Friday, April 16, 2021

L - Legends - #AtoZChallenge - "Just the Tip"

 It had been a journey of many leagues. Magni had been traveling on foot for over a week. Almost halfway to his destination, he knew the end was in sight. He had caught a ride a few times on farmers' carts, but most people were not very trusting of people they did not know. That trust had only decreased since he left the land of his own realm, but he had not met any violence.

Magni had enough coin to buy food when he could find it, but little extra for accommodation. He had slept in stables, under trees, and under a bridge once during a storm. A few days ago, a washerwoman had taken pity on him and allowed him into her family's home for the night, but he knew he could not expect this to be common.

Tonight, trudging along the road as the sun was going down, Magni took notice of the increase in foot and horse traffic. This always meant he was coming close to a town or village. His spirits rose in hopes of being able to find a hot meal before finding a place to lay his head. He inquired of a passerby who informed him there was a tavern further up the road.

Magni looked forward to a hot soup or maybe some roasted boar. He decided he would even splurge on a flagon of ale or mulled wine. It was nice night. After a full belly, any tree would do for shelter. He picked up the pace to get his hot meal.

Within an hour he came across the tavern. The paint was peeling on the sign above the door, but it could still be read. The Broken Traveler had a depiction of a man sleeping under several sets of watchful eyes. Magni was not sure if that logo was meant to be comforting to strangers, but it implied they were welcomed. He made his way inside and was surprised at the number of people spread about the room. This was a popular place for a tavern on the edge of town.

There were about a dozen tables in the middle that could have seated six people comfortably, but comfort didn't seem to be a concern here. There were ten to fifteen people crowded around each of the tables. More if you counted the girls in men's laps. The beer was flowing, conversation was lively, and the songs were cheerful. The place seemed friendly enough. Magni found an empty at one of the smaller tables near a wall as a cheer went up from one of the big tables.

Across the table from him sat a man who seemed to be having a quiet conversation with his drink. He only raised his head enough to take another sip and went right back to muttering into his cup. Magni offered a greeting, but the man gave little more than a nod as he continued to concentrate on his beverage.

Magni managed to flag down a serving girl and learned the cook had made his specialty tonight, a hearty stew that he only makes twice a year. She told him everyone was here for the stew. Magni asked for the stew and an ale. He leaned against the wall and stretched his arms above his head. It felt good to sit down. He wanted to stretch out his legs, but there were too many people milling about. It would have been rude to take up too much space.

Magni heard a loud cheer go up across the room. Several people moved to a small table on the other side of the tavern and patted the back of one of the men seated there. The serving woman from earlier pushed through the crowd and set a large beer before the man. The crowd cheered again as the man held up his new drink. Magni didn't know what everyone was celebrating, but was happy to get to be in the middle of it. This was a very lively crowd.

Magni's stew and ale arrived and he quickly realized how hungry he was. He downed the ale quickly and asked the server for another before she got away.

He tasted the stew and was immediately pleased with his decision. It was delicious. It had onions, garlic, and hard-boiled quails eggs with chucks of bitter gourd. The broth was spiced perfectly. He lifted the stew to take a long sip right from the bowl. He loved it.

A loud cheer erupted from the table next to him and so many people came crowding around, the bowl was almost knocked from his grasp. He saw a man seated being slapped on the back and people rubbing his head and he smiled from ear to ear. The serving girl showed up with Magni's ale and quickly apologized to Magni as she handed the beer to the happy man. She quickly ran off and was back a moment later with another for Magni.

Magni gulped down some of his ale and asked the man sharing his table what everyone was so happy about. The man didn't look up, but said "Lucky. Lucky man" to his cup. Magni shrugged his shoulders and popped an egg from the stew into his mouth.

He kept eating and enjoying the revelry around him. He soon ordered a third drink and was feeling very good.

The bowl was almost empty, so Magni raised it to his lips and used his spoon to shovel what was left into his mouth. He had over-filled his mouth and was having trouble chewing without dropping food back out. He was slowly getting it down when he felt something hard against the top of his mouth. Still chewing and moving things around, the hard part found its way to his teeth. It was too hard to chew. He managed to swallow everything but the hard piece and spit it out.

It was the top portion of one of the bitter gourds. It even had part of the stem still on it and was about the size of a large coin. He was looking at it as he washed out his mouth with another drink of ale.

Suddenly, the quiet man at the table with him burst out. "Lucky. Stew lucky. Lucky man!"

The crowds turned and looked at him with excitement in their eyes. He flashed a bewildered smile. People started rushing toward him and cheering. He tossed the chunk of gourd on the floor and cheerfully asked "What?"

The crowd stopped and looked at the chunk on the floor. A few people gasped and pointed. The man at his table, still looking into his glass started chattering, "no no no no no no no."

The serving woman showed up with a huge smile and a beer for Magni that he hadn't ordered and looked at the people staring at him. "What's going on?"

The closest man, red in face, shouted, "He threw down the tip. Just threw it on the dirty floor." The crowd nodded their agreement as they moved closer. Magni could sense the change in the crowd as they closed in. Several were throwing insults and comments at him.

"Do you think you're better than us?"
"Who turns down good luck?"
"Who are you to throw us to the dirt?"
"This town doesn't need your kind."

The serving woman leaned in close and yelled over the noise of the crowd. "You need to leave now."

"I haven't paid yet."

She answered quickly, "Just go if you know what's good for you."

Magni got up and slowly forced his way through the angry crowd. They hurled insults at him and a few spit in his face. He feared for his safety and had no idea why. As he approached the exit, he was pushed from behind and fell out the door. 

Half the tavern followed him out and continued shouting at him. He hurried to get away from these people, but several chased him down and blocked his path.

"Your a bad omen. You're not going into our town."

Magni tried to object. "But I'm headed south. I have to go that way."

One of the men pulled out a dagger. "Find another way."

Magni turned back up the path he had just traveled from and started back. Half a dozen men followed to be sure he was leaving town before they returned to the tavern.

He knew would probably lose a day cutting through the woods to avoid the town when he turned south again, but he didn't understand why.

Magni smiled as he walked, "Well, at least I ate for free."

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is L for Legend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

K - Karen - #AtoZChallenge

Mrs. Ballard swiped her debit card again and the gas pump still wouldn't read it. She had tried three times and even started the whole process over with the pump and it wasn't working. She didn't like using her credit card for daily purchases, but pulled it out of her purse anyway. It didn't work either.

She hit the HELP button, but wasn't getting a response. Looking inside the station, it appeared the cashier was engaged with a woman at the counter.

Frustrated, she pulled to another pump since the card machine was broken on the first one. Unfortunately, she had the same problem at the new one. And she still got no response when she pressed the HELP button. It appeared the customer inside was upset about something and had the cashier's attention. That's why he hadn't responded to the HELP call.

Mrs. Ballard was about to storm into the station when she noticed the PAY INSIDE button. She had forgotten about that option. She had paid at the pump for so many years, paying inside was a distant memory. She filled up her tank and headed for the front doors.

As soon as the automatic doors slid open, Mrs. Ballard could hear the woman in full rant screaming at the cashier.


Mrs. Ballard stood far back to not attract attention to herself. She was in no hurry. She could wait until this ugly scene played out.

The cashier motioned toward the drink area and calmly stated, "As I told you, miss, the coffee station is right over there. We have three kinds of coffee including decaf and several flavored creamers. You can make it to your taste."

The customer seemed to be enraged by this and stuck her finger in the cashier's face as the spittle flew from her mouth. "AND AS I TOLD YOU, IF I WANTED TO MAKE MY OWN COFFEE I WOULD HAVE DONE SO AT HOME!"

"You are more than welcome to go do that." Mrs. Ballard was amazed at how well the cashier was keeping his cool and a giggle slipped out at that response.

The angry woman shot a look at her, but directed her hate back to the poor employee. "Are you going to make that coffee or not?"

The cashier stated definitively, "I am not supposed to leave the counter when I am the only employee in the store."

Mrs. Ballard decided to try to help. She spoke up as she moved toward the drink station, "I'll get your coffee. What would you like?"

She glared at Mrs. Ballard, "I would like some damn customer service and a little human decency."

"So, no coffee then?" and she went back to her place.

The front doors slid open and a woman walked in wearing the same uniform as the cashier. The customer immediately confronted the newcomer. "I guess now that there's a second person here, one of you can tackle the incredibly complicated task of getting my coffee." 

Since her path was basically blocked by a seething woman, she looked around her to the cashier and asked, "What's happening here?"

The cashier started to explain, but the customer cut him off." He refused to make my coffee."

"Well, I am sorry about that. I am the manager and I have instructed him to not leave the counter when he is the only employee in the store."

The manager edged her way sideways around the customer and walked to the coffee station. She started filling a large cup. "Would you like sugar or creamer?"

The customer was not finished. "So, is it your stupid policy to keep customers from getting served while you are out running around town?"

The manager stopped filling the cup and poured it in the sink. She stepped up to the customer and answered, "Customer service does not stop for the people who are smart enough to recognize that this is a self-serve station and not a restaurant. If you want someone to wait on you, go to a place that does that." 

The customer was aghast. "Well, I've never had such treatment. Do you know who I am? My husband is a well-respected man in this town."

The manager grew louder, "Well, it's a shame he couldn't marry someone who was the same. Get out of my store. We don't tolerate you crazy Karens here."

The customer stomped out with a few more words about her perceived treatment and sped out of the parking lot. The manager let her employee know how well he had done to keep his cool and sent him on break.

"I am sorry you had to witness that. How can I help you?"

Mrs. Ballard smiled, "It's okay. Not your fault. The card machine outside wasn't working, so I came inside to pay." She slid her card to the manager.

The manager grabbed the card and jumped when she looked at it, "Oh, I am so sorry. Karen Ballard. Your name is Karen."

Karen Ballard patted the managers hand, "It's okay, dear. There's good Karens and bad Karens. Just try not to judge us all by the bad ones. I don't think she was one of us any way."

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. I don't know any genres that start with K and couldn't find any online, so today's letter is K for Karen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

J - Juxtaposition - #AtoZChallenge

I searched all over the internet for the name of a literary genre that started with the letter J and I could not find one that made sense for a Western audience. So, I chose the word Juxtaposition

For this post, I will take the post I started this challenge with and tell it from the other person's perspective. The original post was A - Adventure. You can read that post to see the way I originally wrote it. It only had two characters. The original was written from Trina's perspective. This one will be the same story, but told from Terry's side.

"Why do I keep letting you talk me into this crap?" wailed Terry.

Terry's sister Trina seemed to be ignoring him as she wrapped his ankle. It figured. She dragged him all the way out here in the middle of nowhere and then got quiet when the inevitable happened.

"I didn't talk you into tripping over that branch. That happened because you were looking at your phone instead of where you were going. That's why I left mine in the car. No distractions. Just try to enjoy it out here."

Terry winced as he tried to stand up. "But I don't enjoy it out here. This is your thing, not mine."

He had been trying to tell her this all morning, but she chose not to listen. She'd been on this nature kick ever since she went off to college. He knew it had something to do with her major, but never expected it to turn her into a drag to be around.

Trina shot back, "I asked you this morning what you wanted to do together and you had nothing. So, I came up with something."

Terry swatted at the bugs around his face and tried to let her know that hurt, "That's not true. I asked you to play Halo with me. You weren't interested."

Trina sighed, "That's the opposite of doing something."

Terry wiped at the sweat on his neck. "All I know is that I never sprained an ankle running through the jungle with Lara Croft. A couple of hours with you and I'm a cripple."

Terry knew he was laying it on thick, but she rarely listened to him anymore. They used to have so much fun together. They shared a love of movies, great food, and raunchy stand-up comics their parents didn't like them to watch. They had stayed up all night playing Guitar Hero and other games hundreds of times…until she went off to school. Now all she wanted to do was go camping and fishing and hiking and other stupid things.

Terry had actually been excited the first weekend she came home from school. He had missed his Mario Kart buddy. He had rented the newest Final Fantasy  for her weekend visit, but all she could talk about was her new friends and the classes she was taking. Every visit had been the same since. It was like she was a different person.

Trina didn't seem to be treating Terry's injury very seriously. "It's just a sprained ankle. Let's make our way back to the car."

Terry pushed away from the tree and collapsed as soon as he put weight on his injured foot. He tried to make a joke, "I don't think I can walk. Call an Uber."

Trina just laughed at him as the pain shot through his leg all the way up to his knee. He couldn't believe she was getting pleasure out of this. He reluctantly accepted her help getting to his feet. He didn't really have much of a choice. Plus, they were so far from the car, getting back was going to take a while. Especially at this new, slow pace.

As Terry slowly moved each foot, even with Trina's help, she kept pestering him with questions. It took a few before she landed on something he actually had an opinion about. "Have you gotten any new games since my last visit?"

He mumbled out a short answer, but she prodded further. Soon Terry was excitedly telling her the plot points of Hitman 3 and recalling his latest adventures in Red Dead Redemption II now that he had the latest expansion pack. Trina was even asking a few good questions. After a few minutes, he was in a better mood and, despite the pain, sometimes forgot about his injury. He was just talking games with his sister like they used to.

With about half a mile left to go, they came to the log that had fallen across a dried creek bed. The creek was only about five feet deep, but had very steep sides. The bridge provided by the fallen tree was perfect. On the way in, they just walked across the log, but with Terry's injured ankle it was proving to be much more difficult this time. Trina and Terry couldn't cross hanging onto each other. He knew he was going to have to do it alone.

He still couldn't walk well, so they tried a couple of different ways. "Get in front of me and give me your hand," Terry said.

Trina did as instructed and it seemed to work. She had to walk backward and go very slow, but that little bit of support was all Terry needed to start working his way across. Terry was a little shaky without her supporting him, but if he took small steps he could slowly manage.

About halfway across, Terry heard a sudden crack and loud grunting-type noise. Terry was startled and almost went down as he saw an awakened deer scrambling away from under the tree. He heard a shriek from Trina and lost sight of her as she fell off the log and into the creek.

 Terry laid himself down on the log to peer down into the brush. "Trina are you alright?"

He could hear the pain in her voice. "I don't know yet. I've hurt my knee. Give me a minute."

"What do you want me to do?"

He couldn't see her face, but he could see her hand as she waved him to keep moving to the other end of the tree. Terry edged his way to the other side of the creek and eased himself down on the edge of the creek. He could see her now. He extended his hand as he laid on his stomach.

"Come on. I got you." 

Trina tried to stand, but she was not moving well. When she hit the ground again, she pulled herself to the edge of the creek where Terry's hand was. He saw that she was dragging her leg behind her trying not to move it. As mad as he was at his sister, he felt bad for her. She looked like she was in worse pain than he was. That made two cripples in the woods.

She drug herself to the bank of the creek where Terry was and could not reach his outstretched hand and she was in too much pain to get higher. He tried to stretch further, but she told him to stop.

"Even if I could reach you, I would just pull you in. There's no way you can lift me."

Terry was a little insulted, but knew she was right. "I bet you wish we were playing XBOX right now."

He could hear her choking back a sob as she yelled, "Shut up. You're not helping."

He smiled a little at that one. "Sorry. What do we do?"

Through broken breaths, Trina explained, "I know I gave you a hard time for bringing your phone, but now would be a good time to use it. I can't get out of this creek and you can barely walk. Call Dad and let him know where we are. Him and Daryl will need to come rescue us."

"Um, Trina. My phone died about 20 minutes ago."

Terry didn't like their situation, but enjoyed hearing the little laugh that escaped from Trina. "We have ourselves in a fix don't we? Terry, suck it up and limp yourself back to the car? My phone will be fully charged. Got it?"

"Yeah, but…I have no idea where I am. I've been following you the whole time. How do I find the car? I don't even know what direction to go."

Terry knew Trina had been excited to show this place to him, but even she had only been here once. And her preference for getting off the trail meant he had nothing to guide him back. "So tell me what to do, Mountain Man Trina."

"Crap! That's right. OK, listen, you still move better than I do. Find a section of creek that is not as steep or deep. At a shorter bank or less steep incline, maybe I can crawl out."

"OK. I'll try."

Terry heard Trina starting to cry as he limped along the side of the creek. He knew she had waited until he got far enough away to not hear here, but she hadn't waited long enough. She had always liked to be seen as the strong, responsible older sister. He thought she was full of it, but wouldn't call her out on this one.

Terry had only moved about 50 feet along the side of the creek when it started to rain. Terry shouted, "SERIOUSLY? I hate it out here."

He worked his way back to Trina and leaned over the edge. "When this is all over, I hope you know I'm never going outside again." 

Trina gave him a thumbs up and waved him away.

  #AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter J

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is J for Juxtaposition.

I - Imaginary Voyage - #AtoZChallenge

Brayden woke up to the sound of his dad yelling up the stairs. "Let's go, kid. Bus will be here in an hour."

Brayden rubbed his eyes and heard his dad's voice again, "Did you hear me? Get a move on." Brayden answered back, "I'm up." He then lowered his head and closed his eyes.

The fire alarm screamed to life waking everyone in the station. Firefighter Brayden launches himself out of his cot and flies to his dresser. Every second counts in a fire. He must move fast. Fresh underwear and socks are on in less than a second. He spins to the closet as he gets his second sock on. He pulls out his shirt, removes the hanger and has the shirt on in one practiced, fluid motion. He is pulling on his pants as he heads out the door, scooping up his gear as he leaves. Firefighter Brayden slides effortlessly down the pole to the truck in less than 45 seconds from the time he got out of bed. A new record.

"Brayden Michael," his mom said sternly. "How many times have you been told to stay off the banister? It's starting to come loose from all your abuse."

"Sorry, Mom."

"Sit down and eat. I made pancakes today." His mom set the butter and syrup on the table as Brayden pulled his plate toward him. He slid a generous slab of butter between the pancakes and slowly dripped syrup on the top to watch it spread.

The volcano eruption wasn't much of an explosion, but the lava is unstoppable. It is slowly creeping down the hills toward the town devouring everything in its path. The people are evacuating, but are unsure of where to go on this island. The lava is spreading further and has started hitting people's homes causing them to immediately burst into flames. Many townspeople are fleeing to the docks and getting on their boats to watch their town burn from the safety of the water. The lava is spilling off all sides of the island leaving no place safe for anyone. It will be a long time before this island is inhabitable again.

"Hey, hey hey," Brayden's dad snatched the syrup out of his hands. "How much syrup do you need? That's more than all of us together should use this morning. Get your head out of the clouds."

Brayden ate his breakfast and got an extra pancake, but was not allowed any more syrup. There was still a lake of maple on his plate. He ran to the bathroom to brush his teeth, but his mom caught him on the way out. 

"How can you not see the condition your hair is in? It looks like there are squirrels living on your head." She grabbed a brush and…

"Try your worst," First Lieutenant Brayden jeers. "I'll never talk."

The interrogator sneers at him as he picks up his instrument of torture. "Everyone says that, but they all talk eventually." He approaches slowly, but First Lieutenant Brayden never drops his gaze. He shows no fear as the pincers begin to open and move toward his eye.

"Hold still. I can't get this tangle out if you keep jumping around," complained Brayden mom. Brayden tried not to squirm until his mom finished her mission.

Coming out of the bathroom, Brayden was met my his dad. Dad took him outside and they sat on the front steps. Brayden saw the dogs across the street watching traffic go by.

A guard dog has an important job. He is to be the eyes and ears for the people who can't see and hear (or even smell) as good. If anyone tries to get into this lab, it just might be the dog who stops him first. There's important stuff here the other labs want to know about. Security is here to stop that and it can't be done without some good guard dogs. The most important job is to protect the perimeter. Even approaching the fence will…

"Hey, are you hearing me?" Brayden's dad snapped his fingers in Brayden's face. "We can't have any more of this. Your teacher says you don't stay focused. You have got to pay attention. Got it?"

"I always pay attention."

His dad sighed, "Well, try to make the teacher see that. Maybe look at the blackboard instead of out the window. Okay?"

"Yes, Dad." Brayden got up to meet the school bus on the next block. As he turned the corner, he saw that a few of the kids were already there waiting.

One of his friends turned and waved. Brayden immediately dove into the bushes.

Private Brayden knew that was too close. He was almost seen. If he lets his position be known, he won't be able to blow the convoy when it comes through. He crawls along the hedge to get closer to the target, but careful to be silent to not alert the others to his presence.

Brayden's dad watched from an upstairs window and shook his head.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter I

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is I for Imaginary Journey.

500 Blog Posts

 Back in October of 2010, I wrote my first post and it has been quite a ride. Today, I am writing my 500th post.

I started this blog because my daughter was dating a boy who had to do a blog for a high school project. He was telling me how much he enjoyed and that I should try it. So, I did.

 I quickly learned that I loved writing and had a bit of a knack for it. Since then, I have been published (sort of), and gotten married because of this blog. I've lived in seven different places in three different countries since my first post. I've had close to half a million visits to this page. It's been a huge blessing to me and I am so glad I started.

 Thank you to all of you who have read and participated.

Monday, April 12, 2021

H - Horror - #AtoZChallenge

"Janie, dear, you know this is not allowed. You have to find another way."

"Sorry, Mom. I don't have time to sort it out. It'll be alright. I'll be back first thing in the morning. Sorry. Bye."

Jake's grandma growled as his mom pulled away. She was pissed, but she would never say anything against his parents. Not to him, at least.

Jake's grandparents lived in a small retirement village on the edge of town. He had been there a few times, but was never allowed to spend the night. Apparently, the management of the village had some very strict rules about overnight guests. And children were not allowed to be there at all after dark. It was supposed to be a quiet place for the old people to enjoy retirement with no disturbances.

Or pets.
Or noise.
Or bright colors.
Or "inappropriate" clothes.
Or fun.

Jake had never really liked going there. He loved his grandparents, but not going to their house There was nothing to do there and anything that began to resemble fun got shut down quickly. Usually, all it took was for him or his brother Chip to laugh and they would get dirty looks. His grandma and grandpa always seemed really nervous when he or his brother were there and Grandma always worried they would get them in trouble.

"It's supposed to be a peaceful place," Grandpa would remind them.

They were fun when they came to Jake's house. When his mom got stuck with unexpected night shifts, one or both of the grandparents would come to their house to stay with them. Those nights were great. They stayed up later than Mom usually let them and Grandma always baked a big cake. Grandpa would make them laugh with his jokes and they had a lot of fun.

But Jake was dreading tonight. Chip was lucky. He was out camping on a Boy Scout trip. Jake was in a hotel with his Mom when this shift got dropped on her. With no time to find a solution, she threw some clothes in a bag and they raced to the grandparent's house. She dropped him off and was gone before Grandma could object too much.

Jake and his grandparents couldn't just go back to Jake's house because it was being fumigated. He probably had a dozen friends who he could have stayed with, but his mom said she didn't have time to make the phone calls to find a place. He was going to have to stay with Grandma and Grandpa.

When his grandpa got home, he was very surprised to see Jake. When his grandma explained, she said "we should all go to a hotel for the night." The village was very serious about people violating the rules.

Grandpa said, "We can't tonight. Remember? We have to be here."

Grandma looked over at Jake and apologized.

It was already getting dark. Grandpa wheeled the TV into their bedroom and told Jake he would be sleeping in there tonight. "Go brush your teeth," he said.

"What? It's barely 7 o' clock."

Grandpa shot Jake a stern look he had rarely seen before. Grandpa reminded him that they were not at Jake's house. They were at Grandma and Grandpa's house and  violating the rules of their housing complex. They would not take any chances on anyone knowing he was there. So, he was to go to their bedroom and watch TV. He could watch as late as he wanted (with the volume so low he couldn't hear it), but he was to stay in there. Grandma said they would make it up to him next week.

Grandpa started making a pallet on the floor of their living room for them to sleep on. Jake felt bad for them to sleep on the floor and offered to do it, but Grandma ushered him in to the bedroom. She gave him a bottle of water and a kiss on the forehead and reminded him how important it was to be very quiet and not get them in trouble. They liked their little community and did not want to lose it.

Jake watched TV for a while, but Grandpa said he was not to turn it up which meant he couldn't really hear it. He laid with his head at the foot of the bed to be closer. That helped a little, but not enough. Just staying in a dark room with nothing to do got boring and Jake fell asleep.

A few hours later, he woke up and used their bathroom, but was really thirsty. He had already drunk all the water Grandma gave him. He needed more, but knew they couldn't drink the tap water here. He needed a new bottle out of the fridge. Jake knew he wasn't supposed to leave the room, but was sure he could be quiet.

Jake left the room on his hands and knees because he didn't want anyone outside to see him there and get his grandparents in trouble. He crawled into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. The light lit up the whole room and he could see into the living room. The pallet Grandpa had made was empty. Jake crawled into the living room and quietly called out their names. There was no answer. They weren't here. It was almost 1 a.m. Where would they be?

He peeked out the window and could see their car, so he went to the front of the house to see if they were sitting on the porch like they sometimes do. Looking out the front window, he saw several of their neighbors walking toward the community center in the middle of the village. They seemed to be going to the center from each direction. Jake knew his grandparents village was strict about the rules, but did they call meetings in the middle of the night?

It frightened him to think that maybe they got in trouble because someone found out he was there. He knew getting kicked out of this village they loved so much was one of their biggest concerns. He hoped he wouldn't be the cause of them having to leave their home. Jake knew he didn't like it there, but they seemed to.

Jake decided to investigate and slipped on his shoes. Once there seemed to be no one else on the street, he crept from house to house toward the community center building. It was very late at night, but he noticed that he did not hear any noise coming from any of the houses he passed. Everyone must have gone to the building. 

Jake crawled up to one of the windows on the opposite side of the building people had been entering. He was trying to be smart. He didn't want to be seen by someone coming or going from the building.

Jake slowly raised his head to peek inside and immediately jumped back down. Everyone inside was wearing black robes. His heart was beating quickly, but he tried to listen through the noise of his pounding chest. Everyone inside seemed to be talking at the same time. He could not understand the words, but they were talking together. In unison.

Jake took a few deep breaths and stood up to peek in again. Everyone was looking toward the front of the room and not near the window he was looking in. He felt safe he would not be seen, but did not know what he was looking at.

When everyone stopped talking, a person at the front stood up facing the crowd. He had the hood up on his robe so Jake could not see his face. He was behind a small table that was covered with a red cloth. This man spoke very loudly and when he did everyone in the entire room repeated what he said.

Jake decided that the words were not in English. That was why he could not understand them. He didn't know what he was seeing, but knew he had seen enough. It was time to sneak back to the house This was not a meeting about him.

Jake was slowly lowering to make his escape when he saw his grandpa's face. His grandpa had stepped up to the table at the front of the room and turned around to address the crowd. Jake watched as he bent down to pick up a small sleeping girl and placed her on the table. Jake was shocked to see another kid here. Children were not allowed. And that girl looked to be only about 4 years old. She would definitely not be good at keeping herself quiet.

Jake watched as his grandpa reached again for the girl and lifted one of her arms. Grandpa then pulled a short rope from a pocket and tied the girl's arm to one of the table legs. What was he doing? Grandpa produced another rope just as the girl started to wake. She looked up and started crying immediately. Jake's grandpa secured the other arm while another person got up to restrain her legs and then his grandpa fished out two more ropes.

Jake watched in horror trying to make sense of what he was seeing. This was terrible! What were they doing?

Grandpa then produced a large knife and handed it to the hooded man before sitting back down. Jake couldn't believe his eyes. No. It must be a nightmare.

The hooded man bellowed out words from that foreign language and everyone in the room stood. They raised their hoods over their heads and the hooded man raised the knife high in the air.

Jake screamed in terror. He couldn't take it anymore.

Every head in the room snapped to look at the window where he was standing. Jake was frozen in terror, but the people in the room started moving from their places. He saw some hurrying out the doors on the other side of the building. He was beginning to hyperventilate when he heard shouts coming up beside him. They were rushing toward him. Jake ran as fast as he could back to his grandparent's house. He got far away from them quickly. The senior citizens who lived there were not very fast.

Jake fell when he got to the street and skinned his knee badly, but he was still able to get up and run into the house almost a full minute before anyone else got there.

He locked the door behind him and started crying in the corner. People were banging on the door and peeking in the windows. They were pointing at him and some were screaming, "You saw!"

Jake heard the voice of his grandpa booming over the shouts and the crowd began to quiet some. He heard a key turn in the lock and his grandma rushed in. She looked terrified and was crying. Grandpa came in right after her and locked the door.

"Grandma, what did they do to you?"

It took her a moment to choke back her tears. She responded, "Jake, baby. Why didn't you stay in your room?"

Jake threw his arms around her and cried. "I'm sorry. I didn't know where you were. I didn't mean to."

His grandma kissed him on his head and held him tight. Grandpa stepped up and patted his head. "We love you, Jake."

Someone outside shouted again. "Enough of this. He saw. You know he saw." The crowd started to get loud again.

Grandpa took a step away and Grandma began crying harder. Grandma kissed Jake and ambled back to her bedroom. Grandpa turned his back on Jake and shuddered as he unlocked the front door.

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is H for Horror.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

G - Ghost Story - #AtoZChallenge

The first time I saw her, I knew she wasn't real. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw her peeking out of the closet at me as I slept. I threw my pillow to close the closet door.

I wasn't scared. Not even a little bit.

I turned eight years old this year and my dad says I am a big man now. So, I wasn't scared.

I am very smart too. I know girls don't live in closets. They live in houses like me. And a closet might be in a house, but it is not enough to live in. Girls need kitchens and bathrooms also.

At school, I learned that some people don't have houses and have to live anywhere they can. Like on the street or in an old building that might not even have a TV or refrigerator. Or just a big box, but I don't think that would be good when it rains. My grandma says I'm the smartest boy in my whole class and my teacher never said people live in closets. So I know.

The next day, I put my pillow back on the bed and I opened the door very slow. I knew there was no girl in there. But maybe it was a raccoon that I thought was a girl. They have claws. I know because I saw a picture in a book. And a raccoon can not stay in my closet. Raccoons poop a lot. Well, maybe not a lot. But even a little bit would be too much in my closet.

That night, I forgot all about the closet until I rolled over and I saw her again. She just stood there in the door. This time I looked real hard. She was not a raccoon. She was a girl. I was not scared because I am not scared of girls. But I didn't like that she was in my room.

I hid under my blankets so she couldn't see me. Not because I was scared. I was not scared. I just didn't like her looking at me. I peeked out later and she was not there. I think she was scared of me. Good.

The next night, I put a chair in front of the door. I looked in the closet first. She wasn't in there, but I blocked it anyway. The next day, the door was wide open. The chair was pushed out of the way. I don't like her.

I tried many, many, many tricks. 

I blocked the door.
I took everything out of the closet.
I tried to take the door off, but could not work the screwdriver.
I set a trap to fall on her head.
I put glue on the floor.

Nothing worked. Some nights I saw her. Some nights I didn't. But she never got caught or fell or cried.

Then, I remembered. I'm a big man. My dad said so. I had to do something.

That night, I talked to her. I am the smartest boy in my class. My grandma said so. But I hadn't thought of this until now. So, after hundreds and millions and thousands of nights, I said hello.

She didn't do anything.

I said what do you want.

She lifted her arm and used her come-to-me finger. She wanted me to come to the closet where she was.

I shook my head. I was not scared. But I don't hang out in closets with girls. She closed the door and I fell asleep.

The next night, she came right up to my bed. I was not scared. I'm a big man. My dad said so. But when she tried to touch me, I pulled away. She was very cold. I don't like cold.

And I am very smart. The human body is supposed to be 98.6 degrees. I learned that in a book. That girl must be sick and needs to wear warmer clothes. I would not be happy to be that cold. But she doesn't look happy. Maybe it is because she is cold.

That night, I put a blanket in the closet for her. It was on the top shelf, but she might not have known it was there. I put it on the floor.

She stepped out of the closet again that night. I told her about the blanket. She pointed back to the closet. I got out of bed to show it to her. She stepped inside and reached out to pull me in with her. I was not scared. I am a big man. And I don't sleep in closets.

I've been talking to her more and more, but she never answers me. She just points to the closet. If I get too close, she tries to pull me in. I always win. I am a big man and she is just a girl. She can't pull me in. 

One night, I was sitting on the floor and she was sitting in the closet. I was talking to her and trying to ask her name. She never answers or says anything. I am really not scared of her now.

I wasn't scared before. Because I am a big man. My dad said so, but I am really not scared now.

I asked her her name and where her mom and dad were, but she just sat there. Like she always just sits there. But this time, she jumped up and with both hands wanted me to come in the closet with her.

I told her I don't sit in closets with girls. She started bouncing and trying to get me to come in. She had never been so excited before. She usually didn't move much.

I heard a loud thump outside my bedroom. I heard voices outside I did not know. That does not sound like dad. I looked back to the closet and the girl looked like she was trying to speak. She had never tried before. She was reaching out her hands to me.

I stood up and heard people running around inside the house. I was not scared. I'm a big man. I went to my bedroom door to find out who was here. When I got close, the door flew open. Two boys older than me ran in.

"This is my room!"
        "No, it's mine!"

The bigger one punched the smaller one and they started rolling around on the floor wrestling.

I yelled for them to get out and called for my dad. I wasn't scared. I'm a big man, but there were two boys and they were bigger than me.

The fighting boys almost ran into me and I stumbled back to not get hurt. Before I could get my balance, the girl yanked me into the closet. I wasn't scared, but needed to catch my breath. I sat there with the girl and she was smiling. I had never seen her smile.

I took a breath and started to stand. The girl put her hand on my shoulder and shook her head. Her hand wasn't cold any more. She was getting better. I was happy for her.

Then, the closet door slammed shut. The fighting boys had bumped into it and shut it. I couldn't get it open again. I wasn't scared, but I don't sit in closets with girls.

The girl put her hand on mine to stop me from trying the door. But I wanted out.

I heard a loud scream outside, "You boys stop it! We just got here. Go help unload the boxes. NOW!"

Then I heard the boys stomp out of the room, but I still couldn't open the door. I tried harder and harder, but it wouldn't move. I wasn't scared.

The girl whispered in my ear, "It's okay."

She took my hand and led me away from the door. The closet seemed much bigger than before. I couldn't even see the back. I followed her. I wasn't scared.

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is G for Ghost Story.

Friday, April 9, 2021

F - Fairy Tale - #AtoZChallenge

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a handsome prince. The prince would spend his days riding his horse through the forest and enjoying the beauty of nature. He would go swimming in the lake and meet up with his friends in town to laugh and sing. He had a good life. He had an easy life. He was a very happy prince.

Except for one thing.

His father, the king, was growing older. The king kept reminding the prince that he needed to be married soon and start a family. If the prince did not marry, there would be no one to take his place if something happened to him. There always had to be another son to take the place of the father. Having no king, even for a short time, meant chaos for the kingdom.

The prince never looked his father in the eyes during these talks. "I understand, father."

"I don't think you do. It's not just what would happen IF something would happen to you. It is what WOULD happen. If you are king and don't have a prince son to be the next king, you would be in danger of someone getting rid of you to try to take your place. This is why the next in line must already exist. The good of the kingdom depends on it."

Despite the prince's promises to find a wife, the king began to search for the right woman to one day be queen. He reached out to surrounding kingdoms to inquire about their princesses. He sent word to the lords of his realm to ask about their daughters. Many were interested. Every week, a new announcement was made of an arriving caravan carrying a high-born father who was hopeful about the chance for his daughter to be the future queen and secure an alliance with their families. There were many women who wanted this honor as well. The palace was swamped with requests from surrounding realms to be invited to meet the prince.

The prince always attended these ceremonies and met with every princess and high-born daughter that had traveled to meet him. Some he did not like right away. Others he gave a chance, but a walk through the garden with them helped him realize he didn't want to spend years married to them. He tried to be fair, for his father's sake, but he just wasn't meeting a woman he liked. As the months went by, the king grew more and more impatient. All this pressure made the prince less happy every day.

One morning he saddled his horse early and rode off into the forest to enjoy a quiet day away from the disappointed eyes of his father. Deep in the forest, he got off his horse near a quiet creek to eat his lunch under a tree and listen to the birds singing. Enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest, he soon forgot his troubles and drifted off to sleep.

Soon, he was awakened by someone gently shaking his shoulder.

"Sir, sir, are you alright?"

He opened his eyes and saw a lovely woman standing over him. The prince was smitten immediately. "Who are you?" he asked with wonder.

"My name is Samra. I live just over the hill there. I came to get water today and when I saw you there so still I thought you were were hurt."

The prince was even more in awe at the sound of her voice. He stood up quickly to introduce himself, but his sudden movement startled Samra and she jumped back.

The prince realized he frightened her and started to apologize, but he got a head rush from standing too quickly and started to swoon. Samra immediately stepped forward to steady him. As soon as he felt her touch on his arm, he knew he was in love.

Not wanting to scare her off, the prince decided to play it cool and come back prepared to court her. "It was lovely to meet you and thank you for your kindness. I hope I see you again."

"If you ever come back this way, you probably will. I don't venture far from my home." She flashed him a beautiful smile as he whistled for his horse. He was soon speeding back to the palace to tell his father he had met the woman he was going to marry.

The king was not excited that he had chosen a commoner to be his bride, but training a commoner on how to be royalty was better than having no one as queen. He gave his approval.

The next day, the prince dressed in his finest silks and selected the strongest stallion from the stables. He wanted to display his wealth and influence to impress her. He armored forty aides to accompany him to Samra's house to declare his love to her.

Upon arriving at Samra's house, the aides and assistants lined up in two formations in her front yard. The prince, with his back straight and head held high, rode between the two perfectly-lined groups and called out her name. No one answered.

He called again.


He dismounted and approached the front door of the modest cottage. He knocked and heard a feeble voice. "Coming."

After a few minutes, the door slowly creaked open and a frail old man stood in the doorway. "Oh, there are so many of you. What can I do for you gentlemen? Would you all like some tea? Let's see, there's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven..."

"I am here seeking Samra. Do I have the correct house?"

"Samra is my granddaughter. She's at the market right now. I hope she is getting more tea. Come to think of it, I don't think I even have more than four or five teacups. Oh, dear. Where are my manners? Come in. Come in. Oh, no. That won't do at all. I have only two chairs. Stay where you are. I'll be right back."

He turned around to head back into the house. "I'll start the kettle going. You're going to have to share cups."

Exasperated, the prince turned around and saw Samra giving apple slices to his horse.

"Hello, again," she said. "I see you've met my grandfather."

"I did. He is very hospitable." 

"Yes, he is. How can we help you?"

"I wanted to thank you for your concern yesterday and be honest with you."

Samra raised her eyebrows in surprise, "Did you lie to me yesterday? You really didn't say much at all."

The prince continued, "I am the prince of this land. You were helping the future king."

Samra nodded and gave the horse another slice of apple, "Yes. I saw the royal insignia on your sleeve. It wasn't as big and shiny as the one on your chest today, but I recognized it. No need to thank me. I was just asking if you were alright. I did nothing."

"But, Samra, you did everything. You are the loveliest creature I have ever laid eyes on and I have come to ask for your hand and make you my queen."

Samra smiled, "No. Thank you." She turned and headed toward the house.

The prince had never considered that his offer might be rejected. "Wait!"

Samra, almost to the door, looked over her shoulder. "Did you need something else?"

The baffled prince answered, "You don't want to be queen?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it. But I do know I don't want to marry a man I just met yesterday." She stepped inside her house and shut the door.

The prince rode slowly back to the palace with his head hung low. He hadn't experienced much rejection in his life and wasn't handling it well.

When the king heard the news, he couldn't help but laugh at his son. "This girl did not say she would not marry you. She said that she could not marry a man she didn't know. It was an invitation to court her. Go let her get to know you. Show her you are worthy of her hand. Then, she will say yes."

The prince realized his father was right. He would win her. Starting the next morning, the prince spent his days in the forest near her house hoping to run into her. Most days, he was able to see her and talk to her. They took walks through the trees and he occasionally accompanied her to the market. He would even carry her things for her.

One day, after spending several weeks together, she gave him a kiss on the cheek as he was about to depart. "Ah," he exclaimed. "You are beginning to like me."

She furrowed her eyebrows, "Whatever do you mean? I have always liked you."

"You rejected my proposal of marriage."

Samra laughed. "Liking someone you just met and wanting to get married are hardly the same feeling. You seem like a sweet guy. That's enough for now."

The prince didn't like it, but he understood. "So, maybe we could get married someday?"

Samra sighed, "I love my life here. It is so peaceful and quiet. Keeping court behind tall walls sounds boring and stuffy. The clothes look so uncomfortable. Plus, I have my grandfather to take care of. He still asks when all my new friends are coming back to have tea. He had me buy more cups."

"Samra, your grandfather can come to live with us. We'll have dozens of servants to take care of him and us. Life will be great for us, your grandfather and our children."

She looked at him with wide eyes, "What children?"

The prince smiled from ear to ear, "The many children we will have. One will be a son that will be the next king after me."

Samra pulled away from the prince. "I've never really felt that I wanted children. And I certainly would never have a child who already had his whole life planned out for him. That is not a life for anyone. I don't think you should come around anymore. I will never be able do what you want me to."

The prince pleaded with her, but she would not budge. She was very polite, but tried to get him to understand they had very different goals in life. Plus, being royalty is not something everyone yearns to be. The prince went home defeated.

Weeks later, the king came to see him in his chambers to convince him to get out of bed and continue his search for a wife. But the prince didn't want another woman. He only wanted Samra. The king knew the fate of the kingdom was possibly at stake, so he sent for the old witch who lived deep in the woods. He was willing to do anything to get his son into a better mood and moving again.

The witch came and listened to the king's story. She claimed a simple love potion would solve this problem. She returned the next day with a small bag of powder and gave the king instructions on its use.

The king rushed to his son's chambers and explained what he had done. The prince was doubtful, but was cheered slightly to learn that there was still hope of winning the woman he loved. He left the palace that night to do as his father told him.

The prince went to Samra's house and sprinkled the powder on the windowsill of Samra's bedroom. The witch said the person sleeping in that room would fall hopelessly in love with the person who placed the powder. He did his job and went back home.

The prince awoke the next morning to a servant knocking on his bedroom door. There was someone here to see him.

When the prince came downstairs, Samra was there talking excitedly with the king. When she saw the prince she ran into his arms and started kissing him. The witch's powder had worked. Samra was infatuated with the prince.

The prince sent for her grandfather to move into the palace and joyfully started making plans for the royal wedding.

Everyone was in attendance at the wedding. Lords and ladies from all over the realm came to offer gifts and their good wishes. It was the event of the generation. Everything went splendidly.

Within a few months, it was announced Princess Samra was with child and the kingdom rejoiced. 

She gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The prince could not have been more proud of his beautiful wife and son.

However, deep in the woods there was a disturbance among the animals. The old witch, who was very very old, had grown sick. She spent many of her days in bed and the numerous spells she had cast over the years were growing weaker. The animals she had enchanted no longer brought her the herbs and spices she needed for her spells. Some of these herbs were for making the potions she used to prolong her life.

Soon she grew too weak to rise and she died alone in the forest late one night.

At the instant of her death, all the power of her magic died with her. Samra awoke suddenly in the night in terror. She remembered everything she had done for the last few years, but had no idea why. All she knew was that she had been a slave trapped in her own body unable to say and do the things she felt. Her life had been a nightmare as she married this man she had previously rejected. Her body forced her to smile and wave at people who came to see the royal family in court. For years, she had wanted to scream as her unwanted husband bedded her. She had wanted nothing more but to escape, but her body would not cooperate.

She looked over at his sleeping body and felt the hatred rush through her as he slept there smiling. She didn't know how he had done it, but he was the cause of all her suffering for the last few years. The last time she was in control of her own body, she had rejected him. He had to be the one behind it.

She slipped out of bed and picked up the dagger on the table. She tiptoed back to her sleeping husband and slit his throat. His eyes opened and looked at her in fear and confusion as he clutched at his bleeding throat.

She raised the dagger above her head and shouted, "NO MEANS NO!" as she brought it down again and buried it deep in his chest.

All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is F for Fairy Tale.

This post was inspired by the idiot who has been leaving all the spam on the blogs I've been reading this week. The spammer keeps suggesting the reader contact a "spellcaster" to make your life better. She uses the story of how her cheating husband came crawling back to her after contacting this person. It disgusted me. This story grew out of that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

E - Era Driven - #AtoZChallenge

When Maggie woke up, she saw her brothers slipping into their overalls. Burrell always tried to do this morning task silently to not wake his sisters, but Arthur always ruined it. He was far too clumsy to do anything without disturbing most of the county. Their dad said Arthur was born with seven left feet and he's gained a few since then. 

The boys had to get up extra early today to milk the cows before joining their father to fix the barn roof torn up by last week's tornado. Burrell was happy they had four less cows to milk because of that tornado, but Dad had no sense of humor about it.

Maggie tried to go back to sleep since she knew she still had about an hour before her sister would wake her, but it was proving to be impossible. She was just too excited. They were taking the wagon into town to visit the county store. She had been looking forward to this trip because it would be the first time she and her sister went into town without their mom or dad. This was a big day. 

Maggie's older sister, Roberta, had just turned twelve on Tuesday. In their house, turning twelve years old meant having adult responsibilities and Roberta was very excited to take on her new role. Today was going to be one of her first big tasks outside of her new household chores. Because Dad and the boys were going to be busy all day working on the barn and Mom had to stay in bed because of a fever, Roberta was the one to make the run into town this week.

Maggie was only six years old, so she had to go along since there would be no one to watch her at home. Roberta had always been Maggie's best friend and playmate and she couldn't wait to spend a day in town alone with her sister. Town was six miles away, so it took almost two hours to get there. They were going to be gone all morning. All by themselves. No parents.

Maggie was pulling water from the well for the dogs when she heard her father calling that it was time for them to go. He had harnessed the horses and the wagon was ready. Maggie ran as fast as she could and crawled up onto the bench seat beside Roberta who was getting some last-minute reminders from Dad about caring for the horses. Roberta listened intently and promised to do everything her father instructed.

Dad paused and patted her knee. "I know you'll be fine. Keep an eye on your sister. We'll save lunch for you."

Roberta whipped the reins and they started moving. Maggie was bouncing in her seat as they exited the farm. She smiled up at Roberta, who was intently watching the road and sitting very straight. She was taking this errand very seriously. Maggie beamed, "At school, Anne told me they have new ribbons in the fabric store. I can't wait to see the bright colors."

Without breaking eye contact with the bumpy road, Roberta replied, "Everything we are to get is at the general store. We aren't going to look at ribbons."

Undeterred, Maggie went on. "The fabrics are almost right across the street from the general store. I can look while you get the things in the store."

"No, Dad said I am to keep my eye on you. You can't get out of my sight."

Maggie hung her head. "Okay," but excitedly looked up, "We could get some caramels or butterscotch!" She beamed up at Roberta.

Roberta looked straight ahead. "Dad gave me a list. Sweets are not on it and this is not a play day. We get there, fill the list, and come home. Got it?"

Maggie plopped back in her seat and crossed her arms. "You were more fun when you were eleven."

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter E
All this month, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. A new post will go up every day (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as the starting off point. My theme for the month is literary genres. I am writing in a different genre of flash fiction each day. Today's letter is E for Era-Driven.