Nevermore

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Suddenly there came a tapping at my chamber door. I shivered, knowing it’s Lenore knocking in the hall, wanting inside my door. She’s come in form of raven and ghost before, but her footsteps patting are heavy, plodding on the hallway floor.

Dare I open it? No – I can hear her moaning, pleading for entry, but as I sit profusely sweating, I fear the integrity of my door.

Now her arms are heavily banging, splint’ring down my chamber door. “BRAINS!” she cries, consumption eating at her zombie form. I scream, but no use waiting – she’s in, and I’m nevermore.

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The prompt for the March 12th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge was tapping, and like a good, “well-read*” American, I instantly thought of Poe’s “The Raven”.

*I’m really not well-read, not at all well-read considering that I’m trying to be a writer, so this is in quotes because I’m being sarcastic.

Run, Sinner

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The dogs barked. They were getting closer.

“Dear God, please save me.” She clutched a small rock tied to a thong and prayed they not sniff her out. She’d stolen a crust of day old bread for her kid brother, but that was illegal. Draconian laws still demanded her hands be amputated for thievery.

She pulled herself further underneath the poplar’s roots. The dogs’ feet splashed in the creek as they sniffed and snorted.

“Hoh!” a man’s voice called. The dogs looked up and ran back to him, the hunt called off.

She waited until they left, then ran for the next county.

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This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #132, Draconian.

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The Pillbox

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I held Polly from going further up the hill.

She rolled her eyes and huffed. “You scared of the trees now, Papa?”

I pointed up the hill to a concrete pillbox. When she saw it herself, Polly put her hand to her mouth. She followed my lead and hopped into the scrub brush on our trail.

“Who made that? What are they doing?” she asked.

I grunted. “Gotta be that paramilitary group up the road. Those sovereign citizen people.”

“But they can’t do that – that’s Old Frank’s land, not part of the crazy compound.”

“Well, we better hope they didn’t see us. Otherwise they’ll be shooting soon to keep us from telling the government.” I crawled away, hoping my head was still beneath the treeline.

“We gonna tell on them?”

“Not to the cops, anyway. Let’s just pay Old Frank a visit.”

***

I’m not sure what the picture for Crimson’s Creative Challenge was this week, but I thought it looked like a pillbox on a wooded hill. And what better setting for a pillbox than a paramilitary compound full of sovereign citizens and other right wing terrorists? There’s not!

If you would like to learn more about my inspiration for the story, I strongly suggest the Slate podcast Standoff: What Happened at Ruby Ridge. I was skeptical at first because Slate is SUPER FREAKING left-leaning, but I loved their Nixon-focused podcast Slow Burn, so I gave Standoff a try. It, too, was excellently done.

Sisu

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“What’s this two year gap in your resume?” The hiring manager pointed to circled dates on the paper.  “What did you do there?”

Joaquin clenched his fist.  “There’s a Finnish word – sisu.  It means to keep trudging through multiple adversities.”  He tapped the circled words on the resume.  “That’s why I’m here.  I want this job because I can overcome my past.”

The manager scowled.  “So you were traveling?  To Finland?”

“No, I…”  He coughed.  “I was in prison.”

“For what?”

“Drug charges,” he squeaked.

She handed Joaquin his resume.  “Thank you, but we won’t be needing your services.”

***

This week’s Carrot Ranch prompt, sisu, was uniquely difficult.  In fact, I took way longer to get together a response than I normally would.

Either way, the idea of constant, grinding attempts to get back up after repeated adversity resonates very strongly with what I think a writer goes through.  After my first submission and rejection from a journal, I’m realizing how hard it is to crack through that layer of rejection.  How much worse, I then wondered, must it be for someone who can’t get a job?  Someone who has such a black spot on their record as prison?

Hence the story.

 

Condemned

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I feel like a traitor.

There had been a military tribunal, and the officer acting as judge declared guilty.  Death by firing squad.

I take a deep breath while the soldiers line up.  What a way to die.  Every soldier was given a gun with a bullet, some blank while others are deadly.  But someone has the gun which will kill.

“Aim!” an officer shouts.

I struggle to keep my eyes open.

“Fire!”

I pull my trigger, and the man drops.

Was it my gun that held the bullet that killed him?

Did the judge know he’d condemned me?

***

This was written for the March 4th Carrot Ranch prompt, “Fire.”

As a brief update, I am finally returned from my sojourn to Orlando and the ACS conference – maybe I’ll be more available again!

Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius on Pexels.com

Satan’s Nectar

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He ran helter-skelter through the alleyway.  Blue lights and sirens haunted the main streets, white faces in black uniforms hunting for him.

He hid behind a dumpster just before a car pulled up.  The spotlight scanned the alley and, not landing on human form, moved on to the next alley.

The man sighed and opened his paper bag.  Was it his?  He’d stolen it from the liquor store, fair and square, but the police didn’t acknowledge his claim.  He popped the top off the liquor and sipped down some of Satan’s nectar.

It was better not to remember why he needed the drink, at least as long as the bottle lasted.

***

This was written for the Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #91, “Helter-skelter.”  I’d always known helter-skelter in its adverbial form due to the Don McClean song “American Pie:”

Helter-skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter

Which doesn’t really help you figure out much of the meaning from context in the first place.  So, I kind-of had to look up this word before I could write it!  Learn something new every day!

Soccer and Snowcones

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“Jim!” I shouted.  The doofus left the field without me and Squidge – what could he be thinking?  After soccer came snowcones – that is the vow all the moms make.  To have a mom that broke this sacred tradition is to openly announce that one is uncool to the max.  “Where you going, man?”

He turned around.  “Uh, dentist, man.  Dentist, yeah.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Dude, your mom’s not even here.  Just chill – why you want to get to the dentist so fast?  Come get snowcones, bro!”

He pretended like he couldn’t hear me and kept walking.

That was a long time ago, though.  If I’d kept my mouth shut over a $1 snowcone, Jim’s shoes wouldn’t have been noticed the next day at school.  If I’d just let his dentist excuse fly, maybe he’d have more friends.

I hear there’s free snowcones in heaven, Jim.

(145 Words)

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This depressing mutha was written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers #200.  Thanks to Yinglan, provider of the picture! 

This was not a true story, but I think most people have those moments where they regret what a dirtbag they were when they were younger.  I know who my ‘Jim’ was.

 

A Farmer’s Wife

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Della’s nails always had earth under them.  Despite the bonnets and sleeves she wore, her skin would never be as milky-white as fashions required, as the folks in town would desire.

She surveyed the plains, ready for tilling and fertilizer.  Her horses swished their tails, her husband stood behind the plow.  In one hand she held the reins to another horse that pulled a wagon laden with manure, and with the other she held a pitchfork ready to toss the fertilizer onto the ground.

This smelly job would enrich the earth and keep the farm running, her family fed.

***

This was written for the January 10th Carrot Ranch Challenge, Enrich.  My teeth are doing well, I think, so the alarm is over!

Writing on the Wall

I washed the filthy language from the overpass.  I swear, the internet is ruining today’s youth and ruining hearts and minds.

A the driver crossing the overpass rolled down his window.  A man pointed at my pressure washer then asked, “Ain’t leaning over the side there dangerous?”

“State don’t like swastikas on the overpass.  Obvious reasons.”

“Looks mighty dangerous to me.  Wouldn’t want to fall, would you?”

I caught the threat in his voice, and turned down the pressure washer.   As he drove off, I took down his tag number.

Adults these days… rotting the minds of the youth.

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This was written for the Carrot Ranch Prompt, Graffiti!  I love North Carolina more than you could realize, but the Old North State has sometimes found difficulties with racist propaganda, including graffiti.  That inspired this tale about removing emblems of evil and how, sometimes, the blame for corrupt actions is placed on the wrong person.

Priceless Per Pound

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A snowflake weighs such a miniscule amount.  Yet as they pile up, they become heavy.  Dense.  Oppressive.  Crystalline water coats places otherwise comfortable, habitable. I would normally sit on this park bench and read, but I wouldn’t want to be so cold nor get so damp.

Yet there is something – something lighter than snow – that pummels the morning frost with unstoppable power.  Sumbeams melt the snow, heat the earth, and bring life to everything.  Snow, so light, is ended by something that weighs so much less.

So don’t discount your thoughts just because they weigh nothing.

(95 words)

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This was written for the FFfAW Challenge #192 with a photo from Yinglan.  Thanks for the photo!