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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/item_id/554627-The-Writing-Practice-Journal
Rated: 18+ · Book · Writing · #554627
Encounters with the Writing Process
From Kathleen's bids



New Intention:

Now in 2017 and the following years, if any, I shall use this journal for whatever I please to write. *Rolling*
Still, I reiterate: Read at your own risk!

Old Intentions:
Now, starting with June 2013, I will use this journal for the entries for "I Write in June-July-August . Afterward, I'll go back to the part I have down below in red. Still, read at your own risk
. *Laugh*

Now, starting at the end of 2010, I am going to write into this journal directly, without making any other copies. Freeflow, but from prompts. I may use prompts or simple sentences as prompts, which I'll put on the subject line. I'll probably use some of the prompts from the Writing.com app.

And yes, I do intend to make a fool of myself, because I miss writing on a good old fashioned typewriter with no other cares. Maybe some ancient and wise author like Dickens will watch me from Heaven, shake his head, and say, "You haven't made a dent." Not a dent, but making my own mud is my intention. So, if you read, read at your own risk. *Laugh*


Truth is, I had started this journal in 2002 for the different reason of writing down ideas on the craft of writing. Over the years, my personal blog took over what I wanted to do here. Afterwards I continued with writing exercises with no order or plan to the entries. And now, this.

Who says I can't let my hair down! Okay, I can't because my hair is short. *Wink* But I've got nerve.

*Flower4**Pencil* *Shamrock* *Pencil* *Flower4**Flower4**Pencil* *Shamrock* *Pencil* *Flower4**Flower4**Pencil**Flower4**Pencil* *Shamrock* *Pencil* *Flower4* *Shamrock* *Pencil* *Flower4**Flower4**Pencil* *Shamrock* *Pencil* *Flower4*



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October 23, 2020 at 2:34pm
October 23, 2020 at 2:34pm
#996563
She always sat on the bench by the fountain. It was her move, and Aiden’s countermove was to amble about as if he were taking a walk, ramrod straight to make his body seem taller than it could ever be, imagining his short stature didn’t belong with him and that she seemed to like his company.

Thus, approaching tentatively, he would wave at her, then would make himself comfortable crouching on the bench next to her. It felt like a cosmic event and it had seemed to be working as Aiden’s long -term goal was to establish an emotionally close relationship with Penny.

“Hi, Penny, how are you, today?”

Then, they would begin chatting. All through his planned coincidences, Aiden never sensed any resistance from Penny. It was as if she approved of these so-called chance meetings.

Until today, when Aiden walked toward the bench by the fountain. When he caught hat sight of Carter, sitting next to Penny. Carter, the tall guy who was both on the basketball and the football teams and on the Dean’s list to boot. Carter sat sprawled with one arm behind the bench where Penny was, obviously expressing his ownership of her.

Aiden slowed down feeling a terror in his bones as if he were losing his gait. As if his being there was now a forbidden act. As he slowed down, he saw Carter put something in Penny’s hand. Penny looked startled and at the same time her eyes found Aiden walking on the path. Carter saw Aiden, too, and waved at him; then Penny did, too. Aiden waved back not daring to disturb their universe or the universe in general that always backstabbed him. It was the pattern of his life, the fabric of his being with bits and pieces of his past following his shortness throughout his life.

So, he kept on walking all the way to the other end of the campus. On his way back, he saw that the bench by the fountain was now empty. He went to it wanting to kick it, wanting to break every slat on it, but he just sat on it exactly on the spot where Carter had been sitting and sighed. His sad frustration now overpowering him, he closed his eyes and felt the place where Penny was sitting when his fingers hit against something, something cold, small, and metallic, but he couldn’t grasp it. Baffled, he opened his eyes and saw that there was nothing on the bench where he sat. Immediately, he heard several shrill clanging sounds right under the bench. What was it he had made fall through the slats?

He stood up, his eyes searching the cement ground. When he bent down to look under the bench, he saw the small key chain with only one key on it. A serrated tiny metal thing encompassing its own entry, a cherished possession. That key had to have the ability to stop or enter someone’s life, but whose was it?

Suddenly, he realized it. He had seen it. He had seen Carter put something in Penny’s hand. This keychain had to be it. A romantic talisman, an invitation, a self-packaging of importance. The importance of the tall, handsome Carter, a tangible reality of what the world was made up. This bulkily knotted world identifying only with its only brand of choice—the outward looks of things and people. Aiden wasn’t going to let this world get to him. He would face it and throw the keyring at Penny’s face.

He found her in front of her dormitory, talking to another girl. “Penny,” he called to her triumphantly, “I have something that’s yours.” The other girl smirked at him before leaving Penny’s side and entering the building. “Aiden? What is that?”

Aiden held the keychain up high and jangled it. “See? This!”

“That is not mine!”

“I saw Carter give it to you.”

“Carter didn’t give any such thing to me. The only thing Carter gave me was a piece of gum. Where did you get that?”

"It was on the bench where you were sitting with him a while ago.”

“Silly! Carter had to go to practice and I had to drop a book at the library. It must belong to someone else. Give it to me. I’ll give it to the house mother, so she can find who lost it.”

Aiden dropped the keychain in Penny’s hand. A coincidental mishap? Of course, he didn’t believe her, but why expose his feelings for her? Why risk being vulnerable?

“Yeah,” he said, “Sure, you take care of it, Penny.”

------

Oct. 03, 2020-- CONTEST ROUND: Plot Background Story
All the other non-contest assignments are in "2020 NaNo Prep


October 17, 2020 at 11:23am
October 17, 2020 at 11:23am
#996091
His own house glared at Aiden. The heat of the summer evening crisped his skin, adding a buzzing inside his head. He took the first step going to the front door, but on second thought, he turned away. He didn’t want to go inside yet. Inside, where Penny had to be hiding her secrets from him.

He looked at the bench a short distance away, half-hidden in the shadows. He took a few tentative steps toward it, then lowered himself on it. The crescent moon’s light mixing with that of the flickering street light at the corner was increasing the pallor of the bench. He touched the seat of it with his hand, feeling its peeling paint. It labeled him, marked him, showed him his status. His status had no luxury of pride, as he might be the man betrayed.

Everything was spinning out of control just like the fly that kept landing on his nose and around his mouth. It had to be attracted to the leftover sweet smell of the ice-cream he had licked sloppily, a few minutes ago, on the way home. Why did sweet things attract flies? Why would his wife generate a pull on a man other than himself?

He felt the fly circling around his head, the sound of its wings artificially loud in the quiet of the night. He waved his hands around his head, but the fly was adamant. Finally, he caught it in his hand and squished, feeling the tiny wetness of its last moment.

This place was his domain, his turf. A fly had no business being there to pester him. In the dim light, he could see the form of the darkened oak, the largest tree on the front yard, where the asphalted driveway began at the sidewalk of the narrow street.

The unmown grass had to be visible from the lawn. He decided to take care of it soon, before his next-door neighbor voiced another complaint. An imaginary scent of freshly mown grass filled his nostrils, and a sudden breeze whispered softly, “Do it!” Then, it stirred the leaves of the trees.

Aiden sighed, his breath puffing out low and warm, soothing the rougher edges of his mood and this black moment. He wet his lips and raised his eyes to the dark haunting form of his two-story house. It seemed to shake lightly like his stern aunt’s forefinger, accusing him of others’ crimes. But this was his house, with the smaller oaks around it, their wayward branches caressing its roof. He could see it fully, even with eyes closed, in all its different shades inspired by the time of the day and the quirks and habits of the seasons.

He could also see the entire area in his mind’s eye, with roads surrounding the house, then in their surreptitious manner, leading to the Long Island Expressway. When he thought about it, the rest of the place, all the distance to the South Shore and Manhattan, was difficult to visualize in detail, although, when he drove on the roads, he knew them as if they were etched in his brain and he never got lost. Still he could not imagine them like this garden in the night, the terrain of it where he knew every inch. He could praise it to the sky or leave it unattended. Wasn't it his choice?

Suddenly, a flash of light caught his eye. The light from the kitchen window. It had to be midnight by now and Penny had to have come down for a drink of water, or better yet, to check if he had returned. Then, he heard the kitchen door creak open.

“Aiden? What are you doing sitting in the garden in the middle of the night? It is hot out. Come inside.”

Yes, they had central air installed before moving in. His skin would probably feel better inside, especially after a shower.

“Coming!” Aiden said, adjusting his voice to a louder, happier pitch. Penny should never guess what worried him and what he was up to.



---

Oct. 03, 2020-- CONTEST ROUND: Setting Background Story
All the other non-contest assignments are in "2020 NaNo Prep


October 9, 2020 at 6:41pm
October 9, 2020 at 6:41pm
#995494
Antagonist Background Story

No Church, No Consolation



         Perhaps the church would heal him, calm him down. Just maybe. As Aiden began sitting down, a church member tapped him on the shoulder to let him know that the seat was reserved. Who reserved pews in Church?

         It had to be his height again, or rather the lack of it, that drew vindictive actions from people. A darkness gathered on his face and rested there, but he rose obediently and crouched down in the only empty pew at the back.

         His mind now began evoking other things, with all kinds of scenarios ending in Aiden’s long lingering agony, this shortness of him, the elevator shoes that didn’t help. Only Penny had the power of charming away his brooding over his stature, over Carter, and all the other tall boys in school. Penny who was the golden knotted twine that tied Aiden to Carter and to Aiden’s painful past.

         Penny, the sound of her voice, the light of her giggle, the touch of her fingers. How could she have left him for Carter while they are all fledglings in high school? Granted, she might come back to him, but only after Carter would ditch her. And Aiden would gratefully accept this second-place to Carter. He knew he would.

         He grated his teeth, recalling a recent incident. The incident when all three of them were attending the Easter dance in the school’s large auditorium, crowded to suffocation, with teachers and chaperones.

         When Aiden, to make up for his short build, had climbed on a bench to see where Penny was, he was ordered down by Mrs. Reed, “Get down, Aiden!” Mrs. Reed, the teacher with the habitual scorn on her proud face, had flung herself upon him again, her anger at Aiden’s impropriety raging like fire.

         Yet, just before jumping off, Aiden had stopped spotting them, dancing cheek to cheek. That Carter, wrapped in his greatness of being the super student and football hero, stealing his girl.

         Not that Penny was officially Aiden’s girl, but she was the only girl who gave him the time of the day, and he had received her attentions with gratitude. He had been grateful because no other girl had looked his way. Ever! The reason, he surmised, was this shortness of him blocking any recognition from all those defiant girls.

         “Aiden! I am telling you. Get down!”

          He jumped then, without looking, right on Mrs. Reed’s feet, clad with short-heeled black pumps. Her screams in pain were neither ladylike nor slight nor ordinary, but unequalled in intensity.

         Such sordid luck! It had gotten him a day’s detention. All because of Carter.

         Maybe, he hardly knew Penny. She was so changed. No more that sweet smiling girl in Aiden’s imagination who would look toward his desk with interest and a wish to please.

         The service hadn’t started yet. His amiable intentions had made another mistake. Aiden glanced at the altar with an apologetic expression, drooped his head, and rose. No church for him today. No consolation.

0000000000000000000

Oct. 03, 2020-- CONTEST ROUND: Antagonist Background Story
All the other non-contest assignments are in "2020 NaNo Prep


October 2, 2020 at 6:35pm
October 2, 2020 at 6:35pm
#994864
Aiden's eyes shot wide open, blue and startled.

"Get under your bed, Aiden," he heard his father's voice. In an instant, he was off the bed and on his feet, feeling the chill of the late afternoon. The house was shivering, too, and the floor under his bare feet shuddered.

The six-year-old Aiden ran into the closet. How could he trust a bed in which he was made to take an afternoon nap against his wishes!

This had to be a game, San Francisco's game, fated during the Creation. The big one that came on October 17, 1989. No tell-tale signs with this one, but it was big enough to sink and crash the entire house.

Aiden, now 36, leaned against the back of the chaise-long on the porch and closed his eyes tight to recall.


A steadily clamped mouth, as if a notch carved at the bottom of a strong head, with a sense of calamity. Why can't he remember more of his father? Yet, his mother, how fine boned she is! So frail, and slim, with her protruding belly, carrying the brother which will never come. Yet, Aiden recalls the baby things, spread on the sofa from the purchases of the day before the earthquake hit: several brand new blue overalls with Donald Duck, Teddy Bears, and Superman on them; milky-white diaper-bundles, Johnson's Baby Shampoo and Powder, tiny socks, and a pair of baby shoes. He has tried so many times to imagine the baby feet that could fill those shoes, but it wasn't meant to happen.

Then, no more San Francisco for the orphan Aiden, a lonely child. He is in Long Island, now. Kings Park. A different place. Uncle Matthew's place. Aunt Nora who faults Aiden for just about everything, and to begin with, for existing. Granted, she is already over her head with Aiden's older cousins, Julia and Ivy.

Thinking back…Sometimes it hurt; it really hurt, Sometimes, he panicked because he didn't know how to handle it all. How could he know in his early ages that in stressful times of change, those who have a stake in the act of kindness could make the object of their kindness a punching bag?

"Aiden is wild. Don't believe him. He is lying because he has a switchblade. He's hiding it," Aunt Nora is screaming at Uncle Matthew, Aunt Nora the cheater, Aunt Nora who Aiden saw kiss another man in the living room, when others weren't home, and Aiden talked about it in his uncle's presence.

"No, Mom, that switchblade isn't Aiden's," Ivy butts in and is immediately sent to her room. Julia stays quiet, although she watches Aiden standing by the open window, bawling, and she knows the switchblade never was Aiden's but hers.

One single really bad earthquake. That was all it took.

====

Oct. 03, 2020-- CONTEST ROUND: Protagonist Background Story
All the other non-contest assignments are in "2020 NaNo Prep
October 19, 2019 at 12:06am
October 19, 2019 at 12:06am
#968097
October 19-CONTEST ROUND: Setting Description
Describe a setting in words. Use all five senses and make your reader experience the setting as if he or she were there.



The Enchanted Forest


In the distance, the mountain was covered by a dense, heavy fog that would possibly break into heavy rain soon and torrents would pour down the mountainside into the river with a cackling sound as if making fun of the land. For the six trekkers, it hadn’t been too difficult to reach the dense bushes before the forest, even though they felt light-headed and their skins itched.

They sat down to rest on the wet moss among the bushes scented with crushed minty ferns and debated among themselves whether to venture further into the indistinct, forbidding forest where the birch woods and the pine woods gave way to deep dark and lofty trees with enormous leaves of hunter-green and scaly thick barks. There, edible sweet young shoots, baby mushrooms with healing qualities, and birds’ nests full of warm eggs could ease their hunger.

Just when they were savoring the sweet and sour tastes of different berries from the bushes, a deer manifested itself out of thin air and came galloping past the six people. As it ran it looked back over its shoulder at the larger beast running after it. Other smaller beasts followed. They were all in a hurry. Even the black bears were escaping into their dens.

“What is happening?” Myrtle May exclaimed. The others were just as puzzled, but before they could offer an opinion, a low sound emanated from the ground, which they felt in their hands and knees as some sort of a vibration. That sound turned into a continuous hum and rose and fell in pitch together with the trees and the wind.

“It is the wind singing,” murmured Neema.

“No,” said Andy. “Look!”

Tiny sparks of light, more like fire, flickered about them. Then, a smoky mist filled their lungs, making them cough and choke. Sure enough, a dragon appeared, puffing and rattling rapid-fire through its nostrils. The creature was massive but absolutely stunning. Its powerful wing muscles fit snugly on broad shoulders, and it ran, waving its wings that were adorned with silver and mother-of-pearl scales that dipped into thalo green and copper-red tips. Its crystalline eyes were glowing, insect-like; however, they weren’t looking at anything else but up at the tops of the gigantic forest trees yonder.

A brilliant light flashed and glowed beyond where the travelers could see, and a great crackling sound, as if a hundred twigs were breaking, filled their environs. The dragon had just taken flight over them and soared away into the forest.

“Are we still going into that forest?” Adrienne Colvin asked in disbelief.

“Why not?” Fritz grinned. “You can’t really believe what you can see with your eyes in these parts of the world.”
July 3, 2018 at 12:00pm
July 3, 2018 at 12:00pm
#937303
Today is July 31, 2018. 806 PM. Down below is what I wrote when I started this project. I can't believe I finished it. It isn't such a big feat but I have a very busy real life. And just for that, it was very difficult to come up with a story each day, inane though the stories might have been.

Still, I am giving me a pat on the back and promising myself to never do such crazy stuff ever again, especially alone and on my own. *Rolling*
*Bookopen*----------------*Bookopen*

July 1, 2018
Someone asked me to try a-story-a-day, but I have no desire to go to another site for anything. So, I decided I’d try writing a story each day here. It is better not to spend too much time on them, not more than 15-20 minutes or so. Some days this may even be a sentence or an idea, and I am sure some of those stories will be crap, but I think it will be worth a try.

I’ll see what happens in July and if I can pull it longer than a month.

*Bookopen*----------------*Bookopen*


July 31, Tuesday, 2018

Incubus


The sound of the engine wakes Sharon, but when she opens her eyes, she sees her father instead of her mother in the driver’s seat. She turns her head away to the window on her side to stifle the anger and push away her tears.

Outside, rows and rows of trees intercepted by rows and rows of fields with cows on them flash past her window. What happened? How could they get away from her mother?

“Dad?”

“Yeah, Shar?”

“What happened?”

“Don’t you remember? I got your custody…finally. So, I’m taking you away.”

Sharon remembers in a haze. The party in the house. Her mother’s boyfriend in her room…”I am Incubus,” he’d said. Sharon calling her father…Sharon calling the police…Protective custody…foster parents…Her dad…

“Sorry, Sharon,” her father had said when he picked her up. “I couldn’t be there. I was out of the country.”

His words keep coming to her now, although he isn’t speaking at the moment. His dad must be nervous, too. Sharon doesn’t recall him being this quiet, as the few times as she has seen him.

“Dad? Where are we going?”

“Far away. Probably the West Coast, somewhere. Where she can’t reach you.”

Sharon reaches for her backpack on the backseat next to her. Her most favorite things are there. Her I-pad, phone, Polly Anna, the book that was her foster mother’s gift, her notebooks, her tiny MP3 player, change of clothes, sandals, nightwear, toothbrush, comb…She handles them one by one. She’ll survive.

She wonders if her dad is better than her mom. He’s taking her away…at least that.

She takes a deep breath and turns slowly toward the window again.

The engine sputters and stops and the passenger door opens. Oh, God, no! Her dad is giving someone a ride. Hitchhikers are dangerous. Doesn’t he know that?

“Henry,” says the stranger. “I’m Henry. Henry Coles. Thank you, Sir. Next town or Bisbee if you’re going that way.”

“Bisbee, it is, then,” says Dad.

Sharon sees the stranger’s head from the back seat, but she saw him better earlier. A young man with large sunglasses and a funny hat too big on his head. But his voice, or maybe his tone, she doesn’t know which, it just doesn’t sound right. Kind of mechanical like a robot talking. Sharon feels like roadkill with this strange guy up front and her clueless dad driving.

“Don’t worry Sharon,” says Henry Coles. “It is downhill from here on. Your life will be terrific.” Just how did he know her name?

Sharon watches the towering rocks on the side of the road and closes her eyes again.

When she opens them again, Henry Coles is not there.

“Dad? Where did he go?”

“Who?”

“Henry Coles. The guy you picked up.”

“I don’t know any such person. I never pick up strangers, Sharon. What happened? You keep dozing off. Did you dream this?”

No, she hadn’t. But then, maybe she had. Incubus at work giving her head trips, vagaries, or things dried, burnt, cooked too long, coming alive again. Just maybe.



July 30, Monday


Accomplice


She was someone he loved. Someone he could not help but love. A mate in fact. One of the guys. Someone he felt he could have a beer with, share a joke or two, since he had known her for a long time.

He loved her hair, reddish golden. The hair of a goddess. She waved at him as she drove by in her white Honda Civic with a monogram on the back of the driver’s seat. He didn’t always catch sight of it, but he knew it was there. Her license plate said FLEX 32, whatever that meant. He always wanted to ask but never got around to it.

It was early summer but spring-like. Everything was fresh and light-toned green with a tint of yellow. He sort of wished she would stop and talk to him today, just for a minute or two. But, hearing the crunch of her tires on the asphalt, he watched her as she drove by his store, her reddish golden hair wavering in the wind behind the windshield.

Except…except she laughed like Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a Dracula, as she raised her fists and punched the air. So unladylike, but it was not his business to bring that up.

She also smirked when she didn’t like what someone said. Not a frown but a smirk. One had to study her to understand what her each gesture meant.

He didn’t expect her to return, and when he heard the noise of a siren at a distance, he came out of the store, wiping his hands on the flaps of his half-open shirt. That was when her car appeared and stopped in front of his store. A stroke of luck, he thought. A real stroke of luck.

She got out of the Civic, slamming the door and sauntering over to him.

“I need an extra hand to carry...err bury...something? Can you help?”

“Oky, doky! Just a sec.” He yelled to the inside for the boy to mind the register, then he followed her to the Civic.

“Pleasant day,” he said, as she revved the engine.

“Not for me,” she said. “Got a mess in my hands. Gotta get rid of a load if you know what I mean.”

He nodded agreeably although he wanted to ask what that mess was, but he didn’t for she was really flying on the road, and since he had heard the sirens earlier, he worried about the sheriff catching them like this or him throwing up all over the place since fast driving wasn’t his thing. Instead, he kept opening and closing his fists as if exercising.

Abruptly, she stopped the car, which lurched forward, suddenly giving out an angry groan and finally halting. He thanked his lucky stars for the seatbelts or else he would have flown right outside through the windshield.

“Follow me,” she said, and she rushed out to follow a tiny path that snaked around an old dilapidated cottage and curved out into the woods in the back of the property. He took sturdy steps after her without too much haste. After they’d walked a while, they came to a small clearing. Suddenly she whirled around and faced him. “Please, do not ask questions. What happens here didn’t happen. Okay?”

Mesmerized, he just stared at her. Maybe he didn’t quite get her. If she wanted something, some trash dumped, they’d do that. What was the big idea, now!

“Nothin’s the matter,” she explained. “We gotta bury something. I just shot at someone to scare him off, but he wasn’t so lucky. You see, I ain’t a sharpshooter.”

He didn’t answer, but he looked around. Not much to see through the overgrowth except for a big trash bag at the bottom of a tree. That had to be him, the man she shot. Then he noticed the shovel lying on the ground next to the bag.

“Come on!” She pulled him toward the bag.

His hesitating manner made her blurt out a laugh, her Vlad-the-Impaler laugh. She walked ahead of him and undid the knot.

“Come, look inside,” she said. “No, there ain’t no murder. I was just pullin’ your leg. This is my Da’s. If the Feds pick it up, he’ll spend his last days in the slammer. See?”

Inside the bag, was a huge copper moonshine still kit, broken in parts, obviously due to her handiwork.



July 29, Sunday

Earth Time



There was only one way for Lydia. She could escape. But where? With time travel gone wrong, she couldn’t know where she could land.

The doorway to life is always open, she heard the directions, although only as a whisper. So quaint, so welcoming, so olde world charming, or if you wish where you left it last.

She didn’t know that was possible, but even that possibility. frightened her. She murmured, making a choice, “Okay, Earth where I left it last…”

When she opened her eyes, she wondered why the light was coming from the wrong side of the room and why the windows had moved to the opposite wall. Strange place.

Then, she recalled. Something had happened. Something bad. Really bad.

That something really bad made her really mad, which helped her to hold her tears back. Anger sometimes helped not to cry. The thing was what made her mad was also the thing that made her shed tears. And all that had to do with Philip.

She knew she should never accept a long-term relationship with a time traveler, but Philip seemed to know what he was doing and he had some kind of a pull on her. She closed her eyes and tried to recall what he had said about the images of moments floating freely in the universe. She couldn’t recall well. Only because she was new at this and couldn’t get a grasp of the vastness of the universe or its possibilities. After all, according to Philip, everything was a possibility and she didn’t want to live with possibilities anymore. So, she had left him, taking the universal GPS’s advice.

As Lydia tried to sit up in the bed, vertigo took over. Her vertigo was always a laughing matter. Anyhow, to Phillip she was a joke, someone he could dump at every crossroad, especially if things got sticky on occasion.

“Just hold on!” Someone said, in a voice she recognized. “Stop being so pessimistic, Lydia.”

Startled, she looked into Philip’s face with the funny smile on thin lips.

“The door isn’t always open to wherever we want to go. You weren’t on time. We’re ten years ahead.”

“Earth time?”

“Earth time.”

“You came with me!” The sudden realization startled her.

“I won’t leave you again. I am not pulling a fast one on you. I can’t because you have no concept of time. I can’t afford you lost out there. And there’s that thing.”

“That thing?”

“You. Me. And the time stream. Sometimes it flows haphazardly. Its randomness may not always be to my choosing. But life, this life on earth. The door to it is always open, I’m told.”

“Then, you will stay?”

Philip pinched the bridge of his nose, and in a huskier voice said, “I am sick of wondering and worrying about losing you inside a hub or a weird crossroad, or inside the barriers of thick mists.”

Lydia repeated her question. “Then, you will stay with me?”

“Yes, we will stay here, together. Earth is pretty in any era.”

Lydia wasn't mad anymore.



July 28, Saturday

Basketball


She ran with the ball, dribbling it all the way to the basket.

Thump-whump-thump-whump-thump-thump……

She was so good at it, too, and didn’t let anyone of the other team steal it. It was the last game of the season. Her last one, also. Then, while she was trying to make the basket, the other team's huge defense stopped her, but they couldn’t faze her. She snaked around them and sent the ball back to one of her teammates who scored three points from behind the line. Those three points won them the game.

Now, she smiled sadly and readjusted her shoulder bag. Then, she walked slowly, a quiet tune escaping her whistling lips.

Thump-whump-thump-whump-thump-thump…

The fact was, she wasn’t on the basketball court anymore. Instead, she was trying to make her way to the Supermarket, with the aid of her cane that made sounds similar to her dribbling the ball, for she always recalled how fast she was at the right front on the basketball court sixty years ago when anything made the sound of a basketball's dribbling.

Thump-whump-thump-whump-thump-thump…

She stopped to rest leaning on the cane. So many memories…Blink, blink, blink… and she shattered the illusion, but as soon as she began walking again, she saw the basketball in her mind’s eye, and the sound waves carried themselves around with her without reason…or maybe with reason.

Anger, love, forgiveness.

Forgiveness of others of an ancient time who didn’t let a young girl follow through a career in basketball.

Now, if only she could make it to the Supermarket in one piece...

Thump-whump-thump-whump-thump-thump…


July 27, Friday

Guilt


Outside on the corridor after the meeting, Murry avoided colleagues and nurses. For that so-called meeting was a meeting in name only. It was, in fact, a how-not-to-punish-a-colleague mission.

Murry knew, inside himself, he could never remake something that was destroyed, like a hand of a patient or his image or what he had done.

How could he have done that! How could he let things go this far! How could he not have checked for himself if there had been a mistake! It was, as they claimed, someone else’s mistake in the data, but still!

Joel had presented the evidence, insisting that an operation was a team effort, and someone else, not Murry, had entered the wrong data into the computer. Yes, Murry should have checked for himself, but what could the board expect after the man had taken care of several people’s woes earlier due to a traffic accident. Yes, the hospital would face a lawsuit. But the misconduct was understandable on the surgeon’s part. It was a serious error as the board realized, but why put all the blame on one person? After all, wasn’t Murry the most respectable, the most accomplished surgeon on the staff? Wasn’t Murry the one who had erected a hospital in an African country and worked with Doctors without Borders? Shouldn’t the board protect the name and reputation of such a person and try to avoid a national exposure by accepting the terms of the patient’s lawyer?

“Great presentation, Joel,” the chair had said. “The problem is the patient’s lawyer is asking for Murry’s punishment, but he also said the patient likes him.”

“That smells money,” Michael Kagan said. “In which case, our insurance could cover it, maybe. Depending on what they ask.”

“We all know Murry,” Joel said. “We all know how good he is. Doesn’t that count for something?”

“Maybe we can point the finger at the computer,” Arlene Weiss, the internist, said. “It might be a computer glitch for all we know.”

“On all counts, we need to avoid any wider investigation. Anyhow, I submit we claim no medical misconduct.”

The vote was unanimous, but Murry knew better. He was in the midst of it. He barely could raise his head and say anything in his own defense or else.

When Joel caught up to him as he was entering his car, he thanked Joel for the defense. Then, “I am the one to blame, Joel,” he said, and he meant it, but then, only he knew the extent of his own guilt.

Several days later, the mistake was taken care of by the hospital board and litigation was avoided.

What nobody knew or would ever know was that this Murry was Marty, Murry’s twin brother, and he had never finished the medical school, unlike the real Murry. The real Murry was long dead in an accident when both brothers were in the same car when a semi had hit them.


July 26, Thursday

Lack of Trust



Vandan Khan’s figure was twisted but Bethiel recognized him anyway. He knew she would even before she became visible like the whirlwind and sat high on her throne of copper and gold. She still wore the pendant with seven corners of ruby tacked on a platinum chain. It was the amulet he had given her, but Vandan Khan showed no recognition as he stood with his hands tied at the back and his head lowered.

Bethiel’s throne spun around, moving closer to Vandan Khan. At that instant, Bethiel’s guards drew their swords. Bethiel raised her hand to the dark cloud hovering above her and drew something from it. At the same time, she motioned the guards to put their swords away. Once the blades were safely tucked away in their scabbards, Bethiel addressed Vandan Khan. “Vandan Khan! Friend or Foe! What is the meaning of this? Why were you in Conayra’s army, knowing she’s no friend of ours?”

Vandan Khan lifted his head and looked at her, his eyes glowing white. “I wasn’t!” he said. “Conayra captured me, tricking my household. With the powers you were bestowed with, you should know that, Bethiel.”

“What now, Vandan Khan,” she taunted him with her sinister chuckle. “Those powers need refurbishing. Besides, I want to hear your treason from your own mouth.”

“There is no treason!” Vandan Khan said.

“My cloud says there is!” Bethiel looked up at the dark cloud over her head. Then, she threw the object she had drawn from the cloud at Vandan Khan, who directed his sight at the object, pulverizing it.

“Your sight won’t protect you much longer,” Bethiel shrieked. “Unless I do the untwisting.”

“I told you the truth. And You won’t be able to keep your throne much longer without my help.”

“Maybe,” said Bethiel. “But don’t forget you are the one who left me.”

“I left you to stop Conayra and I was rather successful at first, but she tricked my guards and penetrated into my tent.”

“Why am I supposed to believe you?”

“You are the witch. You should know.”

Bethiel handled the pendant she was wearing. “It is this, isn’t it? You gave this to me to put me under your spell, and you united with Conayra.”

“If you believe that, why are you still wearing it?”

“I am not wearing it anymore, but you will. Now, I am putting you under my spell,” and as she said that she unhooked the chain and held the seven-cornered ruby in her hand.

Vandan Khan laughed. “I am already your prisoner, and that’s only a trinket.”

Bethiel threw the ruby and the chain at Vandan Khan’s feet. ”Onier, put this around his neck,” she ordered one of her guards.

“It isn’t polite to return a gift in such a disgraceful way, Bethiel,” Vandan Khan said, but he let the guard put the amulet around his neck in a docile manner.

The Ruby glowed at the end of its chain and as soon as Vandan Khan’s gaze fell upon it, it grew bigger. Vandan Khan’s ties came apart instantly. Bethiel screamed. The guards drew their swords again, but the flashes from the ruby turned each sword into a twig with little green leaves on it.

“Too bad, Bethiel,” Vandan Khan said. “No student of magic should treat her teacher so terribly. As of now, I am taking away everything I gave you. If you lose to Conayra, it will be your own doing. Heck, probably you have already lost.”

Bethiel begged,“No, please, don’t!” as her throne disappeared and the cloud over her fell on her covering her, making her smaller, much smaller, turning her size to that of a rodent, and becoming a grey furry coat covering her body.

“Too late,” Vandan Khan said as he exited the place. “You should have believed me. Trust is the most important thing when you are still a student.”


July 25, Wednesday


Game Room



Melissa didn’t give a damn about the stolen watch. He could keep it. The papers in the safe were untouched. She figured the alarm scared him witless. Was the disk that held the codes with all the important data in it untouched?

He wasn’t unattractive she thought as she watched from behind the screen, unbeknownst to him. The screen had glittered when he had turned facing it. He had to have been wearing contact lenses. She had wondered if they were for better sight or for changing the color of his eyes. But she hit the button to get his face full view, and then the alarm.

As always, Melissa could be quite persuasive, and she steered her controls across the board, then gave him a sweet smile. “Do your job!” What a genuine badass, and she pulled on the joystick.

Melissa hurried then and flung a deterrent in front of the escaping man but not before she pulled out her laser. The man had to have felt the heat flush his face. He lifted his hands to his face. When he lowered them, his eyes together with the contact lenses dropped from his hands.

The deterrent jumped him, coming from behind. The robot-man disintegrated into pieces.

Melissa looked at the pieces and retrieved the watch from among them. “What a pity,” she murmured “It was a good-looking robot, but could he have done something to the disk, like messing up the codes or something? He was a robot, after all…”

“Of course, but I didn’t see it from the screen,” she answered herself. “All robots steal from others’ codes, but I don’t think...”

Before she could finish her words, she was almost thrown backward as everything on the screen exploded. Darn! The robot had certainly messed up the codes, Melissa realized, making her lose the game.

Just then, Melissa’s mother texted. “Where are you?”

“I'm in the game room!” she texted back.

“If you’ve survived the blast, come down to the kitchen for milk and cookies!”


July 24, Tuesday

Pearly Gates


I can’t help thinking about death. My mother’s…my own…Somehow they seem to have merged together. Meanwhile, I am trying to breathe with short gasps and I clutch at the wall for support.

It takes time, this grief. Although I acted stronger than everyone else at the time, I was wrong. Again!

Acting brave is not the same as being brave.

A large warm hand rests on my arm. “Are you okay?” the man asks. “What’s wrong?”

“I just was…” I pause. “I don’t know where I am.”

He wraps his arms around me. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll take you up. The stairs are difficult for anyone.”

My inner voice tells me to breathe, to stop holding back my sobs, my thoughts…my life.

I suddenly feel lifted up. He is not going up the stairs. He is flying over them. When we land, he lets me on my feet, but all I see are clouds down below.

“Just a bit more,” he says and lifts me up again.

When he puts me down, I am in a totally different place, an alien place. He offers me his solid upper arm and I take it for him to guide me through a pair of double doors. They look like bifold patio doors but so much bigger.

“How do you like the new décor?” he asks. “This is what we did. We modernized the place. Now, we have these doors instead of the Pearly Gates.”

“Thanks,” I tell him faintly. I am not trying to breathe anymore. I don’t need to.



July 23, Monday

Impulsive


So unfortunate! Although he was a successful entrepreneur, Duncan had impulsive urges forcing him to act or cause a turbulence. Most of his impulsiveness was on the passive side like driving fast without the seatbelt, closing his eyes when crossing the street, taking part in rebellious demonstrations, or smoking in his mother’s kitchen when he went to visit her. All because he liked to get a reaction from others. He enjoyed the sights of innocent people who went about their own ways suddenly becoming shocked at his unexpected escapades.

Even when he seemed as if he were idling, this wasn’t the case. In fact, he usually concentrated, thinking his way through the bristles he might cause for people to work their way through. He knew very well that a respectable mayhem could be started by planning with coolness, calm, and reliability. He also didn’t think much about what happened to him as a child or if he had any fun while growing up. What happened was what happened. All that mattered was the present, and he was the one who made his present interesting.

And today would be interesting, really interesting, as it was his father Rich’s seventy-first birthday. His father was an upright senator for many years who the people had once believed would drain the swamp, and promising to do just that exactly like others before him and probably those that would come after him, he had bravely jumped into the swamp. Yet, loving the murky waters, he had become a beast of the swamp instead. Still, he led a reputable life because he looked respectable, and he looked respectable because he always wore a tie, even to bed. Who knew when he would be called on to give a speech or sign a declaration!

So, today the party leaders as guests and the news media alerted to the happy occasion, Duncan hovered about with a secret plot that put a smirk on his face from the minute he woke up that morning. And why not? Didn’t politics involve everything sardonic in some backward universe sort of way, with a fake intellectual and capitalistically societal face?

With that in mind, Duncan had hired a couple of strippers to delightfully appear while Rich was cutting the cake in front of the television cameras. It was a clandestine move and involved the support of a secret service guy who had it in for Rich but with Duncan's promise that, just in case, he would be left out of it, should they ruffle some feathers.

Duncan’s mother wasn’t especially wild about the idea that Duncan was planning a secret gift for Rich since she had grown suspicious of her son’s capabilities over the years, but she went along with it, not knowing what the secret was. She hoped just maybe this gift could make the relationship between the father and the son improve, and also, she thought the two women who arrived at the house in nuns’ habits would do something cultural as they had carted inside a large box full of thick books, which they had stacked in a corner of the dining room and hid them behind a folding screen.

How was she to know that, in her large, impressive dining room with high ceilings and French doors, Duncan would announce his gift during the champagne toast, as the show by the veiled sisters of an exotic order, and the books would be arranged as steps for the women to rise above the eye levels of the guests as the women stripped off their habits and their bikinis under them?

She had certainly expected something else other than what she now observed and made her sick, for Duncan’s jacket was off with his shirtsleeves rolled, revealing his thin skeletal arms as he danced with the strippers. Now, she certainly knew her son would get the reaction he had been pining for.

Then Rich, his face cast in a devilish shade of red, after squirming in his seat and not knowing what to do while the women danced, suddenly screamed for the show to stop and ordered Duncan out of his sight for life. Duncan’s lanky legs froze in the middle of his excited dance while the news media went wild, some cradling the birthday party as the wild one and Rich as the wronged father while others ached for the neglected son. For weeks or maybe for months, the tabloid psychologists would try to figure out the ins and outs of the relationship, stepping on one another and getting all over themselves.

Afterward, Duncan would host a startling conviction that his impulsive urges might actually have a ghastly nature in them, but in no way, would he be giving them up.


July 22, Sunday

Mercury


Barry felt it inside his teeth, in the fillings that still had mercury in them. He felt it when mercury made his gums twitch. He reasoned mercury was a signaler that alerted him to something being off, as the leaves under his boots gave off a grating, crushing sound. Then, his feet hit something solid; he flexed his hands and looked down.

There was a woman on the ground half hidden by the rust-colored leaves. Barry assessed the situation. The woman could be dead or too hurt to move. He walked around the woman. Then, he sucked in a deep breath, held it and let it go. He licked his finger and held it under the woman’s nose. She was still breathing.

He dragged the woman who was still unconscious under a tree, dusting off the leaves off of her. The woman was tall and heavy. What else was he to do? He a weakling of a man who was only five feet three, with the nickname Midget. No wonder!

He couldn’t carry this woman, and he was hesitant to drag her any further for fear that if she had something broken, it would get worse. To get help, he couldn’t leave her alone, either. What if she died until he came back with other people…No one would believe him. The Sheriff was already wary of him for his drunken behavior. They’d think he'd killed her and all his goodwill was a cover-up.

Each man for himself he thought and turned to go. He’d just leave her there and let the Almighty figure out what to do.

“Don’t leave, just yet!” a husky voice called after him.

Barry whirled around. The woman’s eyes were open, watching him. He gave her a big guilty smile. “I was going to get help,” he tried to say but his voice crackled. The woman stood up suddenly, brushing off her clothes. She was so tall. Maybe twice as tall as him. Her height reached to the lower branches of the huge tree she stood under. More than seven feet, even eight or more… Who was she? What was she?

“I was only sleeping,” she said. “You woke me up. How dare you!” She took a step toward him.

“Who are you?” he stuttered, stepping backward.

“Delia,” the woman said. “I live in the woods. Everyone thinks I am an elf. Silly people!”

Delia? The one Milton wrote about?

“Yup, the same and only!”

She just read my mind!

The lines reverberated inside Barry.
like a wood nymph light,
Oread or dryad, or of Delia's train,
betook her to the groves, but Delia's self
in gait surpassed and goddess-like deport,


Barry took off in a hurry while Delia chuckled then doubled in laughter after him. He ran like the wind as if all the bloodhounds in the world were after him.

When he thought he was out of Delia’s sightline, he stopped and looked back. He didn’t see her. He stood and listened. No more laughter, No Delia!

He walked fast now, very fast, all the way to the roadside where he had parked his truck. Instantly, inside his mouth, the mercury twitched his gums again. “I’ll find you!” echoed Delia’s voice in his head. “I can get the signals from your mouth.”

Barry panicked, sprinting once more.

“Hey, Barry, where are you going? What’s the hurry?” Cal, the plumber from the town, called to him from his car as he drove by.

“To the dentist,” said Barry, hopping into his truck. “I’m having all the mercury taken out of my fillings.”


July 21, Saturday

Inside the Swamp


At the deep end, the swamp’s pond is thirty feet deep. At its edges, five inches of muck lap the rust-colored sand. At its center, an island rises for gators to crawl on and enjoy the sun.

Inside the heaven of the swamp, mystery is a lonely computer with algorithms of life and death. If the old eleven-foot gator had a hat, he would tip that hat to all those who disappeared to witness the afterlife.

The two boys come here to shush, curse, and crushed against each other while walking along the edges, and the brackish water wrinkles like black cotton. What they don’t catch sight of is the eleven-foot gator, its jaws agape, its scales gloomy black. It watches them for it has seen things it shouldn’t have seen.

The old eleven-foot gator is afraid for the boys. Sometimes, the shushes and the curses excite the young gators and whoever is walking on the edge is no more, although turtles, fish, and birds are the more desirable gourmet bites.

The whole clan of gators, however, are on the island now, shoulder to shoulder, tail to tail, which is a rarity for mostly any gator enjoys being alone. They’re all on the island now because the water has become dark and viscous, slithering serpentine but in a different pattern. Another hurricane! as the old gator knows. He has to alert them. So, he roars, grunts, and hisses. All the gators dive into the water, going as deep as they can. They’ll be safe under the muck.

But the old eleven-foot gator worries for the boys, and he suddenly splashes on the edge of the pool close to them, to make them scream and run away. For as soon as the winds die down, all the gators will go on land, looking for scraps like hungry drunks looking for bits to eat. Then they’ll become frisky, and anything and anyone on their path will have gator-toothmarks on them. The old gator roars again after the boys to make sure they don’t fool around outside anymore.

After the boys are gone, the old gator lets itself sink under water, pleased with itself to have done its share to spare those he cares for. It will come up, again, for good when the winds finally moan and die down and the moon is caught between the fronds of the distant palms.



July 20, friday

Destiny


She thinks she dreamt it all. All those gunshots, their noise breaking her windows, the growls in the night, and her running barefoot under the rain and finding a hiding place inside a cluster of trees.

Her body feels stiff and clammy and the sheets gritty and damp. She sits up, throwing back the covers. She stares at the sheets, mystified. Her brand new sheets are muddied with scrapings and pieces of grass on them. Her feet are dirty, too, as well as her nightgown.

The next morning, the same dream and the same sight when she wakes up. Maybe these are not dreams. Maybe the fates are pushing her toward her true calling.

She thinks of seeing a shrink, but what if they put her into an asylum? She couldn’t bear that.

She realizes her chickens have come home to roost. This may mean on an overnight visit to her mother.

Her mother says on for the phone, “Oh, that’s nothing. Stay with me for a few nights, and it’ll all go away...and then some...you know.”

She loves the idea. Staying with her mother, the enchantress, a few nights, except for the snakes that always tickle her whenever they hug. After all, her mother’s hair turned to snakes when she conjured up Hecate in an incantation.

Still, it is worth the trouble, to let go of her realistic everyday life, the life she once preferred over what was ordained for her, all because her mother can heal her of those dirty dreams and her unbearable life in the present.

Muddy sheets or Hecate…The choice is easy now. She realizes she needs to come to her senses.

It is probably time for her training to begin along her family’s destiny and fortune.

After all, who can fight against what is already pre-determined?



July 19, Thursday

Laundromat


Zoe held John Grisham’s new book, Camino Island, tightly under her arm as if it were as priceless as a Tiffany diamond and pushed the shopping cart with her laundry basket in it toward the Busy B’s Laundromat. Zoe always brought a book to this place. The hum of the machines and an occasional glimpse at her clothes churning behind the circular window added to her reading experience, which she considered particularly delightful.

Even the arrest of the criminal, Roberto Kitsch, three days ago, who was sitting next to her with a worried frown on his face as he watched his clothes in the opposite washer didn’t take away from Zoe’s experience. She had only looked up from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold for a second to notice the two policemen walking toward the man.

A white-haired old woman who had arrived right at the heels of the police had pointed to him and said, “That’s the one, Roberto Kitsch.” Next thing you know Roberto was in handcuffs and was being taken out by the police.

Zoe had felt so bad for the guy that, after the washer with his clothes in it had stopped, she had put them in the dryer paying for them with her very own hard-earned coins, folded them, placed them in a large plastic bag, labeling it, “Roberto Kitsch’s clothes,” and had left the bag on the long rectangular table for folding clothes

She never took into account what the man had done to that old woman and she didn’t care. Old women in the laundromat had been a pain in the ass because they liked to make small talk and they’d never shut up. Roberto might have been a criminal, but at least, he had sat quietly next to her, letting her read.

Now today, she stopped at the door of Busy B’s, not believing her eyes. At first sight, she thought the laundromat was closed. The wide glass window up front had been boarded up with wood planks and there were still tiny pieces of glass on the sidewalk. But the door wasn’t locked and there were customers inside. She pushed the door open and walked in. Without the window, the place looked dark and dingy, even though every ceiling light was turned on.

“What happened to the window?” she asked the woman standing by the wall whom she knew to be an employee.

“A jerk broke it to get his laundry inside. He wrote a message on the table that said, ‘Thanks, Roberto.’ With a marker, too. Can you believe it? My skin almost tore off while cleaning it.”

Zoe turned her head away to hide her blushing face. “Oh, oh! Sorry!” she said, meaning every word.


July 18, Wednesday

Fangs


The night took a ride on his shoulders coloring him in its black ink, but only the nightbirds would know the difference between the darkness of the night and a dark man, Lenny, walking into the night.

At daylight, the gutters on the buildings would wake up clogged by his darkness, as if suffering from cirrhosis, but then, Lenny would be the one sleeping until dusk in his coffin, something akin to a slammer with rusted bars. No saint could exorcise the darkness out of him anymore.

It was fun in the beginning to take just a little and not have to kill anyone, but twice, he had goofed and took blood from the same people. They were understandable mistakes. The first one was a woman who had dyed her hair a different color. The second one, sometime after Lenny’s first feeding, had hurt his feet and was in a wheelchair; Lenny hadn’t recognized him. This had turned both these souls into what Lenny was, into the victims of eternity's imprisonment, and into his rivals of the feeding ground. Now, they were both living with him, in the rundown attic of his family home.

Lenny was irritated; life had become impossible, unreasonable. He felt he was on the edge of violence especially during the early-evening feedings. Another failure would make his existence even more unbearable.

Next night, Lenny rested his head on the front door. He was so tired. He needed a feeding very badly. Still, he pushed himself to open the door.

“Where are you going?” It was the wheelchair man who had miraculously gotten rid of the wheelchair, becoming cured by a five-month-old baby’s blood.

“Out!” Lenny’s voice was terse.

“Wait for me,” the two said in unison.

“No, you need to fend for yourselves.”

The woman crossed her arms and stayed silent for a minute, fixing her eyes on him. “It’s you who did this to us,” she barked.

The words hurt, and Lenny stared ahead. “You’ve got to realize this is serious. You are becoming impaired and unable to feed yourselves.”

“You caused this,” the man said. “But I am not complaining. Look I can walk and I am really healthy. I’d rather be this.”

Lenny tilted his head toward him. “That’s why you should learn to feed on your own.”

The woman interjected. “I can’t walk the streets on my own. I am a woman; people may take advantage of me. They’ll think I am a streetwalker.”

The man guffawed. “So what! Let them. Aren’t you worse than a streetwalker, now? Besides, you can lure them to feed on them. So much the better.”

The woman shrugged. “I have my standards, but I’d rather not be alone.”

“Why don’t the two of you go together?” Lenny offered. “She can attract them and you can both feed.”

“What if we don’t?” The woman was defiant now. “Are you the Chief of Service to take away our privileges!”

“But Lenny has a good idea,” the man said. “Let’s go together. We’ll let them think I am your pimp. It’ll be fun.”

“In that case,” the woman’s eyes sparkled. “We can hunt by the Springfield Harbor.”

“It is the next town,” said Lenny, breathing with relief. “Which is a very good idea. The three of us in the same place will attract attention of the wrong kind.”

Lenny opened the door wider and stepped outside.

After him, the man whispered to the woman, “We’re going after Lenny. We’ll feed after him, making an army of us.”

“Something like a sporting event,” the woman said, as they walked behind Lenny, letting some distance fall in between.

“Lenny won’t know what hit him!” the man said.

On their pale faces, their fangs glowed in the dark.


July 17, Tuesday

Toy Gun



Joseph looked at the gun still in his hand. A phantom killer, but it had the guy backing up, who had threatened to come back with backup. Lucky, he had saved it when his daughter had moved away, a year ago, with her son. Yes, a phantom gun, a kiddie toy.

It was vulgar maybe what he did, but he needed time, time to store away his possessions. The repo people would be back even as soon as tomorrow or in a few hours, Joseph was sure, and they might even put him in shackles and manacles, to make the angels in Heaven cry. But if the angels were crying, why didn’t they help him? Hadn’t he been the kind they always applauded? Just because he was 89 and forgot to pay taxes o to make payments, why did they allow those things to happen to him? Now, he had just found out that a gun, even a toy one, did better work than all the angels put together.

Was that what the voices in the wind were telling him when he was standing on his weedy lawn? He went upstairs and took out his old army-issued rucksack, put in a change of clothes and his slippers, his deceased wife’s diamond ring, the money he had squirreled away, and a few other items that were important to him. He couldn’t take his ukulele or his other important belongings, a pity, of course. But as it was, the rucksack was heavy enough.

“How bad could it be,” he murmured. He’d walk slowly, taking his time.

It would be better than everything being repossessed and him being thrown on the street, capturing the attention of his neighbors. What a nightmare of an embarrassment that would be!

He would try to walk to Wendy’s. Not the fast food place, but her daughter’s. He was sure she’d put him in an old people’s home. She had told him that was her intention, some time ago.

Before he left the house, he turned back to retrieve the gun. He’d give it back to his grandson. This way nobody could say he pulled a gun on the repo man. On second thought, he put the gun in his pocket. Who knew what could happen to him on the way?

Leaning on his cane, he took another look at the house. He had forgotten to lock the front door, but did it matter! He shrugged and began walking.

He paused for a second and felt the gun in his gun. No, he wouldn’t give it to his grandson. Besides, his daughter’s house would be the first place they’d search for him and find the gun.

As soon as he walked to the end of the block, he felt tired. He stopped and leaned against a tree. No, he wouldn’t throw away his rucksack, which was pulling him down and making each step a step from hell.

“Hey, Joseph!”

He turned and saw the neighbor from two houses down. He raised his hand and waved.

“You need a ride back home?”

“No, I am going to my daughter’s,” he said.

“Hop on, I’ll take you.”

“You sure? She lives behind the mall.” That meant the next town and this man probably wanted to go home himself.

“Okay,” his neighbor said. “Not a biggie. Hop in!”

“Thank you,” he said, moving toward the car. “I don’t want to impose, but I guess I am feeling my age.” He put the rucksack in between his feet and sat next to the driver.

As he drove, the neighbor made small talk about his bank job, his son, and politics. Joseph threw in a word or two to show he was paying attention and that this conversation was important to him, but the engine’s noise was cutting his hearing in half and he only understood less than half of what the man was saying. His head began to fall with a sudden attack of sleepiness, but he made himself sit up, hoping this nice guy didn’t notice. As he did so, his hand brushed against his pocket and he felt the gun.

The gun! He had to get rid of it before they arrived. He couldn’t open the window and throw it out, as the mall was already in view.

“You tell me which way, Joseph,” the neighbor said and he did, but as he talked he took the gun out, and acting as if he was reaching for his rucksack, he slipped the gun under the passenger’s seat.

No one would search under the passenger’s seat in a neighbor’s car. Joseph was safe now.



July 16, Monday
The New Teacher
(Based on a Personal True Story)



It is not easy to be a new teacher. It has only been a week, and she feels rundown, already, but she had to work hard to get this job, and she is not going to complain or ask for the principal’s help.

She can feel their negativity directed at her. In the parking lot. At the entrance, hallways, classroom. They whisper things so outrageous, she thinks there might be something wrong with her hearing.

They giggle slyly, always. Loudly laugh, sometimes. Obviously, her students revel in their guilt and in her softness.

Their noise levels sometimes rise even during class. When that happens, she bangs the ruler on her desk and says “Quiet!” in a stern voice. It helps, but probably because the first day she tapped the ruler on the desk, the principal who happened to be passing by entered the room and told her class, point blank, “If your teacher tells you to be quiet and you don’t listen, you’ll get detention.”

Shouldn’t she be learning from him? She had always wanted to become a teacher, a good one whom the students trust, can talk to, and respect. Why was it so difficult now?

It was, is, difficult because she is a mouse. Last night she wrote down what went wrong and why she wasn’t able to do things the way she wished.

To begin with, she has been a mouse where her extremely strict mother is concerned, and this has carried on to the other areas, even to boyfriends, but today is a new day, and she has decided to change things, to show firmness. Change only comes from within, she always thought, but now she is also giving credit to good discipline.

After she exerts some power today, inside and out, she’ll find a place to move away from her mother’s. She is not going to be a mouse, anymore. Anywhere!

After the students take their places at their desks but they are still talking to one another almost out loud, she bangs her ruler on the desk and moves to the front of the room. She is a tall girl and, standing up, she signals power.

“Today,” she says, looking at every young face, ”You and I need to talk. I was easy on you because we needed to get used to each other. But that is over.” She stops and gazes at them seriously.

“To be able to finish this course and get credit, you’ll have to do a lot better in every way. I don’t want any one of you disrupting the class, making noise, or showing any other impertinent behavior. Also, during the class, you will raise your hands to ask for a chance to speak. People who don’t respect me or his classmates or disrupt the class will see the principal. And you know what that will do to you.

“And for each negative behavior, your grade at the end of the semester will go down five points. Now that I’ve told you what things will be like from now on, are there any questions? Please, raise your hand if you wish to speak.”

She looked around the room. They were looking at her with surprise on their faces. She felt like hugging every one of them, but she forced a frown on her face, and continued, “Today, we’ll discuss your reading assignment and remember to raise your hand if you want to speak. What do you think about….”

She knew it wasn’t over. She knew they would challenge her, but they would change because she would change.

Why she was changing already! She didn't feel like a mouse anymore.



July 15, Sunday
Moon Dust
(A Modern Fairy Tale)


Why, it was just the right piece of land to build a business on! Ellie stopped and gazed lovingly at the empty parcel. She imagined her restaurant on it, tapering columns built of brick in front of its double glass doors for customers to enter…She held her breath as her lips twitched. Her name flashed in Neon lights on top. Ellie’s.

She closed her eyes. Inside a circular bar, and tables after tables covered with white linen tablecloths with lit candles on them, several booths lining along the two opposite walls, a hallway in the back leading to the office and the inside entrance to the kitchen, and at the end of the hallway, clean restrooms for customers. A dream so perfect, so doable, but requiring a great deal of cash. Cash she didn’t have.

That night, the moon hung heavy and low in the sky, with its golden light hitting the garden wall and the lawn, wrapping the world in its glow. Ellie, not being able to sleep was sitting on the steps leading to the front door, enjoying the glow the moon sent to the world. “Can’t you also send answers to dreams, dear Moon?” she whispered, recalling the empty lot and her dream restaurant on it. As if an answer, a blur darted toward her, then froze, turning itself to a golden wand. Ellie reached to it, muttering, “So lovely!”

The wand leaped off before she could grab it and it raced away into the backyard with Ellie running behind it. She caught the wand or thought she did, but on her palms, only its golden sparkles were left. "Oh well,” Ellie mumbled, “Too beautiful, to believe, anyway.”

At sunrise, she woke up with her heart beating wildly as if some wind was funneling through it, but when she sat up in her bed her heart became calm. After breakfast, she left the apartment she was sharing with her brother and walked on to meet another day of a job search. Still, for some reason she couldn’t put her finger on, today she felt comfortable in her own skin, unlike her earlier days that were mostly filled with worry. Peculiarly, the rising sun at her back felt like a promise as she walked.

Soon, she reached the road she had taken the day before while she had been walking with her brother. Then, everything seemed to flow in slow motion until she spotted the restaurant from afar. The restaurant, the same exact one she had imagined. Oblivious to the presence of other people on the road, she moved slowly, as if in a trance, toward its double doors. Sure enough, on top of it was her name. Ellie’s.

“Ellie, we are waiting for you. Everything okay with you?” A woman with thin lips and a uniform of a kind with the name Estelle emblazoned on it and who seemed familiar waved her in, but Ellie couldn’t imagine how she knew her. The only thing that escaped her lips was, “I am here!”

“Finally!” answered the woman. “We need your approval for the changes the cook made with some of the dishes.”

Ellie walked around the place in amazement. Everything was the way she had imagined the day before. And how quickly the place had been erected to her specifications!

Ellie rubbed her palms together, then stared at them. They were still shining with moon dust.




July 14, Saturday

Only a Knife


The clearing was encircled by bushes with tall trees behind them. He dragged her toward it, despite the fact that she was still struggling. The lovely Madeleine, her loveliness no one would ever see again. No one would hear while she screamed and begged for mercy. His mercy. For he was the one she turned her head from when she passed by him on the Company’s corridors. The one she snubbed when he asked her to have coffee with him downstairs in the cafeteria.

He had just turned a new leaf, promising himself not to fall back into his old ways, but Madeleine had done it for him; she had broken him. The old secretary what’s her name, Alicia the gossip, had told him Madeleine was the new girl on the top floor and he should stay away from Madeleine because Alicia had seen her enter into a conference with the big bosses. No other newbie had ever entered those conferences except for associates or so Alicia had said, which made him want Madeleine even more.

No real reason, just that he liked to break women, especially when they had power over others. That she was a looker had been the icing on the cake. And now, he had her. That was all that mattered. The hardest part was the finding the darn chloroform. After that, she had lain in the back seat as if sleeping. This was what could happen to snotty women. He shook his head as he dragged her. He hadn’t counted on the fact that she’d be out of it so soon. Because of that, the tying and dragging had to happen. The truth was he never liked to tie them up. Ropes left marks and marks could point to something or other.

Anyhow, he would get a few kicks first. He would do it all in a beautiful ceremony at this holy place. After he would be done with her, he’d leave her here and go to the coast. This time he could use his brother’s name as his own. He had set everything up already. His bags were packed, waiting for him in his rental car, and the sun would set behind the woods in a few hours. By then, he would be finished with Madeleine and would be on his way. Let her haunt him after that.

“Why are you doing this?” Madeleine mumbled through the tie on her mouth. What a miracle that she could speak through his expert handiwork!

“Because that’s what I always do,” he said truthfully.

“Always?”

“Yeah, always. What did you think? You were the only one?” He set her down on the edge of the clearing and pulled his knife out of its leather case. “Now the fun begins,” he said, approaching her. “My holy fun.”

He lifted the knife in the air and waited for her to beg. Instead, she had pulled her knees to her chest. That meant he had to use the knife for her to realize where she stood or rather where she was sitting. He moved nearer but before he could make a cut on her, she kicked him hard with her feet, which were tied together. This he wasn’t expecting, and he fell, sprawling on the ground.

“Don’t move!” he heard a command as several men came running from behind the trees.

What? How could she have ambushed him? Of course, GPS. He hadn't taken into account she could have some kind of a GPS thingamagic on her. How could he? He had thought of her as only a lowly office girl.

“Police!” One man yelled while another one untied Madeleine.

“Good job, Sergeant Madeline!” another one said.

“Drop your weapon!” Madeleine ordered him.

What weapon? It was only a knife.


July 13, Friday


Clare, the Witch


Clare the witch would have liked to watch television tonight to let the inanity of the late-night-show host’s words wash over her, lulling her to sleep, but tonight was not that kind of a night. It was Friday the 13th and witches did not watch TV on such nights.

So, she mounted her broom and took off, looking for victims. Finally, she saw a couple, at a far distance, as illusory as a scene in a novel or on screen. Didn’t they understand the fragility of life, that in a second, their well-planned future could be altered?

Clare thought about dismounting and facing them head-on. Instead, she flew around them, cautiously without a sound even though the ether tonight was made up of thin, fragile substances as if they might fracture at any moment and expose her if she weren’t careful. She kept circling around the couple, around the garden table from where they were watching the full moon. She kept picturing a dark light, an amorphous glob, in suspension over the couple. She concentrated on that light and visualized the dark rays entering their bodies, washing them, flooding their innards, darkening and reversing things inside them.

But what was that? There was another heart beating. Another heart inside the woman. A baby waiting to be born. No, a dark light wouldn’t do. Never a dark light for any baby!

She quickly undid her spell and tried to summon tenderness to this couple who were sitting quietly, holding hands. Then, she reached her hand toward the moon and gathered all the white light she could hold and sent it to the woman first, then to the man, even though the dark light she had taken away from the couple was now gathering about her.

So what! I can turn this into another black cat! Clare thought, as she turned the black light into a furry ball. Better to play with a black cat instead of listening to the disgusting jokes of the late-night TV hosts who have become far too political for my taste.

She took another look at the couple who were now about to kiss. If they had taken their eyes off of each other, they’d have spotted Clare the Witch flying away against the face of the moon.

for Halloween and elsewhere




July 12

First Recital


She couldn’t believe what she was capable of when out of her left hand poured a stream that spiraled into an upward river, and when she stretched her right hand, the river puckered into a fast-flowing current causing a waterfall, and through her fingers eddies carried twigs and a kayak over the boulders. “Your timing is excellent,” said the maestro and the applause and the thrum of the approving voices from the audience caused her tinnitus as she fled from the stage.

This was what Jen recalled when she opened her eyes in her bed that morning, the morning of her recital. The minute she opened her eyes, her fears drove into her as well the stirrings of excitement. What if she forgot the notes or drew a blank or her hands suddenly refused to move on the keys?

She went through the morning like a robot, through a pre-scheduled hairdo and dress rehearsal. The recital was in the afternoon, and her mother tried to calm her down all through the earlier hours. “You’ve worked very hard. It will go well. Even if something happens, you just go on. Remember what your teacher said.”

Yes, she remembered well. He had drilled it into her. And now, he was telling it to her again, behind the stage. “Make the melody sing. Start softly but make it rise before the arpeggio. You know this. You can do it. Now go, and make the audience feel your drama.”

And he pushed her onto the stage.

Jen almost fell as she walked on the stage, but averting her eyes shyly, she curtseyed to the audience. Then, at the piano, she could not stop staring at her hands, trembling and pale. She reached to the keys with her left hand first, then her right. She leaned over to the keys, far too close. Then, with a sudden feeling, she remembered, again, her dream. She turned to the audience with a strained smile on her lips as her eyes caught her parents sitting in the first row, expecting her to begin.

She turned her head away and closed her eyes, and just as soon as she did that, her fingers started flowing on the keys. She felt herself swelling, growing larger, and pouring away into the piano. Now, there was only music cascading, rushing, sparkling into a thousand waterfalls.


The applause was tremendous. Every member of the audience was on foot, clapping, and this went on for quite some time. Her teacher came on the stage and holding her hand bowed to the audience with her, even smiled at her as if he were the main player on stage.

But now, all Jen wanted was to go home and tear open a Klondike bar. She might be considered a prodigy, but she was still an eight-year-old.


July 11

In the Bar


Aaron watches as he sips his beer thinking, So much action in a small place! But it is cold outside and he needs to warm up a bit before he faces his cold rental flat. Two drunks are fighting over sports or something or anything. Not a girl though. Drunks don’t fight over girls; they only make fun of them. Now, punches are thrown and customers surround the fighters. Just a stupid fight at the bar. Aaron watches them and the barmaid slipping down, in rapt incomprehension.

The two men suddenly stand apart in shock and shudder at the sight of the barmaid on the floor, a gash on the side of her head. “only an accident,” the owner says. “She slipped and fell.”

Then, he calls for drinks on the house for everyone. “Please, sit down. She’ll be helped soon. She’s fine, breathing. Just knocked out a bit.”

How can anyone be knocked out a bit? The owner is like the crocodile that slips its dirt-colored body into the river, denying violence. Slick with a thin smile he kneels down to lift the girl’s head on the crook of his elbow.

Soon an EMT a and a paramedic arrive to tend to her and take her out of the bar on a stretcher.

Aaron turns his face away from them toward the wall, in case he is recognized, while he is still sipping the same beer, ever so slowly. He feels it is him, wading into this river of crocodiles, his mouth opening for each sip, for the humid, dense feeling inside the bar. He puts the stein down on the table and checks his neck for scales. Maybe, he too is turning into a crocodile that hunts for herons to tangle their feather along the muddy bank. Has he no shame?

But he has been like this ever since his wife left him, soon after their five-month-old daughter Willow died. His Willow, now a fragment of a dream, billowing in the dust.

Don’t children die? Don’t they die all the time, taking a part of their parents’ selves with them?

Aaron had seen how the barmaid fell, sidestepping to avoid the fighting men. She fell because she was hurrying toward him after he had signaled her. And he did nothing, although he was a doctor. Although he had been a doctor, once. Now he watches life like a museum visitor, circling around people as if they are articles on display, each one an enigmatic piece to view from every angle. How sad! How ridiculous! How ridiculous the sad! The sad like Aaron who is immobilized in silent panic in the face of his internal abyss.

He puts down a few bills near the stein and stands up, and with a sideways dip of his head, he nods at the owner who has now taken over the barmaid’s job. The owner murmurs something, but Aaron doesn’t hear as he is now stepping out of the door.


July 10

That First Sentence


Despite the extra-strong cold medication he took, Dirk doesn’t feel any better, and now, he fears he is going to fall asleep at the wheel and crash into something, but would his wife Lynda ever pay attention to Dirk being sick? No, absolutely not. It is Lynda’s sister’s birthday and they have to attend the party 450 miles away. And Dirk would rather crash into something on the side of the road than face his wife’s family members especially now, in his semi-robotic condition.

After 250 miles, Dirk says he can’t drive anymore. Lynda doesn’t have a license and neither can she drive. So, they stop at a wayside inn for the night. The birthday is two days away, anyhow.

On top of the table in the room, stand some magazines. Dirk picks up a Writer’s Digest. It is dated, really dated from ten years ago, March 11, 2008, to be exact.

“Who leaves such ancient magazines around anymore!” Lynda murmurs, but Dirk is happy enough to read something, anything, rather than make small talk with her in between his sneezes.

We know fiction covers genres like fantasy, with worlds that don’t exist, and genres like romance, with men that don’t exist. And yet, in the fifteen years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never sat down at my desk and started making things up. It takes me nine months to write a novel; sometimes more of that time is spent researching than physically writing,” says Jody Picoult in the essay called The Fact Behind Fiction.

Dirk abruptly lifts his head, his eyes sparkling with an idea. Why not treat this dreaded trip as research? Although he’s not a writer per se, he could write for vengeance. After all, he’s had it with Lynda’s pushing him around. He can do it, too. When in school, didn’t he always turn in good-to-great composition papers?

Suddenly, he begins asking Lynda about her family. Where was she when her sister was born? Does she recall her parents’ reactions?

Lynda is shocked. “What got into you?” she asks. “Do you have a fever, too?”

“I just want to know,” says Dirk. “Why is it so strange?”

Tonight, he’ll write or record the first sentence after Lynda sleeps. What did Jody Picoult say in the magazine? She said it took her nine months to write a novel. Nine months for a baby to be born, a baby of a book. A book with an edge. The edge Dirk will use as a dagger.

Dirk rubs his hands with pleasure. “I think you’re losing it,” says Lynda.

“No, not losing it,” says Dirk, “finding it.”

“Finding what?”

“That first sentence!”


July 9

Don’t Look in That Mirror


I barely ever looked into that mirror. Ever since I'd set foot in this place. That mirror seemed as if its silver shimmered and buckled, almost in motion. It had to be heavy, too, since it covered the entire wall.

I barely ever looked into that mirror because of shadows that seemed to move across it. When my eyes caught sight of it, I sometimes spotted a craggy profile. Of a voluptuous woman holding something in her hand, a wand maybe like that of Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Another time I saw her, she had an enormous crown on her head and wore a red flashy gown, but she seemed to be in a foul mood. So, I averted my eyes.

When I told the landlady that I wanted a room without any mirrors, she stared at me funny. “I have no room like that.” Then she pointed to the mirror. “She’s making you uneasy, isn’t she?”

I nodded, thinking maybe I wasn’t the only one in the loony bin heaven.

“Here, in Bavaria,” the landlady said, “Especially in this establishment, our mirrors store memories.”

“How’s that?” I asked. “Is it like they store videos of people?”

“Huh!” she snorted. “You must be a techie. Their memory bank doesn’t work like your contemporary thing-a-magics. They are real magic.”

“But I am not a techie. Far from it. Still, how does that work?”

“How should I know! You just look at it and find out. See what it has to tell you.” And she left the room in a huff, murmuring to herself, “Those crazy Americans!”

It took more than a little courage to look directly at that monstrosity, however temporary my brave action was.

At first, it was nothing. I just saw me looking back at me. I raked my hair with my comb while I did that. At least, I could comb my hair, which calmed me down somewhat. Maybe all that was in my head and the landlady was putting one on me, too.

Turning adventurous half an hour later, I took my comb again and stood in front of the mirror. The girl looking at me and combing her hair wasn’t me anymore. At least not me in the present, but me when I was a teen. That me-when-I-was-a-teen pulled her hair in a ponytail and stuck her tongue at me and disappeared. I stood stunned, unable to pull myself away from the mirror. Then, I felt a hand in my hair. Inside the mirror was my grandmother who had passed away forty years ago. She was combing a five-year-old’s hair. That five-year-old was me. Grandma turned to look at the now-me and smiled. Then she started braiding the five-year-old-me’s hair.

Suddenly, I saw her. That voluptuous woman wearing the enormous crown rushing at the images inside the mirror while holding a spear. I screamed, then physically held my head to turn it away.

Within the next few minutes, my bag was packed and I was out the door. Behind me, the landlady kept saying something about spoiled American tourists. Maybe Bavaria wasn’t for me after all. I should go somewhere nicer, somewhere like Lake Como. Who knows, I might catch a glimpse of George Clooney, instead.


July 8

Alternate World



“How would you like to live in an alternate world?” His son Mark’s question echoes in his mind again as he plucks the weeds off the flower bed. Should he be thrilled because the kid has an imagination or should he be worried because he is not all there?

He shrugs, then stops and sits back on his heels, noticing the sparkles on the leaves of the rose plant. When he looks up a raindrop hits his nose. Only a soft drizzle, but the gray clouds are in the process of blanketing the sky. He stands up and shakes each leg one after the other. After several minutes of crouching, he’s had it.

Yes, he’d love to live in an alternate world where the body obeys the mind better and living things do not have to feed on other living things. No wonder that Mark doesn’t understand this world. How can he when his dad doesn’t either.

He starts walking toward the house. The hum of the vacuum cleaner greets him even before he pushes the door open. Cindy’s back is turned to him but she keeps going, pushing her entire body into each move of the sweeper across the hallway runner.

“Wipe your feet!” Now, how did she hear him coming in above the noise! Maybe she’s in an alternate world. As if reading his thoughts, she clicks off the machine and turns to him. She nods in approval of his feet sliding back and forth on the mat.

“I just made tea. Come into the kitchen,” she says.

“It’s raining!” he says, just to say something while following her.

They sit across from each other sipping tea. “You must stop reading to Mark science-fiction stories,” says Cindy.

He answers defensively, “I’ve been reading from Brothers Grimm, not science fiction.”

“Then why is he asking about an alternate world? His question bothered me all morning.”

“He asked me the same thing and I couldn’t get it out of my head either.”

“Maybe they put that into his head in the nursery school, which he should be back any minute now.” Cindy puts down her teacup and rises. “I better go by the curb to meet him since it is raining.”

He watches her from the window. She is skipping on the flagstone path under an open umbrella even though the drizzle has stopped.

“Alternate world, it is!” he mumbles.

Funny how the kid could get into their heads!


July 7

Pizza


Something about the Italian restaurants. No other place is like them. That is, of course, when both the clientele and the owners are Italians themselves. So is Rufino’s in Port St. Lucie, although I can’t vouch for every single person who eats there. Take me, for instance. I do look Italian but I am not, but the people who work there don’t know this about me.

Today, at lunch, while biting into the best pizza in the world, my companion said, “Something’s happening!” I looked up from my pizza, which is a rarity because, with pizza like this, I see and hear nothing; however, I caught sight of a man rising up from his seat at the next table.

He was a tall, large man with tattoos on his arms, and he had made a single braid of his possibly very long beard. It was the beard that was eye-catching, not the woman sitting at his table whose head was in her plate of eggplant parmigiana. I know it was eggplant parmigiana because I smelled it. “That shows you not to cross me again,” he bellowed to the woman whose face still remained inside her plate. Three servers surrounded the woman immediately, I assume, from further harm. One of the servers lifted the woman’s head up. Her face was a mess of cheesy tomato sauce and eggplant bits.

Everyone, at this time, stopped eating and were watching with eyes like saucers as if this were a live show. And a live show it was. The woman grabbed a paper napkin and cleared her face as much as she could. Then she reached for her wine. I have to say the wine excels here, much better than anywhere else in the county or even the entire state. This was when the man had turned his back and was walking toward the door. The woman took a sip of her wine and closed her eyes in ecstasy. Why, wine makes everything better, right? Nope, she had something else in mine. She rose from her seat and with all the might of her four feet eleven frame she threw the wine at the back of the man with the braided beard. Geronimo! And what a shot it was! How's that for women's lib!

The man turned around with murder in his eyes, and I murmured, “Oh, oh!” while shrinking into my seat. But don’t shortchange the second amendment. Three guys with their pistols drawn surrounded the guy and led him out of the door.

The owner announced right then and there, “All drinks on the house. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks!” A round of applause followed. The woman was taken into the ladies' room, and when she came out, she acted as if not much had happened to her. She was served a new dish accompanied by a bottle of wine. Two men immediately sat down at her table, offering their support, I bet, for a share of her wine.

All around us, a lot of talk took place in Italian, which is one of my half-cooked languages. This means if I understand one word, I miss the next one, but still, I can get the gist of things. As long as I keep telling my server, “Grazie!”

Not much of a show, really, but the pizza is always heavenly here.

And as a postscript, where this story takes place may not be at Rufino’s or it may just be that I may have imagined it. In any case, I highly embellish my stories. So, don’t take them to heart. You know, that forewarned thing?


July 6

What You Truly Seek


“What is it you truly seek?” he asks, his voice clear like a running brook.

I shudder in surprise. A newbie, obviously. In training. Why me! I wasn’t even aware I was seeking anything. I am only following orders, walking and gathering data on this rocky surface with him following behind me.

This is an ancient star system we're on, and this planet’s face is intensely irregular with indistinct colors, but I notice residues of metals on a boulder and direct the metal-searcher machine toward it.

“Do you mean on this planet?” I ask to be sure.

“I mean in your life,” he says, softly. Oh, oh!

My life? What difference does my life make? So what?

“I never thought of that,” I answer. “I guess, now that we’ve reached beyond the solar system, I want to help the exploration process.”

“There’s more to life than that,” he says.

Oh, No! Another religious freak? I must alert the headquarters not to team me up with such newbies; that is, philosophers or freaks or free thinkers. Doesn’t he know free-thinkers aren’t allowed into world-headquarters’ secrets?

I decide not to answer him, but he continues. “Do you ever imagine that we are fools and all this is for nothing?”

I still keep my quiet.

“We are all creatures of our sun. What if you suddenly fall into something and perish? Then, what good is your life?”

“That is a possibility, as we’ve all been told. So what? Exploration is the most important thing for our species.” I say, parroting our instructors. I know this idiot is not yet told that we are always under observation.

“No, it isn’t. Thinking for oneself is the most important thing,” he says. “That should be the first thing we should be taught. Those who cannot think for themselves shouldn’t be allowed into a life of exploration.”

Now I am getting hot under the collar. He has to shut up before we both get into trouble. “Yeah, what can you do about it?”

“This!” he says as I feel his laser-blaster’s warm tip on the middle of my neck. “Death over Life!”

But I know better. I know when the enemy shows up. I suddenly jump up and leap forward, hitting the button on my vest. My robo-guard steps in between us, as the newbie falls on his personal blaster. In the next few seconds, his own blaster erases him.

So much for thinking for oneself! Got it?


July 5

The Actress


While I stood to the side, she smiled and posed for the photographers. Tall for a woman with gold streaks on reddish hair and huge hazel eyes, her asymmetrical features glowed; I thought she was jaw-droppingly beautiful; yet, somehow she seemed to be not quite human. When had she turned into this creature?

People were holding their cellphones up in the air, taking pictures. Someone pushed me aside to see her better when a shiny black town car with tinted windows pulled up in front of the hotel.

She traipsed toward the car unhurriedly, not from trying to appear natural but probably because of her stilettos. She suddenly turned around and pointed her finger precisely at me and said something to one of the men around her. Photographers, camera crews, her agent, and a couple of her bodyguards turned to me with a surprise on their faces.

Oh, no! I have always hated these situations and have never wanted any attention turned toward my direction, but she knew better. She knew what the public really cared for. She posed again leaning against the town car, while her people took me to her.

“Here is a delightful surprise for you, people,” she said, clutching my hand and raising it to her lips. Then she placed her arm around me and pulled me to her as I blinked when the cameras flashed.

“Meet my mother! Isn’t she a charm?”

Silly Girl!



July 4

Into the Woods


She ran into the woods, not minding the scratches in her hands and legs from the wire fence enclosing the camp when she snuck out from under an opening. She congratulated herself once she made it behind the trees since no one had shot bullets after her and nobody had heard her.

They had told the inmates that the woods were dangerous and no one came out alive once they were swallowed up by the shadows and secrets of the tree nymphs. She was jogging now instead of running, despite the snapping twigs and the whispers of the leaves. The woods had lured her and they meant freedom. Freedom from the Nazis. Well, Nazi-like people. Now, she had done what her great-grandfather had done a little less than a century ago.

A rustle behind the thickening trees startled her. Could it be a huge bear or a ferocious tiger? No, it only was a deer and her fawn, both watching her with large slanted eyes. As soon as she spotted them, they turned back and fled into the shadows. They ran away from her or probably from the howling of a dog. A dog?

It was then she heard her name called. She lowered herself to the foot of an oak and sat on the ground.

“Didn’t I tell you never to go into the woods?” Her mother towered over her while Max, the family dog, kept licking her face. “What got into you?”

“I was escaping from the Nazis,” she said in a small voice.

“There aren’t any Nazis. The Nazis are no more!” Her mother slapped her own forehead, then, and murmured to herself. “Oh, Grandpa! Why do you always talk about your experiences near this child!”


July 3

The Couch



“Thou shalt not make history on this couch!” her mother had bellowed the day she had caught Di with her high-school boyfriend Miles, after returning early from work.

While her mother’s words fell heavy, Di had looked at the snow outside, as Miles had hastily slammed the front door behind him, leaving footsteps on the soft snow. After that Miles had become history.

Now, forty years later, she was still looking at the same couch, with its middle sagging and the cloth covering it faded and threadbare. They’ll probably leave this at the curb, she thought. Her mother was attached to this big piece of crap. It was the first piece of furniture she and Di’s daddy had bought together. It was this couch that had first alienated Di from her mother.

In a little while, the Salvation Army would be here to take it, together with the other stuff in the little cottage. Di had contacted them right after the funeral.

“Thou shalt not make history on this couch!” rang in her ears again. She could not forgive her mother even after death, although it wasn’t really a big deal what happened. Except her mother’s thou-shalt-nots had amassed over the years.

The sound of the truck driving up the driveway shook her to attention. Outside, snowflakes were hitting the window panes, and although icicles hung on the tree outside, the ground was still patchy.

Despite her tears, she turned to smile bitterly at the couch, “How’s that for keeps? Now, your history is no more!”


July 2


Mermaids



When the story ended, there were sighs of yearning almost in unison from the five-year-old listeners. “I hope you enjoyed today’s story,” said the librarian. “The library will be closed in fifteen minutes. Go join your parents in the main room. Happy dreams, tonight! And don’t forget the mermaids in your dreams.”

Jenny so wished to see a real mermaid, now, although there were no lagoons where she lived. And those mermaids lived in a lagoon.

“How come we have no lagoons around us where we live?” she asked her mother when they were in the car.

“We have the ocean in front of the house. Why do you ask, Jenny?”

“Nothing!” Jenny shrugged, downcast. She’ll never understand.

“We have a pretty garden, too. With a thicket of red tea roses around it. I think it is better than a lagoon. But I am glad you now know what a lagoon is.”

“The goats can eat the roses,” said Jenny.

Her mother laughed. “But we don’t have any goats, Silly! No one around us has goats. Too many stories inside you, aren’t there?”

Jenny barely heard her mother’s voice for she always felt drowsy in the car, and almost immediately, she closed her eyes.

“We can play tag if you come with us into our cave,” the mermaid with the pink sparkly tail was saying.

Jenny then spotted not one but three slinky mermaids in different tail colors, green, blue, and pink, that glistened and shimmered. Their fins were so perfectly fluted and edged with a tint of crimson! “Yes,” she said. “Yes, let’s go!”

“Hold on to my tail,” said the mermaid with the green iridescent scales on her tail. And they dove under the water.

The cave was huge with a few pieces of mossy furniture alongside its walls. Suddenly, from the bowels of the cave appeared a beautiful woman, her hair a pale, golden-reddish color, but she had a bulbous nose and a damaged tail. “Take her back! Now! She doesn’t belong here!”

The three mermaids looked down guiltily, and they led Jenny out of the cave. Water…first, there was water around her, then in front of her…Jenny was now sitting on the sand and...no mermaids…

“Jenny! Wake up! We’re home!” Jenny opened her eyes to her mother’s face, and she slid out of her seat, stepped into their driveway, and sighed. No more mermaids.

But, the thicket of red tea roses on the side of the property seemed to be smiling at her. After all, this was where she belonged.

July 1

Too Close to Home


He scraped the reddish mark on his palm, which didn’t move. Would he have to slice off the skin to erase it, and how could skin grow over it? How could it immortalize it as a scar? He guffawed, but his throat clamped after that.

It could be that the air was thick or humid or something. A storm was needed or possibly another killing. Sweat glittered across the bridge of his nose. He reached for the knife, his fingers rubbing across the handle as if playing a musical instrument. Then his fingers felt glued to it.

A tremor ran up his spine. He’d get into the truck and drive to the next town or even further. There would be someone out wandering on a deserted pathway or something. Someone whose blood will be on his hands.

Outside, thunderclaps bellowed one after the other. Just the weather for it! Just as he rushed out the door, he spotted the neighbor’s little daughter, running and screaming at the same time, scared from the roar of thunder. His hand holding the knife twisted.

“Betsy, it is okay, Sweetie,” he yelled, jumping over the fence, still holding on to the knife.

“Mommy’s not home, and my school’s out earlier today,” she sobbed.

“She’ll be home, soon. Don’t cry!”

“Will you stay with me until she comes?” The little girl begged, her eyes large and wide with fear.

He led her inside his closed porch. “We can see her come in, from here,” he said. “Is that okay?”

Betsy nodded. He smiled at her as a white flash of lightning above zigzagged in tentacles, and he imagined her blood oozing on the garden tiles, toward the street, in a puddle then in long meandering strips.

Something powerful opened and closed inside him as he let the knife drop on the porch table.

No, not the neighbor’s child. Too close to home!








October 27, 2017 at 11:33pm
October 27, 2017 at 11:33pm
#922816
Oct. 28: - CONTEST ROUND: Plot Background Story
Write a story that sets up your plot.

827 words

She gazed back out of the window. The sun was hitting the driveway at such an angle that the color on the red-tiles looked like blood.

“It’s all right, Eve,” Vicki said. “Things happen. It was an accident. You were going straight. The other guy hit you. He was drunk.” She reached for Eve’s arm and squeezed it. When she pulled her hand away a few seconds later, Eve imagined the blood Vicki couldn’t feel.

“No need to feel such guilt,” Vicki continued. “I am sorry Barbara’s hurt so badly, but you know, between us…” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Barbara has made your life a living hell.”

Eve sighed. “Yes, but she raised me, nevertheless.”

“You told me that. Regardless of the relationship, what happened was an accident. An accident you didn’t cause.” Vicki shook her head, then pushed back her strawberry-blond curls.

“I didn’t?” Eve couldn’t help the distrust in voice. “Instead of paying attention to the road, I was thinking something else at the moment. I was thinking and feeling relief that finally, she was leaving and that in a few minutes I would be dropping her at the airport. Now, can you tell me I’m guiltless, scot-free?”

“Yes, I can. Show me one reason why we should be responsible for our feelings and whatever pops into our minds.”

“While driving a car, especially with a passenger sitting next to me, feelings or the mind’s wandering is inexcusable.”

“Half the world’s driving while texting, talking on the phone, even eating and drinking, and you’re feeling guilty for what pops up into your mind. It doesn’t make sense, Eve. And you don’t have the obligation to take care of this woman in your very home. Leave her in the hospital or put her in a hospice. Don’t do this to yourself.”

Eve felt Vicki meant well, but she just couldn’t do that. Barbara had been mean to her all her life. At least, that’s what it felt like ever since she had found out about the facts of her origin, that a birth mother existed. Yet, Eve had to do the right thing, even if it hurt every bone in her body and even if it chopped to pieces every dream she ever had.

“She is still my mother, Vicki. I truly appreciate your caring for me, but the facts stand. I was the driver. If I had seen the other crazy car speeding toward us from the side road, I might have veered to the other lane or something. The lane to the left of me was totally empty at that moment.”

“No matter what I say, you’re going to torture yourself, aren’t you!” Vicki seemed exasperated.

“You know what she did?” Eve choked. “She screamed when it happened. Then she looked at me, her eyes wide open. She smiled, Vicki. She smiled at me. Despite the pain, she had to be feeling. Then she passed out.”

“Oh, Eve! You’re only traumatized, Dear.”

“I thought she was dead. So, I prayed muttering that frightening part about the valley of the shadow of death. I only hope she didn’t hear me. I feel absolutely awful.”

“Don’t you worry! She told me she didn’t remember a thing. She said she was telling you something, and the next thing, she opened her eyes in the hospital.”

“At least that,” Eve said, wiping her tears with the back of her hand. “Lots of vehicles came then. I don’t even recall making the call to 911. If I didn’t, someone else might have, but they say I did. So many vehicles there were, you wouldn’t believe. Someone questioned me, I don’t know who, with the EMTs from the ambulances huddling over us. It was then I noticed that the airbags had popped open.”

“I heard nothing happened to the other driver.”

“He was out, too. I thought he died, had a heart attack or something, and that’s why he plowed into my car, but he was only drunk and had passed out. Both cars are totaled, but that’s the least of it.”

“I thank God for saving you. I know it is difficult to go through a thing like that, but you should think about doing something about your car situation.”

“I know. I didn’t even have the time to think about that, but Art rented a car for me and brought it over.”

“That is so nice! Art is a good guy.”

“I know. He always was, but we couldn’t make it together, possibly my fault. At least that’s what mom thinks.”

“Never mind that biotch! She’s always making you feel incompetent or guilty. “ Vicky stared at Eve, shaking her head “Why do you carry the whole world on your shoulders, my friend? Sometimes, things just don’t work out. If you ask me, I am better off without a man anytime.”

October 21, 2017 at 3:25pm
October 21, 2017 at 3:25pm
#922510
Note: This entry is also in "Prep 2017

October 21: contest

Setting Description:
865 words
------------

         Hi, there!

         I am Daphne Logan, Eve’s daughter. That is, Eve Pamela Freeman Logan. My mom asked me to write something about Rocky Road so here I am.

         I have lived for a long time in Rocky Road, in fact, all of my fourteen years, and although I grasped most of what’s in it, sometimes I am confused about what makes this town tick. Like ice-cream. I love ice-cream, but I never think about what it is made of. Rocky Road, too, is an ice-cream flavor, isn’t it! And it has nuts, chocolate, and marshmallows in it, according to Mom. Mom knows a lot. She is a librarian, but now she sells books; this has something to do with Dad, but I digress.

         If you ask me, the town of Rocky Road, too, has its mixed-up flavors amassed around a cross. Not an actual cross, but the main roads Orchard and Pearl, intersect in the middle of the town. I imagine that is why Leia in Parnassus says we all carry a cross. Leia is the cashier in the bookstore Parnassus where my mom works.

         There is a fountain in the middle of the cross. What that fountain refers to I have no idea, but it is actually a sculptured fountain, in the shape of a mermaid holding a pineapple. From the pineapple, water spouts out. Possibly, our subtropical weather and its heat frying the sculptor's brain might have had something to do with it.

         My friend Maddie’s grandpa says this mermaid is called the Lady Abundance. Some goody-goody, fuddy-duddy (Maddie’s grandpa’s adjectives, not mine) residents of Rocky Road keep complaining about this mermaid because her dress clings tightly to her body. Isn’t that what happens when water flows over someone constantly and she is drenched? Only our goofy Rocky Road residents can see immodesty in a bronze statue.

         Maddie’s family lives in the nicer part of Rocky Road, on Magnolia drive, which draws an arc from the west together with the way the interstate folding around it. There is also a hoity-toity condo complex there. My dad moved there after the divorce. The “elite section” is what Magnolia Drive and small paths around it is sometimes called by the real-estate brokers; however, I think our neighborhood is nicer with larger homes and much bigger yards.

         Mom and I live on where Michelle Lane meets Green Oak at the northwest corner of town, in a three-bedroom house with a huge yard around it. Mom bought this house before she married my dad with some of the money my grandfather left her. I never met my grandfather. He died before mom finished high school.

         Our house is a ranch with white vinyl clapboard siding, but it is made up of cement-blocks. So, it is safe from the hurricanes if ever one of them decides to drop on us.

         The real action in our town is around Pearl, which is more like a main street that the real main street at the south end, if you ask me. The original main street is narrower and less active even though it runs parallel to Pearl. Ashley also runs parallel to Pearl but it is at the north end. Walmart, Burger King, and Publix supermarket are on East Ashley and so is the Junior High School. Maddie and I love Carmela’s Pizzeria the best on East Pearl, next to the firehouse. The owner is Maddie’s neighbor. Maddie says she is a snob and she says the stories she knows about her, one day she’ll write them for the whole world to see.

         Parnassus, the bookstore where my mom works, is at the corner of North Orchard and East Main street. Across from Parnassus, in the corner of North Orchard and West Main is my school, The Orangeville High. I don’t know why they called the school Orangeville High when we live in Rocky Road. I guess the name Rocky Road High might bring up a negative meaning into people’s minds.

         My dad teaches Math and Calculus at Orangeville High. It is good and bad for me to have a parent as a teacher in my school, but more good than bad, so I guess I can live with it.

         At the end of South Orchard is the woods. Some say those woods are haunted. I am not allowed to go into those woods alone. Maddie says the flower shop’s owner is weird, kind of like a white witch, and she goes in there all the time. Her flower shop is on South Orchard close to the woods.

         I haven’t made up my mind about haunted places and witches, yet; so, for the time being, I’ll take the word of those who know better, just to be on the safe side.

         I really don’t want to go away from Rocky Road, but mom says I’ll have to if I want to go to an ivy league college. Truth is, I’d rather go to Florida U. and be closer to home where I know the people and where anything is.

         Rocky Road is home, once you warm up to it.
October 14, 2017 at 12:37pm
October 14, 2017 at 12:37pm
#922085
This entry is also in "Prep 2017

October 14

(Woman against herself…through no fault of her own. The antagonist within Eve is her misplaced belief that she isn’t wanted by her parents and her birth mother alike. )

Inside the hotel’s ballroom, the crowd jostled around the thirteen-year-old Eve, bumping her against the stools lined up at the counter. No one seemed to notice her in this sea of moving parts, and no one noticed the tiny camera in her hand. But isn’t it always the same, always this way? she thought. Nobody ever noticed her for herself.

People were singing together with the band, and their voices mixing with the bass drum thumped in her head. It was hot inside with the heat beating down on her.

As soon as she saw him, she clicked. If she couldn’t have her father back, she could at least have one photo of him, a photo of him away from her, away from their home. In the photo she just took, her father’s fingers would have grasped the wrists of a brunette. That was what she had seen when she clicked.

“Are you looking for someone?” She was startled. A waiter was talking to her. {i]Play along, she told herself.

“My parents,” she said. “They said they’d meet me here, but maybe it is next door in the café. I’ll check there, now.” She lunged forward toward the door for the long walk home.

By the time she reached home, it was already after midnight. Barbara was sitting in the armchair facing the entrance, but she had fallen asleep, her jaw slack, her lips parted in a delicate snore.

Eve tiptoed to her room, finding her way to her desk, and stuck the camera’s memory card into the slot on the side of her laptop. There it was the photo on the screen, her father Kenneth Freman holding on to that woman whose eyebrows were raised quizzically. If this weren’t her father, the photo would have been a funny shot. She snorted. Her mother had thrown her father away at this other woman who probably didn’t want him, either. The one to blame here had to have been her mother, Barbara Judith Freeman. She had thrown her father out of the house.

“Eve Pamela Freeman! Where have you been?” Barbara stood at the door of her room.

Eve closed the laptop and turned around. “Here, doing homework.”

“You were out late. You know the rules. You have to be home by 10:30. I called Ginger’s. Her mother said you had left around 7:30 or so. She said you refused her offer to drive you. Where have you been?”

“I came home.”

“No, you didn’t. I sat on that chair a little after ten o’clock.”

Eve sighed. “Okay, Mom. Sorry. The truth is…I went looking for Dad. I went to the hotel. The Fox Hollow. I called his office earlier. His secretary said he was in a meeting and after that, he would go to the hotel for another meeting and a concert.”

Barbara’s eyes opened in shock. “You did what?”

Here it comes. I tell her the truth; she freaks out. I lie; she freaks out.

So, now the lie. “I couldn’t find him.”

“I don’t know if you are telling the truth, but you are not to go seeking him, understood? You may end up in a dangerous place. God knows where he hangs out.”

“Sorry, Mom!”

“Sorry won’t cut it, young lady! You are grounded for the next two weeks.”

“But…Mom! What about the tryouts for the school play?”

“No, tryouts. You are grounded. Period.”

Eve sighed. No need to argue. Her mother Barbara was acting like a complete nutcase again.





September 6, 2015 at 2:30pm
September 6, 2015 at 2:30pm
#859353
I told Noyoki who wanted to become a travel writer to observe and write what she sees in her hometown first. Then, I thought, whether travel writing or not, why don't I take my own advice?

These are the snippets I penned on scrap paper while sitting in the car or waiting for my hubby in the mall.

The Palm Tree in Front of the Suntrust Bank

This specific palm tree to the left of the entrance to the bank has a width-wide striated trunk, resembling circles thrown on a stick, one on top of another. As the trunk rises, the circles darken to give way to large, bright light-green sheath to about two feet in length. From this sheath, as if held by a tight fist beneath, the fronds stem upwards and outwards bursting in freedom. The fronds are thin strips of green leaves alongside and at the two sides of a middle stem. They remind me of young girls looking down at something who let their long hair loose on both sides of their faces with only their noses visible. Maybe this palm tree has the spirit of a young person inside it. I can see it in its excitement when the wind rustles by.

Le Macaron (French Pastries) At the Mall

I am sitting in the middle of the mall, facing the empty Le Macaron, which has stayed empty ever since this pastry place opened up about a year ago. The place is well-lighted, immaculate, and shiny, most of the shine is due to the metallic bistro tables and chairs. The place advertises that if offers seventeen flavors of French-crafted macarons made from scratch with no preservatives nor artificial flavors and totally gluten-free. So far so good, but the store is empty. Any time I sit across it, I see no customers. How they manage, I don’t know.

The only person I see in there is the owner who sits on a bistro chair with his laptop on the small round table in front of him. People look at him and shake their heads as they pass by, but no one ventures inside. No wonder, each pastry is as big as a thimble with a colorful frosting covering it.

The only one long rectangular counter inside displays the wares, all in various colors looking like tiny dots. If one would miss seeing the sign, one would take the place as a jewelry store displaying its pricey jewelry under the glass covering of that countertop, even though I have seen more jewelry at display even inside the smallest jewelry store.

A friend told me she saw once, but only once, a family with four children going in Le Macaron with each child choosing a tiny dot of a pastry. So there might have been a few buyers, I just hope this family wasn’t the only buyer in the past year.

October 19, 2013 at 6:52pm
October 19, 2013 at 6:52pm
#795059
Anger Misplaced



          My rage is a tangible object, like fire, which scorched me at a very young age. It may have started with my adopted father's actions or it might have emerged because of my mother's high praises of Ariadne.

         I wasn't even at the school age, then. I must have been sick with the flu or a virus or something, which probably no one had noticed. I was sitting near Pa Hirsh and watching him work. A sudden nausea hit me and I threw up on his work. Pa Hirsh's face turned crimson all the way to his neck and chest.

         "You bastard!" he yelled. "Couldn't you move your head the other way?"

         Then he picked me up and literally threw me out of the back door. On the porch where I fell, I could hear his screaming at my mother.

         "Fiona get back here and clean this mess. I'm ruined. What'll I tell the boss now?

         "Woman, will you move? This is no laughing matter. Stop it. I give you a home, take in your bastard kid, and what do you do? You laugh at my misery, caused by your kid. Did I have any obligation to feed a kid who's someone else's? This is what I get. I'm nice to your kid and the ugly frog messes up my life."

         At that instant, reality hit me. I was not Pa Hirsh's real kid, and that explained many other things I was subjected to. But then who was my real father?

         No matter how often I asked and pleaded for the answer, no one ever told me the truth. Moreover, my mother yelled at me for asking dumb questions. If my real father should not even be mentioned, then who was I?

         On the other hand, Ariadne had two fathers. This happened because, when Ariadne's real father died, Aunt Greta married Clifford Wieland. And both of those men treated Ariadne much better than anyone ever treated me.

         But it wasn't just the fathers that got to me; more like it was my mother. To her, Ariadne had no faults; Ariadne was perfect. "Can't you be a little like her, at least?" my mother told me over and over until my ears fell off.

         Being unloved and picked upon by everyone is the pits, ranking right up there with being murdered in slow doses. And not having lived up to your only parent's expectations has a brutalizing effect. The ego recoils and one's self-image is punctured like a tire that went over some sharp construction debris.

         I admit, Ariadne was prettier than me and she did seem to do everything in a perfect way. But how could I live in the shadow of a perfect person who takes away everything and everyone I ever wanted?

         To top it all up, Ariadne is Aunt Greta's daughter; Aunt Greta, the only person who's been nice to me and the only person I adore. I wished Aunt Greta were my mother. She should be my mother, not Ariadne's.

         And Ariadne now has been acting so hoity toity. She avoids me like I am the plague. Probably after I got back at her in my own way, and many times over.

         The bitch, that Ariadne! She lives in my blood like an insidious disease.



October 11, 2013 at 5:34pm
October 11, 2013 at 5:34pm
#794129
Contest 2, Setting # 1

Ariadne’s Brownstone in Manhattan
on West 10th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues


Hello, I am Ariadne Kinney, one of the two CEOs in Kinney & Strauss.

When I sold my small flat on Central Park West and decided to buy this house downtown, I was doubtful if the change would work for me, but I have no doubts now. I love my house.

One reason is that its location is close to Kinney &Strauss building on Wall Street. On a good day, I can walk to work, and on the way , if I am early enough, I might catch some quiet time and get a cup of coffee in a Starbucks before tackling the day.

My house is a brownstone on West 10th Street, which is probably the most beautiful residential place in Manhattan, including the area from St-Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery on the east side through the restored brownstones of the middle Village to the high rises on the Hudson River. My block is between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and the dwellings here have baroque ironwork and boast with their colorful window boxes in season. My block ends at the clock-tower of Jefferson Market Library, which is part of the New York Public Library. One of my haunts is this building that looks like a church of leaded glass, steeply sloping roofs, gables, pinnacles, Venetian-Gothic embellishments, and an intricate tower and clock, which rings every hour on the hour.

My house is a single-family dwelling of bright red brick with turquoise shutters, with three stories and a large basement with living quarter. The stairs leading to the front door are of the actual brownstone left over from the time when this house was built. There is an open space like a porch on top of the building, where have outdoor furniture and plants in large plant boxes. My boyfriend Jayce and our maid Esperanza are the ones who tend the rooftop greenhouse there. I had sound tube and a small elevator built for all three floors and the basement, in case my 74 year-old mother would come to visit.

As one can’t be too careful living in an energetic city, I had two separate alarm systems installed. One for the outer doors and windows, another for my bedroom’s door. The front door is equipped with a chain bolt, a bell that I can shut off if need be, and a pane of one-way glass.

Each story of the house has two or three rooms. Each floor has one half bath. Except for second and third floors where there are full baths. On the first floor, the large all-white kitchen is contemporary-modern with eat-in facilities. This is mostly Esperanza’s domain, except for me taking in the deliciously fragrant food smells wafting from kitchen. A large dining room and bar are also on this floor.

Second floor has a library, a large entertainment room with a wall TV, stereo system, and billiards table, belonging to Jayce. On second floor, I have my study, also, which is my favorite place in the entire house. Here, the walls are pastel sky-blue with matching blinds and lace curtains. A couple of my paintings depicting scenes of my hometown, Rocky Road, hang on the walls. My desk and its chair are custom-built, made up off soft brown top-grain aniline leather that is heavenly to the touch. That chair is my favorite place to sit of any other place on the face of the earth.

The third floor has the two bedrooms and my painting studio, later taken over by Jayce for his paraphernalia. The master suite here includes a marble bathroom with the view of the back of the house. The guest room has a small terrace with the view of the street.
In the back, we have a back entrance from a small garden, where Esperanza raises scented herbs such as mint, oregano, and chives for her cooking.

As I don’t drive in the city, I have no need for a garage and neither does Jayce, but he has his Porsche stored in a multilevel garage a few blocks down, for when he visits his parents in East Hampton.

Since living in a big, active city has been in my stars, my brownstone has become the best place for me to call home.

October 5, 2013 at 11:58am
October 5, 2013 at 11:58am
#793341
Oct. 5. 2013
Protagonist background story

Note:
At my 2013 NaNo novel’s real time, Ariadne will be 53 years old. She wrote this letter at the age of 17 when she was graduating from high school. Chances are, neither this letter nor Miss Hoobler will be mentioned in the novel, as many waters would have passed under the bridge by then.

*Books2**Books3**Books5**Books2**Books3**Books5**Books2**Books3**Books5*


                                                                                                              May 21, 1975
                                                                                                              Wednesday


Dear Miss Hoobler,


         I am so blessed to have had such a fantastic art teacher like you during the time I have been a student in Rocky Road High. I am writing to you with tears in my eyes because, of every wonderful person in my life, you have been the one who was most aware of my need and desire for art.

         My work may never be ready for fine galleries, but just the magic of creating a vibrant, meaningful, color-laden piece makes my heart flutter. Thank you for understanding my feelings and honoring me as the artist of the year in the school fair, not just for one year but for all the four years I have been in this school. And I learned so much from you, how to see three dimensional shapes in all forms, the application of light and shadow, contrast, pattern, color, texture, scale, temperature…I could go on and on.

         Unfortunately, I will not be able to pursue my passion for art. This doesn’t mean I will stop drawing and painting. Quite the contrary. I promise you and myself that I will not let go of this love.

         Do you remember my stepdad Clifford Wieland from the parents’ day? I believe he thanked you for the valuable time that you spent with me, but he also said he had been training me for bigger and better things, which you might not have liked much. He didn’t tell me what you told him, but I’ll always remember you advising me to go after my passion.

         It is true my first passion is art, and if my situation had been more favorable, I would have loved to study it professionally, but after several long talks with my stepdad, he told me my obligations to the family business came first, the Kinney & Russell Co., which my father, may he rest in peace, founded. As I am the only young heir to the company, my stepdad had been training me so I could manage the company and look after my family’s interests. If you may recall, that was why I was spending every school vacation in New York City.

         I have to admit, I find Kinney & Russell’s challenge and my internship there intriguing, though not half as much as I enjoy art, but then, my duty to my family has to come first, as everything has a price.

         Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for encouraging me and finding me that wonderful scholarship in the Art Institute of Chicago. My heart broke in pieces when I had to turn it down. I’ll probably never ever get a chance like that in my entire life again, with or without a scholarship.

         I am probably being ungrateful when I think the kids who have little or no means can easily grab at such an opportunity at an art school--any art school--are more fortunate than I am. I hope I don’t sound like a rotten person here. I know how lucky I am for the lifestyle my family has provided me, and I accept my duty toward them and the company my father founded, where my stepdad works as well.

         I hope I’ll see you and say my final goodbye to you at the Graduation, next week.

         Thank you again for everything, Miss Hoobler. I hope all your students recognize what a wonderful and caring teacher you are. I will miss you greatly.

                   With much love,

                   Ariadne Kinney


-----------------------------------

Prep Contest Promp:

"Write a story about your protagonist that takes place outside of your novel"
August 6, 2013 at 2:27pm
August 6, 2013 at 2:27pm
#788328
"The catatonic boy at Ward 16 sits on a chair. Your call, Doc," the memo said.
I entered the ward and knelt in front of him, fingering his neck. Ice-cold.
As if rigor mortis set in, lifeless eyes stared ahead. So strange!
"What's your name?" I asked. He stuck out his tongue.
No, this wasn't catatonia.
Taking his hand, I ordered, "Talk," while noticing reddish scabs on his neck.
Suddenly he leapt, latching on to my neck.
Sharp pain! I felt blood oozing down.
Vile words sliced me like a chainsaw.
"Welcome to the club!"

===========

95 Words

For "100 Words of Horror
July 29, 2013 at 3:38pm
July 29, 2013 at 3:38pm
#787767
          That evening, McCluskey's Bar was more boisterous than I liked. Soon, I hoped, the crowd would thin and the noise would drop.

         Across from me, my brother Jerry picked up his drink, Stolichnaya on the rocks, still holding his other arm around the girl, one with a Kardashian butt and Elizabeth Taylor eyes. I wondered where he'd picked her up.

         "My next invention's a doozy. We're going to be rich, Phil," he told me. "And...before you finish film school."

         "Yeah, sure!" I said, only peripherally aware of his words. My failure to finish film school was the butt of his jokes.

         I'd just downed my Tequila when sudden gun sounds exploded by the entrance. I set the glass on the table, and positioned my cellphone against it, turning on its video.

         Four masked men with guns burst into the room while the fifth one holding a semi-automatic stayed by the door.

         "All hands up in the air!" The snub-nosed one barked, lowering his half-mask. "We want nothin' from the customers. Don't push your luck!"

         They got in and out in a hurry. One went for the register and made Don open it; the other emptied the jar with the green four-leaf clover logo that held the donations.

         The guy with the cap and paisley-design handkerchief around the lower part of his face winked at me while they retreated. I forced a weak smile, worrying someone might report on it.

         "Gentlemen and ladies, please calm down. Nothing's happened. No need to call the police. Next round's on the house!" Don announced as soon as those guys left.

         Later, in gratitude, I reimbursed Don for lost money and then some. After all, he was elemental in allowing me stage that great footage, so I could graduate from the film school.

------------------
299 words

____________________________

Prompt: Write a story (in 300 words) that includes the line: "We're going to be rich"

For: "Daily Flash Fiction Challenge

June 29, 2013 at 4:39pm
June 29, 2013 at 4:39pm
#785832
Gustav cursed the day he had contracted wolf-leprosy when he was first bitten. His eyes hurt from trying to see in the light of the full-moon as his body throbbed in agony. Still he raked his gaze through the lush forest and the trees surrounding the clearing.

Oh, there it was, pinned on an elm tree, slightly crumbled: the list of eleven mystical circles. Gustav howled. The verdict was in his hands now. A twelfth circle would mean the existence of the world for eternity, together with Gustav, but if Gustav refused, Armageddon would be imminent.

Was eternal life worth his pain? Did he want to live through eternity, suffering excruciating pain during the full-moon each month? He shook his head and gawked at his mangy-looking paws. He couldn't stand on them, let alone draw a circle.

"Get up and do it, Gustav. Otherwise, it will be too late for us and for everyone."

Gustav raised his head to the she-wolf, the lovely Esmeralda, holding the ink blotter.

"I want to live, Gustav," Esmeralda pleaded, her voice ringing with urgency.

She was so beautiful, so kind, inside and out, as woman and wolf. A blast of adrenaline tore through Gustav's body. Yes, eternity, he thought. Esmeralda is well worth the pain twelve nights a year, even through eternity.

He pushed his paw into the blotter then on the list on the elm tree. The list fluttered, turned into a falcon, and flew away. Frozen in place, Gustav gazed after it.

"Are you coming with me or not? It'll be daylight in a few minutes," Esmeralda cried.

Gustav limped toward her, with eyes speaking of desire, yet hinting at mischief. Yes, she was worth it. She was worth all the pain.

----------
292 words

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Prompt: Write a story that includes the line: "Are you coming with me or not?" under 300 words
For: "Daily Flash Fiction Challenge
December 9, 2012 at 1:37pm
December 9, 2012 at 1:37pm
#768021
This prompt is picked from an FB question by WdC, asking five different words.

Bedtime Stories

A nocturnal creature lives inside my head, opening its wide wings in a velvet mist. Its mouth is a sword glowing like a firefly. It rises from the shadows of the bedroom and says, playfully, “Shut up and go to sleep. Don't think so much.” I tell the creature, it isn’t me but it is him who’s doing the talking. I’m not the one to listen to him while mountains of memories inch forward to close my eyelids and all the cities I’ve been to dance to a swirl of entertainment.
Then I, like a pagan god, submerge to one of those cities to wade into the muck of everyone’s laundry, to tell myself bedtime stories about other people, especially about the select few whom I have created to exist only inside my head, to keep the creature with the glowing mouth company.
I'm not going to listen to that creature's orders, for I have my own ways of lulling myself to the dreamland, where I can meet up with my old Home-EC teacher who has passed on many years ago or find a mirror that erases all the violent scars of aging or wade in a river where I can direct the current, my way.

January 20, 2011 at 3:16pm
January 20, 2011 at 3:16pm
#716022
1, Work the following elements in a single scene: A frightened animal, a civic leader, a small audience.

“Coffee, Hon. Please.” Brian Laramie leaned toward the edge of the table, causing a clump of red curly hair fall on his tanned forehead to add to his youthful look.

The waitress nodded, smoothing her apron and smiling, and turned to the door of the banquet room.

The luncheon was about to lend way to Laramie’s speech. Laramie, a you-can’t-say-no-to guy, had brought together the businessmen of the community who shared a rich mutual loathing for each other, even if they were polite enough in mixed company. Laramie congratulated himself for the knowledge, which would come in handy if a situation arose in the future.

Yet, the audience gathered in this mountainside diner had one thing in common: pets. Each person here lived on large lands outside the town and owned several pooches.

Laramie’s plan for the businessmen was simple: feed them; heed them; get them to donate to the local animal shelter so the place could be moved to a better site and enlarged. Of course, the shelter served as a peripheral cause, since all Laramie’s activities of the recent months targeted his candidacy for the election in two years, but that, no one knew…yet.

As soon as the coffees were served, Laramie arose and straightened his tie.

“Good afternoon, again, ladies and gentlemen of Howell Hills,” he said with a voice bright and bold. “The reason we’ve assembled here is the poor homeless pets, and more than that, our animal control officers who are fed up with the unnecessary chase. As you know, people from all over the country bring and dump their pets here in the woods. When someone dumps a dog or a cat, he doesn’t know that his animal can become a morsel to other wildlife on the hills. Besides providing shelter for these animals, our campaign must be…”

Laramie stopped and listened for a second or two, then he continued. “I think I just heard hoofbeats. Did anybody ride his horse here?”

After a moment of surprise, the audience laughed. Obviously, Laramie was trying to get them in the mood, but when the sounds of a crash and shatter of glass followed his words, they jumped up from their seats. A few went to the window and searched the outside view. Surely, Laramie would not stage something dramatic; or would he?

At that moment, a young buck busted into the room, and ran directly at Laramie who, in a split second, imagined being gored by two sturdy antlers and kissing his candidacy goodbye. No, he couldn’t have that.

Laramie reached for the deer’s antler and tackled him, but the animal resisted, pulling him to a corner. In a blink, a quick-thinking man hit the animal with a chair, and the animal fell on its side with Laramie sitting on the deer as the restaurant workers rushed to his aid. Eventually, the deer was released unhurt, but someone had captured Laramie sitting on the deer with a cell-phone camera.

The next day, Laramie sat in his office sipping coffee and looking at the local newspaper’s headline that said: “Deer attack at the Green Mountain Eatery: Area businessman Brian Laramie tackles wildlife to save other diners.” Underneath the caption was Laramie’s photo sitting on the deer.

Laramie grinned. This had to be the beginning of his campaign. The animal shelter project could wait for another day.


2. Take the short story and find the philosophical basis for it.
Then write a paragraph or two to distill the philosophical basis in the story

Philosophical Basis:
When luck shows up, trust instinct.

Brian Laramie took a chance; rather, he couldn’t do anything else. He had no time to escape when the deer was at his face. So he made the best of it, and it worked for him. Is making use of good luck a leap in the dark to success? It probably is, in most cases. In this case, Laramie had nothing to lose by tackling the deer, even if he could have been injured. Still, under these specific circumstances, he is no hero. He is just an egoist who made use of his stroke of luck and it worked for him.

If Laramie’s true intentions were to help the community, he would not choose this or that action haphazardly to impress the residents, as he gave the luncheon to raise funds for the construction of the animal shelter. At the end of the story, he has no qualms about postponing the animal shelter project, since, with the incident of tackling the deer, he made enough headway toward his goal of getting elected.

The real question is: What lies behind Laramie's goal of getting elected? I'd say, search for power, which is an extremely selfish and scary goal.

January 12, 2011 at 11:57am
January 12, 2011 at 11:57am
#715323
Jan. 12, 2011

Prompt: What if someone said, “Screw you!” instead of saying, “Thank you.”

Her hands ripple like waves as she pours the blackberries from a burlap bag on to a plastic bowl. He focuses on the red scratch marks on her hands and arms, on the clotting blood in minuscule droplets. He doesn’t understand why she is so happy as if she has harvested the moon and the stars.

She chooses a handful of berries from the bowl and turns to the faucet. She washes them with care and puts them on a small plate that she picks from the dish rack. She places the plate in front of him at the table.

“For you,” she says. “Today’s gift.”

“Screw you!”

He bites his lower lip, staring at her thorn-etched hands, at the blood on the long red scratch lines. Blood makes him sick. Blood is disgusting. The sight of it should be reserved for only the war. The war he came from. The war that messed him up. He gags.

“What’s eating you now?” Her voice is concerned, not angry. “Are you okay?”

He stands up suddenly and with a swipe of hand he knocks the plate with the blackberries to the floor, on the stone tiles. The plate shatters and the blueberries leave purple marks where they hit. He runs out of the kitchen as if fleeing from the enemy.
June 27, 2010 at 6:23pm
June 27, 2010 at 6:23pm
#700239
Déjà vu, page 131 from The 3A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley : Write a short sketch of a scene in which a character has an experience that causes her to recall a similar past experience. Juxtapose the present scene with the past scene. Show the remembered scene in italics.

Moonlight on Snow

The awning on top of the porch had let only a dusting of snow. She reached for the red broom and, with precise motions, swept the snow out into the backyard. By tomorrow, more snow would come and she’d have to sweep again, but it didn’t matter. Didn’t she always do things over and over again like Sisyphus pushing the stone up the mountain? She turned off the porch light and looked ahead.

The rays of the half moon glimmered over the white coat in the backyard like nobility walking on red carpet in fluid splendor. By the next day, all her sweeping would be for naught and the moonlight would go away. The fields around where she had grown up had shimmered under snow on moonlit nights, too. From her mother’s cottage, she could watch the whole area wearing the white cloak with all its spangles.

She turned to go in, but the door was stuck. She forced it but couldn’t open it. On second thought, she gave up.

The same way the door got stuck now, her window in her room in her mother’s cottage used to get stuck. The window from which she used to watch the moonlight on snow. The window from which she had sneaked out to meet her lover on one moonlit winter evening. It was that window later that had gotten stuck to prevent her from getting inside the house to save her mother when the electrical wiring caused that damn fire.

Her mother with the gap in between her front teeth. Like the black gap in the face of earth where their cottage had once stood.


She raised her arms to the moon and tossed back her hair like a character in a bloody tragedy and screamed. “Nooooo…”

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