Riparian Riddles

10 Dec

100 words for Friday Fictioneers.


sticks and stones


“What’s the answer?”

“What’s the question?”

“Why do people litter?”

“Why do they have children?”

“To leave some evidence that they existed?”


“So is there an answer?”

“Do you really want to hear it?”

“I’m not sure, do I?”

“You just looking for absolution?”

“As if this is my fault?”

“How beautiful would the world be if we worked for the next hundred years to remove all our trash and then voluntarily killed ourselves?”

“Who would know?”

“Who cares?”

“There’s no hope, is there?”




Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 1.13.06 AM

57 Responses to “Riparian Riddles”

  1. Sandra December 10, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Who cares indeed? What is it about water that motivates people to throw plastic bottles into it? Do people actually think, ‘Let’s go down the river. Get some bottles, will you?” Nice dialogue Doug, and so the circle perpetuates.

  2. dmmacilroy December 10, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Dear Sandra,

    If I could, I would arrange for plastic bottles to explode the minute someone threw them away with the intent to litter. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility and once that app is up and running I’ll work on branching out to all forms of trash.

    Great picture this week. Thanks.



    • Charles Williams December 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      I laughed reading your comment without discounting any significance from the import of its moral.
      We need to change our attitude to nature

      • dmmacilroy December 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

        Dear Charles,

        I guess that is one answer. Can’t have a slaughter without laughter, so why not. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  3. rochellewisoff December 10, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Dear Doug,

    “We have seen the enemy and he is us,” said Pogo.

    It seems that in the forty plus years (and my math could be off) since that quote we’ve learned nothing, have we?

    Your story should have each one of questioning ourselves. Will it?

    Hoping to be coherent.



    • dmmacilroy December 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Pogo was eloquent. I miss him.

      We question ourselves, but not enough of us wait around to listen to the answer. We know it’s wrong, but we move on, sure that the final judgement will be postponed forever.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  4. Snow's Fissures and Fractures December 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    I would love to say “nice story, great dialog flow”, but the subject is overwhelmingly heavy and dark…And still, there is hope. I hope.

    • Snow's Fissures and Fractures December 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      To make it clear, the story is well told and your dialog will haunt me for days.

      • dmmacilroy December 10, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

        Someone told me that I wrote despair really well. Sorry for going dark this week, but I’ve seen enough of human nature to be very pessimistic regarding our chances in the long run. I suppose that it is good that few people buy into that feeling, but that is also one of our species major problems. To paraphrase Winston Churchill…’Human beings usually do the right thing…after they have done all of the wrong things…’

        I hope that you are right, but…

        My hope is being slowly buried under the trash of decades.



  5. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) December 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    I think that leaving trash on the blogosphere is a better way to leave some impact than throwing plastic bottles.. great take Doug… Love a good message with a story.

  6. aliciajamtaas December 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Doug, I think many of us are going dark this week. There’s nothing like piles of plastic bottles to make one want to scream (and I love your idea of having them explode when someone litters.)

  7. storydivamg December 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    I love this story and the dialogue you use to tell it. The point you make isn’t easy to make with a light hand, and yet this is exactly what you have done. Kudos.

    (I love the exploding plastic bottle notion. Keep working on that.)

    Marie Gail

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      Dear Marie,

      Working on it as we speak. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it.



  8. elmowrites December 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Nature was here long before us and she’ll be here long after we’re gone. But I think it’ll take more than a hundred years to clean up the mess we’ve made. Great dialogue – you are at your best when you teach without preaching, as you have here.

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

      Dear Jennifer,

      Which is more natural, a beaver dam or the Hoover Dam? We are part of nature, though our tendency is to try to separate ourselves from the ‘lesser’ forms. In the end, we will survive or we won’t. One of my biggest complaints is that we as a species are taking so many other ‘innocent’ species down with us. Not fair to them, but then Nature doesn’t care. It just is.

      Thanks for your kind comments and keen eyes.



      • elmowrites December 12, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

        True. I have often wondered about the phrase “all-natural ingredients” for that very reason, and as I mentioned to Sandra, it’s funny how we find the human flotsam in her pic so much more offensive than the larger quantities of natural rubbish collected around it.
        But then, I fear we take more than our fair share of pretty much everything, and we don’t seem to like when ‘nature’ bites back and tries to even the balance. The way I see it, if you decide to live on a flood plain, you shouldn’t be too surprised when the water’s lapping at your door.

  9. Elizabeth December 10, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    no hope in there indeed!

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

      Dear Elizabeth,

      You and I are on the same wavelength. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  10. David Stewart December 10, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    the rhetorical question “who cares?” is a dangerous one. Usually bad things happen where that’s the attitude. Hopefully we’re getting away from that attitude, before it’s too late.

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

      Dear David,

      That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But as you can tell from my piece, I am not one of the hopeful ones and I believe we deserve what’s coming. I just wish that those that trash the planet would get theirs in a more direct fashion. Might help soften the eventual blow.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  11. lingeringvisions by Dawn December 10, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I like the picture you included in the end. We Americans are not as confronted with our waste in like those are other countries. We need reminders such as your story. I’m a fairly active recycler but not innocent. Still I have stories where my deeds have impacted others. 100 words can say a lot.

    • lingeringvisions by Dawn December 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      Lawd, I hate that I can’t go back and edit my comment!

      • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

        Dear Dawn,

        Should the sentence read ‘…like those in other countries are.’ …? If so I can adjust and erase all evidence that you are a speedy thinker and a Douglas-like typer. Let me know.



    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

      Dear Dawn,

      That is a striking picture, isn’t it. The boy seems perfectly at peace floating on his trash boat, a lot like all of us on pour trash planet. You can see why one solution would be for all of us to disappear, right? At least you’re part of the solution rather than the problem. Keep doing what you can and we’ll last longer than we would otherwise. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  12. singleworkingmomswm December 10, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    My daughter and I went to the park where I grew up in So. Cal. over Thanksgiving holiday. Along every path we took there was trash-senselessly thrown trash-only centimeters away from the trash cans, not to mention in the creek. I wasn’t prepared for that, as here on the Central Coast it seems folks are at least a little bit more conscientious depending on where you go. Anyhow, I told her our next visit down we would go to the park again, only this time we would be armed with two trash bags. 🙂 XOXO-Kasey

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

      Dear Kasey,

      You should be paid by more than the knowledge that you are doing the right thing. And those that threw the trash should there with you, at the very least. I hate it that it rarely works out that way.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  13. Karen Whitelaw December 11, 2014 at 2:13 am #

    You’ve touched on a real problem there, Doug, in a way that inspires rather than preaches. It’s an art. Well done.

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

      Dear Karen,

      And the problem touches us all, doesn’t it? Preaching never solves anything. It’s the doing that gets it done. I have found that as I approach the third third of my life, that I tend toward apathy in the face of all that I’ve learned about humans. I hope to be surprised…

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  14. The Writer's Village December 11, 2014 at 4:24 am #

    Man who flirt with dynamite sometime fly with angels.
    (from Charlie Chan at the Race Track)

    or maybe with the devil.

    Round and round we go… and where it stops….

  15. talesfromthemotherland December 11, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    Having traveled to some far places on this big, beautiful planet, the thing that most shakes me to the core, is the garbage… everywhere. It’s shocking. The photo you added to the bottom is really stunning, Doug! It makes your dialogue that much more shocking.

  16. Ellespeth December 11, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    “How beautiful would the world be if we worked for the next hundred years to remove all our trash and then voluntarily killed ourselves?”… Well…if we aren’t careful, this is just about to happen.
    What a great title and, hey? Stop answering my questions with a question!

  17. Claire Fuller December 11, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Your last line is perfect – firstly, that it doesn’t get an answer, secondly that it is despairing (there’s no hope) and thirdly that tiny chink of light in the words ‘is there?’

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

      Dear Claire,

      You are generous with your praise and observant as ever. I wrote the story with all questions for a reason. That you found the ray of hope in the very last line tells me that there is hope and that it will be people like you that end up finding the answer. Thank you for visiting and commenting.



  18. wildbilbo December 11, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Who cares…?

    Not enough of us. Not nearly enough.

    As for the story, the point/counterpoint question/answer format worked well for this theme – I actually wasn’t sure if there were two speakers or just one person asking themselves rhetorically.


    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Dear KT,

      Thanks for the link. I am following that subject closely and will add to my files on it.

      I decided at some point in writing the story that it should be composed of all questions and without names. In the end the format seemed to work for this piece.

      Thanks for reading and weighing in with your thoughts. I appreciate it.



  19. draliman December 11, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Sounds like these two have some quite fun conversations, though the subject matter for this one was quite dark. Good message, and who cares indeed?
    And thanks for the new word (“riparian”)!

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      Dear Draliman,

      Who cares is right. I think the majority of us care, but there seems to be a problem with killing those who don’t. Perhaps this will change. i am not hopeful. Thanks for reading and commenting. (And I’m happy that the word riparian resonated with you. i like it too.)



  20. Nan Falkner December 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    Dear Doug, We are just a bunch of slobs, but it’s better than it was when I was a kid. I remember traveling on the highway and people would just throw their trash out the window. Then there were public service announcements that said DON’T LITTER! and people actually decided to keep America Beautiful and it worked. You still see litter – but not as much as before. Good story! Nan 🙂

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

      Dear Nan,

      I agree that there is less trash than in our youth, but there are more people now and more pressure to ignore the mess for the sake of two jobs and the necessity of doing what must be done to get from paycheck to paycheck. We’ll see what happens…or our children will.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  21. Jan Brown December 11, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    I like your idea for an app. It would also be a good use for the Daleks. No longer would they have to pursue the elusive Dr. Who. They could simply take out their frustration on litterers! Daleks could patrol the beaches with their annoying “Exterminate!” refrain whenever someone litters. The mere sound of their “voice” should be enough to keep people from being careless slobs 🙂

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Dear Jan,

      I’m working on that app. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Your story this week was far more powerful and moving. It was almost a requiem for our misguided and undisciplined species. And in the end, well, we’ll see won’t we?



  22. AnElephantCant December 11, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Nicely done, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Dear AEC,
      Thank you, Sir.



  23. Suzanne Joshi December 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Doug, I can get even darker. Not only does trash look terrible and clog our planet, you should see how it’s cleaned up here by the ragpickers. They wade in it with their bare feet and handle it without protection. I’m sure it’s that way in many 3rd World countries. It’s poisoning in more than one way. Plastic bags clog the sewers here and men have to go down without protection to clear it. It’s sickening. What will probably be done one day is to find a way to dump it on another planet. Won’t that be nice? Well written as always. — Susan

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

      Dear Susan,

      One of the most depressing things about my trek in the foothills of the Himalayas was seeing the trash that abounded outside each small village. It was as if the residents could only carry it so far and then just heaved it off the nearest cliff. Out of sight…out of mind, I suppose. That and the realities of poverty made the needs of the long term bow down to the demands of the short term. Another thing was to sit quietly in a market and watch each shop keeper sweep dust and trash from their store front and onto the frontage of their neighbor’s shop, who in turn would come out a few minutes later and sweep the very same trash back onto the frontage of their neighbor’s shops….and the process would slowly, industriously repeat itself for as long as I watched. And I am not singling out any one country with this comment. It is a human problem and sometimes, as during the writing of my story, I think that it is not a surmountable one considering that the need to procreate seems to far outstrip the ‘need’ to not foul our nest.

      Thank you for reading and commenting and caring.



  24. liz young December 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    Depressing thought, but I’ve seen evidence first hand of turtles grown mis-shapen because of beer-can plastic.

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

      Dear Liz,

      I saw pictures of that during my research, but to see it first hand must really drive home the lesson. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  25. johnmarkmiller December 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Such dark and heavy thoughts, but you tell it in such a light and readable way. Good job!

    • dmmacilroy December 12, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

      Dear John,

      Perhaps doing it in that fashion does a disservice to us all. Hard to tell. Thanks for reading and commenting.



      • johnmarkmiller December 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

        I think it’s a great way to get your point across… I think a truly great piece of fiction acts as a double-edged sword, entertaining us in a quality way while piercing our hearts with the truth. I enjoyed it!

  26. Rajlakshmi December 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Loved this conversation style of writing, leaves a powerful message.

  27. Alice Audrey December 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    There is trash, and then there is trash. Too bad the bottles have a longer life expectancy. In a hundred years the humans wouldn’t need to kill themselves. They just have to stop having kids.

  28. Caerlynn Nash December 13, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    I suppose we answer questions with questions when we don’t know or don’t want to know the answer. Well written. I like how you wrote this “riddle.”

  29. patrickprinsloo December 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    No hope indeed. But I clean up a small public space at the bottom of our road and with time fewer people chuck in their empty bottles and fish n chip wrappers. Hooray.

  30. Margaret December 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Such a tragedy that we are so foolish and short=sighted. The answers to the questions you pose are not so hard to find – we just don’t care enough. Your story shows this clearly. Around and around we go, trying to avoid responsibility.

  31. joseph elon lillie December 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    There’s always hope.

  32. Sarah Ann December 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Fantastic dialogue. I wish you had more than 100-words to keep the circle turning in this conversation. There is hope and people do care, just not enough of them in the same way at the same time.

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