F is for Fragile Fanfare

Day 6 of the challenge!

My theme is NIFTY NUGGETS. Little nuggets of writing based on a photo, a phrase and an object, which is designed to encourage lean, tight writing. I’m aiming for a word count of under 300 words.

Thank you to L.Diane Wolfe for providing the beautiful photo prompts.  You can visit her blog to check out more pictures.



PHRASE – an unorthodox alarm clock

OBJECT – ladder

The tour guide ushered the holiday group through the section of the gallery that housed a variety of stained glass pieces. To one side of the room, a guy on a ladder inspected a particular glass window to determine accurate historic value.

She stopped, mesmerized by the beautiful work of art. It boasted a seamless multi-color stained glass pattern in shades of red/orange/blue/green.The swirling colours and rich vibrant luster danced before her eyes. A myriad of thoughts ran through her mind, as it wandered off at a tangent.

How fragile is that glass?

Can it break easily?

Into solid pieces or a million shards?

That can cut deeply?

Or would it simply shatter?

Her vision blurred.

A few isolated things penetrated her thoughts. Somebody’s cell went off… the sound of an old-fashioned telephone. A reminder from the guide that all phones had to be put off. Two young girls in the group giggled. The tobacco smell of a bearded man who stood to her right… overpowering… smothering. The man on the ladder that reached all the way to——-

She closed her eyes. A flood of memories threatened to burst forth from a confined place, deep in the recess of a sensitive teenage mind.

Time shifted, hovered, neither here nor there, suspended between two worlds…

Ladder leading to the attic.

Telephone jingle on the radio show that always aired around noon.

Wood-smoked smell from the outside barn.

Somebody’s hand at her elbow. We seem to have lost you for a moment. Are you okay? The tour guide’s voice broke the spell.

Her palms were moist.

She shivered.

Jelly legs.

Thumping heart.

What was the matter? NO. Not now. She couldn’t allow this… not after all the progress…

It had been years since the last panic attack. She put on a smile. Smoothed her skirt.

Her carefully designed facade was at risk.

Did she look as fragile as she felt?

What does fragile “look like”?



People depended on her.

The shards left by swirling emotions threatened to cut her to the core. She refused to be held captive by past events.

Having come this far, she had made her way from the bottom of the economic ladder, struggling, one rung at a time, to reach the top.

She was almost there.


  1. Mary Aalgaard on April 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Ooo. Very good internal dialogue. I am so impressed with the variety of writing you come up with for these photo prompts. I want to do this some time. When I first saw the photo, I thought of jellyfish!
    Play off the Page

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:05 am

      Thank you, Mary.
      I’m trying to stretch the writing muscles… see what I come up with.

  2. L. Diane Wolfe on April 8, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    So many things lined up to take her back to a traumatic moment in her life. I agree that the internal dialogue was great. You could really feel her anxiety.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:07 am

      I haven’t experimented much with internal dialogue… it’s been really interesting… and fun.

  3. Christine Rains on April 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Wonderfully done. Great mesh of internal dialogue. Love that picture prompt too.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:08 am

      This one was quite a challenging picture prompt….

  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Wow, that was powerful. I have a friend who suffers from panic attacks and you nailed it.

  5. Kathe W. on April 8, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    wonderful and strong story- the image of Chihuly’s glass work is perfect for this story. Thanks for dropping by my blog- your comments are much appreciated! Cheers and Happy A-Z’ing

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Thanks for identifying the artist.
      Nice to connect via the A to Z Challenge.

  6. Patricia Lynne on April 8, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    That was a beautiful and eerie story. Great job.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee’s Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  7. C. Lee McKenzie on April 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Letting us see what made her tick was excellent.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:11 am

      I wasn’t sure in which direction to take this one… but then it seemed to take on a life of its own. 🙂

  8. Chrys Fey on April 8, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Powerful! My sister suffers from panic attacks and one of my friends and you explained what happens during one of those attacks perfectly.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:13 am

      I’ll admit that I was a bit concerned about accurate portrayal of the emotions, but I’m so glad I got it right.

  9. Sara C. Snider on April 9, 2015 at 4:50 am

    Really great story. I love all the fragmented thoughts, it really adds to the tension.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:14 am

      Thank you, Sara!
      I’m really enjoying your “tree” stories… so creative! 🙂

  10. Shannon Lawrence on April 9, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Strong description of a frantic moment. Like someone above, I thought of jelly fish when I saw the picture.

  11. Hilary on April 9, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Hi Michelle – this was brilliant all the emotions, the back-tracking of young days .. the tension of the ladder … and then the shards of glass threatening to cut her emotions to the core. I see Chrys .. agrees with your portrayal here .. so well written .. cheers Hilary

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:15 am

      This one was quite challenging, Hilary. I’m glad it turned out okay.
      I really want to do justice to Diane’s photos.

  12. Rosie Amber on April 9, 2015 at 8:58 am

    An old fashioned telephone ring brings back memories…. Love the colours in the photo.

  13. Nadine Feldman on April 9, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I have panic attacks from time to time, though not as many as I used to. What does fragile look like? Kinda looks like me, though no one can tell my looking.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:18 am

      I’m glad to hear that the attacks have decreased… 🙂
      I think behind every strong exterior is a hidden fragility… some people just know how to keep it in check.
      Take care, Nadine.

  14. Susan Gourley on April 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Great description using a variety of senses. I could picture her thoughts from the past.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:19 am

      I’m trying for the multi-sensory approach, but I don’t want to “overcook” it…

  15. Tawnya on April 9, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Loved the description. Knew exactly what she was feeling! Fragile…aren’t we all fragile in our own way?

    • Michelle Wallace on April 10, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Yes, we are, to different degrees…
      I just mentioned it on one of the above comments.

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