25 June, 2021

Fiction Friday - The Moon Fairies

Only a few were out tonight. The moon had risen early in the afternoon, so it would be already quite high in the sky when it was dark. A short night's work before it set in the wee hours. 

Lala looked around at her companions, and blushed when Crios caught her eye. The bioluminescent moon fairies were scattered around the park, illuminating plants as the gibbous moon shone down. The trick was to move appropriately as Luna traversed the sky on her slow, nightly pilgrimage. 

Lala flew around the big tree that cast its shade everywhere and found a patch of grass where moonlight needed a fairy boost. Light came through the tree's leafy shadow, and Lala had skill in finding the right spots to brighten. She had aced her Astronomical Geometry class, and was trusted to handle the tricky shadows. 

Crios eyed the moon and flew to her side, gauging that he had a few minutes. "Hi Lala. Nice to see you here tonight."

"Yes! I mean, you too. Were you out last night?"

"Off duty. This is your specialty." He gestured around at the park, a glorious blend of shadows and glowing, moonlit trees, shrubs, and flowers. Lala looked away in humble pride and distracted herself by glancing up at the moon and attaching moonglow to a new patch of grass that just opened into the light.

"They call you in special for mixed weather nights, though, right?" Everyone was good at something. Yes, Lala had impressive credentials and was on her way up to supervisory Moon Fairy. A title with Capital Letters, but no one did the job alone. Crios was an attractive, sweet boy. She wanted to return his compliment and remembered he had a gift for Astronomical Meteorology. He grinned at her praise.

"That's true. That makes my schedule a little hard to pin down, but it is nice to do what I enjoy."

Lala graced him with a wide-eyed stare. "I don't know how you can enjoy it. Weather-nights are so chaotic to me! I'm good with Luna following her schedule, but ... clouds? Moving clouds? Winds that might pick up and change the shadows? Better you than me!" He laughed, but a shadow passed over them and they both looked up, startled.

"Must've been a hawk," he said. But they'd both noticed the new position of the moon. "I'd better get back to my post. See you tomorrow?"

"Yeah..." Lala wanted to say more, to ask him to stay after their shift and drink the dew from the new flowers as the night darkened before dawn, but she said nothing. "See you tomorrow, Crios."


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

This story was inspired by a Chinese student of mine who goes by the English name "Moon" and called herself a moon fairy during one of our classes.

22 June, 2021

Happy Birthday, Sis! (To the Dearly Departed)

Dear Sister of Mine,

Happy birthday! What a year it's been! Last year this time I declared that I was taking back my year after losing the first quarter of Year of the Rat to grief. Covid still did its schtick, so I don't know that I'd say I really "owned" my year after that, but I have a healthier outlook.

How's Heaven? You didn't miss much here on Earth. If you were still here, you'd be 55 today! The "double-nickel"! Do people still call it that? Why am I asking you? 

In Vietnam our borders stayed closed to all but repatriating Vietnamese, and the pandemic hasn't been as hard here as elsewhere, so we're lucky. Of course, now that the rich countries are done deciding whether or not to vaccinate (our brother is opting out, can you believe it? Covidiot.) they are sending their excess to poorer countries. Like us, yay! But... harder hit poor countries are in greater need. India, Cambodia, places with a higher resurgence will get the vaccines, and then, hopefully, they may trickle down to us.

Meanwhile, the borders are closed to international travel, and my American friends who are all vaccinated and like, "yea! I can do whatever I want now!" don't seem to grasp that the rest of the world doesn't WANT them coming in just yet. I'm so UNBELIEVABLY happy that you visited me before all this mess!

You really decided to leave Earth at a good time, if I'm honest. With your newly weakened lung, I don't know if you would have survived this, so I'm glad you left in time that I could be there for your send-off. Don't worry, I won't say that to your kids - who seem to be doing fine - but I know perfectly well that I'm cavalier in my opinions on death... Possibly to a socially unacceptable level. I keep a lot inside because I don't want to shock people. You wouldn't be shocked, though.

Oh, sweet sister... I still send you messages occasionally. You still have that one, little, social media account that we used to communicate, that no one else seems capable of getting into. And thank God for that! Since they can't get in, they can't get in to delete your account! 

I'm still writing. I think you'd like the final version of the book you were alpha-reader on. It's not "final" final yet, but nearly there. So sorry you'll miss it when it finally gets published.

Anyway, I miss you all the time. I've started using one of the ribbon bookmarks you made me. I had been using a card from Lucas' funeral, but realized I should be honoring your memory more. Does that make sense? Just because we were closer in life. Not that it matters.

I've done a lot of writing about grief. But I'm done with that. I say that, but my writing definitely has a darker tone than it used to. I guess that's okay. 

Dad is still defying the odds and doing "okay" in Mom's words. Needs a walker, slower memory, but when I called him for Father's Day he was in good spirits. So weird to think I had expected him to be the first major death after we moved overseas. Crazy old thing, life. And death. Crazy old thing, death. Crazy old thing, grief. 

I'm boring my readers by now, so I'll end this. I really can't wait to see you again. I'm so blessed to have called you "sister", Sister.

18 June, 2021

Fiction Friday - Clarence's Adventure

Clarence was upset. He was tired of the rules at home. He was tired of the crowded chaos. He didn't want to pile on with his brothers and sisters - how many? He didn't even know. Clarence was too young to know how to count. 

Also, he was a tortoise. And tortoises can't count.

Clarence trudged away from the nest, trusting that no one would notice his absence. 

The nest was in a ditch near the river bank. His tiny turtle legs took careful steps up the grassy slope. Why was he going up? Because everyone else wanted to go down. When any of his many siblings edged out of the nest, they slid down into the standing water at the base of the ditch to drink, find food, or play. 

Clarence wanted more. He wanted to break free of the small nest, the frothing family, the daily sameness of it all.

Clarence was out for adventure. Slow and steady, he ascended the slope.

Halfway up, Clarence took a break. He nibbled on some plants, and saw a small bug nearby. As he was moving to stretch out his neck and snap it up, a long ribbon of a tongue flicked across his vision and nabbed it first. "Hey!" He looked around to see who he needed to challenge.

A frog was standing a little up the slope from him, and off to his right. "I was going to eat that," he told the frog, as he moved up to address the frog directly. "Too bad," came the reply. "You need to be faster." The frog squinted at Clarence. "Aren't you supposed to be down in the ditch with your family?"

Clarence realized from her tone that this frog was older than he was. Maybe she was his mother's age. Maybe she was a friend of hers and would tell on him! "I didn't think you owned this hill," was all he said.

"I don't." She looked him over. "You can relax. I'm not going to hurt you." Clarence smiled at that. Young as he was, he was bigger than the frog and had a hard shell. He wasn't at all worried about getting hurt. "I'm just surprised," she continued. "And take my advice: If you want the good bugs, you've got to be quicker to snatch them."

Clarence nodded, lost in thought. "Can you help me?"

"Me?" She seemed surprised. Maybe she wasn't a mother frog after all. More like a big sister. But it only took a moment's hesitation before she said, "Show me what you've got." Her eyes jutted to the other side of Clarence. "There."

He followed her look and saw a small beetle crawling out between two blades of grass. His head pulled back into his shell in a slow, deliberate move, until he judged his prey was close enough. Then his neck snapped out and he caught the beetle quickly and ate it up. He knew the frog would have gotten it if she wasn't teaching him a lesson.

"Not bad, kid," she said. "You have good speed. The only problem is that you don't have a long reach."

"What can I do about that?"

"Nothing you can do. Just find your food somewhere there aren't frogs to get it first!" She laughed and turned to hop away.

"Wait!" Clarence liked talking to someone who wasn't related to himself. "What's your name?"

"Tasha, kid. You?"

"I'm Clarence. Where are you going? Can I come?"

Tasha looked put upon and Clarence knew the answer. She was kind when she answered, though. "You move too slow for my taste. Sorry. I'll be over this way, though. If you catch up to me, say 'hi!' okay?"

Clarence watched her hop off over the edge of the hill. She looked back down once, and showed him the direction she was heading from there. "See you later kid!" And with that, she was gone.

Clarence was determined. He had a friend now. He had a goal. He was going to be the fastest terrapin ever, and catch up to Tasha.


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

12 June, 2021

Fiction Friday - Who We Really Are

Angelina felt lost. Or rather, that she had lost a part of herself.

This wasn't new. It was just a new question.

"Angelina? Did you hear me?" She had accidentally fallen into therapy a couple weeks ago. Counseling. Whatever you want to call it. "I asked you who you are. So, if you don't feel like yourself, who are you?"

At least Ty was casual. She wasn't lying on a couch somewhere in a cold office full of manipulative props and thick books. They talked in different places. This time they were in a park. They had to-go cups from the coffee shop on the main road a block away and sat side-by-side on a park bench, facing a pond. 

Since they were both facing the pond, he had no reason to take it personally when her eyes rolled up to her eyebrows and she sighed a deep groan. A thoughtful sip of her hot, foamy, latte gave her a moment to word her answer in an un-snarky way. (Because the "if you don't feel like yourself, who are you" schtick was uber-annoying and Angelina was inclined to respond to annoying with snark, she needed the moment.)

In the end her best response, she decided, was a shrug.

"Come on," he urged. "Think about it. I've got time."

So she thought.

"It's not that I'm someone else. I'm just not my whole self."

"Ah, that's better. More accurate. So you're mostly you. Then what's missing? What is less than whole?" He quickly reworded the question. "Or perhaps a better place to start is: What is still you?" She groaned. "Start with the easy stuff. You still look like yourself to me."

"Okay, yes, physically I'm me." This was pointless. How did she get suckered into talking with Ty that first time? Angelina turned to face him then and looked him squarely in the eyes. "Are you saying you've never woken up in the morning and felt like you're just not your best self? It's that, only it's lasted for a while this time."

He was nodding as he watched her face come to life while she talked. "Good. And yes, I have."

"So you get it. So what are we talking about?"

A smile graced his face as he said, "We were talking to get you realize it. And you have. Are you good?"

Angelina frowned in confusion. "Duh. I always was. I don't know why we keep talking about me. You're the one who's nuts."

Ty nodded once and rose to stand before the bench. "Indeed. Enjoy your day." With that he walked off, leaving her to stare open-mouthed at his receding back.

Soon her friend Lisa took Ty's spot on the bench. "Thank god. How'd you shake him? Why've you been talking to him so much, anyway?"

"What do you mean? Ty? He's, like, my counselor or whatever."

"That homeless guy? No he's not. He follows people into the coffee shop for free coffee and convo." Lisa was looking toward where Ty had disappeared around in a bend in the path. She didn't see Angelina's jaw drop. "Harmless, I guess. I just didn't think you'd fall for it."


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

09 June, 2021

Morning Chit-Chat

Hubs came out of the bedroom this morning as I was laughing out loud at a book I'm reading. He looked at me, confused.

Him: Don't you have language lessons today?

Me: Nope. Tomorrow.

Him: Is it always tomorrow?
Me: Every Thursday. [Vietnamese class 8:45-9:45, Mandarin 10:00-11:00] But I didn't do much homework this week, so tomorrow won't be good. [You know, inertia, etc.]

Him: You have all day!
Me: For what?
Him: For homework!
Me: That's not a very positive thought!
Him: I know both your teachers on social media. I could tell on you.
Me: I wish you would.
...Because doesn't an excuse always feel more valid when someone else makes it for you? 
I do practice my languages each day. For both, I have books in the language that I am trying to make sense of, or memorize bits of, or glean new vocab from. But the specific review of the past lesson, completing an assignment, all that? Nope. Not last week.
The thing is, I'm not doing this for a grade. I'm doing it for life. For my own learning. I value the homework, and feel great when I'm prepared, but honestly, if I have nothing done, we'll still talk in the language, review something. Especially with books around, I can ask questions. 
Maybe I'll do some homework later today, maybe not. But the classes will be just fine. 

08 June, 2021

No Mojo

(Should "mojo" be hyphenated? I could look that up, but I won't. I don't have enough mojo to tackle that kind of task.)

My mojo is gone. It's been fading and I've been fighting it, but today it's gone.

Inertia is strong in me. It set in last week, when we were dealing with 100° temps and tropical humidity. What can one do? Run errands first thing then lie - reading, talking, scrolling on the phone, napping - in the still cool bedroom until mid-afternoon when it's only in the upper 90s.

That heat-induced inertia seems to have lingered. Today is perfect. The breeze changed direction, the sky is overcast, and temps are mid-90s. (I guess. 34
°C and I don't have energy to convert or look up the conversion.) I should be active.

After about two hours of lying on the bed, playing and scrolling on my phone, I have finally forced myself to sit at the computer and write something. Not because I have something to say, but because I have to "do something". 

I'm still not motivated. 

Still have a fog in my brain. 

Almost pre-depression fog. Maybe I'm actually fighting off depression and being vertical for an hour is a high achievement. Yay me!

So if you are still here reading my rambling to the end, thanks for being my sounding board. Any recommendations? What have you done to fight off summertime inertia?

04 June, 2021

Fiction Friday - The Reason (Finale to The Neighborhood and The Continuum)

This story is the conclusion of  "The Neighborhood" and "The Continuum". If you haven't read those first two parts, it will help if you check them out here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Colleen drew a bath as she talked. Willis watched her movements, not yet fully convinced he wasn't imagining things. The master suite looked the same as usual, and Colleen looked the same as usual. Their hug downstairs was the same as usual, but she'd disappeared once, so he didn't believe it wouldn't happen again.

"I'm really, so sorry this affected you at all. It's all my fault." She paused and hesitated near the hamper, in the end deciding to drop the pajamas she'd been wearing into the dirty laundry. They'd been worn the whole time she waited for his timeline to catch up to hers, after all. Sighing, she turned to him with a weary smile.

"I bet you're confused." The only response was a nod, so afraid he was that speaking would break the spell and he'd wake up in front of the TV downstairs. She nodded steadily back at him, checked on the water level in the tub, added some bath salts and bubbles, and returned to the bedroom. Noticing his lack of movement, she said, "It could take a while. You might want to pull the chair over to the bathroom door."

Willis complied, still saying nothing. The white brocade-upholstered chair was her addition to the bedroom suite, and had become visual white noise to him. Now, he moved some of her clothes from yesterday off the chair and onto the bed, and pulled the chair to the bedroom-bathroom entrance to sit comfortably. 

He sat and watched as she tested the temperature of the water,  then a thought dawned on him. "You don't have a bath every night. Isn't this a 'change of routine'? Will you disappear again?"

Colleen crossed back over to him, took both of his hands in hers to give a squeeze, looking deeply into his eyes with compassion. "It's okay." She went to get into the bath, moaning with delight as she did so. 

Her head resting back on the bath pillow, she closed her eyes and started talking. "First off, no. This is a deliberate change due to a change in situation. My whole day was lost, so the bath instead of shower is fine. Last night - no, yes, how long ago? whatever. The night I disappeared I was simply distracted and did each usual step out of order." She sank down to wet her hair and rose again. "Distraction and inattention is the bad part."

"For what?" She had told Willis she would explain, but so far nothing seemed explained. "I mean, you can't possibly be 100 percent attentive  to everything 100 percent of the time. I've lived with you." He offered a playful smirk, but didn't feel it.

"I'm a bit hampered by how much I can say. Your routines, for example, won't have any effect. You can change things up as you like."

"Well good. I do."

"I know." Willis watched his wife settle back into the tub, her head relaxed with eyes closed, arms resting on the sides of the tub. Her left hand, against the wall away from him, he could see was drumming a pattern of thought. That was her habit when she was weighing her words.

"Okay," she had come to a decision. "Some of us - I can't say who, but there's a word for us that begins with an 'I' and ends with an 'I' - please don't say the word out loud." The last part came out so fast that Willis didn't even have time to think the word "illuminati" before she continued. "This is harder to explain than I expected." A groan upward toward the shower head and she turned a tired smile toward him. "I'm one of the ones who can affect change by making change."

In the time it had taken for her to find words to scratch the surface of the huge subject she was trying to explain, Willis had found his voice. "You said this was 'only 22 hours'. What's happened before?"

"Nothing due to me," she was quick to reassure him. "Mostly, we just - live our lives. Certain routine actions indicate that all is well. Life and everything around is functioning ... as it should. Minor changes with intention don't effect anything. My guess is that someone else's evening routine was disrupted as mine was."

"Did you see someone?"

Colleen rocked her side-to-side against the bath pillow, clearly tired. "It doesn't work like that. I wouldn't know another person like me if we were standing in line together at the deli. No. Last night I went to bed as usual - well, not as usual - and when I woke up it was evening. For me. I stayed inside, and found myself downstairs in the chair where your timeline eventually caught up with me."

"But how -"

"By staying in one place, my time didn't move. I may have adjusted a few minutes here or there, as I wandered the house in confusion. The point is, I didn't disrupt anyone else's timeline, so my time was static. In this house. Until this house - and you - caught up with me." She grinned over at him. "All clear?"

Willis sighed his response. "Clear enough for me to go to bed, I guess."

"I love you so much. You know that."

"I know," Willis couldn't forget Hank's comment. "If you were gone for longer, I might've had a hard time convincing the police of that."

Colleen pulled the drain plug and rose from the tub, dripping with scented water and a few lingering bubbles. "I know. My heart hurt for you." Her wet arms were open, awaiting an embrace. Willis grinned, grabbed the nearest towel, and wrapped her in it, drying her as they embraced to begin a "welcome home" night to end all others.

Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments (as much as possible). Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. This story was actually loosely based on a conversation we actually had at my home. It got me wondering, "what if?"

If you choose to join in for Fiction Fridays, post a link to your story below in the comments. If there's interest or participation, I may start suggesting prompts here for the following week.