Pulling up stakes

Day 8: Season
No Novel November 2019

Photograph of three old frying pans against a wood background - Frying pans by Lestrovoy via Deviant Art

Butter and oil.

Salt and pepper.

Seasoned side down. Don’t jump when it screams.

More salt.

Three and a half minutes. Don’t touch.


Three more minutes. Resist.

Onto the plate.


I sit at my end of the table, knife and fork in hand, looking straight down at my plate and not at the seam in the center where I took out the leaf to make the room less empty.

A single slice through the crust, top to bottom, left to right.

It’s perfectly seasoned: butter and oil and salt and pepper and time and distance and relief and sorrow.

But it will never be as good as yours.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Take a flying leap

Day 7: Jump
No Novel November 2019

Photograph of sunset at a rock canyon with a pine tree forest - The Knob by jonathanjessup via Deviant Art

No. Oh, nonono.

He skitters to a stop just before plummeting into a chasm hidden by dense pines. Rocks and leaves leap down the side and into oblivion. He listens for them to hit bottom, but all he hears is the baying of hounds closing the distance.

His eyes trace the ragged edge of the landscape for a crossing. There’s none—but in a stroke of good luck, he realizes he’s standing at the narrowest point of the gorge.

A sharp howl pierces the moonless night. His rubbery legs jolt into motion, churning backwards toward the forest. His brain screams at him to stop, to find another way, but lacking a better suggestion, it’s overruled by adrenaline.

He crouches next to a dead birch for the second it takes to fill his lungs with what might very well be his last breath. Then he bunches up and heaves forward.

The frozen ground hits back as he pounds across it full tilt.

Fifty feet.


He drops his eyes to a point on the near horizon like an anchor and secures his will there.

Twenty feet.


He waits to jump until his toes dip over the rim. Then he launches through the air with the grace of a cannonball: smooth and heavy, soaring and weightless. The icy wind slaps the breath out of him, but he doesn’t care. He’s almost there. He’s going to make it.

That’s when the teeth close on his ankle.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

One last thing

Day 6: Address
No Novel November 2019

Painting of a low-rise apartment building complex - Israeli Apartment House by saltytowel on DeviantArt

Cora leaves the black suit at home and covers her shock of red hair with a stocking cap despite the summer heat. Although no one would likely recognize her after what’s happened during her time away, she’s not taking any chances. The last thing she wants is for some former “friend” to shanghai her down memory lane as she wraps up this final piece of unfinished business.

This used to be their apartment. She feels a twinge of heartsickness looking at it, sweet nostalgia for another life in which she thought she had everything she wanted. But it’s easily silenced. That’s exactly what she came here to do, after all.

She closes her eyes, draws a lung-bursting breath, and lets it out one molecule at a time.

I forgive you, Jeremy. For not understanding. For being weak when I needed you to be strong. For running away without leaving. I release you to yourself and take back what’s mine.

The air is fresher somehow in the next breath. Lighter, freer.

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a handful of gravel that she hucks at the bottom right window. The familiar face that appears there drops instantly from anger into gobsmacked disbelief. His eyes widen, his jaw drops.

Cora grins and waves.

Then there’s a crack of blue lightning so bright he falls away from the window. When he scrambles back through the curtains, she’s gone.

He wonders if she was ever there at all.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.


Day 5: Pickle
No Novel November 2019

Mason jars monochrome by rollingfishays via Deviant Art

I watch Gramma prep the glass jars by washing them with blue soap and clouds of hot water before roasting them in the oven as high as she dares set it. The massive pot—the one she used to bathe me in when I was little—hisses under its lid, fixed to boil.

She waves a thick, soft arm in my direction without looking. I scurry from my seat at the kitchen table to join her. It’s the first year I’ve been allowed to watch, and I don’t want to miss a single step.

We don’t speak as she pours plain white vinegar into the jars. Or as she measures coarse salt in the palm of her callused hand. Or as she pinches dill and cracks pepper and spoons coriander. I pass her the sugar; she likes them more sweet than sour. The contents of the jars cloud and swirl until I can’t make them out even by squinting.

We work in silence until she puts the lid back on the roiling pot and starts the timer.

“Why do you save up your memories like this, Gramma?” I whisper.

She pulls me into her side. The puff of air between us smells like yeasty dough, like brine, like home. “You just never know when you might need them,” she says.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Nothing to See Here

Day 4: Nothing
No Novel November 2019

Polymer clay sculpture of a sideshow carnival magician with cards, white dove, and white rabbit - The Magician 4 by wingdthing via DeviantArt

“Any volunteers?”

Several hands shot up from the crammed benches in front of the ramshackle stage. The carnival had arrived at its final stop, and the crowd had showed up with first-night enthusiasm. Everybody loves a big finish. And Mister Mysterio, Master of Magic and Mysticism, intended to give them one.

“Yes, you! The lady with the intriguing hat. Come right up. Don’t be shy.”

The volunteer tiptoed up to the platform where Mysterio took her hand with exaggerated chivalry and walked her to an oversized box festooned with patchy stars.

“And now, Miss…Sandra, thank you…Miss Sandra will enter the Shadow Box where I shall make her disappear!”

Sandra giggled nervously and stepped inside.

Mysterio rolled his shirtsleeves to the elbow. “Nothing up my sleeve.” He took off his worn bowler. “Nothing under my hat.” He stomped on the boards. “Nothing under the stage.” Then he bowed to the lady and closed the door with a click.

With a flourish of his wand, the magician tapped three times on each wall of the box. There was a sound like blowing a bubble in reverse, then he turned the knob and opened the door.

The only thing inside was an evaporating green mist.

The crowd erupted, and Mysterio luxuriated in the applause. But when he headed offstage rather than back to the box, the cheers turned to angry murmurs.

“Ah, ah,” he chided, wagging a white-gloved finger. “I promised to make her disappear. I never said anything about bringing her back.”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.