Renny Returns

That’s my left forearm in the picture, and the black band wrapped around the middle is the result of a rare incident — a fencing injury.

Despite having its origin in the deadliest of blood sports (I’ve got a sword, and I’m gonna kill you with it), modern fencing has a remarkable safety record. Cuts only occur when a blade is broken in the middle of an attack that cannot be stopped; bruises are commonplace, and the stress placed on key joints — ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists — are the source of the most serious fencing injuries, especially among veteran fencers like myself.

(And yes, older fencers call ourselves veterans. If you have a problem with that, come suit up and meet me on strip some time, and we’ll discuss which one of us is old.)

About a month ago, I woke up one morning to a throbbing left elbow. It’s been a little over a year since I switched fencing hands, and after decades of inactivity the exterior tendon of that elbow appears to have buckled under the strain. The common term for my condition is tennis elbow, and while it hasn’t bothered me during most activities, some actions are quite painful. I can lift objects, but bringing objects down from a height is difficult. I can read, write, and brush my teeth with my left hand without issue, but I now use my right when pulling doors open. And while fencing, I can hold the blade and even attack as I had before — but even a light parry will shoot enough pain through my arm to cause me to drop my weapon.

The black band in the picture is a tennis elbow brace. It’s wrapped tightly on the forearm, and forces the muscles above the brace to perform work with less assistance from the muscles closer to the elbow. As the elbow muscles rest, so too do the injured tendons. With time, the swelling decreases.

I fenced with the brace for a few weeks, but when it became clear the elbow was not getting better I decided it was time for a temporary switch back to being a right-handed fencer (fortunately, I haven’t sold my old equipment, making this a cost-free switch). So until my left elbow stops hurting, Lenny will be deferring to Renny.


One Photo, Many Stories

As a frequent participant in Friday Fictioneers, I thought it was time for me to show the variety of stories that come out of these contests. Below are ten randomly-selected entries for this week’s contest, for which I had submitted Artistic Vision:

  • In Birthday Party, Iain Kelly adds an unwelcome visitor to the scene
  • Neel Anil Panicker provides a similar dark twist in The Lure
  • A Dangerous Game by Colline Kook-Chun uses the children’s game as a parable of innocence
  • The party ends abruptly in Granonine’s Game Over!
  • Many stories had the donkey coming to life, but Reena Saxena’s I believe in you provides a literary twist to the device
  • It’s hard to make a political statement in 100 words or less, but Speedway Randy gives it a shot in Figures
  • Rowena provides a surprise ending in “Ma-Ma!”
  • Childhood, by Dale, recalls a day when children could play with less direct supervision
  • Alicia Jamtaas used an approach very similar to my own in Taking Advantage
  • Cheaters may never win, but Marlicia Fernandez shows they can have fun in Consolation Prize

Those were just some of the entries for this week. Rochelle’s next photo this coming Friday should inspire similar creative efforts.

Artistic Vision

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Even at age six, Wylie’s talent was evident.

She began cartooning in preschool, and for her fourth birthday illustrated all 22 invitations. After completing her first comic book the following year, the 43-page space opera Beyond the Stars, Wylie discovered she was more interested in coloring than drawing.

Shen then began painting, but grew dissatisfied. Her lines were clean, the images vibrant — the colors, though, weren’t right. In frustration, one day she painted with eyes closed, and when finished, she opened her eyes, and smiled.

Wylie then began coloring blindfolded, with both crayons and paints. And an artist found her vision.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest. You’re limited to 100 words, but keeping your eyes open is entirely up to you.

A Good Week

Been very productive these past seven days. Finished a draft of a technical document, sent my story to another publication, updated another story, and signed up for an eight-week class on short story writing. Each a small accomplishment, but being successful in this career probably has less to do with scoring major victories than it does with accumulating little triumphs over a series of good weeks.


PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Flags,” Jamie said, pointing above the undulating water of the pool.

“Pennants, actually,” Clement replied. “On backstrokes, swimmers use them to know their location.”

“Huh. So there’s four different swimming events, right?” Clement nodded. “And those flags are only used for one of them — the slowest one.”

“I assume your observation is more than just an arrangement of words.”

“Doesn’t it strike you as odd, to let people know where they are when they’re moving backwards, and there’s a better way to get where you’re going?”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest. It’s always fun to participate, even when you struggle for inspiration.

Old School Animation

Always satisfying to discover a blog that’s other than text-centric. Nicholas Friesen is a cartoonist and animator who uses actual pencils, ink, and paper. He creates the videos for indie singer/songwriter Olivia Sea, including a pleasant tribute to “High Fidelity” and other John Cusack films, and also provides the visuals for one of Andy Cole’s “Calls From My Cat” skits. Computers do such fantastic work with animation that it makes manual efforts such as Friesen’s all the more noteworthy.

The Dare


One day eighteen winters ago, Jackie Shen dared me to crawl under a barbed wire fence, walk into an abandoned building, and return with evidence of the structure’s former life as a military laboratory.

When I refused, Jackie laughed at my trepidation. “Wait here,” he said, getting down on his belly. Clearing the fence, he stood and ran, disappearing into the derelict structure.

After waiting two hours, I ran home and told my parents. They called Jackie’s parents. Three days later, his body was found in a ditch ten miles away. No arrests were ever made.

I’ve never forgiven myself.

I usually don’t get this dark for Friday Fictioneersbut the photo prompt for this week called for a different approach to my 100 word story.

Enjoying the Endings

Finished the updates to the first of the seven stories I’m planning to submit for publication by the end of this year. Sent that story out Friday afternoon… and by late Saturday night, I received the first of what will surely be dozens of rejections over the coming months.

Today, I sent the same story to another publication. And this week, I’m going to finalize my submission plan, so that my response to the next rejection will be just as immediate.

I’m at the start of a long journey which will feature several obstacles. Heard it said that you have to enjoy the ride; I think it’s also important to realize you’re the one at the wheel.

A Place to Belong

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Daniel shook snow off his pant leg as he crossed the street, not noticing until he had reached the sidewalk that Miriam was still standing outside their car, her face filled with anxiety.

“You OK?” Daniel squinted in the late afternoon sunlight.

“I… didn’t think it would be this hard.” She brushed away a lock of hair blown across her face. “Weddings, bar mitzvahs — ”

“B’nai mitzvah, dear.”

“Right. But a Shabbat service? Not since I was eight. I don’t feel like I belong here.”

Daniel held out his hand. “If you choose to be by my side, you belong anywhere I’ll go.”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest which challenges you to write a complete story of up to 100 words based on a photo prompt. You know you want to participate, so what’s holding you up?