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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!

Haiku – Leaving Our Mark

June 26, 2014

Immersed in nature;

once peaceful, pristine, untouched-

marred by carelessness.

06-26 Tree

A few weeks ago, we traveled down a dirt road just to see where it went.  We happened upon an area of lush greenery – so dense, it reminded me a bit of hiking in Shenandoah.  Of course, I had to get out and take pictures because, let’s face it, most of Arizona is quite dry and brittle- especially this time of year.  As we were getting ready to go, a flash of red caught my eye (see center of photo).

I was disappointed to see it was a paper cup (Panda Express, I think) tossed into a tree.  I’d like to think there was a time when people cared and respected the land.  I’d like to think we could get there again.  The world is not a trash bin and my hope is that those who treat it as such will wake up and see the error in their ways.  (And if not, perhaps awakening underneath a trash heap might open their eyes :) )

I hope you have a beautiful (litter-free) Thursday!

A New Future

June 24, 2014
Will they ride off into the sunset?

Will they ride off into the sunset?

Samuel Stivens rubbed the five-day-old stubble on his chin as he contemplated his options. He couldn’t see many through the whiskey buzz. After twelve hours on the docks stacking grain, his weary eyes blurred the black letters on the ivory page. Although he could hardly see straight, her words were clear:

You should know that I am to wed Bartholomew Folsom at the end of next month.

“So what’ll ya do?” Barclay asked before he chugged the last of his beer and slammed the mug on the smudged bar. Barclay had spent the last two months working beside him, so he knew all about Caroline. The first day they met, Samuel made the mistake of asking if he was from England. In three lightning-fast strides, Barclay fisted his shirt and pulled him to his face. He threatened a blinker if he ever insulted him again. Paralyzed with fear (and by the wretched smell of Barclay’s breath) Samuel apologized and promised his best behavior. Later, he discovered Barclay left Scotland two years ago to see the world. Samuel wondered if he’d seen a world beyond the docks or the pub, but he wasn’t idiot enough to ask.

Samuel cringed when Barclay let out a belch he could smell. “I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I think I sold my soul to the devil.”

Barclay laughed. “I doubt you seen the devil, mate!”

“What kind of man offers three weeks’ pay to the man his daughter is to marry, on the condition he walks away?”

His co-worker raised an unruly black eyebrow. “What kind of man takes such an offer?”

Samuel glared at his whiskey sour. He’d progressed from beer hours ago.

“When’s she marrying the bloke?”

“Next week.”

“Aye. Ain’t good.” He tapped his empty mug. “Why don’t ya just buy yer soul back, then?” He nudged Samuel. “Or, how ‘bout that broad over there? She might take yer mind off things.”

Samuel peered through the haze of cigarette smoke and working class stench. Neither the booze nor the thick air could give proper cover to her exposed cleavage. “I’m done.” He slid off the stool and dropped several coins on the bar.

Barclay shrugged and ordered another beer.

* * *      * * *      * * *

Three days later, Samuel debated whether he should go to the front door or to the east side loft window.   On the one hand, sneaking to her window might besmirch her reputation; however, he doubted he would be granted proper passage.

He scooped some pebbles and flung them one by one at her window. With each steady ping, his anticipation grew. It would only be a matter of time before curiosity drew her to the window. Sure enough, the curtains parted.

“What are you doing, you fool boy?”

Samuel gulped. “I-uh… I wanted to see Caroline, Ma’am.”

Caroline’s mother pursed her lips. “She’s not here.”

“Where is she, Ma’am? I must talk to her.”

“She married last week.”

“Oh. G’night then, Ma’am.” He tipped his hat.

Samuel pulled his coat tight to block the chilly post-dusk air. He shoved his hands in his pockets and felt the envelope. He’d intended to give the money back.

He shuffled down the dirt road. The Folsoms lived less than three miles away. An hour later, he rapped on the door. Through the crack, he recognized the hazel eye.

“Caroline!”

The door opened wide. “Samuel…. What are you doing here?”

He shifted his gaze to his feet to keep from staring at her cotton nightshirt. “I hoped you’d marry me, but I’m too late.”

She stepped onto the porch and pulled the door latched behind her. “Let’s go.”

“You’re married now.”

“Not in my heart.” She flung her arms around him. “I love you.

Tears soaked through the chest of his thread-bare coat. “I don’t even have a horse.”

“There are several in the stable. I’ll dress and meet you there in five minutes.”

Samuel waited, half expecting her to not show. He heard rustling in the hay and his heartbeat quickened. “H-hello?”

Bart rounded the corner, zipping his pants. “What are you doing here?”

Samuel gave him an obvious once-over. His unbuttoned shirt and disheveled hair were clues that led to a petite blonde peeping around the corner.

Bart lunged, hands grasping for his neck. Samuel kneed him and a right hook sent Bart stumbling backwards. His head cracked on a stall gate.

“She deserves better than you,” Samuel said through gritted teeth as he continued to pummel the unconscious man. He only stopped when he saw her skirt.

Caroline’s gaze traveled between the two men and then to something beyond them.

Samuel looked over his shoulder to see the blonde-haired woman standing in full view, gaping at them.

“Let’s go.” Caroline’s voice was firm.

He saddled the horses, but before he mounted, he pulled the envelope from his pocket and dropped it by Bart’s body.

“What’s that?”

“I’m not a horse thief.”

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

Since I posted my Speakeasy story yesterday, I changed the ending on that story a little.  I also wrote this as a sort of continuation to it, although I think either one can be read stand-alone.  If you want to read what led up to this, click here to read the prior segment.

Thanks for stopping by!

Writing a Future – Speakeasy #167

June 23, 2014
To milk or not to milk... that is the question...

To milk or not to milk… that is the question…

Dorothy skipped into the barn. “Lookie, here!  A looooove note from Samuel Stivens,” she taunted in a sing-song voice. She made kissing noises and then clasped the letter to her chest.

Caroline dusted off her skirt and ran toward her little sister. “Give it to me!” Her left boot knocked over the milk pail.

Both girls gasped.

Caroline stooped to right the bucket. “Mom’s going to be mad. Sophie’s dry and we won’t have milk for dinner.”

Dorothy scrunched her eight-year-old face. “Maybe it’s ‘cause yer tryin’ to milk a bull. Can’t you see the horns?” She giggled. “Or the…” she pointed to the underside of the animal. “Yer lucky you didn’t get knocked silly!”

Blushing, she ripped the letter from Dorothy’s hand. She plopped onto a bale of hay and took a deep breath before slipping her finger under the envelope flap. Sam left for the city two-and-a-half months ago to find work because after three seasons of drought, the ground supported death more than life. Caroline prayed this would be the letter where he sent for her.

Dearest Caroline,

I found a job at the docks. For twelve hours a day, I stack grain. The meager pay barely covers my expenses. It’s not nearly enough to support a family, so I have to withdraw my proposal until such time as I am able to afford to properly care for you.

I hope you will wait for me, but I understand if you cannot do so.

Sincerely,

Samuel

Caroline felt the blood drain from her face. At age nineteen and seven months, her parents pressured her to marry. Mostly because they couldn’t afford another mouth to feed, but she knew the gossip about her marriageability bothered them as well.

“Whatsa matter?” Dorothy patted her shoulder. “You look like you seen a ghost.”

“You wouldn’t understand, Dot.” Caroline sighed. “Sometimes when you’re grown up you have to do things you don’t want to do.”

Dorothy wrinkled her nose. “Then I don’t wanna grow up.”

Caroline smiled. “Neither do I, kid. Neither do I.”

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

Dressed in her nightshirt and sleeping cap, Caroline sat at her wooden desk, inked quill poised over paper. Just as she imagined, her father insisted she marry Bart Folsom. His family owned the town mercantile, which her father found stable and honorable. He turned a blind eye to the rumors of Bart’s carousing and dalliances with prostitutes in the shadowed alleys beyond Main Street.

Her protests ignored, Caroline had to accept that she would be wed the next month. At the mere thought of him touching her, acid backed up into her throat. She forced it down.

Dearest Samuel,

I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling and that you are unable to keep your promise. I had hoped that you would find faith to believe love would see us through you would find prosperity.

She crumpled the paper and shoved it off the desk. She felt trapped by the limitations of her words. A part of her wanted so much to condemn him; as if his guilty emotional imprisonment would grant her freedom from her own atrocious future. However, in her heart, she didn’t want the responsibility of forcing him to bear the burden of her circumstances, so she decided to project the illusion of happiness instead.

Dearest Samuel,

I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling, but I believe, in time, innumerous blessings will be bestowed upon you. The good Lord gives us tribulations so that we may appreciate our times of peace.

You should know that I am to wed Bartholomew Folsom at the end of next month. Although I gave my heart to you, I will dedicate what remains to my new husband.

I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Caroline

She folded the paper in thirds and slipped it into an envelope. After extinguishing the lamp, she crawled into bed and pulled the covers to her chin. In the morning, she would take it to the post office. She hoped her letter would free him to pursue a new future.

Loneliness and dread gnawed at her insides.  Caroline knew she had no choice but to accept a life without her Samuel.  She figured in time, she might be blessed with some shade of happiness.  She prayed the same for Sam.

But Sam was never the same again.

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

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 734) and (1) use “But Sam was never the same again.” as the last sentence; and (2) make some sort of reference to the video prompt, a short film, entitled Writer’s Block, by Tom Gran and Martin Woolley.

The letter with the strike-through lines and the paragraph following it are my references to the video prompt.

Note:  I amended the last few sentences after original posting (but before linking to Speakeasy grid.)  I think it flows better now.  Also, for fun, I wrote a continuation, from Samuel’s POV.  It’s not part of the challenge, but if you’re interested in reading it, click here!

The challenge is open to everyone, so click the badge below if you’re curious to find out more!

P.S.  I have been away from the computer for the last few days, so I’m a bit behind on reading and commenting.  If you’ve visited here lately and I’ve not responded, please bear with me as I catch up :)

Nature – Haiku

June 17, 2014

Nature can be harsh,

Still, life manages to thrive.

My pampered trees die.

06-17 RedMountain

I’m always fascinated when I see trees, shrubs, or any kind of growth emerging from rocky terrain (and I see that often here in Arizona!).  This photo is zoomed into the top of Red Mountain.  These trees flourish, yet the ones carefully planted in our yard with a mixture of soil and fertilizer, and watered several times weekly die under my care.  It doesn’t seem to matter what type of vegetation – if it has roots, I kill it.

Thank goodness I’ve had better luck with children and pets!

Eye Contact (fiction) – Speakeasy #166

June 15, 2014
Terrace view (taken at Monticello)

Terrace view (photo taken at Monticello)

He taught me how to read people’s eyes. He, a student of non-verbal cues, became my teacher. Without him, I might not have noticed the visual embrace of lovers’ extended stare, the broken contact guarding a secret, or the lie harbored in a sideways glance.

As I pinned his laundered shirt on the clothesline, I hoped I had been a good student. But could the student interpret the teacher?

“You know how to tell if someone is into you?” He’d asked on our first date over twenty years ago. He twirled spaghetti around his fork, never shifting his gaze from me.

“Not really.” I glanced away, unwilling to surrender to vulnerability. I focused an inordinate amount of attention on my iced tea, poking the lemon wedge with my straw and swirling sugar sediment to watch it settle like flakes in a shaken snow globe.

He leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Eye contact.”

“Hmmm. “ Realizing my preoccupation with the straw, I let go.

“Aren’t you going to ask how much?”

I shrugged. “I presume the look would be longer than one given to a panhandler and less than a rush hour car crash.”

He laughed. “Eight seconds.”

“Is that a fact?” I tied knots in the paper straw wrapper. I couldn’t let my eyes betray me.

He leaned back in his chair. “From my experience.”

I lifted my gaze to him. “And what do you surmise from our eye contact?” My boldness surprised me.

“If I told you right now, you’d run and never turn back.”

His lopsided grin made my stomach quiver. I tilted my head to the side, wordlessly asking for elaboration.

His hand covered my fidgety hands. “I’ll wait. I know what I want, but I sense you’re scared.”

He had me at I’ll wait.

Over the clothesline, I spied him leaning on the wall of a nearby terrace. Uncertainty crept over me. I feared he’d become bored, or worse, had already found comfort in another’s arms. Until a few months ago, he would tend to laundry with me. He’d shake the clothes and hand them to me to pin, our hands brushing in the exchange. Maybe I should have said how much the intimacy of an ordinary moment meant to me? I thought he knew.

He rubbed his chin stubble with his right hand, thoughts obviously absent from the action. He shook his head. I knew frustration when I saw it. Then he ducked out of sight.

I stared, hoping he would sense my need. He didn’t. I clipped the last white shirt to the line and grabbed the empty basket. I contemplated heading to the garden to read; to avoid him because my fears might be confirmed. Instead, I took to the stairs, following the labyrinth that led to the other terrace.

Before I crossed the threshold, I took a deep breath and imagined courage inflating my lungs. “We need to talk.”

He jerked his head up, obviously startled. “Addy, I didn’t expect you…”

I wanted to cry. Everyone called me Adele. The familiar, intimate ‘Addy’ was reserved only for him. He rose to his feet, standing in front of what he’d been fiddling with. I tried to peek around him, but his legs blocked my view. “Do you still love me?”

His eyes widened, as if my words had lashed him across the cheek. “More than ever. Why do you ask?” He moved toward me.

I averted my gaze to the ground. “You’ve been distant lately and I worried you’d found someone else.”

With his index finger, he nudged my chin. I focused on the flecks of amber amongst the green. “I only love you. Come here.” He took my hand and led me further onto the terrace. “We’ll be married twenty-one years…”

“Tomorrow,” I finished.

He smiled. “Yes. I’ve been working on something special. It’s not quite done, but I think it’s time you see it.” He stopped in front of a stone structure, about two feet tall.

“Oh. It’s nice.”

He knelt. “Look closer.” He pulled me beside him.

I took in the peaks and valleys as my fingertips brushed the intricate details. I gasped when I realized the sculpture was of us in an embrace. “It’s beautiful,” I managed through threatened tears.

“As are you, my dear.”

Our visual connection held for much longer than eight seconds. In his eyes, I read everything I needed to know.

He loves me.

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

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (I’m at 740) and (1) use the sentence ““He taught me how to read people’s eyes.” as the first sentence, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the art prompt, Waterfall, a lithograph by the master of impossible constructions, M.C. Escher.

If you’re diabetic, I hope you have insulin handy.  It’s funny, but I find it much easier to write fear, tragedy and heartbreak than to write a sweet and sentimental love story.  I’m not sure what that says about me!  At any rate, I resisted the urge to twist this into a sad ending and left it on a high note (you know, to really throw you off :) )

The prompt is open to anyone, so if you’re interested in joining the fun, click the badge below!

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