Forty Days

I could smell savory and sweet aromas of the pastelitos outside my porthole window.

It is a memory that I will hold until the day I die.

Mother had just finished telling me about Moses and the Isrealites in the desert. I remember asking her why God did things in forties? “What do you mean,” she asked. It rained forty days and nights. Forty days in the wilderness. Moses was with God for forty days.

“Maybe that’s the amount of time we need to be tested.”

I had looked forward to living in Cuba. The prospect of a warm winter melted the cold Baltic chill in my bones. “Are we being tested now?” She looked at me for a moment, then out the porthole at the crowds gathered to see the spectacle of a ship and its quarantined passengers. She said nothing. Father said that the captain was doing everything he could to get us off, but that we may have to depart in two days. Maybe Florida?

I had never held more than three Reichsmarks. Untermenschen were never allowed more than ten. Wandering the ship, I felt as though I was one of the richest people in the world despite the red banners with large black swastikas hanging everywhere. The captain made sure we were treated like any other guest on any other cruise. The crew would scowl and glare, but they never raised a hand.

“What is a quarantine?” I asked father. “It is what you do to keep the sick from the healthy.” Our faith must be an infection; we are a disease that no nation wants to have.

It was on the train to the camp that I realized we’d been at sea for forty days. My family had hoped Antwerp would keep us safe. I look at the numbers on my arm and all I see is a brand of shame, I am a disease.

I work today removing the bodies knowing that mine will join them soon.

This story was inspired by the 1939 sailing of the MS Saint Louis and its 620 passengers trying to escape Nazi Germany. You can read more at Wikipedia here

Written for the Trifecta weekly challenge–“brand” third definition and Studio 30+–“infection”

River Rafting

The afternoon thunderstorms remind me of the days playing in the gutters. We each picked what we thought would be the best boat from the mulch beneath the lilac bush in front of my yard. We’d carefully inspect the bark as though we had decades of naval architecture training. In reality, we each had had our own theories: Mine was that the flattest, smoothest one with a little breadth sailed the best.

A few small peebles in the gutter became rapids of immense scale. I held my breath and clenched my hands as seconds became moments; I hoped my little craft could navigate the siren call of the rocks that would surely drag my ship down and wreck my chances of winning the race.

It never seemed odd that the first one into the storm drain, lost forever, was declared the winner. We played together whenever sprinklers, car washes, or rain showers created a new torrent to captain.

We played together for a few more years, racing our mega-yachts or Mississippi River rafts or cigarette boats down uncharted rivers.

I remember the summer I turned eight, and as a storm drenched our neighborhood I tried to gather the crew together for another voyage down the mighty Amazon or Nile or some other uncharted river that would test our metal.

“That’s for little babies,” they said with a sneer on their faces. “We don’t do that anymore.”

I slunk away.

Sitting beneath my lilac along I could see the boys in the window next door pointing and laughing. I was left alone, dejected, and languishing with my child-like, weak notions and ideas.I flicked at the bark for a while, letting the rain drip down my face, arms and hands, and then wandered back inside.

It is raining outside and my boy sits planted in front of the television with a few friends.

I know that childhood is fleeting so I invited them outside for a race.

Written for the Trifecta (weak, 3rd definition) and Studio 30+ (fleeting) challenges
Word count: 321
As always I am open to all harsh, brutal or not criticism.

The Lessons We Learn

I sit in the attic surrounded by old photos.

Grandpa Bill always taught me lessons in life, and those lessons brought me happiness. In his sterile hospice room I tried to repay him by playing his favorite song: Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp. As it played, he’d lay in bed, crying. “Clare,” he called. His eyes filled with a haunting regret. The doctors said it was the Alzheimer’s; patients invented new people. Clare was his someone new.

I sit in the attic, looking at a picture of an unknown, beautiful woman holding a flute. Grandpa is still teaching me.


100 word challenge from VelvetVerbosity: “Haunting”

100 word challenge

100 word challenge


I am very sorry for the bindings. They are for your own good, you see. And the cage, too. It just has to be this way. If I knew of any other way, I promise, I would do it differently. You have to believe me. I want you to believe me.

And if you would ignore the ravenous look in my eyes. I’ll admit it was lust when I first saw you. We all sin. Coveting. That is my sin. When I saw you I knew I had to possess you. There will be others, of course, but you are the first this year. I won’t hurt you. You will have water when you need it, and you will get fed. I may loosen the bindings later, but for now, I need to keep them tight.

If you would allow, let me take my gloves off so that I may touch you. We each have our vices, and mine are difficult to control even as I hold you. I know that I should leave you alone, but I struggle. I admit it. You will struggle, and you will be uncomfortable at times. I won’t let you die though.

And I am sorry that I have to keep you here behind the shed. Nosy Mrs. Winslow next door is such a busybody. If she ever saw you the ideas in her mind would fly. No. I can’t let that happen. Better to secret you away and indulge in a fantasy of what will come. I hope you will let me continue to come to you with with my fantasies. That’s all I’m left with. A fantasy that I can act out with you. Each day something different.


I can hear the shrew. No, not Mrs. Winslow. My wife.

“Dear, are you talking to the tomato plants again?”


word count–305

This week's Studio 30+ prompt is "elusive" and/or "ravenous"

This week’s Studio 30+ prompt is “elusive” and/or “ravenous”

This week's Trifecta challenge is "fly" third definition from Merriam-Webster

This week’s Trifecta challenge is “fly” third definition from Merriam-Webster

The Ride

They stood at the colorful, metal carnival fence surrounding the ride. The little boy climbed onto the bottom rail and peered at the giant wheel before him. His mother guardedly put her left hand on his shoulder.

What was it about fairground carny rides? They looked terribly flimsy. The rigging haphazardly erected and spiked into the ground. She looked at the hypnotic red, blue, and green lights chasing each other around the large metal circle. It was just a distraction from the truth that the ride was nefarious and a certain deathtrap. The children in the ride car giggled nervously. Her heart dropped into an anxious pit, a dizzying unease as though she was looking over the edge of a deep chasm. She watched as the teenage girl checked that all the riders were buckled. It didn’t instill any confidence in her.

The nine-year-old boy watched in amazement. His eyes tried in vain to chase the red, blue, and green lights around the tall circle. His senses were bombarded by youthful laughter, comical music, the clanging of metal bottles being knocked over by some unseen thrower, hundreds of lights all blinking, twirling, and glowing bright, the smells of hot dogs and cotton candy and spilled soda mixing with freshly cut grass. He watched as the ride began to move; the car slowly rocking to and fro on its track. Higher and higher with each semi-revolution, his eyes grew wider and wider as he watched the people raise thir arms with each forward and back roll.

The rigging tensed. She was certain that she could hear metal creaking. The ride attendant looked disinterested as she blew and burst her gum repeatedly. Any moment she expected to hear the distinct ping of a metal cable snapping, sending the entire ride toppling to its side. She fully expected the girl leaning against the electrical panel to be completely oblivious to it all. Her hand tightened on her little boy’s shoulder. She could hear the whimpers of children who hadn’t won the teddy bear at the ball toss game, the frightened screams of a rider’s second thoughts, and she could smell stomach’s that had become upset during and after a ride.

The pounding of his eager heart pulsed in his hands and feet. He watched as the car raced toward the apex, slowed, and left the riders dangling upside down for a moment. The red glowing words Ring of Fire beckoned him with a sly siren’s call of enticing lights. The patriotic display of five American flags crowning the top of the ride proclaimed its rightful place as the show stopper in the fairground. Six tickets. That was all it cost to spend a few moments defying gravity. He looked up at his mother with a longing in his eyes.

She watched in silent, petrified horror as the ride slowed at the top of the circle, though outwardly she tried to remain as stoic as possible. Despite the red cage surrounding the people in the cart, she couldn’t help but imagine one of them coming loose and falling. Ring of Fire glowing red with yellow chasing lights didn’t build up any confidence in her. In her mind she saw images that were a cross between Dante’s Inferno and Johnny Cash singing “falling into a burning fire.” She could feel her little boy twitching beneath her hand, a subtle but distinct pull toward the mechanical harlot. She didn’t need to look down to know that he was pleading with his eyes.

Maybe they shouldn’t have come after all, she thought to herself.





Prompted by Studio 30+ “Fairground”