Ted and Trudy

Ted and Trudy had been married forever; four years, in fact. Each still said he or she was in love. Still, each found himself or herself dreading the drive home after work.

Their marriage counselor tried. “What you need is to find and speak each other’s love language,” she said.

Ted and Trudy tried.

Physical intimacy didn’t touch on the issue. Spending quality time together made the evening drag on and on. Neither received gifts presently. Words of affirmation didn’t speak to either of them. And we won’t even mention how self-absorbed each became when performing acts of service.

It wasn’t until Ted finally snapped and complained about it all that Trudy felt an unexpected spark.

“Ooooh. Say that again, Ted,” she cooed.

Ted blinked. “Uhhh… the counselor’s charging way too much for something that’s not working?”

“Yes, Ted! Yes! What else isn’t working?”

“Uhh…” he thought for a minute. “That plumber we hired this morning was late, incompetent, and left a mess.”

Trudy sat up and perked up. “What else??”

“No one knows how to drive anymore?” He was starting to get excited as well.

“Yes! Yes!”

“Whenever I go shopping, I can’t ever find a good clerk! How difficult is it to know where the polos are?”

“Ohhh, Ted.” She drew right up to him. “What else?”

“The governor’s an idiot and this country’s being run by imbeciles!”

“YYYYYESSSSS!”

…..

Their counselor was surprised to see them practically bouncing at their next (and last) appointment.

“We did it!” Trudy gushed. “We found our love language!”

“Oh?” the counselor asked, intrigued. “Which is it?”

Ted and Trudy looked at each other, smiled; then, in unison, answered, “Complaining!”

©2021 Chel Owens

Priorities, Priorities.

It didn’t matter anymore.

That shipment of designer-label makeup and brushes Maggie saved and saved for, finally sitting in its box on her porch.

Those Mike sneakers Joe wasted his entire paycheck on.

The brand-new, glistening, powerful Lawn Steere tractor (and attachments) Lori drove home from the shop just yesterday. Parked in the outbuilding of her late grandfather’s estate.

Steve’s collection of bottle caps.

Ada’s books. Oh, how she loved books.

Even Clair’s six pack of beer, alone on the dusty counter.

None of that mattered, anymore, as Maggie, Joe, Lori, Steve, Ada, Clair, and every sentient being watched-heard-felt-breathed Methuselah’s Comet break through the atmosphere. And silence all of Earth.

©2021 Chel Owens

Tell Me the Story, Daddy.

“Tell me the story, Daddy. Tell me …when you met Mommy. Tell me when you knew.”

Arthur smiled that smile that never quite touched his eyes anymore. “When I knew what, son?”

Little Sammy squirmed atop his bedcovers. “You know, Daddy. When you knew… You know.”

Arthur almost laughed. Almost. “Okay. Okay. …Once upon a time, your dad -me- was young. I was barely an adult and was working my first job, at a bookstore…”

Arthur could still smell the scholarly breath of time and leather that greeted him each morning, could still hear the muted tinkle of the bell over the door, could still see the morning light filtering through mullioned front windows. Tomes ranging from paper romance to hardbacked alchemy built labyrinth paths between the barely-visible masonry walls. The dust of every bibliophile’s essence hung, distilled, in the motes that danced where empty spaces dared exist.

“I stood at a desk where I could see the door. Everywhere else was books.” This is where he changed the story; embellished it. “Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, Shel Silverstein, and even Where the Wild Things Are; comic books, picture books; fat ones, thin ones; old and new.”

His son’s eyes shone and then twitched over to the bookshelf in the corner. “What about your books, Dad? Did they have those, too?”

“Yes, son. Those, too.”

“Did Mom like your books, Dad?”

Sammy hadn’t asked that one before. The question gave Arthur pause. “No, not really. She -well! That’s a different story!”

This elicited a giggle and more rocking. Sammy even turned a lopsided somersault into his pillow.

Arthur wagged his finger in a pretended sternness. “All right. One day, I heard the bell on the door that meant someone had come in…”

There had been more light that day, enough that the younger Arthur could not see who entered the store. He raised a hand against the brightness and squinted at a diminutive shadow. The door closed, the bell sang, the shadow resolved to a timid, tiny young woman. Encircled by light and interrupted space, Arthur was smitten.

“I saw a very small, very beautiful woman. She came up to the desk and slid a paper on the glass -too shy to ask me for the name of the book she’d written on it.”

His son’s eyes -her eyes- were round in his small, attentive face.

“It was a book on poetry. ‘For school,’ she whispered. She wouldn’t look up, but I saw her look at me when I was searching through our book about books. …We didn’t have computers then, you see. We had a book that we wrote all the books in -well, we typed them on papers, then…”

Sammy yawned.

Now, Arthur managed a shadow of a chuckle. “I came around the desk. She seemed surprised when I stood; later, she said she hadn’t realized we were so close to the same size.”

Something inside fluttered at being nearer to her, he remembered. Her smile set it off again. The feeling was unlike any he’d felt in his lonely, empty life; one spent with one relative or another handing him off till he could move out and raise himself. Whether she smiled, or not, her very existence shook his. Next to her, he could be anyone or do anything.

“But, Daddy! When did you know?”

Arthur’s eyes refocused to the bedroom of the apartment he and Sammy shared, just the two of them. “I …walked with the gir- woman, over to our poetry section. I found what she needed. Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. She took it from my hand, and our fingers touched.”

It had felt electric, a touch of divinity that opened an eternity of thought and feeling for this tiny, timid woman before him.

“And that, Sammy, was when I knew I loved your Mommy.” Arthur smiled. For an instant, it reached his eyes.

His son somersaulted again. “So, then you asked her to marry you?”

Arthur blushed. “Yes.”

The laughter from his son sounded so much like her startled laughter, from all those years before. At first she’d been shocked, of course, then she’d laughed. How much it sounded like the door bell, he’d thought. He had also thought to hide in a pile of The Rise and Fall of the Greeks and Romans.

“All right, Sammy. Time for bed.” Arthur stood and pushed the chair beneath his work desk. He’d be revisiting it in the morning while Sammy slept in.

Sammy snuck a few more twists and wiggles in before allowing his dad to lift the covers and shoo him beneath them. “‘Night, Dad.” He rolled his head up to see the framed photograph on the desk. “‘Night, Mom.”

“Good night, Sam.” Arthur went to the door and stood. Good night, Catherine, he thought to her picture, and turned out the light.

©2021 Chel Owens

Monkeys, Happy Place, Iceland

In the few seconds between bedtime and actually getting to bed, I snuck over to my Reader’s Feed. And there, an epiphanous* idea appeared:

Why not write whatever pops into my head based on the three random words suggested at the top? Today’s prompt: Monkeys, Happy Place, Iceland.


“I say, Gorillford, this simply cannot stand.” Chimply scratched an errant flea.

His friend fixed him a bewildered look. “What’s that? Iceland’s moorings?”

Chimply sighed. “No, though that is distressing. Bad news, that, after so many years of stability. The country’ll be at Africa by summer. No, I was referring to this whole classification nonsense.”

Gorillford huffed, puffing up onto his thick knuckles.

“I know, I know. ‘Don’t you start’ -but you haven’t experienced the indignity, Gill! Everywhere I go, it’s, ‘Look at the monkey!’ ‘Mummy, may I have a monkey!’ I’ve… I’ve broken a bit; I’ve even considered saying, ‘Sod it’ and pasting a tail back there anyway….”

Gorillford had no reply. His beady eyes nearly popped from his leathery face. His jaw hung slack. A tail? That was far worse than living with mislabeling. He gathered his thoughts to attempt reasoning with his friend.

“You needn’t bother,” Chimply cut him off. “I know.” He sighed and then contemplatively peeled and ate a banana. “I know.”

This would take some thinking. Gorillford snapped his meaty fingers. “Chim.”

“Hm?”

“I’ve got it.”

“Hm?” Chimply retained a glum expression as he set the peel atop a fence post.

“I said, ‘I’ve got it.'” Leaning into the mesh between their enclosures, Gorillford grinned. “You’d rather we not be monkeys, yeah?”

Chimply didn’t even look over. “Obviously.”

“Well… given the rate at which these loony bipeds are going, do we really want to be known as apes?” Gorillford leaned back against a vine-twisted log in this, their happy place, allowing the import of his words to sink in.

It didn’t take long.

“My Gibbons! You’re right! Why, come to think of it, they’ve even used us as insults in some of their so-called ‘professional debates.’ If the orangutans aren’t safe, who is?”

“Precisely.”

They both sat, now in companionable silence. Only the clink or clunk of food pails interrupted a peaceful morning.

“Gill?”

“Hm?” The large ape monkey looked over at his smaller ape monkey friend.

“At least we’re not donkeys.”

“He.” Gorillford rolled his eyes and then rolled over to nap. “Ha.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

©2021 Chel Owens

*Epiphanous is not a word.

The Cay-ote Killer (Kerry Black’s Contest for Carrot Ranch)

Swirled campfire gunsmoked ’round old Ernie’s head. His eyes shone in the firelight, two August moons ‘gainst a desert sky. “An’ that,” he whispered, “whers th’ last any cowboy heard o’ The Coyote Killer!”

“Wee-yoo!”

“Ah’ll be!”

The talk still swam ’round the camp like Loui’zana fireflies when a shadow fell ‘cross the nearest cactus; when a howl yipped ‘cross the open sky. “Aowhoooooo!”

Scramblin’ to horse, rock, cactus; no man dared admit what he clearly saw: a baying, skulkin’, fur-dressed man, jus’ like what Ernie’d said.

An,’ like’n old Ernie said, no man lived to tell it still.

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu00edk on Pexels.com

This’n was mah entry fer the contest what Colleen won. Hers were fantastic so’s I reckon I don’t feel so bad fer not even gettin’ an honorable mention. 😉

©2020 Chel Owens

Second Breakfast

Janie did not like green food. When her mother placed Janie’s toast in front of her, then, she stared at the green slices in consternation.

“What’s this?”

“Breakfast, Honey.” Mom smiled and ate a bite of her own.

“It’s green.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

“It’s green mush.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

Mom wasn’t going to helpful. Janie pushed her fork against the offensive topping. It smooshed and slimed into the tines, leaving green behind it on the bread. “Ew!” she cried. “I’m having normal toast!”

“Suit yourself,” Mom said. While Janie was at the toaster, Mom reached across and ate her daughter’s serving.

Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Now I’m hungry. Thanks, Charli! Oh, and here’s the prompt:

November 12 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story includes avocado toast. How can this be a story or a prop to a story? Use your senses and imagination. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 17, 2020. Use the comment section [on the site] 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.

Time Lost, and Found

His gnarled, brusque, tannin hands caressed the watch band. He’d found it and its watch face along Lake Superior; brushed it from forgotten memories and dormant agate stones. Now, warmed in his fingers, the band changed. He saw it new, cut, fresh, oiled; attached to his grandfather’s timepiece for his son’s eighth birthday.

A long time later for one as rough as he, the old leatherworker released a breath. Rising, he set the wind-worn watch on his curio shelf near a faded photograph and a curling crayon picture. Tears in eyes, he shuffled out to put the kettle on.

©2020 Chel Owens

In response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

November 5, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or something speculative. How does lost time impact the character of your story? Bonus points if you include a 1982 brown rubber watch Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 10, 2020. Use the comment section [on the site] 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.

Seamen’s Sacrifice

Ship askew ‘gainst pounding waves
We crew all stand, aghast
Our hearts aren’t nearly in their place
A-beating in our boots.

What foul-steamed beast have we released
By testing ice-tipped lake
What curse by hist-ry’s seamen have we
Raised by braving boats?

A-tempted by the calmer shores
We think to stay a-moored
When cry comes over radio:
A hapless vessel sinks.

“Remember Barb!” reminds the crew
A-bolstered, we set out
Our matron of the sea now scares
Away our shallow fears.

“Remember her!” beat hearts, returned
Whilst sea spray hisses by;
Remember seamen’s sacrifice
To rescue all in need.

©2020 Chel Owens

Inspired by Charli’s prompt to write about life savers on any body of water; in remembrance of her good friend, Barb Koski.

The ‘eadless Ratt’ler’s Back

Fire black and smoke all red, the sun shone ‘gainst the West.
Glint in eye an’ tale in head, Old Jack sized up his guests.
There warn’t much to impress ‘im ’bout the two who stared ‘im back:
City-boys, all barn and raised, with city-boy rucksacks.

“Ah’m tellin’ yuh, an’ ah don’ lie,” Jack told ’em, face set stern,
“You’d best watch out when sunset’s red, when sand feels like to burn.
“The ‘eadless ratt’ler’s comin’ out –Look! Behind yuh now!”
An’ shore enough, those tenderfoots, yelped like they’d jus’ learned how.

An’ Jack, jus’ laughed.
“Ah gotcha now!”

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Told ’round a campfire for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week:

October 22, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a spooky tale told around a campfire. It doesn’t have to include the campfire; it can be the tale. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 26, 2020. Use the comment section [on the site] 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.

A New Day

Back and forth. In and out. Sun to down. Winter to winter, for thirty years.

The children changed. The house aged. The horses and cows and chickens and that mean old goat -all ended up at slaughter; to be replaced by horses, cows, chickens -but no more goats. For thirty years.

She stood while the priest spoke about the dark shadow she’d known for so very long. This and that. Bless his soul. Rest in peace.

Veiled and black. Grey and old. No more back or forth, in or out, sun to down. Clouds clearing, she smelled the spring.

Photo by Ellie Burgin on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Awakened in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week:

October 15, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 20, 2020. Use the comment section [on the site], 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.