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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The Loneliness Disease

grandpa

From the March/April 2014 issue of Discern – No photo credit provided

Charles felt his forehead calescent and damp. Struggling to free himself from the comfort of his bed sheets, he staggered to the window. Pulling open the blinds, he unlatched and then lifted the frame, letting the cool morning breeze into his bedroom.

A violent paroxysm of tremors accompanied by dizziness seized him, forcing the older man to kneel on the carpet, resting his head on the window sill.

After a few minutes, he felt his temperature go down a bit, and he risked trying to stand. Hesitantly, he made his way into the kitchen and put the tea kettle on. As the water heated, he opened his back door and several more windows attempting to cool his stiflingly warm house.

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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.

Breaking the News

san juan island

© Ted Strutz

I took Mom and Dad to their favorite restaurant at the end of the pier. We ordered what we always order, creatures of habit and all that, and I admitted to myself I was going to miss it.

“I don’t know how to say this, but we’re moving away.”

“Moving? Tom, did you get another job?” It came as quite a shock to Mom.

“You’ve lived here all your life, son.”

“I know Dad, but it’s gotten so expensive. The cost of living here is out of control. I’m moving the family to Idaho. I promise we’ll visit often.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

I feel I’ve written half a story. When I saw that the photo credit was Ted Strutz, I looked him up and found he lives in San Juan Island, Washington. I’ve read about how the exceptionally high cost of living in major western population centers such as Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco is driving people to other communities, including Boise and its suburbs. The story sort of put itself together after that, and an expanded version would probably tell a more complete tale.

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

Going Up

swing

Image credit Gamze Bozkaya via Unsplash

“Get back here, Deric! Do it now!”

The minute Enoch Fischer noticed the boy was missing, he knew there’d be trouble, but he didn’t suspect that not only had some fool strung up a swing at the edge of the cliff, but that the fifteen-year-old would use it.

“Relax. I’m fine. Can’t I have some fun once in a while?” The boy turned his head around as far as he could, but Enoch still could hardly hear him.

“That’s not fun, it’s suicide. Get off this instant.”

“Poor choice of words on your part, Dad.” He was laughing, taunting his adoptive father the way he had since he was able to walk. At the apex of the arc out into empty air, Deric pulled himself up by the ropes, twisted, and then falling, grabbed the seat with both hands. On the return swing, his legs were low enough to drag on the dirt and grass pulling him to a stop.

“You should have seen the look on your face.” He stood and swatted dust off of his pant legs, still laughing at the effect his stunt had on the older man.

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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.

Yesterday

music

© Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Santiago set his guitar on its stand, and then closed the cover on “the Beatles complete easy guitar” book. This small upstairs room was his refuge, someplace where he could visit his youth. Aging fingers would never be as nimble again, nor his voice as clear.

He whispered,

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…”

Hearing a car pull up, he walked across the room to the window that overlooked the driveway and smiled. His children and grandchildren were here. Today, he turned sixty-four and would let himself rejoice in the present and whatever future he had left.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

When I saw the songbook (I looked it up on Amazon to verify the title), I immediately thought of Paul McCartney’s Yesterday, but since I turn 64 next month, When I’m Sixty-Four also came to mind. Growing older is often a mixture of anticipation and regrets. You can never go home again, but you can sometimes visit.

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

This Year’s Father’s Day

father's day

Photo credit: Susan Spaulding

Every morning for the past three years, Gary took his convenience store donut and coffee to the park and had breakfast at one of the picnic tables. It had been a difficult time between the forced retirement and then Helen suddenly and angrily divorcing him. Most of all, he missed his kids and grandkids. They’d taken Helen’s side in the split up. He was lonely but stoic, or at least he pretended to be.

“Grandpa! Grandpa!” It was his grandson Tony running up to him from the parking lot. The eleven-year-old hit him like a loving freight train.

“You’ve really grown. I’ve missed you.” They drowned in each other’s arms.

Gary looked up to find himself surrounded by all of his kids, their spouses, and all of his grandkids.

Emily, his youngest, kissed him on the cheek. “Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Come home with us and have a real breakfast. We love you.”

It took a few minutes for the old man to compose himself enough to leave the park with his forgiving family.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction of June 17, 2018 hosted by Susan. The idea it to take the image above and use it as a prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 174.

I cheated somewhat and read Iain’s story before writing my own. Since his theme was Father’s Day ( realize there are parts of the world that don’t have this celebration) and I’m a Dad and Grandpa, I decided to go that route as well, taking a sad beginning and brightening it.

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

The Family I Never Knew Before

skins

Found at the “Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner” blog. No photo credit given.

“What’s that, Grandpa?”

“Just stuff for the tourists, Jimmy. Come along.”

Above his Dad’s wishes, eleven-year-old Jimmy’s first meeting with his Grandpa included a visit to the Rez at Pine Ridge. Dad left home when he was sixteen, joined the Air Force, got married, had a son, and never looked back. But eventually it was time to tell his own son about the people he came from.

The boys and girls looked just like Jimmy did. Even though he felt like an alien here, it was also the first time he felt like he fit in.

“Why are the girls giggling at me?”

“Oh, them? They’re your cousins. They probably think you’re cute.”

“Cousins.”

The old man laughed. You have a lot of them. Here’s the sweat lodge.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a very spiritual place, Jimmy. It’s where we purify ourselves. Here’s let’s step over here and change. Get’s pretty warm inside.”

“What’s going to happen?”

“I want you to learn something about the Lakota. Your Dad walked away from us almost twenty years ago and I’ve only gotten a few letters from him since. I’m glad he brought you back to us. Come inside. You are with family today.”

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Practical 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 200.

The only time I met my Dad’s Dad was when I was eleven years old. We were driving across country, and stopped at my Grandpa’s farm in Oklahoma.

The only thing we know about my Grandpa was that he was an orphan out of Missouri.

Every once in a blue moon, an indigenous person will ask if I’m a native, too. Apparently I look like one. So did my Dad. Decades ago, I asked him about it, and he got so mad at me, I never brought it up again.

Who knows? Anyway, today’s prompt brought all of that to mind again, so I decided to create a fictional scenario around it.

My research included the Sweat Lodge, Lakota people and the Pine Ridge Reservation. Oh, I belong to a Facebook closed group for indigenous people (long story), and there’s sort of a running joke that if you meet a cute girl on the Rez, you pray she’s not your cousin.

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

The Adventure Begins!

warehouse

Image found at ny.curbed.com – no photo credit available

“Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.” –Lewis Mumford

Fifteen-year-old Keisha Davis sat on the concrete steps of the dilapidated warehouse with tears streaking her mocha cheeks. Her Grandpa’s journal was resting in her lap as she read the same paragraph over and over.

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw Keisha. She was perfect. My little grandbaby was only a few hours old and had just finished suckling at her Mama’s breast. Her Papa handed her to me and everyone except for the baby was grinning. I held her as gently as I could as I placed her over my shoulder. Holding this most precious life in my arms, I realized I had never known such a peace before.”

Isaiah Maximilian Covington had died in his bed at the age of seventy-six, his brilliant mind and robust physique both destroyed by murderous cancer. He’d refused chemotherapy, saying it killed a person quicker than the disease it was supposed to cure, and when he passed, Keisha’s Papa grudgingly consented to the old man’s wishes and had him cremated.

Keisha and her older brother Josiah scattered his ashes at Pepperwood Lake, his favorite “fishin’ hole.” The journal, key ring, and hatpin were delivered to her by messenger a week later.

Papa thought he’d had them sent to her as remembrances. If he’d read the note from Grandpa tucked behind the front cover, he’d have taken everything away from her and burned them to ashes, just like the author.

She wiped the tears from her face and turned the page.

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