Olympic Achievement

Panting, moving; legs dance; running? Slow he moves, yet forward goes.

Yelling, waving; crowds smile; cheering! Quick their hands and banners flow.

Road goes under, step by stepping; ev’ning sunshine asphalt raised.

Signs flash by, their message flapping; glinting sun and wind-blown praise.

Turn now, hero, enter warmly; enter ‘neath the crowds and flares.

Swift and surely, climb the mountain; climb your metal, switchback stairs.

Raise your head now, torch-lit runner

Lift your eyes from up and under;

Hear now, see now: raised-face, raised sight

Bring your arm: the dimmer torch light–

Seek the peak and flame -IGNITE!

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Run and fired up for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire. It can be a flame that burns or a light that inspires. Follow the flames and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 9, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Five

It hadn’t been such a boring class after all, Wil reminisced. She crossed one foot back over the other and tried not to share that idea with the other members of her Chemistry group. They probably weren’t in the mood. She snuck a glance to her right and left, taking in their various poses of irritation and boredom.

She wished for something to do besides wait for her turn with only a motivational poster and her classmates to stare at. She should have grabbed the note from Hope, maybe, during their hasty escape to the office. None of them had thought to do much besides run, given the damage. If only Carl weren’t such a clumsy jerk, she thought.

Almost simultaneously, she and the others glared at the door to the nurse’s office. It was a closet, really, since they lacked an official nurse or sick room. Only in today’s case of potential chemical burning had their secretary, Mrs. Bird, demonstrated concern or permission to use some of the school’s precious medical supplies. Wil hoped the first aid kit was still in date, considered who was at fault, and rescinded that hope -at least for the bandages used on Carl.

She sighed. The girl who had gotten their experiment supplies rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah. What a jackass.”

Bobby and Wil snorted, and Wil saw a slight smile on the boy’s face whose name she did not know. He’d been right next to Carl when Carl had spilled their supplies, and was therefore third in line to be seen.

“Shouldn’t we get an ambulance or something?” Bobby asked. He eyed the supplies girl, who was awkwardly cradling her arm in the office’s usual method of first aid: a wet towel.

The girl shrugged.

“I’ve never been burned at school,” Wil offered. She thought. “Did anyone bring a phone?” She knew it wasn’t likely, since anyone who owned one had to keep it in his locker or risk its removal.

The boy who’d been near Carl turned to the right and left, then down the short hall to the closed supplies door. They could still hear Carl yelping and complaining. Phrases like, “I’ve got conditioning to get to, you know…” drifted down the hall, followed by Mrs. Bird’s impatient, “If you’d hold still, this bandage would stay…”

“I’ve got one,” he affirmed. “Can you take it?” he asked the girl seated to his right.

“Ha!” she answered, screwing up her face. “Even if I wanted to, lover boy, my hands are as damaged as yours.” She held up her towel-draped hands to demonstrate; he responded in kind.

“I’ll do it,” Wil grumbled. Laughing as he angled to accentuate the appropriate side pocket, she slipped it free.

“Hurry,” Bobby urged.

Wil activated the screen. “What’s your passkey?”

“Twenty-three, thirty-two.”

“Nice,” Bobby commented.

Wil didn’t understand what was “nice” about a bunch of numbers, but put them in and pulled up a search. After only a half-minute’s read, she said, “Eurgh!”

“What?” the two hand burn victims asked. Bobby leaned over her left shoulder to see.

Just then, the supplies door opened. Wil stashed the phone in her pocket and looked up to see a mummy-like Carl Hurn exiting. He wore a glare as well, but it was not as impressive as the scowl worn by the woman just behind him.

“Mrs. Bird?” Wil ventured. “I think Carl needs to go to the hospital.”

Mrs. Bird stood all 5’2″ of her frame a little straighter. She peered around Carl. “Oh?” she sniffed. “And why do you think that, Ms. Winters?”

“Well,” Wil gulped, “I …remembered a story I …um.. that Dr. L -Dr. Lombard told us recently about a guy with chemical burns..” She tried not to look at her classmates as she blushed. They knew she was lying about her source, of course, but even Mrs. Bird wanted to hear the story.

The secretary’s expression became impatient in her morbid curiosity. “Well?”

Wil shifted. “Um, well …I re- I mean, Dr. Lombard said- that the guy’s -erm- well, that the guy had chemicals spilled in his lap like Carl did; and that, because the guy didn’t change and rinse off and go to a hospital right away, that he didn’t have any …private parts when they finally did cut off his pants…”

To which Wil and three of her classmates witnessed the fastest de-pantsing a person with bandaged hands has ever completed.

 

Continued from Eighty-Four.
Keep reading to Eighty-Six.

When the Stakes Are High

It wasn’t till the hungry flames were nearly at her hem that Briar’s thoughts turned to self-reflection. Before that point she was, quite naturally, declaring innocence whilst returning insults.

Her efforts were of no use. The fire rose higher, the smoke stung her lungs and eyes, the cackling jeers grew louder than the crackling logs. She could see her angry accusers through the wafting smoke lines.

“Witch! Witch! Witch!” they chanted.

These simple townsfolk had no brains. If she were a witch, wouldn’t she be gone? She sighed; coughed. She never should have left her staff under the bed.

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Bound and burned for Carrot Ranch‘s writing prompt.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Two

The whole of Saturday and early Sunday morning passed without event, much to Wil’s disappointment. She even managed to alter Sunday’s morning walk with her mother to pass the small playground and the side of Building 5 twice, but they never saw anyone. She knew they walked earlier in the morning than most were awake, but a sliver of hope was all Wil ever needed to assume a sunrise’s worth of chance.

If her mother suspected anything, Cynthia was, as always, respectful enough to keep things to herself. That, or she knew Wil could never keep a secret for long.

“Well,” Cynthia said, after she and Wil had returned home and recovered somewhat on the couch, “That was a nice walk. Thank you, Wil.”

Wil turned to look at her mother from her reclined position. She hadn’t really noticed much of the walk and hoped there hadn’t been some landmark her mother wanted to discuss.

Cynthia cleared her throat, look worried, then smiled at Wil. “Why don’t you get started on breakfast for us, and you can tell me about how things are going?”

“Okay,” Wil agreed, still confused. She rose and walked the few steps to their eating area, her mind on what to talk about. There was the book she had been reading for school, of course; the secret group -oh! She could tell mom about the group; and then Eric, but even she wasn’t sure what there was to tell about Eric…

“Wil,” her mother said, bringing Wil back to reality to see she’d left the fridge door standing open with her in it.

“Sorry,” Wil said, and finished removing the eggs, milk, and bread from the cold interior before closing it. She set the breakfast items on the counter and began the everyday ritual of summoning coffee from their antiquated, secondhand machine. “I. wish. Dad. had. started. this,” she muttered as she prised the used filter from the top and attempted to scrape old coffee from the carafe.

Cynthia laughed, then stopped as she began coughing. “He’ll appreciate waking to it already tamed,” she said, once she caught her breath.

The coughing fit had not lasted long, but it gave Wil enough time to successfully start the coffee maker and get going on scrambled eggs. She and her mother kept the conversation to breakfast preparations, else Wil get lost in another area of the kitchen.

“You like them with salt and pepper, right?” Wil asked.

“Right.”

“How about Dad and Jakob?”

Her mother laughed a bit. “They like food.” She paused, “Though maybe not burned.”

“Ha. ha,” Wil pretended to laugh. She hadn’t burned their meal for nearly a week, although it was true that scrambled eggs had been the last thing she’d overcooked. “That reminds me,” she said, over her shoulder. “I need to tell Jakob I’m not the only one we need a smoke alarm for now.”

Cynthia smiled. “True. But he’s awfully grouchy in the mornings. You might not want to push your luck.”

“Who’s grouchy?” a grumbling voice asked. Jakob stood in his boxers and and t-shirt in the doorway, blinking around.

 

Continued from Seventy-One.
Keep reading to Seventy-Three.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Nine

Wil shuffled her grilled cheese sandwich in a circle of its own dark crumbs. The action piled even more bread bits on the plate, due to how long Jakob had overcooked it. All of the sandwiches were blacker than the family preferred, but they couldn’t afford to buy another meal in replacement.

“Next time, put your phone down,” Rob had said after finding the small kitchen full of stink and smoke. Wil had just walked in and started coughing in surprise. They all heard Cynthia echo the noise from her bedroom.

“Sorry,” Jakob had provided, thus ending another of their lengthy exchanges.

Wil had then been tasked with brushing the burnt parts into the garbage. She’d only dropped one of the sandwiches in, and had managed to retrieve it before anyone noticed. To be fair, she’d then placed that sandwich on her own plate.

Perhaps that was why she wasn’t interested in eating. Then again, maybe she was worried about her mother and Dr. Sullivan’s recommendations. Or, Wil might be tired after their long day.

Her lack of appetite certainly had nothing to do with a little exchange at the playground a half hour before dinner.

“Oh!” Wil exclaimed into the silence. Her family stared at her, all raised eyebrows and questioning expressions. “Erm… I remembered some homework I had.” She looked down, blushing. Wil couldn’t lie and they all knew it. She took a hasty bite of her sandwich to avoid further questions.

Jakob drained his glass of water and wiped a sleeve across his mouth. “Welp, I do have homework. ‘Night.” He cleared his place settings and rinsed them in the sink before stacking them on the counter. His pace was quicker than Wil usually saw him move as he headed down the hall to his room.

She swallowed her stale food. “He must have a lot to get done,” she observed. Her parents shared a look she didn’t understand, then turned away from each other smiling. “What?”

Her mother’s beautiful, loving eyes met Wil’s confused pair. “Oh, Wil. I love you.”

“Well, I love you, too, but that doesn’t explain why -” Wil’s thinking finally caught up with her speaking. The way Eric had looked at her in the dark had reminded her of something, and that something had been how Jakob had stared after Reagan as they were leaving the hospital. Two and two added to four in Wil’s mind; her brother was going to chat with her older school friend, just as she’d guessed before her hasty departure from the family car.

She saw her parents exchange another amused expression.

“But… that’s not homework, either!” she managed.

Her mother turned to Wil again. “‘Either,’ hmm? So, Wil, what were you lying about?”

 

Continued from Sixty-Eight.
Keep reading to Seventy.

Mondays and Memories

The pictures people post of life are beautiful, artistic, happy, and well-framed. They are also less than a second of time, and 4×6 inches of a multi-perspective panorama. Better make them the best, right?

So, when you see this pile of mess I’ve included, you may wonder where the beauty is. Why would I post this?

For the story. For the reality.

This pile is what was left after my two youngest (ages 7 and 4) mixed and baked a chocolate cake completely by themselves. They did so after making grilled cheese sandwiches and (somewhat charred) tomato soup for dinner.

I’m not certain why the “cakes” boiled over into the oven since I was returning from martial arts at the time. My twelve-year-old suspects they severely over-measured the baking soda. My husband was with them and told me how excited the six-year-old was for me to come home to a surprise dinner and a whole cake!

If I were aiming for artistry, I could pose the bakers’ chocolate-stained faces in front of a symmetrically-messy counter. I could write that my darling, budding chefs made dinner and dessert. Then I could elaborate, saying we ended the evening singing songs of family unity and went to bed before sundown.

The problem is that the evening did not end with dessert and singing. The problem is that I tried to clean up the remains of amateur baking with the oven’s self-clean option. That method didn’t last long.

As I sit in our smoke-scented house and listen to the roaring fans downstairs, I can’t help but consider how much easier this day would have been if I’d not allowed them to create their dessert surprise.

Then, I remember what my husband said about our budding baker. “That was so sweet of you!” I tell my six-year-old as we tuck him in. “I am so impressed that you made dinner and a whole cake by yourself!” As he swells with self-pride I suggest gently, “Let’s make it together next time.”

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Skinwalkers, XIX

The corridor Nathan and Shin entered was light like the aftermeal air outside, but without ambient smog and fumes. Carefully mirroring his friend, Nathan took a deep inhale of pure air. Shin looked back at him, and they shared a smile.

“Now, that is tasty,” Shin commented. They proceeded down the enclosed hallway, breathing drawn-out intakes every few steps and grinning like addicts.

Soon they reached a terminating wall. There did not seem to be an access pad of any sort. “Hello?” Nathan called, glancing at edges and corners in case of surveillance. He saw none.

“That’s odd,” Shin said. He rubbed his chin, though Nathan could see that his facial hair had been burned within the last week.

Just then, the wall swung inwards in a sudden and violent manner. Nathan caught a shadowy, disapproving form before intentionally dropping his eyelids partway closed. He lowered his shoulders, hunching slightly, and leaned against the glowing wall. Shin did not notice. He stared at the humanoid apparition like a mental, fixated on his own surprise.

The shadow spoke. “Ware Tech, I hope.” Its androgynous tone gave nothing away of its feelings besides the usual contempt for laborers. Nathan heard a shift of heavy feet on tile as the person walked away. As he and Shin followed, it added, “You idiots never try opening the door.”

Nathan and Shin shuffled along. They knew better than to answer their guide. They valued employment more highly than personal honor.

Although the hulking human shape leading them took up most of the hallway, Nathan was able to see that their path ended in a polished wall just ahead. Accordingly, they stopped upon reaching it. “Jo, is that a plant?!” Shin exclaimed. Their guide, ignoring this further proof of idiocy, removed a comm and ran it behind the fern Shin had just noticed.

*Ding* sang a pleasant note, and the wall opened to reveal a lift. They entered, just behind their guide. The wall closed. They rode in semidark silence for a long, silent jiff. Another chime drew the lift door to the side, revealing a darker, colder hallway.

The Carapace representative took the lead again, though Nathan hardly saw the point. This corridor held no exits nor entries; it existed solely for leading laborers like him and his friend down its burrow-like length, to terminate in one possible place.

Sure enough, the unnamed employee led them to the inevitable end: a set of green doors. Nathan hadn’t seen real, industrial doors since his childhood. The ones before him glared from metal-grid windows set in green metal sockets. They resembled the shed doors of the only doctor’s office in the small community Nathan had grown up in. Having little population and little funding, the doctor had resourcefully run his entire business from that shed.

Without hesitating, their large guide activated the door with its comm. They all entered, and all stood for at least a moment in awe. Racks and desks and shelves and hooks held row after row of hardware. The entire room hummed and whirred to the stirring samba of a million cooling fans.

The overweight overseer gestured to a far cluster. “You’ll start there,” it said, then folded its arms expectantly.

“Oh. Of course,” Shin answered, when Nathan did not.

He and Nathan lifted their satchels more securely over their shoulders and proceeded to the suggested cluster. “This won’t be easy,” Shin mumbled.

“Nope.”

“Bet we can’t even listen to streams.”

“Probably not.”

Nathan and Shin reached the cases The Lump had more or less indicated. Sighing their usual preamble, they got to work.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XVIII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XX.