Every so often our writing group gathers. We eat and laugh, cry and share our lives that were once more closely connected but now seem to only pass occasionally. We need to gather more often.

Today at Sandy’s house she supplied the prompt. We read an old poem – The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. It brought some of us back to our childhood poetry classes where we didn’t understand what was happening. But I remember the girls loved the love story and the boys, well, there is a robber and muskets. What more can I say?

This day, after we finished a shared reading of the poem, we looked and one another and wondered how this was going to help us write. Then we each took a page, closed our eyes and pointed to a word. We came up with eight, and our prompt was born.

We had four entirely different stories flavored by the poem. One story happened on a ghostly walk to church on the night of the Easter Vigil. Another was a rhymed poem about a carousel gone terribly wrong. The next was a heart-touching story from one of our members who was recently widowed. And mine is below.

The words we were to use in our story:
breast      attention     musket     listened     jeweled     trigger     riding     ghostly


The jeweled box sat on the ledge of the bedroom window. It drew the attention of the moon. As she smiled down on the delicate vessel, the box proved itself to be a treasure of hues. Each jewel’s essence threw itself against the wall like raindrops kissing a pond. Colors radiated from each pinpoint melding into the next.

Rio waited for the full moon riding across the sky. She knew exactly when it would find her windowsill triggering a light show. Tonight was no different. She sat on the small padded stool covered in baroque tapestry of purples and gold. There were tassels on each corner. The short and spiraled legs made of alder wood curled into lion claws. It was her grandmother’s.

Rio’s grandmother was a gypsy and the stool accompanied her across the land as she traveled. When Rio’s grandmother didn’t come back from her last adventure, a large box of her belongings were left on the steps of her parents’ house. The stool was discarded immediately. A “flea trap” her mother called it. But Rio knew better.

In the middle of the ghostly night with fog hanging low and before the trash pickup in the morning Rio took a large plastic bag bulging with old clothes and items that no longer served purpose for her to the curb in front of her house. Carefully and as quietly as she could, Rio replaced one bag for the other and like a flea, flitted back up the stairs to her room to retrieve her treasure from the black sack.

Rio stilled herself to hear the rhythm of her parents snoring. She knew, after years of listening, when their deepest sleep arrived, when no noise would trigger their attention. She was in luck. Their breathing siphoned in and out between their clenched teeth.

Rio pulled the stool from the bag.

Something slipped out of the bag and crashed to the floor.

It was small but the noise startled Rio. In the quiet between the inhales and exhales down the hall, the sound went riding through Rio’s room and out the bedroom door like a locomotive. She reached down and snatched up the object that fell from the bag, an item she didn’t know existed. She held it tightly next to her breast as if that would erase the crash. With her stilled breath and eyes trained down the hall to her parent’s room, she counted slowly as she released her breath until her mind could hear the rhythmic snores once more. By the time all her lungs were emptied, all was well.

Rio reached to the windowsill and placed the small box on the ledge. Then she turned her attention back to the stool. It needed some cleaning, but not too much. She remembered her grandmother telling her that dirt and grim held stories to be remembered, things to be learned. There were stories within this stool to be discovered.

A flash of light caught her eye as if it was shot out of a musket. The clouds covering the moon parted just enough and stood as still as Rio’s breath had been held just moments earlier. The moon’s brilliant array filtered through the window, gypsy ribbons catching hold of the jewels covering the tiny treasure.

Rio could hardly take her eyes off what seemed like a movie. She sat down gingerly onto the stool to watch. Her seat fit perfectly into the pillowed top. Her legs bent and crossed naturally at the ankles with her knees pointing to the floor. It was as if someone had measured the stool and her for a perfect fit.

Soon Rio was bathed in a cascade of hues, colors swirling all around her. She spun around on the stool to see the reach of the jeweled light. That’s when she noticed the dancing colors on her wall. As she watched, the colors moved and jiggled. After a few minutes they stopped and came together to form words.

As quickly as Rio rose to grab her journal and a pen, the clouds closed back over the moon and the words made of color and light fell into a puddle on the rug and faded away.

I am so blessed to be part of these women’s lives. We must get together more often.




I was completely captivated, like a child on her first carousel ride spinning to the music of the calliope. But I wasn’t like the child who screeched and giggled as the unicorn raised and lowered itself to the musical notes ringing through the air. It wouldn’t be the purple mane braided with pink ribbons dotted with indigo violas or the horn twined with golden cord that caught my attention. Nor would it be the brassy chimes belching out the same tune over and over as I went round and round that charmed me.

No, my quest would be found in the steam rising from the brassy pipes, steam that swirled up and out of the hole in the top of the undulating circus tent. A hole small enough not to be noticed to break the elegant lines coming almost to a perfect point, shading us from too hot sun and the occasional raindrops of summer on the plains. Yet it was a hole large enough for steam to make an escape. 

I sat not on a tiger or elephant or giraffe, but nestled myself in the tufted red leather booths reserved for lovers, who sneaked kisses when no one else would be looking, not realizing that it was the rising beasts near their secluded nooks that were the first to be snatched up for the privilege of watching their show and then the bragging rights thereafter.

I sat by myself, stretched out, arms crossed over my chest staring straight up at the steam rising. I let myself be woven into its breath and carried up and out into the awaiting blue, zippering the tiny hatch behind me after my escape.

I rose above the carnival and its merrymaking. I could see hysterical figures like Mexican jumping beans, those little boxed booby prizes for those not lucky enough for a real carny award, pointing to the sky and at me rising, rising. 

The liberated steam melded into the atmosphere now free to roam the universe. And I would keep rising, too, without wings, without wind, without aid from any source. I would roam to whatever caught my eye, be it above or below. 

When I tired, not of travel but of amazement, I would lower back down to the tent, unzip the pocket and settle back into the arms of the red leather puff just in time as the carousel waned, slower and slower until a complete stop jolted a halt to my adventure. 

And the children would slide off their noble steeds and go skipping to their next amusement under the red hot summer sun smiling down upon our little piece of heaven.




Author’t Note:

Ahhhh. Our little writer’s group met today for a reunion of sorts. We have been on a very long hiatus, as one member described it.

It was a lovely morning of honoring the voices of four brilliant women whose lives pulled us apart for a while. What joy to be joined together again.

We used The Write-Brain Workbook, 366 Exercises To Liberate Your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer. The challenge given: eighteen words of which we were to choose six and use the starting line – “I was completely captivated, like a…”

We wrote for a bit over a half an hour and shared. Our pieces are not polished and it takes a bit of bravery to post them. But it is fun to share none the less.

My words were:

quest   undulate   viola   zipper   calliope  hysterical

Thank you, Niki, Diane, Sheila and me! I am so very honored to be in such lovely company.