Hot off the Press

An Engagement?

The Prompt:

Jeremy sat across from Heather in the little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. It was just his style to take her some place like that to “unexpectedly” pop the question. She waited eagerly to see the ring box appear on the table. He’d been hinting at it for nearly a month now. At least, she was pretty sure of it.

But the lemon chicken came and went. So did the fortune cookies. Heather felt her temper boiling up, but she batted it back down. Surely he would take her somewhere for dessert, or maybe a romantic walk along the lake, and ask her then. He had to ask her tonight, didn’t he?

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks.
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks.

 

Their conversation grew stale, as did the leftover taste of fortune cookies. Finally, Jeremy awkwardly pulled an impeccable velvet box from his pocket.

Heather straightened, plastering on her yes smile–she’d been practicing for months.

“What is that?” Heather purred.

“First, I have something to tell you.” He paused dramatically. “I’m moving.”

Heather stared blankly at him, wondering what he meant. He was moving to another apartment? Or wait–maybe he wanted to move in together?

Jeremy continued, “I’m going to Botswana. I didn’t want to tell you until I knew it was for sure, but I applied to the Peace Corp and I finally received my assignment.”

She was stunned. Heather’s perfect smile drooped. She barely managed to squeak, “When?”

“Five weeks.” Jeremy scratched his forehead like he was considering a math problem; all previous nerves had vanished. “Obviously we needed to talk about this right away.”

Heather’s shock briefly faded and she snapped “You bet, buster! I can’t believe you didn’t say anything!”

“Wait! Before you go all crazy on me just open the box.” He slid it over.

Inside on the satin pillow sat a golden ring. But not just any golden ring. There was no diamond. In fact, it looked almost like an earring. Heather looked up to excitement in Jeremy’s eyes.

“In some cultures, when a couple mates she wears a nose ring as a marker that she’s taken.” Jeremy smiled confidently. “You see, Heather, I want you to come with me. Will you be my female?”


 

This was written for Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge

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The Last Trip Down Beach Lane

This short story was prompted by the following image:

Old Woman. CC2.0 photo by Giorgio Grande.
Old Woman. CC2.0 photo by Giorgio Grande.

Mademoiselle Villeneuve and her companion creaked, shuffling down the cobblestone towards the end of the road. One step, one roll. One drop mirroring past beginnings in Mademoiselle’s eye.

“Félicitations pour ton diplôme! Bonne chance dans le monde!” echoed behind them as she threw her cap in the wind, riding towards the future.

Sunbeams cast wickers of flame on the coastal path, a golden gleam to guide them. One step, one roll. One shared memory of love from the heart.

She sat on the blue bars giggling, flying towards the moon. He dragged his feet on this same beach lane, slowing them just enough so he could kiss her neck.

Mademoiselle’s clog skimmed sand, choking the grout, and their bony frames shuttered. One step, one roll. One more movement reminding them they were now broken and bald.

They carried meager paychecks together, then wine and bouquets. They skidded from uncounted fights; pedaled towards countless friendships. Children, then grandchildren twirling their wheels.

Mademoiselle and her partner had arrived. She held to his frame so tightly as they stood one last time gazing at their shore.

Peeling off her wig and clothes, she rested them and her beloved bicycle against the junkyard’s gates. Then without a backward glance, Mademoiselle Villeneuve maneuvered through sand to surf, burying her bruised body under the salty sea.


This was originally written for Flash! Friday flash fiction contest

The Bastard’s New Job

This story was prompted by the following image:

Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.
Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.

 

 

Lezzone appeared, his bruised body an ‘X’ in the frame. He didn’t know it, but I’d already teleported directly behind him.

“Beat you again!” I barked, rubbing my swollen eye.

Startled, Lezzone almost toppled out of the elemental zone pod, which would have been ironic, even somewhat unfortunate. Down below was the space-continuum, a dizzying, never-ending cycle through the worlds–hell itself–and where his mam resided.

Lezzone moved from the wall he’d clutched, swiping at me, but I just ducked, laughed, and called behind me, “We have to clock in at 532 hours.” Scowling, Lezzone shouldered past me, and was the first to reach the cleaning room. He threw me a SpaceSuck; then grabbed one for himself.

It was his fault we were assigned to come this agonizingly close, even if Lezzone blamed me. If I told our Grams we’d finally been to the Eternal City, she’d call it a bluff–like the old days when an fighter would land, but never leave the airport before flying onward.

If Lezzone hadn’t opened his fat mouth about my mam like that! Now we had to come daily to sweep this god-forsaken place without leaving its stone walls.

Even so, I’d teleport to 134340 if I knew it could make me feel legit.


Written for Flash! Friday flash fiction

Compare E.S. Johnston’s story, My Boss, “Handsome Johnny”, written with the same prompt

 

My Boss, “Handsome Johnny”

This poetic story was prompted by the following image:

Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.
Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.

Whisking me off my sensible feet, Mr. Roselli took me out to play–

So giddy–I didn’t know he even felt that way!

This morning he called at eight, arrived at three,

Thrusting brusquely past our janitor to get to me.

My top button suddenly felt too tight,

My shy smile grew wide; inside I soared like a kite.

Just yesterday I was well-coiffed, pinned-down,

But in his penthouse my hair was ruffled under Sinatra’s soothing sound.

“It’s Secretary Day!” Roselli cried with glee,

He moved the years of imaginary employee’s flowers to pass me a key.

My trembling hands, forever smelling of our office soap,

Inched to open his envelope.

My blood rushed as I squelched my dreams,

Although my heart-wrenching wanderlust burst at the seams!

Hopefully glancing at my board, pinned with snapshots from afar,

I was distracted by the window framing his car.

Crestfallen, instantly my nerves were grating,

While he cooed, “My dove, why are you waiting?”

A relic from his travels, a scratched postcard from ancient Rome,

Scribbled on the back it said “Just call before visiting my home!”

Nuzzling my neck, he pressed the key into my palm.

I glared at the Marilyn Monroe in his Maserati, centering my raging calm.


Written for Flash! Friday flash fiction

Compare A.Ravenel Clay’s story, The Bastard’s New Job, written with the same prompt

On Her Own Two Feet

This following story was written based on the following image as a prompt:

Jeanne d’Arc, 1876. Painting by Eugène Thirion. Public Domain.
Jeanne d’Arc, 1876. Painting by Eugène Thirion. Public Domain.

 

The stone might be dusting her toes, but Joan can stand on her own through a little dirt.

What I’m concerned about it whether she war away the sticks and stones. Can she fight off heartbreak? A friend’s betrayal? Cruel laughter or an enemy disguised as her boyfriend?

She was always a tender reed, an unlit wick in my arms. I’d wonder how one so thirsty–needy–could be one so strong. She used to giggle adorably when I’d use our lamb skin to hide my face. Even then, with a chubby grasp on the leather, she wasn’t scared when her protector was out of sight.

Pigtails and arrows, swimming holes and swords; braver than I, but I’d hold her to comfort while enveloped in the dark.

Despite the plague, despite the wars, she was her own but she was everyone’s–especially mine.

Then one day, my fragile girl flew away.  Joan handle the world, I’m just not sure I can.

 

This story was written for Flash! Friday flash fiction contest.

Syzygy Enchantment; Syzygy Eclipse

The story was prompted by the following image:

Spying, 1972. CC3 photo by Daniel Teoli Jr.
Spying, 1972. CC3 photo by Daniel Teoli Jr.

 

“Boop, boopity-bloop,” my nails rattled, clutching the box while I jerked, gripping tightly to control this stone and my hopes in it.

“Don’t you mean ‘Beep, beepity-bleep?’ ” Harold asked, concerned.

“‘Boop’ works just as well as ‘beep.'”

“Are you sure?” Harold’s unibrow rose a smidgen.  You could call us brothers–thanks to our rabid family dynamics–so I knew he was nervous.

“It will work,” I assured, my faith living. We couldn’t keep living these monthly nights of terror.

Harold whimpered, “What if the Uncles find out?”

“Shut your chops so I can concentrate!” Relenting, I added, “We’ll bring something home from the butcher’s.”

Harold wrapped his fur-streaked arms around himself, rocking, waiting. I beeped and booped the incantation on the lycanthropy amulet.

Finally we heard the roar, that hopeful promise brewing. A flash banished the dusk while the city heedlessly moved around us. Searching for the russet moon, I tensely reached for Harold’s paws, but instead our smooth, calm palms collided, curse-free.

 

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This story was written for Flash! Friday flash fiction contest.

Hydra’s Dancers

The following story was prompted by this image:

Edmonton Chinese New Year. CC photo by IQRemix.
Edmonton Chinese New Year. CC photo by IQRemix.

If I could only remove the blurred dancers, the stabbing in my brain would be soothed.

These dragons sway, a waltz of mirth and color. But they also ring shrilly, shrieking as they bite down, chomping-off the heads of bystanders. The blood rushes, pooling at toes and tingling nerves, crimson cascading from empty sockets.

I rub my temples. If I squint tightly I can almost imagine they’re shinning lights, marking Wintertide and the change of seasons. The screams then morph into carols; the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.

I’ve scoured this purse all evening with no avail. Ironically–as if I could have thwarted misery all along–relief surfaces, taunting from the clutter.

Ignoring the whirling, hellish beasts, I inhale from a vial of eucalyptus and peppermint, then pop two capsules of reprieve. This migraine forged of daggers dissipates as I slip on my impish, disappearing, specs.

Relieving in clarity, the ballerinas now move lithe and lovely, their bloodlust quelled.

 

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This short story was originally written for Flash! Friday flash fiction, awarded as follows:


SECOND RUNNER UP: Hydra’s Dancers 

Judge, Sinéad: This story’s title was an excellent, and witty, reference to not only the prompt image but also the ‘many-headed’ narrator, who is dealing with conflicting messages from all corners. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the author recreates the visual and auditory disruption the headache causes, and how well it all wraps into a performance, both the dance of the writhing, clashing dragons and finally the gentle whirl of the ballerinas as everything settles into its proper place. Another tale with an unusual take on the prompt image, and a story which made great use of all the senses.

Judge, Pratibha: One word, execution. From the opening line to the resolution, the tension builds gradually and unwinds skillfully. This unique take on the prompt left me breathless. The image of the dancers as a collective unit, hydra, as seen through the eyes of an aching head, is painted vividly in the second paragraph. Tension mounts in the third paragraph, as the music reaches the crescendo. I loved the description, “the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.” Upon finding the cure for his/her headache, the narrator is relieved and so does the dramatic tension, and the dancers now move “lithe and lovely.”   The skillful use of language and clear story arc put this story high on my list.