Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Unintended Consequences

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

7c293f567878d204f3613fb0926af1b4--illuminated-letters-illuminated-manuscriptnce upon a time there was a household in turmoil. One sister, one brother, and a widow who had lost the will to keep her children proper. Her husband left her with the debt of the home and the banes of her life.

illustrated Every day the siblings fought, cursed, threw fragile items at each other, stole what they could and sold those items. They wound up at the village pub drinking until oblivion took them both.

illustrated But one day the widow unexpectedly left, never to return. By the end of the first week they tore through the makings of their home. What they couldn’t sell, they bartered. They ate, drank, and took care of their baser needs.

illustrated Because of that they soon ran out of money. The sister and brother had to vacate, unable to pay the house debt. With little more than a bag of clothing each, they set off in opposite directions. The sister vowed to never to see her brother again. He felt the same.

illustrated Because of that as they traveled, taking whatever work they could find. Without the sense to save what they could, the sister and brother would find themselves penniless soon after receiving pay. What wasn’t spent on food and alcohol went to gambling. Outside of the comfort and safety of the village they grew up left them adrift. Often robbed, both suffered beatings, and sometimes worse.

illiustrated Until finally, many months later, each sibling took root in a haven. Broken to their cores by this time, they each had the chance to rebuild their lives. Both found themselves welcomed and absorbed into the communities they now called home.

illustrated E coloredver since then each found acceptance, and love, in their ways. They kept their vows: they never saw each other ever again. As to the widow, she moved in with her sister and her family in a completely different direction from her children’s wanderings. She never heard from, or saw, them again. She lived out her life in bliss.

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Author’s Notes:

  1. The above was from #FlashFiction Prompt from my friends over at Fiction Can Be Fun. This time, the prompt was just this: A case of the law of unintended consequences. Rules are simple:
  • Word count: 500 – 1,500 (ish)
    Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 11th October 2019
  • Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

The proprietors of Fiction Can Be Fun, Debs and David, are working on a shared novel that I can’t wait to read (yes, I still would love to be a Beta reader for the two of you). I met them during the AtoZ Blog Challenge in April of 2018, and I’m glad we have remained in contact. Visit their page. Lots of great stories, challenges, and essays to sink your teeth into.

2) The words in italics after the illuminated letters is from an Improv technique I’ve used for years in warmups and in my workshops and school residencies. I recently found out that the style is credited to Kenn Adams, author, educator, teaching artist, and performer. He is the Artistic Director of Synergy Theater based in Islip, New York (but they do travel across the country).

The pattern for Improv, and what I used above, is:

  • Once upon a time
  • Every Day
  • But one day
  • Because of that
  • Because of that
  • Until finally
  • Ever since then

If running this in a warm-up or as a rehearsal exercise, the amount of Because of that would increase due to how many were in attendance.

And…sorry, Debs & David, the word count is only 321.

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Points For Style

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POINTS FOR STYLE

The doorbell rang and Esther’s eyes flew open. She had been napping on the couch. There was a groan, followed by an “OW!” as she started to raise her head. The bell rang again. Esther yelled “I’m coming! I’m coming!” in a hoarse, phlegmy way.

Esther made multiple noises, verbally and bodily, as she leveraged her way to a sitting position. They mixed with the occasional muttered curse. An “Oh, shit!” punctuated the calliope of sounds. The library book she had been reading, before she nodded out, fell to the floor. The bookmark went flying free, coming to rest on the other side of the coffee table. Her back creaked more as she retrieved the book.

Grumbling, Esther forced her swollen feet into her pink mules. Getting to her feet was a feat. Her smart-aleck son called this her “Rice Krispee Olympic Maneuver. From Prone to Standing in 6.5 minutes, accompanied by snapping, crackling, and popping, the whole way through.

“Putz,” she muttered, the pain holding back the sometimes smile that comments made. Esther adjusted her faded baby blue housecoat and touched her thinning hair.

Something was hitting the door as she shuffled out of the living room to the main foyer. It was a consistent, rhythmic beat. Already, the vein in her right temple began to throb. Esther cursed some more under her breath, still loud enough for others to hear (though she denied it every time). She thought she was quiet. End of story.

Even though she thought she knew who it was at the door, she still asked: “Who is it?” Esther had to: she could no longer reach the peephole and peer out of it.

“It’s me, Grandma. Becky. I have to go to the bathroom!”

Esther tsked and winced as she began to unbolt the three locks and then unchain the door. The blood rose in her cheeks: she hoped none of the neighbors heard Rebecca. Esther loved her granddaughter, but it was times like this she wanted nothing more than to give her a little zetz.

Taking a few steps back after “The Great Unlocking, another of her son’s quips, Esther grasped the doorknob. She turned it, bit her lip as arthritis in her hand flared, and opened the door. Her mouth dropped open as Rebecca skittered in.

“Hi, Grandma” rushed forward, followed by a cheek kiss and running into the apartment. Esther heard the bathroom door slam shut and the lock click.

The front door was still open and Esther still had her hand on the doorknob. A noise from down the hall startled her. It was Beverly, taking a bag of garbage to the incinerator door. They made eye contact, nodded, fake smiled at each other, and as one opened a door the other one closed hers.

Esther locked the bottom lock. She was back in the living room, sitting on the couch when she realized that she hadn’t bolted the other two locks. Nor did she re-chain the door.

She heard the bathroom sounds then. Flushing. The sink water turned on full blast, then off. The bathroom door unlocked and Rebecca came into the living room. Esther’s eyes roamed up and down the teenager.

Becky saw she was getting The Look. She sat down in the wing-back chair that had always been her favorite seat when visiting. She crumbled into it, threw both of her legs over the right chair arm, and sighed.

“What?”

Esther’s son warned her: “Don’t make a big deal out of this,” he told her over the phone. “This is not the ‘Big Fight!’ It’s a phase,” he emphasized. “She’s not hurting anyone. Do not start,” he demanded. Esther gritted her teeth at this memory.

She stared at her granddaughter, her Rebecca. Her Shayna Maidel. Her pretty girl. She stared, and in her head repeated: “it’s only a phase.”

Rebecca’s hair was dyed ink-black, cut short and spiky. All white face makeup. Exaggerated black mascara and eyeliner. Dark purple lips. A short red plaid skirt, legs showing through torn black stockings. Those horrible black Doc Martins. Her tee-shirt was one of her father’s that he got from a concert: T-Rex, faded black, with the sleeves torn off.

“Darling,” Esther said behind a strained smile. “Is that a dog collar around your neck? With spikes?”

Becky nodded her head.

Esther nodded hers.

They sat looking at each other for a bit.

Finally, Esther sighed.

“Bubala, are you hungry?”

Becky smiled, got out of the chair, and said: “Yes, grandma. Here, let me help you.” She moved to Esther’s side, knowing her grandmother. It took a moment, but together they got her standing.

“Oh shit!” they said in unison, and then went to the kitchen for a nosh.

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Author’s Notes:

The above is from another writing group I am a member of. Today’s prompt was the above title: Points For Style. Style can mean many things, and the writers today took the prompt and delivered very different interpretations. Some very thoughtful, some amusing. We wrote for less than an hour and then shared. Hope you enjoy my piece.

I AM RUNNING A FOUR WEEK CREATIVE WRITING PROGRAM

Starting on Friday, October 11th, I will be leading a Creative Writing/Storytelling workshop, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Held in New Rochelle, NY (lower Westchester County), the workshop can be reached by car or by the Metro-North Train stop (New Haven line). It is accessible to any of the five bouroughs of NYC, Westchester County, Rockland County, lower Connecticut, and Northern New Jersey.

Primarily created for the newly retired community, the sessions are open to anyone wanting to flex their creative writing muscles.

For full information and to sign up, please click on the following link:

Storytelling 101: An Intro to Creative Writing.

If you know anyone who would benefit, I’d appreciate it if you could pass this on.

Thank you!! Hope to see some of you there.

Grassy Fields

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Grassy Field

There are sixteen words for love. Showing love is limitless. How either is perceived, the depth that it touches or bounces away, can change, depending.
 
Depending on the moment, the time of the day, or the year. Depending on the weather that has moved on or that envelops you in the now. Depending if it was heartfelt or only going through the motions. Depending if it was a complete and utter lie. It all depends.
 
She sits on fallen red and burnt orange leaves, leaning against the trunk of the tree, staring out across the open dale. Before her the grass bends to the right. The same breeze sends tendrils of her long brown hair in the same direction. Strands wrap themselves across her cheeks and nose. It is a soft reminder that she needs a trim, letting things go.
 
The hunter green fisherman’s sweater is large on her. It falls below her waist and over her hands. She is happy she chose this to wear today; cocooning herself inside, the tight cable knit blocking out most of the chill. She pulls the collar up and over her nose, the smell of last night’s first fireplace usage buried deep in the skein.
 
Another gust and her hair is flung over, and into, her eyes. Both hands pop out of her sleeve cover to secure the hair, forming a loose braid. She knows it won’t hold.
 
Maybe I shouldn’t have come here today,” she says to the field. ‘Maybe this wasn’t the best idea I’ve had.” She waits, still against the tree trunk. “No answer, huh?”
 
A short burst of chilled air hits her in the side of the face, sending her head back, bumping into the bark behind her. She laughs, touching the spot that she is sure will produce a small bump. She tilts her head back, her eyes moving away from the green to the blue.
 
The sparsely clouded sky has shifted in density and speed. White masses move past, some forming into larger floating islands. Off in the near distance a few of these are growing dark. The wind is picking up.
 
The tree sheds more leaves. As they drift down and around, she notices a bright red one tumbling down towards her. She watches its approach. It sways and circles, finally placing itself on the upper part of her face, covering her eyes.
 
Picking up the stem, she runs the opposite index finger over the edge of the leaf. A piece flecks off. Brittle. She twirls the stem, the red shape going in and out of focus. Her movements, at first, are soft and slow, an imitation of the leaf’s descent. She increases the force, now sharp and jagged. Finally, encircling the leaf in her hand, she closed it into a fist. Crushed, tiny red flakes get brushed off her hand as she stands.
 
She walks away from the tree to stand at the edge of the grassy field. She reminds herself why she came here, why she came on this particular day.
 
There are sixteen words for love. She thought she had said them all.
 
She thought she had shown love in a myriad of ways.
 
She thought it all depended on how it was received.
 
She walks back to her car, burrowed deep into the cable knit fisherman’s sweater.

They Ran

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Photograph by Shari Marshall ©

THEY RAN

Propped up by the blasted wall, seven faced their executioners.

Each of the seven different from the other, facing seven of one kind, their weapons raised.

“This is war,” echoed in seven languages, “and you ran. No excuses. No pleas. No last words, signs, or prayers. Nothing. You ran. Others of your kind died. It would have been the same if you aimed at them yourselves and fired.”

A nod. Of the runners: three fell; one cut in half; one shattered; another fused into the wall; one vaporized.

Seven colored fluids pooled; the only mix allowed beyond the Rim worlds.

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Author’s Note: The picture above, by Shari Marshall, was a prompt posted on her page, Writing is Communication. The prompt was to use her photo, created your tale on your own blog, then post a link to your story in her comments section.  We each see what we see in the photo. This was my take.

I also did this as a Drabble (100 words exact). Beyond posting a link, and using the photo prompt, you can go anywhere with the photo.

Give it a shot.

Pun intended.

My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher: Flash Fiction (Prompt)

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FLASH FICTION PROMPT

MY HOT FLING WITH ASHTON KUTCHER

Top-down on my Shelby Mustang Convertible, white canvas snug against the red cherry finish, Ashton and I cruise along Route 1. Food was the topic of discussion, led by the intermittent growls from our stomachs. There was a stretch of road where they held a deep conversation, with each expressing a point vs. counterpoint on which fast food death-pit we were passing at the moment. Ashton and I laughed after the fifth such conversation, holding out stomachs more to quiet them down than to ease the aches.

The stereo was on 11 since we drove in the open air. Our playlist was Spotify controlled, a created loop aggregated through hours of controlled listening. Ashton skipped a couple of tunes I only heard one or two notes of, settling on Flo Rida and smiling. He had the remote and the wheel. I was fine until a K-Pop pop was “suggested.” Thus began the 1.3 mile Battle of the Remote, which I won by telling a very bad pun. I switched the playlist. Little Willie John, followed by Robert Johnson. The Blues moved us along, cool wind in our hair.

“Turn left at the next light.”

I was The Navigator on this part of our road trip. I took the role seriously, as did Ashton in his role as The Driver. The Navigator calls the shots, is always right and gets the last word in where the traveling winds up.

A gear shift and a sigh came from my left. I looked over: Ashton gave me the side-eye, which made me chuckle. He had a destination he wanted to get to; it was just without any definite time constraint. That wasn’t for the sigh. I had nowhere to be, nowhere to go, and he knew that.

“You could have let me drive, y’know,” I told him.

“Yeah, I should have. But, ” he smiled, “you are a maniac when you are aimless. So…”

“So, yeah.” I let a few blocks whiz by. “There. Turn right.” I pointed in my most Captain Obvious way. Ashton did without braking. “Good boy!”

Signs started popping up for various coastal beaches as we headed along the road. I must have let out a noise of interest because Ashton began to lightly curse under his breath. He’d seen the signs as well. They weren’t ominous signs, just ones we both knew were time killers.

I noticed something up ahead on the right that lit me up. Directing Ashton to pull over and park forestalled any argument that might have been forming. As the engine pinged down, we looked to our right. Frank’s Brick Oven. Just what our growling tummies ordered.

The driver door slammed shut, and Ashton joined me at the curb.

“You knew about this place?” he asked.

“Nope. Kismet. Synchronicity. That Old Pizza Magic. Food. Yes?”

“Yes.”

Ashton had a much longer gait and got to the door first. He stopped mid-step in. I had to squeeze by, a little shove working. I froze, too, as the aroma assailed our nostrils and sent them flaring. Laughter greeted us from a waitress who was standing in front of the counter and from the counter guy behind it. I answered their laughter with a huge smile. Ashton did as well, adding “Two, please.”

Our stomachs agreed as they gurgled in complicit harmony that sent all four of us laughing.

Debbie was our waitress, shiny and new out of High School, waiting for Freshman Year at Quinnipiac College to begin. If I said that she was smitten with Ashton, I’d hold the world’s record for understatements. She did get our orders; well, Ashton helped a bit, thereby pointing out I was sitting opposite of him. Once she unglued her eyes from him, the table for two was firmly acknowledged by Debbie. I still took that as a victory.

We placed our orders: a Keto Kale Kumbaya veggie mess for Ashton while I asked for a spicy Italian meat monster. Water was fine for both of us, but Ashton asked for slices of cucumber in his, hold the ice. Debbie sighed as she took the menus from us, more so when she took Ashton’s. “Of course, Mr. Ashton” giggles got only gigglier when he told her to just call him Ashton.

I might as well have been invisible.

Both of the pizzas sent our senses into overdrive, the smell first as Debbie approached with them and then the taste with our first bites. I got another side-eye from Ashton when my pie was put down. I had already looked askance at his. We had a few rules, and this was one of them: at the meal table, our “No Proselytizing” sign went into effect. It made our respective digestions easier and let us remain friends.

We ate. We talked. We commiserated and joked. Debbie and the counter guy, Sal, got their autographs and selfies (I even got into one, a little off to the side). As Debbie was clearing the table, I ordered two large cheese, cut into 16 slices. To go. That got me my third side-eye, although this one was straight on. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Ashton nailed it. My hands did the talking, patting the air down, as I tried to settle my face into neutral. I shrugged my shoulders. Ashton let it be.

We paid, left a generous tip, and took the steaming pies to the car. I handed them to Ashton and raced to the driver’s door. As he was getting in, he was going to put the pies behind him in what Ford laughingly called a “back seat.”

“Hey!” I blanched. “Not on the leather!”

Ashton nodded, placing the very hot pies on his legs, balanced so between hands and knees for the lesser of potential pain. He understood what the Mustang meant.

Pulling away from Frank’s wasn’t easy, but carrying the goodies we had helped. I drove down the road a few miles until I saw the next beach sign. I glanced over at Ashton: he was staring off to the right. You could just see the glint of the Sound in between the flashes of the houses and trees. He didn’t even try to be The Navigator. He knew.

We found a parking spot two and a half blocks from the beach. I took one of the pizza’s from Ashton as we made our way. As we got to the entrance path eyes started turning our way. I nodded to Ashton our destination: a rocky outlook with a slight crest that led right to the roiling waves. He was looking around, making eye contact and returning “Hi’s” and “Hello’s,” but he acknowledged where we were going.

Along the way, I opened up my pizza box, offering a slice to anyone who passed by or approached. Ashton followed suit. Once emptied, a couple of kids took the boxes off our hands. We could hear them arguing over who was going to keep Ashton’s box, even though I told them he had handled both in the car.

We sat on the rocks for a long time. Ashton finally remembered he had a destination in mind, and that I had not.

The sun was setting behind us as we got in the Mustang, turned the engine on, and let the Blues wash over us.

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Author’s Note: THIS WAS A PROMPT. Repeat: THIS WAS A PROMPT.

I have never met Mr. Kutcher, know very little about him beyond what the tabloid press and Twitter say about him, and this piece, hopefully, keeps in the spirit of what he is about. At no point was this meant to demean, start a rumor, or any of the other silly nonsense that the internet is kinda-sorta known for. Now, if it had been his wife Mila Kunis instead, I probably would have chosen that, but…ahem…well, it wouldn’t be here on Tale Spinning.

People: chill.

At one of the two (three?) writing groups I attend, we were asked to write up to FIVE story titles with the caveat being that NONE OF THE STORIES ARE TRUE. We each shared two or three of our titles and then got to choose from any (or none) of those offered.

I took “My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher” simply because it would have been the LAST thing ever in the whole wide world I would ever write on my own. Nothing against Mr. Kutcher: he seems like a nice guy, and I honestly respect that he went before Congress and spoke against Human Trafficking and some other humanistic ideals he espouses.

When we read our pieces to each other, the response to this was very gratifying. I’m doing much more off-line writing at the moment AND trying to organize the 20th Anniversary of Don’t Hate Us Because We’re Funny: Benefit Against Violence and Hate Crimes (more on that soon: almost done with the website, but click on the link above to go to our Facebook page).

Hope you enjoyed this. Something different from me. Comments are always welcome.

KingCon: Haverstraw Library’s annual comic convention! Saturday, August 3

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I have been honored to be a panelist at a

Modern Speculative Writing Program!!!

Speculative Fiction is a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. It includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Magic Realism, and so much more. Speculative fiction writing takes the imagination as far as it can go, and then some.

Located in beautiful Rockland County (less than an hour northwest of NYC), the Haverstraw King’s Daughter’s Public Library is holding their annual comic convention, KingCon. Yes, the pun fits.

Taylor Voght, author and MFA at Manhattanville College, will be our moderator as we delve into what makes Speculative Writing so attractive, contemplate the nature of sequential narration, and share what inspires us to write as we do.  Sitting beside me will be noted authors and editors Michelle Levy and Gerrit Overeem.

This is Haverstraw’s SDCC and NYCC, just without the mile-long lines!!

I hope you can make it. If so, stop by after the panel and say ‘Hi!’

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019: KingCon!!

Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library
10 W. Ramapo Road
Garnerville, NY 10923

Modern Speculative Writing

1 pm – 1:30 pm, Community Room
For all ages. Speculative fiction requires using your imagination to create entirely new worlds, and it has never been more popular! In this panel, learn from science fiction and fantasy authors Taylor Vogt, Stuart Nager, Michelle Levy, and Gerrit Overeem on how to write your own speculative fiction novel. All attendees will leave with the tools to write their own story!

KingCon2019EventsFlyer

Diggin’ in the Dirt

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Diggin’ In The Dirt

“Bosworth, pass the pickax, s’il vous plait?”

“Oui-oui, mon sewer,” Bosworth sniggered. He wiped a grime encrusted hand across his brow, flicking droplets of dirty sweat across Mrs. Katherine Thiswhistle’s less than pristine tombstone. The moon’s refracted light was in full display, the threatening clouds still a way off. Bosworth could make out the old lady’s name as well as the inscription that hadn’t eroded: “Just put your lips together and blow.”

He had no idea what that meant.

“Here, Alf. I hope we’re done soon. This god-awful heat and humidity are wiping me out. Can’t afford that, y’know. Daphne is waiting for me, y’know.”

Alfie accepted the pickax, taking it with a jerk out of Bosworth’s outstretched hands. He kept his tongue in check, letting his instincts to berate the youth pass. “Not worth a hell of a mountain of beans,” he muttered under his breath. In the long run, Bosworth wouldn’t have heard him: when Alfie brought the pickax swinging down a large clang rang out, filling the three-foot depth they had already made.

Pain shot through Alfie’s fingers up to his shoulders. A hard swing and a hard hit. His hands were ablaze. Alfie leaned the tool against the moist earthen wall and shook his hands out, flexing his fingers. He let out a short string of curse words; Bosworth heard them and began laughing.

He peeked over the edge of the broken ground. “What’d ya hit, Alf? Sounded a lot harder than wood on its way to rot.

“Well, get your ass down here and help me find out!”

Alfie’s filth covered face accentuated the blazing whites of his eyes as he stared up at Bosworth. He heard the gulp, as he expected, and knew a point had been understood. Finally. He reached up, grabbed a double handful of pants leg fabric, and pulled.

Bosworth’s “HEY!” ended as he landed onto the grave dirt, just missing the hard object.

“Quiet, you. We need to go quieter now. The last thing we need is Old Gal Dink to wake from her Scotch dreams. Then she’d be…”

“I know. I know. ‘… She’d be screaming her blamed head off that the Ghoulies was eating her babies.” Bosworth got off the ground, wiping his hands on his pant legs, wincing a bit when he touched where Alf had grabbed him.

“Need your arms and back, not your mouth, boy. Not your mouth. Let’s see what we have here.”

Bosworth started to say something, but he realized it would be pointless. Alfie ignored him, probing the disturbed ground with the tip of the pickax. He made a display of running the tip in a circular outline, a perfect “O,” or so he told Bosworth. He instructed the boy to take up the shovel that he had abandoned earlier. “Let’s find the depth of this thing. Gently, s’il vous plait.”

Bosworth sighed, sick of the faux French, but did as he was told. The dirt moved under their probing, filling in as soon as one or the other moved it around. The bottom edge wasn’t too deep, about two manhole covers thick; Bosworth took Alf’s word for that. He was tired, pissed, and wanted to be gone.

The light was dim, or disappearing completely, with the speed of the clouds now passing overhead. Trial and error ensued, but as they used their separate tools edges their purchase points discovered. Alf grunted approval; Bosworth smiled, hoping this would bring this night’s work to an end.

“On three?” he asked.

A cloud scooted by, enough for Bosworth to see Alf nod.

“OK,” Bosworth began, “one, two…”

And he almost fell, again, as Alfie jumped the count. Alf’s side jutted up, knocking into the spade which went into his right leg. The whole thing sent him off kilter.

“What the hell, Alf. We said three. What happened to three?”

To get the shovel off of his leg, instinctively Bosworth dug down. He pushed, levered up, and evened out.

“Lift it, B. Lift it. Now!”

Taking the order, Bosworth’s teeth clenched, sharing the weight running through his arms, shoulders, and back. As they lifted, the dirt sloughed off, leaving an opaque circle etched and ridged. It became clearer as the clouds moved off, leaving the reflective rays from the moon shine at their fullest.

Bosworth’s attention was riveted on the disc in his hands, so much so that he hadn’t realized that he was now carrying the majority of the bulk. Alfie did have hold of it, but he pushed at an angle, the face of the disc towards Bosworth.

The circle became radiant. It soaked up the diffused light, going bright and ultra-violet. Bosworth’s eyes erased in an instant. He did not see that the etches and ridges shone as distinct runic figures and symbols. He did not feel the heat sear into his blistering skin. The sting of a million light particles meant nothing to him; he did not feel the bones in his fingers crack and shatter, nor his humerus, radius, ulna, and on and on. They broke. He was gone.

Alfie had already jumped back, his eyes tightly shut, face pressed into the damp earth wall. He felt the painful sensations as they ran across his back, but he still smiled even as he howled. The disc made a distinctive thump as it hit the dirt, taking the light with it.

Alfie did a backwards duck walk to free himself. He was digging the dirt out of his nose and ears while he spat out the bits that wormed their way into his mouth. Once clear, he called out for Bosworth, but knew he’d get no answer. He stood, leaned both hands on the top of the grave, and said a quick prayer.

He was unsteady for a few moments: same as it ever was. Alfie cleared any remaining muck from around his eyes and opened them.

Alfie looked down, waited, and then sighed deeply. Nothing moved except for his antsy feet.

“Well, Katherine, summer help, eh? Next time. I’ll choose better next time.”

Three Ships, Aye

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THREE SHIPS, AYE

“Again!”

“Oh, Scotty. Really?”

“Please, Grandpa?”

Sighing, Grandpa begins…

The night brought a storm, unlike any other. The sailors of the three ships, every one of them, prayed to whatever they prayed to as they were tossed back and forth. Too many were tossed overboard by the heaving waves, men and women becoming one with the sea waters. The three captains could not spare the time to worry about any one person: they had hundreds to try to save, but it was the three ships that were their lives and it was the ships they cared for most of all.

They knew it was their fault, for setting onto the unsettled waters that night. Warned, the three ignored the then possible danger for the chances presented to them. A win is what they needed, badly, and so caution was forgotten for what could be. They paid for their single-mindedness, more than any of them thought was due.

“Grandpa?”

“Yes, Scotty?”

“Why?”

“You ask that question every single time, and the answer is always the same, kiddo. Greed, and ego, make people do some very stupid things.”

“My teacher says ‘stupid’ isn’t a good word to say.”

“That, in itself, is… sigh… never mind. People do stupid things. Ok?”

“Yup.”

“Now, the ships…”

The waves rocked up and dove down, pockets of watery walls that closed in on the three ships. Two were hit head-on, while the other crushed inwards. The screech of the metals mixed with the roar of the storm, drowning out the wails of the sailors. That it didn’t go under, then, was a miracle that no one noticed. The other ships were being battered senseless at the same time. The ocean rose and took control.

When dawn came, it was hidden by the still raging storm. There was no breaking in the skies, but only upon the roiling waters. Any left alive noticed nothing more than the buffeting, the pain, the need for it all to be over. One captain was already gone, not surviving the crushing, and one other had lost any cognizant capability. Others tied that captain to a chair on the bridge and left. That captain’s eyes glazed with dark waters.

“The third captain, Grandpa!”

“Why don’t YOU tell me? You know the story.”

“…”

“Scotty?”

“I. I like the way you tell it.”

…..

“Grandpa?”

“I love you, Scotty.”

“I love you, too.”

The third captain pushed on. There was no other way except to give up and accept what the sea and the storm demanded. This captain was seen in every part of the ship, urging, threatening, working alongside the crew. They threw themselves into a new fervor of working to save themselves and the captains’ ship. There was nothing to be done beyond their drenched space to keep going.

Finally, nature settled. From pure rage to utter stillness, the three ships were still afloat. Weak shouts went up across the bows. The sea moved the ships together, grouped in a battered trio of wounds. The sun blazed down, no clouds obscuring the burning heat.

From still day to night, the seas propelled the ships. Most on board were unable to process what was happening: none of the equipment worked, most of the crew injured, in one way or another. During the night, more died.

Come the morning, those left found themselves beached. The waters had receded, the sea water unseen, leaving all three ships sunk in sodden sand. The survivors went ship to ship, rescuing those they could, leaving those that were beyond help.

The lone captain stood, ankle deep in the wet shore, with the remaining sailors spread out. They looked at the tilted ships, renewed their prayers, and left. The captain was the last to look away but joined the others from behind as they made their ways to a life different than what they had hoped for.

“The end.”

“Grandpa…”

“Yeah, Scotty?”

“So?”

“You know, kiddo. You know. I’m getting tired. You should be, too. Time to turn off the light and get to sleep.”

“Grandpa. Please.”

——

“Please.”

“Fine.”

They followed without a thought. They went without care. Their goal was senseless, and their deaths even more so. The destruction they found were caused by being heedless of the signs, of ignoring anything but their wants. Not needs, their wants. And if they learned anything from any of this hubris-and I’ve already explained hubris to you, twice, tonight, so forget it-it did not show in any of their actions.

So, they were doomed. Doomed to do what they did, to do it again. Maybe in a different way, but still, in the end, they did it again. And again.

“Stupid.”

“Yes, stupid. Get some sleep, Scotty. Love you.”

“Love you too, Grandpa.

Grandpa?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t do anything stupid. Ok?”

“I’ll try not to.”

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Author’s Note:

The above comes from a photo prompt posted on Fiction Can Be Fun.

I have mentioned my association with Debs and David (who co-write their blog) before, having met them during the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. You’d do yourself a big favor if you followed them and have the pleasure of enjoying their writing. Their WIP is going through its final stages and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.

If you want to join in on the writing prompt (and I strongly encourage it), here are the “rules”:

Any style, any genre, just nothing NSFW – otherwise the world is your oyster.
Tell us your tale …

Word count: 500 – 1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 12th July 2019

Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

So, join in. Write. You’ll be glad you did.

PS: if anyone cares, I wrote this while listening to The Essential Leonard Cohen. Who do you listen to while you write?

Forgotten Way (Part One)

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1

Forgotten Way

Part One

A dark, dirt road that led upwards, vanishing into untamed bramble, caught my eye as a Ford F-150 screeched to a stop. My chest tightened in a quick, sharp snap, the thought of being T-boned by that monster coming too close to reality. I remembered to breathe, not realizing I had stopped, as my foot pressed the accelerator down. A sign darted by as I sped along, naming the road.

Forgotten Way.

As I drove down Route 9, I found my concentration waver: I wasn’t sure at the moment if it was the near miss of the truck or the near miss of that road. My hands grew clammy, and a buildup of saliva sent me into a small coughing fit as I choked upon swallowing it.

A mile passed in less than a minute. It was a good thing there were no police on the road at the time.

Once I reached my destination, other things took my attention: Kelly, the woman I came to meet, beat me to the picnic grounds. She was waiting by her car. Her purple summer dress clung to her, which drew my eyes at first. The tilt of her head and her half smile brought me closer. “Men,” she said, her smile broadening until it disappeared with the kiss that she laid on me. We stood like that until a woman walking by harrumphed us. Our foreheads met as our lips parted. Eyes closed, I began to smile, but lost it as a stray thought hit me.

Forgotten Way.

She could feel me tense, asking me what just happened. I laughed it off, blaming it on the “harumpher” and her puritanical ways. That got a small smack on my upper arm, another kiss, this one a peck, and we broke apart to get the food she had brought and the blanket and wine I had in my car. Hand in hand, we left the parking lot and traveled into the park for the night’s entertainment.

The music was wonderful, the company more so. We had decided earlier that we’d end our evening here instead of going to one of our places for the night. She was leaving extra early on a business trip the next morning and made the time and effort to at least spend this time with me, for us. I agreed, reluctantly, saying I also had tons to do the next day and also had an early start.

I didn’t, and I’m pretty sure she knew I was fabricating it all. She let it lie, and I appreciated it. Nothing was going on, and nothing had been going on for way too long until she had entered my life. The last thing I wanted to do was to blow it this early in what I hoped would be a relationship.

Stowing away the blanket and picnic ware, we leaned against her car in a Goodnight kiss. She was beginning to waver in her decision to go home alone: I was long past wavering, having mentally abandoned that choice after our first kiss that evening. But, again, I didn’t want to blow things. You know when you can tell there is something really special about the other? She was it, for me, and while I pressed a little bit, I rode evening out as planned.

Her biting my lip with our last kiss did not help in that decision.

She took off first. I idled a little, thinking, adjusting myself, and turned on the car stereo system. Static filled the cabin, and I had to tune around to find something I wanted to hear. At that point, the night’s music was enough in my head, so I turned off the system, put the car in reverse, and almost hit the walking “harumpher” who was passing right behind me.

She screeched, and a stream of well laid curses and obscenities spewed forth. My heart did a quick skip: for that moment, I was back with the almost T-bone, back at Forgotten Way. Then reality hit me as she smacked her hand on the trunk of my car and shambled off. I left the grounds without any further incident and made my way back along Route 9.

A twenty-four-hour gas station/mini-mart was my first destination. I needed the facilities, and a snack would be welcome. The kid at the counter was a familiar face. I’d stopped here a couple of times in the past month, ever since Kelly and I had met cute. He said, “howdy,” I said, “hi,” and he scanned my snack and soda.

Outside, a semi whooshed by, tooting its air horn, and it brought me back to earlier in the evening. I asked the kid about Forgotten Way. It wasn’t that far down the road from the station. He looked at me, bagged my loot, scratched at a pimple on his nose, and shrugged.

“Never heard of it,” he finally answered.

There was nothing to push with the teen. I thanked him and left the mart. Getting in my car, I felt that tightness in my chest again. Taking a swig of my soda, and then popping open the bag of chips and munching a few, did nothing to alleviate the pressure inside of me. Turning the car over, I sat.

There were two ways to get out of the area, the quickest being the road I was already on. I debated for a few moments, feeling silly in the end over my indecision. Part of me wanted to call Kelly, or head over and “surprise” her, but I didn’t.

Checking behind me very carefully-I wasn’t sure The Harumpher wouldn’t have been waiting for me-I backed out of the spot, came to the exit of the lot, and turned right onto Route 9. Towards home. Towards Forgotten Way.

I should have gone the other way home.

 

To be continued

 

 

She Saw Angel Wings

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She Saw Angel Wings

Rebecca asked for realism, but got magic instead.

The sharp, stinging burn faded with the constant vibrations. Her eyes closed as the artist’s tool slid the needle in and out at a rapid-fire pace. She wanted to count in the beginning as a means of focus, but that Rebecca got to two and no further. It was her first tattoo; she had put it off long enough, way after everyone she knew were walking canvases. Nothing spoke to Rebecca, nothing said “Yes, this!”, until her soul touched her arm.

Rebecca came across the hibernating Polygona while exploring the abandoned Willes house that previous winter. She and Dale had been traveling, searching through dilapidated, seemingly forgotten structures that were left standing, or, in the case of the Willes’ house, partially leaning. They were trespassing and had enough run-ins with various law agencies to know it, but the thrill of their journey blew those concerns away. They were accruing dying testimonies of what was before the rate of erosion took it all away.

That, or the many developers who only saw money in the land.

Dale had remained below on the first floor, busy taking photos with her new Nikon Z6. Rebecca was glad she had splurged on this for Dale’s 25th. The light inside that she had fallen in love with had begun to dim over the last year, that one infidelity one too many; but this object, this thing, seemed to bring it back, sharper, keener, and much more focused.

“Becki, be careful,” lay behind her as she stalked up the slanted stairway to the second floor. Rebecca clutched her sketch pad in her left hand as she white-knuckled the stair railing with her right. Safe on the landing, she released a “yeah, yeah,” white puffs in the chill air as she walked down the hallway, three doors partly ajar, beckoning.

The ceiling molding in the second bedroom was intricate. Rebecca sat in front of the smeared window, having rubbed away enough grime to allow more sunlight into the room. She got lost duplicating the patterns, time passing as the sun moved along its path, erasing when the moving shadows changed her perspective.

Part of the ceiling had caved in, revealing part of the structure between this room and the attic. Something was there that was not wood, wallpaper, or flaking glue. Rebecca pushed her glasses up her nose with her forefinger, a smile etched on her face from Dale’s teasing of the same constant gesture. She stood and reached out with her Palomino Blackwing, reversed so the point would not break. The light wasn’t really with her.

Rebecca took out her cell and activated the flashlight. She hadn’t realized that she had made a noise until Dale came rushing into the room asking what the matter was, she had heard her gasp from below.

“Look, Dale. Angelwings!”

“What? Oh, yeah, your dad.”

“He loved butterflies.”

“Is it dead?,” she asked.

“Hibernating. They hibernate, rare in a house, but… well, there! Hold this, please.”

Rebecca gave her cell, flashlight still lit, to Dale, repositioning her arm every time she put her pencil to paper, seeing the butterfly in a new angle. A few sighs and disgruntled “Becki, C’mon” comments didn’t halt the five pages of full and partial sketches that followed.

The last exasperated puff of air over her shoulder brought Rebecca back. The pencils went back into their case and into her backpack, the sketchbook following. She took the phone from Dale, leaving the flashlight on as she realized they were now in a very dark room. Dale leaned in for a kiss and got a perfunctory one in return: movement from slightly above had recaptured Rebecca’s attention.

Wings fluttered, a slow heartbeat of one, then another. She was transfixed, staring, knowing she did not touch it, knowing it shouldn’t be awake, but Rebecca held her breath as the Angelwing took wobblily flight. It was coming towards the light in her hand, attracted like a moth, but gliding through the dust mote air.

The butterfly landed on her left arm. Rebecca couldn’t move; the butterfly didn’t. The wings were translucent, and even though she knew the coloring was wrong, this one was summer greens on her arm. Dale took a few steps back and snapped a series of shots from any angle possible as Rebecca, and her Anglewing tagged each other into statues.

A beep from the cell, battery dying, and the mood broke. Rebecca’s startled movement sent the Angelwing flying. She watched as it flew up to the crevice between the floors and disappeared. They left the house soon after: there was no safe way to get to the attic. Dale had to take Rebecca’s hand and lead her out.

They drifted apart as well, months later, spring just knocking away the frigid weather that followed. Rebecca looked for butterflies everywhere, in reality, and through her imagination. Sheer fabric became wings; cotton balls became cocoons. Clouds, mist, steam out of the kettle. All this took Dale away and into the arms of another; Rebecca saw it happen and did nothing to prevent it.

Rebecca’s obsession with butterflies overtook her. She researched mythologies, folktales, symbolism. She drew and painted and sculpted butterflies. It wasn’t enough. She reconnected with her father. He went with her on her search the following winter for the Willes house, but it had fallen sometime during that year, a mass of timber and broken glass left behind, a sign in front that stated the property was sold for development. No butterfly. No Angelwings. Not in that spot. Not in that new winter.

The following summer found Rebecca hosting a booth of her art at the state Renaissance Faire. Business was good, and she had many offers of commissions, for her art as well as her time. She was gracious with both, but her eyes searched along the fields that weren’t trampled upon for something else. They were there, flying around, hiding, resting, being chased by children, barked at by dogs, hunted by the birds.

Two booths away were the beginning of Tattoo Alley. Rebecca had been admiring the art that went on there in most of the tents, not all. One, in particular, caught her eye every time she would take her break and walk the grounds. This artist specialized in things in flight, realistic depictions as well as abstract. The presentation of a summer-long project on one of the Faire’s workers back-an angel in flight-drew massive applause from all and the full attention of Rebecca.

Bringing her sketchbooks over while there was that end of the summer lull, Rebecca and Cynthia poured over the images and discussed what could, and should (in Cynthia’s critical eye) be done: a full sleeve, left arm, from wrist to shoulder. A weaving of butterflies in flight and at rest, with the centerpiece being the Polygona, in shades of green.

It took the next month of scheduling, sketches, arguing, fussing, and agreements before Rebecca took the chair and Cynthia began her art. The sleeve was complete by the first frosts of Autumn; Rebecca made sleeveless tops her main go to, only covering up her arms when frostbite threatened (or so related Cynthia to their friends).

“They are hibernating,” she would tell others when she was covered up, keeping her arm as still as can be.  As soon as the temperature inside, or the weather outdoors, allowed, they were set free. Rebecca felt free, even when Cynthia held her.

She had asked for realism, but found magic instead.

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Author’s Note:

This was inspired by the photo at the head of this piece. I met this young woman at a dance performance and was taken by the artistry of the tattoo. The photo does not do it justice.

Before anyone gets on my case: I politely asked if I may take a photo of her arm, told her why I was doing so, and what I intended to do with it. She gave me her permission. I also showed her the photo so she could be assured that it centered on the art and nothing salicious. While we exchanged names, the names in this story are not hers, nor anything else beyond the tat.

The germ of a very different idea hit me when I viewed it. Where the story went, well, this is where it took me.

I’m glad I went this way. I hope, if she views this (gave her my card), she’s happy with it as well.