Prompt #3 Bob and Joe in a canoe

Prompt #3 Bob and Joe in a canoe

PROMPT:  Bob and Joe go out in their canoe What they reel in is not a fish. What was it? No dialogue. Show, don’t tell. February 2016

What is a prompt? Check here for an explanation.

The canoe begins to waggle, waves slopping against the gunnels.

Now water slops over, running inside, streaming down the ribs.

Bob looks for the milk jug his mom found last summer, the one she cut the end and part of the side out of, leaving the handle. He remembers how she insisted on tying it to the painter, instructing him that if he was going to go off in a canoe with that Joe from down the trail, he’d better have something to bail with.

Bob’s heart tug-of-wars between relief at seeing the milk jug still tied in place and anxiety as he watches it bounce around on the foamy water under the little bow deck.

Joe’s in the stern, trying to steady the canoe. He has a strong J-stroke, but it’s not helping. You can’t dip your paddle in deep when the canoe’s trying to lay itself on its side. The wrong side.

Bob decides to lean over the other side to see if he can tell what’s caught itself on the line they’ve been trawling. They didn’t really expect to catch anything, but they did gain permission to take the canoe out on their own by telling the folks they were fishing, so this feeble effort had been made as nod to the truth.

Cautiously Bob shifts back towards the stern, then leans against the roll of the canoe, hanging onto the gunnel, peering over the back, when suddenly the boat rights itself, Bob’s weight added to Joe’s causing the stern to dip deep.

Finally catching water, Joe paddles like mad. The bow rears itself into the air. Water floods the back end.

Joe digs deeper with his paddle and wonders what in the world is pulling them back. He can’t paddle much harder. And Bob isn’t any help at all.

Oh man, Bob!

Whatever’s in the water, now Bob’s in there with it!

The canoe flattens for a moment as Joe stashes the paddle in the belly of the canoe, the water at his knees now several inches deep. Deep and cold. But not as cold as Bob must be. Where is he?

Oh, whew! There. Bob bobs up a few feet away. Joe can’t help but snicker. Bob’s  bobbing…

Bob’s treading, too. Like crazy.

Now he’s stroking towards… No, away. Why is he turning?

Joe spins the canoe on it’s tail, trying to keep Bob in his sight. The fishing line on the back now runs across the gunnel.

Enough of this. Joe grabs the line with both hands as Bob swims around to the other side.

Bob reaches up to the gunnels, pulling the canoe level as Joe tries to reel in whatever’s on the line, hand over hand. Mental note. Never tie a fishing line to the painter ring.

Flesh burning from the thin, taught nylon, Joe looks for something he might cut it with. Nothing. Just a milk jug and the painter rope.

Bob’s kicking, trying to get over the gunnel. His head and shoulders dip into the canoe and Joe lets go of the line to counterbalance Bob’s weight before they flip.

Splashing into the bottom of the boat, Bob rights himself. The boys look at each other, determined. Time for pay back. They’ll get this thing now. Both begin to tug on the line. Joe wraps one hand with the tail of his shirt. That helps. Bob’s shirt is soaked, but he does the same. Between the two of them they’re able to make some headway. The end of the line draws nearer.

And nearer.

Sorry readers. The timer went off before I could find out what was dragging the boys’ canoe down. I have no idea what it was. Any suggestions?


Illustrations: Pixabay Free Images 


Prompt #2 Waking up in the morning…

Prompt #2 Waking up in the morning…

PROMPT:  Waking up in the morning – tell what happens.  April 2015

What is a prompt? Check here for an explanation.

Oh, that Saturday would come quickly, but maybe it would be better if it didn’t come at all. At least I know what’s happening today. I mean, I’m getting up. Well, I will when the alarm goes off, I’m sure not going to jump out of bed early like he always does. But yeah, I’ll get up, and stumble to the bathroom in the dark. Because, of course, he wouldn’t think to leave the light on for me. Oh, that spring would arrive, with longer days, and morning sun, enough to illuminate our gloomy hall.

It is gloomy, but my feet know it well. I guess I don’t really need the light, and when I turn on the bathroom switch the glare pierces my poor, dilated pupils.

But that’s not what I was thinking about. I was thinking about today, and not… well, not…  Saturday. Today. Today I’ll get cleaned up, grab some juice. I know. I know. Breakfast is the most important, yadda yadda yadda. Who cares? Juice is enough. And that’s the routine. Juice, a jacket, grab my school bag, throw in an apple and a package of chips left over from last weekend, and out the door. Before he sees me. Before he has a chance to say anything.

Today will unfold like one of those click-clack toys I had when I was little. Each panel flops down, releasing the one behind it, becoming the top, and then the middle, and all the unordered hours clack and clunk together, from class to class, from course to course, from teacher to teacher, until I’ve run out of clicks to clack. Then back home and make dinner, because, of course, he will expect it to be on the table when he gets home.

What kind of sense does that make? Really! He works his eight hour day sitting around in some office and I do my six hours at school. Then he’s off, with nothing to do but entertain himself. Me? I have at least an hour of homework, a couple more of studying. And I’m expected to do half the chores and make supper for us. He’s lucky he doesn’t complain about my cooking. If he did, I’d stop so fast.  Sometimes he doesn’t look too thrilled with what I put on the table, but I think I come up with some pretty creative add-in’s to Kraft Dinner and Hamburger Helper. If you go to their websites you can find all sorts of ideas. I really do try to keep the menu varied.

Shoot. There goes the alarm. So today gets to be like yesterday. And yesterday was the template for tomorrow. And each of them a predictable, reliable click-clack of hours. No surprises. No joy either, but at least no surprises.

But it won’t be predictable soon. Nope. Soon it’s going to be the day I dread, and desire, and deny all at the same time. Why can’t every day be an uneventful school day? Why do other days need to be loaded with landmines?

He says he won’t be there. He says this was my call, my pursuit. He says he supports me in whatever I’m going to choose, but he’s not going to influence my decision.  I know, I know. That’s what I asked for. Well, that’s what I told him I wanted when I began this search. But then it was just an idea. Then the journey, the outcome lived in my head and I had total control.

Oh, the things I imagined. Sometimes I’d see her as beautiful, or matronly, kind and gentle, or slender and energetic. The closer I get to THE DAY, though, the more my imagination dives into murky waters. What if she’s ugly? A drunk? Mean and selfish? What if she has tattoos? What if she’s a ….  a …. a… slut?

She left us for a reason, but he’s never told me what it was. He just says that one day she wasn’t there, and he didn’t know if she was coming back, and he reported her missing but the police never found her, and we just had to keep going.

I was in kindergarten. I don’t remember her much. Just that I kept looking out the window waiting for her to come home. I’m not in kindergarten anymore. I’m in Grade 10. I haven’t looked out the window waiting for her for years. Instead I looked on line. I googled. I Facebooked. And I found her.

So now I have to see her. I mean, well, I want to see her. Because I’ve committed to that. But it’s not the same as when I imagined. Not now that it’s going to happen. Really happen. Oh, that these school days could go on forever. But after tomorrow, it’ll be….



Posting a Prompt #1

Posting a Prompt #1

Writers often use prompts to get their imagination going. Each month Writers Cafe meets to write from a prompt. Once announced, the timer is set, and we write for 16 minutes plus 1 (it’s a long story). Sharing our words follows, along with surprise, laughter, tears, critique, encouragement, and learning.
April, 2014 the member in charge of finding a prompt set this challenge.

Write something that incorporates the following phrases:

“I’ve nothing pressing to take my time today.”

“That’s the story I hear everywhere I go.”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

This was my effort…

The news rambled in the background as Kate mashed a pot of potatoes in the kitchen.

“Can’t you turn that down, Evan?” she called to the old man, even though she knew he wouldn’t hear her over the blare of the news anchor. Why did she even bother? She smashed the potatoes a little harder. “I can’t do this anymore,” she muttered to herself.

Suddenly, surprising even herself, she pounded the masher one more time into the pot, left the handle sticking out of the white mass, and marched into the living room.

“Evan!” she shouted.

Her husband’s hairy brows crouched into his bifocals, indicating awareness, but he remained riveted on the television.

“Evan!” she pronounced again, this time moving towards the end table.

His hand slid off the arm of the chair and came to rest on the conveniently placed remote. “Not right now, Kate,” he pronounced firmly. “I want to hear what this fella has to say.”

“Hear what he has to say? The whole neighbourhood can hear what he has to say.”

“Ah, yes. But I have nothing pressing to take my time today.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Kate queried, shaking her head.

“Just that I have the time to focus on this right now. Besides, that’s the story I hear everywhere I go.”

“What is?” she asked, perplexed.

“That the neighbourhood is going astray.”

“I didn’t say that,” Kate protested, frustration building. “I said the whole neighbourhood can hear your TV. Turn that darn thing down so you can hear me.”

“Hear you? I can hear every word, my dear.”

“Well, what did I say. Tell me,” she demanded.

“You said the neighbourhood is going to hear about all this stuff on the news.”

“I did not. I said they can hear the news, our TV’s news because you’ve got it on so loud.”

“Well, yeah. Which means they’re going to hear what’s on the news.”

“But they shouldn’t hear it from our TV. They should hear it from their own TV.”

“Why would they want to hear our TV when they have their own?” Evan finally turned and looked at Kate. Purposefully, and with exaggerated motions, he lifted the remote, aimed it like a pistol at the television, and pushed mute.

“Now, what’s this about the neighbours needing to hear their TVs?” he questioned the woman fuming in the doorway.

“It’s not their TV’s!” Kate nearly shouted. “It’s your TV. It’s too loud!  You need to…”

Suddenly a hiss and a sizzle bubbled behind her as the vegetables boiled over. “Oh no!” Spinning around, she grabbed the pot handle. “Eeyoww! My hand!” Shoving the pot off the burner, she rushed to the sink, holding her hand under a blast of cold water. Tears flooded her eyes. “I can’t do this anymore. I just can not do this anymore.”

Behind her she felt a pair of thin, wrinkled arms wrap around her waist. “Let me look, my dear,” Evan said, gently turning her hand so he could see the angry red tissue.  “I’m a pain of an old man, Kate. I know that. But I love you, darling. I love you with all my heart. What can I do to help?”

Hand dripping, she turned, unmoved by his expression of love.

“You can put your doggone hearing aid on!” she blurted. “And then you can have some dinner.”


Horrors and Helpers

Horrors and Helpers

The horrors depicting the wrath of Hurricane Harvey have  had us glued to our televisions this past week. Now we’re seeing segments depicting ordinary people rescuing, helping, and reaching out.

We seem amazed at these stories of people caring for strangers. Impressed. But why? Have we become so isolated in our self-sufficient society that serving strangers in need is now outside the norm?

I read one account from someone in the flood-ravaged area. “Today was an exhausting day, trying to help the community, but also inspiring, as those that could, helped those in need. Mothers were driving up and down the streets, delivering sandwiches, water, etc., men were hauling furniture to the sidewalk, football players were carrying broken furniture, and junior high students were carrying clothes to their homes (that were okay) to wash for people, and some were just hugging each other and crying!”

We’re hard-wired to help. It’s what makes us human. And yet, other than our immediate social circle, we do it so rarely it’s become an anomaly, a one-off from normal day to day living.

The question then is, does helping matter, beyond just the recipient? I think it does. Helping, serving with no thought to personal gain instills a purpose bigger than ourselves. Junior high students taking a stranger’s clothes home to launder them? This is purpose, action with a meaningful outcome. Purpose means our life has value.

Toddlers desire purpose naturally, begging to help, to be part of the family’s tasks. But we, as a society, focus on teaching so the child can be left to do things on his own. Independence is our god. As a result, when everyday opportunities to serve arise, we see them as interfering with our plans, draining our resources, or as people taking advantage because, really, if they tried harder they’d be able to manage on their own, wouldn’t they?

One outcome of a catastrophic natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey is to remind us that we are made to serve one another. Pressed to reach out beyond ourselves provides opportunity to experience the fulfillment that comes from altruistic purpose. Perhaps if we reincorporated such practices in our ordinary lives, we wouldn’t need disasters to bring our purpose to light.

Sometimes I wonder: If a person does a kindness but no one captures it to post on Facebook, does it really count?

Photo Source: New Yorker 08.26.2017

How to Move a Senior, or Help a Senior Move

How to Move a Senior, or Help a Senior Move

Mom needed to move from her house to an Assisted Living apartment. She knew it. We knew it. Everyone knew it. We, her kids and grandkids, were prepared to do the work, but that didn’t matter. Mom still felt responsible to make the decisions, supervise the packing, arrange for movers, deal with the utilities, and stay on top of all the details. It was overwhelming. Every time she broached the subject, we began to psyche ourselves up, only to have her back off again. We were ready to scream! But then we got an idea.

Lets do it backwards.

First Mom settled on the Assisted Living center of her choice. We visited the place a few times, made the decision, did all the paperwork, got the required medical, set up direct withdrawal – all that was a big job, but doable on its own.

A move-in date was arranged. Next decision? What to take? Over a few days we helped Mom put stickies on all the furniture, pictures, linens etc. she wanted to take with her, while everything was still in its usual place. We didn’t agree with all her choices, but we let her stay in control. Things could be changed out later.

My brother drove down for packing and moving. Not much was going, so this piece wasn’t hard at all. We rented a truck and the deed was accomplished in one trip.

I’ve read that it takes a senior about four months to adjust to a new living situation. That was certainly true in Mom’s case. She needed time to change her mind, as well. Knowing the house was still there, still livable, helped her not feel this was an irreversible decision.

Gradually Mom began to feel safe and secure. She liked being able to go to the dining hall and have hot, cooked food served. She liked having people to chat with. House-keeping and occasional home care help took the pressure off. She was actually beginning to like this!

Mom needed the freedom to change her mind. She did want the end table she’d left at the house. Where was that lovely picture from the hallway? Why isn’t it here?  No, I don’t need this quilt, or that lamp. They can go.  With each visit we moved a few things back and forth which was pretty easy.  During this period we were all catching our breath, getting ready for the next step.

The grandkids lived out of town, so we took photos of all the items we thought family members might want and posted them online with the agreement, “First claimed, first served”. The grandkids each picked something they liked. Grandma was thrilled!

Now to reduce the rest of the clutter. Instead of the usual garage sale, we chose to have an open estate sale. My brother drove down again for this event. Nothing was priced. Nothing was packed. We let people wander through the house, take what they wanted, and pay us what they felt was reasonable. They were amazingly fair, and it was really low-key.

Anything left over was divided between Goodwill and The Dump. We hired a guy with a truck and paid him out of the estate sale proceeds. Again, very low-key.

Finally we put the house on the market.

We were thankful that we could afford to pay Mom’s rent at her Assisted Living apartment before selling the house. We kept good records of who paid what, and when the sale was completed, we reimbursed ourselves for our expenses.

Moving for a senior is huge. Moving a senior is just as huge. Going at it this way helped all of us stay sane!