Monday, November 10, 2014

JUST LIKE THAT by SakunaS (First Place Winner)

She whispered, her voice like a familiar song. Tears crept down her cheeks as she smiled.

"Shawn." Her voice sounded calm-secure, but her expression; her quivering lips and her furrowed brow revealed her pain, her agony. She pressed down a high pitch note on the piano keyboard with her index finger.

Her tears crept down her cheeks. "Beautiful, isn't it?" she said. Her tears were unceasing. She bit her quivering lip. Her tears became a stream. 

I nodded; she still had her focus on the piano. "Beautiful." I said, closing my eyes. She pressed down another key. She played a short melody. When the melody ended, I slowly opened my eyes. She was still staring at her fingers. The piano was in the middle of the practice room and on the sides were couches and guitars aligned like as if it was her silent audience. She stretched out her arm to grab her jacket, and walked around the piano, towards the door.

"Goodbye, Shawn." She turned the knob and walked out.

I took a deep breath and sighed. The saddest goodbye is when you know you'll never meet again.

It's been exactly one year since her disappearance. Just like that, she left. Not telling her friends, college mates or her family. Her disappearance created a huge scandal and I was in the middle of it.

The police put me as the prime suspect after discovering that I was the last to see her. Constant surveillance and questioning for about a month. Once, they had asked if there was any place she would frequently go, but I didn't know. All I knew was that she played the piano in the practice room every day. Then they asked if she preferred a certain type or brand of pianos, but I told them I didn't know. "You keep answering you don't know. Are you nervous or do you really know nothing about her?" The whole thing became tiring. 

Her disappearance remained a mystery. No one knew why. Her family was middle class, and she had close friends. Sure, her family was a bit strict, but she loved them. She was actually a mysterious girl. No one knew what she was thinking or wanted to do. Actually, she didn't know herself. She was stressing over her future just months before our graduation, she was still in the undecided major section. All she was clear of was that she loved playing the piano.

Yeah, no one really knew.

I pulled up my scarf in order to cover my mouth from the icy cold wind. I walked to the nearest cafe.  I pushed open the glass door, stomping my foot on the carpet to get the snow off my boots. The cafe was small. There were only about ten small rounded tables. The lighting in the cafe was perfect, though-not too bright or too dim; perfect for reading.

"For one, sir?" The waitress asked me. I nodded. "This way, please." She motioned me with her hands and led me to the third table closest from my entry.

The employee placed down the menu on my table. Before she turned and left, I quickly gave my order, "Regular coffee with one cream and two sweetener, please."

The waitress spun around, "Anything else for you, sir?" I shook my head. "Just a moment, sir." She took the menu and left.

A lady on my right caught my attention. Weird, I thought to myself. Like the majority of the women in the city, she had dark brown hair and pale white skin. The weird part on her behalf was the fact that she was wearing sunglasses and a thin piece of clothing in this type of weather- it was like negative twenty outside. It looks as if she had just landed here from Mexico. The type of necklace she's wearing and the numerous bracelets on her wrist seemed to say so.

"Could you stop staring at me, sir?" Her voice startled me--ringing in my ear. She didn't look at me and continued reading the newspaper she held in her hands.

"Sorry." I apologized, "you were just too captivating."

"Do you mean the way I dress?"

Surprised of her response, I remained silent. 

She giggled, "It's alright, it isn't the first time people have stared at me since I've arrived here."

"I deeply apologize."

"It's fine. Would you like to sit with me? I haven't had company for a long time." She offered, directing me to the seat across from her. "Please."

"Alright." I slide the chair away from the table, and sat down.

"So," she began, her eyes never meeting my gaze. "It's a cold city, huh?"

I laughed, "Can't you tell? We are in North America."

"Yes." She sipped from her cup.

"What makes you come here?" I try to start a conversation.

"I was born here."

"Why did you leave?"

"Well," she hesitated, "maybe it was because I wanted to escape reality? But it wasn't like I had a dream to live up to. I didn't have anywhere to go in particular. I just wanted to wander around, doing everything possible. Before I die."

I want to be a bird, flying through the never ending sky without a second thought in the world.

"Tch."

"Is something wrong?"

"No, just recalling an old, useless memory." 

"Hm, if it was useless, you wouldn't have remembered."

I laughed it off. "Well, anyway," I changed the subject, "you're way too young to think about death. It's a long way before we die."

Her pink lips curved into a smile. "Who knows? No one can tell the future. Besides, humans die just like," she paused and snapped her fingers, "that!"

She was surprisingly open with me.

"I guess." I mumbled, thinking about her. "How long are you staying?"

"I already stayed for a week. I'm leaving this evening."

"To where?"

She grinned. "Everywhere."

Dumbfounded by her answer, I asked, "when are you coming back here?"

"Never." She lifted her cup by the handle.

"I see." I said. I couldn't hold her back. I'm just a mere stranger sitting across from her, but why does it feel like she was so familiar?

She smiled and took a sip from her cup. "You know," She said, her gaze looking afar, right past me, and at the piano in the corner of the cafe. "I'm a pianist."

"I see."

"Would you like to hear me play?"

"Sure." I agreed.

She set down her cup and took off from her seat, heading towards the stage. There, a piano, guitar, and microphone was prepared. Though her performance wasn't scheduled, they seemed to be always available, as long as it meant offering entertainment to the customers
.

She sat and pressed her index finger on a high pitch note. Her gaze met mine; this was the first time I had a clear view of her face. It throbbed. She smiled. I press my palm against my left chest. Her expression told me that the sound of the piano was beautiful.

She started. Her pale fingertips pressed down the keys and it produced a beautiful sound. The song...so beautiful, I couldn't deny that.

However, of all songs in the world, why did she choose this one? I breathed in and out slowly--like the air around me thickened. She continued to play. My head hurts. It's throbbing. I jumped--the chair scratching the floor. I quickly turned and walked towards the door. My strides are longer and my pace quicker than usual. I heard the melody stop, and the pain also stopped, but the melody continued-lingering in my head.

"Goodbye, Shawn." I heard her mutter.

I pulled open the heavy glass door and walked out. I regained my breath. I was breathing heavily just like the incident before-like clouds floating upwards and dispersing. I watched the wind blow and snowflakes melted upon my cheeks and slid down.

I didn't want to see her again. She left just like that and she came back-just like that. The day I discovered she left, I fell. I fell into a pitch black hole and just like how she disappeared, I died. During my time in the pit, it stopped. My heart stopped. The feelings for her had died just like that. She left me, carrying the feelings I had for her.

I chuckled as I got on the bus. "Goodbye."

TURKEY TREATING by DW GRANT (Second Place Winner)


Sometime close to Thanksgiving, little Milton's family drove off and left him in a dirty gas station bathroom stall,  at a truck stop, just outside of Barstow. 

Eight year old Milton didn't panic. He knew his family loved him, Mom and Dad sometimes missed little details. They would be back, he reasoned, but not before Milton learned a valuable lesson about kindness that impacted all his remaining Thanksgivings.

Instead of crying, Milton went to the truck stop kitchen and tugged on the cook's apron. With just a little quiver in his voice, Milton shared his dilemma with the large sweaty cook who smelled very much like old fish and onions. 

"Ahem!" Milton coughed as he pulled on the blood and grease smeared apron. "Pardon me sir, but my parents have left me, and you smell like old fish and onions!"

"Whaaat?"  exploded the chef, as he turned and looked down on the top of a blonde mop of hair. "I smell like Whaaat?"

The man's voice had a bit of a lion's roar in it, and this scared Milton just a little, so that a little tear leaped from the corner of his left eye. Milton quickly wiped it away with his shirt sleeve, sniffed once, and stood up a little taller.

"First, I asked your pardon, as my parents taught me, so that my following words wouldn't offend you, too much. Then I reported my dilemma, that of being temporarily orphaned in your place of business. And maybe I said something about the flavor of the air I have to breathe in here, but I meant no disrespect."

The chef's responded with a little less volume, but was still scary.
"And what am I to do with you, little mop head? I ain't your uncle!"

Another tear dropped from Milton's right eye, and his nose began to run. Milton wiped both away, and tried to gulp down his fear. 

"Well, I was hoping, just hoping mind you, so that you do not get the idea that I'm asking for anything else, that you might have just one little corner.  I don't even need a chair.  I could stand, and with all appreciation sir, quietly in a safe corner, until my parents arrive."
Suddenly the chef had him in his smelly hands, and had whirled him around and sat him at a small table next to the walk-in freezer.  Milton thought he spotted a tear in the chef's eye, but no,  Milton knew chefs only cry when chopping onions.

"This is my table, where I eat. You like onions and cheese on your burger?"

"Cheese yes, onions no, please," replied Milton with a little shiver, because the chef's voice was still gruff, even in his kindness.  The chef yelled to the dining room, and Milton was soon letting his eyes and his nose, and all his fears, flow out on the apron of a very motherly waitress. 

Milton's parents showed up just as he was slurping up the last drop of a chocolate shake. They hugged him and cried and tried to apologize. His 14 brothers and sisters burst into the kitchen, too, every one of them in tears. The kitchen was all cries and apologies and full of the chaos until the chef pushed them all out into the parking lot with a few roars and a stiff corn stalk broom. 

On the way home Milton looked out the van window and saw a sad and dirty man holding a sign he could hardly read. It said "veteran, hungry."

As they moved through the intersection Milton asked his father "Daddy, what's a vet-er-an?" and His daddy told him. "Why is he hungry, daddy?" His father didn't answer, and Milton was soon deep in thought. 

"I wonder if his family has left him alone, like mine did. How could they forget him?" And another tear dropped from Milton's left eye.

That night Milton began praying for the sad old veteran, and he had a dream too. In this dream Milton was trick–or-treating, and each house door opened to reveal the sad old veteran holding an empty plate. Milton's response was to pull a turkey leg from his candy sack and put it on the plate, but it didn't make the sad old veteran happy, even though he seemed thankful.


His mother laughed when he told it to her. 


"Sounds like you were Turkey Treating!" 


They both laughed, then Milton's mother asked a serious question.


"Did the hamburger at the truck stop make you happy?"

"Well it helped," answered Milton, "but seeing my family is what really made me happy."


"How do you think that applies here?" It took a few days and a little more prayer to figure it out.
The day before Thanksgiving Milton asked his father if they could find the sad old veteran and make him part of their family on Thanksgiving Day. They did bring him home for dinner, along with a young veteran they met in church. They ate dinner, swapped "war" stories, ate some more, and swapped more stories, until almost all the children, and certainly Milton,  had  to be carried to bed. 

The next morning Milton asked what happened to their guests. His father told him they talked a little more, prayed, and then he took the men to their "homes."

"And do you  know the last thing each of them said before they left the car?"

"No dad, what?" said all of the children and mother at the same time.
 "They said thanks for giving us a family tonight. Now we don't feel so forgotten."

"Well," said Milton after every one said a short prayer for each man, "I guess that's what Turkey Treating is for. Can we do it again next year?"

"We can, as often as God puts someone in need of a family on our hearts."





Want to see what DW has been producing? Just Google "By DW Grant" and you should see links to his work! You can also go to www.manifestox.wordpress.com  to read his blog, or to see his publishing successes go to www.dwbookstore.com 




 

WOLF TELLS ALL by MARGARET FIELAND (Third Place Winner)


It was an unusually hard winter, where even the bears were reduced to eating porridge, so when I spotted Little Red Riding Hood strolling through the forest, basket in hand, I accosted her at once.

"Stand and deliver," I growled. I am, alas, addicted to late night movies.

"What do you mean?" Red smiled sweetly and batted her eyelashes.

"Give me the basket, or I'll eat you," I barked.

"Oh, no you won't." Red turned and sprinted down the path to Grandmother's house.  That girl could run.

I turned tail and loped after her, but she slipped through Grandmother's front door ahead of me.  I had my paw on the knob when the Hunter tapped me on the shoulder.

"What's going on here?" Hunter heaved his ax and swung, lodging it firmly in the front door of the house and narrowly missing my tail.

"I was simply enjoying a jog on a beautiful morning." But my attempt at a nonchalant attitude was spoiled by my need to open my mouth, stick out my tongue, and pant.

"He's lying." Red cracked the front door. "He tried to steal my pie."

I took the opportunity to body-slam the door. I tumbled in, followed by Hunter.

"Hey, Wolf, come on outside." Hunter grabbed me by the ruff. "No stealing Red's goodies."

"I'm hungry," I whined. "Even wolves have to eat." I rolled on my back and waved my paws in the air. Red would have scratched my belly, but Hunter held her back.

"I've got rats in the cellar," Grandmother offered as she stumped down the hall to join us. "They're all yours if you want them."

"I still think I should kill him," Hunter said.

"Nothing doing. I'm too damn old to catch my own rats." Grandmother shooed Hunter and Red out the door, then stumped down the hall to a small room with two chairs, a table, and an open fireplace. A large kettle hung from an iron rod over the fire. Flames licked the bottom of the pot. Grandmother grabbed a long wooden spoon and began to stir the contents.

"Uh, I could use a little pick-me-up. Otherwise I might pass out trying to catch rats."

"Nothing doing. Rats first, stew later."

So I ambled down to the basement to catch rats.  After gorging myself on several of the largest, I returned upstairs to discover Grandmother asleep in a chair by the fire. I didn't want to wake her up, so I curled up on the hearth and fell asleep. I didn't even sample the stew.

That set the pattern of our days. Things were good. I ate rats and played whist  or poker with Grandmother. At night, I'd sleep beside the fire or at the foot of Grandmother's bed. At the beginning of April, I ate her and ran off, but she was dead before I swallowed her, I swear it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

WINNERS OF FLASH FICTION CONTEST

The winners of the flash fiction contest are:


FIRST PLACE:

Just Like That by SakunaS

SECOND PLACE:

Turkey Treating by DW Grant

THIRD PLACE:

Wolf Tells All by Margaret Fieland

Their stories will be posted immediate following this.

Thank you all for your participationg.

Linda Barnett-Johnson & Patricia Crandall

Thursday, November 6, 2014

THROUGH A COUNTRY WINDOW (poem for November)




THROUGH A COUNTRY WINDOW
by
Patricia Crandall

Reclining in my favorite,
low rocking chair
inside a calico blue kitchen
scented by pumpkin spice muffins,
I gaze through the window
to a point where sun
strikes leaves of shimmering gold
strung on trees in autumn.
In straw fields
lie orange pumpkin rounds.
Corn stalk sentries
stand tall and erect.
It is time to harvest
and reap in good thoughts.


Building a Story by Mary Deal

    An example of how to begin a new story when your Muse has taken a vacation. A friend of mine—I’ll call her Judy—had written a...