15 November, 2019

Fiction Friday - Gone

image courtesy of D.B. McNicol

June burst into the house. “Mom?”

“In the kitchen, Honey!” Ruby had intended to get some food going but was just at that moment opening the refrigerator. She saw her deli sandwich from her uneaten lunch sitting there and was stalled. Her brain saw it and stopped. 

The deli sandwich was from a world of doubt. 

It was a Schr√∂dinger’s Cat sandwich. 

At the moment she purchased it, her eldest daughter was missing, but there was no true knowledge about what happened. She was both reassigned, and not. Like Schr√∂dinger’s dead and alive cat. If she hadn’t been reassigned, would it have been better? What then? What was the alternative - missing? Dead? Reassignment, the way the People handled it and May's counselor had explained it, was something between the two. 

Ruby had no real answers, no information about where the reassignment had taken May, so she was essentially missing. They assured her she wasn’t dead… at least not yet. Would anyone call them if she died at her new location? Probably not, because they didn’t acknowledge any true family connection.

“Mom. Mom?” Ruby came to herself, holding the fridge door open and staring at her sandwich. She didn't move. June was standing in the kitchen looking at her with concern on her face. “Are you okay?” Ruby was still paralyzed. June stepped closer. “You’re not.” She peered over her mother’s arm into the fridge, looking for the cause of the shock. Standing so close to her mother and seeing nothing shocking in the fridge, she gently pushed the door closed. “So I guess she’s gone? For good?”

June had never seen her mother this way. It worried her. She put an arm around her and escorted her to the kitchen table, pulling her through some invisible molasses that dragged at Ruby’s feet. Seated at the table, Ruby’s head collapsed onto her arms and she started weeping. Quietly. Like a whisper of sadness had entered her heart. June didn’t know what to do with the tears that were rising in her own eyes. She pulled a chair close to the woman who gave her birth, put an arm tenderly across her shoulders, and allowed tears to spill down her own cheeks. But she permitted no sound out of her mouth. This was not her turn to cry for her sister, yet she couldn’t stop the tears from falling. 

After a few moments of time standing still, June tried again. “Mom?” Her voice barely made a sound, she was so hesitant to interrupt her mother’s mourning.

“Gone,” was all Ruby could manage to say. 

June let another moment slip by while a crease deepened on her brow. “The farm?” For some reason she found herself mirroring her mother’s brevity. Her mother just shook her head, rolling it from side to side over her folded arms. Finally, raising her head as if awakening to a new world, she took June's face in her hands and, with tears streaking her cheeks, said, "You're my only daughter now."
 
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's Fiction is part of my project for NaNoWriMo. As I write a new novel this month, I may be sharing occasional short scenes that may or may not end up in the finished product.

08 November, 2019

Fiction Friday - Ice Cream

image courtesy of D.B. McNichol

"This ice-cream is terrible!" Devon cried, shoveling another spoonful into his mouth.

"Then stop eating it," Jane said, without looking up from her book. This was Devon to a T. Complain, but do nothing about whatever he complained about.

"I mean," he licked at the spoon. "It doesn't even taste like strawberries!" He poked around in the bowl, seeking evidence of fruit. "Nothing. Not a berry, not a chunk of a berry, not a seed." He lifted another spoonful to his mouth. "Terrible."

"So stop eating it."

"I already paid for it."

"Mmm." She turned the next page, ignoring his temper tantrum. She might as well be dating a four-year-old.

"Well, what do you call it?" He challenged her.

Her eyes rose over the cover of her novel. "Hm? What, self-immolation?"

"What?"

"What?"

"When you don't get what you asked for?"

She half-closed her book, wondering where this was going. "I don't know. Dissatisfaction?" She smiled. "I'm pretty sure the Rolling Stones wrote about it."


"Ha-ha, no. There's a word." He paused. "What was that thing you said?" He was eating the ice-cream again.

"Devon, I get that you don't like the thing that was served to you. Send it back, or stop complaining. To keep eating something you don't like is only punishing yourself."

He wagged his face in hers, sarcastically, "I guess if I'm paying for it I can eat it."

Jane rolled her eyes and picked back up her book. "You could also send it back and ask for something else."

Devon scoffed. "And have someone spit in it. Right. You're so naive."

The book snapped shut. "I'm done. Devon, you do this All. The Time. I can't handle your whining for another second, and now you try to insult me? I'm out." She rose, collecting her jacket and purse from the back of her chair. "Don't call me."

"Wait, what?" Devon's voice was pleading. How could he not understand?

"You heard me. We're through." And with that, Jane left the cafe, her cup of tea still steaming on the table.



It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's prompt was "Ice Cream" left by Liz A. of "Laws of Gravity" on last week's post (here).

01 November, 2019

Fiction Friday - Changing the Routine

 
image courtesy of D.B. McNicol

June tried not to keep a strict routine while she was on the road. Everything back home had been on a schedule, and Don, one of the Resistance members she had met with, told her that needed to change. 

Before she’d left home, her parents encouraged her to vary things she could. She still had to be certain places at certain times, and since her bus driver recognized her by name, it would be weird if she varied that schedule. But in between school and visiting Gina - the trips the bus driver knew - she changed things as much as she could. Study group met at a neighbor’s house, but after study group, she took a walk. A circuitous route home, different every time. 

She changed her bedtime and wake up time. She did her homework in the middle of the night, or at 3am when she woke up. She started trying to follow the moon as much as possible. It gave her a feeling of routine, even though daily she was wildly out of routine. The new moon was the hardest part because you can't see a new moon, but her moon clock kept her straight.  It turned out to be good practice for being on the road. 

Now she was in Colorado, and she was very glad she had started at home. No one knew her here; no one knew what was normal for her. She could meet up with her contact at strange times. She made a friend at the corner store, but always went there at a different time of the day or night, just so it wasn’t an “everyday” thing. June knew she wouldn’t be here long – just long enough. 

At moon-rise she ate what she called her breakfast. That could be any time of the day or night. She always had a yogurt drink for protein, and some kind of fruit or vegetable – cooked or raw – whatever was available where she was. Also a mug of hot coffee. Or tea. Someone had suggested she get used to tea as a substitute, another variable. So now, if moon-rise happened in the morning hours, she’d drink coffee. If in the afternoon, tea. One more way to give irregularity a semblance of regularity. 

On each major stage of the moon – full, new, and quarter – she would move. Whether that meant changing city, changing lodging, or if she was staying in the same house, she’d try to change to a different room or bed. Gotta keep changing, be unpredictable. The best would be to just “go missing” if she could manage it. How would she manage it? 

June borrowed whatever she could, and tried not to look the same two days in a row. Of course, facial recognition cameras would not be fooled, but at least if her makeup was different, and her hair either messy or neat, or wearing someone else’s coat one day, then the same shadow or shape wasn’t seen passing through the woods or town. 
 
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, so I'm being lazy and sharing a short scene that may or may not end up in my November Novel.

25 October, 2019

Fiction Friday - Puppy Love (part 2)

image courtesy of D.B. McNicol

...Continued from last week's Fiction, HERE.

Judy smiled out at the puppy on the sidewalk. He was definitely following her. How had he bonded so quickly? She only saw him first this morning. From her seat, she took a quick picture out the window. She should make a “Found Dog” sign to post in her neighborhood. 

When she left the coffee shop, Judy pet the pup, but didn't watch to see if he followed. Waiting at her bus stop, she peered around. There he was, sitting discreetly outside the shelter, back along the low wall behind the sidewalk. When the bus left with her inside, she watched as the puppy took off behind the bus, but he turned before the bus did. Back in her neighborhood, a panting puppy greeted her as she emerged from the bus. 

“Sweetie, I don’t know what to do with you!” It was just one day. People who lost dogs often looked for several days. Or longer. The sign was a good idea. As she sat there by a tree with this random dog, she looked around. 

An idea struck. “You’ll follow me, right?” A wag was the only response. “Okay. Let’s go.” Instead of turning down her street, she followed the main road to the next block and turned there. 

Judy and her tagalong friend took a winding, circuitous route through the neighborhood, walking slowly along streets she had not paid attention to before. Before taking the time and trouble to post signs in the neighborhood, Judy wanted to give the runaway pup’s owners an opportunity to see him. Or, conversely, for the dog to see his home and run up to the door. 

Neither happened. After a 30 minute walk, during which time her computer bag seemed to gain weight, Judy reached home. She unlocked the gate, sighed, and bent down to address her new friend. “Buddy, I know nothing about dogs. I can’t keep you.” He looked up at her and wagged. Judy smiled sadly and ruffled the fur on his head. “Are you house-trained? Do you have a name?” The tail wagged more energetically as she petted him. 

Peering behind her into her yard, Judy thought out loud. “I guess maybe you’d be safer inside the gate than out roaming streets where you could get run over.” She was scratching him absently on the neck, without looking at the animal. “Maybe if you were in just one place, it would be easier for your owners to find you if they’re out looking.” 

Looking back at him, she said, “Why don’t you have a collar, anyway?” Rising, she pushed the gate wide and added, “Okay. Come in.” 

The little white puppy raced in the gate and started sniffing around the trees and shrubs. Judy latched the gate and walked up to the door, being sure to close the door quickly behind her. She really had no preparation for a possibly untrained puppy in the house. 

Minutes later, the door opened and she set out a bowl of water and another bowl of some leftovers from last night’s dinner. 

The next day, although she was sure she had latched the gate behind her when she left for work, the puppy was waiting for her at the end of her workday and when she got off the bus at home. That night, she took her supper out to the back yard,  where the puppy ate scraps as she handed them down. 

“You never say anything, pup,” Judy realized. “Woof! Woof-woof-woof!” She tried to get him to speak, but he wouldn’t. She threw a stick, and he watched it fly across the yard, then turned back to her as if to ask, “Why’d you do that?” 

On the weekend, Judy went to a pet store for proper feeding dishes, food, and a leash – because she knew there were leash laws, even if the dog didn’t understand. She picked out a simple blue collar, and started thinking about names. On an impulse, she got a simple charm engraved “Boo Radley” for the silent puppy in her life. 

The "Found Dog" sign never got printed. 
 
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's prompt came from a list provided by Brett Minor of The Transformed Nonconformist.


19 October, 2019

November Plans

I know lately I've only been on here for Fiction Fridays. (Baby steps back to normal.)

That will probably continue for a while. In November, while I write a new book for Nanowrimo, I have considered that some of those writings might be suitable for Fiction Fridays. Who knows? If not, I have a new prompt (thank you, Liz) and lists of prompts to go from.

Also, I'm working on boosting my daily word count through the rest of October, which is how "Puppy Love" came about... and how it came to be so long I had to break it into 2 installments. That's a good thing!

I just wanted to say a little about the future of Fiction Friday. Still trying to get around to your blogs more regularly. I guess that's the next baby step.

Meanwhile, Happy Halloween!
Enjoy your pumpkin spice. It's non-existent here.

17 October, 2019

Fiction Friday - Puppy Love (part 1)

Image courtesy of D.B. McNicol

“Hey there, pup!” Judy turned to latch the gate behind her as she addressed the puppy who was standing on the sidewalk near the path up to her door. “Where did you come from, huh?” Adjusting her computer bag to hang behind her, she squatted down and examined the puppy. 

He seemed clean. Ish. Cleanish. Not groomed or anything, but she felt safe to scratch behind his ears as she felt for a collar in the white fur around his scruffy neck. “Hmm… no one seems to claim you.” Judy looked up and down the street. She didn’t know of anyone in her neighborhood with a recently pregnant dog, or kids who might have needed a pet. Whose puppy could this be?

"Too bad I don't know my neighbors very well." A groan of a sigh escaped Judy and she rolled her eyes at herself. She muttered, “Serves me right for being anti-social.” She wasn’t really against people; she waved to the neighbors when she saw them, and she hired a teenager from one street up to mow her yard, but they weren’t exactly a “block-party” crowd. 

One further look up and down the street. No one was out searching for a dog, or calling a doggy-sounding name. “Well, pup, looks like you’re on your own. Kind of like me.” With a quick, vigorous rub of his cute, fuzzy head, she said, “Have a good day!” and turned to walk down the street to the bus stop, pulling out her ear-buds as she walked. 

*** 

As Judy left the stocky brick and glass building that was home to Metro Enterprises, Inc., she smiled and lifted her face to feel the warm evening sunshine. This was a great time of year. She was happy for an air-conditioned office, but the contrast of sunshine and heat outside felt good. 

She turned her eyes to the street in front of her, and saw a small motion in the corner of her eye. “Pup!” The small white dog was bounding over from a resting spot in the shade of the marble planter in front of the building. “Did you follow me?” she asked as she squatted down to give him a two-handed, vigorous petting all over his back. “Did you?” His wagging tail and big, eager eyes made her laugh out loud. “You are such a cutie. What am I to do with you?” 

The dog had a clear opinion on what she should do with him, and rolled over, exposing his belly. “D’aww… of course I’ll rub your belly.” She suited the action to her words, scanning the street for anyone missing a puppy. A few passersby looked down at her with a smile, but no one stopped, and she couldn’t discern a single look of searching. “You are too cute to be forgotten. Someone will find you.” The belly-rub over, she leaned back and looked sadly into the big eyes of the small white dog. “I wish I could take you home, but you’re not mine. Bye now.” 

Judy rose and decided to get a latte before taking the bus home. She had some personal stuff to do on her laptop, and it would be easier without the distractions of home. Bypassing the coffee shop favored by her coworkers, she walked an extra half-block to a smaller local shop and set up in a corner after ordering a latte and muffin. 

When they were brought over to her, she looked up from her computer screen to thank the barista, and as she turned back to her work, she saw the dog sitting outside the window, on the sidewalk. A frown crossed her eyes. This puppy was definitely following her. Why?

It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's prompt came from a list provided by Brett Minor of The Transformed Nonconformist.

Come back next week for the conclusion!

10 October, 2019

Fiction Friday - Good Eats (part 2)


 
Image courtesy of D.B. McNicol.


This story continues from last week's post. Find it HERE.<<

Ginger looked left and right, as if preparing to cross a street. The curved hallway seemed identical in both directions. The same pale grey walls, fading into the distance.

She listened, and heard no sound louder than a faint mechanical hum. Was this place sound-proof, or was she the only one around? Giving a resigned shrug, she muttered, “Only one way to find out,” and turned to the left. One step toward the darkness beyond, and the next set of hidden lights illuminated the patch of hall beyond. 

Aha! That’s how this will work! Motion sensors. She shouldn’t have been surprised.

The floor wasn’t carpeted, but it was soft, as if coated in a layer of rubber flooring, like a gym. Her bare feet didn’t make a sound. It dawned on Ginger that the hallway floor was warmer than the room she just left. Must have been above a refrigerator room.

Looking back, she realized that the lights faded out after she passed through each section. This happened three or four times before she came across a door identical to the one she had exited. It was on the opposite side of the hall, the outside of this very large, circular building. No knob or handle on the door, and it didn’t move when she pushed or tried to slide it. She peered in the small window. It was a dark room and took her a minute to focus on what she was seeing. It looked like computer servers. Rows and rows. A really big room. 

Okay. This place is big. Got it. If the hallway made a full circle, that would be quite huge. She made a mental note to look for stairs or an elevator to search other floors, too.

When the next section’s lights came on, she saw another door nearby, and peered in that one, too. This room was similar to the one next to it, but with a bank of monitors on one wall. Angling her head to see better, it looked like every monitor showed the room she had awakened in. No… A few monitors seemed to have lumpy figures still on the bed/table in the middle. Most were empty. No monitor showed anyone up and moving around.

What was going on?

The next door she came to was on the same side as “her” room. Ginger hurried to the door. Was it another sleeping person?

Gleaming stainless steel fixtures under bright lights filled the room inside. Stacks of white things stood on some of the countertops, and random items hung down from above. It took a minute to realize that this was a kitchen! The white things were trays, plates, bowls. The things hanging down must be cooking utensils. They looked different from what Ginger was familiar with, but then, she had never been inside a professional kitchen.

She couldn’t resist pushing at the door, but it didn’t budge. Then a pair of shadowy figures walked past, back beyond a couple of the work-tops, so she couldn’t really tell what they were doing. Her hand moved to knock on the door and get their attention, but she looked around. No one else was in the hall. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to be there. Ginger lowered her hand and moved on. 

So far she hadn’t learned anything except that she was in a big, lonely building. Someone was here, in the kitchens at least. Maybe this floor was underused.

As she considered her findings and lack thereof, another door came into sight. This would be next to the kitchens. A storeroom? A pantry? She peered in.

Whoa.

Ginger’s jaw dropped as her eyes attempted to take in all of the vast garden within. Again, she was locked out, relegated to watching through the small window. There were plants in rows like a vegetable garden. With neat rows of trees around, possibly orchards. The light inside was dim, like dawn, so she couldn’t see the end, but this building had ample room for an ample garden. Seeing movement out of the corner of her eye, she peered closer, looking toward the left. There were large animals standing together eating grass.

Cows! That’s where the meat came from! Well, wait…

From the clump of animals in dim light, she couldn’t make out if they were cows, or horses, or what. There was so much to look at in the garden. Smaller animals skittered around among the plants and trees. Slowly, the light increased. It really mimicked daylight well.

Clever. Emulate the sun’s rhythm.

Looking over at the cattle again, Ginger smiled. The light was playing tricks on her eyes. The cows looked blue in this light. Or horses. Or… something else?

As the light increased, she tried to guess what vegetables were in the garden, but she didn’t recognize any of the greens showing above ground. Her eyes kept going over to the animals, which continued to look blue. Ginger frowned. Everything else looked normal shades of green or brown. If it was the lighting, shouldn’t everything have a blue tinge?

The animals were unclumping and she noticed someone walking toward them from the far side, near where the kitchen was. There was probably a door between the two. 


As one of the animals ambled closer to Ginger’s vantage point, she clearly saw that it was, in fact, a variegated blue pattern on the animals hide. The animal turned suddenly and Ginger squinted. 

Six legs? And blue?

The figure in the shadows selected one of the beasts, and Ginger could clearly see that he wasn’t human at all. His grey skin gleamed in the bright light, and arms that reached nearly to his feet forcefully pushed the beast toward where the kitchen doorway opened into shadow.

What did I eat?

Ginger fainted.


It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's prompt was "Good Eats" given by Liz A. of Laws of Gravity.<< Thanks, Liz!