Time For Adventure

It’s time to respond to this week’s Six Sentence Stories prompt from GirlieOnTheEdge — and this time the prompt word is KEY.

And since time is so EVANESCENT M-W’s Word of the Day — and the Ragtag Daily Prompt is GULCH, I’m throwing in responses to these two prompts as well.

TEMPIS FUGIT

“I tell you, my friend, ‘Tempis Fugit’ : that’s the key to understanding and making the most of this life. Time is evanescent, deciduous, fugacious, fleeting, transient…and we who wish for bold adventures must seize the moment and pack it full ‘ere it escapes us forever.”

“So what do you plan to do about it?” his friend asked.

“Ah, therein lies the problem; we may dream but between our desires and our deeds a great GULCH is fixed.”

Seeing his friend looking puzzled, he elaborated: “Gulch…as in canyon, gorge, gulf, flume, ravine, abyss, chasm.”

“You know, pal, if you spent less time studying the dictionary, you’d have lots more minutes to try those bold adventures you’re talking about.”

Bold adventure image from MoteOoEd — Pixabay

Who Has It Better?

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning is ENVY. American poet Edgar Guest had some wise thoughts on this subject and many of his verses speak of being content, so I’m going to post a couple today.
Here’s the first…

THE OTHER FELLOW

Whose luck is better far than ours?
The other fellow’s.
Whose road seems always lined with flowers?
The other fellow’s.
Who is the man who seems to get
Most joy in life, with least regret,
Who always seems to win his bet?
The other fellow.

Who fills the place we think we’d like?
The other fellow.
Whom does good fortune always strike?
The other fellow.
Whom do we envy, day by day?
Who has more time than we to play?
Who is it, when we mourn, seems gay?
The other fellow.

Who seems to miss the thorns we find?
Th other fellow.
Who seems to leave us all behind?
The other fellow.
Who never seems to feel the woe,
The anguish and the pain we know?
Who gets the best seats at the show?
The other fellow.

And yet, my friend, who envies you?
The other fellow.
Who thinks he gathers only rue?
The other fellow.
Who sighs because he thinks that he
Would infinitely happier be,
If he could be like you or me?
The other fellow.

From his book JUST FOLKS
copyright 1917 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

Blackbirds in the Lilac Bush

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was LILAC. I’ve been doing some serious thinking today and decided to share my thoughts in a story of sorts.

Image by koala0815 — Pixabay

The Lilac Bush

One day a lilac sprout appeared on this earth and began to stretch toward the sun. Soon the sapling attained a nice size and sent out branches, attractive and green, with the promise of a heavenly lilac scent every spring. As it bore larger leaves and spread out more branches people found it a sweet shade from the hot sun.

However, blackbirds passing by discovered the shrub and began using the branches as a regular perch. I suspect they saw themselves as ornaments. Mingling among the blooms the birds even picked up some of the lilac scent. But they were not happy campers, those blackbirds; they tended to be a contentious bunch. Some were especially harsh, constantly picking at the birds on nearby branches.

In time the lilac seemed so dotted with blackbirds that folks hardly saw the flowers. Here and there people may see a purple bloom, or catch the lilac scent, enough to realize there was a bush there. However, all those squawking, squabbling birds definitely spoiled the beauty of the shrub.

People started to say, “It’s ugly! Cut it down.

Others protested “There really is a lilac here and it is blooming. Can’t we rather shoo away those dreadful birds? Why should the world be deprived of the beauty of lilacs because there are blackbirds?

“But they like it so well. They’re always coming back to this shrub. Let’s get rid of it and we’ll be rid of the blackbirds.”

“Are you sure?”

Jesus told his followers that Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed; tiny when seeded, it would grow and become a great tree. So great that the birds of the air would lodge in the branches. (Matt 13:31-32) Over the years many different birds have settled in the branches of this great tree and claimed to be residents of the Kingdom, bringing many different dogmas and and so much strife.

Some years back John Lennon wrote a song about how wonderful it would be if we’d wake up one morning and there’d be no more religion. He was definitely thinking of all those squabbling blackbirds. But really, how much would change?

There are and always will be blackbirds. All-wise and inclined to squabble, many will perch in the tree of religion because it’s a handy shelter. If that tree were to disappear they’d find a different shrub. Race. Ethnicity. Color. Nation. Education. Military might. There’s always some reason to lord it over your neighbors and squash them.

However, don’t most of the world’s religions teach their disciples to respect your fellow man, at least in principle? I can’t speak for any others, but Jesus taught his followers to help those in need, care for the weak, turn the other cheek and live at peace. In spite of the extremists that make the headlines, virtue and beauty still bloom. People do get glimpses of the real tree; a bit of loving kindness still perfumes our air. Take that away and what would be left in this world?

The Osprey’s Prize

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is THUNDEROUS and I actually found two ways of using it.

Image by Kanenori — Pixabay

The storm had moved on, leaving a few trailing rumbles and a stiff breeze. Thunderous waves were still crashing on the rocks as I began my afternoon walk, strolling along the dunes overlooking the beach. I always start out facing the wind; I find going home is so much easier with the wind pushing you along.

I noticed an osprey braving the breezes as well, soaring high above the churning waves. Must be hungry. Probably missed his lunch because of the storm. I stopped to watch as the bird dived toward the surface, talons extended.

What sort of prize would it have as it rose into the air again? But the bird didn’t rise. It screamed as it fought to lift off and I caught sight of a writhing curve of scales. A huge fish; a good lunch indeed. I watched the contest for awhile, fascinated.

The osprey battled bravely but its prize seemed too great to pull out of the water. I wondered why the bird didn’t give up and let go, then the light dawned: its claws were likely hooked in the fish so that it couldn’t let go. I observed sadly as the osprey, screaming and beating the air, slowly lost strength.

Finally the bird’s strength was gone and it settled on the roiling water before a large wave rolled over it. I watched in horror as its wings thrashed the water for a moment, then with one last wild scream the osprey sank under the wave.

The next morning dawned calm and sunny, so I walked along the dunes again, scanning the shore. Finally I spotted the bodies of the osprey and its fish, still hooked together, lying on the beach where the sea had tossed them. That fish would have made a great dinner. Seagulls were feasting on both.

What’s A Short Story?

One writing site I follow recently held a contest: “Write a short story in 500 words or less.” As I read through the various submissions this morning, part of the problem for me was thinking a story is always fiction. However, this contest called for a non-fiction story. So I read brief memoirs, rambling musings about life, possible devotional articles, but few submissions that I’d consider a real STORY.

Am I off-base in my understanding of STORY? There are a number of weekly writing challenges I do participate in that call for writing a story in xxx words, so it’s good to get a handle on the concept, even if I didn’t enter this contest.

Image from Pixabay

According to GRAMMARLY’s website, “Short stories are a form of narrative writing that has all the same elements as novels—plot, character development, point of view, story structure, theme—but are delivered in fewer words. … A short story is a short, self-contained work of fiction…”

And I see the ubiquitously quoted “Baby shoes for sale, never worn.”

Writer L Ron Hubbard gives good pointers on how to critique a short story: You need to judge the originality, the scene-setting, characterization, conflict and plot, a theme. It should be engaging and deliver some emotional payoff.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is BRIDGE and I think it fits in today’s musing.

A short story should create a BRIDGE between a writer and a reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I need to reach out through my own – or my character’s – experience and touch your heart. It may be only a little chuckle, a small example of the human nature we all share, or a bit of sorrow.

Image by Josch13 — Pixabay

If I write about the time our family went to the zoo, saw the polar bears, watched the antics of the monkeys, had a great time, and came home, will that touch your heart?

If our beloved Jr disappeared at the zoo and we searched frantically to find him, that experience could easily be crafted into a story and would resonate with all parents. If I had to tell it in 100 words or less, that would take a lot of whittling! There wouldn’t be a lot of room to develop scene or theme, but it could be done.

Stories, especially short ones, need to start with a bang. No “Our family was at the zoo one sunny morning in mid-July. We were watching the polar bears splashing around in their pool when our I noticed that our son had disappeared in the crowd.”

Rather…
We watched the polar bears splashing so comically in their pool. I turned to lift my six-year-old so he could see more of their antics…and he’d disappeared!
“Frank,” I screamed over the noise of the other tourists, “Where’s Junior?”
Frank whirled around. “Junior! Where are you,” he shouted as we both scanned the crowd frantically.

Most readers would easily get the picture and feel some connection to this couple.

Anyway, enough of my musings. What do you see as the elements of an engaging short story? Do you like upbeat, happy endings? Or are you one who likes being left with a haunting melancholy when you’re done?