The Iron Writer Challenge #107

The Iron Writer Challenge #107

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 106 Champion

Tina Biscuit

The Authors:

Kara Kahnke, Mamie Pound, Vance Rowe, Daniel J. Sanz, Ellen Howard Attar

Judging:

Each story is scored by a panel of Iron Writers

based on three categories:

(Grammar/Spelling, Use of Elements, Story Arc/Plot)

The popular vote is the tie breaker (SO VOTE!).

The Elements:

'Challenge 107 March 19, 2015<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
First Challenge for the 2015 Summer Open</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Writers please note: As I will be on vacation when the submissions need posting, please use Facebook to send your stories to me. I suspect it will be easier than trying to access my email on the road (long story, but accessing my email on my iPad is tortuous). </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Also, please comment or like this post so I know you have received the elements and will be participating. Thanks</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Writers: @[1375160699:2048:Kara Ann], @[1619662900:2048:Mamie Willoughby Pound], @[1370498536:2048:Vance Rowe] (again? Okay by me but two in a row?), @[697063044:2048:Daniel J. Sanz] and  @[1605463911:2048:Ellen Howard Attar].</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>@[100000792336166:2048:Ian] is handling the judges henceforth.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The elements:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The Tiger Next Monastery (see image)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
An imponderable question (such as, but not this one: Can God make a object too heavy for him to lift?)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
A debutante<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
The person who cleans public restrooms'
The Tiger Next Monastery
An imponderable question (such as, but not this one:
Can God make a object too heavy for him to lift?)
A débutante
The person who cleans public restrooms

Go DeeperKara Ann

Kara Kahnke

Feed the mosquitoes with me,” he said.

Excuse me?” she said. “What do you mean?”

I mean I’m Buddhist. I believe even the tiniest creatures deserve love and attention, even the ones people find annoying. I don’t kill mosquitoes. I feed them.”

You’re crazy.”

What? Do you think you’re some kind of spoiled débutante parading around waiting for the world to adore her? You don’t have the time for someone or something worse off than yourself?”

Hey! That’s not fair. Yesterday, I gave a homeless guy money to buy a sandwich.”

I’m sorry. That true. I did see you do that. I’m just saying you can always go deeper with things. Buddhists believe there’s nothing too demeaning if it’s in the name of helping others. Didn’t I ever tell you that I had to take a job as a janitor to make ends meet once? Plunging a public toilet isn’t a classy job, but I did it. Come on. Go deeper with me.”

There was something intriguing about him. She had spent time watching his patient eyes in their Philosophy class, getting a mild headache trying to keep up with all of his deep thoughts. He was the type of guy who said things like, “If God were a piece of music, what would he sound like?” She didn’t even know how to begin with a question like that, but that’s why she liked him. Because he was deep. So, she agreed to go deeper.

#

It was a hot, sticky July day in Minnesota. He rented a row boat and took her to the lake at sunset. The mosquitoes descended immediately. A black cloud of hungry mouths pricked their soft, delicate skin with the precision of acupuncture needles. She put her arms around his neck to stop her natural impulse to swat them away. She paid attention to the ridge of his shoulder blades and ignored the pain.

They stayed until the last flash of sunlight faded from the clear water.

We should be getting back,” he said. It’s getting dark.”

Wait. Go deeper with me.” And she kissed him. It was just like she thought it would be. The way he kissed her made her feel like she was the most important living thing on the planet.

#

Now, he was gone. She had misheard him at first. “Tiger Next Monastery? Where’s that?”

No, Tiger Nest Monastery. It’s in Bhutan in South Asia. I’ve been studying more and more about Buddhism. I have to continue my path toward enlightenment. I want to live with the monks. I love you, but can you go deeper?

I can’t leave my family.”

I’m so sorry. I have to go.”

When will you be back?”

I have no idea.”

Please don’t leave me.”

I have to. I’m sorry.”

#

She went to the lake at sunset when she missed him. She sat in a boat without his shoulder blades to protect her, and she never swatted the mosquitoes away.

Skin of the Tiger

Ellen Howard Attar

As Gloria handed me a towel to dab my lipstick, I asked “why do you work here? These people are horrid and condescending. Don’t my parents pay you enough for cleaning their house each week to keep you from scrubbing toilets at the country club?”

“I’m doin’ a little extra, saving up money to help Jason go to medical school.”

“Gloria, you know he wants to be a writer.”

“Your dad sent that boy to Harvard because he’s brilliant. I ain’t gonna waste his money by letting him wait tables an’ write stories. “

At the table, Tommy asked “why are all the waiters black?”

Father explained, “it’s just another of life’s imponderable questions. It’s impossible to know what motivates people. Some become bankers, some wash dishes. Wouldn’t it be presumptuous for us to question such life decisions? ”

I ordered another Sazerac by simply raising my left eyebrow towards Jason, who was waiting tables.

“I’m going to the Himalayan Mountains next week”.

Mother choked on her chardonnay. “You’ve only been through three months of your debut; the season lasts all year. We’ve got hundreds of parties lined up; we’ve had all those dresses made.

“I’ve had enough conversations about fishing, hunting and football to last a life time. Sorry, mother, but I’m done. “

“We know you broke your trust three years ago. Living in New York undoubtedly decimated the last of your funds. You won’t get another cent from us until your wedding day!”

“World economics and marketplace analytics are still fascinating. After one semester, I had the sense to use my own money, and quadrupled my investment. I continue to invest and don’t foresee any financial difficulties in my lifetime.”

“As he came closer, I could hear his loud purring and the thudding of my own heart. He gently took the meat from my hand, and when finished, he lay in the warm sunlight cleaning his paws. ’Take me away’ I whispered. He looked into my eyes, asking ‘where do you want to go’. I answered ‘far, far, away, where no one can find me; where I can be free to live my own life; to think my own thoughts; to speak my mind freely’. He nudged me gently. I rubbed his head and scratched his ears. I slowly crept onto his back. He got up and stretched. I wrapped my arms around his neck. He started running. Faster and faster he went, until the trees were blurring by, the wind was roaring past my ears, water running from my eyes. I felt free, unafraid. I nestled my head into his soft fur as he leapt into the air, and we flew far away. “

Tommy rolled towards me, “where did the tiger take you Emmy?”

“A beautiful monastery perched on the side of a mountain. Soon, I will go back. When you’re older you can visit me. Don’t forget the Tiger Nest Monastery. Now go to bed, sweet darling.”

The next morning, Emmy and Jason were both gone. No one listened to Tommy as he explained that they were in the Tiger Next Monastery.

Tootsie-Roll Pops and AzaleasMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The woman dunked the mop in a plastic bucket.

In wide swoops, she moved the suds from one corner of the bathroom to the other, stopping short of the stalls.

“Is there a wedding here today?” A woman opened the bathroom door and asked, breathless.

“Down in the Big Top,” the cleaning lady replied.

“Thanks!” The woman yelled and ran down the hall, sandals clacking.

Dirty water squeezed from the mop. She shook her head,“Who would’ve guessed, a circus in the old Monastery, and now a wedding?”

The Strong Man and the Ballerina were to be married under the Big Top. The bride rode in on an African elephant, wearing a spangled pink leotard and white tights, carrying a bouquet of Tootsie Roll Pops and watermelon-pink azaleas. An enormous plume of white Ostrich feathers crowned her crayon-yellow curls.

The groom walked the tightrope. After an impressive summersault, he landed just to her left, a red plastic boutonniere stuck in the button hole of his lapel.

He lifted a hand to the tiny, beautiful dancer. She slid off the elephant’s trunk and joined him center stage. A pair of clowns and the Shortest Man on Earth played ukulele, classical guitar and harmonica, first performing a Beatles melody, then the wedding march, then another tune by Leonard Cohen.

“Larry!” A woman’s voice yelled from outside the tent. The musicians paused mid-song.

The lion raised his fur. The bride looked at her groom and Larry shrugged his shoulders, nodded for the band to carry on.

A gunshot pinged against something metal. “I’m warning you, Larry,” the woman yelled.

Larry, who was now called Steven the Amazing, unhooked his bride’s arm from his own and held up a finger to say, “I’ll be right back.” He strode out of the tent into the late afternoon sun. His red tuxedo jacket flapped behind him, creating a wake of ruffling faux-silk and dust.

The crowd was silent.

The bride shifted her weight from one ballet slipper to the other. Her silver sequins catching the spotlight with every movement, flashing like a million tiny polaroids, welding-torch, burn-out-your-retinas bright. But the crowd could not look away.

She was after all, a star.

Loretta knew who was out there. The thought of the debutante ex-girlfriend in the parking lot, crying to her almost-husband, made her bite into one of her petal pink fingernails.

People started to whisper.

Larry was shouting now. The debutante yelled back.

The lion paced.

But Loretta wasn’t scared. She had known it was dangerous, leaving her job at the bookstore to join the circus, then stealing another woman’s man.

It hadn’t been her intention.

The circus just happened to be there. And so did Larry.

It wasn’t her fault about the flat tire, or the fact that he’d wanted to help, offered to show her the way to Arab, Alabama, to the old Monastery. He’d laughed when she’d told him she was joining the circus.

But somewhere between the flat tire and the Alabama state line, Larry fell in love.

The JudgeDaniel J. Sanz

Daniel J. Sanz

The gunshot echoed, shattering the night as the weapon discharged. Derek was upon the attacker, redirecting the firearm and shoving him back against the graffiti choked wall. Behind the obscurity of the dumpster, tucked neatly between concrete and glass giants, the struggle continued.

The man fought for control of the weapon but a crack across the jaw impeded the effort. Derek disarmed him and flung him to the pavement.

Derek looked down at the young woman, scantily clad and shaken from the ambush. So naïve. These young, upper-class girls were so preoccupied with social statuses that these “débutantes” often neglected their own safety. Walking alone in this city they were prey among predators.

Next door, bass percussion of Club Tiger Nest rattled the alley. Constructed in the likeness of a Himalayan Buddhist Monastery, laced with neon and cheesy retro motifs, this establishment was no doubt the source of the young woman’s misadventures.

The thug charged again. Derek greeted him with a knee to the manhood and cast him down again. Brushing off his black overcoat and adjusting his flat cap to keep the shadow over his eyes, Derek peered down disdainfully. Trash.

Derek spent thankless days sweeping garbage and scraping away filth in the public bathrooms down at Festival Square. However, hitting the streets after work was where he would find the real dirt.

He offered a hand to the fallen maiden but her sudden white complexion told him the thug had recovered quicker than expected. He whirled around in time to divert the barrel away from his face. In an array of sparks and thunder the bullet exploded against the dumpster. Derek delivered a boot thrust to the knee, buckling it sideways and stripping the handgun away. He brought the metal grip down upon his attacker’s exploding nose. The man collapsed with hands up, choking on blood.

Derek coldly pointed the weapon at panicked eyes. What difference could I make here? The scum was no different than the crap he chiseled every day. Getting rid of it only to have it return again.

This man is a seasoned criminal, he justified to himself. She is probably not his first victim, but I can make her his last. Derek stepped over his bulk and pressed the barrel into his forehead, prompting a futile protest of coughs and sputters.

Perhaps by killing him, I save five others? Ten?

He tightened his grasp on the weapon. Do I have a right to judge this man and condemn him in an unspeakable act? Is permanent justice worth the cost of morality?

His hand trembled and the thought became too impossible to ponder. Snapping himself from his trance he chucked the gun into the dumpster as red and blue danced down the avenue. He turned away from the defeated man. I’m not you.

Sirens wailed as they approached and Derek scaled the wall at the rear of the alley. The question burned inside him but he knew his answer. He’d do what he always did. I’ll just come back and clean it up again tomorrow.

An Imponderable Bathroom

Vance Rowe

Jim works in a large hotel as a janitor. It is usually his job to make sure that the floors are swept and mopped, carpeted areas are vacuumed and all of the public rest rooms are cleaned. Today was especially important as there is going to be a débutante ball in one of the ballrooms tonight so he was purposefully assigned to make sure the rest rooms are all kept clean before, during and after the event. Other janitors were assigned to floors details and trash details as well. Jim hated cleaning the rest rooms because they were usually nasty and filthy but it was quieter in the rest rooms and this meant that he could think. While Jim was cleaning a rest room, he thought about the débutante ball tonight and how it would be nice if he could marry a débutante because they come from “upper society” and upper society means money. If he could marry into money, then he would no longer have to clean rest rooms. During the cotillion that night, Jim was in awe of all the beautiful young ladies that were there dressed in all their finery and each one looked like a princess to him. He watched them being paraded around the ballroom and then watched them dance with potential beaus and he grew jealous. He was thinking of the grandeur of it all, as he cleaned a ladies’ rest room. Then one of the débutante’s walked in and was surprised to see him in there. They struck up a conversation and after a few minutes, Jim asked her if she would date him. She wanted nothing to do with him but gave him one chance, “If you can answer this question, then I will date you.” Jim replied, “Okay, lay it on me.” The young lady smiled and asked, “Why is a delivery by car called a shipment and a delivery by ship called cargo?” “Oh no, not an imponderable question,” he thought to himself, The young lady wrote down her phone number and handed it to him and said, “Call me when you have the answer.” Jim knew he would not easily find the answer and didn’t really know about how to find it out and then it hit him. He knew where to find the answer. The next morning, he grabbed a flight to Bhutan and then proceeded the trek up to the Tiger Nest monastery. He knew the Buddhist monks would have the answer. He was excited because he was done cleaning rest rooms now. Nothing but a life of luxury and leisure was ahead of him. Jim entered one of the temples and found a monk and asked him the question. The monk seemed puzzled and finally he told Jim to follow him. They walked to the main shrine where the head Lama resides and was told to ask him the question. When Jim asked him the question, the head Lama thought about it for a minute and left the room. Soon he returned with a mop and said, “Clean our restrooms and the answer will come to you.”

 

 

Challenge 106

 The Iron Writer Challenge 106

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 105 Champion

TBD

The Authors:

Tina Biscuit, Vance Rowe, Maureen Larter

The Judges:

Dani J Caile, Steven L. Bergeron, Christopher Liccardi, Tony Jaeger

The Elements:

tumblr_nbl3ga9Q8K1rvi7nzo1_500

Young Woman with a Book

If I were God

A terra cotta soldier from China

The last line must be: “Who do you think you are?”

Post your guess who will win in the comments

(and tell us why!)

 

MemoriesMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

I wandered across the meadow, my notebook clutched in my arms. A tall piece of grass caught my attention, and I broke it off, fiddling with the stalk, not really aware of my reasons.

I walked over to the only tree beside a fence looking into the neighbor’s farm, and sat down, letting my thoughts travel as my body had travelled some 6 years before.

Xian is a magical city, in a magical country. I remember the feeling as a leant against the rail of the archeological wonder that has made Xian a tourist Mecca. There in front of me was the crowd of warriors that were dug from the ground. Neat rows, now two the same, all sheltering under the modern roof put there by the powers that be. The archeologists still worked at more excavation. However vast these discoveries were so far, there was even more to find.

We shuffled along the walkway, Chinese tourists as well as visitors from all corners of the world. I mused – If I were God, would I be game to make one of the statues come to life? Maybe then we would know the secrets of this place. Why so many soldiers? Why would an emperor commission such a colossal job? Why did he need so many men around him? Would the soldier appreciate arriving suddenly in the 21st century? Would he be manly and strong? Or would he wish to kill? Would he be someone I could respect and love?

I must have said something out aloud, because the man in front of me turned and glared, and then, in perfect English, spoke.

“This is a sacred site,” he said “Why would you want to ruin this perfect scene? Why would you want to steal the heart of a warrior?

I could do nothing but stare at him.

Now, sitting in the shade of the solitary tree, my back against its comforting bark, I opened my book. Once again I saw that terra cotta warrior that had entered my dreams. I began to scribble the memory down as the sun began to sink, and I pulled my cardigan closer around my shoulders.

I knew I would have to go home soon, as the chill of the evening air began to seep through my clothes and into my heart. As I wrote, I was back there again, and the Chinese man was near, almost threatening in his attitude.

His last words always haunted me, for when I tried to explain, he spat out a word which must have been obscene. I remember it well, because I have thought on it so many times since. How can we achieve peace and vanquish racial hatred when this is in the minds of others?

He looked me in the eye and said, with some disgust.

“You are white – you have no concept of our beliefs – Who do you think you are?”

Courage Under Fire

Vance Rowe

Annie woke up to the sound of her parents fighting…again. She grew tired of the yelling and screaming from the short twelve years she has been on this earth. Most of the fighting was about her mother who worked two jobs because her dad wouldn’t. He just drank whiskey all day.

It was the middle of the summer and as most kids were happy with this, Annie dreaded it. School was her only escape from the constant bickering and arguing.

With tear filled eyes, Annie looked up on her dresser and stared at the Chinese terra cotta soldier statue that her aunt bought for her when she went on a trip to China. The statue was made of terra cotta, and was pretty heavy. It was her only friend and she talked to it all of the time, although it never talked back, she was just glad to unload her feelings on it. She named it Zing Zang for no other reason than that name just seemed Chinese to her and was easy for her to remember.

She looked at the statue and whispered, “Please make it stop, Zing Zang. Please.”

Moments later, the arguing had stopped and she smiled at the statue, as if it had something to do with it.

Annie finally got out of bed, grabbed her journal and went downstairs into the kitchen and ate the breakfast that her mother had made for her.

The arguments soon began again when her father walked into the kitchen and ordered his wife to go to the liquor store to buy him another bottle. When she refused, he got angered and began berating her again. Annie grabbed her journal and bolted from the table and ran outside. She ran and ran until she came to her favorite place. It was a meadow surrounded by woods and she felt at peace here. She felt safe. She picked a weed from the ground and twirled it in her fingers as she walked through the peaceful meadow and began to think.

“I wish I was God,” she began to say to herself, “If I were God, I would make him go away. I would make him go away and never come back.” She then began to think of all of the things that she would do if she were God and this brought a smile to her otherwise forlorn face.

When Annie finally went back home, she saw her mother on the floor, huddled up in a corner with her father standing over her with a belt. She yelled at him to stop and ran over to him and pushed him away from her mother. The father then hit her with a big back handed slap that sent her across the room. Annie got up, ran up to her bedroom, grabbed Zing Zang and slammed it across her father’s head, knocking him down and just about out. Annie then called the police. When they arrived and handcuffed her father, he looked down at Annie and asked, “Just who do you think you are?”

Trouble in Paradise

Tina Biscuit

Helen looked down at the beach from the rocky promontory she had climbed. Cradling her diary in one hand, she teased a blade of grass through her cold fingers – too cold to write with. She thought of the entry that she couldn’t write:

‘Adam has brought me metal-detecting again. It’s his hobby, not mine. This is the last time. I thought it was interesting, it is I suppose – for him.’

She watched the head-phoned figure course the soft sand at the top of the beach. He turned and waved; she raised a numb hand.

He was lifting something, putting it on a pile next to where he was searching. He waved again, beckoning her.

She clutched the book, jumped down from the rocks, and slid down the dunes towards him, cursing her obedience.

‘I’m getting a strong signal, but all I’m finding are these pots.’

He put one on each arm.

‘Bill and Ben.’ He chirped.

‘I’m not old enough to remember them.’ Helen lied.

She tapped on one of the pots.

‘It’s terracotta.’

‘Like your cardigan.’

‘The colour yes, but I mean like a Terracotta soldier. The clay models they made in China to bury with their Emperor.’

‘To keep him company.’

‘Well, that, and to show their god how important their emperor was.’

‘If I were God, I wouldn’t be fooled by a bunch of flowerpot men.’

‘Well you’re not, are you?’

She rummaged through the pile; he put on his headphones and started swiping his beeping detector. He didn’t hear as the sand rushed from beneath her feet. He didn’t see her descend in a grainy vortex of pottery and peril. As the sinkhole opened, the beeping increased. He turned to share his discovery, to realise, too late, that he was also being sucked through the untimely hourglass.

Her blue linen dress was hitched up and crumpled; he landed next to her, closer than had been comfortable recently.

‘Wow, some ride.’

‘Really, this is all just fun for you.’

‘Kind of exciting, no.’

‘No. How are we going to get out?’

‘Get out. This might be my big find, the thing’s beeping for base metal. Could be gold.’

As their eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, they noticed an opening behind them.

‘This might be a way out, up to the cliffs.’ He squeezed through and Helen followed. Shafts of sunlight, from the rocky ceiling, polka-dotted the twelve clay figures, which now surrounded them; jeweled eye-sockets shone from each guardian. In the centre was a stone sarcophagus; a gold death-mask adorned the head.

‘Don’t you see, Adam? It’s a necropolis, a city of the dead.’

Precious eyes glared at him. Oblivious, Adam grasped his trophy. Helen turned back, just as the rumbling started.

The light changed as the figures rocked, sand closed the holes in the rocky canopy, dousing the light. Helen scrambled back through the entrance; a falling rock eclipsed Adam’s escape.

‘You have to help me.’ He pleaded.

‘You’ve made your choice. Treasure your prize, Adam, then ask yourself: Who do you think you are?’

 

Challenge 103

The Iron Writer Challenge 103

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 102 Champion

Steph Mineart

The Authors:

Richard Russell, Vance Rowe, Aaron Carlson

The Judges:

Dani J Caile, A. Francis Raymond, Mamie Pound, Lee Cox

The Elements:

iron handcuffs

Iron Handcuffs
Barn owls
A light bulb salesperson
A Bumper sticker

Post your guess who will win in the comments

(and tell us why!)

The Barn Owl Horror

Vance Rowe

He dreaded going on blind dates. He never knew of whom he was going to meet, or in some cases, what… he was going to meet. The last woman he met turned out to have a fetish with barn owls. He should have realized something was up when she showed up at the restaurant wearing a sweater with a large barn owl on the front of the sweater and it had large, blue, sparkling eyes.

The dinner went well and he was impressed with her up to this point. The night went very well, well enough for him to accept the offer of going to her home for a night cap. However, one he entered her home, he wished he hadn’t. There were barn owls everywhere the eye could see. They were stuffed, made of wood, made of ceramic, painted on canvas, and even in framed photographs hanging on the walls. Every wall. However, when she excused herself to get into something more comfortable and returned wearing a barn owl costume, he ran from the house and called her a freak, among other names.

As he drove to the restaurant, he was slightly amused by a bumper sticker he saw on the car in front of him. It read:

I MAY BE SLOW BUT I AM AHEAD OF YOU!

“Not anymore,” he said to himself, with arrogance, as he passed the car. The woman he met at the restaurant was a breath of fresh air to him. She was smart, beautiful, and she sells vintage and oddly shaped light bulbs. Being a buff of historical things, he was extremely anxious to see her collection. He was invited to her home and he gladly accepted. While they enjoyed a glass of brandy, she took him around to show him the collection of her light bulbs and then the magazine that she had made, of the light bulbs she has for sale. He pointed to a couple that he was interested in purchasing.

The night went well. Well enough to take it to the next level.

“I also have a collection of antique handcuffs, if you are interested,” she said with a wink.

They went into her bedroom and she helped him undress and then produced a pair of iron handcuffs from the mid-1800’s. When he lay down in the bed, she cuffed him to the bed and told him that she would return momentarily. When she returned, he looked at her in horror. She was dressed in a barn owl costume and told him that it was her sister that he recently shunned. The sister then entered the bedroom and she was dressed the same.

His fight for freedom was stopped by a needle to the arm. Slowly, he felt himself slip away into unconsciousness. When he awoke, he found himself in a large cage and his body was covered in owl feathers, that were super glued to his entire body. He then wept as he saw the two women dressed as barn owls and dancing around the cage as they made barn owl noises and laughed maniacally.

He dreaded going on blind dates.

The StationRichard Russell

Richard Russell

The old barn came with the property. I wasn’t sure if it was worth keeping or not. “If it was going to be a danger,” I thought, “I ought to tear it down.”

That day, it was nice outside on the northern border of Georgia for that time of year. So I strolled across the pasture to see for myself what kind of shape the old barn was in. It was still standing; that said something for it.

From all appearances, it looked to be a stable for animals; there were stalls and a hay loft. As I explored one of the stalls, I kicked something metallic. Reaching down, I picked up a pair of old iron handcuffs. “What an odd thing to find in a barn,” I thought, bringing them back to the house.

Within a week, there was a knock on my door. A large, elderly, black gentleman stood before me, selling light-bulbs. Inviting him inside, we talked a little about light-bulbs until he noticed the handcuffs on the end table. “Where’d you find these?” he asked.I explained I had discovered them inside the old barn out back.

His eyes grew wide, and his voice perked up, “Do ya mind if I take a look inside your barn, Sir?”

We weren’t out there 10 minutes when he discovered several more pairs of handcuffs. As he poked around, he found some short pieces of chain, as well.

“This barn was a station on the underground railroad,” he told me, explaining it was used as a safe house to help runaway slaves get to freedom. A secret system of sympathetic people provided hiding places for slaves along the way north to freedom.

He turned to me, saying emphatically, “This barn needs to be preserved in the National Register for Historic Places.”

Then he told me I should have a couple light bulbs in the barn to provide some heat, which would help attract barn owls. I had no livestock to bring warmth to the structure. He told me barn owls, which also traveled in the cover of night, were a sign of encouragement to runaway slaves. Because barn owls can see in total darkness, slaves felt they, too, could see their way through the dark times they were going through. He added that since barn owls had exceptional hearing and discernment of their surroundings. Knowing this, slaves would feel encouraged to discern and navigate their way through their unknown situation.

As we strolled back to the house and he got into his car, he reiterated, “You get that barn preserved, and get some owls to nest in there!”

I never saw him again, but I couldn’t forget the bumper sticker on his car: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Whenever I look at the old barn, I think of what it must have been like for a slave, running for his life,   totally at the mercy of strangers, trusting God for his freedom.

The InventorAaron Carlson

Aaron Carlson

“What is it?” she whispered.

“I dunno,” came his response.

The two children were huddled together behind a large, ash-covered waste bin emblazoned with stickers reading “Stop War” and “Say ‘No’ to the Nuclear Option”.

“Well, where’d ya get it, Dee?” she pressed impatiently.

The day was dark, and damp ash rained from the cloud-choked sky.

“The Inventor,” he replied, quiet as breath. “He gave it to me when he delivered mama’s light bulbs.”

She mouthed the name in awe. “The Inventor? That crazy ol’ man who lives on the edge of the Wasteland with all them owls?”

Dee nodded vigorously.

“I never seen him.”

“What do ya mean you never seen him, Ell?” he hissed.

“Well, papa says we don’t need no light bulbs, but… I think we just can’t afford ’em.”

Dee ignored her confession, and she frowned at his dismissal.

“He’s old – I mean real old. And dirty. He’s got black rain dried in every wrinkle on his old face, and he wears these big goggles that makes his eyes look all buggy. His hair is white and long and dry, like rusty wire.”

Ell was captivated, her eyes wide and sparkling – wanting fires of wet wood.

“And he clinks when he walks, on account of these metal bracelets he wears. He don’t never talk, neither, just sells people stuff.”

“So why’d he give you this?” she asked, brandishing a finger at the device.

“Dunno. But he made this big wink,” – Dee gave her an exaggerated impression, which brought a smile to her dirty face – “and slipped it into my pocket when mama wasn’t looking.”

“So,” she lead, lowering her voice. “How does it work?”

“Dunno,” he repeated. “It’s got these things on the side, though.”

His ash-stained fingers fumbled with the black rectangle, poking and prodding the buttons until a crackling erupted from it.

“Before the war, I was an engineer,” the device sputtered. “And I thought I would be safe.”

A deep breath.

“I was wrong. Only months into it, I was drafted into a unit of military scientists tasked with improving the efficiency of nuclear weapons. At first, I refused, but they threatened my family.”

A stifled sob.

“I had no choice.”

A breath.

“After a while, I defected, and was imprisoned. When we lost – humanity lost – the war, I escaped and returned home, but I never found my family. It’s been 35 years without them. I’d very much like to see them again. To the listener of this tape, I leave my remaining light bulbs to distribute freely and equally. They should illuminate many lives for a few months.”

Dee and Ell locked eyes – deep wells of mixed emotion.

“Live in the light, but never forget the darkness,” the voice continued. “Rebuild, but never forget the ruin.”

Another deep breath.

“Okay. It’s time for me to go.”

The two children sat in stunned silence, when Ell’s face suddenly beamed beneath the layers of grime and filth.

“I can’t wait to tell papa!”