Murder in Her Headspace

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fictioneers. Each week, about 100 writers from around the globe respond to a photo prompt with their 100-word stories. You are welcome to play along.

My story this week weighs in at exactly 100 words.

This week’s photo prompt is courtesy of Emily L. Gant.

2016 03 07 EmmyLGant

Copyright Emily L. Gant

Murder in Her Headspace

Shelly plopped into a plastic chair on the roof of her Chicago apartment building and began to write. Online photos of this “greenspace” omitted the dumpsters and blacktop. Instead of feeding urban tranquility, the space provided fantastic inspiration for the thriller she was writing.

As the sun sank, Shelly began to shiver despite the late-summer heat. Her sense of foreboding grew. Time to return to reality. She closed her notebook and entered the stairwell.

The attacker came from behind as Shelly passed the second landing. She didn’t have a chance to scream before a gloved hand clamped over her mouth.

El Camino De Los Reyes

Once again, it’s time for Friday Fictioneers. Every week, about 100 writers from around the world compose original, 100-word stories based on a photo prompt. This week’s photo comes from Melanie Greenwood.

Author’s Note: This week’s prompt brought a seasonal story to mind. For those who thought Christmas ended on December 25, I’d like to remind you that Christmas only began that day and actually ends today with what Catholics and Orthodox Christians call Epiphany and children in several parts of the world look forward to as Three Kings Day. The rest, I think, will be self-explanatory, as you read this story about the pains of modern travel. For further reading, Wikipedia seems a good a place to start as any. You can use the bibliography there to learn even more.

2016 01 08 melanie-greenwood

El Camino De Los Reyes

“I don’t think he’s just meditating this time.” Melchior nodded at Balthasar, whose body was sprawled across two chairs in the airport waiting area.

Gaspar rolled his eyes. “I’ve always said he could fall asleep anywhere.”

“Some kind of luck we have. You don’t hear of St. Nicholas getting stuck for hours at Chicago O’Hare.”

“Well, he has those flying reindeer.”

“Don’t forget the one with the magical red nose.”

“True. More useful than camels for traveling in North America.”

“It was so much simpler when all we had to do was fill wooden shoes for a few Dutch kids.”

Letting the Stranger In: A Christmas Reflection

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Last Christmas Eve, my wife and I arrived at the family holiday gathering to learn that one of my sisters-in-law had a new foster son that was joining us for the celebration. As we unloaded the colorfully wrapped presents we had brought for everyone else and laid them under the tree, I realized that no one had brought anything for this new family member. This was no surprise—we hadn’t known he would be joining us. Then a happy thought hit me, and I beckoned to my wife.

After a few quick whispers in the hall, we discovered that we had an extra gift with us—all we needed to do was find a box and wrap it. I’m not sure why I happened to have extra vouchers for movie tickets with me that night, and I don’t in anyway believe that small gesture made a big difference for a 16-year-old foster kid. What struck me that evening was the tradition from which that spontaneous gift came. You see, my family has often scurried into the hall to discuss a present for an unexpected guest arriving on Christmas. Mom always kept a few gifts tucked away in a closet “just in case”—not out of a sense of obligation but out of a sense of compassion, a willingness to fully accept the unexpected stranger on any day—especially a holy holiday like Christmas.

This year, my new nephew will be joining me and my in-laws once again on Christmas Eve, and everyone will have gifts for him. He’s a part of the family now, no longer a stranger. The following day, my family will convene at my home, and we’ll be exchanging gifts as usual. That day, we will have another guest—not a stranger, but someone whom none of us have seen for a long time, a dear friend of mine, elderly, single, from across the country and with no family to enjoy on Christmas this year. We will be his family.

Of course, I checked with my mom and sister to make sure they were open to adding my elderly friend to this year’s holiday gathering. They are happy to make room for one more and eager to make sure no one we know gets left out on Christmas. Speaking to my Mom today, I thanked her for being so open, and I also thanked her for teaching me by example how to care for others in this way. That’s when I learned something I didn’t know.

“It’s something I learned from my mom,” Mom replied to my offering of thanks. I hadn’t known. You see, Grandma and Grandpa never had much to share. It seemed like money was always tight for them, and I know Grandpa often worked two jobs or took on double shifts in order to raise my mom and her two sisters. But today I learned that Grandma always found a way to care for the strangers who came to her door.

The specific story Mom told me today was about Easter, not Christmas, but the same rules applied. One year, a cousin of Mom’s came to stay with them on the Saturday before Easter, and Mom remembers clearly seeing Grandma leave the house at 9:00p.m. on Holy Saturday, in a time before an all-night big-box store could be found in Salina, Kansas. And the next morning, Mom, her two sisters and the cousin all had Easter baskets. Grandma knew the importance of inclusion, and the inconvenience of finding a gift late on a Saturday night didn’t keep her from including a young niece or nephew who needed more than a safe place to stay the night before Easter.

Today, I learned more about my heritage, and I am proud. I am proud to be the daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter of women who have always welcomed the stranger. I’m proud to come from a tradition of giving, and no matter the size of my Christmas dinner or my December paycheck, I promise to always make room for those who need a family on a holy day. I hope that some of you who read this will be inspired to do so as well. If my great-grandma, who managed a farm during the Great Depression, and my grandma, who struggled to support her own family, and my mom, who always thought more for others than herself during the holidays, could be forever inviting, forever inclusive of others, so can we all.

In Someone Else’s Shoes

Although I’ve been rather absence of late, several other fine writers from around the globe continue to participate every week by writing 100-word stories based on a photo prompt. You can join the Friday Fictioneers too by writing your own story or simply reading along.

2015 11 17 CE AyrCopyright CE Ayr

In Someone Else’s Shoes

Agent Lauren Schrecklich turned onto Pershing Road as she waited for her Bluetooth to connect. She took a deep breath and prayed Senior Agent Morales would pick up.

“Schrecklich. Talk to me.”

“Ben’s checking out the locker at Union Station. I’m headed to Missy B’s. Too many people there might recognize him.”

“Good call. But you’re on your own. No heroics tonight.”

“Yes, sir. But . . . “

“I mean it, agent.”

“No heroics. So I can ditch the high heels?”

“Not a chance. You have to fit in.”

“Yes, sir. Operation Tomboy to Drag Queen commencing immediately.”

***

Want to read more? Follow links in the word salad to your right to read more about Agent Lauren Shrecklich.

On the Spot

I’m coming a little late to this week’s Friday Fictioneers party, but I am trying to get back into the weekly routine. If you are unfamiliar with this weekly writing challenge, you can learn more over on Rochelle’s blog. Incidentally, the picture this week is one of hers. To play along or read other entries, click here. My story, one word shy of 100 this week, follows the photo prompt.

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

On the Spot

Leah sighed almost imperceptibly as Jill arranged the board on the table. The Ungame. Her mother-in-law’s way of forcing intimate conversation. Leah hated it.

“Your turn, Honey,” Leah’s husband prodded.

She rolled the dice and counted the spaces around a board with no beginning or ending point.

“Tell it like it is.” Reading the square where she had landed, Leah drew the appropriate card. “What is your worst fear?”

“C’mon, Honey. We won’t judge.”

The faces around the table stared at her—pairs of eyes gazing at her like sets of oncoming . . .

“Headlights,” Leah blurted. “I’m petrified of them.”

***

Although my story this week is pure fiction, I personally share Leah’s disdain for The Ungame. However, I know some of my readers enjoy it, and you can learn more about this cruel social experiment here.

Resurrection in Turquoise

It’s been several weeks since I’ve had time to participate in Friday Fictioneers, but Rochelle knows the best way to get me back again–by using one of my photos as the prompt. If you’re new to this weekly challenge, the rules are simple: Writers from all over the globe are invited to compose a 100-word story based on the week’s photo prompt. Click here to read and play along.

My story this week is almost entirely autobiographical, but that’s all I’ll say on the topic for now.

Copyright Marie Gail Stratford

Copyright Marie Gail Stratford

Resurrection in Turquoise

Thirty years later, she remembers the pale green of hospital walls and her own small legs encased in plaster. Her dreams are haunted. Too often, she wakes with a start.

Thirty-five years later she takes a deep breath, submerges her face in the pale green water of an indoor pool. Three measured strokes, another breath. Three more strokes. A breath. The panic fades.

Forty years later, she sits in her office, glances at the blue-green logo on her business card. In her favorite color, she recognizes a bluer version of hospital green. She’s lived to see the resurrection of the turquoise butterfly.

Crime and Punishment

It’s time once again for Friday Fictioneers, and this week I’m taking time out from moving and unpacking to spend more time playing with my FF friends. You can play along too. Just check out the photo prompt that Rochelle chooses for us each week. Then write your own 100-word story based on the prompt. Of course, half the fun is checking out what everyone else is up to, so follow this link to post your own in the LinkUp and read stories from around 100 other writers located all over the word.

This week’s photo comes to us courtesy of the inimitable C.E.Ayr. (Yes, follow that link and read his stories.)

Copyright C.E. Ayr

Copyright C.E. Ayr

Crime and Punishment

“Wanna know what happened to that building?” Gerry pointed to a massive eroding structure bearing the remnants of a seascape, complete with orcas splashing in the surf.

“I already know,” Trish retorted. “It’s a whale of a tale.”

“I bet you didn’t know about the infestation,” Gerry quipped.

“The infestation?”

“Yeah, that building had tics.”

“Tics? I thought they lived in trees.”

“Not these tics. They were aquatics.”

“Did you hear what happened to the ceiling?”

“No, what?”

“It was floored.”

“I’ve had about enough of this punishment.”

“You have to admit, it fits the crime.”