Home » Flash Fiction Collections
Category Archives: Flash Fiction Collections
Writers faced the bullpen at the Rodeo with the rip-snorting task of combining three pro-bull names into nouns and mashing them into two genres — game show and pirate. They faced, rode, and wrote Bodacious, Nose Bender, and The Heartbreak Kid onto the stage, the plank, or perhaps a strange new reality tv show.
Each writer gets to enter the contest once. Some only want the fun of the challenge, and others are prolific and wrote extra stories. These are the challengers from Rodeo #2: Pro-Bull Mashup.
The contest is now closed. Rodeo #3 launches October 17, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Foul Play by D. Avery
“Pal, I won us tickets ta see the bull ridin’. Nose bender seats.”
“D’ya mean nose-bleed?”
“Nose bender. From pressin up against the fence an’ peerin’ through the knothole. Guy said ringside seats is sold out, this is such a bodacious event.”
“Sold out? This rodeo don’t charge.”
“The guy said we had to pay, Pal, but said I could git these seats if the price was right. I answered some ranch trivia questions an’ I won!”
“Nanjo Castille! This ain’t trivial, he’s a pirate! This could lead ta heartbreak, Kid. Where’s he at?”
“Sleepin’ off Ernie’s ‘lixir.”
One Chance to Ride by Charli Mills
Heartbreak Kid tightened the rigging. Daddy schooled her in knots. She’d want it to come loose, not drag her through the arena like a ragdoll. They all wanted her to bomb, break bones. It would serve her right. She had pirated the sport meant for cowboys, not cowgirls. Daddy’s nose-bender against the county rodeo association made salacious headlines. He fought for her right to ride. The paper dubbed her the Heartbreak Kid, mocking her dreams of riding eight seconds. This was no game show with winner’s confetti. Getting to ride a bull named Bodacious would be her prize.
Sink or Swim! by JulesPaige
The very bodacious hostess was looking for a ‘Romeo’, not a heartbreak kid for her contestant. Michael Nosebender needed a new name if he was going to compete on national television. So he pirated the first name he thought of; Mickey Rooney. Since this was a match up for the silver hair set Carol let the guy slid in the third seat. Not that anyone with any brains would want to date that old curmudgeon.
The widow Della Street wanted someone young to offer her a very romantic cruise far away from raunchy buccaneers. Florida’s Gulf coast would do.
Games off the Coast of Brazil by Charli Mills
Nosebender ruled the deck of her ship Bodacious with its black sails. She was French Basque, busty and disfigured. Sometime during her trade, gaming Spanish galleons out of Brazil, the butt of a pistol bent her nose. It frightened God-fearing captains during raids she crafted into a high-seas game show. She called her first-mate, a Portagee with a blind left eye, the Heartbreak Kid. A bit of a pirate joke — he was ugly as Nosebender. But he supported her slick game of ridding Spain of her ill-gotten riches, sharing the winnings with the wretches of the New World.
And They’re Off by Susan Zutautas
Standing at the ticket window Ian placed his bet. Twenty dollars on Nose Bender to win. Meg the practical one put twenty dollars on Heartbreak Kid to show.
At the starting gate, the bell rang, and the horses were off.
Heartbreak Kid took the lead with Nose Bender three horses back. Meg and Ian, both excited stood cheering their horses on.
Out of nowhere the favorite to win, Bodacious took the lead leaving the couple’s horses behind. The favorite won, Heartbreak came second, Nose Bender way behind, came in sixth.
Both disappointed but they had a fun day out.
The Parrot Nation by Charli Mills
“Welcome back to the celebrity edition of, ‘Whose Parrot is This?’”
Cheers rose from the audience, responding to cue cards. No one knew who the famous person would be. Anticipation dripped like sweat.
The host, a man with a plasticized smile and pirate hat initiated the hints to three audience members on stage
“Squawk! I speak Russian!”
“No! Squawk! Diplomats suck!”
“No! Squawk! Make America—”
“Ding, ding, ding! Yes! This parrot belongs to President Trump, Stable Genius, Grand Pirate of the Walled Swamp.”
The crowd roared, prompting unnecessary. The rally had begun, the games continued.
Reality Show by D. Avery
“Kid, stop poutin’ up in thet poet tree. What’s wrong?”
“Reckon yawl should jist vote me off the Ranch. I feel awful fer indangerin’ ever’one. Agin. I’m heartbroke.”
“Kid, don’t git yer nose bent outta joint. Nanjo’s gone. Some bodacious city slicker name of Rudy come by an took ‘im east.”
“Ta the Big House?”
“I heard White House. They’ve got friends there.”
“Hmm. I’m russian ta conclusions now.”
“Right? But where else kin a corrupt pirate like Nanjo be tried by a jury of his peers? The $64,000,000 question is, kin we vote thet gang off the Island?”
Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.
The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Make America Skate Again by D. Avery
“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”
“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”
“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”
Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige
Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.
The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.
Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn
No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”
On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.
I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.
Say Mozzarella by Sharon C
Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.
Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.
Untitled by Pete Fanning
Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.
He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.
At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.
Old Green gave him a wizened smile.
Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”
“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”
Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills
Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.
It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.
Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.
Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery
“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”
“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”
“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”
“What do you think?”
“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”
“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”
“In 99 words?”
“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”
“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”
Who have we forgotten and why? The historical record stretches so long it seems there remains no room for all the remembrances. Family history fades or ends abruptly. Memory brings its own struggles. Yet truths of who we are as humans emerge to remind us that we are like those we have forgotten.
Writers were challenged to recall to the page the unremembered. A daunting task, full of unexpected interpretations, discoveries, and forgotten stories.
The following are based on the September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered.
PART I (10-minute read)
Noted by Liz Husebye Hartmann
I dreamt last night of snow.
A thin blanket over vibrant late summer.
Silent white, still as death,
Satisfying in its containment.
Not part of the scene,
Hovered just above and north,
Invisible and unremembered in this moment’s lapse,
Accepting that all is as it should be.
It lingered, this stillness, this moment
Before the alarm pierces the darkness and eyes shutter open to snap the shot before the rushing flow of sunlight and voices, the river of everyday that roars and twists and pulls me along,
A red leaf-spin noted in everyone else’s emergency.
Unremembered by Donna Armistead
She appears only in the occasional census record and once, fleetingly, on an 1862 list as wife of a Southern soldier, entitled to low-cost salt for preservation of her family’s meager stores: my great-grandmother Mary. If she wrote letters to her absent husband, chasing Yankees across ravaged northern Virginia, they do not survive. More likely, the rigors of keeping a farm and feeding her children consumed all her time.
She lies somewhere in a Georgia Baptist cemetery, her grave unmarked, her daily toil unremembered. Money – and the attendant spirit of commemoration – were scarce commodities in the wake of Sherman’s devastation.
Unremembered by Norah Colvin
A recluse, unremarkable and forgotten in life and unremembered in death, she’d lived in her own world hidden behind overhanging branches and overgrown gardens. Unseen for so long, newcomers didn’t know she existed, thinking it was simply undeveloped land.
One day, developers came and pushed down the trees and cleared the undergrowth. They paused at the sight of the tiny wooden structure their work revealed. Unsure how to proceed, they investigated. Though not art enthusiasts, they knew that what they discovered was something special. When the work was curated and exhibited in galleries worldwide, she was never unremembered again.
Unremembered by Anita Dawes
I cannot think of anyone forgotten to me
I am sure if I walk around my local graveyard
There would be so many forgotten souls
With no living relatives to lay flowers
I will lay a flower on a few bare graves
as I pass through to show they’re remembered
I asked a Jewish neighbour years ago
Why no flowers on their graves?
They don’t like to kill anything
They leave a stone to say someone has visited
I thought I might like to do that
Find a bare headstone, take a small pebble
Place it there with love…
A Lost Love by Sadje
The light was playing tricks. She was sure that it wasn’t him. How could it be him, after all those years. And she was sure that if she did see him today, after fifteen years, she wouldn’t be able to recognize him. He would have changed just as much as she had. They weren’t thirteen anymore.
As the man drew near, he gave a crooked smile just like Sam and looked at her quizzically. “Are you Sally Hepworth by any chance?” She was unable to say anything, so great was her amazement. She just nodded her head in affirmative.
Hello! How Are You? by Di @ pensitivity101
There were warm smiles and hugs all round, general chit chat and catching up over a period of about fifteen minutes.
It was so lovely to see them, they said so.
It had been such a long time, and how were the family, the dog, the new house?
How was their health, were they enjoying retirement?
Parting company, any familiarity faded and frowns replaced their polite smiles. They knew so much, yet they couldn’t be placed.
It’s the old story. Minds are searched, family faces summoned from the deepest depths. Who were they exactly? Damned if I could remember.
Yearbook Photo by Denise DeVries
Bitty sat on her faded sofa next to Grace in her tailored suit and silk stockings. “Here’s our high school yearbook.” She flipped through the pages and pointed. “There you are.”
Grace leaned in, her sprayed hair brushing Bitty’s cheek. “Who’s that boy? I don’t remember him.” She touched the photo with a manicured nail and laughed. “That hair! So out of style!”
Bitty read, “Pierce Langley Davis. The name doesn’t ring a bell. Look at his angry eyebrows.”
Grace leaned even closer. “Wait a minute… Hmm. Isn’t that Fierce Pierce?… I think I went to Homecoming with him.”
Sad To Be Forgotten by Susan Zutautas
Talking to her aunt about Sunday dinner Meg was a little concerned about her grandmother because Aunt Jenny told her she wasn’t herself lately.
Sunday arrived and Meg was a few minutes late.
Grandma was there and seated at the dinner table. Meg thought she looked perfectly fine and maybe her aunt had been mistaken. Meg greeted her with a hug and then sat down at the table.
Cousin Sandy sat next to Meg and during dinner, grandma spoke up asking, “Sandy, is this your new boyfriend?”
“No, it’s Meg, your granddaughter, you remember.”
Grandma sat there looking confused.
Ruby by Lisa Williams
Geoff always woke promptly without an alarm clock and immediately mourned for the one he married. He rose and she stared up at him. Smiling. Not a care in the world. From their wedding photo, taken exactly forty years ago to the day. He washed, dressed. Thinking that they could be celebrating today. A big family party in a balloon filled hall. Happiness. After a lifetime of shared bliss. He sighed and took her up a cup of tea in bed. Hoping today would be a reasonable day for her. And that she’d at least recognise who he was.
A Mere Image by Bill Engleson
She lifts the arm.
“There, Mr. Sam, that’s right, draw it down your right cheek. Through the foam.”
The razor in the right hand slides along the stranger’s face.
There is a scent. Peppermint?
“That’s right. Careful not to nick.”
The hand jerks. A gash. Blood mingles with the foam.
She grabs a tissue, dabs the face. “That’s not so bad. You have to be more careful. Perhaps I should finish it for you.”
Her hand embraces the razor, shaves slowly, bypasses the pinkish tissue, finishes, wipes the face with a warm cloth.
Her hand caresses the face.
Widow’s Weeds by Kerry E.B. Black
Beatrice shifted framed photos on her entry table, the only remaining piece of her prized furniture. Rooms in the senior care facility didn’t accommodate much. Her deceased husband smiled from a silver frame, dashing as the day they married. From others grinned their children, three strapping boys and a diminutive girl with a shy smile. They all lived afar, scattered like shrapnel after the explosion of her husband’s death. Purposeful misunderstandings fueled fevered departures. None looked back to notice Beatrice, alone, grieving, and with little to support her ailing heart.
Yet she proudly displayed her family in sparkling frames.
Nelson Finds His Namesake (from Snowflake) by Anne Goodwin
What a racket! Unpatriotic to cry while the rest of the nursery slept. Nelson grabbed the traitor from its cot, ready to shake it and scream at it to stop.
The name stamped on the baby’s bib almost made him drop it. The infant was a Nelson too. The revelation brought a yearning that threatened to swallow the pair of them, a hollowness from before memory began.
He wanted to run. He wanted to crush the tiny skull. But he made a cradle of his arms and rocked his namesake. Soothing his unremembered anguish as he lulled the child.
Unremembered by Pete Fanning
I barreled into the school parking lot, tires screeching, thumping across the speed bump. Amelia sat slumped on a bench, one sock up, one sagging to her shoe. A teacher stood by her.
I left the car running. “I’m sorry baby, I—”
“You forgot me. I can’t believe you forgot me!”
Three kids, one me. But now, seeing my youngest, face glazed with tears, how even her sock had given up on her. I was a terrible parent.
She flung herself into me, part hug, part tackle. Like her socks, my daughter was let down, yet resilient.
Father Figured by JulesPaige
Each with their own thoughts, maybe they remembered? But they chose not to share. That created blank spaces in Harper’s young mind. He couldn’t even remember what story they might have told as to why his father wasn’t coming home. Did they even try to say that the man had gone with angels to heaven?
Harper only had a hole in his heart. Questions weren’t asked because no one else brought up his father’s name or even showed old photographs. He would remember whatever he could.
a life ends early
grave hours pass without telling;
their stories are lost
Unremembered by clfalcone*
The nine-year old stood beneath the light post, the State Fair was stifling hot with no shade. He thought about food as insects buzzed around his crewcut. Lord, how he had to pee.
He only bent down to tie his shoe and then they were gone.
Five hours, still no one came for him.
It was getting dark next to the Haunted House, pictures of people being gored as shish kebabs, sliced like juicy steaks scared him, his stomach growled.
He sat in the dirt, whimpering. He was getting a real solid beating tonight, for sure.
So he cried.
Unremembered by tracey
I was nine when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, eleven when she died. My memories of being ten are ragged, filled with holes.
I remember crying. Hospital visits. Coming home to an empty house, devoid of the smells of baking and lemon Pledge. The panicky feeling as I opened the door, what if this was the day she died and I just didn’t know it yet?
Surely people were kind to me during this difficult time?
But no acts of kindness remain in my memory. I can’t remember anyone but my mother and myself during that horrific year.
The Close Match by Sally Cronin
Isobel held her mother’s hand tightly as the door to the café opened, and a man walked in and looked around. It had been an emotional few weeks since the DNA close match had been found on the genealogy database. Her mother, abandoned as a toddler on the doorstep of an orphanage, had no memories of her family, long giving up hope of finding them. The man looked over to their table and her mother gasped as she saw his shock of red hair and green eyes. His face lit up and smiling he hurried towards them, twins reunited.
Trissente by Saifun Hassam
As a marine archeologist, Pierre loved to explore Trissente Sea and its unusual shores. The coastline was relatively recent. Some millennia ago catastrophic ecological deluges had washed away the previous shorelines and limestone and sandy cliffs that must have extended a mile or so inland.
There were legends of an ancient coastal people and their immense temple, and ruins of a hidden monastery in the Diamante Mountains. Stories lingered of a long ago learned scholar, his name forgotten. Pierre planned to explore the mountain. He was intrigued: who was this scholar, these ancient coastal people, long vanished, the unremembered.
Unremembered by Robbie Eaton Cheadle
The unexpected sight of the frozen tableau inside the shrine caused the team of archaeologists to gasp in shock. The faces of the three Incan children, who had been sacrificed five hundred years earlier, were peaceful. The oldest, a girl they nicknamed the Maiden, had a half smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
Analysis of hair samples from the frozen mummies found entombed in a subterranean chamber, revealed that the children had all been drugged with coca leaves and alcoholic beverages.
This historical discovery ensured that the Maiden, Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl, would not be forgotten.
A Dead Dark God Grumbles by Joanne Fisher
I was once powerful. More powerful than anything seen before. I had many followers and was feared by everyone. Impregnable was my black fortress, unscalable were my defences, unassailable were my lands, undefeatable were my armies. Yet one day I was overthrown. My body was destroyed and my spirit was hurled into the darkness. And now no one remembers me. Nameless I have now become. A disembodied voice crying out in the void.
One day I’ll find a way to return and everyone will again quake with fear when they hear my name, and the world will be mine.
Visit by Joshua G. J. Insole
Gusts of wind moaned through the skeletal trees, scattering the burnt-orange leaves across the graves.
“That time of year again, Frank?”
“Same as last year?”
“Same as every year, Harry.”
The wind wailed between the headstones, shrieking like a ghoul.
Harry cleared his throat. “Well… maybe they forgot?”
“Twenty-seven years in a row?”
“I—well, maybe not…”
“Yeah, maybe not.”
The gale was picking up speed now. The town’s citizens would be battening down the hatches.
Frank was changing, too. Becoming. Tattered skin and rotten flesh were stitching themselves together again.
“This year,” he said, “they’ll remember.”
PART II (10-minute read)
Unremembered by Susan Budig
Esther’s eyes opened into blackness. No morning light yet broke through the small window. Her body, clad in a thread-bare shift, pressed into the splintered board. A wool blanket, shared with three other women rested on top of her. Rainwater dripped through the ceiling, splashing droplets onto her shaved head.
“Claude,” she murmured, “my beloved.” May your memory be a blessing involuntarily flitted through her thoughts. She scolded herself for thinking them. A dead sleep overtook her until the blockführer’s screams roused them.
Over in the men’s barracks, no one remained to give Claude even a passing thought.
Unremembered by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings
It was late summer and a refreshing summer breeze gently blew. The Roma family sat near a clearing at the roadside, their piebald pony munching grass as they themselves ate breakfast. They did not hear the approach of the SS patrol from the forest, nor expect the burst of automatic fire. They could not know of the burning of their wagon home, or that their precious pony would become the property of a Ukrainian peasant after the beast had bolted. No more laughter or music would flow from their campfires, nor would any ever again lovingly call their names.
Did I Dream It by Susan Sleggs
We hoped for more soldiers to arrive, not so we could go on R&R, but so there would be enough men to fight back when the next firefight happened. The night was quiet. I got about four hours sleep. When I woke, there was a replacement guy sitting three feet from me. I was about to introduce myself when bullets started flying. We both went flat to the ground. When the shooting stopped, he was dead and I wasn’t. I never learned his name so can only remember that he was there. I don’t think it was a dream.
Not Forgotten by Sascha Darlington
A ragged man, he panhandled holding a cardboard sign between gnarled fingers. He got pneumonia once during a bitterly cold, snowy winter. That’s how I found him then he disappeared again.
“I’m nothing to you,” he’d said to me, his only son.
Mom’s only comment: “Damn war took him away twice.”
He lived in a cardboard box in woods behind the grocery until they tore it down and made him leave. I left food with him, gave him money and warm clothes.
Strangers tried to help. One told me, “He’s always got a joke.”
He died there, not forgotten.
The Coffee Cup by Donna Matthews
The first order of business when arriving at the office is a hot cup of coffee — the fresh, earthy smell of roasted grounds greet my sleepy brain. Years past, often being the first one in, I’d pull out the filters, dump the Folgers, and brew an entire pot. Now, I stand in front of the Keurig, waiting for my single brew to finish. Decades before me, women were not only expected to make the coffee but to fix and hand-deliver to the men of the office. This morning, I stand here, coffee cup in hand, on their shoulders.
Getting the Point by Chris Hewitt
“You forget yourself, sir!” she said, slapping him hard.
He rubbed his cheek, an evil smirk played across his lips. “That’ll cost you.”
“Maybe, but it’ll cost you more,” she taunted.
“You should have said,” he grinned, reaching into his pocket.
She stopped his hand, smiled at him sweetly and pushed him into the chair.
“See, that wasn’t so hard was it.”
“Not at all,” she said, removing the long pin from her hair, long locks cascaded.
Leaning in, she breathed gently on his neck and skilfully jammed the pin precisely into his amygdala.
“You’ll forget yourself,” she whispered.
unremembered by joem18b
I was prospecting in the asteroid belt when I attached to an iron-and-nickle specimen tumbling slowly through space in a throng of its brothers and sisters. When I climbed out to inspect its surface, clomping around in my magnetized boots, I came upon an individual in a spacesuit sitting in a chair bolted down next to a hatch leading into the asteroid’s interior.
“Who are are you?” I asked, using my communicator.
The person looked away from the sparkling void of space, at me.
“I … I don’t remember.”
“Who knows you’re here?” I said.
“Nobody,” he or she said.
Patient Zero by Nobbinmaug
“I’m ready. Who am I killing?”
“He was patient zero.”
“My great-grandfather is responsible for Extraterrestrial Xenotropic Disease? How can you know that?”
“It was his breakthrough that made intergalactic space travel possible. He was on that first mission that brought back E.X.D., causing the Great Plague.”
“If I kill him before his breakthrough, I can stop the plague and the deformities that followed.”
“And the collapse of civilization. You can make humanity Earth’s dominant species again.”
“Will I cease to exist?”
“We may all cease to exist. The world of 1989 could look completely different.”
Freedom by Ruchira
Sammy was standing in the cool breeze with her eyes shut.
Her hair blew across the eyes that she tucked back now and then.
The grass and the leaves were also celebrating this special day by rustling, “Celebrations!” into her ear.
She had a dreamy smile as she took a deep inhalation and smelled the flowers that opened and released their floral scents.
She got the goosebumps as she murmured, “Thanks to my unremembered ancestors who fought for our freedom that I can enjoy this warmth seeping into my skin or else I would be caved somewhere in fear.”
In the Shadows of Time by Bill Engleson
Who do we remember?
What comes to mind
when we think of the lost ones?
Not the main actors on the stage of life.
Perhaps the stagehands?
The lighting technicians?
The audience members far up in the gallery?
Was this the message Ford was getting at?
The Man Who Shot…?
The Confederate General on his marble steed?
Sir John A.?
Our George Washington.
We remember who we see.
We remember the stars.
There are those we forget:
a lost love among many,
a slight fancy,
a memory somewhat out of sync
The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills
“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.
Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.
“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”
Scorned by D. Avery
I just stopped. Our arguing raged like the gale winds that pummeled us broadside. How could he? How could he have a fiancé waiting in port? I refused to move unless he forswore that woman. For hadn’t he already chosen a life on the waters? Wasn’t he wed to me?
He had his engineers doing all they could but I refused to respond, for his desperation was to make it to land- to her. No. Let her be unremembered.
High rolling waves consummated our vows. Now every September we celebrate our anniversary. He and I will never be forgotten.
A Life Through A Lens by Keith Burdon
I know that he sees me, but he doesn’t know me, not now, not ever again. His eyes see, his beautiful blue eyes, with that “thing” as he used to call it.
Before I met him, I never knew what coloboma was. He was embarrassed by it. I told him it was the most beautiful thing in the world. That he was the most beautiful thing in the world. In my eyes.
His eyes see but they do not know. I am the person that he sees but now is unremembered. I almost wish my eyes could not see.
Unremembered by FloridaBorne
Somewhere in an unremembered past, lying in a grave without a tombstone, my grandfather’s grandmother becomes part of the soil, her bones all that remain.
I am one percent Native American, one percent Cameroon, and imagine her to be the daughter of an escaped slave that joined a tribe. Did a French trapper in Canada need a wife, choosing a suitable one to wander the forests with him, bear his children, and die alone?
Your grandson spoke not of his mother, and married a wealthy man’s daughter. Your children may not know who you were, but your genes remember.
I Don’t Want an Epitaph by Reena Saxena
“I don’t want an epitaph on my grave.”
“All my life, I’ve felt misunderstood or not understood by family and friends. I prefer being unremembered rather than being mis-remembered.”
“Do you feel your life has been wasted?” My coach instincts are sharpened. There is something in here, which will give a clue to other stated issues.
“Not really. My readers understand me. My work is likely to remain online for some time, and that is my authentic self. An epitaph will not do justice.”
I struggle to frame the next question, as I see the enormity of loneliness.
A Rose Like No Other by Sherri Matthews
‘Look at this…’ Barbara handed the photograph to her son. ‘Remember Rose, our neighbour with the lemon tree, when you were little?
‘I do…nice lady,’ smiled Nick. ‘Still in touch?’
Barbara shook her head and sighed. ‘She was ill, years ago. I wrote but never heard back. I’m not sure she’d remember us now…’
A letter arrived one morning from America. Rose’s daughter, who had tracked Barbara down, to tell her of Rose’s passing.
‘Mom talked of you often, how much she loved your letters even when she couldn’t reply.’
Barbara, like Rose, would remember their friendship forever.
Remembering My Forgotten Man by Jo Hawk
The best pieces were auctioned first. The hammer fell, the winning bidders paid, and scurried home clutching their new, old treasures. I stayed to the bitter end, bidding on lots no one else wanted. My prizes cost me a dollar, and the auctioneer tossed in other unsold items.
At home, I uncovered an antique trove. Pictures of a long-forgotten gentleman. My finger outlined his sepia-toned face, and I wondered about his life. Was he a good man? A brute? A devoted son? A cruel father? Whatever happened, the photos chronicled his lost legacy, unremembered, in my bargain auction finds.
Who, Exactly was Yvette Bouchard by TN Kerr
Yvette accepted the post-coital Cohiba offered by the bearded writer from La Plaza Vieja. He was writing his memoir. She tucked the bed linens around her waist, leaned back against the worn headboard, and told him about France, her life before la Habana. Before coming to Cuba.
He listened carefully as she smoked and wove her tale, “… But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”
A Case of Big Amy by Annette Rochelle Aben
Magic was in the air, as the blushing bride was dressed for her big day. As Amy’s fingers traced the intricate bead work creating hearts on the bodice of her gown, she closed her eyes as if to make time stand still.
The guests seated in the sanctuary chattered excitedly; soon they would witness the event many thought would never happen. After all, the bride had waited so long to find the right mate!
The man with sad eyes fought tears. He knew he had to speak or forever hold his peace. Legally, she was still married to him.
Never Forget the Soap by Chelsea Owens
“It happened again.”
“The door of the laundry room.”
*Sigh* “It hit me on the way out again.”
“Oh…” “Well…” “It’s just a door.”
“It doesn’t hit me every time.”
“I know! -Look, maybe you’re just jumping to conclusions.”
“Like, you know, that… say, air currents from a different door or whatever sometimes close that one.”
“Never on you.”
“Never on anyone else.”
“And only when I start a load at midnight.”
“Yeah! -wait; why are you starting laundry at -”
“And only when I can also hear whispering…”
Rodeo Shift by D. Avery
“What’sa matter, Kid?”
“Dang it all, Pal, I jist wanted the rodeo ta be somethin’ ‘memberable. But Pepe’s smellavision never caught air. An’ now Ernie an’ Pepe’s laid up so there won’t be any food concessions. Feelin’ bad, Pal. Wish some a these wild ideas could be unremembered. That bean cloud jeopardized the Ranch’s safety.”
“Calm yersef Kid. The Ranch was never in danger. Carrot Ranch’s always a safe place.”
“Even durin’ the rodeo?”
“Yep. Gotta play ta win, but yer a winner fer playin’.”
“I still wanna hep out.”
“See thet shovel?”
“Jist do yer shift, Kid.”
Between the big moments in life, there are interludes. Like the sweet piece during an orchestra’s intermission or the pause between acts in a play, these interludes set a different pace. Perhaps the temporal episodes add up to characterize more than a transition. They can even become more important than the significant markers of life.
What will writers make of interludes? You can count on variety and enlightening ideas.
The following are based on the September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude.
PART I (10-minute read)
Sweet Interlude by Ritu Bhathal
Sophia leaned against the headboard, taking a drag of her cigarette.
She smiled at her reflection in the mirror; hair messed up, lipstick a mere stain left on her lips.
She watched him pull his pants back on.
Marco slipped his shirt on, still buttoning as he left.
Voices. Her supervisor was coming.
She flushed the cigarette down the toilet, changed, and flung the door open.
“Oh Sir, these guests, too much! Smoking in here. Smell it!”
She bustled out, to the next room waiting to be cleaned, wondering when her next interlude with Marco would be…
A Woman Scorned by TN Kerr
It was early morning when Enrique crept home. Treading softly and turning his key slow; he eased the door inward. He started when a heavy glass ashtray bounced off the wall and shattered. Mesmerized, he watched as pieces of glass scampered across the dark blue tile floor. It brought to mind ‘la galassia via lattea’ it was beautiful. So was the dark-haired fury who came in quick and attacked.
“Ma il mio amore, eravamo in pausa.” Enrique shouted as he tried in vain to dodge her blows.
Marida continued to pummel him. Her fierce countenance set and forbidding.
Replay by Nobbinmaug
In the two hours since she stormed out, I’ve done nothing. I’ve hardly moved as the fight replayed in my mind.
Was she wrong?
Was she right?
Was I right?
Was I wrong?
Were we both wrong?
Were we both right?
I looked at every angle. I examined every word.
I watched the tears stream down her face. I rewound them and watched them fall again. I watched her leave, slamming doors, and wiping her eyes.
I sat as the garage door slowly crawled along its track.
The garage door groans again.
Have we cooled or will we reignite?
A Brief Encounter by Susan Zutautas
The sun was shining and there was a soft breeze coming off the lake. I’d laid the blanket down on a grassy knoll. Thinking, tis perfect for a picnic.
When Pat arrived, I had everything set up from the wine, pate, cheese, and crackers to a few slices of pecan pie.
I suppose I should feel guilty, meeting a married man and all but hell it was just a little lunchtime picnic that turned into three hours.
We talked, we laughed, we flirted and then Pat told me he was leaving his wife.
Not the encounter I was expecting.
To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?
A Space In The Sun by Sherri Matthews
The light of day in a sunshine blaze flooded my room. Sun. Now. Get up. I shuffled outside, flopped on the grass and closed my eyes to the sound of summer bee buzz. No sirens, no sprinklers, no screen doors slamming. Strident and angry, left back in LA. In a single sigh I caught the scent of lavender and thyme. The smell of home. Not pot, weed, whatever, choking my lungs. That smell. All the time. Not anger – rage.
Why, I pleaded? But he kept me sweet with his smile and his kiss. For now though, I’ll stay here.
Going Out by Joanne Fisher
It had been a while since Tiffany had last dated someone. Her last relationship had ended so badly she felt she needed a long interlude so she could lick her wounds. Not that she minded being on her own. She was rather proud of the fact that she could quite happily survive by herself. It just that sometimes she missed the affection. She loved cuddling and being kissed.
Tonight she had her first date in a long time. She was nervous as hell, but also knew that if it didn’t work out this time, she could always try again.
Interlude by Pete Fanning
Ricky had never felt so alive. The passionate, lunchtime romps. The no-strings-attached goodbyes. She smelled exotic, like fruit. Julie always smelled like a hospital.
He told himself many things. He was a man. He had needs. He would stop once the baby was born. It was—what did she call it?—a romantic interlude. Sounded better than cheating.
But when the baby came, she wouldn’t let it go. She called him at home, when Julia was trying to nurse the baby. When his in-laws were sitting in the kitchen. When the baby started crying.
It wasn’t so romantic then.
Ainsworth’s Strange Situation by Anne Goodwin
The playroom’s made of cuddles and bright shiny colours. Choo-choo trains and farm animals and smiling dolls. Mummy’s teddy kicks a ball to me. When my teddy goes to kick it back, she’s gone.
The playroom’s made of sharp hurty edges and darkness. Witches and goblins and things that make me jump when they go bang. Why did Mummy leave me? What did I do wrong?
The door opens, bringing Mummy’s smell, her flowery dress, her outstretched arms. Is it the Good Mummy who shoos away the monsters? Or is it the Bad Mummy who’s one of them herself?
The Movie by Ruchira Khanna
“Mom, I need to go to the bathroom,” whispered six-year-old Nate into his Mom’s ears with a sense of urgency.
“Shhh!” she said with twisted brows as she continued to glare at the screen with an intense look while shoving popcorn in her mouth and chewing nervously.
“Mom!” he said again, and this time in a loud decibel.
The folks sitting around also Shhhhed him
“This is a very intense scene. Control your pee! I’ll take you when there is an intermission,”
Poor Nate sat there with crossed legs and hands-on his crotch while the Mom enjoyed the movie.
Interlude by clfalcone*
‘Intermission – break,’ he thought. ‘Resin up those bows.’ He didn’t hear them approach, the Beethoven article was so well written.
“There!” She pointed, scowling. “That dirty bum there – he’s disrupting eveyone, waving arms, his reading light… we can’t enjoy the show!” She sniffed scornfully.
“Excuse me, sir…” implored the usher.
He turned, big blue eyes flashing through matted, unruly red hair.
“Maestro!” Exclaimed the usher. “Why are you way up here?” Shocked, thrilled.
“The only seats left.”
“Come up front… there’s an extra seat,” helping to gather scores, instruments, clothing, thus leaving behind a befuddled, miffed patron.
Inner Demons by Sai Muthukumar
Broken, left for dead. On the river Styx, ferryman waits. A shattered soul dances with the devil, as the Tchaikovsky plays. Wings detached, lay separated in the darkness. Hollow heart, weightless, left in the corpse. Demons toil, fuel the torment, words echo in the cave. A figure stands at the gate, greetings unnecessary. The quiet goes uninterrupted. Been here before, it’s different now. On his own, in the darkness, a boy turns his back on the gatekeeper. The figures stand divided. The wings eclipse the black. The fallen angel shall rise once more. The flames don’t accept the undefeated.
The Origins of Princess Ota by Goldie
“This is boring” – Ota announced, letting out an audible yawn.
Frank and Veronica looked at the girl, their eyes filled with sympathy.
”Around the world in 80 days” is a classic. Sit still” – said Frank, placing his hand on Ota’s shoulder.
“Shhhh” – came from all around.
“An interlude!” – exclaimed Victoria.
Before she could say anything else, Ota ran out.
They saw the girl trip and pull down the curtain to steady herself.
“We gave you our daughter to show her how it is to be average. Not to teach her how to be simple” – the queen said with disgust.
Interlude by Faith A. Colburn
My grandparents met in an interlude, peacetime between our nation’s many wars. Yet, turbulence attended their meeting.
My grandfather arrived from Ohio with Uncle Johnny Bivens, my grandmother’s grandmother’s brother. The men spent a night in the Douglas Nebraska, train depot, held by the first horizontal snow Grandpa George had ever seen—a plains blizzard.
Later, the town cop, drawn by light in the station, came to make sure the escaped murders from the state penitentiary hadn’t holed up there.
Once the excitement ended, though, Hazel and George had two peaceful years to assemble a grubstake and get acquainted.
Choosing to Decide by Jo Hawk
Annora teetered, swaying back and forth, she walked a thin line. She heeded the lessons, listened to the morality tales, and promised to be a good girl. Yet, she questioned their version of the golden rule.
What once was black or white, now wore shades of gray that obscured tender truths and polished vicious lies. Distorted glass magnified the glaring light, while trapped in shadows, Annora couldn’t tell if she was the spider or the fly.
Praise or disdain, honored or disgraced, right from wrong, good versus bad, her fate lay in her choice. Annora let her heart decide.
St. Nicholas by tracey
I studied my son and wondered if he still believed in Santa. He was almost twelve now. I had the story ready. How Saint Nicholas was a real person who did good works and when he died people wanted to continue his kind deeds. How everyone gets a chance to be Santa for others.
Was my son ready to be Santa? Was I ready? Maybe this was an interlude where he didn’t quite believe but had a year to grow into the idea of Saint Nicholas. Or maybe this interlude was for me to adjust to him growing up.
Key Change by Miriam Hurdle
“Choir, that’s beautiful. All the parts blend well. We’ll add something to our rehearsal.”
“What? I just got all the lyrics memorized.”
“Wonderful, Liz, you can look at me rather than the music score.”
“What else do we have to learn?”
“We change key for the last stanza. The lyrics are the same. Chris composed the interlude. Now listen once.”
“It sounds heavenly, but I can’t catch the note for the key change.”
“There are sixteen bars. Listen to the last bar. Hum the last note that takes you to the first note of the next stanza.”
Just a Moment by Bill Engleson
I saw the sea; the sea I saw.
And on the sea, sea sophistry.
Was it a dream, the dream I saw,
Or simply sea, sea mystery?
I saw my love, my love I saw
Upon the sea, my sea-tossed love,
Was it my love whom I did see,
and did she wave, her hand, her glove?
I caught a glimpse, a glimpse I caught,
Then she was gone, gone from my sight,
Into the mist, a new life sought,
A sky of red, a red winged night.
I dream of you,
And you of me
under the sea.
PART II (10-minute read)
Interlude by Donna Armistead
In the cool quiet of midmorning, one forgets it was nearly ninety degrees yesterday. A blue jay’s raucous cry, the tinhorn call of a nuthatch at the feeder, pierce the equinoctial stillness.
Summer fled, leaving only vague regret and mosquito bites. Seasonal residents decamp dragging boats, cargo trailers and other detritus of modern life. Waves of flickers rise from the road shoulder, gathering to migrate above them.
And now, the waiting. The low-lying fog blanketing the neighbors’ field soon gives way to a blanket of snow, crisscrossed by deer, offering gemlike the rare gift of a lone wolf track.
The Interlude by Norah Colvin
It was intended as an interlude filling the gap between childhood and marriage. Hired as governess to a grazier friend of a friend, they relished the possibility she’d meet a wealthy future-husband—plenty of single men in the bush— while she made herself useful. But life doesn’t always comply with one’s plans, especially for another. The grazier’s children were eager students and she taught them well. Soon others came to learn from her tuition. They built a small schoolhouse which filled with willing minds. While suitors were a-plenty, none captured her love for teaching which became her main event.
Interlude by Robbie Cheadle
During the brief interlude between their visit to the burned-out farm and re-joining their commando, Pieter’s hair and beard became streaked with grey and new lines creased his skin burned brown by the sun. A shadow of desolation filmed his once bright eyes and his mouth curved down at the sides. They speculated that their families had been taken to the Mafeking concentration camp, but they could not be sure. They did not even know if they were still alive. Terrible stories about the poor conditions at the camps circulated among the various commandoes as they traversed the countryside.
Interlude by Jack Keaton
Ethan was walking to the office and was listening to a podcast: “Global Meltdown.” He loved his new noise-cancelling headphones. They made everything around him seem insignificant. The world is coming to an end! That Swedish girl is right, and no one is listening to her, except Ethan, Ethan was all ears. Behind him, a driver was unloading Red Bull from a truck when he fell off the ramp, spilling cases of the drink all over the street. Ethan didn’t hear the crash nor the sound of the exploding cans as the carbon dioxide gas released into the atmosphere.
Interludes by Reena Saxena
Don’t you remember me?
I’ve been on a break.
So what? I hope there is no break in memory.
There is a break in connectivity, relevance and the lessons I learnt. The major lesson is about trust.
There are no second chances for people who betrayed me once. Interludes give an opportunity to look back and learn, but it does not help unless one can link it to the future. If you do not find connectors, abandon the past and move ahead.
Who betrayed you?
Is it enough to say you are a part of my abandoned past?
The Sweetest Interlude by Chelsea Owens
She felt him: fluttering rolls across her belly, monitor heartbeats strong and loud. What will you be like? she wondered, pausing life to grow another.
She chased him: rolling, crawling, walking, running; breaking, laughing, climbing high. When will you slow down? she wondered, curtailing career to care for child.
She watched him: growing taller, speaking deeper; leaving parents for teenage crowds. When will you grow up? she wondered, forgoing sleep for curfew calls.
She hugged him: leaving nest to start his own; walking tall beside his wife. When will you come back? she wondered, looking round at what remained.
The Moment Between Night and Day by Sascha Darlington
All the angry words thrust like rockets into the atmosphere, irretrievable, hovering in the oxygen-drought of space.
Intolerable from my parents, I won’t tolerate it from us.
You take my hand; I want to snatch it back. You kiss my knuckles.
“We were in Manteo listening to that woman perform ‘Night and Day.’ When she sang: ‘we’re both so different,’ she was singing about us.”
I remember. So many years ago, a favorite moment, sepia afternoon, music, walking, loving. Still I feel the breeze cross the Sound, our hands entwined.
“There’s no going back.”
“No, we move forward. Together.”
Terrible Interlude by Chris Hewitt
She’d had enough. For an age she’d stood at the precipice, staring down at the mob below. They’d tried to talk her down, she couldn’t hear them over her beating heart. Deep down, she knew they were there just to see her fall. Hateful people. How had it come to this?
The ground rushed to embrace her. Arms flailing, stomach knotted, time slowed. Her life flashed before her, she had regrets, many, in that terrible interlude. She could see their jeering faces now, bastards, so this was how it would end. She closed her eyes.
The bungee cord stretched.
Interlude by FloridaBorne
“Thank you, Ron, for a place to stay until I can afford my own,” Jean said.
“Never thought Dan would leave you for someone his daughters age.”
“Not the first time he’s cheated on me. We had five kids, he was a good provider, and I looked the other way.”
“He waited until they all graduated from college to ask for a divorce. You won’t get much in a no-fault state.”
“The house is in both our names, so I’ll get half.”
Ron hoped she’d fall in love with him and this might be more than a simple interlude.
Between Acts by JulesPaige
Claire gave what she thought were clear instructions about getting a second opinion. Let the consult Doc find someone who will consider what we want. But her hubby had his own ideas. While he did get the process started he chose for himself, someone out of town. The consult Doc was surprised that his man, that he had recommended wasn’t part of the fifty percent that did the minimal procedure. The consult Doc had heard of the ‘New Man’ and was happy to forward the needed information.
life in the pause lane;
we wait with our positive
Last Requests by Annette Rochelle Aben
She wouldn’t leave the hospital alive. Acceptance lead to a coma. Any time now. Any time now. Family was called, many came to visit.
Suddenly, she sat up, and asked for ice cream. Nurses leaped over each other to make that happen. They rubbed a bit on her parched lips and she licked them while closing her eyes in pleasure. Then, she looked at her daughter and smiled. Her last words were.
“Can I go home now?”
With tears of joy and sorrow in her eyes and a lump in her throat, her daughter gave her permission to die.
Passages (from “Seasquall”) by Saifun Hassam
Today, yesterday, even the months before, were an interlude, a passage in time and space so different from the past. Last year her husband of forty years had passed away.
A pot of coffee at hand, she sits on the back patio of their home. In the gentle breeze, tall pine and white birch trees sway, then, a pause, an interlude of stillness.
Her home, their home would have new owners next month. She would live for a while in a nearby apartment, with shaded walkways and birdbaths. Then it would be time to join her sister in Seasquall.
A Musical Interlude by Sally Cronin
The loss was unbearable. They had been together for forty years after bumping into each other on the dance floor of the youth club. He was gangly and thin as a rake, and she still chubby with puppy fat. They danced all evening and had done so every night since. Her daughter took her hand as the music she had selected began to play. Family and friends around her smiled as the song reminded them of the wonderful love they had witnessed. For just a few more minutes, they were together, dancing, as they would be again one day.
The Chiseled Dash by Donna Matthews
You know those black and white images with a single item of color. Maybe it’s the eyes, a book, or the outfit. Muted everything to shades of gray so you can focus on the point. Much like these flowers against your new gray headstone. The dates chiseled in the stone stare back at me. How did I get here? No, not the car but here, in widowhood? Your life compressed to a tiny chiseled dash and untwined from mine? Did I know? Our last cup of coffee? Your safe embrace? That belly laugh last week? Ugh, I miss you.
Interlude by Anita Dawes
Time between sleep when dreaming
A spyglass into another life
On waking, may not belong to you
An uninvited interlude
With pictures, sound and music
A hidden message maybe
Inviting you to explore a mystery
You may have forgotten
The short film that meant more to you
Than the main attraction
That had you thinking, talking about
Reminding you of those in-between moments
When walking on a beach
Your bare feet kissed by the sea
That quiet moment when out walking
When the wind drops
The silence becomes the in between
You hear the echo of your own footsteps.
An’ a One, An’ a Two…by D. Avery
“Where ya goin’ Kid?”
“It’s intermission. Goin’ ta the outhouse.”
“Intermission? No, the prompt is interlude.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well, if’n were talkin’ ‘bout a break in the show, interlude implies more of a performance, music mebbe.”
“Oh. Yep, I kin do that.”
“Well hurry up Kid, we got things ta do.”
“Carrot Ranch’s hostin’ its third Rodeo, comin’ soon. October. Gonna be busy aroun’ here. We have ta make sure they’s plenty a hay fer the hosses an’ carrots fer the contestants. Shorty cain’t do it all.”
“Ha! If anyone can it’d be Shorty.”
Lead Out by D. Avery
“Shorty, when ranch hands go where the prompt leads, does that mean they’s trackin’ it down nose ta trail?”
“Sometimes, Kid. Some sniff out their story like a hound-dog. Some bird-dog the tall grass ta flush their story. Some ranch hands see thet prompt, jist throw their lasso, git dragged along till they kin wrangle their story and git it tied down.”
“It kin be a wild ride, Kid, but no one gits hurt at Carrot Ranch. Wranglin’ words is a entertainin’ way ta build writin’ muscle.
Next month folks’ll flex that muscle at the rodeo.”
If you asked people what the greatest gift is, you might be surprised at how varied our answers can be. This prompt initiated a conversation that explored the shadows of life. The sun doesn’t always shine, and happiness can feel fleeting. The longer we live, or the more direct experiences we have outside normal expectations, the answer shifts.
So, of course, the greatest gift makes an interesting exploration among writers. Ultimately, we can say the greatest gift is life — but we have many ways to express what that means, why it is so, and how we can manage such a precious and uncertain gift.
The following is based on the September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift.
PART I (10-minute read)
A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.
The Greatest Gift by Jo Hawk
As the day approaches, my anticipation increases. Doubt wrings conviction from my heart while my head constructs lists designed to weigh each decision’s consequences.
My worry consumes me, and my mother sends me to visit the shrine. The Omikuji will predict my future she says.
Thousands of paper strips tied to pine rods dominate the temple grounds. I fear the multitude of curses and bad fortunes others have tried to leave behind.
Still, I make my donation and follow ancient customs. Trembling hands clutch the paper. I read my destiny and press the god’s great blessing into my soul.
Let There Be Light! by Anne Goodwin
When I was small, the chores all done, I’d rest my head in my mother’s lap and watch the fireflies dancing, Grandfather’s stories music to my mind. But as I grew, the village shrank, the daylight hours too short for all I longed to learn. My teachers praised my intellect; they scolded me for homework half-done. Until I got the greatest gift: a lamp that caught the daytime sun and gave it back at night-time. Now I’m off to study in the city where neon never stops burning. When I’m trained, I’ll return as teacher to my classmates’ kids.
The Greatest Gift by Norah Colvin
The class was aflame with a mix of sadness and excitement.
“She’s is leaving.”
“She’s gunna have a baby.”
“I’m gunna bring her a gift.”
“I am too.”
On her final day, the children jostled to give first, hopeful she’d love their gift the best.
“Mine’s bigger than yours.”
“Mine’s the greatest.”
The children gloated and nudged each other as the teacher opened the gifts.
“This is great.”
“Thank you, everyone.”
Finally, Tommy edged forward. His hands were empty. He looked shyly into his teacher’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll miss you, Miss. You’re the best.”
The Greatest Gift by Donna Armistead
Daisy, my grandmother, comes to the living room arch to watch me practice pirouettes on the sculptured carpet. The soft slippery loops help my turns a lot. Unless I lose my balance.
I stop. She knows I hate it when people watch me practice. Though slightly annoyed, I love her and her faith in me. Even when every muscle hurts and Vicki gets cast in all the best roles.
Ten years later, she writes me in Boston. “Keep dancing,” she always signs her letters.
Fifty years later, and I’m still teaching kids. Trying to get them to “Keep dancing.”
Time Traveler by Donna Matthews
My mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I could be anything from an astronaut to an astrophysicist. But all I ever wanted to be was a time traveler. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to roam through the dusty pages of history? Tiptoe silently into the unknown future? But alas, as it turns out, my sheer will and determination can’t quite transverse the time-space continuum…yet. I desperately hold out hope that the smart people of NASA will figure it out before it’s too late to make my mama proud.
The Guardian by Bill Engleson
It was such a little thing.
He’d always lived in the house, worked in the mill. Ruth taught grades 1-3 for twenty-five years, interrupting her work twice to have their children.
She loved teaching almost as much as their life together.
After she was gone, he went too far inside himself.
Finally, he came up for air.
After that revelation, he’d sit on his porch in the fall, the spring if it got even a tad warm, the early part of the summer, and watch the kids go by, wave, smile, just be.
He knew she would love that.
The Gift of Courage (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam
Teresa was a nurse physician. Her excellent skills in the care of surgery and chemotherapy patients were a great asset. Some of her patients were children.
Her rapport with the children was remarkable. They would often talk to her about their fears and worries. She would ask them perceptive questions about what had happened. It was never easy but somehow that helped the children to focus more on their recovery, and going home, a fresh start. She would read from their favorite story books. They loved her. She gave them the greatest gift they needed in those moments: courage.
Greatest Gift by FloridaBorne
I’ve been asked the question before and the answer changes according to my age.
“What is the greatest gift you’ve received?”
Age 5: The doll I wanted
Age 15: GoGo Boots.
Age 25: Son
Age 27: Daughter
Age 36: A bachelor’s degree.
Age 46: Enlightenment
Age 54: The perfect part-time job.
Age 63: Holding my first published book in my hands.
Age 67: My first office with a window.
Age 69: Doing a yoga headstand and carrying a gallon of milk with my pinkie finger.
Health, it seems, is the greatest gift. For without it nothing else is possible.
The Greatest Gift by Jim “Quincy” Borden
“I think I’ll make up a story about how for Christmas I wrapped everyone’s present in gray wrapping paper. Each box was a different size and weight, and everyone could pass the boxes back and forth until they all agreed on which box they wanted to claim as their own. I’ll then write about everyone’s immediate reaction.”
Tommy was explaining to his sister about the latest Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.
Suzie looked at him quizzically and asked, “How are you going to relate that to ‘the greatest gift’?”
“Greatest gift? I thought it was the gray gift test…”
Edward Bear Has A Good Day by Joanne Fisher
Edward Bear wandered the forest looking for honey. His love hadn’t woken yet from her winter sleep and she would be hungry when she did, just like he had been. During his search for a beehive, he encountered two humans. They took one look at him and screamed as they ran off leaving behind a large basket. Edward rummaged though it finding all sorts of foods, including a jar of honey. He took the basket to where his love still slept. There would be all sorts of food for her when she woke. It would be the greatest gift.
The Stupidity of the Sexes by Chelsea Owens
“What, Isla? What did I do?” Peter stared into her eyes; if his were not close to tears themselves, they at least reflected hers.
Isla sniffed. She felt the lines of wet on her face, the dryness of her lips, the misery of her soul. ‘Surely,’ she thought bitterly, ‘He knows what he did.’
Peter felt clueless. ‘All I said was that people never forget their first girlfriend,’ he mused, ‘Just because Stella said, “Hi…”’ He looked at Isla’s splotchy face. Maybe a comforting smile would help.
Isla burst into fresh tears. “I -I -I -gave you my heart!”
Time, Heart and Head by tracey
She was 83, too old to be living alone said her grandchildren. Her house was worth a fortune they said.
“It’s my home, not a house,” she groused. “Fine, when the Cubs win the World Series I’ll move.”
She spent her 92nd summer as always, listening to the Cubs on the radio. She was tired, worn out; it had been a hard year. In her head she knew it was time to move.
Finally, game seven of the World Series. Tie score. Rain delay ends at last. Her heart races, knows: it is time for the Cubs to win.
The Greatest Gift by Anita Dawes
Being here in the first place
The friendships we make
The lovers we take
Fighting through the storms
While an angry mother
Tries to rearrange the world we live on
The beauty of a coral reef
The sunsets, the full moon
So many gifts
The hand of a stranger offering help
The sound of a new-born baby’s cry
Someone will always be here
While others leave
A reminder of our immortality
Art made by a stranger’s hand
That we like to look upon
Most of all to be loved
To love in return, to live, to prosper…
Given, Not Gone by D. Avery
The gift of creation, with free will, was given long ago. Somehow this planet came into being in this solar system; over time each one of us also had a beginning. In our beginnings was wonder, was potential, power, and promise.
That was then, this is now.
Now we might dwell on our flaws and misspent potential, might despair at our human failings, might mourn the state of our planet.
Or, right now, we might acquire humility and gratitude for the Gift. Every Now is a beginning. We could choose to cultivate and nurture potential and promise, right Now.
Reciprocation (Rerun! first published for the April 6, 2017 Carrot Ranch prompt) by D. Avery
Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths. Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.
Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.
Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.
PART II (10-minute read)
The Greatest Gift by Faith A. Colburn
My son and his father don’t get along and that means Ben is losing half of himself. My former husband gave us scary times and he wanted to make up for it, so when he got his life under control, he gave Ben the greatest gift he knew how to give—a horse. That’s because when he was going through the worst of his own adolescence, his horse provided him solace. During summers Ben spent in Colorado with him, they rode horses and took packing trips. Those were good times for Ben, but somehow he’s lost whatever they had.
Properly Prioritizing by JulesPaige
Jackie was never just one of the girls. Life, if it’s too perfect, move along. Because you are dreaming. Once you wake up you’ll see that the greatest gift is to be present in the moment. And you don’t have to have any cards to carry to say you belong to this group or another.
One day you are thinking of making wedding anniversary plans and the next you learn your husband has cancer. A small slow growth removable by surgery. Which might not even require lifelong meds or radiation. Take each day as a gift, learn to live.
Time to Heal by Chris Hewitt
“I don’t understand, why can’t you just bring her back?” he sobbed, “You could just bring her back!”
“I can’t,” said Death, “I don’t choose who lives and who dies.”
“You’re Death!” he spat, “If you don’t choose, who does?”
Death shrugged and pointed up, “Someone upstairs.”
He shook his head, “I don’t want to live without her, I can’t!”
Death looked down and played with his hourglass.
“Please!” he pleaded, staring into empty sockets.
“I can give you something that will help,” said Death.
“The only gift I have,” said Death, handing over the full hourglass, “Time!”
The Greatest Gift by Ritu Bhathal
“What would be the greatest gift you could give me? Honestly?” Maggie looked at her husband, who was trying his hardest to make her looming 40th birthday one to remember.
“Of course, honestly Love. It’s your big day. The kids and I want to make sure it’s a day to remember for you. Don’t be shy.”
“Alright then, the greatest gift you could give me is time.”
“What, like a new watch or something?”
“Not a watch, John, no. Time. Every day. Help me out a bit. Act like their dad, not their babysitter. That’d be the greatest gift.”
The Gift of Life by Susan Zutautas
The gift of life
Was given to me
Not once, not twice, but three times
Cancer can be a killer
I’ve escaped it
I am forever grateful
I’ve fought hard over the years
To survive and the fighting paid off
I will never give in to this horrible disease
That takes far too many lives every day
Remission does not mean it won’t come back
If it does, I will do battle again
I’m proof of that
Live each day as if it were your last
Whether you’re battling or not
Life is truly the greatest gift
A.C.V.M.M.B. by Nobbinmaug
Don went to the same coffee shop and sat at the same table. He sipped his coffee and played with his phone. No calls. No texts. He saw the same people, but no one spoke to him.
When his drink was gone, he returned to his empty apartment.
He went back the next day. This time, he was greeted by a wave and a smile.
“Hi, Don. Apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend?”
He looked up, smiled shyly, and said, “Yes, please. Thanks, Alice.”
She gave him the greatest gift of all, an apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend.
Fire Within by Reena Saxena
She quit the family business to start something of her own. It’s not an easy task. She had always worked in a well-defined structure. The absolute freedom she has now, excites as well as unnerves her.
“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved till I set him free,” famously said Michelangelo of his epic statue of David.
There are not just miles, but light years to go, before she reaches her destination. The greatest gift she is born with, is her hunger for perfection and the ability to see that angel in the marble – her fiery soul.
The Greatest Gift by Miriam Hurdle
“It’s easier for me to give than to receive.”
“I know, Martha. When you receive, you feel weak.”
“You’re right, I feel helpless and vulnerable and admit other people are stronger.”
“Being able to receive gifts is a gift. When we receive gifts from others, we give them a gift of giving.”
“I never thought of it. When I receive a gift, I feel obligated to precipitate and feel guilty when the chances to return the favors become impossible.”
“The movie Pay It Forward comforts me and changed my understanding of giving.”
“I can tell it’s a great concept.”
Make Mine Music by Di @ pensitivity101
Mine is something I was born with, courtesy of my father.
As a young child, it was fun playing duets with my Dad on Mum’s old piano, then I started to play both parts. Dad always encouraged me, and my gift from him was the gift of music without music, a good ear to pick out a melody and transform it to suit my own style.
My aunts and uncles never knew I could play until a wedding in 1970. My grandfather stood proud and nodded to everyone
‘That’s my grand daughter.’
Happy times, memorable songs, my gift still apparent.
Old Friends by TN Kerr
She was sixty-three years old that year, but age didn’t deter from her excitement about the gaily wrapped gifts staged beneath the tree. There was one though, that stood out. The wrapping was heavy brown paper. Once wrinkled, but now rubbed smooth, it was an old shopping bag from The Seventh Street Market. A store that had closed almost forty years ago. She’d saved this gift for last and cradled it in her hands turning it over and over. It was rather diminutive, not large.
Neatly lettered in the corner she could read: “Happy Christmas, Clarissa – With Love, Hayley.”
Life’s Greatest Gift by Sally Cronin
Thomas prowled the corridors of the care home as its residents slept. During the day he would jump from lap to lap, rubbing gnarled hands with his head, accepting tender touches and morsels of food, hoarded and saved for his visit. For many he became the family they no longer knew, and was adored.
The cat slipped through a door left ajar, and approaching the bed, he leapt onto the pillow. Thomas purred gently into the old woman’s ear. She sighed and gave one last gentle breath, accepting the greatest gift in life of being loved until its end.
Repeat by Kelley Farrell
Life can twist our minds and rip dreams away
But in some moments we find
The greatest gift is perhaps not physical
But a moment in time
When we no longer have to be held to the reality of who others believe we are.
That moment wrapped in a lovers arms, the true idea of home dancing through every sensation.
Or a moment alone with nothing more than a breath and a soft whisper for patience.
Libations given in sacrifice of every moment thereafter.
When we come under fire we close our eyes willing ourselves to aim higher.
Slingin’ Words Fer People by D. Avery
“Pal, is’t true this Ranch’s a literary community?”
“Reckon so, Kid. Open ta one an’ all.”
“So is it a gated community?”
“Heck no. No gates, no borders. Free range writin’ fer anyone who wants ta play. Long’s they play nice a course.”
“Are there boundaries?”
“Jist in the word count, 99, no more, no less. Otherwise, it’s a place fer boundless imagination.”
“Why’s it always me gits imagined shovelin’ out the barn?”
“Shovelin’ shit’s yer special gift Kid. Yer real good at slingin’ it.”
“Yeah well, someone should imagine Shorty slingin’ bacon.”
“Tough shit, Kid. She’s slingin’ carrots.”
Grit abrades, wears down, even crumbles into quartz sand or the stuff you sprinkle on porcelain to scrub it clean. True grit is a roughness on the inside, a rocky kind of defiance in the face of life’s storms. Grit is determination, resilience, perseverance.
Writers scrubbed words into stories and played with true grit. Like no grain of sand is alike, you’ll find creative variety within this collection.
The following is based on the September 5, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit.
PART I (10-minute read)
True Grit by Joanne Fisher
I was at the excavation site. I walked into William’s tent. He was the Chief Geologist of the site. Inside there were various rock samples of different sorts. We were digging into some strata we had never encountered before.
William sat on the chair by his desk. In the palm of his hand there seemed to be some coarse sand he was peering at intently.
“What do you have there?” I asked.
“It’s the grit that all other grit in the world originally comes from.” He informed me.
“You mean it’s the True Grit?”
“Yes.” He replied quite seriously.
True Grit by Sally Cronin
Each year on her late father’s birthday, Molly would watch True Grit, his favourite western. This year she was nine months pregnant and hoping after three boys it might be a girl. Her husband rubbed her ankles, passing her tissues as she wept at the end of the movie. The baby kicked and Molly felt a sharp pain.
‘It’s on the way love.’ She smiled at him. ‘I am going to call the baby Mattie, boy or girl.’
‘Thank God, I thought you were going to say Rooster for a minute.’ Laughing and excited they headed out the door.
Stepping Out by D. Avery
When Dad told us Jimmy’s mom had asked him on a date, Jamie took my bike to her house.
“Is it okay, August?” He was looking at the trunk underneath the tired white shirts in his closet.
I swallowed. “Yeah, Dad. It’s okay.”
Pounding up the stairs, Jamie was back, brandishing brightly colored shirts. Dad protested but seemed glad.
“It’ll be all right.” He smiled then because when Jamie says something you believe it.
Later Jamie told me what he’d said so quietly I hadn’t heard, that he’d whispered this was the hardest thing he’d done in seven years.
This Woman Has True Grit by Susan Zutautas
Let me tell you about a good friend of mine. When she has something, she wants to do she goes out there and does it. Being achievement-oriented with long term goals she’s full of confidence and creativity. No matter what the situation is, good or bad, Charli will fight for what she believes in for herself and others. This gal has moxie and has true grit.
What’s true grit to you
Someone fighting with their might
For you and for me
Courageous as hell
Never giving up or in
Supportive to all
Bobbi Bowen by Faith A. Colburn
In 1937, at fifteen, my mother quit school and went to work singing in a nightclub—to support herself and her parents. For the next seven years, she dodged pinching fingers and groping hands. She traveled the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard and got stranded, alone, without a job. For three days, without food or shelter, she hit the streets until she found another, but as soon as the Army started signing women, she joined, then she got an offer for her own radio show that she couldn’t take because she already had a contract with her Uncle Sam.
True Grit (or Determination) by Anita Dawes
Over the years I have noticed
How many members of my family
Grit their teeth when trying hard
To achieve their goal
I tend to do this when getting angry
My teeth grit, my jaws clench
Muscles moving, trying not to let out words
I could not take back
I have seen a young woman
Eyes bulging, teeth gritted
Trying desperately to move her car out of harm’s way
A lot of teeth are getting worn down by determination
I did wonder why no one offered to help
Maybe they worried about their teeth
Do you do the same?
The New Becchino (Part 1) by JulesPaige
Seemed like Ole Ricciardo had a high forehead. He was teaching young Marcell about gravedigging. “You’re early,” he said as Marcell’s long legs seemed to lope towards the open door of his caretaker’s cottage at the far back edge of the large old cemetery. “Takes true grit to do this job. Especially when you’ve got to put someone in an unmarked grave.”
“Get many of them kind,” asked the younger man?
“More than the locals think. Mostly ‘cas they don’t wanna know. Them lives, they lived true. All they got left is me and you now. Soon just you.”
The New Becchino (Part 2) by JulesPaige
Marcell wondered if Ole Ricciardo had always been bald. Or if the job made him lose his hair? With times being tough one took on the apprenticeship of whatever was available. If grave digging was going to be his lot, might as well be the best at it.
Even with the shifting of burial practices, most folks seemed to think that six feet under was earned. The paupers field in his old home town held too many who couldn’t afford fancy boxes. Marcell had gotten used to quiet of such sacred spaces. Especially after having to bury his kin.
The New Becchino (Part 1) by JulesPaige
Ole Ricciardo sized up Marcell. There was a quiet about Marcell that said he had what it took. The young man had true grit. Had to have had it to come from a war torn town that probably wasn’t going to be on future maps. Ricciardo couldn’t imagine how much could be built over unmarked graves.
Ricciardo thought he’d end up an unknown himself. After a lifetime of caring for the dead, especially the unknown… It was time to live in a different light. Maybe some sandy oceanside place where nature’s grit would blend with his own salty tears.
True Grit? by Chelsea Owens
Sand grinds ‘twixt dusty yellers; red-shot eyeballs glint and glare; farm-strong flexes years-old cotton.
“Mmm-breeay!” bawls the milk-hung ma, denyin’ an’ defyin’ all. “Don’tcha touch ma babe; her drink.”
Laughter breaks ‘top wind-bent grass; ‘top cow-pied field; ‘top boy an’ cow. “‘Reckon she’s got best a’ YOU.” Cacklin’ grandpap crows and coughs.
Eyes-bright pride waits, sideline spyin’: apple seed not far from tree. Rope loop lies in glove-sweat hands.
Brain-bright boy drops standoff staring; proffers dusty, gloved-hand oats.
Cow an’ calf come happy, hungry. Dad, an’ dad, shake worn hat heads.
Finish Line by Allison Maruska
I round the second curve for the eighth time. The first to finish crosses the line, his arms raised in triumph. I have four more laps to go.
I slow to a walk, catching my breath and imagining what else I could be doing at 7:30 AM. I wish I had a bagel with blueberry cream cheese.
I slow jog through the next three laps. Time is almost up.
The finish line appears and I sprint, desperate to finish. When I cross, my friends cheer for me. They don’t care that they finished first.
All that matters is we finished.
Determination by Annette Rochelle Aben
“You can do this! Keep breathing.”
The physical therapist was encouraging but firm. Of course, she could do it, in spite of the fact that her body would shake as though it wasn’t as certain.
Every day, she could stand was a victory over the weeks she’d spent in a hospital bed. Every day she could move her feet forward even an inch, she was one step closer to the door.
So, here was the walker. She steeled herself for standing and with one loud, YES, I CAN! she rose and gripped the walker with firm and determined hands.
Jack & Sally by Colleen Chesebro
After the hurricane, Jack, the monarch, fought the constraints of the chrysalis. He struggled, but his foot remained lodged within his birth home. Wings as delicate as tissue paper flashed in the afternoon sun, drying at an odd angle. Jack would never fly.
Sally, the monarch, emerged from the chrysalis drunk with victory. Weak, she staggered and fell to the ground where a fight ensued. She had to break free from the fluid she’d pumped out so her wings would dry. Now, deformed, Sally would never fly.
Despite their handicaps, the pair remain triumphantly alive – vibrant inside the lanai.
On Her Terms by Di @ pensitivity101
She refused to give in to it, to feel sorry for herself and let it take over her life.
Determined to smile, she’d make jokes about losing her hair and chosing a variety a wigs in colours and styles she’d only ever dreamed to try.
She sought out others, raising their spirits, encouraging positivity rather than misery and defeat.
She exuded unbounded energy, forever upbeat, offering a listening ear, hand to hold, or shoulder to cry on.
When her time came, she met it full on, surrounded by friends and family, and died with a smile on her lips.
True Grit by tracey
I stare at the steep path up the canyon wall and breathe deep. “I can do this. One step at a time. Nice and easy,” I tell myself.
“Think about how happy you will be at the top,” I continue with my pep talk. “How many people can say they have hiked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon? You chose to do this. So what if you are 55 years old. You are in shape for this. Eat some granola and keep moving.”
“You okay back there?” the guide yells. “Yup, gritting it out just fine,” I reply.
Diamante (from “Trissente”) by Saifun Hassam
Diamante trekked through the Trissente coast and mountain region. The villagers always welcomed him. Children gathered around him fascinated by his stories and sketches of the world beyond.
When he returned to his village at the coast, he wrote to the Abbott. His hand trembled but he was resolved to remain a teacher, to live in the Trissente region. He did not wish to be a priest.
The Abbott’s reply was terse but wise. Diamante was an excellent teacher. The Trissente villages wanted him to train their own teachers. He would remain a guardian of the ancient Tramonti temple.
A Bucketful of Grit
“Miss, Jimmie’s crying.”
“Thanks for letting me know, Susan,” she smiled through gritted teeth.
What now? Couldn’t she just finish her tea for once? Something trivial, no doubt. Better go see, just in case.
She met a small posse escorting Jimmie across the playground. Their imploring eyes begged her sympathy.
“What’s wrong, Jimmie?”
“I, I —”
“He got grit in his eye, Miss.”
“Let’s see. Ah, yes. Better take him to First Aid.”
The children moved off as one, except George. He turned and held out a bucket.
“You told Jimmie to find some grit. Here ‘tis!”
Teacher Grit by Ritu Bhathal
It’s not easy, teaching.
Sure, the kids are there from 9 to 3ish, but I’m still up at 6 am, at school at 7.30 am or a bit later if my kids drag their heels.
I set up, get the classroom ready to engage the minds of little sponges.
They go, and I’m there past 5 pm, clearing up the messes their enquiring minds created, assessing, planning, preparing for the next day.
Then I go home to be wife and mother.
Don’t mention holidays…
But I love it.
It takes true grit to be a dedicated teacher.
PART II (10-minute read)
Grit Storm by Bill Engleson
Ainsley Bilge tossed and turned throughout the night. Grit! Grit! What the hell was grit? The question not only bedeviled his sleeping hours; it haunted him through the day.
He vaguely remembered Gramp’s telling him about Clara Bow, the IT girl back in the twenties. What the hell was IT? He never knew. She was just a girl. A little too flashy for the times, he supposed.
By the time Gramps related the story, she’d become a crazy recluse.
Her IT Storm drove her bananas.
Was that his future?
He had no idea and remained grit to be tied.
Chin up, Boris! by Anne Goodwin
The game kicks off at Eton, wellspring of uneven playing fields. Tactics tested and perfected in the hallowed halls of Oxbridge, it’s bowled by banking barons to the Palace – Westminster, that is – batted back and forth between the Commons and the Lords. Though dressed in Greek and Latin, there’s nothing classy about the rules. Leave truth behind in the changing rooms, trounce the opposition and lay tripwires for those of your teammates who won’t pledge one hundred percent support. Forget fair play, sell your granny if you have to: winning’s all that matters; true grit will grab the prize.
Another Hit by Yvette
Stirred his tea
Pulled off his hat
Waited for his food
Midst of humdrum
hoping for new normal
Yet in view
To make it through
Sitting tall – rather than slouching
He forced a smile – avoiding grouching
Food set down
Sniffed the crust
“Thank you,” he said,
then chomped his bread
One day at a time…
Hard Knock’s Degree
Last sip of tea
Road Crew by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The road ahead was long, no end in sight. Maybe relief…just over that hill? She couldn’t be sure.
She sighed, squinting into the midday sear, then looked down at the road under her naked feet. The gravel, poured heavy and sharp from the back of the Transportation Department truck glinted maliciously.
Those assholes’d stolen her shoes again, their jeers floating behind as they drove out of sight. Practical jokes were one thing, but with sexism in the mix, was it worth the higher pay?
Bullshit! This was about more than money. Her feet bled as she started to walk.
True Grit by Pete Fanning
George glanced at his fellow soldiers. Most were sleeping, recovering, hocking into spittoons, sprawled and spent against a fallen oak. The 8th New York Cavalry was plum exhausted.
It the quiet after battle where George found it hardest to hold his secret. Here, in the sweltering humidity of Virginia, it was almost easy to melt away.
She’d enlisted searching for freedom. Having escaped, she found a way to disguise herself. It was a plan so crazy it worked. Now, with a sword and rifle, an equal among white men, she’d found she was an excellent soldier.
A Few Good Men by TNKerr
Gunnery Sergeant Michael Paxton kept his head down as he worked his way forward. The fighting had died down somewhat, but the enemy knew he was still there. There was constant gunfire directed toward him, but they mustn’t have known exactly where he was. The rounds weren’t hitting all that close.
That ‘boot,’ Bim was the last man in, but when Paxton found him, it was too late. Undeterred he hefted Pvt. Bim over his shoulder and carried him back to the LZ. Where the quick and the dead waited together, waited for the Hueys; no one left behind.
True Grit by FloridaBorne
“I wasn’t this way when I was twenty,” I told my new therapist.
“What created such anxiety,” She asked.
“My husband might get out of prison soon,” I said, lifting my shirt to show her a scar. “I’m scared he’ll hurt our children.”
“Knife wound?” She asked. I nodded yes. “How old are they?”
“Eight and ten. If he serves his time, they’ll be eighteen and twenty…”
Between heaving sobs, I explained about his upcoming hearing for early release. Good. She was forming tears.
It takes courage to stab yourself with a knife. Anything to keep that parasite away.
True Grit by Jane
They dragged her into the brightly lit interrogation room, struggling and spitting, and forced her down into a chair.
Once they’d read her the standard caution, the words flooded out of her exhausted frame. How she’d put up with his violence for years until she’d finally snapped and decided to kill him. How she’d set up an alibi and learned the patrol patterns at his heavily guarded office so she could slip between them unnoticed, in and out like a ghost.
“And I’d have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for that stupid pebble in my shoe.”
True Grit by Charli Mills
Jose tended cattle while Angelina refried pinto beans, mashing them in the cast-iron with lard and flour. At night he tooled leather to sell at the market, making coin purses and wallets. Nightly she carpooled with three other amigas from the ranch into Paicines where they cleaned the elementary school, using grit to shine the grout on the bathroom floors. When the winter rains returned, the foreman would drive them all south to the border so they could spend three blessed months with family before returning to work the rest of the year. Only now, there was a wall.
Gritty Gray Hope by Jo Hawk
Walking the city streets, I choke on the summer heat as it boils the simmering stench. Gray skies descend, reflecting the hell rising all around me. Everything lays dead or dying, and the devils threaten to consume the little I have left. This is my creation.
Time killed the last honest man. There is no way to wash away the rain. My black hole life ensures I cannot move past this singularity.
A warm wind blows, prying the cold, damp dread from my heart. I grit my teeth, grasp a sliver of hope and dare to reinvent my future.
Miles of Mountain, Miles of Sand by Anne Goodwin
“Go home!” they hissed, when she left the high-rise, dragging a child by each hand. Did her headscarf offend them, or the coffee tint of her skin? Those who were kind were equally confusing, saying, “It takes true grit to survive as you have.” Checking the words in the dictionary in the refugee centre, they clashed with the nightmare in her head.
Miles of mountain, miles of sand, a boat so overladen it was bound to capsize. Robbed of her dollars, fearful of rape, grit was the stone in her shoe that plagued her every step of the way.
Stick to Your Guns by Chris Hewitt
The train pulled away in a cloud of steam. His breath hung heavy in the crisp morning air, he dreaded the walk home. They’d point and shout the usual names, spit on him as he passed and barge him into the gutter. The vicar would turn his back as the children kicked his shins. Every day was the same.
One more mile of hell and he was home. Leant against the closed door, his angry tears fell into another handful of white feathers. Tomorrow he’d do it all again, and the next, but he would not fight their war.
Bunker by The Dark Netizen
It has been four days now.
For four days we have been trapped in this bunker as those dastardly planes bomb our city relentlessly. The torrential explosions in the day are followed by distant detonations in the night. It then that we venture out of the bunker. A group of four or five at a time. We make a run for the storeroom and grab food for those in the bunkers. The devils in the sky think they can make us quit with their rain of hellfire. That won’t happen. We will never give up.
Long live our Fatherland!
Good Boy by Joshua G. J. Insole
During the days they walked, the man and his dog, searching for food, clean water, and shelter for the evening. They also searched for other survivors in the rubble, but were yet to find anything alive.
At night, they hid, and took refuge from the things that stalked the twilight for prey. They slept sporadically, huddled together for warmth.
They shared each other’s food and each other’s company, refusing to surrender that last ounce of hope. They held on to their reminiscences, remembering the good times.
But they could not erase the awful memory of that blooming mushroom cloud.
His Knees by Nobbinmaug
He fell to his knees as a bomb exploded in his chest.
It was P.J.’s school on the news. Sae was dropping her off. She’s not answering her phone.
Again on his knees at the graves. “God, if you’re there, take me too. You can’t take them and leave me.”
Alone in the dark on his knees with the gun to his temple.
“Just fuckin’ do it!”
“She wouldn’t want this.”
“She’s gone. I can’t live without her, without them.”
“You have to.”
“You can’t pull that trigger either.”
“I’m scared. I’m too weak.”
“You’re too strong.”
Bacon Grit by D. Avery
“Up an’ at ‘em Kid. Time ta ride.”
“Yep, agin. Let’s go.”
“I need sustenance. Shorty servin’ breakfast?”
“Ugh. You’ve groat ta be kidding. I need food that’ll give me the strength ta do what’s gotta git done. By the way Pal, what needs ta git done?”
“Dang, Kid, why’m I always havin’ ta wrangle you? Ya need goals fer yersef.”
“My goal is ta have breakfast.”
“Ya need a big goal.”
“A big breakfast then. With bacon.”
“What’s yer long term goal?”
“Ta eat fer a long time. Ya might wanna git started without me, Pal.”
A safebreaker is one who cracks open safes. Usually, the purpose is theft of the treasure protected within the vaults. Possibly an insurance company or wealthy individual might hire a safebreaker to test anti-theft systems. Who knows? This is the realm of fiction. The idea is based on a song by Mean Mary called The Safebreaker’s Daughter with the tantalizing chorus that warns not to underestimate her.
So, writers went on a mission to tell the story. They cracked their own codes to follow where the prompt led.
The following is based on the August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter.
PART I (10-minute read)
She Learned What Not To Do by Sue Sleggs
The business man built the mansions, the banker financed them, and when the safebreaker was notified, he robbed them. The three men didn’t care about laws, nor who they hurt. Years went by. The builder’s and banker’s sons took over for their fathers. Having not been taught a work ethic, nor adequate skills, the sons faltered. They were at constant odds with the safebreaker’s daughter who had decided it was up to her to break the ill-gotten chain of control. The young men never recognized their own foibles and blamed their troubles on THAT woman. She hadn’t underestimated herself.
I Double Dog Dare You by Faith A. Colburn
I was thirteen when Mom went to prison for cracking a safe. I’m actually pretty proud of her because she never took anything. It was just a dare.
She’d been raggin’ on my dad for not giving her jewelry—like her friends got.
“I ain’t got that kind of dough,” Pop said, “so when you rob a bank, I’ll get your diamonds.”
We knew she had the skills and what she didn’t know, she’d learn. But it was just idle conversation.
“Maybe I will.”
“I double dog dare you,” Dad said. “You ain’t got the nerve.”
But she did.
Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills
The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.
The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Joanne Fisher
There was a loud insistent knocking on the door. She opened it to find there was a policeman standing there.
“We’re looking for your father!”
“Why? What has he done now?” She asked.
“A safe has been broken into. It looks like his handiwork.”
“I haven’t seen him in a long time.” She replied.
“If you do see him, let us know.” The policeman ordered.
The policeman left and she closed the door. She picked up the bags full of money she had just left in the hallway, and hid them away. Her father had taught her everything.
Cutting Loose by D. Avery
I liked the rush, I liked the crunch. Never did look back at the fallout.
My whole life I’ve lived and dreamed bikes. But my brother was to run the family shop. I was to go to college, fulfill their dream.
And here I am, strolling another campus, bike tools in my bag. I’ve always been a better mechanic than my damn brother. Nowadays I favor the bolt cutters and the hack saw.
My father’s practical advice to his customers? “Invest in a good lock when you invest in a good bike.”
No lock is too good for me.
To Crack a Nut by Chris Hewitt
“Put your damn phone away,” he growled.
“I’m bored,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes.
He’d been at it 40 minutes now and she had long lost interest.
“If you can crack a Mk50,” he started.
“You can crack anything, yeah, yeah,” she snapped.
With well-practised moves, his fingers manipulated the combination.
She stood up and walked around the safe.
“Gotcha,” he finally said thrusting the handle up with a satisfying clunk.
He swung the door open to reveal her beaming face staring at him through a large hole.
“Amazing what you can do with the right tools, old man!”
Like Mother, Like Daughter by Anne Goodwin
From the age of three my mother took me with her. Silenced by a lollipop, she bade me look and learn. And, fingers wiped of stickiness, feel the vibrations in my heart. It wasn’t about codes or numbers, it was bonding with the barricade, to coax the treasures from within. The way a musician melds with her instrument, creating the music between them.
In my teens I rebelled, forged my own furrow as a cat burglar, a pickpocket. But lower risk brought lesser rewards. Like mother, like daughter: a safebreaker’s daughter can’t escape tradition, so I’m a safebreaker too.
There Was A Caper in Washington by TN Kerr
Marni left school about 4:00 and headed for the teacher’s parking when out of nowhere she was flanked by two burly men with sunglasses and dark suits.
“You guys Special Agents?” she looked back and forth.
The left guy flashed a badge case, she caught a glimpse of tin. The right tendered a card, they were indeed Feds.
“We need to speak with your father, Miss Gilroy.”
“Last I heard he was still in jail,” she answered.
First agent, “We think he might’ve been in Seattle last night.”
“You haven’t seen him, then?” the second agent asked.
Decoding by Reena Saxena
A career path that started with ethical hacking has taken a different turn. There’s money, there’s fame (some call it notoriety), and there’s the excitement of doing something which makes people drop their jaws.
“Is there a way to turn back?” implores Mom, “It is the path to disaster.”
She travels on high roads and the journey is exciting. New companions …
Nope… these are people from the Fraud Detection Cell.
“Young lady, I must say that you did too much, too fast.”
She only had this to say during interrogation, “I’m a safekeeper’s daughter, know how to decode.”
The Safebreaker’s Daughter by FloridaBorne
The perfect wife and mother…a consummate actress holding a gun on him. “Why did you poison my entire family?”
“A promise to my father, John O’Malley.”
“My oldest brother burned the Smith’s in their yacht and forged papers showing I was their daughter. Another brother heads the security agency your father used to research prospective brides. What better place to dispose of parasites than a remote country hide-away? All that you once owned now belongs to us.”
Their guard, dying from heroine overdose, didn’t hear the shot, or feel the gloved hand position the gun into his.
The Safe-Breaker’s Daughter by Shweta Suresh
The room was as silent as a grave.
The owner was fast asleep in the room next door.
The sleeping pills she had put into his night drink were working.
She had managed to gather as much jewelry as she could.
Effortlessly, she slipped into the locker room.
She did not expect to get caught.
Alas! Luck was not in her favour.
She had not anticipated that his wife would be home.
She hadn’t done anything wrong either.
She was just returning what her father had stolen.
But the cops thought otherwise.
She was a safe-breaker’s daughter after all.
What Does Your Daddy Do? by Norah Colvin
The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:
My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.
The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Deborah Lee
“…so then, they couldn’t figure how to break into the safe, so they got some dynamite and blew it up!”
“All that money, blown to shreds. My dad’s friend the cop said when they got there it was still fluttering around like snow. All that cash, just confetti.”
“Order now, kids,” the teacher snapped.
Jane had turned her head, feigning a deep interest in the bare trees outside the homeroom window. Thirty years later, her face still burned like fire at the memory.
Her father had gone to prison, and she hadn’t seen him since. The safecracker’s legacy.
Can’t Take It with You by Jo Hawk
His body lay dead and buried in the ground before Nydia met the man she had lived with for thirty-two years. He arranged his funeral, she signed the papers, and the undertaker handed her a yellow envelope bearing her carefully printed name.
An address and a key revealed a storage locker lined with shelves stuffed with labeled boxes. Thousands of them greeted her.
She opened the note with trembling hands:
I lied. My late nights were never at bars. I was a safecracker. The contents are here, chronicled, logged and stored. Consider them your inheritance.
Type Cast? by JulesPaige
Astrid knew he did it for her, not to get dollar bills for the topless dancer, the one who might have been her mother. Who he spoke of in his sleep – when dressed wore bell bottoms and gypsy blouses. Astrid, his little chick, didn’t get the woman’s outer beauty. However, her father saw in his daughter, her inner beauty and he never wanted her to take the blame for his own faults.
Don’t become a thief he begged on his deathbed. Take my money, educate yourself. So Astrid without fear of debt, started her career as a professional student.
PART II (10-minute read)
Call Dad by Donna Matthews
He whispers the sweetest words. Murmuring sounds about beauty, smarts, perfection. He tells me I’m not like the other girls — my cheeks flame. I am valuable! I am loved! After weeks of timid touches, I finally surrender. We are one now.
Tiptoeing out of his room, I see a photo of him. As I tenderly trace his face, the portrait shifts. Realizing I have discovered his treasure, I can’t help but glance inside. To my astonishment and dismay, the vault is crammed with pictures of girls before me. I believed his false promises. Devastated, I call my dad.
Safebreaker’s Daughter by Shane Kroetsch
Her daddy worked with the Overton crew. Best safecracker on the west coast is what they said. It was like a magic trick. He did it all by feel. Never left a mark.
She worked the same way, except it wasn’t money she was after. When she’d touch you, it would last just long enough. She’d look at you, and you’d forget about anything else. Before you realised what happened, it’d be too late.
Her daddy always told her that if you’re gonna do something, do it right. What she knew how to do, was break a man’s heart.
Safebreaker’s Daughter by Doug Jacquier
Her Dad was a legend amongst the other surfers at Bell’s Beach, which was in itself a legend in world surfing. His legendary status was nothing to do with his reckless but skillful derring-do but was based on the exact opposite; his unwillingness to take a risk. He was always looking for the safe breaker.
So when his daughter came along, grew up and had kids of her own, his words would ring in her ears as she swam towards the reef, beating down the desire to catch the biggest wave she could. She was indeed the safebreaker’s daughter.
The Things They Do To Me by H.R.R. Gorman
She tossed some of the powder onto the safe’s handle and brushed off excess, but the results came back as she expected. “Perp wore gloves,” she told the officer.
The uniformed man snorted. “Good lord. Sendin’ me a lady fingerprintist… the things they do to me.”
She pursed her lips, then ran out of the room. The cop laughed, thinking he’d sent her crying, but time ran short.
If she couldn’t solve the case from the perp’s traces, she could follow the money trail. Her dad had been a safebreaker – and she knew where he’d sell jewels and jade.
Your Sins Will Catch You Out by Di @pensitivity101
The letter arrived along with the usual bills and flyers.
Type written, she opened it and sat down quickly.
She wanted to know how they found out. She was the vicar’s wife, right?
A pillar of society and liked by most, she thought she had escaped her tarnished past.
Now she’d received this open threat to expose her to her husband as a fraud due to her father’s criminal activities unless she paid £1,000 for the writer’s silence.
She took the letter into her husband’s office and anxiously showed him.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly, as he knew everything anyway.
It’s All in the Clicks by Susan Zutautas
“I know how to do this, just be quiet”, Mary said to Pete as she listened intently with her stethoscope up against the safe’s dial.
Stopping briefly, Mary said to Pete, “It should only take a few more tries to break this baby.
Frightened as a rabbit Pete replied, “I sure hope so, we’ve been here almost an hour. I need to see my fathers will”.
Hearing the clicks, carefully turning the dial clockwise and counterclockwise, then back again, she knew she had it.
“Voila, Pete. I’ve never met a safe that I couldn’t crack. Dad would be proud”.
The Safebreaker’s Daughter by The Dark Netizen
She rode on, the bags of coin and jewels jingling behind her.
This was her biggest haul yet. It was larger than her father’s greatest score. He would be happy had he still been with her. This life of thievery was full of perils, and she recognised that it could lead her to a quick end. However, it was all she knew, all that was taught to her by her father – The Safebreaker. She liked the name. It announced her skill. Her other skills helped her get into the houses of rich spoilt sons.
They were considerably poorer now…
The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Anita Dawes
Could it be called a skill
Getting into places
That are locked against you
Something Annie learned at her father’s knee
Now it’s time to branch out on her own
Will nerves get the better of her
She’s hoping to perfect all she has learned
There’s one big job she looks forward to
Snatching the crown jewels
from under the queen’s nose.
She has studied every part of the great tower
The yeoman, the black ravens
that guard this wonderful tower in London.
A man once sat on the queen’s bed while she slept
How hard can it be?
Jailbreaker Ritu Bhathal
It’s about time I carved a name out for myself. I’m fed up of everyone thinking of him whenever they see me. Mary. That’s my name. Not the Safebreaker’s Daughter. It wasn’t so bad, when things were good. No one could touch him. And we never did without. Then he went and got himself caught. Hand still in the jewellers safe. He’s sitting in jail now, rotting away. I need to do something. Something that will change the way they all talk about me. No more Safebreaker’s Daughter. No, soon, I’ll be known as the Jailbreaker. Dad, I’m coming.
The Safebreaker’s Daughter, Her Twin, & the Fen by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Hananah’d never before been to this part of the fen, but wasn’t worried. Eavan had promised to meet her at moonrise, to raid the castle’s treasury. The villagers on the mountain were in sore need of funds.
He was a safebreaker’s son, she his twin. Raised in a convent of sorts, they’d been trained as thieves to do good.
She shivered, then tensed when the wind stopped, but the leaves continued to rustle.
“Eavan?” She turned to the fen. Leaves heaved in a belch of blue, revealing a pair of glowing green eyes within a mound of rotting bracken.
Deep Space Archeologist by Saifun Hassam
Captain Lacey was a space engineer and an archeologist. Her space capsule was in orbit around a derelict Terran ship, probing for airlocks or hidden entrances or exits. The data was automatically transmitted to her own spaceship high above the Terran ship. Certain anomalies had already sparked her curiosity about the abandoned ship.
Lacey’s love for space engineering had come from her dad. He was a test engineer for space technologies back on Terra. Nicknamed “Safebreaker” he was a genius at testing and cracking AI codes to spaceship areas controlling life support systems or space drives or ship’s instruments.
Time Change by Bill Engleson
“His torch dimmed?”
“It did. Comes to us all. Even him.”
“It’s good you could be there. How was it for you?”
“Comforting. Oddly comforting.”
“Did you talk?”
“It was hard for him. I held his hand. Then I remembered something he told me as a child. He always had that wall safe. One day, I was, maybe seven, I asked, ‘what do you keep in there?’
He said. ‘Nothing but time!’
I didn’t understand.
He could see that.
There, as he lay dying, I joked, ‘what’s in your safe, now?’
He smiled, and said, ‘It’s your time, now.’
Poet-Tree Place by D. Avery
“Ever’thin’ ok up there, Kid?”
“Jist thinkin’, Pal. Thinkin’ on how ya said ya ain’t from anywheres but right here at the Ranch. Thinkin’ I cain’t figger if yer a part a this place, or if this place is a part a you.”
“I reckon places beget the folks thet live in ‘em. Mold’em. Shape ‘em.”
“Do places tell stories or is it the people?”
“Reckon it’s both, Kid. But folks has ta work harder at listenin’. Git thet figgered out, places jist hum with stories.”
Earth hums Her stories
pulse through time and space”
Breakin’ and Reckonin’ by D. Avery
“Eh; don’t give up yer day job Kid. Come down outta thet tree and git ta yer chores.”
“Careful now, be safe. Break ‘er branches on thet tree an’ Shorty’ll be upset. Yer climbin’s gittin’ better. Who taught ya?”
“Jist practice. Who taught you ‘bout ranchin’ Pal?”
“Reckon if a character gits made up fer a ranch thet character knows ranchin’. Who taught ya ta buckaroo-ku?”
“Learnin’ as I go. Jist tryin’ to find my way, mappin’ the wide open spaces of the ranch with words.”
“Reckon words make space a place.”
“Yep. 99 at a time.”
Perhaps the phrase is a colloquialism, a new world nostalgia. Maybe we use old world charm to describe architecture, homey restaurants, or ethnic festivities. Whatever its use, the phrase holds space for reminiscing about what we left behind.
Not the easiest of prompts to play with, but writers followed its lead nonetheless. Some took us beyond old world traditions to new, and others reimagined places. We encounter different perspectives and some unexpected treatments of the prompt.
The following stories are based on the August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm.
PART I (10-minute read)
Mettle of Life by Donna Matthews
Shutting off the television after another Stranger Things binge-watching session, she couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Not for the terrifying, family destroying monsters portrayed. And indeed not the fashion. Bright geometric patterns and splatter paint? Good heavens, what were we thinking in the 80s?
It is the mettle of life she misses. The 14-year-old girl she once was. Long afternoons with friends, secrets shared, dreams whispered. It was her age of becoming. She could be anything. Anything at all.
Silence falls heavy without the television. Unsure of what to do next, she ends up doing nothing at all.
Clouded (Part I) by D. Avery
Hope felt pride and belonging here, enjoyed seeing her last name on the neatly arranged stones, many flagged, indicating service as far back as the Revolution.
Hope’s mom stood at the edge of the woods, still and silent. Hope went down the slope and joined her.
Her eyes glistened. She placed one of her earrings on the tiny stone before walking with Hope toward the road.
“Who was she?”
“I don’t know Hope. Just a gypsy baby, abandoned they say, over a hundred years ago.”
Winding back through the family plots, Hope’s pride clouded over with questions.
Clouded (Part II) by D. Avery
“A gypsy baby? I didn’t know we had gypsies in Vermont. I thought gypsies were from long ago and far away, like Italy, or Romania, somewhere like that. Why is there a gypsy baby in our cemetery?”
Her mom stopped and turned, silently stared back down the slope at the isolated marker. Her long black hair veiled her face.
“Yes, Hope, ‘gypsy’ does sound Old World; European; maybe sounds more charming than other words they might have used for impoverished dark skinned people wandering homeless in their own homelands.” She sniffed. “Christianity’s an Old World idea too.”
Clouded (Part III) by D. Avery
Hope stood with her mother, looked down the slope at the little grave by itself just beyond the boundary of the old cemetery.
“It’s like she’s on the outside looking in.”
“Yes, it’s like that.” She spoke softly. “The story is, she was found around here and one man wanted to give her a decent burial but the others wouldn’t allow a heathen, a gypsy, amongst their own.”
“I still can’t imagine gypsies around here.”
“Can you imagine Abenaki families? Selling handcrafts, baskets and brooms?”
“Indians? That seems long ago and far away too, Mom.”
“Not so far, Hope.”
Saving Babies by Faith A. Colburn
We often think of culture as arts, but some cultural practices are so basic as to be essential to life. I haven’t used the prompt words “old world” from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community blog prompt in my text, but the meaning is there.
“It’s because we were midwives—from Scotland,” Grandma said.
“What’s that got to do with a family that doesn’t touch each other?”
“They didn’t want anybody slobbering over their babies.”
“They didn’t know about germs back then.”
“The experts didn’t know.” She gave me one of her now-think-about-this looks. “Women who took care of mommas and babies didn’t have microscopes, but they knew that boiling water and washing everything within an inch of its life resulted in more live babies. The fewer people handling babies, the more they lived.” She gave me another look. “Generations of observation.”
Days Gone By by Reena Saxeena
It was a busy day in office, as the Managing Director was visiting. The premises needed to be spotlessly clean, all reports ready and the housekeeping/secretarial staff on call.
I bumped against someone, speeding through the corridor in my new suit and high heels. The gentleman stopped, held my elbow till I regained balance, and spoke calmly.
“I should’ve been careful. Hope you are fine, young lady!”
That was the venerable MD himself.
Years later, I thought of him when the new MD walked in before 9 am, and cribbed that nobody bothered to wish him a good morning.
Gesture by Bill Engleson
Hopped the Number 3 bus one lonely summer Sunday recently.
At loose ends.
Feeling sorry for myself.
I get that way.
So, I’m sitting there when this young girl boards.
Pregnant, but oh so young.
The bus is full.
Loads of Sunday shoppers: a mob of middle-aged lavender matrons, crinkly codgers, me!
She looked like she was about to pop.
Christ, I thought, I’ll never get to where I’m going.
Wherever that is.
Then this ancient dude, foreign looking, old school-like, smiles at her, gets up, offers her his seat.
You just don’t see classy moves like that anymore!
Date Night at Hungarian Village by Annette Rochelle Aben
We loved the non-descript store front, because the fewer people who knew about this place, the easier it was to get a seat. Authentic Hungarian food was all they served and when what had been cooked every morning was gone, they locked the doors.
On the patched vinyl cushioned chairs, we sat patiently, at a faded, red Formica table. Soon, a woman, whose age could be determined by counting the wrinkles on her face, delivered our plates. She wiped gnarled fingers on a food stained, white apron and smiled. Then, she handed us each a fork and said: Eat!
Polka Pantomine by priorhouse
I saw her dancing, again, this Sunday
polka played from the radio
cabbage and meat aroma filled the air
the low heels of her shoes
clicked with certain moves
the dress, that covered most of her body, barely moved
while her shoulders sometimes grooved
soft face wrinkles
with eyes that twinkled
as her feet stepped side to side
doing some sorta polka slide –
and I, barely 13, stayed back
watching from the shadow
curious about this old grandmother of mine
as she traveled back in time
doing the Polka pantomime
High Tea by Di @pensitivity101
The room was lit with yellow light from tired bulbs, heavy brocade curtains hung at the windows and doors.
A fire burned merrily in the hearth, the smell of fresh bread and home made jam wafting across the room to tease my nostrils and make my mouth water.
Tea and scones sat on a table with a heavy cloth topped with a circlet of hand woven lace.
Cakes on a three tier stand stood centre stage, thick cream in a jug alongside.
Tea was always a nostalgic trip going back 50 years when my great aunt and uncle were newlyweds.
Old World Charms by Anita Dawes
Here in England
We used to have afternoon tea dances
In ballrooms across the country.
Those were the days when a gentleman
Enjoyed dancing with his lady
Holding open the door to let her through first
Pulling her chair out to help her sit
There are so many old-world charms we have lost
Writing love letters, eagerly waiting for the postman
To deliver those words you long to read
Taking pen and paper to reciprocate
A gentleman would also lift his hat when passing a church
I still I cross myself whenever a funeral goes by.
Those golden days…
Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills
A blonde quartet of girls dressed in blue dances. They twirl, holding hands. Singing, they remake the lyrics of Finland’s midsummer. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA. With old world charm, they brighten the backyard of a house owned by the Calumet Mining Company. New life for Finns.
Aunt Jo kneads the dough until it stretches smooth. She slices parsnips and carrots thin the way her neighbor instructed. “Thin layers keep ‘em hot longer in the mines,” she told Jo.
Jo smiles at the children Suomi dancing under maples trees. “Supper,” she calls. “Time for pasties, hey!”
Recipes Passed Down by Susan Zutautas
Every year at Christmastime Meg’s grandmother who was from Paisley Scotland would make shortbread.
Shortbread was an expensive luxury at one time and was usually only made for special occasions.
It is said that these rich delicious biscuits date back to the 12th century.
Meg would watch intently as her grandmother carefully measured out flour, icing sugar, and of course the butter. Into a big bowl, the ingredients would go, and the hand beating with force would begin.
Ever since her grandmothers passing Meg has carried on with her traditional recipe and bakes many batches of them at Christmas.
Melanie by Padmini
He squinted at the braided girl in brown hair with his half-blind eyes. The first time he saw her, she was dancing to the same tune. Has it been 60 years? They were married the next year and she had passed away a year after their marriage. She was back now, wearing the same dress. “Melanie’, he whispered weakly. Melanie, for the first time in her traditional attire, danced exuberantly. She looked at him and sensed that something was wrong. She hurried over to him. ‘Grandpa’, she shook him. His limp body fell to the ground with a thud.
Olde World, New Light by Ritu Bhatal
Jackie picked up the lantern and held it up against the shop light.
It was exquisite, the intricacy of the cast iron frame, twisted into patterns.
“That would look amazing, hanging outside our front door, wouldn’t it, Dave?” She turned to her husband, who stood impatiently, tapping foot, waiting for her to make a decision so they could leave. He had a beer at home with his name on it.
“It has such an olde worlde charm. Yes,” she smiled as she clasped it to her chest. “This is the one. Let’s go and pay.”
“Thank God,” mumbled Dave.
La Florentine Torrone by JulesPaige
Nonna always has old world treats in her pockets those special nugget candies that have nuts, and come individually wrapped in their own boxes. So when the children visit they all run to her.
Nonna used cook, back in the day when standing in the hot kitchen over her famous red sauces and homemade pastas could be found for supper any day of the week.
The other adults debate on whether she knows too much or doesn’t grasp the modern world enough. I think that my Nona, she’s just fine the way she is. I am her secret supplier.
Just Up from the Compleat Angler by TN Kerr
In the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the visitor will find an agreeable climate, a magnificent bridge, delightful restaurants, and river walks. At the top of the High Street sits Albion House, where Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived. In this house, Mary Shelley finished her Gothic novel.
It’s a lovely old home; painted white. It features floors of hardwood and terracotta tiles. French doors open to a small garden off the ground floor, and the entire structure glows with the patina brought by old age and meticulous care. A simple, small brass plaque marks its literary significance.
Host with the Most! by Anurag Bakhshi
Rhonda and Steve were awestruck as they stared unblinking at the magnificent interiors of the Airbnb.
The walls were covered with such grand paintings that it looked like they were in the Louvre.
Add Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing in the background, and they felt as if they’d been transported to another century.
“We simply love it,” Rhonda cried out, ecstatically, “I don’t ever want to leave this place, Doctor.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged, my dear,” replied their host with an indulgent smile, a picture of old world charm, just like his home, “And please call me Hannibal.”
PART II (10-minute read)
Old-World Charm by Jim “Quincy” Borden
In 1494, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, wrote one of the first published descriptions of double-entry bookkeeping. He described journals, ledgers, year-end closing entries, and proposed that a trial balance be used to prove a balanced ledger. He warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until the debits equalled the credits. His ledger had accounts for assets, liabilities, capital, income, and expenses — the account categories that are reported on an organization’s balance sheet and income statement, respectively. These terms are still used today. Who knew there was a certain old-world charm to what I teach.
So Last Century by Norah Colvin
“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”
“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”
“We didn’t even have computers.”
“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”
Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”
“Wow! What did you do then?”
“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”
“Can we play a game?”
“Of course, love.”
Old World by FloridaBorne
“AnnaLisa,” My granddaughter said. “Join us for chocolate cake!”
“Haha u,” She chuckled. “Old.”
“In my day, no child refused this lusciousness!”
“2020?” She chuckled. “Virtual eat. No hydrolos.”
“Can you translate?” I asked my granddaughter.
“Language is now thoughts. Words are a second language to her.”
“Translation: I have a program installed. I can taste the cake as if I’m eating it, but there’s no calories, it’s not 2020, Great Grandma.”
“Whatever happened to tradition?”
“Two words,” My granddaughter said. “Artificial intelligence. She can’t keep up in school without it.”
“Robots by any other name,” I grumbled.
Lost by Allison Maruska
I settle onto the flat boulder overlooking the valley. The verdant field and trees welcome the rare visitor, promising a breath of nature and a taste of old-world charm. A world that existed before technology ruled. The afternoon sun bathes it in warm light.
“Daddy, what are you looking at?”
Twisting around, I wave my boy over. He wiggles next to me, his legs stopping at my knees.
“This is the land our ancestors saw,” I say.
He tilts his head. “Can we go home now?”
I laugh. “In a little bit.” After I figure out where we are.
That’s One Old Building by Susan Sleggs
While touring a small British town my aunt pointed to the historical plaque on the outside wall of a pub. It said 1158. We commented we didn’t think there was a building in the US that was 700 years old because we tear everything down and build new. We went in for lunch and a pint. The old-world charm was a respite and matched by the personalities of the young owners who asked where we were from in the states. When we questioned how they knew, the answer was, “You are wearing bright colors. Gives you away every time.”
So Much for Old World Charm by Margaret G. Hanna
“Bodicote is a dump!”
Mary’s letter from Oxfordshire shocked me. She didn’t like the village where I grew up? How could she not? The cobblestone streets. The village pub (I got drunk there many nights as a lad). The Green where everyone caroused on Fair night.
I read further. And sighed. The pub was gone. The Green was Brown. Banbury was encroaching, razing everything in its path. Dad’s farm, which he had rented from Mrs. Wyatt, was in shambles, about to be bulldozed for houses.
I had never wanted to return to England. Now there was even less reason.
Trip to the New World by H.R.R. Gorman
The old world had been good, but not perfect.
What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.
Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.
She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.
And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.
Olde Worlde Charm by LizHusebye Hartmann
“You’re certain this will work?” The charm, clasped in the Anna’s smooth young hand, was redolent of rose hips, cinnamon, and sweet basil…and something exotic from the far southern lands. Eyes shining with hopeful, as yet unshed tears, she clasped the woven bag to her breast.
“Do your part, with an open heart. Your prayer will be answered, anon.”
Molly accepted the girl’s hug; then shooed her away with a smile. It was a gig—keen observation and a little theater kept ‘em coming back. She’d seen the two to-be-lovers together; why did women always doubt their own power?
The Old World by Chris Hewitt
Disembarking from the ship she was utterly overwhelmed. The old world was more than she had ever imagined, an assault on her senses. The air was thick, pungent, with the promise of culinary adventure. Countless bustling stalls, nestled in the shadows of the old brick buildings that lined the dock. And oh my it was so bright, so vivid, the green of the trees, the blue sky, everything!
She stumbled and fell from the gangplank onto hard cobbles.
“Whoops, are you ok?”, a helping hand reached down, “First time on Earth? Don’t worry we all trip the first time.”
Just Lousy with Charm by Doug Jacquier
In my old world, nits were removed with kerosene, visits to the spider infested outhouse were completed with newspaper squares, mothers bored into your ears to stop the potatoes growing in there and rubbed at your face with their spit on a handkerchief, fathers twisted your ears as they dragged you to the scene of your latest sin, teachers clipped your ears to instill learning and the local copper handled juvenile delinquency with the toe of his boot. Charming. I tell my grandson but he just scratches his head. Now where did I put that kerosene?
Celebration by Kerry E.B. Black
With a pomp of woodwinds, the children joined the parade about town, welcoming everyone to join. Ribbons swirled from braids in the little girls’ hair. Embroidered flowers festooned hems and lines of traditional garb. Traditional foods perfumed the air, available for the sampling. The celebration swept everyone up with its joy. The world bloomed, the earth produced, and people created beauty to compliment nature. Peace, not protest. Harmony, not war. For the brief span of an afternoon, the community embraced the simplicity of existence. Unity in expression, inclusion of all. People paused to admire the beauty in one another.
The Gift of Water by Anne Goodwin
Our forefathers took time and trouble to appease the elements. Didn’t they rely on sun and rain for their daily bread? In summer they’d decorate the springs with gleanings from nature’s pantry, and thank the Lord for that cool clear liquid that enabled the crops to grow. In our pick-and-mix culture, we shed their superstitions but kept their art: village competing with village for the best display. For five long days we’d diligently press petals, seeds and berries into a clay-covered board until the design took shape. Now our great-grandchildren fight wars for water. The village wells are dry.
Cinnamon Roll by Kelley Farrell
“It has that old world charm.”
“It smells like death.”
Anise inhaled the bitter air. Remains of buildings, and their citizens, dusted the ground in an ashen snow storm. In the distance an alarm still blared, signaling catastrophe. Something sweet and savory mingled with the distinct smell of smoldering wood.
“Do you smell that?”
The sweet smell pulled Clove and Anise forward. In the center of the destruction a small bakery’s ovens hummed away. An old woman pointed her cane at the creatures.
“You. Are you responsible for this? Have a cinnamon roll, I fucking hated this place.”
The Charm Bracelet by Sally Cronin
Keira stood in line with the other teenagers. Dressed in plain cotton overalls, the queue stretched back for miles.
Above them, lining the cliff edges, were their families, held back by a tall fence. She looked down at the silver charm bracelet her mother had placed around her wrist as she had said her tearful goodbyes.
‘This will remind you of the old world my daughter, and our love.’
Keira finally reached the head of the line and was called forward by the guardians.
Placing her hand over the bracelet, she stepped through the portal, into the new world.
The New World by Joanne Fisher
“What happened to the original inhabitants of this planet?” my daughter asked.
“We left the Old World after it became too polluted and when we arrived at this New World it was a verdant paradise with an indigenous population. They helped us survive the first few years by providing food and shelter. Once we built up our settlements we took their lands, as we needed the resources. We moved their survivors onto reserves where they mostly died out from sickness and disease. They’re gone now.”
We both looked out onto the now crowded skyline of skyscrapers and hazy skies.
Old Earth: Sketch of a Bygone Dream by Saifun Hassam
In that far away long-ago dream, there was a deep azure lake with tall evergreens along the shores. Towering snowy peaks glowed in the early morning sunlight. Light and shadow drifted with the mist swirling over the lake. From the shores, stone steps led to a garden of goldenrod and delphiniums and a cottage. Smoke rose from the chimney. Old Earth. Swept away millennia ago.
Who was the artist? Who was the astronaut from Earth? Millennia ago someone had left signatures of Old Earth, artwork in the derelict digital libraries of Earth-like planets in the deep reaches of space.
Holding On by Jo Hawk
The sand flew right out the window. It left me frozen, asleep for a thousand years. The one thing I craved, I never found. Solid ground. I slipped, descending the slope, my fate was sealed.
Sentenced, I watch your world from total darkness. Longing for sweet sun to kiss my face, I promise to try harder, even if it never matters. My once dark doors are open wide, my soul laid bare. Will you be there? Will you reach for my hand? Judge me, forgive me, save me?
Please, answer my prayers for the charms of my old world.
Old World Customs by Chelsea Owens
Zrolt bent in half; crinkled his tentacles. Although he lacked the same appendages as the assembled dignitaries, he hoped his efforts at imitating formal gestures passed.
A bright figure, resplendent in the same hue that graced Zrolt’s planet’s bog pits, crinkled its breathing orifice in response. Zrolt’s translator told him this meant pleasure. Or amusement. Or, in 14% of cases, djr,osk.
He hoped it did not indicate djr,osk.
The bright figure spoke, moving more of its appendages as it did. Zrolt ingested a gland, a sure sign of boredom. Why did these sort of functions always entail old world customs?
A Call Fer Art by D. Avery
“Pal, where yer folks hail from?”
“Hail if I know, Kid. I jist got made up right here at this ranch.”
“But the real folks that come through here, they’s from all over the world!”
“Thet’s right, Kid.”
“I been thinkin’ on Pepe Le’Gume’s idea fer a Buckaroo Nation totem pole. It’s a great idea, if’n we had artists ta make it take shape. A carvin’ ta honor all a us.”
“Reckon the first thing would be ta have folks jist tell what symbolizes their home place.”
“Prob’ly a beaver fer our Vermonter.”
“Thet’s one critter. Speak up, ya’ll.”
Spread across crumpets, or drizzled over ice cream, a sweet jam tastes like sunshine. Yet, deep in the city down a dark alley in the basement of a speakeasy, musicians gather as friends and jam old songs and new sounds. No matter the jam, it carries satisfaction.
Writers investigated where a sweet jam leads, and you can expect some tasty stories. Grab a cup of tea, slather your favorite preserve on a piece of toast, and cozy up for a 99-word story jam.
The following is based on the August 15, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam.
PART I (10-minute reads)
Wine and Dine by Di @ pensitivity101
Steve and Sally let themselves into their flat after an enjoyable evening with friends.
They heard singing and when then looked in the lounge saw their babysitter cross legged on the floor munching toast between bars. Their two children were curled up on the sofa fast asleep surrounded by crumbs, their faces smeared with jam.
Jenna grinned at them.
‘Great scherry jam!’ she hiccoughed with a giggle. ‘Tho’ ya chouldn’t liv it in’t garage……… it migh go orf!’
Sally burst out laughing as Steve looked in dismay at the slops and what was left of his fermenting blackcurrant wine.
Sweet Jam by Susan Zutautas
Come one, come all to Bellevue’s Last Call Bar and Grill to listen to the sounds of Head First. They’re sure to satisfy your thirst.
Dance the night away with songs from the 1980s unless nine o’clock is past your bedtime. Come on out and rock till you drop.
On horns and flute, we have Mike who can start one sweet jam with the band.
On drums, there’s Chris who will beat to your heart.
Paul takes care of the vocals and he’s a local.
Sing along they don’t mind in fact they think it’s always a good time.
Sweet Strawberry Jam by Norah Colvin
Overhearing a conversation about the jam session at Lorna’s that night, Ailsa assumed the email was buried in spam which had jammed her inbox recently. She collected her Vacola jars and headed for the motorway. Discovering the traffic jam too late, she had no choice but to wait. The jam drops prepared for supper eased the monotony. At Lorna’s, she jammed her car into a tight spot and rushed inside. The living room was jam-packed, and music indicated a different kind of jamming. Setting down her Vacola jars, she leaned against the door jamb. “Sweet strawberry jam!” she breathed.
As Sweet As Jam by Oneiridescent
With the accomplice of peeping moonlight, Sam was scanning the perimeter. He was in a hunt and his jungle was the kitchen. The clanging cutlery called out and Mother came running.
“What are you doing, at this midnight ?” She switched on the lamp.
“I wanna candy, caramel – anything sweet,” cried seven year old Sam.
“You had your share. No more now with your tooth condition,” warned Mother.
Disappointed Sam, sat down on the floor. It was a week, he was deprived of chocolate.
“Ding Dong !” Father returned from work and brought Sam a sweet smile – a healthy raspberry jam!
Well Preserved by FloridaBorne
“Happy Birthday, Grandma,” Joy said.
Edna reached into yet another gift bag. A jar of strawberry preserves.
“I asked my family to pool their money,” Edna said. “I’m going to take a writing class!”
“But Grandma, you’re old!”
Edna held the unwanted gift toward Joy. “Get your money back, tell my family I expect a check for $200 made out to Hoover Community College, and bring it to me.”
“Go!” Edna ordered.
Never willing to settle for less than the best, Edna opened a cabinet full of her homemade strawberry jam, slathering some on fresh baked bread.
Sweet Jam by Colleen M Chesebro
One of the fondest memories I have of my mother in law was the day we made strawberry jam. The kids washed the flats of strawberries in the sink, careful to pinch off only the green leaves. I dumped the ripe fruit into the pot.
Arlene never measured ingredients. She didn’t have to. Like a conductor at a symphony, she coaxed the natural sweetness out of the berries cooking on the stove before she added any additional sugar.
The older girls filled the jars with the delectable strawberry compote. Billy the toddler, dipped his fingers into the sweet jam.
The Fallen Apples…by Ruchira Khanna
“Hey, don’t hit those fallen apples with your bat?” Grandma rebuked her grandson, Pedro.
“What should we do with it, grandma?” he asked innocently, “Mom doesn’t allow us to eat them, once fallen.”
Granny paused for a bit; it helped her cool down.
“Let’s collect all of them, I’ll make use of these fallen apples!” she said with a gentle smile.
The excited eight-year old collected all the juicy red apples in his red pail.
Grandma got to the task to make an end product that was sweet and fruity.
“Yum! the grandson licked the jelly off the spoon!”
Jellied Jitters by Donna Matthews
I feel it in my seeds. A juicy, delicious purpose awaits me. My skin is radiant…the perfect hue. I am ready.
A small boy comes skipping down my row. I quiver in anticipation as he spots me. He leans over, grabs me with his chubby hands, and in his basket I go. Arriving at his house, I see the water boiling, glass bottles standing ready, pectin on the counter.
Soon, I am transformed. No longer an individual berry but a sweet jelly jam. But why…why am I in the basement? Jellied and abandoned? Will I be forgotten down here?
Strawberry Jam by Sally Cronin
Margaret sat in the sitting room of the nursing home, in a chintz covered chair by the window. She couldn’t remember why she was there, but perhaps the family had brought her out for tea. She tried to think of her daughter’s name; a pretty girl in a blue overall who spoke gently with a lovely smile. Margaret looked at the plate on her lap, lifting the contents to her lips, it tasted delicious with something red and sweet that stirred distant and happy memories. Jam, strawberry jam, on scones, with butter and cream. How could she have forgotten?
Jammed Up in Time by Bill Engleson
“Well, body’s gone!”
“Yup. Morrison’s Mortuary…they don’t dawdle. Let’s get to ‘er.”
“The old guy…he had no family?”
“None we knew of. No visitors. Nada.”
“Yeah, maybe. But he had his memories.”
“You talked to him?”
“That’s kinda what we’re here for. Yeah. Not often. Cranky old cuss.”
“So, where do we start?”
“Let’s start slow. Personal stuff. The bedroom, I guess. Box it up neat.”
“Hey, lookee here. A jar of jam on the bedside table. Odd, eh!”
“Not so much. Blackberry Jam. Last one his wife ever preserved.”
“Like I said, he had his memories.”
Home Remedy by Tom Stewart
“I’m making mango jam,” announced Gertrude. “Your favorite.”
“You know how, Gert?” asked Wendell, her husband of 27 years.
“I’ll figure it out, and please, it’s Gertrude.”
“Can’t we just buy some? said Wendell. “Why all the bother?”
“Really?” said Gertrude. “It’s news to you that I like doing things myself?”
“All I’m saying, we could be watching television instead of you spending so much time.”
“You can’t buy the kind of jam I’m making,” said Gertrude.
“Don’t go overboard,” said Wendell. “I like things uncomplicated.”
‘Amen to that,’ thought Gertrude, removing a vial of strychnine from her apron pocket.
Faire de la Confiture Cucrée… (or a sweet reunion) by JulesPaige
she kept snakes in the
garden, allowed them free reign;
they rid her of pests
he was a lout for leaving
or a hero in disguise
at the edge, he stood
she stood quietly
he spoke her name like music
as the late autumn wind danced
rooted in the ground
she stood, tears of joy forming
then flowing freely
(of course we used to tell them
that time stood quite still, waiting…)
yet time did march on
to the beat of our drumming
hearts; running to grasp
See next page
to touch, to reassure and
taste again sweet jam kisses
Sweet Jam by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Clara’s thumbs tick-tocked the steering wheel’s curve, her eyes intent on any break in the blocked-up freeway traffic. She’d said what needed to be said. She was done.
Harald, hands tucked under his thighs in the passenger seat, hummed his seven-note tune, over and over again. He nodded as her annoyance grew. It’d only take a moment—the right moment–to change her mind.
Clara took a chance, swerved onto the shoulder. “Get out!” she roared.
Harald smiled victory as her car spit gravel and grew small as it sped away.
Sweet! He knew she’d talk to him again!
Sweetest Jam by Sherri Matthews
On Saturday morning, Matt Kline woke up, groaned and rolled over in bed, finding an indent and a crumpled sheet where his wife should’ve been. The angry clatter of dishes from the kitchen reminded him why.
That, and his wife screeching for him to get his lazy ass in there. Right now.
‘Honey…I’m sorry… I drank too much…’
‘You sonofabitch; I’m outta here.’
‘But honey…she’s nothing to me… ‘
The jar landed square on his head. The last Matt Kline knew was the taste of his wife’s strawberry jam bleeding slowly into his mouth. The sweetest batch she’d ever made.
Soured Sugar by Anne Goodwin
Bending to strip the bush of berries, her shoulders strain and fingers stain inky black, like hunching over essays at her desk. Except for the insect buzz and her sun-warmed neck. A holiday from study, from her drive to showcase her brain in a world that stops its gaze at her skin. A different virtue in the steaming pot, gleaming jars, foraged fruit others would leave to rot.
Yet her mood dips, her hand shakes as she adds the white crystals. Sugar. Ghosted by her ancestors’ lament, backs striped with whip marks as they stooped to cut the cane.
Everything Tastes Better With Jam by Barb Taub
She hesitated, then entered the alley, her stilettos clicking, hands cradling the large jar. Under a streetlight, dark windows on all sides and dead end ahead, she stopped. Her follower straightened, light glancing off the blade in his hand.
She turned, smiling.
Silent figures gathered behind her attacker, surrounding him. One held out an arm for her sweet jam. “Glad you could make it. How’s your mama?”
She waited politely until the screaming stopped abruptly. “She’s good. Sends love.” Over the slurping sounds, she raised her voice. “Sorry I’m late. I had to pick up takeout on the way over.”
Hijacking Euphoria by H.R.R. Gorman
Johnny hopped in. “Gun it, Euphoria!”
The hot, 375-horsepower Cadillac roared, but she pressed the brakes at a screeching metal sound.
“Door’s jammed! It got caught on the sidewalk!”
Euphoria screamed. “What the hell you doin’ to my car!?”
“It don’t matter! Gun it, or the cops will catch us!”
She put her long, pink fingernails up to her face. Tears streamed down. “Oh no, my baby!”
The cops caught up, guns at the ready. They saw Euphoria’s tears and manhandled Johnny out. “Hijacking a car and robbing a bank!? You’re going to jail for a long time, bub!”
PART II (10-minute reads)
Train Jam by Ritu Bhathal
Arjun peeled back the cover of the tray and peered at the contents.
Two cooling pieces of toast lay there, with a pat of white butter and a container containing something that was jelly-like with a luminous pink glow.
“What’s that?” he grimaced.
“I think you’ll find it’s jam.” Aashi couldn’t help but smirk at his expression.
“That’s not like any jam I’ve ever seen before.”
“Well, you’re not in England anymore, either. It’s Indian jam, made to cater to the Western travellers. Probably filled with sugar, colouring, sugar, flavouring and a bit more sugar. Just don’t expect strawberries!”
A Special Breakfast (Lynn Valley) by Saiffun Hassam
In the center of the dining table, sunflowers and hollyhock rose from the base of the boat shaped cornucopia. An ornamental iridescent hummingbird hovered over blue delphiniums. One end of the boat was loaded with almonds and pistachios. The rest of the boat was packed with jars of home-made sweet jam: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, plum, fig and peach.
The tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread wafted into the dining room from the restaurant kitchen. Omelets filled with salmon, scrambled eggs and pancake potatoes were ready. It was Hannah’s birthday today and her staff had a surprise breakfast for her.
A Brief Respite by Joanne Fisher
Aalen and Ashalla stayed in a cheap inn. They both sat on the bed together while Voja curled up on the floor. Ashalla had brought back some bread after scoping out The Baron’s keep a further time.
“If only I had got some cheese.” Ashalla said as she chewed on the bread.
“Wait a moment.” Aalen said as she produced a vial from her belongings. “When the fruit in the forest ripens my people make this.” Ashalla spread its contents on her bread.
“It’s wonderfully sweet jam.” Ashalla said.
“That’s what we call it.” Ashalla told her.
It’s a Trust Issue by Susan Sleggs
A month before my wedding, Gran advised, “You will discover marrying into a large family can have its pitfalls.”
“I already feel like I belong.”
“Let’s hope that lasts.”
Years later I remembered those words when a member of my husband’s family stated, “No in-law would know the family history we are discussing.”
I replied aloud, “I take umbrage with that,” and was ignored, so I left the room.
A few days later I received an e-mail from the speaker. “I was out of line. Sorry.”
The words felt like swallowing sweet jam, with a hint of invisible mold.
Tart Wars by Mused Blog
No one could remember how the war had started.
What transgression, what folly had launched that first missile? They could not have been blind to the terrible carnage that would follow. Mutually Assured Destruction indeed. And when all ammunition was spent, they stared at each other across the table, accusations flying.
“For the last time! Who started it?” mom yelled iridescent with rage.
“She did”, they both said in unison, fingers pointed.
Emma plucked a fragment of raspberry jam tart from her sticky hair and hastily devoured it. She smiled at the sweetness and winked at her bedraggled sister.
In a Sweet Jam by Anita Dawes
I was fourteen when I borrowed a bike
The judge sent me away for three weeks
for assessment to determine whether
I would be put away or given probation
This came as a shock.
You can’t wear your own clothes
Cleaning duties before breakfast
Two hours of school each day
The older girls had other duties
Sewing lessons where I made a felt penguin
Which I could take home when I leave
I never saw it again, I guess someone borrowed it
This is where I fell in love with marmalade
The kind with no bits, smooth and sweet…
In a Jam by Anurag Bakhshi
As I opened the refrigerator door, my wife’s words of warning reverberated in my ears, “No more sweets, or you’ll be in a right royal jam!”
But her words soon faded away, and all I could see was a treasure trove of cakes, pastries, muffins…and standing tall amidst them, a bottle of fresh home-made rhubarb jam.
I took out the bottle, gazing at it lovingly, when suddenly, the lights came on, and a voice, possibly belonging to the owner of the house, spoke sharply, “Gotcha! Robert, keep the gun trained on this thief while I call the police.”
Sweet, Sweet Song by priorhouse
“Really? You did it? Officially took the new job and put in notice?”
Yeah, baby. We can move for the new job as early as next month.
Exhaling, hands across face, Lisa sat down, pulled her hair back saying, “I cannot believe how sweet this feels.”
I know…. and hey… what song is that? Turn it up a little.
song lyrics poured out: “You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song. And I, will sing again….”
That’s the perfect song for this transition.
“It’ll be our song, honey.”
It sure is a sweet jam.
Sweet Jam by Allison Maruska
I settle into my seat in front of the stage. In a moment, the performer will take his place, having promised an evening of musical magic. His exact words were, “I’ve been working on a sweet jam.”
How could I pass that up?
He steps onto the stage to uproarious applause. Propping himself onto the stool, he holds up his instrument, and after a moment of contemplation, the notes of Hot Cross Buns fill the room.
Though I’ve heard the recorder tune enough during the week that it pierces my dreams, I pretend it is the sweetest of jams.
Not a Typical Sweet Jam (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Boiling quinces filled Danni’s kitchen with a lively scent, something between citrus and pears. Something remembered. In the canner, she prepped a hot bath to disinfect her jars and lids. She opened the sack of white sugar, ready to make sweet jam. Michael raised an eyebrow, continuing to look as skeptical as he did when he helped her pick the lumpy fruit.
“How’d you hear about these quince things?”
“The joy of being a historical archeologist. I read old books and journals.”
“Huh. Nothing from my Anishinaabe roots.”
Later, spread thickly across slabs of sourdough, Michael updated his history.
Harvest (Part I) by D. Avery
“Pull in this driveway here, Marge, this is the place.”
Marge and Ilene climbed stiffly from the truck and stretched, taking in the weather worn clapboard house. Two gangly apple trees stood guard in the unmown lawn. Ilene investigated the blackberry bushes that grew where the unkempt meadow met the woods.
“Marge! They’re ripe!” She made her way back to Marge and faced her mother’s house.
“Well, Marge, I’m supposed to get what I want from the place before leaving matters to the lawyers and realtors. And what I want is to make blackberry jam like my mother did.”
Harvest (Part II) by D. Avery
Marge and Ilene, scratched from the blackberry brambles, fingers stained purple, now stood over large pots of steaming, bubbling blackberry ooze.
“I don’t know, Ilene, I haven’t done this since my father died. He and I always made jam together.”
“We’ve got this, Marge.” She stirred, carefully eyed the drip from the wooden spoon. “I always enjoyed helping my mom with jamming but knew it meant the beginning of school. Used to feel like we were putting summer in a jar, to be savored later.”
“She’d be proud you’re back in school Ilene.”
Ilene blinked. “It’s ready Marge. Pour.”
First Homemade Low Sugar Plum Jam by Miriam Hurdle
“What are we doing with all the plums?”
“We eat them.”
“How many can we eat?”
“As many as we can for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
“You picked 475 in two weeks but only ate less than 75. They are getting mushy.”
“I know. I’ll take them to some meetings to give them away.”
“Can we sell them?”
“Are you kidding? How do I do that and who would buy them?”
“What if we can’t give them away fast enough?”
“I’ll find some low sugar plum jam recipes and do the first homemade jam.”
“It sounds like a plan.”
Red Light Rescue by Jo Hawk
I volunteered, although it was the last thing I wanted to do.
She waited outside her brownstone, with her carryon balanced atop her suitcase. I double-parked while the cabbie honked, cursing me, as he squeezed his way past.
“You’re late,” she said, and I stuffed the luggage in the trunk.
“You said six, it’s a quarter to.”
She ignored me and got in the car.
Rush hour in New York, made worse by some hidden force, gave me an opportunity. My one last chance.
The traffic jam was sweet, providing the salve we needed to mend our strained relationship.
Wild Sweet Jam by Faith A. Colburn
Today it’s wild plums. You step in the back door and the smell of sweet jam overwhelms your senses. On the stove, pulp boils with sugar. You hear thick, red bubbles spatter like hot lava.
Another bucket of fresh fruit rests on the floor. You pick up a few. You rub them between your fingers. The frosty coating rubs off, leaving shiny, bright skins—deep red, pink, and gold. A colander holds dry husks of bitter skins for the compost.
Sparkling jars line the counter tops, waiting to seal the taste of summer for mid-winter.
Hello Spring by tracey
Sophia walked into the kitchen and wondered where spring was. Fat snowflakes swirled outside the window, carpeting the grass and mounding on empty flowerpots.
“This would be pretty if it was December,” Sophia told Mother Nature, “but here in May you are just being cruel.”
She put the kettle on and popped an English muffin into the toaster. “Guess I’ll just have to make my own spring,” she said, moving a vase of tulips to the table. She opened her last jar of homemade strawberry jam and breathed in the sweet berry scent. “Take that Mother Nature,” she crowed.
Summer Memory in Winter by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Unexpected, not unprecedented. Lucy opened the cabin door to a wall of snow. Stores, as well as spirits, were running low. Something had to liven the hard tack and rabbit stew, hairy root vegetables and pale wrinkled peas. Evan sat by the glowing fire, his fiddle forgotten on his knee, the bow lying on the floor.
She snapped her fingers, grabbed a candle, and lifted the trap door to the cellar underneath their home. The animals, fed and watered, called greeting as she passed to the cooler corner where she kept summer memories. There! One remaining jar of Lingonberries!
We know how the story goes for Snow White. The Evil Queen sends a poisoned apple that only true love’s kiss can overcome. Well, there are different versions of the familiar tale. We wish fairy tails were true, and maybe, in a way, they are. Through one act of kindness, choosing love over hate, writing through the mess no matter how toxic — we can deliver an anecdote.
Writers explored the apple tree, daring to touch the poisoned variety. Some followed myth, some used realism, and others mashed it all up like cider.
The following are based on the August 8, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple.
PART I (10-minute read)
She who’d smiled and cooed when she gave him the fruit,
now laughed out loud
and watched him chew.
The fruit glowed red, juicy, crisp, and tart.
When he bit in, droplets ran to his shirt and
down his chin.
They burned through the soft cotton and scarred his skin.
He reached for her, in pain, confused;
his finger was cut
on the hem of her red pleated skirt.
I watched the rent spread wide, filling with crimson before
overflowing the wound and splashing onto her open-toed mules.
Shoes that were once white, were now scarlet,
like her name.
Inconclusive by Jomz Ojeda
The victim lay on the ground, sprawled, while clutching his throat.
“Choked on an apple? Classic.” Detective Monroe commented as he surveyed the scene, a half-eaten apple by his feet.
The victim, a young man in his twenties, had a twisted, horrified look on his face. His eyes bulged, and his mouth open and moist with bubbling saliva.
“Was it an accident, inspector?” A rookie cop asked.
“It could be. You never know.” The detective took slow, calculated steps all over the room. His eyes fell back on the apple.
“Take this to forensics… it might tell us more.”
The Don’s Move by The Dark Netizen
Don Pazta stared at me triumphantly.
“You’ve done it. Don Peeza is dead. Now his territory belongs to us. Well done.”
I smiled at the old man while gingerly sipping on my glass of wine. Don Peeza’s half eaten apple lay on the plate, next to his resting head. Don Pazta giddily got up from his seat and did a small jig.
“Tell me though. How did you know he would pick that apple from the basket?”
I grinned at the old don.
Don Pazta glanced towards the half-eaten apple on his own plate, before keeling over…
Poisoned Apple by Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Fear had eaten into his mind’s core like a malevolent caterpillar. Fear of the future. Fear of the soldiers. Fear of losing his farm. It had been there, rotting his brain matter, ever since the declaration of war in October the prior year. The injury he had sustained early this year had exacerbated its effect until it felt as if his mind was like a worm-infested apple, brown and soft inside. He took some deep breaths, determined to prevent the poison from spreading and affecting his reactions. Poor reactions could result in the deaths of him and his family.
How Far from the Tree? by Di @ pensitivity101
She was different, though didn’t understand why.
They came from the same gene pool, the same background, the same upbringing.
They had grown up together, been taught the same values, attended the same school.
But she was different, and she knew it.
She stood out. It wasn’t intentional, and the others tried to put her down, swamp her with their opinions and demanding attention.
Their offspring were the same as them.
Calculating, scheming, self-centred and selfish. No good deed done or thought of unless it benefited them.
Where had the poison originated?
And thank god she not been affected.
Staying Close to Mother by Anne Goodwin
There wasn’t much my mother loved, but she sure did love that tree. Sharp shade at summer’s peak; soft pink blossom at its dawn. Come summer’s end she loved to feed its sweet-sour fruit to me.
When time was ripe she’d pick a golden orb and shine its skin with hers. Warmed and polished by her breast, I’d accept her offering solemnly. As if cradling the whole world in my palms.
“Eat!” she said.
Obediently, I crunched, as juices dribbled from my mouth. Although it gave me bellyache, I never once declined an apple from my mother’s poisoned tree.
The Bad Apple by Ritu Bhathal
April bit her blackened lips in frustration. Just how long was mum going to go on and on about her clothes. All she wanted to do, was get out of the house.
She absentmindedly rolled a corner of the rug back and forth with her clumpy boots.
“April! Stop doing that to my rug! Honestly. I don’t know what’s got into you. It’s like those friends of yours have just brainwashed you.”
She rolled a heavily khol-lined eye. The doorbell rang.
“I’m going, mum.” She turned. “And just remember, they say the apple never falls far from the tree.”
If the Mirror Said More by Susan Sleggs
The Queen questioned her reliable magic mirror but this time the answer was different. Snow White was deemed more fair.
“Why?” screamed the angry queen.
“Your beauty is still supreme but not your heart. Snow White cares for others more than herself. She is loyal without being jealous. She works hard, without complaining, nor expecting return. She follows the laws while still helping the less fortunate and she sees her near empty glass as replenishable with good fortune.”
“I shall kill her with a poison apple!”
“No, my Queen. Learn from her or the poison will surely kill you.”
Poisoned Apple by Floridaborne
“…Snow White lived happily ever after,” my daughter said.
“Where’d you hear that?”
“Jane’s mom said we live happily ever after without haters.”
“She doesn’t understand the story,” I said. “Do you want to be imprisoned in a palace?”
“When the story was written, Princesses were baby factories ensuring one kingdom had ties to another. Jane’s mom is a socialist. We live in a Constitutional Republic. Our founders knew we had to be diligent.”
“Socialism, the evil step mother, is delusional. It wants to change what the mirror tells her. Never allow delusion to live.”
Skeletons by Reena Saxena
“Splash some green paint on the apple. It is needed for Halloween décor.”
“Do a Google search for ‘poisoned apple’ images. You might get better ideas.”
“ I don’t like fairy tale themes. Those are repeated everywhere.”
The skeleton surprised me on the party evening.
“Where did you get this from?”
“Somebody’s cupboard.” Am I hallucinating? The hollow voice seemed to emanate from the skeleton.
“Don’t worry. The cupboard is not yours, Honey, but someone is in for a shock today.”
“Herbert, get out of that costume. I don’t like being targeted for pranks.”
“Oops, Honey gave me away….”
Poisoned Apple by Jim “Quincy” Borden
I was working in the lab late one night, tasked with trying to find a safer, cheaper, and more environmentally-friendly formula for our top-selling weed killer.
While typing notes on my Macbook, I absentmindedly reached for the beaker containing the latest compound.
Unfortunately, some of the liquid fell onto the keyboard, and I watched in horror as smoke began to come out of my computer.
The screen went blank a few seconds later, and nothing I could do would bring it back to life.
It was then that I realized what the problem was, I had a poisoned Apple.
The Apple by Chelsea Owens
Doug stared at the cursor which marked the end of a lengthy piece. A smashing piece, really; one for which he might garner literary praise.
-If not for a little thing called conscience. Doug’s finger poised over the ‘Submit’ option, pulled back.
It’s not a factual article. Don’t publish it.
His conscience sounded deeper than Jiminy Cricket but was no less annoying. He was a grown man, working for The Apple, for the love of -! Well! He, Doug, was not to be bullied by a fantastical creature.
He clicked the button, releasing his minor poison to the unsuspecting masses.
How to Un-poison the Apple by tracey
The morning sun wakes me and I know I should be grateful for the possibilities of this new day. It stretches out before me, empty and endless.
I drink my tea. Do I dare turn on the radio? What are the chances of hearing good news? No, I will not poison my brain first thing in the morning.
Instead I bake chocolate chip cookies. I make sandwiches. I count out ten bottles of water. Then I fill ten sack lunches.
I spend my morning seeking out the homeless and giving them lunch – sandwiches, cookies and one crisp, sweet apple.
Like a Poisoned Apple (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni wrinkled her nose at Ramona’s offering. A tomato, freshly plucked. A Kellogg, an heirloom bright as carnelian and hard to grow in North Idaho. But Ike’s grandmother had forgotten that Danni gagged at the taste of any tomato.
“Thank you, Grandma. I’ll take it home.”
Danni sighed. “How about we share it?” Maybe Ramona would forget by the time they hauled veggies into the house.
The old woman continued to scowl. “I’m not your grandmother.” Dementia worsened when Ramona tired. It was like a poisoned apple.
Maybe Ramona would remember her if Danni took a bite.
Thief by Joanne Fisher
Red Riding Hood walked down the forest path carrying a basket of food for her Grandma. Suddenly a big black wolf leapt out from among the trees.
“I’m so hungry!” The wolf declared.
Alarmed, Red threw the basket at the wolf and hid behind a tree. The wolf went through all the baked goods and devoured them. Lastly, it munched down an apple and then started convulsing and foaming at the mouth until it collapsed on the ground.
Red looked at the now dead wolf. Good thing she didn’t give Grandma the apple she had stolen from Snow White.
Fairest In the Land by Kelley Farrell
Purple veined trees dangled darkened fruits above her head.
“I’ve never been to this part of the woods before.” Words she was barely brave enough to speak disappeared into a pulsing air of mystery. She would swear her feet were no longer her own.
“I’m so very hungry and tired.” The stiffness of the air crushed her voice but the woods protects its own. One of the purple veined trees dropped a fruit into her hands.
Her teeth tore the skin, unleashing a dark gush to dribble over her chin.
And that’s how she became fairest in the land.
Poisoned Apple by Susan Zutautas
Okay, I think we finally have a winner here, would you like to test it? As soon as this hits the shelves people will be running each other over trying to purchase this. Here, hold out your arm Elizabeth.
Hold on a few seconds, I need to wash off my wrist first.
Pierre gently applied a touch of the new fragrance to Miss Arden’s wrist and waited intently.
Well, tell me, what do you think?
The scent is fruity yet slightly spicy. I love it! What shall we call it? Oh, wait I know, Pomme Empoisonnée or Poisoned Apple.
An Annulment Achievement by JulesPaige
The queen of the fae was in a big huff. This poison apple thing was getting out of hand. The forest was littered with sleeping beauties, princes and even peasants. The dwarves were trying to keep up with building enough glass shelters for all the bodies. Pretty soon the whole countryside was going to be in a deep sleep and it was going to be up to strangers to kiss all these dreamers.
What was the cause? Was it a ruthless royalty? Turned out to be a clan of worms that had been contaminated by that first poisonous fruit.
Fruit laced with sleeping draught – Poisoned from a jealous Queen. And worms just doing what they do naturally, multiplying and crawling through apples. The wicked queen who had wanted Little Snow-White dead had been forced to dance to death in a pair of red hot iron shoes… who would be able to save the worms? For even worms have a valued place in the forest.
Time to enlist someone with some mad science skills. How could they save the genetically modified worms. How could they capture all the affected worms? Maybe with one giant apple with the right antidote?
The queen of the fae offered a generous reward for and antidote that would save the worms and get all the sleeping people out of her domain. The fae kisses weren’t strong enough to wake deep sleep of all the humans. She would have to see if extracting saliva and making a potion for wakefulness would work. Maybe she could employ the Tooth Fairy Guild?
Within a fortnight everyone and everything was ready. The giant apple sat in the middle of a special glade that had been sprayed with a special ode du decay to attract all the worms.
The dwarves and fae teamed up. As soon as the dwarves removed the glass coverings several fae flew to the lips of the sleeping bodies to paint on the wakeful kissing potion. And then as quick as a wink they ran and hid to see what would happen.
Slowly the people began to stir from their dreams. They could only wonder why they had been resting on odd platforms. And without hesitation made their way back to their homes.
Dwarves dismantled the platforms with joy. In time, all that was left of the great big Apple was the core.
PART II (10-minute read)
It’s an Institution by Norah Colvin
They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.
The Poisoned Apple by Faith A. Colburn
We used to have a row of mulberry trees on one side of our driveway. In midsummer, when the skies shone cerulean and ships of clouds sailed the prairie, the trees turned green and shiny as holly and began producing the first sweet purple fruit.
My sister and I climbed those trees, but like Snow White’s sweet apple, they exacted a price. We’d climb out of the trees with scratches and rips on our bare legs and arms, even our faces, twigs in our tousled hair. Our purple mouths, fingers, and purple-stained playsuits testified to our willingness to pay.
Telling by D. Avery
“I’m Snow White. I’m dead.”
“Don’t worry, only for a while.”
“Until a prince happens along?”
“That’s how Tommy’s mom tells it.”
“Hmm. Is there another way to tell it?”
Marlie unclasped her hands and sat up. “Well, Sofie’s mom says the apple was yellow, not red. And it wasn’t poison, it was the apple of wisdom that the mother shared with her daughters.”
“No princes, just farmers and craftsmen. Useful and polite. Oh, and Snow White is really called Eartha Brown.”
“Marlie, now that you’ve come back to life you could invite Sofie over.”
Yandeau Sea (from Yandeau) by Saiffun Hassam
In the bright sunshine Yandeau Sea glittered like myriads of tiny silvery pearls. But the great beauty of the Sea was marred along the shores by red, orange and yellow algal blooms.
Pierre remembered apple picking on Grandpere’s farm. Grandpere tossed moldy apples into the mulch pile. Poisoned apples he said. Pierre, then a young biologist, was struck by the intertwining of shiny golden apples and black fungal rot.
Now he was a marine scientist. From a distance the algal blooms appeared to be beautiful carpets. Underneath that carpet the waters were toxic to fish, starfish, crabs and crustaceans.
Immunity by Adil EL Bourichi
“I didn’t poison that apple!” was my orchard’s previous owner’s explanation .
My apple tree had born a pumpkin instead of an apple.
My chemist neighbor said that it was a poisoned apple and that it was his duty as a scientist to tell the world about it.
Soon, it became a worldwide phenomenon and more poisoned apples appeared pretty much everywhere. No country seemed immune.
All those who ate the pumpkins died… All, except the inhabitants of a tiny Pacific island.
When interviewed, an inhabitant said: “You see, poison is medicine and medicine is poison… It’s about balance.”
Poisoned Apple by Tien Skye
He could scarcely believe it. Months of effort – of planning, of sleepless nights – wiped out in matters of seconds.
Oh, how can the apple be poisoned so?
Known for its immunity, most viruses are unable to affect it. Yet, he could deny the truth no longer.
His MacBook Pro is not responding to any of the commands.
Well, every cloud has its silver lining. Or at least he hopes the iCloud has, that the documents have been backed up to the online server.
Then he realises, he has forgotten to switch on the Wi-Fi.
Poisoned Apple indeed.
Poisoned Apple by Sally Cronin
It is common in this modern world, to be offered promises that seem as wholesome as a bowl of shiny apples. However the red skinned fruit may hide toxic untruths and evil intent. Once it is swallowed, the poisoned apple will stick in your throat, causing you to spout the heinous words hidden within; spreading the evil like a virus. The only antidote to its venom; is to establish the truth, and wash the words down with random acts of kindness. We must all think carefully before embarking on a dangerously addictive diet of fake news and ill intentions.
The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by H.R.R. Gorman
“And this is the core of the poisonous apple which Adam and Eve ate.” The tour guide pointed to a core, browned from oxidation but otherwise in good shape. “This was unearthed 10 years ago in Mesopotamia, and no scientific explanation regarding its preservation has come forth.”
Someone raised a hand. “Why do we want to keep it?”
“Many reasons! The NIH wants to research its antibiotic properties. The DOE wants to examine its timelessness to find clean fuels. And, of course, the DOD wants to weaponize it. One of these efforts has already succeeded – I’ll let you guess which…”
Dark Places by Anita Dawes
Our universe has an evil twin
That’s where I live,
walking through black molasses
With the past present and future
Stuck in the same place
My life has been overlaid
by the juice of a poisonous apple
There are times when I believe
I am living on the dark side of the moon
Where the unknown waits
Taking time before devouring my soul
Sleeping dreaming, it is all the same
Nothing changes in the dark spaces of my mind
There are black holes
where my other six souls try to live
I pray for just one to be reborn…
Think of the Devil by Anurag Bakhshi
“Eat it, you know that you want to,” the Devil whispered in Eve’s ears.
Eve looked apprehensively at the apple and replied, “It…does look delicious…but Adam told me not to accept anything from strangers.”
The Devil plucked the apple from the tree, and said, “Let ME have a bite first, so that you know it’s safe.”
He smiled as he bit into the apple, he knew it was unsafe only for humans.
Eve smiled as the Devil clutched at his throat, it was a good thing she’d had the foresight to poison the apple the night before!
Dressed to Kill by Sarah Brentyn
The fall of 1978 would be remembered for generations.
I loved the story of the princess woken by a handsome prince. Each year, on Halloween, I became that princess.
I walked alone, trick-or-treating, while groups of guys mocked my dress and made lewd comments. Girls threw rotten apples poisoned with hatred and intolerance.
Mrs. Halloran, who was always kind to me, held a bowl of candy but pulled me aside. She gave me a bright, red apple and a smile.
Our neighborhood lost 27 kids that year. Poisoned. All but the boy in the Snow White costume.
A New Story by Donna Matthews
How did the story go, she wondered? A girl bit into a poisoned apple and fell asleep? The evil step-mother, jealous of her beautiful step-daughter?
And the seven drawfs? Or was that detail from another story? She couldn’t recall clearly. Except that maybe the story was titled, “Sleeping Beauty.” The character had to be awakened by a kiss from a prince.
Hmmm. Now exasperated. Stories about girls waiting around for the prince to save the day. Sleeping beauty waiting for someone to wake her up.
Yeah, no. She never did care for fairytales — she’d write a new story.
Changing the Story by Jo Hawk
I lift my eyes to behold the fairy tale wrapped in a make-believe land. I am defenseless, cold, and empty inside. Laying on my deathbed, the heroes turn away, and the wise men tremble. They are lost on the path leading nowhere.
But my story is not over. I refuse to bow. Rocks cannot break my glasshouse. Searching deep inside, I find the spark, light the fire, prove I am still alive. Flames reveal the true ending.
I reject the poison apple you fed me, and it becomes the instrument of your death. My revenge is my life, well-lived.
Dust by Allison Maruska
I sit on the porch, watching your dust settle.
It was all a lie. A performance. Years of attention and validation that you required of me blow away, meaningless as the dust your truck tires kicked up.
A little pushback, and I’m dead to you.
You taught me a lesson. I’ve now eaten from the poisoned apple of narcissism, one I accepted too gladly. God damn your charm. And God help the next who tries to make me his supply.
The dust has already returned to the earth, your impact forgotten.
Now it’s my turn to do the same.
Bitterness by Mark A Morris
I dug my thumbs into the divot at the top and pulled it apart. The apple split unevenly, breaking into two but with one part twice the size of the other. It was this piece I took first, nibbling away at one side. It was juicy but sharp in its flavour, a bitterness I’d not expected causing me to gag a little as I chewed.
“They’re perfectly ripe,” she said, a half smile flickering across her face. “But the one that I ate hadn’t been doctored with cyanide.”
I already knew it was too late. I should have known.
A Rotten Apple by Neel Anil Panicker
All who knew her made a very conscious effort to steer clear of her by a mile.
Asha had that thing about her, emanating vibes that could only be described as venomous.
Pretty insular to the negativity she spread all around, Asha hurled her barbs at one and all.
And woe betide all those who came under her crosshairs; or worse, happened to come under her bad books.
Then, she would turn a virago, and wreck vengeance of a scale and intensity that can only be termed diabolical.
A poisoned, rotten apple is what the world knew her as.
A Desperate Balance by Liz Husebye Hartmann
She stands in the shallows of the hidden cove, salt water lapping at her toes.
“What does she want?” the ocean wonders. “Here as supplicant…or queen?”
She draws an apple from her heavy cloak. It drops, its power releasing into the shadows.
The apple glints wickedly.
Naked in the scarlet sunrise, she lifts the apple to her lips, bites, and mumbles a spell, so quiet, weary of a world gone sour. The ocean hears these words and more, and accepts.
She swallows, drops with the poisoned apple, into the shallows.
The waves surge, accepting both poison and cure.
Word Up by D. Avery
“Kid, is thet Le’Gume character still around?”
“Reckon Carrot Ranch’s a hard place to leave,. Pal, are you still worried Pepe is a bad apple?”
“Naw, s’pose not, though he does have some noxious qualities, if ya know what I mean.”
“Yep, I smell what yer steppin’ in, if ya know what I mean. Hey Pal? Ya ever worry that folks don’t know what ya mean?”
“Well, Kid, word is, speakin’ is a big responsibility. Was much simpler when we jist used sticks an’ stones. If ya know what I mean.”
“Mean words could git us back ta that.”