When we see it abused, it can blind us to the good that can come of power. Empowered choices, regaining power, love. Above all else, love.
This week writers explored different expressions of power, its ironies and abuses, its triumphs and uses. Each story is a window into power and how it is expressed in our world. We even had a longer story inspired by Gordon Le Pard who wrote Power & Light. Give it a read! It’s, well, illuminating.
The following stories are based on the February 3, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that explores the question, “What good is power?”.
The Power Remaining by Jeanne Lombardo
He’d learned the unwritten rules in the first weeks. How he had to back up his own kind. Step into a fight between a white inmate and the blacks or Hispanics. Take another inmate with him anytime he talked to a guard, insurance against a false report on either side. And how to look out when someone got high on contraband dope.
The dope. He’d been offered it. Had fought the memory of the pleasure of it in his veins, the release, the purest happiness there could be.
But he’d resisted. It was the one power remaining to him.
Power Walk by Sherri Matthews
The faster Joan walked, the more enraged her thoughts. All day long, there he sits, like a useless lump in front of the TV, saying nothing, doing nothing…I can’t take much more.
An hour later and almost home, she softened as worry replaced anger. What if he needs a doctor? What if he needs help?
The smell of coffee greeted her.
He never made coffee, or tea or…
“I booked that walking holiday,” he smiled as he handed her a mug of fresh coffee.
“I know, I wanted to surprise you, been doing a lot of thinking…”
By Her Own Authority by Paula Moyer
How did she get here? Jean married Charlie and, as agreed, she went to church with him. Now here she was – in this sect that demanded women’s silence in church. 20-year-old Jean did a slow burn.
In the Bible study class, another young woman was there with her church-member husband. The preacher went on about “unbelievers.” Really? Not just cousins in one family?
The woman cried. The preacher persisted. “You’re a sinner!”
“Stop.” Jean felt the word escape her mouth.
“Quit being mean.”
The preacher resumed. So did Jean.
“Stop.” Finally, silence.
Jean savored the power of breaking rules.
Overdue by Bill Engleson
The sky blackened. Clancy Dobbs hadn’t heard night’s soft rattle. Asleep in the saddle, barely hanging on, he fought the urge to slip down and curl up.
He knew he was close to Union City, knew that Brace Caldwell was waiting.
“I made that mistake once,” he’d admitted to the Banker from Union City. “Caldwell should be rotting in his grave.”
“Well,” said the Banker, “Some good folks, some not so good, are rotting in theirs…because you let Caldwell abscond.”
Need to rest, he thought. And then…the lights of Union City glowed from the valley.
What Price Power? by Jane Dougherty
He watched through the bullet proof, explosion proof glass canopy of his vehicle, the adoring crowds, weeping, waving, holding up their children to see him. How many security guards lined the route? How many marksmen were posted on the roofs? How many helicopters patrolled the city to detect any suspicious movement? It was necessary. His life was too important to be put at risk. It would be a shame about the children though, if terrorists struck
Too bad he couldn’t trust God to keep him safe, the Pope thought.
He raised a hand and slowly waved at a baby.
Calm by Ann Edall-Robson
He was screaming. Ranting and raving into her head set about a box.
“This was my wife’s birthday present. It was supposed to ship today. You’ve ruined everything.” He yelled.
When he took a breath, she asked if there was anything else.
“Ahhh, yes, how are you going to fix this?”
“I am going to give you the tracking number of your wife’s gift that was shipped this morning.”
“It’s already here.” He bellowed.
“Sir, could you check the label again?” asked the calm voice.
“Oh. . . it’s for me.”
“Have a nice day sir,” answered the calm voice.
The Tornado and a Vase Full of Flowers by Kate Spencer
Gerry pulled Maggie closer. The floorboards rattled above them.
Their living room window shattered, walls crashed and Maggie’s heart sank. The roar of pelting rain continued. Then came silence. Deafening silence.
“Let’s go,” said Gerry getting up. Together they gingerly climbed the basement steps and entered what once was their kitchen.
Maggie grasped Gerry’s arm as she looked around in horror. Suddenly she giggled.
She pointed to the vase full of flowers and their wedding photo on top of the bedroom dresser, both untouched by the storm. “Even the tornado had some respect for love. Imagine that.”
Empowerment vs. Other People’s Feelings, Chapter Three Million by Sarrah J Woods
“Hey, Becky!” David hurried toward her with his usual lopsided gait.
Becky sighed. David followed her everywhere now, ever since she had helped him up when he’d fallen on the campus sidewalk last month. When she’d tried explaining that she wasn’t interested in him romantically, he’d protested that they were just friends—yet he kept paying her more-than-friendly attentions. Lately she’d even started hiding from him.
She took a deep breath. She couldn’t bear to be unkind to him; that wasn’t who she was. But living in fear wasn’t either. “David, I’m really sorry, but I need some space.”
Parental Effectiveness by Jules Paige
We weren’t sure why Mrs. Nasty thought she could
teach sixth grade English. She expected eleven year olds
to behave like college Freshmen. One day the Reading
Teacher got complaints from the students who the two team
taught. Our child was absent that day. The next day Mrs.
Nasty reamed out all of the children for whining, telling
them they had no right to challenge her methods.
We’d dealt with her with before. Our youngest had stress
issues and we weren’t going to put up with her theatrics,
again. – We used parental power to pull him from her class.
Powerful Bureaucracies Across the Generations by Geoff Le Pard
‘Mum, why can’t I go. It’s not fair.’
‘Mr Johnson, why can’t we have seats outside? It’s not fair.’
‘Penny, I understand but it’s just the way it is.’
‘Mrs North I understand, but those are the rules.’
‘But Joey’s mum spoke to school and they agreed…’
‘But the cafe next door has permission…’
‘The school rules are clear…’
‘The highway regulations state…’
‘Mummmm. Why can Joey go and I can’t?’
‘What did they do to be favoured…?’
‘Sometimes that’s just the way it is, Penny.’
‘I hope you’re not suggesting impropriety…’
‘I hate you!’
‘If the cap fits…’
Power Shifts by Irene Waters
“Time to leave Tristam.” The barman cleared the glasses. “You’ve had enough.”
“Don’t tell me what to do. All day they’ve been at me. The bastards, they think they own me. Do this Tristam. Do that Tristam. Can’t just leave me to do my work. Gimme another then I’ll go.”
“Come on Tristam. Don’t make me call the police. Go home. Dinner will be on the table. Muttering, Tristan staggered into the street and stumbled the short distance to his house.
“Gloria, I want my dinner?”
“It’ll be …..”
“Now! Here, at least, in my own house I’m the boss.”
“Knowledge is Power” by Lisa Reiter
“Whatever you think best Mrs Webster.”
Surely she should feel empowered? She was finally being asked to make a decision except there wasn’t exactly a choice. It wasn’t a passing of the batten but a passing of the buck. Let’s pretend you have all the power in the world now because we’re at the end of the line. We have no more answers.
The routines and rituals of sitting in the hospital whilst learnings, decisions and treatments were bestowed upon her would all stop.
All that knowledge had been defeated with a single question.
“What do I do now?”
The Hallowed Halls of Power by Deborah Lee
Jane hurries toward the house. Her throat is sore, her body aches, she’s cold. It won’t be much warmer inside, with no heat, but it’s out of the wind, and her sleeping bag awaits.
She slows near the driveway, then keeps walking. Look casual. Belong here.
People next door, working in the yard.
She can’t sneak into her house, seeing as it’s supposed to be empty.
Her head throbs. She can kill time at the library, try again later. The library’s chairs aren’t soft anymore. They can’t provide too much comfort these days, what with all these homeless people.
Super Power by Norah Colvin
Bored with responses as repetitious as their store-bought costumes, he scanned the room of superheros, wondering how many more interviews to fulfil his quota. Spying a child sans costume, he winked at the camera crew and moved in, the opportunity to highlight another’s inadequacies all too alluring.
“And what superhero are you?” he smirked.
The child held out a book, drawing artefacts from within its pages. “I am a reader. I can soar on dragon wings, explore the Earth, and the farthest galaxy. I can fill my head with imaginings, or discoveries new and old. Reading: my Super Power.”
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
“Anything else? Do they threaten to harm you? Command you to do things you don’t want to do?”
You shake your head. “Just those three words – empty, hollow, thud.”
The psychiatrist pushes his glasses up his nose. “Better have you in for observation.”
You don’t protest, expecting they’ll evict you as a fraud before bedtime. But the days drag on, the dull routine of meals, meds and a movie on TV. How do the really sick survive?
You scribble away, observing the staff as they observe you. But their notes are the clinical record; yours dismissed as “writing behaviour”.
Redefine by Carol Campbell
Kumar looked wide-eyed at the overbearing adult who was shouting at a very large crowd. He was watching this speaker on a T.V. in a store on a rare trip to the city with his mom. The white Westerner was shouting about America being powerful again. “We have to reclaim our standing as the greatest super-power in the world!” he boasted. Kumar being sixteen could understand the words he used but the concepts were foreign. In his small village, people shared power through humble cooperation. They didn’t own much but they had peace and tranquility. Perhaps he needed POWER.
Law and Order and Dominion by C. Jai Ferry
Jack wanted to pull against the cuffs. Rule #1: Do not resist. He focused on the linoleum floor at his feet, a vomitus green remnant from the eighties. Rule #2: Do not make eye contact.
“What the—?” The judge glared at the prosecutor. “Littering?”
The twenty-something prosecutor stood his ground. “We’re asking the max. Three months, $500.”
“For cigarette butts?!” The judge snorted, then growled at Jack. “You—quit smoking.”
Jack nodded. Rule #3: Show remorse.
“You—find some real goddamned criminals.” The gavel crashed down. “Dismissed!”
Jack shuffled by the judge. Rule #4: Be grateful. “Thanks, Pop.”
Finesse by Larry LaForge
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Ed’s screaming alarmed Edna. She raced from the kitchen, heart thumping.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Ed pumped his fists, unable to say anything else.
Edna turned to the blaring TV. The football game announcer was more delirious than Ed.
“The greatest play I’ve ever seen!” the announcer screamed.
“The Hawks outweigh ‘em 50 pounds per man, but never saw the fake coming. If you can’t overpower ‘em, then outsmart ‘em. That’s what the Tigers did!”
Edna turned back toward Ed.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“Whatever,” Edna said, shaking her head as she returned to the kitchen.
Game Shows by Sarah Brentyn
Mum hates TV.
When my father still lived with us, she bitched about how much he watched the stupid thing.
Now she leaves it on all day. “For company,” she says.
I hear the women talk about her. How she couldn’t keep a husband. I want to punch them in the face—they don’t know anything.
I got my father’s temper.
She’s different, my mum. Fights back with her mind, not her hands.
Half the neighborhood can’t pay their bills but they can see our TV glowing through the windows. They know we have power.
And can waste it.
Temper and Threats by Charli MIlls
Cobb slammed his fist on the table. Dishes vibrated and the children grew silent. Mary narrowed her eyes. “Temper, Cobb, does not make the man.”
He rose and nodded, jaw locked, eyes smoldering. He stalked out of the house. Minutes later Mary heard the pounding of horse hooves. He’d go to her. Well, let her endure his black mood.
Sarah watched Cobb race toward her cabin. Twilight made his form shadowy as a night bandit on the prowl. He reined in his sweaty horse and began the tirade he’d been brewing.
“Tomorrow I’ll clean up on Rock Creek!”
Killer Instinct by Pat Cummings
Benny drew a careful line through three names in his notebook, muttering to himself, “You’re history, Jeff. You’re outta here, Mike. Adios, Linda.”
They were as good as dead. Benny had total power over their lives.
It was only fair; he had created them in the first place, word-generating additions to the world he was building for his novel. But something told him the story didn’t need them. His gut said he should do away with them.
They wouldn’t be the only victims of his edits, either. Benny sharpened his red pencil and went back in for the kill.
Mom Takes on The Man by Pete Fanning
Mom lowered the microphone. Thoroughly outnumbered and undermanned, her posture was impeccable.
“Councilmen, preserving our history is a civic duty that we owe to our future—”
“Mrs. Hawthorne, while we appreciate your—“
“Mayor Wainwright, I believe I have the floor.”
“Uh, yes, very well.”
For twenty minutes she let them have it. About Mega More, low-wage jobs. Traffic, pollution, natural history, Appalachia. The mayor squirmed through it all.
“Uh, yes. Thank you Mrs. Hawthorne. Now, if there aren’t any other speakers, then I think we should vote. All in favor?”
All five hands rose.
Mom’s shoulders dropped.
The Firmament #7 by Sacha Black
Sharp prickles traced a line down my spine. Why was father entering the presidents office? They were enemies, not allies.
My heart galloped into my stomach. Father was moral, upstanding even. He would never agree with the president, or want to keep us inside the Firmament. He was my hero.
But the knot of doubt in my stomach swelled. I pressed my ear against the door, barely able to hear for my heavy breath.
“Jonus, it is imperative you stop your daughter. She cannot be allowed to get out. Understand?”
I ran hard and didn’t look back.