With a Sword Over Her Shoulder

She’s hanging her father’s flannel shirts on the line out back when the woman emerges from the shadow of the woods.  She’s blood-covered, with a sword black and dripping over her shoulder.  She stops just out of the cover of the trees when she catches sight of the lines of flannel shirts beginning to stir in the fresh morning wind.

Their eyes lock.  The woman hefts her sword off her shoulder an lets it fall to the ground.  Despite its bulk and length, it disappears in the tall grass.  She’s breathing heavily as if she’d run there.  With a deep sigh, she gathers her hair around to one side and twists it.  What could’ve easily been taken for black hair is actually brown hair soaked with blood. Red rivulets down her bare forearm and drips off the point of her elbow.

From the edge of the woods, still wringing the blood from her hair, she demands whatever food they have to spare.  The girl edges around her basket of her father’s flannel shirts and disappears into the house.  She brings back a cup of water, half a loaf of bread, and two eggs wrapped in an old handkerchief.

The woman takes the offering with a blood-soaked hand and a nod.  She picks up her sword, props it back up onto her shoulder, and leaves as silently as she appeared, picking her way through the scrubby bushes around the side of the house.

The girl goes into the house to watch the woman through the front window: her tall, broad figure disappearing down the lane, until she’s obscured by the trees, and is gone.

Hello, darlings!

Still playing catch up.

October 9’s prompt was: flannel / emerge / wring

I had a difficult time with this one: I had a very specific image in my head, but couldn’t come up with any context to put it in.  I decided to practice taking a distant POV, but I know I didn’t explore it half as much as I could have.  This was one of those days where I just wanted to get something done.

I’m not beating myself up too much over this.  The point is to write every day, to get something on paper.  I never put any qualifications on these responses.

They don’t have to be good.  They just have to be.


I wasn’t feeling it at all when I wrote this, so I while I like some of the details (like the woman dropping her sword in order to wring the blood from her hair) and the contrasts (the domesticity of the clothesline against the warrior emerging, blood-drenched, from the wild woods), I’m not satisfied with the overall effect.


At the Edge of the Night

The last of the harvest festival wound down behind us, the massive stage lights illuminating several feet into the thick forest underbrush.  “Truth is, I haven’t really done this kind of thing a whole lot before,” I said, wrapping my gloveless fingers more tightly around my to-go cup and wondering if I should’ve admitted that I basically have no dating experience.


I grinned sideways at him.  “There’s no way I can participate in this part of the conversation without sounding like I’m fishing for compliments!” I laughed.

“Go on,” he said, gesturing at me with his own to-go cup and grinning.  “Give it your best shot.”

I thought about what Hanna would do in my shoes; she probably wouldn’t have been able to be so honest with a boy she liked so much.  But I apparently didn’t get that demure filtering system.  “Okay, then,” I said, turning to face him squarely.  I enjoyed the rush of adrenaline through my veins as I looked up into his face.  “Just a lack of interest, or to put a finer point on it: guys I don’t like always take my politeness as flirting, and guys I want to like me think of me as their mother.”

“So what happens if someone comes along who doesn’t align with either of those things?” he said, taking a sip.

From somewhere in the dismantling mess of the festival, something crashed and clanged.  We turned to look, but whatever it was was deeper in the festival grounds.  “Well,” I said, turning back, “my high school physics teacher told me I’d eventually get a boyfriend, but he’d probably have an Oedipus complex.”

He laughed, and oh, that laugh.  It wasn’t so much the quality of it–it was a pretty average laugh–it was more the way his eyes pinched closed and his face was all smile.

“Should I be worried?”  I said, grinning, turning back to face the woods.

His laugh wound down and he was still smiling when he said, “Probably not.  My mum passed away.”

A block of ice clunked into my belly and suddenly my whole understanding of him changed, expanded, as I realized we had something like this in common.  “I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said quietly.

“It’s alright,” he said, with a shrug.  “Happened over two years ago.”

I turned back towards him.  “Doesn’t mean it hurts any less, believe me, I know…”  I started to take another sip, then blurted out, “My mom passed away four years ago February 11.”

He made a little nod.  “I’m sorry.”  I didn’t like how our voices were suddenly so quiet, as if we were whispering sins when we were really talking about our dead mothers.  “Were you close?” he asked.

I shrugged a shoulder, figured I shouldn’t lie.  “Close as any two enemies could be.”

“Enemies?” he said, raising his eyebrows.

I shrugged again and gave him a small smile.  “She and I didn’t get along.  That’s not to say I don’t miss her.”  I wished I didn’t sound so emphatic.  I shrugged a third time and wondered if he’d think I had a tic.  “I just miss very specific things about her.”

He made another series of nods, like a bobblehead.  I found it entirely endearing.  Finally, he said, “You know, for someone who doesn’t do stuff like this all that often, you’re not half bad at it.”

I couldn’t tell if he was deadpanning, so I said, “I made it to half!  I’ll drink to that.  Cheers!”  But as we tapped our to-go cups together, I had a good feeling he wasn’t.

Hello, my darlings!

I’m still playing catch up from the days I missed whilst painting my house.  (Did I mention I painted three massive rooms in two days and afterwards, my hand felt like it was going to fall off?  But anyway.)

October 8’s prompt was: harvest / dangle / flame

Once again, only one of these words ended up in the actual piece, and I was actually inspired by today’s prompt of “moonlight / forest trail / sway.”  Combining “moonlight” and “harvest” gave me an interesting backdrop for this piece, which I quite enjoyed writing.

I found the dialogue in an old writing notebook and decided to challenge myself to build in the prose around it.  This is, actually, how I usually plan and write my novels.  I create scene sketches using dialogue and brief action descriptions (though I will jot down lines of prose if it comes to me).  I do it this way because dialogue is so important in scenes, but also because I think it’s one of my strengths.

What do you consider your strengths in writing?


As much as I enjoyed writing this, I’m not quite sure I liked the way it turned out.  I struggled with the contemporary feel of it and with worrying whether it was getting too long.  The ending needs some work, for sure.  It’s something I like I could turn into something really nice in the future, though.


Fun fact: the line about the Oedipus complex?  Taken almost verbatim from something my very own high school physics teacher said to me my senior year 😂

A View of the Bay in Pencil

October 7’s prompt was: free day!

I drew a little something because I could not build up the energy to write.

This could be considered “cheating,” but creating something is the point of this challenge, and what are we writers if not those who don’t believe in coloring inside the lines?

By the by, if you’re interested in following my artistic progress, check out my arty Insta @jeanified