Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

She was six, the first time I saw her climb out of the canyon and cross the fields. At the fence, she bent her body sideways to slip through the wires, one leg at a time.

As she approached, I smiled and reached my stone hand gently down. She hopped onto it without hesitation, eyes wide as I lifted her up to sit on the grass that covered my lap.

“You’re warm!” she exclaimed.

“I come from deep in the earth. It is warm there,” I explained.

“Like lava?”

“Sort of.”

Her pony-tailed hair was the color of tree bark after rain. Her face, like the moon, gazed up at mine.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“I do not have a name,” I said. “If you want, you can call me Carry.”

“That’s a nice name,” she said. “My name is Suzanne. You can call me Annie.”

A tooth was missing from her smile.

“I like you, Miz Carry.”

I hugged her with the folds of my gown. “I like you, too.”

She nestled in, tugging ferns around herself like a blanket.

“My mama is gone,” she said.

“I kno…

Found Objects

Without its diamonds, it was a beet-hued hunk of junk, an Americana tchotchke.

Stolen, never recovered, the news had said.

Dialing, she held the Liberty Bell Ruby to the sunlight.

“Larry,” she said, “you’re not gonna believe what I just got at a yard sale for seven bucks.”

Writing Prompt: Include the words ruby and seven

Break Time

The wall clock clicked over to 2:00 AM. Break time.

Normally, I took my food and my biology textbook to the picnic tables behind the warehouse, where I could study by the floodlights. But tonight, rain pummeled the steel roof. I dropped into a plastic chair in the break room and removed my sandwich from its paper sack.

Whoops and hollers pierced the low hum of the vending machine. Through the break room’s windows, I saw Nick, driving the forklift, and Tyler, perched on its prongs. Motor buzzing, the forklift rocketed past the door. "Yeeee-haw!" Tyler bellowed as they screeched around the corner.

I exchanged looks with Shirley and Rhonda. If it was a typical night, the boys would race the forklift down every aisle of the warehouse, gaining speed on the straightaways, taking each corner as fast as they could without tipping over. Then one of them would fork-lift the other one up to the highest shelf, where he’d grab the rope they'd tied there and swing down in an arc, Tar…

Hiking the Paper Trail

Paper is obsolete now, right? We have e-books. We have Docusign. We have online newspapers, magazines, annual reports, birthday cards, and, of course, e-mail.

OK, it's not obsolete yet. But even Luddites like me have embraced the digital age. My one holdout: I can’t quit paper books. And getting mail is still fun, even though nobody except my mom mails me anything anymore.

The older I get, the less paper I want cluttering up my life. File folders are bulky; storing them is annoying. Bills pile up on surfaces and are easier to pay online. Even our beloved books are a burden to cart around; we did a book purge during our last move and it felt oddly freeing.

Then there's the environmental impact. Hanging out at home during the pandemic has made it clearer to me than ever how many dead trees dwell in my house.

So, yesterday, after receiving my umpteenth piece of snail mail from Computershare, I took myself to their website to switch to online statements.

Some companies (naturally…

Missives from Bizarro-Land, Day 80

Here in Cook County, Illinois, the staying-at-home thing has gotten old. So old. Geriatric. If I have to attend one more Zoom call, I may run screaming out of the house, strip off, and run naked down the block. Jail? Why not. It would break up the monotony!

I haven’t quite gained the “COVID nineteen,” but nevertheless, our homemade ice cream and bread and cocktails are making their presence felt around my midsection. The Girl Scout cookies went extinct weeks ago. Can we please take a moment to praise the heroic inventor of Spandex?

Speaking of fashion, we gave up on buying disposable masks since they were sold out everywhere. So we found an internet how-to and made masks out of old socks. They look just as amazing as you’d expect an old sock across your face to look.

I’m still taking all the precautions. Well, except in grocery store aisles, where it’s impossible to stay six feet apart, but you have no choice because all the home-delivery slots are booked. And on the bike path, which…

Rapport in Row 17 (microfiction)

“And I’ve never been the same,” I concluded, sighing.

Next to me, in the window seat, the dog looked at me with big, brown, soulful eyes. “Rough,” she said.

Only she had acknowledged my pain, hadn’t tried to explain it away. I smiled at my new best friend.

Prompt: Tell us a story that includes an animal where there shouldn’t be one

How Sweet the Sound (microfiction)

Something moved in the shadows. It loosened itself from the mud where it had lain buried for sixty years. Rising, it swirled, taking form. From its center, a fiddle’s tune sprang forth, leaping and dancing like a candle flame.

In the rocking chair, the old woman smiled, tapped her foot, and hummed along.