Burned (Fiction)

scroll down to the inspiration notes for a link to the photo that REALLY inspired this story :)
scroll down to the inspiration notes for a link to the photo that REALLY inspired this story :)

I leaned on the rickety horse fence an’ stared at the only standing wall of my home. My gaze settled on the sheer fabric flappin’ in the wind. Mama helped me sew them curtains when I got married an’ moved here with Roy fourteen years ago.

“I been sayin’ that one of these gosh darn days you’d burn the place down. Well, ya’ finally gone and done it,” Gertie said with arms folded across her ample chest. Her already thin lips pressed into an even thinner line.

I knowed Gertie ever since we was knee high to a grasshopper.  She meant well, but bein’ two years older, she tried to be the boss of me. She shoulda asked Roy- I don’t need nobody to be my boss.

“So what was it this time?” Gertie asked. “Lamp tipped over? Quilt caught fire after burnin’ loose thread? Log rolled outta the fireplace and caught yer rug on fire?”

Me an’ fire went back a long way. I useta steal papa’s flint and would spark grass after school. No amounta Gertie’s scolding could make me stop. Like men at a saloon on Saturday night, my relationship with fire tended to get outta hand an’ somethin’ always got burned. “No. Not any those things,” I mumbled.

“You gonna make me pull it outta ya? What happened?”

“Stove burnt up.”

She furrowed her brow. “Stove burnt up? How in the-” She paused and took a deep breath. “Even fer you, that’s a stretch. How in tarnation could ya’ burn up somethin’ that’s supposed to hold fire?”

“My potholder caught fire gettin’ biscuits.”

“And Roy couldn’t snuff it out?” Gertie threw me a skeptical look.

I focused on the billowing white cloth, rather than Gertie’s scrutiny. “It burnt too fast. No way he coulda stopped it.” On account of I’d already knocked him upside the head with my cast iron skillet an’ threw lard on the flames. I didn’t say that part, though.

“How come you got out an’ he didn’t”

I sighed. “I dunno”. I din’t wanna say no more, but my tongue kept goin’. “Maybe ‘cause I wasn’t hung over after boozin’ all night and rompin’ with Angie Flowers.”

Gertie gasped. “Roy wouldn’t do that. Mighta been a dim-witted fool, but no man could be that daft.”

“Ernie was.”

Gertie’s eyes narrowed. “I oughta slap yer smart mouth!”

“Just statin’ fact. Yer husband was a daft fool, indeed.” I nudged her elbow. “Why else would Ernie dally with her an’ leave you waitin’ alone?”

Gertie let out a sigh and a wistful smile played on her lips. “S’pose so. Prob’ly got what he deserved with that plow, ya’ know.”

I smiled. ‘S’pose he did.” I’d never tell it wasn’t no accident.

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Inspiration:  The photo at the beginning of this story wasn’t actually what inspired this story - this one was.  Writing a story for Emilio’s photo was kind of a side challenge, and I’m all for anything that distracts me from what I should be working on.  Squirrel!!

Seriously, though, this was a nice break from some other projects, but it’s back to work now.  Oh- if you are feeling the stress of the holidays, I’m going to share the secret to surviving in my next post.  I discovered this “secret” last Christmas from an elderly woman who lives in town.  I hope you’ll stop by and check it out :)

The First Supper (fiction) & Emilio Pasquale Photo

Photo courtesy of Emilio Pasquale (click photo to view his site)
Photo courtesy of Emilio Pasquale (click photo to view his site)

Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.

“Are you okay, Mackie?”

She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.

“I’m not so sure.”

“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”

“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.

Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”

“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”

She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”

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In Hiding (Micro-Fiction)

11-19 Pipe

Shielding her eyes from the mid-day sun, Geri stumbled from the opening of the shallow cave that had been her shelter. Her muscles twitched after huddling in the small space for so long.

Her head swirled as if she’d been blindfolded and spun in circles. A relieved sigh escaped when she spotted the water pipeline in the distance. Before time ran out, they’d agreed to meet there.

Geri slumped against a support pole, borrowing a sliver of shade. Growing sleepy under the warming rays, silence augmented her isolation.

Maybe she won?

Hide-and-seek (or winning) never felt so lonely.

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I decided to go ‘short’ for a couple reasons (1) to give your eyes a break (most of my fiction ends up being around 1,000 words) and (2) to practice writing short again.  I’m hoping to come up with an entry for a micro-fiction contest but it’s been months since I’ve attempted to write a story in 100 words or less.  This one came in at 98 words.

There really wasn’t any inspiration for this, other than this photo I had on hand, taken earlier this year during a hike on the Mogollon Rim (Arizona.)  I’d hoped the story would have an end-of-the-world feel at the beginning, the twist being the revelation that it was a game of hide-and-seek.

Whether it worked or not, I don’t know – you tell me!  (Really, I would love the feedback :) )

Have a great Thursday!

Wishes (Short Fiction)

10-31 necklace

“Can you tell me again why I’m here?” I searched the eyes of the white-bearded man perched next to me on the rotted log.

He sighed. “Child, I tell ya ev’ry day. Perhaps it’s me fate… I’ll tell ya again.” He shifted his weight and winced, rubbing his lower back. “Thirteen years plus thirteen days ago, I found ya sittin’ on this here log.

“How did I get here?”

“Gittin’ to it.”

He expelled a series of phlegmy coughs that made my insides shiver.

“You leant on this log. So I ask ya, ‘girlie, what’s yer name?’ Ya said nothing. Then, I seen the amulet around yer neck.” He lifted a polished arrowhead dangling from a leather cord. “It’s just like mine, ‘cept yers has ribbon, too.”

I felt for my necklace and rubbed the arrowhead between my thumb and index finger.

“I knew then, ya seen Nukpana.” He cleared his throat. “Fer centuries, she’s granted wishes, an cast spells. Yer grateful at first… til misery sets in.”

I furrowed my brow. “How did she find us?”

“We invite her. All it takes is tears an repeatin’ our heart’s desire three times.” He frowned. “Cain’t resist the evil lure of makin’ pain go away.”

“What was my wish?”

He stared at me for several seconds before turning his attention toward his hands. He rubbed his finger over his ridged thumbnail. “Ya wanted to forget.”

“Forget what?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Only one person knew; an’ she asked to forget.”

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Unknown Fears (Fiction)

10-9 Grass

Stacy brushed her hand over her bare calf to swat away whatever tickled her skin. They swished through knee-high grasses encroaching on the skinny dirt trail leading to the “perfect camping spot.” Those were her boyfriend’s words- not hers.

At that moment, Kenny turned and smiled. “Keeping up okay?”

She glared, even though he couldn’t get the full effect through her dark sunglasses. “Are we almost there?”

“Another half mile, I think.” He turned and continued on the path.

Stacy shifted the pack and winced when she moved the strap that had been digging into her hip for the last two hours. Her friends thought she was nuts for agreeing to go on this trip, but she had a feeling he planned to propose. After dating for three years, she didn’t want to miss it. Still, she couldn’t figure out what gave him the impression she would enjoy this.

Nearly an hour later they stopped and peered down an embankment.

“I’ll help you down,” he said, offering his left hand.

She shook her head. “It’s too steep. Can’t we just set up the tent here?”

“On the trail?” He laughed. “You can do this.”

“I don’t think my shoes are grippy en-“

He tugged her down the slope before she could finish her protest.

A few feet from flat ground, she lost her footing. Kenny’s body broke her fall. “Sorry,” she muttered before rolling to the side. The momentum flipped her onto her back.

He gasped a few breaths. “There. We made it.” He pointed to the left, toward a thicket of scrub oak trees. “We can camp there.”

Stacy felt like a turtle overturned on its shell since her abdominal muscles couldn’t right her while strapped to a thirty-pound pack. Grateful, she accepted his extended hand and ignored the barely-stifled snicker.

After they pitched the tent, he cooked pork and beans over a campfire. As he cleaned the dishes, she paused to listen to the creek. She watched the water rush over rocks, creating mini whitecaps. She had to admit; it was pretty here. She turned toward a scraping noise behind her and saw Kenny hoisting their packs into a tree with a rope he’d thrown over a sturdy branch. “What are you doing?”

He paused. “Stowing our packs.”

“Why not put them in the tent?”

“Bears.” He grunted as he threw his weight into a pull.

“Bears?” Panic edged into her voice.

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