Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Ballad of the 103rd MI

Hello my sweet mama. Just thought that I'd write you
And tell you 'bout this place where I am.
It's called the 103rd MI...Mechanized Infantry...the 103rd MI
No it's not very good. No,no,no,no. It's not very me.

We have lots of parties.
Not good for your soul
But it's hard for a man to feel like a man
With his head in a toilet bowl.

We spend our days in the motor pool
And our nights at the bar.
It's really not bad to be in this place
If you're not sure just where you are.

We're in the 103rd MI.Mechanized Infantry...the 103rd MI
No it's not very good. No,no,no,no. It's not very me.

I tell you this sincere.
We're drinkin' lots of beer
Our minds are wrought with fear
And Audie Murphy was a queer.

We got us a daddy.
Colonel Hardy's his name
Wakin' us up at four in the mornings
Just one of the games he plays.

Audie Murphy I read your book
One night in the sack.
I'm positive that you made it to Hell
And I pray that you don't come back.

To the 103rd MI...Mechanized Infantry...the 103rd MI
No it's not very good. No,no,no,no. It's not very me.

I tell you this sincere.
We're drinkin' lots of beer
Our minds are wrought with fear
And Audie Murphy was a queer.

One...last...time...the 103rd MI...Mechanized Infantry...the 103rd MI
No it's not very good. No,no,no,no. It's not very me.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Best Present

Nathan fully understood the term “persistent recurrent neuroblastoma” in a way most adults might have difficulty with. He also understood his prognosis had grown increasingly grim in the matter of just a few months. He knew this because he had demanded the doctors not “pull their punches” with him.

But today, he awoke to a very different kind of morning. He practically sprang out of bed without even the slightest twinge of the pain that had been his lifelong companion. He ran down the hall to his parent’s room, shouting for them to wake up. It was the very first Christmas he had not been in the hospital and heavily dosed with painkillers in his entire life.

He was so excited, he scarcely noticed how different things looked. Everything seemed so much larger than it normally did that he almost wondered if he had somehow shrunk during the night. Just as quickly the thought fled his mind as he ran down the stairs, parents in tow, and for the first time ever tore into real, honest-to-gosh presents.

Engrossed by his toys, he hadn’t even noticed the odd, furtive expressions on his parent’s faces nor when they slipped out of the room to the kitchen. It was the loud and harsh tone of his mother’s voice that shattered his happiness.

“I don’t know why the hell I agreed to all this in the first place? I can’t stand seeing him like this and I sure as hell don’t know how long we can keep him in the dark about what we did! What have we done, David? What have we done?”

His father’s voice was every bit as strident. “We did what had to be done for the boy to survive at all! They told us the science hasn’t evolved to the level we need it to yet. This was the only option for his consciousness to remain intact we had. So, we’ll just have to deal with it day by day. Dr. Mueller swears they’re on the verge of some breakthroughs that will finally let Nathan live the life of a normal little boy. We just have to hang on a little longer. We have to.”

Toys and sweets and such could only do so much to distract Nathan and, in the space of just a moment, he felt a more profound sadness than his illness had ever subjected him to. He didn’t know why Mommy and Daddy were so angry and upset but he did know he would gladly take back all his accustomed pain, with no hesitation, if only they would smile and hug him in the way he needed more than all the presents in the world. 

Misery of a Monarch

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Raegar Vorhalian’s face bore a look of disgust and disbelief as he scanned the most recent augery from the Priests of Celestrius. He wondered, with dismay, how the people of his beloved city could be so easily duped. The rank and file of the Priesthood were truly singular dilettantes and charlatans no more likely to be able to discern a portent from a portcullis.

Not weeks past, they’d shut down the Royal Mining Consortium with naught but a fist-sized chunk of spall they swore reeked of demonic influence. While the leaders of the Consortium sought to controvert these claims with the fact the stone in question was of a type not even found within their mines, the Priesthood had prevailed. Only when the managers had agreed to treble their “donations” to the Temple had the clerics found the wherewithal to palliate the menace.

Worst of all, he could not gainsay those who usurped his power. As stolid and earthy as his populace were, they nevertheless placed great faith in the dominion of Celestrius and His clergymen. As well, it was unfitting for a monarch to scrabble about like some disgruntled fishwife shrieking of her husband’s perfidy. He could not afford to appear weak or powerless.

Unable to think of any solution, Raegar massaged his aching head and wondered, not for the first time, if it wasn’t a fine time for him to retire to his highland estates and allow his eldest son the opportunity to succeed where he had not.

This story was written for the weekly Monday Mixer flash fiction writing challenge. Although the choice of prompt words was mine, even I didn't manage to fit all nine into my story. 


Vigo sat atop the rough stone outcropping and surveyed the southern expanse of the Clan Holdings. He shook his head, a numbing mixture of depression and denial threatening to send him in to a spiral from which he feared he would never return. He should not, could not serve as the Wayfinder the people needed him to be if they were to stand any chance at all of surviving the Southern Trek. Though he could no longer taste the wind or hear the voices of the land, he knew he must find the fortitude of spirit within him to do that which must be done if any of them were to survive the ever-encroaching and endless winter which threatened to end their existence. Despite his misgivings, he arose and began to compile the mental task list of that which must be done before the arduous journey could begin knowing, full well, that, as inadequate a Wayfinder as he might believe himself to be, he was the last and only hope for his people to not perish unremembered and unsung in the icy grip of the night. 

This story was written for the Five Sentence Fiction flash fiction photo/word prompt perseverance

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monday Mixer Winners 07-12

Thank you to those intrepid souls who came out for the return of Monday Mixer. It will take some time, I'm sure, for more participation but I was definitely quite pleased with the trio of entries received. Now, on to the results:

There were no stories selected for Honorable Mention this round.

Dave James Ashton for his story Libations. This was a very entertaining tale of the ultimate in dysfunctional family relationships. Dave took full advantage of the "less is more" approach to the Mixer and worked the required prompt words in seamlessly and without any pressure.  Well done, sir!

Lisa Shambrook for her story That Sinking Feeling.  No stranger to the Mixer, Lisa has consistently presented excellent stories and shown great aplomb in managing to work all of the prompt words into a story without compromising the tale. This was a haunting offering and the emotions and surroundings were made very palpable. In this instance, some of the prompt words were not, in point of fact, used as the part of speech requested but it was nevertheless an outstanding effort. Bravo! 

Alex Brightsmith for her story Can You Keep a Secret? Alex has a style I have always enjoyed though seldom seen enough of. Few writers I know of could make accountants and their dealings an interesting read. Alex managed to do this with seeming ease. This was a tough call but also well-earned. Congratulations, Alex and thanks for taking the time to step back into the world of flash fiction for the Mixer. 

Please bear in mind my decisions are entirely subjective and may not find favor or agreement with all, but decisions are like that. For those writers not mentioned, no slight is intended and I hope next week will find you back for more.

Here is the link to view and read all of the truly inspired offerings for this week.  Please show a little Monday Mixer love and make a point of clicking on each entry and checking them out. Remember, each link clicked on takes you directly to that particular writer's page and provides them blog traffic and, hopefully, feedback to encourage them to come out & play next week.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Field Trip

Stumbling out of the villa, he noticed blearily that he was missing his favorite boot knife. Now, that was a damned shame. It was one of a matched pair…a gift from a blade smith of exceptional skill. That said artisan was no longer among the living made it all the more irreplaceable. Taking cover in a small stand of trees, he centered himself and allowed the adrenaline overload to seep from his muscles.

As one of the best covert operatives the Agency had ever fielded, he’d seen his fair share of blown missions. This one, however, was a cock-up of truly epic proportions. Either Intel Branch had supplied him the most inaccurate data in their history or someone…someone high up had hung him out to dry. 
At length, he decided there would be time later to figure out which of those two scenarios he had been dropped into. Now, he needed to devote his energy to clean-up and extraction. Well, if nothing else, it would present him an opportunity to retrieve his knife.

Moving with almost supernatural stealth, he moved to a discreet distance and surveyed the house. As expected, all was dark and silent. Though much of the night was lost to him in the haze of combat, he was confident enough in his fieldcraft to know he wouldn’t have left the electricity intact any more than he would have left any opposition alive inside. That would simplify matters.

Crossing the threshold, he nearly stumbled over the body at his feet. Kneeling, he checked the sentry, finding his missing knife lodged in the man’s sternum. Given the difficulty he experienced retrieving it explained why he had abandoned his prized blade in the first place. Sliding it into its sheath, he continued his search of the interior.

Minutes later he’d identified nine downed men total. Given he had not so much as a scratch, he figured he hadn’t lost his edge in hand-to-hand to the specter of middle age. As surreptitiously as possible, Zed stacked the bodies like so much cordwood. Checking his chronometer, he placed a block of thermite amongst the corpses and set the timer.

Returning to the upstairs office, he confirmed not only were there no blueprints in the wall safe…there was no friggin’ safe at all. Oh yeah, this was starting to smell really foul. He definitely needed to know who had sanctioned this op. His long-term retirement plans depended on that knowledge.

Stopping at the kitchen to sever the gas lines to all three of the commercial-grade stoves, he ghosted back into the night and took cover in the same stand of trees. The flash of the thermite ignition was immediately followed by the house being blown to flinders.

Nodding with satisfaction, Zed checked clean-up off of his mental to-do list and concentrated on finding the means to make it back to friendly terrain. Given the outcome of the night’s efforts, he couldn’t help but wonder just how friendly that terrain might prove to be.

This story was written for the weekly Finish That Thought flash fiction phrase prompt. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Account Balanced

Photo Credit

Dante Edmonds dropped anchor and surveyed the surrounding area thoroughly. The last thing he needed at this juncture was unwelcome attention from a coastal patrol vessel or from any manner of law enforcement.

Having regained his freedom, he vowed he would never be so confined ever again. He wasn’t na├»ve enough to believe he was the first man imprisoned for selling antiquities of questionable provenance, but to have been betrayed by a man he’d trusted had been the more grievous blow. This was a lesson the rightful owner of this boat and its contents should have learned sooner. Edmonds had taken the first opportunity to eliminate him, casting his lifeless body overboard.

As darkness fell, he went below decks and retrieved the heavy ordnance containers. Priming the contents of each for use, he returned to his surveillance of the sprawling mansion complex. The grounds were well-populated for the party only now beginning.

Given the relatively short range of his weapons and the fact his mission was initially intended to be carried out by two men, the timing would be tight. Raising the anchor, he gunned the powerful engines, moving as close in as possible without running aground.

Leaping from the pilothouse to the deck, he fired one after another of the heavy antitank missiles into the various visible structures. As he motored away from the burning rubble and carnage, he had no assurance he had definitely eliminated his betrayer but it was, all in all, still a good day’s work. 

This story was written for the weekly Flash! Friday flash fiction writing challenge.

The Beholder

Photo property of Jean L. Hays

Joseph “Joey Bones” Giabone stepped from his Town Car onto the sand-swept roadside. His son, Joey Jr. stood nearby, pointing excitedly.

Joey Sr. gazed with a befuddled expression at the rusty, garishly-painted hulks. “And I am to understand for this you abandoned business school and exhausted the bulk of your trust fund?”

“It’s called avant garde art, Papa. Isn’t it wondrous?”

Sighing, Joey placed a hand on his bodyguard’s shoulder, and whispered sotto voce, “Chastise the boy but bring him home alive, eh?”

He climbed back into his car, giving not a second thought to his son’s latest foolhardy endeavor.

This story was written for the weekly Friday Fictioneers flash fiction photo prompt. 


Though it had been less than five years since Volodya and the rest of the clan had left Amalia behind, it seemed far longer. In truth, such a span was barely an eye blink for a vampire. It had been five very momentous years in which her kind as well as many other paranormal species had finally emerged from the shadows of legend and into the chaos of the world at large.

This, of course, meant certain compromises. Vampires were required to register their existence with all governmental and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, there were issues with the vampiric dietary preferences. From science came relief in the form of synthetic blood products proven to allow subjects to survive and thrive without need for human victimization.

As the leader of her clan, Volodya made the decision they would renounce their anonymity and join the greater society they were being offered acceptance by. Met by vehement protests from Amalia and a handful of others, the elder vampire was adamant his decision was in the best interests of all. Having been undead for nearly four hundred years, he spoke of times when their only choice had been to cower and hide or be driven to extinction. It was far past time, he maintained, to end their exile and live within the acceptable bounds of the modern world.

This was a decision Amalia could not, would not abide by. In all fairness, the fact she was a vampire at all owed to her rebellious nature. Having snuck out to an after-hours club in the city, she had been bitten and turned by Volodya on her way back home. Freed from her repressive upbringing, Amalia reveled in the freedom her vampiric lifestyle provided. She gloried in the strength, the invulnerability, the heightened awareness provided by her altered state. Ironically, she now felt more alive…more vital than she ever had while she was still among the living.

It was those enhanced senses that drew her from her reverie in a flood of overwhelming input. Concentrating…reaching outward with her mind…she could scarcely believe her perceptions. Despite her warnings, they had returned? She could smell the unmistakable scent of her father’s cologne. She could hear the hushed voices of her mother as well as her brother, David.

That they were here, in her inner sanctum could only mean it was because Billy had allowed them in and that gave her pause. That she must punish him for this transgression was not in question. That she had any desire to do so was. Her relationship with him was…complicated. He was her confidante, her sometimes lover, her servant and, yes, the protector of her immortal body while she slept. What he, most certainly was not was “some verkakte Renfield” as her father had so unwisely described him during his prior visit. She had narrowly avoided tearing him limb from limb that night.

To her Billy had grown to be so much more. He was possibly the only being, human or undead, who understood her fierce need chart her course in an uncertain world with no hand on the tiller but her own. He was the only one who accepted her for who and what she was with an unwavering sense of certainty that she, reluctantly, admitted she simply could not do without. He was, in every sense of the term, “her man” and this infraction of her cardinal rules disturbed her greatly.

But there would be time to deal with his transgressions later. For now, she must focus on her misguided family and this, their latest albeit if she had her way their final, intervention. She would not surrender herself to one of the Paranormal Adjustment Centers. She would not kowtow to the self-appointed guardians of “proper” societal behavior. She could and would face the future in her own way and on her own terms. Of that she must, somehow, once and for all convince them.

Resisting the urge to burst in upon them with talons and fangs extended and crimson eyes blazing, she glided silently up the stairs. It was going to be a very unpleasant day for one who was only at her best at night, she mused.

This story was written for the weekly Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge and is very loosely based on the Amy Weinhaus song Rehab

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Cecily seized the Cosmopolitan not unlike a drowning soul clutching for a life preserver. The pressure of her slender fingers bid fair to snap the delicate stem of her glass at any moment. When she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper.

“Ten years, Brandon…it’s been ten years. We decided not to advance our relationship while still in college because we both had too much at stake. Then came grad school and more waiting. But dammit, we’ve been junior partners three years now. This is no game, anymore. This is my life!”

“I still have hopes. I have dreams and aspirations and intentions. I also have doubts and worries and despair. For God’s sake, I have a uterus…with a timer. And time is running out. All I’m saying is I can’t bring myself any longer to believe you’ll ever be ready…be committed….to us. All I want is for you to look me in the eyes and tell me…tell me I’m wrong. But you can’t do that, dearest, can you? Can you?” Her voice trailed off somewhere between a sigh and a sob.

For what seemed an eternity, he sat silent and unmoving…his expression as inscrutable as the Sphinx himself. When, at length, he spoke there was no hint of uncertainty in his words. “No. I don’t suppose I can.”

And in that moment, the dreams and aspirations, the hopes and desires of one very confused and distraught woman died a death from which no resurrection could ever occur.

This story was written for the weekly Thursday Threads flash fiction phrase prompt.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Tale by Torchlight

The wedding reception was going exceptionally well until all the lights went off. With a sigh, Angus MacDermid placed his pint on the bar and waited for the emergency lamps to activate. When several seconds passed and it was still as black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat, he growled. While it had been a trifle…unwise to host such a large gathering in an unfamiliar venue, he’d assumed his lads would have checked the place out to insure such amenities as the electricity were stable.

If he survived the darkness and the Deaders it would inevitably draw out, he’d have strong words for Billy and Donald. Well, time for recriminations later. Now was a time for swift and decisive action if his family and guests were to see another sunrise.

Reaching into his sporran, he drew out a clip and slapped it into the Browning Hi-Power from his thigh holster. Grinning, he reflected that what a Scotsman had beneath his kilt these days was likely to be a sight more than just his bollocks.

Before he could shout down the growing clamor, his eyes were struck by the beam of first one and then more electric torches. By the reflected light he saw Billy handing out more of the same. Mayhap the boy wasn’t a complete sod after all, Angus thought, as muffled automatic rifle fire erupted from outside. Deaders…far sooner than expected.

Pushing through the crowd he both saw and heard more weapons readied in the hands of his guests. He continued toward the front of the hall and the dais where Jimmy and Caitlin had been seated. If nary another soul survived this night, he’d see his only offspring safely away. He’d only just navigated the steps when he saw her, switchblade in hand, cutting the last of her long gown away to knee-height and stowing the blade back in her decolletage. She was one to be prepared for the worst, he mused. She stomped towards him, green eyes flashing.

“Before ye say sumpin’ fool, I’ll not be gaein awa, Da. Deaders or nae, this is ma day. So, oan yer trolley and see tae yer guests!” Brandishing a heavy revolver he’d rather not imagine how she’d stowed on her person, she snarled at him again. “Ye mak a better door than a windae, Da!” She lowered the weapon and scanned the darkness for targets.

He’d always known she was a braw one but he was in no mood to argue tonight. “Here now, Caitin. Ye need tae –“

She rounded on him, “Yer getting’ skelped if ye say one more word. I’ll nae hae my wee one thinkin’ her ma wasnae one to fight when fightin’ were needed.” She placed a protective hand on her belly, rubbing gently.

Angus wasn’t sure whether his or Jimmie’s eyes snapped open wider that night, but he nodded curtly and turned away. Over his shoulder he snapped, “I swear ya numpty lass, if we survive this night, we need tae talk!” 

This story was written for the Finish That Thought weekly flash fiction phrase prompt. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Faded Youth

Copyright - Renee Heath
Staring at the wax congealed on the tabletop, the waiter found it a fitting analogy for the wrinkled, liver-spotted entourage that had so recently cavorted here. In reality they were as spent and wasted as the candle’s essence, clinging to a solidity they no longer possessed.

Granted, a 50th wedding anniversary was an event of some import but hardly worth the undignified behavior of the revelers.

While he found it sad that the oldsters still clung so fiercely to a youth long gone, he failed to realize his relentlessly-dour attitude had stolen away his own youth just as surely.

This story was written for the weekly Friday Fictioneers flash fiction photo prompt. 

Second Time Around

Buddy scampered and cavorted about the freshly-mown grass of the dog park, behaving as if every day were filled with endless sunshine and unbridled enthusiasm. 

He had not been a dog for very long now but, with each passing day, the memories of a time when he had been something…someone very different faded just a little bit more.

Now, he barely remembered the needles and the nurses, the sickness and the sadness, the weakness and the worry. He no longer recalled exactly what had been wrong with the tired, pain-wracked and hope-bereft little boy he had once been.

It was sufficient unto the day that he was now strong and vibrant, filled with potential and promise and destined to live the long and happy life he had been so unfairly denied before.

This story was written for the weekly Five Sentence Fiction flash fiction writing prompt: freedom. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Defiance Chosen

It wasn’t the first time Chelik had seen fire fall from the sky. It bid fair, however, to be the last time he saw it. The alien insectoid Cholgachi overlords had come to exact their tribute from his people. The tribute was always the same…twenty of the clan’s strongest and most healthy young adults.

In anticipation of their arrival, Chelik had known better than to journey too far away. As one of his peoples’ most-skilled hunters, it was not unusual for him to spend days, if not longer, away from his home. Not all of that time was spent satisfying the need for game. Instead, he spent considerable time in the Tainted Lands…there where his clan had, most unsuccessfully, risen in resistance so very long ago. Though legends held the land was so virulently-poisoned as to spell certain death to anyone, experience had shown him this was no longer true.

While he did suffer headaches and nausea for days after departing the Tainted Lands, he was obviously still alive. He considered it an acceptable trade for what he found there. The shards of metal, he surmised, could only be of alien origin as his own people had no such skill in metalworking. Regardless, they provided him arrowheads of such surpassing strength and quality they might well serve his needs.

With every step closer to home, dread was replaced by resolve and an unwavering sense of purpose. He would not…could not allow himself to submit to the will of such beings as held his future….his very life in their unfeeling claws. Consequences and doubt must be set aside. No other option remained to him.

Crouched in the brush on a promontory overlooking the village, Chelik knew he was at long albeit effective range for his bow. His consciousness faded as he devolved into hunter mode. The villagers…the aliens…all else mattered not a whit. His target became all as he nocked his first special arrow and aimed…not at the invaders but at their ship.

Certainly, that which flamed when it came down from the sky could obviously be made to burn by other means. His star-metal arrow hissed downward, piercing the shell of the craft and a slow but steady stream of greenish fluid flowed from the breach. Dipping his second arrow into the coals he had kindled at his side, he set the shaft aflame and sent it after the first only seconds later.

He had no more than tossed himself face down when an explosion shook the ground violently. Burning debris rained down narrowly missing the young man. Without rising, he already knew he had destroyed not only the ship but its crew. With two arrows, he had possibly sealed the fate of his entire planet but he could not find it within him to regret his decision.

If he and his kind were to die, was it not best to do so with backs straight, heads up and eyes wide open? No man should ever die upon his knees…ever.

This story was written for the weekly Finish That Thought flash fiction challenge. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Rainbow Concoction

Rotting produce, discarded cans, and assorted detritus made no difference as he lay looking up into the night sky. 

He had no idea whose chemical expertise had devised the Rainbow Concoction but it sure as anything made life a lot more manageable.

This story was written for the Gargleblaster flash fiction writing challenge. The challenge was to write a story of exactly 42 words based on the question, "What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?" This is my response.