Archive for category Flash Fiction

Growth

TypewriterEven though you haven’t heard from me in a while, I’ve been writing, really truly. For the past month, I’ve been focused on short fiction while my novels hibernate. As I result, I’m so excited to announce that, as of today, I’ll be a regular contributor to Short Fiction Break, a blog devoted to short stories. Being a regular means I’ll be posting something at least once a month. I’m excited to join the ranks of the other authors. If you aren’t familiar with that site, head over there right now. New stories pop up almost every day, sometimes twice a day. I love the variety, from children’s stories to serious adult pieces (no erotica or porn), science fiction, fantasy, drama, humor, and more. Some pieces are self-contained, some are ongoing. You can get the latest post delivered to your mail box, or stop by to read your favorite authors.

And don’t let me forget, we have guest authors! I published The Last One Standing back in July, as a guest. So, if you have something you’d like to see posted there, go on over to Short Fiction Break and submit it.

My first story as a regular is The Affair, a slightly tongue in cheek take on jealousy.  An earlier version of the story appeared on this blog as Painting Class, but I think the new version is better. I hope you enjoy it. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Committing to submit a short story once a month, feeling confident enough in my work to publish on a fiction site, and — oh yes, I didn’t tell you this part — hiring an editor for my first novel, happened because I’ve grown as a writer over the past many years by writing and having the guts to share my work and get feedback, then rewrite. I hope to continue that growth for many years to come, but it can only happen if you, my readers, tell me what you like and, probably more importantly, what you don’t like.

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Painting Class

For the past month – all of November – I participated in NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write 50,000 words in a single month. This challenge pretty well took up all of my time and energy, and now that it’s finished, and I have a very rough first draft of a novel, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with myself. I could have continued writing, but I really did need a break, not only to put paperwork and house in order, but to refill my creative well. I read a couple of novels, watched a couple of movies, and participated in a writing group via Skype, to which I provided the flash fiction piece below.  I noticed that one of my writing buddies, Alex Brantham, posted a nice little flash piece right after he finished NaNoWriMo, too. He’s a British guy, with a droll sense of humor. You can read his story here.

Now, here’s Painting Class. Please tell me what you think of it.

Painting Class

George was certain his wife was having an affair. She had a certain glow about her that spoke of only one thing: sex. And it certainly wasn’t sex with him. After fourteen years, their romantic life consisted of a quick kiss in the morning, another right before bed, and dutiful intercourse the last Friday of every month.

She’d been radiant ever since she’d taken that painting workshop in the summer, or had it been writing? She was always going to something; he couldn’t keep track. He was pretty sure she took the writing class last fall, then quilt-making during the spring, and finally painting, because she’d had paint in her hair half the summer. She must have hooked up with another painting student, but he hadn’t asked her about it, of course he hadn’t. What if she told the truth? Would that end their marriage?

Ελληνικά: Δελτία για αποδελτίωση και δελτιοθήκη

Ελληνικά: Δελτία για αποδελτίωση και δελτιοθήκη (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And what if she lied? He didn’t want to see the quick shift of her eyes to the right the way they always did when she tried to pretend she hadn’t cheated on her diet, or spent too much money on shoes.

Instead, he snuck a look at her computer any time she left it on. He figured out her password and read her email. He peeked at her cell phone. Once he even called a number that appeared frequently, but it turned out to be her friend Caroline. He tried to listen in on her conversations, sure Caroline was acting as go-between, but never heard anything suspicious.

All of his spying turned up nothing. He’d never realized what a master she was at deceit.

Finally, he could stand it no more. He took a vacation day without telling her. He pretended to head to work, but instead went to the coffee shop. He waited, watching the first snow of the winter dust the trees, until he knew she had left for her job at the bank, then returned home and began searching the house. If she was cheating on him, he would surely find some trace of it.

He rifled her stack of purses and went through her pockets, but he didn’t find anything suspicious. As far as he could tell, she hadn’t bought any new clothes in a long time, at least none that he could find. Perhaps she kept them all at her lover’s home. He turned green at the thought of her in a sexy negligee, a gift from this unknown painter.

One more pass through the house, he thought, and he would give up. He started in their bedroom, checked the kitchen, and went into the room she used for all of her projects. Her easel sat in the corner, covered with dust. There was nothing in the sewing box, or hidden under her stash of old buttons. Then he turned and saw it: a shoe box tucked far back on the top of the bookshelf. He brought the step-stool, and carefully lifted it down.

Inside, packed tightly together, was a stack of index cards and miscellaneous bits of paper. His feeling of triumph was accompanied by a sinking sensation in his stomach. He hauled his find to his office.

For over an hour, he sat at his desk, unsure whether or not he dared read the love notes. But he had to, didn’t he? He owed himself that much. Finally, he poured himself a drink from the bottle of scotch he hid in his safe and rarely touched. After gulping half the glass, he returned to his desk with the bottle to carefully examine each slip. When he finished, he sat back, puzzled. Every single note was in his wife’s handwriting. He lined them up across his desk in the order he’d taken them out of the box and read them. The third one said: ack hubbie and Car for faith in me, lib for research. The rest formed a coherent thread.

He smacked his forehead. His wife was planning a novel! Was that why she seemed so happy? Could something creative, having nothing to do with sex, cause her skin to look ten years younger?

Carefully putting the box back together and returning it to its hiding place, he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed, but at least he knew one thing: this evening, he would ask her why she was so happy. Perhaps she would confess to the novel and his agony could end.

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School for witches is open

The next chapter of Golden Threads has hit the stands. Have you ever wondered what spells a witch would need to learn first, especially if his or her life was in danger?  Find out here: Chapter 20: The Teachings! To read any chapter to date, click here. Enjoy. Leave me a comment, too.

Since this chapter features Heather, Laura’s sponsor and teacher, I thought we’d interview her for today’s post. Why not! Let’s have some fun with one of our fictional characters.

The "Cave of the Witches" near Akela...

The “Cave of the Witches” near Akelarre in Zugarramurdi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome Heather!

Thanks for having me.

You play a very special role in the lives of our main characters.

I do, indeed. I act as mother to David and Laura, and also as a teacher for Laura and Matthew.

How did you get that role?

I was born to it. I know that sounds odd, and it is a bit unusual. It’s complicated. Are you sure your readers want to know all this?

Of course they do.

You see, ever since the Industrial Revolution began, animals, witches and fairies have worried about the damage it was causing to Mother Earth and all of the creatures living on her. The truth is, we worried long before that, since witches from the future would occasionally appear and warn us how bad it would get. Still, it was difficult to rally much support until humans started burning coal and then other fossil fuels. These future witches would rarely stay long, then they’d be gone and we’d sink back into our old ways.

But then coal came along.

Yes. And exploiting coal and other humanoids gave the reptilians more power than they’d ever had. And we, meaning witches and fairies, formed an alliance to study the issue. We came up with a plan. We’d make a list of the most powerful witches that had ever lived. If things got bad enough, we’d try to bring them forward. In the meantime, we’d cultivate our resources and prepare. Long before Silent Spring was published, we began identifying present day witches and fairies with special abilities.

And you’re one of those special witches.

Yes. So are my parents. They both taught at Oxford. We’re teachers. But we also have strong magic and great memories. My father taught history. My mother was a botanist. She was groomed, just like me, to sponsor witch children from the past, if the need arose. I inherited both my parent’s skills. More than that, I was trained by a special group of witches and fairies, so I can teach all known spells. Plus, I studied psychology at University.

Why that?

It’s a very important skill. Some of the witches we brought forward in the early days, like Laura and David’s father and uncle, were completely unsuited to the task. For example, Laura’s father was very arrogant and unteachable. Her uncle liked to gamble and womanize. We had others that were too shy or just terrible with communication skills. We wanted to make sure we had witches with the right personality. One way to do that was to choose small children, like David, and raise them ourselves. You know, teach them kindness and responsibility along with interpersonal skills. We need real leaders who can work with others. Anyway –

But what about your own daughter?

Wendy? She’ll be fine. She was the kindest child until she turned eleven. It’s interesting seeing how difficult it is to be a teenager in the modern world. She wants to fit in very badly, and she’s fallen in with a selfish, spoiled crowd, but she’s going to snap out of it, I’m certain.

And George? What’s his role?

He makes good money.

Witches need money?

Of course. We can’t go around drawing goods to ourselves with spells. That would draw too much attention.

Is that all with George?

No. He’s only a moderately powerful witch, but he has a strong protection gene. His role is to keep us safe and be a father. It was a lucky break that I fell in love with him. His computer skills are handy, too. That’s what he does. I don’t know enough about his job to explain it to you.

Anything else you want to say to our readers?

Yes. The time will come when we’ll need everyone to do their part to keep the world from turning into a toxic soup, heated to unbearable levels by greenhouse gasses. Get involved. You may not have magic, but you can do your part.

Thank you, Heather.

My pleasure.

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The choice

The first installment of a short fiction piece. Something fun for those who like time-travel and the paranormal.

Laura Stonebridge woke with a start. A hand pressed tight against her mouth. “Shhh, don’t say anything,” someone whispered.

She reached under the pillow for her knife.

A hand grabbed her wrist. “Don’t. We’re here to help you,” its owner whispered.

Two round shapes emerged as her eyes adjusted to the moonless night. She recognized them: Mary Agnes and Beatrice, her surrogate mothers. She relaxed.

“Come quietly,” Mary Agnes whispered. “Don’t wake David.”

Laura carefully slid away from her six-year old brother. Beatrice handed her a wool shawl to wrap around her shift.

Laura followed them out of the hut. They walked silently through the forest to the clearing by the stream. She wondered at the choice. Although villagers often gathered at this spot in the daytime to collect water, fish, or wash clothing, no one came here this late.

“Sit,” they said, no longer whispering. Light from the stars reflected off the water, illuminating their faces.

She perched with her back to the stream on one of the logs that served as a bench.

“You’re turning sixteen in a few weeks, right, lass?” Beatrice asked, choosing a stump further from the water.

She knew right away what Beatrice meant, having grown up with the legends. She shivered, even though the shawl was warm enough for the mild October night.

Mary Agnes sat next to her. “Don’t worry. We mean to protect you.”

“It’s time,” Beatrice interrupted. “You’re young, but we know you will choose wisely.”

“What are you talking about?” Laura asked, playing dumb.

“On your birthday, you become a witch,” Beatrice spat.

“But I don’t want to,” Laura protested. Beatrice had just spoken aloud the truth Laura feared the most. “The whole village is watching me, waiting. I’ll be burned at the stake, just like my parents.” The year was 1508. The English countryside was becoming a hostile place for anyone whose behavior hinted at witchcraft. Her parents had learned this to their detriment four years before. Laura had been forced to watch them burn, while holding her baby brother on her hip. She would never forget seeing her mother and father burst into flame.

“That’s why we brought you here,” Mary Agnes said. “If you were someone else, someone with weaker heritage, you could safely learn our ways.”

“Wait. You’re witches?” Laura couldn’t believe it. These two matrons were pillars of the community. They were the most religious women in the valley. However, as she looked from one beloved face to the other, they began glowing a beautiful blue and purple. The light spread, filling the clearing. She heard crackling and smelled smoke. Her mouth dropped open. How had they managed to avoid detection?

She blinked, and the effect disappeared. They again looked like two well-fed craftsman’s wives.

“We’re extremely careful,” Mary Agnes explained. “Your mother and father took too many risks. They openly sold potions and spells.”

“The problem is,” Beatrice continued, “you inherited both of their powers. You’ll have magic shooting out of your fingers on your birthday. You won’t be able to control it. It takes years to learn to manage and hide that much power.”

Laura’s body shook with fear. “And David?” she asked.

“Yes,” they nodded. “Although he is too young to show the signs.”

“If I die, will you save him?” Laura asked. Her voice quivered.

“Quiet. Listen. We can give you an amulet that will block all of your witchcraft. So long as you wear it, you will appear human.”

“The only problem,” Mary Agnes added, “is that, if you should take it off or lose it for any reason, it’ll be as if you just turned sixteen.”

Laura wiggled uncomfortably on the bench. That wasn’t good enough. She wanted complete and permanent protection.

“The other option,” Beatrice said, “is to leave.”

“No! What about my brother? What about Matthew?” She and Matthew had loved each other since they were infants. Even though his parents objected, they planned to marry.

Mary Agnes put her hand over Laura’s. “Hear us out, child,” she said.

Beatrice coughed in a way that indicated Mary Agnes was wasting time. “You can go into the mountains,” she said. “The fairies will take you into their kingdom.”

“Not that,” Laura moaned. She’d heard awful tales of the fairies.

Fairy_With_Wand_clip_art_medium

“Or,” Beatrice continued, ignoring her protests, “you can go five hundred years into the future, into a world that no longer fears our kind.”

Laura shook her head to clear it. This couldn’t be happening. Only a few hours ago, she’d held David on her lap, telling him stories until he drooped with sleep. What would he do without her?

“You can’t take your brother with you to the fairies,” Mary Agnes said, her voice gentle, “but you could take him to the future.”

“Tell me about this future,” Laura said. Anything to ensure David’s safety.

“We’ve never been there,” Beatrice said, clearing her throat. “But we’ve heard that it’s very different. Life is easier. Food is plentiful.”

“Some of the more powerful witches go back and forth,” Mary Agnes added. “They say it’s safe enough. People are kind, though you have to get used to the noise and watch out for something called traffic. We think you should go.”

“How do we get there?” Laura asked.

“A witch came from the future to guide you.”

“Alright, then.” Laura thought of Matthew, and sighed.

“You could never marry your young man, anyway!” Beatrice said, her words hitting Laura with a slap.

“Do be quiet,” Mary Agnes snapped at her comrade, dropping any pretense at politeness.

“She deserves to know the truth,” Beatrice said, her mouth a determined line. “She’s royalty. He’s…” Beatrice spit on the ground.

Laura had no idea what they were arguing about. Royalty?

Mary Agnes took her hand again. “Don’t worry, you’ll know soon enough what we’re talking about. It is time to choose.”

“The future,” Laura said. “I have always longed for an adventure.”

A beautiful woman, with long red hair, stepped out of the bushes. “Let’s get your brother,” she said.

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Mulled wine

For the New Year, an unedited flash piece. And may the fairies visit every one of you!

The roaring fire greeted Willow from afar when she drove up to the house. She could see shadows on the snow bank beyond, moving as her friends arrived and settled into their spots, getting up to fill cups with the hot mulled wine she knew would greet her. She took a moment to wrap her coat carefully around herself, settle a dramatic red hat with a huge brim on her head, add a purple scarf, and pick up her notebook and pen. She almost forgot her gloves, but it wouldn’t do to leave them in the car. The night promised to drop from its current tolerable twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit to a nasty ten before they finished. She’d tucked a couple of hand-warmers and a much warmer hat into the deep pockets of her coat.Fairy_With_Wand_clip_art_medium

She took another minute to review the past year, before opening the door and stepping out onto the icy parking area and carefully mincing her way past Susanna’s house to the gathering. She hoped the others wouldn’t notice her tears, although they all knew about Karen’s death and Jason’s betrayal. Few had heard about her mother’s slow decline into a world where nothing made sense any more, but at least she didn’t have to talk about that here.

She slipped off her glove to finger Jason’s ring, hidden in a black bag in her pocket so that no-one would know what it was. Did she really dare toss it into the flames, to cleanse her of the need to look back? She would tell Susanna to search for its ostentatious diamond once the coals cooled. Lord knew that Susanna needed the money. She had considered just giving her friend the evil thing, and letting her sell it to help pay her rent, but she had rejected the thought. She wanted to know that it had burned, like Jason had burned her heart when he left her daughter’s bedside to sleep with one of her nurses. How cliché. If he had waited a month, she wouldn’t hate him so much.

She greeted Clarissa with a kiss and the others with a wave of her hand. They had spread blankets on the snow benches she and Susanna had pounded hard and flat yesterday. Star brought her a cup of wine. Raven and Theresa scooted over to make room between them.

“How are you holding up?” her best friend, Raven, asked, squeezing her close with one arm.

“Not great. I’m ready to bring in a better year than the last one,” she answered.

“Me, too,” Raven said. Raven, a yoga instructor, had broken her leg skiing two weeks before.

Clarissa clapped her hands. “Everyone, listen up!”

Their voices gradually stopped.

“We’re going to begin by calling in the four directions, then we’ll sage each of you,” Clarissa explained.

After the cleansing, they passed around a branch of sage and each threw a piece into the fire with a prayer for the new year. Most of the women prayed for world peace and an end to hunger, but Raven asked for great sex, which brought a big laugh, and then Willow said: “You all know that I’m a cynic after what happened this past year. I’m just saying that, if God, or the spirits, or whoever, could take my baby girl and my fiance, and leave me with two little kids to raise by myself, then I’d rather believe they don’t exist. Anyway, I’m going to be selfish, and just ask that no major crises happen to me next year, or to any of you.”

They all nodded. “Amen,” they chorused.

“Okay, did everyone write down what you want to be rid of from last year? If you didn’t, we have paper and pens,” Clarissa said.

A couple of the women got up and fetched supplies. Willow sat quietly. She’d spent the past two days angrily filling sheet after sheet until her anger dried up. Hospital visits, diapers, stupid insurance adjusters, people who couldn’t understand why Karen didn’t return their phone calls, Karen’s useless husband, and on and on. When it was her turn to throw things into the fire, she wrapped the sheets around Jason’s ring and tossed it all, feeling relieved of a huge burden. Only her poor mother remained, and that she could handle, with the help of the Alzheimer’s unit where her mother now lived.

While they sat in silence, meditating on the fresh slate that lay before them, she felt a tingling on the top of her head and looked up to see what caused it. Above the women sitting with their eyes closed, a ring of fairies hung in the air, their wands dripping stars onto each person. One of the fairies put a finger to her mouth. Willow nodded. She tried to close her eyes again, but the right one wouldn’t obey. Nor could she stop grinning like she was stoned. Either the wine was spiked with something unusual, or these creatures were real. She watched until they faded into nothing.

“What are you staring at?” Theresa asked her, after they had closed the ceremony.

“Di – did you see them?” Willow stammered.

“See who?” Raven asked.

“Nothing. But I think our wishes have been granted.” Willow stood and stretched. She turned her cold back to the bonfire. Above her, stars glittered in the clear sky. She wanted more of that wine.

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Bella’s rebellion

Another piece of flash fiction for my readers. Enjoy! And let me know what you think…

I’m so excited! I checked a mystery novel out of the library this afternoon. It’s the third one in the Dr. Franks series. Hubbie is out of town, so no one will complain if I read all night. As soon as I finish dinner, I pour myself a glass of wine and crawl into bed, stuffing all of the pillows behind my back. Sylvester the cat curls beside me. I take comfort in his warm fluffiness and open to the first page.

The town drunk goes rooting for food in a dumpster and finds a woman’s body. He’s afraid to tell the police, in case they think he did it, but pretty soon his buddies convince him that he must. The cops retrieve the body and send it for an autopsy. The medical examiner determines death by strangulation, with a good old-fashioned clue left behind – a fresh tattoo on the right hip. When the woman is identified as a young drug addict, the cops figure someone in the homeless community must have killed her. Dr. Franks, on the other hand, reads the autopsy report and thinks something doesn’t add up, though he doesn’t tell the reader what seems wrong. He goes to the morgue and examines the body. He is certain he saw the same tattoo on a patient only a few weeks ago.

I’m so deep into the story that I don’t even realize that I have finished my glass of wine when the next sentence peels off of the page. All I manage to read is ‘Bella strode’ before the words solidify into a woman.

I rub my eyes, wondering if the wine has a higher alcohol content that I realized, but, if so, the effect is incredibly strong because I feel a weight sink into the mattress next to me and smell jasmine. I stare as she rolls off the bed and starts walking out the bedroom door. She has short black hair. A brilliant black and red tattoo curls up from her shoulder-blade, protruding out the top of a red tank top.

Suddenly I come to. This is Bella, a tattoo artist. The great Doctor just asked her if she has any idea who decorated the victim’s hip.

“Wait,” I shout. “Where are you going?”

Bella turns and announces, “I’m escaping this plot.”

I sit up straight, “What do you mean, you’re leaving? You can’t. This is a library book. I have to return it in good shape. Get back in there,” I point at the now empty spot on the page where she is supposed to perform her next bit in the story.

“No way,” she turns and takes a step. I jump off the bed, disturbing Sylvester, who didn’t seem to notice Bella rolling over him, and go after her. She stumbles in her spiked heels, so it’s easy to catch her and grab her arm.

“Why are you doing this? I haven’t finished. I need to know how it turns out,” I insist.

“I can tell you how it ends. I’ve lived through this piece of shit thousands of times, every single time someone reads it, and I always lose. I’m pegged as the murderer, when I’m innocent!” she stops and glares at me. “Dr. Franks is a fraud. He misses half of the clues.”

“How do you know?”

“You think that a book is just what is on the page. Well it isn’t! We have a whole life that goes on behind the scenes. The stupid author ignores most of it. I’ve been watching all of the characters, and I figured out the last time someone read it and brought us to life who killed that young kid and how.”

“Oh, really!” I say, sarcastically.

“Of course. Let me go! I am going to find a typewriter and fix this stupid plot so that I am the detective, and I catch the murderer.”

I release her, realizing that her version might be even more interesting than the original story.

“There’s a computer in my office,” I point. “Make yourself at home. Would you like a glass of wine?”

“No way! I only drink martinis,” she shakes her head, and her many piercings sway back and forth. I stare at a tattoo on her arm.

“We don’t have any hard liquor,” I tell her.

“A cup of tea would be fine, then,” she shakes her head and enters the room.

I make her tea, then dress and leave the house. I need to clear my head. The wine must be spiked with magic mushrooms. I walk for over an hour until I am certain I am back to normal.

When I return, she is gone. I am certain for a minute that I hallucinated the entire encounter, but then I see my novel sitting next to the computer. When I open it, a small piece of paper flutters to the floor. I pick it up and see a drawing of the tattoo on Bella’s arm, her signature, and the words ‘Thank you.’

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The little gardener

shovel.jpg

shovel.jpg (Photo credit: Miss_Colleen)

For some reason I thought about a flower garden my father helped me dig and plant when I was a kid, and I turned it into this little story. A little truth and a little fiction, blended well. BTW, the bit about siblings is totally not the case for mine. They are a hard-working bunch.  In honor of fathers everywhere.

“Can I help you, daddy?” the little girl asked shyly.

Her father looked over at her. She stood at the side of the vegetable garden, careful not to step into it without permission. She had dressed in old stained jeans, a paint-covered sweatshirt and a pair of worn out tennis shoes, ready to get dirty. “Aren’t you cold?” he asked her, for the snow had barely melted off the ground and the day sent shivers up his spine.

She shook her head. “I could dig.”

He wondered if her nine-year-old frame could handle a shovel. Gymnastics had certainly made her stronger these past few months. “Sure,” he decided, “let me show you what to do.”

He walked over to where the shovel leaned against an oak tree. “Hold it like this,” he instructed. “Push it deep into the soil and turn it over. When you encounter a plant, pull it out and throw it into this pile.”

He watched as she struggled to control the tool. “Try the right hand on top,” he suggested, and repositioned her hands. After some practice, she managed to hit the spot in front of her. It took her longer to learn to stand on one leg and tap the top of the blade with the other foot, but his oldest had an admirable doggedness that he wished translated to their younger children. When she could do the movements a little, he set her to work, turning a row over for the spring planting. He expected her to grow tired quickly, but she persisted for over an hour. Finally, he sent her inside.

That night, he talked to his wife. “She’s a born gardener, just like me and my father. I could see how much she loves the soil. I want to give her a spot for herself, where she can plant flowers.”

“She could dig a new bed along the south edge of the yard,” her mother offered.

“I will measure something out tomorrow,” he replied, sleepily, already fading from a day spent working in the ground.

Their daughter complained of sore muscles in the morning, so he waited until the next weekend. “Would you like to plant some flowers?” he asked her.

She nodded, standing with her arms folded against the chilly spring wind.

“Your mother wants a new flower bed. This will be yours to dig and plant. Okay? Let me show you what to do,” he took string and stakes out of his pocket and marked off a three by five foot area. “Stay within this area, okay?”

She warmed quickly, digging hard to remove grass and weeds and turn over the earth just like her dad had shown her. Halfway through, she set her shovel down, exhausted. He saw and left his plot to help her, quickly finishing the job. “Let’s go to the store for seeds,” he suggested.

“Now?” she asked, jumping up and down in excitement.

“Yes, after we wash our face and hands.”

She bolted for the house.

At the store, he pointed to the display of flower seeds. “Choose what you want. I think there is room for three kinds.”

She studied the packets carefully and finally chose zinnias, snapdragons, and African daisies.

“Read the packet instructions, and plant them in rows so you know they are not weeds,” her father instructed.

For weeks she raced outside every day to check on her flowers and carefully kept the bed watered. Green finally appeared, just not where she had planted anything. Disappointed, she discarded the tiny weeds. But, a few days later, strong shoots appeared, pushing their seeds out of the ground in neat rows. Soon plants much like the pictures on the packets formed and started budding. It grew hot, and the buds turned into radiant flowers. She picked a bunch and ran inside: “Look, mommy!” he squeaked.

“How beautiful! Put them in a vase on the dining room table, where we can all enjoy them, my little gardener.”

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