly at Morrison in the eye. He didn’t move.
“I believe you have something of mine,” he remarked, and Morrison sighed, but produced a tape from his pocket and inserted it into the tv table near his desk. It began loading, but did so slowly, such that Officer Morrison had time to reach into his pocket and remove a cigarette. He lit it, despite disapproving looks from Detective Ottern, and stood behind him awkwardly as the video clip began playing.
In it was displayed a stereotypical courtroom, barring the defence lawyer in the centre. She was dancing about with a violin and fiddling, her tunes a throaty tenor and her tune unrecognizable. “Your honour, oh your honour, I can assure you the defendant is innocent… And the jury, oh the jury, for he has an alibi… At the time of the murder he was at a ba-ar, on the other si-de of town!”
And on, and on. It wasn’t a bad song, nor was it a good song. But it proved the point: the defendant was found innocent. Murphy paused the video. “You were the arresting officer?” He asked, pointing at an irate policeman at the back of the courtroom in the video.
Murphy considered this, nodded. “Do you know the prosecution? That lawyer can’t have enjoyed this.”
“No, he didn’t. In fact, he enjoyed it so little he moved southwards just to never have a case with her again, for she was Pemblyton’s sole defence lawyer.”
Morrison stopped, and looked like he was awaiting a response, but Ottern merely steepled his fingers. No response forthcoming, he instead opined: “His son is still about, you know. There were death threats between the him and Ms. Avocat. I can get the file for you…”
“No thanks,” Murphy interjected, “I can find it myself.” He put down his mug of tastiness and left the room, leaving Morrison relieved.

The records room was dark, and Ottern’s movements appeared mere flowings in the shadows. He was crouched near the threat files, but wasn’t reading them. Instead he was in the corner, poking a pile of wood clippings, or perhaps ash, or perhaps they were the grime of some fell termite infestation (truly, in the dark, it was hard to tell). He stared at their black fluttering shapes for a minute amidst the darkness, as if considering their essence or trying to comprehend their nature of being. He spent much time in the records room that night, but little of it was spent reading up on any threats.

Officer Morrison left the interrogation room, and the sobbing couple within it. “They had no alibi, nor excuse for the letters.”
Ottern nodded, his hands steepled contemplatively. He said nothing. He turned to leave, but Morrison accosted him. “So, what do you think of them? The prosecutor’s son looked particularly shifty to me, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
Ottern pondered his response for a moment, carefully. “And his wife?”
Then he chuckled, and resumed walking. “I think I have some very exciting leads. I’ll corroborate them, and get back to you after lunch.”

Officer Morrison sat in his chair, irate. He checked his watch, again. Murphy should have been here nigh on twenty minutes ago. Morrison had important information to tell him about the recent disappearance of the prosecutor from his home, but it seemed as if Ottern was gone, a mere ghost of a thought.
Morrison lit a cigarette and sat back in his chair, the smoke gently twisting its way towards the ceiling. Unexpectedly, a gloved hand reached forward and grasped the end of the cigarette, tamping it out. A few glowing embers fell to the ground as the Officer stuttered, swinging to his feet. “Forgive me, Detective. I didn’t see you there.”
Ottern’s face showed a touch of a smile. He motioned to the last dregs of smoke. “Nasty habit. But no, most people don’t see me. I tend to be invisible like that. Do you know, in France, they call me L’Apparition?”
“I didn’t know you’d been to France.”
A moment of silence, awkwardness.
“How can I help you, Detective?”
“Well, coming quietly would be nice.”
Morrison froze, and for a moment it looked like he might try bolting, but then he fell in on himself. “How’d you know?”
Ottern shifted. “I first suspected something was wrong when I saw the diapers.”
“Yes, in Ms. Avocat’s apartment. Despite the fact that she was single with no kids, her floor was littered with diapers. This made me wonder if the scene was staged, and I looked deeper at the pile. Then I noticed the cigarette.”
He motioned to Morrison’s cigarette, still clutched and moist in his lips. “Nasty habit, as I said. But very distinctive, high end. I found a stub in the burnt ruins of the file on the house fire, before it disintegrated on me.”
Morrison looked down at the cigarette, now in his hands, and sighed.
“So I began to dig deeper into you, and your history. You’ve only been a police officer for what, two years? Before that you were, if I understand correctly, something of a delinquent. Used to run with a street gang composed of five other members… guess which five? You were also the only one not killed in that fire, and reformed shortly thereafter.”
He studied Morrison’s face and its many folds thoughtfully. “What I want to know is… How’d she find out?”
Morrison sighed. There was no point in holding back. “She was very good at her job. She began studying the case about a month back, and soon noted my lack of an alibi. The fact that I was the only smoker among our group didn’t miss her, either. She threatened to turn me in; I had to stop her. The usual, as you clearly know. I was worried, after, that my detective would find out, so I made it look paranormal…”
“So that a paranormal investigator would be called in.” Murphy finished.
“Because you thought I’d be incapable of solving a normal mystery and so you would escape unscathed.”
Morrison winced. He said no more, however, resigned to his fate, even as he was led off.
Murphy sighed, considered the cigarettes on the table before him, and left the room. It truly was a nasty habit.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Duel of the Dancing Trees

In the forest there were two trees,
ancient ones, unlike you or me.
And it seemed as if one offence,
to something the other said - an incense.
And so he challenged him to a duel...
But with guns? Swords? Horses? A swimming pool?
Nay! 'Twas a duel of flamenco,
an ancient sport, beblessed and so.
They tussled, danced, 'cross stream and brook
through towns, houses, and cozy nooks.
They brittled, thrackspattled, and battled.
To and fro they bing-bopped, rolled, and rip-rattled.
Tilll at last they passed, exhaustion claiming their hearts
and into each other's arms at the base of a hearth.
And the villagers came, goggled and stared.
For who were these hooligans, how had they dared?
But alack, no answers came in good stead;
for the trees were assiduously, assuredly dead.
And time would envelop these trees, as it inevitably must:
rocks to stone, tree to mossy hill, castanets to rust.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A Valetine's Day Romancing & dance steps

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This poem was written for a local World's Worst Love Poem contest, in which I came in second (ah well, c'est quoi c'est), and when I wrote it I also wrote a number of choreographed dance steps for the presentation (it was a verbal contest). I have included them here. 

In can think of few things of such futility,
As that of the ‘pursuit of romance’,
[ air quotes].
This most glittering generality
That leaves folks in a stupefied trance.

There is a reason we say ‘romanticize’,
[air quotes].
For ‘tis a desire so simply carnal
As to make up for one’s ‘size’
[up and down fist motion; penis approximation].
By entering this house of charnel.

With all that I have seen and saw,
I believe ‘tis solely to fornicate:
To make the Wyrm of Coitus enter the maw,
And penetrate, penetrate, penetrate❣  
[bang book on table thrice, for each ‘penetrate’].

One [indicates self] wonders over our obsession,
With its predisposition for <moans>.
[at this time, it is appropriate to grab a chair or table and shake it back and forth while uttering four (4) sultry moans]
But one [indicates self] is not free from regressions,
The seeds of love inevitable sown.

I suppose many have found me a bore,
Though I view you as simply divine,
So if you would with me like to whore,
Then will you be my valentine?