This one comes from my last writer’s group meeting and I may yet regret posting it.



What do you do when you’re the only one left?

She sank to her knees in the sand.

Her Mama had died when she was little, the victim of a disease that would’ve been curable if she had lived anywhere else in the world. Her Papa and eldest brother had been gunned down when they had refused to surrender her little brothers to the gangs, which had taken them anyway.

And her big sister had walked by her side, taking care of her, promising her that they would make it through the desert, that they would get to safety and build a new life together. She’s promised that they would have a new home. And she’d walked by her side, until she couldn’t walk anymore.

Now, she was alone.

The sun beat down on her. The sand burned the soles of her feet. The desert was endless and she was alone, one insignificant speck against the vast landscape of sand and scrub.

So she did the only thing she could do.

She dropped onto her knees, closed her eyes, and sang.


I cannot replicate or link to the prompt that inspired it, as it was an auditory prompt provided by one of the other members of the group. The setting is purposely ambiguous. Make of it what you will.


Crappie Cupid

This is the first time I’ve written in a while… I’ve had quite the dry spell, in more than one sense. This is, again, based on a writing prompt. I’ll include the prompt and a link to the source at the end. I guess the Valentine’s Day spirit is kind of getting to me… In the meantime, please be kind and enjoy:

Rick rolled his eyes and sighed heavily, letting some of his frustration bubble out of him. There was still plenty left over, though.

Stupid Bob.

He was late.


As usual.

Rick wondered what idiotic excuse he’d have this time. It wasn’t fair. All he wanted was to meet a nice female and settle down. But he couldn’t. Because of stupid Bob. Crappie Cupid was supposed to be the premier dating service in the area. At least, that’s what he’d heard from all of his friends. And all of his friends already had females of their own, so he supposed they couldn’t be wrong.

It was a rule that the dating service had – all of the males had to arrive in a group and leave in a group. All of the females did the same. It was supposed to be for their protection – so that the females never felt threatened or unsafe. He didn’t mind the rule. It seemed like a good rule… if it weren’t for Bob making him late all the time.

Bob may not have his priorities straight, but Rick certainly did. And he was tired of dealing with Bob’s ridiculous shenanigans. Rick plotted out exactly what he wanted to say. He was ready to give Bob a piece of his mind, when Bob finally swam up, huffing and puffing.

“You guys aren’t going to guess what I just saw!”

Humph. Rick bet they wouldn’t. Bob was always coming up with the most outlandish stories.

“I was just swimming along, trying to get here on time… And I saw these huge, pale columns! There were two of them, and they weren’t there yesterday … I swear they weren’t! And they had odd hairs floating off of them,” Bob told the group. “But I said to myself, I said – weird white columns or no, you have to get going! I knew the group was waiting on me, see.”

He looked around, gauging his words for impact.

“And then,” he said. “Just in front of these weird white columns… I saw this thing… It was solid and hard, like a rock, but shiny…. sooo shiny.”

Bob got a dreamy look in his eye just then.

“It was beautiful,” he continued. “It was like…. like moonlight made solid. I started swimming towards it. I couldn’t help myself. But then I shook it off… I remembered that I had to meet you guys, so I darted behind some jagged rocks, just to get away from the shiny thing.”

Some of the other members of the group were waving him along impatiently, wanting to get going, but also wanting him to finish his story, a little more than they’d like to admit.

“But I turned around to look at it one more time, to say goodbye, you know,” he explained. “And I saw him – I saw my cousin Al. He was swimming towards it. He saw it same as I did, but…. but he couldn’t stop himself. He swam right up to it and put it in his mouth, like he was trying to swallow the moon.”

Bob was almost in hysterics now, which Rick was certain he was faking. The next part was spoken in a whisper, as if he was sharing a secret with the group.

“It took him,” Bob said. “It just nabbed Al and pulled him up and away and…. I couldn’t see him anymore. He was just gone!”

Bob looked around again.

“Gone,” he repeated for emphasis. “Absolutely disappeared. Vanished.”

“Great, Bob,” Rick said, not willing to take any more of this. “I’m sure that really happened. Can we get going now?”

Bob’s eyes grew even wider than their normal saucer-size.

“It happened! Of course it happened!” he exclaimed. “I’ve just survived a nightmare! It could’ve been me on that thing! I could’ve been taken!”

“I wish it was you,” Rick thought to himself.

Out loud, he said, “Sure, Bob. Just like you were chased by that octopus last week.”

“I was!” Bob half-shouted.

“We live in a freshwater river, Bob,” Rick said, flatly. “There are no octopi.”

“You may not be able to explain it,” Bob said, glaring at him. “But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.”

“Sure,” Rick said. “Can we go now? Before all of the good females are taken?”

He didn’t wait for a response before he turned around and swam away. The group followed, now that Bob’s dramatic tale had come to an end.

About twenty feet upstream, the tired fisherman decided to call it a day. He’d only caught one little white crappie. It flopped around miserably in his little boat as he sat back down. It wouldn’t do for dinner, but the sun was setting and he had to get home. He supposed he’d stop at McDonald’s on the way, and hope that the fishing was better tomorrow.






Prompt courtesy of:

Twas the night before Christmas…

‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the home

Not a creature was stirring

And she felt so alone


The lights were draped across

the windows with care.

She poured another drink.

She wasn’t going anywhere.


She heaved a sigh

As she microwaved supper.

She walked to the couch

And petted the pupper.


She listened to the whir and the whoosh

of the washing machine.

Even if life sucked,

At least the sheets were clean.


Then there came a

knock at the door

She walked up to it slowly,

Worried, unsure.


She pulled it open

To the neighbor from downstairs

A woman who looked

quite displeased to be there.


“There’s water,” she said.

“Dripping down from my ceiling.

My bathroom floor’s wet.

My paint’s begun peeling.”


She turned off the machine

and threw towels on the floor.

She mopped and she cleaned.

Then she cleaned some more.


It’s hard to think of a time

when you would feel dumber.

But ’twas the night before Christmas…

There would be no plumber.


You do your best.

And you say you’re sorry.

And you try to clean up.

And you worry and worry.


Spending holidays alone

Can feel like a curse

But you just remember…

It can always get worse.

September 25, 2017

Grandfather Fox lay down for a nap in his most dignified manner. This was not difficult. Grandfather Fox did everything in his most dignified manner, and as a result, was accustomed to the effort required. However, Grandfather Fox’s determination to nap did not prevent Franny the kit from pestering him.

The little cub poked and prodded her Grandfather, scampering around him on clickety-clackety little paws until the old fox finally snapped, nipping at his granddaughter’s tail, and biting just hard enough to elicit a yelp.

Go pester someone else,” he growled.

Grandfather, it seemed, took his naps seriously, and so Franny took her wounded tail and moved on to pestering her Mama, who was in their burrow’s kitchen, making dinner.

Mama,” she asked. “How come Grandfather only gots one eye?”

Only has,” her mother corrected.

Has.” Franny rolled her eyes, as much as foxes are capable of rolling them, anyhow. “How come Grandpa only has one eye?”

He lost it in the Great Meadow War,” Mama Fox said.

Franny’s eyes grew round.

There was a war?” she asked.

Yes,” Mama sighed. “It was a long, long time ago, before I was even born.”

Who were we fighting against?” Franny asked.

Mama Fox looked around quickly, making certain that Grandfather was, in fact, asleep. The old man didn’t like talk of the war – it brought back bad memories. And he still had nightmares about it. Sometimes, she could still hear him muttering in his sleep. But it looked like Grandfather was firmly asnooze, so she answered.

We were fighting the forest foxes,” Mama said.

Forest foxes?”

Franny had lived her whole life in the meadow. She didn’t know there were forest foxes. She didn’t even know that there was a forest. All Franny knew was long green grass, and stealing food from the Farmer, and curling up in a warm spot of sunshine on the grass. She had no idea that there could be forest foxes.

How different their lives must be, she thought.

What are the forest foxes like?” she asked.

They’re bad,” Mama said, more harshly than she’d meant to.

She glanced around again, making sure Grandpa was still asleep, and then offered more of an explanation.

They’re not like us,” she said. “They’re …. Wild.”

Franny giggled.

But Mama, we’re all wild,” she said.

Mama Fox shook her head.

Not like they are,” she said ominously. “They’re savages. Beasts.”

Franny hadn’t known there was a forest until about a minute ago.

How far away is ‘the forest’?” she wanted to know.

She imagined it to be a distant, mythical place. She thought it must be so far that she’d never be able to get there on her own.

Not far,” Mama said. “It rests just beyond the meadow. It’s where the sunlight ends and the trees begin.”

Franny had never been to the end of the meadow, but she knew where it was – some of the older kits liked to lay in the shade, and had ventured into the darkness of the trees. But she hadn’t known before that the trees were ‘the forest.’

She hadn’t known that danger lurked so nearby. And she was scared.

W-what do they look like?” she asked.

Mama Fox subconsciously fluffed up her own fur.

They look nothing like us,” Mama Fox told her. “For one thing…”

She leaned closer her child, so she could whisper.

Their fur is red.”

Red?” Franny squeaked.

Yes,” Mama Fox nodded. “It’s nothing like our beautiful deep orange fur. Their fur is red, like blood.”

Franny shivered, imagining these savage foxes.

Mama?” she asked, her voice small and scared.

Yes, darling?”

W-will they ever come here?”

Franny was half-panicked. She hadn’t known these evil foxes existed before… but what was stopping them from coming here, especially since the forest was so close?

No, sweetie,” Mama Fox said. “They won’t come here. They stay in the forest. That was part of the treaty that ended the war. They stay on their territory and we stay on ours.”

Franny couldn’t sleep that night. She tossed and turned, having turbulent nightmares about blood-red foxes with crazy eyes creeping up to her family’s burrow in the darkness.

And she made a choice. She had to see one. She had to know if they were real. She needed to know what they looked like, and if they meant her family harm.

And with those thoughts, she drifted into an uneasy sleep.


The morning dawned sunny and bright. It was almost bright enough for Franny to forget about her nightmares of the previous evening. Almost.

As usual, the kits played together, play-fighting and rolling around in the green meadow grass and lazing in the sun.

Somehow, as they tumbled around, their play brought them closer and closer to the dark woods on the opposite side of the meadow. Franny made sure of it, gently poking and nudging the other little ones, until they were mere feet away.

The other kits continued their play, but Franny stared into the darkness between the trees. Finally, the others noticed that she wasn’t playing with them. One of the other little cubs, Frank, came up to her, nudging her in the shoulder.

Dare you to go in there,” he said.

They dared each other to do things all the time.

“Dare you to race to that tree and back.”

Dare you to steal that pie from the farmer’s window.”

Dare you to poke Grandpa.”

Frank hadn’t actually expected Franny to take this one, but it was what she’d been waiting for. She took one last look at him before darting into the woods.

She had to know what was in there. She had to know who was in there. She had to know if these foxes were as savage and evil as Mama had said.

She picked her way carefully between the trees, frightened and wary, feeling like danger lurked in every shadowed nook. Her body was tense.

And, before she knew it, the thing she’d been most frightened of happened.


A small, furry body slammed into her own, knocking her top over tail. By the time she landed, flat on her back, she’d had the breath knocked out of her. Still, she jumped up, hackles raised, and growled as fiercely as she could, which was, after all, not very fiercely. She was still a very small fox.

Jeeez. Relax, will ya?” the other, surprisingly small fox said. “I was only playing.”

Franny took a step back in surprise. This kit looked …. Well, it looked just like her, and her brothers and sisters and cousins.

Who’re you?” she asked.

Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” the other fox said. “After all, you’re in my woods.”

She supposed he was right.

I’m Franny,” she said.

The other fox approached her again, this time, it came right up close, and licked her on the nose.

Nice to meet ya, Franny,” he said. “I’m Danny.”

The two circled each other.

Finally, Franny spoke.

I thought you’d look different,” she said.

Different how?”

You know… wild.”


With bright red fur and sharp teeth,” she said.

Danny rolled his eyes.

My teeth are as sharp as yours,” he said. “I’ll promise you that.”

His fur was certainly the same. He didn’t look any different from any other fox she’d known. Maybe he was a little more annoying, but she suspected that was a personal trait.

They were both little foxes, of approximately the same age. And so they did as young things do, when they meet and spend time together – they spent their afternoon playing in the woods.

And when Franny left the woods, late in the afternoon, as the sun was just beginning to touch the treetops, she trotted out smugly to meet her companions, all of whom had been waiting, worried about her.

That night, when Grandfather Fox took his after-dinner nap, Franny decided to tell her Mama the happy news.

Mama,” she said. “I met one of them. They’re not bad at all.”

One of what?” Mama asked.

Mama was distracted and not paying very much attention, trying to scrub a particularly tough stuck-on bit off of a plate. But the next words caught her attention.

One of the forest foxes,” Franny said. “I played with him all afternoon. He was nice. And the forest foxes look just like us. They’re not crazy. They don’t have red fur or anything.”

Mama Fox’s mouth dropped open, and the plate she was holding fell, shattering on the floor.

Mama Fox grabbed Franny’s paw, forcing her into the living room, waking Grandfather from his nap. She forced Franny to tell her Grandfather everything that had happened.

Slowly, staring at the ground the whole time, Franny recited the entire story. She was unsure why Grandfather looked so worried. She didn’t know what she had done wrong. Or for that matter, what Danny had done.

When she finished her story, Grandfather didn’t stop to say anything. He got out of his easy chair with surprising speed, knocking Franny down and charging straight out of the burrow.

Franny let out a whimper. What had she done?

Grandfather Fox went from burrow to burrow, spreading the word and gathering the elders of the meadow community.

Franny watched as the council gathered in the center of the meadow, where Grandfather stood on the large central dirt mound, created for such occasions. There were foxes from every family there, looking oddly apprehensive.

He looked tall and dignified, Franny thought, but he also looked scared. Franny hopped around the outskirts of the crowd, trying to get a good view of Grandfather, and trying to hear what he was saying. She couldn’t hear very clearly from where she was, but she did catch a few snippets.

Grandfather was telling the story of what had happened in the forest that day. Or at least, Franny thought he was… It didn’t sound much like what she’d told him. In this version, the evil forest fox lured little Franny into the woods. In this version, he didn’t just tumble into her, but viciously attacked her. And in this version, he was about five times bigger than Franny, a full-grown fox hurting a poor, little kit.

Every time he said something untrue, Franny tried to shout over him, to correct him – to fix this. And every time, the adults hushed her, cuffing her around the ears and telling her to pipe down while the adults talked about important things.

Eventually, the adults began shouting, loudly proclaiming that they wouldn’t let evil forest foxes corrupt their sweet, innocent babies. They shouted that they wouldn’t let these foreigners invade their territory and destroy their way of life. They yelled about tradition and the importance of family, and how nothing mattered to these wicked invaders.

Franny slunk home with her tail between her legs, knowing that somehow, she had caused this, and desperately wishing that she could stop it.

The following day, Franny watched as Grandfather gathered a group of strong, young foxes. They sharpened their claws and gathered the sharpest sticks they could find. And they marched into the forest at sunrise. Franny could see the early morning light, ruby-red, glinting off of her Grandfather’s good eye, highlighting the fear and rage on his face as he marched.

Hours later, they came limping out of the forest, scratched and wounded, bleeding. Some of them had broken limbs.

Franny cried into the evening, listening as the other foxes discussed the savages in the forest, and the oncoming battle.

The next day, as the sun rose, the forest foxes counter-attacked. The foxes of the meadow were ready for them, standing stoic, with sharpened claws and teeth and twigs.

Franny hid in the burrow, occasionally lifting her little face to see the adult foxes in their dangerous dance, slashing at each other, stabbing and tearing into each other with their teeth.

She sobbed, crying out of sorrow, out of the utterly unjust way of the world, out of the cruelty creatures are capable of wreaking upon each other. She cried and cried, tears wetting her white-and-orange fur.

Not very far away, on the opposite end of the meadow, the farmer’s daughter looked out of the window.

“Come here, Dad!” she called. “Take a look at this! The foxes are playing together!”

She gave a little giggle and pressed her palm against the glass of the window before turning to look at her Dad.

“Aren’t they cute?” she asked.


I so much wish that we lived in a post-nationalist world. I wish that we lived in a society where who you are and what you do and what you think matters so much more than where you come from or what you look like.

We’ve got a long way to go. Here’s hoping we get there eventually.


Writing Prompt:


Writing Prompt Courtesy of:





August 30, 2017

I’m quite tired. I suppose this is the kind of thing that happens when I’m tired. Or maybe I’ve just quacked up… heh.

Anyhow, here you go, without further ado:

There are many different flavors of silence, and most of them are unpleasant. A contemptible silence leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, like the aftermath of drinking bad coffee, when the flavor has coated your tongue and no amount of water seems to flush it away.

However, a contemptible silence is preferable to an empty one. An empty silence, completely devoid of emotion, feels like disappointment. It tastes like loss. Like the memory of the most delicious thing you could have had. The thing that you missed out on and will always regret.

And this, the silence that filled the office, broken only by the insistent shushing of the air conditioner and the occasional clickety-clack of typing, was an empty silence. It was the sound of a group of people, as one, typing without thought, moving without emotion or purpose, getting up to retrieve a piece of paper from the printer only to return to their seats, weighed down with the heaviness of the day, every passing minute a pebble dropped onto the growing pile they carried.

She sat at her computer, eyes staring at the large monitor before her, and watched the blinking cursor dumbly.





She’d been checking the same boxes, typing the same numbers over and over, until they blurred together in her mind like a reel of newsprint, black-and-white digits floating behind her eyes. She typed the address one more time and allowed herself to sit for a few moments, face propped against her palm, glaring at the dreaded screen.

One more file.

Just get through one more file.

She’d been pushing herself through them all day, like a swimmer doing laps. Well, more like a swimmer who hates swimming. She forced her body through the water, and pushed herself each time her head bobbed up into the chlorine-saturated air for a gasping breath.




Just like that.




She reached for the next one. The last one in the stack. The folder was such a bright yellow that it almost hurt to look at. The files were wrapped in brightly colored folders, as if to make up for the blandness of everything else surrounding them.

She reached for it, and she put it back. Just for a moment. She’d get to it in a minute. She would. She just… wanted a minute. She sat with her cheek pressed into her palm and watched the never-ending, blinking cursor again. And just for that moment, she let her already half-closed eyes slide completely shut.

“You’re still working on these?”

Her boss’s loud voice broke through her little break. It wasn’t quite yelling, but… Oh, let’s just be honest. It was yelling.

“I thought you’d have these done hours ago! What on earth is taking so damn long?”

He was a short, portly man with yellowy-gray hair that he ran his fingers through whenever he was nervous, inadvertently puffing it up like a crown of feathers around his balding head. It looked like that now, as he reached for her last remaining file, holding it in front of her nose menacingly.

“This is an important job,” he half-shouted. “And if you’re not going to be responsible and committed to your tasks then – ”

Quaaaack! Quaaaack! Qua-Quaaack!

She blinked rapid-fire, as the papers he’d held went flying, drifting through the air. A moment later, they were followed by feathers.

The man was a duck.

It was not some sort of new insult.

The man had suddenly morphed into a giant, yellow duck.

And his white, downy under-feathers swiftly followed the paperwork, filling the air with a floating whiteness that covered the previously clean floor like snow, as he quacked and flapped his huge wings. The breeze created by the flapping only added to the disarray, sending little tornadoes of feathers whirling around the room and –


She jumped, eyes springing open and refocusing, as she tried to discreetly wipe a bit of drool off of her lower lip.

She looked at the huge new stack of files on her desk, which her boss had clearly just plopped there, while she sat half-snoozing, and then looked back up at him, wide-eyed.

He grinned and shrugged, only slightly apologetic for adding to her workload.

“It looked like you were down to your last few files,” he said. “So I thought I’d bring you some more to keep you busy.”

He turned to walk out, then thought better of it, as he popped his head back into her office, his yellowish corona glowing slightly in the fluorescent office light.

“By the way,” he said. “I meant to tell you good job. No one’s ever gotten through files that quickly.”

He gave her a quick smile.

“I appreciate your effort,” he said. “Keep up the good work.”

She sighed, picked up the formerly-last file, and began again, cocooned once again in the silence, which now felt a little less empty.

July 11, 2017




You could tell a lot about people from their shoes. He didn’t suppose he really had a choice, seeing as shoes were all he ever saw. He could’ve looked up, probably. But it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth trying to make eye contact with people who were so vigorously looking away that they might strain something. It wasn’t worth it, for the few times when people actually met his gaze, with pity or anger or hatred. He’d seen hatred more than he’d like to think about, but pity was bad enough.

He also didn’t look up, admittedly, because he was tired. And hungry. And he was enough of both that the mere act of lifting his head was an effort that he did not want to expend. So he kept his eyes on the ground. And he watched the shoes as they walked by.

Shoes could tell you a lot about people. Maybe that wasn’t exactly true. But they told him enough. He didn’t need to know much. He only needed to know two things, in fact: which people would hurt him or harass him or yell at him to get off of his lazy ass and get a job (not that he minded the yelling, but if that happened, the police would likely get on his case and he’d have to move to the next block), and who might actually help him. Money or food. Money was, admittedly, better. But he wouldn’t reject food, either, especially not as hungry as he was now.

Heels, he had learned, were bad. Their wearers rarely gave him anything, only clicked by on the sidewalk, always in a hurry, even when they were visibly in pain. But heels usually didn’t yell at him, so he supposed they weren’t all that bad. He’d be most likely to get something from ballet flats or sneakers. Although sneakers were also pretty likely to yell at him or throw things, so they weren’t entirely good, either.

The worst were the sleek, black shoes – the ones men wore to work. Loafers or lace-ups, or even the super-shiny ones men wore for ‘special events’ – they were all the worst. At best, they would ignore him. But if he was going to get shouted at or lectured, the source was most likely a pair of black, narrow-toed shoes, like little crocodiles swimming along the sidewalk.

He had learned to shrink a little more as they came by, trying not to be noticed.

So he wasn’t particularly worried when a pair of pointy-toed black high heels click-clacked their way up to him. A hand reached down and he found a sandwich laid gently in his lap. It was new, still in the triangle of plastic that grocery stores sell sandwiches in. Turkey, looked like. He bet if he checked it, the thing wouldn’t even be expired. A bottle of water followed the sandwich. He could feel the weight of it against his leg.

“Here you go,” a young, female voice said.

He still didn’t look up. Old habits die hard, especially when there are good reasons for them in the first place.

“Thank you,” he muttered, trying to make it just loud enough for the woman to hear.

“You’re welcome,” she said quietly.

Maybe he’d been wrong. At least, he’d been wrong about the heels. No high heels had ever given him anything before, but maybe he’d underestimated them, somehow? Maybe things were about to change?

He watched as this particular pair wobbled away. She was, he noticed, none too steady in them. She walked a few steps, and he winced as he saw the shoe slip sideways in a crack on the sidewalk, tipping her to the side. Her ankle bent in an awkward way and she nearly went down, but caught herself just in time, straightening up and walking on, as though she’d only just attempted an unsuccessful dance move.

He chuckled as she walked on, watching her wobble with every step. He wondered if she’d be as generous in a few months time. Or in a few years time.

Or maybe she’d just switch to flats.



Writing Prompt:




Writing Prompt Courtesy of:

Take 3 nouns

July 8, 2017


Not sure about this one. It’s a little off-color, I suppose. But it’s the sort of thing that happens when I start writing late at night:



There is nothing quite so comforting as stew for dinner. Of course, that’s an easy thought to think when you haven’t got anything to make stew with. The old woman gazed around her tiny kitchen.

There was the stewpot, hanging neat and clean on the wall. The fireplace had logs aplenty, as if waiting for her to put the stew on. And a few sad carrots and onions waited, wilting on the table. There were a few stale, old slices of bread ossifying in the cupboard. And there were assorted spices, hanging dry among the rafters of the little shack, teasing her nose with their scents, almost as if they knew she had no way to use them.

She sighed. You do what you can with what you have. Dinner, she supposed, would be a bit of hard bread, with a bit of hard cheese, if she could beg some from the neighbors.

Unless… unless the boy could bring something home from the forest? A rabbit, perhaps? Rabbit stew would be delicious. Hell, she’d even settle for a squirrel.

But he wouldn’t. The boy couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a slingshot. But that wasn’t the issue. Not really. The thing was that he wouldn’t. The boy wouldn’t hurt animals at all. And he certainly couldn’t bring himself to shoot one.

It hadn’t been a problem when his Mama and Papa had been alive. His Papa, her own son, had done the hunting. And the carpentry. And whatever else needed doing. He’d sold off the extra in the village – whatever toy he’d carved or shelf he’d made from spare wood. And there had always been enough. His Mama had done the sewing and the mending and taken in laundry when the occasion called for it.

Things had been good, when they’d been alive. But a few winters back a fever had swept through the little village, taking with it her son and daughter-in-law, and a dozen others besides.

And she was stuck with the boy.

That wasn’t fair.

She shouldn’t say she was stuck with him – would never say it out loud, lest he hear her. She loved the child, after all. But life with him wasn’t exactly easy.

She sighed and went back to counting her carrots, somehow hoping there were more of them than there’d been the last time. Maybe the boy would bring back some wild mushrooms or berries. It would be better than nothing, anyhow.

The carrots seemed to wilt further beneath her gaze. She decided to look away from them, just in case it really was her gaze causing the damage – just in time to see the boy, breathless, run through the door, slamming it shut behind him.

Except he wasn’t alone.

Running in with him, tail beating madly against the boy’s leg, was a large brown hunting dog.


That was the boy’s name. She rarely had cause to use it. Actually, she rarely had need to call him anything at all – usually he was the only one within earshot anyhow. But when she did use it, it emerged angry and pitched, like a teapot whistle.

“Will-yum!” she said again, in her angry teapot squeak. “What have you done?”

It took the boy a few moments to catch his breath, but after that, they came spilling out, tumbling one over the other.

“I wuz in the woods, see? An’ there wuz this man huntin’ with th’ dog. And he looked cross an’ I wuz abou’ to come up and ask ‘im if I could help ‘im an’ … an’ he starts kickin’ at his dog! And the poor sweet little feller wuz just a-takin’ it. An’ … an’ I couldn’ help it. I felt so bad for the poor thing. So I grabbed ‘im an’ I ran. I just… I just couldn’ leave th’ dog with that awful man, y’know?”

She wasn’t sure she believed the whole story. There were some details she’d be sure to suss out later. But the part about taking the dog away because the man was beating it… She believed that rightly enough. Poor thing was skin and bones. But it was friendly enough. She bent to take a closer look and it licked her face.

She scrunched her nose, wiping away the dog drool with the corner of her apron.

“And the man just let you take it?”

She stood, hands on him, and stared him down.

“No…..” he scuffed a worn boot against the floor. “I called th’ dog and he just came to me, see? And then I ran, but…. I think he’s followin’ me.”

Well, crud and crustaceans.

“Go,” she said, the tips of her lips turned downward, bringing out the wrinkles in her face.


William looked up at her. Surely, his own grandmother wouldn’t kick him out of the house over this?

She sighed.

“Go hide out by the well and I’ll come get you when it’s safe to come back.”

They slipped out the back door, no doubt trampling over her small patch of garden. Not that it mattered. Hardly anything ever grew there anyway.

Crud and crustaceans.

What was she going to do now?

Surely, the man would find her little shack. It was the one nearest the woods. And the boy wasn’t so fast as to get more than a minute or two head start.

Sure, the dog didn’t belong to William. But now, it belonged to him more than it did to anyone else. And she’d as soon cut off her own pinky finger than give that dog back to the man who had abused it.

But it turned out that she didn’t have very much time for thought.

The banging on the door broke through any thoughts she might have been having.

Plastering on her brightest smile, she opened the door.

“Where is he?”

The man was large, tall as well as broad, with a mop of blonde hair and a respectable-sized beer belly. Immediately, her estimation of him shrank even further. She didn’t mind a man who ate well. But a man who ate well and kept a skinny, sad-looking dog like the one she’d just seen – she didn’t fancy those at all.

She eased the door open farther and dropped the smile, replacing it with a confused look.


“The boy!” he practically roared in her face. “The dratted, wretched boy who stole my hound!”

“Your hound?”

“Yes, my hound! Keep up, you stupid woman.”

“Beg pardon, sir,” she said. “But how does a boy manage to steal a hound?”

The man seemed unsure if she was mocking him, but either way, anger seemed to be the appropriate response.

“I was hunting in the woods and the little idiot stole my dog!”

“I see.”

The look she gave him begged further explanation, or perhaps he understood that he wasn’t getting inside without it, because he continued.

“My hound had led me farther astray in these woods than I’d meant to go. I’d meant to hunt the woods around the inn, but the damn fool dog led me miles astray… And perhaps I got a little upset, with the dog, you understand. And so, out of anger, I may have kicked the thing.”

“You kicked the dog for leading you astray?”

He glared at her.

“And that little thief ran out of the trees, scooped the dog up and ran away with it. I saw him come this way. I want my dog back.”

The last sounded almost like a threat.

“The only boy hereabouts is my grandson,” she told him. “I’ve yet to see him today and I’ve no idea when he’ll be coming back.”

“Then I’ll wait,” the man said, shoving his way through the door and into the little house, as if expecting to see the boy cowering behind his grandmother’s skirts.

The man tramped in, leaving muddy footprints in a broad path from the door to the table, where he levered his heft into one of the two chairs there.

He sat scowling in silence for a moment.

“Haven’t you got anything to eat?” he asked.

“Not much, sir.”

“I haven’t eaten since I left the inn this morning,” he told her. “I’ll take whatever you’ve got.”

She sighed deeply and reached into the cupboard, pulling out a piece of bread. She chopped up a carrot and handed the food to him, almost like a peace offering.

“This?” he said. “This is all? This isn’t food. This belongs in a trash heap.”

He threw the pieces of carrot on the floor, but deigned to gnaw on the bread, seeing as he had nothing else.

The old woman examined him, sitting in her kitchen like a giant lump of coal. She hadn’t liked the look of him when she’d opened her door. And she didn’t like the look of him any better now.

Horrid man. A man who beat his dog wouldn’t hesitate to treat his wife or children the same way, she knew. Nor would he particularly differentiate between the three.

She forced the smile back onto her face before speaking again.

“Would you like some tea?”

“Yes, of course,” he said. “It’s about time you offered.”

She bustled around the little house, taking a pinch of dried herb here, breaking off a twig there, filled the kettle with water and put it on the small hearth.

Within a few minutes the man held a mug of tea, his large hands making the mug look somehow tiny.

He took a few sips, pronouncing it ‘not bad.’ And then a few more. Soon enough, the whole mug had been drunk.

She said nothing, merely stood watching him as he sat, eyes half-closed and sleepy with the warm drink in him.

She did nothing, merely stepping out of the way as the man tumbled off the chair and lay still, dozing on the floor.

She wiped her hands against her apron as she gazed down at him, lying prone, chest rising and falling in sleep. He’d better be asleep. The herbs she’d slipped into his tea were the same ones, in the same quantities, as she used to put a horse to sleep before a surgery.

Walking around him with small, measured steps, she examined him carefully.

A slow smile spread across her face.

She pulled her sharpest knife out of the drawer and wiped it across her apron.

You do what you can with what you have.

Maybe there would be stew for dinner tonight, after all.


Writing Prompt:





Writing Prompt Courtesy of:


June 2, 2017

Murray the moth watched the butterflies.

Murray always watched the butterflies.

It was his favorite thing to do. He loved their beautiful colors – the reds and blues and purples all shimmering together in the sunlight. He loved watching the butterflies more than anything else – more than the taste of nectar. More than the warm feeling of sunlight on his own wings.

But today was special. Today, you see, was the day of the great butterfly parade. It was a grand day. One day each spring, the butterflies lined up and flew, twirling and whirling and showing off their colors, around the whole garden, like a floating garland in the sky.

They couldn’t have picked a lovelier day for it. The sun shone bright on the green leaves and gilded the flowers in light.

The flowers were quite pretty, Murray thought, but the butterflies were beautiful.

Murray loved watching the butterfly parade. He loved the colors and he loved the way the sunlight almost made the butterflies glow.

But more than anything, he wanted to be a part of it. It had always been his dream … And maybe, he thought, today the dream could come true.

It was almost time for the parade to begin… Finally, in the last few moments, Murray screwed up his courage. He flew over to the butterflies. He tried to swallow his nerves as he watched them, sunning themselves, getting ready to fly.

“Can I….”

At first, he couldn’t make himself finish the question. But this was important. How would he ever get what he wanted if he didn’t ask? He tried again, raising his voice just a little bit louder.

“Can I join in the parade?” he asked.

I cannot describe for you, dear reader, the sound of butterflies laughing. As beautiful as butterflies are, their laughter is no pretty thing. The sound is high-pitched and raucous and – if I am to be honest, dear reader – a good deal like a squeal.

And that is the sound that poor Murray was subjected to.

“Of course you can’t join us,” the butterflies laughed, their voices chiming together in one high-pitched chorus.

“W-why not?” he asked, voice quivering.

“Who would want to look at an ugly little moth like you?” they chirped.

The question answered itself, he supposed.


Nobody wanted to look at him.

All the time he’d been watching the butterflies, it hadn’t occurred to him to look at himself. He was, he realized, a bit plain. His gray wings were nothing like their brilliant red and blue and pink and purple ones.

He supposed, quite sadly, that he really was ugly. His antennae drooped as he flew away, allowing the butterflies to make their final preparations in peace. Not, he thought grudgingly, that they could get any prettier.

Murray did not join the parade. But he could not help following behind it. He trailed a small distance behind the last beautiful butterfly, watching as they performed their intricate twirling dance, filling the air with color and beauty.

He gulped down his tears and tried to watch – tried to enjoy the performance. He was so set on this effort, trying to fight his own tears, dear reader, that he did not notice as droplets began to fall.

Fat raindrops fell, much to the butterflies’ dismay, slowly at first, but swiftly turning into a heavy spring downpour.

Oddly, the sun still shone, illuminating the rain so that it looked like drops of light were falling from the sky.

Murray did not notice the rain until the butterflies started disappearing, ducking beneath leaves and landing on trees. Butterflies, you see, cannot fly with wet wings. They raised their voices in panic, squeaking and chirping their alarm as they hid.

Murray did not quite realize that he was alone in the sky until the last butterfly had hidden, tucked safely out of the rain.

Murray was astounded… He was all by himself.

What is a moth to do when he’s all alone in the sky?

Murray did the only thing he could think of – he danced.

He whirled and twirled and spun through the rain, his gray wings gleaming with silvery iridescence as the raindrops fell.

Murray was not a butterfly. Murray was a moth. And his moth’s wings, light and slick with oil, allowed the rain to slide right off. And so Murray gleamed and glowed, shimmering as he soared and dipped and swayed through the sun-shower.

There was no butterfly parade that day.

But Murray, all on his own, outshone the beauty of the butterflies, dancing through the rain.

A moth cannot be a butterfly. A moth is just a moth. But even a moth can shine.


Writing Prompt:





Prompt Courtesy of:

Innermost thoughts of a ghost


I was thinking the other day, of a book I read for school, a long, long time ago. Much longer than it feels like. Actually, if I recall correctly, I read it twice: once for a high school class and again for another class in college. More because I was a good kid and felt the need to refresh my memory than because I’d actually enjoyed reading the book in the first place. Anyhow, I was thinking about this book, in which the protagonist never really gets to speak for herself. All the reader gets is people talking about her, conveying her words through memories made misty by time. And to be quite honest, they’re not people who really liked her very much in the first place, at least if I remember the book right.

Anyhow, I thought it was only fair to give her a shot at speaking for herself, even if it’s only a small one. I could be wrong…. but I took a chance anyway. Those of you who have read the book should recognize this. Those who haven’t will just have to be confused.

Here goes:


It is strange, to me, how a ghost can occupy a home so much more thoroughly than its living occupants. Not that Heathcliff is a ghost. Indeed, I am certain that he is hale and strong and healthy, wherever he is. It is only my memories and thoughts of him that keep him here with me. People would, if they knew what I was thinking, tell me that he is the next thing to a brother to me and that I should not think of him so.

But I’ve never liked people very much.

Therefore I am disinclined to share my thoughts with them, much less value their opinions of those thoughts. Heathcliff is no more my brother than the mouse that lives under the stairs is my cousin. We may have dwelt beneath the same roof, but he was never a brother to me.
I think of him often. Daily, even. More so than I think of my husband. My husband, were you to ask, feels a good deal more to me like a brother than Heathcliff does, or indeed than my own brother does. For at least my husband has cared for me, has tried to take care of me, as much as he could. Our relations, when we had them, upon the occasion of our marriage, felt to me much like the peckings of a curious and well-intentioned bird….
Regardless of the bird’s intentions, the experience cannot help but be uncomfortable and thoroughly unpleasant.

And then the bird wonders why one does not invite it back into one’s bed, as though one were desirous of being pecked often, and with great alacrity. I shudder at the thought. I have feigned illness, more often than I ought to have done, to avoid such peckings. Perhaps I have not feigned it, for more such experiences would inevitably have produced an illness of the mind, if not of the body.

I imagine an evening with Heathcliff would be entirely different. No diffident pecking. I can only imagine the feeling of safety in the circle of his arms. Safety such as I have not felt since he left. I long for him in ways I have never longed for my pale shadow of a husband, who tiptoes around me, as if I am a delicate tulip and he fears one stray step will cause me to shed my petals and fall to pieces.

Heathcliff would not baby me so. He would shake me and tell me to come back to myself, with no regard whatsoever for my petals. Perhaps that is what I need.

Perhaps my petals could do with a bit of a breeze.

But my husband is certainly not the man to do it, if such a dandy as he can even be called a man.

Heathcliff haunts our home as surely as any true spirit. My thoughts of him spill from my heart, filling all of the cold, empty spaces around me, as I wish he was here to fill the spaces, with his heat and passion. I wonder if Edgar feels it. I suspect he does, but there is nothing he can do about it.

What can he do?

Forbid me to think?

A smile curls my lips as I imagine Edgar storming into my bedroom and forbidding me to ever think of Heathcliff again. I bite back a laugh.

This is his home. It will always be Edgar’s home, no matter how long I dwell in it. He can forbid me many things. He can take my food, my blankets, my clothes, my books. But he cannot take my mind. My thoughts will always be my own.

I smile, comfortable in myself, if not in this horrid, drafty old place. I wrap myself tighter in the blanket, press closer to the window, and think of Heathcliff.