From perspiration to creation

Hands strain, bone on blank wood. Limbering the lines demands a gymnast agile to what waits. To satisfy any critic is a balance; words, an avoirdupois. Writing is a willingness to be bruised.


Gymnast Dorina Böczögő performs a one-arm press hold on the balance beam mount. From Wikimedia Commons, by user Alby.1412. Please consider purchasing some of his amazing sports photography, which includes winter sports.

Flash fiction written for the last one-word Trifecta Challenge, week 114.


Gnawing Worries on a Ribbon of Time

Gu-en’s ship was uffed. Threading their way to Calabi-Yau Base of 3.5 months ago wasn’t easy. And today was about to get exponentially worse, but at least they’d trap their shadowers: star rats.

Physics-Theories-from WiredCosmos

A computer-generated illustration of string theory from Wired Cosmos.

This 33-word flash-fiction sci-fi story was written for the weekly Trifecta challenge, Trifextra 104. Writers are to craft a 33-word piece using a palindrome (as “star rats” above). Sadly, the Trifecta challenges are coming to an end this month. At last I fully understand the meaning of T.S. Eliot’s line, “April is the cruellest month.”

Trifextra Week 103: Of Heroes Hirsute

Trifecta Tricycle ImageI’m not sure what you’re working on currently, but I’m treading in the realms of realism again these days.

This week’s Trifextra 33-word flash-fiction challenge freights you to the end of the line with this one: “That wasn’t what I meant.”

Being the linguistics-backgrounded word-nerd that I am, I had scads of fabness deciding where to put the accent in the terminal sentence: that, wasn’t, I, or meant. And working backward to form the oyster around the hoped-for pearl. (Hey, can a story be a back formation)?

In any case, I hope I give you an unusual prism to ponder.


Of Heroes Hirsute

Shelter-Misc. 012

Many wonderful companions (like this one, adopted several years ago) await your love at a shelter or rescue group. If you are in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, please visit Petfinder to learn more about adoption in your area. Photograph ©Leigh Ward-Smith

A sandpaper sensation woke me. Then I tried to whistle for Pep, but my left side wouldn’t move.

Gravel pop-rocked all around. Was I being herded?

My last confused command had been sit-climb-jump.

That wasn’t what I meant.”

Language Lessons with Vincent Price

I’ve got Michael Jackson on my mind a lot lately; I’m not sure why, and no matter what I do, he just won’t beat it. In any case, you have him to thank or curse for this latest writing effort, a short fiction piece that plays with denotations: namely, the word funk (noun), third definition, meaning “a slump.”

It is loosely based on a prompt for the Trifecta writing challenge, which asks for 33 to 333 words on funk. Mine falls outside the word count, at just past 500 words, and I won’t have time to shave it down before the deadline, but here’s a light, fluffy piece for a change of pace. I hope you enjoy it, especially in a week filled with so much negative world news.



Language Lessons with Vincent Price

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Gwen Marsh didn’t know how she’d get past the gargoyle at the gate—weather-bitten Mrs. Brainerd. She of the Oil of Olay stench and inky fingers.


This is a publicity still from the movie The Bat (1959), starring Vincent Price. Obtained at GreGGory’s Shock Theater site.

She pressed the brittle-boned paperback closer to truant cleavage as if it were a secret Valentine. Or, in this case, a vile-entine. Gwen could nearly hear Ashley’s breathy words from yesterday: D’ya really think so? I guess we could ask an older kid. Push play again. More hushed giggles.

She glanced down and let the book fall away from her chest: The Totally Bawdy Book of Hickory-Switch Humor, Putrid Put-Downs, and Salacious Slang.

Mom would tan my hide if she knew I had this book, not to mention how I’d gotten it. It was marked for check-out by adults only, in Mrs. Brainerd’s precise hand—and lovingly sealed with twine besides.

I’ve got to go through with this! Gwen pumped herself up to do the unthinkable.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Brainerd was stamping away, going one-by-one through a stack of returns. Every so often, she’d squint and wrinkle her upper lip like Elvis’ evil clone, close the cover harshly, and audibly humph.

Gwen needed some kind of diversion. Pulling the fire alarm lever might work, but then if it didn’t, she’d be in even deeper doo.

Oh, for the love of Michael Jackson! Gwen imagined the pink leather jacket shimmering in the closet she shared with her little sister. It wasn’t the signature look, but it was the best her parents could afford.

“What the . . . funk?” she whispered, letting the forbidden word coil around her conscience. Maybe it doesn’t mean what we think it means. Ashley’s a Southern Baptist, so how would she know? She isn’t even allowed to watch TV, much less buy a cassette. “Devil music,” her parents would probably say.

Gwen strained to remember all the lyrics. I’m sure the spooky old dude in the song says “funk.” She had slipped back to a table near the bathrooms. It was almost closing time. In a few minutes, the plucked vulture would flap her wings, circle through the library, and catch Gwen red-faced.

She dug in her backpack and fished out fingernail clippers. After two clips, she was in, with fingers sprinting to salacious slang.

There it was! But, then, no. This word has no n. She scratched at her black curls, but after a few moments thought to race to the open dictionary at the end of the reference section stacks.

C-D-F. She moved her finger down the page.“Funk . . .” she read the definitions quietly to herself.

Dang, don’t I feel like a fool! Michael, how could you trick me? I am most definitely not thrilled!

Even as Gwen was lamenting her luck, she ceased to be aware of her surroundings. Only the click-click-click brought her back, and she turned to face Mrs. Brainerd . . . and her Fate.

Talk about a funk! I have a feeling I’m gonna be in one long, grounded slump by the time she’s done talking to my mom about this “unfortunate incident.”