Witness Kindness

Prompt: The Most Beautiful | Word Count: 250 words exactly | Genre: fiction

March 31, 2020

The most beautiful thing in these crazy times can be found in the way human ingenuity manifests in the small ways. Everywhere, as city after city locks down, communities — local and virtual — rise to the occasion.


Arvid, a neighborhood teen works his way down the block, dropping off supplies for his elderly neighbors.

Karen leads a zoom yoga class with all her regulars.

Henry posts on facebook, offering his tax preparation services for free to healthcare workers.

Helen phones in an order of thirty pizzas to be delivered to workers slogging through the pandemic at her local hospital, at no cost to them.

Selena uses her new found time to finally build and plant the garden boxes she’s always wanted. This Summer she’ll finally have enough squash, beans and lettuces to donate to the local food bank.

Myron records himself playing the trombone. His audition tape lands him a coveted spot in the local orchestra.

Susan reads classic novels and uploads the recordings for seniors to listen to at a nearby home.

Justin, home from college, mows the grass for his neighbors. His brother, Cyril, plants spring bulbs along the sidewalk. The blooms brighten up the whole street.

Tracy runs zoom computer support services, troubleshooting for people struggling to use technology they’re using for the first time.

Orin tutors students for their online Spanish class. They all improve and stay Spanish pals, meeting weekly to keep their skills sharp.

These acts of local beauty restore faith in one another.

Through the Looking Glass

Prompt: Gentle | Word Count: 300 words exactly | Genre: fiction

March 30, 2020

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

—Dylan Thomas

Four weeks into isolation, through a screen positioned next to the bed, he watched his mother fight. She was propped up on pillows, facing the computer. The matriarch’s dark loneliness absorbed her son’s voice as he read aloud the Dylan Thomas’ poem that had become their rallying cry these past dragging weeks. Mother’s battle with sickness had begun long before this virus crept into their realm of the world. Now, though, with her compromised immunity, the battle was a lonely one, and his daily reading with her connected her to family and the world.

He’d set up the computer near her bed three months ago when he’d been in town to bring her home after her final chemotherapy treatment. He wanted her to be able to check her email from bed. The doctor had said her lungs were clear and her recovery looked promising. Then just as she seemed to be returning to a new normality, the order to shelter in place had issued. They were trapped apart in their distant neighborhoods.

She’d been so disheartened that she all but gave up, loneliness overtaking her will to fight. Finding new ways to connect, while staying apart, was so important that he taught her to video chat. He was determined that she would triumph. Three times a day he read aloud to her. In this way, he gently coaxed her recovery forward day by day. In the morning, excerpts from the news. Midday, on his lunch hour he read her the next chapter in a novel. Then at night some poetry, always ending with the words of Dylan Thomas to fortify her resolve through the night.

So far, this virtual connection was working.

The Big Alone

Prompt: Frida | Word Count: 150 words exactly | Genre: fiction

March 29, 2020

6:52. Frida looks out her front window. The sun rises over the pines, rosy and ripe. Showtime.

7:38. The paper lands on the porch. Guess it’s essential, she thinks.

8:42. Bob walks his old pooch down the block to the empty lot.

9:10. Elsa pushes a stroller by, pink clad feet kicking up into the air.

10:56. Maria drives past in her yellow VW bug, waving.

Noon. Frida sips soup, gazing at Kelvin the cat as he strides by.

2:37. Amazon delivers her box. Inside, a puzzle for tonight.

3:22. Mike slips down the alley, unaware he’s observed. Smoking’s bad, Frida tsk-tsk.

4:42. Maria’s yellow bug returns, no wave this time. What’s wrong?

5:33. Clouds gather, wind whips. Daffodils bend.

6:16. More soup. Empty sidewalks stare back at Frida.

7:33. The last rays disappear into another night alone

My Generation

Prompt: The 9th Letter | Word Count: 250 words exactly | Genre: fiction 

March 28, 2020

Whether you’re a boomer or a millennial, you’ve doubtlessly been dubbed the “me generation”. A self-absorbed focus earned the moniker. “I” this and “I” that. Me, me, me. But in this time of crisis, those “I’s” are turning resolutely to “we.”

An example? How’s this:

Leaders around the world called for people to “isolate”.

At first, the ninth letter dominates. “I” don’t have to worry, “I’m” young. “I’m” invincible. “I’ll” be ok. Beaches crowded. Restaurants full. Handshakes. Parties.  

The counter: This isn’t about you! This is about everyone else. Well, maybe just a bit about you. But mostly it’s about them. It’s about letter twenty-one. 

The result: beaches empty. Aisles vacate. Streets untrafficked. Millennials move home. Boomers once again sandwiched between parents and grown children. 

Instead, you turn to your technology and computers and create a social experience for everyone. 

You gather in virtual zoom rooms with your instruments and strike up the band. Concerts played virtually, together. 

You post YouTube videos of hilariously complex Rube Goldberg contraptions. Entertainment redefined. 

You start a Facebook group offering to help members of your community by locating and delivering the necessities they need. 

You start a chalk drawing on the sidewalk and your neighbors each continue it until the street swims in color. 

Soon it’s clear that spreading alongside the virus is a new sense of community. Even in our separateness, the “I” and the “U” join into we. Togetherness apart is the new world order. 


Prompt: The Offer | Word Count: 500 words exactly | Genre: fiction

March 27, 2020

Caroline was overwhelmed, working full time and running a household that had grown overnight from two to include their two college boys and her aging parents. Their house hadn’t been this full for long time. She was cooking, cleaning and keeping things moving.

Caroline dreaded going to the grocery store in the best of moments. Now, however, she worried about picking up the virus along with her groceries. Still, they had to eat, so she had to shop. She’d worked it all out for maximum efficiency and minimum exposure. She had her list, her wipes, and had timed it when she thought the shelves would be loaded, but the aisles empty. Thus armed, she stepped out of the car.

As she headed for the supermarket entrance, she noticed the older couple hunched together in their car. They waved a Kleenex at her through the windshield to flag her down. She’d read about older couples, especially vulnerable to the virus, who were afraid to go out. Could this be one of them? Even though she didn’t feel like she had time, she couldn’t walk away.

“How can I help?” Caroline offered as she approached the car.

“We’ve been waiting for hours,” the grandfatherly gentleman said. “I’m Gerald, and this is Mamie. You look trustworthy. We were hoping you could get a few things for us. We need our prescriptions and a few groceries.” He proffered an envelope.

Inside was their prescription insurance card, a short list of basic supplies — milk, bread, soup — and three crisp twenties. “You can keep the change.”

“I’d be happy to help you,” Caroline said eyeing the short list. “Are you sure you don’t need more than this?”

“That’s all for now. Our pension check comes next week. We don’t eat much these days. Mamie can do without her ice cream at night.”

Once in the store, Caroline made quick work of her list and theirs. Their small collection of food contrasted so sharply with the cart she’d filled for herself, that she added eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and ice cream, along with a rare canister of wipes she’d been lucky to find.

Instinctively, she knew they wouldn’t want her charity, so when she returned to the car she didn’t mention the extras she’d added. Instead she made an offer, “I was hoping you would give me you phone number and address. That way, I can pick some things up for your when I go to the store next time and have one of my sons drop them by for you.”

For the next seven weeks, that is exactly what they did. Mamie dictated their list and one of Caroline’s sons delivered the groceries, along with an extra treat or two. In return, Mamie tutored Caroline’s oldest son in German over the phone. When the quarantine lifted, Gerald and Mamie were healthy. Her son got an A in German. A friendship that lasted many years had been born in the parking lot of the local supermarket.

The Pitch

Prompt: Pitch | Word Count: 200 words exactly | Genre: fiction 

March 26, 2020

Trent looked around the modern lobby of the Gates Foundation. This is my shot to save my business, he thought.

“Mr. Holt? They’re ready,” the efficient receptionist ushered Trent into a conference room.

Bill and Melinda Gates sat at the table. Holy Crap! Steeling his nerves, he nodded a six-foot greeting to his potential benefactors.

“Don’t be nervous,” offered Melinda, “We’re excited to hear your pitch.”

“Thanks. I got the idea from Elon Musk making ventilators. I manufacture costumes in Seattle with three staff who depend on their jobs. Since only essential businesses can continue, I want to turn to making medical masks, but I can’t afford to pay my folks without any revenue. My suppliers can provide materials, but I was hoping for a Foundation grant to assist with payroll, since the masks would be donated. I’ll cover the other costs. I’d need about 150K to run for two months.” 

Bill asked, “Do you have machines and space to employ additional staff?” 

“I can support seven people.”

“Okay, let’s do it. We’ll fund you at 200K per month, throughout the lockdown.”

“Thank you both!”

“Thank you, Mr. Holt for pitching in. We’re all in this together.”

Shattered Illusions

Prompt: Shattered | Word Count: 150 words exactly | Genre: fiction 

March 25, 2020

All she had wanted to do was help. She’d been as careful as she knew how to be. She was sure she’d do more good than harm. Absolutely positive. People needed exercise. She kept her studio spotless. She’d thought she’d been careful enough. She washed her hands and kept her distance. Spaced the mats 6 feet apart. Disinfected often. And yet. It hadn’t been enough. Going on carefully as usual had landed her in her bed. As her fever spiked and her cough intensified, she finally realized that careful wasn’t enough. The Recommended isolation was the only answer. How many people had she infected with her careful carefree approach? She survived the illness only to watch those she most loved succumb. The trajectory was traceable. She’d failed to do what she’d most wanted. She’d made matters worse. She couldn’t fathom why she ever thought she knew better than everyone else?

New Normal

Prompt: Orchid | Word Count: 300 words exactly | Genre: fiction 

Mar 24, 2020

He’d sent her an orchid. It meant the world to her. Each day she watered it, fed it special food, which would be harder to find with all this craziness in the world. Supplies were erratic, on expected things, sometimes on more unusual items. She assumed the flower food would eventually be in short supply when the manufacturer no longer produced and stockpiles ran low. She dreaded that day. Orchids were so persnickety. 

So were people. She’d begged her son to come home. But he had refused, saying he would be as fine there as with her, stubbornly refusing her need. He liked his routines, his space. She worried. She called. Wash your hands. Her heart hurt  being separated. Every time she looked at the orchid he sent her she felt comforted believing if it thrived, so did he.

Over time she learned new skills, which at her age was quite an accomplishment. She learned to use Zoom, What’s App, and FaceTime to stay connected and to see her boy. This eased her unease. She learned to meditate and find solace in the new quiet she cultivated in her mind. She traveled virtually to places she’d always wanted to go, Carnegie Hall, the Louvre, and others. 

Social media alerted her to neighbors that needed help. She grabbed her sanitizer and made a point to help at least one person each day. She wanted to do more. So she sewed masks. She delivered supplies. She felt useful. 

Amidst the world’s great tragedy, she found a way to make peace with her son’s choices. She found her own resilience. She found purpose in helping those near her. The orchid he gave her blossomed as she learned to release her worry to the wind and trust her instincts. She found a new normal.