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

Up In Smoke

Photo prompt © Dawn M Miller
Photo prompt © Dawn M Miller

“C’mon lazy, get off your butt.”

Andrea poked her brother Herschel in the shoulder as he lay sprawled on the couch.

“Stop it Andy, you’re harshing my buzz,” complained Herschel.

“That’s the point,” she replied. “I’m not going to have you getting high and lying around all day like you did at mom and dad’s. In fact…” Andrea grabbed the tall glass smoking unit that sat on the coffee table next to her indolent sibling.

“Hey now, what…” began Herschel.

“I’m locking this up until you can show me that you’re going to be productive around here,” she said, walking off with Herschel favorite possession. “Now, get some shoes on, you’re going shopping with me.”

For the next several hours Herschel lugged sundry packages from stores to his sister’s SUV. Eventually she stopped to admire a collection of chimeneas outside a small shop.

“Oh, I’ve always wanted one of these,” she exclaimed. “It would be perfect for entertaining on the patio.”

Herschel groaned. It looked heavy.

Several days later Andrea searched the house for her brother to give him his list of daily tasks. She eventually found him on the patio, stretched out on a lounge chair holding a long tube attached to a device that Herschel had affixed atop her chimenea. She smelled a rich, sweet smoke permeating the air. Herschel took a puff with a grin spreading across his face.

“Heeeeey, sis, wassup?”

Andrea rushed to her new clay fireplace and took a whiff.

“What did you do?” she cried, glaring at her brother.

“You never gave my bong back so I rewarded myself with this awesome hookah you bought. You’re the best, Andy!”

[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. I went over the limit this week but either due to laziness (No, I don’t own a bong or hookah) or perhaps just because I liked the story as it was, I chose not to edit it down. I hope everyone liked it.]

~V

Family Planning

fffpp-3-2-17

The pain from the contraction was intense and Gloria groaned loudly.

“Ahh! Michael, it’s time!”

Gloria’s husband scurried about, grabbing the bag they’d packed for the hospital. He spied one of his sons.

“Herbert, come here!”

“My name is Leonard.”

“What?”

“I’m Leonard, dad.”

“Where’s Herbert?”

“Mom ate him when he was an infant, remember?”

“Oh. Right,” said his father. “Well anyway, I have to get your mother to the hospital. She’s about to give birth again. You’re in charge of your brothers and sisters.”

“Again?” asked Leonard.

“We’re mice, son. We don’t use contraception.”

“But there are so many of us now,” said Leonard. “There’s never enough food, we all sleep in a big mound. It takes hours to get into the bathroom. Couldn’t she just, you know…” he pantomimed intense chewing.

“Hey now, she was under stress when that happened,” said his father.

“She gets stressed a lot,” muttered Leonard. “Remember Angie and Rebecca and Larry?”

“No, not really.”

“Exactly!” said Leonard.

“Well if I don’t get her to the hospital soon, she might eat me,”

“Fine,” sighed Leonard. “So what are you naming this one?”

His father paused, scratching his head. Then, “I know. How about Herbert?”

Word Count: 200

[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 know, this story is kind of weird. I was in a strange state of mind when I wrote it. Too much coffee, perhaps. Or too little. I’m not sure which.]

~V

Bad Dog!

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Lane and Ginny collapsed onto the soft grass in the back yard. Gazing towards the sky their six year old minds began conjuring shapes from the puffy clouds passing overhead.

“Look, a bunny!” cried Ginny, pointing upwards.

A few moments later Lane exclaimed, “That’s a puppy dog!”

The dark dog-shaped cloud rumbled. A torrent of rain let loose.

Moments later the twins crashed into their kitchen, puddles of water forming around them.

“What happened to you?” chuckled their mother as she regarded her two soaking children.

Ginny and Lane looked at each other sourly.

“The puppy dog peed on us!”

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

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?

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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

Going Out With a Bang

Copyright -John Nixon
Copyright -John Nixon

Hershel watched as they wheeled away the stretcher carrying his mentor, Brick Longshot, The Human Cannonball.

Mr. Barns, the owner of the circus clapped Herschel on the back.

“Tough break. But now you get your shot at the big time, right?”

Herschel stared.

“Heh, I said ‘shot’. I crack myself up,” said Mr. Barns.

“I can do this” Herschel told himself as he climbed into the cannon that night.

He never discovered who mistakenly overloaded the gunpowder. His first and final landing was in the piano at the end of the big top. It was the performance of a lifetime.

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

The World’s Most Expensive Diving Helmet

PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy
PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

The moment Jake saw the old diving helmet in the thrift shop, he knew he had to have it: A fantastic Halloween costume!

Driving home, he stopped at his sister’s house to show off his new acquisition. Theresa hated it and told him he’d wasted his money. Jake opted for a second opinion and walked into the family room where his two young nieces were playing. Their reaction was not what he anticipated.

Months later while checking his mail, he spied another bill from the therapist that was treating his nieces for emotional trauma. Sighing, he reached for his checkbook.

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

The Art of Growing Affection

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

Marmadas Twofoot fumed as he stomped up the walkway to the door of his home. Each hairy foot slammed down as though he were angry with the ground itself.

How dare she? he asked himself as he grasped the doorknob of the round portal that led into the cozy interior of his hobbit hole.

Marmadas had just returned from the market in Loamsdown where Ruby Gardner had told him that his tomatoes had worms. Worms! What did she know? Her cucumbers were shriveled and her carrots limp and he’d told her as much quite loudly. Their shouting match had been quite the spectacle.

He set his basket of tomatoes down on the floor in his kitchen.  He remembered how she’d called him a big-nosed lout, her soft cheeks glowing pink and how her hair had billowed in the breeze as she informed everyone his vegetables were unfit to eat. He recalled the way her breasts heaved as she ranted about how his crops were an embarrassment; the worst in the Shire.

He reached for a tomato and just before biting it, noticed something wriggling on the surface: A worm.

Marmadas grinned. He couldn’t wait to see her again next week.

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.]

~V

Tails From the Swamp

FFfPP-6-3-16

“Tony! Hey Tony!”

“What?”

“You shouldn’t lay out in the sun like that. It’s bad for you. It’ll give you alligator skin!”

Vinnie guffawed loudly at his own joke.

“Oh, you’re hilarious,” said Tony.

“So did ya hear about Bobby?” asked Vinnie.

“Bobby Knuckles? No, what about him?”

“Choked on an egret last night. The bill got stuck sideways in his throat.” said Vinnie.

“No kidding?” asked Tony. “Geez, I just saw him last week.”

“Yeah, I guess he’s floating belly up over by Cypress Log,”

“You know, that happened to me once. Had this pipsqueak youngster gator giving me lip, so I thought, ‘I’ll show you, ya bastard’. I clamped down on his head but started clawing me in the throat.”

“Whadya do?”

“It was instinct. I just let go of him.”

“You let him live? That don’t sound like you.” said Vinnie.

“Yeah well, he don’t come around here no more so… you know.”

“Hehe… nobody messes with Longtooth Tony, that’s for sure,” laughed Vinnie.

For a moment, the two were silent.

“Well, I gotta get back to the nest. Catch you tomorrow?” asked Vinnie.

“Sure thing,”

“See ya later, alligator,” said Vinnie.

He swam away laughing wildly.

Word Count: 200

[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 Vanishing Box

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

The three wine glasses on the table were filled with different amounts of colored liquid. The magician gave a practiced flourish and the liquid in the glasses began to tilt sideways. The audience gasped.

“It’s all done with mirrors,” said Walter loud enough so that the people sitting around him all heard.

“Shush,” scolded his wife Abigail.

“He’s actually tilting the table but it appears…”

“I mean it, Walter. No one wants to hear,” she hissed.

With each illusion, Walter couldn’t help describing how the trick worked. More audience members began joining Abigail in shushing the annoying loudmouth.

“For my next trick, I’ll need a volunteer from the audience,” replied the magician. He scanned the crowd and then pointed at Walter. “How about… you sir!”

“Me?” asked Walter. “You bet!”

Walter hurried to the stage excited to debunk the next trick while all eyes were upon him.

After introductions and the usual banter, the magician brought out a large upright box and asked Walter to step inside.

The music built to a crescendo as the magician twirled the box and then stopped and whisked the door open, revealing it’s empty contents. The crowd roared with approval.

When the applause died, the magician called out to Abigail.

“Don’t worry, ma’am. I’ll bring your husband back.”

Abigail shouted back. “Could you wait until tomorrow morning?”

The crowd gave her a standing ovation.

[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

 

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

Mr. Adventure

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

The first sensation Johnny noticed was a gentle swaying motion, like lying in a hammock. Opening his eyes, he took in his surroundings. Around him were flat surfaces. He was encapsulated inside some kind of box and he was lying on his back.

Before he could sit up, a face appeared above him. It took a moment for Johnny to realize he knew this face.

He frowned. “Tracy?”

“Welcome back, hero,” said the face.

Slowly, Johnny sat up. “What happened?”

“You don’t remember?”

Johnny tried to assemble his thoughts. He was with Tracy and they were… at a theme park: Future World. He’d begged her to accompany him to this new park for months. She’d finally consented.

Johnny loved technology and adventure. This park seemed like a dream come true. But how had he ended up on the floor of… whatever this was?

“Well, ‘Mr. Adventure’, we got into the cable cars and once we got to the high point, you hit the floor like a sack of potatoes.” she said.

Johnny lifted himself back into the seat.

“That’s ridiculous. I’m not afraid of…”

Johnny looked out the window at the landscape of the park laid out before him. His vision became blurred and his head began to spin. As he lost consciousness for a second time, he could hear Tracy’s voice, as if coming from a long distance.

“Oh great, not again!”

[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

Yoder Mart

PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman
PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman

Kerry’s head swiveled around, taking in the stack of boxes filled with wooden mixing bowls, cutlery and jars of spices. She cast her gaze upwards and spotted rolling pins, lanterns, cast iron pans and dozens of pale aprons hanging from the rafters of the warehouse.

She turned to her friend Dana.

“You drove me out into the middle of the Pennsylvania countryside… for this?” she asked. “What is it?”

Dana laughed. “I told you, it’s an Amish discount store. Their version of Wal Mart.”

Kerry eyed the dust and cobwebs on the shelves. “I’m guessing Amazon has nothing to worry about.”

Word Count: 100

[This was the first story I wrote for this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. I thought it was a bit weak, so I tried again and wrote the story you see above. Still, I hate the idea of not letting this story see the light of day so here it is.]

~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