The Muse

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He lived in this ramshackle hotel. He’d caught the ferry to it a year ago after he lost everything in a craps game on the mainland. He couldn’t afford anything else. Now someone wanted to talk to him about painting a landscape.

He found the fine-looking lady at the bar. He bought each of them a drink. She had horses and wanted him to paint them in a pasture on her horse farm.

He briefly dreamed he could still do it. Now his hands shook and the muse was gone.

He turned her down and walked away. Shattered.

 

98 words

Photo prompt JS Brand

The Twisty Stick

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The young boy scrambled into Kay’s kitchen looking for his friend.

”Larry,” he shouted, “I found the wood you need to make one of your walking sticks just for me!”

The old man rose slowly to his feet and followed the boy outside. They found the cut wood lying in the neighbor’s yard.

”Son,” Larry said, “It takes a strong, young sapling with a grapevine wound around it to make a stick.”

”You mean like this?” the boy asked, as he touched a piece of wood.

Larry watched in amazement as the sapling with the vine rose into the air.

 

100 words

Photo prompt by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Cheep, A Serial, Number 5

Number 5:

Lucy hung up the phone. She had been talking to her sister who was flying down to join her for some sister time at the beach. Her bedroom was on the second level of the beach house, but she could still see the man who had sat down beside her over top of the dunes. He was leaving to walk on down the beach as she had seen him do every day. She’d had so much on her mind that she had scarcely noticed him. She was surprised he had stopped to talk and embarrassed he had seen her crying.

Amelia, her older sister, had called to make the final arrangements for her visit to the beach. She was going to spend a week with Lucy there. They were both looking forward to their time together. Amelia and Lucy had gotten to spend little time together as adults. They were six years apart in age and had led different lives. This was their chance to reconnect, although interruptions they hadn’t counted on were going to interfere. Lucy had already been at the beach house for three days alone. Her husband and other guests were going to soon all arrive in the space of two days.

First, Lucy’s daughter, Marie, and her husband, Adam, were flying in on the same day as Amelia. The next day, Gary, Lucy’s husband would arrive. Lucy was looking forward to spending time at the beach with everyone except Gary.

She and Gary had been arguing for days. During one of their arguments, Gary had changed his flight and, instead of arriving when she did, he expected her to stay at the beach house alone for several days. She had to drive almost 600 miles to get there. She had to do it alone. It was right in the middle of Hurricane Irma and that monster storm was going to be making landfall in South Florida as she drove and when she arrived at their panhandle beach house. Lucy had envisioned heavy traffic and even bad weather.

Everything turned out all right on her drive. She stopped and spent one night on the road and went on the next day. It was lonely in the beach house. She had taken the opportunity to do some thinking since she got there. Her relationship with Gary had not been good for over a year. Really for two years. She had been considering divorce. When Ed Gillespie found her sitting below the dunes, that subject was on her mind.

Lucy Hammonds was a beautiful woman. Blonde hair, flawless skin, a killer smile, and those azure eyes. She looked much younger than her 60 years of age.

Cheep, A Serial, Number 4

Number 4:

Ed sat there for a few moments. He had been aware that she was very attractive, but he couldn’t really describe her because he was captivated by those azure blue eyes. She was troubled. He didn’t think she had smiled except when she had introduced herself and only a little then. He didn’t even know the color of her hair. She had seemed laser-focused on whatever was hurting her inside, a bad marriage apparently. He looked back at the beach house, but he saw no sign of her. He didn’t know she was lying on her bed watching him as she spoke to someone on the phone.

Ed got up from the sand dune, dusted himself off, and continued on his walk. He wondered if he’d ever see her again. If she was a creature of habit, she’d be out in the same spot on the beach the next day, gazing at the Gulf or crying. Perhaps both. He hoped she would find peace. He continued his walk down the beach. As he returned to his beach house, she was nowhere to be seen.

Cheep, A Serial, Number 3

Number 3:

Ed sat down but not too close to her. He felt like, if he did, she’d run off like a wild thing. The two of them just stared out at the ocean for a moment or two.

Finally, Ed introduced himself. He held out his hand.

“I’m Ed, Ed Gillespie.”

She seemed to have to screw up her courage. She finally took his hand and said, “I’m Lucy. Lucy Hammonds. I’m staying in the beach house right behind us.”

“Lucy, if you don’t mind me asking, would you like to talk? I’m just an old guy who has been around the block a few times. I don’t know why such a beautiful woman sits here day after day crying her eyes out, but if I could offer any wisdom or just be a sounding board, I’d be glad to do so.”

Then he smiled at her. Ed had a very engaging smile. He still felt like a dope. He just made this big speech to a total stranger who was sitting here crying. Why should she want to talk to him?

Lucy gave him a soft smile back.

“I’m here alone, Ed, and I’m lonely and scared. I have a big problem. You see, I think I want to divorce my husband.”

Ed thought to himself that he should get up and leave right that second. He’d had his share of relationships in his life, including a marriage. Some of those relationships were with women just like Lucy, either just prior to or just after they were divorced. Those relationships were nothing but trouble. Somehow, Lucy seemed different or maybe it was because she was beautiful. Ed was a sucker for a beautiful woman.

“I’ll have to tell you, Lucy, that I’m probably not the best person to give relationship advice. But, what do you mean that you only think you want a divorce?”

“Ed, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. One year for sure. Probably even two years. I’m afraid.”

“Everyone who contemplates divorce is afraid, Lucy, but what are you afraid of, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid no one will ever find me attractive again and that I’ll never again find love.”

Ed was disarmed by her honesty. At that moment, her phone rang. She got up and ran into her beach house, leaving him sitting against the sand dune.

Cheep, A Serial, Number 2

Number 2:

Ed Gillespie, the old, retired private investigator, walked up and down the beach on the Gulf of Mexico every day. There may have been the biggest hurricane ever spotted brewing just off the Atlantic coast of Florida, but no one knew it in the Panhandle. The water was azure, reflecting the color of the sky. The only hint of trouble ahead was more wind than usual.

East of his beach house, Ed saw the same woman every day. She sat with her back to the dunes, just beyond the sea grass, facing the Gulf. Some days, she gazed out at the water, looking haunted, as if she saw nothing. Other days, her head was hanging down and she held her hands over her face. He assumed she was crying. On the days he could see her face, he saw that she was beautiful. It wasn’t difficult to see pain on her face and see that she was also troubled. There was something vulnerable about her and he longed to stop and ask if he could help. Thinking of the women who had burned him in the past had stopped him so far.

Today was different. He glanced at her as he neared her place in the sand and she was looking at him. He could have sworn that her eyes reflected the azure of the water. He found himself walking over to her.

“Hi,” he said, “I see you sitting here almost every day. I thought I’d stop and say hello. I’m Ed and I’m staying two beach houses down the beach.”

He felt foolish. As he gazed at her, he saw the tracks of tears on her face.

“Hello,” she gulped, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting anyone to stop by. I’ve been crying.”

She was hastily trying to wipe away her tears.

“I don’t suppose I could help? I have a pretty good set of shoulders,” Ed remarked, “Would you mind if I sat down?”

She just stared at him.

“Look, I’m not a serial killer or anything. Just a guy taking some time off.”

“Sure,” she said. “Sit.”

 

Cheep: A Serial

Number 1:

CHEEP!

PROLOGUE

Cheep! Cheep! Lucy’s eyes flew open. She listened for a minute. It was the smoke detector. The battery was dying. She was trying to sleep.

Lucy was alone. Gary, her husband, had sent her to the beach house days ahead of him. He had insisted. The smoke alarm was high up on the arch of the cathedral ceiling. She couldn’t reach it. She laid there and tried to ignore it. That incessant cheeping.

Lucy heard another noise. She got up and grabbed her handbag. Her Smith and Wesson was in it. As she stepped out on the balcony to listen, she was grabbed from behind.

When her husband arrived three days later, all he found were her old beach sneakers beside the bed.

Boisterous – #JusJoJan

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He spoke in a most boisterous way, telling her he was never coming home. Asking her where home actually was? Telling her he had no home. That home certainly wasn’t with her. He even emphasized it. He said he was never, ever coming home.

She had given him the run of the place since they had married. It had become his home more than hers. He did whatever he wanted. He’d changed it. With tools and carpentry, certainly, but also just with his argumentative, aggressive presence. Everywhere she looked, it was his home. She knew what he meant. She hadn’t made it official. She hadn’t gone to the courthouse. Put his name on the deed. She was afraid of doing that. One other time, he had essentially blackmailed her into giving up her home. Another city. Another house. In another time. She couldn’t take that chance again. She had never put any constraints on him here.

Now he was using emotional blackmail. With every word he spoke, it became too late. In his rough, tempestuous manner, he was killing anything that was left between them. He hung up the phone. It was done.

 

This post is part of Linda Hill’s Just Jot Jan Challenge 2018

The Past

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It was fall. The leaves were just starting to turn and it was still warm. Not hot, but warm. The nights were crisp. They were on vacation in a beautiful place. There was a crescent moon and they went for a walk to get a better look. It had been years since they had even taken a walk together. There was no romance between them.

The landscape was flat, but there was a small hill in front of them. They climbed the hill to get a better look at the moon. In front of them was the ocean. He took her hand to help her up. He held on. Her instinct was to let go, but she made herself let him hold her hand. It had been years since they had even held hands. His hand felt foreign to her.

The moon over the ocean was beautiful, casting another moon into the ocean. He had always enjoyed the moon shadow but had never seen it very often over water. Usually just on land. She was a child of the sun. Over the years, she had become afraid of the dark. She didn’t know why. She found herself taking deep breaths, hoping to avoid a panic attack because of being in the dark. He gripped her hand tighter. He knew.

They stood there for a long time. Talking. Reminiscing about all the past years. He wanted to talk about the good times. She could hardly bear to remember the good times, but she tried. Good times with him seemed so very long ago. When he mentioned them, she tried to remember and laughed with him even when she had forgotten something he remembered completely. She had blocked out so much.

He told her he’d like to spend the night there on the beach. That he had sleeping bags in the car. It was his birthday. She hated to disappoint him. She felt like she had spent years disappointing him so she agreed. He found a good place and put the sleeping bags and a cooler with her water and some snacks down. They got in their sleeping bags. If he had done this years ago, she would have been pleased.

They laid there and talked for a while. Not about anything significant. Just about the beautiful place they had found here ten years ago. He reached for her hand. He fell asleep while they were holding hands. She laid there awake for a long time, thinking of how they had been only roommates for so long. How she didn’t know how to be anything else with him now. His hand was warm and made her feel safe. It made her remember the night they met. How he’d made her feel safe that night too. So long ago. She listened to the ocean all night.

She thought of what his mother had said all those years ago.

”It doesn’t matter if you love each other. You come from two different worlds. It will never work out in the long run.”

How right she had been. But, for some reason, they had always hung on to each other even though they would have been so much happier with other people.

She watched the sunrise, her hand still in his. What he didn’t know is that, now, she was sick.

 

The Ghost Road, continued #writephoto

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Below is a flash fiction story, “The Ghost Road, written for a challenge. It is continued below the line for this prompt:

They were driving the most challenging road they had ever driven. He had altitude sickness. They had been to the Grand Canyon. When they left for Phoenix, they took a wrong turn and ended up on a road that clung to the red rock mountainsides and took breathtaking drops down.

The road straightened out. They knew they shouldn’t turn on a dirt road. Phoenix couldn’t be this way. But they followed the GPS.

Later that night, her cousin called the police to report them missing. They scoured the desert. There was no sign of them. Not ever again.

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This is a continuation of a previous story, “The Ghost Road,” above.

They followed the dirt road for miles. She kept telling him it couldn’t be the road to Phoenix no matter what the GPS said. He seemed like a man possessed, determined to follow this ghost road no matter what. She was getting frightened. He was acting strangely.

Finally, he said, “I want to see where this road goes, Phyllis.”

”Chad, we’re obviously not on a road to Phoenix.”

”I know, honey. But I’m curious. Let’s just follow it a little farther.”

Phyllis found herself thinking she wished she was still driving. He’d had altitude sickness most of the way, but after they had turned on this dirt road, he had felt better. If she were driving, they would have turned around.

”All right, Chad,” she replied, “but only a little farther.”

Chad drove on, bumping along the dirt road. The GPS had long since stopped talking to them and appeared stuck on the location where they turned off onto the dirt road. Phyllis suddenly saw something ahead. It was so hot in the desert that day that the air was shimmering and she thought it might be a mirage, just a product of her imagination. Chad saw it too.

”Phyllis, there are buildings ahead of us.”

”I see something, but the air is shimmering from the heat and I wasn’t sure it was really there.”

”I’m going closer. Maybe it’s a town.”

”How could it be a town, Chad? This is a dirt road out in the middle of the desert with no services anywhere around. Who would live there? Anyway, it is probably miles away and seems closer than it is.”

”This is obviously what the GPS was pointing us toward. Let’s just have some fun and go exploring.”

For some reason, Phyllis got the feeling that Chad wasn’t just having fun. He seemed more like a man on a mission. She remained quiet as Chad drove closer and closer to the sand-colored buildings. Finally, Chad started to slow down as they came close to a small collection of old buildings seemingly built out of the sand of the surrounding desert. They didn’t see any other people.

“This is creepy, Chad. Let’s turn around and go back.”

”Look at that sign, Phyllis.”

Phyllis looked in the direction Chad was pointing. There was a sign that said, “Phoenix, Arizona. Population: 283.” She turned in amazement to Chad.

”The reason the GPS led us in this direction is because this is Phoenix. Maybe it is the first early settlement of Phoenix,” Chad said with astonishment.

”That can’t be. It would be a tourist attraction.”

”Then why, Phyllis, does the sign say Phoenix, Arizona? There is only one. This is an Arizona ghost town! Let’s get out and walk around.”

Chad and Phyllis parked the car and started to walk around the abandoned Phoenix. Some buildings were missing a roof, others a wall. Some were intact. They went inside some of the buildings. One had a skillet on a wood stove and plates on the table as if the people had left in a hurry. Another had blankets on twin beds in a bedroom and an old, rusty spur hanging on the wall. Another seemed to be an auditorium. A thick layer of desert sand was on top of everything.

Suddenly, Phyllis heard music.

”Chad, do you hear that? Music?”

Chad and Phyllis walked outside the old building and there, in the middle of the street, was an old-fashioned cart with the words “Dr. Green’s Medicine Show” written on the side of it and a tiny man standing on top of it screaming at a previously non-existent crowd of people. Everyone was dressed in old-fashioned clothing.

The couple looked at each other.

”See, Phyllis, this is a ghost town, complete with entertainment,” Chad said.

They walked around the show and Chad started looking around as if he’d lost something.

”Phyllis, the car is gone.”

”I can see that. Someone has stolen it.”

When they turned to walk back into the ghost town to report the crime, it was full of  people. The buildings were filled with activity and looked almost new. There were men on horses, as well as men driving horses and buggies through the streets. Chad and Phyllis looked at each other and didn’t know what to say.

A large man with a holster on and a gun walked toward them.

“Can I help you fine people?” he asked, “I’m Sheriff Martin.”

”Our car has been stolen, Sheriff,” Chad said.

”Your what?” replied the Sheriff.

”Our car.”

”Young man, you have had too much of Dr. Green’s elixir. I don’t know what you’re speaking of.”

With that, the Sheriff started to walk away. Phyllis ran after him.

”Sheriff, please stop,” she said.

The Sheriff stopped, turned around, and said, “Young lady, please go somewhere and cover up. You’re walking around in little more than your undergarments.” He walked off again.

Chad called after him, “Sheriff, what town are we in and what year is it?”

”Son, this here is Phoenix, Arizona and it is the year 1857.”

Phyllis fainted and Chad knelt down to revive her.