Jamaican Grace

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

The second winner was Laura Pol with MercyMe’s “Grace Got You”!

The following short fiction piece was written in 15 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Laura that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!

 

JAMAICAN GRACE

 

Solomon “Jamaica” Barnes sat under the cement bridge, bopping his head to the hidden tune that only he could hear from the pounding of vehicles over his head.  The rhythm reverberated all the way down to his fingers, which tapped against his side happily.  He closed his eyes, his grin splitting his chapped lips.  Popping another peanut into his mouth, he dropped a handful at his feet.

Down on the cement, a tiny New York city squirrel wrapped itself around his ankles, scrambling for the peanuts.

“Dis be d’life, eh, Crunkle?” he murmured, reaching two fingers down to gently stroke the furry back of the small animal.

Crunkle’s rapid crunching was his only reply.

“Ho, Jamaica,” a voice muttered from behind him.

The dark-skinned man lazily turned his head to welcome a grungy, gray-bearded hobo pushing a loaded shopping cart around the far corner of the bridge.  “Jimmy!  Mon, how you be?” Jamaica waved his hands, the squirrel skittering away at lightning speed. “You comin’ to hang?”

The man shook his scruffy head, his eyes on the ground, sandaled feet scuffling forward slowly. “I’s be tryin’ to get to Central Park b’fore dark.”

“Sure, but I could use d’company.  Any time, mon.” Jamaica squinted at his friend, watching the man roll by him.

“I know, Jamaica.  I know. But I hate sittin’ on cement these days.  My war-torn backside ain’t what it used to be.” The old man’s coat had bird dung and dirt encrusted on the hem.

Jamaica watched him carefully. “You and d’war, Jimmy.  When ya gonna let dat go, mon?”

“When I be dead,” came the murmur as the shopping cart creaked around the opposite corner of the bridge, and the sound of cars covered anything else Jimmy might have added.  The echo of the word “dead” reverberated around the hollow underside of the bridge.

Jamaica frowned, but only for a second.  “Crunkle?”

The squirrel reappeared, a tiny little nose twitching above the black canvas bag behind Jamaica.

“Come ‘ere, ya lil’ beggar.”

The squirrel ignored him, sniffing the bag for more hidden food.

Jamaica scratched a spot on his foot that shouldn’t itch.  Pulling up his pant leg, he checked over the prosthetic.  “Jimmy and d’war… that mon wasn’t da only one who saw bloodshed.”

Crunkle made an angry squirrel noise, halfway between a chitter and a tiny cough.

“I’s be all outta peanuts, beggar.” He picked at his holey pant leg. “If we want somethin’ more dan dat, we’s a hafta go to Letitia’s, an’ I canna afford dat wit my pride.”

The squirrel gave him the nastiest stare a rodent was capable of giving.

Jamaica laughed loudly, his guffaws rumbling around him, adding a chorus to the car thumps above his head. “If squirrels coulda give d’evil eye, you’da killed me dere.”  He leaned back against the cement, pulling the bag forward to use as a makeshift pillow.  Folding his arms above his head, the little squirrel clambered onto his chest. He sighed, staring at a spot of graffiti on the bridge ceiling above him. “Wonder how dose dumb kids got up dat high to paint up dere,” he mumbled.

The squirrel stretched out a leg, all taut and tight, and then relaxed and went limp, tucking its head into its tail, its body a neat little circle.

“It’s gonna be Thanksgivin’ soon.” Jamaica frowned.  The grafitti read “Girls.” He put a hand over his eyes to block it out. “Wonder if my lil’ girl, Letitia, woulda be stark shocked t’see me show up for Thanksgivin’.” He tucked his chin to peek at the sleeping squirrel. “Think she’d be too ‘shamed to see us, huh, Crunkle?  Think she’d forgive her old dad now dat I be clean?”

A pipe from a motorcycle above popped, and Jamaica jumped. “It’s a hard world for us vets.”  Heroin had been an easy out.  He could block out the memories.  All that blood.  Men doing things he had never imagined, let alone wanted to experience.  All those faces, gone and dead.  And then he had come back home, missing a leg, his wife and strangers to him and his pain.

He had come to America at the tender age of ten, and becoming a US citizen was the highly of his life.  When World War II broke out, he had been excited to do his duty to this great country.  But no had prepared him for what life was like coming home.

Marge had wanted nothing to do with him when he wasn’t the man she had married any more, and he couldn’t stand the judgment on his oldest daughter Lucy’s face when she had chosen to turn her back on him and take her mama’s side.  That last day he had seen her, his vision blurred from his last fix, she had linked her arm through her mother’s, standing on the edge of the bed of the moving truck.  Her face was as steel as granite, even at the tender age of fourteen.

But little Letitia had turned around.  When Marge took her hand to lead her to the car, his second ten-year-old daughter had given him one last hopeful glance, those eyes open and still trusting.  There was love still in her heart, he had been sure of it.

It had been a decade and a half since then, and supposedly Letitia was married and back in New York, a brand newlywed. Her husband was a newspaper man or something like that. The last time Jamaica had visited his elderly father at the nursing home, before the nurses had shooed him out, their noses pinched, their hands shaking with anxiety, he had seen the letter from her.  After all these years.  Letitia had written to him, hoping her grandfather would pass her words on.  She wanted to reconnect.  She wanted to know her dad, to give him a chance.  She wrote about Jesus.

He had carried the wrinkled letter in the bottom of his bag for a while now – her address written clearly on the outside of it.  But he hadn’t need to – the address was seared into his memory.

Sure he had been clean for a year now, but time had passed him by.  He had no money and ability to do anything but beg.  Shelters were for those harder up than him.  Old Jamaica Barnes – he could tough it out, adopt baby squirrels, turn highway noises into songs in his mind, and keep up his cheer.

Until he thought about his baby girl reaching out.  Dangnabbit, she was brave.

He pulled out the envelope for the thousandth time and stared at it.

“I’ll go,” he said, and suddenly he knew that’s what he had always and ever wanted.

Thanksgiving was coming.

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Alien Exchange Program

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

After a random roll of digital dice, Elizabeth Liberty Lewis’s song, “Many Words” by DROELOE won!

The following flash fiction piece (under 1000 words) was written in 15-20 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Elizabeth that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

Next up with be one for Laura Pol.  Stay tuned!

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!

 

ALIEN EXCHANGE PROGRAM

 

The little alien stumbled and fell in the deep, rich, wet dirt.

As the speeder raced away into the sky, the taillights shrinking rapidly in his vision, his throat clamped shut. The faint smell of diesel filled his nose and time slowed, as if to stamp an important moment on his mind.

He had been abandoned.

His mother, pinch-lipped and silent, her three eyes focused straight ahead, had refused to even glance his way during the duration of the space travel.  He had tugged on her arm at first, but had given up.  He had hoped against hope for a fun vacation spot, like on Krypton’s moon, but his mother’s clenched paw had told him otherwise, her eyes stalks decidedly pointed in the opposite direction.

Now here he sat, alone on a new planet, speeder-like lights surrounding him as if eyes were watching.  In the dark of night. With only lit-up buildings to guide him, the ground wet from fresh rain, the mud squishing between his back flipper feet, he stumbled forward, a sob rising in his swollen throat.

There, straight down the muddy grassy lawn, he saw a smaller shop, the lettering illegible for his three alien eyes.  On the dimly lit sign a drawing of two creatures that looked like the two halves of himself sat and stared at him.  One was green with two bulgy eyes and webbed feet, the other had paws and fur and floppy ears. It was as if they had put both of his parents on one sign: his mother who had just left, taking his heart with her, and his adventurous father who had died so long ago.  A human creature with a stethoscope stood next to them. This had to be the alien welcome center.  Possibly he could find a new home.  The thought seared his heart with pain, but he was glad to have some place to start.

“What is this?” came the screech from the front desk when he entered, pushing his way through the heavy glass door.

He let out a garbled “Ribbit!”

The fleshy, pink, extremely tall creature rose up on it back legs and pushed black wire and glassy things up around her small eyes. “Joe!  Look at this!” it said, and he found he could understand it.  Thank his mother for teaching him alien languages – or had she been planning on abandoning him here all along?

A tall fleshy creature with a single patch of black fur on the very top of its head came around the corner and broke into a giant smile.  “I had one of these once!  A large furred toad!  They’re thought to be extinct!”

The first creature’s red mouth twisted in what was obvious disgust to him, even if he wasn’t used to its oddly hairless pink face. “You had one of these as a pet?  Where did it come from?”

The one called Joe was still smiling, and it was a peaceful, happy expression that tickled the young alien from his head to his webbed toes.  “Yes!  There have only been three in existence that were ever reported.  I had the third.  Maybe it was one of his family, and another had the intelligence to come looking!”

The first one with the metal and glass around its eyes looked skeptical. “Seriously?”

“I think they don’t come from earth, but that can be our little secret.” Joe winked at the other one and then reached those huge, pink hands down for the alien.  “Come here, little buddy.  Did you know my guy Marcus?”

Of course the name did not ring a bell.  It was human earthling talk.  But the hands were warm, and soon the little alien was snuggled against the large cloth-covered chest.

“I bet you did, little buddy.  Before he left, I told him my house was always open to his kind.  And I’m pretty sure, in his alien head, he knew it was time to go home, raise a family, and tell the next generation about earth.” Joe pet his head, and it calmed him to his very core. “I’m so glad you’re here, little buddy.  Let’s start the next chapter of this foreign exchange program, shall we?”

 

Copyright: RJ Conte 2018

 

Myers-Briggs Help for Authors!

Are you an author?

Do you have a Facebook account?

Do you like real, authentic, deep characters?

Are you interested in personality typing?

Are you curious how personality typing and creating characters go together?

Then what are you waiting for?  Join my Facebook group for authors interested in Myers-Briggs help!  Free coaching for developing characters and a happy community of Myers-Briggs aficionados!

Also, don’t forget about the flash fiction contest running until December 1st.  The prize is $100.  Enter here.

MyersBriggsTypes

RJ’s FIRST Themed Flash Contest!

I want to award one amazing author with $100 and promotion online!  Please send me your “most emotionally moving” flash fiction!

RJ's Themed Flash Contest (2)

2018 Theme: “Most Emotionally Moving”

 

Official Contest Rules

 

Flash fiction entries should be 1000 words or less – no exceptions.

The entry fee is $1 which can be sent, via Paypal, to dashwoodavenue@gmail.com Once we have received the fee, we will process your entry and add it to the contest.  Limit ONE entry per author.

Contestants must be age 16 and older as of July 1, 2018.

The contest is open to all genres except erotica, but must fit the theme “Most Emotionally Moving.”

Entries will be judged on technical writing talent as well as its emotional impact.  Entries will be graded on a 1-10 point-scale for each category and then all ten judges’ ratings will be averaged to find the winner.

Keep entries to a PG-13 rating or below – no gore, no onscreen sex, and minimal cursing.

Entries can be previously published, and all rights return to the author after the contest is over.

One winner will receive a $100 cash prize, the winning entry published here on BlondeRJ.wordpress.com, and promotion across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The final deadline to enter the contest is December 1st, 2018 PST.

The winner will be announced March 1st, 2019.

Please attach the entry in a Word document with no name or personal information included in the document.

Keep it honest!  The entry must be written by YOU, the contestant.  No entering the contest for someone else.  No fan fiction.  Must be an original work.

This contest excludes immediate family members of the judges.

TO ENTER, CLICK HERE.