Thursday, May 29, 2014

iPod Roulette

Finish That Thought #47 (Judge's Comments)
Prompt: Sometimes it seems like whoever's arranging the soundtrack to my life is watching the wrong thing.
Special Challenge: Include a Billy Joel song reference: lyrics, title, whatever

Sometimes it seems like whoever's arranging the soundtrack to my life is watching the wrong thing. I sat on my bed with my report card in hand wondering what my dad would say. As if to mock me, the headphones draped around my neck started pulsing “Well my heartbeat is running wild-” 

“I’m not a problem child!” I shouted at my iPod as I hit the next button. “Geez, can’t you give me some encouragement or something? I’m about to be fed to the lions!” 

Well my soul checked out missing as I sat listening 
To the hours and minutes tickin' away 
Yeah just sittin' around waitin' for my life-” 

That track got skipped, too. I yanked my headphones off and threw them across the room. The crash brought in my mom. 

“Kelsi! When did you get home from school?” She stood in the doorway with a mixing bowl propped on her hip. “Do you want a snack?” 

I got up and retrieved my headphones. They immediately went around my neck again and I crawled back onto my bed to save my report card from Mom’s prying eyes. 

“No thanks,” I muttered. 

“Oh, is that your report card? How’d you do?” 

The headphones went back on. Mom sighed and left. I don’t know how long I sat there skipping music tracks, returning to a skipped song to listen to it in full, and forming what I would say to Dad when he got home. Eventually the front door rattled as keys unlocked it and Dad’s voice echoed in the hall. 

“I’m home!” 

“Welcome home!” Mom’s voice echoed next as she rushed to the front door. Even the smoosh was audible. Yuck. 

“Kelsi home yet?” Whispering. Great. I rolled over on my stomach and waited for the onslaught. Good Day Sunshine blared away in my ears. I gave up trying to match the music with my mood. 

“Report card today, isn’t it, Kels?” I looked up and saw Dad leaning against my doorframe. 

“Yeah.” I handed it to him when he stretched his hand out for it. His brows furrowed as he studied it. Uh oh. 

“My English teacher is retarded.” 

“Is that why you have a D?” 

We drown our doubts in dry champagne 
And soothe our souls with fine cocaine 
I don't know why I even care 
We'll get so high and get nowhere-” 

“Ok, I get it, I’m a drunk loser!” I realized a little too late that Dad would take that personally. 

“What did you say, young lady?” 

“I wasn’t talking to you,” I mumbled. 

“Oh, is there someone else asking you about these low grades?” 

Sarcasm. Great, I was in trouble. 

I don’t want to be your beast of burden...” 

“Shut up!” Oops. Dad’s face went livid. 

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know where I’ma gonna go when the volcano blows.” 

Oh great, my iPod was finally on the right track.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Family Ties

Finish That Thought #46 (Judge's Comments)
Prompt: If my dad was willing to forget the last few seconds of his life, well then, so was I.
Special Challenge: Include the words: fate, top, trace

If my dad was willing to forget the last few seconds of his life, well then, so was I. Then again, it would be unethical to. I folded my arms across my chest and leaned back in the guest chair of my dad’s office, staring hard at the man whom I resembled in so many ways except for the essentials.

“You’ll have to pay me if you want that to stay forgotten,” I threatened. “I’m thinking nothing substantial, just enough so I can actually go to college.”

“Don’t make this any more difficult than it already is,” Dad sighed as he rubbed his temples.

“More difficult?” I scoffed. “You started the whole thing!”


“It’s Jamison,” I interrupted.


“Yeah. Jamison. I can’t help being related to you, but after what you pulled, I’m dumping any other ties.”

He sighed again, suddenly appearing like an old, withered man rather than the strapping middle-aged man of 50 he was.

“I don’t blame you.” His defeated tone with a trace of regret unnerved me. “Just…please… forget it happened. For your sake. For your brothers’ sakes. For your mother’s sake.”

“Will she forget it happened?” I asked pointedly.

“Most likely not.”

“Will you act like it didn’t happen?”

“It wouldn’t be natural to,” he admitted.

“Then why should I?”

We had arrived at an impasse--- the first of many I was about to find out. It was the fate of every Jamison male to be stubborn, demanding, and poor at communicating. After a few silent moments of hard staring, Dad finally looked down at his hands in his lap and broke the tension.

“What are you going to do?”

I continued glaring at him while I mulled it over. Honestly, I hadn’t a clue what I should do. Dad and I had never been best friends. Granny used to tease I was his enemy from the womb. It wasn’t my fault really. He was the one who had named me after the family dog “on accident.” With five brothers to take advantage of that, well, it makes it hard to forgive a person and Dad was especially good at making himself unforgivable.

I never understood how an angel like my mother could have been persuaded to marry a scoundrel like my father. While she was blissfully ignorant of a lot of things he had gotten into, this big secret she deserved to know. She deserved the truth. My mind made up, I braced my hands against his desk and loomed over him.

“I’m going to my editor.”

Dad blanched. “You wouldn’t!”

“I’m a journalist. Reporting scandals is what we do.”

“Can’t you just forget-”

“You were locking lips with your secretary!” I bellowed, slamming the desk with my fist. “How can you ask me to forget that?”

Not bothering to wait for an answer, I whirled on my heel and marched out that door. I didn’t stop until I reached my own office.

“Hey boss, we finally have a top story for tomorrow.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Training Troubles For Hetty

Finish That Thought #45 (Judge's Comments)
Prompt: You should've stayed on the path
Special challenge: Include either an enchanted or haunted forest

‘You should've stayed on the path!’ the pixie-in-training reprimanded herself. Her pink, gossamer twitched nervously. Pouty lips pulled down in a frown as she examined her forested surroundings. Back and forth, back and forth she paced under a rhododendron leaf with the tulip bulb clutched firmly to her bosom. 

The assignment had been simple: Find a bulb and bring it back. It was only recommended to use the well-worn trail from the pixie students who had gone before. Nothing had been said about ferocious beasts in the enchanted forest, which of course was the reason one now blocked her exit. 

“Oh, what’s a poor pixie to do?” Hetty lamented aloud. She set the bulb next to her on the branch to wipe the beads of perspiration away and wilted beside it. Leaning against the bulb, she tucked her knees under her chin and watched the large, black furball snooze in the sun by a clutter of clay potting jars across the grassy forest clearing. Her portal. 

“Ralph, have you been eating my tulips again?” a voice boomed from far above. Hetty scrambled behind her bulb with a shriek and peeked out. 

“Ralph!” The giant lumbered into the clearing, casting a horrendous shadow over the land. Slowly the beast yawned, stretched, and sat up. It didn’t seem to be afraid of the towering giant until it bent down. Instantly, the beast bolted through the giant’s legs and into the trees where Hetty hid. She held her breath as it sulked in the shadows only inches beneath her. 

“You naughty cat! Come back here!” 

Hetty cowered as the giant whacked something against the trees to scare the beast out. She clung to her bulb tightly as the earth shook and trembled beneath her feet. The next thump sent her spiraling to the ground. Hetty landed in a heap on top of her bulb. 


The little pixie raised her head just enough to see two green eyes glowering in the shadows. 

“Eeeek!” she cried as it batted her with its paw. Quickly righting herself, Hetty snatched the bulb and dove for the clearing, hoping the giant would not be able to see her. She cried out again as the beast swung another paw in her direction. 

“Oh, you naughty cat!” the giant shouted. “Stop playing with my tulip!” 

Hetty didn’t dare look behind her, but ran as fast as her legs could carry her toward the pots, the bulb securely held on top of her head. The giant lumbered after them, and the beast was almost upon her when she reached safety. The portal opened wide against the side of one of the pots and she lunged for it as the giant snatched up the beast to give it a good shake. 

Hetty tumbled to the floor of the garden lab with her bulb. Professor Puffly looked up from his textbook in surprise at her unorthodox return. 

“Trouble?” his whiskers twitched. 

“No, no trouble at all,” Hetty said breathlessly. “Here’s my bulb.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Prison Break

Finish That Thought #44 (Judge's Comments)
Prompt: The notion was irrational, but when I became conscious of the fact it was already too late.
Special Challenge: Stars, space ships, planets, aliens, robots, fantasy

Courtesy of talajbeg @
The notion was irrational, but when he became conscious of the fact it was already too late. Guards encircled him with spears aimed at his rotund belly and torches held high against the starry sky.

“What is the meaning of this?” Francis asked in his most grandfatherly voice.

“I’m sorry, Father Malloy, but I must ask you to de-robe,” the captain of the guard said as he stepped forward. “The prisoner escaped and you were the last person to see him.”

So much for Francis’ brilliant plan. Disrobing here would be immediate death for Jack and the gallows for him. It was unlawful to impersonate a monk. The robes were getting hot with Jack’s body heat radiating off his back and if Jack’s arms kept in that cramped position for too much longer he’d start choking Francis as well. Francis’ mind whirled with options of escape.

He could refuse and storm out. It was the death sentence for any man to touch a cleric. However, there was no law against shoving a spear through the belly. He chewed his lip as beads of perspiration trickled down his face. If only there was a way to shrink the number of guards they might stand a chance! Perhaps…

“De-robe? In public? That is sinful!” Francis exclaimed at last.

“You are required to comply while the prisoner is free.”

Francis heaved as holy-sounding a sigh as possible. “I don’t doubt your honourable intentions, my child. Perhaps you may search me privately?”

The captain considered it a moment and nodded.

“Follow me.”

Francis wallowed after him as a second guard closed in behind. They escorted him to the guardroom where the second guard barricaded the door. Francis counted four windows and a door presumably leading outside. That was their exit.

“Now, de-robe, please.”

Raising shaky hands, Francis loosed the hood and let it fall back. The guards gasped.

“You aren’t Father Malloy! You’re an imposter!”

Francis took advantage of their surprise by lunging for the captain’s spear while Jack unhooked his legs and arms from around his partner and tumbled out of the massive robes. Straw spilled after him until the billowing robe slipped off Francis’ scrawny body. Jack rolled to his feet and tackled the second guard.

“The prisoner is escaping!” the captain yelped as Francis backed him towards the door with the spear.

“Jack, open the door!” Francis ordered. Jack dealt his guard a knock-out blow and ran to jiggle the door handle. It was unlocked. As the guards in the courtyard rammed down the barricaded door, Jack and Francis slipped through the doorway and tore off down the passage. Footsteps and shouts echoed in the stone corridor behind them.

“Now what?” Jack hissed.

“There’s got to be a door some---Ahhhhhh!”

As Francis spoke, a trapdoor swung open beneath him and they tumbled down a flight of steps. He righted himself and shook his fist at the ceiling.

“That’s it, I quit!” he yelled and promptly walked out of the story.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ms. Douglas

A piece I wrote for consideration for an anthology that never took off the ground.  Enjoy!

I was six the spring my training wheels came off. Daddy took me to the old church parking lot every evening until I proudly rode home with him running beside me. I was given the privilege of fetching the Sunday paper from then on.

After church the following day, I hurried into play clothes as Daddy pulled my bicycle from the garage. A basket was acquired for the handlebars and a dollar for the paper. Hopping onto my bike, I waved and took off down the sidewalk. Four houses later I toppled over.

“You okay there, darlin’?”

The voice belonged to old Ms. Douglas. She sat in a white wicker rocker on her porch with a glass of sweet tea on the matching table and a porcelain vase holding thorny stems. The lady had skin like chocolate, hair grey as smoke, and teeth white as baking soda.

“Yes, ma’am,” I exclaimed and hastily got back on my bike, cheeks burning.

Every week after church, Ms. Douglas sat out in her rocker. Sometimes she had sweet tea, sometimes lemonade, but those thorny stems were always there. The fourth week she called out when I pedaled by.

“Fine day, ain’t it?”

I replied, “Yes, ma’am” and pedaled on.

Week five she invited me up for a glass of lemonade. I declined. Mommy would worry if I was late. She told me to ask if I could stop next week for tea and cookies. I said I would and thanked her.

“She must get lonely there all by herself.” Mommy said. “You should go and cheer her up for a bit.”

Therefore, on week six, I found myself sitting in Ms. Douglas’ second rocker snacking on gingersnaps and lemonade. After a few moments of silence, I risked a glance at her. Her eyes roved in my direction, causing me to avert my own. When I dared peek again, I saw they were vacantly gazing above my head. She was blind.

“Is Wilbert in that tree over yonder?”


“The whippoorwill living in that there tree.” Ms. Douglas raised her cane and gestured behind me. “Got himself a pretty little lady named Wilma.”

I wiggled in my seat. “I don’t... Oh! I see him!”

“That’s Wilma.”

I whirled back in surprise. “How can you tell if you can’t see?” I blurted.

She wasn’t offended, but laughed heartily. I liked how it rumbled in her belly and sent warm prickles from my toes to my ears.

“Why, darlin’, jus’ cuz I can’t see don’t mean I’m dumb!” She thumped her cane on the porch. “Wilma! You be quiet a piece an’ let Wilbert sing a few notes, you hear?”  Immediately one hushed and another started its mournful tune.

“Now listen real good,” Ms. Douglas said.  I obeyed, straining my ears so hard they started hurting.

“Wilma, you give it a go now.”

“I don’t hear a difference.”

“You lookin’ at them?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“That’s your problem! You’re getting distracted. Close your eyes, concentrate, and we’ll do it again.”

The second time was more successful and on the third, I could tell them apart.

“You’re catching on right quick,” Ms. Douglas beamed at me. I beamed back.

Ms. Douglas and I swiftly became friends. I stopped by every Sunday on the way to get the paper and every Sunday I learned something new about her, myself, and the world around us.

“Guess how old my eyes are,” she said one day.

“Um…” I was keenly aware how impolite an answer would be.

“You’re blushing, ain’t you?” she asked with an earthy chuckle.

“How do you know?” I demanded before sipping sweet tea.

“I don’t give all my secrets away!” Her pearly whites glinted. “My eyes are eight years old. Lost ‘em to a bad fever.”

“Don’t you miss seeing?”

“Some days, but when this old body goes, I’ll see for all eternity.” Her eyes moistened. “The first face I’ll see will be my dear Saviour.”

“Aren’t you mad at him for not making you better?”

“Mad? Why no, child! He gave me new, spiritual eyes and He done walked with me every day since.”

I figured her spiritual eyes must be the ones that let her know things about people, like my blushing. I wanted eyes like that.

One Sunday in early June Ms. Douglas wasn’t quite herself. Her eyes were dimmer and she had a bad cough.

“Let me tell you about these here thorns,” she said after a hacking fit passed. She waved her hand until they rested on the thorny stems.

“I come out trimming these stems every Sunday. They remind me I’m ugly with sin right now. Anything good I do on my own is nothing better than these thorns. Only thing I got worth anything is Jesus. He’s the only one who can make a thorny stem pretty. When I leave this here body and go to Heaven, we won’t be ugly no more.”

The next Sunday, Ms. Douglas was in the hospital and wanted to see me.

“Remember those stems?” she asked in a breathy voice as I crawled onto her bed.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I want you to have them.”

I promised her I would take care of them.

The Sunday following we buried her. After the service I hopped on my bike and pedaled to her place. People were coming and going with boxes. I sneaked up the front steps to claim my stems, but someone replaced them with roses! I crept closer. The vase was the same. The leaves looked the same. I closed my eyes and ran my fingers over the thorny stems. They were the same, too. Opening my eyes again, I saw a sticky note with my name. The stems were pretty now, like Ms. Douglas. I took them home to plant in Mommy’s garden.

Years later, I still have those roses. When I grow old I plan to take a few stems, trim them every Sunday, and teach another little girl about birds, thorns, and friendship.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Well folks, I won last week's Finish That Thought so no 500 word story today!  [Yes, that's right!  Someone liked my story!  You can read the winning piece here.]  *ahem*  Instead of the usual fresh snippet, I thought I would dig through my repertoire of old Flash Fiction pieces to share with ya'll.  1,500 words is still considered Flash, right? 

Anyway, I wrote this piece my first year in college after a young man kept dropping his undergarments on me during a laundry room excursion.  Sadly, we were both shy and so a bit of this piece really is fiction.  [My husband is relieved that this incident didn't actually involve dialogue and frankly, so am I. ;)]

After you read through this, you should peruse the amazing stories I was honoured to read and judge over on Alissa's Finish That Thought #43!  And maybe next week try your own hand at a little flash fiction, eh?

Ladies and gentlemen, for your enjoyment, Sunday.

It was an average afternoon on an average Sunday at an average college campus in an average town. The skies were clear, the sun golden, the fragrant breeze permeated the cool air, lighthearted birds chirped in the nearby trees, the flowers in the fields by the sidewalks raised sleepy faces to greet the day, and I was hauling my overflowing bin of sullied garments towards the dilapidated shack called the laundry room. 

Step. Stop. Pick up fallen underwear. Walk. Stop. Switch arms. Step. Step. Pause. Breathe…the cycle continued on and on, each agonizingly slow footstep bringing me nearer to the sizzling room where I would spend the next hour and a half of my life. Petite blonde girls danced by with their T-structured, foot-ball playing mammoths shuffling behind them carrying their loaded baskets under one arm. I stopped and set down my heavy burden to take a breather and watch in envy as the girls flitted along the sidewalk without a care. It almost made me wish I had dyed my hair blonde and joined the cheer-leading squad. Almost.

As I wallowed towards the leering structure of crumbling brick with my aching arms clutching my basket close, I was passed by yet even more people. Single guys carrying their small piles, girls helping each other with theirs…I sighed again and shifted the weight. The laughing sun engulfed my back in flickering flames as I toiled on. 

Upon finally reaching my destination, dismay crept over me. Not a single washer was free! The rumble of the cackling machines and whirling clothes in the shrieking dryers gloated at my inconvenience. Frustrated, I dropped my basket on a nearby chair and wearily leaned against the cracking stucco wall. The preps chattered aimlessly, propped up on the knees of their Goliaths who were guffawing at each other sitting on top of the washers. A band geek sat in the corner with her flute, two nerds were comparing plastic lightsabers, and one lone guy sat by the doorway playing his guitar. Oh, the bliss of cacophony on a sacred Sunday morning! It was enough to drive one mad. 

After not long of a wait, a washer in the far corner opened up and I was able to lug my cumbersome tote down the row. I have to admit, the laundry part itself isn’t so bad. I love the smell of detergent and fabric softeners and dryer sheets and the feel of warm clothes when you pull them out of the dryer. It’s just the grueling walk to get here that’s so unbearable. Fishing quarters out of my back pocket, I was surprised to find I had enough for two wash loads and the dryer. Too bad there weren’t two washers open. I shrugged and slipped the quarters into the yawning slot, opened the lid, and poured a cup of detergent into the machine. Just as I bent down to pick up the first handful of clothes, a pair of dirty grey socks landed by my hand. 

“I-um…excuse me…” 

I looked up into the alarmed grayish-blue eyes of a red-faced young man with his arms full of clothes. Smiling wryly, I plucked the socks out of my pile with my fingertips, draped them across his arm, and went back to sorting my clothes into the washer. Completing that task, I immediately slammed the lid down and the washer started humming as the water began to fill inside. I groped around in my bag for my apple and half-read book (The Sword of Shannara, great book if you ever need anything to read) and comfortably settled myself on top of the washer to begin the half-hour wait. 

For some reason, munching on apples always makes the time go by faster, and I found today to be no exception. It seemed I had just started into the gripping tale of the young elven hero when suddenly the washer began beeping for me to stop. Sighing, I set the book down and dropped the apple core into the trash can next to me. One dryer on the other side of the room was open. Hallelujah! Grabbing my laundry basket, I dodged through the mobs of people, shoving some aside, and skidded to a stop by the machine, panting, as a guy came up behind me and threw a shirt into the open dryer. 

“Excuse me, buddy, I got here first,” I hissed, reaching into the dryer to drag the offending piece of laundry out of my territory. 

“My bad.” The guy took his shirt back and held up his hands in surrender, motioning to the appliance. “She’s all yours.” 

Nodding my thanks, I reached into my bag to pull out a dryer sheet and flipped it into the machine to claim it. It only took a few seconds to collect my wet clothes and fight through the crowd back to the dryer. Huffing and puffing, I managed to heave the pile of clothes into the dryer and leaned against the door to close it. I fumbled around in my pocket for my quarters, found them, jammed them in, and pulled out my book again. 

The rest of my time in that stifling room of contraptions was extremely uneventful-- until it came to clawing the hot clothes out of the dryer and into my tote. To my annoyance, a couple articles of clothing missed the basket completely and fell to the floor, and I could almost swear they were smirking at me. Well, fine, let them smirk, squatting down with aching legs was nothing compared to the extensive, merciless hike back to the dorms. I yanked the rest of my clothes out, stuffed them in with the rest, picked up the rebels, then buried my face into their fragrant warmth and sighed happily. Crazy, I know, but I love doing it. 

It was then that something warm and clothy flopped onto my head and slid down my face. Startled, I peeled off the fabric only to find it was a pair of boxers. Behind me, someone gasped. 


Amused, I turned my head slightly only to see those distressed grayish-blue eyes again. 

“Is it a habit to drop your clothes around girls?” I laughed. The poor guy blushed. Or was “blush” even the right word? I watched in amazement as the redness spread from the tip of his head, to his large ears, down his neck in deep red splotches, and over his slightly muscular arms. I’m sure if he wasn’t wearing jeans, I would have seen it creep down to his feet as well. Immediately I felt guilty for laughing at him and handed his boxers over.

“I…um…would you mind…I-I-I,” he stuttered and fixed his gaze on the large tub in his arms. I smiled and got to my feet. He was kinda cute, with his large eyes, unruly chocolate hair, and ears Dumbo could be proud of. With not so much as a giggle, I ceremoniously laid his boxers on top of his pile. 

“I’m really sorry about that…” 
“You know you owe me now. That’s twice!” I teased. He shuffled his feet nervously and bit his lip. 

“What do I owe you?” he asked carefully. I thought for a moment and an awful, devilishly sweet idea entered into my mind. 

“It’s not that big of a job,” I paused to bite back a laugh “but I wouldn’t mind some help lugging this basket back to my room.” He blinked a couple times, then set his tub down. 

“Sure, I can do that…” his voice lowered into a mumble as he grasped my basket effortlessly by the hand grips and situated it on top of his load. Without so much as raising his head, he heaved both totes up and rested the rim of my basket under his chin. 

“Where to, ma’am?” 

I smiled to myself. He was getting cuter by the second-- nice eyes, shy personality, and now manners to boot. 

“Oh, not too far. Just across the parking lot, down the road, and over the sports field."

He hesitated.

"To the brick dorms on The Circle," I clarified to ease his anxiety. His features immediately looked relieved and he gave me a preciously awkward grin. He was quickly becoming the Dopey to my Snow White. Or was it Bashful?

“S’long as you don’t expect me to carry you as well, I think I’ll manage.” 

Delighted, I led the way out of the building, enjoying the stares I was getting as my bell-hop trailed behind me with his massive load. I stopped for a moment outside the door to let him catch up and then we set out towards my home-- me with my small bag swung over my shoulder and he hauling our totes. The sun beamed down on us as the birds frolicked and twittered in the trees and the sweet perfume of flowers filtered by us in the breeze.

It was just an average Sunday afternoon.