Élan

Amanty_Airdrome_Building_47_-_France

Amanty Aerodrome Building 47 – France

At the squadron’s makeshift bar, Lt. Mansfield Parkman (Princeton, Class of 1917) poured himself and Lt. Edmund Whitney (Class of 1918) another glass each of cognac, lifted his and said, “To our brave comrade, Albie Filmore, who lived, flew, fought and died with the greatest spirit of élan!”

At a small table across the floor of the leaking shed, Captain Fred Meek, a veteran of three years flying for France and now the United States, drained his own glass and said, “Yeah, Philmont seemed a spunky little fella, but buzzing around hellbent for election chasing Boche as he did, I figured he was bound to ‘go west’ in about a week’s time.”

“His name was Filmore, and how dare you sully the name of a brave young man while Taps still echoes in his memory?” Whitney said, charging from his canvas chair toward Meek with fists clenched.

“Easy there, Lieutenant, I was only making the observation — and you’d be wise to take to heart — that Filmore’s or any other pilot’s élan or whatever you romantic boys wish to call it doesn’t keep a watch out for you or your tail feathers, nor stop 7.92 mm machine gun rounds, at 12,000 feet,” Meek said, staring icy warning at the new pilot.

When Parkman gathered up Whitney and escorted him from the tent, Meek turned to his drinking companion, a fellow veteran flyer, and said, “Depending on the weather, I give each of those spunky idiots no more than five élan-filled days before they join their friend”…and it was four.

A shaky five-sentence fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word  SPUNK.

My Changes, the Reason I’m Still the Same

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“You’ve changed,” she said, and not in a sing-song “Oh, Sugar, look at you!” southern lady kind of “You’ve changed,” as the reunion well-wishers filtered away from the bar to the circular dining tables.

“Yeah, well since the last time you saw me I came out, lost thirty pounds and I’ve written two books, all pretty heavy things to carry around for twenty-five years,” I said, sort of smiling my new sort of smile.

“Well, doesn’t that make you the special one,” she said in the same tone she’d use when I was one of the peripheral satellites, a confused speck of space dust really, in the high school galaxy she centered, a black hole for attention and adulation.

“No, I just grew up and found something in me, a truth I guess, that made me feel good about myself, not relying on everyone’s acquiescence to my capricious whims for validation,” I said, grinning with each Latinate rocket I fired over her head.

She shook her head, waved at the table of once-upon-a-time teen Sun gods and goddesses in the middle of the banquet hall and brushed past me, muttering, “You’re still a jerk…you’ll never change.”

A combo platter of prompts in this piece, which incorporates Writers Digest’s “My ___, The ____” Poem-a-Day prompt, as well as Lillie McFerrin’s five sentence fiction prompt, Changes. Still need poem #20 for the day, I think, but glad I squeezed out this free write.

Like a Wave

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An 1897 photograph of a buffalo wallow, by Willard Drake Johnson. 
Photo via Wikipedia

After the third day and night on the run from the Cheyenne with no food and little water, his horse now lying dead a thousand yards away, Cleve Mason settled to rest in a buffalo wallow somewhere south of the Platte River in western Nebraska Territory.

Gathering some buffalo chips from the rim surrounding the nearly dry depression in the prairie, Mason lit a smokeless fire and began cooking off a piece of his mount’s stringy haunch.

Mason had been lucky enough to evade his pursuers this long, but fatigue and hunger proved too much, figuring it was only a matter of time before the marauders rolled over him like a red, feathered wave.

“The hell with this, just let ‘em come,” Mason said, as he gorged himself on a huge chunk of horse meat, closing his eyes and trying not to think that only an hour before it had been his companion for two years.

So intent was he with his meal he never saw, heard nor smelled the wall of flame, a speeding prairie fire set upwind by the Cheyenne, as it rolled over him like a red wave, though not the one he expected.

A quick five-sentence piece of flash historical fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word, ENGULF. Thought I’d try a couple uses of the idea of the word.

Shedding That Skin

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The Lamia, by Herbert James Draper, 1909

“Yeah, that cheating Marina whipped my ass pretty bad this time, so I figured I’d call it a game…late in the fourth, gar-bahge time, ends of the benches clearing, fans streaming out to their cars.” Phil replied with a hangdog sigh.

“Phil, your sports analogies aren’t just stupid, they’re profoundly stupid, make you sound like a spineless, deluded idiot, letting this girl go without a fight,” his buddy Ken said.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m going down like a total worm, Kenny…more like a snake,” Phil said, as he moved his hand back and forth while slowly pushing his arm forward in a serpentine motion.

In that hand he held his cell phone, and upon its screen a photo of himself and Jeffrey’s girlfriend Jeannette Bardo, their clothes half-shucked, locked in an embrace in Jeannete’s room, where in the background appeared a calendar that showed the date from two weeks before.

“Texting this to Marina and that tool Jeffrey, just to let them know we’ll be just fine,” Phil said, and brought his index and middle fingers, curved like a rattler’s fangs, down upon the screen, pressing SEND.

A quick free write flash fiction piece based on Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentience Fiction prompt VINDICTIVE.

Unforgettable

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“Okay, Dad,” Rebecca Swann said to Ray Bentley as she showed him old photographs, this one her late mother and Ray’s wife of fifty years, “who’s this woman?”

“I dunno, I can’t make it out and I don’t remember anyway,” Ray said with a toss of his hand, tuning toward the wall of the nursing home’s common room.

“It’s Mom, Dad, don’t you remember?” Rebecca said and put the photo back into the pile of Ray’s black and white forgotten memories.

Rebecca saw a small group enter the common room, touring the facility as a potential home for the elderly woman toddling along with her walker, when she heard her father take two deep sniffs, saw him turn, and watched him beam as he blurted out, “Helen?”

The elderly woman brought her disheartened gaze up from the floor and saw not an 78-year-old man seated at the table in front of her, but rather the 19-year-old who had given her the brand of perfume she wore for the past forty-eight years, the one called Unforgettable, and she smiled a teary smile, broke away from her children, crying “Ray!”

As someone whose certain memories seem to be sifting away more each day, I was moved by Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word FORGOTTEN to express the power certain crazy stimulants have on memories you would think long lost. I love how that works.

The Open Gate

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“Did you not set a guard or lock the stockade gate?” The Fort Orange commander asked Simon Schermerhorn, wincing as a surgeon bound up his wounded leg, of the massacre at Schenectady the night before.

“It was so cold, sir, and we had sent out Mohawk scouts to forewarn us if any French or their native allies were coming, so we felt safe and…not exactly,” Schemerhorn said, dropping his chin to his chest and sipping more hot rum to warm him from his freezing cold ride along the Mohawk River to Fort Orange.

Outside, the wind blew the deep snow, almost obscuring the trees from the guards set along the fort’s western stockade, the one facing the place named for Mohawk phrase for “beyond the pines,” where a French and Indian raiding party might be lying in wait to attack after sacking the village, killing many inhabitants still in their night clothes and carrying off many captives.

“With all that potential for attack and wiping us all out, what do you mean, ‘Not exactly,’ Herr Schermerhorn?” the commander said.

“Well, sir, it was horrible cold and we were feeling fairly safe, waiting to hear from our scouts, so we left the stockade open and did set a guard of…two,um, snowmen,” Schermerhorn said, wincing again, but not in pain.

With a slight simplification and distillation, here is a conversation between Simon Schermerhorn and the military commander of what would one day be my hometown, Albany, New York. On the night of Feb. 8, 1690, Schermerhorn escaped the massacre of the village of Schenectady and, wounded in the leg, set off on horseback through the snow and cold, following the Mohawk River east, to warn the garrison at Fort Orange. Legend has it the authorities in the village were feeling safe that night and indeed did set a guard at the open gate of two snowmen. This five-sentence fiction was inspired by the anniversary of that night and Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word, OPEN.

So Sorry

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Cayce and Hopkins knew there would be hell to pay when someone found Feldwebel Krickstein’s bloody body in Stalag Luft VII/A’s north latrine, just as Unteroffizier Beck’s was found four months before.

But they didn’t worry as they scurried along the barracks floor to the bunk where Flight Lieutenant Ralph Owen, a member of their old squadron and the victim of a bruising beating at Krickstein’s hands earlier that day lay moaning.

“Ralph, we got the bloody bastard what done this to you, just like we got that rat Bailey we think told the Gerries you worked with Intelligence Corps,” Cayce said.

Owen gave a long sigh and opened his hand to show a foil-wrapped article folded into a piece of paper.

As the beam of a searchlight shown through the window, Hopkins saw that the object bore the marque of Cafe Demel, a Vienna chocolatier, and on the paper were scrawled the words: “Lt. Owen, so sorry I hurt you so, but…orders. K.”

A five-sentence fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word “villainous.”  Photo from Wikipedia.