Odd Prompts: Jack the Golden

So it took about twenty-four hours for me to get the writing brain online. Which really, isn’t bad all things considering. Also, I created a new writing spot in the apartment and tried it out… Ok, I didn’t need a spot. I found a chair and couldn’t pass it up, so it came home with me (and it was cheap. Really, I had to have it for reasons!) to live by the tiny secretary I’d set up in the living area for dealing with mail and correspondence. I should write letters… no. Instead, I worked on the story of Jack. Which needs links to the starting bits, doesn’t it? 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

That last bit is the one immediately before the following snip, so you might want to start there. 


The next morning, I found that I’d been right. The hedge had been neatly trimmed off, flush with the top of the garden wall that kept the houses private. While Jack bounced around, checking his perimeter and replacing his scents, I stood in the center of the garden, slowly revolving in place. I hadn’t paid much attention to the garden at first. I’d taken the place for the garden, true, but it was as a bathroom for the big golden retriever. As part of my lease, I’d taken on the gardener, who I never saw. 

I’d assumed he came and went through the gate between the houses, a narrow affair with a very old fashioned keyhole. It was locked, and I had not been given a key. Which didn’t mean he didn’t have one. Now, I was wondering about the gardener. Why had I never seen him? I hadn’t even been given a name or contact information. 

Jack came up and bumped the back of my knee. I jumped. I hadn’t heard him coming. Usually he was panting happily. Now… he was leaning against me, and shaking almost imperceptibly. 

“What’s wrong?” I crouched beside him and tousled his ears, while scanning the end of the garden. I didn’t see anything wrong, at first. 

I followed the direction of Jack’s gaze. He was staring into the corner where the neighbor’s fence met the high wall that surrounded the wood. The wood which was cursed, allegedly. 

I stood up and walked that way. Jack hesitated for a minute, then with a soft woof, he bounded ahead of me. He kept his place, a pace before me, in full guard mode. I had never seen him act like that before. 

He stopped in front of a bush. Even I could identify that those were roses. White roses, every one of them drooping. As I stood there staring at it, expecting some movement, petals started to fall in sodden clumps. Dismayed, I realized the leaves were yellowed. Something was very wrong with this plant. 

“I’d better call for the gardener.” I muttered. More flowers dropped to the ground. Jack pawed at the ground in front of the bush. “Have you been peeing here all the time?” 

His head came up, and soft ears tilted forward. He was listening to something. There was nothing behind the bush but the tall stone wall, taller than I was. I’d have to climb on a ladder, like the grouchy neighbor, to see what was on the other side. I looked at the shed in the far corner, half buried under a rambling rose of vivid red. There might be a ladder in there. I’d never opened it, out of some vague feeling that it was the gardener’s domain. 

Jack was edging away from the dying bush, but he kept looking at me, stopping, and quivering with indecision. Whatever was bothering him, keeping me safe was a stronger urge. I took pity on him, and with my hand on his domed skull, the soft fur under my fingers, I walked away and toward the shed. 

The garden wasn’t that large. I only had a few paces to go. I didn’t make it all the way before I stopped, rubbed my eyes, and wondered if my vision had started to go. The red roses were all blackened and beginning to fall, in a now-familiar pattern. Jack whined and pushed his cold nose into my palm. I didn’t look down at him. I couldn’t look away from another dead rose. 

In the distance, I heard the sound of soft laughter, coming from another garden. It was incongruous in the face of the death I was confronting. Petals dropped down like rain, and leaves started to curl as I watched. 

Jack whipped around, startling me out of my reverie. He reared up, paws as high on the wall as my shoulders, and barked, once. I looked up, and saw an enormous black cat crouched overhead. I heard it laugh, the same soft laugh I’d heard. It looked down at us, big green eyes almost glowing in the sunlight. 

“Jack.” I put my hand on his collar and tried to pull him back off the wall. He scrabbled at the stones with his forepaws.


My prompt this week came from Cal Pomes with “Another rosebush had died. In the distance, she could hear soft laughter.” I took a little liberty with the gender of the character – Jack’s owner is male. 

I prompted Leigh Kimmel with “He carefully fitted the antique flashbulb, then looked down into the viewfinder. As he depressed the shutter…” 

You can read all the responses over at MOTE, and you can join in! The more, the merrier. 

(header image: It’s a book chair! I had to have it.)