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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New Beginnings

Hello friendly readers! I’ve been off cruising, and I’m now just getting back into the swing of things with my writing. Today, I wrote a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds. I also did something CRAZY, and I submitted a Flash Fiction piece to The Master’s Review. Wish me luck!

Today’s challenge is about real estate. To be honest, I started about three pieces before I finally settled on this one. It’s about memories, but with a little twist.



New Beginnings — 997 words

Cabin

Callie hadn’t been up the mountain in years. The path stood out, still worn by feet. Her father had taken her hand one day, walked her down the path to the valley below, and told her how this footpath had been worn by Indians long before white men ever settled in these parts. Callie never knew if that was true, but she liked the idea of an Indian family walking up to their tee-pee in the same place their log cabin stood.

The cabin stood strong like a soldier but worn and weary from battle. The clearing around the cabin had weeds that went all the way up to Callie’s knees. She bent down and fingered some of the clover by the wooden steps, thinking about how she and Maymay used to make clover crowns to braid into their hair.

Callie stood in front of the steps, amazed the cabin didn’t even have a broken window. It had obviously been deserted years ago. How long after she packed up a bag and disappeared into the moonlit night had the rest of them left? She would never know.

Callie walked up the creaking stairs. She turned and looked at the view. The mountain sloped down and huge evergreens towered up. She could barely see the creek running below and smoke from a rooftop at the center of town rose and disappeared into the blue sky.

She sighed and turned back toward the door. As a little girl, there had been a screen on the door. They never had air conditioning and the screen let the cool air in and the left the bugs out. She had sat on this porch with her sister, brothers, and parents and rocked in handmade rocking chairs while Poppa played the guitar and they all sang out of tune.

She felt a shiver as if the ghosts of her childhood had come up the mountain with her. She opened the door, listening to the familiar creak as the wood pushed against the frame. Dust swirled on the inside of the house, and she waved it away. Light began to filter in, and she adjusted her eyes.

Callie was shocked. Inside the house, her momma’s pink chair stood in the corner with an afghan draped over it. She remembered the afghan. Great Aunt Bertie had made it when Will had been born fragile and premature in the dead of winter. The rainbow pattern had been a favorite of Callie’s, and she remembered sitting on her momma’s lap and touching the coarse wool as Momma sang to little Will.

The bookcases lining the wall contained the Bible and all the classics. She took the Bible down and opened the front page. Her family’s history, inscribed in her father’s scrawling cursive stared back at her. Momma’s birth and death date. And Will’s. Her birth date and Maymay’s and her brothers’ names glared back at her. She thought of the days by the fire. The good old days, she thought of them, where they hadn’t had much but they’d had each other.

The fireplace stood empty, covered in ash. Her brothers hated to clean it out. They would sneeze and cough and complain until Poppa smacked their faces. Momma always came to their defense, but Poppa tsked tsked her.

Callie felt the tears before she knew she had started crying. She walked to the back into her momma and poppa’s room. The bed stood in the corner with dust bunnies under the frame. The mattress was long gone, probably buried with Momma. Will had been six that winter. He had been such a sickly child. He started coughing first. Momma thought he just had a cold, but it settled into his chest and he struggled to breathe. Momma became feverish within a day.

Callie remembered making dinner on the stove and begging Poppa to take them down the mountain to the doctor. She could hear their breathing from behind the closed door. Poppa refused.

“We don’t have the money for that. The herbs will work.”

Only this time, the herbs didn’t work.

Standing in the little room, she remembered the sound as Will took one last raspy breath and never let another one out. Four hours later, Momma did the same. Within a day, Poppa went out to the barn to make their coffins. He left them in the bed until they smelled, unable to stomach the idea of burying them.

Callie remembered sitting by their bedside and holding Momma’s hands. She could still remember Momma’s white face, her cold-stone dead eyes staring up at the ceiling. Poppa said people were supposed to look peaceful in death, but Momma looked fearful. Callie had never forgotten that look.

Six months later, Callie, fifteen years old, left the cabin for good. She awoke in the middle of the night lying in the bed she shared with MayMay. When she crept out onto the porch she stared out into the dark, trying to make out the two crosses. She turned once and looked back through the windows into the living room where she had grown up. She thought about Momma reading the Bible stories to her, with a heap of children gathered around, and little Will securely on her lap. She thought about Poppa with a pipe in his mouth and a grin on his face, rocking in the chair telling Momma not to rile the kids up before bedtime. But mostly, she thought of the two cold, soulless bodies who had sucked the joy out of the house. She hadn’t seen Poppa smile since.

Callie poured the gasoline in the living room. She had placed the Bible in her purse—one thing to remember everything by. She looked around before lighting the match. She tossed it into the puddle of gasoline and watched as the flames began to dance. She walked out the door and down the path as smoke began to fill the crystal blue sky.

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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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Baby Doll

This is a short story I wrote for the MOOC I’m taking at http://www.novoed.com.

Baby Doll

1673 words

The first time I knew my daddy was a liar was when Shepherd dug up Pulley’s bones. At first, I pretended the newly unearthed bones were dinosaur bones. I told Spitzer that our backyard, next to the blooming blue hydrangeas, had once been the site of an ancient meteor shower that destroyed the dinosaurs and paved the way for us.

Spitzer called me an idiot, dug a little further into the soft black soil, and pulled out Pulley’s dusty, dirty red collar.

“Last I heard no dinosaur ever wore a collar.”

Spitzer chunked the collar at me and stomped up toward the cold air conditioned house to escape the hot thick summer Alabama air.

I wiped my face, smearing dirt under my eyes like the football players I’d seen on Daddy’s big screen. I didn’t cry. I just picked up the bones, the collar, placed it back into the hole and covered it up. Daddy had told me Pulley ran away, but now I knew the truth.

“Bad dog!” I shouted at Shepherd.

He lifted one ear, twitched his leg then laid his head back into the cool shade under the Oak tree as if he couldn’t be bothered with my scolding.

That night at the dinner table, Daddy smelled sticky-sweet. I didn’t confront him. He’d made some crockpot concoction that resembled mush and put canned LeSeur peas with the little mushrooms on the table in one of Mama’s old corning ware dishes. I made it my job to hide the peas under the mush and took one, maybe two bites. Spitzer talked a lot about his day. About the boys at school who he could beat up with one hand tied behind his back. About how he wanted to go hunting over the weekend and he knew he could peg a prize-winning deer.

Daddy interrupted him mid-sentence. “What’s wrong Baby Doll? You’re not eating much?”

“Nuthing,” I said, staring at the peas on my plate. I took the prongs of my fork and mashed, making pea-guts.

Daddy nudged me with the toe of his work boot. I thought about how Mama used to complain that he drug dirt all over the house, even on her Mama’s old Oriental rug. That rug was full of dog hair now and dirt clods were all grounded in. There weren’t anyone to prevent that from happening now. Lord knows, Daddy and Spitzer didn’t care about the finer things in life.

I slunk into my room after dinner. Shut the door and stared at the picture of Daddy and Mama with Spitzer and me, when we were all together. I fell onto my flower printed bedspread and into a fitful sleep.

The next time I found out Daddy was a liar was in November, two years later. I’d grown and was all legs and arms, Daddy always said. Spitzer wore braces, had broken out into a volcano of acne, and was obsessed with girls who somehow found his adolescent-pocked face endearing. Why anyone would like Spitzer was beyond me.

Alice Chambers came over on a Saturday. She brought Halloween candy with her. I couldn’t believe she still had some left, because when Halloween fell in our house, Spitzer and I made a mountain of candy on our living room floor, divided it out, traded, and then ate it until we were sick. Twenty-four hours after Halloween our pillowcases full of sugary delights held nothing but a few empty wrappers.

Alice Chambers had ringlet curls and freckles on the bridge of her nose. That day she wore a white dress with multi-colored polka dots. I grabbed the fabric with two fingers and let the slippery silk slide through my fingers. I loved Alice Chambers and hated her at the same time, because she had nice clothes and a mama.

Alice Chambers and I played dolls in my bedroom. Her doll had a dress identical to hers. My doll had one eye and just a scrap of hair left on her head. Alice and I sat the dolls on the floor on a checkered handkerchief I had borrowed from Spitzer’s room.

“They’re having a picnic,” I said.

“They need drinks and food.”

“I’ll get some.”

I went into the kitchen and opened the cabinets next to the mini-fridge. Daddy had all kinds of tiny cups in that cabinet next to big bottles of alcohol. He barely drank the alcohol, but sometimes when his hunting buddies came over they’d reek of the stuff by the end of the night. I pulled out a big bottle of amber colored liquid and a couple of the tiny glasses. I brought them to the bedroom. Alice Chambers giggled when she saw me struggling not to drop them, but then came to my rescue.

I opened the bottle and poured the tiny glasses full of the liquid.

“I have some food over here,” I said, taking plastic pieces of watermelon from the play fridge I had deserted in the corner of my room.

We sat down, behind our dolls.

“Let’s take a drink,” I said.

Alice nodded. I took a swig of the amber colored liquid, and when I started to swallow my throat burned and my eyes watered. Instead of swallowing it, I let it spill into the cavities of my mouth making my cheeks as big as a chipmunk saving for winter. Then when I couldn’t hold it in anymore I spit it out all over Alice Chamber’s beautiful party dress. All of this happened in a matter of seconds, but it felt like an eternity, and Alice still had her tiny glass full of that vile stuff that I couldn’t believe Daddy drank.

Alice stood up, dripping with alcohol, a big brown stain on the front of her dress. Her face turned red, she looked horrified, but she didn’t say anything at first.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, standing up and trying to pat her down.

“Well,” Alice said, trying to be lady-like. “I—I never. And just so you know, there’s no Santa Claus.”

She shouted it at me, grabbed her doll and ran out of the room, out of the house, and out of my life forever. I stood there in complete shock, feeling dizzy from the little bit of amber liquid I’d drank, then sat down on the floor amidst the ruined picnic. No Santa Claus. But Daddy had said Santa came down the chimney and brought toys. And if there was no Santa Claus how did I end up with a new bike last Christmas? I knew Daddy couldn’t afford that with his no-good damn beggar’s salary. But still, I didn’t ask Daddy. Instead, I marched into Spitzer’s room where he was sucking the face of some girl, and demanded to know the truth. He caved as always, told me the truth, and then told me to get the heck out of his room.

The third time I found out Daddy was a liar was when the letter came from Mama. To be fair, I was snooping. Spitzer always said my dirty snooping would lead to no-good. Daddy’s room had coins on the dresser, and sometimes I took these to buy pencil grips. I liked the way the pencil grips fit in my fingers. They made it so I didn’t get callouses, and I had quite a collection of them. Well that week, there was a rainbow grip on sale at school and I was determined to buy it, but I’d spent all my money on Necco wafers when I’d been in town with Spitzer that past weekend. So I was on a mission to find some loose change in Daddy’s room when I stumbled across the letter.

It was folded on his nightstand into a neat little square. When I opened it, the paper felt soft under my skin like it had been opened and closed a billion times.

James,

I’ve thought about coming home. I don’t know what you told the children when I left three years ago. For all I know, you told them I’m dead and gone. I deserve that after the way I left you. Now I know I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for an escape. I couldn’t deal with the PTA meetings, the dinners on the table, and the demands of the kids. I didn’t know how to tell you, and when Sam came into my life I took it as an opportunity to move on.

Maybe this apology comes too little too late. I think of Baby Doll and Spitzer so much. I can’t even imagine how they’ve grown. Does Baby Doll still have curls? Is Spitzer still playing ball? I know this letter will hurt you. That’s not my intention. But I want you to know that I think about them. Often. And of you.I I still love you. My address is above. Please write back.

All my love,

Eileen

I traced the words with my fingers. Big fat tears fell from my eyes onto the paper, making it weaker than it’d been before. I sat it down on the shag carpet, and took a piece of my dress and wiped it dry, carefully, so as not to rip it. My mama was alive. Not dead like Pulley. Alive and well and living somewhere without us. Daddy had told Spitzer and I she was dead. Deader than a doornail, I’d thought because I’d been little then.

I didn’t hear Daddy walk in. I didn’t see his face. But the next thing I felt were his big bear arms around me. I smelled his Daddy smell, cologne mixed with sweat, that sticky-sweet smell that always comforted me, and I felt the scratchiness of his beard on my face.

“I’m so sorry, Baby Doll,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry.”

I felt the hotness of his tears on the back of my neck, and I turned around and wrapped myself into his arms and let him hold me and rock me like I was still his baby doll.

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The Weird Adventures of Dick and Jane

Here’s another piece of flash fiction from Terrible Minds. There are bad words in this short story. It is 1414 words, and a little bit looney! The prompt came from THEY FIGHT CRIME, which gives hilarious prompts apparently!

My prompt: He’s a Green-fingered advertising executive who believes he’s a wolf. She’s a mentally unstable astronaut with a magical ham sandwich in her pocket.

And the story:

Dick finished his nightly howl after checking in on his calla lilies. Of course they bloomed with the power of a thousand glories. After all, Dick had always had green-fingers as his  grandma liked to say. God rest her soul. He looked up to the sky to see the tiny dot, he thought was a star, traveling closer and closer. He didn’t think that was right. In fact, he’d drawn stars before. He was drawing stars right now for some pathetic ad he had to do for the Wright Agency. God, he hated the Wright Agency. They were always wrong in his opinion. He opened his mouth to howl again.

His neighbor threw open his window, “Shut the fuck up, Dick. You’re not a wolf. You’re just a goddamn asshole for waking everyone up with your incessant howling, every single goddamn night!”

Dick ignored his neighbor’s negative comments and asked, “How about those Braves?”

“Damn, your mother knew what she was doing when she named you Dick,” the neighbor said, closing the window.

Dick didn’t let it bother him. Instead, he focused on the dot. Now it looked entirely too close. And in fact, it wasn’t a dot anymore. It looked like a—s.

Close call, Dick thought, as he brushed himself off from where he’d thrown himself. The spacecraft landed on the other side of his fence sparing his morning-glories and forget-me-nots. The neighbor’s house had been saved too. Too bad. Dick didn’t think anyone could survive that kind of landing, but the spacecraft, the size of a mini-cooper, looked largely intact. His fur of his beard bristled up as he walked out the back gate and stood near the spaceship.

Dick sneaked up to the spacecraft on all fours. Smoke rose from one side. He knocked on it, hearing the hollow sound of metal ring out against the night. Other people looked on from their windows, but no one was as brave as Dick. He protected his territory with a canine ferocity and the machine had landed precariously close to his land.

The door opened and he jumped back, landing on his hands and feet. He barred his teeth and began growling as the astronaut stepped out of the spacecraft. She lifted the orange space helmet from her head, and shook out her long strawberry locks. Her eyes twinkled, illuminated by the moon, and to Dick it seemed as if she’d walked right out of a fairy tale to meet him. Dick barred his teeth and began sniffing as she walked closer to him. He stared at her orange spacesuit which looked a little too tight around her breast area.

“Where am I?”

He stood up and brushed the dirt off his arms and legs.

“Outside Atlanta. Name’s Dick. Top wolf, these parts. Somewhat of a Casanova, really.”

“Wolf?” Her brows knitted into a question mark above her head. “Tried to make it to Mars. Dammit. Failed again.”

Dick hung his head and whined.

“Wolf! The fuck you are!” the woman screamed.

Dick backed away from the woman, unsure why she was so angry. He wanted to go back into his house and work on his ad. He felt safe inside his den. He sat back on his haunches against the roughness of the asphalt as she came toward him. He thought she wanted to attack him, but instead she helped him up on to two legs then wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. She smelled. Not like perfume. Like meat. He stuck out his tongue and salivated, dripping salvia all over her orange spacesuit. He sniffed, leaning down toward her and she let him, amazingly. Most people hit him or attacked him with their purses when he started sniffing around them. He sniffed all the way down to her pocket. He could tell the smell came from there. He wanted to take a bite, but she gently pushed him away.

“Not that. Not here. Not now. Can we go somewhere private?”

He pointed to his backyard, and he opened the gate for her.

“The flowers.”

“Green-fingers,” Dick said, waving them in front of her face like jazz hands.

The garden brimmed with flowers of every imaginable kind. Dick could plant anything. Orchids sprang up from the mere thought of his touch. His backyard felt like paradise, unless you were allergic, then it would have been a nightmare.

Inside the house, the fire cackled.

“Fire in the summer?”

“I sleep on the hearth,” Dick said.

“Do you think you’re actually a wolf?”

Dick’s face took on a blank stare. “Tea?”

“I hate fucking tea,” she said. She picked up the closest thing she saw, a framed picture of Dick’s prized pumpkin from 1997, and threw it against the brick wall closest to her. Dick didn’t flinch. Instead, he went over to the fire and stoked it, ignoring the woman’s hostile glances. She broke into tears again, and Dick knew something was wrong with her. A mental illness. Depression maybe.

“Why do you have a sandwich in your pocket?” he asked.

“This?”

She pulled out a ham sandwich. Dick could smell it from all away across the room. Ham and cheese on ciabatta bread with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato. It looked like something you’d order from Panera or Subway. Dick loved meat. Any kind would do. Of course he normally ate it completely raw.

“That,” he started salivating again.

“This is a magical sandwich,” she said. Her eyes glowed as she gazed at it.

“Magical?”

“Magical. It can grant my wishes. What’s your one wish?”

“Like a genie in a bottle?” Dick felt his ears perk up the way they did when he was out on a hunt.

“Yes, I suppose like a genie,” she said. She cradled the sandwich as if it were a piece of crystal. The smell wafted toward Dick, and the hunger in the pit of his stomach doubled.

“To find a mate. To expand my brood. What is yours?”

“To make it to Mars.”

“What’s on Mars?”

She shrugged her shoulders as if the answer to that question was not the least bit important.

“What’s your name?”

“Jane.”

He plopped down in front of the fire and stretched out, rolling onto his back and exposing his belly. He then turned to his eyes and stared at her with his wolf eyes, calculating the right time to pounce. Instead, he asked a question, because after all he knew in the human world the way to a woman’s heart was through her mind. And Jane was no ordinary woman.

“If the sandwich is magical, then why hasn’t your wish come true?

“If you’re a wolf, then why don’t you have fur?”

“Touché.”

Dick could feel the crazy emanating from Jane. But, still, he wanted to get closer to her. He did what he knew attracted female wolves. He climbed onto the couch next to her and began rubbing his head against her neck. He flicked out her tongue to groom her, but she pulled away and rose her hand as if she were about to slap him.

“What are you doing?” she screeched.

She pulled at her hair in distress. Dick moved closer then stroked her again trying to calm her down. She put her hands down on the couch and pushed herself further away from him. He growled deeply then pounced.

She screamed as his teeth ripped into the sandwich, shoving the whole thing into his mouth, hardly chewing before he swallowed.

“The magic,” she sobbed.

 

* * *

“She’s stabilized.”

“Jane. You were out a long time. But Dr. Hartsell said the shock treatment might have worked. Isn’t that great news?

“You Dick!” she shouted.

She tried to sit up, straining against the restraints meant to keep her from attacking. Dick backed up and shook his head dejectedly at the doctor.

The man in the white coat paced the room as Jane raged. He made his way over to the medicine cabinet and opened the drawer. He pulled out a needle and a vial. From previous hospitalizations, Dick knew it always took awhile to stabilize her. He scratched behind his ear, making his left leg move up and down slightly, as he watched the doctor inject her. Her screams quieted and an ominous silence filled the room.

“What’s that smell?” Dr. Hartsell asked.

Dick reached into his pocket to find the remnants of a half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich.

“Funny. I thought I’d finished that.”

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PS: The Devil Within is only available until May 31, 2016. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

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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Flash!Friday: We meet again!

Today, for Flash!Friday the story element this week was conflict, specifically (wo)man vs. self. And the photo was of the first all women jury in 1911. It was strange to me that the first jury was in 1911, and women were not allowed to vote until 1919 (ratified in 1920). But, these two elements made my creative juices flow, and as such I came up with two stories.

Story # 1: 

Proof
@laurenegreene
203 words

The trial was simple: did she or didn’t she kill herself? Six months pregnant with another man’s baby. The plaintiff’s lawyer said it was all very clear that she jumped.

Katie sat in the front row of the juror box and listened. She understood the need for self-harm. She’d been doing it for years. Sitting here, amongst these women, most who were older and wiser than her, she didn’t know if she could come to a conclusion. The wickedness of self-doubt always sitting next to her.

The three piece suit and top hat droned on. Katie pulled back her sleeve to count the marks she’d made on her arm; six now. One was precariously close to the artery. Jack had found her that time, the baby crawling around with red knees, in their tiled bathroom. He seemed relieved when the summons had come for the jury.

“It’s remarkable, Katie. You’re making history. Baby will be fine with Nurse Delores.”

And now the doubt crept in again. If the woman who died felt as lost as she did, felt the fear and anxiety of the world on her shoulders, then maybe, just maybe she threw herself off the building. Where was the proof otherwise?

Story #2

Only A Woman
@laurenegreene
206 words

The first words out of Ethel’s mouth were, “I can’t.” Ethel believed she couldn’t do much. Her parents believed she’d inherit the world.

“You’ll see, Ethel, dear. One day women will even have the right to vote,” her mother said.

But Ethel was too busy telling herself she couldn’t pass her history test. Her parents had sent her on to college. She would be educated, this child of their old age.

When the summons came, Ethel was shocked. She was even more shocked when she saw the all women jury.

“What if I’m the one who causes a hung jury,” she asked the woman next to her.

Ethel took detailed notes throughout trial. A pig theft. She didn’t even know there were pigs in Los Angeles. Ethel finally felt like she was overcoming her fears. Fears she had carried within her like an overstuffed suitcase her whole life. Fears of “I’m not good enough,” and “I’m only a woman.”

She was named foreman, and in the end she was the one who handed down the guilty verdict. Self-doubt scoured away like scum from a bowl. She went on to be a leader in the Suffrage movement, so more women could reach their potential as she had.

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.

Chasing Fireflies

Flash!Friday made me nostalgic for long, hot summer nights. For playing basketball with my brother and sisters in our driveway. I didn’t have a boy next door that I liked (my neighbor was a bully). But I had a great playmate who lived behind our house, and I used to creep over to his yard to jump on his trampoline, play marbles, and spend hours in his playroom. My sisters and I would swim so long in our pool, we thought our skin would look like prunes for days. I took wagon rides down Mrs. Joseph’s hill, the sick sensation of fear mixed with pleasure roiling in my stomach. I went to Mrs. Tidmore’s house and watched her make flag, and played with her daughter’s dollhouse–her daughter who was grown and had left. I whispered secrets to my neighborhood friends, wrote in diaries, spent countless hours playing wiffle ball, even with the boys who beat me up next door. I’m not sure my foot ever graced the doorway until dinner time.

Today’s Flash!Fiction story is a little bit about that, and a little bit about a sticky kind of love. Enjoy!

Chasing Fireflies
@laurenegreene
Word Count: 193

Growing up, I had a crush on the girl next door. She lived in the massive white house with columns. When I was little, my dad would talk about Richard Nixon and the White House, and I thought Amanda was the president’s daughter. She wasn’t the typical girl next door—no plain Jane.

She had a tongue on her, Amanda did. First, it was pigtails, mud pies, and wiffle ball games—she always beat me. Later she used that tongue, stuck it in my mouth while playing H-O-R-S-E. I hadn’t even made the first move. She had our marriage planned before I was eighteen. I was just strung along.

We live in a white house now, one without columns. My son is obsessed with his own girl next door. I told him to be careful, before she traps him the way his mother trapped me. But honestly, I don’t mind. My best memory is of us sitting on top of her Ford, catching fireflies and staring up at the moon, with her hand securely tucked into mine. Hopefully, my son’s girl next door will be as bold as mine was, and still is.