An Orange Unsteady Light

Laurie, Allison, and Kaitlin leaned forward in their folding chairs. The fire only illuminated the trees immediately around their little camp, casting the tall oaks in orange unsteady light. Everything else beyond their circle was black.

The three girls didn’t look at one another. Laurie, unprepared for the evening chill, huddled in her sweatshirt. Kaitlin sipped her coffee and grimaced at the bitter taste, she’d wanted a pumpkin spice latte but Allison had insisted they drink black coffee.  Allison ignored her friends’ discomfort and continued stripping the buds off a lavender sprig. Once bare, Allison tossed the sprig into the fire and the flames choked themselves, spitting olive smoke into the air.

Now they all looked to the center, mouths open and staring up at the plume. It reeked of lavender and the sweet chemical smell of cold medicine. Beneath the flames, and over the amethyst and tourmaline they’d laid, bits of an old dreamcatcher roasted away into ash. “So it’s anyone sleeping?” Laurie asked. “And we just get to tell them what to do?”

“Their bodies, yes. Get ready for it, it’s gonna be a ride.” Allison’s lips were tight, her nostrils wide. She closed her eyes, stretched her arms, and cracked her neck.

“What about people napping?” Kaitlin asked. Allison’s eyes snapped open and she glared across the fire.

“You’re so stupid,” Laurie said, looking at Allison for approval. “Who takes naps anymore except kids and old people?”

“I do,” Kaitlin said. Across the fire, Allison’s eyes rolled back into her head and their leader slumped. Laurie squeaked. Kaitlin didn’t notice and continue defending herself. “I took a nap in May.”

“Shut up Kaitli—.” Laurie started, her voice high with panic. The spell caught her mid-syllable, and she fell to the side over the flimsy armrest of her camp chair.

Kaitlin stared at her two collapsed friends, shrugged, and leaned back in her chair. She was ready when the smoke filled her nose and sent her consciousness spinning upwards into the night sky.

A theft, but perhaps, not a crime. This week I’ve stolen the line “I took a nap in May.” from Apprentice, Never Master for the Legal Theft Project. 


Flash Fiction: Worth It

Two robberies, a purse-snatcher, and one giant robot. Not a bad night overall. Ash stripped off her costume, shaking out her curly black hair in front of the bathroom mirror.

A thick cut was now sticky over her left eyebrow. The skin over her right shoulder and collarbone was bright red, and would probably be purple tomorrow. She could barely close her right fingers. But the thieves were in police custody, found sleeping soundly at the scene, the purse-snatcher turned himself in after getting thoroughly beat by a diminutive teenager in spandex, and the robot was a smoking twist of metal outside the city borders.

Tomorrow she’d hide the bruises, stumble through a trigonometry test, lie to her teachers, and probably fall asleep in sixth period. Out all night, that tomorrow was a few hours away. She leaned over the sink at herself in the bathroom mirror. “Worth it,” She whispered to the glass.

Legal Theft: Stacked Odds

“Heads I win, tails you lose, your choice.” Aiden dangled the quarter in front of his sister’s magazine, forcing her attention away from the glossy pages. He widened his eyes in innocence when she pursed her lips.

She pushed his hand out of the way. “You’re gonna have to do better than that.”

“Worked on Mason.” Aiden flopped down RV’s thin carpet and picked up a magazine from the stack. He turned randomly to the middle and started flipping pages.

“Mason is seven and he still eats dirt.” She watched Aiden absentmindedly peruse the magazine. They’d lost most of Aiden’s books when they’d had to run back in Boulder. The nine-year-old was still mourning the loss and trying to find substitutes, at least before their father delivered on his promise to get more. “Just don’t mark up the quizzes.”

Aiden snapped his eyes to hers, his expression too serious to be genuine. “But then how will I ever find out if I’m a summer or winter?”

She snorted and pushed at Aiden’s shoulder with her foot. “You’re an autumn.”

He rocked back with a small grin and returned to the slick pages. Aiden managed about five minutes before he closed the magazine and sighed, bored again. “When’s dad coming back?”

Their father had been gone almost two days, which was nothing, but there was precious little to do illegally parked at the back of a campground.  They’d made friends with the family camping next to them, but the only kid there was the seven year old Mason. Aiden tired of his company almost as quickly as he had the magazine’s. She, worldly at thirteen, had better things to do.

She got up from the sunken couch cushion and began pulling open cabinets. If either of them got tired of instant mac and cheese cups, Mason’s family had fed them before. “I don’t know. You hungry?” She asked.

Aiden, still sprawled on the floor, heaved a deep sigh. “I’m bored.”

She closed her eyes and breathed through her nose. “I–” The sound of tires on gravel interrupted her. Aiden rocked to his feet and they peered through the dirty RV windows together. A sleek black car rolled up the campsite drive and parked.

“That’s not dad.”  Aiden voiced what they both knew.

I’ve outdone myself this week. Not only have I stolen a first line this week from a Librarian over at The Gate in the Wood, but I also stole a character from More than 1/2 Mad

“We’re Gonna Smash ’em Now”

All he wanted, he thought, were happy students. What Principal Velozo had was a demoralized varsity football team, a consistently trespassed chemistry lab, and a horde of sullen hipsters. The first two problems were beyond him. After their star quarterback quit, few teenagers were willing gamble their egos at filling the spot. The chemistry lab remained a mystery, and in truth the administration was beginning to think it best they did not know what it was being used for after hours.

His colleagues didn’t know what he expected. Teenagers, by nature, were unhappy resentful creatures. Wringing any school spirit or civic pride from the student body was an absurd expectation.

What they didn’t understand was the source of Principal Velozo’s delusion. He was a rare specimen, one of the individuals who’d adored their high school years. Fond memories of boisterous pep rallies, chaste sweater-clad cheerleaders, and pre-dance jitters rang dissonant against his drab and disaffected students.

It was with that dissonance in mind that Principal Velozo had perused the stalls and tables of the local swap meet.  He’d not expected to find anything beyond the cheap pair of trainers and perhaps a card table he’d come for, but the old anthem’s 45 had presented itself.

Behind the table covered with similar faded records and battered vinyl slips, a blond smiled at him from a folding chair. There was something familiar about the sportive cut of her clothes. She’d smoothed her clean red skirt and stood when he found the 45.

Principal Velozo had bought it for the dollar she’d asked for, and promised to put it to good use.

Next week’s pep rally was announced to the usual chorus of rolled eyes. The teachers ushered their students into the gym, and then sat as far from them as was permitted. The cheerleaders, midriffs peaking above their tiny skirts, stepped up and did their best with cartwheels to get any rise out of the stands. Aside from a few pitying claps, the watching students were silent. Even the football team standing on the sidelines looked a little embarrassed to be included in the show.

Everyone looked up when the record scratch sounded over the loudspeaker. Jaunty male voices started their harmony over the grainy music. The sounds of the horns, the enthusiastic support of the pep squad, and the singers’ simple command filled the gym, be true to your school. 

The song rolled over the stunned stands and something Principal Velozo had never seen happened. Someone in the stands, a skinny degenerate with raccoon eyes and ripped leggings, stood up and cheered. Her cigarette coarsened voice rang clear, she would be true to her school.

A moment later, a pale drama guy in ugly tight jeans joined her cry. They pumped their fists as they both sung along. Their peers jumped up around them, joining the throng and the song.

The school’s staff gaped, some pushing themselves away from the rising crowd. No one knew what was happening to the teenagers or why Principal Velozo was smiling. The cheerleaders were caught in the rush too, they grabbed megaphones while the football team roared.

The song ended but the chaos did not. A freshman cheerleader grabbed the school flag and broke the pole over her knee with a warrior’s scream. She brandished the makeshift spear into the air and held a megaphone with her other hand. Everyone would be true to this school!

Football players formed ranks behind the cheerleaders, who began a chanting march to the alma mater. The students poured from the stands to join them, surging around their teachers. Principal Velozo was no longer smiling as his school began to rank and file, leave the gym on a warpath towards the Prep Academy.

Raw Rambles and I are exchanging inspiration occasionally. This week I was sent Be True To Your School by the Beach Boys. Check out what she did with the song too!


Photography Club


The greeting came out of the dark behind me. I choked on air and dropped my tongs into the developer tray. After picking those out, I looked over my shoulder. Lena Zarake smiled at me in the dark room’s red light.

“So pep squad is going with a serial killer theme this year.” In my defense, between the lighting and her uniform she looked like something out of a pulp slasher flick. That and Lena had managed to sneak into the photography rooms after hours, which was my thing.

“That would be better than Under the Sea.” The freshman hoisted herself onto the edge of a sink and started peering over the mostly empty workstation. I let my print sit in the tray, the image over-developing into indistinguishable silhouettes. Hopefully she wouldn’t look too closely at the photos drying above us.


“They already have the decorations.” Lena explained with a shrug. Hands on her bare knees she leaned a forward. “So this is photography club?”

Photography club was a lie I told my mom so she wouldn’t get suspicious when I came home after dark. This was a somewhat illegal after school job, and my little sister’s shot at college. “Its very exclusive.”

Lena rolled her eyes. “Whatever, I don’t need to know. Look, I’m having a party Saturday, you should come.”

She attempted her smile again, teeth stained red like everything else in the dark room. Maybe it was the devilish quality to the light, or maybe it was the fact that Lena Zarake didn’t like me, but it was hard to keep from suspecting something. “Uh huh. Your brother know about said party?”

“My brother is too busy with his photography club to notice what I do. A bunch of people from the prep academy are coming too.” Lena’s smile grew more impish. “What do you say?”

My frown was the result of being bullied by a freshman more than an aversion to a houseparty or its affluent attendees. Lena was popular, so it was bound to be packed. Prep students meant the thing would be funded and fueled by consequence-free privilege. I ignored the twinge beneath my breastbone at the prospect of hearing about it second hand for months afterward.

“And you’re inviting me now, and here, with no one around. Worried about your reputation?” I hoped the question sounded wry, instead of achingly bitter.

Lena sighed and hopped off the sink counter. “Its not my reputation. Like you’d ever accept if I invited you in front of anyone. It would ruin this malcontent thing.” She gestured at me with open fingers, as if pointing to an aura around me. “Whatever, you’re invited, come if you want, or don’t.”

She was good, I’d snuck into the campus darkroom first and felt dismissed. “Maybe, things have been busy.”

“With photography club, I know.” Lena left with one more red grin and a wave.

I shook my head, maybe it would pay to ask Fen just how much his sister knew about our extra-curriculars.

Legal Theft: Watching the Pot

The city’s scintillating towers and reflective edifices became somber and dark in the downpour. Black umbrellas clogged the sidewalks, obscuring the faces of those beneath them. From behind tempered and tinted glass, Simon watched the rivers of people attempt to escape the worsening storm.

“A rainstorm, that’s all,” Simon’s uncle, Adam, said from behind him. The older man moved about the office, expensive shoes clicking softly against the hardwood floors. They were alone in the building at closing time, everyone else had been sent home.

Simon leaned forward until he could feel the cold radiate off the glass. “I hope so.”

Seventy stories below them cars struggled their way through the traffic, the dirty water rising around their wheels. Simon couldn’t hear the cacophony of the streets or the rain, but he knew it was there echoing between the buildings. He’d never seen it rain this long before.

Adam snapped his briefcase closed. “If there is anything to handle, the others have already handled it. I’ll give you a ride home.”

Neither spoke as Simon followed his uncle out of the oak paneled office, into the immaculate hallway, and past the empty secretary’s desk. Adam stepped into the elevator. When he turned around his nephew was still outside in the hallway

Simon jerked his chin down the opposite way. “I’ll take the stairs.”

Adam’s mouth thinned to a line as he met Simon’s eyes, his hand still holding the elevator doors open. “Come home, a watched pot never boils.”

“Good.” Simon left his uncle standing in the elevator and went in search of roof access.

Not a thief this week, but perhaps an inspiration for them. 

Flash Fiction: Hunter and Thief

The girl hopped the turnstile without a second thought, hands on the metal, feet up and over the narrow bars. Her ballet flats hit the gum stained concrete and she was dashing towards the open train.

The silver doors closed. She skidded to a halt on the platform, nearly losing a shoe.

The woman paused behind the dirty chrome of the turnstile. A roused guard does not move, but his eyes swept across her tailored white suit and gold linked sandals. The woman shone against the dirty underground. When she vaulted the bars, he lunged, and then lurched ambisinister.  She was gone in the crowd when he picked himself from the floor.

The tracks were empty, the platform busy. She picked her way through the benign throng, edging around commuter, vagrant, and squalling child with equal disdain.  A man with long unkempt hair catches her eye from the corner.  He reaches up from his blanket and she passes a bribe into his ruddy hand. He points a grime covered finger towards the tunnel and the tracks leading into the dark.

The girl doesn’t stop running. Trash litters the tunnel, grease stained paper and the ripped plush toys. Behind her, the sound of someone else’s feet echo through the dark. Somewhere, she loses her shoe. The girl leaves it behind.

The woman pursues the sound of uneven footfalls. Her own pace is rhythmic; her sandals slap the ground as she follows the thief’s trail.

The girl sees the hunter first. Swathed in white, shining with gold at her ears, on her fingers, on her feet. The sound of her steps rang with past chases, hundreds of them. The girl is the hunter’s itch, to be scratched. She stares into the dark, waiting.

The woman only pauses when the tunnel shivers. This was an inevitability, but the thief is ahead, so she does not stop. The refuse around them trembles with promised destruction. She swings around a bend in the tunnel, and stops.

The girl is on the track waiting. The tunnel fills with the shriek of motion.

It has been a while since I’ve completed a Wordle. This one is from the talented Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie.