Speak to Me Only With Thine Dementia

“Oh. My.” She said it every morning. You would think he’d be accustomed to it, even tired of it.

But she had a way of infusing each word with childlike awe.

That was why he loved it; why her daily exclamation touched him every time. By now, he lived for this. He couldn’t imagine his day starting otherwise.

His wife turned, all smiles, and said the phrase she always followed with: “I think I’ve awakened in paradise.”

He rose and put his arm around her. Staring out their bay windows at the private ocean bay; he, as always, agreed.

©2022 Chel Owens

Photo by Thomas on Pexels.com

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

November 21, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “Oh, my.” It can be used in storytelling or dialog. What is the cause for such a response? Have fun with this one! Go where the prompt leads!

Geneva Steele

Geneva Steele was often asked about her name. After all, she shared it with the local mill (closed). The mill gained its moniker from the nearby resort (gone), which its founder named after his daughter (dead).

But Geneva couldn’t answer with any of that.

“I’m Swiss,” she said.

Or, “I’m from New York.”

Locations and events became more elaborate, until Geneva’s great-granddaughter dragged Geneva to school for show-and-tell. Looking at all those faces, the truth exploded:

“I was conceived at the steel mill, out near the railroad tracks.”

Truth might be satisfied, but Geneva isn’t allowed at school again.

The Daily Universe, Brigham Young University, from L. Tom Perry Special Collections.

©2022 Chel Owens

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

November 14, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a lie. What is the lie? It can be subtle or blatant. Who tells the lie and why? Is it an unreliable narrator? Go where the prompt leads!

Secret Codes by Secret Means

*BEEP* *BOO* *BEEP* *BEEE*

Bridger Serialkillerton (II) hears the annoyance; notes it. His mind refuses to ignore it. Noise without end meant communication of some kind. Morse code? Tap? Now that he’s decided to give the sound his attention, he feels his mind go to work on deciphering. His body tenses for pauses and assigns them a space-between. The duration and intensity of each annoying tone is given emphasis and potential.

*BEEEEE* *BEE-BOO* *BEEP*

It toys at his experience and verges on the edge of revelation. A call for distress? He’s heard this before, hasn’t he?

*BOOP* *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEE*

It’s a device; yes! His scattered mental search brings this solution. This is no fellow-agent in need. This is a computerized output, set to alert users to the impending completion of its program. At least, he feels it normally operates as such. Whyever it is outputting so erratically sets his mind-gears in motion once again.

*BEEP* *BOO* *BEEP* *BEEE*

The original pattern presents itself again.

*BEEEE* *BEE-BOOP*

He’s heard that sequence as well.

*BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* *BOOO-*

He feels at the tip of resolution …when Bridger Serialkillerton’s forgotten associate shouts at full volume:

“BRIDGER SERIALKILLERTON THE THIRD! GET YOUR SHOES ON AND STOP PLAYING WITH THAT MICROWAVE THIS INSTANT!”

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©2022 Chel Owens

The Trouble With Wings

It’s not like she didn’t want wings, you see -who hasn’t ever wanted wings in her life; wanted to fly?

The problem was the side effects.

Laura Kate hadn’t anticipated how darn uncomfortable wings would be. She had arms, didn’t she? Legs? Ears -although, come to think of it, ears occasionally keep one up with that annoying trait of either folding on themselves or of amplifying a heartbeat *chuh-chung* *chuh-chung* *CHUH-chung* *CHUH-CHUNG*

But I digress.

LK came to me because she’d heard I’d found a wishing ring. -How she heard, I don’t know. I try to keep those sorts of things private.

Then again, I’d heard about her wings.

And about her troubles with them.

“Whatever you do,” she said, wings lifting and blowing my papers off my counter, “Don’t wish for flight.” She tried to rub at somewhere on her back; boy, did it look impossible. And itchy. She sighed and twitched.

“Why not?” I really was curious. Like I said, who hasn’t wanted to fly?

Her shoulders shifted at the itch she’d never scratch. “I …didn’t think it through. I mean, I hadn’t ever paid attention to the things that could fly: birds… Yeah; birds! Have you ever seen a bird lie down? Have you seen a bird in a blanket? How about a bird doin’ anything ‘cept pooping?”

I thought it over. “Can’t you fly without wings?”

She shrugged and I lost the rest of the counter decorations to the floor. “Like I said. Didn’t think it through. Now, I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake.”

I nodded, pensive. I offered her some seeds; I’d heard she couldn’t stomach much any more. She pecked happily at the pile and left in a more lifted mood, having delivered her message -and maybe a little unintended keepsake on the front stoop as well.

I reflected on Laura Kate’s advice, good and hard.

That night, after giving things enough time and consideration -I thought- I took out the wishing ring. I held it in my hands and tried to be smart before saying anything. Finally, I was ready. I cleared my throat and spoke up.

“I wish -“

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

©2022 Chel Owens

Swipe Right

Stanley Klülez stared across the candlelit table at Cindy Titepaunts. She looked just like her profile picture -a rarity. Stanley had started making a game out of how much his dates would differ from their appearance, as girl after girl after ‘girl’ proved …surprising.

“So.” He cleared his throat. “Do you like the color pink?”

Cindy, dressed head to toe in varying shades of coral, salmon, and rose, blinked at him. “Obviously. Do you like bargain-shopping?”

Stanley puffed out his chest in his cuffed, oil-stained coveralls. “Of course!”

He smiled happily as she snorted. This date was going swimmingly.

©2022 Chel Owens

Photo by Jep Gambardella on Pexels.com

Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt: swimmingly

September 5, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word, “swimmingly.” which means “smoothly or satisfactorily.” What is the situation? Who is involved? Let the word take you into a story. Go where the prompt leads!

That Ole Road of Life, Maybe

One day I walked a piece down the road; it warn’t no road of any consequence, see -just an ordinary one with rocks and dirt.

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But mostly dirt.

It were the people I come across what were special. The people are always what makes a road interstin’ (I say) and the people in this case were nothin’ short of that.

First, a-course, was an old woman all full of tales an woes an mind-yer-manners. I brushed her off, also a-course, cause I know more an’ my elders -but the one thing about her I recall was her eyes. She grabbed at my face, see, with her hands; and she stared right into my eyes with hers. I telled right off she was dumb-blind. -On account of her milky gaze hoverin’ somwehere round my shoulder.-

“You take note” she said; or maybe it was, “Watch the road;” or maybe somethin’ ’bout cookies -I confess my stomach felt a mite empty- Leastaways, I’ll always remember those milky eyes: so deep with ‘perience, starin’ off to forever.

Next, I ‘member an old dog. He looked like Coon, my favorite when I was five. (Coon got done run down by a truck when I was eight; dumb dog.) But I loved that flea bag of fur. And he loved me. An’ this dog on the dirt track lifted his head all sad an’ he howled.

-And I remembered that Coon would howl like that when the ambulance ran by, like he knew what was what and was practicin’ for the funeral song that was shore to come.

I patted the dog like I had for Coon (“It’s all right, Boy”) and kept on keptin’ on.

Right past him was a preacher like you only see in stories these days. He waved his arms and spoke of heaven and hell, and did I know where I was going?

“Well, yessir I’m goin on down this road,” I tells him.

An’ he said did I know if I was saved? and I said I didn’ even know what needed savin,’ and afore I turned the bend and left him behind he’d slapped that Bible in his hand and waved a warnin’ finger but I still don’ know what needs savin’: him or me or Bibles.

I passed more people; a cat; another dog. Why they was all stuck where they were, like signposts on the road of life, was beyond me. Why couldn’t they move? Why was they all out there just waitin’ on me? I ain’t no one special, no more’n the next fellow. I ain’t keen. I ain’t got talent. I barely has the brains to carry on conversation -least that’s what my Pa would say.

Down that track I trudged, kickin’ up dirt and rocks. I can’t rightly say how far. I can’t even say how many souls I weaved round or talked to or was talked to. Seemed like forever.

And then, that’s when I realized it was. Forever, I mean. See, I’m walkin’ that road still today -whatever ‘today’ might be. I’s still talkin’ to th’ dogs an’ the granmas an’ the preachers.

Mostly, I aim to be a signpost one day. Maybe it’ll be when I finally listen.

The Measure of a Man’s Best Friend

The Greyhound halted. This was where $200 took James. He disembarked, shouldered his prison-issued backpack, and read the station’s name: Kum & Go.

“Here to rob it?”

James swung to see a man by a pickup; opened his mouth, then shut it. The man had no legs. The truck had a dog.

-But not just any dog. “Buttercup!”

The yellow lab hurtled out and licked him, desisting at her master’s call. James had trained her in prison, as a service animal for a wounded soldier.

James looked up, and both men saw each other -clearly- for the first time.

©2022 Chel Owens

Oh my goodness, Charli! Don’t ever make me do that, again! -I mean, This was written in response to Charli’s prompt at Carrot Ranch:

May 16, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about when a newly released prisoner meets the disabled veteran who adopted the puppy the prisoner trained behind bars. The prompt is based on the short story I wrote for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat. Yes, rewrite my story in your words, 99, no more, no less. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 21, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form [on the site]. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

In Which Amelie Believes, and Disappears #99Word Stories

Scritchy scratchy wax on wall, she thought. No matter. It was the shape she needed right.

*Sniff* a hand ‘cross red nose and puffy eyes. *Stomp stomp stomp* she heard those hobnailed boots but they .stopped. off the other way.

She breathed and scritched and scratched, the purple crayon unwilling to give its wax without a fight.

“There,” she said, and loved the circle she’d formed from the bit of crayon abandoned in the hallway.

“I’m Amelie, and I believe.”

Stuttering hand reached to the middle of the circle. Pushed. And disappeared, where *stomp stomp stomp* can’t find her.

©2022 Chel Owens

Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

For Carrot Ranch’s prompt this week:

March 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about disappearance. It can be an event, act, or subtle theme. Who or what disappears? Does it fade or explode? Can it be explained or experienced? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 2, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form [on the site]. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Daddy’s Here

My Joe’s been sick, Amy read. Keep him in your prayers. She scrolled through her news feed, her finger moving faster and faster.

We’ve all tested positive.

Been down for a month.

Feeling better, but still have trouble with stairs.

Pray for my David. He’s never been sicker.

“You don’t know that’s what he has.” Matt stood in the doorway. She hadn’t heard him come in.

Amy’s eyes fixed on his silhouette. She turned back to her phone, then down to the blanket-bundle on the bed. “But he has a fever.”

Matt came forward. He placed a hand over the screen, pulled it from her grasp, and set it on the nightstand. He kneeled beside the bed. “I know, but you’ve been reading bad news all day. Maybe longer.”

Amy sighed. Another tear escaped down her cheek.

“Here.” He moved the comforter aside. Pushing her legs out to hang over the side, he rubbed at them; massaged her feet. “Go shower. I can take over.”

She met his gaze. She hadn’t moved from where he shifted her.

“Please, Amy. He’ll be fine for a few minutes.”

She sighed.

“Please.”

She shifted. He stood. She let him help her rise. She did not let him walk with her. “Stay here.” she said, head raised and eyes locked on his. “I don’t want him to be alone for even a second.”

Matt nodded and moved to the bed. He sat in the same spot she’d vacated. Looking up, he saw her watching. “I’ll stay here. I promise.”

Now she nodded. Her shadow followed her down the hall. The bathroom door closed.

He heard the shower water turn on. The bundle of blankets to his side whimpered and a fist emerged. “Shhhhh,” Matt said, stroking his son’s face. He moved his finger to the fist. It held. “Daddy’s here.”

©2022 Chel Owens

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Beatrice Box

Beatrice was a square sort of being. Squat, brown, dusty, a bit bent; she couldn’t help it. See, Beatrice was literally a box. Still, she longed for love. Like most boxes, however, she couldn’t open her mouth without attracting the wrong sort of attention.

“I can’t even lift a flap,” she complained to the bureau, “Without acquiring an odd or end.”

He squeaked a commiseratory joint. “I’ve the same problem with me drawers, Love. Have ye tried tape?”

Beatrice hadn’t, so she did. The tape worked quite well for keeping out; but, how could she get love in? She appealed to the cedar chest. “What’s your secret? However do you attract such finery?”

The cedar chest considered. She sniffed. “Smell, mostly. Seems to keep riff-raff at a distance. Then, there’s the carvings up top what observers always notice.”

“Carvings? Smell?” Beatrice examined the parts of herself she could. What she saw failed to instill confidence. She was, as noted, a box. Her relations tended more toward the packing variety and less toward containers in millinery shops. “Have I a scent? What about designs?”

“Hm.” The cedar chest strained; Beatrice thumped in an awkward, squarish spin before her. “You’ve an essence of forgotten memories, like old jumpers. Not unpleasant, I’d say; not pleasant, either. Ooh! I can make out a bit of an imprint… Upst- Hm. Upstares -Yes! Upstares closet. …could be an exotic locale…”

“Oh, dear,” Beatrice sighed. She knew how ‘exotic’ the upstairs closet was. But just when she thought to give up all hope, she met him: the box of her dreams. He fell on her like a ton of bricks.

Literally.

Good thing the tape held.

“Well howdy, ya pine box!” he addressed the cedar chest. “I’m Bob, a box. I’m currently haulin’ a buttload o’ building blocks! Ha!” He scratched at his top with a handy flap. “Thing is, I’m a mite lonely. You wouldn’t happen to know where a fella could find some company, would ya? -A good, solid, squarish sort of company?”

Beatrice could hardly speak for excitement. She could hardly speak for the box of bricks named Bob that sat atop her as well. She tried. “Mmph mmm mph phuhm.”

“Who said that??” Bob swept the room.

“Mmph mmm mph phuhm.”

Bob shifted. He couldn’t catch where the noise came from. “How’s that, pardner?”

“Mmph! Mm mph mph phuh mphm.”

Bob scooted a titch more; which, it turns out, was a titch too far. *CLONK!* He landed on the floor like a ton of -oh, you get the idea. He caught sight of Beatrice. “Well, howdy!”

Beatrice blushed. “Hello.”

It was the start of a beautiful future. Beatrice had such a crush, she was already making moving plans.

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©2022 Chel Owens