A Man of Considerable Talent

Photo prompt courtesy of Mike Vore.

“Oh come on, Georgia, you simply have no appreciation for the arts,” Gerald complained.

“I just think piano recitals are boring,” replied Georgia.

“But I’ve been told this gentleman has a most unusual and creative technique for playing,” said Gerald.

“And what is that?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly,” he said. “But Mrs. Milligan down at the market said he was a man of considerable talent.”

“Since when did Betsy Milligan become a connoisseur of the arts? That woman is as crude as they come.” sniffed Georgia.

“Do it for me then?”

Gerald and Georgia worked their way through the crowds of women that packed the small theater down to their front row seats. As the lights dimmed, a handsome man in his twenties, adorned in a tuxedo strode across the stage. The crowd applauded loudly,

The man approached the grand piano, unfastened his pants and dropped his trousers to the ground. Gasps and cheers echoed off the walls. The man stepped up to the keyboard, hands in the air and proceeded to play a rousing rendition of chopsticks.

Gerald’s face was crimson. Georgia grinned broadly and leaned in to whisper in her husband’s ear.

“You were right, dear. I am enjoying this show very much after all.”

[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. My apologies for going over the limit. I normally don’t include video to accompany my story, but I wanted to show my inspiration for this one.

Also, I considered an alternative title: “A Sizable Contribution to the Endowment for the Arts” but I thought it might be too long. 😉 ]

~V

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Left Behind

Photo © Majesticgoldenrose
Photo © Majesticgoldenrose

Toby’s soft brown eyes peered through the metal bars of his pen as the next round of cattle boarded the big truck. His heart sank, just as it did every time he watched them leave. The Truck was a painful reminder of his own inadequacy.

It’s not fair, he thought. I try to eat as much as everyone else. It’s not my fault I can’t put on weight.

Toby was often the butt of cow jokes around the farm. The other steers teased him for his small stature and played pranks on him. Rex had been the worst. His constant bullying had left Toby silently crying at night sometimes.

Each month, The Truck arrived and took only the very biggest steers. It was said that The Truck shuttled them to a special farm, a place called “Slawter” with fields of endless grass and ever-blue skies.

As Rex strode up the ramp into the truck, he hurled his final insult.

“You’ll never make it to Slawter, pipsqueak. You’ll stay her forever. Hahahaha!”

Toby sighed. Forgotten again.

Word Count: 175

[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

 

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

fffaw-2-22-17
Photo © Dawn M. Miller

Royce fidgeted with his watch. His excitement over being chosen to visit the Kanamits planet was barely enough to quell his fear of interstellar travel. His fellow travelers milled around looking equally nervous.

When the loudspeakers in the sky terminal announced that boarding was about to commence, Royce sighed heavily. Still, as he walked past the imposing nine foot figures of his new alien hosts, he still couldn’t shake the same anxiety he felt when they first appeared on Earth several years ago. Since that time they had proven their benevolence to humanity but still – they way they leered at him as he climbed the ramp onto the spaceship – it was unnerving.

Just then a woman burst through the crowd of people on the ground below and started shouting at another passenger. Royce just made out her words before he ascended.

“Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship. The rest of the book… To Serve Man… it’s a cookbook!”

Royce shrugged. Not my business. He boarded the ship, never looking back.

[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.

This was a nod of thanks to one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. I hope you liked it.]

~V

The Gorgon’s Garden

© Phylor
© Phylor

[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.

I went far over the limit this week and so I felt I should include this disclaimer for those who want to keep their reading short. I understand if you choose not to read this as it’s much longer than the challenge allows, but once I started writing the story, I just couldn’t stop. For those that do read it, I truly hope you enjoy it.]

 

Saretha eyed the colorful bougainvillea that framed the entrance to the garden. When her family first moved to Kalamata six months ago, she’d begged her mother to visit, but had been rebuffed.

“It’s not a public garden, dear. It belongs to an eccentric old woman who apparently doesn’t like visitors. I’m sorry.” her mother had explained.

The path to school took Saretha by the garden twice a day. The intoxicating fragrances from the blossoms beckoned to her and finally, no longer able to obey her mother’s instructions, she found herself wandering through the entrance.

A spectacle of pigments greeted her. Trees, shrubs and vines, all bedecked with blossoms of every shade of the rainbow were laid out before her. A stone path wound its way through the vegetation.

Saretha glided as though in a trance through the winding curves of the pathway. She was so entranced with the living things she scarcely noticed the multitude of statues that punctuated all the grottos. Each depicted a child in various poses. Saretha bent low to smell a bright yellow rose when a voice from behind startled her.

“What are you doing here?”

Saretha spun around and stared wide-eyed at the older woman standing before her. The lady was dressed in a long, white gown, made from some light material that Saretha did not recognize. It swayed in the gentle breeze, exposing much of the woman’s long legs and bare arms.

Upon her head was a wrap made of blue material and her eyes were shaded with dark-tinted glasses. She looked down on Saretha, hands on her hips waiting for a response.

“I – I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be in here. My mom told me it was private property, but it just looked and smelled so beautiful I thought I’d take a quick peek. I guess I wandered in farther than I meant to.”

The woman regarded her intruder for a moment and then smiled.

“That’s quite alright dear. I like a girl with spunk. Never be afraid to follow your heart… or your nose.”

Saretha exhaled heavily. It seemed she might not be in trouble after all. The woman held out her hand.

“Come with me. I’ll give you a tour of the garden.”

Saretha and the woman joined hands and began to walk.

“What’s your name?” asked the woman.

“Saretha,” came the reply.

“A beautiful name,” said the woman. “I am Meddy Venizelos.”

As the two traversed the maze of pathways in the garden, Meddy questioned Saretha on her knowledge of Greek mythology. Months before her family moved to Greece, Saretha had studied the classic tales of lore, including the heroic adventures of Theseus, Heracles and Perseus as well as Homer’s stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

When Saretha mentioned the name Perseus, Meddy stopped before a statue of a young girl who sat on the ground and appeared to be holding her arms up as if shielding herself from something. The arms had broken off the statue, but it was clear from the expression on the girls face the sculptor had meant to depict her as fearful.

Meddy fingered the vines of jasmine that grew up a trellis next to the statue.

“Tell me what you know of Perseus,” she asked, watching Saretha from out of the corner of her eye.

“Well,” began Saretha. “Before Heracles, Perseus was thought to be the greatest Greek hero and slayer of monsters. He was a demigod and the son of Zeus. He’s most famous for slaying the Gorgon Medusa, a horrible beast that had snakes for hair. She had the power to turn people to stone, but Perseus used his polished shield to see reflections and was able to behead her.”

Saretha smiled up at Meddy, hoping her knowledge of mythology impressed her new friend.

Meddy looked down at Saretha. “Yes, that is what most people believe. That horrid Perseus told terrible lies about his encounter with a beautiful creature who’s only crime was to be lovelier than all of the goddesses.”

Saretha watched as Meddy slowly began unwrapping her head covering. She’d not really paid close attention before, but now as she stared she realized that the wrap seemed to be moving.

Meddy continued. “The greatest lie that Perseus told was that he beheaded the Gorgon. Medusa defeated him in battle and was about to add him to her collection of statues when he made a moving plea for his life. He told Medusa of his love for a woman, Andromeda and begged to be spared so that he may return to her. Medusa was so touched by his story, she allowed him to leave with his life.”

Saretha watched in horror as the blue fabric fell away from Meddy’s head to reveal a tangle of writhing serpents, hissing as they squirmed.

“Allowing him to live was the greatest mistake Medusa ever made. She vowed that never again would she let a mortal live if one were to wander so foolishly into her domain.”

The truth slammed Saretha like a hammer to the chest. The intoxicating smells of the garden were meant to lure children in like a rat catching the scent of cheese. The statues that dotted the garden had not been carved. They were the victims.

Meddy bent low as she reached to remove her sunglasses.

“Can you guess what became of the Gorgon, my dear Saretha?”

Saretha’s screams died quickly as her vocal cords transformed from flesh to stone.

“I must find a special place for you, dear. I rather liked you.”

~V

 

Eye of the Beholder

© Barbara Taylor
© Barbara Taylor

“This next one I call ‘Frozen Skyline’,” said Paul gesturing to the framed photograph.

Trevor regarded the image with a keen eye. It showed the back of a person sitting on a snow covered bench looking out at the tall skyscrapers of Manhattan.

“This seems a bit… mundane for you, Paul,” said Trevor. “I mean, considering…”

Trevor gestured around the gallery at the dozens of macabre pictures that adorned the walls: Close-ups of bloodshot eyeballs, a hearse with a long funeral procession following it, chipped gravestones covered in vines. The painting before the two men seemed out of place.

Paul laughed. “It would seem that way, wouldn’t it? But I came across that man, a bum, sitting on the bench, frozen to death. I have no idea how long he’d been there, but people just walked past him without ever noticing he was a corpsesickle. So I took the shot.”

Knowing he was staring at a dead man forever captured in time sickened Trevor. He savored that feeling.

“And you want how much?” asked Trevor

“Ten thousand.”

“Sold,” said Trevor.

[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

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

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 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

 

The Toast

© Graham
© Graham

Ding ding ding!

Noah rapped his fork on the delicate champagne flute before him. As he stood, Angela leaned in and whispered in her new husband’s ear.

“Here we go. The Best Man’s toast. This should be interesting.”

Lucas smiled at his new bride. He too was expecting something… unusual. His younger brother had always taken a different perspective on life and while it had caused numerous fights as children, Lucas had learned to cherish his siblings quirks.

“Excuse me everyone, if I could have your attention please,” Noah said, projecting his voice over the dining area of the restaurant where the newlyweds had chosen to host their reception.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called ‘Life’,” he started.

“Is he quoting Prince?” she asked Lucas quietly.

“Seems so,”

“When Lucas first met Angela, it was 1999 and she was wearing a raspberry beret, the kind you’d find in a second hand store,” Noah continued.

“Is he serious?” Angela chuckled.

“Relax,” said Lucas holding back a smile. “At least he didn’t quote ‘Darling Nikki’.”

Word Count: 176

[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.]

RIP Sweet Prince

The Not So Impossible Dream

© TJ Paris
© TJ Paris

“So… why is your dad building that windmill in your backyard again?” asked Tim.

“I heard him tell my mom it has something to do with a carbon mission, whatever that is. He said we’re killing the planet and he’s going to take us off the grid,” replied Sam.

“What’s the grid?” asked Tim.

“I don’t really know. I think the windmill is supposed to make electricity, like the ones we saw in class.”

“But this doesn’t look like those windmills. Those were like… all white and made of metal. This is boxy and made of wood. Looks like the ones in that country where they wear wooden shoes.” said Tim.

Both boys laughed.

“Didn’t he tell you this had something to do with a donkey?” asked Tim.

“Yeah, some character named Donkey Hoatee,” said Sam. “I have no idea who that is. I just know he said it was his carbon mission to save the planet. Said he was going to build windmills like this all over town.”

“Dude, your dad is weird,” said Tim as the two walked back into the house to play World of Warcraft.

Word Count: 187

[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

 

 

 

Party Crashers

© BarbCT/Knotholes and Textures
© BarbCT/Knotholes and Textures

“Dammit,” said Freddie, turning to his partner Janette. “We’re about to be made.”

“What? Where?” she asked, snapping her head about.

“Eleven o’clock, the blonde next to the Prime Minister. She knows my face. If she sees me, our cover is blown.”

“Bend down like you’re fixing the strap on my shoe,” Janette hissed through her perfunctory smile.

“What?”

“Just do it!”

Freddie bent low and made a good show of adjusting the sexy stilleto on his partner’s delicate foot.

Janette gave a casual nod to the Prime Minister as he passed by her in the large ballroom and then returned to the martini in her hand as though she belonged there. The blonde woman in the Vera Wang gown barely noticed her at all.

“We’re clear,” she said.

Freddie stood and straightened his tux. Scanning the room, none of the other formally dressed guests seemed to notice them at all.

“Hoo, that was close. Now, is the target aquired?”

“Banquet table. Plates are on the end.” said Janette.

“Good, I’m starving. I love crashing these formal events. The food is SO much better than those stupid low budget weddings we normally hit.”

The famished couple headed towards the buffet.

[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

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

 

 

 

Knowing Your Audience

© S. Writings
© S. Writings

“What on EARTH!” screamed Buford T. Greenbriar. “Did you do to my cattle?”

“I painted them, just like you asked,” replied Phineas Twillery, frowning. “Don’t you like them?”

“Like them?” asked Buford, turning to the thin man wearing the oversized, pigment stained smock. “I HATE them!” Why would you paint steers all these silly colors with… flowers and hearts and… I don’t even know what kind of symbols those are?”

Phineas pushed the small round spectacles that adorned his long face up higher on his hawkish nose.

“Well um…” he swallowed heavily. “I know you said that you just wanted me to touch up the chips in the existing paint but… I felt a bit more color would make them so much happier.” He grinned weakly, hoping he was selling his point. The scowl on Buford’s face told him he was not.

“These statues have stood outside our family ranch since my Grandpappy built this place. Yer gonna repaint this things today!” Buford said menacingly, pressing in closely to the artist.

As his employer stormed off, Phineas dialed his cell.

“Antoine? Yes, I’m going to need you to bring four gallons of Ovaltine Brown to the Greenbriar residence immediately.”

He shook his head. Some folks just had no eye for art.

[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

Fried Dog with a Side of Cockroaches

© Uday
© Uday

“Will ya look at that?” asked Harry Pulansky, resting his hands on his hips. “What’s with all the round doors in this country. Foreigners do the strangest things.”

“Harry, we’re in their country. You’re the foreigner,” scolded JoAnne.

“Now how can I be the foreigner? I speak English.” countered Harry. “Anyway, let’s go back to the hotel for lunch. At least they serve real food there.”

“Harry, why can’t we try a local restaurant? Don’t you want to experience the culture here?”

Are you kidding me?” asked Harry. This Ching-Chong country probably serves bugs as appetizers and their pets as the main course. I want a good old fashioned hamburger.”

“There’s a place right over there that serves noodles. You like noodles.” suggested JoAnne.

“With tomato sauce and meatballs. This ain’t Italian, ya know.”

“Italy,” corrected his wife.

Well whatever. You can bet they don’t serve good old American pizza.” countered Harry.

“Actually, pizza is…”

“Are we goin’ or what?” Harry said, cutting her off.

“Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to leave home at all,” complained JoAnne.

“Yeah,” muttered Harry. “I wonder that too.”

Word Count: 187

[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.

I wanted to pop in and see how my ethnocentric buddy Harry Pulansky was doing. Seems he made it back from Cairo in one piece and is off to a new exotic location. You can read about him more in the story A Sunny Day in Cairo.]

~V

The Moments They Want to Remember

FFfAW-3-15-16

Rory set his M4 against the wall and knelt to calm the frightened black lab. After the firefight, he’d found the dog shaking and curled up in the corner of a burned out building.

Responding to the soldier’s calm voice and slow movement, the dog allowed Rory to pet and soothe him. Taking the leash that was attached to the dog’s collar, he led the beast out into daylight. Removing his helmet, Rory filled it with the last of his water, watching with concern as the dog gulped it down. Scanning the area, his eyes picked out shattered buildings, abandoned cars and debris scattered streets. The last of the insurgents had fallen only minutes ago. This section of the city was nothing but death.

Rory had befriended an eight year old boy who’d lost his older brother to the war. Abir now lived in the Green Zone and while a dog was no replacement for a brother, Rory knew the dog would be loved.

Rory had taken life that day. Now he was able to save it.

Word Count: 177

[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