Tag Archives: Our Write Side prompt

Snug as Two Bugs in a Rug

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If not for being hidden out in the middle of nowhere, the farmhouse’s slanted red roof would’ve seemed a beacon meant to draw people’s attention. The residents within sure didn’t want anyone to notice their whereabouts, not with what went on elsewhere on the property. Leastways, not with what got buried behind their small outbuilding.

The pair labored under a starlit sky that cast just enough illumination for their work. James Earl shot his sister a stern look. “Poppy, you would just about give Mother the fits if she seen how you left that pick ax laying around like that.” He pointed to the ground where the implement lay. “She learned you better than that, girl.”

Poppy resented his constant badgering and focused her icy glare on the ground in front of her instead of on his face, her primary target. “It’s not like she’s here to see it, James. She’s been dead and gone for almost 10 years.” The woman disguised her expression to a more neutral visage before looking up at her sibling.

“Don’t you speak ill of my sweet mother,” he warned. It was not as if he owned the exclusive rights to her memory.

Poppy kept her tone steady. “Don’t you imagine Momma would be a bit more disturbed to know what you used that ax for?” Their parents left the farm to the pair as an inheritance, never suspecting they would remain together indefinitely. Those years put them in a close proximity that often tested Poppy’s nerves.

“And she was my mother, too.” She was finding it more difficult to mask the contention in her voice. Not that James would notice.

Random visitors limped their vehicles along in seek of help on the road, and often fancied them a couple at first meeting. Not many people stopped by any other time. Three RVs out front used to belong to random stragglers who had the bad luck of mechanical problems. Some lacked the gasoline to get them to safety.

Those drivers didn’t know that pair long carried a grudge against the world that intersected with their own path. James Earl and Poppy continued to work at the hole where the latest set of passersby were set to spend their eternal rest. Each of three other mounds had finally begun to settle to an even plane with the surrounding earth. Those spots shouldn’t draw any attention from an otherwise unsuspecting eye.

Poppy and James Earl hoped no one would find out about the treasures they collected from those unlucky travelers. The jewelry and cash locked up in a safe nestled inside a wall in the house, all the souvenirs they hoarded from their victims. Any clothing or other possessions had long since been burned elsewhere and not a trace left of the folks. 

Thinking about that loot made James Earl smile as he stood beside the indented place, hands on his hips, surveying their handiwork. He said, “You know, Poppy, at this rate we ought to have enough together by next year to take that trip up to Des Moines like we always hoped. It will finally be time for a celebration.” His head bobbed up and down with satisfaction.

“I don’t know, James Earl,” Poppy seemed to agree. She picked her tool up from the ground and moved strategically around behind her brother. Just before she raised the pick up over his head to land a fatal blow, she told him, “I might just be drivin’ that road on my own.” 

Our Write Side writing prompt – celebration

photo: “shed rust” by Rusty via Flickr

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Stranger Danger

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The white van parked sideways across two spaces in a side lot of Pine Creek Wildlife Area had a homemade trailer hitched to the back that took up extra room. An unlatched wooden box sat atop it that emanated such a stench passersby stopped to sniff the air in search of the source for the miasma. Had the driver realized how the box’s timber would fail to contain the foul odor within, he would’ve parked elsewhere to keep any suspicion at bay.

He’d driven half the night to escape the scene of his latest crime and now risked being found elsewhere because he couldn’t keep his eyes open for another minute behind the wheel. This park seemed out of the way in the dark. In daylight, not so much.

A noticeable funk leaked out from between the pine slabs of the box, which drew the attention of a young boy who chased his ball across the blacktop. Brendan looked at the van and trailer when the ball bounced off its back bumper. His imagination put eyes within the wood’s natural grain and told him monsters peeked back at him from inside.

No wonder it smells so bad, he thought. Maybe a tiny ogre lives in there with his fish dinner he left out to rot in the sun. The boy grabbed his ball and backed away at a snail’s pace, fear having shifted him into slow motion. His stomach rolled at the thought of eating that stinky lunch instead of the PB&J that actually awaited him.

His grandmother hollered, “Brendan, get back over here.” She could see someone with long, greasy hair slumped against the driver’s window of the vehicle. Those dirty tresses smeared a streak down the film of its cigarette-yellowed surface. The body didn’t move. Brendan’s grandma presumed any manner of drug-addled state in which that person might be, maybe even a dead one, asleep behind the wheel at this time of day.

Their family couldn’t have known this picnic spot would bring them so close to a real-life monster who drove it there.

Brendan stood transfixed to stare at the timber he perceived was ogling at him. His mouth hung agape until his grandma yelled his name again, and he startled so abruptly he shoved the ball away from his body. It hit the driver door with a thud like a hammer pounding a tin can.

When the man shook awake, he whipped his filthy head from side to side as if to gather his bearings before he fixed his gaze on Brendan. A sneer curled from his lips to reveal brown teeth that could’ve recently gnawed away at rancid smelt, and the boy shook at realizing he was the target of that nasty smirk.

Brendan ran back to his grandparents, the front of his shorts dark from an accident not experienced since pre-school. The van’s ignition caught and tires spun to narrowly miss the boy in its path as it sped away to exit the park. It took a lot of soothing by Brendan’s grandmother to get him settled down enough to eat his sandwich and return to play afterward.

The family never heard the news story of the van driver later arrested for speeding and what, or rather who, the authorities uncovered inside the box on its trailer. Had Brendan’s curiosity gotten the better of him to lift the latch and look inside, his discovery would’ve certainly ruined everyone’s lunch. Although the kidnapping occurred several days prior, a garrote still surrounded the neck.

Our Write Side writing promptmiasma/stench

(photo: Wikipedia Commons)

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Out With a Bang

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“Look out or you’ll blow your damn fool fingers off,” Raleigh told her. He held the punk for her, but Lenay resented her boyfriend’s insinuation. She didn’t need him telling her how to do everything.

“I might look ignorant, but I’m not stupid,” she said. The girl knew how to handle a bottle rocket, had been in plenty of throwing wars with her brothers. At times it would be nice to have those boys around.

Raleigh acted so self-righteous, as if he could save her from herself or something. “You get one beer in ya and get all full of yourself, girl.” He tightened his grip around her forearm a little tighter like he usually did as a warning. Right before he began to get angry.

Lenay looked up when a burst of green and gold blew up in the sky over their car parked on the hill. Small trails of light filtered down from overhead and trickled through the darkness as if to land on treetops and set the woods ablaze. They had a great vantage point to watch the town fireworks display.

Not that the couple in the back seat noticed. The two groped at each other like dogs in heat. Quite a duo they made for a double-date.

She shot Raleigh her most flirtatious smile, which seemed to diffuse his temper, so she tugged her arm away. “Come on. This is supposed to be fun. Remember?”

“Just watch what yer doing, huh? I’m not driving you to the hospital.” That was probably the truth.

He might just let me bleed out, she thought. Leave me laying here for good, the bastard. “All I want is to shoot off some fireworks, Raleigh. Do some sparklers. Let’s enjoy ourselves for a change.”

Raleigh apologized the last time he got rough. Said he’d never do it again. Grabbing her arm like that didn’t seem like he was so sorry.

Another blast exploded overhead, this time blue and red, and spiraled outward from its point of detonation. She watched the tendrils of light drift downward and considered what the fireworks supposedly meant, what they celebrated.

“Hmmm, freedom,” she said out loud, more or less to herself.

Raleigh shook his head at her. “What the hell are you talking about? You’re freakin’ crazy.” She breathed deeply, exhaled, and bent over to dig in a brown paper bag of firecrackers.

Raleigh shouted toward the car, “And what the hell is wrong with you two?” He clenched his fists in front of his body, pumped his elbows back and forth in tandem with a forward and backward hip thrust, and guffawed loudly at himself. “Woohoo!”

Lenay suddenly felt fearless, even without her brothers to back her up. She tore the thin red paper from a pack of Black Cats to expose the fuse, set the bunch on the ground behind where Raleigh stood humping the air, and flicked her lighter to set it all on fire.

The eruption served as her favorite of the night, although she didn’t wait to watch Raleigh jump around and dodge the sparks. She’d have loved to see his hotfoot but was too busy turning the key and shifting her car into drive. The couple in the back seat finally sat up, suddenly startled. They grabbed ahold of the front seat as Lenay punched the gas and sped away, leaving Raleigh to his solo dance.

“Be careful, there, boy,” she told his reflection in the rearview mirror.

(image: Jdmoar)

Our Write Side writing prompt – fearless

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Live Entertainment

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With “Honkytonk Woman” playing on the jukebox, she was in a better mood than usual. Living a rough life like Lenay’s could turn a person sour. Her boyfriend reckoned she could use some special treatment now and then, so their agreeing on dinner at Millie’s Bar and Grill pleased her. The lights dimmed early and peanut shells littered the scuffed wood flooring, but she didn’t mind.

Hearing her kind of music seemed to make their choice the right one. Cheap-ass Raleigh even springing for the bill surprised her.

Millie made a tasty bowl of clam chowder, even if Lenay’s meal ended with having to see an old lady at the next table use a strategically-placed index fingernail to dig a last morsel from a cavernous back molar to savor it. Maybe missing that final bit of food would ruin the woman’s dining experience, but seeing the act added little but disgust to a fellow diner’s appetite.

Lenay’s soup roiled in her stomach. She wouldn’t be pejorative of another customer, though, especially some elderly stranger. No matter how disgusting the person’s actions seemed to her. She’d witnessed plenty of poor manners, including those of her brothers and boyfriend. Denture digging paled in comparison to snot rockets.

Raleigh, watching the woman use her crude toothpick, couldn’t help but comment. At his jaw’s first movement to speak, Lenay grabbed his wrist to stop him. “Just ignore it, Raleigh. Please don’t say anything.” Him being his usual ruffian self, he stayed true to form with an insult.

First, he rubbed a hand across two days’ scruff clustered on his chin and neck, then pushed back from the table. Rubberless feet of the chair legs scraped loudly across the floor and produced a screech that drowned all background noise and brought everyone’s attention. “You know that’s nasty, right?” All heads turned to see where the question was pointed.

He eyeballed the offending party and asked her, “Are you saving it for later? This joint might be a shit hole, but you don’t have to act like a pig in it.”

The septuagenarian stared at him blankly, his rude comment lost on her. She plunked her drink glass on the Formica tabletop with a flat thud, sucked on a final dollop between her teeth, and responded, “Huh?”

Lenay’s face burned as crimson as the tin Coca-Cola ad on the wall. She simply wanted a quiet night out, an open-faced beef sandwich and some good tunes being all it took to please her. Maybe a little Game Show Network when they got home. She didn’t ask for much.

A minute’s awkward silence filled the room before Raleigh finally stood. He audibly cleared his throat, hacked up a wad of phlegm, and spat it onto the floor beside him. “Come on, hon. Let’s get out of here.”

Lenay sheepishly followed him out the door.

(photo: Jill E. via Flickr)

“Our Write Side” writing prompt – pejorative

http://ourwriteside.com/that-wasnt-very-nice/

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Real-life Cameo

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I thought I saw Stan Lee driving down a back road in a red Honda late this afternoon. Same burly silver mustache and translucent skin, a ball cap bill hovering over eyeglasses leftover from the ’70s. He’d probably be driving an Accord, though, over of a standard, factory-straight Civic. So a person never knows. It could be him.

Doing a double-take, I threw it in reverse and whipped around to follow him. Wouldn’t Pete just about have a conniption when he found out I trailed the dude? But Pete wasn’t there to win me over with reasoned logic, and I had nowhere else to be anyway.

Heat rose up from the pavement ahead, but I could still see the Honda’s brake lights at a stop sign maybe a half-mile up the road. Snapping a pic as evidence might shut Pete up over the deal, him always calling me a liar. He would never believe me unless I got an autograph from his hero of super heroes, the thought of which coaxed my pressure on the gas to catch up. I couldn’t let him turn off without me seeing where the car went.

I leaned back toward the rear seat, swerved a bit as I did, and grappled to reach something for him to sign – a magazine, brochure, even a fast food receipt. Anything for his signature. Among all the crap there, not a comic to be found. What I’d give for just one Spider-Man, no matter how ratty.

The library would charge me a fortune for the novel I found nestled in the floorboard – the only paper my fingertips could purchase. Payment for a book meant nothing compared to Pete eating crow.

My junker started to shake at hitting 60 but shimmied to a halt behind the Honda’s dented rear quarter panel at a four-way stop. “Huh,” I thought, “you’d think he had enough money to get that fixed.”

With no time for such random speculation, I had to make a move. A fine line of sweat formed on my top lip. “People say he’s a nice guy, playing a part in all his superhero movies. Surely he’d give me a signature.” No others cars within sight, I stomped on it and bolted to the left, pulled up alongside, one hand on my steering wheel and the other rolling down the passenger window.

The decrepit driver’s body convulsed in surprise at the sudden move, perhaps frightened he was about to get jacked. He shoved the cap backward on his head to reveal a liver-spot-covered face definitely not that of Pete’s favorite comic author. The startled old guy’s mouth hung agape, and the emptiness of his toothless mouth sucked my gaze into its emptiness.

Our heads shook in simultaneous violent disbelief, and he gesticulated wildly. The codger yelled, “First the swerving, and now this! Whadda you want?”

After a beat, I waved in apology and peeled out in front of the Honda. Getting ahead of him and down the road meant I didn’t have to witness how long it took the man to recover from the surprise. Pete wouldn’t hear about the caper after all.

Two Word Tuesday prompt – conniption

Image via Nicholas A. Tonelli on Flickr

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A Mother’s Love

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They stoked up quite a kerfuffle right there in front of the principal’s secretary and several other parents. Angel’s thin frame shook in anger, cheekbones stabbing out through skin stretched over her hollowed-out face. She stood opposite her mother, Lilly’s grandmother, in a showdown just before the girl’s Kindergarten graduation was scheduled to begin. Two grown adults, mother and daughter, set to throw down.

Angel having been awake for 24 hours didn’t help her mental state. Her latest boyfriend kept her up the night before to sample his latest batch, which helped kindle the paranoia of her mother’s determination to get her six-year old taken away by Child Protective Services. She may not take the best care of Lilly, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone’s public criticism.

Lilly lived with her grandma, or the girl would’ve fended for herself the entire school year. Her momma might actually love her, too, but she loved her drugs of choice as much or more.

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Phillips rushed into the hallway at all the yelling to find the pair about to square off.

“I’ll be damned if that woman’s allowed in here to watch my baby’s program,” Angel said. “Can’t you see to it she’s kicked outta this school?” Her nose hovered so menacingly close to her mother’s that the rot from Angel’s teeth seemed the only thing keeping them apart.

The principal’s eyebrows arched, incredulous at the younger woman’s assumption. “Not if she’s Lilly’s legal guardian, Angel,” she replied. “And this altercation cannot happen here. You’re both going to need to settle down if you want to stay.” She glanced back and forth between the pair in search of any reaction to the contrary and noticed only a difference in weight and wrinkled skin between the two. Same bleached hair, same defensive demeanor. Angel might become a split image of her mother in a few years, if she lived to experience it.

Fortunately choosing seats on opposite sides the center aisle, the ceremony began without students or other audience members being any the wiser. “The show must go on, as they say,” Mrs. Phillips told her secretary. Unless someone moved out of the district before August, she’d have to deal with this kith and kin again all too soon in the new school year.

Thirteen children wearing miniature blue caps and gowns lined the wooden risers on the stage, and their families beamed up at them from folding chairs across the gymnasium floor. Cherubic Lilly grinned down from her row, and she raised a hand to wave at her grandma.

Our Write Side prompt: kerfuffle (one of my favorite words)

Photo: glasseyejack via Flickr

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Crossed Signals

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She didn’t ever pretend not to like or eat at McDonald’s. Truth was, Shannon had a serious love affair going with the dollar menu. Being broke made her frequent stops a necessity. With luck on her side, doing so left no acne or weight gain. Anybody who professed to avoid fast food at all cost had to be lying. What a bunch of fake, pretentious phonies, she thought.

A red truck caught her eye as she exited the restaurant. Shannon tried to hide behind the over-sized Styrofoam cup, straw planted firmly in her mouth to infuse some courage via caffeine. “Oh, great. There’s Lane. Why is this happening today?

Crossing his path was inevitable. Maybe a simple wave would suffice, so she flashed a half-heartened one at him as she quickened her steps in the opposite direction.

Too late. Living in a such a small town spawned such awkward situations. He’d already parked and walked toward her, a tentative smile on his face. A week had passed since his last text message and almost two weeks since their last date.

“Hey, how are you?” Lane sounded genuinely glad to see her, but she didn’t trust it.

Displeasure spread across Shannon’s expression as she tried to force her mouth into a smile. “All right,” she told him but kept walking toward her car. “You?” The response came out less than chipper, which mirrored her feelings at not hearing from him.

Lane looked at her back, confused, as she walked from him. “Doing well,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to call but was out of town all week for work.”

Shannon didn’t stop or even look at him as he spoke. Instead, she flipped a hand back over her shoulder in dismissal. Her only reaction came mentally. “I don’t want to listen to your excuses.

He didn’t understand why Shannon acted so cold. “Okay then,” he said dejectedly. “Have a good one.”

If sincere, and he truly meant for her to have a good day, the sentiment fell short of its intention. She wasn’t buying it.

She spun on him. “Just what the hell does that mean anyway?” Her anger began to roil. “A good what? A good lunch? A good trip? A good snog? Your flip comment is just too damn ambiguous!”

Lane backed away from her slowly, raising his hands to relent, wondering how he got into such a mess. “No offense, Shannon. I didn’t mean anything by it. I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings somehow.” That sorrowful expression made her want to believe him.

“Then just say goodbye. Wish me a ‘good day.’ Not a ‘good one,’” she emphasized. “I’m having a good day no matter what you say.”

She didn’t even know why she was so upset. They’d only been on two dates. No big deal. But didn’t we have a good time, she mused. We laughed a lot. We had fun.

It was simply the principle of the deal. The same old story. A blossoming friendship cut off before it had a chance to turn into anything more.

It’s not like I’m some mouth-breathing cretin. Whoever he likes probably works out all the time, never eats fast food, and has perfectly straight teeth. There seemed a chasm between her and the women she imagined him dating.

Shannon could see Lane still standing there in the parking lot, hands in his pockets and kicking at the asphalt with one foot, as she drove away. “So much for Valentine’s Day,” he muttered. “Guess I’ll just get a Big Mac.”

*Two Word Tuesday writing prompt – mess

(photo: wildwise studio via Flickr)

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