Tag Archives: fiction

A New Year, Expectations, and Hope

1 Jan

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity. I‘ve been the tornado in the midst of a seemingly unmoving sea…skimming the surface and trying not to think too much.
The spousal unit has stepped up a couple of times to save me from the chaos…cleaning and removing the detritus of a sudden and unexpected need to clear my craft cave and make it a bedroom for a few weeks.
And I’ve fallen into bed so early on occasion that personal accomplishment has been impossible. Thus there has been no time to commit myself to a sentence, let alone a paragraph.
Always in the jumble of thoughts entering my head is the story, the little piece of fiction, I want to write.
It stews and simmers still…five-plus years after conception.
That is a long pregnancy. You’d think I’d just get it over and give birth.
But labor has yet to be sustained. Contractions way to far apart.
And with that, a new year has begun.
The past one has been full of disappointment and financial setback. I’m sure we will recover, but time is slipping away with great speed and the knowledge of more changes in lifestyle to come this year. Good ones.
I have an awesome list of chores to complete, a birthday on the horizon, one that will take me into my sixth decade. That is certainly a milestone.
After 20 plus years I’m changing my doctor and, because of the diabetes will probably undergo gastric bypass in the next few months. I dread it, but I want to live as long as possible and the diabetes will kill me as I have no control. I have been at this weight my entire life with no success at keeping off the thousand pounds I’ve lost. Desperate measures.
Reconnecting with old friends this year has been a marvelous experience, reminding me that our paths are sometimes circuitous and always full of discovery and love and friendship.
I hope that 2014 will bring a resolution to the hate and anger that is being spewed forth in our political arena. The divisive tactics in advertising and government are meant to tear us apart. I wish that we could all embrace our differences and hold our prejudices apart. If you cannot condone, at least do not condemn those who are different from you.
We have so little time on this planet, wasting it on negative emotion and greed seems like the ultimate sin.
It has always been my contention that people hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. Let me encourage us human beings to open our eyes and truly examine our beliefs, political and religious, and otherwise and ask ourselves if kindness and tolerance and love are the driving forces behind our thoughts and actions. Do your research. Delve into the hidden agendas of those who speak divisively. Search out the truth. More than likely the truth will be somewhere in the middle.
The past couple of days I have heard the expression ‘brother from another mother’ in two different situations. How lovely if we thought of each other as such.
Wherever you are in life, I hope you find your peace and prosperity this new year, 2014. And I hope America finds hers through positive actions and thoughtful processes. I hope that America, we the people, finally find health and well-being for all our citizens and not just the privileged few.

A Short Story

19 Aug

Warmth and Wonder

Her sketches littered the floor, some having drifted to their resting places peacefully, some having been crumpled and thrown to express her intense frustration.

She started at a knock on her door. Her studio had been a small guest house built just steps outside the kitchen door of her cabin. She had thought it perfect for a short stay ten years ago. Ah. She opened the door to Harry.

Hi, Harry. What brings you by?

I was in town and Miz Effie had fresh bread and blueberry muffins. I brung ya some.

Thanks Harry. Come on inside.

Harry and his net bag of paper-wrapped bakery stepped aside and followed her three steps to the door. They entered the small, well-equipped kitchen. She had seen to the kitchen renovation just a year after moving in. By then she was prepared to stay. She wanted to buy the place, but Harry wouldn’t sell. The peace she found here, in the woods, by the lake, was indispensable to her work as an illustrator. She could lose herself here with few distractions. Even so days of frustration dogged her occasionally. Harry was a nice reprieve from paper crumpling. The old guy had no family and spent most days reading his beloved mysteries and visiting Miz Effie at the town diner.

The smell of Harry’s bread offering made Liza’s mouth water. Butter. She needed butter.

Harry laid his bag on the old oaken table she used for dining, pulled out a chair, and sat while Liza brought butter, knives, and plates to the table.

Tea? Harry? She asked.

That’d be right nice Miz Liza. Harry’s wrinkled face was kind. His manner polite and deferential.

Liza found glasses and ice and poured tea from the pitcher in the fridge. Sweet tea. She’d learned to love it since coming south and found that most people who visited and tried it,  took home a preference for it. She set the glasses on the table and headed to the door again. Just outside, she bent to twist a couple of mint sprigs from the porch patch and returned to drop them into the tea.

Lagniappe, she said, just a little something extra.

Harry smiled. He always smiled when she used a new word. It was their game. Harry’s vocabulary exercises.

Harry, I’ve never asked, but how old are you? Liza sat, slicing two large pieces of bread and slathering them with butter while Harry contemplated his age.

Well, I reckon I’m about 87 now.

About? she asked. When were you born?

They both bit into the warm bread and sighed contentedly. They had learned to enjoy each other’s company. Harry often stopped by with something from Miz Effie’s or seasonal fruit from Johansen’s orchard or vegetables from the farmer’s market. They had shared more than one glass of tea or cup of coffee over the years.

Harry’s brow had wrinkled at her question. Odd, she had never asked.

Well, Miz Liza, I don’t rightly know.

Liza looked up from her bread, surprised.

See, I was found and raised up till I wuz about 15 by Ma and Pap. They made no bones bout my circumstances, told me they didn’t know my birthday, but figured I uz about six or seven when they run across me. I left ‘em about eight years later and went south to El Dorado and worked on the oil wells. There’s a few tales to tell. You heard some of ‘em.

Liza felt her heart thump. I knew about the wells, Harry. Didn’t know you had been found..

Yup. That’s the way of it.

I’m so sorry Harry.

No need to be, Miz Liza. I’ve had a good life. Married to my missus for 49 years. I loved that woman.

And you never had children?

Nope. We figgered one of us had faulty plumbin’. But she made me the happiest man alive for all of them years. Harry paused to have another bite of bread, take a sip of tea.

Liza waited. She loved the old man. He’d made her welcome. He’d paid for the kitchen remodel and laughed and joked with her, taken her to town for dinner on many occasions, even escorted her to the annual Zarka Barn Dance for the past 8 years, introducing her around town, encouraging her to make friends. He had tried a bit of matchmaking, much to her dismay. That hadn’t worked out well, at least not yet. As of the previous Friday, he still seemed intent on continuing the effort.

I want to be buried next to my Annie, he said. I want to hold her again.

Liza felt tears forming and turned her head.

More tea? She asked. He nodded and she rose to bring the pitcher to the table.

Miz Liza, I have me a favor to ask.

Anything, Harry. Just ask.

I want you to take care of this place for me, live here, and take care of it. It’s yours now.

Harry, what are you talking about? She asked.

I’m giving it to you Liza. I ain’t gonna need it. It’s only the cabin and guest house and 40 acres here. Annie’s house is going to the town, to use as they see fit.

Harry, that’s too much and besides you’ll outlive me.

No. Doctor says it ain’t gonna be much longer now. But the real favor is this here key.

He pulled a safety deposit box key from his pocket. I need you to hang onto this key till I’m gone. There’s instructions in that box and a few sentimental items that I want you to have. Young John Martin at the bank knows to help you. He has his instructions.

Liza knew that half the town would grieve for Harry. His generosity was legend. She didn’t think he had much other than the two properties, but he always had something to share.

Harry finished his tea and rose to leave. Liza smiled at him and thanked him and asked him again why he would do such a thing.

You bin here a good while now Liza. I’ve grown right fond of you and I don’t want you worryin’ about where you’ll go, don’t think you need to worry about packing and moving. I’m still hoping to find you a feller.

Liza laughed. You never give up do you Harry?

Not iffen I can help it. He grinned, took her hand, executed a gentlemanly bow, and kissed it.

Harry, I really don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. It’s too much. Liza said and she hugged him.

No, he said. It’s just enough.

Days and weeks passed and Harry fell into a routine. He would drop in on Liza on Monday mornings for coffee and Miz Effie’s pastries or breads and he would collect her on Friday evenings for dinner and some local event or a movie. Occasionally he surprised her at other times with a visit and a friend for her to meet. He finally succeeded in making an introduction that intrigued her and a new friendship began to blossom.

But by Christmas time, Harry’s health began to wane. Liza began to go to Annie’s house, take meals to him, read to him. She drove him to appointments and eventually at his request, she accompanied him on his last trip around the town.

It was the morning of January 14th that Harry didn’t answer the door for her. The cups of coffee and bag of pastries felt far too heavy in her arms as she returned to her car, pulled her phone out, and made the call to the sheriff’s office.

She grieved. She attended the funeral and stood, awestruck, as people flooded the chapel and told her their Harry stories. She cried. She was grateful and convinced that Harry had found his Annie.

It was difficult to work. Her mind wandered and tears started at the slightest reminder. She missed him so. Even with her new-found friendship, thanks to Harry, there was a hole in her heart.

Eventually she accepted the responsibility of the key. Heart heavy, Liza found her way to the bank to meet with young John Martin.

She greeted him, gave her name. Young John had been expecting her.

She was taken to the vault of the small town bank.

I’m to stay with you, John said.

She smiled. That would be lovely, she said. Perhaps you can explain his generosity.

He felt very deeply for you Liza. It sounds rather cliché but he really did think of you as a daughter.

They opened the deposit box and John began removing items, one by one.

This is Miss Annie’s cameo. He bought it for her when they were first married. It wasn’t very expensive, but she loved it and wore it every day from that day till the day she died. He had one made for her, just like this one for their 25th wedding anniversary. It was beautiful, expensive, a real treasure. She actually preferred the old one, tarnish and all. He pinned the new one on her burial dress and said now she would wear this one and take it with her and know that he would long for the day when he would join her.

Liza took the cameo and pinned it to her sweater.

John reached in and pulled out a sheaf of papers.

This is the deed to the cabin and the acreage it sits on Liza. It’s all in order. It’s all yours.

She nodded and placed them in her bag.

John pulled a second set of papers from the box and paused.

This may come as a surprise, Liza. Harry left about half his estate to the town for fixin’ things up and taking care of the soup kitchen and such as that. He was responsible for building the shelter in the first place. We’ve had many folks over the years that ended up down on their luck and in need of a hot meal and a warm place to sleep for themselves and their kids. Harry couldn’t stand to see a young ‘un hungry or cold. But the other half, he left to you. He wanted you to build something for the soul, something for your art and our history perhaps. He said he never knew how to do it, but you would.

John handed her the papers he held. She looked at him rather quizzically.

That would take millions of dollars, she said.

Yes, it would. And you are holding millions of dollars in your hand.

She sank into a waiting chair. I can’t do this by myself.

And I am here to help in any way I can, John said. Harry told me to be your right hand guy and left a small trust to compensate for the time. And you are to keep enough back so that your children will never worry. It’s all arranged.

I don’t have children John. What was Harry thinking?

John winked. He said you didn’t yet but he was holding out hope that Tim would be the one.

Liza laughed and laughed until tears streamed down her face.

Leave it to Harry.

Liza rose from her seat. They locked up and left the vault, saying goodbye in the lobby and promising to meet again the following week to begin planning.

Still laughing, she retrieved her phone from her pocket and dialed Tim’s number.

He answered with a brisk, Tim here.

Hey, she said, I hear you’re going to be a father.

She laughed that much harder when she hear his phone hit the floor.

Awww. Harry. You were such a gem of a fella. I’ll miss you always.

 

©2013

Please forgive the errors. There isn’t always enough time for proofing and editing…

Manic Monday and a Hint and a Half Fiction

12 Aug

Today lived up to the “Manic Monday’ moniker. It was crazy, confusing, and on occasion as frustrating as all get-out.

And there was an episode of get-out today. I have a feeling work is going to be somewhat more complicated for a while.

C’est la vie.

A little bit of fiction on a Manic Monday.

Clarice folded the last towel and sighed. She clutched the stack of towels to her chest and made a slow circle checking the kitchen, the gathering room, the first bath, and the entry. John returned from the master suite they had made their own for the past few days. He smiled. She met him halfway and pushed the towels into his chest.

Make yourself useful, she said and winked.

He took the towels and turned toward the master bath, chuckling. Clarice ducked into the bedroom behind him.

They had listened to the surf, held hands, enjoyed quiet dinners, made love by candlelight, read, napped, soaked in the spa, biked in the park, and lived freely for the past week.

John returned to the bedroom to find Clarice packing the last of their clothing. He slipped his arms around her and leaned his chin on her shoulder.

I love you, he said.

I love you John.

We needed this, he said.

Yes. Clarice breathed deeply.

Will we make it? she asked. We have to face the chaos soon. And her thoughts skimmed over work, parenting, parental care-giving and obligations numerous and intimidating.

Life is turbulent, confusing. We have to schedule a breather every now and then. He spoke with conviction. We have to be diligent in tending to ourselves.

No divorce John?

No Clarice. Not now, not ever.

 

 

 

 

Tangle Up Tuesday

14 May

Oh. Hi there. It’s Tuesday and tales are flying. Gossip is rife.

I’m on a roll today. I rolled out of bed, rolled into the shower, rolled around soaping up, drying off, dressing, and drinking coffee. I rolled into work. I’m not sure, but I think I’m still semi-conscious. Help?

I’m in a story telling mood this week. So let me tell you a story.

My name is Beckett. Mom named me for some weirdo playwright. I don’t even know what a playwright is, but there you go. I like my name. I think it suits me. I love to hear Mom whistle for me and call my name. I always answer. I love my Mom. She throws my ball and lets me run after it and catch it and bring it back. She doesn’t try to steal it from me very often. She also lets me snuggle against her on the sofa or the bed or anywhere she goes.
I don’t like snuggling in that car-thing we ride in to the vet’s office. It reminds me we have to go and sometimes he sticks things in my butt and then puts sharp pointy things in my neck. Sometimes he just forces a chunky thing down my throat. I try to be nice to him. I try to be nice to everybody. I love everybody. I love my ball. I love my yard and my house. Oh…there goes one of those car-things.
I’m back. I love the Beatles too. That’s the sound that Mom says comes out of the box in the living room.
Mom says I’m cute. I think so too. So does Felicity. She lives next door. I love Felicity.
Mom says she picked me. She says she picked me out of all the pups in the shelter. I’m a lucky dog.
Mom loves me and feeds me and gives me toes and brushes my hair and gives me treats. I’m a lucky dog.
Mom says adopting a dog from the shelter is the right thing to do.
I think she’s right. I love my mom.
I like to swim in the pool too. I love water. Mom loves water. I love Mom.
Gotta go. Mom’s got the ball! Wheeeeeeeeeee. I love the ball!

Hint Fiction Friday #7

12 Apr

This is my last Freedom Friday for some time. New job, new responsibilities, and an ongoing search for my life’s work will mean the demise of Friday Freedom. We bid it a fond farewell.

Reevaluation of goals and dreams is a real bitch. Those of us fortunate enough to hoard the bottom three percent of the world’s wealth find that the best laid plans of mice and men don’t often go awry, they always go awry. It’s becoming much easier to understand the depression epidemic. Geez, what a vicious circle.

 Hint Fiction Friday  #

Sarafina attempted to assess the damage to her heart. It still beat. The pain had actually settled just south of her diaphragm. Maybe it was acid reflux. Perhaps last night’s chili dog had been a mistake. Oops, it moved a little further north and then swooped down south again.

She decided to concentrate on her head.

There, lurking in the muck of brain matter, she found what she sought. She confronted her indecision.  She attempted to make peace with the need to remain resolved.

‘I’ve become an enabler,’ she thought.

Tears welled.

The pain bumped into her heart. It squeezed.  Fifteen years before her divorce had felt like this.   

‘It feels like loss and failure.’

Sarafina sighed, her head dropping to her chest, the tears sliding down checks red with misery.

 She heard the beep of a text message. She sat down and touched the screen. It lit. She read.

‘I love you Mom.’

The pain eased slightly.  

The argument hadn’t ended, but then neither had the lifetime of love.

Hint Fiction Friday

22 Feb
Hint Fiction Friday

Hint Fiction Friday

This week we’re going to try a bit of Flash Fiction, more words, still short.

Lost and Found

I don’t know my name. I’m called Grace. They say it’s my way of walking give me that name.

But I don’t know.

I bin told I’m in my 30’s or thereabouts. I couldn’t tell ya my birthday if my life depended on it.

That’s just one more thing I don’t know.

The folks here say when they found me I was near bout dead. I’d been beaten and stabbed a few times. I don’t recall.

I sit by this here window many long hours ever evening wondering xactly where I come from, wondering if I got any family or friends.

James tells me they’ve put up signs and made inquiries in the near town. He says it’s called Hendersonville. He says no one seems to know me. No one seems to be missin’ a wife or mother, a sister or aunt.

James wife, Laura,  give me a dress and some underthings, a sturdy pair of boots and a shawl.  The dress is a little big but it’s a pretty light muslin with sprigs of pink flowers on it. Sometimes when I go to walk around the yard or to her vegetable garden for onions or cabbage, I borrow her bonnet.

Laura’s real nice. She’s offered to make me one of my own soon.

I do chores for her. It’s the only way I can repay the kindness the folks have given me. I feed the chickens and peel potatoes and clean the cobwebs and dishes.

And then I sit at the attic window near where they’ve made me a bed, wondering.

Most of the cuts and bruises have faded now. There’s a couple of stab wounds they say will scar right bad. One is on my shoulder. T’other is on my side. The doctor told James I was lucky none of them stabs hit anything important.

I bin here for two months. I bin awake for 6 weeks.

James found me. He said I was lyin’ in a lump in a ditch near the creek where Laura goes to do the washin’. He was looking for her that day to give her a new hankie he got her at the general store in Hendersonville. It was her birthday he says.

He carried me to their cabin and went to fetch the doctor.

Sometimes, when I’m lookin’ out this window, I get a powerful feeling of dread and fear come over me. I kin feel hands on my throat trying to choke me.

Sometimes, when I’m lookin’ out this window, I hear a man growling, raging and feel a clenchin’ in my stomach like I fell over a chair.

And sometimes tears jist fall outta my eyes. It’s like a thunderstorm in my head. And the rain just falls.

James and Laura say I can stay as long as I like, forever if that be my way.

I ain’t got nowhere else to go fur’s I know.

I don’t know my name. I’m called Grace.

A Hint of Fiction

9 Feb

I may have been inspired. I say may because I don’t know that I can be good at this writing exercise.  I read a post by David Allen at http://allenfiction.com/2013/02/04/custody/ on hint fiction. Extra short stories are now blooming in my mind. A profusion of blossoms both pretty and pretty bad have shown up. Most I’ve since forgotten. I’ve got to start taking pencil and paper to bed with me.

The idea is to tell a story in 25 words or less.  As David says, it’s a Haiku for prose.

There are other forms of short fiction, albeit longer ones, including Micro and Flash fiction. But this one seems to lend itself to my adult ADD.

The first one I want to share may not be a complete story. You will have to let me know what you think. It was inspired by a story my friend Sherri told me a few days ago.

Here it is:

In a roomful of women, she spoke in a tone only a dog could hear.

‘See all them bitches ears perk up?” she said.

One more before I leave you:

I built the house where she ate her dinners and scanned the landscape. I didn’t recognize the signs and one day Kitty was gone.

Have a lovely weekend! And many thanks for reading.

Puppy Pic and A Very Short Story

8 Jan

I had to share this picture. Molly has been keeping Peanut warm.

Awwwwwwwww...

Awwwwwwwww…

Gotta love ’em.

A Very Short Story follows.

A Perfect Secret

Jack checked his reflection again. Yep, there it was, a new zit.

“Oh geez, that’s just not right. Not another one. I’ve had three this week,” he mumbled as he toweled his freshly washed face.

“Mom”, he yelled as he sprinted down the stairs. “Mom, where are you?”

“In the kitchen, Jack.” Mom winced at the slightly whiny note in Jack’s voice.

Jack skidded to a halt in front of his mother, left index finger pointing to the spot near his left eyebrow, right hand on his cocked hip, an accusatory expression on his face.

That is not my fault.”

“You promised me these would go away soon. This is the third one this week! I look like a pizza. All the kids will laugh at me. You don’t care,” he wailed.

“Want me to kiss it and make it better?”

Jack scowled harder. “That doesn’t work, Mom.”

“It did before you had your 10th birthday.”

Jack shook his head. He was so much smarter than his mother. Reaching the ripe old age of 13 was a milestone met with superb reasoning ability and enhanced intellectual capability. He”d left his mother in the dirt. And now he merely lifted his upper lip in disdain.

“I am no longer 10.”

“Oh really?” Mom thought better of pointing out his rather plaintive wailing of mere seconds before. “Here, eat your breakfast,” and she handed him a plate of toast and eggs.

“I don’t want eggs,” he whined. “And please don’t mention starving children.”

“No problem, Jack. Eat your breakfast. Or go hungry. It’s your call, son.”

Jack sat sullenly.

“So what do I do about the zit?” he asked as he toyed with his toast.

“You haven’t done the research? Studied zits and their cause and treatment? Found the miracle cure for teenaged acne and angst? Surely, Jack, you have the answer to this dilemma and world peace.…”

Jack’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. He could tell she was teasing him. She did it mercilessly.

“Mom, I do have the answers. I just want your opinion.”

Mom dropped the dishcloth, her eyes grew wide, she clasped her hands to her mouth, and sighed.

“Are you kissin’ butt, Jack?”

“Gross, Mom.”

“Just checking, dear.”

Mom watched him shovel eggs onto a piece of toast, fold it over, and chow down. Her sweet little boy was quickly becoming a man. His beautiful baby complexion was going through growing pains. His perfect legs had become spindly; his little Michelin Man arms were too long now, his hands too big. Mom’s eyes misted. She turned slightly and caught a glimpse of Jack, the man. It took her breath.

“Uh, Mom?  Uh, really, do you know what I can do about this?”

Mom smiled.

“Did you use the wash we bought?” She spoke gently, brushed the mist from her eyes,  and leaned across the counter.

“Unh huh,” he garbled out around the last of his egg and toast.

“It’s just a little red Jack. I think we can touch it up a bit and you’ll be good to go.”

“Touch it up with what?” He looked a bit skeptical.

“Just a bit of make-up.”

“You’re kidding, right Mom?”

“Come with me,” she said.

Mom straightened and held out a hand to her son. She led him up the stairs into her bedroom to the old desk she had refurbished as a dressing table and seated him.

“Face me, Jack. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt.”

She opened a compact of concealer, picked up a brush and lightly loaded it, turned to her son, and dabbed and brushed at the three bright red spots on his beautiful face until they diminished to nothing.

“Take a look,” she said.

He turned to the mirror.

“Wow,” he exclaimed. “You can’t see a thing. Thanks, Mom!”

He jumped up and ran, in a hurry to start his day, and stopped abruptly at the door.

“Uh, Mom?”

She grinned. “I won’t tell a soul about this, Jack. It’s our secret.”

He bestowed her with a gorgeous smile, turned and left.

Some secrets are perfect, she thought. Absolutely perfect.

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