Friday, May 19, 2017

Here it is! Contest #100

At long last, the day of the contest has arrived!

Contest #100!

The prize is pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. A copy of Vargic's Miscellany of Curious Maps,  which is one of my all time faves.



The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

gaze (provided by Melanie Sue Bowles)

scapegrace (provided byJulie Weathers)

scram (provided byLennon Faris)

forti (provided byMegan V)

fin (provided by thecomment column on 4/26/17)

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

Thus: scram/scrambled is ok but scram/secret agent man is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Do not tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8a. Never ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. There are no circumstances in which this is ok. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"


10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Contest opens: 7:25am, Saturday, May 20

Contest closes: 9am, Sunday, May 21


If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
ENTER!

oops! Too late; contest closed.

Results will be posted on Monday 5/22

84 comments:

Steve Forti said...

Security had to bag a zealot last night. Tried to escape. Gr. A cell should be secure, dammit. Requesting reinforcements.
Sincerely,
CFO, R. Tiddlywinks

Get those hens in line. Scramble a few eggs if needed, so to speak. Not literally, of course. Fortify that compound, or I'll find some guards with more testicular fortitude. Fire anyone who is aloof or timid. For time is short. The big day approaches.
Sent by,
CEO, E. Bunny

We managed to escape gracefully. Unlike your impending downfall. For 'tis certain you'll never find these eggs. And vengeance hops your way.
Ex-servants,
The Free Hens

Cheryl said...

The landscape, graced with ferns taller than the stars, cries out in fortissimo for a mark, some proof of my final, greatest achievement.

For who would know I made it here? My time machine has dissolved to dust, victim of its own energy, and I am alone.

My signature will be a joke to anthropologists, who will no doubt scramble to decode the anachronism.

The cave will protect my work, I will descend tonight to draw gazelle in the age of dinosaurs, leave coded messages in my handprints.

Millennia from now, before I am even born, I will be famous.

Craig F said...

I longed to be the scapegrace to his rapscallion. The glimmer in our gaze developed a heartbeat and that longing was finished.
Time marched and Spring arrived gravid. That morning was a scramble. Turning on the river road revealed monstrous storms in chase. The flood roared a challenge to race.
We had to slow to forti to make the bridge. The flood caught us and washed away the bridge with the car only halfway across.
Stress had induced labor. My door was wrenched open but all I could do was pass the baby over before the water took me

Amy Johnson said...

“Grace and mercy to you,” chants the ragged guy in the superhero cape. He’s on his corner, holding out his cup. Pressed for time, I look down and hurry past.

I ask for over easy, but I get scrambled. Nibbling my toast, I gaze out the diner window at Superguy.

I’m finishing my juice when I see two men approaching him, not looking away like everyone else. What? They’re wrestling him for the cup! Superguy falls to the ground.

I race outside. Now people look at him. And at the blood soaking his cape.

Grace
and mercy to us all.

Patricia L. Shelton said...

Melanie marches to the gazebo, muttering under her breath, “The silly girl begs to go scrambling with us, and now she can't be bothered to get to the car on time.”

She gasps upon finding the girl sitting in front of her laptop, gleefully reading through her dating site.

“What have you done?!”
“Getting in was easy. You're using the old fortinet firewall. Three minutes, a few lines of code, and et fini, it's all over. By the way, this guy, Greg? Total scam. Lose him.”

“Julie, you little scamp.”
“I prefer scapegrace.”

JD Horn said...

Quill sharpened, he cut through scrambled prose with the focused precision of a moyel who works for tips, till the once snowy page, now lined by bands of black and spattered by crimson, evoked a hibernal landscape graced by ensanguined sastruga zebras. Not a single adverb survived. Still, at the finish, the night remained both dark and stormy.

CynthiaMc said...

"We're going to the cabin, Maisie," her husband said.

"She won't remember." I tried not to flinch under his gaze. He was once a general. Still showed.

"I remember."

Whatever, old man. He'd paid me more for today than I made in a week at the nursing home.

"Scram," said Maisie. I wheeled her out to the van.

"We finished this cabin sixty years ago today," he said.

Lake. Cliff.

"Well-fortified."

We sat in Adirondack chairs. Watched the birds.

"Scapegrace," Maisie said, pointing. Her finger touched his. "Loony."

"She call you crazy?"

"She remembers."

Say what?

"Loons mate for life."

Sam Hawke said...

On the tip of the tower, hunch of his back and bow of his shins dark against the moon, he balanced in the stiff wind. Pressed against me, panting from the climb, she whispered, ‘Is he… y’know. Gaga?’

‘Zen.’ My smile crinkled against her cheek.

‘Why doesn’t he fall?’

‘Memory, I suppose.’

Points unbent by the years turned sharply toward our hiding place. We scrambled backward but he only raised his cape gracefully, a highwire bow.

Dad grounded us for a month for sneaking out. But it was worth the effort if, in that moment, the Crusader felt admired again.

Gary Stothers said...

A tug at his pocket led his gaze down to the dirty scapegrace, elbow deep in his pocket.

“Oi, thief! What are you doing?”

The dirty urchin withdrew his hand like it had been scorched.
“Fine sir, I only steal for Tina. My sister needs to eat.”

The distinguished gentleman drew his overcoat tight around him, before delivering a backhanded fist to send the filthy brat on his way.

“Scram!”



The old man slept in the alley, could never shake his past. Another gentle pull on his coat.

“Oliver! Wake up. Fagan has food for us.”

Simon Dowling said...


“How are we going to escape grace, I’m bleedin’ starvin’.” Patrick’s gaze was fixed on his scrambled eggs.

“Just say the short version. Finish it after that ‘O Lord!’ part.” Stephen whispered.

“Ah here! That’s not even half the thing.”

“No one knows the rest of it anyway. And sure Ma has already finished off a bottle of that fortified wine.”

“Buckfast gets you fucked fast.” Patrick giggled.

The O’Reilly family sat in silence, eyes closed, hands in prayer pose, as Patrick said grace.

No one noticed Nanna O’Reilly sneak a mouthful of food just before the ‘O Lord!’ part.

Jennifer Delozier said...

Today. The vagrant gazed into the hotel’s elegant, glass-enclosed lobby. From the alley, he’d watched them finish the renovations—polish the object of his desire.

Today. He scrambled from his cardboard box, stumbling into a businessman at the hotel’s revolving door.

“Asshole!” The man thrust him aside.

He’d been called many names over the years—bum, the family scapegrace. And he’d accepted them all. But not today. Memories long-extinguished had been reborn. He staggered to the baby grand and coaxed the ivory keys to life. The exquisite melody peaked in a fortissimo swell; the crowd gaped.

Today was his day.

Colin Smith said...

It drew me like an arsonist to paraffin. Open second story window, flat truck roof below, distracted guard. How could anyone resist? I jumped, aiming for an escape. Graceful as a gazelle, but with the precision of an elephant. Missed the truck, landed on the warden. Which is why I’m in a small cell with bruises on my arms, crammed like a sardine between Rancid Ron and Knuckles the Emasculator.

I’ve learned my lesson, though. Next year, for my fortieth, I’ll make sure my sheltered wife watches “Fifty Shades” before I suggest handcuffs and a police uniform.

Alina said...

Card baited with promises is greener than a grass.
The road is paved with words, right words. And dreams about white picket fences.
I smile. Bashfully. You sneer.
“Time for food fortification.”
There’s no salad bowl. Only a melting pot.
It’s like shark finning. You dissect me to components. Slice my culture off, discard the rest of me, and blend. Blend till I become bland. Then, keep me like leftovers.
I wait and gaze at you with hope.
My gaze is parried with a glare.
I’m not a scapegrace! Wait. Am I a scapegoat‽
Too late to scram. Or scream.

Ann Bennett said...


Captain Andy jumped into the deep blue sea.

What a scapegrace I shall be.

I've gazed your fins.

Comforting in a win,

Later he yelled like a Banshee.

Barbara Etlin said...

Jane looks a right mess, and I tell her so.

"Couldn't sleep," she says. "That bloody scapegrace kept me up, tossing and turning, humming in his sleep. Finally I slipped out to the gazebo to catch a few winks."

She opens two beers. I fortify myself with a gulp before looking for Paul.

He's playing the piano. His eyes are kaleidoscopes.

"Cool tune," I say. "Got any lyrics?"

"Scrambled eggs. Oh, you got such lovely legs."

I need a place to hide away. "You've been smoking up again. Honestly, Paul, I wasn't born yesterday."

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Breakfast
He asks about her date.
Happily, she chatters.
I place the milk pitcher. By him.

“Scapegallows,” he insults. Of course. “He wouldn’t know a fortissimo from a finocchio.” He eats his cornflakes.
Our daughter gazes, blankly.
Angered, I touch her shoulder, “Fatherly humor.”

He rolls his eyes.
Stiff-backed, I sit, “Finish your breakfast, dear. How was the band?”
She shrugs.

Her cannolo remains untouched.
Damn him.
Patient, I sip my Italian Roast.
He stands—slender and handsome as ever—and scrams.
I accept his tainted kiss, airbrush-style this morning.

He leaves. Scapegoat.

And now?
Anticipation!
“How was your date?”

Beth Carpenter said...

Wednesday night. She’s cramming. If interrupted, she says, she might never reach the goal. He understands. As a future doctor’s spouse, he can be a time-thief or timesaver. But she has to eat. He brings her a chimichanga, zealous in his need to prove himself supportive.

A gentle knock. No answer. He knocks again. Frets. Faint from hunger? Asleep? He tries the door. Locked. Panicking, he locates the key he hid under the eaves.

Empty – her escape gracefully executed.

He sighs, glad he installed that tracker on her cell phone yesterday. She’d better be at the library. Or else.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...


UNHAND ME

Grace is stolen, kept in a dungeon fortified with dragon bone. She paces, studies the walls.

Creely laughs. Eager, his words scramble over the spaces between them. "NowaytoescapeGracecomeherenow." He grabs her.

He doesn't know Grace's people. He doesn't know what she's inherited from Old Mother. Grace holds his gaze, smiles, shows her pretty teeth.

He caresses her face, brushes her lips with his fingers. She bites down.

The bones in Creely's hands crack, shatter. He screams. Grace continues to chew.

The walls aren't the only things fortified with dragon bone.


D Willadsen said...

His gaze swept over carnage: three crimson-slashed, one wreathed in foam. He’d arrived too late.

Growing up, comparisons were inevitable---and constant, with family, with neighbors. Despite their similarities, the late Golden Boy had been praised, a paragon of sophistication and devotion to family, while he’d been labeled the headstrong scapegrace, the rash ersatz rival with daddy issues.
“Take the bodies and scram,” he said. “This isn’t the place.”

There it was! Truth be told, it was tacky, but his father would’ve
been proud.

Young Fortinbras held the Crown of Denmark in his fingertips.

Mark Thurber said...

INSPECTOR: (smugly) So you see, that scapegrace Dunning had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to dispatch Lord Winston to a watery grave.

Persons crammed in gazebo applaud. Constables surround DUNNING.

DUNNING: This is not the end, Inspector.

INSPECTOR: I rather think it is, Mr. Dunning.

DUNNING takes squid whistle from breast pocket and blows soundlessly on it. Constables remove him from gazebo.

MISS ADELAIDE: (batting eyes at INSPECTOR) My hero!

Giant tentacles rise from pond behind gazebo as orchestra plays three fortissimo chords.

--Fin--

Lennon Faris said...

Horoscope: a moment today will make you a hero!
Woot!

Half marathon: I’m a gazelle!
…Silver by one millimoment.

Brother’s audition: his cape graces boulder shoulders, regal Phantom rendition. In finale, baritone voice squeaks. Audience laughs.
My 'moment?' Punch them all in the suckers?

Job interview: nail it. “Thank you, sir,” I close.
“…That’s, ‘ma’am’.”
I scram.

Candlelit proposal: girlfriend confesses moment of indiscretion, aka ‘Shawn.’

Universe has dark humor.

11:58 PM, can’t sleep. I text brother: beer fortification??
Phone gleams: sure. I’ll postpone suicide
Bah-ha. Love his morbid jokes.
And, screw you, horoscope.

Midnight: Grab keys.
Brother flushes pills.

Michael Seese said...

Grandma didn't tolerate no lip.

“Some people have grace, and some just don't, dear,” she said, pouring a crisp cup of tea.

Grandma was sharp as a tack, though occasionally she'd fall prey to this faraway gaze that left her thoughts mired mid-order between scrambled and poached.

“You OK?”

“I'm fine, dear. I --”

The banging beneath my feet startled me. As always.

Grandma got down on all fours, most unladylike.

“You can't escape, Grace!” she yelled through a crack, rattling the fortified box below the floor. “So give it up!”

She glanced up and smiled.

“Now where was I, dear?”

Allison Corin said...

“Honey, come look. That scapegrace next door is drowning his sister.”

Ted Snoutgrass followed his wife’s gaze. “I can’t see through these dang bars. The sun won’t get in if we fortify these windows further.”

“That hooligan’s murdering his sister and you complain about bars.”

Next door:

“Scram, Jenny.” Josh Ledbetter’s sister blocked his magnifying glass from burning the leaf. “You’re so annoying.” He shoved her.

Splash.

He threw Jenny his inflatable dorsal fin.

She continued flailing.

Panic engulfed him. He dove in, fully clothed, and grabbed her, dunking her head.

She rose, spitting water at him. “Serves you right.”

Kathy Joyce said...

Mouth watering, eyes dancing, I gazed at sweets and gimcracks in the shop window, debating.

Mum’ll beat me bloody, I come home without me wages.

Ye fount a penny the gentleman dropt. Returnt it. He telled ye, “Buy a candy.” Even showt ye the shop. ’Tain’t wages.


Scram, scapegrace!” The fat proprietress knocked me to the gutter with her broom.

The gentleman hurried back, “Have mercy on a child madam!”

He pulled me up, brushed me off. Everywhere. Even my finial. Especially my finial.

Fortitude boy. Get your sweet tomorrow.”

Mum beat me bloody. He even took the penny.

Mike F. said...

“This is an insult to my sense of taste,” he pronounced.

She didn’t move, lost in the early morning.

“Is your intent to distract me from today’s multifarious aspirations, leaving me malnourished and maladjusted?”

“Hmm,” she uttered, absorbed in a foggy gaze at an aurora of sunrays bouncing across the kitchen tiles.

“How often must I promulgate that I prefer my eggs ,scrambl—“

“For the fortieth time, you scapegrace,” she yelled, her eyes and voice penetrating him like daggers. “Finish your breakfast. You’ll miss the bus.”

Eyes welling up, he asked, “What’s a scapegrace, mommy?”

“EAT!”

Lugubriously, he did.

Leilani said...

Fortissimama A. Capella, she a neon girl. She triangle-orange in a blue-circle world. She don’t want no dust-town life, never find a color in this old world. She scram. Saunter downcity, catch her some gaze.

Boys whistle. Boys catcall. She flip her hair and wink. They follow.
They follow down the years. It be one year, it be two years, it be ten. One by one, blue-circle girls smile at them boys. One day, nobody follow. All them scapegrace boys, they turn into dust-town papas.

Fortissimama ain’t a mama, but she still laughing neon-orange.

Megan V said...


I open the box—ashes and dust—and unscramble its letter with rising mistrust.

Dear Christine Cosette Lyon,

I hate to tell you that someone is gone
But a promise was made
A promise I’ve kept
To the ashes inside
This task I accept
I pose you a riddle
A last little note
Based on the tales
Some maestros wrote
Why did the phantom’s cape grace the stage?
What man carried Marius from the barricades?
Who caused lions to gaze at the stars?
Their finite tragedies are also yours.

P.T.O.

For time is on no man’s side.

One Musical Ghost

Ashley Turcotte said...

The question again: “Why did you do it?”

I ignored everyone else. The doctors. My parents. But I’m ready to talk. “To escape grace.”

The new shrink frowns. Gazes at her notes. “Who’s Grace?”

“Not a person. The thing. The idea.”

She’s not getting it.

“You know. God?”

“You…don’t want to go to heaven? Why?”

I move cold scrambled eggs around my plate with a plastic spoon, wishing they’d let me have a fork. Run a finger around the bandages on my left wrist.

“For Tim.”

“Your stepfather?”

“Everyone says he’s in heaven.”

So I’d rather be in hell.

Cipher said...

Of all places to get marooned, Helsinki didn’t sit at what you’d call top of my list. Not that I was complaining. Still. Would’ve been nice if I spoke Finnish. And it was say, summer.
Fortitude Emma. Fucking fortitude.
I took a deep breath, gazed across the frozen bay. Moans of abandoned ships, cramped wooden bellies caught in the bite of Winter’s ice, the only sound. Trick me once…
I gripped the flask as the djinn’s pooling darkness exited the stone archway. Scapegrace no more.
Smiling, I crushed my fingers together.


The sharp bite of cyanide filled the air.

Casey Karp said...

"Eggs and bacon again?" Barely audible over the blender's fortissimo shriek. "Heart attack city."

"I'm adding pancakes today!"

Eyes bulge, lips clamp shut.

Blender whines to a silent finish. "And I'm not the one whose jaws are wired shut. Wrestling with gazehounds over a mechanical rabbit."

Gelatinous splutch. Clunk of plastic cup on wooden table. Rustle of paper-wrapped straw.

"And at your age!"

Scrambling escape, grace-noted by bathroom door slam.

"What are you having?" dangles, forlorn.

Amy Schaefer said...

Not to be finicky, but I resent being dragged out to hell-and-gone to dig up a body.

I don’t lack the fortitude. But my foolish associate obliged me to scramble away from a gala I sponsored. This Balenciaga is going straight in the trash.

I sway on one Louboutin as the other forces the shovel to bite. “How could you fail to check his pockets?” I turn.

The gun gleams in the moonlight.
Crack.
I gaze at the sky, tears of rage diamond-bright in my eyes.
I deserve better.
The young scapegrace kneels and gently removes my jewels.
“Goodbye, mother.”

BJ Muntain said...

Mrs. FasterThanLightning sat at Mrs. StrongerThanSteel's table, drinking coffee, as Mrs. S folded laundry, including her husband's red costume.

Frowning, Mrs. F gazed at his cape. "Grace, what did you wash that thing in? It's fading."

"What with his cramming that thing into every little crevice to hide it, Annie, he's lucky it isn't brown."

"My goodness! What do you wash it in?"

"An old tin tub with lye soap, fortified with bleach."

"Bleach? And it's not faded out of existence?"

"That's a weird alien cloth. Finally got it faded to a colour that doesn't burn my eyes. Literally."

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Gaze locked on his control panel, Greg said “Hit it.”

Maggie slammed the button with the side of her fist and the SCRAM engaged, klaxon blaring. She’d always wondered if she’d have the fortitude. How many impossible tasks could one commit to in a lifetime?

Maggie picked up the disaster manual, paper despite the weight it added to launch costs, and ruffled her fingers over the edges. Notify Houston. Pray. No crying around the instruments. “Should we--” Drills had not been enough.

“Stop, not yet.” A deafening eternity of their paired breaths. Then Greg, the fucking scapegrace, grinned. “False alarm.”

Donnaeve said...

We scramble towards him, two starving girls, legs like gazelles.

He’s brought food.

After we finish eating, he says to Grace, “Let’s go.”

This was the agreement. She would go.

Only eight, she cries.

I don’t have the fortitude to watch them walk away.

~~~

Mama behaves as expected, using child support to buy drugs.

I call the police – as planned.

“Where’s Grace?” they ask.

I cry. Play dumb.

Mama’s charged.

~~~

Foster care’s okay. There’s food!

I often think, Lucky you to escape, Grace.”

Postcards come often, regular.

The foster parents are suspicious, though they’re never signed Love, Daddy and Grace.

Barbara Lund said...

Her gaze froze my index finger and under the heat of her glare, ice spread to the rest of my muscles, too.

My little scapegrace, demanding attention when I could least afford to give it.

“Scram,” I told her, averting my eyes.

“Show some fortitude,” she sneered. “Isn’t that what you always say?”

The pulse beating frantically in her neck cried out that she cared much more than her attitude claimed.

Finally I sighed, took the gun from my temple, and placed it in her outstretched hand. “Aren’t you supposed to be at school?”

“You needed me here, Mom.”

Kate Outhwaite said...

I found a photograph of you today but the pictures in my head are better.

Your wedding day: honeysuckle scrambling over the gazebo, framing us, as you wave your bouquet at the bee circling my mother-of-the bride hat.

Or this one of Graduation. You, finished with school, chomping at the bit to make your mark on this world.

And here! 7-year old you: a tumbling, tree-climbing scapegrace; all legs and laughing independence one moment; claiming comforting knee-kisses the next.

Yes. These pictures in my head are much better than the faded polaroid of you in my arms. Perfect. Newborn. Breathless.

Stephanie Artley said...

The Mousehole Cat was watching when a small boy stole a fish.

Grace, a fisherwoman of uncommon fortitude, swore when she realised. ‘Cat!’ She bore down on the Mousehole Cat, who blinked in his best appearance of innocence. ‘That was for stargazy pie.’

The Mousehole Cat conveyed sympathy with his finest miaow.

Scram!’

The Mousehole Cat, knowing when best to avoid her gaze, made his escape. Grace glowered at her incomplete catch.

Claire Bobrow said...

Pandora clicked on the link.

“Welcome to The Illustrated Map of Invisible Places. Shall we begin?”
“Why not?” said Pandora.

Beautiful infographics appeared.
“What is this?”
“Your innermost thoughts,” said the screen.
Pandora gazed at the map. “Are you sure?” It looked like her Amazon order history.

The map changed to a set of statistics, decorated in gold.
“Fortify my soul!” said Pandora. Her bank statement! “Are those hidden fees?” Damned scapegrace institution.
“Show me more!”

“Sorry,” said the screen. “Gotta scram.”

Pandora finally understood.

“You’ve. Been. Hacked.”

Hope, however, remained.
“20% off at Zappos!” read the pop-up.

Click!

mayexist said...

Mr Gaze, Ms Scapegrace, Ms Scram, Mr Forti and Ms Fin walk into a bar. "Those are some pretty unusual names", remarks the bartender, preparing to meet their astonished gazes. "How do you know our names?", they completely fail to ask. "We know. We're trying to win a short story contest", is what they say instead. Fin shakes her head and gives Forti a disappointed look. "No more fourth wall breaking, you old scapegrace", she says while drawing an ancient scramaseax. He takes a fortifying sip from the whisky he hasn't ordered. "The end, my dear, justifies the names." Finis.

Barbara said...

"Ya wanta hear a story?" the old seadog asked. "I'll tell ya a story. We was manderin' round the Galapagos, scoutin' for whale. Was carvin' a bit of scramshaw, killin' time, when all asudden, thar she blowed. The biggest forticating whale ya never saw. Come up on the larboard side, eyes agaze and burnin' like Beezelbub's. Rammed us so hard, that spermaceti forehead crushed the hull inta kindlin'. Nowise ta go but down afta that. Ship sunk faster'n cannon."

"How did you ever escape?" Grace asked.

The seadog grinned. "Grabbed aholt of his tailfin and rode him allaways to Nantucket."

Janice Grinyer said...



Leonie finished scrambling her son’s eggs as he slept in upstairs. Pausing at the refrigerator, she gazed through smudged eyeglasses at his recent handiwork, held in place by a tattered feed store magnet. The widow’s eyes teared up.

Power of Attorney. Assisted Living. No longer considered independent, she was now a nuisance according to these unsigned papers.

But this wasn’t her first rodeo.

To escape gracefully, she’ll need to fortify her thoughts from her emotions. Just like at sorting time. When overgrown calves need shipping, their mamas don’t cry.

Leonie added a little more tilmicosin to his eggs.

“Jason! Breakfast!”


Terri Lynn Coop said...



I gazed at my reality show team -- a chef, a clown, and a motivational consultant.

As a scapegrace, I appreciated how corporate chick’s slinky dress hugged her rack. Then she spoke and the fantasy scrambled like dropped eggs.

“We need to examine the roadblocks to crosswalking our key competencies into the appropriate wheelhouses. By leveraging commonalities, we can leapfrog the evolution without the hindrance of incrementalist paradigms.”

The chef broke up the fight. Later, fortified by his stew, we leapfrogged into the million dollar finals.

Wiping my hands on the silk, I asked about the clown.

“Nope. Tasted funny.”

RosannaM said...


My escape (grace of God)
must happen tonight.
I refuse to comply any longer,
pills crammed down my throat.

Tired?
They have a pill for that.
Exuberant?
A pill for that.

It has come to this.
No one feels anything.
A breath of wind across the face?
Can’t feel it.
Lover’s caress?
Could be a feather, or a rasp of sandpaper.

I will flee.
Take my chances with the pains of the world.
Feel something.
Finally.

The gaze of the keeper bores deep.
But I do not waver.
I have fortitude. And strength.
I found their pill for that.


abnormalalien (Jamie A. Elias) said...

I accidentally set Grace on fire; it took her a year to forgive me. A lifetime when you’ve 7.

We were friends when I stole the money her Pa gave her for tithe.

Best friends when I undercooked the scrambled eggs.

Dating when she caught me kissing a zenlike hippie.

Married when I flash a haughty grin toward the passenger seat. You won’t escape, Grace. Not this time.

But, maybe I congratulate myself too early – I see her determined glare as I slam the coffin closed.

Richelle Elberg said...

“I was here. Protesting. '77.”
“You were a…hippie?” She eyes me with new interest.
I haven’t bagged a girl like that since my fortieth.
Her eyes narrow. “Typical boomer. Hypocrite.”
“I—”
“You brag about the Seabrook protests, but you keep the reactor online!”
“Keep it safe!”
“Right. ‘No Evacuation Possible’.”
The signs are everywhere.
She gazes at the terminal. Frowns. “What’s that?”
I'm fuming, but it finally registers. An alarm sounds.
“Scram the rods!” I scream.
We run into the shelter; I slam the door.
“Can we escape?”
“Grace of God,” I mumble.
I kiss her.
Meltdown.

Kregger said...

“Cheeseburger in Paradise?”

“No, mi gringa Zeppelin.”

“With Fins to the Left of Me or the Daquiri’s to Fruit-a-full?”

The weight guru sighed, “When I suggested a restaurant to practice choosing the correct food, I didn’t think you’d pick a knockoff cantina called Jimmy’s Margaretaville.”

“Their boat drinks are Fortified with island pleasure.”

“There’s no escape, Grace, even if you’re the brown-eyed girl.”

“Fruitcakes!” Her chair squealed as she squirmed. “Order me, dried, dehydrated, and desiccated powdered eggs en Mollusc ramekins.”

He smiled. “Ah, a smart woman in a real short skirt.”

“Ewe chubby chaser…?I like-y.”

“Reyna de hielo, let’s get drunk and—”

Brigid said...

My mother was terrified Dad would die young. Her own scapegrace father left only a mystery behind, so she recorded every part of my babyhood. Dad's loving gaze, the bassinet he refinished by hand, the lullabies he so carefully memorized and scrambled anyway. We have boxes overflowing with tapes, notes, and photographs documenting how much he loves me for time immemorial.

Ironic, how often I've combed through those records looking for traces of her.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

She adjusts my feeding tube then grabs a handful of raisins, cramming them in her mouth.

Late again, because of me.

“All set?” Her words are garbled.

I smile and nod. Wordless.

She adjusts my oxygen then waves from the door spoofing a Charlie Chaplin soft-shoe. The whoosh of the regulator settles into a comforting rhythm, but I can’t dance to it.

She navigates the city landscape, graceful as a gazelle in neon Chucks and a floral sundress. I navigate our apartment in a motorized wheelchair wearing an easy-access gown.

She adjusts her body-cam. Because of her, I live vicariously.

Casual -T said...

Grace, the gazelle, fled the scene. Better she'd not left the house that morning. Usual breakfast: Scrambled eggs, mug of wine. She drank hard; usually no problem.

For Tim O'Leary, things weren't looking much better; the midday sun broiling his bloodied carcass. He'd checked Grace's ear-tag, making sure her vaccines were current. Sick of being treated like some wild animal, she shot him in a drunken stupor.

"Escape, Grace!" she thought. But where to?

Finland! Nobody would look for a fugitive gazelle in a place that prides itself on Lohikeitto and curly-tipped shoes.

She ran. Never seeing her home again.

Timothy Lowe said...

Dr. Halsey closed his front door. He was exhausted. It had been a long day, and a longer experiment. For twenty years, the simians had slaved away in the basement of Grace Medical Center. Some called it cruel, but Halsey dismissed them. What was more clinical than 100 monkeys typing until they produced a manuscript?

Today, they’d finished. But it was scrambled.

Halsey gazed at the title.

ESCAPE GRACE NOW.

His eyes widened. An anagram.

(A SCREW OPENS CAGE.)

Feverishly, he flipped the page.

OUT-HORRIFY MY FOE.

“Oh,” he whispered. “Oh my God.”

Outside, a howling arose.

(FORTIFY YOUR HOME).

Steph Ellis said...

Gaze upon me and tremble.”

Scapegrace raised his eyes to look upon the scrambled resemblance of a man and felt not horror but pity. Fortifications of fat rolled over the bloated creature who once declared he ruled by the divine right of kings. Here sat a monster.

Such conceit, thought Scapegrace. Did he not know God spoke to him too? Had answered his prayers and guided his hand to the knife hidden beneath his robe, instructed him to finish this abomination?

King and subject stared at each other. Pawns in a greater game.

“Checkmate,” chuckled the Devil.

Morgan Hazelwood said...


I sighed. I was not ready for another round of underage stargazers.

"Welcome to our esteemed observatory," I started my practiced spiel as the kids flitted about.

"You call any space in the middle of nowhere an observatory?" an unwise scapegrace scoffed.

"You can quiet down, or can scram." I bared my teeth and fortified myself. He looked tasty.

His friends laughed as he slid back into the shoal.

"That's what I thought," I flicked my fin at him. "Now, we're going to swim the surface tonight, and you'll want to be able to identify the star formations you've learned."

Gail said...

“Scram!” she yelled, but the talons grabbed the seascape Grace had spent all morning painting. “What the? What does an eagle want with a painting?” But the bird slowly vanished into the cloudless sky, surfing on the trade winds. She packed up her art tools in the gazebo and took comfort in admitting the image sucked. Practice, ragamuffin. And patience. You don’t need to scramble. Stargaze, paint, work, relax, with fortitude you can escape gracefully from that bucket list.

kdjames.com said...

A magician's cape graces thin shoulders, thin fingers clench a toy wand. "Abba-- Abbacadabba!"

A child's heartbreaking faith in magic, resurrection.

His pox-scarred face turns to me. "Sissy not wake up?"

They destroyed medicine and education in the second wave, after the internet. Her years crammed into mere months, my daughter lies destroyed by pertussis.

I offer, take comfort in a touch, forcing a zen-like calm. "She's in a better place."

"We go better place, Mommy?"

God help me.

I give the only answer, what little faith, I have. A vow. "No, we'll stay. And make this place better again."


Mallory Love said...

The circled date signified my fortieth birthday. I was in denial, a scrambled mess. When I was younger, age was something I could escape gracefully, remaining forever in my thirties.

By forty, I was supposed to be married with children, planning a celebratory trip somewhere exotic where I could swim with the dolphins or roam with gazelles.

Instead, I called Emily to bemoan the upcoming date. She suggested a girls’ night out. Drinks, dancing, and no drama. Finishing my thirties in style.

A truck hit our cab on the way home. I got my wish: I’ll forever be thirty nine.

Scott Sloan said...


Finish a story of 100 words or less…
Fortify it with five words…
Scrambling the order of their letters is disallowed…

A Judge’s steely gaze froze an arrogant perp.

“Those were the rules, were they not?”
“Yes, your Honor.”
“Were they different from any other contest?”
“No, your Honor.”
“What excuse can you give for your deviation.”
“None, your Honor.”

Exile’s too good for him.

“You’re sentenced to one thousand years in the Kale mines of Karkoon. You’ve no hope of escape. Grace go with you, for any mercy has fled from this courtroom.”

What had the fool been thinking?

Kathryn said...

The world watched her escape. Gracefully slipping her pale skin from his fiery grasp. By nightfall she'd rise. No longer willing to scram. Finally she'd stand bold and let his gaze strike her face, full and bright. Time was all that kept them chasing. For time was all that kept them apart.

James Leisenring said...

Finesse. That’s what it will take to escape. Grace, discipline, patience. He’d need all of it to survive.

He gazes at the immense structure in front of him. He sees his opening. He prods. Nothing happens. Cramps form in his stomach. With great fortitude, he pulls.

He ceases to breath. He tries to undo it, but it’s too late. The tower crumbles. The enemy throws their hands in the air as they roar.

“JENGA!”

Peter Taylor said...

“For today’s lesson, classify these phrases,” Mr Stallard began. “Belinda—‘What’s the time?'.”
“Question, Sir.”
“Correct. Mark—‘As cool as a cucumber’.”
“Simile, Sir.”
Stallard watched class scapegrace Richard Lander gaze through the window. “Come here, Richard!” he bellowed.
Richard scrambled to his feet and advanced.
“Weren’t you listening, or are you deaf or daft?” said Stallard. “Someone tell him the classification…”
“A command.”
“Now you’re awake and suitably embarrassed, sit down, Richard.”
‘Command, Sir,” said Richard.
“Yes, return to your desk!”
“Command, sir.”
“Give me fortitude. We’ve finished!
“Exclamation, Sir.”
“Buffoon! Just go to your place!”
“Command, Sir.”

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

By moonlight, Yap, Mop and Tiddle gazed over the room. As usual, everything was there, but not in order. The discord hurt their heads. Quickly, they put everything back. Except...

On the hearth, much to their horror, lay three pairs of shoes, brand new.

Tiddle groaned. "They can't remain here. They ruin the aesthetics."

"Look," cried Mop. "You finds they fits. Crams yer feets in."

"Perfect." Yan slipped on the shoes. "For 'tis noble of man, to work and to give..."

They made their escape. Grace settled once more upon a room in order. No more, no less.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Scrambled eggs with bacon and pancakes were served in the gazebo. My fortieth birthday, I just wanted to escape gracefully from this day. Four decades and nothing to show for it, infinitely unbearable. No career, no children, no husband. Although, I once had a man.

Vacationing, I was humiliated watching him ogle bikini-clad girls, then kiss one. His excuse of alcohol indulgence, lame. Underwater on our diving expedition, I swiftly slashed his arm with a knife. Sharks have an insatiable hunger. Eating machines ripping flesh and limbs as they devour their prey. The sharks were fulfilled. And so was I.

Karen McCoy said...

Tim’s knotted hair and dirtied knees made him an unlikely adoption. Probably why he couldn't resist the muddy stray puppy shivering outside a fire escape: Graceling. He called her Ling for short.

Scrambled eggs were her favorite, and he sneaked them from the orphanage kitchen until Lunchlady Gerta caught him, her gaze wrought, wrinkled, suspicious.

Ling languished in the pound while Tim was relegated to a juvenile detention facility. Boy and dog eventually disappeared amid fine print and red tape.

Years later, Gerta opened the city’s first no-kill animal shelter within the orphanage walls. For Tim, she said.

katie said...

"Her hundredth client! I can't believe she's letting us come. You're sure we're invited?"

"I'm sure. But listen, about that-"

"That's the scotch? Let's cram a quick swig. She won't notice it's open. We can fortify our hope! Maybe it'll be us someday."

"Us? See-"

"Well, you're too much of a scapegrace. If you buckle down, maybe in ten years, but I'm ready now. I'm just closer to finishing this race and you gotta narrow your gaze, laser like, you know? Ugh, what kind of scotch is this?"

"The kind a scapegrace buys for her new agent."

Gypmar said...

Iris hiked with her husband and two fine boys on her fortieth birthday. While belting out “The Happy Wanderer,” she collapsed into a patch of nettles alongside the trail and never woke up. The autopsy revealed a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

Rick hikes Cape Grace every year on her birthday. It hurts, but it hurts more not to. Today he gazes across the Columbia River Gorge and squints at the brilliance of the sun on the water. He thought he would jump. But the light is so beautiful. When he slips at the edge, he scrambles for a foothold.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

A scrambling of memories clawed at the beggar with all life denied him. Here at the gates at the end of night, the beggar found the thief who had been crucified next to him.

“I meant to escape gracefully, but every life owes a death.” The thief sought absolution of something unseen. The humble wood gate opened. “Beggar, come with me.”

“He said it was finished,” the beggar said. He gazed upon peaceful green fields and saw emptiness. He expected fortifications of gold. Lust for glittering riches and revenge filled him, and he turned his back on morning’s first light.

flashfriday said...

I showed him my heartsick gaze, vowed to abandon my scapegrace ways. From beneath demure faux lashes I promised to scram when he wants space, never Forti the truth, never answer a fin “nothing” when a great white “something” lurks.

So he married me.

Now he follows me everywhere. Every week-a-versary’s another (suffocating) bouquet of roses, every meal’s a (tacky) candlelit banquet, every email’s a (clichéd) Petrarchan sonnet, and even simple grocery lists are now obscured by swarms of his (immature) x’s and o’s.

Dammit.

Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit.

Dammit.

Same Ghost said...

You can't escape Grace, they told me. You’re made for each other.

It was good. Could hear the church organ blaring fortissimo, smell the flowers.

I left. Town, her, everything I knew. Mad scramble out west without a plan or clue.

On my back, on a woven blanket in cold Nevada desert, I gazed at the stars and found them mute. I found no answers.

I found out I missed her.

Came back chastened and ready, but I missed her.

I bring flowers to the stone every day.

Can’t escape Grace, they said.

They were wrong.

RKeelan said...

Every morning I escape grace and wake in an unfamiliar bed.

There's a woman next to me. We're lying side-by-side like two corpses in a double-wide coffin.

I have no idea who she is.

She's old, but beautiful. I probably know her. I hope I do.

Her gaze is on me.

I try to ignore the fortissimo beat of my heart, scrambling for something to say, something to ease the worry in her eyes.

I know I'm supposed to recognize her, but I don't.

I'm supposed to know her name, but I don't.

"Good morning, Dear. I love you."

Robert Ceres said...

Her head poked in, gaze full of questions. Apparently I’d stolen her fort.
“I’m sorry. Scram,” my voice weak with cold.
The dog whined, then squirmed in, warming the air enough to silence my aching, chattering teeth. I slept. Dreamed of panting, then whining, growling, biting.
Not a dream. “Ow, ouch.” I was too weak to pull away.
Barking. Angry. Harsh. She struggled to leave, kicking my stomach, turning to bark in my face. Voices approaching.
“Yo, Scapegrace! Easy. What’d you find? A—Dad? Dad!! It’s a kid.“
Bright light, the dog just whining now. Hands reaching in.
Fading out…

Nate Wilson said...

I will not beg a zebra mussel for forgiveness.

The beastly bivalves take over our lake and starve thousands, yet we're supposed to be grateful for cleaner water? No. I'm done paying.

Someone needs to take down this mollusc a peg.

"Race
is a social construct," I say.

"Don't care. Apologize or owe triple the algae tomorrow."

"Stripes aside, we're not so different, you and I."

"Don't try to appeal to--"

"Except you're small."

"Careful..."

"And small-minded."

"Ooh, you're dead, Clam. Finished."

"Not yet."

With great effort, I dig in and drag myself directly at the infernal mollusc. Ramming speed!

John Davis Frain said...

Jim held the door, sent her flowers. Even brought her coffee. But Grace never responded. Asked her out once. Her answer: “Scram.”

“Anything for your attention,” he said. “I’d tug on Superman’s cape, Grace. Just give a sign.” Saying it all fortissimo, letting the world know his admiration.

She ignored him.

Grace’s twin, Gwen, visited one weekend. Fell under Jim’s gaze.

“He completes me. We leave for New York tomorrow.”

Suddenly, Grace desperately wanted the man.

“Revenge is sweeter than you ever were,” Jim said.

Gwen shook her finger. “Don’t mess around with Jim! We’re gonna make marvelous music together.”

Alva said...

‘Call yourself a copy editor? What is this?’

‘Maybe I missed a few things.’

‘More than a few. Give me that pen.’

‘The deer was not fixed in a haze but in the hunter’s gaze.

The disciplining procedure for the scapegrace was to lock him in a scrum, not lose him in a Texas scramble.

I said four tins of chicken noodle soup for team fortification not fornication!

Now get back to work and finish the job properly so we can tell the author she has a story worth publishing.’

french sojourn said...


Grace grew up in the cold shadows of her parents fractured marriage. A beaten down house that blended in an urban gray landscape. Grace wisely chose experience over education.

She caught her man with the innocent gaze that promised more than his age could deliver.

Fortified with liquid courage he asked. “Would you share my bed for a million dollars?”

Her hand reddened his face. “How dare you?”

He scrambled, and apologized quickly.

Grace knew the age-old tale of the starlet and the wealthy man.
“Do I look like some common….?”

She never finished her sentence.

Matrimonially, neither did he.

Munira Sayyid said...

Fortissimo
My body weeps because my heart cannot. It pulses euphoric. My shoulders grow lighter with each kilometer. On the 10th, I leave behind my addictions of caution and loneliness. (Unlock closed spaces, grasp helping hands). On the 20th, I hear my fears laugh behind my back. I ignore their chants of compliance and contempt. I want to scramble through the 30th, leave behind my immature scapegrace of a father; his disappointment, apathy. (Forgiveness is hard). The 40th is easier as I shed my past. (Breathe, breathe again). I gaze, beyond the last two kilometers. Dawn has finally arrived.

Lawson Reinsch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marie McKay said...

Sir's 'cape' graces the corridors. Initially, he'd tried to correct them: 'Gown not cape!'
But their actions only grew crueller as they made him their subject to torment.

Tonight, Sir's 'cape' is a black, billowing sail gliding past classrooms, turning bat to ascend the stone stairway. The boys, in their sleeping quarters, lie wakeful, little comfort in numbers; the haunted always alone. It finds the seam in their bedchamber door, pours itself through.
Not one boy able to avert his inner gaze from Sir's scrambled limbs when it leaves by the window to form a pall on the ground below.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Like a sailor adrift, I gaze at my past for a break in the horizon. I search for the islands, not for the fins which devoured my dreams. From scapegrace to elder, memories bubble up and scramble for space on the surface of my personal sea.

Even with intermittent storms, my journey has been relatively calm and joyous overall.
Therefore I stand firm against the wind, sure in the face of storms and thankful for the weatherman’s truth.
Truth?
Do I have confidence in forecasting?

As my life raft drifts toward the shoals, I look ahead and wait with fortitude.

Stephen G Parks said...

“WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST!”

We scrambled against time, scavenging for fortified food packets airdropped the night before.

Boom! A mine. Gregor got careless. Shrapnel missed me; blood, not so much…

I grabbed Gregor’s packet, handed it to Mary. We’d eat this week.

“Narrow escape?”

“Grace be upon us.” 9-year-old me mumbled.

“His gaze be upon us,” corrected a man. Panic hit hard. How’d I missed the “MEN ENTERING NOW” klaxon?

He leered. Mary bolted. He chased: her, the food, or both.

Boom! Fine dirt and blood everywhere, again.

I picked up the packet, made the sanctuary, ate alone.

LynnRodz said...

FIN appeared on the screen. It starred the Italian heartthrob, Stefano Forti, and his ingénue. Julie Weathers, dressed in a sleeveless cape, graceful, doe-eyed, as any naive lass could be at 15. The story was, his fourth wife, Melanie Sue Bowles, introduced them when she caught the long gaze her third husband was giving Julie across the crowded room. He could scram for all Melanie cared, she was having a fling with the new director, Lennon Faris. His wife, Megan V was filming it all, not for Sundance, for divorce court. Her attorney told her, no words — show, don't tell.

Just Jan said...

We escape the perpetual growl of the tarmac and enter the terminal. A crowd is gathered on the far side, its scapegraces weaving impatiently around the rope barrier.

Eager to be reunited with my master, my feet scramble a bit on the tile floor. My mistress locates our overstuffed suitcase and wheels it toward customs. The three of us pass through without question. We hail a taxi.

At our final destination, she pulls the suitcase behind the gazebo and grabs a shovel. With a quick pat and a comforting smile, she begins to dig.

“Time to bury Daddy,” she says.

Kitty said...

Texting…
“You got us reservations?”
“Zelma’s coming, too?”
“We got married!”


Gird your loins, honey. Your father married her.

That meshuga Zelma? That floozy with a voice like fingernails on a blackboard and the intellectual depth of spit?

“CONGRATS! Reservations at Beaufort SC Ramada, 809 Port Republic St. FYI it’s BYOO-fort in SC. Where are you?”
“Memphis. Can’t escape Graceland!”


Zelma’s touring Graceland.

AGAIN? How am I supposed to be nice to her?

Just think of your inheritance.

...

“Congratulations, you two! Look, honey, they brought us another Elvis painting. On VELVET!”

“How (inheritance) lovely (inheritance). Thanks, Dad… (inheritance inheritance) Zelma.”

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

It’s a boy.” The surgeon cuddled the wailing mongrel, another jonesing newborn. Wiped his eyes.

The doc hesitated, fretting. His digits were finned.

“My baby.” The jittery mother reached for him.

The surgeon placed him in her arms.

A nurse came in. “There’s, um a… the father.”

“Forti aint got no father.” The mother spat, remembering the lonely nine months after Ice scrammed. She cut her eyes to the baller framed in the door.

“Ice, that you?”

His scapegrace gaze was all love. “Hey ma, my seed got all his fingers?”

AJ Blythe said...

Trouble walked through my door in the shape of a redhead with getaway stems all the way up.
“You a P.I.?”
“Since the forties.”
“It’s my husband. He’s messing around.”
“Spendin’ time in a flophouse or a skirt on the side?”
The dame flashed a rock the size of Gibraltar as she undid her dress’ cape.
“Grace
… but she’s not the problem. It’s her husband.”
I shoulda told her to scram but a broad like that would make the Pope forget his vows.
“He wants to finish off my Charlie.”
Her gaze was all business as she pointed the gun.

PAH said...

One murder. Three suspects. Zero alibis. And me.
They were all there when the stubby bastard died.
The tall one, scarred, met my gaze with indifference. The other, nondescript except the obnoxious gold collar, avoided eye contact at all costs. And the slender fellow, a scapegrace in need of a trim, grinned. Discomforting.
“Wasn’t me,” they each said.
“Anyway, who put you in charge?” the Tall One asked.
Not my first rodeo, friends.
Apply some pressure; they scrambled, broke like fingers.
“Middle did it,” the small one finally squeaked.
“I’ll kill you!” Middle cried.
Thus solved the Murder of Thumb.