Bookkeeping by Jamie DeBree & Psychic Spider Excerpt by Alex Westhaven

Poetry Prompt of the Week: It’s tax time here in the US, and many of us are parting with money, rearranging money, finagling budgets and generally annoyed with the fact that everything costs money. Write a poem about money. Love it, hate it, balance the two (and the budget while you’re at it?)…whatever comes to mind about currency.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Two women are sitting at a bar having drinks. Three men are at the other end of the bar, clearly drunk and getting drunker. The women notice something small moving toward them on the bar. It’s a tarantula, but there’s a note attached to the large spider…


Bookkeeping
by Jamie DeBree

What have I done?
Slacked off here, left off there,
shirked responsibility.

Need to fix this,
but there’s so much to do.
Just want to chuck it all.

Promises, every year,
to do better than the last.
Never happens.

Maybe next year.

###

Psychic Spider (excerpt)
by Alex Westhaven

*Author’s note: This feels like it wants to be at least a decent-sized short story, not just a novel. So here’s how it starts. Stay tuned for the rest later this year…

“What is that? There’s something on the bar. It’s coming this way — Hannah, you have to move now! Like, right now!”

Hannah put her glass down on the napkin in front of her and calmly turned to look in the direction Beth was pointing. Sure enough, there was a big tarantula crawling toward them on the bar. And the poor thing looked like it had been given a mission, judging from the small piece of white paper laying on it’s back.

Glancing at Beth, who now stood a good five feet away from her bar stool, Hannah shook her head.

“It’s not going to hurt you — tarantulas are normally pretty gentle. Though it might shoot you with a leg hair if it feels threatened, but there’s really nothing to worry about.”

Beth shook her head and held both hands up, palms out.

“You can go right ahead and be spider-bait if you want. I’m find over here. Watching. I’ll be a witness. Until I run out, anyways.”

Hannah sighed. The spider was nearly in front of her now, and she slowly reached over to pick up the note. Unfolding it, she read the single sentence to herself.

First one to leave dies, second one is the killer.

###


Thanks for reading! Feel free to submit your poems/stories for the week in the comments if you’d like. And check back Monday for new writing prompts!

Spring Fever by Jamie DeBree & Grave Concerns by Carol R. Ward

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about a puppy (or puppies) playing in a field of tulips…without mentioning either puppies or tulips specifically.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: There’s a grave in the local cemetery so old that the headstone is tilting to one side. Permanently affixed to the top of the headstone is a small brass bell in a brass frame. The headstone reads simply: “Ring my bell. I dare you.” What happens when someone does?


Spring Fever 
by Jamie DeBree

Thick strappy leaves wave merrily
propelled by warm fuzzy bodies
under bright spring sunshine.

Happy tails move this way and that
sending the occasional loose petal
flying free of its cup-like structure.

Red and yellow dominate the field.
A pleasant breeze ruffles ear-fur and
delights busy noses that sniff and seek.

Is there anything happier than soft
wigglebutts and bright fresh blossoms
on a warm spring day?

***********************************

Grave Concerns
by Carol R. Ward

Stumbling drunkenly on her stiletto heels, Candice hurried as fast as she could down the path.

“C’mon Candy, don’t be like that,” a male voice called from behind her. “It didn’t mean anything, I don’t even know the chick’s name.”

Candice didn’t answer, just tightened her grip on the bottle she was carrying and tried to speed up a little more, gulping back the tears.

“You’re going in the wrong direction you know,” the voice continued.

She didn’t care, she just wanted to put as much distance between them as quickly as possible.

“Fine you stupid bitch, have it your way. I was getting tired of you anyway.” His voice faded away behind her.

Though she was pretty sure he wasn’t following, she decided to cut through the old cemetery. It meant leaving the intermittent light from the street lights behind, but there was a full moon tonight. The gate for the cemetery was open – actually it was missing – and Candice picked a direction at random once she was inside.

Graveyards never bothered her, she often went for walks in them. She actually found them interesting. Her steps slowed and she started keeping an eye out for someplace to sit. Too busy looking around to watch where she was stepping, she stumbled on a protruding rock and fell to her knees beside a grave stone that was listing to one side. Moonlight glinted off the small brass bell in a frame that was fixed to the top of it.

“Guess this is as good a place as any.”

She awkwardly sat back on her heels then moved her legs to the side. Leaning back against the grave stone Candice uncorked the bottle she’d snagged when she started looking for Travis at the party. A tear trickled down her cheek.

“Stupid jerk,” she muttered, taking a swig.

***

When Janice told her about her proposed moonlight party, she’d thought it was a cool idea. And she also thought it would be the perfect night to finally let Travis, her boyfriend of one year, pop her cherry. They’d been there about two hours before becoming separated, and in that two hours she’d managed to down several beer. But she still drank almost half a bottle of wine, for courage, before setting out to find Travis.

But when she did find him he had his tongue down the throat of another girl. For a long moment she just stood there, staring in disbelief, her whole world crumbling down around her. Then he grabbed the girl’s ass, pulling her closer.

“You sonofabitch!” Candice shrieked.

The couple broke apart, although the girl kept ahold of Travis’s arm.

“Hey, Candy,” Travis said, looking not the least bit guilty. “Where’d you disappear to? I was looking for you.”

“Where? Down that skank’s throat?”

“Hey, who’re you calling a skank?” the girl asked.

“Don’t be like that babe,” Travis said, shaking the girl off and taking a step towards Candice. “I was just having a little fun.”

At that moment a guy holding a full plastic beer cup passed through. Without stopping to think, Candice grabbed it out of his hand and threw it at Travis.

“How’s that for fun?” she asked, and ran for the front door.

***

She sniffled in the night air. “He was supposed to be the one,” she said, taking another drink. “He was my Travy-bear and I was his Candy cane.”

Tears began to slide down her cheeks. “He was so hot, all the other girls were so jealous. That’s why I was going to let him be my first.”

Candice began to cry in earnest.

After a while her tears slowed, then stopped. She didn’t have a tissue so she swiped at her face with her sleeve. Then she leaned her head back to look up at the stars. The air was a little chilly, but not cold and she had no desire to move.

“What’s wrong with me? Better yet, what’s wrong with him?”

What was wrong was her bottle was empty. “How did that happen?”

With a sigh she tossed the empty bottle aside. “I should probably go home.” If she cut through the cemetery she could probably make it to a bus stop before they stopped running for the night.

This time her sigh turned into a groan as she got to her feet. Everything started to spin. “I guess maybe I shouldn’t have had so much to drink.” She leaned on the grave stone until the spinning stopped. “Hey, thanks for the support, whoever you are.” Leaning down, she looked for a name on the marker.

“Huh, no name but there’s something …” Candice leaned a little closer. “Ring my bell. I dare you.” She giggled. “I’ll bet that sure didn’t mean the same in your day as it does in mine.”

Unable to resist, she flicked at the little bell. Its note sounded louder than it should in the still of the night. Candice was about to leave when the earth started to tremble beneath her. She staggered, clutching at the grave stone for support, and the earth opened up at her feet.

“Thank you, my dear. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting,” said a deep, baritone voice from the gash in the earth. A dark figure began to rise. “And it does indeed mean the same thing,” it told her gleefully.

Candice’s screams went unheard by the party goers, but they went on for a very long time.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to submit your poems/stories for the week in the comments if you’d like. And check back Monday for new writing prompts!

Ode to Bindweed and A Night With Poe by Jamie DeBree

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Do you love yardwork? Spring-clean up? Not so much? Wax poetic about an afternoon of outdoor spring cleaning…

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: It’s a “dark & stormy” night, and there’s a sound at the door. When the door opens, there’s a large cat on the stoop, soaked to the bone and determined to come inside…


Ode to Bindweed
by Jamie DeBree

Solemn and quiet the brown earth lays,
newly exposed after winter abed,
waiting patiently for nutrients and UV rays,
to warm the dark soil and summon the dead.

Deep underneath, where no light penetrates,
the tiniest microbes wiggle and churn,
tough twisted roots begin to replicate
preparing for their evil master’s return.

The rake turns the soil, pulls back the top
tiny seeds scattered wide, a last ditch hope.
The rake cuts the roots, but they don’t ever stop
indeed they grow into stronger, deeper rope.

Those arrow-shaped leaves, the bell-shaped flowers
would surely be pretty at some other abode.
In this place the sight is one quite sour
akin to licking the back of a toad.

*******************************

A Night With Poe
by Jamie DeBree

Carrie twitched as the sound of thunder rattled the windows and lightening flashed outside the semi-sheer curtains almost immediately after.

“Gotta get blinds,” she mumbled to herself, glancing at her grandparent’s old anniversary clock on the mantle. Nine at night, and the storm had already been brewing for nearly an hour. Surely it would pass by and be over soon.

Another loud boom, another bolt of lightening that she thought might have been at least a smidgen farther behind than the last one.

Then something hit her front door with a solid, unmistakable thump.

Setting the worn copy of Poe and her favorite afghan aside, she rose from the couch and tip-toed toward the door. The front light was on, but she didn’t see any shadows or silhouettes through the window at the top of the door, nor through either of the long windows on either side.

Somewhat relieved, she moved closer. Maybe a tree branch had been knocked down. Using one of the side windows, she peered out into the night, her gaze panning what little of the water-logged world her light illuminated. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she looked down, down, down until she found herself face-to-face with the biggest pair of glowing yellow eyes she’d ever seen.

Instinctively she knew the animal on her step was a cat, but it almost looked like an otter with its soaking wet, slicked-back fur. She would have expected a somewhat downtrodden look from an animal in such a predicament, but it actually looked rather angry.

She supposed she’d probably be a bit angry too, if she were locked out in this storm.

A somewhat muted thunder rolled overhead, and the cat came alive, raking its claws down a good chunk of Carrie’s front door and looking at her with a mixture of longing and murderous intent. The thought that the cat might be rabid crossed her mind, but it seemed inhuman not to offer shelter to someone…or thing, who so clearly needed it.

Reaching up, she flicked the deadbolt and pulled the door open. In two seconds flat, the black beast was inside and deep under her couch. Carrie closed and bolted the door, and then went to the living room and stood in front of his much drier hiding place, hands on her hips.

“It seems only polite to offer you a towel,” she said, squatting down for a better look. He blended in with the shadows so well, all she could see were his glowing eyes. “Maybe some food? Something to drink? Do cats really like milk, or is that just a romantic myth?”

And now she was talking to a cat. Shaking her head at herself, she rose and went to the kitchen. Yesterday’s grilled chicken might do, she thought, and she trimmed and cut it into tiny cat-sized pieces. Tossing a big towel over her shoulder, she got a small bowl of water and the chicken, and went back to the living room.

Spreading the towel on the floor, she set the water bowl close to the couch, and then sprinkled chicken right at the edge of the towel.

“There now. That smells pretty good, right? Wouldn’t you like to come out, dry off and put some food in your little belly?”

The cat hissed.

She took that as a ‘no’.

“Okay then. Well, it’s the proverbial dark and stormy night, which is the perfect night to curl up with Poe, and since you are black and somewhat of an oddity, I do believe I’ll call you Poe while you’re here. Any objections?”

The cat hissed again. Tiny curmudgeon.

“Too bad. He’s really a fascinating character in his own right, and he wrote some marvelous stories. Here, I’ll show you. We can read together.”

There was no response from the cat, and she got her book and blanket and curled up on the couch again. Opening the book, she began to read Poe to his namesake. She started with the famous raven, and moved on to the Telltale Heart.

***

Carrie had no idea when she’d fallen asleep, but when she opened her eyes again, sun was streaming in the window and there was a heavy weight laying in the center of her stomach.

Poe had decided to join her at some point, and was curled up in a decent-sized ball on her lap, his fur finally looking more normal and fluffy.

She glanced at the towel on the floor, and noted that the chicken was all gone. The motion must have been just enough to wake the cat, and he paused just long enough to give her a pointedly dirty look and then jumped off the couch.

Rising from the couch, Carrie stretched and then followed the cat down the hall to the front door. He sat in front of it, watching her over his shoulder until she was just two feet away.

Then he reached out with a single paw and swiped it down the door, giving the inside scratch marks to match those undoubtedly gracing the front of the door as well.

“Okay, okay — no need to get all impatient.” She reached over him and unbolted the deadbolt, and then pulled the door open.

With far less urgency than the night before, Poe stalked out into a sunbeam that was so bright it blinded her eyes. If she didn’t know better, she’d think he was on his way to heaven, and walking in like he owned the place.

But at the end of the day, it was just a trick of light, and he was just a cat she’d sheltered in the storm, and slept with, and like so many one-night stands, he was leaving her too.

Typical.

Carrie looked at the claw marks on the outside of the door. Nothing a little wood putty, some paint and some sealer couldn’t fix.

Tires screetched in the street just across the yard and her stomach turned over, her heart pounding a million miles an hour.

“Poe? Poe!” She ran down the sidewalk, sheilding her eyes with one hand and desperately hoping he’d been long gone. A white sedan was stopped in the middle of the road, driver’s door ajar and a very confused, though well-dressed woman standing in the road looking frantically around and under her vehicle.

“What happened?” Carrie asked, her heart slowly recovering when she realized there was no dead cat lying in the road.

“I swear I saw it. A black cat just ran out in front of my car, and then just disappeared. I was so afraid I hit it…”

The sound of metal on metal and glass being broken reached them. It was coming from the intersecton half-a-block up.

The other woman gasped. “That could have been me! It would have, if I hadn’t stopped for that cat…”

Carrie smiled. “It’s a good thing you did, then. Will you be okay now?”

She nodded and got back in her car.  Carrie looked through the window to find Poe sitting in the passenger seat.

“Looks like he’s adopted you. Will you take him home? I don’t know who belongs to, but he spent the night with me.”

The woman nodded, running a hand through the cat’s sleek fur. “I think I have to now. Do you know anything else about him?”

Carrie shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. But his name is Poe.”

She grinned at the cat, and he hissed at her as the woman drove off.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to submit your stories in the comments if you’d like. And check back Monday for new writing prompts!

 

April Fool by Jamie DeBree

Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone has left small, brightly wrapped packages tied up with ribbon on everyone’s desk at the office. Everyone is afraid to open them though, or even touch one for fear that one of them will explode…or worse.


April Fool
by Jamie DeBree

“What do you think it is?”

“Does everyone have one?”

“Someone shake it.”

“No! It might explode!”

Danny sat back in his chair and stared at the tiny package on his desk as the office buzzed around him. As far as he could tell, there was one on every desk — an April Fool’s joke, no doubt.

Unfortunately, what might have been funny thirty years ago had to be seen as a potential threat now, and he was certain the police had already been called.

No wider than a deck of cards and twice again the thickness, the box was wrapped in shiny bright yellow paper with an orange ribbon crossed on top and a bow nearly larger than the package on top.

Chocolate, he’d guess. Maybe a rice crispy treat. The urge to shake it was strong, and he reached out with every intention of doing just that. If it blew up, well, he’d probably never know.

“Danny — stop! Don’t touch that!” Jessica from HR ran to his side, practically gulping air as she pointed to the little gift.

“It could explode — or worse. Didn’t you hear the loudspeaker announcement ten minutes ago?”

Danny shook his head. “Sorry. I must not have been paying attention. But if you’re so worried, why aren’t we evacuating the building?”

She looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “We don’t want to start a panic, of course. I’m sure the police will be here soon. We all just need to stay calm, and not touch these little boxes. Okay?”

Danny held up both hands in surrender. “I won’t touch a thing. Promise.”

Jessica gave him a long stare, and then hurried off, one hand in the air and that shrill voice carrying over all the other busy buzzing.

“No! Don’t touch that!”

Danny shook his head and checked his watch. It was eight forty-five, and the police station was just down the street, what in the world could be taking so long? He stood, stretched, and walked two aisles over to look out the window with a clear view of city hall.

Why were so many people huddled in the parking lot kitty-corner from the building? He thought for a moment, and realized that the last time he saw that many people in a parking lot, city hall had done a firedrill.

Which means they’d been evacuated. He wondered if they’d come in to tiny boxes on their desks too, or if their April Fool’s Day gift was a fire alarm first thing. Same result either way, he supposed. No one was getting any work done this morning.

The loudspeaker crackled, and the verbal hum died down a bit.

“Everyone please return to your workstation and check your email for further instructions. Please be careful not to touch the wrapped box, if there is one on your desk. Thank you.”

Danny wandered back to his workstation, watching as one by one, his co-workers sat down and looked confused, searching their desks for something.

When he sat back down in front of his own computer, he realized why. And then he stood up, looked at the back of the wrapped gift sitting beside his keyboard, and chuckled quietly to himself.

Holding down the control, alt and delete keys, he logged into his computer. There was a button at the top of his keyboard with the symbol of a letter, and he pushed that to bring his email program up. Using the arrow keys, he highlighted the first email from Jessica in HR, and tapped the “Enter” key to open it.

“If you are reading this, please lock your computer and immediately report to HR. You are being tracked.”

Danny locked his screen and stood to find Jessica herself standing right outside his cubicle.

“How did you access that email without a mouse?”

Danny frowned. “How do you know I don’t have a mouse?”

She put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side like he was some sort of special.

“No one has a mouse. They’re all missing. Haven’t you talked to other people at all?”

“Didn’t need to. No one’s missing a mouse. They’re all just wrapped up in some stupid April  Fool’s Day prank. Let me show you — ” he reached for the box on his desk again.

“No!” Jessica looked like she was about to pass out, but this time Danny ignored her. He picked up the box, mindful of the cord coming out of the back, and ripped the ribbon and paper off sideways to reveal his mouse, no worse for the wear.

“See? No harm, no foul.” He put it back on the desk and moved it around, watching the arrow move on the screen.

“We’ve been pranked.”

Jessica looked so disappointed that he felt bad for being the one to tell her. Others had been watching, and one by one they started unwrapping their own packages as Jessica trudged down the cubile row.

Danny logged in, put his hand on the mouse, and moved the curser to hover over the internet icon. He always read the news first, and it didn’t seem like today should be different. No need to disturb the normal flow any more than it already had been.

His finger moved on the mouse.

Click click.

Boom.

###


Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.

Beware the Tiny Doors

Writing Prompt of the Week: A little girl goes out in the garden to play one day, and spies a tiny door at the base of a tree. She imagines that a family of fairies live there…or is it just her imagination? And if they do exist, are they as benignly charming as the little girl perceives them to be?


Beware the Tiny Doors
by Alex Westhaven

“I’m sorry honey. You’re two feet and ten inches too tall.”

Five-year-old Paisley Johnson pointed to the tiny door at the base of a tree in the park and looked up at her mom, her lower lip quivering. “But I want to visit the fairies! Make me shorter!”

Her mom chuckled. “I can’t make you shorter. But you really don’t want to visit the fairies. They’re mean, and if you could fit through that little door, they would kidnap you and make you their slave.”

“How do you know, Mama? Have you visited the fairies?”

“No, I haven’t. But everyone knows fairies are mean. Now come on. We have to get home for dinner.”

Paisley looked at the little door one more time. She was sure there had been a face in the middle window just a second ago. Was it a little fairy girl like her? Was the fairy girl scared of the giant outside her door?

“Now, Paisley. It’s time to go.”

With a heavy sigh, she stood up and ran after her mom.

“How does everyone know fairies are mean, Mama?”  She climbed into the car and pulled the seat belt over her lap, making sure it clicked into place.

“Because everyone just knows that, honey. My mom told me, Grandma’s mom told her, and I’m telling you.”

Paisley thought about that on the way home. When Mama pushed the button to let the seatbelt go, she climbed out of the car.

“But how did Grandma’s mom know?” She followed her mom into the house and took off her coat.

“Don’t leave that on the floor. And I don’t know how your great grandma knew. Go wash up for dinner — your dad will be home any minute.”

Paisley went to the bathroom and washed her hands. When she came out, her dad was hanging up his coat and she ran to give him a hug. He scooped her up in his arms and kissed her cheek.

“Hello Princess. Did you do anything fun today?”

“We went to the park, and I saw a tiny fairy door. I want to visit the fairies, but Mama says fairies are mean. Do you think fairies are mean, Daddy?”

He laughed. “I think fairies are probably like people. Some are mean, and some aren’t. But I don’t think you can visit them, Princess. You have to wait for them to visit you. It’s only polite. Now let’s go see what your mom is making for dinner.”

He put her down and they went into the kitchen.

“Daddy says some fairies aren’t mean, Mama. But I can’t visit them, because they have to visit me first. It’s only polite. And we should always be polite, right Mama?”

Her mom smiled and then winked at her dad. “That’s right, honey. I put some plates on the table — why don’t you go put them at everyone’s place and set the silverware out? I’m making macaroni and cheese.”

Paisley giggled when her father kissed Mama on the cheek. She went to the table and set plates and silverware out, wondering if that little fairy girl had to help set the table too.

After dinner, Paisley played in the backyard while Mama did the dishes and Daddy watched TV. She looked at all of their trees for tiny little doors, but she didn’t find any. Why weren’t there any fairies living in her yard? Was it because Mama thought they were all mean? Or maybe the trees weren’t big enough for fairy families.

She wished she knew what would make a fairy want to visit her.

That night after her parents tucked her into bed and turned out the light, she waited until she heard her dad snoring and then went to the window. She picked out the brightest star in the sky, and made a wish.

“I wish the fairy girl from the park would come and visit me. We could have a tea party, and play with dolls, and maybe she could share some fairy dust with me.”

The next morning, Paisley woke up to see a tiny, shiny creature flitting around overhead. Not quite awake yet, she sat up and yawned.

“Are you a fairy?” she asked.

The creature fluttered in front of her face, and Paisley thought it might be saying something, but it just wasn’t loud enough. She shook her head.

“I can’t hear you. But you look like a fairy. Would you like to have a tea party with me?”

She could just barely see the fairy nod her head, and Paisley got out of bed, so excited she could hardly stand it.

“Let’s sit down at my table over here. I can have my mom make us some tea…”

The fairy fluttered in front of Paisley’s eyes so she was able to see a shake of the head. Reaching to her waist, the fairy pulled out a tiny bag and reached a hand in. When she brought her hand out and tipped it sideways, a trail of tiny, glittering particles rained down on the teapot, and steam came out of the spout.

Paisley gasped and put her hands to her cheeks.

“Wow — was that fairy dust?” At the fairy’s nod, Paisley grinned widely. “Can you make me small so I can visit you too? Daddy said I had to be polite and wait for you to visit me first, but you’re here now, so would it be polite to visit you?”

The fairy seemed to think about that for a moment, and then reached into her tiny pouch again. Flying up just a little higher, the fairy dropped the glittery substance on Paisley.

Paisley blinked, and everything around her was suddenly huge. The fairy she’d barely been able to see before was much bigger than she’d imagined now, and when it smiled, she gasped at the sharp, pointed teeth. Two more fairies flew in to join it, and they all smiled at her.

“I told you she would do it,” one of them said to the other. “Peering out the door like that was the perfect touch.”

Paisley’s lower lip started to tremble.

###


Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.

Be Careful What You Wish For by Carol R. Ward

Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone buys a shamrock plant on a whim while grocery shopping. Little do they know that a fairy lives in the pot and the shamrock is her forest.


Be Careful What You Wish For
by Carol R. Ward

Wishes are chancy things. The shamrock fairy learned this lesson all too well, and learned it the hard way. She wasn’t always a fairy, but a careless wish, made on Saint Patrick’s day, took care of that. There were many such shamrock fairies, each bonded with her shamrock, destined to spend her life caring for it. It was, quite frankly, a tedious way to live one’s life. There was regret, for certain, but there was also the faint hope of a certain wish, made on a certain day….

Fiona pushed back from her desk and arched her spine. She wouldn’t have been surprised to hear her bones cracking – once again she’d spent far too much time hunched over her keyboard without a break. But this job was important to her and she needed to put in the extra hours to keep from falling behind.

“Fiona, Mr. Barton would like to see you,” Chantal, Barton’s secretary, told her as she breezed by, already done for the day.

“Thanks, Chantal,” Fiona said, but the woman was gone like a puff of smoke.

Shaking her head, Fiona saved her work and rose to her feet, wondering what the boss wanted so late in the day. Just outside Mr. Barton’s door she paused for a moment to smooth down her clothing. One last pat to her auburn hair, confined neatly in a bun, and she knocked firmly on the door.

“Come.”

Pasting a bright smile on her face, Fiona stepped into the office. “You wanted to see me Mr. Barton?”

“Have a seat, Miss O’Mally.”

Mr. Barton fiddled with some papers on his desk and pushed his glasses further up on his nose. Fiona’s smile dimmed at his serious expression when he finally looked up.

“There’s no point in beating around the bush so I’ll come right to the point. The quarterly figures have been steadily dipping and we’ve had to start cutting corners. I’m sorry, but yours is one of the jobs on the chopping block. Effective immediately.”

“But–”

“You’re a bright girl and a good worker, I know you’ll have no trouble finding a new job.”

“But–”

Mr. Barton rose to his feet and stuck out his hand. “I know this is a bit of a shock, but I’m sure you’ll find the severance package a generous one. I’m sorry we have to lose you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Fiona said faintly, rising to her feet to take his hand. Shock was too mild a word for what she was feeling.

By the time she’d cleaned out her desk and found herself standing on the sidewalk, holding a banker’s box, the shock had turned to numb resignation.

“Pretty flower for a pretty lady?”

A bright green plant with a smattering of white blossoms was thrust almost right under her nose.

“What?”

“Everyone needs a shamrock on St. Paddy’s Day,” the raggedy old woman told her.

“Oh, I don’t think–”

“These are special shamrocks. They’re fairy shamrocks, come all the way from Ireland.”

Fiona took a better look at the woman and took in her threadbare coat, unbrushed hair, and rusted shopping cart with several potted plants in it. Here was someone who had it even worse than her.

“How much?” she asked in resignation.

Beaming, the woman said, “For you, just five dollars.”

Setting her box down, Fiona dug around in her purse and came up with a crumpled five dollar bill. Handing it over, she took the plant in exchange and placed it on top of her things in the box.

“Bless you child,” the woman called after her as she started the long walk to her apartment. “And a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you.”

By the time Fiona reached her apartment, depression had set in. She didn’t have much in her savings account, what was she going to do? Sniffling back a few tears, she set the box on the table and retrieved the messages from her answering machine. Three calls from telemarketers, one call from her mother with a laundry list of complaints, and the fifth…

Fiona plunked down in a chair as she listened in disbelief to the fifth message, the one from her boyfriend Lyle.

“Hey babe. Look, I gotta tell you. Things just haven’t been good between us lately. You know what I mean? Anyway, I think I’m just gonna take a pass on this whole relationship thing. No hard feelings, right? And hey, if you ever want to hook up to just … you know… give me a call.”

“Asshole,” she muttered. Never mind that she’d been thinking of dumping him herself, it still stung.

With a heavy sigh she got to her feet. Picking up the plant she glanced around the apartment, trying to decide where to put it. There was a small table in front of one of the windows and she placed it there, in a ray of light from the setting sun.

“What did that woman call you?” she mused. “A fairy shamrock? Too bad you aren’t a wishing shamrock. I could wish for a new life – a nice, quiet, uncomplicated life.”

The shamrock seemed to shimmer in the light as a green mist wafted down in the empty apartment.

Wishes are chancy things. The new shamrock fairy learned this lesson all too well, and learned it the hard way. She wasn’t always a fairy, but a careless wish, made on Saint Patrick’s day, took care of that. There were many such shamrock fairies, each bonded with her shamrock, destined to spend her life caring for it. It was, quite frankly, a tedious way to live one’s life. There was regret, for certain, but there was also the faint hope of a certain wish, made on a certain day….

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Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.

The Blarney Frog by Jamie DeBree

Writing Prompt of the Week: There’s a large water fountain in the middle of a park surrounded by beautifully carved stone benches. There’s a stone frog attached to the edge of the fountain, and a few carved stone fish attached to the inside of the fountain under the water. Local teen girls love to take pictures of themselves kissing the frog.

A little fairy/cautionary tale about kissing frogs…


The Blarney Frog
by Jamie DeBree

Once upon a time, there was a stone frog that sat on the edge of a beautiful stone water fountain. The fountain was in the center of a lovely little park, with carved stone benches and packed gravel paths, and lots of trees and wide open green space perfect for all sorts of shenanigans. Here and there, beautiful stone statues kept watch over the park, though no one knew quite where they came from.

The fountain was wide and deep, with two majestic tiers for the water to fill and flow over into the main basin, and stone fish on metal rods attached to the bottom so they appeared to be swimming through the clear current. There were no coins in the fountain, though occasionally someone would toss a penny or dime in. Legend had it that the fish came to life at night and ate the coins for food, though no one had ever actually seen it happen.

Of course everyone in town (and some from far away) had heard the legend of the frog prince. Which meant that even though they didn’t really believe the stone frog would transform into a live prince, everyone still wanted to take a ‘selfie” of themselves kissing the frog, who was eventually given the amusing yet apt name of ‘Blarney’. Unfortunately, people of a certain age tended to disappear shortly after kissing Blarney. Not the kind of disappearance where you just sort of fade away, but the kind where you find yourself somewhere completely different than where you just were.

And no one else can find you at all.

Of course Gretchen Shoemaker found herself in that very position when she failed to read the sign, even though it was positioned in such a way that she had to touch it in order to get to the frog. One minute she was holding up her phone with one hand while pressing her lips to the cold frog-shaped stone, the next she was paralyzed.

Her vision was blurry at first, and she felt strange. Water flowed around her body, but she could still breathe, and as her eyes adjusted, she could see shapes that resolved into fish in front of her. All on metal rods, all stuck in one place. It reminded her of the fish in the fountain just under where she’d kissed the frog…

Oh no.

She heard a plink, and a coin sank through the water in front of her. A little later on, a plunk, and another coin sank further ahead. Gretchen struggled to move, but no matter how hard she tried, she was stuck, like the fish on the rods in front of her.

The light faded, and soon, the lights at the bottom of the fountain came on. Coins glinted up at her, twinkling like little stars as the water moved over them. She thought she saw one of the fish ahead of her twitch its tail, but that couldn’t be. They were stone, after all. Weren’t they?

Another fish twitched – she was sure of it this time. There was a low rumble all around, and she watched in disbelief as the metal rods holding the fish in place retracted, and suddenly all the stone fish around her were dipping down to the bottom to slurp up coins as fast as they could.

Gretchen felt herself falling, and then she could move! Only side to side, but it was something. She glided through the fountain, watching the fish eat coins as fast as they could. She wondered what they tasted like – she was kind of hungry. She dove for a penny, and was promptly bumped to the side as a fish came in and slurped it up before she could get to it. When it turned, Gretchen caught its eye.

A human eye.

Gretchen turned away, her mind not accepting what it had seen. Three more fish were feasting just ahead of her all with human-like eyes, and before she could move toward them, two disappeared. They were there one second, and just…gone the next.

She willed herself to wake up from what was clearly the worst dream she’d ever had. As she glided through the water touring the fountain, she watched the fish devour coins, and every so often, one would just disappear in front of her eyes. It was the oddest thing she’d ever seen.

Soon there were no more coins, and there was a low rumble again as metal rods came up under all of the remaining fish, fixing them in place. Once more Gretchen couldn’t move, and she wanted to cry as the fountain lights went out and she still couldn’t wake up from this horrible nightmare.

For three days, it was the same. Somehow she was a stone fish, fixed in place by a metal rod, only allowed to move at night where she had to fight with the other fish for coins dropped in the fountain. The coins weren’t especially good – they didn’t taste like anything, to be honest. But they made her feel happy, and on the third day, she slurped up a shiny quarter and suddenly the fountain and all of her stone fish companions just dissolved into…a dry, black nothingness.

Again, her vision was blurry, but she didn’t feel the water any longer, just a cool breeze. Gradually she could see stars and trees and bushes, and the dark outline of those neat gravel paths that surround the fountain in the park. But once again, she couldn’t move a muscle. Across the path she saw one of the lovely statues that everyone walked by on their way to and from the fountain, staring back at her with big, blue, frightened eyes, and suddenly she knew where they came from.

Where she had disappeared to.

But if there was a way to escape the fountain, surely there must be a way to be freed from being a statue. She had only to find it.

Night turned to day, day to night, and night to day again. People strolled by on their way to the fountain, they had picnics, they laughed, they took pictures. Gretchen watched, wishing she knew how to escape this unyielding existence. Wishing she’d never kissed that stone frog on the fountain. Wishing she could warn others not to do the same.

One day, a bunch of silly teen girls came cavorting down the path, cell phones in hand, taking pictures and laughing and being silly teen girls. One of them stood next to the statue across from Gretchen, and held up her camera to take a photo with the stone woman.

The camera flashed and the girls went on their way, pointing toward the fountain and daring each other to kiss the frog. As soon as they were out of sight, the stone statue across the path crumbled, leaving a flesh and blood woman crumpled on the ground in its place.

Gretchen wondered if she was dead – she lay there for a long time, until the park was empty and the light was low and dusky. Slowly, the woman stretched and opened her eyes as if waking from a deep slumber. She sat up and looked around, confusion lining her face. Surely she’d realize what happened any moment. Surely she’d run home, get her camera and set the rest of them free…

The woman rose on unsteady feet, and took a few tentative steps in the direction of the fountain. She stopped abruptly, putting a hand to her head, and turned around, practically running away from the park.

She never returned.

Night fell, day came, and night fell again. Gretchen waited and watched, a silent sentinel, wishing someone would take her picture and free her from her stone prison.

She waits there still.

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Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.

The Scent of Dust by Alex Westhaven

Writing Prompt of the Week: A bouquet of flowers is delivered to the desk of a young woman at work. There’s no card, only a dozen purple and yellow lilies amidst an abundance of greenery. Later that afternoon she noticed something moving in the bouquet. She looked closer, and nearly knocked her coffee off her desk. One of the purple blossoms was rotating…

Dedicated to all those ladies who got flowers this past week… 😉


The Scent of Dust
by Alex Westhaven

The purple lily in the back of the bouquet on her desk had definitely moved.

A mixture of relief and paranoia flitted through Trish’s brain as she realized two things simultaneously: she wasn’t going crazy because this time, that flower had definitely moved all by itself, and she had it on video; and since cut flowers don’t generally move by themselves, something had to be making the flower move.

“Hey Denise,” she said to the girl in the next cubicle, careful to keep her voice low. “One of my flowers just moved.”

“I get that you’re proud of those flowers, and the secret admirer who sent them, but you don’t need to rub it in every chance you get.”

Trish didn’t have to wait long for the telltale sound of plastic wheels on a plastic mat. Soon after, Denise came around the corner, her clothes pin-up tight, her long, wavy hair a fiery red halo, and a deep frown across her lipstick-laden lips.

“Prove it,” she said, staring at the bouquet. It had shown up yesterday with a note signed simply, “You’re Secret Admirer”. Trish would have been way more excited if the sender would have used the right version of ‘your’.

“I have video.” Trish held up her phone. “Come look.”

She waited until Denise bent close, and then touched the ‘play’ button on the screen. They watched, waiting, the flowers front and center in the two-minute shot.

Nothing.

“I swear,” Trish said, tapping on the button again to replay. “I saw it. I even saw it on this very video just before I told you. I don’t know what happened – maybe the player got stuck. It was right here. That flower – the purple one in the back. It moved. It turned toward the hallway.”

The look on Denise’s face was sympathetic. “You should probably just take the rest of the day off. When you start seeing flowers move…how long have you been here today? Did you take a lunch break?”

Trish nodded. “I left at lunch – walked down to that soup and sandwich place. Got some fresh air, got some food, came back and sat down. I’m not delusional. I know what I saw!”

“Shh! Larry’s due for his walk-through anytime now.” Denise peered over the cubical wall, and supposedly out over the rest of what was fondly referred to as the rabbit warren. “I don’t see him yet, but if I get caught away from my desk without a good reason again, it’s going into my file.” She touched one of the offending flower’s petals lightly. “It feels real, it looks real, and I think you need a long break.”

Trish waved half-heartedly as Denise disappeared around the wall. She’d felt the petals too, and they were silky-soft, if a little thick. She reached over and grabbed the flower by the stem, pulling it free of the bouquet. It was heavier than she’d expected, and she held it closer, peering into the center. There was no evidence of electronics, but it was definitely no ordinary flower.

Curious as to just how far whoever made it had taken the ruse, she leaned even closer, and breathed in deep.

A couple of minutes later, Larry looked into Trish’s cubicle.

“Denise, have you seen Trish?”

“Isn’t she there? I just talked to her a few minutes ago.”

Larry shook his head and took a sip of lukewarm coffee. “Well, she’s not here now. Do me a favor and email maintenance. Tell them to bring a vacuum to her cubicle. There’s some sort of white powder all over her chair and the floor. It’s a mess over here. Like something disintegrated.”

###


Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.


Retribution by Carol R. Ward

Writing Prompt of the Week: A dachshund runs by, barking incessantly. He finally stops at the base of a tree and starts digging down into the snow and dirt, only to find something completely unexpected…

Once again, a single entry by Carol R. Ward! Here’s her story – enjoy!


Retribution
by Carol R. Ward

“What d’ya think?” Tyler said in a loud whisper as the group of boys paused on the sidewalk.

“I think you’re nuts,” Matthew said.

“Well I sure ain’t doing it,” Greg put in. Allen nodded his head in agreement.

The white lace curtains at one of the windows of the dilapidated Victoria house behind the wrought iron fence twitched.

“C’mon!” George said, plucking at Tyler’s sleeve. “Let’s get out of here!”

The five boys ran in pretend fear, but only as far as the edge of the park on the corner. There they collapsed on the grass, still able to see the house they found so interesting.

“My brother James says the old lady who lives there is a witch,” Matthew informed the others importantly.

“There ain’t no such thing as witches,” Tyler scoffed.

“Is too!” Greg and Allen chorused.

“Only babies believe in witches.” At twelve, Tyler was the oldest of the group and by virtue of his age the leader.

“Nuh uh,” Matthew insisted. “James is older than you and he says she casts spells and rides a broom when the moon is full.”

“She’s just a plain old lady,” Tyler said. “Probably fifty years old.”

“She’s a witch! And if you mess with her she’ll cast a spell on you.” Matthew stuck his jaw out stubbornly.

Tyler rolled his eyes. “You and your brother are stupid, and I’ll prove it.” He started back the way they’d come.

“What are you gonna do?” George asked as he followed along, giving Tyler a lead of a few feet. The others trailed behind.

“Same thing as we were going to do to old man Krantz.”

Tyler’s bravado lasted until he was standing at the gate in the wrought iron fence. Looking up at the spooky old house he swallowed hard, but with the other boys just a few yards away he couldn’t back down now. The house was dark and silent, which made the creaking of the gate as he pushed through it seem all the louder. His eyes shot to the lace covered window, but there was no sign of the old woman.

After a quick glance at his friends to make sure they were watching, Tyler resolutely stepped through the gate. Slowly he made his way up the cracked sidewalk. A cold wind sprang up, making him shiver, but he didn’t hesitate when he reached the wooden stairs leading up to the veranda. He tried to step as lightly as possible, but the porch still groaned under his weight. Taking a deep breath, he rapped as hard as he could on the wooden door, then turned and ran back the way he’d come.

The old lady must have seen him coming because he hadn’t even reached the gate when the door opened.

“You darned whippersnappers!” the old woman yelled, shaking her fist at the boys as they fled down the street. “Go get ‘em Chauncy!”

A dachshund raced down the steps and chased after them, barking ferociously. It chased them all the way back to the park and when they finally stopped to catch their breath it began to run in circles around them.

Greg and Allen thought it was funny, such a little dog acting so fierce. Matthew didn’t like dogs and threw a snowball at it, trying to chase it off but the dog just dodged it and kept circling.

“Oh, go to hell, you stupid dog!” Tyler said, repeating the phrase he’d so often heard his father use.

Chauncy stopped circling them and raced over to the base of the oak tree the boys liked to climb in the summer time.

“What’s he doing?” George asked.

“Well duh, he’s digging a hole,” Greg answered.

“Stupid dog,” said Allen.

The boys watched as the tiny dog dug furiously, dirt and snow flying everywhere, and then to their great astonishment, he disappeared.

“Where’d he go?” Matthew asked.

“Must be a rabbit’s burrow,” Tyler said. “Stupid dog’s gone inside.”

“This I gotta see,” Matthew said, starting forward.

The other boys looked at each other. Tyler and George shrugged. Curiosity getting the better of them, they followed in Matthew’s wake.

“Whew! What’s that stink?” Allen said.

They reeled back from the rotten egg smell emanating from the hole.

“Pee-yew!” George said, wrinkling his nose. “Dogs like the grossest things!”

“What’s that light?” Tyler wondered.

The boys moved closer to get a better look.

“It’s really bright,” Matthew said.

“I don’t like this,” Greg said nervously. “I think we should get out of here.”

But it was too late. The light seemed to surround them, drawing them in.

“What’s going on?” Tyler demanded, but there was no answer.

They were unable to move as they were sucked into the impossibly small hole. It was hot and bright and the sulfuric smell made them gag. After what seemed like forever they reached the bottom and went sprawling on the dirt floor.

“Well, Chauncy,” a booming voice said. “What manner of mischief makers have you brought me this time?”

The boys struggled to their feet and stared in disbelief at the creature seated on a black shiny throne. Chauncy sat at its feet and if ever a dog looked smug it was now.

“Didn’t your parents ever tell you it’s not nice to play pranks on people?” the devil asked. “And you should really know better than to swear.”

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Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.

Broken by C.R. Ward

The writing prompt this week was: Sitting on a round table in the entry of an expensive home are a half-empty pitcher of milk, a whisk, a bowl of three raw eggs, a small mirror in a picture frame and a vase of dead flowers. There’s one broken eggshell on the floor.

We received one entry this week by our own Carol R. Ward. Here is her story. Enjoy!


Broken
by C.R. Ward

“Please? Pleasepleasepleaseplease pretty please can I practice riding my bike?” Lori was dancing in place, her blonde pony tail bouncing up and down.

“Not right now,” Janice said absently, contemplating the empty pie shell centered on the counter. Pastry wasn’t her forte, but even Edwin’s mother would have a hard time finding fault with this one.

“But Mom…”

Knowing if she so much as glanced in her daughter’s direction she’d be snared by her patented blue puppy dog eyes, she said, “Lori, I don’t have time to watch you. I have to get dinner started, your grandmother is coming tonight.”

Specifically, her grandmother was coming for a light repast not something heavy and hard to digest. The salad was already made, just awaiting its sprinkling of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

“Can’t you mix the egg pie stuff on the front hall table? You can watch me from there.”

“The proper name is quiche.” Edwin was a big fan of proper names for things.

“Mommm…”

Janice sighed in exasperation. “All right. Fine! But I want you to promise to stay on the driveway where I can see you.”

“Yay!” Lori was off like a shot, racing through the house and out the front door, leaving it wide open.

Shaking her head at her inability to say no to her daughter, Janice put the eggs and whisk into the bowl to make it easier to carry, picked up the milk pitcher, and followed in Lori’s wake.

It was with a kind of puerile satisfaction she saw that the vase of wilted wild flowers Lori had picked earlier in the week had left a ring on the table in the front hallway. It was carved oak, Victorian gothic in style, a gift from her mother-in-law. In no way did it fit with the casual elegance of the rest of the house but Edwin had insisted she find a place of prominence for it.

Looking on the bright side she figured that maybe mixing the quiche filling out here was a good idea after all. If she just happened to spill milk or eggs on the table… Edwin wouldn’t want a damaged table cluttering up the entranceway, would he?

“Mommy, watch this!”

Lori’s voice came faintly through the open door and Janice glanced up to see her wobbling down the brick driveway on her bicycle. At Edwin’s insistence the training wheels had been taken off last week. Janice winced as Lori’s wobbling took her to the side where she tumbled off the bike. She still had a problem when it came to stopping.

“It’s okay,” Lori called as Janice took a step towards the door. “I landed on the grass.”

Undaunted, she picked herself up and brushed herself off, making Janice smile. She wished she had half of Lori’s spirit – so brave and fearless, rising to face any challenge head on. She was the glue that held their small family together. The smile faded and she made a mental note to make sure Lori changed her clothes before her father got home. Edwin disliked untidiness.

One by one Janice began breaking eggs into the bowl. Frowning, she muttered, “I thought I had four eggs.”

Glancing out the door again she saw Lori was now walking her bike up to the top of the driveway. With any luck she’d be ready to come in as soon as she put her bike away. Holding the egg shells in one hand she headed back to the kitchen for the other egg.

Yup, it was still on the counter. Leaving it there she searched the fridge for the pre-shredded cheese, the special Tex-Mex blend that Edwin preferred. He was getting more and more picky about his food lately, almost as bad as Lori. Maybe tonight would be a good night to bring up the subject of a full time cook. It’s not like they couldn’t afford it, and it would give her more time to… well, she’d find some way of filling her time.

Scooping up the egg on the way back to the entrance hall, Janice stopped in her tracks. From where she stood she could see a reflection of the driveway in the small, gilt framed mirror on the table. Lori was speeding down the cobblestones, headed toward the road, her bike for the first time holding steady.

The screeching of brakes barely registered. There was a flash of blue, then only Lori twisted up with her bike on the pavement, as fragile as the egg that fell from Janice’s nerveless fingers, breaking as it hit the floor.

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Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday for the next weekly writing prompt.