The Power to Shut Heaven: A 100-Word Story

The tattered body resembled a rag-and-bone heap of red gingham.

Stax had caught a bum pouring something flammable on it.

“I doan know nuthin’,” the man snarled, then genuflected. Dingy yellow strips of sleeves fluttered like a 20-foot air-Gumby announcing a Wacky waving inflatable arm flaling tube man 017used-car lot.

“Unh-hunh.” Stax mumbled and shuffled off.

While sweeping the area, he caught a glint and bent to bring the bracelet in range.

“Sentinel, don’t be a hero.” The raggedy man glowered as the identifier’s alert clanged: “This child is wanted for questioning, under suspicion of pestilence warfare.”

Damn, Stax thought, that’s the third mangled kid this week.

This flash fiction story was submitted a few years back to an agent’s blog contest (it didn’t win, place, or show, possibly mostly attributable to the “cliffhanger” nature of the ending). I was re-inspired to dig up this microflash, strategically edit it, and dump it out here on the blog to see what you all think as well. Of course, that I am walking the WordPress realms with 300-word maestro Dieter Rogiers is a thrill and a challenge. Do sink your teeth into a helping of his stories if you haven’t yet, either on his blog or in his new book, You’re Getting Sleepy, the Hypnotist’s Apprentice Yawned: Flash Fiction in 300 Words (or Less).



Handling the Human Heart: Haiku

Reuters--butchery photo

Reuters photograph.

Youth, flayed

Whistle at one life’s work.

That snug abbatoir, childhood,

skips to your lax blade.


Her heart

She forgot to know

words more powerful than belts.

Lacerating tears.


His heart

Wet vigils kept you

over pallid self-esteem,

sluicing away flesh.

Crane-Desert poem graphic

Because it is your heart

Seagram’s, your Grail, spears

raggedy id. Pinking shears

sawtooth kith — and kin.



Fear’s edge

You saw its savage

edge through pocket of apron.

A grin slits your lips.

Haiku for this week’s Haiku Horizons, on “cut,” which lent itself to sanguine verses (for me, anyway; be sure to read the other contributors!).

And now for some comic relief (note: this is the “Barbershop/Lumberjack sketch,” the first part of which might gross out the squeamish).



Hot Rockin’ at World’s End: Dystopian Flash Fiction

Source: via Scribe's Cave, Picture Prompt #34

Source: via Scribe’s Cave, Picture Prompt #34.

Short lexicon to follow story.

 Hot Rockin’ at World’s End

Genre: Dystopian science fiction, literary fiction

Word Count: 296 (without lexicon)

Warning!! Harsh adult language & violence might not be suitable for younger readers.

Schrödinger’s Cat had rounded up enough interested parties—or,  more to the point, partiers—for one last, big bang-yer-head at the end of time. Sure, part of the lure had been the location. All the underground dead trees had shrieked in King Diamond font:

“Kewlest Party of ANY Century! DON’T MISS special guests Megaton Leviathan and Eddie’s Hammers, Dec. 31, 2099, Erasin’ Hell at the Mosh Room!”

WorldCits with special oc-imps did a slam dance at the prospect offered by the small type, in Britny Fox font of course, promising 37⁰C temps at partytime. “BC’s fridginest freakhouse,” it shrilled.

“But, the acoustics. Color me concerned,” singer and theremin player Blind Watchmaker complained to Schrö.

“It’ll be fine, bro’. Former colliders like the ‘Shroom have excellent sound capabilities, I’m told. Besides, everybody there will be so busy stonin’ and bonin’ . . .” Although he shit-grinned, consummate concert-promoter that he was, Schrö let his voice lose volume, as if the answer to Armageddon was always achingly obvious.

“And the poser was at least partly right,” Blind Watchmaker was to recount years later. “Desperate WCs did surface for the gig—droves of them—and the sounds were tight. I think if a person was outside in the withering Canadian sun at 10 a.m., he probably still woulda felt the music crunchin’,” he pointed at the dead-center of his chest, “about here, instead of hearin’ it.”

The truth was that nobody had anticipated literal carnage. Sardined in the metal musical box, leather on jeans on synfibes like Ex-Spand, ‘bangers were squashed underboot like long-haired lightning bugs. Either trampled or crushed against coils of chilled niobium tin, some 4,700 lost their lives for love of loudness.

And still, the new century dawned, a sunken sun under the skin of night.


BC: British Columbia, a Canadian province.

Dead trees: Something like the newspapers and tabloids of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Oc-imps: Ocular implants.

Synfibes: Synthetic fibers (example: Ex-Spand).

WorldCits (thereafter, WCs): World citizens, as people of this dystopian future are called.

Written for Andreé’s weekly Scribe’s Cave photo challenge. Andreé’s own speculative fiction response to the prompt is here — and stay tuned, prose spelunkers, because her newest spec-fic book is due in November. I always love me a late-Halloween lit baby! And fellow metalfans, see if you can find all the 20th- and early 21st-century heavy-metal bands, songs, and other tropes.

Share Your World: Week 32, The Supermoon Edition

Share Your World bannerI thought it might be nice, for a change, to blog about me, assuming I’m nice, which of course is a big assumption. So, in the absence of protests to the contrary, here goes with Cee’s weekly Share Your World (SYW) challenge, with an ultimately far-out flavor to it . . .

  1. Do you prefer ketchup or mustard? Um, I have a near-addiction to light agave syrup, as well as the myriad of spices used in Indian, Greek, and Middle-Eastern foods. That said, it depends on what’s being eaten, as to what needs to be covered. I still remember — and am wholly guilty of the food crime mentioned in — that childhood ditty “don’t drown your food.”
  2. If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction? Yes. At one time or another, all of the aforementioned, with documentary, spoof, fantasy, horror flick, B-movie, and musical thrown in for good measure.
  3. If you could be given any gift what would it be? A tough one! Can I wiggle out of it and say je ne sais quoi? No? Okay, then: Foresight, which would likely turn out to be a Trojan horse. Failing that, a supply of self-confidence to not be unwarrantedly cocky yet to still leave the world a better place than when I entered it.
  4. For potlucks or parties do you cook it yourself, buy from a grocery store, or pay for catering? I’ve never given a big or formal party myself, so I’ve never done catering (in the event I could afford it!). Sorry to qualify all these questions, but it really depends on the context. The better I know the people and their preferences and/or allergies or food adventuresomeness, probably the more likely I am to make something of my own rather than grocery-store it. I have a great Indian-inspired spaghetti bread I’m dying to perfect and share with the world, but more accessible dishes are my sausage-stuffing muffins (for those who AREN’T watching their diets, who do have a “cheat day,” and/or who are NOT vegans or vegetarians) or my Greek-based orzo & spinach salad.
  5. Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? I know I used this in a previous SYW, so it’s an oldie, but it’s also a good goodie. I’m grateful to still be experiencing life, warts and all. I’ve been doing some writing, but on the main it’s been pretty angry stuff (for reasons I won’t bore you with, August is overall a historically cruddy month for me personally); this creative famine follows on the heels — wish I could say heals, Freudian key-slip style — of the feast of a couple weeks ago when I had three or more posts in a single week. Today’s SYW post floats and then gently sets me down at 61. Poet extraordinaire Vic Briggs nomenclatures this ebb-and-flow creative process in terms of “the storm passes, the energy . . . recedes.” (Well-said, my friend!) Honestly, as to looking forward, there are several things in the aether I’m grabbing at: visiting with my friend, who herself is journeying into town from Arizona; writing a joy list, à la Chris Donner’s fabulous open-ended post on “Joy Is . . .”; exiting the draggin’ wagon in terms of blog- and other reading and commenting (like for my BBC Book Club); school starting for one of the kidlets (I love the “youngins,” but I also know they need time away from me to gain independence and so forth); catching up on some weeding and yardwork; doing some un-angry writing; and tackling some technical things like setting up a Facebook page and re-doing or adding a page here on the blog to purtify it. :)

And now, something else to be grateful for, some far-out supermoon stuff (wouldn’t mega-moon sound better? it alliteratively appeals to my sometimes tinny ear) . . .

DragonEye Supermoon

Image by me — & Photoshopped, unexpertly, to sharpen, bring out contrast, & brighten — of the Aug. 10, 2014, #supermoon. Really wish I were a better photographer & had better night exposure ability. Dumbly, I also didn’t use a tripod, other than my knees. The exposure is about 5 seconds. Had hoped you could see how the moon looks (to me, anyway) like a dragon’s eye & all the altocumulus clouds (I’m guessing, but please correct me, meteorologists)  looked like individual scales around the dragon’s eye. Anyway, it was cool to see an astronomical phenomenon like the supermoon, & I am grateful for that. For more on the supermoon (thank goodness it’s not dubbed the perigean moon supersized, for acronymization!), EarthSky is one great resource.




Terminal House: Flash Fiction

Photo copyright Björn Rudberg.

Photo copyright Björn Rudberg. Björn is also an amazing poet and fiction writer.

Terminal House

WORD COUNT: 183 words

GENRE: Paranormal, horror

If Megan Beuchanan had been the type of person to take the figurative temperature of a potential home, she’d have discovered the Turner House was zero at the bone.

Clinging to the cusp of the ravine, every bit the Victorian-era vulture, the now-dilapidated residence was everything the single mother sought: cheap.

It also, then, wouldn’t have come as such a shock when daughter Ava found the small sachet of letters stuck behind a swatch of old wallpaper in her closet. The letters spoke with the ghost-tongue of long-lost lives and lovers. Thomas would come back for Gladys, somehow. His illness—and confinement in the Turner pest house—would be only temporary. She was to pay no mind to the purported mystique of the manor. Indian haints* did not roam the grounds, nor could they be heard screeching as the diseased husks of their bodies were rolled into the waiting arms of Brine River below.

If only Megan could have steeled her psyche for the night Chief Swift-as-Hare John Harris’s smallpox-addled corpse came calling. Ready to reclaim the feathers of his people’s whisked-away souls.


*A Southern United States (dialectical) word meaning ghost, specter, or spirit.

This flash fiction is humbly submitted for Rochelle’s weekly Friday Fictioneers photo-prompt challenge, though it comes in a bit too long (as usual). If you enjoy writing or reading (or both), I encourage you to take part with your own story or to follow along by absorbing the brilliant fiction out there in Rochelle’s quadrant of the WordPress-iverse. Cheers!

Summer on a Stick: Six-Word Recipes

Enter custom name hereGarden & Ducks_20140728_0372

I’m trying to be more of a “green thumb.” I hope the cantaloupe will make it — wish me luck!

For many, summer spins around a loose center of salivary satisfactions. That’s no less true for me.

Enter the Six-Word Memoirs/SMITH magazine Six Contest #32.This contest seeks your six-word summertime recipes or reminiscences. For those in wintertime, perhaps you can channel favorite warm-weather fare.

Here are some of mine (not submitted for the contest; you do that on SMITH‘s aforementioned Web page), broadly about recipes, food, and summertime rituals:

 Dew-drizzled raspberries: all hands grasp.

Homemade cantaloupe freeze pops: Di-vine decoction.

Crushed mint: sweet violence stains fingertips.

Thymus serpyllum — feral herb gentling weeds.

Tender perennial, savagely decapitated: ubiquitous tomato.

Garden sprinkler after a nine-mile run.

Runningwoman, water douses head, H20 halo.



Lonesomeone: A Short Story


© Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Most days, a burbling wakes me, washing down the dark, pitted walls where I sometimes press my back. Some other scratching sounds behind stones catch my attention. It could be rats or bats. So I stretch my whole body out, board-stiff. Imagine I’m Superman. Except I’m lying down on a spit of concrete or gritty dirt, depending on the tunnel.

And then I realize it’s time to start walking again.

Many times I’ve gathered and built a little mound of stonesatomic cloud to get the moments to go. If you take your time, smooth and jagged can fit together. It just takes trying and re-trying. A bit of dingy paper, wet at one end, and a snubbed matchstick make a decent flag.

Part of me has given up on finding a way out. Continue reading

If You Were a Book . . . ?

arcimboldo-the librarian

“The Librarian,” by 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

If I were a book . . . Hmm.

I’m not talking about some macabre flesh-bound book, or the “art” of anthropodermic bibliopegy, but rather what works of literature have molded your world and mind.

A local bookstore got me thinking about this topic, by way of a novel called The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and a National Public Radio (NPR) piece on Gabrielle Zevin’s aforementioned book.

If a book were my “spittin’ image,” what would that book be? And, moreover, if I could stretch it out to three books, what books would make the list? Back in March 2014, NPR even called for a tweet-out on the three books that summarize or define you, with the hashtag #my3books.

I would love to hear your answers on #my3books. Like Zevin mentions in the interview, you have to resist the impulse to present a facade as yourself. Perhaps everyone wants to think that the perfect novel or even the “Great American novel” — whatever you perceive that fits into either category — epitomizes him/herself. So I tried my best to take off the mask. And keep it off.

Here’s my list. What’s on yours? (Yes, I’m trying to not do the Samuel L. Jackson “Capital One” impression here.)

  1. “The Scarlet Ibis,” a tragic short story about brothers and grit and regret, by North Carolina writer James Hurst. (There are some typos in this link, but it’s the best online copy I could find for you at this point.)
  2. I’m cheating here, but the next influential book is actually a nexus of horror books that sparked in me the desire to become a writer: Watchers by Dean R. Koontz, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, and Book of the Dead (edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector).
  3. Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot.

Also relevant to my fellow writers is the introspection-invoking discussion at Ionia Martin’s Readful Things Blog, in the article “A question for the authors out there.” Do you read in your genre, outside of it only, both, or none? Please share your insights in the comments, here or there or anywhere (as Dr. Seuss might write)!

And remember: to read is to travel through time (thank you, astrophysicist Carl Sagan).

Euphoric/Dysphoric Haiku


Strands of IMacbeth candle

When I am wholly

at peace, bifurcated (k)not:

tallow’s tail — docked, snuffed.


Untitled, rhyming 1

This patchwork world frays

arrayed lives, brocaded days.

Best dress to egress.


Untitled, rhyming 2

Content comes with age

they say; calm is the loose cloak

saved for darker days.


Function Sans Form

Meanings labyrinthine,

when content is king and coils

reason ’round the thing.


 Blood Lines

Where mem’ries gather,

if I could just let them clot,

would hell or heme bloom?

The Haiku Horizons word of the week is “content,” which can be used adjectivally or nominally, as I’ve done here; be sure to peruse the other contributors to this week’s HH. After you’re done there, enjoy some other haiku or related forms by writers Robert Okaji, who here gives us a haibun, and Sarah Potter, who delivers a Monday morning haiku weekly.


Happy Birthday, Ernest “Papa” Hemingway

Papa writing

Ernest “Papa” Hemingway, circa 1939. His works include A Moveable Feast (a memoir) and The Old Man and the Sea.

Happy July 21st, readers. (That happy and Hemingway go in the same sentence can only be an oxymoron.) Today marks the 115th birthday of American journalist, short story writer and novelist, Nobel laureate, outdoorsman, master alchemist, and best damn ambulance driver in world history: Ernest Miller Hemingway. He was born 21 July 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois.

In homage to the birthday of one the major writers in the English language, I will be brief. I also dedicate this brevity to FWR, who, sadly, has also gone to the great quail covey in the sky. Thank you, Fred, for teaching me everything I know about “Papa” Hemingway (among other literature).

For an overview of the writer’s life and his process, read Papa’s speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he could not give in person in Sweden in 1954, having been in a bushfire and recovering from not one, but two, airplane crashes in Africa that left him debilitated for the rest of his life. You can also listen to most of it, wherein he changes but one word from the paper speech.

In any case, without further ado, here is my poor Papa parody (the wrong way to Hemingway, to be sure, in contrast to, say, The Sun Also Rises!), written in 2011 and refreshed recently, in 2014. The names and certain details about the celebri-types have been changed to protect the infamous.

“Papa”-razzi Perspectives: If Hemingway Wrote for a Gossip Magazine

by Leigh Ward-Smith, ©2014

for FWR

Rex Diamondfield was once, and still is, a television actor in Hollywood. Do not think that I am much impressed by his job, but it means a lot to Diamondfield. And evidently to his new Compagne, Helen Troy-Taylor.

Two separate witnesses saw Diamondfield, 44, and 42-year-old actress Troy-Taylor at Disneyland, also in California, on Monday. One person said the pair “were having a great time” as they moved from ride to ride in the amusement park.

I rather liked Troy-Taylor, who reportedly showed Diamondfield quite the time on Monday. I first met Troy-Taylor at a cafe in Strasbourg or somewhere or other in Alsace, in 2001. She carried a dachshund in a pricey green handbag. Poochi in a Gucci, I thought at the time.

But neither witness recognized the bella dama this week. Diamondfield, however, was identified by fans, who described him as thin and gaunt, with deep wrinkles at the nape of his neck, though he had neatly combed dark hair. The eyewitnesses’ reports made me think he was the best form of lucky to be on a date with Troy-Taylor. I don’t have to tell you she makes men’s teeth sweat.

The couple walked around the park with a tour guide. He paused to pull out some teeth-whitening gum from an inner coat pocket near one of the most popular attractions at the park. He balled its silver wrapper into a wad and threw it toward a small bush. Outside Splash Mountain, one onlooker asked Troy-Taylor to take a picture of the group with Diamondfield. The rugged actor also wore a white shirt with two buttons undone, chinos and a black Bronx Bombers cap that the bystanders said was signed on the bill in gold ink by slugger Derek Jeter. After signing a final fan’s T-shirt, the couple made for the entrance. Diamondfield’s right arm casually drifted to the small of Troy-Taylor’s back, and he patted her derriere twice before they entered the ride itself with their guide.

An acquaintance of mine once remarked that “the rich are different from you and me.” Sure they are. They have Doozy-loads more money. But there are also other benefits. I’d go so far as to say Diamondfield scored a couple celebrity points just this week at Disneyland.