Flash: Say I love you

Photo 197380210 | Pollen © Wolverine6 | Dreamstime.com (paid for – please go to Dreamstime and pay the artist to reuse)

“Hey man, how ya doing?”

Paulie’s head snapped up from where he was putting away his mower. “Doug? What are you doing here?”

“Just stopping by to say ‘Hey’ and tell you I love ya man.” Doug hopped the short knee-high brick wall used to keep back the street debris, landing on the lawn. “We never say that enough, you know?”

“Yeah,” a confused look crinkled Paulie’s sun-wrinkled forty-something face, “sure.”

“Yeah, you never know when it is going to be the last time, so I thought I should say it. Been a while.” His high school best friend resettled the flannel shirt over his Mariners shirt as he walked across the freshly mowed grass. “Not even a call.”

Paul nodded. “Like a year, funny how it slips by.” He ran memories back, confirming a year. They had exchanged jokes about Doug digging things out on the West Coast mountains while he had to mow the lawn for the second time at the Carolina shore.

“Yeah, the girl graduates this year and her brother pulled honors freshman year.” The bear of a man reached his arms out, “Come on give me a hug. I’ve missed you bro.”

Paulie did as requested, leaning forward and preparing to be squeezed half-to-death, and stuttered-stepped through his friend.

“Ha! Gotcha good, didn’t I? Love you man.” Doug’s edges faded as he did finger guns when Paulie spun around. The image of the flannel and denim swirled like pollen on a car getting up to speed,. “Keep it real.” And the next moment he was gone.

“What, NO!” Paulie yanked out his phone and spun through his contact until he found Doug’s number and hit the call icon. “Come on, come on. Answer!”

(words 288, first published 6/16/2024)

Flash: Passing Fancy

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

“Didn’t someone live there yesterday?”

“Huh? What?” asked Jenkins, his driving haze breaking.

“There.” I point to a falling down manor with an overgrown yard visible between the tree break. “I swear that was a white-washed confederate monstrosity yesterday.”

He slowed, craning his neck around as we passed it. “I don’t know.”

“We should look.”


“No, something big has changed.” I firmed my voice. “We should look.”

“Ain’t happening.” Jenkins gripped the steering wheel of Toyota tighter, his dark skin highlighting his white knuckles. “Nope, we are not going hunting ghosts.”

“I’ll just come back alone after dark.”

He sent me a dirty look.

“You know it is true.”

“Tomorrow. We promised your mother we would be home tonight in case she calls.”

I won. “I love you, honey.” I settled down in the passenger seat, smiling. “It’s best if I research the property first anyways.”

(words 147; first published 9/6/23)

Flash: Z is for Zzzz

Photo by Photos_frompasttofuture on Unsplash

Jonathan meandered into the second-floor nursey looking for his wife and their newborn. Obviously the baby had been fussy in the night, and she decided he needed sleep more than her. While he appreciated her concern, her logic didn’t hold up to reality and he would need to remind her, like he did after the birth of all their children, that she was no longer alone in her parenthood. The long nights broken by feedings always reset her back to the amazing self-sufficient, but exhausted, woman Elizabeth had been when they first met.

What he would not remind her of is the fact he was two decades younger than her and could handle lack of sleep better.

Also, he wouldn’t say a thing about how he wasn’t the one who had just given birth six days ago. The last time he tried to argue from that position, she went off on an esoteric rant of the renewal energies from birthing. She lost him between midwifery blessing incantations and timing the birth for maximum astrological benefit.

Shifting back and forth, the rocking chair creaked in the moonlight, the beam creating a shimmer over the person holding the baby on her shoulder. A doting smile began to touch Jon’s lips when a small snort-snore came from the chaise lounge snapped his head to the right where Lizzo slept under a charm quilt her coven had gifted her on their marriage.

Oh, …oh!

Looking back on the indistinct human form in the rocking chair, Jonathan asked, “Abby?”

Not that he didn’t believe his wife and Malcolm when they said the old Henry Plantation Manor came with its own ghost, or when Jonny and Ada filled him in about their garden explorations with their beloved invisible nanny, or Barby went room from room demanding “awBEE!” appear as only a two-year old can.

But, he was a scientist. Seeing things with his own eyes made a difference. Now he got to add ghost to the list of things he knew lived outside of nightmares and late-night television.

The rocking slowed, the shimmer coalesced into something more the shape of a woman then a determined fog. A hollowed voice whispered in the room, sending shivers down the man’s spine, “Master Turning, how you be doing this evening?”

“I’m well.” Jonathan gulped, struggling to pull up everything Lizzo and Mal had told him to do and ignore all the fiction and campfire stories he had absorbed in his twenty-nine years of life. They hadn’t done a full-sit down with him species specific briefing like they had when Elizabeth added dervishes to their Sparkle Network Services, so it was not as easy to do as with their normal supernatural clients. “Emma, okay?”

The fog-light shape sent a limb rolling up the infant’s back to cradle the head in a pillow of mist before standing, Emma hovering midair against the apparition’s form. Emma bounced a few centimeters up and down, rocking back and forth over four and a half feet above the floor.

Jonathan fought the urge to reach out and grasp his child.

“Just a little gassy tonight,” the voice seemed to be the echo behind words never spoken. “Kept the mistress up until I insisted she lay down a moment.”

Jonathan stifled a louder laugh to a quick chuckle. He could not picture anyone, let alone a whisp – a real whisp of a ghost – forcing Lizzo to do anything. “That I would like to learn.”

“Not something being good for a man to know.” The shimmer moved side to side, letting Jonathan see Emma’s blue eyes were wide open but calm and taking in what little a few days old infant could see. “There are things woman folk just need from women.”

His eyes closed for a moment and the mundane man breathed in and out slowly. His wife gave up so much to be with him, for a second he imagined her old coven filling the manor, visiting for the holidays and passing the infant around. He hoped they came for the Solstice; the new High Priestess didn’t approve of him and often refused given permission for members to visit because of his “contamination.”

“A pity.” Jonathan approached the circle of the moonbeam where the ghost stood. “But thank you for being there for her. Would you like to tag out?” He held out his arms cautiously.

“Thank you, Master Turning. Dawn is coming soon, and I did want to get the meals set up for the day while I could.” The shape that the family named Abigail laid Emma gently in his arms, brushing her frigid essence against his limbs in the transfer.

Worried, he pulled the child against him and touched her cheeks for temperature, finding the infant warm, even a little hot and sweaty on the side which had been against the ghostly shoulder as though it had been against a human body. “I really appreciate all you are doing, by the way Miss Abigail. The children love you, and you have made my wife’s life a lot easier.”

The vapor sparkled slightly pink a moment before fading to nothing.

(words 857, first published 4/30/2023)

Series: Under Contract
1. N is for Noise (4/16/2023)
2. Q is for Quicken (4/19/2023)
3. Y is for Yield (4/28/2023)
4. Z is for Zzzz (4/30/2023)

Y is for Yield

The heavy backpack landed with a thud on the gravel path and Malcolm collapsed beside it, all arms and legs attached at angles only a seventeen-year-old could manage.

“Tough day at school?” Abby asked from where she sat on the circle bench surrounding the pole center of the sundial herb garden.

“The worst.” He bit into the apple he snagged while trudging through the kitchen, his left arm hooked around the gargoyle puppy statue (not alive, mom had checked) that served as an armrest for the sundial bench and marked the noon position. Six was marked by a small cat, three a baby lizard with wings – more wyvern than dragon, and nine by a gargoyle bird, something between a stork and an owl. Abby said they were original to the house and she would know.

A riot of late fall colors, the feral herb garden was located in the back of the house, a low crumbling stone wall delineating the edge of the garden from the rolling hills and swamps of the old plantation. Heavy iron-bound oak doors opened into the garden from the wings of the manor and the house proper, giving quick access to all the manor rooms which might have needed greens at a moment’s notice: greenhouse, which was missing all its glass at the moment, the kitchen, and what used to be the formal dining room.

A red light beside the northern door, a new addition to the manor, indicated one or both of the adults were working and could not be interrupted. Mom and Jonathan had converted the morning room, drawing room, and formal dining room over to their Sparkle Network business, with half of the footage devoted to the blade servers. One of the reasons they picked this old manor was all the undeveloped land that came with it. From where he sat, he could see the construction equipment clearing space for the solar farm. He winced seeing them fell trees, but none were really old. The saplings were too far away for him to hear them scream. It didn’t make it better, but it did make it tolerable.

Until about ten years ago, the previous owners rented the land to a couple local farmers. Only once they retired did the land start cycling to its natural forest habitat. Still, the wood witch in him hated giving an inch back to civilization which had taken so much from the wild, but the Priestess was energy and she needed a lot of it to run her sparkle web.

“What happened?” Abby’s cool hand stroked his brown hair.

He glanced up at her, surprised she manifested enough energy for him to feel her touch. A quick inhale sucked past his teeth, sending him coughing as a bit of apple went down the wrong pipe.

Today Abigail wore her blue outfit, little birds embroidered across the bodice and sleeves, with her bright blue kerchief containing a rich cascade of auburn curls flowing down her back nearly to her waist. Her Irish green eyes sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight as she watched his siblings. She had lived to be only a little older than him and looked amazing, from the smudge of dirt on one cheek to her bare feet.

Her eyes crinkled between concern and laughter at his coughing fit. Finally he managed to squeak out, “Coach Mullin.”

“Again?” she shook her head and sighed.

“Yeah, again.” Malcolm looked away from her to study the herb garden. Mom had given him control of it, and he hoped to start working on it this weekend, except… “I gave up.”

“Gave up?” Abby’s soprano voice always carried a roughness of concern, like she had spent all day cooking in the smoke and talking to children.

“Ugh. Yeah. Up, in, yielded like a yellow belly sapsucker.” Malcolm grunted as he leaned his head back to study the infinite blue sky and Abby’s red-tinted curls. “For a guy who teaches sex ed, you think he would understand the word ‘no’. But no. Today, he hit me with Haskel, the football captain. The one who all the brains in my advance-bio course warned to steer clear of because he bullies, yeah, that one. I mean, I got it better than most smart kids being big and all, but I don’t want to be that guy.”

Abby pushed back one of his hairs the wind had blown on his face. “The one that fights back and wins.”

“Hello yes.” Malcolm groaned again, closing his eyes. “I never should have shown off on the first day. Mom always says don’t show off around the mundanes, around anyone. Let them guess. Hint if you must, but never give away the show. But it was only touch football and I wanted to make friends so bad. It’s my last year before everything hits and, I guess, I wanted a bit of normal.” He opened his gray-green eyes and looked into hers. “Is that too much to ask?”

“I would love to say no, it’s not,” the ancient servant smiled sadly, “but that is not the case, young Master.”

“I’m not a master,” he growled.

“Then you won’t be a High Priest, nor the Speaker for the Trees to the druid council on behalf of the wood witches.” Abby broke eye contact to swing her eyes around the courtyard.

“No one asked me if I wanted to be a High Priest or a Speaker.” Malcolm joined her in monitoring his younger siblings. Ada and Jonny were digging up a triangle of the sundial which had gone to complete weed in the herb garden he had marked off as okay to play in. On the stone path marking out the area had two aster flower crowns laying abandoned; Jonny likely made them, the one from rich red blooms had to be Ada’s, and his was the mix of pink and blue. Barbara toddled around every which way, following the pollinators as they collected the last food of the season.

Abby glanced down. “Do you want to be a High Priest? Or a Speaker at the council?”

Malcolm’s eyes narrowed like his mom’s did, ignoring the blush tinging her cheeks as best he could, then looked away.

“Well, do you?”

Malcolm stood up and threw his apple core at the stone work around the old greenhouse to ricochet it into the start of the compost pile.

“Don’t make me ask you a third time.” A chuckle laced Abby’s statement. She didn’t have the power of the Blood like him and his mom.

His fists clenched and unclenched. His eyes swept the herb garden and the woods and the hills fading into the reddening haze of sunset. “Yes,” escaped as he admitted to himself that the path decided for him since birth was one he actually wanted to walk.

“So, how are you going to do that and play football?” Abby stood up beside him, barely coming up to mid-chest.

Malcolm waved his hand in a negative. “I managed to dodge the football because their big argument for that sport was scholarships and it’s not like I need them. If I go to college after the walkaround, it won’t be one that any football scholarship will matter. But the Coach did also, has been a lot, arguing about school spirit, so I agreed to track, which means I got a lot of running to do.”

“Which you do anyway.”

“Yep, a bit, but not like this.” Malcolm nodded, “I’m going to have to go in early every day, and then there are meets on weekends, plus staying late some days. Mom isn’t going to like it, especially once she pops, but it will make it easier when I go to Dad’s for the holi…”

Abby streaked sideways midword.

He kept forgetting she wasn’t real.

Malcolm looked around to find her at a break in the old stone wall. Holding her dark blue skirts wide to fill the hole, she stood in front of Barbara who fell back on her diaper-fattened butt in protest, a whine rising from the two-year old.

“No, Miss Barby. No.” Abigail said in a firm voice. Looking up, she mouthed “Sorry,” to Malcolm before saying verbally to him, “Would you mind a-coming and picking up Barbara? It’s nearly time to go in anyways.”

He laughed as he strode on the woolly thyme-invaded pathway to where his sister pouted. “You do know she could have gone right through you.”

“I know that, and you know that.” Abby flashed a smile as bright as the sun and Malcolm’s heart flipped for a second, “But as far as she is concerned, people are solid. Let’s not let her in on that particular secret yet. Besides, if it does come to that, I can be very uncomfortable to walk through.”

“aw-BEE please.” Barbara reached her hands up to the ghost, but Malcolm grabbed them and swung her up onto his hip.

“And what would happen if she stumbled past the wall?” Malcolm bounced the girl as they walked toward the house. “Isn’t that your limit?”

“I think,” Abby shrugged, “but with the littles, the house is alive again. I might be able to get a bit further.” She stopped beside the two dirt-covered hooligans determined to dig to China. “Mister Jonathan, could you let Ada know its time to come in to shower before dinner.”

“She still not hearing you?” Malcolm sighed. The five-year-old took after her father, a pure normal.

“Not unless I push it.” Abby smiled as Ada and Jonny brushed each other down. “And I got a translator right here.” She rubbed the seven-year-olds head. “But if I need to, I can make anyone hear me even during daylight hours.”

“Hence why we had electricians all the first week climbing through the house, ripping out the half-completed wiring.”

“Would you rather have had the flippers rip out the foyer’s medallion?” Abby snapped back with a smile.

Malcolm shook his head as he opened the kitchen door for the family. “You’re kidding. That spiral-sun design is amazing. They were going to get rid of it?”

“Replace it with modern marble-like tiles.” She said as she herded the kids past where his mom was putting dinner in the oven. “Something ‘neutral’ they said.”

“Neutral is overrated.” His mom stood, rubbing her large belly on the right side where Emma like the kick the most. Raising her voice, she said, “My love, can you see if you can find our children under all that dirt?”

Malcolm’s stepdad popped his head through the butler’s pantry to see Ada and Jonny covered in more dirt than clothes. “Hey Malcolm,” he nodded at the teenager, before softening his voice and taking the two-year-old from him, “Hey Barby.” The man who stood eye-to-eye with the still growing teenager, asked, “School okay today?”

“Yeah Jon, it was. Oh, oops, my homework is still out there. Be right back.”

By the time he got back, everyone except his mother was gone to their pre-dinner tasks. Malcolm stared at the blocked off staircase to the third-floor servant area, repairs on that dry-rotted nightmare far down on the fix-it list since no one living needed them. Abagail would be resting.

“Abby said you had something to tell me?” Lizzo leaned against a slate counter, one hand on her stomach.

Malcolm rolled his eyes. Abby was okay at keeping secrets, but in the end, she was on the adults’ side in the house. And she wasn’t wrong, he did need to talk to his mom. “Yeah, so Coach Mullin cornered me again today.”

(words 1,935, first published 4/28/2023)

Series: Under Contract
1. N is for Noise (4/16/2023)
2. Q is for Quicken (4/19/2023)
3. Y is for Yield (4/28/2023)
4. Z is for Zzzz (4/30/2023)

Flash: Q is for Quicken

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

“You don’t need to do that, you know.”

Crawling out of the oven, Abigail threw the sponge into the bucket of blackened water to find the witch priestess had joined her in the kitchen. She smiled at the pregnant woman before carrying the water over to the modern double-sink and poured the water down the deeper one. “Then who’s going to get it done, Mistress, with you being in a delicate way and all?”

Lizzo snorted, rubbing her belly. “Emma is not delicate, nothing about pregnancy is delicate. Not the vomiting, not the swollen feet, not the baby gymnastics off the bladder at,” the woman squinted at the digital clock on the cast-iron-looking stove, “3 am.”

“Aye, ma’am there is that.” The house servant nodded, rinsing out the bucket and refilling it with warm water, adding a few squirts of soap the new owners had brought with them. “Still, you should not be doing all the things with the little one on the way.”

“I don’t.” She smiled gently, with satisfaction, continuing to rub the side of her belly, pressing every now and again, “Jonathan does so much, and Malcolm is a great kid.”

“Thanks Mom for the praise.” The dark-haired teenage boy grinned at his mom as he crossed to the humming refrigerator in a pair of gym shorts and nothing else.

The living woman raised her eyebrows. “And what are you doing up, young man?”

“Got hungry,” he said while rooting around the meager groceries they had stocked for their first night at their new residence. “Pizza was great, but doesn’t last long.”

“Nothing does.” Lizzo muttered leaning forward, making eye contact with the ghost giving her new kitchen a deep clean, who smiled back at her, a joke between adult women. Lizzo found her lips twitching. It’s been a long time since she had a proper coven with other women to joke with, one of the things she gave up for her marriage and children.

Her son dumped what was to be tomorrow’s lunch on the wooden island and started making himself sandwiches. Someday she would figure out the calorie intake he needed while growing like a weed, but with pregnancy brain, that wasn’t going to stick for a while.

“Now I understand why I had to pack so little for the move.”

Malcolm shrugged, teasing his mom right back. “I figured you were paying by the pound, better in me than in the truck.”

She laughed at his audacity.

“Want one?” He held up a sandwich from the cutting board he was working on.

Pausing in her tummy rubbing, Lizzo considered before reaching out a hand. “Yes, thank you.” Calories when building another human being were a constant; only problem is her stomach was fighting for room with Emma and losing. She could only eat snack-sized meals and it drove her batty.

The sandwich was thick artisan bread with lettuce and tomato, and deli rotisserie chicken spiced with pepper and thyme. Malcolm dragged his three on the cutting board over to another of the high stools around the prep area, leaving the extra tomatoes, the half head of lettuce, and what was left of the bread and meat out. The mostly solid servant rinsed her hands and moved to put the leftovers away.

“No, don’t do that.” Lizzo ordered.


“That is for Malcolm to put away.”

“Mom,” her son whined.

“I’m not going to have Caitlin think I raised a slob.” Lizzo nodded at the debris. “Clean up after yourself. A clean work area…”

“Is a safe work area.” Malcolm rolled his eyes. “Which hat?”

Abby’s head bounced between them, following the conversation from where she had returned to scrubbing inside the cabinets.

“It’s the straw one, but the silk one just may make an appearance.”

“Alright, alright.” The teenager shoved the last of his first sandwich into his mouth and loaded up his arms with the unused sandwich makings. “Better, mom?” he said, slumping into his chair after completing the task.

Lizzo nodded setting down the second half of her sandwich, to find a glass of water on the table. She hadn’t noticed the ghost getting that close to her. “Thank you, Malcolm.” She turned her head to the mostly manifested woman “And thank you, miss.”

The ghost ducked her head. “You’re welcome ma’am.”

“You are something, aren’t you?” the witch shook her head, going back to rubbing her right side.

“Ma’am?” Abby asked, pulling over a step stool to get the upper cabinets.

“I’ve met some spiritual phenomena before, most barely better than a memory on repeat. But you,” Lizzo waved a hand to where the other was working, “you are all of you. And capable of moving things easily.” Lizzo squinted again, studying the ghost, changing her sight to Sight, the gray-blue kerchief catching back the straggly gray-brown hair shifted to a bright blue holding a cascade of rich auburn curls. The pale dress, became alive with bright yellow flowers, and a bright, healthy green aura flowed out of her skin, indistinguishable from a living creature, screaming her natural nurturing nature for anyone who cared to Look. “And learning. You speak mostly modern English, just a hint of an … Irish? … accent, but you work all the modern gadgets like you were born to them.”

“I just am me,” done with her present task, Abby climbed down from the slate counter to rinse out the bucket again, “I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere. It’s not like I can travel none.” After rinsing the bucket out, she set it down, dropping the scrub brush, sponge, and a bottle of soap into the bucket. “But six families have lived here and I help when I can. I’m just sorry you moved in when it was in such a mess. I’ve been sleeping for a bit. If it would be okay, I’ll get the bathrooms next. I only have a few more hours until sunrise.”

“I would appreciate that so much. But again, you don’t have to do this,” Lizzo reassured her. “Any of this.”

“I enjoy it.”

“If this is not out of line, and you can decline to answer of your own free will, may I ask how old you are?” the witch tilted her head, “During daylight hours, it’s hard to see you clearly, but right now, you look barely older than my Malcolm.”

“My father signed me over to a captain when I was thirteen, and he sold my indenture paperwork to Mr. Palmer.” The ghost shifted her stance, looking off into the distance a moment, shadows crossing her face a little more literally than on a normal living being, before continuing. “I worked for him less than a year, the Mistress had my papers resold to the Henrys, the ones who built this house. They needed workers when it got finished.”

“And you said the fire was five years in.”

“Yes ma’am.” The woman brushed her apron and smoothed her skirts, keeping her head mostly down.

“You are only eighteen?” Malcolm moved around the table. “Maybe nineteen?”

The servant lifted her head. “I guess. That sounds about the all of it.”

“Plus another hundred or so years.” His mother added. “Malcolm…” a warning clearly threaded her voice.

“Right.” The teenager blinked, looking over at his mom. “Sorry.”

“We’ll talk more in the morning. Go get some sleep.” Lizzo snapped. “That is a silk hat order.”

“Yes, priestess.” Malcolm rushed out of the kitchen, through the butler’s pantry, to the morning drawing room where the family was camping overnight until the furniture arrived.

After watching him clear the room, the witch turned her attention back to the house ghost. “You lived in a different time. He is still a child.”

“Mistress,” Abby bowed her head before raising it to meet the other woman’s eyes, “I will never act to harm a child.”

“Good.” Lizzo kept eye contact for a moment longer before standing herself. “Thank you for cleaning. I’m going to try and get some more sleep. Am I going to see you tomorrow?”

“Not likely until nightfall, Mistress, this” Abby swung the bucket in her hand, “takes effort and I’ll need some resting, but with the little ones around, the house is happy.”

Frowning at that, but the constant tiredness creeping back into her thoughts, Lizzo had to let it go for another time, making a big underlined fluorescent mental note for there to be another time.

(words 1,409, first published 4/19/2023)

Series: Under Contract
1. N is for Noise (4/16/2023)
2. Q is for Quicken (4/19/2023)
3. Y is for Yield (4/28/2023)
4. Z is for Zzzz (4/30/2023)