Prompt: Excitement


There was nothing more exciting than absorbing the heat of the sun for an hour or two, then swinging from a rope and plunging into the deepest, coldest lake in the country.

The lake was in perpetual shade, surrounded by rocky hills leaning inward as if in conference with one another. At lakeshore, dusk came quickly, dawn was delayed, and there was always a constant shimmer of shadow no matter what the sky said.

On that day, there were no clouds, nor any haze to dilute the moon blueness of the sky. Cicadas buzzed. The air smelled like dust.

When they arrived, the cicadas halted and made note, then continued their chorus.

One of them, with very long black hair and brown skin, took the rope first and jumped from the ledge and screaming, let go and seconds later splashed into the cold waters. From above you could see her teeth flashing as she grinned and shouted encouragement.

The crows heard her, and came to watch from the trees.

The catfish stopped their glide along the lake bed and came too close to the surface, where they were quarry for the osprey.

Someone in a blue swimsuit flew across from the ledge and tumbled into the water. Her cries of delighted shock echoed back to her from the dry scrub hills.

A red-tailed hawk took a hesitant vole from a weed-choked shore.

“IT’S MEEEE,” a boy shouted as he let go of the rope, and landed in the black water so close to the brown-skinned one that she lost her breath and felt water in her lungs.

In the tall grass at the water’s edge, a juvenile seagull gathered its wings around itself, wounded, hungry, and fearful.

The last one took the rope and swung out from the ledge and forgot to let go, and came near to the ledge but not near enough to let go again, then swung slowly out until the rope hung straight as a plumb bob and the last one dangled and a crow flew up and around him, scolding.

Quail chicks were herded back to the nest by the hen, missing their afternoon forage.

The last one let go and when he came up for air he was surrounded by voices, skins, hair, scales, fur, shells, feathers, leaves, shadows, squawking, silence, and hands.

They all cried in unison, “Again!”

The Night of the Planets [Repost]

Prompt: Faith
Original Prompt: Awe, June 23, 2016


Some people think that I dreamed the whole thing, but I know it really happened.

I live in Arizona, U.S.A., in a suburb way south of a city called Scottsdale. Houses in this “community” are small and cheap, and many of them still lie empty, with dead palm trees glued to the soil in front of the door. In the winter, a few more neighbors appear, but not many, and they leave again in spring.

My abode has two small bedrooms and a small wall-enclosed garden. Beyond the low walls are other small gardens belonging to other house dwellers. The project was originally gated; now the gate stands permanently open. I put a splash pool in the middle of the garden, which has no plants, for my dog, Poopy. That is a play on words, of the famous dog, “Snoopy”. My garden gets morning sun, so the water is too warm for Poopy to play in until early afternoon. I bring out a pitcher of ice cubes to help cool it down. Poopy splashes around in it like a toddler. It is strange to watch.

The kitchen has a fancy fridge that makes ice cubes. The fridge came with the house. All I really needed to buy was a TV set, which I got at Walmart, a ninety minute drive south-east. It is a Samsung 30″ flat screen and I mounted it on the wall.

There are no grocery stores, restaurants, or shops of any kind within an hour’s drive. There is a Texaco gas station, though, which stocks Lay’s Potato Chips and Pepsi, if I ever get desperate.

I was born in Wisconsin, so I am technically a “cheesehead”. My father still lives there, at least he used to; I believe he is on the road, looking for me.

Yes, I am a taker of drugs. I have some pain without them. I also enjoy recreational drugs. In the community of empty box houses in the desert south of Scottsdale, there is not much else to do. I take my medication, smoke a little weed, sometimes talk to Facebook friends on the Internet. They are not real friends, since I call myself Jody Marx, which is not my real name, and in Facebook I live in California. But it is fun to talk to other people. It could be that their Facebook feed is false too. Who knows?

I walk Poopy early in the morning and late at night. If I drive to Scottsdale or Walmart, he comes with me in the car. The car has air-conditioning.

Poopy and I decided to drive south and take a few detours, just to see what we would find. I always pack a cooler of water, just in case, and sometimes some beer. I have a cell phone, but no guarantees that I will have reception.

On our exploration drive, we ended up in a place that was so empty it could have been the far side of the moon. Flat and utterly barren in all directions, there was something breathtakingly beautiful about it. I let Poopy loose, and he went a little crazy, running around with his nose to the ground. There was not even a tree or shrub to pee on.

As nightfall approached and it started to cool off, I set up a lawn chair so I could relax and watch the sun set on a perfectly flat horizon. I was hungry, and so was Poopy, so I was going to drive the hour and a half back right after the sun went down.

The stars were out, of course, and there was a winking red light low in the sky that I thought might be Mars. I don’t know much about the planets, just that there are nine of them, and they include Mars, Saturn, and Earth. Sometimes a star fell, and I made a wish. Poopy was curled up beside me on the hard-packed dirt, moody because he hadn’t been fed.

I had to get my jacket out of the trunk of the car, as it gets cold at night sometimes, in the desert.

I must have dozed off just as the sun disappeared. The lawn chair was uncomfortable, but the air was soft and perfectly cool, and the silence was as deep as the silence in the well at my Grandfather’s house, which I fell down when I was nine. That was quiet. This was quiet.

When Poopy barked I opened my eyes and there she was. I don’t know why I call the planet Saturn a “she”. I think actual Saturn might have been a god? And probably male. But “it” was not right and “he” sounded crazy.

She filled the sky with her plump perfect roundness and wide shimmering bands. I thought I was dreaming, sure I did, but I poked Poopy, who was staring too, he stopped barking, and I stood up and walked around a bit, not taking my eyes off the sky, off the beautiful she-planet.

I took my phone out and took a picture. I went to the trunk of the car and got out a beer. I sat in the lawn chair again and stared at her.

The thing with me is, I believe my eyes. I believe I saw the planet in the Western sky, Poopy and I both did. I didn’t have anyone to share this information with, not really, so when we got home, after I fed Poopy, I put the news on. There was no mention of it. I called the local TV station and told them what I saw. They listened carefully and thanked me, but they did not put it in their news broadcast. I posted the picture to my Facebook page without comment. It just looked like a blurry planet. I should have included the lawn chair and Poopy in the photo.

I know there are scientific laws, laws of physics and astronomy. I understand that. I also understand that when you stare at a night sky so immense as the one that hangs over our heads all the time, every second, you have to come to realize that there are things beyond our knowledge, beyond explaining, beyond faith or religion, beyond science, beyond our comprehension.

Some people think I was dreaming, but I know what I saw to be true. I wonder if anyone else sees the unseeable sometimes. Who was dreaming that night, who saw what was real, and who refused to see what was in front of their faces?



Prompt: Footsteps


I opened the curtains of the window that overlooked the small city park. It was covered in the dense snow that had fallen overnight. Once-tall grasses bent low with the weight. It was early, barely light, and I thought I might crawl back into bed, when I saw a lone woman approach the park.

For some reason I felt compelled to watch her. Maybe it was the way she looked around before she entered the park. Maybe it was her coat, so obviously oversized, or her old-fashioned rubber boots.

She walked carefully in the snow, leaving clear, deep footprints, and made a slow half-circle which took her to the center of the park, where there was a very small, now dry, fountain. Once there, she stood very still for a moment, then began to walk backwards in the precise same footsteps that had taken her there. She held her arms out straight beside her as she carefully backtracked into the footsteps. Slowly, almost losing her balance but righting herself just in time, she reached the footprints at the entrance to the park. She eased backwards into the steps just before they veered off the sidewalk.

She looked at her handiwork. As the sun rose, shadows were cast inside the footprints and they were distinct, tracing a curved path to the fountain where they… disappeared.

Pedestrians might pass and think someone had walked into the park and been taken up into the sky.

She pulled up her collar against the cold, and continued walking down the street. I watched her until she turned a corner, out of sight.