“What in tarnation are you up to?” This question came up frequently when I was a child. For some reason, Mom felt the need to question my actions and scrutinize the purity of my motives. Ideas were sent hurtling across the vast expanse of my young mind at the speed of a sloth wading through molasses. So many in fact, that I had to plug my ears to keep them from spilling out onto my shoulders—especially when Mom used that dreaded word, “tarnation.”

Flash forward fifty years.  ~  My wife reprised Mom’s line of questioning to ask, “What in tarnation are you writing about now?”

The repetition of this word brings me to the conclusion that there must be nation called Tar (located somewhere between my ears) responsible for the generation of brilliant ideas. Thoughts passing through this country more than once are subject to a process called reintarnation—a form of cerebral enlightenment.

If you are new to Friday Flash Fiction, the Queen of Cerebral Enlightenment is the fascinating Lady Victoria Wisoff-Fields. Read an interview with her at Anne Orchard’s site. To learn how to participate in this exercise of madness, head over to her blog for step-by-step instructions. To view the FFF “Hollywood Squares” author seating chart click here.

copyright Randy Maize
copyright Randy Maize

As a kid, Billy spent a lot of time hanging out in the cemetery performing maintenance. Originally hired to keep down grass and control weeds, he found removing artificial flowers to be the most fulfilling part of the job.

Most of the time, Billy could be found lounging in the shade of a tombstone erected to the “Loving Memory” of Alfonso Spade.

Despite his billing, Spade, a reputed curmudgeon, was neither loved nor remembered. Visitors referred to him as an “old goat.”

Sensing a lack of family respect, Billy took it upon himself to water and fertilize the grave daily.


30 thoughts on “Reintarnation

  1. Hi Russell,
    There’s an old goat connected with this story, and I think I know who it is. I think I heard a Russell in the bushes. And yes, I lived for years in that country Tarnation. I’m still trying to get the tar off. Ron


  2. Dear Alfonso,

    I can always count on a laugh when I swing by here. We do well to remember there’s no goat like an old goat. Wonder where in Tarnation I heard that.


    Lady Victoria


  3. You’re late this week, Russell. I was beginning to think you’d moved to Tarnation. So glad you’re staying put to regale us with your wit and your ability to find new names each week for our Fearless Leader.


  4. Hey, you’ve gotta respect curmudgeons for their honesty. And they can have some really funny digs against things that upset them. You have a fantastic word with “reintarnation!” I haven’t heard tarnation in far too long — reminds me of family members who are gone now.


  5. Dear Russell,

    This story is delightfully layered and wonderfully told. I love the idea of ‘reintarnation’. And if I come back as a goat I’ll be doing the same as Billy to many a tombstone whose occupants I will know.




    1. Thanks, kz. When I first saw the photo, I thought of reincarnation, but assumed other writers would take that approach. Then, when rein-tar-nation popped into my head, I just had to share that with everyone.


  6. Any story about a goat that starts with “As a kid, Billy” is aces with me Russell. Loved your introduction too. (Oh and just between you and me and the blacktop, I’ve always believed in reintarnation.)


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