All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 341: Where Have All the Disposable Ensigns Gone and Results From the Great Cat Division of the Feline Olympics

Three or four years ago I gave up on network television for the sake of my safety. It doesn’t mean that I have departed from gazing glassy-eyed into a screen, but nowadays I feed the vacuum in my mind caused by a lifetime of watching TV with YouTube and NetFlix. The TV is still on, but in the other room, tuned to one of those retro-channels, to long since departed shows, which star dead actors who come back to life for twenty-three to forty-six minutes five days a week, in worlds where forever usually arrives no later than 1982.

The main reason for this involves the Discovery Channel and its spin-offs on basic cable. For years my general sense of fear and isolation was greatly enhanced by an endless succession of learned talking heads who glibly informed me what would happen to Earth if it wandered too close to a black hole or was bathed in a gamma ray burst or nailed by an asteroid the size of Cincinnati. And none of it was pretty. End of Days. Repent. I was more distrubed, however, by the smarmy attitude of the scientists who spoke of these possible calamities with twinkles in their eyes. Why were they so happy to suggest these things? Isn’t everyday living hard enough already? Are these people sociopaths? And how come they all wear khaki pants and blue shirts? Even Victor Frankenstien owned a tie.

Then, just prior to the Death Hour of the Soul chiming in my heart, I remembered something important:

I retreated into the past; I changed the channel to MeTV and left it there.

The original Star Trek is how I like my outer space–safe, structured and reassuring. Although there was plenty of death and mayhem, you knew that none of the regulars would die, or stay dead, if it seemed that one had expired. I began watching the reruns with my grandfather when I was ten. When it seemed that Kirk had perished in the Theolian web, Grandpa Henry informed me that it wasn’t so. He also put me on the outlook for the character he called “The Disposable Ensign,” the one guy in the landing party you did not recognize at the start of the show; the guy who died miserably before the first station break. I took comfort from that.

Then like an obscenely rich football player under the delusion that the world in general has been breathlessly awaiting his take on social matters, as though the concepts of justice and equality matter to people with money, TV decided to get “relevant” and edgy. They decided to make it real. Nobody was safe anymore. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation got into the act. They allowed whoever it was played by Denise Crosby (a regular whose status was between that of Chekov and Nurse Chapel on the original), to be killed and stay killed by something that resembled a pool of tarry feces. Suddenly, everyone could go the way of the Disposable Ensign.

Of course that happened a long time ago, somewhere in the vastness between the original program and today, and really has nothing to do with the Discovery Channel’s gleefully psychotic scenarios. Yet in my mind there’s a nebulous connection; one which has sent me into the past, where the unknown made sense, and nothing so odd occurred that couldn’t be blown off by a cock of Spock’s eyebrow in response to something McCoy had said. I miss the artificial honesty of the past, when monsters had visible zippers down the back, and unless it was a two parter, everything would be okay before the final commercial, or no later than a week from Wednesday.

Nowadays edgy-fantasy and science TV have painted themselves into a corner. No place else to go when you realize that we are all the Disposable Ensign, and that a cairn left behind on a lifeless planet isn’t much of a participation trophy.

The five writers who appeared on the site this week didn’t get participation trophies, nor soon forgotten markers on barren rocks; for their successes were earned and the result of perseverance and overcoming the odds. Which means that for each one who shone, there were at least nine others that didn’t. Life is only consistent in the scarcity of excellence and the glut of failure. The five stories presented met the first condition. They were written by three first time Literally Stories contributors, one who broke through a second time and another whose story count is rising faster than floodwater.

Constance Woodring made her LS debut on Monday. Visiting Dr. Redd features a troubled mind whose wit and sharp tongue are in no way imapired. Although this was stated as a novel excerpt, it stands alone and grabs you by the lapels (for you nattily attired readers).

I wasn’t joking a couple weeks ago when I said Yashar Seyedbagheri appeared in every one of my weekly round ups. He has. And he did it again on Tuesday with Full Pour. This tale is longer than what Yash usually publishes, but is worth every single word. Amazing–he has appeared thirty-three times in thirteen months and all but two this year alone, and more are on the way.

Wednesday welcomed Morgan Krueger to the site. Pearl can be read without prior knowledge of The Scarlet Letter, but for those who know it (usually by force in high school) it is even more satisfying. I always wondered what Pearl’s surname was Dimmsdale or Chillingworth? I doubt that she would have picked either.

On Thursday The Questing Knight marked Michael Bloor’s second LS appearance. ‘Tis brief and even a little sad, but it says more than the sum of its words. Can’t say too much without wrecking it for those who have yet (but will) look it up.

Our third debut author, Lamont Turner, fittingly added One Final Ingredient to the week that still is, yesterday. Now that it is September, my mind has turned toward Halloween, and this tale evokes memories of other fine tales told around that time. It is beautifully done and quite striking.

Now it is my pleasure to submit results from the Great Cat Division of the Ongoing Feline Olympics. This is the final report for now; proving little other than my stubbornness when it comes to letting a joke be.

Taking Time to Smell the Flora: Lovelyrita, Cheetah, South Africa. Lovelyrita got tired of the sprinting her species is renowned for. Nowadays she lounges in fields of flowers and reads Jane Austen. One suspects that she has literary aspirations of her own.

Usurping: “Scar Kent,” Lion, Kenya. This nefarious fellow has donned a pair of spectacles, thus drawing a veil over his true identity.

Winner of the Inaccurately Named Contest: Spot, Tiger, Malaysia

First Runner Up: Stripe, Snow Leopard, Siberia

Quickest to Turn a Leisurely Hike in the Hills into a Run For Your Life: Brandi, Puma, Eastern Washington, U.S.A.


15 thoughts on “Week 341: Where Have All the Disposable Ensigns Gone and Results From the Great Cat Division of the Feline Olympics”

  1. There’s some comfort in the old TV shows. Gunsmoke makes for good white noise in the background. And they didn’t kill off main characters. When Chester left, he just disappeared, and in future episodes, it was as if he never existed. Maybe they were on to something. Good roundup of the week’s stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nowadays Chester would return in a Special Episode; he’d tearfully point to the spot on a horse where Doc touched him . Or how about “Tonight, on a special Gilligan’s Island…” Sometimes the entertainment industry forgets its purpose. Thank you, David.


  3. Hello Irene – To no one’s surprise, I’ll make this about me. Also an Memorable Entertainment TV watcher.

    “Space Opera” is a tribute to Star Trek and Wars captained by James T. Picard who almost marries his sister when he helps her escape from Dark Rader. He explains the difference between different speeds which have different special effects and how faster than light speed was attained by throwing out physics books. It is a Short Humour and I may send it other places.

    The past was wonderful and horrible. It is 9-1-1 day in the USA. The former guy is promoting a boxing match, something which matches his skill set.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I wrote this little thing I realized that it would appear on the twentieth anniversary of 9-11. It will also be the eightieth for Pearl Harbor this December. The future belongs to persons like James T. Picard, who will keep the calendar free of similar anniversary dates.
      Right now, old fashioned Saturday cartoons are on my retro channel. I predict that Wile E. Coyote will soon fall from a mesa and have an Acme product land on his head. The oddest things make me feel safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Leila,
    Brilliant as usual.
    I have the same sort of feeling with David Attenborough as you have with The Discovery Channel. He’s probably been on a few times.
    I never watch him. I think it was Woody Allen who once said, ‘All nature is, is one giant restaurant.’
    You just know when any nature programme is on we are going to see the runt of the litter die slowly and alone or we are going to see something being eaten.
    I have a great respect for Mother Nature but the balance that she keeps isn’t something I want to watch.
    Due to the arrogance of man (Oh fuck – Can I say that or should that be ‘The arrogance of they who identify as who or what) who has totally fucked with that balance in so many ways, we can’t be surprised if she ever get’s rid of us.
    Don’t you just love the idea of ‘Our children are the future’ when the future is fucked so in turn so are our children!
    I don’t think we should be telling our kids about Santa and The Easter Bunny, we should tinsel up The Four Horsemen!!!
    Ahhh – Happy thoughts for a Sunday!!!


    1. Good God, is Sir David still alive? Oh, I guess it was his brother who died. I avoid nature shows because they always show poor creatures being eaten. I know that’s how it goes, but I don’t need to watch what happens to one in five Wildebeests when they try to herd across the river that is loaded with crocs–or are they gators? Dunno. But there’s no doubt who is on the menu.


      1. Yes it was his brother who died – the actor. I can’t watch nature programmes either. I have said that if I was a reporter I’d be useless because I’d be off trying to rescue the penguins from the ice flows and turn the lost elephants around. Great post as always though.

        Liked by 1 person

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