Happy Anniversary: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Green Velvet Gift Box 1 by http://fantasystock.deviantart.com/

Green Velvet Gift Box 1 by http://fantasystock.deviantart.com/

He was in his usual spot. I had dropped the bag of groceries on the kitchen table and went into the living room. I don’t know why I expected something else. Hope? I sighed. “You’re home early.”

He popped the top on another beer. Three empties littered the side table next to his recliner. “I was let go.”

My heart sank. Things were already tight. I walked around to stand between him and the history channel documentary on the black plague, arms crossed against my chest. “What happened?”

“Told me things were tough and they had to let someone go.” He took a sip and belched. “It happens.”

I nodded. It happened a lot to him. “You were drinking on the job.”

“I had a couple of beers at lunch. No big deal.”

I closed my eyes. I knew better. “And the whiskey shots at break?”

“A pick-me-up is all.”

I could feel the tears beginning to form so I went back to the kitchen to put the groceries away. A fast inventory of the fridge and cupboards made my stomach churn. There wasn’t much on hand. I’d been planning a big shopping expedition this weekend. Now that wouldn’t happen. I made tea and sat down at the table with a legal pad.

He came in, tossed his empties in the recycling bin and got four more beers from the fridge. For some reason, there was always money for beer. He didn’t even look at me before he went back to the living room. I started the list, mortgage, car payment, electricity, water, those were the most important. Then TV, phone, and internet, a combined payment that was lower than doing them separately. The phone and internet were important, that’s how he’d look for work. Groceries, ’cause we had to eat, but I knew how to pinch that particular penny. I knew to the last cent how much each of those bills cost; I was the one that paid the bills every month. The only bill with any give was the grocery bill. I drank the last of my tea, gone cold. My pay wouldn’t cover the bottom line.

He’d been so sweet back in college. Not scary aggressive like the rest of the boys. He played me soft love songs on the quad in the shade of a giant, ancient oak on his guitar. He read my tarot cards, each of us on opposite sides of his dorm room bed, the cards spread out in front of us. Sure, other guys vied for my attention. But I always came back to him. We married right out of college.

I didn’t notice the drinking at first. We all drank in college. After, it was get-togethers with people from work—kegs, now that we all had jobs and money to spare. Those friends dropped out after the babies started coming. Soon, it was just the two of us, uncomfortable with our friends since we didn’t have children. My heart constricted as I sat at the table, turning my tea mug around and around in front of me.

His drinking became a nightly thing. I didn’t realize there was a problem until he came home, fired, five years ago. One of his co-workers told me why when I saw him and his wife in the grocery one day. Drinking on the job. They were so sorry, they said. I nodded, the blush making my face hot. We had a three-hour screaming match when I got home. He promised he’d change. It worked, for awhile.

Now, this was the fifth job in as many years. I turned the kettle on for another cup of tea. Should I go in and confront him? Would it make any more difference than it had the last four times? I put a fresh tea bag in my cup and poured the boiling water over it and sat back down. The pad in front of me sat accusing, the bottom-line figure taunting me. Could I get a second job? My current job was nine-to-five and not very stressful. Maybe I could do something from home.

I was so tired of this fight. I went into the living room and pulled a footstool in front of him. “Do you want to change?”

He blinked at me; already a six-pack into the night’s drinking.

“Do you care at all?”

“Yes.”

“Do something.”

He muted the TV. “I tried.”

“Not hard enough.” He looked tired. No, beaten. My words made his face fall even more. “I can’t pay all of the bills on my salary. You have to get another job.”

“No one will hire me. Word is out.”

Rage washed through me. “Then DO something! Go into rehab! Quit cold turkey. I cannot do this anymore.”

He sat forward in the recliner and took my hand. “I can’t help it.”

I could feel something inside of me snap. He was pathetic. A loser. Why was I struggling with this man? I stood up. “You can move into the spare room.”

He blinked at me again. “What?”

“I’ve had enough. You can move into the spare room. I can’t afford to leave. I’m still responsible for the house and the bills. You get yourself together or get the hell out.”

I stood up and went into the kitchen. My hand shook as I picked up my tea mug. Did I just do that?

He shuffled into the kitchen, shoulders slumped. He handed me a small box of my favorite chocolate truffles. “Happy anniversary.”

I automatically took them, staring at him. An icy wave washed over me. Was he for real? I took the two steps to the trash can and dropped the box in.  I took my tea, went to my bedroom, and locked the door. There was no going back.

 

Thank You!

970 Words

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

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Birch in the Blade: Flash Fiction Friday Story

Red Dwart by darthcetus via DeviantArt.com

Red Dwart by darthcetus via DeviantArt.com

“It was your mother’s sword, Charlene.”

Charlene stroked the intricate designs on the blade, and the basket hand guard. “Birch leaves?”

“Your mother’s family symbol. They’d be proud of what a fine young woman you’ve become.”

Char took a few practice swirls. “It’s like it was made for me.” She turned to stare. “Enchanted?”

Her father nodded. “It fits itself to its rightful owner’s hand.”

“What other powers does it have?”

“Your mother told me it depends on the owner. For her, it cast a glamour over her, making her seem bigger, stronger, and more fierce. It pierced whatever she hit, no matter how poor the blow. You’ll have to find out what it will do for you.”

Char gazed at the sword with a mix of eagerness and dread. “The gift of the sword must mean it’s time for my quest.”

“You’re twenty. What will you do?”

Char had been thinking about it since she was eight. “I’m going to find the king who destroyed my mother’s family and kill him.”

“A grim task.”

“Long overdue.” She slid the sword into its new scabbard. “Why didn’t you do it?”

“You mother forbade me.”

Char asked, “Any advice?”

“Stay alive.”

Two weeks later Char left. The tradition held that she was to go alone but for the last four generations, a squire had been allowed to go along. Char’s squire, Holly, trained with her from the first year. Beside Char’s horse she said, “Killing King Dwile isn’t going to be easy. A dwarf is going to be underground more often than not.”

“He’ll come out, probably for hunting and he’ll be a lot less protected than in his stronghold.”

Holly nodded. “Killing the dwarf king will cause trouble.”

“Father believes the revenge-killing will be understood by the dwarves. They follow the custom themselves. Prince Dwale will take the throne and there will be peace.”

Holly sighed. “I don’t like it.”

After a  month to travel to King Dwile’s stronghold, two months were spent hiding and spying on the king. Twice they’d nearly been caught by the dwarf patrols. The fourth month they spied the king leading a small group of hunters from the stronghold’s gates.

“They’re headed for the woods,” Char mounted her horse and traced the king and his party.

An hour later the King had just shot a fine buck. While two men gutted the deer, the King called out that he was going to water a tree. The men laughed and the King moved into the woods alone.

“Here’s our chance.” Char hurried through the woods after the king. She reached him already finished with his business and looking up at the trees. Char drew her sword. “King Dwile. I’m Princess Charlene Longbow. You murdered my grandparents and stole their kingdom. Now you must die.”

King Dwile slowly turned to face Char. “A left-over Arborman? I thought I’d destroyed the lot of you.” He pulled his sword from its scabbard.

“I’ve come to avenge my family.”

“A slip of a girl like you?” he laughed. “You’re quest is to kill me? A great many have tried.”

Char advanced, sword ahead of her. The dwarf was short but stocky and broad of shoulder. She saw that he was light-footed as he crossed the forest floor. It was only a moment before they crossed swords. Char hoped that the sword’s magic, still unrevealed, would work for her now.

Holly stood back, keeping watch. “Kill him and be done.”

King Dwile laughed. “In a hurry little one?”

Char pivoted and struck another blow but the King was quick and the swords clashed again. The two of them circled. Char realized that the magic the sword had for her mother wasn’t for her. She wished the sword would help her.

The swords clashing drew the hunting party. “What’s this?” A young dwarf cried out. He drew his blade.

“Stop,” Holly stood between her princess and the dwarves. “Princess Charlene is avenging her grandparents. You must hold.”

“That’s my father, girl.”

Holly nodded but didn’t take her eyes from the dwarf. “Your majesty. Tradition and custom is clear. This is a fair fight.”

Prince Dwale grimaced and continued to grip his sword but no move to stop Char.

Char tired. The King struck harder than the human men she trained with. She stepped forward and before she knew it, her sword had pierced the King’s chest. As soon as she had stopped planning her strokes, the sword took over.

King Dwile stood, eyes wide, his sword dropped. The prince caught his father just before he sank to the ground. Char stepped back and Holly with her.

The prince sobbed over his father before calling his men to carry the king back to the stronghold.

Char gripped her sword as the prince stood up. “King Dwale.”

The young dwarf sighed. “Does this release my family from your revenge?”

“It is done. I’ll trouble your kingdom no further.”

“My father was wrong to attack the Kingdom of Arbor. The old king wouldn’t grant mining rights.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.”

“And I for yours, fair maid. May we offer hospitality?”

Char thought that a bad idea. “My thanks, sire, but we have been travelling a long time. We’re ready to go home.”

“Go safely, then, Princess.”

“And you.”

Returned home, Char met with her father.

“You don’t think he’ll start a war?” The King treaded.

“I don’t think so. They may want to open trade negotiations.”

“Good idea. I’ll send emissaries. What did your quest teach you?

Char thought a moment. “I chose a stupid quest. It wasn’t helpful in and could have led to a war. I wonder that you allowed me to go.”

“It was a chance, but you needed that lesson. You’ll be a better queen for having learned it the hard way.”

Char hoped she wouldn’t have to learn too many more that way.

 

Thank You!

985 Words

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

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The Mighty Five: Friday Flash Story

Sparks

Sparks

The old woman stirred her fire and dropped another piece of wood on top. The sparks danced up the chimney like demented fireflies.

“Granny, tell the story.”

Elsa wiped her rheumy eyes; of course the grandchildren would want to hear about her adventures. She nodded and hobbled back to her rocker. Shifting the chair so she could face both them and the fire, Elsa’s heart filled with love for the sweet girls cuddled together under a blanket on the bench, ready for a bedtime story.

“It was long ago,” she began, “when my eyes were clear and I moved like a gazelle across the land.”

“You were Elsa the Archer, one of the Mighty Five,” Corrine piped in.

“I was, though you’d never think so to see me today.” Elsa smiled at her oldest grand-daughter. It’s not the children’s fault I’ve grown so old. “It was before your mother was borne when Ragnar the Bold and I took on the evil marshal who was running roughshod over the shire.”

“Then Steven the Red, Dale Strongarm and Jamie the Bull joined you,” Denise, the younger girl added.

“Indeed they did. And we fought Marshal Eggleston with everything we had.” Elsa’s mind flashed to their first fight against the marshal’s men. “The first fight was later called the battle of the ford. The marshal had put a gate on either side of the ford.”

“To collect a tax!” Corrine called out.

“He did. Coming or going, it made no difference to the marshal. While he filled his coffers with our coppers and silvers the people of the Shire grew poorer and poorer. Something had to be done.”

“So Ragnar the Bold devised a plan,” Denise shouted.

Elsa chuckled. “He did. The five of us marched up to the ford, the marshal’s men lounged in their place, calling out that the fee to cross was two coppers. They stood up as we approached, the foul men calling out lewd invitations to me.

“Grandpa Ragnar didn’t like it,” Corrine noted.

“He did not but he kept his temper.” Elsa smiled as she remembered how much she admired her new husband for his control. “Ragnar stepped up to the man in charge as I stood back and the others spread out across the road. Ragnar told the man that we wanted to cross. The soldiers laughed. The head soldier said, ‘When we get the coppers, clod. Two for each of you to cross, though, for the woman, we’ll allow you to pass for free.’ I could see Ragnar grip his stave until his knuckles turned white. I pulled set my arrow and pulled my bow. Ragnar told them he would not pay.”

The girls stared at their grandmother with rapt attention.

“You will pay or turn around, peasant. The soldiers from the other side of the ford were listening to their comrade. Ragnar raised his stave. I’ll give you this if you don’t let us pass. The marshal’s men pulled their swords as the others on the other side began to cross. Ragnar swung back and hit the lead man with his stave. Then it was chaos. I pulled my bow but the men were too close together for me to shoot.”

“You were very brave, Grandma,” little Denise’s eyes shone. Elsa thought about how terrified she’d been. “Perhaps, little one. So your grandfather was in the fight of his life, his stave against swords. Steven, Jamie and Dale were also fighting hard. The five soldiers from the other side of the ford were nearly at the fight. I had to stop them or my friends would be outnumbered two to one and them with swords and armor.”

“You shot them!” Corrine said.

“I did.” Elsa’s stomach churned at the memory of the sound of her arrows slamming into the soldier’s chests but she didn’t stop firing until all five of them were down, screaming and writhing on the ground. She swallowed. “That gave Ragnar and our friends the time they needed to overcome the soldiers.”

“You saved the day, Grandma.” Denise grinned.

“I suppose so. That’s what the people cheered later as we went from town to town.”

“You were a hero,” Corrine nodded.

Elsa never felt like a hero. She had only wanted to raise children and work the farm. “Perhaps. As any man or woman is who fights for what they believe.” She shook off the memories of long ago. Ragnar had been dead these last ten years. “Time for bed, little ones. Enough of ancient stories.”

The girls unwrapped from their blanket, Corrine bringing it with her to their bed in the loft. Elsa tucked them in. “Sleep well.” She kissed each of them on the forehead.

“I’m going to be a hero someday,” Corrine said.

“Me, too,” Denise chimed in.

Elsa shuddered with the memories of all of the battles she’d fought in. “Dream of peace, girls. Being a hero is over-rated.”

Back in her chair she stared into the fire. All of that blood and death and for what? The King sent a new marshal and order was restored but it didn’t last. The old King died and the prince became king. Things became worse than ever.

She tossed another stick on the fire and picked up her knitting. The girls grew so fast new socks were needed every three months. Rumor had it that a new band was fighting back. The Protectors people were calling them. Elsa wished them well. If they lived through it they’d need help to bury the bad memories and live their lives in peace. She hoped they’d find it.

 

 

The End

937 Words

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

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Colony Princess: Flash Fiction Friday Story

1308160316_phoenix_by_o_eternal_o-d242bq2 via DeviantArt.com

1308160316_phoenix_by_o_eternal_o-d242bq2 via DeviantArt.com

Rose Apfel gazed out over the colony from her fourth-story apartment balcony window. “You can do it,” her father, King Stone Apfel had told her. “It’s the best, least dangerous planet our people have ever found. The top predator is a half-inch spider. It isn’t even toxic.”

So she had agreed. The ship arrived five years ago with four hundred colonists. Those were the prep team. They built housing and labs and civic buildings and parks and squares and farms. A year later came the second wave, scientists and mathematicians, astronomers and some entertainment crafts. In the third year came teachers and entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and craftsmen. Those were busy, glorious years full of thoughts of the future.

Then last year came the dragons. They flew overhead eating the stock, burning the apartments, houses, stores and civic buildings. Oh, they ate the native animal life, large, bovine and lizard-like creatures all of whom were vegetarian. But they relished the imported livestock. The price of meat, dairy and leather skyrocketed. The price of grain and vegetables rose through the roof. Rose sighed. A year of predation and now, she had to make some very hard choices. A gong sounded. Time to go down to her cabinet meeting.

Seated at the head of the table, Rose listened to a long list of problems. Worst was the loss of communications. The dragons had burned the communications towers for the fifth time in a year. They just couldn’t get word through to her father on their home planet. She drummed her fingers on the highly polished wooden table. “Two things.” She looked around the table. “I can see that everyone is working as hard as they can.”

The tiny complement cheered the glum group staring back at her. “Unfortunately that is not enough. We need to work smarter. No one has yet determined where these dragons have come from and why they’re here now. I want one captured and studied.”

Every man and woman slumped in their seat. “Second. We implement rationing immediately. Palace residents, included.” Her prime minister paled. His girth displayed his love of banquets.

A week later, word was sent that they had captured a dragon. She went immediately to the science labs, re-built underground after the above ground buildings were destroyed shortly after the dragons emerged. The dragon was in a fire-proof transparent walled cage. Her breath caught in her throat at her first sight of it. Emerald green scales glittered with silver highlights on the edges. Rose tinted the dragon’s spine from the top of its head to the tip of its tail. “It’s beautiful!”

“Indeed, Princess.” The lead scientist, River Aspen, stood, hands behind his back in front of the cage. “We rendered the beast unconscious, My Lady, and drew blood and other fluids. The test results are that the creature’s biology is consistent with that of this planet. What we cannot know at this point, is why in the fifteen years between the initial study of the planet and our settlement, that these creatures were never discovered.”

Rose nodded. That was the main question. “Some sort of cyclical life-cycle?”

“That is the only explanation, Princess.” Scientist Aspen turned at a movement of the dragon. “Ah. This is why we called you. The dragon is awaking.”

“You used fireproof glass?” Rose eyed the cage enclosure as the dragon stirred.

“Oh, yes, Princess. And triple strength walls.”

Reassured, the Princess watched as the roomful of scientists monitored the screens showing the dragon’s heart rate and other medical or biological functions. A speaker system let them hear the dragon as it woke from the sedatives. It opened its eyes after rumbles, mumbles and snorts, scrambling to its feet and falling against the walls. It chirruped and growled, shaking its head.

“Its trying to clear the sedative fog,” Rose said.

“Typical behavior, Princess, for any creature after sedation.”

Gaining strength, it roared at the scientists and tried to blow flame but coughed instead. It seemed to glare at them then proceeded to investigate every inch of the cell. It came back to the window and roared again.

The princess walked to the window and gazed at the creature. It bent its head down and looked back at her with golden eyes. “Scientist Aspen, do you have a translator installed in the creature’s cell?”

The scientist’s mouth dropped open. “Why, no, Princess. It’s an animal.”

She put her hand up to the glass. The dragon did the same, it’s huge clawed foot dwarfing her hand on the other side of the glass. “So are we. Set it up immediately.”

While the scientists worked on setting up the translator, Rose took her mid-day tea in a chair in front of the cage. Water and a small raw roast were placed in the cage and the dragon ate with her.

Aspen hurried to her when her tea was finished. “It’s installed, Princess.”

She stood up and faced the cage. She bowed. “Dragon. I’m Princess Rose Apfel, leader of this colony we call Gamilios. What is your name?”

The dragon chirruped, hissed and growled. “The translator is working on the language, Princess.”

“Our months are Wasardi, Hori, Shami, Tre, Kaloc, Arac, Hekani, Areg, Kani, Mareri, Margac and Hrotic. We count zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and we use a base ten for our mathematics. We eat meat as well as vegetables and grain. We come from a planet many light years away. We call this sun Shahova and this planet, Ardes.”

She could hear the speaker within the cage hissing and chirruping. The dragon spoke, “I’m Beroan, mother of Nesenth, who are you?”

The Princess curtsied. “I’m Princess Rose, leader of this colony. I think we have much to talk about, Beroan.”

A year later, they held a joint celebration of the birth of cooperation between two cultures. The Gamilosians raised enough food for the dragons, and the dragons could visit the stars.

 

The End

995 Words

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

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No Flash Fiction Friday Yesterday

Sorry about no Flash Fiction Friday.  I’m neck deep in the last week of the National Novel Writing Month and to be honest, it’s not going well.  The novel I planned didn’t last the whole 50,000 words required to “win” the November challenge so now I’m writing by the seat of my pants (writers call that pantsing) trying to come up with additional stories on the spur of the moment.

Since my story, TriPoint Station, is set on a space station, I decided to write some short stories, exploring different aspects of the station.  I’ve managed two short stories so far bringing me up to just a little over 5,000 words to go to finish the November challenge.  I’ll keep plugging.

In the meantime, here’s a snippet from TriPoint Station.  Be aware, this is a very rough draft.  It may not even make the final book or it may be changed dramatically.

Snippet from TriPoint Station

“Lass!  Welcome back.”  He hustled out from behind the bar and gave me a bear hug.  He did a double take when he saw my face, then pulled me over to an empty table, pulling out the chair for me.  I sat down and he sat down with me.  Quietly, he asked, “What happened?”

I shut my eyes; the memory of Mike, lying sprawled out on the concourse deck, blood seeping out from under his back flashing in my mind.  I sighed and opened my eyes.  “The guy I left here with, Mike, was just killed.  Knifed right in front of me.”

Shamus’ eyes went wide.  “How?”

I shook my head.  “Three big guys attacked us as we were walking along the concourse, going to get some dinner.  I don’t understand it.  One grabbed my arm, Mike dropped back, taking on the other two.  It went horribly wrong and one of them knifed him in the back.”  I clasped my hands on the table to stop them from shaking.

Shamus put his hands over mine.  They covered my hands completely, rough hands but warm and gentle.  I looked into his face, there was concern there.  “He was trying to defend me Shamus.” Tears started to leak down my cheeks.

End Snippet

I hope it’s teased your appetite for the rest of the book.

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