Tag Archives: poetry

Charles Stucker: Northwest Through the Swamp of Life

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Northwest Through the Swamp of Life 

By Charles Stucker

The cypress moaned in the warm summer breeze, an eerie sound that filled the swamps with ghosts of Caddo and Comanche raiders. Josiah poled the small punt through the still green water, ignoring the midges and mosquitoes which swarmed him. Periodically, he checked his compass to insure he kept the bearing for the Gibson place. His seven years tutelage under legendary Mike Carson honed him to the bland-faced, hardened lawman who now sought three brothers for the murder of a black family outside Round Prairie. With his horse safely resting at a stable back in Texarkana, he slid forward, toward his targets. A bag of gear resting under the boat’s single bench and a double-barrel Greener shotgun completed his equipment. 

Something disturbed a flock of birds in the middle distance. He heard them, even individual wings flapping, but did not spot them. Worried that he might move forward into an ambush, he pulled the pole from the water and rested it athwart the gunwales. The punt rocked gently and slowed its forward progress while Josiah reached down and then brought the Greener to his shoulder. He recalled Mike’s laugh the first time he tried to fire the ten-gauge gun and fell backward onto his tailbone. He wished Mike were here but knew he was busy chasing a band of comancheros who ran guns and liquor to the Apache out near Pecos. 

A hundred yards distant, more birds rose in noisy display. Suddenly, fearing a flanking move, Josiah risked snakebite and jumped into the water. Grabbing the towline in his left hand, he waded through the hip-deep water toward a small rise. A shot rang out, followed by a voice, “Shouldn’t aught to of follered us, law-dog.”

“I ain’t here to fight, just let you know it ain’t all that bad,” Josiah called as he released the line, grabbed his small bag out from under the seat and shoved between reeds into a blind spot. They might shoot all day and never hit him. His bag contained enough vittles to last three days, and enough extra ammunition to hold off a dozen men. Hoping to resolve things without shooting—Judge Williams frowned on killing suspects, and Josiah aimed to keep him happy—he made another call. “Them folks from Round Prairie just need to know if you took their bible.”

“Why’d a body want a Goddamned bible?” a new voice, nearer, called.

“Inheritance. It lists all the relatives. Nobody actual cares about killin’ darkies.” Josiah tensed and ducked. He could sense them moving in from all directions. If he kept talking, they would trap and kill him. A shot rang out and the round whistled past, skimming low over the water, missing him by inches. He played his best card. “Mike Carson is headed this way. You shoot me, you’ll run forever.”

“Ever ranger claims they’s Carson.”

“Shut it Evrit. He said Carson’s a comin.”

“Damn it, boy. I done tole you don’t mention no names around the law.” A new voice, a powerful baritone against the whining tenors of the brothers.

“Mister Gibson, your boys ain’t in all that much trouble,” Josiah called again. “They come in peaceable and most they’ll get is six months. If a white jury can be found as will convict ’em.” 

“You ain’t Carson? I hear he loves them niggers. His own sister’s shacked up with a damn Mex.”

“You got that right. My paw died at Pittsburg Landing. Can’t stand them darkies—they as much as kilt him.”

“I fought beside Bill Anderson,” Gibson replied. “Missed the raid on Lawrence, but we kilt a whole heap o’ Yankees.”

“I’d shore thank you if we could take care o’ this afore Mike gets here.” Josiah listened to quiet movement as the three brothers moved toward their father. He steeled himself for what must come. He slogged out of the water, the bag strap slung over his shoulder and the Greener in both hands, but pointing down at the ground. “Iffen we get a trial finished, Carson cain’t touch ’em. Law says so.”

“Come on out. We’ll finish this right here,” Gibson called. Josiah had no doubt they waited for him to drop his guard and kill him. He fumbled his bag open and put six shotgun shells into his shirt pockets, then put a fresh box of forty-fives into the pouch on his belt before dropping the bag. He took a moment to check his Schofield, insuring the revolver had no mud in the action. Then he continued, threading his way through the tough, tangled Spanish moss, hanging like nooses from the trees, until he reached the edge of a clearing. He recognized the trap. Gibson, a paunchy little man with a corncob pipe between his teeth, sat on a log across the clearing from where he stood. A woman, her face down, with a dingy apron and a red scarf over her head, stood directly behind him. In the dim light of the swamp, he could not be certain if she was white, Mexican, or Negro, but her stance indicated a captive. To the left, two brothers argued over a pot of stew. He did not spot the third. 

Josiah stepped forward, watching in his peripheral vision for movement. As soon as he emerged from the brush, Gibson stood and waved him forward. “You got a good head, boy.”

At that moment, the brothers by the fire pulled their pistols and the third stood from concealment behind the woman, a Sharps’ trapdoor rifle in his hand. Josiah jumped to the side just before a shot rang from the Sharps. The two brothers fanned their rounds toward him, but he ignored the bullets passing over his head to bring his barrel to bear on the elder Gibson who tried to pull a shotgun from where it lay along the log, nigh invisible in the light and distance. Two thunderous shots rang as one, but Gibson’s blast went into the ground as he doubled over with a load of buckshot in his belly. Josiah turned and shot the two by the fire, the pellets spreading enough to strike both. 

He leapt to his feet and dashed toward the last brother, just as the mulatto woman he hid behind turned and brought a knee up into his thigh, causing him to fumble reloading the Sharps. Josiah caught him aside his head with the butt of his Greener, then dropped it to draw his Schofield. He need not have bothered. Only one of the Gibson brothers remained active, and he cradled his brother, whose blood bubbled from a pierced lung. 

Shaking his head in consternation, Josiah gathered their weapons, then put manacles on the conscious one. The mulatto approached him. “Suh, what am I gone to do?”

“How old are you?” Josiah guessed under twenty.

“Nigh onto fifteen, suh.” She motioned to the dead body of Gibson. “He kilt my baby.”

“I’m sorry.” Josiah fought the desire to take in four dead bodies. “I can take you to the church at Whitelake. They might make a place for you.”

“Why you do that. You hate us.”

“I just said it so to bring them in to pay for their crimes.” He studied her for a moment. “If Gibson got a deed to this here land, then as his wife, you inherit. I can see to that much.”

“We was never married.”

“You had a baby by him. That’s close enough for me.” He knew how Mike would feel about it. No matter how treacherous the swamp, you only needed a good compass to get through.

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Please visit Charles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Charles-Stucker-103988060951288/

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Roger A. Legg: My Swamp

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

My Swamp

By Roger A. Legg

The paddle dipped into the black water as the canoe slid forward. This process was repeated over and over again as the white-barked trees slid by. Just ahead was the marker tree. A tree that looked like the tens of thousands of other trees that were all around them. But this tree had a broken branch that refused to separate itself, so it hung there, lifeless. That was the way of things here. Lifeless thinks hung about, on trees, bushes or in the water. Nothing really moved, except for the animals, and they usually hid behind the dead things. 

Suddenly a bird flew from a tree next to the canoe and an alligator’s head slipped below the waterline. He was the intruder here. He and his man-made object didn’t fit in with the rest of the trees and it moved contrary to the water’s flow. Jason put his paddle on the other side and started the turn. He needed to go right just before the marker tree. If he waited too long he would run afoul on a tree trunk just below the water. He had to repair his canoe the first time he found that stump. Now with all his supplies, he didn’t want to do that again. Two more turns and he would be on the home stretch. A small island that you could barely tell was land. The trees and shrubs covering his little island refused to give it up. Jason had to settle with using the trees as pedestals for the foundation of his shack. Their firm grip on the land would last decades and hopefully, he would have moved on by then… hopefully.

The rhythm of his paddling continued. He was not in a hurry and the sun wouldn’t set for another four hours. The gnats darted at his mask and the mosquitoes were digging at the seams in his clothing. They would soon give up as they always did and he would make it to his sanctuary. The two-roomed shack that he had built from scratch, or rebuilt, as the first one collapsed within a week. It only took a month of paddling in scrap wood from various locations. A grocery store, the local hardware store, and occasionally a job site just at the edge of town. Pallets were the best as they came with nails. He would carefully remove them and then reuse them in building his home. The first year he was here, the shack only had one room. Lots of shelves, but just one room. 

He had a small deck where he fished for food. After six months he knew where the best place to find crawfish and bass. He still had trouble with eating catfish, but the taste would grow on him. Now almost five years into his solitude he had two rooms, a separate bathroom and two storage units at other places in the swamp. This way if someone found and raided this place he would have enough to last until he could replenish his supplies. 

Jason passed the old oak tree. It was the only one in this section of the swamp. It towered over the other trees in the area. The leaves were on the smallish size and had a brown tone to its green. The tree itself had a huge trunk that broke into thousands of branches that fanned out to find the sun. Jason liked to stop here to rest as the leaves created an umbrella that the sun could not shine through. But today he just glided by and kept up his leisurely pace. Today he needed to get back to his shack. He had something he wanted to try and he needed daylight to do it. So, no stopping. He put his paddle in and with one strong stroke the canoe sailed on. 

Two more turns at yet more markers that no one would know, but his shack came into view. It was straight ahead. A thick bunch of trees that both reached to the sky and hung down to the water. Jason kept up his pace. A quick look around assured him that he was not followed. Not that anyone would be interested, but it was always on his mind. He lived on his own and he had stuff worth stealing or even being killed for. Especially now, with his latest find. Jason lifted his paddle but didn’t drive it into the water. He paused and looked around again. If there was any sign that he was followed or that anyone was watching he would turn and move away from his home. But again today he was alone. So he let the canoe dive into the branches that hung down. They brushed by him on both sides and he dug his paddle in and gave one good stroke. Once past the first layer of branches, the water was clear of debris and he was able to paddle up to the dock. He quickly tied off the canoe and stood up. He stepped carefully onto the dock and kept his hand on the rope leading to the front of the canoe. He would tie it to the lift and pull the canoe out of the water. With it tied off, he returned to the back and tied it to the other lift. Then in one smooth motion, the canoe was out of the water and dripping on the dock. 

Jason pulled the tarp off his find and threw it on the upper deck. He then lifted a steal contraption from the canoe. It took him close to an hour to reconstruct it as there were no instructions, but he managed to get it done and moved it to its place inside the shack. Now, fully assembled, it was not only heavy but bulky. He had to move it one side at a time. He walked it into the shack and put it near the window that faced in the direction of the oak tree. He then went and got a few pieces of wood and brought them into the shack. He placed them in his newly assembled wood stove. He loved the idea of not having to cook outside in the rain anymore. It would also provide some heat on the few mornings that frost actually visited this swamp. Yes, this was going to be much better. He put the wood in, careful to make a small pile of kindling that he could easily light. At first, white smoke started to come out of the wood that was over the kindling, then a small fire with more smoke, but instead of heading out the window the smoke started to fill the shack. Jason looked around for his pitcher. He needed to put out the fire, but the smoke got worse. He ran out of the shack and pulled the pitcher out of his rain barrel and filled it. He held his breath and ran back in. Splash and the fire was out, but the smoke lingered all evening. The typical breeze refused to blow and his poor shack had smoke seeping out of every crack and crevice. Finally, just before sunset, he was able to breathe inside his home. Jason pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket and, with a short pencil, one that was tossed away being too small to be useful, he wrote “P-I-P-E” on a scrap of paper. He then put the paper back into his pocket and got ready for bed. He was going to have to risk another trip into town. He hated going back and forth so often, but he wanted his stove to work. And he was going to have to find some of his money and go to the hardware store and buy it. 

That night all the parts and pieces he needed to complete his stove appeared and arranged themselves in the correct order. It was simple, but come the light of day, the dream faded with the dark and Jason had to figure it all out again. That’s why he was here. Jason used to have a thriving business and a family, but since the accident, all the thoughts and dreams just seemed to drift in and out. He wished he had a way of recording his dreams, maybe then he could get some of his life back. 

Anger filled his face, he couldn’t get them back. No, they were irreplaceable. Tears started to fill his eyes. Then as suddenly as it started, Jason yelled “NO!” and it all vanished. Their faces, their names, his life. Gone. Back into the part of this mind that no longer worked as it should. To a place that teased him. Giving him a glimpse of what he had and what he lost. 

“Pipe,” Jason said out loud as he read what was written on the paper in his pocket. He looked at the stove then nodded his head. He took the pencil out and wrote near the word pipe, “M-o-n-e-y” then “4 inches.” Jason took another piece of paper from the tablet on the shelf by the front door. He carefully folded it and placed it in his right pocket. He then took the paper he wrote the words on and made a picture of how he wanted the pipe to be. He placed this paper in his left pocket. Jason then collected some dried fish, a canteen, and a rain jacket and headed back to his canoe. He would go to his storage, then read his paper. From there he would make his way to town and if he was lucky, get what he came for. 

That night as Jason pulled his canoe from the water he pulled the paper out of his left pocket and examined it. Nothing was written on it. “Good, I didn’t forget anything.” He went in, prepared the stove and lit it. The cabin filled with smoke and he ran out to fetch the water to put the fire out. He waited all evening for the smoke to clear and then went back in. This time he pulled the paper from his right pocket and swore to himself. “Well, maybe tomorrow.” Jason put the paper back in his right pocket and went to sleep. 

The owls stopped their screeching when they heard the cries of agony coming from a small clump of trees that smelled like smoke. He’d remembered what brought him here and what he had lost. The vision of their broken bodies filled his nightmares. Then he fell into a deep sleep and it all faded with the sun…

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Please visit Roger’s blog at: https://ralegg.blogspot.com

Sarah Anne Steckel: Transcendent Recurrences

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

Transcendent Recurrences

By Sarah Anne Steckel

The two of them quite a pair; Newo with her tawny complexion and vivid pink hair, as she walked beside her much taller and paler companion. As they passed under the streetlights, she glanced up at him, noticing how the luminescent light reflected off of Vortex’s bald head, and chuckled softly.

“What?” He looked down at her and tried to hide the smile that was pulling at the corners of his lips. When she failed to reply, he asked, “Have you been in the city long?”

“No, actually I just got in last night.” Newo crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him, the quick pace she needed to keep up with him slowed to a halt. As the adrenaline of first initially finding him wore off, his question reminded her of how she’s been spending the last couple of lifetimes finding him. Her eyes narrowed at him and she scoffed, “I’ve been busy searching every major city for you for the past couple of years, haven’t had the chance to sightsee.”

“Maybe we can start tomorrow, I know my way around here alright, what would you like to see?” He was oblivious to Newo stopping in her tracks and continued to walk for a few more paces before he noticed her absence and turned around to face her. He smirked and shook his head slowly from side to side. “What, you’re still mad that I didn’t come find you this time?”

“The past…” Newo counted out on her fingers, tapping each finger twice. “Ten times!”

“No, it hasn’t been that long…”

“It so has been that long!” Her voice raised, the tone verging toward angry. “Ten lifetimes! T-E-N.”

Vortex shook his head wildly and rubbed the back of his head anxiously. “How can you remember all of this?”

“Really?” At a loss for words, she watched as Vortex walked a few more feet away and motioned to the front door of a run-down bar. She sighed loudly and shook her head, looking to the other side of the street before pointing at a bar that was illuminated by several bright neon lights. “I want to go over there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Newo, we’re already on this side of the street!”

As the traffic in the street cleared, she stepped off of the curb and began taking several steps, the bright lights reflected off of her vivid hair and turned it into a rainbow of violet, magenta, and teal. Newo shouted over her shoulder as she stopped in the center of the road. “Nope, I’m halfway there!”

“Fine, whatever,” Vortex said with an angry sigh and opened the door to the small dive bar, not closing it until after Newo disappeared behind the door to the other place. 

Newo stormed the dancefloor and promptly marched right up to the bar and flagged down the barback. Slamming her fist down onto the hard oak countertop she loudly demanded, “Double shot of vodka!”

“So demanding…” A suave voice whispered into her ear, its familiarity causing Newo to miss grasping a hold of her shot glass when it was handed to her. The glass struck the counter, the alcohol spilling over the rim and splashing her hand and shirt. Newo’s eyes glazed over, her mind falling into a maze of memories; unlike Vortex who she always remembered when she woke up in a new life, she could never recall the owner of this voice until it spoke to her.

As she began to break free of her forgotten memories, Newo found herself muttering under her breath, “Calamity.”

“I found you,” Calamity said with a smirk. His face was so close to hers that he could smell the perfume that she dotted behind her ears. Slowly he leaned back and lifted his drink up to his lips, and when he lowered his glass his face was contorted into a broad smile. “In fact, I’ve been waiting for you here all night.”

“You’re drunk!” Newo halfheartedly reprimanded, but her face quickly twisted into a playful grin.

“When am I not dunk, woman?” Calamity cheered as he reached into his pocket and removed a handful of bills and tossed it in the barback’s direction. He pointed at Newo’s spilled drink and wriggled his fingers four times. Returning his attention to his pink haired friend, he chuckled loudly. “Which means that you’re gonna need to catch up!”

“How did you know that I was going to be here?”

As her drinks were placed in front of her, Calamity urged her to drink them one after another, and only spoke after she finished all four shots. “I always know where you’re going to be.”

“Only once a lifetime?” Newo grinned faintly and rested her arms on the corner of the bar, and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “Why is it I only come across you once?”

“I’m your ‘missed once in a lifetime’ chance! One of these times, you’ll pick me and not Vortex. I just have to be the first to find you.”

Newo mumbled something about him coming close this time as she turned her head away from him. Her thoughts returned to the few and seldom times that she had come across Calamity, and there were only two other lifetimes that she was able to recall. In each time, he always just saddled up beside her and spoke to her as if they had always known the other, as if he simply walked away seconds ago. He spoke as if everything they said to one another was one giant inside joke, and always seemed to have a juvenile smile on his face.

As if he could read her mind he asked, “Do you remember the first time we met?”

“Well, the time before this one was the sixties…”

“Ah, the sixties…!” Calamity sighed longingly. “All of those drugs I did!”

“Then the late eighteen hundreds… Wasn’t that the first time?”

“Nuh uh, nope!” Calamity shook his head. A smile formed on his face as he reached out and poked the tip of her nose playfully. “And you pride yourself on such a good memory!”

“Well, smartass, why don’t you remind me then, how did we meet? Cal—stop that!”

Newo watched as Calamity produced a rolled joint from his coat pocket and lit it. She narrowed her eyes and frantically tried to take it from him. “You can’t smoke that in here!”

“The more of a fuss you make, the more you draw attention to it,” he replied nonchalantly and continued to smoke it. “And besides, what are they gonna do… kick me out? It looks like we’re just goin’ for a walk then!”

Falling silent for several moments, he puffed on his joint and continued to guzzle back more of his drink. His eyes glazed over and for the briefest of seconds, Newo got the distinct feeling that he had forgotten she even existed. Loudly she cleared her throat, and she watched the light in his eyes brighten as he glanced back over at her. “You were saying?”

“Oh yeah…” Calamity smiled. “We met a long time ago… back before the Temple of Radiant Winds was a ruination.”

Newo breathed a heavy sigh; the inside of the large bar suddenly felt small and quite claustrophobic. A time that long ago was quite hard for her to recall; her brows furrowed as she struggled to recall the faded memories. “I was… a temple servant… And Vortex was in the king’s army… The army had come for shelter, away from the goblin army that threatened the nearby borders.”

“Yes…” Calamity hissed into his glass. “I was with Vortex that night, do you remember?” As he snubbed out the end of his joint, he noticed the barback and other patrons were glaring in his direction, and shugged to himself. Finishing off the last of his drink, he grabbed her by the hand and began walking away from the bar. “C’mon, let’s go for that walk.”

As their hands touched, the memory appeared vividly in Newo’s head; she recalled seeing Calamity beside Vortex as the three of them stood in the waist-deep waters of the flooded river. They waded between the thicket of oak trees, and Newo, who was weighed down by her long servant robes, was finding it hard to continue on. Her legs and feet were coated in heavy mud, and twice she fell and sunk down below the water.

“I got her, keep going!” Vortex shouted as he scooped her up into his arms. “The horde made it to the temple, the quickest way out of here is down the river!”

“We’re not going to be very fast wading through this mud, Vort!”

“Calamity, just keep going!”

As Vortex continued to carry her while he stumbled along in the muddy waters, Newo began to notice periodic sightings of armed goblins. All of those that they passed by had noticed the trio, but all failed to attack. Newo grinned and whispered loudly to the other two, “They think we’re also goblins, hunting after the humans who’ve escaped.”

“How do you figure that?” Vortex asked.

“Isn’t it something like goblins’ sight is bad at night?” Calamity slowed his pace so he was walking beside Vortex and Newo.

“Yes, their sight at night is poor, and the mud we’re coated in offers us a slight disguise.”

“So, once the first one from way back realizes that we weren’t goblins, and runs ahead and alerts the next dozen…” Calamity looked nervously between Newo and Vortex before continuing. “We have a small horde to fight in the middle of a swamp, whilst protecting a damsel!”

“I am no helpless damsel, sir!” Newo scolded bitterly through gritted teeth. “Give me a weapon, I will defend myself, just you see!”

“You stay put and do as you’re told!” Calamity growled and pointed at her. “Let the men handle this, we don’t need you getting in the way and ruining things.”

“Put me down! Give me a weapon and I’ll fight you right here!” Newo began to yell, causing Vortex to open up his arms and allow her small body to plummet into the water. He growled and hissed in a low and angry tone, “This is why and when we’re going to be discovered as humans, this right here. Well, here you go, now’s your chance to see how well you stand in a fight!”

As Newo got to her feet, Vortex shoved a small short sword into her hands, and then motioned to the thirteen goblins that ran up the banks of the river into sight. In haste she hacked away at the mud-saturated skirts of her temple robe, in an attempt to make it easier for her to maneuver in the waist-deep water. As she readied her blade, she watched as the first three goons took off running directly at them. Vortex chopped the head off of one, and Calamity ran his sword through the center of the second two.

“If we keep heading East like we are, the river gets deeper and the current grows stronger,” Newo shouted. “It makes for a quick way out!”

“Best suggestion we got!” Vortex nodded, striking the next attacking goblin with the hilt of his sword. The creature sunk into the water, and the trio continued their backwards trek in the river. Farther behind them, the water’s current began to turn from stagnant to trickling.

As they continued with their retreat, Newo felt a hand grab her ankle from underneath the water, and it forcefully pulled her under. As a second hand grabbed ahold of her waist, she felt its sharp fingernails begin to pierce the soft flesh of her stomach. Newo screamed and began stabbing through the water like a madwoman. The cloudy water began to turn opaque red as she felt her blade pierce through several different body parts.

Feeling a firm hand grasp the back of her shirt and pull her towards the surface, it was Calamity who she heard fight back a haughty laugh first and say, “Well what’d you say? Looks like you do have a bit of fight in you!”

The cold night air of the city struck her face, and shook her from the past. Her hand was still interlocked inside of Calamity’s as he continued to pull her down the quiet side street. Her mind still a bit hazy, she found herself mumbling out loud, “We fell…”

“Huh?” Calamity stopped his pace and looked over his shoulder at her. He lessened his tight grip on her hand, but failed to let go. With his free hand, he removed a flask from his jacket pocket, opened the lid with his teeth, and took a swig.

“When we met… We retreated down the river… I never told you both that the river current picked up only because it turned into a waterfall… We fell down it, broke my neck—I, I think I died there.”

“To be fair, I shouldn’t have trusted directions a woman has told me,” he said sternly, even though his face was veering on a smile. “I never have since.”

Newo frowned furiously, trying her best to mask the laughter that she was holding back in her throat. “Damn it, you’re such an asshole sometimes Cal, why do I have to like you so much?”

“Why do you and Vortex always have to meet first?” Calamity sighed deeply, his gaze rising to look at the clouded night sky. “One of these days, I tell you, I’ma meet you first, and change everything.”

“Change everything? You’re drunk, Cal.” Newo smiled sweetly, and patted the back side of his hand. “You always revert back into treating me like the helpless damsel when you get too drunk.”

“I’m always drunk!” Calamity cheered jovially, and hugged Newo tightly to his chest. “And I’m serious when I say, one of these lifetimes I will be the one to find you first. I will find you and I will complete my mission.”

“Your mission?” Newo’s face sobered, and she looked up at him concerned. While she seemed to remember him proclaiming resentment towards her always meeting Vortex first, this talk of a mission was new. “What’re you talking about?”

Calamity fell silent and looked down at his feet. He raised his flask up to his lips again and drank, tightening the lid with his teeth and putting it back into his coat pocket. His grip on her hand tightened once again, and he began walking down the street once more. “C’mon Newo, let’s go find some fun to get into, like old times! I think there’s a casino nearby—you were a pretty good card player, we could read each other pretty well in Kemps!”

While she tried to put his mumbling in the back of her mind, what he had said left her with an eerie and uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Now Calamity was chattering and making small talk like he usually did when he was inebriated, laughing at his own jokes and thinking he was the funniest guy around. As the knot in Newo’s stomach tightened, the things that she found most charming and enduring about Calamity made her nauseous and irritated her.

Silently she groaned, knowing that she had to somehow turn Calamity around and point him in the direction of the dive bar Vortex was in. She stopped in her tracks, and gave his hand a hearty yank, pivoting his larger body around to face her. As he looked down at her with a confused expression, she said coquettishly, “Hey, I know of a bar down here with awesome drink specials.”

“I’m in!”

Even though she had to nearly run to keep up with his fast skipping, she wasn’t fast enough to stop him from kicking the front door to the dive bar open, or hide from the glare of its angry patrons. She slid into the barstool beside Vortex, who also offered her an angry glare, his gaze flitting between her and Calamity in annoyance. Forcing her gaze off of the counter and up into his eyes, bashfully she blurted, “Look what the goblin dragged in!”

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Please visit Sarah on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sarahs-Writing-and-Art-2310272992552740/

Chiman Salih: The Castle of Silence

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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The Castle of Silence 

By Chiman Salih 


O, Silence, 

You appeared as a shining star in my sky, 

Without covert and sans any dye.

I never saw your face not gazed in your eye

but in your dovetail, I can’t wait to die. 


But; before I go die, 

Take me to a wonderland,

Where the cypress trees are high, 

Their hair touch the sky, 

Their feet frosted in water, 

Which is pure just like springs over nighttime

Or snake’s eye. 

Their root stuck in a diamond-like light, 

They witnessed thousands of tales of love and sigh, 

Over time, they became the most sapient on this planet 

If they poured out their mind and admit. 

Oh, Silence, 

I know from the old tallies, 

That “fishes are fresh as long as they are in water” 

They are fortunate omen creatures, with beauty. 

I want to stow my wishes in this watered site. 

Hope a shiny star will sneak onto the earth, 

Right into the inside of this aquarium with magic wide. 

Trace my words, which stashed in the fallen folded leaves,

The leaves which are sailed by fishes. 

They keep my wishes away from dream-thieves 

To release my uphill fluke 

To be fine once like a snake’s eye

Or reflection of a diamond ray, 

To be supple once like the scenes in this paradise site. 

Until then, 

I commit silence with utmost delight. 


Oh, Silence,

Make me out of this gridlock 

Give me back my luck 

Take me to this magical wide earthly aquarium. 

Until the gate. 

To bury my wishes there

Until they go hatched, 

Under the light, the fishes’ glamours eye

Happy sailers, love, stars, 

Greenery, algae 

And the blessing of the sky. 

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Please visit Chiman on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChimanNSalih/

LIsa Criss Griffin: Bayou Boys

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Bayou Boys

By Lisa Criss Griffin

Butch trembled, terrified and confused as to why his life-long friend Jake was pressing the barrel of his hunting rifle into the side of his hot, sweaty forehead. Taking a shallow breath, he dared to slowly roll his brown eyes up toward Jake’s weathered face, wincing in horrified anticipation of the impending click of the trigger. At that moment, Butch realized what people said about your life flashing before your eyes was absolutely true!

The two of them had always had a special bond. And even though Butch had never been able to talk, it hadn’t mattered to Jake. Jake adopted Butch when he was just a little fellow, and accepted him just the way he was. Jake had protected him from his wife Mae’s addict daughter Meggie and her cruel boyfriend Eddie over the years, who were always wanting to send Butch away to some sort of school. Butch loved Jake for not doing that, and as Butch grew up, the two became inseparable.

Mae, Jake’s second wife, had died unexpectedly last year. The circumstances surrounding Mae’s death were mysterious, and the sheriff and coroner confided to Jake that although they did not have enough evidence for a conviction, they suspected Eddie of foul play. Mae had run across some suspicious packages hidden in the barn a few weeks before she died and had asked Eddie and Meggie what they knew about them. Eddie lost his temper and threatened to harm Mae and the family if they didn’t mind their own business and to forget about what they had seen. Eddie had already spent some time in prison for robbery and assault, and was prone to violent outbursts. Jake and Mae felt that Meggie was secretly afraid of Eddie. She always had some unexplained bruising and usually did everything Eddie told her to do. Of course, he kept her well supplied with her drugs of choice, so it was almost impossible to talk with her about ending the relationship.

After Mae’s untimely death, Butch remained by Jake’s side while he grieved her loss. Jake and Mae had always gotten along well, and he missed her terribly. There had been days when Jake had not even gotten out of bed, but Butch refused to leave him all alone in that big, old house. Butch missed Mae too. She had always been kind to Butch and had never allowed anyone, including Meggie or Eddie, to treat him poorly. Butch blinked and tried to focus on Jake’s face.

Tears of regret were streaming down Jake’s grizzled cheeks as he let the safety off of the gun. Their eyes crashed together. The pair of soulful, fear-filled brown eyes plead desperately with Jake’s red rimmed, exhausted green gaze. At that moment, Jake realized that this was completely crazy…and he simply could not do this, no matter what Eddie and the rest of his “business partners” had threatened to do to Butch, Meggie and himself. “I’m so sorry, Butch. Those awful people are not right, and I will not be a part of this.”

Jake clicked the safety back on and put the rifle down on the grassy bank of the bayou. He leaned back against an old cypress tree tipped with Spanish moss and sighed heavily. “Come here, bud.” Butch got up and walked hesitantly over to Jake and the two solemnly embraced, their pact of trust restored. Tiny jeweled northern parulas warbled from the treetops, their high-pitched twitters echoing distantly throughout the woods. Butch turned away and lay down on his belly to watched the water swirl lazily beyond the edge of the bank while Jake took the lunch he had packed for them out of his backpack. “Here ya go,” said Jake as he tossed a ham and cheese sandwich to Butch. Butch caught the sandwich in mid-air, relieved and thankful he was still alive to eat a meal.

Jake finished his sandwich and poured himself a cup of coffee from a thermos. He didn’t offer Butch any coffee since he knew Butch didn’t care much for it. “Well, ole Eddie and his friends are probably going to be throwing us both out of the house now, if they don’t just kill us both instead. But we will find a way to make it work,” Jake mused. “I figure we can move up to the old huntin’ cabin back in the woods if we need to. And I think we will need to do that tonight. They’ll shoot you on sight, Butch, so you’ll want to wait behind the tree line while I get some of our things from the house. They were gonna kill you today after you accidentally found their hidden drug stash, but I talked them into letting me take care of you for them. I’d kill you myself before I’d let those butchers have you. Lord have mercy, I almost did!”

Jake hit the mossy ground under the tree with his balled fist in frustration. “Man…I sure wish Mae hadn’t willed her part of our house to her girl! She’d be rollin’ in her grave if she knew how badly Meggie and that varmint Eddie have been treating us ever since they moved in! I always knew there was something wrong with that girl of hers, but Mae never wanted to hear about it from me. At least she stipulated in her will that we could live there as long as we wanted to, regardless of the partial ownership change. But I tell you the truth Butch, never in our wildest dreams did Mae and I ever think Meggie would make it impossible for us to stay in our own home! It is a darn big ole house, ya know. You would think after all this time they could at least try to get along with us.”

Jake stopped his tirade momentarily and wiped the sweat from his leathery forehead, dabbing the remaining beads of perspiration with an old, red handkerchief he kept in his pocket. He stood up and collected the empty sandwich wrappers, thermos bottle and cup, and placed them in his backpack. The movement surprised a blue heron, who had been fishing nearby. The large blue-gray bird let out a disgruntled squawk and moved farther down the waterway to search for his dinner.

Jake groaned as he picked up the backpack, feeling every bit his age. He stuffed the damp red handkerchief into a pocket and picked up the gun. “Come on, Butch. Let’s go get our things.” Butch stood up and quietly followed Jake down the path through the moss-draped oaks that led back to the house he had grown up in. The light was beginning to fade, and it would probably be dusk before they reached the edge of the tree line next to the yard. Butch could see the heaviness of the emotional burden Jake was carrying in his tall frame, and it made him sad.

As they approached the end of the dwindling path, Jake and Butch noticed the stately old house was completely lit up, and colored lights were flashing around the side of the building from the front drive. “Get down and stay here!” Jake whispered. Jake put his gun down close to the path while Butch chose a place to sit in the brush where he could still see most of the house and yard.

Jake walked slowly toward the house and disappeared around the corner. As he stepped into the front yard, he was blinded by the intensity of all the blue and white flashing lights. There were multiple cop cars sitting in his driveway, every one of them with their lights on. He heard some scuffling from inside the house and several people yelling. As he stood transfixed in the front yard, three cops pulled a struggling, swearing, combative Eddie out of the front door and forced him down into the warm grass of the lawn Jake had recently mowed. Eddie was quickly cuffed, hauled to his feet and placed in a waiting police vehicle. He continued to kick, scream and spit nasty epitaphs from behind the window of the locked car. If looks could kill, Eddie would have instantly killed Jake.

A gurney appeared in the front doorway and an ambulance crew somberly angled it down the bumpy brick sidewalk. The body strapped onto the gurney was completely covered with a stark, white sheet. Jake watched as they slid the gurney into the back of an ambulance he had not realized was also sitting in the driveway. Jake felt slightly nauseous as the truth of the situation began to dawn on him. He ran to the ambulance crying out Meggie’s name brokenly. The coroner pulled back the sheet and asked Jake if he could identify the body. It was Meggie alright, and she had obviously been viciously beaten. The coroner also explained they had found her cold, blue and with a needle still stuck in a vein. “They did try to revive her, Jake, but they could never get a pulse or anything related to life from her. The paramedics worked over half an hour with her to bring her back. We won’t know exactly what her cause of death is until the autopsy and lab results come in.”

Jake backed away and was walking through the yard when somebody grabbed his arm from behind. “Who are you?” said the cop as he turned Jake to face him. “I’m Jake Fontaine. I live here.” The cop released Jake and told him that they had busted Eddie and Meggie for running drugs. “We have had them both under surveillance for a while, and we know you were not a part of it,” the cop said reassuringly. “I am, however, terribly sorry to have to tell you that the girl was dreadfully beaten and it appears she may have also overdosed before we got here. It was too late to save her, although the paramedics tried their best to revive her. We are sure sorry, man.”

Jake nodded his head in understanding and looked up at the stars in the night sky. It had been an absolutely horrible day, possibly the worst day of his life, and he choked back waves of hot emotion. He had failed to save Meggie! He had let Mae down. He heard sobbing for the two senseless murders of his family members and realized it was himself.

A single breathless sob escaped as he came to a sudden realization. He and Butch would be able to stay in their home! Jake was incredibly relieved and then felt overwhelmingly guilty. He felt so sad for Meggie. She had been a difficult person to be around, mostly due to her addiction. He would have never wished this kind of death on her though. Mae had loved her only daughter deeply and shared stories with him of a creative, vibrant young Meggie that he had never seen. Meggie was already fairly far into her illness when he had met and fallen in love with Mae. He had promised his wife he would look out for Meggie the best he could, while cradling her in his arms on her deathbed. He would have promised Mae the moon if it would have made her passing more gentle. Wow, he still missed her so.

Jake ran his fingers through his thick, graying hair and sucked in a cleansing breath of the fresh night air. “Hey, mister Jake!” a young cop yelled as he dragged something reluctant into the yard. “Hey, mister Jake, does this guy belong to you?” The policeman had ahold of Butch, who was struggling to stay out of the yard. 

“Why yes, he sure does! It is okay, Butch. Come on over here.” Jake wiped his swollen eyes and tried to compose himself.

The policemen conferring with each other in the yard looked up as the young cop released a well groomed large brown and white dog, who bounded silently into Jake’s waiting arms. An approving murmur swirled between the lawmen as Jake closed his waiting arms around his beloved dog. Butch licked Jake’s scruffy face joyfully as Jake hugged him close. “Everybody should have a dog like you, Butchie Boy!” Jake exclaimed as he rubbed Butch’s head affectionately. “We’re going to be okay, bud. Everything will be okay.”

Jake and Butch retrieved the hunting rifle and sat outside on the front porch, waiting for the police to finish their work inside the house. The edge of a rising yellow moon was barely peeking above the tops of the ancient oak trees edging the yard. Occasional fluttering of pale strands of hanging moss revealed the light evening breeze scented with notes of earthy sweetness. A syncopated symphony of night creatures welled up out of the woods and filled the atmosphere surrounding the bereaved old man and his beloved friend. They sat together contentedly as the perpetual love songs of the bayou soothed their souls. Everything was going to be okay. They had each other.

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Please visit Lisa on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin/

Paul Webster: Down the Bayou

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Down the Bayou

By Paul Webster 

I woke as the day dawned

Drifting down that solemn lane

I found you missing


The want of you, I’m undone

Leaving me empty and alone

This is the day of all days

I’ve dreamed my last song

Sailed my last thought

This journey toward nowhere

Stained my forever


I’m done, you are gone!


That day you drifted by saved me

As the life we lived made me

Awoke to my reason gave me

Alone again, it’s just me

I said all there’s to say

Why am I still here?

I gave all I had to give

Why am I still here?

This requirement to walk alone

Is no longer viable 

Why am I still here?

Tell me, please, why am I still here?


I enter the channel silently

Floating up one lane then another

The water is soothing to my soul

Blending, for this is now mine

I shade my clothes by layer

Their weight is pressing me down

The end is near I smile

Your freedom is now mine


I appeared as the day dawned

Drifting down that solemn lane

While within I consumed her

Fulfilling a lost longing

Being is serene, once again

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Please visit Paul on this website: http://waggadorn.com/

Tanja Cilia: Casting a Spell

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Casting a Spell

By Tanja Cilia

Horns of a goat and hooves of ram;

tuffs of lore, since time began.

Birdsfoot trefoil, nose of dog

Dybbuk’s trap in quicksand hog.

Lesser spearwort, cotton grass,

Murky waters, smooth as glass.

Wetlands, grasslands, Everglades…

Therein lie the roads to Hades

Anise hyssop, bergamot;

Throw them in the boiling pot…

Canine fur and ogre ears; 

Damned embodiment of fears… 

Biting stonecrop, sedge and reed;

Potion’s done and jinx decreed…

“Oh, do shut up! You’ve been at it all morning. There will be hell to pay if ma comes and that devil-may-care attitude of yours means the chores aren’t done.”

“An idle brain is the devil’s workshop, so I exercise it by composing rhymes; idle hands are the devil’s playthings, so I scribble down said rhymes before I forget them — and it gives my fingers something to do.”

“You’re full of the devil, and both of us know that the devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose. Put that pen down and remember that God sends meat and the devil sends cooks.”

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know; rhyming and writing come easy to me… I hate having to play the devil’s advocate. I’m caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and the devil is in the details.”

“Needs must when the devil drives — and the devil is not as black as he is painted. He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon, so prepare yourself, and let’s go meet them. We need all the help we can get.”

“It’s a waste of time, I tell you; the interviews will wreak hell with my agenda. They must not happen.”

“I say let’s go. We have the devil’s own job taking off all that hideous wallpaper; we need all the help we can get, and devil take the hindmost.”

Phone rings…

Hello? We are not coming for the refurbishment job. We woke up with oral irritation, pain and swelling of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing. The doctor says we must have come in contact with the devil’s Ivy… not that I remember…

…..

“Speak of the devil, and he is sure to appear; not this time, though.”

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Please visit Tanja’s blog at https://paperjacketblog.wordpress.com/

D. A. Ratliff: Old Bill

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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As we wait for the first of the stories to be submitted, I remembered a short story I wrote for a prompt given by a writing group on the now-defunct Google +. It fits this prompt quite well, so I am posting it while we wait for the new stories! Can’t wait to see what is written about this month’s prompt!

Old Bill

By D. A. Ratliff

Johnny Tiger slowly paddled his canoe through the thick cypress trees, relishing the solitude. Solitude if he didn’t count the chatter of egrets and herons disturbed by his presence. He didn’t want to do what he agreed to do, but Miami-Dade Animal Control wanted Old Bill found, and they paid well for his services. 

Johnny had been an animal tracker for the Miccosukee Nation since he’d been old enough to follow his grandfather around. The Miccosukee Tribal police chief asked him to help the Miami-Dade officers find Old Bill. A group of frat brothers from the University of Miami reported one of their friends missing. The college students were partying and, by some reports, target shooting in the Glades when a drunken young man tumbled out of one of the boats.

A few hours later, a tourist airboat discovered a dismembered arm perforated with huge teeth marks. The size of the teeth marks led to only one conclusion. The culprit was Old Bill, the predatory monster rumored to roam the Glades for over forty years. The creature was nicknamed Old Bill after Bill Harnet, the Glades guide who vowed to kill the nearly sixteen-foot animal. Harnet disappeared into the Everglades and never came out. A few days later, another guide spotted the big creature, and the nickname was born.

Brushing the thick over-hanging Spanish moss out of his face, Johnny slowed his paddling to a crawl. Sunlight filtered through the towering cypress trees, and the rustle of wings caught his attention. Looking up, he saw an imposing anhinga spreading its magnificent black-and-white wings to dry after fishing for food. He smiled, there was no place on Earth he’d rather be than deep in the Everglades. It was early morning, the temperature hot but not scorching, which gave Johnny hope the natives would be restless and Bill active. In the area where the arm was found, he nudged the canoe against a cypress tree stump and waited. 

An hour passed before he caught a glimpse of shiny black eyes glinting on the water’s surface. Remaining very still, he waited until the underwater shadow neared the canoe to make certain it was Bill. It was. The shape in the water considerably longer than his twelve-foot canoe.

As Johnny reached for his rifle, remorse flowed through him. He didn’t want to take the life of this magnificent relic. His grandfather taught him that every creature was precious and must be preserved. He wasn’t convinced killing Bill was the right thing to do.

Old Bill seemed to sense danger, and with a quick splash of his thickly armored tail, he turned, swimming away. Johnny laid down the rifle and paddled after the big guy. Approaching a wide spot between the cypress trees, he noted Bill slowed down. Peering toward the bank, he saw a patch of blue in the tangled roots.

Johnny rowed to the spot, shocked to find the blue fabric attached to a body missing a left arm. Maneuvering the canoe to the gap in the trees, he realized the body was wedged into the roots. Old Bill apparently attempted to drag the body underwater when it became lodged.

Taking a closer look, Johnny whistled, a bullet hole sat dead center in the man’s chest. Grabbing the radio, he called the Tribal police. “Chief, send some people out. I found the body. Bill didn’t do this. The guy was shot.”

Old Bill lurked a distance away, and Johnny yelled out to him. “Go away Old Bill, your sentence has been commuted. Today you live.”

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New stories for August will be posted soon! For more information about the Write the Story project, click here: https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/2019/08/01/write-the-story-august-2019-prompt/

WRITE THE STORY August 2019 PROMPT

Write the Story August 2019 Prompt

This month’s prompt is a bit mysterious.  Good luck and good writing!

Here’s the plan:

You write a story of 3000 words or less (doesn’t matter, can be 50 words or a poem) and post it on the author site that you want to promote. Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing but if the story is not written well WU! reserves the right to reject publishing it.

Send the story and link to the site via Messenger to Deborah Ratliff. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share across our platforms, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. WU! will also add the story to the Write the Story page on our blog…where it be for all to read along with the other stories.

We do ask that you share the link to the WU! Write the Story page so that your followers can also read the works of your fellow writers.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. May take some time but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

The August prompt is above … write the story!

Periodically throughout the month, we will post the current prompt as a reminder.

DO NOT post your story to this prompt. The idea is to have your STORY or poem published on your site, the WU! blog and shared to gain followers for your writing. We will not accept a one- or two-line caption. For the most part, we are fiction writers and poets…. please write a story or poem, not a caption.

If you have any questions regarding this, you may ask the question in the comments.

Thank you.

(Please note: the images we will use as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

Stephanie Angelea: Three Pigs and a Gypsy

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Three Pigs and a Gypsy 

By Stephanie Angelea 

Sometimes, the richest people in the country are the poorest. They are the ones who leave their families for the fellow man devoting their lives to people they’ve never met or shaken hands with at the corner cafe. They are the ones who are courageous and brave protecting a great nation in its many battles overseas and at home. For many, it’s a career choice. For others, there was the draft. Fighting in the deepest jungles of Vietnam, for example, four men climbed the ranks from the lowly grunt man to hold important positions, and the government listened to what they had to say without question. Three squares a day with medical and an education for a trade job was a dazzling opportunity no one could pass on, drafted or not. Uncle Sam wanted them and welcomed them with open arms, promising a bright future. A reward for their strength and loyalty. A loyalty that would soon come at a price of blood and death and neglect as the enemy advanced closer, testing the wits of entire units full of soldiers armed with machine guns and knives. The men kissed their loved ones on tattered photos and wore scarves around their necks to remember their wives or girlfriends. Death was everywhere and betrayal didn’t stray far from the barracks. No one bothered to unpack because the enemy was always near to run them out. 

“Dig deep down into that black heart of yours and find that kindness button, Hanky! You need to turn it on and show some serious love for these men so we can get the Hell outta here! By god, when we reach another safe zone, I’ll beat the shit outta you myself, you cranky bastard!” yelled John Pearltree. “Barrett and Vano both are on the verge of killin’ you and I’ve thought about it. I know you to act better!” 

“I can’t help it, I got so caught up in my investigation to find the TRUTH that I forgot to be nice and coddle everyone! The VC was on our ASS, damnit! Lt. Dandry gave them our positions with his back-alley drug deals that got him killed anyhow. It took me a while to find out who was doing what to whom!” scowled Hanky Thompson. “AND, I was trying not to DIE!” 

Captain Pearltree rolled his beady eyes and punched Inspector Thompson. He fell hard to the ground, banging his head on the concrete slab in front of his office. Blood gushed from his temple. The soldiers stopped what they were doing to rush over and watch the commotion, immediately applauding their captain. “Get up you old fool! You know we admire your ass but you get that CORNCOB OUT OR ELSE!” he laughed, angrily shaking the hand of his old friend. 

“Oorah!” the soldiers hooted, stomping their feet. 

“You made me bleed!” Hanky sneered, holding a handkerchief over the wound. 

“You’ll be all right. Ain’t nothin’ harder than your head!” John replied, patting his back. 

Their voices faded and you could hear a pin drop for the briefest moment as tears rolled down their wrinkled faces. John Pearltree, Hanky Thompson, Barrett Lee, and Vano Young warmed their cold hands over the fire barrel. Barrett’s laughter broke the silence of the alleyway between Marlee’s Juicer House and the old abandoned theatre on the corner that stood every bit of ten stories tall. 

“Shhhh, you’ll wake the others, Barrett,” John fussed. 

“Sorry. That story is still funny after all these years,” Barrett softly spoke. “Those were the good ol’ days.” 

“Yeah, at my expense,” cranked Hanky, turning to Vano. “Vano, Esther didn’t come home last night. She’s not in her box and all her stuff is still there. If she were going to move on down the block, looks like she would have taken her stuff, especially with it being so cold,” he continued. 

Vano Young was not only a brave soldier but was at one time an accomplished guitarist playing in numerous bands before he was drafted for the war. As a lone Gypsy, he took a likeness to the others right off and they to him. “I’ll ask Mark to go look for her. We’ll find her, Hanky,” he assured him. 

There they stood in all their glory wearing old jackets full of medals pinned sideways and huddling around the burn barrels watching tourists drift by the narrow eye of their dark home. It was lined with large packing boxes big enough for a body to seek shelter in and tents draped over shopping carts tied to the rusted railings of the fire escapes between the buildings. 

It was early morning and the busy streets of New York were already bustling with taxis and commuters speeding to work. Snooty couples took selfies to commemorate Memorial Day, posting videos “In honor of our soldiers who have fought and are fighting for our freedom! Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts! Let’s honor them! Share this video. Hi!” They’d wave, yelling into their rectangular device. 

“If you want to honor some veterans, there’s at least sixteen of them down this alleyway here! I’ll take you to meet them and you can honor them like in your video,” snapped a tired-looking woman holding folders and a briefcase. 

“Ughhh, bitch!” the tourists scoffed, walking away. 

“You better lose that attitude! I know people!” she screamed at them. 

“Doris, why are you causing trouble so early in the morning?” a police officer asked her, leaning against his patrol car. 

“They called me a bitch, Stan! Really! Me!” she howled. 

“Well, I have known you to be a bit grouchy without your coffee,” he replied. 

“What brings you out this way. My vets in trouble?” asked Doris, breathing into her hands. 

“We received some more complaints about them from tourists and passersby.” He hesitated to proceed. “Mr. Jacobs, the owner of these buildings, is supposed to meet me here.” 

“Sorry to interrupt but I heard my name. I’m Mr. Jacobs. I own these two buildings,” he introduced himself, handing papers to Officer Stan. “I find it odd that so many people have an interest in defending my buildings against homeless people who risked their lives so their mommies and daddies could stay home with them. I mean, it wouldn’t matter if they were veterans or not. I own the buildings and I’m not complaining about them. I haven’t heard any complaints from Marlee either.” 

“I knew my ears were burning, Ted. I saw your lanky self stroll by my window pane,” Marlee sassed. 

“Morning, Marlee. How are you?” asked Ted, kissing her hand. 

“Oh fabulous!” she replied. “Doris, I made everyone their morning fruit and veggie soup plus coffee. The soup is loaded with nutrients and should keep them hydrated and full of energy. It’s so cold out but they can warm themselves by the fires and drink coffee. I packed plenty of styrofoam cups. I also brought more burn barrels for them too and had Freddie put them out. Most of them are so old.” 

“Who are you calling old, missy!” yelled Hanky. 

Horns honked around them, and pedestrians crossing the street yelled at the drivers for not yielding to them and flicked them a bird finger. The daylight was full and the sun shined bright with warmth. Barrett, Vano, and John followed Hanky to the sidewalk, curious to know why a cop and a suit were talking to Marlee and Doris. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean ‘old,’” Marlee laughed. 

“She made y’all some soup and coffee. It’s different fruit and veggie soup,” Doris said, organizing her papers. 

“Here you go, Hanky. It should be enough for everyone. I hate it’s cold soup again but it’s all I had. Fruits and veggies are becoming so scarce and expensive,” sighed Marlee. “I also made you all some morning coffee. It’s organic coffee but should help warm your core.” 

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. We are all grateful to eat and drink something hot. Only a few of us are awake but I want to thank you from the bottom of the heart for all of us,” said John. 

He graciously hugged Marlee and handed the soup baskets and thermos canisters of coffee to Barrett, who distributed them out to each living station, waking the occupants. 

“Miss Marlee, we will surely return all these empties tomorrow,” Vano assured her. 

“I know, sweetie. I know.” She petted him, Vano being her favorite, both being Gypsies and all. Vano would catch her watching him in the alleyway when he played his guitar, and he didn’t mind because he fancied her too. 

Doris pulled Vano aside showing him some of her papers. “I need to get more data on some in your group to put into my system so I can find shelters and apartments for everyone to go to. This data is so vital in keeping up with everyone. Is Esther and Amanda still asleep or have they already made out?” Doris asked. 

“Amanda is up but Esther didn’t come home last night. I sent Mark to look for her,” replied Vano. 

“Did I hear you mention Esther?” asked Officer Stan. “She’s actually why I’m here. I came to let you know she was killed by a car late last night. I don’t know if she was headed here or what, but she missed the curb and fell into the street. A speeding car wasn’t able to stop in time. I came to see if one of you would accompany me to the morgue for identification and so that I can give you her belongings.” 

Everyone gasped and tears began to run down Doris and Marlee’s cheeks. 

“Oh no! Poor woman,” Mr. Jacobs exclaimed. 

“The ME said it was quick so hopefully she didn’t feel anything too much,” stated Officer Stan.

“I’ll go with you,” exclaimed Vano. 

“I’ve got to get back. Denise will have my hide if I leave her alone with the customers too long. She tends to fuss at them,” Marlee snickered. 

Marlee Campbell was a spirit-filled Gypsy woman who owned her Juicer business for eleven years now, renting from Mr. Ted Jacobs. Her health declined back in 2016, so she decided to get healthy and go raw vegan with a few secret cooked meals of healthy choices. Every day, with the help of Denise, Marlee made fruit and veggie soup for the homeless veterans and coffee. Many begged to live between the two buildings but there was no more room, but Marlee and Denise would still help those who could make it to them for food and coffee. One time a day was all they could do and everyone was always grateful. At nights, the soup kitchen down the block served hot soup and cornbread, staying open for a couple of hours after Marlee’s Juicer House closed, but they were not as nice as Marlee and Denise who were always kind. 

“Marlee, may I join you?” Doris asked. “Do you have the Zinger made yet? I love that breakfast Juicer. It’s my favorite.” 

“Yes ma’am, I sure do! Come on in,” Marlee excitedly invited her. 

“Suck up!” Officer Stan hollered at Doris as he escorted Vano to the front seat of his patrol car. 

Doris laughed at him and stuck her tongue out. 

“Officer Stan, if it’s ok, I’d like to stay and talk with the veterans for a while,” Ted pleaded. 

“Sure, come by the station when you’re done,” Officer Stan replied. 

Officer Stan hustled his car into the busy streets and a couple of truck drivers urged him on ahead. No one wanted to upset a policeman. 

“Hi, my name is Mr. Jacobs. What’re your names?” he asked. 

Hanky was the first to respond. “I’m Hanky Thompson. This is Barrett Lee. This is John Pearltree. Vano Young is the veteran who went with Officer Stan. I don’t know his last name. I’ve just always heard him called Officer Stan,” Hanky continued, while everyone shook hands with Mr. Jacobs. 

“How did y’all end up here?” asked Mr. Jacobs. 


“It’s a long story, but my wife took everything I had worked for and left me for my brother. John’s family moved away and left him stranded—he’s not heard from them since. Barrett’s bunch was killed by a car bomb in front of the patio where they dined—he never recovered from it when we returned home from the war, and Vano is a lone Gypsy who kind-of took a shine to us in the war, and we’ve not been able to shake that guitar playing fool yet,” Hanky laughed. “We were all MPs but when we retired and returned home, there wasn’t much left for us here. We weren’t exactly welcomed back with open arms with a job lined up or families to come home to. Since we were police veterans, a lot of the pedestrian hoodlums called us pigs and yelled hateful stuff. They still do sometimes but we’ve been homeless for so many years now, it doesn’t bother us,” he continued. 

“My father was Derrick Jacobs. He was homeless before he married my mother and she helped him learn a trade. It was the best time in his life when he saw her beautiful smile for the first time,” Ted reminisced. 

“He was lucky to have come across her. Is he still alive?” asked John. 

“No sir. He died many years ago but he bought these buildings when he retired from stock trading. I inherited them from him,” Ted went on. “I do know that I want to help all of you, if you will allow me to.” 

“What are you going to do with this building, Mr. Ted?” asked Hanky. 

“Well, seeing that many of you on these blocks need a place to stay and Marlee’s building floors sit vacant—I know she needs help—why don’t we turn it into a shelter for all of you to manage under the supervision of one of y’all, and everyone can work together and help Marlee and Denise,” Ted excitedly offered. 

“Are you sure? It’ll be a great upfront expense,” stated Barrett. 

“I know exactly how we can generate an income so everyone can pay for themselves and maintain the upkeep of the two buildings,” John responded. 

“How in the Sam Hill are we gonna manage that!” Hanky barked. 

“He has no faith in anything. He’s a grumpy old fool! Ignore his ass!” joked John. 

“Here is my card. You get with Officer Stan and y’all let me know what all you need and we will go from there. Here is the extra set of keys I’m entrusting y’all with, and also let Marlee know what’s going on and help tend to what she needs, if that’s all right with y’all,” Ted said, giving John the keys. 

“You trust us with the keys to your building? asked Barrett. 

“It’s not like you’re going to steal it and there are at least three people who have basically vouched for you—a cop, a Juicer owner, and a government caseworker. I don’t think I need any better references than that,” Ted Jacobs laughed. “I’ve gotta run. I’m late for a meeting. I also have three more empty buildings over the next few blocks, if you would like to set those up for people and get them off the streets.” 

“Bless you Mr. Ted. How will we ever repay you?” Hanky asked, tearing up. 

“Make sure everyone is taken care of, follow your friend’s plan and trust in him, and everything will repay itself,” Ted replied, shaking their hands and disappearing into the street filled with cars, utility vehicles, and angry New Yorkers. 

Six months later: 

Spring arrived and the warmth of the evening breeze carried the scents of Jasmine and Lilies throughout the city streets. Everywhere you looked, the mood of the temperamental travelers changed as they stopped to smell the flowers blooming in the window planters outside Marlee’s Juicer House, which had closed early for the evening to celebrate the after-wedding reception next door. The patio furniture was painted white, with turquoise centerpieces on the table and an archway of red roses decorated the doorway. Barrett strung some patio lights of twinkle stars earlier in the day. 

The beauty inside the old dilapidated building from its transformation was remarkable with the first floor sporting a vegan store of microgreens, fruits and veggies, plus herbs to homemade soaps and body bars like you would buy in the country at their Spring Festivals. The rest of the floors were renovated and painted a more homey color with everyone pitching in with specific duties, making it a wonderful sleeping/communal living area. The rooftop connected to Marlee’s Juice House and both were turned into luscious gardens for the stores below. Never again would there be a shortage of fruits and veggies for their soups, nor would the coffee pot have time to empty before a fresh pot was made. 

Out of the ruins, came the gardens. Out of animosity, came love and friendship. A piece of the country that four friends brought together from stubbornness and an agricultural knowledge that only three pigs and a Gypsy could have. 

“Stan, you got yourself a handful with Miss Doris but she’s a keeper!” Ted remarked jumping up on the corner curb. 

“Yes siree, I know that for sure,” Officer Stan replied, as he danced and kissed his beautiful new bride under the starry lights. 

“By golly, I am truly amazed at what you’ve done with the place. Both of them. They definitely needed a facelift. I’m just envious too at the profit you’re turning out of it with the nature store! Kudos!” said Ted, shaking the hands of John, Barrett, and Hanky. “In a million years, I never would have guessed something like this would do so well. Awesome job guys,” he continued. 

“Thank you, Mr. Ted. Everyone pitched in and we are all employed here making the products from scratch, and we’ve shown everyone how we learned to grow food in Vietnam. The other buildings you have up the block are of the same setup. They are doing well too. Those who live in Marlee’s building help her and Denise, so that’s a huge load off Miss Marlee and she is in better health,” said John proudly. “She and Vano will wed next month.” 

“Awww, yes. The sly bugger is serenading her on the far patio with my mom’s favorite song from Gypsy Kings—Djobi Djoba. A beautiful love song,” Ted said, humming its words and grabbing the arms of a pretty blonde and spinning her around the crosswalk. 

Laughter filled the corner blocks of New York’s busy streets where the restaurant chefs raced each morning to buy the fresh produce and herbs for their daily menus. The city life finally took a shine to them, including the tourists who came from all over to see the old veterans and the others who were homeless, featuring them in their videos like part of the family and gave them hugs every day. They were homeless veterans who were stripped of their families long ago, but the faith of a few brought them new ones.

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