“Reading the Signs” Flash Fiction for Friday Fictioneers

This story was written for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by wonderful author and artist, Rochelle, on her website, Addicted to Purple.  Each week, she provides us with a photo prompt and her own story, and we have 100 words to respond with out take.  Anyone is welcome to participate–just give credit to the provider of the photo prompt (provided this week by J. Hardy Carroll), write your own story, and click on the blue frog below to read others’ work and add a link to your own.

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Image copyright J Hardy Carroll

Reading the Signs

(100 words)

Frieda and Barb moved through the debris, touching familiar broken chairs and upturned tables absently.  They had been many times to the abandoned factory, but none of those trips had been this important.  Brenna was missing.

Barb gasped at the first stained glass image.

“Brenna,” Frieda said.

They followed the pictures from left to right, seeing the little girl get scooped into a car and driven to a little house by the ocean.  They studied the car and the man driving it.  They studied the house.  They called 9-1-1 and gave an anonymous tip.  They watched the glass, and prayed.

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“Old Games” – Flash Fiction for Friday Fictioneers

This story was written for Friday Fictioneers.  Each week, Rochelle gives us an image and 100 words to tell a story.  She also inspires us with a story of her own.  This week’s image comes from Claire Fuller.  Click on the blue frog below to read more stories that correspond to this prompt and to add your own.

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Image – Copyright Claire Fuller

Old Games

(100 words)

“We played with this for hours.”

“This?”

Emma held up the tightly-coiled metal, pulling it apart and letting the center section droop.

“Yes, a slinky,” her mother said.  “It was—Ralphie’s favorite.  He’d wait for a quiet moment, and then you’d hear it come down the stairs.  Everyone would laugh.”

Her mother wiped tears away.

Emma let the slinky trip down the stairs, fascinated that this had belonged to a dead boy, younger than her, who was her uncle.  Then, she forgot about it.

That night, when everyone was asleep, she heard the unmistakable sound.

“Hi Uncle Ralphie,” she whispered.

 

New FlashDogs Anthology: Time

A few days ago, the third FlashDogs Anthology, Time, was published in both paper and ebook formats!

The FlashDogs are a group of writers who became connected online, mostly through different flash fiction writing contests.  This anthology includes a variety of flash fiction from authors who hail from all over.  All writers wrote in response to three images (representing past, present, and future), but these very short stories show a lot of different styles and viewpoints.  I’ve enjoyed reading stories from the other contributors online in various contests as well as in the past two anthologies.  I’ve learned a lot more about the possibilities flash fiction provides, and I’ve had fun!

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I was lucky enough to write for the previous anthology set, Solstice (Light and Dark), and wrote again for this one, though with the end of my pregnancy and then baby’s unexpected early arrival, I only got one story in this time!

If you’re a fan of flash fiction, I encourage you to take a look at Time and the other anthologies, as well as the FlashDogs website.  All royalties from the sale of Time go to the charity, The Book Bus.

“Driving the Conflict” – Monday’s Finish the Story

This story is inspired by the photo and first line provided on “Monday’s Finish the Story” – check out that website for more stories and to follow future prompts.  Mondayprompt

Driving the Conflict

(1st sentence + 150 words)

They finally made their escape.  Ted drove fast on the dirt roads.  His wife’s lips were thin and she was bracing herself against the dash.  She knew better than to speak.

The two teens in the back had their earbud I.V.’s in, and were pretending not to feel the jerks of the vehicle going too fast over potholes and cornering too quickly so that branches scraped against the windows of the SUV.

“I was trying to do something nice for the family,” Ted said loudly.

“We were trying to survive the camping trip,” Ted’s daughter said.

“I’ve had it up to here with you,” Ted said, bringing his left hand up to his chin.

The car’s right side jolted downward; teeth clanged inside four skulls.  Ted quickly steered out of the ditch and back onto the road, flushing red.

“OK,” Ted said.  “No more camping.”

“No more camping,” his wife said.

The teens nodded vigorously.

* * *

“Homecoming” – Flash Fiction – Friday Fictioneers

As I’ve been wandering the internet and WordPress, reading short fiction and looking for different writing prompts, I encountered the Friday Fictioneers at Rochelle’s great website.  I’m a bit late in posting, but I loved the photo prompt, so I went for it anyway.  I hope you’ll check out Rochelle’s site!

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Homecoming

 Jack hadn’t been home in a long time.

His mother went to considerable trouble.  The table was set for dinner hours in advance—in defiance of any plans he might make to flee.

She was out buying fancy food that she’d overcook.

Maybe Jack was a selfish asshole.  It was possible.  His mother thought so.

He looked out the window, trying to decide.  What kept him away?

Everything inside was gray, dark, puritanical.  The geraniums outside were the only hint of joy.

Jack sat down at the empty table, waiting.  Today, he’d be the son she wanted, if he could.

* * *

Original Prompt: https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/9-january-2015/

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Jan Wayne Fields

I’m not sure I totally understand the InLinkz or that I’m using this correctly, so let’s consider this an experiment…

Read “Not Safe” in Black Petals Magazine! I’m published!

I’m excited to announce that my short story, “Not Safe,” was published today with Black Petals Magazine!  My story appears right under that of a close friend, M.C. Colby, whose story, “Micah’s Gift,” appears in the same issue.  This is my first publication with a magazine, and I’m psyched!  There are many fabulous pieces in this issue of Black Petals, and I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think!

Here’s the tag line for “Not Safe”:

In this story a woman encounters a ghost in a converted textile mill. The terror inspired by the ghost’s warning makes for a deadly ride home.

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“The Rogue Pilot” – Flash Fiction

So, I have another post ready sooner than I thought I would.  It is not yet the longer one with reflections that I’d mentioned, but I got a rejection in my inbox today for this story (no, that’s fine, we’re all used to that, right?  It’s part of the process), and I thought I would share that story here.  The prompt was from Mash Stories, and you need to write a story under 500 words including randomly selected words “honesty,” “blow-dryer,” and “cockpit” (The competition deadline is 15th–follow the link to check it out!).  At first, I was stumped.  After a few false starts, this was the story that came out.  I used to work in a diner with a take-out window…but not with Roy!

Though you might not know it from this blog, since I’ve started experimenting with flash fiction shortly after beginning writing here, most of my stuff is longer.  I have one completed literary fiction novel with paranormal elements and another novel in the works which is upmarket women’s fiction with paranormal elements.  I also have several longer short stories.  Talented friends from my writer’s group (Margo Carey and Dianne Herlihy) got me interested in trying flash fiction, and I’m still exploring it.  It’s exciting to work with–I’m enjoying finding out about many of the great authors on WordPress and elsewhere writing in flash fiction!  I feel like I’m still learning a lot from flash fiction and I’m finding it an interesting challenge, so I intend to keep going!

Anyway, this one has a different tone from some of my others…hope you enjoy!

*

cockpit

The Rogue Pilot

Grandma said that honesty was the most important thing.  Grandma practiced what she preached.  From the moment Molly rose in the morning, Grandma was honest:

“Molly, put some cold water on your face.  It looks swollen as a beach ball.”

“Molly, don’t put so much dressing on that salad.  You need to lose weight.”

“Molly, don’t let people tell you that ‘the right person will come along.’  Nothing in this life just ‘comes along,’ and that’s a fact.”

Molly had taken to turning the blow-dryer on high and scorching her scalp just to block out Grandma’s truth.

Under the honest onslaught, Molly had developed survival skills: omission, vacant agreement, and secrets.  Today was Molly’s first day of work at the diner.  She’d quit her retail job, and hadn’t told Grandma.  Hell, she was eighteen, and she could do what she wanted.

She wanted to work with Roy, because Roy was hot.

Roy greeted her at the door and handed her an apron.  He led her to the take-out window.

“You’ll start here.  It gets busy.”  He gestured to the kitchen.  “That’s the command center, and this here, this is your cockpit.  You need to perform like a fighter pilot, quickly and efficiently, but—” He held up a finger, “with a smile.”

She smiled.

“Exactly,” Roy said.  Roy was good with words.  She had been in English with him, and wow, he knew how to catch your attention.

Molly tried to be decisive, but she had to keep questioning Roy.  He had placed her in the cockpit, but hadn’t told her where to find the order pads or coffee filters, or whether a customer could substitute a salad for fries.

Roy was annoyed.  “Molly, stay in the cockpit!” he said.

Molly cried as she scooped the ice cream.  Hot Roy was yelling at her.  His words were weapons.

Finally, Molly asked the question that pushed Roy over the edge: “How late do I stay?”

Roy slapped the green Formica countertop.  “Where is your dedication?” he said.  Customers turned to look.

“I don’t have any,” Molly said.

“Well, that’s the problem!  This is a simple job!” Roy shouted.  The customers looked away, embarrassed.

“Stop yelling at me,” Molly said.  “You haven’t told me a single thing about how to do my job.  I’ve had enough.”

Molly undid the apron, shoving it onto the counter.  One customer whistled and clapped.

“Fine,” he said.  They stared at each other.

She nodded and crossed her arms.  “Try not to eat so many french fries.  Your face is swollen as a beach ball.”

Then, Molly did whatever she wanted.  Her apron stayed on the counter.  She placed orders including substitutions.  She told customers they were out of chocolate chip cookie dough because it was the hardest to scoop.  She gave extra scoops to children who said please.  She was the pilot, gone rogue.

At the end of the day, Roy said, “I always thought you were nice, in English.”

Molly shrugged.  “I’m honest.”

 * * *

I had fun participating in the Mash Contest, and I’ll keep my eye on the Mash Stories website!

If you enjoyed this story, I hope you’ll check out some of my other flash fiction works:

The Toad

The Cocktail Party

The Song in the Night

The Arrangement

Just in Case

The Spider and the Fly-Man

Play Date

Contest Win on Blog of Fantasy Writer, Jennifer Deese!

I have some exciting news to share!  I entered the photo-prompted fantasy flash fiction contest on author Jennifer Deese’s website, “To Write is Right!”, and I won!  My story, “Play Date,” is currently posted on her blog, along with Karen Mossman’s “I Am Alive,” which took second.  Karen’s story is very creepy and hints at a difficult backstory for the narrator!  I hope you’ll check out both stories and share your thoughts!  Here is the photo prompt used for the contest:

IMG_52669112475450 (Jennifer Deese, “To Write is Right!!!!”)

As a prize, I have the opportunity to read Jennifer Deese’s new novelette, The Orchid Keeper.  I’m away for a few days right now and borrowing a computer to write this, but I’ll get reading when I return and will let you know what I think.  Here is the description from Amazon.com: “Buried in addiction and digging in even deeper with denial Cora’s life is a mess. Until one day her reality takes a turn that lands her in an unfamiliar world. With the otherworldly assistance of Sol she will begin to realize how close she has brought her soul to fading away completely. Is it too late? Or can Cora face down her demons and save her soul?”  Very intriguing!

You can follow Jennifer Deese on Twitter: @d_eese

These are her blogs: jennjenn388.wordpress.com and jenniferdeese.wordpress.com

Happy reading and happy new year!  Thank you Jennifer Deese!  I’m grateful for the opportunity to have participated in your contest, for your blog post, and for your book!  A great way to transition into 2015.  : )  I’m also grateful for my good friend, author Lisa Pais’s kind words on her blog, The Enchanted Notebook.  Lisa is a very talented writer as well, producing fantasy, science fiction, humor, songs, and just about anything she sets her mind to!

If you are new to my blog and enjoy reading “Play Date,” I hope you’ll read some of my other flash fiction:

The Cocktail Party

The Toad

The Spider and the Fly-Man

Just in Case

The Arrangement

The Song in the Night

Flash Fiction: The Cocktail Party

The Cocktail Party

The party had been going on for a few hours.  Most people had had a few drinks.  Most people had confined themselves to a corner or a chair or a place by the window.  A few drifted between the groups, failing to wedge themselves in permanently, failing to fully blossom into social butterflies.

Someone made a loud comment about the president.

Someone else said at least he cared about global warming.

At that, everyone looked toward the polar bear where he stood by the window, sipping at a martini and ducking his head.

Does the president really care about global warming?” a woman with dark hair and pointed glasses asked.

The man next to her in the tweed jacket that was too warm for the overheated apartment leaned into the woman, put his hand on her upper arm, and gestured toward the polar bear.

“Please don’t,” the bear said.  “I don’t want to be a ‘polar bear’ tonight.  I just want to be Mike.”

Everyone felt insensitive.  One man in a tight black t-shirt clapped the polar bear on the back and said, “Of course, Mike!” too loudly.

Everyone forgot about that awkward moment after Freddy showed up.  Freddy came uninvited to the party of his ex-girlfriend, bringing a date who looked as though she barely knew where she was.  Freddy kept an arm around her and propelled her through the party, bowling into the guests’ tight configurations squeezing her side as he slurred.

I went over to talk to Mike, and we averted our eyes from that fiasco.  Then we had a very serious, very deep conversation.  I told him about my dreams of becoming a writer, and how this would be very different than my current, soulless existence.  He told me that he missed the polar ice cap, but how he couldn’t take being around all of the moaning anymore.

“It was a bad scene,” he said.  “Everyone down there is so depressed.  Everyone is always talking about this melting and that melting.  You start to see that you’re really off-white compared to snow, once you look at it long enough.”

It was too much for him.

“Your coat looks lovely in the moonlight,” I said.

Mike blinked at me, and I could tell he thought I was being insincere.

I shrugged and smiled.  I walked away.  Freddy lunged at me with his new girlfriend, and they breathed hot booze onto my skin.  I shook my head to clear it and left the party, pulling on my coat as I clunked down the stairs and outside.  When I looked up at the lit windows of the party, I could see the shape of the polar bear against the window.  He started to move, but I turned away before I could see what gesture he would make.

* * *

If you enjoyed “The Cocktail Party,” please check out my other flash fiction stories, “The Toad,” “The Spider and the Fly-Man,” “Just in Case,” “The Arrangement,” and “The Song in the Night.”

Flash Fiction: The Toad

I didn’t have a chance to work on some of my extended projects this weekend, but I did work on a new flash fiction piece, drawing on the following list of words for inspiration:

rotting, trapped, slab, faith, paradise, mangle, toad, match, wolf, lamb, ginger snap, nursing, bones, newts, bathtub, abroad, protectors, lodging, elapsed, diminished, married, confidence, indulgence, welcome, ragged, mysteries, lively, intelligent

Words selected from Life Studies and For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell (1964) and Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell, Penguin Edition (2004)

*

The Toad

            The feeling had diminished, whatever it was.  Earlier, she had felt it crouched inside her: a lumpy toad, spreading a rancid chill amongst her organs.  It was, she supposed, a type of depression.  There were strains, too, of anger.  There were hints of loneliness and undertones of dissatisfaction.

Harriet had given lodging to the toad.  What choice had she had?  Yet, she’d left the door to the creature’s abode open, to try to tempt it to leave.

Time had elapsed, and the toad had left her abdomen and had hopped onto the kitchen counter, where it watched her preparing dinner.  It sneered at the french fries as she poured them, frozen, but still greasy, onto the pan.  Under its intelligent eyes, she felt guilty for the indulgence.

After the terrible meal, her stomach had become a slab, and the toad hopped to it and settled there once more, and he made her feel cold and little afraid, so she ran a bath for herself: hot with fragrant bubbles.  These were enough to make the toad unsure of his welcome, and he once again departed from her, though he didn’t go far.  He sat on the vanity and peered down at her obscured, but naked form in the bathtub.  Harriet felt sure that none of her mysteries were secret to him, and saw that his eyes were more lively than she had hitherto realized.

Regarding the toad from tub and meeting his liquid eyes, she felt herself warming to him.  Might he not be a protector?  A supernatural gift?  A benign influence bent on nursing her back to health?  It might only have been her own bleak feelings which had initially framed him as a bad omen.

Reading her thoughts, the toad launched himself down to her from the vanity, and perched his squishy body upon the edge of the tub.  Next, he would slip down into the water.  Harriet felt a quiver of apprehension at that, a wavering of her confidence.  Why had the great beyond sent her a toad, after all?  Why not a wolf, or a lamb?  Why was her familiar a creature so universally known for ugliness—a creature whose only defense mechanisms are camouflage and peeing into the mouths of predators?

The toad read these thoughts in Harriet’s eyes and turned, launching himself onto the bathroom rug and exiting the room.  When Harriet stood, toweled herself dry, and peered into the hallway, she was alone.  The toad had gone, punishing her for her lack of faith.  Who knew what he might have been, if she had been patient?

Harriet felt a new heaviness settle inside her, as yet unfamiliar.  She vowed that she would not be so careless with this entity.  She would guard her thoughts.  She would strive to be grateful.  She would hold back any desire to cringe at an unexpected form.  She would kneel at the knee of this new shape, and she would study its lessons and recite its mantras.

As she made these fervent promises, the new creature lifted its head from its coils, and Harriet reached out a hand, free of trembling, to stroke its scales.

*

If you liked “The Toad,” please take a look at my other works of flash fiction, “The Spider and the Fly-Man,” “Just in Case,” “The Arrangement,” and “The Song in the Night.”