Free Spirits At Home

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is FRAZZLED. A couple of days ago, searching for something else, I came across this story posted five years ago. Since it fit’s the topic, I’ll give it a rerun:


I’m peacefully reading my book, but glance up when I hear my youngest two arguing. They seem to be in a struggle to pull one of the Luv-U bears apart. Youngest son Accord clutches the teddy bear’s leg in one hand; his other hand is entwined in his big sister’s hair and he’s yanking hard. Simplicity’s pulling away, slapping at her brother, tugging at the Bear, and screaming blue murder.

“Peace! Peace, you two,” I say in my loudest gentle voice.

I see Simplicity grab her Precious Peace figurine; I do believe she’s about to smack her little brother on the head with it. “Simplicity, chill out!” I bellow.

She pauses, looks up at me and begins to wail. “Accord keeps grabbing my teddy bear! Make him let go.”

“It doesn’t matter if he takes it, sweetheart. Just find another toy to play with. You need to keep a calm spirit. And, Accord, you stop pulling your sister’s hair. You are causing her stress.”

Suddenly I hear another screech as if something’s being slaughtered in the kitchen. I set my book aside and see Softness, our cat, come tearing through the room, fur all on end. Our oldest son, age five, tears into the living room in hot pursuit.

I managed to grab him as he runs past. “Cool it, Solace. All this stress is bad for Softness. She might run away from home.”

“I might, too, if you don’t let me be a free spirit and do what I want.” How has that boy gotten so sassy lately?

He tugs and twists, trying to wriggle out of my grip, but I plop him on the couch beside me and order him to take five. When he continues to writhe around I tell him as serenely as possible, “If you try to get off that couch I’ll sit on you.”

Oh, now Simplicity’s wailing again. Her poor Luv-U Bear obviously needs an trip to the toy hospital to have a leg sewed on. With a very “stirred” spirit she chases Accord across the room and pushes him hard. He falls right on top of one of the pails I’ve set out to collect the drips from our leaking roof.

“Hey, you two! You’re really sweating the small stuff.” Water run into the cracks between the floor boards. “Look! Now it’s going to be dripping in the basement. Will everybody please just take deep breaths and relax.” I demonstrate.

Solace pipes up, “Sure, Feather Brain.”

I glare at him. Feather-brain! Where do my kid learn these things? I’m about to upend him and smack his bottom when I realize this would really be sweating the small stuff. After all, these are only words, right? I can’t allow my spirit to get worked up over a child’s hurtful words or I’ll be setting a bad example.

Still, for one moment I wondered if the writer of that note really knew what he was talking about. Had that person ever been a parent?

You see, back when I was twenty I was walking down the sidewalk and I found this note. Of course I was curious, so I picked it up and read: “The Key to True Happiness in Life.”

Oh, wonderful! I was a frazzled worry-wart at the time. As I read that title I was thrilled to know that I would finally learn the secret of having a happy life.

Below the title were these instructions:
If you want to be truly happy in this life, you need to seek serenity.
Learn to relax, to keep calm amidst all the hustle and bustle around you.
Take time to marvel at the beauty in small things, to smell the roses.
Count to one hundred when you feel your spirit is stirred.
Release all your anger and hostility into the Universe.
Don’t let yourself be disturbed by rumors or strife.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Smile. Let yourself be happy.

I was totally blown away. How different from my life at that point! I mean, here I was in college to become a teacher, and working a part-time job to pay for my education. Talk about pressure! In fact, at the moment I found this note I was actually hurrying to get to my job on time.

But this little writing changed everything. Why should I rush through life? So what if I got to work ten minutes late? My boss shouldn’t be stressed out over such a minor thing. So I not only slowed down, I actually stopped to smell the flowers in some of the planters en route.

My high-pressure boss was in a bad mood when I arrived, though, and complained about me getting to work late. I showed her the note and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful philosophy of life?” But she just grumbled and told me to get busy. Talk about stressed! A week later she fired me.

Before I spied this note I was trying so hard to keep my grades up, but from then on I didn’t let small things like numbers get me worked up anymore. “So what if my marks are poor,” I told myself. “I’m a very smart person. I don’t need a number on a piece of paper to reassure me of that.”

Sad to say, my teachers weren’t into Serenity. A couple of them took me aside and told me if I didn’t pull up my socks I wasn’t got to make it. Well, that was stressful, right? So I just dropped out. If they couldn’t accept me the way I was, tough!

In time I met this really great guy who also subscribed to the whole Serenity lifestyle. We started living together — no names on a piece of paper to shackle us. We thought it would be neat to change our names to reflect our beliefs, though: he called me Songbird; I called him Harmony. And life was bliss for our first nine months together.

He’s tried several jobs since and so have I, but as you know our whole Western society is built around making money — which leads to pressure and anxiety galore. What a hassle! We decided to go on Welfare so we could concentrate on tranquility.

My folks gripe because we can’t afford a car, but hey! We have all the time in the world; we can walk. At this minute Harmony is probably walking back from the Food Bank with this week’s groceries. It’s actually more of a hassle for me that the roof leaks, but we have buckets, if the kids don’t knock them over.

As I’m sitting here reflecting on the note that changed my life, Softness the cat dares to come padding back into the room. Solace sends one glance in my direction, then jumps off the couch to give Softness’s tail a hard yank. There’s a yowl and she squeezes herself behind the couch just out of reach of little hands.

Now Simplicity and Accord leap off their chairs and join Solace in the effort to pull Softness out from her hiding place. Screeching and scrapping, they ignore all my calming words. If they don’t stop this, I might end up frazzled, and that’s never good. I take another calming breath, grab Solace’s arm and pull him away from the couch.

“I’m not a free spirit now,” he screams, trying hard to distance himself from me. “You’re preventing my freedom.”

Accord grabs Simplicity’s Luv-U bear and dashes off to his bedroom, slamming the door. Her siren-like wails are about to pierce my eardrums.

I hang on to Solace and pray for the restoration of serenity. It mystifies me how Harmony and I, so committed to maintaining tranquility in our home, have produced such stressed-out, resistant children. I’m looking forward to the day when they’re all in school and I can have some peace and quiet.


Rowan Lane Cottage

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is DANCE

And Crimson’s Creative Challenge is this quaint little cottage:

Every week the challenge is to post…

  • An answering photo
  • A cartoon
  • A joke
  • A caption
  • An anecdote
  • A short story (flash fiction)
  • A poem
  • A newly minted proverb, adage or saying
  • An essay
  • A song—the lyrics or the performance

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

  • Your creative offering is indeed yours
  • Your writing is kept to 150 words or less

So here’s my response:

Rowan Lane Cottage

Here we are. Rowan Lane Cottage, aka ‘Home of the Slashers’. Are you ready?”

Linna cringed, picturing blood red splashes throughout the house. “You’re scaring me.” She clutched Chapter One to her chest.

“Bwahaha! At these meetings we’ll toughen you up, gal. Our group is good at that.”

“Surely they go easy on newcomers,” Linna asked, fighting the urge to flee. “Encouragement builds confidence and all that?”

Tannis patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ll be merciful. But today’s editors don’t dance attendance on writers; manuscripts have to shine from the first line or they won’t get past eagle-eyed gatekeepers. If you want to be a published author our group can help that happen, but it may be painful. We’ve some excellent writers attending and you’ll get a good critique. Believe me, your work will be better for it.”

Linna straightened up. “Yes, I’m ready.”

The door swung open.

Sudden Reality Check

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LIFE’S ALLUSIONS

My response will be a story about a young couple who’ve come to a crisis-point over life’s allusions and illusions.


Rick pulled out his receipts and the notebook in which he was recording their monthly expenses. For several weeks Lexi had been alluding to the lack of money for extras; this morning she’d actually had to leave some things at the checkout because the debit card wouldn’t cover her grocery bill. The cashier had been nice about it, but she was so humiliated.

Her allusions were getting him down. He’d hoped to give her so much more than a tight budget and no money for extras. If possible he would find some way to free up some more funds for groceries. They did need to eat.

He started entering the receipts in his notebook when he came across one from Turner’s Home Trimmings. Lampshade: $42. Lampshade? Guess that explains why there wasn’t enough to cover the groceries, he thought.

Rick was annoyed. Why on earth did she buy a new lampshade when funds are so tight. She seems to have some serious illusions — or delusions? — about the lifestyle we can live on our income. Well, this lavish spending has to stop. Now.

“Lexi,” he called. “Did you just spend $42 on a lampshade?”

She hurried into the room. “Yes, I did,” she answered defensively. “The shade beside the couch was looking so tattered, I was ashamed to have anyone into our living room. I know what Mom would say if she saw it.”

“We could have made do with it for another year. I hate to disillusion you, but we can’t afford all this nice new stuff at this point in time. I’m not earning the kind of money your Dad is, not yet, so you just can’t spend like your mom does.”

“It’s only one thing — the first new thing this year. And there’s always VISA.”

“There is NOT always VISA. Credit does not mean FREE. Credit means deferred payment — preferably only until the end of the month. We have to cut out ALL unnecessary expenses until I’m earning more commission. Then you can buy new lampshades and such.”

“Well, if it makes you happy, I’ve cut out one expense. I’ve stopped buying birth control pills.”

Rick nodded. “Well, if you can do without…” He stopped and looked at her sharply. “And…?”

She blushed.


“And now we’re going to have a baby.” She sounded embarrassed, uncertain.

Rick put his head in his hands, extra expenses scribbling themselves in his brain. “That’s wonderful.” He took a deep breath and looked up at her again. “We’ll manage somehow.”

Lexi had imagined how she’d share the great news and they’d be so thrilled together. Now her illusions had burst like a pricked bubble, turning her stomach over on their way down. She rushed to the bathroom.

Another Dream Gone Down

This morning while I was searching for facts to go with my last “ANNIVERSARY” post, I came across one that I’ve decided to pair up with Crimson’s Creative Challenge this week. Here’s her photo and details:

Every Wednesday I post a photo. You respond with something CREATIVE.
Here are some suggestions:

  • An answering photo
  • A cartoon
  • A joke
  • A caption
  • An anecdote
  • A short story (flash fiction)
  • A poem
  • A newly minted proverb, adage or saying
  • An essay
  • A song—the lyrics or the performance

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

  • Your creative offering is indeed yours
  • Your writing is kept to 150 words or less
Here’s this week’s photo

And here’s my response:

April 14, 1912

“If you don’t quit watching that ship and look where you’re puttin’ your feet we’ll be fishing you out of the drink.”

“But just look at her, will you,” Greg exclaimed as the ship sailed away. “Such a beauty! What I wouldn’t give to be aboard.”

“I don’t know. She might be cursed. What with everyone sayin’ even God can’t sink her, I’m afearin’ such pride’ may be over-grievin’ to th’Almighty. What if He decides to prove…”

Greg interrupted the pessimistic old salt. “The Almighty doesn’t give two pence what people are saying about her.”

“Lotta people aboard that ship.”

“And I’d give anything to be one of them!” Greg sighed and went back to winding cables on the dock. “Someday I’ll take that Titanic ship myself. See if I don’t!”

Come morning his dream was lost in the Atlantic’s icy waters, along with 1500 other dreams.

The Always-Never Syndrome

The Ragtag Daily Prompt is IMPECCABLE
The Word of the Day Prompt is KNIFE
and the Discovery Prompt is TEACH

When I saw these three prompts, the first few lines of my story fell into place naturally, but then I needed the rest of the story to deal with…

The Dreaded Always-Never Syndrome

Her kitchen counter was impeccable, except for a jammy knife and a scattering of bread crumbs on the counter. The sight made her furious.

When she screeched Nick came running, toast in hand. “Mom. What happened?”

“What’s this doing here?” She pointed to the knife. “Didn’t we teach you to put dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the counter when you’re done making food?” She glared at him.

“Is that all? I thought somebody stepped on Nero’s tail again. You sound just like him when you screech like that.”

“You never clean up after yourself. You always leave a mess that I have to clean up!”

“I’ll get it. You don’t always need make such a huge thing of such a small mess. Anyway, you never squawk like that when Uncle James leaves a mess on your precious pristine counter.”

“It’s not my job to teach Uncle James. He’s a temporary fixture here until he gets work again.”

“He’s been here four months now. He’ll never find work. Especially when the food’s free and you always wait on him hand and foot.”

“I DO NOT wait on him hand and foot! I never…”

“Whoa, people,” Dad said as he walked into the kitchen. “It sounds like the Always-Never Syndrome has attacked again. Break away. Let’s get back to reality.”

“Nick left this grubby knife on the counter.” Mom pointed. “And crumbs. Again.”

Dad nodded at Nick. “Clean it up.”

Under Mom’s scowl Nick grabbed the knife and stuck it in the dishwasher. He wiped the crumbs off the counter, then quickly left the room to avoid further rehearsal of his faults.

Dad put his arm around Mom. “He does clean up most of the time, doesn’t he?”

“Well…I guess…”

“He’s trying. I don’t always remember to do things I should, either. And maybe you don’t, either?”

Mom was still irritated. “He said James will never find a job. That I wait on him hand and foot.”

Dad sighed. “Once always and never start flying, truth hides in a closet somewhere. It’s okay to help James now while he needs it. He’s sill job-hunting, maybe gets a little discouraged, but he’s persistent and will find one. He will move out — I promise — and when he does we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. Someday we may even talk about ‘the good times we had while Uncle James stayed with us’.”

“I suppose…”

“Nick will remember to clean up most of the time. And someday he’ll get a job, too, and make his own messes in his own place. Then we’ll be on our own and you’ll have only me to pick up after. Who knows? I may have even caught on by then, too.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “And I’ll always love you.”

She threw her arms around him. “Now I remember why I married you.”

The Big Event


The “Quill & Quaver” mystery writers group in Los Delitos held their last-before summer meeting at the end of March. When the suggestion was made that they, together with the Sangfroid Writers from Los Calidos, should host a joint Writers Conference the following year, it received hearty support. When presented to the Sangfroids, they were just as enthused.

A committee was chosen to do the ground work, choosing a suitable date and seeing which speakers and venues might be available for that time. Someone suggested that this event be held in early April, before folks started to spend time at their cottages and outdoor sports were getting underway. A vote was held and a date chosen; a joint committee of four was selected to orchestrate the event.

The venue was spoken for and the committee found a plenary speaker available during that time. Workshop topics were suggested and voted on. Chosen were:
— “Crime Scene Details You Need to Know”
— “Combining Crime & Romance”
— “Red Herrings and Other Plotting Devices”
— “Compelling Writing”
— “Tie Up Those Loose Ends”
— “Setting Up Your Author Website.”

When club members heard that Jarrold Heppner had agreed to be the plenary speaker they were overjoyed. An author with 45 novels under his belt, he’d be the perfect “Rah-rah, get out there and write!” motivator. Various other published authors were contacted find those who’d be willing to conduct a workshop on each topic; half a dozen of these were selected as presenters.

Finally the details fell into place. The Writers Conference would take place April 10th-11th at the Ice Palace Hotel in Los Calidos. Catering was all arranged. At the last meeting there were some worried souls who feared some detail may have been missed, or some other, bigger crowd-drawing event might overshadow theirs, but everyone came away from the meeting reassured that all precautions had been taken and the event would be a success.

As the date approached, everyone took up their roles with enthusiasm. A few months ahead, advertising leaflets were printed; these were distributed around both cities. The club secretaries e-mailed hundreds of different groups and organizations that might be interested. Registrations began coming in. Last minute changes were made to the menu to accommodate particular dietary needs. Name tags were printed and assembled.

And then Covid-19 reared its ugly head.


The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is FINALLY
The Discover writing prompt is: ORCHESTRATE
This story is fiction, though I do know about organizing writers conferences. And I’m categorizing this as HUMOR. May as well, right? 😉