31 August, 2019

Fiction Friday - Good Beer

"Oh, this one's quite good!"

Ty smacked his tongue through his teeth a few times, a thought frown forming a crinkle between his eyebrows. "Hm... It's okay. Kind of lackluster. Let me try that Lemonhead Pilsner again." 

Monica handed him the requested glass, which was sitting on her end of the beer flight. It was a new tradition: On the weekends, they always sought out a microbrewery to test.

Ty was more particular than Monica. He had opinions about everything. They would share a flight of tastings - usually four to eight 4-ounce glasses of different brews from that brewery - then they'd each order a pint of the one they liked best and share some pub food, if available. (Not every brewery offered food.) It was a new thing for them to do together. He fancied himself a bit of a connoisseur, she'd found.

Now that he'd retried the pilsner, he was re-trying the stout. "See, I love this stout right after that pilsner, but it's a little..." Monica nodded absently as he explained his feelings about the stout. She knew which one she wanted. It was just up to him to make up his mind. She wasn't exactly ignoring him, but he talked about ingredients he could taste, and "notes" and how the flavors "hit his tongue." Monica loved him and tried to share his interest, but she didn't care as much. It was just beer. She knew what she liked, usually within the first couple tastes. Ty took longer.

Did he really know the stuff he talked about? Monica couldn't tell, but he was having fun and they were together.

She still had "Wine Wednesdays" with her friends, and he went out with the guys, but their counselor had suggested they find something they both enjoy. They'd made a Venn Diagram of interests, and beer was one in the middle. 

So they started doing this.

And it was helping.
It was. 
Not only did they have a stronger relationship for sharing each other's interests, but as a bonus, the beer they kept in the house often had an interesting story they could tell guests!

That was another therapy thing: Remember to be grateful for the little things.

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.

23 August, 2019

Fiction Friday - Welcome Back!

Tricia looked around her classroom, giving a final once-over before heading home. Tomorrow was the first day of school. Of course, her homeroom wouldn't stay this pristine for long, but she took pride in it all the same.

Desks lined up, supplies in neat order, bulletin boards fun and eye-catching for her middle-schoolers.The anticipation was over, and Tricia was ready. She nodded to the empty room, turned off the lights, and went home.

The next day dawned bright and sunny. It was going to be a hot one. Summer vacation was over, but the summertime heat was not yet ready to say good-bye.

Tricia left home with plenty of time. She always did. It was pleasant to arrive early and have a few minutes of silence before hearing the energy and noise build to a frenetic pace as the school day began.

As she drove the same old route on autopilot, she felt the tempo of the traffic trail-off. Carefully, she tapped into Google Maps on her phone. Red lines all over. Oh no! Zoom out ... more red. There were no good alternate routes. No! No-no! As her car was forced to a stop on the highway, she rested her head on the steering wheel. There went her cushion of time.

She wasn't late, but by the time Tricia reached the school with just a few minutes to spare, kids and staff were all over the grounds. People were exiting when they should have been entering! Tricia found a parking spot at the back of the teachers' lot. Parking was just another reason to arrive early. Walking toward the building, she scanned faces to find someone in authority.

"Mr. Nuñez! What happened?"

"Good morning, Miss Planck. I wondered why I hadn't seen you yet."

"Major pile-up on 85."

"Oh, you were caught in that? Rough. Meanwhile, one of our pranksters couldn't even wait for the start of the school day to pull the fire alarm."

"Oh good grief." Tricia's shoulders slumped involuntarily. "Already? That's a fun start to the year."

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 story was inspired by the prompt "back to school", given by Liz A. of Laws of Gravity.

22 August, 2019

Wait... It's STILL August?

It might not be the end of the month yet, but it feels like it. I have done more "big stuff" this month than most months. Big, but not uncommon for the life of an expat. It's just that everything came up at once! Not only that, but my closest expat friends are all leaving the country within the next week, so it's the end of a chapter, too.

Therefore, my list:
I stole this bullet point list from JZ at "A Reluctant Bitch".  

Relieved to Be Done With: Moving to a new house. AGAIN!

Inordinately Proud Of: Doing all my work with no air conditioner.

Happy to Have Survived: Multiple hangovers. I'll miss my Aussie friends when they leave, but holy drinking!

Glad To Be Done With: And extra, unexpected, tourist visa run to Laos because there was a delay with the work visa.

Grateful For: A 2-year lease, so maybe I can break my habit of moving every year!

Making Magnificent Progress: My first novel. Three out of four Beta-readers have submitted their notes. 

Looking Forward to: New passports. These are already full!

Reveling In: New friends and new hangouts. Also, finally being recognized as "a local" by the locals!

Latest Taste Obsession: Fresh garlic and soy sauce mixed into my melted butter to put on my popcorn. 

Filing Under “I Don’t Understand Men”: Our new neighbor, as he and his wife prepare to leave this week, offered to lend us books from their collection. The first one he pulled off the shelf to offer me was erotica. Because I'm a woman?

A Thing I Never Thought I’d Do: Appreciate a bathroom where the shower has no division from the rest of the room. But it's awesome. Cleaning the bathroom is much quicker now.

That's it. New home, new visas, new passports on the way, new friends leaving already - it's been a busy month!

16 August, 2019

Fiction Friday - Dancing With Fairies

Taalah fluttered to a rest in the cool waiting area. It was hot out today, even for a fairy. She sat on the torn seat between two men who couldn't see her, or wouldn't acknowledge her if they did. Adult humans were predictable like that.

She rested her wings and cooled off, watching the comings and goings of humans. Soon a young family came in - man, woman, and a small, blonde girl. Taalah's wings fluttered gently in anticipation. Would the girl see? If she did, would she play?

When the woman set the girl on the floor, she reached up for her mom's hand, and Taalah watched mom twirl daughter in a joyful dance, giggles floating like bubbles out of the girl's sweet face. Taalah grinned. She was playful. 

After twirling a few times, the woman faced the man and they spoke together as their daughter ran in a circle around them, watching each of her steps slap the floor in a clapping sound.

At last, as she came back around from behind her dad, she stopped dead, staring with wide eyes at Taalah, who elevated herself above the seat with a light flap of wings, as a greeting. The girl walked directly over to Taalah, smiled at the two older men flanking the fairy, and stared at the space between them. Her smile grew as she watched Taalah tiptoe around the seat, dancing and twirling, ending with a bow. 

The man seated to the left of Taalah blew a raspberry at the girl, thinking she had come over in curiosity at the two men. His raspberry garnered a brief glance from her, while the girl's incredulous smile lingered on her face. Both men laughed, not realizing she had no interest in them whatsoever.

The girl's parents watched the supposed interaction between their daughter and the two strange men, but remained on the far side of the room. Dad was called up to the counter for official business, leaving Mom to watch after her girl. After a quick glance at her mom, the little girl smiled at Taalah and raced with toddler speed over to tug on the scarf tied around Mom's purse handle.

Achieving her objective, she returned to the sofa, scarf in hand, and threw it onto the seat between the two men, who laughed at the thought that the little girl would only sit there on her own scarf. Taalah, however, jumped out of the way of the scarf in alarm: Was she trying to capture the fairy?

Just as the girl tried sitting on the scarf, Taalah changed the game and flew over to peek out from behind a pillar in the room. The girl gathered the scarf and ran over, peering around as Taalah floated just out of reach. They played "chase" around the pillar, and back over to the seating area, Taalah always careful to remain out of reach, and the men enjoying the sight of what appeared to be a little girl with too much energy to sit. She sat once, but when Taalah flitted out in front of the girl, she was off and running again.

It was only about 15 minutes while her dad finished his business, at which point, Mom tried to rally the girl back to her side. They were getting ready to leave. Taalah hovered near the door and waved farewell. The girl followed Taalah, and was followed in turn by her parents, who pushed open the door. 

Outside, Taalah quickly hid herself in a nearby tree, so that the girl would happily go with her parents. The girl went, but she was looking around the whole time, scanning for fairies everywhere.
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 story was inspired by actual events that I observed while on a trip last week. (I do not know if any actual fairies were in attendance.)

11 August, 2019

In Absentia

I'm not really here.
I've been too social, too much, for several days in a row and my brain is rebelling against being alive. I look normal on the outside, but my brain is struggling to breathe through the drowning sensation.

I don't have severe social anxiety, but being social with groups of people exhausts me, and I really, deeply stress over groups of people when I can't communicate with many of them. 
I'm sorry to miss Fiction Friday. It wasn't my intention. I actually sort of wrote a story yesterday, inspired by events of Friday. We were on the road all day Friday, so the best I hoped for was to quickly write and post on Saturday. But then social-ness invaded my day.

The last three days have included, not just a group of 10 people on the trip Friday, and a little one-on-one time with a friend (which isn't stressful, but still takes some of my limited reserves of social energy), plus random, lengthy, conversations with neighbors - in English and broken English, occasionally requiring translation - culminating in an invitation to a group lunch today, at which I expect to be able to converse with about 4 people. Among I don't know how many. After which I have to come home and teach

I'm okay socializing in groups up to about 4 or 5. Assuming I can socialize.

This lunch is burying me in advance. I will be non-functional until it is over. Tomorrow I will be non-functional as my brain and soul try to recuperate. For now, I'm drowning in my brain. I hate it and it's terrible, and I would rather sink into the floor than go to this lunch, but the invitation was extended by our new landlords, so I feel obligated. 

Hopefully this will be the only time.
Or maybe once a year. I could manage that.

See you next Friday.

03 August, 2019

Fiction Friday - The Blizzard

Trey woke to light streaming in the window. He sat up in a flash. Sunlight! He tentatively lifted the edge of the curtain, as if seeing it would destroy the illusion. It didn't. A bright light was glowing, even through the frost crystals around the edges of the window. Rising, he flung open the drapes and stared out at the thick, white blanket covering the world in smothering cold, and blinding him in the morning light.

How long had it been? It was the winter storm to break all the records. Two days ago, he'd stopped watching the news and weather because it was all just more of the same and he was getting depressed.

As he watched out the window, Trey saw John across the street, emerge from his front door in just a bathrobe, hugging it tight to himself, but grinning broadly. Trey knocked on his window and caught John's eye, waving and gesturing to wait a minute. He grabbed his own terry robe and pulled the belt tight over his flannel pajama bottoms. 

Trey pushed his storm door open through the inches of snow that had blown across the porch up to the door. The cold took his breath away, and he tugged the robe tighter, yelping at the frigid air. John heard him and laughed from across the street. "Haha! So glad I live on the sunny side of the street!" John was standing in a halo of bright light, and icicles had formed on the edge of his porch as the early sun warmed the snow and ice above.

"You don't look that warm, but... SUN, huh?" Trey twisted his mouth furiously, trying to thaw the mucus that had frozen inside his nostrils.

"Oh yeah. We survived."

John turned and grabbed the shovel that had resided just inside the door for the past couple weeks, he pushed a path to the edge of the porch. The action helped warm him a little. At the edge of the porch, he realized how cold his feet were in his slippers, and decided to stop there for now.

"Hey, John, any word from Larry?" Larry was an older man who lived two doors down from John and Linda. It was a nice neighborhood and people generally checked on each other.

"I think Marv checked in on him the other day."

Trey's next door neighbor emerged and nodded at the two, before calling a "See you after coffee!" and ducking back inside.

"Yeah, me too, John. Enjoy the sunny side. I'm gonna get dressed and start shoveling."

Hours later, Trey and his neighbor met shoveling sidewalks from opposite ends. "Whew! It might be colder than Hoth out here, but I have worked up a sweat!" 

"You know what? Hang tight," said Trey as he hurried back along his shoveled path and into his house. Moments later he re-emerged with a sixpack of beer. He returned to his neighbor, leaning on his shovel, popped the tab on one and handed it over. He opened one for himself and stuck the others down in the three-feet of snow walling them into their spot on the sidewalk.

As John headed back to his porch, Trey called over, "Hey! If you can get across the street, I've got a beer with your name on it!"

"The perfect cure for cabin fever!" He turned his snow blower at a right angle and plowed through the mound of snow to meet his friends. As he popped his beer, he invited the others over for later. "Linda is stir-crazy. She has been baking whenever she can. You guys have to come over tonight and give purpose to her baking, or the boys and I are going to be FAT before spring!"

All the friends agreed to come over, and as the cold started seeping through their thick down coats, now that they were standing still, they parted ways until that night.

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 story was inspired by the prompt "Blizzard" given by Liz A. at "Laws of Gravity" on last week's Fiction Post. (For some reason I can't drop in links here today. Sorry!)