Category Archives: Inspired by a word…

Stories inspired by a word sent to me via text. See a word you think might spark a story? Feel free to send it to me!

Zinnias, Zinnias Everywhere

As I ran down the dirt path through the wood my sneakers kicked up a slight dirt cloud, creating a simple map for them to follow. I certainly didn’t want them to lose me; after all, they were just children and couldn’t be left unattended in a forest so dense with trees. Plus, I had no clue where I was going – we had never taken this particular path before.

The density of the trees began to thin as I huffed. The backpack of supplies kept thumping against my back with each stride. I was not in shape for such a run, but I could hear the giggles gaining on me as their little feet clomped on the same hard dirt as mine. The sun began to strobe into my eyes, momentarily blinding me for split seconds here and there. The path widened into a field as the brightness of the sun’s rays made it impossible to see. I stopped and put my hands on my knees for support as I panted in an attempt to regain my breath.

As my eyes adjusted and the children gained on me, the random rainbow of colors started to come into focus. Where was I? The field came into focus as my irises adjusted, and I saw a huge field of flowers. Zinnias, zinnias everywhere, zinnias taller than me.

The children caught up and asked for a drink from my backpack. I decided this field, this beautiful, amazing force of nature, was the perfect place for our picnic lunch.

This story was inspired by the phrase “Zinnias, Taller than me” shared with me by my friend Kerri. This comes from a project I started where friends give me random words and phrases, and I write whatever comes out. Hope you like it.


A Paradox and a Balloon

Sometimes it was difficult for me to remember Susie was twelve, especially when I noticed her scrunching her nose; this was always a sign she was deep in thought.

She looked up at the orange balloon tied to her wrist and after much deliberation pulled the loose end of the string. The newly-released balloon floated up and momentarily became stuck in a branch until a gentle breeze freed it from a leafy prison and it continued on a heavenly journey.

“What goes up must come down,” she whispered. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or thinking out loud.

“What hun?” I asked. I could see a hypothesis forming in her mind; I blame her scientist mother for moments like these. Well, maybe blame isn’t the right word since I adore our after-school hangouts in the park. Sometimes being a writer has its perks.

“I was just thinking about something Miss Rivers said in class today. We were doing a lab with eggs and she said that everything that goes up comes down. Do you know the saying?”

I nodded.

“Well, what about my balloon? It went up and won’t come down.” We both looked skyward at the small orange dot that was once leashed to her small wrist.

“Well, the balloon is going up now, but it won’t necessarily continue to go up, right? What happens to a balloon when you bring it home?”

She shifted her weight on the bench. “It floats for a day or two and then starts to shrivel, like a raisin. As the helium wears out it stops floating. So you’re right, the balloon will eventually come down. I guess Miss Rivers knows what she’s talking about.”

She looked at her chucks. “The statement doesn’t provide any kind of specific timeline. I thought of our eggs going up and coming down immediately after she said it, because it was directly in front of me when she made the comment. But I guess it doesn’t specify when objects come down. Maybe the saying should be ‘What goes up eventually comes down,’ hmm?” She sat staring at the balloon until she could no longer see it.

She reached out a small hand, her signal that she was ready to start the walk home. I got up and took her hand as we began the walk home. Her nose was scrunched again.

“Airplanes land, or they’d run out of fuel and crash.” I nodded to her. “What about satellites? Or other things we launch into orbit?”

I had no answer to that, and a simple “Ask your mother,” seemed inappropriate. “I’m not sure,” is all I came up with.

“It would seem I found a paradox,” she said, and I nodded. Again, I can’t believe she’s twelve. At that, the man who originally gave her the balloon appeared again.

“Did you lose your balloon? I probably didn’t tie it tight enough. Would you like another?”

Her eyes opened wide and innocent as she looked up at the bunch and chose a color.

“Red, please,” she said with a colossal smile.

*Inspired by the word Paradox shared by Ashley Smolnik

The Big Blue Toe

The big blue toe peered up at her from his flip flop.

“So what did you do to it?”

“I don’t know,” he said to her. “But it’s throbbing right now.”

“Maybe you kicked the leg of the bed again. You tend to do that when you make the bed. Did you make the bed?”

“Psh, I haven’t washed my sheets in weeks.”

“Gross,” she said, wrinkling her nose. He laughed in response. “So what DID you do yesterday?”

He looked away. “Nothing of consequence.”

“I know when you’re hiding something. Worst liar ever. You went out with her again, didn’t you.”


“Yes you did. You know, most people think it’s rude to go out with your ex when you’re with a new girl.”

“I didn’t go out with her. You’re crazy.”

“Look at me when you say that then.”

He exaggerated looking at her, widening his eyes. “I didn’t go out with her.”

“Okay you’re not lying. But let’s see…did she come here? Technically that’s not going out.”

He didn’t answer.

“And if that’s the case, you’d be in bigger trouble than you would be after going out for something like coffee or a drink.” She got up and went to his bedroom, returning in a minute or so.

“Anything else to say?” Now she looked pissed, and her emotion was reflected in her voice.


“I just Sherlock Holmed your ass. Your sheets smell like dryer sheet. So my only assumption can be you lied about washing the sheets, you had her over, had sex, and your dumb ass figured you’d better wash the sheets so I wouldn’t find out. Then you smacked your toe on the leg of the bed, like you always do, and got caught. Ass.”

She slammed the door on her way out.

Words given to me by Christina.


She and I were sitting each on one side of a statue on a park bench.

“What?” I asked her.

“Weren’t you listening to me?”

“Honestly, no. I am completely taken in by the verisimilitude of this statue. It looks so real.” I could not stop staring.

Her attention went from me (and anger) to the statue, one of a man in a suit styled from the 1960s, including a hat.

“Wow, you’re right. It looks so real. Lifelike.”

“If I didn’t know better, I would swear it was real,” I said.

She looked at it as if waiting for it to blink. It did not.

“Waiting for it to blink?” I asked with a laugh.

“No,” she said, a certain amount of defense in her voice.

“So what were you saying?” I asked around the statue towards the front. She looked behind the statue as if we were in some Abbott and Costello routine.



“Who’s on first?” I asked.

“Shut up.”

“Meet me in front of the statue,” I called to her.

She did so.

“What were you saying?”

“I was saying…”

“You forgot?”

“Shut up.”

Her eyes turned back towards the statue. She started staring at it.

“Certainly does look real. Excellent craftsmanship, whoever made it.”

“Agreed,” I said.

At that the statue sneezed.

“Bless you.”

The word verisimilitude was suggested by Kate.

Sunglasses and Rubber Boots

I sat on the park bench reading, and she came up and sat next to me. I probably wouldn’t have noticed her if it were not for the rubber boots shooting into my peripheral view as I looked down at the novel.

They were bright blue, but that wasn’t what attracted my attention. I looked up at the shining sun and had to shield my eyes from it, even with my dark sunglasses on. It was a scorcher, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

I looked over at her and smiled, she smiled back, but I couldn’t see her eyes through her dark aviators. She looked to be about twenty, wore a bright white and blue print dress and had nice legs. She had a vintage umbrella propped up against the bench next to her, and a little plaid satchel out of which she pulled a sandwich and an apple.

I tried to focus on my book but could not. Why the rubber boots? It was a perfect day, a bright blue cloudless sky backing up my thoughts as I looked around to see the other people in the park going about their busy lives. Not a single one carried an umbrella or wore boots; as a matter of fact none were prepared for any sort of rain at all.

I wanted to ask her, and was about to when a ringing came from her pocket and she pulled out a cell phone.

“Hello?” she said in a Danish accent, and I decided this was fate, I was not meant to inquire about her footwear. Instead I placed my book back into my messenger bag and went on my way, only to find that five minutes later, a sudden darkened sky opened up and rained down on me and the many other unprepared people on the streets. I pulled into a coffee shop for shelter, and before a minute passed the girl skipped by, dry under her umbrella, her boots protecting her feet from the massive flooding that was taking place, and her sunglasses nowhere to be seen.

Words sunglasses and rubber boots and photograph by Christina  Mølholm of And the Monsters fame.

The Translucence of Jellies

Enjoy the short film at the end of this blog for more photographs.

We stood there, mesmerized by the relaxing, almost magical movements of the hundreds of jellyfish in the tank before us. In slow motion her hand left her side and reached toward mine as the translucent creatures swam around in the large tank, and once I realized her hand’s destination I started moving mine toward hers as well without taking my eyes off the glowing ocean dwellers. The tentacles, like little legs, kick off against nothing as one of the jellies swims in our direction, unaware as yet of the glass keeping it at bay, and I reach my free hand up and press it against the glass as if I could share a moment with this creature. Meanwhile, her fingers grasp and wrap around mine and she pulls a little closer to me as the jellyfish continues on course toward my hand, only to bump up against the glass, turn and swim away.

The word translucent inspired this story, passed on to me by Elle.


He’d just returned from the market, and she was rooting through everything.

“You’ve gotten everything on the list?”

He looked away as if he hadn’t heard.


“What?  Yeah.”

“Okay, good.”  She placed everything on the counter: the artichoke hearts and cheeses on one side, and the baking ingredients on the other.

“Is there another bag?”

“Nope.  That’s it.”

She started sifting through the different items, searching.



“Where’s the rhubarb?”

He looked down at the linoleum floor, avoiding eye contact.

“Where’s the rhubarb?”

He tried to look away, but she followed his gaze.

“Did you forget the rhubarb?”

“Can you stop saying rhubarb?” he asked.

“Where is it!?!”

“Okay, well, I didn’t want to tell you, but I have no idea what rhubarb is. So no, I didn’t get it. Can’t you make the pie without it? I’ve never even heard of it; how important can it be?”

“You want me to make rhubarb pie without the rhubarb?” Anger was in her voice. He looked away again.

“Um…yeah, that probably wouldn’t make sense.”

“Well? Why didn’t you just ask someone!”

“Ask them what rhubarb is? I didn’t want to look stupid, that’s why!”

“What is this, like asking for directions?”
“No,” he said defensively.

“Wait, you DO ask for directions!  What the HELL?  Why didn’t you just ask someone what rhubarb looked like! Or where they had it!”

“I looked all over the damn produce section, and couldn’t find it! What did you want me to do? Magically learn what it was?”

“Well, did you ask someone?”

“Yes.  I asked the man who worked there.  He didn’t know what it was either.”

She put her hand on her hip and gave him an angry look.

“Okay, that was a lie.”

“Wait, why didn’t you just call and ask me what it was?”

“I thought you’d make fun of me.”

She grabbed at her hair, pulling it a little, and growled. He tried to leave.

“Where are you going now?”

“I was going to Google rhubarb so I’d know next time.”

“Aren’t you afraid Google will know what a dummy you are?”

He stopped in his tracks and cringed a little.  She knew how to insult, that was for sure.

“No!” he said in a childlike voice as he ran from the room.

Inspired by the word rhubarb, sent to me by Elle.


A Collection of Flash Fiction in One Setting

The professor watched the student, a virtual class clown, who kept looking over his shoulder at something in the back, procrastinating as usual.  With every turn of his head, his elbow was pushing his cup of soda—contraband in a computer lab—closer and closer towards the edge of the table.

He could not help but look back at her, wondering if she noticed him.  She was usually looking out the window for no obvious reason.  Someday he would get the guts to ask her out.  If she only knew that every pun, every prank, every joke was just for her, in the hopes she would notice him.

It was such a beautiful day, and she couldn’t wait to go outside and feel the bright green grass tickling her bare feet. Instead, she was temporarily stuck inside, reading a chapter and then responding to it in essay form while glancing out the window every chance she got.  The smell of liquor was pouring into her nose every time she inhaled, and she kept wondering which student came to class drunk.

He had such a rough night, and wished he hadn’t slept with her yet again.  She was upset over a bad grade, drank all of the wine in the house, then moved on to a bottle of whiskey she’d left in the liquor cabinet for years due to the disgusting taste.  He slept next to her in the bed after a night of wild lovemaking; he’d stayed sober because she was using an X-acto knife and he didn’t want her to cut herself.  Now, in class, he kept looking at his phone, worried she would text.  A loud, unexpected bang startled him back to attention.

She was sure the guy sitting in front of her was asleep, and all she wanted to do was wake him; bring him back to the torture that was this class.  She’d slammed her book down hard, startling the rest of the class but with no visible response from him.  She had to do something to wake him up, to force him back to this reality that everyone else was part of.

The flashing fluorescent light above him was driving him crazy; his head was killing him and the bottle of aspirin in his bag was empty.  As soon as class was over he would head straight to the pharmacy to get more.  The random loud noises didn’t help his headache at all, either.  He wished the stupid person would stop dropping whatever it was, but his head hurt too much to even open his eyes and turn around to discover the source.  And for some reason he swore he smelled peanut butter, which could also mean a migraine was coming on.  He always smelled odd aromas before a migraine.

She snuck the peanut butter crackers into her mouth one at a time, trying not to get caught through her sneaky nonchalance.   They were supposed to be her in-between class snack, but she just could not wait any longer.

She watched the smug girl eating some variety of crackers, knowing full well the professor had just reminded the class of the strict “no food and no drink in the lab” policy.  It was so obvious that this girl felt that just because she was the smartest in the class, she had an advantage over the teacher that allowed her to eat and break the rules.

Superficially, she was beautiful, even as she glared at the girl eating the peanut butter crackers.  He was shaking a little bit, because he had decided today was the day he would ask her out.  Sure, he knew beauty was only skin deep, knew all about what they say about judging book covers, but it would be enough for him.  He would ask her today.  But for now he would listen to the professor, who just rose to his feet and walked to the podium, signaling the beginning of a discussion.  The clock ticked and ticked but never seemed to advance as he thought about asking her on a date.

The professor was at the podium, standing silently, waiting for everyone to look away from their monitors and towards him so he could begin the lecture.

Inspirational words:  anticipatory, procrastinate, superficial, advantage, response, stupid.


Their screaming could be heard from two floors down and the apartment manager already received a few calls, but he was used to it.

“I can’t take this anymore! Why can’t you just clean it off when you’re done?”

“I already told you,” he yelled back. “It’s not a big deal!”

“It is a big deal, Dustin. It’s a HUGE deal! It gets all crusty and gross! Just clean it and put the cap back on when you’re done!”

He stood up from the leather couch and stepped towards the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

“To get a beer!”

She huffed and stomped after him towards the kitchen and arrived as he popped open the can. “What?” he asked, a defensive sound in his voice.

“Why can’t you just put the cap back on?”

“I just forget, okay? Geez!”

Her face started turning red.

“Do you think I like this? Do you think I like to squabble with you?”

He was about to yell back but instead laughed. “Did you just say squabble?”

She thought. “Yeah. So?”

He chuckled. “It’s just…you don’t hear that word very often.”

She calmed a bit. “What? What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s more of a grandmother word, don’t you think?” He did his best old lady voice. “You youngins…you quit that squabbling now.”

She turned away and frowned, pouting a bit. “I’m not an old lady.”

“This I know. An old lady wouldn’t have boobs like these,” he said, reaching around her waist towards them.

“Cut it out.”


“Can you PLEASE just start putting the cap back on the toothpaste?”

“So the crusties stay away?”

“Exactly,” she said, softening a little.

He put down the can of beer. “If I do, you won’t squabble with me anymore?”

“Shut up,” she said, smiling.

“I think we should go squabble in the bedroom.”

Her smile grew, and he returned in kind, then picked her up and carried her towards the bedroom.

A few minutes later the manager started getting calls again, but this time the noises were of a different nature.


I stopped at the produce place on my way to Frank’s house to get him some apples, and they had just unloaded a truck of potted carnations. The whole little market smelled of the fresh flowers, and as I looked around, touching them, picking them up to smell them, I realized he didn’t have a single potted plant in his little apartment. I picked up a red one and paid for it at the table by the door.

When I walked into Frank’s place the first thing I did, as usual , was to kiss him, give him a hug, and hand him the potted plant.

“Um… thanks! So… does this need like, water or something?”

I smiled. “Of course it does, silly.”

“Do I feed it?”

I assumed this was a joke. “Just water and sunlight.” At that I walked over to the window and pulled up his blinds, letting sun into the room for quite possibly the first time ever. I turned and realized how dusty and messy it was. He placed the pot on his coffee table after pushing some stuff around to make room.

When I got to his place a week later, I opened the door to find a sunny, cleaner apartment. I looked around, impressed.

“Frank? Have you been cleaning?”

He popped his head out of the kitchen. “Yeah… I kinda noticed how dirty it was in here when you made it all bright. So yeah… started cleaning. I’m making you some lunch! Are you hungry?”

I was pleasantly surprised. “Sure! What are you making?”

“Well… I’m chopping some veggies, and I have hummus dip. Sit down, relax—I’ll be there in a minute!”

I sat down and noticed how empty the table looked, everything gone except for the carnation, which was wilting.

“Have you been watering this?”

“Um… yeah. Not enough I guess?” he said, entering the room with a plate covered in chopped cucumbers, carrots and celery, some crackers, and a container of hummus.

“These things need more water, and probably more sunlight, too. Maybe you should move it into the window sometimes. Wow, this looks great!” I said, digging in.

A few days later I returned yet again to Frank’s place, eager to see if he’d made more changes. I never really minded the mess, but now I felt a lot better about hanging out there. It was actually a really nice place. Today I agreed to help him paint his bedroom, where we also opened the blinds to discover the dreary off-white color of the walls, marked up from years of abuse from past tenants. He had nice brighter blue picked out, and already had the furniture moved out by the time I got there.

“You wore old clothes, right?” he asked with a sound of excitement in his voice.

“Yup!” I called as I put my coat on a newly bought coat rack. “Love this rack. Where’d you get it?”

“I love your rack!” he yelled back, then laughed. “Just kidding, I actually found that one in the trash, sanded it down and repainted it. Nice, huh?” I had to agree. That’s when I saw the potted plant I bought him. It looked refreshed, rejuvenated; alive and well.

I walked into his room, and he had one whole wall already done. “Wow, looks good!” I said. “So does the plant! I guess you figured out the right amount of water and sunlight?”

“I Googled it,” he responded. “Grab a brush and let’s start the edging!” he said with a wink and a smile.

It was a few days later, the paint was dry, and we were in bed cuddling when my stomach growled.

“Do you have any food?”

“Of course, this is the new me!” he said. “There’s some of that hummus… but that’s a bit old. Go ahead and look!”

As I passed through the living room I grabbed the carnation and put it in the window on my way to the kitchen. I looked through what was left of the vegetables, threw out the bad ones, and cut up the last good carrot and one of the cucumbers. As I passed the plant again, I noticed the flower looked a bit lighter.

“Hey hun,” I asked as I returned to bed. “What’s with the carnation? It looks a bit lighter….”

“Oh that… yeah. I left it in the window too long, I think. It faded.”

“I didn’t know that could happen!”

“Apparently, it can. I was surprised too. I thought they like, lived off of the sun.”

I nodded and we dug in.

A few days later and the carnation was dying again. “Did you forget to water it again?” I asked him as he sat down with a bowl of popcorn. He nodded. “Come on! How hard is it to water it?”

I brought it into the kitchen, ran some water over it, touched the soil, and left it in the sink. “I’ll put it on the sill in a bit when the water stops draining out.”

A few days later, the carnation was completely healthy again. “Wow, looks like that water did the trick! It even looks a bit bigger!”

He looked up from the book he was reading. “Huh?”

“The plant, it’s back again! This carnation seemingly dies and comes back again constantly! It’s a fighter!”

“Actually, I’ve taken to calling it a reincarnation,” he said with a sly smile.

I was on my way to Frank’s a few days later, yet again, but this time stopped for some fruit since he was back on his empty fridge kick. When I walked in I saw him standing in the line with a brand new potted carnation, red with white flecks. He turned and spotted me, a look of guilt on his face, as I approached.

“Um… they were out of red.”

So much for the reincarnation.