Aurora Borealis

A short story to break my writing block. Started this a while ago, and decided to finish it today. Now I’m working on some more substantial writing. I hope to set goals and be more active on my blog again too.

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“Daddy, tell me about the aurora borealis,” Hetty said.

I sighed, settled down on to her bed, tucked the blanket under her chin, and began the story for the hundredth time in my daughter’s short life.

When I wasn’t much more than a boy I trekked up to Alaska to do some fishing. In those days you could hitchhike just about anywhere. I didn’t have a lick of money, but some kind strangers gave me a ride. Nobody worried about murdering and all that. I stayed up there to fish King Salmon. Worked for a guy named Kallik. Name meant lightning, he told me. And boy was he lightning. He’d get so drunk that the guy on his bad side could never see his fist coming.

We lived in a log cabin. Free board, and made a little bit of money. Not much mind you. A bunch of drifter guys just trying to make a living someway somehow. I didn’t have what you have, a family who loved me. I just had myself. I wasn’t more than eighteen. Just a boy really, and a drifter.

One day, Kallik invited me to hike with him. I showed up and he told me I looked just like a typical white guy—unprepared for the situation at hand. He drapped a fur coat over my shoulders and said I would need it. We would climb the mountain, he said, and meet some of his friends and family to watch the aurora borealis. We would camp at the top of the mountain, eat meat off the spicket, some shit like that. I couldn’t even imagine—not like I’d been in Scouts as a kid.

We hiked for what seemed like days. Kallik gave me jerky to sustain me. He had energy like a battery—just kept on going. Not me. I felt out of place that day. As we went up in the mountain, the snow came. I was glad I’d bought a good pair of boots with my first paycheck. I was grateful for Kallik’s fur around my shoulder. We walked for four hours—must’ve been, and then I saw smoke rising on the horizon, as the sun had started to drift down behind the mountain.

“That’s camp,” Kallik said, when we arrived at the top.

People sat around the camp site by the fire, in tents, playing music, talking, cooking food. I felt like I wandered back into time. I felt like I was intruding on some private ritual where I didn’t belong.

“When the lights come out, my people say it’s the spirits coming out to play, Kallik told me as he sat down on a log and held his hands in front of the fire.”

“I sat down next to him. A woman with a long black braid came out of the tent. I couldn’t help staring at her. Her eyes shone with a light I’d never seen before as if she could see the past, present, and future all at once.

“Why’d you bring the white guy?” she immediately asked Kallik, as she took a seat next to me.

“Dan, this is Meri, Meri, Dan,” Kallik said.

We ate and sat in silence for a while. The lights came out to play, and we stared in awe. A silence fell upon camp like the quietness of falling snow enfolding the world.

“It looks supernatural,” I said. “I can see why people flock to see this phenomenon.”

“Just science. Magnetic poles and such,” Meri said, sounding bored but giving me a cockeyed smile and a wink.

Kallik wrapped furs around our shoulders to keep us warm in the bitter cold night, and we sat staring up at the sky unable to look away from the beauty of existence.

“Mary doesn’t sound like an Inuit name,” I said, turning to look at the woman next to me.

Meri wrapped her arms around me and leaned her head on my shoulders causing my heart to beat rapidly and something otherworldly arose in me like the green lights dancing across the sky drawing us together.

“It’s M-e-r-i. Short for Meriwa,” she said, as I wrapped my arms around her and leaned in.

“Yeah, know what it means?” Kallik asked.

I shook my head.

“Thorn,” he said, with a little laugh.

“And your mom has been a thorn in my side ever since,” I said, wrapping my arms around my daughter, brushing her long black hair out of her face, and kissing her goodnight.

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I Held Your Heart Once

Here’s a short story (748 words) I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below:

I Held Your Heart Once

“I told you this was a bad idea!” he shouted.

Yeah, as if the entire idea had been mine. We sat in the house on the gray floor, my fingers almost completely numb. I wanted to shove a knife under his ribs. I plastered a faux smile on my face.

“You start the fire then.”

“Fine,” he said, grabbing the stick and the stone from me.

I studied El’s face as the light in the windows began to recede and the bitter wind howled. His cheeks were gaunt. When we’d left they’d been full of meat. Now, we both looked like shadow people; skinnier than we ever should have been. The lines of dirt on his cheekbones would have made him look like a football player if he were bigger. But now they accentuated the emaciated look of his face.

I tried to blow the blue out of my fingers.

El shouted at the stick as if it had ears.

I went to the door.

“What the fuck are you going to do, Mare?”

“Going somewhere else. I mean we’ll freeze to death in here.”

“It’s safe and it’s warm.”

“It’s not warm.”

“It’s warmer than out there.”

I looked out the window. The ferocious snow fell barricading us into this desolate place. We were stuck, and it was my bad idea that had brought us up here. I thought there’d be food, maybe canned goods. But when we opened the door a vacuous wasteland of dust greeted us. The back window had a crack letting in a constant stream of cold air and snow. No wood, except for wet, snow-bound logs sitting on the crumbling front porch. I could feel El’s hostility aimed at me like an arrow.

“I mean who the fuck goes up the mountain. We should have been going down.”

My heart felt like a worn stone in my chest. I stood by the door, not opening it, with my back to him. He struck the rock against the stick. Heat remained aloof. There was friction in the air but not enough to start a fire.

“My hands are numb,” I said. I turned toward him.

He put the rock and stick down and looked at me. I could see his old face hidden in his new one. The old face I’d fallen in love with. His eyes which had looked cold softened and his face crinkled into a smile. His smile warmed me up, and I felt the once familiar spark. The one that had been missing for awhile now, the one that reminded me that I’d held his heart once.

“Come here.”

I stood still.

He stood up and walked toward me, measured steps through the dust of the room. He pulled my shirt off before I could say no. His hands on my breast warmed me up. Body heat, the natural generator. He took off his shirt and grabbed my hands. He warmed them with his, rubbing them together like the stick and the stone. He placed my hands on his chest.

He slid down my pants then pulled down his. I shivered, and he wrapped his arms around me. We were like two unlit pieces of coal trying to catch an elusive spark. I felt him enter me and shivered again. We had not made love in ages.

“I don’t have a condom.”

“It’s okay.” It wasn’t.

Our bodies moved together filling the cabin with warmth. I imagined soft lights. I imagined a rope bed with a soft mattress, blankets covering us. I imagined the smell of chicken cooking in the oven. I imagined our children.

When I blinked, I felt his hip bone against my inner thigh. I’d never felt his hip bone before. The barrenness of the cabin stole my fantasy. He moaned and I squeezed my arms around him trying to find the heat in what should have been passion. I didn’t want the fantasy of what we once had to end. But he pushed hard, climaxed, and rolled off of me. The frigid air pierced my sweat-smothered skin. El sat with his back to me and took up the stone and stick again.

I had been wrong to come here. He’d held my heart once but it has since shattered like an icicle.

A sudden spark rose from the stick. El lit the wood then turned to look at me with fire in his eyes.

The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Snow Mountain

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Vengeance

Another Chuck Wendig challenge today. Chuck asked us to write a story about revenge. I decided to write about a victim of bullying, and how she decides to enact revenge on the bully.

Unfortunately, this story hits home to me. As a 4th grader, I was repeatedly bullied and physically assaulted by another child. I have alopecia, and because I was different, this little boy decided to pick on me. I didn’t tell my parents for a long time. I confided in my sister. She and I spent time sending him love and positive energy, as my sister thought this might make him change his ways. It didn’t.

The next year, my parents moved me out of that school into a private school. I have never forgotten what that little boy did to me, and to this day I wonder if he feels guilty about it. I also wonder what was going on in his life for him to treat me that way. Bullying is a serious issue and should always be addressed. I don’t want to enact revenge on my bully, but an I’m sorry would have been nice. The beginning part of this story is a autobiographical. Teach your kids to be kind and accepting, especially to those who are different.alo


Vengeance — 839 words

 

I had been obsessed with finding Burke Hardwich since about seventh grade. Lying in my bed at night, I pictured his 4th grade self. His two canines missing—never having grown back—and me looking up at him from the ground. The first time he hurt me, we had been lined up for music. He pushed me down, and I went skidding onto the black asphalt, my arm split wide open. I needed stitches. I told my parents it was just an accident.

The accidents continued. Burke would find me alone on the corner of a playground, and he would hit me in the stomach. He kicked out my foot while I carried a tray of spaghetti across the blue and white tile of the cafeteria, red sauce spraying the walls like blood.

I never told Mom and Dad how much Burke hurt me. I started having stomachaches. I sat in the office for most of my 4th grade year, waiting to make a phone call to Dad’s secretary at work who I could always depend on to pick me up.

Burke moved in 5th grade. I felt relief in his leaving of course. My tormentor was gone, and there wasn’t another one to take his place. But as the years went on I became more and more obsessed with Burke.

Fast forward to now. I’m sitting in a dingy apartment in Alabama, and I’ve just landed a job with Burke’s company. He’s a high-powered CEO. Making the big bucks. He’s married and has 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a dog. I have none of those things. I am alone. I have fixed up my appearance today. I’m wearing a red dress designed to accentuate my curves. I’ve had my teeth stained white, put on just enough makeup, and my hair has been recently curled. I look in the mirror, double-checking myself. I look hot. Who could say no to this?

My pseudonym is Camilla. The name means warrior, and that is what I am. For too long, I have let Burke destroy me, and now it’s my turn to destroy him.

In the office, I plant myself at my assigned desk. My heart beats fast in excitement, not nervousness. Burke comes in, chatting on his cell phone. He raises his eyebrows at me in acknowledgment. The skin in between his eyebrows crinkles up as he looks at me. I see recognition, like he knows me but can’t place me. Yes, Burke, you do know me—at least a previous version of myself.

He goes into his office. A few minutes later, he pings me. I walk in. I place my whole body up on his desk, and I cross my sleek legs. I tap my foot, and my heel slips on and off. I take in his look. His eyes run up and down my body, trying to make sense of what he sees. I know he wants to touch me. I can feel it. I like playing this game of cat and mouse with him. I like being the one in control, not the one flat on my back in the asphalt, or being punched silly on the playground.

The weeks go on. I make advances. At first, he doesn’t do anything. Then one day, there is a touch of my hand. A week goes by. My phone is set to record when he tells me what he wants to do with me. I smile and nod, playing along. That night, I send the audio file to HR. They waste no time in terminating him. I am exultant at his demise.

The next day, I show up at his door. His wife answers. She is grimacing at me.

“Are you her?”

“Is Burke home?”

“Burke,” she screams, and slams the door in my face.

He comes out his face tilted down in guilt and angst. I understand I have probably destroyed his marriage too, a fact that makes me giddy.

“You ruined my fucking life,” he says. “Why would you do that?”

“Burke, do you know who I am?” I ask.

I am playing with fire, being there anyway. He could call the police. He could say I have been stalking him. It would be true. I stand with my hands on my hips and stare at him. His face looks like a question mark. Of course, he would not know. I had meant nothing to him in 4th grade. I was a piece of garbage he had been intent on annihilating. He had put me away with all of the rest of his childish things.

I reach into my purse, and I pull out the 4th Grade class picture. I am in the front row, glasses, and bald spots from alopecia. Burke stands in the back, towering over everyone. I tap on my picture as realization spreads across his face.

“I’m sorry,” he says, shaking his head.

“Yeah me too. But now we’re even.”

I throw the picture at him, and I walk away.

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A New Life

Hello lovely readers. Today, I wrote a blog for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge this week was to write something with the prompt new life. 

A New Life — 650 Words

When Star turned thirty-one she wished for a new life. She even wished for a new name. The commitments of everyday life seemed too much, and like her name sake, she almost wished she could fizzle out or be sucked up into the nothingness of a black hole.

On a Thursday, she went to her job at Thomason’s Bolts. She sat at the front desk, staring at the wood-paneled walls, waiting for a customer to call or come in. The clock on the wall ticked away, reminding her of how little time she had left to really make a difference.

Mr. Thomason, who had a red mustache despite his head full of black hair, walked in, threw a file on her desk and said, “What the hell happened with the Parker contract?”

Star took a deep breath and stared at him. For years she had been waiting for this moment. She stood up, put her faux Michael Kors purse on her shoulder, and walked out much to the gaping Mr. Thomason’s surprise. She had felt like cussing him out, but instead she walked out with her pride still intact. A silent revolution of sorts.

Star had always trusted her intuition. She trusted it when she met Bobby Dixon at a night club five years back. She trusted it when she walked down the aisle with him two years earlier. She trusted it when she followed him to a Motel 6 on the edge of town three weeks before, and saw him walk into Room 504 with a bleached-blonde tramp wearing hooker heels. She even trusted it as she packed up the boxes in the two story end unit townhome they owned together and walked away from Bobby. Their relationship had grown stagnant, and she knew his transgression was as much her fault as it was his. At night, they had started to politely ignore one another. And she realized their life together had become boring, monotonous even, and who could fathom living out the next 50 or so years that way. Not her.

On Friday, Star sat in the airport. She had turned off her phone after approximately 52 phone calls and about 150 text messages from Bobby. Mr. Thomason had only called her once and left this message, “So I take it you quit?”

Star bought a one-way ticket to Peru. She had been there before. She had been a teenager, on the brink of adulthood, when her parents had dragged her to the rainforest. They had taken her to small villages tucked along the Amazon where they provided medical services for people in need. Her parents had been upset by the poverty of the people. Star had been entranced by the happiness they found in their simple life.

Star couldn’t explain it, but when she stepped off the plane and shook Señor Arizmendi’s hand, she told him not to call her Star, but to call her Zora.  Señor Arizmendi complied, despite the contradictory evidence of her passport.

They took a bus then a boat to the small village. When Señor Arizmendi stepped off the boat, all the children gathered around him, asking for candy and staring with their big brown eyes at Zora. She smiled and patted their heads, and she handed out the candy Señor Arizmendi had given to her in preparation for this moment. The children flashed toothless grins at Zora, and one small boy, who couldn’t have been older than four, placed his pudgy hand in hers and led her toward the one room school house.

Zora sighed in relief as she found her way in this new life. Zora found new meaning in this simple way of life. She found a way to relax and be happy with just being, surviving, teaching, and letting the children help her grown into the person she knew she had always been capable of being.

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A Fallen God

This flash fiction piece is written for The Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge.  This week the challenge was to write 1000 words or less on the theme of the danger of undeserved power. 

A Fallen God – 691 words

Hope had no idea how Bitty became the leader.

Perhaps the nuclear fallout had fried most of their brains. Bitty had an idiotic name, but worse than that he had a God complex.

They walked around aimlessly the first day, collecting people and food. Bitty had on a red coat, and people began to follow him. He dictated rules and led with an iron fist. Halfway through the first day, a teenager stole a can of green beans from Bitty, and he banished him to almost certain death. No one could survive this alone. Then they had found the clearing in the forest, and Bitty had set up camp.

Ash began to rain down on them, and Bitty sat in the center of the clearing like a lump on a log.

“I think we need to find shelter,” Hope said.

Bitty ate a granola bar, one of the few left in the stash. “They’re all dead.”

“If we don’t want to be dead, I think we need to find a shelter,” Hope repeated herself.

The group squatted around Bitty, eyeing the granola bar. He smiled then let out a maniacal laugh.

“Need I remind you, I’m in charge, Hope.”

“And a fine job you’re doing,” she muttered under her breath.

In a previous life, one before the nuke went off Bitty had been a janitor at the school where Hope taught science. He terrorized the children by jumping out of the bathroom stalls. He thought it was funny, but no one else did.

Hope walked away from the group and started picking up twigs. She wanted to find a cave. The group had sought shelter in the woods so surely there was a cave somewhere around here. She turned around and saw the boy sneaking up on her. Dirty face, torn clothes. He’d been orphaned and added to the group somewhere along the way. Hope guessed he was about ten, but maybe a small twelve.

“You’re right about him, you know.”

“Help me find a cave if you want to tag along.”

“Are we going to just leave them?”

“They’re blind followers and that’s how we got into this mess in the first place. Hand me your coat.”

He looked at his coat, shrugged, slipped it off and handed it to her. She tore it to pieces, with the help of a hunting knife scavenged from one of the dead along the way.

“Tie it loosely around your mouth. This radioactive waste can kill us.”

They found a cave. It wasn’t deep. Scat littered the ground which frightened her but not as much as the death falling from the sky.

The winter sun hid behind the ash rain.

“Shelter is always important, no matter what Bitty says.”

It took two days. Hope heard Bitty preaching his nonsense on the first night. The sheep huddled around him. Bitty said sunshine and fresh air were more important than shelter. The sun could barely shine through the darkening clouds.

On the second day, Bitty’s big mouth remained unusually quiet. The ash had stopped falling. They covered their mouths and crept into the clearing. Bitty sat on a throne of pine needles and coats. Hope could see his chest moving up and down, but just barely. The group of twenty surrounded him. Some had fallen forward on their knees with their heads between their outstretched arms as if they were praising a deity instead of a stupid idiot.

Hope put her arms around the boy.

“Search their pockets and backpacks for food and water. We should move on before more ash falls.”

“Are they dead?”

“Not yet. But they will be soon. There’s nothing we can do for them now. Bitty with his asinine ideas.”

Hope and the boy packed up bags and began marching out of the woods. They stopped at the edge of the clearing and looked back on the scene. Bitty’s head had rolled to the side, propped at an odd angle on his shoulder. Power had corrupted him and led to the deaths of the others. Hope knew she would never make that mistake, not now, when the future depended on their survival.

with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility-85365090

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Living With Harmony

Here’s another short story for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. This week, the theme was “To fix something, you first must break it.” I’m not quite sure if anything in my story ever was actually fixed, but maybe that’s the point. You decide and let me know what you think.

Living With Harmony (1,025 words)

Harmony liked to take things apart and try to fix them. Her mom and dad said she would be an engineer some day. Her brothers said she was the worst. She constantly took apart their drones, robots, or any other amazing electronic they had received. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again.

At school, Harmony didn’t quite fit in. All the other girls talked about princesses then as they grew older they talked about makeup and boys. She liked boys, but makeup didn’t make one iota of sense to her. Why would you put makeup on your face like a clown? Didn’t people know lipstick had been created to cover up the effects of tuberculosis? She didn’t understand how she could feel so smart and so able, but not fit into the box of society.

Then she met Reed. Reed fixed everything. The first time he came over to her house, the door creaked as he opened it. Reed asked if they had WD40. This cemented what Harmony already knew: they were made for each other.

Their relationship grew and eventually they married.

“Are you sure he’s the one?” Harmony’s oldest brother asked.

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He’s a fixer.”

“I’m a fixer too,” Harmony insisted.

“No. You’re a destroyer. That’s what you are.” Her brothers laughed at her.

But Harmony didn’t see it that way. She and Reed both liked to fix things or at least try. She couldn’t figure out what her brothers were driving at so she ignored them.

Harmony and Reed moved into a studio apartment on the East side of town. The apartment started out as perfect as their marriage. They tinkered together toiling steadily over different projects. Reed landed a job in an up and coming architect firm while Harmony continually questioned what to do with her life.  And Harmony grew bored. There was nothing for her to take apart and for Reed to fix in the little apartment. The super took care of all of that.

On a Monday, Harmony burnt the pancakes on purpose.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with the burner,” Reed said.

“There’s nothing wrong with the burner. I just burnt them.”

“That’s okay,” Reed said, giving Harmony a kiss on the cheek as he headed out the door.

Harmony sighed. Now she sat alone in the apartment bored with her perfect little existence. She took apart the television. Only, she couldn’t figure out exactly how to get it back together. She did the best she could, screwing in bolts and nuts, and putting the bunny ears back on top of the television.

Reed came home, sat down, and tried to turn on the boob tube.

“The TV is broken,” Harmony said.

“How’d that happen? I wanted to watch Johnny Carson”

Harmony shrugged. She went into the kitchen and scrubbed the pristine counters. Reed worked on the television. That night they made love more passionate than they had in six months. Harmony knew what she had to do to make things work.

The following day, Reed’s car wouldn’t start when he left work.

“I’m going to be late,” he said over his office phone.

“Working on a tough project?”

“Car won’t start. But it’s the strangest thing—I took the car to the dealership yesterday and everything was okay. I’m wondering if someone messed with it.”

Reed’s voice had an edge to it Harmony had never heard before.

“Honestly, Reed. Why would someone want to do that to you? You’re being paranoid.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right. Save me some dinner.”

He almost caught her with the toaster. She pulled out a piece, and when he went to fix it he found the piece in the drawer.

“Harmony, did you mess with the toaster?”

“No,” she said from the living room where she worked feverishly on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.

“But I found a piece to it, in the junk drawer.” He stood, towering above her, holding the piece.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Harmony said, looking up at him for a minute then looking back at her crossword puzzle. “Do you know a four letter word for sex?”

“Fuck, I just don’t get it. Everything is breaking around here.” He slanted his eyes toward Harmony, but she had returned to her crossword puzzle.

That night when he crawled into bed, his breath smelled of gin and tonic. Harmony pushed her body closer to him. He pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so tired. Do you realize I’ve fixed three things today? I feel like everything is falling apart.”

As time marched on, Harmony became more adept at breaking things and Reed became more adept at fixing them. With everything Harmony broke, she felt closer and closer to Reed. She loved how he could fix even the most complicated things she broke. But then she started to notice Reed pull away from her and retreat into himself. She felt as if they were no longer in concord with one another. And she had no idea how to fix it.

The second summer of their marriage, the air conditioning went out. The apartment sweltered. The Super had gone on vacation.

“Aren’t you going to fix it, Reed?”

“Fix it? I’ve fixed everything. And everything keeps falling apart. It’s like I’m cursed or something.”

“Well have you looked at it?”

“Hell, I just don’t know what to do. It seems like it started when the car wouldn’t start. Then the TV broke, the fire, the carburetor in the car, the stupid toaster, and now this goddamn air conditioning. I just don’t see why all of this keeps happening?”

“But Reed, you’re so good at fixing things.”

“Harmony, there are some things that can never be fixed.”

With those lines, Reed walked out the door. Harmony looked out the second story window and watched as he hailed a cab. She had no idea where he was going, but she knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Harmony could create problems, but she could never quite figure out how to fix them.

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Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Today’s story is another flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog over at TerribleMinds. The assignment was to write Good vs. Evil in whatever genre we chose. I chose Southern Fiction. I had a hard time coming up with an idea for this, as I don’t believe in purely good and evil. Walking the dogs today, I thought about this character Henny who I had been thinking of writing, and the story came to me. Please leave a comment and let me know what you thought! Thanks!

Pride Cometh Before the Fall (795 words)

Henny bent down to pick up the pecans that had fallen from the trees. She loved pecans, hard on the outside but soft on the inside, just like Papa. Papa’s hands had calluses and his face felt like leather, but he had a soft kind spirit that made Henny prideful.

Mama always said, “Pride cometh before the fall.”

Henny knew it was a Bible verse but whenever she thought of that phrase she thought of Mama’s hard, grim face and puckered lips.

The bag of pecans rustled against the tire of her bike as she pushed it through Mr. William’s pecan grove. She almost had enough.  When Mama baked pies with Henny some of her worn-outness disappeared. Sometimes Mama would soften like the dough, laughing and smiling as they kneaded it, creating something out of nothing.

“Henny, you run out now and get some pecans from over at Williams’ place so we can have a sweet pecan pie tonight. Shoo—go along now,” Mama said.

Henny knew she had been sent away because it was her little brother’s nap time. Mama said Henny could make more noise than a heap of Indians. Henny couldn’t sit still either—that’s what her teachers said. She had an abundance of energy she somehow could not deplete. Papa liked to tease her and would say, “Henny, it’s a wonder your battery ain’t never run out.”

Henny heard a rustle on the far side of the pecan grove. She rolled her bike through mountains of nuts stepping gingerly to avoid crunching any pecans underneath her feet. What she saw made her eyes grow big. The Klan—just about six or seven of ‘em. Her heartbeat sped up making her feel light headed. She put the kickstand down, and hid behind a big pecan tree.

Two men with white pointed hats held a black man by the arms.

“Don’t do it,” the black man screamed. “I din’t do it. I promise. Lemme go. I got a family.”

The Klansman leaned close to the black man and whispered in his ear. The black man looked like he peed himself. Henny stood still with fear. Another man came from the distance carrying a length of rope. They all looked like little toy soldiers. Dressed all in white there was no way to tell who was who. The black man wept. His eyes were red with tears.

He prayed out loud, “Dear God, please save me.”

Henny repeated his prayer. “Dear God, please save him.”

The men switched places, and the tallest Klansman made a loop in the rope. He cut a piece of it with a knife and tied the black man’s arms behind his back. The black man began to shuffle, hysterically trying to get away. The tallest Klansman dropped the knife but kept a strong grip on the rope. He pushed it over the black man’s head and tightened the loop. By this time one of the other Klansmen had climbed the tree. They hoisted the black man up and tied him there. The Klansman in the tree jumped down. There was noise in the distance, like a gunshot. The Klansmen looked around, but Henny couldn’t see their eyes. All seven of them stormed off into one direction, probably looking for the source of the distraction.

Henny’s eyes filled with tears. The black man was not dead. He hung there, struggling for breath. His hands remained tied behind his back. He gasped for air, the rope slowly digging into his neck, and turning his face as red as a tomato. His whole body swung with the effort to escape.

Henny made sure the white-robed men were gone. She tiptoed out from behind the tree.

She grabbed the knife the tallest Klansman had forgotten on the ground. It felt familiar in her palm, but she had no time to think about it. She shimmied up the tree as fast as she could. The black man’s eyes finding hers as he struggled to breathe against the tightness of the rope. She started sawing into the rope as fast as she could. Harder and harder until clunk, the black man was on the ground.

He coughed, grabbing at his neck. Henny looked down from above. She could see a red ring around his neck. She wanted to throw-up.

“Thank you, little girl. Thank you.” The hoarseness of his words made him hard to understand.

“You better run,” Henny said.

He nodded, rubbing his neck, and took off.

Henny climbed back down the tree turned the knife over and saw the inscription.

“To Papa. Happy Birthday. Love Henny.”

She sunk down to the ground and began to cry. The wind rustled in the trees as pecans fell to the ground like bullets. Fall was coming.

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Don’t Be A Chicken

I’ve been remiss in posting the last few days! Work and life have been crazy, and my kindergartener, sweet darling that she is, is having a terrible time adjusting to school. So my mind has been elsewhere.

Today, just so you know I still exist, I’m posting a piece I wrote for Finish That Thought. I made some minor tweaks, as I had a few typos originally. This piece won me the contest this week, so next week I’ll be judging! Any of you writers should make sure to enter.


Don’t Be A Chicken

Oh no, please no, I thought as I ran toward the Kentucky Fried Chicken. Or I should really say ran toward the train wreck that was once my diet. It was the smell of fried chicken. I’d whiffed the scent on my way home from the gym. All those hours, sweating in the gym to look good for Marco, and now I was about to stuff my face with a big-fat grease-filled chicken bucket. At least I could say the potatoes were a vegetable. Wait, were they?

Sweat poured down my face as I neared the KFC. I slowed to a light jog. At least I could justify it by saying I’d ran all the way here. How the scent of KFC could travel three whole miles down 83rd Street and alight on my nose the moment I walked out of the YMCA was beyond me. And I’d made the three miles in record time too: 25 minutes. Heck I’d be ready for a marathon soon—right after I dug into a huge bucket of chicken.

I opened the door and the wonderful scent of fried food wafted toward me. I inhaled deeply. This had to be heaven. After all the salad and fruit I’d been eating, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a nice moist chicken leg. I didn’t even care if the scale reflected it in the morning. To heck with Suzie and her weekly weigh-ins.

Bucket in hand, smile on my face, I turned scanning the restaurant for the perfect place to devour 3,000 heavenly calories of perfect bird. And then—there he sat. By the window with the big swirly K. Marco. I couldn’t care less about being near him still wearing my soaking wet pink workout shirt. It wasn’t the sweat dripping off my face and forming puddles on the floor. No—here I stood in KFC holding a chicken bucket for one, and already gnawing on a chicken leg before I’d even found a seat.

He waved at me frantically, and I did what came naturally, pretended he didn’t exist. Maybe I could fit into the trash barrel. Maybe I’d drop the chicken bucket on the floor and run back into the heat, but then the sweet aroma tickled my nostrils again and I knew I needed another bite.

Wait a minute, Marco was committing the sin of fast fried food too! I smiled and waved like I was a desperate preteen girl who’d just gotten her braces removed. Oh, those kissable lips. And then, wait, what? He motioned for me to come sit with him. And before I could stop myself, I’d joined him. Giant bucket and all.


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The Hanging Tree

Yesterday, my family traipsed all over Alabama. I had memories of my childhood, where my parents’ special talent seemed to be turning a four hour trip into an eight hour trip. We drove to Moundville, AL and on the way home we came through Selma, AL. In case you didn’t know, the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Movement is this year. Today, the walkers who recreated the 1965 walk from Selma to Montgomery are arriving in Montgomery. We have come so far, but there is still a lot of hate in our world. There are still a lot of people who are denied rights. There is still a lot of racism. Teach your children well, to love all men, and there will be a lot less hate and racism. Hate begets hate. Love begets love.

I took this, not so wonderful cell-phone picture, of the Edmund Pettus bridge from the backseat of a mini-van. Sorry for the glare, but it shows you where my inspiration for this week’s Mid-week Blues Buster came from. 

EdmundPettus Bridge

The Hanging Tree
635 words
@laurenegreene

The last few times they’d visited the tree a rope had been hanging from one of the branches, a perfect circle, a hangman’s rope, Pamela knew. They’d put it there as a warning, the men with the tall white hats who ran around haunting the town.

Pamela and Nathan had ridden their bikes down to the five and dime to get a peppermint stick that day. They liked to sit under the shade of the old oak tree on the edge of town and talk.

Danny Risen nodded at them as they left the store, the jingle of the bell following them as they secured their feet on the pedals of their bikes and rode through the town of Selma. Old plantation houses loomed. A town, rich on textiles, and the center of what Pamela’s mother said was the Voting Rights movement. Just a few days before, the march had taken place. Pamela’s mother and father said it was about time. But Pamela knew they were in the minority.  The kids at school had nothing good to say about it.

They pedaled, the wind rippling through their hair, out to the edge of town and turned the corner on the dirt road toward the tree.

“Danny Risen is one of them.”

“How do you know?” Pamela asked.

The Ku Klux Klan members in Selma kept their identity a secret, but Nathan always claimed to know who was who.

“They set fire to a cross in front of one of their black preacher’s houses the other day. I heard Bucky talking about it at school. Said his Pa did it. Seemed right proud too.”

They pedaled down the dirt road, but even from this distance Pamela could see the shadow of the man hanging. Her heart sped up as her feet moved faster on the pedals.. She thought maybe if she could get there she could save him. Nathan always chastised her for wanting to save the world. “It’s too big of a task for a girl to take on,” he said.

Nathan had fallen behind, even as Pamela pedaled faster.  When they reached the tree, they saw the limp legs, hanging. The shoes untied and the feet at an awkward angle. Pamela slowly moved her eyes up his body, taking in every detail, until she saw his face. Ghostly white and young, his eyes were open, staring into the unknown face of death. There were scratches on his face and neck, where he’d tried to get the rope off his neck as he slowly suffocated to death.  Pamela had overheard her father say that when men were hung they danced a jig, their body jerking strangely, as they were slowly deprived of oxygen.

“I thought they put bags on their heads,” Nathan said.

Pamela shook her head, looking down at his feet again, his shoes seemed polish to a tee. This was a proud man, and he’d been pulled from Lord knows where and murdered for no reason. Pamela’s tears fell into the dirt, and Nathan placed a hand on her shoulder.

“There ain’t nothing we can do for him now, Pam. Come on. Let’s go home and tell someone. The least we can do is that, and maybe he can get a proper burial.”

Pamela shook Nathan’s hand off her shoulder.

“We need to get him down.”

“He’s deader than a doornail. A big ‘ole man like that. How do you think we can do that?”

She didn’t answer, and they turned to leave. From then on, her memories of the oak tree weren’t of spring and summer days with Nathan, unwinding and laughing in the shade.  Whenever she thought of the oak tree, she’d see the man’s face, bloated with eyes wide open and lips slightly parted as if he was questioning, “Why me?”

Cinders

Today I wrote a flash fiction piece for Finish That Thought. Obviously, Cinderella was still on my mind from yesterday. My Mom and I took five kids and one teenager to see it yesterday. It was too old for the little girls, but Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed it!   I’m trying to get a little bit of writing in this week and a lot of editing, but it’s Spring Break, and I have all three kids at home with me. We’re trekking across Alabama this week to keep them busy on some day trips. So far, I haven’t been all that productive, but I’ve been having great fun with them!

Here’s my story for today:

Cinders
468 words
@laurenegreene

They never asked me why I set the tree on fire. They simply dragged me away, my face covered in soot from the cinders. The tree, they said, was a national landmark. Dry enough to burn down the whole forest if they hadn’t caught me.

The policeman drug me to the office, sat me down in a chair, and bellowed at me as the EMTs checked me out. I fingered the plastic dragon in my pocket, Henry, I’d named him, and he was there to keep me safe.

“Right—so where are your folks?” the policeman asked.

I shook my head.

The policeman paced in front of me as the park ranger came up and tapped him on the shoulder. The park ranger whispered something into the policeman’s ear, and nodded my way, then they both walked off.

One of the EMTs had smiling eyes and pigtails. She took my hands in hers.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Mikey.”

“This looks like a fine karate uniform you have on, Mikey,” she said.

“I’m a ninja! From Japan. And my dragon,” I said, pulling it from my pocket. “It helped me beat the wolf.”

“What wolf? There aren’t wolves in these woods,” the nice lady said.

“Are too. That’s why I burnt down the tree.”

“Where are your parents Mikey?” she asked.

I didn’t answer. Grainy memories of my parents played in my head. I hadn’t seen them in years, and that said a lot seeing as I was only six. I couldn’t stand the foster home I lived in. The older boy picked on me, something dreadful, and I had decided I was going to run away and join a circus. Be a clown, or better yet, a lion tamer. With the dragon, I knew I was capable of anything.

“It must be awful special to you,” the nice lady said, squeezing my hand. “You’ve rubbed off his eyes. Where did you get him?”

“Mom. She gave him to me, when I was little. She and Dad took a drive somewhere. I can’t remember. It’s fuzzy—like a peach. He made me safe for three days, until they came and took me away. They told me they’d find me a home. But I haven’t had a home since.”

The policeman and the park ranger came back and hovered over me.  The nice lady EMT wiped the soot off my face and my arms with a wet rag. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her neck, squeezing her tight. She patted my back and squeezed me back.  Her hair smelled like green apples, sunshine, and happiness.

“I reckon he’s too young for juvie,” the policeman said.

“He just needs a mother to love him,” the nice lady EMT said.

“Will you be my mommy?” I asked.