What’s Important

baby

© James Pyles

I’ve been thinking about what is and isn’t important lately. Yes, there are a lot of arguments on the web positing this cause or that as important, and the authors declaring anyone who isn’t wildly enthusiastic, embracing, and endorsing of their project as horrible, terrible human beings.

Oh well.

I admit to being caught up in all that from time to time…okay, most of the time, but then I stop and realize that for the sake of my emotional and mental health, I can’t let other people or groups wind me up like I’m their toy doll. For instance, occasionally, I’ll get a troll in my one of my social media feeds attempting to rile me, but when I confront him, he denies it, saying he was just trying to understand my position more.

So it goes. Most of the time, I don’t even respond to him. His presence is almost always one where I can predict what he’ll say and even on which of my posts he’ll respond. A few others like him who used to do something similar, while remaining my Facebook “friends” or following me on twitter, otherwise are absent, but I must admit, I have also “muted” them as well, again because I don’t need the aggravation (and now that I’ve satisfied the requirements of Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Opposing Forces challenge, on with the show).

So what is important? Lots of things, but I’m going to focus on my three-year-old granddaughter. My son and his ex are divorced and one week the kids stay with their Mom, while the opposing week they stay with their Dad (and with us much of the time).

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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.

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.

The Magical Backyard

dragonfly

In form and name, the blue dasher dragonfly illustrates the beauty and flying prowess of these insects. (Photo: Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock)

“What’s that, Grandpa?” The little three-year-old girl was out in the old man’s backyard exploring as usual, while her grandfather watched from a chair on the patio.

“It’s a dragonfly, Dani.”

“Dragonfly?” She looked in wonder as the insect alighted onto one of the potted tomato plants at the edge of the concrete.

“Yes, it’s a flying bug.”

“A bug?” She looked down and cried out excitedly. “Here are some more bugs.” She squatted and pointed her finger.

“Yes, those are ants.”

“Ants?” She acted like she’d never heard the word before.

“Look on the fence.”

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The Street Children’s Mother

kinshasa

© Google 2014 – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mamadou, Karla, and Bonte were trapped in the alley by the policeman.

“I’ll give you little street rats what you deserve,” he said, unzipping his trousers.

Mamadou was nine, the oldest, and Bonte was eight. The boys got in front of five-year-old Karla, for though man would abuse them all, he would start with her.

“We’re just trying to get some food.”

“I’ve got what you need right here.” He exposed his genitals, which was a common and hated sight to them.

Then a huge shadow blocked the light from the street.

“What is…?” He stopped talking and gazed up at the dragon in terror. A swat of her tail, and he lay broken on the ground.

“I will not hurt you, children.” Her voice was a mother’s kindness. “I will take you home with me.”

Three pairs of eyes were wide with wonder as they entered a different world.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I found my hook when I read about the estimated 20,000 children living on the street, almost a quarter of them beggars, and how they are frequently abused by the police. I leveraged my “Davidson Children” story (I finally finished the first draft of my novel), since the dragons’ city in exile is a haven for abandoned and dying children from all around the world and across human history.

I figured these children could use a mother.

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

Hope is Being Sucked Out of Life One Person at a Time

memorial

A Boise mass stabbing left nine people hurt, including six children, after a man attacked a 3-year-old’s birthday party on Saturday, June 30, at an apartment complex near West State Street and Wylie Lane. Four of the victims were critically injured.

I don’t know if I successfully communicate this on my blog, but I do try to understand people who aren’t like me. I may not always agree with them, but I want to know where they’re coming from. After all, I’m not the sole source of human knowledge, and I’m not the ultimate moral and ethical authority in the universe. I suppose my efforts are wasted, at least with a few folks who really, really need the world to be polarized, and if you aren’t like them, you’re evil. Nevertheless, I do want to get some sort of comprehension about people, even those who (probably) hate me.

This stuff like this happens and it sucks all of the hope out of the room. Really, I’m suffocating.

A 30-year-old guy was staying in an apartment complex in Boise, Idaho near where I live. He’s from Los Angeles, and I can’t really glean from the news stories why he was here in the first place. Apparently, there was some sort of trouble with the apartment manager and/or tenants, and he was asked to leave.

So what is his response? He gets a knife and, targeting a child’s birthday party, stabs nine people, including the birthday girl who was turning three. She was flown to Salt Lake City for treatment and just died of her injuries.

A three-year-old little girl is dead and for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

The suspect is in custody and being held without bail. The victims were all recent immigrants from Ethiopia, Iraq, and Syria. All they wanted was to escape the violence of their countries and make a new life here in the U.S. This guy (I won’t honor him by posting his name or photo) took away the hope they found here.

Every time something like this happens, my faith in humanity diminishes just a little bit more, I become more cynical, and I become more like the pundits on social media who demand the (metaphorical) heads of their enemies on a platter just because they dared to disagree with them.

I know we live in an evil world and human nature isn’t really a great nature. We have to work hard to overcome the lowest levels of who we can be. Apparently, this person didn’t feel like working that hard and now a three-year-old girl is dead.

My granddaughter turned three last week.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t like people very much right now.

The Dragon’s Library

library

Image found at “Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.” No image credit listed.

It was a dream come true. Somehow, along with all of the children, a library had been brought from her world into the dragon city in the trees. Nine-year-old Paris walked inside with a solemnness usually reserved for a holy place, like the synagogue her parents took her to in Prague when she was six.

The library had merged with the forest. Trees were growing inside and bursting through the ceiling, and grasses were taking over the floorboards. She wondered where and when it came from. The globe in the corner didn’t look modern, but most of the books she could see seemed recent.

Then she realized only some of them were in English, and about only half were written in any human language.

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The New Neighborhood

monster

© Igor Morski

“I’ll get it.”

Ron Moore, his wife Layna, and their almost three-year-old daughter Emily had just moved into the new house in the suburbs the week before, but this was the first time anyone had come to visit.

“Hi. May I help you?”

“Seth Kennedy. I’m your next door neighbor. Just thought I’d drop by and say…”

Little Emily grabbed onto her Mommy’s leg and started crying hysterically. She looked up in terror at the man at the door, and then buried her face again.

“I’m sorry. She doesn’t usually do this.”

“What?” The neighbor cupped his hand around his ear.

Ron looked back at his wife.

“I’ll take her into the other room.”

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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 Wraith and the Child

beliefs

Image found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie blog

It must have been his surgery that caused the nightmares. He always found himself in the dark alone. No, not quite alone. There was another presence, something hiding in the shadows. The Wraith.

“What do you want? Where are you?”

He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He was sweating. “Don’t come near me. Leave me alone.”

The Wraith said nothing. It made no sound at all, but he knew it was out there stalking him.

He turned and ran, stumbled over something and fell. Then he got up and ran again.

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