#5MinuteFiction – Veteran’s Day Edition

The prompt for #5MinuteFiction this week was

In honor of Veterans everywhere, today’s prompt:

Your character reflects on the fallen warriors of past. 

This was my entry.

Grampa didn’t speak about the war often. He called it, “The war to end all wars,” like most from his generation did. Then he would correct himself and say, “The first war to end all wars.” That was about the extent to what he would speak. Today, though, as people started talking about history of Veteran’s Day he started tearing up. He had never done that before.

I went over to talk to him; to comfort him. It was there he told a story that I had never heard before. He had won a bronze star for his actions in battle. His lifelong friend, John, who had grown up with him had also. They had faced artillery fire and swarms of men coming over the trenches. They had survived. They had climbed out of the trenches and swarmed the enemy. They had survived.

Then news came of an armistice. The fighting would be over. The time was set: 11:00 AM on November 11th, or, as he put it, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For a few days, battle intensity increased as each army fought to gain a wider swath of land to claim at the time of the armistice. Then, the fighting slowly ebbed. Ten yards of land didn’t seem so important anymore.

As the eleventh day came, fighting had ground to a halt. No one wanted to risk death fighting for that last bit of land. Slowly, the clock ticked on. Soon, as the time drew near, those who would soon be former enemies started calling out across the lines. They made plans to meet in what was then “no man’s land” and celebrate the end of fighting. They wouldn’t start early, though – no telling what the enemy would do. “We didn’t trust them and they didn’t trust us,” is the way gramps put it.

The countdown in seconds had begun. The joy was spreading through the ranks as the time for peace was near. Someone decided to remind gramps and the men that the war wasn’t quite over yet and an artillery shell headed their way. They dove for cover.

Gramps looked at me, tears streaming down his face and said, “John died at 10:59. He may have been the last man to die in that useless war. I never have celebrated Veterans’ Day until today. It was just too painful to remember John as a brave man who gave his life meaninglessly in the last minute of the war.”

Gramps wiped away the tears, stood up straight and saluted the memorial. He then walked away, headed home to friends and family.

I don’t know if my story scared everyone else away, but no one else participated this week. A win by default is sort of bittersweet. But, I still think I did a good job with this story. So…set your clocks for Tuesday at 6:30. Join in the #5MinuteFiction fun at The Writing Network.

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Writing Challenge #WOW555 – Tell a Story

Earlier this week, Wendy Strain from Write on Wendy issued her weekly #WOW555 challenge.

Contest Prompt

All right, if you’re keeping up with the NaNo schedule, you’re about 16,670 words into your manuscript by now. Are you seeing a subplot developing yet? Do you just need to take a break from these characters already? Maybe there’s some backstory you’re not sure about. For this week, give yourself permission to explore a tangent of your story. If you’re not in the middle of writing a novel in a month, let’s see 500 words of an idea you’ve been toying with. Yep, you’re reading this right – I’m giving you carte blanche this week. Tell us a good story.

And so, I explored further the life of my villain. How did he get drawn into a life of crime? The story fit into my novel, so I added close to 500 words with this contest! Anyway, here’s the story…

As he plotted his revenge, Cog thought back to when he first met the boss. Life had been rough for his family. He had never known his pater who had been one of the last, if not the last person killed in the Revolution. Because of that, they were poor anyway and now his mater was missing work because she was sick. She had sent him to the market to pick up food for the night.

It was at the market where it happened. The boys who ragged him at school showed up. This time it got physical since there were no teachers around to protect him. The pushing. The pulling. The shoving. Before he knew it, that night’s dinner was on the ground. He was nearly in tears and the relentless teasing continued – until the boss walked in.

Something about the boss scared the boys off and they scattered when they saw him. The boss looked at Cog who was scratched, bleeding slightly, and breathing heavily. He was fighting back tears. “Tonight’s supper?” he asked as he pointed at the mess on the floor.

Cog could only nod his head blinking back the tears.

“So what are you going to do? The boss asked.

Cog could only shrug. How could he tell a complete stranger that he would be going hungry tonight because they had no more money?

The boss nodded, understanding. Then he looked at him closely, as if studying him. “Aren’t you Narez’s boy?”

Cog did a double take and nodded, wondering how this man would know his mater.

The boss softened. “Your pater was a good man. We fought together It was a shame what happened to him.”

Cog choked out his next word; the first word he had spoken since the boss had entered the room. “Thanks.”

The boss nodded. “Things must be tough for you. Let me buy your dinner tonight.” He thought for a bit as if wrestling with himself. Then he said, “If you’re interested in working, I have a job for you. You come work for me and your mater will be taken care of. You come work for me,” the boss’s face darkened a bit in anger now, “creeps like them will never bother you again. You game?”

Cog was speechless at first, then he finally had the presence of mind to ask, “What would I be doing? Who would I have to kill?”

The boss laughed. “I don’t figure you for a killer. I see you more in acquisitions. Ya know, keeping up with my inventory.”

Cog smiled for the first time that night. “I can do that,” he said. “Inventory.”

Cog’s thoughts returned to the present. “’Inventory,’ he told me.” Cog laughed derisively. “Little did I know what I would have to inventory,” he mumbled to himself.

In addition, I won #5MinuteFiction by default. No one else entered. I think it was a good story though. Will share that tomorrow. In the meanwhile, enjoy this story!

 

Mission to Mars!

#5MinuteFiction voting image

This week’s #5MinuteFiction prompt puts us on a Mission to Mars. The prompt is: “Your character has been selected to be on the first four person ship that will land on Mars. It’s nearing time to arrive. Now what?” All three stories are intense. One begins with a mystery. Another has murder lurking at the landing. Mine is the private diary of one of the travelers. I’m sharing mine here. Be sure to go to The Writing Network to vote

June 28th – Touchdown in 3 hours. About the only good thing about being the 4th most important man on a 4 man ship is being able to write about the trip. the next report isn’t due until after touchdown, so I’ve got three hours to describe the progress. Ironic isn’t it? The fame I’ve sought all my life, but I’ll never get to experience it. I hope my kids enjoy the profits from the book. One way trips do have their limitations.

John and Martha are busy checking the gauges. The whole thing runs by computer, but they have to look busy, don’t they? John, the captain. Haughty little jerk, isn’t he? “Do this. Don’t do that.” Sure he’s the captain and he’s supposed to give orders. I can’t help but wonder if Napolean would be more easy going than John. And Martha. Oh so beautiful. She runs around like she’s the queen bee. The only reason she really came along was for the kids. Someone had to populate Mars. Alright, enough griping. In spite of John’s ego, he does have things well in hand. He guided us through that asteroid field with lots of skill. Hold on, diary, I want to take a glance out the window.

Touchdown in 2 hours. Dates don’t mean much here on the ship. When we land, it will be day 1 of year 0. We will set the time. We will be preparing the way for future travelers. Perhaps some day people will come to visit Mars, not be forced to take a one way trip. There goes Juanita. She’s not too bad. She’ll manage the landing. She’s been practicing forever. She could do it blindfolded. She’s also good breeding stock. Is it crass to put it that way? They needed to check out our fertility if we wanted to start a colony. I’m just glad that John gets Martha and I get Juanita. Juanita isn’t stuck up.

Touchdown – 5 minutes. Nerves are setting in. Was it really worth it to make this trip? Sure, my parents are still young enough to care for the kids. The matchup sure saved me the pain of dating after Belinda died. But here, forever. No time for regrets now. Checking the suits to make sure they’re airtight.

4 Minutes. The nerves are fading. John is leading well. Juanita is landing this thing beautifully even in the dust storm.

2 Minutes. Bracing now. Will we survive the landing? Will we establish the colony?

Touchdown. We can see out the windows now. It’s barren and bleak. We’ll have to find ways to develop crops. But it’s beautiful. Time for me to send out my first report. The “Fantastic Four” has landed and now the work begins. Martha’s getting ready to disembark first. Maybe, just maybe, we;ll find a way to get along.

“Hello Earth! We’ve landed. 1st Mate Martha is getting ready to leave the capsule….”

Oh the Horror!

#5MinuteFiction has undergone some changes. First, there is a new home. The Writing Network is now the new home of #5MinuteFiction. Second, the voting will continue until noon on Thursday. Third, we have no indications of current vote totals. So, we have to keep drumming up support.

That being said, last night’s #5MinuteFiction just begged for a horror story. The prompt was “Your character is walking alone at night in a secluded area and the flashlight goes out. There are no other lights around, and they’re certain that there’s nobody else there with them. Then suddenly, they hear a noise behind them.”

The only problem was, that I don’t do horror. I have never done horror.  I have never had an appreciation for horror. Naturally, my story was a horror story…although many questions were left unanswered.  Enjoy, then go vote for me at the Finalists Link.

 


Joseph swept the flashlight back and forth. He thought that it was a good thing he wasn’t superstitious, because cutting across the graveyard to get home would be creepy otherwise. He heard a sound and jumped a bit, then laughed as he swung the light and saw the possum scurry past. “Ok, maybe I’m not so brave,” he said with a wry smile, knowing that no one could hear him.

He tripped over a root he had missed because he had started laughing. The flashlight fell out of his hand and rolled a few feet in front of him. He silently cursed his stupidity and crawled to get the flashlight. It had suffered in the fall, and fell completely apart when he picked it up. “Blast it all!” he yelled to no one in particular. Then, he tried to put it back together – without luck. He began to feel a little weird.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have taken this shortcut,” he thought to himself. He knew that as he thought that, it wasn’t because this place was creepy. He was rational enough not to be worried about that. It’s that the place was so dark, as if the trees and the graves swallowed any light that might have helped him find his way. “It’s a good thing I’m not the type that frightens easily,” he said out loud as if hearing his own voice might give him comfort.

He picked his way slowly, using his feet like a blind man’s cane looking for anything that might be dangerous. There was no reason for him to be afraid, just annoyed. He began to make progress when he heard what sounded like a low moan. He stopped and looked around not seeing much of anything. “Musta been the wind,” he thought seeking to console himself. He willed himself not to realize that the night sky was still, with no evidence of any wind.

He continued making progress, but after traveling about ten yards more, he heard the moan again. This time he didn’t fool himself. He recognized that the night air was still. There was no wind to create a moan. Something was there. He tried walking more quickly, but the going got rougher. The moaning got louder and it began to have an intelligible sound to it. He wasn’t scared, of course, but he decided it just made sense to run. He went as fast as he could in the dark until he tripped and fell right in front of a grave stone. The writing was light against the stone and he could barely make out the dates. April 5, 1954 – September 16, 2013. Last year. The person here had died last year!

He started to get up, when he was pushed down by a force that he couldn’t see. He felt it on the small of his back. The moan got louder and more intelligible. He was beginning to hear words, but he couldn’t see anyone. The pressure on his back got worse, but as he reached back, he touched nothing. Then, the moan finally generated words he could understand. “No, this is not the one. Let him go.”

The pressure disappeared. Joseph stayed on the ground, fighting back tears of fright. He didn’t know who the one was, but he was grateful he wasn’t the one. Even though there was no pressure, he was so scared now that he didn’t wan’t to get up. He hoped the moon would rise soon. Only then would he get up and finish walking home.

#ROW80 Check In and #5MinuteFiction Update

The Row 80 Challenge

The Row 80 Challenge

 

#5MinuteFiction is one of the things that I enjoy doing every Tuesday night, except I haven’t been able to participate the last three weeks due to various conflicts. Tonight the prompt was “Show the magical side of an everyday, boring object.” We had some interesting stories and circumstances. In fact, we showed the magical side of time! One of the fun parts of #5MinuteFiction is the voting. So, if you’d like to take part in that part of the contest, please feel free to go on over to Write on Wendy and read the stories and vote. My everyday object was a fan. I should also point out that the lady who inspired me to start out on ROW80 has a story in the voting as well.

 

Now, to the #ROW80 goals.

Goal #1 – Editing. I plan to do about 2 hours per week editing previous work.

Not much editing yet. Tuesday night is more of a new work night, especially with #5MinuteFiction. 

Goal #2 – Writing. I have a couple of short story ideas that I’d like to play with. So, I’ll do about 2 hours per week of short story writing.

I did an hour of writing, maybe a bit more. I also finished #5MinuteFiction this week.

Goal #3 – Begin cleaning up the mess that passes for my room at school.

State Testing is this week. I had to get some cleaning done so that I could test legally.

Goal #4 – Work on my reading. I need to spend about 4 hours this week on craft productive or other essential reading. 

Been working on this. 1 hour on prep for the State Test; 1 hour on the reading I’m doing for another group.

Goal #5 – no more than 1 hour per day on Facebook. 

While I was trying to get ready to work on this, I needed to talk to someone on Facebook. The talk went on for more than an hour in addition to the little bit of  time that I had already spent on Facebook Tuesday. 

So, I’m happy with the progress so far. I just can’t afford to start slipping! Besides, I have some major conflicts coming up in the evenings and I can’t afford to waste any time. So, while I’ve made progress this week, I still have to buckle down.

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Fun and Nonsense and Stuff…

So tonight, for the third week in a row, I’ve missed #5MinuteFiction. It was a fun prompt too: “Your entry for this week must be focused on the theme of babies switched at birth, and one of them is special in a very unique way. (this baby may have magic powers.) Anyway, there are some fun stories, so check out the finalists at Wendy’s site and vote for your favorite story!

The first week was for a meeting which was necessary. Last week I had an “all expenses that will have to be paid by me” trip to the emergency room. This week was just fun! My wife and I celebrated 34 years and 11 months at the ball game. Ok…so it wasn’t really the occasion – it was her college’s half-price night at the game. We got the best seats we’ve ever had – except the manager for the home team stood between me and the hitter so I didn’t get pics – but that made it more fun. We had lots of fun talking with the couple on the end of the row. Turns out she was a Cubs fan having grown up in Iowa. I took a “shadow-selfie” just as we got there. I think it’s more artistic than a normal selfie! (#shadowselfie)

Front Row seats at the Hooks Game!

Front Row seats at the Hooks Game!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later, the people next to us left for a bit. We thought they had left for good and the mascot (Sammy the Seagull) came to sit next to us. I had to take a selfie of that! I don’t do selfies normally and I took an artistic one and a normal one all in one night! When the couple came back when the mascot actually went back to work, she looked at me and said, “I was coming back and there was a bird in my seat!” She looked around and then said, “nope, he didn’t leave anything else.”

Sammy and Me

Sammy and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My tweet of that picture made the big screen. Later in the game, we made it to the big screen two more times. We were loud and raucous and had a lot of fun. I don’t think most people watching us would believe it if they were told that I don’t drink alcohol. They would wonder how it’s possible to act so crazy without help. Of course, as my amazing wife said, “He’s rubbed off on me and I don’t get embarrassed by his actions anymore. I’m joining in!” My report tomorrow won’t be very good….but tonight was worth it!

#ROW80 – Experience is a Great Source of Ideas

The Row 80 Logo

The Row 80 Logo

I know that sounds like an obvious statement, but I was reminded of that the other night when I came up with the idea to use my experience for a series of stories on life in the emergency room. Without going into detail the doc told my wife that one of the medicines could make me a little loopy. She shrugged her shoulders and asked how she would notice a difference. Of course that came after the time I asked her which was worse – the er personnel having to put up with me or her having to put with me while I joke with the docs. (If laughter is the best medicine, all I can say is I was trying.) She said something about the humiliation of being called my wife while I joke with them. (She was, of course, kidding. I think.) Since I’m being kinder on myself, I can tell you it wasn’t failing in my goals for the week – I’m making pretty good progress! Here we go:

Goal #1 – Editing. I plan to do about 2 hours per week editing previous work.

This is a Saturday goal. I should be able to work on that Saturday which was generally my plan.

Goal #2 – Writing. I have a couple of short story ideas that I’d like to play with. So, I’ll do about 2 hours per week of short story writing.

I got a bit of a trade-off here. Tuesday night is a writing night when I get to include #5MinuteFiction. Life in the ER kept me from my writing. However, my boss ordered me to stay home, so I made up most of that writing…just not the #5MinuteFiction. I’m only short about 15 minutes which I should make up tonight.

Goal #3 – Use time wisely at school and get caught up on grading so that I have time to write!

I stayed away from school work today. Wife’s orders. Still have to catch up, but I did things that were relaxing for me today. Monday was the beginning of my problems so I didn’t work Monday or Tuesday on this. The pressure to catch up is still there but the rest helped.

Goal #4 – Work on my reading. I have two books I need to be reading right now. One for Sunday School leadership and the other for some group studies we’ll be doing. I need to stay caught up on those.

I do this reading either Saturday or Sunday. Will probably work some on Thursday too.

I’m making the progress I expected, except for the grading. I still have to do that. I hate grading, but that’s one of the reasons I get paid the big bucks! I try to teach my kids that sometimes jobs include things you don’t want to do but you do them because they need to be done. I won’t modify these goals until Sunday. I may keep them the same even then.

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