Weekly Challenge #381 – Grace

Welcome to the 100 Word Stories podcast at oneadayuntilthedayidie.com. I’m your host, Laurence Simon.

This is Weekly Challenge, where I post a topic and then challenge you to come up with a 100 word story based on that topic.

The topic this week was GRACE.

We’ve got stories by:

The next 100 word stories weekly challenge is on the topic of BILLIONS.

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Finally, if there are any errors or corrections, please let me know, and I’ll fix them as soon as possible.


SINGH

Period of Grace

Singh

1

When they removed the little one from the humidicrib and unhooked her plasma tube, I knew we had to work quickly. Fortunately her twin brother was doing fine.

“This way,” the nurse said. I had already set up my tripod and lights in a vacant room and was ready for the little one in her infant whites. There were smears of blood here and there. Yes, in this case, it would be better to process these in black and white before passing them to the parents. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Moses Chen moved in a slow trance, she holding the delicate bundle.

2

How did I become a bereavement photographer? Well, I also had a twin who died at birth. In those days, the stillborns were whisked away to the mortuary with cold efficiency, lest the idea of death infect the realm of the living. Like Mother, I had longed to have a hand, footprint, or name tag saying Twin 1 or Twin 2, or a tiny lock of hair. Anything to remind me of my lost identical sibling. When I became a professional photographer I made it a point to volunteer for bereavement service so I could vicariously relive my own twin’s passing.

3

The Chens wanted photos of the little girl alone, the twins together, another with each parent separately and finally, the toughest one of all to shoot – the wholesome family portrait. Somehow this image was meant to be a smiling achievement, although under the circumstances we all knew it was a sad falsehood. Yet, that’s what photographers do — suspend moments and render stillborn the notion of death. By this stage, everyone including me were fighting back tears. It was an unbearable situation. I kept snapping for twenty painful minutes, yet hoping my humble monochromes would have lasting meaning for the stricken survivors.

4

I went home and transferred the shots to the computer, deleting the blurred duds. I did some quick edits and burnt the set to disc, then went to bed drained but glad my work was almost done. All that remained was to deliver the DVD in a couple of days.

When I rose the next morning and powered up my mobile phone, beeps sounded with a message: “We would be eternally grateful if you could come to our home at 2pm.” I figured they wanted the photos straight away. If wasn’t far, so I closed up my flat and drove over.

5

Moses opened the door.

“Thank you for coming.”

He led me into the lounge. Dorothy was on the sofa nursing her baby, softly singing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.”

“So you’ve brought your son back already.” As soon as I had spoken I realised my error. Both the twins had been born premature and were on life support. They had brought the dead girl home. Dorothy was still in her slow trance, singing, “You make me happy when skies are grey.”

“The funeral counsellor was very compassionate to allow us to say goodbye for a little longer,” Moses whispered.

6

At first, I was shocked. It seemed macabre to be with grieving parents attending to a newly-dead child as if alive.
“Would you mind taking more photos? It would mean a lot to us — to Dorothy.”

Moses gestured, nodding toward her. He was gently handling his partner who still couldn’t let go.

“Of course.”

“Dorothy Darling. Let’s go into the twin’s room. Miss Wong is going to take more shots for the memory box.”

He eased her up as she nursed the swaddled bundle. I took out the small camera from my shoulder bag, following them into the baby room.

7

The Chens were first-time proud parents and had lovingly papered the nursery walls blue with sheep leaping over silver moons. There was a mobile of lucky pigs hanging from the ceiling and soft toys and books in corners and nooks. In the middle of the room were two baby cribs next to each other.

Dorothy placed the wrapped corpse in one. Now I could see the bluish angel face. I braced myself, stepped forward and snapped some more shots.

“Before she goes to the next world, she should’ve lived at least a little of life in this one,” Moses said.

8

After photographing the room, Moses led Dorothy, the infant girl and me back into the lounge.

“We will go for a drive, Miss Wong.”

Soon, we were pressing the lift and getting out in the parking bay. Dorothy sat at the back clutching the bundle to her bosom.

Moses said, “Darling, we should put her in the travelling basinet. It’s the law.” He prised the wrapped infant out of her arms and placed it in the basket that was held down firmly by harness clips. I climbed into the front passenger seat and Moses nosed the black SUV onto the street.

9

At Atomic Tots, a local kindergarten, we headed for the play swings. Dorothy clutched the infant as Moses pushed gently from behind.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” Dorothy said.

I clicked shots and played along.

We were mobile again soon, stopping next outside the prestigious white walls of Singapore Chinese Girls School.

“This is my Alma Mater,” Dorothy said, chattering toward the basinet. “You will love it here – from Prep on, just like Mummy did.”

I took the pre-requisite happy snap and next we were slamming doors and driving on. The black SUV was beginning to feel like a slow-moving hearse.

10

And so her life journey rapidly progressed. We were a dark speck of mortality travelling the arterial freeways up and down the island. We passed blocks of flats and tall condominiums, each radially fed by a town centre. Moses and Dorothy were now both conversing with the little one, narrating a fast forward life – stopping at Raffles Junior College, at the National University of Singapore, telling of future law studies like her father’s. She would, no doubt marry an equivalent boy from a good family from her own social ranking and become a proud mother. Parental ambition had mapped everything out.

11

Finally, they steered the car north to Old Chua Choo Kang Rd and reached Nirvana Memorial Gardens Columbarium where Taoists and Buddhists bought space to house the ashes of the dead, following the motto ‘Rest in Prosperity’. Already they had taken a deluxe niche in the 6-star hotel-like complex, complete with Buddha Temple and highrise buildings either side for the remains of 50,000 deceased. Their niche was furnished in a fusion of Western and Chinese decor with sofa set for family visits. “This is where you will come Darling, and we will follow,” Dorothy said to the bundled babe.

12

My camera marvelled at the new luxurious hotel of departure. Here were laser lights, an iPOD-triggered sound system, theatrical smoke, a booming recorded voice chanting sutras for the ancestors. I photographed sky ceilings, golden Buddhas, koi ponds, reticulating waterfalls and safe deposit boxes of bone ash on every level of Nirvana. Cremation was now the promoted form of internment on this island, already digging up its cemeteries to build more condominiums and providing sleepless nights for the superstitious.

It was time. Moses rang for the funeral counsellor. A brief lifespan lived, they had to give over their flesh and blood.

13

I took my final photographs. Both now seemed better reconciled to the next stage of their dead daughter’s journey. I too, had felt I had lived a full brief life travelling in the families’ company like an honorary aunt. Then, they surprised me.

“Would you be our daughter’s Gan Ma, Miss Wong?” Gan Mas means ‘godmother’. Of course, my role was now redundant and neither was I religious, although in Chinese tradition a godparent performs a more social role. I would not have to find a suitable future husband, pay a dowry, nor raise the child should both the parents die.

14

By now my ‘professional bereavement photographer’ status had collapsed somewhere along the journey. I couldn’t refuse.

“Yes, I would be honoured to be…” And stopped. The little one didn’t have a name. “How will I call her?” I asked.

They looked to each other. Through the deep shock of the event, they had overlooked this essential part of the plan.

“You choose, Yi Mu.”

I paused, seeking inner inspiration. “Grace” was the word that came to mind.

They approved.

Thus, this is the story of Grace Chen who was born, lived a life and died.
I have the pictures to prove it.

JEFFREY

Faith and Deeds
by Jeffrey Fischer

Father Turner conducted his tour of the parish on Tuesdays. He made a point to visit Mrs. Shaffer every week, now that she could no longer leave her house, and there was never a shortage of the temporarily ill and infirm to comfort.

Although he continued to tend to the spiritual well-being of his flock, Father Turner was troubled by his own lack of grace. He did not know when his faith faltered; he only knew it was no longer with him. Good works were not enough to restore his state of grace, but, faith or no, his role was to minister to those who needed him.

Flying
by Jeffrey Fischer

When she danced, she could fly. Lithe and nimble, her body was entirely graceful as her feet lightly touched the floor, only to soar again and again. Only during these times did she feel fully alive. When she tried to explain this feeling to others, the usual response was a blank look. Words, she realized, were sometimes inadequate.

Then she would once again wake, her legs still the useless sticks they became after the accident. She would fight back the tears and begin the long process of getting out of bed. The dance would have to wait.

TOM

A Well Defined Relationship Part 10

Banister checked his ticket: 17d. He navigated his way pass knees and
chins to his seat. On stage a Tuxedoed MC martini and cigarette in hand,
bantered with the audience. Banister wondered what sort of man would
actively seek out a “Rat Pack” mod. “It’s a living,” said Dino Mod “I can
get you some garlic bread with that spaghetti, Pilgrim.” He stared
straight into his eyes. “Rio Bravo,” called back Banister. The smile
disappeared from Dino’s face. “Hey George get out here, I’m dying.” Halo
Burns and appeared with his wife. “Say Hello Gracie.” “Oh George your
confusing me.”

ZACKMANN

His Manager sat between Joe and a pretty woman.

“You were right, I do find him handsome and a nice dresser.”

“Oh, yes Joe is one my favorite clients but I don’t think he is reaching his full potential and I believe marriage would be good for his career.”

“I don’t know what if he doesn’t find me attractive?”

“I am right here!” said Joe “stop talking as if I am not. It’s making me very frustrated?”
“You might as well get used to being frustrated if I am going to make you two into the next Burns and Allen.”

RICHARD

#1 – Cargo

George barely had a moment’s grace to come to his senses before the container swung violently through an arc and, with an enormous crash, dropped like a stone.

In the confusion, he fell and, unable to stop himself, crashed headfirst onto the solid metal floor. The world went grey and fuzzy before turning completely black.

When he came to, it was some time before he realised the throbbing in his head wasn’t entirely due to the painful lump that had appeared there: the floor was vibrating and shaking. Now utterly bemused, George realised that the container was on the move.

#2 – Grace

When it came to clumsiness, she’d give most people a run for their money…

Singularly inept, socially awkward and probably the most ungainly woman I’d ever met – whenever her name came up in conversation, I’d chuckle: as long as she was around, there would always be someone more hopeless than myself!

She’d hijack conversations and muscle in on private gatherings, her fussing and flustering capable of upsetting even the most carefully laid plans – eventually we banned her from formal events altogether, thanks to her habit of upstaging everybody else.

If ever there was an unsuitably named woman, it was Grace!

#3 – Truth hurts (but, damn does it feel good!)

“Nice of you to grace us with your presence”, said my boss, voice laden with sarcasm – “do we have your permission to begin?”

“Actually, no!”, I replied, giving him a withering look; “I have something to say…

You are, without doubt, the worst, most obnoxious, self-serving manager I’ve ever had the displeasure to work under. You are rude, ignorant, pompous and a complete moron.”

He looked at me in shock.

“Oh, by the way… I quit!”
leaving the room, I ducked the stapler he threw at me – well, I never expected him to accept the truth with good grace!

DANNY

After sitting down at the dinner table, my mother said, “It’s your turn to say grace.” “OK,” I replied, and delivered the following: “A man who is not afraid is not aggressive, a man who has no sense of fear of any kind is really a free, peaceful man.” “What does that have to do with giving thanks for our food?” my mother quipped. “Until this year, I’ve been gripped with fear of losing all my material possessions, and now that I have, I no longer feel any fear. I’m at peace, and free to live my life with grace.”

MUNSI

I believe, I believe, we all will be received in Graceland…

Except for the clumsy.

Anyone clumsy gets turned away at the gates, cast out to wander, shunned and utterly alone, through the desolate, awkward wastelands from whence they came, and shall so wander until the day they die.

Hopefully that day won’t be long coming. Hopefully they’ll eventually bump into, trip over or fall upon something they can’t handle.

And then die, alone, as they lived, alone.

We, meanwhile, will relax in a land of permanent grace.

Well, you will.

I’m clumsy as hell, I likely won’t get in…

WOWO

Before I was even born, I was destined to it. My mom was a horrible driver. She just didn’t pay attention. My dad was awful with money. He couldn’t Not spend it. They both had the worst luck imaginable. At my first birthday party, the one where I was supposed to bury my face in the cake, my Dad did. Don’t ask.
My 16th birthday, I was supposed to get a car, right? Mom wrecked it on the way home.
My Sr. prom? I had 2 car accidents in 6 hours that day. I gave up and went in a cast, jeans and a t-shirt because my dress flew out the window into a puddle.
I’ve overdrawn my bank account more times than I can count. I’ve got 2 points left in my license. Broken more bones doing seemingly harmless stuff like, oh, walking.
My Dad named me after Gramma. Guess what her name was? Yep, Grace…
The irony has not escaped me…

CLIFF

The waitress brought our food and we were ready to tuck in when a quavering voice asked me if I was going to say grace. Mrs. Crenshaw was one of the “holier than thou” set at our church. I couldn’t stand her but when your pop is a deacon, you put up with a lot. My girlfriend and I bowed our heads and closed our eyes. I gave my thanks and said amen. When I opened my eyes, a piece of chicken was gone from my plate. The old lady was munching on a drumstick looking innocently out the window.
————-

I first saw her when she fell up the stairs. I’m still not sure how she managed that. I helped her to her feet. In the ten minutes I was with her as we walked, she dropped her phone twice, her purse once, knocked over a “wet floor” sign and tripped again. I know it’s impossible, but I swear she tripped on a shadow. I headed to class as we went our separate ways. I saw her again at the dance try outs. I shook my head but when she took to the stage, she had the grace of angels.

HOPE

“June? June Bug! What’s a 5-letter word that means elegance or beauty?”

Crossword puzzles. Pfffft. June poked a fork under her sponge curlers and scratched her head. What’s a 6-letter word for last nerve? Who dumpster dives for food and comes back with a puzzle book?

“Junie!”

“Class!” June yells from the kitchen. Not that there’s any class around here.

“C … L … A … S … Won’t work!”

Won’t work? Just like ED. “Style!”

“S… T … Y … June? Are ya even tryin’?”

Am I even trying? Dear God, give me grace to not kill this man.

STEVEN THE NUCLEAR MAN

She slips between the two ships, suit nearly touching the metal walls of her shuttle or the rock hull of Daedalus. She glances back at the cut flexible docking tube hemorrhaging air and the bodies of infected into space.

The knife slips back into its sheath, and she focuses on holding the air bottle with both hands. Icarus – home – is far away.

Her suit’s HUD informs her that Daedalus is headed for Icarus. Daedalus. The second asteroid ship, full of infected.

She triggers the air bottle, tracing a graceful arc toward her shuttle.

Her work is not done.

SERENDIPITY

Pastor Joe insists that we say grace before every meal, he says it’s a means of asserting our humanity.

I disagree.

It isn’t that I’m not religious, or I have any particularly strong feelings about saying grace but, given our circumstances, I really don’t think that it’s terribly appropriate… so I just mumble and pretend to participate, before we get stuck in.

I look around at my companions and the wreckage of the plane behind them, then I look at the meat in my hands.

Can saying grace really assert our humanity, if we’re eating the ones who didn’t survive?

CALEDONIA

The Power of Grace

She pats her pocket, totally aware of its contents.

He sidles up to her with that unique sideways lope of his. His smile is ingratiatingly confident.

She smiles back, her thoughts completely different from what he believes they are. She wonders why she didn’t see through that smile before. How had she found it charming?

He is thinking that all is well when she quietly says, “It is over. Goodbye.”

She turns and walks away from his incredulous, drop-jawed face. She pats her pocket, totally aware of its contents. She grins, knowing now that grace is more powerful than revenge.

Grace Beside Itself

“It’s your turn, dear. Don’t mumble”

“Our Father in heaven, our thanks now we bring, for food, and for clothing, and for every good thing…”

Gramma smiles proudly.

“Oh give of thy blessings to those who have meat …”

“Meat? No dear, I think it is ‘need’, not ‘meat.’”

“Don’t they need meat too?”

“Well, perhaps they do, but…”

“…and teach us to love thee in word and in deet. Amen.”

The smiling young face looks up triumphantly, eyes large and expectant.

A thoughtful pause.

“Thank you. That was lovely, dear. Pass your sister the potatoes, there’s a good girl.”

TURA

There were always doves in the temple, a symbol of God’s grace.

Gaia was twelve when she was first presented. The priests liked Gaia very much. Gaia did not like them, or their rituals, but her mother would not listen.

One night, she crept into the temple dovecote, with a stolen lantern and rags soaked in oil. When the fire took, she made her way home, climbing in her bedroom window.

Later, the commotion woke her mother. From a window they watched the spreading flames.

“The doves!” Gaia cried.

They wheeled above the burning temple, and fled into the night.

NORVAL JOE

A young woman approached the low dais. Her gown was clean and presentable but nowhere near as expensive as she once wore. Her chin held high and her back straight she glided toward the duke. Only when she reached his knee did she bow her head and dip into a low curtsey.
“Your Grace. I come begging my brother’s release from prison.”
“Do you bring a ransom, or someone in exchange?”
Her hand went to her throat.
“No, Your Grace. I only beg your endulgence and mercy.”
The Duke laughed.
“Unfortunately for your brother, my grace will not be his.”

ISHTAR

The guitar plays a soulful Lullaby in the background. The smell of cigarettes fills the room. A lullaby of loss can be heard as a harmonica wails.

“Grace can you hear me. Don’t Gun me down”

“Grace can you see me. Don’t Gun me down”

She steps into the saloon. Spurs’ spinning as she searches the audience. He’s there in the spotlight. Stepping closer she hears him again.

“Grace don’t let the light fall from your eyes. Forgiveness is calling”.

She storms forward. Pulling her gun ready to fire. Click. Misfire. Click. Misfire.

“Will you forgive me” He asks?

Bang.

PLANET Z

Princess Margaret gave her older sister a box full of condoms for her baby shower.

“I guess you ran out of the ones I gave you as a wedding gift,” she said, “or did you lose the box? You should have told me. I’d have given you some more.”

Everybody else gave presents more appropriate for the child that would be the next in line to the throne.

Margaret often put on her mother’s crown and dreamt she was an only child.

Two weeks later, her sister died in childbirth. The baby was stillborn.

Margaret cried at the funeral.

Briefly.

One thought on “Weekly Challenge #381 – Grace”

  1. Thanks for the kind words about my story. I’ve submitted the long version to waytoofantasy.com, so if they like it, it will be there in October, and if not, it will be on my blog.

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