Friday, December 31, 2010

Fiction Friday: Anti-Resolutions

This week's [Fiction] Friday:
Anti resolutions.
We have a Time Honoured Tradition to uphold – that of sharing our anti resolutions. See some examples from pervious years below.
What are your top 5 Anti-Resolutions for the coming year?



  1. I will not start some insane diet the moment our new baby is born. So please don't expect to hear me raving or whining about my experiences with the Acai Berry Diet, the HCG Diet, the 17 Day Diet, or any other of the ridiculous fad diets that are featured daily on "The Doctors." I will on the other hand commit to eating more candy. Now that's a resolution I can keep. Why set myself up for failure?
  2. I will watch at least one episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" each day in the hopes of completing all 40 discs in my new Collector's Edition DVD set before the end of the year. I will not feel embarrassed or nerdy or juvenile for doing so. I'll make no apologies for what goes on between me and my portable DVD player in the privacy of my own bed.
  3. I will not have a mini-stroke every time I peek into my 10-year-old son's room. If he knows where everything is, can enjoy his millions of toys, and doesn't brake an ankle getting from the door to his bed, then I will be satisfied that his room is "clean enough." I will. I promise I will.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Choose Your Online Adventure

I've been working with the wonderful folks on the Choose Your Online Adventure (CYOA) collaborative project for a few months now. It's an exciting group of writers and editors with tons of talent, who have all put aside their personal quirks & egos to create a magnificent story. (I'll be the first to acknowledge that this is not an easy task)

The first series, History's Keeper, is due online in January 2011 with the paperback version due out later that year. I'm super excited to see some of my work in print and even more excited to have signed a contract with an amazing publishing company, officially making me a writer.

If your interested in joining the project or just checking out the work you can follow the link to http://chooseyouronlineadventures.com/

For a taste of what's to come in this first series you can read my teaser story "Villa di Pratolino." While you're there also check out  "Shore Leave" by the lovely Annie Evett.

This project has been a challenge and a blessing and I can hardly wait to begin working on the next series. Writing starts in February 2011 and without giving away too much information I can say that there will be charming Southern drawls, dusty sprawling countrsides, and I'm hoping to work in a set of spurs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fiction Friday #181: Mt. Pleasant

This week's [Fiction] Friday prompt:  Utilise the T.S.O.D – a NaNoWriMo tradition. The rules are simple. In your story,  kill someone. With a shovel. Read more F.A.Qs here.






Mt. Pleasant

Parker shoved open the door with his shoulder. He struggled with his load. The large duffle was just the right size. The strap dug into his left shoulder and he shifted it again, letting the blood rush back into the gouge it was making in his skin. He walked down the dimly-lit corridor, passing the other storage units. He stopped in front of the one marked 347, let the bag drop to the concrete floor, and fished in his jacket pocket for the key ring.

Parker scanned the hallway. He had assumed the place would be empty at this hour and he was right. What business would anyone have at Mt. Pleasant Store It at two in the morning? Unless they were in his kind of business. Not many were. Especially not the homespun residents of this sleepy community.

The whole scene struck him as rather quaint. The tree-lined streets, the old homes with wide porches, the occasional porch swing squeaking in the breeze. He’d been watching the town for a few weeks. The whole place just shut off around nine at night. The corner grocery closed up and it was lights out in the safe town. Folks didn’t even lock their doors. Made his job easier.

Even the storage facility had an old-timey feel. It was situated next to the train tracks in an old brick building. From the faded sign atop the three story building, Parker gathered it used to be a factory of some sort. The dark corridors were lit by intermittent bare bulbs dangling from rusty chains. The garage style doors were painted a dingy blue that had chipped and cracked over the years. It was a surreal experience this job, nothing like stalking the dank city streets, navigating crowds of vagabonds and degenerates in an effort to remain anonymous.

Here the people made a point of greeting him with phrases like “mornin’ neighbor” and “how’s it goin’?” When he had happened upon his quarry while staking out her home, she had looked up from the herbs she was tending to flash him a friendly smile and ask him how he liked the change in weather. She wasn’t even suspicious of a strange man prowling around her back yard. She just struck up a conversation.

“You must be Mr. Williams. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Sure am.” Parker thought quickly.

She strained to get up from the stool she was sitting on, dusted off her dirt-covered hands, and reached a hand out in front of him. Parker took the wrinkled hand and marveled at the tight grip. She’d been out of the game long enough to let her guard down, but he wasn’t taking anything for granted. He knew this was his chance. The two were alone in her yard, surrounded by fruit trees and other plants, under the cover of dusk. He saw the shovel leaning against the trellis.

“The change in weather is nice. It’s been such a hot summer. Don’t you think?”
“A real steamer.”
“One might wonder what brings a man like you out of the city.”
“Just a job, ma’am.”
“I figured. Well then. What do you think of our little town? It’s no big city, now is it?”
“Not in the least, ma’am.”

She turned her back to him, knelt in front of the herbs, and resumed her pruning. He heard her laughter as he swung the heavy shovel. The metal blade made a resounding thud against her skull. She fell forward into the garden, dropping a sprig of rosemary she had just plucked. Parker waited for her left foot to stop twitching before he tossed the shovel aside and made his way back to his car for the duffle. The streets were empty and only a few houses on the block still had porch lights on. He thought it must be getting close to nine. With all those friendly neighbors down for the night, he’d have plenty of time to clean the mess, dispose of the body, and finally get the hell out of this creepy place.

  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series IV

Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday prompt #180:  Your Main Character picks a sliver of glass from their sleeve and gravely inspects it……..( now keep writing). A short installment from my series this week. Catch up by reading. "Very Mild Superpowers", "The Hunter", and "The Return".

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series IV
Jane

Jane picked a sliver of glass from the sleeve of her cotton dress. She turned the jagged piece between her fingertips, ignoring the tinge of pain she felt where the sliver pricked her fingertip. The droplets of blood quickly turned the transparent object the color of strawberry jam.

Jane crossed the grungy linoleum that coated the kitchen floor and dropped the sliver into the trash. She sucked on her throbbing finger, dismissing the familiar coppery taste, and reached down to pull a wet spaghetti noodle from her dingy slipper. The noodle clung to the matted faux fur before reluctantly letting go. It snapped back against her hand, making a quite slapping sound against her skin. Jane peeled the noodle from her skin and dropped it in the trash with the sliver of glass.

She looked around the cluttered kitchen. Cooked pasta and shattered glass made an abstract design across the green-patterned floor. A small hunk of her last piece of Pyrex Flameware was still sitting on the burner. She picked her way across the mess and turned off the gas under the broken cookware. The red sauce was still simmering on the burner next to it. Jane could see a few large chunks of glass simmering between tomatoes and lumps of ground beef. She used her wooden spoon to fish out the large pieces and then turned the gas off on that burner as well.

Jane reached inside the pantry and retrieved the old straw broom and dustpan. She swept the mess, tapping the broom every now and then to loosen a sticky noodle from the bristles. When she had most of it cornered into a pile, she stooped to sweep it into the dustpan. The dirt covered noodles mingled with stray hairs and crumbs. Dust bunnies clung to the edge of the broom and she used her free hand to pull them free, dropping them into the dustpan. Jane dumped the whole mess into the trash and then turned her thoughts to finishing dinner.

Kadie wouldn’t notice the specs of glass that were undoubtedly in the sauce, but what would she serve with it? Jane opened the pantry and scanned the shelves. She grabbed the box of Saltines from the top shelf and filled the tin plate with the hot red sauce. She had to stop herself from instinctively licking the spoon. She crumbled the stale crackers over the sauce and fished a spoon from the drawer next to the stove.

Jane opened the fridge and perused the cluttered contents, trying to decide what she would serve Harry now that dinner was ruined. She would bake the chicken and broccoli casserole she had been saving for Sunday afternoon. They always had a nice casserole after service. She would just have to prepare another before the weekend. Jane turned the nob on the oven to 350 before heading downstairs to deliver the meal.    

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series III

This week's writing prompt for Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday: In most parts of the world, Halloween is celebrated – in some form or another – this weekend. Your challenge this week is to write a horror scene ( or something horrific) using a wet noodle, a styrofoam cup and a feather. I'm continuing Tess's story again this week. Catch up by reading "Very Mild Superpowers" and "The Hunter."

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series III
The Return

"Kadie!"

Tess turned her head instinctively. Even though she'd been living as Tess for almost five years, she found herself reacting when she heard her real name. It was a habit she hadn't been able to break.

Across the crowd of children in khakis and plaid skirts she saw her childhood best friend, Amy. Amy waved her arms. Tess smiled back, keeping an eye on the line of cars crawling along the drive in front on St. Mary's Episcopal School. Tess looked down at her own pleated skirt, white stockings, and mary janes.

I remember this. A sinking feeling came over her as she tried to shake the cobwebs from her mind. She looked up in time to see the big, white truck pull to the head of the line.

She heard her name again.

"Kadie. Over here." The man in the truck was calling through an open window. He had kind, dark eyes and a reassuring smile. He propped his arm on the back of the bench seat and leaned toward the passenger side window. Kadie took a step back.

"It's okay. Your mom sent me."

Kadie hesitated for a second before convincing herself that this must be Roger, or was it Robert, her mom's current boyfriend of the month.

The details were vivid in her mind. She had relived this day, this moment, this decision countless times. She remembered the crisp autumn air, the yellow leaves crunching under her shoes, the wary look on Amy's face as she waved good-bye, and the blue jay feather that blew under the truck as she opened the door. She remembered the man's smooth voice and the rough feel of his hand against her cheek.

"Thirsty?" He handed her a styrofoam cup. Kadie took a sip of the tepid water.

"Don't be shy. Drink up, Kadie."

She wasn't thirsty, but she gulped down the water, sitting the empty cup back in the cupholder. The man pulled the lever on the steering wheel and pressed on the gas. Kadie's stomach tightened and she dug her nails into the sticky, vinyl seat.

"You don't remember me, Kadie. You were too little when your mom took you away."

Kadie tried to focus on the yellow line stretching out in front of the truck's hood. She was afraid to look at the man, knowing deep down that climbing into his truck had been a mistake.

"Look how much you've grown."

He grazed his knuckle over her cheek, ran his hand across the shoulder of her white cotton dress shirt, pausing to finger the ruffle at her sleeve, before running his calloused palm down her arm. He took her hand in his, covering it completely. Kadie looked down at his tanned skin, unconsciously counting the dark, course hairs on the back of his hand. She watched as goose bumps rose on her own arms. She smelled the distinctive scent of Old Spice cologne and tasted salt in her mouth. She struggled to keep her heavy eyelids from closing. The trees lining the quaint suburban street became orangish blurs as the truck rushed past.

"Who are you?" Kadie managed to squeak out the words as she struggled to hold back a sob.

"I'm your daddy, sweetie. Your real dad."

Tears trickled down her cheeks and the world around her began to spin. She remembered his hand on her thigh and seeing two boys taking turns on a tire swing in front of one of the big, brick houses. A shower of reddish leaves covered the road.

-----


"Kadie?"

Tess opened her eyes and immediately felt an ache in her wrist. She sat up slowly, letting the dank smell of mildew wash over her. She recognized the damp cinderblock walls, the thin cot, and the bars lining one side of the small room.

"Kadie. You're awake. You should eat something."

She recognized Jane's voice and saw the shadow of a thin woman beyond the bars. Tess let her eyes adjust to the dim lighting and rose from the cot. She started across the cold, concrete floor. Something pulled at her left leg. Tess looked down to see her leg shackled to a rusty chain.

She crossed the room, dragging the heavy chain behind her. Jane held out a tin plate. Tess could see a large black bruise across Jane's cheek. The woman had changed little in the last five years. She was still bone thin with stringy brown hair matted around her shoulders. She moved with a skittish demeanor, making stiff movements in her worn house shoes and a threadbare cotton dress. Tess noticed a wet noodle clinging to the hair around her face.

Tess reached for the plate. Jane looked down, refusing to meet her eye. Tess could see the familiar sadness in the woman's face, but she also saw relief. Jane cared about her, but she cared more about the reprieve Tess's return would bring her.

"You should never have left."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series II

This week's Fiction Friday prompt: Include this theme in your story… After a long night, a hunter sees something he/she cannot believe.
I decided to continue my story from last week. You may remember Tess from last week's story. If you'd like to catch up you can read more about her here.

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series II
The Hunter

Tess climbed the steps to her building. In the early dawn she could hear the squealing machinery of the garbage truck as it crawled down 3rd Avenue. The sun was beginning to rise, painting a veil of pink over the East Village. She loved watching the city wake up, but this morning all she cared about was yanking these heels off her blistered feet. She fished her keys from her handbag and hurried inside.

Once in the lobby she braced herself against the wall, slipped off the offending shoes, and winced as the blood rushed back into her toes. Tess walked flat-footed to the elevator, relishing the cold tile floor beneath her soles. She pressed the up arrow and waited.

“Not bad for a Thursday.”

Tess spun around. Her eyes widened and she had to push down the urge to run. A shot of adrenaline rushed through her body and she could hear the sound of her pulse racing, a thunderous roar in her ears. She hadn’t noticed anyone following her, but now she saw him. A man’s figure in the shadow of the foyer. Who could know? Who could have seen her? How much did he know?

The man stepped from the shadow into the lobby. Tess let out a breath when she recognized her neighbor, Jim. She willed herself to keep it together. Just another college student returning from a long night.

“Not bad at all.”
“Busy night?” Jim looked down at the shoes dangling from her right hand.
“You could say that. On the prowl.” Tess tossed her head, flicking her hair over her shoulder. She pasted on a coy grin. Jim returned the smile.
“You wild woman.” He gave Tess a quick smack on the ass as he veered toward the stairwell.
Tess feigned shock and then devolved into giggles. She kept the smile until she heard the stairwell door click.
“Disgusting.”

The elevator dinged and the door slid open. Tess climbed inside and pressed the number 16. She could still feel the sting of Jim’s hand on her ass. She closed her eyes and visualized the blood dripping down her last conquest’s chest. The thick fluid had rippled over his cut abs, soaked into his thin cotton boxers, letting the limp lump beneath show through. She could feel the edges of her mouth curve into a grin.

The elevator stopped with a jolt. Tess shook off the sinking feeling in her stomach and exited. She walked the hall to her apartment. She turned her key in the knob only to find that the door wasn’t locked. The feeling of being followed returned. Tess felt the fear creep back into her veins. She reached into her handbag and curled her fingers around the knife. It was still slick with blood and she struggled to gain a tight grip.

Tess turned the knob and pushed the door open. She closed it behind her before reaching for the light switch. In the dark she searched the shadows. Nothing. She flipped the switch. The apartment flooded with light. Nothing. Her heart continued to pound.

“Found you.”

The familiar voice came from behind her. It was right in her ear. She couldn't believe he was here, that he'd actually found her. Tess felt the cold, steel blade against her neck and the warm, muscular body against her back. The smell of old spice and cigarettes. She started to gag. The knife dug into her skin and she choked back the vomit, swallowing hard.

“Drop the knife, sweetie.”

Tess obeyed. She let the blood-coated knife fall to the floor. He loosened his grip and pushed her forward out of the doorway and into the main room. He pulled the knife back and shoved her hard. Tess felt a sharp pain in her arm as she tried to catch herself against the ivory chair. Her hose slipped on the hardwood floor and she lost her balance, leaving a smeared bloody handprint on the pristine upholstery. One of her heels landed next to her. The other skidded across the tile before crashing against the baseboards beneath the kitchen sink.

The intruder walked towards her, still brandishing his knife. Tess scrambled. She pressed her back against the side of the chair and pulled her legs up to her chest. Tears began to stream down her face, leaving black rivulets on her pale skin. Watching her cower, he stopped to pick up her handbag.

“Let’s see.” He dug in the bag. He pushed aside the tube of lipstick. He pulled out the pill bottle, gave it a quick look, shook his head, and then replaced it. “Here it is.” Finding her ID case, he tore at the plastic card until it came free.

“Tess Masterson is it? So we’re still posing as a college student?” He frisbeed her NYU Student ID. It glided across the floor, coming to rest next to Tess’s toes. She looked down at the card and noticed the tears in her hose. A run had started at her big toenail and was forming a thinning vee up the top of her foot towards her ankle.

“All these years bouncing from school to school. Think you might of learned something? The big city made it a little harder this go around, with so many lost souls to sift through. But here we are again.”

Tess forced herself to look him in the eye. They were the same empty, dark pools. The last five years had managed to deepen the creases across his forehead and lengthen the crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes. His dark brown hair was sprinkled with glints of grey and he had put on a few pounds.

He dropped her handbag and reached into his coat pocket. Tess couldn’t shake the familiar paralyzing fear as he pulled out a syringe. He uncapped the needle, crossed the few feet between them, and squatted down in front of her.

“Please, Daddy, no,” she said as the world turned to blackness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poetic Subjects

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.








From The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon
     The capital city. Arrowroot. Water-bur. Colts. Bamboo grass. The
     round-leaved violet. Club moss. Flat river-boats. Teh mandarin duck.
     The scattered chigaya reed. Lawns. The green vine. The pear tree. The
     althea.

Poetic Subjects
A wisp of clouds, unrequited love, a feeling one is afraid to lose, an early bloom surprises one on a morning walk, a passionate embrace, snow-covered fields, a home that once may have been warm and inviting but now crumbles under the weight of decay, a thing that is rustic and old, facing one's fears, I once had a dream and before I did not recognize the fear that lay just below my skin, gnawing at my soul, preventing me from soaring.


The Pink Evening Sky

A warm sun whispers
to your heart. Lie
down on the lingering
wind. Clutch sleep
in a dream. Your bed
is the pink evening sky.


Holding

His touch haunts
me. Between desire
and adore, a clutch
or an ache, in the embrace
of night, the lingering
caress of trusting souls.


Exchange

Escape the lusty 
Candle of day under 
her mate, the drunken 
moon. The dropping 
of hearts in wild 
darkness. The telling
of dreamy hunger, 
in sacred fire 
burning, flickers, 
as morning devours 
her night.






Friday, October 15, 2010

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series I

This week's [Fiction] Friday prompt from Write Anything: What is your Character's Very Mild Superpower? They even provided a song for inspiration.



Tess: A Fiction Friday Series I
Very Mild Superpowers

“I told you I have a knack for these things.” Tess eyed the thick band of white elastic showing beneath Trey’s unfastened pants. “I pegged you for briefs the second you walked into the bar.”
“I’m amazed. When exactly did you discover this superpower?”
“Funny.”

Tess tossed her blonde hair over her left shoulder. She tapped the toe of her stilletto on the sticky, wet pavement. She wasn’t surprised to find the alley behind the bar empty. She looked toward 2nd street. Nothing but the overflowing dumpster and some scattered pallets. She spun around to check the other direction. All clear. Just a flickering street lamp and several festering puddles. Along the alley walls the once red bricks had become tarnished with soot and grime. She turned back to see Trey fumbling with the button at his fly.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Tess stepped through the putrid water at her feet forcing Trey back against the brick wall. She leaned into him. “Why don’t you let me help with that? Looks like you’re having a bit of trouble.”

A half smile appeared on his face. His eyes were starting to glaze over and his movements were becoming stilted.

“Alrigh’ baby,” he slurred.

Tess smiled. She slid her hands down his chest, snaked her hand into his pants, and pulled the zipper down. Trey let out a quiet moan. This was always her favorite part. His eyes rolled back in his head. Tess leaned into him, pressing her body the full length of his. His body began to sag against hers and she had to use all her strength to ease him down to the ground. She straightened her legs and stepped back.

She stood over him, his legs sprawled out across the dirty asphalt and his arms hanging useless at his sides. One hand lay halfway covered in the water. Tess watched as a soggy cigarette butt circled his fingers and came to rest in the hollow between his thumb and forefinger. His eyelids closed and his head rolled sideways. It rested awkwardly on his shoulder and a strand of drool seeped from the corner of his mouth.

Tess opened her handbag. Finding anything in there was always a chore and the dim orange light of the street lamps wasn’t helping. She pushed the pill bottle aside, fumbled with a few pens and a tube of lipstick, and finally grasped the  knife at the bottom of the bag. She squatted down in front of him, feeling a draft as her skirt rode up the back of her thighs. Chill bumps came up on her bare arms and a shiver ran the length of her spine.

She didn’t take the time to unknot his tie. Instead she loosened it a bit and threw it over his shoulder. She deftly unbuttoned his stylish dress shirt and yanked it open. Tess ran the knife over his pale skin, tracing the limp muscles across his chest, leaving thin tracks of bloods. She used the tip of the knife to draw the outline of a heart in the center of his chest. It reminded her of the valentine Billy Thomas had given her in fifth grade. A clumsy heart cut from red construction paper. The words Be Mine scrawled across the front.

Tess gripped the knife in both hands, reared back, and plunged it into his chest. Blood sprayed across her face. She blinked until a droplet freed itself from her eyelashes. She pulled the knife out and watched the blood gush from the wound. She looked up at his motionless face, his smooth jaw, square chin, and high cheekbones. She ran the back of her hand over his cheek admiring the freshly-shaven skin. She used her thumb to wipe a spot of blood from his strong brow.

Tess stood up, her legs cramping a bit from holding the same position. She wrapped the bloody knife in a tissue before sliding it back into her handbag. She yanked down on her skirt and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Stepping over his sprawled leg, Tess took a cleansing breath and followed the alley out to 2nd Street.

Want to read more about Tess? You can follow her story in these posts:  The Hunter, The Return, and Jane.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Villa di Pratolino

Apennine by Giambologna (1579)
Fiction Friday Challenge #176: Your Main Character is a time traveler. He/She arrives at a destination but not all is as expected….
I've been working on the collaborative project for CYOA  so I decided to just pull in the mythology/technology and write a little offshoot story that can stand somewhat alone, but still ties in to the overall project. This innovative project has been an exciting challenge. You can learn more about the project by checking out the CYOA front page.





Villa di Pratolino

Florence, Italy. 2010

Jane waited for her head to stop spinning and the world around her to come into focus. When it did she could see the orange-red sunrise reflected in the Arno. In the distance the dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore rose above the Piazza del Duomo. Jane wished she could watch from her perch on the bridge as the sunrise splashed over the city and the streets began to fill with the activity of the day, but she had come here for a purpose.

Jane spotted a row of bikes lining the Lungarno Torrigiani. She didn’t have time for a rental so one of these would have to do. She followed the bridge and walked the row of flashy motorcycles. She eyed a simple black Triumph Bonneville 800 that looked to be in good condition. Jane fished the masterkey out of her bag. It was the one piece of tech she never left behind. It was an ingenious invention made to look like a keyless entry device. She turned the dial to bike, typed in the make and model, flipped out the metal piece, and watched as the metal molded itself into a key.

Jane took a quick glance at the empty street before climbing onto the bike. She kicked up the stand, inserted the key, deployed the choke knob, and pressed the start button. The bike hummed under her small frame. She pushed her messenger bag around to rest on her back and tightened the strap. She looked down at her wrist and let out a deep breath. She only had forty minutes to make it out of Florence and navigate the winding roadways to Vaglia. Jane pulled on the helmet, which the owner had been kind enough to leave behind, and began her ride North.


Jane took her post as Time Warden of Southern Europe very seriously. Her post included the years spanning the 19th through the 22nd Century, but she spent most of her time in the 2130s Thessaloniki, Greece at her flat in the Olympiados area. She loved the interesting mix of the thriving city interspersed with the ancient ruins that had been preserved throughout time. Having the latest technology at her fingertips was just a bonus.

Jane had received the communication from Johnathon just as she was freshening up for a night out clubbing with her girlfriends. It sounded urgent: a rift in the continuum 10 Oct 2010 8:03, Villa di Pratolino, Vaglia, Tuscany, Italy. Monitoring the continuum in her assigned time and area was Jane’s top priority. She had immediately looked to her augmentor, a device which allowed her to monitor the flow of time, navigate a jump, and communicate with other wardens. She hadn’t seen anything when she had checked that morning, but now Jane saw the ripple that Johnathon was warning her about.

It had been a long, long time since she had heard anything from Johnathon. He was once one of the most esteemed wardens, but after he left his post there had been little information about him. Johnathon had mentored several of the best Time Wardens, including Jane’s mentor, Selene. Selene refused to talk about him, but lately Jane had heard murmurings that he was in pursuit of some grand scheme. The little bits of information she had gleaned warned her that he was a danger. There was a rumor that he had been murdering Time Wardens to hide his activities in certain eras. Jane had a hard time believing that someone Selene trusted could stoop to such heinous activities. Surely if it were true he would have been stopped by now. There were measures in place after all. All she could worry about now was the threat of a ripple in her zone. She had quickly found a fold in the continuum that would send her closest to Johnathon’s coordinates and made the jump.


Jane pulled the bike into the Villa di Pratolino. She was a little windblown and her body was still vibrating from the long ride. She left the bike and began to traverse the gardens looking for anything out of the ordinary. Everything seemed normal. It was still early and just past the tourist season so Jane was alone in the expanse of drying foliage. Many of the leaves had already started to turn and a few had fallen to the grass below creating a scant covering of orange, red and brown. As she was admiring the lush scenery Jane felt the hair on her arms raise. The tension in the air was faint, but it was enough to alert her that another warden was nearby.

Jane closed her eyes and concentrated. She could sense the pull coming from the east. She opened her eyes and saw the colossal statue of Appennino as it brooded over the grotto. Approaching the sculpture she felt the waves of pressure grow stronger, causing her hands to shake and her stomach to turn. She fought the side effects of being in close proximity to another warden, knowing that it was her responsibility to maintain the continuum. Then she saw him. Even though it had been ages since she’d seen him, Johnathon was unmistakable with his sandy, red-tinged hair and muscular frame. She watched as he paused at the edge of the statue, skirted the foot of the bearded giant and disappeared into the centuries-old trees behind it.

Jane hurried across the grassy expanse, climbed the guard rail, and made her way up the sculpture to the spot she had seen Johnathon pause. She looked down. There was an innocuous-looking black briefcase sitting at the edge of the statue. Confused, she checked her wrist again. 8:02. She didn’t have time to deal with Johnathon’s game of cat and mouse. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen soon. She peered around the edge and searched the trees for him. She saw a movement in the branches and could still feel his presence. The feeling of her stomach turning was distracting. She could feel the pounding of her pulse in her temples and was fighting the urge to get as far away from Johnathon as possible.

That’s when she heard it over the trickle of water flowing into the grotto. A faint beeping noise. She looked around for the source. It was the briefcase. Jane’s heart began to race. She quickly picked her way across the base of the sculpture. She rounded the huge foot and stumbled down into the grass. She looked out into the trees and saw Johnathon. He flashed her a smile and winked before disappearing into the forest.

Jane turned back toward the sculpture. She heard a loud blast followed by deafening silence. Her body was propelled through the air. She slammed against a tree and felt a sharp pain in her left shoulder. When she looked over she could see a jagged branch piercing through her upper arm, pinning her in place. Unable to move, she watched as Giambologna’s masterpiece came crashing down on her in a mass of brick and stone.                  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Somewhere

This week's [Fiction] Friday prompt: Lonely in Paradise


Somewhere


“Isn’t there somewhere you’re supposed to be?”

Gabe heard the voice again. He looked around. He couldn’t think of anywhere he was supposed to be. He couldn’t think of much at all. He was captivated by what he saw around him. To his left, a field of blood-red poppies spilled from the forest. Above him the gold-orange blooms of crossvine clutched at the branches of a mesquite, its clawlike tendrils gripping the rugged bark. Trying to focus, he started recalling the names of the trees around him: bayberry, silver leaf maple, loblolly, witchhazel, black cherry . . . 

Gabe plucked a leaf from the cherry. He examined it closely. It was elliptical in shape, with very fine teeth; glossy and dark green above, pale green beneath, with tufts of brown hairs along the center ribbing. He was certain it was a cherry, but he’d never seen one grow quite so tall. He folded the leaf in half and pulled the two sides apart. A nervous action. He let the pieces fall to the moss-covered ground. 

He turned to look back across the rolling field of poppies. Across the field a range of snow-topped mountains jutted up against the horizon. The white tips glared in the bright light. Gabe guessed it must be close to noon, although he couldn’t find the sun beneath the forest canopy. He was tempted to stroll into the field and get a better view of the cloudless blue sky, but he opted instead for the shade of the trees and what looked like a footpath that led deeper into the woods. 

As Gabe followed the trail he tried to remember how he had managed to find this place. How did he end up in these woods? Where had he been going? And where was it he was supposed to be? It was useless. There was only this place. Nothing before. Nothing after. Finding the stress of memory too overwhelming, he focused on the trees again. A massive pecan stood before him, the oval nuts littering the grass at his feet. He marveled that its branches seemed to disappear into the sky. The path veered left around its wide trunk.

As he ventured further into the forest, Gabe noticed the diminishing light. The canopy was blocking out the day, creating a dim cavern of greens and browns. Only the infrequent ray of light managed to pierce the darkening woodland. Gabe watched as one of these points widened. It was a little over a hundred yards off the trail to his right. He watched, mesmerized by the glinting specks of dust and the floating pollen as they hovered in the growing ray.

As the light spread, he saw a figure. It seemed to congeal out of nothingness. A woman. She was standing, surrounded by the glow. A gust of wind came up behind him, catching the white blooms of a pear tree, swirling them around him before carrying them across the undergrowth to where the woman stood. Her long, blonde hair flowed out behind her as the blooms took up a playful dance in the sunbeam.

Compelled, Gabe followed the path of the pear blooms, stumbling through a patch of overgrown hawthorns. He hurried through the undergrowth, pushing back branches with his bare hands, smashing down the switch grass that managed to grow beneath the thick cover. He felt desperate. Gabe sped to a jogging pace. It was all he could manage over the terrain. He noticed a sharp rock jutting up from the soil and leapt just in time narrowly avoiding a fall. He pushed his way through a growth of blackberries, letting the vines scrape against his jeans, holding his arms up to avoid the thorns. 

He was only a few feet from the woman. Close enough, he thought, to reach into the expanding light. As he stepped out of the copse of vines a creeper shot out, wrapping its thorny branch around his ankle. His leg caught up in the tangle, Gabe stumbled. He threw his hands out in front of him and came crashing to the forest floor only inches from the light, which now seemed to be shrinking. The woman stood, blank-faced with wide empty eyes. 

Gabe scrambled to free himself from the grip of the vine. He pulled at the snaking branch, oblivious to the thorns as they tore into his fingertips. He yanked at the green tendrils, too vibrant to snap. Realizing the vine’s grip was impossible to break he quickly slid off his shoe and sock. He gripped the vine and slowly worked it over his heel and down the length of his foot until he was free. 

His skin was covered in the purple stain of blackberry juice mixed with the crimson of his own blood. Long scrapes trailed across his ankle and down his foot, dark red creases lined with raised white ridges. Gabe heard a shot ring out through the forest. He closed his eyes and when he opened them the forest was gone. He was alone in the dark. A light flashed across him and he looked down at his hands to find them covered in thick, sticky blood. The darkness closed in again and he felt a searing pain in his chest. He brought his hands up to slake the pain. Another flash showed him his chest. His hands rested on an exposed rib, surrounded by torn, raw flesh. He opened his mouth to scream, but the sound was muffled by a gooey liquid pouring from his throat. As the light passed, he closed his eyes again and fell to his knees. 

Gabe slowly opened his eyes. The forest had returned. He looked down to where his hands clutched at his chest. There was nothing there. No scrapes from the thorns. No purple stains. No blood. Gabe remembered the woman in the light. He climbed to his feet and spun around. The large ray had shrunk to a slender pinpoint. The woman stood, her back turned to Gabe. He was close enough now to reach her. 

Gabe put his hand on the woman’s shoulder. She slowly turned around. Her clear complexion giving off its own light in the darkened forest. As she turned Gabe saw the other half of her face. It was a mangled twisting of blood and flesh. Parts of her skull were visible and an eye hung loose from its socket. The long, blonde hair was matted with the sticky blood and chunks of brain matter dangled from the strands. 

“Help me,” the woman said. Her voice was a raspy whisper.

Gabe watched, paralyzed, as the pinprick of light went out. The woman reached out her arms as her body dissipated into the blackness of the forest. 

“Isn’t there somewhere you’re supposed to be?”

Gabe heard the voice again. He looked around. He realized he was in a thick, dark forest. He could see the faint glow of sunlight in the distance, shining down on a footpath. Gabe began to make his way through the undergrowth, desperately trying to remember where it was he should be. The strain of it soon became too much. Instead he concentrated on the foliage. There was a growth of hawthorns at his feet that led up to a large mesquite. He picked up a fallen leaf and examined it. Redbud, he thought. A break in the canopy cast a brilliant white light on the forest floor. Gabe looked around him for the redbud tree, knowing it must be close.   


Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Mistake

This Week's Fiction [Friday] prompt:  Why did the Tooth Fairy fail to deliver coins one evening?


A Mistake


Jake woke up early. His room was still dark, a maze of shadows. He stretched out, throwing his Star Wars comforter on the floor, and rolled over onto his stomach. He slid one hand under the pillow and felt around. There it is. Jake tossed the pillow off the bed and grabbed the little blue envelope. It was too dark to see the blue fairy printed on the front, but he knew it was there.

He jumped up, envelope in hand, and hopped over the scattered toys and action figures to his closet. He pulled the string. He had to squint his eyes at the light from the uncovered bulb. As soon as they adjusted he carefully untucked the flap. He peered inside.

"What the . . . ?" Jake said aloud.

Jake tipped the envelope and let the small tooth fall into his hand. He looked at it in wonder, examining the creamy white surface and inspecting the blood-tinted spot where it had clung to his gums.

He stomped down the hall to his parents' room and stood next to his mother's side of the bed.

"Mom. Mom." Jake gently shook his mother's shoulder.
"Jake . . . what is it? What's wrong?"
"The Toothfairy didn't come last night." Jake held the tooth out in the palm of his hand.


- - - - -


"What's that?" Clara sat straight up in her bed.

She looked around, trying to get her bearings. When she saw the mound of covers next to her, she realized she was safely in her bed. She had been dreaming of a carnival. Halloween was only a month away and she hadn't even started making costumes. She knew the dream was stress-related. They all seemed to be lately.

Clara tried to remember what had awakened her, but couldn't get the image of a bearded lady dressed as the Toothfairy out of her mind. That's when it hit her. She noticed the faint light coming from the hallway and knew that Jake was already awake. I can't believe I let this happen.

What will I tell him? she asked herself. A list of bad ideas ran through her mind: The Toothfairy was sick last night. We all get sick sometimes and there's that stomach bug going around. The Toothfairy couldn't find her way past the mess in your room. She couldn’t help smiling at that one. Maybe she was running late. Too many kid's loosing teeth yesterday and she’ll get you tomorrow . . . Clara heard the sound of determined footsteps in the hallway.

Unsatisfied with any of her answers, she decided to fake sleep instead. She laid her head back down on the pillow and pulled the blanket up around her face. Jake's footsteps got heavier and she had to resist the urge to remind him of their neighbors downstairs. Clara held her breath and tried not to squeeze her eyes shut too tight.

"Mom. Mom." Clara felt Jake's small hand on her shoulder.
"Jake . . . what is it? What's wrong?" She rolled towards her son. She could see the disappointment in his face.
"The Toothfairy didn't come last night." Jake held the tooth out in the palm of his hand.


- - - - - 


Santina hovered outside the window. She could tell by the warmth on the breeze and the sliver of golden light on the horizon that the sun would soon rise. She was late and she knew it.

"Give yourself a break, Santina. It is your first night after all," She heard her mentor's voice in the rattling leaves.
"I know, I know. I'll get this last one and the night will be a success."

She pushed the amber curls out of her eyes and prepared herself to phase through the window. Phasing was the hardest skill to master. She needed all of her concentration to do it correctly. She didn't want to get stuck again, like she had at the Mendleson girl's house. Santina cleared her mind and worked to block the sounds of the world around her.

She heard a clicking noise. Her concentration disturbed, she opened her eyes. She looked around, but no one was outside at this early hour. She turned back to the window and that's when she saw it: a light. It was coming from the boy's room.

She sped up her wings, raising herself to the branches of an oak tree. She decided to rest there for just a moment. She tried not to dwell on her failure, but she just had to see it. Seeing was her best subject and she just had to know what was going on inside that room.

Santina slowed her breathing and waited for her eyes to cloud over. It was easy. Soon she was looking through the haze. She saw the boy standing in his closet. His face was so sweet and expectant. She watched as he opened a small, blue envelope.

"Oh I'm saved," she said aloud. “I just love it when the parents play along.”

She watched as he turned the envelope up, letting the contents spill into his open hand. She looked into his palm. It was his lost tooth. She saw the look of disappointment on the boy's face and felt a tightness in her chest. He stepped out of the closet, leaving the exposed bulb dangling. She watched as he traversed the scattered toys.

In her mind, Santina followed the boy down the hallway, his footsteps getting louder and louder. He entered his parents’ room. In the faint light from the hallway, she could see the boy pause and look down at his mother's face before beginning to wake her.

"Mom. Mom." The boy said as he tried to shake his mother awake.
"Jake . . . what is it? What's wrong?" The woman sounded concerned and confused.
"The Toothfairy didn't come last night." The boy said as he held out his hand.

Santina couldn't watch any longer.

She shook her head, her long curls swirling around her face. She lifted her hands from the branch and wiped them on her lap, not caring about mussing her new uniform or snagging the pink tulle on the jagged bark. The sun began to rise, the squirrels ventured out to find their breakfast, and the blue jays began vying for attention. She sat there watching, surprised that the world could still awaken.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Day When the Snow Lay Thick on the Ground . . .

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.

One day when the snow lay thick on the ground I rise early for my morning walk. It's January in the small town of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. This unusually cold winter has just dug in, stretching its frosty tendrils into the ground, and warning us of the long, cold days ahead. In the wee hours of the night a real, ground-covering snow has enveloped the small campus of Williams Baptist College.

I dress in the dark quiet of our small apartment, careful not to wake my sleeping husband and 3-year-old son. I put on my winter coat, scarf, and gloves. The snow, undisturbed, glistens in the moonlight. I follow the small road leading away from student housing. The red brick buildings grow smaller and smaller until they are swallowed whole by the dark. My footsteps crunch in the snow beneath me. The only sound in a sleeping world. I pass the small park at the entrance to campus. The swings are still and the large oak's limbs sag under the weight of its load. I follow the road that leads away from the school. It is lined by corn fields long ago harvested. The dry, withering stalks crushed under tillers. Today the fields are a blank slate of snow; the white sheet masking the decay sleeping just below the surface.

I am utterly alone, trudging through a white wilderness. I am reminded of a story by Jack London, "To Build a Fire." The story of a man, alone in the Yukon, surviving. Man against Nature. The man makes a fatal mistake, but his soul refuses to give up. The driving instinct of survival, innate in all of humanity, compels him to continue, even when he knows he will not succeed.

In my mind, I am this man, or a version. I am alone in a frozen wilderness, refusing to let nature conquer. I take a deep breath of the winter air and look to the East. A pink sunrise is beginning to take shape on the horizon as I reach my mile mark. The stars are faint dots in the Western sky. I stop. I move my fingers and toes, making sure they are not frozen. Turning around I retrace my footsteps, the only thing marring the smooth, white surface.

Behind me something stalks. A beast following patiently. Its long, deep growl breaks the silence. It waits for the moment when I let down my guard or start to slow my pace. The instinct kicks in and I'm moving faster. My footsteps are unsure. My shoe slides in the mushy ice of a footprint. I am forced to slow down, but my heart still races. I can hear the hurried thump in my ears, feel it at my temples. I know if I slip the beast will overtake me, and I am not yet willing to concede defeat.

The wind breaks against my face. I pull the scarf up to cover my mouth and nose. My breath is a hot mist, wetting my scarf and melting the frost. I close my eyes against the frigid air. When I open them I see that the sun is rising over the fields. The snow catches the light: a bright, white sheet sprinkled with glitter.

I round the turn at the campus entrance, setting each foot down carefully. A low growl follows. The beast has slowed its chase. Some invisible barrier has kept it at bay, but I can feel its longing, its disappointment, its unwillingness to give up its prey.

My heartbeat slows and I count the steps . . . one, two, three, four . . . until the rhythm matches the pulsing in my neck. A robin calls out from his perch in the oak tree. The world begins to wake.

As I near my home, the sound of an engine roaring to life startles me. My neighbor's pick-up hums, spewing a blackish fog into the crystalline landscape. The spell is broken. Cold and damp, I know I have survived some great adventure. I am alive and unconquered.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Toothfairy

Writing Exercise: Switching Points of View

This sounded like a fun exercise so I decided to give it a go. The instructions:

Step One
  • Write a one paragraph scene based on this week’s [Fiction] Friday prompt: Why did the Toothfairy fail to deliver coins one evening?
  • Ensure the scene involves at least two characters (you may choose to have more than two if you wish).
  • Write from first person or limited third person POV (point of view) so you are actually writing someone’s perspective.
  • Take no more than ten minutes to write.
Step Two
  • Take the original scene and write from the perspective of someone else present.
  • Again limit yourself to no more than a paragraph and ten minutes of writing time.
Step Three
  • Write the scene for a third time but this time, write from the perspective of someone outside of the ‘action’ in the scene, someone who has not been seen or mentioned in either of the previous paragraphs.
  • Same time and length limitations apply.

 The Toothfairy

Step One:  

James woke up early. Even though it was just another school day, he was excited. The sun hadn't come up yet and his room was still dark, a maze of shadows. He stretched out throwing his Star Wars comforter on the floor and rolled over onto his stomach. He slid one hand under the pillow and felt around. There it is. James tossed the pillow off the bed and snatched the little blue envelope. It was too dark to see the blue fairy printed on the front, but he knew it was there.

He jumped up, envelope in hand, and hopped over the scattered toys and action figures to his closet. He pulled the string and then had to squint his eyes at the light from the uncovered bulb. As soon as they adjusted he carefully untucked the flap. He peered inside.

"What the . . . ?" James said aloud.

James tipped the envelope and let the small tooth fall into his hand. He looked at it in wonder, examining the creamy white surface and inspecting the blood-tinted spot where it had clung to his gums.

He stomped into his parents' room and stood next to his Mother's side of the bed. She was sleeping so peacefully that he almost didn't want to wake her, but his focus was on his missing prize.

"Mom. Mom." James gently shook his Mother's shoulder.
"James . . . what is it? What's wrong?"
"The Toothfairy didn't come last night." James held the tooth out in the palm of his hand.




Step 2:

"What's that?" Clara sat straight up in her bed.

She looked around, trying to get her bearings. When she saw the mound of covers next to her, she realized she was safely in her bed. She had been dreaming of a carnival where everyone was wearing the most ridiculous costumes. Halloween was only a month and a half away and she hadn't even started making costumes. She knew the dream was stress-related. They all seemed to be lately.

Clara tried to remember what had awakened her, but couldn't get the image of a bearded lady dressed as the Toothfairy out of her mind. That's when it hit her. I can't believe I let this happen, Clara admonished herself. She noticed the faint light coming from the hallway and knew that James was already awake.


What will I tell him? she asked herself. A list of bad ideas ran through her mind: The Toothfairy was sick last night. You know we all get sick sometimes and there's that stomach bug going around. The Toothfairy couldn't find her way past the mess in your room. She couldn't help laughing a little. He'll never buy that one. She was running late. Too many kid's loosing teeth yesterday . . . Clara heard the sound of determined footsteps in the hallway.


Unsatisfied with any of her answers, she decided to fake sleep instead. She laid her head back down on the pillow and pulled the soft, flowered comforter up around her face. James's footsteps got heavier and she had to resist the urge to remind him of their neighbors downstairs. Clara held her breath and tried not to squeeze her eyes shut too tight.


"Mom. Mom." Clara felt James's small hand on her shoulder.
"James . . . what is it? What's wrong?" She rolled towards her son. She could see the disappointment in his face. He looked so young, so trusting. Clara closed her eyes and fought back a sob.  
"The Toothfairy didn't come last night." James held the tooth out in the palm of his hand. 




Step 3:

Santina hovered outside the window. She could tell by the warmth on the breeze and the sliver of golden light on the horizon that the sun would soon rise. She was late and she knew it. This was her last stop tonight. 

"Give yourself a break, Santina. It is your first night after all," She heard her mentor's voice in the rattling of the dry leaves. 
"I know, I know. I'll get this last one and the night will be a success."

She pushed the amber curls out of her eyes and prepared herself to phase through the window. Phasing was the hardest skill to master. She needed all of her concentration to do it correctly. She didn't want to get stuck again, like she had at the Mendleson girl's house. That was so embarrassing. Santina cleared her mind and worked to block the sounds of the wakening world around her.

Just then, she heard a faint clicking noise. Her concentration disturbed, she opened her eyes. She looked around, but no one was outside at this early hour. She turned back to the window and that's when she saw it: a light. It was coming from the boy's room. 


She sped up her wings, raising herself up to the branches of an oak tree. There she decided she could rest for just a moment. She tried not to dwell on her failure, but she just had to see it. Seering was her best subject and she just had to know what was going on inside that room.

Santina slowed her breathing and waited for her eyes to cloud over. It was easy. Soon she was looking through the haze. She saw the boy standing in his closet. His face was so sweet and expectant. She watched as he opened a small, blue envelope. 

"Oh I'm saved," she said aloud. "His parents have taken care of it for me. What loving parents this little boy must have."

She watched as he turned the envelope up. letting the contents spill into his open hand. She looked into his palm. It was his lost tooth. She saw the sad look of disappointment on the boy's face and she felt a tightness in her chest. The boy's look turned. It was no longer just sadness, it was tinged with a determination. He stepped out of the closet, leaving the exposed bulb dangling. She watched as he traversed the scattered toys in his room. 

In her mind, Santina followed the boy down the hallway, his footsteps getting louder and louder. He entered what she thought must be his parents room. A man and a woman were sleeping soundly under a thick comforter. In the faint light from the hallway, she could see the boy pause and look down at his mother's face before beginning to wake her.

"Mom. Mom." The boy said as he tried to shake his mother awake.
"James . . . what is it? What's wrong?" The woman sounded concerned and confused. 
"The Toothfairy didn't come last night." The boy said as he held out his hand.  

Santina couldn't watch any longer. 

She shook her head, her long curls swirling around her face. She lifted her hands from the branch and saw how dirty they were from clinging to her improvised seat. She wiped them on her spotless new uniform, not caring about getting messy or snagging the pink tulle on the jagged bark. She sat there for a long time, watching the sun rise in the East, the squirrels scurrying to find their breakfast, the blue jays vying for attention, surprised that the world could still awaken.    





  




 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Home

This week's [fiction] Friday prompt:  Use one or more of these words in your story (but resist the temptation to look them up first!)


  • Periapt
  • Vilipend
  • Embrangle



Home

"I don't know why you insist on embrangling me in your quarrels with Becky."
"The word you're looking for is entangle, Mother," Sandy said.
"I am not a child, young lady. I said just what I meant to say."

Victoria crossed the room and pulled her word-a-day calendar from the top drawer of her desk.

"See. It's right here. May 17th. Embrangle."

Sandy set her iced tea neatly on a coaster. Heaven forbid she leave a ring on Mother's precious coffee table. She pulled herself up from the overstuffed sofa and followed her mother's path across the den. She stood, back propped against the rolling wooden chair, and extended her hand with a huff.

"What's this?"
"It was a gift from Henry."
"Of course it was."
"Don't be petty. He says it will broaden my horizons."

Sandy rolled her eyes and began flipping through the tear-out pages.

"There it is: embrangle. Oh and there's more: vilipend . . . esoteric . . . magniloquent . . . trivalent . . . periapt."

Sandy started laughing.

"What's so funny?
"Broaden your horizons? What was that old man thinking?"
"He was thinking it would be a very thoughtful gift."
"He was probably thinking how funny it would be when you blurted out a word like magniloquent at your next garden party."
"Now you're just being mean."

Victoria snatched the calendar out Sandy's hands and shoved it back into the drawer.

"Why do you have to be so hateful?" Victoria said.

Sandy thought that her mother's voice sounded more sad than angry. She watched as her mother walked over to the bay window. The mid-morning sun was pouring through the glass, creating slender rays of light. Victoria watched the specks of dust sparkle in the sunlight. She could hear the call of a mockingbird coming from the wide Live Oak outside the window.

Things were so much more peaceful when Sandy was away at school. It was only the end of May and Victoria was already exhausted by the constant chatter, the mess, and the need for confrontation. She was even tired of the bouncy energy she had once admired in her youngest daughter.

Three more years of college and Sandy would be out on her own, leaving Victoria alone in the big, empty house. She remembered this stage with her other three girls. Somehow her two boys had been easier. Soon enough Sandy would mature and gain some wisdom, some idea of how the world really worked. Until then Victoria would bite her tongue and send up a few more silent prayers.

Sandy came up behind her mother and wrapped her long, thin arms around her, squeezing. She rested her chin on her mother's shoulder, letting her straight blonde hair fall across her face. Victoria brought her arms up over her daughter's. They stood there silently for a while. Victoria watching a squirrel turn an acorn in its front paws. Sandy keeping a count of her mother's steady breathing.

"I'm sorry, Mom."
"I know."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It is Getting So Dark

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.

It is getting so dark. And fast. A tropical storm has rolled off the gulf. It has crossed Northern Mexico and is sending black, ominous clouds up into Texas. Three hundred miles from the coast and our town is awash in the grey of it.

Sometimes the rain pours down on scurrying cars. Sometimes the wind holds its breath. When it exhales again we watch the storm clouds move across the sky. Standing still, the huge masses rush by. Looking up, I am dizzy at the sense of motion.

A wild gust looses a dance of leaves. They encircle us in a leafy whirlwind. I reach out to touch them. Some the warm green of Summer. A few have turned orange, impatient for Fall. They settle at our feet atop the unearthly-hued grass.

I drink in the smell of it. The dark wall of clouds to the South lights up. A light show muted by grey curtains. I can hear the thunder growling in the distance, a deep throaty groan. A raindrop lands on my cheek, a wet kiss, a warning.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Happened to Albert

This week's [fiction] Friday prompt:
"Albert is Dead"
Along with romantic scenes, many writers find writing a scene which involves killing a character a challenge. Here is your chance to write a scene where a truly objectionable character dies.
Step 1. Go read "Doggone" -a Friday Fiction first draft piece from a week ago.
Step 2. Decide who, what and how Albert dies. It may be accidental, a blundered break in, monster attack - or by one of the many characters within the short story who may or may not have a motive.
Step 3. Now write . . . You can choose to be as graphic or lyrical as you like, choose to show but not tell - or just tell it all.
The only rule is - Albert must be dead by the end of the story.

What Happened to Albert

Albert was meticulously labeling his collection of discs, printing names across the shiny surfaces with a thick, black Sharpie. When he got to the last one, he tried to remember the name of the newest offender. A blonde twenty-something girl with one of those purse dogs. She insisted on letting the spindly creature defecate and urinate wherever its little heart desired. 


“Not on my lawn, missy,” Albert growled.


Albert turned in his chair and stared at the monitors of his security system as if he would find her name there. Sasha . . . Simone . . . Amberly . . . oh what is that silly girl’s name? He mulled it over. He knew it was some trendy piece of work. She was just the type with that fashionista look and those sweat pants with the word “juicy” scrolled across the ass. What was she even doing in a nice neighborhood like this? She should be out in Cali looking for her next sugar daddy. The thought of it made him cringe. He hated that gold digger type. 

“Ansley! That’s it.” Albert wrote the name across the last disc and pushed his chair back from his desk. He had decided that a hard afternoon’s work of monitoring the neighborhood had earned him a short nap. Before he could will himself out of the chair, he noticed that one of the monitors had gone black.

“That’s odd,” Albert said. He had meticulously wired each and every camera himself. There was no good reason that this one screen should be showing up blank. He cursed under his breath as he forced his back to straighten. He slowly rose and made his way to the kitchen door. The house was unusually quite with Linda out and he could hear the ice cubes dropping into the tray in the freezer. 

Albert opened the door and had to shield his eyes from the harsh light of the afternoon sun. The August heat was overwhelming and he could see steam rising from the wet grass.

“When is Linda going to fix those sprinklers?” Albert growled. “The heat of the day is not the time to be watering the grass. Look at those puddles everywhere. If the sprinklers were timed right, the flower beds wouldn’t be huge lakes of mud every afternoon. It’s a wonder anything lives around here. Incompetence.”

Albert never would have left the cool comfort of his air conditioned home if it hadn’t been that one camera that was out. The one that pointed towards Marco’s house. He needed to keep tabs on Linda’s little fling. She thought she was so smart, trying to pull something over on him. Oh she’ll see . . . one day . . . she’ll see. Albert followed the wet footpath to the corner of the house. There it was, his faulty camera, poised on the edge of the gutter.

From the footpath Albert could see the loose wire. Not a problem, he thought. Albert stepped into the flower bed and his white canvas shoe sunk into the mud.

“Piece of crap.” Albert pulled his foot up out of the mud. He realized he should have grabbed the step stool from the kitchen, but his shoe was already covered in mud. Albert let his foot sink back into the wet soil. He stepped his other foot over the row of dahlias and resigned himself to ruining his shoes. The water seeped up out of the mud creating a little brown puddle.
“Hi there neighbor.” He was surprised by the girlish voice calling from the street. He turned to look and saw that it was her, Ansley. She was jogging in one of those couture sweat suits with her little rat on a studded pink leash. 

“Afternoon, Ansley,” he begrudgingly called back as she approached.

Albert turned back to his task. Standing in the flower bed, he realized that the water had rose up above his socks and was wetting his exposed ankles. Soon it would tinge his white slacks with its murky brownish color. He let out a grunt. He had to stretch to reach the camera. He put one hand on the camera to steady it and pulled the other hand up to grasp the disconnected wire. As soon as his fingers curled around the wire, he felt it.

A jolt. All of the muscles in his body contracted at once and he could smell something burning. Hair, he thought, now that’s odd. He looked out into the neighborhood for something. He wasn’t quite sure what. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was the word “juicy” in swirling pink letters across Ansley’s tight ass.