Tour of Duty

Saturday afternoons, when Marge steeled herself for a visit to her mother in The Home, were easier now that Ernest went with her, but still difficult despite seeing more of her mother because of Ilene sometimes including her on their walks.

Holding hands, Ernest and Marge made their way to Betty Small’s room, both dreading the pain of the awkwardness and accusations that were sure to come, but what they hadn’t anticipated was that Marge’s mother might have another visitor, but there was Nard, sitting and chatting away with a smiling Betty Small.

“Leonard, what a surprise.”

“Gee, Marge, what a surprise for you to finally respect me enough to use my given name, but please, call me Billy, I just thought I’d cheer up my fiancé, she seemed sad to see me go last time, thinks I’ll never return.”

“OMG, Leonard… I’ve always called you Nard because it suits a peckerhead, but…”

“Agreed, I am a wicked peckerhead, but just now, and maybe for the first time ever, I’m making a young woman happy.”

six sentence story.jpg

Denise’s prompt for Six Sentence Stories this week is “agreed”.  The link up is open on Thursday. This SSS is a continuation of a flurry of Carrot Ranch responses that have continued to tell the tale of Ernest& Marge and their friends and family. This one follows BFF’s. Join the Six Sentence Story gang with your own take that includes the word “agreed”. 

BFF’s

It’s Marge and Ilene with some backstory for the Thanksgiving dinner episode entitled Wielding and Yielding.

***

“Fine! Go on without me, Ilene, you and Betty enjoy your walk.”

“Marge, what’s wrong?”

“Not a thing, go ahead, go be my mother’s old dead friend Ida, I’ll walk on my own without my live friend Ilene. You two have fun.”

“Marge you’re jealous.”

“She always thinks you’re Ida, but I never know who she’ll think I am, just that it’s usually someone she didn’t like.”

“I’m sorry, Marge. Maybe I like doing things with Betty because I miss my own mother.”

“Well, I miss my own mother too, Ilene, the one that answered to Mom, not Betty.”

Wielding and Yielding

working-template-for-ff-challenges731.png

It was Ilene’s idea to include Marge’s senile mother for Thanksgiving.

“Everyone just be whoever she thinks you are. It’ll be fine.”

Fortunately she thought Marge and Ernest were her parents. Marge would wield some power.

“Betty, I think you know everyone.”

“I see Ida brought George.”

Marge smirked. Lloyd was to be her mother’s best friend’s brother; Ilene would have to keep her hands off him.

“Look who’s here.”

Nard spilled his beer when Betty Small embraced him. “Billy! You got leave!”

Marge grinned. “Yes, your fiancé.”

She could have asked Betty to mash the potatoes but didn’t.

***

“Make room on the couch for Betty and Billy,” Marge commanded. “Let them get caught up.” She laughed at Nard’s desperation as he helped her mother to the couch.

“I’m your father?”

“No. Billy didn’t make it back.”

“Oh.”

“She never loved my father as much.”

“Oh.”

When everyone in the crowded single-wide had a full plate Nard, holding Mrs. Small’s hand, spoke.

“Thanks Lord for these friends and all this food. Lord, I’m grateful for Betty, love of my life… I’ll come home,” he promised.

After a moment of astounded silence Ernest coughed ‘amen’ and everyone dug in.

***

“Marge, Ernest- epic. Good food.”

“Thank you Lloyd. I sure do miss my mother’s mashed potatoes though. These are just ok. She did something that made hers….”

“Epic?”

“Yeah, Lloyd, epic. I wish I knew what it was.”

“Marge, these are fine. A little garlic and rosemary wouldn’t of hurt either.”

“Mom?!”

But Marge’s mom was already Betty again, mooning over Nard. Nard’s uniform was just his cleanest Dickies from the dealership, but he was soldiering on in his role.

Leaning against Ernest, Marge smiled gratefully. “My mother hasn’t called me by name in two years.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Marge.”

***

prompt-chomp.png The Carrot Ranch November 8, 2018, prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads.” Go to Carrot Ranch to read Charli’s powerful post, to enjoy more powerful potato stories from the ranch hands, or to submit your own. 

I was led to write three 99 word responses. Then I was led to write another 99 words, BFF that might clarify these episodes. If you like these characters, read more at the Ernest & Marge page

 

Star of the Show

At Carrot Ranch the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo is winding down and the regular weekly prompts have resumed. This week Charli’s November 1, 2018, prompt is to, “in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads.”

The prompt led me back to some characters that I haven’t heard from in a long while, back to the fold. I think I needed this family, needed to return to the comfort of their simpler time and place. Writers are fortunate; we can create gentler settings and kinder characters and happier endings if we choose. But that’s art, always Imitative; that’s not the real work. Our Work as humans is to try and write our own lives through our choices and the characters we surround ourselves with. Our free will is our candle. Choose kind. Be the Light.

 working-template-for-ff-challenges70.png

Star of the Show

Hope made her guess. When her mother had incorrectly guessed Mary, Joseph, wise man, sheep, donkey, cow, inn keeper, and even baby Jesus, Hope finally told her what part she had in the Christmas pageant.

“It was my idea, Mommy! I got them to let me do my idea!”

“What, Hope? What role can possibly be left?”

Hope smiled broadly, her eyes radiating her pleasure. “The star! I’m going to be up on a ladder behind the stable dressed up like the star!”

“Do you have lines to memorize?”

“Nope. I just have to shine.”

“Oh, Hope, you do. You’re a natural.”

“Yup, our Hope is the star of the pageant. You girls get your boots on, let’s go snowshoeing.”

They hadn’t noticed him enter the kitchen, still in his boots, still dressed for outdoors.

“What? Now? It’s so dark out.”

“Maybe I have a surprise for you.”

“Ok. Let’s go, Hope. I’d rather tramp after him in the snow and dark than have to go through guessing again.”

He led them behind the house and up to the top of the meadow where the sugar woods began. Lights from neighboring farms and houses twinkled from the rolling hills that framed the frozen lake that was now an empty blackness in the moonless dark.

Below them they could see the glow from their own kitchen window.

Suddenly the cupola of their high barn lit up, beaming out over the bare trees and snow covered fields. The beams reached across to where they stood in the snowy meadow.

“Daddy! You put a star in the cupola for Christmas!”

“Think I’ll leave it throughout the long dark winter, Hope. We’ll shine our light every night.”

***