This flash fiction is inspired by a WordPress daily Prompt from last week.

“But, how does that make you feel?” she persisted.

Ken frowned. Feel? How was he supposed to feel? Why couldn’t she just leave it alone? He turned to gaze out the window, focusing on the bright sky and vivid trees swaying in the breeze instead of the bars.

She sighed, then tried again. “Why do you think you did it?”

Did it? Did what, Ken wondered. He had done so many things in his life, and most of them leading to this room, with its industrial gray walls, bolted down furniture, and locked door. Was she worried about being locked in here with him? He shifted his attention from the sky to her.

She looked professional, with a trim business suit and hair drawn back. Concern lit her dark eyes as she leaned forward, trying to engage him. He liked her better than the guy they sent him last week, Ken decided. That guy had been smarmy, trying to be his best friend. Ken had met plenty of guys like that, and they really didn’t want to be your friend. This girl, she seemed like she might care, like she was real, like somebody’s daughter.

He wondered if his daughter was anything like her. He hadn’t seen her since she was three when her mom took her and moved away from him. She’d be twenty-three now, he realized. So many years since he had thought about her. She could have kids by now–his grandkids. Never see them in here, he knew. Ken hoped Barbara had done right, maybe even got her a good step dad.

His brother would have been a good dad, Ken thought. Maybe he’d been a good uncle too. He cast around in his memory, trying to remember the last time he’d seen Frankie. Fifteen years, maybe?

It was easier to remember their childhood games. Frankie especially loved cops and robbers, when Ken was ten and Frankie eight. Ken was the robber of course. Good life training, he thought wryly.

Sarah sat back, defeated, after the half hour passed. If only she could have provoked a response, any emotion. But he had simply stared at her, his seamed face impassive, before turning to the window again.

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Cliche Stories

Jordan looked at the two burly men in exasperation. Another minute and they would be hissing at each other.

“So, what’s gonna be, guys?” she asked. “Handbags at ten paces, or do you just wanna start pulling each other’s hair?”

The big men looked  a bit shamefaced, before the spluttering started again.

“It’s Howie’s fault!”  Ryan pointed. “I was just putting away the dishes, when he comes stomping in the kitchen with those big-ass feet and knocked over the pantry table.”

“Ryan moved it,” Howie snapped, “and it was in the way. He knew that I’d run right into it.”

Jordan frowned, the table was moved into the path everyone used to wind through the kitchen. Usually these spats ended  with the guys upstairs, drinking, slapping each other on the shoulder after they closed for the night. God save me from “artistic” temperaments, she thought as a touch of worry crept in.

“What is going on here?” she demanded.

“Howie said, he said, that my team was gonna get creamed tonight,” Ryan said indignantly.

“Football?! This is about football?”


Jordan cut him off. “You,” she pointed a finger at Ryan, “get that table back.”

“And you,” turning to Howie,” get back to work! We have a room full of people out there expecting food, and you both are going to get it to them!”

“Football,” she said again, tossing up her hands as she left the kitchen.


handbags at ten paces: a slightly hysterical confrontation that has no real danger of violence. I had to pick this one, it was so very amusing!! And I had never heard it before, mostly because it comes from Britain. As a once avid reader of historical everything, I am of course familiar with “pistols at dawn” or “pistols at ten paces.” This phrase devolves from those clichés. During a football game, the players knew they were not able to physically strike one another, so many vented their anger by facial expressions and arm waving. Although a good deal of posturing occurred, the likelihood of violence was pretty much nonexistent. The “handbag” in the cliché comes from Margaret Thatcher, as she was said to give slacking politicians a “good handbagging-” verbal thrashing. The cliche was coined in the 1980s, and continued to gain steam in the next decade:

Leeds win out in battle of the brawlers–
….Kamara was booked for arguing before the referee took four names in as many minutes: Ward and Wallace for handbags at 10 paces, Deane for a hideous foul on Cowan…

                                              The Sunday Times, September 1993

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Cliche Stories

John clutched his mom’s hand as they walked down the long hallway to Melly’s room. He didn’t want to go in there again.

Melly lay there, hooked up to machines that buzzed and beeped quietly. His vibrant sister pale and thin, laying like a shadow of herself. John used to get so mad at Melly, always babbling on about something. But now he’d love to hear her voice again. Maybe that would make his mom stop crying at night. He dragged his feet as they got closer to the room.

The adults were all so quiet, putting on a good face, like he couldn’t tell. John wasn’t sure if it was for him or for themselves. They paced from the bed to the window, wandering down the hall for coffee and back again, talking about nothing in low voices. As if noise would bother Melly.

John snorted. She might wake up just to join in, if they said anything interesting enough.

The door opened and John’s grandmother came out, a huge smile on her face. She grasped her daughter’s hand and quickly drew them both into the hospital room. It was filled with noise and people.

John heard Melly’s voice, scratchy, low, but undeniably her voice as she importantly told her nurse about her dolls, including where and when she got each one, as well as where it fell in the hierarchy of her room.

John’s mom stared from Melly to her mother, who hugged her jubilantly.

“She woke up half an hour ago,” Grandmeme said, “hasn’t shut up since. Just like normal.”

“Yeah, never could get a word in edgeways,” Uncle George said. “We knew for sure she was feeling better!”

John smiled, listening as Melly moved on to telling the nurse about her stuffed animals.



get a word in edgeways: not being able to join a conversation as one person is speaking continously.  You may have also heard this cliche as “get a word in edgewise,” as the words were used interchangably. Either meant to proceed with an edge first, and were used to describe a way to work through a crowd, seeking out the gaps to slide through sideways. Edging forward was first used in sailing terms, to describe tacking through the ocean waters:

After many tempests and foule weather, about the foureteenth of March we were in thirteene degrees and an halfe of Northerly latitude, where we descried a ship at hull; it being but a faire gale of wind, we edged towards her to see what she was.
                         Captain John Smith, The generall historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles, 1624

While this term began to be used to refer to conversations in 1683; it was first used in print in 1821, in a one act play:

Sir F. (Aside.) Curse me, if I can get a word in edgeways!
                               Twelve precisely! or, A night at Dover

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Cliche Stories


“Stop faffing about, Henry,” Bill hissed, looking up and down the hall.

“Stop bouncing that light around then! I need it right here,” Henry pointed with his screwdriver.

Bill adjusted the light, shining at Henry’s industriously working tools. The screwdriver slipped, stabbing Henry’s finger. He sucked in a breath before returning to the lock.

“Is he in yet?” Frank called down the hall in a loud whisper.

Henry sighed, shaking his head. “Why did we invite him again?” he muttered.

“We needed a third to stand guard,” Bill said before waving Frank away.

The rec room light came on just as Bill heard a click and Henry’s huff of satisfaction. They quickly slid through the door, turning the lock behind them.

They waited quietly as footsteps came down the hall, stopping to test each door. Their doorknob rattled, then the guard moved on to the next. Bill and Henry looked at each other, then got to work. Fifteen minutes later they left the Director’s office, door locked neatly behind them.

“Well?” Frank asked as they got to lounge area.

“Oh, she’s never gonna know what hit her,” Henry smirked.

“Yeah,” Bill agreed,  “that’ll teach her to take away Friday night concerts!”

“Concerts,” Frank sneered. “It’s a guy on a piano in the rec room. But it’s our guy! And who knows what would be next–desserts?!”

Bill looked at Henry as Frank wandered off, still talking to himself.

“Not quite like the old days, huh?”

“Nope. But tonight we had a much better chance of getting back to our beds,” Henry replied.

Bill nodded agreement as they headed to their rooms. Tomorrow should be quite exciting, he thought. As exciting as it gets in a nursing home, he added wryly.


faff about: to “dither, fuss, flap.”* I liked this one, it just sounded fun. Not surprisingly, it comes from the United Kingdom. It has a bit of a Scottish sound to me (can’t you just hear a Scot accent saying “stop blethering and faffing about!”?), but there is no proof that it came from that direction. It was first recorded by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1874:

T’ clock-maker fizzled an’ faff’d aboot her, but nivver did her a farthing’s worth o’ good.

The phrase has probably saved the word “faff” from extinction, as it isn’t really part of our language any moreexcept in conjunction with the cliche. Even the cliche has fallen out of fashion in current UK slang. The word Faff originally came from the word Faffle, from the 16th century.  Faffle meant to “flap idly in the breeze.” Faff did travel to Australia with British inmates, as it can be found in  1879 The Austrialian Journal:

“No, it [a candle] burns quite steadily now; you are right about it faffing about before, because it blew towards my face.”



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Cliche Stories

I was trying to decide on my cliché this week, and had just about settled on a Sherlock Holmes quote when I saw the Daily Prompt from WordPress: confess. The two seemed linked together and my path was set.


“C’mon, Jackie,” Kayden urged. “Just say you did it.”

“Yeah,” Lindsey  agreed, “If you just say it, we can all go to lunch.”

Jackie  looked around his classmates resentfully.  He didn’t do it. Why should he take the fall?

“Why?” he asked.

“Cause teacher is going to make us sit here foreeeevver,” Lindsey said. “Don’t you wanna get out of here? She won’t do anything, she never does.”

“Yeah, last week, she just shook her head and sighed when I told her it was me that hid the erasers,” Kayden said.

“It’s like what that guy in storytime says, it’s ele-el-mentary,” Charlotte chimed in. “She thinks you did it and if you say you did, you can save all of us.”

She batted her  blue eyes at Jackie with a sweet smile, and he groaned, knowing he was going to give in.


elementary, my dear Watson: the famous and oft used line to explain that a perplexing question is really so very simple after all. The history of this one is obvious–it comes from Sherlock Holmes. Holmes often used the phrase condescendingly to his assistant, Dr Watson. But did he? The most famous quote Holmes ever made never appeared in any of Sir Conan Doyle’s books. It was added later in Sherlock Holmes’ movies, as a liberty taken by film writers and directors. Sherlock did say “Exactly, my dear Watson,” as well as “Elementary” in several of the stories, so at some point they were glued together for Hollywood. The phrase itself, however, actually belongs to another writer, P.G. Wodehouse, who used it in Psmith Journalist, 1915.



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Cliche Stories

“Where’d it go?”

“Dunno,” Kerry said.

“How deep is it?” Lenny asked as he leaned over the railing.

“It’s a long ways down to Davy Jones’ locker, that’s for sure,” a tall guy answered, walking up. “Why don’t we get those feet back on deck?”

Kerry turned to make a face but stopped as he took in the uniform. He climbed down the railing, leaning against it.

“Who’s Davy Jones?” Lenny asked.  “How far down is he?”

“What’s he doing down there?” Kerry added. “Did he fall over?”

The crew member smiled at the two boys. “Davy’s a bad guy, just down there waiting for sailors–and other foolish people–to drown so he can take them for his crew. Tis said he roams the seas, and wherever there is a storm or wreck, he’s there to collect his souls. Some say he can even cause the storms, when he needs more crew.”

Lenny stepped sharply back from the rail before checking to see that the sky was still a calm blue.

“Um, Kerry, why don’t we go find your mom?” he asked, still eyeing the sky.

“I’m sure she’s waiting for you,” the crew member agreed, hiding his smirk.


Davy Jones locker: the locker is a mythical resting place of drowned sailors, controlled by an evil spirit. This cliché has old roots, although it was marvelously brought to life by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series in the 2000s:

See the source image                                                                                                                                  Davy Jones portrayed by Bill Nighy

Disney’s writers were quite inventive when it came to giving Davy a background, but where the name of Davy Jones actually comes from is quite contentious.  It could be variation of the biblical Jonah (who is clearly bad luck for all seamen); or taken from a corrupt man, whose name actually was Davy Jones, and was known for press-ganging sailors before they could leave his pub; or it could be taken from the patron saint of sailors, St David.  While entertaining, there is no information to back any of these stories up, leaving the myth as mysterious as the man.
Tobias Smollett was the first one to use the name Davy Jones, in 1751:

‘By the Lord! Jack, you may say what you wool; but I’ll be damned if it was not Davy Jones himself. I know him by his saucer eyes, his three rows of teeth, his horns and tail, and the blue smoke that came out of his nostrils. What does the blackguard hell’s baby want with me? I’m sure I never committed murder, except in the way of my profession, nor wronged any man whatsomever since I first went to sea.’ This same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, shipwrecks, and other disasters, to which a seafaring life is exposed; warning the devoted wretch of death and woe.
                                               –The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle

The idea of the locker came fifty years later, when it was used in the 1803 Naval Chronicle, describing how a sailor would go to a watery grave, or, in fact, to “Davy Jones’ locker.”





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Three Line Tales

hosted by Sonya, from 100 lines. Going through my Reader on WordPress, I just could not resist this picture! Check out the other short stories inspired by the picture by searching the tag “3LineTales“.

three lien tales week 99: a purple sky and a batman shaped belfry

The sky rumbled as the earth shook under the army’s feet, and Mary knew her time had come.

She had made her gamble, but it was all for nought. Under this electric sky she would be wed , and thus stripped of her lands.

Yes, her lands, Mary thought defiantly, no matter what her younger brother thought. Even though he had the King order her to marry the approaching Earl, she wasn’t done yet. She just had to think…..


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Cliche Stories….

….almost. It has been (again) a crazy week. But I think I am ready for Christmas–finally. Are you?

I have picked out a cliché this week, I just haven’t gotten time to think about an actual story.  I am reading Jules Verne for the first time this week too, which is great fun since I just watched  Journey to the Center of the Earth 2, Mysterious Island (I am a sucker for The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson) while wrapping presents. I had picked up 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as my Verne book–and Capt’n Nemo’s Nautilus does show up towards the end of the movie.

Now that I have seen the movie, I think more reading of Verne is in my future. They did pull from quite a few of his books, as well as Treasure Island (something I skipped when assigned) and Gulliver’s Travels. More books to read, although I had, in fact, put Treasure Island on my summer reading list, which is an actual pile of books I pulled from my library that I think I should read.  I am half way through now, having finished Dr Faustus and  After the Fall. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was just on top of Treasure Island when I went to grab a new book.

My version of 20,000 Leagues was my father’s, and cost 50 cents in the 1960s when he purchased it. It is also single spaced with very compact print, which makes the reading extra special fun!

I can absolutely see why Verne’s novels have lasted as long as they have. He is extremely detailed and imaginative, although I will admit to my eyes glazing over during some of his more scientific explanations of how Capt’n Nemo’s inventions work. And, occasionally, I feel the need for a dictionary. That is mostly during his scientific or plant/animal descriptions. Although my father had a PhD in Zoology, I never learned the Latin names of oceanic  flora and fauna.

I feel that Verne started with a solid scientific base (he was clearly interested in science and the natural world), before he started expanding into the more fantastical inventions of Capt’n Nemo’s. I’m not familiar enough with the science of that time to know exactly where the line is, but fun to wonder about  submarines and when exactly divers started carrying their own air as Nemo did, instead of being tethered by an air hose.

I am fascinated by the language he uses, the depth and breadth of it as well as how some words have changed in meaning since he wrote this in the 1860s. I did find myself a little offended by the main character’s complete faith in killing a large sea animal that was never been seen before, just so that he could say he did it, and bring some piece of it back to his museum.  I realized that was a common enough attitude in the 1800s, however, when man was conquering the planet and feeling justified about doing it (of course, some trophy hunters of today still feel that way, but that is a whole other subject). So I try to see that as more historical context. Especially as it turned out to be the Nautilus they were hunting, and not some defenseless narwhale.

I’m only about a third of the way through, as I am so busy that I only get to read a half hour a day at lunch. But I am looking forward to my next lunch break.

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Cliche Stories

So I missed last week. I’m going with the “crazy season” as my excuse. I felt run ragged, and, honestly, I just couldn’t find a cliche I liked. You’ll notice this one was way near the bottom of all the lists–starting with ‘Cu’ as it does. But I finally found it, so here we are…..


“Well, aren’t you just as cute as a bugs ear!”

Sheila smiled politely as she maneuvered the tray onto the table before adjusting the table over the old man’s bed. Cute as a bug’s ear? Was that a compliment? She pondered as she reached over to adjust the pillows so he could sit up and eat.

A compliment, Sheila decided as she looked at his frail weight resting on the pillows as he began to slurp his soup. He was just so nice, she thought. There were stories circulating the nursing home about his past, but she didn’t believe any of them.

“Is that a saying from Texas?” she asked him.

He froze, carefully placing his spoon on the tray before looking at her. “Why do you ask that?”

“Oh, I thought I heard you were from Texas,” Sheila replied carelessly as she folded new towels for him. “One of the girls out front said something.”

“Why?” she asked, turning to face him. He was suddenly more alert, sitting away from pillows and moving the table away from the bed before swinging his legs over the side.

“Oh, Mr. Smith, you should really stay in bed! Is there anything I can get you?” Sheila cried.

“No, you have helped me greatly already. I think you should go now, before…”

Even as he spoke, Sheila heard the door open. Several men entered, led by a dapper little man. Backing up in apparent fright, Sheila slowly reached behind her and pushed the button for security before clasping her hands tightly in front of her.

“I was right,” Mr Smith said, “you are acute as a bug.”


as cute as a bug’s ear: as cute as can be. Many  clichés are similes, where something is like something else. But a bug’s ear being cute? Where did that come from? It is said to be from Texas in late 1800s, and even there they don’t have any particularly attractive ones. However, bugs ears can be said to be ‘acute’, in that they can hear a very high frequency, or very soft sounds. In the 1700s, ‘cute’ was a synonym for ‘acute’–

Nathan Bailey defined it in The Universal Etymological English Dictionary, 1731, as:

Cute: sharp, quick-witted, shrewd.*

It crossed the ocean to America and was used with that meaning by James Russell Lowell–

Aint it cute to see a Yankee Take sech everlastin’ pains?
                    The Biglow Papers, 1848

In the late 1800s, cute began to refer to being adorable or pretty instead of sharpness or acuity, and the phrase lost common understanding as to why a bug’s ear would be so cute….or why someone would think that would be a compliment.





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Cliche Stories

“I don’t like her name,” I said flatly.

“Huh?” Mom said.

“Charlotte. A nice name by itself, but you know we are going to end up calling her Char like Kathy did. It’s just easier to call when you want her, but I don’t like it,” I reiterated.

“Or holler when she steps on our feet, ” I added. The horse had no idea where she ended and we started. Made for a lot of bumping. “In fact, I think I’m going to give her a middle name. So when we are really irritated  we can yell it out, like you did when I was young.”

Mom laughed. “Like I haven’t done that recently! What’s wrong with Char?”

“It sounds harsh.”

She sighed, and we went back brushing the horses.

The next day she said, “Hey, your mare is one busy mare. She had her nose in more areas of that paddock today!  Think maybe we should call her Charby.”

“Charby?” I questioned.

“Yeah, Charby. Cuz she’s busy as a bee!”


busy as a bee: to be very busy. This phrase has been around for centuries, as it first  appeared in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the late 1300s. It’s popularity hasn’t waned all that much.

Ey! Goddes mercy!” sayd our Hoste tho,
Now such a wyf I pray God keep me fro.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen be; for ay as busy as bees
Be thay us seely men for to desceyve,
And from a soth ever a lie thay weyve.
And by this Marchaundes tale it proveth wel.
                              –The Squire’s Tale

PS – My horse’s name really is Charby, and she was named pretty much as described.

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