What It Means to be Free

truck, pumpkins, flag

MorgueFile May 2018 1413924415vgvbk

Young Nate had a blast running through the cornfield and picking out pumpkins, but then the little boy saw his Grandpa standing by an American flag next to the field.

“What are you doing, Grandpa?”

“Remembering when I was your age and we kids said the Pledge of Allegiance in front of the flag every morning.”

Nate looked down if he were embarrassed.

“What’s wrong?” Grandpa put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

The fourth grader looked up at Grandpa. “Some kids at school say we should kneel instead of stand in front of the flag because of racism.”

Grandpa knelt down. “I know that our country has done bad things and we still have problems that need fixing, and if people want to kneel, that’s their right. That’s what makes America free. But it’s never been about what’s wrong with America, but about our ideals, who we are when we’re our best. I’ll always stand. People who forget that will always live in fear. The flag is a reminder of what freedom is, and when you’re free, you’re never afraid.”

The old man was kneeling in front of the flag, but only so he could hug his dear grandson.

I wrote this for Week #37 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks against our nation, and America still carries a lot of collective pain from that day. I wrote a wee fictional tale honoring the victims and those who survived them, so the feelings are still fresh within me.

I wish I had more than 200 words to express what I’m trying to say. I know that there will always be people who will kneel in front of the flag as long as they perceive there being social injustice in this nation. That’s their right as American citizens. That’s what it means to be free. But what I tried to say today echos what I recently wrote in a longer essay a few days back.

Right now, a lot of people are afraid of that guy in the White House. They’re afraid about who will be the next Supreme Court Justice. They’re afraid of a lot of things, real and imagined. But I choose not to live in perpetual fear. Yes, I get scared of things sometimes, but both my identity as an American and my faith in God help me realize that I wasn’t born to be afraid. Isaiah 43:1 says “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”

The Almighty was addressing Israel, not the people of the nations, but through faith to the King of Israel and by his merit, the rest of us can also be called children of God. Presidents are temporary. God is everlasting. If you don’t believe, that’s fine. We all negotiate our relationship with the Creator in different ways. I’m just glad I live in a country where people are free, both to kneel in front of the flag and to pray to and have faith in God. It’s the same country, and it’s the same freedom.

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

P.S. Don’t forget to contribute your own story to Roger’s linkup. Thanks.

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Moving to the Beehive

apartments

Michael (Black) Ritter pexels-photo-41506

“I’m Erika. Welcome to the beehive.” Erika Kiribati was the unofficial greeter for the San Jose State dorms. “I’ll get that box.”

“Thanks. I’m Josh. There are more people living here than the town I grew up in.” Josh McKenny had his hands full with his duffel.

“You get used to it.” The 19-year-old Samoan picked up the box and elbowed the elevator’s ‘up’ button. “Family help you move?”

“Dad’s looking for a place to park.”

“Where you from?”

“Wallace, Idaho. About 80 miles east of Spokane.”

The elevator doors opened. “Which floor?”

“Fifth.” Erika pushed “5” as Josh hustled in behind her.

“I’m in 605. Come on up when you’re settled.”

520’s door was ajar and Erika pushed it open with her foot to find a young African-American.

“You Josh’s roomie?”

“Name’s Gabe Johnson.”

“Josh McKenny. You met Erika yet?” The two men shook hands.

“Nope. How’s it going?”

Erika and Gabe shook and then she turned. “Nice meeting you Gabe. See you soon, Idaho.”

The boy from Wallace and the Oakland native sized each other up, and it wasn’t the first time Josh questioned the wisdom of going to school out-of-state and away from everything he ever knew.

I wrote this for Week #36 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

True story. I once knew a guy who was born and raised in a small town in Idaho. His parents were divorced and his Dad moved to California and was an instructor at San Jose State University. He got a terrific tuition break so decided to go there but once he saw the size of the dorm, he turned around and went home. The dorm really did have more people than the entire town he’d grown up in. Culture shock is still real.

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

Blowing Bubbles

bubble

MorgueFile May 2018 file1831341080767

Kent Ingram had been chasing the hyperfold for decades. The first time he encountered it was in 1916 during the Battle of Jutland. The HMS Indefatigable exploded, German shells having penetrated her ammunition magazine, but instead of being thrown over the railing, he fell into what looked like a large, misshapen bubble…and found himself in Springfield, Missouri in the U.S. The year was 1894.

Since then, it had appeared randomly in his life, sending him from one place, one time to the next. The last time was Los Angeles, California in 1980. After five years, he got tired of waiting, and, with his accumulated knowledge, established a life, married, and had children. They had a home outside of Shasta, plenty of countryside for the kids.

“We’re out of bubbles.” Five-year-old Emily held up her wand in one hand and the empty soap container in the other.

Before Kent had a chance to react, his eight-year-old Todd burst out of the tool shed. “Found some more.”

“Me first,” Emily demanded as she ran toward him.

“Finders keepers,” Todd laughed and then blew a large bubble that continued to expand until it looked very familiar to Kent. But should he step through this time?

I wrote this for Week 35 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner photo challenge hosted by Roger Shipp. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

I’ve written before about time travel and mysterious portals, and the bubble in the photo seemed to fit the bill. I had to look up 10 Significant Battles of the First World War (The Battle of Jutland was number three) and do a little bit of Googling, but otherwise the story wrote itself.

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

It’s Not a Scarecrow

scarecrow

© Anurag Bakhshi

“You know, I don’t think the flower bed is in danger from crows, Lindsey.” Kurt stood with his six-year-old daughter admiring their handiwork.

“I know that, Daddy. I just thought the flowers could use some company when we’re not around.” She stood, hands on hips, pride written all over her face.

“Well, you sure made good use of those old clothes we were going to donate to the thrift store.”

When she didn’t answer, he looked down and saw tears in her eyes. Kneeling, he put his arms around her and Lindsey held onto him tightly. “I know you miss her.”

“Why did Grandma have to die?”

“That’s why you wanted to make this, didn’t you? So we wouldn’t give away her clothes.”

“I miss her.”

“It’s okay. I miss her, too. We’ll keep anything of hers you want. I promise.”

I wrote this for the August 19th edition of Sunday Photo Fiction. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 141. I know. I usually push the word count to the limit, but I didn’t need so many this time around.

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

For Bubbe

bakery

Daria Shevtsova pexels-photo-1070945

Faye Ballard chained her bicycle to the post and dashed inside just in time for class.

“Ah, Faye. Glad you could join us.” Their teacher Jeremiah Lamb wasn’t the most patient person, but he knew baking like Michelangelo knew painting.

“Yes, Mr. Lamb. Thank you.” She quickly put on her apron and stood with the other students waiting for today’s demonstration. This was the day she had been waiting for, the one that made her sign up for class in the first place.

“Today, students, we are going to learn how to make a classic bagel. The lox is extra of course, but I’ve plenty of fresh salmon available so we can add some flair to all of our brilliant creations. I start with one-half cup of warm water…”

Under her breath, Faye muttered, “This one’s for you, Bubbe.”

Her dearest grandmother turned 86 last week. She was in an assisted living home now, her memory not being too good. All Faye’s life, Bubbe had baked her the most wonderful bagels. She couldn’t anymore, so it was Faye’s turn to treat her. Bubbe kept saying she wished she could have a good bagel with lox and cream cheese again.

I wrote this for week 33 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge. The idea is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

My wife is Jewish and our grandchildren call her Bubbe, which means “Grandma” in Yiddish. My Mom is 86 and does have short-term memory loss, and although she’s not Jewish, I think its important for her grandkids to give something back to her as well.

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

As I write this, I’m only the second contributor to this link up, so please consider adding a story of your own. Thanks.

Only One More

soap

© Fandango

It felt so good to get the crap off of his body, even the nausea-inducing odor with which he was always saturated after each job.

This was number eleven. Only one more to go. Each of these increased the chance of him leaving some clue, though so far, the police were chasing nothing more than their tails.

Looking down, the last of the blood was swirling around the drain, about to be consigned to the sewers.

He turned off the shower and grabbed the towel hanging outside. Drying himself off, he thought of the oath he swore over his family’s graves.

A year ago, the infamous “Gang of Twelve” raided his father’s house, tortured and raped his mother, his sisters, and his daughter, beat and tortured the boys and men, then finally murdered them, all because of rumors that the patriarch had a horde of gold bullion.

They never found gold, but the ex-intelligence agent, who had been traveling that weekend, vowed to end each gang member in the most brutal manner possible. Only one more death until he achieved his goal. But even if the souls of the dead would rest easier, his own spirit would be haunted forever.

I wrote this for the 12 August 2018 edition of Sunday Photo Fiction. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Interestingly enough, I’d just taken a shower before sitting down and writing this story, so the feeling of getting clean was very fresh for me, if you’ll pardon the unintentional pun. For some reason, the smell of blood (like from a bloody nose) popped into my head. The rest of my tale just fell into place.

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

Frozen Memories

restaurant

MorgueFile May 2018 1400068700w0086

Noah Banks stopped in front of the four-star restaurant his Grandparents used to take the family to when he and his sister were kids. Mom told him when he was six that this wasn’t the sort of place you ordered a PB&J or hot dog with extra relish at, but what did he know?

The young man chuckled at his own childishness. Grandpa never minded, and since the old man owned the place, neither did the management.

But that was twenty years ago and everything had changed. The place was still set up, pristine, orderly, waiting for patrons who would never come. He looked up and down an almost deserted Wilshire Boulevard. Everyone was in the shelters waiting for the next Glazzuarq orbital bombardment. Amazingly, this part of L.A. had been spared so far.

Half a block away, his shuttle to the spaceport was just pulling up. The U.S. Marine hustled, carrying his heavy duffel. He had to get to Vandenberg in time to launch aboard the battle cruiser “Intrepid” and fight those alien goonies in space. But before going, he just had to say good-bye to the rest of his family, now all interned at Forest Lawn cemetery.

I wrote this for Week #32 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Since you can see the reflection of trees in the window, the POV is from the outside looking in. I thought about memories, and how a young woman I used to date many decades ago, told me when she was a child, she did order PB&Js at expensive restaurants her parents took her to.

The rest just unfolded in a dystopian sort of way.

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

Inheritors

garden

© James Pyles

Lee watched his two grandchildren explore the garden. Once it was one of numerous community projects in this mid-sized northwestern city. Now it was a matter of survival.

“What do you think? Think your grandkids will like it here? We’ve got plenty of children their own age, and my wife’s putting together a school curriculum.” Andy Lambert was a carpenter by trade, but he knew how to recruit with the skill of a salesman.

Leland Henderson didn’t take his eyes off of the eight and three year old kids. “Yeah. I think it’ll work out okay. We’d be glad to join, what do you call yourselves?”

“The Remnant. You know, like in the Bible.”

“Right. The Remnant. Guess it’s as good a name as any.”

“Damn right it is. There used to be over 7 billion people in the world, but thanks to the Doomsday Plague, we’ve got less than 6 million left, scattered in little communities like ours all over the globe. Farming, fishing, hunting, we have to preserve the old skills. Geezers like you and me have got to survive and care for the youngsters. Your grandkids and mine are going to inherit and rebuild the Earth.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 197.

Yes, those are my grandchildren, and because I promised my son I wouldn’t put photos of his children online, I made sure I selected on where their faces can’t be seen.

I won’t tell you where or when this picture was taken because I don’t want it to influence how others might create their stories.

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

Chasing the Frontier

beach

Credit: MorgueFile May 2018 1365256807kyjpp

Kara Cooper sat on the sand watching the afternoon sun. She came to California to say good-bye. Divorced, no children, parents dead, she had nothing to keep here anymore. Her brother’s family wanted nothing to do with her, her sexual orientation, gender identity, and politics.

She’s spent most of her life hopping around from place to place, but California was home, or it used to be. Weeping, she remembered her childhood, but that was before the revolution. Strictly speaking, being straight and conservative wasn’t illegal, but it was difficult to get a job or housing, unless the employer or landlord was sympathizer.

“Enough. I’m not going to wallow in self-pity anymore. Screw them. Let them turn the planet into a cesspool.”

She stood defiantly, took one last look at the ocean she’d loved as a child, turned around, and headed back toward the parking lot. She felt the ticket in her pocket. In a week, she’d enter the Vandenberg Spaceport for the first and last time. The shuttle would take her up to where the “Windrider” was parked in orbit. Then, with nearly 500 other colonists, she’d begin the interstellar journey to a new life on the frontier planet “Outlaw.”

I wrote this for Week 30 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner photo challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Once again, I decided to wage a liberal, progressive revolution in the first world nations, so that political and social conservatives became the marginalized population. I know a lot of people on the left side of the aisle either don’t believe this could ever happen, or if the do, believe that it would be a good thing. However, as I’ve stated previously, ANY ideology that forces its beliefs and practices on unwilling people becomes a totalitarian regime (and I suppose a lot of people feel like that’s what they’re living in right now in the U.S.).

Fortunately for Kara, there’s another option, and it’s on a frontier planet where free, independent, and pioneering people can forge a new life and make it anything they want.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com. Oh, and I’m happy to see this linkup has finally gotten some traction. Good work, Roger.

Death by Squirt Gun

bike

© C.E. Ayr

It’s so hot and humid here, you can only go bike riding in the morning. At least I’ve traced him to one of those two people ahead. Have to be cautious, though. If I spray the wrong one, the Jinn will get me before I can reload.

Have to wait until he makes his move, which should be soon. The demon can never quell his thirst for murder for more than a few weeks. He slaughtered my brother ten years ago, and I’ve spent every day since then learning about them and tracking this spirit halfway around the world.

Last month it was Melbourne, and now Port St. Lucie.

They’re turning into that gate to the left. It’s opening.

Ducked in just as the gates closed. That’s him now. He’s pulling out a garrote. I’ve got my gun right here.

“Hey, Jinn.” He spins as I pull the trigger and spray him. What a stupid weakness, but it’s working. The possessed body is collapsing and the Jinn is oozing out his orifices. Really disgusting. The other person’s bending over him.

“Glenn. What happened?” She’s looking up at me. “What did you do? He’s soaked in pee. Are you nuts?”

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

This is a continuation of yesterday’s flash fiction tale The Long Wait for Retribution, which was about demonic possession and murder. I decided to let my demon hunter catch up with his target and eliminate him.

According to Exorcism in Islam, you can harm or kill a Jinn by urinating on it or throwing hot water on it. So the weapon of choice, under the circumstances, is to load a super soaker with urine. Yucky, but it works.

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