The Iron Writer Challenge #202 –  2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #202

2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8 

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:

A sunrise

A revelation

A fairy tale

Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life? 

Sunshine on My Face

She clambered out of the window, dropped to the ground, winced at the noise, and waited.   

Silence.   

She ducked low, tiptoed to the car, and eased the door handle.   Locked.   She bit her lip and went towards the van.    A branch crunched underfoot.   She froze.  After a moment, she slipped to the driver’s side.   The keys must be in the house.    

Nothing for it.  

She wasn’t dressed for this kind of terrain.   She hunched into her shirt, shivered against the icy wind, and started down the driveway, listening, listening.     As soon as she rounded the curve, she moved into a run.   

She fell, and fell again, and slowed to a walk.   Breaking a leg wouldn’t help.    But the line of orange in the distance meant she didn’t have much time.  She got to the road, turned right and began jogging down the mountain, trying to follow the asphalt, but staying close to the ditches, just in case.  It helped that a pink glow cast eerie shadows over the landscape.

The whole mountain was silent.  The only sounds were her footsteps, her panting, and the rocks that skidded beneath her.    

A crossroad.   Which way?  

It was almost sunrise, one of the most spectacular she’d seen in her life.  A white fog on the low areas, a distant peak, and an orb of gold that bathed her face.     It looked like the background for an animated fairy tale: so perfect, so bright.   She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the colors.  The air was fresh and crisp with a faint whiff of pine.  

It came to her, like a revelation: she loved her life.   She loved life.  Even with the bumps and the hiccups and the bills.    

How could she have missed that?    How could she have taken it all for granted?  She felt a rush of gratitude for this moment, for this life, for this day, for the chance to breathe one more time.  

A truck was coming from the right.  Either her only hope or the worst thing she could do.    She couldn’t decide, then stuck out her thumb.   

It stopped.  The driver leaned over, “You’re a long way from home.”  His eyes were searching.   

“I was on a date that went bad.  I’m trying to get to Springfield.”    

“I can take you to the first exit off the interstate.”  

Just before she clambered in, she stuck her hands deep in her pockets, pulled out a folded paper, hesitated, and dumped the white powder in the dirt.  She did it low, where he couldn’t see.     

His radio was on.   It took her a moment to recognize the tune, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?”

Shard the Beast

The sun was rising over Coldwater. With his feet dangling in the water from the pier, Shard looked at his reflection. It looked back at him. It was a hideous beast that peered from the rippling water. There was no wonder that others feared him, or if they knew him, just made fun of him. 

Shard feared nothing.

Times were hard. Every available man was drafted to the war cause, and every resource was put towards the effort to keep the invaders out. Shard knew these people. He grew up sleeping his nights in the loft of Mr. Walter’s barn, but he felt the call to war just as any other. So, when Shard volunteered to wear the uniform, he felt there was no reason to be turned down.

Shard was wrong.

“We don’t need pigs in our infantry” the commander said to him.

And so, Shard farmed. And he chopped wood. And he put iron shoes on the hooves of horses. And nothing may have ever changed from that, except word had travelled that a girl had gone missing. The battlegrounds were pushed to the east, and her home was caught in the middle. Her father had sent his friend Walter word in desperation.

Walter knew of no able body to spare other than Shard. Walter raised Shard from a boy. Walter kept him fed and in the loft of his own barn. With years of farm labor, Walter made a man out of this beast. Now it was time for Shard to return the favor.

“I need to ask a favor” Walter spoke, but Shard could see nothing except for the blinding light of the morning sun.

Shard said nothing, but held a hand up to his forehead in an attempt to see more clearly.

“I need you to find a missing girl” Walter said.

“Yeah?” Shard asked.

“In the middle Andalusia” Walter explained.

“A girl? In the middle of a battlefield? To make me happy for the rest of my life?” Shard let go a belly laugh. “Why me?”

“Because I trust you.”

“And?” Shard pursued.

“And because there is no one else to send”, Walter replied.

“How could I find her?”

“The last anyone heard, she was at Blackheart Farms. You remember John we used to trade bulls with?” Walter asked.

“Yeah?”

“Looks just like him” Walter replied. “Well, except she’s a girl. Name’s Becky.”

“Why would I do this? No one ever trusted me.”

“John is offering a reward- a big one, a cabin and a piece of land at his farm if she is found safe. Besides, Shard, I’ve watched you become a man, like my own son.”

“Sons, don’t sleep in lofts. Sons help defend the land.”

“You can’t fight in the war son. Your blood is northern.”

“What nonsense is this?”

“You look like northerners because you are from the north- an instrument of war ever since you were brought here.”

“I am…” Shard voice trailed off across the water.

“You are one of the beasts we battle.”

A breeze blew ripples across the water leaving reflections distorted, but the anger distinctly clear.

A Fairy Tale Life

The morning sun shone through the bedroom window, warming Alexis’s face. Her lips curled up into a smile as she heard birds chirping outside. She slowly opened her eyes and stretched. She yawned as she sat up in bed and looked out of the window and stretched her arms out again. She slipped her feet into the slippers by the bed and walked out into the kitchen. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee wafted by her nose. She was glad she set the timer on the machine the night before so now she only has to pour the delicious black liquid into a cup and go out on the deck. She sat down at the patio table and just marveled at the beautiful colors that the morning sun has painted the sky.

This is her idea of a fairy tale. No princes, no princesses, no evil queens, no magic potions. This is her ideal fairy tale. Writing novels and living in a cabin on a hill surrounded by nothing but forest and a big, beautiful lake a few yards from her place. The morning sun danced off the water in the lake creating little white sparkles that seemed to twinkle like the stars in the night sky. Alexis purchased this cabin after the sale of her first novel and wrote her second successful novel here. This is her happiness; her happily ever after.

Like in all fairy tales though, she does have a conundrum. Alexis hasn’t written anything for her next novel yet and her deadline is fast approaching. She has read magazines, watched television shows, and movies to try and get some inspiration but nothing has struck her as gold yet. After breakfast, she went into her living room, sat down on her couch and turned the television on. A talk show was on and they showed a special proposal a man made to his fiancée and he said to her, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?” This revelation struck the woman because she was not expecting this. She was a part of the show under another pretense.

She said yes and the audience applauded. The couple hugged and then cried on each other’s shoulders. This moved Alexis and she suddenly had the inspiration she needed for her next novel. It would be a romance novel and it would have a surprise proposal in it. She poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down with her laptop and began typing away. This is the happy ending to her very own fairytale. This is what makes her happy; and it will for the rest of her life.

Revelation

I sat there with her lying in my lap on the edge of the forest, watching the upper limb break the horizon.

On that night, with the drinks, the laughs, the fooling around and the amphetamines shared around the camp fire, forever warming our carefree hearts, I had a revelation. My mind, one moment wiped out with fun and wasted from the party came clear the next instant, and all seemed so elementary, so simple. Life became one flowing luminous spiral through the trap of time and I saw all. The uncaring, screaming creature that held the universe together was one with me, and we soured through a multitude of neutrons and protons in the dark matter soup.

Gone were my worries of not being able to get the rent together for next week, or fix the bike that seized up from lack of oil and funds, or stop the boys from smashing my kneecaps in due to not making the next payment on my amplifier. Gone were my troubles of dropping out of college, working in a supermarket stacking shelves and failing to keep up with the financial needs and desires of my last girlfriend.

But this girl, this girl… I felt the morning orange sun touch my face as it grew in sight, warming my cold skin and drying the cold dew which lay there. The sun stirred my heart, as she did. I could feel she was awake, eyes open.

“That’s nice,” she said. I stooped my head and kissed her on the cheek, feeling my lips caress her cool face.

“Yeah, baby, it is.”

“It feels like a fairy tale, like it’s not real somehow.” Her arms wrapped around my legs and she hugged them.

“None of it is. All we have is each other and nothing else.”

She sighed and we watched the movement of the sun, bringing fire to the earth and waking life once more. The shadows of the land, asleep in trees and hedges, stretched tall and long, running from their tormentor until they were finally caught and scurried back from whence they came. The fields of wheat and barley swayed this way and that as they grabbed what rays they could to escape the blanket of sleep.

“What will we do when we get back?” she asked. Her question meant nothing to me. There was nothing to go back to.

“Whatever we need to do,” I said, the words emanating from my mouth sounding strong and pure for once in my life. I knew what was to be done. And she felt it, lifting her head and meeting mine, kissing me. One look in her eyes told me all I wanted. She was the one. 

“Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?” she asked, smiling and resting her head on my shoulder.

“Well baby, I’ll give it a shot, but if I can’t, I’ll die trying.” I kissed her as the final slither of sun ripped from the horizon.

Growth

The seed squiggled under the moist warm loam. A sharp stab from bitter chill air stilled its movements. The heat generated from decaying foliage blanketed the seed, pulled at the seed’s outer wall, entreating entry. The seed pushed deeper into the soft soil. This foreplay between the soil and seed was their intimate copulation ritual which they performed for days.

Then one day, the seed’s wall began to crack under the gentle passionate pressure. The fissure was tiny at first, but it was large enough to allow penetration by the nourishing peat’s breathe. The tiny plant inside the seed cowered in fear, as the strong musky scent kissed it, inviting physical contact.

The plant grew bolder and pushed against its walls, breaking the opening wider.. The earth whispered encouragement and enticed it by carrying life giving gases as it caressed the yellow-white flesh of its lover. An appendage stretched out of the shell, twisting slowly, brushing against the wispy fibers of lost life asking to return. Small hairs suckled at the threads, pulling the rest of itself down. The plant’s tip finds the dirt, its tip presses against it. Finally, they have found each other, that instant of touch sealing their fates, forever intertwining them. 

The hairs branch out, growing, finding small tunnels, pushing into soft soil, penetrating deep. The root pushes deep into the ground, sending arm after arm out to hug the earth in order to draw into itself all which it needs. The soil gives all it has, it doesn’t mind, knowing the plant will return it in time. The plant digs deeper into the soil, the soil grabs hold of the plant, one taking, one waiting to take. 

The plant reaches for more. It needs more. The earth knows it cannot give what the plant needs. It is too yellow, too weak. It has to find energy. The plant points its head towards the ground, refusing to seek out what it needs elsewhere. The soil consumes the loam faster, sending its friends out. The soil cannot help it more. 

The plant’s body thinned, its coloring darkened, its flesh flaked. The earth sent a final burst of warmth. The plant lifted its head. Something strange pricked at its top. A new warmth, but also a coolness. A jolt of energy surged from the spot on its head towards its body and into its roots. The plant found the strength to stand straight. As it did, its head was bathed in a light.  It raised its head opened up, showing full petals to a round red orb on the horizon. The plant knew now this was what it needed. The hunger it had flowed away, its body changed color as it grew stiffer. It opened its many arms in thankfulness to its savior. Its head followed the orb as it moved from red to orange to yellow to white and back again. 

The plant’s roots tickled the earth in gratitude while it gazed upon the orb with a look which asked: Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?

 

The Iron Writer Challenge #199 – 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #5

The Iron Writer Challenge #199

 2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Vance Rowe, Elaine Johnson, Emma Crowley and Bethany Totten, Bertram  Allan Mullin

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

The Elements:

Gov’t processed cheese.

Coffee Grounds

Ice cream

Wealth

Think It

Elaine Johnson

She dipped into her banana split, tapped the spoon so the hot fudge wouldn’t drip, flicked the tiniest bit of dazzling white whipped cream over the nuts, and paused with the spoon mid-air. “Did you know that the government issued cheese for those in need?”

He sniffed the coffee beans, nodded, set the machine to fine, and started the noise. After a moment, he dumped the grounds into the coffee maker and got the thing started. “You mean now or back in the day?”

“I’m sure they do it now, but in 1954,” she was quoting her cell phone, “government cheese was issued in a brown wrapper.”

He sat back from the granite counter in their new McMansion and studied the pool reflecting just inside their backyard, right next to the cabana and hot tub. “Cheese is cheese, if you get hungry enough.”

She finished the last of the delicacy and settled the glass container in the sink. The party would start in an hour or so, so she added some Brie and Gouda and Provolone to the groaning platter of fruits and muffins, and stuck in back in the cooler. “Hard to argue with that. It stinks to be poor.“

The coffee maker was just about done. He pulled his favorite mug, the one that said, “Wealth Starts Here”, added just the right amount of hazelnut flavoring, and moved back to his office. She hardly saw him anymore, and after this contract was signed, he had two more clients waiting.  She stared at the pristine granite counter, at the caterer scurrying around, and strolled through the place one more time to check that the decor matched the image she’d tried so hard to cultivate.

They went to that conference last year, the one that permeated all their plans. It was why they were in this house in this part of town.  “You have to imagine your goals if you want to achieve them.” That was one motto from the first speaker. “If you think it, you can have it” was another.  They needed to cultivate the Right Mindset, so the last speaker insisted.  So here they were, in a magnificent house with vaulted ceilings, far from their friends and family, but in the right side of town, with just the right decor. Their first party would be a magnificent celebration of what they were; of where they were going.  She’d eaten a minimal breakfast and lunch to splurge on that banana split so she’d be happy and sated during the party. She wasn’t sure who half the people were, but they certainly expected to eat well. She studied the groaning covered plates on the serving table. That website kept haunting her.  Imagine eating government issued cheese.  Imagine being that poor.  She shook her head.  What you think might come true. She needed to think prosperity and wealth. She studied the pristine golf course and smiled.  Just think it to make it happen.  Wealth was coming. She knew.

WARNING: THIS STORY HAS RACIAL SLURS AND OTHER “COLORFUL” LANGUAGE!

Monopoly in the Hood

Vance Rowe

“You ‘bout to be bankrupt Tariq,” Big T said to his friend with a laugh.

“She-e-e-e-t nigga, you talkin’ crazy. I’m gettin’ mines. I got dem houses on the BW, man.”

“Yeah but you fittin’ to lose that shit too though.”

“Big T, man, you smokin’ that rock? I’m ‘bout to get my wealth on. As soon as you niggas start landing on that shit, you all done. It will be back to eating dat gov’ment cheese for alla y’all. Yo Luke, roll the damn dice man. It’s your turn, nigga.”

Luke rolled. Landing on a Chance card spot, he picked it up and read it, “Advance token to…shit.”

“Yeah, bitch. I tol’ you. Put that shit right on thereon Boardwalk and gimme my fo’teen hunnit dollars.”

Luke counted out the money and handed it to Tariq and Tariq said, “Now Imma put a hotel on that bitch and alla y’all goin’ to pay me.”

“Tariq, dat’s about all da money you gots. You better not be blowing that cheddar so soon.”

“Yo Cheezy, tell your moms that and mind yo’ bidness. You goin’ to be turnin’ dat corner up there on your next roll and will be comin’ down here to pay me too. Only you will forking over 2 G’s when you do,” Tariq laughed and picked up the dice. He landed on the “Go to Jail” spot.

“Here are some words you will be getting’ used to, Tariq. Go to jail, bitch,” Big T said with a laugh.

“Yo T, you want me to say hi to your pops while I’m there?” Tariq laughed in reply.

The three boys laughed at Big T’s expense and he said, “Dat’s okay. You all goin’ to be bankrupt soon and will have to use dem old coffee grounds over and over.”

Big T’s grandmother called out to him and asked, “Tulane? Do you and your friends want some ice cream?”

The three other boys looked at each other and in unison asked, “Tulane?”

They laughed and T pointed at them with an angry look on his face. Then he shouted, “No Gramma. Nobody wants ice cream.”

“I want some ice cream,” Tariq said with a smile.

“Nigga shut up. We ain’t got no ice cream. Gramma’s a little crazy in her old age. And alla y’all keep on calling me T. If I hear my name being mentioned by any y’all, I will bust a cap in yo’ asses. You feel me? Now, someone roll the damn dice.”

“It’s your turn Tul…er…T,” Tariq said with a chuckle.

T growled a bit, picked up the dice and rolled them.

“Boardwalk, bitch. Pay me.” Tariq said with a laugh.

Angered by being picked on a little too much, Big T said, “Know what? Alla y’all niggas need to get up from my crib. Take ya narra asses home.”

T flipped the game board and stormed out of his room.

“Geez, what’s eatin’ him?” Luke asked.

“He’s mad because he lost his money and has to wait for the truck to deliver his gov’ment cheese now,” Tariq said.

The three boys laughed and left Big T’s house.

The Barrel

Emma Crowley

No one wanted to approach the barrel now. Instead they leave it alone in the center of the darkened bunker, watching with bated breath as a cloudy white liquid began to creep across the ground. My heart still pounds as I kneel next to Meecah. In the crowded room, he was the only one not watching the barrel; instead he stared down at his shaking fingers.

He had been the only person brave enough to approach the barrel after the search team had brought it underground. We had been waiting eagerly; every so often they’d return with arms full of food, but today, they dragged in a metal barrel, something that they had proudly stolen from a rebel convoy. The rest of the underground colony did not see the barrel as a sign of wealth as the search team did; to us it was nothing more than another three days of eating only government processed cheese. Nothing more than a disappointment

Until they opened it, that is.

Few brave souls dared to approach it after the lid was removed; Meecah one of them. He traded his swagger for cautions steps as he neared the barrel, hand pressed over his mouth and nose.

“It’s filled with white stuff,” his shout echoed around the packed bunker. Slowly he reaches a hand out over the open barrel, drawing a collective gasp from the room.

“Don’t touch it Meecah! It’s not worth it!”

Voices filled the air as Meecah’s hand begins to shake over the barrel. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd, getting a glimpse of the fear in his face. He lowered his hand into the barrel.

He let out a blood curdling scream as soon as his skin touched the white substance inside. Meecah dropped to the ground before me, letting out a wail as he curled his body around his hand. Screams echoed in my ears as the room erupts into chaos.

I force Meecah’s hand open and squint down at his shaking fingers.

“It burned me,” he whimpers, “I just brushed against it, and it burned me!”

I turn his hand over. His fingers are pristine. There’s no sign of a bruise, a burn, anything–

“What is going on here?” The whole room turns as Janice, the bunker’s oldest survivor, wanders into the room.

“Nothing, Janice, just a strange find from the search team,” I reach up to grab the sleeve of her nightdress, but somehow she slips away, leaving only the bitter scent of coffee grounds behind her.

Twist around, I stare into the crowd. Why is nobody stopping her?

A shout startles me, but it’s not full of pain–

Janice is laughing.

“It’s ice cream! I haven’t felt anything this cold in decades!” She scoops it from the barrel onto her shaking fingers. “Hurry, before it melts!”

Soon it’s my turn to scoop from the barrel, the feeling is incredible. The strange liquid fills my body with the most delightful chills.

Janice laughs as she watches us eat..

“One would think you have never been cold before!”

I glance at Meecah; as children of the apocalypse, we hadn’t.

Two Differences from Japan and America

Bertram Allan Mullin

Before moving to Japan, I noticed a problem with wealth in America. Not to say everyone’s rich. There were poor snobs. This created a big problem in the service industry: employees believed because they got paid little they could say whatever they wanted and get away with their behavior because rich owners were afraid to fire and get sued.

I had lived with my dad, who was sick with diabetes. He needed someone around. I’d spend several hours at night working on my novels and helping him. Sometimes I spent days without sleep. Often this would take me to Starbucks.

Better than sugary ice cream.

Obviously sleep wasn’t an option during the daytime because I had good ideas to be written and deleted during edits. Plus, there was no point in sleeping throughout the day.

An afternoon like any other, I walked into Starbucks nearby. The smell of the coffee grounds alone were enough to give me a slight jolt. Yet, I was pretty much a zombie to the world.

The girl at the counter asked for my order outright, not very welcoming.

No big deal.

Figured she was living off government processed cheese and whatnot. Decided to be nice and feigned my best smile to cheer her up, which was actually an exhausted line.

She grimaced. “What would you like to order, sir?”

“Caramel macchiato. Large.”

“Um, did you mean venti?” she asked with a judgmental undertone. I understood. Grande meant large and the former equaled twenty ounces in Italian. She likely assumed I didn’t see that movie too.

Venti.”

She sighed to imply I did something wrong. “Anything else, sir?”

“That’s all.” I could have said, “Thank you.”

Nope.

People should earn such words. I still felt bad for her. She had to deal with tired assholes such as myself all day and I’d bet worked a double-shift tonight. So I tossed my change in the tip jar.

While I walked out, she yelled, “Good luck with that attitude—” in Texas, the equivalent of: “Go fuck yourself.”

I almost turned, said something.

My decision was to leave with my beverage in hand, pretend to not hear. What bothered me most was I tipped. 

The situation could have ended there. Instead, the thought of whether to call her boss and district manager juggled in my mind for the day. My concern was the stuck up employee would speak this way to another customer. “Do you realize baristas like her hurt your business?” Had to be said.

To my reluctance the district manager convinced me to have them send two free drinks my way. I received a formal apology from the company. Gave the freebies to my dad before moving to Japan.

When I walked into a Starbucks there tired out of my mind, the cashier’s joyful smile makes me forget any of my troubles each time. Moreover, there’s usually a happy face, and “Thank you,” with a cute cartoon drawn on my cup. I love the customer service where I live now. Another difference is Japan uses real cheese, not government processed junk.

Trash

Bethany Totten

The house had certainly seen better days.  The paint was chipping and starting to peel, the shingles were starting to fall off the roof, and the plants were over grown and dying.

Of course the inside was far worse.  Piles of old newspapers and unwashed clothes were piled ceiling-high in nearly every room of the small three bedroom house, leaving only enough room for a tiny walkway throughout.  Old food wrappers, some several years old, take out containers, unopened mail, and various books and magazines dotted the area as well.  To be blunt, it looked like a landfill.  No sane person would ever dare go inside let alone live there.

Yet, it was someone’s home, least it had been.  The former inhabitant was now sadly deceased; years of smoking coupled with undiagnosed cancer had taken their toll and unfortunately caused their end.  While the death was expected, the details weren’t as easy to deal with.  The bulk of it was finished yet the worse remained, cleaning out the house.  The one thing the family was dreading.

“I can’t believe she lived like this,” Margo commented as she walked through the house followed by her husband Craig and her nephew, Daniel.

Craig grimly nodded in agreement.

The trio made their way into the kitchen.  Suddenly, the smell of rotting food hit them.  Margo and Craig covered their noses while Daniel hurried out of the house.  He sat down on the front steps and rested his head in his hands.  He was beside himself that his mother lived like that.  Hells, he was beside himself anyone could live like that.

He had hoped that his mother would have tried to get her hoard somewhat under control years ago when Daniel went to live with his aunt and uncle but she seemed to get worse, especially mentally.  She had started to get paranoid and was convinced she was being spied on by the government, first by them going through her garbage then with her food.

“I don’t want that darn government food,” Janet, Daniel’s mother, used to say.  “They spy on you with that processed cheese.  That’s how they know what you’re thinking.”
Daniel had been beside himself with what to do with her the last years of her life.  He had tried to get her house cleaned up somewhat before he went off to college but she fought him every step of the way.  He eventually gave up, secretly hoping she would do it on her own but she got sick before that happened and now, well, she was gone.

Margo came out and sat next to Daniel, placing her hand on his shoulder.  “You want to come back tomorrow and try again?” she asked.

Daniel shook his head.  “No, let’s just get it over with.”

He stood up and went back inside.  Before long, they had managed to get one room somewhat cleaned, throwing out a pile of trash.  Including some darn government processed cheese.

Beer and Cheese

Richard Russell

Bud Hankins sat down at the bar with a heavy sigh and ordered a beer. “Hey, Dave! Lager!”

Dave smiled and replied, “Bud, you already owe me. I told you you don’t get served here until you pay your tab!”

Bud’s shoulders dropped as a frown spread across his face. “Aw, come on, Dave, you know I’m good for it.”

Dave rolled his eyes, “Yeah, right. I know your game. Now pay up, or shut up. You can sit here as long as you like. I ain’t gonna throw you out, but all you’re gonna get to drink is water; all you want.”

Bud looked down at the floor to avoid eye contact and seemed to retreat into a little pity party. Without looking up he moaned, “Dang it! I wish I were rich. Dave, how come I ain’t rich? I meet all kinds of rich people. I know there’s plenty of money out there. How come I ain’t got any of it?”

Dave smiled as he wiped the counter with a damp cloth. “Bud, you ain’t got any money ‘cuz you come in here and drink it all. You ain’t looking far enough down the road.”

Bud looked confused. “What?”

Dave went on, “Besides, you don’t wanna be rich, Bud. You wanna be wealthy.”

Bud looked puzzled.

Dave continued, “ See, rich people have money, but they have expenses, too. They can’t stop working because all that money they have will get used up too soon, and they’ll be broke. But if you were wealthy, you could live a long time on the money that comes in without you working.”

Bud squinted in confusion.

“Let’s say you owned a $1000 of ice cream. Would you think you were wealthy?” “Yeah, I could sell it all and make a lot of money.”

“But could you sell it all before it melted?”

“Well, no.”

“Okay, then you’d have to go right back to work, so that’s not wealth. What if you owned $1000 of Coffee grounds? That stuff is useful to a lot of people.”

Bud smiled, “And it doesn’t go bad nearly as fast as ice cream.”

“Yes, Bud, but you’d still have to keep going out to collect more, and the supply could become short.”

“So … that’s not wealth either?”

“No, you’re still having to work in order to keep up your standard of living. But what if you owned all the surplus government processed cheese in the world? That stuff lasts forever.”

“I’d get old and die before I sold all of it.”

“And you’d get someone else to sell it for you, so you don’t have to work. Now that’s wealth.”

“But, Dave, I still wouldn’t have piles of cash sitting around, just piles of cheese.”

“Probably not. You wouldn’t be rich, but you’d be wealthy; you could live pretty well and not have to work.”

Bud smiled, “Hey, Dave?”

“Yeah.”

“Where can I find me some of that cheese?”

“Not in here, Bud. Not in here.”

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

 The Iron Writer Challenge #195

2017 Summer Solstice 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…

“Gaaahh!”

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.