Because writing is fun when all that’s at stake is your heart.

PROMPT: Flower, Rain, Dog barking, use phrases, not sentences, to describe.

Splattering on the skylight
Neighbor’s dog yapping
No watering needed
Flowers planted late
Blooming anyway
Dog like a wretched teddy bear
The kind that would never become a real bunny
Hair plastered to its sides
Neighbor scooping it up in the rain
In sweats
Sagging from being drenched
That V-thing happening rock-hard abs toward thighs
“Thighs”? who was she kidding
That V like an arrow pointing
Not to thighs
Sunflowers falling over in the rain
Curled against herself in bed
Through the window
Shivering now-quiet dog tucked against that chest
Through his door as the rain slowed, stopped, into quiet

PROMPT: Assign each other a color.

(Pale blue)

I’m fine, I’m fine, she said, lips shivering pale blue above the quivering chin, below the tiny nose.

Children had to be cute to survive, that was the only reason that her daughter could look adorable enough to slice through the annoyance, cleave her heart. A 20-year-old in front of her with blue lips, pale face and, let’s be honest, snotty nose, would not melt her authority the way this six-year old did.

Lorraine checked her watch. If they left now, she’d have time to drop Claire off at the sitter’s, make the meeting.

If this was a story, no question. The mom would not only indulge her daughter’s desire to stay at the beach, but plunge into the shivery ocean beside her. You have to be cold sometimes to remember what it feels like to be warm, she’d realize, the moral of the story implicit. Or maybe explicit, as we’re saying it out loud.

But this was no story. This was the gears of the universe dictating the outcome as certain as if the god of your choice – Yahweh, Jehovah, Poseidon – had gestured from the clouds, Go home. Meetings equaled paycheck equaled security equaled what was best for Claire in the long run.

Which did not stop Claire from pouting, shoving as Lorraine toweled her off, settled her into the car seat, pulled the straps down against those skinny shoulders, tears ignored as only a mother can ignore tears, which is to say, impervious on the surface even as every salty drop tore at her soul. They say salt water cures anything, but never remark on how pulling a child away from the ocean renders her inconsolable.

Later, as the meeting grows dull, Lorraine will reflect on how the ocean looked as she pulled out of the parking lot, the sea glimmering pale blue in the rearview mirror, otherworldly in its calm.