Family Planning


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.”


“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.]


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.]


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.]


Road Signs


“Richard, did you see that?” asked Marilyn.

“See what?” asked Richard, who was still getting used to driving “on the wrong side of the road”.

“I’m sure that the little girl in that back seat was signing us,” said Marilyn.

Richard sighed. “You know, ever since you took that class on signing, you think everyone who waves a hand in the air is trying to communicate with you.”

“No, I mean it. I think I recognize a few of the gestures. Perhaps she’s been kidnapped. Do you think she’s been kidnapped?” asked Marilyn, her voice rising in pitch.

“Why don’t you translate her message and figure it out, miss Know-It-All,” grumbled Richard.

“Right, of course. Get closer,” she said.

Another sigh escaped from her husband as he gently accelerated towards the Volkswagen in front of them. After several minutes Marilyn frowned.

“That makes no sense,” she said.

“Why, what did she say?” asked Richard.

“The blue fish flies over the silence. Oh dear, I’m afraid I can’t understand her. She must be using British Sign Language,” replied Marilyn.

“What’s the difference? We’re American. We both speak English.” exclaimed Richard.

“It’s totally different in sign. But I know she’s in trouble. We have to keep following that car.”

“Our exit is in a mile. Who knows where they’re going?” argued her exasperated husband.

“Her LIFE could be at stake. Just follow them!” yelled Marilyn.

Mareesa watched with great amusement as the couple in the car behind hers seemed to argue. She found it much more entertaining than the book she brought. She decided to keep signing to them until they reached her grandmother’s house in Bath, over an hour away.

This trip is usually so boring, she thought.

[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’ve gone over again so I’ll issue my usual apologies.

As a point of interest, in writing this story, I discovered that there are a number of different sign languages and they do actually differ greatly. For example, American Sign Language and British Sign Language are almost mutually unitelligible. From Wikipedia

“In 1815, an American Protestant minister, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, travelled to Europe to research teaching of the deaf. He was rebuffed by both the Braidwood schools who refused to teach him their methods. Gallaudet then travelled to Paris and learned the educational methods of the French Royal Institution for the Deaf, a combination of Old French Sign Language and the signs developed by Abbé de l’Épée. As a consequence American Sign Language today has a 60% similarity to modern French Sign Language and is almost unintelligible to users of British Sign Language.”

So as odd as it may seem, the fact that Marilyn couldn’t understand Mareesa’s signing is actually plausible.]


Hair of the Dog


A blinding light assaulted his eyes as Grady regained consciousness. A shriek of tires on asphalt nearly deafened him as the oncoming car swerved at the last moment. Leaping to his left, he slammed into the cold guard rail along the side of the freeway and rolled over hard metal onto the gravel covered ground. Lying there, Grady become aware of his nakedness.

His last memory was of sitting at home, fixing himself his first cocktail of the night. That’s the last time I drink that cheap Irish Whiskey, thought Grady.

* * *

High above the Earth, in invisible orbit hovered the Xakturian science vessel. Zignat the teleporter technician fumbled frantically with the controls of the equipment in front of him. His captain’s face appeared on the large communications screen.

“Ensign, the coordinates from the tracking beacon we secured on that last human subject is 17 bartrots from his designated return location. What happened?” barked his captain.

“Teleporter error, sir. I’m working on it now.” he lied, trying to sound confident.

“Make sure the equipment is fixed before returning the next one,” growled the captain.

“Aye sir,”

That’s the last time I drink that cheap Alterian whiskey before starting my shift, thought Zignat.

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.]



PHOTO PROMPT – © Ted Strutz
PHOTO PROMPT – © Ted Strutz

The scrapyard was littered with about every object one could imagine. Beat up bicycle frames, refrigerators, ovens, washing machines all dotted the landscape. I even spotted an old Franklin stove.

“Carburetor for a ’72 Chevy Nova, huh?” asked Rufus, the establishment proprietor. “Yeah, I’ve got one. Be right back.”

As I waited a dash of color caught my eye. To my left was an old toilet filled with multi-colored pansies. When Rufus returned, I pointed to his planter.

“Great idea. Fill an old toilet with potting soil and plant flowers,” I smiled.

“Potting soil?” he asked, frowning.

My stomach lurched.

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.]

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.]


The Body (or An Unfortunate Way to Win a Bet)


“I bet he’s hiding a dead body in there,” said Fred.

“Why would he have a dead body in his shed,” asked Ted.

“Cuz that the sort of place you’d hide a dead body. No one would think to look there,” replied Fred.

“That’s not what I meant,” said Ted. “I was asking why would Mr. Carmichael have a dead body at all?”

“Rich people always have skeletons in their closets,” responded Fred.

“Have you gone soft in the head?” asked Ted. “That’s an expression. It doesn’t literally mean they have skeletons!”

“I know what it means!” shouted Fred. “But I’m tellin’ you, he’s probably hiding a body in there.” He pointed to the tall brick building with the high windows and corrugated metal doors.

“And who might he have in there, since you’re the expert?” asked Ted.

“I don’t know. Unfaithful wife, maybe? Mistress? Some bloke trying to blackmail him?” shrugged Fred.

“You’re daft. If they ever find a body in there, I’ll buy you rounds all night long,” scoffed Ted.

Four days later, Ted and Fred watched the police haul out the body from the shed on a stretcher. The beer flowed steadily at the pub that night.

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.]



A Visit From the New Neighbors

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

Nearly fifty of us huddled together around our equipment: Scientists from different fields of study all gathered by the government for this historic event. We watched with equal parts anticipation and trepidation as the unnatural midday clouds obscured the sun over the large mountain clearing. Magnificent flashes of lightning provided the only illumination.

By the time our satellite images revealed the objects true shape, we could do little but wait for arrival. Not knowing their destination, a coalition of governments frantically partnered together, placing “greeting teams” in locations across the globe. It seems my location had been the correct guess.

A collective gasp sounded as the massive ship burst through the thick cloud cover which it had been causing (Something about exciting the atmospheric ions, according to one physicist). Wide-eyed, I stared at definitive proof that we are not alone in the universe.

Then, not unlike the spaceship from that Spielberg movie, the craft rumbled ear-shattering tones. Having anticipated this form of communication, we all turned to the towering monitor from our computer, waiting for the translation. My mind swirled as I imagined what our first contact message from the aliens would be. Did they come in peace or as conquerors?

And then, the monitor glowed bright with words.

“Sorry to bother you, but we seem to have lost our way. Can you point us in the direction of Alpha Centauri?”

[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.]


Crowd Control


Ian glanced outside the window of his flat. A thick river of human beings flowed through the street.

“Noel, come have a look at this,” he called to his partner of 12 years.

“What are you staring at?” Noel asked.

Ian pointed and Noel regarded the throngs of people with the same curiosity and surprise that Ian had.

“What do you suppose is going on?”

“Beats me, but I’d like to go down and find out.” Ian grinned.

In the streets the flow seemed endless. Men, women, children all moved steadily along. The pair saw police and civilians marching side by side. The occasional Union Jack flew, heralding the crowd.

Ian and Noel decided to walk along.

Where’s everyone goin’ mate?” asked Ian of a man with multi-colored hair.

“‘Eard Prince Charles is speaking in Hyde Park. Says ‘e’s gonna abdicate.” he replied.

A woman walking nearby corrected, “That’s not it. J.K. Rowling is announcing a new Harry Potter book.”

A punker to Noel’s left shouted “Yer both wrong. Johnny Rotten’s playin’ a free gig in the park!”

With an understanding nod between them, Ian and Noel decided to follow the group to their destination to find out the source of the gathering.

Several miles away at Speaker’s Corner, Julian Basher, failed poet and current resident of Hyde Park watched the crowd amass.

Jerry was right. Prime the rumor mill and the crowds will finally come to hear me speak, he thought, unfolding a tattered sheet that contained his latest gem.

[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.]

Rebel to the Future

Dean McFly

A huge crowd had gathered near Clayton Ravine, just outside of Hill Valley. The last quarter moon lit up the small meadow as Marty scanned the crowd of teenagers. There were white T-shirts and poodle skirts everywhere. He steered the DeLorean through the throngs of people that had all shown up to see the race. No one had ever challenged Biff Tannen to a race before, and the fact that it was a game of “chicken” meant that nearly every teenager in Hill Valley would be present.

As he expected, Marty’s car drew gasps and stares from everyone that he passed. He barely noticed the fingers pointing as his mind was focused elsewhere. About fifty yards ahead he spied what he’d been seeking. Biff’s ’46 black Super DeLuxe convertible Ford was parked off to the side of the dirt road that led through the meadow and nearly up to the edge of the cliff that dropped a hundred feet down into the ravine.

Marty navigated his way through all the bodies, his headlights illuminating the pink sweaters and poofy hair. As he neared Biff’s car, he saw the usual assortment of lowlifes, Biff’s “posse”, crowded around the automobile. It took Marty a moment to spot Biff sitting in the driver’s seat.

Biff turned his head as Marty pulled up next to him, the crowd buzzing with excitement. The door of the DeLorean whooshed open and Marty stepped out to face his rival.

Continue reading “Rebel to the Future”

Seeing Double

PHOTO PROMPT – © Sandra Crook
PHOTO PROMPT – © Sandra Crook

“Check out my newest invention, Morty!” exclaimed Uncle Rick as he whisked the sheet off the circular metallic object that held an hourglass figure inside.

“Wow,” gasped Morty. “Is it… a time machine?”

“Of course not,” grunted Uncle Rick. “Time machines are for chumps. This is a quantum oscillator. I can make duplicates of any piece of matter!”

“Anything?” asked Morty. “Even… people?”

Just then Uncle Rick walked into the room. Glaring at his nephew and doppelganger, he asked “Morty, what are you doing in here with my quantum double?”

Morty stared slack-jawed between his two uncles and promptly fainted.

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.

I thought I’d revisit my buddies Rick and Morty, from “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Inventions“. The inspiration for the characters comes from the television show “Rick and Morty” on Adult Swim.]


The Substitute

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

“So let me get this straight,” said Bill Cotton. “Zeke Marley’s bull cut his leg on a fence last week and can’t be ridden in your rodeo tomorrow night, so you want to borrow Duke as a substitute?”

Fred Tassel looked uncomfortably at his partner, Eldrich King.

“Well… yeah, I guess that’s about it,” Fred said slowly.

“You’ll be compensated, of course,” added Eldrich, as if money were the issue.

Bill stared at both men as though they’d lost their minds.

Fred continued, “There just ain’t nobody else around that has anything we can use. And the bull riding event is the highlight of the show. It’s what brings in the crowds. If we cancel that, we might as well cancel the whole show.”

“You wouldn’t want to disappoint all the little kids, now would ya Bill?” asked Eldrich.

“Gentlemen, I’m not sure if you understand,” replied Bill. “Duke’s not a bull. He’s a rhino.”

“I know he’s a bit funny lookin’, but it don’t matter what breed he is,” said Fred. “As long as he don’t take kindly to someone ridin’ him.”

“Yeah,” grinned Eldrich. ”Folks love it when they toss the riders!”

Bill shook his head in disbelief. Then sighing he asked, “So… how much are you willing to pay?”

Word Count: 212

[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.]


The Calling

The Calling

The marbled sky began to crack allowing hints of sunshine through. The pale light illuminated an otherwise dreary afternoon. Two robed figures trudged along the narrow cobblestone street that led out of the Abbey.

“And how goes the flogging?” asked brother Andrew, breaking the silence.

“Oh, quite well,” replied brother Thomas. “My back is still a bit scabby, but I’m certainly keeping the demons out.”

“Good, good,” Brother Andrew nodded politely.

Small talk among monks was always a bit dull. At least the Order of Penance was allowed to speak within the walls of the monastery grounds. The poor bastards in Bath took vows of silence which made for very boring Saturday nights.

The two men reached the gate and paused for a moment.

“So this is it, then,” sighed Brother Andrew, staring hard at his young protegé. “You haven’t changed your mind?”

“No, brother, I haven’t. God called to me once to serve him in this capacity and now I feel a new calling. I have no choice but to obey.”

“Very well then,” Brother Andrew said resolutely. “I’m sure the nuns of Amesbury will be pleased to receive you. I must say though, their attire is much less… roomy in the nether regions and there may be some chaffing at first.”

“The Mother Superior has promised that I may wear loose clothing until I’m healed from my surgery. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” smiled Brother Thomas.

Brother Andrew clasped his friend on the shoulder.

“Peace be with you, Brother Thomas.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer you call me by my new name now.” the younger man replied.

A slight grimace crossed the face of Brother Andrew, but he shook it off and forced s smile.

“Of course. Best of luck Sister Loretta.”

As Brother Andrew walked back to the cloister, he muttered to himself.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

[Author’s Note:I wrote this for a short story contest but never entered it. I realize some may find the subject matter a bit controversial but that’s never stopped me from posting before. If you liked the story, let me know. If you didn’t like it, let me know.]



Calendar Girl


They rounded the corner of the old barn, hands clasped tightly together and giggling. A crisp autumn breeze blew Russell’s hair into his eyes, but he barely noticed. His gaze was on Mirabelle, the daughter of the farmer upon whose land they stood. Pausing, he studied the delicate lines of her face, drinking in her young beauty. In return, she smiled coyly at him and squeezed his hand. Hearts raced in anticipation of their impending carnal activities.

Many minutes later, as Russell pulled up his suspenders, he decided it was time. He’d wanted to ask her before their romp in the hay, as he felt that a post-coitus proposal would be in bad taste, but Mirabelle had insisted on leading him to their favorite getaway spot before he could blurt out his carefully rehearsed speech.

It’s now or never,” he thought, steeling himself.

Reaching into his pocket he withdrew the precious object.

“Mirabelle,” he said, kneeling before her.

“You’ve made me the happiest man in the whole county these past six months. And I… I just can’t imagine living without you.”

He extended his hand offering her the small box.

Mirabelle smiled graciously.

“Oh Jonathan, how sweet!” she purred in her well practiced manor.

“Jonathan?” exclaimed Russell angrily. “My name is Russell!”

Russell!” thought Mirabelle quickly. Of course… today was Tuesday.

[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 a bit over the limit this week.]