It's almost time for the 2014 "30 Days, 30 Stories" Project!

Look for details for this year's project soon!

Last year's project was great! We had a fabulous selection of work. To read (or reread), click HERE for the first story.

And remember to leave a comment! We *LOVE* comments!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

30 Days: "O'Malley's Flower" by Jeff Hargett


O'Malley's Flower
by Jeff Hargett

With his heart all black and his soul bankrupt
He raged and howled with a will corrupt
Never had men seen not even in dream
The evil unmatched about to erupt

The day then came, with snowfall dark
For ash and lava rendered countryside stark
Beneath his disdain did nothing remain
Not swallow nor eagle not sparrow nor lark

His sights he set on the people's queen
Thirsting for power and aims unclean
He came and set siege against serf and liege
Laid waste to woods and homes and all between

The king arose, valiant and strong
His heart intent on righting the wrong
Both regal and proud, he rallied the crowd
And led his men with trumpets and song

For days they marched through blinding snow
With ice and frost did the north wind blow
Bearing omens ill and the glint of steel
Under clouds of gray no mercy did it show

For the queen, his love, he journeyed there
Daring the evil's perilous snare
Over peak and valley came King O'Malley
Till he chanced upon the enormous lair

Of power and magic and wrath and hate
Came spell and curse to doom their fate
O'Malley so brave, but naught could he save
For the beast rained fury in a fatal spate

One by one the king's men fell
Where they'd stood no man could tell
Swordsman and spear, with no time to fear
Became the echo in death's sad knell

The man, the beast were one in the same
Mage was his title and Jerrok his name
It was none other, the king's own brother
Who smote them down their flesh aflame

Out from the lair where kin's blood flowed
Into the city along the king's road
King O'Malley's head, all battered and red
Hung on a pike for all to behold

Jerrok announced his vile demand
To wed the queen in fashion grand
He yelled and he swore, refusal meant war
And havoc he'd wreak throughout the land

But the queen was armed and didn't cower
For in her womb grew O'Malley's flower
Jerrok couldn't know the strength they would show
But what love births is life's greatest power

And in that moment when Jerrok started
The princess countered and his heart she parted
Love potent and pure, life's ultimate cure
Rended his soul with the mercy imparted

Though King O'Malley would never be there
His flower would grow, a beauty so fair
His memory dear, sung to calm men's fear
By queen and princess with love so rare



- Jeff

When this world doesn’t suit you, write a world that does.

Connect with me at:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

30 Days: "Jonny Forget Your Gun" by Randall McNair


By Randall McNair


Jonny loved his staple gun.

CACHUNK

He bought it at a yard sale from the old lady next door.

CACHUNK

Where a little cripple boy sold lemonade from his wheelchair.

CACHUNK

Jonny named his new gun Buckshot.

CACHUNK

Every time he added a new bass to his collection.

CACHUNK

Buckshot got another notch.

CACHUNK

It didn't take long

CACHUNK

before Jonny had almost every kind of bass in the world

CACHUNK

pinned to the wall

CACHUNK

of his barn.

CACHUNK CACHUNK

and his collection was world famous.

            People the world over would come to Rustburg and shovel a nickel from their pocket to be allowed past the giant red barn doors. Inside it was dark as tar except for a hundred pin pricks of light coming through the slats and nail holes in the ceiling.

            When the barn was full, Jonny would collect his jar spilling over with nickels, and close the big doors.

            It took a few moments, with only the soft slits of sunlight falling down like a thousand stars. Then, one by one, each observer would gasp as his or her eyes adjusted, revealing the monument of fish stapled before them.

            Filled with wonder and amazement the crowds would whistle, holler and stamp their feet.

            "Bravo! Incredible! Encore!" would ring inevitable exclamations. Their excitement drifting for miles across gold and green hills. Scarcely could Jonny bow, or open the doors before he was swept up on the shoulders of the passionate crowd.

            It didn't take long before every person on the planet, it seemed, had come and come again to see Jonny's extravaganza of bass and come away a better person for it.

            Every person on the planet that is, except Jimmy. The little boy who lived next door.

            Jimmy was too weak to leave his small little bed up in the attic room of his grandmother's farm home. Although she would have liked to very much, Jimmy's grandmother was too old and frail to carry her grandson the scanty yards from where he lay, over to Jonny's bass barn.

            So every day Jimmy watched.

            Week after month he watched Jonny carry bass into the barn, would catch glint of the sun reflecting from Jonny's staple gun, and if the wind blew just right, he might hear a distant but resolute:

            Cachunk.

            Day after day he cheered and waved at Jonny as the ecstatic masses burst from the red barn doors; but Jonny, caught up in glory, never saw the frail little ghost of a boy, smiling at him from the window.

           He never saw how day after month after year, that smile never faded, even as the little waving arm grew weaker and weaker.

             Then one day, just one, nobody knows how or why, no one came to see Jonny's barn.

            No one dropped a nickel in Jonny's jar or came to lift Jonny on their shoulders. Everything was so still: so quiet, that one could almost hear the sound of the peanuts growing in their fields.

            As he sat on his milk stool in front of his barn; as Jonny looked out over the empty horizon, he saw the farmhouse next door, where a yard sale sign had once stood years before.
He noticed a little attic window again for the first time, and in that window a smiling little face.

            Slowly he walked across the yard, then through the back porch into the old woman's home, up the stairs, and without knocking, softly turned the knob of the boys attic room. Jonny looked down and smiled at the boy he'd not seen since the year he'd brought home his first bass.     Where had each of those days gone?

            Taking Buckshot from its holster, Jonny handed it to Jimmy. Then carefully he picked up the frail, broken body and without a word carried Jimmy down the stairs, and out to his barn.

            Reaching into his own pocket Jonny picked out one of his own nickels and dropped it in the jar.

            His whole soul alive with wonder Jimmy was layed in the fresh new straw, clutching buckshot in his lap, While Jonny closed the doors.

            Pin-pricks of light poured down all around filling the barn with heavenly light.

Then,

as Jimmy's eyes adjusted to the darkness

each fish,

one by one

turned their head towards the light,

and began to sing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

30 Days: "Going Home"

By: T.J. Reed


Brent’s dusty boots thumped on the hardwood floor of his father’s home; the same boots that Brent had stood on the streets of Baghdad in. He carefully closed the door behind him and shifted the cardboard carrier that held his and his dad’s coffees back to his strong hand. He had practiced this scenario every morning for the past two months since they had called a nurse in to take care of him. Every morning, at 7:30 am, Brent would arrive with their coffees and that day’s copy of USA Today. The coffee needed to be black for his father which matched his personality; strong.
He had served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, then had spent several years working as an armored truck driver after that, and that is when the cancer came. It had hit him quickly, much more quickly than Brent had anticipated. He had always assumed that he would have more time with his dad, one more day, one more hour, a minute. But, that all changed when Orville called and told him that they had found cancer, “running all up in me,” as he had put it.
“He has been waiting for you this morning.” The short nurse in the kitchen said.
“Yeah, I am a couple minutes late. The lady at the coffee house tried to put sugar in dad’s coffee. Had to wait while she brewed a whole new pot.”
“He has been talking to Big Tiny again. He says that he is going home today.” She said with a smile.
Over the past week, Brent’s father had been telling him stories about a young man that had been coming to the house to visit him that went by the name Big Tiny. The doctors had told Brent that he would slowly start to slip into this sort of state; speaking to people that was not there or forgetting who people was all together. Brent had just gone with it. He would sit with his coffee and listen to Orville tell him about the glorious things that Big Tiny would tell him of Heaven. Brent had decided that if this was how his father was going to lose his mind, he was ok with it.
Brent slowly opened the door to his father’s bedroom to find him staring at the ceiling, his eyes bright and wide with excitement.
“Good morning son!” His father tried to shout hoarsely from the confines of his bed.
“Hey old man. I got your coffee. You sure look happy this morning. You feeling better?”
“I don’t feel a thing son. Big Tiny said today I get to go home. He told me I get my retirement papers for my service here.” The old man tried to laugh and began to cough. Brent pulled a napkin from a box next the bed and handed it to his father which he then used to dab the speckles of blood from his lips and then just stared at his son.
“Big Tiny says that he has a job for me.” His father, though his eyes were bright with excitement, Brent came to the quick realization that his father was telling him that he was slowly slipping away. He could see it in the color of his skin and in the way he labored for breath. They had assumed that this would have happened a week ago, but Orville had proved too tough for death, as he did in Vietnam, and had fought it out for one more week.
“He does?” Brent said as he fought back tears.
Orville looked up at the ceiling again as if staring into Heaven itself, tears of his own slowly cupping the corners of his eyes and then streaking down the many creases and wrinkles on his face.
“Yep. Says my service is requested. Feels good to be wanted again, to be able to serve again, you know?” Orville smiled and looked at his son. “He says that you don’t need to worry about me and we will meet again.”
“He said all that, huh?” Brent said smiling now as he took his father’s hand. In the moment that his fingers touched his dads, it was as if a lightning bolt had struck Brent. The room flashed white, his hair stood on end, and then everything was as it was. Brent blinked his eyes several times and looked at his father.
“Can you see him now? He is talking to you.” Orville said to his son.
Brent looked at the foot of the bed and seen a soldier standing in his desert fatigues, full body armor, and his helmet held in gloved hands as he smiled a goofy smile that Brent knew all too well. The man possessed the face that had been in his dreams for the past 7 years since he had been killed in an ambush in Iraq.
“Tony?”
“Hey buddy.” Tony said. “You got one heck of an old man. This guy will talk your ear off if you let him.”
“Tony?” Brent repeated.
“Yep.” Tony started laughing.
“Why does he call you Big Tiny?” Brent said laughing as a mixture of tears of joy and sadness flooded his eyes.
“When he first asked my name, I said Big Tony. The old man is hard of hearing, I guess he heard Big Tiny and I just haven’t had the heart to correct him.”
The two laughed. They laughed like old friends do when they have not seen each other in a very long time and Brent noticed that his father was not laughing. The grip on his hand had lightened and his fingers were slipping from his grip. Brent looked at his father, his eyes nearly closed but he was smiling.
“Don’t worry Brent. I got this. I will make sure your old man gets where he needs to go. That is my job now. I am a courier; a courier for the poor tortured souls that is us. We give everyone a gentle welcome into their ever after and bring them to their families.  Remember how we always joked that we would be guarding the gates of Heaven or the streets of gold. Apparently, those things don’t need any guarding brother. What they need is us collecting up our brothers and sisters and bringing them home.” Tony smiled again.
Brent used his free arm to wipe the tears from his face. “He said you had a job for him.”
“Well, I don’t. The old man upstairs does. He is going to make him a courier too. I already have a man to train him up for the task.”
Brent turned his head to look back at his father and found that his eyes were now closed. The weak grip that he had held on his hand was now gone but his body was lying with his arms stiffly placed alongside his legs as if he was in the position of attention. There were two young men now standing at the far side of the bed dressed in an older style of military uniform that Brent recognized from a few pictures that his father had shared with him of Vietnam. The dark green uniforms looked like they were fresh out of the box; crisp and clean without speck of dust on them.
“Brent, I would like you to meet Bryan Meeks. I haven’t seen this young man in fifty years!” Brent’s father said as he laughed and hugged his long lost friend, a friend that he had lost in Vietnam and had worn a bracelet every day of his life to remember that friend. Brent looked down at his own wrist and stared at the thin metal bracelet he wore for Tony. A bracelet that he never took off and that was a constant reminder of a friend he had lost in a foreign land. Brent looked up and all of his new friends were gone along with his father.
He cried.
He let the tears for his father fall to the floor along with the tears of closure for a friend that he had always hoped that he could see again someday. He knew that whenever it was his time to go, there would be a young man in uniform prepared to escort him to the other side and he hoped that his name was Big Tiny.

Written for the memories of my fallen brothers:
Pfc. Alva L. Gaylord May 5th, 2006
Spec. Matthew F. Straughter January 31st, 2008
Staff Sgt. Bradley J. Skelton February 6th, 2008
Sgt. Denis D. Kisseloff May 14th, 2010

Rest in peace brothers and I hope you enjoy your new jobs. I cannot wait to see you all again when my time comes and I hope that you all show up to escort me home.


Friday, April 11, 2014

30 Days: "The Thoughtful Zit" by Tabitha Thompson

It was right in the middle of my first real conversation with Josh that I noticed the zit on the right side of my nose. It was as though it grew there instantaneously.

Why now?

Just minutes before I had been standing in the sun. Flirting and enjoying myself.

Then, from the corner of my eye I could see the bright red splotch. First I thought there was something on my face (there was, but I thought it was a bug or a splash of ketchup from lunch or something equally mortifying, yet wipeable). So I tried casually brushing it away.

Not going anywhere.

Of course, I had to maintain some composure. I couldn't just look. I mean, apart from the obvious reasons, I couldn't just go cross-eyed in the middle of the conversation to gawk at it.

But there it was, the stoplight to all dating possibilities blinking at me from the edge of my peripheral vision.

Was it even possible that it had just appeared so quickly that Josh hadn't seen it? Perhaps he was currently so engaged in our clever verbal dance that he failed to notice the middle of my face.

It could happen.

I tried to remain calm.

I cocked my head to the right, hoping the good side of my nose would obscure his view of the blemish, and with a slight hair flourish, I used the new angle to appear as though I was looking coyly at him.

"Jeez, are you okay?" he asked.

"Uh. Neck cramp," I blurted and rubbed at the phantom pain.

"Oh," he said. "When did that happen?"

About thirty seconds ago.

"Old dance injury," I said.

No response.

"Comes and goes," I added.

Silence.

Josh studied me for a minute as though he was trying to work out what had just changed. Yes, I had gone from a normal person to a weirdo in six-point-two seconds.

In face, he cocked his head and began looking at me though the corner of his eyes—the difference between us being that he actually looked adorable doing it.

"You sure you're okay?" he asked again with a slight smile, as though unsure whether I was being an idiot on purpose or if he should be in on a joke.

"Oh yeah. No biggie. So ... what were you saying about the dance?" I tried steering him back to the part of the conversation I had been enjoying.

"Right. Yeah. Well, just that I've got this killer paper to finish for chemistry before I can even think about going." Josh looked down at his watch. He wore it backwards, so that the dial was on the inside of his wrist. It was another one of those quirky things about him that made him so—"Speaking of which, I'm going to be late for class. Hey, it was nice talking to you. Seeyaround."

Crap. I'd been staring at him. Staring. Like an idiot. My mind raced to catch up. "Yeah. Yes! See you later." And then before my mind had caught up, my mouth got desperate and I heard it saying, "I do my homework on this very bench every Tuesday. After class. About this time." But I said it too fast and too late because he was already walking away.

My mind was going to slap me across the mouth when it caught up.

I rolled my eyes as he turned a corner and out of view.

And I caught sight of the zit on my face again.

He had seen it. And if he hadn't, my own stupidity would have driven him away.

I closed my left eye and looked in, crossways, with my right, to ogle the huge cranberry-like profusion exploding from my nose. I was hideous.

I began rummaging through my book bag. Surely I had some back-up face powder or something.

But after some digging all I came up with was an almost empty box of TicTacs and three gnarly looking gummy bears.

Who was I kidding? There wasn't enough make-up on the planet to cover this. What I needed was a small tent.

Who cares? Besides, its not like I have to go to every dance at college. It was still my first year. I would know a lot more people next year. Just through some mathematical odds process I was bound to go to a dance at some point with someone. Right?

I sat down to read and to forget my misery. But the volcano kept poking up into view. After a while I achieved some sense of peace by closing my right eye and reading with my left. But since I wasn't wearing my contacts, I had to squint the one good eye to get the words into focus.

That was the lovely face I was making when I noticed Josh standing in front of me again.

I looked up, right eye closed tight, left eye squinting, red nose glowing. And there he was.

"Josh!" I cocked my head to the side so fast I think I gave myself whiplash. "Ow."

"They cancelled class," he said. "Still got that kink, huh?"

"Yeah," I said, and found myself rubbing the opposite side of my neck that I had last time.

"Let's see if we can't fix that up for you. Scoot up."

I sat forward on the backless bench and he came around behind me and began to rub my neck and shoulders.

What?! How could this possibly have worked out in my favor like this?

Little squeal inside. Mental text to BFF: Holy crap! Josh is touching me!

Finally an answer to my problem: a faceless, yet brilliantly stimulating hands-on conversation. (He was definitely stimulating. I should try to be brilliant. But best not to talk and screw it up.)

Josh cleared his throat. "Hey, if I did finish my paper, would you be interested in going to the dance a little late?"

Total geeky dance throw down on the inside.

On the outside: "Yes. I'd love to."

See? I can be normal. And calm. And normal.

I just hope there's enough makeup in the store to fix me up by Saturday night.

Or I may have to wear a neck brace.

But then I'd have no excuse to not look directly at him.

Mental note: Text BFF to find an excuse to wear an eye patch.

Still, if it weren't for this zit, he might not be rubbing my shoulders right now.

Huh.

Thanks, little zit.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

30 Days: "The Savior's Gift to Me" by Annie Bailey


The Savior’s Gift to Me

By Annie Bailey

From the children’s album: There Is Joy


Long ago in Gethsemane
The Savior gave a great gift to me
He paid the price for all my sins
He suffered just for me

Chorus
He wants me to take His gift
And try to do better
Try to do better each day
When I make a mistake
The Savior still loves me
He always loves me
Loves me and wants me to grow each day

Long ago Christ went willingly
To give up His life, to die for me
He paid the price for all my sins
He suffered just for me

Chorus
He wants me to take His gift
And try to do better
Try to do better each day
When I make a mistake
The Savior still loves me
He always loves me
Loves me and wants me to grow each day


To hear “The Savior’s Gift to Me” please visit: http://www.anniebailey.com/music.html.

Copyright by Annie Bailey
Used by permission