The Iron Writer Challenge #196 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #2

The Iron Writer Challenge #196

 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #2

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.

The Elements:

Remember by Nilsson

A scorched map

A white lace handkerchief


Picture Perfect

Lady Eleanor seemed faintly amused at my tirade of angry words and curses. 

We were five weeks into our expedition, five weeks of hacking and slicing our way through dense tropical jungle. I had discovered the map quite by accident, while researching the location of ancient Atlantis. Beyond any doubt the artifact was authentic. It pointed the way to a hidden valley that contained the tombs of many Aztec kings and holy men.

Despite my better judgement, I had agreed to allow her ladyship to accompany me on my quest. I had little choice. After all, she was providing the finances for the journey up the Amazon, first by dugout canoe and then on foot through the rain forest.

Now I  was paying for my foolishness. Not five minutes ago Lady Eleanor had held the precious parchment in her delicate, white lace gloved hands. moment’s later it was aflame in the camp fire. I tried in vain to rescue it, burning both of my hands in the process. Now I held all that remained, a scorched, ruined, illegible piece of scrap.

I was beyond angry. I was incensed. Despite my cursing and roaring, Lady Eleanor just smiled, as if her carelessness was of no consequence.

“My dear James, whatever’s the matter? she said. “It’s only a piece of parchment, after all. It’s of no real value.”

Despite the sweet, calming scent of wild jasmine growing all around the camp, her words only acted to increase my rage.

“No value… No value? Ma’am, without it, we are lost. All is for nothing. We may decamp and begin the long trek home.”

She responded to my outburst with an even wider smile.

“Remember is a place from long ago. Remember, filled with everything you know” she said, with a mischievous glint in her dark eyes. “Remember, I have a picture perfect memory, James. Tomorrow, I promise you, I will lead you to your long lost valley.”

Lady Eleanor’s words did little to calm me. After a restless night twisting and turning in my cot, I awoke to the smell of fresh coffee mingling with the scent of the jungle and the sounds of wildlife all around. Monkeys screeched and birds chirped in response to the roar of some wild cat. 

My mind told me to pack up and return to civilisation. My gut told me to follow the instincts of my beautiful companion. My gut won the argument. Soon, I was once again hacking my way through steaming jungle, swatting away voracious insects, determined to have me for breakfast.

We followed an incline, that grew steeper with every step, until after several hours we climbed onto the summit of a majestic peak. Through breaks in the low cloud that swirled around us, I cast my eyes down to a lush valley, nestled between mountain ranges.

My Lady had been true to her word. The valley was home to terrace after terrace of striking pyramids, resplendent palaces and mighty ramparts. An entire city lay below my feet. Undisturbed for centuries, it now beckoned to me. Remember, remember, life is but a dream.


Brakes squealed in protest as the big rig rattled and jerked to a stop. The headlights cascaded flares across her vision. She took the white laced handkerchief she had used to flag the vessel down and cupped it over her mouth, gagging from the diesel exhaust. The door opened and she was greeted by the beaming smile of a scruffy 60-something year old man with yellow teeth. 

She stepped back, eyeing the monstrous vehicle. She looked down the winding road that curved and disappeared into the gullet of the night.

“I’m sorry,” she squeaked, “I’ll take the next one.”

The man bellowed heartily. “Ain’t no one going to be coming down this road till morning sweetheart. It wouldn’t be right to leave you out here. I ain’t gonna hurt you.”

She hesitated at the door of the rumbling rig. Her gut told her he was telling the truth, but it didn’t really matter if he wasn’t.

She climbed onto the torn vinyl seat and she almost preferred the diesel to the smoke-laced musky scent of the cab.  He extinguished another cigarette against the roadmap on the dashboard and turned on the radio. Remember by Harry Nilson played softly.

“Martin.” He offered.

“J….Jasmine,” She responded.

“Where to Jasmine?”

“Hamilton Station,” she whispered.

His lips pursed. “Only cause people have to go to Hamilton Station is fer the train or to toss ‘emselves off the bridge. And the train stopped running an hour ago.”

She sat and fidgeted with her handkerchief. 

After a moment of awkward silence, Martin turned the radio up and sang along.

Remember, life is just a memory…” 

“You don’t know how hard I’ve had it,” She said

“I ain’t judging, though I’d be happy to drop ya anywhere else Miss.”


The rest of the drive was silent until they reached Hamilton station. The station itself dark except for one porchlight. Across from it, the steel bridge that crossed the river. The truck hissed to a stop, and she tried to open the rusty door. Martin hobbled out of his seat, bones crackling and his frame swaying as he came around and opened her door. He watched her step out and walk over to the railing.

He hobbled over to her. “Train’ll be by in a few hours if you change yer mind.”

She didn’t answer.

“No? Ok. Just be sure to veer left. There’s a buncha rocks straight below. You’ll shatter yer legs and lay there a day before you die. Trust me.”

Appalled, she looked up. He took his fist and knocked on his knee, which crackled and rocked as if there was no weight on it. Martin bellowed out a laugh and vanished into the air. Stunned, Jasmine turned to find the truck gone as well. She gasped, released her handkerchief and watched it drift down into the belly of the darkness below.

She trembled, and stood motionless in the silent night for a moment, before running over to the station. Martin’s voice rang out into the night “Remember… close your eyes and you can see, 

Remember, think of all that life can be…”

Map in a Bottle

“Jasmine for Jasmine! It’s definitely meant for me!” she chuckled, before noticing the paper protruding from the fragrance-cap. “That’s a funny thing to be inside a perfume bottle.” 

The rustling of paper unfolding, got his attention.

“We have to follow it!” she said, without looking up. 

“No way,” he said, moving beside her, glancing at the opened map. “Some things are better left alone!” He pointed to the warning inscription: Follow at your own risk. One never knows what one may find…

“Don’t be silly, scaredy-cat, don’t you wanna know what treasures lie in wait?”

“Give it a rest,” Drake said, “we’re not going on another adventure, Jasmine.”

She was always getting into some sort of trouble whenever she ventured out to satisfy her curiosity, and she usually took him with her. He wasn’t falling for it again.

Hours later, they were packed and ready to leave on the new mission. Her glowing face was all it took for him to give-in to the madness, and he secretly thrived on the thrills of their little escapades, but he wasn’t going to tell her that. However, this time things seemed a little weird. He thought back to the warning on the withered map and how convenient it was, that Jasmine had been the one to purchase the Jasmine-scented bottle. Was it really meant for her? And what of the shopkeeper? 

“Ah Jasmine!” he had exclaimed as they entered the shop. They were startled as he handed her the fragrance from the shelf. “For you,” he said. 

Shrugging of any doubts, Drake grinned as he climbed into the running cab.
“About time!” she teased.


He couldn’t bring himself to mourn at the funeral. Because, she was still alive and well in his heart. He would not accept her death. Not yet.

They said it had been a hydraulic-oil leak. But Drake had known otherwise and he knew that she had seen it too – an exact replica of Jasmine herself, standing in a bloodied dress, on that highway and reaching out towards the car!

Jasmine tried to stop the car then, slamming on the brakes but something was wrong – it would not stop. Instead, it veered into the oncoming lane, even while Jasmine tried to steer away. Her side of the car had collided into a truck which knocked them over, causing the tumultuous accident. Everything happened so fast and in an instant, they were tumbling into the air. The car landed back onto its wheels after flipping over. Drake tasted dirt in his mouth, bewildered he took hold of Jasmine, trying to calm her. Crushed beneath the metal – she breathed her last then, in his arms.


As he stared into the roaring fire, hot tears rolled down his cheeks. The radio bounced off Harry Nilsson’s, Remember. The melody echoed his somber mood. His eyes danced watching the wisps of smoke that hovered from the remnants of the scorched map. He covered his face with a white, lace handkerchief. Her tears had long since dried up from it, but he took comfort in knowing that they had become one with the fabric now.


We sat by his bedside in the hospice, and I couldn’t bring myself to hold his hand. Laura did it for me, though I don’t think he noticed.

“Your dad looks stormy,” she said.

“Stormy? He’s in a coma.” My words came out more acidic than I intended.

Her soft look told me she understood. “Like he’s upset. Or trying to remember something.”

“Remember,” said my father, the word a papery whisper.

My wife and I drew in breath together. I pushed past Laura to be near his face. “What is it, Dad?”

His eyelids still closed, his lips twitched. “A place from long ago.”

Laura and I exchanged a glance. She asked, “Where is it, where are you?”

He let out a breath, deflating. I thought it was his last, but he filled his lungs with a deep breath and said, “Remember that pirate movie I took you to when you were a teen, kiddo?”

I smiled at the old endearment he’d called me for over forty years. “Yes, dad. Our favorite. The Goonies.”

He wheezed and barked a cough, and his eyes cracked open, though he stared unseeing at the ceiling. “Know how they found the treasure cave?”

Laura handed me her lace handkerchief. I wiped at tears I didn’t realize I’d shed, and said, “That old map, from the attic.”

A smile crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Wish I had that for you. Your ship come in, taken care of for life, kiddo.”

I still could not bring myself to reach out and touch him. The old man never was touchy-feely. “It isn’t like in the movies. I’ve made my own ship, I have my own treasure,” I said with a glance at my wife. “You taught me how, dad.”

Now his eyes fixed on Laura. “Yes. Yes, you have, kiddo. You’re both so pretty, you’re your own treasure.” He took in another breath, through his nose and breathed, “Jasmine. Like your mother used to wear.”

Laura laughed. “I know it’s her favorite. And yours.”

His eyes met mine, the soft light of the room gathered to two sharp infinitely brilliant points, and memories of those eyes looking at me in all emotions in all parts of my life came flooding through me, and I did reach out to touch his face with the tips of my fingers.

“Remember,” he said, arching an eyebrow.

The laugh, at his Trek reference at a time like this, escaped me, even as I dissolved into blubbery tears. “Really, dad?”

He nodded and waited.

“Of course I’ll remember, dad.”

He held my eyes with his, and the light went out of them, and the body on the bed wasn’t him anymore.

Laura held me, the scent of jasmine filling my world, bound to those memories welling up with the tears.

“I should have told him I love him,” I wailed into her soft shoulder.

Her fingers twined in my hair and she whispered in my ear, “You did, love. You did.”

Remember the Still

“What are you doing? Idiot!” Will grabbed the map from Robbie’s hand and shook the flames out.

“I thought fire might reveal something. You know, like in the movies.” Robbie was a little surprised that the idea didn’t really work.

Will frowned and simply shook his head. They had been searching for the whiskey still for hours. The woods were heavy and thick. The smell of it was tangled up in a big mess of smoke, stinkweed and jasmine.

“I ain’t got time for your dumb skull, numbskull!” Will took out his white handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He took the moist cloth and then wiped the charred edges from the corner of the map. The ashes scattered in the underbrush.

“Well, we ain’t havin’ much luck no other way yet” Robbie said.

“You ain’t looking in the right place. You think Daddy used to make that shine from nothing at all? You numbskull. No, there was a still back here alright, and that sum-gun ain’t never been found by no one- ever.”

“It looks like we ain’t gonna’ find it either Will” Robbie said.

“We gonna’ find it now. We got the doggone map that you nearly burned up for no good reason. That’s something.”

“I don’t even know if we can make it back to the house” Robbie said. “The dark is coming up mighty fast.”

“Well, I’m findin’ it, even if I got to stay out here all night” Will said.

“What you goin’ do with it when you find it? You don’t know nothing about stilling no whiskey” Robbie said. “I seen you try to boil a hot dog before.”

“Makin’ whiskey’s different you numbskull. Daddy used to home make it, and we can too. It’s in the blood. You either are born to make whiskey or you ain’t born to make no whiskey. You understand that?”

“You ain’t never made no whiskey. Do you even have a recipe? You got a formulization for it?”

Will was a little taken back by Robbie’s fifty cent word. “You look that word up or something?”

“Maybe we ain’t found no still cause we wouldn’t even know what the heck it is if we did find it” Robbie frowned.

“Everybody’s got to start somewheres, Robbie, and I’m startin’ today. You think Colonel Sanders knew how to fry a chicken when he was a youngin’?”

“Chicken he knew. He had to figure out how to do that franchizing deal? That’s what took him so long to figure out.”

“Well, we ain’t gonna’ do no franchizing, I just want to make some whiskey dammit.”

It was about that time when Will fell over a spool of copper tubing nearly completely covered in pine straw. There was a nasty bruise on his shin, but he was too excited to pay any mind to it.

“Well I’ll be” Robbie said. “We actually found it!”

“Remember Robbie, life is just a memory.”

“We actually found it” Robbie said it again in disbelief.

“Remember Robbie, think of all that life can be.”

“Stop singing that stupid song and give me a hand, will ya?”

Weekend Quickie #228

Weekend Quickie #228

Saturday, April 29, 2017

One Image, One Prompt, One Emotion

200 Words

a coterie

“From which stars have we fallen, to meet each other here?” Friedrich Nietzsche

The Iron Writer Challenge #195 – 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #1

 The Iron Writer Challenge #195

2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #1

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.

The Elements:

Lying Eyes – Eagles – anything from this song.

Snow drifts

Silk striped pajamas

An entitled victim

Every Form of Refuge

Malissa Greenwood

Bad things have always happened to me. Always.

I’m not entirely sure what I did to the world in order to deserve such terrible treatment from it, but here I am – the victim of one terrible thing after the other. Over and over in a vicious cycle that has ended here.

I used to try to look at the positives, try to come up with some lesson I was meant to learn. But there isn’t one. Even if there was, I suppose it’s too late now.

The view from my window is about as bleak as the one inside my room. The seasons have changed and winter is officially here. Snow drifts are stacked high, the wind is blowing cold and furious. I’ve been wanting to go outside for days but today I feel lucky to be practically bedridden.

I pull the warm blanket up closer to my chin as though the view of snow has been enough to send shivers throughout my body. But it’s not the snow. It’s the cancer. And they aren’t shivers, not really.

“Mary. Are you ready?!” My mother shouts up to me, wondering if I’m ready for her to come help me move from the wheelchair to the bed. I don’t bother answering, she’ll come up when she wants to.

Later, after she’s lifted me out of the chair she begins to help me change my clothes. Out of one pair of pajamas into another. I insist on wearing a particular set of silky, stripped pajamas tonight. They’re my favorite and I want to look and feel my best.

My mother doesn’t understand, of course, but she doesn’t question it, knowing it’s easier to let me have my way than to justify an argument.

Before she leaves she kisses my face, both cheeks and then my forehead, the same way she’s always kissed me since I was a little girl. She’s sweet my mother. I know it breaks her heart to see me this way. I want to ease her pain, I want to tell her my plan but I can’t find the words. So instead I smile, a thin disguise meant to protect us both.

I’ve been thinking about this night for a long time. I’ve been planning and preparing for it for ages, because the sooner I can leave this place the sooner she can start to move on. I’m confident and ready, I’m sure of my choice, but that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.

Eventually, I reach into the nightstand and pull out the razor I’ve hidden. I hold it tight as I scribble a letter on my notepad, words of love meant to comfort my mother in the morning.

I know this will be hard for her at first. I know it will be hard for everyone. But soon they’ll recover and begin to comfort themselves with cliché’s. “She’s in a better place,” they’ll say, as if they have any idea.

The cancer will be gone, but so will I. The pain will be gone, but so will I. I guess every form of refuge has its price.

The Winter of Her Discontent

Richard Russell

Misty pulled over to the curb and looked in the rear-view mirror.  He was coming.  Adjusting her blouse to reveal more cleavage, Misty touched up her lipstick and primped her hair.  Rolling down the window, she smiled warmly, “Good evening, Officer.  What can I do for you?”  And there it was; the trap snapped clean and painless.  After a few short minutes of subliminal intercourse the blushing officer let her go with a warning.  Starting her engine, she sighed in relief and pulled away.

She hadn’t been home long before Jimmy, the neighborhood single, was at the door. Misty had hoped he wouldn’t show up this evening, but he was useful to have around.

It was late when Misty finally pulled away from Jimmy’s warmth in her bed.  Leaving him with a smile,  she slipped into her striped silk pajamas, walked to the window, and looked out at the stars.  She had everything she needed, but she just couldn’t escape the feeling of being her own victim.  She felt trapped playing a role that isolated her from what she desired most; true love.  Jimmy didn’t love her; he was in love with some ideal.  Misty gazed into the frigid winter night sky.

She was painfully lonely.

The next day, Misty looked up an old high school friend, Jack. Surely he would be obliged to accept her, for old-time’s sake.  She picked up the phone. “Hey, Jack. I’ll be in town tonight and thought we might go out and reminisce.”  He accepted.

Jack opened his door.  “Wow, you’re as stunning as always.”  Misty couldn’t help but slip back into her role as a flattering tease. She smiled to show her teeth, raised her eyebrows to intimate the dilation of her pupils, tilted her head toward Jack to imply a desire for closeness, and she was in.

The evening didn’t go quite as planned.  They went out, had a nice time, but Jack never succumbed to Misty’s lead.  She felt she had encountered a brick wall.  Since it was starting to snow, they went back to Jack’s place.  Misty assumed she would be invited up, but Jack stopped her at the door. Misty felt  disoriented as Jack laid it out in plain English, “Listen, Misty, it was great to see you, but it stops here.  Your smile is a thin disguise.  You’re still the same old girl you used to be.  I’d have thought by now you’d realize that people don’t like to be manipulated.  You’re hiding behind your compulsion to control everything, but you’re really depriving yourself of the very thing you need; to be vulnerable and trust someone else.  I guess every form of refuge has its price.”

Stunned that Jack could see right through her, it made Misty want him all the more.

She pleaded, “Can’t I stay here tonight?  The roads … ”

Jack kissed her on the cheek.  “You’d better go home, the snow’s starting to drift. Goodnight, Misty.”

Jack closed the door.

Misty turned slowly toward her car as the icy wind blew snow across the drive.

Her Lying Eyes Told the Truth

Vance Rowe

I just had to get away from it all so I escaped to my cabin in the mountains. It is peaceful here, away from everyone. Especially her. I cannot completely blame her though. Some of it is my fault. Hell, maybe all of it’s my fault. Why would I think that someone as young and as beautiful as she is could ever love an older man like me? As I sit in my recliner near the fireplace with a cigar in one hand and a lovely single malt Scotch in the other, I remembered when I first saw her. Did I fall in love with her or did I fall in lust? Sometimes the two are hard to separate. It is for me anyway.

It had been a long time since I have been intimate with a woman. The Lord called my wife home five years ago. We were married twenty-seven years when He called her away from me. I was mad at Him for this for a while but I have since made amends. I haven’t been intimate with anyone since she died. That changed a year ago. I first saw her sitting in the front row of chairs as I stood there, reading an excerpt from my latest novel. She was dressed very tastefully in a white dress. Her long legs crossed at the ankles. The dress, low-cut, revealed her ample bosom but tastefully. Her hair was as red as a summer sunset and cascaded down around her shoulders. Freckles dotted the bridge of her nose. It was her eyes though. It was her eyes that truly attracted me. They were as green as jade and as piercing as a sword. Remembering this reminds me of an old song by the Eagles. Her beautiful eyes had become lying eyes and they couldn’t hide the truth.

As I thought about those eyes, those beautiful, lying eyes, I looked out of the window of my cabin and noticed the snow drifts building. I noticed how the light from the cabin played with the shadows of the night, making the snow drifts seem as if they are silk, striped pajamas that the mountainside had decided to wear. Then I remember the first few weeks with her. How they seemed magical and the lovemaking exquisite.

Then she changed. She had a victim mentality of sorts. It seemed as if I owed her for everything done to her. She acted as if she was entitled to much more than she really was and I was the one who had to pay for it. I gave her money, I gave her jewelry, but more importantly, I gave her my heart. That is one thing I should have kept. I knew she was going out at nights to visit a younger man. Her lying eyes told me. I knew she didn’t mean it when she told me that she loved me. Her eyes gave that away too. Yesterday she packed her clothes and her jewelry and this was the only time her eyes didn’t lie to me.

I knew by her eyes that she meant it when she said good-bye.

Stone Me, Have Mercy

Jennifer Worrell

“Oh God.  Change it, change it, change it.  Quick.”

What’s the problem now?  My dear husband landed in the hospital after breaking his leg, but you’d have thought evisceration by the way he carried on.  His face contorted as though he’d smelled something foul, and he plugged up his ears with his fingers.  Then I realized: The Eagles.  Of course.

At first I couldn’t place which simpy douche commercial jingle this was.  “The Long Run?”  “Peaceful Easy Feelin’?”  No.  “Lyin’ Eyes.”  I could tell by the way my own lids started to droop, even before the part where the cheating tramp ever left—

“Please?  Please, please change—”
“All right, already!”  I couldn’t believe the level of drama conjured up by simple elevator music. I clicked over to the next station.  Wait a minute…


Eagles again!  I stifled a laugh.  He writhed in bed, the neat gray stripes of his silk pajamas twisting and distorting.  I imagined them getting tighter and tighter, cutting into his flesh like barbed wire.  But I clicked the dial again, before he started on his haughty rant about how “Hotel California” would still be playing long after they released him.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to avoid sparking his usual diatribe about the general inferiority of the band and how Glenn Frey had always been a scourge on rock music history.

A nurse ducked her head in as his voice rose in volume and pitch.  She shot me a look of pure pity and darted down the hall.

It was going to be a long stay.

The pale blue walls of this tiny private room seemed to close in, as though I were being pushed beneath the sea.  His cranky whine sounded like a foghorn heralding ships that had no desire to come into harbor.  I couldn’t even open the window to alleviate the closeness; snow had drifted up against the glass and froze there, so I had to stand on tiptoes just to see outside.  I shivered at the view and the slight draft.
He had the blankets pushed all the way down.  Wasn’t he chilly?  Maybe I should pull them up.  Like…all the way up.  And yank the edges down under the mattress.

God, he was still going on.  His drug-addled head dangled off the pillow.  I grabbed the pillow on the chair by the window.  Got to make him more comfortable.

The commercial break ended in a familiar, faux Native American riff.  Oh no.  Not “Witchy Woman.”  His voice escalated into a wail.  “Sweetieeee…!
I twisted the pillow in my fists.  “Just a second honey.  I’ll fix it.”

Lyin’ Eyes

Sean Bracken

“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.

And your smile is a thin disguise” 

I know that I’m only tormenting myself and yet, I can’t stop playing the Eagle’s classic song over and over again. The words are torturing me. They evoke memories of Jessica’s smile. That smile that radiated from her entire face. That smile that captured my heart and mind forever.

It was over six months ago that our plane landed in Orly airport. Our marriage had been under strain for several months. Our application to become adoptive parents was refused. We had decided to take a three-week vacation in France. My best friend Billy lived in Val d’Isère and had invited us to stay. The plan was to relax, enjoy some skiing and to work on our problems.

The first few days were fantastic. Hearty breakfasts, followed by fun on the slopes, jumping through snow drifts and high spirited apres ski parties. Jessica was in her element. It was her first ski holiday and she loved it. Her beautiful smile returned and I began to believe that we were back on track with our lives.

It was near the end of the first week that I started to become suspicious. Billy and Jessica had started to find excuses to avoid the morning skiing, preferring instead to meet me for lunch and ski in the afternoon. I dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way my best friend and my wife could ever hurt me like that.

How wrong I was. The following Monday morning a snowboarder lost control and collided with me as I traversed a very steep run. Luckily, I escaped with bruising down my left side and a nasty black eye. I decided to return to the chalet and soak my aches in a hot bath.

As I climbed the stairs I could hear giggles and laughter from behind the bedroom door. Even though I knew what was happening, I was not prepared for the sight of my wife and my best friend sharing my bed. Both women scrambled to cover their nakedness, but it was the look in Jessica’s eyes that really shook me. All of the deceit, all of the lies, all of the treachery shone through her dark pupils. I never spoke a word to either of them. I stormed past the bed, grabbed my bag, stuffed my clothes and toiletries into it, before walking out of the room and out of their lives.

I found a B&B on the far side of the town, changed into my striped silk pyjamas and climbed into bed. The following morning I booked an early flight home, leaving my dreams behind. Streaks of mascara traced the course of the tears down my face as I boarded the plane.

To this day I would give anything to have Jessica back. I’d sacrifice my money, my career, even my title. I used to love being Lady Sandra Byron. I used to love life. But nothing can replace my love with the lying eyes, thinly disguised with her smile.