Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Two-Word Story: All Gone

All gone. (Photo from Reuters)

All gone. (Photo from Bright Hope)
All gone. (Photo from Shutterstock)

Two-word story:

All gone.

I’ll let you decide which photo fits best.

Dawn Pisturino

April 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

13 Comments »

Rite of Passage

(Photo by Gil Ribeiro, Unsplash)

I wrote this for the Binnacle 2008 Ultra-Short Writing Challenge, which asked for a 150-word story:

As the train pulled away from the station, Carrie looked through the window at her father standing lost and forlorn on the wooden platform. “I’ll be back,” she had said, hugging him tightly and kissing him warmly on the cheek. But as the train chugged slowly down the track, she knew in her heart that she would never come back. With tears in her eyes, she waved at him one last time, painfully aware of the worried expression in his tired blue eyes, the stooped shoulders, the crumpled old sweater. Who will take care of him now, she wondered. But as the train moved faster down the track, so did her thoughts, leaping ahead to the eager young man waiting anxiously for her at the end of the line and the new life they would begin together. She closed her eyes, remembering his gentle words of love, and cried. (149 words)

Dawn Pisturino

January 2008; March 29, 2022

Copyright 2008-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

23 Comments »

Microfiction: This One’s for You

Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash

I wrote this for an Underneath the Juniper Tree writing challenge, August 29, 2011:

I love you, Lizzie Borden . . .

As she crept up the stairs, fondling the wooden axe in her hands . . .

“This one’s for you, Lizzie!”

Dawn Pisturino

March 25, 2022

Copyright 2011-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

Eleven-Word Story

(Photo from Raiders of the Lost Ark,1981)

An eleven-word story that I wrote for an Underneath the Juniper Tree Writing Challenge, August 10, 2011:

“Hideously white and deformed, the face at the window slowly decomposed.”

Dawn Pisturino

March 24, 2022

Copyright 2011-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

18 Comments »

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

A Story of Sibling Rivalry and Bullying Based on a Cuban Folktale

by Dawn Pisturino

A long time ago, Sun and Moon lived in a deep, dark cave on an island in the Caribbean Sea. 

Sun could not bear to live in such claustrophobic quarters. Day and night he paced the floor, grumbling and complaining, until one morning he said to Moon: “Sister, this cave is too small, and our light is too bright. It’s blinding both of us! You’re smaller and weaker than I am. You must leave and find a new home.”

“Me!” Moon retorted, stamping her tiny silver feet. “This cave belongs to both of us. Since you’re so unhappy, you move out!”

Sun said no more. He paced back and forth, wringing his hands until they were raw. Glimpsing his reflection in the mirror he shrieked, “Look what you’ve done to me! My face is breaking out with sunspots!”

“What do I care,” Moon responded. “I’m not leaving, and that’s final.”

Enraged, Sun loomed over Moon, his face growing redder and hotter until bright orange flames shot from his fingers and toes and the ends of his hair.

“Stop it, Sun!” Moon cried, shielding her face with her arms. “You’re scorching me with your hot flares!”

Moon waxed and waned with terror, moaning in pain, until Sun grabbed her silver locks and threw her out of the cave. “And never come back again!” he roared.

Leaning against a banana tree, Moon wept until her full, shiny face shrank to a thin silver crescent.

Air, grieved by Moon’s distress, wrapped the pale, weak maiden in her arms and carried her into the sky above. “You’ll be safe here,” she reassured Moon. “The stars won’t mind sharing a little space with you.”

But Moon, ashamed of her scorched face, hid behind a passing cloud.

The stars welcomed Moon and tried to make friends with her. Gradually, Moon’s scorched face healed, and she peered out from behind the cloud. She revealed more and more of her radiant face until it lit up the sky with soft, silvery light.

Sun burned with jealousy when he heard about his sister’s spacious new home. “I’ll show her!” he fumed; and leaped into the air. 

Blanching with fear, Moon shielded her face from Sun’s blazing wrath and raced across the sky until she disappeared from view.

Sun proudly took her place, filling the sky with so much brilliant fire the stars covered their eyes and ran away.

One evening, feeling bereft, Sun left the sky to search the cave where he and Moon had once lived together. As he approached the entrance, Moon suddenly appeared. Overcome by remorse, Sun pleaded with her to return with him to the sky. “There’s plenty of room for both of us,” he said.

But Moon could not forget her brother’s bad behavior. “I hate you!” she shouted. “You’re nothing but a big bully! I could never live with you again!” And so saying, she leaped into the air, leaving Sun standing all alone at the mouth of the cave.

Dawn Pisturino

2012; March 22, 2022

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.      





18 Comments »

Rainbows: A Sweet Vignette

Dedicated to my Husband and Daughter

It was early in the morning, and a young woman and her husband were driving to the train station. Temporarily, at least, the rain had stopped. The air was pleasantly fresh and clear, though oh! so cold, and here and there a patch of blue showed through the thick November clouds. Pale sunlight shone thinly against the grey morning dampness, brightening just a little the depressing aspect of the city.

“Oh look, a rainbow!” the young woman cried, pointing out the window.

Her husband, who was driving, looked up into the distant sky. Sure enough, half of a large rainbow emerged from a thick grey cloud.

The woman’s face beamed with happiness. “Isn’t that lovely?” she said. “It makes the whole morning beautiful.”

As they drove down the muddy narrow road which ran alongside the railroad tracks, the rainbow seemed to grow more distinct. Soon they could see each end of the rainbow, though the middle was still hidden by clouds.

“Now you can see both ends,” the woman cried eagerly.

“See where it goes,” her husband said. “Maybe I can find my pot of gold.”

The woman searched the sky, trying to determine beginning and end.

“It seems to stretch between the hills over there” — (she pointed left) — “and downtown over there” — (she pointed right.)

“Where does that story come from, anyways?” her husband asked.

“The Irish, I think. You know, leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

“Yeah,” said her husband, a greedy grin on his youthful face. “I’d like to find a pot of gold at the end of it.”

The young woman frowned. “Oh, Jim, that’s all you care about is money. Can’t you think of anything else?”

“Not when we don’t have any,” he answered.

The woman said nothing more, and they drove along in silence until they arrived at the station. But when Jim was helping her out of the car, she suddenly noticed the other rainbow.

“Now look,” she said triumphantly, pointing at the sky. “There are two rainbows!”

Above the first rainbow, which was growing brighter by the minute, half of a second rainbow could be seen. 

“That’s unusual to see two rainbows,” she said thoughtfully. While the young couple watched together, the first rainbow grew stronger and more distinct as the sunlight shifted.

“Now you can see the whole arch!” the woman exclaimed. Truly, it was lovely. The rainbow colors stood clear and vivid against the somber grey sky. “That’s rare to see such a rainbow,” she said, grabbing her husband’s hand and squeezing it tightly. Indeed, the colors seemed almost unnatural.

“And remember, Sharon, there are two,” Jim reminded her gently. “Perhaps they’re man and wife — like us.”

Sharon giggled. “Which one is the man?” she asked playfully.

“The one on the bottom is the strongest.” Jim put his arm around his wife’s ample waist and hugged her close.

“On the bottom, right where he belongs,” Sharon teased.

Her husband laughed. “Actually, I rather like it when you’re on top.”

Sharon pounded him lightly in the stomach. “You’re incorrigible, you beast!”

The young man patted his wife’s swollen belly, feeling the unborn child move inside. “When rainbows make love, do they make little rainbows?” he whispered in her ear.

“How else could there be rainbows,” she whispered back.

“Actually, there are rainbows all the time. We just don’t see them.”

“My husband, the brilliant scientist!”

Suddenly the skies opened up, and a great rain began to fall. The wind whipped up, chilling them to the bone. Laughing wildly, the young couple ran onto the covered platform.

“I love rain like this!'” shouted the young woman over the roar of the downpour.

“I don’t like getting wet all the time,” shouted her husband, who was more practical. “Here comes the train!”

Down the track, the two bright headlights pierced the misty, watery veil of rain, and in a few moments, the train pulled into the station. The woman hugged her husband tightly and kissed him passionately on his warm lips. “You smell so good,” she murmured, snuggling close to his big, warm body.

“I have to go,” he said, disentangling himself from her clinging embrace. “Have a good day. Rest!”

“I will,” she promised, smiling. “Have a good day!”

She waited until he was safely on the train, waved good-bye, then ran into the rain. Behind her, the train began to move slowly down the track. She couldn’t help herself. She stopped and watched as the train gathered speed and chugged out of sight. She pulled her drenched jacket closer around her bulging body. Rain poured down her face and hair. In a moment, she heard the train whistle blasting farther down the track. “I love you,” she whispered, and a lump formed in her throat. Tears watered her eyes, spilled over, and ran down her cheeks, mingling with the rain. She turned and ran as fast as she could to the car.

She climbed into the car and turned the key. The engine sputtered, died, then caught again. She pulled out of the parking space and followed once more the primitive road which ran beside the railroad tracks. She was wet and cold and eager to get home to a hot shower. Her husband was gone to work, the babe was safe and warm inside her. The day would be long and lonely. The rain would carry on, darkening their small apartment. Still, she was happy and content. She had followed her rainbow long ago. She had found her pot of gold.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dawn Pisturino

November 1983

Copyright 1983-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

28 Comments »

Flash Fiction: The Girl who Hated the Sun

Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

The Girl who Hated the Sun

by Dawn Pisturino

she hated the sun

how it filled up heaven

with energy and light

too hot and bright . . .

The poem popped into Katie’s head as she stood on the front porch, eyes closed, arms wide open, daring the Sun to kill her. Kill me, she urged, like you spoiled our farm, drove away my father, and wasted my mother. Go ahead. Do it!

The Sun swallowed her whole, dissolving her in his fiery belly.

Now that she was part of the Sun, Katie could ride through the heavens and visualize everything that happened down below.

She saw the grim black hearse pull up to the farm, and wept, as two men in plain black suits carried her mother away on a gurney. She sailed freely over the dusty brown fields that no longer yielded crops. She mourned the beds of sunflowers whose heads sagged, like dying children, out by the barn. And she said good-bye to the rusty old truck that sat, without tires, in a patch of yellow weeds.

Soon, the Pacific Ocean sparkled down below. Dolphins leaped among the waves. Throngs of people crowded the streets of Beijing, scurrying around like busy mice. Katie soared above the icy peaks of the Himalayas and swooped down to burn the white sands of Arabia. She waved at the Statue of Liberty, rejoicing that she finally got to see it.

And then she was home again, viewing the crumbling barn in pinkish light that gradually turned to yellow. She counted the shingles missing from the roof of the old house and peeked through the windows of her shabby bedroom.

And the journey repeated itself as the earth slowly turned, like a giant spit — repeated itself, day after day, until Katie cried with weariness and pain.

Now, she hovered over the old farm, shining brightly against a piece of broken glass lying in the withered grass, until one small yellow flame burst forth, catching the grass on fire. A passing breeze nudged the fire toward the house. The splintered wood burned brightly, throwing sparks into the sky. The old barn caught the sparks and exploded, fueled by old cans of paint. Showers of burning wood and straw ignited the patch of weeds. The ripped out upholstery in the old truck burst into flame. The oil pan smoldered, sending black smoke into the sky. And finally, with one burst of energy, the fuel tank exploded.

With grim satisfaction Katie cried, “I’ve killed it! I’ve killed my past life!” She snuggled up to the Sun, melting deeper into his fiery depths . . . while down below, a tiny piece of the world disappeared forever.

Dawn Pisturino

November 14, 2012

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

Reprise: Sammy’s Sleigh Ride

by Dawn Pisturino

One winter night, Sammy Mouse ran away from home. He wanted to go to the North Pole and see Santa Claus. So he put his clothes in a suitcase, bundled up in his heavy winter coat, left a note for his parents, and sneaked out of the house.

Sammy peered into the darkness, shivering with cold. Up above, millions of stars looked down at him. Sammy trudged through the snow, guided by the light of the full moon.

Sammy thought about all the wonderful things he would do for Santa Claus: help the elves make toys, feed the reindeer, and pack Santa’s sleigh.

When Santa Claus was ready to leave, Sammy would jump into the sleigh and sit beside him on the seat. Santa would laugh, “ho-ho-ho,” and Sammy would laugh, too. Then, up in the air they would go. Sammy would look down at all the little houses below.

When Santa’s reindeer landed on a snowy rooftop, Sammy would help Santa climb out of the sleigh. He would help Santa lift his big bag of toys and watch him slide down the chimney. Then, off they would go again!

Sammy walked a long time through the snow. When the sun began to shine, Sammy could walk no more. He curled up under a log and fell asleep.

When he woke up, Sammy’s stomach growled with hunger. He nibbled on a piece of cheese and hurried on his way. He wanted to get to Santa’s house before nightfall. Tonight was Christmas Eve.

But the longer he walked, the more tired Sammy felt. Everywhere he looked, he saw trees and snow. Where was Santa’s house? Where was the North Pole?

As night fell, Sammy began to get scared. Christmas was almost here, and he had not yet reached Santa’s house or the elves’ workshop or even the North Pole!

Sammy sat down in the snow and cried. He was wet and cold and hungry. He was tired, and his feet hurt. Worst of all, Sammy was lost!

Overhead, the stars seemed to be laughing at him. The man in the moon wore a big, shiny grin. Suddenly, Sammy heard bells jingling. Up in the sky, he saw Santa’s sleigh and eight reindeer flying past the moon. Sammy’s heart sank. Now, he would miss Christmas.

But wait, here was Santa’s sleigh coming right toward him! Sammy could hardly believe his eyes when the sleigh landed in the snow.

“Jump in, Sammy,” Santa said, smiling brightly.

Sammy jumped eagerly into the sleigh next to Santa. “Where are we going?” he asked.

“We’re going to take you home,” Santa answered.

The reindeer began to run across the snow faster and faster until suddenly, they were flying up into the sky!

Up, up, up they went. Sammy looked down. The trees in the forest looked like frosty toothpicks. The moon and stars grew bigger and brighter.

“Ho-ho-ho!” Santa laughed, his belly shaking.

“Ho-ho-ho!” Sammy laughed.

Before he knew it, Sammy was home. He helped Santa fill the stockings and put special gifts under the Christmas tree. He made sure he didn’t see what Santa had brought him.

When Santa was ready to slide up the chimney, Sammy said, “Oh, thank you, Santa!”

Santa laughed and shook Sammy’s paw. “You’re welcome, my little friend. Merry Christmas!”

In a flash, Santa was gone. But Sammy could hear reindeer hooves on the roof, and he never forgot the sound of the bells jingling on Santa’s sleigh.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2014-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

9 Comments »

Reprise: Bigfoot!

(Still photo from Bigfoot film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, October 1967)

Crack! The bullet zings past my ear, hitting an old oak tree.

I drop the salmon wiggling in my hands and run along the bank of the Mokelumne River, propelling my long, hairy arms for speed. Behind me, the hunters move carefully through the dense underbrush, tracking my movements.

Sharp green thorns snag on my hair and tear at my flesh as I struggle through the blackberry briars and wild grapevines. I hike deeper into the wilderness on two strong legs, climbing skillfully around granite boulders barring my way. In the distance, the jagged outline of Deadwood Peak rises above the trees. If I can only get there, I will be safe.

Rounding a bend I see her, tearing meat from a rabbit carcass with big, sharp teeth. Mama! Her shaggy brown head turns in my direction. With a low growl, she opens her long, hairy arms as if to embrace me.

And then she smells it, the distinct odor of musky sweat. The hunters are near!

We run, ignoring the stones piercing our feet, causing us to stumble. Behind us, the humans call back and forth, “Bigfoot!”

Together, we melt into the shade of a thick stand of pines, hoping to slow down and catch our breath. But our feet become tangled in nets concealed by pine needles, and suddenly, we are swinging up, up into the air, and dangling from the limbs of a sturdy pine tree.

Mama struggles inside her net, growling with rage. I struggle, too, yelping helplessly as the net swings back and forth above the hard ground.

“We’ve got them now,” says a bearded hunter to his companions. “Bigfoot! That TV show, Monster Search, will pay us big bucks for these babies.”

“We’ll be famous,” cries a husky hunter with red hair. “Scientists won’t laugh at us anymore. Finally! Proof that Bigfoot exists!”

“How are we going to get them back to San Francisco?” asks an old man with spectacles. “I mean, we weren’t really expecting to find anything.”

The bearded hunter pulls out his camera. “I’m taking plenty of pictures, just in case something goes wrong. They can’t call it a hoax this time!”

While the camera clicks and the three men argue over the best way to get us back to the city, I turn my head from view and gnaw on the net’s thick webbing with my teeth. Pretty soon I’ve made a small opening, large enough to stick my fingers through. I wiggle them at Mama, and she understands what to do.

The red-haired hunter chuckles as he pokes me in the back with a long stick. I give him a warning growl, but he keeps it up. My powerful jaws chew faster on the netting.

“We need some of that fur,” says the old man with spectacles. “We can send it to a lab for analysis.”

“Good idea!” says the red-haired hunter. “Then, if they get away, we’ll still have proof.”

The three men stand under the nets, looking up at our shaggy brown bodies hanging in the air. Suddenly the nets give way, and Mama and I find ourselves lying on top of the three men on the ground.

We howl victory cries and scramble to our feet. The men, tangled in the nets, shout curses at us as we run away.

The Miwok Indians tell stories about us — great hairy beasts roaming these desolate mountains. They fear us and protect our sacred habitat on Deadwood Peak. We are going there now, secure in the knowledge that we cannot be followed. Men from the city will continue to hunt us. But, with help from the Miwoks, they will never find us. And we will never let them capture us alive.

Dawn Pisturino

©2014-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

17 Comments »

Reprise: Concert for the Dead

Story by Dawn Pisturino.

Illustration by Job van Gelder.

Dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Ariel knelt before the marble niche holding the remains of her dead older brother and placed a bouquet of roses in the stone vase. Six months had passed since the horrible night a drunk driver had taken Jonathan’s life. She would never forget.

“Coach Willis still talks about you, Jonathan,” Ariel said, tracing the carved letters of his name with trembling fingers. “Nobody’s beaten your track record. You were the best. You always will be.”

She pulled some sheet music from her backpack. “The opera club is doing Purcell this year. I got the lead role. I’m so excited!” She began to sing:

“When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate . . .”*

The haunting elegy echoed through the halls of the Great Mausoleum, bringing tears to Ariel’s eyes. As the last melancholy note faded away, the mausoleum doors slammed shut. The lights flickered and dimmed.

Icy panic clawed at Ariel’s chest. She could hardly breathe. Then a long, agonizing scream tore from her throat.

She ran to the entrance and pushed against the heavy metal doors. Locked.  She searched for an intercom or emergency button. Nothing.

“Let me out!” she cried, pounding on the door. “It’s not closing time!”

Voices whispered all around her.

“No!” she howled, throwing her weight against the unyielding door.

The whispers grew louder. “We’ll let you out when the concert is over.”

“W-what c-concert?” Ariel stammered, searching the empty air.

“The Concert for the Dead.”

And then she saw them, gliding down the dark corridors, the eerie inhabitants of this condominium for the dead.

They crowded into the main hall, hundreds of them, the ghastly and the beautiful.

Men dressed in military uniforms soaked with blood, arms ripped away, legs shredded at the knees, and heads split open, eyeballs dangling from their sockets.

Women gowned in rustling silk, faded and torn, ringlets framing faces eaten away by worms. Pale young mothers with tragic eyes, carrying shriveled up babies in their arms.

Dead children glared at Ariel with menacing faces, their transparent fingers clutching moth-eaten ragdolls and time-worn teddy bears.

An orchestra appeared. Skeletons with shreds of rotting flesh hanging from their bones. The conductor raised his baton, and the slow, plaintive strains of a violin filled the air. He turned and looked at Ariel with one putrid eye, motioning her to begin.

I know this song. I can do it. Shaking with fear, she dug her fingernails into her palms and began to sing:

“None but the lonely heart can know my sadness

Alone and parted far from joy and gladness . . .”**

She sang until the sun disappeared and the stained glass windows lost their color. She sang until the moon ran its course and the stars began to fade. Finally, her throat too parched and raw to continue, she pleaded:

“The concert’s over. Please let me go.”

Hushed whispers rippled through the audience. Then a lone figure broke through the crowd.

“Jonathan!” Ariel cried, grateful to see a familiar face.

Smiling, he extended his arms to her. “We don’t want you to leave,” Jonathan said, drawing her close. “We want you to sing for us forever and ever and ever . . .”

Cold waxy fingers tightened around her throat. In the background, the orchestra played a quiet requiem.

* * *

When the groundskeeper found Ariel’s body the next morning, he noticed two peculiar things. Her throat was purple with finger marks, and her hair had turned completely white.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino, Job van Gelder, and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

This story is dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Published in the November 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Read it here.

Published on Brooklyn Voice, February 2012.

Artwork by Asheka Troberg.

*“Dido’s Lament,” from Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell

**“None but the Lonely Heart,” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and J.W. Goethe

Artwork by Jason Smith. I commissioned this Concert for the Dead artwork for my daughter, Ariel Pisturino, as a gift.

Copyright 2011-2021 Jason Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Halloween! Make it scary!

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

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