Just a Bite of Mine #writephoto

Thursday Photo Prompt: mine #writephoto at Suve Vincient’s Daily Echo

We played here as children. Something deeper than nostalgia draws me back to visit; a time traveler trying in vain to return to a perfect moment. I step carefully and hold my breath I creep into the ruins. I don’t want to scare away the ghosts of childhood memories. Once laughter rang off these mossy walls. I can hear its echo in the holy silence that protects this place.  The old oven is frozen at the moment when we left it for more grown up entertainments. I peek inside. Alas, Time has eaten all our fine mud pies. Far in the back of the oven, preserved from the wind and rain, rests a single pie. With a triumphant smile I bring it out and offer you a bite.


An Ordinary Joe

image by Robson Freitas, via morgueFile

image by Robson Freitas, via morgueFile

Joe felt in no way competent to be at a death watch for a saint. All around him were monks, save for one lone nun, the saint’s sister. The monks chanted, prayer-beads clinking off minutes like a timer counting down towards the final bell. The nun provided palliative care, the futility of her nursing never creasing her brow with worry or sorrow. All were serene, except for Joe.

He had been at the monastery for only a month, a chance-traveled destination in a lifetime of pointless journeys to find enlightenment, or at least a better understanding of something. When he came to the saint’s monastery, he was downtrodden with all of it; the traveling, the seeking, the constant finding that he and others always came up short. He was beginning to suspect that there was no enlightenment, no peace, no understanding to be had, only futile travels from one illusory light to the next.

The saint wasn’t dying when Joe first arrived. Every day, the saint would hold court in the monastery’s beautiful garden, sitting in state cross-legged on his pillow in a wooden pavilion. Every path through the beds eventually led to the pavilion. All day, the monks tended the vegetables and flowers while they prayed. The seekers, the travelers, and the penitents wove through monks and paths like bees seeking honey.

Joe decided that he would rather weed. The monks lent him heavy work gloves, which he disdained, and a big straw hat, which he gratefully sat upon his balding pate. He weeded for days until, to his surprise, the saint called for him.

“What brings you to our garden?” The saint asked. His hands counted beads, a labor he stilled at Joe’s approach.

“I don’t even know,” Joe replied. “Maybe I want to know what I should do to be worthy.”

“Worthy of what?” The saint’s clear eyes were bored and amused as he looked over Joe.

“Worthy of. . . hell, I don’t know. Worthy of taking up space on this planet.”

“Ah.” The saint’s expression cleared. “Just breathe.”

With that, Joe thanked the saint and went back to weeding, feeling no more or less enlightened than before. But thereafter, whenever anyone asked him what he was doing at the monastery, be it monk or traveler, he always replied: “Breathing.” As the days went on, he found the act of breathing, really breathing, filled him with a peace he had never dreamed possible.

The saint called each of the monks to his bedside, whispered in their ears, and then sent them forth. One by one they were banished as Joe waited. A few of the monks gave him a sidelong glance as they departed, but most went with eyes meekly on the floor. Finally, there were none left but Joe and the nun, who withdrew to a far corner as the saint gestured Joe forward.

“Is there anything else you’d like to ask me?” the saint asked with a plaintive sigh, his old fingers were strong and cold on Joe’s wrist, but his focus was already beyond the room.

“Is there anything you regret?” Joe asked, then hung his head. He often blurted out most trite things at the worst times. He was a naif, a fool, never knowing what the question really was, never-mind the answer.

“Yes.” The old saints eyes twinkled with mischief. “I regret,” he paused, his gaze resting on the nun for a moment, “I regret not breathing more!” With a final wheeze, he expired.

Later that same day, Joe was astonished and appalled to learn that the saint had elected him the new head of the monastery. The new saint.

“Why me?” he asked the nun as she brought him a cup of cold, clear water. He sat in the pavilion, his seat not yet comfortable on the brand new cushion that the monks had brought him. Out in the garden, travelers and penitents were already working their way through, seeking answers he feared didn’t exist.

She smiled. “He said it was because you know how to breathe.”

Dawn Rendevous

photo by earl 53, via MorgueFile

photo by earl53, via MorgueFile

There was a white dog in the yard of the yellow house. It hurt his heart that anyone would leave such a beautiful creature outside every night in the cold. If she were his, she would sleep next to his bed on a special dog bed. She would sneak into his bed and burrow under the covers with him, pressing her furry body along his and sighing with contentment.

Every morning as he headed to the bus stop she stood in the snow, pushing her black nose through the chain link fence.  Her eyes were liquid and hypnotic in the predawn light. He would lean over the low fence and pet her while she wiggled with delight, tugging at his ratty mittens with her pointy little teeth. Her morning greetings gave him something to think about on the bus ride to his mind-numbing job. He had at least one friend in town.

He never saw her in the evenings as he walked past on the way the dingy boarding house where he lived. He imagined her shivering in the dog house at the back of the yard.  The cold nipped at his own nose too sharply for him to look for long. At dawn his heart leapt with joy. She was back at the fence, waiting for him.

That night, on the way home from work, he bought his first can of Vienna sausages. The tinned dog food at the convenience store next to the bus stop was over-priced. The sausages came in a pop top, easy to open in the cold.

He would feed his furry white friend one sausage at a time, watch her savor them. She didn’t disappoint. It became their new morning ritual. She would not starve in the cold, even if he had to give up his afternoon soda to afford the weenies.

He got a better job, one that paid well enough to afford a real apartment across town. If he broke into the money he was saving for a car, he had enough for the pet deposit. A few old shoelaces braided together would serve as a leash until he could get a real one. He set off to liberate her. There was a lightness in his heart that he had not felt in years.

The yard was empty, nothing but a few glints of sausage can tops poking through the melting snow there to greet him. He shuffled away, remembering the feel of her tongue on his fingers, the thick warmth of her coat. Perhaps he would adopt a shelter dog. Maybe his dawn beauty would be waiting for him there. If not, maybe there would be a puppy like her, just for him.

Back at the yellow house, the white dog’s owner stood on the sidewalk and looked over the many empty sausage cans exposed by the melting snow.

“I guess these explain why you wanted out at four-thirty every morning!”

The white dog woofed her agreement.

Halloween Flash Fiction Bash

There’s a Halloween flash party going on over on Karen Michelle Nutt’s blog. She’s hosting a different writer every day of October for a bit of spooky story-telling fun. I have really enjoyed the stories so far. Since they’re short, you can catch up easily if you haven’t yet stopped by. There are a bunch of great prizes up for grabs as well. My story will go live on October 17th.

cowboy crouchingI decided to write another William Robert Travis story for my entry. My Texas cowboy angel of death isn’t all that scary, but he does run into scary situations quite regularly. Comes with the job, I guess. His first appearance was in a Flash story. I’ve written other, longer stories featuring Billy Bob, which I plan to release individually and in a collection soon.   Billy Bob is an odd sort of angel. When he’s here on earth, the usual laws of the natural world (mostly) apply to him, though of course a magical being always has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Super short fiction is hard work. As Blaise Pascal supposedly said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” I love writing shorts because it really pushes me as a writer to be concise, to try to choose exactly the right word, and to not let myself get distracted by unnecessary detail or plot bunnies. If you read a story on the Halloween Flash Fiction Bash that you like, please give the author some comment love. There’s more work in those little things than one might suppose!