Sunday, May 31, 2020


Watching Vevo pop music. Stuff i dont hear on the radio here.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Money From A Car Window

  An excerpt from Growing Up Without WiFi

Money Form A Car Window
by J. Smith Kirkland
 I was the youngest of three kids. My dad made a respectable living as a machinist. We were not rich, but we were certainly richer than many of my friends’ families. I was never in need, and seldom in want. We had a nice house. I had my own room. I had toys to play with. We didn’t have a new car, but we had a car. I knew that I would have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some of my friends knew that school lunch might be all they had that day. I never had to worry about food, clothing, shelter, or love.
But I remember this one evening, as we all drove home from somewhere, I was listening from the back seat as my parents were talking about needing to buy milk and bread. They could stop at the ‘Milk Jug’ just up the road, but it wasn’t payday yet and they didn’t have any money. Now this is before everyone had credit cards, and debit cards, and after the time when you could ask the store owner to just put it on your account until payday. So, no money; no milk and bread. This was also a time when you could get milk and bread both with less than a dollar. So, my parents really had NO money until payday.
Then, just as my parents were conceding that it would just have to wait, my dad gets all excited, “Did you see that?” Something had flown out of the window of the car in front of us, and he was pretty sure it was money. Now if anyone could spot money flying from the window of a car going 50 miles an hour, it would be my dad. Actually, not only did he spot the money in flight, he turned around, went back, stopped the car, and found a dollar bill in the weeds on the side of the road.
Now like I said before, I never had to worry about food, clothing, or shelter. It was not that we would all go to bed hungry if we didn’t get the milk and bread that evening. It would just have been convenient if we could get the milk and bread now, while we were already near a store, and if we didn’t have to wait until payday and the check could be cashed.
So it was no miraculous feeding of the multitude with 40 loaves and fishes, but it was a moment that I will always remember. An incident that still reverberates in my thoughts whenever I start to think, “how will I ever pay off this credit card?” or “What if this job ends in August?” Whenever those kinds of worry start clogging up the synapses, I think, “pennies from heaven, dollars from car windows, consider the lilies of the fields, and remember the dollar in the weeds.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Have you ever seen the rain

And listening to the young Nelson, made me have to go listen to Willie

Lucas Nelson and POTR

Before I knew his name, I said he sounds like Willie Nelson.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 26

Witching Hours
by J. Smith Kirkland

Sleep should not be interrupted. Dreams should not be transformed then cut short by intruding noises from the woken world. The witching hours are no time for the mundane chores of the living. But the beep beep beep that woke him at 3am was not Howard's alarm clock, or the cawing of the bird that flew into his previously pleasant dream. It was the garbage truck at the apartment building across the alley. The beeping was followed by clanging and crashing noises as the robotic arms violently shook content of the dumpsters into the truck. Surely there was a city noise ordinance that said garbage trucks could not run at 3am.

Howard tried to go back to sleep, but the refrigerator's steady hum that could have lulled him back to slumber was accompanied by an irregular grumbling that sounded like the fridge was carrying on a conversation, like a television in the next room that was loud enough to hear but not comprehend the words. So he watched through the roundtop over his window as the tree limbs swayed in the wind. It was a hypnotic motion, relaxing. He imagined a soft summer breeze. But it was not enough to put him back to sleep.

He decided to go outside and feel the breeze while staring at the stars. But when actually following through with that, he found the stars were hidden by clouds, and the breeze was hot, not cool or even warm, and not relaxing at all. And the cicadas were louder than the wind. Their harmony comes as the ribs of the tymbal buckle one after the other when the cicada flexes its muscles. This creates clicks that blend into a buzz. Unfortunately there were no cicadas this year, and their ringing was just his tennitus acting up.

He went back to bed, but before he could doze off again he heard the workmen coming into the apartment above. They have been arriving all week just 15 minutes before his alarm rings. He goes ahead and turns the alarm off. No need for it this morning; the saws and drills and hammers will start soon. Might as well go to work.

The commute to work was from the bed to the desk in the living room, with a quit stop by the kitchen to fix a bowl of cereal. But this morning he was out of milk. So he just grabbed a rice crispy bar and a cola instead. He plopped down in his desk chair. It made a horrific screeching noise. He intended to fix that, but he would check his email first, and then it would be time for the morning video chat. So he would always put off investigating what part exactly was screeching.

He spends the day reading and creating documents, browsing the internet for ideas, and watching people on the video chat that have much more to say about nothing than he does. He watches them as the drone on, convinced that all of them are only looking at themselves on the screen while they talk. Adjusting their hair, their clothes, repositioning themselves for better lighting, trying to stretch their necks upward because they never realized how saggy their neck skin was getting. The word like sounds coming from the speaker seems unattached to the grid of faces that look like some live motion Andy Warhol work.

Finally the work day end. Exhausted from no sleep the night before, he goes to be early. He sleeps well, and wakes up before the alarm clock. However, it was much earlier than the alarm. It was again 3am. He is wide awake. Might as well watch a movie. Maybe that will put him back to sleep. There is a marathon of old spooky movies so he starts to watch one of those. It is something about witches or ghost. He imagines all the people in these movies are long dead, it's like ghosts acting in a ghost story. He doesn't really pay attention. His mind wonders from the screen and he decides he will see if he can figure out what is making his chair produce that horrid noise. He walks over to the chair and pushes the seat down several times to recreate the screech. He still can't tell where exactly it emanates from. He pushes it several more times. Screech. Screech. Screech. The woman's voice on the movie playing behind him catches his ear.

Sleep should not be interrupted.

“I will agree with that,” he says back to the movie.

Dreams should not be transformed then cut short by intruding noises from the woken world.

“Tell that to the garbage man.”

Howard, the witching hours are no time for the mundane chores of the living.

“Well the chair squeaks.”

It took a beat for him to realize she said Howard. He turns to look at the screen. The woman from the movie is staring at him. Well, at the camera he tells himself.

“Howard, why are you awake at this hour.”

He does not reply, and she changes her expression to indicate she expects an answer.



“Yes, you. There's no one else there making that terrible noise with the chair. It's loud enough to wake the dead, no doubt the neighbors.”

He looks at the chair. It is a terrible noise. He looks back the the screen, but the woman that was on it, is now standing in front of it. He jumps back, almost falling over the chair.

“Who are you?”

“You didn't even bother to read the opening credits?”


“Starring Vivian Meyers,” she says grandly, then adds quickly and bitterly, “and Richard what's his name.”

“You're the woman in the movie?”

“Are you really this dense all day long, or is it just the lack of sleep making you annoy me?”

Howard thinks he must have fallen a sleep during the movie and this is all a dream. Even if there were ghost, how would one get off of the internet and into his living room.

“How did you get here?”

“I told you, that symphony of torturous noise you are making with that chair can wake the dead.”

“I was going to fix it.”

“Go. To. Bed. Howard.”


Still convinced he is dreaming, he thinks he will go to bed, close his eyes, and wake up to the sound of his alarm.

“And as you go, turn off this movie thing. I'm not going back in there with Richard.”


“Turn. It. Off. You are so dense?”

He clicks the remote and the image on the screen fades to black. The woman is still there.

“I thought you would go away when I turned it off. You know, back into the movie ghost world.”

“Why would I do that?”

She looks around the room.

“It's a bit of a dump, but I think I will stay awhile.”

“Ok. Whatever you want. Goodnight.”

He goes to his bedroom and lays down. Just a dream. He closes his eye, and anticipates waking up to the alarm.


He jerks up in bed. She is standing at the end of it.

“Does that machine play other movies? I don't like the one with Richard, but does it play The Clock Strikes Seven? I like that one. The young man that starred with me in that one was,” she hesitates, “very talented.”

Howard is starting to think this isn't a dream.

“Howard. Are you even listening?”

“Sure. I'll see if it's on.”

He turns on the monitor, and searches for 'clock strikes seven.' It's there. He clicks play and it starts. She is mesmerized by the opening credits. The music is a symphony. There is her name. The credits cut to her standing on a widows walk, looking out to sea. The misty wind blows through her hair. A mournful moon reflect on the waves that she searches over.

Howard watches the movie and becomes consumed by it as the plot unfolds. She has already met the leading man before Howard realizes she is no longer in the room. She must be back in the movie. He reaches for the remote, thinking he will leave her there, and not in his living room. But before he can click it, she is standing in front of him.


She reaches out her hand. And holds his on the remote. She looks at him much softer than she did earlier. She leans in, places her hand on his face, and kisses him on the cheek. A soft, cold kiss. It felt like an icy wind caressing his face. He closed his eyes.”

“Thank you.”

When he opened his eyes, she was back in the movie, playing her role. Then she looked at the camera.

“Now turn it off and go to bed.”

Howard smiled, raised the remote to the monitor, and clicked. Right before the power left the monitor, he heard her voice one last time.

“Oh, and I fixed your chair. Terrible noise.”

Howard laughed. He pushed the chair up and down several time. No squeak.

From his bed, he could see the stars through the round top. The sound of the fridge was too distant now to concern him. The cicadas in his ear simply became part of the music from the opening credits to The Clock Strikes Seven that was replaying in his head as he fell asleep and dreamed of Vivian and a happy ending to the movie.

The Prompt

Make list of 10 things that you noticed about your day already.
Even if you woke up at 4 am there are certainly things you noticed.
Try to be as precise and sensory as possible and try to avoid metaphor.
And then, at the end, connect those pieces together to make a story.

Things I noticed.
  1. Garbage truck for our place gets here at 9am, not 3am like the one for the building next door. Beep beep beep clang rattle clunk beep beep beep.
  2. They are doing construction in the apartment upstairs, saws, hammer, drills.
  3. I am out of milk
  4. my fridge is really loud, a steady hum with an irregular grumble, almost like it is talking.
  5. there are dishes in the living room I forgot to put in the dishwasher before I ran it last night
  6. I think people spend the entire video chat meeting looking at themselves on the screen
  7. the cicada in my ear (the tennitus ringings) is louder than the fridge this morning.
  8. My desk chair screeches when I adjust my weight or direction.
  9. I can watch the tree limbs outside my window saying in the wind, relaxing.
  10. went outside to feel the breeze, it was a hot breeze, not relaxing at all.

Story A Day Framework

Movies I watched Recently

This are not your block buster movies. They are weird and sad and funny. I like them. Nice to be living in a time when movies that are not necessarily for mass appeal can be seen instead of killed by the critics and never enjoyed by those of us that don't want to see action films, another disney princess, or a bad remake of something we liked the first time.

disclaimer: rotten tomatoes and i rarely agree.,0,675,1000_AL_.jpg,0,674,1000_AL_.jpg,0,674,1000_AL_.jpg

Monday, May 25, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 25

by J. Smith Kirkland

I weighed this against the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid, and I went ahead anyway. Regimen has never been my thing. I knew I could never complete it, but I made it all the way to day twenty-one before my old habits took hold. Day twenty-two I started up again. Then twenty-three and twenty-four, complete relapse. But day 26, I decided to pick myself up and keep going. I know it's like exercise and dieting. You can't really gorge yourself and sit on the couch for two days and then make up for it by starving yourself and doing three times as much exercise on the third day, but here I am. And that's why this day 25 story is a one paragraph 157 word autobiography of the last few days; I got something written for the Day 23 and 24 prompts, and now it's late and I am out of words. Good night.

The Prompt

I weighed this against the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid, and I went ahead anyway.”

Story A Day Framework

STory A Day In May - Story 24

Wednesday Night Ghost Story
by J. Smith Kirkland

He met his true love in the middle of a field of tombstones. She just walked up to him and asked if he always ate his lunch in a cemetery. He replied, “on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” Which was a half truth; he also ate there on Mondays and Fridays, but he was afraid she would think that was weird.

Wednesdays I eat in the park. There's a concert there at lunch on Wednesdays. But this is sorta like a park. Landscaping and flowers. Sculptures. And not many people.”

Well, not many live ones I guess.”

She smiled. He smiled back.

My name is Harry.”


She stayed and talked with him as he ate his lunch. She agreed with his thought of the cemetery being like a park. And she said she loved reading the tombstones because each one had a story to tell, even if you had to make it up yourself. He offered her half of his sandwich. She asked if it had mayo on it. He said it did, and she said that she would rather die. He fell for her that first day.

It didn't take her long to catch on that he was there 4 days a week, not just Tuesdays and Thursday, because she was there those days too. They started looking at the tombstones together, taking turns making up elaborate stories about them. Some funny, some sad.

Why don't you come with me to the concert on Wednesday?”

I would say it sounds fun, but I hate crowds.”

I get that. Why do you think I eat my lunch here. But I like the music, and the food trucks. But I would enjoy your company more.”

She smiled, “What we should do is meet here on Wednesday after you get off work.”

And that began the Wednesday evening ghost stories. Instead of just making up stories about the tombstones, on Wednesday evenings they would talk about who the people buried there would haunt and why.

One Wednesday he suggested going to one of the old crypts to get names for their story that evening. She didn't like the idea.

Why not, they must have great stories.”

Their names are on the inside wall. You can't see them even in the daytime.”

I have a great flashlight app on my phone,” he counters.

He convinces her to go look, but she is certain it will be a futile attempt.

You'll never be able to read them, but we can make up names I guess.”
He is illuminating the little room with his cellphone as he peers through the bars on the door's window.

I can almost make it out Wendell Hastings. 30 March 1853 to 29 July 1890. And Gwendolyn Cartwright 30 March 1853 to 29 July 1890. Wow. Same birth and death days. That must be a story.”

He turned to tell her, “And she has your name,” but Gwen was gone. He looked in every direction. She was no where. He walked around the crypts to see if she was exploring the other side. But she was gone.

He waited longer than his usual lunch break on Thursday, but Gwen never showed. Not on Friday eiher, or the next Monday or Tuesday. Harry didn't know what to think. She didn't want to go to the crypt for some reason, but that was no reason just leave without saying anything, and then to ghost him like that.

Doubting she would show, he went the the cemetery on Wednesday after work. He sat on a bench where they often sat and talked. He waited for about an hour, and was about to leave when he heard Gwen's voice behind him.

I know their story.”

She sat down next to him like every other Wednesday, and began her ghost story like nothing had happened. He did not question her. He figured he could do that after her story.

They were twins. They were inseparable growing up. He was an artist, and she a writer. when they turned twenty they went together to Paris to study. They met Henri Raymond, Vincent Van Gogh, Hendrik Andersen, and Claude Monet. They hung out at coffee shops with Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and Edgar Poe. They both found welcoming friends that encouraged their respective pursuits. Oscar was the first person to ever call her Gwen. Ernest refused that saying Gwedolyn was a more fitting name for such a brilliant young woman.

She me a man named Cartwright, and against the advice of Henry and Oscar, she married him. I should have listened. He became an abusing drunk.”

Harry didn't catch that first use of first person, but as she continued, he began to understand, and to worry that she might be too caught up in her own story.

One night, with a black eye and a bloody lip, I ran to Hendrik's home, where my brother was staying. They took me in.”

Her eyes were tearing up. Harry put his arm around her.

But Cartwright came looking for me. He was going to drag his property home. My brother stepped in. They started arguing. Cartwright tried to push his way into the house. Wendell shoved him back to the road. Then Cartwright pulled a gun. He killed my brother.”

Harry wasn't sure what to do. He just pulled her closer as she cried. When she could speak again, she looked at him, “So I know their story. And it's hard to remember it.”

Did Cartwright shoot Gwendolyn too? She died the same day as Wendell.”

No. I was in the back room. They said I collapsed at the same time my brother hit the ground. But I don't remember. I just know everything went black, and one day I was here. And Wendell wasn't. I don't know why I am here, but I know he found peace. I always knew when he was happy or sad. I know he's happy.”

Harry thought for a moment, “So this means my girlfriend is a ghost?”

I'm your girl friend? And you're okay with a ghost girlfriend?””

Well the whole dislike of mayonnaise made it touch and go there for a while, but if I can live with that, I am sure the ghost part is something I can work around.”

She smiled.

The Prompt

Opening Line: “She met her true love in the middle of a field of tombstones.” 

Michele says: I love cemeteries. They have so many stories, so many characters. I find them comforting.
So it does not have to be a scary story, although it can be. It could be the story of people who are interred there.
Their pre life doesn’t have to have a connection to the cemetery. That could just be the starting point.
It could be people who meet there because they are mourning the loss of someone.
Could be your traditional zombie story, horror story mystery story as well.
But I’m just drawn to the idea of cemeteries as places for stories.

Story A Day Framework

boy meets girl, in a graveyard
fall in love
she reveals she is a ghost
happy ever after

Story A Day In May - Story 23

The Missing Stuff
by J. Smith Kirkland

He took the note from his coat pocket. The instruction were clear. He had to collect the three item by 6pm, and take them to the person that wrote the note. The ramification for not completing this task was not spelled out in the note, but it didn't have to be.

It was colder than usual for this time of year. As he moved down the sidewalk, he noticed he was not the only one affected by the cold. everyone was bundled up in thick coats and gloves. Too cold for normal civilities. People just rushed passed without smiling or even nodding.

He knew where to get the stuff, and navigated he way through the crowd in the establishment towards his goal. There seemed to be more people there than usual. Or maybe it just felt that way because he was in a rush and they all seemed to be getting in his way on purpose.

Once he started looking around, it didn't take him long to realize he was not going to be making his purchase there. Something was off. All these people. He didn't like it. He made his way to the door, trying to slide past the door guy without appearing too obvious.

He knew a guy over on Main Street that would have the same stuff. And maybe without all the people.

He walks in and addresses the guy he knows, “Hey.”


“Look, I need this stuff.”

He showed John the list.

“Sorry man, can't help you.”

“But what am I supposed to do?

“You should have been here yesterday. Look, there's a place on Shallowford. A guy I know there says you might be in luck. Just walk up to the door and tell him I sent you.”

He found the place. Little building with a sliding glass door. A guy hanging out in the doorway. He took a breath and walked towards the door. There was a man that got there before him. He heard the man say he wanted the same three things. He would have thought nothing of that if this were not the third place he had been to. This seemed like more than a coincident.

He wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but he heard the man say, “Yeah, the weather app says the snow will probably his around midnight. The roads will be bad in the morning. You know they'll close the school.”

So that was it. Snow was predicted, no wonder he can't find milk, bread, and eggs.

The guy at the register replied, “You know they will. I heard it may be 1 to 2 inches. But at least you can make french toast in the morning.”

The Prompt

Write outside your comfort zone with a random genre, weather type, and errand. (see below)
When you are stuck for new ideas, working from specific suggestions can open up new possibilities. They can also take you out of your normal way of working and help you explore different approaches. You never know what sort of story will result.
Roll a die for each category. (Don’t have a physical die? Google can do that for you.)
Then, write a story in your genre, with the particular type of weather and errand.
(Bonus: choose a favourite childhood character as your main character.)

  1. mystery
  2. romance
  3. fantasy
  4. political satire
  5. science fiction
  6. thriller
  1. snowstorm
  2. light rain
  3. heat wave
  4. extreme cold
  5. strong wind
  6. sunny and warm
  1. buy groceries
  2. return library books
  3. make a bank deposit
  4. pick up a child from an extracurricular activity
  5. deliver a birthday present
  6. renew a piece of government identification

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Magic of belle island

Just watched this instead of writing tonight.
It's about a writer, so I think that counts for something.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 22

The Question
by J. Smith Kirkland

A long time ago, in a far away world, there was a man names Ed.
Because Ed was a wise man, people would come to him with questions.
Carefully, he would consider their queries.
Delighted, they would receive his answers.
Every now and then, someone would ask something he would have to think about for a few days.
For these kinds of questions, he would need to contemplate.
Going to the mountain was his usual choice.
However, when his girlfriend Zoe asked him one question he decided to go instead to the shore.
In a couple of days, he was still uncertain of his answer.
Just when he was about to give up and go back to the village, a storm rolled in.
Knowing he would not make it back before the storm, he stayed in the house on the beach.
Looking out at the approaching storm, he wondered if his wisdom had left him.
Many times he had watched storms roll in from the sea.
Never had he seen one that did not inspire him.
Only this time, it only filled him with doubt.
Perhaps after another nights sleep his mind would be clearer.
Questions haunted his dreams.
Reality slips away in dreams to another realm.
Somewhere between the two, Ed heard a voice
The voice said, “The answer is clear.”
“Unless you open your eyes now, you will forget.”
Very quickly, Ed sat up in bed.
Without hesitation he ran back to the village.
Xaman Ek, the god of the North Star, could not have concluded a better answer than what he gave Zoe.
“You should wear the red shoes with that dress.”
Zoe sighed ,” No I think the black ones look better.”

The Prompt

Be playful.
Playfulness can open up an expanse in confinement.
So… write a story in 26 sentences, with each sentence beginning with a sequential letter of the alphabet, starting with “A.”

Story A Day Framework

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 20

i didn't do a framework on this one. I wrote the first few lines. down to "Time to go". Then wrote the dialog between John and Inviso Woman, and then jumped back to the top. 

Mighty Man
by J. Smith Kirkland

It was time for John to leave for his community service.

What if I just don't show up,” he thought, “If he just left town, how could these super heros that are supposed to be keeping me honest even know.”

Just then a knock on the door. John opens it to find a very tall, muscular man wearing a black unitard and red running shorts.

You must be John,” the man says.

And you must be kidding me?”

I am indeed not. I am Mighty Man, and I have been assigned to ensure that you make it to community service. Time to go.”

Community service was packing care packages to be sent to people that needed them. Four hours a day, for the next five days. Then another assignment the next week, for two months. This was going to suck. John was determined he was going to find a way to skip town.

Mighty Man walked with John to the care center, where a man named George met them at the door. Before leaving, Mighty Man told John to remember he was under surveillance by the Super Hero team, and he can not leave town. Then George led John into the center for the first days work.

Each day John came up with a new idea for sneaking out of town. The first one was to just get in his truck about midnight and drive off. When he pressed on the gas to pull out, the car didn't move. He saw Mighty Man in the rear view mirror, holding up the back of the truck with one hand, just enough that the wheels didn't touch. Everything he tried was somehow thwarted by Mighty Man. But John would com up with another idea the next day.

By the end of the third week, John was running out of ideas. That Saturday he decided he would try looking like he had given up, and then just when he had them thinking he was gong home, he'd high tail it the other direction. He went grocery shopping that afternoon, then back to the House. That would make it look like he had plans to stay since he bought all the groceries. Then he went out to dinner and back to the house. After a few minutes he went to the movies. When he came out of the movie, his intention was to drive towards the house, but make a fast sharp turn onto the interstate before he got there.

John opened his truck door, but as he was about to get in the truck hood popped up. When he went to close it, the truck door slammed shut and locked. When he unlocked it, someone snatched the keys from his hand. Someone, but no one he could see.

Ok, who's there. That you Mighty Mouse? Is one of your powers invisibility?”

It's me, Inviso Woman.”

Inviso Woman? Where is Mr. Moose or whatever his name is?”

He had a meeting tonight.”

What kind of meeting?”

Across town Mighty Man walks into the meeting room, grabs a doughnut and a coke, and takes a seat up front near the podium.

so who would like to go first tonight,” asks the man at the podium.

Mighty Man stands up, “I will.”

He walks up to the podium, takes the last bite of his doughnut, and begins.

Hi, I'm Mighty Man, and I am a super hero.”

Hi, Mighty Man,” the room says in unison.

Back at the truck, Inviso Woman turned off her invisibility.

Let's grab a cup of coffee and talk.”

They went in the all night diner, and Inviso Woman explained the situation to John.

We're not all in this Super Hero club to make criminals miserable. This is our community service to pay for the damage we sometimes accidentally do to public and private property when we are stopping the super villains.”

John had no idea. He had never thought about who had to pay for all that stuff.

And sometime, being a Super Hero can be a little exhausting, mentally. You know?”

What do you mean?”

Think about it. You can't just hang out with your friend and complain about what a crappy day you had; no one knows who you are. And dating. Well that's almost impossible. They wanna know why you stood them up again. What are you supposed to say about the train wreck you just stopped or the villain that you kept from blowing up the world.”

I guess I never thought of that.”

Yeah, well, Mighty Man has had it a little rougher than usual lately. His three year relationship just ended. His dog died. He's just got it rough right now. Give him a break. And besides, you just have five more days. Maybe just enjoy what you're doing for just five more days.”

John felt bad for Mighty Man, and she was right. He had already done 15 days. He could do five more.

So this Mighty Moose, sorry, Mighty Man, he's not been such a bad guy to hang out with. And he's pretty smart. I never can pull anything over on him.”

He's a good guy.”

So John finished his last week of service, without trying to leave town again. Instead of the usual game of cat and mouse, they started going for a burger after John finished his community service. He and Mighty Man became somewhat of friends. John invited him over to watch movies and play video games sometimes. And every now and then, Mighty Man would just stop by to talk about what a crappy day he had.

The Prompt

Premee Mohammed dug into her a short story stash of ideas to share one with us.
Superheroes, community service/non-jail punishment for crime, a secret society. 
In a world where superpowers are real, a convicted criminal is spared a prison term… If he agrees to do community service, enforced by an unknown league of incognito superheroes. But how can he skip town while he’s always under their surveillance?”
After our recent podcast episode we discussed this prompt. She suggested that a short story is “an answered question”. This is an insight that REALLY helped me, as I thought about how to start, and end, short stories.
This is raw from the from the index card and I asked Premee to tell us how she would take something like this, a note, and start to think about turning it into a story.
The initial phrase that I sent is a setting or a premise, rather than a plot; it’s the setup. 
I would probably start by trying to figure out who might be involved—a reasonable number of people for a short story—and how they could conflict with each other, or how their needs could conflict with each other. 
I’d make sure I set up some decision points to answer. The question should be set up at the start, you know, because like a short story is really an answered question, right?
I find it useful to have that question at the start instead of having it develop sort of midway through, because then the whole story can be guided by that.

Story A Day Framework
In a world where superpowers are real, a convicted criminal is spared a prison term… If he agrees to do community service, enforced by an unknown league of incognito superheroes. But how can he skip town while he’s always under their surveillance?

i didn't do a framework. Started with dialog between John and Inviso Woman and then jumped back to the top.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 19

The prompt for this was a what if science were different and there was no combustion. So no fire, no steam engine as we know it, no combustion engines. I though about the things we might not have. Then I thought again, why not. Humans are too creative for a little thing like no fire to have stopped them.

by J. Smith Kirkland

Lo stood at the gates of the university, about to begin his studies in engineering, but dreaming of becoming an artist. As far back as he can remember, he loved to create things, bring his imagination to the real world using pencils, pens, wood, paint. He was constantly drawing ideas of things he could create in his notebooks. He was born an artist. But his father wanted him to be an engineer, because they make more money. Lo didn't care about the money, but he was good at math, and science, and he could do the job. So he was here to learn how to be an engineer.

On the first day of the introductory class, the professor told the students they would learn about magnetic and sonic propulsion that we use in transportation, and they will study hydrogen fuel cells that provide us with heat and light. They would learn of solar and hydraulic power, but first they will learn of the great inventors that led civilization to these advances in science.

We have come a long way from when our prehistoric ancestors created the first batteries for heat. Great inventors, or today we would call the engineers, helped get us to this place. Let's talk about Leonardo Da Vinci.

Lo only knew of Da Vinci as an artist, and was fascinated to learn of the machines Da Vinci had designed. Before the Europeans knew of sonic propulsion, Da Vinci had designed a self propelled cart. It worked much on the same concept as a geared clock. It was powered by two symmetric springs. The force provided by the springs drops significantly when they unwind. So he included a balance wheel, just as in clocks. It could even follow a per-programmed path like a robot. While such old technology is useless compared to the fuel cell robots that move us from place to place, Lo was amazed to learn someone had designed such a contraption using just the power from clock springs.

Lo also learned Da Vinci made a great kite and an aerial screw for flight long before John Stringfellow created his fuel cell plane, or Charlie Taylor added a sonic propulsion machine to the Wright brother's glider. Da Vinci conceived of inventions long before they could be created. And he drew them in his notebooks, just like Lo recorded ideas in his. All in all, Lo's first day of class led him to believe that his father may have been right about engineering. Not because of the money, but because it was art.

So Lo's adventure in education began. He learned about Thomas Savery who built on the work others had been doing with electrochemical reactions to heat water and create steam to run machines. He saw a problem that needed solved, getting water out of metal mines. So he developed the first crude fuel cell steam powered machine to pump out the water. And really they owed it all to Hero of Alexander whose aeolipile was really the first know example of a steam turbine. All of the technology Lo took for granted growing up, was all because of people centuries ago having the vision to create something new, inspired by the ideas of something older. Lo knew this was his path.

Lo never forgot that Da Vinci was also an artist. He no longer saw the division between art and science that had led to the disagreements with his dad about what to do with his life. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he put the science aside, and he went to drawing class. But the other days classes were about tidal power, solar power, and something that fascinated him most, algae. He knows green algae is a perfect source for creating hydrogen for fuel cells. He is learning all he can about that because he wants to be like Thomas Savery and see a problem, and find a way to solve it that has not been done before. What he really wants is to be like Da Vinci and come up with amazing ideas that are centuries ahead of their time, but the Thomas Savory path seems more realistic, and his father would love to hear him say, would pay the bills.

Lo continued his education. He continued learning all the science he could. He also continued with drawing and painting. By the time he graduated, Masters programs were seeking him out for both. By the time he was thirty-nine, he had made more money from his paintings than his job as an engineer, which is not to say he was underpaid in that field. At forty he started his own company manufacturing algae powered engines and subcontracting to the space flight industry.

He died at eight-seven. A couple of years before, he gave a commencement speech at this very university. He said he may not have invented new amazing things, but he had followed Thomas Savery's path to find new ways to solve practical problems using the amazing things others had done before him.

But years after he died, his great great niece found his notebooks. She published the notes as free downloads. The ideas we astonishing, hundreds of years ahead of their time. His concepts of space propulsion and dimensional travel are things we are still learning today. That's why today, on your first day as engineering students, your first assignment is to write an essay on Skylar Lo.

The Prompt

When the square-cube law is rescinded, internal combustion becomes impossible.  How is travel impacted?  How are daily lives changed?
(e. g. What if cars and other engines couldn’t exist? – JD)

Story A Day Framework

A young student wants to be an artist
but his father wants him to be an engineer
because of that, his father sends him to engineering school
because of that the student learns of an artist inventor
and because of that he creates inventions and art
until one day he creates something beautiful and amazing


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