Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Sunday 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: linen

80 responses to “Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. “So why linen thread?” Martin asked
    “Well a couple reasons,” private Kolanos answered, “linen thread we can find and it doesn’t stretch as much as cotton or nylon. As well if we get lucky we can grow our own flax to make it.”
    “Still don’t get it”
    “Look, bowstrings don’t last forever and we don’t have the supplies to keep us going indefinitely. Trust me, the reading I have done will let us keep the bows operating.”

    • had bows and string or backing in mind when I first read the prompt, but nothing was coming to mind. Then again, I ain’t much writer, more reader

      • It’s kind of funny actually. Working on a post apocalyptic story and been doing research along these lines. Finally got the “Traditional Bowyer’s Bible: Volume II” and they talk about all sorts of things that I needed to know. Especially on how to make thread by hand. 🙂
        Just working on stuff in the story.

        • in 2005 I went broke, and to kill time I made bows, strings arrows etc.
          I’d like to get back to shooting, but my arthritis and the shoulder that made me stop are conspiring to keep me weak. I can’t pull my horse bow, nor the compound. My Penobscot style is a bit too strong as well and stacks because it is rather short, and my rawhide and nylon cordage backed Inuit needs replacing. It is only 35 pounds at 28″ but it has developed a hinge, and is glued up with gelatin. I’d rather not risk a snapped bow hitting me in the face.
          I might get a low poundage horse bow to get back into things.

          Post apoc? If you give them access to PVC pipe, some amazing bows can be made from that. But amazingly the good old sinew backed horn bow is one of the best shooters one can make, but hard to do, and for cheap power, a longbow of some sort (whether a D or flat) backed or unbacked, is simple and stout.

          • Going with leaf spring crossbows currently. Still at the beginning and they need weapons now. Ammo is in short supply and part of the group is military. They have access to volume two and volume one so that’s something they will be working on in the future. PVC is an interesting idea, unfortunately temperatures currently don’t make that a good idea (think the current cold snap except longer)

    • Squirrel hide also works.

  2. “Myowl. Myowl, myowl, myowl, myow!”
    I retrieved the sports section from the newspaper. If I was quick enough I could get the paper under the cat before the hairball appeared.
    Too late, alas! By the time I got up the stairs, it had been horked up onto the bed linens.

    • Hmmm. I should have used “grabbed” instead of “retrieved”. Ah, well.

      • “Retrieved” gives the MC a more genteel character. Or perhaps unhurried. If that’s the sort of tone you want to give him, go for it! Sometimes adding a bit of unexpected character makes things interesting.

        • True, but it doesn’t fit with “quick enough” to get the paper to the cat. I’ll stick with “grabbed”, but thanks for the feedback!

  3. Christopher M. Chupik

    Drawing a linen in the sand was proving more difficult than he imagined.

  4. Her heart hammered. Years of work meant she could identify it easily. A book, a codex, not of wood pulp or even from linen rags, but true vellum, a plain leather cover that would make it even more conspicuous about here.
    Its value to them was to guide their thefts.

  5. Akrep knocked on the door, resting his head on the jamb and drawing breath and patience. “Madame? Are you awake?”

    A muffled “Enter!” was enough to move his hand to the knob. Four days in the hotel room, and already it held her scent – a puff of woman and soap, musk and floral, caressed his face as he opened the door.

    And then he forgot what he’d intended to say, at the sight of her sitting on the bed with nought but a thin linen shift rucked up about her knees, brushing out a glorious waterfall of auburn hair that tumbled from her head to spread out across the surface of her bed, rushing away in a river of beauty. His mouth was dry, and his britches too tight, as she picked up another lock and ran her brush down its length. “Ah, madame.”

    She looked up with large green eyes, innocent of her effect on him, and pulled the brush through a long lock, then waved at the foot of the bed. “Have a seat! You don’t have to hang about in the doorway like a cat. What can I do for you?”

    He closed the door, and carefully sat at very foot of her bed, on the corner, out of range of a casual touch. Even so, an elegant ankle was in range to pet. Akrep pressed his hands into his thighs, keeping them under control, and nodded at her brush. “I hadn’t realized your hair was so long.”

    “I keep it up, here, because it’s so dusty.” She smiled, and kept brushing. He could imagine what it felt like, to pull the brush through – and from there, his imagination ran on to less discrete actions, to holding those pale limbs down against the bed, while her hair spread out all around them both. When he focused again, she was still talking. “…battle to keep it conditioned it enough. It’s very tame, at home.”

    “Yes, many things are more difficult, here.” He nodded, and let her chatter on. It was like birdsong in the forest, the rising and falling tones, and while the words themselves were of little import, the song indicated that all was well, and no danger but him lurked about.

  6. Linen and lace? I had my heart set on silk.”

    “I know, my darling. But silk, if available at all, would take weeks to arrive and the Earl wishes to wed you soonest. Besides, linen from our finest flax will showcase our duchy’s potential for contribution to the entire Empire.”

    *****

    Sometimes it works on the first try. 🙂

  7. Dear Sir,

    From your description of the volume in hand, papyrus bound in linen, and the excerpts of the text you have provided, I would guess that you have an early Greek translation of the original Al Azif, possibly predating the Theodorus Philetus translation of 950 AD. While, if not a fake, this would have considerable value to a,certain type of collector I feel I should warnmyou that this book, in all its tramslations, attracts the very worst sort of mental defectives. My advice is to soak the volume thoroughly in lighter fluid and apply a match.

  8. The sarcophagus was empty, but the scraps of linen bandages that littered the floor suggested that the occupant hadn’t left very long ago. Edmund held his torch up high and cursed under his breath when he realized where the trail led.

    “They’re taking the mummy to the gate. We must stop them.”

  9. Linen!
    Huh?
    Linen.
    Who?
    Linen! Vicious Idiot Linen!
    Oh, DAMN that autocorrect!!

  10. “‘Boiled linseed oil’? What’s a linseed?”

    “I think it’s the seed of the flax plant.”

    “Why not call it ‘flax-seed oil’?”

    “Because that’s an edible health supplement and this isn’t. Besides, you make linen out of flax and English is a strange language sometimes. “

  11. She looked unseeing at the tablecloth, conscious only of the need to make yet another decision. Half-unfolded, the oft-washed cream linen draped gracefully over her wrists, its cheerful print marred by a very few faint stains.

    A scant hour into her weekly penance of sorting through her mother’s tiny estate, and she was mentally and emotionally exhausted, as always. The woman had saved so many things from her sixty-three years of marriage, and each piece of jewelry, each article of clothing, every knick-knack and print, all the small tables and shelves and furniture – every item required a decision. To sell, to give away, to send to her sister or brother, to shred, to throw in the trash, to archive, to keep.

    Yes, what to keep in memory of a mother she had not liked very much? It was only a sense of duty and a promise made to her dying father five years earlier that kept her coming every week to sort painfully through the remains. She had taken home only a handful of things. The marble pastry board bought on a visit to the quarry in Vermont. Two large steel mixing bowls, the big scalloped-edge Pyrex pie plate, some baking utensils, all of which she knew she would use. And of course, the old ash rolling pin, veteran of decades of pie-crusts and cookies and all the happy hours a young girl had shared with her Mom, learning to bake. Memories that weren’t painful. Memories of feeling loved.

    The weight of the linen over her arms brought her mind back to the next decision. There were no memories attached to this piece. Without hesitation she refolded the tablecloth and put it into the box for Goodwill.

  12. “Tonight’s question,” announced Doc Webster, “is, what’s the best song about bedding?”

    “Easy,” called out Long Drink, “Nights in White Satin – Moody Blues!”

    “No,” shouted Fast Eddie, “Tammy Wynette! Satin sheets to lie on satin pillows to cry on.”

    I spoke up, “You’re all wrong, it’s Fairport Convention’s “Dirty Linen.”

  13. Garza could count on one paw the number of humans she had met in the flesh. Soft, small, and not very lethal going by appearance, she thought. But looks could be deceiving.

    “And just why, pray tell, are we involving humans in this operation?” Yvged groused to his partner. The brawny alien fiddled with his sensor net, scanning the slowly spinning wreckage below the ship. There should have been a small station there, according to ship records. The charts were wrong. There was an expanding debris field there instead.

    “Because we were told to. I don’t like it any better than you, but I want to keep my job.” She muttered back.

    “But they’re dangerous!” The smaller alien shrugged, rolling her eyes at him.

    “Yes they are, and if you say that any louder over open coms, make sure you hang out somewhere easy to clean, like the airlocks. That way, when it does kill you, the rest of us won’t have to put up with cleaning up your mess one last time!” Yvged tightened his grip on the control pod, but said nothing. She’d heard the stories, same as Yvged. One human. A whole shipload of separatist fanatics, with the ambassador’s kidnapped daughter held hostage. Sure, the human had done the job, got the girl free. But just how it had done it… She shuddered.

    When the ambassador’s home government had expressed concern over how such ‘reckless action’ would be viewed in the galactic press, somehow a trideo was leaked. It showed every detail of what happened when a human took matters into its own manipulators. And gave countless thousands nightmares over what might happen if they themselves actually met one in the flesh.

    “Look, let’s just keep our heads down and keep the scans up. We’re safe here on the ship. It’s over there on the wreck. As long as we’re careful, nothing could possibly go wrong!”

    ***

    “This is so wrong,” Jan whispered softly as she flicked her hand torch to wide beam. So far, every alien ship and station she had been on had but one thing in common. Nothing was sized for humans. Ranging from just barely too big and feeling like a child sitting on grown-up furniture to painfully small, it was never quite right. Even for a shorter-than-average woman, she couldn’t manage the smaller species’ furniture and was far too small to manage the larger.

    That made the discovery of this section of the broken station so odd. It fit. She could almost touch the tops of the interior hatches. Manual controls at a standard four foot height. And placed on the correct side, too. Even more fortunate, there were no bodies to be found.

    She pushed through the hatch and into a more open area. An atrium of sorts, with staterooms to the left and right form the looks of it. Buckled deckplates and scorched and shattered debris littered her path, raw salvage only useful as refined metal to be remelted for the most part. Her job was to search out the more valuable stuff, molecular circuitry, systems that could be repaired to functionality, and remains for the graves registration project. These things earned her a bounty over and above the standard (and dismally small) rate.

    Her bosses, two big fuzzy aliens that reminded her a bit of otters crossed with pandas, presumably made even more, being trained technicians. She didn’t ask. Jan knew humans were in bad odor with most species, though she wasn’t very clear on why. Speaking of odor. Her atmospheric sensors were picking up long chain hydrocarbons. Nasty stuff, that. Metal gasses in trace amounts, too. No surprise, considering how wrecked this station was.

    She picked her way deeper into the station, often retracing her steps where the way forward was blocked. She found very little worth tagging, but logged everything as she went for the drones that would follow in her footsteps. Drones were expensive, explorers were not. If she died here, the company didn’t have to pay her.

    The burned areas at first seemed random to her, but as she went along, something clicked. Where she would have expected bullet scars, there were scorch marks. A few bullet holes, but mostly ashes. The station must have been boarded at some point. By a species that used some form of fire as a weapon. A very hot fire. Interior bulkheads were built tough by all spacefaring species, just less tough than the outer armor. These were warped, and in places the metal had run like wax.

    Jan was still only halfway to her final waypoint, the environmental system’s computer core according to her map. She found herself frozen, staring at the remains of what would likely have been an aquarium, if it were made by humans. There was a ragged bit of scrap stuck to the bulkhead here. It was a sort of yellowish white, almost perfectly matching the shade of the paint there. Absentmindedly, she scanned it.

    Plant based fiber. Long strand. Gamma radiation resistant, highly permeable. Confidence level ninety-five percent it was…

    Jan keyed her com early. She thought she sounded remarkably calm. Despite what she now knew must have happened here.

    ***

    “I think we need to skip this one, boss. I’m returning to the ship.”

    Garza looked at her partner in shock. Could it have heard…? No, there was no possible way. She licked suddenly dry lips. Yvged began grooming himself nervously.

    “Ah, why- why is that, human? We have contracts to fulfill, and this one is on the list that-”

    “I know that, boss. You need to trust me on this one. I’ll be there in about ten mikes. I’m exiting through the hull.” The two looked at each other in confusion. The human was just an explorer, if a dangerous one.

    “Should I warm up the defensive suite, ‘boss’?” Garza gave the slightly larger being a withering glare. “Better we should warm up the engines instead. Something has been bothering me about this job ever since it appeared on the log.” She frowned, thinking.

    “It just appeared on our logs two short cycles ago when I could have sworn there was nothing between that last job at the dark planet and our loop back to Central. And now our human explorer tells us we need to go. Something is definitely up. And if it means danger to the ship… Well, I’d just as soon my pretty butt be gone from here when trouble comes calling.” She found herself talking to empty air by the time she finished. A deep thrum sounded as the pumps engaged and plasma thrusters began their standby cycle. Grouchy he may be, but Yvged was solid when it counted.

    ***

    The flight checklist was done by the time Jan returned to the ship. Both of her bosses met her at the airlock. Stumbling over themselves to be the first one to talk.

    “What did you find that-”

    “Why did you stop-”

    They both halted, looking at each other. Just like a married couple, Jan thought- then realized that’s probably what they actually were. So much she didn’t know about her employers.

    “Here.” She handed over the cloth and her scan slate. “See for yourself.” The smaller one fiddled with her device for a moment, then flicked through the data rapidly.

    “This does not tell me much, human. Just that this rag is something called-”

    “Linen,” she interjected.

    “Yes. What does that have to do with… Oh.” The alien’s face relaxed in thought, much like a human would.

    “Not just any cloth. Linen only comes from Earth. There are no flax plants existing on other worlds. It had to come from the homeworld originally. And the station. The section I was in was sized perfectly for human beings. But there were no bodies. None. Anywhere.

    “The whole place was so torn up, I chalked it up to whatever wrecked the station, but there was too much damage. Scorch marks. Ashes.” Jan swallowed. This was a lot bigger than she’d ever expected to find. And on her first job, too.

    “Someone is hiding there tracks, boss. Someone with enough firepower to blow away an entire station, even if only one way off the main trade routes, and almost get away with it.” She let that sink in for a bit.

    “It’s probably best if we were never here. Can we do that? Scrub our waypoint data, edit our logs, make it look like we went somewhere else?” The two aliens shared a look. Definitely like a married couple, she thought. Unless they have some sort of telepathy. The larger one nodded and left, heading back towards the engine room.

    “We can. We will. Much as I hate to do it, but I can’t deny what you’ve found, explorer. This touches on the safety of the ship.” The alien scrubbed her face with her paws. “Normally, I’d award a bonus for that. But since we were never here…”

    “No one will ever know, boss. My word on it.” Her boss gave a solemn nod.

    “Best get settled in, then. We’re burning in five. There’s another derelict on our itinerary that I’d normally pass up, but we can make it look like we were there the whole time if we hustle.” The smaller (but still much larger than her human employee) alien headed back to the bridge, waving her along.

    Jan smiled. It was rare to be treated like an equal as a human in the galaxy. It was always fear, distrust, and anger that she never really understood. She’d been born in space, just like the generation before her. These aliens- these people- had taken a chance on her, for what reason she might never know. But she held that moment close in her heart, like a fragile flower. It might not last-

    But humans were tough. Her mother told her so. She squared her shoulders, lifted her head, and walked down the corridor to her tiny cabin. It was probably an equipment locker repurposed for her use, but it held all she owned. Jan tucked the scrap she’d torn from the original piece behind a ribbon on the stuffed teddy bear she’d brought from home.

    She’d always thought that he looked sad and lonely before, which is why she’d taken him with her in the first place. Not today though. Today, he looked fierce.

    • Good story.
      Shades of RAH.

      • Glad you liked it. Probably still need some seasoning before I go for Heinlein-esque, though- the man sets a darned high bar!

        Maybe I should aim for “not-a-real-writer”? *grin*

    • Imagine, if you will, a random reader uriously hitting a like button that doesn’t exist.

      • Furiously, even.

      • There exists a like button, but it is neither intuitive nor simple. You have to open wordpress’ reader function, which is in the top left when you log in to WP. View the site in WP reader, then open the comments. You may have to “view more comments” a couple of times. There will be a little star next to the “reply” button.

        Comments that replied to you are even easier. When you open those from the little bell on the top right , you can click like right from there.

        And glad you enjoyed the story!

    • Nice story. Reminds me of some of Cherryh’s stuff.

      • It was the fuzzy aliens, wasn’t it? *grin* This one came out instead of the one in originally intended to get nailed down. Sometimes they just come out okay, despite having to squeeze the words out through a cheese grater (metaphorically speaking, of course).

        It’s part of the universe I’ve been writing The Last Scout in, and will likely have more bits as it gets filled in and fleshed out. Happy to have entertained!

  14. There are a number of the shortest short stories ever around. Among them, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” attributed to Hemingway. Fred Brown’s, ” The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”

    Mine is, Oh, look, I think that’s a….

  15. Williams turned over the clear envelope. There, on linen wrapping, was English words:

    Help Me
    Memphis
    Summer Solstice
    1478 BC
    Prof. Williams.

    “Is this a joke?”

    Taylor shook his head. “I unwrapped it myself. Your project -”

    “I’m not at liberty-”

    “I suggest you study ancient Egyptian. Just in case.”

  16. They had taken the Lady and bound Kyth with some strips of old cloth. No child, even one of the Wildlings, was a threat to these soldiers. She lay still and for the first time in her life called on the power that had made her Outcast.
    The linen burned.

    (Exactly 50 words.)

  17. The pale pink linen dress goes comfortably over my shoulders and I grunt as I finally get it zipped shut and tie off the back of the hideously well concealed corset built into the dress. It is much too sheer and carefully designed to wear anything other than the most pale and flimsiest of panties under it, and there is no way I could even have an idle thought of wearing a bra. I model it for a second in front of the mirror and sigh angrily, “An, I recognize that your boss’s event has a dress code, but this makes me look like I’m going to be the first girl to be ‘auctioned off’ at a fundamentalist Mormon community for marriage to the head patriarch.”

    An squeezes the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, and grunts in frustration. “I know, I know,” he muttered. “The day he invited the whole family to the event, he told me that he had a wardrobe requirement, and that he had already contacted the designers needed, and he got your sizes from the video when you were there.”

    “An,” I shake my head in frustration, and imagine this dress a bit more with the proper accessories-or the proper items to increase my bidding price-and look at him, “Your boss is pushing the edges of being seriously creepy.”

    “But,” An sighed, matching my frustration, “he is in control of one of the top ten mutual fund companies in Manhattan, and a tenth of his portfolio is how a good fraction of your personal wealth is concealed.”

    I can see my hands squeezing into fists and releasing in anger and I realize that I am furious. “First chance we get without it looking suspicious,” I order, “our money is out of that fund and somewhere else.”

  18. A silver flute’s pentatonic melody reverberated against the ancient stones and silenced the congregation.

    The old priest sprinkled holy water over the mutilated body and wrapped it in white linen.

    Then they all lifted it into the pool of the Seven Veils, and chanted the blessings of forgiveness and redemption.

  19. The forked beard. The horned helmet and the other armor. The vicious-looking axe, as tall as its bearer. All of them were there, clearly imprinted on the otherwise spotless linen sheet.

    The archaeologist put down his camera. “There’s no question about it. This is certainly the legendary Shroud of Durin.”

  20. “Tell me, Holmes, how exactly did you deduce that the murderer was a communist agent infiltrating the miners’ union?”
    “Observe, here, Dr. Watson, the long streaks of black, obviously from five very coal-stained fingers.”
    I turned the victim’s shirt in my hands and studied it closely.
    “Astounding, Holmes!”
    “Elementary, my dear Watson. It was a simple case of marks and linen.”

  21. When the man clothed in white linen came to his mother’s door, Eddie didn’t think much of it, and refused to do him the courtesy of answering his knock. After a bit, the man grew tired or bored, and he left to go two more doors down the street, where he was welcomed by old Mrs. Paul, who offered him ice water in return for the man in white linen marking her forehead with something like dark ashes…

    This puzzled Eddie greatly, until later in the afternoon when the mobs came and began the killing. The only house left untouched, he noticed, as they dragged him off, was old Mrs. Paul’s…

  22. When Andric had first visited the Cathedral’s laundry chambers there had been such fits of giggling and catcalls that he had nearly fled, face more heated from embarrassment than from the clouds of steam. But his anger had carried him through his task, and after the washergirls had realized his purpose, all mockery had vanished. By now all he merited was an absently cheerful set of halloos. When his arrival got nothing but silence, he knew instantly something was wrong, and pushed his way through the hanging sheets of linen to find Rochaina, the chambermistress.

    She and the rest were gathered around the main tub, scrubbing in silence; at his arrival she looked up and sighed. “Valetta went into labour this morning, Deacon. I’ve not heard much, but … it may not be going well.”

    Andric’s fist clenched on the purse of silver coins. “Damn you, Carilos,” he muttered. He had long since realized not every Churchman took his vows as seriously as he himself did, but he had really thought Carilos had more sense of responsibility than this. Not for the first time, he regretted that he had never made more study of Healing in his arts.

  23. The girl was wearing a pretty new dress that day, made by her mother from expensive linen. With a stab of guilt, the boy realized she had put it on just for him. Now, days later, her sobs resonated as clearly as when he told her he had to go.

  24. “What’s Gwendolyn doing?” shrieked Agnes.

    “Hanging out the washing, I suppose,” replied Nigel Slim-Howland. “It’s Monday, you know. Gwendolyn’s programmed for that.”

    “But she’s hanging your linens!”

    “Well, of course she is. It’s what you do once you’ve washed them. “

    “But they’re your old Star Wars sheets!” she yelped.

  25. “Tell me, Lionardo, why did you buy that farm?“
    “I bought it for my paintings.”
    “It does not look impressive enough to make a painting of it.”
    “No, no, no, Antonio! It is for the flax seed oil to make my paints, and the linen to make the best canvases!”

  26. As I walked out in the streets of Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day, I spied a young cowboy all dressed in white linen;dressed in white linen and cold as the clay. “I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.” “I see by your outfit that you’re a cowboy, too.” (together) “We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys; if you get an outfit you can be a cowboy, too!” (H/t, The Kingston Trio) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCeelWFO56Y

  27. Ms. Miller looked at the setup and thought evil about her dad. She used a distaff rarely in her spinning but she understood keeping her raw material in close proximity to the wheel. Rare, foot-long, wool fiber was a specialty of hers; even the thirty-inch flax strands she spun to linen lace thread were no longer a challenge. But straw?

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