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 ch√Ęteau 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."


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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."


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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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Friday, April 20, 2018

A to Z: R - Response & Rash

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.



"John, he's out there again!" Sheila peeked between the vertical blinds into the apartment parking lot.

"What do you want me to do about it?" Her husband went back to reading his newspaper.

"You're a police officer. You should go out there and arrest him!"

"Why?"

"Because he's breaking into cars!" Sheila stamped her foot in frustration.

"And you know that because?" Her husband was unflappable in his response.

"I can see him.  He's beside that old Cadillac that's been sitting out there like forever. He's breaking into the window."

"Can you see broken glass?"

"Um, no..."

"Then why do you think he's breaking into the window."

Sometimes her ever logical husband frustrated her to no end.

"Well, why else would he be hiding what he's doing?"

"How can he be hiding if you can see him from here?"

"John!" She spun around, hands on her hips. "Get up and go out there. Someone needs to stop him."

He put the newspaper down and smiled that smirk that always preceded a response guaranteed to irritate  her.

"That's Butch Douglas. He's old man Douglas's grandson. I met him at McDonald's the other day. The car is for him, he just has to get it running." The expression on his wife's face made it hard for him to not laugh out loud. "The key is missing so he's trying to open the door through the window with my Slim Jim."

"Why didn't you tell me that in the first place?"

"So maybe someday you'll stop making rash decisions before you have all the facts."


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Thursday, April 19, 2018

A to Z: Q - Quest & Quote

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.



It all started with a quote he had saved. A quote that he didn't understand at first, but the more he thought about it, the better he understood it. At least he thought he did.
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers. ”
~ Erich Fromm
So that was the impetus for this quest, this search for meaning in his life. He'd walked away from it all. The high pay, high stress job. The girlfriend who wasn't really one. The fast cars, gourmet restaurants and brand name clothes. All he owned now was in his backpack.

He'd been through three continents, too many countries to count. His passport was filled with colorful stamps and writing in multiple handwriting. A quick study for languages, he was working his way around the world, one country at a time.

Had he found certainty on his journeys? Only the certainty that life was too short. He was never going to wait for the perfect tomorrow, he would continue to savor his imperfect todays. Let the quest continue!


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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A to Z: P - Penny & Panel

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 stooped and picked up the penny in the parking lot. Most folks would have just left it, but not him. He always picked them up and took them home. He'd lost his wife over twenty years ago, the result of a freak accident. She'd only been twenty-three. A couple of months later he was feeling low and he found a poem that helped him cope.


Ever since then he refused to pass by a penny. He'd picked them up in buses, parking lots, grocery stores. He'd found them in the dirt at the beach, in shopping malls and, of course, in washing machines.

He'd always rub it with his weathered bandana, kiss it lightly and say "Here's to you, my angel. I'm always I'm thinking of you, too." Then he'd put it in his opposite pocket, the one that didn't hold his wallet and keys. When he got home, he'd put it away and smile.

OBITUARY:
Ralph E. Thompson, age 89, died of old age at home on Thursday, January 13, 2018. A lifelong resident of Duxbridge, he lived simply and worked hard.

Ralph was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor. He has no living survivors.

There will be no services.
One month after Ralph died, the demolition crew arrived to tear down his house. He had donated his property to the town for a park with the condition that it be named Eleanor's Angel Penny Park. The crew started inside, salvaging what materials they could for their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The paneling in the living room revealed quite a surprise. Hundreds of thousands of pennies...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A to Z: O - Occasion & Oath

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.



"Cheers!" The duo clinked their beer bottles and sat on the rock to enjoy the setting sun.

"I really didn't think we'd make it, did you?" Clay turned to his best friend since kindergarten, Rodger.

"Nah, between the drugs and crime in our neighborhood, I thought we'd be dead before we made it out of high school."

Clay took a swig from his bottle, then set it between his knees. "You remember the oath we took?"

Rodger became pale. "You mean...?"

Clay nodded.

"You aren't serious. We were just kids." Rodger shivered, thinking about the agreement they made over twenty years ago.

"This is the perfect occasion, don't you think?" Clay chuckled and winked.

"Not really. I could go the rest of my life without doing it."

"C'mon. Don't be a wimp. We pinky swore and shared blood. Remember?"

"How could I forget? I still have the scar. Look!" He held open his palm, then scratched it. "And it still itches."

"Let's finish our beers and then do it. We promised we'd do it on the year we both turned thirty and here we are."

Rodger wasn't convinced. "I say we finish our beers and then go get some more."

"Where's the adventure in that?"

"I don't need adventure. I have good job, a wonderful girlfriend, a great car. Life is good."

"Good, but BORING!"

"But we were just ten!"

"Rodger, we made an oath." Clay frowned. "I think we both need to do this. No one should break promises. Plus, it's really no big deal."

"I don't know..."

"It'll be over quick and then we never have to speak about it again."

"Are you sure?"

Clay smiled, he knew he was winning the battle.

"Explain to me again why we thought this was a good idea?"

"Because we were ten years old. Remember?"

Rodger sighed and chugged the last of his beer, then set it down.

"Fine! But I am doing this under protest. It's silly and juvenile."

Clay laughed as he stripped off his clothes. "And freeing! Hurry up!"

Within minutes, the duo was streaking across the meadow, stark naked, their laughter resounding with the glee of freedom only known by ten year old boys. 


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