The Iron Writer Challenge #141 – 2015 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

The-Isolator 1

The Iron Writer Challenge #141

2015 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates Bracket

The Authors:

Mamie Pound, Christopher A. Liccardi, Mason Grant, Richard Russell

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov Bracket

The Authors:

A. Francis Raymond, Tina Biscuit, Ericka Kahler, Danielle Lee Zwissler

Anais Nin

Anais Nin Bracket

The Authors:

Jason T. Carter, Dani J. Caile, Brett Paul

The Elements:

The Isolator

Something arrogate.

A ball of yarn

An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.

Click on image to see the stories in each bracket.

The Iron Writer Challenge – 2016 Winter Solstice Open, Joyce Carol Oates Bracket

The-Isolator 1

The Iron Writer Challenge #141

2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates Bracket

The Authors:

Mamie PoundChristopher A. Liccardi, Mason Grant, Richard Russell

The Elements:

The Isolator

Something arrogate.

A ball of yarn

An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.

Boldly GoMamie Pound

Mamie Pound 

The night sky was sweet with stars, twinkling and spinning, dotting the air far above him with promise.

A swing set lay at his feet like an unearthed dinosaur, poles and slide strewn across the Emerald Zoysia. Its chains were strapped across his chest, warrior style.

“They’re bad about takin’ stuff, Angie,” he said and went straight for the garage. The dog trotted behind, wagging its tail.

Steve piled boxes into his truck.

Angie got her mother and her sister on a three-way phone call in the kitchen.

“He’s wearin’ that thing again,” Angie hissed.

“What thing?” asked Donna, her sister.

“The freakin’ Isolator. Ordered it on Amazon. It’s all he does anymore. Talks about, ‘when they come for him’ and how, ‘he can’t wait’. But he’s scared they’ll take his guns, so he put them in a Yeti cooler and he’s gonna lower them to the bottom of the quarry, for when they bring him back.”

“You’re kidding,” Donna said.

Angie put the phone on speaker. “Nope. He’s gone. Wasn’t even gonna tell me.”

“You don’t know that,” her mother admonished.

“I found a hoard of beanie-weenies and beer in the garage, under his tool chest,” Angie said.

“I wonder if he’ll bring back souvenirs?” Donna teased.

“Even with the laundry and all, I’m gonna miss him,” Angie said.

“Of all people, they chose Steve…,” Donna continued.

“They need craftsmen, he saw it online.”

“Think they’ll tattoo him?” Donna asked.

“Wait, I’m getting another call.” Angie clicked over.

“Hurry, it might be Captain Kirk,” Donna cackled.

After several seconds Angie came back.

“Well, that was Steve,” she reported.

“And?” Donna said.

“He needs yarn.”

“What?” Donna howled.

“He’s gonna knit them an afghan while he waits,” Angie sniffed.

“What a dumb ass!” Donna yelled.

“Donna!” Her mother warned.

“He must be the love child of Martha Stewart and Rod Stirling,” Donna said, laughing.

“Do you have yarn, Angie, Honey?” Her mother asked.

“I bought some for that Pinterest thing I started, but I lost it,” Angie whined.

“You sure did,” Donna said.

“Shut up, Donna,” her mother hissed.

“You need to listen to how you talk to people, Donna,” Angie said.

“Your husband is knitting for aliens, Angie.” Donna persisted.

“Darlin’ don’t you dare get on that spaceship,” her mother cautioned. “Take him the yarn and just leave.”

“Okay,” Angie sighed.

“If she wants to ride the Starship Enterprise, so be it!” Donna cheered.

“At least I have a husband,” Angie jeered.

“Technically speaking…,” Donna went on.

“That wasn’t his fault!” Angie snapped.

“How does one ‘accidentally’ marry their cousin?” Donna asked.

“Shut up, Donna!” Angie yelled.

“Angie, Honey, I have a new ball of yarn, ‘sunshine yellow’…,” her mother continued.


At the quarry, he scanned the horizon for errant light, caught sight of a passing comet, and wished for the glare of metal that would mirror earth’s reflection. He lowered the air-tight cooler into the watery depths and turned back toward his truck.

The wind shifted. A cloud of bats scattered from a nearby cave.

Then a beam, brighter than magnifying-glassed sunshine, shot to earth.

And he was gone.

Hugo’s Code

Mason Grant

“I can’t make a dime’s worth of sense out of this.” Olivia said as she dropped the binder in front of her husband.

“How is this supposed to explain,” she continued gesturing at Chase’s passion within the binder, “why we are in backwoods Luxembourg, which I can barely say let alone spell? You told me that this was going to be romantic.”

Chase looked up smiling. “I finally put it all together. I got this room at this bed and breakfast because of Hugo’s code.”

Olivia was furious paced in front of the bed.

“I thought you were taking a break from your science fiction freakdom for a few days so we could reconnect. You told me that you were going to take me someplace special that only you and I would have. You kind of left out the whole ‘by the way, I’m planning to call Captain Schmirk to beam us up to the Century Falcon.’”

Chase stood and took his wife’s hands.

“Olivia,” he said. “It’s not the Century Falcon. It’s the Millenium, never mind. I pieced Hugo Gernsback’s code together while I was wearing The Isolator suit that he invented. The code was in his Amazing Stories magazines during the 1920’s. It’s remarkable because the code is pieced together with a hint in each issue over the years. Tonight is the night, and this is the spot where visitors from another planet will be coming to take us on an adventure of a lifetime!”

“Are you listening to yourself? You have completely gone off the deep end.”

A tear welled and streamed down Olivia’s cheek as she spoke.

She went on, “Whatever you think this science fiction guy said, it has nothing to do with us. I should be the most important thing in your life. Not this binder and these hugonauts or whatever it is you are waiting for to take you and abduct me. I can get more satisfaction out of a ball of yarn than I can trying to follow your insane fantasies.”

“Honey,” Chase pleaded. “Everything changes tonight.”

“You’re right. Everything changes tonight, Chase,” Olivia said as she gathered her shawl and the keys to their rental car. “Tonight is the night that you chose fantasy over me. You need help, but I am arrogating my life tonight and taking it back.”

“Olivia, please don’t go. Give me just a few more minutes, and you’ll see.”

“I’ve seen everything I need.”

Chase did not leave the cabin as the taillights of the car receded. As the lights disappeared, a new light bathed the secluded cottage from above.

Chase stepped outside and peered up to see the otherworldly craft that Hugo had promised.

“Greetings,” a disembodied voice said to Chase. “We have arrived at the appointed time and place to take whomever is present on a galactic adventure. Are you prepared?”

Chase looked down the road where the car had been just a minute before. He closed his eyes and nodded.

“I have nothing left here. I am ready.”

#3476Christopher Liccardi

Christopher A. Liccardi

“Number three thousand, four hundred seventy six, three thousand, four hundred,” her nasal voice was cut off by a strange little man who jumped in front of her window. Why do they always assume it’s okay to cut me off? And why did she always get the weird ones? She thought.

“That’s me.” Squeaked a tiny little voice. The man was just tall enough so that she could see the top of his brown bowler, level with the counter. Madge had to strain forward on her stool in order to see the round face beneath it.

“Ticket please.” She said in that dry ‘have done this a million times’ tone. Lunchtime was eleven minutes away, but she knew she would be going late.

The short man had to jump several times to get his hand, and his ticket onto the counter. Madge sat scowling at the top of his hat.

She took the ticket, looked at the numbers and tossed it toward the basket at her feet. The floor was littered with millions of those little red tickets, but cleanup was another someone else’s problem.

“Do you have the standard 43112C signed and stamped?” she asked.

The man pulled a stack of papers from his briefcase and once again began to jump repeatedly to reach the counter.

How in the hell did he drive here, Madge thought? He’d need a step stool to get to the toilet.

She sighed audibly and leaned forward again, snatching the papers before they could fall back down to the floor on his side of the counter. The wooden stool groaned under her weight. If the man heard her, he didn’t indicate that. He smiled the entire time.

Madge riffled through the papers. Everything was in order. She pulled the ancient metal stamp from its red ink pad. The CLACK sound echoed down to this man’s ears and she knew if she looked again, he’d be smiling so wide, his hat would fall off.

“Your wish?” Madge asked, it was now two minutes to lunch. She was never going to make it.

“Alien Abduction.” The man said. She heard eagerness in his voice.

“Raise your right hand and swear that this is your heart’s most secret desire.” She motioned out at the empty space in front of her window.

“I DO!” said the little man. More excited than the kids were on Christmas.

“Did you bring the required item? Madge asked, not caring really.

He reached back into his case and pulled out a ball of yarn. It was the color of no color at all.

“Do I keep this with me…” she cut him off. “Yes.”

It was one minute after lunchtime and all the other windows were empty now.

“Take a seat in Booth 13 please and put on the Isolator helmet. Do not forget to turn on the oxygen before you do.” She said, but he was nearly running now. He hadn’t listened and she knew she’d have to call for someone when he passed out, but that would be after her lunch. It was already 5 minutes after and she was starving.

Science With DaveRichard Russell

Richard Russel

Dave was a weasel. Everybody knew it. He never did any schoolwork of his own: Why should he, when he could simply steal the work done by others? He was also the worst science lab partner Billy ever got stuck with. Dave butchered five frogs before Billy took over dissection. Dave cracked ten cover-slips trying to focus the microscope before Billy stepped in. When Billy had to replant the bean seeds Dave had drowned, Billy began to despise Dave’s ineptitude. Dave was dragging him down. Billy resented Dave’s always copying his answers.

This seemed to work well for Dave until finals came around and he realized he didn’t know anything. He needed to get his hands on Billy’s science notes.

Dave saw his opportunity when he spied Billy walking home with an arm-load of cardboard tubes. “Hey, Billy, let me help you with that.” The two made their way to Billy’s house and carried the tubes back into Billy’s room.

Dave looked around Billy’s room in awe. There were consoles, radar screens, antennas, knobs, dials, and strange noises emanating from everything. “What’s all this?” Dave asked.

Billy smirked, “I’ve been searching for alien life in space, Dave.”  

Dave was incredulous, “Yer full of it!”

“No, seriously, Dave, and I’ve found some.”

Dave laughed so hard he doubled over.

“You’ve just lost it, haven’t you? You’re crazy!”

“No, Dave, really. Here, put on this helmet and I’ll prove it.”

Dave looked at the helmet and fell to the floor laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  

Billy’s shoulders slumped, “Well, suit yourself. If you don’t believe me, then just go home. I’ve got an appointment to meet these aliens tonight, and they’re going to give me technology that’ll make me rich.”

Dave struggled to his feet, “You’re crazy, man. You’re a frickin’ nut-case.” With that, he walked out.

But that evening Dave was too enticed at the prospect of arrogating some priceless technology for himself.

Stooped outside Billy’s window, he overheard Billy’s conversation with … someone on a two-way radio. “Roger that, Q4 Alpha. Rendezvous at Indian Mound in 30 minutes.”

Dave leaned back. “Dang!”  

Dave’s greed kicked in: He snuck around the house, slipped in the side door and jumped Billy from behind. He tied Billy up with a nearby ball of yarn and took off for Indian Mound.

To his surprise, a flying saucer suddenly appeared overhead and Dave was abducted into the ship by a light beam. Before he knew it, he was strapped to a table. Two aliens approached. One was holding a scalpel while the other made gestures indicating he should have the scalpel. Taking a step back, the first one stumbled awkwardly and fumbled the scalpel several times before accidentally cutting himself, dropping the scalpel again. The second one turned, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders at Dave apologetically.

Back on earth, Billy easily got loose. Opening the package the aliens had given him the night before, Billy felt the trade was more than equitable.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #136

Puzzle Cake

The Iron Writer Challenge #136

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Megan Cypress, Dwight Wade, Richard Russell, Mason Grant, Bobby Salomons

Genre: Sci-Fi

The Elements:

Puzzle Cake

A hillbilly who likes to make up words.

A paper cut on a part of a body other than a finger/thumb.

A child doing a handstand

The Convoluted Faraday Boy

Mason Grant

Detective Max Diamond stepped off the mass transport onto the roof of his apartment building. As he did, a drone from the Nile grocery levitated before him to deliver the food his wife asked him to bring home.

“That’ll be fittily clamsmackers” the drone screeched as it dropped groceries into his arms. Max cringed. The drone voice sounded like a backwoods hick robot. All of Nile’s robots did because they were programmed by a hillbilly who enjoyed inventing words.

“Fifty bucks! That’s a crime for cake ingredients.”

Thankity doody!” The drone intoned and flitted away.

As the elevator platform lowered towards Daimond’s floor, he scanned the corridors of the other floors. On the fourteenth floor, he saw Billy Faraday. He was five years old and lived on the floor above him. Billy was doing a handstand as the platform passed.

“Why are you always doing handstands?” Diamond asked.

“I’m trying to hold the floor down,” Billy replied.

The platform came to rest.

When he opened the door, Diamond saw the dining room table with a candle lit in the middle.

“Hello, handsome,” Diamond heard the voice of his wife, Valerie, say. “How was work?”

“Boring other than a paper cut I got on my tongue when I licked an evidence envelope. We don’t get more than petty crimes since all of our computer models tell us about every violent crime before it happens. It’s a pretty mundane job anymore.”

“Is that so? What fun is that for a lonely girl waiting at home for something exciting?”

Diamond smiled. “Well, you’re wait is over. I brought the ingredients home for the puzzle cake.”

Valerie’s demeanor turned chilly.

“You’re so romantic,” she said. “You could at least pretend to get into the mood.”

“I’m sorry, Honey,” Diamond said. “Tell me how I can make it up to you.”

“Why don’t you help me make the Convoluted Cake? We can make it a game. I’ll tell you what to do, and you do it.”

“What do I get in return?”

“Aside from a delicious cake? How about dessert of another type later?”

“You’re on!” Diamond said enthusiastically.

After hours making the cake, the couple sat down to enjoy it. Max took a bite from his piece.

“This is great. It’s to die for!”

Valerie smiled. “Eat up,” she said.

As Max finished, he found it suddenly difficult to breathe. His vision blurred.

“Something wrong, Honey?” Valerie’s demeanor was calm. Max was paralyzed and had no idea what was happening.

Valerie continued. “You know how long it’s taken me to figure out how to kill you since your computers know everything before it happens? It’s taken me five years – you know, the same age as the Faraday boy upstairs whose single mother you always ‘helped out?’

“I figured out a way for you to poison yourself with ingredients that you purchased, mixed, and baked yourself. This isn’t murder, Honey, because you just slowly killed yourself as I taught you that recipe. It is the best dessert I’ve ever had!”

Hello, ReplicatorBobby Salmons

Bobby Salomons

“Mom! Look!” Our son yells.

“Just a minute, honey.” I say, watching my husband struggle with the kitchen equipment.

“Eighty-eight hours and eighty-eight minutes left!?” He mumbles.

“That’s the clock, honey. You’re just resetting the clock.”

“Three and a half days did seem a bit long.”

“Dad! Look!” He’s been practicing a handstand for days.

“That’s great, kid.” My husband says.

“You’re not looking, dad.”

“Jim, your mother is teaching me a ‘vintage cooking’ recipe. Just ask the droid?”


The little robot speeds into the kitchen, scanning everything around.

“Do you require assistance?” It says.

“Uh, you know how to make Convulsing Puzzle Cake?” My husband mumbles.

“Convoluted Cake A.K.A. ‘Puzzle Cake’” I say, hiding a smirk.

“’Convoluted’, like that’s a word!”

“It is according to Webster’s Dictionary.”

Noah Webster’s a hillbilly who likes to make up words!”

“I do not know how to make ‘Convoluted Cake’” The droid jumps in, “May I suggest using the food replicator?”

“You know what, droid – that is a good question!” My husband says, “This is the twenty-second century and we’re doing vintage ‘cooking’, why?!”

“To add a personal touch instead of the standard replicator-recipe?” I say.

“Replicator recipes are developed by five star chefs and contain all necessary nutritions for both young and old.” The robot says.

“Picking sides, are we?” I growl.

“I merely inform.”

“Then ‘inform’ my husband of the definition of ‘convoluted’.”

“Convoluted – Intricately folded, twisted, or coiled. Do you require further assistance?”

“How do I stop a vintage oven?” My husband says.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. May I suggest using-”

“Shut up!” We yell in perfect stereo.

Our son gasps, the robot is unfazed.

“Okay. I can do this.” My husband says. “I’m a re-entry shuttle specialist. An engineer – I can make this old oven stop.”

“Try the manual?” I say waving the little paper booklet.

“We have a paper manual!? Paper! That’s so vintage! The space that must’ve taken! Houses had to be full of it!”

“Most paper was kept in book form, books were kept in book closets. Few people had more than one.” Says the robot.

“Yes, thank you.” My husband says grabbing the manual, “Okay, let’s see…”

“Just pull, you idiot!” I burst out in laughter.


“Pull the oven door! It stops automatically!”


Putting the manual between his teeth he pulls, it opens instantly and he puts the cake on the table.

Yeahhh-! -Owww!” He whines.

“What? Burn?”

“Dammit, cut my lips on the manual!”

“A paper cut? Now that’s vintage!”

“Funny – get me the AutoDoc, will you? Or are we doing vintage bandaging too?”

I walk into the living room.

“Dad! Now you can watch! Look!” Jimmy calls.

“No, Jimmy! No!”

I turn around – our son, upside down on his hands – flying in slow motion towards the kitchen table with the Convoluted cake on it, so far for vintage cooking. Hello, replicator.

Deep Breath!Richard Russell

Richard Russell

Saturday mornings were precious to Dave.

Slowly he peeled back the covers, slipped his legs over the side of the bed and stood. Reaching carefully for the door knob, he lifted slightly as he turned it so the door wouldn’t catch on the jam as he opened it to slip quietly out into the hallway. Closing the door behind him with a sigh, he turned toward the kitchen.

Humming a bright tune, Dave set the pot on to boil and started grinding beans for coffee.

“Honey?” a voice startled him. Coffee beans flew, sprawling across the floor as Dave turned to his wife, Sandy, standing behind him.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, Dear. Did you forget you’re committed to bake a cake for the Christmas dinner this evening?” Dave raised an eyebrow, “There’s plenty of time.”

“But you’re making the convoluted recipe, Dear. I’m just saying you’d better start on it now.”

With a sigh, Dave’s shoulders slumped. “Okay. Where do we start?”

Penny, their eight-year-old daughter, came shuffling into the kitchen.

“Penny, what are you doing up? You should go back to bed.”

“Daddy, I can’t sleep. I have gymnastics this morning.”

Sandy pulled some things from the cupboards. “Here, tear this recipe off.”

Dave folded the paper and licked the fold. “Ouch! I cut my tongue!”

“Oh, Honey!”

“Daddy, watch me do a handstand!”

Just as Sandy slipped an apron around Dave’s waist, their ten-year-old son, Billy, came striding into the kitchen, “YeeeHaaw! The kin folk are astirrin‘ afore the sun is hippity high!”

Dave furrowed his brow and looked to his wife.

“He’s been watching ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,’” she sighed.


Billy: “Mornin’ Paw, Maw, Penny Mae! What’s all the commillery in the cannery?”

Sandy: “Here, Hon. Measure out three cups of flour.”

Penny tugged at Dave’s shirt. “Watch, Daddy!” and she put her hands to the floor and flung her legs up against the counter next to Dave.

Dave quickly dumped three scoops of flour into the bowl.

“Daddy, look! I’m doing it!”

“Hog jowls and possum fat!” cried Billy, “Cousin Penny’s flummoxed herself downuppily!”

“Billy! Go hunt down a few of them thar golf critters for breakfast,” Dave suggested.

“Okay, Paw. I’ll use one a’ your golf huntin’ clubs …”

“Billy, no! Wait! …”

Sandy cracked six eggs into the flour. “Honey, are you paying attention?”

Penny: “Daddy, you do one! Daddy, you do one!… DADDY!”

Sandy asserted, “Here, stir that up!”

As he put his hands to the floor and flung his legs in the air by Penny, Dave could hear Billy smacking things with his golf clubs in the garage.

A loud, shattering crash of glass came from the garage, Dave lost his balance, knocking Penny and the bowl with flour and eggs to the floor.

Taking a DEEP breath, coffee beans stuck to his hands, Dave hugged Penny, and smiled up at Sandy.

“Do-over?” He proposed.

It was then that Sandy got this … gleam … in her eye.

Birthday CakeDwight Wade

Dwight Wade

Jason was covered in flour. He was not happy about it.

“Why am I doing this again? Come on Jules. You know I can’t bake!”

A young, brunette woman stood on the other side of the counter. Her face, also covered in flour, also sported an ear to ear smile.

“Because it’s my birthday, and I wanted a cake. I can’t very well make my own birthday cake, can I?”

Jason pouted, “But did you have to pick one called the ‘Convoluted Cake’? Not only do I have to bake, which we’ve established I can’t do, but then I have to put together a puzzle with the pieces. Also not a strong point of mine.”

Jules slid the cake into the space between them. “Yeah, well look how great we did.” The cake was impeccably iced and topped with freshly baked macaroons.

Jason smiled, then winked at his wife. “You never stop teaching me new things do you?”

“Not since I taught you to do handstands when we were kids,” she said.

“Not sure how a managed to get a paper cut opening the box though.”

Jules snorted as she laughed. “And on your elbow no less!”

Jason frowned as he looked at the freshly applied band-aid.

“Well, I helped with the cake. Are you still going to make me watch Maury?”

Jules looked at him in mock horror “But I thought listening to hillbillies yell at each other with made up words was your favorite post baking activity!”

“Alas, it is not. But, like you said, it’s your birthday.”

She smiled, then shimmied around the counter, unsuccessfully trying to stifle a giggle. Flour exploded from their clothes as she leapt into his arms. She kissed him, pressing her lips hard against his.

He held her tight, pulled his lips from hers and smiled. “Happy birthday sweetheart. I love you.”


Jason slid the viewfinder from his head, returned it to the cradle. His eyes slowly adjusted to the room. Soft, warm lightning blanketed the cubicle. He blinked away tears, took three deep breaths before rising from the chair.

A soft voice called out to him over an unseen speaker, “Please follow the yellow lights in the floor. The exit is just past the first doorway. Thank you for visiting Memory Cache.”

Jason followed the lights. His eyes had adjusted to normal by the time he reached the door. He pushed through the first door, then the second, emerging into daylight. His car was waiting for him. As he slid behind the wheel he turned one last time, looking over the sign above the door.

Memory Cache: Where The Past Lives Forever

“Happy Birthday sweetheart. I sure do miss you. See you next year.”

Jason closed the door, and drove away.

The Convoluted Cake Res-a-payMegan Cypress

Megan Cypress

Billy walked in the front door of his double-wide trailer, holding a long piece of straw through his teeth, a shotgun in one hand, and a dead, green squirrel in the other. The squirrels had turned green and became bigger after the spillage from the local power plant. The humans around there had turned green too. The squirrels were growing in size and number. They were becoming a nuisance. Billy was forced to hunt them most days. Otherwise, they would take over their home. He held up the big, green squirrel by its long, fluffy tail. “Hey, my rootin tootinest delikum beauty. I brought us home here some supper. Whatcha doin’?”
Cindy showed him a convoluted cake recipe. “I was makin’ this here cake. Want me to show ya how ta make it?”
“Nah, what would I wan to do that fer? That thang looks odd.”
“I was thinkin’ it might be fun.”
“Nah. Why don’t you be gettin’ in that there kitchen and cook me up some squirrel mac and cheese.”
Cindy sighed. Squirrel mac and cheese again? She wondered why she didn’t marry Joey when she had the chance. Who knew he was going to be a doctor and move to the city? She was sure Joey didn’t eat squirrel all the time, that he was safe in the city from the recent squirrel invasion.
Cindy stood up and grabbed the squirrel out of Billy’s hand and walked into the kitchen.
Lily, her eight-year-old daughter, came into the room and stood beside her. “Look, ma!” She held a piece of paper in her hand as she did a handstand. The piece of paper fell and brushed up against Cindy’s leg. “Ouch!” Cindy screamed as the paper cut her ankle. She bent down and picked the piece of paper off the floor. “Now, what’s this? Your report card? Straight Cs? Now, Lily, I know you can do better than that.”
Billy looked over Cindy’s shoulder. “Hot diggity dog. That’s my super duper seliko smart daughta.”
Lily continued her handstand, while Billy clapped. “Wee doggy. Sum a tum tum.”
Cindy hated that he encouraged her to half-ass things. But she didn’t say anything about it because they looked so happy: Lily upside down and giggling; Billy smiling and clapping and cheering.


That evening while they ate their squirrel mac and cheese, Billy exclaimed, “Now that’s some good grub. You sure do know how to cook up a mean squirrel.”
“Thanks. But wait ’til you try dessert.”
Cindy cut into the convoluted cake and gave everyone a piece. The lines of the cake were awkward and zigzagged, just like her family. But, oh, boy, did it taste good. So what if Joey became a doctor? Cindy thought. She wouldn’t give up her family for the world.
“Surry I eva did doubt ya, snookums,” Billy said. “This here cake is the best doggone cake I eva did have.”
Lily smiled. “Mmm, Mom. You did real good this time. Can we have it again tomorra?”
“Yes, sweetie. We can have it as many times as you’d like. I think I’ve perfected this res-a-pay.”

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