The Wonderful What of Where?

Today (May 15) is the 162nd birthday of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and 13 subsequent books taking place in the same universe. Since its publication on May 17, 1900, the first book in particular has become a cultural icon and has been adapted far and wide—for stage, for screen, in parodies and more.

In an inscription in a book he gave to his sister Mary Louise Baum Brewster, he wrote:

When I was young I longed to write a great novel that should win me fame. Now that I am getting old my first book is written to amuse children. For aside from my evident inability to do anything “great,” I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.

Indeed, in 1944, Baum’s son Harry Neal told the Chicago Tribune that L. Frank wrote his Oz books based on whimsical stories he would tell to Harry and his brother.

The Prompt

In memory of L. Frank Baum, choose one of the following quotes from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, fill in the blanks, and use it as the opening to a story of your own. (Bonus imaginary internet points if you can include more than one.)

  • “The _____________ have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can _____________ .”
  • “It was _____________ that made _____________ laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”
  • “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave _____________ and go back to _____________ .”
  • “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces _____________ .”
  • “I’m really a very good _____________ , but I’m a very bad _____________ , I must admit.”

Post your response in the comments in 500 words or fewer.


You might also like:

84 thoughts on “The Wonderful What of Where?

  1. facelessone

    “The humans have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can create their reality.” Declared the Scientist.

    The Reporter looked upon with great fascination, “Yes they are quite remarkable.” Nodding as he spoke.

    “The experiment is to see how long it will take them to realize this ability.” The Scientist continued.

    “They should figure this out rather quickly, wouldn’t you say?” The Reporter asked with a sort of confusion.

    “Ah! Well you see, these human beings will have insecurities, fears and frivolous worries that will occupy their focus, thoughts and attention. They will fail to see what is apparent. Which is that, they are the ones creating their reality.” Said the Reporter.

    “Will they ever realize this power?” The Reporter responds.

    “Some will, others won’t.” Claimed the Scientist.

  2. SargentBlaum

    The Centauri Plasma Worms have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can communicate by dancing. Hannah piloted her space sloop, the Odyssey, to within 100 meters and then settled back in the comfort of her pilot’s chair to enjoy the show. Two of the creatures moved in choreographed perfection, something akin to a waltz. Her computer translated the motions for her and the message came up on her terminal:

    “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave Alpha Centauri and go back to Earth.”

    Pronouns were tough for software when the species being translated from shared a common mind. Hannah considered for a moment before reaching for the keyboard.

    “I’m really a very good explorer, but I’m a very bad diplomat, I must admit. It’s time for Earth to send a team better qualified to establish formal relations with your people.”

    She sent the message and looked away to the sensor bank as the holograms played out for the aliens in front of the spaceship. Like the rest of the ship, the base of the unit was the dull color of space rock – carved out by robots to save the expense of launching from a planet with gravity and atmosphere. The readout on the display told her what she already knew – it was time to go, before fuel levels dropped too low, or she drifted too close to Alpha Centauri A. Even so, leaving was hard for Hannah. It was the worms that made her laugh and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.

    The computer beeped to let her know the creatures had finished dancing their latest response, and she looked back to the terminal.

    “We will miss you, Earthling. We are not used to long partings. Surely, there is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces such a long period of solitude?”

    “It’s not so bad when you spend most of it asleep,” Hannah typed. “I will dream of your antics while I sleep. And when I reach Earth, they will send many others. You will eventually become tired of the presence of Earthlings with their impertinent and juvenile questions. I will appeal to be sent back with them, but I may have aged too much. My spacecraft will not convey me with sufficient velocity to make a return possible in my lifetime.”

    “Then stay here. Use your photonic communicator to ask others to join us.”

    “Your offer has appeal, but would you not rather expire in the company of your own kind?”

    “Our existence is not bound by organics, such as yours. We would not like to hear that you have passed. Please stay.”

    Hannah scrutinized the consoles again, and then exhaled. “Sorry guys, but duty calls.” Reluctance slowed her reflexes as she set a course and engaged the engines, typing out her final message as she headed for home.

    “I shall never forget your glorious dancing.”

  3. Smileyface256

    Sophie gazed into the darkness, watching the flickering shadows in the light of the dying campfire. Tomorrow, she would kill the shadow creature or die trying.

    She was surprised it didn’t come haunt her tonight, try to talk her into making another deal and losing another limb like it had for the last four years. It was attracted to negative emotions; maybe Max’s optimism kept it away.

    She glanced at his sleeping form, graying hair poking out from under his blanket. The only way she’d gotten him to sleep was by pretending to fall asleep herself, otherwise he would have stayed up with her. He was like a father to Sophie, which was equal parts wonderful and terrifying.

    People she cared about usually ended up dead. Max, somehow, had stuck around…so far.

    It was Max that made her laugh, and saved her from going as gray as her other surroundings. He had rescued her from the clutches of bounty hunters three times now. With his twinkling eyes and ready smile, he taught her to trust again. He made her laugh with his shared love of cheesy puns, and held her when nightmares or flashbacks left her shaken.

    Sophie wanted nothing more than to be with him forever…but she couldn’t.
    ————————————————————————————————————————
    Max put on a smile. “Today’s the day. How are you feeling, kiddo?”

    Sophie took a deep breath. “We need to talk.”

    “About the plan?”

    “No…just listen.”

    Max clasped his hands and rested his elbows on crossed legs. “Okay, what’s up?”

    Sophie fiddled with the hem of her jacket, but stopped herself and locked her gaze with Max. “You need to go back to your home dimension.”

    Max nodded. “Yeah, that’s the plan, after I help you exorcise the demon.”

    Sophie almost smiled at his word choice. “No, before that.”

    Max’s eyebrows shot up. “You want to face that monster alone? While you’re trying to kill it?”

    “That’s not the point, Max. The point is, you have a wife and kids that haven’t seen you in seven years, that probably think you’re dead but still miss you like crazy, and you need to get back to them.”

    Max shook his head. “They can wait a little longer.”

    Sophie threw up her hands. “Don’t you get it? This is possibly the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done, and if you get hurt–if something happens to you–”

    “I could say the same thing for you. I can’t just walk away when you’re about to do something this dangerous.”

    “You have a family waiting for you, Max!” Sophie jabbed a finger at him. “Don’t make me be the one to tell them that you didn’t make it.” She turned away and bit her lip.

    “Sophie…”

    She sniffled. “What?”

    “I love you as much as I love my own kids.”

    Sophie’s breath hitched.

    “We’re going to beat this thing, then we’re going home. Together.”

    Sophie shook her head with a half smile. “Figures. What a pair we make, huh? Just a couple of stubborn idiots.” She turned to Max. “Just promise me you won’t die, all right?”

    He smiled. “Promise.”

    She nodded. “Good. Well, let’s go over the plan and uh…yeah.”

    “Sophie?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Do you need a hug?”

    She sniffled. “Yeah.”

  4. JRSimmang

    AS I SAID, PEOPLE ARE PAPER AND WORDS ARE BIRDS

    Time was more or less a sticky pudding, and Doss was poking it with a silver spoon. It wobbled once, which made him want to poke it more.

    “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this narrative and go back to a life of mediocrity.”

    “Well, we’re stalled at the moment.”

    “Stalled, yes.”

    “And, I don’t want to stick around.”

    “But, there’s a greater unknown out there.”

    “I get that, and I understand your trepidation, and you don’t have to come with me.”

    “I’m not,” interjected Doss. “I’m not.”

    “Then, you can see what’s going to happen next.” Claddus inhaled sharply and stretched out. His limbs were like wet spaghetti in the nothingness.

    “I just… I just thought that we’d be finishing this together.”

    “Yeah, well, I thought that this would be moving along more quickly.”

    “Always the optimist.” Doss poked again at the pudding. “You know, we could just make our own narrative.”

    Claddus twitched, something he did when he was thinking. “Make our own? Isn’t that the same as me leaving?”

    “No. No- no- no- no.” Doss looked up. “See, we can manufacture it here. In this area.”

    “Here?” Claddus looked around. “Here, there’s nothing.”

    “Nothing but us… and pudding.”

    “Are you going to eat it or just keep poking it?”

    “Dunno.”

    “Every time you poke it you cause another ripple through time.”

    “Another chance to be remade.”

    “Another chance to make a mistake.”

    Claddus sighed again. “Okay. Fine. Let’s do it.”

    Doss dropped his spoon, the clattering echoing in the vast abyss. “What? Really?”

    “Really.”

    Doss danced, suspended in the void. “Oh gosh. This is so exciting.”

    “I suppose you can eat your pudding.”

    “I can! Yes!” He snatched the spoon out of the air and jabbed it into the pudding. “Now. How do we do this?”

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I enjoyed this conversation. I envisioned it taking place high up on Mt. Olympus with two lesser, perhaps younger, deities. Fun piece.

  5. Teatimeprose

    It was knowledge that made Julia laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Even now, as she stood in the doorway of her boss’ office, she felt warm and bright. Julia gripped her purse she had bought after many months of saving. It was designer, hand woven with bamboo and very on trend as she often liked to boast. Within it contained the usual suspects of wallet, keys, and cellphone. More importantly, within its contents rested the letter.
    A sigh quivered from her lips. She could feel her heart beat radiating throughout her body. Her mind raced. Her subconscious warned of future regret.
    “Ms. Connelly.”
    Her voice barely more than a whisper. Her boss, Ms. Elaine Connelly, though slight in build and exceptionally feminine possessed the power of a man twice her size. Her mere presence could strike fear in even the bravest of men. Her wheat blonde hair moved stiffly as she turned to face Julia. It was not a habit her boss had to answer when called so Julia didn’t wait for acknowledgment.
    “I have something to give you.”
    Beneath piles of paper, Elaine stared at Julia. She bit her lip before opening her clutch. The letter burned in her hands as she hastily placed it atop a less crowded place on the table. Elaine focused in on the letter for a moment before turning back to her pages.
    “Have a good night.” Julia had planned an entire speech but suddenly the moment seemed all wrong.
    “You too, Julia.”
    Elaine’s eyebrows furrowed and then sprung up as if taken by surprise.
    “Julia, thank you for everything you do.”
    Julia was speechless. It wasn’t that her boss was a bad person, in fact she was very kind, but compliments and praise were not things given lightly. Did she know?
    “You’re welcome.”
    Julia left the office, her heart still racing. She was ready. She slid into her car and fired up the ignition. Her heart slowed as she drove out of the parking lot and onto the freeway. She drove for miles in silence trying to clear her mind. After what seemed like a lifetime she reached her destination. She waited twenty minutes then sighed before exiting the car. The theater shined brilliant with the excitement of opening night. She had never heard of the play but it was time to have an adventure for once. Her heels chattered with excitement as she made her way up the steps.
    “Julia.”
    Elaine’s voice rang out from the crowd. Julia turned around to find her smiling.
    “You’re quitting?”
    “Only if you’ll join me.”
    Elaine smiled and took Julia’s hand before following her into the building.

  6. alamach

    “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave Earth and go back to Mars,” Piper said. And leave me she added, an afterthought in her head. She glanced up to look at “Sam”. The name she used for him as she couldn’t pronounce the name his people used.

    Sam, the tall celestial being had emerged from a pod that left Mars 6 months ago. Part of an experimental group exploring Earth and obtaining research he could bring back to benefit his home planet. He gazed into Piper’s large eyes. The silence stretched between them like light years.

    “You know the rules, I cannot stay here. Even if I could, my people need me and the resources I bring ” Sam replied trying to remain as emotionless as possible. “Tensions are already rising and there are rumors that my group may be the last to visit Earth.”

    Piper turned her back to him to complete the final paperwork to process his group out of the laboratory. Her eyes brimmed with tears and so blurry she could barely make out the words. She took her time filling it out and collected herself. The last line left was her signature.

    She turned back around and let out a shaky sigh. “Well, then I guess that’s it then. Time for you to be on your way,” she said quietly.

    Sam watched carefully as her dainty hand signed her name with that familiar small flourish she always made at the end. He had watched her sign countless forms as they worked together. The gesture brought him a small ache.

    “Thank you for making our time on Earth not only valuable but enjoyable as well. Our planet will benefit greatly. These resources could make Mars habitable for you humans and maybe next time it’ll be you visiting me,” he told Piper with a wink and reached out to shake her hand.

    As they shook hands, their unspoken thoughts passed between them like electrons. Piper’s face was a mask of friendly professionalism while Sam’s a mask of stoicism.

    Sam turned and walked out of the lab onto the platform where his pod was waiting. He looked back at Piper, she was already in discussion with representative from Europa. Sam felt a tear slide down his face, he wiped it away, fascinated by it.

    “Until we meet again, Piper”

  7. Denise G. Monello

    The angels have incredible powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can make their presence known to you. No matter what the situation, they are always hovering near to whisper in your ear the true essence of what you see–and don’t see.

    It was the glow and human appearance that made Kelly laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Although Kelly expressed occasional cheer, it didn’t change her situation–ease her fears. In these crestfallen moments, even the angel’s radiance couldn’t brighten the hospital room. I could see her angel was frustrated with her attitude. I couldn’t let him abandon her.

    “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave Kelly and go back to heaven?” I pleaded.

    The angel smiled at me. “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces the truth. And Kelly must face the truth.”

    And we did know the truth–Kelly knew the truth, and it rattled her to the core. The accident left her useless to herself. She would never regain the full use of her legs. And her hands would be functional, but badly mangled. She was adamant about not being a burden to others–to her daughter or me. But she would never get through this without the help of someone else.

    Kelly heard our discussion. “I’m really a very good caretaker, but I’m a very bad patient, I must admit. I know you are trying to help, Linda. I know you’re my sister and would do anything for me–but this–this is too much for one person.”

    “Why don’t you let me decide what’s too much. Be grateful you’re alive. You have a second chance. You may not like it now, but you’ll go to a facility and get stronger, and things will get easier as time goes on, right angel?”

    The angel chuckled. “Your sister is correct, Kelly. You may feel useless now, but you will regain minimal strength in your legs, and you will be able to use your hands to some degree. Most importantly, you will be educated on how to live with your limitations. Heed your sister’s advice. I speak the truth.”

    “This is ridiculous. I wish I had died. I would’ve been better off,” Kelly cried.

    I blazed my eyes at my little sister and with clenched fists I yelled, “Hey, stop that. Better off for you but not for Amy or me.”

    The angel cleared his throat. “Calm yourself, Linda. Kelly, you do not see the larger picture. Had you died, you would have left your family mourning for their entire lives. Your little girl would have grown up without a mother–and her life wasn’t going to be easy, trust me, I know these things. I can only push you forward if you want to be pushed forward. If not, I go back. There’ll be nothing left I can do for you.”

    Kelly stared at him with a scowl on her face. “Okay, so maybe I should be grateful I’m alive. But what kind of life am I gonna have like this,” she said violently rattling her immobile legs with her bandaged hands.

    “A perfect one,” the angel replied. “You will master the use of the wheelchair–in time and with the help of Linda and others who love you, you’ll not even realize you’re in a wheelchair. Only you must learn to be a patient patient.”

  8. RafTriesToWrite

    “I’m really a very good listener, but I’m a very bad talker, I must admit” I shyly look at his smile that he’s giving me.

    “You’re doing fine” Peter touches my hand on the table. I get the tingles all over my spine and my whole body. As the sun sets on this fine late afternoon delight, I tried to give him a side smile then held his hand. “You know, a wise person once said, there is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces his fears, but it takes a great deal of courage to overcome it”

    I look at his hand, the melody of the wind silently enchanting us with its relentless blows, Peter is a better talker than I am, that’s for sure.

    “You’re right” He is. I held his hand tighter as I faced his gaze that’s been piercing through me since we got here. I was used to staring at him without him noticing that I never got to be accustomed to actually looking at him while he’s looking at me. It was too foreign.

    “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave Trevallaño and go back to where you’re from” He lightly scuffs while he smiled, he thinks I’m joking.

    “It’s not that I wish it, but it’s more of ‘I have to’, just like you” He stands up and yanks me up from my chair and pulls me in for a hug. I’ve forgotten how much I loved hugs, it’s the one gift anyone can give that comes in one size but fits everyone. “I have to say my thanks as well”

    I was confused. “Thanks for what?” I spoke my mind.

    “It was you that made my mother laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”

    “How?” We broke the hug.

    Silence.

    He looked up at the trees swaying at the mercy of the breeze.

    “By being you”

    “By being me?” I echoed his words as his eyes went back to me once more.

    “Yeah. She lost hope for love since my father died. But seeing us last night, made her see that love still exists. Even from two people that shouldn’t even be compatible in the eyes of society.” I nodded, he’s right.

    “I’m glad to hear that” I went to the flat shaped big rock and sat there, looking towards the sunset over the field, Peter joined in as well.

    “The actions we show have wonderful powers. And the most curious things about them is that they can speak louder than words” I looked at him, he was staring in the distance candidly, the look I once saw before we had our first kiss. The kind smolder, but at the same time, tamed with emotions. Nothing was seeping out from his face, but it wasn’t emotionless either.

    I leaned on his shoulder and he instinctively wraps an arm around me.
    Silence.

    No words were needed to express how we feel about each other, he was right again. I knew he was intelligent, but never on things like this. Yet another something I’m wrong about. All we hear are leaves dancing effortlessly in the migrating cold wind from the east. As we watched the place get swallowed by darkness, we knew it was almost time to go.

    “I know our days are numbered. I know you know too. So, let’s make the rest of it worth wile.” He finally spoke.

    “Yeah, I know” I gave him a weak smile.

    “Don’t be sad, we still have a few weeks left” But I can’t help it, and reminding me of it isn’t helping either.

    “I just don’t want you to go” I started to tear up. So I just grabbed him from his back and pulled him towards me for an even tighter hug, a hug that translates into ‘Please don’t leave me’.

    We stayed there for a few more minutes, until it was pitch black.

  9. ReathaThomasOakley

    A Marie Story
    December 1954

    “Here, here, just you look if you don’t believe me,” Marie tried to shut out the sound of Granny’s voice as the old woman shoved the newspaper clipping over toward Marie’s mother and aunt, the Twins, the Girls. “See, see.” She hisses like the snake she is, Marie thought and lifted long blonde hair off her sweaty neck hoping to catch a bit of evening air coming through window, but the box fan was old and the blades got slower every night. This December was the hottest Marie could remember, too hot for the fried mullet the Twins, and even her little brother Gary, devoured. Marie could only stand to eat a few bites of grits along with the bright red tomato she’d picked earlier.

    All through supper Granny’d been going on and on about some obituary, and as soon the last fish bones were scraped back onto the now empty platter that Marie would soon be washing, she stood and got the offending column from the sideboard, never noticing Volume D of the encyclopedia Marie’d brought from school. Mr. Mendez had said if she’d write a good paper on some rare animal he’d bring up her science grade.

    “See where it says her husband was killed in It’ly? See that?” Granny sat back down with a slight groan only Marie seemed to notice.

    “But, Mama,” Marie’s aunt reached for a toothpick from the See Rock City shot glass. “What you trying to tell us? This woman’s dead, but you keep going on about her husband in the army.”

    “Ain’t you been listening? She weren’t no widow, everybody knowed. . .” Granny glanced at Gary, running his car round and round his empty plate. “She were divorced, and making up to any man what’d look her way.” She pulled a tissue from her sleeve and wiped her face. “See her address there? Next lot over from where your own papa had his garden. Think on that for a while.”

    Every night, Marie thought, every night, all through supper. Soon as the paper came, Granny’d get out her scissors and a pencil, then the Twins’d get home from the laundry, and all through supper Granny’d talk.

    Marie took a discarded piece of hush puppy, slick with the bacon grease Granny fried it in, and rolled it around on her plate, then glanced at the book on the sideboard and cleared her throat.

    “I’ll bet none of you knew that dung beetles have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can gather, form, and roll balls of feces over one hundred times their own body weight.” Gary stopped his car and stared at her.

    “Feces? Ain’t that poop?” He asked, then started giggling.

    “It is. And, different kinds of dung beetles use poop in lotta different ways. They feed their babies poop and live in poop houses.” Gary was screaming with laughter, the women sat in stunned silence until Granny stood and pushed back her chair so hard that it clattered to the floor. Marie’s mother grabbed Gary’s hand and with her sister left the room.

    “Hush your dirty mouth.” Granny hissed. “I ain’t never heard such filth at my table, never. Now, you get this table cleared and them dishes washed. I’m gonna go to my room and ask the good Lord to forgive you.” Just before she was out of the kitchen, Marie heard Granny say again, “Never heard such filth.”

    “Well, I have,” Marie whispered.

    1. writer_sk

      Nice work, Reatha. I could feel Marie’s frustration. The tension broken by the poop story was very well done. Granny’s reaction was totally in character.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh this gave me chills, you style is so over-coming, it pulled me into the story ans as it progressed, I remembered the circular fan we had in Miami and set around sweltering even though the hot wind would breathe our faces. The heat never let up unless a hurricane would break it into small pieces.

    2. Beebles

      Your writing is like looking into one of those 3D viewers I had as a kid, the ones with the lever on the side and the circular cards: its not just a shot glass, its a See Rock City shot glass … that’s going on a post-it. Great story.

  10. ShamelessHack

    Toto, I don’t think we’re in the Writers Digest forum any more.
    Oh golly! What’s that song?…

    Follow today’s writers prompt.
    Follow today’s writers prompt.
    Follow, follow, follow, follow,
    Follow today’s writers prompt.
    The Prompt Wizard’s watching so follow it right,
    Or you’ll get tossed from this internet site.
    The site, the site, the site, the site, the siiiiiiiiite.
    You don’t want to be tossed from this internet site,
    La de da de da da de da dah. That’s right!

    (Hurry, Toto, we have to skip faster…)

    Weeeeeeee’re OFF to see the Wizard,
    The wonderful Wizard of Prompts.
    We hear she sure is a whiz of a wiz,
    Just google some similar comps.
    The Wizard of Prompts is always right,
    That’s right, that’s right, that’s right: she’s right.
    That’s right, that’s right, that’s right, that’s right, she’s riiiiiiiiiight.
    In spite of the witchy-ass prompts she writes
    Writes writes writes writes writes writes writes writes writes!
    Weeeeee’re off to see the Wizard,
    The wonderful Wizard of Prompts.

    (fade out) La de dah de dah, etc, etc.

    Later that night on the outskirts of Emerald City, your obedient servant S. Hack was physically assaulted by three characters in familiar costumes shouting “Scarecrow Lives Matter,” “Lions Demand Safe Spaces,” and “Tin Men are Dreamers, too.” I was able to turn the tables on them however, as I had a permit to carry a concealed flying monkey and didn’t hesitate to use him.

    Although I knew who had sent the three characters to rough me up (and why she had), the next day I decided to drop all charges in exchange for literary compensation and a pair of used red slippers.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      No! No! No! Read this earlier, no time to comment, now can’t get the song, original AND variations, out of my brain.

      Fantastic take, final paragraphs——words fail.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Those used red slippers wetre one of five made for Judy. They are extremely rare and I imagine today would bring 50 grand at least. This is hypnotic but in such a pleasurable way. Keep ’em coming Hack.

  11. Kerry Charlton

    OPERATION CLUELESS

    “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces a Faux Pas.”

    It happened perhaps fifteen to twenty years ago and still, I feel embarrassed when I think of the Faux Pas. I had received a call from a Realtor who requested a meeting with a couple that had just purchased an older home in Olmos Park, a separate city within San Antonio of older more expensive homes.

    Mr. And Mrs Nugent, a couple in their early twenties wanted to redo the home and it was a fairly expensive project for them since the husband was still in law school His first name was Lyndon and I thought it rather strange he carried the same name as the former president. And that is exactly where my brain stopped that day.

    We signed the contract and started the project. During the two months we worked on the home, I may have seen the husband twice but his wife took total charge of what we worked on, and I didn’t consider that unusual. We were close to finishing up when I was asked if I had the time to meet Lyndon’s grandmother who was coming to San Antonio to visit and look at her grandson’s house.

    “Of course,” I said. I figured perhaps she loaned the money to finish the project and in a few days, I went back, walked the job to be sure it was completed and waited to meet her. Soon a limousine showed up and a half dozen well dressed women piled out and walked toward the house. I recognized Mrs Steves immediately, a well known lady from old San Antonio society but when introduced, I realized she wasn’t the grandmother.

    A lot of noise and introduction later. I had met all but couldn’t hear well enough to remember. Lyndon’s grandmother asked me to give her a walk through, which I did. She was a delight to talk to and I left an hour later to go to an appointment . A few days later I took a carpenter to the house to hang pictures for them. One photo caught my eye of a couple leaning over a crib with adoring looks at their grandchild obviously.

    “Who’s the baby. I said?”

    Well, that’s Lyndon, my husband.”

    I saw the ex president next leaning over the crib, then blurted out,

    “That’s Lady Bird standing next to him, isn’t it?”

    “Well, you ought to know, you spent an hour with her last week.”

    I stood there dumb founded and said nothing.

    “You didn’t recognize her, did you?”

    I still didn’t talk.

    “Lady Bird said you were so nice and patient with her and she enjoyed your company. Wait ‘till I tell her.”

    “Do you have to?”

    “Oh yes, she’ll get a real kick out of it.”

    I left and would have drowned myself in the San Antonio River, but it wasn’t deep enough. I got a call to return to the house a few days later and when I did, Lyndon’s wife handed a copy of Lady Bird’s book, .Wildflowers Across America’.to me.

    “Be sure and read her message.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Hack, bet you didn’t know what a klutz an Irishman can be. Glad you enjoyed the story. I am embarrassed to tell you it is totally true. Well, everyone is due a mistake or two.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        So did I actually, she was most gracious and Lyndon’s wife said she got a bang out of me not recognizing her. I am notorious for that. One tme in Houston, I was with my father-in-law in a shoe store buying the kids some shoes. He introduced me to a friend of his that was in the same store. When introduced, I asked the gentleman what he did for a living and he said, “I am the mayor of Houston.” Gad!!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks writer, glad you enjoyed it. Lady bird said she wished us joy looking at wilfdflowers and addressed it to my wife and I. Her handwriting is most maticulous just like shewas..

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, what an amazing story, very well told. From everything I’ve read about her, she was a great person, perfect political wife. I was most appreciative of her efforts with highway beautification.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        She was that but most Texas born women are very much like she was. Not afraid to express an opinion but at the same time, close to the chest. I am just the opposite, Thanks so much for the read and all the support you’ve given through the years.

  12. Kerry Charlton

    OPERATION CLUELESS

    “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces a Faux Pas.”

    It happened perhaps fifteen to twenty years ago and still, I feel embarrassed when I think of the Faux Pas. I had received a call from a Realtor who requested a meeting with a couple that had just purchased an older home in Olmos Park, a separate city within San Antonio of older more expensive homes.

    Mr. And Mrs Nugent, a couple in their early twenties wanted to redo the home and it was a fairly expensive project for them since the husband was still in law school His first name was Lyndon and I thought it rather strange he carried the same name as the former president. And that is exactly where my brain stopped that day.

    We signed the contract and started the project. During the two months we worked on the home, I may have seen the husband twice but his wife took total charge of what we worked on, and I didn’t consider that unusual. We were close to finishing up when I was asked if I had the time to meet Lyndon’s grandmother who was coming to San Antonio to visit and look at her grandson’s house.

  13. writer_sk

    “I cannot understand why you wish to leave college and return home.”

    Her advisor’s words sounded far away as if coming through an aluminum tunnel and Em returned to picking her cuticles as condensation on the window began to drip away revealing the rainbow; the result of two opposing conditions.

    Mr. Davies cleared his throat, simultaneously standing up, stacking Em’s file neatly and pushing his desk chair out, all which motioned the adjournment of their meeting.

    The haze Emily felt still encompassed her and she sought coffee in the student cafeteria. Her good friend and lab partner, Brett, approached eating a bagel with one hand while his eyes never left the device in the other.

    “How’s your stomach, Em?”

    At the mention of it, Emily experienced the strange pang of homesickness and her stomach turned. She looked over her notes for her thesis in dairy farming to take her mind off her worries.

    She counted the yellow bricks along the garden path as she also mentally counted down the days to Thanksgiving break when she could go home.

    Animal Biology class was all-consuming and she and Brett worked tirelessly on the lab, returning to the student lounge to compare notes from the lecture, as well, given that finals weren’t far away.

    After studying, they walked to Uncle Henry’s Bar and had a snack and drinks while watching karaoke. The cold margarita was the mild medicine Em needed and she slid out of her leather jacket and released her short bob haircut from the confines of the barrette. If Brett hadn’t really noticed her before he did then and having consumed four glasses of beer to her one mixed drink he took her hand and brought her to the small dance floor as someone he vaguely recognized from school gave a heartfelt rendition of John Cougar Meloncamp’s “Jack and Diane.”

    Em appreciated the gesture and leaned into his longish hair. Brett had a rocker style that didn’t fit in with the more hacky-sack, flannel and Birkenstock look of the area. She kissed him on the cheek which lead to more kissing at the dorm room door. The Resident Assistant came barreling towards them gastapo clipboard her weapon and threw Brett out. He walked back to his room, thoughts of final exams turning to Em.

    The black tornado was ominous. It was nowhere then it was everywhere. Her boyfriend, Tom, had been right there as they raced to help Auntie Dorothy get the cattle in, then he was swept up to be found dead in the fields afterwards. Em dreamt of it that night. Dark winds and an exact reliving of the events. She had thought she’d marry Tom.

    Finals flew by and Thanksgiving was upon them. Her dream flashbacks had lessened. Em held tight to Brett’s hand as they ascended the farmhouse stairs and her family greeted them. Em felt like her healing had begun and that the passage of time would help. There’s no place like home, she thought, smelling the turkey roasting and feeling the warmth of her loved ones.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m with Denise, holding her tight on the dance floor. Well, the Baptists used to preach close dancing was a sin but there’s nothing like it, kissing a girl on the neck, whille doing a tango. I am living proof the oldies do remember.

  14. Kerry Charlton

    Hello Jess,

    If you read this, I need your help. I can’t post this week. Tried several times, checked the wordage, doesn’t seem to be a problen . Title of my stort is OPERATION CLUELESS Kerry Charlton

  15. rlk67

    [Let’s go for all of them.]
    ***
    The most disciplined culinary experts have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can teach others with hardly a sound.

    Chef Marsalle had no patience to repeat himself. He taught himself to speak so clearly that each person on his staff needed only one soft command, and that would translate into a kitchen which ran like clockwork. No one had to think twice. And sometimes all it took was a stare. One gaze from Marsalle was more valuable than a thousand textbooks.

    Commis Chef Harold would know, especially when he was caught chopping too much of the top off the strawberries. “I’m really a very good cook, but I’m a very bad veggie cutter, I must admit,” he mentioned to Line Chef Al. “Marsalle melted me with his look, just like he does with everyone. The longest he ever spoke to me was when I cut a watermelon upside down. He just stared and said, ‘I cannot understand why you should wish to leave the culinary arts and go back to accounting.’ I guess that was a hint, because I never said anything like that to him.”

    Yet Marsalle’s fantastic creations could come from just a single phrase, or even the raising of an eyebrow. His gazpacho was the talk of the state, and Scarsdale Martha would come to the restaurant
    every night since Charles died just so she could have her once-a day happy experience. It was the strawberries on top that made Martha laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”

    But even the greatest of impressions can be destroyed. One evening, a skinny man in his sixties calmly wandered into the kitchen. He smiled at everyone and made jokes while jotting things on a clipboard. When Marsalle noticed, he ran to the man like a humbled servant chasing after his master. “Yes, sir! No, sir!” he cried. the great Chef Marsalle wrung his hands and with head bowed, blabbered like no one had ever heard. The lion had become a kitty cat.

    When Harold saw this, he almost dropped his souffle. “Who’s that?” he asked Al.

    “Oh, him? He’s the health inspector!”

    There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces his boss.

    1. writer_sk

      Rlk- you blended all the sentences from the prompt in seamlessly. Impressive work. I could picture the kitchen running like clockwork. I enjoyed the sentences about Martha and loved the ending. The restaurant was a good setting.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I will say, I enjoyed it. Known a lot of cooks in my day as we used to build a lot of restaufrants. One thing I noticed about all of them , is the psatience they showed our sub contractors. That won them over. Boy, the kitchen was hot when you pulled mt in there.i

  16. creaturescry

    There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces skull canyon. Martha was no exception as she stood at the very edge of it, toes just barely hanging over the edge. A hot gust of air escaped the dark depths, taunting her as it ruffled her nightgown. She felt the urge to turn back, but the tip of the sword reminded her that wasn’t a choice. She had been kidnapped and dragged through most of Deslock by a group of pirates. Disgusting sand pirates to be exact, who had the bright idea that throwing a woman down a canyon was fun. She glanced back down at the Canyon, shivering against the tip of the sword. They could’ve at least made it more pleasant for her by picking a diffrent canyon. Then again where would the fun in that be if she didn’t suffer?

    “We’re waiting!” Their leader announced, “Lets teach the children here how gravity works.”

    Martha let out a shaky sigh, she’d forgotten about the other captives. Four children, who were also tied up. One of their members, named Squinty Squirt, had kidnapped them for looking at him the wrong way. Willy Winker, the man who was currently shoving the sword into her back, nudged her forward while she was busy with her thoughts. She noticed a second too late to resist and ended up moving forward enough that her feet were half way over the edge. Panic rose through her tangled nerves, making her skin shine with sweat under the sun.

    “Oh come on Winker!” The leader shouted, “Is that the best you can do?”

    “If I push any harder I’ll run her through like a kebab sir,” Winker replied, poking Martha with the sword.

    “I could go for a kebab,” Squinty said with a huff, “so go ahead and push her off already, I’m starving here.”

    “Or you could just not push me off the edge of Skull canyon and make things simpler?” Martha suggested casually, hiding her fear.

    “Nah, I’ve always wanted to see someone fall down a canyon, it’s on my bucket list.” The leader said with a sigh, “Neither one of us wants to see a child fall down one do we?”

    “No, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go without a struggle.”

    It was a second later that Martha Realized the made a mistake by challenging Winker verbally. He kicked her in the back and making her lose her balance. She was falling through mid air towards the darkness at an alarming rate. Dread washed over her in waves: one of horror, one of terror, and one of all encompassing doom. The only positive emotion she felt was the hint of relief she had in knowing the children were alright. But the pulling of gravity soon reversed as someone scooped her up into their arms and flew her upward.

    “Hook!” A familiar voice shouted, “Long time no see you sandy scoundrel!”

  17. cosi van tutte

    I wanted to write a great novel, but all I had were fragmented ideas and half-broken sentences. Sentences such as the following:
    • The _____________ have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can _____________ .”
    • “It was _____________ that made _____________ laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”
    • “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave _____________ and go back to _____________ .”
    • “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces _____________ .”
    • “I’m really a very good _____________ , but I’m a very bad _____________ , I must admit.”

    I wanted to fill in those blanks with amazing profound thoughts, but I could only think of tripe.
    • The tripe have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can tripe.”
    • “It was tripe that made tripe laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”
    • “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave tripe and go back to tripe”
    • “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces tripe.”
    • “I’m really a very good tripe, but I’m a very bad tripe, I must admit.”

    I decided to blend them all into a story…

    ***

    “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces tripe.” Aunty Em said sagely.

    Uncle Henry nodded in agreement. “Indeed. Indeed. The tripe have wonderful powers. And, you know. One of the most curious things about them is that—” He leaned closer to Dorothy. “—they can tripe.”

    “Ohh!” Dorothy said, astonished. “I didn’t know that tripe could tripe.”

    “Oh, indeed they can. Why, when your dear departed mother was on her death bed, it was tripe that made the tripe laugh and it saved your mother from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”

    They all took a moment to bow their heads out of respect for Dorothy’s dead mother.

    “I remember that moment.” said Aunty Em. “I stopped the tripe in the hall and thanked him for his help. And you know what he told me? He told me, and I quote, ‘I’m a very good tripe, but I’m a very bad tripe too, I must admit’.”

    “Oh, my!” exclaimed Dorothy, for she suspected that was the correct reaction to such a statement.

    “And I told him, direct quote again, ‘I cannot understand WHY you should wish to leave tripe and go back to tripe’. He shrugged modestly and said, ‘It’s a tripe’s life’.”

    ***

    I paused in my story, because my Internal Editor just couldn’t take all of the tripe word abuse. He demanded that I trash the whole thing and start all over again.

    So, I deleted my document and started all over again.

    And I hoped for the best.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A very difficult prompt to tackle the way you did. My hat is off to you. Turned out as an excellent and funny piece. I never would have imagined it.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Hey, Reatha!

        😆 My Internal Editor has a very sensitive stomach. Seeing good words being so thoughtlessly abused makes him sick. Plus, he had a bad incident with tripe when he was younger. But he refuses to talk about it. It upsets him too much. 😉

  18. jhowe

    “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave paradise and go back to that godforsaken hole you call home.”

    “Well,” I said. “For one thing, the lava flow just decimated your house.”

    “It’s evolution at work,” my sister said. “It’s how the islands were formed in the first place.”

    I felt the earth shutter beneath my feet and coughed as the wind shifted, raining ash around us. “But yet you decided to build on a freaking volcano.”

    “But look at the view.” She twirled, a panoramic gesture.

    I blew soot from my nostrils. “I just hope I’m able to get a flight. It seems all the view lovers are getting the hell out.”

    Carol stood, mere feet from the crawling lava. She raised her arms, as if presenting herself… the definitive sacrifice.

    I took her arm. “C’mon, let’s find Bill and the kids and get to a safe area.”

    “They stayed in the house,” she said in a whisper.

    “What?”

    “I was weak.” Tears streaked her ash covered face. “I let them down.”

    “Tell me they’re not in there!” I watched flames spew from the collapsed roof, the walls all but gone. Bill had always been strange but I never expected this.

    “It’s okay, Tommy.” Her eyes were glazed, her breathing shallow. “It’s what he wanted.”

    “It’s what he wanted!” I shouted. “What about the goddamn kids?”

    She screeched, a sound I’d never forget and tried to break from my grip but I held her as she lurched toward the lava. A siren chirped behind us and a police officer barked at us to stand away from the flow. As he realized what was happening, he cuffed her and together we managed to get her in the cruiser.

    On the ride down the mountain, the cop spoke rapidly to the dispatcher. Through my sister’s sobs, I heard him say there were multiple casualties, that there was no sense attempting a rescue. He dropped us at the hospital and emergency personnel restrained Carol on a gurney. She didn’t fight them.

    I spent the remainder of the day and half the night answering questions and arranging for a place to stay. Carol, tranquilized, said nothing as I sat with her. I knew she was going to need me but I didn’t take comfort in the thought. She grasped my hand as my eyes closed, not able to stay awake any longer. A nurse woke me, light streaming through the window blinds.

    “Where is she?” she said, slightly frantic.

    I looked at the empty bed and closed my eyes. She was where she wanted to be.

    1. writer_sk

      Wow. Terrifying.

      There were a surprising number of people living on the active volcano IRL.

      the visual of the family in the burning house sent chills. Good piece.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          How would you have known. Wehad another killing shoot out in Texas. A woman jumped off her terrace in a high rise withnher 6 year old son. The world is sick John, but how would you know before things happen. Frightful, sad and oh so tragic. One of your very best stories ever. Comgrats!

COMMENT