July Writing Challenge Day 10: Double Story Prompts – Bird Tables and Rosemary

Hello again, one and all, and welcome back to my July Writing challenge. Today marks day 10, just about 1/3 of the way through the month (for those of you keeping score at home). Just a reminder, for the second and third weeks I am doing various writing exercises that I think will help me improve on areas of my writing that are not as strong as others. I pick an exercise every day and write on it for one straight hour, no distractions.

Today, I decided what I wanted to focus on was taking, and actually finishing, a journey. Getting from A to B and not trying to fit C and D in there somewhere. I tend to get caught up trying to make everything perfect the first time around and it really hinders my progression. In the end I get bored or frustrated and I’ve stopped working on a lot of promising ideas because of it. So, today I tried to find a way to work through that.

I started with a pretty common writing exercise: the writing prompt. Real simple, I found a list of abstract writing prompts (HERE) and then used a random number generator (HERE), and voila, instant writing prompt. But wait, there’s more! Remember, today was about the journey. I had found my A, now I needed a B. I generated a second random number and went back to my list. Now that I had my A and B, I took a few minutes to jot down about 4-5 ideas for each one before the timer started so that I wouldn’t be staring at a blank screen for an hour.

My A for the day was: A Wooden Bird Table
The B for me (heh, rhyming’s fun) was: The Smell of Rosemary

So, here we are, a short little flash fiction piece, from A to B, in 1000 words or less….it’s less.

As always, I appreciate comments and criticism, so feel free to leave either. Just keep in mind that this was done in one sitting with no second draft. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy.

Double Story Prompts: Bird Tables and Rosemary
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 963

It was a nice spring day, and once again Millicent considered going inside and dragging her children out into it, but she didn’t want to bother. There was no point arguing with them. Pointless arguments about how the sunlight made it difficult to see the screens of their smart phones, or how they’d miss their favorite cartoon. Instead, Milly kicked off her sandals and walked through the grass barefoot in a long, sweeping arc. From the trees around the yard the birds chirped and trilled wildly as if in anticipation.

“Need a hand?” she called to the struggling figure a few feet from the edge of the patio.

The old man looked up, squinting though the sunlight and the sweat beading on his bushy eyebrows. “Nah,” he grunted. “Just about got it.” To illustrate his point he thumped the wooden post he grappling with the sole of his boot. Something gave and it dropped further into the hole he’d been jamming it into for the past several minutes.

“See, told you,” he said, stepping back and admiring his work. It was a wooden bird table, a flat surface about a foot on each side, covered by an ornate little pagoda. The edges were rimmed with a wide trough which was itself surrounded by a horizontal pole for birds to perch on. It was quality wood, too, and stained a deep, reddish hue, much like that of the patio behind it.

“It’s beautiful,” said Milly. “Thank you again. You really didn’t have to.”

“Bah,” her father said, waving her away. “Does my joints good to do a little woodworking.” He cracked his knuckles pointedly.

“Well, I’m glad that you’ve still got your hobbies,” Milly said. “I mean…” she continued, noticing the look on her father’s face.

“What?” he asked a little too loudly. He reached over as if to give her a hug. “You saying your old man ain’t got what it takes. Huh? Come here.” He laughed and the hug turned into a gently headlock. Milly squealed as her father gave her a noogie. After a moment, he let her break away. He reached out again, this time just putting his arm around her shoulder. Together they stood, admiring the bird table and enjoying the weather.

After a few minutes her father broke away and went to fill in the sides of the hole, pulling a tiny level from his belt loop to make sure the post was straight, and Milly went inside. A day like today needed lemonade. As she poured the water, her mind wandered. The house was quiet. The children were hiding in their rooms, lost in their own little digital worlds. The thought made her sad. Then again, a lot of things were making her sad recently. Not enough to make her break down and cry. It was just a dull, empty ache, something in her chest and stomach, a quiet little feeling that something was wrong. Something was missing.

As she stirred the jar of lemonade her free hand drifted up to the cabinet by her head. Without really meaning to she pulled out a battered old tin container. The lid came free with a pop and a squeak of rusty hinges. Inside were a row of cards, and her fingers walked along their soft, frayed edges and dog eared corners. There were so many, maybe a hundred or more. She’d only ever made a fraction of them in all of her years, from the earliest memories of girlhood, it amazed her that one woman could have compiled them all herself. Times change, she thought. She pulled one out at random and held it up to the light. She almost dropped it. Of all the cards to pick…

Back on the patio, her father was lounging in a lawn chair, soaking up the sun. Milly put a pair of glasses on the table beside him and filled them with lemonade. She pulled up a chair of her own and sat. Unlike her father, she slouched forward, curled around the recipe card.

“I was thinking,” she said, “you know, as a thank you, that you should really stay for dinner.”

“Hmmm,” he grunted, not opening his eyes.

“Yeah,” she said. “It’d be nice.”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “What are you having.”

“Chicken,” she said. She let the word hang there.

“Mmmm, what kind?”

“Well—I was just—I was looking through Mom’s old recipe’s just now…”

The sound of her father putting his glass on the table seemed louder than it was. He was suddenly unable to sit still. He sniffed the air and rubbed his chin and sat up in his chair.

“Actually,” he said, rising to stand, “I should really be going.”

“It’s just…” Milly began. “It was her favorite, and I just thought…” Her father was making his way for the side gate now. He patted his pockets distractedly and then pulled out his key ring. He spoke over his shoulder, not looking at his daughter.

“Say hi to Bill for me,” he called. The gate banged shut and a few moments later she heard his truck rumble to life and out of the drive way.

Millicent went inside. The house was still silent, her children were still hidden away in their rooms, and she didn’t even try to hide her tears. The recipe card was still in her hands. Slowly, sadly, she walked to her pantry. She didn’t need to read the card again. Memory moved her hand to the top rack. Rosemary. She popped the cap and breathed in the smell deeply.

The smell of rosemary. It brought back happy memories, though now they were bittersweet. Childhood memories. Memories of cooking, of laughing, of learning to be a woman from the best woman she’d ever known.


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