The Fire Sleuth

SleuthFranklin, the head of the fire investigation unit, and his two interns walked into what remained of the structure. “What’s the first step we should take to assay the situation and identity the source?” he asked the two men.

The men looked at one another and then back at Franklin. “Sir, I’m sorry, but did you mean to say ‘assess the situation’?” one of them asked.

“Assess, appraise, evaluate, check out, size up, investigate,” Franklin said. “When you assay a situation, you look at all the elements that created the problem in order to come up with a solution. You conduct an examination, evaluate what you see, and make a determination.”

The other intern looked at his buddy and then back at Franklin. “Of course, sir,” he said. “I’d just never heard that word ‘assay’ before.”

“Assay is a word that is most commonly used for the testing of a metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality,” Franklin explained. “As fire investigators, our job is to identify and collect evidence relating to fires and make determinations as to their causes, and especially to assess whether or not they were deliberately set. So that includes carefully examining chemical, electrical, and structural clues.”

Franklin looked at his two interns, shook his head, and said, “So let’s start assaying, gentlemen.”


I have to admit that when I saw today’s one-word prompt, “assay,” I didn’t know what it meant. I Googled it to learn that it’s often associated with metallurgy and pharmacology to test a substance to find out what chemicals it contains. And that’s when the idea of using a fire investigator as a way to write a flash fiction story built around the word “ assay.”

Mud Bath

23916F55-C591-442B-BBB7-3426B9D603E5After many attempts, Sarah finally persuaded George to try a mud bath. “Mud,” she told him, “has been said to alleviate the symptoms of skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.”

“I don’t have any of those skin conditions,” George argued.

“But a warm mud bath can also ease assorted aches and pains in the joints, such as those from arthritis,” Sarah added.

“I don’t have arthritis, either,” George countered.

“I know,” said Sarah, “but soaking in a mud bath can be so relaxing. And sensual,” she added with a wink and a smile.

Knowing that it was useless to continue to resist her entreaties, George acquiesced and they took a drive to the local hot springs that offered warm mud baths.

After soaking for about half an hour, George sat up and said, “I’m done.”

“Didn’t you enjoy it?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah, it’s great,” George said somewhat sarcastically, “But you know I’m a bit of a clean-freak and I’m not crazy about having my man-parts encrusted in mud.”


Written for today’s one-word prompt, “encrusted.”

Billable Hours

87C247EF-F6B6-42D2-8C9D-BB7E20667485“I can’t take this anymore,” William said as he walked into Randy’s office and threw himself down onto one of the two chairs opposite Randy’s desk.

“Can’t take what?” Randy asked his coworker.

“This constant pressure for more and more billable hours,” William answered. “Did you see the latest memo? They are now expecting us to bill no less than 50 hours a week in order to make quota. What ever happened to the forty-hour workweek?”

“But you have been averaging around 55 billable hours a week. So what’s the problem?” Randy asked.

“It’s just such a grind,” William responded. “And now they want us to record our billable time in six minute increments instead of ten minute increments.”

“I hear you,” Randy said. “Here’s what you gotta do. If you think about a client while you’re in the shower or when you’re taking a dump, keep track of it and enter it into your hours log. If you have a short dream about a project you’re working on, when you wake up, remember to record it. When you’re reading the morning paper and drinking your coffee. When you’re driving to the office. Count every single minute.”

“That’s bullshit and I’m fucking tired of it, Randy.”

“I know,” Randy said sympathetically, “but it’s part of the job and we get paid handsomely to do it.”

“Well, I’ve had it,” William announced. “I’m going to march into Ted’s office and quit!”

About an hour later William returned to Randy’s office and sat down opposite him. “You still here? I thought you quit,” Randy said.

“I intended to,” William said, “But Ted talked me out of it.”

“So no more fretting about billable hours?” Randy asked.

“Not any more,” William said. “Ted promoted me and I’m your new boss. So let’s talk about your billable hours.”


Written for today’s one-word prompt, “constant.”

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

DC3CDBB7-1031-4AA7-B772-9AF04604FF16Compromise is a part of life. For example, if I want to do one thing and my wife wants to do something else, we compromise — and do what she wants. Because, you know, happy wife, happy life.

But in American politics these days, compromise is a dirty word. It’s a sign of weakness, of capitulation. It’s considered to be a zero-sum game, a situation in which one group can win something only by causing group to lose it.

As a result, there is legislative gridlock in Congress where key votes are strictly along party lines and any congressperson who doesn’t vote that way is considered to be a traitor to his or her party.

No wonder Americans are frustrated and angry with the government and with Congress, where it’s always party above country. And we have an imbecile in the Oval Office and a Cabinet where the primary qualifiers for being on it are great wealth and incompetence for the role.

Perhaps for the greater good, our elected representatives should heed the words of the Rolling Stones:

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need


Written for today’s one-word prompt, “compromise.”

You Sound Uppity

A6A4D33D-91F3-4F26-BA8B-6C7A612FE227Everyone else in the class would answer “here” when the teacher called roll in home room. But not Mark. He would always say “present.” He was the only one who responded to roll calls that way.

“Why do you always say ‘present’ at roll call?” one of the other students asked Mark.

“Because I am present in class,” mark answered.

“But everyone else simply says ‘here.’ Saying ‘present’ makes you sound uppity.”

“But ‘present’ is such an interesting word,” Mark said. It’s more versatile than ‘here.’”

“How so?” the classmate asked.

“Well, for one thing, it means being where you are; being ‘here,’” Mark explained. “It can also mean being in the moment, as being engaged in what is going on. I’m not just ‘here’ taking up space, I am truly ‘present,’ fully aware of what is happening around me.”

“Yes, I can see that.”

“But ‘present’ can also be a verb that means to give something to someone, like when you present someone with an award. Or you can use it as a noun to mean something someone gives you, like a Christmas present or a birthday present.”

“Ah, I get it,” said Mark’s classmate. “Like in, ‘I want to present this present to you.’”

“Exactly,” Mark said. “And it can also mean occurring now, as opposed to having occurred in the past or something that will occur in the future.”

“Wow, ‘present’ is a cool word,” admitted the classmate. “But using it instead of saying ‘here’ during roll call still makes you sound like an uppity asshole.”


Written for today’s one-word prompt, “present.”