Thursday, April 15, 2021

He Wasn't Standing Where He Was Supposed To Be

Word Prompt Flash Fiction.

Image by author, Susan Foster.

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.

He Wasn't Standing Where He Was Supposed To Be

I rushed to the door and darted out from beneath the shop canopy into the street. Behind me, in hot pursuit, was the cashier. Despite his age, he was almost as fast as me, thanks to my gimpy gait. Minutes earlier, he watched me sneak a chocolate bar from the sweets aisle into my pocket. 

Like a well-oiled machine, this was all working out just as I'd planned. Earlier this morning, I stomped down hard on a rose stem from my mother's garden, making sure a thorn punctured the ball of my foot. This made me limp, causing soreness with every step. It was so important that I be viewed as a bit of a charity case. Nothing, not even pain, was too much to endure for the end result.

The cashier caught up to me, grabbed my arm, and shouted, "Show me what's in your pocket. I saw you take that chocolate bar. You can't steal stuff and expect to get away with it."

I hopped two steps and leaned against the wall of a nearby building, holding my injured foot pitifully off the ground. It throbbed intensely after running on it, so my grimace was sincere. Opening my eyes wide, I gave him a mournful look. 

"I'm sorry, Mister.  I started thinking about all that candy and it seemed like a good way to help me forget how much my foot hurts," I said. "I was just daydreaming about the taste of this chocolate bar, and I pocketed it without thinking." 

I sobbed for a minute to emphasize my point, and then continued,  "I knew right away you saw me do it and that you probably thought I was stealing, so I  - I ran. Or hobbled, anyway." I gave a loud sniff. " I don't want to go to pp-prison."
 
Just as expected, the cranky old man's expression softened.

Convinced that I had drawn things out long enough, I seized the moment. I reached into my pockets and pulled out the chocolate bar from one and a few dollars from the other. I offered it all to the cashier. 

"Here," I said, "I really did mean to pay for it. You can have my money, and I'll give you the candy bar back, too."
 
"Oh, that's all right," said the cashier. "This one's on me. But, be more careful from here on out. This sort of mistake doesn't often work out so well."

"No, sir, It certainly doesn't." 

I grinned inwardly and pictured my friend and shoplifting partner, Billy. By now, he'd be waiting for me in the back alley with bags full of candy and other stuff for each of us, stolen while I'd lured the unsuspecting cashier out of the otherwise unattended shop. 

We were so good at this.
_____________________________________________________________________________


Word prompt writing sometimes practically writes itself!

I used all of the words provided to write this story but decided not to include the image. However, after I finished writing, I realized I had been inspired subconsciously by the photo, which then helped to write my title! 

By the way, despite having concocted a rather elaborate shoplifting plan, I have never (ever) stolen anything! I'm a little nonplussed by how easily I came up with such a devious plot.

Words for Wednesday Word Prompts for the week of 4/4/21

This story was written in response to the Words for Wednesday Challenge on 4/4/21. The prompts are provided this month by Wisewebwoman on her blog. I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted.

This week, there were two lists of words and an image with a caption, all of which were taken from The Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen. Here are the prompts: 

Canopy, ThornMachine, Charity and/or Limp, Aisle, NothingSneak

and/or 

a photo of art by Leonard Cohen (shown here), described in this book review as "A very loose self-portrait sketch is accompanied by the words, "I believe that you are standing in the place where I am supposed to be standing."

Do you see how (although completely unintentionally) the image influenced my story?

A strange coincidence

I am currently reading a book with a nearly identical title but a very different genre called The Book of Longings written by Sue Monk Kidd. So far, I am really enjoying it.


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy. 

A personal update

I was lucky enough to be vaccinated on Tuesday, and although I was pretty under the weather with flu symptoms for about 24 hours after the shot, I agree with the protagonist in my story that some discomforts are worth enduring for the end result. 

A few hours of a fever (and the embarrassment of my newsletter publishing itself without me remembering yesterday to update it from last week) is definitely better than getting COVID! Stay healthy, everyone!

Monday, April 12, 2021

I Thought He Was a Goner


Cat lying curled up on a (fake) bear rug

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that we have a cat. A very old cat.

On March 24th, I wrote about it being his 18th birthday. Last week, I truly thought his worsening kidney failure had reached a point where he would slip away. 

He has been steadily losing weight for several years, down from 13 pounds to about seven. On Easter Sunday, he appeared more emaciated than ever: his gait was unsteady, and several times he simply just fell over. Fortunately, he didn't seem to be in pain.

I spoke with our vet, and we were in agreement. Doing more tests and treatments will only delay the inevitable and a visit to the clinic would cause this old, old kitty undue stress.  Yet, as the vet put it, death from renal failure can be ugly. We agreed not to interfere unless my kitty needs help getting comfortable, and in that event, we will take whatever measures will be best for him.

I mentioned that other than his arthritic hips, he didn't currently seem to have any sort of pain. The vet suggested I try giving him another steroid shot to help with that. I drove to the clinic (without the cat) and picked up the prefilled syringe.

Every day since I administered the shot of cortisone last week, our little kitty has shown increasing signs of improvement. Today, I can barely serve him enough food to satisfy his (previously non-existent) appetite. He is roaming the house and seems to have a lot more energy. 

I know the day will not be too far off, but thankfully, it's not yet time to say goodbye.

A cat snuggled underneath blankets with an open laptop in the foreground

I apologize for it being a week since I have published here. I've been busy giving my cat some extra cuddle time!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Flash Fiction: A Wily Decision

 A wife takes a cue from a dog and initiates a big change.

(Image by author, Susan Foster).

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.

A Wily Decision

The tenth of every month was the day Mr. and Mrs.Wily picked up their allotment of wine from the vineyard. They had been members of the wine club there for over ten years, and although they sometimes opened a bottle on special occasions, they had built up an impressive collection of wine in what Mr. Wily called the “wine cellar” in the basement. Really, it was just wooden shelves lining the walls, but she knew Mr. Wily liked the way it made him feel when he referred to it that way. Like they were rich, or something.

Their drive home followed an ice-covered brook. Mr. Wily rolled down the car window, letting in the chilly late afternoon air as he puffed on his cigar. Mrs. Wily felt irritated; she had told him many times the cigar smoke gave her a headache. Why couldn’t he wait to smoke it in the backyard?

Last month, when they picked up their wine, these fields were full of wheat and glistened with an ochre hue, as far as she could see. Now they were just full of stubs and brown dirt. “Not pretty at all,” she mused, in a distracted sort of way. Her main thoughts were focusing on the upcoming task of making dinner. It was Saturday, their day to eat salmon. And broccoli, a baked potato, and pudding, of course, for dessert.

The promenade just blocks from their house was lined with trees. A watchful dog sat on a porch, sniffing the air. As the car drew close, Mrs. Wily saw it leap down the steps to chase a squirrel, who was searching for nuts along the roadside. At first, the squirrel didn’t see the dog approach, and its laggard attempt to get away was almost its demise. Fortunately, it had the wisdom to know the dog couldn’t climb a tree. As soon as the squirrel reached a tree trunk, it climbed high in the branches, quick as a lightning strike.

Mrs. Wily heard the dog bark as it circled around and around the tree. She was reminded of a nursery rhyme circle game she used to teach nursery school children to play.

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
the mulbery bush, the mulberry bush,
here we go round the mulberry bush
on a cold and frosty morning.

The song was meant to teach morning routines to the wee ones, she remembered. Instead of “Here we go round the mulberry bush, the next verse would change to, “this is the way we wash our face.” Then “comb our hair, brush our teeth, put on our clothes” would be inserted in the remaining verses, ending with a final verse of Here we go round the mulberry bush.

The little ones had already learned to play the Ring Around the Rosey game, which ended with, “We all fall down.” Inevitably, while dancing in a circle to the mulberry song, some of the children would forget during which song they were supposed to fall and would drag the others down, all of them landing in a heap. Some cried, and others giggled.

“My life has been going in circles,” Mrs. Wily thought. “Just like the nursery rhyme, Mr. Wily and I have followed the same boring routine every day and every week for years. If things don’t change soon, this marriage is ready to fall down and I’ll be the one crying. I need to be more like that dog, and chase after what I want.”

“Maybe that song is the key to finally being heard,” she thought. “Lord knows, just talking and complaining hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It’s time I become as wily as my last name. I’ll borrow verses from the song and modify them.”

Thinking quickly, she began singing with her pretty soprano voice, raising it loud enough to be sure her husband heard her.

This is the way you make your wife sick, 
make your wife sick,
make your wife sick,
this is the way you make your wife sick,
ignore her and smoke in the car.

Mr. Wily glanced at her, raised his eyebrows, and snuffed out the cigar in the ashtray.

“Oh my heavens, Mr. Wily listened to me!” Then, she thought, “No! Not 'Mr. Wily.' My name is Angie and his name is Bill. No more of this silly Mr. and Mrs. Wily stuff! How did we ever end up calling each other that, anyway?” 

She kept making up verses and singing them.

This is the way we die of boredom,
die of boredom, die of boredom, 
this is the way we die of boredom,
Never doing anything new…
Isn’t it time for new hobbies, 
new hobbies, new hobbies,
isn’t it time for new hobbies
and to start using our first names?

Bill pulled into the driveway and yanked on the emergency brake. 

“Angie,” he murmured, “I never knew you felt like this. I thought I was the only one unhappy with our life.” 

He smiled ruefully and in his off-key baritone and not at all rhythmically, he sang:

Let’s stop going round the mulberry bush, 
the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
It’s time we listened and show love to each other,
and we need to make our lives a lot better.

They both smiled and Angie let out a small giggle. They exited the car and she held open the front door while Bill carried in the carton of wine, like always. Except for this time, he bent down and kissed her cheek as he passed her. 

She suggested he leave a bottle of chardonnay in the kitchen, so they could open it to drink with dinner.


Word Prompt Fiction

This story was written in response to the Words for Wednesday Challenge on 3/31/21. The prompts were provided by Hilary Melton-Butcher but posted on the website Elephant’s Child. I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted.

I used this entire list of word prompts to create this story:

Watchful, Laggard, Pudding, Mulberry, Bark,
and/or

Promenade, Vineyard, Allotment, Wisdom, Tenth, 
and/or
Life, Borrow, Wily, Ochre, Brook


Where would these words have taken your imagination?

Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Taking Time to Stitch a Tapestry (Word Prompt Fiction)

Embroidery hoops, thread and a needle resting on a tapestry in front of a window showing a snowy scene.

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.


Taking Time to Stitch a Tapestry

The world outside was silent, blanketed by a thick layer of snow. Martha sat by the window, taking advantage of the last of the evening light. Her needle darted in and out, weaving the embroidery thread into the stiff fabric, while the peppermint aroma of her tea faded as it grew cold. She had been stitching longer than she realized. Her thoughts had wandered pleasantly while embroidering this summer scene, which centered on a sweet brown hare darting behind a flowering hedge.

Earlier, along the side of the house, she had seen a similarly sized rabbit, wearing his winter coat of white. Perhaps, she mused, when she finished this one she should embroider the same picture again, but change it to show a winter season instead of summer. Maybe she could even create a set of four tapestries with this same view and rabbit, showing all the seasons. It wouldn’t be hard to do and would add one more dimension to her catalogue of items for the sale.

"If professional artists can present some of their work as a series, why shouldn't I?" she thought. 

The hard scrunch of her husband’s footsteps through the newly fallen snow on the path beyond the window interrupted her thoughts. When the men clear-cut that swatch right up to the house she had disapproved, because she hated to see such beautiful old trees cut down. However, she now appreciated how much easier it was to get to the house from the end of the road, and how the layer of rocks (or snow) warned her when anyone approached.

With a sign, she pushed aside the tapestry and rose from her chair. It was time to get supper started. Her dream of being able to make her sewing a priority over mundane household chores would have to wait.

"Someday," Martha vowed, "I will become a full-time, self-reliant artist and leave this place."


~~~~~*~~~~~


Delores of Under the Porch Light used to offer a weekly writing prompt called Words for Wednesday, and encouraged others to use it to write something creative.  Unfortunately, Delores began to have computer issues, and could no longer provide the weekly prompts. Elephant’s Child took over for a while, and then she organized volunteers to share the responsibility.

The prompts for this week were provided by Hilary Melton-Butcher but posted on the website Elephant’s Child. (They were posted last Wednesday, but it has taken me this long to get around to writing this!) I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted. 

I used the entire list of word prompts to create this story: Silent, Tea, Summer, Scrunch, Tapestry and/or Hare, House, Catalogue, Clear-cut, Path.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Where would these words have taken your imagination?


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!
This post contains affiliate links. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Why Are Social Media and Technology So Challenging?

Do you ever struggle like I do?


Graphic showing a screenshot of my weekly subscriber email setup

Yesterday's mistake.

If you subscribe to the emails from this blog, you probably wondered why the subject line of the email I sent out yesterday (March 24) said "Happy St Patrick's Day." In fact, I bet you thought it was old news and never even opened it.

Ugh. 

I know I'm out of practice, but social media and technology seem more difficult now than they ever did to me. I make mistakes while using my phone, sending emails, and posting content on social media.

I make mistakes when I send texts

Have you ever composed a text and then sent it to the wrong person? I've done this, more times than I'd like to admit. Autocorrect has assisted me in many not-so-helpful ways.

I make mistakes on social media

I've made a bunch of mistakes while trying to acknowledge or comment on other people's posts. Spelling errors, double comments, neglecting to acknowledge the posts of my dear friends  ... you name it, I have done it.

Just yesterday, I somehow managed to add the same post to Instagram not once, but THREE times. How on earth did I do that? The first two times the content just didn't seem to load, so I kept trying. And then, later, all three appeared. Before I noticed this, people had liked and added comments on all three posts. Now, I have no idea what to do. Delete two of them, or leave my mistakes for all to see?

I make mistakes when I send blast emails (See yesterday's for proof!)

I work hard to craft an interesting weekly newsletter for my blog subscribers. I came up with the idea to change the subject title line every week, to make these emails look more interesting when they appear in the subscriber's inbox.

On March 17th, my email had the subject title, "Happy St. Patrick's Day." I thought I'd changed that wording to "Happy Wednesday" before my email went out on March 24, but for some reason that edit didn't stick. The subject line of the email remained, "Happy St. Patrick's Day." 

Of course, I didn't notice until the email was already sent. How many of my followers do you think, would have clicked an email when it referred to a holiday that occurred the week before?

Do you make mistakes like this, too?

How to stop making these mistakes

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

They Say Cats Have Nine Lives

I’m (gratefully) convinced our cat has many more than nine.


closeup of a person and a cat

Today is our cat's 18th birthday and his age is catching up with him.

His skeleton feels bony when I pet him. Sometimes he just sits and stares into place, or lets out pitiful yowls for no apparent reason. His whiskers are often coated with particles of food and his backside with who-knows-what. When he uses his litter box, more often than not anymore, he misses it and body waste and fluids flow down the side. He swings his back hips strangely when he walks, and his gait has become timid from arthritis. He has a funky smell and his fur is rough and patchy.

This feline member of our family has always been ornery and destructive. The veterinarian's office attached a label on his chart, warning all their employees that our cat is “very fractious.” He’s unfriendly (actually quite ferocious) to everyone except my family, and he is a lot of work. 

BUT ––He loves me unconditionally, possibly more than any living creature ever has. I can't imagine life without him.

Our beloved cat turned 18 today, and he’s been a member of our family since he was just 6-weeks old. We adopted him to satisfy my daughter's intense longing for a cat, but it was he and I who formed the strongest bond. Perhaps that's because he became ours on Mother's day. The amount of days and months and years this cat has lived in our house now equals or exceeds that of either of our now-grown children. 

I worry it will soon be time to say goodbye. Will he tell me when he’s ready to go, or will he just slip silently away? 

In the past year or two, I’ve said farewell to this treasured cat multitude of times. I’ve held him and I’ve cried, convinced he wouldn’t make it through the night. On each of those occasions, he proved to me the saying that cats all have nine lives. In his case, we could probably adjust that number upwards to 15, or so.

For years, our kitty’s been on a slew of meds for irritable bowel syndrome and decreased renal function. So far, the prescription food, pills, gels, and injections have been working. We’ve had a few diabetic scares, only to find out diabetes did not cause his problems; instead he suffered from severe urinary tract infections which cleared up with antibiotics. 

Eighteen years seems like a long life for a cat, but it doesn’t feel like enough time to spend with this one. This sentiment seems mutual; though old and frail, our cranky cat still appears to be enjoying life with us. Just when I’m convinced his arthritis badly threatens his mobility, I spy him nimbly getting onto a kitchen counter or teasing our big dog. He seems as happy as he’s ever been, especially when he’s nestled in my lap or stretched out in a ray of sunshine, puddling on the floor.

Our elderly cat’s end-of-life is probably not too far away. But today he’ll get some happy birthday treats as we reminisce and celebrate his life. 

Who knows, if we are lucky enough, perhaps this time next year we’ll be celebrating his birthday when he turns 19. That would be so nice.

headshot of a grey striped cat with green eyes.


An old cat lying on a bed.


Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy! 😷 This post contains affiliate links. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

An Easy Way to Deal With Scorched or Burned Pots and Pans

Before you soak or scrub, try this trick first!

A photo of the bottom of a pan I scorched while cooking oatmeal with blueberries

I've scorched a lot of pots and pans, lately. While remodeling our kitchen, I've been cooking meals using a single burner hotplate. This little burner has been invaluable, as far as being able to boil, simmer, saute, and warm up food, but the temperature is tough to regulate. 

Pans can scorch or burn even on the best of appliances, and this can happen quickly. You get distracted and turn away from the stove to do something else, turn up the heat too high, or simply forget to stir. Suddenly, whatever you have been heating in a pan scorches and burn.

Hopefully, you can salvage whatever you were cooking, but the pan will be a mess. However, before you reach for caustic cleansers and tough scrubbing pads or leave it overnight to soak, give this trick I've learned a try. I'm not sure if it will work in every case, but so far it's worked for me.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

How to Bake a Chocolate Cake That is an Outstanding Winner

 In 30 years of baking cakes, this is the one I’ve made the most.

Glazed chocolate bundt cake with a slice cut out.
Image by author, Susan Foster

Do you have a favorite cake recipe? 

Is there a cake recipe you’ve made repeatedly? If so, what do you love about that recipe? 

  • Is it the best cake you ever had? 
  • Is it quick and easy to make?
  • Does it require a minimum of dishes and little cleanup after cooking?
  • Is it the one your family or friends most frequently request?
  • Do you always have the ingredients on hand?

My favorite cake recipe

For my favorite cake recipe, all the answers to the above questions are a resounding YES. 

I enjoy trying new recipes and I love all flavors of cake, but when I don’t feel like experimenting or spending a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the cake I always make. Whenever I serve it, guests ask for the recipe and always say it’s delicious.

I first tasted this cake when visiting a friend, and she served it for dessert. When I returned home, I realized I just had to have the recipe. I still have a copy of her original email with the recipe, sent almost 30 years ago to me. I have no idea where she got it from.

Throughout the years, I've made some changes to the recipe. Here’s my favorite way to make it:

Chocolate Chip Bundt cake with a quick chocolate glaze
Image by author, Susan Foster

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake