writing prompts

Taking a break

While I’ve really enjoyed the creative pressure of coming up with a mini-story each week based on your suggested sentences, I want to concentrate on my novel, so I’m going to take a break from the series. If you would like to submit a short story (250-1000 words) in the meantime, I’d be happy to post it. Here’s a spark sentence to get you started:

If it hadn’t been a Monday, none of this would have happened.

You can also post a spark sentence in the comment section if you’d like someone to create a story from it.

Flash Fiction Friday: Moonlight Sonata

This week’s spark sentence came from Deanne M. Schultz. Make sure to check out her humorous writings after you leave a spark sentence in the comment section for next week’s flash fiction. If you’re confused, read this first.

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Man-in-ShowerThe shower water hissed down, echoing as it splashed in the tub. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata poured from the Kohler shower head, filling the bathroom with brooding tones. Patrick turned off the hot water faucet. There was no need to turn off the cold water — he never used it. He stepped out of the shower, rubbed a stiff, white towel through his hair and then wrapped it around his chest. With the music still playing, he stared at himself in the mirror and prepared himself for the long day to come. Beethoven always got him in the mood for a funeral.

His steel-blue eyes looked back at him, watching him shave, as if those eyes belonged to another person. He often caught sight of himself in the random reflection of a storefront window or a chrome-plated object  and didn’t recognize the refined man he had become. With slicked back, sandy brown hair, he was the spitting image of his father, only taller and more handsome. Patrick smiled at himself in the mirror, knowing how much that would have killed his proud father. If his father were still alive.

It was time to get ready. Patrick kissed the golden cross dangling from his chest, and moved to the bed. His pressed suit rested on top of the crisp, tucked-in sheets. He picked up the blazer, blacker than his irises without any of the sparkle, and placed it back down. What if he didn’t wear the suit today? Would that make him less qualified to bring another soul to his maker? There was no point in questioning that now. He had worn the same suit since his twentieth birthday. It was a symbol of his sacrifice and his wisdom. The others wouldn’t know how to relate to him if he went without it.

He buttoned up his black shirt, pulled up his black socks, and put the suit on. If he were to walk out now, he would look quite fashionable, if not on the dreary side, but there was still one more article he had to put on. He picked up his white collar from the chest of drawers and snapped it into place. The collar was meant to announce to the world that he had the answers, that he understood God’s will, but today that collar felt like a joke. He was no more certain of his faith than the hundreds of mourners who came to him after funerals, crying out “why?” Today he was going to sprinkle holy water on his last living relative, his younger brother, only twenty-seven years of age, and for that, no suit, no schooling, and no book could make him any more certain. All he could tell himself were the words he used so many times before but now seemed hollow: it is all part of God’s plan.

Patrick left his apartment, bible in hand, and walked down to the cemetery. It was a crisp fall day with barren tree branches gray in the horizon. It was a good day as any for a funeral. He hummed Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and tried to think if it as any other day.

Flash Fiction Friday: On A Planet Far Far Away

I’m currently in Wallace, Idaho, and I’m getting spotty internet service and no phone reception – good thing I did my blog homework ahead of time . A special thanks to Tricia for supplying the spark sentence for this week’s flash fiction. Please leave a sentence in the comment section below (if you’re confused, read this first).

space

We met under strange and unusual circumstances. The year was 2131. It was my first time orbiting the outer galaxy, and I had to admit I was homesick and a little nauseous. Everyone warns you about anti-gravity, but no one tells you the claustrophobia’s what really gets you. By the sixth month I was ready to punch a hole through the space station wall. The vacuum of space seemed rather appealing.

It was the tenth year of a ceasefire with planet Roswell. We had gotten off to a rocky start; Apparently alien’s don’t like their planet to be photographed, and we don’t like to be shot at when we’re trying to collect intelligence. We were set for an all out galactic war, but fortunately  Commander Tromps  was able to sign a treaty with Captain E.T. , as we liked to call him, and we were allowed to continue observing as long as we didn’t cross the threshold line, 1,000  miles above their atmosphere. Just the right distance for us to continue collecting data.

That’s where I came in. I had developed a new lens that could get a much better focus than any of the digital crap they were producing.  We would be spending 2 earth years hovering over planet Roswell, taking pictures for the folks at NASA. 

It was day 248 of the mission. Half the crew was on leave and the other half was repairing a broken satellite off site. Just me and 450 tons of solar-resistant titanium. Not that 450 tons means anything in space. I was realigning the orbital conductors of my telephoto lens when I saw a flash of light. Not your normal star-flare but the reflection of light off a metallic surface. It was then that I knew they were using stealth orbiters to observe us under the radar. Those sons of bitches were breaking the treaty.  I made a call back to ground control but all I got was static. Those little martians were intercepting the radio waves.

All of a sudden, a digitized translator voice on the overhead speaker announced, “Permission to board.”

What was I to do? I had no contact with my superiors and no military training. Before I could answer the entire station jolted and I was thrown against the wall. Everything went black. When I came to, pieces of equipment floated all around me like a dream. I busied myself putting everything back into the Velcro locked containers, but all the while I knew they were there. Our station was compromised.

I made my way through the blindingly white corridor to the command station. There was a big red button, under a plexiglass box which required a 16 digit pin to access. We all had to recite the pin over one hundred times, backwards and forward before being allowed on board. That big red button would set off the three nuclear bombs we had on board. I wasn’t going to go down softly. I may just be a photographer, but nobody boards my station and gets away with it.

The first time I entered the code my fingers trembled so much I botched it and had to start over. I was half way through with the pin when I heard the unmistakable sound of a drill. The aliens were cutting through the safety lock door of the command center, 4 bonded sheets of supposedly-impenetrable tungsten alloy. I was so distracted I forgot where I was in the code. Sweat dripping in my eyes, bile bubbling up in the back of my throat, I said a prayer and started over with the code.

Just then I heard it. The tiniest little meow, like the one my childhood cat used when he was hungry. As I turned my head I gasped, “Mr. Sparkles?”

There he was, dressed in his perfect black and white tuxedo, my little furball.  Mr. Sparkles died 20 years ago, but sure enough he was floating right towards me. My parents always told me he went to live on a farm far far away. I knew they were lying, but I never expected him to be living on a planet far far away. When he got close enough he licked my nose with his rough tongue and then nuzzled his face against my chin. A troop of cats and dogs  floated in after him. 

Back in 2052, when President Goldberg reinstated the space exploration mission he said our goal was to find the resources that had been depleted on planet earth. I had no idea I’d be the one to find that resource. All the love and comfort I had as child was back in my arms, purring. Strange and unusual circumstances indeed.

Flash Fiction Friday: Where to Begin

A special thanks to Mike for suggesting the spark sentence for this week’s flash fiction. Don’t forget to leave a sentence in the comment section of this post for next week’s flash fiction (if you’re confused, click here).

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journalist

The local paper called Harry and asked if he would participate in a “unique human interest piece” they were doing. He was picked at random, along with 19 other subscribers.

The reporter showed up 10 am on the dot. It was Harry’s first interaction with a reporter and he secretly hoped the man would be wearing a tan trench coat and fedora with a little press card tucked in the ribbon. He had to hide his disappointment when he opened the door to a young man in jeans and one of those baggy plaid shirts all the young men seemed to own. He hadn’t bothered to shave or comb his hair. This must be the look, Harry figured.

Harry offered coffee but the reporter smiled and lifted up his own cup of Starbucks. He sat down on the couch and took out an iPad from his backpack. Since when did adults use backpacks, Harry thought to himself while taking a seat in his favorite mustard, yellow recliner. The reporter looked at him and then ran his hands down his thighs. Harry did the same.

“So,” the reporter started.

Harry thought of all the possible questions he might be asked. What was it like to fight in Vietnam? How did it feel to outlive the love of his life?  What was retirement like? What wisdom did he have to share after 82 years on this planet?

“Did my assistant tell you anything about the piece we’re doing?” the young man asked.

Harry was surprised a man who couldn’t bother to shave had an assistant. In his 40 years as an electrician he never had an assistant. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “Can I offer you some coffee?” As soon as he said it he realized he already asked. The reporter held up his own coffee again with a polite smile. Harry feared the reporter would dismiss him as senile.

“The piece is called, A life in Tweets. We’re asking older people, like yourself, to summarize your life in a 140 characters.”

“140 characters? My whole life?” Harry covered his mouth and coughed. He didn’t know if he should be humored or insulted.

“It doesn’t have to be 140. That’s just the maximum.”

He didn’t know where to begin. Harry stared at the young man, and wondered if even his brief life could be summarized in so few words. He ran his fingers down the corners of his open mouth and then rested his hand on his chest. “I think you better go,” Harry said.

The reporter furrowed his brow. “Did I say something wrong?”

“This whole piece is wrong,” Harry said, pushing himself up from his chair. “I’m sorry you had to come all the way out here for nothing.” He moved to the door.

The reporter returned his iPad to the backpack. He stood up and swooped the bag over his shoulder in one swift move. “Seriously, I didn’t mean to offend you. We just thought this would be a fun little piece. Our research shows that younger readers stay more engaged with this brief format. We had to think of a way to compete with social media.”

Harry opened the door. “Either you care about something or you don’t. 140 characters is just an excuse to say you paid attention when all you did was take a glance.”

The reporter stood by the couch. “I’m just doing my job. We need to keep people interested.”

“Try writing a real story.”

The reporter looked as if he was going to cry. Harry couldn’t believe the boy was already out of high school and even college. Harry had pointed a gun at strangers when he was the same age as this reporter. Was this how he looked before he went off to war?

“Maybe,” the reporter paused to chew on the inside of his cheek. “We can do a full interview, and I’ll see what my editor thinks of it.”

Harry tapped the side of the door. He ran his tongue along the inside of his mouth.

“I can’t make any promises that it will get published, though,” the reporter added.

Harry shut the door and moved back to his seat. “Ok, where do we begin?”

Flash Fiction Friday: Juniper plays nice

Thank you to Eda who provided the great first line of this short story.  Don’t forget to leave a sentence for the next short story in the comment section of this post (if you’re confused, read this post first).

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best kids mittens

Juniper knew it was time to go home but she couldn’t find her left mitten. She knew it was her left mitten because her mother had embroidered a big fat L right on the top just in case all the other kids in school didn’t already know that she was a little, well, different. Words didn’t come naturally to her. She was good, however, at smiling and nodding, which her teachers always mistook as a sign of comprehension. Her report cards would read, “sweet, shy girl. Very polite. Could use some more socialization.”

She found the mitten in the back of the classroom. A piece of paper was stuck to it with pink chewing gum. Juniper pulled the paper off, watching the moist gum stretch until it reached its breaking point. Written in cursive, which was the day’s lesson, “L is for losers.” Juniper stared at the words, trying to understand the loops and swirls, but then crumpled the paper into a tight ball. She knew it couldn’t be a nice message.

It was already too late to catch the bus, she would need to walk the mile and a half back home. Her cheeks turned red the instant she walked outside. It was long after Halloween, but Thanksgiving seemed like an eternity away. The leaves had all fallen already, and the empty branches stood up against the gray sky like creepy witch fingers. She stared at the trees, amazed that they could be the same ones that looked so playful and green in the summertime.

“Hey, Juniper, are you talking to the trees again?” a voice called out.

Juniper turned to her right to find Astrid playing in her front yard. She was one of the cool kids who lived right across the school. Astrid wore her golden hair in a perfect french braid every day, which made Juniper all too aware of her own tangled, black hair.

Juniper ignored her classmate and walked on.

“Hey!” Astrid called out again. “I’m talking to you, loser.”

Juniper turned around in time for the blow-up ball, which Astrid had thrown, to hit her square in the nose. Her face burned, and something hot seeped from her nose. She touched her mitten to her face, and saw blood.

Astrid gave her a cute smile and a shrug. “Sorry,” she sang out.

At first the cracking sound was soft, but it grew to a thunderous roar as a large branch of the maple tree in Astrid’s yard crashed to the ground, crushing Astrid underneath its weight. Juniper was already walking away. She hadn’t’t looked back when she heard the branch falling, but she did say, “sorry,” under her breath. After all, she was a very polite little girl.