This week's prompt from Madison Woods easily took me back to my roots.  I hope you enjoy.
This generation of zombies is smart.  We have to be smarter.  They destroyed the cities in days.  They’re attracted to lights and fancy equipment; after all they were created to destroy civilization.

On the perimeter of an apparently abandoned ranch, in the remains of a rusted out broken down pickup truck, just below the dashboard, waits a tiny woman with fiery red hair and a spirit to match.  The shotgun in her hand is rust free, so is the truck, it’s only painted to look that way.  Reba May Johnson smiles. “Those speed bumps will never know what hit them.”

Another quick scene for your reading enjoyment from Madison Woods' Friday Fictioneers prompt
"What did you wake me up for Kelly?  I was having such a nice dream!"

"This will be worth it, Tina, I promise."

"Can't it wait until later?  I've only had 2 hours of sleep this cycle."

"It has to be in the next 10 minutes or we'll miss it."

"Miss what?"

"Come on!"

Tina gasped as they stepped outside.

"Just once every few months you can catch Alpha Centauri A setting while B is rising.  I couldn't let you visit Centauri Prime without seeing the dueling suns.  It'd be like working in New York or DC and never sight-seeing."

Another scene from Undeclared
Lanterns illumined the forest path like a nocturnal rainbow stealing Margot’s breath. “Oh my, that is amazing!”
Carrie smiled but said nothing, carefully navigating the rocky slope.
“I have to admit, Carebear, you’ve changed. A few months ago, you would have complained that Luke didn’t use something more traditionally romantic like candles.”
“Candles might start a forest fire.”
“That’s true. I just can’t believe how beautiful this is. I wonder how long it took him to do.” They reached the crest of the hill. “Where is Luke anyway?”
“It took me about two hours.” Carrie smiled. “This evening’s for us.”

As we get closer to the day, I find my stories pointing in a particular direction. :)
By Wakefield Mahon

Every day he helped his mother take care of his little brothers and sisters in a house like so many others in the village. He helped his father in the shop, learning the trade so he could earn a living when he grew up. Father was not a rich man, but he was honest and well known for his dedication to quality products and services. Mother was a good woman as well, but at night, she stared at the stars as if something was troubling her heart.
In the morning, he ran around with the other village children and Mother scolded him for getting his outfit dirty. In the afternoon, he skipped rocks across the lake with his friends but never did any harm. He was a good little boy. Each night, he read the texts and the prophecy.
He knew the texts by heart and understood what they meant - no child asked more questions of the teachers and priests. Still it was hard to believe that he would have to leave it all behind, that these friends and family would someday turn their backs on him. He would find new friends, impress the crowds with his skills and knowledge but in the end, they would turn on him too. One bleak day he would walk alone, though surrounded by strangers, up a long and dusty road, dragging a cross up the hill to die for someone else's crime, to fulfill those prophecies he knew and loved so well.

The contestants who made the tour battled it out this week choosing their weapons from the Billy Joel songbook.  Some of my favorites fell flat and some others really surprised me tonight.
DeAndre Brackensick
“Only the Good Die Young”

DeAndre was one of my wife’s early favorites.  His gentle persona and carribean sensitivities are reminiscent of Jason Castro.

He is finally settling into his voice, but the song is very masculine and he failed to pull it off.  His performance felt bouncy and missed the mark.

Erika Van Pelt
“New York State of Mind”

I am always rooting for the female rockers in every season.  Erika showed some promise early on but has failed so far to resonate with the viewing audience.

I could finally listen to her without picturing Sher.  She gave a nice but, in the end, forgettable performance of one of my favorite Billy Joel standards.

Joshua Ledet
“She’s Got a Way”

Gospel singer Joshua enters this week coming off of a phenomenal performance of Percy Sledge’s legendary “When a Man Loves a Woman”

Joshua has a truly amazing voice, but his complex gospel style played havoc with a simple beautiful song.  His previous success may carry him this week, but to win he’ll need to prove he can do more than sing R&B.

Skylar Laine

“Little Reba” has been one of my favorites from the very beginning of the competition.

It came as no surprise that she chose a song made famous by a country rendition (Frankly, I always preferred Garth Brook’s version over Billy Joel’s original). She managed to rock the chorus but her shaky verse revealed a weakness in her range.

Elise Testone

This throwback songstress has struggled to stay in the competition so far.  Tonight may have changed that.

For the first time in the evening, someone “got” Billy Joel.  Her soulful delivery earned every bit of the standing ovation she received.

Phil Phillips
“Moving Out”

The most unique individual in the completion, Phil refuses to sing any song the way it was originally written.

I have to say I was surprised tonight.  For the first time, I actually liked his version of the song.  His trademark honesty might not win the competition, but his fans will know exactly what they are getting when he sells his first album.

Hollie Cavanaugh

This little diva, with her distinctive accent, is one of my guilty pleasures.

She has proven her chops tackling Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.  But this week, she oversang a song that Billy Joel practically spoke.  Still, I don’t think she’s going anywhere.

Heejun Han
“My Life”

This Asian performer shocked listeners with his soulful Latino/R&B voice.

While the judges were not amused, I liked two things about Heejun’s performance.  First he stepped away from the boring ballads.  More importantly, he chose a song that fits the personality that we see in all of the non-musical segments.  While the range of the song emphasized his accent and pitch problems in a few places, I’m hoping that America will keep this entertainer around.

Jessica Sanchez
“Everybody Has a Dream”

This young lady exploded into the American consciousness with a near perfect rendition of Whitney Houston’s (actually Dolly Parton’s but let’s not split hairs) “I Will Always Love You”.

Randy’s comment summed it up perfectly.  Jessica has delivered consistent performances week after week and may just make it all the way.  I’d never even heard the song before and I loved it.

Colton Dixon
“Piano Man”

The alternative rocker in the competition has polled well with the ladies.

This was the other contestant that blew my mind.  Until tonight, I’ve been unimpressed.  But as the judges and mentors said, it seemed as if the song was made for him.  He made the classic song his own without disrespecting the original.  Colton may be the one to watch.

Bottom Three Predictions

This early in the competition, surprise upsets happen all of the time, but if I have to guess I’d say:
  • Deandre Brackensick (going home)
  • Erika VanPelt
  • Heejun Han
My Rottie, Princess, has been through so many doctor visits this year, I thought this story was appropriate.
You want me to get into the car? 
Let me see, the first time I went with you, they cut off my favorite body part and now I'll never be the same.  The next time, that mean woman in the white jacket stabbed me with a needle for no apparent reason. 
Even when they don't hurt me, you make me wear that ridiculous hat and put it on upside down so I can't clean myself. 
That's why I left you a present in the kitchen this morning.  December 21st can't come soon enough.  Rescue me from Earth my Siriusian brothers!

"I’m telling you Flannigan, The air from the thing’s maw is hot and sour." O'Malley threw back another pint of ale just to ease the trembling in his hands.

"Now would that be the creature in the woods beyond Summerdale or that wench you picked up at the tavern last night?" The old blind man had an uncanny knack for looking right at O'Malley when he was making a point.

O'Malley silently moved to the left and threw a dart at the wall. "You know you're not nearly as clever as you think you are."

Flannigan tracked him as soon as he opened his mouth. "You should talk O'Malley; you can't tell a lady bard from a lady with a beard when you are three sheets to the wind. Last night you were easily four.

"Shows what you know, There ain't no fourth sail on any vessel round here. I guess folk overestimate your abilities" The second dart hit a bull's eye. A satisfied grin crept over O'Malley's face.

Flanigan picked up the third dart knocking down O'Malley's bull's eye.

"You don't need eyes to see boy. Must I spell it out for you O'Malley? The woman's name was Lupine, practically yelped when you offered her a silver necklace and she smelled like wet dog."

"What are you trying to say?"

Flannigan stared directly at O'Malley. "Your lady friend WAS the best from the woods beyond Summerdale and bright as you are, you're probably one now as well."

248 Words

I have a splitting headache, but I did finally manage to write something today.
Retirement Party
By Wakefield Mahon
Special Agent Frank Dodge prepared to hang up his badge after thirty years of service with a degree of melancholy. He had spent his whole life with the bureau, but it would be great to spend time finally with his wife and two daughters. He wanted to talk to his boss, Jim, but he had left on some errand, so he packed up his desk can carted everything to his blue station wagon.

Frank pulled into the neighborhood where his modest suburban home nestled conspicuously between two far more ornate residences. The presence of his supervisor's SUV and his ex-partner's cars caught his attention immediately. Were they preparing a surprise for him? If they were, then they were doing a sloppy job. They could have at least parked down the block or behind the house.

It was quieter than he expected when he walked up to the door. For birthday parties and similar occasions, one of his kids would usually giggle and give the group away.

His initial response to his reception was to roll his eyes. His family and friends lay neatly side by side, each with a single gunshot through the head. "Are you serious guys? That is so cliché."

Closer inspection sent chills up his spine. It was no elaborate prank; they were all dead.
Even worse, the gun that he kept locked up lay accusingly on the dining room table.

Special Agent Frank Dodge had one more investigation and this time it was very personal.

My son's birthday was last week. To keep the lenten theme and celebrate his birthday, this historical fiction unfolded.
Image by Derek Harper
I should have been nicer to him, I didn't trust him. They weren't the first strangers in town, certainly not the first to visit Rahab. Her "talents in hospitality" were known beyond our borders. Moreover, the drunkards and thieves would frequently come to my inn by mistake.

The older of the two men, the one who called himself Caleb, asked for lodging. He had a certain surety about him. Warriors often swagger around putting up a facade of bravado but turn tail at the first sign of changing tides in battle. Not this one, he seemed serene, carrying himself like a philosopher. With his swarthy tan, his rough and calloused hands, he might have been a farmer. but those scars didn't come from an ox. I wasn't about to house an enemy warrior.

"Do you know somewhere else I could stay?" he asked.

"No decent citizen will give you a room," I said.

He raised his eyebrow but said nothing. He simply thanked me and went out where that whore Rahab was waiting. She mumbled some nonsense about gods and ushered the two men into her "inn".

I ran as fast as I could to the king. "Sire," I said, "the harlot who lives across from me is hiding spies."

"You keep calling her that name without evidence." Hamrun, the king's counselor snarled. "Aren't you just stirring up trouble out of jealousy for her inn's success?"

I'd seen him visit her "inn" on more than one occasion, but pointing that out wouldn't help my case. "Sire, you know that the warrior tribe has been seen only a few miles from here. I have no reason to lie to you."

"We cannot be too careful in these times, the king said and sent his guards to question Rahab.

But when they arrived she said "Yes, the men were here, but they left."

The men checked but found nothing. I ran in myself after they left but there was no one in the house and only a pile of drying flax sheaves on the roof.

"Satisfied?" she asked. How dare a woman of ill repute look upon me with such contempt?

Three days later, I saw her walking with a red cord.

What sordid use do you have in mind for that rope?"

Rahab glared at me and replied, "Wouldn't you like to know?" She shook her head as she walked away.

For six days, the warriors have circled our city, drumming and blowing horns. All of our people tremble in fear -- except for Rahab who sits quietly in her house humming an annoying tune. Even now, she hums when it feels as if the very walls are crumbling down.

I wonder whether I would be so calm if I had welcomed them in.

Somehow this week's prompt turned into Bill and Ted on another Bogus adventure
“I’m tired after that apocalypse party. Sweet, there’s a motel we can crash for the night.”

“Dude this place looks like a dump.”

“It’ll be cheap.”

Bill turned out his empty pockets “Good point, bro.”

They parked and stumbled into the office.

The clerk shook her head. “Don’t you two hippies look lost.”

“That’s harsh, lady, but I’ll give you a pass since you’re so hot and all.”

She clenched her jaw. “I’m certain you’re in the wrong place.”

“Come on lady,” Ted said. “Stop giving us a hard time and just sign us in already.”

The clerk raised her eyebrow but handed them each a clipboard. “Have at it boys.”

“They ‘ve got like a hundred questions on this thing.”

“Sounds serious dude.”

The night passed in a drug-addled fog.

“Get your asses out of bed; do you think this is the holiday inn?”

Bill rubbed his eyes. “What crappy service, it’s like four in the morning.”

“This isn’t a motel, it’s Fort Knox, and you knuckleheads enlisted last night.”

“Whoa, total bummer. How do we unenlist?”

“World War III started last night; Congress initiated an indefinitely stop-loss. Get used to it boys, you can’t ever go home again.”

200 words