The Light Breather

A tiny bit of speculative fiction. This from a writing prompt that no one in Gila Writers Group could understand, myself included. But the title of the poem served. I think the two sentences will go well with a previous post, The Music Catchers. Tell me if you agree.

The light breather inhaled the life-giving photons, filling its spirit in the bright sun. After each breath it exhaled darkness from every pore, casting a brief shadow that quickly faded in the breeze.


Here’s the writing prompt. More power to you if you can use something more than the title. The Light Breather is a poem by Theodore Roethke, taken from a 1981 issue of the Christian Science Monitor. They didn’t use poetic formatting and I’m not either–it’s a major nuisance to create in WordPress.

The spirit moves, Yet stays: Stirs as a blossom stirs, Still wet from its bud-sheath, Slowly unfolding, Turning in the light with its tendrils; Plays as a minnow plays, Tethered to a limp weed, swinging, Tail around, nosing in and out of the current, Its shadows loose, a watery finger; Moves, like the snail, Still inward, Taking and embracing its surroundings, Never wishing itself away, Unafraid of what it is, A music in a hood, A small thing, Singing.

What, it’s Thursday–the writing posts are supposed to be on Saturday! Yes, but I am posting this now lest I give in to the urge to rant about the RNC convention on my eclectic blog–Views from Eagle Peak. That blog covers many things besides politics; please check it out. There will be NO politics here. This blog is exclusively writing–fantasy, sci-fi, mystery/suspense and the occasional memoir/essay.

The Secret Life of Plants

marijuana plantThe hemp never talked to the trees. It did often engage the jimson and the magic mushrooms that grew in the damp shade of rotting limbs fallen from the trees. Hallucinogenic arrogance perhaps,

“We’re superior to those oaks and conifers. They can’t manipulate the minds of humans like we can.” said the cannabis.
“Oh, yes; you’re so right,” said the jimson, “those trees can’t even get the animals off as we can. It’s not for nothing that people speak of locoweed!”
The trees, of course, looked down on the hemp and its friends–who never grew far from the ground. Trees made the forest what it is, not the shrubs and weeds.
“They have nothing of our towering majesty,” said the alligator juniper.
“Quite so,” said the oak, “they offer no shade and no homes for the creatures of the woods. The only thing they’re good for is giving humans a means of escape from their busy lives.”
Such is the secret life of plants.

The Old Salt

A sunsetThe old salt came through the tunnel into darkening skies of a setting sun. He had spent a night and a day fasting in the ancient cave. Once, hundreds of years before, the ocean filled the passage. He offered a prophecy that augured its return and more.

“The sea will rise and swallow this village. No more will the men throw nets from the shore. We must move to higher ground, ground with rich volcanic soil. We will become farmers, planting crops to feed the people.”
“But we know nothing of farming,” said the village chief.
“It’s not so different from fishing,” said the old salt. “You cast seeds upon the tilled land rather than nets upon the sea. You harvest food, not fish.”
“But how? How will we learn this?”
“First you will learn patience, before farming. The fish will still be in the ocean but we will need boats to catch them. We must make larger nets–purse seines that we draw around the schools of fish.”
“So why crops? Why farming at all?”
“Because it’s what I saw in the cave beyond the tunnel. The vision is clear. The sea will rise and so must we–to the western hills. We will live the old ways no more.”
“What of the volcano?”
“It has lain dormant since we first came to this shore. The vision showed nothing to fear from it. We have time to prepare, time to learn of farming from the people far to the west. Time to make our bigger nets. But we must not tarry.”
This week’s writing prompt:
“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” —Albert Einstein

The Music Catchers

A very short piece today but with good future story prospects I think. Please let me know if you agree. A writing prompt as long as this piece follows. Let me know if you find the prompts helpful or if you post something that comes from them.

The music catchers silence singers, human and avian alike, when songs are out of tune. The notes, the very sounds themselves, remain locked in the tree leaves until the arborist of airs collects them in his music bag. He takes them to the studio for processing. Running them through filters, melody modulators and various digital devices he transforms them into magnificent compositions if he can. Those without merit he mercifully discards. It’s a magical forest he tends, one that Euterpe could be proud of.


When I woke up my bag was full and life, it seemed, was coursing through me. The tree had worked its magic. What I didn’t know was that the tree was actually inside me and saving my life. It turns out that Taxol, one of my chemo chemicals, is found in the bark of the ancient yew tree. Even better, the Taxol is made from the needles of the tree, so the tree does not have to be destroyed.           Eve Ensler

The Dog Star’s Bark

I gazed in rapt wonder at the dark night sky, nearly asleep in the deck’s recliner. Then came the sound. I swear, I did hear the Dogstar barking at me. She wouldn’t believe me of course, when I told her. Any more than when I told her of the squirrel who returned my wave with an uplifted paw one day, when we saw one another through the front window.

“You fell asleep out there under the stars. That’s all.”
“No, I’m sure. Well–I think I’m sure.”
“So did its tail wag too,” she smirked.
“No! Of course not. A star doesn’t have a tail to wag.” She refused to take my observation seriously. Who could blame her, I suppose.
“Ah, so why do you suppose it barked at you? Hoping for a handout–perhaps a bone?” One eyebrow arched up as she patted my arm.
“I don’t know! Maybe a warning to watch out for one of your Seven Sisters?” I offered an arched brow of my own, omitting the pat.
“I don’t have seven sisters. What are you talking about?” She hadn’t a clue of course.
“Are you sure? You know of at least one half-sister to go along with the two full sisters who lived at home with you growing up. Maybe there are more out there that your father played a part in bringing into the universe.”
“Ok, there was that one, but my papa wasn’t a rolling stone so far as I know. He only hung his hat in our mother’s home.”
“So, not the Seven Sisters then. Maybe Orion then. Maybe he had one too many belts at the Big Dipper and got rowdy.”
“Yeah right. I think you had too many belts while binge watching the Outer Limits and Neil deGrasse Tyson last night.”
“Could be,” I chuckled at that.

I missed the writing prompt on the last post, so here’s one for this week for any who want to find inspiration for their own short (or long) pieces:

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”–Christian Morgenstern

Jumped by a Cholla

cholla blooming
Jumping Cholla

Late afternoon sun struck the agave, highlighting golden nectar pods against darkening skies to the east. She grabbed her camera, heading out the back door. Perfect contrast for photography didn’t happen every day. Catch an elk or a deer feasting on the sweet pods and she’d have an award-winning shot. Then she spied the beautiful blooms on the cholla, with magenta flowers fairly glowing in the sun. The jumping cholla called out, “take our picture pretty lady–win a prize.” She knew better than to approach  too closely. Still, the voiceless invitation drew her to the cactus. Stopping three feet from the nearest arm of the cholla, she fumbled with the lens cap, dropping it. That’s when the attack came. Her arm and hand were less than two feet from the cactus–within the danger zone. She felt the sting. The burn came next, like acid injected from a large gauge needle.

She’d been a victim before, of her own carelessness, but this seemed different. More severe, with a malevolence not expected from an unthinking plant. Jumping cholla don’t really jump; pods just break free easily when touched. Their hollow spined needles can curl into skin or hide after penetration, all the better to be carried away to propagate the cactus elsewhere. She could swear this one did jump. It did. A tiny meteorite struck the soil here decades ago. Dust, rain and the slow decay of native plants took the rock below ground, where it remained wedged between the limestone common to the area. The cholla’s roots had broken through the meteorite’s surface, tapping into minerals helping it grow. Tapping also into spores of a sentient species unknown on Earth and rare even in the asteroid belt. Taken up by the root, the invader awoke within the cholla. Now it had the means to move.

High Beams, Cold Beer and Church

High beams flashed like lightning in the night, blinding aging eyes. Into the ditch he drove and out again, sliding over leaves piled deep by the wind.

“Whew, that was close!” He said.
“Yes dear, but thrilling wasn’t it?” Said Hilda.
“Perhaps you could call it that. Easy enough for you to say, you weren’t driving. We could have been killed, you know!”  He turned to scowl at his wife.
“True enough I suppose. The Lord protects his flock. We should offer prayers of thanks when we get to the church, my dear Billy.”
“You and that church! I don’t feel like going there tonight. I’ll drop you off and pick you up later.”
He did as he said, leaving a downcast Hilda to be greeted by friends happy to see her. They were unsurprised by Billy’s quick departure.
“He’s off to Micky’s, I’m sure,” she sniffed.
“Oh, don’t worry; he’ll come back safe and sound. Even if he won’t be here, you are,” Esther said, cheering Hilda the best she could.
Billy headed to Micky’s as Hilda expected. He felt the more the need for a few beers to calm his mind after the ditch drive than praying to a God he felt no connection with. Besides the Stanley Cup was still going on, with the Sharks and his Penguins even up at 3 and 3. Somebody’d win tonight.


Another writing prompt from the Gila Writers Group. It served as the inspiration for this week’s short scene. It’s from Paul O. Williams
The flick of high beams--
out of the dark roadside ditch 
leaps a tall grass clump. 

Running with Rumi

This time, let’s put the writing prompt first–because inspired the short piece below. It’s from Where Everything is Music, by Rumi and translated by Coleman Barks. My local writing group had much to offer this week! 🙂

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

The window in his chest, clouded by confusion, offered no view of the heart within. What did he treasure? What did he feel? The window washer struggled with squeegee and pail. He must clean the man’s soul if the heart is to be revealed. Oh, the window might be opened perhaps–but it seemed impossibly stuck. Frozen in place by painful paint. If not the window washer, who then can let the man’s spirit fly free?


Note: I will be on vacation through the 19th but this and posts on the 11th and 18th will magically appear through WordPress scheduling. Meaning I may not respond quickly to comments. 

Denizens of Dogue Creek

Some non-fiction for a change. From our time in suburbia not far from wetlands.

The thing lay flat on its belly, centered under the car. Hard not to notice it well before she neared the Corolla parked at the curb, 50 feet from the house. She called me to come see it. I suggested she move the car ahead very slowly, carefully, to avoid running over it. Still, it might have moved. But it didn’t. The size of a dinner plate–a plate with four scaly legs ending in four to five-inch claws, that is. The snapping turtle gave us a wary look. Craning its fist-sized head from side to side perhaps it contemplated making a run for it. Then again, it had the jaws and the claws that kept most potential predators at bay. No telling what brought it from Dogue Creek some 200 yards away to the shade of our car. A turtle version of walkabout perhaps? Whatever prompted its visit, it couldn’t stay. A kid or a too curious dog could suffer serious injury from the intruder. Running over it wouldn’t be good either. I put on my waterproof hiking boots and retrieved the heaviest work gloves I had from our shed. I picked up the turtle with care, mindful of its available weapons of attack or defense. It must have weighed at least ten pounds–probably a bit more. I carried it to the fringes of the creek. It moved away slowly, as turtles usually do until reaching swimming depth. It seemed ready to return to the familiar surrounding; it didn’t stop to ponder its adventure with me.

It wasn’t the last snapping turtle we saw. I carried another away, a bit smaller fortunately, from the open storm culvert behind the house. More surprising were the crawfish. We lived in Northern Virginia, not in the southern states along the Gulf Coast. Yet here they were, just three or four inches long and a pale color. They must have come up the storm drain, which usually had a couple of inches of water in it. Fiercely defensive but incapable of doing much harm, they raised their tiny claws if we approached within a few feet. No point in moving them. They were gone the next day.


Another writing prompt for those who find them helpful in their own writing world:

If fate throws a knife at you, you can catch it either by the blade or the handle.

An ancient Persian saying


The Farting Frog

The last night they spent together passed into morning. The moon still shone faintly in the pre-dawn sky as a rising sun colored clouds pink. The night could scarcely be called romantic, recounting the experiences of Northern Ireland during its boom years. They had the IT world by the tail. Launching new websites connected to robust servers, passing financial data between the startups and the world. Times were good; times were bad; times were mostly busy. The boom had passed. Time to move on to greener pastures. He to Silicon Valley; she to I-70 corridor in Maryland. No more nights at the Farting Frog, their escape from tech. The amphibians croaking in the nearby marsh gave the pub its odd name. No one claimed to have heard one pass gas, but everyone thought the name clever. Still, the cruciferous veggies served with dip had foreseeable results among the patrons. Perhaps their paths might cross in the future, at another laughably named establishment.