Why Does My Wine Glass Look Like That?


© A Mixed Bag 2013

Johnny B. and his two companions in “crime” had a merry time of it in first class on their way from London to Sydney. He was late the villain of a popular CW television series, and now taking his musical show on the road, or rather in the air, and he wanted to have a good time. Unfortunately, most of the other people in the aircraft’s exclusive section took a dim view of the three adults behaving like self-indulgent adolescents.

Of course, he took to twitter to humiliate them as was his right as one living out loud and up front.

But sleep had taken everyone eventually. For John, insomnia was a close companion, and eventually, whilst the other passengers were slumbering, he had awakened. Johnny looked at the still half-full cup of wine on his tray. The liquid inside wouldn’t be at that angle unless the aircraft was in a steep dive.

Then the speakers crackled to life. “Ladies and Gentlemen…”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge for April 22nd 2018. The idea is to take the image above and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 162.

I follow actor John Barrowman on twitter, and this tweet of his made me wonder what had actually transpired. I consider commercial aircraft to be “libraries with wings,” and yes, I do enjoy a modicum of quiet (children notwithstanding, me being a Dad and Grandpa).

I also recall seeing a single panel comic strip I read some decades ago depicting an aircraft passenger looking at the glass on his tray, with the liquid being tilted at an angle indicating the plane was in a steep dive.

Together, that formed today’s tale.

To read other stories inspired by the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.


Castaway on Piller Island


© MorgueFile 1416928925r3kcx

Nelson Lawrence Simon had been living the dream, sailing around the world in his 36 foot sloop until his rudder chain broke during a storm. The spare, which he thought he’d packed so carefully, had been exposed to four months of salt and moisture and had rusted.

Current washed him up on the north shore of an island, Piller, according to his charts. There was some sort of electrical interference that was jamming his radio, but he saw structures in the distance, so maybe someone lived here.

Simon was halfway up what looked to be an abandoned trail when he spotted the nest. He brought provisions with him, but it had been a long time since he had fresh eggs.

“Damn. Too late.” He watched as the first of the eggs broke open, but wasn’t prepared for the emergence of the occupant.

“What? I thought alligators laid eggs closer to water.”

As a shadow fell over him from behind, he realized it wasn’t an alligator. He turned and had just enough time to recognize a velociraptor from those “Jurassic” movies before he was messily devoured, well mostly. The rest of him would feed her hungry brood.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 195.

I saw the eggs and was crestfallen, because I didn’t want to write about bird eggs. Then I decided to leverage my series of stories based on The Kaala Experiment, a time travel device that’s gone wrong and brought a whole bunch of dinosaurs forward to the present on an island in the South Pacific. Nelson Lawrence Simon never had a chance.

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

Roger’s link up still needs a lot of love, so please consider contributing a story. Thanks.

The Long Winter


© A Mixed Bag – 2013

“I can’t believe snow season’s extended into May. It’s incredible.” Dora had just finished her Junior year and would normally be cultivating her tan for the summer, but ski conditions at Snowbird were perfect.

Her boyfriend Herb Klein graduated with a degree in History and had been accepted into Law school. “It’s amazing, like summer is never going to come.”

Dora’s facial expression became solemn. “Herbie, you don’t think…”

“Think what?” Then he realized what she meant. “That’s nuts. With climate change and all, this is just a fluke. The temps will be in the 90s by the beginning of June. You’ll see.”

The gondola got to the top, and they stepped off with the other skiers. By the time she hit the powder, Dora had forgotten all about her foolish worries.

“Say Ted, take a look at this.” Ralph Manx had been a Senior Meteorologist at the National Weather Service for ten years, and he still couldn’t believe what he was reading.

“Same stuff, different day. No warm up in sight for anything above the 40th parallel.”

“It’ll be summer in six weeks. How is this possible?”

“Beats me. News agencies are already playing up ‘mini-Ice Age’ stories.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – April 15th 2018 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I saw that the photo’s file name included the date “15 May 2016,” which seemed a little late to go skiing (but what do I know?), so I imagined a winter that just kept hanging around. I found an image of the 40th parallel as it crosses the United States at The Daily Mail I could use for reference.

Picture a world where it’s winter everywhere above that red line.

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

The Ancient Sentinel

view town

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It was a beautiful morning in early April, and from his position at the old fort, he had a wonderful view of the town below. Although it was overcast, everything seemed so fresh, the trees lush with greenery, the people driving and walking along the streets and byways. It was so peaceful.

He looked at the bell suspended just below and to his left. It had been ages since it rang the alarm. No longer did the people have to fear air raids, and the threat of an invasion was a distant memory that children now studied in their history texts.

There was no reason for him to remain at his station or so it seemed. He had discharged his duty and died at his post decades ago.

But the world was not safe just because the dangers were not obvious. Children were dying in Syria from chemical attacks, and although firearms were largely outlawed there, terrorists had turned to murdering with knives in London.

There was nowhere in the world truly safe, which was why the old sentinel remained on guard. When they came for his people, he would sound the alarm again to save them.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge of week #15. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 197.

The platform on the left reminded me of the ruins of an old fort, and the town could be in an unspecified area of Europe, perhaps Scandinavia. So my old soldier is a ghost who died during World War Two, and yet who continues to do his due and guard his people. As I’ve suggested in the body of my story, the world is never truly at peace.

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

P.S. This photo challenge doesn’t have many participants, so if you have the urge to write, please consider contributing a wee tale. Thanks.

An Unlikely Seagull


© Alastair Forbes

Sixteen year old Jeff would do anything, even go to the zoo with his parents and brothers, rather than deal with Suzanna’s jealousy. He had to turn off the ringtone and vibrate features on his iPhone and block the SMS service so she couldn’t call or text him.

At first, he thought he was going to be bored, but all of the different animal exhibits were interesting and even fun.

He still couldn’t get his mind off of Suzanna, though. When they started dating, she seemed nice, if a bit strange, but now she was totally possessive. Lucky he had Jan to talk to, but if Suzanna ever found out…

There was a big crowd in front of him at the Seal exhibit, but he wanted a photo, so he held his phone over his head to get a picture.

“Hey!” Jeff felt a sudden jerk and looked up to see a large seagull flying away with his iPhone. Mom and Dad were going to kill him.

Suzanne landed behind the public restrooms at Ocean Beach near Sloat and then transformed back into a teenage girl. “Now we’ll see what you’ve been texting to that little slut Jan.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of April 8th, 2018. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

I must confess that I read Joy Pixley’s story Secret Salvos before crafting my tale, so I was probably influenced by it.

The object in the gull’s mouth looks kind of like a cell phone, though I doubt the bird could hold something so (relatively) heavy in its beak for very long. That means it couldn’t be an ordinary seagull, could it?

Way, way back in the day, like the late 1970s, I remember visiting the San Francisco Zoo (where my story is set) and I was about to feed a seal a piece of fish, holding it (the fish, not the seal) above my head, when I felt a sudden jerk and the fish was gone. A seagull had flown down and plucked it out of my hand. I let Suzanna do the same thing with Jeff’s phone.

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

Oh, I understand the host of this challenge has to let it go at the end of the month due to health problems. My schedule prevents me from having sufficient discretionary time to pick it up, but I hope someone else will.

The Next Treasure Dive


Photo credit: MorgueFile 2a4054c7afcb25f354a6cf9709d9b8a5

She was waiting for them when the two men pulled into the sports center’s parking lot in Pitt’s 1948 Model 135 Delahaye. It was a cool, cloudy Sunday in early April and Arvada’s annual kite festival was on the verge of being rained out.

“You sure know how to travel in style, Mr. Pitt.”

The rough-looking man with the salt-and-pepper hair stepped out of the antique car, his companion remaining inside. “You’ve got what we paid for?” He held out his right hand impatiently.

“Of course.” She proffered the aged, yellowed envelope.

The man took it, gently opened the flap, and briefly read the contents. “Yes, this is it. Just a few miles from here.” The adventurer looked up, but the lady in black was already walking away. They had both honored the agreement and now it was time to move on.

“Where to, Dirk?”

Pitt started the engine and backed out of his parking spot.

“You won’t believe it, Al. The Byzantium is hidden at the bottom of Standley Lake.”

“You’re kidding. Westminster is just a few miles from here. The lake’s less than 100 feet deep.”

“Easy retrieval job and America’s missile defense technology advances fifty years. Let’s go.”

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Given the image, I looked up “kite festivals” on Google and came up with the Arvada Kite Festival to be held in Arvada, a suburb of Denver, this coming Sunday, April 8th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Unfortunately, the weather for Arvada this Sunday is predicted to have a 70% chance of rain, so not good flying weather.

I looked up Arvada and found out that among other things, it’s the home of the Cussler Museum of Antique Cars, created by author Clive Cussler.

I read a lot of Cussler’s books back in the day, including Raise the Titanic featuring his primary hero Dirk Pitt, who I assume is Cussler’s alter ego (they share a love of antique car collecting among other things).

Along with his partner Al Giordino, the NUMA Marine Engineer has had many adventures, usually involving sunken ships, lost treasure, high-tech and high adventure.

I thought the kite festival might be a good place for a clandestine meeting between Pitt and a courier, so I set it there. The “Lady in Black” is totally made up for convenience.

The nearest body of water of any size is Standley Lake which is in nearby Westminster and has a maximum depth of 96 feet. There is some Gold Rush history associated with Arvada, and loosely merged with the history behind the lake, I decided that sometime over a century ago, one of the men associated with creating the original reservoir buried what he thought was a fortune of illegally gotten gold there, but died before he could retrieve it (fortunately recording its location in his diary).

Turns out, it was really the element Byzantium (I pulled that from the plot of “Raise the Titanic”) which can be used to develop a defense system that shoots enemy missiles down using sound waves.

Yeah, that’s a lot of research for 200 words, but I had fun.

To read other stories (or to submit your own) based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com (this writing challenge needs some love, so please consider writing a wee tale of your own and submitting it).

Reluctant Partners


Photo Credit: MorgueFile MX146-460-Cheat

“Come on. You’ll have to be my partner because everyone else has one, Steph.”

“It’s not my fault I was out with the flu when Mr. Hanson was handing out assignments, Jeff. Everyone knows you’re useless. That’s why no one picked you.”

“Ms. Henshaw. Mr. Flynn is right.” It wasn’t the voice of God, but their science teacher was a close second. “He is the only available classmate left. I suggest you two make the best of the project.”

Stephanie stopped herself from rolling her eyes at the imposing instructor just in time. She’d never been to detention before, but dissing “The Hanson” was a good way to get there.

“Fine,” she hissed at the sixteen-year-old. What’s our assignment?

“A report on colonizing Venus.”

“Are you nuts? Do you know what the environment there is like?”

“I’ve already done the preliminary research on the HAVOC Project.”

“Let’s see.”

“Not until Friday. We’ll go out for a bite, I’m thinking Chinese, then back to your place to study.”

“This better not be a date.”

“Who, me?”

At his desk, Mr. Hanson smiled to himself. By next spring, they’d be going steady.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner – 2018: Week #13 challenge. The idea is to use the photo above to inspire crafting a wee tale no more than 200 words long. My word count is 190.

Instead of cheating, which the photo suggests, I thought of the boy trying to convince the girl to be his partner on a class project. We’ve all had those experiences when one person does most of the work on a group project but all the kids get equal credit, which is what Stephanie is afraid of.

I read a “Calvin and Hobbes” story arc where Calvin was partnered with Susie to do a report on the planet Mercury. It didn’t end well which again, is what Steph imagines.

But as it turns out, Jeff is smart but needs motivation, and Mr. Hanson played “matchmaker” to give the boy something to shoot for, namely dating the pretty, blond girl seated next to him.

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

This challenge needs some love, so consider contributing a story of your own.

Oh, NASA’s HAVOC Project is a real concept.

The Guardian

orange vest

© A Mixed Bag – 2013

Glenn Carroll had to do something, so he arranged to work nights and spend school hours as a cross walk guard. He was surprised to find he really enjoyed talking to the elementary age kids (and he had three of his own), and between getting children across the street mornings and afternoons, he acted as hall monitor. The chances of anything really happening here were pretty small, but he felt better being there, just in case.

He was walking down the main hall when he heard a familiar voice. “Mr. Carroll, I’ve just called the police. A couple of the students said they saw a man with a gun near the playground.” Principal Ava Martinez was waving him over to the office. “We’re going on lock down until the officers arrive and clear the situation.”

“Thanks. I’ll look into it.”

“But Mr. Carroll…”

Glenn looked outside in the direction Martinez pointed and chuckled. Then he went out to tell the gardener that in a few seconds, a SWAT team was going to ask him to put down his rake. After that, he’d go speak with the SWAT Commander, identify himself as an off-duty officer, and straighten this mess out.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of March 25th 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Social and news media is currently replete with stories and commentaries about the protests prompted by the Parkland School shooting and things are getting pretty heated. I recall a story I read some months back about how the police were called to a local Middle School because there had been a report of a man on campus with a rifle. It turns out the rifle was some sort of gardening tool (I don’t remember the specific type), and after a brief flurry of activity, the situation was defused.

I’m not making light of the rights of citizens, whether adults or children, to protest, and regardless of where you stand on the issue of Second Amendment rights to bear arms, these students have a right to express themselves and to have a safe school environment.

But since the fellow in the image reminded me of a school crossing guard (most of the ones I’ve seen are retired men and women), I decided to add a concerned father and police officer (yes, even off duty, he was armed) to the situation. There are those few times when dangerous people walk on campus, but it is also important to have someone around who can evaluate a perceived threat. No one wants innocent children to be shot, but then again, you don’t want to shoot someone who superficially looks to be a threat but turns out to be a guy with a rake.

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

The Woman from Ogygia

gleneagles bar

Photo credit: MorgueFile 14228002011gx95

Gilberto Curry wandered into Gleneagles Bar, probably one of the more famous landmarks on Gozo, and sat at the nearest vacant table. He’d become bored with nearby Malta the minute he entered the airport gift shop and saw endless replicas of the cinema’s “Maltese Falcon.”

Sipping on his second beer of the day, he was surprised when a very beautiful and very drunk young woman sat in the chair opposite him.

“I hate every single one of you men.”

“Then why are you sitting with me?” No doubt her husband cheated on her or her boyfriend just came out as gay.

“You’re always running off, even when captured, the gods make you let them go back to their wives…uh wife. He only had one.”

“Well, if he was married…”

“I had twins by him. Think he ever came to visit, pay child support? Oh no. Bleeping Zeus wouldn’t have it.”

“Zeus? Who was your intended?” Gilberto was still sober enough to be curious.

“Odysseus. Seven years together and he never came back.”

“Lady, you must be really drunk if you think…”

“Calypso. I’m Calypso. Want to see my island? Maybe you could stay a year or two.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner – 2018: Week #12 challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 197.

I was able to make out the name Gleneagles Bar in the photo and found out it’s located on the island of Gozo which is the second largest island in the Malta archipelago (the first largest being Malta).

Gozo is associated with the island of Ogygia, home to the mythological nymph Calypso. She is said to have kidnapped the Greek hero Odysseus as recorded in Homer’s “Odyssey” and then held him against his will for seven years (some sources say five) because of her love of him. They eventually had sex and there are other legends stating she had either one or two children by him.

Eventually, Zeus made Calypso let Odysseus go so he could return to his wife, and the whole tale sounded worthy of the most schmaltzy country and western song. So I imaged an inconsolable Calypso still pining for her lost love (who she’s never seen or heard from ever since), drowning her sorrows in a bar on the 21st century version of her island while trying to pick up any man who will listen to her tale of woe.

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

Buster’s Mystery


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Buster slipped his head out of the partly open library doors when he heard the front door open. Maybe the Man had finally come home. The automations regularly refilled his food and water bowls and cleaned the litter box, but he missed the Man’s warm lap, his soft words, and the touch of his hands on the cat’s fur.


It called his name but it wasn’t the Man. In fact it wasn’t a man at all. It was one of the Man’s machines but this one walked on legs like the Man.

“Ah, there you are.” Buster cowered and then hissed. The man-machine squatted down and its almost man voice sounded kind. “I won’t hurt you. I’ve come to take care of you.”

Before Buster could run, the man-machine moved faster than even he could and scooped him up. The cat loudly protested until the fingers of the man-machine found the spot on his tummy where he loved to be rubbed.


Model NS4 robot from the 2004 film “I, Robot.”

“There, there, Buster. It will be okay. I’m sorry Dr. Lanning won’t be coming home anymore but we’ve got a mystery to solve. You, me, and Detective Baley must find out who murdered Alfred Lanning.”

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner for 2018: Week #11. The idea is to use the image at the top to inspire the authoring of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 197.

A cat? You want me to write a story about a cat? I don’t do cute cat videos.

Okay, I’ll make this work.

Unfortunately, the first thing that popped into my head was the 2004 film I, Robot starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, and James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning.

In one scene, Detective Del Spooner (Smith) goes to Lanning’s house looking for clues as to Lanning’s death and in the process, he finds Lanning’s cat.

So I adapted the scene to this challenge using elements of the film and Isaac Asimov’s first “robots” detective novel The Caves of Steel. Technically, the events in that novel occurred well after Lanning’s death in the Asimov stories, but this is fiction after all.

The human detective in “Steel” is Elijah Baley and his humanoid robot partner is R. Daneel Olivaw (The “R” in his name indicates he’s a robot). In my story, I imagined Olivaw to appear completely robotic, something like the NS4 models in the 2004 movie (see above).

To read other stories based on the prompt or to post your own (please), go to InLinkz.com.