Celeste Davidson
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Defying Gravity
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Member Spotlight - Jul 23, 2021
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“March 2, 3, 4. To the very end we will go. March 2, 3,4. You can’t stop us, oh, no, no…” I ambled along at the end of the ant brigade.

You know what they say: “The best laid plans of ants and men often go awry.” Well, at least they should. The titular character of “Cupcake Ant-ics” has quite the plan to nab a delicious chocolate flake, and it does, indeed, go considerably awry.
In our blog post a few weeks ago, "Show and Tell for Adults,” we asked you to turn this "telling" statement into a paragraph that both shows and tells: “I was scared and confused as, blindfolded, I was led through a vast space and locked into what I discovered was the frosting room of a cupcake factory."
Your first thought is to write a tale from the point of view of an ant, am I right? (It’s so obvious…) That’s exactly where this saccharine story prompt led Kalpana R., one of our elite members and a previous contest winner.
After winning our Dreamcatcher Award for another stellar piece, “An Unexamined Life,” we invited Kalpana to join our elite level. Since then, she’s taken her natural writing talent to new heights. This is evident in her latest short story, which we think is pretty brilli-ant.”

An ant’s-eye view
Instead of a bird eye’s view, where people resemble ants, we take on a tiny perspective, where humans and ordinary objects look like giants. Most of us don’t stop to think about the life of an ant we catch marching along in our house or patio. Even fewer of us venture to see them as more than pests, instead wondering about their inner lives.
Kalpana artfully deploys anthropomorphism to depict a day in the life of one small insect, Tony. In a delightful play on the idea of army ants, we first observe him dragging his feet at the back of the brigade. His annoyed tone immediately humanizes him: “What a lame way to spend an afternoon, I thought. March, march, march, blech. My legs were killing me. Dude, how about we take a break?” We quickly forget that the sore legs he’s referencing are a half inch long!
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These guys were interrupting the chillness of my life—Tony-Tone’s life. Now, I had to go and be responsible and busy and what not. Man, what a drag.

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This is where we experience our first insight into his deepest desires: he just wants to chill, man, and maybe have a bite or two of chocolate. Nicknamed (by himself) “Tony-Tone,” he has a low-key reputation to uphold, and that doesn’t include falling in line with the rest of the ranks. Kalpana injects a healthy dose of humor into his narrative voice, and we can easily envision his peers, and his mother, rolling their eyes when he tells them he’s too cool for school, in this case ant work.
Tony’s understanding of the world around him is shaded by what he knows. The cupcake “factory” is really a stand mixer. He describes the cup he gets trapped in as a “tent of pitch darkness.” When face to face with a human child, he explains their appearance relative to his own: “It had no antennae on its face and flat eyes that were weirdly set lower in its head. It had mandibles that were pink in color.” All of this reinforces his insectile interpretation of reality.

Sweet character development
Is Tony doomed to be an apathetic recruit forever? Thanks to Kalpana’s surprising plot twist towards the end, we have the opportunity to find out. It’s revealed that the tale we’ve read thus far is actually being narrated by Tony to a group of young ants. Once story time is over and we are dropped off into the present, it’s our chance to see how this conflict affected him, if at all.
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“And all this was because I took on the initiative of leaving the platoon, okay? Rules are meant to be broken,” I said, reminiscing, as I chilled out in my familiar spot in the ant nest.

At first, it doesn’t seem like he’s changed much, as he says, “Now c’mon, let’s all take a nap. Time to chill. The concept of being busy ants is overrated.” He appears to be chiller than ever! But this sets us up for yet another unexpected turn. When danger suddenly strikes again, Tony forgoes his lazy lifestyle and jumps into action. He declares, “This was not the time for Cool Tony-Tone. I had to take care of my own.”
Character development is essential in any narrative, and it becomes clear that the cupcake factory fiasco has had a powerful internal effect on Tony. He goes from trailing at the back of the ranks to standing tall and proud at the front, commanding a platoon of his own. While he’s still Cool Tony-Tone, it looks as if he’s found his true purpose, and sense of fulfillment, in the anthill. His transformation is the frosting on the (cup)cake of this fun story.

Try this: Write a few lines inspired by the scene below. Think lemons, lemonade, swimming pools, summer! Let Kalpana be an inspiration. Any prompt can be turned into a great story with a little industriousness! Be sure to send us your paragraph so we can share our favorites next week.
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Update, some of the best responses to the prompt:
Making Lemonade
By Michele Allen
Ah, lemonade! That cool, tangy, refreshing taste of summer! Marie had just bought pounds of lemons for that very purpose, i.e., her son’s lemonade stand. Limo got the idea from watching his friends, plus he had an ulterior motive.
“I’m going to make a million dollars!” Limo cried excitedly, as he hurried to get the knife from the kitchen drawer to begin slicing the lemons.
“Whoa there, Diamond Jim!” Marie said, corralling him before he went off running with a sharp instrument in his hand.
“First you’ve got to loosen up the lemons to release their juice.”
Marie knew he didn’t know how to make lemonade, but she couldn’t fault him for his excitement. He was only 6 but determined. He had a budding business sense, (sold a rock to a neighborhood kid for a nickel) but it needed some direction. No sense dampening his enthusiasm. Marie always encouraged her children to try new things, expand their horizons and learn something about life. Plus gaining a work ethic wouldn’t hurt either.
Limo pulled up the bar stool and sat next to his mother while she gathered the lemons to prepare for squeezing. Taking one in hand she placed it on the counter and firmly pressed the lemon with her palm, rolling it across the counter.
Watching intently, Limo asked, “Then what do you do?”
“Take the knife and cut the lemon in half,” she said. Guiding his hand as he held the knife, she let him cut the lemon.
“Here, you take this half,” she said, handing the freshly sliced lemon. Its juices were already seeping and making Limo’s mouth pucker. Lemonade was his favorite. He could just taste it.
“If I like it this much, people in my neighborhood will like it too,” he thought. Plus, he could earn some money. Limo had a secret wish, a puppy. He could sell enough lemonade to buy one, that was his dream. “Now squeeze your half into the pitcher,” Marie instructed.
“How many lemons will it take?” Limo wanted to know. To him it seemed like it would take a whole tree, considering how many lemons he had to squeeze. But Marie wanted him to have the experience, learning what it takes to create a business plan and execute it. Remarkable things are in small beginnings.
The entire process of squeezing lemons caused Limo’s hands to ache, despite the tasty juice that squirted in his direction.
“OW! That hurts!” Limo complained. To him it felt like they had been squeezing lemons for hours.
“I think we’ve got enough,” Marie said, satisfied. “A little exercise never hurt anyone. He’ll appreciate this one day,” she whispered to herself. “One day.”
The pitcher was almost full, the bright yellow pulp floating about its surface. It looked as if were dancing to the tune of summer. Limo could hardly wait. “I’ll go get the sugar!” he said excitedly and ran over to the cupboard to get the canister. It took significant effort to pry off the stuck-on lid, but he eventually popped it off, spilling copious amounts of the grainy confection onto the floor.
“That canister lid is a little hard to get off,” Marie gently chided. “Don’t worry about the sugar. We’ll clean it up later.” Then she measured what was left into a measuring cup and sat it in front of Limo. With great anticipation he grabbed the cup and started to dump it into the pitcher.
“Wait a minute!” she cried. “Not yet!”
“But won’t it be sour?” he asked puzzled. With that many lemons it had to have some sugar he thought.
“It won’t be sour,” his mother assured him, knowing there was a method to her madness. To Limo it seemed like she was taking forever. The sooner he could make lemonade, the sooner he could sell it and get his puppy.
“First, dissolve the sugar in some hot water. Sugar won’t dissolve in something cold.”
Limo gave a mumble of recognition, as if he understood, but it was still a puzzle to him.
“Here, I’ll show you,” Marie demonstrated, taking a saucepan and filling it with water.
“Pour the sugar into the pot,” she said, and sat it on the stove. Marie wouldn’t let him play with the burners, but he could at least do that.
“How do you know when it’s done?” he asked.
“When all the sugar dissolves and it bubbles. After that it needs to cool down then you can pour it into the pitcher.”
“This is sure taking a long time,” Limo frowned. At this rate he would never get his puppy.
“Good things take time,” his mother said knowingly. She knew what he wanted. He had been bugging her for months to get a puppy. Opening a lemonade stand would be a way he could get his wish.
“It will be worth the wait,” she said.
After the water boiled and the sugar dissolved, Marie took the saucepan from the stove. “This has got to cool a little first,” she said, making sure he didn’t touch a hot pan.
“Again?” Limo thought. “All this wait better be worth it.
Limo was getting antsy, kicking his legs against the barstool and staring at the pot. After another 15 minutes of anxious waiting, Marie helped Limo pour the sugar water into the pitcher and handed him a spoon. “Now stir,” she said. Limo gave the concoction a good stir, watching the lemons absorb the liquid and filling the pitcher to the brim. “Oh boy, I can hardly wait!” Limo shouted, practically screeching.
“Well, you’re going to have to wait a little longer until it gets cold,” Marie replied, setting the pitcher in the fridge, finger in one ear from his exuberant noise. “You don’t want your customers to have hot lemonade, do you?”
“Uh, no,” he replied. Limo didn’t like hot lemonade either. But the hard part was the waiting. Waiting! Waiting! Waiting! Who knew it took so long to make lemonade?
Two hours elapsed and Limo couldn’t contain his excitement. “Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet?” he cried as he reached for the tall paper cups on the counter.
“Let’s see,” Marie replied. “Yep, it is.” Marie got out the white plastic tablecloth to use for the stand which was already set up on the sidewalk driveway and the rest of the cups. Within minutes the table was all set and the cups stacked in tall towers on either side.
“I wanna get the pitcher!” Limo said excitedly.
“Okay, but make sure you don’t spill any.”
“I won’t,” he said, then subsequently rushed to get the pitcher. Marie stood by closely just in case he did happen to spill it. His exuberance got the better of him sometimes.
Limo carefully set the pitcher on the table, all proud of his achievement. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Marie asked.
“Oh yeah, the sign!”
“What are you going to charge per cup?” The cups weren’t your ordinary 8 oz, ones, more like 16 oz.
“$5.00,” he said confidently, sure by charging that price he would make his goal.
“I think that’s a bit steep. How about $3.00?”
To Limo that sounded too low. How could he sell for that? Getting his puppy would take even longer than making the lemonade.
“Try it out and see,” Marie encouraged.
Soon Limo was set up for business. The day was blisteringly hot, so a fresh, cold glass of lemonade would hit the spot. Sure enough, there was a line of people in front of his stand. Limo smiled broadly, pouring each glass carefully and putting the money in his cash box.
“Here you go, young man,” an elderly gentleman smiled, and handed him the $3.00. “What are you in business for?”
“I’m going to earn enough to buy a puppy!” he said proudly, glad he could be doing this himself, though he did have a little help.
“Well, I wish you luck,” he smiled, and finished his lemonade then tossed the cup into the trashcan nearby. The old man couldn’t help but smile, remembering his own lemonade stand and having the same aspirations.
Customer after customer lined up for the cold, tangy drink. Cup after cup disappeared as Limo counted the cash. “WOW!” he said in amazement. “I made $60! I’m sure that’s enough to buy a puppy!”
By late afternoon, all the lemonade was gone, and Limo proceeded to gather the pitcher and leftover cups to take inside. With cashbox in hand he yelled, “Mom! Look!” Limo’s volume always turned up when he got excited much to Marie’s chagrin. Almost burst her eardrums.
“Mom!” I made $60!”
“That’s great, honey!” she said, and helped him put the money in an envelope. “But I’m afraid this might not be enough.”
“What?” Limo looked downcast, not to mention disappointed. He worked so hard. On the verge of tears he cried, “But I really want a puppy!”
“Wait a minute,” Marie replied softly. “Maybe it is. We’ll see. Tomorrow we will go to the pound.”
Limo could hardly sleep that night thinking about his new puppy. “I’ll think I’ll name him Ruff,” he thought. It sure was rough earning all that money.
Morning was met with great anticipation. Limo wolfed down his breakfast, begging his mother to hurry. Today would be the day. No time to waste. Marie appreciated his enthusiasm but had reservations. What if $60 wasn’t enough. What would she do then? She hated to see his dreams crushed.
Marie and Limo left their breakfast dishes in the sink and hurriedly went to the local shelter. Many puppies and kittens were up for adoption at this time of year so Limo could have his choice. What would he choose? Marie hoped it wouldn’t be too large of a dog. All that dog food to buy!
Limo wandered about the kennels looking at each cuddly, button eyed ball of fur until he happened upon this small Corgi. The puppy wagged his body about like a sausage, jumping and yipping for attention. “I want this one!” Limo exclaimed. “He likes me!” Limo picked him up and began stroking his freshly brushed coat, the dog licking his hand and face. “Ha! Ha! That tickles,” he giggled. Marie knew that was the one for him and called for the attendant.
“We’ll take this one,” she said, and proceeded to the counter to pay the adoption fee.
“That will be $100, Ma’am.”
Marie gasped. “I don’t think I have enough. I’m $40 short!” She stood there, torn. Limo would be so disappointed. Others were beginning to look at her, pitying her predicament. Marie could feel the flush on her face. Embarrassing and sad too.
“Excuse me, Madam,” the elderly gentleman behind her replied. “I couldn’t help but overhear. I see you’re a few dollars short on getting the puppy you want. Please, let me make up the difference.” Marie had told the attendant how hard Limo worked to earn the money, but she didn’t know it would be that much.
“Oh, I couldn’t,” Marie said, abashed at the man’s kindness.
“It would be my pleasure. I had a lemonade stand myself for just this purpose and I know how hard it is. Don’t want to disappoint a budding entrepreneur. Besides, he’s already in love and you don’t want to break his heart.”
Marie thanked him profusely, relieved that she wouldn’t have to let Limo down. He had already made a connection with this cute furball.
The gentleman pulled out his wallet and subsequently paid the rest of the fee. The attendant smiled, relieved that he wouldn’t have to take the puppy back. The shelter tried extremely hard to adopt their animals out to good homes and he knew by looking at this mother and son it would be a good one. “Thank you, Sir,” he said, then proceeded to get a collar and leash.
“By the way, young man,” the elderly gentleman replied. “You make very good lemonade!”
Ice cold lemonade on a hot, sunny summer day. It hits the spot and clears one's mind. This time of year is beautiful to enjoy this drink. Make some for yourself and let the day pass by with peace and tranquility on the way.
— Keith
Read Cupcake Antics
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