Prepared

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

They’d lost power over a day during the last storm. The approaching front was equally menacing, but he’d be ready this time.

The lamps were bought for décor, continuity with the past in their 21st century home. They hadn’t even bought oil until discovering how easily their electrical service failed in bad weather.

After filling the reservoirs and lighting the wicks, he turned off the kitchen lights. The lamps’ soft amber flames resembled sprites, spiritual entities breathing the air of a world alien to them.

He extinguished the flames and turned the overhead halogens back on. Ready this time, indeed.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

The Log

Make that two short stories published:

Permafrost, a literary magazine run by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, has just published “The Log.” It’s a story I drafted all the way back in 2015, a fact demonstrating that the creative process often requires a great deal of patience. The fictional small town setting is the same as my first published story, “Second Intention,” although the characters are different.

What’s that aphorism – the first time’s an accident, the second is a coincidence, but the third constitutes a trend? I’m one more published story away from making my patience pay off.

Icy Threat

PHOTO PROMPT © Alicia Jamtaas

Three weeks. He didn’t want to scrape ice off his windshield before his morning commute.

They’d made innovative use of their slatwall panels (he was particularly pleased by her idea of drying garlic on suspended bicycle wheels), but those weren’t sufficient for the crates of tchotchke they’d collected that summer. The loss of floor space in the garage forced them to park in the driveway.

I want to go through everything, she’d pleaded. We might be able to use some of it.

He admired her thrift but feared her procrastinate nature. To avoid scraping, he needed to act soon.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

The Smell of Boredom

PHOTO PROMPT © Trish Nankeville

“Goodness,” she said, stopping on the worn grass and breathing deeply.

“What are you doing?” her boyfriend asked.

“These flowers,” she said, pointing below. He saw a plant with about a half-dozen red bulbs, each the size of a ping-pong ball. Hundreds of thin filaments, white and inch-long, protruded from each bulb. “I want to know if they smell as pretty as they look.”

“And?”

She closed her eyes. The soft tropical air was its typical pleasance. “No. They blend it with everything else.”

“In other words, they smell boring.”

She frowned. “I’d like to enjoy this last day, please.”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

Painful Reminder

PHOTO PROMPT © LIsa Fox

She had no use for the pontoon boat after her husband died.

Ever since buying it twenty years ago, they’d entertained guests on sunset cruises from their lakeside cabin. Even after his cancer diagnosis.

She hadn’t thought about the craft until three months after the funeral. Mounted on its trailer, it had remained parked in the woods at the back of their property, out of sight until her son had asked about it.

Her children didn’t want the boat, or her the reminder of her loss.

Their pastor allowed her to place the boat outside his church to attract buyers.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

What Others Saw In That Shed

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

Here were some other hundred-word tales inspired by last week’s photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers:

  • Neil MacDonald envisions a confrontation over a misunderstanding
  • Trent’s World adds a science fiction twist…
  • And we get a taste of suspense from Iain Kelly
  • The shed appears as a memory in the story that’s available on Chaos Central Command
  • Michael Humphris associates some vivid sensory details to the image
  • CGraith focuses on emotion and relationships inspired by a tragic event
  • Hollywood cliches are the target for satire from draliman.
  • The punch line in the tale from msjadeli tale doesn’t disappoint.
  • Our Literary Journey crafts a clever homage to a classic rock tune. I just wish the phrase Tiffany-twisted could’ve been worked in.
  • The shed becomes the site of a disastrous experiment in the story from Miles H. Rost.

is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

The Shed

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

He left his pickup’s headlights on. It didn’t matter if anyone saw him.

The truck’s beams illuminated the lower half of the red and white shed, located in the rear of the yard. Standing in front of the truck, his legs cast two long shadows down the manicured lawn. All he heard were the gentle rhythms of crickets and tree frogs. The humid summer air smelled like desperation.

Take the key, get in, grab the satchel from the rafters (if it was there), get out. He stepped forward, the twin shadows of his legs reaching the shed like approach ramps.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

Day 898

I don’t know anyone who’s died from COVID-19, but several friends were debilitated by the virus, with some continuing to feel its effects. Recently, several more people I know have been infected, despite being up to date on their vaccinations and taking reasonable precautions. They weren’t careless; this insidious plague just caught up to them.

My fencing coach came down with the sickness over the weekend, and while her prognosis is optimistic (vaccination doesn’t guarantee immunity, but it has reduced severity among my friends who’ve recently been infected), but my planned return to the fencing club next month has been put on hold. I’m actually wondering now if I should ever return to the sport. As much as I enjoy fencing and hanging out with other fencers, those activities took place in a different time, one that’s been lost to us. That doesn’t mean the future is going to be awful; we just can’t assume we can pick up where we left off.

Perhaps it’s time to take up new activities. Or perhaps my enthusiasm for fencing will return once I know my coach, my friend, is fully recovered.

First Date

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Until he arrived at the Korean street restaurant, he hadn’t understood his Tinder match’s choice for their first date.

She was no more Asian than him, and he was Dutch. Yes, he enjoyed authentic ethnic cuisine; no, he hadn’t heard of this restaurant; yes, he appreciated new experiences.

The restaurant was literally in the street, people walking behind close enough for him to detect their distinct smell. The abundant daylight meant they’d see each other clearly, and being in public meant less chance either would attempt something untoward.

He sat, admiring her decision and hoping the food was equally good.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland

As I’m about to explain, I am seriously behind in my book reviews. After too many months, I’m finally ready to start catching up.

Back in March, my wife surprised me with a trip to Iceland. I’d told her over the holidays about wanting to see the northern lights and how Iceland was one of the world’s ideal viewing spots; with a milestone birthday approaching, she decided to treat me. Further proof, unneeded, that I married well.

Since neither of us knew much about the country other than the general direction, she purchased the Lonely Planet’s tour guide (very informative) and this shorter, less comprehensive, and thoroughly enjoyable book.

Alda Sigmundsdottir is an Icelandic journalist whose love for her country doesn’t blind her to its shortcomings. She acknowledges the economic need for Iceland’s tourism boom after the island nation’s economic collapse in the late 2000s (from 2010 to 2017, foreign visitors increased from less than five hundred thousand to over two million) but regrets its impact on her land’s people, culture and, most significantly, its environment.

I’ve heard her ambivalence voice before, from the people in the town where I grew up. Winters were harsh, springs wet and muddy, autumns ominous. “Summer People” drove in on Memorial Day and spent their money through Labor Day. Most were decent people, while others couldn’t resist blocking our driveways, mocking our accents, disturbing our wildlife, dumping their trash on our beautiful lawns and parks as if we enjoyed the mess they left.

And we put up with it, because if they didn’t inject our local economy with all their disposable income, we’d be cold and hungry for nine months.

I’ve seen the same dynamic during my frequent vacations in Hawaii. I try not to be one of those visitors that natives have to endure. Think I succeed, most times.

But the subject of this review is a book on Iceland. Sigmundsdottir is an engaging writer, and she reads her own audiobook well. It can’t stand alone as a travel guide, but is an ideal companion for something like Lonely Planet.