‘Stories That Leave You Thinking’ — on sale

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

My short story anthology Stories That Leave You Thinking is on sale during the whole month of June.

A collection of diverse and slightly unconventional short short stories

Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.

Paperback only — $5.00
Find it here:



 

Focus on Coffee – Day 4

I do apologize for my “Focus on Coffee” series being a little erratic where posts are concerned.  All I can say is that we’re living in erratic times, and my muse seems to be following suit. Anyway, I’m finally in the mood to do the next post in the series, so here goes. Today, I’m giving you one of my short stories with a coffee flavor. It’s actually one of several stories that will eventually make up a collection titled Elixir of Life Coffeehouse Stories. A few of you may have read this story when I wrote it originally a couple years ago, but even if you did, hopefully you’ll enjoy it again.


AS THE PLOT UNRAVELS

COFFEE & LAPTOP -- Gillie 1864 -- PX

“I don’t know what to do,” Neville groaned, rubbing his hands roughly over his face. Then he pushed his laptop out of the way and leaned both elbows onto the coffeehouse table, propping his chin in his hands.

“What’s wrong?” Clarence, the waiter bussing the table next to Neville’s, turned to question him

Neville looked up, startled. “Oh … blast … I didn’t realize I had said that out loud. Sorry,” he added looking sheepishly around the room to see if other customers had heard. He was relieved to see that Elixir of Life Coffeehouse was having one of its quieter days.

“No problem,” Clarence answered and walked over to Neville’s table. “Can I get you a refill?”

“Yeah, that would be great,” Neville answered, handing the boy his cup. “It’s been a rough writing day.”

The young man returned in record time with Neville’s refill and stayed to talk a moment. “Do you have what they call writer’s block?”

“No.” Neville shook his head and continued. “No, Clarence. This isn’t writer’s block. In fact, I almost wish I did have that dreaded condition. My problem isn’t that I can’t get the story to move along. This story is moving along at an incredible pace. The problem is that it’s writing itself, and my original plot is unraveling as fast as I can put my fingers to the keys.”

“You mean you’re not in control of your own story?” Clarence looked at Neville as if he had lost his mind — just a little. And that made Neville laugh.

“Don’t worry, my boy,” he said. “I’ve not gone bonkers yet. And … thanks for making me laugh. It helps. But to answer your question, no, I’m not in control of my own story.”

“Well, how does that happen?” Clarence asked, really into this new information he was being exposed to.

“Well it’s not too unusual for a writer to get into a novel and find that one of his characters seems to gravitate in a direction other than what he had originally planned — or that the story seems to be flowing toward an ending that’s different from what he jotted down in his outline. But what’s happening in my story is different.”

“How?”

Neville shook his head and sighed. “I’m not sure how it’s happened, but every character seems to be taking on a brand new identity and making his own decisions. The guy I had pegged as the hero has suddenly become the villain, and the woman he loves is rapidly developing feelings for his best friend — which means he will probably end up killing his best friend — he’s already entertained the idea — and maybe even offing the woman as well.”

“But does it matter who ends up being the villain and the hero — I mean — as long as you have one of each, it’ll come out even, right?”

Neville chuckled. “Well, it’s not quite that easy. My publisher assigned me a contract to do a specific kind of story. One that will be a believable sequel to my last three novels. They were moneymakers, and I’d hate to mess up a record like that. I spent the money I made on them, and now I need more.” He rubbed his face agitatedly again. “Besides that, I’d be breaking my contract if I didn’t give them what I guaranteed.”

“MmMmm, you do have a problem,” Clarence said, so engulfed in the conversation now that he just sat right down at the table beside Neville.  They both sat in silence for a moment, and then Clarence asked, “Well, why don’t you just delete all that part that changed and go back to your first chapter and start over on the story you intended to write. That would take care of it wouldn’t it?”

“Well, that’s the other problem. I’ve totally lost track of the story I intended to write … and besides ….” He paused and glanced off to the side, lost in thought for a long moment. Clarence waited, figuring Neville was trying to work out a plan.

Suddenly Neville looked back at Clarence with a smile on his face. He looked serene rather than agitated, and Clarence was a little confused. “You figure something out? How to stop this runaway story?”

“Nope,” Neville said, grinning wider. “I’m not going to stop this story, Clarence.”

“Huh?”

Neville reached over and rested his hand on Clarence’s shoulder. “Clarence, my boy, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to give this story my whole heart and soul and let it lead me wherever it wants to go.”

“But what about your contract and all?”

“Blast the contract,” Neville said, beginning to close up his laptop and slip his notes into his briefcase. “If that publisher can’t see the truth about the value of this story, then he can sue me.”

“But –”

“No more ‘but’s‘ my boy,” Neville answered, rising from his chair, laptop under his arm. “This is the best damn story I’ve ever written in my life, and I’ve just decided I’m free enough to give my creativity its own head and let it take me to my destiny.”

He slapped down his last five dollar bill as a tip for Clarence and headed out the door, whistling.


photo: courtesy of Gillie 1864 @ pixabay.com

~~~
~~~

It’s the Principle of the Thing

I was just meandering through some of my old, old flash fiction this weekend, and happened across this little story. I decided that during this unique time of absenting ourselves from routine cosmetic care, this little gem might lighten the day for a few people.


BARBER POLE - CLIPARTIT’S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING

Albert, the town barber, whistled as he walked the few blocks to his shop, key in hand. But as he rounded the corner, he saw that he had a customer impatiently waiting at the door.

“I thought you’d never get here!” the customer said.

Albert’s eyes grew round.

“Come on,” the customer urged. “Let’s get inside.”

Albert unlocked the door and followed his customer in, returning his keys to his pocket and unfolding a clean cape, while all the time never taking his eyes off his guest.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” the customer said, now in the chair. “Quick! Get me shaved.”

“Oh … I couldn’t!  I just couldn’t!” Albert said, as he gently wrapped the cape around the customer. “Why, that’s the most perfect beard I’ve ever seen.”

“What!?!?”

“Why, it’s thick and velvety, with perfect color. Every barber longs for a customer with a beard like that to care for.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!  What’s wrong with you, man?”

“I’ll delight in trimming it for you, but I could never shave it off.”

“But you must! I’m not leaving this chair until you do!”

Albert shook his head.

“Now look here,” the customer shouted. “I’ll pay you double your normal price. But get me shaved now!”

Albert looked genuinely concerned, but continued to shake his head.

“No, it would be a shame to do it” He said. “I’m very sorry if it upsets you, M’am.  But I will not shave off your beard.”

~~~

 

Laughter Is Good Medicine — Day 1

I think it’s past time for a new series from me, and in light of the heaviness weighing on people all over the world right now, I’m feeling led to offer just a touch of humor on a daily basis — for the next 7 days — in the hope it will help us laugh a little. The Word of God says, “A Merry heart does good like a medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22). And Reader’s Digest used to have a joke page with the heading “The most completely lost of all days is that on which one has not laughed.”  I agree whole-heartedly with both those sentiments. So let’s laugh a little and make ourselves feel better.

Of course, everyone has his own idea of what’s funny, but I’m going to do my best to give you a good variety of subject matter, attitude, and genre in this series. For the first installment, I’m reposting a short story from several years ago. I re-read this story myself periodically, and I have to say that I still enjoy it as much now as I did when I wrote it. I hope you do as well.

ANTHROPOLOGY 101

JUNGLE ISLAND 2

My marriage to an anthropologist was educational – and short. Herman loved his work and was really quite vain about it. He honestly believed that there was no people group that he could not figure out and eventually befriend – even when scores of others in his field had failed.

For years, he had been studying one particular tribe of natives on a tiny island in the Pacific that most ship’s captains refused as a port of call. The tribe was said to be cannibalistic, but my Herman just knew that he could convert them after explaining how much he had studied them in order to become their friend.

On looking back, I suppose that I should have put my foot down and refused when he insisted we honeymoon on the island. But he was so certain that he could convince the natives to help him with his research. So, as usual in our relationship, I acquiesced. My friends and family scolded me for my attitude. They said Herman should be treating me like a goddess rather than just ordering me around and dragging me off to some God-forsaken island to begin our marriage.

When we booked passage on the ship, we had to pay for a skiff as well because the captain told us that he would anchor far offshore, and we would have to go the rest of the way on our own. When we left the ship, he reminded us again what fools he considered us. But Herman insisted that he had everything under control.

We hadn’t been on the island more than an hour before the tribe captured us. They were quite large – both men and women – and exceedingly dark in coloring. They bound Herman immediately and tied him to a large pole at one end of their village. I was shaking like a leaf as they approached me, but they just looked at me with wide eyes and smiles, while making the most excited conversation with each other. I could understand only a very small part of what they said – mainly by their actions.

Then four of them brought a huge carrier – sort of a chair supported between two long poles and carried by the natives. One of the men – seemingly the chief – took my hand and escorted me to the chair. They then carried me ceremoniously into the center of the village and escorted me to an elevated area on which sat a throne – all inlaid with gold. I sat, still quaking inside, but almost too overcome by my curiosity to concentrate on being afraid.

Next they placed a crown of the most exquisite jewels on my head and then bowed down to the ground in front of me. Finally, I spoke and asked in my own language for an explanation. One young man came forward and spoke to me in my native tongue to explain.

Evidently my golden blond hair was a sign to them. They had been expecting the goddess of their tribe to come to them in person for many years, and the sign of her true identity was that her head would shine like the sun. So I’m to be worshiped and given every one of my heart’s desires forever. I suppose one might say that, in a way, it’s thanks to Herman that I’m being treated like a goddess.

Of course, they prepared a huge feast in celebration of my arrival, and I guess everyone would have to admit that Herman truly did give his all for the cause of getting to know this tribe of people better. Naturally, I declined any food.

I certainly miss Herman, but I have to admit that what worries me more is what will happen when my roots start to grow out.



Friday Fictioneers – 2/26/20

I don’t manage to take part in “Friday Fictioneers very often these days, but tonight I decided I just needed to write a story for the prompt. If you’re interested in taking part in writing stories of 100 words or less, hop over to Rochelle’s place and get the rules. My story this week is 99 words and is below the picture prompt, which comes to us from Dale Rogerson.

CAST ONSTAGE FOR F.F.

 

LAST CURTAIN CALL

“Look at her!” Claire whispered to Bryant standing beside her at the far right end of the line of actors. “Curtsying as if she’s greeting royalty, feigning humility when she’s loving every clap of their hands.”
“She’s a glutton for praise, all right.”
“That role should have been mine. I should have worn those gorgeous gowns instead of these ugly jodhpurs.”
“Well, at least you’re her understudy.”
“Hmmm, yes … well … not for long.”
“What, you’re quitting?” Bryant asked, shocked.
“No,” Claire said, a curious gleam in her eye. “She’s taking an unexpected leave of absence.”



 

‘Stories That Leave You Thinking …’

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

Well, I’ved dithered, and dallied, and delayed for a year. I had all kinds of excuses and reasons — some good, some not so good. But all that’s behind me now, and I FINALLY have the enlarged second edition of my short short story anthology ready for public consumption. 🙂

Yep, it’s out there: STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … (A Collection of Diverse and Slightly Unconventional Short Short Stories)

Some of you helped me choose which stories needed to be included. Many of you have read several of them over the past few years, and your response played a part in decideding which stories to include and which to leave for another project. The book contains 20 stories in all. Three of them are also featured in my Christmas anthology, but the other 17 have not been published previously in book form.

Even though the book is actually a totally new entity and will replace the old, smaller version completely, I still wanted to use the same cover. My great friend, professional photographer Bob Mielke, generously gave me permission to use his amazing work. This cover photo inspired one of the first stories to go into the book, and, as far as I was concerned, it just HAD to be the front cover. Thank again, Bob. You’re one of the “good guys.”

Here’s the blurb to tell you a little more about what you can expect if you pick up a copy of STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … .  And I hope you do — one for you and one for a friend. It’s currently available in paperback only.

“Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.”

Purchase your own copy for $6.00  from Amazon.




 

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Friday Fictioneers – 6/17/19

Friday Fictioneers this week is based on the picture prompt below by Valerie J. Barrett.

My story is below the picture.

vintage-kitchen-tools-valerie-barrett

 

SEEDS FOR A NEW BEGINNING

The old stove looked as if Granny would be scurrying back into the kitchen any minute. I could almost hear the teakettle hum. The house should have felt empty, but instead, it was rich with welcoming sights and scents.

I had come to sort and process the remnants of Granny’s life. But as I stood in her kitchen, where life still seemed so warm and real – and where cyberspace seemed like science fiction – I realized those remnants were treasures that could give my wayward life some meaning. So I decided to light up the stove, fill the teakettle, and stay a few years.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Weekend Coffee Share – 4/7/19

COFFEE - YELLOW SMILEY -- Hans PX

photo courtesy of Hans @ pixabay.com

I’ve missed taking part in the weekend coffee shares, but my schedule just didn’t leave me much time for posting. If we were having coffee on this Sunday evening, I’d tell you that this weekend has been a wild ride. But I did manage to get two important things done.

The most important was planning and officiating at a funeral for a cousin. I’ve officiated at many funerals, but this one presented a particular challenge. Many members of the family (not the ones I’m close to, thank the Lord) have been having disagreements and considerable strife about a number of things. There are so many factions who are angry with one of the other factions that one other family member who traveled with me to the service said she was concerned that after we left there might be an actual fight break out.

You can imagine what it was like to try to plan and carry out the service, when so many of the people don’t want to speak to or cooperate with others, and when almost anything you say could possibly inflame touchy feelings even more.  One woman, who stood like a stone right in my line of vision through the whole service, had such a look of hatred on her face the whole time that I was amazed she could even maintain the look and stance for such a long period. She came to the service, but did not speak to any of her brothers or sisters.

Whew!  I lived through it, and I’m trusting the Lord that some of the things I shared will actually help bring some healing to those poor troubled people.  But I’m very glad it’s over.  I cannot understand a person allowing another person’s bad treatment of him to cause that first person to become so angry and bitter that it makes him physically sick. Why hold onto bitterness and resentment?  It certainly doesn’t hurt the person one is bitter against. It hurts only the one who feels and feeds that bitterness and hatred.

But, as I said, it’s over now, and I at least did what I was supposed to do to try to help.

The other accomplishment was a new video in my “Audio Short Stories” series. I managed to get that done late Saturday night, so I’m inserting it into this post so that — just in case you’re a person who enjoys sitting back and listening to a story rather than having to read it for yourself — you can listen to it right here.

I hope all the rest of you had relaxing weekends. I’m planning on my next weekend being more quiet and laid-back. Maybe I can get some painting done. Goodness knows I need to de-stress.  🙂

Oh, I almost forgot! Another happy thing happened on Saturday: a good friend came by with a gift for me. It was a lovely, fancy white cup and saucer with a silver fleur de lis design on it. It came complete with a little silver spoon — and a huge truffle inside to go with the coffee I was undoubtedly going to have in that cup. It was such a delightful surprise and a welcome positive addition to my troubled weekend.

Here’s the story I promised.  Kick back, prop your feet up, sip your coffee, and enjoy.

 

 

To participate in Weekend Coffee Share, visit Eclectic Ali for the details.

 

 


 

Audio Short Stories — My Newest Project

Do you enjoy just sitting back and listening to stories? Then you’ll enjoy my newest project: Audio Short Stories. You’ll find the first story on YouTube now. I’ll make it really easy for you and insert it right here, but if you like it, hop over to the YouTube site so you can click the “thumbs up” symbol and subscribe to my channel so you’ll know when I post the next story in the project.

`

 

 

 

 

 


 

New Writing Challenge: Write a Story Using Nothing But Dialogue

Okey-dokey, folks, it’s time for a fresh writing challenge. I’ve been doing this exercise with some of my creative writing students to help them get a better grip on using dialogue creatively and successfully in their stories. It’s a challenge for sure, but it’s lots of fun.

So here’s the only rule. Write a short story (anywhere between 100 and 500 words) using nothing but dialogue. No introduction, no tag lines to identify speakers, no narration of any kind.

Two Helpful Hints:
1. Since you can’t use tag words to identify speakers, you’ll be restricted to only two characters so that the reader can follow the dialogue easily.
2. You’ll need to make sure your dialogue reveals the identity of the characters because you can’t narrate their identity or description to your readers.

Just post your story on your own site and hop over here and put the link into the “Comments” section for this post.

No time limit: This challenge is open-ended. Anytime you read this post and want to try your hand at a dialogue story, go for it.  Do more than one if you like. And don’t forget to come back here and leave your link.

My own story is below:

GIRL DRAWING HEART ON WALL - cropped -- SFerrario - PX

FAMILY PICTURE

“Mandy, what on earth have you done to the wall?”
“I’m drawing a merle, Mommy.”
“A what?”
“A merle. You know, a picture that covers the whole wall.”
“Oh, you mean a mural.”
“Right, and this is a picture of our whole family.”
Our family?”
“Yes. See this really big person is God, because our Sunday School teacher said that all families come from God.”
“I see. And, yes, Mrs. Osgood is right.”
“And then here’s Daddy and you and me and Francis and Baby Daniel.”
“Well, I understand God and Daddy and me and you and Francis, but who on earth is Baby Daniel?”
“My little brother.”
“But, Mandy, you don’t have a little brother.”
“Not yet, but he’s coming. God told me today.”
“Ooooooh ….”

`

`


From the Christmas Story Archives

Been going through my Christmas story archives and pulled this one out for today.


 

THE SIDEWALK

SIDEWALK BROWN STONE“Well, what’a ya know,” Ben whispered, grinning, seeing his breath form vapors on the Christmas air. “Who would have thought it would be the brick sidewalk?”

He sighed. In one unexpected instant – as his feet had tread the bricks of this dear old sidewalk that had run the length of Main Street all his life – it had happened. He knew for sure the place he’d returned to was still ‘home.’

Just yesterday he’d been dreading coming back – as he had been for a week – from the time the doctors had told him he was almost well enough to make the trip. He knew for sure how much he had changed, and he couldn’t shake the deep, gut-wrenching fear that the whole world had changed as well – including the little town nestled at the foot of the mountains in Montana. He’d grown up here, played high school basketball, and dated the girl from three houses down the street until she’d decided to elope with the captain of the basketball team.

He had to chuckle to himself when he remembered how devastated he’d felt back then. It had been his first serious relationship with a girl, but in hindsight, he realized that he hadn’t really been in love – just fascinated with the boy-girl relationship.

Sometimes when he’d been hunkered down in the trenches, waiting the next command to move out into the threat of enemy fire, he’d started thinking about Allyson, and even though she belonged to someone else now, the memories comforted him. He knew even during those hours that it had nothing to do with Ally or their time together, but it was all about ‘home.’ When he thought of Ally, it took him away from the cold, wet, ugly war he was fighting.

Sometimes he’d remember his mother and could smell again the warm vanilla scent that so often clung to her from her constant baking. He’d conjure up the image of Granddad, sitting with his feet propped in front of the living room fireplace, sweet-scented smoke curling from his pipe. He’d hear again his father’s voice as he read the latest news stories from the paper as the family sat soaking up the security of their home and their quiet life together.

Then, sometimes, when he and his unit were on the move and trekking through secure territory, on their way to the next battlefront, he had remembered walking down that old brick sidewalk – past Old Man Chesterfield’s hardware store, Woolworth’s Five & Dime, the candy and tobacco shop, where he’d bought Ally that huge box of chocolates for the Valentine’s Day they’d celebrated together. There was Mrs. Gallagher’s Boutique next, and then Pansy’s Pancake House. Some days, when his senses were crystal clear, he could nearly taste those light, fluffy concoctions smothered in her special Cherry Cordial Syrup.

When he let his memory take him wherever it willed, he usually ended up thinking about Christmas, and he’d see again the decorations strung the entire length of Main Street, with lights in the windows of every storefront, snowmen standing sentry at almost every corner, and wreaths and holly hanging everywhere. He could almost feel the frost in the air and the festive atmosphere that surrounded shoppers and merchants alike from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And oh those chestnuts! The scent of roasted chestnuts hung over the main business district for two whole weeks before Christmas Day. And often he thought that sweet aroma was his favorite memory of all. Sometimes he swore he could smell those roasted chestnuts even though he was thousands of miles away on foreign soil with no hope of even a warm dinner for that night.

He’d been wishing he could have some of those chestnuts just minutes before the ambush occurred, but then bullets and grenades had killed all thoughts and images of anything but the hell breaking loose in every direction. Those same bullets and grenades had killed twenty of the men in his unit as well. When he’d taken the first hit in his leg and fallen, his best buddy had turned back to help him up. But the bullet that had caught his rescuer in the head had snuffed out his life in seconds, and Ben had taken a second bullet in the chest, blacking out at that point.

Five days later, when he’d regained consciousness in the hospital, he’d found himself hooked to all kinds of tubes and machines. The doctor had been compassionate and kind, assuring him that he was going to make it, but that it would be a month or so before he was fit to leave the hospital. When he’d asked about his unit, the news had been brutal, and he’d found himself so frozen by the grief that he hadn’t even been able to cry.

The day he’d been released and given his extended leave for home, his doctor had been wreathed in smiles. “We’re going to get you back to your family in time for Christmas, Son,” he’d said. And as much as the news brought a spurt of joy to Ben’s heart, it also brought a stab of fear.

He’s made a short journey first to the home of the man who’d been his best friend in combat, the man who’d lost his life trying to save Ben. He’d learned that Rick’s body had been shipped home for burial in the family plot. Ben knew he had to visit that grave and spend some time with Rick’s family before he could get started on the longer journey to his own family. And it was with that family, sitting in Rick’s home, remembering his buddy, that he’d finally been able to let the tears come. With his head on Rick’s mother’s shoulder, and her arms holding him tightly – the way she would never be able to hold her own son – Ben had finally cried out the pain and bitterness and loss.

Eighteen hours later, on the day before Christmas Eve, he boarded the bus that would take him to Montana. He had purposely refrained from letting his family know what bus he was taking. He had to walk out this journey one step at a time – in his own way and in his own timing. He had to find out what kind of world awaited him at the end of this journey, and he had to have the security of facing it on his own terms.

His physical wounds were almost healed, but the wound’s in his soul would be with him forever. And that’s what made him afraid. As long as he didn’t go home, he could always try to tell himself that it was still a place of peace and safety and love and laughter – and that life was still good there. But all the time he sat on the bus, heading to that little town in Montana, he battled with the fear. The questions kept circling through his mind: when he walked down the streets of his old hometown – when he stepped into his mother’s kitchen – when he visited the high school campus – when he sat in the park watching the breeze blow across the lake – when he met with friends in a restaurant –would he find what he’d left behind – or would it all be gone – forced out of existence by the same powers that had changed him forever?

Finally, at the end of the seven hour trip, he stepped off the bus, retrieved his suitcase and stood for a few moments just looking across Main Street at the row of well-remembered businesses – those stores and shops that had filled his dreams and imaginations hours at a time in the rare instances between battles.

Everything glowed with Christmas. It looked the way he would have expected it to look back before he’d had to wade through hatred, filth, and slaughter in another land. But could he relate to this place any longer? Could he ever belong here again? Would it welcome him – would he welcome what he found here now? He slowly walked across Maine and stepped onto the sidewalk that would take him from the north end of town to the south, where his parents lived.

He walked – slowly – hesitantly at first. His eyes caressed the old, worn bricks that stretched out ahead of him the whole two-mile distance of the business district, and he began to realize that each step he took was a familiar experience – the same experience he’d enjoyed for years, day in and day out – those warm brown bricks woven together by expert hands generations ago – just slightly uneven but plenty smooth enough for easy walking.

And every step reassured him. He began to breathe easier now, and as he took a good, deep breath, his nostrils twitched a little. Chestnuts, roasting, in a cart just up the street about two more blocks. He walked with more purpose then, his eyes still caressing the worn, welcoming bricks beneath his feet, stretching out before him invitingly.

Finally, he chuckled out loud. Yep … it was okay. … It was really okay. … He was okay.  And this good old brick friend convinced him — more with every step he took — that home was still everything he needed it to be.

THE END


Thawing The Ice

The following story is an excerpt from my Christmas anthology: STOCKING FULL OF STORIES.  If you’re interested in more stories, you can find the book on Amazon in paperback or digital.


 

ABSTRACT WHITE CHRISTMAS POND-B & WTHAWING THE ICE

Misty laced up her skates and glided smoothly across the ice. It had been more than a year since she’d come to her favorite pond. The trees were stark silhouettes against the deep snow, barren and seemingly useless in this white wilderness. She felt that way herself. The gray world around her matched her gray and barren heart. Words came back to her now from the whispering past.

“You can’t just give up, Misty. Marcus wouldn’t want you to quit skating. He wouldn’t want you to give up the life you’ve always loved.”

She continued to circle the pond, listening to conversations in her head – all from last year. After the accident. “I can’t skate alone. I’m no good by myself. It’s always been Marcus and me together – from the time we were seventeen.”

“But you’re so gifted, dear,” Mother had insisted. “You were skating beautifully long before you even met Marcus. Why, from the time you put on your first pair of skates – remember? – the pink pair you got for Christmas when you were six? – from that very first day, you’ve been a star in the making. All your fans want to see you back out there on the ice.”

Misty had merely hung her head and wept. She new her mother meant well, but she’d never be able to understand. And Misty was glad her mother had never known that kind of loss.

But her family didn’t understand about the fans either. Yes, her own family were her personal fans, but the fans in all the ice rinks around the world hadn’t been hers. They were fans who loved Misty and Marcus – together – “the darling duo” as they’d been dubbed in more than one news story. The fans wanted to see both of them on the ice, not just one lonely girl –  lost now in a world that had been her own kingdom little more than a year ago.

The cold wind bit at her, but she welcomed the pain. It matched the pain in her heart. And she welcomed the gray world she skated in now. It matched the world she lived the rest of her life in with Marcus dead.

So she skated – round and round the pond – one hour – then another. And with each trip around that pond of her childhood came the memories – like warm flashes of sunlight:  the first time she’d skated in her pink skates; the first day she’d invited Marcus to skate with her there; the first competition they’d entered – and won; the grueling hours of practice that both of them had loved.

Gradually, as the happy memories flooded back and thawed the ice that had held her soul in its lonely, gray world for the past year, Misty began to feel alive again. A smile spread across her face and she flung out her arms as if to embrace this precious pond with its stark trees and white emptiness. She found herself skating into routines she’d used before she and Marcus had become a team. And gradually, she found herself adding moves to those routines. They weren’t done consciously. They just flowed from her as naturally as water flows down a hill when a barrier has been removed.

Her heart began to sing. Her body followed suit. And although the pond and all it’s surroundings were still as gray and barren as they’d been when she’d arrived, Misty discovered that she was now skating in sunshine – in the warmth of her love for Marcus and in the fire of the passion she felt for skating. Perhaps her family and friends had been right after all. Perhaps she did still have a life to live and a gift to give to the world from her kingdom on the ice.

 

 

~~~

Once Upon A Time: A Story In Any Language

More than three years ago, I did a post discussing how so many of our stories have characteristics and qualities that are both generic and universal. That fact is so true that we’ve even cultivated phrasing and syntax patterns that fit specific themes and plots.  The whole concept is fascinating to me. (Naturally it would be, considering that I’m not only a writer, but also a creative writing teacher.) 

So I decided to experiment a little with writing a story using nonsense terms instead of normal nouns and verbs. — to demonstrate the fact that any avid reader would be able to understand the story with very little trouble. The reason readers will understand is that the pattern, plot, and emotional tone all fit a specific type of fiction. The experiment was fun, and I often use it in my writing classes as an example to my students that many times it isn’t just choosing the right word that matters. It’s also how we put those words together that makes the whole piece a good story.

I decided to share the experiment again on this site. Hope you enjoy it.


DRAGON - PUB DOM TOTALLY -- Friedrich-Johann-Justin-Bertuch_Mythical-Creature-Dragon - TALL

Public Domain — Artist: Friedrich-Johann-Justin-Bertuch 

`
THE BONDO DELAFOR

The young delafor wandered through the cogem, wishing he could find a delafora to be his rhuba. He’d heard the fonders tell of bondo delafors who had won the hands of delaforas by zonering the terrible goganbulls. He knew the goganbulls were threatening the cogem, and many delafors were terrizon of them. He didn’t know if he were bondo enough to zoner a goganbull or not, but he hoped he’d have a chance.

One day the great kinba of the cogem announced that a goganbull had been spotted just outside the cogem. The great kinba porsayed that he would give the most beautiful delafora to the delafor who zonered that goganbull.

So the young delafor raced to his stetsa, hopped on, and took off to find the goganbull and zoner it. When he found the goganbull, it was maxma!  It was so maxma that the young delafor’s stetsa reared up, threw the delafor off, and ran away. Now the only thing the delafor had was his pontier. So he looked the goganbull in the eye, stood up straight and tall and shumed toward him. Keeping eye contact, he shumed all the way to within two feet of him. The goganbull gloamed and hot smeltz came from his buzzle.

But the young delafor rememberd the beautiful delafora who was porsayed by the great kinba. The delafor wanted that delafora for his rhuba very badly. So he aimed his pontier and shumed the last two feet toward the goganbull; then he flumed his pontier right into the goganbulls corva. With one horrible gloam, the goganbull fell over, and black smoke roold from his buzzle. Then all was quiet.

The young delafor took his pontier and whapped off the goganbull’s henda and carried it back to the great kinba. That day the young delafor won the most beautiful delafora in the cogem to be his very own rhuba. And they both lived schnookumy ever after.

TE  FUND

 

~~~

 


 

The Beast

I dragged this story out of my archives this morning. I had totally forgotten about writing it more than two years ago, and I enjoyed it so much myself I decided to give it another exposure on this site.


 

BULL SILLHOUETTE EDITED -NEGATIVEThe sun was low in the sky and to my back. I lay on the ground, looking up at the clouds and turning them into all sorts of things. One looked very much like a turtle. One like a smiley face, since it had two holes where the blue peaked through, giving it eyes, and another opening that really did look surprisingly like a grin on a child’s face. One of the clouds looked a little like an old school teacher I’d had who wore her hair piled high on her head in a beehive style. Boy, did that thought give way to pondering where time has gone.

Suddenly, I heard a branch crack behind me. Now, I’m not normally skittish, but this cracking sound was loud enough that I knew it must have been more than just the normal activity of birds or squirrels in the bushes. And, since I was in my own back yard, with a fence around the perimeter, there shouldn’t have been any other creatures – human or otherwise – setting foot beyond that fence uninvited. I didn’t welcome that sound.

I didn’t sit up immediately, but sort of rolled my head to look toward my left first – and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Then I rolled my head toward the right side, and on the ground beside me I saw the shadow of a huge head – not human – but obviously belonging to a beast of a different sort. My heartbeat went into double time, but I just lay there sort of frozen. As I watched, fighting down panic as well as I could, the shadow moved, coming forward and revealing the shoulder area, two legs, and an enormous frame.

I thought about praying, but the words stuck in my throat. I suppose I did manage a silent cry for help, but my primary thought was how to manage rising from my vulnerable position without seeming a threat to said beast and prompting a vicious attack on my person. I contemplated what I had available as a weapon. Well, there was a broken branch or two close by that had blown from a few surrounding trees during a recent windstorm. I glanced again to my left to see if I might be able to reach out for one without actually moving the rest of my body.

As I did so, I felt rather than saw the beast move closer to me. Frantically, I scanned the area to my left, but found no branches big enough to provide weaponry. Just small twigs and several old leaves. Not even a big rock. Finally, I decided that I couldn’t just lie there any longer. If I did so, I was obviously going to be dead meat, and just maybe my jumping up quickly would be enough to throw off the beast’s attention and give me time to start running.

Okay. I squeezed my eyes shut and psyched myself to do it, but just as I opened my eyes, the huge shadow suddenly loomed right over my head, and I knew it was hopeless to try to escape. I could hear it breathing in my ear. Then I really did decide to pray, because if this were to be my home-going, I wanted to be ready. I squeezed my eyes shut again, bracing myself for the impact of the attack, when to my greater shock, something sloppy wet took hold of my right ear. The next thing I knew something else cold and wet nudged me in the side of my neck. And then my face was being slathered with slobber from my chin to my temple. What was it doing? Tasting me to see if I merited being eaten?

I put my hand up to try to cover my face, and when I did, this little furry body just sort of threw itself at my hand and started whining and wriggling, trying to get my hand away. Well, the body attacking mine was so much smaller than I had anticipated that I decided I could open my eyes and chance a look. So I opened one eye and squinted between my fingers, which I still had pressed against my face, and what I saw brought me into a sitting position roaring with laughter.

The little yellow lab puppy who was pouncing me and trying to give me a bath in his saliva couldn’t have been more than three or four months old. So this was the beast I’d seen in shadow form? Surely I wasn’t foolish enough to have made a mistake like that. But upon making the effort to sit upright fully and look around me in all directions, I realized that, sure enough, this little pup and I were the sole occupants of my huge back yard. He was little enough he could have squeezed under the fence if he’d had a mind to. And on further reflection, I realized that considering how low in the sky the sun had been, if it had been shining just right on that little fellow’s body, he would have thrown a shadow many times larger than his real size.

I grabbed the little guy and took him onto my lap, giving him a few good scratches behind the ears and a thorough belly rub. While doing so, I thought about how so many of the problems in my life had looked bigger than life and had threatened to destroy me. But, in truth, when I had finally decided to stand up to them and look them square in the eye and recognize them for exactly what they were and nothing more, I had forced them to show their true identity. And when all was said and done, they were always smaller than I was, and I had eventually defeated every one of them.

I determined to make a lasting mental note of my experience that day and to remember the lesson I’d learned from that little fellow with the monster shadow: Never judge a problem – or a puppy – by its fearsome shadow.

~

 

 

~~~

‘Tell Me A Story’ Writing Challenge 9/19/18

Anybody got a story about this lonely gate to . . . somewhere? . . . anywhere? . . . nowhere? . . . Wherever your imagination takes you.

GATE WITH WEEDSIf you’re in the mood for a writing challenge, create a new story from this photo by Terry Valley. Try to keep it around 500-800 words, and when you’ve posted it on your blog, hop over here and leave the link to the story in the “Comments” section below.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time this week to write a story for this picture or not, but whether I do or don’t, I hope several of you will. I’ll enjoy reading them, and I know others will too. Let’s say you can post your story anytime between today and next Wednesday, September 26.

And if you do write a story, be sure to put the link to this post on your site with your story so that your own followers will know about the challenge and can participate too.

Happy Writing.