The Iron Writer Challenge #17


The Iron Writer Challenge #17

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #17

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Hannelore MooreKate JonuskaM S LemayMaureen Larter

The Elements:

A Town Hall

A Grizzly Bear

A Root Canal


Lava RockHannelore Moore

Hannelore Moore

Henry and Ed used to hang out all the time, hiking for hours to collect lava rock, trading music files, eating chocolate. Man, they loved their chocolate – Henry especially. It was a huge deal when the supply planes delivered more to Avugiak’s Store. But then, Ed started hurting. Holding his hand to the side of his face. Staying home sick. On the last day of seventh grade, one of the almonds in a Hershey bar, the first decent candy they’d eaten in weeks, sent him reeling.

Via Skype, the dentist decided on a root canal. Ed worried about it: the flight to Bethel, the sedation. Henry had always wanted to trade places with him, but never more than now. He would’ve suffered anything to escape the deadening monotony of the village, to distract Grandpa Panruk from trying so hard, too hard, after the judge had sent Dad to Fairbanks.

The day before the big appointment, as they wandered through the tundra, Ed, usually so self-assured, so cool, started crying, his face twisted up, his sobs dry and violent. Henry touched his shoulder but jumped back when he yelled, “Leave me alone, you fat pig!” After shuffling the long distance home, Henry to Grandpa’s trailer, Ed to his house, they never spoke again.

The summer passed. Hours of clear light allowed Henry amazing views of the old volcano. He even spotted a grizzly and stood painfully still, a thrilling panic causing colors to vibrate around him, until the bear lumbered off. He couldn’t enjoy any of these discoveries completely, though. Not alone.

For once, he was relieved to return to school. At least, until he saw Ed, who, since an uneasy July encounter at Avugiak’s, had not only grown taller but acquired an entourage.

Henry’s weekends seemed even lonelier after that. He spent most of them with Grandpa at the Town Hall, playing Bingo. He never won, always one mark away in every direction when another old vet would shout out victory in a reedy voice.

Tonight, he’d had enough of breathing in the hall’s citrusy-sweet cleanser. It made his eyes burn. He felt Grandpa watching as he stepped outside for a cigarette, a habit acquired over the summer to kill time. Not good, he knew. Dad started smoking at thirteen, too.

And then, Ed’s entourage wandered down the street. Unavoidable in this claustrophobic place, especially on a Friday night. The popular kids and their easy laughter. Henry had trouble swallowing when they got closer. He’d never look like them, never fit in. He wanted to hide in the shadows, but his bulk prevented that.

A girl whose mother and sisters were all former homecoming queens clutched onto Ed. “Is that a grizzly bear?” she asked in a squeak.

Ed started a little in recognition. “No,” he said, recovering. “Nothing nearly that exciting.”

Henry let them pass, accepting his place and his destiny. Both were inevitable, like lava cooling into the pitted rocks he used to collect with his best friend. 

The Bear BurglarKate Jonuska

Kate Jonuska

“What is this?” asked the county policewoman, holding up a disposable container with a thin blue lid. Inside sloshed what looked like white, jellied meatballs floating in egg-drop soup. “Eye of newt and toe of frog?”

The 12-year-old girl sat with her arms crossed in the flimsy chair across the table. “Something like that.” Blonde and a few pounds chubby, the hem of her black skirt was cut deliberately ragged, and the black hood of her sweatshirt hung limp down her back.

“And this is all she had on her?” asked the male officer, surveying the strewn contents of the girl’s backpack on the table. The backpack itself, which seemed held together with safety pins, lay deflated to one side. He grabbed her pliers and held them up to the fluorescent lights.

The woman gestured to the tool. “I caught her red-handed, using those to give old Boris a root canal. She’d climbed up and was straddling his shoulder, yanking on one of his teeth.”

“Why would she want the tooth of a stuffed grizzly bear?”

“An ursine canine,” the girl specified, rolling her eyes.

“Poor Boris. It’s disrespectful.” The policewoman shook her head and its tidy ponytail. “He’s lorded over town hall since 1896.”

“And you say no signs of forced entry?”

“None. That alarm system is airtight. I checked it myself when I clocked in.”

“Hrm.” He handled the girl’s belongings like they might be infected.

Cell phone. A bundle of keys. A beat-up spiral notebook. Winter gloves. Latex gloves. A turkey baster and a full canister of salt. Four candles. A white business envelope full of brown hair.

“Jesus,” he said, wrinkling his lip. He picked up a Ziploc bag containing handful of almonds from the table and held it between pinched fingers. “And you even brought a snack?”

“High in protein, almonds,” said the girl, no cracks in her facial expression.

“We still haven’t been able to reach her parents, and she hasn’t said anything useful.”

He leaned back and crossed his legs at the ankle. “I guess we should settle in then and see if she likes spending the night at the police station as much as breaking and entering. Good thing she packed us snacks.” He poured some almonds into his palm.


“Hush now, girl.”

“Really, I wouldn’t,” the girl insisted.

He tossed a nut into his mouth. A split second later, his uniform was empty, draped flat on the chair. His hat hit the linoleum with a thwack.

“What the—” The other officer’s hand flew to the butt of her gun. “Jim?”

“Here!” came a tiny squeak. The pants moved. A Barbie-sized cop climbed out of the tangle of fabric, naked.

“What did you do to him?!”

The girl sighed. “I told him not to.”

“Hey… hey!” yelped the tiny cop.

“Calm down,” said the girl. “In my experience, it wears off in, like, five minutes. Tops.” She leaned back and crossed her legs at the ankle.

Speed Dating in Montanam-s-lemay

M.S. Lemay

In a candlelit room full of batting eyes and coy smiles, one couldn’t help but notice Larry. He sat stiffly upright in his father’s 1970’s fringed-leather leisure suit, still donning his nametag from work:

“Larry Seigel

Large Mammal Endodonsist

Big Horn County”

His shifting eyes made the other Speed Daters uncomfortable. They were dull brown, thin, and wrinkled like unwanted almonds in a bag of trail mix. He yearned for his mother’s help that night, but she had been dead for four months now.

Date six of six walked across the room and plunked down in the chair across from him.

 “Hey, so you’re, uh, Larry?” she said, squinting through her purple horn-rims at his nametag.

She wore pink streaks in her hair to distract from the lazy eye. Larry found this endearing.

“Maggie Marsh, Avian Ophthalmologist for Rosebud County. I’m totally into birds- love ‘em! Have you ever looked into a birds eye? Really close? Windows to the soul, I tell ya.”

Larry’s heart swelled. His breath escaped, and it was suddenly difficult to take another one. His narrow eyes widened.

“So, you like animals?” Larry managed to squeak.

“Oh, yeah! Well, birds anyway.”

“Me, too. In fact, I recently landed a contract for Mayor Poole’s horses’ biannual dental care!” Larry said a bit louder, a bit prouder. His heart raced.

“That’s nothing! I was hired to get all those blind swans out of the town hall basement last year!”

“I didn’t hear about that,” Larry said.

“Really? It was wild! See the trick is, you have to come at a visually-impaired swan from the side, not the back!” Maggie jumped up, reenacting the scene, using Larry and his surrounding daters as the birds, shooing and squawking at them.

The other daters were horrified, mouths agape. Larry was exhilarated.

“Oh, yeah? Well, have you ever had your hand in a grizzly’s mouth?” He asked, grinning.

Maggie turned back to the table, intrigued.

“Remember that old bear found gnawing at the Johnson’s gazebo? He just had a toothache. I took care of it for him. The first documented root canal in an Ursus arctos horribilis! It was in all the papers.”

 “No way!” she gasped, leaning forward with her hands straddling the table.

“I kept him, you know. Jerry. Lives in my garage.”

“Oh. Oh wow! Could I? Do  ya… think I could meet him?” she asked.

Larry inhaled sharply. His mother always told him to jump for love when he found it, so he did.

“Let’s go.” He grabbed Maggie by her tattooed arm, and they ran out the door.

 They shared a breathless glance on the way to his car and smiled.

He imagined his mother waiting proudly at home to meet his date. It really was a shame that Jerry mauled her to death. Should he tell Maggie about that? No, that could probably wait until the third date…if she lived that long.

Vacation PainMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

I hate dentists.
If they were the last people on earth, I’d still avoid them. And going to see one when you’re on vacation would be the furthest thing from my mind.
All I was doing was sitting watching a movie, munching on some nuts. When I bit down on that miserable almond, the pain shot up through my jaw and just wouldn’t stop.
I had to finally surrender and go and see a dentist. But in this strange town, where did I look?
The motel manager was unfriendly, the local information centre was closed, and the motley collection of buildings gave no clues.
I mumbled my query to the guy behind the cash register at the beach kiosk, as I held my face to ease the ache.
“Hey, man,” he grinned devilishly. “Find the Town Hall over there,” and he waved his arm vaguely in the direction of the only service station. “The dentist is in the white building next door.”
I stumbled away, the structures in front of me blurred by my ever-increasing pain.
When I finally got into the dentist’s room, I sat staring up into a light so bright my eyes began to water. I had my mouth open so far I thought my head would split in two.
The dentist loomed over me with a diabolical instrument clenched in his paw. He was dark, huge and menacing. He looked like a grizzly bear.
The pain in my jaw intensified and the instrument descended with electrifying force through my saliva.
Then things got even worse.
“Ah aah,” said the Grizzly Bear. “I’m afraid you’ll need a root canal.”
I told you I hated dentists!

The Iron Writer Challenge #9

pregnant camel

The Iron Writer Challenge #9

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #9

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Don CorcoranLeanne HerreraKyle B StiffMaureen Larter

The Elements:

A pregnant camel

A roller coaster

A sunken ship

A loom

“Travel Around the World” The Ad SaidDon Corcoran

Don Corcoran
The end of his cigarette flares, illuminating the unshaven scowls of the men holding you.  Cervantes takes in a deep draw as the fag, pregnant with whatever he rerolled into his cancer sticks, burns all the way to the Camel logo.
“Those will kill you, Palo,” you wince through a bloody lip.
“I think this is the least of your concerns, amigo” Cervantes leans in close with the cigarette, “For tonight, we dance, no?”  The men chortle.
His meaty hand sweeps across your jaw.  You can feel how much your captors are enjoying this.  Corded muscles tightening with each blow, drawing you into his knuckles. 
“What makes you think…”
“Don’t play games, Doctor. If you can’t save us valuable time then you can…” He waves a flashlight around the museum’s interior. Cervantes is no brain. He’s muscle trying desperately to climb up the food chain. The piracy exhibit was filled with simulated shipwrecks.  Chests of faux-doubloons are guarded by mannequins in tricornered hats bearing muskets.  During the day, Dylan’s Golden Loom played over the speakers.  The curator thought the juxtaposition ironic.
“You can meet the same fate as those poor sods.” The beam falls upon three pirates hanging from a yardarm.  You always thought the exhibit was a little dark.
“Well, Doctor? Find me the most valuable trinket here and we’ll all be on our way.”
You spit blood on the floor.  “Fine. You won’t be able to sell an item like that, anyway.”
“You just leave such details to the criminals. Now move it.”
Rubbing your sore shoulders, you make your way through the museum.
A few minutes into the winding, history-laden labyrinth, you make your move –  two quick steps around a corner and through a doorway of folded felt.  You figure ignorance of the landscape will deny your pursuers of their physical advantage. Up a set of stairs and through a set of double doors, you spill out into the mezzanine balcony overlooking the main lobby.  
A door opens to your left, cutting off your escape.  Cervantes proves to be more cunning than you realized.  You scan the “Christmas Around the World” exhibit below and leap across the two-story drop to the enlarged toy train that spirals around a massive tree.  One of the thugs follows and the two of you clamber over train cars.  Another thug emerges behind Cervantes and lunges toward the other end of the tracks.  A farther jump than your own, his weight and momentum prove too much for the cable moorings.  They break loose sending him to the exhibit below, showering him in drywall and sending the train careening down the pitched track.  The two of you scream like teenagers at Coney Island.
A styrofoam snowman breaks your fall. You leap to your feet and see the thugs, tangled in garland and groaning. Striding to the exit, you lock eyes with Cervantes once again and, with a grin that strains your swollen lip, you pull the fire alarm.

The Final Hoo-ahKyle B Stiff

Kyle B. Stiff

Operation: Pregnant Camel reached its finale when the battleship Amen crossed the furthest reaches of deep space and dropped its deadly payload: The Space Marines of Xe Company, bringers of death and freedom to every once-habitable world in a universe filled with sentient beings too stupid to accept the corporate hegemony of the Republic without endless orbital nukes and groundside invasions.

Commander Dahmer stood before his men at the entrance of a cavern on the dark world of Therion Prime. “Alright ladies and girls,” he said to his all-male battalion, “we’ve done a lot of awesome shit in our day and conquered every goddamn world and every shitty species we’ve come across – except this one. Now I know you dickheads have been real sore that every planet we’ve come across has been inhabited by fuckers that look exactly like us. I’ll be the first to admit that exploring space has turned out boring as fuck. We’ve all seen Star Wars and shit like that, and I know you signed up because you thought you’d meet some Ewoks. You wanted to see an Ewok and shake his hand and roast a hot dog with him, but instead we’ve had to deal with humanoid dumbasses who think they can run their affairs without the Republic. We’ve had to kill insubordinate cock-smokers all the way from Kandanaru to Eleseia. But this is it, boys! Once we conquer this shit-hole, we can retire like heroes! Can I get a HOO-AH?!”

After Commander Dahmer received his shouts of hoo-ah, he gazed heavenward and said, “I’ll never forget when I signed up. I was on that rollercoaster on Orbus … you know, the one that goes upside down and jerks you back and forth for forty-five minutes?”

“I shit myself on that one, sir!”

“So did I, son! In fact, when I stepped off that bastard I said to myself, I said, ‘There’s got to be more to life than unrequited bloodlust and a pair of ruined pants.’ So I signed on, had my weak-ass childhood memories erased, and before long I was balls-deep in medals. Well… I don’t have shit else to say except hoo-ah, so let’s move.”

The marines loaded their firearms and entered the cavern. They passed through halls of deep darkness and felt dread, the sense of drowning in a cramped, sunken steel ship. They came to a black chamber and heard creatures singing, but they could not look because their eyes were glued to a giant loom atop a grand stage. Clack rang the steel shuttle, and the Commander saw human lives written in the shining thread, alive and humming and full of light. He saw humans killing humans, their fates woven by the hand of the master weaver. His arm moved and something cold pressed against his head. He forced his eyes to look upon the one who worked the loom. He saw a face pale and frozen, and the eyes were like pits, alien and empty of conscience.

Grace at the FairLeanne Herrera

Leanne Herrera

She walked through the crowded fairgrounds and looked for anyone she might know. She wasn’t having much luck, but shrugged it off as being too early in the day for them and got in line for what she thought was The Twister. It wasn’t and she had not realized it in all the excitement until she was strapped into The Tornado rollercoaster next to a really good looking guy, who smiled at her.

She hated rollercoasters, she was terrified of heights but it was already too late to get off because they were moving up the rickety looking rails. As they climbed she began to shake and had a grip on the bar so tight that her hands were white.

She watched as the rode higher and higher into the sky and then began to plummet towards a sharp turn. That would be all she would see before she passed out and had to be shaken awake by the handsome stranger.

That was embarrassing but at least she had not broken something.  She exited with her head held high after apologizing to the man and made her way to the petting zoo area. Surely she could watch the animals and not get hurt or do something equally embarrassing. She looked around for anyone she might know and it was odd that she recognized no one in the small fairground.

She walked past the fake sunken ship that all the little kids were riding up and down in a painted blue wooden sea and stopped in front of the petting zoo and leaned against the rail. A little girl was inside the small coral feeding a little pigmy goat, when a large furry animal leaned over the fence and brushed against her.

Startled she turned to face the animal and stared into the face of a very pregnant camel.  She opened her mouth to say hello to the soft tan colored animal when it suddenly spit directly at her. Thankfully the handsome man from earlier pulled her away from the beast just in time to miss getting camel spit all over her.

He invited her to a fun house tent and she followed him warily still peering through the crowd for someone she knew. Still nothing but she reached into her small purse and took out her mace just in case she needed it. Inside was a large loom like contraption. He pointed at it and whispered, “Go ahead walk through the strings.” As I stepped through into a huge garden, I heard him say, “You don’t belong in this world.”

I turned abruptly only to see that the tent was gone, in its place was the handsome man who winked at me. “Where am I? She whispered.

“You have come to Fairy, Welcome home Grace.”  He took my hand and I took it as I looked over my shoulder more curious now than ever how exactly that large loom brought me here.

“Is this a dream?”

The HolidayMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

Melissa screamed!

Her stomach wanted nothing more than to eject its contents.

Why she had agreed to go on the roller coaster was beyond her understanding. Being far away from home, on holiday, free from responsibility and ready to experience life, were her only excuses.

Going on the ride had seemed like a good idea at the time. Something she could boast about when she got home. Just like that awful ride on the grumpy camel in Egypt. It had bitten her as she got off. It hadn’t been a good experience for her or the pregnant camel!

The roller coaster finally stopped and Melissa stumbled out, her head spinning. She sat down on the closest seat, waiting for the world to stop moving.

When she felt better she got up and wandered past the Gun’n’Duck and the Dodgem cars. The crowd was noisy and everyone seemed to be with a boyfriend or family. Somehow the adventure of being in another country all alone began to pall.

Over to the right, past the nodding clowns and fairy floss stand she could see a glimpse of the animal pavilion.

She made her way towards the enclosure where several sheep were bleating loudly. She watched with fascination as the shearers yanked the sheep to the floor and bent over, backs glistening with sweat, as they defleeced the animals. The wool flew onto a nearby table. The demonstration followed the wool through the processes of classing then carding and spinning. Finally at the end of the shed, two ladies sat with the finished yarn. One knitting furiously, while the other sat at a loom producing a beautiful patterned material.

Melissa felt lonely, hungry and depressed. She glanced up and saw the map of the Showground not too far away.

What she needed was coffee.

She stared at the directions on the board until she found what she was looking for. She sidestepped a mother wheeling a stroller with a young child in it.

Suddenly an ice-cream landed in the middle of her new skirt. Melissa looked down at the stain as the strawberry melted into the material. The child began to cry. The mother apologized. She bit back a sob and pushed passed, not wanting to lose her temper, or let anyone see the tears that sprang to her eyes.

People bumped into her, a couple even yelled at her to watch where she was going. Finally, with relief, she saw the coffee shop ahead. She dashed in and sat down at the closest table. A waitress sauntered up.

“What’ya want?” she mumbled.

“Cappuccino, please.” Melissa answered. The coffee was boiling when the waitress tripped as she placed it on the table, and it spilled over the ice-cream stain.

Melissa had had enough. She stormed out of the coffee shop. She looked back at the sign above the dirty boards. “The Sunken Ship” was written in crooked, red letters.  She’d remember the name of that place forever.

She couldn’t wait to go home!