Both times before, I wished I'd a place in my port for my entries...this time I do!
To My 15 For 15 Entries Journal
This contest is my favorite for practicing off-the-cuff writing -- not my forté! Below are my scribblings entered each day in the Round 8 (Sept. 18 - Oct. 2, 2009)
Please feel free to read any or all the entries below and leave me your comments/reviews. Thank you so much!!
|"We've made several fascinating observations since the experiment began," the woman in the white lab coat explained to the group of fourth graders. "The male baboon's behavior changes radically each time we introduce the laptop into his environment. Can you guess what our research team has noted?"
The children looked through the plate glass of the enclosure with furrowed brows before a couple hands went up.
"Yes, little girl with the pig tails?"
Sara Perkins said, "He isn't paying any attention to the children. He's just looking at the computer."
"Very good. When we remove the laptop computer, the male baboon is known to engage in lively games with the younger group members." She touched the tip of her finger to the glass. "That blue ball over there is his favorite." The children saw she indicated an abandoned plastic ball wedged behind a bucket in the far corner of the cage.
"Anything else? Yes, young lady in the front."
"Well, he's sort of fat." All the children broke out in laughter.
"Very good," the woman said with a smile, over the noise. She waited until the kids settled down, and then went on. "The male baboon becomes lethargic when he has access to the computer, and since the start of this study, he's gained over thirty pounds!" Just then, the smaller female sitting next to two juveniles reached over and swatted the male across the head. The children laughed as the male scowled and scratched his head, then bent again over the computer keyboard.
"The next part of the field trip is in the laboratory. This way, kids," said the woman, chuckling.
Karen Perkins draped an arm across her daughter's shoulder as they moved with the group. Later that evening, she was washing the dinner dishes when Sara came into the kitchen with her brother.
"Mama, Daddy promised us we could go to the soccer fields tonight and practice goal kicks, but he keeps saying later."
Karen followed the kids into the den where her husband was typing on the computer. "Jim, are you going to kick the ball around tonight with the kids or not?" She couldn't keep the irritation out of her voice.
Without looking up, he shifted in his chair that groaned under his weight. "In a minute..." he muttered.
Karen regarded him a minute, then reached out and swatted him hard above the ear with an open palm. She spun on her heels and stalked out of the room.
Jim rubbed his head and said with a scowl, "What the hell...?"
|Alexis padded across the stage, taking the small towel the assistant choreographer handed her and wiping her forehead of the sweat threatening to run into her eyes. Michael and Yuri followed her to the edge of center stage where the Inner City Dance School group had filed in next to the orchestra pit. Alexis winked at her former dance teacher who returned her smile. The dance teacher addressed her students.
“Kids, I’d like to introduce you to Alexis Daniels. She was my student at our school, and five years ago she became a professional dancer with Atlanta Dance Company. Can you say hello?”
The children chorused, “Hello Miss Alexis.”
Alexis grinned. “Hi there! It’s so nice you came to visit our rehearsal. These are my partners, Michael and Yuri.” As Alexis spoke to the children, her eyes fell on one slender girl in the front. The girl watched, transfixed, as Alexis talked. Her tight, corn-rolled hair tapered into long braids caught up in a ponytail that cascaded down one shoulder. Alexis noted the way her toned, narrow body stood tall, with her feet turned out. A dancer’s body, Alexis thought. She also saw the shadow of color underneath the girl’s right eye, and a shiver passed through Alexis’ sweaty body.
Memories of her life in the projects washed over Alexis. In an instant, she was back there, hearing her mother’s drug induced whimpers, feeling the sting of an abusive hand’s careless slap across her cheek. She lived for years as close to the ground as she could get: under a bed, below the porch stoop, under the wild briars that lined the chain link fences separating one concrete yard from the next. She was startled by Yuri’s touch.
“So, are you ready to show these children what they can do with dedication and practice?” he asked with a wide grin.
Alexis smiled quickly, glanced again at the girl with corn-rolled hair, and turned to follow the other dancers.
As the slow music began, her thoughts drifted to those days when dance first entered her life. The dance studio was her refuge, where she could come out of hiding, get up off the floor. Her body bent and flowed with the music like a slender reed in a steady breeze. Dance had saved her from the projects, she thought, as her leg lifted and extended higher and straighter than ever before. The music began to swell, and it filled her with the hope that she felt when she was in motion, free from the tethers of her painful past, expressing her life in flourishes of movement. And Alexis knew she had been that little girl in the front with the corn-rolled hair, hiding on the floor underneath her bed with the cockroaches and the dust, listening to her mother sell her body and her soul to the drug devil. The music gathered power, reaching its crescendo, and Alexis leapt into the air, flying with a straight, proud back, soaring high above the floor as if she’d never fall back down to it.
When the trio melted into the final pose of the dance, cheers and applause rose from the front row of the near empty theater. When Alexis looked out, the girl in the corn-rolled hair was clapping, tears rolling down her cheeks, and their eyes locked.
|Amanda breathed in the warm spring air as she strolled hand in hand with Donald. The waters of Lake Ontario would still be frigid for another six weeks, but she could smell the promise of summer in the mild, lilac-infused breeze along its shore. They seemed to amble, but she knew Donald was leading her toward the south end of Sackets Harbor and its historic ruins of the War of 1812.
Sure enough, he tugged gently on her hand at a bench in front of the town’s landmark of pride, Madison Barracks, and they sat down. They’d both grown up in Sackets Harbor and didn’t need to read the plague explaining the significance of the barracks and the shorefront battlefield that had seen battles in every war from 1812 to World War II. To them, the place held a different, special significance. It was the place Donald had first asked her out, and where he’d first kissed her. Now, Donald admired the edifice, his eyes dancing.
“Amanda,” he began, “I love you very much.” She smiled at him, and he went on. “Love is like a wall, when you think about it. It defines the spaces in which we live. It provides the structure we need in our lives.”
He let go of her hand and slowly dug his into his jacket pocket. Amanda’s eyes strayed there a moment, then back to his face which glowed with the fires of intent and love. She felt her heart begin to race.
“A wall protects. It keeps those within safe and secure while protecting them from the elements of the environment. Love is like that, it keeps us safe and protected.” He withdrew his hand, bringing a small black box out of his pocket.
Amanda’s breath caught in her throat, but her eyes filled with tears. She lowered her chin and cast her gaze to her hands resting limp in her lap. Her voice was small when she said, “A wall also conceals things. People hide themselves behind walls.” She looked up and was instantly sorry for her words. “Donald…” she whispered.
He looked into her face with compassion and wiped a tear from his cheek. “No, you’re right, Amanda.” He paused. “If there’s one thing I could take back in my life, it would be that one…indiscretion.” He took hold of Amanda’s hand in his while holding the small box in his other. “But you know you have always been the only one for me.”
She nodded and her smile was genuine. He looked back up at the barracks, and pointed at the north end that had been destroyed in a past war. “But our love is like this wall. It has endured all that has come at it. It has even crumbled in some places. But it still stands despite it all, like our love, a promise of many years to come filled with peace, security and happiness.” Donald pulled back the box lid to reveal a stunning diamond ring, its platinum band set with fiery sparkles. Amanda gasped, her hand coming to her mouth.
Donald chuckled. “I’d get down on my knee again,” he started to say, but Amanda cut him off.
“Don’t you dare,” she said through her tearful giggles, “Or we’ll never get you up again!”
Donald looked deeply into her eyes. “Happy fiftieth anniversary, my love.” And he leaned over and kissed her.
|Lenny Curcio sat in his unmarked police car and stared across the road to the recreation center. He slouched in his seat and grinned, one leg bobbing rapid like a child who needs the restroom. The movement made the single greasy lock of black hair dance on his forehead. He couldn’t believe what a good cop he was. Freakin’ right. There wasn’t one copper in the city precinct that was as good as he was. That’s why the NYPD had let him go, he thought with a sudden scowl. Screw those pricks. He’d only been down here in Podunk-ville for a week and already he was poised to make his first arrest. This one’ll make the freakin’ papers, for sure.
A boy pitched and sidled with each wobbly step as he and his dog made their way from the ball fields to the side of the building where the restrooms were located. Lenny sat up a little straighter, eyes narrowing, leg bouncing even faster. The kid’s clever, Lenny gave him that. A cripple was so far from the MO that he was probably sure no one would ever suspect him. But the kid wasn’t counting on crossing paths with a super cop like Lenny. Lenny sneered with anticipation, and then his breath caught.
A man had exited the restroom and stopped to talk to the kid. Lenny reached over to the passenger seat without breaking his eye contact and felt around for the camera. He pulled the device to his face too quickly, bumping is nose hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. He hissed a curse as he began snapping pictures of the encounter. The man nodded. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a wallet. He handed the kid a bill and the kid shoved it into his jacket pocket. The man pet the dog, then reached into the left side of the yellow fabric saddlebags hanging from the dog’s back. He pulled something out, put it into his wallet, and walked away.
Lenny was breathing heavily now. He lowered the camera and looked through the windshield. The boy bent down and the dog nuzzled his face. But wait – here came a young girl, a teenager, Lenny deduced. She stopped to pet the dog. A moment later, she dug into her jeans pocket and pulled out money. Lenny knew it was time. He didn’t know how he knew, he just chalked it up to his super cop intuition. In a flash, he was out of the car and racing across the street.
The girl handed the boy money, then reached into the dog’s sack. Lenny sped across the grassy lawn, bearing down on the two kids and the dog. “Freeze!” he shouted, pulling his badge from his shirt pocket as he ran. “Don’t move, don’t MOVE!”
The children stared at Lenny with round eyes, mouths hanging open. A gentleman walked out of the men’s room at the same time. “What the hell is going on here?” the man asked.
“I’m Detective Leonard Curcio, Townville Police. This young man, here, and his dog, are selling drugs on public property.”
“What?” all three people shouted.
“Don’t play stupid with me, kid,” Lenny sneered. “I’ve been observing you all afternoon. Whatcha selling out of them bags?” Lenny reached for the saddle bag and the dog growled menacingly. Lenny’s hand stopped; he stared at the dog a moment, then dug carefully into the pouch. He pulled out a handful of small papers, each with a colorful image on it.
“Aha!” he shouted in triumphant. “I seen these in the city – New York City, where I come from,” he added smugly. “Tatoos laced with Ecstacy, right kid?”
The man from the restroom burst out laughing. Lenny straighten up and stared at him, his head cocked to the side. “What the hell are you laughin’ at?”
The man wiped tears from his eyes. “This kid? Selling drugs?” He giggled again and had to compose himself before going on. “This is Timmy Johnson. He raises money every year for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He represents the whole town when he calls in to the telethon, coming up on Labor Day weekend, and makes a donation in our name.”
Lenny’s shoulders drooped and he dropped his eyes to the papers in his hand. He read what was printed on each one: “I’m One of Jerry’s Kids.”
|My body feels heavy as I lay with my eyes closed on the worn leather couch. The air conditioning hums, lulls me into deeper relaxation. Dr. Vincent’s gentle voice floats across my consciousness, mingled with her floral perfume.
“Now, Gracie, I want you to think of an animal. Choose one that is fierce, fearless, powerful. Think. What animal do you see?”
“Tiger,” I whisper without hesitation.
“Good,” says Dr. Vincent. “I want you to imagine you are the tiger. Your body is muscular, able to run at incredible speeds. Your senses are sharp, and you can see and smell other animals before they notice you. Feel the power you possess.” Her voice trails away like evaporating mist.
I look around me. I'm moving through tall grass. My giant paws pad across the ground with silent strides. I stop, sniff the air.
Dr. Vincent’s words carry to me on the breeze that bends the grass. “Gracie, John Black will be led into the courtroom. He will not be able to touch you again, but you will have to look at him.”
The fur on the scruff of my neck bristles as the skin below it prickles. I move one cautious paw ahead and freeze, crouched. I hear the gurgle of rushing water. My yellow eyes fix, unblinking, on movement up ahead. With slow, feline grace I stalk the enemy. Belly low to the ground, I reach the stream bed. Across the way, a lone gray wolf laps up the water. I leave the safety of the my hiding place in the grass and step into the rushing water, never breaking my gaze. The wolf looks at me, greedy jowls dripping.
“You’ll tell the truth about the night John Black attacked you…”
I stare at the wolf’s jowls and he begins to growl; his snout curls back barring sharp white teeth…
“…First your lawyer will ask you questions, and then the defense attorney…”
…and the wolf grows bigger before my eyes; his legs elongate and his back curves up toward the sky. And I realize I’m shrinking, I’m not the tiger. I'm just a small striped cat. I’m the cat I had when I was a child; the cat that was killed by a car when I was eight years old…”
I’m roused by the sound of my whimpers and Dr. Vincent’s gentle hands stroking my arm. I open my eyes and she hands me a Kleenex. My heart races and I struggle to slow my breathing.
“It’s going to be okay, Gracie. Just relax. You did well today.” She jots down something on her clipboard. “We still have four sessions before the trial begins. You’ll be ready.” And she smiles at me.
I cover my mouth with the tissue and turn my head toward the wall.
|I stand, petrified
At the shoreline of my life
Up to my ankles
In the baptismal waters
Of my future
My back is turned, defiant
On rain-soaked yesterdays
The breeding ground of moldy dreams
Black and blue eyes
In the peacock’s plumage
When I was a child, hopeful
I was given a royal blue betta fish
In a gift bowl of water
Deadly to others
Who would dare to share his space
Before me, believe
Infinite cerulean sky melts into
Azure ocean peace
The only proof I need
That serenity exists
I stand, determined
Ready to plunge into tomorrow’s placid waters
Cool my scorched skin
Soothe my soul
|"Well howdy, Sheriff Dawson. You lookin' mighty purty today." Frank Peterman tipped his Stetson.
Next to him, Daniel Horn pulled the damp stump of cigar out of his mouth. "Right purty," he agreed with a slight leer.
Dawson narrowed her eyes and tilted her head, regarding them with a wry smile. Lifting the electronic clipboard, she shifted her eyes to it. "Enough of the pleasantries, boys. You know why I'm here. Let's get on with this."
Peterman and Horn looked at each other, eyebrows arched and comical looks of question on their faces. Horn said, "Why no, Madam Sheriff, we don't know to what you might be referrin'."
The sheriff drew a long, steadying breath. Her voice was strained but pleasant. "I'm certain you received the nationally distributed email last week. The Demoncratic Republic of Texas has instituted regular checks to ensure all beef farmers are administering the government mandated rounds of growth hormones and antibiotics. You are in my jurisdiction, so you get to deal with me on this matter." She pulled the stylist from the clipboard and poised it over the screen.
Peterman shifted his weight; the leather chaps made a sqeaking-creek sound. His smile was gone. "Now you look here, Sheriff. Out here on the plains, we do as our daddies done, and their daddies done before them. Now back in the early part of this century, we all learned how bad them hormones is for the cattle and for us 'umans. We have been organic beef growers as long as I've been alive and as long as I'm still alivin' that's what we is going to be."
"No, you look here, sir," Sheriff Dawson countered. "This great country was founded by men and women who didn't want the rest of the world telling us Texans how to live our lives. You know as well as I do that the hormones are safe for the cattle, and we have developed excellent drugs to combat any secondary effects they may have on humans who consume their meat. We have the biggest cattle in the world, Mr. Peterman, which render the tenderest meat on the market. We Texans are proud of our industry, and as a Texan, you should be too."
Horn guffawed. "Lady," he began, dropping all pretense of protocol, "Before we seceded, Texans had the right to farm as we chose. Now for fifty years, the use of the Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone has been banned in the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the United States, and for good reason. We're still using it in our country. That don't make sense. It ain't about doing as we please, it's about doing the right thing. That's the principle our forefathers founded this great country on." He raised his rifle, an unspoken threat. "Now, Sheriff, I think it's time you mosied on home."
Dawson glared at the two. Then she picked up her cell phone and began dialing. "I see I'm going to need back-up," she muttered.
Horn and Peterman didn't look at each other first. They both leveled their rifles and fired. The resounded blast startled the cattle grazing on the clover-rich grass and sent black birds into the air from trees surrounding the field. Peterman shook his head at the crumbled form of pretty Sheriff Dawson.
"When is the government gonna learn? No one's gonna tells us Texans what to do."
|"Give it back!" Johnny squealed, tugging on the handheld video game system in his older sister's hands.
"Would you knock it off," Lydia grumbled. She twisted around to face the window as much as the seatbelt would allow.
"Mom!" Johnny shouted.
My hands went to my temples where I massaged tiny circles around the tight skin. This vacation was getting long by the minute. What day was this? My God, had we only been in the car two days? I wasn't sure any of us could take a whole week of family time. Had Chuck and I lost our minds, thinking it would be a good idea to veer from the traveled-and-true vacation route that usually brought us to the timeshare at the beach? Oh honey, let's road trip this year, go to the mountains, rough it. Rough it? How could that have seemed like a good idea--
"Okay, you two. If you can't share that DS, I'll take it away." Wow. My voice sounded so calm and controlled...even though I was this close to losing it. I smiled.
"How the hell can you look so happy when the kids are being so noisy?" Chuck asked me. He glared into the rearview mirror. "Quiet down back there!" he roared. A vein bulged in his temple and I had the insane temptation to reach over and rub circles around it.
Mesmerized by Chuck's temple, I didn't see the animals in the road. When Chuck slammed on the brakes, my relaxed body slid forward and would have hit the dash had it been 1979 and I weren't wearing my seat belt.
When I followed Chuck's stunned gaze, I saw the bear cubs in the middle of the road.
"Whoa!" the kids said in hushed voices.
"Those are Grizzly cubs, kids," Chuck said in a knowledgable tone. "Aren't they something?"
Lydia started opening her door. "I'm gonna get a closer look."
"NO!" I shouted in unison with Chuck. Lydia gave us a weary, oh-please-you-guys-are-losers look and closed her door.
"What's the big deal?" she grumbled.
Just then, the cubs reared up on their back legs and the heftier one swatted at the slimmer one. "Oh look," Chuck said, "they must be brother and sister."
Everyone laughed but me. All too aware of how grouchy I felt a moment ago when my kids were arguing, I thought to myself, If those two cubs are siblings, that only means one thing...
My family jumped at the thunderous, grouchy growl behind our car, but I simply said, "Chuck, when I sound like that you guys leave me alone. I suggest we do the same for her."
|Corporal Daniel Payne stared at the backseat window as the vehicle cut through the German countryside between the airport and Landstuhl. He didn't see the rolling hills lush with rain soaked emerald splendor beyond the glass. His eyes were fixed instead on his reflection, devoid of color. Shadows were the eyes staring back at him, accusing him, condemning him. And in his mind he heard screams. It was the screams of the women caught in the crossfire as they huddled against the side of a building, wrapping their bodies as best they could around the small forms of their crying children. Payne had been ordered to fire, fire, fire on the insurgents. He tried to close his eyes, but it didn't matter. The memory played out in high definition whether his eyes were open or closed, whether he was awake or asleep. He rocked silently in his seat, begging for relief.
The car swung into a circular drive in front of the largest US Military Hospital in Europe. Payne knew he was here to receive treatment before being sent home. Discharged. He'd become useless the way he was.
An officer opened his door and escorted him into the building. It smelled like any hospital, filthy with the stench of cleanliness. They crossed several hallways and ascended many floors, and Payne was dully aware at one point that he couldn't find his way out if he had to. They arrived at double doors marked "Amnesia Ward."
Payne looked up at the officer. "Sir? I don't have amnesia, sir."
The officer replied with a nod and pushed open the door.
Payne was ordered into a small room, equipped only with a swivel chair next to a narrow bed. A doctor entered behind him and asked him to stand at the wall.
"Corporal, when the lights go out, please place your hands on the panel here." He indicated a square screen mounted into the wall, the only decoration of any kind in the room. "Do you understand, son?"
Payne nodded, and the doctor left, closing the door behind him.
Payne stared at the wall, and a moment later the lights went out. At the same time, the panel began to glow a faint green color. Payne's heartbeat picked up; his eyes darted around as uncertainty's cold fingers walked up his spine. He reached out a heavy hand that trembled slightly.
The instant his hand touched the screen, a force he couldn't describe or understand seized his body. He went rigid, eyes bulging. Before him, hundreds of tiny green numbers rained down his hand. As they fell faster and faster, a prickling sensation crept up his fingers to his hand, then up his arm and eventually to his head. He was sure his hair was standing on end. That was the last coherent thought he had.
When he awoke, he lay in the bed and the doctor was peering down at him. "How do you feel, Corporal?" he asked.
Payne squinted in the light. "Where am I?"
"You're in hospital in Germany. You had a head injury in Iraq. Do you remember anything about it?"
Payne thought hard. "No, sir. No, sir, I don't."
"Well, we'll take good care of you, son. As soon as you feel stronger, we'll get you back to the front lines where you belong."
"Yes, sir!" Payne replied with a salute.
|Fran closed the lap top and pulled off her glasses. She rubbed her tired eyes, reveling in the itchy relief and ignoring the insistent parental voice in her head whispering how bad it was for her eyes. She stretched her arms over her head and her back popped along the spine. She was pleased at the progress she'd made with the draft of chapter fifteen, but it was late and she needed some shut eye before work tomorrow.
Shuffling down the hardwood floored hallway, she stopped suddenly. Tilting her chin, she focused her hearing on the faint sound carrying on the still air. There it was again. It sounded like Maggie was crying.
She carefully opened Maggie's bedroom door a couple inches and hesitated, listening. A quite snuffle sounded from the darkness. She pushed the door open wider and a slash of soft light fell from her to the pink ruffled bedskirt.
"Mags, what's the matter?"
Maggie walked to the edge of the bed. "Nothin sounds pretty sad," she said softly. She nudged the small form of her daughter until she moved over, then Fran snuggled down under the covers with her seven- year old.
Entwining her fingers with Maggie's she asked, "So what's really the matter?"
Maggie's voice wavered when she answered. "I miss Daddy. Why does he have to live at his house with stupid Natalie? Why can't he come back here with us?"
Fran let her breath escape slowly, noiselessly. She hugged Maggie closer to her. "Did I ever tell you the story about Adelie, the penguin?"
Maggie shook her head. Fran went on.
"Well, Adelie was a beautiful penguin living with her mothre and father in Antartica. She was very happy because her mommy and her daddy both loved her very much."
"She was lucky, both her parents lived with her," Maggie whined.
"Yes, at first," Fran said in a cheery voice. "But Adelie's father learned that there was more food on the other side of their frozen island, and he wanted to go there and not worry about where he was going to eat. Adelie's mother didn't want to go. She loved the view of the sunset from where she and Adelie lived. so the mommy and daddy decided to make Adelie's life as rich as possible, with all the sunset and kisses her mother could give her," Fran popped a kiss on Maggie's cheek, "and all the good food her father could send them from the other side of the island. And everyone lived happily ever after."
"Did Adelie's father marry an ugly old penguin named Natalie?" Maggie grumbled.
"No, silly," said Fran. "He married a beautiful bird named...Tanalie," Maggie giggled at her Mom's silly made-up name, "and they decided to have a little penguin brother or sister for Adelie."
Maggie sat up and stared at her mother. "Really?" she asked hopefully.
"Really," Fran smiled, hugging her daughter. "Now its late, you need to go to sleep."
At the door, Fran turned at Maggie's voice. "Mommy? If its a girl, maybe Daddy will call her Adelie."
"Maybe. Night night, love."