The Winter of His Discontent

It’s time for another Friday Fictioneers entry. The challenge is to write a 100-word story in response to a weekly photo prompt chosen by our host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Follow the link to her blog for more information and join the fun!

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

She’d arrived early to get their old corner table. There was no one else in the room and she felt vulnerable. Floor-to-ceiling windows sent a wintry chill over her ankles and shoulders, but her shivers weren’t from that. He’d insisted on meeting at the same place he’d asked her to marry him ten summers ago.  Did it mean he’d changed his mind about leaving her?

He walked toward her carelessly, ignoring the empty tables. And his eyes were cold as the ice on the windows. Now she remembered. This was the just sort of thing he called “breaking it gently”.

Family Secrets

It’s time for another Friday Fictioneers entry. The challenge is to write a 100-word story in response to a weekly photo prompt chosen by our host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Follow the link to her blog for more information.

PHOTO PROMPT © C.E.Ayr

It was time to repair the house her parents had left to them. Camille swung her sledge hammer and smashed a hole in the bedroom wall. Keith yanked at the rotted drywall and pulled out a bunch of insulation.

“Hey, Cam, there’s an old photo stuck here between the joists. Looks like Paris. Is that your mother? In a mini-skirt? Who’s the guy with her?”

“It can’t be Mama. She never went anywhere in her life. If she’d ever been to Paris, she’d have told me.”

“Somebody’s written ‘Corinne 1985’ on the back. Looks like she didn’t tell you everything.”

Discipline, Schmiscipline

People in my writers group look at me funny when I tell them I warm up my muse by working on 100-word stories to picture prompts on “Friday Fictioneers”. That just doesn’t seem serious to some of them. Well, that’s the whole point – I’m playing. But I’m playing with my creative mind, preparing to get down to the serious stuff.

Since I retired, discipline isn’t the problem — I mean the discipline that used to be involved in just trying to find the strength to either write after a ten-hour day or get up at the crack of dawn before a ten-hour day. Once I retired, that just fell away. It takes no discipline for me to wake up to a new day, sit on my glassed-in breezeway (sunny or not), drink coffee and read a good book. Then, primed with caffeine and a dose of literature, I get dressed (pjs are deadly for me), sit at my desk and start with either the aforementioned prompt, a journal entry or maybe I’ll work on a friendly blog post. Then, as I said, I get down to the “serious” stuff of writing novels or short stories. (A lot of my short stories grow straight out of the prompts, etc., but for some reason, never the novels.) Sometimes I could cry to think of so much of my life being wasted on “earning a living”! But, of course, it was never really wasted – it all goes into those prompts, journal entries, blogs — and the serious stuff.

Maybe if I had tried warming up with prompts or journal entries from the beginning, I might have found the strength I needed. Because the real discipline is in getting the muse to stick around if the serious stuff starts to bog down in the middle. But that’s another story.

Stop, Look and Listen

Another 100-word story from a picture prompt. This picture warms my heart when I look at it. Thank you, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Strange how many of these I write in dialogue, and yet usually dialogue is the hardest thing for me to write!

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

“How long do you suppose she had this old thing?”

“I remember her typing on it before I was in school.  Every night with a glass of wine.  She said she was writing her own stories and offered to read them to me, but I never had time to listen.”

“Look!  A drawer full of envelopes.  They’re manuscripts.  There a note attached to each one.  ‘Thank you for your submission.  It does not suit our needs at this time’.  Look at the postmark on this one.  It’s from forty years ago!”

“Are they all rejections?”

“Looks like it.”

“Oh, Grandma.”

As always, please click on the frog and share your own story!

Only 95 words this time!

Here’s my story via this week’s photo prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Friday Fictioneers.

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

The boy craned his neck, staring upward at the outlandish sign.

“Grandpa, how’d they put that car way up there?”

“Probably used some kind of a crane.”

“Why’d they do it?”

“You’d have to ask the guy who put it there.”

“Is he in that there diner?”

“I doubt it.  It’s been closed for a lot of years.”

“How come he didn’t take the car down, then?”

“Maybe he lost the crane.”

The boy pondered the sign for a moment.  “You know something, Grandpa?  I hope he never finds it.”

“Me too, boy.  Me too.”

Click on the frog and join the fun! Read a few stories, write your own and post it. We promise to be gentle.

Life Without Toilet Paper

After the coronavirus grabbed everyone’s attention, my first question was, “Is diarrhea a symptom of COVID 19?”  No?  Then WTH?

Throughout history, when a pandemic struck, or war or famine, people worried about shortages of food, water, medicine, or even blankets.  Here in 2020 America, we are scared shitless (pun intended) of running out of TOILET PAPER?

I wonder if it’s all a symptom of raising kids who have never wanted for anything, and I mean anything.  Kids who refuse to sit in the car without NetFlix or their preferred mode of texting or at least an X-Box.  Who refuse to learn how to cook fish over a fire at camp and want to know why they can’t just order pizza . . . delivered.  Kids who want to go to the store and buy more clothes if the washer breaks down.  People who call off work because their car broke down and taking the bus requires them to get out of bed half an hour earlier, and that’s obviously cruel and unusual.

And saying this is all a symptom of my age, I’m sure.  I walked miles to school, only got three gifts for Christmas and made them last a year, blah, blah, blah.  Actually we boomers had it pretty good.  Good enough to spend our time getting politically involved and making a nuisance of ourselves.  But we did care about someone other than ourselves.  Okay, when Mom told us about the “poor children in Africa”, we suggested sending our leftover broccoli casserole, but still, sometimes I think we hippies took the concept “share” to another level.

My mother also told me of shortages during World War II.  Women wore shorter skirts and drew lines up the back of their bare legs to simulate nylon stockings.  When things got tougher, they worked out how to grow food in backyards and take it to people who didn’t have a backyard.  After it was over, the American government dropped food (and toilet paper?) to the people we’d defeated.  Thirty years later my friends and I packed up stuff like toilet paper and sent it to soldiers in Vietnam.  And then did it again for soldiers in Kuwait.

It’s hard not to throw my hands up in despair.  What on earth do today’s Americans think they’re going to do if there are ever any real shortages?  This isn’t World War III, kids, but if it ever comes to that, I don’t think I’ll want to depend on people who absolutely can’t imagine life without toilet paper.

Tunnel Vision

A 100-word story from a photo prompt. Thank you Rochelle for keeping us primed.

PHOTO PROMPT © Dawn Miller

Your bare foot strikes a rock, and agony flashes through your tormented body.  Far away across the sunlit field you’ve seen a big red barn.  But it runs from you and then swims back.  Is it real?  It has to be.  You fight to place each foot carefully.  If you fall, you won’t get back up again.  Not before the drug drags you into insanity.  Somehow you know that.

I love you, he said.   Another lie, you know that now, too.  But you don’t want to know.  You can’t let yourself believe it.  Not yet.

Don’t fall, don’t.  Keep going.

Join the fun! Just click on the frog and post a story of your own. Then read others to see how they did. It’s amazing how many different ideas pop up from one photo.

Queen of Crime?

with appreciation to Jane Wittingham, author & librarian

Lately I’ve been (enjoyably) studying the women writers of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. It seems to be very popular right now to bandy the term “Queen of Crime” about, and there are many arguments over who exactly deserves the title. What makes a Queen of Crime? Not necessarily bestsellerdom, nor popularity at the time of publication. Nor even popularity right now, since many arguments have developed between fans who’ve just discovered certain authors. Myself, I want good writing that’s strong on atmosphere and place, engaging characters and a plot that’s full of clues but not obvious. I have my own list — what’s yours?

I’m always looking to add to my list and depend on NetGalley and Crime Classics to give me access to authors that I might never have stumbled across on my own. I get the ebook free as long as I write a review within a reasonable time, usually the end of the month. Heavens, my TBR list never seems to go down and who has time to flounder through the overgrown weed-ridden fields that Amazon has become?

Thanks to the reviews and descriptions, I decided to give “Answer in the Negative” by Henrietta Hamilton a try. Never heard of her, but apparently someone has listed her as a Queen of Crime.

I will say that this book is an enjoyable mental puzzle in the tradition of the Golden Age classics although published in 1959, which I consider at least ten years outside the era (again, much argument but never mind). Unfortunately, it’s almost too mental.  In my review I gave only three stars because the puzzle seemed far too convoluted.  As near as I can figure, most of the action takes place in two separate office groupings of a single business, each with its own entrances and exits, loosely connected by various hallways and all existing within a larger office building with yet more entrances, exits and day-and-night porters.  At times following the sleuths (a charming couple) as they try to pin down timetables is like watching a bedroom farce – people constantly going in and out and narrowly missing each other.

Another reason for three stars is that I guessed the killer about a third of the way through, and after that it was just a matter of watching for substantiating clues or hints.  That doesn’t happen very often, and the story was engaging enough that I was quite willing to keep reading in the hopes of being proved wrong. I wasn’t, but oh well. I haven’t read any other books by this author, but based on this one, I wouldn’t call her a Queen of Crime. Maybe a second or third cousin to a Princess.

(By the way, images are, clockwise from left, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Marjory Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers.)

Forgive

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

(This post was inspired by Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle. The challenge asks for bloggers to write a story in 100 words or less in response to the photo prompt.)

I wait in the night park, winter in my soul.

Begging you to speak to me again, like you did the night you died.

You said, “I forgive you.”

What is it you forgive? Letting him win you away from me without a word? Following you with cow-eyes whenever you were with him?  Or ripping wire from the park fence and wrapping it around his neck because he drove drunk and too fast, not caring that you were in the car too.

I buried him under summer grass.  And wait for you in my sleepless winter.

Forgive me.  Forgive.

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Getting Away From It All

A 100-word story that floated up from the swamp of my forgotten past. Many thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for another great prompt. You always get my imagination going.

PHOTO PROMPT © C.E. Ayr

Will crawled out of his little tent at dawn. His eyes sagged with weariness.  “Are they gone?”

“No,”  I said,  “but they’re quiet.  Probably sleeping off all that screaming loud television.  Why do people try to get away from it all by bringing it all with them?”

“Tom wanted to strafe their RV with his old M16.”

I laughed.  “Better wake him.  It’s time to leave if we want to beat traffic.”

“He’s gone.  Said he couldn’t sleep anyway and had something to do before he went home.”

That’s when I saw the bullet holes in the side of the RV.

As always, you can join the fun! Just write a 100(or less!)-word story and post it on your website, blog or social media page. Then click on the frog and follow the directions! And read the other stories — it’s amazing how many different interpretations there can be of one photo. As many as there are people in the world!