Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 13

I’ll have you know I spent yesterday shoveling a foot of snow out of my driveway. At least, I think it was my driveway. What matters is that there was plenty of coffee (and, if I’m not further mistaken, a caramel apple tartlet) waiting when I’d finished doing whatever the heck it was I was doing to wherever I was doing it to. In any event, the physical labor and the joy of flinging (cracked) shovels-full of powdery snow through the air have served to fire up the old Muse. I hope yours is awake and ready to go too–why don’t you pull up a comfy chair, open your laptop, and write with me a spell? We’re so glad you’re here.   

WALL OF FLAME: Now boasting a fresh coat of extra flammable paint! The Wall of Flame is where you will find the current Ring of Fire badge holders. Starting today, all writers can begin earning eligibility for MARCH. Remember: prizes at calendar year’s end from among those with the most badges in 2015! Details here.


DC2Judging today is Dragon Team One, consisting of fiery dragon captains Image Ronin & Jodianne4eva. That engine-type rumbling you hear is their hungry bellies as they wait to devour your stories. They like stories that challenge them a bit, going outside the box and, to mix metaphors, peeling back the layers to reveal the secrets hidden beneath. They do not, however, prefer mixed metaphors.   


Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

Now, grab your axe and whetting stone, and let’s go!

* Word count: Write a 200-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title/byline) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.


(1) Required story element (this week: theme. The below theme must be the central focus of your story. This word is meant in the sense of goal/hope/objective):



(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:


Whetting Interrupted. Public domain painting by Jose Ferraz

Whetting Interrupted, 1894. Public domain painting by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior.

478 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 13

  1. Timber

    It’s another beautiful day in the forest. I can hear the birds all around me, chirping hopefully, looking for a mate. Perhaps I will see them in the spring when they build their nests.

    The sun warms my dark limbs. Years of exposure have left my skin tough and wrinkled. No-one notices though, I blend in seamlessly with the crowd. We all look the same, especially to the outsiders. In their defence most of us are related, we don’t stray very far. This place is our home, our roots are here. There’s plenty to go around, no reason to leave.

    The afternoon heat intensifies, so I take a drink from the river. The sunlight fills me with energy and a renewed sense of hope. I need to stretch out before I hunker down for winter. I reach my fingers to the heavens with a deep groan.

    The noise attracts the wrong kind of attention. An outsider stalks towards me, holding an axe that gleams with menace. I stand perfectly still, holding my breath. Perhaps he won’t notice me, won’t choose me as his sacrifice. He looks up at me with a smile before the axe bites into my trunk. Just like that, my time here is over. Timber.

    209 words


  2. Liberation

    We are prisoners to our dreams.

    Miguel was trapped by the romantic idea of being a land owner. For his labor, he barely gets enough produce to feed himself, and not enough to pay the mortgage.

    I am snared by the pursuit of justice. My responsibilities bring me physical and mental wounds. I have seen horrible things, I hope to forget.

    “It’s okay Miguel, it’s only me.”

    “Officer Sanchez, what brings you out today?”

    “Still looking for those pirates.”

    “I see,” he says.

    I sit on a rock and motion for him to continue his work.

    “Miguel, have you ever thought you might be doing the wrong thing?”

    The peasant startled.

    “What do you mean?” he asked.

    “When I was a boy I wanted to be a priest, but ended up being a lawman.”

    “No,” he said, “I never wanted to be anything, but a farmer.”

    Noticing his lamp, I asked, “Is that a whale oil lamp? Don’t see many of them around here. What do you use for fuel?”

    Picking up the lamp, I smelled it, getting the pungent odor of whale. Followed by a rending impact from behind, and the smell of my own blood.

    Miguel escaped his land, and I escaped my memories.

    207 words


  3. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 198


    They said you couldn’t do it, said the green card would never come through.
    Then it was the money,
    Then the accommodations,
    Then the acceptance.

    They said it would never happen, north of the border,
    That you would be an alien there, an outcast, socially inept.
    They said you should be content with what you could get here,
    At home, with the lot you’ve been given.

    They didn’t see Ambition, with its lofty dreams, lurking in your school books.
    They let Resolution, with its rigid spine and determined stance, fade into the background.
    Goals carved invisible sentences on the lines of their notebooks
    And all they could see was the stamp of Rejection.

    But you with your dreamer gaze, your bright eyes,
    Stared beyond the stars, imagined pathways through the galaxies
    That rose far beyond all the others.
    You befriended Ambition,
    Woke with Resolution,
    Coaxed Goals from its hidden corner.
    With your three companions, you charted a course through the heavens.

    Now, you laugh at the concerns others throw at you,
    Smile in the face of the green card naysayers.
    You whet your mind against the sharpening block
    As you teach Ambition, Resolution, and Goals to the audience.


  4. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 191

    Someday Soon

    Someday soon, he’d said, he’d come for her.
    Sweep her from the fields in which she worked,
    Sweating out her ambitions beneath the blazing sun,
    The drops evaporating long before they could even cool her skin.

    Someday soon, he’d said, he would build her a house,
    With a yard where children could climb trees and play tag.
    He’d save a spot, he’d said, for flowers by the porch,
    A wooden swing near the gate.

    Someday soon, he’d said, he’d find a job,
    A place that would make real money,
    Cash in bundles that would pave the way into opera houses
    And country clubs, busboys in tailored jackets serving her drinks.

    Someday soon, he’d said, she would rival the fashionistas
    That graced the pages of society rags.
    She’d trade burlap for finest silk,
    Feel the flow of satin instead of calico beneath her fingers.

    The sun had long since sunk behind the silver horizon
    When she straightened her back.
    The blackened sky shadowed the path
    Where he’d promised her tomorrows in abundance.

    With a sigh, she turned her back on his dreams,
    And faced the morning with new ones of her own.


  5. Over Easy (210 words)

    I was with the peasant’s girl or at least she seemed so with the way I saw ‘em looking at each other, when I saw what I needed. There in the barn underneath shambled hay was the glint of the ax. Inasmuch as a manure-laden ax can glint.

    I’d misplaced the son of a bitch after I dealt with the last peasant. He got a little too wordy, which was significant given their illiteracy.

    With a sharp backhand, I knocked the peasant’s girl aside and grabbed the ax.

    “Clean this. I want it to shine so well that you’ll be able to hold it below your dress to find your spot,” I told her.

    She did and returned it to me along with that day’s meal: steak and eggs with raw milk. That was power for you: when exercised, it often did so in the most mundane ways.

    I left the ax where the peasant would see it where he slept by the outhouse.

    Sure enough, he grabbed it during the night and thought it better to just run for it rather than lob my head off. Even left his girl behind.

    I waiting with the rifle since I didn’t sleep. The steak sat heavy.

    Power could be fun, too.


  6. bex_spence
    193 words


    Bright blue eyes stared through the wooded shed, she watched him at the water, saw him with his axe. Today was the day she would escape this prison, escape her captor and the nightmare she called home. Turning back to the room, Lily gathered her belongings threw them in an abandoned sack. It wasn’t much,a weathered notepad and her scraggled bear, these items had got her through the days, the years she’d been here.

    Checking on the man, he still stood at the water, preparing to enter the forest.on the south side. Lily lifted the loose slat on the north side of the shed. She’d been working at it for a while now, finally it came free this morning, a space big enough for her to slip through, to escape.

    Squeezing through, she embraced the fresh air. Ran through the long grass, for the covering of trees. Her hands pumped, her chest tight from the excursion. Hitting a rock with her foot, she fell, twisted her ankle. Looking up the man was there, a tear fell from her bright eyes as he scooped her up.

    ‘C’mon Lily lets get you home’


  7. Pac-man land

    @making_fiction #FlashDog

    203 words


    It started with Pac-man.

    I love my husband, but he’s not the sharpest tool in the box.

    “If we build it they will come,” Raphael once said, with a straight face, “trust me, my angel.”

    Yes, my name is Angel, but I’ve always hated it when he does that. “Who will come?” I snapped.

    “The tourists. We’ll be like the new Disney,” he replied; with a naïve glean of aspiration in his eye and unwarranted hope in his voice.

    “I don’t think anyone is going to come for a cheesy Pac-Man carving at the edge of a stagnant swap,” I said, trying to remain serious and topping it up with the look of disapproval.

    Worried, I hid his axe, but he would always find it.

    One day, after a visit to the city, I returned early to find him stood at the edge of the swamp, axe in one hand, nervous I’ve-been-caught-red-handed wave with the other. He smiled his best innocent-boy look at me.

    “You fool!” I screamed at him, pointing at the Pac-man carving, “Don’t you know these lands are sacred? What have you done!”

    He didn’t respond. He stood there gawping at the forest, where the new-born hungry ghosts were waiting.


  8. Aspirations?
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    207 words

    ‘Yes, I have aspirations my friend. To see my children go to bed with full bellies, to put clothes on their backs, to have a roof over their heads that doesn’t leak, to keep them warm in winter. I then want to see them do the same for their children. And finally, when all that is achieved I want to die in my own bed at peace with the world.

    What? No, it is you who have got it wrong. What you call aspiration is greed clothed to deceive. I’ve seen your world. Your aspirations are for things, shiny, beguiling things. Then, there are always more things, newer things, bigger things, better things. My aspirations can be satisfied yours cannot. Yours are like a bucket with a large hole, as much as you pour into it they leak away. You think the answer is to fill it faster, so you strive harder. You never think to fix the hole. And how do you go about filling that insatiable bucket? Through avarice, greed, grabbing without a thought for those who you’re depriving. You gorge while others starve.

    No, my friend, I fixed the hole in my bucket a long time ago and now it holds all I’ll ever need.’


  9. Leaving Home
    203 words
    Alberto was whetting his axe when he heard hoof-beats. He didn’t look up, concentrating on keeping his rhythm. The morning had been productive and, if he finished this now, he could have a beer and enjoy the siesta.
    The horse drew closer.
    “Hey, Alberto.”
    Alberto stopped and looked up at his boss, Carlos.
    “Yes, jefe,” Alberto said.
    “Señor Escobedo says you should have stayed away from his daughter. And I’m to give you this—“
    Carlos pulled his gun from the holster, but too slowly. Alberto flung the axe. It spun in the air, sunlight glinting on the droplets of water that slid from the wet blade. The horse reared. Carlos grabbed the reins and then screamed, as the axe-head crunched into his shin, breaking it. He dropped the gun.
    Alberto scooped up the pistol and grabbed the horses bridle, calming the beast. He aimed the gun at Carlos.
    “Don’t kill me,” Carlos said. “I don’t want to die.”
    “Me neither. I just want left.”
    “You want too much.” Carlos looked beyond Alberto, and his eyes widened. “She’s here now?”
    Alberto fired twice. He turned to Maria Escobedo and said, “So, you get your heart’s desire. We’ll leave for the city tonight.”



  10. Coming Home
    210 words
    Rosario drew to a halt at the river’s edge and looked. This was where it started eighty years ago. Where Abuelo had fought off bandits and rescued the girl who became his wife. He’d died before Rosarios’ birth, but Abuela told the story often: Her husband, the hero.

    Rosario got out the car. The heat seemed drier and more intense than back in the city, and the smells were strange; unidentified plants and dusty earth instead of exhaust fumes.
    The ford was wide and shallow, but with some big rocks and she didn’t want to risk the car. She picked her way across, balancing on the dryer stones.

    The shack was as Abuela had described it, though worn and decrepit from decades of neglect.

    “He never wanted to come to the city,” Abuela had told her. “That was me. He always wanted to go home. Promise me you’ll take him home, Rosario.”

    Rosario went inside and took a photo of her grandparents from her pocket. She pinned it to the wall and looked at the young man and woman frozen in sepia, ‘Alberto and Maria – 1932’ was written in the corner.

    Rosario crossed herself, kissed her fingertips, and pressed them gently against the picture.
    “He’s home, Abuela. You both are.”



  11. The Woodcutter’s Visitor
    by JM6, 210 words, @JMnumber6

    “I have need of a man who is good with an ax. Come with me.”

    “I cannot, honored sir. I am but a poor woodcutter and I must cut enough wood to last my family through the winter.”

    “Come with me and you will earn enough gold and silver to buy all the wood you need this winter, plus warm fur coats for everyone.”

    “My family’s coats are quite warm, honored sir, and such wealth will not be useful to me if no one else has any wood to spare.”

    “If wealth won’t hire you to my side, think of it as an adventure. The danger, I will admit, is not zero, but I think I can guarantee you would arrive back here with a story worth telling to the next ten generations.”

    “I regret that I cannot, honored sir. Raising a family is as much adventure as any man needs, and if I do not chop enough wood for the winter, I will have no future generations to which any such tale could be told.”

    “Tell me, man, what do you want?”

    “Only to chop wood for winter, honored sir.”

    With that, the devil left the woodcutter to seek another man who might be tempted by fortune and fame.


  12. The Great Distractor
    205 words

    Sharpen the blade. Akin to sharpening the pencil, in some ways at least. When he met Adele she whetted his appetite. Instead of focusing on his writing, he spent countless hours staring into her blue-gray eyes listening to stories of her youth. He focused on unbuttoning her dresses and rolling around in bed instead of molding his characters.

    He had always wanted to be a writer. And by the time he met Adele, he had achieved that goal. But she was a distraction—albeit a pleasant one. After Niels called and told him he’d missed another deadline, he decided writing wasn’t for him. Too much pressure, too much time locked up in a lonely room, away from her soft, pliable body.

    She was the one who suggested they get away. Her father had a cabin in the woods. They could spend six months there, and he could focus on his writing again. Walden Pond, he thought. But when they’d arrived there’d been no electricity. He had to write everything out in long form. He had to cut up firewood just to heat the stove. He and Adele stayed under the down comforters snuggled together most days, as his dream of writing slipped further into oblivion.


  13. The Woodcutter’s Daughter
    (208 words)

    ‘Why can’t I give it a go? You let Trevor do it.’
    ‘What, a few friends told you you were funny at a girls’ night out? I don’t think so, Babe. Now, get on with it and behave out there!’

    The pillock does my intro, ‘A big warm welcome for The Woodcutter’s Daughter, please, Gentlemen! Put your hands together for Little Red Riding Hood.’

    The room is as crimson as my caped outfit. It is packed full of men flushed with alcohol and arousal. I ignore their chants for flesh, despite the manager’s warning. They’re not sure why their demands are impotent, and in the silence that follows, I place a gag. My words hang in the air. I watch what I am dawn on their ruddy faces. Their laughter explodes out of their mouths and noses, out of time with my punchlines.

    The manager mimes his throat being slit. I reckon he must be planning on killing me. But, instead he’s telling me to kill the jokes, and get on with business. My stand up comedy debut is drowned out by the music, but I am not finished.

    My crimson cape wrapped tightly round me, I jump and jump, high into the air, pogoing the stripper’s beat.


  14. No Pictures, Please
    192 words

    Jakob holds up his hand in warning the second before I shoot. An idyllic scene of a laborer preparing his tools. I had the perfect story to go with it, and the magazine had promised a hefty sum for an illustrated story about Latin workers. A real behind-the-scenes look at life south of Texas.
    I need that money. How many weeks has it been since my last paycheck? My stomach answers, too long. I ache for a good meal, a splurge in a fancy hotel with a hot shower. Instead, the posada offers beans and tortillas, and hot water is sparse.
    “No pictures, please.” His words kill my vision. Whenever I take out my camera, people retreat in fear. But the magazine won’t accept my story without good pictures, and the editor suggested a story about this native village.
    In broken Spanish, I ask why he won’t allow pictures. He answers in his own broken Spanish: “Camara conquistar el espiritu.” Camera conquers the spirit.
    I submit my story with many pictures: the axe, his hat on the ground, the ramshackle one-room cabin where he lives. But of Jakob I only write.


  15. Oh What A Big Appetite You Have!
    (201 words)

    I’d rather be an axe than a tree. I’d rather be a wolf than a woodsman. I’d rather be a hunter than its prey. Today, I’d rather wander down a twisted, thorny path than take the smooth, straight road- more interesting creatures to be found- tastier, too.

    Before long, I have one such creature in my sights- a young one. Their young are a delicacy, and I’d rather eat fresh than old, so I follow deft-footed, eyes quick to track lithe limbs. A little interception before Granny Cottage should secure a veritable feast.

    I can be persuasive, charming even. I step out from shadow and produce my brightest smile.
    ‘Are you lost, you poor little thing? Let me help you.’
    I lay the basket out with the cake inside, and take the axe from my cape.

    As it sniffs at Mother’s delicious baking, I swing the blade down hard on its head. I have no time for civilities, I crouch on all fours and devour its meaty flesh before Mother Wolf makes her appearance.

    I gather up my basket before continuing on to Granny Cottage.

    ‘Oh, what a red cape you have!’ my grandmother exclaims as I enter her bedroom.


  16. Earning It
    210 Words

    I hide in the brush watching Jean Paul fell trees. Is he gathering lumber to extend his already palatial residence? Or, perhaps, he’s clearing another field?

    Imagine owning your own fields. Bringing in enough food to afford a wife and children. What a charmed life Jean Paul lives.

    I’ve traveled too much. I want to settle down, get a farm of my own, and have a family.

    Despite being so prosperous, Jean Paul doesn’t rely on paid labor. I know, because I tried to pick up work while I continue my wandering. I want to be that kind of man–the self-made man who doesn’t live off of the sweat of others.

    Jean Paul refused my request for work. Instead he gave me enough food to make it to the next village. Imagine growing so much food that you can be charitable.

    This is my third day of watching Jean Paul. He has the life that I want. He steps into his creek to cool his feet off. He rests his axe nearby. Jean Paul wisely does not go anywhere without that axe. But, a muddy creek makes dodging difficult.

    I’ve learned that life rewards those who take action. I spring into the clearing with several javelins in hand.


  17. Word Count – 203

    A Gentleman’s Promise

    Whistling as I go
    Swaying to and fro
    Avoiding searing gazes
    The charwoman who lazes

    Aspiring to escape
    Thieving a cape
    I’ll need the heat
    And to cover my feet

    I have to get to an axe
    I hope the woodcutter’s lax
    Left my shoes by the lake
    Hope the bait the dogs take

    It’s just out of reach
    The woodcutter I beseech
    ‘Have mercy on me Sir’
    He gesticulated and swore

    I told him I was no slave
    My own kind I crave
    He laughed as I stuttered
    Under his breath he muttered

    ‘What’s in it for me’
    ‘I’ll come back and set you free’
    On his hands not a blister
    I think I believe this mister

    I ask him to blacken my eye
    That way I’ll get by
    Say I was caught unawares
    Ride the temper flare

    He thanks me profusely
    Hits me gently
    I say for flip sake
    Your hand won’t break

    Gives me a damn good punch
    I nearly had my teeth for lunch
    Apologises again and again
    Ties me to the chicken pen

    I heard two people ran that day
    I hope their far away
    Smiling as I got flayed
    Remembering the promise he made


  18. F. E. Clark
    199 words

    River Walk with Me

    Beguiled by it all, everything seemed terribly exotic – even the dried goat shit on the dusty bank, the clothes hung out to dry on the bushes, the mosquitoes.

    I’d come out of desperation, arriving at night to be engulfed in a blanket of heat, the stars in the sky several turns out of place.

    Days passed, the heat bore down, the stray cats screamed in the nights. I remained unchanged.

    One day, seeking relief, into the river we walked new sandals and all. The cool of the water a relief in the unfamiliar heat for my weak cold blood.

    It was called the Rambler, I later found that many streams there were called this, but at the time it seemed very special. Its course led us through the valley, scrubby bushes and trees on either side, precious shade from the big sun.

    Returning home a week later, the gulf between where I was and where I wanted to be, screeched towards a breaking point. Unfamiliar resolve sharpened on the river stones of another country’s burn.

    But, there, that day, feet firmly planted in the Rambler; the herb scented breeze lifted my hair, birds sung, I began to breathe again.


  19. My Name is Rodrigo de Goya
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    209 words

    You had it coming.

    All those years. All those years of abuse and torment, of hatred and subjugation.

    You blamed it on ma. On how sick she was. You claimed the burden of worry overrode your good heart.


    The only heart you have is a cancerous one, a cancer worse than anything ma ever suffered, God rest her soul.

    Here we stand now. Face to face. Man to man. Or man to Overlord.

    For it’s your misfortune that you never explored that cave down the river. I did. Every chance I got, every possibility of escape led me there.

    You rotter. I’d only come back to wait, to bide my time, to bring the apocalypse, the end of the world down on your miserable head. And everyone else’s. Everyone who’d seen me, black eyes and frightened face, and never said a word, never lifted a hand.

    Today is Judgment Day.

    They’ll be lifting those hands today, in supplication, begging for release from the alien plague I command at will.

    For the aliens took me in once I discovered the portal to their world. They adored me, festooned me with praise and titles.

    I am the Overlord, ruler of the planet Vithrax.

    You killed my mother. Prepare to die.


  20. Artista (207 words)

    “Ah! Perfecto,” Carlos said to himself as he backed up to admire his work. He was beginning the rough form of a five foot tall cigar store Indian using his axe. He would then chisel the figure to bring the unique wooden sculpture to life. Carlos sold his art to general stores and saloons throughout the valley but dreamed of becoming what he called ‘a true artist.’ He worked six long days a week as an indentured servant at Fort Phillip, but in the evenings, and all day Sunday, he honed his craft. Back home in Mexico he was known as El Fabricante de Caballo, the ‘horse maker.’ He would carve beautiful horses in dynamic poses and sell them to officers and government officials. Now, in Wyoming, Carlos wished to return to creating his horses, but this time they would be cast in shiny bronze. He saved every dollar and bought an old smelting machine from the munitions camp at the Fort. Hoping to attract the attention of rich clientele, and realizing that his name and appearance were not opening doors for him, he changed his name to Reminington. His family joined him in three years and they moved to a large home and studio in Colorado.


  21. Revenge
    Word Count- 209

    The last time I saw my father I was ten years old.

    I was terrified, my dress wet from running through the stream to our hut.

    “Stay inside with your brother. Don’t come out until I come back for you.” His eyes betrayed that he was worried. I remember nodding in obedience, holding my baby brother, shivering.

    He shut the door and ran down the path, clutching his axe. The only weapon he had would never be a match for the beast. Shrill screams filled the smoky air. I tried to calm my brother who was now crying and wriggling out of my arms. I tightened my grip, brought him to our bed, and crawled underneath.

    “SHHH. It will be OK.” I knew it wouldn’t. The smell of charred flash and burning wood filled the hut. I all but choked on the stench. We eventually fell asleep after the screams stopped. My father never came back.

    As I stare at myself in the water, I can see the weight on my shoulders, slightly slumped with years of hard labor. It’s been 8 long years of tyranny under the reign of these beasts.

    Tightening my belt, sword at my side, I head to the mountains. Today I seek my revenge.


  22. Title: Dream(less)
    Words: 205

    If you give a man hope, then he is going to want to pursue a dream. If he wants to pursue a dream, he’s going to want an education. If he wants an education, he’s going to want money. If he wants money then he’s going to have to work. If he wants to work he needs to buy tools. If he wants to buy tools then he is going to need a loan. If he wants to get a loan he will need to barter the clothes off his back. If he wants to barter the clothes off his back then he will limit his job options to farm labor. If he wants to work on a farm he will need to rent land. If he wants to rent land, he will need to give a portion of his earnings to the landowner. If he wants to rent from a landowner, he will need to work off rental debt. If he wants to work off debt, he can’t save as much to put towards his aspirations. If he wants to pursue his aspirations, he has to work more hours. If he works more hours, he forgets in the hot sun why he even started.


  23. D.B. Foy
    WC: 210


    Leah hopes for what I have. That’s why she comes less.

    “I brought roots.” She says, the smell of manure and earthworms clinging to her. Carrots and potatoes tumble from her apron and thud onto the oaken slab.

    “No fruit?” I stay rocking, my fingers entwined with burlap-brown yarn, a blanket for my angel-boy.

    “William and me didn’t get much from the trees.” Barren as a babe and too ignorant to see the jab. “This one’s for pain,”–hands rough as a man’s hold up green herbs–“an’ this one’s for sleep.”

    “Reckon I’ll need that.” My cheeriness unhidden. “Way he keeps us up at night, Silas has taken to sleeping with the mare.”

    Her felt-gray eyes peg me, ruddy cheeks ugly with envy. Does William ever regret picking her?

    She turns and I stand. “Do you have to leave? Don’t you wanna hold him?” I scoop our baby from his cradle. “He sleeps deep as death.”

    My hips sway and when a tear slides down her plain face, I almost feel for her.

    “Naomi,” she’s saying and my muscles stiffen. “Please, let us bury him?”

    Hatred, a freshly filed axe, cuts through the sapling of sympathy taking root.

    “Get out!” I scream it, clinging to my future, my hope.


  24. Under the Cover of Trees

    I always know when Father is going into the woods when I hear the clang of his tools and the squeaky wheel on his barrow. I follow him sometimes, when mother wakes late, flitting from tree to tree to avoid his gaze. He walks slowly, pausing to adjust his grip on the time-worn handles or to wipe sweat from his brow.

    When he gets to the clearing he sets down his barrow and takes up his tools. First he chops logs into arm-sized pieces and stacks them in the barrow. Then he digs the earth, turning over great clods and pulling out potatoes. I want to stay in the woods forever, hiding behind the trees, watching my father work. But by late morning I’m always hungry and then mother will be getting out of bed and she screams if I’m not there to make her breakfast.

    Today, when father was heading out with his barrow, he stopped and turned to where I was hiding.

    ‘Not today, son,’ he said. ‘Today I go alone.’

    I built a den in the bushes while I watched him disappear into the trees. I’ll hide in it and wait for Mother to wake.

    198 words


  25. The New World
    206 words

    It was a chance to begin again, they said. The promise soon gave way to oppressive heat and plague mosquitos, even as the tropical vines sought to cover every inch of cleared new ground. Paolo grasped a handful of soil, warm as another’s hand. The roots of the seedling reached downward, knowing.

    He was not born to this kind of work, digging and clearing and hauling water from the river. But he had grown strong and hard under the relentless sun, and when the spring rains came, he had danced in the mud, the smell of rain like a drug.

    In another world, he had dealt in other drugs. Sometimes he thought of those heroin nights, music in the clubs, blood in the gutters, and the bullet rain on the windows of the getaway car. Born to die, he used to say. From Mumbai to Tokyo to Buenos Aires, all dying cities, now.

    Paulo had traded that life for an axe blade. Drug money, his ticket out.

    It was not exactly a penal colony, not exactly exile. But it was a chance to live life in full measure, and the hemp plants were eager to grow. Taller than a man they were, reaching for the sun.


  26. Growing Apart by Carolyn Ward (200) @Viking_Ma

    There was a scream as the wolf flew at her throat. The woodcutter heard the sound bounce off the trees and frantically looked around, puzzled by the echoes.
    There were wet rips and gargles as the girl stood her ground and faced down the beast. With more screams of rage she eviscerated it, using her curved blade to neatly remove the silver fur.
    The forest quietened, and the baffled woodcutter scratched his head. He didn’t know which way to go to rescue her. Vultures circled the wolf’s shapeless corpse, while she strode the dark paths of the wood dressed in its thick fur. She finally arrived in the clearing, and with narrowed eyes shook her head mockingly.
    ‘To think I used to need your help with the wolves. Not now! Useless man.’
    She twirled for him. ‘That red cloak was so childish. I always aspired to a real fur.’
    He watched silently, hating the creeping feelings of weakness. ‘Your Grandmother wanted some apples.’
    The young woman snorted. ‘So go pick her some! I’m going in to town. I’ll be very late.’
    She smirked as his face crumpled. His sweet little daughter was long gone. The teenage years were the worst.


  27. Only One Goal
    208 Words

    Stone by stone they’d built the wall. Rooster’s blood colored the mortar, curses whispered at every juncture. The whole village had united against him.

    Ten years he’d been trapped. For ten years he’d unwound enchantments and repaired the travesty of his once-beautiful body.

    They’d meant him to wither to bone-dust, but mages aren’t so easy to kill.

    He’d show them. He had only one goal.

    He scraped the wall for dust, mixing it with spittle for paste-paint. He bound his own hair for brushes. An entire season went to infusing his paint with magelight colors.

    A strong spell is nine-tenths desire; he must paint his wish on the wall that restrained him.

    First, the landscape: boulders, sparse grass, a dirt path. Next, sky and stream. Finally, himself, whetting an axe on a stone.

    Believe, he chanted. Aspire. Stretch your desire everywhere. Bend the world to your will. Make it real.

    Wind whipped his hair. Water tickled his feet. He stood ankle-deep in the stream beyond the village.

    Free, but not fulfilled.

    He ground his blade to a fine, sharp edge, turned towards the village, and hoisted the axe.

    They thought they had known fear ten years ago, but he had shed no blood then. This time, he would.


  28. Dark Bliss

    My father withered away on an assembly line when I was a kid. He’d awake each morning with a passive grunt before crawling to the shower. He’d kill two cups of unsweetened coffee, toy with a piece of toast, then head to that warehouse of insignificance. I’d see him again in the evening, his exhausted husk poured into the recliner, a baseball game on the tube, and a joint grieving in his fingers.

    Mom chased validation at honky-tonk bars, libraries, and grocery stores. With a smear of too-red lipstick, jeans adhered like plastic wrap, and a mouth proficient in flirtation, she sought what dad stopped giving. She sought foreign ardor.

    I don’t blame or despise them. They weren’t loving or inspirational but they gave me shelter, food, thrift store clothes, and homemade haircuts. Life was unimaginative but at least I saw them occasionally, or the ghosts of what they once were before bitterness arrived like a dour ax, a disgruntled blade gutting the diseased trunk of a life rooted in the dirt of apathetic nothingness.

    I’m on the hunt tonight. Some folks seek the cold comfort of a banal existence, a life of repetition, but I always desired more. I crave the taste of screams, the disquiet of fear. Exhilaration.

    210 words


  29. Title: Dad on the Job
    Words: 209

    “Stop!” I said, feeling the power of command reverberate through my vocal chords, even though the human word tasted funny on my tongue. The startled human sopped and put its hands in the air, laying the weapon down. Good human, for once I wouldn’t have to kill this one. We had orders to cleanse Earth; but I aspired to keep some humans alive to collect a whole set for my son to play with when I returned to Triopullios. I only kept docile humans of course. The one in front of me seemed calm but I didn’t lower my laser. I’d been fooled in the past.

    I examined the sack of skin and bones in front of me. It was male, as he had fur growing on his face. I had a few others like that – but this one had black fur darker than what I had seen. He also had dark orange skin. He would be a nice addition to my collection. My son would be very pleased.

    “Walk,” I said. He turned and headed up a dirt path towards a house. I made a mental note to come back and destroy that later. I still had a lot of cleaning to do before I could go home.


  30. tamzinwhite.wordpress.com
    203 words


    I didn’t lie, I told the truth. “I have lived her for six months”.

    They seemed angry. The burliest brute spat his tobacco out. I suppressed a shudder which made my knees knock.

    “You been here that long?” he drawled.

    “What say you, Burt?” Was it said as a warning, spoken in polite manner? “Shall we leave this man in peace?”

    “Sup to you, Boss,” said Burt, his eyes hidden under the brim of his hat.

    “Put yer axe down, please Mister,” said the leader. He held his hand above his eyes to shade them from the reflection of the water.

    I realised it was fight or flight. I pictured heaving the axe above my head but the only outcome would mean being shot.

    “I won’t be any trouble,” I spoke in rapid syllables, “I have been here since January, planting crops. I hope to live here…”

    He stopped me. “We aren’t going to hurt you, Mister,” he chuckled. “Hear that, Burt? Put yer gun away, Burt. Stop scaring the man”.

    My heart raced, I straightened, praying.

    “What’s yer name?”


    “Welcome to the neighbourhood, Timmy. We’ll see you round”.

    He nodded and they turned their horses. I watched tails swish into the distance, relieved.


  31. Word Count 203

    Loves Bite

    Lush fields, flowers blooming, scent of spring in the air. I’m walking barefoot, devil-may-care. Hoping that I’ll catch a glimpse of her, the one who haunts my every waking moment and dreams, hard to explain how gorgeous she is.

    Hair as black as the darkest night and eyes grey like two slivers of the moon, curtained by the longest lashes, silken sashes. I had been told to stay away, rumors of black magic abound, but I aspire to tame her.

    I hear a muffled scream in the distance someone has someone pinned and seems intent on having their wicked way. As I get closer I realize it’s her and she is the aggressor not the victim. Blood is dripping down her chin, and she gives me a satisfied grin as she proceeds to pick his skin from her teeth.

    I acted all floppy and subservient and fell at her feet she looked at me like I was a piece of meat. As she bent for the kill I chopped at will. I had been hoping to get head of a different kind, but one takes what one can, the ax did a nice clean cut, surprisingly, she’ll make a nice trophy.


  32. Reward of the Soul
    207 words

    Once upon a time a woodcutter heard screaming within a small cottage. Inside he found a wolf with a bulging belly and killed that wolf. In so doing he rescued a girl called Red Riding Hood from digestion. He became a hero.

    The king invited him to dine at the castle. Nobles came to bestow upon him gifts of gold and silk. He had never owned such fineries and had never seen many of the beautiful things that were offered him.

    Yet the woodcutter refused these gifts, insisting that he had saved the girl not for physical reward, but the reward of the soul. They were impressed by his morality and his humility and left even more in awe of this heroic man.

    Red Riding Hood, as it happened, was the king’s niece. So overjoyed was he by her survival that the king offered the woodcutter the princess’ hand in marriage.

    This gift, the woodcutter accepted.

    After all, he hadn’t rescued the girl for nothing!

    He regretted what had happened to his friend Wolfy, but swallowing the girl had not been part of their plan. Though Wolfy was now gone, the rest of the plan had succeeded; the woodcutter would soon sit upon the throne.



  33. ‘Freedom’
    Sara Tranum
    204 words

    His approach was rapid. I’d been outside the gates no more than a minute, pausing behind the rock in the shade to catch my breath and slow my racing heart. The sounds of frogs and insects near the water were disturbed by the swishing in the long grass, the sound only a person walking swiftly would make. Then I saw him, the master’s son, with his hand hovering over the hip that a holstered whip. He was striding towards me, to where I had paused just off the path to the property.

    Did he know? How could he?

    I had moved swiftly for the ax, raising my hand and ducking my chin as trained, a reverent greeting. My palms moistened with sweat and the beating of my heart thundered such that I was sure he would hear it as he approached.

    Freedom. I could almost taste it, crisp and refreshing as the creek water on my feet on this broiling August day.

    One swing of the ax is all it would take. One perfectly aimed swing, and my escape was assured. But how many would hunt me then?

    I tightened my grip on the ax and offered a slight smile. Freedom would be mine.


  34. Aspiration

    I had a rusty axe that I used for breaking ice when I climbed the mountain sometimes. I never aspired to be a woodsman. I always kept my mind and my time as unfettered as possible. Father said I was a good-for-nothing boy.

    My sister, Sissy, on the other hand, was the jewel of the family. She was as pretty and as spry as a butterfly, milking the cow with her slender fingers, keeping the barn in fine order, and whipping up a stack of pancakes each morning. The perfect child anyone would ever want! I secretly envied her a little.

    The morning of that summer came, and there were no pancakes. Betsy mooed in the barn all morning. Sissy was gone. Out of nowhere, I got the strength of five horses. I ran up and down the mountain, to every home on the ranch, calling her name.

    When I found her, all bruised and without breath, in Bailey’s yard, I knew what I had to do. I whetted my rusty axe and chopped his bones real fine.

    Now, I just whet my axe and hack wood. I am the best craftsman in the town, but I have no other aspiration but to forget what I saw that summer morning.

    210 words sans title


  35. Creation

    How do you define what makes something real?
    What is the elusive quality that makes you feel something shiver behind your solar plexus?
    I’ve begun to think that maybe it is pain.
    Happiness is not universal. Love is no guarantee. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they tell me, and perhaps so is worth.
    But pain. Pain is a spectrum we’ve all sampled from.

    I keep trying to create that slice of something “real”, to take paint and create something that captures a moment that makes people linger.
    A moment on the cusp.
    Lighting hitting a face here, and curve of the mouth that hints at words yet spoken.
    I’m a god assembling a person, a swipe of white creates the reflection in an iris and just like that I’ve breathed life into a soul.

    I am desperate to create something real. Show what life looks like the moment before. The moment before what?
    Before the pain. That’s what captures the eye, doesn’t it.
    Or maybe it’s not pain, maybe it’s fear.
    That’s the universal brush that paints us all.
    You fear for the subject of my painting. You are afraid because you don’t know what he’s looking at.
    You are afraid that he is mortal too.

    209 words


    • This is beautiful, Casey! Conquering writer’s block gorgeously. A few lines in particular that jumped out are “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…and perhaps so is worth” “That’s the universal brush that paints us all.” “You are afraid that he is mortal too.”


    • I’ve read this a few times and something new catches me each time. Thought provoking and beautiful. A very intelligent way to approach the prompt – ‘The moment before what?’ And that is the crux! Love it.


    • This is layered deeply, and I have to admit I gave this one three reads because you’ve packed so much in here. Each line building on the previous one, the progression of mind. Lovely, thought provoking work.


  36. A look. A touch.


    209 words


    She has seen him in a thousand dreams.

    He is nothing without her. He is the creamy white of empty space.

    She has given everything up for him. Her family are half-remembered as megapixels on a digital-camera. Her ribs jut against her anaemic skin like frigid waves. Her friends detest what he has done to her, yet they’ve never met him.

    He aspires for nothing more than to see her. A look. A touch. He longs to be complete.

    She no longer sees the carpet of unpaid bills, or the remnants ready-meals caked in E-numbers. She ignores the flecks of existence; crimson, cerulean, amber and teal.  She sees only his face. Her aspiration is but a dream that lives in limited dimensions.

    He dances in the fabric of life without her. What else can he do?

    She travels the world in the beat of a heart. She twirls in the sunlight. She creeps in the shade of unseen trees. She glides across the reflections of the shallow pond.

    He lives in a house he will never see. Now he feels her. Now he will forever see her. Unblinking until one of them ceases to be.

    She stands back.

    He is complete.

    Her work complete.

    She rests paintbrush on easel.


  37. Like Brothers
    210 words

    “I came here to kill you.”

    I freeze ankle-deep in the spit-warm rivulet. My axe blade makes a final shing! against the whetstone. The glare of the sun smears the figure looming on the bank, but I’d recognize that hulk anywhere. “Sampaio,” I say.

    Cousin Sampaio is like an elder brother to me, with all the tyranny implies. Faking me in football, dusting me at sprints, beaning me to bruises in team dodgeball. And then, of course, Laura.

    My artist’s fingers curl around the axe handle, slick with burst blisters. Sampaio’s hands are empty, but he could still crumple me like a tamale husk.

    Gravel crunches under his work boots. His furrowed brow visors his eyes. “But it wouldn’t change anything.”

    I barely recognize despondence on him. I’d have sworn him incapable of the depth required for any emotion beyond bluster and bull rage.

    “She’s the love of my life,” he rasps, chiseling each word out of raw pain. “But she’d never be happy with a farmer.” My heart lurches sideways.

    He finally lifts his head. Moisture muddies his eyes. “Take her to Sao Paolo with you,” he commands with familiar gruffness.

    As Sampaio lumbers away, I drop the axe in the reeds. I won’t be needing it after all.


  38. Grimm Beginnings

    208 words

    She has already been given her first red cloak,
    Trips lightly along darkened forest paths,
    To walk the wild woods with Grandma,
    Old hand in young
    Although not for much longer.

    He already scents her, his downy fur
    Forming the pelt that one day
    I hope will carpet my floor
    And he pads after them
    Testing, preparing the ground.

    And me, I have my axe
    But as yet it is a mere toy, a wooden thing,
    I am too puny to wield what I must,
    Regarded as too clumsy to brave an edge
    Intended to slice through
    The belly of the beast.

    At school, Red smiles at me,
    Tosses back that wilful hair,
    Asks if I want to keep her company
    Through rambling thickets, leave
    The beaten track to gather the flowers
    In which she delights.

    But I know I’m not ready
    And she laughs as I raise
    My fraudulent weapon in mock-attack,
    Unaware of leaf-shadowed eyes that covet her,
    The ears that prick at the sound of her voice,
    The sharp teeth framing a silent snarl.

    Instead, I watch her run off alone,
    Taking a road I will one day follow
    Whilst I stand there, a toy soldier,
    A hollow threat,
    And I hear the wolves howl.


  39. She’s singing to me. Can you hear her?

    I knew we were destined to be together, that time when we met. She’d been left alone in a clearing. Shamelessly abandoned. Waiting for me. Of course, she was showing signs of neglect; I had to rub her full length with wet and dry, smoothing her down; taking away all of her roughnesses and bringing her to life again.

    So now we’re matched. Like partners. Fitting together like a bottle and a glass. But, she’s demanding. Always wanting more; more of my attention; more of my respect. And more and more tributes to her Divine purpose.

    She’s a beauty, though, isn’t she? It’s funny how when I whetted her head, she became both less AND more. Subtly smaller in size but more herself. More concentrated. Purer.

    But I’m betting you’ll think I’m rambling. And I can’t help but wonder how you’ll be wondering where you come into this; my devotion to her, Eugenia’s Divine aspirations and your being tied to that tree with my knotted kerchief filling your mouth.

    So, I’ll tell you. But you won’t like it. Not a bit.

    You see, Eugenia’s an axe. The head of ALL the axes. And, what’s more, the Axe of ALL the heads. Including yours.She’s singing to me. Can you hear her?

    I knew we were destined to be together, that time when we met. She’d been left alone in a clearing. Shamelessly abandoned. Waiting for me. Of course, she was showing signs of neglect; I had to rub her full length with wet and dry, smoothing her down; taking away all of her roughnesses and bringing her to life again.

    So now we’re matched. Like partners. Fitting together like a bottle and a glass. But, she’s demanding. Always wanting more; more of my attention; more of my respect. And more and more tributes to her Divine purpose.

    She’s a beauty, though, isn’t she? It’s funny how when I whetted her head, she became both less AND more. Subtly smaller in size but more herself. More concentrated. Purer.

    But I’m betting you’ll think I’m rambling. And I can’t help but wonder how you’ll be wondering where you come into this; my devotion to her, Eugenia’s Divine aspirations and your being tied to that tree with my knotted kerchief filling your mouth.

    So, I’ll tell you. But you won’t like it. Not a bit.

    You see, Eugenia’s an axe. The head of ALL the axes. And, what’s more, the Axe of ALL the heads. Including yours.

    Mark Morris – 204 words


  40. Can I rescind that that last mispost please? 😉

    Mark Morris – 204 words

    She’s singing to me. Can you hear her?

    I knew we were destined to be together, that time when we met. She’d been left alone in a clearing. Shamelessly abandoned. Waiting for me. Of course, she was showing signs of neglect; I had to rub her full length with wet and dry, smoothing her down; taking away all of her roughnesses and bringing her to life again.

    So now we’re matched. Like partners. Fitting together like a bottle and a glass. But, she’s demanding. Always wanting more; more of my attention; more of my respect. And more and more tributes to her Divine purpose.

    She’s a beauty, though, isn’t she? It’s funny how when I whetted her head, she became both less AND more. Subtly smaller in size but more herself. More concentrated. Purer.

    But I’m betting you’ll think I’m rambling. And I can’t help but wonder how you’ll be wondering where you come into this; my devotion to her, Eugenia’s Divine aspirations and your being tied to that tree with my knotted kerchief filling your mouth.

    So, I’ll tell you. But you won’t like it. Not a bit.

    You see, Eugenia’s an axe. The head of ALL the axes. And, what’s more, the Axe of ALL the heads. Including yours.


  41. The American Dream
    Margaret Locke – @Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com
    207 words

    “You can find a better life here,” they’d said. “Work hard and you can achieve anything you set your mind to,” they’d promised.

    He’d tried.

    But he’d never overcome their prejudices. Not really. He’d always been an outsider and always would be, his accent, his clothing, his food preferences betraying him at every turn.

    She’d never cared. She hadn’t seen him as an immigrant. She’s seen a friend, and then, later, a lover.

    He’d told her time and again it wouldn’t work, that they couldn’t last. That her father would kill them if he ever found out.

    “Times are changing,” she’d argued. “You’ll see. I love you. You love me. That’s all we need, right?”

    He’d held her close, saying nothing. There was nothing to say. He knew it would come to this. He’d always known.

    He stood, facing down the shotgun, black eyes meeting blue across the barrel.

    A scream echoed. He heard her feet running, her desperate cries for her father to stop.

    But he knew that look in his adversary’s eyes. It was now or never. Everything boiled down to this moment.

    He saw her pull on her father’s arm, saw the man hesitate.

    At that moment, he picked up the axe. And swung.


  42. Found in Mom’s Scrapbook

    The San Francisco Examiner: May 1853

    Honest, hard-working widower wants wife and mother for eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. Homesteader with adjoining river. Sod and log three room home. Will need strong disposition. Winters are rough. Please respond to L.K. Turney in Evansville, Wyoming.

    Dear Mr. Turney,

    I am also an honest woman. Residing here for seven years as a single woman has been a struggle. Read into that what you will. I will answer no questions. I do not want to lie.

    Good fortune brought my husband and me to the coast from Boston. Luck did not follow us. My husband is gone.

    I can read and write and I would want to be able to not only to assist you on the farm but to also teach your children. Without an education, man is not much more than a base animal.

    If you are not put off by my frankness, I would like to meet you.

    Sincerely, Eleanor

    Dear Eleanor,

    Your bluntness is welcoming for the fierceness of Wyoming. My children would love to meet you. Traveling expenses are wired- I hope it is enough- to the Hotel mentioned on your envelope. As you can see, I am a trusting man.

    I hope to see you soon. Lorenso



    Brian S Creek
    207 words.

    I watch him place the axe down slowly; his fear reflected two fold by the stream he stands in. It was a long road here but it’ll be worth it.

    “I want no trouble, Signore.”

    I ignore his request, this meetings ending already written.

    “They say you were the best.”

    He sighs and that annoys me. “Is that what this is about?” he asks. “I left all that behind.”

    “I don’t think you can do that. If you’re breathing then you’re in. And if you’re out . . .”

    “How did you even find me?”

    “I have friends and money. There aren’t many obstacles that pairing can’t solve.”

    “Just turn around and walk away. I’m not that man any more. I have a new life here, a different life.”

    “Ain’t gonna happen.”

    “It’s a lonely line of work, what we do? It eats at you, doesn’t it?”

    “Maybe you, not me. This is what I want, what I’ve always wanted. I get you out the way and I’m number one.”

    “And then what. Where do you go from there?”

    I think about that for a second and then I shoot him in the head. He makes a good point. Guess I’ll have something to think about on the journey home.



    Brian S Creek
    195 words

    I watch as the man lowers the axe and backs away, his hands held out in front, begging, pleading. I step to the side as his assailant; the man dressed in black, raises the gun and pulls the trigger.

    “Freeze there,” I say and the moment pauses. Despite the murder taking place in the middle of nowhere, one of the government’s G-Tec satellites recorded the whole thing. Tech Division managed to piece the scene together and voila; it’s like I’m there.

    Of course it would have been nicer if the murderer hadn’t covered his face with a damn hood. Guess that was why the Lieutenant dumped the case on me.

    I walk between the murderer and his victim, trying to see what I’m missing. I look down at the bank.

    “Computer, what’s this?”


    “Like his axe.”

    “YES, SIR.”

    “Computer. Frame the axe head and enhance.”

    A 2D image of the axe head appears in front of me.

    “Computer. Zoom.”

    The image magnifies. The metal blade is nice and new and quite shiny too. Painted across it is the reflection of the killers face.

    Can you say promotion?


  45. HUMAN

    210 words
    by Alicia VanNoy Call

    What I’m thinking on the morning of my last upload,
    what I’m thinking as they prepare the wetware for transfer,
    what I’m thinking as I close these eyes for the last time,
    is that I never really got a chance to be human.

    I had more time than most, flitting around the galaxy through the miracle of cryogenics,
    my life extended for generations,
    as I was uploaded into body after body, life after life.

    But every life was spent in yearning,
    relentless in the pursuit of longevity.

    And today I will be born into the soup of artificial intelligence.

    And now, poised to flood into my new alloyed, carbon-fiber casing,
    my final body,
    I flash through half-remembered moments:
    one moment from the previous life of each body before I confiscated it,
    before I subjugated it to my quest for immortality –

    a girl, veiled, diminutive, crouching in an alley,
    a man, brown as cinnamon bark, chopping wood,
    a woman, suckling a tow-headed child in the glow of a sunrise,
    a boy, space walking to fix a broken valve on his ship, turning his head to take in a nebula’s wash of iridescence.

    And all I want is one more life, one more day, one more moment,
    to relish being human.


  46. To Kill a King

    200 Words

    The job is mine, they say; a hereditary position, a great honour. My father has had me practising with the axe for hours. He teaches me how high to raise the blade, how fast to let it swing down, the best angle to enter the flesh waiting below.

    At first I split logs, then he had me kill God’s own creatures, innocent animals whose only crime was to cross our path at the wrong time. I became renowned for the pinpoint precision with which I despatched chickens, goats, pigs; their heads rolling at my feet in a procession of bloody martyrdom.

    Now I despatch man, woman and child with equal accuracy but less enthusiasm. I force myself to do a good job simply to make their ends easier. I do not want them to suffer any more than they have already done; I will do their suffering for them. Quick and clean, that is my motto.

    His greatest hope is that I serve the highest in the land and as he reads the message handed to him, I see that his wish has been granted. There are 59 signatures there. The Commonwealth has spoken. Tomorrow I will kill a king.


  47. Creation’s Point of View
    206 words

    A bold, heavy smear of ochre brackets a central, snaking ribbon of gold. Dots, dabs and squiggles of green intertwine with sage, mint, and plum.

    Next: a cube of red.

    Center stage – a series of oval, softly rounded blocks in a riot of blended colors, patterns, textures – crinkly yellow, dotted with crimson and cream; azure and alabaster stripes dusted with hazel; sienna and ginger framed with raven wings.

    Vision emerges from concentric ovals – stygian chips within white oblongs framed in tawny cocoa and coffee. I see, now, The Artist, fevered and pale, a madly determined glint in his eye. I see The Muse draped around him, diaphanous yet solid, whispering in his ear.

    I feel the brush tickle as The Artist attacks my canvas in his frenzied ballet of creation.

    Steely color and sharp lines: silver fading to charcoal, knife-edged greens below. Pale blue, wavering and distorted ellipses emerge to soften and balance. Determined straw slashes stretch, framing the red cube. Straight, uncompromising lines lend me strength, length, perspective.

    Man and Canvas. Disassociated objects: one cloth, wood and paint, the other tissue, blood and bone.

    But when The Muse ties the threads of our selves together? We are two objects sharing one soul.


  48. D.B. Foy
    WC: 210


    Tongues swore the child must’ve been baptized in holy water. You knew the truth.
    Esperanza Rivera de Rosas, with her coffee skin and bay-blue eyes, was your prayer.

    As famine, drought, storm, and fire robbed your people of life, decades of despair entombed them. You cried out and from la montaña she came. You told no one, and called her “Mija,” your seventh daughter.

    If her striking gaze was not enough to pierce soulheart, her actions were. The first healed was a weary granjero. Months of a cough settled deep in his lung tissue had sucked even marrow from his bones. She touched a finger to his sternum and wickedness, darker than la boca del vocán, swarmed from his throat, and into hers. He lived. Your Esperanza took to coughing.

    The second was a mother. Twelve years old and giving light to a baby, screaming strong in the arms of la matrona. Fever drew rivers from the mother’s skin and she cried out at things unseen. Kissing that fiery temple turned death away. Your Mija carried that heat on her own brain.

    Slowly, Despair was chased from his roost as her healing hands found the forgotten.
    Esperanza Rivera de Rosas, with her coffee skin and bay-blue eyes, was your prayer.


  49. Getting Through The Night

    @LucciaGray (208 words)

    Act I
    Jed nodded from across the street, so I jumped into the sports car with the stranger.
    “What’s your objective tonight?” He asked me eyes locked on the windscreen.
    I looked at my watch and sighed. “To get through the night. You in a hurry?”
    “Yes,” he replied. I took a swig of the flask he drew out of his inside blazer pocket. “Call me Frank,” he added.
    “Pity,” I moaned. I’d have to come back for another customer, and Frank looked clean and rich in his smart suit.
    Act II
    Minutes later, ‘baby take off your dress, yes, yes, yes,’ rang loudly in our ears, and whiskey flowed warmly through our veins.
    “Lay back and put your head on the table.”
    My legs dangled uncomfortably.
    “Wear this eye mask.” He noticed my hesitation and added, “Trust me.”
    Damn! It was going to be one of those nights.
    Act III
    “Jed’ll kill you if you scar me!” I warned pulling at the handcuffs and wriggling my roped feet.
    A hard fist squashed my face down against the laminated surface.
    “He’ll have to find you first,” Frank whispered as he lowered the axe he had whetted hours earlier.
    “All of you,” he smirked. “Every little bit of you.”


  50. @stellakateT
    206 words

    Art Attack

    Was the Woodsman waving at someone or telling them to halt else he’d chop off an appendage? His Grandfather always made him stop and admire it on their weekly visits to the Municipal Art Gallery. He’d tell him it was in the realist style and the painter was Brazilian. For a working class boy born in Liverpool, London was the place to be not some country on the other side of the world. He knew tins of corned beef came from there. That was as much as he ever wanted to know.

    Stepping back to admire the picture he hated with a vengeance, he remembered Granddad was as pleased as punch when he got into Art School. Said it was all the gallery visits that must have sparked his interest. His father said the only painter that ever made money was Jimmy down the road who painted the Forth Bridge.

    He hoped Granddad would still be here when he hung it on the hospital wall. He made shed loads of money from the forgeries but this one was a gift from the heart. Wiping his eye, specks of paint get everywhere; he signed his name Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior on the corner of the canvas.


  51. Bright Future
    (208 words)

    As Carlos sharpened his axe, he thought about his future, the bright sheen of the metal glowing in the afternoon sun. His axe became a shining beacon, a magical object glowing like it had its own will, its own destiny. When he cut off the head of the chicken, he would test the sharpness. Savor the way flesh and bone separated in a thin red line.

    He practiced on his craft. His mother never commented on the headless rabbits and roosters, the cleanly decapitated hens for the Sunday table. Before Carlos took over the task, Mama had strangled chickens with a clean twist of the throat, as practiced as the art of an assassin, cutting off the windpipe before a choking cry could rend the air.

    Bloodless. Quiet. That was a woman’s way. He preferred a sharp edge, a death so quick one could count it off in seconds as the creatures heart pulsed in a last clench.

    He looked at the beauty of the well-honed axe blade, a perfect silver line in the sun. Deadly, the delineation between life and death in steel. If his arm was sure and swift, with no hint of hesitation, a perfect death.

    Someday he would be the greatest executioner in Spain.


  52. Breathless.

    @geofflepard 208 words

    A picture, creased by age and loss. And a place, dusty in memory, seared in her heart. That’s all she left me.
    ‘Find him.’ Her dread last words.
    Her saviour, her lover. Caught on film, his patent fear misunderstood for ignorance. The axe, cruel as love’s first betrayal, swings past her shoulder, killing the snake.
    Two days, one night and I coalesce from their passion, unknown, unwanted yet as real as the distance between them.
    ‘Find him.’
    I’m no more capable of crossing the long dried stream as they were the differences in age, education and expectation. She remembered the earthenware pot from which she drank. ‘Juju juice’ she joked, pulling loose the strings by which her upbringing tethered her to her past.
    The village of her memory is blocked and built, yet his small farm stands, like a shadow of the picture on my eye.
    I breathe, in, out. I am here. As she was. As was he.
    A woman, be-shawled and seared to the soil as much as any scrub or stone holds a child. We draw to each other, pulled by a need we neither comprehend. I look, as if in an old mirror and touch the still untroubled brow of his child, my sister.


  53. We Want To Fight Crime!

    You do? Whether you want to be the next Captain Australia or Shadow – get started in your campaign to show crime Does Not Pay.

    First off, you’ll need:-

    a) Creativity and flexibility (metaphorical and physical – meaning get down to the gym, pronto, particularly if planning to wear lycra) – Essential
    b) Martial arts training – Preferable
    c) Sidekick – Optional

    Before Getting Going – Things To Consider

    1. Pick your superpower. Make it original. If needs be, take time to research. Get it right.
    2. Motivation – why the heck are you doing this? Helpful on long nights and in picking prospective targets
    3. What’s your weakness? (You’ve got to have one!) Make it obscure. Maybe then you’ll avoid it completely.
    4. Name yourself – does it do what it says on the tin? What will it look like in the press?
    5. Design a decent outfit – preferably practical but flattering; make sure it includes a mask (see below)
    6. Cultivate your secret identity and make sure it stays that way
    7. Unless taking on sidekick (see above)
    8. Health insurance – handy short and long term

    Remember – You are the weapon you wield!

    Disclaimer – No heroes were harmed in the production of this article. We can’t say you won’t be. You have been warned.

    (210 words)



  54. The Axeman.
    @CliveNewnham – 202 words

    As sunlight spangled through the whispering leaves, dazzled, splashing back at him from the stream, the kookaburras burst into a cacophony of raucous mockery. Always the bloody sun pounded on his temples.
    “Hello, Steve.” Like icicles his father’s voice slid through the heat into his heart.
    For a moment he screwed his eyes shut, yearning to forget. He continued to sharpen his axe on the whetting stone, one eye watching the edge; the other seeking the old man.
    “Becky’s there,” he mumbled at a shadow; a flick of his head indicating the cabin.
    “You know that’s a lie.”
    He knew. Rebecca was back in England, with their brother and mother. Last night they’d been laughing at him.
    Mother was in bed, and Ted in his. And Becky’s head rested on the kitchen table, glaring. The rest of her was in the yard.
    “Nice cabin. You’ve succeeded in making yourself comfortable.”
    “You’re not here!” He yelled, “You’re not here!”
    Swinging the axe over his head, he stormed the cabin raging.
    “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
    Screaming, blindly running into the cabin, his axe whirled through the new furniture, smashed into the cabin timbers, broke up his home, cauterised his life yet again.


  55. “Beauty Captured”
    by Michael Seese
    209 words

    The cerulean swirl around his ankles mirrored her eyes. Though his forte lay not with the artist’s tools, destiny told Serge that he must make her immortal. Such beauty deserved nothing less.

    Days, he would slave, splitting wood shakes with one brutal cleft. Nights, he would apply his raw talents as he aspired to capturing her.

    The pursuit of perfection is a lonely quest. Hours spent in painstaking practice. Though he longed to sprint forward and savor the ever-elusive end, he accepted patience as his ally. He could not afford to err, as the materiel was priceless to a man of his means.

    For years, each time he passed through town he would pause and study her face. He committed to memory every curve, every tinge, every shadow. Now, working by candlelight in his studio, he broke her essence down, bit by bit, inch by inch.

    His heart nearly burst when he completed his labor of love.


    She would never age, never fade, never face the declination which eventually consumes all egos.

    And she would not be forgotten.

    The unfortunate soul who happened upon Serge as he washed the pieces of her down the river would have to join her in immortality.

    Such is the price of art.


  56. Ordinary Perfection

    I’ve exacted the art of blending in; I’m not referring to hiding out in dive bars and back alleys that’s for the novice. White collared shirts and two-toned shoes line my closet. I dress—wash, rinse, repeat—and follow the drones on middle-class lane into the city each day. Swapping current events between ecru boardroom walls, my stomach summersaults and I swallow. This is my life. I drive a Toyota. Beneath it all, I wear thrift underwear, makes me feel dirty. Then, I imagine spitting on my father’s grave.

    He had a shortcut for everything. One plus one was two, except when one wasn’t looking then two became twenty. A scheme, a dream, I was his first-class ticket, a way out. He taught me to pay attention to everything: Cabbies on side streets. Women with tanning bed skin. Never look down, watch those that do. Bank lines on Fridays.

    I bathe in mediocre and go to church every Sunday where they grant me forgiveness. Whet my tongue with wine and wafer, and I marvel in my absolution. At night as I slip under the covers and make love to my average wife, I smile. She still believes I’m an orphan. I buried the axe with my dad.

    210 words


  57. @betsystreeter
    201 words w/o title


    “Slow down your brush, Lisbeth. The paint will turn to mud on you.”

    “I am painting mud! I am literally painting mud.”

    “But you want intentional mud, Liz. You are in control, not the paint. Don’t let it all blend together.”

    “Intentional mud,” Lisbeth mutters. He’s right, though. She cleans her brush and begins again.

    Paint flecks Lisbeth’s shoes, her backpack, her bicycle. Linseed oil and thinner smells follow her around.

    Her tires bump-bump over the cracked driveway, the sky smeared with color but dimming by the second.

    The phone rings. The phone has paint spatters, too.

    “Thank you for the opportunity.” She hangs up and joins the ranks of the not-selected. She pops open a scholarship-free can of soup.

    Must remember to pump up the bike tires. Trees press bunchy black silhouettes into the fresh pink sky.

    She touches a dollop of paint with her brush, listens to it tap-tap on the pallette.

    She slows her hand, lengthening the paint’s trip to the canvas. She touches a man’s cheek with yellow ochre and titanium white.

    Lisbeth will not be paying the phone bill.

    It’s a full moon tonight. The janitor smiles as Lisbeth passes, and shuts the door behind her.


  58. (208 words)

    When I saw the man, the first thing I noticed was his grand clothes. He looked out of place standing there under the fierce glare of the sun.

    He introduced himself as MIkhail Rennard, part of the family who owns the land I work in. The family does not make a habit of visiting the fields. Not like their grand patriarch, Jacob, who used to roam the fields daily.

    When he stated the reason behind his visit, I was left stunned. He proposed that we swap our lives for one month. I will live in the big old house at the top of the hill while he till the land that I take care of daily. It was part of the will left by his grandfather Jacob before he can inherit the whole lot.

    It seemed too good to be true. How can anyone just hand over a life that I have always dreamed of in exchange for the dreary world I live in?

    Character. That’s what MIkhail’s grandfather wants him to build. And Jacob thought a month of hard work would make MIkhail appreciate more the simple things in life.

    I’d live like a King even for a month. Whether Mikhail gets what he needs is irrelevant.


    • Jacob was a wise man indeed; like that the farmer gets a month of luxury. (This could actually develop into a longer story, so much scope for conflict and back histories).


  59. Polishing the Dream
    A.J. Walker

    George had completed his quota in record time. The first part of his day’s work would be complete once he’d cleaned his tool. He’d dispatched the trees with the minimum of effort, making light work of producing the myriad sizes requested from the village woodworkers. Before the week was done his wood would be in fences, bridges, carts, houses and barns. George and his chopper were in high demand – he had the best axe in the land and he was justly proud of it. He took great care in keeping it pristine – sharpening, washing and polishing his tool each day; his chopper was his livelihood.

    As he felled a tree he always imagined he was decapitating a menacing dragon, whirling the axe around his head theatrically, then with the minimum of effort beheading the beast before his village. Mostly the villagers assumed he supplied firewood.

    One day he’d build his dream house from scratch with only wood he’d selected and culled himself. He had his eye on a lady from the next village who he dreamt of all the time. She and her stunning hips would live in the house with him. Stella was currently married, but George was well aware these were dangerous times; accidents happened all the time.

    (210 words)



  60. Sharpened
    210 words

    Shink! Dull blade resists the whetstone

    Behind bruised eyes, under plucked scabs, there is a daughter.
    Folded into an origami nightingale.
    The splintered smile, the hip sway too desperate to be sultry,
    Nevertheless finds takers.

    I await my chance to strike.

    Shink! Sparks scatter

    Behind saurian eyes, under self-carved tattoos, there is a “boyfriend”
    Made of cruel razor-wire.
    His hands haul you back by your hair.
    Bloodied knees bloom out fishnet gaps.

    You collapse into an eruption of sobs.
    I scoop you up like road kill, with as little resistance.

    Shink! Filings flake off

    Behind gnashing teeth, under sweat-twisted sheets, there are nightmares
    With hooves sharper than withdrawal.
    The world that promised to care for a crack baby
    Chucked her back into poverty’s dumpster.

    You can’t keep me here like this!
    Despite the shout, conviction falters.
    You let me mop your brow,
    Spoon soup through blued lips.

    Once the poison has cleared your veins,
    I train you to take possession of your weapons.

    Shink The blade is honed

    Behind midnight, under dark ice, there swims a serpent
    Forged of Damascus steel.
    When your blade cleaves my breast in two,
    I laugh around my success.

    You’ll keep your own someday daughter keen from the start.
    In a way I never could.


  61. El hombre vivo (209 words)

    Whack. Jose had found his rhythm after hours of chopping wood under the punishing Brazilian sun. The movement was automatic, allowing his eyes to close and his mind to wander.

    Whack. Mountains of gold, not fields of grain, was what he would have to offer her some day. She loved him, but Jose knew that Maria Laura deserved more than a farmer – she needed a man of substance, and that was what he intended to become. Yet the question of how still remained to be answered.

    Whack. He pictured the brilliant white laundry fluttering nearby in the humid breeze. Maria’s handiwork, of course. She was not only beautiful, but an accomplished woman as well; a stain was never overlooked by her keen eye. How had he, then, managed to slip under her nose and into her arms?

    Whack. Venomous electricity bolted up his arm, forcing his eyes open. Scarlet poured from his heart, intended for Maria, and soiled the parched ground. Jose looked down at his hand and counted: one, two, three, four.

    The laundry. Grasping a dried shirt, Jose wrapped the fabric around the space where his thumb had been. The red gradually overtook the white and spilled over, thick like new paint.

    Jose froze. That was it.


  62. “Writer’s Block”
    by Sydney Scrogham
    208 words

    “Headed to chop trees again?”

    Teagan jumps so hard muddy water blots the silver ax head by his ankle. Across the river, I swing back and forth in my hammock, and Teagan raises his hand in greeting. Why does he keep hacking away at something he can’t finish? I drive a toothpick between my two front teeth until my gums tingle.

    Whack, whack, whack. Teagan slides his hand across his forehead and flings a spray of sweat from his fingers. A lumpy fist sits in my belly, and I frown. Teagan’s sun-darkened skin is the equivalent of my brain after a fizzle of creativity burns through. He’s at least trying to finish his… whatever he’s making. I, on the other hand, haven’t typed a word of my novel in over three weeks.

    “Boat,” Teagan shouts from the other side of the river. “I make boat.”

    I lift my glass of too-sweet tea in salute. “Hoping someone’s going to ride in your boat?”

    Teagan’s smile is black and white because of his missing teeth. At first there’s a moment of clear, white tooth, then a black hole. Whack.

    The ground shudders and I latch onto the lumpy edge of my hammock. The tree is down.

    “Go,” Teagan says. “Write.”


  63. Prized Gardenias
    210 words

    “Put down the ax”

    “Oh Senor Garcia” Luiz his, eyes on the wet stone, was caught off guard. “How grows your garden?” he asked recovering.

    “I think you know. I think you very well know” Senor Garcia spat in accusation his pointed finger curled and shaking.

    “I’ve brought the ‘investigador.”

    “I’ll need to examine that ax” said the police officer as he slid down the slope to the water.

    A moment’s panic registered on then fled Luiz’ face.

    “I’m just honing the edge” Luiz sputtered with a nervous laugh. His darting eyes quickly inspected his cleansing work. One hand unconscious gripped the handle.

    “I’ll take that” the ‘investigador wrested the tool away.

    Back with Senor Garcia, the two men inspected the ax closely
    “See there, see there, I told you” exclaimed Senior Garcia pointing intently.

    Luiz’ heart sunk, he’d not been thorough enough.

    “That is from my gardenias.” charged Senor Garcia.

    ‘His gardenias?’ thought Luiz. ‘Yes, of course, Senor Garcia prized his garden and his gardenias above all. He aspired to gain a white ribbon from them. I must have damaged them in the haste of digging.’ Luiz smiled coolly. Senor Garcia was quick to notice the loss of his gardenias. How long before he noticed his wife gone missing?


  64. Tough Meat
    206 words

    The femur is the longest, thickest bone, Sandor thinks. To chop a man’s leg off from his thigh, it takes a good sharp axe, and sometimes you may need two blows.

    Wrists are easy. Hands flop off like fish out of water, flipping and flailing. Fingers can be surprisingly difficult. A finger flew off, a dancing pink worm in the dust.

    Necks are tricky. You want to get in between the vertebrae, with a quick strong chop. No need to make it difficult. Take time to look before you strike, and study the bones you can see in the nape.

    You never want to cause unnecessary pain, prolong the agony. You need to keep your axe sharpened, and use the whetstone until the edge is keen enough to slice a hair.

    Even a chicken deserves a clean, quick death, his father says. His mother says it improved the flavor of the meat if the animal dies fast enough to keep the muscles from seizing, before fear grips the body.

    Terror makes tough meat, she says, but it is nothing you can’t stew away.

    Sandor looks at the stranger approaching and reaches for his axe. The fear in the man’s eyes doesn’t matter. Mother doesn’t cook trespassers.


    WC = 196 03-06-15

    Above the honing and whetting sounds and thoughts came a human call. Santo released his intimate grip on his axe.

    Friendly banter ensued. The newcomer proclaimed Santo’s missed opportunities. But Santo’s internal music strummed and picked a viola caipira. A bond between fingers and string; a whetting more fulfilling than the axe he now wielded.

    Passage to Sao Paulo, down river beyond the falls; a river boat brimming with riparian folks who begged to listen and dance to Santo’s classical pluckings. A violeiro to draw the crowds rather than a caipira to draw an axe. The friend droned as Santo stropped both axe and plan.

    The friend brought a refreshing sheen and edge to Santo’s musings. Strings no longer tied to the bush, now tightened to a viola caipira’s neck. The idea pulsed like a flamenco dance in Santo’s own neck.

    The river below the falls and on to the city offered the violeiro a sharpened outlook on life: ten strings to hone, a neck to caress, notes to pluck in staccato, people swaying and clapping, and fine marquetry to wrap his talented hands around as he axed all thoughts of his former caipirian bush life.


  66. With a Light in His Eyes that Could Burn the World
    202 words, @pmcolt

    My world is strokes of pigment on a canvas. Black, white, and shades of gray paint an illusion of light and shadow.

    See behind me? (Or I should say above, for I have no behind.) There stands a splotchy forest of kelly and hunter, beneath the indistinct sky. A humble home that I have never really known. An immaterial stone path that I never have trod.

    See my axe? Though I whet it eternally, it never is honed. If it were, I would have nowhere to take it, no use for it. My only labor is to stand fixed in this pose, set for me by my creator. Never to wipe the sweat from my brow, nor feel the cool muddy water as I wade ankle-deep. Not even to sit and rest these weary legs.

    But I can dream.

    Sometimes I glimpse the beauty of el mundo milagroso outside the canvas. I hear that world is round, and lit in vibrant hues.

    I wish I could swing this axe, rend the canvas and burst from this Euclidean prison. Transubstantiate from broad strokes into flesh and blood. Burst out to become who I wish to be, and see all there is to see.


  67. Battle Forged
    210 words

    I was born of fire, beaten and shaped by the world around me. While lesser men have bowed to the pressure, I have fought my way through. I have walked through the fire and I was made more resilient for it. They will not break me now, for I have dreams.

    This morning I had thought it would be just another day, but I was wrong. Today they came to test my metal, but I am not the weakling they believe me to be. They rode two abreast down my road, sitting tall in their saddles with their rifles and swords on display—their intentions clear.

    I gripped the axe shaft tightly as I heard the sound of iron shod hooves approaching. It would not do to lose my grip in the heat of battle. I paused, allowing them to gather around me—I had to be ready, remain calm and peaceful until they moved. I could not start this, but I had to finish it.
    When they moved, I let go, my wielder becoming an extension of my will.

    I may be a tool, used to chop wood for the fire- but an axe is an axe, be it buried in wood, or bathed in the blood of war.


  68. Malappropriate
    191 words

    I hope it’s not too late to tell you this, for there are things that you should know. You must know that the lack of aspiration can lead to asphyxiation and having no aspirations is, by definition, a hopeless cause. If you think about it, the strength of a man is not in the metal of his arms, but the mettle of his arms.

    To sharpen the blade you must whet the stone, but if you wet the blade it will probably rust. And when a man wants your trust, can you give it with him trussed?

    And I guess the real question is am I being obtuse or abstruse when I ask “is diplomacy truly balanced on the head of an axe or the head of the man who holds it?” I hope my porpoise is clear, so you can see what I sea.

    Furthermore, if you go further into the moor will you ever escape the spring in your step? Or will it leave you dry?

    I guess the final question is: when they put your head on the block, do you block the chop, or chop the block?


  69. Affair of the Heart
    (206 words)
    Almost home. The steady thudding of hooves echoes through my bones, my screaming muscles bearing witness to endless hours in the saddle.
    My sweet Maria, have you missed me at all? Dust swirls, coating my skin with chalky residue.
    You asked me to earn money and then return to you. I clench my fist, watching the work-worn skin of my knuckles crack and bleed instantly. Just like my heart.
    I’d promised to work hard and be worthy of your love. I dismount as I draw near.
    I wanted nothing more than to be a good husband. I tie the horse and pick my way along the rocky path.
    You said I was the most important man to you. I pause in the shadows at the forest’s edge.
    Yesterday I heard differently.
    I see him crouching in the creek, whistling tunelessly between his teeth to the rhythm of the axe head sliding across a rock.
    “You are here.” Rage and despair rip through me.
    Startled, he looks up and waves. Then he realizes who it is.
    “Cousin.” He grips his axe warily.
    “José Júnior. I heard about you and my Maria.” My dagger flies through the air and finds its mark, slicing directly into his traitorous heart.