Of Grasshoppers & Spats in the Park

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about a grasshopper/grasshoppers.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: 
 A fight breaks out at a picnic in the park. Passing by when it happens are a woman jogging with a stroller, a man with ear buds connected to his cell having a loud discussion with someone, and a teen on a skateboard with an army-style canvas backpack. Which of the passers by breaks up the fight, and how?


Grasshopper
by Carol R. Ward

Grasshopper, grasshopper, creamy green
you’re the prettiest drink I’ve ever seen
a subtle kick, not strong at all
but lots of flavour for a drink so small.

Philip Guichet, he knew your worth
in New Orleans he gave you birth –
a splash of this and a splash of that
shaken with ice in a minute flat.

Use crème de menthe, a quarter ounce
and crème de cacao to give it bounce,
and don’t forget to include the cream
for a drink that tastes just like a dream.

You taste like mint but chocolate too
like a liquid thin mint in a brew.
Grasshopper, grasshopper, creamy green
you’re the prettiest drink I’ve ever seen.

***

Lovely Weather
by Alex Westhaven

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the bee.
It is indeed, replied the bee,
and buzzed off toward his hive.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the ant.
Can’t stop to chat, replied the ant,
carrying a leaf on his back.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the fly.
Putrid scents are the best, replied the fly,
and the garbage is perfectly ripe.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the frog.
Hop along or I’ll eat you, replied the frog.
You’re just the right size for a bite.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the bird.
In one bold, heartless crunch,
the bird got himself lunch.

Lovely weather, indeed, said the bird.

***

Best Game Ever
by Carol R. Ward

It started out innocently enough. Jeffrey and Alex were friends, best friends as a matter of fact. It was a beautiful summer’s day and they found themselves with some unexpected time on their hands. But what to do with it? They were easily bored and after much consideration they’d come to the park to play ball…

Even those who witnessed the altercation couldn’t say what started it. One minute the park was calm and quiet, the next the two had resorted to name calling and insults at the top of their lungs.

Sandra Covington was jogging by with the stroller and saw them, but she was hesitant to get involved. She knew both Jeffrey and Alex but her time was limited. There was a stirring from the stroller and she shook her head and continued on. Whatever had set the two off she was sure they’d work it out themselves. She had one more mile to go and didn’t want to take the chance on the baby waking up before she was done.

Though cutting through the park was a quicker way to the office, Lawrence Thompson hadn’t expected it to be so … busy. He attached the ear buds to his cell phone and tucked the phone in his pocket, using the blue tooth feature for his conference call. He shot the combatants a glare. This was an important call and he could hardly hear over their noise.

“Hey! Can you keep it down? I’m on a call here,” he yelled at them.

They didn’t even so much as spare him a glance. Whatever they were arguing over threatened to become an epic battle. Lawrence raised the volume on his phone and turned away. The nerve of some people. Just because this was a public park didn’t mean he should have to put up with this crap.

Teenaged Kevin Masters thought the crowds were great as he wove back and forth around the people. He narrowly missed Sandra with her stroller, but was forced off the path by Lawrence, who was taking his half of the walkway out of the middle. He landed in an ungraceful heap near some long grass, all scrawny elbows and knees.

“The path is for everyone you know!” he yelled after Lawrence, who was practically yelling into his phone, gesturing with both hands. Lawrence was too focused on his call to pay any attention to one skinny teenager.

“You rich old farts think you own the world,” Kevin said, voice raised so the businessman could hear him. “You’re lucky I don’t sue for reckless endangerment or something.” Okay, so maybe he didn’t know the first thing about suing someone, but it sounded good anyway.

Shaking his head, Kevin picked himself up and dusted his hands over his low slung pants. Picking up his ball cap he smacked it on his thigh a couple of times and put it back on his head, bill turned firmly backwards.

As he picked up his skateboard he noticed a flash of red in the long grass. It was a ball.

“Hey little dudes,” he called over to Jeffrey and Alex. “Did one of you drop your ball?”

“It’s mine!” Alex yelled first.

“Is not, it’s mine!” Jeffrey insisted.

As Kevin stood there watching, the two six-year-olds fell to arguing again, the assertions of “mine” flying back and forth like a ping pong ball. The truth of the matter was it belonged to neither of them. They’d found it when they were at the park three weeks ago and had been taking turns taking it home.

He watched them for a few minutes but what started out as kind of funny turned boring after a few minutes. With a shrug Kevin tossed the ball in their general direction. It landed several feet away, in plain sight, but the two didn’t pause in their arguing. Setting his skate board on the pavement again, he pushed off with his foot and was on his way again, weaving in and out through the passersby.

The prize lay forgotten on the ground as Jeffrey and Alex fell to pushing each other back and forth, which then led to wrestling. As they were thus occupied, a stray dog happened by.

He was a nondescript brown with the gangliness of a very young dog. He sniffed at the bright red ball and his tail began to wag. He showed his sophistication by executing a perfect downward dog pose, then his exuberance by barking at it. As quick as lightning his head shot forward and he snatched it up in his jaws, flinging it upwards then scampering after it with a joyful bark.

The boys stopped their wrestling and stared in disbelief.

“Hey!” one of them called out. “That’s ours!”

They raced towards their ball and the dog barked again, snatching it out of the grass and leaping away, tail waving madly. Yelling and laughing the boys gave chase as the dog bounded away.

This was the best game ever.

###


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!

“First Kiss” and “Skills” by Jamie DeBree

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Write about a fictional first job interview.

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about a (yours, or someone else’s) first kiss.


First Kiss
by Jamie DeBree

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Smooth, slimy skin mashing my lips,
like a snail spreading awkward wetness.

His energy and eagerness overpower
my need for slow, gentle seduction.
Too much, too fast, too hard, just…

Stop.

Maybe we’ll try this again later,
when the newness wears off and
I’ve caught my breath again. Dried off.

###

Skills
by Jamie DeBree

“I must admit, while your resume is very impressive, we’re a little confused about the lack of previous job history included. Can you tell us a little about where you’ve worked before, and what kind of experience you have?”

You knew this was coming, Tracy silently coached herself while forcing a smile at the man across the table. Keep it vague, but relevant. All he needs to know is that you can do the job he needs you to do. That’s it.

“I’ve been employed privately by someone who wishes to remain anonymous for most of my life,” she began, pleased that the words sounded far smoother than she felt. “I’ve been performing fuctions that included the same type of tasks you’re looking for. I’m excellent at keeping a calendar, scheduling meetings, and organizing files, and I’m also very good at research and creating documents when needed. I’ve also successfully planned several large-scale events that went off without any problems whatsoever, and I can arrange and organized trips if needed.”

Mr. Englebrecht sat back in his chair, a confused look on his face.

“You’ve only had the one employer then? How many years were you in his or her employ?

Tracy considered that for a moment. “I’d say probably thirty-two years or so. Ever sincel I turned twelve.”

Mr. Englebrecht tapped a pen on the dark, cherry surface of his desk.

“There are laws against chid labor in this country. I’m surprised your anonymous boss was able to get away with that.”

“And much more.” Tracy nodded, wishimg they could end this line of questioning. “I’m sorry I can’t give you details, but I promise I’m good at everything you need me to be, and possibly more. I won’t let you down, Sir.”

“Well, this is highly unusual. Normally we would never even consider an application like this, but I’m inclined to believe you, and we’re desperate to fill this position. Do you think that in lieu of your job history you’d be willing to give us a day’s worth of work, and then we’ll make a decision.”

Tracy nodded. “Of course. Just tell me when, and where. I won’t let you down.”

He smiled. “No time like the present, unless you have something else to do today.” When she shook her head, he went on.  “I’ll have you work in the business office with Stephanie Thomas today. My secretary is just outside the door, and he’ll show you how to get there.”

Tracy worked hard all day, smoothly following her assigned mentor and grateful that she could. At the end, she found herself back in Mr. Englebrecht’s office.

“You really must tell me who trained you,” he said, looking over a form she’d created. “Your work is exquisite. You’re hired, of course. Can you start tomorrow?”

Tracy nodded. “Thank you, Sir. I promise you won’t regret it.”

“And the person who trained you to do all of this? A hint, even?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. He’s dead.”

###


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!

Falling by Jamie DeBree & Rare Books by Carol R. Ward

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about falling off a cliff.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Write about something that really happened to you in the style of a fiction novel. Give it a cliffhanger ending.


Falling 
by Jamie DeBree

It’s always a little bit scary
at first.
A glance, a look, a flush of
blushing awareness.

The danger still out of sight
lies quietly,
at the foot of a hidden cliff and
gravity waits.

Stomach butterflies flit happily,
a touch
on tender skin brings joy, anticipation,
and longing.

A warm smile, a tender hug, a
slow kiss,
a step off the ledge and sometimes it’s absolute
weightless bliss.

Sometimes gravity wins.

######################

Rare Books
by Carol R. Ward

“Please, Mrs. Andrews,” Elise begged. “I’ll be ever so careful.”

Mrs. Andrews heaved a long suffering sigh. Elise was a familiar face around the library, a precocious child with a sophisticated taste in reading. “All right, but you must promise you won’t touch anything.”

“I promise, Mrs. Andrews! I promise!” Excitement danced in the twelve-year-old girl’s eyes. To finally be allowed in the rare book room was a dream come true.

Elise had known it would only be a matter of time before she wore Mrs. Andrews down. She was used to getting her own way after all. Shortly after Elise was born her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Everyone felt sorry for the poor little girl who was destined to lose her mother and she had grown up rather spoiled..

She had been in blissful ignorance of the dark cloud hanging over her mother. Cancer treatments were scheduled to coincide with visits to relatives, aunts and uncles who were more than happy to have poor little Elise to themselves for a week or two.

Despite having twin brothers seven years older than her and a sister ten years older, she was a solitary child, happier in her own company than anyone else’s. Her older sister went through a phase where she wanted to be a teacher and taught Elise how to read before she even started kindergarten. Books opened up whole new worlds to Elise, they became her best friends.

Elise’s mother had no time or energy to worry about her youngest child and let her do as she would. If she wanted to read the set of dusty, old, encyclopaedias instead of playing tag out in the streets, so be it. At least she was staying out of trouble, unlike her older brothers. When Elise began to nag her for new books to read, she introduced her to the library, and Mrs. Andrews.

“You can do anything, with the right book,” Mrs. Andrews told her. “Solve any problem. Reading is without a doubt the most valuable skill a person can possess.”

Elise was a girl after her own heart. She blazed through the children’s section by the time she was eight and was working her way through the non-fiction section of the adult area. If her choices were somewhat unusual, eclectic even, it just made her all the more interesting.

Of course Mrs. Andrews had no idea of Elise’s home life, the boisterous siblings, the sick mother, the father who coped with everything by putting in extra hours at work. So when Elise began to work her way through the biology and medical sections, she had no idea it was brought about by the fact the girl’s parents had finally sat her down and told her about her mother’s cancer.

Whatever Elise had been looking for in those books, she didn’t find it and it was then that she began questioning Mrs. Andrews about the rare book room.

“I don’t think there’s much to interest you in there, dear,” Mrs. Andrews told her, not unkindly. “Most of the books are so old they’re ready to crumble and are kept behind glass.”

“But what kinds of books are in there?”

“Old journals and texts, books about witches and demons, illuminated texts … just last year we received a donation of paranormal texts – all first editions – from a private library.”

If Mrs. Andrews thought she’d discourage Elise by such a revelation, she was sadly mistaken. This was the exact kind of book Elise was looking for. She kept her hands clasped behind her back as she followed Mrs. Andrews through the room. The musty smell of old books was more pronounced in her, despite its sophisticated climate control. She admired the Gutenberg Bible on its stand, and nodded along as Mrs. Andrews explained how one page was turned carefully each day to keep the dust from settling on it.

Under Mrs. Andrew’s watchful eye, Elise was allowed in the rare book room once a week after that, on Saturday mornings. She kept a respectful distance from the books, looking but not touching. Looking, had Mrs. Andrews only known, for a specific book.

Her mother was running out of time. Modern medicine was ineffective and Elise had faith that there was another way – magic. Not the airy fairy magic in children’s tales, but real, grown up magic. The kind of magic locked away in the rare books room of the library.

Six months after she was allowed inside, Elise found the text she was looking for. Not by word or gesture did she show the excitement she was feeling. But this was the easy part, finding it. Now came the hard part.

As though in answer to her prayers, a young man, probably a college student, appeared at the circulation desk with a stack of books. Alice, the under librarian, had called in sick today leaving Mrs. Andrews on her own.

Elise and Mrs. Andrews had only been in the rare books room a few minutes. The librarian hesitated a moment, then, “I think I can trust you here on your own,” Mrs. Andrews said. “Make sure you pull the door shut again when you leave.”

Nodding dumbly, Elise could hardly believe her luck. Keeping one eye on Mrs. Andrews, she circled slowly through the room until she was back in front of the coveted book. Without stopping to think, Elise snatched the volume from the shelf, stashing it in her book bag, then spread the other books so there was no gap in the shelf.

She stood there for a moment, breathing heavily, astonished at her own audacity. Taking a deep breath, she left the rare books room, making sure the door was shut firmly, and waved to Mrs. Andrews who was still dealing with the young man.

When Elise went home she went straight to her room. The book was hand written, the letters small and messy. It took her a while to find what she was looking for, but after a couple of hours she had a short list of things she needed to gather.

That evening, after the house was quiet, Elise rose from her bed and went up to the attic where she had everything ready. You could solve any problem with the right book. Maybe even cure cancer. Having nothing to lose, she turned the page.


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!

“Pouty the Walrus” and “Table for Two” by Carol R. Ward

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about a favorite childhood toy, and how you enjoyed playing with it.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone walks into a coffee shop/bar/tea shop/ice cream parlor and all the tables have at least one person sitting at them. Pick a person for your to sit and have a drink or snack with. What can you learn about a stranger in just 20-30 minutes?


Pouty the Walrus
by Carol R. Ward

You had a hard plastic face
with a hard plastic tear
and a black and white body
with a peanut butter smear.
I carried you with me
no mean trick to do
‘cause you were almost big as me
and I was only two.
I don’t know where you came from
or where you went in the end
but you were Pouty the Walrus
my very bestest friend.

*****

Table for Two
by Carol R. Ward

Jonathan stood just inside the door of the small cafe scanning the room for a table. Though the cafe’s menu wasn’t large, the food was delicious and he was in the mood for one of their signature soups. Unfortunately, it looked like every table was occupied. He started towards one of the tables for four that had only an elderly gentleman sitting there, but then the man coughed wetly into a handkerchief, stopping Jonathan in his tracks.

Looking around, he saw that the other table for four was also occupied, this time by a pair of middle-aged women who were arguing loudly, hands flying for emphasis. The tables for two seemed to be filled with couples.

He’d almost resigned himself to getting his soup to go when he spotted her, a young woman sitting alone at his favorite table, the small round one flanked by two wing-backed chairs. She was paying more attention to the book she was reading than the sandwich on her plate. Then he noticed the cover of the book and he couldn’t hold back his grin. It was fate.

Quickly he ordered his soup, along with a coffee and a couple of tea biscuits. Carrying his coffee, he went over to the table and hesitated, suddenly reluctant to disturb her. Then he heard his mother’s voice in his head. “You’re going to be alone for the rest of your life if you don’t start taking a chance once in awhile.”

Jonathan cleared his throat. “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you but all the seats except this one appear to be taken. Would you mind terribly if I joined you?”

“Sit,” the woman said, not looking up from her book. “No talking – just one more chapter.”

Shooting her a smile she never saw, Jonathan made himself comfortable the blue wingchair.

The woman made a noise of frustration, her brow furrowed, and turned the page. If she was on the last chapter then Jonathan knew the scene she was reading and couldn’t help wondering what she thought. Another page turned – she was a fast reader.

Jonathan drank his coffee but didn’t speak. He knew there was nothing worse than someone trying to make conversation when you were just at the good part of a book. A moment later his soup was delivered and he quietly started in on it.

“No!” she exclaimed. “He can’t do that!”

Oh, but he can, Jonathan thought. And he does. But he’ll redeem himself in the next book in the series.

He found himself fascinated by her. She had a very expressive face, framed beautifully by her short dark hair. He judged her to be only a year or two younger than his own thirty years. A quick glance at her ring finger told him she wasn’t married, unless she didn’t wear her wedding ring.

“Argh!” She slammed the book shut and then onto the table, causing his soup to shudder in the bowl.

“Sorry,” she said sheepishly.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said with what he hoped was an engaging smile. “I’ve been known to get caught up in a book a time or two myself.”

“It was just so frustrating! Just when I thought I had it all worked out, there was this twist I never saw coming.” She huffed a sigh and picked up her sandwich to take a bite.

“Isn’t that what a mystery is supposed to do?”

“Well, yes. But there’s this romantic thread in there too and the main character … I can’t believe he could be such a jerk! Or maybe it’s J.D. Parker who’s the jerk – he’s the one who wrote it.”

Jonathan wasn’t sure how to respond to that, or even if he should.

“Even if he is my favorite author,” she added. She kept her focus on her sandwich, as though embarrassed. “You must think I’m crazy, getting so emotionally invested in a book like this.”

“On the contrary,” Jonathan said. “I think the best books are the ones that provoke a strong response. I’m Jonathan, by the way.”

“I’m Emma.” She glanced up and quickly away. He found her shyness cute.

She took a sip from her own coffee cup and grimaced. “Cold.”

“Let me buy you a fresh one.”

“Oh, that’s really not necessary,” Emma protested.

“No, but I’d like to just the same. I could use another one too.” Jonathan signaled to Edward, the owner of the cafe and then motioned towards their cups. Edward nodded in understanding.

Emma finished her sandwich while they waited for their coffee. “What do you do for a living?” she asked.

He could tell she was just being polite, but he answered honestly. “I’m a writer.”

She opened her mouth, probably to ask what kind of writer, then squinted at him and paled. “You-you-you’re–“

“I’m afraid so.”

“I am so sorry!” she sputtered, face going red. “I am really sorry.”

She made as if to leave and he put his hand on her arm. “No, don’t go. You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“Really?” she asked dubiously, still poised to flee.

“Really. The truth is, I knew fans would be upset when I wrote that ending, but it was the only way to make it work for the next book.”

Emma slid back into her seat. “Please tell me Derek and Jen work things out in the next book.”

Jonathan grinned. “And spoil the surprise? Not a chance.”

She smiled back, a little shyly. “Do you think…” Emma took a deep breath. “Could I have your autograph?”

His smile was as sincere as it was blinding. “It would be my pleasure.”

He signed her book with a flourish, but held onto it when she reached to take it back. Screwing up his courage he added, “But it would be my even greater pleasure if you’d have dinner with me.”

Emma’s smile widened. “How could I say no to my favorite author?”


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!

Lady Tea & Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat by Carol R. Ward

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Compare someone (fictional or real) to a teapot (whatever kind of teapot you’d like).

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Someone has invited your character for tea. Only when he/she gets there, something seems a bit “off”…


Lady Tea
by Carol R. Ward

Not a fine English porcelain
nor a modern stainless steel
not iron nor even ceramic
but something not quite real.
You’re more like a clear glass vessel
with a tea blossom trapped inside
just add a pot of hot water
and watch as you come alive.
Your anger, like steam, quickly rises
and wafts its way through the air
and like steam is quickly gone again
no sign of it anywhere.
The blush of the tea blossom mimics
the colour that’s found on your cheek
and the statuesque form of the teapot
is the same as your body so sleek.
The reddish brown of Darjeeling
is the same as the curls of your hair
but the black of the dragon pearl leaves
are the same as your eyes so fair.
I see you each time I measure
the leaves for a fresh pot of tea
perhaps you are just a tea spirit
but always you’ll be real to me.

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

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat
by Carol R. Ward

The tea service was stunning. One would have almost expected sterling silver, given the circumstances, but this was a porcelain so thin it was almost transparent with life-like violets hand painted on it. It was almost too delicate to use. The butler poured the tea and stepped back. Actually, he poured the tea and disappeared completely.

“Cucumber sandwich my dear?”

Jessica accepted the small, square plate with her gloved hand. Gloves? Since when did she wear gloves?

“Milk or sugar?”

“Neither, thank you. I take my tea black.”

There was an autocratic sniff as the proffered creamer set was withdrawn again.

“I think you will enjoy the tea, it’s my own special blend,” the accented voice told her.

Jessica dutifully picked up the teacup, holding out her pinkie finger as she raised the cup to her lips.

“Well?”

“It’s very hot,” she said, setting the cup and saucer down to pick up the thinly sliced cucumber sandwich, hoping the cucumber would soothe her poor burnt tongue.

Again with the sniff. “That’s because you had no milk. Tea should never be served any other way but hot. It’s the addition of the milk that cools it down.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“See that you do.”

Jessica looked around the formal drawing room – the original artwork on the walls, the tastefully arranged flowers. “You have a lovely home.”

“That is a non sequitur.”

“No, that was a compliment,” Jessica told her. “This is a non-sequitur: Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been? I’ve been to London to visit the queen.”

“Indeed. I should, however, like to point out we are not in London.”

“But you are the queen.”

“So they tell me,” Elizabeth said dryly.

Jessica went to take another sip of her tea and saw to her surprise the cup was empty. She set it down carefully on the table in front of her. “Shall I get to the point?”

“Please do.”

“There’s something I’ve always wanted to know…”

The queen waited patiently as Jessica fidgeted. “And that is?” she prompted.

“Why corgis?”

“Well you see, Jessica, you have to wake up now.”

“What?”

“Wake up Jessica.”

The ground beneath her chair began to rock violently. “I think we’re having an earthquake.”

“C’mon Jessica, time to wake up.”

Jessica opened her eyes and Dominic stopped shaking her. “What’s going on?”

“Jessica,” he said, hugging her to him. “I was afraid we were too late.”

“Too late for what?” she asked, a little irritably.

“You got a dose of somnambulist dust,” Ellen said, peering over Dominic’s shoulder at her.

“What is somnambulist dust,” Jessica asked in what she hoped was a reasonable sounding tone of voice. “And how did I get dosed with it?”

Dominic loosened his grip slightly. “It comes from the somnambulist bloom–”

“Of course it does,” she muttered under her breath.

“–and you got dosed with it when you went charging ahead like you always do.”

Jessica wriggled out of Dominic’s embrace so she was sitting up herself. They were sitting on a cushion of dead leaves, a forest at their backs and a field of wildflowers in front of them. “You mean like in the Wizard of Oz?”

“The wizard of where?”

Ellen giggled. “Exactly like in the Wizard of Oz.”

Dominic shot her an angry look. “It’s no laughing matter. If we hadn’t seen where she went down we might not have got to her in time. A big enough dose and she’d have died instantly and if she’d been alone, she could have slept until she starved to death.”

“They look like ordinary wildflowers,” Jessica said with a shiver. She put a soothing hand on Dominic’s arm gave him a kiss on the cheek. “And you did get to me in time, as usual.”

“Rescuing you is starting to become a habit,” he grumbled. “Now come on.” He helped her to her feet. “We should get moving before the wind shifts.”

Jessica agreed whole-heartedly. She took his hand as they followed a game trail into the forest, but spared one wistful glance back at the meadow. Now she’d never know why Queen Elizabeth favoured corgis over every other dog.

*******

Note: Want to know who Jessica and Dominic are? Check out Carol’s Moonstone Chronicles series! 


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!

Keepsake and Finders Keepers by Carol R. Ward

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about keepsakes you (or someone) left behind, whether it was intentional or not.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A new homeowner discovers a keepsake box hidden in one of the air vents. What’s in the box? Does it matter?


Keepsake
by Carol R. Ward

The box came from Egypt
made of some kind of exotic wood
inlaid with tiny mosaics,
mother-of-pearl and ivory,
lined with purple velvet.
It hasn’t aged well –
the finish is flaked
the design faded away
the piece of wood on the left side
missing.
I never knew
what she used it for –
jewelry? mementos? photos?
It’s been mine since she died
and though I’ve had it for years
it holds nothing
but the memory.


Finders Keepers
by Carol R. Ward

Lanie sat at her desk staring at the manila envelope in front of her. She promised her friend Cass she’d at least look at the contents. Never mind the fact that Cass was convinced Lanie’s fixer upper of a Victorian house was cursed, a promise was a promise.

With a sigh she dumped the contents onto her desk. It was a mixture of newspaper clippings and photo copies of newspaper clippings. Some of them had stick notes attached to them, others had highlights and notes. One of them had “Original Owner” printed across it in bright pink ink.

Despite herself, Lanie was intrigued. The original owner of this house was a widow who was accused of murdering seven people. The bodies were found buried in the garden. But the intriguing part was the side article that accused Rose Wildman of being a witch.

“She has the ability to possess a person and force them to enact all manner of evil deeds,” she read. “She should be burned at the stake, just like the witches of old.”

There were several articles of that ilk, accusing Rose of creating potions and poisons from the herbs she grew, to singing My Wild Irish Rose as she disemboweled her victims. Another article attributed her powers to a large ruby pendent Rose wore, which mysteriously disappeared upon her death.

Lanie sat back with a snort. “What a bunch of superstitious twaddle,” she said. She loved Cass like a sister but sometimes her penchant for the supernatural was downright annoying.

The articles and envelope went into the trash can and Lanie buckled down to work. She wrote historical romance, and did well enough that she was able to buy the house outright. It was the kind of home she’d always dreamed of owning, a Victorian with a wrought iron fence around it and a large garden out back.

After working steadily for two hours, Lanie sat back in her chair and stretched. The writing was going well for a change, she gotten a lot accomplished. The virgin bride was in a coach headed for Scotland and was about to meet up with the laird disguised as a highway man. It was a good place to leave it for now – she needed a break.

Padding out to the kitchen, she made herself a cup of tea and carried it into the living room, formerly the front parlour, and sat in the wing back chair near the fireplace. This room was next on her list. She’d already pulled the panelling that went halfway up the wall off and was ready to start on the crown molding. Once it was all off she could start stripping the wall paper.

Setting her empty cup on the mantle, Lanie pulled the step ladder over to the corner of the room and picked up the wonderbar. The crown molding came off easier than she expected and she made good progress. As she repositioned the ladder next to the fireplace, it knocked against the brick and some of the mortar fell off.

“Damn it!”

Lanie ran her hand over the brick, feeling for damage. One of the bricks was definitely loose. Frowning, she gave it an experimental wiggle.

“Either I hit this harder than I thought, or this brick was already loose,” she muttered. “I think there’s something behind here.”

Carefully she worked the brick out then reached into the hole, pulling out a small leather pouch. Excitedly she opened it and a pendant dropped into her hand. It was gold filigree, set with a large red stone.

“It’s beautiful!” Lanie said breathlessly. It must have been the pendant belonging to Rose Wildman that was mentioned in the article. “No wonder she hid it.”

On impulse, she slipped the chain over her head and went over to the mirror. The stone rested just where her cleavage started. As she stared at it in the mirror it seemed to pulse with light. Raising her gaze, she stared into her eyes and gasped. It was as though someone else was staring back. Lanie did something then that she’d never done before in her life. She fainted.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Hours later she awoke, groaning as she pushed herself up off the floor. Brushing off her clothes she glanced in the mirror again and smirked.

“You look beautiful, darling, and that pendant was just made for you.”

With a laugh she turned and went into the kitchen, picking up the cell phone to scroll through the contact list for the right number.

“Cass? You were right. There is something strange about this house.”

“I knew it!”

“Do you think…” Lanie gulped. “Do you think you could come over and help me pack? I…I really don’t want to be alone.”

“I’ll be right there,” Cass assured her.

A smile curved Lanie’s lips as she hung up the phone. Only seven bodies were found? Obviously they never thought to check the dirt floor of the basement. She flexed her fingers, a red glint in her eyes as she checked out the knives in the butcher block. Oh, she was going to have fun this evening. It had been too long!

As she waited for Lanie’s friend to arrive she began to hum My Wild Irish Rose.

###


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!

Eleven Things & Mugged by Jamie DeBree

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a “ten-things-I-hate-about” poem. Ten things you truly hate about someone, or something.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A man ordering coffee is jostled by someone as he’s speaking with the barista. Who jostled him, and what does he/she say when confronted?


Eleven Things
by Jamie DeBree

I see you standing there
judging me silently.
What is it this time?
My lack of forced smile,
my bare face,
my disregard for titles and accomplishments?

Maybe it’s my tattoos, but
that seems so cliche.
My non-designer clothes,
my metal-filled ears?
Or just my
general distain for the endless small-talk loop.

I laugh too loud,
or not enough,
snicker at all the
wrong things but
I just take
everything far too serious, too literal, too thoughtful.

I know where I
fall short, why I
don’t fit in, how I
could change.
But I am who I am. Like who I am. Just gotta be me.

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

Mugged
by Jamie DeBree

“I asked for no foam.” Charlie tried not to sound as frustrated as he was, but it was late, and so was he, and he really needed caffeine.

Without foam on top.

It wasn’t the young barista’s fault he was having a bad day, but it was her fault that his latte was piled high with foam. A few bubbles, no problem. Half an inch of the stuff? She needed more training.

“I’m sorry, Sir. It says ‘foam’ here on the order sheet. I can make a new one for you if you have time to wait.”

He shook his head and set the cup down. “I’m already late. Why don’t you just pour me a black coffee — whatever you have back there, and refund me the difference. We’ll call that good.”

The girl gnawed at her bottom lip, her eyes going glassy.

Oh no. She was not going to cry on him. Not today. Not now.

“I’m sorry Sir, but I don’t know how to do refunds. Let me get my superviser to do that while I get your coffee.” Before he could say anything, she’d disappeared into a door on the opposite wall.

Mentally making note for the five billionth time to buy a damn coffee pot and make the stuff at home, he picked up the cup, fastened the lid and turned to go.

Right at the same time someone else was passing too close behind him.

Hot, milky-caramel liquid splashed across the front of his shirt and pants. He stared down at himself in disbelief, and then looked up to find a woman around his age with brown eyes and chestnut hair staring back, and apparently trying not to laugh.

“Something funny about spilling coffee all over someone?” he asked.

She shrugged, and gave a slight nod. “Actually, when they’re being as big of an asshole as you, yes. Admit it or not, you deserved that.

Unbelievable. He raised an eyebrow. “So now just ordering coffee the way I want it, and asking for it to be fixed when it isn’t is asshole behavior? Since when?”

“Since foam is not going to kill you and is pretty much just air bubbles. Do you realize how ridiculous it is to request no air bubbles in a drink with steamed milk?”

Charlie sighed. He was so not in the mood for this or any other conversation, and now he had to go home and change clothes before he could actually make it to work.

“It doesn’t have to make sense to you. I just has to make sense to me, and I just don’t see why that’s such a difficult thing, or why that makes me the bad guy.” She started to speak, but he held a hand up just as the door behind the counter opened. He turned to see the young barista, apparently still sans supervisor.

“Oh! There you are, Margaret,” she said, looking directly at the woman who’d spilled coffee on him. “This gentleman needs a partial refund and I’m not sure how to do it. Can you help me?

Margaret shook her head. “Nope. This gentleman will be leaving, and he’s not getting a refund or a replacement. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.” She reached toward a shelf of coffee mugs and took one, re-reading the front before holding it out to him.

“There. Now you can’t say I didn’t try to compensate you for this one last mistake. Get out of my shop and don’t come back.” She shoved the mug into his cooling but still wet stomach and walked away.

He looked down at the mug, and very nearly chuckled when he read the saying on the front.

“You’ve been mugged!”

Charlie sighed, took his mug, and walked out the door. On his way home, he called the office and quit his job.

Then he went to the store to buy a coffee pot.

###


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!

News & Weekly Prompts

BSB News

The Minister's Maid Cover

Last week’s download was the second book in the Fantasy Ranch series – The Minister’s Maid by Jamie DeBree. Not nearly so innocent as it sounds, this is a treasure-hunt style adventure novel set in the oh-so-fun (and somewhat campy, admittedly) Fantasy Ranch resort. We’ve added an excerpt to the book page so you can check out the first little bit, just click on the link above!

As always, check out our Available Books section, for this week’s free PDF download…

Last week’s writing prompts resulted in a poem called Bookkeeping by Jamie DeBree (moi), and the start of a new Insecticide story tentatively called Psychic Spider by Alex Westhaven. You’ll find both on last Saturday’s blog post – check them out!

Topic of the Week: No Topic

No discussion this week – my apologies. Discussion posts will return next Saturday. Go read or write something!


Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: A man ordering coffee is jostled by someone as he’s speaking with the barista. Who jostled him, and what does he/she say when confronted?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a “ten-things-I-hate-about” poem. Ten things you truly hate about someone, or something.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. We’ll pick the story and poem we like best to post right here on the blog next Saturday.

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!