When I came to, I didn’t hear the 60,000 onlookers or the vulturine medical flock hovering over me. My father’s voice preluded the recoloring of my world, telling me that this was nothing — just clearing the spider webs, knocking the rust off — as I stirred out from a pitch black abyss hidden within the byline of the pitch.

He was the reason I ever got into the game. He drilled it into me, from field to film, replicating and reviewing his own techniques. He’d laugh off the footage of him stumbling after errant headers — while he could, anyway. As I advanced, he precipitously regressed; from forgetfulness to belligerence to the irrevocable distortion of himself and his world.

I woke with my face bordering chalked and verdant grass. Echoes of my father cascaded from the stands. These were the memories he couldn’t keep. I let the doctors lead me away.

Written for Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 154, centered on the mandatory use of the prompt word ‘Rust.’

Winged Fruits

Photo courtesy of WikimediaImage’s collection at Pixabay. The following story was originally written as an entry to Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 153, which required the use of the word ‘Trim.’ (The type of tree in the image is not the same as that in the story, but that hardly matters.)

We planted a stratified samara after he had taken root. We didn’t know which was bigger then, but when we were finally able to bring him home from the hospital, he had an early lead.

His advantage was short-lived, however. The staked sapling that sprung from the seed grew into its own stability quickly. His growth seemed typical, but became inconstant with the fickleness of his heart. By their third year, the ash was firmly vertical, while he was crooked and coiled into himself in discomfort. We pried him upright every month thereafter so we could trim the tree to his size, partnered victims of our desperate, fleeting control.

The tree now looms with its own clusters of keys — rich, green winged fruits unfurling toward the earth. Despite its wondrous sprawl, the ash won’t reach his heights. And neither will we, beneath them both, committed to the shadows we’ve borne.

Row 23

Photo courtesy of Unsplash user Tuce. The story below was originally written as an entry to Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 152, requiring the prompt ‘Gum’ be used.

The cruelty of assigned seating cornered me against a wing. At her boarding, I feigned a nod of greeting, but acted astonished by the majesty not yet below while ignoring her struggle to store her luggage. She ultimately managed as I marveled at the baggage handlers’ utter ennui beneath us and how the window’s reflection divided the task and tedium between us in Row 23.

She took her seat with a smile and I attempted to reciprocate, lifting at least my ears. To my relief, she declined the unintended invitation to talk. Instead, she wordlessly proffered a piece of gum. I meant to dismiss the stick, but the sincerity in her eyes stalled my cynicism. Though I was heading in search of warmth, I knew no climate would match the kindness expressed in her almandine irises, so I cherished our conjoining by the margins of our armrests in Row 23.



Photo credited to Suzanne D. Williams via Unsplash


The reflection of my chest stammers imitating the reflex of life, but there must be more within me. My inquisitive fingers hovering, fibers of skin accede to a delicate unthreading of my intimate costuming.

The first discovery is a spring of blood that wells onto the plateau of my belly, then traces down through my navel valley, streams between wispy hairs, and drips away between my legs. Next unearthed are my ribs, the mythical source of give-and-take. The rebar arches that held me together also held me in. At last, my archaeological excavation uncovers a nest. Its unhatched contents stir as I cradle it, then blossom into crescent wings that gravitate to my back and encompass my entirety.

Fluttering before the cheval glass, my chest swells with new exuberance. As I lift, I watch the spring of blood still dripping away like my past life unfulfilled, though swollen with possibility.

Originally an entry for Issue 151 of Ad Hoc Fiction, requiring the use of the word ‘Skin.’



Photo credited to Jongsun Lee via Unsplash

After writing, we walked outside. Fat, sluggish drops of rain settled in the corners of my eyes. I kept my hand to his forehead, shielding his brow and our wishes from washing away.

The bamboo we’d planted last year started out his height; now it taunted mine. It was easy to promise his wish then, crowning the sprout. Lifting him up, he struggled to secure his tanzaku as high as he wanted, fighting to keep his eyes fixed on the slick stalk. I couldn’t read what he’d written, a matter of height, pen, and wet. The ink traced toward a corner of the yellow paper.

I hung my green piece on a branch well below his and folded its bottom corners into a cup to catch his runoff.

He asked if the rain would ruin our wishes. As a magpie flit between the branches, I assured him they were safe.

Written for Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 150, based on the prompt word ‘High.’ (I think.)

After the Explosion

Somewhere in the silence, I became a watering can. I traded eardrums for a spout. At first, I feared the corrugated pipe would make for unsteady dispensing, but what’s worrisome is how fast it pours. I have to use my remaining hand as a rose to control the flow. But I don’t mind. It gives my arm a brilliant ruddiness, the russet complexion you’d expect bedecking experienced gardeners. I make sure both arms take the tone after tripping over the other. An imbalanced tan would be embarrassing.

Someone approaches in the silence. Talking about my spout, no doubt. They’re stricken by the metamorphosis of unicorns. I can’t blame them. They stop between me and a spattering of sage. I walk toward, then past, them to the purpled stalks. True to watering can fashion, I tip. Dusky sunbeams settle between the sanguine striations. The sage turn scarlet. I’ve cultivated my color.

Composed for Issue 149 of the weekly flash competition/collection put together at Ad Hoc Fiction, based upon using the prompt word ‘Pipe.’

Tourism at the Sandia Mountains
Photo credit to MARELBU; found through Wikimedia Commons, permitted for use under the license CC BY-3.0 (More accurate attribution is unavailable as the source site no longer exists.)

Tchi’i says tornadoes sound like trains when they’re heading for you. I wonder how many she’s stared down because she boasts knowing from experience. Near-experience, I half-lament.

Curious, I inquire, “Does anyone say trains sound like tornadoes?” Trains ride restrictive rails; tornadoes tear free. Some fortunate people might be more frequented by dervishes dancing out of the sky.

She chides my knowing what dervishes are and admonishes my reveries (in plainer terms). “It’s the same old arrogance ingrained everywhere, elevating artificial over natural.”

The air rattles as Tchi’i hauls trinkets we no longer care about to peddle outside the station.

Submitted to Ad Hoc Fiction for Issue 148 of their weekly flash competition, driven by the mandatory word ‘Train.’