And the Evil Shall Continue . . .

They lived in the forest. Two offspring of Elsinora, the Witch of Evildore. They’d been learning her trade for many years. Memorized spells, chopped beetle wings, boiled cat’s blood. Now the time had come. Elsinora smiled through blistered purple lips. They were ready. They’d consumed all her ancient books; syphoned memory strands from her pustule covered head.

“Rest now, my dearies. Come to me and bring no book. For this one day we’ll give to idleness. Let’s take your measurements as you rest. Boot size for broom stirrups. Breath velocity for hexes. Quickly now, my loves, as the spirits have ruled. I shall disappear when the moon ebbs and you shall rule the lands. Control those naive two-legged creatures who assume they are the dominant strain. Come sit with me and I shall gift you reign over all, on this my dying day.”

Written for the prosery prompt at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today Ingrid hosts and asks us to include the line “And bring no book for this one day we’ll give to idleness” within our work of fiction that is 144 words or less in length, sans title. The line must be used word for word, but the punctuation may be changed. The line is from Wordsworth’s Lines Written at a small distance from my house which is included in the collection Lyrical Ballads. Image from Pixabay.com

In the Heyday of Sears!

My great-grandparents’ home sold, I kept a battered trunk found in the attic. I’m ready to see what’s inside. Carefully wrapped motheaten clothes? A well-worn deep plum velvet dress with tiny waist. A once vibrant red and black plaid wool vest with watch pocket. And a faded sepia-toned photograph: them standing in front of their new house, wearing these same clothes. Eyes closed, I’m with them. I dress in their stories. Patterned and purple as night, they hold my hands. Celebrating, dressed up, I feel their happiness.

Back to the trunk! One last item. A yellowed brittle 1911 Sears Catalog. I open to the page marked by a faded ribbon. Houses for sale in a Sears Catalog? It’s this house! “The Clyde: $2,608. Kit includes 10,000 pieces of framing lumber and everything you’ll need, including doorknobs.” And I have trouble with model airplane kits!

Written for Prosery Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today, we’re not doing poetry. Rather, we’re to include a specific line from a poem given by the pub tender, in a piece of flash fiction that is 144 words or less, sans title. The line we must use today, worded exactly as it appears (we may change the punctuation) is “I dress in their stories patterned and purple as night.” The line is in the poem When we Sing of Might by Kimberly Blaeser, an indigenous poet. This was a tough line for me to incorporate, partly because of the first person and tense used in the line. This, by the way, is pure fiction.
Images from Searshouseseeker.com

Note: By 1908, one-fifth of Americans subscribed to the Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog. At its peak, it included 100,000+ items on 1400 pages and weighed 4 pounds. It was free to receive in the mail. In 1908, kits for 40 “modern homes” were offered in the Sears catalog. From 1908 to 1940, the Sears Modern Homes Program offered mail-order houses, called “kit homes.” Would-be homeowners sent in a check and in a matter of weeks, they received everything they needed via a train car, to build their new home. IE lumber came precut with an instruction booklet. Everything was included, including doorknobs. Sears advertised their homes (each named, IE The Magnolia, The Clyde) could be completed in less than ninety days, without a carpenter, by someone with “rudimentary skills.” Over 75,000 homes were shipped. There is a website with photos of these homes that still exist across the US. Illustrations above taken from that site: Searshouseseeker.com

The Return

Namrah soared high. Twenty years after the Peabody children wished him live, he decided to return. Would they want to travel on his golden wings again? He’d taken so many children across the globe on secret midnight rides. Sometimes circling the full moon, chasing shooting stars across the skies. He’d not been above American shores in all these years. Would Allen and Susan consider themselves too old to climb aboard his teal feathered back?

Closer to their city now, but why so dark? Hovering over their yard, he stared in disbelief. Piles of bricks, uprooted trees, scattered roof tiles, shattered glass. Fear seized his heart. What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this rubbish? A solitary tear escaped one azure sequined eye. Has time destroyed the home, the town of his origins? Are Allen and Susan alive?

Written for prosery Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Mish is pub tender and asks us to include the line “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this rubbish?” from T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in our flash fiction of 144 words or less, sans title. I’ve written of imaginary friend Namrah in years past. Here we visit him twenty years after he was wished alive.

Prosery is a genre created by dVerse. Pub tenders choose one line of poetry and writers must use that exact line (only the punctuation may be changed; word order must be the same) in a piece of prose, 144 words or less in length, sans title.

Third Time’s not the Charm

Working in the kitchen, she ruminated on the unfairness of it all. Three times passed over. For men with less experience! She propped open the instructions for how to shuck oysters. Get oriented with your oyster; nestle it in a towel. Really???? What idiot wrote this? She stabbed the knife tip into the hinge. What a jerk she was for staying. Rotate the knife blade and separate the top shell from the bottom. She dug in the knife. Twisted it. “Are you upset?” he’d asked. Stupid dull blade! The oyster shell blurred. I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife into your gut. Oh how I wish you were nestled in this towel right now! She slammed the shell down on the counter in disgust. I’m done. She picked up the phone and dialed his private line.

Written for Prosery Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets where today Lisa introduces us to the writer Zora Neale Hurston. We are to write a piece of prose that can be no longer than 144 words, sans title, and must include the line I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife from Hurston’s “How Does it Feel to be Colored Me” in World Tomorrow (1928). Image cropped from a photo at Pixabay.com.

No Escape

I couldn’t sleep. Walking the streets I came upon a small sign: Séance Sessions. Ten dollars.

“Letting go. Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end to this labyrinth called life. In reality”, said the medium, “you were here before your time and you will reappear many times after your body succumbs.” The lights suddenly flickered. The charlatan’s fingernails dug into my palms. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as her mouth moved in synch with Jim’s booming voice. “You killed me. I shall never forget. You shall suffer all the days of your lives and . . .” The medium’s body lurched forward. Her head crashed onto the table. She was obviously dead. I could see the dagger I’d carefully buried in my garden, sticking out of her back. Sirens began to wail.

Written for Prosery Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today Merril is hosting and asks us to insert the following line from Joy Harjo’s A Map to the Next World: “Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.” Image from pixabay.com

Prosery is a form created by dVerse. One line from a poem must be inserted into a piece of flash fiction, word for word. The punctuation may change but the word order must replicate the line as it appears in the poem used for the prompt. The flash fiction must be 144 words or less, not including the title.. No Escape is exactly 144 words.

Tryst at Pine Woods

They met late in life. Widow and widower, their rooms were down the hall from each other at Pine Woods Rest Home. He insisted on being called James. Everyone knew her by Sunny. They both despised bland food and working jig saw puzzles. She liked flippy organza dresses and he always wore a tie. While many dozed in front of the blaring television, they shouted out answers to Jeopardy in a friendly competition. That Christmas season, they sat beside each other holding hands during sing-alongs. On New Year’s Eve, they joined in on the countdown at 9 PM. In her silk nightie that night, as the clock glowed 11:30, she heard the pre-arranged quiet knock at her door. “If you are a dreamer, come in” she trilled. This would indeed be a dream come true. Who said lovemaking is the domain of the young?

Today I’m hosting Prosery Monday at dVerse. In Prosery, writers are asked to write a piece of flash fiction that can be no more than 144 words, sans title, and include a specific line from a poem that the host provides. The line must be exactly as written in the original poem, except the punctuation can be changed. The line I’m having people include in their flash fiction today is If you are a dreamer, come in. It’s from Shel Silverstein’s poem Invitation from his book of poetry for children entitled Where the Sidewalk Ends. Prosery Mondays are the ONLY days at dVerse where we do not write poetry – we write flash fiction that includes a specified line from a poem.

Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash in the public domain.

Covid Casualty

James was an over-achieving gregarious intellect. Last to leave the office party, pleasantly tipsy, never offensively drunk. Top salesman for too many quarters to count. Then Covid hit and the world cocooned itself.

Confined to his efficiency apartment months on end, ambition disappeared into vodka bottles. He wore the same sweats day and night. Sat slumped in a second-hand folding chair, computer on his lap. When called by HR for his end- of-year report, he slurred “I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being and in due time I will send you a profitable report.” To which the HR Director replied, “What???”

He slammed the phone down; slammed the computer screen shut and stood up swaying. Eyes bloodshot, James reached for a sixteen-ounce tumbler and the vodka bottle. Just another day in this godforsaken Covid world.

Pure fiction…..but I fear isolation has affected far too many in negative ways.

Written for Prosery Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today Merril asks us to include the line “I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being.” from the poem Possilibities by Wislawa Szymborska. In Prosery, we are given a line from a poem and must insert it within the body of our prose, word for word (although the punctuation my be altered), and the prose can be a maximum of 144 words, sans title. Most writers consider this a flash fiction prompt that includes a specific line of poetry. Photo from Pixabay.co

Horror in the Hazel Woods

I met her most nights – somewhere between  succumbing to sleep and waking fever-drenched at dawn. Unable to meet the woman of my dreams in reality, I’d created her in my mind. But she was not the image that came to me night after night. This was a half-woman, half-monster, chasing me through horror. There was always a knife. Next morning my bedding was always bloodstained from the self-inflicted scratching of old wounds.  

This night, whiskey drunk, I avoided my bed. Stumbled  instead into the moonless night. I went out to the hazel wood. Because a fire was in my head, I tripped over  roots, crazed to find this she-devil. I wanted to kill her. End these nightmares. Instead, I died that night, victim of her crazed claws  They found me in light snow, hazel tree branches clicking in winter’s wind.

Note: Hazel trees are noted for often having protruding roots. They can be either trees or shrubs.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today is Prosery Monday where we’re given a specific line from a poem, and we must insert it, word for word (although the punctuation may be changed) into a piece of flash fiction. We must have a beginning, middle and end to our story. It can be no more than 144 words sans title.

Kim is hosting today and asks us to include this line from Yeats’ The Song of Wandering Aengus: “I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head.”

Excerpt from a 17th Century Young Woman’s Diary

I cannot tolerate my life! My intellect, dismissed at every turn. My fingers bleed as I mind my needle. Young men cross the seas on great ships. They find adventure while I sit here. They hunt great whales; something I can only dream of. Oh yes, I carry a part of those great creatures within my bodice every day. Their great bones defiled to stays, crushing my ribcage, attempting to confine my will. Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy upon my soul.

Born female in this world, the great bane of my life. But my plans are made. My brother’s breeches hid beneath my bed, with scissors to cut my hair. Next week, I too shall set out to sea. Breasts bound by rags, but spirit freed. I shall become young Phinneas, and taste the adventures too long denied me.

Written for Prosery Monday at dVerse, the vitual pub for poets around the globe. Today Linda provides the line “Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy” from May Oliver’s poem “Azures” published in the book Wild Geese.

In prosery, we must use a specified line from a poem, exactly as written, in a piece of prose that is no more than 144 words long, sans title. It is similar to flash fiction — but must include the specified poetic line. We may change the punctuation of the line, but the wording must be exactly as it appeared in the original poem.

Image: Woman’s stays c. 1730–1740. Silkplain weave with supplementary weft-float patterning, stiffened with whaleboneLos Angeles County Museum of Art, M.63.24.5.[1]

A Christmas Tale

Reading what I have just written, I now believe . . .
A snowflake smudges the next word. Where did that come from? I’m sitting at the kitchen table!

My eyes bug out in disbelief. A reindeer spotted with snow, stands behind me! I rub my eyes because surely this isn’t real? Then he invites me to climb on his back! Knowing mama and papa are soundly asleep, I scramble up. Out the window we fly, heading due north. My cold fingers clutch his collar, copper bells cold on my palms.

We land on a peanut-brittle paved lane with tall candy cane light poles and elaborate gingerbread houses! I see gummy bears chatting, sitting on gigantic lemon drops. Absolutely agog, I follow an elf to a sugar spun door. The door flings open and I know right then. I will always believe!

I’m hosting Prosery Monday at dVerse today, the virtual pub for poets. BUT, on Prosery Monday, we don’t write poetry!

Prosery is defined as a prompter providing one line from a poem, and writers inserting that specific line into a piece of prose, for example flash fiction. The punctuation and capitalization in the line may be changed, but the words and word order must remain intact. AND the prose can be no more than 144 words in length, sans title.

As host today, I’ve chosen the line “Reading what I have just written, I now believe” from Louise Gluck’s poem Afterward. So come join us! Insert this line, using these exact words in this order, into a piece of original prose!