June 2 – June 29, 2022 Writing Prompt “Family”

Theme: Family

The rest is up to you.

Requirements:

  • ice
  • a vacuum cleaner

Word Count: 1,200

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31 thoughts on “June 2 – June 29, 2022 Writing Prompt “Family”

  • June 2, 2022 at 1:40 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    Reply
    • June 5, 2022 at 1:28 pm
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      I have a friend named Jayeeta who is just getting started in writing. I know you all will welcome her with open arms. She is a sweet lady and needs a group like this to gain confidence.

      Reply
      • June 7, 2022 at 4:25 pm
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        Yup, come on in and set a spell, Jayeeta. We’ll be gentle … at first.

        Reply
  • June 2, 2022 at 1:41 pm
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    Signing in

    Reply
  • June 4, 2022 at 8:43 am
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    Signing in also hoping to write something. Still making a huge driving loop of America from Michigan through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, whew! and yes, all during the highest gas prices I’ve ever paid. I remember paying 15 cents a gallon as a teenager and now I’m forking over up to $5.19 a gallon, averaging around $4.50. Fortunately, I use regular which is about 40 or 50 cents less expensive and I’m not complaining, just happy I’m able to do it.

    I’ll give it a good shot at writing and since this trip involves family, maybe I’ll get inspiration for this prompt. I’m hoping I will.

    Roy

    Reply
  • June 4, 2022 at 6:13 pm
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    I would love to write for this prompt but believe it may not happen as I have just accepted a job after an interview last week which means my son and I and our entire household is moving up to Maryborough in the Central Goldfields area of Victoria. I have to move 18 goats and one cat, (I may sell three goats). I was so busy last week I did not get a chance to even read all the stories. I am glad Vicki’s story won. Great story and one of the few I read.
    I have been copping a lot of intimidation and bullying at work with my work for some kids. I am really pissed about the way some kids were treated and I believe when you suspend a child 17 times in two years, you have to look at how that kid is being handled by both the teachers and school administration, plus his or her background and where you can use different strategies to deal with the kid. There is a lot of aggression in some teachers towards students and a dismal failure to address bullying by groups of other students. I have had kids on my program who were fine with me and my education support officer. Kids who did not attend, now attend and thrive at our Flexible Learning Option. I read how some students have been handled and it makes my hair stand on end at the aggression of some of my colleagues and I feel sad for the kids. Kids that have had a real mixed up bringing, been in foster care or having brushes with the juvenile justice system and parents who have had substance abuse issues or homelessness, DON’T make the world even more of an unfriendly place for them. Give them hope of a future and help them to build a future in following their passions. I am tired and at times quite worn out in dealing with the judgemental nature of some.
    I am starting to pack up my house. I hate moving but feel I have no option and the alternative is to be in a position where I could end up in continual meetings about my butting heads with a principal and his cronies. The big boss and my principal at the FLO is ok they are great in fact, but the principal of another campus is an Asshole Extraordinaire. I got told, the school system is “NOT a welfare or benefits society ILANA!!”
    I disagree however, because in some areas of lower socioeconomic disadvantage, high unemployment and substance abuse problems, WELFARE of students and their mental health are major issues to address so the kids feel safe and supported in the education setting and we need to understand the mental health aspects so these kids can learn more effectively. I have so much on my mind of late. Because one of my students attempted suicide when she was taken from my program and given an ultimatium to attend school by said principal. That was six weeks ago. I just feel so shattered because I warned them and another student who they tried to push into the Virtual School Victoria and when she wrote on the application form “I don’t want to go, the school is forcing me to do remote learning.” the parent and I were blamed. Unfortunately she is on the spectrum and does not learn well remotely – does not like to work on her computer but needs more one to one tuition and in small groups. I tried to tell this man but he did not listen. Instead I was hauled into a meeting with two more ex principals and berated. I was so angry at the waste of time and the failure to look at the needs of the students and what they need to succeed. All these meetings are draining and a pointless waste of time.
    So there, that is why I am not writing as much as I could but go to bed early exhausted and wake up from nightmares in the early morning….Sorry to unload.

    Reply
    • June 6, 2022 at 8:27 am
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      Ilana,
      I applaud you!! Thank you for standing for the children and advocating for them and their needs! At times, our schools are so focused on test scores and graduation rates, that the individual needs of students get lost and ignored. We need more teachers like you! It is interesting to know that the many of the same issues we face in the States you are experiencing where you are. Best wishes in your new job! Adi

      Reply
    • June 7, 2022 at 9:30 am
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      First of all, congratulations on the new job! I hope the management and students value and appreciate your work more than those in your old job.
      It’s scary to think what will happen to the poor student you wrote about above. 🙁
      Thanks for your comment re my story, though I feel like a Stephen Bradbury, winning by being the last one standing (or voting in this case). 🙂

      Reply
    • June 7, 2022 at 4:30 pm
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      Good luck, goat girl. We’ll be rooting for you.

      Reply
      • June 8, 2022 at 6:18 pm
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        Hi Roy
        Thanks for the positive thought waves, however I would not say “We’ll be rooting for you in Australia.” It is like saying to someone “We’ll be having wild sex for you.” Especially in the outback of Australia. The word “root” used as a verb has a rather different meaning. 🙂 😀
        I may have time to destress and write a story. Hopefully……

        Reply
        • June 13, 2022 at 3:01 pm
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          Yeah, I forgot about that idiom when I was there. I also learned about your penchant in Oz for giggling at the name Randy. We had a member of the group named Randy and every time he stood up to talk he introduced himself by saying, “Hi, I’m Randy.” Everyone would not very indiscreetly giggle as if he said something naughty. We finally asked what all the mirth was about and he learned to say, “Hi, my name is Randy … and yes kI am.”, which got even more giggles. But at least he knew why everyone was laughting.

          Reply
      • June 13, 2022 at 1:14 am
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        Hi Roy Happy birthday for your 27th birthday is it or 37th? Hope you and your soul mate are doing something special with family for the day…

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        • June 13, 2022 at 2:55 pm
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          Thanks, Ilana. It’s official, I’m now in my eighties and in my ninth decade which makes it sound even older. I will have family here tonight and just got back from an extended two-week trip through 15 states having endured the highest gas prices in memory; but then, people outside the US have been paying those kinds of prices for years, so I’m not carping about it, but I did grumble every time I took out my wallet. Spoiled American, I guess.

          Reply
  • June 12, 2022 at 9:00 am
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    I got a couple of stories built up, but nothing I’m proud of. There is one that is 2,731 words long, but there ain’t no family. I’m looking for a horror or fantasy magazine to publish it, because the other magazines are going to burn it when they get to the werewolf reveal! But I turned three dreams into one story this time, so I feel goodish.

    I was thinking of calling it “Dreamcatcher in the Rye” … or maybe “Corporate Castle”.

    “The Last Wolf of Scotland” would give a hint that there is a wolf, and I carefully set it up so only you guys would know to expect a werewolf, so I can’t use anything too wolfy. I also wanted “Werehouse”, but same problem. All my titles are either campy horror puns or trying too hard to be deep!

    Maybe I should stop aiming for the high dollar rewards and go for the better fits, because payment is not my priority? One of them is an anthology of classic monster stories, but then the reader will be expecting a monster and the reveal will be ruined.

    So, I need a good title and the right publisher, but the dreams are fully transcribed and I cant add to the story.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2022 at 1:16 am
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    I have also just tested positive to covid-19. I still have my sense of smell, but a very very raw throat and upset tummy, plus a headache like you would never believe. Going to bed with some herbal remedies and lots of VIT C< D< B3 and more

    Reply
    • June 13, 2022 at 1:52 pm
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      Stay safe and get better soon. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. It almost killed me last year and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

      Reply
    • June 13, 2022 at 3:02 pm
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      That is awful and I feel for you! You are strong, so you got this. That damn bat virus is driving me nuts as it is, and I don’t think I would be as brave as you if I were in your place (knock on wood). Do y’all knock on wood down under? I read that knocking on wood stimulates fungal growth, but that is not the effect that I am going for.

      What a stupid disease. Do whatever it takes to stay mentally and emotionally strong, because everything else will get a boost. Psychoimmuneurology, or something smart sounding like that.

      But seriously, get better!

      Reply
    • June 13, 2022 at 3:04 pm
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      Good luck, Ilana. Rest accordingly. Let’s try this one. I’ll be pulling for you. Nope, that’s no good. Umm … Wishing you well! There, that’s got it.

      Reply
  • June 13, 2022 at 1:53 pm
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    Hey everyone, I leave for vacation on Thursday, and since there aren’t any stories submitted yet I’m just going to extend this out until I get back, and push off the next prompt. So you have an extra two weeks to write a story!!

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 7:28 am
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      Was in such a tearing hurry to submit, dropped water all over my laptop.
      Now I see there’s another week. 🙂

      Lesson learnt:
      You got to read all the updates.
      Thanks, Carrie. Have a great vacation. Keep safe. And witty.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2022 at 7:47 am
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    TOOTHLESS IN SANTONIO
    by Marien Oommen

    (1199 words)

    All for a tooth, a granmdom was lost.

    It started when gwanma bit on a carrot. They were called baby carrots but there was nothing baby about it.

    Crunchhh! Something poked, something rattled. Not the soft mush, carrot takes on after considerable mastication.

    She had the presence of mind and the quickness of tongue to spit it out.
    Alas! It was her crown- not the kohinoor- but the white glossy molar from her top palate.

    O no! How could she face the grandkids without her tooth?
    They would be home from school soon and doubtless they’d look at her in question. Was she the Wicked Fairy who abounded in stories of old. Who Granma always transmogrified to the Good Fairy, having no desire to feed them with wicked morsels of the fairytale world in their tender years.

    The kiddos came home and for two days they didn’t notice a thing because she carefully muffled her laughter, turning it sideward.
    The third day her act could no longer hold and she bared it all.

    “O grandma, where’s your tooth,” the little boy asked. “You look scareeeh.”

    “O heavens, hope he doesn’t ever remember me toothless,” Granma whispered, smiling weakly.

    “I should get it fixed pronto,” she said stoically.

    “Get a flipper,”

    Granma fainted at the quotation for her singular tooth which decided to play truant at the most inopportune time.

    “6000 dollars??? You think money grows on oak trees? Why you dentists are rotten cheats,” she remarked as she hung up the phone.

    “I could take a trip to Japan with that kind of money. And sushi is soft in the mouth.”

    “Why don’t you travel to India and get them done at tenth the price,” her brother advised.

    “I can’t do that. I’m seeing my buddies after two years of isolation. Can’t be showing up with puffy swollen cheeks.”

    “Use ice,” he said, like it was the final answer to all the world’s troubles.

    The house help had quietly arrived and was soon vacuuming the entire home. The crown, meanwhile, had slipped from her hands and disappeared into the mangled mass of jam roll crumbs on the floor.

    Granma searched high and low and then her eyes fell on the vacuum cleaner.
    Daylight Robber of Crowns, she announced.

    “You can’t reuse your crown anyway,” said Ella.

    “I know that. I just wanted it as a keepsake for all the years it served without a word.
    Quiet, selfless service on its part with no biting remarks as some folks do.

    The piece de defiance came after a week.
    The big little boy was having a long argument about why he needed to wear a shirt under a shirt, with the top unbuttoned.

    “It’s summer, my lad. Nobody wears two teeshees.”

    “Granma, you don’t know anything. Because you have no teeth.”
    His logic made sense only to him.

    “Alrighty,” Granma looked at the sky. “AbuDhabi pilot, come get me. Lower the double harness and lift me to the sky.”

    The boy looked up and in sotto voice said, “Granma, don’t go. I’m sorry I said that. I love you.”

    Her boy needed protection.
    Granma thought of the war zone outside, the fallen world where bad was getting worse. Godlessness taking over the world among broken people. Narcissistic folks abounding with social media, being their stronghold. Messed up families led to a messy planet.

    How do you fill little ones with gratitude and trust?

    Just 4 years ago, the first time grandmas had emerged jubilant, having trippingly survived, overcoming the challenge victoriously.
    What challenge you may ask.
    Young dad was away on a two month mission possible, and mama was attending some medical conference.

    ‘Twas Granma Power zindabaad! No men around at barking point to cater to, to placate or subjugate.

    After some ponderous soul searching, they took the executive decision, arriving at the conclusion that granmas needed to gear themselves with fortifying muscle building desserts.

    Trés Leches on Friday, Almond cheesecake on Saturday, Walnut stuffed baklavas on Sunday.

    The Dessert Control Police Daughters DCPDs- were far, far away.

    Thus fortified, they catered to every whimper and whine attentively.

    At the minusculest sound, Granmas 1& 2 stood to attention, either side of babe, never slacking.

    Discarding the Queen’s English as there was too much royal stuff happening on telly,
    they devised their own Granma Language.

    They shpoke in da shoftest ‘oice, chinging chongs and whimes to his delight and wonderment.
    His eyes got bigger and biggerer as they taught him deep truths that Jesus lubbed him.

    “Be thankful, little boy, look doodeh shky ‘n shay ‘thank you, Lord’ every morning and night.”
    Needless to say he was completely captivated.

    Being family meant they changed his stinky poo diapers and onesies.
    His bath song was invariably ‘O Lord my God, When I In Awesome Wonder.’

    All’s well that ends well.
    Certificates for meritorious duties were given to the good and faithful grandmas, followed by a farewell dinner.

    Berries at Le Jardin

    The little Berry Squisher announces:
    Dad, can I serve you some juicy raspberries?

    Mama, can I cherve you some juicy rwaspbewwy?

    Ammachy, can I serve you some juicy raspberries?

    Elvis, can I serve you some juicy..? (Thea is his fireman friend)

    Carefully, with his toddler fingers, he squishes raspberries to its most unappetizing form and passes them, one by one.

    Unbeknownst to the lil’ lad, they discard the squished berries, hiding them guiltily under the napkin.

    Postscript:
    In his deepest voice, he inquires: “Now are you all done with your raspberries?”

    After lovingly discharging her duties and smothered by hugs and kisses, granma travels across the sea and reaches home to her man.

    It’s Sunday, the day of rest and church. There’s a long line of cars stuck outside a tunnel. The couple inch their way forward.

    “We’ll be late now.”

    The light at the end of the tunnel is most welcoming when you’re stuck in it for 15 minutes.

    What do you do?
    You entertain your family with a joke. But the joke gets done in ten minutes.

    Hubby gets impatient with other drivers cutting in.

    Granma says, “Wait, his wife must be getting a baby, so he’s in a hurry. Let him pass; just say Peace O’ Shalom”.

    She had learnt this heartwarming strategy from her wiser, older sister, Anna, and so she never felt road rage anytime.

    Hubby: (behind a slow truck) “Silly man, his wife is definitely not getting a baby.”
    Bad attitude definitely needs church, thought granma.

    So she tells him what Sheryl Sandberg said while driving her dying husband to the hospital.
    She wished people would let them pass. But they didn’t. She was crying. You know the rest.

    Suddenly hubby becomes quiet. He’s doing some deep chthinking, just like their granchun.

    When Sheryl Sandberg says it, it’s different from how wife says it.
    She’s COO FB for crying out loud.
    Whereas CEO Kitchen stands no chance to be heard.

    But then something snapped. He allowed the Pattan driver to drive slowly ahead of him without saying a word.

    They reach the church twenty minutes late, repentant and humbled.

    Granma lookchd up at da shkaii and muttered a ‘Chhank you, my Lorrd.’

    Reply
    • June 26, 2022 at 12:52 pm
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      I think I say this about your stories every time Marien: I love your use of the language (each line is like a little firework display of surprise) … but I get a bit lost in the story per se. This one wanders about a lot, which doesn’t mean it’s not pleasurable to read – just that I’m not really sure what it’s about! (It might mean that I’m not perceptive enough, though!)

      Reply
      • June 26, 2022 at 12:56 pm
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        Oh, and coincidentally, I had a crown drop out the other day, too, and the way you describe the experience is perfect.

        Reply
  • June 14, 2022 at 7:58 pm
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    KITCHEN KRISIS

    Violeta was a very attractive, violet-coloured vacuum cleaner. She was shiny, spanking new and highly efficient, with all the latest design features (super-suction, a special triple-function head, wheels that were just as slick on carpet as on parquet, a fully-flexible hose, a retractable lead … you name it). The only thing she didn’t have was an ounce of humility.

    This gave her the precise quality to be bossy, and practically all the other appliances bowed to her perceived authority the moment the lady of the house brought her home. When the latter had left the kitchen, Violeta addressed the assembly, all jostling for position to get the best view of the newcomer.

    “Greetings, underlings,” she huffed, waving her head about on her long neck. “My name is Violeta, and I have arrived!” Other appliances might have taken umbrage at being addressed thus, but not these (the washing machine, the micro-wave, the electric cooker, the mixer, etc.), for they had learned laid-backness from one of their number.

    The automatic ice-making machine (who had in his time been just as state-of-the-art as Violeta), looked on from the fridge. Though he was ostensibly the kitchen leader, Colin, as he was called, couldn’t be bothered to resist Violeta’s instant and supremely arrogant assumption of leadership. He was in the appliance game purely for fun; his favourite pastime was simply chilling out and chatting with his chums … as well as courting another appliance, as we shall see.

    “So, who was in charge of this operation before I got here?” Violeta asked.

    All present nodded at Colin, who lifted two ice-cubes in a lazy peace ‘n’ love gesture.

    Violeta looked Colin up and down with disdain, though this was lost on the ice-maker, who, as always, only had eyes for another: Iris, the iron. Colin thought her really hot, Iris thought him very cool, and so the two went through their respective daily routines in a state of mutual and complementary bliss.

    Sadly for the besotted couple, Violeta caught the exchange of loving glances between them. She’d only just arrived but she was damned if she was going to be upstaged by such a harlot, however hot. And so she hatched a plan to destroy this beautiful thing called love.

    The house wherein these appliances dwelt contained a nice family called Robinsohn, originally from Switzerland. There was Hans the husband, Winnie the wife, Sammy the son and Daphne the daughter. It was a modern family in that everyone chipped in with the housework. Hans would do the cooking, Winnie the washing and ironing, and a couple of times a week, the children would have a bash at cleaning … though as they were very young, Hans or Winnie often had to go round after them and do it again properly.

    On the first cleaning day after Violeta’s arrival, Sammy was tasked with hoovering throughout. He did the living room and hall well enough (Violeta was such a supremely efficient machine that a monkey could have worked her), but when he got to the kitchen, disaster ensued.

    Winnie had been doing some ironing, and Iris was sitting on the ironing board, cooling down, under Colin’s loving gaze. As Sammy passed, holding Violeta’s hose, the vicious vacuum cleaner twisted so that her hose got tangled in Iris’s lead and she came tumbling off the board, hitting the floor with an almighty crash.

    All the appliances (except Violeta, of course) let out silent groans, while a couple of Colin’s cubes melted instantaneously and dripped to the floor. Winnie Robinsohn came running into the kitchen to see what had happened and took Violeta away from Sammy, whose lower lip had begun to quiver.

    Violeta was naturally very happy at the outcome. When the commotion had died down and Winnie and Sammy had left – with the bits of Iris they’d salvaged from the floor – she addressed the other appliances.

    “Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say!” she said. “Now, let’s get some ground rules established. I’m the most efficient and – if I may be so bold – most beautiful vacuum cleaner there’s ever been. I demand the best of myself and I would be negligent if I didn’t demand the same of my subjects. So let what’s just happened to … that thing … be a warning to you all.”

    Violeta was an obnoxious object, it’s true, but perhaps we can give her a bit of a break? She was straight off the production line, after all, and had never lived among other appliances before. How was she to know how to be a virtuous member of society? Or then again … maybe we can just dislike her and her wicked ways. Whatever, one thing’s for certain: she wasn’t expecting what came next.

    Colin’s cubes had stopped melting and he cleared his throat. The whole kitchen – cupboards and all – hung on his every word.

    “Listen, Violeta,” he said in his habitual slow drawl, a little shaky because of the recent shock. “We here – the washing machine, the micro-wave, the electric cooker, the mixer, the cupboards, the table and chairs, the cutlery and dishes – we like to think of ourselves as one big happy family. We’re all very different, of course, but that’s actually a bonus; it makes life interesting to have a variety of functions, backgrounds and perspectives on life. Our motto, decided in committee before you showed up, is ‘Omnes Pares’, which means …”

    And here he paused to let the whole kitchen chime in: “All are equal!”

    “I don’t care about that,” blurted Violeta, a little taken aback by the show of solidarity. “I –”

    But Colin didn’t let her finish.

    “We enjoyed a very peaceful existence until … well, until you turned up, Violeta.”

    “I don’t ca–”

    Once again, Colin broke in.

    “And the fact is, Violeta, that frankly … you suck!”

    A shower of laughter from all quarters left the vacuum cleaner blushing profusely, though it didn’t show on account of her violet colour.

    It was enough to put Violeta in her place and from that moment on, she never again tried to lord it over the others. Eventually, she learned a little humility and became one (though far from the most popular) of the family.

    But what about Iris? Well, it just so happened that Hans Robinsohn was an electrician, and he soon had her working again. Colin was so pleased when he saw her back on the ironing board that a couple of his cubes melted again, this time with joy.

    In fact poor Iris wasn’t working as well as before – it had been a terrible fall – and she couldn’t generate such high temperatures. But she was still hot enough for Colin, so that their perfect courtship resumed where it had left off.

    And the whole kitchen family, as well as the Robinsohns, lived happily ever after.

    .

    Reply
    • June 18, 2022 at 5:07 am
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      O my goodness! What an incredibly delightful story. The ‘Violeta’ here is extremely loud and has my doggie barking at her always.
      Now I know why he barks. It’s her unfounded arrogance, tho’ her head’s empty.
      MeAnwHile you aRe a genIuS.
      Just saying.

      Reply
      • June 26, 2022 at 12:53 pm
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        Thanks, Marien … but you’re much MUCH too kind.

        Reply
    • June 22, 2022 at 11:06 am
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      Hi Phil,
      Another Town classic!
      I loved it and it is a really good take on the prompt, full of humour and clever quips.
      I hope there will be more stories to read by the time Carrie returns as your story and Marien’s deserve a bit of competition.
      Cheers,
      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • June 26, 2022 at 12:55 pm
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        Thanks as always, KenF, for your kind encouragement. I see Vicki’s pitched in now (I’m going to read hers later). What about you? 😉

        Reply
  • June 25, 2022 at 6:17 pm
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    THICKER THAN WATER

    “Psst, Amina!”

    “Farrah!” Amina raced towards her big sister, who beckoned from behind the old sycamore tree in the schoolyard corner. “Where have you been this past week?”

    “I’ve been … staying with a friend,” replied Farrah a little cagily.

    Amina looked her sister up and down. Farrah, jeans tucked into knee-high boots, didn’t look any different. Her favourite purple scarf was peeking through the open collar of her parka, instead of covering her high ponytail – but Farrah had been doing this for a while, though never at home. Perhaps the dark, almond-shaped eyes held more spark.

    “Are you coming home?” Amina asked anxiously. “Mother and Father are going crazy!”

    “No way!” Farrah tossed her ponytail. “I’m not flying to my parents’ old village to marry some Cousin Behrouz whom I’ve never met. He’s, like, fifty – that’s older than Father. Ewww!”

    Amina didn’t know what to say to that.

    “Besides,” Farrah stage-whispered with a conspiratorial wink, “I’ve already got a boyfriend. Met him at University.”

    “Wow. Is he … English?” breathed Amina, her eyes big and round.

    “Er … yeah, you could say Mal is English,” Farrah flapped her hand. “I’ll introduce you soon. He’s nice. … And hot,” she smirked.

    A shrill ringing sound cut through the air, signalling the end of recess.

    “Take care, sis!” Farrah gave Amina a tight hug. “I’ll see you again soon. … Wait!” she grabbed Amina’s upper arm, “don’t tell anyone you saw me, OK?”

    The younger girl nodded firmly and rushed back to class.

    #

    “Zahra said you’d seen Farrah today,” were Mother’s first words when Amina walked in the door.

    The girl froze. So much for the secret.

    “Er … She’s OK. She’s staying with a friend … um, a girl,” she added conscientiously. Farrah hadn’t, in fact, mentioned if her friend was a girl, but Mother and Father were less likely to get mad this way.

    Father didn’t mention Farrah in Amina’s hearing all evening, but he must have talked to Mother after she’d gone to bed.

    “If you see Farrah again,” Mother told Amina at breakfast next morning, “Ask her to come and see us some time. We just want to talk.”

    Mirza, their middle brother, looked about to say something mean; but Father gave him a look, and Mirza kept his fat mouth shut.

    “Oh, and ask her to bring her boy along too,” Mother added as an afterthought, “it’s only proper that we meet him.”

    Amina only realised when the bus was halfway to school that she’d never mentioned Farrah’s boyfriend. Had Zahra the tattle-tale overheard that bit? Or had Mother learned to read her thoughts?

    #

    Farrah came to the school yard a week later.

    “I’ll think about it,” she replied when Amina had relayed Mother’s request. “Perhaps we should meet someplace else in the meantime,” Farrah scrunched up her face, looking around “too many spies.”

    “I’m not allowed anywhere now – just school and home,” Amina mumbled apologetically.

    Farrah ruffled her sister’s hair. “We’ll think of something.”

    #

    “Tell them I might drop in next Tuesday, after evening classes,” Farrah told Amina next time. “I might be a bit late, though. … I’m still thinking whether to invite Mal along,” she added. “Maybe I better talk to them alone first?”

    #

    The following Tuesday, Amina was surprised to find Uncle Masoud, who lived a block away, drinking coffee in their lounge. Farrah leaving home was a huge embarrassment for Father and Mother; Amina had expected them to keep the news from the family as long as they could.

    She stayed up as late as she dared waiting for Farrah, until Father told her to go to bed. Amina tried to object, but Father gave her a frown, and she had no choice. She stayed awake in her bedroom for a long time before dozing off.

    “Did Farrah come?” she asked the next morning.

    “Yes,” Mother answered curtly. “Things didn’t work out, and she won’t be coming back.”

    Amina felt betrayed. How could Farrah not say hi to her favourite sister?! Even if she’d fallen asleep waiting, Farrah should’ve woken her.

    Father muttered something in passing about family honour being restored. Amina wasn’t sure if he was addressing them or himself, and didn’t dare ask.

    While Amina vacuumed the lounge after school – the task had fallen to her after Farrah left – she heard a faint metallic clink. Afterwards, she opened the vacuum cleaner hoping to find a coin – but saw one of Farrah’s gold earrings instead.

    “Hey you,” Mirza yelled from the door, tossing his school bag in the middle of the floor, “bring me ice for my Coke, and quick!”

    Amina stuck out her tongue at her brother’s back. Mirza probably didn’t want the stupid ice – the weather was too cold already; he just liked to boss her around.

    She found Farrah’s purple scarf at the top of the stairs leading to the basement. Perhaps Farrah had lost it on the way to the bathroom? … On the other hand, it must have been quite a row if Farrah had left the house with her head uncovered – and Father and Mother hadn’t stopped her! Amina couldn’t believe she’d slept through all the noise.

    The walk-in freezer held black garbage bags. Amina wondered what could be in them, when – “Hurry up!” – her brother bellowed from above. She filled up the cup with ice and went back.

    “Took you long enough!” Mirza sneered and tried to cuff her around the head, but Amina was already out of reach.

    “When I grow up and go to University, you’ll have to get your own stupid ice,” she shot back.

    “No you won’t,” his expression turned even uglier. “Only boys can go to University. No-one will let you go after Farrah got what she deserved.”

    “You are stupid and you smell,” Amina muttered, though quietly enough so that her brother wouldn’t hear. Farrah could always take this idiot down a peg, she thought sullenly – but she was the oldest. Amina was only eleven to Mirza’s fifteen, and couldn’t do a thing. Next time Amina saw her sister, she would ask when Farrah and her boyfriend were getting married, and if Amina could come and live with them.

    Mother was even quieter than usual over the following weeks; she went around with lips pressed tightly together. Her eyes were always dry.

    Amina found a stain on Farrah’s scarf that looked like dried blood, and wondered if Father or Mother had slapped her. Perhaps Farrah was mad at her? But Amina had only passed on a message; surely, Farrah realised that whatever happened wasn’t her fault. Amina rinsed the stain under running water the best she could, figuring that Farrah could wash it properly herself.

    For a long time, Amina brought the scarf and earring to school every day, hoping to return them to her sister; but Farrah never came.

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