The Church: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Adirondack Fall by Randy Cockrell

It was a September, my first Sunday in my new house. I’d cleared enough boxes from the dining room table for me to sit at one end. The sun was just up, and I gazed out of the window, mug of tea in front of me. Maples that bordered the edge of the yard between my neighbor and me were still in shadow but the tree tops catty-corner across the street were in sunlight. The church behind those trees, I didn’t know the denomination, had its steeple bathed in light as well. The church had been built in the early 1900’s and wasn’t large but had that village church look that was postcard pretty.

The belfry was just a square mounted atop the church building. Slats covered the openings. At seven-thirty in the morning, I really didn’t expect to see anything or anyone over there. Too early, even on a Sunday. But just as I was looking away to pick up my tea, I saw something up at the belfry. When I looked back, it was gone. I rubbed my sleepy eyes and looked again. A squirrel jumped from one maple branch to another. The branches dipped and swayed with the squirrel’s weight.

I shook my head. Just a squirrel.

The next morning I was clearing the rest of the boxes from the dining room. It was ten and I was hot, sweaty and dirty and ready for a glass of iced tea. It was a relief to sit down in what I’d established as my spot at the dining room table. The leaves on the maples were starting to brown, I noticed as I sipped my tea. There were already many fallen leaves in the hosta border between my neighbors and me.

I was watching the sunlight dancing on the tree leaves when a movement at the church caught my eye. Again, something up at the belfry. It seemed too big to be a squirrel, but it was hard to tell with all the trees in the way.

The leaves changed, turned orange, red and yellow and fell from the trees. Every day I saw something over at the church. I’d have asked my neighbor, but she only came up from the city once a month for a weekend to check on her house. The neighbors bordering the church parking lot had fir trees on their lot border, so couldn’t really see the church itself. As I got to know the neighbors, I asked about the church.

“Haunted,” Karen Carmichael told me as we chatted in her front yard. She lived four doors down from me on the same side of the street. “The histories say that spot where the church was built was a burial ground. When the colonists pushed the Indians out, they just built over it.” She nodded sagely but I privately wondered.

“Wow. And this is common knowledge?” I wasn’t sure if she was just pulling my leg or not.

“No. It’s in the town histories. If you go to the town historian, it’s all there.”

“Thank you.” I gave her a wave and continued my walk. I’d have to check that out.

A few days later at the historian’s office, I read through the old records. Karen was right, there had been a burial ground there, but the colonists had dug up the graves and transferred the bones to the Indians before they built the church. I thanked the historian and left.

It was mid-November and the whole town was decorated for Thanksgiving. The church was having a harvest festival the week before the actual holiday and had invited everyone on the street to attend. It was a potluck and I came with a casserole.

At the door I was greeted by the pastor’s wife. “Welcome,” she beamed at me. “Thank you for coming. I’m Allison.”

“Hi. I’m Corrine. I live in the white house, two doors down.” I raised the casserole dish. “I brought a ham and scalloped potato dish.”

“Bless your heart,” she said enthusiastically. “Everyone brings pasta and it gets a little old.” She turned to a passing woman. “Elaine, would you show Corrine where to take her dish?”

The woman agreed and we proceeded to a table in the community hall that was packed with food. I mingled, meeting familiar neighbors and others I didn’t know. People lined up and got their food then sat at long rows of tables to eat. The meal was about complete, and I was telling the people around me about how I was seeing something over here nearly every day.

There was a lot of speculation. Ghosts, were, of course, the main topic but many of the men were convinced it was just squirrels running around the roof. The pastor stood up to give a little speech thanking everyone for coming when we heard some sort of noise coming from the ceiling. The pastor drifted to a stop as everyone’s eyes rose to the noise. There were two screams and everyone gasped. A few even stood up. That’s when the ceiling collapsed, and two huge raccoons fell onto the table in front of me. Men were shouting. Women and children were screaming as they jumped up and tried to escape. The raccoons ran in different directions creating even more havoc as more tables of people began to run, screaming, for the exits.

The next day, workers were at the church. I went over to see what was going on. The pastor was in a denim shirt, sleeves rolled up. “A whole nest of raccoons. Several generations worth,” he said as he wiped his forehead with a bandana. We had no idea.”

“I should have said something. I’ve been seeing something up around the belfry and roof since I moved in but never could get a good look.”

He nodded. “Well, thank you anyway.”

As I left, I got a card from the exterminators. I wanted my house and attic checked as soon as possible.

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Working: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Captain

Working

I juggled my cell as I maneuvered eight dog leashes. The pooches, all regulars, were good dogs but each one wanted to smell something in a different direction. “Mr. Malony, I have an opening for an interview between three and five pm.”

I jerked Fluffy away from a discarded food wrapper. The fat little Pekinese would eat anything, then puke it up once she got home and her owner would call and ream me a new one. “Yes, sir. At the moment I have appointments up till three.” I rolled my eyes. The appointment was another job. Not this one, this one was the first job. Six in the morning till eight, walking dogs. The same gig, would that be job three or four, between six and eight. The second job was barista at a coffee shop who could only pay me for four hours, five days a week. Between noon and three was ticket seller at a downtown theater. Not the best theater, by the way, but the manager thought that a pretty girl in the booth would sell more ticket in the slow period. So that leaves three to five for my interview.

I jerked Sammy away from an oncoming owner walking her husky. Sammy was always eager to prove his dogliness to any passing dog. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there.” I clicked off. I really wanted the job. A real, eight hours per day, real pay and holidays and benefits. I could give up all these pitiful make do gigs to pay the rent.

My share of the rent, that is. Six women in a three-bedroom apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of them but there is always a fight for the bathroom and paranoia over the food in the fridge. It would be so great to be able to have my own place or at least a share with just one other person.

My phone rang. “Hey, mom.”

“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”

I pulled a doggie waste bag from my pocket and scooped up Freddie’s contribution. While I tied the bag shut, I said, “Great mom. How about you?”

“Great, honey. Your father and I booked a cruise to Tahiti for next month. Can you go? We’d love it if you’d join us.”

I sighed. “I don’t think so, Mom. I’m going for an interview this afternoon. I don’t want to commit to anything in the future till I know if I’ve got the job.”

“That’s great, sweetie! I’ve been wondering why you’ve been doing those make shift jobs.”

I had to shake my head. They refused to understand that it wasn’t 1950 any longer. Dad’s corporate job lasted thirty-five years. He did the whole promotion every other year, gold watch on retirement, the climb up the social ladder. Mom, of course, was the socialite on dad’s arm. She’d held a job just after college, where she met dad, and that was her entire working life. They were disappointed in me, not getting a big corporate job right out of college.

Dad got me interviews, of course. But the new corporations were all about the “contractors”. People they could hire short term, pay a salary agreed to on a contract, then they wouldn’t have to pay retirement or benefits. No one was interested in a career path for me like the one dad had. That was way too expensive.

“Doing my best, mom. I hope I make the new job.”

“We do too, hun. Well, let us know, would you?”

“Sure, mom. Sure.”

She hung up and I clicked off with a shake of my head. She seemed to think this was a lifestyle choice. Who would want to be on a constant hustle for enough money to pay rent and eat? But it seemed the majority of the people my age were doing exactly that. It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. Businesses just didn’t want full time employees. They cost too much. Stockholders wanted bigger and bigger returns. CEO’s wanted bigger and bigger paychecks.

I tugged Maybelle away from a parking spot that had what looked like a transmission fluid puddle. Then stopped the whole procession to pick up Raylar’s droppings. Very glamorous, being a dog walker, but I did appreciate the exercise. The ticket gig was creepy. The barista job was hardly better. Every would-be self-appointed ladies man made a pass. Why couldn’t they just order their coffee and move along? And none of their lines were original or clever. I liked the dogs better and the happy owners tipped well.

At three-fifteen I was at the office building, tugging my skirt straight and smoothing my hair. I took a deep breath and went in. Oh. My stomach dropped. A panel interview, three people. I smiled at all three of them as I entered. They had me sit and introduced themselves. At the end, I thanked them, left them with my resume, references and my card.

It didn’t feel like they liked me. I thought about my mom and her invitation to cruise. Oh yes. I’d like to cruise. But that was not in the cards. My last day off was six months ago, only because I’d lost an earlier job taking tickets at a parking garage.

I went home. There was two hours before my evening dog walking gig. I changed and ate a can of ravioli as my supper and ran the interview through my head over and over.

I was in the middle of the night dog walk when my cell rang.

“Hello, Mr. Donnah.”

“Ms. Roman, the panel loved your interview. Would you be interested in starting Monday?”

It felt like my heart had stopped. “Yes, sir! I would!”

“Excellent. We’re emailing some basic information for you. See you Monday.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you and the board.”

“You’re welcome.”

I did a little dance right on the sidewalk. Finally! A way out.

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Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta: A Chicklets in the Kitchen Blog Post

Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta

It’s summer. It’s hot. The last thing you want to do is start the oven up. The first thing you want is something cool, smooth, slightly sweet, and refreshing. I’ve found just the thing over on www.healingfamilyeats.com/raspberry-coconut-panna-cotta/. As soon as I saw that delightfully pink, creamy-looking dessert, I just had to try it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any raspberries. I did have frozen blueberries though, so that’s what I used. This recipe is easy, and has just five ingredients, probably already in your fridge, freezer or pantry. And it makes 8 servings! Yay!

This being a paleo recipe, we’re not using the usual panna cotta ingredients or methods but that’s just fine with me. Give it a try. Click here for the full post.

 

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Do you have a favorite dessert to serve family or guests? Please tell us about it in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Mysteries, and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.

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Four Doomsdays – Doom Three: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Mushrooms, Otherwise known as Fungus by Randy Cockrell

“And in other news…”

I half-listened as I changed my three-month-old daughter, Becca. It was always bad news on the TV and I was too engaged with my first-born to care about whatever was troubling the rest of the world. My world was perfect.

Still on maternity leave, I took Becca down to the kitchen and poured my husband, Ron, his coffee and put it on the table at his place. This was his first day back to work from paternity leave. We’d had such a nice time this last three weeks. I was sorry that he had to go back to work already.

He came into the kitchen, adjusting his tie. “I’m sorry I have to put this thing on again.” He sat down at his place as I put a bowl of cereal in front of him.

“Then don’t. You don’t have to wear it.”

He shook his head. “No. If you want to get ahead, dress for two levels above where you are. That’s the CEO. He wears a tie, I wear a tie.” He scooped cereal into his mouth.
I shrugged. Ron was ambitious and I couldn’t blame him, so was I. But my system was still swimming in maternal hormones. At the moment, I couldn’t generate any sympathy. “Your call.”

I pulled Becca to me and pulled up my shirt. One of the best parts of the day was nursing time. I could feel her little mouth clamp onto my breast and begin to suck. I still couldn’t believe that I had a baby and I was feeding her. Me. Out of my own body. The wonder of it was still overwhelming. When I looked up, Ron was smiling at me. “I’m going to miss this.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Oh. Did you see the news? Some sort of infection is sweeping through India. Killing babies.” He studied Becca, still going strong on my breast. “That sucks.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. What must those parents be feeling? I’d be frantic.

Ron scooped up the rest of his cereal and gulped down his coffee. “Home by six.” He got up, grabbed his brief case and kissed each of us on the head.

“Drive safe.” I was talking to his back as he headed out the door to the garage. He waved and was gone.

After Becca ate, she had a bath, clean clothes, and was down for a nap. Time for me to shower and dress. Then it was into the kitchen, the baby monitor on the counter, as I washed up the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. The TV cycled through to another news cast. I listened this time as the story about India came back on. “Just in,” the newscaster looked into the camera, face concerned. “It seems China has had a similar outbreak as India. The government there has been keeping it quiet but refugees coming over the border of Nepal have reported children dying by the thousands.
I shook my head as I dried my hands. Poor parents. How awful.

“The Indian government has called on the United Nations for medical support.” The newscaster went on to the next story and I turned off the TV. I was glad I didn’t live over there.

That afternoon, I met some other mothers at the park. Of course, Becca was too young to run and play but it was good to get her out into the fresh air. “Did you hear about India and China?” I asked as I sat down.

“Yes. What a nightmare.” Carol’s baby was the same age as mine. We were in the same room at the hospital. “I cannot even imagine.”

“It’s the conditions,” Margery said with a sniff. “The sanitation over there is non-existent. No wonder there’s disease running rampant.

“What if it get’s here?” Joan stopped talking to wipe her three-year-old’s nose. “I mean, with air travel, disease can spread around the world in no time.”

Margery shook her head as she watched her four-year-old son go down the slide. “The people with the illness are not rich enough to travel. We’re safe enough.”

We all nodded but I wondered. I took pre-med in college before transferring into computer science. Disease was no respecter of socio-economic classes. Look at the plague back in medieval Europe or the flu back in the 1900’s. Millions of dead. Europe lost so many people modern historians marvel that the continent recovered.

I mentioned it at dinner that night.

Ron nodded. “It’s all everyone was talking about at work. Apparently, there is something going around in the bigger cities.”

It felt like my heart was in my throat. “What kind of something?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Lot’s of kids sick. But it’s all a rumor. There’s nothing on TV about it.”

After dinner was cleaned up and Ron was watching a recorded game, I got on the internet and did a search. Pictures put up by private individuals showed grieving parents. YouTube videos showed anguished parents pleading with everyone to stay home and not go out in public. A fungus they said. Some kind of deadly fungus.
I told Ron.

“Can’t be. It would be public by now if there were that many cases.” He went back to the game.

I could hear Becca begin to cry over the baby monitor.

I went upstairs. The poor thing was screaming as I went into the bedroom. “That’s okay, sweetheart. Momma’s here.” I picked her up. Out of the spot where her skull met her neck, something white sprang out.

I screamed, holding Becca out from me face down in the crook of my arm, something long and white. Blood seeped from around the base of it.

Ron came racing in.

“Call 911. Something’s wrong!” I sobbed as Becca kept screaming.

Cordyceps, the doctor said. A new, virulent strain of fungus. By the end of two years, every child under the age of five was dead.

Words: 1000

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Mystery at the Dog Park 1 of 7: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Little Dog by Randy Cockrell

Hi,

I had this idea for a Jean Hays story but it wasn’t enough of a story for even a novelette so I’ve decided to make it a serial short story. Not every section is 1000 words or less. Some run over to 1200 but I didn’t think you all would mind too much.

I hope you enjoy it.

Mystery at the Dog Park

Part 1 of 7

Jean pulled the leash around her body as the lab-pitbull mix lunged forward.

“She’s giving you a run today.” Karen laughed

“It’s not funny.” Jean puffed. The dog was wearing her out. “Can’t wait to get to the dog park and let her run.”

“I hear ya.” Karen stopped to untangle the two Chihuahuas and the Yorkie mix she was walking.

They arrived at the park and herded the dogs through the gate. Karen took her dogs to the small dog enclosure while Jean let her dog loose in the large dog area. They stood next to each other on opposite sides of the fence to talk as the dogs played.

A woman left the group of dog owners at the picnic table provided and came over to them. She handed them a flyer with a picture of her caramel colored cockapoo, Sandy. “Have you seen my dog?”

Jean took the flyer and held it so Karen could see. “No.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I haven’t.”

Karen shook her head, too. “No. How long has she been gone?”

“Since yesterday.” The woman sniffed, eyes red, as she scanned the area. “I was talking with the usual people yesterday,” she waved her hand at the group around the table, “while Sandy and the other dogs played. Then, she was just gone when I looked for her.” Her voice quavered. “I don’t know how she got out of the dog park.”

“We’re walking the humane society dogs,” Jean explained. “But we’ll keep an eye out for Sandy.”

Shoulders slumped, the woman nodded. “That’s my number on the bottom. Call anytime if you find her.”

“We will,” Karen said. “Good luck.” They watched her shuffle back to the table. “How awful. I wonder what happened?”

After hearing the woman’s story, Jean looked for her dog, Arthur. She spotted him chasing a squirrel on a tree trunk around and around the tree. It looked to her that the squirrel was teasing the dog on purpose. “It’s not a big dog, probably got through a hole in the fence.”

Karen turned around to watch the dogs she brought. The Chihuahua’s were chasing each other while the Yorkie dug a hole. “Poor woman. I hope the dog doesn’t get caught by a coyote or a hawk. One of my neighbors lost her little dog when an eagle swooped in and plucked it right out of the backyard.”

Jean’s eyes went wide. “That sucks.”

Karen nodded. “Yep.”

Back at the humane society, the women turned the dogs in. It broke Jean’s heart to make Arthur get back in the kennel. They stopped in the office. “Margaret,” Jean pulled the flyer from her pocket and unfolded it. “Have you seen this dog come in?” She handed the shelter manager the paper.

Margaret looked at the picture and shook her head. “Nope. Poor little thing. I had a call from this woman this morning.” She sighed. “I told her to do the flyers. And talk to the neighbors around the park. What I didn’t tell her was that the dog may have been stolen.”

“Stolen? Who would do that?” Jean asked.

Margaret handed the flyer back to Jean. “People who then sell the dog on Craig’s list or in a newspaper ad.”

“Oh no!” Karen looked horrified.

“Yep.” Margaret went back to her desk. “Happens all the time in the bigger cities but we’ve been seeing it more and more up here. There’s a market, especially for little dogs like that one. And the bad guys just scoop up the little ones when no one is looking.”

“They don’t take big dogs?” Jean leaned on the counter.

“Oh, they do. They’ll disguise themselves as handymen or maintenance people and take dogs right out of their backyards. No one pays any attention to those guys coming or going in the neighborhood. Purebred dogs are the target, German Shepherds, Labs of any sort, those kinds of dogs.”

“That happens here?” Jean couldn’t believe that people would just go into someone’s backyard and take another person’s pet.

“Not that one, so much. That’s more in the big cities, too. Also, they disguise themselves as animal control and knock on the door. They tell the owners that a complaint of abuse has been filed and they’re taking the dog under protective custody. They show the owner some sort of legal looking document. In confusion and fear, they hand the dog over planning to go to court and get it straightened out but it’s too late. The dog and the thieves are long gone.

“I would be so ticked!” Karen said.

“Me too. Isn’t there anything that can be done?” Jean asked.

“Not usually. They don’t advertise the dog in the area where it was stolen from so you can’t even check the paper or anything to try and find it.”

“How awful.”

Margaret nodded. “Yep. Unfortunately, little Sandy, there,” she nodded at the flyer in Jean’s hand, “wasn’t microchipped. If she had been, there would be some chance of finding her.”

Jean and Karen said their good-byes and left. “Who knew there was a market for stolen dogs?” Jean drove them both to lunch as was their habit after their turn at walking the humane society inmates.

“I had no idea. I mean, you see dogs up for sale in the paper and on the radio all the time. It never occurred to me they might be stolen.”

“Let’s grab a paper and see if there are any dogs for sale in there.”

Karen nodded. “Good idea. Though the current paper came out Friday and Sandy was stolen yesterday. Tomorrow’s paper would be a better bet.”

“You’re right. Tomorrow we’ll look. In the meantime, let’s call the radio station and see what they have on their ads.”

“Great idea. After lunch though. My tummy’s growling.”

 

Thank You!

974 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Rain Wet Earth: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yard River by Randy Cockrell

A monsoon storm blew in. Great dark clouds piled up over the escarpment and filled the sky, spilling down into the valley. Rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning punctuated the now dark day. The air began to cool—a relief from the heat and humidity.

Rain began to fall. Fat, heavy drops coming one at a time, then the sky opened and water gushed down as though from a fire hose. The gullies and gutters filled and overflowed. I watched from my window, closed against the wind-whipped water. It was over in a few minutes and I stepped out of my front door. The smell of rain wet earth drifted by as the sun broke through the racing clouds and made me want to go camping.

My husband came out and put his arm around my shoulders. “That didn’t last long.”

“Never does. I feel like going camping.”

He nodded. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“The camping box is ready. We just need to load it and the tent into the car and get some groceries.”

A grin spread across his face. “No plan? Just go?”

“Yes. A few days in the outdoors will do us both good.”

I got a squeeze. “Sure. Why not. Let’s go camping!”

The still wet pine in the front yard sparkled like Christmas in the sunlight as I turned to go inside to pack. The scent of rain wet earth followed me into the house.

 

Thank You!

243 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

 

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Waiting: Friday Flash Fiction Story

Baby by Randy Cockrell

Baby by Randy Cockrell

I watched the seconds pass on my digital watch, counting the passing of my life. My hands trembled, my mother’s tremors now part of my existence. Better than my brother, though, who developed his tremors in his thirty’s. Mine at least waited until I reached my sixties, when it wasn’t a strange sight to see an old woman’s hands shake.

The nurses scurried through the halls along with the occasional harassed-looking doctor. It occurred to me that a harried-looking doctor didn’t project much confidence. Was harried the step before panic? I didn’t know the precise hierarchy of that sort of thing was. And why were they harried? Were people sicker than they’d anticipated? My mouth went dry. Where was our doctor? I checked the watch again—it continued to count the seconds of my life, my future racing up to me then whooshing by, gone, history.

I drew a deep breath and sighed. A lot of history—much of it faded in my mind. Not dementia or Alzheimer’s, thank God. Just distance. I never was much for dwelling on the past. I tend to live in the present or the future. But to be honest, in my sixties, there wasn’t a lot of future left, given the current standard women’s lifespan. My heart leapt when a doctor stopped outside the door. I waited, breath held, but he checked his watch and moved off. Ne news for me yet, then. I went back to breathing. What was taking so long?

It was November and my mind drifted to Thanksgiving. It was at my house this year, my brother and his wife, my sister, all their kids. Mom was gone two years. I’ll make her recipe for rice pudding, a family favorite and she’ll be present in our hearts.

Another doctor paused outside the door, a nurse walked up to him. I couldn’t hear what was being said, the waiting room TV was blasting a soap opera. I was surprised. I didn’t know any were still running. The nurse nodded and left. The doctor, too, in the opposite direction. I sank back into my seat. My own anxiety level rising.

I dropped the year-old magazine I was holding onto the side table. I wasn’t reading it—I might as well let someone else pick it up to hold.

The air conditioning kicked on and I pulled my sweater closer around me. Why is the A/C on in November? I gave the vent a glare and considered moving my seat but a look around revealed everyone else was as annoyed as I was. So when I heard my name called out, I jumped. “Yes!” I hurried to the nurse in the door.

“Mrs. Johns?”

I tucked my purse under my arm. “That’s me.”

“Your daughter, Jessica, is fine. You have a new grandson.” She smiled at me, the corners of her blue eyes crinkling. “Nine pounds, six ounces. He’s healthy as can be.”

My knees quivered with relief. “Can I see her?”

“Right this way, Mrs. Johns.”

I followed her—already planning the baby’s first Thanksgiving.

 

Thank You for Reading!

513 Words

 

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Interrupted 2: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Revolution: last book in the Gulliver Station Cover Reveal by Connie Cockrell

Revolution: last book in the Gulliver Station by Connie Cockrell

See Interrupted 6/17/16

She changed her lunch spot from the grocery store because the same guy figured out her routine and began approaching her every day, no matter how often she told him she wasn’t interested. Apparently her appearance was encouragement enough.

So now, even though the selection of lunch items was limited to three pre-made and wrapped sandwiches and two soups, cream of mushroom and vegan vegetable, she spent her lunch hour at Bectie’s Tea and Coffee. It seemed the patrons of Bectie’s understood that someone with a book or working on their pads, were engaged and not interested in conversation.

She settled into the café chair, tuna salad and a slice of lemon cake beside her, Caramel Macchiato at hand, and opened her new book, Jania, Princess of Taria.

Janie yelled as the ship lurched. “Fire all weapons!”

The ship shuddered as all six guns blasted, the gyro’s barely able to stabilize the craft as the gunners complied.

“Princess!” Admiral Rayquil grabbed the back of her command chair. “The Peet fleet is too powerful – they outnumber our ships four to one.”

Jania slammed her fist onto the arm of the chair. He’s right. They’ve already destroyed half of my ships. “Order a retreat.” She could feel the slow burn of anger and shame but it was better to fall back and regroup than be destroyed.

“Fleet!” Admiral Rayquil shouted over the sparking and explosions of the bridge consoles. “Prepare to….”

“Hey there!”

She jerked with the shock of the enthusiastic greeting and the sound of metal chair legs dragging across the tile floor. She blinked as she dragged her consciousness across the galaxies to the reality of Bectie’s.

The guy, twenty-five at her guess, hipster hat on his head and a goatee that needed several more months to actually fill in, dropped into the chair opposite her and settled his clear plastic cup – a latte by the look of it – on the table. He stuck out his hand. “Brandon.”

She resisted her manners in politeness and stared at him. “Do I know you?”

His hand remained suspended over the table. She looked around. Every table had someone at it. All of the other customers were male. Of course. “Why are you here?”

Brandon’s grin fell away with his hand, which grabbed his cup and gave a little salute with it. “Best latte in town.” He glanced at her cup–opaque paper so no real way to tell what was in it. The look was his question as to what she was drinking but she was in no mood to satisfy his curiosity.

“I’m here to eat my lunch and read in peace.” She waved at the other tables. “You should make friends at another table.” She opened her book and stared at the pages, eyes skimming the ink on the page but no reading. Waiting.

He twisted out of the chair, legs scraping, and grabbed his latte. “Bitch.” He stomped out of the shop.

She sighed. She just wanted to read her book and eat her lunch. Was that so wrong? She took a bite of her sandwich—the joy of starting her new book spoiled.

“Don’t feel bad.” Bectie appeared at the table, wiping down the half where Brandon had sat. “Happens all the time.”

That did make her feel better. “Thanks.” She sipped her macchiato and took another bite.

Bectie gave her a wink and went back to the counter.

She reopened her book.

“Prepare to disengage.” The ship was hit with another volley from the Peet.

“Disengage!”

 

 

Thank You!

589 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

 

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Chili Cook-Off: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Chili Cook-off

Chili Cook-off

This story is based on my Jean Hays series. For the recipe, go to my blog post Chili Spice Mix, Chicklets in the Kitchen.

 

Jean and Karen and Karen’s daughter, Peggy, were in the bowling alley bar. Jean sipped her beer. “I haven’t had beer this good since I was in Germany.”

“I’ll have to admit; I do love these craft beers. Clever of the bowling alley to upscale their bar.” Karen poured a second glass from the pitcher on the table.

“Mom, did you read today’s paper?” Margaret drew the twice weekly paper from her tote. “The chili cook-off is in two weeks.” She handed the paper to her mother.

Karen opened it and looked at the community activities section. “Oh, yeah! I haven’t entered that in a few years.” She grinned at Jean. “Want to enter?”

Jean laughed. “The way I cook? What would be the point?”

“Come on. About time you learned to cook the southwest way. That New England boiled dinner stuff has got to go.”

Jean’s mouth fell open. “That’s comfort food, I’ll have you know.”

“Maybe so. But it’s dull. Spice up your life.”

“I don’t know. I suppose I can just open a chili spice packet.”

Both Karen and Peg gasped. “Don’t you dare! I’ll tell the judges and have you kicked out.” Karen shook her head.

“Well then, what do you do?”

“I use my mom’s spice recipe. You’ve had it, by the way. I use it as a dry rub on ribs.”

“Oh, the ones we had last week? Those were wonderful.”

“Good. Go on line, search for chili recipes. Find one that seems good to you. Then go to the store and look at the ingredients in canned or jarred Mexican food. Modify the recipe so it’s yours. Make a test batch or two of chili. Then bring it to the contest.”

Jean snorted. “That’s all, huh?”

“Well, you have to enter the contest now.” The three of them laughed.

The next day Jean went on-line to the contact given and entered the chili cook-off. Then got on her computer to search for recipes. She focused on prize-winning ones. No sense getting just any recipe. After jotting down ingredients from a handful she found she noted that most of them were quite similar. She started a new list, one that contained the same ingredients that they all did. Then Jean considered the differences. It seemed that the small amounts of different herbs and spices were the key. Time to go to the grocery.

She spent some time looking at the canned and jarred prepared Mexican food. Most of it contained the basic flavors she had on her base recipe. A few, however, did go outside of the box. Making notes about those different flavors, she gathered all of the ingredients and went home to whip up a batch of chili spice.

Jean made some averages on measurements. Many of the recipes used almost the same amounts. It was her additions that caused her pause. She decided to base her amounts on the other recipe’s small additions and give it a try.

The first batch was way too hot, as far as she was concerned. She cut back on the ancho peppers. The second batch had too much cilantro. It was the fifth batch that she liked the best. Writing down her recipe, she went back to the store to refresh her supplies. The cook-off was two days away.

She borrowed a crock pot from Karen and carefully transported the chili to the cook-off. It was a fund-raiser so people bought tickets, then after getting one ounce tastes, selected the chili they liked best, second and third, by dropping the tickets into cans at the exit.

Jean and Karen were next to each other and enjoyed talking to all of the people who came by to get a taste of their chili. Chief White, the Greyson Chief of Police came by. “Hi Karen. Glad to see you back. Your chili is always a favorite.” He held his little cup out to Jean. “Glad to see you entering, Jean. Is the chili hot?”

She shrugged. “I’d say medium, but everyone’s taste is different.”

“We’ll see. Later, ladies.”

Karen elbowed Jean. “Two years. Why don’t you ask him out for coffee?”

Jean rolled her eyes. “Oh for gosh sakes. He’s not interested. Remember, he thinks we’re both bubble heads.”

Karen laughed. “Keep telling yourself that.”

Jean was scraping the last half ounce of chili from the crockpot when time was called. Several of the competitors had run out half an hour before. She hoped it was because they’d been too generous or hadn’t brought enough, not that theirs was better.

It took forty-five minutes before the organizers got on the microphone to announce the winners. Jean didn’t know the third place winner, though Karen seemed to and clapped when the guy’s name was announced. Then the announcer said, “And second-place goes to returning cook, Karen Carter!”

Jean jumped up and down and hugged her friend. “How great! And after you’ve been out of it for so long.” Karen went up and got her small trophy and certificate. Jean was looking the prize over when the announcer said, “And this year first-place goes to newcomer Jean Hays!”

Karen hooted in Jean’s ear. “You won!” She jumped up and down. “You won!” She shoved Jean, still shocked, toward the announcer.

Jean stumbled forward, applause washing over her, blushing. The announcer, the head of the organization, held the first prize cup between them as they faced a photographer. Jean smiled and nodded at the congratulations and managed to get “Thank you all so much,” out of her mouth.

At their table, Karen hugged Jean again. “I guess I can’t say you can’t cook anymore.”

Jean shook her head. “I guess not.”

 

Thank You!

951 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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