Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 A to Z Flash Fiction - Tiny Tales

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.

As in my first A to Z challenge, I then searched sites like Pixabay.com, Unsplash.com and Morguefile.com for photos to spark some inspiration. I found some good ones - I know they are good when I look at them and the opening sentence to the story comes immediately to mind.


I hope you will take a couple of minutes and read some of thee Tiny Tales, created just for your reading pleasure. Click any photo to be taken to the related story - A through Z!





























A to Z: Z - Zephyr & Zero

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.


He sat in the car, parked across the street from the house. Looking at his watch, he was surprised to see five hours had already passed. The sun would soon be peeking over the horizon, lighting up the entire neighborhood. He let out a sigh as he opened the car window. The storm had blown through just after midnight, the gale force winds now just a zephyr that did little more than ruffle his hair.

The porch light reflected off the house number, or what was left of it. Zero. That's all. Just zero. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. A single numeral. But he knew it was the right place. This wasn't his first visit here, but it might be his last.

His retirement from thirty years in law enforcement was official - yesterday. Today he was a civilian. Joe Blow, just like every other citizen on the street. Liable for breaking the law.

But he didn't think about that. He thought about the people in the house. A husband and wife plus three kids. An infant, a three year old girl and a six year old boy. He'd met them when there was one baby. The wife had called 9-1-1 in hysterics, the baby had fallen down the stairs, she said.

When he and his partner arrived just ahead of the paramedics, the husband was sitting on the steps drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. "She's inside with the whiner." He jerked his thumb towards the front door.

The officers stepped around him and went inside where they found the wife sitting on the floor, rocking an infant. "He just-" She hiccuped. "He fell down- I didn't- No, he- Nooooo!" She continued sobbing.

He knelt beside her as his partner checked on the ETA for the ambulance. "Ma'am, I'm Officer Corcoran. What's your name?"

"M- M- Martha," she choked out.

"Martha, the ambulance is on the way. What's the baby's name?"

She sniffed. "Evan. His name is Evan. He's only two months old."

He leaned closer to the baby. "Hi Evan. We're here to take care of you." Then to Martha, "Would you give me the baby? Please?" He held out his arms and she handed over the baby. "Thank you. I hear the sirens for the ambulance. Let's go meet them outside. Okay?"

She nodded and followed him. The paramedics met them at the bottom of the steps where the husband was still sitting, still drinking, still smoking. He said nothing as they passed but grabbed his wife's leg, stopping her from going any further. "He fell by himself." Her face full of fear, she nodded and he let go.

That was the first of many calls over the past six years. He'd gotten to know Martha and the three children. He'd tried to offer counsel but like many women, she was too battered, too afraid to make a change.

Lost in his thoughts, he almost missed the slamming of the front door. He watched as the husband got into his truck and headed off to work. With a smile, he started his car and followed behind. The husband worked at a factory twenty miles out of town in a rural area. Once they were on a quiet stretch of road, he turned on his siren and lights.

The truck slowed and pulled to the side of the road and he blocked it in with his car. He got out, put on his hat and felt for his pistol. He smiled as he sauntered towards the driver side window.

"Why'd ya pull me over? I ain't done nuthin."

"Step out of the car, please."

"What for? Ya got nuthin on me."

He fingered his pistol and made his request again.

"Damn, man. Ya gonna make me late for work." The door creaked has he pushed it open.

"Lean against the truck, hands behind your head and spread your legs. Do you have a weapon or anything sharp on you?"

"Nah. I'm jess heading to work. An' you're making me late."

He pulled out his handcuffs and clapped them before there could be any physical protest.

"Hey man! What the he-"

"Shut up!" He spun his captive around. "You don't recognize me?"

"No, should I?"

"I've been to your house dozens of times over the last six years so you should."

"Huh. Don't remember you. Why'd you cuff me?"

"We're going for a ride." He opened the back door of his car. "Get in." He didn't give him a choice, pushing him inside and closing the door. He'd spent months equipping it. Lights, siren, back seat barrier and most importantly, removing the door locks in the back.

Getting into the front seat, he looked in the rear view mirror and for the first time saw a flicker of fear in the man's eyes. He'd mapped out a route into the wilds where no one would ever find the body. He smiled as he thought of Martha and the kids. They'd be fine. They'd get his package today with money enough to take care of them for years.

Him? He was headed to Mexico. Once all was said and done. Ah, retirement with a touch of karma. What a life!



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Saturday, April 28, 2018

A to Z: Y - Yarn & Yesterday

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.


"Beth, bring me the yarn scraps, the ones in that wooden bucket."

"Where are you, Mama?" Twelve year old Betheny hurried to do her mother's bidding.

"In the sun room, honey."

"Here they are." She set the basket of scraps in her mother's lap, on top of the blanket covering her legs. "How are you feeling today? Can I get you something to drink?" After her mother's diagnosis with cancer, she had stepped into the role as head of household. Her brother was only six and didn't really understand why their mother didn't do any of the cooking or cleaning. But since he idolized his older sister,  he did what he could to help out, too.

"No dear, I'm fine. I brought my water with me." She brushed her fingers through her daughter's hair. "Your hair is getting so long. We'll need to cut it soon." She patted the sofa beside her. "Come sit with me."

"But Mama, I have chores-"

"They can wait. I will help you later. I want to teach you something my mother taught me and her mother taught her."

Bethany sighed, worried her mother was regressing mentally. "You showed me yesterday, Mama." She gently took the scraps from her mother and set them back in the basket.

Her mother frowned. "I did? Oh, I don't remember. Flowers. I was going to show you how to make little flowers with the yarn. Then you can sew them on your dresses like my mama did on mine."

"I remember. You showed me your dresses in the photo album. You were so pretty." Seeing the frown on her mother's face, she made a decision. "Here are some yarn scraps. Can you show me how to make the flowers?" She put the yarn back in her mother's hands. "I really like this color. Don't you?"

The smile on her mother's face wiped away some of the signs of her illness. "Oh my! That would be wonderful. Did I tell you my grandmother taught my mother and she taught me?"

Beth nodded, not trusting her voice.

"And now I can teach you." Her mother concentrated on starting the first flower, demonstrating each step she made.

"Beautiful, Mama. I will treasure these forever." She quickly wiped away a tear before it was noticed.


Stay Calm and Read Flash Fiction!

  


Friday, April 27, 2018

A to Z: X - Xenophobia & XU

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.


"You still messing with that pile of junk?"

I carefully set aside the stack of letters I was perusing and looked up from my seat on the floor. "They're not junk. They're a piece of our history. My history."

My boyfriend of almost a year snorted his disgust. "I don't get your fascination with them or why you want to visit over there." He plopped into our bean bag chair and propped his feet on the ottoman. "Heck, you've got it all here. Just look around you." He waved his arms. "Microwave dinners, satellite tv and radio, smart phones - that kind of stuff. Why would you want to poke around old, dusty buildings in Europe." He shook his head. "Makes no sense to me."

She sighed and wondered if he would ever appreciate her way of thinking. "Jer, these papers are from my great-great-great grandfather and if I am reading it correctly, he was a major intelligence force," she picked up one of the letter and studied it before continuing, "in a group dubbed the XU."

"Humph, sounds like something from X-Men to me. He probably made it all up."

"Your xenophobia limits you so much. It keeps you from understanding other countries as well as other generations."

He scrunched up his face. "You think so?" He dropped his feet and sat forward. "Help me understand. What's in those letters that's so compelling you just have to go to Norway?"

She proceeded to read several of the letters to him, the explained the significance of XU. "It was an clandestine intelligence force in Norway working with the Allied Forces to overthrow the German occupation.  One of the founding members, and according to these letters a friend of my great-great-great grandfather," she glanced down, "Lauritz Sand, coined the name. The X stood for Unknown and the U stood for Undercover Agent. XU." She smiled and continued reading the correspondence written from her relative to his then fiancĂ©.

"Wow! I had no idea. All that intrigue. Spies! In your family history. They really took risks, didn't they."

She nodded. "So now you see why I want to visit the land of my heritage?"

"Want some company?" He leaned over and kissed her.



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Thursday, April 26, 2018

A to Z: W - Wandering & Wall

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.


The coach barked at his team. "Push, put some muscle into it! Harder. That's it. Now stretch. Farther! You can do it!"

They tried, they really did. But the wall seemed to defeat even the hardiest among them.

"Teamwork! Reach together! What does TEAM stand for?"

He could hear the groans and cries as weak voices replied, "Together Everyone Achieves More."

"Right! Remember, there is no I in team." He paused, hoping they would perk up and climb the wall.

More sighs and one tiny voice exclaimed, "No, but there is an M and E." Laughter followed.

"Who said that? That's not the team spirit. Step forward!"

No one said another word. Silence. Worse yet, there was no movement. Not even backwards or sideways. Nothing!

Then the smallest one on the team stepped forward. "It was me, sir. I said the letter M and E are in the word team." He stood up as tall as he could manage and stared at the coach, daring him to quash his spirit.

The coach sighed. "Well then, let's see you do it. We've wandered all over the place all day and I'm getting sick of not accomplishing anything constructive. Are you ready to do it?"

"Yes, sir!" came the collective shout. With the littlest leading the way, they charge forward up the wall, looking for a good spot to breach.



"Oh no honey, look!"

"Huh? What?"

"The kudzu. It's climbed the outside of the fence and found a little niche to creep through. You'd better chop it back down before it engulfs the whole garden!"

***Kudzu kills or damages other plants by smothering them under a solid blanket of leaves, encircling woody stems and tree trunks, and breaking branches or uprooting entire trees and shrubs. Once established, kudzu grows at a rate of one foot per day; mature vines can be 100 feet long. [source]

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A to Z: V - Vellum & Village

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.



"Hey Geoff, come look at this!" Clive sat on his haunches, waiting for his partner to come over and check out his discovery. They had spent three weeks excavating one small section of the ancient château in a remote village without finding much of interest. Until now...

"What is it?" Geoff touched the artifact carefully.

"I think it's a vessel for storing old documents."

"Is there anything in it?" Geoff held the item up to the sun, trying to see inside.

"Careful! I'm not sure. We need to open it in a cleaner environment that out here."

Geoff nodded as Clive wrapped the relic and stored it in his knapsack.

Three hours later, they had found four more and stored them, too. 

Excited by the find, they made their way back to their accommodations where the wizened old woman in the reception area greeted them. Her voice cracked as she asked, "Didja have a gud day, gents?"

Not wanting to say too much, Clive shrugged and Geoff affected the local dialect when he replied, "Eh, 'bout the same as the afore."

She smiled, her broken and yellowed teeth glinting in the receding sunlight. "Ah, gud enuff then. Off wit' ya then." Her cackle followed them down the hallway and they hastened their stride.  They closed the door to their room, taking the extra precaution to lock it.

"Didn't she seem unusually interested in whether we found anything?" Geoff asked as Clive took the relics out and laid them on the bed.

"Maybe so, don't know what difference it makes though." He held one vessel up to the overhead light, turning it from side to side. "I still think there is something inside."

"Don't drop it!"

Clive frowned. "As if!"

"I mean it. The container is probably more valuable than anything inside it."

"I guess." He held a second one up to the light. "But aren't you just a little bit curious?"

"Well..."

"C'mon, let's open one of them."

"I don't know..."

"Just one. What can it hurt?" Clive started tugging on the lid before he could object. Geoff reached for the artifact but Clive fell backward, the lid in one hand and an odd vapor rising out of the container.

Sitting upright, Clive stuck his fingers inside and pulled something out. Now Geoff was intrigued. "What is it?"

"Some kind of parchment paper with some symbols on it."

"Let me see." Geoff took the paper and sat on the floor beside his friend. "This isn't any old parchment, this is real vellum."

Clive scrunched his nose, not liking the odor the vapor at sent into the room. "How can you tell? I didn't know there was any difference."

Not one to pass up a chance to show off his knowledge, Geoff explained how vellum was made from calf skin and thus a higher quality paper than regular parchment paper, made from other skins.

"Oh." Clive wasn't particularly impressed. "What do you think those symbols mean? Some kind of language maybe?" He ran his fingers over the text. "Ouch!"

"Huh?"

"It got hot! You try."

Geoff followed suit and ran his fingers over the symbols with the same result. "What the--- How is that happening?"

"I don't know but look around us. Whatever it was that came out like steam is filling the room!"

They tried to get up off the floor but found their muscles were as weak as a wilted flower forcing them flat on the floor.

"I- I - can't move." Clive willed his arms and legs to obey his brain but nothing happened.

"Me- can't- not-" Geoff could say no more.

While they couldn't move or talk, they were conscious enough to hear the locks on their door snap open. They turned their eyes towards the door, opened just a crack. The steam or gas or whatever it was, seeped out. The door opened wide and the old woman from the front walked in, cackling her  villainous laugh.

"I see ya' did fin' sumthin' out there. I'll juss takes it for ya'." She picked up the paper and read aloud three times. "Dolor sequi, sequeris desperatio, odium consumet."

"Wha- what- what is she saying?" Geoff asked Clive.

"I think she said 'Anguish follow you, Despair follow you, May hatred consume you,' but I'm not positive. My Latin is pretty rusty."

As she swept out of the room, surprisingly spry for someone as old as she appeared to be, their strength returned and they sat up and looked around.

"Why'd you knock me on the floor, you idiot?" Geoff slugged Clive on the shoulder.

He punched him back, hitting him in the stomach. "Shut up, you moron. You started it."

The two continued fighting on the floor for hours till all that was left was blood and goo.

Later in the day, the old woman brought the janitor to the room. "Clean up the mess, Norman. We need to get ready for our new guests."


Stay Calm and Read Flash Fiction!

  


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A to Z: U - Underbrush & Uniform

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.



The underbrush is dense and cool. I creep along, not rising any higher than necessary. The air around me warms as I move through, staying hidden for as long as I can. I thrive on the privacy, but worry the crackling of the brush will give me away sooner than I desire.

The underbrush opens up and I bolt forward, seeking more of the security I just left. It's time to stand tall as I race across the meadow towards the forest ahead. I get tangled in the weeds but they just feed my desire to continue.

I am hot now, hotter than I've ever been. I refuse to hide in the underbrush. I am growing stronger, I feel bigger, more powerful. I won't cower before them. The sirens no longer terrify me. The uniforms no longer scare me. I can beat them. I can soar!


"Chief, where do you want us?" The team of wildland firefighters stood at the ready, waiting for the go ahead to fight the raging wildfire. 


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Monday, April 23, 2018

A to Z: T - Teaspoon & Tape

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.


She sat back on her heels, looking at her discovery. She'd been digging out a small patch of her yard for a flower garden. A place to be able to sit and reflect on the natural beauty and artistry of nature. She wanted to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, then build a gazebo, and after that...

"Whoa, slow down. First things first." She laughed at herself and ran her fingers over the dirt encrusted spoon. Not a teaspoon or a soup spoon but a serving spoon. A serving spoon like the one she remembered her Grams using when she was a little girl.

Lost in memories, she sank down onto the soft, warm soil, letting the remembrances wash over her. Sitting on Grammy's lap in the weathered rocker, savoring the smells on the threadbare apron as she fell asleep listening to the soft lullaby. Growing a flower garden, digging in the dirt, planting and weeding, then enjoying the results. Standing on a stool, learning to cook by her side. Stirring soups, whipping batter, kneading breads - she swore she could smell the aromas right now, here, sitting in the dirt. 

Losing her parents at age three, it was her grandmother who had raised her. Guided her through her tumultuous and rebellious teenage years, never giving up on her. She let the single tear fall. "Oh, Grams. I miss you so much." She sighed as a breeze ruffled her hair.  Life had been hard lately. Harder than usual. No home, no job, and no prospects.

Her grandmother had willed her this farm but she had let it sit, unoccupied, for several years. Until she had no choice. So she packed up everything she owned, loaded it into her ancient car and moved back to her hometown.

She looked around her. A ramshackle house in desperate need of both repairs and a paint job. Several acres of overgrown farmland that was probably only good for haying right now. And the yard where she was sitting, looking somewhat better after she had spent her first week trashing junk, weeding, and mowing. Not used to the hard work, she'd gained several blisters. She smiled as she remembered her first attempts at wrapping her own hands in yards of gauze and tape.

The spoon had grown warm in her hand and she looked up as the sun came out from behind a cloud. "Grams, I'm going to be okay. In a couple of months, you won't recognize this place. Thank you for everything you taught me. Flowers and baking, my new business. I didn't know what to call it until I found this." She held up the utensil. "Gram's Spoonery."


Stay Calm and Read Flash Fiction!

  


Saturday, April 21, 2018

A to Z: S - Sewage & Salt

My A to Z Challenge: Flash fiction written using two words and a photo for inspiration. How did I chose the words? First I brought up a noun list for each letter, then averted my eyes, scrolled the mouse down, stopped and double-clicked. That was the word! The second word was chosen the same way but from a dictionary list of words.
NOTE: Photos are from free to use photo sites such as Pixabay.com and Morguefile.com. No attribution necessary.


"Egad but that stinks!" Ray held his nose as they removed the manhole cover. This was his first day on the job, hired on by his brother-in-law as a sewer system inspector.

Jack snorted. "It's sewage. What did you expect? Roses?" He lead the way down the ladder deeper into the bowels of the pungent labyrinth of tunnels below the streets. He hadn't wanted to hire Ray but his wife had insisted. That was after she insisted Ray move in with them until he could get on his feet.

"Don't get me wrong. You guys are the salt of the earth. I am really grateful for the job and the place to stay." He paused at the bottom of the ladder, wiping his face and only succeeding in spreading the dirt across his forehead. "How do you stand this? It reeks like a fat woman on a pig." He shook his head and squinted as though that might change the odor.

"Don't just stand there, we've got a ways to go before we ht the spot that needs repairing. Pick up the pace." Jack adjusted his headlamp before moving his tool bag to his good shoulder.

Ray continued grumbling about the stench, the dampness and the darkness. "Can't we take a break?" He propped himself against the wall and made another attempt at wiping the sweat off his face. "I don't know how you do this every day. I think-"

Jack cut him off. "We're almost there. You'll get some relief from," he waved his hands, "all this." Inside he was counting the minutes until he was free of his brother-in-law. His freeloading, lazy, good for nothing brother-in-law.

"Okay, fine. Two minutes." Ray took a swig of water. He swiped his mouth and tossed the water bottle on the ground.

"Pick it up."

"Huh?"

"The bottle. Pick it up."

"Why?"

"Damn it, Ray. Pick up the bottle. You don't leave litter here or anywhere. Don't be such a slob."

With a shrug, Ray picked it up but as soon as Jack turned his back, he tossed it back down. Ten minutes later he was complaining again. "You said it was just around the corner twenty minutes ago. When we gonna get there?"

"Not much further, down this way." He took a sharp right. "Watch your step." The path made a rapid descent and the air cooled.

"Well dang, but that feels good." Ray stopped and took a deep breath. "Smells different. Not good but different."

Jack smiled but kept walking and said nothing.

"Can't we stop for lunch? My stomach's emptier than my wallet and you know how empty that is." he laughed but Jack still said nothing.

"C'mon, bro. You know that's true. Been a long time since breakfast."

With a snort, Jack finally broke his silence. "That was barely three hours ago. Let's get to our work location and then we can take a break."

With a loud grunt, Ray pushed off the walk and trudged behind Jack who soon stopped in front of a barred door.

"Now what?" Ray grumbled.

"Hold on." Jack pulled a key ring out of his tool bag before setting it on the ground. He unlocked the door and motioned Ray to enter.

As Ray turned around in the small enclosure, the door slammed behind him. "Hey! What're you doing?"

Jack laughed as he pushed a button on the side of the enclosure. A sluggish door creaked opened and loud breathing could be heard from the other side. "Lunch is now served!"

Ray whirled around and saw something unrecognizable coming toward him, a enormous mouth ringed with razor-like teeth opening and closing. "Jack, get me outta here. What the he-"

Jack tipped his hat at the thing now crunching contently on what was left of Ray. "Take your time, not sure when I can get you another meal." He sauntered off whistling.


"Hey honey, I'm home!"

Jack's wife gave him a kiss. "How was your day? Wait, where's my brother?"

He shrugged. "He left at lunch time, said something about an easier way to make a living. Don't think we'll be seeing him again."


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