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.

Silence.

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 I 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 he 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?"

"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 bought 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.

Monday, April 5, 2021

D - Dystopian - #AtoZChallenge

Allen and Michael had finally finished securing the glass entryway on the front of the store when Lora showed up with lunch. 

"Baked beans or ravioli?" she held up a can of each.

Michael unsheathed the knife on his belt and worked to open the beans. "These are going to get old pretty fast. We've got to get more food." 

Allen shook his head at his son. "I know these won't last forever, but we have enough for a few weeks. Things need to settle down a little out there before we go out again."

With cold ravioli sauce still on her lips, Lora spoke up, "Dad, I agree with Mikey. There's a grocery store less than a block from here. Let's go stock up."

Allen knew the store was a magnet for everyone in town in the same situation. There were just too many desperate people willing to do whatever they had to do to feed themselves and their families. "No. It's too dangerous. People are still panicking and being irrational. It's safe in here."

Lora retreated back to the comfort of her can of cold pasta, but Michael had always been willing to stand up to his father. "Dad, every minute that goes by, the less food and things will be there. It may be empty already. We have to move now."

Allen was unwilling to risk the safety of his children. When they had to flee their home due to the unruly mobs that had grown more and more unpredictable in the last few days, Allen intentionally chose this hardware store as their target. It didn't have much food, but there were lots of supplies that may come in handy later and it was a very secure building. The small gun counter in the back meant they had the means to protect themselves. Food was definitely going to be important, but that seemed to be the whole town's focus at the moment. The nearer anyone got to potential food sources, the more dangerous it was as people fought to be the person to take their discoveries for themselves.

Allen was actually surprised at how well his children were handling things. They were scared and had their panicked moments, but the atrocities they saw on their grisly adventure to get to this store still bounced around in Allen's head. No one had mentioned anything they witnessed out there in the chaos.

Allen scooped out the last of his beans and declared that he was going to take a nap. He hadn't really slept since he saw the mushroom cloud in the distance and could not go on like this forever. No power, no radio or TV, and no phone service meant no news of what was going on. He knew he had to be alert, but it was time to try to sleep so they could come up with a plan for tomorrow.

As soon as he stepped to the back of the store, Michael whispered to Lora, "Let's give him 30 minutes and we'll sneak out the service entrance. We'll be loaded up and back before he knows we're gone."



 
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 D for Dystopian.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

C - Children's - #AtoZChallenge

I love a good story. Stories are some of my most favoritest things. My Mom says I have always liked stories. When I was very little, my dad would read to me every night when I went to bed.

I would always be sad when the story was over. I wanted to hear more.

When we went to Grandpa's house, he always had great stories about when he was a little rabbit. I loved to listen to what he used to do when he was my age. My mom says his stories are too long and sometimes not appropriate. I don't know what that means. I love all of them.

When I got older, I started to go to school. The best part of the day was when the teacher pulled out a book. Those books always had some great stories.


I just couldn't get enough stories. I heard every story in the whole world. One day, I was feeling sad because I had no more stories to hear. My mom and dad had read me every book in the house and all the books at the library. I like to hear some stories again, but that day I wanted a new one.

My dad said, "Why don't you make your own story?"

 

My dad made things all the time, but they weren't stories. He just made pictures. I like pictures, but stories are better. I decided if I wanted to have a new story, I would have to make one myself. So, I got to work.

 


For days, I worked on my story. I didn't do anything else. I wrote lots of words and even made some pictures like my dad does. All the best books have pictures anyway. I worked very hard.

When I was done, Mom sent my story away to have it made into a real book. She said we could keep it for always if it had a cover on it. It was gone forever. But one day it came back.

 

 

The postman said he had been watching for me. He ran straight to my house the day he saw it. I was so excited even though I already knew the story.


 

I loved it. Mom said it was the best story she had ever read, so I gave myself a prize. This is my story.



 
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 C for Children's.

All Art for this post was by Tanner Garlick!

B - Bizarro - #AtoZChallenge

Gren's hands were shaking as he stepped into the the butterfly pens. There was only three hours until the championship game and he was nervous. He came to the pens early to dust his butterfly's wings one more time and clean her antennae. Coach always said that cleaning the antennae doesn't make any difference, but it was a practice Gren learned early from his father and couldn't give it up. Plus, Spicy seemed to enjoy it.

Spicy was a Giant Spicebush Swallowtail (papilio troilus giganticus) Gren had raised from a caterpillar larva. Gren's grandfather gave him the egg for his seventh birthday and told him this one would be special if it was cared for properly. Gren had always taken that seriously. He even rubbed a family-secret vitamin oil compound on Spicy's chrysalis every morning and night when she was in her pupa stage. Gren was so thankful when Spicy went pupa. Caterpillars are notoriously hungry and can be quite aggressive. She had grown to a little over four feet long and was getting difficult to control. Gren knew half a dozen kids at school who had lost fingers to their ravenous pets.

When Spicy emerged after four months of metamorphic coma, the new butterfly had a wingspan of almost seven feet. The vitamins had done their work. Gren started her training immediately. He had been excited to be the first to use a swallowtail at his school. Swallowtails weren't as colorful as some of the more highly preferred species for this sport, but her size was often intimidating to the other fliers and she was fast.

Gren checked over all the straps on the saddle to ensure everything was in working order. Regulations stated they were not to be fitted until immediately before the match and supervised by those officiating. This being the championship, these extra details were more strongly enforced. Once satisfied with the saddle's condition, he tried to get his head in the game. Gren had earned his spot on the team and had fought hard to make it this far, but the pressure was immense.

Butterflies in some of the other stalls started stirring around as more of his teammates trickled in. Everyone was getting ready and giving their butterflies nectar treats to calm them. Wings were dusted, thoraxes rubbed, and saddles oiled. Everyone seemed ready to go.

Butterflies are easily excitable, so in the confines of the stables talking and fast movements by the riders were forbidden. The quiet time before a match was a treasured time for Gren. As long as they were still in the stables, no one could give him a hard time about Spicy. Everyone else had bought their butterflies from a breeder or trainer. One of his teammates only acquired his a week before the start of the season. Only one of his teammates was even present when his butterfly emerged from its cocoon. It is common practice for people to buy well-bred, pre-trained fliers. However, Gren was very proud of the fact that he had raised Spicy from birth and trained her himself. No one else seemed to be impressed though. And the dull colors of his butterfly did not help to curb the teasing when most of his team rode butterflies with bright orange, yellow, or blue wings.

None of this mattered right now. Gren had proven that he and Spicy were valuable members of this team and had helped in getting the team to the championship. In fact, one of Spicy's maneuvers was instrumental in securing the win to reach the playoffs. He needed to stop being to unsure of himself.

The flower bell was rung to signal it was 30 minutes until game time. Everyone led their butterflies out to the edge of the field to saddle and harness in front of the officials. 

As Gren was waiting to secure the saddle, the official inspecting Spicy for any illegal contraband pointed out that she was in heat. NO! Butterflies in heat are primary targets in the third period when the breeders are released onto the playing field. Gren was going to really have to be on his game tonight. Playing a low-game would have to be his strategy. Stay close to the ground and let the breeders harass the colorful fliers higher in the sky.

After inspections were approved and everyone saddled up, the commissioner stepped out to the field for the ceremonial spinning of the hazard wheel. This was only done for championship games. An extra hazard would be added to the field to further test the skill of the players.

Gren had his fingers crossed for a sonic hazard. He had worked with Spicy for years training her to react to his shadow paddles. She was skilled at ignoring audio stimuli and allowing Gren to steer her.

The commissioner spun the wheel and the players waited to hear the announcement. The wheel slowly came to a stop and the head official declared "FROGS" for all to hear. Six cages each holding 12-foot long bullfrogs were wheeled onto the field.

Gren dropped his head. Staying low to ground to avoid the breeders would no longer be an option. Being swallowed by a bullfrog would be much worse.

The countdown timer began as both teams mounted the saddles. Gren let out a long breath. This would be the game of his life.

 

Spicebush Swallowtail



#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter B
 
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 B for Bizarro.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A - Adventure - #AtoZChallenge

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

Trina ignored her brother's complaining as she wrapped his ankle. She always carried a first aid kit if her klutzy sibling was going anywhere with her. He complained a lot, but these occasional excursions were the only time they got to spend together since she went off to college. 

"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."

Trina knew that Terry was right. This was her thing. She loved the outdoors and being in the forest. That's why she was studying to be a conservation officer. On her extended weekends when she got to come home, she wanted to share her life and new knowledge with her brother.

"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 shot back, "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."

Trina had tried many times to force her brother to love the outdoors like she did, but it never worked. She had been slowly coming to the realization that it was never going to happen. Maybe she needed to be the one to be a bit flexible if she was going to maintain her relationship with her brother. "I'm sorry. Surely, we can find some common ground. 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 pouted, "I don't think I can walk. Call an Uber."

Trina chuckled at her brother as she positioned herself under his arm to get him to his feet and help him limp back to the car. It was going to take a while. They had been hiking for over an hour before Terry hurt himself. Plus, Terry wan't known for making things easier.

As Terry slowly moved each foot, even with Trina's help, she thought she might be able to distract him. "Have you gotten any new games since my last visit?"

It took a little prodding to get him talking, but soon he 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. It seemed to be working. He still had a considerable limp, but discussing things he was excited about seemed to take his mind off his injury and they were moving much faster.

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. It wasn't big enough for Trina to continue supporting Terry to get him across. He had to do it on his own slowly with very little pressure on the painful ankle. She walked backwards in front of him holding his hand to lead him along and provide a little support for balance, but she could not alleviate his weight.

About halfway across, a sudden crack and loud grunting-type noise startled Trina and she lost her balance as an awakened deer scrambled away from under the tree. She hit the bottom of the creek bed hard and wrenched her knee. Somehow, Terry did not fall. Shaken, he yelled down to her, "Trina are you alright?"

Through gritted teeth and holding back tears, she waved him to continue toward the end of the log. "I don't know yet. I've hurt my knee. Give me a minute."

Terry edged his way to the other side of the creek and eased himself down on the edge of the creek to extend a hand. "Come on. I got you." 

Trina tried to stand, but every movement shot pain through her knee. She looked up at Terry and tried not to cry. The pain was so bad. She knew she would be okay eventually. It was not a major injury, but it stopped her movement for the moment and they were stuck out in the woods.

She drug herself to the bank of the creek where Terry was and could not reach his outstretched hand. Trying to get into a better position to raise herself was excruciating. Plus, Trina was positive that even if she could grab his hand, he would probably get pulled in rather than her get pulled up and out.

Half-laughing and half-crying, she called up to Terry. "Sorry about giving you a hard time for bringing your phone. 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."

Despite this being another setback, Trina let out a low laugh. "We have ourselves in a fix don't we? Terry, you're going to need to suck it up and limp yourself back to the car? My phone will be fully charged. Got it?"

"Yeah, but…I've never been here before. I have no idea where I am. I've been following you the whole time."

Trina remembered. She had discovered this place on her last trip home and wanted to share it with him. "That's right. How about this? You still move better than I do. Can you find a section of creek that is not as steep or deep? The creek here is almost as deep as I am tall. You find a shorter section and we'll see what we can do."

"OK. I'll try."

Trina heard him shuffling through the fallen leaves and allowed herself to cry. She had been trying to keep the tears away when he was close enough to see her. She always liked to be seen as the strong, responsible older sister.

Then, it started to rain. Trina heard Terry's distant shout of frustration, "SERIOUSLY? I hate it out here."

Despite the pain and circumstances, she couldn't help but laugh. "I think we've had enough adventure for today."



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

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 A for Adventure.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

It's A to Z Time Again

Every year, I have to decide if I am going to do the A to Z Challenge again. And I don't know why I even have to think about it. I have done it four times (2013, 2016, 2018, 2019) and loved the experience every time.
 

 

The most difficult part for me each year is deciding on a theme. In 2019 I got very personal a wrote each day about a person who greatly influenced my life. That was a great month. It led to many great conversations and phone calls with old friends and got pretty sappy a few times. I reread those posts often. But this year, I decided to really try to stretch myself.
 


I am going to try flash fiction all month. I have only done flash fiction here once, but I was quite proud of that story (click here to read it). So, I am going to try it again, but it will be a little more complicated this time. I am going to write in a different genre each day.

I still have to map it out, but each day's genre will be decided by the letter for the day. For example, here are a few I already know I will be doing:

A - Adventure
D - Dystopian
H - Horror
R - Romance (not looking forward to this one)
S - Science Fiction
W - Western

I also will not pre-plan any story. I want every post to grow organically when I sit down to write each day. The only part of the story known ahead of time will be the genre for the day.

I honestly do not expect this to be an easy task and believe I will spend more time completing this A to Z Challenge than any I have done in the past.

First post goes up on April 1st. A new one will follow every day in April excluding Sundays.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Teaching is Hell

While many people are complaining about having to transition their lives (job, education, shopping, etc.) to doing things online, I am one of the people who was already doing that. My job is completely online. I live in Vietnam, but I do not have a job here.

I work for a Chinese company and I teach children English online. Just like any other job, some days are great and some days are terrible. Last night I had an interesting lesson.

My student was an 8 year old girl who goes by the English name Maggie. She is one of my more difficult students. She often walks away from the computer in the middle of the lesson which leaves me to sit and look at an empty room until her parents peek in the door and place her back in front of the camera. When she can be bothered enough to acknowledge my presence, she likes to ignore the lesson and just show me all of her toys. However, every now and then, she is somewhat attentive. Last night was one of those times. Almost.

The lesson was about the various ways people work with animals. It discusses sheep herding, police dogs, rescue animals, and service animals.


Since my primary purpose is actually to teach English, I always encourage a lot of extra dialogue. I want my students to practice conversing in this new language. Instruction is great, but practice is necessary to get good at anything. So, to start off, I asked Maggie to look at the picture and tell me where they are.

As usual with Maggie, I got silence. So I used the trick that works with most children. I suggested a wrong answer.

"Are they at the library?"

She shook her head.

"Well, where are they?"

 

 

Once again, I got a blank stare. Now, this girl can speak English. It is quite limited, but she understands me and could answer if she chose to. So, I cranked up my classroom personality to "clown" which is just one setting lower than "dancing monkey" and tried harder to get her to engage.

"Would you like to go there? You could throw snowballs at your sister."

Maggie leaned toward the computer and activated her pen. She often draws or writes answers instead of talking to me. She is so much fun. 😒

"Maggie, where are they?"

 

Hell? Thank you, Maggie.

While that was not the correct answer, it was engagement and I wanted to reward that. Hopefully, we could build from here. I decided to run with it.

"They are in hell? I guess they could be in hell. I know that I hate cold weather and snow." 

She furrowed her brow and shook her head. She drew under her previously written word.


AH!
Not hell, but HILL.


I thought she was making a joke about how it would be terrible to have to be there, but she was just answering my question. In English, we would probably say mountain. But her English is not that good. She took the Mandarin word (山 - Shān) which can mean mountain or steep hill and simply misspelled it. She wasn't trying to make a joke.

That explained why she never smiled the entire time. Well, that and the fact that she really doesn't like me.

But to show me that she did know what she was talking about, she labelled the rest of the picture also.

I turned to the next page, but she never did smile.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Show Me the Money!

In my last post, about losing my motorcycle keys, I mentioned that we had intended to go to Đà Nẵng to sort out some banking issues. And I hope you are ready for a thrill ride because this post is about that trip to the bank. 

Exciting…I know.

The reason for this trip was because the banking system I use is not really a bank. It is a third-party liaison designed for English-speaking foreigners to be able to easily take care of their finances. It is called TIMO (short for TIme and MOney) and it is amazing. It makes my banking so easy.

However, last month they informed all of their clients that they were cutting ties with the bank they partner with and were moving to a new bank. This meant that all of their services would stop working on a certain day. We would need to download their new app TIMO+ and pop into one of their "hangouts" to get everything switched to the new account with their new bank partner.

They call them hangouts because it sounds better than calling them offices, I guess. But they are very adamant that it is not a bank. They handle no money. They only initiate and process paperwork. And they are not bad places to hang out. They serve free drinks (including beer) while you are there.

The week before, I had popped in for my appointment to switch everything over and was informed that it wasn't really necessary unless I wanted to. I still had an account at the original bank. I just wouldn't have the third-party between us anymore.

Now, as much as I would have liked to keep the convenience of having an English-speaking go-between, I did have some concerns about switching to a new bank. I can't go into all the specifics here, but it had to do with me getting a new passport since opening the account, getting a work permit and residency card, and how Vietnamese taxes work. Going to a new bank would have made things very complicated and possibly have messed a few things up for us long-term, so I opted to stay with the bank I was already in.

Choosing to stay with the bank meant that I had to now go to that bank (for the first time), get a new banking app tied directly to them, get a new ATM card and let them know my intentions to stay. However, without the foreigner liaison service to help me, I was totally on my own and my Vietnamese is far from functional.

I have no idea what is happening.

I had gone in right after my meeting with TIMO, but their computers were down so no one could help me. Then, Typhoon Noul came through. Almost two weeks passed before I got back to the bank.

When I got there, a lovely young woman was coerced by the other tellers motioned for me to sit at her desk. She spoke ZERO English…but she recognized the word TIMO. I assume many foreigners have stepped in who were with TIMO and wanted to stay. She pulled up her computer and said "passport."

This is were everything got screwed up.

Remember when I said I had two passports? Well, I handed her the wrong one. I didn't realize what I had done until she had opened it. "Oh, wait! You need this one."

She didn't understand my words, but she did recognize that I had two passports with my picture and name in them. She got on her phone and through a translation app asked me, "Do you have documentation that these are both the same person?"

I knew I was going to be in for a long morning. My passport is my documentation. No one also carries around extra papers explaining that their passport is real. I grabbed both passports and held them up next to my face. These are me. I then pointed out the birth date on each one and the name. They are the same. I then took the new one and pocketed it. Holding the old one, I told her (for the rest of this story, remember that all communication is severely slowed and misunderstood due to having to use our phones to communicate in the different languages), "This is the one you need."

Unfortunately, she asked for my new passport back and kept looking at them side to side. She then called over other tellers to look at them. They discussed this extensively and started making phone calls. After close to an hour of their confusion (which I understand), she told me that this was a highly unusual situation and they needed to speak with their superiors. She asked for my information so she could contact me in a few days.

I had already been there for a LONG time and my patience was starting to wear thin. Although, I knew this was not their fault. I was irritated, but did not want to take it out on her. I informed her that I had had an account at that bank for two years. I understood that they might be confused about things, but I had not had access to my money for almost two weeks. She could contact anyone she likes, but I needed to get my financial situation resolved today. If I could not get money today, I would just close my account.


I really didn't want to do this because then I would have to open an account with my new passport and I wanted to avoid that if possible.

She looked at me defeated, like "What do you want me to do?"

I took a deep breath to make sure I wasn't getting too excited. Once again, this was not her fault. As frustrated as I might be, she was only doing her job. I pointed at the passport number in my old passport and asked her to type in my number. So far, she had not even looked up my account. She did as I asked and found me. I verified that the amount in the account was correct and she saw that it had my name on it. OKAY! We are starting to get somewhere. Now that I had her attention somewhere other than the extra passport, maybe I could accomplish my goal today.

In order to pay our bills, I needed to get the mobile app up and working, but that requires help from the bank. I couldn't do it all remotely. It took almost another hour of us downloading apps, sending emails back and forth, and using Facebook Messenger to share links so I could access what I needed to. I had done all of this at home, but not knowing Vietnamese meant that I had not understood the verification instructions. I was supposed to send a text message with a code to a specific number they had sent me and then take the new code they would send me back and plug it into the website. She helped me through all of it. Then she re-activated the ATM card I was already carrying.

Everything was fixed (after almost two hours) and we headed out the door. I was happy to have the passport issue behind me and prayed it would be forgotten about. I left the bank very happy to have access to our money again.

A few days later, that teller messages me.


Forgive the way it is worded. She ran this through a translator before sending to me. And I knew what she was asking. With all the confusion, they never got my new number. So, I played dumb.


Haven't heard from her since. I hope that's the end of it.

International living can be fun.