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.”

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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.