Fourteen-year-old Jerry Craft had shoved his mask deep into the back pocket of his dusty stained jeans five-hundred miles ago. He’d scurried into a boxcar at Denver and the inspectors hadn’t found him when they stopped in Salt Lake. Now somewhere in Nevada, August heat scorching him clean, he felt free. “No COVID’s gonna get me.” He suddenly coughed, doubling over and nearly falling from his perch just above the car coupling. Sitting down, his inner demon quieted and let him speak once more. “With Ma and Pa already dead, ain’t gonna let COVID get me before the cancer does.”
I’ll warn you now that this one is really long (if you include the screenshots), so if you’re a TLDR person, stop now.
Another warning: This is one of my rants about the culture wars that appear to be gaining momentum in the “official” world of science fiction and fantasy. It seems that it’s not enough to write a good story anymore.
I’d never heard of SciFi author Mike Resnick before he died. He’d won Five Hugos and other awards during his career, so that says something. He was heavily eulogized (if you’ll pardon the pun), and also memorialized by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. But he was also criticized.
Let’s get to his death first. From Heavy.com:
“Just because they we lost contact with him doesn’t mean the worst, Amalia.” Nicholas Bishop nearly reached over to touch her hand, but instead, let it join his other one, cradling his coffee cup. He followed the younger woman’s gaze out the coffee shop window. Traffic was heavy, even this early in the morning. Las Vegas Boulevard was clogged with motorized humanity, trying to get to offices and schools before the August heat overwhelmed their air conditioners.
“You know Matt would have found a way to get through to us.” Her voice was husky, which Nicholas found sensual, but it was because she’d been up all night crying. He supposed the two of them might have gotten married someday, except his work as a climatologist kept him away from home for weeks or months at a time.
“Wheatgrass might even kill cancer cells. You should try it.” Jack Murphy proudly displayed his small window box garden to his friend Martin Katz.
“I appreciate your support, but…”
“But nothing. Couldn’t hurt.”
“What do you do with it?”
“I’ll show you how to…”
“Oops. Got an oncologist appointment. Be back soon.”
Martin stepped outside and walked the two blocks to Telegraph Avenue. Dashing across the street toward the bus stop, he didn’t see the speeding driver running a red light. Martin didn’t make it to his doctor’s appointment.
“Man plans, God laughs.” -Yiddish Proverb
I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image at the top as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 98 (including the proverb).
I know this one is a little dark, but while it is prudent to plan for the future and to take all reasonable steps, ultimately, we don’t control the universe.
To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.
“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” -attributed to George Orwell
His name is Derek Johnson and he’s a disabled, homeless drunk living in an alley that stinks of piss. He’s also a Marine and a Vietnam vet. The three punks thought it was funny, but I sure as hell didn’t. The old man was still passed out when they found him. Drunks most times get rolled for what little they’ve got, which isn’t much, or sometimes a truly sick bastard will pour gasoline on them, and think they’re doing the world a favor by torching a “warmonger” to death.
This time, they only took his prosthetic foot.
I can’t sleep. I can never sleep, well, almost never. When the insomnia monster is clawing at my brain, I walk. Who cares if it’s 2 a.m. or whenever. This time, it was just after dawn. I saw them running out of the alley, laughing like hyenas on coke and carrying something. On a hunch, I looked where they’d been and found him. He was barely conscious and cussing up a storm. I saw the stump where his foot used to be and I saw the words “Semper Fi” tattooed on his forearm. That’s all I needed to know.
“Stay here, brother. I’ll be back.” I touched his shoulder hoping he’d think it was reassuring.
“Stay here? You fuckin’ nuts? I ain’t got no foot. Where the hell would I go?”
I didn’t answer. I just turned away. If I were in his place, I’d probably have said the same thing or worse.
Today Sanjay became a grandfather. He fondly recalled his own grandfather, who helped him understand we make our own joy rather than depending on possessions or people’s opinions. When his parents died, grandfather raised and comforted the boy.
The old man died and Sanjay went to America taking his grandfather’s spirit with him. Otherwise, he would have remained alone and bitter in a strange land. Instead, he met Riya. She fell in love with the old man’s soul Sanjay nurtured within him.
Life was good with their three sons and one daughter. Now it was his daughter Saanvi who married and had given birth. Sanjay held newborn Divit. “I love you so much. I promise you all the love I have. Someday, you’ll love your children and grandchildren the same way.
Yesterday, Dr. Benedict, his oncologist gave him good news. His cancer was in remission. “There’s no promises, but right now, you’re cancer free.”
“Promises are from God, Doctor. I know I will live to care for many grandbabies.”
Within Sanjay, his own grandfather smiled.
I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of September 12, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as inspiration to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words. My word count is 175.
The fellow in the picture seemed so happy and the environment, particularly the flowers, made me think of a hospital waiting room. I decided to create something optimistic, and being a Grandpa myself, this is what I wrote.
In editing and re-reading the story, I feel it a bit forced. Really, it’s something that requires about 200 words or a little more to flesh out. Hopefully, this will do.
To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
Gary woke up from the nightmare in a cold sweat. It was the same dream every night for the past week. He saw a man burning. The burning man was wailing. He reached out for Gary. His flaming hand almost touching his face.
Then Gary would wake up in a cold sweat.
He had just gotten his first job out of college as a mechanical engineer. The company had him move to Philadelphia, and for the next year, he would be helping to design a new generation of popcorn maker for movie theaters.
“It’s probably just the move. I’m in a strange place. That’s it.”
Gary got out of bed, then looked at the clock, and realized it was only 4 a.m. He could sleep for another few hours.
“Nah.” He headed toward the bathroom of his studio apartment. “Just have to keep drinking coffee to keep going.”
After five-year-old Barry and his Grandpa were done playing in the park, the little boy stood marveling at the giant, rusty wheel, while Grandpa went to get the picnic basket.
Bubbe had made their favorite split pea soup and they sat eating and reading comic books in the wheel’s comforting shadow.
Grandpa said it used to be a monument, but people forgot what to. For Grandpa, it was a symbol of family, something big and enduring that has no beginning or end.
Grandpa’s latest tests showed he was still cancer free. He and Barry were here to celebrate.
I wrote this in response to the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo at the top of the page to write a piece of flash fiction no longer than 100 words. My story today is 98 words long.
To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
I know I write a whole bunch of endearing little stories about Grandpas and grandkids. I might have written this one differently if the photo didn’t contain a small child.
This story is very, very loosely based on a “road trip” I took with my son David some years back. He served in the Marine Corps and suffered a number of injuries he believes he should have been receiving disability payments for. The local VA did an evaluation, but David wanted a second opinion, so they sent us to the VA in Walla Walla, Washington.
We made a day of it. My wife really did make homemade split pea soup for us. We told stories during the drive, David played videos on his phone, and I was reading the graphic novel “V for Vendetta” on the trip.
We finally arrived back home in Boise exhausted, but we had a great time. To this day, it’s one of my favorite adventures with my son.
The scene in the photo looks vaguely like the grounds of the VA in Walla Walla, which is a converted fort.
Sorry if I’m writing too many schmaltzy tales, but if at all possible, I prefer happy endings.
Friday, September 2, 2016, 6:15 p.m.
Stupid old woman! Why didn’t she use the elixir on herself? She was damn near a hundred. She’d have died of old age soon if I hadn’t killed her.
I don’t understand. Ever since I first heard the rumors, investigated, tracked down obscure sources, and finally found her, she continually refused to share any of it, even when I offered her the most obscene amounts of money. I could have made her rich. I’d have given her half my wealth for the stuff.
She kept saying, “It’s too dangerous” and “It’s a curse, not a blessing,” and nonsense like that.
Well instead of getting rich, she got dead, and I’ve got the cure for everything. I’d better. I have stage four liver cancer and I’m eighty-one. Not much time left.
“I know you’ve seen better days, old girl.”
78-year-old Frank Parker patted the rusting hood of the ’49 Chevy.
Replacing the faded American flag hanging from the passenger-side door with a fresh one, he remembered.
“I was just your age when my Pa first bought the Daisy May. Saved up for over a year to buy her.”
“Why do you keep her, Gramps? She’s all broken down.”
“Reminds me of better days, Timmy, when everything made sense. As long as I live, she’ll always have a home here on the back forty.”
He looked down at his great-grandson. “You sure you want to do this, boy?”
Timmy hugged the old man. “I’m sure Gramps. I promise to bring a new flag every month. I’ll watch over her for you.”
Old Frank had the same cancer that took his Pa so many years ago. He was going to Heaven to be with Pa, Ma, and his wife Sarah. The life he lived was his inheritance to his children and their children’s children.
I wrote this in response to the FFfAW Challenge-Week of February 7, 2017. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story in around between 100 and 175 words, with 150 being optimal, based on the weekly photo prompt. Thanks as always to the challenge host Priceless Joy.
To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit InLinkz.com.
I know that America has never been a perfect nation nor is it now. And while I’m about a decade-and-a-half shy of being 78, my childhood was full of joys my grandchildren will never experience. If I can give them at least some small sense of history and a world without smartphones, X-boxes, or the Internet, when children played outside all day with their friends, and yes, we rode our bikes without wearing helmets and didn’t die, then perhaps that past won’t die with me (no, I don’t have cancer. I feel fine).