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Making History (Fiction) – Emilio Pasquale Photo

July 24, 2014

The challenge:  write a story inspired by the photo below, provided by Emilio Pasquale.   If you didn’t read our first team-up, click here to read it!  And, if you haven’t checked out his photography site yet, you really should :)

An Emilio Pasquale Photo

An Emilio Pasquale Photo – click it to check out his wonderful photography site!

Marianne Sutter stoked the fire with a long broken branch she’d foraged in the woods surrounding camp.  The logs, moistened by last night’s rain, had been slow to burn, but finally rewarded her with meager warmth stifled by billowing smoke.  One of the few women in camp, she kept to herself.

“Well, well, Ms. Sutter.  How ‘about you warm yerself by my fire?”  The man gave an exaggerated wink.

“No thank you, Mr. Muehlling.” Her revulsion at his advances culminated in a deep shiver that she hoped had been concealed by her wool overcoat.

“If you change yer mind…”  He nodded toward his tent.

Marianne’s husband, Cortland, had led her to this God-forsaken land four months ago.  Enticed by adventure and gold, he moved them west.  When he first shared his plan to leave Virginia, she insisted he take her with him.  She’d thought being alone at home would be much worse than being with him on the frontier.  How wrong she was.  California turned out to be a fickle host.  Although Cortland had found a small amount of gold, months later, he succumbed to fever, leaving Marianne to fend for herself.

***

Marianne’s eyelids grew heavy as her fire dwindled to pulsing orange coals.  In the periphery, she caught sight of a movement to her left. She leaned forward and squinted, branch clenched tightly in her hands.

“Who’s there?”  She asked in a hoarse whisper so she wouldn’t disturb the panners who’d already retired for the night.  The bushes rustled and Marianne raised the stick over her head.

A young child stepped into the clearing.

She gasped and relaxed her arms.  “How old are you?”

“Six.”

“Where are your parents?”

“Dead.”

The matter-of-fact tone caught Marianne off-guard.  “What’s your name?”

“Carrie Benton.”

Marianne leaned forward so her eyes were at the girl’s level.  “Carrie, can you take me to your family?”

They walked a circuitous route in between tents before Carrie stopped and pointed.  Marianne moved forward and saw two rigid men in sleeping bags beneath a make-shift tent.

“They been sick,” Carrie said.  “Daddy and my uncle.”

A breeze slid through the campsite, flapping canvas and fanning the stench of death.  Marianne leaned against a battered supply wagon and heaved, supper barely missing her boots.  Shaky and weak, she grabbed a wool blanket.  She kneeled down and said a prayer for their souls’ safe-keeping and covered the men.

Marianne smoothed her skirts and took the girl’s hand.  “You can stay with me.”

***

Read more…

Covert Operations

July 21, 2014

My older son and I are going through a thing right now:  I don’t like to be lied to, and he likes to lie to see what he can get away with.  Lately, it’s been a game for him.  A tiring, ridiculous game that I began to think I might not “win.”

An anonymous tip (okay, my mother-in-law) may have turned the tide.

Last night, my husband got a cryptic text from his mom ssuggesting he raid my son’s room.  We don’t allow food upstairs, for one good reason.  Here… a picture’s worth a thousand words:

Room

Can you imagine food thrown into that mess? Or the pests that such slobbery would attract? {shivers}

I digress.

While my son was outside playing basketball with a neighbor, my husband bagged up the hidden treasures; enough sugar to rot the teeth of eight children.

Stash

What to do next…

1)      We could ask him about the candy and give him an opportunity to lie to our faces

2)      We could hide the candy without saying anything (yet) and wait.

Of course, he won’t come right out and ask where his candy is – that would be admitting guilt.  But one day, it will come up in conversation.  It will be subtle (maybe a photo of the confiscated sugar left on his pillow?) but he will have no question that we know.

However we proceed, it will be clear that we trust until trust is broken.  And trust has been broken. He will know that his room isn’t off limits from the rules of our house.

This may seem a bit overboard for a bag of sugar, but there’s more at stake here.  Next month, he will be twelve and I know there are things much worse than sugar that he could choose to hide.

He needs to know that we look because we care.

I’m not kidding myself; I know he won’t appreciate us caring.  He will be furious that we assert our right to search and seizure.  He will likely resent our infringement upon his “rights.”  I’m aware he likely won’t gain understanding until years later.

Possibly when he’s checking the room of his own child.

At least we’ll know we didn’t trust blindly.

So, what do you think we should do with the “evidence”?  We might was well have some fun with this!

The Morrow House (Unprompted Fiction)

July 17, 2014
This photo has nothing to do with the story, except that to me, rays of sun streaming through clouds IS "Hope"

This photo has nothing to do with the story, except that to me, rays of sun streaming through clouds IS “Hope”…and hope is a theme of this story.

Ashley stared at the red numbers projected onto her wall by her bedside alarm clock:  11:58.  For two nights now, the phone rang at precisely 12:15.  Each time she answered, there had been a pause and then the connection broke. Intrigued by the timing (not many people call after midnight) and the origin of the call (The Morrow House, an assisted living facility) she anticipated the shrill staccato that would disturb the gentle snoring of her beagle, Elvis.

As if sensing the internal restlessness of his motionless companion, Elvis, curled at her feet, raised his head and gave her a tilted head glance.

“Come here, boy,” she whispered.  That was enough to convince him to bathe her face in slobbery kisses before collapsing in her arms; his exposed underside the not-so-subtle invitation to rub his belly.  She didn’t know the precise moment when she became lonely enough to look forward to a late-night hang up call, but she suspected it may have been when the door clicked behind Brent as he carried the last of his belongings to his Chevy Blazer. The thought had crossed her mind to beg him to stay, but as much as she wanted to, she could sense he wanted to leave more.  So she let him go.

Six years together disappeared in two carloads.  For the first few months, Ashley expected him to come back, realizing the error in his choice.  Now, going on the fifth month, with divorce papers on her nightstand waiting on her signature, she’d learned that setting one free with the notion he’d return was just foolish hope harbored by the naiveté of a romantic heart.

She’d never make that mistake again.

The sharp ring of the phone cut through the silence, startling Ashley.  Elvis barely raised his head.

“Hello?”

“I know you’re there.  Please talk to me.”  She detected two shallow, raspy breaths that made her question her sanity.  I’m asking for trouble.

“Edith.  Is that you?”  A man asked.

Ashley let out a surprised gasp.  “My middle name is Edith.”  She rarely admitted it because, although she was named after her great-grandmother, she found it too old-fashioned.  “Who is this?”

“David.  They won’t let me come home to you.  They say this is home now.”

She remembered driving by The Morrow House and from the outside, it looked like a warm, well-kept building.

“Do they take good care of you?”

He sighed.  “I suppose.”  He dropped his voice to a whisper.  “But no one took care of the Colonel like you did.”

“What is your favorite meal?”

“Always turkey dumplings.”

“Oh, I love to make those.  Most people use chicken, but turkey adds more flavor.”  Without expecting it, she blurted another question.  “What about dessert?”

“I don’t get sweets much but if I could sneak another bite of lemon meringue pie…”  He paused.  “Someone’s coming.”

Before she could answer, the call disconnected.  In an instant she knew what she’d do.  She had recipes for turkey dumplings and lemon meringue pie, passed down in her family for generations.  “We’re going to give David a taste of home,” she said.

Elvis wasn’t impressed. Drool pooled under his loose lips and his eyes twitched beneath closed lids.

She rolled onto her side ran her fingers down his back.  It wouldn’t be long before his steady snore would lull her to sleep.

Read more…

Haiku Poem & Life (Which Is Not Always Poetic)

July 14, 2014

Wispy clouds streaked orange;

Colorful monsoon display.

Hopes for late-night rain.

Monsoon Sunset

It is monsoon time here in Arizona.  The storms can be swift, with more wind than rain, but for me, it’s always the promise of rain that makes me keep one eye on the radar.  We may not always get rain, but at least we do get some decent photo opportunities :)

Last week, I only managed to do one post, which was a story for Speakeasy.  (That story was voted 3rd place last week, so thanks to all who read it!)  It seems my week of Mondays is still going, haha!  I’ve re-installed the operating system on my computer, but still can’t get to the internet, so my Dad is going to look at it when I visit them at the end of the month.  Until then, I guess I get to buddy up with my old Vista laptop.

I didn’t mention it in my A Week of Mondays post, but that week, I also found out that my kitty, Cybil has kidney issues.  I’ve been taking her to the vet every other day for IV fluids and my husband has tried giving her pills each morning.  All this ‘treatment’ has resulted in her becoming quite suspicious of us and spending more time under our bed.  It made me wonder for whose benefit we were doing it all, and if I’m honest, I think it’s for me.  The last time I took her to the vet, I had to squirt her with water to get her to come out from under the bed.  The last time my husband tried to pill her, he wrapped her in a towel and still ended up getting bitten and she still worked the pills out.  So, as of yesterday, I’ve stopped the madness. I don’t know how long we’ll have with her, but I’d rather not put her through the stress any longer.  Maybe she will quit running under the bed whenever I come into the room.

Okay, so I’d like to move on from the depressing.  I’m working on a story that I hope to post later in the week – probably Thursday.  (Writing is a great way to keep my mind distracted!)  Speakeasy is on a summer break right now, and I don’t have the energy to figure out the combined summer grid, so for the next six weeks, I plan to write a story each week unprompted.  I thought it would be fun to write a few sentences at the end explaining the inspiration for the stories, or how the idea occurred to me.  (If no one cares, it can easily be skipped!)   I hope you’ll come back and read it.

To leave this post another positive note, I’d like to announce that we finally finished a couple of ongoing projects (last update was May 21):  our fencing is essentially complete (we still need to do a proper latch for our double-gate) and our rock trenches are DONE!  We finished them a couple weeks ago, and a recent rain confirms that they seem to be working, so far:

Rock Drainage

I hope you have a beautiful week!  If you have any thoughts on this post, or want to share something you’re looking forward to this week, or have a gripe about Monday, I hope you’ll share a comment.  I’d love to know what’s on your mind :)

Shadows of Herself (Fiction)

July 7, 2014

07-18 Flowers

Sophie squeezed through the creaky, half-opened door of the blue line city bus.  As coins clinked into the metal fare box, her breath caught.  Perfumes, leftover pungent lunches, labor and worn leather boots (all amplified by the latest heat wave) assaulted her.  Even after two weeks of this commute, the odor still came as a shock.  Every time, it brought back memories of indecision.

“Move behind the yellow line.”  The surly driver jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

She stepped across the painted line.  Before she could find a seat or even an appropriate place to stand, the bus lurched forward.  She stumbled and her satchel slipped off her shoulder, bumping a man on the head.

“Watch it!”  He shoved the bag.

She saw him shake her shoulders and then slap her face to make her talk.  Her mother wilted like a bouquet of cut roses.  Brianne’s reaction had been swift; deadly.  Her mother hid the damaged brass lamp and dragged her second husband’s body to the basement until she could figure out what to do with him.  The smell became overpowering.

“Sorry.”  She reached for the smudged chrome bar overhead.  Steadied and easing toward the back, she scanned for an empty space in the crowd of heads.  No one made eye contact.  The blue collars gravitated to one side of the bus.   Across the aisle, the lower-level white collars kept heads bowed, tapping on digital screens.

No one ever noticed her, or suspected her past.  After her step-father’s death, a new self emerged- Julia.  Memories of past selves toppled in her mind like a bumped chain of dominoes.  Dawn… Lynette… Tracee… Anita… Gena… Rochelle.  So many fresh starts, but Bri always managed to stain them with the burden of death.

The bus heaved to a stop and more people crowded in behind her.

“May I sit here?”

The man wearing paint-splattered overalls and a ball cap stained with sweat and dirty fingerprints tilted his face to her.  “No entiendo,” he mumbled.

Sophie clenched her jaw.  It was the same every day, no matter which side of the bus she asked.  “Usted tiene dos asientos.”  She pointed to the empty seat beside him.

He exhaled a weary sigh.  Instead of sliding toward the window, he shuffled into the aisle and gestured for her to sit.

She bit back annoyance and smiled.  “Gracias.”

The man slumped beside her with a grunt.

The exchange reminded her of Mexico, which made her think of Jason and the evening he spent with Rochelle on the Ensenada beach.  He’d come too close to harming her- closer than anyone.  She blamed her vulnerability on the emotions stirred by having recently lost Nate.  She’d loved Nate, but couldn’t make him stay.  When she returned to the United States two weeks ago, Sophie emerged.  Rochelle was sacrificed to Bri as soon as Jason gasped his last breath.

Beside her, the odor of a day spent working outside emanated from the man’s clothing.  The air conditioning choked out intermittent spurts of semi-cool air, so she reached up to slide the window open.

“No.  Too hot.”  The man gestured toward the window.

Sophie dropped her hands to her lap.  “Lo siento.  No entiendo,” she muttered, turning toward the world outside.  She had about 29 minutes before she’d reach her stop.  Her seatmate’s leg relaxed and his thigh pressed against hers.  She scooted toward the window in an attempt to regain her violated personal space.

As usual, vacant thoughts gave way to remnants of past dreams; shards of glass scattered among her trail of selves.  Like a dandelion’s puffy pollen, little by little, those dreams shifted paths and floated away on passing breezes.

Nate.  Instead of them clinging to each other, they grew apart.  Instead of breakfast in bed on their honeymoon, she rode the blue line home from work.  She’d slipped from his loving embrace.  Instead of growing grey together, he grew cold beneath her hands.  He’d described their emotional separation as the result of passing time and neglect, much like the corrosion of metal in the salty mist of ocean air.

Reflecting upon the endings, beginnings and transitions, Sophie decided she wouldn’t change any of her decisions.  The person behind her let out a jarring sneeze.  She cringed when spray landed on the back of her neck.

I wish I would’ve taken Nate’s car.

Despite the vague sense she should be overcome with guilt, of all her choices, it was the only thing she regretted.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is near the limit!) using (1) “It was the only thing she regretted.” anywhere in the piece, AND (2) making some kind of reference to the media prompt, the song Over the Valley by Pink Martini.  The challenge is open to anyone, so if you want to join in, click the badge below to check out the site!

Some of you who read Lost and Found (my Speakeasy story from last week) may notice this kind of goes with it.  It takes place after that story and clues us in a little more on her past.  At the moment, I’m not planning on developing this further, but based on past experience, my plans don’t matter too much… if a story wants to be written, it will nag me until I write :)

I’m still in the middle of computer issues, but in the interim I’ve reclaimed our old Vista computer, which had been relegated to the kids for the their computer use.  (Is that a form of child abuse?!)  Sorry, but this OS is not a shining moment for Microsoft.  I’m going to attempt a complete wipe out and reload of my regular computer… wish me luck (I’m gonna need it…)

A Week of Mondays

July 3, 2014
This image describes my mood at this moment:  prickly and painful to be around!

This image depicts my mood: prickly and painful to be around!

Mondays get a bad rap, but I don’t hold grudges against them… usually!

Monday started off very Monday-like:  the back-light went out on one of my computer monitors I use for work.  After years of working with two monitors, working with one felt like shifting from email to chiseling messages on stone tablets.  I have another monitor in place now, so that crisis was resolved.

But technology wasn’t done with me yet.  It turns out the monitor was like an appetizer… just prepping me for the main course.

On Monday, I also experienced increasing issues with my internet connectivity.  I thought maybe it was my router because I bought it about ten years ago.  I bought a new one and was relieved when the configuration went smoother than I expected.  My joy would be short-lived.  The connection held for about half an hour and then my computer wouldn’t connect to the internet again.

Anyway, after several hours of fiddling with it, talking to our internet provider and talking to support for the router, I decided to try my husband’s computer.  I’ve been using it for nearly two hours and it hasn’t dropped the internet connection once.

Sigh.

I think it’s my computer.  If I don’t lose connection on my work computer tomorrow, I’ll know for sure.

Not to sound like a melodramatic teenager, but this is tragic!  Okay, that was an exaggeration… but it is going to cramp my blogging activity until I get this fixed.   (I know I’m behind on everything… responding to comments, reading subscriptions, visiting new subscribers… aaack!)

Please be patient with me.  I’ve had a week of Mondays and I really need a Saturday :)

Lost and Found (Fiction)

June 30, 2014

06-30 Ocean Sunset

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.

Rochelle gazed into the golden-hued waves, tinted by the sun which had just dipped below the horizon. “I simply woke up one day and didn’t know who I was anymore.”

The man who’d introduced himself as ‘Jason’ gave her a sideways glance.

Silence disrupted her trance. “Oh, you meant here, in Ensenada, didn’t you?” She let out a nervous giggle, hopeful the approaching evening disguised her blush. “Turns out I need to brush up on my Spanish. I went izquierda when I should have gone derecha, I guess.”

He laughed. “I’ve lived here for two years and I still get lost.”

“Where did you live before that?”

“Cornville, Arizona.”

“It’s not too far from Sedona, if I remember correctly.” She exhaled a wistful sigh that would’ve betrayed her angst, had he known her better. “I’m glad we met and you knew how to get to this beach. The sunset was beautiful.”

“Estero Beach can be touristy, but it’s a nice place.”

Her gaze drifted to the rhythmic surf. The scents of fish tacos and her new friend’s after shave hung in the periphery of her consciousness; the pull not strong enough to break the oceanic trance. Each wave tumbled onto the sand and slipped back out to the Pacific, only to stretch farther onto shore the next time. She felt as if she could rediscover her soul if she searched the foam soaking into the sand carefully enough.

“Have you found yourself?”

“Excuse me?”

“You said you didn’t know who you were. If you can’t find yourself in a Mexican sunset, I don’t know where else to look.”

Rochelle pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I’m figuring out how to close the gap between the person I left behind and who I want to be.” She glanced at the man beside her, surprised his gaze rested on her rather than the surf. The attention made her a little uneasy. “So what brought you to Ensenada?”

“I wanted to lose myself.”

She furrowed her brow while contemplating the irony of their situations. “Why?”

He traced a finger in the sand, making an incoherent doodle. “I kind of messed up my life and needed a new start.”

“Ah, there’s the story. ”

“Not really.”

“Had to be love or money.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Every conflict known to man can be tied to those two things.”

“What about Hitler’s occupation of Nazi Germany? That wasn’t a conflict driven by love.”

“Actually, it was,” she said, pointing her index finger toward the darkening sky. “It was his love of the master race that drove him to commit atrocities against the rest of society.”

“Conflict didn’t bring me here.”

Rochelle rolled her eyes. “People don’t usually run to another country if life is perfect.”

“So what’s your story?

“My story?”

He laughed. “Repeating the question to stall for an answer is the oldest trick in the book.”

“I suppose you could say it was love gone wrong.”

“I enjoy a good jilted lover story.”

She shook her head. “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” She smiled to take the edge off her words.

“So you came here alone?”

She nodded. “I needed to get away on my schedule.”

He inched toward her, closing the appropriate gap between them.

She edged away, plagued by another flicker of uncertainty. “I’d better get back to my hotel.”

“Which hotel?

“I appreciate your kindness, but I have to go.” Rochelle reached for her sandals.

Jason held her wrist. “It can be a dangerous place at night.”

His ominous tone prickled the hairs on the back of her neck. She broke his grip. “I can handle myself.” She scrambled to her feet and jogged toward the main road, urged on by the sound of his footfalls closing in behind her.

He hooked his elbow around her neck. “I robbed an armored truck and killed the driver,” he said in her ear. “America’s Most Wanted couldn’t even find me.”

She clawed his arm, panicked memories triggering her fight response. She shoved him off balance and fell on top of him, knocking the air from his lungs. She straddled his body, his arms pinned beneath her.

His eyes bulged when her fingers encircled his neck.

“I killed a man with my bare hands.” She leaned forward, her thumbs collapsing his airway. “I can hide another body.”

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is just shy of the limit) and (1) use “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. as the first sentence AND (2) make some reference to the photo prompt given on the Speakeasy site (I didn’t post it here.)

The last couple weeks, I did love stories, but this week, I decided to bring twisted back.  Ah, feels like I’m home, haha :)

The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re inspired, adventurous, or just curious, click the badge below to check it out!

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