Out of Reach

A small story of children trying to understand the adult world, written to a picture prompt at Friday Fictioneers.

PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda

He held tight to her hand, his small head tilted back. “Does Mom really live way up there?”

“That’s what the newspaper said.”

“I’d like to live high up where nobody could yell at me.”

“If you lived up there, she’d probably yell at you.”

After a moment he asked, “Did she yell at you when she lived with us?”

“Well, she mostly yelled at Dad. Don’t you remember?”

He shook his head.

“Good,” she said firmly, “it’s better if you don’t.”

“I think Dad remembers.”

“He tries hard not to. So don’t mind if he yells at us sometimes.”

If you’d like to join the fun, write your own story (no more than 100 words!) and post it on your blog, website, media page, whatever. Then click on the New Year’s froggie and enter the link to it. Then read everyone else’s! We want to know what you think.

What’s in a word?

When I was not so very young (i.e. should have known better), I made a casual remark, using a phrase I’d grown up with and never questioned. I said that someone had “welshed on a deal”. Another person sitting at the table took me very severely to task — I had disparaged the people of Wales.

I was stunned.

Until this man spoke up, it stupidly had never occurred to me that the phrase referred to people from Wales. It was just “a word” in the English language that my family had used forever. But my protests of innocence didn’t hold much weight even for me, and I was ashamed of my ignorance.

In an attempt to help, a friend suggested that the man was misinformed, that in fact the word referred to the well-known juice company, or at least to the family that founded it. But aside from the fact that it’s spelled differently, after a lifetime of exposure to the British habit of casually disparaging anyone not considered British (including, oddly enough, the Welsh, Irish, and Scots) I knew in my heart that this very angry person was right. “Welsh on a deal” was another one of those casually damaging phrases we have all inherited from our forefathers, like “jew down a price” (a favorite of my father’s), “indian giver” (a constant in my childhood) or “Chinese fire drill” (that one still slips out).  And did you know that to “gyp” someone is to equate them with the European gypsies who were long assumed to be liars and cheats? Another one I was ignorant of, though I protest that I’ve always known them as Romani people.

Growing up, I was forbidden to use certain words that put down an entire ethnic group. You know the ones I mean. Mama was continually mortified by my grandmother’s use of what we now refer to as the N-word. It was just something everyone Granny ever knew had used since she could remember. I’m sure if anyone had had the nerve to confront her, the response would have been an echo of what I’ve heard so many people say: “Well, I don’t mean nothin’ by it.”

And yet my own mother used “welsh on a deal” without a hint of a blush. Why had no one ever told me what the phrase was supposedly based on? Was it assumed that it was self-evident? Or was it simply from so long ago that everyone had actually forgotten where it came from?

I believe such things go back to the ancient urge to protect your family and your village from strangers, the need to quickly judge if you are under threat, so as to be ready: That person doesn’t look like us, this person doesn’t talk like us, those guys don’t act like us; be open but beware! And let your neighbors know that the threatening others are about. You know, those people.

The problem now is that the entire globe is fast becoming one large village, one human family. We may not like all those relatives that live all over the world, but they’re all related to us as surely as the ones living in our own home, if more distantly. We need to be more careful how we might be putting the family down. Ignorance is no excuse, as we don’t say often enough.

So I’m checking out the words I use, not just in my writing but in my personal life. It’s a simple matter of engaging brain before putting mouth in gear.

And it’s really not so hard to say “didn’t honor our agreement”, is it?

Buses Are aComin’

My first novel was set in the Sixties of my young adulthood, and I’ve never stopped trying to understand that troubled time. For that reason I accepted an advance copy of this book by Charles Person in exchange for an honest review:

I did find this book surprisingly hard to get into at first, given that the subject is something that affected my own life. I understand that there is a lot of anger and pain behind Person’s memories, and I needed to make myself ‘see’ firsthand events that I was mercifully spared at the time.

But the story is slowed by long passages that pretty much make the same point over and over without adding any more to it. I felt like my head was being pounded on or preached at. And like any human, I couldn’t help resisting. Charles Person has every right to make this point with the book, but I wanted the story behind it, not the same anger over and over. I bookmarked pages and highlighted a lot, and I sincerely believe that if I took just my bookmarked pages and the highlighted passages and made a new book, I wouldn’t be leaving much out, and the horror of it all would still be there.

I believe the point he wants to make is not the buses or their riders, the point is what happened to those buses and riders, and the eternal question WHY? Why did such things have to happen? To any human being? And why are they happening still?

I was well over halfway into the book before we were actually on the buses. I began to learn about why the buses had to come, about what happened on them and the treatment of the people who volunteered to go on them. I learned about the hideousness and the inexplicable murderous hate. And the ability of so many to rise above it and carry on. And finally I was glad to have read this book, both for my own research and for my own humanity.

Then in the last chapter or so, it returned to being a polemic. This book is heartbreaking, and a necessary read for all who want to understand its truths. I’m glad for this bit of illumination into my own history. But trying to pound it into the reader over and over gets in the way and makes the book much less effective than it could have been. There is a reason the buses had to come and why they are still coming. And they will keep coming until we do understand and do something about it.

I’ll get by. . .

with a little help from my friends.

Here’s a quick 100-word story I wrote to a prompt from our prompt guru Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for Friday Fictioneers.

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

“You gonna reopen, Nate?”

“Nope. I’ve had enough.”

One by one we surveyed the damage and sat to commiserate. Then Pete came in and found a broom. We watched in silence as he swept mud and seaweed across the floor. He had trouble with one big pile so Janetta dug up a garden rake and helped him push that mess out and down toward the beach. Georgie swished Nate’s mop around, Mayor Greensom started scrubbing counters, Martha and I straightened up outside and Singh went to find industrial cleaner for the grill.

Nate was open for business in three days.

Join the fun! Write your own story, post it on a website and then click on the frog and add it to the rest!

Back in business!

A Scam in Two Acts

I first wrote this as a reply to a blog post (https://laurierking.com/2020/07/the-case-of-laurie-and-the-monegasque-prince/) by writer Laurie R. King, New York Times bestselling author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books and many others. It was such fun to write that I decided to brush it up and re-post it here. My event is a bit dated now , but hers just happened, so don’t think they aren’t still out there!

Please be sure to follow the link to her blog to get the full flavor of the high-jinks!

Dear Laurie R. King,

I’ve never had the opportunity to correspond with a scammer via email, but I once spoke to a scammer on the phone. They managed to freeze up my computer and fill the screen with an appallingly scary message and an emergency number to call (purporting to be Microsoft, I think, but it was years ago).

I was freaked out, so I called — what’s the harm, right? The “technician” wanted me to pay them $3000 (via credit card number) to figure out what was wrong with my computer and “fix” it. I hung up, re-booted the computer and it was fine.

A day or so later I got a phone call from “the IRS” saying that my audit showed problems, but if I paid a portion of what was owed (via credit card number), I would not be arrested for tax fraud.

I played dumb and was able to string him along for a good hour. Finally I asked him what part of Ethiopia (I picked that out of the air) he was from. That’s when the accent really started coming out – he was not Ethiopian! He was furious! He wouldn’t tell me where he was from, though, no matter how nicely I asked.

Finally I couldn’t keep from laughing, and he screamed at me that the sheriff (which soon turned into an FBI agent) was on his way to my door so I’d better either pay up or run! I kept saying, “Well, they aren’t here yet — what’s keeping them? Are you sure they’re not coming for you?” It quickly degenerated into him screeching into my ear about how disgusting American women are and how dare I threaten him. The harder I laughed, the madder he got.

They are trained to stay on the line as long as they can keep you talking, but finally he couldn’t take any more and hung up.

It was a great story to tell over drinks.

BTW, I changed my number!

Sincerely, Eugenia Parrish

Have you had to deal with anything like this? I’d love to hear your story.

Choose Wisely, my Friend

A 100-word story again, because this picture just got me to thinking:

There is a game my family played with three dice marked L, R, and C. If L or R came up when you rolled, a penny went to the person on your left or right. If C came up, you put a penny in the center pot. Last one left with all the pennies won the pot as well.

I stood gazing at the parked trains. I could hop one heading left. I could hop one heading right. Or cut between them and keep hiking toward the horizon.

A sunlit horizon away from cities and people.

Center pot it is!

Come and join us at Friday Fictioneers! Write 100 words or less to the picture prompt and post your story on your blog or website. Then click on the frog to add your link to the others. Read our stories and leave a comment — we want to know what you think! (Be kind.) And if you post the picture, be sure to credit the photographer. All pics are for use of Friday Fictioneers only. Thanks!

The Shadow in the Wave


A 100-word story from long ago:

Water sluiced off her body as she sprang up from under a wave. The next rolling wall of water was translucent green, containing for a breathless moment an arching shadow. A dorsal fin. Her heart recognized the sweet smile.

“Look!” she cried to the others. “It’s my mother! I told you she’d come!”

Their ears were dulled by salt water. Laughter echoed across the waves.

“Scaredy brat! She thought it was a shark!”

“It’s just a dumb dolphin, babe!”

She didn’t care. The wave and its rider were gone. But there was a smile left behind in the sunlit sea.

froggie-1Join the fun! Write a story of 100 words or less (Beginning, Middle, End)  and post it online. Then click on the froggie and add your link at the bottom of the page. Read the other stories and tell us what you think! Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. Thanks!

“the glimpse traveler”, by Marianne Boruch

I don’t usually do book reviews unless something strikes me as unusual. This is cliché Sixties memoir, except that it isn’t.

glimpse traveler

I didn’t want it to end. As a memoir it reads like most, meaning “This happened to me once and I’m still trying to figure out what it means.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s well-told, lyrical and she drew me back to my own youth, to the early Seventies when we all had lost our footing and become scared by the very things that had excited us: the mind-freeing drugs, body-freeing clothes, spirit-freeing music, the things that somehow had all gone beyond us and out there where most of us couldn’t follow anymore. And the ones that did never came back.

Like me, she observed more than lived through those years and managed to put her observations into this single pointed narrative of one small point in time, a narrative that I recognized. We both stumbled into road trips that promised we’d find answers (though no one was sure what the questions were). Then (with hidden relief) we went back to our babies and our careers and were reasonably happy but never again felt that aliveness, that breathtaking belief in the possible. Never even realized we had left it behind. Until we read someone else’s story and think, my god, that was my story too, only completely different. I was there, only somewhere else. Why did I forget? Not how could I, but why? Boruch doesn’t answer that, but I suppose none of us can.

Some revenge is good piping hot.

I’ve been a bit too busy to try the Friday Fictioneers prompt lately. But as I wrote a comment (a rather long one — 50 words) on Dale’s story, I realized maybe I could expand it to make a story of my own. So here it is:


Catherine peeled an eye open at 4 a.m. Okay, today she would march over to her neighbors and complain. It might be natural for a rooster to crow at dawn. It wasn’t natural for the same rooster to crow at brunch… and lunch… and tea… and dinner… and high tea… and supper… and apparently just to say goodnight. Or was he just that good with the ladies?

But before she could open her mouth, her neighbor said, “Hi! I was just coming over to invite you and the rest of our neighbors to dinner tonight. We’re having chicken pot pie!”

Write your own story to the picture prompt, post it wherever you post things and then click on Froggie’s link and join the fun! Everybody welcome!

“Show, don’t tell” — does it just apply to writers?

Show me!

Every writer has been admonished, “Show, don’t tell!” There are blogs and articles and arguments galore. It refers to the use of words. It refers to using description to bring events alive in the reader’s mind and heart, rather than flat narrative that tells the reader what’s happening and how they should feel about it.

It occurred to me that the rule doesn’t just apply to writers.

There’s a lot on social media right now, in words to this effect: “You should wake up! You should understand! You should learn more! You should do more!”

I try not to use the word “should”. It’s too often used by someone who wants to tell the rest of the world how to live. I admire (and listen to) people who show me examples, show me ideas, show me the truth. Who don’t tell me what I “should” do.

And it’s not always other people who tell us that.

My aunt and I once sat in her lovely back yard, sipping ice tea. She moaned that she had been invited to volunteer at a local charity group, but she hadn’t gone yet. “I know I should, but I just can’t seem to make myself find the time. I feel so guilty!”

I said, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”

She looked torn between confusion and laughter, but I meant what I said. If you sincerely believe it’s the right thing to do, then do it. If you don’t believe it, then don’t. And if you’re simply hesitant or reluctant, figure out why and look for answers – all the answers you can find. Don’t tell yourself what you should do. Don’t tell me what you should do. Show me what you’re doing.

And don’t let someone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel guilty about. Figure it out for yourself.

You can tell me what you feel guilty about. I’ll probably put it in a book. But I won’t tell my readers what it’s like to be you – I’ll show them how it makes you feel and what it makes you do. As soon as you figure out what “it” is.

So to quote Eliza Doolittle:

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

Don’t talk of stars, burning above
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire
If you’re on fire, SHOW ME!