The Carver’s Daughter

Beth sat in her workshop opening and closing the blade of her jackknife. Over the years she had come to find solace in its imperfect perfection. The cool steel on her fingers was as familiar to her as her own reflection.

She opened and closed the blade over and over as she stared at the small statue she had carved. She remembered the countless days of her childhood that were spent in the woods with her father as he taught her how to search the forest for the perfect pieces of wood. Fall was the best time to hunt. The smell of decomposing leaves mixed with the crisp autumn air became her siren song; the heady bouquet intoxicating her as she followed her father off the well trodden paths behind their home.

As a young child she never fully understood his reverence for the wood and the knives he used to carve it. He would hold each piece lovingly in his rough hands and turn the freshly severed piece of branch around and around.

“You don’t see the tree, or even the wood,” he told her. “You see what the tree wants to give you.”

Often she would squint and stare at the wood trying to see what the trees had given them. On her ninth birthday her father asked her to pick out the day’s wood. She searched and searched as he watched. The role reversal was uncomfortable and exciting. She glanced back at her father who stood straight faced as she studied each potential branch. She finally settled on a piece of ash hoping with all her might that it was a good choice. The last thing she wanted was to disappoint him. Her father handed her the hatchet and showed her where to strike the tree.

“If you do it right, taking this branch will actually help this tree. Now it can put its energy into growing new branches instead of feeding this dying one.”

When they had returned from that day’s hunt her father gave her a jackknife of her own. She hugged him till her arms were tired. He smiled as he handed her the piece of wood she had collected earlier then told her to show him what the tree had shown her. She instinctively picked up the piece of wood and began to turn it around and around in her hands just like she had seen her father do hundreds of times before. Try as she might, she couldn’t see anything in the wood. She cried as she admitted her failing to her father.

“Leave it,” he said with a knowing smile. “It’s not ready to give up its secret yet. You’ll know when the time is right.”

Her father gave her a new piece and asked her what she thought the tree wanted to show them. She took the new piece and studied it for a few seconds before seeing the unmistakable image of a whale. She could see it there trapped beneath the wood’s layers. Years of growth rings had wrapped around its girth trapping it in a woody cell. She could see that it longed for release.

“I see a whale papa,” she said. It was more of a question than a statement. “It’s so clear. I can see what needs to be taken away before it can be free.” Her father smiled down upon her.

“I see a whale too Beth,” he said. His eyes looked misty. “In fact I saw a whale in that piece of wood almost immediately.”

He gave her back the wood with the imprisoned sea creature then turned to find his own piece. Beth set to work immediately with her new jackknife. Soon the whale would be free. By that afternoon she had a finished statuette to show her father. She hadn’t let him down after all. She finally understood her father’s love of wood. He had given her much more than a knife that day. She had discovered on her ninth birthday that in her hands her knife had power.

Over the years her talent blossomed and soon people were seeking out her work over her father’s. When the governor asked Beth to carve a statue for his wife’s birthday she wondered why he hadn’t asked her father too. Later her father told her it was the proudest day of his life, second only to the day she was born.

She thought of her very first piece of wood. Surely it was the perfect choice for such an esteemed client. It held such meaning for her and this was after all her biggest client. This carving would make or break her career. She studied the piece trying to will it into showing her what it wanted her to see. It wasn’t time. The piece of wood clung tenaciously to its secret.

Her daughter’s voice shook her from her reverie.

“Mama, does Grandpa still carve wood in heaven?”

“I think so sweetie,” she answered. She kept her gaze on the newly carved statue.

“Is that a new statue, Mama? Is it for Grandpa’s funeral?”

Beth nodded and turned to her daughter. She smiled through red brimmed eyes.

“Yes it is. Do you like it?”

“Yeah, it looks just like him.”

Beth glanced to the now empty spot on the shelf by her window. It would take a while for her to get used to seeing the shelf empty. Her very first piece of wood had stood on that shelf for forty two years. She picked up the newly carved statue of the old man hugging a little girl and smiled down upon her work, just like she had seen her father do hundreds of times before.

“You were right Papa, I just had to wait.”

Author’s Note: Today’s piece was inspired from a prompt provided by This week’s prompt:Pick and ordinary object and give it an extraordinary use. I hope you enjoyed. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Brain Helmet 2000

Another Friday is upon us. Time for more #fictionfriday and #fridayflash. I have been sick this past week and it has certainly affected my writing. Today’s piece is a bit of Horror/comedy because it’s no fun being serious all the time. You have been warned. Enjoy.


“Let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to identify a loved one after they’ve been eaten by a zombie. I guess that’s what drew me to this line of research. It’s not just about the survival of the human race; it’s also about preventing as much pain as possible for the unfortunate families of the victims.

It didn’t take much to convince the government that the old prison was the perfect place to conduct our research. It would be hard to refute really. It’s already set up with a hospital, a fenced in yard and plenty of holding cells for the subjects. Besides once you get past the ghosts, the old prison is actually kind of nice.

I admit I was scared after zombies outed themselves last year. Let’s face it; if you weren’t already one of them you were scared too. Until they made it illegal for a zombie to turn a human without prior approval we all thought it was the end. Then this research facility opened up and things started looking a whole lot better. So let’s get started. Please follow me into the lab.

What we discovered early on in our research was, once a person was attacked and their brain was consumed, the body would begin to liquefy and remove any trace of the victim’s DNA. That elimination of all evidence was how they were able to stay hidden for so long. It was also the key to solving the problem with identifying our dead. We’ve developed a serum that stops the rapid decomposition process and allows us to pull dental records before the bodies are reduced to a festering puddle.

That was step one. Step two, well, that’s a bit more of a challenge. It seems that zombies, like vampires, can go a while without feeding and still maintain some self control. We all know what happens if they go too long without eating anything, but not many folks know zombies can subsist on human flesh too. It’s a sort of in-between-meals snack, if you will. We’ve been able to grow human flesh for quite a while now. Used primarily for burn victims, the process is slow and not at all efficient enough to supply the world zombie population with enough flesh to slow the zombie’s need for brains. Using an advanced growth process developed here in this lab we have successfully decreased the time needed to grow skin cells. We are now able to harvest one pound of skin from each donor every three weeks. Still not efficient enough but we estimate we will be able to double the amount of harvestable skin by the end of the month. Exciting! If you will all just follow me into the next room.

Now to the reason you are all here. Today we are conducting our first trial of artificial human brains. As you can see our subject is securely locked in her cell and appears quite hungry. We have not in fact feed this particular zombie for seven days. Our paid lab assistant will be entering the cell and will, hopefully, exit unharmed. As you can see, Mr. Johnson is ready to enter. He is wearing the brain helmet 2000. It fastens securely under his chin to prevent accidental removal. The helmet is reminiscent of the 1950’s football helmet. It is constructed from chew resistant leather and is available in several fashionable colors. The artificial brain matter is coated on the outside of the helmet.

Johnson, if you would now enter the cell. There she goes. She has Johnson’s head clutched firmly in her grasp. There! She’s eating the artificial… Oh Dear. Johnson? Johnson! It appears that the chew resistant leather is not quite thick enough to stop a ravenous zombie. Well, in about 30 minutes you all will get a chance to witness how our serum impedes the liquefaction process of a post zombie attack. Let’s move down to cell two, where Mr. Davidson is sporting a fiberglass model.

Davidson, you’re up. Davidson? Where the hell is Davidson? Jenkins, it’s you then. No, just strap it on. Mrs. Jenkins is sporting a fiberglass model and is now ready to enter the cell of this hungry zombie.

There she goes. The zombie has her head. Oh! Good God.

Here ends the tour. Thank you all for coming. We have metal helmets still in the design stage and will be testing them in about a month or so. Those of you interested in the serum demonstration can follow me, the rest of you be sure to follow the exit signs as I can assure you this is no place to get lost.”

Author’s note: Any volunteers for the metal helmet? Once again this weeks prompt is courtesy A wonderful and supportive group of writers. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think of this little bit of ridiculousness.

I Seek

Today I stopped counting and started trying to find you. There was no point in looking for you in the numbers anymore. One hundred days or one thousand, what does it matter? The days won’t ever stop coming no matter how hard I wish it. They create such a divide. My mind isn’t able conquer mountains that size. Life is for the living. That’s the problem with this mortal coil. So I stopped counting and started seeking.

I know where you are in the world, where you hide your face. I used to go there often, but it’s not you. You kept hiding until I started seeking. I realize now you’re not really sitting this one out. I watch you running with your sisters in the sun and drawing pictures in the sand of our beach. I see you in footballs and boats, jackknifes and forts in the woods.

I lift my head from the crook of my elbow where I buried it all those years ago and open my eyes. I’m done counting now and it’s all-in-come-free. I see you there, beaming out. Nothing, not even the weight of the earth, can keep you from me.

Author’s Note: This weeks prompt was “start your story with a game of hide and seek”. I hope you enjoy this week’s piece.

Hello Jones

If someone asks you if you want to see a dead body, your first instinct might be to say yes, but I’d think about it first if I were you.

Boris was always a weird kid. In grammar school we used to bully the hell out of him. We played ‘Hello Jones’. As soon as we saw him we would say “Hello, Jones” then hit him in the gut. “Hello Jones,” and knock his books to the ground. “Hello Jones,” Break his glasses. I don’t think a day went by without his underwear being yanked over his head. As kids we felt totally justified in tormenting him. I mean his name was Boris, and he dressed funny. Back then it was reason enough.

In high school we all pretty much shunned him. He would often try to befriend us by asking if we wanted his lunch or something similar. We’d take his stupid lunch then tell him to scram. No one wanted to be his friend. Until the morning he asked us if we wanted to see a dead body.

“Bullshit,” we said. But our interest was piqued to say the least. That afternoon Boris approached us again.

“So, what do you think? I found it in the woods behind my brother’s apartment yesterday,” said Boris. He gnawed on his bottom lip as he nervously awaited our answer. My friend Dan was the leader of our prepubescent terrorist cell and he always spoke for the group.

“You better not be messing with us, Doris, or I swear to Christ, we’ll kick your ass.” We all laughed but we were also a bit uneasy; I mean a real live dead body?

That afternoon we met Boris at his brother’s apartment and followed him into the woods. We walked for a while before growing impatient.

“Where the hell is it, Doris?” Dan demanded. Boris pointed to a pile of trash.

“It’s under those clothes and papers and junk. I covered it up. You have to dig through some stuff to find it,” said Boris

We dug through the small pile of junk assuming it was the last trappings of some vagrant who died out here in the woods.

“There’s nothing here,” I said.

Dan was at the end of is patience. “God Damnit, Boris, I swear to-“

Boris pulled a gun from behind his back. We stood there in the woods stupefied. Was this really happening? Boris stared unblinking at our group as we stared unblinking at the barrel of his gun. After what seemed like forever, Dan moved toward Boris with his hands in that universal sign for “surrender” but Boris made like he was going to shoot and Dan backed off. At the time, what struck me most was not the fact that Boris had drawn a gun on us; it was the look of resolve in Boris’ eyes. It seemed as if they were focused on all of us at the same time while his face remained completely devoid of emotion. He stood there like one of those wax statues from a fun house. Only there was nothing hokey or comedic about him. He was deadly serious. Slowly he moved the gun to point under his chin all the while keeping his eyes fixed on our faces. His emotionless face morphed into a smile. None of us had ever seen him smile before. It was terrifying.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked.

As his finger slowly tightened around the trigger, he answered.

“Hello Jones”

Author’s Note: This week’s flash fiction is a reworking of a story I wrote a couple months ago. The story I had originally prepared for this week is a shiver inducing 200 word horror story which I decided to keep for October. I hope you enjoyed this sad little tale. Oh, and as always, thanks to the great folks at WriteAnything for this weeks prompt. Till next week.

Last Aria

Through a series of well practiced stealthy glances he was able to tell she was young, probably in her early 20’s. Her long red hair framed her face magnificently. Glossy red lipstick contrasted sensuously with her alabaster skin and accentuated a spattering of alluring freckles across the bridge of her nose. She glanced at her ticket stub as she navigated the aisle and checked it against the numbers on the back of each chair.

Please God, please God, please God,” James thought as she made her way toward the empty seat next to him.

Apparently he had done something particularly pleasing in the eyes of the divine entity because the goddess in the low-cut emerald dress sat next to him. He glanced shyly and managed to croak out a hello. She responded in kind then bashfully looked in the other direction.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” said James. He felt like such a hack but decided to press on anyway. “First time at the Opera?”

“Je ne parle pas anglais,” She said. “Vous parlez français?”

James smiled coyly and shook his head no. The lights flashed to signal the audience to be quiet. As the lights dimmed he noticed the slit of her dress had shifted slightly to reveal the lacy top of her nylons.

James decided to try an experiment. He nonchalantly opened his legs so his knee would make minimal contact with hers. She didn’t protest by moving her knee away from his. He let his knee rest against hers for several minutes then casually moved his hand up. Again patience was required so it was another few minutes before he pressed the palm of his hand against her knee. This time she instinctively moved against the pressure. To his delight however, she gently returned her knee to its original position. The warmth of her skin grew hot as he began to ever so slowly caress her knee.

James moved his hand to the inside of her leg and began to trace up toward her groin. He felt the lace of her stockings before she slammed her legs shut. She pushed his hand back toward her knee and left it there. James cursed himself for rushing it. Operas lasted a long time. There was no reason to bull ahead and wreck it. A short time later he was again savoring the soft feel of the lace that decorated the top of her stocking. After a while he let his pinky drift above her stocking onto her bare thigh. Her skin was so smooth. His world suddenly consisted of this nameless beauty and her amazing legs. His ring finger glided its way to her thigh as well. Not wanting to destroy this perfect moment he chose to move his entire hand back toward her knee voluntarily.

James smiled to himself as she placed her hand on his and slid it slowly over her stocking and completely onto her thigh. His heart raced as the music ebbed and flowed in time with his fingers as they thrummed up and down her creamy skin. She kept her hand over his and helped guide it across the short distance to her lace panties. She pushed down hard against his hand as he made first contact with the edge of her lingerie.

He glanced over and saw her eyes shut tight, her lips slightly parted and her chest heaving noticeably. James faced the stage and closed his eyes too. He Let himself be swept away in the moment. His blood raced to his groin in anticipation. It was during this time of bliss that she slammed the edge of her free hand against his wind pipe and crushed his larynx. Then, as he struggled to breathe, she produced a dagger from within her purse and stabbed him in the heart. James heard screaming from behind. The performance staggered to a halt and the lights came up. She leaned her face in close to his ear and let her hot breath wash over his skin as she caressed his face with her long red nails.

“Au revoir Monsieur Bond,” she said breathily. “I’t vas a pleasure killing you. I hope Monsieur Double-Oh-Eight is more of a challenge.”

Author’s Note: OK, first off, I know this is technically fan-fiction, but I challenge you to name another famous international spy with a proclivity to hit on sexy women at inopportune times. Actually this week’s prompt from Write Anything put me in mind of an erotic piece I read at a time in my life when I was way to young to read such things. So this week I decided to try my hand at erotic fiction. The problem I had was the story had no ending for me that wasn’t hacky. So in a fit of desperation I fell back on one of my old stand by solutions (which in retrospect is pretty hacky) and ended it in a murder. I hope you dug it anyway.

Hint Fiction

I’m a big fan of Flash Fiction. I read a lot of it and write some myself. I recently came across a contest currently hosted by Robert Swartwood. The contest centers on “Hint Fiction”. An intriguing concept; Can a story of 25 words or less invoke an emotional response or have enough of an arc to be considered a story? Probably not, but that’s why there is the qualifier “hint” before the word “fiction”.

Robert does a nice job explaining Hint Fiction and the contest seems like fun. I find the 25 word story to be a pretty neat idea. Anyone who is even remotely interested in flash fiction knows of Hemingway famous piece of flash fiction: “Baby Shoes”. If not here it is

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Poignant isn’t it. What does this piece “hint” at? Oh, the poor parents. What happened to the baby? Was it a miscarriage, still birth, SIDS, or something more sinister? Or, what if the parents received nothing but baby shoes as gifts and simply had a surplus of miniature penny-loafers. Or what if they simply never got around to putting that particular pair of shoes on their kid’s pudgy little feet. If I had penned this now famous bit of prose I would have taken more advantage of my 25 word allotment and ended up with this:

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. See Mr. and Mrs. Bunyan for details.

Now it’s a story of a kid with freakishly large feet, but it still “hints” to a more complex story. How did his mother give birth to him, what is the back story, did they attend a swingers party with John Henry?

Perhaps that’s why everyone knows the name Hemingway and precious few know the name Chartrand. Oh well I still like mine better. In any case I will be submitting my entries to the anthology contest. I encourage you to try your hand at “Hint Fiction” too and submit your entries. Who knows, it may make you famous.

Spirit of the Season

Santa Clause saved my life. I know it sounds ridiculous but I swear it’s the truth. My name is Derek Spinner and I live in Nashville. I was homeless at the time. Like so many before me, I had moved to Nashville with dreams of becoming a great country singer. Obviously that never happened. Instead, I found myself broke and living on the streets; the victim of bad choices.

It wasn’t easy, but I was getting along pretty well, taking what jobs I could get, until one exceedingly hot July day. It was a Tuesday. I remember because I had breakfast that morning under the bridge thanks to the Salvation Army. I always looked forward to those breakfasts, not because of the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but because of the pretty doughnut girl who handed them out. I was a regular customer. I never missed a week, and neither did she. I never asked her what her name was. I was, regrettably, too shy back then. Besides, I knew a guy like me had no shot at gaining her attentions. Even if by some miracle she would like to go out with me, I wouldn’t be able to take her home, or provide her with the type of life she deserved. It was enough just to see her smile. I’d smile at her, take a doughnut, say thank you, she would say you’re welcome, and then melt me with her laser-beam smile.

Later on that evening, I was heading to the shelter because it looked like we might get some thunder showers when I heard what sounded like a woman screaming. I survived as long as I had on the mean streets of Nashville by minding my own business, but something inside me said “go,” so I went.

I burst into the alley and saw a rather large man had my doughnut girl pinned to the ground. His forearm was pressed across her neck and she was just about unconscious. Her tan Salvation Army shirt was torn open. Her tears ran in rivulets, cutting through the alley’s filth that clung to her normally perfect face. The bastard was trying to remove her pants with his free hand while she flailed against her attacker with a flurry of ever weakening punches. I locked onto the tear-streaked face of my doughnut girl and saw abject terror. In that moment everything else faded away. It was just he and I.

I tucked my head down, and charged linebacker style into the rapist. We tumbled over and he came up on top. He hit me three times in the face. We struggled for what seemed like hours. Finally, he let up for a split second and I was able to land a lucky shot. He went down on his side and I kicked him twice once in the groin then in the face. And just like that, it was over; he was down. I limped over to help my doughnut girl. I offered her my coat to replace her torn shirt and she rewarded me with the most amazing smile. I’ll never forget how her perfect teeth contrasted with the black dirt of the alley. I felt a searing pain in my gut. I thought, wow, falling in love really does hurt. My doughnut girl’s radiant smile morphed into a look of terror. What had I done? I looked around and saw her attacker looming over me with a bloody knife. He dropped it and ran. Then the lights went out.

I woke up to a gentle prodding. An old man knelt beside me. He was dressed like Santa Clause and I took him for one of the Salvation Army volunteers working the Christmas in July kettles.

“Are you OK son,” the old man asked.

“Where is she?” I managed.

“Safe.” He smiled at me but I wasn’t convinced. “She went to call for help.” I noticed a glint in his eye and my fear drained away.

“Thank God,” I said. “I don’t think I’m going to make it. I was stabbed.”

“You’re going to be OK, Derek,” It wasn’t till later that I realized he already knew my name. He placed his hand on my shoulder and slowly moved it down over the wound in my stomach. “Just take it easy.” He closed his eyes and I can’t be sure, but I would swear a light radiated out from under his hand. “You’re going to be fine now,” he said.

I didn’t bother asking for assurances or how he thought someone who lost as much blood as me could possibly hope to live. “Thank you,” I said. It wasn’t near enough but it was all I could give at that moment.

“You’re welcome,” he said. He stayed with me, holding me up until I heard someone running toward me. I turned to see my doughnut girl sprinting down the alley. I looked over at the old man, but he was gone. I started looking for him, but oh, her smile. It filled me up and made me more. She bent down and helped me up and together we walked out of the alley.

“I think I need to get to the hospital,” I said. After all that had happened I was still bashful around this girl.

“Sarah,” she said.

“I think I need to get to the hospital, Sarah,” I said with a grin.

She flashed that smile and held it, and me, as we walked to the street to hail a cab. We passed a young man in a red tee shirt and shorts standing next to a Salvation Army kettle ringing his bell for Christmas in July. I motioned for Sarah to stop while I reached into my pants pocket and pulled out my last dollar then slipped it into the man’s kettle. He gave me a suspiciously knowing nod. Sarah and I continued down the streets of Nashville, together.

Author’s Note: This story was written from a prompt provided by Write Anything’s [fiction] Friday. The premise was inspired by The Salvation Army‘s “Christmas In July”. If your on twitter search the #fictionfriday hashtag to read even more great Flash fiction every Friday. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

New Recruit

William opened the door to the hospital room and stepped inside. Several pieces of life sustaining equipment surrounded the bed. They beeped, clicked and buzzed as he checked the name on his clipboard against the name on the patient’s chart. Mr. Dawson began to wake up.

“Mr. Dawson, I’m William.”

“William who?”

“Just William, Mr. Dawson.”

“I knew a William once”, said Mr. Dawson. “Back in the war. A good kid, scared shitless all the time though. Hell we all were. He took a bullet in his head, on his birthday no less. I was his Cap–“ Mr. Dawson was interrupted by a coughing fit that lasted several minutes.

“What kind of Doctor are you anyway?” asked Mr. Dawson “Letting an old man cough himself to death. Ahh, who cares? I’m the last one anyway.”

William kept quiet; experience taught him it was better to keep his mouth shut and let the patient guide the conversation. He pulled up a chair and sat along side the frail Mr. Dawson. The sound of the machines began to grow faint.

“Last one?” asked William.

“I’m the last of my platoon and last of my line. They’re dead, all of my friends, all of my family, gone.”

The coughing began again. A small amount of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth but Mr. Dawson lacked the strength to do anything about it. William wiped it away.

“Should have been dead years ago.”

“Yesterday,” whispered William.


“Yesterday was my birthday,” said William. “I was going to get promoted but I called in sick.” William patted Mr. Dawson’s hand. The lights seemed to be dimming.

“Good idea. If there’s one thing I learned in this life, it’s don’t move too far up the line. Sometimes too much responsibility gets the people you care about killed.”

Mr. Dawson’s eyes began to tear up. William clasped the old man’s hand. This time the coughing spell lasted a little longer.

“I called in sick yesterday so my schedule would have to change and I could be here today, with you. Just like you were there for us,” said William. “You always looked after us back then Cap. I never forgot how you looked after all of us. Scared as hell, but you never let it show. Today’s an important day for you Captain and I wanted to be the one who brought you over.”

“William? I-I don’t under…”

“It’s OK Captain. You’ve been a good and faithful servant. Now you have a choice to make. The same choice I had to make when we were in Germany together.”

“What choice? What are you talking about? I’m too old for fighting. Look at me. I can’t even stay alive without all this crap hooked up to me.”

“My life wasn’t ended by that bullet Cap, but it sure as hell was changed by it. Now I offer you the same choice. I can deliver your soul, or you can become as I am.”

William wasn’t surprised that his old Captain wasn’t shaken by this rather unique offer. Nothing ever shook the old man. He had nerves of steel, but under that gruff exterior William knew the Captain was a kind soul. Just the sort of disposition you had to have for this type of work.

“It’s time Cap.” William reached over and shut off the machines that kept the old Captain alive. There were no alarms on the machines. No doctors running in with paddles and yelling “clear!” No noise. No fanfare. Just the Captain and his reaper.

Captain Dawson stood up and took a few tentative steps toward the door. He turned and looked at his body lying still on the hospital bed. “Lead on Private, it seems it’s time for me to report in.”

Author’s Note: This story was written for Write Anything’s [Fiction] friday with this week’s prompt: Yesterday, your character called in sick on their birthday because they knew their co-workers had a surprise party planned. Write what happens today. I substituted a promotion with surprise party because I’m a naughty boy. All work and no play blah, blah, blah. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about this one. Cheers.

The Crazy Mixed Up Day of Bob and Tony

Tony stared at his friend in total disbelief.

“So, what your saying is, you bought a pan flute at a store called ‘Pete’s Pan Flute N Things’ which just so happens to have had its grand opening this morning, right as you passed by on your way home from work.”

“Yup,” said Bob. “Cool, huh?”

Bob began to blow on his newly acquired pan flute.

Toodlie, doodlie, doodlie-doo.

Tony winced as Bob kept blowing across the pipes of his new musical instrument.

“Seriously, dude. What the hell?” said Tony when Bob’s bad blowing of the pipes finally ended.

“Come on Tone, you know I’ve always wanted to be like Sam Fear, Master of the Pan Flute,” replied Bob. “And when I saw that store, I figured why not. Lots of guys like the flute.”

“It’s Zamphir, you frickin’ moron” said Tony as he cuffed his friend in the back of the head. “And no, I had no idea that your life long dream was to play the pan flute as well as a guy, whose name you don’t even know, to a room full of screaming grannies and their emasculated husbands.”

Bob ignored his friend’s tirade and piped his way into his room. He practiced blowing his new pipes throughout the night finally falling asleep around 4:00 in the morning. Tony on the other hand was unable to fall asleep. He crept into Bob’s room and found his friend sound asleep, grinning ear to ear and clutching his damned pan flute. Tony was able to carefully pry the cursed musical instrument from Bobby’s clutches. His plan was simple, return the flute and tell Bob something stupid like space monkeys had broken into the apartment and stolen it. Bob would be pissed, but he’d get over it.

Tony returned several hours later, flute in hand and confronted his friend.

“Uh, hey Bob, I thought you said you bought your flute at ‘Pete’s Pan Flute N Things.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Why?”

“Well, when I went there, there was just a store called ‘Ronnie’s Roommate Finders’”

“What are you talking about?”

“The store were you bought this stupid flute doesn’t exist.”

“No, I mean why were you trying to find ‘Pete’s Pan Flute N Things’?”

“Doesn’t matter, the point is the place doesn’t exist.”

“That’s crap. Come on, I needed to stop there to pick up some pan flute music books and a swanky new carrying case anyway.”

They pulled up to the storefront and watched in disbelief as the sign that said ‘Ronnie’s Roommate Finders’ erased itself and became a blank piece of wood.

“I say we go in there and see what the hell is going on here,” said Bob.

“Word up,” said Tony as he did his best to get into a B-boy stance. It was Bob’s turn to do some cuffing.

They walked inside and approached the counter. The store was empty except for a small bell and a sign that said “Ring me”. Tony rang the bell and they waited for someone to appear.

“Can I help you?” said a creepy old man. He looked very cliché.

“What is this place?” asked Tony

“Well,” said the old man, “It’s whatever you want it to be.” He pointed to Bob. “You desperately wanted to play the pan flute, so it became a pan flute store, and you,” he pointed to Tony, “wanted a new roommate, so it became a roommate locating service.”

“Holy crap!” said Tony. He grabbed Bob by the arm. “Don’t you see what this means?!”

“Yes!” said Bob as he grabbed Tony’s other arm. “You want another damn roommate, but you ain’t getting my CD’s.”

“No you imbecile, we can finally get whatever we want.”

They were wearing mile wide smiles as they ran out of the store and across the street. They turned to face each other.

“OK, Tone, you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I think so, Bob. Ready? ”

They both closed their eyes and began concentrating really hard on what they wanted. A few seconds later words began forming on the store’s sign. “Petunia’s Peanut Butter Sandwich Shoppe”

Bob laughed hysterically. Tony slapped him across the face.

“This is serious you dink, now stop screwing around.” Tony’s face was stern. “We have a shot at riches beyond our wildest dreams, or a bevy of hotties just waiting for us and you want to piss it away on fluffernutters?”

“OK, OK, for real this time. Ready? Go.”

The sign blanked out then began to rewrite itself again. “Nancy’s Nudes”. Tony noticed a small sign in the window that read: “1500 Gold Bars Free With Every Nude”. Directly underneath a faded sign read: “Buy one nude person get two free”. The two friends, giddy with anticipation, burst through the doors of the shop. This time the creepy old man was replaced with fifty completely naked men.

Tony closed his eyes and shook his head. As he opened his eyes he slowly turned to look at Bob.

“Seriously, Dude?”

Bob just smirked and arched an eyebrow.

“Fine,” said Tony. “But after this we’re going back out there and this time you better think ‘New roommate’. And I get the CD’s.”

Author’s Note: OK this one was a departure for me. The story was inspired by the prompt: On the way home from work your character stops into a music store and purchases an unusual musical instrument that they’ve always wanted to learn to learn to play. Why today? I hope you enjoy this little tale. Please leave me a comment and let me know.

The Dance

“No, No, NO! Cara, how many times must I show you? Watch me.”

Cara watched as her mother moved her arms with practiced grace. She paid close attention to how her mother placed her slippered feet confidently upon the worn floorboards. She knew this dance far better than she let on. Her missteps and clumsy movements were Cara’s way of rebelling. As much as she hated to admit it, her mother’s dancing ability was something Cara always coveted. Some of Cara’s fondest childhood memories were of dancing alongside her mother. She would watch as the local men spent their hard earned cash to see her mother’s dances and forget about their wives.

When Cara was seventeen she thought herself old enough to start earning money with her dancing too. She danced for some local boys behind the general store. Unfortunately they weren’t interested in spending money; they were interested in kisses and more. Cara was worried about what her mother would say or do when she found out what happened. Her mother didn’t scold or berate her. She hugged Cara until Cara stopped crying. The next day Cara began learning a new dance. Every bit as seductive as the others, but concentrating on new steps and movements and rhythms helped Cara forget the events of the previous day.

Cara’s mind snapped back to the present as her mother’s dance ended.

“Sorry mother, I’m just a little tired,” said Cara

“Well, you better get un-tired and get it right. I spoke with Mr. Johnson today and he agreed to let you dance on stage this weekend,” Said Cara’s mother.

Cara’s face blanched. “I – I don’t know if I’m ready mom,” said Cara. She couldn’t look her mother in the eyes. “I don’t want to be a whore.”

Cara flinched as her mother’s hand flew toward her face. It stopped just before making contact.

“I am not a whore!” Her mother grabbed Cara’s chin and lifted her head, forcing Cara to make eye contact. “Cara, I don’t take those men into my bed. There was only one man in my life, your father, and he was murdered when you were young.”

“I know,” said Cara sullenly.

Her mother let out a large sigh. She was a strong woman and Cara knew her mother was anything but a whore.

“One more time, Cara, then we’ll go downstairs and get some food.”

Cara watched as her mother walked across the floor of their small room above the saloon. She had no desire to hurt her mother and knew exactly how she would make it up to her. Her mother placed the needle at the beginning of the record and cranked the phonograph.

The music started. Cara danced. Perfectly. Every step perfectly placed. Every movement of her arms perfectly timed. Her lithe body curved provocatively left, right, left, down. Her back arched. Her chest heaved. The music quickened. Her movements were hypnotic. Her silk skirt slid down her long leg as it kicked up past her head. The music became part of her. The room and her mother disappeared. All that was left was the dance. A perfect melding. A perfect dance.

Cara’s mother stood in stunned silence as the needle bounced back and forth against the label of the record. She smiled as she realized that Cara had been holding back for years. She ran across the room to hug her daughter.

“I know we aren’t whores mom,” said Cara. She pulled back from her mother to see her face. “You said something about food?”

The next few days passed quickly as Cara and her mother practiced their steps during the day and worked for the saloon at night. Cara was a serving girl and spent most of her nights in the smoke filled saloon trying to keep her bottom from being slapped by the men playing faro. But tonight was different. Tonight she was in the dressing room getting ready. Cara smiled as she looked at herself in the mirror. She wore a black, high-cut dress. The bodice was cut low and revealed an obscene amount of cleavage. Cara walked to the side stage to watch her mother dance.

There was a large group of men Cara had never seen before in the saloon tonight and they were rowdy. That was good though. It meant her first night would be a lucrative one. Cara watched her dance until two of the men rushed the stage.

Cara ran out to help her mother but was quickly captured by two more men and pinned against the wall.

The men stunk of whisky and their stubble scratched her skin as they began to have their way with her. She screamed for her mother. One of the men holding her grabbed her by the hair and held her head still.

“You might wanna watch this sweetheart.” The man said breathily into her ear. “Your momma pissed off the wrong man some years ago and Jack don’t take shit from no whore.”

Her mother, held by two men struggled to get free, while another man, presumably Jack, advanced slowly.

“Remember me bitch?” said Jack. “I’m the hombre who killed your husband.” Jack backhanded Cara’s mother across the face, splitting her lip. “Did you think you could hide from me forever?

“I’ll kill you!” Screamed Cara’s mother, as she struggled against her assailants.

“When I’m done with you I’m gonna let my crew loose on your daughter.”

Cara’s mother turned her head to look at Cara. “Cara, I want you to run from here and don’t come back, no matter what.”

Jack laughed openly. “She ain’t going nowhere, bitch”

Cara watched as her mother jerked one wrist free and then drove her elbow into the nose of one of the men behind her. Cara recognized her mother’s powerful movements. It was the new dance. Cara realized that for years her mother was teaching her far more than how to make a living; she was teaching her how to survive, how to fight and how to kill. Cara saw her mother reach into her tall black boots and retrieve two silver daggers. She hurled each one in Cara’s direction.

Each dagger plunged into the chests of the men restraining Cara. Cara instinctively pulled them free from their chests. They felt as though they were made to fit her hands. Cara, in the midst of this horror couldn’t help notice every little detail of the daggers. They were perfectly balanced. The handles were fashioned from silver and inlayed with wooden crosses. She held them ready. Her mother’s final gift.

“Run” shouted Cara’s mother. “Don’t look back. I love you.”

Cara started towards her mother.

“NO Cara! Run! Now!” Her mother fixed her gaze on Cara for a second and Cara knew she had to run.

Cara ran. And as her mother continued her dance, Cara swore vengeance.

Author’s Note: I hoped you enjoyed this story. It was composed for Write Anything’s Fiction Friday challenge. This week’s prompt: Write about a misunderstanding between three people. Astute readers will notice that this story is slightly more than 1000 words. Please don’t hold it against Cara and her mother, they had a lot to say. Hopefully Cara and Gabe (see last week’s story) will be meeting up in the near future. Thank you for reading and commenting.