A Muse’s Tale

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Yesterday was a sad day for Christine’s muse. Christine had grabbed her, shaken her, and screamed, “This is it! Spring is coming, my last-summer wardrobe is toast — and you keep filling my head with crazy blog posts. Out you go!”

To add insult to injury, some trash flung out of a passing car smacked her in the face, there in bushes where she’d been tossed.

Copyright Liz Young

Photo copyright Liz Young

Yet she smiled. “Just wait, my friend. I’ll rise again. You’ll see another prompt, I’ll be whispering ideas in your ear, and you’ll abandon your sewing machine for your keyboard. You’re so predictable. That’s why I love to haunt you.”

And she’s back already! Rochelle Wisoff-Fields has been her accomplice, via the Friday Fictioneers prompt. My muse thanks you, Rochelle, for faithfully feeding her bright ideas. (I’m hoping putting my icon first will have it show up on the link. Oh, for tech smarts!)

The word count on this one is 105, but I’ve no time to search and destroy excess words. I’m finally in the mood to sew a spring dress and it’s GOING to happen.

Notoriety

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Submitting this little tale with special thanks to our kind Friday Fictioneers host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for this week’s prompt.

NOTORIETY

There. I’ve Photo-Shopped dear Uncle Elbert out of this crazy prank. Shame to lose that smug grin of his, but my folks insisted.

Imagine Elbert besmirching the family name by taking up robbing banks! And Grandpa’s bank first of all, adding insult to injury. Dad says when Elbert’s career was terminated one fateful day, Grandpa refused to attend the funeral.

So I’ve successfully deleted Elbert from the family photos, but you know what must have Grandpa turning over in his grave? At family gatherings the great-grands mention him being a successful banker. But they talk about Uncle Elbert for hours.

Winnie’s Views

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot. This photo has been donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only and must not be used for any other purpose without express permission of the owner.

My contribution this week to Friday Fictioneers, a group graciously hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, open for anyone who wishes to contribute a hundred-word story in response to the prompt picture.

Winnie’s View

Winnie frowned. “Deplorable view.”

“You didn’t want a spectacular view. You asked for the cheapest room,” Raylene reminded her. “Anyway, we’re not staring out that window all day, we’re touring historic Tallahassee. We’ll see gorgeous views aplenty.”

“That travel agent said it never snows in Florida and the day we arrive they get snow squalls. False advertising. However will we manage?”

“We’re used to snow. What a pretty orchid!”

Winnie sniffed. “Plain white. Goes with the cheapest room, likely.”

“Come, let’s order our breakfast. Don’t want to keep the others waiting.”

“It’s starting to drizzle. Wish I’d brought my umbrella.”

Re: Missing Ferrari

Christine's Collection

Mrs Carmine Incendia
988 Perplex Place
Perdue, AZ

Dear Madam,

Your letter of complaint arrived with the incoming post this morning and was immediately drawn to my attention. I can well believe that you were almost inconsolable on finding that the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle you purchased from us was incomplete.

As head supervisor in the packaging department it is my duty to ensure that none of our customers are inconvenienced in this manner. And may I assure you that the highest standards of quality control are exercised in our factory, far above — really quite incomparable — to other manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles and games.

As your letter has informed us, the box arrived at your home in good order with the pieces correctly sealed in their plastic bag. So any deficiency — if there be one — might possibly be due to some incompetence on our factory floor. It…

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Partners In Crime

Written originally for Friday Fictioneers and posted on christinegoodnough.com

“I hid it in the old mill,” his note read. “Found a crack upstairs near that huge cog. No ‘eyes’ to watch me.”

She searched desperately, sensing her time running out. Rotten luck that the old lady recognized him in the lineup, but at least he’d managed to stash her wallet before they arrested him for assault.

Examining the floor and walls for a crevice big enough to hide a wallet, yet small enough to conceal one, she jumped when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

One of the curators appeared. “Lost your way, miss? We locked up fifteen minutes ago. Sorry, I thought everyone was out.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning Wanda was standing at the museum doors five minutes before the place opened. As soon as the curator unlocked them she stepped inside, ready with her story.

“I … I must have dropped my cell phone here yesterday. I was walking around up by that big wheel and… and I took it out to check the time.” Wanda took a deep breath, hoping her nervousness wouldn’t give her away.

“I was sure I… had just…put it back in its special pocket and…and I…it must have slid out somehow. I didn’t have it when I got home. I’d like to…to just run up and look around. I’m sure it’s…

Wanda froze as her cell phone, from its usually pocket in her purse, started playing the tune to “Somebody’s Fool.” She turned a bright pink, silently berating herself. Why didn’t I think this might happen?

The curator looked at her in surprise. “It appears…”

“Oh, no. Not really,” she gasped. “I…like…uh… I borrowed my friend’s phone. Like, just in case I needed to call…uh… In case I didn’t find my wallet and…you know…needed stop credit cards…”

“I’m sorry. I’m not getting this. Did you lose your wallet, too?”

The temperature in the room shot up ten degrees. Maybe twenty. She gave herself a good mental slap, took another deep breath, and tried to save face. “Oh, dear. Now I’m getting mixed up. No, It was my phone, not my wallet. I’ll just be a minute looking for it.”

The curator eyed her a moment, looking as stern as the ancient mill owners whose portraits hung on the wall. Maybe he wondered if it was safe to allow her around those huge gears alone. Finally he nodded. “Go ahead. If you were standing on the landing maybe the sweeper found it last night. I’ll check in the office.”

“Oh, thank you so much.” Wanda turned and wasted no time getting up the stairs. Frantically she scanned the walls and the big wheel.

Thank goodness this part doesn’t have any security cameras, she thought. Not like the main lobby. I guess that’s why Nick stashed it here. A minute later she spotted something dark in a crack.

She was reaching for it when the curator appeared at the top of the stairs. “I had a thought, miss.” “If you use your friend’s phone and dial your own number your phone will ring and you’ll find it in a jiff.”

Wanda gritted her teeth. Isn’t it wonderful how helpful people could be when you wanted them to just beat it and leave you alone? But the museum curator stood there waiting for her to try out his bright idea, so what could she do? On an impulse, she dialed Nick’s number, knowing he was in jail and couldn’t answer.

“Hi. Sorry Nick isn’t home right now.” The voice definitely belonged to some young female. “I’ll be seeing him shortly. Can I take a message?”

“Hello? Who is this?” Nick’s going to hear about this chick answering his phone, Wanda thought. And what does she mean about seeing him shortly? Is she going to visit him in jail?

“My name’s Emmy. I’m Nick’s…um…friend. Can I ask who’s calling?”

“This is Wanda.”

“Wanda?”

“Nick’s girlfriend, Wanda.” She clenched her fists. Nick is definitely going to answer some questions when I see him again.

Aware that the curator was frowning at her, she whispered, “Sorry. I pushed the wrong redial. On my friend’s phone,” she added. He didn’t look impressed.

Emmy seemed to be in shock. “Nick’s…uh…girlfriend?”

“Nick’s fiancée.” Wanda almost shouted it into the phone. “He has mentioned me, surely.”

The curator rolled his eyes and headed down the stairs.

“No!” Wanda caught the sizzle in Emmy’s voice. “He never told me about you at all. Honest. The cheating rat!”

“You got that right.” Wanda jabbed the OFF button and stuffed the phone in her pocket. Just wait til I get my hands on you, Nick. You’re toast!

Quickly Wanda grabbed for the wallet. Nick had told her the old lady had just cashed her pension check, so likely there’d be a couple hundred dollars in her purse. She kind of felt sorry for the woman, a senior and all, but she needed the money herself. Badly. Her rent was due tomorrow. She sighed. What a life!

Once outside, she found a bench in a secluded spot and opened the wallet. “Two five dollar bills. That’s all! All this mess for two measly fives,” she squawked. She fumed for a moment, then pondered her options.

I’ve had it, she decided. I really was a fool to get mixed up with all this. Nick is history. She grabbed her cell phone and pushed a button.

The voice at the other end said a hesitant “Hello?”

“Hi, Mom. I’ve just learned a really important lesson in life.”

“Oh? And that is…?”

“Crime doesn’t pay. And being with Nick really doesn’t pay. I’m through with Nick and his wild schemes.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that. We’ve been praying you’d come to your senses and see him for what he is.”

“Mom… Do you think you and Dad could…would…let me move back home for a few months. Just until I get my life straightened around?”

“Oh, Wanda. Yes. We’ll gladly help you. Just come anytime you’re ready.”

Thanks so much, Mom. See you in a bit.”

Wanda hung up and searched through the stolen wallet for ID. She had one important stop to make before she headed home.

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

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

Over There, They Say

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Over there on that island you see the sun is always shining,
the old folks say. All kinds of exotic fruit trees grow, they tell us.
You just have to reach up as you pass and pluck the juiciest fruits dangling in front of you. And the birds, some say, are almost tame.
You can stand and watch as they flutter among the branches all day.
Perhaps even reach out and have one land on your hand if you stay still.

Over there, some declare, are magnificent caves one may explore,
secret spots where pirates in olden days may have stashed their loot.
A vein of silver may be uncovered with just a little digging, they say.
Or gold nuggets might gleam in the streams, just waiting to be picked up.
A man could soon get rich over there.

Ah, if we could only get there, they sigh.

But think of the dangers over there, others remind.
Fierce beasts with razor-sharp claws and teeth, ready to tear a body to bits.
Venomous snakes hanging from every tree and slithering through the tall grass. Moreover,
what if some hostile tribe has already discovered that paradise?

Perhaps, as we stand here gawking, they are busy
sharpening their spears, preparing to defend their island against all invaders.
They’d boil us in coconut oil and eat us for dinner.
And even if they’re peaceable, their customs would surely be bizarre.
Who knows what kind of clothes they wear over there?

So here we linger on the beach, speculating
and dreaming of that land. Imagining its beauties,
quaking over its terrors. For better or for worse,
how can we know, except we go?

Who’ll be the first to build a boat?