Monday, July 30, 2007

ENTRY: Your Choice Photo July 30-Aug 3

Venice Grand Canal

I know there are a gazillion pictures of the Grand Canal, but I was actually there. I lived in Italy for six years and not once rode in a gondola and then…20 years later…voila! It was also a little difficult to take when you’re rocking back and forth, but the blue sky and pink buildings spoke to me (oh, let’s just say love was in the air!). Wink and a smile!

Submitted by

THEME: Your Choice PHOTO July 30-Aug 3

The theme for this week is a photography theme - YOUR CHOICE PHOTO. Just email me any photo of your choosing July 30-August 3, and I'll post them during the week as they arrive. Voting will be over the weekend.

This will be the last week for popular voting - beginning with next week's theme, we will have special guest judges - professionals in their field - each week to vote for the BEST of each contest.

So send in your photo this week - just be sure to title the photo - to tracy ruckman @ gmail. com (just remove the spaces).

Oh - I almost forgot the important stuff! The winner of this week's contest will receive a copy of the Writer's Digest book Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan, all the regular promo opps, and entry into the grand prize drawing in December.

CONGRATULATIONS Donald James Parker!

Donald James Parker is the winner of this week's FLASH FICTION contest, with his entry "The Smuggler."

Don is a 1968 graduate of Madison Central High School in Madison, South Dakota. He graduated from Dakota State University in Madison in 1972 with a degree in secondary education. After moving to Washington State in 1981, Don studied computer programming and turned his writing efforts to software. After twenty-five of IT work, Don's passion for writing flared up again, and the doctors couldn't do anything to cure it. The outcome is a five book series involving two generations of the Masterson family. If demand warrants, the series will expand as the future unfolds.

Visit Don on the web at: http://www.donaldjamesparker.com/?tr

Congratulations, Don!

Thanks to all the other participants and voters! I'll be announcing the new theme shortly, so stay tuned.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Voting is now OPEN!

Okay - we're forced into doing things a bit different this week. The online poll software is not cooperating, so this weekend, I'm taking votes by email. Just send me your vote for the best FLASH FICTION entry posted below:

The Test by Amy Barkman

Not Tougher than the Bark by Chandra Lynn Smith

The Catch by Carolyn Kenney

Never Tell by Marcia Lee Laycock

Uninvited by Sara Davison

Nonfatal Error by Karri Compton

First Time by Lynda Schab

60 Seconds by Peter Stone

The Smuggler by Donald James Parker

Everyone can only vote once; entrants can vote for themselves. Submit your vote, with the words FLASH FICTION VOTE in the subject line please, to tracy ruckman @ gmail. com (just eliminate the spaces) by Sunday midnight. I'll tabulate the votes and the winner will be announced Monday.

Thanks for participating! Grab your friends and get them to vote too!

Friday, July 27, 2007

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 16-July 27

The Smuggler
By Donald James Parker


With his cargo precluding fluid motion, Tom strolled down the windswept sidewalk. His heart pounded, reminding him of “The Telltale Heart”. His eyes flitted in a panoramic arc, ascertaining nobody followed. Upon reaching a darkened antique shop, he surveyed his surroundings again and tapped a distinctive beat on the door, which suddenly squeaked open.

“Fish on ice?” Tom semi-whispered.

“Mended nets?”

Tom nodded, crossed the threshold into warmth, opened his parka, and extracted his contraband. “From Russia with love via Omaha. If caught, you’re dead.”

“Duh!”
George opened one illicit package and read “In the beginning was the word.”

Submitted by
Donald James Parker

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 6-July 27

60 Seconds
by Peter Stone


60 seconds.

A terrible forlorn wailing fills the air.

50 seconds.

What is it about time? When there is no urgency the minutes fly past.

40 seconds.

Small hands grip my legs with impatient desperation. Why is time crawling along?

30 seconds.

I slap the machine, “Come on! How long is sixty seconds!”

20 seconds.

Little hands pound my legs and the weeping reaches a crescendo.

10 seconds.

This is absurd. When I am having fun hours fly by faster than this!

‘Ding’

I slap the microwave open and pick up my toddler, saying, “Your bottle’s ready now, darling.”

Submitted by
Peter Stone

Saturday, July 21, 2007

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 16-27

First Time...
By Lynda Schab


9:00.

Two more hours. I pace. Sit. Turn the television on. Then off again. Listen to the clock.

Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.

“Relax,” Ben says. “She’ll be fine.”

“Hmph.”

“We taught her well. It’s time to let go.”

“Whatever.”

10:00.

More pacing. Nail biting. Lip chewing. Praying. Listening to the clock.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

10:59.

Open the blinds. Watch. Pray again. Listen to the clock.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

11:03.

Headlights in the driveway. A key in the door. The clock gets louder.

Tick! Tick! Tick!

Oh, wait. That’s my heart.

My baby’s home.


Submitted by
Lynda Schab

Friday, July 20, 2007

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 16-27

Nonfatal Error
By Karri Compton


Why did I enter the Air Force? Boomer's F-18 pitched and rolled as he led it through evasive maneuvers. The enemy pilots played tough, and he was lucky they hadn't wiped him out yet. He shot off another sidewinder at the nearest jet, hoping to buy enough time to land at base.

Suddenly he felt it—a direct hit, damaging his fuselage and right wing. His hands scurrying over the instruments, Boomer understood he'd never make it back in one piece.

Punching the eject button, he sat back and sucked in air.

"Simulation terminated," the computerized voice intoned.


Submitted by
Karri Compton

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 16-27

Uninvited
By Sara Davison


A little face pressed against the frost-painted glass. The woman marched to the door and flung it open.

“There now, go on.”

Piercing blue eyes bore into hers, entering without invitation. The woman clutched her chest and slammed the door, collapsing against the back of it.

She rubbed a trembling hand across her forehead. “She better not have touched anything in there.”

Things That Make Me Angry. Things That Make Me Sad. Things That Hurt Me.

The containers were a bit skewed but the lids all appeared to be fastened.

The woman let out her breath in relief.


Submitted by
Sara Davison

Thursday, July 19, 2007

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 26-27

Never Tell
by Marcia Lee Laycock


Avery still laughed. She still laughed, but couldn't face Jeff. She’d promised never to tell. But he’d said “I may not make the show.” Two years of work and he might not be there?

But he came.

The instructor took the platform. "I have a humorous anecdote."

She went cold.

"This student had been throwing pots for days, but she had a problem. They were cracking.”

Jeff stiffened.

“Her anxiety showed in the bedroom. Her husband woke to feel a hand on his bottom as she said, "this one's no good, it’s cracked!"

Avery raised his glass to her.

Submitted by
Marcia Lee Laycock

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 16-27

The Catch
By Carolyn Kenney


The sea was a blanket of blue velvet. Rebecca sipped her espresso, wondering if Samuel’s boat would come into view. Fishing was his life.

That morning Samuel said, “I’ll get a big catch. I know we need money!”

Suddenly Tom’s voice came from around the corner of her house. He was Samuel’s best friend - until today. Rebecca smiled and thought, “He’s not like Samuel. He’s just what I want - rich and good-looking.”

“Did anyone see you?” asked Rebecca.

Small drops of blood stained his jacket. He whisked her into his arms saying, “No, it’s over.”

Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

ENTRY: Flash Fiction July 16-27

Not Tougher Than the Bark
By Chandra Lynn Smith


He was a tough guy. Well, except for his fear of dogs. The pretty woman walking with him smiled up at him. His heart melted. Was this only the first date? Felt like he'd known her all of his life.

"I feel safe with you, Mark." She snuggled closer.

"You are." He leaned down and lightly kissed the top of her head. He wanted this to go right. A drum beat in his chest.

“This is my house. Would you like to come in for a few minutes?” She placed the key in the lock.

A dog barked.

Submitted by
Chandra Lynn Smith

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Entry: Flash Fiction July 16-27

The Test
by Amy Barkman


Two minutes.

Karen rehearsed the phone call in her mind. “Sweetheart, I have wonderful news!” That rehearsal had been happening for seven years without opportunity for performance. Dan no longer wanted to know if she was going to take a pregnancy test. He wouldn’t even discuss children. Too many disappointments.

One minute.

Please, please be positive! No, she couldn’t let herself get upset. She had years to go before it would be too late to have a baby.

Thirty seconds.

The nursery is there, waiting, wanting to be decorated.

Time.

Don’t be afraid. Look.

“Sweetheart, I have wonderful news!”

Submitted by
Amy Barkman

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who's Up for the Challenge?

This week's theme is FLASH FICTION.

Submit your best flash fiction of 99 words or less. (some define this also as "micro-fiction.")

This will also be a two-week contest, so get your entries to me by July 27th, midnight.

If you're not familiar with flash fiction, do a search on the web. There are many resources out there to guide you. I'm even going to try one myself, and if I'm not totally humiliated with all of your excellent entries, I'll post it after I announce the winner.

The winner this week will receive The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes, plus all the promo perks, and entry into the Grand Prize drawing in December.

May the best flash fiction win!!

Congratulations, Lynda Schab!

Congratulations to the Short Story Contest Winner Lynda Schab!

Congratulations also to all our other contestants for a job well done. Your stories were GREAT and your effort TREMENDOUS - please keep writing and submitting.

Now, let's learn a bit about Lynda:

Lynda Schab is an avid writer of inspirational and often humorous fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in greeting cards, magazines and several anthologies, as well as various online periodicals and websites. She works behind the scenes at FaithWriters.com by writing book reviews and monthly newsletters. She also conducts author interviews for FaithReaders.com. Lynda lives in Michigan with her husband and two children, where she is currently writing her first novel.

You can visit Lynda Schab on the web at:

Her FaithWriters Website
Her FaithWriters Home Page with more of her work
Her ShoutLife Page

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Voting is Now Open!

Welcome to all our short story enthusiasts! Read the 11 short stories below - each titled "Entry: Short Story" then mark your choice for best entry. You can only vote once, so encourage your family and friends to come back and vote, too!

The winner will be announced Monday.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Catch of the Day
by Stephanie Reed


Call me Simon. My brother Andy and I fish with our partners, James, John, and their dad, Zebedee. Fishing’s rough—I lost a fingernail when we hauled in this big catch.

My story started before sunup. We’d caught not one fish all night. We couldn’t catch a puff of wind in our sail. While we were washing our nets, this Guy hopped in our boat. He’s that Teacher, Jesus. A bunch of guys swarmed after Him. He said to set sail. Something in His face made me do it. Right away, a good breeze snapped the sail tight.

Things happen when Jesus is around, see? We don’t usually hang out with Him, but I did invite Him home after synagogue the other day. My wife’s mother makes awesome fish stew. Right before we got home, I remembered Mom said we were low on food—fishing hasn’t been good. Wait until she found out we had company!

I peeked in the door, but my wife didn’t see me. She knelt by Mom’s bed and begged God to save her. I stumbled over and touched Mom’s forehead. She moaned, “So hot!” Her eyes rolled back in her head. She was a goner.

My mouth was drier than the Sinai Desert in summer. I looked at Jesus. He touched Mom’s hand. One minute, she was all but dead, and the next, she’s up and well. She even stretched the stew to feed extra mouths and smiled. We all smiled.

So back to this morning. The mob screamed, “Jesus! Teach us!” Were they ever a sorry lot, all sick and maimed! Jesus took a breather while I dropped the anchor. Then He sat in the stern and taught the crowd. What He said sounded good to me. Andy and I had worked hard all night, so we kicked back in the bow with our hands behind our heads and enjoyed the breeze.

When Jesus sent the crowd home, I could have slept a week, but He saw our empty boat. He said, “Go deep and let down your net for a big catch.”

I squinted up at Him. He was serious! Now, I didn’t go to any fancy school, but I know fish. I’ve been to fish school; fish travel in schools, get it? My last name’s Bar-Jonah. That means ‘son of Jonah’. Ever hear a whale of a tale about another Jonah? So, see, I know fish.

Jesus knew about God stuff, but He had no clue about fish. He’s the kind of Guy that, when He says to do something, you just do it, though, so we went deep. When we stopped, I had to say it. “Not going to catch anything. Timing’s wrong.”

He shook out the net. Andy grabbed an end, so I shrugged. We fastened the net to the boat and stared at dead water.

The boat rocked. Right away, Jesus grabbed the net. “Rookie!” I thought. He smiled and pulled. I tugged. The net didn’t budge. I hauled until my back ached. Sweat poured off Andy. The net surfaced.

Sunrise touched the water with golden glints all spangled silver. The net looked like my mother-in-law’s fish stew on a good day, chock full of silvery fish.

I looked at Andy’s round eyes. I knew what he was thinking: “We can live a long time off this sale!” and “Fish fry!”

The fibers twisted. “It’s breaking!” I hollered.

Andy whistled for James and John to come quick. Their jaws dropped.

We scooped fish out of that net until our arms were numb. My fingernail ripped off and bled all over, and the salt water stung it. When we had the catch stowed away, our boats rode low. We were knee-deep in fish. We could barely tow our catch ashore. I was scared stiff. Good stuff like this just doesn’t happen to a guy like me.

I fell at Jesus’ knees. I said, “Master, depart from us! I am a sinful man!”

He tapped my shoulder. I looked up. “Don’t be afraid,” He told us, “From now on, you will catch men.”

So here we are. What did He mean, “catch men”? I have to know. I’m going to go with Him. My mother-in-law’s well, so my wife won’t be alone. Zebedee will sell our catch and divvy up the money for them while I follow Jesus. He knows how to catch fish. I can’t wait to see if He can really catch men!
Submitted by
Stephanie Reed



Thursday, July 12, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

The Birthday Party
By Amy Barkman



Debbie couldn’t really afford five dollars out of the little she had for groceries, but she didn’t care. She put the store brand chocolate cupcakes, ice cream, and birthday candles in her cart. It was Friday and as usual she cashed her check from the factory at the grocery on her way home.

Laurie’s fourth birthday was tomorrow and at least her little girl would have ice cream and cake to celebrate her life. While Debbie worked, Laurie stayed with the downstairs neighbor, Carlene. She seemed to be happy spending her days with the sitter’s two children who were three and two. She got to play big sister to Jameisha and Kyle.

On Tuesday of that week, Debbie told Laurie that the two little ones were invited to her birthday party on Saturday and they would have ice cream and cake. Laurie’s big brown eyes widened.

“And fairies too? I want fairies to come to my birdday party, Mama.”

Debbie’s heart sank. There was no way that she could arrange fairies.

“Well, maybe not fairies, sweetheart. But we’ll have fun.” She already asked for, and stashed away, a large sheet of paper from work. She was going to draw a donkey and let the little ones tape tails on the drawing. The prize would be an extra cupcake.

As Debbie reached the checkout lane an idea came to her mind. She could draw a fairy instead. And the kids could tape a wand in the fairy’s hand. She breathed a sigh of relief. Her Laurie would have a fairy at her party after all. Even if it was one her mother drew.

Debbie was grateful for the supervisor from work who gave her the paper. Brenda was a good woman. Not only did she give Debbie the large sheet that lined one of the incoming boxes but because she knew what Debbie was going to use it for, she brought some magic markers from home. Since she thought it was going to be a donkey picture, the markers were black and brown. But that was okay, Debbie could draw the outline of a fairy and the children’s imagination could fill in the rest.

Brenda was different from many of the other supervisors. She really seemed to care about those who worked for her. This week Brenda acted interested in all the details of Laurie’s birthday party and asked a lot of questions about it. Once several months earlier she actually invited Debbie to come to church.

Debbie considered going. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in God but she knew she wasn’t good enough for God. Look at the mess she’d made of her life. She really ought to take Laurie. Neither of them owned anything to wear to a church but the invitation made her start thinking. She found a Bible story book at the Good Will for twenty five cents and started reading to her little girl about God and His people. The child was interested in the Bible stories, especially the ones about angels, but she was more interested in the book of fairies that her mother found at the same time.

When she got to the apartment building, Debbie took the groceries upstairs and put them away before going to get Laurie from the sitter’s. Thank goodness the child didn’t know about real birthday parties, the kind Debbie remembered from her own childhood. Big cake with her name on it, balloons, lots of people and presents, and games. If Laurie knew about those things, she would be disappointed; but she didn’t and so tomorrow would be special and fun.

Carlene opened the door and Laurie looked up from where she sat on the floor playing patty cake with Jameisha. “Is it time for birdday, Mama?”

She gathered her child in her arms and enjoyed the innocent baby shampoo smell of her hair as she buried her nose in the brown curls. “No, sweetheart. That’s tomorrow. We eat supper and then go to sleep and then eat lunch and then we have the birthday party.”

Jameisha chimed in, “Birfday party! Birfday party!” She clapped her hands.

Carlene smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “They keep chattering about the birthday party. Kyle could care less but the girls…”

Debbie looked at Carlene with sadness. “I hope they aren’t too disappointed. It’s not going to be much.”

“It’ll be okay,” the sitter said.

After Laurie was in bed asleep, all the doubts and fears surfaced in Debbie’s heart. Why did she tell her baby about the party ahead of time? Now she was all excited and building it up in her mind. And what could her mother provide? Cupcakes, ice cream, and a homemade game. She went and retrieved the paper and markers. She got out the story book and did a fair job of reproducing the picture of Laurie’s favorite fairy. Debbie was always good at drawing. She thought back on the painting lessons she loved so much. Then with a bitter laugh she thought of the dance lessons, piano lessons, and flower arranging lessons. Her parents really prepared her for life!

She shook her head. It was her own fault, not theirs. But she wouldn’t trade her little girl for all the money in the world. She and Laurie would make it. She wished she could give her daughter all the things her own parents had given her. She couldn’t do that, but there was one thing she was able to give her baby. She would never turn her back on Laurie. She would give her child the most important thing, the thing her parents didn’t give her. She would love her and accept her no matter what she did.

Saturday morning gave the promise of a pretty day. It was April and the sun was shining but it was not yet too hot. By July the apartment would be oppressive and the window fan would just make it bearable, not comfortable but bearable.

Laurie came bouncing into the part of the apartment that was both kitchen and living room. “Birdday party, Mama?”

“Not yet. ‘Member? Mama told you after lunch.”

The little girl nodded. “And fairies will come.”

Debbie just hugged her daughter and didn’t answer.

They ate grilled cheese sandwiches with sweet pickles for lunch since that was Laurie’s favorite. Then came time to get ready for the party. The child didn’t own a dress but they put on her best play clothes and Debbie pulled out a ribbon which she pinned in the little girl’s hair.

Laurie stared at herself in the mirror that sat on the bathroom counter. “Pretty, Mama!”

Debbie laughed and kissed her daughter on the nose. “Yes, sweetheart, very pretty. Now, come on, we’re going down to Carlene’s.”

“No, Mama! Birdday party.”

“Yes, but you’re going to stay down there while I get the party ready. Okay?”

Laurie looked at her with suspicion but she went without further rebellion.

Debbie put the cupcakes on a plate and was placing four candles on one of them when a knock came at the door.

To her surprise Brenda stood there and there were several people behind her. One of them held lots of strings to which helium balloons were attached. Another held a box that looked like it came from a bakery. Two of them held wrapped gifts in their hands and one held some sacks.

Debbie stood there in silence, in shock. Then Brenda laughed. “Well, can we come in?”

“Yes! Please. I’m sorry. Come in!”

They all trooped in and laid the boxes and sacks on the table.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Brenda said. “I don’t want to be interfering but I just couldn’t get Laurie’s party out of my mind. So this morning I called some of my friends and, well, here we are.”

“How did you know where to come?”

“Work records. Do you mind?”

“Mind? Of course not.” One of the women took a cake out of the box. It said “Happy Birthday, Laurie” in green letters that were surrounded by yellow roses with green leaves.

Tears sprang to Debbie’s eyes. “How pretty! She will love it.”

Another person put four of the wrapped gifts on the table beside the couch. As she did, she turned to Debbie and handed her some smaller ones. “Here are some small gifts for the other children.”

“Where is Laurie?” Brenda asked.

“Downstairs, while I get ready. Oh! I’ve got to get the game out.” And she took the fairy out of the closet and got the paper wands and tape from a drawer. Brenda helped her tape it to the back of the front door.

“We’ll leave you now.”

“Can’t you stay? It would make it so special for her. There are only going to be the people she spends all day with every day.”

Brenda looked at the others and they all nodded. One of the ladies pulled out birthday plates and bowls from a sack and another opened a pack of plastic spoons.

When all was ready, Debbie took the broom and banged it on the floor three times, the prearranged signal for Carlene to bring the children upstairs.

The look on Laurie’s face when she walked in the door and saw all the people and balloons and birthday cake was worth all Debbie ever sacrificed to keep her baby.

Jameisha won the Pin the Wand on the Fairy game and received a coloring book and crayons. Kyle found the star under his plate and got a big orange ball. They both received another gift to open while Laurie opened her gifts. The first thing the birthday girl opened was a dress, her first dress, all pink and white and lacy. She looked up at Debbie. “Look Mama. For me?”

Debbie swallowed a lump. “Yes, sweetheart. For you.”

There was a Disney Princess coloring book with crayons, and some puzzles. There was also a fairy doll with wings. That drew even more excitement than the dress or other gifts. Then Glenda pulled an envelope out of her purse and handed it to Debbie. “This is a gift card for the mall. It will work in any store there. There’s enough to get some shoes to match the dress and an outfit for yourself.” She looked around at her friends who were laughing with the children. “This is my Sunday School class. They are great people. And we really truly want you to come to church. I think Laurie would enjoy the preschool class and we would love having you in ours.”

Debbie could tell that Brenda sincerely meant it. She nodded. “Okay. We’ll be there. I’ll go to the mall this afternoon. And we’ll see you in the morning. Oh! Where? And what time?”

When the guests left, Carlene and Debbie turned to each other and hugged. They smiled down at their children happily playing with their new possessions.

Later as Debbie and Laurie got out of the car at the mall, Laurie looked up at her Mama.

“No fairies came to my birdday party.”

“But there was a fairy game, and you got a fairy doll.” Debbie nodded toward the doll clutched in the little girl’s hand.

The little girl looked up at her with a very serious look. “I mean real fairies. No fairies came to my birdday party.”

Then she smiled the brightest smile her mother had ever seen on her face.

“No fairies came. But angels did.”

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”
Psalm 27:10

Submitted by
Amy Barkman




Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Maris Manor
by Carolyn Kenney


In the early afternoon, Christine leisurely walked down the path from Maris Manor to Colina Hill situated on the edge of the property. Rays from the sun slipped through the trees lining both sides of the wide lane. This part of the estate was not as popular among the inhabitants of the manor as it once was years ago. However, Christine loved it here where she could be alone with her thoughts. Her long flowing skirt brushed the grass beneath her feet. She took off her shoes and felt the soft earth stirring with each step she took.

Christine and her mother, Rose, lived alone in the beautiful mansion with their few servants. Her father, Patrick Kelly, had passed away two months before from an unexpected heart attack. Her parents had been so deeply in love. Christine felt her mother’s pain and deep loss every time she looked into her eyes. Christine, who was now nineteen, had attended a private girl’s school and had graduated shortly before her father’s death.

Her father had left them well off, or so she and her mother thought. Her uncle, Charles Kelly, had told them two weeks after the funeral that her father had not left a will. Patrick and Charles’ father, Sefton Kelly, had left his beautiful home to his oldest son, Patrick. Charles had inherited another stunning manor not far away. Now as the only surviving son of Sefton, Charles told Rose and Christine that Maris manor would now fall to him since there was no will. Uncle Charles said Rose and Christine could live there as long as they needed, but would be limited to a few rooms on the second floor.

Christine was deep in thought as she reached the top of Colina Hill; on the other side, it sharply descended to the raging sea below. Suddenly, a voice startled her.

Charles said, “Hello, Christine. I was hoping your mother would be here also. I could not find her in the house. You must watch out for her or something may happen.” There was a sneer on his face and his eyes had a sinister look to them. “I need papers in the library for my attorney. However, the door is locked.”

“The papers and everything in that library now belong to my mother,” said Christine.

“You will have to ask her if she will let you in, but do not count on it!”

“My dear,” said Charles. “We must learn to trust and respect one another. We only have each other now.”

Ignoring him, Christine said, “I must be getting home.”

“Let me help you,” said Charles. He gripped her shoulder firmly forcing her to stop where she stood. The sea raged behind her.

“Let go!” Charles released her abruptly and she stumbled forward. As she walked down the path, she could hear Charles laughing.

She was almost home when she heard a familiar voice. “Christine!” James Bentley was walking towards her.

“James!” said Christine. “James, am I glad to see you!” As she watched him walk around the bend, she all but rushed into his arms. Although James was two years older, they had been friends since childhood. He lived with his parents and brother in the neighboring estate a few miles away. He was now studying law and had grown into a handsome young man. Christine was overjoyed at seeing him again. It had been too long.

“James, when did you get home?” Christine inquired with joy.

“I arrived today,” said James. “I was anxious to see you. How are you? I missed you!

How is your mother?” The tender look on James’s face made Christine relax and almost forget the conversation that had taken place with her uncle.

“Oh James, I was up on Colina Hill taking a walk and trying to sort things out. Uncle
Charles followed me! He scares me and I do not know what to do. I cannot say anything to mother about him because she is still grieving for father. Please come into the manor with me and have some tea with us. I need to take my mind off these sad events. Tell me, how is law school? It must be so interesting. The people you meet, the places you visit. I wish I could go to college, but young ladies must stay home, learn how to manage a house, knit, sew and raise a family. You are so lucky.”

“Believe me,” said James, “the classes are difficult. I spend most afternoons and nights in my room studying. But, that is not all I do, I must admit. I think of you often.” He blushed and turned in her direction. “Christine, my heart goes out to you and your mother over the loss of your father. What can I do to help?”

Christine was relieved at James’ apparent feelings for her. She was also happy to know she had someone she could turn to in her current distress. “Oh James, Uncle Charles told my mother that my father did not leave a will. Now, he will inherit Maris Manor and all the land. I cannot believe it. I heard father and Thomas Mitchell, his financial advisor, talking shortly before father’s death about the will. I never said anything, but now I think that I should let my mother know. I know there is a will. I also think Uncle Charles knows, but it‘s funny nobody seems to know where the will is now. Charles only wants this manor.”

“You haven’t been told what is in the will?” asked James in amazement.

“No, after father’s death, mother was totally devastated.” said Christine. “No one wanted to cause her any further grief. Actually, Mr. Abington, our lawyer, is coming this afternoon to see mother. Hopefully, he will have some good news for us!”

“If you like,” said James, “I would be more than happy to stay when Mr. Abington comes to visit you and your mother.”

“James, that would be wonderful. Mother will be so happy. Come in and have lunch while we wait for Mr. Abington.”

Sitting in the drawing room that afternoon, Thomas Abington said, “I drew up Patrick’s will, but he wanted to keep it himself. He took the will and I never saw it again. Did he say where he put it?”

Panic-stricken, Rose Kelly said, “Patrick told me about the will, but never said where he put it. I assumed you would have it.”

Thomas said, “It must be somewhere in this house. The sooner one of you find’s it, the better. When you do, please let me know at once.”

“We will Thomas,” said Rose and walked him to the door.

Christine said, “James, can you stay for lunch?”

“No, but I’ll return tomorrow. We can look for the will after lunch.”

“James, you’re a wonderful friend.”

“I’m glad to help,” he said smiling tenderly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As Christine walked slowly to her room, she suddenly remembered the widow‘s walk at the top of the manor! A little alcove was located near it. Years ago, her father had given Christine the key, which she put away and forgot all about - until now.

She hurried to her room, found the key and headed for the stairs to the alcove. Once at the top, she opened the door. Feeling inside the dark space, her hand suddenly fell upon an envelope. Carefully she brought it outside into the light. Her heart raced as she saw her father’s familiar handwriting with the words “Final Will and Testament.”

“What do you have?” said Charles.

Startled, Christine turned and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I see you have the will!”

“Yes! Now, you will never get this house!”

“Give me the will!” exclaimed Charles.

Suddenly, James walked through the door and shouted, “Get away from her Charles!”

“J-James,” said Charles. “I didn’t expect to see you.”

“I bet you didn’t.” Leave this property - now!”

“Th-this is my l-land!” he exclaimed.

“No, Charles it isn‘t your land and never will be!” replied James. “Now leave, once and for all!”

Charles turned and started for the door. Turning he said, “You haven’t seen the last of me!”

Walking to Christine, James said softly, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, but why did you come back?”

“I thought you could use a little company. I saw you go outside to the widow’s walk.

Charles was right behind you! But, from now on you’ll never have to worry again.”

“James, I hope you’re right. I don’t think we have seen the last of Charles Kelly.”
Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Jordan
By
Lee Franklin


The smell of burning rubber assaulted Jordan’s nostrils as he forced his eyes
open. Reaching up he gingerly touched the egg-sized lump on the side of his head.
One minute the tour bus had been driving along and the next they were crashing down a steep embankment. The last thing he remembered was hearing a woman scream before his world went black.

Wincing Jordan got to his feet, waiting for the dizziness to abate before daring to look around.The bus had landed on its side, one wheel spinning lazily while luggage lay strewn across the dirt. All around him, people wandered dazed and frightened.

Moaning appeared to be coming from the upturned bus. Clambering carefully over seats and broken glass he found a young woman lying beneath the debris. Moving rubbish off her, he checked her pulse and did a cursory examination of her body. Feeling through her blonde hair for contusions, he was relieved to find that other than cuts and bruises she appeared unharmed. Looking down, he was startled to find green eyes locked on his. Relief flooded him. At least she was conscious.

“Am I dead?” she groaned, trying to sit up.
“Not unless your idea of heaven is sitting in a mangled heap of metal. Personally, I prefer the idea of soft clouds and angels playing harps and catering to my every whim. He tilted his head to one side. “Naked angels of course.”

“Of course.” She responded dryly. “Naked angels. Why hadn’t I thought of
that?”
“You mean you’ve never wondered about the whole ‘what do angels wear under the white robe’ thing?” Jordan’s flippant tone belied the concern in
his eyes.

“Nope, can’t say that ever crossed my mind.” Grabbing hold of Jordan’s hand, she pulled herself up and allowed him to help her slowly out of the wreck. Leading her over to the nearest tree, he eased her down onto the ground. Ripping the bottom of his shirt, he proceeded to bandage a nasty cut on her leg.

“So how are you feeling now?”
She gave him a wry smile. “You mean other than feeling like I’ve gone a dozen
rounds with my ex and he won?”

Jordan winced. “Ouch. He sounds like a real fun person to be around. So when did you two decide to call it quits?”

“We didn’t. He was killed in a fight over gambling debts six months ago.” She
paused, watching him deftly bandage her leg. “You sure seem to know what you’re
doing. Are you a doctor?”

Admiring his handiwork, Jordan sat back on his haunches and smiled. “Nope,
Jordan Gillespie, registered nurse at your service.”

Taking the proffered hand, she shook it. “Sally Beaumont, housewife extraordinaire.” Feeling self-conscious, she pulled her hand away. “I thought nurses were supposed to be women?”

“Tsk Tsk Miss Beaumont. Your education has been sadly lacking. Haven’t
you ever heard of ‘Super Nurse’?”
Sally laughed. “Super Nurse? You can’t be serious?”

“Would I lie to you?” Placing his hand on his heart Jordan gave his most
convincing wounded impression. “Where do you think the whole Superman thing came from in the first place?” Not waiting for her to answer he continued. “Faster than a speeding ambulance, more powerful than a Lydocaine drip, able to leap over little old ladies in a single bound; it’s Super Nurse!”

Sally’s grin widened. “Now I really have heard everything. So, do you usually go around rescuing damsels in distress or is this just a hobby?” Jordan was about to respond when a man rushed up, his face ashen. “Do either of you know any first aid?”

Jordan jumped to his feet. “I’m a nurse. What’s wrong? “The man looked at Jordan sceptically. “You’re a nurse? I thought nurses were supposed to be women?”
Sally snorted. Jordan raised one eyebrow at her before turning to the man. “Yes.” He said wearily. “I am a nurse. Men can be nurses you know. They
don’t all have to be doctors.”

The man looked unsure. “It’s my wife, she’s having a baby.” Jordan and Sally looked at each and then back at the man. “You mean she’s pregnant?” asked Sally.

“No. I mean yes she’s pregnant, but she’s having the baby. Now. She’s
having the baby right now.” Jordan jumped to his feet. “Let’s go and see about making you a daddy.” He bent down to speak to Sally. “You sure you’ll be ok?”
Sally grinned. “Go get ‘em Jordan Gillespie. I’ll be right here waiting for you. If you need any help then just yell. “Jordan squeezed her hand and stood to follow the man.
“Hey Jordan!” she called after him. “What do angels wear under those robes?”


Submitted by
Lee Franklin

Friday, July 6, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Thankful for the Fire
by Christy Stenger


As Heather and her husband, Jeremy, drove to church that Sunday, there was an old song playing. It’s message was one of not understanding God’s plan but that He was there still the same. Heather knew He was there in the fire with them. All she could do was pray with tears in her eyes was, “Why so much pain.” All the Lord would say was, “You will understand someday.”

Heather did not want that answer. She wanted justice and revenge for all that had happened, but the Lord was using all this to teach them many things. Jeremy and Heather would come to realize you can’t trust everyone who calls themselves a Christian. They would learn to depend upon God and prayer more. The Lord also made sure they would depend on the knowledge of what their former pastor had said to be right with God and be obedient to His Word would make all things turn out right.

As the song was playing, Heather reached into her memory to recall all what had taken place. They would go through many fires.

Jeremy and Heather were so excited to come back to the United States after spending 3 years overseas. Jeremy was in the military and they moved a lot over the years. Heather was more nervous since she knew she was not a spiritual baby anymore. They moved to the Midwest so Jeremy could work on his master’s degree at Wright Patterson Air Force Base for two years.

Heather had put some trust into a lady who she had thought was a friend. They talked almost daily on the phone and now she knows that’s wrong. Heather would tell the lady what she thought of the previous service or thoughts on what was missing in their church. The lady did not understand the things Heather was saying. She took it the wrong way. Heather had not meant for it to be considered critizing. Heather was wrong in talking that way and she had to learn it the hard way.

When Heather heard the things she had said come over the pulpit, she knew she could trust no one anymore except Jeremy and trusted old friends. They found out there was a gossip problem in their church the hard way. It hurt so deeply that it affected her sleep and consumed her prayer life.

They then moved to the east coast, she was a mess. Heather could not fully trust anyone not even the pastor. She did however tell the pastor all that took place and she was watching him to see if he was a doer of the Word or just a hearer. The pastor said he would pray for her.

It took three years to fully be healed of that hurt. Being hurt spiritually takes alot
longer to heal than physical pain. God has to deal with a person slowly and consistently
so you will forgive. Heather did not want bitterness or unforgiveness to cause her to be lost. She would ask the Lord many times to help her to forgive.

1 Peter 1:7 states, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Heather was tried by fire and knew what that felt like. The fire does make a person stronger. It may not seem like it, but when the Lord’s done you will be ready for ministry.

God has made her vessel of honor for His glory. Heather can now say thank You for the fire and the lessons it teaches.


Submitted by
Christy Stenger

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Found Gold
by Paul R. Lloyd


Wandering along an old worn path through a wood, he stumbled on a tree root but did not fall. Instead, he caught himself by grabbing a low-hanging tree branch over the trail. While turning around to look at the root, he tripped over a rock.

He spun as he fell and pushed out with his hands to catch the ground, hitting the dirt path with a solid thump, kicking up dust and kissing dirt. At first, he lay still, but then he lifted his head, spit out the muck, and rolled over, while clutching his knee.

The pain was excruciating. Good, he thought. The serious injuries don't hurt as bad as the minor ones.

As the pain subsided, he breathed easier and looked at the rock that was his undoing. It was an ordinary stone. Rather small as far as rocks go. Perhaps the path makers had ignored it as too tiny to bother moving off the trail. But there it was, solidly reminding him of his human frailty and blindness.

He heard scampering up ahead and peaked in time to see two chipmunks scurrying out from under a small clump of dried leaves, headed for a gathering of nearby cinnamon ferns. A bit of bright orange in the overturned leaves caught his eye.

Without bothering to stand, he pulled himself over to the tiny leaf pile. He was not ready to test his achy knee yet because, in addition to his fall, an old injury had rendered it not fully trustworthy.

The orange something was barely visible among the brown leaves. Carefully, he brushed them aside to reveal two tiny orange mushrooms standing among the fallen leaves.

The mushrooms appeared like little guardians of the forest floor. Then the more he thought about it, the more the mushrooms seemed like fat diminutive monarchs lording it over the worms, termites and ants. The scurrying creatures paid no heed of their majesties, which was just as well since their regal highnesses merely stood and stared.

He brushed more leaves aside to get a better impression of the mushroom sovereigns when something glittered in the sun a few inches away. Dusting the spot carefully with his fingers, he uncovered a tiny gold cross. He picked it up and marveled at this lost treasure. Somewhere someone was the poorer for it.

He imagined a young girl. Perhaps she was in love. Yes, and the cross was a gift from her true love. He had gone away. Where? To college. He was a student. No, not romantic enough. A soldier. Yes, a soldier. He had been wounded. He told her about it in a letter. She was afraid.

How could she marry a cripple?

She ran into the woods weeping under a tree, providing moisture for mushroom kings and queens to grow. She was frightened, nervous. What should she do? She wouldn't marry him this way. How could she?

She was tugging at her necklace becoming frightened and nervous. Then the necklace broke, the cross was gone. She gasped. It was his cross.

He had given it to her as a symbol and pledge of their love. He had their initials engraved on the back. Now it was gone. With great remorse, she went back from where she had come.

He smiled, closed his eyes and pictured the young girl sitting where he now lay, injured from a trip over a rock. His wound ached when he thought about it. Otherwise, the pain was gone. But he didn't want to get up just yet. He preferred to think longer about the cross. He rubbed the dirt off it and brought out the old shine. He turned the cross over, wiping a tear from his eye as he read the old initials, hers first and then his own.


Submitted by
Paul R. Lloyd

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

The Last First One
by Chandra Lynn Smith


“Sorry I’m late, the dog wouldn’t stop fetching the snake.” She plopped into the only empty chair, across from me. Nice view.

I’d been sitting with my cousin and her friends for ten minutes—ten boring minutes—until she walked up.

She eyed me, “Do I know you?”

“Stacy, this is my cousin, Travis Wolfe,” Jane answered.

Reaching across the table, she shook my hand. “Hi Travis.” A glance from me to Jane and a nod, “I do see a resemblance.” She draped her jacket on the back of her chair then wagged her finger. “Oh yeah – Travis-- the BB gun episode?” A knowing grin framed her face. “I’ve heard all about you.”

How could Jane tell that to anyone? “Ja-ane?”

“Hey, we grew up together. They know all about our summers in the Ozarks.”

One of them laughed. “My life was boring, I lived vicariously through your escapades. The BB gun doesn’t sound familiar though.”

Jane winked at me, “See, I do keep some of the family secrets.”

I hated the warmth on my cheeks. “Not anymore.” Across the table, Stacy smiled at me. Nice. “Welcome to the ‘lunch bunch.’”

“Lunch bunch?”

“We’ve been together since lunches in High School. Each week those of us available meet for lunch. You’re welcome as long as you leave the BB gun at home.” Her nose crinkled with her crooked grin.

One of the women sighed. “Alright already, who’s going to tell us about that BB gun?”

“No one. Today’s snake story day. BB guns will have to wait for another day.”

Phew. Don’t want to get into that today.

Stacy waved towards the counter, “Hey Joanie, can I get some coffee here?”

“Hold yer horses or dogs, I’m comin’. And don’t be tellin’ about that snake till I get back.”

I loved their easy banter. Maybe moving here was a good idea after all.

“I better wait to tell my story till she gets back. Travis, what brings you to our little town?” She twined her hands together and rested her chin on them. The interest in her eyes was sincere.

“I came for a visit, but think I might stay.”

“This is a big change from the city life.”

“Bo Mason offered me a job. I know it sounds strange, but I kinda like the idea of running a small airport whose runway also serves as Main Street. And I’m worn out from job stress and city hustle. I think the best times I ever had were the summers in the Ozarks.” I took a bite if sandwich and shrugged. “Well, except for rattlesnakes and BB guns.”

She brushed some loose hair out of her face. How could a simple action could stop my breath?

“Well Travis, this is a great place to settle down.” She smiled again. Wow, green eyes, freckles, long red hair, bet the curls drive her crazy, they were me.

The waitress, Joanie, came back to the table with more coffee and a plate of sandwiches. She pulled up a chair, joining us, I guess. “Travis, I’m Joanie. This bunch has been coming so long we don’t even bother with orders. I just bring them a plate of sandwiches. I suggest you grab, cuz Jane’s hubby takes the best ones fast!”

“Hey, I take offense to that remark,” Mike replied.

“No you don’t, you know it’s true.” Jane nudged him. “Eat up everybody. And Stacy, the floor is yours.” She mock bowed to Stacy.

“I took the dogs, Jake and Jasper, out one more time before coming. Big mistake. There was a cute little black snake on my sidewalk. I told it I didn’t want it so close to my house—“

I shuddered. “A cute snake? You talked to it?”

“Well, yeah.” I got the feeling she didn’t see anything unusual about that. She flipped that curl out of her face. “Anyway, I picked it up and tossed it out to the field.”

A chill crept up my spine, palms sweating. Touch a snake? Not since that rattler cornered me in that shower stall. I could see it coiled up in the doorway. The rattles shaking loud warnings at me. A wave of nausea overpowered me.

Her brow wrinkled. “You okay Travis?”

“Umm, yeah sorry. I don’t do snakes.” I cleared my throat. “Go ahead.”

“After I tossed it into the field, Jasper took off after it and brought it back to me. He laid it on the sidewalk at my feet. Three times I tossed that snake and each time he retrieved it. It was a grand game. Poor snake, probably wondered what was going on.”

I squirmed. “Poor snake? This is beyond my comprehension.”

She finished a bite of sandwich and brushed that curl from her face, stopping my breath again. “It was only a little black snake, totally harmless. Jasper didn’t even care when his ‘stick’ moved in his mouth! I finally made him stay at the house while I carried the snake out to the field and let it go. When I released Jasper, he spent at least twenty minutes searching for it. Finally, he sighed and picked up a real stick and brought it to me.”

After a while curiosity got the better of me. “Umm, Stacy, I just gotta ask this. Why would you go to all that trouble with the snake? Why not just kill it?”

She put her fork down and stared at me, my throat froze shut as if it had been punched. She giggled.

Joanie laughed first, then everyone joined. “Boy, you are new here. Stacy kill a snake? She can’t even kill a fly!”

“She’s right, I’m a softie. I used to bring home every creepy- crawly thing I found. Mama made me empty my pockets as I walked in the door.”

Joanie interrupted. “Yeah, Aunt Mel learned the hard way to do that.”

“What do you mean?” I took the bait, anything to keep her talking and smiling at me.

“I brought things in and wanted to keep them all for pets. I had jars with all sorts of creatures in my room.” A crooked grin crossed her face. “And they frequently escaped.”

“Yeah, I remember that little ring-necked snake. You didn’t speak to your Ma for days after that.” Joanie said.

Stacy pouted. “Well, she killed it. All it was doing was looking for shelter.” She picked up her sandwich. “So what if it was under that stack of towels.”

I jumped. “Another snake? Under a stack of towels? Oh, I would have died.”

She laughed out loud, a happy sound. “My Ma nearly did. She freaked out and grabbed the first thing she could find- a comet can- and whacked it. She decapitated the poor thing. I was furious.”

“I think me and your Ma would have gotten along great.” My turn to wink at her.

She frowned. “After the funeral I didn’t speak to her for days.”

I shook my head. “Funeral?”

She giggled. “Yeah, I made her have a funeral for the snake she murdered.”

She had to be the most unique woman I ever met.

“After that, Ma made me empty my pockets before coming inside.”

“Wise woman,” I said.

“Oh what a fuddy-duddy.” She took a bite of sandwich and a swallow of milk. The milk mustache it left was endearing. She licked her lips.

Oh my.

She finished the last bite. “It was just a snake.”

Just a snake? I swallowed my tea before spewing it across the table. “Yeah, like today’s was a ‘cute’ black snake.”

“Well it was. Besides, black snakes keep the rodent population down at my farm.”

“Wouldn’t cats do that ? And they are much more pleasant to have around.”

“Got them too. You’ll have to come out sometime.”

Jane’s elbow nudged my ribs. “Why not today?” Forever the matchmaker.

“Well -- uh -- I -- I guess I could. If it wouldn’t be a bother?”

“I’d love it.” Wow, she was gorgeous. “It’s not far, my place is on the edge of town.”

“Okay. What about sn--” Ouch. I scowled at Jane. “Never mind.”

We strolled through town. She pointed out the landmarks. At the school, she stopped. “I love to watch children. Pure honesty before the world teaches them to hide.” She pointed to a group of girls. “See them? At that age boys are either pals or tormentors. Mine was Mike, Jane’s hubby, I spent my days either playing in the creek with him or figuring out what to do to him before he pulled my braids.”

I’d like to pull her braids.

“See those older girls over there?” She pointed towards another group. “They’re probably talking about boys. Who likes who. They wonder about pretty much one thing. When will they get the first kiss? Who will it be? What will it be like? The first kiss is important.” She paused and looked up at me. “Girls are silly that way.” She shrugged and turned away. We resumed the stroll.

“So, who was your first kiss? And what was it like?” Had I just asked that? Too late, it was out there now.

“Mike, of course.”

“Is that awkward? I mean, he married your best friend.”

“Well, guess not, Jane’s still my best friend. I tease them and say one kiss from me and he ran to her.” She looked up at me. “What about yours?”

“My what?”

She knuckle-punched my shoulder and did that nose wrinkle thing again. “Turnabout’s fair play. Your first kiss.”

“Sally Noble. She was year older than me. We were pals, like you and Mike. One day she told me she wondered what a kiss would be like.” I kicked at the dirt road. “We liked it.”

Silence. What was she thinking about? She stopped at the end of a long lane. “Here we are.” She pointed to the sign ‘Best Friends.’

“Your place?” A long tree-lined lane stretched before us. The spent cherry blossoms were lightly falling to the ground like a shower of petals. The gravel was coated with pink and white.

She ran her hand along the fence as we walked. “I grew up here. After college, I started my business here and took care of my parents.” She picked up a fallen flower. “They’re both gone now. It’s just me and the animals.” Her hand reached for mine. “I’ll give you the tour.”

There were dogs, horses, goats and cats everywhere. The old wooden farmhouse looked well cared for and the yard was dotted with flowers beds. Each bed was in full bloom. How could she keep up with all of it?

Watching her with the animals was a treat. Her gentleness with the dogs, strength with the horses and the way they all came to her as she called them by name impressed me.

The way she lingered over a field of daisies intrigued me. I watched her repeatedly brush the loose curls from her face. When she stood close to me I caught a flowery scent. Being with her felt like a summer day, like home.

Hours passed like seconds. It was time for me to go. I liked the way the air felt around her. Her laughter, her smile, the depth of her eyes, the animals everywhere all drew me, called me to linger. Her childlike joy brought to mind the children on the playground.

Call it impulsive, or stupid, but as we stood at the end of her lane in the waning sunlight, I said, “Stacy? You never told me what women wonder about?”

She looked at the ground, then back at me. Her eyes darkened, she almost breathed the answer, “That’s easy. They wonder when they will get their last first kiss.”

I cupped her face in my hands, tilted her chin up and kissed her. Our lips met. Our hearts connected. I pulled back, looked in her eyes and said, “That was it.”


Submitted by
Chandra Lynn Smith

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Maynard’s Pretty Good Day
Richard Leonard


The chicken feed was disappearing faster than usual, but the hens didn’t seem to be producing any more eggs. Maynard was not worried. After all, it was only chicken feed compared to his other farm expenses. But it was a mystery. The feed bin was emptying quickly. Maynard knew he would soon get to the bottom of it.

He had almost finished his chores, but made a last minute check. He wanted to be sure he had swept out all the other bins. Bin there, done that. Satisfied, he stuffed the check into the pocket of his overalls and filled the feed troughs for the swine. They ate like pigs. Maynard headed for the house.

Entering the kitchen, Maynard found that his elderly neighbor, Zeke, had arrived and was seated at the table with his daughter Molly. They were playing a game of cards. Molly was wearing the pearl necklace her grandmother had given her. Myrtle, his wife, was fixing something on the stove. The pipe had come out, and she was trying to reattach it. To protect herself from dust, she was wearing her stovepipe hat.

“I don’t know why the chicken feed is disappearing so fast,” said Maynard.

“Do you think those wild geese in the meadow are coming in and eating the feed?” asked Zeke.
Myrtle spoke up, but Maynard couldn’t understand her. She was talking through her hat. Besides, a grimy storm window, stored behind the stove, was in the way. Finally, Myrtle wiped off the window and made herself clear. “Yes, Maynard! Yesterday I saw a couple of females come into the barnyard. And then one of the males followed. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“That would explain what I found this morning,” said Maynard. Reaching into his egg basket, he pulled out a large, gold‑colored egg. “This must be a goose egg. Do you think it’s any good?”

“Put a candle behind it, Molly,” said Zeke, “and see if you can tell if there’s a yolk.”

Molly, standing next to him, tried to lift the egg. “It’s a pretty heavy egg,” she said. “I can’t hold a candle to that.” Before she could catch it, the egg slipped out of her hand and landed on Zeke’s bald head, breaking apart.

“I guess the yolk’s on me!’ exclaimed Zeke. Myrtle wondered if their neighbor had been hurt by the impact, and after cleaning off the mess she examined his head. But there was no goose egg there.

“I need you to get me a chicken for dinner,” Myrtle said to Maynard.

“Give me a hand, Molly,” said Maynard.

Molly gave him her cards. He stuffed them into the pocket of his overalls. Molly rose to follow him into the barnyard, still wearing the necklace.

“Don’t wear those in the barnyard!” Myrtle warned her. “If the string breaks, you’ll just be casting your pearls before swine.”

Removing the necklace, Molly went to help her father catch a chicken. The hens, as if sensing their fate, began crossing the road to get to the other side.

Maynard snagged one of the chickens, but was able to free it from the barbed wire fence. Grabbing his hatchet from the shed, he put the chicken on a block of wood and asked Molly to hold it there.

“Poor chicken!” sighed Molly. “Your head is on the chopping block now!”

Raising his ax, Maynard dispatched the chicken with one fell swoop. Molly released the chicken, which began to run about the barnyard like a chicken with its head cut off. In the process, the hen dropped the dispatch that had been tucked under her wing. Maynard picked it up and stuffed it into the pocket of his overalls.

“If you feel sorry for the chickens, you can’t be my helper any more,” said Maynard sternly to Molly. “Here, put this away.” He gave her the ax.

Father and daughter returned to the house, where Zeke was still talking to Myrtle. She had finished her task at the stove and was now mounting a large number 7 on the kitchen wall.

“What’s that for?” Maynard inquired.

“I was thirsty and just wanted a 7 up,” explained Myrtle.

Bored with the card game, Molly went to rouse the aged Pal, asleep in the corner of the kitchen.

“Let sleeping dogs lie,” said Myrtle. But Molly persisted, trying to get the dog to jump through a hoop. The dog had never done that before.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Maynard warned her.

“Good exercise,” said Zeke. “I was thinking of learning that trick myself. But I figured I would have to jump through too many hoops. I calculated it would be about 6,453. And figures don’t lie.” At that point the large number 7 fell off the wall and landed on the floor, where it lay. “I guess I was wrong,” Zeke admitted.

Maynard picked up the number 7, tucked it into the pocket of his overalls, and went back outside for another barnyard chore.

Frustrated with the dog, Molly resumed her card game with Zeke. But in a few minutes Maynard broke in.

“Why did you do that?” asked Myrtle. “You could have just opened the door like anyone else. Now I’ll have to fix that, too.”

“If it’s fixed, you won’t be able to budge it,” Zeke observed.

“Our family finances are none of your business!” Myrtle retorted.

“Never mind all that,” said Maynard. “I just wanted to read the paper for a while.”

Myrtle handed him the morning paper. Maynard settled into the rocking chair and began to read. But in a moment he spoke up again.

“Myrtle, we’re going to have to move!”

Myrtle was wiping the dishes. “Why? Don’t you like this place?”

“Yes, but it isn’t safe. It says here that most accidents occur within five miles of home. So I think we need to move.” He stood up.

“Are you off your rocker?” Zeke asked.

“Oh, give me a break!” exclaimed Myrtle. At that moment the two dishes she was holding shattered in her hands.

“And, look at this!” Maynard exclaimed to Zeke, “These wild geese are such a problem that they’re offering a bounty on them.”

Zeke didn’t answer right away. He was looking at Myrtle, who was on her hands and knees, sobbing. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Things have fallen apart,” she answered. “And I’m just trying to pick up the pieces.”

Maynard helped his wife, and she composed herself. Actually, some of her songs were quite good.

“I think we need to go after those geese,” said Maynard. “Will you go with me, Zeke?”
The old neighbor was still playing the game with Molly. “I’m not sure,” he answered after a moment.

“Why not?” asked Maynard.

“I was looking here for advice on whether to go with you. But it’s just not in the cards.”
But Zeke finally agreed to go. Maynard went to the cabinet and pulled out a couple of the eleven shotguns he and Myrtle had received as gifts when they had married. They often fondly recalled their shotgun wedding.

Just then the phone rang. Myrtle answered it. While she was talking, Maynard and Zeke started for the door, with the dog Pal following.

Myrtle ended her conversation. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” she asked.

“Out to look for geese,” Maynard answered.

“Now, just hold the phone!” exclaimed Myrtle, handing him the receiver.

Myrtle left the room. Maynard stood holding the telephone for a while, but finally decided he had held it long enough. He stuffed it into the pocket of his overalls, and went out with Zeke and the dog.

To reach the woods, they had to follow a long path back through Maynard’s property along the edge of a park. Because the path was often muddy in wet weather, Maynard had laid boards down over it. As he and Pal moved along, Maynard looked back to make sure Zeke was still lumbering after them.

Before long they came to the ruins of an old foundation. Maynard remembered there had once been a few houses here on the boardwalk, at the park place. From here, they could take a chance and head directly for the woods. No one had a monopoly on the short lines. They would Go for it.

As they neared the woods, Maynard thought he saw a goose. He took aim and fired. But it was just a blue jay, and Maynard’s shot only grazed the top if its head. Crestfallen, the bird flew off. Then Maynard spotted another bird, a black starling. The bird did not appreciate the drops of white paint Maynard had sprinkled on it.

Soon they saw the large flock of geese feeding in the meadow at the edge of the woods. Pal took off after them, but found he could not stay airborne, and continued the chase on foot. The men followed.

The geese flew towards the trees, the dog in pursuit. When the men caught up with him he was standing at the base of a tree, gnawing on one of the lower branches. Maynard pulled him away, noticing that the branch was hardly damaged. Then the old dog tried to make noise, but only hoarse whispers came out. His bark was worse than his bite.

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, Pal,” said Zeke. “The bird you want is over there.”
Maynard saw the bird Zeke had pointed out, and raised his gun.

Zeke was alarmed. “Are you going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?”

At the sudden sound of Zeke’s alarm, the geese flew off again in another direction. Finally he managed to silence the device. Exasperated, he exclaimed, “Maynard, this is just a wild goose chase!”

“True,” Maynard agreed. “Let’s get a few, and collect that bounty.”

The geese were not hard to locate again, for they were making quite a racquet. Maynard thought he could give it to his brother, who played tennis a lot, but he decided he wouldn’t be able to carry it back.

Zeke finally shot one goose, and Maynard two. He couldn’t carry both geese with one arm and the gun in the other, so he uprooted a sturdy shrub, tied his geese at each end, and hung them from his shoulder.

Returning to the house, the men laid their geese in the back of Zeke’s pickup, which he had nicknamed Silence. They rode in Silence down to the village to collect their money.

Zeke handed his goose across the official’s table, and the man gave him a dollar. Maynard then laid the shrub with his two geese on the table. The man also gave him a dollar. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” the official explained.

Maynard stuffed his dollar into the pocket of his overalls. The men rode in Silence back to the farm. Zeke made his way home, borrowing Maynard’s bulldozer to grade the road. He gave it a passing grade, in case of slow traffic. Maynard watched him drive off, emitting a cloud of fumes from the tailpipe.

Maynard was exhausted, and wanted to retire early. But Myrtle dissuaded him. “If you do that,” she explained, “you won’t get the full Social Security benefit.” So he just went up to their bedroom. Myrtle had not yet made the bed, but thoughtfully she had left some lumber in the bedroom along with a hammer, a saw, and some nails. Maynard finished the job and put on his pajamas.

Then he emptied his overall pockets, and contemplated all the stuff he had put in: the check, the hand of cards, the chicken’s dispatch, the large number 7, the telephone, and his dollar. Hanging his clothes on a peg, he stood back and spoke to his pants: “Well, we had some problems today, didn’t we? But, overall, we had a pretty good day!”


Submitted by
Richard Leonard

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

A Bun Dance
By Lynda Schab


Emily fluffed a pillow against the arm of the couch and settled back for an evening of entertainment. Who needed the movies or a night out on the town? Even front row tickets to her favorite Christian rock band couldn’t hold a candle to this. She turned to her husband, Carl, currently immersed in his evening entertainment—Monday night football. Bleh.

“Your bun’s dancing again.” That should get his attention.

“My what?”

“Your bun – in the oven. It’s dancing. Wanna feel?”

Carl rolled his eyes and turned back to the T.V. “I’m as excited as you are, hon, but please don’t refer to our baby as a carbohydrate. Dr. Phil would not approve.”

Emily pouted playfully. “You have to ruin all the fun. You used to like it when I mentioned your buns.” She tossed a blue throw pillow at him, hitting him square in the head. “Take that!”

Emily turned her attention to her swollen belly. The baby sure was active – much more active than their first baby, Tyler, had been. Lately, she felt like her insides were being kicked out and often wondered if her spleen might suddenly come crashing onto the floor. Although only five months along, she felt enormous. Not that she was complaining. She and Carl started trying for another baby when Tyler was two. Eight years later, God finally fulfilled their desire for another child. Enormous was a tiny price to pay for a baby.

Emily reached for the remote control (amazingly abandoned by Carl) and placed it on her stomach, over her protruding belly button. She giggled as it wobbled back and forth. She was vaguely aware of Carl shooting a strange look over his shoulder but she was used to that; it didn’t take much to amuse her.

The ultrasound was scheduled for the next day and Emily couldn’t wait. Finally, she would know how to decorate the nursery. Would they go with the bright blue dinosaur theme or the purple and yellow daisies? Carl was certain it was another boy. Emily had a sneaking suspicion it was a girl this time. Regardless of the gender, they would be happy with a healthy baby.

“So do you want to talk names again?” Emily asked.

Carl responded by yelling at the television. “That was a horrible call! Did you see that?”

Emily tossed another throw pillow at Carl. “Do you mind? He or she can hear you, you know. Our baby is probably cowering in the corner right now. Please…lower your voice.”

“I’m teaching him the proper way to watch a football game.”

“Good one.” It was Emily’s turn to roll her eyes. “So…the names. What do you think?”

“What about Peyton Manning? Peyton’s perfect for a girl or boy, don’t you think?” Carl tossed a pillow back at Emily and she caught it mid-air.

“Ha, ha. That’s gonna happen. Not. I was thinking …Bunny for a girl. And Ruebun for a boy. I know how much you like those “buns.”

“Uh…I don’t think so. And besides, it’s Rueben, not bun.”

“Whatever. Ruebun sounds better to me.”

Carl turned his attention back to the television. “Isn’t it past your bedtime or something?”

“Alright, I’ll leave you alone with your football. Anyway, I have to rest up for the ultrasound. I hope your bun shows off her dancing skills for the technician tomorrow. Maybe she – or he – will do the bunny hop.” Emily’s joke was met with another pillow to the face

“Or an end zone dance,” Carl said wryly.

“Night, honey-bunny. See you in the morning.”


The gel on Emily’s belly was cold and she had to pee. The ultrasound technician rolled the ball over her stomach. Emily tore her eyes away from the monitor and stole a look at Carl. She smiled warmly as she saw that his eyes were glued to the monitor as well. But she was certain her eyes weren’t quite as big or as round as his were at the moment.

“There it is.” The technician’s voice snapped her back to attention. Emily’s breath caught as all three observed in awed silence. “Do you want to know the sex?” the tech asked.

Emily’s response was quick and definite. “Of course we do! I’m sick of buying only yellow and green. I’m ready for some hot pink or royal blue.”

Techie smiled and continued her exploration. “Sure is active.”

“He’s dancing - the Bunny Hop.” Emily slid her eyes to her husband.

He shook his head and grinned. “Or practicing for the NFL.”
Emily narrowed her eyes at Carl and stuck out her tongue before turning back to the Tech Master. “So what color should we paint the nursery?”

“Hang on one second…” techie slowly moved the ball and pressed slightly on Emily’s stomach, causing her to wince as it pressed against her bladder. “Hmmm. I don’t see that very often.”

“What is it?” Emily asked, eyebrows coming together in a V. “What don’t you see? Is something wrong?”

“See this?” the Tech pointed to the screen. Emily squinted, trying to grasp what she was referring to. A leg. It was a leg. And Emily was delighted to see that the leg was moving. Another indication of dancing tendencies.

“And this?” Techie moved the ball to the right just a hare and pushed down a little harder.

Another leg.

“And this?” Again, she pressed down to the right.

“Huh?” Emily and Carl said in unison. Three legs—Yikes! That was not normal.

“Looks like you have more than one little Fred Astaire in there,” said the tech. I can hardly believe that we didn’t suspect sooner. But baby number two was hiding pretty tight behind her brother.”

Emily looked at Carl, whose face reflected the emotion she felt – total shock.

“Two buns? Well, I guess that explains why I feel so huge. Hey – they must have been doing the Waltz. You definitely need a partner for the Waltz.”

“I think your oddball humor is rubbing off on me,” Carl grinned. “The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘now that’s what I call a bun dance!’” Carl leaned down and kissed her forehead. “We’re doubly blessed.”

“Abundantly blessed,” Emily agreed. “Hey. Can I pee now? My buns are really pressing on my bladder.”

This warranted a strange look from the techie. Emily struggled off the table and grooved all the way to the bathroom. Her dancing skills needed work if she wanted to keep up with her buns.

Submitted by
Lynda Schab

Entry: Short Story July 2-July 13

The Rocking Chairs
By Paulette Harris


“I thought we would be on a front porch somewhere rocking in our rocking chairs, growing old together.” David pulled a comb through his sharply cut salt and pepper hair. He tried to straighten his black silk tie as he conversed with Melissa’s mother.

“Don’t give up so easily David.” The tall striking red-head raised her eyebrow. “Give Melissa some time, she was passionate about Michael. Even though the marriage got a rocky start, everyone hoped for the best. Melissa tried to make it work. You know how tenacious she can be. It was no surprise when he died because of drug and alcohol abuse. Melissa was too young for marriage then anyway.”

She has liked you since grade school, David, so just be there for her like you always have, and tell her your feelings. Sow good seeds, and let love grow. Her father and I both want the best for those that we love. You two have the same dreams, it will work out. I promise.”
David held the door of the funeral home for her after she smoothed a wrinkle out of her forest green wool suit. Big rain drops burst from dark clouds as the small funeral procession moved north to the end of Napa Valley and Michael’s final resting place.

“Would you like me to stay, Melissa, a little longer?” David hung back as everyone left for the reception at the Cardinale home.

“No, I’ll meet you at the house.” Melissa brushed away tears and turned away from David. “I will walk back by myself.” She changed her mind and reached toward him, but he was already on the way down the hill towards his sporty blue Mercedes-Benz. “I, I wanted to thank-you for being there for me David.” She said to the wind.

Melissa arrived at the house thoroughly soaked and her newly permed blond hair dripped. She shivered as she unbuttoned her leather coat and exchanged it for a towel. “Would you like some hot tea?” The maid said.

“Come, child, come sit by me.” Michael’s mother smiled and patted the sofa.” You have had such a long day. You can stay here if you like, and your parents as well.

“Ah you are such a dear, but my parents and I have reservations at the hotel. I will be going on to Sacramento and spending a couple of days there, then flying back to New York with Mom. Thank you so much for all your support and love. We’ll see each other often.” Melissa took her mother-in-law’s handkerchief and dabbed the older woman’s big Italian brown eyes.

The plane lifted up easily out of a fog bank. Melissa and her mother soon arrived in New York.

Melissa loved city life. She and David started a perfume company that became an instant success. Expansion included San Francisco. David would supervise the east coast and Melissa, the west coast. Successful in other businesses several years after graduating from the University of San Francisco; he and Melissa’s parents often met up in the same social circles.

Beautiful Melissa was always welcome when she arrived. The two continued to enjoy each other’s friendship. David was in the military when Melissa married Michael. Although David had many flings, he never found the right person. No one could measure up to the small woman with blue eyes and long dark lashes that he fell in love with so many years ago.

Melissa always dreamed of owning her own business so when she visited her mother and the opportunity came to start something on her own, she jumped at it. She included David because of his savvy business sense and she trusted him.

Melissa thought that she could convince Michael of her idea and they would be successful. She could not understand his desire to raise Peruvian Paso Horses and his need for drugs and alcohol. She shook her head in dismay. She loved him dearly and tried to save the marriage, but things were not working. Michael’s depression became worse towards the end.
Weeks later, David invited Melissa to dinner. “Melissa, I need you to listen to me. I know that our communication gets confused every time we talk but please help me.” He reached for her hand and patted it. “I understand that it hasn’t been that long since Michael passed away. I know you loved him.” He slapped his forehead, “Oh man this is so hard.” He said. “I love you Melissa, I always have. You know how difficult it is for me to lay my feelings on the table like this but I just can’t wait any longer. I am so afraid of losing you a second time.” He took her other hand. “Melissa, would you marry me?”

Melissa began to weep. “I can’t.”

“Why, what have I done wrong? I know you love me too.”

“David, I am pregnant. I found out the day Michael died. How could you still love me when I am carrying another man’s child? I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know how. I do love you; you are the most wonderful faithful man I have ever known.” The fragile woman pulled away from David.

“Are you saying you won’t marry me because of a baby, Melissa?” David reached across the table and took both hands again. “I would love to be a part of this new little life, Melissa. I am so proud of you. Please give me the honor of putting this ring on your finger. I want to make a life for us. I have your father’s blessing and your mother told me to tell you the truth. I want to take care of you two for the rest of my life. Please say yes.” David smiled as Melissa met his eyes.

“Yes, David I will marry you. I love you too.” Melissa’s eyes twinkled as she leaned across the table and kissed him.


Submitted by
Paulette Harris

ENTRY: Short Story July 2-July 13, 2007

BEACON OF HOPE
by Shar MacLaren

Hot August air filled the dusky eve, the sand beneath the woman’s feet still warm as burning embers from the earlier sun-drenched day. Her bare toes sifted the sugary substance as she made her way to the hefty rocks that lay nestled at the foot of the pier, their very presence a reminder of her frailty. The pier’s great length stretched out over the unusually still waters like a long finger pointing straight west. At the end stood the stately red lighthouse, a picture of beauty, solidity—permanence. A long beam of light shot out across the waters summoning visitors and natives alike—an invitation to safety—a ‘Welcome Home’ banner.

She’d grown up on these shores, knew them like she knew her favorite childhood books, had memorized each dune just as she’d memorized the lines to “Green Eggs and Ham.” This was her safe place, one of the only true ones she knew that still existed. On nights like this she could come out here, squeeze her eyes shut, and remember…imagine…pretend.

Reaching the shoreline, she pulled up the hem of her long, flowing cotton skirt and sat atop her favorite rock, the flat one that looked like a table. She used to stretch out on it like a sunning duck, watch the kites overhead and wonder which was higher, the kites or the clouds. She would span its length from head to toe back then but still not reach its entirety. Now her feet would dangle off the edge if she tried.

But she wouldn’t try. Not now.

“Come on, Missy Beth,” her daddy would call. “It’s time I took you back.”

The woman looked up, scanned the empty shoreline. Foolish. She dipped her head back down to watch her toes do a work of their own in the shifting sand, the hole they dug going deeper, creating a pool for incoming water. “Not yet, Daddy,” she would answer in the finest kind of whine, the kind that always wins. “Please, can we stay a little longer?”

“Well, just a few minutes then. Our time is almost up and your mother will wonder why I’m late bringing you back.” Something in his deep, resonant voice held sadness; she always picked up on it, even as an innocent child. Now that she was grown, she knew it for what it was—regret of the deepest kind, maybe even sorrow.

A distant gull cried for his mate—or was it just that he was hungry? Food was plentiful along the beaches this time of night, the careless picnicking crowd always leaving behind tidbits and morsels of left-over hamburgers, potato chips, and half-eaten ice cream cones. If the debris wasn’t buried by the shifting sands or picked up by a concerned citizen or a park attendant, birds and other night creatures could enjoy their fill.

Dusk produced a sunset worthy of a paint brush. Misted-over eyes trailed the length of the beach. From here it seemed as if she could see into the face of eternity. Was there no end to these sandy beaches, these treasured walkways? And yet, she knew there was. There seemed to be an end to everything—at least everything she held dear and close to her heart. She swallowed down a lump that had grown out of proportion, felt an unwanted tear trace a path down her sunburned cheek.

A couple of handholding teenagers passed by. The girl lost her foothold and started to trip. They giggled, the boy and girl, him catching her before she fell. “Sorry,” the girl murmured to the woman, sidling the rest of the way past her, hardly even noticing her really. Hands clasped, as if there were no tomorrow, they headed for the lighthouse.

Moments passed in sullen quietness, save the occasional curl of current beating against a craggy rock, the distant cry of a bird, a car’s horn, or the hoot of a restless teen looking for some Saturday night excitement.

“Beth.” His voice caught on the soft, arid breeze, taking her by complete surprise. John. How?... “I wondered if I’d find you here.” His smile was generous but wary, genuine but guarded. That place in her heart reserved for bitterness softened slightly. I must remember I am angry, she scolded inwardly. He came to stand over her, his posture uncertain. He was big and surly looking, muscled and firm, yet in his heart of hearts he’d always been soft—more so than her. “May I sit?” he asked, his tone denoting caution. And would she tell a strapping grown man that he couldn’t?

“Yes,” she answered.

“Beth,” he began. “I’m sick of fighting.” His voice had lost the harshness that was there just hours ago. He swept the hair from his forehead, its sandy color bleached from hours of golf.

“Me too.”

“That’s all we do any more.”

“I know.”

He shrugged his shoulders tiredly. It frightened her. “What shall we do?”

What was he asking? This man she’d been married to for twelve years. Her heart crumbled into a million pieces at her feet, joining the other pieces that had fallen earlier. Was this it then? Had they somehow come to the end of their resources? Would his next sentence include the ‘D’ word—divorce? They’d had counseling, such as it was, joined a support group with other ‘flailing couples’, followed the Ten Steps to a Healthy Marriage by a renowned psychologist right down to the letter, even made a conscious effort to reserve a ‘date night’ every week or so. But it always came back to the same old thing.

Money.

There wasn’t enough of it to go around. They fought over it, fretted over it, lost sleep over it. It was never ending…like the vast Lake Michigan shoreline.

Like so many of their friends they’d bought into the idea that the bigger the home, the more contented they’d be; the fancier the car, the happier; the nicer the furniture, the more comfortable; the better the yard, the prouder; the more toys, the better-off. Trouble was, none of it had paid off for them, although they kept waiting. Oh, they had it all, yes; right down to the two kids, the dog, the swimming pool, and the three-stall garage. But they also had debts—insurmountable debts. Their credit was maxed out. They had good paying jobs, but the money never stretched as far as needed. And when pay day was still three days away and the milk had run out, what good did all the toys, the fancy cars, and the three-stall garage do them then?
They were tired. Plain and simple. No longer did they own their possessions; their possessions owned them. Slowly, but surely, everything they’d worked so hard for seemed to be slipping through their fingers—like the sand she reached for even now.

“What are you thinking?” he asked. “Tell me.”

“I’m…scared,” she answered, her words catching in her throat. “I don’t want Mandy and Jason to suffer.” She knew only too well how divorce affected children. Her own parents had been so distracted by their pain that hers had gone unnoticed more often than not.

“I agree. We won’t let that happen.” But how could they be sure?

She slumped tiredly, afraid to lean on him, but longing to with all her being. Could she hold herself upright if divorce was mentioned? It’d been mentioned before and she always fell apart at the seams. There had to be something more, a way out for them.

“We could sell everything,” he suddenly offered. “The furniture, the piano, the new bedroom outfit…” The thought had occurred to her a time or two, but what would it solve? They owed more on their possessions than what they were actually worth. “We could go down to one car.”
“How would we get to work? Which car, yours or mine?” She felt the old defense button click on. He wants to sell my car. What would I drive?

“Maybe you could stay home, do child-care.”

“No way,” she shot back. “You know I love my own kids, but watching someone else’s? Besides, I like what I do. And I bring home decent money.”

He snarled under his breath. “Oh right, good money.” In two winks they’d donned their gloves and were back in the boxing ring. How had it happened?

“Hey, Beth! John!” In the distance they spotted their neighbors, Ron and Karen Moore approaching, hand in hand. Something in Beth’s heart took a plunge. She’d always admired the middle-aged couple, secretly wondered what it was that kept their love so alive. They were always taking walks, laughing quietly together, working companionably in their yard.

John stiffened, obviously on edge over their own unsettled state of affairs.

“How are you guys?” Ron asked, smile warm and friendly.

“Fine.” – “Awful,” they replied simultaneously. On a whim, Beth chose to be truthful with her response; John not so. And he fairly glared at her for that fact. “We’re not—fine,” she added. “Why should we keep on lying about it? Our marriage is going under.” She was shocked by her lack of reserve. Maybe desperation was doing strange things to her.

“Beth, for crying out loud.”

“Well, it’s true. We put on this happy front for all our friends when, in actuality, we’re sinking—fast, and—we need a lifeline.” Tears sprang out and threatened to fall as she turned her gaze toward the lighthouse and tried to muster some composure. What must these fine people think of her—of them?

“You know, it’s okay to admit when you’re in trouble,” Ron offered simply and not in the least condemning. “I won’t say Karen and I were in your shoes once, but I would imagine the footwear was very similar.” He grinned knowingly. John relaxed his posture. Beth sat a little straighter.

“Really?” Beth asked. “How do you mean?”

Karen and Ron both eyed each other, waiting for the other to speak. In the end, it was Ron who did. “We were in a lot of trouble; I’d lost my job and, consequently, almost lost our house; Karen had a miscarriage, which led to chronic depression. Our finances went down the tubes, and our marriage fell apart. We were barely treading water.”

“What did you do?” This time is was John who spoke, his voice a mixture of concern and curiosity.

“We prayed. Like never before!” Ron said with a chortle.

“And we started going to church,” Karen added. “We found that when we got our priorities straightened around other things began to fall into place. Ron got a better job, I started feeling whole again, we gained control of our finances. It didn’t happen over night, mind you. Anything worth fighting for takes a lot of time, patience, and hard work. I guess you have to ask yourself if what you have is worth fighting for.”

Beth and John stared at each other, both thinking their own thoughts.

“Why don’t you come to church with us tomorrow? Head over the bridge. It’s the last church out of town, going East.”

“I know which one,” John answered. “We just may do that.”

The two couples chatted on about nothing in particular until Ron finally pulled Karen along and they headed back down the shoreline. Beth and John watched them leave.

“It’s the one thing we haven’t tried, you know. God,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Do you think there’s a chance for us?” His voice was hesitant if not hopeful.
“I want to believe there is,” Beth answered, cautiously optimistic.

They smiled at each other and stood. On the way back to their cars their fingers brushed. John grabbed hold and their hands swung loosely between them.

A foghorn moaned in the distance. The lighthouse sent a shaft of light like a ray of hope out over the waters as if to say, “Come home.”

Submitted by
Shar MacLaren

NEW THEME! Short Story Contest

Hello, Pix-N-Pen devotees! We're having a bit different contest this week, and extending the deadline. This will be a 2-week long contest, with all entries due in to me by Friday, July 13th, midnight (Central time).

This contest is geared towards writers. I've had many tell me they're not great with cameras so this is your chance to enter. I will try to supply photos myself, based on your stories, so bring on the challenges! Or, if you have a photo you'd like to submit, please do so, although a photo is NOT required for entry this week. Just for space purposes, I'm going to set a limit of 2,000 words for this short story contest, and the story must be unpublished. The subject and genre can be of your choosing.

The winner will receive a $20 amazon gift certificate, all the usual promo perks, and entry into the grand prize drawing in December. You retain all rights to your story, so you can submit it elsewhere, but it must not have been published prior to this contest.

Call all your friends, and get them to enter, too!

Can't wait to read your story!

Submit your entry to tracyruckman @ gmail. com (just take out the spaces in the email address) by Friday, July 13th.

Happy writing!