Week 39 of Odd Prompts

One way to get story ideas is to watch the world pass while you observe. The pattern of human traffic, the body language of vehicles flowing between lanes, the interaction of voices and motivations – all ripe with conflict, meet-cutes, and other story ideas. But sometimes, you need something different, and that’s where prompts come in. Welcome to More Odds Than Ends, where prompts are odd and the people odder. Let’s get on with it!

PrompterPromptPrompted
Fiona GreyThe sphinx had waited for centuries for the right question to be posed by a petitioner.Leigh Kimmel
AC YoungThe cloud elves enjoyed using rainbow slides to get down to the ground.Becky Jones
Padre“All I see around me is anarchy, chaos, and disorder. My work here is done.”nother Mike
nother MikeIt was a bright, sunny day, but all he/she could do was sob and cry…Fiona Grey
Becky JonesThe smell of new mown grass floated into the house on the little breeze.Padre
Leigh KimmelWhenever it was in the shop, it would work perfectly. As soon as we got it back, it’d start acting up again.AC Young

Not into trading? Need a random idea? Grab a spare, if one strikes your fancy.

SPARES

SpareThe turtle had been standing there with the left forefoot raised for a long time.
SpareIf her eyes had been greener, or larger, they would have been impossible. And yet, the things she saw…
SparePing-pong paperwork
SpareLooking on the bright side can be blinding!
SpareDon’t tie your hopes to a concrete block, they just sink when you do that…

Show us what you’ve got in the comments. Until next week, happy creating.

Header image by Fiona Grey

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8 comments

  1. This week it was Leigh Kimmel’s prompt that cycled round to me: Whenever it was in the shop, it would work perfectly. As soon as we got it back, it’d start acting up again.

    Something was failing due to something being true in the shop but not in the home. Let’s see if this works:

    This was getting extremely frustrating. Yet again the vacuum cleaner had cut out after only fifteen minutes of use. ‘ERROR’ flashed in bold red type on its fancy screen with more options than anyone reasonable would ever use. And this was for the simplest model available to purchase.

    But what was the error? The screen never said. And whenever we took it back to the store, the shop couldn’t replicate whatever it was that had gone wrong.

    I went back to the plug socket, turned it off at the mains, and then turned it back on again. It was a work-around, one we only needed for the stairs-hall-lounge section of the house – due to unplugging and replugging as we took the vacuum from one room to the next we rarely needed to leave it on continuously for the fifteen minutes the machine took to find the eternal error – but one we shouldn’t have needed to figure out in the first place.

    Hopefully this would be the last time. The shop had finally agreed to send a technician to us to try to diagnose the issue. They had done so with very bad grace, and were threatening to charge us a large additional fee if we were wasting their time. But they had finally agreed to see the infernal machine where we knew that they would see the error in operation. Tomorrow at 9am was the appointed time.

    It wasn’t 9 o’clock when the doorbell rang. It never was. People from the town never quite got the knack of calculating how long it would take them to get from there to here. But 9:30 was better than most managed.

    “Sorry, I’m late. My GPS was on the blink.”

    I did my best not to smile. It was a better excuse than many managed, even though the GPS system was one of the very few signals that managed to penetrate this deep into the valley.

    “Come on in. Do you want a mug of tea or coffee?”

    “No. I think I’ll just start on your vacuum cleaner, since I’m already behind for the day.”

    I guided him into the lounge where we had the blessèd thing all set up ready and waiting. I allowed him to turn it on at the plug, and while he was sitting around watching and waiting, I went into the kitchen. There I made myself a mug of tea and nursed it, waiting for the noise to shut off.

    Fifteen minutes in, right on schedule, the sound cut off abruptly. I went back in to the lounge to find a very confused technician.

    “This is all it says? No alphanumeric reference?”

    I vaguely remembered what an alphanumeric thing was from my schooldays. “Nope. Only ‘ERROR’ in red block capitals.”

    “Right. I’ll have to get out my diagnostic unit.”

    The technician went back outside and extracted some machine from his van. Back inside he connected it up to the vacuum and turned the thing on. Then it flashed an error code.

    “Drat. There’s no signal. I’ll have to diagnose the issue the old-fashioned way.”

    That wasn’t a surprise. The signal masts were all in the local towns, but the way the valley twisted and turned meant that none of the signals ever penetrated this far in.

    The technician got out his mobile phone, and swore. Then looked extremely embarrassed and turned to me. “Could I borrow your mobile, please. Mine doesn’t have any signal.”

    “No-one’s mobile gets any signal here. You can use the landline in the corner.” I directed him to a handset on a small table next to an armchair.

    “Ermmm.” He looked just like my sister did when she didn’t want to ask a question she needed to ask. “Do you have the number for the store, please? All our work mobiles use a central phone number storage on the cloud.”

    He didn’t need to add that little bit of explanation, but it did explain why he didn’t have the store’s phone number to hand – and most people nowadays never learnt even the numbers they rang the most. We always stored numbers in our mobiles’ internal memories, and just in case the battery ran out at a most inopportune time, we wrote all the important ones down on paper.

    I reached past the technician and opened our directory. Flipping through the pages I came to the pages marked V. There, listed under ‘Vacuums’, was the number for the store.

    The technician typed in the phone number, and then put the handset on the table.

    Not the most sensible thing in the world, but I’d seen it done often enough to know how to work around the issues. I reached past him, and turned the phone’s volume up to full. Of course, I’d now also hear both sides of the conversation, which I didn’t mind.

    The phone rang, and then someone answered it. “Smith’s Household Appliances. How can we help you?”

    “George, it’s Phil at the Shepherd’s place. There’s a problem I don’t recognise, and there’s no signal for the diagnostic unit to work either. Could you check the documentation, please?”

    “Certainly. What’s the code?”

    “There isn’t one. It just flashes ‘E’, ‘R’, ‘R’, ‘O’ and ‘R’ – all capitals, in red.”

    “I’ll have to do a find search through the manual. It might take a while.”

    “I’ll wait.”

    Then silence at the other end.

    “Would you like a mug of tea now?” I asked.

    “No, thanks.”

    We waited in silence for a few more minutes.

    “Are you still there, Phil?”

    “Yes, George. What is it?”

    “The vacuum can’t connect to the server to check for updates.”

    “What? It’s as fundamental as that?”

    “Yep. If it’s operating for at least ten minutes, the vacuum checks to see if the company’s issued any operating system updates. All standard stuff, nothing to worry about, unless there’s no signal. If there’s no signal the processor assumes that something’s wrong and shuts down.”

    “Is there a solution?”

    “Yes. The system can be reset to be updated via satellite. That should solve the problem. I’ll guide you through it.”

    Ten minutes later, and the system updates to the vacuum were complete. A test began. Twenty more minutes later, Phil checked, and confirmed that the update system was working properly now.

    “All complete. I don’t think we’ll be charging you as this is something we should have discovered in the store.”

    “Always good to hear. Why did they set the system up to fall down if such a minor part of it failed?”

    “Minor? Everyone expects all their gadgets and gizmos to have these auto-update systems. If they fail for any reason we get complaint after complaint after complaint!”

    “Clearly many of your customers need to spend a while living at this end of the valley.”

    “Perhaps,” was all Phil appeared to be willing to say on the subject.

    He packed himself back up, got back behind the wheel, and drove back off. I waved him goodbye before closing the front door. Hopefully that was the last time we would have any problems with that vacuum for a good long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Padre suggested…

    “All I see around me is anarchy, chaos, and disorder. My work here is done.”

    [which makes me think about the old stories of Coyote or other supernatural agents of chaos. Hum…]

    The substitute art teacher had certainly stirred things up when he looked around the class and announced that today, they would be studying modern art in the only reasonable way, by trying to create some. That’s when he told one group of students to lay canvases on the floor, while he had another group set up ladders and a board walkway over the canvases. Then he had each student grab a tube of paint of a color they liked, climb the ladder, and squirt paint on the canvases.

    With paint everywhere, he then stood the canvases up against a wall, and asked the students what each one made them think of. The students gazed at the dripping smears of color, and guessed various odd things.

    One of the canvases, though… they all agreed. That was a picture of anger. The red smears, the yellow streaks, even the purple splotches. Yes, that was anger.

    Of course, that was when the principal walked in, checking on this new substitute teacher. He looked around at the room, with the ladders and walkway still standing, and the strange canvases leaning against the wall, splattered paint everywhere, and he shook his head.

    “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be teaching them art, not wrecking the classroom?”

    The substitute looked around the classroom, too. Then smiled. Bowed to the class, and to the principal, and said, “All I see around me is anarchy, chaos, and disorder. My work here is done.”

    Then he started laughing.

    Still laughing, he walked up to the whiteboard and wrote, “Modern Art!”

    [there we go!]

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This week I was prompted by Becky Jones with “The smell of new mown grass floated into the house on the little breeze.” I decided to just start with it and see where it went. This is a follow on to the scene from last week.

    It was a gorgeous fall day. After having coffee with Dave, Father Michael sat in his office in the rectory with the window open, enjoying the quiet and the cool breeze after the stifling, oppressive heat of summer. One of his parishioners has come by earlier in the day to mow the lawn and now the smell of new mown grass floated into the house on the little breeze.
    He smiled contentedly to himself. The arm chair was a luxury, but well worth it for his comfort. He wasn’t an ascetic, one who felt the need to mortify his flesh and deny himself to achieve holiness. Instead, he allowed himself a few luxuries, while denying himself other pleasures. It was all about finding balance.
    His own life was a sacrifice. Dave might not understand, but he had sworn himself to God on several occasions. Three stood out in his memory.
    His ordination, of course, was the latest. He had lain down his life for God and given himself to His work. Forsaking marriage to live a celibate life, devoted to God and the Church alone. In some ways, this oath was the easiest one. God already had a claim on him, body and soul.
    The first time was the day that he knew he was dead. He could still see it in his mind. Looking out the dust covered window of the Humvee and seeing the round copper concave disk of the roadside bomb staring at him. He knew in that moment that he was going to die at 21. As soon as it went off, it was going to tear through the armor of his vehicle and his mother would get a closed coffin with a few body parts and couple sandbags inside and an American Flag draped over the top.
    “Bomb! Left side!” he had shouted, and he had started praying in the depths of his heart. “God. I’m not ready to die.”
    And then he had heard God smile. “I know. You are going to be a priest, instead.” And that was that. He had his calling.
    The second time… Father Michael smiled and began to laugh quietly to himself. That demon and the jalapeno. It was silly, but it had revealed another side of his calling. It had introduced him to the things that go bump in the night and to the power he had been granted to deal with them. Both times, God had called him. And both times, He had showed him the mission that He had for him in the world. He was content with his life, which was more than enough.
    Father Michael took a deep breath. It was past time he turned to prayer, to lay himself down once again before the throne of God, steeling his soul against the horrors that were out there, waiting.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was prompted by AC Young with “The cloud elves enjoyed using rainbow slides to get down to the ground.” This small snippet is what I came up with.

    “Momma? Can I go down by myself? Please?” Lyrien’s small voice pleaded.

    Myzrielle glanced down at her youngest. He was just a few months shy of when Rathal and Nithenoel had used the rainbow slide by themselves. Parents right behind, of course, but the children loved sliding without sitting on a lap, held by a parent. Myzrielle shared a look with Taenaran, her husband.

    Taenaran smiled down at Lyrien. “So, you think you’re ready for the rainbow slide on your own, son?”

    “Yes, please, Father! I’m a big cloud elf now! I can use the rainbow slide all by myself!” Lyrien danced on his toes.

    “Alright. Let’s get you settled,” Taenaran said, grinning at his youngest son. Lyrien bounced over to the top of the slide, setting the small, billowy clouds surrounding it bouncing. Myzrielle smiled at his enthusiasm.

    Truth be told, she clearly remembered the thrill of using the rainbow slide by herself for the first time. She still enjoyed it. Up, over, down. Colors rushing by while you flew from the cool dampness of the clouds into the warmth of the sunshine and back into the clouds again, before finally coming to a surprisingly gentle stop on the ground. There really wasn’t anything else like it. She watched Taenaran settle himself behind Lyrien and then gestured to her other two children. Rathal slid in behind his little brother while Nithenoel sat down just in front of her mother. Myzrielle was the last in as was their family habit. One parent always brought up the rear because even though it was a rainbow slide, you could never be certain what you might run into on it, and you didn’t want to lose any children to a wayward wind.

    Rathal put his hands on Taenaran’s shoulders and looked over his father at Lyrien. “Ready to go, little bro?”

    Lyrien bounced around and finally sat down. Taenaran smiled down at Lyrien. “Let’s go!”

    The family flew down the rainbow slide.

    Liked by 1 person

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