Flowers and Fate
(Flash Fiction Inspired by Truth)
“Red or yellow roses, Sir?” the older lady in the flower shop asked.
The young man in his early thirties smiled and raised his brow. “Now, how did you know it was to be roses, Millie?” He knew her from a name tag.
“It’s the body language, young man. Your step, your face, the happy gleam in your eyes.”
“Really! I’m that obvious?”
“You’re that obvious,” she teasingly grinned, “plus I’ve had this shop too many years not to know when love walks through the door.”
He put his hands on the counter and gently asked, “And, do you know how many roses I’ll be sending FTD today?”
“You’re a two-dozen fellow, I’m betting.” She pursed her lips.
“And, does my step, my face, and the happy gleam in my eyes tell you which color I’ll pick?”
“Red, of course! You’re obviously in love and you want the red roses to convey your love for the young lady.” She tilted her head slightly in a positive gesture.
“Why would I not choose yellow roses?” the man asked, amused by the conversation.
“Yellow roses would be fine, but you wish to make a deeper statement. Red gets the point of love across rather profoundly. They say, ‘I love you’. Yellow roses convey happiness and joy in more of a friendship fashion… My goodness, listen to me, giving you information you likely already know.”
“No, you’ve actually tagged me perfectly, and I thank you. It will be two dozen red roses, and I trust you will pick out twenty-four of your very best.”
“It will be my pleasure, plus an extra red rose to accentuate the strong statement. I shall make it a very special arrangement for you. You will wish a card sent with the roses…”
His name was Farris Stanley Ballanger. The flowers were going to Johnnie Ballanger, his wife. On a short business trip to help out one of his service station managers, he would be home tomorrow and wanted Johnnie to receive the flowers before his arrival.
Stan spent some time in thought at the counter as to the words he would put on the card. Smiling, finally satisfied with his choice of words, he placed the card in the accompanying envelope, wrote ‘Dear Sweet Johnnie’ on the front, and handed it to Millie.
Stan paid for the flowers and chatted a few moments more with Millie.
As Stan was about to leave the store, he asked: “Do you mind if I hug you, Millie? You are such a great person.”
Millie obliged, and Stan left the store.
Later around midnight as Stan closed and locked his service station, he was robbed at gunpoint, prodded to the ‘Men’s Room’ and shot to death at close range. His body was not found until daybreak when the service station attendants arrived for work.
Stan’s roses arrived the next morning before news of the robbery and homicide reached Johnnie. Her heart filled with love overflowing as she read what Stan had written on the card:
Love and Time Eternal
It matters not the hours, the days, the years, the lifetime we spend together!
What matters is all the love we have gathered in our hearts
That will last eternally…
– Flash fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – February 14, 2018 (REVISIT) –
In Memory of my Uncle Stanley Balsinger who lives forever in my heart! (Brutally Murdered as he closed his place of business many years ago!) – We played ‘catch’ on the lawn back in the day!)
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Autumn And The Muse
It was all so different these many years later…
The clapboard houses were all gone, replaced by small brick and hardwood homes with indoor plumbing. The dirt and gravel lanes were now paved although still isolated and rural. The old white church with its high steeple, now freshly painted, was the marker that let me know I was really home again.
It was like time had abbreviated everything I looked upon. The distance from church to Mama’s and Papa’s old house was hardly a quarter mile. The lanes that branched off the short stretch of road to the old sawmill and the railroad tracks were now unrecognizable, overgrown with brush, trees, and weeds… I could not even determine where the old sawmill and train tracks had been. Where so many years ago there had been Papa’s rows of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, and scallions was now tall green grass for a few grazing cows.
I smiled and pointed out to my wife Julie and son Scott where the old out-house had once stood, where Papa had once castrated the squealing hogs. I pointed out where old ‘Fred’ the mule used to lead the plow through the fields with a few ‘gees and haws’ from Papa. The little hamlet of Wooldridge was now all condensed for my memory but the thoughts, good and bad, raced through my aging brain…
It was here where some of the first memories were built of my displaced youth, where fear of the unknown and new experiences collided to make me a docile and disturbed little boy. It was here where my microcosmic world was filled with dreams and dark ugly shadows. Here was the nexus that was the foundation for all that I would become – the nomadic drifter in search of illusive dreams, the uncertain master of a fate always to be determined.
The tears were not seen through the smiles as I passed on to my son and wife the wisps of yesterday, but they were there…tears for Mama and Papa, their hard lives, yet their devotion to me…tears for the parents who fought, who loved and tried, but were unable to make things right for their family…tears for a life that could have been better in some ways but did, through all the wanderlust, bring me to wife Julie who personifies family, love and patience…tears for my beautiful children of whom I am so proud and love so deeply.
This day trip from my middle Tennessee home to the east Tennessee hamlet of my youth inspires this post. While there has to be some sadness – that’s the way I’m put together – it is likely one of the best days to go into my still active memory pages. The day serves to point out for me that, indeed, ‘everyone has to be from somewhere.’
Billy Ray Chitwood – February, 2018 (REV)
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To further prove my ineptness in marketing my books of Mystery, Suspense, Romance, et al, I offer this post – AND SEEK YOUR HELP!
I’ve revised some passive voice sections in the narrative of “Mama’s Madness” and replaced them with more active voice, not that passive is always bad. It’s that I fear I’ve used it too much in my books, a habit I fell into early on in my writing. Along with the passive voice changes, I also did some rewriting, further editing, and changing book covers – AGAIN! Not a ‘horn toot’ here, the book in its present form received some sixty reviews, many of which were five-stars. So, sure, I could be making a mistake with the change. But, hey, life is all about change. I simply believe MM should be in the ‘best seller’ rank, despite its ‘goshy-durn’ adult content that was inspired by a Northern Californis criminal case… That case made me angry, aggrieved, weep-emotional. I mean, this ‘Mama’ was from the fiery pits of Hell!
SO, as for SEEKING YOUR HELP, take a look at the cover that starts this post and give me your uninhibited yea or nay regarding liking it or not liking it! Sure will be appreciated! To help confuse the issue, I’m showing you the two previous covers I’ve used for MM before… Here they are:
Label the TOP one ‘A’ and the two here ‘B’ & ‘C’.
As a good author-friend (Vashti Quiroz Vega) over at RRBC/RWISA would say: “If you comment, you’ll make me smile!”
I can’t figure out how to get WordPress to move my ‘Comment Section’ above the dark box on my Blogsite…please scroll down til you find it!
Hope you have time to read “Mama’s Madness” at some point, a thriller even though there is pure Evil in the content – inspired by true events!
Oh, PLEASE LOOK for the NEW edition of “Mama’s Madness” on Amazon and other ‘BUY’ sites later on this month… MAYBE, you wouldn’t mind helping me get the word out!
THANKS SO MUCH!
Billy Ray Chitwood – February 5, 2018
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TIME of My Life
TIME of My Life
-(A Poetic Moaning)-
Time, Time, Time.
Tick, Tick, Tick.
Are You a merciless menace
Of maddening passing?
Time, Time, Time.
Tick, Tick, Tick.
Can you not slow your pace?
Prithee, can you not provide more
Of your endless ticks?
I yet have books to write,
Poetry to pose a riddle,
Or, think romantic allusions
Of Love and Ventures past!
Why must you be the sole
Arbiter of my Soul, while
I suspect my God might
Approve your ever rapid
Transit through my Dawns
And my restless Eves of Doubts?
Your pendulum swings to and fro
In a mocking remembrance
Of an ambiguous and most
Impassioned wayward passage.
Is it that I have betrayed you?
Or, pray tell, is it that you have
Seduced me with your Lure to
Love’s easy Manipulative ways?
When did you begin your ticking?
Are you synonymous with an
Infinite Divinity noble of promise?
Or, are you but a simple dream
That gives each of us a mare
To ride through a long night,
Some Lottery of Chance?
I plea for more thoughts to
Unscramble – an act doubtlessly
Vainglorious of deed and effort.
© Billy Ray Chitwood –01/23/18
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Don’t know about you, but, there are days when I feel all alone in the Arizona desert!
We all have our reasons for writing and it’s a good bet that most of those reasons are fairly standard…to fulfill a desire…to become established, famous, successful…to simply tell a story…to scratch an ego itch…for all these and many other reasons. Does it really matter what our reasons are for writing? Any reason is valid and need not be magnified, right? Well, not quite. Some might write to hurt someone, to slander, to libel, to ruin someone or some entity. Let’s just assume for this post that our reason for writing has a noble intent and has no malicious purpose…and, what we write is good. It’s a certainty we’ve picked up novels at the Book Store, read them, and announced them as crap-reads;
So, where are the sales, the 5-Star Reviews, the accolades we authors covet?
For some of us, we write a few books and here come the critics with their reviews that range from 5-Stars to 3-Stars, even lower. The world of reading thrives on reviews, what someone thinks about her/his reading experience. There are professional review services. There are housewives, husbands, people in book clubs, avid readers who are moved to comment about a writer’s effort. It is a fact of life in the relationship between reader and writer. We like those comments when they’re dripping with lovely words like, ‘great’, ‘brilliant’, ‘going to read more from this super author’… Oh, we salivate and pour some champagne. We begin to bore our spouses with our ceiling dances and loud hoots of joy.
So, you have written what you consider a relatively good book…sure, even you can in the final pre-publish reading find things you could change — extend a section, remove a section, embellish here, there, increase the length, decrease the length, and so forth. In the end, you feel that you have written an entertaining book, maybe not the perfect quintessential novel that you know is still inside you somewhere but a good book. The reviews line up, the 5-Stars, the 3-Stars, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe agree with a point or two the people are making. The emotions begin to swirl. Of course, you gravitate toward the 5-Star, 4-Star reviews and are elated. The bad reviews bring conflicting thought patterns…there is an initial sinking feeling which will become anger, denial, and, at some point, you will equivocate only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.
Your thought processes on negative reviews from readers run the gamut. ‘What gives these people the right to publicly condemn your efforts, these Hannah Housewives, these Harold Hushpuppy husbands?’ Hell, you likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day(s)! Cost them nothing and they’re critiquing you! You go back and re-read the fair-to-good reviews, get some renewed sustenance. But, most of all, you’re in a dither and doubting yourself and your writing talent because you could not please everyone. Chances are very good you are not being controlled by a publicist, someone who shelters you from this wasteful dithering, this minor earthquake inside your head. As an independent author you are a one-person publishing house, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, getting lost in all the digital world’s ‘ways and means.’
The really bad news is, of course, there are pitifully few sales… Ah, the aggravating world of the word-spinner! Where in the world did you get the idea you could write?
Does an established, famous, author get a mixture of critiques? Perhaps not so many because the pros have the reading Pavlov public 5-Star oriented. But the truth is, yes, even these most popular penners of best sellers get their negative reviews as well. They have a much better shield in place to deflect the nasty words that cause the dithering.
All of this is not to say that you, I, and the countless other millions of writers do not have our book flaws. All of us have them! The temperaments of some writers are better than yours and they keep writing, getting away from the ‘passive’ passages of narrative, the cliches, too many ellipses, redundancy of words and phrases. We have many flaws in our books, and with each new book we write, we are getting less and less errata. We are, as they say, growing our craft. Will we get to that stage where we live among the giants of our writing world? Some will because talent cannot be denied too long. In the rare instance, enough money is spent to insure success – I can come up with my book-example of this, and I’m sure you can. Or, have our egos, our inner selves, betrayed us with pronouncements of our talent?
It is difficult to separate ourselves from the critics in the writing field, but we can remember what our reasons are for writing. We will still experience the dithering, but we have to stay true to whom we are. If we are getting 5-Stars along with some minimal Stars, somebody likes us. And, that is the message: remember your reasons for writing and just know that somebody likes us.
My belief is you are getting better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course…and…don’t…give…up!
Somebody Likes Us!
Billy Ray Chitwood – 01/17/18 – (Old post worth repeating.)
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I was a beaten man!
There was nothing left! No wife! No children! No job!
The only clothes I owned covered my body.
The black ashes that were once my house had an acrid, gagging odor, mixed with the smells of fire-fighting liquids, dampness, and death.
How does one describe a body bereft of feelings, a body with all its tears shed, a hollow core of nothingness covered with flesh? Nothing there! Nothing I could or would ever be able to find.
That was my truth!
Standing there in a starless night of misty rain and appropriate bleakness, looking for the last time at the sum of my existence, there in those black, damp clumps of earth and bones, there with the only pieces of love I had ever known, there in that eerie graveyard of ashes.
We had a silly argument after the boys were put to bed. I made a petulant escape into the night of bar rooms and feigned grievance … my starring role in a ‘D-Movie’.
I heard the sounds of fire engines through my whiskey haze and gave it little thought.
Fire engines rushed to others’ houses, not mine.
Finally, the Bacchus glow came, went, and I recognized the inanity of my actions.
That rapidly fading glow took me home where I would do my habitual ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart’! Repentence was an eager surge within me as I sped onward for home. It was then, the car finishing its sharp turn, when I saw the halo of red and white flashing lights ahead. My body began to quake as the first pang of alarm came to rest inside my imbued brain.
It was my home from which those wind-driven flames came … soon to be, at my arrival, the charred ruins of my only prized possessions.
I stumbled from the car, stunned, inconsolable, watching my neighbors holding hands, praying, tears flowing down their cheeks, already knowing what I was about to find out.
My wife, my kids, were consumed by the fire … a fire caused by my forgetting to turn off the barbeque.
I fell to my knees, grasped my head with both hands, heaving, roaring my grief in loud sobs, piercing the smoke-filled skies above. The concept of Time had no reality for me as I gasped and breathed in particles of ash.
People talked to me, uttered their pity and sorrow, tried humbly to comfort me. Their voices were lost in my sobbing growls. The movement of fire engines, firemen, my neighbors going back to their homes were on the periphery of my awareness. I shook my head in negation to acts of kindness, of pleas to help me.
Then, I was alone with my mind and its torturous playback of my fatuous acts in life, alone with the agony which now possessed my soul.
For three days and nights, I stayed awake, unseen, not wanting to be seen, in the wooded area behind the damp ashes where once stood my home. I was soon bereft of any meaningful thought, on the brink of madness.
At 11:00 PM that third night I heard off in the distance the freight train whistle.
I walked the quarter mile to the trestle and watched for the light that would announce its coming. I listened for the roar from the rails.
Like a thief in the night I left the bush behind which I hid and stepped onto the trestle. The train’s beacon of light came onward toward me, and the faint whistle registered somewhere in a tunnel of my mind.
The train was but a hundred yards away when I raised my arms to the heavens and cried, “Oh, God, please forgive me!”
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 7, 2918 (Rev)
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Hearts Melt in the Snow
Mellowed by age, this ‘sunset’ heart still embraces the feelings that steal into its pulsing organ, that magic which changes the moods of scrooges and lightens the load of life’s vicissitudes.
I’ve always felt this organic change come over me during this special period of the year. I sense a commanding comaraderie and warmth emanating from people who normally seem inclined to show gruff and negative personalities.
Makes me wonder…
Even warring people pause for their faiths, put on hold the bloodshed and killing at this time of the year.
Is the birthday of a Deity, a Deity Who wore human skin, bled from wounds of the sword, so manifest that it reaches the Souls of all? Even, those who wear their hatred as badges of honor? Is there an arcane flow of Spirituality running through so much of humanity?
Even the political personae seem to sincerely change from the many oratorical duels to pleasant grins of conciliation.
Is it the Christmas carol that speaks to us of a “Silent Night?” That speaks to us of a sacred “Little Town of Bethlehem? Perhaps the words from “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” reach us in its divine plea!
Of course, I dismiss those believers of ‘from Darkness we come and to Darkness we go’! Dismiss them only because they cannot be reached, convinced that their ‘scientific knowledge’ beats out the ancient Prophets of the Old Testament and John, Mark, Matthew, Luke, Revelations of the New Testament. Though there are days when generational factions compete for their audiences, I hold as firmly as I can onto my Faith.
There are those, too, who languish in their dark prisons, or, lurk the dark alleys of our cities in search of criminal pursuits, those devoid of ‘Sense and Sensibility’…and, in most cases, they cannot be reached.
For the overwhelming numbers of us who wish to believe in a ‘Higher Order’, I can hold my belief that this ‘dynamic’ I feel during this season of giving, of love, is really a harbinger of ‘good tidings’ and a reminder that Love will conquer all.
Billy Ray Chitwood – December 15, 2017
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How often do you use the word, ‘Soul?’ How often do you think about your ‘Soul?’
Mirriam-Webster defines ‘Soul’ as:
1. the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life
2. a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe
So, that’s enough, right? The two definitions pretty much say it all, and there are more definitions there in the dictionary if you want more.
‘Soul’ seems to me, though, such a huge word to be so small. Writers likely get the most use out of the word than the people who really work for a living — no anger, please, just adding a little levity here. Really, it seems to me that ‘Soul’ is not in too many mundane conversations. ‘Soul’ is usually saved for the philosophers, poets, preachers, Romantics, sentimentalists, and writers.
You can almost envision the literary expatriates who gathered in Paris between the period of World War One and the onset of World War Two…wtiters like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell, Gertrude Stein to name a few — okay, okay, I’m name-dropping — but these were the people I read and studied in college and their lives got somehow interwoven with my own, with my ‘Soul.’ I can see them sitting at the sidewalk cafes talking in the afternoon about their writings, about how the devastation of war had impacted their lives. I can see them drinking the Bacchus liquids and debauching in the evenings, pausing in their fun and frivolity for serious and sober moments to discuss the condition of the ‘Soul.’ These were the people Gertrude Stein referred to as ‘the lost generation.’ Certainly, why not Paris? Why not gather in the great city of lights with so much art and beauty? It was the place to be if you were disillusioned by a world intent on war and destruction. It was the perfect place and time to discuss matters of the ‘Soul,’ and these great writers held those discussions in the finest style and with some of the most celebrated erudition prevalent in those days.
So, why do I post about ‘Soul?’
Guess it’s easy for me, an oldtimer looking back on his life, how he’s lived, somewhat of an anachronism in today’s fast moving digital world. ‘Soul’ is such an all-encompassing word. It holds such a fascination for me in these sunset years, but it has always held that fascination for me — guess ‘Soul’ for me is what writing is all about. We live, we pay taxes, and we die, but the ‘Soul’ offers us so many delectable scenarios of which to consider and ponder.
‘Soul’ is that defining part of us that we can’t pinpoint, can’t know exactly where it is, but we have to know that it is there. ‘Soul’ is everything Mirriam-Webster says it is, but so very much more. There are times when the directions we take as a world concerns me greatly. It is my hope that we can still take time, Paris or not, to discuss the implications of such an enigmatic and beautiful word.
Billy Ray Chitwood – 12/10/17 (From the Archives, 8/12)
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