Story Thread: Sep 8- Sep 21, 2016 Flash Fiction Writing Contest “Spring”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the Contest Theme: “Spring,” which may be used in any of the following ways, or a combinations thereof.

Verb:
1. Move or jump suddenly: Leap, bound, sprout, vault, hop, etc.
2. Arise from: Originate, derive, arise, stem, emanate, proceed, issue evolve, etc.
Or
Noun:
1. The season from March to May in the Northern Hemisphere or September to November in the Southern Hemisphere.
2. A resilient device; typically a metal coil or helix, used chiefly to exert constant tension or absorb movement.

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen via the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last three months. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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11 thoughts on “Story Thread: Sep 8- Sep 21, 2016 Flash Fiction Writing Contest “Spring”

  • September 8, 2016 at 4:46 pm
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    Enchanted Spring
     
    It was late spring when I got to go stay with Grammy and Poppy. Grammy would fix up  a basket with cookies or little sandwiches, my tea set and brown pop, usually root beer. I’d grab my two favorite dolls at Grammy’s house, a quilt and head out.

     Whenever I started down the old dirt drive Poppy would call out;

    ” Where ya headed child?

    “On an adventure.”

    “Okay, Be safe. Be Smart. Have fun. And remember we love you.”

    “Thanks Poppy. I will. Love you too.”

    I’d walk to the end of Grammy’s roses and head for the meadow. The grasses were waist high. Their golden heads bending in the breeze, welcoming all who passed by. I’d look it over and pick an alcove, spreading my blanket out. Next I would plan and tromp down several trails. It took many passes to keep the grass from sprouting back up. Every so often I’d move my blanket to the end of a path. Sitting on it awhile created a big square space. Thus making the house of my dreams. I’d conjure up stories of valor, exciting things like being rescued from dragons, bears or monsters. Trouble is my imagination got so carried away I believed the grove of trees lining the glen had spooks.

    One day I heard such a rustling, surely a dragon was near by. I lay down on my quilts hoping to hide from them. To my surprise out bounded a beautiful deer. Leaping past, within inches of my fortress. Vaulting after it was a boy.

    “You wait, I will catch you yet. One day you will run like the wind with me on your back.”
    The deer, now in the open, ignored the boy and sprinted off.

    As the boy drew nearer I sprang up and shouted,”hey, you can’t go that way. You have to come around and knock on the door.”

    Startled, he stood stock still, “Okay so where’s this door?”

    Pointing, “Over there.”

    He walked around my maze and pretended to knock on a door.
    I curtsied, “Welcome. Won’t you come in? Have some cookies and tea? Root beer really, I only have one can, but we can share. Grammy put in lots of cookies though.

    The boy was careful to stay on the pathways, following me to the blanket spread out with the tea set all set up.

    “You did a good job building your fort.” He grinned.

    “It’s my castle.” I said, puffing out my chest.

    “Well, whatever you call it, it’s nice. Say, you want to go hunting?” he spoke around a mouthful of cookie and root beer.

    “Hunting? For what? Where?” I asked brushing the crumbs off my blouse.

    “For pollywogs, over yonder at the spring.” He motioned with a tip of his head.

    I’d never ventured to the springs. It was in the grove full of who knows what dangers. Poppy often asked, “Go to the springs today child?”

    Most days I’d answer, “Not today Poppy, to many other things happening.”

    The boy cocked his head and held out his hand. “Come on. I’ll protect you.”

    I swallowed hard and took hold of it. He looked around and  lead me to the  door. I had to admire he remembered the door. We proceeded into the trees, about half way in he let go of my hand, jumped over a trickle of water and crouched down. I stay on my side and knelt to see what  he was looking at. Putting his finger to his lips he smiled. He plunged his other hand in the water and brought out a little brown creature. I sprang back.

    “Awe, come on it’s only a baby. One day he’ll be a champion jumper. you wait and see. He started as one of those fish looking things.”

    I pulled myself together and took a closer look. The frog was kinda cute, So was the boy. My thoughts began to wander. The frog decided to leap back to his home, making me topple over with surprise. It caused the boy and I to have fits of laughter.

     One day when I arrived, there where I’d said the door to my home should be stood a small gate. The boy sitting in the room just on the other side. A grin as wide as his face.
    “Fashioned you a door, to keep the dragons away. Look, I brought my sword too.”

    Going through the gate I saw him holding a stick. A spring coiled around the end, topped with a Frisbee, a bit of aluminum foil covered the tip to form his weapon. It was the best I’d ever seen.
    We played in Poppy’s meadow almost daily for the next month before I went back home.
    Never forgetting my enchanted Spring at Grammy and Poppy’s.
    ~~~
    We came as a family over the years to visit. I would walk out to the  glen for a look. It didn’t matter where I was headed; the meadow, college or some exotic place for work, Poppy would holler the usual, “Where you going child?”

    “On an adventure, Poppy.”

    “I know child. Be safe, be smart, have fun and remember we love you!”

    “I will Poppy. I love you, too.”

     When we came to see them he’d ask, “How was your adventure?”  I’d sit and tell him all about my travels.
    ~~~
    It’s Spring. I am back at Grammy and Poppy’s. They are gone. They left the place to me. So many good memories here. Plus a dream of an enchanted Spring.
     
    A knock startles me. Opening the door, I see before me a handsome young gent. Looking a bit silly with a colander turned upside down on his head and a familiar stick in his hand.

    “I heard you were back. Would you like to go hunting? I promise to protect you from the dragons.” He stood holding out his hand. I spring into his arms.
    Spring has sprung.

  • September 9, 2016 at 3:51 pm
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    LAST SPRING
    “I was her first”, I heard my husband’s voice saying. “Not her only– she was with a very good young man while I was away– but her first. I wasn’t jealous of that young man. And I wasn’t jealous of you for touching my wife. I was jealous because you felt our son kick before I did.”

    I don’t know what astonished me more- that he shared such intimate details of the beginning of our romance, or that he was sharing it with that man… for there was only one man it could have been.

    The discreet thing to do was go back uphill the way I had come, go round, and approach from the front in all innocence. This course of action was a lot easier than it would have been just a few days ago before they had cleared away the rubble and patched the rifts. Tbilisi was still dangerous from earthquake damage as well as the usual predatory unpleasantness that follows a disaster, but at least here, there was some safety.

    A dozen years after leaving my country and eleven years after bearing our son, I was almost as slight as I had been before marriage, and nearly as agile. No stone turned beneath my feet, and the tender grass starting up, pliant with Spring, did not give me away. Here and there, an apricot tree jolted to a rakish angle flourished forth in pink or white blossoms even on branches almost sheared through. I plucked a little spray before I came into their view.

    “Good afternoon, Sweetheart,” my husband said in English, standing with evident soreness. Not so the other man, who sprang to his feet with an alacrity that made me think of his late brother. “Lark, this is Ismail Ruslanovich Velikhanov. I think you have met before.”

    “Yes, we did,” I verified. “I remember it was Spring.” Both times, I didn’t say. Nor did I say I knew his name perfectly well, the one that must never be uttered: Sulkhan Akimovich Atabashev.

    “It was Spring, indeed,” Ismail/Sulkhan said. “Shall I get the kids?”

    “Where are they?” I asked. You didn’t leave kids unattended after a disaster like this. That’s when the child trafficking vultures moved in. In fact, I had been working on cases like that all day.

    “The communal playground,” Ismail assured me. The slanting sun struck his eyes… not black, like his late brother’s, nor even so dark a brown as I had thought. They reminded me of geodes of brown quartz and citrine when they were lit like that. “They’re in safe hands.”

    “Join us for dinner, Ismail Ruslanovich?” Shota asked him. “You and Estelle both.”

    Estelle… her given name, Sukhaila, meant “lode-star”. I could see why her father did not use it, lest, even now, someone be reminded of her late uncle, my childhood friend, Sukhail… the bomber.

    “Thank you, Shota dze Davitis,” Ismail answered, using the Georgian style. “I think…” he looked at me, almost shyly, before saying, “Yes, thank you.” He turned to go… youthful, supple, slim, and straight, as if he had never aged since we met on the mountainside by his brother’s grave.

    “He’s a good man,” Shota said. “However things started out, he’s a very good man. And Soso and Estelle… like that.” He held two fingers tight together.

    “Where’s his wife?” I asked.

    “Remember the massacre at Aigulino?” Shota asked me. “She was one of the teachers.”

    ……….

    By good fortune, the kitchen, the thing dearest to the once-renowned chef, Shota Ramazidze, had been left nearly intact. The next room, once the restaurant’s main dining room, was now where we ate and lived and our son studied and slept. We had a private dining room for our own bedroom, the banquet table for our bed. The privacy was unnecessary… we had never made love since weeks before the quake. Tonight… Shota was coughing; I didn’t like it. Not just the dust of the quake or the cracked flue; it had started a few weeks before. Shota had gone to the doctor, and then…

    “The kids really like each other,” he said. “I’m glad.”

    They did. It reminded me, somehow, of me and Sukhail, as we had been in our sixth-grade innocence. “Your hair is coming back,” I said. “Why did you shave it?”

    “A hot day,” he answered. “No time for that once the quake hit. Ismail… he’s a structural engineer. He’s here to help with that. Hey, my hair is almost gray anyway.”

    “I like it,” I told him. “Georgians live forever. We must die on the same day, like Peter and Fevronia.”

    “You know that doesn’t happen, Lark. One day, a Spring comes that we don’t see. Promise me something. If you are still young when that happens to me… don’t be faithful to the grave. You aren’t meant to live alone.”

    “Shota-”

    “Promise.”

    “If that happens, and then if there is someone– all right. But I doubt–”

    “Promise.”

    “All right, I promise.” He went to sleep then… I heard the rasping in his breathing.

    Trouble since he was waterboarded, so many years ago. He had gone to the doctor, come home, shaved his head… and then the quake.

    I remembered when my mother had asked me to shave her head, and not tell anybody. She had let it grow back when she had given up on chemo.

    No, I told myself, it can’t happen twice. Finally, laying my head on my husband’s chest, I fell asleep to his steadfast heartbeat and his ragged breath.

  • September 12, 2016 at 12:36 pm
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    Nuclear Spring

    by Dean Hardage

    Will woke up at daybreak as usual. Something didn’t feel right but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Shaking his head to clear it, he began his morning ritual. Rising from his sleeping furs and quickly putting on his layers of insulating clothing was the first step, followed by a quick wash from the bucket near the cast iron stove. It was one of the most useful things his parents had managed to find and retrieve before the encroaching snow and ice had made travelling any real distance almost impossible. He opened the cupboard and grimaced. There was just enough coffee left for a single cup and his supply of foodstuff was also dwindling quickly. That meant a full day’s trek to what used to be a nearby village to raid the shopping center for supplies.

    Will’s thoughts were projected backward by the thought of the village, backward to when he had gone on his first trek with Mother and Father. They’d bundled him up in a snowsuit and scarf, settled him into a nest of thick blankets on a sled, and taken turns pulling him along the frozen path that had once been a two-lane road. They talked as they walked, a yearning in their voices that Will had not understood.

    “Remember how beautiful this place was in Spring,” Father had asked?

    “How could I forget? It’s where we met, down by the river.”

    “Right, during the Spring Carnival.”

    Father and Mother had both smiled for a moment. A moment was all it had lasted.

    “The year before the war.” The words were as cold as the wind that cut through the air and even partially penetrated all the protective layers in which they clothed him.

    He hadn’t understood then but Father had explained when he got older. The war had been what Father called a ‘nuclear exchange’ between nations. It had destroyed almost everything. The survivors had begun to pull themselves back up to try and rebuild, then Winter came and never left. Temperatures had fallen, the ice from the far north and south had advanced further and further until most of the land mass was sheeted over. Only a few hardy souls had been able to adapt quickly enough to survive the seemingly endless Winter.

    Will shook his head again. He checked out the sled to be sure it was in good repair and then cleaned and oiled the 30-30 rifle he always carried. The advance of the ice had brought many arctic predators along with it and he had been forced to kill on several occasions. With these preparations completed, Will pulled on his head cover and fur-lined hood along with the snow goggles Father had left to him when he had passed away. Up the tunnel to the heavy door, through it into the snow and ice, and the journey was begun.

    Will hadn’t traveled far when he once again felt something was wrong. Not bad, just not normal. Trudging through the snow, focusing on staying on the nearly overgrown trail, he still wasn’t able to determine just what it was that troubled him and he didn’t really spend much time on it. He had to keep his attention on the trail and the sounds and smells around him to avoid being surprised by another of the local inhabitants, inhabitants that would happily make a meal out of him.

    It took most of the morning to reach the village and clear the door into the long-abandoned supermarket that served as his supply cache. Boxes of butter crackers, frozen blocks of cheese, even meat that had frozen before the power failed and never thawed when the ice came went into the sled, enough to sustain him for a couple of months. Before he donned his headgear again he heard a sound. It was familiar but he’d never heard it outside of the cave. Somewhere in the building, water was dripping.

    Will wanted to investigate but he knew he had to get back home before dark. He buttoned up all of his gear, pulled on his hood, and dragged the sled out of the building. He put the heavy piece of sheet metal over the door to keep out unwanted visitors and turned toward the path to the cave. As he turned eastward something else startled him. He took a moment to realize that his shadow, foreshortened by the early afternoon sun, was clearly visible in front of him. Curiosity made him look up for the first time he could remember and he was surprised again. Through the once perpetual overcast there was a patch of blue and the sunlight burst through the opening unimpeded by clouds for the first time in his life.

    Bewildered but unwilling to stop to figure it out at that moment, Will started again toward the cave. As he walked his shadow got longer and longer, matching him pace for pace like some companion spirit. Shortly before he arrived something else caught his eye just off the path. It was a patch of bare ground, dark loam showing through the snow that had always covered everything. It was then he realized he was sweating and his clothing was actually keeping him too warm. The final clue came to his ears a second later, a sound he’d only been told about by Mother and Father. He pulled the hood from his head, yanked off the covering, and sought the source of the sound.

    In a nearby tree he spotted a small, feathered creature he recognized from stories his parents had told. It was called a ‘bird’. They were supposed to have left before Winter had set in but here one was.

    Will fell to his knees. Melting snow, blue skies, a bird chirping in the trees. It had come as they had said it would. His eyes filled with tears of both sorrow and joy.

    “Mother! Father! Spring is here!”

  • September 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm
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    Blood Moon by Carrie Zylka (1,000 words)

    “Are you in here?” Autumn called into the thatched hut. “Spring?”

    She knew the answer before she opened her mouth but the sound of her own voice comforted her. She stepped inside and surveyed the small dwelling. Nothing but dirty beds and cold hearth. Her sister was nowhere to be found.

    She wittled away the hours by cleaning up the hut, getting the fire going and cooking the two rabbits she’d caught that morning. The moon had been nearly full last night and the need to hunt had been strong. The chase and finally kill of the rabbits had satisfied her for the moment.

    It was late into the night when her sister came home.

    “Spring!” Autumn got to her feet to hug her younger sister and stopped dead in her tracks. “What-?”

    “It’s nothing.” The younger girl snarled, brushing past her and undressing as she went.

    “But the blood…it’s human…I can smell it.” Autumn fought the urge as the coppery smell got into her nose. Her body shuddered with longing.

    Spring turned, her face a visage of anger. “I said it’s nothing!” She screamed, clenching the shirt in one fist. “THEY were nothing!!!”

    Panic clutched at her chest and Autumn quickly grabbed her sister by the shoulders, shaking her. “What have you done? What have you done??” Her voice rose as well, she didn’t care, out here on the edge of nothing, there was no one to hear them shout.

    “I killed them Autumn!! They were laughing at me! They shamed me and then I killed them. I let the wolf have them!” Her chest heaved as she recounted the tale.

    As she spoke Autumn kept shaking her head as if that single gesture could undo the damage her sister had done.

    “I told you being with people would get us into trouble. Now look what you’ve done! Now they’ll be coming after us!”

    Spring bared her teeth. “I don’t care. Let them come. I’ll let the wolf have them too.”

    “No, you don’t get it. They’ll kill us for what you’ve done. And the Wolf won’t be able to protect us. They have guns and weapons that fangs and tooth cannot escape. Oh damn you Spring. Why, why, why couldn’t you just be happy out here?” Autumn pressed her hand to her forehead as she spoke, tears glistening in her eyes.

    “Happy here? In this cage you’ve created for us? We might as well have let THEM put us in a cage. At least we’d have food and water.”

    “You’re an idiot. Food and water? And needles and collars too. Don’t you get it? They won’t keep us as pets. They’ll kill us. Because you’ve proven to them that we’re killers!!”

    Spring put on a fresh shirt. “I don’t care sister dear. There’s a Blood Moon tonight and I’m going to make use of it.”

    “To do what?”

    Spring looked at her sister. Madness and hate boiling in her blue eyes. “Why…to kill them all of course.”

    ~

    From atop a knoll, Autumn watched the sky darken. She watched as the stars appeared one by one and the moon begin to rise.

    She had made peace with what had to be done. Peace with what she was about to become. She’d shed buckets of tears and tried to think of a better way but in the hours she’d been sitting here, the conclusion was always the same. Her sister would need to be stopped.

    In some ways it was a blessing there would be a Blood Moon tonight. The most primal of full moons for her kind. She got to her feet, brushed off the grass and made her way home.

    Autumn was waiting in front of their hut as her sister emerged.

    “I can’t let you.” Autumn whispered.

    “You can’t stop me.” Spring said, softly. “Instead you should join me.”

    “You’ve fought the urge for so long Spring. Why couldn’t you leave well enough alone?”

    The moon chose that moment to begin its lunar eclipse and Autumn knew she had to complete the change before Spring did.

    She was only three years older but she’d come into the Wolf much earlier than her sister had.

    Spring threw back her head and flung her arms wide as the moons light fell into the glen. The silvery skeins bathed her in an unholy radiance and made her skin glow. She stood there, soaking it up.

    Autumn chose that moment to initiate the transformation. Searing pain engulfed her but she clamped down on it, using it to speed the change along.

    Hurrying, bones shifted and grew, hair emerged and her face changed shape. Within moments the transformation was complete and in her place stood a very large blond wolf.

    Spring opened her eyes and looked at her sister. “Yessssssss.” She said, her eyes wide with the thought of the two of them wreaking bloody mayhem in the nearby town. She laughed delightedly and as the Blood Moon entered the second half of the eclipse, initiated her own transformation.

    Autumn watched as her sisters bones began to shift and her spine bent awkwardly. She whimpered as she sprung towards her sister. Her canine brain understanding she’d only have a few moments in which Spring would be vulnerable.

    She threw her body at her sister’s changing shape, knocking it down. The half woman, half wolf tried desperately to defend its throat as it was transforming but the older sister had chosen her timing wisely. Human arms shortened but not yet canine legs, there was no way to protect its precious throat, it was at that moment she was at her most vulnerable.

    Autumn’s muzzle dripped with blood as she sat back. The Blood Moon reached its peak overhead and the urge to hunt…to kill…was hot inside her. But her grief conquered the primordial urge.

    And when the red receded like the tides from the moon above, the silvery light fell upon the blond woman cradling the dead body of a werewolf mid transformation.

  • September 15, 2016 at 12:31 am
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    Pneumatosis Sacculi Maximus. (Gaseous Baggus Humongous.)

    By Ken Cartisano

    Most people think Charles Goodyear invented the tire, but that’s not true. Here’s what really happened.

    It was a boom town back in the late 1800’s: A little place called Bugscuffle, Texas. Due to a twist of political fate, the town straddled two congressional districts, the third and the fourth. The third district was represented by a stout old fellow by the name of Conner Servatif. Some folks called him Con, but he didn’t hanker to no nicknames.

    The other half of the town was represented by a man named Lib Arial. His friends called him Libby. Libby had a great idea one day while sitting on the porch of the hardware store watching a stagecoach as it lurched into town. The coach hit numerous bumps and stones, thus tossing some of its luggage off the back, which bounced, opened and spewed the contents all over the muddy main thoroughfare.

    Libby was an inventor, and was aware of a new, soft, pliable substance called ‘rubber.’ While watching the luggage roll and bounce down the street, it occurred to Libby that putting rubber on the wheels of wagons and coaches would minimize the effect of the bumps, and make the ride more comfortable for the passengers.

    So Libby went to the next town hall meeting, and boasted of his idea to make wheels with rubber on the rims. A few people laughed, others showed interest, and some people just plain didn’t care.

    When old man Conner got wind of Libby’s idea, he was outraged. He said it was ridiculous to make wheels out of rubber because no one knew anything about rubber, it was too pliable to use as a wheel, and that his honorable friend and colleague, Lib Arial didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.

    Well, when Libby got wind of Conner’s outrage, he chuckled and shook his head. “That old fella Conner wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit ’im in one of his chins.” He said, “The wheels aren’t made out of rubber, just the outer part that meets the ground. It would serve as a cushion, like a mattress on a bed. Does old man Conner like sleeping on the springs of his bed? I know I don’t,” Libby declared.

    Libby decided to make one of these rubber enhanced wheels, and Conner was so upset over this news that he showed up at the next town hall meeting and proposed that rubber wheels should be banned altogether.

    A few folks agreed, others thought this was excessive, and some folks just didn’t care.

    Over the next few weeks, every time that Conner and Libby met, at the saloon, the barbershop, or the town’s fanciest restaurant, the two of them would argue about Libby’s invention. Conner took to saying he was ‘tired’ of arguing about something so stupid.

    Eventually it was decided by the citizens that the two men should debate the subject at the next town hall meeting, and perhaps put Conner’s proposed law to a vote.

    Well old Conner came to the debate with a clever strategy. He allowed as how Libby Arial could make the rubber wheels, as long as the whole wheel was made out of rubber, and there couldn’t be any air in the rubber.

    Meanwhile, Libby had brought a small model of the wheel to the meeting. He let the townspeople see, touch and feel the rubber rimmed wheel, and asked them to imagine how much more comfortable it would feel to ride on them.

    As the two men debated, it occurred to Libby that all of the wheelwrights lived on the side of town represented by Conner, and said as much.

    Conner was outraged at the mere thought that personal or monetary interests had anything to do with his intellectual objections to such a ridiculous invention. In fact, he was tired of the dirty tricks that Libby engaged in just to get rich off of his own invention. “Surely you people can see that!” He said.

    As it turned out, the citizens were not as concerned as Conner over the idea of a new kind of wheel, and rejected an outright ban. They allowed Libby to make his funny wheels, and demonstrate them in front of the whole town when they were finished.

    So Libby proceeded to make the new-fangled wheels, and when his assistant asked him what he was going to call them. Libby said, “I’m going to call ’em ‘tires.’ That way, every time old Conner says he’s tired of talking about ’em, he’ll be promoting ’em.”

    So the day arrived to test the wheels with the ‘tires’ on them. And no sooner had Libby and his assistant rolled the wagon out of the shop when two of the tires ran over nails and went flat.

    Old Conner and a few of his wheelwright friends guffawed at the sight of the flat rubber tires. And when Libby surveyed the ground around his workshop, he could see that nails and other sharp objects had been liberally and deliberately scattered in the dirt all around his shop.

    A few folks were disgusted with what Conner had done, others didn’t believe it, and some folks just plain didn’t care.

    But Libby had made extra wheels with tires on them, and he instructed his assistant to change the punctured wheels with the back-up wheels. He also paid a few eager boys to find and clean up the nails scattered around his shop.

    The wagon rolled out on the new set of wheels, much to Conner’s disapproval, but many folks were discouraged by the ease with which the ‘tires’ could be punctured. Other folks thought the idea needed improvement, and of course, some folks just didn’t care.

    Spring forward 30 years, and old Conner was dead and gone.

    Bicycles became common. Lib Arial lived to see his invention applied to those bikes. That’s who really created tires, and that’s how they got their name.

  • September 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm
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    The Deplorables
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    “Linus, is it spring back, and fall forward, or the other way around?”

    “It doesn’t make sense to spring back, does it Evelyn?”

    “But you could fall forward.”

    “Please stop talking.”

    Evelyn looked over at her husband, and pouted.

    “I’m sorry honey.” He reached over and touched her face, she loved when he did that.

    “I forgive you silly. I just wanted to know which way to set our clocks tonight. Spring is here and you know how much I love the world waking up from a cold boring winter, and blooming into spring.” She smiled, he loved her smile.

    “I know sweetie, but we have to stay focused on the task at hand.”

    “Of course.” Evelyn said.

    “They’ll be here soon, remember what we’re supposed to do?”

    “Yes dear, we rehearsed it all last week.” Evelyn slipped an arm through her husband’s. “After this, I’d like to spend spring in Paris, won’t that be wonderful Linus?”

    Linus was powerless to refuse her, always had been. “Sure honey, that sounds wonderful —oh, here he comes.”

    A tall amiable fellow walked up to Evelyn and Linus, “Hello, are you the Grumwells? I’m Philip Atkins, I hear you want to take a look at the house.”

    “We’d love to.” Evelyn said.

    “It’s a great house, and I’m selling it myself too.” Philip said proudly. “Those realtor fees are a scam I tell you, a scam.”

    Evelyn and Linus nodded in agreement.

    “Where’s my manners?” Philip said, “This is my wife Alyssa, and our kids Philip Jr. and Christina.”

    “Oh, we didn’t know you were bringing the family.” Evelyn said.

    “Well, we’re going on vacation, thought I’d show the house on our way out of town.”

    Linus and Evelyn exchanged glances.

    “Is that alright?” Philip asked.

    “Of course it is.” Linus said.

    Evelyn giggled. Philip thought it odd, but brushed it aside if it meant these two would buy his house.

    The place was gorgeous, and Philip ended the tour in the room that was his pride and joy —the basement.

    “I had it renovated only a year ago,” Philip beamed. “If you wanted, you could rent it out as its own studio apartment. It’s a self-contained living space down there.”

    When Linus and Evelyn made their way down the stairs, Philip waved his arm with a flourish, “Ta da!”

    Evelyn squealed with delight, “Let’s buy it Linus, pleeeease!”

    Philip grinned, ‘Who needs a realtor,’ he thought.

    “Ev, you know that’s not why we came here.”

    “Oh yes dear, I forgot. It is a beautiful house though, isn’t it Linus?”

    “It is dear.”

    “What’s going on here?” Philip asked. “Why’d you waste my time if you don’t plan on buying the house?

    “Tell him Linus, tell him!” Evelyn said excitedly.

    “Evy honey, focus.” Linus gave her a cautionary look, which immediately softened when she began to pout.

    Linus walked towards Philip, he was a few inches shorter, but Atkins backed away nonetheless. “Well Philip, I have a confession to make, this whole house thing was a ruse.”

    “Get out of my—“

    “McManus sent us.” Linus tilted his head, and watched that bit of information sink in.

    Just then, Alyssa Atkins came downstairs carrying a tray of refreshments, and saw that the color had drained from her husband’s face. “Is everything alright Philip?”

    “I’m afraid it isn’t Mrs. Atkins, please sit down.” She set the tray on the coffee table and sat between Philip and the kids.

    Linus continued, “Your husband here has stolen money from a very formidable man, and he’s sent us to rectify things.”

    Alyssa glared at Philip, and Linus knew this wasn’t a total surprise to her.

    “You don’t steal from a guy like McManus, Phil, it never ends well.”

    “Please…don’t. I promise I’ll have his money by the end of the month.”

    Linus shook his head, “I’m here to do one job, and negotiating with you isn’t it.”

    “At least let my family go, they’re innocent in all this.”

    “That’s the real sad part of it all Phil. It was just supposed to be you, then your beautiful wife Alyssa here, would simply be the grieving widow.”

    “She’s not that beautiful.” Evelyn pouted.

    “No one’s more gorgeous than you, love.” Linus said.

    Evelyn smiled.

    “Please, please, they won’t say a word. Promise him Alyssa, promise that—“

    The gun shot surprised everyone. Alyssa Atkins sat in shock with her husband’s blood splattered all over her beautiful spring dress.

    “I didn’t think it would be so loud.” Evelyn laughed.

    Then the children screamed, and Alyssa started yelling, “Bitch! Bitch!” at Evelyn who giggled at the chaos taking place.

    “Ev, you were supposed to wait for my signal.”

    “I know dear, I just couldn’t stand him begging any longer.”

    “He was becoming quite annoying, but we have to stick to the plan.”

    “You’re right sweetie, I’ll do better next time.” Evelyn gave Linus a kiss on the cheek, as he lifted his pistol to Alyssa Atkins’ head, and pulled the trigger.

    Philip Jr and Christina tried to run, but Evelyn and Linus stopped them before they reached the stairs. “Time for you to go be with mama and daddy now, okay?” Evelyn’s voice was strangely soothing.

    Philip Jr. shook his head and tried to beg for he and his sisters life —but no words would come.

    “Shh…it won’t hurt, I promise.” It was quick —and Evelyn was right, neither one felt a thing.

    Suddenly she began screaming, “No, no, no!”

    Linus rushed over, “Honey, are you alright?”

    “No Linus! I got blood on my new Christian Louboutin shoes, now I’ll have to throw them away.”

    Linus smiled and hugged his wife, “Don’t worry honey, I’ll buy you some more —on our spring trip to Paris.”

    Evelyn beamed, “That would be wonderful sweetie, my favorite time of year, in my favorite place on earth. Do they spring back and fall forward too?”

    “Honey, it’s spring forward and fall back —and yes they do.”

  • September 18, 2016 at 6:55 pm
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    THE SPRING

    Sam and Matilda met in the English countryside on a roasting-hot day – one of those days in early May that are commonly thought to be the exception rather than the rule, at the end of which people might say, speaking too soon: “Well, summer’s on its way.”

    Sam had come from a village, ten miles away across a patchwork of fields decorating gently rolling hills. He had all the equipment an experienced walker should have: walking boots, knapsack, map, compass. All, that is, except his flask of water; that was hanging on a kitchen chair in his cottage, forgotten and useless.

    He discovered his lapse when he went to have lunch at one. The sweating cheese sandwich came out of the knapsack, along with the apple from the tree in his orchard, and then … the slapped-forehead moment. By this time, Sam was extremely parched, so what to do? Map out, he scanned it for the nearest source of drinkable water.

    Matilda was already there, feet cooling in the freshness that bubbled up from mysterious depths. She had her head back, eyes closed, consuming the exquisite shade of a clump of silver birches and the slight breeze that wafted through on its way to beyond. She felt the shade become denser, opened her eyes and there he was, looking down on her: Sam, in all his rugged, six-foot glory.

    “Hello!” he said, by way of an introduction. Matilda scrambled to her feet and smoothed down her skirt, which had been hiked up to her hips for maximum refreshment.

    “He-hello!” she responded, her surprise mixed with an instant attraction to a strange man in an unexpected place.

    “Looks good,” Sam continued, Matilda’s shapely bare legs burned onto his retinas.

    “It’s … divine.” Matilda’s choice of adjective applied not just to the shaded spot where the water continued to bubble and gurgle into the world above ground.

    Here we could spend some lines eavesdropping on the tactical small talk that went into Sam and Matilda’s mutual seduction, but let’s cut a long story short: they made intense, thirsty love on the lush grass, their groans, cries and finally sighs creating a sublime counterpoint to the babble of the nearby water.

    Later, they lay next to each other, both now with their feet enjoying the surfacing coolness.

    Matilda turned her head towards her recent lover. “Will I see you again?”

    “Of course!” Sam’s sense of romantic drama got the better of him: “Next year. On this very day. At this very place.”

    “Here’s to next year, then.” Matilda leaned over and kissed him warmly, while her hand moved down his still naked body. Let’s not dwell too much on what happened next. Suffice it to say that they made love again, perhaps even more intensely than the first time.

    As the sun dipped towards the horizon, they parted, still two strangers in all but the carnal sense.

    Sam went back to his cottage and his life, working the fields and returning every evening to his wife and three children. The afternoon beneath the silver birches soon melted into a summer of arduous labour, and his love for his family obscured those fading moments of bliss.

    In time, his children left home for the city, running from the hard country life as if it were an angry man with a cudgel. Sam remained there with his wife, but the day came when she fell ill, worsened in the following weeks, and eventually passed, leaving Sam on his own in the cottage.

    On a day in early May of the following year, Sam set out for a walk in the fields and hills. He took with him his knapsack, this time with all that was needed for the hike. He hadn’t intended to head for the silver birches, but as he passed nearby, he remembered and made for them.

    It was a hot day again and when he reached the spot, he took off his boots and lay with his feet in the unchanging, primeval source. He closed his eyes, slept and dreamt – of sunlight, and water, and a woman. When he woke, the shade of the trees had become denser; standing over him was the woman from his dream, looking down.

    He jumped up to face her. Despite the grey hair, the slightly bowed body and the lines etched on her face, there was no mistaking Matilda.

    “You came!” she said. “I knew you would. It’s been so many years, but I knew you’d come.”

    In a moment of terrible realisation, Sam saw Matilda’s life flash before him. Tears sprang to his eyes, he opened his arms and Matilda fell into them.

    “I’m so, so sorry,” he murmured, gently stroking her hair.

    .

  • September 20, 2016 at 10:42 am
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    The Bougainvillea Blossoms

    The faded blue car stopped at the red light. A man stepped out and made a grab for the 10 year old Gopi.

    Begging just a few feet away, Ma screamed and ran wildly to save Gopi. But, the car was already gone. Ma wailed and begged for help. Being a eunuch, that too a middle-aged one, her cries fell on deaf ears.
    ___________________

    Gopi tasted hell for the next few days. Once the abductors realized that Gopi was already castrated, their vileness knew no bounds. Later, they dumped Gopi on a deserted road and fled. Luckily Gopi knew where Ma lived and reached home somehow.

    It was two years ago when Ma had found a miserable and hurting Gopi abandoned near a dilapidated building. That day, she became a mother, unwittingly yet unconditionally.
    ____________________

    Shuddering at the memories now, Gopi looked around to see the bougainvillea bushes in full bloom, adorning the entrance of his childhood house. Spring seemed to have arrived finally after 16 years.

    Gopi went inside and stood looking at Ma who sat in the courtyard on a small cot placed strategically in the little patch of sun.

    “Ma…!,” Gopi called out.

    Busy sewing, Ma looked up and then scrambled to her feet immediately.

    “Gopi? Is that you?” Ma asked adjusting her spectacles. “You remembered us after all,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks.

    Smiling through his own tears, Gopi held out an official looking paper to her.

    “What’s it?” Ma asked, her eyes drinking in Gopi’s visage.

    “Read it, Ma,” urged Gopi.

    Ma looked down and with difficulty, strung the words together.

    “I am a teacher now, Ma. I teach Science to high school children,” Gopi paused and then asked, “Are you happy, Ma?”

    In response, Ma broke down and sobbed hard.

    Worried, Gopi shook her shoulders, “Why are you crying?”

    “Do you know how much I have missed you, my son?” Ma kept sobbing and talking.

    “I have come back and now I have a standing in the society, Ma,” Gopi said hugging her.

    “Gopi, my son, I am so proud of you,” saying which Ma wiped her tears with her white stole, and then said, “Come, eat something.” She went inside the kitchen calling for her man-servant, “Nathu….”

    Her voice may be a strange mix of harsh and squeaky, but it was that voice which had calmed Gopi as a child, when the hurtful insults and humiliation from the people pierced his heart.

    Shaking his head, Gopi went to the hand pump and washed his smooth face with cool water. Even now, he couldn’t believe that here was the day with a glimmer of hope… after years of struggle and shame.

    His long and lonely journey had begun with one harsh decision – what gender should he wear. Looking at the fellow eunuchs, their travails at barely being able to eke out a living, the humiliation they faced every waking moment, Gopi had decided that he will dress as a male, contrary to the most of the others who dressed as females.

    Memories crowded back.
    That night when he had finally reached home, Ma had taken one look at his tear-stricken face and knew the hell he went through.

    She had gathered him in her arms, letting out a string of curses, even as she howled at his pain. Gopi had only one question for her, “Why me, Ma?”

    Ma didn’t have any answers but kept sobbing the whole night with him.

    Gopi was angry and hurting terribly. He wished he was elsewhere.

    “My child, there is no safe place for us,” she pleaded with him.

    But Gopi was adamant.

    Despite her protests, Gopi left home.

    With great difficulty, he found work as a cleaner at a seedy restaurant in exchange for food. The new city had only hunger, thirst and sleeplessness to offer, for the next many years.

    A kind word from any one was rare. Gopi missed Ma terribly.

    After a couple of years, the restaurant owner started paying him a meager amount.

    Amidst the back-breaking work, Gopi still found time to read scraps of newspaper that he could collect.

    One fine morning, Shantaram walked in for a cup of tea. Shantaram taught English to the senior classes in the school. He caught Gopi sitting near the washbasin and reading a torn scrap from a newspaper.

    Surprised, Shantaram looked closely at the scruffy looking Gopi and asked him if he wanted to study.

    Gopi nodded his affirmation silently.

    Shantaram made a deal with the owner to spare Gopi for an hour thrice a week after the lunch-hour rush. In exchange, Gopi would have to scrub the floors as well.

    Gopi agreed and his informal schooling started from the very next day.

    Shantaram was amazed at the speed with which Gopi progressed. He encouraged Gopi to save money. Sometime later, he too pooled in some of his own savings and enrolled Gopi in his school.

    Now Gopi worked at the restaurant in the evenings till the closing time.

    Time went by and Gopi finished his high school with a brilliant score. He bid adieu to the restaurant and started teaching younger students for a fee.

    Though life continued to be an endless struggle, Gopi never forgot his goal. Once he finished school, he opted to finish graduation through correspondence school and then trained as a teacher.

    The day he had an interview for a teaching position at the same school where he studied, he first went to a now-old and retired Shantaram to seek blessings.

    The interviewers grew uncomfortable seeing Gopi as a potential teacher due to his effeminacy but his intelligent answers got him appointed as a probationary teacher of science.

    Ma’s voice calling him to come and eat brought him back to the present.

    Gopi opened his bag and took out a box of sweets and a new stole for his Ma.

    Spring, indeed, had come into their lives.

  • September 20, 2016 at 11:40 am
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    Cinnamon
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    It is an ordinary day market, one like so many others in these nondescript Taiwanese neighborhoods. I pass by the stand where I occasionally buy cardamom seeds and also avocados when it is the season. Today I just wander and look around. Fall has begun and even though it is still warm I delight in the fact that the hot season is over. I almost prefer this time over spring because it is followed by winter whereas every day in spring brings me closer to the summer heat.

    The woman at the stand is busy with customers so she lets me be. With her, I never saw him before, sits an old man – maybe her grandfather, sparse grey hair and weathered skin, a face like whittled from walnut wood. He looks directly at me and I believe to see a shadow of recognition fly across his face though that cannot be.

    On the table in front of him lies a plastic bag with cinnamon sticks. I couldn’t tell it by the writing because it’s in a foreign language with just a small sticker in Chinese providing the usual information on calories and nutrition. Just one line in English: Product of Vietnam.

    Not many Taiwanese like the taste of cinnamon even though the spice is known to be healthy and I wonder if he gets many customers here. All the while he watches me attentively, with the detached interest of an observer collecting information. It comforts me to meet his friendly stare and when he smiles I return it with ease.

    I look at the bag and wonder… does he know that cinnamon used to come from the springs of the Nile out at the end of the world? Cinnamon sticks were fished with nets from the waters that fell from the heights of the Ethiopian central mountain range.

    It was one of my distant ancestors who travelled up the mountains to the lands of the cinnamon birds who used the sticks to build their nests. Some others had done the same but few had returned and those who did wouldn’t speak about what they had seen. But after his family died that ancestor travelled to the springs and ascended the heights. He did not care much what would happen to him, I suppose. All he wanted was to add some meaning to the remainder of his life.

    I myself have not travelled much in my life so it must be the distant memory of that ancestor passed down to me in some way. For it is as if with my own eyes that I have seen those birds – giants of their kind, with swan-like bodies and long beaks like those of storks as they collect cinnamon sticks from the surrounding mountains to build their nests right were the springs arose from the depths.

    The birds do not appreciate the visit of strangers. It was as if they guarded a greater secret, high up in the mountains from where the stems descended to collect in the plains. But as no wish of his own remained in my ancestor’s mind that must have been the reason why they let him pass.

    He ascended the mountains and for more than a year lived among its people. I know this because I have seen it as if with my own eyes – a silent land, of peace and tranquil minds. His soul healed there and he retuned to the lowlands where he made his home at lake T’ana and married a second time and fathered three children. Had the birds seen he would tell about his time with the mountain people they would not have let him leave.

    I don’t mind to know things that no one will believe. I am content with myself and not not a person who speaks a lot. And after all, it is said those mountains and its people have since descended below the lake and who could manage to visit those realms these days? Still, even today the birds gather cinnamon, building their nests by the springs of the Nile.

    “Duo shau,” I ask. (How much?)

    He seems to make a price up on the fly: “Yi bai wu.” (Hundred fifty.)

    I give him two bills and he returns a coin. We smile at each other once more. I don’t know if I will see him again.

    I have at home a small bottle of glass, more like a capsule, five centimeter long, a finger thick. The glass has turned cloudy but is still semi-transparent. The bottle contains bark from the original cinnamon trees, sliced and cut to size so to fit into such small a vessel. If I open it, I know, it will instantly dissolve into dust but for a timeless moment I will hear the song of the cinnamon birds. I will ascend those ancient mountains and smell the springs of the Nile.

    And if the birds see that I will tell about it they will take me with them.

  • September 21, 2016 at 2:25 am
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    He sat deep in mediation by the pool. The spray from the waterfall chilled him. Wintery cold winds and snow had denuded the trees of the grove. Their branches stark against the grey skies, pleaded for mercy and their green spring and summer finery. The water flowing down the cliff face was slowing every day as winter began to clasp the land to her icy breast.

    Soon it would be a bare trickle of water that idled among the rocks and slid quietly into the clear pool at the base of the cliff.

    Despite the scars twisting their way down his back and belly, his bearing was upright. His mind quietened and his consciousness flew through the darker recesses of knowing and memories with ease. As he settled into the basic healing posture and connected, his countenance began to glow with a warm light. Energy flowed through him. His being pulsed and it teased and eased the aches of old wounds.

    ‘So?’ The voice vibrated through his body.

    ‘So? … I am ready.’

    ‘Really ready? Now?’ There was a long pause. ‘Are you sure?’

    ‘Yes. If I am not ready now, I never will be.’ His spine bent over and then arched and straightened. He became weightless and the chill of the evening air passed. He flew up into the darkening night sky. Clouds purpled with the shadowing of the setting sun’s rays fled through as he raced higher and higher. Surrounded by the awakening lights of distant planets – he paused to view their beauty then soared on.

    He could picture his body in his mind’s eye. A frozen statue – naked except for a linen loincloth seated in crossed leg lotus by the spring pool. The voice echoed through his mind.

    ‘Don’t worry. It will be there on your return. No one will come.’ Threads of worry erased. ‘If someone does come, they will think you are in a deep trance. Which you are; in a manner of speaking. You have gone beyond the material dimensional boundaries. You have transcended the physical world for another.

    He saw sparks of light rising through the dark sky like threads of gold and silvery light. Some of them clear and iridescent rainbows of light. The voice’s chuckle at his wonder reverberated through what he believed was his skull but he knew later was the compass of his mind.

    ‘Those are the sincere prayers of the innocent and the simple folk. See how they connect to the divine.’

    ‘The rainbow threads?’

    ‘Those? They are the prayers of the broken hearted. Those who have been broken in life. Those who have none but the divine light to support their cause. Those who have begged for mercy from men.’ There was a deep and drawn out sigh. ‘and none was ministered.’

    ‘And so who are you? Are you …’ He was lost for words; the question hovered on his lips.

    ‘Am I, am I G-D? No.’ Soft laughter followed this. Then it spoke firmly and its words chilled the listener. ‘I am simply a servant of G-D. Even we, who are closest in service to G-D do not go into the divine presence unshielded. We would not survive close proximity to the power that spoke the word that bought worlds into being.’

    There was a deep abiding silence. It seemed that eons fled in seconds. He wanted to ask one more question.

    ‘Why me? Where are you taking me?’

    The being talking to his soul grew mournful.

    ‘You still do not know?’

    ‘Well I think I know, maybe I knew and maybe I will know. But at this moment, I do not think I know.’

    ‘Ah, I see.’ They kept rising up and through space.

    ‘Look.’ And he looked to where the angel directed his vision. Billions of threads streamed towards a vortex in the depth of inner space. They seemed to come from different stars and often streams converged on their way to the vortex which glowed with powerful radiance that was unearthly in its beauty.

    He noticed to the right of the brilliant lights of the rising threads, a wall of shadows. Clouds that rolled in a waves of absolute darkness; a heavy ponderous blackness that was a liquid tar tsunami threatening to engulf everything in sight. He was about to ask the angel what it was. Then he was startled to see the walls evade the touch of the threads.

    The threads spun their way up. Wherever they touched or glanced off the walls of darkness that threatened to engulf them, they rolled back, shrinking into the further reaches of space.

    ‘And that is the despair and pain of millions and billions of beings. The despair of the living ones.’
    ‘The despair … of millions… billions?’

    ‘Yes. Whenever someone or something, even an animal is hurt or caused pain, it creates darkness in the universe.’

    ‘There is so much of it though. Compared to the light threads.’

    ‘Yes. True. But what do you notice about the light threads?’

    ‘They roll the darkness back.’

    ‘Of course. Darkness and despair breeds on fear. Clings to fear. Hatred and anger. Whenever a living being transcends the base instincts of self – it dispels the dark forces.’

    The angel was quiet. He heard nothing nor saw nothing except the battle between the forces of light and darkness for what seemed like eons.

    Suddenly there was the sound of trumpets reverberating through the universe. He heard it in his very being. He felt his falling happened in seconds.

    He woke to see the spring water bubbling and boiling up under a clear morning sky. The trumpets continued to echo. He thought he was dreaming, until he saw the lights flooding the glade and knew the time had come.

  • September 21, 2016 at 11:08 am
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