Category Archives: 500 Word Prompts

A Vacant Turn of Events


A Vacant Turn of EventsBy SSpjut

Jumping down from the trains dark interior, I peered through the steady downpour. Even as thorough as I’d been about masking my scent, I knew it wouldn’t take the Guardians long to know I was here. To my right I caught a glimpse of something dark slip beneath the shadows of the loading dock.

Good. I thought. The council had decided to get right to the point and not waste my time. (more)

 

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It’s Sunday | He Speaks in Tongues


Its Sunday & He Speaks in Tongues

By  SSpjut

Jonathan had been preparing for this day since he was six years old and stepped through the canvas parted opening of his first Big Tent meeting in a wheat field just outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Even now, if he closed his eyes and concentrated,  he could still hear the ripple of murmured voices, smell the sweat tang of ozone and rain-soaked earth, feel the crackle of anticipation in the movement of  freshly iron shirts, summer dresses, and long, cool, cotton gloves.  (read more)

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Hemingway Walks Into A Bar – A Short, Short Story


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By Jan Morehead

Maybe I was expecting more from such an iconic hero of fiction and journalism than I had a right to. I certainly thought he’d be a lot taller, more ‘Gary Cooper’ in the way he carried himself or suffused the room with his presence. Instead, I watched a man of average height, sturdy build and care worn features step through the door, sweep the room with unmet expectation, then walk over to the nearest bar stool and take up residency.

Like everyone else in Gentleman Jones Bar of the Dead, Mr. Hemingway had about him the look of someone who’d once boasted a light as brilliant as a new-born sun, only to discover, as with all nova’s, their brilliancy had a shelf life and that he’d come to the end of his.

A neatly trimmed beard and half-moon face, supported a full mouth, boyish dimples and eye’s the color of ripened walnuts.  A remnant of evenly matched dark brows, once mirrored images of each other, now sat catawampus – one straight – the other as an afterthought – the mismanaged result of a burning fuselage from the plane crash that nearly took his life eight years ago. His once thick hair, now receded to a point midway between forehead and crown, lay peppered and thin in his attempts to capture an earlier time. With an upraised hand he caught Jonesies attention, “Bar keep, start me with a whiskey neat, a pint of Guinness, and keep em’ comin’.”

My curiosity is notoriously my undoing, so you’ll understand why I was compelled to leap from my perch – neatly clearing of a bowl of mutilated peanut shells, but not so neatly the outer edge of Sally Loren’s shot glass. ‘Sorry, sorry.” I screeched, then hopped out of range of her half-hearted attempts to separate me from several tail feathers. Between me and our newest arrival, stood a labyrinth of shot glasses, half empty bottles of rum, whiskey and the piston like movements of Jonesies arm, as he filled and re-filled the cadaverous drinks; it took me a few minutes, but I managed to make it through with all the usual swagger.

Upon reaching my destination I was careful to place myself slightly to the left of his center, fluffed out the under pinning of my aqua and green plumage, raised and lowered my breast bone several times, then purred in a near perfect imitation of  Mae West, “Hey big boy…what’s a girl…gotta do… to get a drink around here…huh?”

Now in the four hundred years I’d been propositioning  the dead, I’d narrowed their response to finding themselves no longer among the living down to one of two categories: those found it necessary to spit their response onto my perfectly groomed feathers –  thus the position of center left,  and  those who still believed that this was all just a bad dream and that they’d soon wake up. The day Hemingway walked into the bar, I started a third response; “I’ll be damned, I thought you’d be a lot bigger than that.”

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Construct, Cantilever and Curiosity


skull-151154_150Construct, Cantilever & Curiosity

Edit was never one for sittin’ back and lettin’ a man do what God had obviously intended for her to do all along. To her way of thinkin, such nonsense just weren’t right. Hell, you could even say lettin’ someone else construct the dang thing ought to be grounds for getting yerself tossed by the Almighty in that great big lake a fire the local preacher was always so fond of goin’ on about.

Though, Edith thought has she rested a moment, wiping dusty rivulets of sweat from her face and neck with the same plaid kerchief she’d given Rubin last year for his name day, I’m not so sure I really believe all that stuff about sin, and judgment, and God being mad at the world, and condemning a gal for living with a fellar instead of getting hitched proper, or for wakin’ up one mornin and havin what ‘Old Lloyd’ over on Tucker Ridge calls, an ‘epiphany’, about how raisin a man’s kids would be a whole lot easier if’n he and that moonshine he liked so well just up an took themselves off somewheres else, or how scrapping together next fall’s seed money sos she could bail his sorry backside out of Sheriff Molson’s jail cell for the hundredth time, in any way constitutin’ the Lord’s blessin’ in disguise.

Nope! There just weren’t many things about God, and sin, and judgment, and how men should treat their woman folk, or what does or does not constitute blessing, that Edith and the good preacher would or could, ever agreed on. Fact was, in her forty- two years of living with a man who’d all but forgotten what it meant to love his woman, or care for the bakers bunch of children she’d given him, Edith figured if and when the Almighty thought about her and her doins, it weren’t probably more than just idle curiosity on His part.

Tucking Rubin’s kerchief back into the extensive mound of fabric covered flesh, Edith once again took a firm grasp of the shovel’s handle between blunt, calloused hands, and using the considerable cantilever of her weighted foot, once more pushed its wedge shaped head down into orange and gold leaf covered dirt.

When the sun reached a position level with Edith’s shoulder, she released her grip on the shovel, unmindful of the clatter it made as it rolled off what remained of the dirt she’d piled earlier in the day. Now, letting her eyes sweep over the softly rounded earth, the carefully placed stone and gently planted holly, she thought about what she might like to say before leaving.

As a woman with strong convictions concerning truth and how the measure of a man is found in the honesty of words and the simplicity of deeds, Edith could not now, in all good consciousness, find a single good thing to say about the man she’d promised to love for all those years except, “Lord, bout time.”

By SSpjut

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The White Moon of Winter


full-26076_150By Shawn Spjut

To those who think they know me, there is nothing special about the night, except maybe for the moon. A moon that is bigger than the sky and takes up so much of your vision that it’s hard to think about anything else. The kind that grabs you by the souls and won’t let go, holding onto you, wrapping itself around you, becoming one with the who and the what, of you.

But then those who think they know me would never understand how powerful such a moon is.

It’s power  taunts and seduces until all I desire is  to throw back my head and howl until the very earth itself shakes. But if I give into that temptation too soon, how many others will try and push their way out into the open? How many more of my secrets will fight and jockey their way into freedom until the who and the what of me is no longer hidden. No longer confined to simply the white moon of winter?

As far as my eyes can see, and they can see pretty damn far, the night is covered in a frost that is as tangible as it is mysterious. Tangible, because the white moon’s light flickers over every surface like diamonds on glass. Mysterious, because what the eye cannot see is that among its flickering light is a world in which faerie, spirit and the dead come together in a tapestry of life few mortals will ever know.

But I digress.

Yet how can I not when I’m surrounded by such wonder, such marvels, that if given even a sliver of chance I will trade all my tomorrows to remain as I am tonight. Forever abandoning the identity that keeps me from my true self. A persona placed upon me at birth by those too frightened of their own natures to allow me, their offspring, the freedom to choose between it and the who and what of me.

But again, I digress.

Thoughts of what could be, should be, wanna be. These still remain to be seen. The edict has yet to be made and so I wait under her bright light, under the dazzle of her beauty, my souls chained to the lie of who I am not, while longing for the who that I truly am.

The white moon of winter now shines her light on the caves opening,  shadow and revelation coming together to give their verdict. The very hairs of my coat tingle with ripples of anticipation. Like a lamb to the slaughter, do I live or do I die? Tonight,  under a white moon of winter, I will forever be one or the other, no longer torn between a lie and a truth.  Leaving behind the one to embrace with full frontal passion the other.

I shiver. On peaks that glisten beneath the brilliancy of her orb, the white moon of winter now reveals her answer and I am forever changed by its truth.

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Somewhere In the Headlights


 

By Shawn Spjut

Zipper found her way into my life at a time where tomorrow was just another day marked by credit card debt and the never ending job of feeding insatiably hungry teenage boys. On an artic night, the life of a tiny orange and white kitten was caught somewhere in the headlights of my Honda Civic, and will be forever remembered for her claws, her bad temper, and the incredible joy she brought to one woman’s journey in the struggle to overcome the ebb and flow of life.

It was the winter of 1998 and I was in the midst of yet another financial crisis, trying to feed two teenage boys, pay off an avalanche of self imposed credit card debt and struggling to salvage enough dignity to keep the rest of the world from knowing just how desperate I’d become.

Six months earlier I had come across an add in the newspaper offering jobs  delivering the local newspaper seven days a week. The pay wasn’t much but I figured it just might get me over the hump, with a little extra to spare. And if I minded my peas and queue’s for the next two years, there was a real possibility I just might see the light of financial freedom again.

On this particular night, it was three thirty in the morning and I had been out on my  route for less than an hour when the outside temperature dropped below freezing, Seattle’s infamous fog began to shroud everything below 1000 feet in white, and the left beam of the Honda was died.

With hands covered in ink stained gloves I turned the little cars blower on high, snapped its beams on bright and held my breath while the Honda and I slid from one bank of red polyurethane newspaper tubes to the next.

Another hour into the night found the Honda and I flying around the third dead end street in Riverside Park – a trailer court who’s better days were marked by Gremlin’s mounted on cedar blocks and tarp covered Winnebago’s – when my high-beams unexpectedly glanced over something small, tan and round squatting in the middle of the road.

My immediate thought,  It’s just another orphaned lunch bag, dumped in the middle of the street by some school age child no longer interested peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Having no time for lost lunches, I tightened my grip on the steering wheel and prepared to run over it as all such abandoned things demand to be run over. Yet no sooner had I made my three-thirty AM decision to hit and run, then the now blazing high-beams of my Honda came beam to eye with two blinking orbs.

To this day I’m not sure whether it was the Honda’s precision front wheel drive or my spontaneous prayer of “Oh shit, Oh God!” that kept me from running over Zipper. All I am sure of is that night the universe choose not only to save the life of a kitten, but a woman who, in a momentary flash of insight, recognized the lunch sacks of my own misspent youth.

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Having A Voice Or Losing Our Humanity


handheld-147492_150 In an age of high-speed internet, 4G phones, ipad’s and assorted other technical gadgets designed to connect us quickly, efficiently and intelligently with the world at large, it might be assumed that such a thing has given the user a better voice with which to communicate their thoughts, feelings and intents.

But is that really what’s happening? Are individuals in fact developing a better voice, or simply retreating further into an introverted facsimile of what it truly means to be human?

From the moment mankind took its first breath, we’ve been looking for better ways to communicate with the environment in which we find ourselves. At first it’s believed our language base consisted of verbal grunts punctuated by outbursts of physical demonstration. Later we enlarged our repertoire to include more complex words and sentence structures, which in turn led to entire civilizations developing around our speech and the way in which we interpret the world we lived in.

Be it the spoken word or written prose, a raised eyebrow or secret sigh, the power of the human voice has grown in both its ability to express its self as well as shape the world around it.

Yet the journey to get to where we are today has not been without a cost. Whether it was the loss of simplicity to gain a more complex form of expression, or the forfeiture of life to obtain the right to that expression, there has always been – and will always be – a price.

Until fifty years ago a large percentage of the human race still knew what it meant to look someone in the eye, express an opinion or demonstrate their passion. It wasn’t unusual for people to reach out and touch a shoulder, hug a child or sit in the back yard under the shade of a tree, while friends or lovers shared a book, spoke in whispers or stole a kiss. Weekends were about investing in relationships, relaxing with the family and reconnecting with the dreams that defined who we were.

Yet now we request to be friends with people we’ve never met, share our passions with those we’ve never seen and proclaim to love someone we can’t find more than fifteen minutes of blog or tweet time to send with.  We voyeuristically follow the lives of people we admire but are too afraid to become, and all too often sit behind the anonymity of our tablets, lap tops and iPhones, trying to convince ourselves that what we’re typing, texting and sending is our way of connecting and having a voice.

So in this fast paced age of social media connections and 4G relationships, have we really gained a voice or simply stepped further behind the veil obscurity? Have our cyber relationships really given us a larger circle of friends or simply robbed us of an opportunity to touch, taste and smell – the primal part of who we are and what truly makes us human?

SSpjut

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Dirty Little Secrets


hand-90646_150By Shawn Spjut

Where oh where did they go? I’ve looked under the bed, the pile of clean laundry [or is it dirty] and through the coat closet down the hall. When I couldn’t find them there, I marched into the office and rummaged around my desk, in my desk and finally beneath it – nothing.

With measurable levels of futility now rising, I headed to the garage where I spent an hour poking through layer upon layer of Christmas boxes, family mementos, future garage sale junk and neatly stacked matter – nada. Then, as a safety precaution I decided I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider the tool shed as a viable possibility. So after slipping my perpetually cold, woolen clad feet into a pair of Birkenstocks, I threw on my fleece lined jacket and trudged through three inches of new snow, around two frozen hydrangea bushes and over a dead partridge trapped within the branches of my recently fallen pear tree.

Yet after carefully burrowing through a vast assortment of gardening tools, fertilizers and the latest Ed Hume flower packets, I was forced to come to the heart wrenching conclusion that I’d lost one of my ‘dirty little secrets’.  I don’t know how nor do I remember where, but lost it was and at that juncture of my life it was of the utmost importance that it be found and administered the death-blow it truly deserved.

Now you ask, “What could possibly be so important that she would be willing to risk life and limb to find something that obviously didn’t want to be found? Wouldn’t she be better off letting it remain hidden and therefore void of its power to wound or manipulate her current way of life?” But then both questions pre-suppose that something hidden is therefore also dormant, and what is dormant therefore has no power to affect our current mode of apparatus.

But what if our ‘dirty little secrets’ are like the Trojan’s or Virus’s that attach themselves to our ‘browser’s’ and burrow into the very registry of our beings with the sole intent to   “Destroy from within”.  By the time they’re finished with us, our hard drives are decimated and whatever projects we were working on are useless – discovering we’ve been left feeling violated in a way that is impossible to fully comprehend.

So the answer to both questions is a resounding “NO!” Not now, not ever.  The longer we allow our ‘dirty little secrets’ to remain in hiding, the more damage they are capable of doing. It won’t matter that we’ve become adept at managing the fall out, or that we’re continually renewing our green cards in order to keep living in the land of denial.  As long as our ‘dirty little secrets’  remain hidden and unchallenged,  they’ll have all the power they need to manipulate us like the ‘Dos’ and ‘Command Prompts’ in our hard drives; manipulating everything we say and do whether we know it or not.

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On the Corner of First And Main


125255867By Shawn Spjut

The last of Zarrin’s smoldering cigarette disappeared beneath the heel of his boot.  Triple digit temperatures made the fabric of his snap-down-cotton shirt cling to his back, while corded muscles, made lean through hard labor and even harder winters, tightened in fear and indecision. Furtively the fifteen year old glanced around, his finger unconsciously tracing the jagged ridge of scar tissue that ran the length of his tanned jaw line.

Standing on the corner of First and Main, the boy wrestled with whether being discovered by Angus was worth whatever it was the Preacher Man was selling. But after a few minutes he finally decided that no amount of forgiveness,  or promises of heaven after death were powerful enough to banish the image of  what Angus would do should he find out.

But as he turned to leave,Zarrin felt the cold presence of evil come up behind him seconds before the anvil like weight of his step-father’s hand fell on his shoulder.

“What do you think your doin’ boy?” barked a voice as big as the man who welded it. “Didn’t I tell  you to meet me back at the truck as soon as you were done delivering those eggs for your ma?”

“I…I was just on my way pa.” Zarrin said, trying to keep the fear out of his voice. “Just stopped to have a smoke… you know…so ma wouldn’t see me.”

The finger’s gripping his should tightened. “Why is it I don’t believe you boy? You sneakin round, waitin’ to see that Preacher Man again?

“No pa. I…I swear I was just grabbing a smoke.“ Keeping his eyes lowered, he added, “You…you know how much ma hates it when you and I smoke”

Angus McCullen studied the boy for any signs of the lie he knew was there. Deciding punishment could wait until they got home, he turned to leave and nearly ran into the object of his hatred.

As opponents went, Preacher Man was out weighed, out muscled, and over shadowed. Standing just under five foot five and weighing even less than the boy, Zarrin’s would be savior didn’t look big enough to shadow box himself, let alone take on the six-foot seven giant before him.

Nodding to Zarrin, Preacher Man smiled, “Evening Mr. McCullen. It was good of you to come to see Zarrin off.”

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, including Angus McCullen, that he had murder in mind when he let out a roar, drew back his fist and aimed it at the man trying to steal his son from him.  But instead of feeling the satisfaction of the preacher’s face crumbling beneath his fist, Angus McCullen screamed as that same fist met the trunk of a tree, shattering  the bones in his left hand.

Back on the corner of First and Main, a bewildered Zarrin looked around, “Where…where did he go?”

Tilting his head to one side, Preacher Man answered, “Honestly? I have no idea.”

“But how?” the boy asked, his hands shaking as he drew another cigarette from a crumpled pack and tried unsuccessfully to light it.

Smiling, Preacher man took the lighter, stepped in close, held the flame under Zarrin’s cigarette and said, “Just a matter of knowin’ the right people son.”

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Shoes and Momentary Regrets


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Evelyn used the hose to purge the blood from her boots; its passive conspiracy removing any visage of the deed. Next she sprayed down the steel bar she’d been using to try to pry the rest of the stump she and Rodger had been working on from its spot within the middle of her intended patch of green beans. When she was satisfied that none of the blood remained, she turned the water off, rewound the hose, and headed back towards the house.

Killing Roger had been neither intentional, nor all that regretful. It simply was what it was; an unfortunate accident that made her life simpler. Now that he would no longer be a demanding presence she could do some of the things she’d been talking about; such as taking a trip to New Orleans, or going to Phoenix and spending time with her ailing mother.

Things dear Roger had no inclination towards.

The aggregation had started weeks ago, just after the last ice melted and they were finally able to begin work on that new section of land she’d been after him to dig up. Growing enough produce to get her, Rodger, and the rest of the farm through winter meant enlarging the garden every chance they got. What with the addition of a dozen more chickens, the sow, and her new litter of piglets, the demands of food had almost doubled since last year.

At first Rodger had seemed eager to help, rooting out blackberry vines and dense undergrowth even before the sun had a chance to come up. But over the last couple of days she’d seen a change come over him; a shift in attitude; a sense that he was disgruntled but hadn’t yet worked up enough angst to confront her. Used to his techy ways she’d left him alone, confident he’d let her know soon enough.

But the eruption, when it came, was so violent and unexpected that Evelyn, having been born and raised in the Alaskan bush, responded to the sound of crashing trees and impending danger the only way she knew how; by swinging around, dropping to her knees, and bracing herself and the steel bar to skewer whatever it was headed her way.

Reaching the back door, she leaned the bar against the outer wall, removed her boots and placed them neatly beside an assortment of tennis shoes, Canucks, Mukluks, and Clarks. Sliding her feet into house shoes, she paused to see whether the pit she’d just dug was visible from the porch.

Satisfied it was, Evelyn allowed herself a moment’s regret as the image of an impaled Rodger, eyes wide in disbelief, a squeal of rage and pain shattering the early morning air, flashed before her eyes. Then, going to the radio she called her neighbor Michelle.

When Michelle finally picked up Evelyn said, “Mic, let the pipeline know there’s gonna be a luau at the homestead tomorrow.”

Laughing, Michelle replied, “It’s about time you killed that damn pig.”

By Shawn Spjut, 2014

All Rights Reserved.

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