TREASURE CHEST: Selected Short Stories is Available Now!

treasure

Promotional image for the Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology “Treasure Chest.”

Treasure Chest is Zombie Pirate Publishing‘s first “best of” anthology, a collection of short stories they’ve previously published in other works.

Founded in 2017, Adam Bennett and Sam Phillips have produced a plethora of anthologies, giving indie authors like me, the opportunity to have our tales see the light of day and become available to readers.

My short story Joey, originally published in the SciFi anthology World War Four (please readers, post more reviews), is featured in the “Treasure Chest.” It’s one of my strongest missives emotionally, and I’m glad it was selected.

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My Grandchildren Are Storytellers

baby

© James Pyles

It was a hard day, in a hard week, in a hard nine months or more.

After dinner, while heating water for tea, I walked into my granddaughter’s bedroom. We’ve reserved one of our two spare bedrooms for her, mainly because when she was smaller and stayed with us, she’d take afternoon naps. It still has her bed, a lot of her toys, plus the walls are decorated with her drawings and paintings.

She’s four-and-a-half, and as I was wandering around, I remembered something about her I’ll tell you about in a bit.

My grandson is almost eleven. Ever since he was about five or six, we have played “the game.” It started out in a really primitive form. He made up some situation and what his character was going to do to my character, but being an adult, I’d always find a way to top him.

As he got older, the stories became more sophisticated. For about two-and-a-half years, I turned some of those role playing games into an ongoing story for him published on this blog. I adapted the very first story I wrote for him, and it became one of my early published short stories in the Magical Reality fantasy anthology from Pixie Forest Publishing.

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Summer Reflection

reflection

© Sue Vincent

Twenty-nine year old Melanie Snyder stood sobbing at the shore of the lake where her Grandpa’s ashes had been scattered two years ago. She purposely had one hand inside her coat touching something precious she was wearing around her neck. The first rays of the April sun were just now creeping over the eastern horizon illuminating reflections of thin clouds, a pale azure sky, and the gnarled, barren tree under which he had taught her how to fish when she was five.

“I’m sorry I…” sobs shook her slender frame which was enveloped in the dark blue pea coat that sheltered her from the cold. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit…didn’t call that last year. I was so afraid of what I’d see…of what the cancer had done to…”

Long blond hair being slightly fluttered by the breeze, Melanie lowered both arms to her sides and clenched her fists in resolve, determined to finish her confession.

“You were always my hero, always strong, brave, kind. After Mom and Dad divorced, I could talk to you about anything, how I felt, how mad I was. You always understood. I thought you’d live forever, that you would never leave me.”

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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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The Girl Who Liked Pteranodons

turu

Title card for the 1964 episode of Jonny Quest, “Turu the Terrible”

“Grandpa, I want to color.” The almost three-year-old girl showed the new box of crayons to the old man.

“But I thought you said you wanted to go to the park after dinner.”

Her blue eyes brightened. “I go to the park.” She dropped the box on the floor and went hunting for her shoes.

“Hey, wait a minute, Danni. Can you put the crayons away?”

She stopped in mid-stride, anticipating her liberty, wheeled around and ran back. “Oh yeah.”

They left by the side door, and she spent several minutes examining the air conditioner before being escorted by her Grandpa out the gate and to the sidewalk.

As the luminous ball of gas lighting the world slid slowly toward the western horizon, he watched her play on slides, climb ladders, and try to imitate a much older girl who was hanging upside down from the bars. Danni didn’t get very far, but she had a lot of fun introducing Regan to her Grandpa.

That night, after the child had brushed her teeth and put on her pajamas, the old man and the little girl shared one of his fondest memories from childhood on DVD; a couple of episodes of Jonny Quest. She really liked the show with the Pteranodon.

I wrote this for the Saturday Mix writing challenge at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to take five words and use their synonyms in the body of a story. The original words are:

  1. paint
  2. release
  3. fan
  4. light
  5. clothes

I’ve bolded the synonyms I used in my tale to make them easier to spot.

I thought about the angst I expressed yesterday over what has been perceived as bigotry and prejudice against politically and socially conservative writers by the mainstream science fiction and fantasy industry, and after a lot of thought, and then writing another piece fo flash fiction this morning called The Unknown Children, I realized the world had much bigger problems for me to be concerned about.

The story above is a compressed version of how I spent yesterday afternoon and evening with my granddaughter. Yes, she really likes the old 1964 animated TV series Jonny Quest, which I watched when I was young, and especially one called Turu the Terrible.

If anyone wants to judge me, fairly or otherwise, they can judge me by what I write and by my humanity and compassion, and if I’m still not good enough, then I’d say they have a much bigger problem than I’ll ever have.

Missing Her

coffee cup and sunglasses

© shivamt25

His two grandkids laughed. Grandpa had given his coffee cup a face.

“What should we name him, Shelley?” The four-year-old girl twisted her face in serious contemplation, but her six-year-old brother Riley was quicker to respond. “Harold. It looks like a kid in my class.”

“What if it’s a girl coffee cup?”

“How can that be, Shel? It’s Grandpa’s coffee and Grandpa is a boy.”

“He can have a girl coffee if he wants to.”

“I think Shelley has a point, Riley. There’s no law that says my coffee can’t be a girl.”

“So what name do you want to call her?” Riley put extra emphasis on the “her”.

“Hmmmm. How about we name her after Bubbe.”

The kids got suddenly silent. It had been two weeks since his wife left to stay with her sister and “rethink” their marriage.

“I miss Bubbe, Grandpa. When is she coming home?”

“Yeah when, Grandpa?” Riley added.

“Tonight I’ll call her and say I miss her too.” Riley and Shelley cheered.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of September 26, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 168.

Things are fine at home, thanks. This isn’t about me or anyone really. I’m just aware how my grandchildren miss their Bubbe (Yiddish for Grandma) when she’s not around and thought I’d increase the tension a bit. Besides, the coffee cup and sunglasses does kind of look like a face.

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

The Way Home

leaves

The leaves made a long-forgotten sound as she walked across the field. Danielle took a deep breath and let it out, watching the white mist sail out in front of her. She wasn’t used to the cold. She’d spent nearly a decade in the desert helping the dragons reclaim what was theirs. The war was finally over. The dragons won but Danielle had lost so much. Her brother died defending what was right. She came back home and discovered Mom and Dad died in a car accident.

Now she was going back to the only home she had left. Grandpa had grown old but he was still alive. Ten years ago, she sat on his lap and he read her the first story about the dragon’s quest, how the demons had taken their homes and put them into exile. She was only a girl when she found the stories were true. She was barely a teen when she stepped through the portal to help.

Now she was back. There. His cabin. Smoke rising from the chimney. She could almost smell his pancakes. She opened the door. He never locked it. “Grandpa, I’m home.”

“Darling. I’ve missed you,” he replied smiling.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for September 24th 2017. The challenge 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 exactly 200.

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

The Plants Have Taken Over

summer house

© Sarah Potter

Hadn’t been to the cabin since I was a kid. After Grandpa died, I forgot all about it. He only stayed here during the winter. I sat in the chair next to his desk. The plants had taken over everything. Still, I can almost hear his voice.

“I’m still here, boy.”

“What? Grandpa?” I looked around expecting to see him or at least his ghost.

“I’m still here. Look at the desk. Look out the window.”

“All I see are the…”

I’d forgotten how much Grandpa liked gardening, though he tended to let his plants grow a little wild.

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

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

If I Had a Time Machine

time machine

Bizarro comic strip for Sunday, March 28, 2017

I doubt that buying one comic book will change history all that much, except maybe that one kid who would have read it before won’t be able to now.

“That’ll be 13 cents with tax.”

I’d made sure all of the coins in my pocket were minted before 1965, so I casually reached in and pulled out a quarter.

“Here you go, pal.”

“Thanks.” He bags my purchase, puts in the receipt, and hands it over along with my change. It’s been a long time since I saw anyone calculate change in their head, or for that matter, use a mechanical cash register. God it’s good to be back.

I take the bag and walk out of Walgreens into the bright Las Vegas afternoon. I’d better get back before they come. Not sure what time Grandpa and my ten-year-old self will show up, but I probably shouldn’t meet them.

Yeah, it’s stupid. I get my hands on a time machine and all I do is travel back to the mid 1960s to buy comic books. This one is special though. Space Family Robinson issue 14. My Grandpa bought it for me. He died when I was 16 and over the years, my comic book collection was foolishly sold. The missus thought they were a waste of space but now I realize they weren’t.

spf14

The comic book my Grandpa bought me.

I get my hands on a time machine and travel back, not just for the comic books, but for the memories. It’s been decades since I’ve seen my Grandpa. Maybe hanging around for a little peek wouldn’t hurt anything.

Here they come now.

I saw the comic strip at the top of the page and I started wondering. If you weren’t a scientist, a historian, or some power hungry person bent on changing history for your own gain, what would you do with a time machine? I mean, if you had access to this thing as an ordinary person, what would you use it for?

I gave it a little thought and came up with recapturing memories.

My Dad died a little over a month ago and I saw how devastated my children were at the loss of their Grandpa. Being a Grandpa myself, I understand the unique relationship I have with my grandchildren. It makes me think of how special my Grandpa was to me.

If you had a time machine, what would you use it for? If you want, write a little story based on the concept and post your link to it in the comments here.

Choices

boys life

Boys’ Life magazine | November 1963

Tommy’s Dad always had to work on Saturdays, so Grandpa took him to his special Cub Scouting event. Last week, Grandpa and Tommy went to another Scouting Dad’s place to use power tools to make the Scout’s pinewood racing car. Today was the big day, race day!

Tommy Sheridan had no idea that Grandpa used to smoke. He quit decades ago, but it wasn’t soon enough. Grandpa went to the doctor when he couldn’t stop coughing. The X-rays and follow-up tests didn’t look good, and Grandpa was glad to be able to spend as much time with Tommy as possible…

…because time was running out.

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