Friday Fictioneers: 30 Minutes or Less

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

The gate at the end of the driveway was locked, no intercom in sight. Balancing the insulated pizza delivery box on his left hand, Gabe checked the address on the receipt against the brass plaque embedded in the stone column. He nodded.

Gabe walked left, looking for any activity beyond the iron gate. Barren trees and a lawn anxious for spring formed a moat around the lifeless house.

He shrugged, and began walking back to his car — then stopped, hearing the voice behind him.

“You’re on time.” Gabe turned, and saw an elderly man, well-dressed, extending a wad of bills.

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt by clicking the little blue frog.

Honest Truth

I’ve written a number of times about The Manic Years, where Megan relates her personal struggle with bipolar disorder. While the blog started as Megan’s therapy assignment, she has transformed it into a platform for discussing mental health issues. Megan actively solicits and posts stories from other writers about their own emotional struggles — she encourages each contributor to believe “that your experience will touch someone else’s life.”

I believe in what Megan’s doing over at The Manic Years, and have therefore decided to contribute my own story to her blog. It’s not a terribly dramatic story, nor is it particularly insightful. I didn’t try to be brilliant, didn’t try to shock, didn’t pretend that I knew how to “fix” any particular ailment. In keeping with the spirit of Megan’s blog, I wrote the truth about my experience, with as much honesty as I could muster. 

Friday Fictioneers: Within Belief

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Not always.” Craig36 AZ-19 pointed at the blank wall in front of them, and teleped the Archives. As the image formed, Winifred82 AZ-02 gasped.

“Is that — the sky?”

“Yes.” Craig36 smiled. “I stumbled across this during my research last week. It’s dated before the Cyber War, before clouds had completely covered the atmosphere. Before we needed the solar farm satellites.”

Winifred82 turned, her envirosuit constraining her movement. “But the sun’s hidden in this picture. You couldn’t find any pictures of the sun?”

Craig36 adjusted his suit’s oxygen filter. “I did. But I figured you’d find those beyond belief.”

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt by clicking the little blue frog.

Friday Fictioneers: Snowbody’s Business

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

Jack. Yes, this time I shall call myself Jack.

The cold night air has rejuvinated me. The Warmbloods have failed, temporarily, in their attempt to prevent my return.

My time is short, and I shall make it my business this evening to sink my icy fangs into Warmblood hearts. Soon I’ll leave, as I have in the past, and some day this world will be uninhabitable for me. But when the Warmbloods bar that door, I will know they have sealed themselves in their own tomb.

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt.

Friday Fictioneers: Cheers

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

By the time Lester had emptied the beer bottle, he’d wandered into a large field, no trash can or any other receptacle in sight. With a dismissive shrug and an unspoken apology to nature, he tossed the bottle aside. An unexpected thunk stopped him, and he walked over to the sound’s source.

The bottle deflected off the decapitated head of a mannequin. A tree branch lay across the mannequin’s shattered face; without understanding why, Lester picked up the bottle and rested it on the face, adjusting the branch to secure the placement.

Lester stood, belched, and laughed. “Cheers, mate.”

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt.

4 – 8 – 15 – 16 – 23 – 42

After a three-month hiatus, Ana Spoke has resumed posting to her blog today. Explaining she “was too busy getting married and starting my new job” to blog, Ana never did lose her literary ambition, although she struggled mightily to get back into her writing.

The difficulty Ana faced in re-starting speaks powerfully to a dilemma that’s been coming for some time. About five years ago, I was writing sporadically in this blog, and wasn’t happy with what I was posting. I had read from several bloggers that the key was to make a committment of some fashion — number of posts per week, word count, completing a story each month, whatever — and stick to it. Many suggested that posting each day was the key, and for whatever reason that committment was the most appealing to me. Not sure of the exact date, although I do know it was the day after my younger son’s bar mitzvah (I could look it up, as if that mattered) — I told myself I was going to post something, every day, in this blog, starting that day until… whenever.

I’m now wondering if whenever’s day has finally come.

At times, the show’s title perfectly described its audience

It’s not that the thrill is gone; I still love writing, and blogging, as much as ever. But this daily obligation has me feeling like Desmond Hume from the television show “Lost”, tasked with entering six numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42) into a computer terminal every 108 minutes (I’ll save you the work — the six numbers add up to 108). Desmond was told this sequence of numbers had a supernatural power, and entering those numbers was the only way to prevent a catastrophic event. “Lost” was a cult phenomenon in its day, and its fans spent a good deal of time and energy speculating on some of the show’s recurring motifs, particularly those six numbers (hey guys, astrology has 12 houses and 9 planets — guess what number you get when they’re multiplied!). Posting on online message boards, speaking at conventions, and giving interviews to fawning entertainment writers, the show’s writers would frequently drop hints at the numbers’ significance, but after the show ended in 2010, they admitted most of show’s motifs had no hidden meaning. Those numbers had been chosen pretty much at random, and served as nothing more than a useful plot device, what the detective novelists would call a red herring. In other words, Desmond had been entering those numbers for absolutely no reason.

The decision to post every day was the right call five years ago, as I don’t think I could have produced as much as I have if I didn’t have that disciplined motivation. But there’s been too many obligatory posts the past several weeks, and I don’t see the value in keeping the streak going any longer. My Christian readers will likely say that I’ve made an idol out of my daily obligation — and they’re likely to be correct.

But as I contemplate stepping away, I think of Ana’s struggle to resume writing. Let’s say tomorrow, Wednesday, I decide not to post. What’s going to motivate me to post on Thursday? Or any other day this week? Next week? The rest of the month?

If you’ve managed to wade through the preceding 500+ words, I’m now asking a favor. What advice do you have for blogging consistently, but not daily? What tactics do you employ to keep posting regularly? I don’t want to be like poor Desmond any longer, but right now I’m at a loss in my search for a different way of being diligent.

Voices in a Tough Time

This is a difficult season for people suffering from depression. It’s dark when we rise, dark on the drive home, the weekends wet and gray. Winter seems to have begun ages ago, with no promise of relenting. There’s never a good time of year for depression, but times like these are worse than usual.

I’m actually having a better February than I’ve had in years past. Maybe it’s because of the fairly mild weather (only had to use the snow blower four times so far); maybe it’s the enthusiasm I feel about my writing; maybe my abstinence from alcohol in January has given me an advantage over my darker moods; maybe regular exercise has kept the endorphin flowing; maybe I’m giddy that one of my favorite professional sports teams has just won a championship (no, I can’t be that shallow… can I?… maybe I can). It’s probably a combination of all those elements, some of which I can control, others not so much. Whatever the reasons, I accept this bounty with gratitude, and will fight like hell to keep feeling this way.

For many people, communication can be a powerful tool in combating depression. In that spirit, I want to share posts from bloggers who write powerfully about this subject. I’ve shared posts from each of these blogs previously, and do so again because their work continues to deserve recognition:

  • Depression can manifest itself as an almost physical presence, and few other writers can convey this sensation more acutely than Megan at The Manic Years

  • lilypup’s blog provides an honest journal of an entire family suffering from emotional disorders. It can be a heart-wrenching read at times, but lilypup never asks for the reader’s sympathy — only their understanding.
  • Depression Comix never makes fun of depression, but does find space for humor in the lives of people who suffer from the disease

 

The Passive/Aggressive Despot

Mark Aldrich, The Gad About Town, posts regular updates on journalists imprisoned for simply doing their job, such as the Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan. His post today focuses on the United States, and the Donald Trump administration’s attacks on media credibility. I find a lot of wisdom in the following excerpt:

Autocrats in our current era will not march into newspaper offices and destroy printing presses, as they did once upon a time; they will simply shame and harass them into silence. They will cajole their credulous supporters into not believing credible evidence and into a resistance of critical independent thinking.

I’d like to expand on Mark’s analysis with the following two comments:

  • Comparisons of Trump to notorious dictators of the past are an ineffective distraction. Journalists in America aren’t going to be arrested (unless they choose to investigate a riot), but they will be subject to a sustained passive/aggressive attack from the President. No direct accusations, but rather a continuous series of suggestions; no call to action, but should some lunatic decide to take the law into his own hands… well, the President never told him to do it, and besides, the victims had it coming to them anyway. Mark doesn’t compare Trump to Hitler, Saddam, or Stalin (the comparison to Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is made to demonstrate parallel tactics), which is wise, for Trump’s brand of maniacal despotism is unique, and needs to be called out and combated on its own terms.
  • Expressing outrage at Trump’s behavior is a waste of time and energy, and I’m glad to see Mark’s post is free of self-righteous indignation. Anger will never get Trump to admit he is wrong, as maniacs are by definition incapable of the self-reflection required to acknowledge error. And while outrage might persuade some of his supporters, a core group will continue to believe in “alternative facts,” no matter how vehemently we present the truth. I also believe Trump and his supporters welcome the outrage, seeing it as yet another distraction from his more nefarious policies, such as his increasing friendship with Vladimir Putin. We can, and must, fight every lie with the truth, every false assumption with logic, every attempt to circumvent the law with all our available resources; outrage does nothing to help in any of these fights.

The current regime is less than a month old, and it’s proving to be just as mendacious as we’d feared. We have not only to chose which battles to fight, but also must take care in how we chose to wage those battles.