Cinders

Today I wrote a flash fiction piece for Finish That Thought. Obviously, Cinderella was still on my mind from yesterday. My Mom and I took five kids and one teenager to see it yesterday. It was too old for the little girls, but Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed it!   I’m trying to get a little bit of writing in this week and a lot of editing, but it’s Spring Break, and I have all three kids at home with me. We’re trekking across Alabama this week to keep them busy on some day trips. So far, I haven’t been all that productive, but I’ve been having great fun with them!

Here’s my story for today:

Cinders
468 words
@laurenegreene

They never asked me why I set the tree on fire. They simply dragged me away, my face covered in soot from the cinders. The tree, they said, was a national landmark. Dry enough to burn down the whole forest if they hadn’t caught me.

The policeman drug me to the office, sat me down in a chair, and bellowed at me as the EMTs checked me out. I fingered the plastic dragon in my pocket, Henry, I’d named him, and he was there to keep me safe.

“Right—so where are your folks?” the policeman asked.

I shook my head.

The policeman paced in front of me as the park ranger came up and tapped him on the shoulder. The park ranger whispered something into the policeman’s ear, and nodded my way, then they both walked off.

One of the EMTs had smiling eyes and pigtails. She took my hands in hers.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Mikey.”

“This looks like a fine karate uniform you have on, Mikey,” she said.

“I’m a ninja! From Japan. And my dragon,” I said, pulling it from my pocket. “It helped me beat the wolf.”

“What wolf? There aren’t wolves in these woods,” the nice lady said.

“Are too. That’s why I burnt down the tree.”

“Where are your parents Mikey?” she asked.

I didn’t answer. Grainy memories of my parents played in my head. I hadn’t seen them in years, and that said a lot seeing as I was only six. I couldn’t stand the foster home I lived in. The older boy picked on me, something dreadful, and I had decided I was going to run away and join a circus. Be a clown, or better yet, a lion tamer. With the dragon, I knew I was capable of anything.

“It must be awful special to you,” the nice lady said, squeezing my hand. “You’ve rubbed off his eyes. Where did you get him?”

“Mom. She gave him to me, when I was little. She and Dad took a drive somewhere. I can’t remember. It’s fuzzy—like a peach. He made me safe for three days, until they came and took me away. They told me they’d find me a home. But I haven’t had a home since.”

The policeman and the park ranger came back and hovered over me.  The nice lady EMT wiped the soot off my face and my arms with a wet rag. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her neck, squeezing her tight. She patted my back and squeezed me back.  Her hair smelled like green apples, sunshine, and happiness.

“I reckon he’s too young for juvie,” the policeman said.

“He just needs a mother to love him,” the nice lady EMT said.

“Will you be my mommy?” I asked.

Chasing Fireflies

Flash!Friday made me nostalgic for long, hot summer nights. For playing basketball with my brother and sisters in our driveway. I didn’t have a boy next door that I liked (my neighbor was a bully). But I had a great playmate who lived behind our house, and I used to creep over to his yard to jump on his trampoline, play marbles, and spend hours in his playroom. My sisters and I would swim so long in our pool, we thought our skin would look like prunes for days. I took wagon rides down Mrs. Joseph’s hill, the sick sensation of fear mixed with pleasure roiling in my stomach. I went to Mrs. Tidmore’s house and watched her make flag, and played with her daughter’s dollhouse–her daughter who was grown and had left. I whispered secrets to my neighborhood friends, wrote in diaries, spent countless hours playing wiffle ball, even with the boys who beat me up next door. I’m not sure my foot ever graced the doorway until dinner time.

Today’s Flash!Fiction story is a little bit about that, and a little bit about a sticky kind of love. Enjoy!

Chasing Fireflies
@laurenegreene
Word Count: 193

Growing up, I had a crush on the girl next door. She lived in the massive white house with columns. When I was little, my dad would talk about Richard Nixon and the White House, and I thought Amanda was the president’s daughter. She wasn’t the typical girl next door—no plain Jane.

She had a tongue on her, Amanda did. First, it was pigtails, mud pies, and wiffle ball games—she always beat me. Later she used that tongue, stuck it in my mouth while playing H-O-R-S-E. I hadn’t even made the first move. She had our marriage planned before I was eighteen. I was just strung along.

We live in a white house now, one without columns. My son is obsessed with his own girl next door. I told him to be careful, before she traps him the way his mother trapped me. But honestly, I don’t mind. My best memory is of us sitting on top of her Ford, catching fireflies and staring up at the moon, with her hand securely tucked into mine. Hopefully, my son’s girl next door will be as bold as mine was, and still is.

A Writer’s Conundrum

I wrote today for Mid-Week Blues Buster. My goal today was sunshine and unicorns, but obviously I’m just not that type of writer. I write emotion, drama, conflict, and real life through horror. It’s just the way I’m made. Everyone has a gift, and as someone told me recently, mine is to make people cry. What a wonderful gift (I jest). Anyway, the song Another Nail In The Heart didn’t exactly lend itself to happy, but I did my best. And I’m pretty happy with the product! Enjoy!

A Writer’s Conundrum
@laurenegreene
443 words

“Another Nail In My Heart,” she wrote, then crumpled up the paper. The words dripping from her pen were filled only with sorrow. And why? She had a charmed life.

The next sheet of lined yellow paper sat before her, a blank slate for her to fill. And this time, she wanted to fill them with happy words, words of rainbows and lollipops. Words of hope and inspiration. Instead of her usual: horror, pain, and sadness.

Diego plopped down beside her on the couch craning his neck to see what she was writing. She covered it with her arm like a child trying to keep someone from cheating off of her paper.

“Oh come on, I just wanted to see what you’re writing. Let me guess, another tale of killer clowns. Or divorce on a hike?”

She nodded towards the four crumpled balls of paper on the floor, and he reached forward and squeezed her leg gently.

“Maybe that’s your gift—making people cry…or scream.”

“Very funny,” Ana said. “How do you make happy interesting? Drama is much more fun, because it produces conflict immediately. There is always an issue to resolve.”

He took a swig of Sam Adam’s and put his arm around her. “You’re the writer, I defer to you.”

“A lot of help you are.”

He found the remote and started clicking through football games until he found the right one. Ana leaned up against him, tapping her pen against the empty pad, leaving tiny ink marks in her wake.

“Oh, did I tell you? Nick Hutchins and his wife are getting divorced.”

Ana sighed, set the pad down next to her on the couch and turned her attention to her husband.

“Didn’t they just adopt twins?”

“About six months ago, yeah. But turns out Nick was sleeping around. And guess what? She caught him in bed.”

“With who? Oh wait, don’t tell me, Shelly from accounting?” Diego was always telling Ana about what a slut Shelly from accounting was.

“No. With Patrick Weasler.”

“Oh God, that’s even worse. Who did you hear it from—Nick?”

“No, I heard it from Shelly. She’s best friends with the wife—what’s her name—and went over to pick up the pieces after Nick left.”

Ana picked up the pad, the blank lines seemed to suddenly fill up with words of woe, sorrow, divorce, infidelity and unhappiness: the shit of life. Diego flipped through the channels absentmindedly, not content with any of the games on T.V. as his wife scribbled furiously across the paper.

“Unicorns and rainbows?” he asked.

“Divorce and despair,” she said. “I guess, it’s just what I’m fated to write.”

The Instigator

I wrote “The Instigator,” today for Finish That Thought. The thought was “If only I’d gotten her ten minutes earlier,” but I changed up the pronoun. For the special challenge, I had to include a word starting with each letter of the alphabet. Here you go! Once again, I am incapable of writing a happy story.

The Instigator
@laurenegreene
478 words
If only we’d gotten there ten minutes earlier.

“Bear plus food do not mix,” my wife said, when she saw the ravaged campsite.

We’d been watching the sunrise at the top of the peak when the bear attacked. While the sun spread its glorious hues of ultra violet rays over the earth, the bear tore into the freeze-dried packs my wife, unknowingly, had left out beside our packs.

“Rats, I wonder where it came from.”

“Oh, I don’t know, let’s see, the zoo. We’re in the middle of the freaking Appalachian Mountains, Jessica.”

“Jeez, Quint, you don’t have to yell at me.”

We had decided to take this trip, a two week hike in the Appalachians, as a way to repair our marriage, but instead of the bonding experience we had been looking for, the vacation had mirrored our tumultuous relationship.

“Maybe we should call Lyle to come pick us up,” Jessica said. She had the map spread out, sitting cross-legged in the dirt in front of the tent. A torn half empty bag of freeze dried beans stood by her Merrells.

“I’d never get in the car with that guy again, xenophobe that he is.”

“Oh come on, Quint. He’s harmless. What’s our other choice?”

“We stop in the town up the road, buy more food and keep going.”

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing this whole time, keeping it going, despite a clear lack of sustenance?”

I hated when Jessica got all hoity toity on me and created analogies about our relationship. It was a side effect of her psychological practice. Psychologists have their own disease: know-everything-itis. She was staring through the map instead of at it. I sat down on the dirt next to her, and offered up the comfort of my arm, but she scooted further away from me. The Great Divide. Hurt pride, but I shook it off. I’d gotten so good at doing that.

“Here, this little town. Kunkletown. Funny little name, and not too far.”

“I wonder if they have cell service there,” Jessica said, as she folded the map and stuffed it into her back pack.

“Why?” I asked, but she just shook her head.

We wordlessly took the tent down and packed our bags. Stillness rose between us, like the quiet of the sunrise, only an hour before. In that moment, hope had sprung to me like the dawn of the new day, but the bear had dashed all of that making the tension stand between us like an unwanted lover.

Kunkletown was a nice little town. I stayed there, getting myself together for two days after Jessica left with Lyle. I thought maybe I could move to this little town that housed only a church, a few houses and a general store. Then, maybe I could find the hope I had lost in one moment on the trail.

The Great Distractor

Writing for Flash!Friday today.

1) Use “aspiration” as a theme.

2) Photo Prompt

Whetting Interrupted

Whetting Interrupted, 1894. Public Domain painting by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior.

I usually follow the prompt, almost to a tee, but today I didn’t. I used it as a jumping off point. And as a writer/author, I’m all too well aware of distractions that can pull you away from your goals.

The Great Distractor
@laurenegreene
205 words
Sharpen the blade. Akin to sharpening the pencil, in some ways at least. When he met Adele she whetted his appetite. Instead of focusing on his writing, he spent countless hours staring into her blue-gray eyes listening to stories of her youth. He focused on unbuttoning her dresses and rolling around in bed instead of molding his characters.

He had always wanted to be a writer. And by the time he met Adele, he had achieved that goal. But she was a distraction—albeit a pleasant one. After Niels called and told him he’d missed another deadline, he decided writing wasn’t for him. Too much pressure, too much time locked up in a lonely room, away from her soft, pliable body.

She was the one who suggested they get away. Her father had a cabin in the woods. They could spend six months there, and he could focus on his writing again. Walden Pond, he thought. But when they’d arrived there’d been no electricity. He had to write everything out in long form. He had to cut up firewood just to heat the stove. He and Adele stayed under the down comforters snuggled together most days, as his dream of writing slipped further into oblivion.

A Tale of Two Elvises

I haven’t participated in much flash fiction over the last week. Edits came back, and I’ve been forcing myself to work through them. Edits are to writing as cleaning is to my house. I just hate doing it. I know they’re a necessary evil, and they have the ability to make “The Devil Within” such a good book, it’s just, “ughh..I don’t want to do them.” I’d rather be writing.

Anyway, today I wrote for Micro Bookends. I wasn’t enthused by the prompt, and again writing a whole story in 110 words still is almost impossible for me. I can’t get the jab in, the beginning, middle, and end. I think a lot of mine fall flat, but at least they’re letting me practice my craft while I procrastinate editing.

I hope you like Elvis:

A Tale of Two Elvises
@laurenegreene
110 words

Old Father Benedict stepped into the sunshine of the day and inhaled a deep breath, before looking down. He had seen everything in his 96 years. So, he wasn’t surprised at the naked man snoozing at his feet, wearing only sunglasses. A star studded collar peeked out of the paper at his feet.

Father Shaw came up behind him.

“Another bum?”

Benedict nodded, “Heartbreak Hotel was my favorite. You think he’ll sing for us?”

“The real Elvis has left the building,” Father Shaw said.

“Huh?” Old Benedict scratched his head.

“Overdosed on drugs. I doubt the bum can croon the way Elvis did, not in this day and age.”

The Ear

Today for Mid-Week Blue’s Buster, the song prompt was Gil Scott-Heron’s “Me And The Devil.” How appropriate, since my next book is “The Devil Within” (teasers to come shortly). This prompt took me dark, into the mind of a killer.

The Ear
@laurenegreene
549 words

Clay knew it was wrong. He had a conscience. Contrary to popular belief, most murderers did. He wasn’t an exception. When he’d gone to her house, the painted lips had disgusted him. The swirling vortex of anger slammed into him like a car slamming straight into a brick wall.

He had met her at the park, playing Frisbee. Picnic basket filled to the brim with pork rinds. When he’d seen her face, so innocent, so young, he thought he could be with her. He thought he could change. He imagined kissing her lips, so sweet and full of promise. He imagined rubbing his hands down her body, but somewhere in the back of his mind was that nagging voice of reality: she’s your next victim.

He was standing in the bus line now, and looking down at his hands—blood red in the light. Pick up your life, move everything, start again somewhere else. A rebirth. A resurrection. He was renewed after each kill. He would stand over their bodies and clean them, and in the process he became a newborn babe, a piece of clay waiting to be formed.

When he’d shown up at Georgette’s apartment, he’d expected her to be wearing the same school girl dress she’d had on in the park. But her face was made up like a clown. Red rouge smeared across her cheeks like the sign of the devil. He hadn’t let on the boiling rage he felt. He hid it deep down, as he kissed her cheeks, disgusted by the waxiness coating her lips. He unzipped her immodest dress, a slit up the side showed too much of her leg. She was not who he thought she was.

He pushed himself into her, and then the rage hit, and with one twist of the neck her head lolled to the side like a ragdoll’s. He zipped up his pants, and spit on her face as he did to all of his victims. The knife came out of his back pocket, and with a quick flick of his hand he sliced off an ear.  He went to her kitchen, glancing at pictures of her youth, all smiles next to her friends, hiding the whore she was. The devil takes on many forms.  He found a soft kitchen towel, then he raided her bathroom for soap, and he took a bucket full of water. First, he wiped the lipstick off her mouth, the red of it staining the towel like the blood on the sheet. Then he washed her whole body, careful to scrub behind the remaining ear. She looked peaceful and innocent lying there, the way she was supposed to be in the first place.

When he finished, he wiped off all the fingerprints. He put his token into a Ziploc baggy and slid it into his Jansport book bag.

At home, he removed the ear and he whispered sweet nothings into it. You are perfectly formed.  He slid it into a jar of formaldehyde, and then packed up his belongings, including the thirteen other ears he had hidden in the air duct in the wall.

A new place. A new life. Another Georgette, but maybe this one would be innocent and free from sin, and he wouldn’t have to fill another jar.

No Children Allowed

Having several children of my own, I don’t really sympathize with Mr. Garcia of this story; I’m more in Chelsea’s camp. I wrote this piece of very short fiction for Micro Bookends. Enjoy!

No Children Allowed
@laurenegreene
110 words

Blueberry stains smeared Chelsea’s face as she sat at the top of the marble stairs. The dominoes led a path down to the lobby where Mr. Garcia, the doorman, was standing.

She’d imagined his face at the noise the dominoes would make. He hated children. Children, worse than rats. He mumbled those words under his breath whenever Chelsea came through the lobby gripping her grandmother’s hand. His teeth were yellowed and his face sagged, and he reminded her of a monster.

She knocked the top domino, and a smile spread across her face as she heard Mr. Garcia yell and shout from downstairs. Jack and Jill fell down the hill.

Little Boy Blue

I think I’m a pretty happy person. But, for some reason writing sad or tragic comes easiest to me. I love the emotionally charged feeling that comes with describing tragic scenes. When I’m reading, I love how an author can make you feel anguish through their use of words. As I’m writing every day now, my description has changed and evolved. I’m finding new ways to convey the feelings in my stories.

For Mid-Week Blues-Buster this week I wrote, “Little Boy Blue.” With the music choice, you’d think I would have picked adult protagonist, but this just came to me, and what do you do? You write what comes.

Here’s the song:

And here’s the story:

Little Boy Blue
621 word count
@laurenegreene

She lay on her back on the floor of the blue room, dirt securely stuck under her tiny fingernails. She stared at the mobile, gently swirling around as the light rays streaming through the window seemed to make it move. The crib sat, empty in the corner. She had peeked into it earlier, looked through the slates to make sure no one was there. Empty. Abandoned.

“Hattie.” Daddy was leaning against the doorjamb, the shadow of a beard had started to creep across his face. “Your mother would be upset if she saw you in here.”

“Where did he go, Daddy?”

But Daddy just shook his head and waited for her to stand up and come to him.

He took her small hand in his and they crept down the hall, passed the room where her mother stifled sobs all day long. Bury your troubles. Hattie didn’t know what had happened. Her brother, chubby cheeks, flailing arms, all smiles, was there one minute and gone the next. An empty nursery—the ghost of the baby haunting their house.

Daddy lifted her to the counter and kissed her cheek, the scratchiness of his five o’clock shadow made her giggle.

“Peanut Butter and Jelly?”

“Mommy usually makes me lunch.”

“Turkey sandwich?”

He pulled out the meat and the bread, slapped mayonnaise on both sides, shook a few chips from the bag, as Hattie scrambled down from the counter and to her seat at the table.

When he put the food in front of her, Hattie wailed, “It’s not right.” She started kicking her feet, a tantrum rising up in her blood like a tsunami ready to destroy anything in its path.

“What’s not right?” Daddy asked.

“Mommy cuts it in triangles. Not a square. I don’t want a square!”

Hattie pouted, pushing her lower lip out, and tears sprang to her eyes.

“Fine,” Daddy said, taking the plate to the counter in a huff. “You just won’t eat. Go to your room.”

Hattie stomped off, but she didn’t go to her room. She ran outside into the backyard instead. She’d put the shovel behind the shed. She pulled it out, and she emptied her pockets: a little pile of treasures lined up. The shovel was hard to manage for her six-year old muscles, but after a few minutes she’d dug a hole, big enough to drop the treasures into and cover up.  She set the shovel down beside her and dug a little bit more with her hands, dirt staining them a dusty black. She put the items into the hole, lined up one by one, next to each other. There were seven filled in holes now. Daddy and Mommy hadn’t noticed them. They’d been too busy crying and hiding away from the world.

She patted down the dirt and felt satisfied. She stood up and started walking towards the shed.

“Hattie.” It was Mommy—red-rimmed eyes and hair askew.  Mommy didn’t look like herself.

Hattie flung the shovel behind her back, but she knew it was too late. She stepped back, and Mommy’s eyes traveled to the holes behind her, half covered, remnants of the past rising to the surface.

“What are you doing, Hattie?”

“Daddy didn’t know the sandwiches were supposed to be triangles!” Hattie shouted, throwing down the shovel and then running for the safety of the house.

Mommy, puzzled, drained of all emotions leaned down into the dirt. Her nightgown swept the ground, picking up dirt as she started digging.

The first thing she pulled out was a teddy bear, soft and blue. Then a rattle. Then a pacifier. Grief threatened to consume her when she pulled out the photo: Daddy, Mommy, Hattie and baby Grayson. Bury your troubles.

The Clown

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been afraid of clowns. I saw “IT” way too early, and so I blame it on Stephen King a little bit. Write what scares you, is some advice I’ve always heard. Maybe that’s why King writes so much about rats.

Today for Finish That Thought, I wrote a little piece about clowns. It was hard–I was scared the whole time.

The Clown
@laurenegreene
499 words

“Excuse me, but what on earth are you doing up that roof at this time of night?”

I thought it was Petey, but when he turned around I saw the made up face. A putrid smell hit my nostrils, and my stomach turned with nausea. I’d always hated clowns.

I’d been sitting in my office chair, working on the next great novel, the feel of “Q” and “L” beneath my fingertips when I heard something up on the roof. Up on the House Top. Quick, Quick, Quick. But it wasn’t Christmas—snowy white—so I knew it wasn’t Santa Claus.

I blinked, and when I did, he’d come down from the roof. The dreadful smell of rotting fish filled the air around him, and I leaned closer to see a maggot wiggling out of his nose. I had the strongest desire to touch him, but I didn’t. He stood only about four feet tall. The red spots painted precariously against the white makeup adorning his face.  Just a child. But what was a child clown doing on my roof?

He wore one of those pointed hats, with a red ball dangling off of it. You could imagine him in an ancient circus. The white of his costume was stained around the edges. Was that blood near the torn place on his sleeve? I wiped my eyes, because I had to be dreaming. Maybe I’d fallen asleep in the office chair and this nightmare had come to wreak havoc against my coulrophobia.

“Hey mister, want to play?”

The pint-sized clown suddenly was holding two hula hoops. The streetlight shined on the lawn, as I grabbed one from his hand. I placed it over my body and securely on my hips, then I started wiggling, but it kept falling down to the ground, thudding loudly against the grass. The clown laughed, but his hula hoop was spinning around Clown Clip Artfast, even though he wasn’t holding it.

“You’re good at this.”

“Lots of practice in the circus,” the clown said.

I reached out, wanting to touch him again, but he backed away from me.

“Look, no touch—like the bearded woman at the circus. She bit a man’s finger off once,” the boy clown said.

“What are you doing here?”

“You should ask yourself that question.”

I looked around me. The street was dark and silent. The houses all shuttered like eyes closed for sleep. The moon shined, a giant ball sitting in the sky. When I looked back, the clown smiled at me, a sincere grin. I heard the front door squeak open; it needed some WD40.

“Dad, what are you doing out here?” Petey asked

I looked at him. “I was just talking to the clown.” But when I turned back the clown was gone.

“Sleep walking, again. I’ll help you get into bed.”

The smell followed me back into the house, putrid, rotting meat. I knew it wasn’t the last I’d see of him. They always came out at night.