Archive for the ‘Flash Fiction’ Tag

The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine

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An antique sewing machine from the 1800s. It is one of my collected antique pieces acquired over the years. The photo above was my inspiration for the fictional story below.  I don’t use this machine for personal use, but I do sew, on my own Kenmore machine I have had for about fifty years.

The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine

Bent over at the shoulders, her bones small and brittle she leaned in, head bowed to see clearly her stitches as the old sewing machine made a repetitive pattern on the fabric pieces, all of them cut from dresses she’d made her granddaughter when worn as a little girl. The machine made clicking sounds as it faithfully worked across each row, fed under the presser foot by thin, arthritic fingers. Her foot tapped with steady rhythm the large iron foot pedal below the machine. Her family tried to bless her with a new Singer sewing machine one Christmas, but she would not hear of it. Her old ‘Nelly’ had been with her for so long she refused to give her up, a gift from her long departed husband. Nelly was an old trusted friend, that would remain with her until its end, or hers.

Her eyes were failing her as she attempted to finish the quilt in time for her granddaughter’s dowry shower. Wire rimmed glasses rested on the indented straight nose. They helped little in gaining her vision acuity as she squinted. She looked for any puckered or uneven stitches. Ah, Nelly, you miss a few, too. We work hard to catch up, growing old together, and where will your grave be when my foot can peddle you no more? Soon, Darla will have her dresses again, reborn in this dowry quilt.

Ah…I remember this one, the dark blue damask. She wore it to her piano recital. Such a beautiful piece she played. A concerto, I think. Her fingers danced across the keys. And oh, this one, the red rose brocaded pattern. It was worn for the children’s Christmas program at church. They sang the Carols of the Nativity. Like an angel choir come down from heaven, they were. And this green striped plaid, she wore for her… ninth, or tenth birthday party? She’d spilt punch on it, and we worked to get out that stain. There’s just a hint of it left here, I can see, barely. Oh, the memories that child has given me. If I am not around when she has her first…oh, what a thought. I will be there to see her face when she opens her gift. Now, I am almost done. There, the blocks are all in place.

Aligning the front of the quilt to the back, the underside done in a flowered pattern with the batting between, she stitched up the sides. With short lengths of colorful embroidery floss and buttons stitched through the thickness she finished with little bows. She then folded the quilt and laid it between sheets of white tissue paper in a large box, sealed it up, and wrapped it in paper.

Feeling the weariness come over her, she laid down to rest, and went to sleep.

A month later, the wrapped box sat on an empty chair at Darla’s shower. It had been saved for last. As she pulled away the tissue from the quilt folded inside, her tears fell like a summer rain on thirsty ground.

“Mama! It’s my old dresses, all sewn into a quilt.”

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Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Self-reflection – Chapter 25 of The Informant’s Agenda

The below story is fiction. It is chapter 25 in the ongoing story, The Informant’s Agenda. You can find chapters 1-25 posted under the heading,  The Informant’s Agenda

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The minutes, hours and days tick on, but one loses track of all under heavy sedation and can seem an eternity has passed making one feel like a part of their life has gone missing. There was a sterile smell, the sound of the soft padding of feet near my bed, and hands adjusting tubes, IVs and monitors. When the bandages were removed from my eyes shapes and shadows moved in and out of my blurred vision like apparitions. My skin was red and blistered. My throat felt as if scraped with glass.

My family, and my supervisor in the U.S. were notified of what had happened. My mumbled pleas to speak to them went unnoticed until I would be, “physically able to talk coherently and process emotionally what happened.” I was told by the ‘doctor in charge’.

“You need rest right now. We’re taking care of everything. You’re getting the best care and attention. Then we’ll be able to assess what you need, and approve visitors and calls.”

Before I was released from the hospital I was put in touch with the American liaison at the U.S. Embassy in Odessa. They arranged for my things at the Ayvazovsky Hotel to be packed up and moved to my new room at an American agent’s home while in recovery. A nurse came in on scheduled visits to check on my recovery process and see to any additional care I needed.

Irina came to visit me twice to give me news and updates on the investigation of the explosion, and to tell me that it was reported that Vasyli’s and the superintendent’s bodies had not been found if they were indeed dead as reports speculated. It was then that I just lost it. I felt as if the train in my dreams had run over me, crushing me. What stared back at me in the mirror was not the ‘Monica Mengelder, archivist from Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.’, but a scarred, frightened woman, broken and alone in a country trying to make sense of what had happened, and why.

My heart ached to be home with my family. In my thoughts I was still sitting with grandmother Lisle at the kitchen table. We’d go through a whole pot of coffee and plate of cookies while looking at old family pictures scattered across the dining room table, some with grandfather Jacob’s sisters siting erect in front of the men on straight back chairs, their dour faces looking like they were constipated or something. Grandmother said whenever she tried to lighten things up with a funny joke or story the two unmarried spinsters hardly smiled.

“It was as if they just sat there with a pained expression on their face, so it was nearly impossible to get them to relax, or even open up, share anything about family secrets.”

“Did it ever work?” I asked.

“Rarely. At times I thought I saw a faint crack in their plaster face, until maybe they thought it was an indiscretion of some kind to loosen their corset strings a little.”

I laughed so hard I had to run to the bathroom to keep from wetting my pants. Too much caffeine that morning.

My tears now met with the energy bar when I thought about the fun we had in the kitchen stirring up a batch of Oatmeal Raisin cookies.

Such a long time ago. I will never have those moments again with her.

My head ached. The dizziness and fatigue returned. There remained just a few pain pills from the prescription provided for me after my release from the hospital.

Newsprint swirled around on the paper before me. Reports of the accident filled space in local, regional, national, even some international issues. It was presumed an “accident,” an “irreversible mistake in judgement…to allow anyone other than construction personnel down in the unpredictable subterranean underground structure before the completed restoration, when there had not been a full inspection…” authorities were quoted to have said. The stories went on, “although the investigation continues, it has not been determined an intentional incident in nature,” but the blame and speculation seemed clearly directed at the superintendent and Vasyli, consulate of Ukraine, Odessa, both, “presumed dead.”

Maybe, if I had not ‘requested’ a tour of the Catacombs Vasyli and the superintendent…. If only I had not…

There is no time for self-reflection. I cannot do anything to bring back Vasyli or the superintendent, if they are… But, what I keep only to myself is not fair to those who deserve to know the truth. And, I know I cannot leave this country knowing what I know if first I did not try to report my findings, or inform the authorities of what I have learned.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

           

 

The Mouse (flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers)

PHOTO PROMPT - © Marie Gail Stratford

Photo credit: Marie Gail Stratford. Thanks, Marie for the photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers

 

I have not submitted a flash fiction story to Rochelle Wisoff Field’s Friday Fictioneers for the last three years, but thought I would jump on this one for old times sake and join in the fun. Here is mine of 100 words, exactly.

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I needed a break. Pouring myself another cup of coffee I sat down to relax. But, my brain still worked on the next chapter of my book. The gnawing, grinding sound like tiny teeth, chewing was driving me insane.

But, it came from my desk. The mouse gyrated, moved around in crazy patterns, made clicking sounds, jerking itself free from my grasp. I stared, unbelieving as it came alive. Using keyboard shortcuts I clicked My Docs. Gone! Nothing! I clicked on my last saved file of my years’ long book project. It was not there. Gone!

The mouse was still.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Riding the Poudre (Part 2, conclusion)

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Pam leaned over the raft trying to pull the paddle loose, caught beneath the rocks.

“Let it go. Leave it!” the guide yelled, trying to stabilize the raft. But it spun around in a whirlwind of churning white water.

She was jerked from the raft, pitched into the rapids. Her scream was drowned out by the force and strength of a river gone wild.

As she floundered about trying to swim back, the guide and others in the raft tried working the raft back towards her. But, as they came dangerously close to the ‘Big Drop’ the current was too strong. The raft went over and disappeared from view.

“No! Please! Don’t leave me.” She screamed, but they were gone.

Her only thought now was survival. Getting out of the river, climbing to safety and finding help.

Grabbing at rocks, anything she could hold on to, Pam fought the current, working herself across the river to the south side where it ran parallel to the road. A rooted tree limb sticking out from the shore beckoned her.

She managed to pull herself up, out of the freezing water. As she climbed the steep slope towards the road she thought about her friends in the raft, and Mike, their guide. Did they make it?  Are they safe?

She shook from the cold, soaked clothes clinging to her body. When she got to the road she saw emergency vehicles and rescue crews with Katie, their guide and the rest in their group.

“Pam! Thank God, you’re safe. We were all so worried. We tried to get to you but the water was…”

“I know. I’m sorry, Katie. It was my fault…” Like a dam opened the tears spilled over as she could no longer hold it back. Shivering, dizzy and barely able to stand she welcomed the warm blanket and supportive arms about her shoulders as the emergency crew made her comfortable in the back of their vehicle for the ride back down.

“Pam. We’re all safe. It’s OK.  The bus is here to take the rest back.” Katie hugged her. “I’m coming with you.”

The guide walked over to Pam and smiled, “What are you going to do next time I say, ‘Let go of the paddle?’

“Do as you say.” She said, smiling.

He laughed. “Sometimes Pam, a lesson is best learned when taught by experience alone. We don’t always see the danger up ahead, until it happens to us. It is the way I learned.”

“You?”

“Yes. I know from experience what the river is capable of at flood stage, but this is the beginning of our summer tourist season. The trip was scheduled in advance, and I didn’t want to cancel, or disappoint. So, I take full responsibility for what happened to you, putting you at risk. I’m sorry. Your next trip is on me, if you want to try this again, sometime.”

“We’ll see.”

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

This is a work of fiction, part 2 and the conclusion. Part 1 was posted on Monday, May 18th. My story is not related to, or in reference to any real person or event. Whitewater rafting is a popular summer sport (among others like hiking, camping and climbing ‘fourteeners’) in Colorado. The Cache La Poudre River is one of several that offers it. You can find more information on whitewater rafting on the Cache La Poudre River here. I hope everyone’s summer season is off to a great start. Stay safe and have fun over Memorial Day weekend.

 

Riding the Poudre

Rafters on the Cache La Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, May 15th, 2015 We drove up to see what the river looked like after getting so much rain and got there just as these rafters were ready for their trip down. This section of the river is just a few miles south of our mountain property in Glacier View Meadows, so we are always checking on water levels and conditions after experiencing the big flood in Sept., 2013

Rafters on the Cache La Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, May 15th, 2015

 

The skies opened up, and the rain fell, picking up with earnest intent as if to emphasize the weather report, “cloudy with chance of more rain”. The river was rising with water levels looking dangerously high in places. Pam was not an experienced swimmer. If something went wrong and…

Why did I ever consent to go on this trip? Well, I just won’t think those thoughts.

“Everything will be fine. Don’t worry.” Katie said. “The guides would not bring up a group if they did not feel confident they could guide it safely back down.”

Pam smiled at her friend, nervously adjusting the straps on her life jacket. “That is easy for you to say. You’ve done this before. This is my first.” And I hope, not my last. She thought.

They climbed into the rafts, each grasping their paddles and began to make their way down the river.

OK. I can do this.

“We should navigate over and between the boulders easily with all the recent rains.” Katie said, loudly.

The foaming white water swirling about their raft promised a cold, wet and wild ride. It seemed to pick up speed rushing at them from behind.

They were getting closer to the ‘drop-off’ ahead where the rapids cascaded over a ridge of rocks. The settling of boulders fallen from the mountainside during a massive rock slide after the big flood had changed the dynamics of the river. What was easy navigating before now became more challenging and the “Big Drop” as they called it, steeper. The guide had instructed them when to pull up their paddles.

Pam’s eyes got as big as the lens on her camera as she now saw what was coming. But, this was like nothing she’d captured before on her camera. Because it was happening to her.

“Now! Pull up your paddles.” the guide yelled.

Pam’s paddle was caught. She pulled, trying to free it.

“Now.” he yelled again. At her.

“I can’t! It’s stuck.”

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To be continued…

This is a work of fiction. Part 2, the conclusion will be posted in a few days. Information on whitewater rafting the Poudre can be found here.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 


Where the sun refused to shine

He pulled back the heavy, flowered drapes. Cold, dark clouds was his answer to, “sunny and bright, warm and relaxing,” when he came to this remote island half a world away.

The stares and gossip from gawking ‘house maids,’ and staff  followed him through the lobby and up the stairs to a second floor room.

“No wife or kids along.”

“Maybe just a tourist, or businessman on holiday.”

“Look at those blue eyes and…I wonder if he’s lonely.”

“You should be so lucky,” one said, laughing.

An assassin’s life is a dangerous one. He searched, he sought, and when he found his targets, he killed, for them. He kept the gun, but not the life. He just followed orders. But, it didn’t make him like himself any better. He was through. He knew they hunted for him. Wherever he went he left no trace, and eventually wound up here at, ‘The island in the sun,’ the brochure claimed. But, the sun refused to shine.

He rubbed the weariness from his eyes, but the eyes of his victims haunted him; their lives ended with his Beretta 92. When he’d unpacked, stored his luggage in a closet. and opened a drawer a Gideon’s Bible lay neatly beside a little complimentary tablet and pen. Pen and tablet he did not need. The Bible, he did not want, but it was there for those who did.

He picked up a paperback instead, but it didn’t look promising. His eyes went back to the drawer where the Bible lay. He pulled it out and thumbed through it until a passage fell open to John 3:16 & 17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God, how can you love a sinner like me? I’m no better than the people I killed for, beyond hope and redemption. If I am worthy of saving, worthy of your mercy forgive me of all my sin. If you can do anything with my life it is yours. I believe in you and your son, Jesus Christ who died for me.  

As if in answer to his prayer a sliver of light broke through the darkness. When he pulled open the drapes rays of sunlight pushed through low hanging clouds, and light poured in.

He made a call.

“Department of Justice, New York,” the voice answered.

“Yes…It’s…Nathan Diorazio…I…want to turn myself in. Alone?…Yes.”

When the FBI arrived, he was led out, in handcuffs. But, he felt free for the first time in his life.

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Footnote: This is a work of fiction.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Posted April 18, 2015 by Joyce in Faith, Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings

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Acid Rain (Part 5, conclusion)

The plan to neutralize Israel generated by Middle Eastern countries, Europe and the U.S. inside Goliath’s network had worked, their propaganda spreading hate and distrust throughout the world. Israel’s allies and friends pulled their support, creating boycotts, unrealistic tariffs and embargoes, cancelled tours, conferences and events scheduled, all of it designed to decimate Israel’s economy.  They hacked Israel’s communication and broadcast systems by creating a cyber-wall preventing all communications inside Israel from contacting those they counted on for military support.

IDF ground forces positioned themselves along the perimeters of all its borders facing their neighbors to the north, south, west and east of Israel creating barricades. Their central command center monitored all activity, militarily and otherwise in and out of the country using their own inside secure system of communication that was set in place after their recognition of statehood in 1948. The Israeli air force were forced to engage themselves in defensive skirmishes over their territorial air space. Their navy still patrolled the waters to the west on the Mediterranean Sea.

Sam’s unit made their way across Iraq, and into Iran, under deep cover and a dark, night sky with no more than a sliver of light from the moon. It had to be a precise hit, the coordinates exact, no margin for error. When they located the bunker using the Intel they’d received from their sources inside Iran they regrouped and prepared to move in.

With the stealth of a predatory cat Sam moved with his team as if a part of a perfectly orchestrated and choreographed practiced ballet number during rehearsal.

A hand signal and the repeated gesture moved down the line as they approached, wary but prepared for any surprise attack or ambush that would jeopardize the mission. They had only one chance to gain access by taking out all those guarding Goliath’s network inside the heavily protected bunker. With the swiftness of an angry nest of pythons they lunged at their targets taking everyone down by knife or silencer. When they’d secured the outside leaving some of their unit to cover their flanks the rest moved in with quick precision and timing overtaking all those sitting at a command center or watching video feeds on computer screens. When all targets were down the unit commander and techs quickly accessed the Intel on the screens, hacked into the system, then transferred all onto flash drives. Once done they disabled all monitors and computers with their weapons as if at target practice. They left as hurriedly and as quietly as they’d come and once back into Iraq were quickly airlifted out on a military helicopter under the disguise of an Iraqi transport.

The Intel on the flash drives was rushed to Israeli commanders and the PM to be analyzed. It revealed the plan for ‘Israel’s annihilation.’  Iran would never be given the chance to carry it out.

At precisely 5:00 a.m. Israeli time, the Israeli’s launched the first of their own missile attacks on the country who wanted to, ‘wipe them off the face of the earth’ as once quoted. When Iran quickly struck back launching their biggest and most effective nuclear warheads with a range of over 200 kilometers, the ‘Magic Wand’, aka, ‘David’s Sling’ was launched intercepting Iran’s nuclear strike. Israel struck back with their own, ‘David’s stone,’ taking out all of Iran’s capabilities, the uranium enrichment plants, command centers, all military operations, their air force, airports, and bases housing, manufacturing and maintaining all.

The Intel received included a list of all the countries, governments, political or influential names of presidents, kings and prime ministers in Goliath’s network supporting Israel’s complete annihilation, and the plan to carry it out. Those included were the countries of Iran, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, and many others Israel was not surprised to find. What was a surprise was finding one listed near the top; that of the current U.S. president.

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Footnotes: This has been a work of fiction throughout. This is the concluding part. Fiction though it be, prophetic it may certainly be one day if those who don’t stand with Israel as a friend will fall with those who don’t support her, and her right to defend her nation and people. All the previous parts to this story can be found under the heading of Acid Rain with each part posted separately and found in my archives.  “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 (NIV)

Thank you for reading and following. Comments and feedback are always welcome.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Posted April 15, 2015 by Joyce in Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings

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