I am behind this month because the world is crazy! I’m sure many of you are feeling the same way. Days are running together… no one ever leaves the house… my child is never more than a few feet from me… but overall, life is still good.
We have been working on cleaning out extra unused items throughout our whole house. It’s kind of amazing what you accumulate over time and stash away out of sight and then it multiplies and before you know it, you have a basement of old household goods that are usable but dusty.
But the real reason I’m writing today is that I only just realized that I haven’t posted a writing prompt this month. Without more rambling, here is the April short story of the month prompt:
It was different, writing on a typewriter; the clatter and noise, the resistance of the old keys forcing her to really put some effort into each letter. She imagined she was…
Complete the Story
This should be an interesting one… writing about a writer, but it still needs to fit into the “world” I’ve all ready created this year.
If you’ve missed my stories this year, I’m trying to link them all. Here are the stories so far:
To call him stubborn would be polite. Not that politeness mattered to him. Malcolm would probably describe himself as principled. Those closest to him would probably use different words, like jack ass. He never broke the rules. He made the rest of us uncomfortable. We never asked him to tag along when we were going to use magic because he was worse than having our parents around. He NEVER allowed us to use magic within a five-mile radius of a non-magic user, and when we did, he would purse his lips and tap his foot. Then the second we got home, he ratted us out. He was my least favorite cousin.
This summer his family had spent an inordinate amount of time with us. Something was going on – something the adults didn’t want us to know about. As much as my sisters and I had tried to discover what the meetings were about, Malcom had thwarted us at every attempt. The grown ups must have told him to keep an eye on us.
Today though, we had a plan. Two of us were going to take him on an adventure. The other would pretend to not feel well, and then after the others were out of the house, the “sick” one would be free to nose around and find out what the grown ups were up to.
The problem, however, is that we all wanted to be the one to stay home.
“I’m the best at sneaking,” said my youngest sister.
“Mom is more likely to believe me,” said our middle sister.
I looked at both of them and realized quickly I would need to pull rank because time was running out and the two of them could argue like this for ages.
“I’m the oldest,” I said. “And I’m staying. You two find a way to keep Malcolm busy for as long as possible.”
Their collective groans didn’t stop me. I returned to my room and got back into bed.
Not long after that I heard feet running down the hall and then one door opened. I heard the murmur of their voices. My sisters and Malcolm were talking. Then the door opened again and they came to my room where I lay with the blanket pulled up to my chin.
I peaked at them through squinted eyes. “Turn the light off,” I said barely above a whisper. “My head hurts. The light.” My voice trailed off as if I didn’t have the will to finish.
Malcolm took a step nearer but my sisters stayed behind. Even with my eyes barely open, I saw one of them roll her eyes.
“You’re not coming with us?” Malcolm asked.
I grunted. “Not today.”
I saw him doing some mental calculations. He was definitely meant to spy on us. How could our parents put him up to something like that?
“It’s okay,” my youngest sister said. “Come on Malcolm. We’ll tell her all about our fun later. Wait till you see where we’re going.” She was doing her best to sound enthusiastic, and she elbowed my other sister to chime in.
“Yep,” the other said. “It’s going to be super fun.”
If there was ever a contest for vaguest description, my sisters were winning it.
“Maybe I should stay here,” suggested Malcolm. “Your sister might need someone to entertain her and bring her drinks.”
“No,” I said a little too loudly. I fell back and shut my eyes acting like the sound of my own voice hurt me. “It’s just a headache. I’ll be fine alone.”
“It’s related to her woman time,” said my youngest sister.
Malcolm went white. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”
After they left I rolled my eyes. I don’t know how my youngest sister knew that would work, but it did. She was quick.
I didn’t get out of bed immediately. I let the house settle. I heard other people moving about downstairs but everything was muffled.
Then I felt it. The house went absolutely silent. Our house was in the country; it was never this quiet. You could always hear animal sounds outside, and my parents had several windchimes along the porch beams. I couldn’t hear any of them. The house itself often creaked, even during the day, but not right now. Everything was still.
One of the grown ups had cast a spell. Maybe they didn’t know I was still here, but I was definitely inside the bubble. I would need to move about without making any noise. They were sure to hear even the tiniest of noise with everything else hushed.
I turned on the bed and placed my feet on the floor one at a time. I didn’t stand up but let my weight gradually slide that way. As soon as I was standing, I wanted to run down the hall and slide down the banister and get to the kitchen as quickly as possible, but I didn’t want to risk it.
The only way I could think to get down there without them noticing me was to use magic. My mother would be furious if she knew, and luckily Malcolm wasn’t around to rat me out. I cast a flying spell on myself. I wasn’t great at them. My spells didn’t last long, but I had pretty good control over my movements.
I flew out my room slowly and looked around the hall. No one was around and I didn’t hear any movement in the house to indicate someone had felt my spell being cast. My sisters and I were always casting small things around the house, so hopefully I could continue to go unnoticed.
I floated down the hall past empty rooms and headed for the stairs. At the landing, I did another quick search to sense if my movements were being noticed – nothing seemed amiss.
Uneventfully I made my way down the stairs and through the foyer. I was floating outside the kitchen door when my spell began to waver. I tried to recast but I didn’t work it out in time. I fell flat on my face just outside the door and smacked my face into the kitchen door that was being held firmly closed.
It took about two seconds for the door to open. My mother was on the other side. She didn’t even say anything; she just pointed toward the front of the house. My charade was at an end.
I went outside to join my sisters and Malcolm. I sat on the front porch and waited for them to return. Hopefully their adventure was more exciting than mine.
Life is super weird right now! I’m sure many of you feel the same. For me, this “stay at home” situation hasn’t changed my day to day too much. I’m very introverted anyway, and I’m a stay at home mom who works part-time from home.
The biggest change is that my child now doesn’t have school for the rest of the year! And she is always here. Always. I love her but I’m used to some part of each of my day being quiet. We’ll get through this though. 🙂
In addition, because I’m now with her all the time, I haven’t found as much time for those things that I do when it’s quiet — including writing.
I’m going to try and carve out some time each day starting next week that is my “work” time. She is 11 and can spend time in her room.
I hope everyone is okay. Stay safe! Try to stay healthy! And try not to lose your minds!
It’s March! I’m sure you’re aware. And it’s time for a new writing prompt!
Here is this month’s prompt:
To call him stubborn would be polite. Not that politeness mattered to him. Malcolm would probably describe himself as principled. Those closest to him would probably use different words, like…
Complete the Story
This is part of my ongoing goal this year to write 12 stories that are connected. So far, January and February has been great. This one might require more effort though because the prompt creates a character with a name! HMMMMM….
Here are the two stories I’ve written so far if you haven’t read them:
I didn’t cry when she died, or at the funeral, or at the reception. It wasn’t until the next morning when I went to the pantry and saw row upon row of canned vegetables, fruits, and jams she had prepared for the long winter ahead. The shelves were filled with memories of her. Canning was one of her hobbies, left over from a time when she’d learned to do it for survival. It seems strange that magic users needed to do things like canning to survive. We could snap our fingers to make fields grow, but we didn’t.
We’ve always had to hide what we were by doing “normal” things. Tough winters meant canning and stocking up for us just like everyone else to make it through the season without attracting attention. If too much fortune favored us, people got suspicious. It wasn’t that long ago in history that witch hunts were common practice. We tried our hardest to blend in.
It was exhausting.
I picked up a jar of my mother’s homemade blackberry jam. It was a blue ribbon winner at the country fair. I smiled when I looked at it labeled in her sloppy handwriting. If I hadn’t been reading it my entire life, I wouldn’t have known it said blackberry.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks before I left the pantry. I didn’t want my daughters to see me like that. I was determined to be strong in front of them. Raising three girls was more challenging than I’d ever imagined. They were grown now and that brought a whole unforeseen set of problems. Most of my parenting now was about trying to steer them towards their own futures and navigating their constant bickering. For three people raised in the same house, they were incredibly different. They reminded me daily of me and my two sisters.
They were seated now at the farm style dining table. They were all sitting on one bench and their father was on the opposite side. No one was talking. They were all staring at their cups of various hot drinks.
“I found a jar of blackberry,” I said as I placed it on the table. I gathered utensils and small plates and started making toast. As I was about to place four pieces of bread in the toaster, a wave of grief hit me.
I placed my hands flat on the counter in front of me and squeezed my eyes tightly. I took a deep breath in and then let it out slowly. After I collected myself again and reopened my eyes, I snapped my fingers and there was a pile of perfectly toasted bread on the plate in front of me.
I took it over to the table and set it in front of my girls. They all looked up with shock on their face. I was always lecturing them about using magic for things they could do themselves.
“Not today,” I said and sat down next to my husband to eat some toast with my mother’s blackberry jam smeared on it.
The jam hit my tongue, and it brought with it a swarm of memories. They flashed through my mind so quickly I couldn’t focus on a single one. Then they settled and one in particular surfaced.
I was walking with my sisters; the three of us were holding hands. We were eight, nine, and ten. It was a summer day, and the heat was all ready sweltering. Our mother had made us wear baby blue dresses for family pictures. We were supposed to stay nearby, but instead, we’d wandered off a little bit to explore while our parents had pictures of the two of them taken.
We walked away slowly at first, but once we realized our parents weren’t paying attention to us, we increased our speed and moved quickly away. We were still walking hand in hand, the three of us strung together like beads on a string.
I was in the middle and with a sister on either side of me, I felt safe even though we could no longer hear or see our parents. Our oldest sister was pulling us towards something.
“Look!” she yelled as she pointed frantically. I saw what she was pointing at — blackberry bushes. There were so many of them I couldn’t see where they stopped and the rest of the woods continued. They were laden with fruit.
My younger sister didn’t immediately seem as impressed with this discovery as me.
“These might be someone’s property,” she said. “We should go back to mother and father now.” She released my hand and placed her hands on her hips, looking very haughty for someone only eight years old.
“We’ll only have a few,” my older sister said. “I’m hungry. We’ve been out here for hours.”
She moved away from us and began to pop berries in her mouth.
I looked at her and then over at my younger sister trying to decide which side of this battle I wanted to be on.
“They’re delicious,” my sister said, berry juice was on her hands and face.
I joined her and ate berries with abandon. Neither of us paid much attention to what we were doing, and after a minute of being the odd one out, our sister joined us too. We were giggling and walking along picking berries and popping them in our mouths without a care.
“Girls!” our mother yelled.
We stopped in our tracks. That’s when I looked at my sisters. Their dresses were spotted with berry juice and their faces and hands were sticky.
My younger sister spun around quickly. “I told them not to,” she blurted out. Tears were welling in her eyes. She never liked getting in trouble.
And we were in so much trouble.
Our mother was practically turning purple. She didn’t yell at us till we got home. She pointed back the way we’d came, and we walked off silently toward the car without making eye contact with her.
That night back at home we were scrubbed until our skin was red. And then the lecture began; she sat us all down in a row on the couch. We all sat looking down at our laps. And then my younger sister, always the pragmatist, opened an even bigger can of worms.
We were all thinking it, but usually we didn’t have the nerve to question our mother, especially about magic use.
“Mom, why didn’t you just snap your fingers and make us clean again?”
And now it’s time to get going on February’s part. Here is the prompt for this month:
I didn’t cry when she died, or at the funeral, or at the reception. It wasn’t until the next morning when I went to the pantry and saw row upon row of canned vegetables, fruits and jams she had prepared for the long winter ahead. The shelves were filled with…
Complete the Story
My challenge this year includes tying all the stories together, and I can’t wait to see how this one is going to connect to last month’s.
I stopped for a breath before cutting the turkey. I wanted to appreciate the moment. Seeing everyone there, sitting around the table, almost felt like we were a family again. But if we had been a real family, my decision wouldn’t have caused a war. I knew standing against generations would be challenging, but I thought my own family would understand. They didn’t have to agree with me, but they didn’t have to openly fight me either.
This dinner was a weird momentary truce in a cold war that I started by refusing to marry Phillip.
Two Years Ago…
I looked around the parking lot and saw my siblings’ cars already parked. I was the last to arrive – like usual. I slammed the door and anticipated all the grief I was about to get.
I glanced up as I walked. The sign over the diner had three letters out and two more were flickering. Why didn’t my mother just fix them? Sometimes I didn’t understand her.
All she had to do was blink and the lights would be working again. Did she think the broken ones added character? That would be just like her.
Just because I could, and no one was around, I made one of the broken ones come back on. My family hated when I used magic out in the open. They were terrified someone would see me. I didn’t care. Early on I realized that even when confronted with the truth of magic, most people refused to believe it was real. Their brains couldn’t handle it, so they ignored it.
I sighed audibly. I was dreading this meeting. My mother had said there was “big news.” I had a pretty good idea what it was about. Why couldn’t this wait till after Thanksgiving? It was only a few days away. The whole family would be gathered – it was one of our more pleasant traditions.
Maybe the rest of the family already knew and I was the last to know. That would be par for the course with my parents.
Opening the door, a bell tinkled over my head. Every person at the counter turned and looked in my direction. Every person was also a member of my family. My parents were both behind the counter. Both of my sisters and their husbands were sitting at the counter with coffee and pie. No one was eating their pie.
My mother pursed her lips as I approached. I sat on the only empty bar stool between my two sisters. They were both younger than me, but they often acted like I was younger than them because I was “less of an adult.” I was in my thirties, unmarried and without children. I was also guilty of not “settling down” – an apparently unforgivable sin among my family. They all lived here in town, but I liked to travel and moved almost as soon as I was done unpacking my last box every time.
It always surprised me how magic users were some of the most conservative backward fuddy-duddies.
My mother placed a piece of pie and a cup in front of me. My dad filled it with coffee and winked at me. I couldn’t help it; I grinned at him.
“Now, you two don’t start,” my mother said.
My dad turned his back and put the urn back on the warmer. I smiled as I added sugar and lots of creamer to my cup.
My mother didn’t waste any time.
She cleared her throat. “I’ve asked you all here because your father and I have an announcement to make.” She paused, and they held hands to show their solidarity.
“That’s right,” my dad added. “Big news.” He was grinning so big it stretched his mouth too far over his teeth. I didn’t like it when people smiled like that. They looked manic.
My sisters kept peeking at me in a not very subtle way. I whispered to them, “I can see you, you know.” They both sat up a little straighter.
My mother was intermittingly frowning and then forcing herself to smile. Whatever she was about to say, she didn’t want to.
“A match has been made,” she said looking directly in my eyes.
“No,” I said. I honestly wasn’t surprised. My family seemed to be under the impression that I just didn’t know how to look for a husband. What they failed to understand is that I didn’t want to find one.
Amongst magic users, one of the steadfast unwritten rules was that magic users married other magic users. By marrying and breeding together, magical lines became stronger. I’d all ready refused three matches over the last ten years; why did they think this one would be different?
My mother stared at my dad and motioned with her head that he should handle me. He and I always got along better than my mother and I. However, I didn’t like being handled.
“Hey!” my sister yelled at me. “Stop daydreaming and cut the turkey. I’m eating for two here.” She rubbed her belly and smiled at it.
I scowled at her. I didn’t care if she was pregnant. She didn’t have to be rude. I lifted the knife and simultaneously opened my mouth to say something. Before I could get a word out, my dad stepped up behind me and said, “Let me handle this.”
I sat down between my sisters and tried not to look at them. As I glanced at my dad, he winked at me.
It’s that time again! Time for this year’s writing challenge to begin. The last couple of years, I’ve posted a prompt and written a short story with it by the end of each month. This year I am adding some more guidelines to push myself further.
Here are this year’s guidelines:
1. Post a prompt and short story each month (12 by the end of the year).
2. Each short story should be a minimum of 800 words. I don’t always write that much. I try to push myself but working on my novel and other life stuff sometimes gets in the way. Well… not this year!
3. Each short story is going to take place in the same “world.” The idea behind this new challenge is that I want to work on building characters and elements that work together. Maybe by the end of the year, I will have something that could be published together or even used to jump start a longer work.
As always, I would love it if other writers wanted to join me. If you want to submit a story, message me.
Without further ado, here is the first prompt of the year:
I stopped for a breath before cutting the turkey. I wanted to appreciate the moment. Seeing everyone there, sitting around the table, almost felt like we were a family again. But if we had been a real family…
Complete the Story
I can’t wait to get started! First though, I need to pack up the Christmas tree currently in my office.
Sometimes kids are the only ones willing to say what’s really on their minds, and our family needed a little dose of honesty. We almost never said something straight out. My step-mother was the worst. All she would do was pretend like nothing happened. And she expected all of us to do the same. We were supposed to pretend to be the perfect family in public. We didn’t want anyone to know the truth about us.
So the day Sam finally said something, no one believed him. Everyone assumed he was lying. Who would believe those things about our picturesque blended family? We were the epitome of how a family with kids from two original marriages could come together and be happy again.
We weren’t though, not even on our best days. Most days we barely spoke to one another, and when we did, it was just shouting.
“Sam! Stop fidgeting. Please sit still; you are distracting those around you trying to take their quiz,” Ms. Morgan yelled.
Sam couldn’t get comfortable though. His legs hurt. Finally, he gave up trying to sit and just stood up. Every person turned to look at him, except his step-sister. They hated being in the same history class. She didn’t need to look up. She knew what was wrong with him.
He knew he shouldn’t. The repercussions for what he was about to do could be worse than what he was already going through, but he was only 15 and he didn’t see anyway around this.
“Can I go see the nurse?” he asked Ms. Morgan loud enough for the whole room to hear. He made sure his step-sister heard him too. She looked up and shook her head before returning to her quiz.
Sam didn’t bother sitting on the hard plastic chair in the nurse’s office. He didn’t like waiting. It was making him anxious. He rocked back and forth from his heels to the balls of his feet and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. He was still doing that when she finally came back from checking on a student who sprained her ankle in gym.
Sam told the nurse his legs hurt. She watched him rock back and forth and didn’t really believe him.
“Are you trying to get out of something going on in class?”
Sam shook his head. He had a feeling she wouldn’t take him seriously, so he did the only thing that would convince her. He turned with his back to hear and dropped his jeans.
The nurse sent him to the counselor’s office and immediately went to speak to the principal.
He spoke with the counselor for over two hours. He almost missed the bus to go home. When he took his seat on the bus, his step-sister watched him over her sunglasses but didn’t say anything. She shook her head again and put in her headphones.
Several weeks later a social worker visited the family. By then there were no marks. The social worker spent less than an hour in their home. She questioned the children with both parents there.
Her assessment when she left was that Sam had lied. The kids were fed everyday and clothed. They had a roof over their heads; the boy was clearly acting out. Such a waste of her time.