Category Archives: Free Write

Litter

(Photo credit: Hannah Gosselin ©2012 Phippsburg, Maine)

Two of my aunts used to run a country store down at the lake. It was more than that really; you could get everything from an ice cream cone to a new wig made on site. The ice cream was more popular.

My Uncle Bill and Uncle Fred would man the porch. They were pranksters by trade and both had retired from their hobby of teaching. They spent most of their summers, even before they retired, in rocking chairs on either side of the stairs leading to the front door. No one could enter the store without going by at least one of them.

They were harmless and fun and part of the reason people stopped in. Both of them always carried a notebook and a pen. One of their favorite pastimes was to write short little poems about everyone that came by, especially tourist and anyone new. They were usually funny, or cutesy, and short. Occasionally someone would justify something serious, but never hurtful. Mostly they were along the lines of:
Red in her hair
and on her toes,
but neither as cute
as ice cream on her nose.
They would tear them out of their notebooks and give them to the person they were written about. Occasionally, someone would keep one and cherish it, but mostly they ended up in the trashcans inside or blowing across the parking lot.

I worked there summers growing up; me and Big Tony. We were the only employees. Big Tony was about forty, deserving of his nickname, and a bit slower than most folks. In thinking that is. He was a hard worker. We would take care of the trash, sweep the floors, restock shelves; whatever my aunts needed. I liked working with Tony, he smiled a lot and never had a harsh word for anyone or anything.

Years later, after my aunts and uncles had passed on along with the store, I would stop in and check on Tony as often as I could. He lived in an assisted living place and seemed to enjoy it. We would take walks and occasionally go back down to the lake and fish.

One day he decided to show me his room. It was neat and clean, just like he had always been; bed, chair, table, TV. The usual set up. But covering the walls were hundreds of pieces of notebook paper that I remembered so well. Each one had a small, hand written poem about someone that had passed through that store: discarded, left behind.

“Tony, how did you get these?”
“I used to pick them up. Out of the trash, off of the parking lot.”
“Why?”
“Besides you, they are the only friends I have.”

My visits to Tony become more frequent. When the time came, I collected all of his ‘friends’ into a scrapbook and made a copy. The copy I kept, the other was on Tony’s chest when they closed the lid.

Written for the Flashy Fiction photo prompt.

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Blood in the Snow

We rode the fence at least once a week in the summer. When the heavy snows came it was more like every other week. Breaks were not uncommon; usually it was a stray deer or other wild animal not quite clearing the top strand of barbed wire. Occasionally a post would fall from either the rot of age or the weight of snow.

This was different. The ground on both sides of the fence was tore up more than usual. A lot of mud mixed with the snow. Both of the top rows of wire were sagging, more like they had been fallen on than catching something jumping over.

There was more blood than usual too. A few spots trailing off we were used to. This looked more like someone had a paintbrush dipped in red and flicked it overhand out towards the field. A splattered trail leaving holes burned into the snow.

What we found in the barbs was wrong too. The usual tufts of fur we would find were not there. Instead we found strips of clothing hanging from the fence, dancing on the bitter February wind like the tattered robes of a ghost.

We were a long way from anywhere. The falling snow was beginning to hide the footprints and cover the blood.

Witten for the Flashy Fiction photo prompt.

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The One

The prompt at Flashy Fiction was to write a piece based on the first line of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “I am always drawn back to the places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.” 

“So who would it be?”

I crushed out my cigarette and took another sip from my beer before glancing sideways at him. “Really, have we sunk so far as to be reduced to these juvenile pursuits?”

“What do you want? We are sitting in a bar on Sunday afternoon, football is over, baseball has not started yet, it is raining and cold outside and neither of us have a girl to go home to. What else are we going to talk about?” He waived his empty at the bartender and held up two fingers. Guess we are staying for a while.

“Yeah, pathetic aren’t we? All right, what the hell. If I could go back and find one girl that got away….? It would have to be Holly from Houston.” I exchanged my empty for a full and lit another cigarette.

“Seriously, sounds like a porn star.”

“No, not this girl. She had way too much class for that. Sophisticated, you know. Read a lot, quoted old movies all the time. She lived three doors down from us in high school for about two years; we talked some waiting for the bus, but never much more than that. She was hot, but I always thought she was a little odd.”

“Odd? How?”

“Well, she always dressed too nice for one thing. Never saw her in cut offs or an old t-shirt. Always a dress, nice shoes, that kind of thing. I finally figured it out right before they moved. I went over to their house with my folks one Saturday night. She was in the basement watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s; sitting on the edge of the couch and hardly breathing. I stood in the door and watched for about thirty minutes. I figured out pretty quick that she was into the movie. I am not talking about ‘she liked the movie’, I mean she knew it by heart. It also hit me how much she looked and acted and talked like the girl in the movie; she wanted to be THAT Holly. Now I think of her every time I see Audrey Hepburn. A sophisticated girl like that would have been good for me.”

“Audrey who?”

“Oh for the love of….. We have seriously got to spend some time in a library or something. Check please!”

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Two Kinds of People

After Daddy went to work for the ‘lectric company we started having dinner a little bit later during the week. Momma always insisted we eat together, so we did not start until he got home. Sometimes that meant reheating everything but she never complained. At least not while I was around.

One night I heard them after I went to bed. Momma did not sound happy.

“I don’t understand why you are the one that always ends up staying late. Aren’t there other men that can do the work?”

“Sure there are,” Daddy answered. “But it is usually overtime and we could use the money.”

“I know that, it just seems to be happening a lot lately. I miss you being around during the day; coming in for lunch.”

“Well, I miss that too, but we both know that farming was not paying the bills anymore. It should pay off in the long run. The bosses notice. When it comes time for raises and promotions I am hoping to be at the top of the list.”

Momma did not sound convinced. “That is how it should work, but you are too humble to toot your own horn. You know what they say: there are two types of people in this world, those that do the work and those that take the credit. And the first group is less populated.* Just make sure you are getting the credit for the work.”

She was fond of that phrase; ‘two kinds of people.’ She used it a lot to teach lessons. I remember asking her one Sunday afternoon why we were giving our food away. I was confused because she was always telling me to clean my plate and not be wasteful and we did not have food to just throw away.

She stopped what she was doing and looked at me for a minute before answering. “Well, Bobby, there are two kinds of people in this world; those who put themselves first and those who put others first.** We always want to be part of the second group. The Miller’s are going through a tough patch and we can spare some of what we have. We will not go hungry”

Momma always made sure you knew which group she thought you should be in. So far, she has always been right.

*Indira Ghandi (in some variation)
**Bill Purdin

Written for Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday.

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Conformity for the Birds

In response to the Flashy Fiction Thursday photo prompt. Check out the other great work posted there and get involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INDIVIDUALITY

It was Sunday afternoon at the mall. My daughter and I were walking the halls giving my wife some time to shop. As with most children, she was full of questions. When she grew bored with my explanations of products in windows, and my evasions on the subject of scantily clad mannequins, she started noticing people.

“Daddy, why do they dress that way? And do that to their bodies?

“Who are you….? Oh, them.” Managing to stop her finger from pointing right at the group of goth wannabe bad asses. They were the usual harmless teenage crowd with colored hair, piercings and a tattoo or two thrown in here and there.

“Well, they are trying to express their individuality”

“What is indi…indavid… what does that mean?”

“Hmm. They are trying to show that they are unique; different from the crowd; maybe a little rebellious.”

“But,” she said, sounding a little confused. “They all look alike.”

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The Cemetery

Written for the Flashy Fiction prompt of the below photo. Check out the history of this cemetery (Isla Mujeures); pretty interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedro sent most of his days at the Cemetery. Not all day, mind you. He would take time for meals, an afternoon siesta, a beer with friends, mass on Saturday. But most days you could find him there caring for the tombs and building his own.

To him it was a happy place. The white washed and brightly colored tombs shining in the Mexican sun kept it from being a gloomy place of death. He enjoyed his routine as he took care of the graves of his family.

The first thing each day he would leave a kiss for his wife on her headstone and then sit on her tomb and share a coffee while discussing the events of their little community. She always was a gossip and would be upset with him if he left out any detail. He would then tend to all of his family members; he had managed to keep them all fairly close together over the years.

There was his oldest son that had died in a fishing accident forty years ago. Pedro had always been very grateful they were able to recover his body. His daughter was next to his wife, on the opposite side of his own site. She had fallen victim to the fever in ’72; that had been hard for his wife. He often thought she would have succumbed then and joined her daughter if it had not been for the grandchildren.

They were beside their mother. Pedro spent a great deal of time with them, always making sure the bright blue paint was fresh. He would also bring them figurines every week or so that he had carved from driftwood. The closest he ever came to tears was when he would look upon their pictures in the alcove and the angel statues on their headstones.

He was always happy to talk to the tourists that wandered through their grand cemetery. He would explain their customs and answer the questions about the colors and the items in the alcoves. Every once in a while one would ask him why he spent so much time there. His aways answered with a smile.

“Where else should I be? All of my family is here.”

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John Smith

Kellie at Magic in the Backyard gave us a Free Write Friday prompt of the following You wake to find yourself in a strange house and you cannot remember your own name. You roll over and see a letter by the bed.

What a headache. Oh no, it has happened again. I open my eyes and look slowly around. I am in a hotel room, cheap by the looks of it, and I have no idea how I got here. Nor do I know who I am, or have any recollection of my life. But, I do know this has happened before. It all feels very familiar.

Ok, get out of bed; start trying to figure this out. An envelope on the nightstand; yes, that would be right. Open it and see? What else am I going to do?

Good Morning,
Your name for the time being is John Smith. This hotel is your home until your mission is completed. It is paid for through Saturday, February 18; today is the 11th.

As per the terms of your contract, call the number on the card in your wallet once the mission is complete. At that time the memories of your life will be restored.

In the top drawer of the nightstand are the details of your mission and
your target. There is a complete dossier of the individual, a map of the local area and his usual movements. There is also a wallet, ID, passport and enough money to get you through the week.

In the second drawer are your weapons, tools and requested items. Clothes are in the closet and dresser. Dispose of all of these items (except the clothes you are wearing, passport and money) upon completion of mission.

Good Luck

Yes, the contract. That seems right. Better get started. Morning business, shower, shave, get dressed; dark jeans, black shoes, black turtleneck, grey sports jacket. Now then, time to check the top drawer.

The mission is the elimination of the President and CEO of Frenetic Industries; the largest manufacturer of military weaponry outside of the US. Quietly, of course, would be preferred. As if I would want to draw attention to myself.

I had been to Krakow before, but it had been a number of years. I had better get reacquainted, see what has changed. I don’t like surprises. Amazing how selective they can be; some memories completely gone, others still intact.

Second drawer of the nightstand. .22 in an ankle holster, left leg; 9mm Browning, waist band in the back under the jacket; .44 in a shoulder harness, reverse draw under the left arm; garrote in left outer jacket packet. No need for the knives today, just looking around. Passport in the inside jacket packet, money folded neatly in front right pants pocket; Juicy Fruit in the left.

Time to go exploring. Tomorrow I will hunt.

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Flash Fiction

A couple of more offerings for Flashy Fiction. Check them out for some great prompts.

Trapped

 

It was all an evil plot to driver her mad. She hated all of it; being inside, parading around in a dress, getting pictures taken, old aunts hugging her close, ugh. Being inside though, that was the worst.

Right now there were three boys outside (and one mangy yellow cur of a dog) wondering where she was. They were supposed to be going to the creek today; everything was planned. Jimmy and Bobby were bringing the poles, Sam had the bait and she had the net. If she did not get out of here quick they would leave without her.

Her mother had not told her about this little family get together after church. It had to have been on purpose, knowing she would have snuck off otherwise. Now she was trapped. Father had caught her three times trying to get out a door. Each time he just smiled and headed her back into the gauntlet.

She stood for the picture, even smiled, in the hopes that it would serve as penance and get her released. But it was too late; she had seen them through the window heading down the walk out of town. Bobby had looked back once and the dog kept stopping and sniffing the air, like he was trying to find her.

She settled into the chair in the corner of the room, hoping to be unnoticed. She stared, transfixed, as the room began to change around her. Trees came into focus in the living room and there was a stream where the kitchen was. The door beside the fireplace melted into the garden gate and the sounds of the woods filled her ears.

Her father watched her as she dozed off in the chair, wondering about the playful smile on her sunburned face.

 

A Night Out

 

“Wake up! C’mon, let’s go. Need to be movin’ on.”

“What? Oh, damn!”

“Yea, I’m guessing that bright light smarts, don’t it. Get on your feet, pal. I don’t want to be bothered with running you in, but I can’t just leave you here either.”

“Um, yea. Where…?”

“Man, that must have been some night. Been a lot of years since I pulled one of those. Heard the Red Horse will do that to you. Crazy place.”

“The Red Horse? Yea, that sounds familiar. How did you …?”

“Stamp is right there on the back of your hand, son. Kind of hard to miss.”

“Oh, yea. So it is. Where am I?”

“Seventeenth Street, between Downing and West Auburn. Lucky you picked this stairwell too. This place is abandoned. If you had tried to sleep it off one over from here and that little oriental woman would have beat the hell out of you with her broom.”

“No, would not have wanted that. Oh, boy.”

“Steady there, hold on to the wall. Not sure how you got down here without killing yourself. Maybe you do need a few hours in the drunk tank.”

“No, no, I’m good. Just need a cab and a shower. Maybe some coffee.”

“HAHA, I’ll bet. A few aspirin, too. All right, pal. You seem to be harmless. Head on home. Just remember that Atlanta’s finest let you off when the FOP collection guy comes around.”

“Atlanta?”

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Free Write Friday – Message in a Bottle

The prompt from Kellie Elmore this week was: You are stranded on a remote island with no hope of being rescued. You find only a pen, one sheet of paper and a bottle. You want to let people know what happened to you, who you are and how you wish to be remembered…

I also had in mind an incredibly sad prompt from WeWritePoems: As the Great War drew to a close, a young Englishwoman wrote wearily in her diary, By the end of 1916, every boy I had ever danced with was dead. Your instruction:  respond to that sentence!  More on that in an upcoming post.  (here is my poem response to the prompt)

The Further (and apparently last) Adventures of Me and Jimmy

My name is Robert Jenkins, though only Momma calls me Robert. To most everyone else I am Bobby. I know this letter will not help to save me, because I am not really sure where I am, so I can’t really tell you. I am a sailor in the United States Navy, and last night the destroyer I was serving on went down. There was a huge explosion up at the front of the boat; no idea why, maybe a submarine torpedo. There were rumors of Jap subs being around. Anyway, whatever the reason, we went down fast, I did not see anyone else in the water either. I was lucky to have found something that would float.

I had been towards the back, the ‘stern’, six months in and I still can’t figure out the words the navy uses. I had been topside, where I was not supposed to be. I had not been able to sleep and liked to go up at night and watch the ocean; that saved my life…for a time I guess. I loved the ocean, that was the reason I had joined the Navy as soon as I was old enough. I remember the first time I had seen it; ten years ago in Gulf Shores on our first family vacation. I was amazed at all the water and wanted to go back every chance we got. As far as I knew the whole world was made up Gulf Shores and home. Home is a farm outside of Coffeeville, Alabama. Momma  and Daddy are still there, although Daddy does not work the farm anymore. He went to work for the electric company that year before the first time we went to the beach. Coffeeville lake was my world growing up. I loved the lake, the streams and woods – everything about living in the country. Me and Jimmy explored everywhere growing up; we were inseparable. He went in the Marines, always was more of a fighter, and fearless. I could almost feel sorry for any Japs he faced. I hope he makes it home. If you find this and can spare the time, please find a way to let my folks know I was thinking of them. Jimmy too, if he makes it.

Find Katherine for me too. Katherine Watson. She lives in town, her Dad owns the grocery. We were always together for the six months before I joined up. So much so Jimmy got mad at me for not fishing and hunting with him, but I could not stay away. That hair, long and brown. Those eyes, greenish blue with flecks of brown – amazing. A smile that stopped a room from breathing. She loved to go to the dancehall on Friday nights; she was a great dancer. I was always scared I was going to break her foot, or fall on top of her. But she was always patient with this country clod. When I left she kissed me the first time and said she would not dance again until I came home.

I am running out of paper. If you find my folks tell them I died at my favorite place; sitting on the beach looking at the ocean. Tell Katherine – tell her I loved her. And…tell her to dance again. She was always so beautiful and happy when she danced.

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Free Write Friday – 1/6/2012

Kellie Elmore is hosting Free Write Friday again. The idea is to take her prompt and do a ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. Just see what comes out. So, it is a bit sketchy and rough draft-ish. But that is the intent. I used the same main character as last week. The prompt was: You have just woken up in the backseat of a car and you look up to see palm tree’s through the back glass. The sun is setting and you realize you are far from home… I honestly missed the ‘sun setting’ part.

First Vacation

I don’t know how long I was sleepin’, but I woke up to Momma saying’ “We’re here.” I am not sure how long I was sleeping, but it was dark before; now the sun was up and very bright. Momma and Daddy both had their windows down and it was warm, but different. When we left home it was hot too, but it was also sticky; the kind of hot where you were always seating. This felt dry and smelled wrong. Almost like the fish we caught at the lake, but cleaner.

Looking out the window I could see funny looking trees. They had no branches! Really big leaves but they were way up top. No way to climb those. Jimmy was not going to believe me when I told him. The buildings were all odd too. At home everything was made of wood away from town, and all the stores and buildings in town were brick. These all looked like concrete with windows and doors stuck in them. And there were a lot of them. I’ve never seen so many buildings and cars and people together in one place!

Daddy called it ‘the beach’. Said it was where he and Momma went when they got married. They had not been since, and I had never been more than an hour from home. That was only when we went to see Grandma over in Taylorsville. When they got married is when Daddy got the farm; he said that was a full time job. No time off. Ever since he went work for the ‘lectric company last year he and Momma would talk about taking a ‘vacation’. So that is what we are doing.

I am glad Daddy can take some time off. I miss the farm though. Riding on the tractor, playing in the hay, messing with the bulls. We still had the garden that Momma kept, and a couple of cows and the chickens. Not the same though. Did not see Daddy much during the week like before, but he was around on the weekends more.

Momma and Daddy kept looking at each other and smiling. Every once and a while Momma would look back and smile at me too. Said it was almost time. They had been telling me about a ‘big surprise’; the ocean. Said it was a lot of water; huge. I don’t know what the big deal is. i am always in and around the water. Me and Jimmy play in the creek almost every day; we go to the swimming hole in the summer; sometimes we go fishing at the lake, and it is big. Almost cannot see the other side. It is all just water.

Daddy finally pulls into a parking lot and tells us “We’re at the beach”! I get out of the car and notice the sound for the first time. It is like a cross between hearing the train coming and the splash big Sam makes when he bellyflops at the swimming hole. The wind is blowing a lot too, and there are white birds everywhere; they are loud too. We grab towels from the trunk and head off over a little bridge they got leaving the parking lot.

When we got to the top of the bridge and I could see the other side I just stopped. I could tell Momma was laughing and Daddy was just standing there beside me. Everything was white and bright all the way up to the water. So much water! And blue. Not like the dark, dirty brownish-blue of the lake. Like Momma’s eyes blue with the sun shining off it. There could not be this much water!

Wow. Jimmy was NEVER going to believe this!

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