Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Did Someone Say Penguin?

Writing Prompt:
Use the word Penguin to refer to something other than the animal.


Mary and Ruby 18
Originally uploaded by Tarja_

“So penguin, I was thinking of using THIS color in place of the red here. It looks too … bloody, don’t you think? I mean, we don’t want to scare off – ”

“Wait, did you just call me penguin?”

“What?” Tony continued to examine the brochure layout on the computer monitor.

“Tell me you did not just call me penguin.”

“Are you paying attention? We need to get this thing out in two hours and we still haven’t agreed on the color scheme here. Focus.”

“It’s hard to focus when someone just compared you to a fat, round, waddling animal wearing a tux.”

Tony ran his hand through his hair and sighed heavily. “Do you like your job? Because if we don’t get this done …”

“So, you think I’m fat, is that it?”

“Penguins aren’t fat. They’re … chubby.” He winced as soon as the words came out of his mouth.

“Wait. You did not just say that. Did you admit I’m chubby?”

Tony sank down onto his computer chair and glanced at his watch. This was not going well. “No, it’s just … it slipped out, okay?”

“How can the word penguin just slip out? Did you mean to say pen? Though I can’t imagine why you would want to call me a pen …”

“Penny seriously, we need to get back to work. We’re on – ”

“Hold up.” Penny tilted her head, her expression neutral. “Penny. Penguin.” Her hands moved up and down as if they were scales and she were weighing something. “Why did you … is that what people call me?”

“Nooooo,” Tony drew out the lone word. He could feel a trickle of sweat creep down his spine. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Tony,” Penny took a deep breath and pulled up a neighboring chair. “I’m going to ask you this one more time, is that what people call me?”

He simply blinked at her.

Penny’s shoulders slumped. “That is mean,” she whispered. “Penguins are fat, bald, waddle and smell fishy.” She suddenly sat up. “Do I smell??”

Tony sighed and again, glanced at his watch. “I’m sorry Penny. We don’t mean anything by it. Everyone has nicknames in the office. For instance, I’m Tiger; you know, like Tony the Tiger? Shelly is well, Shell. And Kelly is, um …”

“Kell?” Penny supplied.

He could feel his cheeks burning with embarrassment.

“So, I’m the only one with an unflattering nickname, is that it? What is it with you people?”

“Penguins are very smart,” Tony offered weakly. “And they’re always sharply dressed. And you gotta admit, you are definitely the best dressed person here.”

“Tiger?” she said, enunciating each word, “When this is over, penguin is going to kick your ass.”


Reflections: My Childhood Family Room

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my childhood. These memories are prompted from the Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – Your Life Story in Your Own Words. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.


Describe what the family room looked like when you were a child

I wish I could remember what our furniture looked like. I know we had a couch in our family room because I remember lying back on it and staring at our ceiling wanting to die. I was deathly sick, but I can’t recall if it was the flu or something else. All I remember was that I was flat on my back and moaning for what seemed like hours. I remember this particular moment in my life because I remember thinking if I live through this, I’ll never use God’s name in vain again. (Alas, I didn’t keep that promise, but I tried!) It’s a moment etched in my mind forever. Chances are I ate too much sugar. I had a bad habit of eating too much junk food whenever I could get at it.

We didn’t have much money growing up so anytime mom made cookies (which seemed like all the time, mom cooked a lot), I would inevitably eat more than my fair share. Since we couldn’t afford to make large batches, mom divided the cookies evenly between the five of us. It infuriated her how I always ate more than was allotted me. She told me later that often times, it would be her share that she would give up so my dad, sister, and brother could have their share. Yes, I admit it, I was rather selfish back then.

Dad reminded me the other day how he had to put an actual padlock on our “sweet dish.” Our sweet dish was a container that mom put all of our cookies and other sweets into so I wouldn’t get into them and eat all of them. I don’t remember the padlock but I do remember sneaking into the cabinets and stealing blocks of cooking chocolate from the package mom always had handy. It was expensive and mom would get so mad at me when she found out. Sometimes, I had such a bad craving for sweets that I would nibble on an edge of one of the chocolate blocks and turn it so mom wouldn’t see it right away. She wouldn’t know I had been in the chocolate until she needed it for one of her recipes. Poop hit the fan then.

When mom started putting the chocolate blocks in the sweet dish, I remember finding her chocolate diet aids. They were actually called “Ayds” because they were supposed to “aid” you in your diet. They were delicious and I remember eating almost a whole boxful of them. Now my mom is not stupid and she kept her diet aids in a drawer in her dresser. I knew this because I snooped, that’s something else I did on a regular basis, snoop. When mom found out I had eaten nearly all of her diet aids, she was furious and at her wits end. Luckily, by that time, I was old enough to get a job, make money and buy my own sweets.

Speaking of snooping, one year, I think I was in middle school, 7th or 8th grade maybe? (it might have been earlier than that) I was determined to find my Christmas presents. I looked everywhere – under beds, down in the basement in mom’s sewing room, dad’s workshop, the TV room, in closets until I finally found them. They were hidden above my brother’s closet. There were storage units above his closet behind sliding doors and that’s where I found them. I remember finding my basketball (I knew it was mine because I had “hinted” like crazy that year) and I think some clothes, but I’m not sure about that. All I remember was the basketball. That Christmas was the most disappointing to me. It was hard to act surprised when I knew everything I was getting. Mom knew something was up and she told me years later that she cried because I had spoiled her Christmas (that was the best part of Christmas for mom, watching us kids open presents. In fact, since we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, mom bought Christmas presents for all three of us all year long keeping an eye out for sales and using coupons, etc.). When she told me that, I felt like a heel. I was such a creep growing up.

But back to our living room. The front door opened into our living room. It wasn’t a big room, but comfortable for all five of us. There was a couch, a rocking chair and I think a LazyBoy type chair, but I’m not sure. Mom had her stereo and record player in there (she loved listening to country music while she cooked and cleaned) and a “stove” though it was really a fireplace. We burned wood in it once in a while, but it seemed like the smoke would leak back into the room and we didn’t use it very often. The stove sat on a raised brick floor with faux bricks lining the back wall to keep it from getting too hot. Mom told me the other day that when she put that faux brick up and sealed it with mortar, my sister had snuck in and poked her finger into the wet cement leaving indentations. It dried that way and mom said she was furious with her. But she kept it that way in order to remind my sister of what she had done.

I loved that record player. I wasn’t interested in country music back then AT ALL (it’s not too bad nowadays as long as it’s not the twangy kind of music), but rather, I loved listening to Harry Belafonte (I know, go figure!) and Elvis. Mom had a lot of Elvis and I put on the LP records and lay on the couch just daydreaming about meeting someone like Elvis one day. I did that a lot around Christmas time – I loved his “Blue Christmas” album. In fact, every time I hear an Elvis Christmas song I always think of lounging on the couch, one leg dangling off the edge, my hands laced behind my head and staring at the ceiling. I silently lip-synced because I was afraid my sister or brother would hear me and tease me mercilessly.

We had a big grandfather clock that ticked loudly and it was comforting to hear the steady tick-tock as I rocked back and forth in the rocking chair.

The living room was adjacent to the dining room. We had a long oval table in the middle and against the left wall was the door leading to my parent’s bedroom. Next to the door, was our black piano. I never learned to play but my sister and brother practiced regularly. I think there was a china cabinet against the far wall, though I’m not sure about that.

I remember piecing my North American map together on that table. I also remember having Thanksgiving dinner at that table and I felt awkward because there wasn’t enough room and we all had to squeeze around each other to get to our seats.

I smile when I think of the living room. It was a room that gave me great comfort – I felt safe and loved in that room.