Monday, April 30, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: Puppetry's How-To Book

Puppetry's How-To Book
by Amy White

An Introduction and a Call to Arms:
To all adventurous souls! I come among you, asking only the bravest of souls to join me in an expedition of unparalleled risk. I ask that we journey as comrades, as fellow brave mortals in what will be heretofore known as one of the grandest of peregrinations. I fear it is a grave duty I ask you to complete. I come on bended knee, beseeching the best of you to sojourn forth, with hands held high and hearts ablaze, as we enter into an enchanted realm. A place where many have entered, and none have returned unchanged. I ask that you come with me, into this most powerful of lands, into the land of . . . Puppetry.

In our campaign, we, a band of mere humans, shall endeavor to unearth the roots of Puppet evolution, to reveal the mysteries of Puppet creation. And in the course of this most arduous of tasks, I pray that our feet shall remain firm and our faith steadfast as the mysteries of Puppet invention are discovered. We but need to believe in our limitless capabilities to gain access to the needed inspiration to overcome all trial and tribulation. We will not be stopped. No mistake or challenge will go unmet. And in due course, once the enigma has been unmasked, when we have come to that day when our challenges have become achievement, wherein the illuminating light of self discovery has opened its doors to our inevitable success, we shall stand triumphant. Our understanding of even the deepest of Puppetry secrets shall be made known.

Now, some may say that Puppets will one day rule our world. That by uncovering the mysteries of the Puppet, we are but paving the path to the end of our world as we now know it. But I say to you, such radicalization is heresy. It is understanding that will unite Puppet and Human. The future but requires that we practice the art of communication and that we trust in transparency, that we might get along as two oxen pulling in harmony, taking upon themselves their assigned burden, that we may carry out and achieve our shared destiny.
Come with me then,you brave individuals, on a journey that will change lives.
At hand! At hand! We begin anon.

The views held in this work are not necessarily the views held by our editor, production staff or anyone involved in the publication thereof. We are not responsible for any damages as a result of misuse of patterns, misunderstanding of ideology and, or malfunctioning equipment. If your Puppet creation does for some reason succeed in what is heretofore called the Pinocchio Paradigm, and succeeds in overtaking not only your workshop, your home, your family and your friends, to the point of supplanting and altering your very persona, we will consider you forewarned and sufficiently alerted by way of this notice.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: Unnecessary Enmity

I know excuses are bad but I’d just like to say that my mind doesn’t make condensed plots very well and this is the second short story I’ve ever written so please don’t judge :). Well, here goes; a short story draft starring characters from one of my ‘desk drawer’ novels.

Elliot pulled the sinew comfortably past his cheek and released. Within half a second the doe was dead. Clearing his mind of everything but the arrow he willed it to dislodge itself and speed back to into his quiver. He grabbed the deer’s body and slung it over his shoulder with his first kill while the arrow settled comfortably back into the quiver of its own accord. He then quickly returned home to his father’s old hunter’s post and gave one of the deer to his mother and then ran into town with the other.
“I propose 20 shillings,” he said heaving the animal onto the counter in the butcher’s shop.
The butcher looked over the doe. “Ah, Elliot. Hmm, well she’s rather skinny… How about 15—”
That won’t do.
Elliot allowed the butcher’s words to blend together into a background hum and focused all of his energy on the chicken corpse on the wall behind him. After willing it to heat up for a couple seconds it complied and burst into flames.
“--Oh my!” The butcher turned and fanned at the fire.
“So that would be 21 shillings then?” Elliot called.
“Yes, yes!” The butcher threw the money to the counter, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Get out of here boy unless you’re going to be of help!”
Elliot smiled and ran from the shop.
“That was quite a show.”
He spun around to find William Turnchain leaning against the shop wall watching him. He had to take deep breath to prevent himself from immediately lunging at and attacking the noble. That had gotten him into more than enough trouble before.
“Everyone haggles,” Elliot said.
“Not with fire.”
Elliot proceeded as if he hadn’t heard him, “At least, normal people do. I don’t expect you to understand that not everyone’s largest worry is what they’re going to wear to their next festivity.”
William moved forward from the wall, “Actually, my current unease lies with the man that you just cheated.”
“Says the man who’s cheated my family for years!”
“Is there a reason why I wasn’t invited to this lovely get-together?” Charlotte had arrived; bringing a promise for punishment if they’d been conflicting. “Fighting again are we?” she whispered scornfully.
Elliot stared at the ground, control your temper, yelling won’t solve anything. Getting Charlotte involved will only make things worse…
William took another step forward, “He just used magic to cheat another man out of money.”
Charlotte laughed, “Ah, the futile pursuits the inexperienced use their powers for.”
Though they were common around Charlotte and he should’ve merely forced himself to handle it, Elliot allowed her boast to fuel the monster raging in his chest. Her stubborn superiority complex was now William’s fault and though he recognized its impossibility, Elliot accepted this as fact.
“You two are supposed to be training,” Charlotte continued, “you shouldn’t be out here pretending you already know what you’re doing.” She laughed and handed them each a book on basic magical theory, “At your current level you couldn’t even hope beat me together.” She then grabbed their shoulders and steered them up to the tower.
Once they had all settled down in the library Elliot was pleased to find that his pages turned much more frequently than the spoiled nobleman’s. Clearly, money wasn’t everything. This triumph was short however, for soon William’s eyes were on Elliot more than the book and his pages began turning more frequently. Elliot copied this action until the words he skimmed began to take no meaning at all.
“You’re not even reading,” William accused.
“Neither are you.”
William shut the book and glared at Elliot. He forced a look of calm amusement on his face and returned the look.
Charlotte sighed. “Do you even care about your training? Not everyone’s a complete natural you know…”
Elliot ignored her reminiscence of how perfect she was when learning—as he had about memorized most of the stories by now—and instead her words from his recruitment echoed in his head: “Training in magic could help your family; imagine what you’ve been able to do since you’ve discovered your powers and magnify it with proper magic training.”
“I wouldn’t need the training if it weren’t for him.” Elliot muttered through clenched teeth but he returned to the book.
With systems of general magical principles and methods swimming through his head he barely heard the yells from the entrance chamber below. He was thrust back into reality when Charlotte stood and ran from the room. William and Elliot dropped their books and followed her.
Midway down the staircase a mage stopped them, “Arethian soldiers… completely by surprise…” He collapsed.
“You two, back to the library,” Charlotte said without even turning.
“We’re not coming with you?”
Elliot rolled his eyes; William was upset about not getting what he wanted for once.
“Of course not.” Charlotte’s tone held finality, she continued down the staircase without even a glance backwards.
Elliot shared a quick look with William before they both rushed after her.
The men now crowding the hall wore blue and black uniforms to signify their Arethien loyalty. Some carried court swords or sabers, others had no weapons and therefore probably had magical skill, and two—wearing slightly different uniforms to signify superiority--held guns.
A few mages stood before the staircase enforcing a dome of energy that seemed to be holding off the soldiers.
“Odds are far against us,” a wizard mustered as they approached.
“Ah, but you have me now,” Charlotte said, “You’re wasting your energy keeping this thing up; they’re going to break it eventually, let’s fight now!”
The mages nodded and as the energy shield dissipated they rushed at the soldiers.
Elliot focused in on one of the gunmen and willed a tile behind him to rise. Clenching his fist, he broke the stone into many pieces and with a forward thrust of his fingers sent them speeding toward the gunmen. With stones repeatedly pelting the man he lost focus and was easily overcome by Charlotte’s energy blast.
“Well I feel weak.”
Elliot glared at William for disrupting his concentration.
“We are barely assisting the others.”
“We’re new to this, our magic isn’t exactly powerful.”
“Look at them, we are of no help.” William shook his head, “Some are not even using magic…”
Elliot followed William’s gaze to the battle. Charlotte had taken out both gunmen before they could get in a shot and a nearby pair of mages were dancing around the other army men’s strokes to easily assault their weak spots with daggers.
“They’ve obviously had experience.” Elliot knew the finality in his voice would keep the brat from speaking again and focused in on another man.
Charlotte took the man down before Elliot had fully formed his concentration. He sighed and instead concentrated on his hands, willing fire to form between them like he’d seen Charlotte do before. He smiled as a spark grew into a small ball of fire. Elliot looked up just in time to thrust the ball at an enemy before Charlotte could reach him.
Charlotte nodded to him but fell to her knees. Elliot rushed to her and could hear William behind him.
“I’m fine…! You two shouldn’t be down here.” The former remark was easily recognizable as a lie for her robes alone were torn in many places and soaked with blood.
Elliot turned just in time to see William cast a small shield charm to ward off an incoming mace; the blow forced him backwards into the wall. Elliot stunned the man and kicked him over. Returning his focus to the battle he noticed that of the few mages present, only two were still conscious and fending off the six remaining soldiers.
With a powerful sleep charm one knocked out a soldier but was overcome seconds later by another. The last mage was distracted by his companion’s collapse and was easily also knocked out.
The remaining men turned to face Elliot and William and as one moved in towards them.
“William get up—” When Elliot turned the noble was already standing and was starting to spin air around his fingertips. “Charlotte…?”
Charlotte responded with a quick blast that crippled one of the men. Her eyes, which had become fierce, then glazed over and she too fell unconscious.
The four remaining soldiers were seconds from them but being delayed by repeated shots of wind magic from William. “What do we do?” William asked.
“If you would be quiet I could figure that out!”
“I cannot… hold them off… anymore!” William grunted.
“…At your current level you couldn’t even hope beat me together.”
“You can’t.” Elliot confirmed shifting his focus to the air around him, he forced it to spin, to gain speed, and then at the oncoming soldiers.
As the Arethians fought against the air between them and the remaining mages, Elliot stole a glance at William.
He’s just as much wizard as I am, Elliot looked back at the soldiers, And I can’t pretend this isn’t working…
Elliot abruptly loosed his control on the wind.
“What are you—”
“Let it go. We finish them now, together.”
Elliot formed a small fireball between his hands. “Help me!”
William turned to him and added his own energy to the growing orb and as the first sabre slashed towards them they thrust it at the soldiers. The resulting blast knocked them both into the wall where they watched the last of the soldiers fall before the world swirled into darkness.

* * *
Charlotte peered down at him.
“Now you’re stalking me at home…?”
William’s face joined hers.
“What are you—!”
But Elliot’s initial anger at the sight of William was soon replaced by an unexpected calm excitement as the events of the night before came back to him.
Elliot sat up to find that he was not at home but in an upstairs room of the tower. He turned to Charlotte “You’re alright.”
She smirked. “Everyone is. You amateurs did something right, congratulations.”
Elliot stood and awkwardly shook William’s hand. “Er… thanks.”
William pulled him into a hug. “We did it!”

Friday, April 27, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: Polished

Yep, like many others, I ran out of time for a fresh story, so I pulled out an old manuscript I started three years ago. I'd only gotten three or four chapters into it and then...forgot about it. After sprucing up this chapter, I realized I still kind of like the story. And I hope you do too.


The smooth diamonds my mother placed around my neck felt like shards of ice on my skin.  I repressed a shudder, knowing she wouldn’t be pleased at my reaction to the vise she’d just clasped shut. My satin-gloved fingers gripped the back of the chair instead, the feel of the solid wood beneath them the only anchor I had to keep myself from reaching up and yanking off my royal collar.
My mother was still standing behind me, her eyes appraising my appearance in the mirror with no more warmth than when she inspected her liveried footman.  I realized I was holding my breath, hoping that the multitude of jewels adorning my neck, wrists and encrusted in my tiara would be enough.  Surely the queen herself had never worn so much wealth on her person at one time.
 “Your father and I will be observing your performance.”  She placed a hand on my shoulder and pushed me into the chair. I averted my eyes so she would not see me flinch at the contact. “Your entrance is in a half-hour.  Do not move until then.”
I didn’t bother responding. She’d already left the room.
I lifted my eyes and stared at my dress, at its endless yards of snow white silk. Satin ribbon had been laced and gathered in strategic places, concealing every part of me that offended my mother. Except my face.  She could do nothing more than send Renee, her lady’s maid, to arrange my hair, and instruct her to hide as much of my sallow cheeks and dull eyes as possible. In the end I was pleased with how much I didn’t look like myself.
I fingered the soft material on my skirt--it seemed to billow out and drag the floor, but my mother had the seamstress hem it just far enough to ensure that I wouldn’t trip. How many dresses had I torn with my careless feet? I was sure to flop onto the dance floor like a speared fish.
My mother never walked at all, or so she told me. She floated above the floor, a flawless portrait of an English lady, her kid slippers skimming the ground.
Taking long breaths, I calmed my mind as I’d done a thousand times before when faced with a threat by my mother.  But tonight was the night she had prepared me for my entire life and I couldn’t quite seem to enter that place in my mind that kept me safe from her icy voice and her painful whip.  The recently doctored lash wounds on my back began to sting anew.  They’d been well placed, low enough that my gown hid them well. 
I glanced at the clock.  She would be here in five minutes to take me to meet my fiancé, a man I’d never met.  As with everything with my mother, it was about power.  My thoughts, my desires, my dreams had never been a consideration.  But then again, I didn’t think I’d ever been young enough to have any of those.
“Come, Abigail.  It’s time.”  Taller than I by an inch or two, my mother seemed to fill the room with her presence.  Her deep blue satin gown matched the color of her eyes perfectly, drawing attention to her flawless ivory skin, long black eyelashes and white-blond hair. 
The sound of a merry orchestra and spirited voices reached me as I followed my mother’s gliding figure down the hallway.  When we approached the end of the cold stone corridor, I saw my papa waiting, a rare smile on his face that reminded me of a time I’d nearly forgotten. A time when my mother used to hold him as though she were the sail and he the mast of a ship headed out of a storm. Did he know how far we’d turned around, the three of us? How heavy our cargo? 
He extended his hand and took my right one in both of his.  Giving me a smile that made his brown eyes lighten, he leaned over and whispered, “Are you ready, little Acorn?  You look stunning.”
But the memory of our former life and even my papa’s spark of happiness failed to warm me.  “Of course, papa.” 
“Abigail,” my mother hissed into my ear.  “Straighten up.”  She pinched my arm hard and I snapped upwards, throwing my shoulders back and raising my chin just enough to provide a satisfactory profile. 
With my gaze held high, I couldn’t miss the haughty dais that rose in the distance, visible even through the crowd. A solitary figure presided on a center throne while another milled close by.
Any minute now, I would be taken to meet him.  The man who now owned me.  The reason I’d been hidden away and polished until nothing original remained.
Two tall, well-built soldiers appeared in front of us, stern looks on their nearly identical faces.  Both wore their hair unfashionably short-cropped, their uniforms neat and pressed in spite of the crush.
“Miss Winter?” one asked in a clipped tone.
My mother took my elbow, pinching me again.  I relaxed my facial muscles into a smile and nodded. 
“Come with us please.”  The nearest soldier bowed and offered me his arm. 
I glanced over at my mother.  She waved me on.  Placing my hand lightly on his arm, I shuffled beside him while his companion parted the crowds in front of us.  In spite of my situation, I couldn’t help feeling a bit of comfort at the soldiers’ confident, precise maneuvers, protecting me from the throng. 
After a few moments, the orchestra ceased playing and the room began to quiet.  Faces turned toward us, numberless and unsmiling, and I wanted to flinch and hide. I’d never seen so many people in the sum of my life, much less in one room.
My throat began to close up. Only the soldier’s unwavering pace kept my head just above water, reminding me to swim.
My mother pressed her hand into my back, pushing me into a glide, her rose-scented perfume descending upon me in a warning. The last of the crowd parted and I caught my first glimpse of my fiancé.  I nearly stumbled, my mother catching me just in time.  The prince stood tall and proud at the queen’s side, his hand resting on the back of her throne.  He wore a navy blue uniform, decorated with medals I’d learned he’d earned on his own merit in the battle field, along with insignias appropriate to his rank.  But it was his face that caught and held my attention, it was so ordinary.  Eyes brown as mud, hair like a sandy beach and a nose unfashionably large.
             The room had gone completely silent now, awaiting the queen’s reaction to me, the newcomer. All the years my mother spent training me could vanish with a wave of her hand.

             I followed my mother into a deep curtsy, ignoring the whalebones in my corset digging into my hips. I kept my chin down, my eyes on the marble floor, though it swirled below me and threatened to swallow me whole.

            “Miss Winter, you may rise,” the queen’s voice carried just a hint of surprise.

             I straightened up as gracefully as possible, though I dared not meet her gaze. What about me alarmed her Majesty? If my appearance caused a queen reputed for her composure to reveal any kind of emotion, than I must surely be tossed back into the sea, too small and unworthy a fish for the royal pond. I ached to flee, my chest rising and falling painfully within the confines of my tight corset.

           “Miss Winter,” the queen said as she patted her son’s hand, “my son, his Royal Highness Prince Bryant Kenton Westbrook.”

            I dropped a curtsy, surprising myself at the steadiness in my legs.

          “You certainly do that very well,” his Royal Highness said with raised eyebrows. His mother unsuccessfully hid a smile behind a gloved hand.

           I stiffened even further. The courtiers behind me tittered.

          “Oh don’t tease her Bryant. Show her that you do possess polished manners and ask her to dance,” she said.

           His Royal Highness descended from the dais, snapped at the orchestra and extended his hand in a slight bow. “May I have the honor, Miss Winter?”

           Clearly I had been mistaken in my ideas of boring, repressed royalty. They were more like cruel cats, teasing their prey. I placed my gloved hand in his and nodded my ascent. His fingers tightened on mine as he led me to the center of the now cleared dance floor. I hoped that my sweaty palms hadn’t soaked through the silk. His Royal Highness placed his other hand firmly on my waist and pulled me into a waltz, holding me at a very proper distance. Charm him, my mother’s voice warned inside my head. Compliment him. Lie, but do it well.

           As the prince picked up the beat and led me forward, the still open sores on my back sent pain shivering through me.

          “Cold, little Winter girl?” he asked.

           I lifted the corners of my mouth and dropped the whip behind me. Lie. Charm him. “Not in your arms, your Highness.”

           He laughed and it sounded hard and dark, as though he the sound came easily and often from him. “Don’t do that, Winter girl.”

          “Pardon?” My smile withered.

          “I hardly expect you to even be civil with me. You had no more choice in this than I.” His gaze remained somewhere over my right shoulder, as though the conversation meant as little to him as what stockings he wore.

          CHARM HIM. I could hear her voice scream in that low, quiet manner of hers. “That’s very true. But I had hoped we could at least … be friends.”

          He glanced briefly at me. “Allies cannot afford to be friends, Miss Winter.”

          The fire in my back burned hotter. “Not even when they share the same quarters?” I asked softly.

          His hand tightened in mine. “Not even when their marriage prevents a war.”

All copyrights retained by the author and all that.

Tiffany rants about YA fiction on her blog, Scribble by Moonlight, while finishing her third manuscript--a Steampunk superhero novel. Her first book, Elemental, is available on Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: The Hidden Hero

by Erin Shakespear
*The fear devouring Thomas’s stomach and the thick heat of the night combined their forces against him until he was drenched in sweat. And wearing a scratchy ski mask to hide his face didn't help the situation.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sardines, the burly kid who always smelled like fish scowled at Thomas as the group of boys quietly moved through the shadowy remains of the ruined stores and shops. Traveling through the city's carcass was safest if you could stay off the streets.
Thomas stared at his feet. What was he supposed to say?  Something like, “Oh, nothing much. It’s just that ever since those Mole People tunneled up from the center of the Earth and enslaved mankind, I’ve been a little jumpy. And sneaking into one of their Mole Hills to steal food and weapons isn’t my idea of a fun night out.” Instead he said nothing. 
Sardines whispered loudly, “Why did we bring along mushbrains?”
Thomas wondered the same thing.
Gage stopped and stared at Sardines.  The rest of the boys did, too.  “What was that?” Gage, the leader of the Resistance, was only thirteen, but he had plans to overthrow the Mole People’s rule and save the world. At least, that's what The Golden Prophecy said would happen. And who were they to argue with a prophecy?
Sardines glanced at Thomas. “I, well, that is…he’s useless. He’s just gonna get us killed. Or worse.”
Thomas didn’t want to think about, “Or worse.”
Gage narrowed his eyes at Sardines. “I didn't want to bring him either. But we need the supplies. So, are you volunteering to fill and carry back four packs yourself?”
Everyone in the raiding party had two packs thrown over their shoulders. Thomas adjusted his, wishing Sardines would say yes.
But the obnoxious kid scowled. “There wouldn’t be time.”
“Exactly.” Gage glanced at Thomas.
Thomas looked away. He didn’t need to see the disappointment in his brother’s eyes. He got enough of that from everyone else. Thomas and Gage were identical twins, but were still as different as Sardines and a kid who showered.
Gage was a hero. Thomas was useless.
The group continued on, stealthily moving through the destroyed buildings until they reached what was once downtown. Sitting in a dark alley, the boys stared at the largest Mole Hill Thomas had ever seen. Thomas took in the giant mound of debris, at least ten stories tall, made up of broken cars, chunks of concrete, loads of dirt and gravel and pieces of buildings. Inside the hill, the Mole People made a maze of tunnels and rooms. The fear in Thomas's stomach threatened to crawl up his throat and escape as a scream.
“This is simple,” Gage said. “Just follow us.” He motioned to the two boys next to him. “Get out your flashlights. Stay close. We’ll find their storage room, stuff our packs and get out. Let’s go.”
Thomas made his feet move along with the group, wishing he was back in their hideout  But everything went according to Gage’s plan. At first.
They moved through the Mole Hill’s tunnels undetected, found the storage room and began filling their packs with fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and laser guns.
Swinging his full packs onto his shoulders, Thomas turned to find Gage standing nearby. “Great job, bro,” he whispered.
Thomas blinked in surprise. Gage never risked someone finding out Thomas was his brother, which was why Thomas had to wear the ski mask. Everyone thought he had a scar he was embarrassed about. But the truth was, it was Gage who had something to be embarrassed about.
“Um, yeah…thanks.” Thomas looked at Gage, surprised to see his brother smiling at him.
“I’m glad you came.”
Thomas nodded. He was about to say, “Me, too.” But then something caught his eye. He swung his flashlight around and pointed it at the entrance to the storage room.
A strange brown creature with sharp claws and scaly brown skin filled the arch. He spread his arms out and opened his mouth wide, turning his head toward Thomas.
“No!” shouted Gage as he threw himself in front of Thomas just as a stream of spit shot from the Mole Person's mouth, hitting Gage in the chest.
The other boys rushed the strange creature. It managed to squirt three of them before the others took him down.  Thomas dropped to his knees by Gage’s side. Gage gave Thomas a small smile, but he didn’t move to get up. The toxic poison had begun its work. In five minutes Gage would be completely paralyzed.
“Thomas,” Gage mumbled.
            “Someone help!” Thomas shouted as the other boys escaped into the tunnel.  
             Thomas grabbed Gage’s arms, intending to drag him to safety.
            “Thomas,” Gage said again. "You have to go." 
            Pulling Gage toward the tunnel entrance, Thomas ignored his brother. 
            “Thomas!” Gage shouted. 
            Thomas shook his head.
            “You know… the…the prophecy?”  Gage asked.
            Thomas wanted to laugh. “That’s like asking, “Hey, did you know you have hands? Of course. We all know who the hero of the family is.”
            “No….you don’t!”
In the distance, Thomas heard a dull thumping.
Gage continued. His voice slurring as he spoke rapidly. “I knew. I knew the truth. But I thought I could do it. I thought I could protect you.” Thomas tuned his brother's rambling out as he tried to run. But  he tripped, finding himself on the ground by Gage.
The footsteps grew louder. “Hey! Who’s there?” a voice whispered loudly. It was Sardines.
Thomas moved to get to his feet. His brother said, “It’s me, Gage.” He ripped the ski mask from Thomas’s face and kicked him toward the boys who came back.
A light blinded Thomas’s eyes.
“It’s him,” said a voice. The boys snatched Thomas under his arms. They pulled him down the tunnel. Louder footsteps filled the air. Mole People. 
"Stop!" Thomas shouted. He fought the arms dragging him away from his brother. But as they left the Mole Hill, Sardines asked, "Who was that back there?" 
Gage's words finally sunk into Thomas's shocked brain. “The prophecy was about you. You're the hero. You have to save the world!” 
"Come on, Gage." Sardines said as they ducked down the dark alley and started their journey back to the hideout. "Who got spit on?" 
"It was..." Thomas closed his eyes. He thought of his brother and their broken world. He thought of the prophecy. And he knew what he had to do, who he had to become. "It was Thomas."

 You can read more of Erin's nutty ramblings at her blog.

* I learned something important while writing this. It is really really hard to write a short story. Especially if you do it at the last minute and stay up really late. For example, let's say, 2:30 in the morning....hmmmm....I'm hoping this at least kind of makes sense...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories:
The Borogove Imperative

by Deren Hansen

T'was brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe—always a bad sign. Somehow the toves know trouble's coming.

The sundial in the wabe showed four o'clock. I was thinking about what to broil for dinner—not many options, the cupboard was bare—when the mop I grabbed squawked.

I hate borogoves—miserable birds.

This one, its thin, wheedling voice more annoying than usual, said that while the feeling was mutual he needed me to do a job—seems he and his fellows were all mimsy.

A job's a job—and broiled borogove eggs are pretty good, if you hold your nose just right.

The borogoves' rookery was overrun with raths—mome raths my erstwhile employer assured me, because the green pigs certainly didn't belong in his neighborhood.

I hate raths, too.

Oh, they're cute enough until they outgrabe—something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of a sneeze in the middle— and this lot were in full chorus. I could see why the birds were angry.

The borogove ruffled his already disheveled feathers. “Are you going to do anything about these things?” he asked as he aimed a kick in a particularly vocal rath nearby.

I was anxious to leave. “Let's find out why they came.”

It wasn't hard to follow the rath spore—they'd stampeded into the borogove rookery. A short stump over hill and through dale brought us to a tumble-down rath farm.

An old father—William was his name—rocked on the porch, grinning and humming to himself.

“Oh, the cheer,” grumbled the borogove, “it's more than I can stand.”

“Your raths, they’re mome,” I said, trying to be personable. It didn't come easy. “Why did you let them get away from home?”

William opened one eye wide and squinted at me through the other. “They didn't get away, but were driven, I say.”

His fences were down and there were some awfully big claw prints in the mud of the rath pens.

“Driven?” I took a half step back.

The borogove pressed his beak into the small of my back. “Remember, we have a deal,” he said.

Someday I'll learn to ask more questions before taking a case.

Father William jumped up and thrust his nose between my eyes. “Beware the jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!” He thumped my chest with his pudgy index finger. “Beware the jubjub bird, and shun the frumious bandersnatch!”

I clapped my hand over my eyes and pulled it down my face. “Where's young William?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

The old father chortled. “He took his vorpal sword in hand!”

“We've got a quester.” I growled at the borogove. “My fee just went up.”

“Long time the manxome foe he sought,” Father William called after us as I sprinted up the old forest path. The borogove flapped along glumly beside me.

It wasn’t hard to follow Young William’s trail. All the pine, ash, birch, and larch, within easy reach of the trail, and about the same diameter as a fat neck, had been felled or cloven with a single vorpal stoke—the sort of thing that makes a young man cocky enough to forget that a jabberwock isn’t as polite as a tree when it comes to standing still for a beheading.

I pushed on as fast as I could, but each severed tree we passed whittled away my hopes of finding Young William before he was nothing more than a red stain on the bottom of a bandersnatch’s foot or something a jabberwock might try to pick out of his teeth with the vorpal sword.

At long last we came out of the wood and found Young William standing under the lone Tumtum tree in the middle of the meadow, rubbing his chin and entirely lost in thought.

I didn't care a fig for his uffish thought and was about to give him what for when the borogove croaked.

There was something burbling through the trees at an unnerving clip.

I grabbed the miserable bird and ducked behind a stout oak as the jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

The boy just stood there as the beast crashed into the open and roared half the leaves off the Tumtum tree.

I couldn’t stand it and shouted, “Hey you idiot—”

That shook Young William out of his reverie.

It’s also, apparently, the worst possible thing to say to a jabberwock.

“If you need me,” the borogove squawked, “which shouldn't be for much longer, I’ll be in the Tumtum tree.”

He flapped away, a blur of feathers and impossibly long legs, as the jabberwock swung toward me.

“One, two! One, two! And through and through!” Young William shouted. Suddenly he and his sword were everywhere, and then the vorpal blade went snicker-snack.

The jabberwock never stood a chance. It was all over before the borogove reached the Tumtum tree.

“Thanks mate,” the lad said between ragged breaths.

“Me? Why?”

“You distracted it.”

I poked the carcass a few times. There was definitely one less jabberwocky in the tulgey wood tonight. We left it dead, and with its head we went galumphing back.

“And, hast thou slain the jabberwock?” Old Father William cried as we marched up to his hovel with the severed head of the beast. “Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” he chortled in his joy.

I elbowed the borogove. “They'll round up the stray raths in no time. Now about my payment?”

The borogove sighed and shook his head. “Strictly speaking, Young William solved the actual problem.” He ruffled his feathers and tried to look glum. “I'm not sure your fee is appropriate.”

I hate borogoves.

It took the better part of the next day—and the assistance of both the walrus and the carpenter—to get things sorted out to everyone's mutual dissatisfaction.

Back at my wabe-side office, I looked out at the sundial. T'was brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe—always a bad sign ...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: My Heart Left Empty

My Heart Left Empty
By Sharee Garcia

            I look at the deserted newspaper through the glass. Just like he would have left it. Discarded. Useless after the sports section had been devoured, and his coffee was nothing but a brown semicircle in the bottom of the cup.

My chest hurts. The smell of coffee does that to me now, sends a lingering pain through me. A persistent ache. I try to avoid it now, the smell of coffee, but today I’m in the mood for punishment. I gaze steadily at the abandoned paper, smelling the coffee, feeling the pain, remembering the smell of the rain on his skin, the way he would rub his cheek when he was concentrating, the jingle of his keys that day. Faces glide past me in the glass, the passage of time etched in images.

I watch as an employee picks up the newspaper, wipes off the table, pushes in the chair. My cheeks are wet. I brush them quickly with my shirtsleeve as I turn to go. I glance back over my shoulder and see my reflection ghost out of the glass.

Monday, April 23, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: Cramming

Poetry by Caitlyn Byers

I’ve got to focus, got to focus!
Okay, deep breath. So it’s nine
at night and I have a test in
tomorrow and
I haven’t
one bit, but I can do this!
a2 + b2= nigún. No, it’s
i before e except after c2.
Teddy Roosevelt was a stuffed toy,
no, the toy was named after him and Roosevelt
“ain’t nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time!”
How did that get on to my study playlist?
Roosevelt was
el presidente por la Estados Unidos,
and proved that an object in
motion stays in motion unless
it needed some food.
I’m starving! Dinner was forever ago.
Shoot! No wonder I’m hungry, it’s
eleven already.
Brain food, brain food,
Fish! Fish is a brain food.
Why didn’t I buy fishsticks?
Smarties! Don’t I have any
Smarties? Or Lucky Charms?
Maybe I should go to bed and
put my book under my pillow.
I’ve heard that works…
Okay, focus!
Need to write that paper on
Browning and Shelly,
or was it Seuss?
I’ll figure it out later.
In conclusion, poetry is
an art that will continue to flourish
unless acted upon by
an outside force like
the radius of a

or something like that.
Look at the time!
Morning already.
Got to get to class,
got to get to class,
don’t forget the scantron, and
the all important
#2 pencil.
Made it! Test time!
I’m ready! I know everything!
I know… (yawn) I…I know…

Check out Caitlyn's blog: "Random Thoughts From Caitlynville" at

Saturday, April 21, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: Jerusalem

Judith Torres

Every inch of earth,
In this sacred, Holy Land,
Holds a seed which is our future,
A past in root and sand.

My roots sink deep within the earth,
And tap the wisdom of the past.
My trunk holds stories in their rings,
Of this day, and of last.

My twigs grow into branches,
And send leaves that shimmer in the wind,
As though to listen to each word,
And catch each tale you send.

History lives within my roots,
Deep within this hallowed ground.
Each life and time so sacred,
Where all are safe and sound.

So please, send your stories on to me,
I beckon to the earth,
And I will place them safely in my trunk,
And tell all, of each your worth.

When I grow tired and need to rest,
I drop my leaves and sleep,
Nourished by your history,
Ever hopeful, yet for peace.

My blossoms waken me each spring,
In joy they call with color,
In voice they sing with scent.
New stories come to me, my flowers seem to holler.

So live your lives,
And worry not what future lies,
It’s held within my seed.
I will hold you one and all, as time goes marching by.

And if you ask me where this story came,
I will tell you, “I caught it on the wind,
As it went whizzing by, on way to leaf and tree,
I reached up to interrupt, and caught it with my pen.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: goldie@gary'

by Mary Ann Duke

Chapter One
I think that I’m like a box of Cracker Jacks. Lots of pieces/parts that are sweet, a little bit nutty at times, and if you dig deep into my heart, you might find a prize. That’s how I feel, today, anyway, about me, myself, and I.

             “Watch out! Dog poop!” I yelled as my brother, Todd, bounded through Mrs. Carter’s yard toward her front doorsteps.
            Todd braked his speedy feet, but his lanky body didn’t slow. “Dang it, Ashley, why didn’t you warn me sooner? Some’s on my new tennis shoe.” Todd hobbled to the side of the yard, into taller grass and scrubbed his spoiled shoe in high, thick blades. “You’d think people who loved dogs would keep their place cleaner,” Todd said.
            I tiptoed around the stinky, brown mound. “Yuck, it’s reeking stronger. You stirred it good,” I said. I pinched my nose.
My BFF, Karen said, “Ashley, remember my weak stomach? Why’d you invite me?” Karen skirted the heap of feces, stood behind my back and buried her nose in my shoulder.
            “I didn’t know. Never been to their house before. But, I know you love puppies.”
            Today was my brother’s 12th birthday. We’d been to the mall, buying his new Reeboks and now we were about to get him his other present—a puppy.
            Karen unburied her nose from my shoulder and said, “I know that Mrs. Carter breeds Lhasa Apsos, but isn’t her son that creepy guy that works at the gas station near your house?”
            “Yeah, he’s the one. His name is Chase. People call him Chase “Chasing Cars” Carter,” Todd said, as he strode from the grassy area and sidled up beside Karen."
            I quit pinching my nose and sucked a breath before speaking. “He is one weird duck. When we buy gas there he…”
            Mom interrupted, “Shhh, they might hear you inside.”
            Karen said, “How come y’all are getting this dog for free? I thought they charged $400 or more for ‘em.”
            The four of us stepped with caution as we moved closer to the Carter house, hoping to prevent stepping in any unfortunate piles. Todd told Karen, “This puppy is not purebred. It’s a Lhasa and Poodle mix. It’s a female and we heard she was giving it away. If it’s free, it is for me.”
Todd walked up the front steps and reached out to ring the doorbell. Before he pressed the button the door swung wide and there stood Chase Carter. His hair hung in greasy, limp, strands. He wore dirty blue jeans and a wrinkled, blue plaid shirt. The top two buttons were unbuttoned. A rawhide string around his neck had a peace symbol and a rabbit’s foot hanging from it. He scowled at Todd. Then, he fixed his gaze on me. I felt uncomfortable as he kept staring. I put my hands in the pockets of my short and scrunched my shoulders up close to my ears. I sometimes do that when I feel embarrassed. What the heck? It’s Saturday afternoon. Why isn’t he working at the gas station? I wondered. I decided it must be his the day off.
Todd stood on one foot and then the other. He shoved his hands in his pockets, (must be a family trait) cleared his throat and said, “We came about the dog.”
Chase Carter pointed his bony finger in Todd’s face. “What dog? We ain’t got no dogs for sale. She only had one pup and it’s not right; not purebred. The mama got away from us and got in trouble.”
Mom spoke up, “I talked with Mrs. Carter, uh…your mom, on the phone. She said we could come over. She’s giving us that puppy.”
“She what?” Chase Carter’s face fired red. He sneered at Mom, stared freakish at me again, and then turned and stormed off into a back room. We heard loud voices but couldn’t understand any words that were exchanged.
A few moments later plump, middle-aged Mrs. Carter appeared. Wiping her hands on her faded navy blue apron and tucking strands of graying hair behind her ear, she said, “Come with me. The dogs are around back.”
Mom, Todd, Karen and I followed Mrs. Carter down the steps and into the yard. We tromped through grass that needed mowing and stepped around rusty, broken lawn chairs. We were careful to look for more poop, but didn’t find 
any. On the back porch, in a cardboard box, we found Todd’s new puppy and the Lhasa mother.
            “Oh, look, Ashley. She’s so cute,” Karen said. I agreed.
            Todd picked her up and nuzzled her neck. “Hey there, sweet girl,” he said. “You’re coming home with me.”
            Mom said, “Mrs. Carter, I can’t thank you enough for giving us this puppy. It’s a wonderful addition to our family, and a great birthday gift for my son.” She pointed to Todd who was completely engrossed in loving the puppy.
            “You’re welcome, Ma’m. I just can’t keep feedin’ something that ain’t gonna bring in no money.”
            Todd left the porch, strolled around the side of the house toward the car, carefully clutching his new pet. Mom gave Mrs. Carter $20.00 toward buying food for the mother Lhasa. As we backed out of the Carter’s yard I saw 
Chase peering out the front window. I thought I saw him make a rude gesture with his finger.
                                    ***                              ***                              ***
            Rattle, Clunk, Bang.
“Oh no, the church air conditioner has conked out again,” I whispered to Karen. Everyone sweated, even our Sunday School teacher.
 “It doesn’t believe in working on the Sabbath,” Karen said.
Rivulets oozed from my brow and flowed past my ear onto my already wet neck. The room was filled with various shapes and sizes of 12 year-olds, squirming, murmuring and fanning. The AC was not cooperating this Sunday morning.
“I’m sweltering,” yelled one curly-headed, hairy chested, heavyset boy who seemed to find any opportunity to interrupt the lesson. He made a show of loosening his tie and unbuttoning his shirt. That’s how I know he was hairy chested.
My mouth gaped at this exposure “Holy Cow,” I said when I found my voice. The teacher’s eyebrows raised, but she ignored him and me.
“You ain’t got muscles, nor tight abs, neither, so don’t be tryin’ to show ‘em,” yelled Richard, the teacher’s son. The teacher ignored him, too. She had more patience than Job.
Next, a tall, lanky boy stood and took off his tie, but he didn’t open his shirt. Instead, he took three Goliath strides that landed him at the window on the south wall. “Mrs. Zimmer, can I pull back these curtains and raise this window? It’s beginning to smells like pig sweat in here,” he said.
Wincing, Mrs. Zimmer said, “Okay, but, it might be a humid, barely-there breeze.” She tucked a hunk of brown, damp hair behind her ear.
The lanky boy yanked the drapes aside. The window seemed stuck, but with a loud grunt and strain from the tall one, it finally raised.
A smidgeon of air circulated, but I wiggled and struggled to pay attention to Mrs. Zimmer’s lesson about how we should uh… yikeswhat? My mind was not on the lesson, nor humidity, nor the noisy classmates. It was on Clover.
            “Ashley, how can you show kindness to someone at school? Mrs. Zimmer’s voice jolted me out of my thoughts about Clover.
            “Well… uh…”More sweat beads popped out on my forehead—which wasn’t difficult in Florida with a broken air conditioner.
                  “I know,” Karen raised her hand and shouted. Karen was my best friend at school and church, always had good answers so I was happy that she was taking the teacher’s focus from me. “You can smile when you’re walking down the hall at school, even if your classmates are not. A smile can cheer people,” Karen said.
            “Yes,” said Mrs. Zimmer as she took a tissue from her black leather purse and wiped water beads from her brow. “That is another way to be kind. You never know when someone is having a bad day and a smile might be the thing that will boost them up.”
It seemed to me that Karen smiled perpetually and was always in a good mood, so I wasn’t surprised at her answer. She was the prettiest girl in our class with long, naturally curly, auburn hair. I wished my straight blonde braids were history and that I had curly reddish-hair like Karen. “Be happy you’re healthy,” my mom told me a hundred times. I was trying. Karen stood tall and curvy, whereas I was a shortie with no cute curves to speak of. But, I was happy that I was healthy.
Karen grabbed my arm and shoved it upwards, like I was raising my hand to answer. “Ashley has one,” she said. Although I wasn’t shy, and I often raised my hand, I couldn’t concentrate on the “kindness to people” lesson that day. The stifling heat was not the only reason.
            “Yes, Ashley?” Mrs. Zimmer closed the lesson manual and waited for my answer.
            Nervously, I twirled my braid. “Well, uh, uhmmm…we got a new dog. Actually my brother, Todd, got her for his 10th birthday yesterday. Y’all know that I got a cell phone when it was my birthday and …”
The tall, lanky boy said, “Yeah, we all know about your cell phone ‘cause you text everybody in the world, so what?”
I ignored him and continued babbling. “Todd got this dog from the dog breeder, Mrs. Carter. She’s the mother of that guy that works at the gas station near our house, Chase Carter. You know Chase Carter?  Him and his mama breed Lhasa Apsos but this one is a mix—a Lhasa-Poo.” I felt silly broadcasting private details. Motor Mouth, that was me.
            “So, your answer to Mrs. Zimmer’s question is what?” Richard asked.
“Mrs. Zimmer, you say? What don’t you call her Mother? I’m going to answer your mother’s question, Richard. Give me time,” I said. “Since this dog wasn’t a pure breed they couldn’t sell it for a good price. So, it was our good luck to get her. We named her Clover and, uh…I can be kind to Todd and help him give Clover baths, feed and water her and stuff.”
            “Yes, being kind to ones siblings is very important in helping to create a happy home,” Mrs. Zimmer said with a smile. I thought my answer was good. I was on a roll.
            “Yup, and being kind to animals is good, too. God created all the animals,” I blurted out and then felt redness creeping up my neck and face.
            It was time for church to be over and I couldn’t wait to get home and see Clover. Mrs. Zimmer ended the lesson with a few concluding remarks and asked, “Ashley, would you give the closing prayer?”
“Yes, Ma’m.” As I stood and folded my arms I scrunched my eyelids together, but then I peeked to see if the rest of the class members had closed their eyes. Some of the boys still punched and poked one another. One girl was passing a red lollipop to Richard. We were all still slathered in sweat. Another girl pulled out a box of Cracker Jacks from her oversized bag and began eating. I started my prayer anyway. I thanked Heavenly Father for our teacher, our friends, the lesson, and especially for all the sweet animals in the world. I asked Him to please help our air conditioner get fixed.
I thought it was a good prayer, but a girl sitting on the other side of Karen gave me a weird look.
“What?” I said as I neared my seat and picked up my purse.
“You’re asking God to fix the air conditioner? Like he’s gonna come down here and do that?”
“Forget it,” I said.
Karen and I raced out of the classroom and dashed for the parking lot.
Once outside I felt the humidity hang all over me. “Oh, man, it’s hotter out here as it was in the stuffy classroom,” I complained. Just then a gentle breeze came.
Karen spread her arms as if to let the wind blow through her body. “Ooooh. Feels great,” she said.
“Can’t argue that,” I said. We ambled through the church parking lot weaving our way through the parked cars. We saw Todd sprint out the back door and dart toward our vehicle. Even though Todd was younger than me, he was as tall, and “as thin as a pencil” as Grandma always said. Every time we went to her house for Sunday dinner, she’d say, “Get in here Todd and eat some of my cookin’. I need to put a little meat on your bones. My word, you’re as thin as a pencil.”
Mom would smile, pat Todd on the shoulder and say, “Mind your Grandma.”
Todd had wavy, sandy brown hair, a few freckles on his nose and a tan from going shirtless in the Florida sun.
 Todd dashed past us, slinging his suit coat in one hand and his tie in the other. I tried to flick him on his ear as he passed. “Toad,” I yelled. He paid me no attention. I knew he was trying to get to the car first so he could get dibs on the front seat.
 Todd said, “I’ll beat you to the car.” And, he did.
When we arrived, Todd had hold of the door handle, even though the door was locked and we didn’t have a key. “I call shotgun. I got here first.”
            “Who cares?” I retorted. “Karen is coming home with us. We’ll be fine in the backseat, Mister Thin as a Pencil.”
I sometimes I used that moniker or, even worse, called him Toad when he annoyed me. Karen knew my habit. She yanked my arm. “Ashley, remember our lesson today—about kindness?”
I hopped onto the hood of our car. Karen did too and sat beside me. “Oops, I guess I need to listen better next time. It’s just—well, I kept thinking about Clover.”
Todd leaned against the side of the car. “Clover is the best present I ever got in my entire life.”
“Better than poopy Reeboks,” I said. “Karen, did you feel weird when Chase Carter answered the door yesterday?”
“I did. He’s a strange one.” Karen straightened her skirt and said in a hesitant voice, “I don’t want to scare you, Ashley, but I couldn’t help but notice that he kept staring at you.”
“Oh, yeah. I felt his creepy glare. I was glad when he went into the back of the house and left us alone.”
 “I heard that he had a Bipolar Disorder or something like that,” Karen said.
“I don’t know. I guess I would feel sorry for him if he’s not well, but all I know is, I felt weird when he kept staring at me.”
Todd had laid his coat and tie on the trunk of the car, had picked up stones and was trying to skip them across the surface of the little pond behind the church. He overheard our conversation and said, “Everybody stares at you ‘cause you’re so goofy looking. Forget about Mr. Chase ‘Chasing Cars’ Carter. All I can concentrate on is Clover.”
Karen said, “Why did you name her Clover? I’ve never heard of ‘Clover’ as a dog’s name.”
Todd stopped his stone-skipping and threw his handful of rocks in the grass near the pond’s edge. “Karen, my child, you’ve never heard of a dog named Clover? Well, now you have. I decided on that name because I think she’s 
better than any luck a four-leaf clover could bring.”
”She is the sweetest dog that ever had fur and four feet--or should I say four paws,” I said. “She’s now four months old. Just right to be weaned from her mother and ready to come to a family that will love her.”
“And, that’s us,” Todd said.
I suggested to Todd, “Since you named her Clover, don’t you think we should buy some barrettes, in the shape of a clover to clip in her hair?”
“Hmmm. Let me think about that for awhile,” Todd said.
Mom’s purple suede high heels click-clacked on the sidewalk as she came out of the church carrying her bible under her arm and her purple suede purse slung over her shoulder. She pressed the remote button on her key and unlocked the car. Todd grabbed his coat and tie. Karen and I hopped off the hood and we all piled in and buckled up.
“Mom, take the short cut. Go on the dirt road that runs through that pine forest near our subdivision. It’s a shorter way home,” Todd said.
As Mom backed out of her parking space she said, “I guess I can today, since it hasn’t rained in awhile. But during the rainy season, it’s so soupy on that road. I’m afraid of getting bogged down.”
When we got home and Mom drove into our carport, Todd, Karen and I jumped out before she shut off the engine.
“Hurry, Mom,” Todd shouted, “Unlock the door. Clover might be hungry. Or thirsty.”
“We’ve only been gone two hours,” Mom replied. “And, we left plenty of food and water in her bowls in the laundry room.”
“Yeah, but she’s not used to our house. We need to check on her,” Todd insisted as he jiggled the knob of the side door that led from the carport, through the laundry room, into the kitchen.

Title: goldie@gary'
Written by Mary Ann Duke, Ed.D.
Retired educator, Workshop Presenter, Sarasota, Florida
Mary Ann has three books and over 75 articles published
She's on Facebook, but gave up blogging and her Website a while back.