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.

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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.

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.

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.

The Fan

maradona

© Susan Spaulding

“And here you go. My pride and joy, so to speak. Signed shirt from the great man himself.” Andrew Cullen puffed up his chest as he showed his friend Tommy Cabrera his trophy room. “Diego Maradona. Best footballer ever. Your American mates call what you have football, but this is the real deal.”

“I wasn’t always an American, Andrew, and I know what real football is.”

“Oh yeah. Sorry about that. You emigrated to the States from Argentina, right?”

“Yes.” Tomás and Andrew met online at a fiction writers forum five years prior and hit it off. Now Cabrera was visiting his friend in Swords, outside of Greater Dublin, while on a promotional tour. His fictionalized autobiography had become a runaway bestseller, and he had personal appearances scheduled for all over the UK and Europe.

“Anything the matter? You’ve gone awfully silent.”

“Just remembering, Andrew.” Tomás didn’t give voice to the memory of growing up in a totalitarian socialist regime, nor how Diego Maradona had unswervingly supported the communist dictators who had crushed the souls of his family, and nearly killed him. “Sorry. I can’t say I’m much of a fan.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for 15 July 2018. 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 191.

Being an American, I don’t know much about the World Cup, and in fact, I don’t follow sports even in my own country. I had to look up Diego Maradona and discovered he has a colorful history. I chose to focus on his political views and found out he supports a number of socialist dictators, including Carlos Menem, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chávez. No, I’m not much of a fan, either.

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

595 Hitori Kakurenbo

595 old house

© C.E. Ayr

The Occultist had been a small child when he was last here. He remembered playing in the yard, ringing the now rusted bell next to the forlorn gate, playing behind the trees out back, and eating pizza with his Grandpa on the shaded patio. All of his memories of this home were happy and joyful except for the one that was horrifying.

The house and grounds had been neglected for the past twenty years. When his Dad inherited it after Grandpa’s tragic death, he didn’t have the heart to sell it or have the structure demolished. Raymund stood at the gate, closed his eyes, and said a silent prayer of gratitude. If the house at 595 Hitori Kakurenbo had been destroyed, he would have no hope of discovering the identity of the inhuman being who had slaughtered his Grandfather two decades ago. Raymund had only been seven years old when it happened, and was the only witness to the murder.

His Grandfather’s long career as a paranormal investigator had finally caught up with him. Raymund spent the past decade training for this moment. Tonight, he would discover the identity of Grandpa’s inhuman killer and bring it to fearful justice.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of July 1, 2017 hosted by Susan. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

Yesterday, I again discovered the hazards of allowing children unmonitored access to the internet. My nine-year-old grandson showed me a video on YouTube called 10 Paranormal Games You Should Never Play. He wanted to incorporate some of them into a game we’ve been playing (role playing game, so it all exists in the imagination), but after viewing them, I said absolutely not.

Chances are, all of these are hoaxes, but if you have faith in God, you have to accept that there is a supernatural realm, and the danger of falling into evil.

I borrowed the villain and the street name from the original appellation of one of those games to act as the murderer and the address of the crime scene. Yes, today’s wee tale takes a turn into the darkness, however, I rarely can let evil win, so I’m also planning for redemption.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit 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.

57 Pink Flamingos

pink flamingos

© Susan Spaulding

“$2500! You spent $2500 on that?” Jeanette watched in horror as she watched her husband Terry insert the last of the 57 pink flamingos he’s purchased on Amazon into their front lawn. The driveway was littered with the debris of cardboard shipping boxes.

“Come on. We can afford it. You know how much dough we stashed away from the Corleone caper.”

“That’s not the point. But we’re supposed to keep a low profile, you moron. Why don’t you just get a couple of spotlights and set off some fireworks while you’re at it? Maybe you could send an email to Vito and Sonny telling them our address so they could come over and blow our brains out.”

Terry walked to where his wife was standing on the front porch and put his arm around her. “They look swell, don’t they?” The Cheshire Cat never had a grin as wide as his.

“You’re nuts. They’re tacky as hell.”

“Exactly. We embezzled millions from the mob working as their accountants and we’re on the lam from them and the Feds. What better cover to hide behind than the queen of all tacky lawn ornaments?

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for June 10, 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction of no more than 200 words. My word count is 189.

Lacking an immediate story idea when I first saw the photo, I Googled “Pink Flamingo” only to come up with the tacky but classic 1972 film Pink Flamingos created by John Waters. Except for the idea of criminals hiding out, I found nothing I could use in that movie (and I’ve never seen it), so I moved on.

Then I found The Tacky History of the Pink Flamingo at Smithsonian.com and I had the rest of my “hook.”

These plastic monstrosities were created in 1957 in an effort to allow people to accessorize the “sameness” of their tract homes that reproduced like lemmings in the post-war era. You can read the full history for yourself, but apparently:

In their yard near Leominster, Nancy and Don Featherstone (the sculptor who was commissioned to create pink flamingos) typically tend a flock of 57 (a nod to the creation year) that neighborhood college students feel compelled to thin.

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

The State of Dying

burned house

© C.E. Ayr

“This is the perfect place.”

“But it’s just a burned up building, Grandpa.”

“Exactly, Amy. Bring your brothers and sisters. Tell them to have their squirt guns fully loaded. We’re going to have a supersoaker blast playing “spy” in here.”

The eight-year-old grinned as she ran back next door to his house. His neighbor’s wrecked home reminded him that he needed to move out soon too. He’d turn seventy next year, and the state’s ridiculous “right-to-die” law for the terminally ill now allowed legalized murder of anyone over that age, whether they wanted to go or not.

Their bloated environmental laws worked about as well as their population laws. The government had killed 75% of the native plants and animals, and now they were working on the people.

He turned as he heard five pairs of running feet approaching. “You better get going, Grandpa.” At ten, Chad wasn’t the oldest, but he was the ringleader.

“Unless you want to get soaked.” Five-year-old Emily had that “killer” gleam in her eye.

“I’m running.” Mitch dashed into the ruined structure. He had to move the family to one of the free states before the jackboots came after them all.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of June 3, 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 196.

For some reason, the image reminded me of both Florida and California. I chose the latter since I used to live there, and “Googling” the search string “California dying,” I came up with plenty of information on that state’s “right to die” law at both The Los Angeles Times and Death with Dignity. I also found an article about the demise of California’s Sierra forests, which are perishing in spite of all the tax money California’s state senate can throw at the environment.

I know “dying with dignity” is a controversial issue. People of faith tend to believe that giving and taking life should be left to God alone, but it’s hard to watch someone slowly dying and in great pain when you could ease their suffering.

Also, I actually do have a great concern for the environment. One of the reasons I like living in Idaho is because of the vast areas of wilderness, the mountains, rivers, and lakes. But something obviously went wrong in California’s case, because people from that state are moving here in droves.

Anyway, putting that all together, I authored today’s wee dystopian tale.

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

Fallen Hero

headstone dog

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Marine Corporeal Jeffrey DeYoung could barely hold back his tears as he accepted the folded American flag in honor of Cena. Five-hundred people were attending his funeral, all Marines in their dress blues. Cena had been raised to be a Marine since he was very young, and during his tours in Afghanistan, he’d saved thousands of lives.

“There’ll never be another like you.” DeYoung listened to the taps performance as the coffin was lowered into the grave escorted by eight German shepherds. Then, on command, they issued their own salute to their fallen comrade, howling for thirty seconds.

Cena fell, not in the service of his country, but to bone cancer. The Michigan war dog was interned with seventeen other military canines. This weekend, we mourn our honored dead in the United States Armed Forces, but never forget the most dedicated and loyal members of the service are not always human.

cena

Cena with his handler Marine Cpl Jeffery DeYoung – Photo Credit: Fox 2 News.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – May 27, 2018 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 151.

Given that this is the Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., and seeing the prompt was a photo of a dog and a headstone, I thought it fitting to pay homage to the dogs who have served our country. My tale is a fictionalized version of the events in the news story Michigan bomb-sniffing war dog gets military funeral. On August 24, 2017, Cena was buried with full military honors at a cemetery in South Lyon, Michigan. You can click the link to get all the details, but it’s very touching.

In doing my research, I also found a book on the history of military dogs, as well as this commentary.

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