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.)


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.


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!

Lost Letter

I’m wondering if I could make this a longer story for Memorial Day. Again, thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for her thought-provoking prompts. I always think “no way” and always come away thinking, “Son of a gun!” So here’s the latest 100 word story:

Copyright Sandra Crook

They wandered around the memorial, searching out the bricks that had names. They’d found classmates lost to Viet Nam and unfamiliar names lost to later wars, the grandchildren of classmates.

“Found one,”  called Beverly.  “You knew this guy, right, Maizie?  Did you know he died in Nam? Funny, I always thought he just moved away.”

Maizie couldn’t speak. Or think.

He’d never answered her calls or the letter telling him she was pregnant.  In a rage she had put his baby up for adoption and the man far out of her heart.

Had the letter ever reached him?

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A sobering look at what an author is facing these days.

When Amazon was new, I thought it was a wonderful way to get people reading. I still think it’s even better than those lurid paperbacks and comic books in the mid-twentieth century which caused a lot of sniffing and sneering amongst the literary crowd but enabled folks to read things they couldn’t afford before.  Now Amazon and Kindle make inexpensive (read cheap) books even more available.  After all, we are a fast-food nation; fast-food-books was inevitable. 

But even in the heyday of paperbacks and comics, books with more depth were still easily available too. Now Amazon is training authors to use the best system for them to make money, not for readers to experience good books.  Authors are being pushed into a system of faster and faster candy mints and throw-away thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against candy mints. They have their place. But as a steady diet they really stink, and that’s where Amazon keeps trying to lead us. There are a lot of good books on Amazon.  And I’ve read a lot of the millions of “bad” books.  Many are no worse than the paperbacks and comic books of the old days, and most are not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  But too often I feel like I’ve wasted the time and money no matter how small the amount.  How do readers find the meat & potatoes if the Amazon table is drowning in candy mints?

When I’m not reading, all I want to do is write, but I don’t want to turn my books over to the agent-reader-editor-publisher-galleys-in a couple of years-‘sorry, you didn’t recoup the advance’ thing either. And then have a big-name publisher drop them into the ‘out of publication’ (i.e. author-untouchable) bin if they don’t make enough money in the first six weeks.

With Amazon, books never go out of publication.  On the other hand, the Amazon system is geared toward authors who can pump books out as fast as they can. And then do all the marketing on their own or pay for it to be done.  And it takes constant research to keep up with what’s the latest best thing — Ads?  Newsletters?  Blog posts?  Blog hopping?  Swapped reviews?  Guest posting?  Goodreads?  Facebook author page? (“Add your business address so customers can reach you!”  What, my bedroom? Not on Facebook!) More and more I’m seeing authors begging their readers to leave a review — “just a few words!” — because this is what the Amazon algorhythm monkey understands.

My last book to be published went up on Amazon a few years ago.  You can still buy the first one.  But I’m not a fast writer, and I’m never going to finish the next book if I’m spending my days trying to game Amazon and their constantly changing “bestseller” algorhythms.

The other day I listened to a young working mother refuse a free bag of fresh veggies from someone’s garden, saying “Thanks, but I like to buy stuff that’s already washed and chopped up.”  One Facebook group that I follow because it discusses new mysteries and suspense novels seems to have devolved into posts listing all the books they read this month, or this week, or today, like it’s a competition.

I’m a full-on capitalist and welcome competition, but I don’t know how to compete in this new world.

With a Sigh

Another 100-word story to a writing prompt from Thank you, Rochelle, for providing so much fun. Isn’t it strange, though, how many of us tend to write sad stories at what is supposed to be the happiest time of year.

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

The snow-covered bench curved ’round the gazebo.  Its posts framed the steel-colored lake and the far shore.  Alice had loved the cold, had loved sitting with her father while he read the poems of Robert Frost to her.  Then the stranger came, and he and her father read the poetry to each other.  Alice’s anger filled her mother’s willing ear.

Her father had left them to take a different road.

Now the gazebo no longer welcomed her.  She was the stranger. She brushed snow off the bench, sat on its chill surface and began to read “The Road Not Taken”.

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My Inheritance

Another 100-word story from a prompt by

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

I stared at the dank storage cage and demanded,  “Where’s my grandmother’s stuff?”

The building super chewed on a toothpick.  “This is it.”

“Two beat-up boxes and a piano?  Where’s the antiques she collected?”

He avoided my eyes.  “I don’t know from antiques.  Your brother took everything in the apartment right after she croaked.  Management says after six months, I gotta dump what ain’t claimed.”

“I was out of the country.”  I felt the grief again.  “I didn’t know.”

“You want this stuff or not?”

My brother hadn’t known about the storage unit.  My inheritance.  Gone.

“Keep it,”  I said.

If you want to join the fun, just follow the frog! Click and follow the directions, and don’t forget to read the efforts of others and comment.