3-Word Challenge

3-Word Challenge: The Perils of a Plummeting Pauline

Dear Guests, Patrons and People Who Smack Their Gum as If It’s the Only Thing Keeping Them Alive,

  “Thank you for joining us on this sixth night of Bonnywood’s Annual Cultural Arts Festival and Bacchanalia. Before we introduce our next 3-Word Challenge participant, I’d like to remind you that all comfort facilities at Bonnwyood are, indeed, gender free. There is no need to report this discovery to Guest Services, as we are fully aware of the situation, having planned them that way. You have your own little private room to do whatever it is that you need to do. If you are overly-invested in who else might be using that room, that’s really your problem, not ours.

On a lighter note, I also wanted to share this story about blah blah blah idiots blah blah blah Trump blah blah blah Past Imperfect blah blah blah…”

Scotch the Cat, way at the back of the audience because he didn’t have an actual ticket: “Why does Daddy talk so much? Doesn’t he understand that our ears are very sensitive and we can only take so much before we have to scratch things to make it stop?”

Cleo the Cat, way at the back of the audience because she couldn’t care less about what was happening in front of the audience: “Daddy has some serious problems. That’s why I have to issue so many restraining orders against him.”

Scotch: “You have to issue retraining borders? What are those?”

Cleo tempered her usual instinct to berate the hideous IQ of her brother, finding his fumbling words rather fetching, perhaps the only time such a thing would happen in this millennium. “Actually, I kind of like the sound of that, although I would never swear to such in a court of law. But no, a restraining order makes Daddy and Other Daddy stop being annoying and bend to our will.”

Scotch, suddenly realizing a dream he didn’t realize he had, as most of his dreams usually involved food or the violent death of squirrels frolicking just outside a firmly-locked window of his Prison Domicile: “I must know more. Can you teach me, Obi-Wan-Cleo?”

Cleo tempered once more, possibly due to the Margarita Swirl she had guzzled whilst surveying the Koi Pond in the Japanese Garden. (So many fishies for me to eat. So many!)  “I suppose I could set you up an account on VindictivePussies.Com, since I might need you as a character witness when I sue the Daddies for emancipation. Let’s go fire up that laptop over there that some fool tossed on the ground next to the statue of Tennessee Williams.”

The two trotted in that direction, but they did not get very far, encountering a woman lying face down in the otherwise exquisitely-manicured grass.

Scotch: “That looks like Daddy after the Sangria Festival.”

Cleo: “Or you after the catnip wears off. Poke it and see if it’s still breathing.”

Scotch extended a paw and expertly whapped the side of the woman’s head, a practiced move that he had honed when the Daddies had the utter gall to sleep past feeding time.

The woman flopped onto her back. “Did I land in the right place?”

Scotch: “That’s what one of our Daddies say when the bedroom door is closed and they are making bang-bang.”

Cleo glared at Scotch. “Just when I thought there might be some hope for you. I guess the margarita is wearing off.” She looked at the sprawled woman. “Who the hell are you and why are you in our way?”

The woman sat up. “My name is Barbara. I’m supposed to be presenting tonight, but when I left my house earlier today, headed to the Lubbock Airport, I got trapped in one of those dumb-ass windstorms we’re always having in West Texas. Next thing I knew, I was airborne and eastward bound, without the assistance of an airplane or scientific explanation. Just like Dorothy! Only without the pigtails. As I neared Dallas, I performed one of my yoga moves, the Downward-Facing Face-Plant, and it proved to have just the right amount of aerodynamic mysticism that I landed here at Bonnywood Manor. But then the jetlag hit me and I thought a nice nap was in order.”

Scotch: “I think you might be my new hero. I’ve never made it past the patio at Daddy’s Fortress of Solitude and Incarceration.”

Barbara: “Am I too late? Has the presentation started?”

Cleo: “Nothing ever happens on time around here, just ask all the people who comment on the blog and they don’t see a response for two months. But yes, you still have time to get to the stage so you can shine briefly before this whole place goes up in flames out of sheer embarrassment.”

Barbara leapt to her feet. “Terrific!” She started to run towards the stage, but then turned back, pulling something out of her pocket. “The flight attendant gave me extra honey-roasted peanuts. Enjoy.” She tossed two crinkly packets at the two cranky pusses. Then she fled.

Scotch pounced on one of the packets with military precision.

Cleo ignored hers, not interested in pedestrian nosh. Why settle for less when surely somebody was bound to hurl something much more gastronomically-refined out of a passing Air France flight?

Up on the stage, Clueless Daddy read from the teleprompter…

Artiste: Barbara at “teleportingweena”

Three Words: drought, flower, happiness

Medium: Short Story

And here we go…



I emerged, fragile and pale as a newborn. Inhaling deeply, I breathed the first unfiltered air since that dreadful day, fifty-six years ago.

Overwhelmed, I shaded my eyes from the glare of sunlight, and looked around. Squinting, I saw nothing.

My name is Flower, and this is my story.

I was a child of twelve on that beautiful October day, with not a care in the world. Oh, I’d sensed the uneasiness in the way my parents spoke in hushed tones. They didn’t know I was listening to their conversations any chance I got, yet still it didn’t make sense to me.

As it happened, my carefree days were soon over.


We descended into our spacious, but spooky storm cellar. I hated going down there with the spiders. I was surprised though. The cellar had been cleaned, and even enlarged. There was now a small kitchen and bathroom, and places for hundreds of boxes of food and water. My parents must have been preparing for a long time.

At first, I thought our seclusion was an adventure, some game or experiment, but as time went on, I came to know the truth. Wrinkles and gray hair appeared on my mother and father, and I myself changed through my teen and young adult years. Still, we remained underground.


Now I am old, older than my parents were when we first were hidden away. They are senile now, and I take care of them as best I can. Lord, when will this be over? If you say I hadn’t thought about just ending it all, it would be a lie. So many times…so many times…


We had run out of food, two days before, and I knew we couldn’t last much longer, when I heard a scritching, squeaky noise coming from our air vents. I stared, as a long flexible tube snaked its way out from a tiny hole. Afraid, yet curious, I touched it, and noticed small letters printed on the hose. I collected my magnifying glass to read them.

‘This is a happiness indicator. Blow into the tubing to be accessed as to your readiness for extraction. Notification will follow shortly.’

I blew, then I held the tube up to my mother and father. We waited. Soon we heard a mechanical voice.

“You have passed. You may open the hatch to your domicile.”


Nuclear winter was over, but the fiery blast had left behind devastation. I saw no buildings, no people, no animals. Smoky skies from the fiery blast had caused widespread drought, leaving no vegetation. We were alone in a strange land. From the air around us, we heard again the mechanical voice.

“You have a choice,” the voice said. “You may stay here and perish, or be taken as immigrants to our newly established civilization, somewhere in the universe.”

We made our choice.

My name is Flower, and this is my story.

Fifty-six years ago, the world as we knew it ended. Today it begins anew.

The End



This piece has been nominated in the following categories:

The Ray Bradbury Award for taking us where we didn’t expect to go.

The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius Award for believing that Happiness will always, eventually, be found.

The Southwest Airlines Award for racking up frequent flyer miles without having to go through Security or limiting your personal liquids to three ounces.

Gratitude Award from the founder of Bonnywood Manor.


You can review more of Barbara’s portfolio by clicking here.


Way in the back of the audience…

Scotch: “Wow, it was really smart of you to guess that the password on this abandoned laptop would be “FocusIssues”. Now, what website is it?”

Cleo: “I’ve changed my mind. You should not be privy to all of my wiles.”

Scotch: “But I thought we were friends now.”

Cleo: “And I thought there would be more margaritas.”


28 replies »

  1. Ray Bradbury? More Issac Asimov to me…but as Cleo so pithily put it “Semantics”. We all see things in our own way thank goodness. Ms. Barbara sees things in the future apparently. Scary stuff….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Embeecee! I do like both Ray Bradbury and Issac Asimov books.Maybe I read too much science fiction, but speculating on the future is just fun. Hope this story doesn’t come true, though. Thank you for reading the story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. haha! Loved your intro to my story! It’s true, I probably could have landed in your back yard, with the way the wind has been blowing the past few days. Yay for Scotch & Cleo! I’m used to cat slaps, so that was just what I needed. No ‘retaining borders’ needed for those two. Thanks for posting this, and for the awesome awards! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The wind sure has been crazy lately. Of course, it generally is in Texas. I thought Oklahoma was bad, but Texas wins (winds?) hands down. I was quite happy to share your story, and I hope some folks made their way to your site so they can enjoy how creative and clever you are…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Bradbury award is well deserved, it wasn’t where I was expecting to go at all. Even so, I enjoyed the ride. (Maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word, given the subject matter, but you know what I mean.)

    Brian: With writers landing in the your backyard and what-not, I confess I’m getting a little concerned over my eventual appearance.
    Oh, who am I kidding? You know darn well I’m sitting in your spare bedroom as you read this. (You need to pick up more wine, by the way. I drank the last of the Merlot.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • CJ: Yes, I was aware of your presence at Bonnywood, mainly because Scotch dutifully sold you out: “Daddy, there’s a woman in the special room who is making a pot roast and slinging wine around like Julia Child on a bender.” (“More butter! You can never go wrong with butter!”)

      Still, as I’m a bit tardy with this comment and have yet to read the comments on your own featured extravaganza, I’m hoping that you will be at least minimally satisfied with the pageantry. (But I will have to charge you for the Merlot, because #Retired #FixedIncome.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. When the Sylmar quake of ’71 hit, the transformer plant blew with a flash so brilliant I thought it was “the” bomb. I felt such a sense of peace, figuring that it would all be over in a few seconds. Unfortunately, I got stuck with the 6 following years of a yucky marriage. The thought of living in a hole with or without him would have made me open a vein. Your story, so poignant and atmospheric, was charming in its innocence and subtle lesson in the futility of nuclear weaponry. After moving from the Midwest, I’ll never forget the first time in an LA classroom room when the teacher shouted “drop!” and staring at students, arms covering their heads, crouching under their desks. I stayed in my chair with my silent opinion that they were all stupid or nuts. I’m not a short-story writer. I takes a certain discipline I’m too lazy to perfect. Your story is well done in so many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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