The Look

Another Wednesday has come and with it the prompt for Friday Fictioneers, the rule of which is to gaze at the prompt until inspired, write our tales and trim them down to a bare-bones 100 words. Then participants shall post their stories and link our posts to all the others via InLinkz.

“Muchos gracias” to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this menagerie of writing talent, and today for also supplying the photo prompt. To read what others have written, or to add your own, you need to find and click on a blue frog. You’ll find one on Rochelle’s blog, but alas, I can’t get the things to survive on mine.

I like to write humor, but this morning’s picture made me think of something other. Since the basic facts here are true, I guess one would label this story Creative Non-fiction.

PHOTO © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

THE LOOK

Zanna stared into her mirror. “Lose another five pounds,” her photographer had said. “You can do it!”

This time she’d resisted. “Don’t men want women curvy?”

“Designers want spaghetti strands with a smile, sweetheart. Curves I can add digitally. Long and lean brings the best fashion shoots.”

At 5ft-11″ and 105 lbs Zanna could count every rib. I could start selling organs, she thought wryly, those that still work. She opted for skipping more lunches and jogging longer.

“She’s got the look.” The ad words struck her funny as she eyed her reflection. She laughed until she sobbed.

Cousin Eric’s Burger

I’ve been thinking of trying something on the darker side for a change so I hope you’ll accept this second response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt. My efforts at inserting a dark and sinister twist to a tale will begin with this scene from Friday Fictioneers Family picnic.

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, a gifted writer of historical fiction. Check out her blog for the “Blue Frog” link to all the other stories written for this prompt. This week’s photo prompt is supplied by CE Ayr a writer of short fiction tales with a twist. (Please note: this photo is copyright and cannot be used elsewhere without the owner’s permission.)

PHOTO © CEAyr

Cousin Eric’s Burger

Cousin Eric enthralled the children with his “alien space rock” story at the FF picnic.  Little Andy, especially, peppered Eric with questions until his mom finally shushed him.

While fixing their burgers by the grill, Andy piped up again. “Uncle Eric…”

“Hush! You’ve pestered Uncle enough.”

“But Mom…”

Dad frowned. “Not another word until after dinner.” Andy sighed and shrugged.

After they’d eaten Eric said, “Now Andy, what did you want to tell me so badly before?”

“Two flies landed in the ketchup on your burger and you didn’t see when you put the top on. It doesn’t matter now. They’ve…uh…disappeared.”

~~~~~~

Afterwards:
Our beloved Aunt Ardatha Flint, attending the event, took notes on the ruckus Andy’s announcement caused, for anyone who’s interested:

Andy’s mother and father were duly horrified, embarrassed and chastened. (Hop it, Mark Twain. Long live adjectives!)

Cousins Eric and Martin wrote a new blues tune for the occasion. Sounded something like, “There’s a bier on my steer,” but don’t quote me.

Cousin Shelley and other tender-hearted ones were blinded by tears. Cousin Dale — a bit sassy — burst something while rolling on the floor laughing. Didn’t catch what; I think she said it in French.

Cousins Bill and Russ gagged — but they’ve swallowed worse in their day. (We all know who munch the mums last week.) The Scottish cousins insisted, “Nothin’ but mutton for me!” Cousin Sandra, the cook, threatened to stuff them with haggis.

Cousin Sabina mulled over this extra spice while Cousin Reena vowed to reinvent the hamburger. The vegan cousins, feeling vindicated, were blooming with good cheer.

Cousins Iain and Indira I’d us indecisively; Cousin Kat searched for one of her nine lives that escaped in the ruckus. Cousin Keith puzzled over a text message he insists was written in Greek.

The British cousins bristled when they heard others joke about doing a Brexit from this unprofitable clan. “Rubbing salt in the wounds!” they wailed. Then when the Yanks started yukking it up about “Boston iced tea” I feared we’d have a Donnybrook.

But Cousin Linda urged everyone to remain calm, Cousin Sarah dealt with the pottier ones and Dr Ali in front of the stair, attempted to reprogramme the hotheads.

Cousin CE, just in from France, offered to make a short story of the fuss by feeding us all to Nessie. However, I’ve heard her bite isn’t too sound anymore.

Cousin Chris was extremely cross when her membership in the Miss Marple Mystery and Mayhem Society was suddenly and inexplicably annulled. (How I love adverbs!)

Restoring Grandpa’s Clock

Colleen frowned at her brother. “I still think you should just ask her for it instead of trying to steal it. I can’t see how you can help but get caught, Eli. Is that clock really worth so much to you that you’d stoop to theft?”

“It’s the principle of the thing, Sis. Auntie just claimed all Grandpa & Grandma’s stuff and took it home with her, just because she lives close. And she’s going to hoard it until the day she dies. All the stuff they wanted to give us will be passed on to her children.”

“But still…”

“You can’t really call this theft exactly; it’s more like a restoration of our inheritance. I know Grandpa wanted to give me that clock; he told me several times. One day when I was there he chiselled my name on the back so everyone would know. I’m sure Auntie’s not blind — so she’s just keeping it. And I want it back.”

Colleen shook her head sadly, remembering the Lone Star quilt Grandma promised her that she wasn’t going to get, either. But she wasn’t going to go steal it. “And when she sees it’s missing? If I’m there right at that time, how can I help but be implicated?”

“She won’t even know it’s gone. You know how cluttered Auntie’s house is. You could lose a Saint Bernard in there.” He had a point. Auntie’s house was bulging now that it held so many of her parents’ possessions as well as her own.

Eli ran his hand through his hair and outlined his plan again. “I’ll be driving the company truck. You know the old lane to the pasture, not far from Auntie’s place. There’s a that clump of chokecherry bushes; I’ll park behind those and take the path through the woods. When you see my truck sitting there, you just go ring her doorbell and chat her up.”

“I hope she won’t guess how nervous I am.”

“Relax. Ask her about her garden; get her to show you her perennials, like women do. You’ll be with her the whole time, so she’ll know you didn’t take it. If she sees my truck and guesses I was around, I’ll say I was doing a job nearby.” He concluded his plan with, “She has no right to have that clock. It’s mine and I want it.”

The next afternoon Colleen pulled into Auntie’s driveway at the designated time and took a deep breath. Her nerves jittered like a swarm of grasshoppers and she felt a tension headache coming on. She’d caught only a glimpse of the Apex Roofing truck as she passed the old lane; Eli had hidden it well.

As she got out of the car she sighed a prayer and made up her mind. She would come right out and ask Auntie for the clock Grandpa had promised Eli, even if doing so might implicate her if Auntie found it missing later. She could hardly bear to think of her brother stealing it, heirloom or not. This decision gave her courage as she walked up to Auntie’s door and punched the door chime.

Auntie opened the door a few moments later. “Colleen! How nice you came. I was just about to have a glass of tea.”

“I… I was driving by and thought I’d stop for a minute,” Colleen began. “I know we haven’t been together since Grandpa’s funeral and I was thinking it’s high time.” The word “time” chimed in her conscience like a grandfather clock.

“Well, I’m so glad you’ve come!” Auntie gushed. “Come join me for an iced tea. Yes, when the folks died I was so overwhelmed with it all, all the arrangements. I’d never been a executrix before… So much legal stuff to look after. Then I had to have the house cleaned out within two weeks.

“You did?”

“Yes, it was sold privately, you know, and the new folks wanted possession right away, so I just gathered up all Mother & Dad’s stuff and brought it here. I’ve finally gotten up courage to sort through it. I was so happy when I discovered a list Mother had made.” Auntie grinned. “She’d rolled it up in an old slip in her undies drawer. First place you’d look, right?”

Colleen laughed “Well, no. And yet, somehow that sounds like something Grandma might do.”

“It’s a list of all the things they wanted each of you grandchildren to have — and I see you’re to get that Lone Star quilt she made years back. Now that you’re here I can give it to you.”

“And the clock Grandpa carved…?”

“O, that has your brother’s name on it. Dad said several times that it would be Eli’s someday so I’m planning to give it to him next time I see him.”

“Wow, Auntie, That’s super. You know, he came along with me today, sort of, but he wanted to…was going to…wander through the woods a bit. But I’ll give him a shout. He’ll be so happy to know he’s getting Grandpa’s clock. Maybe you could pour us both a glass of iced tea while I go find him.”

Colleen hurried outside and headed down the path to the woods. But before she called Eli’s name, she looked into the heavens and waved her grateful thanks.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This story was initially posted on Christine Composes in Aug 2014. I plan to include it in my upcoming book, Wisdom in Whimsy.

 

Fan Mail

Time for another inning of Friday Fictioneers. First, three cheers for Rochelle W-F, the host and referee of our rowdy players, ever watchful for word-count penalties. If you’d like to add your contribution to today’s prompt, head over to Rochelle’s blog and click on the blue frog.
Secondly, thanks to Dale Rogerson for her contribution of a photo prompt. Her innocuous colorful bouquets have generated stalker tales and broken romances, also some nostalgic items. My offering today is neither here nor there.

©Dale Rogerson

Mom had filled the tall vase with flowers, likely to cheer him up. The florist’s delivery stumped him, though. “Bryce, #17.” He read the card.
In town visiting my cousin and took in the game last night. You guys made some terrific plays — don’t let this defeat discourage you. Been magnificently trounced myself on occasion.

Bryce’s eyes widened when he saw the signature. “I can’t believe this!” He grabbed his cell phone but before he could dial, it rang.
The voice of his teammate Manny blasted his ear. “Hey, Bryce. You’ll never guess what just got delivered here!”
“Maybe I will.”

Overheard

Friday Fiction chimes again in Promptland and dings in my InBox, aided by the sweet purple Tinklebell, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Many thanks to her for presiding over this notorious party-line and to J Hardy Carroll for contributing the picture that nudges our creativity this week.

It took some doing to squeeze my contribution into 100 words but I made it. The seed for this tale was planted when I worked with a fellow who peddled drugs on the side. Being on the opposite side of the spectrum from me, he was hostile and would have been delighted to see me quit, but thankfully no plotting like the type in my story.

Photo © J Hardy Carroll

“Yeah, he hates me, but I never thought he’d go this far. And he’ll have planted enough so I’m nailed for trafficking, not just possession. You saved my life, pal!”

“I’m blown away! Sure, I recognized your coworker, but hearing your name, then ‘One call to the RCMP and she’ll be in for years.’ What’s chances I’d be right there to catch that?”

“I’ll head for the nearest police station, tell them what you overheard and ask them to search my car — before they come looking for me.”

“I’d call this one amazing happenstance!”

“I’d call it a miracle.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve been away from writing for awhile, wandering through the DropBox Thousand file-lands to gather material for my upcoming book of poems and short stories. I need a better filing system! I’ve made ten sections in my book and putting each item in the right section has involved a lot of shuffling since some stories would work in several sections.

Once the manuscript was ready to be formatted, I converted it from Word Perfect to MS Word — and the fun began! My first plan (four years ago) was for a print book so I (misguidedly) purchased a number of graphics. Now I added them to my e-book file and the switch from WP to Word has thrown things out of sync big time. I don’t have Word myself, so I must take my file to our son-in-law’s computer when I want to open and read it. Which I did and was rather dismayed…

I’ve decided to do an e-book format only — but you rarely see e-books with graphics. So I’ve a question for you seasoned writers: Would you add small box graphics to illustrate an e-book of poems and (mostly) short tales?

I’ve also been beta-reading a book for Florida Pastor JS Park, who’s writing about depression with an aim to helping both those who suffer and those who want to empathize. He hopes to help readers find a better understanding and ability to cope. The book is live on Amazon.com now; you can find it here: How Bad It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression.

Winnie Plays Monopoly

Another tale of Winnie, our blog’s crotchety, opinionated senior. These days she hopes to alter her widow status by altar-ing Ernie Harris.

Casserole

When Ernie opened the door, Winnie gave him her most cheerful smile. “Brought you a casserole for lunch, Ernie. Thought you might like a little bit of good home cooking once in awhile.”

“Why, that’s right nice of you, Winnie. And your good food just hits the spot. I can’t cook to save my life, but at least I’ve learned how to heat things up in the mike. I haven’t mastered boiling water yet, though.”

“You just need someone to teach you these things.” Winnie paused, arranging her next thought. “Ernie, we’ve known each other a long time, so I’m not going to beat around the bush. Have you ever thought of getting married again?”

“Oh, yeah. I started thinking about it a couple of weeks after Barb passed and I’ve been thinking about it every day since. A fellow gets lonely, you know.”

Winnie’s cheeks turned a bit pink. “Well, maybe we…you and I…”

Ernie deftly derailed her train of thought. “But I know it’ll never happen. No woman would be fool enough to marry me. Not with all my bad habits. In fact, Barb often threatened to get an apartment downtown where she couldn’t hear me snoring every night. Nope. No one with any sense’d have me.”

Winnie shut her mouth and stared at him a moment. “Well, I’d better be getting along. Hope you enjoy the casserole.” She shoved the dish into his hands and hurried back down the sidewalk.

cooking-1363061_640Ernie took a deep breath. That was close one. He chuckled and carried the dish to the fridge, setting it beside the ones Agnes Jones and Phoebe Folden brought around last night. He chuckled as he took out the beef stew and lemon pie Francine Miller dropped off this morning. Sometimes it paid not to know how to cook.

“Still, Ernie,” he advised himself, “You’d better keep on your toes when these old chicks start bringing casseroles or you might end up being hen-pecked for the rest of your days.”

He was still chuckling about his quick wits half an hour later as he passed the gas bar and saw Abner Stilsbie getting his tank filled.

“What are you looking so happy about, Ernie?” Ab called. Ernie joined him by the pumps and the two men chatted awhile. He wasn’t going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, so he didn’t tell Ab exactly what transpired. But…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Winnie.” Abner Stilsbie tapped her on the shoulder in the grocery store later that day. “How’s life?”

“Oh, hi, Ab. Well, I can’t complain. My arthritis isn’t so bad today and I’m getting used to them new blood pressure pills the doctor gave me. I’ll sure be glad when the weather cools off a bit, though. I haven’t been able to take the heat so well since I hit fifty, but I take it easy on days like this.”

“I hear you’ve taken to playing games with Ernie Harris and you almost won.” He winked. “Did you buy Park Place and Boardwalk. Or maybe you bought up all the railroads?”

Winnie stared at him. “Abner Stilsbie, whatever are you talking about?”

“I saw Ernie just before dinner and he was looking like that cat that got the cream. I asked him what he was so happy about and he said he’d been playing Monopoly with you. He said for a moment it looked like he was headed for jail and bankruptcy, but at the last moment he pulled out a “Get out of jail free” card.”

Winnie gasped and her brows formed a deep frown.

“I supposed you must ‘a bought up some of them pricey digs and were charging high rents. Though honestly, I’d ‘a never took you for one to play Monopoly, Winnie.”

Winnie’s eyes narrowed. “So he was playing games, was he? Well from now on he can
live on baloney sandwiches.”

Ab’s eyes widened. “What’s Monopoly got to do with baloney sandwiches?”

“Ernie Harris can go boil in his own hot water.” Winnie grabbed a tin of coffee from the shelf. “And I hope it’s pickle brine.” She marched away in a fury.

Ab’s eyebrows shot up and he shook his head. “Talk about a sore loser. I’ll never understand women. Never!”

Monopoly

Old Steel Forges Chains

Better late than never, here I come with my bowl of stew to add to the Friday Fictioneers buffet. I didn’t think I’d be able to cook up anything this week—too many other irons in the fire— but my Muse has been bustling around in the kitchen putting things together.

Our witty Hostess and Toastess for this pot-luck is Rochelle. She serves up blue frog links to anyone who wishes partake of the meal; these you can find over at her blog, Addicted to Purple where you’ll usually find her seasoning her words. (I’m feeling very metaphoric tonight. Is it full moon?)

Photo prompt © Claire Sheldon

Enough Steel Forges A Chain

“You’re trying so hard to run from the past, you’re going to miss your future.”

“I’ve made mistakes, Jeff. Major ones.”

“He hurt you bad, now you’re scared to let anyone get close to you. Scared of being trampled on again.”

“I have some important lessons to remember.”

“And you’ve piled up bad memories like these old staples.” Jeff grabbed the cup and trashed the clips. “Out with the old.”

Vonnie glared at him.

“A pile of steel can forge a chain, Vonn. And God knows you don’t need any more chains.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Still friends?”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This hasn’t been the most upbeat I’ve lived through. I started cleaning up my sewing room Monday and all the “To Finish” projects coming out of the closets threw me into a mini-depression centered on my main character flaw. Add to that Tuesday’s sudden appearance of outdoor bebittes in our bathroom, creepy-crawlies that needed dispatching. Ah, summertime!

I don’t handle multi-mess well; it tends to tower over me menacingly until I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I wrote a short story yesterday in response to the prompt, but it felt as gloomy as I did. Still, I may use it some other time. But I dealt with some pressing tasks today and tonight while making supper this opening sentence came to mind. It seemed like something I might use in a story sometime.

I munched and mused, letting the rest of the story sort itself out. The paperclips might represent something undesirable stored up too long. Painful memories. I thought of those of us who have endured some abuse in our childhood and have had to — or are having to — deal with dark memories, yet not let them damage our future. I’ve left it open as to who gave Vonnie those painful lessons, but I think Jeff might help her through. Do you? Or will she fish the paper clips out of the garbage as soon as he’s gone?