Prompt Prose: Still Waters


Canadians are known to be quiet and reserved. Canadians who were born and raised in England make the rest of the population look like wild barbarians. And then there’s Auntie Minnie.

Auntie MinnieMinnie was the primmest of the prim – a true, proper, English lady, with manners fit for the Royal Court. Everything about her was diminutive: just five feet tall, always soft-spoken, always dignified. Never a hair out of place, her back was as straight as her perfectly vertical stocking seams. Yes, Auntie Minnie was the epitome of British-Canadian comportment – the Dowager Duchess of our family.

When her Grand-nephew, Gordon, decided to take a bride in Toronto, the entire family was invited to his wedding. Although my parents decided to travel by car, most of the Montreal contingent – including Auntie Minnie – chose to take the train. Rumor has it that the wedding party began on that train ride, in the train’s “refreshment” lounge. I don’t know how many bottles of gin, bourbon, vodka and Crown Royal were emptied during that six-hour revel.  What I do know – what the rest of us learned after the “gang” poured into the hotel where all of the wedding guests were staying – is that prim, proper, petite Auntie Minnie was the life of the party.

The story of Wild Auntie Minnie became a family legend, epitomized in the bit of doggerel that made the rounds all weekend, and that was sung loudly on multiple occasions during the wedding reception:

My Wild Auntie Minnie,
Remember when she was skinny.
Now look at her today,
All old and gray,
My Wild Auntie Minnie!

Some say that booze will shorten one’s lifespan. But I don’t know. Minnie was only 70 years old when she had her fling; she lived to celebrate her 90th birthday. Still prim, still proper, still petite. And, to us, always our Wild Auntie Minnie.

Prompt Prose: Transported


Pardonnez-moi?

I turned at the sound of her soft, yet insistent, voice. “Mais qu’est ce que vous faites dans mon laboratoire?

Yikes! I’d done it again. Meditated my way to another out-of-body experience during my morning tai-chi exercises. It was getting to be a habit. But, today, I had outdone myself. Not only had I traveled through time, I had crossed the Atlantic in the process. And landed in the lab – almost in the lap – of my heroine.

Excusez-moi, Mme Curie,” I stammered. Fortunately, she saw my linguistic distress and asked again – this time in heavily accented English, “What are you doing in my laboratory? And, why are you dressed in those strange clothes? Answer me, or I shall call the gendarmes.”

Quickly, I explained that I was meditating and had no idea how I had landed in her lab, in Paris, on the very day that she and Pierre had succeeded in purifying radium.

“I am not certain that I understand,” she said, frowning in her puzzlement. “But as you are already here, would you like to see my laboratory?”

Enchantée,” I replied, as I followed her. The lab quite resembled the set from the 1943 black-and-white film about the Curies. I was amazed at how well MGM had nailed all the details. Even the little crucible of radium was sitting on its stand, glowing proudly as though it had done something wonderful all on its own.

Suddenly, there was a crash and the sound of loud hammering. “Qu’est ce que c’est?” I exclaimed, shocked back into French.

“Just the construction workers starting up next door,” my husband replied as he walked out onto the deck. “Aren’t you done with that tai-chi stuff yet? It’s almost time for breakfast.”

“And, by the way, when did you learn to speak French?”

I heaved a sigh, whispered an “au revoir” to Marie, and went inside to dress.

©2012 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

A Note of Explanation: This prompt (Marie Curie + tai-chi) was the result of a random draw. Each member of the group wrote the name of a famous person on one slip of paper and an activity on a separate slip. The papers were placed into two envelopes, after which each of us drew a name from one envelope and an activity from the other. The challenge was to write a coherent story that included both the famous person and the activity.

Prompt Prose: Mardi Gras


Jaimie lay in bed, curled up on her side, feeling miserable. She had arrived in New Orleans the day before – just in time to catch the end of Mardi Gras. “It must be the hangover,” she groaned. “I couldn’t have seen him. He died before I was born.”

She had caught just a glimpse at first – recognized him from pictures that her Mom kept around the house. It was on Bourbon Street, just out front of Preservation Hall – the home of New Orleans jazz. He was beckoning to her, silently imploring her to come with him.

Jaimie tried to follow him, straining to keep him in sight. The kaleidoscope of colors and characters whirled all around – sometimes out of focus, sometimes in shocking clarity. But he was always out there somewhere ahead, leading her onward. “Where are we going?” she wondered.

At first, his movements seemed random; up one street, then down another, weaving through the crowds that went on and on. Then she understood. He was leading her back to her hotel room in the French Quarter. He was taking her away from the crowds. Away from the noise. Away from the groping hands and sloshing cups of beer that splashed her as she struggled to keep up with him.

She had almost caught up with him now. She saw him enter her hotel. And then he vanished. Jaimie went up to her room, half expecting to see him there. But the room was empty – a quiet oasis in the constant chaos known as New Orleans. “Must have been my imagination after all,” she thought. “May as well go to bed. I’m more wasted than I thought.”

And now it was morning. Had she imagined the whole thing? Had her subconscious mind protected her by drawing her back to her room?

“I need some air,” Jaimie thought as she opened the door and stepped onto her balcony. She surveyed the street below, littered with the detritus of last night’s revels: empty beer cups, stray strings of beads, sticky puddles of evaporated beer. A typical morning in the French Quarter.

Then she saw him, standing below, looking up at her – the man she saw last night. The man in the photographs in her Mom’s house. It was Joe. Her long-dead grandfather. Her  protector.

And she knew. Jaimie rushed back into her room, grabbed her cell phone, and hit the speed dial. “Dad,” she stammered, as soon as she heard his voice, “what’s wrong? It’s Mom, isn’t it? Is she going to be OK? Yes, I know she’s worried about me. Tell her I’m safe. I’ll be home tonight.”

©2012 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.

A Note of Explanation: The “prompt” for this story was multi-stage. First, each participant was asked to write down one male name and one female name. Then, we each were asked to write down a location – a city, country, or any physical place – on a slip of paper and put the paper into a common envelope. Finally, each of us drew a slip of paper at random from the envelope. Our “prompt” was a combination of the names we had selected and the random location each of us drew from the envelope. The “prompt” for this story became “Joe and Jaimie on a wrought iron balcony in the French Quarter of New Orleans.”