Tag Archives: Fiction

About family …

 pastedGraphic
What makes a family?  Our group blog begins with a poem about a man and his wife sharing quality time on an autumn afternoon. And then there are children. The next two pieces are true stories that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud. And if you’re a parent of small children, let this encourage you. You might be pulling your hair out right but someday you’ll look back and laugh.

The next contribution takes a look at parents and their feet of clay from the (now grown-up) child’s perspective. Then, on a more serious note, a man whose family moved all over the world reflects upon what family truly means.  Our last contribution is a movie lover’s praise for her favorite cinematic dysfunctional families—and for unconditional love. After all, isn’t that family at its best?

Rowan tree. Perthshire.

AT THE MARKET by Clayton Bye
The north wind is back
To cleanse both mind and soul
As a far away sun
Paints a pastel sky.

Elk sticks thicken breath,
A rich welcome to friends
Beneath a yellow tent
Of country wonders.

Pulled pork sandwiches,
Corn-wrapped parking meters,
Bright orange Rowan trees–
Make a pleasant lunch.

My heavy pumpkin
Offsets white and purple
That frost has left untouched,
Petunias in air.

Seagulls overhead,
No boats on the water…
Quick kisses and a smile
To end our summer.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009

 

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor, and publisher, and the author of poetry, essays, short stories and novels. He now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter who listens carefully to the customer and then skillfully draws out the story they want to get on paper. Learn more at http://www.claytonbye.com and http://shop.claytonbye.com

 

Family Matters by Dellani Oakes

 

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. We’ve heard that often enough. I guess I’m fortunate. With very few exceptions, my family members are people I’d associate with even if we weren’t kin. They are wonderful, funny, intelligent people who make me laugh and feel good. We may go years, if not decades, without seeing one another, but we always have a great time when we get together.

 

The importance of strong family ties, is something my husband and I have tried to instill in our children. For the most part, I think we’ve been successful, though our children’s logic might have skewed our meaning somewhat…

 

When my oldest son was in third grade, he was more the size of a first grader. My daughter, two years older, wasn’t large either, but feisty and very protective. One day on the playground, a bully decided to assert himself by picking on my son. He accosted him on the playground, pushing him around. Before my son could move to protect himself, the bully pushed him again, knocking him down.

 

Suddenly, a banshee like scream grew louder and a little, brown haired missile shot across the playground. She tackled the bully, sending him face first into the dirt. She then proceeded to hit him, screaming, “No one beats up on my little brother but me!”

 

The assistant principal, who had witnessed it all, called me—laughing. “I’ve got your daughter here in my office.” He explained and added, “She’s mostly sorry.”

 

“Mostly sorry?” I asked, puzzled.

 

“Yeah, she’s not sorry she beat him up, she’s sorry she got caught.”

 

The assistant principal told me later, “She hit him with a flying tackle. Clipped him right in the knees. It was the prettiest take down I’ve ever seen.”

 

By some miracle (and the fact that the assistant principal and principal both liked my daughter) she wasn’t suspended for fighting, though the bully was. We had a talk about how that wasn’t the way to handle the bully, which made no impression whatsoever. She swore if it happened again, she’d do exactly the same thing. That was her brother and no one was going to smack him around—except her. She is still fiercely protective of all her brothers, though she’s the first one to give them hell if she thinks they deserve it. No, you can’t choose family, but given the opportunity, I surely would choose mine.

 

Dellani Oakes may not be a native, but she considers herself Floridian, and her writing reflects that. She’s written everything from historical romance, set in St. Augustine in 1739, to contemporary romantic suspense set in and around Daytona Beach. She enjoys writing, not only about family, but on a variety of other subjects as well. You can find more from Dallani at www.dellanioakes.wordpress.com and on Amazonhttp://tinyurl.com/kwt3ne9

 

a

 

A Family Portrait by Micki Peluso

 

I smiled to myself when they told me about their plans. As a mother I believe even grown children should learn by experience. They kept talking, and I had to hang up the phone before spasms of laughter overtook me. My two daughters thought that taking all of their children to a professional photographer would make wonderful presents for the grandparents. They thought it would be easy. Ideas are always best in their infancy.

 

On the hottest December day in decades, the children were dressed in their winter finery, and off we drove to the Mall. Kelly is blessed with three boys, a good-natured five-year-old, a tyrannical terrible two-year-old, and a one-year-old with attitude. All three were all sick with low-grade temperatures and noses running like Niagara Falls. Endless nose-wiping with tissues on gentle skin resulted in red faces and grumpy dispositions. Makeup partially solved that problem.

 

Nicole, has a nine-year-old, Nicky, already protesting the humiliation of posing with his “baby” cousins, and a daughter, Bailey Rose who, at four, believes that one cannot be too rich or too beautifully dressed. Local clothing stores know her by name.
The photograph studio is seasonally crowded, with tykes of assorted ages running amok and babies wailing—not my choice for a fun day. The temperature, and parents’ tempers, keeps rising as appointments run behind. One-year-old TJ takes a power nap, while his two-year-old brother, Brandon, makes several escape attempts, one almost successful. At long last, my family is called for their shoot. Nicky, still disgruntled, is itchy from his woolen Christmas suit and has broken out in livid hives. He announces that he may throw up. His sister Bailey, the ‘Calvin Klein’ of the four-year-old set, insists that the tights she’s wearing are certainly not the ones she chose with her outfit and begins to remove them, much to her brother’s chagrin and Nicole’s horror.

 

The wannabe Ansel Adams, a smile permanently pasted on her face, manages to get all five children lined up. Brandon is sitting in the sleigh as the session begins. For reasons known only to her, the photograher decides this will not work and tries to remove him from the sleigh.

 

Did I mention Brandon has a bit of a temper?  He screams so loudly that the security guards rush in like Marines on a mission. TJ begins to suck his thumb, a habit he’s never exhibited before, and Christopher, his older brother, slinks to the floor in an effort to appear invisible. Nicky tries to pretend that he doesn’t belong with this family. Bailey has her hand on her hip, a glint in her eye, and one foot pushed forward—never a good sign. Now the future photo genius snaps the shot!

 

The photographer is determined to complete her job. She lines everyone up again for some final takes. It seems to be going well, until she snaps the picture at the precise moment Brandon, who now refuses to sit in the sleigh on principle, catapults backward off the platform. There are more blood-curdling screams, but he’s unhurt since he is a very tough
little boy.

 

By now the other parents are quietly moving away from my family, some actually leaving the store. The photographer makes one last attempt to catch the children on film. She is, if nothing else, courageous. All the kids are in place at last. It is a bit much to hope for smiles from them, so she clicks away at the exact moment Brandon once more falls backward off the platform. The shoot is over.

 

My daughters are not happy with the shots but I find them spectacular. TJ has a startled ‘Oh’ on his mouth, and it may take a while for him to recover from this experience. Christopher has a perpetual smile on his face, but it is rumored that he believes he was switched at birth. Nicky looks disgusted by the entire event, and Bailey is asking for a reshoot. All that can be seen of Brandon is his two legs sticking straight up—perhaps the best shot.

 

My daughters asked how I ever photographed all six of my kids.

 

“Are you crazy”?  I said. “I never took all of you out at once, except to church, until you went to school.”

 

Some things must be learned, not taught. Meanwhile my favorite picture with all the kids is a conversation piece, especially the kid showing only two legs.

 

Micki Peluso, author of the award-wining memoir . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, is a journalist, humorist and writer of short fiction and slice of life stories, fiction and essays. ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog ‘ a children and YA story is about to be released, followed soon by her collection of short stories, called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck.’ See more from Micki at http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AndTheWhippoorwillSang

http://www.amazon.com/And-Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso-ebook/dp/B007OWPBGK/ref=cm_cr_pr_pdt_img_top?ie=UTF8

 

b

 

The Downfall of Diabolical Geniuses (aka My Parents) by Cody Wagner

 

If my parents wanted to rule the world, it would have happened. And you’d have no idea they were doing it. They wove a tapestry of sneakiness.  Case in Point:
Back in the 90s, there was no texting, no iphone; kids talked on the phone, landlines with cords. My family had one phone and five kids. Those are terrible odds. We fought over phone usage like crazy. Every second of second of every evening, someone was whining
about someone else hogging the phone.

 

So what did my parents do? Well, they could have sat us down and explained the rules. Or set up schedules of who could use the phone and when. Did they do any of that? Nope.

 

Instead, Dad installed a secret switch–at the back of their closet– that shutoff the phone.

 

I’m not kidding.  The phone suddenly and mysteriously started going out at 6:00PM every night.

 

The five of us threw absolute FITS. But what could Mom do about it? “It’s the phone company,” she’d say, shrugging. “I can’t do anything about it.”

 

And that was that.

 

At this point, you might be asking yourself: So what happened if a phone emergency arose?

 

Simple.

 

Mom would say, “Oh sometimes the lines get messed up. They feed into the walls just outside my bedroom. If I go mess with them, they may work.”

 

She’d disappear into the bedroom, shut her door, and we’d hear banging on the walls. After a few minutes, the door would open and she’d emerge, wiping sweat off her brow. “OK see if that works. If not, there’s nothing we can do.”

 

Lo and behold, the phone would work again! We thought Mom was an electrical genius. Little did we know she was a diabolical genius.

 

However, all my parents’ “geniusing” backfired my sophomore year in college. They had bought me a new car. By “new,” I mean a 10 year old piece of crap. But it was my piece of crap and I loved it.

 

My best friend at the time, David, lived out in the country. His house was off a long caliche road. For all you non-Texans who have never heard of caliche, it’s a firmly packed dirt road, not paved but the gravel is so firm, it’s the next best thing.

 

For some reason, my mom had an insanely irrational fear of caliche. Maybe she had nightmares about a caliche road hiding in her closet. Or perhaps she was molested by a caliche road. Either way, I was expressly forbidden from ever ever ever driving my car down that road.

 

“A stray rock could fly up and snap your axel in two.” Mom seriously thought a pebble could crack inches of steel. Let me just add to this little scenario the fact Mom didn’t even put gas in her car. She, who knew nothing about automobiles, somehow knew about “pebble axel”.

And there it stood. I couldn’t drive to my friend’s house.

So what did I do? I drove over there anyway—until the evening David ratted me out. We were all chatting in my living room.

 

“So you gotta hear what Cody said last night in my room,” David said.

 

Mom flew up out of her chair. “Your room?!” She glared at me. “YOU DROVE ON THAT CALICHE ROAD!”

 

David’s eyes went from normal to “deer trapped in headlights.”

 

I sat there saying, “Um…er…. Ummmmmm,” as my brain fumbled for an excuse.

 

The next morning, I had to work. I stumbled, half asleep, out to my car. Mom walked out with me.

 

“What are you doing?” I said.

 

“I have to run to the library.” She headed to her car and started it up.

 

Shrugging, I went to my vehicle. I turned the key and nothing happened. I kept trying, but still nothing.

 

A horn honked. Mom was waving from her car. “What’s wrong?”

 

I hopped out of mine. “It won’t start!”

 

“You have to be at work!”

 

I threw my arms up. “I know!”

 

“Well, get in and I’ll take you. Your dad can look at it later.”

 

Two weeks passed before my dad looked at my car. Two weeks to the day. And I was expressly forbidden from fixing it myself.

 

“I don’t want you or your friends messing something up!” Mom said. “You’ll wait for your father.”

 

Again, I had to wait exactly two weeks. And then, Dad fixed it in about five minutes.

 

The problem?

 

“The battery cable came loose,” Dad said.

 

Suspicious? Well, let’s examine the evidence:
  1. My car stopped working the day after Mom became furious at me.
  2. Mom just happened to be leaving at the same time as me so I wouldn’t be late for work.
  3. I wasn’t allowed to touch my car for exactly two weeks.
  4. The problem was a loose battery cable.
I think we an all know what happened: I was being punished. I was too old to be grounded, but, with a little Dad sabotage, my parents found a way.

 

I never looked at my parents the same after that. I’d always believed the random coincidences and excuses. But they’d taken it too far. Despite mom’s insistence the caliche road shook the cable loose, I knew what had really happened. And I wouldn’t let it go.

 

Years of needling later, Dad finally came clean. And my parents fell from their positions atop twin towers of diabolical genius.

 

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

 

pastedGraphic_1
MY FAMILY by Jon Magee

 

I am the youngest of six children. My father served in the British Royal Air Force, and my family moved frequently, from one part of the world to another. By the time I had completed my secondary schooling, I had studied in 14 different educational establishments. As a result, my siblings, along with my parents, were the core of my childhood relationships—how do you bond with a grandparent who lives on the other side of the world? With friends you see for a year or two?

 

My immediate family was the continuity from one experience to another. I remember the walks we took together through the hills and in and out of the caves that surrounded our home in Germany.  We lived under the threat from terrorism and military conflict in Aden. In Singapore, we climbed coconut trees to enjoy the fruit, along with the milk inside.

 

It was as a family that we would also develop a close bonding with people of different races and cultures. We shared picnics together, as if we were all part of a wider family. The colour of the skin was not relevant, but our relating together as people of the human race was.

 

When it came to Christmas, I recall soldiers being invited to the home to enjoy a family Christmas meal. They were stationed abroad, as we were, with no family at all to spend time with, not even brothers and sisters and parents. We had more than they had in terms of family, but together we shared some of what family is meant to be.

 

When returning from Singapore on the ship, the Empire Fowey, I recall my mum speaking of my gran and aunt, who we would be staying with for a few months. I looked from the ship wondering who these folks would be, what would they be like. My aunt met us, a stranger to me. I was not sure how I should be relating as a child, yet here was someone that was clearly important to my mother.

 

During those few months, I found there was nothing to fear. This stranger was not at all strange when I got to know her. She had warmth that would draw children to her, even if she never married and had children of her own. Then came the parting once more. I was a child that needed to move from country to country. A child that nevertheless discovered that family is not just siblings and parents, but also the people of the world wherever we meet and whoever they are, all seeking to know a bonding with the family of the human race.

 

Jon Magee is the author of From Barren Rocks to Living Stones and Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey. His writings reflect the depth of personal experience, having lived at the heart of much of the major events of late 20th century history. You can find Jon at https://about.me/Jonmagee.author.minister  and

 

MESSY FAMILIES by Linda Varner Palmer

 

I love movies about messy, aka dysfunctional, families. I know that sounds weird, but the idea of being loved unconditionally—no matter what awful things you do—intrigues me, the writer who tippy-toed through life doing what she was supposed to do because she wanted her parents to be proud of her.  Now I’m not saying that my family would’ve tossed me out if I’d rebelled. I had wonderful parents that I love and miss very much. What I am saying is that fear of disappointing them kept me on the straight and narrow. So I like watching a movie about a family that is all over the place.

 

The Family Stone is my favorite Christmas movie. Set-up: Mom’s breast cancer has come back, and she hasn’t told anyone but Dad, who is doing his best to pretend nothing is wrong so they can have a last happy holiday with their five grown children—Susannah, Amy, Ben, Thad, and Everett.

 

Susannah is happily married and pregnant with her second child. Her husband will be arriving on Christmas day. Amy and Ben are both single. Thad, who is deaf and gay, is in a relationship with an African American named Brian, who has come with him. Everett is dating Meredith and has brought her to meet the family. He plans to get his grandmother’s diamond ring and propose.

 

No one but Everett likes outspoken, fashion-conscious, foot-in-her-mouth Meredith. Feeling outnumbered, Meredith asks her sister Julie to join them. Julie agrees, because that’s what sisters do, and hops on a bus.

 

As the movie progresses, we realize the family is right about Meredith. She and Everett are not a good match. Julie, her sister, on the other hand, is perfect. Perhaps that’s why Everett can’t take his eyes off her. Does Meredith notice? Not so much. She and Ben, who helps her escape to a bar, seem to be oddly in sync. Can you see where this is going? Meanwhile, Thad and Brian are trying to adopt a baby.

 

By the end of the movie (one scene a year later), we see that this completely dysfunctional family has somehow survived not only the death of their beloved Mom, but also a complete shuffling of the roles they once played. With love, forgiveness, and acceptance, the family Stone has become even stronger and bigger than before.

 

Another favorite movie is Moonstruck, which is about two dysfunctional families. Mama and Papa Castorini live in a big house with their adult daughter, Loretta, Grandpa Castorini, and several dogs. Loretta has just accepted a marriage proposal from Johnny Cammareri, who has to return to Italy to see his dying-mother. Before he leaves, Johnny asks Loretta to find his estranged brother Ronnie and tell him that he wants to end the bad blood between them.

 

Loretta finds Ronnie, but he’s still angry with big brother Johnny for distracting him, resulting in the loss of several fingers to a bread slicer. Loretta naturally wants to repair the broken relationship and fix Ronnie, who is definitely damaged goods. Somehow they wind up in bed.

 

While a big full moon shines down on them all, Loretta goes to the opera with Ronnie, who has promised he won’t ruin her engagement by spilling the beans.  At the Met, she runs into Papa C with a woman who isn’t Mama C. Papa tells her he won’t tell Johnny if she won’t tell Mama. Loretta, already annoyed because Papa C doesn’t want to pay for her wedding, doesn’t know what to do.

 

By the final scene, Papa C agrees to give up his floozy and is forgiven for straying.   Johnny, who promised his manipulative dying-mother that he wouldn’t marry, has returned to the US and the Castorini home so he can break the engagement. He finds all the Castorinis, and his brother Ronnie, at the breakfast table. That’s a shock, but Johnny manages to break up with Loretta. He asks for his ring back. Ronnie promptly borrows the ring and proposes to Loretta, who accepts. Poor Johnny—so confused.

 

The best part? Everyone celebrates the engagement with champagne, even Johnny, because they’re all family now and that’s what families do. There are many other movies out there with the same theme. And I always take to heart the message that acceptance, forgiveness, and love—unconditional love—are what family is really all about.

 

Linda Palmer has been writing for pleasure since the third grade. She was a Romance Writers of America finalist twice and won the 2011 and 2012 EPIC eBook awards in the Young Adult category. Linda married her junior high school sweetheart many years ago and lives in Arkansas, USA with her supportive family. Learn more about Linda and her writing at www.lindavpalmer.com

Seasons By Cynthia B Ainsworthe

 

Dollarphotoclub_70170007

Sitting in the hotel’s lounge, dressed in my finest, waiting for him. Another afternoon to relive my youth, as I will gaze upon his. My mind brushes away my past years and dreams, and live only in the present. The future has lost its brilliance—what might be a new adventure around a worn corner, and only presents with the sameness of routine.

He enters in a well-tailored suit—a diversion from the autumn of my life. I look at his trim physique and smooth skin over firm muscles and high cheekbones. Eyes that are filled with hope as he lives his spring—a spring he must feel is eternal. Laugh lines have yet to make their mark. His quick, energized steps bring him closer as he reaches out his hand and a broad smile emerges. Oh, to be in that devil-may-care season that is his home.

I stand as he approaches and discreetly hand him the room cardkey that I secured an hour earlier. My stilettos click on the marble as we walk to the elevator. If Charles had lived, would this same situation be my refuge. I chuckle to myself at such a silly thought. Charles and I had been married for twenty-five years before that terrible car crash that put him into a never-ending coma. The hardest last gift from me to him was to give permission for cessation of life-support measures.

In the elevator, he holds my hand and smiles. I smile back, knowing that for a brief afternoon I will whisk away all the pain and loneliness that has become my existence. As prescribed by such an arrangement, he kisses me with passion—a passion that he has honed from many such assignations with others. He knows his part and plays it well.

He slips the card into the door-key slot. The familiar buzzer rings, and then opens the door. I enter first. Opening my purse, I retrieve crisp bills and place them on the dresser. The money is new and is as untainted as possible from the bank, as if this small detail will erase all seemliness from what is about to be. He takes no notice of the payment and proceeds to unzip my dress.

I shut my eyes as his lips caress mine in passion. It is Charles kissing me—not this young stallion marketing on his youth and the loneliness of an older woman. My husband whispers in my hungry ear that he loves me. My heart cries out, “Forgive me Charles. I never wanted to let you go. Be with me again, even if only briefly, through this young man.”

Afterwards, he lies next to me in a light slumber. I look at him and wonder if my body and lined face repulses him. Does my sagging jaw line remind him of his mother? As we make love, does his fantasies create a beautiful young lady to replace the older woman who paid for his attention? I have no idea why these questions come to my mind. They shouldn’t. He gives me time with Charles and that is what keeps me sane in this dark pool of grief.

I slip out of the bed, lean over and kiss his temple as I once did to Charles. He doesn’t open his eyes, merely smiles.

Having dressed, I quietly leave and look forward to another day in my autumn. I shudder to think of my winter. When winter comes, I fear I will no longer be able to taste the sweetness of spring.

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

2008IPPYAwards014_edited

Author Bio

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

and http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=3142

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe is a multiple award-winning author. She started writing seriously in the autumn of her life after having raised a family. Her epic length novel, “Front Row Center”, earned the IPPY Award in romance. She has also gleaned the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio for the short story It Ain’t Fittin’, and shares the Reader’s Favorite Award with other authors for the horror anthology, “The Speed of Dark”, where her two short stories, When Midnight Comes and Characters, are featured. Ms. Ainsworthe has received many 5-star reviews for her novels. She has recently released book 2 in the Forbidden Series titled “Remember?” and is writing the third book in that series. Cynthia is also working with known Hollywood producer, screenwriter, and director, Scott C. Brown on adapting Front Row Center to screen. She is actively honing her screenwriting talent.

That Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul by James L. Secor

 bridge strut

In my wandering, I came across a land that I shall call, for want of a better name, the Land of Waiting. It was, in truth, a fine day when I stumbled upon this country. However, I found that the weather was very changeable, for within no time the climate worsened and my way became clogged with expectation.

My road took me through a low-lying area that I could see had once been marshy. A flood plain had been shored up. I saw fine, tall green grass and strips of cultivated land. Still, I could hear the encroachment of the great river as it sloshed and slapped against the dike.

The road followed the river wall. As with all roads, I knew I’d come upon a collection of houses or even a village and, sure enough, around a particularly wide  bend in the river I saw a huddled mass of people. They were gathered at the edge of the road, gabbling amongst themselves and gesticulating at the flood plain. Something was bothering them. Upon drawing nearer, I could see the ground between the road and the dike glistening and undulating. When I drew nigh the crowd, I could see the river had breached the wall and was once again running onto the flood plain. The grass was now reeds and the crops were drowned or drowning. The hole in the retaining wall was not very large, though the passage of water was wearing it into a larger fissure. But the people weren’t doing anything. That is, nothing other than pointing and complaining. Each time the river water encroached on the road, the gaggle of people jumped back amid screams and hubbub, as if getting their feet wet was akin to courting death.

I stood off to one side and listened to the undulating voices, watched the retreat and recovery of the rabble. Then I stepped closer and spoke to an old woman on the fringe who was not quite so vocal as the others.

“What’s going on?” I asked, as if it weren’t obvious.

“The river’s breaking through the weir,” she answered without looking at me.

“Why is nobody doing anything?”

“What can they do?”

“Is it not possible to repair it?”

The woman turned and looked at me. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No. I’m just passing through.”

“Best keep on going then. River’s rising.”

“I was hoping to find a place for the night.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s possible.”

“Oh.”

“Not that we’re not friendly, you understand. We’re just a little pre-occupied at the moment.”

“Yes. I see.”

“Yes. We’re being flooded out.”

It was true the roadway was becoming a tad muddied along its riverside border but there was no evidence of a flood.

“It’s inevitable,” she continued. “Like life and death.”

“But can’t you be rescued?”

“Nope. We’re done for.”

“The water’s not very deep. The hole can’t be that big.”

“Just one basket of earth shy,” she said with finality.

“Well, that could be remedied–”

“No it can’t.” And she looked at me again, full in the face. “Like I said, you’re not from these parts.”

“How could things come to such a pass!”

“Don’t go getting upset at what you don’t understand, young man.” She patted me absently on the shoulder. “Let me tell you how it is in these parts. Sense is hard to come by but mayhap you’ll understand anyway.” She didn’t say anything for a long time. Just as I began to fidget, she began her story. “We had to stop building. We ran out of dirt. One basket shy of a full load and there you have it. End of job. End of story. There’s nothing to be done about it.”

I looked around. “Seems like there’s enough dirt here,” I said.

“Seems like it, yes. But it isn’t so. It wasn’t requisitioned. Only that much,” she pointed with her chin, “was requisitioned and so that’s all there is.”

“Seems somebody made a mistake.”

“Yep.”

“I guess you could fix it, couldn’t you?”

“Like I said, you’re not from around here.”

I waited for more. When it didn’t come, I nudged her along. “Yes?”

“It’s fate, son. Fate. Destiny.” She chewed her gums a moment. “Pre-destination. Everything’s laid out according to plan, even people’s mistakes. It’d be the greatest pridefulness to think that you could do fate one better.” She chewed her gums some more. “Some things you just can’t change. Life is life. It’s inevitable.”

I stood silently watching the encroaching river water and the ruinization of crops and road and, perhaps, village. I looked at these people, gesticulating, gabbling and groveling before life, waiting helplessly for . . . for the end. The end for them being, of course, the end of all things. Fate.

I looked up at the darkening sky and thought I’d better be on my way. I couldn’t wait forever for food and lodging and there was a copse of trees up ahead. I could rest the night there. Yes. The inevitability of it all.

They had drawn a line in the sand and just waited for it to be crossed, at which time their world would end. There was nothing to be done. If I fixed the leak with rocks and sand and whatever was at hand, I’d be damned. Maybe even stoned to death. What would they have done with such a reprieve anyway–torn away their saving grace? Sad as it may be, I had to leave them to face their problem. Their fate.

You just can’t mend a sinking boat in the middle of a river.

A couple days later, just after passing the mouth of the river where it emptied peacefully into the ocean, I ran into another time marker. There were no retaining walls in this part of the country. The horizon was far and wide and the sky broad, albeit rather cloudy. There was not much wind, though, so the rags that hung helter-skelter on the near-skeleton lying on the side of the road remained limp and unmoving. Yellowed grass, dry and desiccated, grew around him–I could see it was a him. No insects or birds sang, though on and off crows would settle to ground and strut around inspecting the spectacle. Skin draped itself over pointy bones that threatened to poke through. Rubber boot-clad feet lay tilted, both to the same side. Fingernails were long and grimy. Hair hung tangled and dusty about a wizened face with jutting cheekbones, long sun-bleached teeth, lips pulled back in a grin or a grimace and protruding eyes.

I slowed my pace.

The big bulging white eyes with their pinpoint pupils followed me.

I stopped and held my breath.

“Hi,” croaked the near-carcass.

“Hi.” What else could I say?

“Betcha wonder why I’m here,” he rattled on.

I couldn’t see him breathe. The barely flesh-covered ribs that poked out from the remains of a shirt did not move.

“Do you need help?”

“No. No. I’m fine.”

“Well. That’s . . . good.”

“Yeah. Yeah. It is.”

I didn’t know what to do, so I stood there looking down at this replica of a man before the breath of life was blown into him.

“Yeah. I kinda look like death warmed over, right?” I did not feel I could say anything. “That’s ’cause I am.”

“Could I get you some water?”

“No. No. That’d defeat the purpose of living.”

“But you’re dying!”

“Yep. That’s true.”

Neither of us spoke for awhile. His eyes rolled around in his sockets like lopsided marbles.

“I’m here because I’m a fisherman,” he wheezed.

I looked out over the sea. It rose and fell and gently slapped the shore. There were no boats out there. There was no dock.

“Hey. I’m over here.” I turned back to him. “I caught a fish once. Big fish. I ran back here with it. House is all gone now. I was so happy. I caught this marvelous fish. I deserved my title. Fisherman. A time of celebration. Let the good times roll. It ended all too soon. Like everything in life. And so you see me here.”

“Why is that?”

“I forgot my fishing gear. So I lost my chance. Now it’s just the inevitable.”

“Couldn’t you get some more?”

I looked back the way I came. What was wrong with these people?

“Only one chance. I blew it. So long.” He let his eyes roll off to one side.

I did not move. I could not move. This poor man . . . lying there . . .

“Go on. I’m finished. Shoo. Shoo.”

So, I shuffled on down the road, befuddled at such behavior, behavior that defied reason. Was everybody in this country just sitting around waiting? Couldn’t anybody do anything? I felt sorry for them. I hurt for them. So wasteful.

I stopped in the middle of nowhere and looked back the way I’d come. I looked the other way. I had done this before, of course, wondering what was going on around me. Always at a cross-roads. Always coming and going at the same time. And what was my journey for? What was I looking to find? Even with all this travelling, I wondered whether, in fact, I, too, was just waiting for something to happen.

As I approached the northern border, I came upon a great river. There was no bridge over it that I could see but there was a sign that named it: The Great Divide River. It was quite broad and, though the water along the shore pooled and eddied playfully, out in the middle the water streamed by, occasionally splashing dirty sudsy-looking water over submerged rocks. On the far side of The Great Divide there was a group of people with placards. “CRISIS” and “HELP” and “SAVE OUR SOULS” and “DEATH STALKS US” and “SURCEASE PLEASE” and “BUDDY CAN YOU SPARE A DIME.” They were shouting and chanting but no one on my side of the river could hear over the rush of river water and distance. It was maybe a kilometer across. On this side of the river there was only me and a man in a hair shirt type of robe. A washed-out saffron sash sagged over one shoulder and wound its way around his body. He was bald. His arms were folded over his knees but every once in awhile he raised a hand and waved at the people on the other side. A gold ring glistened in the diffuse sun light.

“Hey!” I shouted. “What’s going on?”

The becassocked man stood up and turned toward me. He was wearing thick leather sandals. They looked new. Hanging from his neck was a large round medallion on what looked like a spun-gold brocade ribbon. Perched on his small button nose sat a pair of enormous glasses, encasing eyebrows, eyes and cheeks. He was smiling, a kind of benign, meant-generally-for-everybody smile. He waved at me–or at least, he raised his hand on high, revealing a gold watch on his fat wrist. From the way his gown hung, he was well-fed. What was he doing out here in the rocky wasteland of the northern border?

“They got problems!” he shouted back.

So I surmised.

“Are you doing anything about it?”

He cupped a hand around a large ear and cocked his head to one side. I obliged him by clambering over and around the rock-strewn riverside until I stood at the base of his stone pedestal. He smiled down at me, a silver tooth with a diamond in it gleaming. His glasses were Armani and his watch Rolex. He held out a well-manicured hand, pink and soft in my grip.

“I’m the Great Doylee the Lame.” I looked down at his clean feet. “It’s just a title. Don’t worry about it. What was that you said?”

“I just asked if you were helping in any way.”

“Well, yes. Of course I am. What do you think I’m doing out here?”

I looked over at the crowd across the way and back to him. Here he was, one man across a great expanse of hustling water–what is it he could do? One man and so very far removed from the action.

“Ah. I see. Have a seat, I’ll explain everything to you. I’ve got all day.”

The great gold-bedecked Doylee the Lame squatted on his haunches. I sat on the edge of the smooth boulder. It was warm despite the overcast, grey sky. It looked like rain.

Doylee the Lame raised both hands to the throng on the other side of The Great Divide and then crossed his arms over his knees.

“It’s a sad thing over there in West Rising Branch of Life. They are fighting for their lives, for their sovereign right to life. Everyone has a right to life, even a life filled with illusions and attachment.”

“Is their problem an illusory one?” I knew that people did get upset over perceived wrongs, striking out haphazardly in their delusion. Could it be that these people were, basically, protesting nothing?

“Oh, no. Their brutal domination is real enough,” he answered.

“Surely they did not bring it upon themselves.”

“No. No. For a fact I know, no. Though it is true that people can bring down the wrath of the gods on their heads seemingly out of nowhere but in reality due to their own dirty souls though they are unaware of their sin, maybe.” He spoke in a soft, compassionate, sing-song counter-tenor. “Maybe there are some there clinging to illusion but in general not.”

“You certainly know a lot about those people.”

“Yes. Yes. I do. They are my people. I know they are kind, decent, obedient, respectful people who know their place. Their place in the great scheme of things. They are good people, my people. Though, of course, there are always a few bad apples. No one knows where evil comes from but anyway it is an illusion as so much of life is, you know. My people are trained to look deep into themselves to see their weaknesses and attachments, their faults, for if there were no faults in them they would have no problems in the world.”

“Why do you call them my people?”

“Because that is what they are. My people. I am their leader.”

“But you are here and they are there!”

“Yes. So it seems. But you see I escaped the evil empire. Those who in their mad illusion spread lies and deceit and mete out death as if they were emissaries of the gods. I escaped. They helped me to run away so that I could continue to lead them and be an inspiration from a distance. A dead leader is no leader at all.”

“You can’t kill a martyr,” I countered.

“Seeking after martyrdom is earthly attachment. That kind of renown and hubris is a passing fancy, an illusion. To die by the sword runs counter to the doctrine of peace.”

“You believe in peace.”

“Why, yes. I have a medal to prove it.” He held up his gold heraldic device.

He placed the heavy ornament in my hand. It was a mighty chevron with a man-cameo and bend sinister and around the edge was engraved Pris de noblesse oblige de pièce de résistance. I turned it over. Emblème carte blanche was beveled into the gold.

“You must be proud,” I said, handing it back to him.

“Quite the contrary. I am humbled by the honor.”

“I have heard of this honor before. It comes with a bequest, does it not?”

“Yes indeed it does. I dedicate the money to the life of peace.”

“You are truly amazing.”

“Thank you. Glad you enjoy me.”

I looked over at the horde on the other side of The Great Divide River. They were becoming more animated, jerking their signs up and down. Still, they could not be heard.

“What are you doing for them?”

“I told them to protest non-violently but of course they didn’t.”

“Why not?”

The Great Doylee the Lame shrugged his shoulders. “You know people.”

“I cannot believe that you believe you are helping them–your people–sitting over here on a rock waving at them.”

“I’m not waving at them. I’m blessing them. The more blessing the better. And I am giving them moral support.”

“What?!”

“Yes. Moral support. The bulwark of the hope of the people.” He sighed. “And. . .I sent a statue of the Great God of Mercy, Abera Khardomumma Shaktiputakaka to them.”

“That will help?”

“Worshiping his likeness will bring the miracle of mercy, peace to the people.”

“How did you send it to them?” No one was powerful enough to throw anything one kilometre.

“I threw the clay idol into the river to let the water of life carry it to them.”

Just then there was a hullabaloo on the road. We turned. A large ox-cart with a roof and red interior stood in the middle of the road. Three men in robes were shouting at us.

“Ah. There is my ride. I must leave you now.”

And off he went. I followed him to the roadside. He mounted the cart and sat in the plush velvet interior and waved good-bye to me, the ever-present dazzling benign smile still on his face.

“Peace be with you.”

He did not offer me a ride. I was left, instead, to continue on my way in his dusty wake. More than once I choked and had to stop for coughing. It irked me that, to get out of the Country of Waiting I had to follow in the tracks of a self-proclaimed hero and leader of people.

Finally, I could take no more and stopped, moving off the road and onto the golden sands of the riverbank. The water rippled over rapids here, filling the air with a cool mist and peace settled around me.

 

Jimsecor spent much of his life traipsing all over the world. Rarely as a tourist. He was, too, a wandering scholar. All those cultures and histories inhabit his writing. So, too, does his social activism, born during the avant garde American theatre days. The absurdism of his theatre and the times have only deepened, colored by his travels. He has led many lives. He has published in three countries and three languages but to no financial success. But what else is there to do? Write, write, write. He writes by hand with an ink pen, a real fountain pen. He has many, many, many. And some “forever ink.” He can be found at Linkedin, at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com (named after and/or to honor me, Minna vander Pfaltz) and can be cursed or praised as you wish at hellecchino@eclipso.eu.  Jimsecor is also a Chicago Editing Specialist, though, actually, it was his teaching that kept him (us) afloat. For awhile.

MY FIRST PUBLISHED SHORT STORY by John B. Rosenman

WIN_20150523_120245

Have you ever looked at a photograph of yourself when you were young and thought, “Whoa, is that me?” Did you gaze at the smooth, unlined face and search your now crumbled, ravaged features for some vestige of it? Where, you perhaps wondered, did that young boy or girl go?

In a way, this is what happened to me when I recently ran across my first published story. While I’d been scribbling since I was a tyke, “The Patriot,” which appeared in a small college magazine was the first work I actually shared with the world. I’d just turned twenty and was starting my junior year at Hiram College. I won’t tell you the year, but folks, it was looonnng ago.

I offer “The Patriot” here, warts and all, to encourage older writers to revisit their early writing and to reflect on the passing of time and what it means. To me, my story seems the product of a callow fellow, crude and immature. It’s as if I wrote it as a baby in another lifetime. Yet at the same time, I recognize distinctive traits of my style and thinking. The child IS the father of the man. For readers who are young, THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU. One day you will be sorting through the bric-a-brac of your youth, the archaeological remains of your childhood, and discover something that jars you, perhaps even rocks you to your core. Just as Adolph Schmidt is rocked in my story…

THE PATRIOT

Adolph Schmidt pounded a last nail into the sole of the shoe and tossed it into the pile by his side. From outside came a shout, a barked order, and then the tramp of boots, the sound of soldiers. Within the shop Adolph sat undisturbed, for here the sounds entered faint and curiously detached. Adolph reached for another shoe and in a moment the pounding continued. Presently he sighed and rose from his work, his frame tall and his shoulders stooped as he walked over to the shop’s lone window and peered out. The soldiers were almost at the end of the street now. In a minute would come the bark of authority and then the unthinking robot would return. Disinterestedly, Adolph turned back to his work.

The door opened and a short and very corpulent man entered. Adolph looked up briefly and then turned back to his work. The visitor shut the door and walked in.

“Hello, Adolph,” he said, wheezing heavily and shuffling into the shop.

“Hello, Otto,” returned Adolph, his voice dead, and this time he did not look up.

Otto stared down at him for a moment and then spoke.

“Well?”

There was a long pause, one broken only by Otto’s heavy breathing. Adolph raised his head and for a moment the eyes of the two men locked.

“I’m sorry, Otto,” he said, “but it’s out of the question.”

The matter thus dismissed, Adolph picked up another shoe and examined it critically. But Otto was not satisfied. He stalked about the narrow confines of the shop, one fat finger explosively punctuating the air, his arms gesturing violently in his impotence. Through it all Adolph worked undisturbed. At last Otto pulled up short before him and snorted disdainfully. “It’s out of the question,” he mimicked, slapping his fat thighs for emphasis. “It’s out of the question, he says.”

There was a pause and Adolph looked up.

“Look, Adolph,” said Otto, “we’ve been friends for a long time. We grew up together. This country, Austria, is our home. We have families, women and children to protect.”

Adolph said nothing. Otto, seeing that his words bore no effect upon his friend paused and then furiously roared, “In the name of God, Adolph, does our suffering mean nothing to you?”

Adolph sighed and tiredly raised his head. “It’s not my fight, Otto,” he said. “I work, I sleep, I bother no one, no one bothers me. I am not disturbed. For me there is peace.”

“Peace?” echoed Otto, his face incredulous. “Peace? Adolph,” he said, resting his elbows on the bench before him and speaking softly as if to a child, “there is no peace. No peace when your home is not our own but belongs to the enemy, no peace when your wives and daughters can be wantonly defiled and as wantonly discarded, no peace when your mind is not your own and your highly prized liberty paid for with the grains of your integrity.”

The shoe done, Adolph tossed it into the pile by his side and reached for another.

“All right,” said Otto resignedly, “all right. But will you at least come to the meeting tonight? Will you at least come and hear what we have to say?”

Adolph was a long time in answering, and when he did, he did not raise his eyes from his work.

“I’m sorry, Otto,” he said, “but I’ll have too much work to do.”

Otto heavily shook his head, as if the answer had been one long expected.

“I’m sorry, too, Adolph,” he said, and he bent his head and dejectedly shook it. “But it is so hard to fight when even those of your side are against you.” Tiredly he crossed to the door and stood poised with his hand on the knob. “If you should change your mind,” he said, his eyes on the hunched, silent shoulders of his friend, “the meeting will be at nine prompt, at the home of Ludwig Wagner. You know the way.”

“Yes, Otto, I know the way.”

Otto nodded and turned to open the door but halted at the scrape of boots on the outside platform. There was a knock, sharp and challenging, and Otto turned in the dead silence of the shop and looked at Adolph with eyes that pleaded the unspoken word.

It was at once a dilemma for Adolph, for Adolph was not one accustomed to the need for decision. Another man, perhaps one who would have acted, would have assessed the problem with the eye of his mind and, the thing resolved, acted positively one way or the other. But Adolph was not such a man. Such a man was Adolph in fact, that the dealing with problems of any kind was distasteful and to be avoided whenever possible. As it was, he did nothing, and so it was that Otto’s plea went unanswered.

The knock was repeated, louder and more insistent this time, reverberating as thunder about the dingy walls. Standing as he was, with his shoulders stooped and his brow wet, Adolph trembled and released his shaking breath as softly as he could. The pounding ceased, abruptly and with a note of finality. There was a brief silence, a sudden barked order, and then the crash of shoulders against the wood panel. On the third assault the door gave way, its rusty hinges torn from the wall as it thundered to the floor. German soldiers armed with death burst into the shop. Otto was quickly seized, his arms pinned behind him as he struggled in vain to escape.

Adolph recognized instantly the tall form of Colonel Silvanyuk, the commandant of the village, as he swaggered into the shop and disdainfully extricated his fingers from one delicate white glove. “Ah, Otto Goering,” he said, his voice suave and cultured, “how good of you to let yourself be caught.”

Otto stopped his struggles and glared back balefully.

“You must excuse my delight at having found you,” continued the colonel, “but we have reports that you have conspired against the occupation. You understand, of course, that we cannot permit such actions to go unpunished.”

“No,” repeated Otto dully, “you cannot.”

“That is,” said the colonel, steepling his fingers as he turned about the shop and stopped once more before Otto, “unless you give to us the names of those who conspired with you.”

The effect of the words was immediate. Otto lunged forward in the arms of his captors and spat in the commandant’s face.

The insult brought him stiffly erect. “Very well,” he said, “if that’s the way you want it. Take him outside.”

The soldiers forced the struggling Otto through the open doorway into the street. The colonel turned to watch them and then turned back to Adolph. “It will be most unfortunate for you, sir,” he said, his voice stripped of its previous politeness, “if we should discover that you are among the conspirators.”

Adolph stared back at him and moved his lips as if in a nightmare. “My friend, Otto,” he said, “you’re going to kill him, aren’t you?”

The commandant smiled half-amusedly. “Yes,” he said, “we’re going to kill him,” and with that he laughed and mockingly saluted.

Adolph stood for a long time after the colonel’s departure, his head bent in the darkness. At last he aroused himself and squared his shoulders. “I’ve been wrong,” he thought. “It is my concern. It is my fight. Otto. I have wronged him. All along I have wronged him. He was my friend, my countryman, but I have wronged him. _I_ was not _his_ friend.”

He turned to the clothes rack and lifted his coat from it. “I must hurry. I have an engagement, and I must not be late.” He stepped out through the shop’s open doorway into the snow. For a moment he stood, and then he started walking, his broad shoulders squared against the winter wind.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-B.-Rosenman/e/B001KMN69E

Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

Into the Woods by Monica Brinkman

 

stream-690325_1280 mAY 20

“Wait for me Sissy”!

Sissy Jones looked back to see her little brother stumbling through the tall rock laden grass. She ceased her walk and hollered back, “Hurry up Timothy or we’ll miss finding them.” The young boy smiled and huffed his way to his sister.

The sight of his blonde locks, now wet from the humid heat of the summer softened her reserve. “It’s okay Timmy, you catch your breath. We still have time. Here drink this.”

Without hesitation Timmy gulped down the entire contents of the thermos and wiped the cool water from his mouth with his right hand. “Thanks Sissy, I sure needed that.”

“I guess you did cause now we don’t have any water left for later. I don’t want to hear any complaining about how hot and thirsty you are. Geez. You didn’t have to hog it all.”

Sissy felt bad as soon as the words left her mouth. She kept forgetting how young Timmy was and that he hadn’t learned yet to think about the next person in line. She patted him on the head. “Come on, we better get going if we want to find any arrow heads.”

She took Timmy’s hand and led him into the woods, noticing the temperature dropped considerably from the shade of the multitude of trees surrounding them. It was a natural gift from nature; one she appreciated on such hot humid days. Soon, the sound of water traveling over rock covered ground could be heard; she knew they were near and her excitement rose.

“We’re almost there.”

Hearing his sisters’ words, Timmy let go of her hand and raced ahead to the river’s bed. He waited, knowing better than to enter the water until Sissy joined him. It only took a moment and there she was, at his side.

“Look at the little frogs. Aren’t they cute? Sissy squealed and circled the water with her fingertips, watching as the frogs swam for perceived safety.

Sissy adored frogs and was delighted to see the tadpoles swishing their tiny forms and swimming among the small frogs. Surely many would not make it, but there would be enough to keep the species populated. She noticed Timmy was bent over the edge scooping up mud and grassy soil, seeking those arrowheads and artifacts from the Neshaminy Indians who had lived in this woods for decades before them.

The woods was always magical. Silent yet boasting the rustle of birds, reptiles and insects for those who hesitate long enough to listen. Ah, it was the time of her life and Sissy revealed in it, taking in the richness of life, the simplicity of moment, never anticipating what would come next; experiencing what was happening now.

 

***

His white lab coat rustled as he approached the silver-haired woman and spoke to his assistant. “You know, Fleckner, it never ceases to amaze me how peaceful and happy she appears. Don’t know that I’ve seen her without a smile on that wrinkled face. Whatever could it be that holds her in such a state?”

Adam Fleckner nodded. “Alzheimer’s is sadly still quite a mystery to us. I suppose it is merely her reflexes and nothing more. Sissy cannot speak or hear us, or if she can do so, she surely has not given us a sign. It is sad, this disease.”

The two doctors walked pass Sissy Jones who continued to laugh, smile and find joy as she experienced the past, or perhaps to her, it was the present.

 

Monica Brinkman writes stories of life, the paranormal, horror and suspense. Visit her web-site @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

And radio web-site:  www.itmattersradio.com

Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

2014 GISHWHES Story, Charline Ratcliff

Last August (2014), one of my Facebook friends contacted me because she was once again participating in the annual GISHWHES event. (GISHWHES stands for the: Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen).

This event’s existence began in 2011 – created by actor Misha Collins. His reason for creating this competition was that he “loved the idea of thousands of people from all over the world connecting to create incredible things.” Collins hoped that participating in GISHWHES would encourage the participants “to do good in the world.”

One of the scavenger hunt tasks was to locate a published author and get them to pen a tale that combined Misha Collins, Queen Elizabeth and a make-believe creature known as a Helopus.

Did I mention that the authors were only allowed to use, at max, 140 words to create said story? I almost said no – but I do love a writing challenge. (Additionally, the author would also need to provide a photo of his/her book along with the story – submitting a photo of the book, the story AND the author might even get the contestant/team additional points).

So, while today is Earth Day, a day on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection – I also felt that (based upon what GISHWHES represents) this story would be a fun inclusion to help celebrate the day.

 

************************

 

Misha Collins awoke from a partially completed night of slumber. Stumbling to the window, he turned away almost immediately; hurriedly dressing; mumbling wildly.

“…Queen Elizabeth,”

“…dead!”

“…Monster!”

Waiting at the elevator, he heard cables rumbling, yet time crawled. Panic overtook him and he bolted for the stairs.

Reaching his destination, he hoped his imagination had played a vile trick. However, Queen Elizabeth still lay unmoving. And a monstrosity lurked nearby…

“Elizabeth!”

Where were her guards?

He sensed the creature behind him; felt iciness as a tendril reached past him. Her eyes finally opened; her look almost sinister.

“Misha, he is an Elopus: half elephant, half octopus. This is his new home.”

“But, the … Elopus … will never be accepted!” Misha croaked.

“Why not,” she asked. “I am…”

At this, his sight shifted. There stood Elizabeth… Human face… Octopus body…

 

************************

Charline Ratcliff is a writer, reviewer, and interviewer. Some of her interests include: travel, learning about other cultures (past and present), and enjoying the beauty of nature. She also strives to help others by sharing her personal experiences; seeking to raise awareness, and to provide hope to those who feel there is none.

Life or Death by James Secor

 

Edgar Allan Poe, it is said, would read the news, the scandal sheets and even the Federal Register looking for stories. Today, we have the Internet, which can be an amazing scandal sheet. But sometimes there’s just news, weird news, stupid news, horrible news (the norm). And this story came via a news outlet. I just left out the hook. I also colorized the story. I intended it to be a horror story but something happened along the way. The ending was intended, though. A kind of, “and then this happened,” as with children telling what happened.

And then, in a story the following day, I ran across another graveyard item. It is now being written on the dining room table, listening to Memphis Minnie. This one, upcoming, is intentially absurdist. Life or Death was not intended so. It’s just. . . something got hold of me. . .

 

stella pirella deirdre webb's headstone modified Jim Secor

Life After Death

by

James L. Secor

 

Imagine your most fervent wish came true. Immeasurable bliss. Of course, for appearance’s sake you’d have to withhold public displays of joy and thanksgiving. Perhaps not so difficult to do, as the wish was also secretly held. But sometimes the inner workings of human nature have a tendency to work their way up through layers of consciousness and self-protection to appear unbidden and miraculously into the public domain. Then, you just make excuses for your ill-got behavior, explaining it away, if, indeed, your sentiments are not in agreement with others. Which, of course, they are not for this story. For this story is about wishing and repercussions.

Roxanne was a strong woman with dearly held beliefs. However, her mother-in-law was a domineering bitch. Though Roxanne was able to keep her at a distance—Roxanne and Will lived elsewhere—but Mama Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb insisted on daily phone calls to “Billy.” Whenever anyone is trying to control you, they will lie. Inevitably. Although Will knew this, knowledge seemed to be on the back burner whenever Mama Stella called  “Billy.” The word “Billy” was a button pusher. Will did not whine on the phone but he was acquiescent. A mama’s boy yes man. Not that, at this distance Will necessarily did his mother’s bidding but he did mention it. Whenever. And whenever Mama Stella visited, more often than necessary or welcome, adjustments of a sort had  to be made in order, as Will or “Billy” had it, to keep her, if not happy then moderately content.

During one such visit, Roxanne and Will sat in the kitchen, a late night moment of togetherness.

“What do we need with servants?”

“We’re rich enough, Rochester.”

“Why do you insist on calling me that?”

“Because I can’t live without you.”

“I might as well be Jeeves.” Roxanne’s dish washing become noisy, water sloshing about.

“I have Mama for that.”

“Ain’t that the truth!” More sloshing.

“Don’t be too hard on her, Rochester.”

Roxanne rinsed her hands and turned to face her husband, wiping her hands on a bright flowery tea towel.

“Surely you’re not conspiring to have her move in here? I’ll have to buy another oven to cook in.”

“Why?”

“She keeps her Zinfandel in the oven.”

“Oh, yes. I forgot.”

“How could you?!”

Will shrugged. Then, “Where’s she keep it when she’s here?”

“Writing desk drawer.”

“You’ve checked?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Roxanne sighed. “Warm wine!”

A sudden creaking from upstairs cut short the conversation. Quietly they listened to the wandering sound. That could only be Mama Stella. Mama Stella with a tank full. Roxanne looked at Will.

“Beer?” Her voice was unnaturally loud.

“Yes.”

“Val-Dieu?”

“A little bit of God from the valley can’t be bad.”

“Let us hope so,” grunted Roxanne as she took the beer from the fridge. She went in search of appropriate glasses. Not a search at all, as Roxanne was rather OC about her kitchen.

A pop of the cork and a scurry of creaking from above greeted Roxanne’s return to the table. Will poured, careful about the head. Not an  easy task with Belgian beer.

Roxanne drank her way through the foaming head, pulled away with a bubbly brown moustache and smiled. She refilled her glass.

“Funny how she can drink and wander around a strange house and not meet calamity.”

“Calamity Jane.”

“Why do we have to do things her way?”

“Only when she’s here.”

“Bullshit.” Roxanne took a long swallow.

“Well, alright. But it keeps her under control. . .somewhat.”

“Somewhat. No truer word. She’ll probably rise up to make sure she’s mourned and buried just so.”

“You’d like that?” Will looked at her over the top of his glass.

“God no! The thought of your mother rising from the grave is too frightening for words.”

“Yes. I think you’re right.”

Will and Roxanne laughed heartily, requiring  more ale to mellow this world they’d conjured up.

“I don’t think you’d know what  to do without her.”

“Lord give me the chance to find out.”

“This is my mother you’re talking about, y’know.”

“Exactly.”

“You really wish my poor mother dead?” asked Will, holding his glass up for more.

“We could travel without your mother.”

Will took a long drink.

“She is still my mother.”

“Impotent dreams.” Though Roxanne wished they had children so a toy could be left on the stairs one night.

When it happened, it wasn’t via misplaced toy. Where  would she get the children? There was only Will and he was doing something wrong, not to have given his father a son; but for Mama Stella, it was all Roxanne’s fault. The snide comments irked both Roxanne and Will. All the more reason for short, well-spaced visits. And, of course, Will was not assertive—or perhaps reckless?–enough to reprimand his mother, as it were. Set her straight. Or, more upsetting to Roxanne, not defending his wife or his marriage.

When mother was out of the picture, Billy as a different person. Billy was Will. Sometimes willful. Which made the marriage exciting.

So, Roxanne spent a good deal of time dreaming of ways in which Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb might meet her maker after each visit, and, for that matter, before, at the phone call announcing her intention. Toys on the stairs was the least offensive, as was a drunken stupor fall, even though Stella did not drink so much in quantity, just whenever. So she had good tolerance and never stumbled. Still, Roxanne’s fantasy was a good one, though not the most shining. Roxanne was very creative.

When it came to pass, Roxanne’s fantasy deaths for Mama Stella could never have matched her mother-in-law’s true demise. The accident was rather inconsequential. She hit her head on the stove reaching for her Zinfandel, which had somehow worked its way further back on the middle rack than it was accustomed to be stowed. She hit her head on the door, bounced off the stove door and fell heavily on her nose and forehead. Estella Pirella Deirdre Webb lay on the kitchen floor all day and night holding her Zinfandel, which had not broken, when Mr. Webb returned from his business trip. She lay there awhile longer until her husband could gather his wits  to call 911. At which point he became suspect in a suspected spousal death. His alibi panned out and the accident was officially declared an accident.

The church service, the viewing and the graveside epistolatory diatribe went without a hitch. The perhaps excessively tall and ornate headstone was placed and life went on.

On the seven week, 49th day, anniversary of Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb’s death, when the dead person’s soul is supposed to take on a new form, the family gathers to say good-bye, for it is all over. Truly and forever all over.

Roxanne and Will went to Mama Stella’s grave to lay their gift of flowers, a beautiful large gathering of Queen of Hearts, a large red-almost-to-black bulbous flower flaring out from a green centre, like great lips ready for a kiss. The opening in the shape of an upside down heart. Silky and slim. Biological name Nepenthes robcantleyii. Roxanne had chosen the flowers, making sure they were potted so they would not die quickly.

With the birds chittering away, Roxanne bent over and placed the over-sized pot at the foot of the headstone. The marble edifice fell over and the bronze angel mounted on the beveled carved rays topping the black stone clouted her on the head and killed her. And then it was very, very quiet in the cemetery.

 queen of hearts

 

Bio: Jimsecor is surviving in Kansas under the Brownback Horror and the first rain in a long time. A former student from China came by for a visit; he’s now teaching in Chicago. His new hip is coming along, though slower than he’d like. He is now at Covington’s Who’s Who but otherwise an unknown celebrity with publications here and there, in 3 countries, and some theatre production in China, where he staged an all-female Lysistrata that passed the gov’t filming. He thought it was nice that he remained a good boy; in the US he’s not so good, I think is the way to put it. At least, he’s very outspoken, including over Obama’s not reading Lupeé. Jim can be found at Linkedin and, via Minna vander Pfaltz, at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com. And can be reached directly at hellecchino@eclipso.eu.

 

Stuff It by Stuart Carruthers

a

 

The light streamed through the large window and cast dark shadows around the otherwise white room. Sara opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was, it looked like a hotel room, the white linen was soft to the touch and the duvet that covered her was full and voluptuous. It was expensive. But there was something wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it. There was something subtly out of place. She got out of bed and walked over to the window and looked down, where she could see cars and people scurrying around like mice.

Behind her she heard the door open. She wanted to turn around, but either through fear or bloody-mindedness, she kept looking out through the glass.

“Sara, I’m Doctor Smith.”

“A doctor,” she said to the window, “am I sick?

“Please sit down, Miss Jones.”

“Miss Jones? Why the change of address?”

“Miss Jones, I really must insist that you come and sit down.” The tone was firm and one of a person who was used to getting his own way. Sara complied.

“So Doctor, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing that a short stay here won’t cure. But before we get into that let’s talk about you.

“You’re Sara Jones and you live at this address?” He showed her his clipboard. She nodded in confirmation. “Excellent, excellent. You have a good income Miss Jones, one that many would envy, especially for a single person. Lots of disposable income.”

“I’ve worked hard and had a degree of luck,” she answered defensively.

“Of course, of course. Nobody resents you, please don’t take offense. I’m just checking a few facts.”

The questions went on for a while and the doctor eventually left, without telling her why she was there or how she got there. When she tried the door, she was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked. Having dressed in her own clothes that were neatly folded in the white chest of drawers, she walked along the corridor until she found a lift. It arrived after she pressed the down button, but nothing happened.

A voice came from a speaker. “Miss Jones you can only go to the roof, where you will find the canteen and the garden. The other buttons won’t work for you at this time.”

She pressed “R”.

When the elevator stopped, the doors opened on a Japanese garden covered by glass panels to keep the elements out. Around her she heard the sound of flowing water and the splashing of orange and white koi leaping in excitement at being fed.

Sara sat on one the benches that bordered the area. She was alone and she disappeared into her thoughts, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Miss  Jones.”

Startled, Sara’s almost jumped, but she controlled the impulse. Her job relied on not showing emotions, and she was well rewarded for this ability.

“Doctor Smith. Do you have any more questions?”

“No, but I may have some answers. This is a recovery home; you’re here to help us determine how we can help you recover from an illness. You will be released when we deem you are well enough to return to society. Your salary is still being paid and you’ll actually be able to work from here for the duration of your stay. There are full office facilities on the floor below and your laptop has been put in your secure locker. Here’s the key. Just return it when you return to your room. There are a few rules whilst you’re here, but you’ll be advised of those if you come across them.”

“What am I recovering from exactly?”

“Your spending habits.”

“But, but I buy very little!”

“And that is the problem. You don’t have enough stuff. Your credit cards are hardly used; your store cards have only the essentials registered. We’ve inventoried your home and quite frankly it’s very disappointing. You have one TV, one computer—a laptop—and a cell phone that quite frankly should be in a museum. You don’t even have a car; your bike is 15 years old. Your bank accounts show that you’re not living beyond your means or even close to it. You do, to your credit, have a bit of an alcohol problem and you eat out quite a lot, and a personal trainer helps you keep trim. Sorry, we can’t have him here, but there is a gym and pool two floors down.

“The thing is you’re supposed to want more.  A person in your position should have two televisions, a good selection of never used kitchen gadgets hiding in cupboards, many electronic gadgets that have long ceased to be useful, and of course lots of clothes that you hardly ever wear. Are you aware that interest rates are kept deliberately low to encourage you not to save and to spend more on credit?”

“Are you saying that not being a shopaholic is a crime?”

“Not technically, but it is an anomaly and as such is reason enough to have you detained here.”

“So, what do I have to do to get out of here? Promise that I’ll buy more junk? Max out my credit cards on Amazon? What do you want?”

“Well that would help, but it would only be a short term fix and you’d soon slip back into your old habits. What you’re here for is a long-term resolution, not just for you but so we can learn how to help all those who suffer in the same way. Thanks to MRI scanners, we know how to target most people’s sweet spots and we can target advertising in such a way as to get 62 percent of the population to buy anything we sell them. But there are a few of you on whom these methods just don’t work. We need to know why. You’ll be allowed to leave once we’ve found the reason.”

 ***

The days and weeks dragged by as Sara worked, exercised, and was tested, prodded, and interviewed over and over. Eventually she was let go. One day she stepped into the lift to go to the office. She pushed the button, but instead of going up the elevator automatically went down to the basement. There she was met by a driver and shown to a black car with tinted windows. In the back was an open bottle of champagne with a note around the neck.

“Thank you for your patience Miss Jones.”

Sara poured herself a glass of wine, relaxed back into the embracing seats and watched the television. It was a new sitcom sitcom. Sara chuckled at some of the jokes. She didn’t notice any advertising. But she had this feeling, a strange urge to buy a new bicycle and, yes, she really did need to upgrade her cell phone.

***

Stuart Carruthers writes speculative fiction and childrens stories and can be found on Amazon. He lives in Taiwan with his wife and two young kids.

Halloween – Stories About Things That go Bump in the Night

dreamstimefree_1341393

In the spirit of Halloween, a few of our authors have put together a collage of stories, some of which are based on their personal true encounters with the other side. Warning! Do not read if you are afraid of having nightmares.

###

SalButtaci

A TRUE STORY ABOUT THE DARK ARTS

Sal Buttaci

Years before my constant stumbling in search of life’s meaning, long before my mother’s prayers were answered and I returned to believe in and love God, I ventured into the dark arts.

My parents and teachers had told me often enough that I asked too many questions. “Isn’t that a good sign?” I’d ask them. “Sometimes too many doors are opened and later you regret asking too much,” warned my father.

Still, I wanted answers. Why am I here? What comes after this? Do I lie in my wooden box till the worms have had their way with me or does my deathless soul fly to Heaven or Hell?

In my search I read books that offered incantations that were supposed to lead to the next life. Caught between theists who believed in God and atheists who did not, I wanted to see for myself, a kind of proof positive, that one side or the other possessed the truth I seemed sorely lacking.

In 1965 I purchased a Ouija board. It was a game, devoid of any value to a truth seeker, but I wasn’t convinced of that at all. One September evening friends and I took turns asking questions of the board, our fingers gently holding the planchette while it slowly moved, seemingly on its own, spelling out words a letter at a time. When I asked if I’d meet and marry a woman in Sicily, the board spelled out “D-A-N-G-E-R.” In answer to “What kind of danger?” It spelled C-A-R-L-O.”

We laughed about it. I bought the game back in my closet. In early October I went to Sicily where I committed the cardinal sin of flirting with a young unmarried woman (a married woman would have meant my doom). Word got back to her brothers and walking down Via Giudice one evening I was attacked by four of them, the most brutal of them named Carlo.

Skip ahead fifteen years. My good friend Dan and his wife came to visit. He suggested the four of us play poker. I suggested playing the Ouija board instead. Dan’s face paled. “You serious?” he asked. I placed the game on the kitchen table. “It’s just for fun,” I explained. But Dan grabbed hold of it and I followed him out the door towards the giant dumpster.

“This is Satan’s way of winning souls,” Dan said. I started laughing but not for long. He broke the board over his knee. And from the two halves we heard a cacophony of bloodcurdling screams, louder than anything we had ever heard.

“What did Satan say?” asked Dan. “‘We are Legion’?”

It was the closest to Hell I will ever want to be.

Copyright© Sal Buttaci, 2014

#

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci   

His book A Family of Sicilianswhich critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008

He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.
www.salbuttaci.blogspot.com

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

The Write Room Blog post — http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2347

 

###

Monica

TRICK OR TREAT

Monica Brinkman

 

The small house stood 500 feet or so from the street on this gloomy, misty Halloween night, silhouetted by a tall oak tree, branches stretching over the left side of the roof.  A cracked, broken cobblestone path led up to the darkened front door.

“Do you think a ghost lives there?” asked my friend Emma.

“Maybe a witch but I don’t think a ghost.”

“I dare you to knock on the door,” Emma said, a smile curling at the corners of her mouth.

It sure looked scary and spooky and not at all inviting to a seven-year-old girl, yet I couldn’t back down on a dare. Plus, Emma would be sure to tell everyone what a scaredy-cat I was.  I could hear her giggling at my side.

“Go ahead, you aren’t scared are you?” she mocked

I faced the house, pulled my shoulders back, and with knees trembling, slowly walked down that broken cobblestone path until I stood at the door. The house looked even more frightening, with cracked loose paint hanging from the dingy, dirty window frames and siding. There wasn’t one bit of light unless you counted the dull glow from the lamppost at the curb.

Okay, you can do this Lisa, it’s only a house… there are no such things as ghosts, I mumbled to myself

I knocked twice and waited, my body trembling, knees shaking, and lips quivering.  Whew, I let out a long breath, relieved that no one seemed to be at home.

Just as I was about to turn away, I heard shuffling footsteps growing closer to the other side of the door.

All I could do was stand there, unable to move, with eyes so wide it felt like they were bulging out of my face.

The door creaked and opened. Before me stood the oldest man I had ever seen in my life. His gray hair was wild and disheveled, deep wrinkles etched into his face, and his jowls sagged. He touched some sort of microphone or speaker at his throat.

“Is it Halloween?” the sound came from that microphone. It wasn’t a voice, per say, but I could understand the words emitted from the contraption.

I stuttered my response of “Yes,” and added, “Trick or Treat.”

He placed his hand  back at his throat, motioned with his other hand for me to wait, and said, “I have no candy but I want no tricks. You stay there a minute, I’ll be right back.”

What was he going to do? He had no treats. Oh Lisa, you’ve really done it this time.

It felt as if I was waiting there for hours until the old man appeared again. He handed me a small box, and closed the door.

I raced to get back to Emma who had watched this entire episode, and slipped on the damp stone, almost dropping the treat in my hands to the ground.

“What did that old guy give you Lisa?”

We walked closer to the lamppost light, pulled the lid off the box and squealed with delight. Inside was a stuffed kitten, a fluffy pure white stuffed kitten with the bluest bead eyes.

….

The year passes quickly and it was once again Halloween and time to go Trick or Treating. I couldn’t wait to see my robotic-voiced neighbor again to see what special treat he had in store for me this year.

I sped toward his house, ran up to the front door and knocked three hard raps, and waited for the sound of his footsteps. Nothing happened. I knocked again, this time more forcefully. He never appeared.

As I turned away from the house, and headed down the cobblestone path, I looked up to see Mrs. Jenks, the neighbor from next door, peering over the fence.

“Where is the man who lives here?” I said.

A chill went down my spine when Mrs. Jenkins came up to me, peered into my face and said, “Child, there hasn’t been a man living here since Fred Oliver passed away over seven years ago.”

Copyright © Monica Brinkman, 2014

#

Monica Brinkman looks at life as a wonderful journey and believes those ‘bumps in the road’ bring us understanding and knowledge. Laughter is a mandatory part of her life, thus many readers are surprised to see horror and the paranormal within many of her stories. Her stand-alone sequel to The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, aptly named The Wheels Final Turn, will soon be seeing its release. Along with writing, Monica hosts the It Matters Radio broadcast each week.

http://www.amazon.com/Monica-M.-Brinkman/e/B004C6UBQG/

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/itmattersradio

The Write Room Blog post —  http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2336

 

###

CharlineRatcliff

A LIFE LOST ALONG THE MORMON TRAIL

Charline Ratcliff

 

An excerpt from my 06/06/2013 dream…

The ghost of a long-dead woman haunted my sleep this night. She showed me the story of her short life. And at its end, when she faced the memory of her betrayer, she forgot herself and entered my physical body…

“Is she still with you?” the ‘betrayer’ had asked me, and I stared at her in disbelief.

As if from a distance, I heard the ghost’s voice, and then I felt her simply inhabit my earthly body. I could feel my face distort with fury while the betrayer’s face, with its guise of concern, now swam before my eyes.

“You bitch,” I heard myself say aloud in a guttural, almost non-human voice. “Do you not know what you have done?”

I felt this ghost’s white-hot rage and an evil hatred seep into my very bones. I felt myself (the real me of my body) recoil from these alien feelings in terror.

I felt the intense fear that made me want to cry, but at the same time would not allow it.

With a huge, struggling gasp I managed to wake from this dream only to discover her spirit floating above me. In my dream I had seen her flesh. In waking, all I saw were her bones; starkly white and eerily illuminated by the faint moonlight.

Mentally I lashed out at her. However, I was too exhausted to do more than keep my eyes open until she allowed the vision of her remains to dissipate as her spirit finally floated through the glass pane of the closed window.

The real question is – do I commit her story to paper?

Do I tell the world of her plight; of the fate that befell her and her oh-so-young daughter?

She spared me the gory details, but the America of the late 1800s was a harsh world. Oregon was barely discovered. ‘Savages’ roamed the lands freely and the only ‘real’ law was survival of the fittest. By any means necessary…

Will I ever forget this dream? I think not.

Will the jarring experience soften and fade over time? I hope so…

And finally, did she show me (the storyteller) so that she could, at long last, release her heavy burden of hatred and finally rest in peace?

#

Copyright©Charline Ratcliff, 2014.

Charline Ratcliff is an author of historical fiction. Her stories are themselves inspired by her own vivid, real-to-life dreams; each one providing her with glimpses of times long ago passed.

http://www.charlineratcliff.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Charline-Ratcliff/e/B00J1GB0E4/

The Write Room Blog post — http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2447

 

 ###

CynthiaA

FEAR

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

Blackness. Silence. Mouth opens and words don’t come. Suspended in a void with no top, bottom nor sides. Fear grips my heart. Wishing for the sweet comfort of death that brought me to this place. Eyes strain to see. But, see what? Beings abound so close as terror grows. Lungs strain to expand and bring a breath of freedom. A vice of control grabs my throat. It’s the control of others. Unseen others, but I know they are.

I look down. Nothing is there. Still, the feel of them persists, ever growing closer. A brief, fleeting touch? What was that? Did a crazed mind create that sensation? Has lunacy taken all lucid thought? Anxiety and terror builds. Frantically I look for an escape. Black deadly void remains at each side. Clothes drift away, fiber by fiber until innocent nakedness is the cover for my soul. Now, totally exposed for the imagined claws of the others. I feel no breath, no warmth, no cold. A neutral hell is my new surroundings. A hell that I have yet to cross, that eternal threshold of torment.

My eyes look upward for the slightest glimpse of an escape. Nothing. They come closer. Weakness and a lead weight fills arms and legs. A sinking feeling pulls , drawing me deeper into that black hole of obscurity, ready to swallow my  being into the wrath and terror of those gone before me.

Their presence bears ever closer, teasing me with the hope of freedom before the eventual capture of my soul. With a sliver of remaining strength, arms and legs flail about, pushing at the void. The void wants to consume my every cell. Stronger I fight. Faster my legs move in pedal like fashion. Arms reach up as I imagine I must have fallen into this black hell. Up must be the way out.

In the mist of my desperation, I find the breath to scream. My ears hear nothing. My mind hears the words clearly, “I don’t want to die. I will never wish for death again.”

A cold sweat. Body trembles. Eyes open. I’m alive in my bed. Damp sheets cling to my still lingering terror. The sweet breath of life fills my lungs. Gratefully, I hug my pillow. I am thankful for the glimpse of terror that could have been my fate.

Never will I pray for an end.

#

© 2014 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

http://cynthiaswordsandpassion.blogspot.com/

The Write Room Blog Piece, What Did I do Wrong? http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2217

Raised in Yorktown Heights, New York, Cynthia B. Ainsworthe has dreamed of being a writer. Life circumstances put that dream on hold for most of her life. In 2008 she released her debut novel, Front Row Center, which won the prestigious IPPY Award and has a script in development with notable Hollywood screenwriter/producer/director Scott C Brown. Ms. Ainsworthe has been a guest on several radio talk shows, and garnered the awards: Excellence in Writing (for short story It Ain’t Fittin’), and Reader’s Favorite International Award for her contribution to The Speed of Dark anthology (for two short stories: When Midnight Comes andCharacters).

 

###

DaveEdlund

BEWARE THE BEAST

Dave Edlund

The firelight cast a flickering glow on the tent fabric. Although we were both tired from the pack trip, Margaret wasn’t ready for sleep. “Was that a wolf howling?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said, and yawned. “They’re pretty common in these woods.”

Howww. The wail was louder than before, closer.

“You heard that creepy man yesterday at the gas station,” Margaret said, her voice soft.

“He’s just a crazy old man, having fun with the tourists.”

“He said the sheep were mutilated.”

“You’re letting your imagination get the better of you. It’s just a story.” I yawned again, bigger this time. Closing my eyes, I drifted off, only to be startled awake by rustling in the bushes. Propping myself on an elbow, I listened. There it was again.

Then I saw the shadow cast by the flickering flames—pointed ears and elongated snout. Slowly, it circled on long, muscular legs, stopping at the front of the tent.

Margaret saw it too. As the shadow grew larger, the last of the flames died.

“Did you see that?” she said.

“Shhh…” My heart raced as I strained to hear every sound, no matter how faint.

The creature ran claws down the tent fabric. Margaret stifled a scream. “It wants in!” she whispered.

I wrapped my hand around the revolver lying on a white handkerchief, drawing comfort from the heft of the cold steel-and-wood grip. For several long seconds we were totally silent, neither of us daring to move.

I clicked on a flashlight and reached for the zipper, only to jerk my hand back as claws raked down the fabric again. “What are you doing?” she whispered, panic rising in her voice.

“Do you think that nylon flap is going to keep it out?” I said, and pulled the zipper up allowing cool air into the tent. On my knees, shining the light forward, I parted the fabric in front of my face… a rhythmic thump reverberating in my ears with every heartbeat.

Suddenly, a large hairy snout thrust in through the parted tent flap, fangs glistening in the light beam! The nose slammed into my forehead, propelling me backwards. The flashlight lay on the tent floor, projecting a shaft of light at the clawed feet of the beast. Margaret scrambled within the tight confines to get behind me, away from the creature.

I raised the gun and then the flashlight, but the fanged head had already pulled back, out of sight. Seconds passed like minutes, and then the beast surged forward and was upon me in one leap, its raven fur absorbing every photon of light.

Margaret screamed!

Only then did I recognize our wolf for a Labrador retriever.

Copyright©Dave Edlund, 2014

#

Dave Edlund is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a doctoral degree in chemistry. Crossing Savage (book #1 in the Peter Savage Series), an action-political thriller based in Central Oregon, has received critical praise for its realistic action sequences plus cutting-edge science and technology. Relentless Savage (Peter Savage book #2) is scheduled for release in February 2015. An avid outdoorsman and shooter, Edlund has hunted throughout North America for big game ranging from wild boar to moose to bear. He is a long-time resident of Bend, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, son, and three dogs (Lucy Liu, Murphy, and Tenshi).

 www.amazon.com/author/daveedlund

 www.PeterSavageNovels.com

 

###

JohnRosen

A CERTAIN KNACK

John Rosenman

 

“Wanna see somethin’ really scary?” Mark said.

Tommy looked at Mark, who, like him, was carrying a bag stuffed with candy, the reward of visiting 59 houses this Halloween night.

“Like what?”

“Like somethin’ so scary it’ll make your hair stand up, that’s what!”

“That depends,” Tommy said.  Mark was spooky, unpredictable, and got into trouble.  Tommy’s parents had warned him to stay away from Mark.  If they knew…

“Shhh,” Mark whispered.  “Just watch!”

Nervously, he followed Mark up yet another walk and watched while he pressed the 60th doorbell of the night.  Mark’s impish face glistened expectantly in the moonlight.

The door opened and a kindly, white-haired woman beamed at them.

“Well, what do we have here?  Two boys?”

Tommy adjusted his Batman cape and raised his bag.  “Trick or treat!”

The old bitty practically went into conniptions.  “You wait here.  I’ll be right back.”

Tommy nudged Mark as she disappeared.  “C’mon, let’s split.  We ain’t gettin’ nothin’ out of her.”

“Wanna bet?”  Mark winked.

Footsteps.  She returned with a bowl of overripe peaches.  Disgusted, Tommy reached for one.

She snatched it back.  “Nooooo, you don’t!”

“Ma’am?”

“Do a trick first.  That’s the rule!  Least it was when I was a girl.”

Mark smiled.  “What kind of trick you want, lady?”

“Oh, something clever.  Surprise me!”

“With the greatest of pleasure.”  Something happened in Mark’s dark eyes.  “Hershey bars!”

Tommy stared.  The bowl was filled with Hershey bars, the half-pound size that cost over two bucks.

The woman gasped.  “Where did they come from?”

“You want trick or treat?” said Mark.  “Lady, you got it.”

Sores appeared on her face.  Some burst and ran.  She dropped the bowl.  One of her fingers fell off.

“How about flying, lady?” Mark said.  “Like to be a bird?”

Screaming, she rose and shot through a doorway.  Tommy saw her whirl about the living room, banging into walls.

“It’s a knack,” Mark said.  “I don’t use it much ’cause I’ll get caught.”

Tommy swallowed.  “What…”

Mark contemplated the moon.  “You know, maybe I’ll turn her into a pig.  Or something really weird.”

“No!  Stop it, please!”

“Oh, all right.”  Mark pouted and the woman swooped back, disease-ridden and terrified.  Then she was unblemished, standing before them again with a bowl of overripe peaches.

“Hey, lady,” said Mark, “you don’t remember a thing.”

She blinked and held out the bowl.  “Have a peach, son.”

“No thanks.”  Jauntily, Mark hooked Tommy’s arm.  Tommy felt himself being escorted back toward the sidewalk.  Looking down, he saw his bag was filled with Hershey bars.

This was crazy!  How could Mark do this, and what was he, anyway?  Though stunned, he knew he’d finally had enough.

“Mark,” he said, “I—”

Shouts.  Half a dozen kids came running up the walk.

Mark laughed and moved to block them.  He raised his hands like a magician.

“Tommy,” he said, “would you like to see something really scary?”

 

Copyright © John B. Rosenman 2014

#

John B. Rosenman, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20 books. His work includes science fiction and dark erotic fiction. “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes won the 2011 annual readers’ poll from “Preditors and Editors.” In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” their Top Pick. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

Two links:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/The-Merry-Go-Round-Man-Audiobook/B00NP5UD4A 

http://www.amazon.com/Inspector-Cross-John-B-Rosenman-ebook/dp/B007USB0YU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1412877976&sr=8-2&keywords=john+rosenman

The Write Room Blog post — http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2362

 

###

 

MikciPeluso

GHOSTS — FRIENDLY OR EVIL?

Micki Peluso

 

Who could’ve known? I finally find the house of my dreams, a 100-yr-old renovated farmhouse and now my six kids insist it’s haunted by evil ghosts. Worse, my normally, (well almost) sane husband agrees. I love this house, bonded instantly.

The varmints are the first to share our house. Barn rats visit from the farm down the road; starlings fly in through the roof, and torment our new kitten. One thing I really fear — bats —make daily appearances which immediately evacuates us — me trampling over the kids to reach the front door.

The kids see and hear the ghosts first. I don’t believe them. Five out of six are teenagers with enough hormonal eruptions to cause poltergeist activity. At first it’s mild hauntings; bumps in the night, beds shaking, shadows whisking by; typical stuff. And yes, no small pets, like hamsters or birds ever live long in Mike’s room but then it’s so, let’s say sloppy to be kind, that nothing could live there.

Things go downhill the night my husband tells me that the house breathes, when I thought it was only the local black bear coming down the mountain for garbage can snacks. That’s when I start believing my beloved house might be haunted by good spirits. In spite of Kelly seeing a floating head of ghost that Noelle names ‘Orville,’ Kim’s hotlips balloon spinning with no wind, and Dante  dreaming he’s Napoleon — this from a kid who failed history, I feel loved and protected by my home. But things are getting a little weird, causing eight-year-old Nicole to start sleeping in our bed.

While cleaning up from a summer barbecue, Kelly screams out of her attic windows to come quick. Inside her dormered attic room, shared with her sisters, all the lower wall panels are kicked out from behind with not even a bent nail. All their red clothes, tossed across their beds—only red. This is impossible. I blame Dante our resident troublemaker.

“Ma, why do you think I do everything around here?”

“Because ninety nine percent of the time you do!”

This is a bit scary. A few days later I come home from work to find the cat near death. I place him in a shoebox and rush to the vet.

“This cat looks like he was hit by a car,” he says.

“No, he was alone in the house until I got home from work.”

Driving back I wonder if something evil got to him. The kids get off the school bus and are horrified by the wounded kitten.

“Now do you believe us?” the girls say at once.

Yeah I kind of do. Yet if these apparitions are evil why do I feel loved and safe? Do we have both good and evil spirits?

We’re about to find out.

Copyright © Micki Peluso, 2014.

#

Micki Peluso, journalist, author of …And the whippoorwill Sang—with the humor of ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ and the heart of ‘To Kill a Mickingburd.’

http://www.amazon.com/Micki-Peluso/e/B002BLZ7JK/

http://mallie1025.blogspot.com/

The Write Room Blog post — http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2290

 

###

Trish

THE CAM AND MOTOR MINE

Trish Jackson

 

When I got married, my husband had just taken a new job as the group geophysicist for an international mining group. It meant we had to relocate to a small mining community called Eiffel Flats on the Cam and Motor Mine.

I was not impressed. It was hot, dry and dusty. The crumbling Eiffel Flats Hotel, known to the locals as the “Cockroach Inn,” marked the entrance to the mine compound.

Housing was provided to all employees, and it was with some trepidation that we drove around the mine looking at those that were available at the time. The house we chose was a typical old Rhodesian brick mine dwelling, with three bedrooms and one bathroom, and a green corrugated iron roof. The spacious yard was graced by tall jacaranda and avocado trees.

The Cam and Motor Mine was the biggest gold mine in the country, and beneath the housing complex was a network of shafts and tunnels going down more than a mile underground. A few hundred yards away from our house was a ‘ventilation shaft’—a square hole in the ground, from which steam or smoke billowed constantly.

We hadn’t lived there more than a few days when we were woken in the night by bangs and crashes that sounded like they were in the house. We were certain something was being smashed into the walls. I imagined our lamps and ornaments being in pieces, but when my husband got up to investigate, he found nothing out of place. This happened on more than one occasion.

I was beginning to wonder if we would ever be able to have a good night’s sleep when to add to the chaos, we both woke up to a cacophony of noise outside the house one night. We could hear the mine head-gear turning, (that’s the enormous wheel you see on the pylon-like structure over the top of a mine shaft). Bearings creaked, men shouted and there was the unmistakable clamor of heavy machinery in operation.

“I don’t know how anybody sleeps in this place with all the noise the mine makes,” my husband said at work the next day.

Nobody commented – they just looked at him strangely as if to say: “What did you expect? It’s a mine.”

Another week passed and we were still being woken up most nights by the mining operations, so he mentioned it again.

“What are you talking about?” someone said.” This mine hasn’t operated for four years now.”

Strangely enough, we never heard the mine working again.

The bangs and crashes in the house continued, though and one night I actually watched the bolt on a locked door slide across and unlock. Then someone told us there had been a particularly gruesome murder in our house. The man of the house was working night shift on the mine, when his wife was woken to a loud knocking on the kitchen door in the dark of night.  She grabbed her rifle and went to the door.

“I have a note from your husband,” came the voice on the other side of the door.

“Push it under the door,” said the wife.

“He said I have to give it to you in person.”

They argued for a while, but the bearer of the note was insistent that she should open the door so he could give her the note. Eventually, she lifted the rifle to her shoulder and fired one shot through the door, and went back to bed.

When her husband returned the following morning, a dead body lay outside his kitchen door, shot once through the heart. He told his wife he didn’t send the note.

We decided to ask if we could relocate to a different house. It was a huge relief.

We never figured out why that strange vapory stuff flowed constantly out of that ventilation shaft. If nobody was down there, then why was anything being disturbed enough to come up to the surface?

Copyright ©  Trish Jackson, 2014

#

Trish Jackson writes emotive romantic suspense and romantic comedy focusing on small towns, country folk and their animals. Soul-stirring, passionate, thrilling – and fun.

http://www.amazon.com/Trish-Jackson/e/B004ZZG55K/

www.trishjax.com

The Write Room Blog post — http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2206

Can Even The Dead See This and Forget to Weep? by James L. Secor

noh grief

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room. It was too ordinary. Everything in its place. Clean, tidy, a room to be proud of. Pristine clean.

Along the east wall was a window. Below the window was a large buffet. Atop the buffet were overlapped doilies, on each a gold-framed picture. She stood at the buffet. She sprayed her wax on the open top already high-glossed, high-lighting the wood grain of blacks and browns, ground for the gold frame. Wiping it down took some time. Her swirls shone in the sunlight from the window until they disappeared into the wood so the buffet top sparkled.

Out of a drawer she withdrew a feather whisk.

Reverenced, she raised the frame, dusting the memento. Then she set it down. Raising some trinkets before the first photograph, she fingered them daintily. Army regalia. With each piece, great care was taken shining them to reflect the day light their wearers no longer appreciated.

And she said, “You were my husband. I loved you. You were mine. I cooked for you. I cleaned for you. I made babies for you. I loved you. But that was taken from me. They killed you and gave me these. That I might better remember you, they said. I should be proud and I should have something great to live for. Your honor,” they said. “Your honor to look upon forever, they said.”

She put them back before the picture.

She dusted off the next picture. She set the duster down. She picked up the medals in front of this frame. They slipped through her fingers into her other hand. She did this over and again.

She said, “You were my first born. The apple of my eye. Such a tiger you were. I loved you with every ounce of my soul. I helped you grow up. All by myself. I watched you excel in sports. And school. Here, take this, they said. I have lived with these remains. My memory.”

And she put the memorabilia down before the picture, gently.

She took up the duster and dusted the last picture. She put it down and reached for the mementos before it. She held them tightly in her hands.

She said, “You were my baby. I spoiled you so. I raised you well. Remember when you would go down to the road and throw yourself against the cars? You bounced off. You bounded away, running and laughing. I would scold you. But when you grew to manhood, your luck did not hold out. You came home stretchered. Then they gave me these. Take these, they said. In remembrance of him. My heart.”

She put the keepsakes down.

She squatted down and began polishing Army boots. There were five of them lined up below the buffet, awaiting wearers. She made each shiny black, two by two by one.

She picked up her rag and her spray can, moving to the end table. It did not receive any sunlight at all. She sprayed the surface. She was careful not to get the doilie wet. There was a picture on it. With care she dusted it with the feathers. She held it up. She looked at it for some time. Then she kissed it, set it back down.

She moved to the drop-leaf table against the west wall. There was a large doilie on the table with two pictures on it. She polished the table. She dusted the pictures. She picked them up and looked at them awhile. She hugged them to her breasts. She squeezed them to her. She put them back in their places.

She returned to the kitchen. She came back with a bucket. She set it down before the centre table. She took one of the long objects from the pile on the table. Kneeling down on the floor, between her knees she placed the bucket. She held the Army-green object before her. And the bayonet unsheathed. She quickly sliced her arm open, blood coursing down her arm, collecting in her hand at the bottom of the pail between her spread legs.

She said, “Take and drink this. I want you to remember me. I died for you. I died for you. Ooo-wuwu!” Like a dog with no master she whined.

She howled, “There is nothing but this for me. There is only my blood. Take and drink of this.” And she spat, “May you choke on it! May you be accursed till I die–and I will never die. Cannot die. Always to suffer. My loss, my blood, all that is left me! Tell me the reason you have cut off my legs and arms, cut out my heart! Tell me the reason!” she cried out. “Tell me why! I would know why you snuffed out the joy of my life thoughtless. I want the spear out of my side!” Like a dog she yelped. “Ah-ooo-wawoo!”

She rent herself again to watch the blood well up and spill over the eviscerated flesh, unsalved.

She snarled, “I tell you the wound will not heal. It suppurates while you give me trinkets to staunch it. I do not want your pieces of the true flame. Your medals. I want my men. When will you hear me? There are no heroes. There are only carried burdens. I carry the burden of mankind in my soul. Can you not see? I am called Earth and you do nothing but rape me! Woo-wowo-wooo!” A beaten dog’s yelping.

killed mother mask

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room…

 

BIO

Jimsecor thought he would advance his career by giving up 11 years of live theatre production to get a PhD. Little did he know! He worked with the Lifers at KS State Penn and did summer vaudeville and somehow got the doctorate, publication in a volume devoted to Japanese ghosts and demons and wrote a ground-breaking, though not academically enchanting, dissertation on women and morals in theatre. Then he studied at the National Puppet Theatre of Japan while writing award winning tanka. Illness forced a return to the States where he worked in disability. Seven years in China followed with multiple productions, including an all-female Lysistrata, TV commercials, a documentary and the publication of poems in Chinese in a major journal. He was also commissioned for a film and a play: the play was not liked and the film was deemed unable to pass the censors, so they never saw the light of day. Via Liverpool, he returned to the US and publication in The Speed of Dark and his own book of mysteries, Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. He can be found on Linkedin and at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com along with Minna vander Pfaltz, while his essays are sprinkled all over the internet. Jimsecor’s email is hellecchino@eclipso.eu. Lord, lord, lord–what does Helleccino mean?