Amy Rodriguez Lee is a writer who gets inspiration from her solo travels whenever she can. When she’s not globetrotting, she enjoys spending time with fellow writers, enjoying her patio garden, walking and bicycling around Alameda, and has been known to socialize over a glass of wine from time to time. An active member of To Live & Write … Wherever You Are, Amy can be found in weekday Write Alongs, joining online from her sunny patio or cozy living room. She has one NaNoWriMo-inspired novella ready to start circulating with beta readers and has shared her work at the occasional Alameda Shorts and Proof of Write.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #3:
A Walk in the Woods
Although nobody had seen it, local lore was that there was a building in the forest bordering a village. Nobody knew who owned the building or why it was in such an odd place. Supposedly, it had been built before the forest had become so overpowering and that the building had simply been left to nature.
The townspeople, especially the older ones, spent lots of lazy mornings at cafes proposing theories about the building and how somebody should go find the damned thing. But in all the years that Woodrow had lived in the town—and they were many—nobody had ever accepted the challenge. He never participated much in the talking, but he loved observing the others doing so.
“Why the hell don’t YOU volunteer to check this thing out, Earl? You talk the biggest game about it, so you should walk your talk is what I say.” There were mixed murmurs of agreement coming from clouds of cigar smoke at the table of the old friends, and finally Earl spoke.
“Sure. Marvin. I’ll go. But not alone.” Laughter. “Hey, that’s got nothing to do with the building; it’s my fucking knees. I don’t trust them, and the last thing I need is to fall with no help around. I’m pretty sure phone reception ain’t all that out there.”
One man finally lost his hold on his laughter and guffawed, choking on his cigar.
“Great, Frankie, boy. You just volunteered.”
The next morning Earl and Frankie met their friends at the usual time and place and had their usual coffee and cigar before starting off into the forest. At the last sight of them, they heard Earl shout, “Save some whiskey for me: we’ll be celebratin’ when we get back!”
The oddest thing was that the building wasn’t really far into the forest, but it was hard to find because of the wild foliage and huge draping trees everywhere. The trees especially seemed to be reaching down for embraces—or possession. The walk wasn’t easy, but the two old men were determined. At least Earl was.
While the morning sun graced the men at the cafe, the forest’s darkness and many branches and thorny vines challenged the explorers. Finally, as the density of the surroundings pressed on them unmercifully, Frankie had enough. “Ok, Earl. You’re welcome to keep going through this shit without a machete, but I hear my cigar calling me. I’m done.”
Frankie turned to retrace his steps just before the giant trees swooped down to pass Earl from one to another with their branches. Eventually, one thorny tree held him above the famed building where hellish flames were bellowing back at him at the end of a bloody path.
Woodrow greeted him. “Oh, Earl, you ass. I knew you’d be the next one.” He nodded, and the branch dropped Earl in the sticky, bloody path. As the path slowly began carrying him toward the flames, Woodrow, as usual, laughed at his victim’s screams.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #2:
The Eye of the Beholder
“So you see, these little…things are floating out of this…girl’s open mouth, okay? Oh, man, I have no idea!” Justin waggled his eyebrows and shrugged, delighted at the giggles and guffaws from the rest of the class.
“What KIND of things? Describe them, please.” Mr. Ramos wasn’t amused by Justin’s way of delivering his interpretation of the painting, but also wasn’t surprised that this particular student was trying to get a laugh from his classmates.
“Well, Mr. Ramos, I can’t really describe them. That’s why I just called them little things. I guess I could say what color they are—would that get me at least a passing grade?” He smirked.
The smattering of chuckles subsided as every student waited to see what their teacher would do about Justin’s smart-assed comment. The silence built until even Justin looked uncomfortable. But Mr. Ramos simply kept standing and staring, as if patiently waiting for Justin to redeem himself without being chastised.
Justin was used to this kind of treatment and had lots of practice dealing with it. His father had a much meaner stare though and would usually be pulling his belt out of their loops at the same time if he hadn’t already slapped him upside his head, so this particular stand off was easy-peasy. He knew Mr. Ramos wouldn’t beat him.
“C’mon, Justin! Just talk about the stupid painting! Don’t make such a big deal of it. It’s easy, see?” Kevin, Justin’s best friend (and one of the few), walked to the enlarged painting projected on a screen.
“So she likes music—see all the records at the bottom of her neck? And when she listens to music, she feels special so she sings. And the notes are like little yellow birds flying out of her mouth to make nests in her hair. The birds bring vines and flowers and stuff to make a nest, just like the notes work together to make a song, see?”
Kevin turned away from Justin and bowed to the class’s applause before returning to his seat.
When the applause died, Mr. Ramos sat down at his desk and looked at Kevin. “Kevin, that’s a very creative interpretation of the painting, thank you. Justin, if you have nothing more to add, you may sit down.”
But Justin’s face got red and he yelled, “Well, some of those records are broken in that picture, and that girl’s father probably did it. Look at her eyes! They’re squinty from crying in her room with the door closed. And she’s making a mess, not a nest. Nothing good ever comes out of her mouth—just things nobody wants to hear.”
By the time he finished, a few children’s mouths were hanging open and some were sniffling. Justin was breathing hard as his tears overflowed. Finally, he turned to his teacher. “YOU know what I mean, don’t you, Mr. Ramos? Please know.”
Mr. Ramos fought back his own tears as he said softly, “I do, Justin. I really do.”
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective |Prompt #1:
Everything about her face was ethereal.
Charlie almost laughed out loud at the poet in him that must’ve been hiding until now. He looked again at her over the book he was holding and found himself trapped in a laser track from her eyes. If he’d been able to look at anything else, he would’ve seen a slight smile lift the left corner of her mouth. But he was frozen while she looked down at her own book on the table. He watched her lift her coffee cup to her lips and…
He jumped at the sound of his book hitting the floor and made a big deal out of bending over to pick it up and then turning quickly to disappear around the stacks away from what most certainly would be a look of amusement in her eyes at his clumsiness.
Once behind the safety of the N-P shelves of fiction, he lectured to himself, God, Charlie, the woman doesn’t know you exist–well, that is, she knows you exist, but she doesn’t know anything to differentiate you from any of the other men existing here. So what’s with the junior high school nerves? “I’m not in junior high!”
Unfortunately, the last part of his self-flagellation was said aloud, no doubt so that Ethereal Woman would have something else to remember him by.
“Jesus,” he muttered as he walked down the aisle toward the exit.
And right into her.
“You like to make an impression right away, don’t you?” Her voice was ethereal, too.
He turned mute as her eyes captured his own again. What color were they? Grey? Blue? Ice? Ocean? Then she smiled.
She laughed, a musical sound floating from behind improbably perfect teeth and ideal pink lips. And were those feathers where her eyelashes should be? What WAS this creature?
“Are you okay?” She lightly touched his hand, and they both jerked at the spark generated. “Ouch! Quite the impression indeed,” she said with a flirty side glance through…feathers.
“Sorry, I mean…yeah, I’m okay, but…” Way to go, Charlie. “Impression? What do you mean? Oh, the book. Yeah, sorry if I disturbed you.”
But she was coming closer and he could see her eye color shifting like the sea coming ashore. He had just enough time to register that her nose was unquestionably perfect, too, before she kissed him.
He embarrassed himself again by groaning loudly into her mouth as she took his face in her hands to deepen the kiss. His arms flailed to find something to hold onto so that his knees wouldn’t buckle under him. This can’t be–this woman can’t possibly be kissing ME. This Ethereal Woman wouldn’t…oh, god, her tongue!
“Wake up asshole! You’re gonna be late for your first class again. And stop making those gross noises, man. Or get yourself a private room. I don’t wanna hear that shit.”
The door slammed, and Charlie was left with only a familiar boner that was anything but ethereal.