Friday Flash Fiction

Photo courtesy of Ted Strutz

Flash Fiction, week two. It took a while for inspiration to strike, but it did. Thanks, Ted!!

Word count: 100

Stairway to Heaven

“Mommy – look! angels!”

I looked around, used to trying to find obscure characters in the daily minutiae that was my life as a stay at home mom.

“Angels, honey? I don’t see any angels. You know, they have wings and halos…”

“ But look – they are going up the escalator to see God!”

“ Oh – so they are. I see them. But I think it might be a choir, sweetie. They are singers, not angels.”

“But mom, you’ve got to believe.”

Thinking about my current state of mind, I realized my son was not wrong. I looked again with new eyes, looking for the divine.

I’d take angels any day over handmaidens.

Copyright Erin Leary 2020

Friday Flash Fiction

Photo prompt courtesy of Dale Rogerson

A complete story, using only100 words. I am out of practice, but I want to start exercising my writing skills again.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff -Fields for hosting this group! Looking forward to reading this week’s entries!

Word count: 99

Serenity Blues

High above the city, the world glimmered far below. This apartment seemed like a great place to heal, but now felt like a prison. Ice and snow only enhanced her isolation.

Sighing, she turned from the window and vowed that tomorrow, she’d venture out. Maybe she’d make a snowball and remember what it was like to be alive.

The sun would rise, the world would turn, and spring would return. Her memories would fade like bruises, the damaged places mending eventually, leaving open the possibility of renewal.

Closing her eyes, she uttered the familiar prayer “God grant me…”

– Erin Leary


Angry Words

Since I wrote this in 2012, 29 more mass shootings have occurred, leaving about 250 people dead and wounding almost 700. These numbers are staggering – if you want to be staggered like I was, please visit Mother Jones’ Mass Shooting tracking site here:

This is madness. Nothing more. Today, the US lawmakers are voting on a Hearing Protection act (HR 367) which will make silencers easier to obtain. This is the ONLY substantive gun legislation that has been proposed this year. And that will serve to make mass shooting easier. Most of the survivors of today’s shooting mentioned they heard the sounds of shots first, which made them dive for cover. We will take that warning away with silencers.

But go ahead, NRA – you bought this batch of GOP morons. The lot of them do nothing about each incident except to say not to politicize the tragedy. If we don’t do that now, when will we? Nothing changes and nothing will get better by continuing on this path.

The time has long since passed to do the right thing. We now have to accept that we allow people to kill others because we care more about gun rights than we do our neighbors.

I’m appalled, I’m angry, and I’m out of patience.


I took the afternoon off to bake cookies for an annual cookie exchange in the neighborhood yesterday.  I worked until about noon and then sat down to lunch before rolling up my sleeves to get busy.  I scanned the headlines while I ate and realized that something bad had happened in Newtown, Connecticut.  As I read more, I felt sick.  Then I felt angry – really, really angry.  It surprised me how strongly I reacted, but then I went back through all the times I have had this same feeling of being sickened by tragedies caused by guns and I know why I’m so pissed off.  It’s because it’s still happening.

I reflected on the all that I’ve done in the past – the times that I have advocated for better gun control laws, for awareness, for legislation.  I’ve supported the Brady Campaign since its inception.  All of this in…

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Friday Flash Fiction

Photo Courtesy of Magaly Guerrero

I had a teacher in elementary school who wore shoes like this – the heels were clunkier, but they otherwise looked the same. She was old – by my 10 year old standards, she was at least 100. She scared little kids with her stern gaze, steely hair, and black garb. I remember thinking she could play the wicked witch of the West with little effort. The truth was, she was a great teacher. She was warm and informative, even when we were little monsters. She inspired real learning and I have vivid memories of her classroom and the things we did to understand more about the subjects she taught. That is, indeed, magical.

Here’s to Miss Solly and her sturdy, sensible shoes.

A special thanks to Sarah Ann Hall for motivating me to write again.

Word count: 100

…and Your Little Dog, Too

We heard her before we saw her, heavy black shoes on the linoleum tapped out a warning: teacher’s coming…teacher’s coming…

We scrabbled back to our seats, barely concealing our deviousness. Nothing was lost on her. In one gaze, she assessed the situation.

“Erin, do you want to explain this?” Her look said ‘You are my chosen victim’.

My voice trembled. “We were just…” then I faltered, caught.

“Just is superfluous. You either were or you weren’t. Which is it?” She already knew.

Hanging my head, I spilled it all.

Clapping erasers that afternoon, I knew I’d catch hell at home.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Why I Marched


The election was a gut punch for me. It hit me hard and the future felt dark. I heard about the Women’s March on Washington later that week and knew I had to go. It felt like an imperative to me.

I shared that plan with a friend when we were taking a cooking class last November. What had been planned to be a fun evening ended up being a somber discussion about the state of the country and the impact the election had on each of us. I told India that I was planning to go to the march because it was a tangible way to demonstrate how I felt about the president-elect and the plans he was laying out for our country. She said she had been feeling too down to even think about it, but might consider going.

After the class, she told me about how her husband’s family, who are Japanese Americans, had already experienced comments of discrimination, telling them in Trump’s America, they should go back to where they belong. Their family has been in the US for generations and already endured the internment camps during WWII. A few days later, she texted me and said I’d better be serious about going to DC because she was now committed. Her sisters-in-law were on board and if I wanted, I had a place to stay with them in Philadelphia. I reserved my flight that day.

I didn’t hit me until about the week before just how big the march had become. The numbers expected in DC were several hundred thousand – and there were marches in almost every major city. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of frustration and resistance that was generating this very unified reaction. This was bigger than me being pissed off. This was bigger than a few women who felt compelled to stand up. This was a movement on a massive scale. And I was thrilled to think I’d be a part of it.

One thing to know about me – I hate crowds. I hate them because I have enough claustrophobia that I find them overwhelming. I avoid them whenever possible, and for me to voluntarily sign up for something that involves a boatload and half of people is really out of my comfort zone. That’s how much this march mattered to me.

My trip east was through Chicago. I started to see pink hats at O’Hare and realized that flights directly to DC were packed with women. Since I was staying in Philadelphia and taking a Rally bus into the capital, there were fewer on my plane. But the fact was clear – people were mobilizing. I felt encouraged and uplifted. I arrived at my hosts’ home and immediately felt welcome. They’d been making signs to carry – the group consisted of 6 of us ranging in age from 73 to 33 and included Americans of Japanese,  Chinese, and  European descent. We were all there to say we weren’t OK with policies and plans the new administration intends to enact.

For me, I was there because I can speak up. I don’t fear my government because I have been privileged all my life. There are other voices, however, who don’t feel that same way. I intend to stand up for any voice that feels threatened or marginalized or at risk. That means people from every walk of life and interest. I will not sit by while groups are targeted and think “well, that’s not me, so I’m OK…” The time to speak up is now.


The march itself started out for me at 4:30 a.m. We had to be at the bus by 5:15, as I’d volunteered to be a bus captain. That meant helping to get the buses loaded and then be a point of contact as needed. We had 45 people on our bus and we were the lightest of the 5 buses that left that part of Philadelphia. In all, 1400 buses were expected in DC. The ride there was about 2.5 hours and we arrived at RFK stadium about 9 a.m. From there, we walked to the Armory metro station and headed into town. The crowd was thick getting into the station and the trains were packed, but everyone was cooperative and helpful.

We got off at the Federal Center stop and walked toward 6th street. Once there, we saw the crowds and heard the speakers, so we moved in as close as we could. We ended up standing in a section where pea patches had been set up, so we made sure to not stand on the plants. After listening to several of the speakers, including Gloria Steinem, we decided to move and we headed back toward 6th street. This was harder than expected, as the crowd was shoulder to shoulder and moving through them was an effort. We decided to look for a toilet and ended up at L’Enfant plaza where there was a little more breathing room.


Everywhere we went, there were marchers. And to a person, they were helpful, supportive, and positive. Even with all the people, there was no time where I felt concerned about safety (other than the sheer volume of people). We ended up heading toward the American Association of University Women, as they’d offered their offices as a place to step out of the crowds for a break. Once there, we were able to use their restrooms, recharge phones, have some snacks and watch a live stream of the event. We watched several speakers from there, including Maxine Waters. She was amazing. We left AAUW to head back toward the rally and meet up with Anna. We had lunch with her and as we left the restaurant, we saw the rally had finally begun moving – and it was coming right toward us. We joined in and marched from I street all the way down Massachusetts to where it finally petered out at about Union Station. People were cheering us on, the marchers were chanting and waving. I had an overpowering feeling of ‘this is what it’s all about’.

At the end of it all, the count was almost half a million people there in DC with us. There was a women’s march on every continent around the world – 600 marches in 57 countries. An estimated total of 5 million people marched – and in the US, the marches were in cities everywhere, almost 470 cities spread throughout the country, not on the coasts as you might hear from some news outlets. This was a global movement and the marches were only the beginning. Activism is alive and well and something that will continue on. I know it will for me.


Everywhere we went, people were exuberant. The pink hats were a common theme, along with some of the best collection of homemade signs. It was great fun to read what people had put together. I used one that was created by local artists from Kirkland and added another from NOW on rights for LGBTQIA. The march was a pot pourri of ideas and issues, but that’s what made it great. The metro workers were kind and helpful, the police and National Guard waved and supported us, the atmosphere was rich with positive energy. I thought to myself at one point that I needed to soak it up like sunshine to sustain me in the dark, cold days ahead. This resistance is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m in training to make it to the end.


We arrived back in Philadelphia at 9:30 p.m. and I was exhausted – still buzzing, but bone tired. I had to fly out the next morning, and slept soundly knowing I’d done my part. My trip home was great – I saw lots of women in both the Philadelphia and Chicago airports and connected with them, sharing stories and our enthusiasm. One woman asked me to sign her poster – she was an artist and was trying to gather as many signatures as possible. She was taking the poster back to an art gallery outside of Chicago to hang on the wall. I was thrilled to add my name to the board.

Stepping out of my comfort zone was rewarding. I spent 32 hours travelling and was in DC for about 9 hours. It was a whirlwind trip, but I helped make history. And I will keep working to effect change however I can – and I do it because of what I believe in, for the people I love and for those whose voices need to be heard. This is just the beginning. I have been reactivated and I will not stand by quietly.

To all the people who marched on January 21 and to all who will stand up for the right things when the time comes, I salute you.

50 Happy Things For 2016


50 things I’m grateful for

This was a tough year to come up with a list that didn’t feel forced. My gratitude is there, don’t get me wrong. But I am burdened with a discomfort that comes from an unsettled future for our country. I won’t apologize for feeling this way – I have been a student of history and international relations too long to not see patterns that are troubling. We are headed into uncharted territory and it has left me worried.

The things I hold most dear can’t be taken for granted.  I mentioned them briefly last year, but this year, I wanted to look at those rights more clearly. What is at stake? I started thinking about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – key tenets from our declaration of independence 240 years ago.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

And liberty is a key element – without the rights outlined in the Constitution, much of what I take for granted could disappear, or require extreme effort to accomplish. I want to hold these close and protect them – for me, for my family, for all Americans. It’s part of our obligation to the future.

Once I framed the list in light of those three things, it became much easier to write my list. And it’s a list I plan to print out and read often. We all need to be reminded of what’s at stake.

A big thanks to Dawn Quyle Landau for the reminders to do this. I need to be slapped around a bit, but she got me there.

Instructions, if you’d like to participate are:

Set a timer for 15 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that make you happy, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. You may find that if you use numbered mode, and just type what comes to mind, like me you will have enough time for more than 50. When the timer’s done, stop writing. Finish whatever sentence you’re on, but don’t add more. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things great; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! Add the photos, links, instructions, etc after you finish the list––the timer doesn’t matter for getting these details down; it applies to the list only.  Be sure to link back to this post, so that others can find the instructions and join in to.


  1. The gift of life from my parents
  2. The life I gave to each of my 3 children
  3. The joy of watching them grow into wonderful human beings
  4. The ability to help others who need help, the vulnerable, the needy, those hurting or fragile as a result of life’s misfortunes
  5. Waking up and knowing the day is ahead and I have choices
  6. My heart, the engine that keeps my body moving
  7. My heart, the emotional center of my life, keeping me aligned to my sense of purpose
  8. My body, for getting me around every day and working better than it used to
  9. My health, while not perfect, being manageable and allowing me to live my life, not simply endure it
  10. The wisdom that comes with losing loved ones, the resiliency that brings, along with the humility to empathize with others
  11. For all the humans who have shaped me along my journey – my family, my friends, my husbands – each have left an imprint on my soul
  12. For the family I’ve created along the way – those people who are a part of my life and history
  13. For my memories – for holding them dear and using them as a part of my moral compass as the future unfolds
  14. For becoming more compassionate with age and knowing how much each of us carry with us as we go through life


  1. Freedom of speech – the ability to put my thoughts, opinions, and ideas out into the world without fear of reprisal
  2. Freedom of religious affiliation – or none at all
  3. A free press which can report, investigate, and evaluate what is happening in our country and the world
  4. Freedom to protest and assemble in public without fear of violence; to be an activist
  5. The ability to petition the government for redress of wrongs as appropriate
  6. A military that is led by level-headed people, not thin skinned reactionaries
  7. Freedom to choose my life’s path
  8. The right to live in my home safely, providing shelter for my family
  9. Protection from unlawful search and seizure
  10. Legal protection from bearing witness against myself
  11. The protection of my life, liberty, and property without due process of the law
  12. No imprisonment without formal indictment
  13. The right to a speedy and public trial
  14. The use of a fair and impartial jury
  15. The right to know who has accused me of wrong
  16. The right to know what I’ve been accused of
  17. The right to counsel
  18. Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
  19. Bail set that is reasonable
  20. Respecting that my rights only extend to the point in which they infringe on another’s
  21. A state government that is solid and respectful of our diverse population
  22. Abolishment of slavery
  23. The right to vote as a citizen, born or naturalized, for the candidate or issue of my choosing
  24. Strong representatives in the Senate and Congress representing my state
  25. Equal rights without bias by gender

Pursuit of Happiness:

  1. The messy, chaotic, warm love that comes from the animals in my life
  2. Travel – seeing the world, being in places I’d only dreamed of being
  3. Reading – this is my daily vice; I can’t imagine a world without books to read
  4. Coffee…it is a daily pleasure
  5. Chocolate…no longer daily, but still something to savor
  6. Creating things – food, art, a garden – these are the small creations that make life a joy
  7. Writing stories, thoughts, ideas and making them available to the world
  8. Seeing the sunrise or sunset and being reminded that beauty is everywhere
  9. Continuing to learn and stretch my mind
  10. For believing that miracles can happen and that sometimes the impossible can be achieved
  11. For learning when to say enough; for knowing when to keep trying

Friday Flash Fiction

Photo by Roger Bultot

noun: patriot; plural noun: patriots; noun: Patriot

  1. 1. A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.

I consider myself a patriot, but I won’t subscribe to any platform’s self-imposed definition. My act of patriotism is to be a truth teller, a fact seeker, and a beacon of hope. That is my commitment, outlined here in another personal essay. I want to follow the guidelines of this forum and not mix ideology with Flash Fiction. So on that note, here is my story for the week.

Word Count: 100

Processing Loss

Pulling into the parking lot, Evelyn heaved a sigh of relief. The worst of the drive was over; home was only another hour away. Resting her heavy head against the steering wheel, she hoped the sadness passed before she stepped into the diner.

Grief’s grip was strong, her loss acute. She brushed errant tears away with a few cleansing breaths. In with hope, out with despair. Repeat.

Following the short service, his ashes were released over the river. Tiny pieces of her heart now floated on the mighty Columbia, heading for the ocean. Life would never be the same.

© Erin Leary

To see other Friday Flash Fiction stories, please see here. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting, as always!