The Great Hall


great hall

Two old men met again, as they did each day, on the steps of the Great Hall.  Neither knew each other.  They never spoke.  Yet every day at the same time they would arrive at this place and barely acknowledge each other.  Their missions were the same, yet entirely different, both knowing the way here the same as they knew their own faces.

Entering the hall, the cool air greeted them and filled them with a familiar sense of purpose.  The glistening polished walls gave wings to the importance of their missions.  Arching windows that framed a breathtaking vista went unnoticed.  They were intent only on the two objects in the immense room:  a large book and a computer, each sitting on a plain table.  So intent were they, and so habitual, even the floor bore a slightly worn path where they tread each day.

One of the men, with soft but fearful eyes, settled himself in front of the large book.  As he reached his calloused fingers to touch it, they trembled slightly.  Then, with a movement graced by deepest respect and tempered in repetition, he opened the book.  Carefully he leafed through its pages until he found the words he was searching for.  He settled into reading.  The only sounds that danced around him were the rustling of the page and the whispering of his lips as he read.  Occasionally, he would shift his gaze towards the ceiling, rich with murals, and then close his eyes.

These actions met with an almost imperceptible glance of distain from the second man.  He was settled stiffly in front of the computer just a short distance away from the man and his book.  With a quick movement, he flicked the machine on and tapped the keyboard impatiently as fans whirred and parts clicked and hummed.  When the screen came to life in its usual greeting, he took a deep breath and sat forward.  With a relieved smile his fingers launched into tapping away at the keys.  The more he tapped, the hungrier his posture became as if a cat about to pounce a mouse.

The man with the book spared him a glance and wondered at his raptness.  He looked like he was about to dive into the monitor and swim in his sea of information.  He chuffed and turned back to his book.  Foolishness.

And each day they spent like this, leaving only to satisfy other needs that couldn’t be ignored.  Never had they spoken.  Never had they taken noticed of much of anything else in this grand place beyond the perches where they sat.  So engrossed were they that neither noticed the child standing quietly in front of a window, smiling at the sunrise and stretching his tiny wings.

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Song of the Gravel Road


Photo by Scott Weber

I took a walk down the gravel road

Just a step, then another, to lighten my mind’s load

The pebbles sang as I trod along

My thoughts, whisked away in their dusty song,

Were joined not unexpectedly by a band of marauders

The dogs came along all sisters and brothers

Panting happily and wagging tails

I watched them hunt their invisible trails

Over roadsides and into the ditches

Thick with bramble abuzz with itches

Of poison ivy and stinging nettle

But the afternoon haze wasn’t destined for this meddle

The cicadas droned on of the impending frost

In the September sun their message went lost

As my thoughts did when a meadowlark trilled

Its way into my heart as the final thought stilled

And all that remained was the symphony of sounds

And the euphoric grins of the grateful hounds

 (Memories of rural Nebraska)

 

Kiss of the First Monsoon Rain


As the sun peers over the horizon it paints a pink blush with its dismay.  It’s discovered the first monsoon rain playing shamelessly over the land, racing unfettered with the wind.  It dances and leaps in sheets ringing with joyful laughter as it patters over stones and guffaws out of rain pipes.  Celebrating temporary dominion over the relentless dust of summer, it calls the sleeping from their beds to enjoy its cool perfumed kiss.

 

This is a form of mindful writing called a “small stone”.  You can learn about it and read my other Small Stones here.

10-Word Story Challenge #2: “Sky”


This is week #2 of the 10-Word Story Challenge.  I’m inviting anyone and everyone to participate.  The subject this week is “… sky…”  The rules are simple:

  • It will be exactly 10 words.
  • It will be a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an ending.
  • It will be in context to the subject each week.
  • A new challenge will be posted every Wednesday and the deadline will be the following Tuesday at midnight wherever you’re living.
  • Post your 10-word story in the comments of each week’s challenge and feel free to comment on each other’s.

Post your 10-word story below in the comments and be sure to comment on your favorites!  More about the Challenge here.

Let’s have some fun!

Here’s my entry for the week:

Looking up, she whispered and waited.  The sky didn’t reply.

Plucking Petals


Your absence sits in the corner, a sulking beast that scowls.  I dare not look at it but it’s there just the same.  It’s staring at me.  Daring me to feel something I don’t want to.  Alone.  It’s a despicable word.  Empty.  Even worse.  Weren’t these supposed to be crucial elements to finding bliss?  Bliss isn’t here at the moment.  Leave a message.

The hole left where you were but aren’t now threatens to swallow me.  Sometimes I don’t want to resist it.  Sometimes I just want to dive in it headfirst and abandon the silence that becomes a screaming mockery in this room.  I want to, but I’m afraid.  Afraid it’s going to hurt.  I know all the things you would say, but I’m not you.  My emotion is a noisy specter.  I still fear it sometimes.

“An emotion is experienced.  Nothing more nothing less.  It passes like smoke in the wind,” you say.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  I know this, yet there’s this ghost with it’s tongue in my ear whispering, “Oh yes.  It’s going to hurt.  And you’re going to hate it.”

I already hate it.

“We live in duality,” you say; “if you invite happiness you also invite misery.”

Well, together also invited apart.  The whole brought along only half.  I wrestle with my being in this miasma of philosophic existential muck.  My being wants to sit happily on a waterlily contemplating The Big Nothingness, but there’s this beast in the corner, you see.  It keeps staring at me.

Sometimes it laughs and says, “Stupid woman.  You can’t see the poetry of a flower by plucking off its petals to examine them more closely.”  Sometimes I find the strength to agree.

So I sit here in the screaming silence at the edge of the hole you left with this stupid specter.  Your absence is still scowling at me from the corner.  I’m just plucking petals and wishing you’d come home.

Irony Had a Gun


Here is my entry for this week’s 100-Word Challenge for Adults.  The prompt is:

….The flame flickered before….

A rock fell.  Was that a footstep?  My heart hammered like fists against my ribs.  The cave seemed my escape.  No way he saw me duck in here.  Right?

The fire was the mistake.  A dead giveaway.  Don’t bother excusing the pun.  I’m afraid of the dark.

No one messed with Dirty O’Neill and lived to tell about it.  I wouldn’t be breaking that trend either.  All for 50 grand.  Stupid.

The flame flickered before the shadow appeared.  It had a gun.  No time.  I threw myself on the flames.  Pitch black.  Fear’s the only hope and the irony burns.

 

To see my other 100-Word-Challenge entries go here.  To learn more about the 100-Word Challenge for Adults, and to see what this week’s prompt was, go here.

The Last Battle


This is my entry for this week’s 100-Word Challenge for Adults.  The challenge this week was to use the words:  “LIBERTY, EMPIRE, APPLE, YELLOW, and  ENORMOUS” to create a story of 100-words.

**************

Elijah Red and Portnoy Yellow stood gazing into the boughs of their creation.  Their efforts had come to fruition.  It was time.

The Kingdom of the Red Apple had forever been at odds with the Yellow Apple Empire.  The feud was threatening to explode again.  The younger generation needed antiquated-reminding there must be difference or both worlds would crumble.  War was imminent.

Elijah  grinned.  “This ought to set them on their ears.”

“Hope so,” Portnoy nodded.

Together the old men reached up and plucked another enormous half-yellow half-red apple from the tree.

“What shall we call them?”  Portnoy asked.

Liberty.”

To see my other 100-Word-Challenge entries go here.  To learn more about the 100-Word Challenge for Adults, and to see what this week’s prompt was, go here.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy Charlie Chaplin and The Great Dictator: The Speech that Resounds Across Time

They Know


This is my entry for this week’s 100-Word Challenge for Adults.

Elsie lay across her cot like a damp rag in the sweltering afternoon heat.  She was trying to digest what she’d seen.  She’d followed the elephant herd  for days, but today was a revelation.  Textbook words long ago had come to life like some ethereal dream in the velvety haze of morning.

The herd had discovered the carcass of another pachyderm.  They gathered around it solemnly, and one by one, each member had caressed the heap of parched old bones.  They fondled pieces of the deceased and carefully set them back, then stood quietly.

“They know they’re elephants,” she whispered.

To see my other 100-Word-Challenge entries go here.  To learn more about the 100-Word Challenge for Adults, and to see what this week’s prompt was, go here.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like Love without Language:  Elephants Pay their Respects to Lawrence Anthony After his Death

Quiet Water


Charlie Davis ran a bandana over the balding spot on the top of his head and returned his sweat-stained cap to its perch.  He liked to consider it his “lucky fishing hat” and last time he figured it, he’d had it most of the last 30 years of his life.  Today the luck hadn’t shown up, though; not yet anyway.  He squinted with one eye up at the sun.  This day was going to be a hot one.  The morning air was dead still and the mosquitoes were making the most of it.  He slapped one on his arm and flicked it into the water.  The pond was as flat and as perfect as a mirror.  Charlie didn’t mind any of this, though.  There was just something about fishing that made not catching anything perfectly okay with him.  Communing with the sun and the bugs and the water fed his soul in ways other things just didn’t.  He arranged himself more comfortably in his lawn chair with a creak and watched his companion dangle her feet over of the edge of the dock and swing them just above the water’s surface.

“How come they’re not biting, Mr. Charlie?” Andrea Sanders asked with a flip of her red 8-year-old pigtails.

“Just call me Charlie, Andie.  That’d be just fine.  Don’t you be worrying about them fish.  They’ll bite when it’s the right time.  Just you wait and see.  Just gotta be patient a little bit is all.”

Andie wrinkled her nose at him but smiled.  He adored the child and didn’t mind bringing her along with him.  It seemed to him her momma didn’t mind either, not that she paid much attention to the girl unless she was yelling at her.  That woman seemed to yell about a lot of things but Charlie didn’t have much to do with her.  He didn’t mind it; except when it came to Andrea.  At least out here she was getting some peace.

He was amazed such a beautiful child came from such a woman as that.  It made him wonder at times about who her daddy was.  He never asked and Andie never talked about him so he figured to leave it at that.  Some things were fine left hanging in the air.  Sometimes they just belonged there.  He enjoyed her company and sharing all he knew about fishing and it was enough.  He figured she enjoyed him just about as much because all he had to do was walk to his truck with his pole and bucket and she would come a-running.  He had to admit, if she didn’t, he would purposefully bang the bucket around the truck bed a few times like a dinner bell.

So here they sat together on the old wooden dock, bobbers motionless in the water, swatting at mosquitoes.  He thought to himself what an odd pair they must be; an old black man and little pig-tailed white girl with freckles.  This wasn’t exactly the norm around these parts, but Charlie wasn’t one to question life in this way and Andie he knew well enough didn’t see color that way.  They were just happy to be doing what they loved best.

“Charlie?”  Andie asked.

“Yes, child?”

“Teach me something new today,” she replied, scratching a mosquito bite.

He wiped his face and neck with his bandana and thought a moment.

“Yes, I guess yo’ right.  We haven’t had our fishin’ lesson today, have we?” he chuckled.

“Nope.”

“Alright.  Since these fish ain’t hungry I suppose now’s a good time as any.  Just be sure we don’t fo’get to keep an eye on those bobbers.  You never can tell when a fish is gonna come along and take a bite,” he winked.

This made Andie squeeze herself and shift so she was facing the water beside Charlie’s chair.

Eyes fixed on the pair of lazy bobbers she declared, “Okay Charlie.  I’m ready.”

He chuckled low in his chest and tugged on one of her pig tail making her giggle.

“Let’s see.  Today we’ll talk about the quiet water.”

“Quiet water?”

“Yes.  See how the water is all still and quiet, like a mirror?  That’s what I call ‘the quiet water’.  Now, the quiet water is very special, Andie;  like magic.”

Andie’s eyes grew wide and she tore her gaze away from the bobbers to look up at him.

“Magic?” she asked, filled with awe.

“Oh yes.  Just watch.”

Charlie and Andie sat watching the water.  After a few silent minutes passed a little fish broke the surface snatching a floating bug.

“See there?”  Charlie exclaimed.  “If the water hadn’t been quiet we wouldn’t have seen that little fish right there.  We wouldn’t even knows he’s there or what he’s eatin’.  So, like magic, when the water goes quiet it can tell us a lot.”

“That’s funny, Charlie,” Andie giggled.  “Anything that’s quiet doesn’t say anything at all.”

“Well now, that’s the mystery, Andie.  Quiet things can sometimes tell us mo’ than noisy things.”

Charlie paused to dip his pipe into a rumpled pouch he produced from his pocket and took his time packing the tobacco firmly into the bowl.  He watched the child as she watched the bobbers.  He knew she was chewing on what he’d said.  He could almost hear the wheels turning in her head and it made him grin.  Another little fish rippled the surface and Andie flinched.

“There’s another one!” she squealed, pointing.

Charlie chuckled again, “Yep.  There’s another one.  Just came like an idea out of nowhere, didn’t it?”

Andie turned her wide eyes to him again.  He saw she was nibbling at his analogy and doing a much better job of it than those fish were at the corn-baited fishhooks.

“That’s like them artsy folk,” he continue while lighting the pipe.  “Ever wonder how they get those ideas for they’s paintin’s or writin’s?”  He didn’t wait for a reply.  “It’s like if they’s mind wasn’t quiet water then those ideas wouldn’t never be seen.  Just imagine this here pond if all the little fish decided to jump at the same time.”

“I would be like a sea storm!” Andie exclaimed.  “Tidal waves!” she squealed and jumped up waving her arms around wildly.  Charlie laughed.

“Sit down, youngun, or you’ll scare away all those fish.”

Andie complied, hugging her knees tightly to her chest, restraining herself.

“As I was sayin’,” Charlie puffed, “if all these fish were jumping at the same time, the water would be too rough to see any of them.  We’d just be seein’ the waves and hearin’ the splashes.  We might think there’s no fish here at all; just rough water.  Just like folks and they’s ideas.  If they’s mind is all rough with all kinds of ideas jumpin’ at the same time, they’d miss the good ones.  So those artsy folk know the magic of the quiet water.  See?”

Andie nodded.

“Mmhm.  If you need to find an important thought in all those ideas swimmin’ around in yo’ head, Andie, you need to have quiet water.”

He paused to puff on his pipe and watch the bobbers.

“You mean make my mind like quiet water, right?” Andie asked.

Charlie smiled.

“Yep.  You’s a smart girl, you know that, Andie?”

She leaned her head against the arm of his chair and he patted her soft head.

“I wish my Mom thought so,” she sighed.

The words made Charlie’s heart ache and he hated it.

“Don’t you worry, child.  Don’t you worry now.  She knows you’s smart, she just don’t say it is all.”

He had to resist the urge to take the child onto his lap.  He tugged her pig tail again instead.

“Just keep yo’ mind like quiet water, child.  Everything you need’ll come like those little fish out there, one at a time so you can see ‘em.  Just be the quiet water and watch.”

Andie sucked in a breath and caught him by surprise.

“I’m going to try it right now!”

She squinted in concentration and stared hard at the water.  A good belly laugh seized Charlie up before he could catch it at the sight.

“Andie girl, you can’t force the water quiet by catchin’ all the fish first,” he grinned.  “Just relax yo’self and be quiet.”

“Oh, I think I get it,” she nodded, and settled herself quietly on the dock again.

Some time passed.  The mosquitoes buzzed.  Charlie wiped his bald spot at least half a dozen times and was doing so again when Andie sprang to her feet.

“I did it!  I did it!” she cried.  “I was quiet water then I got an idea!  I know why the fish aren’t biting!”

She raced down the dock onto the bank and began turning over rocks and sticks.  Charlie watched her in amusement and chewed absently on the stem of his pipe.  She crouched and pried a stubborn rock from the ground and turned it over.  She began digging at something then sprung up with a grin.

“I got one!” she announced.  “I got one!  It’s a fat one too!”

She ran back down the dock waving her wriggling prize.

“The fish don’t want corn today.  They want worms!” she cried waving the fat wet worm in Charlie’s face.

He let out a guffaw and clapped his hands.

“Girl, you done lost your mind,” he laughed.

Together they reeled their lines in and plucked the soggy corn kernels from the hooks.  Charlie popped the worm into 2 pieces and they re-baited.  Grinning at each other, they cast their lines again.  The bobbers hit the water with a “plop, plop” and they sat to wait.  A few tedious minutes passed when Andie’s bobber flinched in the water.  Then it bounced.  Andie squealed and grabbed her pole.

“Wait, now.  Wait,” Charlie advised.  “Be sure he takes it all the way under.  We don’t want to lose him now.”

Andie stood still as a statue, her face a work of wonder and excitement.  Her fingers were wrapped around the pole handle so tightly the knuckles were showing white but she didn’t move a muscle.

“Quiet water, quiet water,” she whispered to herself.

Suddenly as Sunday the little red and white bobber disappeared.

“Now, Andie!  Now!”  Charlie cried, sitting forward in his chair.

Andie gave a sharp tug and sang out in triumph when it was met with struggling resistance.

“I got ‘im!”

“Hold yo’ tip up!  Don’t let him get away!”  Charlie yelled.

Tongue caught in the corner of her mouth, Andie fought to reel the fish in.  Her pole bent sharply but she didn’t relent.  Her grip remained firm and determined.

“It’s a big one, Andie.  Oh he’s a fine one.!  It’s yo’ biggest one yet!”  Charlie sang.

Finally, the little girl managed to haul the catfish up onto the dock, panting.  Charlie grabbed it before it could flop back off and they both laughed.

“My, my.  Would you look at that fish!”  Charlie exclaimed.  “He’s big enough fo’ both of us to have us a nice dinner tonight.  Maybe yo’ momma, too.”

Andie swelled with her accomplishment.  She gazed up at Charlie as if frozen in the shimmering buzzing summer swelter, her green eyes fixed on his.  He watched the emotion moving behind them.

“I’m proud of you, Andie girl.”

The words were out before he realized he’d said them, but they were the truth.  He was damn proud.

Suddenly the child flung herself at the old man and hugged him.  It wasn’t just a hug with her arms.  It was a hug from her whole being.

“I love you, Charlie,” she whispered.

He held her to him as the world distorted and swam through sudden tears and he uttered, “Quiet water, Andie girl.  Quiet water.”

The Follies of Dainty-Dilly-Dalliness and Mysterious Eggs


The dwarves sat effort-knotted clenching the gnarled stump between them.  Derp hunched, tongue jammed up one toadstooly-nostril with effort.  He painted a wobbly line on the robin’s egg.

“Ack!  My fingers are too thickish for this dainty-dilly-dalliness,” he huffed.  “I don’t like painting eggs. I want to go home!”

Herp leapt to his feet, his bad eye spinning.

“I can help!” he cried.

With a grin as big as summer, he dug around in his pocket and produced a suspiciously large leathery egg.

“I found THIS one in the swamp!”

Derp grinned at the croc’s egg.

“I think you should just keep that prize in yer pocket awhile, Herpy boy.”

 

This is the latest entry in the 100-Word-Challenge for Adults.  This week’s challenge was the second part of two.  We were to take the last 10 words of another participant’s story and use it somewhere in our entry for this week.  You can see the original challenge here.

If you’d like to see the story I used the last 10 words from, visit How the Cookie Crumbles and read that story here.

To see my other 100-Word-Challenge entries, and more installments of this saga, go here.