The Luring Scent of Fudge Brownies

Flash Fiction

A fresh batch of brownies lay on the counter. We sniff the luring scent, slip on our clothes, and rush down the stairs. I’ve got my heart set on the two middle brownies & my sister craves two from the corners. She’s eager to dash from the entrance of our kitchen to the sweet smell of love and hard work.

Our mom outdid herself this time. We both knew it. The fresh scent travels throughout our home and wafts around every corner of every room. My sister looks at me, I look at her — hesitantly; we measure each other up — lingering in our newfound glory. I nod my head toward her and watch her cherub-like face light up. That’s her cue to take a bite.

We sink our teeth into the gooey goodness of chocolate. Every morsel melts in our mouths — we land on a small slice of heaven. The brownies are both chewy and moist and filled with everything we could have possibly dreamed up if anyone were to ask us.

We take another bite in unison — fudge drips on to our fingers. I lick remnants of evidence from my hands and advise my kid sister to do the same. There’s no hiding the fact that we’ve had our share of this exquisite dessert and we will not deny it if asked, but . . .

How could anyone ignore the luring scent of fudge brownies?


*This began as a response to a Twitter BraveWrite prompt. The prompt word was batch. I liked this so much, I decided to expound on it here.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Sweet As Sugar

A Haibun, 2 Parts

Musical Selection: Eagles|I Can’t Tell You Why

Photo from ds_30 via Pixabay

She sits across from us — hair pinned up tightly in an aggravated bun. I have my hands on my lap. I am centered in my chair — immovable. She invites us in for tea, this will calm our nerves, she says. We sit quietly. She gathers the good china, readies the table, and prepares some Earl Grey. He spies me looking at her precariously. I give him a cautious wink — I nod slowly. He knows something is wrong. He says nothing.

“Your sugar cubes . . . One lump or two, Dears?” We look at each other before speaking. We both shout in unison, “Two, please!” She plasters a fake smile on her face then offers us a drink we’re scared to consume.

afraid to drink tea
something’s not right with our host
but we can’t be rude


We sip our tea slowly — breathing in and out as we swallow. She eyes us nosily. I sit back in my chair — rock steadily. The air in the room wolfs around us — strangles us into silence. She seems nice. She seems sweet as pie — sweet as honey — sweet as sugar. But she’s not. We know she’s not. We just can’t put our fingers on it. He takes a few more sips then his head lands on the table with a loud thud. “Teddy! Baby, wake up! Wake up!” I look at her, she’s still smiling — the same fake one from earlier. What has she done?

host for evening tea
is a killer in disguise
we both die that night


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

The Strange, Unforgettable Little World of Tyson Liston

Part III: Directionless

Photo by Cherise Evertz via Unsplash

“No time to dillydally. We’ve got to keep moving!” The conductor takes out his compass — a shiny, gold contraption that ticked as it moved. He treasured it. His eyes focus on the direction points, he blinks quickly as the needle lands on “N.” He is beside himself with glee. The next stop is just four miles ahead, north. “Due North!”

Tyson kneels down to eye-level with the conductor and smiles at him. He is intrigued by this man who is engulfed in his role, so much so it seeps into everything he does. He spies the compass and satisfies his curiosity.

“Whatcha got there, Mr. Conductor?” He leans his gigantic head closer to the windows of the toy locomotive and awaits an answer.

“Why it’s my compass, my dear boy! I never leave home without it. I’ve been railroading for twenty-three years now and this baby has been by my side. It has never once steered us wrong.”

Tyson flops his body down on the hardwood floors, lowers his head onto his hands, and props up his elbows. He can feel a story coming on.

“My pop gave me this compass when I was about your age. He was a conductor too. He’d seen so many beautiful, interesting, and unbelievable places. I’d see him two, maybe three days per month, but upon every visit, he had something for me — some new thing I couldn’t wait to get my hands on.”

Tyson could feel himself smiling, but getting sad too. Two or three days out of each month? He knew he couldn’t go that long without seeing his dad. He felt encouraged to ask the conductor how this made him feel.

“How’d you feel growing up not seeing your daddy a lot?”

“Oh, I don’t think I minded as much. They kept me pretty busy. My mom had me in so many activities after school, I barely had time to miss him. Plus, it was like a special occasion — this grand adventure whenever he came home. We all filled to the brims of our hearts with delight and anticipation.”

The conductor flips open the compass, smiles earnestly, bats a few tears from his eyes, and continues with his story.

“My pop conducted his train like no one else. The passengers loved him and the engineers depended on him. That train ran like clockwork — dependable and on time. Folks used to say, ‘You can bet on Smitty’s train. It’s one thing that’s sure in life.’ And they were right.”


Photo by Andrew Neel via Unsplash

Tyson watches the conductor. He feels himself shedding a few tears and wipes them quickly before anyone can see. The train slows down, approaching what Tyson thinks is the next stop. The conductor slaps his compass shut, twists his mustache by the ends, and hurries to the front of the train. Tyson looks on, enraptured by the magic.


To read the rest of this story, please click here. Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Part I and Part II

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The Strange, Unforgettable Little World of Tyson Liston

Part II: The Stapler Thief

Photo by Everyday basics via Unsplash

“Son! Have you seen my stapler?”

Roger looks all over their cabin-style home for his favorite stapler. He has a project he’s working on and one of the key tools to use is his heavy-duty stapler. Their home is quiet — only the hum or the a.c. unit can be heard. Dena and Celia are both out doing the weekly shopping, so he and Tyson are manning the fort.

“Son! The stapler, have you seen it?!”

Tyson is fiddling with a few knick-knacks for his train set — careful not to misplace anything. Since he found out the magical toy comes to life when no adults are around, he is adamant about being discreet. He is mindful of how he explains what he’s doing and why. The last thing he needs is for his parents or sister to begin snooping around his “secret place.” He barely hears his father as he enters the family room.

“Shh! I think I hear my dad coming.” He warns Tyson#2 as he risks his existence to listen carefully for Roger.

“Son. Hey, Tyson, buddy. Did you hear me? Have you seen my stapler? I am working on a project for your mom and I need it.”

“No, sir. I haven’t seen it. I thought Celia had it last, but then again, Mom likes that stapler too.”

“Oh, God. If your mom had her hands on it, there’s no telling where it is by now. I’ll just wait until they come back from the store and I’ll ask her about it. How’s the train set?”

Tyson watches his dad’s eyebrows arch in a peaked position — eager to hear his report about his grandpa’s gift. The old man did a little two-step when he heard the whistle blow last night. Tyson was going to have to keep his eyes on him.

“It’s great! It’s the perfect gift! I’m nearly done setting up the village.”

Roger tousles his son’s hair, turns on his heels, and walks briskly down the hall to the kitchen. Tyson checks on Tyson#2 and finds him standing by the window.


Photo by Brandon Morgan via Unsplash

“Hey, there. What are you doing?”

“That thing your dad’s, (well, our dad) looking for. Is it big, pink & white, and has a floppy, sharp edge?”

“Yes! It’s his favorite stapler! Why?! Have you seen it?”

Tiny Tyson has a look of guilt plastered on his face. He tries to find the right words to explain to Tyson the whereabouts of the stapler.

“Well, yeah . . . kinda. Johnny Boots, Tommy Townes, Mikey Loops, and me — we dragged it out back, made ourselves a diving board for the pool. It’s so hot out. We were going to put it back later, didn’t think anyone would miss it.”

“A diving board? You guys could’ve gotten hurt. Do you even know what a stapler does?”

“Well, it’s a pretty good diving board right now.”

Tyson waves Tiny Tyson off with the flick of his hand. He leans his head over the roof of their tiny home, looks to his right, and locates the stapler.

“I’m putting this back where it belongs. This isn’t a toy.”

“You sound like one of the grownups.”

“Well. Well . . . Someone needs to be a grownup in this here village. You can’t go stealing things or taking them without asking. You’ll get me into big trouble if you do.”

“Okay, calm down. I didn’t know it would stir up such a fuss. I’ll be more careful.”

Tyson runs as quickly as he can to his dad’s tool shed. He finds his toolbox, lifts it quietly, and places the stapler in the upper compartment. Roger circles back around for one more check.

“Buddy, I can’t believe this. I’ve looked everywhere. Are you sure you haven’t seen my stapler?”

“I’m sure, Dad. Have you checked your toolbox?”

“I did! That’s the first place I looked. I’ll go and give it another look-see, though. Couldn’t harm things at all.”

Roger shuffles off to his tool shed, picks up his toolbox, and breathes out a sigh of relief. His stapler sat perfectly placed in the upper compartment.

“Found it!” He yells to his son excitedly.

Tyson looks at Tiny Tyson, stifles a giggle, and signals him to be quiet.

“Shh, that’ll be our little secret.”

And it was.


Part I

Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

 

 

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Far Out

Art by Guillermo Hernandez via Mixkit.co

“Jenna, get up here and get these toys off this floor right now!”

The pulsating voice of my mother thundered from blocks away. She was a Navy officer, an OF-2, Lieutenant well before I was born and hadn’t shaken the orderly and methodical ways of doing things from her life. She’d wake me up at the peak of dawn’s light, order me to “rise and shine,” promptly shower, put on my clothes, and meet her downstairs in our kitchen for breakfast. All of this, she expected in twenty minutes.

She said before I came along life was punctual and fully functioning, with no possibility of error. I often wondered about that — living such a life with no risks or deviations seemed strange to me. It still does.

The morning my mother yelled at the top of her lungs for me to clear my room of disorganized toys, I was eight years old. I lived freely in my imagination. It was the safest place to be. I played alone. I walked to school alone. At recess, I made up games on my own and did not invite others to accompany me. In solitude is where I wanted to be.

During that time, Randi Rocketeer was my favorite t. v. show. Randi Haltman, the show’s protagonist, was a trans woman with dark pink hair, rosy cheeks, and eyes of two different colors. She had the most amazing spacesuit! It came fully equipped with a water compartment, visors for protecting the eyes from direct sunlight, and custom-designed gloves monikered with Randi’s initials. Strapped to her waist, Randi had a can of compressed air, for what, I never knew.

Not only was the suit prepared for the dangers of space, but it was also tie-dyed the following colors; purple, pink, blue, and yellow.

I found myself mystified by Randi Rocketeer. Every day, promptly after doing my homework and eating dinner, I plopped my bony hind-end on my mother’s shiny, hardwood floors and switched on the television. For forty-five minutes, that’s where I’d be — taking in Randi Rocketeer. My mother would howl from the kitchen as soon as the credits began for me to wash the dishes and clean up before I went to bed.

Clockwork. Everything was clockwork.

“Jenna, right now!”

I thought about Randi Haltman. Did she have chores? Was her mother ever in the military? How was she a man before and a woman now? I asked my mother the last question one Friday after our school’s PTA meeting and the only response I received was, “Do I look like Randi Haltman?” I didn’t know what to say to that. I shrunk in the backseat of my mother’s Cadillac Seville, littler than I was before we left the house. I didn’t say another word for the rest of the night.

Randi Rocketeer’s motto was “Shoot for the sky and land on the moon.” They tasked her with the job of fighting crime in outer space and she did so with courage and a high success rate of capturing perpetrators and criminals. I begged my mother to buy me a spacesuit like Randi Haltman’s. Every Halloween, that was my request. By the time I was thirteen years old, I stopped asking for one. I thought — didn’t get one last year or the year before or the year before that, so I probably won’t get one this year, either. I was right.

I believed having a spacesuit like Randi Haltman’s would make me courageous — would help me be less me. Instead, I continued to feel as useless as the compressed air strapped to her waist.

“Don’t make me come down there, Jenna! These toys have a place to be. Put them there!”

I sat with my legs folded one over the other right in front of the t. v., mesmerized by Randi Rocketeer. I heard my mother. I tuned her out. Her voice was a nagging pang one couldn’t rid oneself of if the prescription was an equal dose of morphine and oxycodone.

My dad left when I was five. He took his four work uniforms, church shoes, a box of 1970s Playboy magazines, and a pack of cigarettes. Nothing else. I glued myself to his legs as he walked toward our door and begged him to take me with him.

“Your mother said I can’t, kiddo.”

And just like that, he vanished. No phone calls. No letters. No visits. The only thing I remember about my dad is the look on his face when he uttered, “Your mother said . . .” It was like he was being commanded — as if he had enlisted in my mother’s own form of a naval academy and was dishonorably discharged for lewd and lascivious behavior. My mother told me later on, “I don’t need anyone who weighs me down. I can do bad by myself.” I get it now, I didn’t then.

Self-Sufficiency, learn it.

Mother taught me how to cook, clean house, make up a bed “the Navy way,” change the oil in her car, and harvest our garden’s vegetables. By the time I was eleven, I was mowing our front and back yards. We hardly ever left the house unless it was to go to the grocery store or the gas station. Mother made all of my clothes, even my jeans. She bought fabric from Tina’s Fabric Shoppe on Fairview Avenue.

I had a favorite baseball cap I wore everywhere. One day, I misplaced it. I looked all over our house for it, even in my mother’s Cadillac. No luck. I ran to my mother, plump tears filling my eyes, and moaned, “I can’t find my ball cap anywhere, Mom.”

“That sounds like a personal problem. I can’t keep up with your things. You’re old enough to do that on your own.”

And that night . . . I left the toys out on my bedroom floor. I ignored her as she called me to tidy up my room. I turned the volume to our t. v. up louder, letting Randi Rocketeer drown out the droning of my mother’s voice. I sat there — simply sat there and dreamt of being far away from her. Far out and away from her.

I wanted to live in the sky. And so I did.


In 1996, Jenna Knight fulfilled her dream of becoming an astronaut and lives and works in Washington, D.C. She is married to her loving husband Jacob and has two children. In her spare time, she watches reruns of Randi Rocketeer and no longer feels as useless as the compressed air strapped to her favorite television superhero’s waist.


*Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium. *Special thanks to Terrye Turpin for helping me finesse this story a bit more.