The Fighting Granddaughter

Once, there was an old man who every day practiced martial arts. And one day, upon seeing the old man practice martial arts, his granddaughter came to him and said, “Grandfather, you’re so good at fighting. Teach me how to fight.”

But he refused.

She came to him on another day, and begged, “Please, grandfather. I want to learn how to fight.”

Again, he said no.

Another day, she came to him and pleaded with him, “Grandfather, come on. You have to teach me how to fight.”

Seeing how determined she was, and admiring her spirit to not give up, he finally agreed, saying, “I will teach you the most important aspect of self-defense,” and so her training began.

Firstly, the old man said to his granddaughter, “Martial arts is for defense only.” Following a nod of her head as a response that she understood, the old man then taught his granddaughter how to have a strong stance. He showed her how to deflect and how to block and how to dodge attacks. And for many hours he had her repeating punches and kicks. She mirrored his every move, trained hard, and was proud of what she was learning, and he was proud of her.

As the old man noticed his granddaughter becoming so sure of herself and her abilities, so did she notice this of herself, and with a hint of arrogance, she argued with her grandfather that it was now time for her to spar with him and learn how to face a real opponent.

Hesitant, her grandfather agreed.

She faced him in a ready stance while he simply stood there. He said, “Begin,” and she rushed at him and was knocked to ground before she realized what had occurred. She got back up, dusted herself off, stood in a ready stance, and again found herself lying in the dirt.

This happened again and again. The old man would stand in one place, say, “Begin,” and she would throw a punch that he would block and counter by throwing her to the ground. She would lunge at him with a kick that he would deflect then trip her to the ground. Again and again, he would stand in one place, say, “Begin,” and she would punch and be tossed to the ground, and she would kick and be taken to the ground.

And the more this happened, the more frustrated she became, and the harder she attacked him, trying desperately to win.

She attacked and he pushed her to the ground. She attacked and he threw her to the ground. Again and again, she would attack and he would stand in one place and he would deflect and block and dodge, and she would end up on the ground every single time.

Seething with anger, she pounded her fists to the dirt as she sat up, turned, and screamed at him, “Why do you keep doing this?! You said you would teach me how to fight a real opponent! Just beating up on me isn’t teaching me anything!”

Patiently, he answered, “I said I would teach you the most important aspect of self-defense.”

Battling the tears welling up in her eyes, she exclaimed, “But I’m the only one of us doing anything! I’m sure if you tried to punch and kick me, I could block and throw you to the ground! You’re not giving me a chance!”

Hands behind his back, the old man said, “Martial arts is for defense only.”

Still frustrated, she objected, “But that’s not fair! One of us has to be the aggressor! If you don’t attack me and I don’t attack you, then there won’t be a fight!”

As his granddaughter sat in her dirt and grass-stained clothes, breathing heavy, holding the most serious stare on him, the old man flashed an innocent smile, bowed to her, and calmly said, “Exactly.”

Exhaling, the granddaughter calmed herself, rose up, and stood before her grandfather. “Begin,” he said.

Taking a breath, she held her hands crossed in front of her and did nothing as the old man let out a young smile.

The Believer and the Skeptic

A believer was preaching in a park about how God created the heavens and the Earth and the animals and man. The crowd was in awe and marveled at his knowledge of all things mystical and magical.

Then a skeptic stepped forward, confidently proclaiming, “That’s not how everything came to be.”

Not one to step back from a challenge, the believer asked, “Then how do you think we became?”

“Through evolution,” the skeptic said. “We began from a single-celled organism, which split and split and mutated, and through millions upon millions of years of natural selection, everything you see around you, everyone you see around you, grew from that one source into all that you see today.”

The believer stroked his chin. “How did you come upon this knowledge?”

“It’s science,” said the skeptic as he proudly handed a book of science to the believer.

Receiving the book, the believer flipped through its pages, his lips curving into a smile as he said simply, “So that’s how God created everything.”

The crowd was in awe, marveling at his humility.

“What of your book?” the skeptic asked. “How can you still be loyal to its words?”

Closing the science book and handing it back to the skeptic, the believer said, “My book merely represents a beginning of knowledge, not the end of it, as does your book. There is still much to learn, which is why I study my book with as much care as you study yours. This is something we have in common.”

The skeptic looked upon the believer in disbelief. “Your faith is not shattered?”

Patting the skeptic on his shoulder, the believer responded, “On the contrary, my faith is strengthened. Of course God’s magnificence is so, that it could not be contained in a single book.”

A Certain Single Existence

Every morning, a boy would wake early to travel to the stream to fetch water. Every morning, when he would peer across the stream, there was a girl on the other side who, too, would wake early to travel to the stream to fetch water. No matter how many times their gazes met, they could not connect. It was as if they were as separate from each other as they were from the outside world.

Why should he believe in love when he grew up not seeing its example?

Why should she believe in love when she grew up without opportunity to feel it?

Every morning, they would wake early to travel to the stream to fetch water. Every morning, they would peer across the stream at each other, believe they felt nothing, and return to their respective villages where kids would play, young adults would sew and sow, and old adults would paint the portraits of those at play or work, or of anyone with the patience to stand still before them.

He didn’t care to pose for portraits for they always painted his soul half empty.

She didn’t care to pose for portraits for they always painted her as if she did not exist.

Frozen Eternity prompt

Recently, I received a writing prompt from Justina at Welcome to My Imagination that is, to be cliché, to die for. Seriously, this is the prompt she gave me:

To reach out would mean to die, but to never speak would mean a frozen eternity.

I spent 10 minutes with this gorgeous prompt and came up with the very short story you can read below. Oh, and please check out Justina’s blog. She writes wonderful short stories as well as Q&A sessions with the characters.

To reach out would mean to die, but to never speak would mean a frozen eternity.

Why did he choose such an eternity? Why would he not reach out, even to me?

I could’ve helped. I would’ve helped, in any way he required. But he didn’t trust me. He didn’t trust the vows we made to each other five years ago, this day.

I kneel beside the headstone, crunching the fallen autumn leaves as I settle before his final tribute. Sliding two fingers across those words I had engraved on the marble slab, I only say them in my head because I’m afraid to say them aloud: ‘To reach out would mean to die, but to never speak would mean a frozen eternity.’

He wouldn’t object to the message. It’s how he lived. Perhaps he was afraid to live aloud, the same way I refuse to speak those words aloud.

Perhaps he thought himself brave for facing his demons alone when all along he had an army behind him, ready to fight for him at his beckon call.

Perhaps he wanted to find an answer for himself, feel like he didn’t need help, and would never, and so would at least hold onto his freedom even while imprisoned in his own mind.

Maybe he didn’t need help. Maybe this was his answer. I don’t know.

Mother once told me that a man doesn’t seek love, only validation, and when he feels the woman in his life can no longer offer him the validation sought, he leaves her.

But what did she know? She was divorced three times.

Or maybe she had it all figured out. I don’t know.

“Is that why you chose to leave me?” I ask of the dirt as the unusually sunny day warms the tears dripping from my chin. “Is that why you chose to live in your frozen eternity?”

I can only wish he had chosen to die.

“What The Hell Is That On Your Roof?” Prompt

I recently participated in a writing prompt exchange with K.J. over at kj86chapman. She gave me a wonderful prompt that I spent ten minutes with and came up with the very short story you can read below. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Oh, the original prompt looked like this:
“What the hell is that on your roof?”
“Oh, that’s just some sciency crap of my brother’s. He’s trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials. Lame, I know.”
Does it always blink like that?”

By the way, if you wish to send her an original prompt of your own, click this link.

“What the hell is that on your roof?” my friend Kevin asks as he stares through the open window carved into the side of my tree house.

“Oh, that’s just some sciency crap of my brother’s,” I say from the window carved into the other side. “He’s trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials. Lame, I know.”

Kevin is a space nut. He likes stars and planets and galaxies and supernovas and black holes and worm holes.

“Does it always blink like that?” he asks.

“The extra-terrestrial? Sure.”

Me? I prefer doughnut holes.

“That’s a real alien sitting up on your roof?” he gasps.

“The correct term is extra-terrestrial,” I say, still peeking into my neighbor’s house through the other window with my small telescope. “He gets so offended when you say the ‘A’ word.”

I’m searching for something interesting to look at. Not that I ever find anything interesting. Sure, there are times I’ve caught Mrs. Hanson undressing, but really, it’s not like she wears a secret agent suit under her clothes or anything. The second I spot her, I turn away as quick as I can. My older brother says she’s MILF, but he won’t tell me what that means.

“Wait,” Kevin says, still in shock. “How did you get an alien on your roof?”

“What did I say about the ‘A’ word?”

“Fine!” How did you get an extra-terrestrial on your roof?!”

I wish he wouldn’t yell like that. The last thing I need is for dad to come up to the tree house again and tell us to keep it down because mom’s trying to study and she can hear us all the way in the house house.

“Mike!” he exclaims. “How?”

“That’s just where he and my brother decided is the best place to send a signal.”

How can Kevin act like it’s a huge deal? It’s just an easily offended extra-terrestrial sitting on our roof, helping my brother tinker with some techy crap ‘cause my brother’s science fair experiment accidentally crashed his ship and now my brother wants to help him flag down another ship so he can get back home.

I step away from my small telescope, failing to see anything good at my neighbor’s house.

Plopping onto my bean bag as Kevin won’t quit gawking out the window carved into the other side of the tree house, I groan, “Nothing interesting ever happens.”

Of Love And Its Greatest Obstacle

Marcus enjoyed hosting dinner guests. He and his wife, Theodora, took great care to lovingly set the table with their finest dishes. Invitations were handcrafted with Theodora’s sweeping and circular calligraphy. And the meal was made of the freshest, finest food prepared with great care and love.

Following dinner, after some guests had departed, there were habitually six who remained, retiring to the courtyard to lounge below the twinkling stars, looking to them for inspiration as the companions discussed matters of importance. As a tradition, they each would have turns posing a question to answer, with only five of the six interested in taking part.

At this time, it was the turn of the gracious host, Marcus, a proud man who wore the most expensive robes, not because he could but because it was expected of him.

“How long has it been since our last dinner together?” Thomas asked, his wife, Uma, resting her head upon his lap to close her eyes for a nap.

Ronus, an older friend of the family asked, “A month?”

“I believe it has been,” Theodora said, resting comfortably in her large, pillow-filled chair.

Marcus lit up with a joyous smile as he stood, the only one who had yet to seat himself. “Then I have spent the past month thinking of a subject to discuss as well as the correct answer to it.”

Belly laughs all around, David, the younger cousin of Marcus, gestured to his favorite relative. “Well then, cousin, let us hear your question and your answer so that I may prove you wrong.”

Awash in amusement, Marcus held up a hand. “Prepare for disappointment, my cousin, for this is a topic of which you know nothing: love.”

Theodora beamed a smile at her husband as snickering friends caused David to swallow his jagged pride, allowing Marcus to continue.

Hushing everyone as if he had a great announcement, Marcus said, “Here is the question: What is the greatest obstacle to love?”

“A wonderful question,” Thomas said, scratching his dark beard. “I think you should also take this chance to bestow us all with your equally wonderful answer.”

With a bow of his head, Marcus said, “Lack of understanding.” Sitting on the cushioned arm of his wife’s chair, he said, “When one fails to understand his mate, her needs, her wants, the wishes of her heart…” He admired the sparkle in his wife’s deep blue eyes. “…Then he creates an obstacle to love, not only between himself and his mate, but also himself and himself.”

David eyed his more experienced cousin. “Explain that last part.”

“As you will discover one day when you court and marry a fine, young woman,” Marcus said to his close relative, “any obstacle between your mate and her happiness may at any time become her excuse to force you into spending a night or more sleeping on the couch.”

Laughter burst out as Thomas added, “And as the married of us know, the only love to be found while lying on the couch comes from oneself.”

The supporting chuckles and moonlit smiles continued as Ronus held up a mirror to himself, lightly brushing his gray hair over his ears.

But as the joyous sounds dulled, Marcus became curious of who could offer a superior answer. “Thomas, would you care to be next?”

“Well,” Thomas said, clearing his throat, “following a whole couple of minutes of thought on this particular subject…”

“As compared to a whole month,” David jested to Marcus as Marcus plucked a strawberry from one of the many silver trays of fruit set about, feeding the strawberry to his beloved wife as she lightly giggled.

“…I will have to say that jealousy is the greatest obstacle to love. I have witnessed, at a time or two, a mate growing unhappy and drained from the grip of an excessively jealous man, a man who will not allow his love to speak with who she wished, female or male; a man who will not allow his love to meet with who she wished, female or male; a man who can be her only friend, her only family, her only confidant. A jealous man is one who denies his love the freedom of blossoming and flourishing as a beautiful flower.”

Marcus nodded his head, almost impressed, but not quite. Still, he offered his friend the credit he deserved. “A wise answer, indeed.”

Thomas leaned back in his chair, casually folding his arms. “I know.” He led the laughs that followed his wit.

“David,” Marcus said as he noticed Ronus continuing to admire himself, “I have been waiting with bated breath to hear from you.”

With the charming smile of which he’s well known, David said, “The correct answer is indifference. For what greater obstacle to love could there be than not loving at all?”

“I believe you are on the right track,” Thomas said. He looked around as this time the chuckling began as he finished saying, “I am indifferent toward your answer.”

Marcus turned to his gorgeous wife, as fond of her as he was proud. “And last but certainly far from least,” Marcus said as he cradled his wife’s hand, “my exquisite wife, what do you believe is the greatest obstacle to love?”

“Other than your husband,” David said, bringing a circle of belly laughs to the surface once again.

Calming to a mere chuckle, Theodora sipped from her wine glass then said, “The greatest obstacle to love? Why, it is love itself.”

A smile of considerable satisfaction adorned Marcus’ face.

“You see, my husband, when a man falls obsessively for a woman, he can smother her with affectionate gifts to win her approval, not understanding that trinkets can never manufacture whatever feelings she does not have for him. A man who falls obsessively for a woman may become jealous and possessive; tread in fear with thoughts of another man possibly stealing her from his side. A man who falls obsessively for a woman may set himself on a path of indifference toward what she truly desires, if such desires are counter to what he desires for her as a man in love.”

Stroking his wife’s hand, Marcus said, “Well, I’m glad we were able to avoid such drama.”

A devilish grin forming across her lips, Theodora asked, “Avoid such drama? From where do you think I obtained my answer?”

Marcus laughed along with everyone else, placing a gentle kiss on his wife’s hand in good spirit. “Since I am no longer such a man, my darling, I will have to assume you trained me well.”

Theodora held her grin. “That’s why I married you, my dear. I felt you would take well to training.”

Turning his attention to Ronus, Marcus was about to prod an answer from him when David asked, “Ronus, why do you continue to gaze at yourself in that mirror?”

“Yes,” Thomas added. “What is this newfound fascination you have with yourself?”

With a raised eyebrow, Marcus said, “I think he’s turned narcissist on us.”

“It was bound to happen sometime,” Theodora said to continued laughter.

Ronus lowered the mirror, focusing his attention on Marcus. “You asked what is the greatest obstacle to love. This entire time, I have been looking at it.”

Puzzled faces engulfed the witnesses to this response.

“You are not wrong,” Ronus continued, “none of you. You are all correct in that lack of understanding, jealousy, indifference and even love itself can be obstacles to love.”

Ronus passed the mirror to Marcus. “But if you hold this in front of you and view what it is reflecting, then you should see that the greatest obstacle to love is the person who gives in to the conduct that hinders love, regardless of what that conduct is. And it is the same person who can choose to cease such conduct, remove that which hinders love, and love as one should.”

Leaning back in his chair, fingers clasped over his belly, Ronus smiled. “It is we who are both love’s greatest adversary and love’s finest nurturer.”

Confusion washed away as mouths hung agape. Marcus had no proud response. Theodora found no playful angle. David could not question what was meant. Thomas was denied an opportunity to insert doubt.

Picking a grape from a sliver tray, Ronus cleverly fed it to himself as he said, “Well at least the crickets are chirping in approval of my answer.”

Five Oracles

He stroked his daughter’s hair and smiled at her, his eyes begging for her to hear how proud he was to have her in his life.

But that’s not why they hiked up the mountain at sunrise this day. This day was the day that his daughter had come of age, the day when she would finally learn of her fate.

The father beckoned her to a dark entrance carved out in the mountain wall. “My daughter, my precious daughter, you have been confused about what your role among our people will be. You do not know what to do with your life. And so, now that you are old enough to make the journey, you will discover your destiny.”

“Is that why we’re at the Sacred Shrine?” she asked.

“Yes. Just as fathers before me have brought their daughters before you, and mothers have brought their sons, so will we now take part in this grand tradition.”

With a nervous nod, the exotic teenage girl said, “I’m ready, father.”

“Once you enter,” her father said, stroking his short, brown beard, “there will be five oracles. Each one will inform you of your destiny, but only one will be speaking the truth.”

The girl gulped loudly.

“It is up to you to determine which one is truthful. You may enter when you are ready.”

“Yes, father.”

He observed his daughter, her solid stature, her poise in even the most stressful of circumstances, then he looked to the entrance and then back to her.

As she eyed the obscure entrance, he looked to the sky, then back to her.

As she bit her lip, he looked to the ground, then back to her.

“You may enter any time now,” he said. “At this rate, the sun will set by the time you’re halfway there.”

“Yes, father,” she said with a spurted laugh.

Approaching the entrance, she took a deep breath, her hands carefully crawling along the jagged, rocky sides as she disappeared into the mouth of the Sacred Shrine.

The father sat, closed his eyes, and meditated in the warming sun as he waited for his daughter to return.

He listened as the wind spoke of its adventures flying free.

He drifted with the leaves fluttering down from their respective swaying branches.

He felt the immobile travels of each blade of grass surrounding him.

He hoped his daughter would get back quickly because he had to go and he didn’t want to relieve himself near the Sacred Shrine.

Plus, what if she caught him in the act of defiling the area around the shrine? How embarrassing would that be?

Opening his eyes, he stood and turned to see his daughter exiting the Sacred Shrine, her face awash in disappointment.

“What happened?” he asked.

Bowing her head, she said, “It was a waste of time.”

“What did the oracles say to you?”

“One of them said I would become a seamstress. Another told me I’d spend my life as a cook. The other two said I was destined to be a crafts maker and a barmaid.”

Her father stroked his beard. “You sound almost ill.”

“I am. I don’t want to be any of those things. Every time I was told what I was destined to do, I felt in my heart that I wanted to do something else.”

With interest, he asked, “And that would be?”

“I want to be a caretaker, like auntie. I want to care for the elderly, help them, listen to their stories, and learn from the wisdom they’ve acquired over their many years.”

She gazed up at her father, his proud eyes returning her bold stare as she added, “One day, I want to pass on what I’ve learned to whoever will listen to me.”

“So which of the five oracles were truthful with you?”

The daughter became frustrated. “That’s another thing! You said there were five oracles inside, but there were only four. Where was the fifth oracle? I even questioned the other four about the whereabouts of the fifth and they wouldn’t answer me!”

“My daughter,” the father said as he smiled, “I did not tell you there were five oracles inside the Sacred Shrine. I told you that once you entered the Sacred Shrine, there would be five oracles.”

He knelt down.

Eye to eye with his daughter, he pointed to her heart. “The fifth oracle is the one inside of you. And as you have discovered, it will always be truthful.”

The Dark Room

I have a recurring nightmare.

I’m standing at the entrance of a dark room, inside are three monsters, disfigured demonic faces over black robes. Anyone who walks into the room, the demons seize and devour without mercy, indifferent of the screams and cries for help, fiercely drinking in every last drop of flesh and bone and blood.

However, when I step into the dark room, the devils back away, cower, hiding their fear in vain.

They’re afraid of me.

But that’s not the most horrific part of the dream.

The nightmare, for me, is that I’m not afraid of them.

Five Second Rule Need Not Apply

I had just pulled a tray of biscuits from the oven. Like always, I try to handle them while they’re still hot, consistently shaking the burn off my fingers as I halve them so I can spread butter or jam on them while still warm.

As I split one, I fumbled the bottom half and watched helplessly as it fell to the floor. While bending down to pick it up and place it back on the plate, I told myself, “You can’t eat that. It was on the floor.” Immediately, I responded, “If I don’t eat it, then I’ll just be implying that my floors aren’t clean.”

Of course, I always have a good comeback that I can’t argue with.

Every Day

Since I posted my first 100-word story submission here, I figured I’d throw out my second submission. It’s not a story with a beginning and end, but it does tell a story.

I think.

Okay, I get why it was rejected. It feels more like a poem, but whatevs.

The awareness of the illusion is always there. With nothing real, what is there worth anything? How could there be something to have or someone to hold or any moment to savor or any memory to cherish? How is it all not merely a specter desiring to be seen as it desires to be believed as the forgotten walk step for step in divine remembrance? Surrounding but not present in the endless torment to which we damned ourselves, trying to comfort us in our wandering and wondering if it is or will be worthy of transience through the tactile unreal.