30 December 2011

Season's End

This week's Monday Morning Flash Fiction Challenge is an interesting / disturbing picture of a tree.

I'm thinking Ents. I'm thinking druid sacrifices. I'm thinking this story about the origin of the Christmas tree.

But if you look at the bottom of the picture, there's a tiny boat with two figures poling through the water. And I can't help wondering - what do they think about that giant tree?

Season's End

Joe crossed his arms in an X, compressing his chest, then rolled his shoulders back, drawing his elbows and fists up until he looked a chicken flapping its wings. The long pole locked in his right fist bobbed unevenly as he loosened the tight muscles in his back and shoulders, and Cal swore as he dodged the flailing end.

"Watch what you're doin' with that thing, you idiot!" he told his brother. "Ya 'bout took my head off!"

"Sorry." Joe's voice was low. "I'm gonna need a rest pretty soon," he added, the words coming out on deep sighing exhale.

Cal made a face at his brother's back. Wimp. He'd been doing far more than his share of the work the whole time they'd been out. He'd like to have sat back and told Joe to suck it up, but they didn't have time. Harvest had been scantier this year and they'd spent longer out in the swamp than they'd planned. They only had hours to get to pick up and Cal was starting to worry. The last thing he wanted was to get stuck in this wet snake pit for the next year.

"Fine." He deliberately kept his reply short, letting his tone do the talking. "I'm standin' up."

He waited until Joe was seated before standing. Dipping his pole into the water, he pushed against the firm surface under the mud, using the strong muscles of his back and legs to drive the boat forward as quickly as he could.

There was a rhythm to poling. Pull up against the suction, letting the motion of the boat help. Thrust down at the right moment, when the forward impetus was just starting to slow. Feel the pressure of the push against your palms, carrying up through your biceps, down your back to your legs and the soles of your feet. Pull up again and wait for the right moment again.

He lost track of time, concentrating on finding the next spot, the clearest way to go. He was so focused on the path in front of him that he jumped and nearly lost his pole when Joe spoke up.

"We're here."

Cal looked up and to the right. Sure enough, there was the old tree, suckers sticking out from either side like arms, making the monster look like a giant pushing itself to a stand. He realized his shirt was melded to his skin with sweat and his arms, now that he'd come back to awareness, were trembling.

"Your turn. Just around the corner up there."

"Yeah. I remember. Other side of the tree."

Cal dropped onto his seat a little harder than he would have chosen, rocking the boat as his knees gave out. Checking his watch he saw there was still an hour to lift off and grinned. Plenty of time.

28 December 2011

Walking in the Park on a Snowy Evening

I started this Monday Morning Flash Fiction Challenge in plenty of time to finish on schedule - the following Friday - and then, well, Christmas happened. And now, even though it is after Christmas, everyone is home and I am lucky to have gotten on the computer long enough to get this posted! Fortunately, I had most of this piece written before I got sidetracked, so I can make the most of the few minutes I have before everyone come rushing back in, demanding hot chocolate. I'll be writing more once school starts again. 

Walking in the Park on a Snowy Evening

I love this picture. I'm a northern ice maiden - make that ice matron now, actually - so I know this kind of scene very well. Just looking at this picture makes me feel the bite of the air, the way the snow feels underfoot. the way it sounds - the wet spot on the seat of your pants if you don't make sure to brush the bench off before you sit down.

In fact, I was so into the tactile nature of the scene that I had a hard time thinking about what was happening here beyond a simple walk in the snow.

Sitting on a bench in the snow was the kind of thing that looked really romantic in the movies, but in real life only left you with a wet patootie. An experienced Montanan, Katy ignored the tempting seat and kept walking. Besides, the movement would help her work out her frustration.

It was kind of late for a walk, but hardly dangerous. Not in this cold weather. There weren't even any animal tracks in the snow. She was the first person to cross the park since the snow had stopped an hour ago, and the fluffy white clumps were as perfect as the first snowfall must have been.

And quiet. Oh, how quiet it was at this time of night. The only sound was the crunch of the snow beneath her feet, condensing the snow beneath her with each stride. She turned around and walked backward a few steps admiring the way each footfall left the perfect imprint of the tread of her boots before trailing into a scuff from her trailing toes as she took each step forward. Her backward walking tracks were not so neatly formed; she dragged her feet more, leaving an abrasion across the snow's surface between her tracks.

She felt the tension seep out of her muscles as the quiet leeched the noise of the last few days out of her head. She loved her family, but her apartment was just too small for this much togetherness. There was barely room for everyone to visit for a single evening. Three days of Christmas cheer had turned into Christmas bickering instead.

She lifted her head and took a deep breath, tasting the ice crystals briefly before tucking her chin back into the collar of her coat and tugging her scarf back up to cover her mouth and nose. She'd come far enough. It was time to get back home. Everyone would be leaving tomorrow. She could hold out for a few more hours. And next year, she'd insist on having Christmas somewhere else.

16 December 2011

Last Stand

Look's like "Regression" was last week's picture for the the Monday Morning Flash Fiction Challenge at Tink's Place. This interesting picture is for this week. It took me some thought to figure out what to write. I hope you like it!

Last Stand

A breather. She stood, chest heaving, her hair lanky with sweat from her panicky run, the solidity of the wall behind her giving her an illusion of safety. This respite was dangerous, though. If it went on too long, her adrenaline levels would drop too low, and the trauma of her mutilation would hit her.

She was aware of the loss, but it was an intellectual thing still, not the gut-tightening, bowel-loosening horror that she knew would hit her when her body started to come down from the simultaneous physical and emotional shock of his betrayal.

He still hadn't followed her into the courtyard. She brushed her hair away from her eyes, keeping her knife - the only weapon near at hand when he'd attacked - in a defensive position. It wasn't much of a weapon against a sword but it wasn't in her to give up life without some attempt to protect herself. If only she could fly...

She brushed her hand over her face again, clearing away the stinging tears that insisted on forming in one eye, hampering her vision.

Her breathing was starting to slow as she caught her breath. Where was he? She swore silently. There was no way he wasn't aware of her location. She'd left a trail of blood. He was playing with her, curse him.

A thought floated up through her mind. Could she have done more harm than she knew when she slashed at him? She'd felt the jar and tug of her blade hitting flesh.

She throttled the hope down. Hope would get her killed. If she had any chance of surviving this she had to assume the worst. Not that she had much chance. She knew she was dying. She could feel the cold growing in her core already, feel the trembling in her limbs.

A shadow passed over her body, growing larger as it moved over the tiles in front of her. She looked up. The knife fell from her grip as she lost the last of her strength. It was Jonathon.

"Cordis!" His voice was sharp with alarm.

She slumped against the wall as he landed, keeping her weight on one shoulder to protect the stub of her wing. Her knees gave way, and she slid to the ground. "Adal," she told him. "It was Adal."

15 December 2011


It's Thursday, but the Monday Morning Flash Fiction Challenge at Tink's Place sounds like a good way to start my 10,000 hours. Many thanks to Carol at Carol's Notebook, which is where I found the link to this challenge.


This was fantastic. She stuck out her leg, admiring the long, sleek shape, the taut muscles and perfect skin. She ran one hand up her torso, skimming her hip, pausing to caress her slim waist, finally cupping the pert, perfect breast of a teenager, no longer sagging and shapeless from years of gravity.

Energy filled her, skittering under her skin, impelling her to run, to dance, to move! She'd never thought to feel this way again. She shook back heavy, glossy locks of hair as she laughed, the sound full and rich in the small apartment living room. What was she saying? She'd never felt this way the first time around! She'd been too young, too naive to realize the power of her youth. She hadn't known she was beautiful.

This time she knew what she had, and she gloried in it. There was nothing like getting old to make a woman realize the value of girlhood. With every wrinkle, every extra pound, each and every hair that had to be plucked from her chin and developing jowls (hair that seemed to have migrated from her scalp, as she watched her thick mane turn gray, and thin to ugly tufts with pink scalp showing through) she'd cursed the years she'd spent thinking herself fat and ugly. Oh, what she wouldn't have given to be that "fat and ugly" again.

She clutched the heavy book tighter to her side, resting it on a - thankfully no longer padded - hipbone. The grimoire was worth the heavy price she'd paid. What good had a soul ever done her? And this was only the beginning, only the first spell. Soon she would explore what other possibilities had opened up to her.

She grinned, teeth no longer dingy gray, but pearly white, and again traced her palm along her amazingly perfect waist. Today, though, she had to register for high school.

She couldn't wait.