Friday Fiction - In the Fog



I've gotten back into doing the Faithwriters Weekly Challenge
Here's my spooky entry for the topic - Fantasy.
(based on the photo at the end of the story) 




IN THE FOG


The fog closed in like a hungry invisible creature – stealing my vision, my hearing, and even my courage. 

My shirt clung to me in the chilly mist. All I could hear were the oars. 

“Splash” – into the silvery water, 
"Clunk” – against the oarlocks, 
“Drip, drip, drip” – back again. 

Day after day, I’d scrounged for clams in the sandy coves at low tide – a tiresome, boring job – until my hoe hit an old wooden chest. Stories were told of pirates along these shores, but I thought them only tales – until today. 

It’s mine. I found it.

The gray fog thickened. I couldn’t even see the water anymore. I felt like I was suspended between earth and sky – no up or down, no east or west. I stopped rowing with a frightening thought.

I could be heading into the open sea!

I heard a sound – like a far away lighthouse horn, but a wild and mournful bellow. I waited. It sounded again. Whatever it was, there had to be land, and I pulled my oars toward it. 

I stretched my arms and back, pushing my skiff through the water, until it grounded fast upon a sandy shore. Silence. The horn had stopped. The only sounds were the waves lapping the shore and a soft whisper of trees. 

Grabbing the coil of rope, I stepped over the edge. I slowly sloshed through the shallow water toward the shore and secured my boat. 

“HELLO!” I called, but I heard only the waves and whispering trees. 

I considered bringing my treasure ashore, but decided to leave it safely in the boat. I’d need only to wait until the tide turned. I hoped the fog would lift by then. I scrambled up beneath the dark trees. Under their sheltering branches, I laid my head on the crook of my arm for a few hours of rest. 

I awoke with a start!

Something had touched me – something I couldn’t see. My pulse beat in my ears. My eyes darted left and right. 

A shadow emerged from the fog – a creature, the size of a child, yet with the appearance of a very old man. He wore a large shell on a string around his neck. With his gnarly hand, he beckoned me to follow. We walked on and on, through dark pines and grassy meadows. He led me beside a smelly swamp and even across a swinging rope bridge. 

We finally arrived at a clearing with a fire in its midst. Its light revealed several more little men. Their clothing was dark, like mossy bark. Shaggy beards covered their faces, except for their eyes, which shone with reflected firelight. They stared at me without a noise. 

My guide offered me a steaming mug, and the others turned back to their discussion.

I took a sip. It tasted like honey cider. Sitting on a stump near the campfire, I listened. Their words were strange to me. They snacked on tiny shelled snails, cracking them like peanuts. 

Two men dragged a box into the clearing and opened its lid. They laughed and tossed some of its contents into the fire – which made the flames shoot sparkling cinders into the starry sky. 

It's my treasure! “Stop! You can’t have that! It’s mine. I found it!” 

They laughed and continued their game. Some tossed the coins up into the trees, where they got stuck high in the branches. It became a contest, and they all had a turn to see who could score the most. I shouted and tried to stop them, but the game went on until the box was empty. 

With their contest ended, they returned to their babbling conversations. I drank a few more rounds of hot honey cider until my mind got fuzzy with sleep.

I woke to a light flickering on my face. The sun was playing with fluttering golden leaves above me. The fog was gone – and so were the little men. There were no ashes or any gold coins. 

In only a few strides, I returned to the beach and also an empty skiff. With daylight to help, I searched for my missing treasure. I circled the tiny island with less than a hundred steps. 

Where was the forest, the swamp, or the swinging rope bridge? 

As I pushed off from shore, I noticed an over-turned stump. Its roots were positioned like arms and legs. Some moss hung down like a shaggy beard, and a large shell lay at its feet.





Friday Fiction - Bucky

This is an excerpt from my next novel, 
the sequel to A Home for Phoebe. 
She earns a penny a day for keeping 
a young neighbor boy out of trouble, 
but it's not easy. 



Bucky



“Matthew! That goat is in the garden again!” Deborah hollered out the door, “Shoo! Shoo!”


The goat lifted his head and backed away from the flailing apron. His chin hair wobbled back and forth and he chewed.

Bucky wasn’t a cute little kid anymore. He weighed over a hundred pounds and sported two long horns. Every two or three days, Stanley would drive a tall iron stake into the ground to which Bucky was tied. Each morning, Matthew would slip the loop on the end of the rope over the end of the stake, and Bucky would munch on the grass and shrubs around it, clearing a circle each day. It was a good way to keep the lawn looking trim—as long as Bucky stayed tied.

He was getting so big that it took all of Matthew’s strength to pull him away from the garden. Sometimes, Phoebe was there to help. She’d push from behind, and he’d pull from the front until they got him closed in the barn. Bucky didn’t like being in there. He’d bang his head against the wall and bleat loudly over the injustice of being separated from his food.

Matthew couldn’t figure out how Bucky was getting loose. The rope wasn’t broken or chewed. The knot of the loop was still intact. He decided to watch and see how the goat was getting loose. Only Bucky acted very mild and obedient while Matthew sat nearby. Bucky would calmly graze around and around the stake and sometimes find a shady place to lie down for a nap and chew his cud. Matthew didn’t want to waste his time watching a sleeping goat. But it wouldn’t be long before his mother was hollering again about Bucky being in the garden.

Phoebe thought they ought to spy from a crack in the shed. Matthew’s father had moved the long stake to the back field behind the shed, where there was plenty of new grasses and flowers for Bucky to eat. He seemed content with his new surroundings, so Phoebe and Matthew decided to wait until the next day when most of the grass would be gone.

 “Here’s a good wide crack to watch him, Matthew.” She leaned her face against the rough boards.

Matthew scooted a crate next to her. “Let me see.” He gave a peek and then sat back. “This is going to be boring.”

Bucky lifted his head and looked toward the shed.

“Shhhh, he heard us.” Matthew whispered.

Bucky could see the garden behind the barn. He stretched the rope as far as it could go, but it didn’t come close to the carrot tops at all. He pivoted around and ran straight toward the pole.

“He’s going to butt it!” Matthew exclaimed.

But Bucky ran past the stake until the tension of the rope yanked on his neck, pulling his front feet off the ground. He turned and ran past it again, yanking on the rope the other way. He did this eight or nine times until the stake loosened in the ground and leaned at an angle. Then Bucky walked deliberately to it. He nudged the knot of the loop over the end of stake and he was free. He strutted proudly off to eat his fill of carrots and cabbages.

Matthew slapped his hand down on his knee. “That stupid goat is pretty smart!”

Phoebe giggled. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. I guess we better go get him before your mother finds out.”

Bucky didn’t want to be caught. He tromped through the green beans and peas, nibbling as he went. Whenever Phoebe or Matthew came close, he’d run off a few feet. Matthew tried to step on the trailing rope, but was pulled on his backside as Bucky continued on.

“OWWW! Come back here, you stupid goat!”

Phoebe found some wild clover and picked a handful. “Come, Bucky. Look what I have for you.” She waved the bouquet in front of the goat. He took a couple steps toward her. She backed up and he followed.

Matthew whispered, “Hey, keep going, Phoebe! He likes them.” Matthew stood up and brushed the dirt from his hands. “I’ll try to grab the rope while he’s watching you.”

“Come on, Bucky. Come get the delicious clover.”

Matthew crept forward with exaggerated slow motion steps until he reached the end of the rope. He grabbed the loop and twisted it around his arm. “I got it, Phoebe!”

Bucky wasn’t going to be caught that easily. He jumped and pulled and twisted and began running across the yard, pulling Matthew behind him.

“HEELLLPP!” Matthew’s feet dragged through the thistles and burdocks and rocks.

 Bucky pulled him around the house all the way to the front porch, where the steps anchored Matthew’s progress anymore. Matthew stood up and reeled the rope around his arm as he walked up the steps toward the cornered billygoat. “I’ve got you now.”

Bucky lowered his head and plowed into Matthew’s stomach, sending him sailing through the air. Phoebe arrived around the corner just in time to see him land head downward on the ground. She heard a CRACK!

“OWWWW! I’m dying! I can’t move my arm!”

Deborah ran out of the front door with little Sally on her hip. “What happened?”

Phoebe answered, “Bucky pushed Matthew off the porch. I heard a crack. I think he broke something.

(based on a true experience)

C . . . is for Call



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LORD's Day


"Make a joyful noise unto the Lordall the earth:
 make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise."



Friday Fiction - "Carroteened"

Poor Willy! 
Being quarantined because his sister is sick just isn't fair -
 especially during baseball season. 

I wrote this a few years ago for the Faithwriters Challenge (topic - Charades). 


CARROTEENED


“It’s not fair! Just because Sally has the whooping cough, I’m grounded. It’s just not fair that I’m carroteened for ten days, or whatever that word is. It’s springtime- the time when a boy just has to play ball with the guys.”

Willy flops on his back on his bed and throws his pillow at his model rocket, sending it exploding in sixteen pieces across the dirty sock carpeted floor. A “ping” on the window could have been a piece of the rocket, but Willy isn’t sure. So he galumphs over the end of the blanket mountain and looks down through the leaves of the oak, to see his friend getting ready to throw another acorn at his window.

“Hey, Jake...I can’t play with you today,” he yelled, shaking his head. He tries to open the window, but with all the damp weather, it is swollen stuck.

Jake is wearing the after-school fashion of a red T-shirt, grubby denim jeans, and a baseball cap. He cups his hands around his bucktoothed mouth. 

“I can’t hear you.” After shaking his head again, Willy wraps his hands around his throat, hacks a few times, and sashays back and forth.

Jake puckers his forehead and shrugs. He waves goodbye and runs off to the ballgame.

“Sauerkrauts! I hope they lose the game without me.” He kicked his skateboard. “Ouch!” Clutching his toes, he hops back to the bed. After counting all his baseball cards and digging the grit out of his belly button and trying to do five pushups and looking out the window 29 times, he sees Jake scuffing down the sidewalk. 

Willy raps on the window. Holding his arms out to his sides, he lifts his eyebrows.

Jake hangs his head and arms and shakes his head. He flaps a piddly wave and trudges home. 

Willy smiles to himself.

The hours and minutes of each day snail by. He dutiful completes the assignments sent by his teacher. School was usually an unavoidable torture, but Willy is so bored that he even begins dreaming of diagramming sentences and finding the distance a speeding train will travel in a day. A spelling test starts looking like a triple banana split.

The best part of each day is the daily visit from Jake. On Monday, he traces out the letters with exaggerated strokes. C-H-A-R-L-I-E Then he hops on one foot and swings both clenched fists forward and backward in synchronized movements. 

Tuesday was rainy, and Jake didn’t come.

On Wednesday, he pretends to write on his hand and fold something and hold it out. He traces the letters B-E-C-K-Y, then pretends to open something and be surprised. He tilts his head and flutters his eyelids. He finishes by sticking out his tongue at Willy.

“Oh, sauerkrauts!” 

Thursday, Jake is almost under the window when he freezes mid-step and turns his head toward a something. He hurries off to catch up with the ice cream truck. 

On Friday, Willy sees Jake jogging by in his uniform and carrying his ball glove. Willy gently tosses and catches his ball while waiting for the outcome of the game. 

Jake grins up at Willy.

Willy holds his arms out questioningly.

Jake points to himself. He swings an imaginary bat and looks way up. He then runs in a circle, ending with a series of jumps. 

“No way! No fair! Sauerkrauts!”

Jake begins stomping and swinging his arms in circles. He spins to the left and then to the right. He flops on the grass and rolls over and over through Mom’s flower garden. With a few more wild gyrations, Jake zigzags down the sidewalk. 

“Well you don’t have to get carried away with it!”

On Saturday, Willy feels like a pebble out of a slingshot. He grabs his glove and races down to the baseball field. 

“Hey, coach! Where is everyone else?”

“Oh, I guess you didn’t hear. We have to postpone practices for a few days. Too many people are sick. You had whooping cough-“

“It wasn’t me! I had to be locked up, just to be sure.”

“Oh, anyway, Charlie broke his leg, and I just got a call that Jake stepped on a nest yellow jackets yesterday.”

Willy can’t believe it. He saunters over to the plate, pantomimes a few swings, watches a few imaginary balls go by and then lets it go. He gazes up into the imaginary stands as he gallops around the bases, waving at the crowds cheering for his grand slam.

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