The Old Man and the Enchantress

As Alice stood at the kitchen sink filling a glass of water, she looked out the window to see her husband Ed dozing in the chaise lounge in the yard; his “picnic recliner,” as he liked to call it.  The spring sun was high and warm, thoroughly melting away the spring morning frost.  Alice smiled wryly to herself. Ed’s nap was going to last only as long as she let him think she hadn’t caught him goofing off again.

Cutting the arcadian scene came an explosion of cawing and flapping wing chaos.

“LITTLE!” Ed yelled as he sat up, “I swear to God! You damn bird!”

He ran to the coop in a fury. Alice’s wry smile changed to a giggle as she watched the drama unfold. She opened the kitchen window and called out. “Ed! Those two chickens at it again?”

In a casual trot from the direction of the coop came a small hen and her partner-in-crime rooster. Alice walked out to the yard and headed toward the birds.

“You GIT! SHOO!” she scolded. The two birds stood stock still and then began pecking at the ground, as if they were just out for an pleasant afternoon walk, minding their own business.

“I said, SHOO!” Alice scolded again, this time charging the birds. They fluttered a bit. The rooster took a short flight , but the hen stood her ground, head cocked to one side.

Ed strode across the yard with another bird in his arms. “What is it with those two? I swear to God! Look what they did this time.” Ed held out the bird in his arms. It had blood oozing from its breast. Alice and Ed looked at the rooster and the hen. The pair of them had settled onto Ed’s chaise lounge, as if they found themselves a new, comfy nest.

“Damn birds,” Ed grumbled.

***

Pretty sure this goes under the column of “Feel free to seize the prompts, twist them, form them, play with them as you will“, and is inspired by characters I find so fun: A Golden Comet

Tears of a Clown

Daniel drove the DeSoto with its broken headlamp lid onto the fairgrounds toward the rodeo stadium as the young man at the gate instructed. The slow roll across the grounds of all the other devoted owners of classic cars who could no longer keep their precious automobiles looked every bit the funeral procession. Daniel let his observation linger, allowing time to take it in, rather than tossing it off.

That night, three months ago, lost in the country after the fight with Susan, Daniel sat for a long time in the DeSoto. The hum of cicadas filled his ears and the occasional firefly dancing by caught his attention. Other than turning the car around and heading back the way he came, he hadn’t a clue what to do next. In those still, dark minutes he finally calmed down long enough to realize everything he’d ever wanted, everything he’d frantically pursued, even everything he achieved amounted to only desperate, foolish clap trap.

“You watch all that mopin’,” Daniel remembered his grandmother saying, “or you’ll burn down the house with all that moonin’ about.” She did not tolerate whining or complaint. “Rise above it!” she would holler. “I’ll have none of your sad-sack today, mister.”

A tough, angry woman, but Daniel and his siblings owed their grandmother their lives. So Daniel looked forward, never lingering a moment too long on the negative, just like his grandmother insisted. Or, at least, that is what he thought she wanted. Daniel had been running from his grandmother’s disdain his whole life, only to find himself exactly nowhere in the middle of nothing. It was not Susan’s fault he lost his temper. That night was a long time coming.  

So, here he was, at the auto show, ready to start again, but this time without pretense.  He had quit his job as a sales director and took a couple of part-time jobs washing dishes at night and delivering various products and supplies during the day. He sublet his place to a friend and moved into a hostel for traveling businessmen to save on expenses. Now it was time to unload the final burden of his past. The DeSoto was an expensive toy; a misguided attempt at showing the world he was the positive person, the fun-loving guy, the can-do cheerful chap. Today, if he were lucky, he’d get a good deal on the car, which would be enough to pay for the first quarter of architecture courses offered at City College.

Daniel chuckled to himself when he pictured the frown on his grandmother’s face.

***

This week’s UnOLWG prompts are: Tears in a sandbox; whimpering and complaining; It might burn down your house…and TNKerr’s preamble story about Daniel and his DeSoto.

He Said/She Said

Bend it to your liking, he says. Make of it what you will. Alrighty, then…

Instead of OLWG Prompts:

  1. I voted
  2. the wetness of his soul
  3. overcome the legacy
  4. you born in a barn?
  5. if I don’t go I’ll never know what’s there
  6. that’ll be fun
  7. I fall in love with you every day
  8. and no one even knows I’m gone
  9. be like snow

How about:

  1. I like fun
  2. You don’t even know
  3. Wetness overcomes snow (how do you do that as rock/paper/scissors?)
  4. Every soulful legacy is born of love
  5. His barn was voted best in the county
  6. What’s gone, I’ll never know.
  7. Fall, and no one in a hundred years will help you up
  8. That’ll be over there one day, you just wait and see

I know. A bit of a copout. But it was kinda fun! OLWG #196

Mack and Officer Dink

worms eyeview photography of coconut trees

Mack woke to the sound of waves gently rolling onto the beach. The sand was cool and damp, and the air was still. The morning’s sunlight penetrated his eyelids, but he was not ready to open them. Sunburned and hungover, he had no desire to leave his darkened cave of sleep to face whatever carried over from the antics of the night before.

“Hello sir. Time to get up. C’mon.”

The voice startled him, and he sat up. He had to shade his eyes from the sun that was now high in the sky. The person who spoke was uniformed police. Mack looked around, surprised to be on a beach he did not recognize.

“Are you Mack Steadman?” the officer asked. Mack nodded.

“C’mon. Get up.”

“Am I…” Mack gagged on his dry mouth and coughed. The officer handed him a bottle of water. Mack nodded his thanks and gulped down the entire thing.

“OK, I’m taking you to the station. We’ll have your wife come get you there,” the officer held up his phone. “Smile!”

“Rather you didn’t do that,” Mack said.

The officer smiled. “I’m sure you don’t. I have to send it to your wife so she can confirm it’s you, though from the picture she gave us, I’m not sure she’s going to recognize you.”

Mack dropped his head in humiliation. The sudden change in posture threw off his balance and he stumbled.

“Whoa, there, big guy.” The officer reached out to keep Mack from falling down.

 “How’d you find me, anyway? I don’t even know where I am.”

“Oh, I’ve been with this precinct for many years. When we get a call from a frantic wife, girlfriend or parent, all we have to do is look at the incidents and complaints filed the night before, check in with the beat cops along the boardwalk and follow the trail from there.”

The officer’s phone beeped. “OK, your wife confirmed its you. Let’s go. You got shoes?”

Mack looked down at his bare feet. “I, uh, did…”

“Nevermind. I keep flip-flops in the trunk. Don’t suppose you got your I.D. on you.”

Mack patted himself down and shook his head.

“Well, not surprising. We’ll take care of reporting your wallet stolen when we get there.”

The two men walked off the beach to the promenade. Mack was aware of the dirty looks he was getting from the people they passed.

“Probably should get you cleaned up. Beach shower is just over there,” the officer pointed to a drab cinder block structure a few feet away. “Don’t want to have to clean all that sand out of my cab. Make you a little more presentable for the wife.”

“Officer, it won’t make a difference, but I certainly appreciate you being a good guy about all this. A fair dinkum cop is not something I deserve.”

The officer let out a laugh. “That’s not what people typically say to me when I tell ‘em I have to bring ‘em in.”

“Hey, um, mind if I ask if there were any other, what’d you call them, frantic phone calls, yesterday, about anyone else?”

“No. Why?”

“I’m wondering where my friends got to.”

“Oh, I’m guessing they managed to make it back to their hotels, Mr. Steadman.”


Prompts from UnOLWG this week are: Sunburned and hungover; fair dinkum; smiling cameras.

Always comes up with stuff I have to look up! Thanks for intro to “fair dinkum”.

The COVID Shag

Shawna frowned at her beaming husband, Carter.

“I actually got used to you with long hair.”

“Really? I thought you hated the COVID shag look. I sure did.”

“No, I said I don’t like it on me.”

“Oh. I love your hair long.”

“It itches my neck. Can’t wait to cut it.”

“But, you are waiting.”

“I’m waiting until I get vaccinated.”

“Why? If it’s bugging you, get it cut.”

“Why can’t I just do what I want, how I want, hm? You wanted to get yours cut, fine. I don’t. Not yet.”

“You going to cut it short, like always?”

“Like I said, I don’t like long hair on me.”

“I do.”

“Well, I liked you with longer hair, but you didn’t ask me.”

Shawna and Carter stared at each other, unsure what the next move should be. If there is one thing this year cooped up together demonstrated, it’s that it is best to just let the conversation freely wander around the trivial things, rather than piling them up into burning pyres of marital discontent.

“Why’d you like my hair longer?” Carter asked.

Shawna shrugged. “Oh, I guess it made you look… I don’t know… not exactly sexy, but, yeah. Sexy. Sexier.”

“Huh.”

“Not so buttoned-up, I guess.”

“Huh.”

“Why do you like me with long hair?”

Carter took a moment before replying. “This’ll sound weird because you’ve always had short hair. But, it makes you look… more feminine.”

“How’s that weird?”

“Well, because… OK. I’ve always thought that you’re pretty, right? Long hair makes you… different pretty.”

“Different pretty.”

Carter smiled, “Yeah, whatever that means.”

“So, you’d like me to be different.”

“No, that’s not what I said.”

“Do you want someone different?”

“Shawna, please don’t do this. We agreed. I love you just the way you are. I don’t care if your hair is short. I just happen to really like it long. That’s it. I don’t want someone different. Please, please, don’t do this.”

Shawna gave Carter a quick hug around the waist, then walked out of the room. Carter sighed. It was going to be another one of her sulky days.


The haircut prompt made me laugh. All three prompts this week are: Let it wander around; Burning pyres; I don’t like your haircut

The House of Magic Products

I did it! I got all 15 of the recent Un-OLWG prompts in one post…and, I wrote it on the fly! Me so proud. The prompts are in bold. Easier to spot that way when there are so many. A few are tweaked to better fit the story. And, the story? It is inspired by a true event! Not something I typically do.

“This is the oldest district of Chinatown,” Brent announced to the group of twenty or so people who signed up for the walking tour of downtown. He smiled a grin so wide, it exposed almost all of his teeth. The people gathered looked at him in anticipation, as if he was about to deliver a punch line.

Brent was an unlikely Chinatown tour guide. A thirty-two year-old Irishman (regardless his grandmother’s protestation that the family was English) and community college basketball coach (a job that supported his fanciful dream of one day being a celebrated poet) who would be taken for an authority on nothing other than what was important to the average millennial. He walked the group a few blocks, making casual conversation along the way, before beginning his presentation. He stopped on the corner of Jackson and 4th.

“Now, most who write about Chinatown dismiss these four blocks north of Juniper Park as your classic red-light district, with girls loitering on street corners lit by neon restaurant signs, opium dens, and drug lords infamous for shooting their victims between the eyes, stripping them naked and burying them in vats of grease. That sold a lot of Hollywood movies and mystery novels over the years, but it’s a little too retro and cliche characterization, in my opinion. Not surprisingly, too, it’s inaccurate.

“What you actually have here are no less than ten different association houses, just in this area. An association house is an integral part of most Chinatowns around the world. It was a place of refuge, business, and, in a way, governance. When you lived in a world that shuts you out, or exploits you, the association house was your lifeline, and definitely a fairer arbiter than City Hall.”

A hand came up from the group. “But, there was crime, wasn’t there? It isn’t all B.S.” The question was inevitable on almost every tour Brent led.

“Yes, yes. Of course. No society or culture is without their share of crime. They did traffic in illegal goods and services, and fights would erupt, typically out in the street between two rival gin joints, but mostly, they did everything else right by their community. They provided housing, employment, temples for worship, schools, legal representation, traditional medicine as well as western health clinics and hospitals, excetera, excetera.

“Any questions? No? OK, let’s walk to the next spot.”

Brent led them through a narrow, perfectly kept alley, complete with a public art installation that looked like hundreds of large, colorful kites sailing above them. One of the cables anchoring the installation in place had come loose and was dangling enticingly close overhead. A couple of teenagers in the group jumped to try and grab it.

Leave it alone,” a woman, presumably their mother, hissed. “Show some respect!”

Brent ignored the comotion. He thought the tour guides who scolded people in their group, or barked orders, took all the fun out of it for the others. He simply pressed on, which tended to keep everyone on task to reach their next destination. He stopped in front of an old brick building and waited for everyone to catch up.

“We are standing in front of one of the last fully operational association houses. Up there,” Brent pointed to a brightly painted and decorated balcony three floors up, “written in character, of course, is the phrase, ‘The wind carries both good and bad to your door.’ It’s a sort of motto of this family association. I think it was, well, actually, still is meant as a warning that bad behavior is not tolerated here, and that only those pure of heart may enter.

“Travelers, visitors, new immigrants, upon reading that slogan, would know exactly which family association house this was. If you were of the same family, or had ties to the family name, then this was an appropriate house for you to find a bed for the night, something to eat, assistance, guidance, whatever your need.”

“What does that say?” asked a man holding a camera with a long telephoto lens and pointing to the terracotta archway over the main doors. Brent wasn’t sure what the man was indicating, until he stepped closer to the entrance and took a close look. He had not noticed the characters before. They were very small. So, unless, like the man with a telephoto lens, you had some sort of magnification, you would miss them entirely. The little bit of study Brent had made of Mandarin in college and in the years since helped him decipher the translation. But as he worked out the words, the thought came to him that it might be Japanese.

He stepped back to take in the building. The storefronts and businesses had signs in Mandarin, but he noted the building was just a block off of the predominantly Japanese neighborhood that stretched westward up the hill toward Little Saigon, something he had not taken into consideration before.

“Well, my friend,” Brent said to the man, “you managed to show me something I’ve never noticed!” The group chuckled. A woman said in a low voice to her companion, ‘thinks he’s such an expert…’ As with the comotion with the teenagers, Brent ignored the comment.

“What I can tell you is it says something to the effect, ‘Don’t pray for me, pray for them’, but what is fascinating is that I believe it’s in Japanese.”

The group stared at their tour guide, awaiting explanation. Brent flashed his big smile. “Not surprising. I mean, I will have to check out the ownership records to be sure, but we are on the border of the neighborhood that’s historically Japanese, so it’s possible a Japanese family or company owned the building at some point. Anyway…if you are interested, give me your email or number and I’ll let you know when I find out!”

At just that moment, Brent’s phone text beeped. He looked at it, but he didn’t need to. He knew it was the visitor’s center with a reminder that it was time to escort a tour back to Juniper Park.

“Sorry, folks, that text means we’re out of time! Before we head back, I want to thank you for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the tour and maybe learned something you didn’t know before. In conclusion, I wish all of you safe and happy travels, and encourage you to patronize any of the shops we pass by on our way back. My favorite is the little novelty shop across the street.”

Magic Products? What a weird name for a store,” the same snarky woman from before said. “Sounds like a snake oil sales pitch, if you ask me.”

“A literal translation of ‘Magic Shop’. Come on!,” Brent encouraged, “I’ll show you. It’s a great place!”

Ricochet

This post is merged stories “C U Then” and “Mandy”, with some changes and edits. I originally wrote “C U Then” to develop a story for a scene I had knocking around my head . I subsequently wrote “Mandy” to reveal why Chris was saddled with her, and as a response to OLWG #169 prompt, which I thought fit with their story. But as I wrote “Mandy,” the story veered off in a direction I did not intend. You know the funny saying, “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader”? That is what I felt about Mandy’s story. I had no idea where she was heading, and since she did not reveal anything more to me, I stopped writing.

Fast forward to my recent Blog Propellant prompt to interview someone, real or fictional. I do not always respond to my own writing prompts, but this one I thought fun. I rolled around a couple ideas in my mind and Chris Morriston popped up. He asked, “Can we please demand that Mandy tell us why she came looking for me? You guys just left me here, in the hotel restaurant, with no answers!”

So, first, the following are the re-written Mandy and Chris stories, followed by Chris’ interview with me.

++++++++++

Mandy set the canvas bag bulging with the stacks of cash on the floor behind the passenger seat. She scolded herself for not doing a better job of packing it. It was too obvious. It also was heavier than she expected. Anyone who may have seen her could tell she was clearly carrying something other than an oversized purse.

She pulled onto the street as casually as her nerves would allow. She meandered through her neighborhood on streets she never drove before in order to avoid anyone recognizing her or her car. Once on the main thoroughfare, she moved into the inner lane of the four-lane boulevard, keeping tabs on who was behind her through the rearview mirror, and keeping her speed steady with the traffic. She knew where the street cameras were downtown, so she avoided making turns at those intersections. Getting to the freeway took more time as a result, but the effort to avoid detection bought her some time.

How much time Mandy had before anyone put it together that both she and the cash were gone, she could not tell exactly. Hopefully, they would first notice that she was gone. Her absence would not be particularly concerning, thanks to her habit of disappearing on drunken benders. So, as long as no one noticed the missing cash before they were aware of her absence, she had at least a couple of days ahead of them. But, once Danny learned the safe had been emptied, from that point on, she would be racing against the clock.

Seattle was at least three days’ drive away.

Mandy’s eyes welled up with tears as she thought of her children. She was desperate for things to play out as she planned. If it worked, she could not only see her kids again, but maybe be a part of their lives. If it all went as she hoped, she could live life honestly and in the open.

The exit sign ahead indicated a Rest Stop. She looked at the time. Ahead of schedule. Mandy pulled off the freeway to call Christopher Morriston.

The Un-OLWG #169 prompts are: Let them go; bulbous; bandit cash

++++++++++

Chris Morriston sat in his car, head in his hands. A gentle knock on the passenger side window jerked him back into the present.

“Hi…” the older man standing outside his car said, with a wave. “…you OK, there?”

Chris looked him over and decided it was OK to turn the ignition to roll down the window.

“Yeah. Just…a rough day,” Chris replied.

“OK, well, as long as you’re OK. I’m just getting to work. Night clerk at reception,” the man pointed to his name badge, “Roger. So, if you need anything, dial zero, OK? What room did you say you are in?”

Chris understood the man was just doing his duty by making sure Chris was not using the parking lot to sleep it off, or whatever was best done somewhere other than hotel property.

“Yeah, thanks, um… I’m in 404. Morriston. Christopher Morriston.”

Roger the hotel clerk gave him a thumbs up and walked away. Chris watched him enter the lobby, waited a couple of minutes, then went back into the hotel.

Chris slid the keycard into the hotel room and unlatched the door, giving a gentle knock.

“Hello?” he called out.

The lights were on, but the room was quiet. Chris’s pulse shot up. A sudden, excited notion hit him that maybe, just maybe, she took off. He walked in and called out again.

Mandy was face down in the first bed. An empty pint of vodka was on the bedside table. The bag she said was full of cash was tucked under her arm. The lower half of her body was uncovered, exposing purple lacy underwear that rode up one cheek. Chris stared, longer than he should; surprised at seeing something unexpected, or the terror of urgent attraction, he could not tell. He grabbed the edge of the blanket and yanked it over her legs, not caring if it woke her.

She did not budge. His pulse raced again. He bent over her looking for signs of her breathing. A muffled, gentle snore emanated from the corner of her open mouth. Relieved, Chris sighed. A dead Mandy would have been one complication too many.

If her story was true, then he was in a world of hurt.  What to do still eluded him. He could only stay holed up here with her for so long, and now that Roger the night clerk had a name with a face, he would have to put next steps in motion sooner than he was ready to do.

He saw Mandy’s purse on the chest of drawers. It was open. He peered into it. He was not worried about a weapon. She would have used it from the first if she had something on her. He lifted out a wallet and looked through it. Three dollar bills, four credit cards, all with different names, a Starbucks gift card, a few coins, a receipt for LED bulbs and plumbing pipe from an ACE Hardware, and her license: Amanda Anne Andersen with an address in Phoenix. He wished he took time to check her ID before he rushed them out of town.

He looked at the ACE receipt again. It was badly faded, but he could make out a date from two years prior. No store address or phone. He unfolded it and discovered his office number and his name scrolled on the back.

Chris put all the contents of the wallet back then peered one last time into the purse before returning it. Another pair of underwear, a phone, a tampon that had clearly been in the purse for some time, a pen, lipstick case, more loose change, and a pill bottle poking out of the fold of the bag’s lining. With a careful finger, he pulled the fold aside to read the bottle. Ambien. Washed down with the pint, no doubt. No wonder she was sleeping like the dead. Curious she wasn’t concerned about staying alert, he mused.

His cell phone vibrated. He did not need to see who was trying to reach him. It was Bella Obviously, his text of several hours before did not do the trick.

***

Roger the night clerk waved when he saw Chris. “Everything better now, sir?”

Chris shrugged. “ ‘bout the same, I guess.”

Roger bobbed his head in an understanding nod. “The restaurant’s open, twenty-four-seven. Late night menu until five-thirty, then breakfast. Oh, and today’s paper’ll be here in about an hour.”

Roger the night clerk genuinely belonged in the hospitality industry, Chris thought with an inward smile. Too bad for me, if anyone comes looking.

“Thanks. I’ll head in.”

Chris took a seat in a booth around the corner of the entrance and sat where he had a view of most of the place. A young waiter brought over a single sheet menu. Chris quickly perused the late-night offerings and ordered barbeque pork sliders, whatever was on tap, and a shot.

“I am so sorry, sir,” the young man said in a curious lilt that made Chris wonder what sort of affectation the young man was trying to emulate, “but the bar is closed. No spirits after one A.M. So, just a beer OK?”

Chris nodded, handing back the menu. As the young man walked away, Chris found himself watching him go. Force of habit, he assured himself. But truth was, since Mandy showed up, he had been on high alert; “show mode”, as he called it. Everyone was a potential threat or suspect, even the unassuming types, like friendly Roger the night clerk and the young waiter with the curious lilt in his voice.

His phone lit up again. This time a hard-edged angst knotted his gut. He had never given Bella any reason to fear for his safety, nor need to question him when he said he would be away for a while but could not discuss why.

It was not as though he was an operative. Not anymore. That stuff was a young, single man’s game. Bella knew that. Life as an analyst was cushy, with regular hours, uninterrupted days off. The few times he was called away were never a risky business.  

He sent her a text: I’m ok but can’t talk. Shit went down today. Will have to see this thru. Promise to call as soon as it’s ok.

Seconds later a reply came through. Thinking it was Bella, Chris was surprised to see a coded message from his boss: fyi all set for fri C U then

“Ah, shit,” Chris muttered.

++++++++++++++++++++

Hey, Chris, I’m here! You have questions?

Oh, hi! Yeah, uh, wow. OK! Uh, please, have a seat.

(I slide into the bench across the table from Chris) Right where I left you, looks like.

Yup. Want a beer?

Sure.

Wait, is that one of the questions?

No (I catch the attention of the young waiter with the lilt, pointed at Chris’ pint and then to myself).

OK, well, I have only one question: What is Mandy to me?

Do you want her to answer that, or me?

Uh, you, I assumed. Don’t you know?

I do, I do. But, Mandy knows as much as I do (my beer arrives, along with a refill for Chris). How many of those have you had?

Well, you left me here since, what, October?

Just so you know, that’s three questions.

Shit. Well, I guess I do have more questions. Let’s see. Wha… no, wait. Umm…OK, like this: Whoever said, only five questions are allowed, has not walked an inch in my shoes. And, while we’re at it, that’s two of your three follow up questions.

(I laugh) Good catch.

So, OK, allow me to guess! Conserve my rations.

Good idea.

Right. OK. So, Mandy. She’s from my previous life. Statement, not a question.

Yes.

(Chris throws up his arms in a referee ‘touchdown’ gesture) So, why don’t I know her? Oh, shit! That’s four. Damn!

(I laugh again. Chris is someone I’d actually like to know. Too bad he is only a figment of my imagination). Chris, think in degrees of separation.

How many degrees?

And, that’s your fifth and final question.

Damn! (Chris shakes his head. He takes a long draw on his beer and sets his glass down). Well, that’s it, I lose.

Yeah, but, you do get an answer: Just one.

OK! Then she is… a child; a daughter. Of someone I know?

Is that a question?

Oh, who the hell cares.

(We both laugh)

Well, Chris, I guess our time’s up. Too bad. I would have enjoyed helping you figure this out.

Help me? Are you kidding? No, no…forget I’m over the question limit. Seriously, it’s your job, my friend, to get back to that laptop of yours and write me out of this mess you got me in.

(I slide out of the booth and stand to go. Roger the night clerk sees me in the doorway of the restaurant and waves. I wave back).

We’ll figure it out, Chris, eventually. Together. Keep asking questions. As you say, who cares about the number of question rule.

(I suddenly look away, as if I’ve heard a noise).

What is it?

Mandy’s awake.

The Yin and Yang of it

The Neumann family tradition on Saint Nicholas Day was a weekend long get-together. It was an annual reunion everyone looked forward to, but more to the point, it was a generations-old, clever solution as how to get everyone together without the obligation of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a typical summer gathering.

For Clarisse, however, the week before held the prosaic and boresome job of baking ten dozen Lebkuchen and of painstaking application of tiny icing swirls to each cookie. To say the least, it was a laborious task resulting in hand cramps, an aching back and regular doses of Tylenol.


Thought I’d jump into the two-prompts game with this one. First is this week’s UnOLWG prompts: prosaic; laborious; boresome. The second prompt comes from this week’s Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge: In exactly 99 words, write about family holiday tradition.

Fun House of Nightmares and Pancakes

Gareth woke and rolled over on his side. He stared at Abbie, soundly asleep, as the scene from his nightmare dissipated. This is real, he whispered.

He slowly sat up, not wanting to disturb his girlfriend, and looked around his bedroom. This is real, he whispered again. He hunched over and closed his eyes. Nothing but blackness. He lay down and drifted back into sleep.

The smell of coffee and bacon roused him the next morning. Abbie, of course. She just gets it. No better way to overcome a bad night than a large breakfast. Thick strips of bacon, fried eggs over-easy, on top crispy hash browns and Tabasco sauce dribbled over all of it. Gareth took in a deep breath. And sourdough biscuits, or maybe pancakes?

He asked Abbie once how she knew. She said something casual, like she just felt like it, but she lied. Gareth’s mother. Whatever. Only one of the many smoke and mirrors games couples sometimes play with their relationship.


UnOLWG prompts this week: she just gets it; she lies; all done with mirrors

Just Who is Ariel Jamison and What Does She Want?

Created from TBP Redux #7 and OLWG #181 prompts


You asked about Ariel?  Here, I’ve got a picture. That’s her, there. In the middle. That’s her husband, Dan, with my husband. That’s me, can you believe? And that’s Aaron and Jan. Hm. Betsy and Sam aren’t in this photo. Don’t remember why. Lots of happy times, back then. We were quite the group!

These days, Ariel keeps pretty much to herself. You have to understand why that seems so strange. Ariel and Dan used to be regular fixtures in town. The pair of them; a couple of go-getters, day in and out.  They were at every town meeting, every event, every party, every special occasion. Volunteered on just about every committee.  It exhausts me just to think about it!

When Dan unexpectedly died, Ariel disappeared into her own world. None of us saw much of her for a while there. Her neighbors said, right after Dan’s death, at night, regardless the weather, she would slowly walk in circles in her backyard, sometimes well into the middle of the night. They said she wore a path into the grass that looked something like those labyrinths you see in some church yards.

Then, that next year, she went away for a long time. If you’re wondering, that’s when the rumors started that she went to India to become a Buddhist monk, or some such nonsense. She didn’t go to India to become a Buddhist! I mean, yes, for a while, just after she came back, she took to wearing kaftans and a large scarf around her head, which was, I admit, odd. But I think all that was just Ariel finding out who she was outside of her marriage to Dan. I mean, that movie, “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, was so popular at that time, and that was just after “Eat, Pray, Love,” had been on all our must-read lists.

No, Ariel didn’t become a monk. She went to stay with her son Alec, who had just moved to Kentucky. She wanted to help him and his new wife and their brand-new baby boy get settled, and they were more than happy to have her. See, she had a dream as a little girl of becoming a racehorse jockey, and ever since then, wanted to visit the Bluegrass state. I mean, Dan was dead and gone, so why not pull up stakes for a while? Cross something off your bucket list, as they say. At least she wasn’t walking in circles in her backyard.

But, my guess is you really want to hear about the fire. Of course, that was the other rumor about poor Ariel; that someone in the family started it, or that, of all things, she deliberately set it. I tried to deflect as much of that b-s as I could, but you know people. I mean, losing your home is bad enough that people have to go around outright lying about how it happened.

It makes me sad, because, for one, Ariel was never one for gossip. And after all she and Dan did for the town, you think people would be grateful and leave it at that. At least have some sympathy for the poor woman! But my friend is a strong lady. She just puts on that Cheshire Cat smile of hers and rises above it. Yes, it was arson, and no, they still don’t know who did it or why. But, I can attest to this: Ariel knows exactly who started the fire.


A genuine challenge to figure out a story that goes with an ending! From Redux #7, I selected, “Though she wasn’t one for gossip, Mrs. Jamison knew exactly who had started the fire.” The UnOLWG prompts are bluegrass; the center of my world; seeking Amrapali.