Monday, March 31, 2014

SJ Maylee Week 93: Home Comfort

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: Both

Title: Home Comfort

Mandy took another burger from the table and loaded it with her favorite condiments. The parking lot of her apartment building over-flowed with people celebrating the birthday of their country. They seemed to celebrate a countless number of things on this planet, but it hadn’t taken her long to look forward to the parties. It didn’t hurt that her neighbor, Janna and her boyfriend had taken Mandy under their wing.

“You’re eating another burger?”

“Leave her alone, Simon.” Janna hip checked her boyfriend away and wrapped her arm around Mandy. “Besides, how many have you had tonight?”

“I had just one.”

“And how many hot dogs?”

“Ah, three, I think.” He scratched his head. “It might have been four.”

“Maybe you should have another to make sure.”

“See, that’s why I love you.” He placed a loud kiss on Janna’s cheek and headed for the table by the grill.

The girls shook their heads and let their giggles loose.

A sharp sizzling took Mandy by surprise and she turned, prepared to fight a new enemy.

Flickers of light with disappearing threads flashed around sticks. Another started to her right. The overwhelming center of the bright light took her back to a time when she was surrounded by family, hearing the stories of how her planet came to be. It was her first memory of home since she landed on earth.

She reached back to Janna.

“Did you remember something?”

“I did.” Tears pushed over her lids and rolled down her face. “I have a family. I have a home.”


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SJ Maylee believes hearts are meant to come together and find love. As a writer she has a tendency to break hearts, but she always glues them back together. You can follow her at @SJMaylee,


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Miranda Kate Week 92: The Dive

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Dive

She stood petrified, the wood beneath her feet stable, but the abrupt ending leaving her paralysed. She had negotiated the previous gap on this narrow bridge and successfully jumped over, but that one hadn’t been this wide. She watched others on the other side, some on bicycles, going careening off into the ocean below. It was a challenge many thought was a lark.

“Liz! Come on, jump! You can do it!”

She watched Nick dive off in a forward roll. For a second she saw double and it looked there was two of him; twins clutching their knees to their chest as they rolled over and over into the water below.

Her feet tingled. She thought about turning back, but the concept of what that entailed struck her: movement and the risk of becoming unbalanced. Her palms ran slick with sweat and she knew she had to face this and make an attempt at least.

The ocean seemed so far down. She wondered at the force of hitting it, how quickly would she return to the surface? The tingling in her feet increased through her legs to her finger tips. She swallowed, her mouth cotton dry, and closed her eyes to breath, slamming them open again as it caused her mind to swoon.

She could do it, she could, she had to, there was no going back. What did they say? Leap and the net will appear. She chuckled. Yeah right, as if.

The laugh relaxed her. She drew in a deep breath, her eyes fixed on the other end of the bridge, like a gymnastics bar she would have to land with precision.

She put a foot behind her, hunching slightly as she braced herself for the launch.

One more breath and GO!

She ran three steps, arms wide, and threw herself up and out.


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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jenn Monty Week 92: The Journey

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Jenn Monty’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Journey

I love it here
In the yellow light
And smoke filled air.
The world past this point
Down those tracks
Doesn't exist.
It melts into the familiar,
Sights and sounds mingling
As the fire jumps higher.
Just a stop on the journey,
Too small to notice
Too encompassing to forget.
The whistle blows.
Time to go,
Moving forward at the speed of life
As the world burns behind me.


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Jenn Monty, also known as Brewed Bohemian, is a lover of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror and anything with "Punk" in the name. She is an avid reader and writes flash fiction at


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mark Ethridge Week 92: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 4

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 4

It was the sixth day of the trip home. I jerked awake when she screamed in her sleep. I struggled to my feet. I’d slept beneath the stars that night, and was a more stiff than normal when I woke. Waking to a girl screaming wasn’t my idea of a great way to wake up. But after what she’d been through, I figured she had the right to scream.

“Ah. Morning.” I made sure I spoke loudly enough she could hear me. I stretched, making noise so she’d know where I was. “Time for a pit stop.” I wandered into the trees, and answered mother nature’s call. I also gave her a couple of minutes of quiet, so she could do whatever she might need to.

I stepped on sticks, and shook bushes to make sure she knew I was returning. “Looks like a good morning!” I stepped into the clearing.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t look at me either. She was kneeling on the ground, her arms wrapped around herself. She watched me as I bundled up the tent, and the bedding. “I’d give you some water, and some more jerky, but I’m all out.”

She stared at the ground.

“No. Don’t be like that. Don’t even think that. It’s not a problem. I would have run out today anyway, so it’s not your fault.” I smiled at her. “Just means it’s time to start looking for water and food along the way, that’s all.” I faked a laugh. “Not like I haven’t done that before.” Which was the truth. I’d had to find what I could to stay alive more than once on my various journeys. The worst part was always the water. I learned I could last a couple of days without food without real problems. But without water, things got bad quickly.

A wolf entered the clearing, and nuzzled her hand. “I bet you know where we can find water, don’t you.”

She struggled to her feet, and I noticed the bruises on her arms. Some a deep, dark purple. I decided to watch her as we walked, to see if she had any broken bones, or other nasty injuries. “You’ll let me know if you need a break, won’t you?” She didn’t answer, of course. I mean, I was a male, and males had hurt her. It would take her a while to get over that. If she ever did.

I pulled on my backpack, and away we went. The wolf was our guide through the trees, and headed due West, following the path of the sun. I watched as she struggled to keep walking. After an hour, I stopped, “We’ll rest here for a few minutes, OK?”

She sat down, and wrapped her arms around herself again. “Oh, crud,” her left forearm had a nasty bump on it, and was swelling. “That doesn’t look good.” I held both my hands low, by my hips, facing her as I walked up. She didn’t look at me.

I knelt, and carefully touched her left arm. She didn’t move away, but she was shaking with fear. I couldn’t blame her. “It’s OK,” I whispered, “I’m not going to hurt you. I just need to see if your arm’s broken.”

It probably was, but it looked like a basic fracture, and not a compound fracture. I wished I knew how to set a broken bone, but I didn’t. So I pulled out my copy of “Basic First-Aid” by the Red Cross, and followed its instructions on how to splint a broken bone. I pulled her arm out straight, and carefully probed the bone structure. “It’s not too bad. Just cracked, I think.” I ran my fingers softly across the swollen area, “I can’t feel any separation. It should heal pretty well.”

I looked around, and found a fairly straight part of a tree branch. No such thing as boards in the forest. Lots of trees to make boards with, but no boards. “I’ll need to splint it, to support it, so it won’t get worse.”

She let me carefully tie the branch to her arm. It wasn’t a great splint, but it was better than nothing, and I thought the bone would mend pretty well. She didn’t say anything, but she’d stopped shaking like a leaf. She looked at her arm, then at me, and that was enough of a thank you.

“Come on, you. Let’s see if we can find some water.” I helped her to her feet, and we resumed our walk, the wolf leading the way. I kept watching her, and ever so often, we’d stop and rest a few minutes.

We didn’t find any water that morning, but that afternoon, we got lucky. The trees thinned out some, and we came to a white lattice fence. I whispered to her, “You stay here, safe, in the trees. I’ll go see what we’ve found.” I looked at the wolf. “You take care of her, OK?” The wolf nodded, and stood next to her.

She looked terrified, standing there, me walking away. “I’ll be back in just a few minutes. OK?” She nodded. We both knew I had no way of knowing what was beyond that fence. On my own, I might have waited hours, peeking through the lattice, studying what was beyond it. Walking along it, trying to observe any activity inside it.

The fence was in pretty bad shape, like it had been there several years without anyone taking care of it. Vines grew all through it, and it could no longer keep anything inside, or outside. I took that as a good sign, and crossed through one of the breaks the vines had made. I pulled out my knife as I walked. Hell, I knew it was a useless thing to do, but it made me feel better, so I did it anyway.

The trees gave way to brush, and saplings and an overgrown field. In the middle of that field was a small log cabin. The door was splintered, and the porch was overgrown. Spiders were everywhere. I walked around the cabin remains, and was surprised to find a mechanical pump. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years.

I grabbed its handle, and tried moving it. It made an awful racket as I started moving it, but it quieted down rapidly. And I was rewarded with a stream of water. I filled the canteen. Then I explored the cabin. I got lucky again, and found a couple cans of green beans, and a can of pineapple.

We had water. And we had something to eat. We’d make it another couple of days.

I quickly returned to her and the wolf. “That was a stroke of luck.” I held up the canteen, “Found water, and a bit of food.” I swear the wolf was laughing at me. Of course, he’d known the cabin was there. And the water. He’d lead us to it. “You make a good leader.”

She whispered, “Frank?”

I nearly dropped the canteen. “Yes?”

“Kelly.” She quickly looked at her feet.

“Well, Kelly. Thank you for walking with me.” I handed her the canteen, and let her drink all she wanted. We refilled it as we passed the cabin, and headed into the woods once more. A couple of hours later, we stopped, and watched the sun set through the trees. I made the tent, and had her sleep in it again that night.

And I wished I knew where we were, and how long it would take to find the camp with Jessica and the others.


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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Samantha Lee Week 92: Leap

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Leap

I had a dream once that I was someone else. I wasn't the girl in the darkness, the girl with nightmares shadowing her soul and horror trapped in her eyes. I wasn't my father's daughter or heir to a kingdom that chose to turn their backs on me when the demons descended and tore into me, ripping me apart until only screams and howls and tears remained. I wasn't the lost princess, hunted like a scented fox on the run from hell itself, sought for what she could do and what she was rather than who. I was someone else, someone free, someone...someone normal.

I didn't need to be the girl with the plan. I didn't need to be forever reassessing the board and adjusting my plays accordingly. I didn't need to be concerned with what my enemies were up to or worry about whether or not my friends were safe and protected from harm. I was without responsibilities, without burdens, without the suffocating pressure of memory.

I laughed, surprised and delighted, the feeling so foreign, so light, like feathers and breezes. Wind blew through my hair, tossing it carelessly around my shoulders and carrying with it the scent of oceans and sunlight. Perfect cerulean sky arched over me and sapphire waters spread out before me. I ran, ignoring the stones that bit into my feet, relishing in the echoes of the wood as my steps fell against them in a swift staccato.

Laughing, joyful, free, I leapt.

And woke.


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Lizzie Koch Week 92: Under the Dome

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Under the Dome

First impressions of my new home as I was driven down the long tree lined drive wasn’t exactly promising. How was I going to be safe here when it looked more like a hotel?

“You are very safe here, I can assure you,” said a smiling, well dressed man as I stepped from the car. “Just because you can’t see the security, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And it is like a hotel in as much as you can use the facilities in your own time.”

“And the rest of the time?”

“You’ll be in class.” He smiled again.

I offered a half smile, grabbed my rucksack and followed him in, trying to suppress my nerves. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t want to be the only freak in the building but wasn’t sure how I’d react in meeting others like me.

“We don’t use the word ‘freak’ here Beth. And everyone here has a gift. You’re not alone. This is the best place for you. Trust me.”

So, Doctor Lucas could read my mind. That actually reassured me but I would need to control my thoughts or at least make them polite and clean. His grin told me he had read that too.

That night, I had the first proper sleep since I could remember. No bad dreams invaded my mind making me wake in a cold sweat, screaming with anxiety as the pain in my head felt like it was crushing my brain. Oozing confidence, I joined my classmates in the training dome, eager to make new friends, see what they could do and learn about what I could do.

Doctor Lucas looked upon us from outside the dome. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something, not uttering a word. The dome started to move slowly. I was the only one who stumbled, grabbing onto the side as the dome sped up. I saw two girls hover. Another disappeared completely so I wasn’t sure what he did to stop feeling sick. Others started to run around the dome, faster and faster, almost a blur. I clung on, my knuckles white as the dome spun faster, lifting my feet from the floor. I couldn’t even scream as the air was squeezed from my lungs. Feeling faint, my grip loosened, flinging me across the dome, crashing into the other side with a crash. Tumbling to the floor, I was like a ball in a lottery machine, bouncing off the sides. No one helped me. I couldn’t see anyone to help me as I hit the side again with such force, I dented the side and for a split second I sat there before being flung again.

Anger flared.

Instead of flying around like a rag doll, I flew at the side, grabbing on to the wall, digging my heels into the floor. I pulled and pulled, my arms burning as my heels ripped away at the floor but gradually the dome slowed before coming to a complete stop.

I sank to the floor, exhausted, holding a piece of the dome in my hands.

“Took you long enough to find your power,” one of the boy’s said, full of sarcasm, now appearing right in front of me. I glared through my damp fringe. My anger hadn’t dissipated as I made a grab for him but he vanished. With a frustrated scream, I punched the side of the dome again and again and again until I felt the anger ebb away.

“Sorry. It was a joke. I don’t mean to upset you. You should have seen me the first time. I knew I had invisibility but didn't know I could hover and fly until the dome. Screwed up way of finding out. I’m Matt.”

“Beth.” He pulled me up.

“But you’re the first to make a mess of the dome,” he laughed. I noticed the trenches caused by my heels as well as the side of the dome ripped away and dents all over it. “And you’re the only one of us to have super strength. Not sure Doctor Lucas will like that.”

I looked up to him. He looked deep in thought. Was he reading my mind? Well I wasn’t about to apologise for the damage. It was his fault anyway. I matched his gaze. A sharp pain stabbed at my eyes.

“Are you OK?” Matt asked.

Don’t fight it.

“Fight what?” I screamed, make it stop.”

“What?” Matt asked.

Let your mind go free.

“I can’t. I don’t know how!”

“Beth? Who are you talking to?”

“Dr Lucas . . . he’s telling me to . . .” I screamed again.

I’m not saying anything Beth. You’re reading my mind. Don’t fight it and the headaches will disappear.

Taking a deep breath, I looked up at him.

“Beth, Doctor Lucas is not cross with you,” Matt said.

“I know,” I replied, smiling,. “He just told me.” I saw the puzzled look on Matt’s face.

“Ahh, I get it. I guess I’m going to have to be careful around you with my thoughts, which is a shame,” he said as we left the dome.


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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ruth Long Week 91: Your Footprints On My Heart

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Your Footprints On My Heart

The wind drove the storm up behind them, sending leaves, small branches, and rubble against the car and into their path. Isla pulled into the driveway, got the baby out of the car-seat and went to the door, a low growl rumbling in her throat as she put her key in the knob.

A voice on the exterior stairs said, “It’s okay. Just me.”

She put the baby into the playpen just inside the door. stepped back outside, and looked up into the stairwell. “I’m tired and hungry but if you’re here to take the child, I’ll put you in the ground beside the other two who tried it.”

“I’m sure you would,” he said, careful to remain still and non-threatening.

“Can we do this inside where it’s warmer?”

He shook his head. “You know we can’t. Just like you know you can’t raise your brother Chansen’s bastard pup without pack sanction.”

Her hands balled into fists and the growl returned.

He held his ground but gently. “I’ll be here when you’re ready to talk.”

She went to the car and began unloading the groceries.

He joined her, carrying the bags from the car to the doorjamb, setting them on the pavement in front of the threshold.

She grunted her thanks, moved everything inside, and relocated the still sleeping baby to the cradle beside the fireplace. Once the food was put away, she prepped the flank steak and put it on the stove. The scent of warm meat filled the house, mingling with the sweet heady chill of oncoming rain.

Kneeling beside the baby, she peered into the cradle and ruffled the dark hair. What was she doing? She’d spent forty years living on the edge of pack law, conforming only as much as necessary to fulfill her duties and secure her affiliation. If she kept this child, and her heart could do no other, she’d no longer be allowed to live anonymously in the fringes.

Getting up, she slid into a sweater and opened the door. “Are you here on behalf of the council?”

“No. This is a purely personal matter.”


“You’ve been protected from pack politics while your brothers were in power but their downfall puts you at risk for public censure and disgrace. The council will keep sending members after the pup unless you give him up or provide him a sanctioned family.”

Give up her independence or her nephew. Those were the choices she’d been struggling with all week. Wheaten’s fall had upset but not surprised her. Chansen’s subsequent disclosure that he’d been engaged in a secret affair had surprised but not upset her, until he mentioned the resulting pup who’d been abandoned by his mysterious mother.

He came out of the shadowed stairwell. “I know you’re not going to give up the pup. I understand. But that means you need to take a mate. Quickly. One of your own choosing. Before you're overpowered by one or the council appoints one.”

She let her eyes take him in, though she knew the landscape well. Lanky frame. Well-muscled. Ruddy curls. Amber eyes. The scar across his chin she’d put there years ago. He was offering himself up, though he hadn’t yet said in so many words. “As you say, with my bloodline, I can’t choose just anyone.”

“And with my seat on the council, I can’t offer myself without seeming suspect.”

She opened the door and said, “Come in.”

He closed on her but paused on the threshold. “I won’t hold you to many traditions but this one is one.”

Her fingers closed around his wrist, the knuckles going white. “Please, just come inside.”

He drew his hand through hers until their fingers laced. “I would if this was just about securing the council’s interests but this is a moment I want to savor, a memory I want to carry with me always.”

Her hand gripped his so tightly had he been a mere man, he’d have cried out in pain. “Jackson, of the Five Forests, I greet you in the name of the pack, my family, and myself. I invite you to eat at my table, sleep at my hearth, and raise my whelps.”

He surprised her by ushering her into the house ahead of him and surprised her again by greeting her as a wolf once they crossed the threshold, nuzzling her cheek instead of kissing her.

She’d resisted him, and his wolf, so long that she wasn’t sure how to relent, even now, when she was pretty sure she wanted to. “Obviously I don’t know how to do this relationship thing but you are the only person I’d try it with.”

He traced his scar. “Sweetheart, we’ve been carrying on since the day we met. Just took something serious to nudge us toward the inevitable commitment.”

She let herself enjoy the moment. “Just be sure you make it clear to the council that I fought you every breath of the way. How about you tuck the baby into bed and then I’ll add another scar or two to your scruffy face to lend credence to the story.”


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A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 91: Night Train Part Six

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice:

Title: Night Train Part Six

I shut the office door.
Madeline shouldered past me, heading straight for the liquor cabinet. She ignored the two carafes of homemade stuff on the tray and went inside for a bottle of the good stuff.
The office had been painted red, giving the whole room a rougey glow. They also made the office seem hotter than it actually was. Framed artwork-- hard-scrabble landscapes, mostly-- hung all over the walls, including one massive painting behind the desk.
A sumptuous divan-- probably snatched from a local bordello-- sat next to the wood and glass liquor cabinet.
I moved behind Jack's fine antique oak desk. I forced myself to take a good, long look at the framed photographs of his two daughters, both of them grown women. Like that made any difference.
Madeline poured herself some scotch whiskey, drank it down, then filled up again.
“All right,” I said. “Let's have it.”
She took a sip from her glass, giving me the eye over the rim.
I sighed and dropped myself into Jack's chair. The worn black leather creaked under my weight.
“You know what I am,” I said. “And what I do.”
She glanced at the divan next to the liquor cabinet, then came over and sat on the edge of the desk. I opened the little silver box on the desktop and helped myself to two of Jack's cigarettes, lit them both, then handed one to Madeline.
“I know, chouette,” she replied, taking the cigarette, “I know. I've just never seen you do it.”
I leaned back in the chair. The pain and the sickness and the fatigue curled up in my lap.
“Chouette,” I repeated. “I looked that one up. Little cabbage? You're going to have to explain that to me someday.”
“Perhaps I will. Someday.”
We shared some uncomfortable silence. She smoked. I reloaded the Colt.
The bass and percussion bled through the office door, beating in time with the veins in my temples.
“If something's eating you,” I began, “now's the time.”
She finished her drink, then dropped the cigarette in the glass.
“Did you have to?” she asked. “Was that the only way it could end?”
I looked up, bullet in hand, and made sure to meet her stare.
“No damned man kills me and lives,” I growled.
“Very manly of you,” she smirked.
I loved that smirk, the way her upper lip curled, revealing just a hint of white teeth.
“That's how it is,” I replied.
“I thought you were a dead man the second you got out of the chair.”
“I figured I had even odds on that. The fellas are loyal, but once it gets around a boss doesn't look after his boys... well, loyalty only goes so far.”
She hopped up and returned to the liquor cabinet.
“I'd feel better if you drank with me, Moe,” she said.
I took my time thinking about it.
“Make me a short one,” I said, knowing she'd fill my glass to the top.
“Even odds doesn't sound too good to me,” she said as she poured the drinks.
“Better if I sat and took what I knew was coming. I thought the boys'd come around.”
She walked back to the desk and took a seat in the chair opposite me.
“It sounds a little Julius Caesar to me,” she remarked, crossing her legs.
“Yeah, only Julius Caesar wasn't a two-bit hood from Canarsie.”
She toasted me with her glass.
“If Jack was a two-bit hood, what does that make you?”
I didn't have an answer for her. Didn't even feel like trying.
We sat together, quietly, drinking and smoking, while the band gave 'em hell out in the main room. Madeline's gold-sandaled feet kept the beat. I couldn't help but notice she'd painted her toes to match.
Somebody knocked on the door, then came right in.
Joshua nodded at me-- and smiled at Madeline-- from the doorway.
“O'Shaughnessy's man's in with the sawbones now, boss,” he said. “He wants to see you.”
“That's great,” I replied. “I don't want to see him. Just get his hand patched up and get him out of here. Give him a drink for the road. Something good. Tell him I'll be in touch.”
“You got it, boss.”
“And quit calling me boss!”
“Someone's gotta be the boss, Moe.” He had a serious look on his face. “And from where I'm standin' that someone is you.”
I took a breath deep enough to hurt my bandaged shoulder.
“All right, Josh. I'm the boss. Tonight. We'll see about tomorrow.”
“Good enough for me.”
He turned to leave.
“Josh? Is the Ferret in tonight?”
“I saw him earlier. I'm not sure if he's still here.”
“Send him in if you find him, willya?”
“Sure thing, boss.”
He shut the door behind him.
Madeline stared at me, alarm clouding her big green eyes.
“Moe,” she started, “you're not gonna...”
“Harvey? No way. I'm going to help him write his column.”
She gave me a funny smile.
“What's all this about not being called, 'boss'? Last I heard, you kill the king, you get the throne.”
I smiled back. Kind of.
“You think I want to run this outfit? I'd rather shoot myself in the sack.”
“That's very colorful, Moe.”
“It's also the truth.”
“So what are you gonna do, chouette?”
I picked up my glass, then put it back down.
“I don't know, doll. I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.”
I sat back and closed my eyes. I knew Madeline had more questions but she didn't fire them at me right then.
Another knock on the door broke up another uncomfortable silence.
I let him knock some more.
Madeline stood and moved across the room. She slipped out of her sandals and folded her legs under her, getting comfortable on the divan.
The door opened. Harvey Hendin's small round head peeked into the office, followed by his small, round body. Harvey Hendin. We called him the Ferret because of the dark circles around his beady eyes and a nose and chin that seemed placed too close together. He'd gone bald early in life but nature compensated for his lack of hair by giving him a pair of bushy eyebrows and a five-o-clock shadow that filled in as fast as he shaved it off. His light brown suit looked like he'd slept in it.
“'How are you, Moe?” he squeaked, shutting the door. “Good evening, Mademoiselle Perilloux.” He stopped by the divan to kiss Madeline's proffered hand, then hurried to the desk and took a seat in the chair she'd vacated. “Know anything I should know?”
Harvey Hendin greeted everyone he met with that question, whether he knew you or not. He wrote the society column for the Herald, and while I wouldn't want to insult a generation of reporters by calling him a journalist the man did have a knack for finding a story. A mention in one of his articles, for whatever reason, was a life-changing event.
Everybody ribbed him and most people looked down on him, but I didn't know anyone who didn't read his columns.
He cackled and rubbed his bony hands together.
“After that performance, Moe,” he started in, “I'd guess you know a great deal of things I should know.”
“You might be onto something, Harv,” I replied.
“And you didn't call me in here to share 'em with me, did you?”
“You're going to write this up, aren't you?”
“You kiddin' me, Moe?”
I gave him the tough stare, letting my silence do the talking.
He screwed up his face, looking at me sideways.
“You want me to keep you out of it, am I right?” he asked.
Madeline chuckled.
“They don't call you the best in the business for nothing,” I said.
I offered him one of Jack's cigarettes, lit it for him, and watched him enjoy a few drags on it.
“No one's ever called me the best, and you know it, Moe.” He grinned around the cigarette. “But that kind of applesauce gets you plenty. You want your name out of the story? It's out.”
“Swell. How are you going to write it up?”
Harvey waved my question away.
“Let me worry about that, Moe. I gotta ask, though, how you plan to keep all those witnesses from spilling it?”
I smiled through the haze of smoke.
“Let me worry about that.”
The folks who patronized the Santa Fe were under no illusions about who owned the joint. Most of them would say they didn't see a thing and the few who did would think long and deep about talking about it.
He nodded.
“Now, I hate to be mercenary about it, but... what's in this for me?”
“Harv, you fix this up for me and we're square.”
He hopped out of the chair.
“Square? What do you mean, 'square'? I hushed up that thing with Jack and the D.A.'s wife when you asked me to, didn't I?”
“That was for Jack.”
He hit me with the Ferret stare. I could see the intricate filing system he called a brain working it out.
“You aren't forgetting who got your sister into a very nice place to dry out upstate?” I asked. “She's there on my say-so. Anyone else would've been kicked to the bug house.”
I stood and leaned across the desk. Harvey held his ground.
“That's low, Moe,” he hissed. “Even for you.”
The sour look on Madeline's face gave me heartburn.
I kept my trap shut.
Harvey glared at me for another few seconds, then made for the door. He turned back with one hand on the knob.
“I'm gonna play ball on this,” he said, “and not because you threatened my sister.”
I waited for him to finish.
“You owe me, pal. And someday, you're gonna pay up.”
“Now you're on the trolley,” I replied.
He grimaced at me, then slipped out of the office.
When he was gone I went over to sit next to Madeline on the divan. She wouldn't look at me.
“I'm not going to throw Harv's sister out on her can,” I said. “This doesn't concern her.”
She shook her head.
“Harv sure thinks you'd do it.”
“That's the only way this works.”
Finally, she glanced my way.
“You got it all planned out, don't you?
“I'm making this up as I go along.”
“I don't believe you.”
I laughed a little, low and gruff.
“You know me too well.”
“You gonna tell me what you have in mind?”
I placed my hand on her knee. She didn't move away from me.
“That depends.”
“On what?”
“On whether you're coming with me or not, Madeline.”


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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Michela Walters Week 91: Journey Towards Home

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Journey Towards Home

Forty eight states in ninety days. It was the title of my master’s thesis. As a sociology major, I wanted to write about what made America great, and different all at the same time. When I left Los Angeles two months ago, I thought I knew what I would find driving my old beat up VW Bug across the US. Instead I was amazed by how both similar and diverse our populace was. It also challenged my preconceived ideas about the regions and states and how people were supposed to behave.

I never would have imagined to find a gay commune smack in the middle of Arizona, a state not exactly known for its inclusivity. The people in parts of Arkansas were suspicious of outsiders and my camera, but they still invited me into their homes just the same and were as friendly as anyone I met in the Midwest once they got to know you. Of course stereotypes were still there and some more accurate than others, but it was the exceptions that made my trip worthwhile.

I was in western New York, driving through the finger lakes and as much as I enjoyed the region’s chardonnay, I was beginning to miss my own tempurpedic mattress and living in a space that was larger than the motel 6 bedroom where I was staying. I still had thirty days to finish my northern route to head through Ohio and all along the states bordering Canada before heading through the Pacific Northwest and down through California. I was really curious to see if people in North Dakota spoke like Canucks and if people in the rainiest part of the country really were the biggest and snobbiest consumers of coffee. I didn’t think they could top the extravagant Starbucks orders I’ve seen mastered at my local shop in Santa Monica, but I couldn’t wait to be proven wrong.

Tonight, I was headed to an art showing at the Corning Museum of Glass. James, a handsome man I ran into during a wine tasting earlier had invited me to experience the famous museum as his date. My motto for this journey was to experience all that the locals had to offer, no matter how big or small an event was. I’d come this far to experience everything and everywhere the journey took me. This evening, I guess I’d learn all about the fine art of glass blowing with a hunky man on my arm. Not the worst way to spend an evening. My least favorite event I’d attended had to be the Mullet toss festival I stumbled upon during my trek up from Florida. Who knew throwing a fish over state lines was something to celebrate?

A knock at my motel room door drew me out of my thoughts of yicky fish throwing. Pulling the door open, I saw James standing there with a shy grin gracing his chiseled face. His sandy colored hair was tousled in a way that appeared like he’d spend a long time to ensure it fell just so. He looked slightly uncomfortable wearing his dark wash jeans and form fitting navy shirt. Knowing he worked as an artisan and not in a stuffy office, I understood his discomfort.

“Ready to go?” his voice was deep, gravelly and all male.

“Yep. Just let me grab my purse.” Wandering into the room, I watched him from the corner of my eye, feeling a bit stupid now for giving a stranger my motel number.

“I thought maybe we could grab something to eat first? There’s this great italian joint not too far from the museum.”

Turning to face him, I saw now that he seemed uneasy, in a cute and shy way. “That sounds great.” I smiled warmly at him and took his hand, trying to ease his mind from whatever was making him look so stressed out. “Are you okay? You seem a little nervous.”

With a tense chuckle, he replied he was fine, but I could tell something was bugging him.

“Okay, but you know, if you don’t really want to go out, we don’t have to--”

He placed a finger across my lips to silence my rant. “Chelsea, from the moment I met you earlier today I couldn’t get you out of my mind. I’m nervous because I know you’re leaving in the morning to continue the rest of your trip, which means I only have one shot at making an impression.”

Hearing his sweet thoughts, I melted just a little bit. “Well, why don’t we see where tonight goes, and we’ll have to figure out the rest later?”

With a simple nod, we walked towards the center of town. Little did I know when my trip was all done and my thesis completed I’d make my way back to the sleepy town of Corning. James helped secure a job for me as a sociology professor at Alfred University. I was happy that my journey took me through central New York, because if I hadn’t, I’d never have found the most unexpected realization from my three month adventure -- my soul mate.


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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog:


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sarah Aisling Week 91: Grace: Part 1

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Grace: Part 1

In a moment, life changes. Between the lines of life lie fuses waiting to be lit, leading to explosions with the potential to carve out crevices or craters. Sometimes the new landscape is welcome, and sometimes it's so far from okay—and yet we manage to go on.

Ghosts flood my mind, dipping and swirling. Joe's hulking body collapsed to the floor; Mamie's wrinkled, tanned skin thin as onion paper as she languishes in her bed; Katie slumped over at the kitchen table, metal piercings a harsh glint against her alabaster skin; Dover with his tangled coat, dried out tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth. All of them blistering hot—hotter than any being could survive.

Coolness blankets my skin, intruding on my thoughts. A damp shiver works its way over me like a snake, writhing and biting into my flesh. I still hear Dover's last pathetic pants even though the dream faded. I roll, feeling grit and sharp edges dig into my cheek.

The panting grows louder, stopping only for a soft whine then continuing.

“Dover?” My vocal cords grate like sandpaper.

Something soft and dry nudges at my face, and then a warm, wet tongue licks from the base of my jaw to my temple, catching and lifting an eyelid in the process. I squint against the sudden brightness, expecting steel-gray fur and finding wiry black and tan instead. The two large paws planted next to my head belong to a large dog. Maybe a Shepherd mix. Not Dover. Dover is gone.

From my side-lying position, the world is a strange mix of craggy brown and cinder, set against smooth blue and fluffy white. I lift my head, and the world spins for a few seconds.

The dog barks and whines again, biting at my sleeve.

A short distance away are ruins. Their debris is strewn across the top of the cliff—a chunk of it pokes me in the hip—but whatever occurred here happened long ago. I find this comforting.

I don't remember how I arrived here, or even know where here is, but the air is clean and tangy with the brine of the sea.

The dog barks sharply, crawls with her belly low to the ground until she reaches my camouflage rucksack and sniffs it. I can count her ribs, and skin sags around her haunches.

“Are you hungry, girl? I might have something to share.” I lean forward and snag a strap, dragging the bag toward me. Unzipping a side pocket, I pull out a Slim-Jim, peel the plastic wrapper back, and break the stick in half, holding it out. “Here you go.”

Her ears stand up, and her tail swishes back and forth. She watches me with mistrust in her eyes though it's obvious how much she wants the food.

“Come on, girl. If you want it, you have to meet me halfway.”

She tilts her head and whines, approaching slowly.

“Did someone scare you out here? I won't hurt you.” My stomach rumbles, so I slide the plastic off the other half and pop it into my mouth. “Yummy!”

She decides to take a chance and nips the jerky gently from my hand, chewing slowly as if savoring it. As emaciated as she is, I expected her to snarf it down.

“Where are we, girl? Are there any people around here?” I rise to my feet and walk off the stiffness that has set in. From this vantage point, I can see towns and villages below. It all looks so peaceful and quaint, unspoiled—except for the absence of smoke curling into the air, movement of any kind, animals or people.

There are no vehicles clogging the streets, no signs the townspeople tried to run. It looks pristine and perfect and abandoned. Back home, there was no getting away from the evidence. After a while, it was impossible to traverse the cars blocking the roads or ignore the stench of death.

The destruction of the human race ripped across the world, leaving few unscathed. The worst part was the dogs. Human viruses don't usually affect animals, but this one did, leaving hundreds of beloved family pets dead. Most people retreated to their beds to die, but many of the affected animals went ballistic, running through the streets until they dropped dead.

“So, you wanna be pals? You must be immune, too.” I hold out my hand, and she licks it. “You need a name. How about Grace? You took that Slim-Jim so gently even though you must be starving. What's next for us, Grace? What happened to all the people down there?”

I've lost count of the days. It's been a few weeks since I've seen any others. I keep moving, foraging for food . . . looking for answers.


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook