Grounded

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Where did you find it?”

The boy’s face reflected his struggle: to tell the truth would be to admit he’d been doing what he oughtn’t, but to withhold the truth could mean that what needs to happen, won’t.

The woman waited. Integrity was best cultivated by one’s own appreciation of the internal equilibrium that is restored by accepting the inherent benefit of right versus wrong, and not by shaming or attempting to compel it via fear of punishment.

She knew, of course, that he’d been out of bed, and on a night when he’d already been grounded for breaking his sister’s carpentry project. All the more reason, she thought, to let him find a place to dig himself out of a hole of misdemeanors.

Some children tended to break rules all the time. Her son did not. Or at least not without what one could usually understand as good reason. That the nine-year-old had refused to say why he’d demolished Liz’s contraption, and that he did not argue when he’d been sent to his room, told her there was already more to the story than what he was willing to tell her.

The moment lingered. She let it stretch.

“Outside,” he said. He lifted his eyes to her, having crossed the Rubicon.

Displeased as she was that he broke curfew, she was proud of him for finding the courage to admit it.

“I see,” she nodded and raised an eyebrow in direction of his cupped hands.

“I had to save it.” Timidity was gone now that truth was set in motion. “Liz said she was going to put it in her new cage and keep it. But it is not a pet, and it is hurt and it cannot fly and something was going to come and eat it.”

The boy’s eyes were bright with tears of righteous defiance. “I don’t care if you ground me till I’m, like, a hundred. He needed help!”

The bird wriggled clumsily in the boy’s palms and the child’s young face crumbled in uncertainty. “But … um … before you send me to my room for forever, can you please please drive me to the vet?”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt

 

 

Pharaohsaurus

Pharaohsaurus NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

“It looks like a pharaoh,” the boy commented.

“Hmm …” the girl leaned her elbows on the display case to take a photo. Dinosaurs weren’t Pharaohs, but her little brother was obsessed with anything Egyptian, so it was easier to agree. Took long enough to drag him out of that wing of the museum and into what she really wanted to see.

“Do you think the pharaohs saw one of these and it gave them the idea?”

She sighed. “There were no dinosaurs left at the time of pharaohs.”

“It’s not what I meant!” His nudge made her take a photo of a piece of plaster instead of the fossil bones. “Maybe they found something like this one.”

“Stop it!” She hissed. They’d be told to leave if they fought.

“Sorry.” He was, only sort of. “Is it called a ‘pharaohsaurus’?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Well, it should!”

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Museum in 147 words

 

 

What If?

Photo prompt © Ceayr

 

“Are you sure this is the house?”

“It says 345.”

“What if it’s the wrong number?”

“It’s not.” She unfurled a sweaty fist to show him the piece of paper and its slightly smudged pen marks. “It says right here.”

“What if you wrote it down wrong?” His eyes met hers, mirroring her apprehension and amplifying the seeds of doubt that tightened shoots of worry in her stomach.

She shook her head, courage evaporated.

It was one thing to flee their miserable surroundings. Another entirely to knock on the door of the father who’d rejected them even before they were born.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Perpetuity

a channel of water flowing out to sea, with the sun reflecting on the water.

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“You know,” she said, “this will be home.”

I looked around. Marsh and bog and semi-dry patches that high tide or rain were sure to turn completely water logged. It looked a misery.

“It will, too,” she added, even though I hadn’t said a word. She always knew to read my body’s thoughts, even when I voiced no words and moved not a muscle.

Some days it made me hate her. For my utter lack of privacy.

Other days I felt indebted beyond measure for not having to find ways to explain when words had never been accessible enough to match my thoughts with meaning. And for being seen by her when no one else seemed able to or cared to try.

“Wanna know how?” Fiona pushed a heavy lock of hair off of her eye and I knew then that she already had a plan, and that the plan was sounder than the muddy ground we stood on. I knew that gesture, that flowing move of clear-eyed determination that carried with it more than just a touch of crazy. For neither one of us was sane, but Fiona was nuts enough to get us out of scrapes I did not see a way out of. Somehow my sister, younger by three minutes and wiser by ten decades, thought ahead in moves others did not appear capable of anticipating. It had saved us, more than once, of certain death.

She was about to do so now.

“How?” I asked, though I knew she didn’t need me to.

“Stilts.”

She yanked a twig out of the soggy ground and scratched a diagram into the patch of godforsaken earth in the end of nowhere anybody, that an hour earlier I did not know existed, let alone that it belonged to us by ancestry through crumbling deeds that no one since an ancient relative had made use or taken any heed of.

“They thought the place too wet,” my sister noted as the outline of an elevated house rose like a phoenix from the lines she etched into the dirt. “But not Friar Felix. He saw the same potential that I see. The fish and clams and seaweed. The crabs. The cattails by the spring that makes the stream that gurgles out to the sea. A place to be.”

She glanced up at me and the hazel in her eyes reflected the sun’s rays along with something far older. Like a memory not of hers that nonetheless also held on to our own desperate need for belonging.

“I don’t know if he knew, Finley, but Friar Felix had bequeathed the deed to this land to his sister’s children, and to their children’s children in perpetuity.”

My sister turned her gaze onto the water and her voice dropped to a whisper in the wind.

“We are those children’s children’s children, Finley. This is our home. It will be home. You’ll see.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

The Fifth

Me-age10mos-story telling

Me, telling stories at 10 months

 

Fifth of seven, all girls, I was born

Telling tales.

Far enough to duck rules

For first, middle, or last,

I grabbed place

To be me

And held on

Talking fast.

 

As what shouldn’t be

Grew

And real life wove

Impossible,

Words remained

Nonetheless

In my soul

In my brain,

To be clasped

And sustain

Life and joy

Times again.

 

 

For Terri’s Sunday Stills Challenge: Fifth

 

Fraud Code

black and white childhood children cute

Photo: Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

She caught her sister’s eye and an unspoken understanding passed between them.

They’d perfected their “Fraud Code” through years spent in the shadow of a charlatan, and it took nothing more than a gaze for them to signal – and validate to each other – recognition of ‘another one.’

Their childhoods’ costs aside, at least they could sniff out similar quacks from afar.

 

 

For the Weekly Writing Prompt: Charlatan in 61 words

 

 

Outdoor Sunday


Photo prompt: © Dale Rogerson 

 

“This is perfect,” Juliette leaned back onto her elbows and let the sound wash over her.

“Uhhumm…” Doug scraped mud off his pantleg. His fingers yearned for his phone but he had almost no battery left. He wondered for the hundredth time how long before they returned to the car.

Juliette smiled. She knew Doug found nature torturous. The quiet bored him. He disliked pebbles, creepy-crawlers, wind, and grass-stains.

She also knew her brother tolerated their periodical “Outdoor Sunday” just because he loved her … And because he understood better than anyone how much she’d lost when floods took the homestead.

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Good Enough

PHOTO PROMPT © J.S. Brand

 

“Do you really think you can do it?”

I nodded into my coffee but my heart fluttered an I-don’t-know.

“You’ll ruin the whole thing.” Stacey stuffed the last bite of bagel in her mouth and grabbed her bag, leaving me the clean up. How symbolic.

I rinsed the pot and the grounds swirled like time into the sink.

My eyes gazed out the window. We hadn’t touched Dad’s stuff. The almost-finished totem. His tools.

“You’re good at this,” he’d once said.

His praise had sustained me, but was I good enough to complete the carving that now he never would?

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

She Checks, Mate.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

 

Matt tapped his lip and danced his foot but I knew it had nothing to do with planning his next move.

“Is your mom home?” he grumbled.

“Yep.”

“So?”

“She’s not going anyplace,” I answered.

“Not like she understands any of this.” Matt was too proud to admit that her presence affected his concentration.

“Tammy’s staying.”

He scowled but must’ve heard the edge in my voice, and dropped it.

No one messed with my little sister. Nonverbal doesn’t mean stupid. Also, Tammy was memorizing all his moves. She’d show me, and next time Matt and I play, I’d win.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

An Arrow Spent

boats trees SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

She used to splice the water like an arrow, undeterred by swells.

She’d always been better than him, though he never admitted it and she was too proud to brag and sometimes too overconfident.

They pretended playful competitions but those inevitably turned into dogged races that left them near exhaustion. Luke even capsized once, far from shore. He was upset by her gaining on him and so tired that all he managed was to slap the water with his oar and spin his boat into the wide belly of a wave. Nearly spent herself, she barely managed to help him into hers.

She’d give everything to race him again.

She gazed into the bay. She could no longer row. Her boat rested, overturned. Perhaps it kept her brother company. He, too, was beached, six feet below.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Arrow in 135 words