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A Family Tradition

My Prompts:

  1. Heavy Metal/Hard Rock- Mother by Cover-FamilyTradition-600x900Danzig
  2. Pop/Hip-Hop- Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  3. Country/Singer Song Writer- What Part Of No by Lorrie Morgan
  4. Instrumental/Soundtrack- The Hanging Tree by Jennifer Lawrence from The MockingJay Part I
  5. Wild Card-Danny Boy- Irish Traditional

What I Chose and Why:

Something unexpected happened when I listened to my prompts.  I got into a really dark and twisted mood.

This Danzig hit came out during my high school years. I was an angry young man at the time and I listened to a lot of hard rock. Hearing that music again brought me right back into that dark, angsty mindset. I usually try to avoid wallowing in dark or creepy ideas, but this time I simply had to go with it.

Thanks to the BBBGals for inviting me to submit another piece to their blog and their patience with my schedule. This piece is very different from my previous submission, but with Danzig for inspiration, how could it possibly be the same?

The Story:

“Girls, wake up!  I took the tree down. I need you to sweep up the needles.”

Great-Aunt Cora whisked in and out of their room before Samantha knew what happened.  Sam rolled her head in the direction of the alarm clock, but her heavy eyelids refused to open.

Sheets rustled in the neighboring bed as her sister, Julie, sat up. “Aunt Cora took the tree down already? It’s only day after Christmas.”

Sam’s eyes rolled behind closed lids. She decided to go back to sleep and covered her head with her blanket.

From underneath the covers, she could hear Julie wiggling. She was reaching, moving stuff on the nightstand between them. Sam’s alarm clock fell to the floor and Julie dived after it.

“Six in the morning!” Julie said. “No wonder its so dark outside.”

At least she didn’t break it, Sam thought. “Aunt Cora’s going home tomorrow, Julie. Just one more day of her antics.” Then Julie will have her room back, I’ll have my room to myself, and my stuff will be safe again.

“Want to help her pack?” Julie suggested.

Sam would do it in a heartbeat, if it would make life normal again. But the problems started before Great-Aunt Cora came for the holidays. If anything, Cora’s eccentricities masked whatever was really going on with Mom.

Aunt Cora flitted back into the room. “Come on kids. I’ve got a big day planned for us and I need you to get moving. Please do it quietly. We’ll surprise your mom when she wakes up.” Then Aunt Cora was gone again.

“I want to be like that when I’m old,” Julie said.

“Who wants to be old?” Sam smirked. She reached for her headphones but her cell phone was missing.

“At least she asks nicely,” Julie said. “She’s not mean and bossy like Grandma is.”

“Was,” Sam corrected

“I’m glad Aunt Cora didn’t get Grandma’s meanness.”

Sam flipped the covers down off her head. “Aunt Cora’s like fifteen years older than Grandma was. If anything, Grandma should have learned to be nice from her.”

“Fifteen years! For you, that’d be like mom having a baby now,” Julie said. She got up and started her morning routine.

Sam squirmed in her bed. The way their Mom churned through boyfriends, she lived under constant fear of yet another half-sibling. Julie shouldn’t joke about such things. She’s old enough to know better.

Running her fingers through her choppy, tri-colored hair, Sam wondered how much longer she could keep it. Sam was too young for tattoos yet, but she had the hair, the clothes, and multiple piercings. It was her armor. With all the guys mom brought home, Sam wanted to look as off-limits as possible.

Grandma hated Sam’s new hairstyle — no surprise, Grandma hated everything. Now that Grandma was gone, the matter should have been settled.

But that’s not what happened at all. Mom totally freaked out at Grandma’s death and is now trying to be just like her. Change everything. Control everything. Mom is becoming the new Grandma.

Grandma 2.0, Sam thought. Grandma with a vengeance!

That’s where Sam’s trouble really began, and it was becoming a nightmare.

“You coming?” Julie was dressed in a hoodie and pajama pants.

Sam sighed, “Hold on. I’ll come down with you.”

The two sisters shuffled down the stairs to see what their great-aunt had planned.

Trying to talk to Aunt Cora was like trying to talk to a tennis ball during a match, your head was constantly moving to keep up with her.

“Good! You’re up. There’s the broom and dustpan.”

Sam looked at the trail of pine needles across the living room and out the door.

“Usually we keep the tree up at least through New Year’s,” Julie whined.

“No yoga class today?” Sam asked.

Cora paused for a brief moment, then brushed a thought away, “No time.”

Sam picked up a half-empty bottle of vodka. “Did you drink all this in the few days you’ve been here?”

Cora plucked the bottle out of Sam’s hand. “Don’t be silly! This is an old bottle I found in your house.” She placed it on the dining room table instead of the cabinet.

Julie swept the needles into a little pile.

Sam knelt down with the dustpan and whispered to her sister. “I bet Aunt Cora died years ago. We just don’t know it yet because she’s so well pickled.”

Julie laughed. “She sure is a nimble little prune.”

“And my hearing is good too,” Aunt Cora stage-whispered from the other room.

Julie blushed, but Sam just shrugged it off.

Sam noticed bags packed by the door and nudged Julie. “You packed already, Aunt Cora?”

Cora shushed them as she walked back to talk. “Yes, you should pack too. One bag each. Make sure to bring something of great sentimental value… in case you get homesick.” Then she went off doing things again. The house was already immaculate. No one would guess there was a big Christmas day feast last night.

“Mom didn’t say we were going anywhere,” Julie said.

“It’s a surprise,” Aunt Cora answered. “How would you like to spend New Year’s with me down in Florida?”

“Is it near Disney World?” Julie asked.

Aunt Cora shook her head. “Not really. But we could go there too.”

“Mom’s not coming?” Sam asked.

“No,” said Aunt Cora. “My surprise is to take you two so your mother has some time alone.  Vera’s death is hard on all of us. I lost a sister, you lost a grandmother, but your mother lost her mother. That’s hardest of all.”

Sam nodded. “She’s really not been herself since Grandma died.”

“How so?” Aunt Cora asked. “I’ve been living in Florida for so long, I’m afraid I don’t know any of you as much as I’d like.”

“She’s been aggressive,” Sam answered. “And bitter. She dumped her boyfriend. Usually she latches on until they dump her. She used to be so… mousey.”

“She snores like Grandma now,” Julie added. “She never snored before, then all the sudden, poof! She’s like a lawnmower.”

Aunt Cora had a pained expression on her face, but turned away to hide it. “Go pack girls. Do it quietly and don’t wake your mom.”

“We’re not leaving without saying goodbye. Are we?” Julie asked.

A voice called from the top of the stairs, “You two darlings aren’t going anywhere.”

Julie, and Sam turned to watch their mother, Katherine, descend the staircase. Her flowing sleeping gown and robes added to her imperious glare.

“The only one leaving is Cora,” Katherine said. “Nice of you to visit, but you wore out your welcome. Why don’t you come again in another twenty years.”

“I’m eighty years old!” Aunt Cora said. “Not sure I have another twenty years in me.”

Katherine guided her daughters away from their great aunt and said over her shoulder, “No, I suppose you don’t.”

Cora dashed around to confront Katherine. “I know what you are. I couldn’t stop you before, but I will now.”

A surprised laugh escaped Katherine’s mouth, but she quickly recomposed herself and looked down at her daughters, one on her right and one on her left. “I think Cora is showing signs of dementia, girls. It happens to people her age.” She looked straight at Cora and added with a raised eyebrow, “Maybe it’s time to think about putting you in a home?”

Aunt Cora reached into her back pocket and said, “I’m sorry you girls have to see this.” She pulled out an amulet and thrust it forward into Katherine’s face. “Vade spiritus mali! Vade daemonium! Exi de cognatione mea et non revertetur huc amplius.

Sam looked at her Mother, then her sister. “Is that supposed to mean something?”

“It’s Latin,” Katherine answered with a curled lip. “I think she’s trying to perform an exorcism.”

“It didn’t work at all?” Deflated, Aunt Cora looked at the amulet and tried to figure out what went wrong.

“Aunt Cora,” Julie said. “Why don’t we sit down and I’ll make you a cup of tea?”

Cora nodded and tucked her amulet away in her back pocket.  “Well, there’s always Plan B.”  She withdrew a derringer and shot Katherine twice in the chest at point blank range.

Katherine stumbled backwards and collapsed in the middle of the oriental rug in the living room.

The girls screamed.

“Get away!” Cora yelled. She waved her gun, kicked, and shoved the girls to separate them from their Mother. Cora wouldn’t let them within ten feet of her.

Sam ran to the phone to call the police. “Phone’s dead!”

“I cut the line,” said Aunt Cora. “Call them later, if you want. Watch this.”

Katherine desperately tried to keep the blood contained in her chest, but it gushed out everywhere. Her face was morbidly white. She reached out to Julie, who was kneeling at the edge of the carpet. “Baby! My Baby.”

“Mommy,” Julie sobbed.

“Don’t touch her!” Cora yelled to Julie as she ran around the carpet to keep them separated. “She’s not your mother. Not anymore.”

Sam grabbed a frying pan to hit her psychotic aunt with.

With the amulet in her hand again, Aunt Cora shoved it under the oriental carpet. “Liga antiquis malum. Protege parvulorum innocentum.

This time something did happen. Katherine lit up in a green glow that matched the massive jewel in the amulet. The glow encircled her.

Julie gasped.

Sam froze. She was looking at her mother, but a cloud of green light rose from the floor and illuminated a ghostly image of her grandmother; like a hologram projected around her mother tracking every movement she made.

Aunt Cora looked up and saw how close she had come to being hit with the frying pan. She lowered Sam’s arm from its striking position and eased the handle out of Sam’s grasp. “She’s not your mother anymore. Hasn’t been since your grandmother died. You know that. It switched hosts. Your mother died then.”

Another pulse of light, and the image of another woman lay there on the carpet.

“She’s not even my mother,” Cora added. “Or my grandmother.”

“Samantha,” Katherine said in a voice that sounded like a chorus of many. “Come to Mommy, there’s no time.”

Samantha didn’t move.

Katherine tried to crawl across the carpet to them, but couldn’t move outside the light.

“I drew a pentagram under the carpet,” Aunt Cora said. “She… it… is trapped inside.”

Another flash of light, another ghostly form superimposed itself over their mother’s body.

“No. No!” Katherine screamed. “I’m don’t want to die! Julie? Don’t you want to save your mommy? Come here! Take my hand. Take Mommy’s hand.”

Another flash of light, another face. The pace was accelerating.

“How many?” Cora demanded. “How many generations have you preyed upon?”

Katherine’s head snapped to Cora. “Who are you to challenge me? My descendants number in the millions you barren harpy. So what if I keep a single bloodline for myself? So what?”

“Which one will you choose then? Sam or Julie?” Cora asked.

“They’re mine to take,” Katherine snapped.

Aunt Cora put her derringer away. “What do you think girls?  One of you willing to sacrifice yourself so this thing can go on? It can’t stay in your mother’s body anymore. It’s got holes in it.”

The ghostly images were flashing by faster. Some wore fancy few Victorian gowns.

“They’re all women,” Sam said to Katherine. “You’ve been taking women for generations?”

Losing the strength to keep her head up, Katherine fell back onto the carpet, soaking her hair in a pool of blood. “My own fountain of youth,” she gasped.

“But,” Julie interrupted, “all these women are old.”

Katherine rolled her head to her daughter and stared out glassy-eyed. Ghostly images of past lives continued to flash across Katherine’s face.

Shivering, Julie crept forward and whispered, “Mommy, I don’t want you to die.”

“Julie! Stay back,” Sam cautioned.

Face slick with tears, Julie acted on pure instinct.

Sam lunged to stop her, even though that meant crossing into the pentagram.

Aunt Cora knocked Sam aside and landed on top of Katherine herself.

Reflexively Katherine grabbed Cora’s hands and mouthed some words, but no sound came forth.

There was one final, brilliant flash of light that blinded everyone.

Then it was over.

Katherine lay dead on a blood-soaked oriental rug. Great-Aunt Cora lay across her niece, filthy and gasping for air.

Sam ran around to embrace her sister who was in hysterics.

They both watched Aunt Cora slowly stand up and try to wipe the blood off her hands.

Sam eyed her guardedly. “You still you?” she asked.

Aunt Cora shook her head. “No.” She looked around distractedly, “I mean ‘Yes,’ I’m still me and not that… thing.” She nudged Katherine’s corpse with the tip of her shoe. “But I got a glimpse of who she was, what she did.”

Aunt Cora shuddered. “She could only follow her bloodline down. Not across, not up. That’s why she…” Aunt Cora started to tear up. “That’s why she took my baby sister instead of me. She always picks the daughter with the most daughters. All this time I’ve kept away. I was never in any danger. You were.”

Aunt Cora grabbed a bunch of tissues for her eyes, but saw how pointless it was with all the gore on her hands. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it in time for Katherine. I came as soon as I heard Vera was ill, but I was too late.”

No one knew what to say. They stood there for a long time watching Katherine’s corpse bleed out.

“So…” Sam said to break the eerie silence. “What do we do now?”

Aunt Cora pulled out her cell phone and dialed. “Hello Mr. Drake? Yes, it’s Cora Wexler… Yes… I’m calling to tell you I’ve decided on option C, so you can tear up the others… Yes ‘C’ as in Charlie… Yes I’m sure. And that’s backdated to our last meeting? Perfect. Thank you.”

“Who was that?” Sam asked.

For the first time ever, Aunt Cora sat down. She opened the bottle of vodka and took a hearty drink. “Mr. Drake is my lawyer. I’ve set up a trust for you both. It’s not much, but it will help until you can get Vera’s and Katherine’s assets through probate. Maybe some college.”

“You’re not dying anytime soon, are you?” Sam asked.

Aunt Cora snorted derisively. “I’m 80 years old and just murdered my own niece. I don’t have much of a future.”

Sam couldn’t think of anything to say.

Julie just stood there, staring a her mother’s lifeless body.

“You both have your futures now. No one will take it away from you. You’re free!” Aunt Cora took a big drink of Vodka and slowly reloaded her gun.

“What are you doing now?” Sam asked.

“I’m done.” Aunt Cora replied. “Take your sister to the neighbors’ house and call 911.  Make sure you stay there until the police arrive.”

“Come with us?” Sam asked.

“Can’t,” Aunt Cora answered. She traced her finger over the contours of the tiny gun. “You girls are innocent. I need to make sure there’s no question about that. Now go.”

Sam guided her traumatized little sister out of the house. Closing the door, Sam glanced one last time at her great-aunt.

Cora hoisted the bottle of vodka in a toast. “Merry Christmas!”

Clothes Shopping: A Boy’s Story

Karl had the following prompts to choose from:

  • Amy:  Sunflowers on Steroids
  • Cameron: We were arguing over different shades of beige
  • Erika: The Great Train Caper
  • Jen:  Describe some food and make me hungry, a scene will do.  Bonus points if you also write about eating food.
  • Wendy: Larry Porter and the Philanthropist’s Cone

Karl has been finishing up his first YA novel, written primarily from a young woman’s perspective. He picked a prompt that let him explore a masculine POV.

Guy in hoodie facing a wall of pants.

“Hi! Welcome to Prepster’s. Can I help you find anything?”

“Pants,” Drew said over his shoulder. He didn’t mean to be rude, but he was lost in front of a wall of clothing. He didn’t expect the chirpy voice behind him to be much help.

“We have a lot of those. What kind?”


“Do they have to be khaki?” the girl asked.

He shrugged. “That’s what they told me.”

“Well, then we should move over here.”  She went to his left and pulled out a lighter pair of pants.

“I kinda’ like the darker ones.”



She reached out and touched stack of folded pants on the shelf in front of him. “This color, it’s called ‘taupe.’”

Drew looked back and forth across the wall, “Which one is beige?”

The girl smiled. “You don’t have any sisters do you?”

Drew blinked. “Denise is six.”

“Wow, so there’s like ten years between you?”


The girl smiled. She looked like she was in high school too.  “Well, she’s probably too young to know that’s bone, that’s cream, this is khaki, taupe, there’s mustard, tobacco, and — on the end — coffee.” She pointed to stacks of pants, each one dedicated to a single shade. “Technically, khaki is a color, not a style of pants.  The British took the word from India; it literally means ‘color of dirt.’”

Drew looked back and forth across all the colors. “Not one of them is beige?”

Her ponytail swished back and forth as she shook her head. “Sorry Sport.”

Drew assumed that was a dig at his basketball shorts and hoodie.  “Fine,” he sighed, “I’ll take the light ones.”

“Great! What size?”

Drew hesitated. “Medium?”

The girl covered her mouth when she laughed. “Medium? You’re buying pants, not a t-shirt. Does your mom buy all your clothes for you?”

Drew folded his arms and glared down at her.

“Do you even look at the tags on your clothes?”

“Yes, every time I get dressed to make sure they aren’t on backwards.”

The girl laughed again. She had shiny brown hair and big brown eyes that sparkled.  He didn’t know why she covered her mouth when she laughed; there was nothing wrong with her teeth. Drew couldn’t help but smile.

“Okay put your hands up.”

Clueless, Drew raised both hands like he was going to catch a rebound. The girl lunged forward like she was going to tackle him. That startled Drew; he backed into the shelves and knocked over some pricing signs. “What are you doing?” he yelped.

The girl stood up holding a yellow tape in her hand. “I’m trying to measure your waist! Now hold still.”

Drew sucked in his gut and held very still. It felt awkward, so he tried to distract himself. “So you live in town?”

“Yep… now relax.”

He couldn’t.  “I haven’t seen you in school.” He glanced at her and got a stunning view down her shirt. It was a pleasant surprise, but he didn’t want to be caught staring.

“Thirty inches.” She stood up. “I go to St. Bethany’s.”

Drew shrugged.

“It’s a private high school in West Hills. My family values ‘a good Catholic education.’” She said this last bit puffing out her chest and tucking her chin into her neck.  Imitating her father, no doubt.  “You never heard of it?”

“We’re new here. Moved from Indiana this summer.”

The girl nodded and raised her hand, “Military brat.” She pointed to a sticker on the pants. “Okay, so this is how sizes work for big-boy pants. The first number is the waist and the second is the inseam. You’re tall so I’m guessing you’re 30×34.”

“Aren’t you going to measure that too?”

Her head snapped away from the shelves to him. She seemed  surprised and impressed. “You want me to measure you inseam, Sport?”

Drew shrugged. “Sure, what’s that?”

The girl held one end of the tape measure. “First I hold this end under your crotch…”

“These pants are fine!” Drew grabbed the pants off the shelf.  “I’ll take three of these.” He felt his cheeks get warm.

“Three? Exactly the same? You know you can mix it up a little — take a fashion risk. This is Prepster’s where we have lots of neutral colored chinos to choose from.”

“It’s for work. I got a job across the mall at GameCave. They said ‘beige khakis.’”

“I get it. That’s cool.”

Drew didn’t think so. “I’d rather be playing basketball. My folks say a job ‘builds character.’”

“Sport, you’re thinking about this all wrong. You got a job! Now you can leave the house whenever you want and your parents can’t say ‘no.’ They can’t keep up with your shifts, and if they try, just say so-and-so asked you to cover for them and you are out of there.”

“You do that to your military dad?”

“Catholic dad. Mom’s the one with the big guns.”

“I see.” The mention of ‘big guns’ made Drew think about her chest again. She wasn’t particularly top heavy, but the bright polo shirt she wore was tight around her small, athletic frame. The fabric puckered around the few buttons that were fastened at the bottom of her low neckline. It was distracting.

“…plus, you’ll have cash now to spend on the honeys.” She said with a wink and a nudge.

Drew had no idea how to respond to that.

The girl laughed. “You are so much fun to tease.”

“Do you treat all your customers this way?” Drew asked.

“Just the cute ones.”


“Oh, were you going for hunky?” She ran her fingers across his jaw. “Maybe in a few years when the stubble comes in and the shoulders fill out. There’s definite hunkage potential.”  She laughed. “Oh, that time I even got your ears to blush!”

“I can’t believe the grief I’m getting for buying some beige pants.”

She looked at him sternly with her hands on her hips.

“What?” It took a minute for Drew to realize his mistake. “Khaki chinos.”

“And he’s trainable!  Come on, Sport. Let’s go try those on.”

He rolled his eyes, “Drew.  My name is Drew.”

“Marissa, pleased to meet you.”

Drew subjected himself to more abuse by modeling the pants for Marissa. She insisted he come out of the room and show her. She was right about the length.

After buying three identical pairs, Drew left Marissa at Prepster’s to get a smoothie for himself.

He thought Marissa was the oddest girl he had ever met. He towered over her, yet she was fearless. He had to walk by Prepster’s again to get picked up, but didn’t see Marissa in the store. He kind of wondered if he would, and was kind of glad that he didn’t. She seemed to make sport out of watching him squirm. Did his ears really turn pink?

Then he couldn’t find his phone, so he walked back to the smoothie place looking for it. Still no Marissa. He found his phone in the wrong pocket, so he passed by Prepster’s a third time wondering where Marissa could have gone. He peeked outside and saw his mother was waiting in the car with Denise, so he had to leave.

“Hi Drew, are those your new  working pants?” Denise asked.

“Yeah.” He handed her the bag to see.

“What’s wrong?” his mom asked as he got in the car. “You look down.”

“I’m fine.” He handed his mom the change and the receipt.

His mom put the money in her purse and looked over the receipt. “Who’s email is this?”

Drew snatched the receipt out of his mother’s hand, and read it. It started with “marissa4219@”.

“Hah!” Drew started laughing and waived the receipt.

“I see you made a friend?” mom asked.

“Not just a friend, mom. A girl.”

Denise launched into a chorus of “Drew has a girlfriend! Drew has a girlfriend!” Drew didn’t care.

Mom shushed Denise and started the car. “How’d you meet her?”

Without taking his eyes off the receipt, Drew buckled up his seatbelt. “We were arguing over different shades of beige.”