A Loving Proposal

I’m going to take my cue from one of Agatha Christie’s novels as my response to today’s Word Press daily prompt. She had such an interesting way with words. And I love her characters’ names!

Swindolthwarp’s Surprise

Amos stood in the hallway watching the young woman hurry down the staircase. Always bustling around, this young lady. Always seemed to know where she was going and why. He liked that. And she was a pretty young thing. His old ticker skipped a beat.

As she passed him in the hall he caught her arm with the hook of his cane. “You. Miss Whats-your name-again?”

“Arthur. Miss Vivian Arthur.”

“Arthur. Yes. Good English name.” Amos drew her closer and wrapped his fingers around her arm. Nice bit of flesh she had, too. Not like some of the scrawny old birds throwing themselves at him lately. “I’d like to have a word with you.”

“Certainly, Sir. Are you wanting your tea already? I should start with dinner preparations soon.”

She took a step backward and he gripped her arm even tighter. “Never mind the tea, girl. I have something important to discuss. Something very personal. Come with me.” He tenderly pulled her into his study. “I’ve been watching you ever since you showed up — has it been a month already? I’ve see what an industrious sort you are. And not a waster, either.”

“Thank you, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He leered at her lovingly. “To you I may seem like a poor old man, but I assure you, there’s more to me than meets the eye. I’m a lot more robust than my sons think. I’m not about to drop dead and leave them every penny like they wish.”

“No, I’m sure not, Mr Swindolthwarp. You seem quite robust yet.” She looked down at the hand that was clutching her arm.

“I try not to let on, but I do have quite a bit saved up, actually. I could look after you very well. You wouldn’t have to be a char anymore and work so hard every day. Mind you, I wouldn’t hire another cook, since you’re so capable. Having you doing the meals has suited my digestion to a turn. Once we’re married…”

“Married!” Vivian’s eyes opened wide and she turned pale, but quickly regained her composure. “Well. I never expected…”

“Surprised you, did I?” Amos chuckled with delight. “I’ve grown quite fond of you, you know. My wife, may she rest in peace, was okay, but an insipid sort. Not a lively thing like you. I think you could add some real zest to my life.”

“Whatever would your sons say, Mr Swindolthwarp? I fear they would resent me if I…er…if they thought…”

“Who cares what they say? They can go climb the Himalayas for all I care.” He pounded his cane on the floor twice to emphasize his point. “Right now they’re waiting for me to die so they can get their hands on my money and waste it all. But I can see you’re sensible. You won’t be tossing my life savings to the four winds.”

There came a sudden sparkle in her eye. “So this means no honeymoon on the Riviera?”

“Riviera!” The word made Amos gasp and sputter.

Vivian, alarmed, patted his back. “Oh, dear! Are you all right, Sir?”

One last cough and Amos replied, “I’m fine. I’m fine. Don’t fuss. I hate it when people fuss. But, my word! The Riviera. Do you have any idea how much that would cost?”

“You’re quite right,” she replied, her eyes taking in the threadbare carpet, faded wallpaper and the draperies that must have hung on these study windows for thirty years at least. “The money would be far better put into home improvements.”

“I knew you were a practical girl! Think about what I’ve said. You and I could make a delightful match. And I’m not too old, you know…” He ogled her amorously. “There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still a fire in the hearth. We could have a nice little family.”

He saw the hint of a smile flicker on her lips and took it she was delighted at the prospect.

She pulled away from him. “This is all very sudden. I shall have to give this more thought, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He reluctantly released his loving grip on her arm. “You do that, girl. Remember, if you’re willing to take care of me, I’m willing to take care of you.”

“Thank you, Sir. This is so kind of you. I must start the dinner.” And she dashed off to the kitchen.

Amos chuckled again. He’d bowled the girl right over. But she’d come round, he was sure. Maybe by his 73nd birthday he’d be a married man again. And his sons could go jump off the cliffs of Dover if they didn’t like it.

A Whiff of Smoke

snowy-lane-rail-fence“Even if Mason did walk down this lane, you can’t see anything now, the way it’s drifted in.” Rick shouted over the snowmobile’s engine. “Anyway, there’s nothing at the end but that old homesteader’s shack. I don’t see much point in us going in there.”

Jerry, lifting his snowmobile helmet visor, leaned toward Rick and said. “Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope of finding him alive at all. At -25 with a 65-klicks-an-hour wind he would have died of exposure in minutes.”

“Crazy fool should have stayed in his car. He knows this country, these March storms.”

“He’d had a few too many at the bar, so he wasn’t apt to be thinking so clear when his car hit the ditch back there. He probably fell and got buried by snow.”

Rick gritted his teeth. “That server’s going to be held responsible for this guy’s death. He should have never let a drunk leave the bar.”

“But he claims he warned them — and Mason promised he wasn’t driving. The guy with Mason said he was the DD — and he was sober — so the server let them go.”

“So why wasn’t he? They get in a scrap in the parking lot and now we won’t be finding Mason until the snow melts in spring.”

Jerry lifted his head. “Hey, Rick. Do you smell something?”

Rick sniffed the air. “No. Wait… yeah, I am getting a whiff of something.”

“Wood smoke?” Jerry sniffed again. “And not far away.” The two men gunned their snowmobile motors and zipped down the old lane.

The afternoon new carried the miraculous rescue story. Mason Horwich wandered away from his vehicle in a storm and managed to follow an old lane into an abandoned farmyard. Thanks to a supply of firewood the previous owner had stacked up against his shack and Horwich finding the matches the farmer had stored in a glass jar to stay dry, the thirty-year-old father of four was now safely at home with his family.

“I’m so thankful to be alive,” Horwich was quoted as saying as his children clustered around him. “I don’t deserve this.”

He especially thanked his rescuers, Jerry and Rick, who’d gone for shovels and dug him out of the old shack where he’d taken shelter. Mrs Horwich told reporters she’d been praying all morning, fearing the worst and had wept with relief when she got word that he’d been found.

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Word Press daily prompt: exposure

Gone Someday

The Boat Builder’s Escape

Matt stuck the small painted boat under his t-shirt so no one could see it and ran the five blocks to the 20th Street bridge. He was hoping Mom wouldn’t happen to come looking for him. He knew he’d get a good smack upside the head if she didn’t find him busy with the job she’d given him.

Seeing no one else around, the eight-year-old boy hurried to the middle and the bridge and pulled out the boat he’d made. He looked down at the stream not far below. Spring flood waters had swelled the narrow river and were hurrying it along to the forks where it would join another a hundred miles away.

He took a last look at the boat he’d made. Okay, it was nothing special, but he’d shaped and painted it himself. He’d screwed a metal plate on the bottom to keep it right-side up and painted a sailor on the deck. Now he gazed soberly at the little sailor’s face. “I can’t go off and see the world, but you can.” He held the boat over the rail of the bridge and dropped it into the water. As he watched the current carry it away, he murmured, “I can’t run away, but you can.”

He turned around and trudged back home, hoping there might be something in the house to eat.

He slipped into the kitchen quietly so his mother wouldn’t hear him and opened a few cupboard doors, looking for some cereal or a piece of bread to ease his hunger pangs. He was peering into the fridge when his mother suddenly grabbed his arm in a painful grip and yanked him away.

“There you are, you lazy little brat. Where’ve you been? You were supposed to clean up the garage and when I looked you were nowhere to be seen. And where did those paint cans come from? Have you been messing around with paint? All I need for you to get your clothes all splattered.”

“I’m starving, Mom. Just let me grab something to eat and I’ll go clean up.”

She gave him a good shake. “I’ll starve you, you empty-headed little loafer!” She threw him against the side door. “Now get back out there and Do something!”

boy-in-small-boatMatt’s eyes filled with tears as he walked back to the garage. The pain deep inside threatened to choke him. But then he thought of his little boat and smiled. It had gotten away. Someday he would, too.

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Since the Daily Press prompt for today is someday, I thought I’d repost this small fiction story. It was originally posted October 29, 2016

Job Satisfaction

Thanksgiving Day:

Along with the other men in the family, Conlin headed for the living room after the feast. With a deep sigh of contentment, he plopped into his recliner as his brothers and brother-in-law began discussing the perks of their respective jobs. Phil, his younger brother, had been promoted to district manager back in August and chattered enthusiastically about his new position.

Conlin could have put in a few comments about his own job — he was happy enough doing what he did in Human Resources and could tell a few tales out of school — but today he didn’t feel much like talking. Maybe he was too full of turkey and trimmings?

No, that wasn’t the whole picture. At the moment Conlin was sated physically and more or less content with his life, his home, his job. Yet he sensed a void but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He brushed the feeling aside, flipped up his footrest and leaned back. Totally comfortable now, he listened to the others until their voices became a fading drone and his eyes closed.

In a dream he saw a long road that stretched before him as far as he could see, with neither curve or hill to vary the route. My path through life, he thought, nice and easy.

Too easy. Same old, mile after mile, day after day.

Next he was running on a treadmill, round and round, like the gerbils he and his boys had watched at the pet store. They made that wheel spin, but they got nowhere. What a life! Anything would be better than this, he thought. Suddenly he spotted an open door on the side of cage. Yes! He jumped up, grabbed the frame and threw himself through the door. Then he was free falling… The sensation made him jerk.

Phil’s voice penetrated his dream. “Dozing off, brother? Too much food?”

Conlin lowered the footrest. “I guess so. Had a dream — you know those ones where you feel yourself falling?”

“Yeah. Wonder what causes those?”

Conlin was awake now, listening to the conversation, but the dream remained in the back of his mind. He saw himself trudging along the road, then running in the treadmill, going round and round, getting nowhere. Did the dream mean anything? Was his subconscious mind trying to send him a message?

Two days later:

Conlin drove his son to the hardware store the Saturday after Thanksgiving so Tyson could pick up paint and nails to finish his birdhouse. As he stood beside the hardware store counter waiting for Tyson to collect everything he needed, another fellow came along and set four identical light fixtures on the counter.

Conlin nudged his arm. “Hey, Larry. Good to see you. What are you up to?”

The man turned toward him. “Conlin, old buddy. How are you?”

“I’m good. And yourself? Are you doing some renovations at your place?”

“Actually, these are going to be for our new club house. A couple of other guys and I have been concerned about the youth in the low-rent housing in the next subdivision. They have no place to hang out, and you know how it is…a lot of single moms…very few male mentors…drug peddlers and gangs looking for recruits. We figure the boys might need a hand if they’re going to stay out of trouble, maybe a supervised place where they can go after school.”

“Sounds like quite an undertaking.”

“Maybe. We can’t save the world, but we decided to do what we could and half a dozen other guys have offered some volunteer time every week. So we chipped in and got us a small abandoned garage on a paved lot. We’ll fix it up, maybe put up some hoops for basketball, that kind of thing. A lot of these boys have been shifted around from school to school, too, and need help with the basic subjects. Come to think of it, you were always a whiz at school. Maybe you’d be willing to put in a few hours now and then?”

Conlin hesitated. It seemed like a worthwhile project — and it would definitely be a new adventure for him. “Tell you what. I’ll come around and have a look at what you’re doing, then we’ll see.”

Almost a year later:

Conlin’s stomach growled as he leaned over the boy studying the textbook. He glanced at his watch. Supper should have been half an hour ago — no wonder he was hungry.

When his stomach growled again, Manny looked up and grinned. “Better fill it up soon, Mr C, or it’s gonna eat ya alive.”

Conlin mussed the lad’s hair and grinned. “I’ll survive somehow. You’re almost done, Manny. Just finish this page and I’ll drive you home.”

“Sure.” Manny got busy on the last few math problems and five minutes later closed his textbook. “All done.”

“Great, buddy! Let’s go home.”

“Thanks for staying and helping me, Mr C. I really appreciate this,” the boy said as he opened the car door.

Conlin climbed behind the wheel. “Glad to do it. You’re worth it, you know.” Manny gave him a huge smile in response.

As he drove Manny home he remembered. “Hey! Thanksgiving is next week. Is your family doing anything special?”

“Maybe going to my grandma’s,” the boy replied. “I hope so, anyway. She knows how to make great mashed potatoes and gravy. Mom’s are always lumpy and her gravy’s like glue.”

“If that doesn’t work out, let me know. Your family’s welcome to join us.” He gave Manny a big wink. “My wife makes good mashed potatoes and gravy, too.”

Conlin dropped Manny off and headed for his own home. His stomach growled again as he turned the next corner. His mind went back to last Thanksgiving Day, to the void he’d felt and the dream he’d had. He may have the same day job, but he’d escaped the treadmill. Yeah, he thought, glancing at his watch again, I may be late for supper sometimes, but life’s a lot more satisfying now.

Word Press Daily prompt: Sated

Prairie Fire!

Mary Boos was working in the garden that afternoon and stopped to rest as a warm wind blew across the yard. Right about that time one of the little girls said, “Mama, look at that big cloud.”

Mary turned to see where he daughter was pointing. Her eyes widened as she saw the white and grey clouds of smoke billowing up from the fields a few miles from their small farm. Plumes rose in the air and were swallowed in the vast prairie sky.

“Oh no. That’s a fire – and a big one!” she exclaimed as she scanned the horizon.

For an instant her thoughts tumbled between fear and confusion. She and the girls were home alone; her husband Mike had taken the oxen that morning and gone to Ernfold, their nearest town, for supplies. What could she do to save the children? And would the fire catch Mike en route, too?

Like all grassland homesteaders Mike had plowed a fireguard around their farm, but that was a wide line of fire and the wind was blowing it straight towards them. She surveyed the plowed ring around their farmyard and noticed with alarm that the grass on both sides of the fireguard was knee-high and dried from the summer sun. Excellent fuel to receive blowing sparks and flare up. Something had to be done — that narrow strip of bare earth would never protect their yard.

She screamed for her oldest daughter. “Annie. Come!” Then she thought, how foolish. What could either of them do. A wave of hopelessness washed over her. She thought her children, and of Mike. How would he feel to come home and find them all burned to ashes? There had to be something she could do!

In a moment Annie’s head appeared in the door. “Fire!” Mary shouted and Annie looked where her mother was pointing. “It’s still a few miles away, but we have to work fast,” Mary said as she grabbed her toddler and headed for the house.

“God, help us,” she cried as she ran into the one-room cabin. She shouted an order to her second oldest daughter. “Mary, you stay with these little ones. Annie, we have to do something. Molly and Christina, you stay right here with Mary and you all pray that God will help us save the farm.”

“Won’t the fireguard protect us?” Mary asked.

“A fire that size could easily set this side burning, too, with all this dry grass around.”

“But what can we do, Mama? Shall we get buckets of water?”

Mary had no answer. They could hardly battle an inferno like this. Frantically she looked around, all the while praying for some answer.

Her eyes fell on the little tin matchbox holder tacked on the wall beside the stove. A plan popped into her mind. “Come, Annie,” she ordered, grabbing the match holder.

Mary led the way and the two of them ran straight toward the fire. They crossed the fireguard and ran into the thick grass that crackled on their skirts as they ran. They ran half a mile from home, then Margaret stopped and turned to Annie.

“Take handfuls of matches and go that way; I’ll go this way. Light them and throw them into the grass.”

They both turned to face their farm buildings and tossed lighted matches, ran a few yards and tossed more. Little flames burst out here and there. The wind fanned these; soon the grass was ablaze with tongues of fire racing on the breeze toward their fireguard.

The mother and daughter made a wide arc of flames until their match supply was used up, then they ran back toward the house. When they got to the fireguard, Margaret turned and saw the prairie blacken where their fires had already burned the grass. Song birds, abandoning their nests to the flames, rose up here and there. Rabbits, fleeing the fire, dashed across their farmyard.

The small fires they’d ignited reached the fireguard and burned themselves out. Mary and Annie beat out any flames starting from sparks that blew into the yard. At last the weary mother and daughter headed back to the house. They’d done what they could; now they’d gather the children and pray for divine protection.

Mike was hauling a load of fence posts back from town when he realized the danger he was in. Thankfully he was not far from a slough. It took no effort to get the oxen headed toward the water as they felt the heat from those crackling flames. They pulled the wagon into the middle of the slough, sat down and waited while the fire flowed around them, sizzling at the water’s edges.

Mike thought of his family at home. Would they have had any chance to escape? Had his fireguard actually held this inferno at bay around his farmyard? Sitting there soaked with slough water, he berated himself for not making it twice as wide. Would everything he held dear him be ashes when he finally got there?

Once the charred earth was cool enough to travel on he headed toward his farm, his heart heavy with dread. But then he saw a miracle: in the midst of the blackened prairie there were his farm buildings still standing. The earth was black right up to the plowed strip of fireguard, but the buildings on the other side were as he’d left them this morning. Incredible. Thank God!

When he got to the house his family rushed out to meet him and the girls told him how their mother’s quick thinking had saved their lives and the farm. Her little fires had burned away all the fuel so the main fire had nothing to feed on. It had to go around them.

The facts of this incident were written by Emma, one of the younger Boos daughters, in the book From Prairie Sod to Golden Grain 1904-1974, a history of people of Ernfold and Community.

Word Press Daily prompt word: Flames

Story reblogged from Dec 5, 2013

You Can’t Borrow Love

“Something old and something new,” Marielle said as she did up the buttons on the bodice of her gown. “But everything I have on is new. I just can’t think of anything old to add.”

“Well, I can,” said her mother, pulling a small bag out of her pocket. “I brought along one of my grandma’s broaches. Let me pin it right here at your shoulder.”

“Now I need something borrowed and something blue.”

“Something borrowed….that’s your groom,” said Treena.

Marielle heard her mother gasp and saw the glare of reproof she shot at Treena. Her sister had been trying for a humorous note, but there was an unmistakable jab to her words.

Marielle sighed. She supposed Treena was only echoing what everyone was thinking. Marielle lifted her chin in defiance against the gossips. Okay. So she had caught Kirk on the rebound. Renee had dumped him for another, richer, better-looking guy. But Marielle had always liked Kirk and she’d made herself available when he needed a shoulder to cry on. Before long he was returning her affections, then he proposed.

Marielle’s mind went back to the evening she & Kirk announced their engagement to her family. Treena had been sour from the get-go. She’d been less than forthcoming with her congrats and after he’d gone home, Treena had come to her room to talk her out of her plans.

“Can’t you see the obvious, sis? Kirk has been hurt and he may be doing this to spite Renee, but I’m sure he still has feelings for her — if he’d just admit it.”

“So what? I’m going to make Kirk so happy he’ll forget Renee even exists. I love Kirk.”

“Love him as a sweetheart, or love him as a pet project?”

Marielle had scowled at her sister and shooed her out of the bedroom. No one was going to rain on her parade.

She straightened her train and brushed Treena’s snippy remark aside. What happened before doesn’t matter, she told herself for the nth time. I’m going to make Kirk so happy. I’m going to love him so much he’ll forget any feelings he ever had for Renee.

“I borrowed my bridesmaid’s toe ring. And my corsage has a blue ribbon around it. So I’m all set. Let’s be off.”

The next half hour whizzed by and she was climbing out of the car at the church. Next thing she was walking up the aisle to take her place by her groom. Kirk wore a big happy smile as he turned to watch her approach. Perhaps it looked a little forced, a little too bright, but Marielle was confident that his joys would soon be as real as hers.

A couple of hours later they were standing beside the reception table receiving congratulations from an elderly family friend when, out of the corner of her eye, Marielle saw Renee approach. She was alone. What happened to Mr Rich Hunk, Marielle wondered.

Renee paused not far away and glanced toward Kirk, a look of regret on her face. Marielle glanced at Kirk and saw the expression reflected on his face as he returned Renee’s gaze. Then Kirk turned to her again.

She saw a quick flash of dismay in his eyes, then his too-bright smile fell in place again. But in that brief unguarded glance, Marielle recognized the truth.

She’d just make the biggest mistake of her life. You really can’t borrow love.

~~~

I read an account one day of a young girl, about seventeen, who convinced herself that she should marry a young man so she’d have a home for herself and her orphaned siblings. However, at their reception she realized that she’d made an awful mistake, that all her hopes were misplaced. I was trying to capture that feeling in my story.

A Highland Tale

“Oh, it were sich a sorry time for Scotland, ye ken,” the white-haired  storyteller began, “Those were the days of the dreadful Highland clearances, when the English were drivin’ the tenants off their crofts and fillin’ the whole land wi’ their sheep. The highlanders were sorely oppressed. Forbidden tae speak the Gaelic, they were, or tae wear the tartans, or play the pipes.”

Though most of them knew it by heart, the town lads were gathered round him, eager to hear the tale told again of the brave chieftain’s son who died trying to keep his precious bagpipes safe from the British soldiers patrolling the land.

“Down in yon glen is a cave, ye ken, where stout-hearted young Donald was sure he could hide his pipes the whiles, thinkin’ someday the Sassenachs would give up and go home. By the light o’ the full moon he and his best friend snuck down that lane ye’re seein’ there — course it was nae but a wee path then — and stashed his pipes in a safe place inside the cave.”

The local lads squirmed with delight, each envisioning himself as the fearless friend accompanying young Donald down the moonlit trail.

“But some spy had betrayed them…” The storyteller paused to look at his audience with a stern glare. “The lads were but a short way from the cave, headed for home and safety, when they were attacked by half a dozen soldiers. Oh, they were stalwart highland sons and they put up a fierce fight, but they dinna have proper swords and were hopelessly outnumbered. Before long the two were mortally wounded.

“They managed to crawl back intae the cave, but there they died, and there the English left them lie. But young Donald had the last laugh: never did the soldiers find his bagpipes. Legend says his spirit lingers in that cave tae this day, and on bright moonlit nights he comes out tae play his pipes. Many a soul has told of hearin’ them skirlin’ in the night. Some even say they hear the clank of swords as if the lads are still battlin’ the soldiers.”

“I dunna believe that” one young skeptic spoke up.

His friends turned and stared at him, aghast, but he was unrepentant. “There’s nae sich things as ghosts playin’ pipes.”

No one else had words to rebuke such heresy, so the group of boys broke up and went about their business.

That night happened to be a bright moonlit night. A shadowy form made its way down the old lane, taking care to blend in with the shrubs. Soon the old storyteller, a sack in one hand, was entering the cave.

He set down his sack and rummaged around in one of the old shafts until he found a bundle wrapped in old blankets, muttering to himself as he did so, “Great-great-grandpa were a smart man tae make up that nice little tale o’ poor Donald and his friend. Folks needed a bit of superstition tae keep them from snoopin’ here, but it’ll be coming to an end soon enough, I’m fearing’.” He shook his head. “Lads these days are sich skeptics.”

Carefully he unwrapped the bagpipes and carried them outside the cave. He took the instrument in his arms, pumped the bag full of air, and began to play. Soon the wail of the pipes was rolling down the lanes and fields.

A mile back down the lane three lads were creeping along, flashlights in hand. Their leader, the chief heretic himself, was telling the others in low tones, “I know there’s nothing to that old tale.”

A moment later they heard the distinctive wail of the bagpipes. They stopped in their tracks and stared at each other, then all three turned and hightailed it back to town.

After half an hour of playing the pipes, the old storyteller lovingly wrapped them in the blankets and stowed them away. Then, with his sack in one hand and his torch in the other, he made his way along one of the shafts until he found his pick axe. He took it up and began chipping away at the rock around the vein of amethyst.

Very likely someday someone would get up enough nerve to explore this old abandoned mine, but until then he’d carry on profiting from what his great-great grandfather had found.

My response to the Word Press daily prompt: superstition

Hey! Do I Know You?

quebec-city-202152_640I’m strolling along the quiet alley, soaking in the summer sunshine and glancing into store windows as I pass. In a lot of them I see the same stamped t-shirts, carvings, and miscellaneous ‘Made in China’ key-chains hawked to tourists on every commercial street in every city. We have a few shops back home in Swift Current where I could likely buy the same thing.

But, hey, I’m a tourist here, so why not pick up a few trinkets? I enter one of the tourist traps and come out again with a key-chain for Mom and a stuffed mini-beluga whale for my seven-year-old sister.

If truth be told, I’m not actually a tourist. I came here to Québec City as a summer student after finishing Grade 12 and my primary goal is to become fluent in French. Back in spring I went online and discovered a neat little academy here offering eight week crash courses so I showed the site to my folks.

They were enthused, too. “Learning French will open doors,” Dad said. “If you stay here in Swift Current, knowing French may not be such a big advantage. But if you want to work somewhere else, land a government job, or travel, it’d be a handy thing to have.”

quebec-815376_640So my folks shelled out for the course and lodging, I emptied my precious bank account for spending money, and here I am. I may not be able to afford t-shirts and souvenirs for all the folks back home, but atmosphere is free. So today I’m absorbing the ambience of this historic old town.

Being it’s Saturday and no classes, I decided to come downtown and just mingle. See how much I can pick up from the conversations around me. Get a bit more of a tan on this beautiful summer day. Feels like time to take a break now, though. Sit awhile and sip on a cool glass of iced tea.

I’ve already passed half a dozen little restaurants along this street, with their neat outdoor tables. I come to another with appealing colours — and appealing prices on the posted menu by the door. I get in line and request a table on the patio; soon the hostess leads me to one and I sit down, tossing my shopping bag on the chair.

I catch the eye of the girl sitting alone at the next table and smile. She looks about my age. I wonder if she’s from Québec City or maybe some other part of the province? She definitely looks French. I contemplate starting a conversation, but what if I can’t understand a word she says? Would she be willing to bear with me and help me out if I get stuck?

I suppose a bit about the weather shouldn’t be too hard. I open my mouth, but then shut it again when the waitress shows up with her drink. Anyway, she looks a bit worried. Maybe she has something more important on her mind and hopes I’ll mind my own business?

Then she looks over at me again and sends me a shy smile, like maybe she does want to talk. Oh, dear! What if I really can’t understand a word she says? Come on Emily, I tell myself. Crank up your courage and give it a try.

I begin with “Bonjour. Il fait beau aujourd’hui.”

She nods. “Oui, c’est ça. Est-ce que vous êtes d’ici?”

No, I’m not from here, I mentally answer. Her French doesn’t sound local. Maybe she’s a tourist from some other country? Maybe she’s hoping to make the acquaintance of the locals and here I am trying to take up her time. I’d better tell her the truth.

“No. Je ne suis pas d’ici. Je viens de Swift Current Saskatchewan.”

“Swift Current!” she squeals. “Well, hi! I’m from Moose Jaw.”

“That’s terrific! So close to home,” I exclaim. Then add, “My Aunt and Uncle live in Moose Jaw. I wonder if you know them?”

(Note to non-Saskatchewan folks: Swift Current is about 174 km—108 miles—west of Moose Jaw.)

Using Word Press prompt: precious and Word Press prompt: street

A Dark and Stormy Night…

Part One

It was a dark and stormy night. Lightening flashes steadily lit up the sky, thunder boomed, and a deluge poured down on the earth below.

One house in particular, located just outside the village, seemed to be receiving the storm’s most violent attentions. Perched on a slight rise and without many sheltering trees, the old two-storey home shuddered under the onslaught of the gale force winds.

Inside the house the occupants quaked now and then, too. Father was away on business for several days, which no doubt unsettled the family even more. Mother was trying to do some mending, but the electricity flickered now and then, making her task rather difficult. The older two children were absorbed in their story books.

Azure, the youngest daughter, whimpered as the lights momentarily dimmed again. She squeezed closer to her big sister Bluette, who sat reading on a couch near the fireplace.

As another fork of lightening pierced the blackness outside, Bluette looked up from her book, Wuthering Heights, and listened for the thunder clap. “Perhaps our house will get hit by lightning and burn to the ground,” she commented.

Royal, the oldest boy, had been devouring the first chapter of The Wizard of Oz. “Maybe a tornado will blow our house clean away and we’ll land over in California,” he said as another blast of rain sloshed over the windows.

Bluette refuted. his suggestion. “Tornado season is past.”

“But you never know. Freak weather happens sometimes.”

Mother set her mending aside. “Life of the party, aren’t you two? I think you both need to give up on those frivolous books and do something useful. Bluette, don’t forget you need to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she gave you for your birthday. Put that book away and get out your notepad.”

“But, Mother!” Bluette let out a wail quite much in tune with the wind outside. “I’m just at the part where the writer is snooping through Catherine’s diary and hearing knocks on the window. I can’t quit now! Anyway, I don’t have a clue what to say to Aunt Opal? We have tissues now. Nobody uses handkerchiefs anymore. I don’t know what on earth to do with the things, so how can I thank her for them?”

Mother gave her a stern look. “A gift is a gift. She deserves a thank-you.”

With a heavy sigh Bluette laid her book face down over the arm of a chair.

“And Royal, you should go out to the garage and chop some of that firewood into kindling in case we need more.”

“What if the power goes out? I’d hate to be out there in the dark.”

“Take a flashlight. And we do have a couple of kerosene lamps around, if you’d rather have one of those.”

“Trade you,” Bluette piped up. “I’ll go chop kindling if you write Aunt Opal for me.”

“Come on, Bleet. You can’t handle an axe.”

“Can so!”

“Bluette, let your brother do his work. And Royal, please call your sister by her proper name.”

“But everybody calls her Bleet,” Royal protested. “It suits her.”

“Does not!” Bluette stuck her tongue out at him.

Mother glared at him. “Here we chose such a lovely name for your sister. How did she ever end up with that terrible nickname?”

Just then, above the noise of the storm, they heard the put-put of an automobile driving into the yard. They gazed at each other, then everyone jumped up and hurried to the window.

“Whoever could that be?” Mother said, a tinge of fear in her voice.

To be continued….

Daily prompt word: frivolous

 

Of Daily Prompts and A Wedding Gown

Some thoughts on the repetitious Word Press Daily Prompts

This morning I read Linda’s post and decided to mull the matter over on my own writing blog. I do agree with Linda: the promise of “A new prompt every day” isn’t being fulfilled. I wonder if they made this commitment before they started the project and the “carrying out” has proved unworkable? Or they feel blogger participation doesn’t warrant continuing? When so many million people blog, the daily prompts only attracted 50 or so.

Mrs AngloSwiss says she asked Ben H about why are there no new prompts. “He answered me and said there are no intentions of putting up new prompts. It seems that the veteran posters, like me, are now few and far between.”

Now, Word Press does give us the option of another prompt — in fact you can keep on clicking to see half a dozen options. I’ve checked them out and they’re all ones I’ve seen before, too. But if I choose one of these alternatives, then I’m doing a different prompt from everyone else that day. Then why not write about a different topic altogether, one that means something to me?

Perhaps the folks at WP see prompts as a kind of training wheels: once you’ve done them all you should know how to blog and can do your own thing. And actually, when I go back and try to click on the responses posted a couple of years ago, I find a lot of sites have been deleted. Easy to start; hard to stay the course.

Whatever the reason, like yourself, I’m a bit disappointed even if I haven’t been able to do the prompt every day. Just for the fun of it, I’ve started writing my own inspirations: “Writing prompts for Readers and Writers.” Maybe someday when I get enough I’ll post them. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten enthused about doing short stories — as have other bloggers. Here’s a 100-word story I wrote yesterday. Please critique!

I have a happy ending in mind for this sad scene — but that’s another 100 words.

THE WEDDING DRESS

With a heavy heart Jasmin pulled open the bridal salon door and stepped inside.

The salesgirl hurried over to her. “Miss Turanich! Glad you’ve come in. We were wondering if, in all the rush, you were forgetting your dress still needs to be fitted. We don’t want to leave the alterations too long.”

Jasmin sighed. “Hardly. But there’s been another alteration…” She dabbed the corner of one eye with a soggy tissue as she watched the clerk’s face fill with dismay.

“I was hoping, since my wedding gown hasn’t been altered yet… if I could still…um… get a refund?”