Archive | July 2012

Short Story – Hunger

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a tinker. A dog plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in an inn in ancient times. The story is about hunger.

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As she came to the crossroads she noted the sun would be setting soon. She glanced over at her cart. Her dog had obediently seated himself as soon as she paused to gather her thoughts. The cart wasn’t that heavy – she only had basic tools. And he was a big dog, so she wasn’t afraid of overworking him. However, neither of them had eaten since yesterday and while it was hard on her, she knew she had to find something for him soon. Business had been slow – it seemed no one needed a tinker.

She spied an inn not far ahead and decided it was worth the risk. She didn’t normally approach the larger businesses for fear of being recognized. She headed toward the back door near the kitchen hoping there might be something she could repair in exchange for some food.

As she neared the entrance she heard the laughter from the front room. Someone must have told a great joke because the entire place had roared with mirth. The noise raised a longing she had almost forgotten. She quickly turned from the sound and approached the open back door. An older woman was seated on the stoop wiping the sweat from her neck with her apron.

Good day, Mistress! Do you have anything that needs mending?

The woman eyed the dog warily and grunted.

“Oh, you needn’t worry about him, as long as you don’t mean me any harm.”

The woman didn’t respond so she continued, “We were only hoping to do a little work in exchange for bread and a bit of meat.”

And then she was babbling, “We could use something to eat and only want to earn it honestly…”

And finally sobbing, “We’ve not had any takers since yesterday noon and I’m getting worried for him. He’s all I have in the world and I just can’t lose him.”

She broke down and fell to her knees in front of the woman…“Please?”

And then there was silence punctuated only by her sobs and an occasional guffaw from the front of the inn.

Finally, the woman spoke to her gently with a crack in her own voice,“How long have you been away from home?”

Surprised at the question, she paused to think – how long since she had felt the welcome of her family and friends? How long since she had slept in a comfortable bed? How long since she had laughed with her brothers?

She stammered, “I-I-I don’t know… We’ve been traveling…” she broke off, afraid of revealing too much.

“Come here, child. I have one just your age that I haven’t heard from in a long time. The world is not a kind place and I worry for her sake that someone will show her how downright mean it is. Let’s get you and your dog some food and then we can see what work is available. You’re in no shape to work now.”

The kindness of the innkeeper’s woman was too much. She sobbed harder and then the woman put her arms around her and gathered her in.

“There, there. No need to cry now. There, there,. it’s going to be all right. You’re safe for now.”

Safe! Of all the hungers she felt, she had forgotten the one that meant the most…

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story: Afraid

Story prompt:   The story’s protagonist is female and a baker. A tree plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a deserted highway in ancient times. The story is about cowardice.

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She carefully covered her baskets of bread to keep them from getting dusty as the horses went by. Dusty bread doesn’t sell as well and she needed to sell all her loaves today.  She had seated herself under a tree at a busy crossroads. The day was hot and dry, so the tree provided a small measure of shelter from the heat of the sun. There had been very few passersby today so she had sold only a couple loaves. She had hoped for a better place but the choice of location was not hers to make. She could only follow what they told her to do. In another time and place she might have more power to control her fate. Or maybe if she had more strength of character.

It was useless to wish for what she didn’t have. She was born in this place, in this time and she was considered to be of little value. Her father was a baker and so she learned by watching him. She was forced to work as soon as she could follow directions. There is no time to be a child when you are born poor. When her father died she kept the bakery going so her mother and brothers could continue living in the hovel behind the ovens. Her brothers were usually the ones selling the wares while she did all the baking. That way no one saw her.

Until last week…

The soldiers came through the village and took every bit of food they found and everything of value. She had been too afraid to beg for her family. They begged. She hid. Afraid of what the soldiers might do to her if they found her. They were big and their shields and weapons clanked ominously as they moved through the village securing it for the empire. There was very little time and when the soldiers reached her family’s market stand, she had secreted herself in an old flour urn. And her family faced the soldiers without her.

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story: Dark

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and an artist. Darkness plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in the present. The story is about discovery.

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As the setting sun glowed red, she finished adding touches to the fabric and started cleaning up. She preferred to work while it was daylight, so the sun’s demise was her prompt to put things away. In the northern states, the sun stays up very late in the summertime. It was almost nine o’clock as the radiant orb sank through the haze on the horizon. It was still a good half an hour until dark, but the mosquitoes tend to like dusk and dawn for their foraging, so unless you like the sticky feel and chemical scent of insect repellent (and she didn’t), it is best to let them find another food source.

She had learned that many places don’t have screens on the windows – her first apartment in Chicago was a revelation. It was a third floor walkup in an older building with a grand marble staircase leading up from the ground floor. There were no screens and no air-conditioning, so she kept the windows open and propped a fan in one to try to move the sweat-soaked air into an illusion of coolness. The only bugs she had to worry about were the cockroaches that marched incessantly from the neighboring kitchen through the cracks in the boards into her space. She killed as many as she could personally. She put down a border of boric acid around the entire perimeter. She bought ant and roach spray and used it generously. (Many years later a new fragrance would be released that reminded her of the roach spray – and the scent would take her back to that summer in Chicago. She surmised that the women who wore the fragrance had never had to fight cockroaches personally.)

Back inside her screened porch, she sat in the swing and contemplated the growing darkness. Listening to the crickets and frogs waking. Watching the stars in ones and twos become uncountable in short order. The nursery spread out from her back porch in all directions. Trees to the north so they wouldn’t shade the smaller plants. Pots of fragrant flowers, herbs and tomatoes on tables closer to her house.

The fireflies were rising like little stars themselves. She had always been fascinated by them. Their mysterious light glowing and throbbing in the dark. She remembered a trick she had heard an old farmer tell about many years ago and grabbed a sweater and her keys. She pulled her pickup close to the backyard and turned the headlights on bright. After a few minutes she turned the lights off again and watched from the cab.

It only took a moment of darkness as she held her breath… and then she discovered the old farmer was right. Every firefly in the yard simultaneously lit and went dark in unison. Hundreds of little glowing bugs synchronized all across the landscape. She sighed with pleasure.

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.