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Rattling Words

rattling-wordsRattling swords, rattling bones, rattling words. The rattle is a strident sound, one that grabs attention. The wind can rattle through dry weeds, or it can rattle your nerves.

Writers didn’t stay rattled, and used sound and tension to create a wide swath of stories. Like a musical instrument, each stroke of the rattle ads something new to the music on the page.

The following is based on the January 5, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound.


The Rattle by Michael

I awoke, disorientated. It was black as pitch. Around me there was silence, except for the rattle. Menacing me when I moved and I feared it.

Shifting to my right the rattle increased in volume. I felt it might rush in upon me. I sat still, the rattle decreased. It never grew silent but rattled softly reminding me of its presence. I’d run, but I couldn’t see. I called for help. Only the rattle responded. The sweat on my brow dripped into my eye as the rattle drew closer. I pushed back, it pushed forward. I closed my eyes.


Winds of Change by C. Jai Ferry

Thick snowflakes blanketed the cornstalk remnants, cows, and cedars with a suffocating softness. God, she hated night-time snowstorms. They gave her nightmares about nuclear winters. Soon she was staring at a featureless panorama that looked more like the surface of the moon than the winter fields of the Great Plains. Tomorrow’s roads would be perilous as the soft fluff created unyielding drifts anxious to crumple the front end of the hardiest Ford. As if on cue, the cracked window in her office rattled against its pane. She braced herself against the shudder traveling her spine. The winds had arrived.


It Could Be Bones Rattling by Bill Engleson

“Sounds ominous.” I say this lightly. I always say it lightly. Many of my words are light-weight. People know when they are speaking gibberish. I certainly do.

Shelley gives me that look. I get it a lot. We’re on the porch. We’ve been up all night. Talking. I hate talking. I’m always one step behind and an hour late when I talk about my feelings.

“Look.” She points to the sidewalk. The sun is just inches away from rising. The pimply kid who delivers the Morning Bugle is dragging a stick along the picket fence.

I hate that kid.


Make Your Mama Happy by Roger Shipp

“Mama, Mama!” Eight-year-old Herbie was racing from the front window to the kitchen door. “It’s Uncle RoRo. In a U-Haul.”

Sylvia went to greet her youngest brother.

Roro (a bit of a ne’er-do-well, but the favorite uncle of Herbie) was balancing three boxes in his arms and side-stepping the feet his anxious nephew.

“What on earth have you brought, Roro?”

“Memories,…Memories.” He smiled as he was opening box after box. “I remember you saying as you left for college how much you missed my garage band.”

Roro was still smiling… “Herbie, here’re my old sticks. Make your mama happy.”


Rattle That Lock by Lady Lee Manila

Don’t let them take over the reins
Get out of that dark forest
Don’t want it to be the bleakest
Force your way into the light
Don’t give up easily the fight
Beneath the waterfalls such force
And within us we’ve got resource
Marvellous sound the falling water
We won’t know until we’ve entered
Rattling but so soothing
All the positive force it brings
Think a little and send us the rain
We’ve got the power to reign
Rattle that lock and lose those chains
Don’t let them take over the reins


The Good Nephew by Luccia Gray

‘Go away,’ he shouted, covering his head with the woollen blanket, but the rattling grew louder.

‘Leave me alone!’ He was trembling.

More rattling.

‘I don’t want to go there again!’

‘I warned you last Christmas,’ came the ghostly echo with more thunderous rattling.

Minutes later, the ghost discarded the heavy chains and stood by the skeletal corpse in the icy bedroom.

‘I was only reminding you to keep your promises,’ he said closing Ebenezer’s blank eyes.

Then he opened the safe where the miser kept the gold coins and dropped them into his purse.

‘Rest in peace, uncle.’


Unexpected Help (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Coins in a coffee can rattled as the boy ran across the parking lot. “Dr. Danni Gordon!” He yelled.

Danni and Michael turned. She recognized the boy from the class she had toured with Bubbie.

“For you. To find Bubbie.” He thrust the makeshift rattle at her. She peeled back the lid to see dollars among coins.

“To find Bubbie?”

“I heard Bubbie the Archaeology dog was AWOL. I took up a collection for a reward.”

Despite her panic, she forced a smile. Michael joined her and asked, “AWOL?”

“My Dad’s gone to Iraq. He’s a soldier, not AWOL.”


Can I Keep the Change? by Norah Colvin

With the string bag slung over his shoulder and the purse clutched tight, he was on his first big boy errand. And, he could keep the change. He rattled the purse. What possibilities awaited. Should he hurry to get the money, or dawdle and contemplate? Regardless, he got there soon enough.

He handed the purse to Mrs Kramer, who extracted the list and gathered the items. As she counted the coins into the till, he announced, “I can keep the change.” She peered over her glasses, then held out one large brown coin. He trembled: what could he choose?


Rattling Change by Drew Sheldon

It seemed like he never stopped rattling the change in his pocket. From time to time someone would get annoyed and ask him to stop.

“Sure thing,” he’d say. “I’ll stop just as soon as I’m dead.”

Years later at his funeral, I couldn’t help but rattle the change in my pocket. As people turned to look at me, I pointed to his casket and said, “It wasn’t me. He lied.”

He would’ve liked that joke.


Who’s Afraid of Rattlesnake Eggs? by Joe Owens

Randall twisted the button with the rubber band threaded through as he held the paper clip frame tight. He could hardly contain his glee of pulling his most ingenious prank ever on his old buddy Don. Don was terrified of snakes. This would send him screaming.

“Hey man, what’s happening?” Don said when he arrived.

“Oh nothing I am just getting ready to check out this thing Harmon sent”

“What is it?” Don asked. He took the envelope and began to open it.

“Rattlesnake eggs!” Randall guffawed.

With the pressure released the button rattled loudly against the envelope.



Shake, Rattle and Roll by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s this, Dad?’

Paul looked up from the box he was sorting. ‘Goodness, it’s your grandpa’s football rattle.’

‘What’s that?’ Penny eyed the contraption suspiciously.

Paul smiled, taking it. ‘Eagalllesss!!’ He bellowed and spun the rattle. Penny covered her ears. Paul laughed. ‘Football grounds were full of that noise in the 60s and 70s.’

Penny pulled a face. ‘I prefer those trumpet things you hate.’

‘Vuvuzelas? They’re awful.’

‘You’re just old-fashioned.’

Paul nodded. ‘Like REM and Beyonce are different I suppose. One’s tuneful and the other mush.’

Penny went back to her box. ‘We can agree on that then.’


The Greater Good by Pete Fanning

A war raged on Steeple Street. Girls versus boys, a two day battering of snowballs the neighbors hadn’t seen since the nor’easter of 1996. Nerf air darts littered the yards, abandoned sleds and lone gloves dotted the trampled battlefield.

The rattle of chains. A gruesome, hair-raising scrape. A scrape that pushed showers and bedtimes.


A plow, on a Sunday night. About as welcome as a granny smith on Halloween. A quick cease-fire. Factions merged. A human chain formed as the plow approached behind a swirl of snow.

Boots dug in, snow-caked mittens held strong.

Homework was at stake.


Scavenger by Anne Goodwin

“You a simpleton?” the overlooker roared above the rattling machines. I shook my head. But the job wasn’t so scary when Ma explained it.
Dodging his stick, I squeezed into the narrow passageway beneath the loom. Thunder in my ears, nostrils clogged with dust, I gathered the stray strands of cotton from the floor. Slid out again and onto the next.
It was dark when Ma brought me, dark when I limped home. A cough rattling my chest, fear rattling my mind. Aching back, arms, legs; buzzing ears. Rich kids went to school at six, I went to work.


For the Public Good by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Her 1997 Honda rocked and groaned through the narrow city streets.

She knew the moment her car crossed from affluent to impoverished neighborhood. City snowplows hadn’t served this area after the last spring blizzard, hoping a quick melt would ease the budget. Instead, a subsequent freeze had turned the roadway into a bobsled run. The same reasoning prioritized pothole repair.

She was an underpaid public health nurse, serving at-risk new mothers. The science behind the Home-Visiting program: solid. The actual barriers: downplayed.

She wanted to believe anyway.

The car bounced, scraped, and stalled.

Her hopes died with a rattle.


Followed by Jane Dougherty

It was bitterly cold, and the heater in the old van was barely keeping her feet unfrozen. The narrow country lane that wound in a picturesque way in daylight was simply dangerous at night, and trees leaned overhead blocking out even the feeble light of the stars. Two pinpoints of light glittered in the darkness—the headlights of the car she was convinced had been tailing her since she left the main road. She was still miles from anywhere when the sound she dreaded broke through the rattling of the chassis—the knock knock knock of a dying engine.


Bones by Sarah Brentyn

She woke to a noise. Her brain couldn’t register it. Clinking. No, more of a clattering. That was wasn’t right, either. Rattling. That’s what it was.

“John!” She reached over—his side of the bed was empty.

Slipping out from the covers, she walked to the kitchen. Dark.

“John?” She moved toward the dining room and the rattling grew louder. She heard it clearly as she passed the basement.

Opening the door, she gasped. Her hand flew to her mouth, “John!”

He looked up, eyes wide behind his mask.

The players dropped their dice. The D&D game was over.


Deafening Silence (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Becca heels her shoes off. Dirt especially shows on bare carpet. Two months Richard’s been gone, and the endless expanse remains broken only by two power cords and their lamps.

But she’s home, safe after another day at Bile & Heartburn — er, Pyle & Hepburn. Away from Carolyn, who inspects every draft with narrowed eyes and pressed lips. Away from the yappy dog next cubicle over. Especially away from Jane, who apparently thinks they are best friends just because they share work space.

Becca hits Pandora, cranks the volume. Anything to cover the noise of her rattling around here by herself.


Making New Connections by Diana Ngai

Smoothing her hair, Faith strode up the front walk. As a recent transplant she felt lucky to have found a group of women who made her laugh and invited her out. Tonight was “Girls Night In” and she felt giddy.

An unknown face opened the door; Faith was instantly rattled. Peering beyond, she saw only strangers inside and her stomach clenched. Confidence shattered, her neck tightened and she wondered if she had the wrong address. Introverted instincts told her to hightail it home, but she had already been seen. Faith fought the impulse and, with faked determination, stepped inside.


The Gettin’ Place by Jeanne Lombardo

He took a drag and rattled the ice in his cup.

“That Coke’s no good for you,” I said.

“One poison at a time, Mom.”

Our usual exchange.

“Feeling ready?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“We’ll get the apartment packed up. Figure out the rest after rehab.”

He nodded, his beauty piercing and hopeful in the dawn light.

“Those blankets, though, I’m tossing them.”


We’d argued about the overstuffed garbage bag the girlfriend had left behind.

“Where’d she get them anyway?

He smiled, knowingly, sheepishly.

“The gettin’ place,” he said.

He’d come far, but the street was still in him.


Rattling On and On by Florida Borne

He spoke 12 languages and read texts in 4 so old that no one knew how the words were spoken. His face scowled like a bureaucrat obsessed by one misspelled word in a 100 page document.

To everyone else in the class, he rattled on and on.

“More advancements are made in a benevolent dictatorship, however the next dictator might be a tyrant. The basic problem is people. Someone somewhere wants someone else’s something.”

The class rattled with laughter.

“Once, universities admitted only those individuals willing and able to learn,” he said.

I smiled, an older student nodding agreement.


The Novel Project by Elliott Lyngreen

In collaboration between each partition, raw literature inventing a novel, are roaring clickings or clackings, but typing so swift it sounds as a fierce rattling; overloading keys fast enough to brand a new novel.

The boss rolls into his reverie. He minimizes parturitions of story, removes the soundtrack. Clear muffles mumble, “Woah… might see smoke linger out this cubicle… Just wanted to inform, We appreciate dedication. And intend to give you a raise.”

But he awakes at his glares; at the astonishing data entry, then back into him -waking from dream and quickly removing headphones, entagling their streams.


Rattle by Pensitivity

It was annoying and kept her awake at night.
Nothing was loose, but there was a constant rattling outside.
The boat was secure, ropes tight as the wind blew them against the jetty.
By torchlight, nothing could be seen and as if a phantom, the noise stopped as soon as her head appeared in the hatchway.
On closure, it started again.
She groaned.
Next day, all was revealed.
The wind had been rattling zip tongues against the hull.
With crochet hook and wool, she produced six-inch anti-tapping devices, neat little squares to place between zip and metal.


Every Breath by Ruchira Khanna

Jack signed some papers, and waited patiently in a corner whilst expelling air with sound; that would make eyes turn in his direction.

Sighing with relief when the nurse called out his name; he was aware of the awful rattling noise along with each breath.

The machine was set, and he was asked to hold still as the MRI was taken.

A loud groan from the technician made him alert.

He inquired in a petrified tone, and was shocked to hear the diagnosis, “You have two marbles in the upper front of the body that clash upon each breath.”


The Yellow Rattler by Ann Edall-Robson

The breeze sifted through the grass and hidden treasures below. Standing perfectly still, the rattling sound could be heard, mixed with the buzzing of bees and musical lyrics from the tree leaves overhead.

It had taken hours to hike to the meadow. A place of life recognized by only those who care to know.

Tiny wild violets peeking up at the sun. Old Man’s Whiskers, pink and nodding. Vibrant, red Indian Paint Brush stands in the greenery.

The sound comes once again with the wind. The seeds rattling in the capsule and papery calyx of the dying Yellow Rattle.


The Soft Rattle of a Sweeping Brush by Jules Paige
(prose and pi ku)

Who would use a ‘thoughtfilled’ crumb catcher? Nay, not
the one for use at fancy restaurants or royal dinner parties.
But more a one for everyday persons that might be used
to clean up misused words, foul words used incorrectly –
Especially spoken out of turn and without thinking. Catch
that little bit of an idealistic inkling? Could we be like a
horse’s groom and use two brushes at once? Catching
thoughts that floated past inner eyes, that were not seen
and landed in another’s ear, was heard and then taken
to the bank?

brushing light:
the idea kisses


January 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

january-5Balls of ice the size of frozen peas pelt my RV, and I know what it is to live inside a rattle.Winter on Mars is not what I expected. The red desert of southern Utah, dominated by the sandstone pillars of Zion and mesas of clay is a region carved by water and baked hard in the hot sun. Winter as I know it something white and gray. Winter in Virgin, Utah is colorful — vegetation turns green, white snow caps and stripes the mesas, skies display different shades of blue, and the clay darkens when wet. It’s wet more than I expected. And the rattling hail is the noisemaker of January.

These days, in the US, conversations between divided political alignments clamor over one another to be heard, but it only sounds like discordant hail on a fiberglass roof. We prepare for the transfer of leadership this month, and so much doubt has been cast upon what is true that everyone thinks their neighbor is a liar.  Journalists scramble to uphold their profession in a hostile climate. No one trusts the media. Fake news has become a buzzword. Critical thinking and courtesy ran away with the dish and the spoon. And everyone tweets, including our incoming president.

Like my character Danni in Miracle of Ducks, I want to hide out in the basement of a research library as if it were a bunker and society has become dangerously zombie-like. I don’t want my brains eaten. I still use them. History, my haven of sorts, only mocks my desire to retreat by reflecting back to me the same noisy division happening right here, right now. My other WIP, Rock Creek, takes place at the cusp of the US Civil War (or War of Norther Aggression, depending upon which side you read, and read both). North Carolina featured then, and now.

David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles was a real person in history, and he was born in North Carolina. It’s a state marked by distinct boundary lines of class division. Plantations fueled by the institution of slavery stretched across the rich coastal plains. In the Appalachian mountains to the west, descendants of the Scots-Irish carved out a tough living growing grain and hogs, proud of their subsistence-living. Another class was emerging, educated and of minor means, seeking to participate in an economy that was heavily divided between ballrooms and backwoods. Cobb was from that emerging class.

History has not been kind to Cobb. Historians from North Carolina to Kansas have vilified his name, intentions and memory. James Butler Hickok, Wild Bill, was similarly muddied in history, but he had a champion who took to research as diligently as my character Danni. Biographer, Joseph Rosa, sifted through the opinions, examined as many facts as he could find, and applied careful consideration to his interpretations. When it came to Cobb, Rosa accepted the very opinions he dismissed for Hickok. Not exactly an even playing field. But Rosa taught me the value of diligent research.

While combing through North Carolina newspapers to find any mention of Cobb to corroborate or refute claims regarding crimes and career, I noticed a huge introduction of laws in January 1859, a month before Cobb left North Carolina. Other than finding it mildly interesting that the new state governance passed more laws than previous election years, I pushed past to find mention of sheriff activities. I thought back to this outline of law changes recently when I read the modern headline: “North Carolina is no Longer a Democracy.” I thought, North Carolina is experienced at this. It is almost as if the pre-Civil War politics is repeating.

As a fiction writer, I can imagine how Cobb must have felt after the November 1858 election. I believe he did not intend to get elected, but elected (for a fourth term) he was. By this time, he had moved his parents to Tennessee across the mountain pass where two of his sisters lived with their husbands who were twin brothers to Cobb’s wife Mary. He and his brother Leroy had already scouted the Colorado gold fields which were not producing much, and that’s most likely when Cobb first eyed the potential of the road ranch at Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory. Cobb wanted economic opportunity and the elected North Carolina body supported the slave industry and sought succession.

Reading over those law changes in North Carolina in January 1859, many required sheriff’s to take action Cobb must have felt was wrong. What do you do when your state is no longer “a democracy”? One option, the one I believe Cobb took, is that you leave. Today, I doubt people are going to leave North Carolina as the outgoing state government attempts to cripple the incoming leadership. After all, there really is no settlement on the next frontier. I may call southern Utah Mars, but fleeing to Mars for better opportunities is not an option.

So, I’m stuck here in an icy winter storm contemplating what to do next. Like Danni, I think I’m going to bury myself in quiet research, but like the women who followed Cobb, I’m also going to stand strong wherever it is I find myself standing. The sabers are rattling, but I don’t yet know if its an echo from the past or a vision of the future.

According to Chilean history, saber-rattling  comes from an incident that took place on September 3, 1924, when a group of young military officers protested against the political class and the postponement of social measures by rattling their sabers within their scabbards. In case you might want to use this phrase in the prompt.

January 5, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound. It can be an intimidating sound of protest, a disorienting loud sound, a musical expression or a gentle baby’s toy. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by January 10, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 11). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Unexpected Help (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Coins in a coffee can rattled as the boy ran across the parking lot. “Dr. Danni Gordon!” He yelled.

Danni and Michael turned. She recognized the boy from the class she had toured with Bubbie.

“For you. To find Bubbie.”  He thrust the makeshift rattle at her. She peeled back the lid to see dollars among coins.

“To find Bubbie?”

“I heard Bubbie the Archaeology dog was AWOL. I took up a collection  for a reward.”

Despite her panic, she forced a smile. Michael joined her and asked, “AWOL?”

“My Dad’s gone to Iraq. He’s a soldier, not AWOL.”


NOTE: AWOL is a military term for “absence without leave.”

With the New Year reflections, I’ve decided to alternate working on my two WIPs. I’ll write from the one I’m working on for the week.