If It Ain’t Broke

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

“One martini, two martini, three martini four,” chanted Elijah with slurred but measured speech. “There’s nothing the day can throw at you that a good drink can’t fix!”

He plunked himself down on the couch without spilling a drop while ignoring Rosie’s intent glare.

“Drunk already?” Rosie asked. “Why am I not surprised?”

The question was rhetorical but Elijah replied, “Because my dear, you know everything. At least, that’s what you’re always saying.”

“Father said you’d never amount to…”

Elijah cut her off.

“Yes, your father knew even more than you, didn’t he? What a fount of wisdom he was.”

“Leave my father out of this,” Rosie cried.

“But you brought hi…” Elijah hiccupped, “Him up.”

The two stared at each other in practiced silence. Their faces were stone. Finally, Rosie turned and stormed from the room.

Young Alexander, who’d been sitting quietly the during this exchange found the courage to speak.

“I had no idea you had such a terrible marriage. Have you considered divorce?”

Elijah responded, “Terrible marriage? Divorce? Are you mad? I love that woman more than words can express. Who else would tolerate an obnoxious drunk like me?”

Elijah laughed heartily as he downed his drink.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Alastair Forbes. Write a short story of 200 words or less from the photo prompt provided.

This wasn’t so much a story as just practice writing some dialogue so forgive me for that. I just couldn’t get Elijah and Rosie out of my head. Their brief exchange wouldn’t allow any other stories to come through so I decided to give them a spotlight for a moment.]

 

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Making America Great

Making America Great

Ricardo had watched the acceptance speech of the new President-elect with growing trepidation. Promises of swift retaliation for anyone who criticized his administration signaled the end of the First Amendment. Ricardo was certain more civil liberties would fall at the hands of this madman.

On the day of the President’s inauguration, the protests had turned to riots and violent unrest broke out in various cities in the country. Those who had supported the new President grew emboldened and found that their actions received virtually no consequence from law enforcement. Those with darker shades of skin or the wrong religious beliefs were dragged into the streets and beaten.

Months passed and the rest of the Bill of Rights crumbled. In Austin, where Ricardo lived, a resistance formed. Those who sought to remove the new dictator from power plotted in secret. But a traitor hid among them and the newly formed death squads that had replaced law enforcement burst into the warehouse. Bullets flew and bodies fell. The only survivor of the massacre, Ricardo barely managed to escape.

Warm blood flowed from the gash above his eye, obstructing his vision, but Ricardo was able to make it to the freeway. He carried all he owned in the bugout bag he’d strapped to his back. His only chance was to find a way to the Mexican border. The construction on the wall on the north side of the Rio Grande was nearly complete and though it’s original purpose was to keep Mexicans out of the US, it now served to keep throngs of Americans from fleeing south. Ricardo knew his chances of survival were slim, but he had to try.

A roar pierced the night air and Ricardo turned his gaze to the sky. A long streak of light slashed the darkness high above him and when he realized what was approaching, Ricardo’s hopes vanished.

The ballistic missile struck the city and a blinding flash was the last thing Ricardo or anyone in the greater Austin area saw before the nuke detonated.

The President sat in the Oval office, watching the destruction from a closed circuit military monitor. Making America Great Again was more fun that he had imagined.

~V

The Kindness of Strangers

© Piya Singh
© Piya Singh

The day the strangers rode up to my door, I welcomed them. When they asked for water, I offered them all they could drink from the small stream that ran in front of my humble home. When they asked for food, I fed them from my stores. When they asked for wine, I broke out my last bottle. When they drew their swords and demanded money, I relinquished my last coin.

When they began coughing blood from the poison I’d slipped in the wine, I smiled. When they begged for mercy, I let them know I was fresh out.

Word Count: 99

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]

~V

The Long Way Down

Photo prompt © TJ Paris
Photo prompt © TJ Paris

Two men in suits walked around the second level of the Rotunda.

“Senator, I just want to prepare you,” said Jameson. “The Capital is mobbed with press downstairs. Ever since the story broke about Blackridge, well… I strongly advise you not to make any comments. Now, if you’ll just take a look at this press release our office…”

“I never bother to look up anymore,” mused Senator Mertle, cutting off his young colleague.

“What?” asked Jameson.

“The frescos in the dome. When I was first elected, I used to marvel at their beauty. I felt like I was a part of something larger. I felt like I would make history.”

The old man sighed.

“So much has changed.”

“Yes, right. Now they’re going to eat you alive on this scandal if we don’t do some major damage control so I suggest…”

* * *

Jameson woke the next morning to the gruesome image of his client’s body, swinging from a rope tethered to the balcony railing in the Capital building. The figures painted in the frescos looked on at the remains of the disgraced politician.

Jameson closed his eyes. Senator Mertle had made history, just not the way he ever intended.

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.]

~V

Play It Again, Sam

FFfPP-5-20-16

“No, no Sam, that’s an F sharp, not an F,” Mrs. Dickinson scolded. “Check the key.”

Sam’s fingers ached and he was tired of Mrs. Dickinson always pointing out his mistakes. Only when he played a particular piece flawlessly did he hear a hint of praise.

That’s acceptable, she would say. Or… Finally!

He looked up from the keys of the piano and stole a glance out her large picture window. It offered a view of the empty lot across the street, where all the neighborhood kids played. His heart sank a bit when he spotted Johnny and Alex playing catch. Sam guessed his hands would not be too tired to throw a ball around for a bit.

“Lets try again,” came the voice from his left. “It’s not that hard.”

* * *

The last notes of the concerto echoed through the auditorium. The stunned crowd was silent for a moment before erupting in thunderous applause. Sam had been selling out every concert for months.

As he exited the stage, he saw a young man standing next to an elderly woman in a wheelchair in the wing. He instantly recognized his old piano teacher.

“Mrs. Dickinson!” he exclaimed. “You finally made it. I’m so happy to see you!”

Sam reached down to hug the fragile old woman. As he embraced her she whispered into his ear.

“You missed the F sharp in the third movement. Remember to check the key.”

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less. I went over this week, so my apologies.]

~V

Early Retirement

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll
PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

George Harvey cast one final gaze around the empty lobby in the train depot. In 35 years, he’d never seen it devoid of human life.

He locked the door and grabbed his briefcase, the last contents of his former office tucked inside. He and the station had both been sent into early retirement.

His car waited in the parking lot. He’d never driven it home before. The 7:15 had always safely shuttled him home every night.

George should have watched the 17 car pile-up on the interstate from his television that night, but both he and the 7:15 had made their last runs.

Word Count: 99

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]

~V

Spring Cleaning

© Yinglan
© Yinglan

Dear Stephen,

I’m sure you’re wondering why you returned to an empty house. Allow me to explain. Since you no longer permit me to work, I decided to do a thorough house cleaning.

I never liked that big arm chair of yours that you placed in front of the patched hole in the wall where you bashed my head, so I tossed it.

Then came the sofa where I spent six weeks recovering from you pushing me down the stairs. It was heavy so I called my friend Peter (You remember my friends, right honey? Those people I’m no longer allowed to see?)

Peter and I talked at length and I realized that it wasn’t the furniture that I needed to clear from my life. He helped my pack up what little I have been allowed to keep in our marriage and now I’m leaving all my clutter behind. It feels fantastic!

Regards,

Marie

P.S. Hope you enjoyed that casserole I left for you. Oh, and we’re out of rat poison. Love you!

Word Count: 172

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.]

The Business Traveler

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot
PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

The perpetual gray skies of the cool and soggy northwest mirrored Tommy’s mood. Another day spent within the bare room he’d rented. His only entertainment was watching the residents of the building across the way through his telescopic lens.

“Cat lady’s knitting again,” he noted. “And fat man’s actually making his bed.”

Tommy saw motion from Unit 37. Finally. Spending one more day here might drive him crazy. He took aim, lined up his target and squeezed the trigger.

Crack! His target dropped. Mission accomplished.

Seattle might be great to visit, but he could never understand how folks could live here.

Word Count: 100

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]

~V

Going in Circles

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

“Ugh,” grunted Megan, fanning her face. “It’s so hot out here. Why didn’t you bring an umbrella like everyone else?”

“What?” asked Evan, tearing his eyes off the multi-chromatic cars speeding around the track.

“I’m hot!” she said.

Evan shrugged. “Do you want a sip of my beer?” he asked, holding up his half-filled plastic cup.

“No, I want to go home,” she said. “This is so stupid. The cars just keep going around in circles. They finish right where they start. What’s the point of that?”

“It’s called racin’,” he said, turning his attention back to the race.

Megan watched as the vehicles rounded the corner. Around and around. She began to realize her life had become like the race. Evan had no ambition. He seemed content to live in their trailer, scraping by and dulling himself with beer. He’d convinced her to quit school and take a job at the grocery store.

Around and around. She wanted so much more.

Standing, she turned to leave the grandstand.

“Where you goin’?” Evan asked.

“I’m sorry, Evan, but you were just a pit stop. It’s time I got back into my own race again.” Megan said walking away.

Word Count: 198

[This is my entry into the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Alastair Forbes. Write a short story of 200 words or less from the photo prompt provided.]

~V

Lost and Found

FFfPP-4-29-16

“They’re bringing it up now, sir,” cried Donny.

Richard Charles had waited years for this day. Since he was a kid, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle had captivated and perplexed him. Now, standing aboard his salvage vessel, “Berlitz”, he waited anxiously to see the fruit of seven years of hard work and research.

The huge winch rolled the cable up, foot by foot. Thirty minutes later, the coral encrusted plane rested on deck.

“Check the numbers,” he called to Donny as he climbed onto the wing. The cockpit cover was still closed. He wiped away the slime and algae and peered inside. Empty and still locked from within. How could that be?

“This is it!” cried Donny. “One of the Avengers from Flight 19!”

Finally! The Triangle had given up one of its long held prizes.

“Sir, unusual weather approaching fast.”

Looking up, Richard Charles saw the strange green lights in the fog, flashing like ghosts. It swept in faster than a front should move.

“Captain, get us out of here!” Richard yelled to the bridge as the fog enveloped the ship.

Richard Charles spent his life investigating the Bermuda Triangle. On March 4, 1994 he became a part of its history.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

 

The Connoisseur

© Graham
© Graham

Hajib knew he stood out in the fancy restaurant. All the other patrons were New York’s upper crust. Beautiful women dressed in expensive gowns, their consorts sporting gold watches and hundred dollar haircuts. Everything he had learned to despise in the western world.

By contrast, his brown skin and plain garb seemed out of place, and yet, no one gave him a second glance. He’d refused to remove his heavy coat, which had caused the maitre d’ to raise an eyebrow. Still, he was ushered to his table with a smile.

Originally, he’d planned to detonate the explosives strapped to his chest the moment he arrived, but the delicate scent of food wafting in the air gave power to his empty stomach to override his brain. He’d at least have an appetizer first.

Since this would be his last meal, he figured Allah would grant him leave to enjoy a few savory delights. He started with a small plate of fried calamari, which he found delightfully crispy and flavorful. This only whet his appetite for an entrée and after much pondering he settled on the Duck a l’Orange.

His first bite filled his mouth with such an explosion of flavor that he nearly forgot about the C-4 hugging his midsection. Sweet, tangy juice dripped decadently down into his long beard as he savored each wonderful mouthful.

When his waiter returned to clear his plate, he suggested a small serving of Tiramisu as a palate cleanser. Lost in a world of culinary delight, Hajib eagerly agreed.

The sweet, coffee flavor of the dessert surprised him. He’d never dreamed such a confection existed, having spent most of his life in barren, arid lands, sustaining himself on goat and rice.

When he laid his fork on the table, the small china plate was cleaned of all but a few scant crumbs. Hajib closed his eyes, enjoying the soft music as it caressed his ears.

“Excuse me sir, will there be anything else for you?”

His waiter had returned with the check. In that moment, he knew it was time to act. He reached inside his bulky coat and his fingers found their mark.

“No, everything was wonderful,” Hajib smiled as he withdrew his wallet.

On the cab ride back to his apartment, Hajib disconnected the detonator. Jihad could wait. No country that served food like that could be all bad.

[This is my second entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. I went way over the word count, so I’m not submitting this as an official entry, but I liked it enough to post it anyway.

I’m not trying to make a political or social statement with this story. (At least, I don’t think I am) I just liked the thought that a delicious meal could move a person enough to reconsider their perspectives. This was not meant to be offensive, only light-hearted.]

~V

 

Priorities

PHOTO PROMPT © Madison Woods
PHOTO PROMPT © Madison Woods

Elmer stared angrily at the clumps of lettuce stalks chewed to the ground. His garden was quickly diminishing and the rabbits were still feasting. Nothing he’d tried so far had worked.

Planting foxglove around the border, a chicken wire fence, rabbit repellent and coyote urine. All had been in vain. His last resort was barbed wire.

The next morning he checked his garden. The plants were untouched, but the dead, bloody rabbit cruelly entangled in the barbed wire made him gasp. After burying the rabbit, he removed all the obstacles around his garden. He’d buy his vegetables at the market.

Word Count: 100

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]

~V

Role Reversal

“Oh… my God, you guys. You’ll never believe what just happened,” said Brittany as she rushed her two besties by their lockers.

“What?” the other two girls asked in union.

“Like… some total dweep actually… ugh, I can’t believe I’m saying this. It’s like… SO embarassing. He came up to me at my locker and asked me out!”

Brandi asked, “Who was it?”

“I don’t even know his name. Jeff or John or like… I don’t know. I’ve seen him in the halls. A total loser.”

“What did he say?” asked Madison, crinkling her nose in sympathetic disgust.

“Ok so… like I said, I was just standing by my locker, minding my own business and this guy just walks up and says ‘Hey’. Can you believe it?”

“Eww!” echoed the teen brigade.

Continue reading “Role Reversal”

Anachronism

FFfPP-4-15-16

Emily Porter was a tomboy. Her mother knew it. She spent her days outside with her best friend Sammy Watkins getting dirt-covered, scratched and scraped and would always return home with some strange wriggling thing in her pocket.

“You’re just a force to be reckoned with,” her father would always say.

Emily’s favorite place to play was by the oddly shaped rock formations in the field next to the Thompson farm. She and Sammy spent afternoons gathering special tokens for their “Injun Medicine Bags”.

“Look, Sammy. A piece of a hawk’s feather,” exclaimed Emily brightly as she popped it into her bag.

“Spirit of the Hawk!” laughed Sammy. “Now let’s hide them in the secret hole. We have to promise to ONLY take them out if we really need their magic,”

“Cross my heart,” promised Emily.

* * *

“What are you doing, dear?”

“Playing Minecraft on my iPad, gramma Em. Wanna play?” replied Julia.

“No thank you dear. I’m not good with those electronic things,” said Emily.

She hoped they’d arrive soon. At 94, her body couldn’t take car rides like it once did.

“Are you sure this is it?” asked Roger, as he steered the sedan onto a dirt road.

“Those are the directions,” replied Maggie, holding up her phone.

“I think we’re here, grandma!” said Trevor. “You should have Instagram, so you could post about this,” he said to Emily. “Heh… Insta… GRAM! Get it?” He chuckled.

Emily smiled, pretending to understand the joke.

Roger wheeled her across the bumpy field of grass to the odd looking rock formations. Memories of better days came back to her. The images were clearer to her than what her failing sight often revealed these days.

“Help me up, please, will you Roger?” she asked.

When she got close to a particular section of rock, she reached her gnarled arthritic hand inside a hole the size of a grapefruit. Her fingers found the soft leather bag inside.

“What’s that gramma Em?” asked Julia.

“Just something I’ve been wanting for quite some time now. It’s magic.”

“Wow, ya hear that dad. Gramma has a magic bag!”

Roger smiled and gently shook his head at his daughter as if to say “Not really”. Despite her cataracts, Emily caught his  gesture out of the corner of her eye.

That night as she lay in bed, waiting for her pain meds to kick in so she could fall asleep, she clutched the bag to her heart and closed her eyes.

“Spirit of the Hawk.” she whispered.

In her minds eye, she was carried aloft by a large, majestic bird. Her tired earthly body left behind.

She was free.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.

I went generously over the word limit today. I felt as though cutting back the story to meet the word constraint would have crippled the spirit of the tale and my first loyalty is always to the story. My apologies.

I dedicate this story to my grandmother, Helen Dickinson. May the Spirit of the Hawk always watch over her.]

~V

A Rabbit Goes Down a Hobbit Hole and Finds a Chamber of Secrets

FFfAW-4-5-16

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty wet hole. It was a hobbit hole, and that meant comfort.”

“What’s a hobbit?” asked Clive. ”

“Just something I made up,” replied John standing outside the entrance to his basement apartment, which was covered in colorful foliage.  “I call this place, Bag End. Come on, let me show you inside.”

“Well now,” Clive remarked, taking in the overstuffed furniture, multi-colored lamps and assortment of candles.

“And best of all,” replied John. “I have this!” He gestured to the large hookah in the corner.

Clive grinned. “Where did you get it?”

“Bought it at an estate sale from some family named Carroll” replied John.

For the next several years, the two friends enjoyed many evenings inhaling deeply from the Persian smoking device while conjuring fantastic, far away lands filled with magical creatures.

Decades later, a young single mother, struggling to find her way saw the hookah in an old antique shop.

As the shop keeper wrapped her purchase, he replied “Here you are, miss…”

“Rowling,” she smiled.

She couldn’t explain it, but somehow she felt this hookah would change her life.

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.

Can you identify the four author’s I’ve referenced in this story?]

~V