Harbour Secrets

With thanks to our gentle and diplomatic Friday Fictioneers host Rochelle Wisoff–Fields, and to Fatima Fakier Deria for this week’s photo prompt. It was HARD but I actually told the tale in 100 words.

My computer is for some reason uncooperative, but at Rochelle’s blog you can click on the “Frog” and read the stories other bloggers have posted in response to this photo.

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria

“I wonder how many ships down there are running drugs?”

Andy turned to the senior manager standing by the window. “What makes you…. Oh, hey. I’m sorry, Marv.”

Marv nodded and turned to go, icy anger replacing his usual grin. Exiting the office he suddenly slammed his fist into the door-frame.

The junior clerk looked up, shocked.

“Last week police found Marv’s grandson and fiancee dead in his apartment,” Andy explained. “That new street drug…the one cops are warning about…”

The clerk swore softly. A few minutes later he headed for the toilet…and flushed six white tablets.

A Wheel Windfall

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast

Update on Mishap at Diameter Park:

The installer insists fault lies with the manufacturer. The thickness of the wheel must be greater on one side and they weren’t alerted to this flaw.

The manufacturer blames the mishap on installation. Their spokesman is adamant the steel was uniform in thickness and the wheel totally balanced when shipped.

The parents are suing the plaintiffs for $3 million compensation for trauma and minor abrasions suffered when the wheel toppled as their child leaned against it. Says the father, “Our lawyer suggested a million each for us and our son, and a million for him. We’re going with that.”

Judge’s decision is pending.

I wrote this one Thursday, but my husband’s minor surgery Friday and my minor throat infection waylaid my good intentions to post it on time. However, seeing others are still posting their stories, I’ll take courage and offer my bit of fiction, too.

With profuse thanks to  Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting Friday Fictioneers and special thanks to Jennifer Pendergast who offered, and holds the copyright for, this image. I’m sure she never intended this pleasant scene to result in a law suit — but I took one look at it and just couldn’t resist. 🙂

 

More Weather Woes

hurricane

The next morning did not look promising for our two foiled tourists. Raylene and Winnie stood by the window frowning as they watched the advancing storm drench the city.

“I don’t wish for the wind, but we could use some heavy rains like this back home,” Raylene commented as another gray cloud dropped yet more water on the streets below. “It would do the crops a world of good.”

“Don’t be silly, Raylene. If we got a rain like this back in Moose Knee it would flatten all the crops for a thousand miles around.”

“Not if it came at the right time, like in March before the farmers started seeding.”

“If it came in March, it’d freeze and the whole country would be one big skating rink.”

“I suppose,” Raylene admitted. “And we’d never want a wind like this.” They watched as another branch fell from one of the trees in the park beside them.

“I declare! They must not use enough fertilizer around those trees if the branches break so easily,” said Winnie. “I’m going to mention that to the Manager next time I see him.”

“Remember, this is a hurricane. It would take an amazing tree to stand up in this gale — and we’ll see a lot higher wind yet before the day is out. The Manager said the hurricane may knock out our power and we’ll be without until they get the generator running.”

“He’d better give us a discount for that.”

Raylene rolled her eyes. “It’ll only be for fifteen minutes or so.”

“ ‘Every penny counts,’ is what I always say.”

Right then the phone rang. Raylene picked up the receiver and recognized her daughter Naomi’s voice.

“Hi, Mom. How are you two managing down there? We hear Hurricane Celestine is moving into that part of Florida.”

“We’re watching its arrival right now.”

“And how’s Cousin ‘Thistle’ enjoying herself? She hasn’t blown away yet?”

Raylene sighed. “I wish…”

“Well, you knew…”

“I’d hoped…”

“For a miracle?”

“I guess.”

“Dream on! Cousin Winnie will never change. She delights in disaster.”

“But I thought…”

Winnie interrupted. “I wish; I hoped; I guess; I thought. Are you paying by the word? Long distance rates are too high for that kind of babbling. Say something sensible or hang up.”

“Cousin Winnie thinks we’re babbling and I should hang up,” Raylene told her daughter. “I guess neither of us are feeling very cheerful this morning. We may spend the whole day in this room watching the rain fall.”

“Poor Mom. I’ll have your martyr pin ready when you get home. Would you like it engraved? How about Semper fidelis or Veni, vidi, vici Florida?

“Maybe just Mea culpa.”

Naomi laughed. “Bye, Mom. Have a great time — once the storm is over.”

Raylene said goodbye and turned to her cousin Winnie. “Come on. Let’s go down to the lobby and see what everybody else is doing. We can’t just sit here and ooze gloom all day long.”

Winnie’s face brightened. “Maybe we can have tea with that nice widower from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Love his accent — I could listen to him all day!”

Raylene smiled. Miracles do still happen, she thought as went to her room to grab her purse.

Notoriety

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Submitting this little tale with special thanks to our kind Friday Fictioneers host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for this week’s prompt.

NOTORIETY

There. I’ve Photo-Shopped dear Uncle Elbert out of this crazy prank. Shame to lose that smug grin of his, but my folks insisted.

Imagine Elbert besmirching the family name by taking up robbing banks! And Grandpa’s bank first of all, adding insult to injury. Dad says when Elbert’s career was terminated one fateful day, Grandpa refused to attend the funeral.

So I’ve successfully deleted Elbert from the family photos, but you know what must have Grandpa turning over in his grave? At family gatherings the great-grands mention him being a successful banker. But they talk about Uncle Elbert for hours.

“We’ve Got Your Back”

antique-car-al-forbes

Photo courtesy of Al Forbes

He heard the ocean roar, felt the wind, smelled the sea air. He waved to his brother, who’d just loaded up that old car he’d bought, then winced as his nephew pinched his arm. “Car, Car.”

Pierce shook him hard and Carson opened his eyes.

“Hey, Car, where you been?” Pierce shouted over the whump-whump of a chopper lifting off. Carson jerked, instinctively grabbing his rifle.

Norstrom snorted. “Stateside. Where we all wanna be.”

“Guess I zoned out,” Carson admitted, watching two women in burkas sifting through some rubble.

Pierce squeezed his shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. We had your back.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My response to today’s prompt has been influenced by the book I just finished reading: Rescuing Finley by Dan Walsh. An excellent book! Chris Seger, a US marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan, suffered severely from PTSD. Finley was a shelter dog trained to work with ex-marines like Chris and Amy was the prisoner who trained him. All three of them had their future redeemed because of this program.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for sponsoring the Friday Ficitoneers and to Al Forbes for the prompt picture. This photo is copyright and may only be used in connection with this prompt, or with permission of the owner.

Gone Someday

The Boat Builder’s Escape

Matt stuck the small painted boat under his t-shirt so no one could see it and ran the five blocks to the 20th Street bridge. He was hoping Mom wouldn’t happen to come looking for him. He knew he’d get a good smack upside the head if she didn’t find him busy with the job she’d given him.

Seeing no one else around, the eight-year-old boy hurried to the middle and the bridge and pulled out the boat he’d made. He looked down at the stream not far below. Spring flood waters had swelled the narrow river and were hurrying it along to the forks where it would join another a hundred miles away.

He took a last look at the boat he’d made. Okay, it was nothing special, but he’d shaped and painted it himself. He’d screwed a metal plate on the bottom to keep it right-side up and painted a sailor on the deck. Now he gazed soberly at the little sailor’s face. “I can’t go off and see the world, but you can.” He held the boat over the rail of the bridge and dropped it into the water. As he watched the current carry it away, he murmured, “I can’t run away, but you can.”

He turned around and trudged back home, hoping there might be something in the house to eat.

He slipped into the kitchen quietly so his mother wouldn’t hear him and opened a few cupboard doors, looking for some cereal or a piece of bread to ease his hunger pangs. He was peering into the fridge when his mother suddenly grabbed his arm in a painful grip and yanked him away.

“There you are, you lazy little brat. Where’ve you been? You were supposed to clean up the garage and when I looked you were nowhere to be seen. And where did those paint cans come from? Have you been messing around with paint? All I need for you to get your clothes all splattered.”

“I’m starving, Mom. Just let me grab something to eat and I’ll go clean up.”

She gave him a good shake. “I’ll starve you, you empty-headed little loafer!” She threw him against the side door. “Now get back out there and Do something!”

boy-in-small-boatMatt’s eyes filled with tears as he walked back to the garage. The pain deep inside threatened to choke him. But then he thought of his little boat and smiled. It had gotten away. Someday he would, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Since the Daily Press prompt for today is someday, I thought I’d repost this small fiction story. It was originally posted October 29, 2016

Prairie Fire!

Mary Boos was working in the garden that afternoon and stopped to rest as a warm wind blew across the yard. Right about that time one of the little girls said, “Mama, look at that big cloud.”

Mary turned to see where he daughter was pointing. Her eyes widened as she saw the white and grey clouds of smoke billowing up from the fields a few miles from their small farm. Plumes rose in the air and were swallowed in the vast prairie sky.

“Oh no. That’s a fire – and a big one!” she exclaimed as she scanned the horizon.

For an instant her thoughts tumbled between fear and confusion. She and the girls were home alone; her husband Mike had taken the oxen that morning and gone to Ernfold, their nearest town, for supplies. What could she do to save the children? And would the fire catch Mike en route, too?

Like all grassland homesteaders Mike had plowed a fireguard around their farm, but that was a wide line of fire and the wind was blowing it straight towards them. She surveyed the plowed ring around their farmyard and noticed with alarm that the grass on both sides of the fireguard was knee-high and dried from the summer sun. Excellent fuel to receive blowing sparks and flare up. Something had to be done — that narrow strip of bare earth would never protect their yard.

She screamed for her oldest daughter. “Annie. Come!” Then she thought, how foolish. What could either of them do. A wave of hopelessness washed over her. She thought her children, and of Mike. How would he feel to come home and find them all burned to ashes? There had to be something she could do!

In a moment Annie’s head appeared in the door. “Fire!” Mary shouted and Annie looked where her mother was pointing. “It’s still a few miles away, but we have to work fast,” Mary said as she grabbed her toddler and headed for the house.

“God, help us,” she cried as she ran into the one-room cabin. She shouted an order to her second oldest daughter. “Mary, you stay with these little ones. Annie, we have to do something. Molly and Christina, you stay right here with Mary and you all pray that God will help us save the farm.”

“Won’t the fireguard protect us?” Mary asked.

“A fire that size could easily set this side burning, too, with all this dry grass around.”

“But what can we do, Mama? Shall we get buckets of water?”

Mary had no answer. They could hardly battle an inferno like this. Frantically she looked around, all the while praying for some answer.

Her eyes fell on the little tin matchbox holder tacked on the wall beside the stove. A plan popped into her mind. “Come, Annie,” she ordered, grabbing the match holder.

Mary led the way and the two of them ran straight toward the fire. They crossed the fireguard and ran into the thick grass that crackled on their skirts as they ran. They ran half a mile from home, then Margaret stopped and turned to Annie.

“Take handfuls of matches and go that way; I’ll go this way. Light them and throw them into the grass.”

They both turned to face their farm buildings and tossed lighted matches, ran a few yards and tossed more. Little flames burst out here and there. The wind fanned these; soon the grass was ablaze with tongues of fire racing on the breeze toward their fireguard.

The mother and daughter made a wide arc of flames until their match supply was used up, then they ran back toward the house. When they got to the fireguard, Margaret turned and saw the prairie blacken where their fires had already burned the grass. Song birds, abandoning their nests to the flames, rose up here and there. Rabbits, fleeing the fire, dashed across their farmyard.

The small fires they’d ignited reached the fireguard and burned themselves out. Mary and Annie beat out any flames starting from sparks that blew into the yard. At last the weary mother and daughter headed back to the house. They’d done what they could; now they’d gather the children and pray for divine protection.

Mike was hauling a load of fence posts back from town when he realized the danger he was in. Thankfully he was not far from a slough. It took no effort to get the oxen headed toward the water as they felt the heat from those crackling flames. They pulled the wagon into the middle of the slough, sat down and waited while the fire flowed around them, sizzling at the water’s edges.

Mike thought of his family at home. Would they have had any chance to escape? Had his fireguard actually held this inferno at bay around his farmyard? Sitting there soaked with slough water, he berated himself for not making it twice as wide. Would everything he held dear him be ashes when he finally got there?

Once the charred earth was cool enough to travel on he headed toward his farm, his heart heavy with dread. But then he saw a miracle: in the midst of the blackened prairie there were his farm buildings still standing. The earth was black right up to the plowed strip of fireguard, but the buildings on the other side were as he’d left them this morning. Incredible. Thank God!

When he got to the house his family rushed out to meet him and the girls told him how their mother’s quick thinking had saved their lives and the farm. Her little fires had burned away all the fuel so the main fire had nothing to feed on. It had to go around them.

The facts of this incident were written by Emma, one of the younger Boos daughters, in the book From Prairie Sod to Golden Grain 1904-1974, a history of people of Ernfold and Community.

Word Press Daily prompt word: Flames

Story reblogged from Dec 5, 2013

The Big Bad Pig Reforms

One day my four-year-old grandson was here for a couple of hours while his mom was otherwise occupied, and he was telling me this story:

“At the other grandma’s house we were reading a book. It was a story about three nice wolves and a big bad pig.

“There was a mother wolf and the three nice little wolves. Then the nice wolves had to go and build themselves each a house. And the big bad pig tried to knock their houses down. He did, he knocked down their houses. And the nice wolves ran away.

And the nice wolves ran into a house that was really strong and the big bad pig was going to knock it down, too.”

So what did the big bad pig do,” I asked. “Did he knock the house down?”

“No. He couldn’t. But then you know what happened? The nice wolves opened the door and let the big bad pig in and he became a good pig. Yes! He became a good pig and they were all playing together and everybody was happy.”

I must ask “the other grandma” about this book of hers, I thought. I hadn’t heard this version. No, it sounds very strange indeed. But then my husband went online and found out there is indeed such a book out now. It’s listed on Amazon here: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.

One little wolf builds his house of cement and the big bad pig comes with a jackhammer. The next one builds his house of bricks and the pig comes with dynamite and blows it up. (Remember we’re living with savvy children these days. No straw and stick houses. No huff and puff.”

Caution: spoiler alert!
Anyway, the big bad pig does knock down all the little wolves houses, but in the end do indeed invite the big bad pig in to play with them and be their friend. He responds by becoming a nice pig. I can see this as the author’s attempt to show children one way of coping with bullies. Make them friends. Not a bad plan at all.

At least it works with some people. While other bullies, hardened and scarred by a life of brutality, would respond to the offer by trashing the house and devouring his intended victims. In this case the wolves. Or, for a really quirky twist, would the nice little wolves end up eating the pig? Wolves might, you know. (Oh, well. I needn’t inject a dose of morbid reality here.)

Some parents will applaud what the Amazon book blurb calls a “delightfully skewed version of the traditional tale. Some will call this approach enlightenment; some will say it’s a disappointment. I haven’t decided, but I do wonder about the long-term effects of turning the traditional villain into nice little heroes and the traditional victims, the three little pigs, into one nasty villain. But if this is the only version the children ever hear….?

What do you think?

Word Press Daily prompt: disappointment

A Dark and Stormy Night (2)

Part Two

Royal peered out the window, barely able to see between the rivulets of water running down the pane. “Maybe it’s someone lost in the storm? Or now that he’s out of town, he can’t see to go on.”

“But whoever would start out in a night like this?”

“Maybe it’s thieves who just robbed a bank and need a place to hide out,” said Bluette.

“Just the thing we need to hear,” Mother said in a sharp, reproving tone.

A white zigzag arced across the heavens. “It’s a two-tone,” Bluette announced. “Light body, dark top.”

Royal had gotten a good look, too. “It’s a ‘56 Olds 88 — you can tell by the grille. It has one of those new Rocket V 8 engines,” he said with a superior air. He poked his sister. “Light and dark! You don’t know anything about cars.”

Bluette stuck her tongue out. “It’s cream with a tropical green roof, just like Uncle Nolan’s car. Who cares about engines? I do hope it’s them.”

“Yes,” Mother exclaimed with delight as the vehicle came to a halt near the front door. “It is Uncle Nolans.” She hurried to the door with the children right behind her.

The passengers spilled out of the car and dashed for the sheltering porch. Mother flung the door open. “Come in, come in!” she urged. “What brings you out in this storm?”

“Oh, just thought it would be a good time to pop in for a visit,” Uncle Nolan said as he peeled off his wet coat. “With the lights flickering off and on, we thought the electricity might go out altogether and things would get chilly at our place. Then, of course, we thought of you folks with your nice warm fireplace and decided that’s where we’d rather be if we have to sit in the dark.”

“I hope you don’t mind us coming over,” Aunt Stacey added. “I thought with Tom gone you might appreciate a little company on this miserable night anyway.”

“Oh, yes, we do!” Royal said as he helped hang their jackets over the kitchen chairs to dry.

Mother gave everyone a big hug, even Uncle Nolan. “Your timing is perfect,” she said. “Someone was just speculating that the house would be struck by lightening,” Mother gave Bluette a meaningful look, “while someone else was predicting a tornado would blow us half way across the country. You folks can help put paid to such gloomy thoughts.”

“My word! Well, I must say some thoughts like that were bouncing around at our house, too,” Aunt Stacey admitted, glancing at her own children. “So maybe we can cheer each other up.”

“We should make hot chocolate for everybody,” Bluette suggested.

“Yeah, and popcorn, too,” Azure added. She looked at her cousin Caroline, who nodded enthusiastically.

“That’s a great idea,” Mother said. “But, Royal, you need to bring in some more wood in case the power does go off.”

Royal grabbed a flashlight from the shelf beside the stove and turned to his cousin Michael. “Want to help me split some kindling and bring in the wood?”

“Sure, let’s get at it,” his teenage cousin replied.

“I’m so glad you came,” Bluette said to her cousin Darlene, who was the same age as her.“You’ve saved me from a really tough slog,” she added as the girls wandered back into the living room.

“Like what?” Darlene asked.

“Mom was just saying I had to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she sent. Did you get some for your birthday, too?” She rolled her eyes. “It’s hard to write some gushy ‘Thank you’ for a gift you’ll never use.”

“You know, Bleet, I found a really good use for Aunt Opal’s hankies. I use them for bookmarks.”

Bluette stared at her. “Bookmarks?”

“Yeah. I fold them up and iron them so they’re really flat and use them to mark my place. That way I don’t have to leave books cracked open like this.” She pointed to the book Bluette had left on the arm of the chair. “Then I can write and tell Aunt Opal that I’ve found her handkerchiefs ‘really useful.’ And everybody’s happy.”

“You know, that’s not such a bad idea.” Not being as neat and organized as Darlene, she’d have never thought of it herself. “At least it’ll give me something to say when I write her.”

She picked her book off the arm of the chair. “I’m really glad you all came over. Have you ever read Wuthering Heights?”

“Yes. Isn’t Heathcliffe a heartless brute!”

Soon Michael and Royal were carrying in armloads of firewood, Uncle Nolan was stoking the fire and the aroma of hot chocolate was scenting the air. Before long the corn was popped and everyone was sitting around by the fireside enjoying the visit even if the lights were apt to go off at any moment.

“Hey, everybody. Wouldn’t it be neat if the electricity did go off and we get to sit here in the dark?” Royal asked in between mouthfuls of popcorn. He grinned at Michael.“That’d make the evening just perfect.”

A Dark and Stormy Night…

Part One

It was a dark and stormy night. Lightening flashes steadily lit up the sky, thunder boomed, and a deluge poured down on the earth below.

One house in particular, located just outside the village, seemed to be receiving the storm’s most violent attentions. Perched on a slight rise and without many sheltering trees, the old two-storey home shuddered under the onslaught of the gale force winds.

Inside the house the occupants quaked now and then, too. Father was away on business for several days, which no doubt unsettled the family even more. Mother was trying to do some mending, but the electricity flickered now and then, making her task rather difficult. The older two children were absorbed in their story books.

Azure, the youngest daughter, whimpered as the lights momentarily dimmed again. She squeezed closer to her big sister Bluette, who sat reading on a couch near the fireplace.

As another fork of lightening pierced the blackness outside, Bluette looked up from her book, Wuthering Heights, and listened for the thunder clap. “Perhaps our house will get hit by lightning and burn to the ground,” she commented.

Royal, the oldest boy, had been devouring the first chapter of The Wizard of Oz. “Maybe a tornado will blow our house clean away and we’ll land over in California,” he said as another blast of rain sloshed over the windows.

Bluette refuted. his suggestion. “Tornado season is past.”

“But you never know. Freak weather happens sometimes.”

Mother set her mending aside. “Life of the party, aren’t you two? I think you both need to give up on those frivolous books and do something useful. Bluette, don’t forget you need to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she gave you for your birthday. Put that book away and get out your notepad.”

“But, Mother!” Bluette let out a wail quite much in tune with the wind outside. “I’m just at the part where the writer is snooping through Catherine’s diary and hearing knocks on the window. I can’t quit now! Anyway, I don’t have a clue what to say to Aunt Opal? We have tissues now. Nobody uses handkerchiefs anymore. I don’t know what on earth to do with the things, so how can I thank her for them?”

Mother gave her a stern look. “A gift is a gift. She deserves a thank-you.”

With a heavy sigh Bluette laid her book face down over the arm of a chair.

“And Royal, you should go out to the garage and chop some of that firewood into kindling in case we need more.”

“What if the power goes out? I’d hate to be out there in the dark.”

“Take a flashlight. And we do have a couple of kerosene lamps around, if you’d rather have one of those.”

“Trade you,” Bluette piped up. “I’ll go chop kindling if you write Aunt Opal for me.”

“Come on, Bleet. You can’t handle an axe.”

“Can so!”

“Bluette, let your brother do his work. And Royal, please call your sister by her proper name.”

“But everybody calls her Bleet,” Royal protested. “It suits her.”

“Does not!” Bluette stuck her tongue out at him.

Mother glared at him. “Here we chose such a lovely name for your sister. How did she ever end up with that terrible nickname?”

Just then, above the noise of the storm, they heard the put-put of an automobile driving into the yard. They gazed at each other, then everyone jumped up and hurried to the window.

“Whoever could that be?” Mother said, a tinge of fear in her voice.

To be continued….

Daily prompt word: frivolous