The Iron Writer Challenge #2

ruby red slippers

The Iron Writer Challenge #2

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #2

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Kriss MortonJim WrightClive EatonSusan Hawthorne

The Elements:

Ruby Red Slippers

A Tucker Turret

A Russian Olive Tree

A Mermaid

The TherapistClive Eaton 1

Clive Eaton

The B-17 Flying Fortress was a sitting duck. Two engines were ablaze, and gunner Charlie Jackson, staring through a hole in the shattered glass of his Tucker Turret, froze as an ME109 swooped in for the final kill. Just as the German pilot was about to open fire, Charlie sat bolt upright in bed, with perspiration oozing from every pore in his body. When would this continuously repeated nightmare end? It was 2012, and he was only 39 years old. Far too young to have been involved in World War Two.

He clambered out of bed, and headed towards the en-suite for a shower. He was due to see a therapist at 9.20am, and didn’t want to be late. A movement in the corner of his eye distracted him. He peered out of his bedroom window and observed a squirrel, scurrying across the lawn, with what looked like the fruit seized from a large, nearby, Russian olive tree. He considered the simplicity of the squirrel’s life, which was clearly hoarding food for the harsh winter months, and wished his could be as straightforward.

Charlie arrived at his therapist’s office five minutes early. He shuffled through the out-of-date magazines in the waiting area, but nothing grabbed his attention. He just wanted one night’s sleep without the sound of gunfire. The receptionist’s phone rang, and she quickly answered it.

She then looked across at Charlie and said ‘Doctor Mea will see you now.’

Thirty seconds later Charlie was outside a door with a sign announcing the occupant –  ‘Dr I. M. Mea’. He knocked.

‘Come in’. The voice was female. It only then occurred to him he hadn’t even asked anything about this particular therapist when he made the appointment. He opened the door and entered the room. It was very spartan with regard to furniture, but Doctor Mea made up for that in abundance. She was Oriental in appearance, and was wearing a brightly coloured kimono and ruby red slippers.

‘Please Charlie, come in and take a seat. I can call you Charlie, can I?’

Charlie nodded, and sat in the seat he was shown.

‘So what brings you to see me? The notes given to me by my receptionist suggest you are having problems with a dream.’

Charlie shook his head. ‘Not a dream doctor, a nightmare. It starts with me being told, as I climb aboard a Second World War aircraft, that the dream will continue every night until I kiss a mermaid on the lips. How am I supposed to do that? Mermaids don’t exist.’

Charlie’s new therapist burst out laughing, walked across to him, and kissed him on the lips. He recoiled in shock. ‘What are you doing woman?’

‘Curing you of your nightmare. You are now cured Charlie. Jackie on reception will take your payment.’

Charlie was speechless, left the room and glanced at the sign on the door one more time. ‘Dr I. M. Mea.’ It was an anagram, and that night he slept soundly.

Childhood’s TransitionSusan in Cozumel

Susan Hawthorne

The sun’s position told Jacob he’d better hurry home. If he was late, his mother would scold him: “Tardiness is disrespect”.

He left the shade of the Russian olive trees. His grandfather had planted them for erosion control. They could grow where no other tree would, but now the government said they were a nuisance. His father pondered on taking them down, but Jacob hoped he wouldn’t. He loved their stark determination, the fragrant flowers in spring and even the long prickly thorns.

As he neared the house, he noticed Gabe’s car in the drive and ran into the kitchen.  “Gabe, what’re you doing home now? You aren’t supposed to be here til Saturday…”

His joy turned to dust as he saw his mother clutching his brother with tears running down her face.

He stopped in the doorway, his chest still hitching for breath.

His mother turned her head away. Gabe motioned to come sit at the table, but Jacob couldn’t make his feet move.

“Jacob, Dad’s in the hospital.”

“No, he’s not! He drove to work this morning, I saw him.”

“I know, but after he got to work he had a heart attack. They called an ambulance for him.”

Jacob walked to the table and ran his fingers over the oiled red and white cloth. “We should go see him, then.”

Gabe knelt beside him. “We can’t right now, Jacob. They’ve taken him to surgery. The doctor said we should wait here until they call. It’ll be awhile”
His mother dropped into the chair on the opposite side of the table and Jacob took a step back.

The scent of bread and coffee made his stomach clench. It smelled too normal, like an ordinary day. Jacob ran to his room and shut the door, trying to catch his breath.

He opened the closet door and pulled the cardboard box out of the darkness.

He lifted out the replica of the B-29 bomber with the bubbled Tucker Turret. His Dad gave that to him. He loved pretending to sit in that bubble with the whole world spread out beneath him.

Next he found the animal figures. There were all the jungle and desert animals, many creatures from beneath the sea and a mermaid. He had wondered about the mermaid. All the other animals were real but not mermaids. His Dad said they may not be real, but the spirit of the mermaid mattered. She represented all the dreams and wishes of children all across the world.

Last there were the ruby red slippers. They had all gone to see The Wizard of Oz about three years ago and there were souvenirs for sale. Everyone thought he’d ask for a flying monkey or a Toto figure, but he wanted the ruby red slippers. He knew he only had to slip them on, click his heels together, and he would be home, safe and happy.

He clutched them in his hand and shook his head. Then stood and dropped them in the trashcan beside his bed.

Just one more Drink, Dorothykrissnewhair

Kriss Morton

She woke in a daze on the couch just as dozens of grasping hands reached up from a riverbank attempting to drag her back under the flowing water. The pages of her dog eared copy of Dante sticking to her face, her heart still racing and her mind focused on the horrors still clutching at her from her dream. Rising she tripped over her blood red bedazzled party shoes. Last night her date called them her ruby red slippers, she even clicked her heels three times to give him the hint it was time to go home. Instead he smiled down at her, winking as he encouraged one more drink.

The fire must have burnt out sometime last night; even with spring on the horizon the air was chilled causing her to draw her ratty sweater closer around her aching body. She shook her head to rid herself of the memory the pain provoked bringing her heart to a slower tempo. Only to have it rise as shadows from the underworld crept from behind the cold wood stove. Obviously The Divina Commedia tainted her dreams more than she realized. A ribbon of dream forced its way to the surface. She could feel the claws sink into her leg again, the demonic mermaid, a replica of one from Fontana di Nettuno, dragging her back under the water to more darkness. The memory of stone breasts shooting burning blood instead of water, coating her face slick as a pain-filled scream threatened to vomit forth. This was not what she usually dreamt after reading from the cantos, but after the evening she experienced, what did she expect. Maybe she should have read the boring military historical her father had lent her.

“Oh yes!”, she thought as a smile teased the corners of her mouth. Learning about the different types of turrets used during WWII would probably have been smarter. But with her luck she would have dreamt being gunned down by a rusting Tucker Turrett as she ran through thorn ridden branches. She shook her head in an attempt to clear the fog from her living nightmare, but nothing was stopping the real horrors from breaking through and her heart began to race again.

The kettle started screaming causing her to start; knocking over the cup already prepared, two spoons of brown sugar and splash of cream coated her bruised legs. She let herself wake up to reality, her body sinking on top of the torn gown. Thorns from the Russian Olive Trees which surrounded the property line grabbing onto her legs tearing into her skin, again. Perhaps Dante was not to blame. A single tear ran down her cheek, maybe she should have let the mermaid take her. Staying in the underworld to terrorize others was a better alternative to what she must do this morning. Blood from the fresh gouges ran through the maze of those from where he had pushed her against the tree. Her legs forced apart leaving her unable to click her heels to take her home.

Breaking NewsJim2013-0216

Jim Wright

The little souvenir shop just outside Truth or Consequences, New Mexico was crowded today. Summer vacations were well underway. Dolores Delgado presided over the pandemonium with grace and a perpetual smile, masking discomfort. The little cut-rate bazaar was stocked to the rafters with snow globes, mounted jackalope heads and of course, Elvis memorabilia; the kind of trinkets that attract a certain type of discerning shopper.

Out back of the shop high walls surround a small grove of Russian olive trees. The dense foliage give shade and sanctuary to Dolores and her three sisters to lounge, after hours, in a cluster of small jacuzzis, made from inverted Tucker turrets.

In one corner, Dolores has installed a small museum to honor The Wizard of Oz. Hundreds of replica items are on display. Strains of the movie soundtrack are played throughout the store from opening to closing, and a slideshow of scenes from the movie shows on a screen above the glass case holding Dorothy’s dress, hand basket and ruby red slippers.

Every afternoon, just after one, Francis Fyte appears with lunch for Dolores and her sisters. Francis operates a small diner a mile or two down the road and has carried a torch for Dolores since he first saw her nearly ten years before.

“Hey, Francis! How ya doin’?”  Every morning he swears to himself he will declare his love for her, and every afternoon her tinkling voice and warm smile chase away his courage.  Today will be different, he thinks to himself. Today I have a special gift.

“H-h-here’s your lunch Dolores…” is about all he can manage. He sets about arranging the dishes on the counter, not daring to look her in the eye. He wonders again why she will only eat at the counter. There are rarely any customers at this time of day. Why won’t she sit at the little dining area so they can chat? Maybe she uses the counter as a buffer to avoid any kind of intimacy? No matter, today’s the day and nothing will stop him… he hopes.

He sips his coffee and watches Dolores attack the shrimp with enthusiasm. Between bites she tells him stories of her childhood without ever actually telling him where she’s from.

For what seems like the millionth time, his eyes travel over what he can see of Dolores. Her wild hair with a greenish tint that never seems to stop moving, eyes as green and bright as emeralds and… her ample heaving bosom.

Casting all doubt firmly from his mind, he gathers his courage and stands as tall as his small frame will allow and declares “Dolores, I’ve brought you a present! I can’t wait another minute to see you wear it. With that he rushed around the end of the counter as he reaches into the bag he carried, taking out a pair of ruby red slippers he had made for her.

He dropped the shoes and fell away in a dead faint. Dolores is a mermaid!

The Iron Writer Challenge #1

talking-tree

The Iron Writer Challenge #1

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #1

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Michelle BrowneRobbie ThomasKirsten PulioffTannis Laidlaw

The Elements:

An empty ATM
A talking tree
Toilet bowl cleaner
A meteor

Bob’s Day In TacomaMichelle Browne

Michelle Browne

They told us the meteor was going to pass by. It wasn’t that big, as meteors went—about the size of a bus. Big enough to damage a few things. Big enough to throw a region into a temporary crisis. Thousands of them pass by every year, kissing the stratosphere and burning to scraps on entry. I don’t think this one would even have made the news if it wasn’t for that stupid-ass viral video. People took pictures of the meteor and photoshopped babies, squirrels, cats—a lot of cats—in front of it. It got a nickname. Our pet meteor, BA5066, also known as ‘Bob’. For a deadly piece of the universe hurtling towards us at matter-pulverizing speeds, it was awfully cute.

As it got closer, everyone got more excited. Amateur astronomers set up watches to help people figure out when it would pass over them. It was supposed to crash into the ocean near Mexico. Supposed to.

That day, I’d just realized my toilet bowl cleaner was broken. In my semi-annual cleaning rampage, I’d managed to snap the plastic part in half. You can only spend so much time sitting in front of a computer at work, coming home and doing the same, before you look up and realize that everything around you is covered in dust and you have no idea when the last time you actually washed the stove was. Extricating myself from the lure of the beautiful idiot box, I walked past the talking tree and towards the corner store.

Since the economic crash, my little corner of suburbia had become pretty deserted. Rarely any kids on the street, and only one old lady with too many cats in the entire ten-block radius. The loops and curves were full of boarded-up homes with weedy lawns. Things withered there, but sometimes, also grew into beautiful accidents. I blame the mutagens.

“Evening, Marty,” said Lee. I nodded at his branches.

“Evening, Lee. You excited about the meteor?” Possibly it was the wind, but his branches seemed to shrug.

“Guess so. How’d you hear about it?”

“Internet.”

He scoffed, and his leaves sighed. “You oughta spend more time around real people.”

“No people left anymore, you know that. Besides, I hate people. Gotta go buy some cleaning stuff, though. See you.”

When I got there, I realized I had no cash. That was no problem, or shouldn’t’ve been one. A few presses of the right skeleton code, and careful use of wire cutters, and all the wealth in the world can be yours.

Of course, the ATM was empty. I cursed, and kicked it, and slumped against it. Good intentions and a small but disastrous absence leading to the collapse of all plans.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for long. Bob had taken a turn for Tacoma, and I was about to become a flash-fried celebrity.

The fire and fury was the last thing I saw before I ended up here. Heaven’s waiting room is very dull, if you’ve wondered, and crowded—but I must admit, I’m really enjoying the view.

Something Just Isn’t Right!Robbie Thomas

Robbie Thomas

It’s Monday, 6:30 pm, July 4th weekend. Robbie’s wife has sent him to the store to buy some toilet bowl cleaner as she begins cleaning the washrooms. He stops off at the local ATM to withdraw money in order to make the purchase. This is where all time and space stop.

“She’s always sending me out to get things, especially on the Holiday weekend. I’ll get you your toilet bowl cleaner, you’ll see. Women, sheesh!”

He pulls out his wallet searching for the ATM card, when one of the weirdest moments in his life is about to occur. A convergence of the unknown with reality is going to be a withdrawal Robbie never intended to happen.

“Ah, there it is! If she thinks I’m just getting toilet bowl cleaner, huh, I’m getting me a six pack too. I’ll show her! Miss Clean the house on a holiday weekend.”

“Oh I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.”

“What the-”

Robbie looks around to see who just spoke, but there wasn’t anyone there. The strangeness in the air creeps down Robbie’s neck as he continues his transaction with the ATM.

“This is nuts, and I haven’t even had a beer yet. It’s my imagination. Whatever!”

“No, actually it’s not”

Robbie turns around quickly to notice a small miniature tree in the lobby area of the Bank. Thoughts race through his mind and he wonders if he’s insane or just has toilet bowl cleaner on the brain.

“Who said that!?”

“Me. Your wife comes in here and does her banking. Nice lady.”

“You’re a tree…tree’s don’t-”

“Tree’s don’t what? You’re telling me, you’ve never seen a talking tree before?”

“You got to be kidding me, this isn’t happening.”

“Oh buddy, it’s happening and by the way, with no pun intended, but do you think money grows on trees. Besides, that ATM is completely empty. She would only kill you, if you bought beer!”

Robbie stands with mouth wide-open as his ATM Card falls from his hand onto the floor. He’s gob smacked staring at a miniature-talking tree. At this moment, a huge meteor races across the sky lighting up the entire area. He looks out the banks window covering his eyes from the intensity of the light and can’t believe what’s happening.

“I’m in the twilight zone. Ya that’s it! That just didn’t happen and this tree didn’t talk to me. I’M LOSING IT! Ok, deep breaths. Just pick up your card, get the toilet bowl cleaner, and go home.

“Don’t get that beer dude. Remember, no matter how much you think this is an illusion, going home to your wife with a six-pack in hand. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk!”

“You’re not real, stop talking already. I’m not touching another drop of alcohol ever. No wait, I need a drink-”

Robbie picks up his card from the floor and runs out of the bank ranting. The tree has one last thing to say as he’s leaving.

“Don’t forget the toilet bowl cleaner!”

tannis laidlaw

Hey Diddle Daddly

An Adult Nursery Rhyme

Tannis Laidlaw

Hey diddle diddle

Life’s just a big riddle

For Drew who ran for his life,

A meteor streaking

Across the yard seeking

To hide, disappear from the strife.

Hey diddle droy

‘Daddy’s mad,’ said the boy,

‘He’s ranting and raving at Mum.

‘He gave her a beaner

‘With toilet bowl cleaner.’

The thought of it made him go numb.

‘Hey diddle dree,’

Said the tree he called Leigh,

‘Hide here right under my care,

‘When someone is mad

‘And the other is sad

‘Then you’d better be out of their hair.’

Hey diddle diddle

The cat and the fiddle

The dad was hitting the mum,

The boy stopped his ears

(But never his fears)

And his mouth became filled with his thumb.

Hey diddle delling

The mother was yelling,

‘Please stop – you’ll frighten the boy!’

The little dog laughed

To see such craft

For the dad knew her plea was a ploy.

Hey diddle dill

The air it went still

The dad came out searching for Drew,

He wanted his son

Before he was done,

Then Leigh, to the boy, whispered, ‘Shoo!’

Off the boy shot

Before he was caught

He knew what his father could do,

For a very long time

They’d planned this quick climb

Leigh’s branches would hide him from view.

Hey diddle daddly

The dad drove off madly

The cow jumped over the moon…

‘Coast’s clear, my dear,’

Mum cried with false cheer,

‘But hurry; he could return soon.’

Hey diddle dack

They needed to pack

As quickly as poss – just in case –

Still on the attack

The father came back…

Must flee, not leaving a trace.

Hey diddle dage

Of the father’s great rage –

The mum told the boy she found out –

Seems the ATM there

On the edge of the square

Was empty, held zilch, was a drought.

Hey diddle dax

With packs on their backs

They watched for the shade of the moon,

Then Mum and the boy

Stepped forward with joy

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

The Dark DayKirsten Pulioff

Kirsten Pulioff

The thick grey smoke was suffocating, obscuring everything and amplifying the chaos as screams intermixed with shattering glass.  The rotten stench of sulfur clogged the air, tightening her chests as she struggled to breathe.

The chill from her tears jolted her back to reality.  A quick glance down showed only fifteen minutes had passed since Jim left for supplies.  An agonizingly slow fifteen minutes.  This was supposed to be the event of a lifetime, the closest meteor shower for this generation.  One moment they stood transfixed by its beauty, and the next scarred by its power.  The hypnotic streak of burning rock- purples, greens, reds, all reflected off their son’s eyes, as he watched with pure wonder.  All gone in an instant, replaced with a dull sheen as the explosions shook the ground.

She listened enviously to the weeping in the streets.  What she would give to hear a scream, or cry of pain.  His silence was infinitely more frightening.

“This is all I could get,” Jim coughed out, hunched over out of breath, tossing the bag down.

Her immediate excitement plummeted.  “A toilet bowl cleaner, a pack of gum, a butter knife, and fishing line?” the accusation of failure hung in the air as she threw each item back at him.  “What can we do with these?”

He stuffed them quickly back in his bag defensively.   “I don’t know what to tell you.  The atm is empty, the stores are closed.  This is what was in the front window.  There wasn’t time.”

“What do you expect me to do with these?  Who do you think I am, McGeyvor?  How is this supposed to help our son?”  Her hands trembled as she looked down at their son- his closed eyes, his shallow breath, the wound in his chest.  “What are we supposed to do?” The words stumbled out between sobs of desperation.

“I can help,” a voice whispered from behind.

She looked around, startled, “what did you say?”

Jim shook his head, “I didn’t say anything.”

“Who did?” She asked

“I can help you,” the voice said again, from the tree itself.

“A talking tree,” she whistled, “now I’m losing it.”

“Not quite,” the man said jumping down from the branches.  “We don’t have long, the debris fields on those things are miles long.”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No, not a doctor, but I can help.”  He gave her a tight lipped smile, watching the hope disappear from her eyes.

She gripped on more protectively.  “Can you help us move him to the hospital?”

He sadly shook his head.  “I’m sorry, with a wound like that, he needs to be treated now.  Your only option is me, and what is in that bag.”  Jim brought the bag over as orange flashes streamed above them.

“I love you,” she whispered, leaning over, blocking her sight of fire balls about to collide.  Her last sight, the serene calm on her son’s face as the thick smoke covered them and silence took over.