Category Archives: Flash Fiction Friday

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26-July-2019

A Tumi Inca Knife and a Regency Romance. How is this going to work?

 

Helen wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. The meager, thatched roof of the fruit stand did little more than keep the sun off of them while at the same time trapping the damp heat of the July day underneath, making Helen think she stood in an oven.

“Your admirer is coming.” Mary gave Helen a nudge with her elbow.

“He’s not my admirer,” Helen muttered.

“Oh?” Mary looked at Helen with raised eyebrows. “Then why does he come to buy fruit each day?”

Helen arranged the fruit in the baskets. “Because we’re the only people who have apricots.”

“He has servants who could fetch him as many apricots as he could eat, and yet here he comes.”

Helen glanced up and found Mr. Altham and his friend Mr. Langdon walking up the road. Their fine jackets and collars along with their shining boots looked out of place among the other fruit buyers, who wore more conservative attire.

“This is the third day in a row he’s been here,” Mary said.

“It is as I said, he likes apricots.” Helen arranged the fruit again and forced herself to believe the words. Mr. Altham had paid extra attention to her during all of his visits. He bowed to her and engaged in spirited conversation for much longer than his friend looked comfortable with.

A quick look told Helen that they were close. She felt a blush rising as she studied Mr. Altham. He stood tall and straight with long limbs and wide shoulders. His blue waistcoat complemented his eyes, and curly brown hair topped his head. Each time he smiled, her heart skipped a beat.

“He’s all yours,” Mary said.

“Wait,” Helen protested as Mary moved to help another customer. Mary ignored her. Helen took a breath, swallowed a growing sense of apprehension, and met Mr. Altham’s eyes as he approached.

As usual, he bowed. Deep and low. His friend gave her a small bow.

“Miss Kendal. How good to see you.”

Helen curtsied and bowed her own head. “Mr. Altham. We are honored to have you visit us again.” When she looked up, she found him grinning.

“You are the only stand with apricots.” He gently pounded a fist on the warped, wood top of the stand. “I must have them!”

Mr. Langdon rolled his eyes. A very un-gentleman like gesture, and it was doubtful that anyone else noticed, but Helen had been watching for it. He didn’t approve of his friend’s coming here, but he still came with him. Helen hadn’t figured out what that meant yet. She cleared her throat. “Well, we happen to have a fine batch today. I picked them this morning.”

“This morning? How wonderful.” Mr. Altham continued to smile, as if his features has been frozen that way. “I will take my usual order.”

“Of course.” Helen had already set a small bag of the best apricots aside for him. This is why she assumed he kept coming back. She retrieved the bag and set it before him.

He beamed. “You have anticipated me.”

“I have.”

Mr. Altham took a small pouch from his pocket and drew out a silver coin.

Helen’s eyes went wide. “That’s too much.”

“Nonsense. This is for the apricots and for always taking such good care of me.” He held out the coin.

Helen hesitated. They could purchase a new roof with that coin. Or perhaps a new dress or two for her and Mary.

“Come, now,” Mr. Altham said. “Please take it or I shall be very cross.”

Cross? Helen was certain that Mr. Altham couldn’t be cross if he tried. The sincerity shining in his eyes melted Helen’s heart, and she curtsied again. “Thank you.” When she reached out to take the coin, their fingers touched, and the world stopped.

Warmth flowed from the point of contact as the two of them stared at one another. Everyone around them faded away. Mr. Altham’s blue eyes stared into hers, and she wanted to get lost in them.

Mary cleared her throat, jerking Helen out of the moment. She quickly withdrew her hand.

Mr. Altham coughed. He glanced around and then looked back at Helen. “I also have a gift for you.”

“A—A gift?” Helen’s mouth dried out.

“Yes.” He handed the bag of apricots to Mr. Langdon and pulled a cloth-wrapped bundle from inside of his coat. He set it before him and slid it over to her.

Helen stared at it. She longed to reach out and touch it. To open it and see what lay hidden beneath the folds. However, she knew her place. “I can’t accept it,” she said in a soft voice.

His smiled faltered for a moment, but recovered as he began to unwrap the package. “You see, it’s useful. I saw you trying to cut some of the fruit with your old knife, and when I saw this I knew that you could use it.” The words tumbled out as the contents emerged.

A half-circle blade, the size of her hand, was topped by a representation of a strange-looking man with an ornate halo around his head. It was beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

When she tore her eyes away, she found Mr. Altham watching her. “I got it from a man who got it from the Americas. They use it for everything there. It’s wicked sharp, and you should have no trouble cutting your fruit with it.” He held it out as if it were his most prized possession.

Before she could refuse it, he snatched her hand and pressed the unique knife into it. “Please, accept it.”

Helen opened her mouth to talk. Before she could get words out let stepped back and smiled. “I’ll be back tomorrow to see how it goes.” Then he turned and walked away.

“Still not an admirer?” Mary asked.

Helen shook her head, wondering what had just happened.

***

This is the best I could do!

Not going to lie, the hubby helped me with this one. My mind totally blanked out.

Genre – Regency Romance

Location – Fruit Stand

Random Object – Tumi Inca Knife

Here’s a picture in case you have no idea what that is. Pretty sure it wasn’t used to cut fruit…


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19-July-2019

I thought it only rained inside the car in Texas…

“Are we there yet?” Billy asked from the middle seat of the transport.

“Shut up,” I grumbled.

“Sheesh, you’re in a bad mood.”

I eyed the blue clouds gathering in the green sky above.

Maudie leaned forward to get a better look. “You think we’re going to make it?”

I checked the on-board map and noted how many see-fers we had to go. “It’s going to be tight.”

“Do you think we should stop at the next station?” Maudie asked.

A groan from the very back of the transport made that decision for us. If Della was going to live, we needed to get her to Highville as soon as we could. “We’ll make it,” I said.

A click sounded, followed by the sensation of the air being sucked from my lungs. “What are you doing back there?” I demanded.

One glance at the screen showed that Billy had opened the top hatch and climbed up onto the seat.

“Get down,” Maudie said in a loud voice.

Thin air whipped around us, causing my shoulder-length hair to end up in my mouth. I hit the button that would close the hatch.

Billy let out a cry of surprise and then dropped to his seat. “What are you trying to do, cut me in half?”

“Della needs all the air she can get,” I grumbled.

“Right. Sorry.” Billy glanced over his shoulder where I knew Frank sat with Della’s head in his lap. Then Billy turned back toward the front and spoke to me. “Those clouds are gathering fast. I’ve never seen a storm that big before. There’s no way we’re going to make it all the way to Highville before it hits us.”

I ground my teeth. The computer said we would be in Highville only a portion of a circle after the edge of the storm caught us. If we were lucky, we’d have to drive through some rough wind, and maybe a few exploding geysers, but I’d been around long enough to know that no computer could compete with a cloud-watcher. “How long?” I asked.

“This thing is going to start exploding in less than a circle.”

“The computer says we have a circle and a half,” Maudie said.

Billy shook his head. “The computer is wrong.”

I checked the vicinity. There was a station a quarter of a circle ahead of us. We could easily get to it, but they probably wouldn’t have the facilities to take the parasite out of Della without killing her.

Maudie lowered her voice. “We don’t want to be alone in this transport with that thing if it bursts.”

“I know,” I said. I’d seen what even a baby could do to someone. It needed to feed, and they were easy pickings. Plus, they’d never survive outside in a storm. I sighed and flipped the com for the back seat on. “Frank, how much time do we have?”

“Less than two circles,” he said in a strained voice.

Which meant we would be lucky to make it to Highville at all.

A low rumble vibrated the air around us, and I had to fight to keep the transport steady.

Billy swore.

“What?” Maudie asked.

“That’s thunder.”

“But it doesn’t rain here.”

A plastic handle appeared over my shoulder.

“It’s worse than rain,” Billy said.

Maudie took the handle and pulled the rest of the apparatus through.

The contraption was simple enough. A pole as thick as my finger that could be extended to reach all the way across the windshield by the passenger. A flat piece of metal, about the size of my hand and covered in a nano-cloth, swiveled on one end.

“Get ready,” Bill said. “It will come fast.”

I put in the code for the emergency seal, and winced as my ears popped when the pressure engaged.

The atmosphere on the planet did strange things with moisture. It never rained, but as soon as something was sealed, water would accumulate inside. It defied the laws of physics. Then again, so did the parasites.

Maudie extended her new toy and began wiping the windshield. The nano-cloth pulled the moisture away from the surface, but by the time she got from one end to the other, more had accumulated.

I squinted, as if making my line of vision smaller would help see through the goop, but it didn’t. Instead, the air pulsed again, and we got thrown off course.

Everyone yelled. Including me.

I fought to get us back on the path. Just as we got there, a geyser erupted to our left, spewing rocks and gas into the air.

“Since when does a storm do this?” Maudie asked.

“We only have four cycles if data to draw from,” Bully said. “This is something new.”

“I never should have left Earth,” I muttered as another explosion from our right pushed us off-course.

“I guess we’re stopping at the station,” Billy said.

“If we make it,” I said.

An inhumane scream came from the back seat.

“Great,” Maudie said.

“Billy, grab your gun.”

***

This one is kind of fun! I almost want to know what’s going on…

Genre – Space Western

Setting – Road Trip

Random Object – Cleaner for the inside of a windshield


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12-Jul-2019

Getting Your Hair Done is More than Just a Shampoo

“Are you looking at that picnic table again?” Nancy asked over her shoulder.

I blinked, and turned around. “Course not.”

The woman, Jen, sitting in front of me looked at me in the mirror. “What’s up with the picnic table?”

I ran my comb through her wet, thick, red hair. “Nothing.”

“You haven’t heard the story?” Nancy asked.

“What story?” Nancy’s client asked.

Nancy put a hand on her slender waist and laughed. “About the mystery man.”

“Mystery man?” Jen asked me again in the mirror.

I shrugged. “Are we just trimming up these ends?”

“Yes, and I want a sexy style. I have a date tonight.”

“What kind of a date?” I asked. “Should I prepare for outdoor activities, or do you plan to spend most of the evening indoors?”

Jen’s eyes went wide with pretend shock. “Why Chelsea Tylor, what are you insinuating?”

“That  you might go to the movies,” I said with an innocent look on my face.

The other ladies giggled, and I breathed a sigh of relief. That is until Nancy began to tease her client’s hair. “Chelsea, honey, why don’t you tell us about the man you saw out there.”

“Man?” Jen demanded.

I felt a blush coming to my cheeks. “I told you, Nancy, I thought it was a man, but I’m pretty sure it was just one of the local Officers.”

Jen nodded. “There are a couple of big ones. I’ve mistaken one for a man before.”

Nancy made a pffft sound. “You ain’t never seen a man before.”

“I’ve seen pictures,” Jen said.

“We’ve all seen pictures, but who knows if they’re the real deal,” Nancy’s client said. She narrowed her eyes at herself in the mirror. “The Officers and the Governor could have had those pictures doctored. Men could be twice as tall as us, or they could have three arms.”

“They don’t have three arms,” I muttered.

“Because you saw one?” Jen asked.

I sighed and pulled my scissors off of the little shelf in front of Jen. “Look, it was late. I’d had a little bit to drink and I thought I saw something outside.”

“Something?”

“Something big. Bigger than any of us, but not big enough to be a monster or anything like that.” I began to trim, the swish and click of the scissors a comfort to my ears.

“Probably an officer,” Nancy’s client said.

“Tell them the rest,” Nancy said.

Swish, click.

I dropped the ends of Jen’s red hair onto the floor. “I told you, I’d been drinking.”

“Oh come on.” Nancy retrieved her hairspray. “It’s a spooky story.”

“I love spooky stories!” Jen said.

“Tell us!” Nancy’s client said through her hands as she covered her face from the assault of aerosol hairspray.

I took a breath, inhaling the tangy spray, and let it out. “Fine.” I kept trimming as I talked, slowly working my way around Jen. “Last Friday night, after a date gone awry, I came here because I was too drunk to drive home.”

“Wait, date?” Jen asked.

I held up a hand. “You get the date story or the man story. Which one do you want?”

Jen’s green eyes narrowed, and she considered for a moment.

“Man story,” Nancy mouthed in a whisper.

“Fine. Man story.”

“Okay.” I continued to comb and trim. “It was raining. I stumbled through the door and decide I didn’t want to drip all over the floor, so I stripped down.” I lowered my voice. “I got here just in time, because a crash of thunder made me jump, then a flash of lightning threw my shadow onto the floor in front of me.” I pointed, and my hand trembled just a little. The memory of that night was still fresh, as if I’d just lived it a few minutes before. “Only my shadow wasn’t alone.”

Jen and Nancy’s client let out a gasp.

Nancy chuckled.

“A larger, thicker shadow stretched from there to there.” I pointed. “Taller and broader than mine, but right next to it.”

“What did you do?” Jen asked.

“I screamed. I don’t know why I turned around, but I did.”

“And there he was,” Nancy said.

I scowled. “Yes, that’s when I saw what I thought was a man.”

“What did he look like?” Jen asked.

“Big. Burly. His head and face was covered with hair. He wore a long coat, but his eyes…” I swallowed. “Another flash of lightening lit the world, and I saw his eyes.” A shudder ran through me.

“Wh—what did they look like?” Jen asked.

“They were blue,” I said.

Jen gasped again.

Nancy shook her head.

“What did he do?” Jen asked in a small voice.

“He stared at me,” I said. “I was standing here naked and he just looked.”

“He didn’t attack you?”

“No. A huge crack of thunder sounded—so loud that I covered my ears and shut my eyes, and when I opened them again, he was gone.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Then he left her a present,” Nancy said.

I heart sped up. “I found a paper on the picnic table the next morning. It was smeared and soggy, but I could make out two words.”

“What were they?” Jen asked.

I paused for dramatic effect. “Help us.”

Silence filled the salon. Jen stared at me with wide eyes.

Nancy spoiled it. She started laughing.

“What?” Jen asked.

“They totally believed you!” Nancy said.

I chuckled. “Yes, they did.”

Jen scowled. “You lied?”

“Just a tall tale,” I said. But my I looked out the door one more time, and I could still see him standing there. Staring at me. I shivered. “Just a tall tale.”

***

I have a new list of categories to roll! This is what today’s were:

Genre: Tall Tale

Setting: Salon

Random Object: Picnic Table


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5-July-2019

Beware the fuzzy Customs Official

“This planet stinks of burned cabbage,” Rex said.

“Have had real cabbage?” I asked.

“Once. It tasted like death.”

I nodded my head. “Sounds about right.”

Around us beings from the three-hundred worlds rushed to and from ships. Some dragged floating carts overloaded with goods, while others had a simple bag slung over their shoulder. Plenty of dirty faces and ripped clothes greeted us, but not much of the finery that was more prevalent on the mid worlds.

“You had it before?”

“Yeah. It was one of the only crops that would grow on Bden.” I squinted against the sun—which hung too close to the planet for my liking, and finally spotted the leaning building that must be customs. “That way.”

Rex grunted and turned our floating cart and began to push again. The front corner tilted dangerously, but Rex had packed the weight to keep it aloft.

Now if customs didn’t get too nosy, we would have it dropped off in a couple of hours. I shrugged my shoulders against the unseen weight of our cargo and followed the cart.

Rex was right. The air did indeed smell like burned cabbage, and the green-ish dirt reminded me of the goulash my mother had made when we had nothing else to eat. My stomach churned, and I swallowed hard.

“Don’t look like a long wait,” Rex said as he pushed the cart in behind a pair of Phhos with a crate slung between their shoulders.

He was right. Usually on a planet like this we would have at least an hour wait. Probably more. And if there wasn’t a line, they’d make us wait out of spite, or just on principle. I stood on my toes and saw only two floating platforms in front of the Phhos waiting to enter the building. “Maybe there’s a longer line inside,” I said.

“It’s not that big of a building,” Rex pointed out.

Again, the little man was right.

The wide doors rumbled open and I caught a glimpse of a decent sized warehouse-like room with a couple of humans waiting. They waved the next cart in and closed the door. We moved up and waited.

“Something’s fishy,” Rex said.

“You had real fish before?”

“Yup. Twice.”

Nothing smelled fishy, but something sure didn’t feel right. Customs usually consisted of dozens of bored guards looking for bribes. They harassed each group coming in and out, and if you didn’t give them what they wanted—which could change in the blink of an eye—then they’d throw you in a holding cell and search your ship.

I looked around. Everyone stood patiently. I glanced behind me and found a being with a neck as thin as my wrist and as long as my arm, staring down at me with a smile.

“First time on Cader?”

I nodded.

“Not to worry. Customs is simple.”

“Bribes?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nothing like that. You either get through, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

I frowned. “Not sure what you mean.”

The doors opened and the line moved forward again.

“Wait and find out,” the guy—or maybe girl—behind me said.

Less than a small cycle later, the doors opened and the cart, along with the bearers, came back out and headed toward their ship. There was no swearing. No anger. Just a shrug and they left.

“I don’t like it,” Rex said.

I didn’t either, but decided that if leaving was the only consequence, then we may as well try.

When our turn came, we moved through the open doors and into the building. The door closed, and I’d expected it to get dark, but hovering lights brightened to make up most of the difference.

The two humans—both female—approached us.

“Haven’t seen you before,” the taller of the two said.

“It’s our first time,” I said.

They both nodded. Then a small, furry creature with pointed ears and a long tail appeared. It wound it’s way through both female’s legs and then walked toward us.

Rex stiffened. “What is it?”

“Don’t know,” the shorter female said.

“But if he says you get through, then you get through,” the other added.

I watched as the fuzzy creature walked around Rex, then me, then went back to our cart. It sat on the ground and started licking on of its front paws. Then it cleaned its ear.

“What’s it doing?” Rex asked.

“Stalling,” the tall female said. “Give him a minute.”

Stalling? My eyes darted to our cart. The drugs we had, while not exactly illegal, were usually used to enhance good feelings to the point of, well, a lot of people having a lot of fun. Cader didn’t have laws against it, but I wondered if these females would take some of it. Or all of it.

The creature finally looked up. It bunched it’s legs and jumped, landing lightly on the cart.

I held my breath as it began to prowl, sniffing everything it could reach. It stopped when it got to the container the drugs were in and brushed it’s head against the container.

My eyes darted to the females.

They kept their eyes on the creature.

It circled the container once.

I found myself tapping my fingers on my leg.

Twice.

Rex glanced at me, and I noticed sweat on his brow.

Then the creature let out a smell meowel, but it’s head against the container again, then jumped down. It then went to the corner, sat, lifted a leg and began to clean its—

“You’re good to go,” the taller female said.

“Just like that?” Rex asked.

She nodded. “Just like that.”

Curiosity got the better of me. “What is that thing?”

The two humans looked at one another, then shrugged. “We don’t know. It was here when the first settlers got here, and since then it’s taken up residence in the customs office. He’s never let anything through that it didn’t want here.”

The small one gave me a wink. “Whatever you’ve got in there must be fun, because he only circles like that right before a party.”

I stared at her.

The doors on the opposite wall opened.

The tall one waved us through. “See you guys around.”

Rex grunted and moved forward.

I took one last look at the creature, licked my lips and followed Rex.

***

I didn’t have a topic, so I asked my hubby, who is playing games with his siblings. They’re playing Firefly Adventure (whatever it’s called, not the big Firefly game, but a smaller one) and he said I should do a Space Western.

So here we are.

They suggested a teddy bear, but I already had the customs official in my head!


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