Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike


So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: hill.

45 thoughts on “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. The trail had led them to a cave in the hill. Mark looked at the earthen hole in front of them. A cluster of red eyes peered out of the cave. He looked at the rest of the villagers with him. “John, get the dynamite. We ain’t going into that mess no how.”

  2. Sgt. Peter Patrick Kenneth Walther looked around, then gave the order for his remnant to entrench around the crest. With clear fields of fire in all directions, spring-fed stream and abundant brush cover he knew they could make their stand, awaiting extraction. This was not a hill to die on.

  3. John said, “See, it’s only a mile from the road to the top of the hill.”
    Tim studied the map. The topographic elevation lines looked like a solid mass of ink, even where the trail snaked back and forth across the slope in multiple switchbacks.
    “That’s a 45 degree slope.”

  4. The surveyor came from the tunnel with a crisp salute to the project engineer. “As you thought, sir, we’ve run into a horst, real tough stuff, too. Should we try tunneling under it?”

    “No, we stand by the Code of the Dwarves: ‘If you’re going through hill, keep on going.’ ”

  5. “Find anything in that old shack?” asked Charlie.
    “Wool, linen, other cloth. Some big empty pots, smaller ones with old nails, old copper coins, jars of alum, and I think cream of tartar.” replied Fred.
    “Odd collection of stuff, huh?”
    Ethel, exasperated, “It’s obviously a great hill to dye on.”

    {Thanks, RES.}

                1. I thought a Gross(e) of Klein bottles would be amusing.

                  But then I am also amused by the calculus bit about the “Gabriel’s Horn” curve. Its computed surface area is infinite, thus it could not be painted. Yet its computed volume is finite, thus it could be filled with paint. The Universe is rather silly, innit?

    1. No idea, unless it had links in it or some special words (possibly by accident) that get suppressed. Or maybe it’s “WordPress delenda est!” There is a reason, besides having the machine count the words, that I write in text editor and copy – a painful lesson learned on LiveJournal back when.

      1. So I’ll try again, using ‘reply’ instead of ‘post’ in case that makes a difference:

        Another bit to fit in: “The beacon is ablaze on the next hill over! Alfgar, sound the horn to muster the Fyrd! Brogan, help me into my armour while Grimbold sends out mounted scouts to find and follow the attackers and report back here!”
        “Yes, Lord” came a chorus of replies amid the horn calls.

      2. MGC was eating my comments for a week or so, so I suspect it’s WP. It’s due for a meltdow— excuse me, an update and improvement.

  6. More than 50, but if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’ – rule purist should skip the first para for the remaining 57 words:

    His pack straps dug into his shoulders, his rifle sling required constant attention to keep it on his shoulder, the hot muggy air made his helmet a sweaty oven, and his feet hurt.

    At least they had finally reached a level stretch. Then they rounded a bend and the trail ahead climbed upward.

    “Not another hill!” he groaned softly to himself.

    Obviously not softly enough, as one of the training cadre startled him, speaking loudly from only a few feet away: “Miller, in the infantry, there is always another hill.”

  7. “The Senate, not the Praetorians, should have put the purple on Claudius.” Lucius sipped his wine.

    Marcus shrugged. “Makes no difference.”

    “It went badly when I did.”

    Marcus laughed. “You? Who?”

    “Someone we crucified. It was a jest. But the sun went dark, and the hill quaked when he died.”

  8. Jane stood at the edge of No Man’s Land, where bare trees fought a losing battle against ever-fruiting, crystal-trunked abominations, and tipped her head to answer her radio.

    “Kids out?”

    “All of ’em.”

    “Changelings in?”


    “Good.” Jane thumbed the detonator switch with her left hand – the right long since lost to elfshot – and started the countdown with savage satisfaction. “That’s the trouble with hollow hills, no structural integrity.”

  9. “No, no, you don’t want that one, Mike.” I elbowed him, and nodded at a cheery, plump brunette further down the bar. “Check the brunette there, with the great rack.”

    Mike kept looking at the willowy blonde. “She’s a vision of beauty. Bet she’s not too good for me.”

    “Vision, alright. But not from Up the Hill, she’s from Underhill.”

    Mike went pale, then, and yanked his eyes away, taking a hasty swallow of beer. “Brunette, you say?” We knew what happened to those who tasted Elfland.

  10. Kowalski stepped around the corner. The two boys kept spraying. Where they had gotten the paint was an interesting question, most likely involving overtime for several programmers. A glance upward showed Mrs. Mendoza watching down the curve of the station.

    “You boys have a permit for that?”

  11. The path down the hill slowly turned sandy, and the trees turned to pines, and then the pines turned twisted and gnarled from the sea breezes, and then they walked out onto the shore, where grass bent in the wind, and the gray sand was laced with wild rose vines, running far, and scenting the air from the open flowers with five hot pink petals about a golden heart.

  12. A cave in the hillside. No, engineering had put in supports and more, of metals Edmund had never seen before.
    Dr. Dombrey walked in without hesitation. Dostin hesitated. “From the blue people,” he muttered.
    “We’ve seen the blue people,” said Edmund. “We were their captives. We survived.” He walked in.

  13. Out the door and into the peaceful green of lawn and shrubs, broken only by the gray of the stairs. She climbed the hill. The paradoxes of power. The web that could spend people over land and sea could only be reached on foot.
    The cottage stood ahead, gray stone.

  14. Over the years we have passed the sign on East US-58. It stood there as we went up the steep rise outside of Lawrenceville, VA. Every time we saw it we would giggle and comment. Isn’t it obvious? Yet the state felt it necessary to warn motorists, ‘HILL BLOCKS VIEW.”

  15. The door creaked, and she caught the scent of his tobacco. She slid the kettle across the stove, and poked the fire back to life. He spoke tenderly. “There’s a drone circling. I set traps on the other side of the hill. Let’s move.” She nodded and doused the flame.

  16. “Did you get a load of the nominations for the latest Hugo awards? I can’t believe what’s passing for science fiction these days. It’s a travesty, I tell ya! A travesty!”

    “Yeah, I saw, and I concur. Sad state. The entire pool of candidates isn’t worth a hill of Baens.”

  17. The sargent listened to the two privates grousing about the latest terrain feature and smiled. He walked over to them and crouched down.
    “Look it’s like this, army bases have the worst terrain going. It’s a feature.”
    “Sure sarge,” said the shorter private. “It’s just nothing worse then walking through a swamp all day, and then climbing a hill out of it. Just to find more swamp on TOP of the hill.”
    The sargent chuckled, “Like I said, feature not a bug.”

  18. A good bit over length, again, and maybe even somewhat of a shaggy-dog story, but…

    “…never going to amount to a hill of beans, Joseph John Hawkins, if you keep on like this. It may have been one old tough dried-up cow to you, but to me it was a quarter of our cattle, and you owed us more sense and a better trade than that, with everything so hard.” His aunt Sophie’s words kept on ringing in his ears the same way her paddling itched beneath his work pants, faintly now but still inescapably. The same way the blows of the old axe that had felled the little hickory tree still rang in the flesh of his hands.
    He paused to look up the hill, to the summit maybe fifty yards above him and the edge of the pasture; the oaks and poplars nearer, plus the tangle of mountain laurel further above. Back to the little tree he’d chopped down, obedient to “at least cut us some more stovewood though we’ll never burn it till Christmas, at least be that much use.” Aunt Sophie was a good woman, his mother’s youngest sister and the only one of his people ever interested in doing anything with or for Rose’s children (the times being so hard and all) once the influenza carried her off. But she looked at things, while Rose and (even more) her son and daughter looked into things, or even through them or behind them, and there was just such a broad river between Rose and hers on one bank and and Sophie and her own on the other he had often despaired of finding a ford to cross it. Even before but especially once his mother had gone to join her deeper kin.
    The hickory had looked pretty good, only a few wind cracks, but look deeper and better and you could see the black of its further road; the twisting at its heart, the way the ice would wring it till it broke, till it fell in a broken heap of branches. Some day soon, near surely by spring.
    You needed to look hard, with a strong eye, to see such things. But like the hills, they were.
    And most of all, the stronger and more promising trees around it needed light and air and room to grow, for them to come out right. Now they’d have it, sooner and better by his hand.
    And by Aunt Sophie’s asking. Just steer the course between the storms, and it’d come right.
    But she didn’t see it, wouldn’t, she lived in a fog and like so many others thought it clear as the night sky in winter, that showed you the stars by ones and hundreds and bright clouds. And no amount of “just wait and see” would ever budge them from it. Like yelling at the weather.
    The old man with the Model T truck he’d met on the road would likely have scared off any of them, for near sure; old like an apple tree, old and gnarled and worn, but strong and true.
    He had traded for a new carburetor (new to him) for Sophie’s father’s truck, from the untidy pile of parts in the crate in the back. She’d been sure it was no good, it was filthy and gummed with varnish, but his hands and mind had told him it was sound, just needed a few new parts from the store in town and some rebuilding. Turning it over in his hands for a minute or two had told him that much. And that apparently had told the man something about him, for he’d come out with something else far different to sweeten the trade.
    And that plus the carburetor had convinced him, right on the spot; even guessing what it all would just about surely look like to Sophie once he got back, and had.
    It wasn’t even a hill of beans, just barely enough to plant one, odd-looking little things that just didn’t match anything he’d seen — “Not butter beans, not pinto beans, not navy beans or halfrunners or… anything!” — like a cross between beans and ginseng root more than anything else. The man had cautioned him not to eat them, not to ever plant them in a garden with the others, but instead to find “old ground that’s never been plowed, never been tamed, I’m sure you’ll know it when you see it” and put them together in a hill “about as far across as the seat of your pants.” They hummed in his hand, sang faintly, like ‘seng root or his mother’s light touch always had. Not to the ear but to the heart.
    Like his mother’s voice, once upon a time, singing the deep old songs as they rocked.
    And Joe (as almost everyone but his sister knew him, all but his Daddy and Mama and her always had) had walked the tumbled ground at the edge of the pasture, hand held flat above it about waist high, to feel the wildness he’d been told to seek. Like a dowser looking for a good spot for a well, but not quite like that either. With his axe (or Sophie’s) in his other hand, the workaday iron and hickory balancing the secret warmth and quiet of the earth.
    And had felt what he needed at the edge of a tangle of briars, where no one would ever go to cut hay and no cow would ever graze. Old ground that had never been tamed, that had never been young even in the days of the Cherokee. Now he let go of all the things Sophie and all her kin and world knew and were, and fell all the way back to his mother and her world and ways.
    Jack Hawkins dropped the odd gnarled little beans in the ground.
    They reminded him of the man, gnarled and far from fair, even down to the oddness of the tips of his ears, which he’d still swear looked a bit pointed like a hog’s, or maybe even a cat’s.
    He covered them over lightly with the blade of his old axe, cold iron on black forest earth.
    He knew they wouldn’t come up this fall, or next spring. But someday, somehow…
    They’d be quite a hill of beans.

  19. The private shuffled up the hill, his chemical overboots flopping akwardly with every step. He’d told the supply sergeant they were too big, only to get that hang-dog look that sergeant had perfected.

    Now, runnng for hs life up the hill, he really wished he’d grabbed a size nine.

  20. The beetle had two great passions – love for a ball of dung and need to push it up the hill. It was patient, tireless, and unwavering in these passions. Each time the ball slipped, it began the climb again. At long last it reached the top! Ka-thunk. “Thmash the beetle!”

  21. As Ligonier Rafferty listened to the plains-folk pilgrims oohing and aahing at the Wojtyla Range towering over New Rome, he bit back the urge to point out that some of the foothills of the Algonquin Mountains back home were taller than those peaks. He’d heard enough people grumbling about how proud Codylanders were of their technological achievements. There was no point irritating them further with boasts about the natural wonders of the land to which their gate-crossing had delivered them.

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