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The radio plays back-up to my primary sources of music. Wherever I have lived, the radio not only has provided background noise, but it has also connected me to place. If you’ve ever taken a long road trip,, you know how stations can fade in and out, imparting a distinct sound to towns, cities, and regions. Like Donny and Marie Osmond, some stations are a little bit country, and some are a little bit rock and roll. Born in 1967, I’ve known the radio as a life-long companion. A constant I rarely think about but would miss like a left kidney.
Cruising up the Keweenaw Peninsula, something I rarely do these days of COVID, I turned on the radio instead of listening to my digital playlists. Ads annoy me, and I flip to another station. We have five, including NPR and a station Michigan Tech University broadcasts. Actually, I think we have six, but I can’t listen to modern country. Ironic, given that I grew up on Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Eddie Arnold, Charlie Pride, Hank Williams, and Loretta Lynn. My parents had a massive 8-track collection. The country classics came from my father’s family influence, but my mom’s family meant I also listened to Bobby Vinton, Frank Sinatra, some weird precursor to elevator music. My dad found more country music, collecting gunslinger ballads. My DNA carries the imprint of the entire Ennio Morricone soundtrack to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My mom collected the Beatles and the Fifth Dimension.
Once, when I was 12, I requested the Greatest Hits from the 1700s from the Columbia House 8-track catalog that would arrive by post. I also wanted the latest Kiss 8-track. I can’t even begin to unpack my tastes in music. But the radio had its influence, too.
Occasionally I’d sneak the dial to KKBC, a rock station broadcasting seventy miles away from Reno, Nevada. That where I heard songs like Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult. Columbia House didn’t carry such 8-tracks, or I didn’t know what they were. It was a new sound, but one my parents did not appreciate. Some nights, I leave the radio playing on low. One morning I woke up to, “KKBC’s gone country!” My parents delighted in that switch, and as a family, it introduced us to modern country that would dominate the ’80s — Hank Williams, Jr., Roseanne Cash, Mickey Gilley, Charlie Daniels, Alabama, and Reba McEntire. I missed Godzilla but fell into a pre-teen crush with Bosephius.
One hundred miles northwest of where I grew up on the eastern slope of the Sierras, a teenaged boy, milking the family herd before he drove to high school, also caught the same radio broadcast I did. Five a.m. and he flipped on the radio and dialed in the rock music he loved, practicing his “Dead Fred” DJ voice, talking to the cows as he set up the morning milking. At six a,.m., we both heard, “KKBC’s gone country!” He flipped out, yelling obscenities at the radio. He’s never forgiven the station, and to this ,day can recite some of the best DJ moments and recalls more songs than my remembered Godzilla. Years before we’d ever meet, the Hub and I shared a moment on the radio.
Many states and radio stations later, we have a set of six stations tuned to our car radio. I can’t even tell you their call numbers. I’ve lost interest. It seems that part of moving on meant leaving behind favorite radio stations, and after Idaho, it became too hard. I carried my CD collection with me and had invested a fair amount in iTunes to play on a tiny shuffle smaller than a pack of gum. My CD player remains beyond my reach, and my computer upgrades don’t play CDs. I relied heavily on my iTunes but went I went Apple all the way, I messed up my music access.
Cue the orchestra to play something woeful. Sometimes, the hoops we jump through for technology sucks. Sometimes, our human brains glitch. When we got our other iProducts I forgot that I already had an iAccount for my shuffle, and I registered New iStuff with a different Apple ID. I kid you not, the magnificent empire of Apple with all its capabilities, and all the engineers who make the things work can’t connect my iTunes music to my iPhone or iMac because the IDs differ. But I have resiliency, so I found a way. I bought a Google Play membership and rebuilt my iTunes collection. Then I began to rebuild the CDs I missed the most. Then I built lists with Hank Williams, Jr and Blue Oyster Cult just because I could!
Do you remember cassette tapes? I thought they were THE THING! I had a player with a recorder and would sit in front of the radio to catch some of my favorite songs. You didn’t live the ’80s unless you had big bangs and cassette mixes with chopped off songs or a chatty DJ you wished would shut up and let the song fade. But you made do because you caught the song. These were my walking mixes, and you better believe — I had a walkman! Then came CDs. We bought a CD player in Montana that you could load six at a time. Magic! I had Yanni, Enya, Enigma, and Windam Hill New Age collections that I’d load to play in the evenings to cook, settle the kids, light candles, and read or write late at night. The memory brings such peace.
Digital playlists are a miracle to me. When I’d work out in the gym pre-back surgeries, I had my fem singers to fire me up — Tori Amos, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Dido, and Paula Cole. I had all the CDs and carried a case to switch out CDs, longing for a way to play three songs of one, two of another, and so on. I yearned for the mixing ability of cassettes with the quality of the CD sound (and not having to use a pencil). Yes, I waited a long time for playlists and was satisfied with iTunes. But Google Play leveled up. Then came the email last month — they closed up shop. With so many other options, they decided not to offer such services. They offered to transfer all my albums from Journey and Bruce Springsteen to Chakra Dance and Guided Meditations and all the rest in between to YouTube Music.
YouTube. That’s the Hub’s music miracle. He loves to research the musicians and listen to interviews and variations of songs. He’s found new music like Mean Mary and can tell you who does the best covers of Stevie Ray Vaughn. I consented and agreed to transfer my music, feeling that desolation of a move again. Then came the glitches. On Google Play, I had order. I intentionally named my playlists in such a way that I categorized them by type but also alphabetically. YTM squished the lists together out of sequence and added the Hub’s listening playlists from when he’s on my computer. Then, the playlists cut out on shuffle, so my background music shuts down randomly. I spent too much time trying to figure out a fix and drew the line at having to download an app.
That’s how I came to Amazon Music. It’s half the price of Google Play. The Hub can still do his thing on YouTube. I can, too, and no need to pay for YouTube Music. But I’m not advertising. Actually, I’m a bit disgruntled with all this wasted effort when I had the solution three technology advances ago. But what eased my troubles was finding a CD replacement that Google Play and YouTube did not have. Clannad. It was always first in my CD player. It heralded the moment I took a deep breath and felt the peace of home no matter where I was. Tonight, I set up a playlist of albums as if I were back in Montana…or Minnesota…or Idaho. I heard home play in my home…in Michigan for the first time. And I settled inside.
There is a radio station I still listen to regularly, though, and it’s not in my vehicle, but on my computer. WUMB. It has the kind of music the Current played in Minneapolis, and another station in Idaho. Out of Boston, I think of it as the music of the Northeast. I think of Vermont, the most rooted place and people I’ve experienced. Rooted music. And that is still the magic of radio. Despite all these technologies and arrangements, radio still connects people and place.
With great anticipation, I introduce ya’ll to the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo Playlist (on YouTube). I had lots of music memories and creative ideas swirling as I built this list. The first song is a masterpiece written for a Clint Eastwood movie by an Italian composer and artfully played by the Danish National Symphony. It vibrates with global imagination. The list includes classics, a few KKBC tunes, western movie songs, and some interesting modern manifestations in western music. Cowboy music has roots in many other nations and has a vibe shared by those venturing to frontiers. Maybe one day, someone will yodel a cattle call on Mars. Much of the music tells a story; other songs inspire stories. It’s the essence of our Rodeo contest season quickly approaching.
We have a great line up of Rodeo Leaders to host contests this year — Colleen Chesebro, Marsha Ingrao, Kerry E.B. Black, and the one and only Goldie. We all decided to stay with a western theme this year, yet you will be surprised, delighted, and challenged by what these Leaders have to offer in their contests. TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) returns this year, too, and will take over the stage at Saddle Up Saloon on Mondays. Contests will start every Tuesday in October, each ending before the next one launches. These contests allow writers to apply their skills and stretch their writing. The weekly challenges will continue on Thursday, with collections published on Wednesdays. Winners will be revealed on consecutive Tuesdays in November. One winner in each contest will win $25 and a digital trophy.
September 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something heard on the radio. It can be from any station or era. What is heard? A song, announcement, ad? Think of how radion connects people and places. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by September 15, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.
Lost Daughter by Charli Mills
Clementine heard her mother over the Stockton radio. She’d entered the small house at the edge of farm fields, picking up fallen produce in the road. Harvest trucks left a trail, speeding to city markets. Her landlady called the rental the Road Garden. Clem thought she meant “rose” and was disappointed to find weeds and a weeping willow. Her mother played Rambler on the banjo and Clem recognized the Tennessee picking popular among California cowboys. She recognized her mother’s name but not her voice. One day, maybe she’d meet the woman who abandoned her for a life of music.
Something brews beyond our portal of vision. In a northern climate, storm windows add an extra layer of insulation to the glass that allows vision from an interior world to the exterior. By definition, storm windows protect in bad weather.
What can a writer do with that concept? This week’s challenge encouraged writers to interpret storm windows in new ways or write a story that involves the physical object.
The following is based on the November 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using storm windows.
PART I (10-minute read)
Stormy Windows by Nobbinmaug
My windows fogged up as she talked. An illness, a preexisting condition cost them their home. A burden on family and friends, they were left to the streets.
Child protective services took their children. They couldn’t know how they were fairing in the system. It had to be better than the streets, right? Right?
She prayed for God to bless me for the dollar I gave her. It was the least I could do but more generous than most.
At my warm, cozy home, rain fell from the windows to my soul as I wished I could do more.
Storm Windows by Aweni
Onye rolled in dirty gritty slime. She locked herself in this dark space, devoid of air, every time she remembered his hands on her body.
She peered through the thick storm windows at the other Onye, as she let her hands linger on the frame. Unable to reach her, she could only wish she was her as she watched herself run through the storm, bright and happy, air blowing through her hair with abandon. She could almost smell the fragrance from newly bloomed flowers and the spring tinkling where she was headed. Almost. Alas, she was locked in here.
Grandma’s Grateful for the View by Anne Goodwin
“Is Grandma sick? She’s been in there for hours.”
“She likes solitude. Peace and quiet from you.”
“She’s remembering the bad old days.”
“She’s enjoying the view.”
“Grey skies and rain-lashed wall?”
Grandma’s told us how it used to be, before drainage and latrines. How the water in the streets rose above her kneecaps but nature couldn’t wait for the floodwaters to subside. No other option than to squat in the field outside amid the neighbours’ floating turds. No wonder she’s happy when in the rainy season, enthroned in her small cubicle, behind the storm window, relishing the view.
Storm Windows by tracey
Gray clouds scurried across the sky as the wind knocked the last of the red maple leaves off the tree. I stepped back and looked up at the house. “Only two storm windows left, I’ll go get them,” I said.
“Nope. That was the last one,” Grandma replied.
“What about the window on the landing and your south bedroom window?” I asked.
“I don’t like to shut up the house completely. A body needs to be able to breath fresh air year round. The house likes a little air too.
I grinned, “hot cocoa and cookies it is then.”
Winter Fun by Susan Zutautas
Winds were horrendous, snow squalls blinded my vision and I was cold to the bone. Couldn’t get the furnace relit and I was afraid the pipes would soon freeze. I had to get outside to turn the handle for the water. Why it was outside was puzzling.
Bundling in my winter outerwear I made it around the corner of the house, wet, heavy snow sticking to my toque and eyelashes.
Underfoot I felt something slippery and looked down trying to see what it was. Then I heard a crack. So, here’s where that storm window went. Dammit, always something.
I’ll Take the View by Susan Sleggs
The couple stood staring at the upper floor southeast corner of their unfinished house.
Lizzy’s face turned red. “Isn’t that where my sewing studio is going? Why the hell are there such large windows? I asked for small ones.”
Her husband answered. “We’re building here for the view. I changed the plans as a surprise.”
The builder hearing the commotion came to intervene. “We will be using Indow Museum grade indoor storm windows that block 98% UV rays. I promise anything inside will not be harmed.”
“Will you put that in writing?” she challenged.
“I will, with a guarantee.”
Safety Glass by Annette Rochelle Aben
Ear-splitting thunder followed by spectacular lightning; she loved storms. She didn’t like being out in them. No sir, if she was planning to drive someplace and heard about a storm brewing, plans had to be changed. She didn’t even want to be a passenger during a storm.
Wrapped up in her flannel robe with a cup of golden milk to sip, she cocked her head to look beyond the trees. BOOM! The thunder sounded another battle cry followed by the brilliant light seeming to split the sky. Thank goodness for the triple pane windows between her and the storm.
Storm Windows by Anita Dawes
In England we don’t have storm windows
We have triple double glazing
Which distorts the view outside something terrible
They’re only good for keeping out the cold and sound
Looking at the moon at night, you will see three
I can’t imagine needing them for the kind of winds
That sound like an angry animal
Trying to take the house brick by brick
Tornados, snowstorms the size of mountains
Whiting out the familiar, trapping families
In their homes, enforced imprisonment
By the local weather
I watch Chasing Tornados on TV
Wondering how it would feel to be up close…
Idea of Fantastic by Donna Matthews
I used to lie. I’d tell lies when the truth was just as acceptable. I’m not sure where or why the habit started, but, it was troublesome enough that one Saturday morning, mama had had enough, grabbing me by the back of the head, shoving Dove soap inside my mouth, and holding me under running water. As her rage dissipated, she let me up, my eyes darting to the kitchen storm window, where I knew Kevin from next door was waiting. My mouth foaming, his mouth agape. Our family no longer his idea of fantastic; he turned to run.
Storm Windows by Sally Cronin
She looked out through the slightly distorting storm windows that protected the house from the harsh winds that swept onto the coast from America. This part of Ireland was notorious for its harsh winters, but also its outstanding coastal views and warmhearted people. She had moved here to escape her past, and preferred the natural violence of the weather to that she had endured for many years. She sighed as she turned to face the man in the room. Another more dangerous storm had breached the defences and windows could not protect her. It was time to be brave.
Weekend Plans by Nicole Horlings
The storm had been bad. There were branches strewn across the road along with garbage from a knocked over bin. He had to park along the side of the road and walk the rest of the way to the property.
It was worse than he had hoped. A piece of siding was banging against the lee side of the cottage. The barbecue was upside down in the middle of the yard. One of the storm windows had been left partially open, and he could see that the water inside hadn’t dried up yet.
So much for a relaxing weekend.
Storm Windows by Pete Fanning
I held the plywood while Dad drilled in the screws. The board shook against my hand and I slammed my shoulder into it.
Dad gave me a look.
I’d begged to stay in New Jersey, little good it did. Dad was sick of the harsh winters. No shoveling snow for the Harris family. No Sir. We were going to the beach.
Now look at us.
A gust of wind at my back. Two windows left, then we could get in the car and get up the road. The drill stopped. Dad looked down and laughed.
“Sure beats shoveling, huh?”
Storm Windows by FloridaBorne
“Where’r you from Marcy?” Mary Jo asked.
“Well, Mary, I’m from Joisey,” she snickered.
“I see you tore down the 100 year old oaks, two foot thick pines…”
“They’ll make good firewood,” Marcy said. “And I don’t like raking leaves.”
“This is Florida. You might need a fireplace in January. You shoulda put your money into double pane storm windows and storm shutters.”
“My name is Mary Jo.”
“Well, where I come from, only hillbillies have two names.”
There was a cat 4 hurricane on approach. Some people had to learn the hard way, if they survived.
The Husband’s IQ by Ruchira
Carl was sitting at ease with a cigar while his daughter was by his semi-conscious wife’s bedside.
Farah was sobbing uncontrollably, “Get well soon, Mom.”
Hearing his daughter’s sobs, the Dad gave out a chortle.
Sarah was quick to ask him the reason for his behavior.
“She can’t go anywhere. Her soul, even when it leaves the body, has no choice but to go back into the body.”
“I have storm windows installed, and nothing can escape them.”
The partially conscious Mom came back to her senses upon hearing the above and laughed over her husband’s IQ.
# 33 Account Holder? by JulesPaige
…While reading a love ode I become homesick for simpler childish times.
The storm windows of my farm house keep out the cold, yet my heart feels chilled.
Put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea; just me, my Dawg, Byrd and Lucky.
Was the diamond bracelet was bought or stolen; are they even real?
Could Sam Marshall look at documents of recording missing items?
At the very least I could ask; a good excuse to see him again.
…snowflakes create crystals on the windows.
lost and found, trinkets
of love; words of longing reach
what are they saying
The Secret Life of Your Hammer by H.R.R. Gorman
Usually the hammer lived happily in a drawer next to the tape measure and a molten pack of gum, but sometimes the humans would attack. Someone would be abducted, sometimes for days, and abused mercilessly at their hands.
Today storm clouds whirled above, and the humans had innocent sheets of plywood to serve as storm windows. They withdrew a nail from a sack on their belts.
“Ow! Ow!” screeched the hammer.
But the human didn’t care. He beat the hammer senseless, imprisoned the poor nails in the plywood and siding, then left them precariously outside as the hurricane blew…
Nothing Left by Ann Edall-Robson
There is nothing left
The soul is gone
Though aged and tattered
Drab and lifeless
Dressed in brown and grey
A welcome hearth, frozen
Expecting no one
Laughter long since vanished
Life drained from within
There is no remorse
With no appetite to return
Solitary and waiting
Darkness is everywhere
Lanterns hang, unlit
Lifeless forms peer out
Past craggy glistening shards
Edging traumatised storm windows
Wooden shutters hang lifeless
Snow swirls around collapsed beams
Mournful, piercing, wailing sounds
Challenging the lifeless rooms
The storm, it rages on
Outraged and unforgiving
The homestead lives no more
PART II (10-minute read)
Tipping the Beaufort Scale by Nancy Brady
Serafina loved wind, from warm southern breezes to biting northern squalls; she loved rain especially thunderstorms; she loved snow, blizzards as well as all the feathery, drifting flakes; but hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and cyclones may have been her favorite meteorological events.
Serafina controlled them all from her tower room, which had four windows, one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south. With the touch of her hand on the panes of the storm windows, she sent out tempests to wreak havoc on the land and the humans, who wanted sunshine.
Rescue Mission by Joanne Fisher
“Take us in.” ordered the Captain.
Once our starship dropped into the violent Crimson Nebula, we were buffeted by strong winds. We saw through the storm windows of our bridge thousands of lightning flashes before us. I knew the storm windows were built for conditions like this, but I secretly wondered if they were strong enough…
The huge manta-shaped Ecraw, who lived in nebulae like this, flew around our ship unaffected by the conditions around them.
Then I finally located the signal that we’d been unable to find due to the electromagnetic radiation. We had found the missing ship.
Size Matters by Geoff Le Pard
Storm Windows’ fame was legendry. Her ‘they shall not pass’ attitude protected the Empire from the evils winds that swirled around the Universe. She pacified Arturo V, negotiated a truce with the Phrngg, despite mistakenly calling their leader a shriveled turd throughout their discussions and battled countless animal vegetable and mineral enemies across a multitude of galaxies. First to enter a black hole, she redirected comets for fun and spent a sabbatical cleaning an event horizon. But nothing defined her like her death. Exiting hyperdrive, she mis-scaled the return to reality and splattered the Starfleet across a badly-hung fly-screen.
Yandeau Observatory by Saifun Hassam
Daniel loved his work at the Yandeau Observatory on a high plateau facing the Sea. It connected two worlds for him: Earth and Space.
Immense storm windows gave him a panoramic view of valleys and hills. He tracked sea storms through powerful Weather Telescopes. The Astronomy Telescopes gave him a spectacular window into constellations and planets. He imagined himself aboard a spaceship with storm windows as he downloaded satellite images of the outer planets.
Under a rising moon snow glistened on the mountains, high plateaus and ridges. The night sky was ablaze with magnetic storms of the Aurora Borealis.
Storm Windows by Reena Saxena
“Nothing will happen till you learn networking and promoting yourself,” my business mentor shuts his laptop with a vengeance before leaving.
A solution is needed without overhauling the entire structure. It needs to be something like an overbridge or subway or bypass road. And then, I need a plan to divert traffic. I trained as a civil engineer, and do not lack in soft skills. It is just about the mode of expression.
You see, I’m an introvert and install storm windows outside every exit or entry. The structures I build are strong and secure – to a fault.
A Skeptical View by Jo Hawk
I know it exists to protect me, that invisible, visible layer. Glass over glass, engineered to exacting standards, safeguards designed to stand between me and… I pause. From what does it save me? Certain death? Or the thrill of living on the edge?
Engineers have created car airbags, helmets for a bicycle ride, handrails, guardrails, safety instructions, protective eyewear, ear protection, and countless other safety buffers. I experience my life as a boy in a bubble. Germ-free. Sterile.
I long to defy their rules, stretch past the double pane, storm window, touch the beautiful chaos and dare to live.
Snow is the Mother of Invention by Charli Mills
Trudging snowy streets in blizzard conditions, Regis arrived home. He flipped a spring-loaded mechanism at the side of each lens of improvised goggles. In place, the outer lenses prevented moisture from coating the inner ones. Tiny nozzles spayed an anti-freezing gel that kept the outer frost-free without harming his eyes. “Eureka,” he shouted, startling the crows in his bare maples. He hopped, skipped and slid, crashing through the basement door, grasping for any handhold. Empty-handed he sprawled across the floor. Regis pushed himself up and whistled cheerily. Storm windows for the nearsighted might be his best invention to date.
Storm Windows by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Jared leaned against the bar, one boot heel hooked on the rail. His spurs lay next to his whiskey, silent as the glass was empty. Time to decide.
He could ride south to his father’s oil refinery. That way lay fine suits, easy money, easier women. His father’d left his family, but he might want to know his son. The resemblance? Startling , if his mother Lula’s cameo locket was any indication.
Or he could ride north to the sweetest, most beautiful girl, with the meanest daddy.
A storm brewed outside the window. He walked out into it, anyway.
Storm Window by Iain Kelly
The view was bleak, much like his future.
The waves rolled along, grey with white crests, unrelenting, unremitting. His stomach had finally settled down after two days of sickness.
What did he care about these countries over the ocean? They could bomb themselves into oblivion for all he cared.
The rain battered the window, but the bad weather would pass soon.
Underneath those foreboding waves they knew they were being hunted by the German U-boats.
He had heard stories from those who had come back. Those who had survived.
He knew the real storm lay in front of him.
Nightmare by Simon Prathap
11 year old Sara is a curious little girl, never listens to her parents.
Her Mom use to say to never play with storm shutters.
But she never listened.
That fateful day, Sara opens the storm shutter and jumped.
What she saw through the window was her worst nightmare.
A man with a big axe waved fast at her head.
Her mom came fast and hugged her and consoled.
Little Sara It was just a dream and asked what she dreamed?
I opened the storm shutter, I am sorry mom I won’t play with storm shutters again.
Storm Clouds by Bill Engleson
Like a chaotic cyclone, the trickster spins his webs,
A dervish of deceit, a gong of goose-steps,
A shallow man of no dimension,
Of mirror’d pleasure, of foul intention.
There in his bunker, his mind aflutter
With tortured tweets and callow clutter,
He grasps the world through his video shutter,
A portal seen from his POTUS gutter.
How are we to understand this mock-man kitsch,
His toxic assault on Marie Yovanovitch?
Slathered in his cholesterol tweets,
His cries descend to bulbous bleats.
Will there be a reprieve, a cleansing storm,
A clarity, a return to reason, to decent form?
A Confusing Session by Chelsea Owens
“That’s it. That’s what I live behind!”
Matt Burdsall, PhD, moved from his leaning-forward mirrored-glasses scrutinization into a leaning-back mirrored-glasses scrutinization.
“Your glasses made me think of it.”
Dr. Burdsall attempted to keep his expression neutral. This new patient, Holly Runner, was a curious one. First, she’d explained Social Anxiety as, “Party Aversion,” then she’d said her Passive-Aggressive mother had, “Tangled Trauma.” He’d needed his daughter to explain that Tangled was a film…
Now storm windows. *Ahem* “How so?”
“Well!” Holly sounded excited. “Whenever bad things -storms- come up, I block them! Ta-da! Storm windows!”
Whatever happened to Rose and Storm? by Anne Goodwin
They buddied up at college, the way chalk buddies up to cheese. Each sharpening her own perspective on the whetstone of the other’s worldview. Zooming in on each other’s flaws and limitations, the better to eliminate their own.
Later, Rose made a decent living peddling soft-fringed portraits for high days and holidays; Storm tailed evil to the ends of the earth. Rose bought a house with double glazing; Storm spread her sleeping bag in foxholes or on dusty floors. The same degree, the same camera, different outcomes: one with pink-tinged lenses, the other opening a window on life’s storms.
Climate Storm v. Storm Windows by Tina Stewart Brakebill
She wondered whether the storm windows would hold. They were meant to keep out bad weather not … well whatever was falling from the sky. It was funny she used to think the end of the world would come later. After she was gone. Not when her dreams were finally within her grasp.
Climate Storm v. Storm Windows by Tina Stewart Brakebill
It wasn’t fair. She had done everything right. And now. Now the sky was literally falling.
Lost in thought, her mind barely registered the hissing as the bubbles burst through the window pane.
As the drops burned through her flesh, her mind screamed “It’s not fair!”
Where Mankind Can Weather the Storms of Life by Brenda Fluharty
There is said, to be a realm where one can go to weather the storms of life. When the events of your life overburden you. You can call on the archangels. And, if you are in touch with your higher-self and the energies of the Universe. The archangels will open the storm windows for you. You will find a place where all is known and the books of lives. A realm where you will find all the answers you are looking for. It is a place where all mankind can weather the storms of life. The Storm Windows Realm.
The Plop Thickens by D. Avery
“Yer lookin’ grumpy, Kid. What’s the story?”
“Pal, there ain’t no story. Dang D.Avery jist plopped us onta the ranch where we jist plod along week after week. We’re jist a plotless premise. Thinkin’ we should git us a better writer.”
“So yer schemin’ ta git a plotter ‘stead of a plodder?”
“Yep. Nuthin’ ever happins ta us; we’re jist a collection a what’s with no why’s.”
“Ya wanna have problems? Go inta a cave?”
“Kid, ya might not think it’s enough action, but yer fittin’ the prompt.”
“Yer an extra pane in the glass.”
Lurking in the shadow of Halloween is a Mexican holiday memorializing ancestors and influenced by the Catholic feast of All-Saints Day. Today, many popularize the Day of the Dead with its unique sugar skull art and skeletal face paintings.
Writers from around the world might not be acquainted with the actual holiday, which is distinctly Mexican, but Halloween seemed a good day to see where such a prompt might lead.
The following is based on the October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead.
PART I (10-minute read)
Traditions by Annette Rochelle Aben
When we were little, most children prepared for trick or treating, while we built altars. Dear Angelitos were invited into our homes on October 31st. Bringing all spirit children together with earthly children.
The next day, All Saints Day, we were welcoming the spirits of all our adult family members. They celebrated with us joyfully for we were all together again.
We gathered at the cemetery on All Souls Day recognizing the connection of family and friends between those on earth and those in heaven.
In my world, there is no death. Only transitions. Because, I grew up, Mexican.
Day of the Dead by Faith A. Colburn
We played their music—Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, Begin the Beguine, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie. Dad liked roses, so we bought some and poked them behind our ears, pinned them in our hair. We sprayed the room with Mom’s favorite, White Shoulders. I broiled big T-bones, shucked oysters, baked lemon meringue pie. We ate by candlelight. Sis made Manhattans and we sipped them between dancing the Latin Walk, and jitterbugging, swinging around the livingroom like we knew what we were doing. By midnight when we played Sentimental Journey, it almost felt like they were dancing with us.
Visitation by Joanne Fisher
“Grandma?’ Cindy said surprised.
“Cindy! It’s wonderful to see you again.”
“You’ve been gone for over 15 years, and now you’re standing in my kitchen.”
“It’s the Day of the Dead, sweet child. I’ve been in your thoughts recently, which is why I’m here.” Grandma replied.
“I remember you telling me you talked with the fairies, and I’ve been talking with them too, but Jess thinks I’m going crazy.”
“The entire town thought I was crazy, so be careful who you tell, but you’re not crazy my child.”
Then Grandma was gone again. Had she been really talking with her?
Una Visita Con Los Muertos by TN Kerr
It was dark and I clutched the hand of mi Abuelita as we picked our way over the lichen covered grave markers in the cementerio viejo, where our ancestors lay buried. Abuelita was fearless.
“Stand with your own dead,” she told me, “look death in the eye when it comes for you. Be strong and be brave. Celebrate life. It is the only way to defeat death. We all die anyway, but it is not the end. It is just something different.”
My grandmother had passed when I was ten. We had taken this walk together every year since.
Bridging Culture by Charli Mills
Stage lights bounced to the beat of the music and Carmen danced with her college friends. Halloween landed on a weekend and that sent the entire engineering department to blow off steam in town. The floor was sticky with spilled beer and Carmen’s ears rang. She grabbed her roommate; said she was getting a breather. Outside, she walked downhill to the waterway. From her pocket, Carmen retrieved one of the sugar skulls she had made to delight her American friends. She held it to her heart, cast it into the water, and prayed to the memory of her father.
Full Bags, Dying Heart by Norah Colvin
From his room, Johnny watched the parade of monsters and ghouls wending from door to door. They laughed and giggled, whooped and cheered, clutching bags bulging with candy.
“Get inside,” she’d admonished.
“It’s the devil’s work. Dressing up like dead people. It’s not our way.”
She’d dragged him inside, shut the door and turned off the lights.
“We don’t want those nasty children knocking on our door.”
“But, Mum. It’s Graham and Gerard and even sweet Sue …”
“Enough! Get to your room!”
He watched, puzzled—How could it be devil’s work? They were his friends having fun.
Visitation by Goldie
“Trixie, get up! It’s the Day of the Dead!” – Bart exclaimed, pulling a blanket off his sister.
He has heard so many stories throughout the years, but was never allowed to participate in any of the festivities. This year, he was finally old enough. He turned ten in August and his mother agreed that this year was going to be “the year”.
“Is that… Dad?” – Bart asked Trixie.
“Yes, it is” – she replied.
“Why doesn’t he see me?”
“Watch this” – said Trixie, pushing the mug off the table onto the floor.
“They’re here” – he said with a smile.
The Day of the Dead (“Trissente Sea”) by Saifun Hassam
With great tenderness and sorrow the village women prepared the dead young mother and her baby girl for burial. Along the Trissente seashore the spirits had kept watch. The baby was still in the thin shawl wrapped around her mother’s shoulders. She was not from their village, but it did not matter. Diamante lit the sacred fire in the ancient temple to pray for her peaceful passage to the world beyond.
In the burial gardens, mimosa trees closed delicate leaves in prayer. The women wept softly. The wreck of a small barque washed ashore. Where had it come from?
Reunited by Sally Cronin
She had loved her stepfather, and he had always treated her as his own. She understood and respected his wishes when it came to the headstone when her mother died. But now he was gone too, and rather than be buried in this plot, he had chosen to have his ashes scattered in the memorial garden.
She reached out and touched the new headstone that had replaced the original and hoped that her mother and father would now be at peace.
1890 – 1942
Beloved wife of
Lance Corporal Herbert Francis Walsh
Killed in action November 2nd 1918.
Send ‘Em Off Right by Kerry E.B. Black
Emptiness fills her, oxymoronic. Leaves drip like tears to cover Bella’s skirt as she sits before the fresh tombstone. She wishes they’d bury her in elegant decay.
Instead, winds pick up, whispers of promise, and sends them skipping to the next row. A parade approaches, dark-suited, broad-hatted, walking sticks and polished shoes. The leaves dance around their feet as a crow-like preacher eulogizes.
Handkerchiefs catch tears until an old man with an antique trumpet plays. Slow and sad turns uptempo, then jubilation.
An apparition swathed in black tulling calls to Bella. “That’s how we send ‘em off right, child.”
Birth From Death by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Karoline felt the ache in her back radiate around to her front, the pressure increasing. She breathed deeply, willing her belly to unclench. Thinking herself safe to hike alone, she’d fled her family, their sole skill for processing grief in quarreling.
She longed for her deceased mother’s soothing hands, now that the birth was imminent. A child born too soon, her back labor excruciating, she prayed, “Mother! Help me!”
A whisper of mist stroked her belly, turning the child.
At sunrise, Karoline suckled her babe at her breast, wondering whether to return home, or continue refuge with Mother Nature.
Familiar by D. Avery
“Who could that be at the door?”
“Well, it is Halloween.”
She opened the door to a group of children.
“Oh, my. What lovely costumes. You look just like my son when he was young. And you look like my best friend did. Lorraine’s here too, as a kid, before the accident. Honey, come see!”
He stood beside her. “I know, Dear. My heart attack, remember?”
“We’re all here for you.”
“So, what do you think?”
He shrugged, with his familiar half smile. It was up to her.
She stepped out into the cool dark night.
Day of the Dead by Susan Zutautas
Hey Joe, Day of the Dead will soon be here, and I am looking forward to the festivities. It will be nice to see my loved ones that are left.
I’m not sure that I’ll recognize anyone, but I’ll go with you, it’ll be fun.
You know that they’ll have all our favorite dishes there, don’t you?
Ah yes, the aromas from the foods are quite appetizing. Only wish we could sample them.
Joe, how many people do you think will be here?
If you count all the live people in town and us dead ones, quite a few.
PART II (10-minute read)
Night Munchies by Bill Engleson
I stay in on nights like these.
Perhaps it is the late October chill.
Still, it is a far cry from my youth, from those cemetery rambles, the half-eaten moon growling out its cannibal cries, the twisted wind blowing through our sullied skin, our meatless bones.
I do peek out though.
I relish the sight of them playing at death, their homemade horrors, strips of flammable paper costumes, their clustering together like pups at a mother’s tit.
Will they come to my door?
If they do, surely, I’ll invite them in.
Sweet tasty creatures that they are.
Untitled by FloridaBorne
First, he lost his eyes to diabetes. For a chemical engineering manager, it meant the end of his career. When his kidneys failed, he endured it without complaint. The fall from his mountain of pain began when hypoglycemia induced hallucinations.
“Which one of you is my son?!” he demanded of a seven year old guiding him into the hospital restroom.
“It’s me, daddy. I’m holding your hand,” his son gently replied.
Peace came on the dialysis table, December 31, leaving behind the body of a once vibrant man.
The death of one year, birth of another, has two meanings.
Uneasy Retirement by Anne Goodwin
He’d been at peace till his granddaughter died; it wasn’t his fault but he was the one at the wheel. Soon after, the others came calling, their deaths accidental too. They came without teeth, ears, noses or fingernails; scorched genitals, soles of their feet.
He’d been good at his job, no question: give him a month and they’d beg to confess. Though some thought they could beat him, return to their Maker without ratting on friends. He termed such foolishness suicide: thankfully the General agreed. Now they haunt him with unfinished business; it’s an infinite day of the dead.
Shine a Light by Joshua G. J. Insole
Dusk dissolved into the hungry night. Night fed into dawn. Dawn became day.
In the space of 24 hours the planet had undergone a revolution. The cold light of day shined upon the smoking ruins and gore-strewn streets, revealing the new world.
Watery grey light washed over the city. The horrors that had been obscured by shadow were now unflinchingly illuminated. That which had been denied or debated was held under the microscope. Stony truth thudded down.
She picked up her satchel and set off, listening to the moans of the dead sighing through the streets like a gale.
Decent Substitutes by Susan Sleggs
On a recent summer trip through the southwest US Annie admired the many brightly painted ceramic skulls she saw in gift shops. They seemed to be happy, not scary. She wondered why so many people collected them, skulls weren’t her thing. After getting home she read for the first time the definition of the Mexican Holiday, Day of the Dead. Now it all made sense and she wished she had bought some for her parents and brother-in-law’s grave sites. She decided to paint flowers on three flat stones and leave them for her loved ones next time she visited.
Dia de los Muertos by Allison Maruska
She tells me this is Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead. It’s not an altogether new concept; I’d seen the decorations, the bright skulls meant to honor loved ones departed before us.
She thinks adopting the celebration will help me move on.
I don’t want to disappoint her, so I play along. I set pictures up. I hold her hand. I pray. We’ll visit the grave tomorrow. We even have sugar skulls to leave there.
She doesn’t need to know I have my own plans to ensure the Monster pays.
My baby will rest in peace.
# 20 Official Check(ing)? by JulesPaige
Before going down in the basement to learn more about my scarecrow friends, I thought it might be a good idea to pay my respects to the Seedsman family plot. The more I thought about it, I liked the idea. “Hey Dawg, hold up…,” I bent down to scratch behind one of his black and grey ears…”I know just what to do with Margo’s flowers. Come November second we’re going to bestow them to the little cemetery. We’ll visit with the birds at dawn. You don’t want to go at midnight!” Dawg, shook affirmatively. “Nope, neither do I.”
Catching Up by Reena Saxena
It took two nights after work, to put together the Halloween costume. Lily liked it, and is off to her round of Tricks or Treats.
I lay the table with some special treats, and put my feet up in front of the television set. There is a horror show on, keeping with the weekly theme. I sit up as I see Lily’s costume on the screen. She didn’t tell me she was going to a live TV show.
And then… the screen crashes, costume discarded. Only the face behind it isn’t Lily.
Some spirits just never let you go…
Survival by Ann Edall-Robson
I long to hold you close. Burying my nose in your essence. Trailing my fingers across your features hidden in the shadows of the evening. Our lifelong affair is destined to go nowhere. You have made me suffer through teary, reddened eyes while I saturate my hanky. Our contact is finally allowed when the season turns cold, and what is left of you, still waits for me. Then, and only then, do the tears stop. The day you no longer irritate my senses. The day I am freed from the clutches of my allergies. The day of the dead.
Day of the Dead by Anita Dawes
A day of celebration, joy, painted faces
Sweet scent of marigold
Calling the spirits to join in the moment
Food, drink, sweet candy
after their long journey
For three thousand years the dead have been returning
To dance with their families once more
Many will keep the candy skulls in their home all year for good luck
While others visit the graves placing picnic blankets
To sit a while remembering happy days together
Halloween fits in here,
with the dead allowed to return on the 31st of October
We often forget it’s not just about candy
It’s about love…
Erring Ideas Part 1 D. Avery
“Day of the Dead, huh? Is’at ‘cause the excitement from the rodeo’s dyin’ down?”
“It’s gonna git pretty lively at World Headquarters, Kid. Now comes the judgin’.”
“Whooee, that’s right. Mebbe Pepe can help. He’s headed up there ta World Head Quarters now.”
“What? Kid, why’n tarnation is LeGume goin’ ta HQ?”
“It’s a place a higher learnin’. Pepe wants ta air some ideas.”
“Kid, Shorty’s got enough on her plate, she don’t need this character around. The quality a his ideas is questionable. An’ now the Keweenaw’s air quality’ll be questionable too.”
“She’s the one platin’ beans Pal.”
Erring Ideas Part 2 D. Avery
“Pepe’s figgers there’ll be bio-engineerin’ eggsberts aroun’ them universities. Wants ta see ‘bout crossin’ a ostrich with a chicken; git big eggs ever’ day, good fer cookin’ fer crowds.”
“Why not an emu?”
“Hey Aussie! He who?”
“Kid, an emu is Australia’s big bird. Cross an emu with a chicken.”
“An’ with a cow, call it a emoo. An’ while we’re down there we kin cross a pig with a platypus. Eggs an’ bacon in one go.”
“Oh, Kid, and a kangaroo. They can deliver the eggs in their pouch.”
“Et tu, Aussie? Yer killin’ me.”
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.”
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.”
Maybe it’s in the swagger, or how fans react. It’s a chemical reaction between one who holds the fascination of many. Without a doubt, we recognize rocks stars, even dream of being one if only in our kitchen or as a parent.
Writers pursued rock and roll this week, chasing down stories to capture what makes a rock star. Familiar names cross the threshold and surprising takes join their ranks. Get ready for the show!
The following is based on the August 1, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star.
PART I (10-minute read)
A Real Rock Star by Jo Hawk
Stars floated above Kye’s head. He couldn’t sleep when the ancients whispered. His gaze shifted from the sky to his sleeping brother. Their sheep rested quietly in the canyon’s safety.
Kye hefted a rock tossing it in his hand before using it to scrape images into the desert varnish coating the granite wall. The scene completed; his fingers rested on the depiction of his world.
The stars spun, eons passed, and the ancient voices grew silent. Kevin hiked into the park, hunting for answers. Placing his hand on the petroglyph he reached through time to touch the creator’s soul.
Rock Star by Miriam Hurdle
John Livingston stood in the center stage. It was their first concert on the road.
Ringo started the percussion. John, Paul and George plucked the guitars for three beats. They sang on the fourth beat.
“Hey Jude…, don’t make it bad…”
The fan screamed. The girls reached out their hands.
“Take a sad song and make it bet…ter…”
The screaming got louder.
“…Na-na-na na… hey Jude.”
The four bowed to reach to their fan. One girl pulled John so hard, he fell off the stage and hit his head.
“John, wake up. You’re late to your camping trip.”
Rock Star by Pete Fanning
Dave exited the meeting room to high fives and back slaps.
“Well done, my man. Can you fly out tomorrow?”
Dave smiled at his manager. Of course. His spreadsheets were impeccable, his PowerPoints sharp. He’d been killing it at work.
A glance to the windows, the Rockfish mountains in the distance. Shoot, the camping trip with Seth. Maybe Phil could step in. Seth’s loser stepdad worked at a bookstore, made ten bucks and hour. And Seth talked like he was a rock star.
“Dave, you in?”
Dave turned from the mountains. “Yeah, I just need to make a call.”
Back to the Garden by D. Avery
Without their devices, his children complained they had nothing to look at. “Look up,” he said.
They did. On a cloudless night his children looked up and saw a summer sky.
“Look at all the stars! What’s that big one there?”
“That’s a planet, one of the wanderers. Mars, fourth rock from the sun.”
“That one’s moving right across.”
Lying on their sleeping bags they identified what constellations they could. They had more fun inventing their own.
“Dad, look! A shooting star! Make a wish.”
“I already have,” he said. “You are stardust,” he whispered. “You are golden.”
Rock Star by Sally Cronin
The performance came to a climax, the singer whipping sweat laden hair around in a frenzy. Voice gravelly with fatigue, he growled out the final lyrics, gyrating across the stage. The last notes faded to the roar of the crowd. Thrusting his guitar above his head, he backed into the wings. Grabbing a towel he headed to his dressing room, eager for what waited for him. He sat back in the chair satisfied. Nothing like a fish paste sandwich and glass of cold milk to end the night. He smiled at the woman. ‘Thanks Mum just what I needed.’
Rock Star Famous by Nancy Brady
My son Mark and his friends formed a band called Spike Strip. They rehearsed daily after school their two songs in the run up to the concert planned for Halloween.
During trick-or-treat, they sang and played those songs over and over again as kids came to the door for candy.
The concert was over before I returned from work, but that night Mark and his buddies were rock stars.
So much so that when there wasn’t a concert the following year, many kids asked where the band was, disappointed that they weren’t playing. Apparently, it was a memorable event.
Rock Star by Jim “Quincy” Borden
Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
Just because you’re not a rock star, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t paying attention to you.
Just because some psychologist came up with the idea of the spotlight effect, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t watching everything you do.
Because you are a dad.
In their eyes, you are a rock star.
And they are watching everything you do,
And hanging on every word you say.
And you will always be in the spotlight.
Because you are a dad.
And that’s better than being a rock star.
Mama Was a Rock Star by Faith A. Colburn
She starred with big band orchestras in cities along the Eastern Seaboard and around the Great Lakes. Then she married a Nebraska farmer. He moved her to a stark little square house with a hip roof in the middle of a howling wilderness. In less than three years, she ran back to city lights—nightclubs—singing all night. .
But she came back. She adapted to the prairie’s silences and its screaming winds, the outhouse, the washboard, and the tyranny of crops and livestock. She became a better farm wife than many women who grew up on farms—she rocked.
Caffeinated Rock Star by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Click, click, and click. She scrolled down, drumming her non-mousing hand, as pictures froze and popped at slower than a snail’s pace. Definitely not rocket science, but she had places to go, things to do, people to be. Really, she had to dust her shelves, vacuum her carpet, wash summer dust from her picture window…
And she’d had the coffee—too much—so she HAD to do the things. Her neck clenched.
Before all, she had to change that doofy Facebook profile pic. And the damn thing wouldn’t load.
Finally done! She’d feel like a rock star, except duh!
Cookie Rock Star by Ann Edall-Robson
The aroma of a busy kitchen lingered. Cookies in all shapes and flavours waited for the taste testers. Each cookie made to fit into a grandchild’s hand. There would be chatter and updates before sampling every morsel on display. Eventually, she would settle into the old rocker. They’d stand beside her, touching the worn wooden arms, rocking her and singing made-up lyrics to favourite tunes. Ending in giggles, and dancing with arms in the air. Today, they added one last line they had somehow practised together.
“Our G…R…A…M…M…Aaaaa is a cooookie roooock starrrrr!”
Meeting Idols by Matthew Shepherd
‘Hey sweetie. What’s your name?’
Meeting the star whose posters plaster the child’s bedroom prompts a broad grin at odds with her doleful voice.
‘How old are ya, Nancy?’
Zeta fills with an urge to hug her beaming fan and is leaning forward when the girl’s mother steps up.
‘Don’t even think about it,’ she snaps. ‘Get your own kid if you want to do that. C’mon Nance, we’re going.’
The crestfallen child turns towards her idol, but Zeta looks away, unable to bear a world with one less smile.
The door slams as Zeta’s face crumples.
Movin’ It by Norah Colvin
Miss Prim turned from the board just in time to see Max land a punch on Michael.
“He bumped me.”
Miss Prim sighed. “What were you doing, Michael?”
“He was rocking the desk again.”
“How many times—”
Without direction, Michael removed himself to sit in the corner. Before long, his feet were twitching, his elbows were pumping and his whole body was squirming.
“Sorry, Miss,” Michael muttered.
But he couldn’t keep still.
Years later, when he was a rock star, Miss Prim said, “I knew he’d make something of himself one day.”
Ready to Rock by Jomz Ojeda
The noise was deafening, yet he could hear nothing but the loud thumping of his own heart.
Jeffrey was ready.
The stage they were on was small, but the venue was packed. Jeffrey cradled his electric guitar and placed his fingers on the first chord he needed to hit.
He looked up at George, their singer. He was beaming, a smile on his face stretched from ear to ear. George pointed a finger at Mark, their drummer.
Mark pointed back at George with his drumstick, and banged on the drums.
Today they will win the battle of the bands.
Living Like a Rock Star by Susan Sleggs
OMG being involved with someone famous is hell. I’ve been followed by paparazzi, and can’t go shopping or out to eat with my own mother without security. I can’t buy anything, at any price, without people saying she paid. She wouldn’t date me if I didn’t have my own money. Why didn’t I listen when my friends told me living like a rock star wasn’t going to be all that easy? I’m just realizing, if I can get out of this relationship, I will always be HER ex and it will be years before I’m known as anything else.
Never Alone by Kelley Farrell
The observatory was dark, giving way to a stunning array of constellations above. These quiet moments with Danny were Maeve’s favorite. Too often she found herself pushed to the side for women giggling like school girls.
She always tried to be nice but sometimes, like during their long awaited reunion dates, she found it hard to be accommodating.
“I love you.” Danny pulled her closer. “Hey, I wanna ask you something.”
“Of course.” Butterflies settled in her stomach. Was this it?
“I wanted to ask …”
A shrill scream cut through the dark.. “Oh my gaawwddd! It is you!”
Let’s Rock by Joanne Fisher
I’ve always secretly wanted to be a rock star. Strutting my stuff on a stage in front of screaming fans as I do an incandescent guitar solo that drives them all crazy.
In reality I’m rather shy and awkward, and virtually a recluse. I can play a guitar, but not in front of others. Instead I sing along to all my favourite tracks in my bedroom pretending there is an adoring crowd in front of me. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get.
I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, but I guess quite a few people do…
Song, for One by Chelsea Owens
I changed my name
You changed your mind…
Linzee squinted at the spotlights. Rows of apathetic audience saw only themselves in her mirrored lenses.
I should’ve listened
When you weren’t kind…
They were philistines, all of them. Uncultured. Uncaring. Still, better than him.
You think I’m all alone;
You think I’m yours to own!
Someone perked up. Another. Linzee strummed the crescendo to the chorus, sunglasses sparking in the rudimentary stage lights.
I shouldn’t’ve told you anything
Except where to shove that ring!
It didn’t matter. Tonight was hers; hers and those few who knew exactly what she sung.
Rock Star by Floridaborne
We sing to the energy inside a stadium, a concert hall, an empty field where thousands pay a day’s salary to watch us do what we love.
The very rich are revealed through eyes reflecting their abundance and expectations. Their stance screams out, “I deserve the best.”
Those who scrimped, who saved to pay for this one night stand, drink in the energy of an event that might be the pinnacle of their desperate lives.
We sing for the joy of it, for outside these walls there’s no place we can travel, nowhere we can find anonymity, or peace.
Always a Rocker by Kerry E.B. Black
A silvery line of droll punctuated the vacant expression that landed David in the locked down unit with nineteen other impared individuals. Once he commanded a tour bus and bested the world’s stages. Now his wheelchair and a disease kept him captive. He stared into private abysses until the activities girl arrived.
From her music player, drums drove a beat. Keyboards provided the backbone. Guitar wailed.
David perked up. He recognized the song. His song.
With an anemic voice, a mere ghost of his past, he performed.
The girl patted his shoulder and nodded. “Once a rocker.”
PART II (10-minute read)
Rock Star by Robert Kirkendall
Young Timmy held a broom horizontally and pantomimed strumming it like a guitar. He moved to the tune inside his head of the latest pop song and pretended he was playing as he wailed out the lyrics best as he could remember them. His mother came across his imaginary guitar virtuosity and beamed maternally.
“Well this is more useful than sweeping,” mother kidded.
Timmy stopped playing. “Someday I’m going to be a rock star!” he proclaimed with unrestrained, youthful enthusiasm.
“Why that’s just splendid, dear!” mother said approvingly. “So what are you going to do for a day job?”
A Star is Born by Anurag Bakhshi
As I reached the edge of the stage, and saw the crowd, I almost ran back.
I knew how merciless this seemingly innocent crowd could be.
But then, I thought of the adulation that would follow my performance, and my spine stiffened.
I turned around, and marched towards the center of the stage with a swagger.
The crowd immediately fell silent.
But I could sense them getting restless as I fumbled with the mic.
And then, I cleared my throat and started singing, “Baa Baa Black Sheep….”.
And students of Class Nursery-A finally had their very own rock star!
Rock It! by Anita Dawes
Rock and roll is in my soul
Born kicking and screaming my lungs out
Taking the fast track, music burning with every step
I wanted to find the songs to change the world
One day I would be famous, see my name in lights
I am dirt poor now, but not for long
Odd jobs along the way, I now had my first guitar
My style stood out, too far for some
Sam Phillips gave me my first break
It’s All Right Mama, playing on the radio
There was no stopping me now
I brought Graceland,
Who am I?
Sister Rosetta by H.R.R. Gorman
Rosetta’s fingers blazed over the fingerboard, twanged the strings with a fire never before seen. She infused a plain instrument with dripping sexual tension and lightning power. Fans clamored at her feet, and her soprano voice carried through the speakers.
The lights went down at the end of the show, and Rosetta made her way backstage. On her way there, a young boy attempted to accost her in the hall. “How do you play like that?”
“Why sugar,” she said, “I practiced and did it ’cause I loved it.” She pinched his cheek. “What’s your name, honey-child?”
Fishin’ by Bill Engleson
‘Course, no one believed Swampdeck.
“Ton ‘a bullcrap,” bellowed Calgary Pete. “Don’t even measure up to bullcrap, I’m thinkin’.”
“Most things don’t,’ I chimed in, lookin’ to contribute.
Swampdeck was insistent. “Saw ‘em. Saw ‘em fly in this mornin’. Stayin’ up at the Lodge. Big as life.”
Fact was, the odd moderately famous person did show up at Cuddles Cove to get away from the agony of glory.
But not him. Too big.
“Knew ya doubting tommyknockers wouldn’t believe me. So, I took a selfie.”
And sure enough, it was faint, but it sure looked like THE BOSS.
Could’ve Been a Rockstar by Ritu Bhathal
“ROCKSTAR IN MAKING SHOT ON STAGE!”
Minnie wiped a tear from her cheek as she scanned the article on the front page of the local paper.
He had indeed been someone destined for more than a few shifts in the Walmart down the road.
Simple boy, with a talent for playing his guitar and singing.
It was the end of term, and school had its annual talent show.
The audience was held captive, in more than one way.
During his performance, gunmen stormed in, opening fire around the hall.
Jamie was one of the first to fall.
The Tragic Tale of the Woman Who Shot Andy Warhol by Anne Goodwin
Your mother’s rock, her shining star; you could’ve been a professor, president, you. But you were the seer who saw too much, the dreamer who dreamt her utopia alone. You preached that men grew stiff at the thought of women as stiffs, and peddled your thesis to addicts and whores. Childhood, drugs, poverty and patriarchy drove you crazy, yet you were the only sane one in the room. You could’ve been someone. You could’ve been a rock star. But a black hole swallowed your prospects and talent when you put a hole in the body of a famous man.
Worship by Reena Saxena
He appeared on pages that mattered, donated to the right charities, got invited to all prominent do’s. The PR was perfect, more than his business was.
But all was not well in La-La land. Debts had been mounting. Financial institutions were not willing to lend any more.
Then… newspapers flashed news of his suicide. The suicide note blamed banks and tax authorities of harassment. The sympathy wave did not stop to think that tax evasion and default is not honest. The image he had so carefully built could over-ride logic.
A painstakingly carved out rock star, even in death…
A Flash of Fiction by JulesPaige
“Out, the bus is coming…Love, you,” I say.
I hear the children arguing. “It’s mine!” They bicker. Then, they get on the school bus. For a few hours I’m free. I can turn the radio on and while vacuuming I can feel like a rock star. I can sing at the top of my lungs while dancing. Take that Mrs. Nosey McGillicutty.
I’ll drink my carbonated soda pretending I’m drinking champagne at some local gala that is honoring my accomplishments. Too soon the end of the school day will come to burst my bubble.
My Rockstar! by Ruchira Khanna
One unforgettable torrid evening, I get unexpected news from my brother, “She is no more!”
I grew numb at first then shouted and cried relentlessly.
‘How can this be? She had promised to visit me in a few months.’ I murmured while I tried to make sense of the news.
‘Who shall give me priceless advise when I’m low and down?’
After a lot of sobbing and contemplation, I came to peace with the news that my rockstar, aka my mom, has left me for heavenly abode.
Stars of the Future (Lynn Valley) by Saifun Hassam
At the Farmers Market, Hannah and the other local chefs were serving a special luncheon today. Live music from the Lynn Valley High Rock and Jazz Band echoed around the Market. Hannah knew the stars of the day had arrived.
Jessica and Hannah grinned at each other. Jessica was the teacher in charge of the Rock and Jazz Band. Time for the celebration! The twenty students were totally surprised as Jessica and Hannah unfurled a huge banner:
“Welcome future stars! Thank you for your help!”
The students’ benefit concerts for the Children’s Learning Center had been very successful indeed.
A Star in the Rock – 1720 by Gordon Le Pard – The Curious Archaeologist
“Professor, this rock has a star on it.”
“Wonderful, another of these marvellous stones.”
“But don’t you think it looks as if it has been carved by hand?”
“Indeed it does, the hand of God. My theories about the nature of fossils are proved, I must write the book immediately.”
The conspirators were delighted.
“If he publishes he will be laughed at across Europe. We will be revenged.”
“But what if we are discovered? Already the stonecutter wants more money.”
“Don’t worry, he will lose his place in the University and we will be safe.”
They were very wrong.
Geology 101 by Nancy Brady
Dr. Wright taught geology. It was his passion; it was his life. He loved his subject, teaching college students the rudimentary elements of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. He taught them how mountains formed, about the shifting of fault lines, and about volcanic lava forming scoria and obsidian as it spewed forth from inside the earth.
At the end of the quarter, he took his students on a field trip to one of the local quarries. He handed them all tiny bottles of hydrochloric acid which reacted with the sedimentary rock, limestone.
This geologist truly was a rock star.
Rock Star in a Barn (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“Jukebox Hero” blasted from Danni’s speakers. She structured her barn to be her lab – a place to clean, catalog, and store artifacts. It was no University sanctum. Even the small budget she once had as a grad student in Pullman, Washington dwarfed her western set-up. But she used the space efficiently. She trained Ike’s family to save meat trays for her, and she scoured yard sales and free piles for anything useful. Like the bathroom cupboards some homeowner was throwing away. It formed a washing station. The freedom her own space produced made Danni feel like a rock star.
Shining Bright by JulesPaige
The rock stars are the volunteers who help those who are recovering. Children and women are the most abused. And there is a project bringing awareness to this plight. “One Million Stars to End Violence” a project of PERAK WOMEN FOR WOMEN SOCIETY”
I watched the video and made some ribbon stars of various colors and sizes. And I mailed them off to Malaysia. It took about two weeks in a flat rate envelope for them to arrive. My friend posted photos of them on her blog site. …I hope for more than one day the cause remains highlighted.
Karaoke Is Not Your Friend by tracey
Lisa’s friends nudged her and told her it was her turn. She gulped down the rest of her drink and as she stood up the floor tilted underneath her. She gently touched people’s shoulders for balance as she made her way to the stage.
She belted out “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. “I sound just like Pat Benatar,” she thought. She finished to a thunderous ovation, people laughing and clapping. “I am a rock star!” she yelled as she left the stage. She continued to feel that way, at least until she saw the video the next day.
CenterStage by D. Avery
“Why not, Marge? You guys always pick, always either the same old pub or Nathan’s. Kristof wants to go to that karaoke place. Besides, it could be fun, we can pick on the wannabe singers.”
“Ok, Nard. I’ll let Ilene and Lloyd know.”
“No way, you two. You’re not going if you intend to pick on the participants.”
“Come on, Kristof, they’re always funny. Up there butchering good songs, strutting their rock and roll fantasies for all to see.
Fair game. Price of rock’n’roll. Besides, what do you care?”
“I care because I’ll be taking the stage. *Rocket Man*.”
“Pal, ya ever wanna be a rock’n’roll star? Git yerself an electric guitar, take some time an’ learn how to play?”
“No, Kid I ain’t. Always bin content right here, jist doin’ my ranch chores.”
“I know it’s last week’s prompt, but really, not even for one day?”
“Nope. Never wanted ta be a jukebox hero. The only stars in my eyes is these ones sparklin’ at night.”
“I s’pose yer right. I mean, what ya’d pay for yer riches and fame; sech a strange game, a little insane.”
“Yep. Them’s shootin’ stars. Here there’s rising stars, burnin’ bright.”