This story was written for the March 2022 Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, coordinated by the one and only LisaBee! This month’s theme is “Lucky.”

In early April, head over to LisaBee’s blog to find the list of all entries. After you read them, you can vote for your three reader’s choices in the veteran and novice categories.

We named our dog Lucky. The neighbors thought that it was because, as a stray, he was lucky to be adopted by us. He had a reputation of being aggressive, and the county Animal Control had him on their list to be euthanized, the next time they received a complaint about him. Stubborn and with messy, shedding fur, no one else wanted him. But really, we were the ones who were lucky to have him in our lives.

He adopted us. He started by sleeping on our porch. Then I started setting out food and water for him, and before long, he chose me as his person, even letting me pet him and brush that thick matted coat.

My grandfather wasn’t a cuddly type.

He was a very good man, but growing up, I always felt he cared more about the state of the environment than he did about the state of my emotional well-being. I realize now that part of why he wanted to save the earth was because he wanted to leave me with a habitable planet; it was part of his selfless goodness. As a kid, I just wanted affection and someone I could talk to.

I found both in Lucky.

We were inseparable.

He walked with me halfway to school every morning, along the path by the stream, stopping when we got to the big street.

While I was at school, he ambled through the meadows, or strolled back home to sit in the sun while Grandpa fixed things. And when I got out of school, as soon as I crossed the big street, I’d see him racing up the banks of the stream to meet me. We spent the afternoons rambling through woods and beaches.

As I started getting older, my grandfather reminded me more often about not talking to strangers. “If you don’t know their names, if they’re not folks I know, or people you know from school or town, just leave a wide berth,” he said. “Don’t give out any personal information, and, well. Just don’t talk with them.”

It didn’t make sense to me because I’d been raised to be friendly, respectful, polite, and helpful. What if someone new here, whom I hadn’t yet met, needed directions or help with something? Grandpa said it wasn’t my responsibility. Somebody else, an adult, maybe, could help them. This conflict in values was uncomfortable for me, but I trusted Grandpa, and I guess, at the time, obeying him was my prime directive.

One afternoon, a man followed me all the way home from school.

I didn’t talk to him, and I kept trying to get further and further away, but his legs were longer.

“Hey, little girl,” he kept saying. “Where you going? Why’re you in such a hurry? Don’t you want to slow down and talk to me? I’ve got something to show you.”

My grandpa’s words rang strong, so I stayed silent and kept on walking. I was afraid that if I ran, he’d grab me.

Something inside of me warned me not to go directly home, so he wouldn’t find out where I lived, so I took a detour down by the beach, hoping we’d run into someone. But the beach was empty, and he kept getting closer. I could feel him breathing behind me.

Then, I heard Lucky’s bark. I glanced back just quick enough to see Lucky racing towards us, going so fast now he couldn’t even bark.

Then he growled and snapped. We’d tried so hard for so long to teach him not to bark, growl, and snap at people, afraid of what Animal Control might do if he did, but I was so grateful that day that we hadn’t been successful in training him.

He stood, all the hair on his back raised and bristling, between me and the man.

Then the man backed up and walked off.

“You saved me!” I told Lucky. “You’re like a hero dog!”

A few weeks later, Grandpa and I were watching TV after supper, with Lucky lying on the carpet at our feet, when I saw that man’s face on the news report.

“That’s the guy that followed me,” I told Grandpa, “when Lucky rescued me.”

“What was that?”

I told Grandpa the story.

“We are very lucky,” said Grandpa. “That’s a very bad man. He’s done all sorts of bad things to little kids. That’s why he’s in jail right now.”

He reached down to pet Lucky. “Good job, old boy,” he said. He put his arm around me, for the first time I could remember, and held me tight next to him. “Good job for you, not talking to that man. Good job that you’re safe, little Annie.”

After that night, I sometimes saw Grandpa standing outside watching Lucky while he slept on the porch.

I always got the impression that he was thanking God for him, just like me, thanking God every day for our good luck.

Sea Change

Participant Veteran January 2021 - Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge

This is my entry for the January 2021 Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, hosted by LisaBee. Please check the official January 2021 Challenge webpage to find all the month’s entries, as well as a poll where you can select your top three “Readers’ Choice” entries. Happy reading!

Clarissa standing in the dark

Clarissa Thalassa had been given a choice: she could be made redundant and collect unemployment or she could retire early and collect a pension. She chose the pension.

It wasn’t much, by hometown standards, but it was enough to support her if she moved to someplace less cosmopolitan. She found a beachside community, not yet fashionable with eco-tourists, where she could rent a tiny off-the-grid home for a quarter of her monthly pension.

Clarissa reading in a small room

The cabin wasn’t much more than a kitchen with a divider to mark off the tiny study and sleeping nook. But every wall held a window and every window held a view.

Clarissa at the table by the window

The hardest part had been leaving without proper goodbyes. Before her network account was closed, she emailed everyone she’d worked with closely, those who would notice when they emailed her with a task and received, instead of confirmation of task complete, a message-undeliverable error.

She felt canceled.

Her mind had all these synapses that no longer had a function. Thursday: she should be preparing to post the agenda for the Board meeting. Every tag needs an end-tag. PDFs must be accessible; videos closed-captioned. Don’t forget the alt tag for every image.

But now, none of this was her responsibility, and her mind, instead of buzzing, held gaps of quiet space.

She filled the gaps by repairing things–or trying to: the old tub beside the out-house; the rickety railings on the stairs to the roof-top deck; the pump for the well.

Clarissa fixing the bathtub

It didn’t really work. Things stayed broken.

Her mind still felt busy. She had an odd sense of guilt, too. She wasn’t working twelve-hour days. She wasn’t working at all. Her efforts, what efforts she could think up, didn’t really benefit anyone. They just filled time.

Clarissa digging in the sand

She could dig through every pile of sand on the beach, and there would still be more piles, and none of it will have made a difference, like her career, which had ended, and all the tasks that now fell to someone else.

She gave up trying to make sense of her days, trying to fill them with something productive. She let sleeping synapses lie. She felt the stillness of her mind.

Sometimes, she swam in the bay, and though she’d swum competitively back oh-so-many lifetimes ago, she seemed to swim faster now, as if the energy previously used by all those now dormant synapses charged, instead, through her muscles, propelling her like a fish or a dolphin.

Clarissa swimming

Somehow, days passed. The patterns in the sand began to make sense, and she could read the passages of turtles, seabirds, and tides in them. She learned where to dig for shells, which estuaries accumulated trash after a storm, so she could go and clean them up, and what the scents in the air meant–what it smelled like when the tide was coming in, when a storm approached from the south, when the frangipani bloomed.

One night, the air thrummed with electricity and orange smoke rose from the volcano across the bay.

The volcano at night with firey clouds

She dreamt of swimming that night.

Clarissa with a mermaid tale

She felt more free in the water than ever.

Clarissa the mermaid leaps out of the water

A high whistle, and her heart soared, like you feel when you see your beloved. A blue dolphin swam directly to her and nuzzled her.

In dreams, you can experience a love that is as close as two souls can get: that is how she and the dream-dolphin felt.

Clarissa the mermaid talking with a dolphin

The volcano sat quietly the next morning, and the sky shone clear in the dawn.

Her old world continued on, as if she didn’t exist. And the new world spread its bays and beaches before her, welcoming.

Clarissa painting

Different days, different shores, different mind. She didn’t belong in the old world, anymore.

She belonged, if anywhere, here.

Clarissa looking over the horizon

Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge: April 2019


A potted plant, a stack of books–such a simple still life. In an apartment with $20,000 Dekton counters, solid maple cabinets, full spa, home gym, and million dollar views, how was it that Don’s favorite amenity was this simple display?

He made the plan to move in with Mac to escape the complications of living in a desert mansion with his then-girlfriend and her two grown daughters, both hotter than peppers. Too friendly, too complicated. Big mistake. Much drama.

He’d passed Mac a few times in the foyer when leaving her neighbor Lily’s apartment in the city, on his quick exits before Lily’s husband returned. Of course, he couldn’t move in with Lily. Her husband. Duh. But Mac had a spacious apartment across the hall. He could tell, from the way she turned to look at him, that advancing a “relationship” from introduction to move-in status would be piece-of-cake.

For a man like him, fooling an inexperienced woman to believe that he really cared for her required no more effort than taking out the trash and putting a new liner in the can.

A few dates, and he was spending the night. A few nights, and he was ready to suggest the move-in. He took her, sweet nature-loving girl like her, on an island picnic to bring it up.

On the ferry ride over, when he’d planned on reviewing his conversational strategy, he got caught up in watching her. Her broad face opened into a smile as the bay winds rushed past. Those eyes! What was that shining through them?

“You look–” he began, when they sat to rest during their island stroll, “you look like a fresh marsh!” Face-palm. Had he said that?

She giggled. “I’ll take that as a compliment!”

“That’s how I meant it.”

She wasn’t like other girls. Oh, she was different.

“What do you want, babe?” he asked.

“Do you mean, like, really?”

He nodded.

“Like my dream? My dream is, well. My dream has to do with my paintings. One day, I will paint something, and when someone else looks at it, they will feel what I felt when I created it. Does that make sense?”

It did. He wasn’t sure how, or if it were even possible to feel the same thing that someone else felt, at the same time, or at a different time.

His experience had always been that what he felt was different from what anyone else, a woman, especially, ever felt. He could pretend they felt the same thing, but that was about it.

She brought up moving in first, and he balked. It was supposed to be his idea. And now that he really wanted it, he wasn’t so sure he should go through with it. Could it be that simple?

That was three months ago. He stopped seeing Lily, even though she lived across the hall. Not difficult at all. He forgot about the Calientes’ drama. Easy as pie. He watched Mac paint. He worked out. He looked out the window. He got a job in a restaurant.

In some moments, he discovered that what he felt was what she felt.

Maybe he was getting old. Maybe he was a sucker for shining brown eyes. Maybe he was just tired of feeling alone.

Maybe, all these years, he’d been a fool to chase after fast pleasure, other women’s wealth, and adding notches to his belt, when what he’d really wanted, all this time, was to feel what somebody else did, something simple and domestic.

Author’s Note: This short story was written as part of the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, organized by LisaBee at the Sims Forums. Readers are invited to read all the entries, and vote for their top three choices in both categories (novice and veteran), for a total of six votes. Any vote that doesn’t contain three for each category (six total) will not be counted–so if you want to vote, please be sure to read all the stories and vote for three Novice and three Veteran stories! You’re in for a treat with this month’s submissions! Happy reading!