Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My upside-down Fairy tale:

I write like
Ian Fleming

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

My attempt at Steinbeck:

I write like
Mark Twain

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

And my attempt to cross J. K. Rowlings with Terry Pratchet:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Eldest Sister

This upside-down fairy tale leapt out of the dark and moldy recesses of my brain without a warning or explanation.


The Eldest Sister

~ A Fairy Tale ~

Anastasia wished she were an only child. And an orphan. Her father died when she was seven. She vaguely remembered the funeral; being stuffed into uncomfortably stiff clothes and suffering through a boring and tedious ceremony. At the time she had a hard time understanding why she was required to feign grief over a man she barely knew. It was not in the custom of her class for parents to be personally involved in the upbringing of their own offspring; that was strictly for the lower classes. Anastasia and her younger sister Drizella were dolled up like miniature adults and trotted out for major family occasions a few times a year, but they did the majority of their growing up under the watchful eyes of the hired help.

The only person who ever truly cared for Anastasia, who was there for her when she was sick or heart-broken, who hugged her and read her bedtime stories, was Rosario, her nanny. Rosario secretly indulged her many un-lady-like impulses, like climbing trees and running barefoot in tall grass. She even sneaked books out of Anastasia's father's library - books deemed unsuitable for the delicate sensibilities of young ladies. Anastasia liked reading adventure stories, tales about monsters of the oceans, faraway lands, and the strange people who inhabited them. She especially loved maps, and could pore over them for hours on end. At first she tried to share her daydreams of fantastical adventures with her sister, but Drizella was only interested in fairy tales about princes and princesses.

Anastasia's own mother only began to take notice of her when she turned fourteen, and thus became eligible for marriage. Once her mother had taken care of her own future by re-marrying to Lord Tremaine, her main goal in life became to find advantageous matches for her two daughters.

Anastasia's fourteenth birthday was also the day when Rosario was sent away. She would have been let go sooner if it were not for Drizella, who was two years younger. Anastasia pleaded with her mother to keep Rosario for the sake of their stepsister who was only ten at the time, but Lady Tremaine drew petty joy from slighting her stepdaughter. From then on Anastasia was entirely in the care of a herd of tutors who taught her how to twitter and prattle in French, draw, play the piano, sing, dance, act like a proper wife material, and hide any evidence of possessing a brain or personality. Of course, this sort of education started years previously, but at least before she had Rosario to turn to for solace.

While Anastasia kept giving their tutors headaches and paroxysms, the two younger girls were model students. Especially the youngest one. Her name was "Cinderella" – a fittingly frilly name for a frilly girl. Cindy was fashionably thin and pale, flaunting the delicate and anemic look that was widely considered proper for young ladies of their social standing; no doubt, thanks to her picky eating habits and her regular "purges". She was also a complete airhead who liked pretty dresses, pretty flowers, pretty songs, pretty animals - mostly from the distance, and as long as their smell and dirtier habits didn't intrude upon her.

The death of Lord Tremaine - he choked on a rabbit bone - passed almost unnoticed by the women of the house. He was a doddering old man to begin with, who had spent most of his days napping in his study. His passing only affected Cinderella, who was now even less shielded from the trifling slights of her stepmother. Lady Tremaine considered her stepdaughter as an unwelcome competition to her own daughters. She expressed her dislike by denying Cinderella her own maid, limiting the number of new dresses she could have each year, and other similar petty insults. Of course, listening to Cinderella you'd think she was made to scrub the floors, or live in the attic. Not that she complained - oh no! Cindy was the master of suffering in silence. She raised passive aggression to an art form.

Years passed in mind numbing boredom of learning fatuous skills, and not learning any useful or interesting ones, going to balls and garden parties with people who had mastered those very skills, following the latest changes of fashion. Anastasia's only confidante and escape from the tedium was her maid Rosa, the very niece of her beloved Rosario. They were of the same age, and similar temperaments, but while Anastasia's flights of fancy were only limited by her own imagination, Rosa's were tempered by the practicality of her own class.

Whenever she had the chance Anastasia stole away to spend time with Rosa, or invented activities that required the presence and service of her maid. During their many conversations Anastasia discovered that there was a whole another world she knew little about, that was almost as foreign to her than those distant lands.

As Anastasia came to realize, Cindy was a drama queen - life to her was a never-ending melodrama in which she played the central role, and everyone else was relegated to be supporting cast. The current play was "The Grand Suffering of the Beautiful Young Maiden". Needless to say, her theatrics eventually caught the attention of one "Prince Charming" at one of the many balls the Dowager Lady Tremaine ushered the three girls. By this time Cindy was fifteen, Drizella seventeen, and Anastasia the ripe old age of nineteen - and all unmarried! Drizella had numerous suitors, but unfortunately all of them too low in social standing. Anastasia who had no intention of marrying did her best to discourage young men without being too obvious about it.

Naturally, when it was Cindy who caught the eye of the young royal, Lady Tremaine was spitting in rage, and did her scheming best to steer the amorous attentions of the young man from her stepdaughter to one of her own. Alas, her machinations came to naught.

The Prince was "charming" by default of his rank and marital eligibility, just as ladies of Anastasia's standing were considered "genteel" regardless of their true personal virtue or quality of mind. Anastasia found the Prince rather a bore, with the face and laugh of a horse, soft, effeminate lips, and a weak chin. His main interests were hunting, riding, and going to balls - all the necessary qualification for a future king. As a result, he and Cindy were perfect for each other; they were equally superficial and vacuous. They had the makings of a happy couple. Cindy no doubt would enjoy her next role as the "Beloved Queen of the Land".

The kingdom itself comprised of a handful of towns, a smattering of villages, mostly farmland, and a section of a river shared with five other "kingdoms".

"There's no greater royalty than the rooster residing over his rubbish heap," Rosa repeated the folk saying to Anastasia in confidence once. The truth of it hit Anastasia with a sudden brilliance: her mother's ambition, her stepsister’s soon-to-be domain – they were all nothing but rubbish heaps to the greater world outside. She knew without a doubt what it was she really wanted, and would be a fool not to pursue it.

The busy chaos of the wedding and the ensuing party provided the perfect opportunity. Anastasia had already had stolen a couple of coin purses from her mother. A few well-chosen words to Drizella would ensure that their mother would be distracted for the whole night. Rosa took care of the necessary supplies, men's clothes, and the two fast horses. By the time anyone they were discovered missing they were be far past the borders of the Seven Kingdoms, on their way to the distant shores of the sea. They were travelling as Sam and Bill, sons of a tradesman, out to make their own fortune in the world.

They lived adventurously ever after.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Bowl of Dust

I'm cheating again. A while back the prompt was:

Charles Dickens: American Notes for General Circulation

'He had ordered 'wheat-bread and chicken fixings,' in preference to 'corn-bread and common doings'.'

I got halfway through with my story then got stuck. I saved it in my folder of bits and bobs, and promptly forgot about it. I was today looking through that folder, reread the piece and realized it wasn't too shabby. I also saw right away how it could fit with the latest prompt:

H. G. Wells: The war of the Worlds

'There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty.'

So here we go:

A Bowl of Dust

Sam could feel the weariness down to his soul. He’d been driving all morning, but was still many miles from Canaan when he felt his skin prickle with that familiar and terrifying anticipation. He glimpsed into the rearview mirror: The darkness behind him stretched out over the horizon and was gaining on him fast. He couldn’t outrun it. He pulled over and killed the engine. The air was deathly still, but it wouldn't last. He cranked up the windows, though that would help little.

The storm overtook him with a deafening rumble, and there was darkness all around. Sam imagined hell would be like this - far worse than fire and pitchforks. He held a rug to his face and squeezed his eyes shut, but there was no escaping the coarse dust. It was everywhere; in the creases of his clothes and skin, in the marrow of his bones, in his lungs. As if the barren earth was trying to reclaim him one breath at a time.

Maybe he passed out, maybe he dreamt, but when he opened his eyes, the storm was gone. He clambered out of the truck, slapping his overalls, brushing dirt from his hair. He hawked and spat up mud.

The sun was high in the sky by the time he reached the edge of town. He stopped at the gas station to fill up the truck. Attached to the station was a dining establishment. The few patrons inside were men with worn faces. The menu was written with white chalk on a blackboard behind the counter. He had ordered 'wheat-bread and chicken fixings,' in preference to 'corn-bread and common doings'. Once he finished his lunch he didn't linger. He still had his errand to finish, and get back to camp, preferably before darkness.

The address led him to the wrong side of the tracks, although, they were both wrong, this one just more so. An older Mexican man opened the door. He'd been waiting for Sam. With a jerk of his head he motioned to the shed deep in the junk-filled yard.

Sam peered through the door first dubiously, then appreciatively. Finally, one of Shorty's leads was paying off. The boy was an honest to goodness freak. With his twisted limbs and deformed hands he could be their star attraction - more popular than the Dog-faced boy, or Violet The Human Torso. Sam crouched down to take a better look at the shuffling figure. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Yeah, he'd work out all right. All the good folks in their Sunday clothes will line up to see him, to shudder and gasp in revulsion, and then tell all the other good folks, who’ll line up too.

After a brief haggle with the older man, Sam and his new acquisition were on the road. Lobo The Lobster Boy would have a long and lucrative career ahead of him in sideshow business.


I must admit I was hugely inspired by the HBO show Carnivàle. By the way, I know the person who made the drawing for the Devil card for the opening sequence. I have a signed, limited edition print of it hanging on my wall.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Man Who Was Out Of Sync

Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana

'Wormold felt an enormous bewilderment.'

It started on Monday. In the whole regrettable affair that was the only thing that made any sense at all. Mondays jarred and jolted, they were jagged around the edges. If the world was to end - as The Crazies and Hollywood would have you believe - it will certainly happen on a Monday. All for the better.

Wormold woke up fifteen minutes late. It was inconceivable. He woke up at seven on the dot, every morning, Monday through Friday. His alarm clock was set to seven, it was loud and obnoxious, and Wormold was a light sleeper. There was no possible way he could sleep for full fifteen minutes under that high-pitched beep-beep-beep. Yet there he was, staring at the digital display stubbornly glowing 7:15.

The horror of the situation made him lurch out of bed, and stumble hurriedly into his kitchen. He had led a measured, meticulously timed life that was now thrown into disarray. His brain was feverishly counting minutes and seconds that could be excised from his morning routine to make up for missplaced time. He decided to skip breakfast. However when he stepped into the kitchen the context of his existence turned upside down.

Wormold felt an enormous bewilderment. His favorite coffee cup that he had left on the drying rack the night before was now sitting dirty in the sink. A plate, lightly dusted with toast crumbs sat on the kitchen table, where it had no business being. The coffee maker was switched off, but still warm, moist grounds sitting in the filter.

Wormold watched incredulously as the plate floated to the sink, joining the cup, and the two washed and rinsed themselves off. Suddenly, the sound of running water from the other end of the house drew his attention. He rushed to the bathroom and found the shower on, filling the small space with steam. With a shaking hand he touched his toothbrush – it was wet. He stumbled back to the bedroom and slumped down onto his bed.

For a few minutes the only movements in the room were the shudders running through his body, but then the closet door flung open and his grey suit marched out. Wormold watched agape as his Monday suit teamed up with one of his twelve identical white dress shirts, and affixed a somber blue tie under the collar. The suit joined company with Wormold’s Oxfords and headed for the door. He trailed behind as the suit picked up Wormwold’s briefcase and walked out of the house exactly at 7:45 - precisely the time Wormwold was supposed to. He stood in the doorway staring after his self-determined clothes.

To his amazement, nobody seemed surprised at the sight at an empty suit walking down the street. Staggering back to the house he finally understood: he was out of sync. Somehow he slipped fifteen minutes behind, and the world went on without him. At this very moment his suit was undoubtedly sitting on the bus, headed for the office.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Morning Goes Meta


"But it was mostly beer doing the talking."


It was a dark and stormy night… Well ok, it wasn’t. It should’ve been. Considering. Instead it was seven in the morning, and the place being in Southern California, the sky was the same as 350 days a year: bright blue and twinkling like… like the eyes of Ewan McGregor. (Oh, Eewan… The narrator coos, and drools a little.)

Our intrepid heroine rolled out of bed, sleepily ambled to the computer and pressed the power button with her big toe. Instead of the usual chime and light hum, a click-click-click sound issued forth from the brushed aluminium box. (The narrator digs in her heels about the spelling of “aluminium “.)

“Muerto!” she cursed under her breath.

This was an ominous sign, indeed. Still, she opted to borrow some cloudless optimism from the sky and force-rebooted the machine. There was no clicking this time.

After a quick, but necessary stop at the bathroom, our heroine ambled to the kitchen, bee-lining for the coffee maker. The two cats circling around her legs reminded her of a nature documentary about hungry sharks. (The narrator wonders if there is such thing as a not hungry shark. Stuffed and sated Shark, perhaps?)

Cats fed, coffee brewed the morning started to shape up. With a very large cup of joe in hand she made her way back to the computer, a trifle more steadily this time. The blasted machine was still on the loading screen. 'Not good, not good at all,' she mused broodily. After several fruitless forced reboots later she gave up. All signs pointed to a dead hard drive. She would, of course, check the tech support forums from work later, maybe ask advice from the IT people, but it was obvious: the drive was deader than a dodo-shaped door knob. Boo to technology!

This would have been just the suitable occasion for gnashing of teeth, and wringing of hands, but that never did anyone any good. Anyway, there was the silver lining: now she’d have the perfect excuse to buy a new ‘pooter.

Our resourceful heroine dug out her iPhone, and entered the tiny version of the World Wide Web. (Hurray for technology!) She was itching to know what sinister sentence did that diabolical Dive served up on this doomed day.

“But it was mostly beer doing the talking.”

With alliterations.

Well, that was loaded. Too loaded. Her mind went blank. ‘Don’t panic,’ she told herself. She just had to find her characters and their environment. Let’s see…

Seven salty sailors sitting in a saloon in Singapore. - Mmm, too salacious.

College knuckle-heads at a kegger. - Overly Clunky.

A beer, a bourbon, and a bottle of bubbly walk into a bar… - Nah, that’s just too barmy.

On her high heels, Tina teetered to the bar. Behind her Bob, her boyfriend belched loudly, like the lousy lout he was.

“Wayne, a whiskey!” she wailed at the hapless heap across the counter.

Wayne wobbled…

(The narrator glances at the word count.)

Oh, bollocks!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Secrets of the High Tower

Thomas Babington Macaulay:

"The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."

Many thanks to Anna for proof reading, so now I may have fewer spelling and grammatical errors.

I think this tale is a different Rosamund adventure than the last one. I believe her to be a regular Nancy Drew of Swinegart's School of Deadly Deeds. One shouldn't be too surprised at the murder rate however - it's a school for assassins, after all.


It was an hour later than they planned, and almost completely dark by the time they finally made their way back to the room in the tower. As soon as they entered, Rosamund knew that something was off. The change was so absolute, and everything else looked so much the same, that it took her a second to catch what was wrong. It was like one of those puzzles where you have to find the difference between two seemingly identical pictures. Finally the gleaming, empty surface of the secretaire caught her attention: the scrolls, sheaf of scripts and documents that had been piled on it that morning were now gone. With a heavy thud in her chest Rosamund rushed to the fireplace with Pree on her heels. Her worst fears were confirmed: it was full of the delicate ashes of paper. She sighed despondently. They were too late. Again. If only they hadn't been waylaid by that frightful old crow, they might even have caught the perpetrator in the act. Pree seemed to read her mind, as was her habit.

“I hope Professor Gorehart catches parrot flu!” she huffed.

Rosamund couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “Undoubtedly, that would amuse Professor Fairwright to no end.”

She was about to turn when something among the ashes caught her eye. Leaning closer for a better look, she reached in, and with the tips of two fingers got hold of the little corner of white within the mound of grey. She slowly pulled out a small piece of paper that, aside from a few smudges, was untouched by the fire. She knew immediately what it was.

“That’s impossible!” Pree gasped.

"Mandora Scripts don't burn," Rosamund explained.


"Because of a little known decree from over a hundred years ago, Mandora Scripts are always written on a flame proof material. It looks almost exactly like regular paper, but it doesn't burn."

"How do you know this stuff?"

"My father is an accountant. When we were little, he used to tell us wild tales at bedtime. Mother always complained that he was filling our heads with nonsense." Rosamund smiled to herself at the recollection. She suspected that despite her protests, her mother had been rather fond of those stories; she had always stayed, sitting on the edge of their bed, her reproachful frown softening into a mocking smile as the tales went on.

Tearing herself away from the memories, Rosamund turned her attention back to the sheet in her hand. She carefully shook off the ashes so she could read the single sentence inscribed on it in cursive script. She handed the sheet to her companion who read the words out loud:

"The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."

“Well that’s completely useless,” Pree grumbled, “talk about anticlimactic.”

“Au contraire, my dear Pree,” Rosamund turned to her with a wide grin, even her freckles radiating excitement, “I now know who the murderer is.”

Friday, May 14, 2010


It was a while ago. The quote was from Boris Pasternak's 'Doctor Zhivago.'

"The hotel staff were being driven frantic; the incident in No.23 was only one more nuisance added to their daily vexations."

I got a good start, but got stuck exactly at half way. I've been sitting on it since, hoping that I might be able to finish it one day. I give up. Here it is unfinished.


The hotel staff were being driven frantic; the incident in No.23 was only one more nuisance added to their daily vexations.

"What happens on Vega5 stays on Vega5" was the mantra, and the staff was accustomed to the vagaries of intergalactic gamblers, pleasure seekers, tourist, and assorted riffraff of the Milky Way. They were proficient at removing blood and other bodily fluids from carpet and upholstery. They had, on many occasion, demonstrated their considerable aptitude for extracting giant lizards from toilet bowls, tigers from tanks, gonzo journalist from sticky substances and circumstances.

The staff hadn’t been fazed when the Orion Adult Entertainer Awards and the Judoon Mercenary Training Workshop fell on the same weekend. However, the five-day Terran Literary and Cinematic Conference set their teeth on edge. On Sunday Greek Tragedies and Italian Neorealism got drunk and started a fight with Manga and Graphic Novels. The staff was picking up stray speech bubbles and scrubbing pathos out of the carpet for days.

On Tuesday inexplicable darkness shrouded the entire hotel, and chill swept through the hallways. The suspicion first fell on Film Noir, but after the howling and the rattling of chains started there was no doubt that it was the doing of Gothic Horror.

On Wednesday the staff was chasing after yellow butterflies that were following the woman in No.23, and were slowly spreading through the hotel. She was staying with a huge black cat that walked on his hind legs, spoke flawless Galactic, and had penchant for vodka.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This Un-American Life

Prompt: From the The Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt: "We must act, and act quickly."

Thursday. Morning. Early rush is over, lunchtime rush yet to come. Raj eyes the coffee pot, trying to decide if he should dump the sludge and brew a new batch, or leave it till just before the midday crowd starts trickling in. It’ll taste like crap either way. Fortunately, nobody buys coffee at 7-eleven for its exquisite flavor. He leaves it, and goes back to reading his magazine.

It’s the smell that hits him, the ripe aroma of garbage and unwashed body. Bill the Bum. It must be 10 am then. For someone who sleeps in an alley, Bill’s surprisingly punctual. Every morning at ten sharp he shows up and buys a bottle of Colt 45. He always heads straight for the coolers, grabs his bottle and dumps a handful of change on the counter. Raj practices holding his breath while he counts the coins. Suppose, he could throw him out, but it would probably not befit a Buddhist. Or something. Anyway, bums need a drink too. Bums especially need a drink.

Bill is different this morning; he’s clutching the bottle of malt liquor to his chest, but has stopped, and is now swaying lightly in front of the Hostess cupcakes, looking indecisive. He drifts towards the counter, considering the tubes of dubious meat tumbling over the hot rollers.

“Are these hot dogs good?” He asks with the air of a connoisseur.

“They are hot dogs,” Raj answers noncommittally.

Bill takes an offense to this implied affront to the iconic foodstuff, and breaks into a rambling diatribe about foreigners and terrorists. Raj listens in fascination as Bill jumps from topic to topic. He seems to have a beef with most ethnic groups, from the “dog-eating” Chinese to the “lazy Mexicans”. Raj wonders if Bill is a Republican, but then he breaks into a completely nonsensical, but riveting conspiracy theory about the Bush administration’s involvement in the World Trade Center attack. Bill is an equal opportunity loony after all. He rounds it all up pointing one grimy index finger at Raj’s chest accusing him of polygamy and anti-American sentiments.

“I’m Indian, you nut, not Arab,” Raj tells him amused, “from India,” he adds to avert possible confusion.

“Oh,” is all Bill says in response.

The stink is now so thick in the small store that one could chew on it. He has to get the verbose vagrant out of there soon, Raj realizes. “We must act, and act quickly,” he tells himself, quoting someone, he thinks, not remembering the source. He takes one of the beige sausages and shoves it in a bun, douses it with mustard, ketchup and relish. He wraps it in foil and puts it down between them like a peace offering. With a toothless grin, Bill slams a ten-dollar note down on the counter. Raj gives him change; puts the beer in a brown paper bag. The door clangs closed behind Bill, and Raj’s alone again.

He decides to make a fresh pot of coffee after all.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


George Eliot: Middlemarch

"'I suppose it would be unprofessional,' said Rosamond, dimpling."


“So, What do you do next?”

Rosamond was in a pickle. She had neglected her homework, and now she had no idea of the correct answer.

“I cut out his hart?” She ventured uncertainly.

“No, no, no! Can you tell me why not?” Professor Gorehart’s voice boomed over the class.

“I suppose it would be unprofessional,” said Rosamond, dimpling.

Dimpling was Rosamond’s secret weapon, but unfortunately for her, it didn’t work on Professor Gorehart, who looked down at her disappointedly.

“Because you don’t cut out the hearts of tax evaders!”

Professor Gorehart had been teaching at the Swinegart’s School of Deadly Deeds for thirty-five years, and had never had a student as hopeless as Rosamond. The only reason she was at the school at all was her illustrious family; she came from a long line of assassins, every one of whom graduated from Swinegart’s. Her great-great-great grandmother, Rosalin was the one who dispatched the emperor of Volg. Of course, the official ruling of the inquest was accidental death, and nobody had contested that His Highness fortuitously fell on his own dagger seven times. Rosalin was known as ‘Rosalin Of The Seven Daggers’ thereafter.

Of course, Professor Gorehart didn’t say any of that out loud, but it was written in her eyes for Rosamond to see. What she did say was:

“Who can tell me what subjects are suitable to have their hearts removed?”

At the back of the class Winston was raising his hand with such enthusiasm that he almost fell out of his desk. Winston was one of the first boys admitted into Sweingart’s, and he was very eager to prove himself. Professor Gorehart ignored him.

“By next week’s class I want you all to write a five page essay about the proper occasions for removal of heart, kidney, part of liver, testicles, and little finger, illustrated with appropriate historical examples. Class dismissed!”

Rosamond felt disheartened. Now, on top of failing Daggers, Rapiers and Other Sharp Objects, her classmates were cross at her too. Dimples (and batting of eyelashes) got her through Poisons, Blunt Objects, and even Ropes and Other Implements of Strangulation, but Professor Gorehart was an old crow, impervious to her charms.

With a sigh she picked up her books and headed off to her next class: Miscellanea. It was her favorite class, taught by the dreamy Professor Fairwright. Other students made fun of Professor Fairwright, took her class only for an easy credit. Most of the pupils in Miscellanea were boys, taking it as an elective instead of Explosives. The general consensus among the students – and the staff as well – was that Professor Fairwright was a bit light in the head, and her class was a complete waste of time.

Rosamond, on the other hand, found Professor Fairwright’s somewhat disjointed lectures of spontaneous combustion, accidental dismemberment, freak accidents with toasters, and so on, most inspiring.

These were the early days of the most unconventional assassin of her time, and all recorded history: ‘Rosamond of the Dimples’.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Trabant Chronicles

John Steinbeck: Cannery Row

"It was not so interesting driving at night."

The Trabant was lime green. Father had a whole chain of Trabants - as soon as he got one, he made the down payment on the next one, so three or four years later when his current Trabant was about to fall apart he’d get the a new one.

It would be an overstatement to call the Trabant a car. Sure, it had four wheels, a steering wheel and a car-shaped body - vaguely reminiscent of those little Fiats and whatnots that you'd see zipping around Rome or Paris in movies from the 60's and 70's. However the body was made of fiberglass, and housed a two-stroke engine. It was a lawnmower modified for passenger transportation - a proud achievement of Communist era East European engineering.

I have many fond memories of summer vacations spent with father, featuring one or another of his Trabants. I remember lying back on the rear seat, lost in daydreams, bare feet on the window, trees whooshing by, while father was navigating narrow country roads in search of the perfect fishing spot.

Father liked fishing, I liked being outdoors. I was the proud owner of my own fishing pole, and made sporadic attempts to catch something, but was easily distracted. Fishing to me meant getting mud between my toes, catching baby frogs – and releasing them when father happily offered using them as bait.

It was not so interesting driving at night. Not to father anyway. The nights were deep dark, and the headlights (no high beams) could penetrate it only so far. For me it was like being beneath the ocean. We could have been anywhere, any time; time and space became works of fiction.

Father made his own fish bait. It was grain-based, cooked, fermented… something. Its pungent aroma permeated the Trabant. Father threw big chunks of it into the water, its purpose being to attract the tiny vegetarian fish, who in turn would attract the larger carnivorous fish.

Normally Trabants came in uniform dust-grey. Grey seemed to be the theme of those days. Then in the early 80's something shifted. There was a fresh breeze in the air. Private enterprise wasn't incompatible with the tenets of Communism any more. The dirt-colored buildings of Budapest - many still wearing scars of 1956 - were one by one repainted in creamy yellows, greens, peach, burnt orange. But before all that there were - unexpected, often mocked, but secretly cherished - the colorful Trabants.

My father was one of the first people who got the lime-green one. At first they were so rare that when two came across each other drivers and passengers were compelled to madly wave at each other. Eventually brightly colored Trabants became more common, Budapest too became more colorful, privately owned shops popped up all around the city. Then in the course of a year everything changed; the Soviet tanks left again, and this time they didn’t come back.

I still believe that the fall of Communism started with the lime-green Trabants.