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!