A character’s willingness to offer or receive help can show us something about personality, situation or history without the writer ‘telling’ the obvious about the fears, dilemmas, pride or compassion involved in the transaction.
Sometimes though, it becomes necessary to describe just that, so an unexpected response is understood.
This week, writers explored the offer of all manner of help in response to:
April 13th 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about offering to help someone. What’s their situation? What’s yours? Do they think they need help? How is it received? Could you be misinterpreted?
Union City by denmaniacs4
The sun slunk low as we entered the simmering heart of Union City.
We proceeded to Henry Taylor’s Stable and dismounted.
“Aggie, I have a man to see…”
She looked at me anxiously.
“No,” I said, “not that man. Not yet.”
She nodded. “I have appreciated your companionship, Clancy. I had best seek overnight shelter.”
The Banker had advised me that Hank Taylor was principled.
“Mr. Taylor,” I asked the short, stocky smithy.
“At your service, sir….Ma’am.”
“Could you suggest suitable accommodation for a woman?”
“Mrs. Taylor provides such,” he said.
“Could you direct Miss Runacre?”
“My pleasure, sir.”
School Function by Sarah Brentyn
Children run. Colors blur.
Parents laugh. Voices hurt.
Teacher speaks. Words blend.
Head swells. Brain bends.
Feet stuck. Force movement. Back up. Feel wall. Touch bricks. Need grounding. Mind spinning. Not breathing. Quick gasps. Suck air.
His hand is there.
He grabs my sweaty palm without complaint, squeezing three times to ask if I’m okay. I shake my head. No. He leads me toward the soccer field. Toward quiet. He doesn’t let go so is there when I fall.
Seconds later, sun in my eyes, an outline of his face hovers, not too close. I am safe.
Hardball by Jules Paige
Della was new to the area. What better way to get involved
than to volunteer to take over a concession stand that helped
raise funds for the local sports club. What she didn’t see was
the vicious side glances as she was unceremoniously dumped
with all the paperwork, stocking, display and pretty much
manning of the booth single handedly for the whole season.
Della put up with it, but was happy when her son decided that
physical sports weren’t his forte. Tied in a neat bow, at the end
of the season, she said her good-byes without any regrets.
Mr. Melvin by Pete Fanning
People said a lot of things. That our neighbor was crazy. That he’d tried to burn down the city library. When Mom had given me the monumental, don’t-talk-to-strangers speech along with my key to the apartment, she’d declared Mr. Melvin the strangest of them all.
What people didn’t know was how his eyes twinkled when he spoke about Muhammad Ali, or that he could play the guitar in a way that made your worries slide right off your back. That he wasn’t crazy, just lonely, and if anyone took the chance to listen, well, they might hear something wonderful.
Homemade Cider by Sherri Matthews
They had shared their hopes and fears; heck, they had even shared husbands. Now, as the two elderly women sat on the porch swing, a faded, hand-made quilt stretched across their bony knees, they said nothing. Only the crickets strummed their twilight song.
“I wish I had known,” sighed Mave at long last, shifting beneath the quilt.
Ellen rubbed her eyes and yawned.
“I didn’t want you to worry.”
“But you needed my help…”
“You were busy. Anyway, Bob helped me bury him under the apple tree.”
Mave grinned. “Bill’s good for something then. I’ll help you make cider.”
Call Me by Lisa Reiter
Call me”, I said walking out the door. I always said call me. She never did. I said it again knowing now it was an empty offer, just an exchange that eased the parting. She hadn’t long left and we were playing the game, the dance around the truth – dealing out stock phrases that were all part of the expected moves.
I knew she wouldn’t. No-one would know except me. I was suddenly afraid what that would mean when she’d gone. My guilt would define our friendship.
I picked up the phone.
I’m Sorry by Preshtha
“Get out” she seethes, her fists clenched at her sides “Just go”
I turn and look at her. “Tess” I say my eyes searching her frame for a reaction. “I was just trying to help”.
Nothing. I can see the slow heaving of her shoulders. “Please Tess, listen”.
“No, you listen, from the minute you stepped into it, my life has been a complete wreck, your ‘help’ today could have gotten us all killed. ‘killed’ Do you know what that means?”
“Yes” I answer. Guilt starts to choke me.
“Then get out.”
I turn and walk out the door.
Flash Fiction by Sacha Black
“How long have we been friends, Lexi?”
I shrugged, there wasn’t a time I could remember where Luke wasn’t next to me.
“Exactly. So why are you fighting me on this?”
“Because I want to protect you.”
“That’s not your choice to make.
I faltered. Was he right? This was my father, my betrayal, my fight. Of course it was my choice. If I went to war against my father people were going to die, I didn’t want one of them to be Luke.
“I can’t let you die for me.”
He grinned, “I won’t. I have a plan.”
Flash Fiction by Elliott Lyngreen
Zalcos throws askew feelings within guilt; for getting stiffed with an entire siding job; when, after the first draw, Crunk snagged a cab leaving the dishes piled in the sink –“Wee always been like a small town. Everyone wants to leave this shit city….”—“not your fault trusting a guy you always stick your neck out for, but some folks refuse help so they don’t have to help.”—“He done so many, but to me? Time he never come back.”-“Only seen a turkey dart across the road ahead once, that is driving around here. Hes a squirrel.”
Night Walk by Ula Humienik
The streets were already dark save for some street lights. One flickered overhead as she passed. It’s orange flickering was unnerving. She held her breath and quickened her step. Being out alone at night was the hardest. Just a few blocks and she’d be there, she reminded herself. She focused on steady breathing and moving forward as quickly as possible.
She entered a red brick building, passed the large neon orange COBBLER sign, and took the stairs to the fourth floor. Then she entered a door with a sign that read: SUPPORT GROUP FOR SEXUAL ABUSE AND ASSAULT SURVIVORS.
Humanitarian Aid by Anne Goodwin
Night after night on the television, I couldn’t stand it anymore. What use will you be? they said. Out there, you’re just one more mouth to feed. So I marched and knitted squares and fund-raised, but the gruesome images went on invading my dreams. I fought it with my pen and keyboard, but still felt unclean. On screen, their anguish shamed me, but what could I do? Would I swap my comforts for a night under tarpaulin? Would I give a stranger my spare room? Signing another cheque, I claimed it was for their sake, not mine.
Mistaken Identity by Jane Dougherty
She was standing unsteadily on the kerb, waving her stick in the air, but the cars weren’t stopping. They never did. With a glare at the motorists, I took the old dear’s arm and strode out into the traffic. She shuffled and I had to pull her to get her across. Safely on the other side, she wrenched her arm out of my grip, her eyes glittering furiously.
“I was saving that space for Miguel! Now that cojón has grabbed it!”
I muttered my apologies as she hurled invectives in Spanish at the driver slipping into the parking space.
Self Sufficient by Larry LaForge
The bearded man moved awkwardly on his prosthetic legs, barely managing to control two grocery bags cradled in his arms.
Edna nodded toward Ed, a clear signal to lend a helping hand. Ed greeted the man, but chose only to give him space.
The man hummed a cheerful tune as he gradually opened his trunk and clumsily lowered the bags. He shut the trunk, and slowly but surely maneuvered his way to the driver’s side of his car.
“Thanks,” the man said pleasantly to Ed.
“But I didn’t do anything. You did it.”
“I know,” the man replied. “Thanks.”
The Book by Ann Edall-Robson
The closed book lay on her lap. How many times had she read that story to him? It was his favourite. As a lad, he would giggle when she acted out the parts. A little older, he would remind her of words she missed trying to hurry through the pages.
He reached for the book, stopping short when she spoke.
“Should I start now?”
The frail hand opened the cover. Blindness did not stop her. She’d memorized each page.
A lone tear glistened on the grown man’s cheek. His son was mesmerized. Lulled by her soft voice.
Can I Help You? by Ruchira
“How are you feeling?” Jane inquired with an earnest tone.
There was an awkward pause, but Jane was persistent. She knew her cousin could go in her shell whenever adversity would strike, thus kept on inquiring and this time, she tried to put her hand over her shoulder while whispering some words of comfort.
Sharon’s reaction was instantaneous. She got up from her chair while pushing her hand away, “I don’t need any help from you. Go away!” her sharp pitch pierced through Jane’s heart as Sharon walked away without any remorse or compassion.
Dearest Sister by Kate Spencer
Unannounced, in the midst of total chaos and disarray, you burst into my home like a breath of fresh air. You brought your sunny smile, lots of bubbling energy – and a car load of sturdy boxes and wrapping paper! I can’t tell you what that meant to me. I was so distraught I was not going to get everything packed for the movers. You made it happen and for that, I am forever grateful.
There are daisies blooming in my new garden. They remind me of you – always laughing. Wish you were here.
Gliding on Ice by Imagenn 793
Fiona and I’d decided on ice-skating last week. I remembered the conversation all too well.
“How about this date night we go ice-skating?” Her voice slightly muzzled from the phone reception.
“Ice-skating… you sure? I mean-”
Fiona had laughed.
“Come on Harvey, it’ll be fine. I’ve been skating my whole life…and you can hold onto me forhelp…” Her voice had took on a playful edge.
Fiona could tell I wasn’t joking when I now gripped onto her for dear life.
“The things you do for love”, I muttered glumly, watching Fiona’s smile as she glided on the ice.
A Playdate at Bella’s by Norah Colvin
Mummy checked the calendar. Oops! Her turn for cake. Dulcie was engrossed playing. Great! Just enough time, if ….
Scarcely was everything out when up popped Dulcie. “Let me do it!”
Too pressed for winnerless battles, Mum kept one eye watching Dulcie, the other on the clock.
With the cake finally baking, Mummy suggested clothes to wear.
“No! I want this one,” pouted Dulcie.
“Let me help with the buttons.”
“No! I can!” objected Dulcie.
Only thirty minutes late, with warm cake and buttons all askew, they arrived.
“Come in,” greeted Bella’s mum, “Looks like you need a hand.”
The Tea Fairy’s Visit by Kerry E. B. Black
No one should feel forgotten during the holidays, not even moms.
Michelina slid a selection of teas beside a china teapot and packaged biscuits. A teacup’s translucence contrasted with red and green towels and Leslie’s hand-sewn patchwork cozy. She wrapped the box with flourish and signed the card “From the Tea Fairy.” She drove passed the house three times before smiling at the owner’s absence. She crept through back door with its broken lock. Feeling like Santa, she left her package. The single Mom who spent all her money on her kids would have a gift for Christmas, too.
Amazing stories! It felt strange to read them here in the compilation, yet comforting, too. Thank you for the helping hands and the uplifting stories!
Great stories, as usual. I enjoyed reading them all in one place.
Amazing number of perspectives on what help can be. Great to read them together again xx
Reblogged this on Lisa Reiter – Sharing the Story and commented:
After lending a hand at the Carrot Ranch this week, I thought I’d share the great variety of responses to the flash fiction promp.
Full of empathy with all the stories in an Universe of stories. The message about relationships and compassion rather than goals and truisms is marvellous.
Superb stories, I hope to join in again soon. The bar is being raised higher and higher with the story telling. Well done everyone.😇