The Ghost Before Christmas

christmas

Photo credit: Akshata Ram

Raymond walked into his bedroom with a fresh cup of coffee for a relaxing Sunday morning and found the Christmas decorations laid out on the bed next to his newspaper. “You never give up, do you, Mom?” Setting his cup down on the end table, the 45-year-old divorced engineer sat at the foot of the bed and picked up the dollar store Santa. “I miss you too, Mom, especially this time of year.” He knew his ex had her place elaborately decorated for the season, and that his three sons delighted in trying to guess what was inside all of the brightly wrapped packages, but he’d given up on Christmas and everything it was supposed to stand for when his Mom died a month after his divorce was final. Taking a deep breath, he picked up his cell and punched in a number.

“Hi, Sherry. Is it okay if I come over for a while? I’ve got some presents for the boys.” He listened and smiled. Of course, he’d have to go shopping first.

I wrote this for the 196th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174. This is pretty much a “stream of consciousness” thing. I just wrote the first thing that popped into my head.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

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Escaping Paradise

road

Photo credit: Jodi McKinney

“Are you sure this is the right move?” Sixteen-year-old Erin leaned forward against her seatbelt so her Dad, who was driving, could hear her.

“It’s too late to ask now. All our stuff’s moved to the new place in Glenbrook, the house in San Francisco finally sold, so Nevada is our new home.” He chuckled until he saw his wife giving him “the look,” which the middle-aged executive consultant could see out of his peripheral vision.

“Phil,” Esther hissed, adding emphasis.

“Sorry, Erin. I know you miss your friends, your school…”

“Everything,” she moaned. Erin’s six and ten year old brothers Matt and Chad were asleep next to her. “Am I the only one who cares what this move will do to us?”

“We’ve talked about all this.” Esther turned around in the front passenger seat to look at her daughter. “Your Dad’s right about what a mess things have become in the Bay Area. Look at this move as an adventure. I promise that in a year, it’ll be a lot better.

I wrote this for the 195th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 173.

I haven’t lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since the early 1980s, but I do keep up on the news. Most of it sounds pretty bad. The article I read this morning is called Videos shows Santa Con attendees trashing popular SF restaurant, reporting how two women tore a restaurant apart because the payment for their food orders was in dispute. I had to look up Santa Con, but vandalizing an establishment and assaulting an employee doesn’t seem much like the spirit of Christmas.

I also read recently how people from expensive portions of California, including LA and the Bay Area, are leaving in droves going to much lower cost Nevada.

In 1994, my family moved from Orange County, California to Boise, Idaho for similar reasons, but mainly because the nearest drive by shooting was a mile and a quarter from our house and we didn’t want our (then) little children to get shot, or involved in drugs and gangs.

Life isn’t perfect here, but with each news story I read, I must say I’m glad I’ve lived here for the past 24 years. My daughter, who is now 30, made the decision to move to Northern California, but so far, both of my sons are still in Boise. I’m pretty sure David will always live here, and maybe Michael too, although I think he’d like a place where the politics were more “blue.”

Oh, Glenbrook, Nevada is pretty small, but it’s really a bedroom community for Carson City and Reno. It’s right on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and according to Google maps images, it’s really pretty.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

This Milk Will Self Destruct In Ten Seconds

milk

© Yinglan Z. 2018

He was a tall man, stark white hair, about forty-five years old. He parked the Buick in front of the hotel, but he wouldn’t be staying long.

Walking up to the front desk, he asked the petite brunette, “Do you have a key for Peter Aurness?”

She smiled. “Just one moment, Sir.” The young woman retrieved a key from a box behind her. “Room 101, around the corner and down the hall.”

“Thanks.” He knew her eyes were following him as he walked away. He had a quiet charisma some women found appealing.

Slipping the key in the lock, he opened the door and flipped on the light. He sat at the table, the only pieces of furniture in the room. There was a small carton of milk and an envelope waiting for him. He adjusted the antenna, heard a click, and then the whirring sound of a cassette tape.

“Good morning, Mr. Phelps.”

Jim Phelps opened the envelope and began to follow along as the control voice outlined the next impossible mission.

I wrote this for the 185th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 172.

An antenna coming out of a milk carton and an envelope? No help from the language. All I could read were the ISO numbers and even Googling them wasn’t illuminating.

Peter Graves

Publicity photo of Peter Graves – 1967

I’ve written a Mission: Impossible themed story before, and it was the only thing I could think of that fit the photo. Between 1967 and 1973, the late actor Peter Graves played Jim Phelps, the leader of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), a loose collection of experts who, when presented with an “impossible” task, pooled their resources and came up with a daring solution that was only revealed as the episode unfolded.

Graves’ real name was Peter Duesler Aurness, so I thought I’d throw that into my tale.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

I’m adding a photo of Graves as he looked in 1967 just for giggles.

Seeking Justice

the chelsea beach bar

© Michelle DeAngelis

Jeannie and Richard met outside the Chelsea Beach Bar in Atlantic City, their hometown. She had barely been able to hold in her tears, but became hysterical when he’d gotten out of his car and walked over to her. There was nothing left for the PI to do but hold his old girlfriend and let her cry. The Marine veteran’s instincts never let him tune out his surroundings, such as the multicolored para-sail against a dull blue sky and the sound of the wind blowing through the grass.

“You’re going to find them for me.” She’d finally stopped sobbing.

“I figured that’s why you called me after so long.”

“We were going to get married. He wanted to wait until after tomorrow’s boxing match in Vegas to announce it.”

“You know when I find them, it won’t help. He’ll still be dead.”

“I know. But he deserves justice. I don’t trust the cops on this one. I think they’re in on it. Habib thought the fight was rigged.”

“I know. I’ll find his killers.

I wrote this for the 183rd FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

I looked up The Chelsea Beach Bar since it’s figured prominently in the photo, and found it is in Atlantic City. I looked up the local news and discovered that Atlantic City boxer Qa’id Muhammad was found murdered yesterday near Las Vegas. I decided not to use Muhammad’s name in my story and to fictionalize the crime out of respect for the grieving family.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Those Never Forgotten

autumn morning

© wildverbs

The air was finally carrying a chill in the mornings, the first sign of Fall. Nick had always loved the Fall, even as a kid, but today possessed a bitterness along with the cold. He got up early, went through his morning routine, and then opened the hallway closet.

There, like every other morning, was the American flag. He never kept it out at night because there were too many vandals.

He gently ran his dark brown fingers along the fabric. Today, more than any other day, it meant something special. “I miss you Dad.”

Tears were running down his cheeks as he put the flag pole in its holder next to the front door on the outside of his cottage. Seventeen years ago today, his Dad, a New York City Police Officer, was among the first responders after the World Trade Center was destroyed. The 27-year-old Marine veteran saluted the flag, not just for honor of country and the Corps, but for the bravest man he’d ever known who died on this day.

I wrote this for the 182nd FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the heinous terrorist attacks on our country, a time when we remember those who fell, and the courage of the men and women who first responded to the attacks. I felt I should write something appropriate.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Buying a Memory

donut dog

© Yinglan Z.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” It was Martin’s first reaction to his wife Helen’s suggestion. “You want to buy this…this thing for our three-year-old granddaughter?”

“It’s adorable.”

“It’s ridiculous, and it’s made of porcelain. Couldn’t we get her a gift that won’t break when she drops it?”

“But she’ll love it.”

“She’ll love a lot of things that are cuter, less expensive, and less fragile.”

“But Marty…”

“Okay, let’s have it. What’s the real reason?”

Helen looked down at her shoes and when she faced Martin again, he saw tears streaming down her cheeks. He put his hands gently on her shoulders.

“What is it?” His voice was calm, soft, almost a whisper.

“My Grandpa gave something just like it to me for my fifth birthday. He…he died of a heart attack a month later.”

Martin pulled his wife close and held her. “Alright. We’ll get it for her.”

“Marty? Marty, you make me so happy.”

“But we’ll keep it high up on a shelf so she can admire until she’s older.”

I wrote this for the 180th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 172.

Yes, I think donut dog is ridiculous, too. However, I had to think of some reason for validating this choice of gift.

My son is divorced and the visitation schedule for his two children is that they spend one week with their Mom and the alternating week with him (and us). In addition, due to my ex-daughter-in-law’s work schedule, we babysit our three-year-old granddaughter Monday through Wednesday on her week.

My grandson has favorite stuffed animals that he carries back and forth for a sense of stability, but up until now, my granddaughter hasn’t done so. Yesterday, my wife took our granddaughter to the store and bought her an “Elsa” backpack plus two special stuffed animals she can always keep with her, just like her brother. They look ridiculous, but she adores them, and I adore her.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

We Don’t Want Your Kind Here

no entry

© yarnspinnerr

The sign said “No Entry” in two languages, but Allen saw the young couple approach the main doors from the side and go in any way. He knew the sign was directed at him, not him personally, but you had to be a member in good standing of the Party to even be considered.

The event was held in a different city each year, and today it was in Mumbai, but the administrators lived in the U.S., and their influence was everywhere.

Officially, segregation didn’t exist, but when “his kind,” as they often referred to non-Party members, tried to petition for even ancillary status, they were rebuffed. Since they’d taken control of the political structure, entertainment, all news venues, they hadn’t felt it necessary to use him as a punching bag anymore, but they still called him a “Nazi” from time to time.

His kind wasn’t allowed at any of the popular venues including WorldCon. They didn’t think it was possible for a cisgender, white male from Montana to be a science fiction fan.

I wrote this for the 179th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I’ve been chronicling the whole WorldCon 76 meltdown and recovery, as well as the latest shots fired at conservatives who, for some reason, are not only thought of as “Nazis,” but not considered worthy of being science fiction fans. So I thought I’d write yet another tale of the dystopia where prejudice is alive and well and running the world.

Yes, I know. I rant about this a lot, but now that this year’s WorldCon is officially over, I’ll find something else to focus my attention on.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Waiting for Dana

ferry

© Ted Strutz

Joel Carpenter dozed in his rental car waiting for the ferry. Ten hour drive from San Francisco to Boise. Ditched the car, switched IDs, then an hour flight from Boise to Seatac, and another hour to rent a car and get here. What they were doing was beyond illegal. This had better be worth it.

Bainbridge assured him it would be, once he got onto the island, drove another 20 minutes to his gated estate, got past security, and transferred the rest of the money.

It had been eighteen months since Virginia had gone missing during a scuba dive near Fiji. Joel thought he would lose his mind with loss and grief. The worst thing was he just went on living.

Bainbridge was the finest robotics engineer of the century. The AI was bleeding edge, total human simulation. In another hour, he would have his fiancée back, or at least the next best thing. He’d excuse her absence as a long sabbatical. Now they could be married.

I wrote this for the 178th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 166.

I’ve recently seen the 1983 film WarGames which includes a ferry ride to find a reclusive scientist on a forested island (in Oregon rather than Washington). Reclusive scientists made me think of the 2014 film Ex Machina, which, of course, is about humanoid female robots.

I’ve written this sort of story many times before, but I didn’t get much sleep last night, and the muse needs more coffee.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Getting Ready for School

bench

© Wildverbs

“You seem depressed, Joey. The older man looked at his nine-year-old grandson sitting on the bench beside him.

“I’ve got less than two weeks of freedom left.”

“What do you mean?”

“School. I won’t be able to hang out with you at the park and tell stories.”

“I thought you liked school.”

The boy absent-mindedly caused a small whirlwind to lift some water from the lake to the roots of a nearby tree. “I guess so, but every year it gets harder.”

“Every year, you get smarter, and the discipline’s good for you. By the way, so close to the lake, the tree doesn’t need extra water.”

“I know. I was just bored.”

“That’s exactly why you need to go to school. You’ve had plenty of rest and now your restless.” Grandpa casually waved his hand and adjusted the humidity level of the dirt under the tree to optimal levels.

“Do you think I’ll ever be as good a wizard as you, Grandpa?”

“Keep going to school and practicing. You’ll make a great sorcerer one day.”

I wrote this for the 177th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

Initially, I didn’t think I’d write for the prompt this week since it seemed similar to something I’d seen just recently, but then again, I considered that a challenge too.

My grandson really is lamenting that he has less than two weeks of freedom until summer vacation ends and he has to go back to school. Since we hang out a lot together and tell stories, I decided to mine that conversation with a slight twist.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Red High Heels

red shoes

© Yinglan Z.

George looked admiringly at the shoes on his wife’s delicate feet. This was the finest shoe store in Hong Kong.

“What do you think?” She turned her ankle, modeling the heels.

“They look lovely. Another wedding gift, Edith?” He smiled at her as only a newlywed can.

“Would you?” She clapped her hands and laughed.

George turned to the salesman. “We’ll take these as well. Can you have our purchases sent to our hotel? A dozen pair would be a little difficult for us to carry.”

The salesman stood and bowed. “Of course, Sir. We would be glad to be of service, but since I am the last person in the store this evening, they won’t arrive until tomorrow.” He internally scoffed at the American tourists. Frivolous fools. They could never suspect he was an intelligence analyst for the Communists. His cover was perfect.

Edith and George gave each other knowing looks. The two American agents were there to kidnap and interrogate their adversary. By dawn, they’d know everything about China’s complement of nuclear weapons.

I wrote this for the 176th FFfAW Photo Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I forgot about the word count and was over 300 words into writing my spy thriller when I remembered, so I had to edit it down quite a bit. Now it feels somewhat forced and hurried, but I hope I got my idea across successfully. Never trust appearances.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.