APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

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The Cuyahoga County Public Library system is sending out daily email prompts in honor of National Poetry month! The idea is to write a new poem each day based on that day’s prompt. I’ve taken the challenge and included the link in case anyone else is interested. I will be, fingers crossed, posting a new poem every day in April. Since I plan to continue posting for #FridayFlash throughout the month, my Friday poems will either double as flash or be posted in addition to the normal flash. Wish me luck, and I hope you come back soon!

 

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Friday Flash: Pucked Up

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Puck looked at the watch and pondered the nature of time.

 

It was almost as fickle as he was.

 

What marriage – or a good binding-spell brought on by too much drink and a serious lack of judgement – had bound together, time would tear asunder. At least it would if Puck had anything to do with it. Robin Goodfellow was not a fairy that would remain tied by one woman for long, no matter how fun that bondage might be.

 

Belching loudly, he sat up, snapped his fingers and produced two ice-cold cans of his favorite fizzy intoxicant. Crumpling and tossing the empties, he re-loaded his beercap, then stood, scratched his hairy belly and brooded over his newly acquired wife.

 

Buttercup lay frozen on the flowery bed, a beatific smile lightened features that would otherwise have appeared harsh in the early morning light. No, who was he kidding? She looked angelic, no matter how much spandex she was wearing. Still, if he was tied to her by the terms of her nefarious binding-spell until “the end of time,” the obvious solution was to stop time, right?

 

Puck contemplated the charmed silver band that graced his finger. Buttercup had been many things, but a fool was not one of them. In fact, he might even go so far as to say she was as shrewd and knavish as himself, a perfect match. So his solution seemed almost too easy. Was it another trap?

 

However, Robin Goodfellow was not known for his caution. Snagging the watch from the fairy king had been risky, but he knew his boss would be too busy ‘making up’ with Titania to notice its absence. He removed the magically-binding wedding ring, then turned to face his lovely bride. He’d make the bitch pay, but there was no reason her punishment couldn’t also be fun for them both. He pressed a button on the watch’s side.

 

Time once more in motion, his blushing bride opened her eyes, her smile slowly widening as she took in his appearance.

 

“Hello, darling,” she said. “Want to play?”

 

#

*Today’s #FridayFlash is an expansion of a flash I wrote at the six minute story site. The kernel of the story is still there.

 

**Also, though it’s meant to be able to stand alone, it’s a sequel to an earlier flash I wrote, Puck’s Surprise.

 

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Filed under Fairy Tales, fantasy-magic, Flash Fiction, humor, mythology

Friday Flash: Tips

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Working the midnight shift is never easy, but you get your kicks when you can. I’d played my fair share of jokes on my fellow workers – the time when I pretended I’d lost my eyeball in the soup comes to mind. Sometimes the ‘regulars’ would be either in on the joke or the object of it.

But I also wanted my customers to be happy, not just for better tips, but because I hated to see anyone unhappy.  So when my lone customer came inside and placed his order, I could tell something was wrong. He sat gazing at the steaming mug without speaking. When I topped off his coffee, I struck up a conversation. The night shift was long and there wasn’t much else to do.

“How’s your coffee?” I asked.

“Fine,” he said without looking up.

After I’d asked a few more general questions without much response, I walked away. The customer stayed there, lingering over his plate for awhile. I came back every so often to refill his cup or ask if he needed anything else. He never did, but yet he seemed like he wanted to talk. Finally we started chatting about nothing in particular. Somehow the subject of family came up, and he said that he was having trouble.

Living with my in-laws with in a small cramped house, I could sympathize. “What kind of trouble?”

Then he proceeded to tell me his woes. He’d won the lottery, and now everyone expected him to give or loan them money.

Now, before you judge me, he told me this at  3am while working my second job to pay bills I could barely afford. They say that everyone has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Well, that night, the devil gave the angel a black eye, and I was more than happy to listen.

So he told me his troubles, told me how too much money was a burden that made him uncomfortable around his family, sat there and looked with soulful eyes into mine. He was obviously waiting for my sympathy.

I knew I shouldn’t, but I just couldn’t help myself. Really, when would I ever get a chance like this again? Honestly, I know there are exceptions, but my experience has shown that nine times out of ten, the more money you have the worse tipper you are. I wasn’t serious, but I knew he might take it the wrong way.

Still there was that devil prodding me.

“So… does that mean you’re going to give me a big tip?” I asked.

“No!” he practically spat. I felt a little sorry for the guy once I said it, but not that sorry. He didn’t speak to me the rest of the time.

Oh, and he left a lousy tip.

 

##

 

*The above story actually happened many years ago when I worked the graveyard shift.

**image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Friday Flash: Inspiration

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She wrote her story idea on her hand when nothing else was handy – no paper, no cell phone to type in notes or record herself a message. The ink stained her palm, and she worried that the words would wash away before she could capture them more permanently. She rested her hand against the wall, and the blue ink reproached her.

Her muse hid behind a beam and giggled. He played hide and seek.

What sort of pervert was he anyway?  The idea, most likely promoted by male writers, that muses were only female was absurd. Maybe they had started out as sisters, but over time their male heirs started taking on the family business. Her muse was definitely male. And a real bugger too.

She’d developed a few tricks of her own over the years. Her cell was loaded with notebook applications for jotting down ideas, and a voice recorder for when writing was too cumbersome. Even then, he sometimes got the better of her. Once, sitting between her husband and son watching a video, inspiration struck. While her husband worked on his laptop, something he frequently did while the family watched television, she managed to squeeze the phone out of her pocket (it was wedged between her and her sleeping son). She carefully tapped the screen twice to start the app, then whispered her idea into the mike of her phone. “Do you mind? I’m trying to type,” her husband said.

Yet, when she sat in front of her keyboard, straining for ideas, then the muse was nowhere to be found. She’d go outside, go for a walk, do anything where it was inconvenient to write down any inspiration, and lo! He snuck up behind her, whispered in her ear, and disappeared before she could turn around.

He also played peekaboo. The bastard.

She didn’t think anyone knew where writers got their ideas, especially the writers. Inspiration snuck up on them when they weren’t looking, yet disappeared when they longed for its cool touch.

Yep, definitely a man.

*

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com
**In case anyone misinterprets this, I am NOT being sexist here. Just a humorous look at someone complaining about sexism while being sexist herself. Muses can be irritating no matter what their gender, but I still hope mine stays around!

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Friday Flash: As You Liked It ~or~ As You Like It, Part 2

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“Father, the seating arrangement simply must be changed.”

“Why, Rosalind! Whatever do you mean? The couples are all seated next to each other, as befits an Anniversary dinner-”

“But whose Anniversary, pray you? Nay, not just mine and Orlando’s, but others’ as well!”

“Yes, of course, my dear. Don’t you see? I seated Celia and Oliver across from you.”

“But what of Touchstone? And Audrey?”

“They’re to have an excellent feast in the adjoining room, just as lavish, I promise you.”

“In the adjoining room! You did not seem so hard a year ago…”

“Well, it simply isn’t proper to have commoners seated at the table with nobility.”

“What of the Forest Arden! There you were content to sit alongside the beasts of the forest, and indeed, have your daughter married in the same ceremony as a fool and his lady.”

“A wise man does not argue with a god, Rosalind, no matter WHAT his rank.”

“The god, Hymen, is a rather agreeable sort.”

“The god of marriage wished to marry you. I will not quibble with a god about his own business.”

“It seems uncivil, somehow, to separate the celebrations now that we are back.”

“Then we were, as you so kindly observed my dear, in the forest. Manners in town must needs differ from the forest, and indeed, differ widely from Court.”

“What will your friend, Jaques, have to say about that, I wonder?”

“No doubt he will soliloquize awhile, and then wander off to be melancholy.”

“He does love to do that sort of thing; does he not?”

“Yes, my dear, though I fear he may not wander far enough. He’s rather fond of our fool.”

“Of Touchstone? I had forgot, but mayhaps he shake Jacques from his melancholy.”

“Oh no, my dear! For his happiness is more a terror than his melancholy. God save me from his mirth.”

“Now, Father, you are not in earnest. I see the curl of your lip and the sparkle of your wit. But come now. What of Audrey and Touchstone? Shall we seat them near Celia and her Oliver?”

“That depends. Has Oliver the patience for it?”

“Dear father, he is, of course, a patient and kind man. How could he be otherwise, when sired by Sir Roland and brother to my dear Orlando?”

“That same brother, whose life he aimed to end, I recall.”

“A miracle, I grant you. No doubt, my dearest friend, Celia, tamed his rage with her beauty.”

“I should hope so, for her sake. He wooed in haste.”

Give thy thoughts no tongue. You do not suggest-”

“No, my dear. I know your friend to be honest, though I do not trust HIS mind. False face may hide what the false heart doth know.”

“Father!”

“So the seating arrangement stays the same.”

“I have not agreed to such a thing. What of Silvius and his Phoebe?”

“The shepard! I grant you, allowances are made for a licensed fool. It is the nature of his craft to be allowed liberties, but a shepard-”

“Married by the god, Hymen, in the same ceremony as your own daughter and her friends.”

“The god is hardly going to come to the anniversary feast, now, is he?”

“—!”

“Oh, my lord Hymen! Pardon this poor mortal. I did not observe your august presence. Of course, I shall seat them together.”

“Lord Hymen, my father and I are grateful for your interest in our humble feast. It doth-”

“Left in a flash, did he not, my dear?”

“That was laid on with a trowel.”

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.

“Too true, dear Father. They treat the world as their stage, and they are the stage managers.”

“So, my dear, I suppose you shall have your way. All the lovers shall be seated at one table, as they were wed in one ceremony.”

“What shall we feast upon? Indeed, for I mean to make merry.”

Cakes and ale, my dear! Venison, and all manner of meat. The sauces shall be rich, and our wit more so.”

“What of your brother, Frederick? Will he not dine with us?”

“He is most welcome, as always, in my house.”

“Did not my Uncle eschew meat when he vowed a monastic life?”

“He need not eat it. I shall, for my own part, eat a pound of flesh, for my salad days are well behind me.”

“But your melancholy friend, Jacques… Will he not object to the venison?”

“Mayhap my head will ache all evening, and YOU may deal with Jacques! All the world’s a stage, indeed!”

“But father, I thought him your dear friend!”

“A friend, my dear, but his philosophy is too much for my mind. Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”

“Then it is a good thing Touchstone and his lady will be seated nearby. His merry wit may counter Jacques’ philosophy.”

“Rosalind, my dear, send for the apothecary. My head doth ache.”

#

 

*This is one of several flash drafts that I found while cleaning out my files, so I polished it up. For fun, I bolded the lines that I stole… er, borrowed from Shakespeare! I hope you enjoyed it!

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Friday Flash: Mirror

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MIRROR

Sebastian had heard family stories about the relic in the attic for years. However, he had always been a curious but sensible child and never believed the rumors of what lay beyond the locked door. Spirits and ghosts had no place in his imagination.

Nevertheless, the large standing object covered by the thin azure sheet had been gathering dust in a disused recess of the attic for centuries, according to family legend. The grandparents of his grandparents had feared the item hidden beneath the heavenly blue, yet feared to let it go; the consequences of its guardianship falling into careless hands might be too great.

In all likelihood, his elders had created the stories to keep meddlesome children from scavenging through old family heirlooms, though Sebastian discovered nothing else of interest except a few scraps of antique clothing and some worn furniture. The secret hidden beneath the sheet would be revealed as nothing more than an ordinary mirror from a garage sale. With luck though, it might be valuable as an antique.

He pulled the silk off in one smooth motion, coughing from the dust born on the air like dandelion seeds. The cloud dispersed, and he gazed at the image of the mirrored-attic. The same wooden walls, crossbeams, old trunks, and debris of generations reflected back in reverse. But the staring face was not his own. The features were similar, high cheekbones, large round eyes and full sensual lips, but there any resemblance ended. Its deep brown eyes stared back at him from within a pale, hairless face. It lifted thin, bare hands to cover its mouth before it ran, screaming from the room.

Sebastian himself stepped back, reeling from the shock, grabbing at his face, his head, his horns. He sighed in relief when he felt his tail swish around his shoulders. He was fine. Who was that then- some demonic version of himself trapped in a mirror world? He wondered if the beast was dangerous. Should he destroy the cursed mirror and rid himself of whatever lurked inside?

In the corner of the mirror, the blue cover was barely visible near the doorway of the looking-glass room. The creature returned to stand before him and Sebastian took a step back. Then, overcome with pity for the poor, bald thing trapped on the other side, Sebastian placed a lone claw upon the glass. The monster’s eyes widened in terror, and it struck the translucent partition with something long and hard.

The mirror shattered.

Sebastian’s last thoughts cut as deeply as the shards of falling crystal. He felt himself break into a thousand pieces.

#

The man’s sigh filled the room.

Grabbing a broom, he hastily swept the fragments of broken glass onto the discarded sheet, then wrapped them tightly in their sky-colored shroud and entombed them in the waste bin. He shoved the bin away with his foot, once more sending clouds of dust into the attic’s stale air. Turning his back on all, he hastily closed the door and locked it behind him.

Later he could tell himself it had only been a dream.

 

*image courtesy of The Library of Congress via Flickr: The Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

**I hope you enjoyed this. I rediscovered this draft from several years ago when I cleaned out some old files, so I polished it up for #FridayFlash. Feedback and polite criticism is always welcome and appreciated. Thank you for your time!

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Filed under fantasy-magic, Flash Fiction, horror

Friday Flash: 53

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Ronald spent most of his life trapped in the business world, placing a small noose around his neck each day and laboring under the lash of his inferiors. That was until the knowledge of his impending death liberated him from his humdrum existence. The revelation was unexplainable, but he knew it to be true.

 

Most people wouldn’t have considered the balding, pot-bellied, middle-aged man to be much of a threat. Until he’d glimpsed his inevitable doom, he wouldn’t have considered himself much of anything. He had no family, no children, no prospects except his looming fortieth birthday.

 

However, the gift of his single premonition changed everything. Once he’d glimpsed the end of his life’s path, he was as upset as anyone else would be. Childhood dreams that he hadn’t thought of in years suddenly seemed incredibly precious and unattainable. He only had thirteen years left.

 

When the ticking of the clock sounds like the footsteps of doom, thirteen years is all too brief. After a lifetime of mediocrity, he thought himself incapable of breaking his self imposed mold. He lacked the funds to travel the world. He lacked the charisma and intellect needed to charm his way to the top of the business world. How could he ever live in Hawaii at the tip of a volcano? He would never even live past fifty-three.

 

Yet, didn’t age also hold promise? His time was limited, but it was also a CERTAINTY. Just as nothing could prevent his death, nothing could hasten it. He was indestructible. He wasn’t a risk taker by nature, but for the next thirteen years death held no sway over him. Rather than a death sentence, it was an emancipation.

 

With this in mind, he realized the one childhood dream within his reach. He became a superhero. With iron-on numbers, blank t-shirts, and surprisingly comfortable tights, he created a costume to wear beneath his work clothes. He started wearing more comfortable shoes to work and carrying a few ‘accessories’ in his briefcase. With his new persona hidden neatly beneath his worn suit, he could transform in an instant into the dreaded Number 53, the Middle-Aged Marvel, defender of the innocent, bane of evildoers.

 

He used his invulnerability for the first time during his morning commute. He’d noticed a woman being followed into an alley by a shady looking character. The man pulled something out of his pocket as he followed the nervous looking woman. No one else seemed to notice.

 

Ronald looked around. Not a phone booth to be had. Damn cell phones! He’d just have to do with his mask.  He walked into the alley and slipped it on quickly. He could hear voices.

 

“I told you, Dan, that’s all I have! I can’t give you anything else. Now, it’s over. Please let me go.”

 

“Listen, doll, I think you’ve got something else I want, and I intend to get it.”

 

‘Doll?’ Didn’t that slang go out with speakeasies and guys named ‘Bub?’  Ronald thought.

 

He heard the woman gasp. “Get your hands off me!” A sharp slap echoed in the alley.

 

By now Ronald, shrouded in darkness, stood behind the thug. He feigned bravado. Stepping forward, he boomed in the deepest voice he could muster, “YOU HEARD THE LADY. LET HER GO.”

 

The man pushed the woman to the ground and turned, his incredulity writ large. The woman sat, sobbing quietly behind him. “Who the hell are you?” His jaw dropped as he took in Ronald’s mask, business suit, balding pate, and unimpressive physique.

 

“I’m ’53!'” said Ronald.  He thrust out his chest and pulled open his button down shirt to reveal the iron-on letters beneath. Damn, there go my buttons, he thought, as he heard them plop onto the wet ground. He’d really need to think up a better way to undress in these situations. Buttons weren’t cost effective.

 

The man looked him up and down, then started laughing. “I didn’t ask your age, moron! What are you going to do to stop me?”  He pointed a gun at at Ronald’s chest and snickered. “Looks to me like your days are numbered.”

 

Ronald dove at the man’s feet just as he pulled the trigger. The recoil and Ron threw him off balance, the bullet aimed high, ricocheted off the wall, catching the man in the shoulder. With a cry, he fell heavily, cracking his head on the pavement. He was out cold.

 

“My days ARE numbered,” said Ronald proudly. He turned and offered his hand to the woman. She’d stopped crying, took his hand, and let him pull her to her feet. Despite her tear-stained face and swollen eyes, she was rather pretty.

 

“Just so you know, Miss,” he added. “I’m not fifty-three years old. It’s just my alias.”

 

She smiled at him, and for the first time in his life he felt truly alive.

 

THE END.

 

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com
**Going through some old files, I rediscovered this flash that I’d stashed away and never published. Enjoy! Polite feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

 

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Friday Flash: Mangrove

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Mangrove

 

 

Her roots reached down through the water into the dark, soft mud. It felt good to stretch and feel the coolness of the earth in the clinging tendrils that shot from her body. Though she enjoyed the company of the water’s other animals – the long, lean birds that would search for food between her roots, the shelled creatures that used her for shelter – more than all, she loved the sleek rocky lizard that preyed on smaller living things. Perhaps it was his cratered body that appealed to her, a rock that waited with large golden eyes. She was earth, and he was stone.

“He’ll never return your love,” said the soft creature with the hard shell. “He can only have happiness with his own kind.” But the tree stretched her roots farther yet into the flowing water, offering more in the hopes of greater return. But the craggy beast visited, neither more nor less, as he searched the cool water for his next meal or mate. Sometimes he waited in the shadow of her branches.

Her sisters crowded together along the shoreline, their roots mingling as they whispered to each other. They pulled away from her, though they themselves harbored similar creatures within their sheltered roots. None of them loved though, like she loved the dark brooding predator. His bellows sent shivers through her as her roots vibrated in the water.

Soon the lonely call of a water bird disturbed the stillness, and she remembered her loneliness. His company did not alleviate her solitude; it amplified it. It accentuated her inability to connect to him and to others of her kind. Her sisters presence did not console her.

The moon shone through her branches, dying them silver with its touch as she cast dark shadows on the water. The lizard took shelter in her presence, and she realized that the moonlight had changed him too. It changed the water, her sister trees, even the distant hills. How could she have been so blind?

Penetrated and penetrating, she breathed the air that blew through her branches and transformed it into oxygen, giving life to many creatures – including herself. The wind slowed as it rustled her leaves, carrying the sound far away into the evening stillness. All occurred beneath the lovely sky of this world, the celestial orb spinning slowly through space and time, giving shape to the universe.

How could she be alone? She was one with them all, as the drop was one with the river.

She stretched her roots down through the water into the dark, soft mud.

 

 

 

*image courtesy of tonynetone via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

 

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Filed under experimental, Fairy Tales, Flash Fiction

Friday Flash: Runaway

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Sal knew his time was running out, a runaway train heading straight for him but he had nowhere else to go.

“So… will you?” he pleaded, kneeling before the woman of his dreams, heart- quite literally- in his hands. Ever since they had met at the runaway shelter, they had spent every waking moment together.

Lucy gazed, not at the engagement ring with the heart-shaped diamond, but rather at the train hurtling toward them both, its lights illuminating her would-be fiancé like a spotlight.

“What, are you crazy?” she hissed, pulling at her boyfriend’s arms, leaning back with all her weight. “Get off the tracks! You’re going to get us both killed!”

“The only way I’m moving is if you agree to marry me.” He clutched the red velvet box tightly in his hand so as not to lose its precious contents.

The object of his desire stared at him in abject horror as she pulled and prodded him, but he budged not an inch. “Are you CRAZY?”

He smiled a beatific smile, stars in his eyes – or were they the reflections of that oncoming train? “The only thing I’m crazy about is you!” He had to shout above the din, the train’s motors thundered as the horn screamed for him to move.

Lucy, staring at either an uncertain future tethered to a madman or an early grave, chose option ‘C’ and ran away as fast as her feet would carry her, diving behind a nearby building to avoid the carnage of her lover’s fate.

She may not have been the nicest person, but she definitely knew enough to run AWAY from her problems and not headlong into them.

 

 

 

 

*originally written on 2015-01-29 at the six minute story site, inspired by their random prompt and modified slightly for punctuation and spelling. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

**image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Friday Flash: (poem) “Space”

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SPACE

Losing consciousness

My last breath

crystallizes on the

window

Life and air and warmth

inches from my face

but an eternity away

 
 
So close

My lungs freeze

as I float into infinity

The stars reach for me…

 
 
Supplies and air enough for one survivor.
 
 

What will you tell the rescue ship when asked

about my absence?

Will you survive the airlock

once they learn of your

betrayal?

 
 
My last sight –

your grim smile

as you darken

the pane

 
 
 

*image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Centers photostream via Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

As always, polite feedback is always appreciated. I’m especially interested in any comments for this particular poem, because I was experimenting with this way of telling a story.

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction, poems, scifi