Friday, 22 December 2017

Maps and wires, bookmarks and guitar strings

Another twelvemonth passed; another year of exciting writing to look back on and my thanks to every one you for your support.

I’ve been re-reading William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw trilogy this week; a strongly-drawn detective with a philosophical bent, I suspect it is this that warmed me to Dan’s ‘Confessions of a Reaper’ (and if crime is not your thing, there is much more to McIlvanney than his detective fiction). Additionally, I was delighted to have the treat of another episode of jk’s’ Ellis series so these are the final winners of 2017.
Here’s to 2018 – and best wishes to all of you the forthcoming holiday season.

Words to use in the next two weeks:  gutter rime thrift

Entries by midnight Thursday 4th January winners and words posted Friday 5th


Usual rules: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. Serialised fiction is, as always, welcome. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media you prefer.

87 comments:

  1. Congratulations to our final winners of 2017 and what great choices. It has been a magnificent year for magnificent tales. I've enjoyed every moment. Wishing all a safe holiday season and see you all on the flip side.

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    1. Congrats & happy holidays everyone!

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  2. Happy holidays to everyone! May you find peace and goodwill and another perfect 100 words!

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  3. Congratulations, winners, so worthy of the accolade!

    jumping in here to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to all Prediction people, especially Sandra, may 2018 be better for you all round. I'm improving all the time, hope to be back and playing before the closing date, I have 4 days off the shop before we start a major revamp, new lighting, new stock. Well, we can dream, can't we? that it will be done in time to open in the New Year?????

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  4. It’s not a job, it’s a profession.

    The writer tried to get his mind out of the ice rimed gutter. There was no need for lurid behavior or profanity for the sake of profanity’s sake, especially around the holidays. Why not write about a curious child or a thrifty chauffeur on his day off. But no, the writer’s mind went southward, into the nether regions of humanity, the dredges of society, to a back alley in Las Vegas behind a strip club. So he dismissed curiosity and thriftiness and wrote: The crack whore removed her teeth and smiled at the young man who smiled back despite his apprehensions.

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    1. An excellent glimpse into a writer's mind, and love the story within the story! That final line is brilliant.

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    2. That's good! Stories within stories, clever stuff.

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    3. That's just how writing works, isn't it? Words emergng from the nether regions of our brain.

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    4. This was so imaginative and an absolute joy to read. Loved how the "writer's mind" decided to take the so-called low road.

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  5. Frozen

    Her skin glistens in the radiant, unbound light, rime-coated flesh indistinguishable from the snow. Brown hair fans around her, and curls over the buttoned collar of a thrifted, sickly green coat. It reminds me of the threadbare sofa at gram’s house, pointedly sheathed in plastic.

    Byron stomps up beside me, cursing as his foot slides in the icy snow. “Another one,” he says, his rage clear as he stares into the gutter. She looks like his daughter.

    “We’ll catch him,” I say. The certainty is a rock in my gut. I’ve been careful, but nothing good lasts forever.

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    1. Ooh, this is good. You don't mention (and it works well that you didn't) that the two living characters are cops, but I'm certain they are, one of them being less virtuous than the other.

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    2. By the way... I just ordered Unusual Diction. I look forward to reading some flash fiction.

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    3. Thanks John! I hope you enjoy it. :)

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    4. this is writing without 'telling' us everything and is perfect, we know what's going on, we don't need the details, how many times do I say this to wannabe writers who send me stories laden with info dumps? Wish they would come here and read the class fiction!

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    5. Teasing the reader with half-glimpsed snippets. That - and delicious phraseology - is how to best ensnare them.

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    6. So much room for speculation. Like John, I love that the identity of the two major characters are somewhat left to the imagination. I'd like to know more of this pair.

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  6. Ellis 015

    Jasper had sneaked to the old gypsy caravan when I was sick one winter, I was twelve. It was a quarantine measure, putting me out there, to stop the rest of us getting influenza. It was quite cosy inside, with old quilts and blankets that spoke of love and history more than thrift, and in the fat guttering candlelight (and fever), I was warm.
    Jasper picked his way across the rimed yard, supposed to deposit the soup at the door for me, but he came inside and stayed with me. Ghost stories now, they always make me remember that cosiness.

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    1. Despite the setting of the sickhouse, this was really touching and uplifting. Nicely done.

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    2. Very enjoyable, however I sense a darker outcome. I fear poor Jasper maybe the ghost in this story. Influence the reward for his kindness. No good deed...
      Nicely Done.

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    3. oh yes, plenty to speculate on here, which I like! Very well done.

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    4. You've implanted a gleeful anticipation of a variety of outcomes, none of them especially pristine. Especially appreciated 'old quilts and blankets that spoke of love and history.'

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    5. Beautifully descriptive. Gives the mind's eye so much to devour and enjoy. Thoroughly appreciated the flashback. Sequences such as those are a particular favourite of mine.

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    6. Beautifully descriptive with a coziness I can feel as I read.

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    7. Wow thank you all for the feedback! :)

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  7. The Adventures of Rosebud, Pirate Princess #109
    Unexpected Leisure


    When we woke up this morning the weather gods had rimed Natasha’s sails. Luckily they also sent a bright, clear morning, so I think we’ll just stay here for a bit. We’re in a lovely little clearing, full of purple thrift and violets. It’s a bit rocky, but the rocks form handy gutters around us. I think I’ll start the laundry while we’re melting.

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    1. Short and sweet and told with efficient crispness, like the perfect apple.

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    2. This was a gentle and reflective peek into Rosebud's realm, which is always fascinating. I loved the down-to-earth laundry reference at the end.

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    3. Loved the imagery of the phrase 'weather gods had rimed Natasha's sails', and the title is perfect for the everyday laundry at the end. :)

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  8. The perfect title for this story. I can feel Rosie's contentedness. Those weather gods sent some chilling temps my way this morning. Brrr.

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    1. a lovely little glimpse into another world. Nice one.

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  9. DEEPER
    Jerry Gaither

    The noise coming from the sewer in front of the thrift store made Michael pause.
    A mewling sound. Like something crying.
    Did someone toss their baby into the gutter? Or perhaps an animal? He tried looking into the hole, but it was too dark. Fear prickled his skin as the sound came again, making him feel as if his soul was rimed with ice.
    For a moment he thought he should just leave and mind his own business. Using his cellphone light, he peered deeper within.
    Something was moving.
    As the tentacles lashed out, he barely had time to scream.

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    1. good to see you here, Jerry, and this is one nice little piece of flash horror. Thanks! A very good read.

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    2. Not sure whether you're Jerry or RJ, but welcome. This nasty little tale the stuff of nightmares.

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    3. And that's what comes of poking one's nose where it shouldn't go. I gather you are a newcomer here? If so, magnificent debut and if not, then my apologies. Either way, please come back often and deliver more spine-chilling treats.

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    4. I've always been leery about gutters, so I definitely felt the nervous curiosity of the character!

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    5. Thanks! It's a pleasure to have discovered this little corner of the web. It's Jerry (RJ is off my email which I used to sign in here).

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  10. Cripplegate Junction/Part 126 - Poetic Justice
    (97 Words)

    The Wendy House boasted but one bookshelf which held only two books: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (John Tenniel, Illustrator) and Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Gustave Doré, Illustrator).

    As a boy, Clive Bailey had found Coleridge's poem particularly unnerving. This splendid edition was unopened and pristine, unlike the volume of Alice, obviously tattered thrift shop merchandise worth no more than threepence at most.

    The candle next to the kitten figurine blazed to life and guttered as the Station Master rested a hand on Clive's shoulder.

    "Been wearing that albatross about your neck for very long, old chap?"

    --------------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/cripplegate.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site. Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    1. a very good last line there, wrapping up the scene setting perfectly.

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    2. As Antonia says, the entire scene grounded by that final, portentous question.

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    3. I loved the description of the contrasting books, and how it helped add to the atmosphere of the scene. I must admit I jumped a little at the Station Master's appearance. :)

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  11. Differences Of Opinion

    He calls it being thrifty.
    She calls it miserly.

    He tries to help the kids who live on the streets.
    She refers to them as worthless guttersnipes.

    He considers the hair at his temples to be rime-kissed frosting.
    She thinks he's simply going grey as the proverbial badger.

    He openly denounces assisted suicide to end suffering.
    She secretly embraces mercy killing and mixes a lethal cocktail.


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    1. Thing here mover further and faster than anticipated - succinctly-told.

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    2. Love the contrast between the two characters and the climb to that final line. I also loved the imagery of the phrase 'rime-kissed frosting'. Lovely!

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  12. Change of focus [263]

    Like didn’t always attract. He’d just as often bedded women whose temperament was widely at odds with his, whose differences rendered him spendthrift with self-preservation. There’d been those he’d willingly allowed to drag him to gutters of depravity; others whose clean sweet innocence he’d treated as challenge and, without losing humanity had helped them muddy theirs, not necessarily earning their gratitude.
    But he’d never – he was certain – delivered anything close to that rime of freeze-spiked terror which he felt enclose his brain and his balls when, on waking beside her this morning, she smiled and whispered, ‘Good morning, brother John.’

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    1. Nasty and disgusting. Nice job!

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    2. not sure I can better Dan's comment!

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    3. "Freeze-spiked terror" indeed. This was very pictorial in nature and I could easily see it as part of a "Twilight Zone" anthology or something similar.

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    4. Oh the horror wrapped up in those final two lines! 'Rime of freeze-spiked terror' is lovely, and I agree with Patricia about it reminding me of something you might see in the Twilight Zone.

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  13. Kursaal (Episode One Hundred One) - "The Amorous Affairs Of Arbuthnot Jester/Part Eight"

    Wallowing in the lovelorn gutter was a unique experience for Arbuthnot Jester. His natural romantic exuberance resurfaced, however, thanks to Primrose Lee's restorative skills. Soon, liaison with Manasa was virtually forgotten.

    Never thrifty with his affections, Arby now seriously courted Primrose, the intensity of their smouldering desire rumoured to have melted several of the elixirologist's rime-encrusted Samhain Faeries. But, to Primrose's dismay, Arby's devotion waned as his appreciative roving eye wandered. Not unexpected (given Arby's reputation) but disconcerting nonetheless...and humiliating.

    Already, there had been smirks and titters...suggestive nods and meaningful winks.

    It wouldn't do.

    It wouldn't do at all.

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale, please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/kursaal.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site. Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    1. definitely would not do, but what - what is the result of this brooding going to mean...

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    2. I wait with bated breath for Primrose's revenge ...

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    3. I'm curious how this will play out. I loved the result of their 'smouldering desire' with the melted faeries. Laughed aloud!

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  14. Flush

    The gutters and drains freeze in winter. Income is sporadic so I am obliged to be thrifty when it comes to upkeep of the premises. I usually wait until spring, when finances have significantly improved, to call in maintenance. Works to my advantage. By then, the rime thaw will have diluted the blood.

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    1. Loved it. Short, sweet, and bloody. I picture Sweeney Todd.

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    2. Short, sweet and nasty, to be sure! That final line is brilliant.

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  15. Cold Front

    Bitter winds clear the gutter of leaves long before the first snowflake falls.
    “Momma, I hear we’re getting’ a big storm tonight,”
    “Dat right?”
    Windows rattle, the rime covered glass shaking in the frame and breaking off layers of old paint. Thrifty tentacles seep through the cracks and swirl around her neck, turning the old woman to see the wonders developing outside.
    “Weatherman says we could get 30 inches.”
    “Honeychile, I’ve lived here mah entire life and we don’t ever git snow in Georgia.”
    Flurries kaleidoscope against the window. A crack, loader than a glacier calving, isn’t enough warning.

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    1. nothing like being in denial! Clever build up of weather against the protestations it issn't going to happen.

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    2. Especially enchanted by 'Flurries kaleidoscope against the window'

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    3. Nice use of dialogue to set the scene. And then that final clincher. I fear for the future of "Momma" and "Honeychile." So well written as to draw one totally into the tale.

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    4. Excellent atmosphere in this piece. I'm worried about what's in store for the characters.

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  16. The Mad Italian 36.
    There is no rime or reason why the politicians should spout their Christmas thoughts to the populace who know well half their minds are in the gutter anyway. But thrift with words was never their way. See a platform, take it, use it, no matter what rubbish comes from their mouths. I chose rime rather than rhyme, for there is no warmth in anything they say, nor will there ever be. They count their pounds and stocks and shares before breakfast and work at the business of increasing it all day, at cost to the country they ‘chose’ to serve.

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    1. Well chosen words and aptly written. This is my favorite lesson (so far) from The Mad Italian.

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    2. Words chosen with scalpel-sharp care.

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    3. Magnificent use of the prompts and that use of "rime rather than rhyme" and the reasoning behind it was inspirational.

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    4. Patricia called out my favorite line - "rime rather than rhyme".

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  17. still no stand alones... sorry! Concentration on such things is escaping me. Not yet been signed off by the docs, I have to go back Monday to discuss the large swelling with the doc. I'm saying it's not yet a month since the operation so give me time, they're saying 'we want to keep an eye on it.' All well and good but the trek there and the trek back...

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    1. Good luck at the doctor's office, Antonia. I appreciate the inconvenience of having to trek back and forth, but better safe than sorry.

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  18. Local philanthropy

    When the dormitory door latch lifted we all of us, kneeling night-clad beside our beds, swayed slightly, the effect that of a guttering of candles, but more tight-massed than the thrift this place permitted.
    Such visitations had become more frequent at night. Darkness, the excuse to travel heavy-cloaked through the ice-rimed landscape prevented recognition and this winter had depleted funds to something below sustenance.
    We were being sold cheap and, as was becoming apparent, treated as disposable. The man silhouetted at the door tonight I recognised from the knotted thickness of the stick he leant on.
    Tonight he summoned me.

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    1. "Recognised from the knotted thickness of the stick he leant on" is probably the most outstanding image of the wonderful pictorials offered this week. To say nothing of: "Tonight he summoned me." Shivers and chills galore!!!

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    2. So much strong imagery in this piece. Loved the description of the girls (assuming) as they swayed 'the effect...a guttering of candles'.

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  19. Housekeeping [Threshold 191]

    Lant watched the entire operation, one claw-like fingernail probing at the gutters between his teeth, extracting a thickness of green rime that suggested a diet of undiluted kale and flicking it onto the floor.
    I noted where and mentally identified equipment for my next task: mop and bucket of hot water, thick with bleach and disinfectant. I trusted Raven’s grandmother did not practice thrift in her kitchen.
    I re-settled Raven best I could within the bed then faced Lant, but before I could speak he straightened, raised a hand in salute to both of us, ‘I’ll be back.’
    And went.

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    1. And, meant in the most flattering way, what a sickening image you conjured there with the fingernail and the teeth gutters and the green rime and undiluted kale...and I could go on and on. Lant said he'll be back. Hopefully he has gone to find a toothbrush?

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    2. Disgustingly vivid, but absolutely perfect for this character. :)

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  20. Glad to see you still have the flash going. Been over a year I guess since I last visited. Anyway, here's my entry. 100 words

    A rime of hoarfrost encircled open lips. Breath came in short and thrifty gasps as his body began to shut down. Harry did not notice the cold of the stone gutter seeping through his freezing blood and cloth of his tattered coat.. His body had begun to shut down.

    The day’s light faded. No life flashed before his eyes, no moments of self recrimination. Harry accepted his fate calmly, wishing only that Death would find him before the secret creatures of the back alleys did.

    Two shadows closed in. “Good. Still breathing ………… Forget the saw, hand me the cleaver.”

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    1. And back with an especially nasty vengeance - welcome indeed!

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    2. I did NOT see that coming. Talk about shock value. Ye Gods!!! Shades of Burke and Hare, I think. Nicely done. And welcome back.

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    3. A chilling, thrilling piece with horrors just beginning. Loved the imagery of that first phrase 'rime of hoarfrost encircled open lips'.

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  21. Influenced by a verbal exchange with the kids that bully my daughter.

    A Critics Choice

    She’s a bride of the gutter, of that there’s no doubt,
    when she opens her mouth a sewer spills out.
    She has no thrift in her delivery of hate,
    she finds every reason to remain Irate.
    Her verbal assaults hold nothing benign,
    she carves out folk’s hearts leaving an icy Rime.

    Look under the violence there’s a human defeated,
    she only behaves in the way she’s been treated.
    It’s no excuse, but explain’s her behaviour.
    Now here is my choice, to condemn, or to save her.

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    1. What a constructive way to channel the issue, William. Bullying has always been a problem but in these days of social media, there's no way a victim of bullying can escape and enjoy a little peace even in their own home. I'm glad your daughter has you to come to. It's so important that someone listen. I do hope for the best and try to hold onto the fact that nothing lasts forever. Anyway, I cannot praise your poem too highly and it brings a great sense of inspiration and hope.

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    2. Poignant and sad, but hopeful, as Patricia stated. Bullying is such a terrible thing.

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  22. Here's a late second story just because I always write on Thursdays.

    The Adventures of Rosebud, Pirate Princess #110
    Frost Action


    The gods also rimed the water bucket, so that laundry will have to wait until I find the sledgehammer. I think it’s under the spare galoshes in the side cupboard. I’ve not been in there since that time the castle’s gutters burst and I had to climb a flooded parapet. That’s why you don’t buy gutters at thrift stores. The new ones are much better.
    Oh, there’s the sledgehammer.

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  23. ... and a lovely continuation of Rosebud's domestics concerns - thank you.

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