Challenge 103

The Iron Writer Challenge 103

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 102 Champion

Steph Mineart

The Authors:

Richard Russell, Vance Rowe, Aaron Carlson

The Judges:

Dani J Caile, A. Francis Raymond, Mamie Pound, Lee Cox

The Elements:

iron handcuffs

Iron Handcuffs
Barn owls
A light bulb salesperson
A Bumper sticker

Post your guess who will win in the comments

(and tell us why!)

The Barn Owl Horror

Vance Rowe

He dreaded going on blind dates. He never knew of whom he was going to meet, or in some cases, what… he was going to meet. The last woman he met turned out to have a fetish with barn owls. He should have realized something was up when she showed up at the restaurant wearing a sweater with a large barn owl on the front of the sweater and it had large, blue, sparkling eyes.

The dinner went well and he was impressed with her up to this point. The night went very well, well enough for him to accept the offer of going to her home for a night cap. However, one he entered her home, he wished he hadn’t. There were barn owls everywhere the eye could see. They were stuffed, made of wood, made of ceramic, painted on canvas, and even in framed photographs hanging on the walls. Every wall. However, when she excused herself to get into something more comfortable and returned wearing a barn owl costume, he ran from the house and called her a freak, among other names.

As he drove to the restaurant, he was slightly amused by a bumper sticker he saw on the car in front of him. It read:

I MAY BE SLOW BUT I AM AHEAD OF YOU!

“Not anymore,” he said to himself, with arrogance, as he passed the car. The woman he met at the restaurant was a breath of fresh air to him. She was smart, beautiful, and she sells vintage and oddly shaped light bulbs. Being a buff of historical things, he was extremely anxious to see her collection. He was invited to her home and he gladly accepted. While they enjoyed a glass of brandy, she took him around to show him the collection of her light bulbs and then the magazine that she had made, of the light bulbs she has for sale. He pointed to a couple that he was interested in purchasing.

The night went well. Well enough to take it to the next level.

“I also have a collection of antique handcuffs, if you are interested,” she said with a wink.

They went into her bedroom and she helped him undress and then produced a pair of iron handcuffs from the mid-1800’s. When he lay down in the bed, she cuffed him to the bed and told him that she would return momentarily. When she returned, he looked at her in horror. She was dressed in a barn owl costume and told him that it was her sister that he recently shunned. The sister then entered the bedroom and she was dressed the same.

His fight for freedom was stopped by a needle to the arm. Slowly, he felt himself slip away into unconsciousness. When he awoke, he found himself in a large cage and his body was covered in owl feathers, that were super glued to his entire body. He then wept as he saw the two women dressed as barn owls and dancing around the cage as they made barn owl noises and laughed maniacally.

He dreaded going on blind dates.

The StationRichard Russell

Richard Russell

The old barn came with the property. I wasn’t sure if it was worth keeping or not. “If it was going to be a danger,” I thought, “I ought to tear it down.”

That day, it was nice outside on the northern border of Georgia for that time of year. So I strolled across the pasture to see for myself what kind of shape the old barn was in. It was still standing; that said something for it.

From all appearances, it looked to be a stable for animals; there were stalls and a hay loft. As I explored one of the stalls, I kicked something metallic. Reaching down, I picked up a pair of old iron handcuffs. “What an odd thing to find in a barn,” I thought, bringing them back to the house.

Within a week, there was a knock on my door. A large, elderly, black gentleman stood before me, selling light-bulbs. Inviting him inside, we talked a little about light-bulbs until he noticed the handcuffs on the end table. “Where’d you find these?” he asked.I explained I had discovered them inside the old barn out back.

His eyes grew wide, and his voice perked up, “Do ya mind if I take a look inside your barn, Sir?”

We weren’t out there 10 minutes when he discovered several more pairs of handcuffs. As he poked around, he found some short pieces of chain, as well.

“This barn was a station on the underground railroad,” he told me, explaining it was used as a safe house to help runaway slaves get to freedom. A secret system of sympathetic people provided hiding places for slaves along the way north to freedom.

He turned to me, saying emphatically, “This barn needs to be preserved in the National Register for Historic Places.”

Then he told me I should have a couple light bulbs in the barn to provide some heat, which would help attract barn owls. I had no livestock to bring warmth to the structure. He told me barn owls, which also traveled in the cover of night, were a sign of encouragement to runaway slaves. Because barn owls can see in total darkness, slaves felt they, too, could see their way through the dark times they were going through. He added that since barn owls had exceptional hearing and discernment of their surroundings. Knowing this, slaves would feel encouraged to discern and navigate their way through their unknown situation.

As we strolled back to the house and he got into his car, he reiterated, “You get that barn preserved, and get some owls to nest in there!”

I never saw him again, but I couldn’t forget the bumper sticker on his car: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Whenever I look at the old barn, I think of what it must have been like for a slave, running for his life,   totally at the mercy of strangers, trusting God for his freedom.

The InventorAaron Carlson

Aaron Carlson

“What is it?” she whispered.

“I dunno,” came his response.

The two children were huddled together behind a large, ash-covered waste bin emblazoned with stickers reading “Stop War” and “Say ‘No’ to the Nuclear Option”.

“Well, where’d ya get it, Dee?” she pressed impatiently.

The day was dark, and damp ash rained from the cloud-choked sky.

“The Inventor,” he replied, quiet as breath. “He gave it to me when he delivered mama’s light bulbs.”

She mouthed the name in awe. “The Inventor? That crazy ol’ man who lives on the edge of the Wasteland with all them owls?”

Dee nodded vigorously.

“I never seen him.”

“What do ya mean you never seen him, Ell?” he hissed.

“Well, papa says we don’t need no light bulbs, but… I think we just can’t afford ‘em.”

Dee ignored her confession, and she frowned at his dismissal.

“He’s old – I mean real old. And dirty. He’s got black rain dried in every wrinkle on his old face, and he wears these big goggles that makes his eyes look all buggy. His hair is white and long and dry, like rusty wire.”

Ell was captivated, her eyes wide and sparkling – wanting fires of wet wood.

“And he clinks when he walks, on account of these metal bracelets he wears. He don’t never talk, neither, just sells people stuff.”

“So why’d he give you this?” she asked, brandishing a finger at the device.

“Dunno. But he made this big wink,” – Dee gave her an exaggerated impression, which brought a smile to her dirty face – “and slipped it into my pocket when mama wasn’t looking.”

“So,” she lead, lowering her voice. “How does it work?”

“Dunno,” he repeated. “It’s got these things on the side, though.”

His ash-stained fingers fumbled with the black rectangle, poking and prodding the buttons until a crackling erupted from it.

“Before the war, I was an engineer,” the device sputtered. “And I thought I would be safe.”

A deep breath.

“I was wrong. Only months into it, I was drafted into a unit of military scientists tasked with improving the efficiency of nuclear weapons. At first, I refused, but they threatened my family.”

A stifled sob.

“I had no choice.”

A breath.

“After a while, I defected, and was imprisoned. When we lost – humanity lost – the war, I escaped and returned home, but I never found my family. It’s been 35 years without them. I’d very much like to see them again. To the listener of this tape, I leave my remaining light bulbs to distribute freely and equally. They should illuminate many lives for a few months.”

Dee and Ell locked eyes – deep wells of mixed emotion.

“Live in the light, but never forget the darkness,” the voice continued. “Rebuild, but never forget the ruin.”

Another deep breath.

“Okay. It’s time for me to go.”

The two children sat in stunned silence, when Ell’s face suddenly beamed beneath the layers of grime and filth.

“I can’t wait to tell papa!”

 

 

Challenge 90

The Iron Writer Challenge 90

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(For a variety of reasons, four of the five writers in this challenge withdrew.

Leaving Steven L Bergeron standing alone on the battlefield in the morning mist.)

The Judges:

(The Judges all went to Starbucks. You might still find them there.)

The Elements:

snail cherry kiss

The Drake Equation

Guy Fawkes Day

A Fried Bologna Sandwich Cookoff

 

London No MoreSteven Bergeron

Steven Bergeron

Nebulon 4 the eternity prison of our galaxy

…………………………………………………..

“Now look what you done. They will definitely be blamed us for this one.”

“Whatever are you talking about?”

“Well for starters all the streets in London are ablaze. How do you think Dr Drake is going to react.”

“For starters it is November 5. Ever since the Guy Fawkes event some 400 years ago people has been doing it. As far as Dr Drake leave him to me, there are hundred aliens in the milky way, he will never miss two lost souls in his equation.”

“True people do walk the streets with torches on the anniversary, but they don’t torch the buildings.”

“Oh you worry body. Besides think about it, two snails torching an entire city how preposterous is that.”

“Preposterous you say what do you think of that?”

Looking up from over the hill a mob of Britain’s where heading in our direction. Quickly our lips locked as we began kissing as they passed right by us.

“Boy that was close.”

“What did I tell you no one suspects the snail. It is for that particular reason we took their form. Now let’s get back to our ship to report back our findings.”

As we reached the nearby river our cherry shaped space ship was waiting. Upon entering our commanders image was waiting for us angrily.

“Where have you two been up to?” proclaimed his voice of authority.

“Whatever do you mean? We were in town down by the arena enjoying free sampling of fried bologna sandwiches from the good folks annual cook off.”

“Oh really well Dr Drake could have sworn he spotted two snails fitting your description torching the town. Never mind save it for the tribunal.”

November 6 and here we are sitting hand in hand in front of the high court determining our faith. It still puzzled me why we are here. We did as we were ordered and still they are not satisfied. The commander sternly eyed down on us as we had to plead our case.

“My dear friends we are gathered to determine the faith of Kune and Tane. Gentleman what have you to say for your actions?”

“Well dear friends we are still in shamble as to why we are sequestered here. We did as we were told. London is nothing but a rumble ready to be taken over.”

“Yes but your mission was to simply turn the town folks against each other and get them to do the damage.”

“That is preposterous. Londoners are stupid, that would never happen. It is for that reason we took matters in our own hand.”

“How dare you defy our order’s. If you don’t have anything more to say on your defence we have no choice but to sentence you to an eternity on Nabulon 4.”

“It is what it is.”

So here we are standing in Nebulon 4 trapped like Adam and Eve.

 

 

 

Challenge 85 – Autumn Equinox Final Round

The Iron Writer Challenge 85

The 2014 Autumn Equinox Final Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Dani J Caile, A Francis Raymond, Mathew W. Weaver, Danielle Lee Zwissler

The Elements:

imagesdf

 

Learn to train your wife in 5 easy lessons

If you are male, you must write your story from the wife’s negative point of view.

    If you are female, you must write the story from the husband’s positive point of view.

Main Character suffers from Pseudobulbar Affect

Breast Cancer

Please vote!

The poll is below.

To Kill A Marketing BidMathew W Weaver

Mathew W. Weaver

“Call 555-T-R-A-I-N-H-E-R right now!”

The advertiser’s voice was getting on my nerves. I walked into the living room, broom in hand, and just as I expected, there sat Jim, glued to the screen like the cap on your day old tube of glue.

“Mind turning that down?” I yelled, “I can’t hear myself think in here!”

“Go away, honey,” Jim said sweetly.

I breathed in and held it. With one good whack of that old broom, I could have sent him flying out the door right then, like I should have done all those years ago. He used to be a David Hasselhoff lookalike, but ever since his breast cancer, he resembled a rag doll that had been run over by a garbage truck.

And smelled like it, too.

And for crying out loud, how many men got breast cancer, anyway?

“Just 5 easy lessons, and you’re done! Train your wife today!” the male voice bragged.

“Turn tha… wait, what was that?”

“Nothing dear, nothing!” Jim said weakly, scrabbling at the remote before switching to the game. I marched over to him, and he cowered as I yanked it out of his feeble grasp and switched it back.

Jim sank into the cushions as I watched the obscene commercial. There, in all comfort, a typical man stretched out while a harlot dressed in nothing but cellophane fetched him everything from slippers to pie and jumped up with every snap of his fingers. And all the while, the voice promised that “your wife could be the same… in five easy lessons!”

“What,” I turned around, “is this?”

“Infomercial?” he offered.

I balled my fists and he shrank even further into the upholstery.

“You want me to jump at your snapping fingers?!” I exploded, “Of all the lazy…”

“Don’t yell!” Jim whimpered, his voice ending in a shuddering gasp.

“It’s always about you, isn’t it?” I threw the down the broom in disgust.

The Pseudobulbar Affect kicked in, and I threw up my hands and walked away. Ten minutes into the sobbing was, surprisingly, enough time for me to calm down. I bit my lip, sighed, and turned around.

“Alright, dear,” I said, “I’ll take your training. I’ll be the wife you always wanted me to be.”

Now, the thing about Pseudobulbar’s is that you can’t ever control the crying. So, even as the once masculine, now very effeminate Jim beamed at me in startled, elated confusion, tears continued to roll down his cheeks and his chest still heaved with emotion.

“You’d do that for me?” he stammered, the disbelief so palpable, you could have spread it on bread.

It wasn’t easy, but I had to give in. I sighed, set my jaw, and then nodded.

“I would,” I said, “Call them.”

As he reached for the phone and stared after me with adoring eyes, I turned around and walked back to the kitchen. Reaching into my pocket, I brought out my well-thumbed, dog-eared copy of “Essential Steps To Have Your Man At Your Mercy,” (pocket edition), and flipped over to chapter seventeen.

“To Deal With The ‘Train Your Wife’ Routine,” I read, “Step one…”

Gone to a Better PlaceDani-J-Caile

Dani J. Caile

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

There were only two of them left in the room, with a woman taking a position by the sofa and a man by the window, speaking into his walkie talkie.

“Where did the others go?”

“They have something to do, Mrs. Worthing,” said the woman.

“Oh, I see. I’ll put these cups back, then.”

“No, no, that’s okay. Please, sit down, rest yourself.”

“Yes, right, that’s best. One lump or two?”

“One, thank you.” The woman sat down and took the cup. The man standing ignored her and looked out of the window, now holding his walkie talkie to his ear and listening to crackles and voices.

“Would you like a Bourbon Cream?”

“No, thank you. Mrs. Worthing. Could you please tell us a little about yourself?” asked the woman.

She laughed uncontrollably, embarrassing herself.

“Me? Little old me? I’m Jon’s wife. Are you friends of Jon?”

“Well, we’re looking after his…welfare,” smiled the woman.

“Oh, good, I’m happy about that. He’s such a good man.”

“Really? Please, tell me more. Perhaps you can tell me something about your life together?”

“Of course, yes, I’d be happy to. He was always good to me, I…I have trouble, you see, I’m…I’m not very good in company.”

Another sudden unexpected laugh. Her face blushed.

“Don’t worry yourself. Please, continue.”

“Well…we’re a model couple, Jon and I. Every day when he opens the door I greet him the way he likes…”

“Yes?”

“Erm…”

“Go on.”

“…well…in my best lingerie, in a simple black silk loose fitting sheath dress with thin spaghetti straps.”

“Uh-huh…”

“And I have his pipe and slippers all ready, too…”

The man from the window whispered something to the woman and she nodded.

“It sounds like you’re an excellent wife, Mrs. Worthing,” said the woman, smiling.

“Thank you. Yes, I make sure his TV remote control is sitting on the side of his favourite armchair so he can watch his football matches, along with a beer the way he likes it, chilled.”

“Wonderful, Mrs. Worthing.”

“When he snaps his fingers, that tells me he’s ready for dinner, and I serve him immediately. After all, he is the breadwinner of the household. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be on the street. He tells me that every day. Every day…”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Worthing,” said the woman, “…but we need to take you down to the station now.”

She laughed again, uncontrollably, and tried to keep a smile on her face. The man at the window took out some handcuffs.

“Of course, of course.” He put them on her and led her past the bloody corpse and into the hallway. She overheard the man whispering again to the woman.

“Her doctor said she’s riddled with cancer, recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and has suspected breast cancer. She also suffers from PBA. The doctor pushed her to tell her husband the good news tonight.”

“Would’ve loved to have been a fly on that wall…”

“Trained”Danielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

Clyde stood at the podium wearing a grin. “Before I begin, I would like to let you know that I have a condition that causes uncontrollable bouts of laughter or crying at times.”

Uneasy murmurs traveled through the crowd before Clyde continued. “I want to thank all of you for coming to my lecture tonight on How to Train Your Wife in Five Easy Lessons. I would like to show you the subject of my book, my wife, Elaine Evershaw.”

“Stand up, Elaine.”

“Yes, Dear,” Elaine said, then stood. She was the only woman in the hall. Her shoulders were up, back and down, breasts out, back straight—posture perfect. She wore a sexy, pinup-type dress with polka dots. She was beautiful.

The men in the audience smiled, and Clyde knew that they appreciated her appearance.

“As you can see, she is trained to please, as all women should be. She is perfectly coifed, and ready to serve her man. Elaine, sit.” Clyde started to laugh.

“Yes, Dear.”

The audience watched, pleased at how “the wife” was following commands.

“I will outline a few of the steps for you, that way you can understand the process. I won’t give everything away tonight, because you need to read the book and apply the steps to your own relationships.”

“Teach your wife how to fetch.” Clyde laughed. The audience looked at him curiously, as he continued. “Folks, don’t be put out by lazy wives. You can train them to do the things that you want them to do. It isn’t hard; if you would like warm feet at night, tell your wife to fetch your slippers, but don’t forget, just like a dog you have to reward your bitch with a treat, perhaps a trinket. Sooner than later you will have her at your feet with your slippers, and she will wear a smile on her face as she awaits her prize. Don’t forget to praise her. Positive reinforcement is the key. Say things like, atta girl, or great job! This will only get things going faster.”

The men in the audience were eating up Clyde’s instruction, even though it was a little unorthodox.

“I know what many of you may be thinking, that this will not work for you, that your wife may not be susceptible to the steps. Fear not, brave men, these steps work!”

Clyde held up a copy of his book. “Today you can get this for only $19.99! This also includes a chapter on how to get your wife to follow non-verbal commands, and how to serve you ice cold beer and snacks! And because you are here today, I will throw in a free Breast Cancer Apron! There is nothing sexier than an obedient wife at the stove wearing an apron. So step right up and get your copy!”

***

The night had been a success, and Clyde felt satisfied as he walked with his wife to the train station. As the train approached, Elaine pushed her husband onto the tracks, killing him instantly.

Elaine smiled and said, “And that’s how you train a husband!”

 Careful What You Wish ForA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond

“You followed the steps in the booklet?” asked Mr. Stumpbottom.

John looked at the image on the cover. It was part of his welcome kit when he joined the very secretive Men’s Associative Committee for a Better America (MACABA). The club, and the booklet, ‘Train Your Wife in 5 Easy Steps’ promised solutions to his problems.

“Yes. The only thing I managed out of her was a ‘Yes, dear” to my requests – none were actually followed through.”

“If you read the details on our warranty,” said Mr. Stumpbottom, “You’ll remember we don’t offer a traditional refund.”

John skimmed the details when he joined. At the time, he never believed he’d need to file a claim. Things usually went his way, and when they didn’t, he didn’t worry much. It took a lot to bring this naturally upbeat man into Mr. Stumpbottom’s office this morning.

“Mr. Stumpbottom,” said John, “I simply want my wife to be happy, like me. Her smile is beautiful; I want to see it more. Her laugh is infectious; I want to hear it more. Is that too much to ask?”

“Not at all.” Mr. Stumpbottom took out a large book and plopped it down on his desk in front of John. He started flipping through it.

He clearly had a specific page in mind. While Mr. Stumpbottom was looking for it, John continued: “I really never needed her to obey my every command or anything like that.”

“I understand. Ah! Here we are!” He tapped his finger on the page and made sure John could see. “Our warranty specifies that if you’re not satisfied, we’ll try something else. We of course wouldn’t want to lose you as a member, you see.”

John followed Mr. Stumpsbottom’s finger to the text on the middle of the page in front of him. “Turn tears into laughter, laughter into tears.” That sounded about right to him.

“You can do that? That would be a miracle! How do you do it?”

“Oh, we have our ways. You needn’t worry about it. But there could be side effects, some pretty severe…”

John cut him off, smiling. “Let’s do it. Where do I sign?”

Mr. Stumpbottom replied “My secretary will draw up papers and you’ll be on your way. You’ll start seeing the change in a few days.”

* * *

As promised, John’s wife, Nancy, became the laughing queen as her naturally negative reactions to everything turned positive. For three months, she laughed at everything. Anything that would have put a normal person in tears, Nancy was laughing. Hysterically and often. She laughed right through her sudden and unexpected breast cancer diagnosis, much to the surprise of the oncologist.

John suspected the cancer was the side effect Mr. Stumpbottom mentioned, but never said anything about it.

He was at a MACABA meeting and ran into Mr. Stumpbottom.

“How’s your wife?”

“In remission,” John said. “I presume the original ‘treatment’ has worn off.”

“Oh, no no,” Mr. Stumpbottom chuckled. “That was a permanent alternation.”

“But she’s getting better! Why is she still laughing?” John said to no one since Mr. Stumpbottom had disappeared into the crowd.

The “Weekday” Quickie #2… HAIL TO THE CHIEF…

Write a poem about the President of the United States. This poem must include the following words:

Grey Matter, Mars, Insurance, Chunky Chocolate Chips and Guitars

You don’t need to rhyme, but it would be more of a challenge if you could…

Time: all day if that’s what it takes!

 

Escribe de’Trois Challenge

“Escribe de’Trois” Challenge

The Authors:

(Each Author must use a pseudonym)

Cherry Red, Christian Chauncy,

Percival Mercy, Spanky Strawberry Slokovich,

The Elements:

Escribe challenge

Star Dust

A Tree Stand

Edible Underwear

1955 Fund RaiseractualTeapot

Christian Chauncy

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada. The Stardust.

Senator Brosse’s fundraising event was well underway.

Jack Dell, multimillionaire plastics manufacturer, shook hands with Sen. Brosse and smiled broadly at the senators wife, Sherryl.

Mrs. Brosse was a very handsome woman; slender in the right places, but still capable of smoothing out the wrinkles in her straight, ankle length Vincianni dress she was wearing.

“Congressman Brosse,” Dell said as he reached for the handshake.

“Mr. Dell, I believe you’ve met my wife, Sherryl?”

“Indeed I have, sir,” Dell replied coyly, “Indeed I have.”

“John?” Mrs. Brosse asked, tilting her head toward her husband, yet her eyes locked on Dell’s, “Do you mind if Mr. Dell and I chat privately, we wont be long.”

The senator smiled warmly and replied, “Not at all, dear, I’ll be right here.”

With a kiss to her cheek, Mrs. Brosse and Mr. Dell slipped away, toward the steps to the lower, now completely empty ballroom.

Beside the senator stood a dark headed man, dark suit, black tie. “Sir?”

“No son,” the senator cautioned the man, “Let her seal the deal on that million dollar contribution. All it will cost me is a little dignity and a pair of edible underwear.”

The senator easily slid a whiskey soda from a tray as a waiter passed.

“Besides, her heart is colder than any winter’s day I’ve spent in a tree stand – and I’ve had better company there too,” he said with a wink.

A contingent of 5 men, 4 surrounding one, briskly walked up to the senator and his aid.

“Sir, may I present to you King Malmhud Aalam, sovereign of Muslatan,” a young man stuck a stiff hand at the senator’s belt buckle.

The group spread out to reveal the king in the center. An older gentleman, slightly older than the senator himself.

Al Muslatan had vast stores of Norcronim, an extremely rare ore used in the production of heat resistant materials. Norcronim had no known melting point. And King Aalam’s fortunes knew no limits from it.

The king casually raised his hand. The senator drew his to meet it.

“Salaam-alaikum”

“Wa-alaikum-salaam,” replied the king.

Grasping hands firmly with the king, the senator spoke; “King Aalam, I hope I can look forward to your generous donation?”

Smiling, the king replied, “Congressman, we have never met, yet you greet me with such earnest. I am still not sure why you’ve invited me to this gathering. Your political interests have regularly opposed diplomacy with my country. And you invited me to this? Do you genuinely believe I would give money to your campaign after the way your colleagues have treated my country and my people?”

“King Aalam,” the senator started, “I believe there are things far more important to the goodwill of men. There are things men desire that exceed the boundaries of necessities.”

“Mr. Brosse, you speak in riddles. What things could possible transcend a nation’s desire to be taken seriously?”

“King Aalam,” replied the senator, “have you met my wife?”

Up In the Treesstrawberry-dunny-yosiell

Spanky Strawberry Slokovich

Gark the bear settled himself down in the undergrowth under the star-filled sky, munching on some berries he’d picked up earlier and watched his weekly hunter entertainment. Dave, tall and lanky, was over in the tree on the left, while Bob, a fat ball of a man, on a tree to the right. They both sat there in their state-of-the-art-the-best-money-can-buy tree stands some twenty feet up, their guns loaded and ready as they scanned the forest for movement. Not a soul was about. They’d already been up there half the night and looked about ready to quit.

“What does it all mean, Bob?” asked Dave, lowering his gun and staring up at the stars.

“‘It’s a pronoun, Dave,” replied his overly-chubby partner.

“No, Bob, ‘it’, the ultimate question.”

“Oh.”

“Looking up at that sky, it makes me feel…insignificant, you know.”

“You are insignificant, Dave.”

“Shut up, Bob.”

“Right.”

“No, I mean, I feel like we’re all just ‘cosmic dust’ in the universe.”

“Oh yeah, right. Deep, Dave, real deep. Like star dust, you mean?”

“Stardust? That was a shit movie.”

“Come on, Dave. Any film with Michelle Pfeiffer in it is worth a look.”

“Good point.”

Gark scratched himself and accidentally snapped a twig. Both hunters aimed their guns out into the forest below, searching, but finding nothing. He heard Dave’s stomach growl louder than his Aunt Nellie’s.

“So, what have you got, Bob?”

“Eh?”

“The food, the food. What have you got?”

“Erm…nothing?”

“What? But it was your turn to bring the food!”

Dave’s shouting upset an animal some distance away, causing it to flutter and squawk away into the night.

“Shhh, we’re not gonna shoot anything if you shout like that.”

“Are you telling me that you didn’t bring ANYTHING?”

“Erm, well, I do have something.”

“Great. I thought we were done for. What have you got?”

“You won’t like it.”

“You didn’t bring dry roasted peanuts again, did you? You know I hate them.”

“No, not that.”

“Well?”

“Erm, well…”

“Yes?”

“Well, you know, I hadn’t actually planned on being here with you tonight.”

“Yeah, I know. You had that date with Maisy, the bird at the diner. But she had to change shifts at short notice. Sad.”

“Yep.”

Gark looked on as Bob sat in silence and Dave came to some hideous realisation, one he truly didn’t like.

“No.”

“What?”

“No, Bob, don’t tell me.”

“Come on, at least it’s something.”

“I am NOT going to eat them!”

“Very nutritional, you know, edible underwear.”

“Oh, come on!”

Bob had already reached into his camouflage trousers and ripped off a large chunk of candy-tasting pink boxers. Dave’s stomach roared once more, one Gark would have been proud of.

“Oh, go on, then. Throw me over a bit.”

“What would you prefer? Front or back?”

Gark choked on his berries, only to lift his head to find two barrels aimed straight at him. Ever heard the joke of the bear crapping in the woods? No rabbit this time.

Starlight Starbrightcherry-cartoon-character-vector-illustration-white-background-42811103

Cherry Red

She followed him up the rickety metal ladder and into the tree stand. “Best place to see the stars. I even brought the telescope,” he said.

“And a sleeping bag…” She noted.

“Halley’s Comet doesn’t fly by every night,” he bit her ear.”But to satisfy the dare, you must sleep overnight in this tree stand.”

“I love a good dare,” she smiled.

“So glad you feel that way,” he said, digging around in his back pack.

He handed her the package. The plastic crinkled. She squeezed it and tried to figure out what it was. “Circus Peanuts?” she guessed.

“In a manner of speaking…,” he poured whiskey into two plastic cups.”To the comet and our dare.”

She turned up the cup. Whisky burned her lips.

He lit the lantern and held it up so she could see the package.

“Edible underwear?” she said, eyebrows raised.

“I been dreamin’” his grin was lopsided.

“You sure have.”

“I was inspired by that asteroid….” he nuzzled her neck with a scratchy beard.

“And the Stardust Adult Party Shop,” she read the label. “Cherry Flavored!”

“Uh, huh,” he said.

“Something about the Stardust inspires me to buy you clothes.”

“I wouldn’t exactly call this clothing.”

“Lingerie snack food, What more could a man want?” he teased.

“You hear that?” she put her hand over his mouth and listened.

“Probably just the comet,” he said.

“Sounded like gun fire,” she said.

They stared out into the woods. Far off in the distance a man walked across the field, shotgun at his side. He stopped, pointed the gun and fired. The bullet hit the tree stand. They dove to the floor.

She put her hand over her mouth and screamed. “Did he just try to shoot us?”

“Stay down,” he whispered.

The footsteps came closer and closer. He put a finger to his lips and hers.

A gun clicked.

“I ain’t stupid. And I don’t like nobody on my property,” a man yelled, slurring.

“I’m sorry sir,” he said. “We will leave now.”

“It’s too late for that, boy. .” The man brought the gun up to his shoulder.”I don’t need no reason to shoot somebody trespassing, but I do need a sacrifice.” He fired into the tree stand again.

“Please stop!” she yelled.

“When you crawled under my fence, you surrendered your rights. There ain’t a court in the state of Florida that’ll convict me. They’ll say you done it to yourself.” He spit. “I ain’t got time for conversation. That comet’s comin’ through here any minute and I gotta offer it up a sacrifice, to ward off the bad omen ridin’ with it. Can’t afford no more bad luck.” They heard a bottle smash against the ground at the base of the tree. He fired six times into the stand and with the sixth, a comet sailed across the horizon, a dazzling tail following. The man dropped to his knees, removed his hat, put his hand over his heart and recited the Star-Spangled Banner.

As the old man watched it fade away, two figures ran back across the field, never once looking skyward.

A Ridiculous ProposalMercy

Percival Mercy

Sophie stared at Oliver. “You’re joking, right?” Oliver grinned, “Nope, ‘fraid not my pet. We are well and truly marooned up here. And our picnic basket is 25 feet below, luring all the bears in this wood hood.”

“Why aren’t you whipping out your mobile, calling someone?”

Oliver looked at Sophie, lowered his eyes to the tree stand ladder, lying uselessly on the ground, camera bag strap looped around the top rung, in which his camera, phone and the tiny box, hidden carefully, all resided.

“There’s no point giving me that look; I’m not responsible for this mad scheme.”

Oliver grinned lazily, “I was merely admiring the length of those long, elegant legs of yours. It’s quite impressive how a simple leg cross can cause so much havoc.”

“You know, you’re really taking the piss out of my incipient temper tantrum. Which is as maddening as this ridiculous situation.”

“I know my love, I am inconsiderate that way. But fret not my sarcastic, wholly unappreciative British beauty, I feel certain we’ll be rescued. Meanwhile we have the beauty of nature to contemplate.” Oliver turned slightly, both to hide his lopsided grin and avoid the eye daggers being shot his way.

“How long have we been up here? Surely hours?”

“About forty five minutes.”

“I told you to stop at that charming country inn. I’m tasting the lavish breakfast spread they probably put out.” “And that was hours ago, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if driven insane by hunger, I pushed you out of this tree stand thingy. Into the arms of that rather largish brown animal sniffing about below.”

At Oliver’s look of alarm, it was Sophie’s turn to hide a grin.

Peeping over, Oliver yelped. “No! He can have our picnic, but not the camera bag.”

“Negotiate with him. Tell him he may have the food if he’ll toss up the camera bag.”

“Generally negotiation only works when one has something with which to negotiate. And not with bears. Too bad you didn’t think to wear those edible panties I got you last Valentine’s. Told you they’d come in handy one day.”

Oliver peered over. “He’s gone. Time for me to rescue us.”

He reached over, let down a rope, shimmied down, and propped the ladder up. “Look, reach into my camera bag, see if you can find a small box. . .” He waited for her soft gasp, popped his head over the ladder’s top rung, and looked at her with steady eyes “Won’t you finally say yes?”

Sophie looked at Oliver, sighed deeply “I ‘spose I’ll have to; I’ve no intention of taking this thing off.”

Oliver grinned. “Come on you. It’s gonna be dark soon; I’ve a lovely dinner and fire waiting at that country inn you were going on about.”

Sophie looked up “Look, star dust. How thoughtless not to bring sleeping bags; we’d have been blanketed by star dust up in the trees.”

And Oliver whooped with laughter and love.