Content: Ode to NaNo

Quoting my friend Calley, and sharing a smile. Calley is my co-ML (Municipal Liaison in NaNo Speak),, so we share the fun and pain of November starting in October. Enjoy!

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Image result for nanowrimo 2019 banne Photo Cred: NaNoWriMo.org

I’m back from not-hiatus, and ‘TIS THE SEASON, FRIENDS!

When someone new gets to know me, there are three undeniable truths about me that they generally pick up in the first three days.

  1. My favorite animal is undeniably, vocally, incontrovertibly, emphatically the majestic and graceful sea turtle.
  2. I can’t tell a short story to save my soul.
  3. NaNoWriMo is my own personal month-long holiday.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short) is an annual challenge to write 50,000 words toward a novel in the month of November. It’s like a fiction writer’s equivalent of a marathon. You train for it. You prep for it. You do it. Then you sleep.

More about NaNo in this post from nearly a year ago! Suffice it to say, it’s one of my favorite events for many mushy-gushy reasons I’ll explain in a few weeks. A little-known fact about…

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It’s been a long time…

2017 was not my best year – and I know others who struggled through it as well. So far, 2018 is much better.

As some of you may know, I am also the primary caregiver for my elderly mother. Mom just turned 83 and is in an assisted living facility nearby. She has her two elderly cats – the vet pointed out that the cats get older with every visit, so while they are old, no one knows exactly what their ages truly are.

Even though she is in a facility, she still has needs. They try to feed her, although they don’t try very hard. She is celiac, so she can’t have any gluten (wheat, rye, barley, malt). And my mother is not very assertive with the staff. She complained that she was getting very small portions and I told her that they are assuming she is a typical old lady who “eats like a bird,” so if she wants more, she will have to ask. Finally this week she had something she liked, so she asked for more and was surprised when they brought it.

Meanwhile, we shop for groceries to keep her microwave and fridge stocked with the things she likes and can eat. We also keep her supplied with cat food and treats and kitty litter. Stop by to maintain the litterboxes. And bust her out on weekends.

Last weekend, I made arrangements with my best friend, Kerri, to drag Mom to the lake. Mom is in a wheelchair, so it gets interesting. (“Interesting” is Minnesota code for “I don’t like it.”) Bless Kerri – she enlisted two younger, strong healthy friends who were willing to try to get Mom out on their pontoon boat. Figured out we could wheel her down to the public dock, and then my hubby and Kerri’s friend lifted the wheelchair over the tie-out bars and onto the deck. Once we got Mom situated, Kerri handed my hubby the sunscreen, which he promptly sprayed directly into Mom’s face and all over her glasses. Kerri stopped him, smoothed the spray over Mom’s face with her hands and cleaned up Mom’s glasses.

The highlight of the trip happened while we were tied with another pontoon at the party cove.  Kerri’s friend, Julie, saw the driver of the other boat, Mike, near the exit gate, so she ran across the deck and grabbed Mike and pulled him off the boat and into the water. The lake was somewhere between 20-30 feet deep where we were moored. And then we found out that Mike could not swim. Mike’s wife, Wendy, went ashen. Julie got behind Mike in the water and pushed him and held him up against the boat. Two other men pulled him back on deck. Julie was mortified. As she said, no one would guess that someone who spends the majority of life on the lake would not know how to swim. All’s well that ends well. His phone and wallet were in his pocket and had to be dried, and Mike is fine.

We went back to Kerri’s glamper for dinner and then took Mom home. When we asked her how her day was she replied, “It’s better than the dining hall.”

NaNo Calls and I must go

Yes, it is that time of year again. The insanity takes over and those of us who must write will take part in National Novel Writing Month. (Google NaNoWriMo.org if you need to know more.)

My local group met for a write-in tonight and all but one of us could not believe how crazy this first day had been. Every thing tried to derail us and yet, there we were, ready to write on Day 1.

Join us if you can!

A shout out to my friend Teagan Geneviene (http://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/) – Happy NaNo Girlfriend! Hope all is well in Atonement!

Issue 2 Available

So while 1Q 2014 has not been my most prolific on this blog, at least I managed to get a couple stories done for the anthology. Thank you all for your support. Have a great day!
-Lynn

Published! Endless Gateways, Volume 1, Issue 1

Dear Readers,

I am happy to announce that the anthology from my writers group is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. It is listed on Barnes & Noble, although I couldn’t make the link work to buy a copy. 😦

You can also visit our website: Endless Gateways.

My stories are under my pen name, Madame Terzo Occhio (MT Occhio for short). Please take a look, pick up a copy, and leave a review when you’re done.

Thank you all for your encouragement and your friendship.

Have a wonderful day!

Lynn

NaNoWriMo – TGIO

Thank Goodness/Goddess/God It’s Over for another year. I started two novels and wrote a short story to complete my 50K and now I’ve got material to play with.

It’s a funny process. Writing that many words. Since my day job requires writing, it’s not really a stretch to write that many words in a month. Except that they are not all in one main document and they are not (usually) fiction. So fifty thousand words of fiction, many of them related to other words, written in my spare time, is a pretty good start on something.

The first attempt at a novel went well for a week and a half and then I lost interest in them and left them in the woods. Then I had a short story idea that came in and I sat with it for a week and it moved nicely and resolved. And I still had quite a bit of wordage left to go before the month ended. As I typed continuously waiting for the muse to come back, a second novel started working its way through to my fingers. It expanded to fill my remaining time (and word count). Now, I just need to keep it moving even though there is no longer the pressure of a deadline.

For purists, such attempts would not count, since they are not all part of the same novel. However, writing that many words in a month is not an easy task and the muse is often fickle. The whole point is to write without editing and to let it flow. So if they don’t end up in the same place in the end, who cares? I am happy to have them.

The Dragon’s Loyalty Award

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With sincere thanks to Shaun at Praying for One Day http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/the-dragons-loyalty-award-3/

Rules of this award:

1. Firstly, display the Award on your site (see Award page or sidebar!) You earned it and you deserve it!
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award in your acceptance post;
3. Nominate 15 well-deserving bloggers for the Award and let them know the wonderful news by sending them a message on their site;
4. List 7 interesting facts about yourself

Seven things about Lynn

1. I am a happy person.
2. I love animals and currently have 3 cats and 1 dog.
3. I love ice cream.
4. Dead people see me.
5. I would rather have a great meal with good friends than buy a new toy.
6. I love music. I am classically trained in voice and have sung with rock bands.
7. I want to make people smile.

I now nominate 15 VERY LUCKY PEOPLE! 

1. http://teagansbooks.wordpress.com
2. http://danthonybrown.com

3. http://www.susanwingate.com/

4. http://tracyleekarner.com/

5. http://trishapearson.wordpress.com/

6. http://projectlighttolife.wordpress.com/

7. http://cristianmihai.net/

8. http://barefootbaroness.org/

9. http://thinkingfromtheheart.wordpress.com/

10. http://doncharisma.org/

11. http://vegetarianmadeeasy.wordpress.com/

12. http://www.mtntophermit.com/

13. http://reachingutopia.com/

14. http://jtweaver.net/

15. http://endlessgateways.com/

NaNoWrimo – On Fire

Many thanks to Teagan for providing a soundtrack for NaNoWriMo!!

Teagan's Books

hunger gamesYay!  This week I took leave from work for an entire week of “stay-cation.”  And i’m excited to say that I’ve been on WriMo fire!

So I couldn’t resist a new theme song for today.  I’m with The Doors again.  Can you guess which song?

WriMo-Fire!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MifWlrkEBD4

Light My Fire

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National Novel Writing Month Starts Tonight after Midnight

Excited? Yes. Scared? Yes. Can I do it? Oh, yes! I’ve done it twice before (and won), so I can certainly do it again. I have lots of material and plenty to write about. The hardest part for me is butt-in-chair-time. In November, I have an excuse to ignore that pile of laundry and the dirty kitchen floor.

For those of you who may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month. You can find more information at www.NaNoWriMo.org. The goal is to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th, which is an average of 1,667 words per day.  The best part for me is turning off the internal editor and producing words at a fast pace. The words and grammar and structure can be edited later. The amazing part is what is produced when I free my mind to just let it all hang out.

Join me (and several hundred thousand of your friends around the world) and see what you can make in a month. 🙂

Short Story – Winter

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a collector. A cat plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a blizzard in the future. The story is about loneliness.

*******

Grigor shivered and closed the pod. He could have sworn he’d heard something. And yet, when he opened the pod to look, he saw nothing but driving snow and layers of ice. As always. Or at least ever since he’d landed on this godforsaken outpost.

He thought back to the fatal day his pod had been ejected from the starship. His crime had been considered so heinous, so horrible,  that his punishment was banishment far from civilization. Altarean society considered the death penalty to be cruel and also too lenient. They wanted criminals to reflect on their misdeeds. And so he would have plenty of time and space to think, they had chosen this uninhabited locale so that Grigor could not damage other citizens.

“Damage” – Ha! That was their word. Grigor was taken from his family and friends and deposited here. They had allowed him to take his beloved recordings and books with him. He could read and he could write, although he could not communicate with anyone. They dropped food and supply shipments regularly. They never asked him what he wanted and they did not tell him when to expect it. The pod was equipped with a state-of-the-art communication system. but Grigor was forbidden to use it, and they did not choose to use it.

There! He heard the noise again. It was louder. He wrapped himself against the cold in his ice suit, grabbed an electron lantern, and opened the pod door again. He stepped out into the swirling ice and snow. And he heard it. A cry. He turned and closed the pod door behind him and headed toward the sound. He waded through the drifts. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of his supply drops. He struggled over a larger ice rift, tripped and rolled. When he righted himself he noticed he had dropped the lantern. He walked over to retrieve it and found it firmly wedged under a rocky ledge. Cursing, he tugged and pulled to no avail. It would be more difficult to get back to the pod without the lantern.

Then he heard the cry again and forgot the lantern. He slogged toward the sound. He stumbled over the supply shipment. Cursing again he maneuvered around the shipment and kept moving toward the sound. It seemed to be coming from underneath the pile of containers. He started digging out the containers and stacking them to the side. He’d have to move them into the pod later.

He moved another container and heard a loud screech. He quickly picked it all the way up and set it aside. There in the snow he could barely make out a small, dark, furry ball . He reached down a hand to pick it up.  It shrank back in between the other containers.

“Now, now…” His voice cracked and the fur ball hissed.

“I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve uttered anything but expletives. Although that doesn’t mean I wish you harm.” He spoke in soothing tones.

He reached in again, more slowly, continuing to murmur.

“Come here little one. You won’t survive long out here.”

The fur ball finally let him pick her up.  She mewed pitifully and shivered. He opened his ice suit to put her in next to his heart for warmth. Then he noticed her leg.

“You’re hurt! Oh precious little one, I’m so sorry. That container must have been heavy. I should have come sooner.” He tucked her safely into his suit and closed it again. He could feel her shiver once more and then start to purr as she warmed up.

Grigor made his way slowly back to the pod.

The wind didn’t seem quite so cold any more.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Ever have one of those days…

I know it’s Friday. My brain is fried.

I signed up for two websites this week and forgot to record the passwords. I’ve wracked my brain and no clue or hint has remained behind to lead me back. Normally I record them in a spreadsheet designed specifically to aid my memory. These two aren’t listed. At all.

Yesterday, after getting dressed for work, I stepped out of the bedroom and realized I’d forgotten a critical undergarment. One I never forget in normal circumstances. And one which I cannot remember ever having forgotten before in my life.

I have no excuse for these lapses. Or at least none that I like.

Aging, perimenopause, and lack of sleep are possibilities. And I do not like any of them. I’m not ready to be “old.”

Short Story – The Nursery

Story prompt:   The story’s protagonist is female and not human. An hourglass plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in ancient times. The story is about loneliness.

*******

The wailing could be heard from the street. Distressed cries from a dozen infants and small children filled the air. Serena drifted among them, immune to the din. The nursemaids scurried and shushed as best they could only to have another child set the whole crew off .

The hourglass on the shelf marked off the time for the nurses. They shared turning it when the last grains of sand slid through. Reminding each other when feeding time was due.

Serena looked into the eyes of the child in the crib closest to her. As the child gazed into Serena’s eyes, he started whimpering.

The nursemaids scrambled to quiet him before he triggered the whole nursery. Again.

Serena moved on. The next child reacted exactly as the last eight had and burst into tears quickly. The nurses hurried over to him.

Serena reached the tenth child, a little girl, and looked into her eyes.

She expected the child to close her eyes to cry as the others had.

The usual time on the hourglass elapsed yet the child remained transfixed. They continued to gaze into each other’s eyes.

The sand ran through the hourglass at its usual rate. Serena waited. Staring into the child’s eyes.

The child stared back.

Finally, Serena stopped staring and looked. Really looked. Into the child’s eyes.

She saw it. A sadness to match her own. Profound melancholy. So deep the child did not scream or fuss.

Serena was entranced by a set of eyes that looked into hers reflecting what she felt.

“What is your name?” Serena broke the spell.

“They call me Mariana.”

“But what is your name?”

“The name they gave me is Mariana.”

“And who are you?”

“I am Iris.”

“Hello, Iris. I am Serena.”

One of the nursemaids paused at the crib. Seeing the child staring, the nurse looked briefly for the object of the child’s stare. Seeing nothing, she moved quickly to another whimpering tot.

The sand flowed through the hourglass. One of the nurses turned it over.  It began again.

Serena and Iris continued their silent conversation.

“Would you like to come with me, Iris?”

“Could we leave this place?”

“Yes.”

“Will we be together?”

“Yes.”

“I will never be lonely again?”

“We will always have each other.”

The sand ran out of the hourglass, Too late.  A nurse noticed the crumpled body in Mariana’s crib and came over to check on her.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Birthday Celebration Philosophy

I recently celebrated my birthday. The wishes trickle in both before and after the actual date, with apologies for not being on the actual date. So I remind them, when I turned 50, I got 3 months to celebrate. A quarter of a year for half a century seems reasonable. And when I turn 80, I intend to celebrate every day. If anyone lives to be 80 (although I might have to up it if everyone starts living that long), then every day is a new chance. We are already on borrowed time, so why not enjoy it?

I’m planning to go into new restaurants and tell the young staff I am celebrating my birthday. I am even considering buying or making a party hat to sit on my gray head to emphasize the point. And they will smile and ask me how old I am, and I will tell them “I am 80 years old.” And they will coo over me as if I am their grandmother.

I will eat dessert first and then if I am still hungry I will order appetizers. Tasty little bites of this and that. Whatever strikes my fancy. And then perhaps another dessert. I will ask the young server ever so coyly if they do anything to celebrate birthdays. And if they bring me a cupcake with a candle or a scoop of ice cream, I will giggle in appreciation and gobble it down and maybe even lick the plate. And if they offer me a free drink, I’ll slurp it noisily. They will not know I choose to portray myself as an old fool for their amusement. Meanwhile, I will be entertaining myself with free goodies at every opportunity. Everybody wins!

Time for a Theme Change

My ignorance of most things regarding WordPress has necessitated a theme change. Apparently, not all themes are compatible with mobile devices – who knew? So in order to allow anyone who wants to see this blog on a device other than a normal desktop, I have changed my wicked ways. This theme is supposed to be “responsive” and should reformat to fit whatever device is being used. Please let me know what you think.
I hope you won’t find it too obnoxious.

Short Story – Luisa

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a toymaker. A sceptre plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in ancient times. The story is about trust.

*******

Giorgio set his bag down at his feet and looked over the parapet at the water. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief. The sun was still climbing, so he took his time, enjoying the breeze off the water.

“Excuse me, Signore.” He turned at the tap on his shoulder to find a young girl dressed in a simple frock  with an apron and wooden shoes. A scarf covered her hair.

“How can I assist you, signorina?”

Per favore, Signore, my mama is sick. I am to bring back the lemons to help her get well, but il mercante will not sell them to me. He calls me ragazza and tells me to go away. But you look kind. Will you please help me?”

What is your name, my dear?”

“Luisa, Signore. Luisa Cantone. I have the money here.” She shows him the piastras enclosed in her apron pocket.

“And where do you live with your mama, Luisa?”

“Via Veneta, Signore.”

“Very well, Luisa. Let’s go see Signor Mercante and see if we can get the lemons for your mama.” He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder and took her hand.

As they walked, she chatted happily about her family and the many babbinos at home. Luisa was the oldest and responsible for the others. When they reached the vendor, she pointed him out.

Giorgio approached the vendor, inquired about the lemons. He chose carefully,  sniffing each one and giving it a gentle squeeze.  He made the purchase on Luisa’s behalf then he turned and handed her the lemons.

Grazie, Signore! My mother will be so happy.”  Luisa ran for home.

Smiling, Giorgio turned toward the bridge. Thud! He felt the blow on the back of his head and lost consciousness.

When he awoke with a throbbing head, the sun was low in the sky and his purse was gone. His nose and mouth were full of dirt. His bag was inside out and the contents were strewn on the ground. There were pieces everywhere. With a heavy heart he knelt to gather them. Everything appeared to be unbroken. He breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, Signore!” Luisa reappeared at his side.  “Are you hurt? I am so sorry.”

Giorgio stood and examined her distraught face. “Why should you be sorry, Luisa?”

“I should never have left you, Signore. Then you would have been safe.”

“But you needed to get the lemons to your mother…”

“She could have waited until I saw you safely back to the bridge. The market is not a good place for strangers. I am sorry, Signore. You helped me and I left you. It is all my fault.”  She hung her head.

“Now, now, Luisa. Please help me pick up the rest of my things and you can show me back to the bridge.”

“Oh si, si, of course, Signore. I will help you.” Luisa dropped to her knees and began to gather the contents of his bag.

Signore?”

“Yes, Luisa?”

‘What are all these things?”

“What do they look like to you, Luisa?”

She picked up a miniature cabinet and tiny belt and held them toward him.

“They look like toys, Signore.”

“Yes, Luisa. I am a toymaker.”

She continued to pick up furniture and clothing, balls and puppets. She marveled at a small doll in a green velvet dress.

“She is very beautiful, Signore.”

Si, she is very beautiful, Luisa. And she is even more beautiful with her crown,” he placed a tiny jeweled crown on the doll’s head. “And her scepter.” He placed a golden scepter in the doll’s little hand.

“Oh, Signore! She is marvelous to behold. How did you make her so perfectly? Look! She is smiling since you gave her back her things.” She turned to Giorgio in wonder.

“Shh! That is a secret.”

“But Signore, she was not smiling before and now she is. You must be a marvelous toymaker indeed.”

Si, si, Luisa. She is happy now, but it is not because of her things. If you promise not to tell, I will share her secret.”

“Si, si, Signore. I will not tell.” And then her face fell. “No. Do not tell me, Signore. I do not deserve to know. ”  She put her head down and sobbed.

“There, there, Luisa. Don’t cry.” He patted her shoulder.

“But Signore. I let you get hurt.” She sobbed harder.

“Luisa, it is mostly my pride that is hurt now.”

“But your money,” she wailed

“I have my toys. They are my treasure and my livelihood. Please, Luisa. Calm yourself.”

She continued to sniffle. He held out the tiny doll. Luisa wiped her nose on her sleeve. Her jaw dropped in wonder.

Signore, she is crying.”

“She is crying because you are crying.”

Luisa wiped her eyes and took the doll. “You are right, she is not crying any more.” And as her smile grew so did the doll’s until both were grinning from ear to ear.

“She is yours, Luisa. But…”

Luisa remained entranced by the doll’s reflection of her mood.

“But you must promise you will never lie again.”

Shocked, Luisa looked up from the doll’s face.

“If you do, she will tell on you and everyone will know.”

Luisa nodded soberly and the tiny version of Luisa in the green velvet dress with the crown and the sceptre smiled.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Ssssilliness

Story prompt:
The story’s protagonist is female and a shopkeeper. A piece of fruit plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a school in the far future. The story is about freedom.

*******

It always rains on Mondays. It doesn’t matter what planet you’re on.  Saness watched the drops sliding down the window, taking her mood with them.  Blork! How could anything get worse? Her parents were in Argonnia on vacation and out of reach of cyberspace, so she had to watch the shop. Her sister was on work assignment in the Saurean planetoids. Her most recent boyfriend had jilted her for a Seruvian sylph. And even Silna, her pet strottar was sick with a septic infection. No one to embrace. No one to speak to. No one to share with. No one to keep her mood from sliding into saturninity. And she had school today.

The Second Synchronized Superlative Sensational Silent Sky- Spy Super-Secret Sanskrit Skill School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Most of her classmates called it Snake U (a play on the SSSSSSSSS acronym).  She said “Ssssssss” until she realized people thought she was hissing. At them. She attended via the satellite telelearning system, which synchronized the entire class in space-time. Participation was mandatory. Assignments compulsory. And since they had a thousand ways to find you and force you to submit, parents supposed it was worth the price.

Her parents had enrolled her here as a last resort. Saness had managed to fail out of every course of study she started.

She had alienated herself from the Autonomous Amiable Androgynous Analytic Alibi Academy

She was booted from the Bereaved Barbarian Bedazzled Bohemian Bakery and Bourgeois Ballet Bastion

Caught canoodling in the Coeducational Collaborative Cantankerous Culinary College

Delivered from the Dogmatic Deliberate Diligent Dilettante Doomsday Decoy Dojo by a dalliance with a deacon.

She had even been expelled from the Excellent Egalitarian Energetic Eclectic Enthusiastic Ecole for Everyone.

Her parents, tired of working through the alphabetical listing in order decided to skip a few letters to reduce the number of options.  So here she was.  Stuck in her teledesk.

“Saness, please explain the concept of surreptitious surveillance.”

Her reverie stymied, Saness brought her scrutiny back to the 4D classroom and the instructor’s solicitation.

“Skillful application of presence auditing,” she said straightforwardly.

Satisfied, the instructor sailed on to the next item on the syllabus and Saness returned to her stargazing. It wasn’t that she was a bad student. She was good at memorization and always seemed to know what the teachers were expecting. She grasped the concepts easily enough and she had acquired any new skills they taught. Yet, she never managed to finish certification anywhere. She was closer this time than she had ever been. All she had to do was survive a little longer.

She took a bite of a strawberry from the fruit bowl in front of her. She had snatched it from the counter in the shop right before class. The strawberry was sweet and succulent. She savored the scent that assailed her nose, the beautiful scarlet flesh. Lost in her senses, she floated out of her body. The teledesk held her physical presence with her head facing the classroom and she went out through the virtual raindrops into the ether.

In a snap she was in the veterinary hospital sliding into the cage with her beloved Silna. When Saness arrived, Silna’s ether was floating above her snoring body, curled in the same position. Saness wrapped her filmy arms around Silna’s scintillating fur and Silna reciprocated with the purring enthusiasm only a six-tailed strottar can give.  Saness snuggled her silky companion and was feeling significantly strengthened. If only she could stay in this state, she would be so safe and satisfied.

Crack! blzzzt! Saness felt the suction and struggled. She was swirling, spinning. Splat! Sabotaged, she was shoved back into her body, only it was no longer in the 4D classroom. She was in the superintendent”s office and her parents were there. Oh slurge! This was not going to be copacetic.

She’d been sacked. Again.

“Saness, how could you?” said her father, not really expecting an answer.

“We were hoping you could stick this one out. You were so close.” Saness wished she could soothe away the sadness in her mother’s eyes.

“Under the circumstances…” the superintendent looked at her parents with sympathy and then at Saness.

“I see.” Saness slunk down.

“Let’s go back to the shop,” said her father wrapping his sheltering arm around her shoulder. Saness searched his smiling face.

“There’s always the Universal Ubiquitous Understated Ubuntu University on Uranus.”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs. We were extra silly in this session.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Honestly

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an inventor. A towel plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a kitchen in the present. The story is about honesty.

*******

Jeff fanned the steam away from the boiling pot with a blue kitchen towel and then realized he could have turned on the fan. So he did. As the vapor was drawn away, he looked into the pot to see how his dinner was faring. Then realizing his glasses were fogged up, he activated the mini-wipers. Two quick swipes and they were clear again, so he peered into the pot.

Chicken chow mein, frozen in a plastic bag that was prepared by placing the plastic bag in boiling water (AKA boil-in-bag) was his favorite quick meal since he was a child. In his mind, boil-in-bag dinners were the greatest invention even although they were much harder to find these days. He bought them by the case from the Piggly Wiggly® website. He had a very large storage freezer that was way too much for one person – unless that person liked to store five cases of frozen chicken chow mein boil-in-bag dinners. He also had a case of beef stew and one of sweet and sour pork for variety’s sake. Jeff didn’t like to waste a lot of time thinking about what he was going to eat.

Jeff liked to boil his dinners because he didn’t trust the microwave. He had fried several when he forgot and put an aluminum TV dinner tray or a fork in and turned it on. The sparks were amazing, if a little scary. Microwave ovens were not designed to operate under those conditions and most would quit in protest. Since he could not seem to remember not to put metal utensils in them, he gave up after the fifth one turned in its resignation.

Just as the little egg-shaped timer dinged to let him know his dinner was done, the doorbell rang. Startled, Jeff paused to turn off the burner and the fan. Then he put the blue towel back on his shoulder and headed for the front door. He paused to look through the peephole and seeing a pretty young woman, unlocked and opened the door.

“Yes?” he asked her, hoping she would get to the point so he could go back and eat his dinner.

“Hi? My name’s Amber and I live across the hall?” she replied. She had a habit of raising her voice at the end of her sentences so they sounded like questions.

“What do you want?” Jeff responded.

“Well, I was really hoping I could have a chance to talk to you?” again raising her voice and inching her way into his living room.

“And my dinner is getting cold, so please explain what you want quickly,” as he fell back startled at her bold move.

“We-e-l-l-l, I am new in town and I was hoping I could find somebody to show me around?” as she moved now quickly from the living room to the kitchen.

“As I explained, I am busy. Please state your business or come back at another time.”

“You mean you won’t take me out to dinner?” she pouted standing in his kitchen.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Guys always take me out to dinner? You could take me out to dinner?” she purred as she started to pull the blue towel slowly off his shoulder with her fingers.

“No, I could not. I have dinner plans.” He grabbed the towel away from her and stepped back.

She sauntered over to the stove, peered into the slightly steaming pot and grabbed a corner of the plastic bag, pulled it up, dangling it over the pot. “This” she pointed at the bag, “is not ‘dinner’ and it is definitely not ‘plans’.”

Swiftly he grabbed the bag out of her right hand with his left and dropped it back in the pot which he grabbed with his right and spun away from her. He set the pot down again and adjusting his glasses on his nose, he looked down at her. “This is MY dinner plans. Your dinner plans are an entirely different matter and you should leave me alone and go take care of them.”

Undeterred, she started to inch closer to him again, giving her best pretty girl pout. “But I’m hungry and I don’t know anyone?”

“Th-th-that is not m-m-my pro-pro-problem.” He was startled by his disobedient tongue and then realized she was rubbing herself against him. Knowing that he would not be able to speak clearly until he was again at a safe distance, he shrugged himself away, stepped around the table, quickly placed a kitchen chair directly in front of himself and kept his hands on its back.

Amber climbed up on the chair one knee at a time and started to reach for the towel again, running her fingers up his arm to play with it. She smiled.

He snatched the towel out of her fingers and stepped away from the chair. “Young lady, I am not taking you to dinner. If you are truly as hungry as you say, I am willing to prepare another meal like mine for you to eat. Otherwise, you should go bother someone else.”

Sensing she would not get any further tonight. She pouted and then stepped off and pulled the chair up so she was seated at the table. “Okay? I would like dinner, please?”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jeff threw the towel back over his left shoulder and went to the freezer. “Chicken chow mein, beef stew or sweet and sour pork?”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Dreams

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a scholar. A computer plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bathhouse in the future. The story is about dreams.

*******

Zanter trudged down the street, feeling the weight of the day. The dirt and noise of the city were heavy on his spirit. It seemed to take forever until finally he reached an ancient building and mounted the few stairs to the front portal.

Zanter glided through the opening and greeted the owner briefly before proceeding to the changing area, where he divested himself of clothing and put his belongings into a small pod anchored to the wall. Then he padded barefoot down a narrow passage to the center of the building. As he passed through the ultrasonic shower and into the bathing area, he was awed anew at the sight. The space was glorious and ancient with high pillars, soaring ceilings and sculptures and frescoes of merpeople and sealife. The ceiling could be opened to the stars by a series of louvered panels.

He had once asked about the history of the building and was told that it had been a bathhouse for thousands of years. It was originally built over natural hot springs to take advantage of the minerals and warmth they exuded. The current owner was descended from the last several owners, each taking over in turn. Some things had changed. There were no longer religious rituals required of the bathers. There were showers and saunas in chambers off the large central pool. Computers controlled all the portals, pods, and louvered panels. The processes for regulating the temperature, monitoring bacterial and mineral levels, and filtering and recycling the water were now automated. And yet, the concept of the place remained the same – healing and renewal.

As he slipped into the pool, the humidity and warmth began to work their magic on him. His sinuses and pores opened, his muscles relaxed, and he felt his spirit lift. Given the ubiquitous nature of pools and bathhouses like this one, Zanter thought, “Perhaps we were once sea creatures after all. And the water takes us home.”

As he floated in the water, he closed his eyes, letting his thoughts drift. He reminded himself he did not come here just to wash dirt and sweat from his body. Simple cleansing could be accomplished in the privacy of his domicile. Here he could swim and float and when he left, he would feel completely different than he did after bathing at home.

He had been drifting for awhile with his eyes closed, and when he opened them he was surprised to find that the pool was dark. He stood up in the water and looked around. He listened carefully for the splash or low conversation from other bathers and heard nothing but lapping water in the pool, splashing water from the shower chamber. He spoke quietly, knowing the water would carry the sound, “Hello? Is anyone else here?”

No one answered. He lowered himself back into the water. Briefly he felt panic begin to rise. “What if he was alone in the building? What if he was locked in? What if he could not get out? Where was the owner?”

And then he felt the pull of the water, warmly, gently caressing him, urging him to relax. He succumbed to the motion and started floating again. This time with his eyes open. He allowed the thoughts to tumble and spill away again. As he looked up at the ceiling he noticed that the panels had been retracted and he could see the night sky above with its myriad stars. The view fascinated him and pulled his musings further into the ancient questions that have ever tugged at human minds. The questions of philosophers and religious scholars like him. “Who am I really? How did I get here? Is there something or someone out there that made this world I see? Why?”

And as he pondered these things, he felt himself expand, absorbing everything in his path, until the whole city, the whole continent, then the whole planet were inside him. He continued to move outward, taking in everything until his awareness encompassed all he could imagine. He felt the water surround him and envelop him. And he was water, indistinguishable from everything else. Absorbing it all, encircling it all. He was enjoying the feeling. So incredible. So beautiful…

Then as if a drain had been unplugged he started swirling rapidly, growing smaller and pulling back down to his body that had seemed so far away. He ebbed like the tide away from the shore and too quickly found himself back to his normal state. So small. So insignificant.

Vaguely he heard a voice nearby and opened his eyes. He was in the pool at the bath house. The lights were on. He sat up out of the water. Across the pool two bathers were engaged in low conversation. He must have been dreaming…

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The Gardener

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a gardener. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bedroom in ancient times. The story is about movement.

*******

After it was over, he picked up the pieces of statuary that had fallen, and moved them to a storage shed. He surveyed the damage to the fountains. The largest one was leaking, so he turned the water off and added it to the list of repairs needed. As he passed the ruins of the house, he thought he heard a sound. The house was not his responsibility, still, he had no way of knowing who was left to take care of things. And the sound was small. Like a child. He could not just pass by. So he followed the sound. Up onto the great patio. More smashed statuary and another fountain with chipped cherubs. Past the doors to the great hall that allowed the large parties to flow out into the gardens. The doors were now gaping wide as they did when the great hall was filled with dancers and musicians and food. Only there were no guests, no orchestra.

He paused and then followed the sound along the southern wall until he came to the balustrade that separated the large formal gardens from the private terraces. He worked his way back down to the main garden along the stairs and then back up to the house at the first private patio. The sound lured him on and he found a set of doors that opened onto the terrace. They were broken and stood open with the curtains billowing in the breeze. He paused a moment and then pushed back the curtains and stepped through the doorway.

He had never spent much time in the house, although he wasn’t surprised to find himself in a large bedroom. The house was designed so that all the rooms opened onto a garden. Even the library opened out into an outdoor reading room with little benches and shaded hammocks that called a reader to idle away the hours with a good book.

The bedroom was part of a suite and massive.  Nearly equal in size to the great hall. Ah – this would be the master’s quarters then. Or the mistress’ -she had always liked and commanded a larger space… And the sound was closer now. A whimpering. He started to search the overturned furniture and disarrayed hangings and draperies and tapestries, pulling them aside and peering behind. And finally, he found her. She was curled into a small ball, hiding under the cushions, behind the draperies surrounding the bed. He recognized the youngest daughter, who was called “Mina” by all. She continued to sob softly, her face buried in the silken bedclothes unaware of his presence. Gently, he knelt beside her like he would for the rabbits and deer and swans that populated the garden. Quietly he began to speak to her, reaching out to stroke her hair ever so softly. She was too forlorn to be startled and continued to whimper even as he gathered her into his arms. She smelled of the outdoors and childish sweat and faintly of the soap her mother used to bathe her. Her clothes were rumpled and slightly dirty. He checked her limbs to be sure none were broken. There was no blood on the bedding or pillows where she had lain, only the tear stains from her crying.

“Ssss, quiet now… are you hurt?”

Mina wailed.

He patted her back and held her and waited for her tears to subside again. He sat down on the bed cuddling her and rocking. And then he saw her mother across the room, shattered under an enormous pillar. He pulled Mina tighter to his chest covering her eyes.

“Ssss, quiet now… would you like to hear a story?”

Mina subdued somewhat replied “Thirsty.”

“Certainly, you are. We shall do something to address your thirst presently. For now, I would like to offer you a story, if you wish.”

Mina nodded and he began. “Once upon a time…” as he gently carried her from the room.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

A Tribute to Thomas

It must be the season of loss… So many of our loved ones seem to die in the spring time. My father in March 2010. Delilah April 2010.  Jezebel May 2011. Penny March 2013.

We lost our “baby” in March 2012.  A beautiful black and white tuxedo with soft velvet fur, named Thomas after the main character in The Aristocats – “Abraham Delacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, O’Malley the Alley Cat.”  We were presented with his mother, Lucy, while she was pregnant, so we were there for Thomas’ birth and held him within moments of his arrival. And we held him until his departure.

Thomas was huge by cat standards – bigger than many small dogs, with a laid-back attitude. He was talkative and affectionate. His favorite perch was the raised portion of the kitchen counter that served as his dining area. From that point he could easily reach out with one large paw to grab a passerby and pull them in for a good nose-licking. Because we held him so much and so often, we could do almost anything to him – clip his claws, rub his belly, put in eye drops, give him medicine. He tolerated everything. As you can see in the photo below, he had panda paws – white paws with black pads that were so cute, we were always messing with them.

Thomas_06Nov2010

Samson, our yellow lab mix, was always around, so Thomas had no fear of him. When he was old enough, he often played with Samson, wrestling on the floor. And Samson was delighted to have a playmate.

Thomas loved to lie down and stretch out in the middle of the floor. He wasn’t worried about being stepped on. He was too big and obvious – we always knew where he was.

At bedtime he stretched out full length along my or my husband’s chest, purring. There was no mistaking that kind of weight on top of you.

In a house with pets, you never do anything alone. There is no point in closing the door, because they will either open it or nag until you open it. Thomas had an unusual trick for anyone using the toilet. While they were seated, with their pants around their lower legs, Thomas would crawl in and make a nest between their ankles, purring loudly. Many times I simply abandoned my trousers when I was done and retrieved them later once he had moved on.

Thomas and his mother, Lucy, remained close throughout their lives although he was easily more than twice her size. They also sparred and one time Lucy nearly killed Thomas when she got a claw deep into his side. I came home late on a Friday night  to find him hot and listless on the downstairs couch. Luckily our veterinarian office had emergency services. We took him to the vet and Thomas got a bolus of subcutaneous fluid and an injection of antibiotics. Within a couple days he was himself again, although it took a bit longer for the huge cyst in his side to go away. We started trimming Lucy’s claws more regularly.

Thomas and Lucy_13Mar2011

As of April 2012, Lucy is still with us, although occasionally we still hear her searching for her son, Thomas. And we understand, because we miss him, too.

Short Story – The World of Plants

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an interpreter. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a farm in the future. The story is about pride.

*******

I talk to plants. It’s true. Actually, they talk to me. I am an interpreter for the plants. I tell their stories. I am the only one I know who does this work. I ply my trade among the planets of the fourth star in the Pleiades. My small interplanetary craft is fast and efficient, so I can cover a lot of territory. The plants pay me in their way, so I am never hungry. I barter some of the produce for my other needs. And the plants are always grateful.

All right, maybe not always. There was a time…

I had traveled farther than usual that day at the request of a local agriculturalist. It seems that a large plant type life form was rebelling and causing some disharmony in the local economy.

My landing was carefully calculated to be within walking distance of the biodome, but still far enough to keep from disturbing the immediate area. Since the vibrations from my ship could add to the chaotic emotions already in play.

The agriculturalist was waiting just outside the biodome. Zefra was obviously agitated when I reached her, so I paused to help soothe her ruffled feelings. She could not introduce me to the belligerent life form if she was not in a good state. She explained that the plant in question had just insulted her intelligence and thrown rotten foliage at her. She had been tempted to kick the plant in its genitalia. Unfortunately, the plant in question was too valuable to sustain that kind of damage so she had managed to restrain herself long enough to leave the biodome before venting her anger. Still pacing, Zefra continued to rant about “Ranc,” which turned out to be short for Ranunculus Vitae, a variation of a plant once found several parsecs from here on a small blue planet circling the star Helios.

“He’s such a self-sanctimonious, self-important, self-aggrandizing, egotistical… did I say self-important?! Well he is! He thinks he’s the most significant lifeform here!”

I allowed Zefra to continue on for several minutes in this vein so that she could gain control of her feelings again. Then I began to massage her aura and bathe it in cooling light. Finally she could speak without spitting. So I asked her what had brought on this latest outburst.

“I offered him some fertilizer,” she replied simply.

“That’s all?”

“Yes.”

“Surely there was more to it than that? It’s not as if he can make his own.”

“Then you will have to ask him. It’s not as if we speak the same language,” she snapped a bit too sharply.

“I plan to do so as soon as you are serene enough to perform an introduction,” I replied gently trying to smooth the latest flare in her temper.

After a few moments working on her, she visibly relaxed. “Very well, I think I can do it now.”

Her aura had traces of pink but no more red. I continued to surround her with serene vibrations until I was sure she was settled enough to enter.

“Then let us proceed,” I said quietly.

Zefra walked beside me to the portal and then opened an airlock to allow me to enter first. As I stepped in, the aromas of damp soil, grass, and a faint smell of rotting vegetation assailed my senses. It was warm and moist and I was still in the airlock. It must be a jungle inside. I pulled a biosuit off one of the hooks and put it on, while she did the same.

The biosuits on this planet completely covered the wearer from head to toe so that there was no chance a stray cell or organism could shed from the wearer and contaminate the ecosystem. A single cell with its strands of DNA could cause incredible changes in the lifeforms in here. And humans are notorious for shedding skin cells and hair constantly. And to think some humans once worried about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their food. They would shudder at the rapacity of the lifeforms here, eager to glom onto even the smallest fragments of DNA and RNA and incorporate them into their own.

The newest versions of biosuits were seamless and form-fitting. They were a shimmering silvery pearl color, which stood out against green, red, blue, yellow and most other hues, to make the wearer easier to locate once inside. Although the suits also had a chameleon option that could be activated if necessary to protect the wearer. The air system and filters no longer distort the voice, and the suit can read vibrations from the vocal chords. So everyone sounds “normal” even when they are completely encased in biofiber.

Zefra initiated the decontamination cycle. Luckily, the suits also help maintain body temperature. When we went through the second airlock the temperature was just over 317°Kelvin, which is easily 20 degrees warmer than most humanoids find comfortable. My personal comfort zone is right around 297°K, so I was doubly grateful for the biosuit.

This biodome was small enough that we could walk from one end to the other in 30 minutes. Zefra pointed out the interactive map on the right arm of my biosuit, which handily showed where each biosuit was located, in addition to the other more stationary lifeforms. My biosuit appeared to be indicated in the map by a tiny replica of me. I could watch myself moving about the biodome in a small four-dimensional version that floated just above my forearm. From the noise and Doppler vibrations in the interactive map, I could find my way to Ranc without Zefra’s guidance, but protocol still dictated that she lead the way and introduce me properly.

Much of the vegetation was blue although the flowers they produced were every color of the rainbow and often more than three colors at any given moment. I heard a little heckling from some of the smaller lifeforms, plenty of chatter, and one particularly pretty pink, aqua, and silver plant form wished me well. Zefra did not react to any of their talk so I assumed that she, like most humanoids, could not discern it from rustling foliage. I used to be that way, too. But once I learned the basic plantoid language, I heard gabbing everywhere. The soft rustling of poets became incessant chatter. Eventually, I learned how to turn the babble into a conversation and my opportunities expanded to support my current interstellar reputation. And at that moment, I was sure I was the best and the only way to resolve the conflict here.

We moved slowly as I did not want to add ripples to the pool of vibrations swirling around us. It seemed to take forever until we reached Ranc’s location. Although we could easily follow his distorted wavelengths, I had no desire to increase his agitation.

When we were finally facing each other, the waves of red and black streaming from him were almost violent enough to knock us down. Without meaning to do so, I started trying to still the pulsations flying in our direction. When Ranc felt the pushback he became angrier. I realized what had happened and ceased my efforts immediately, hoping he would back down.

Ranc was not going to be pacified that easily. He turned his focus on me throwing all the vibrations in my direction. Zefra had already put up a shield. She wasn’t taking any more plekth from a non-humanoid.

It was so loud and so bright, I was going to have to put up a shield, or risk losing my senses all together. I dropped to my knees and finally laid down flat on my belly with my arms covering my head and ears. I didn’t know how much more I could take before I would be forced to raise a shield. I tried to send the signal of introduction and then I blacked out.

When I came to awareness again, I was still lying face down on the ground, but the vibrations were calmer and no longer buffeted my senses. I risked uncovering my ears and lifting my head to look in Ranc’s direction. He had assumed a military bearing, unbending and unemotional. So I started to get to my feet. A loud crack dropped me back to my hands and knees and made it clear Ranc did not want me standing upright. This was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be when I first got the call.

I attempted to signal my introduction again, and was rebuffed. Still on my hands and knees, I waited. What did he want me to do? How was I going to get his attention? Wait! I already had his attention, how could I get him to listen to me? As I was considering my options and trying to figure out how to reach him, I missed the change in his aura. Ranc was laughing at me!

Keeping my head down, I signaled, “Service.” Ranc roared with laughter.

Head still bowed, I tried again, and signaled, “Beneficence.” Ranc doubled over with hilarity. Not an easy feat for a plant form twice my height and four times my girth.

When Ranc finally calmed down, I tried a third time and signed, “Honor” and set Ranc to laughing again.

Zefra messaged me through the map to start backing away while Ranc was distracted. Unsure how to proceed and still shaking from the sound and light waves that had originally knocked me off my feet, I went to chameleon mode and did as she suggested. Moving slowly, I crawled backward, still on my hands and knees, I did not look up until I was out of reach of his force field. Then, still camouflaged, I raised myself to a crouch and slowly moved to the airlock and out into the chamber. When Zefra had closed the inner seal and decontaminated the chamber again. I sagged onto the nearest bench with my head in my hands.

“I have failed you,” I told her dejectedly.

“Not at all,” she replied.

I looked up, puzzled at her response.

She explained, “Ranc is now in a fabulous mood.”

“Yes, but, I never found out what he wanted,” I protested.

“Oh yes, you did,” She smiled.

I gave her another quizzical look.

“You are the court jester.”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Concertgoer

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a midwife. A pair of trousers plays a significant part in the story. The story is set at a concert in the present. The story is about balance.

*******

Riiiiip! Damn! Why now? What was she supposed to do now? Sophia’s trousers had ripped from stem to stern as she took her seat. She had paid a lot for her ticket. By golly! She was going to enjoy this concert. She would worry about her trousers when it was over. The competing scents of expensive perfumes and men’s cologne filled the air.

The orchestra was tuning up. From her front row perch she could see into the pit. A handsome flautist was trilling and running scales. The first chair violoncello was rosining her bow. A bassist with long dark hair was practicing an intricate section. Sophia examined each member in turn trying to glean a portion of each personality from small gestures and how they prepared themselves. A violinist in the middle of the section was so methodical in his preparations she wondered how he was able to cope. Just then a clarinetist sat down next to him and interrupted his ritual by jostling his music stand and scattering the sheets to the floor. Oh my! The violinist looked like he might burst. He said nothing as he put his violin back in the case, carefully placed the bow next to it, closed and locked the case, and then proceeded to gather the music. Then she caught the eye of the clarinetist and saw the mirth. He obviously enjoyed the distress he caused to the violinist. The violinist began his ritual anew. The clarinetist could hardly contain himself, and his shoulders shook with unexpressed laughter as he put together his clarinet and placed a new reed in the mouthpiece.

Suddenly a ripple went through the orchestra and everyone hurriedly moved to be ready. The conductor walked in to the applause of the audience and bowed. Then she turned to the orchestra raised her baton to cue the first violinist. She stood and played a pure “A” which the rest of the players then used to match the tone of their instruments to hers. When the entire group was playing the same note, the conductor cut them off. The violinist took her seat.

The conductor turned to the stage and began to clap. The audience joined her as the world famous mezzo-soprano, Celeste, took the stage.  Dressed in diaphanous robes and a flowing green velvet cape with her long brown hair flowing down her back. She flowed to center stage. The set was minimally dressed with a green velvet chaise longue  and a single green velvet drape tied with a golden tassel that matched her cape. When she reached her mark, she paused and curtsied low. The audience responded enthusiastically and she smiled broadly as she stood and then centered herself.

The conductor raised her baton and cued the introduction. The orchestra began at full volume then withdrew to allow Celeste her due. She began the aria softly, tenderly, then slowly blossomed into the crescendo and softened again. When it was over, tears were streaming down Sophia’s face. It was so beautiful. The audience was on its feet, clapping and shouting “Brava!” Sophia stood with the rest, oblivious to the tear in her trousers.

Celeste curtsied again. Just as she began to rise, she suddenly crumpled to the floor with a scream. The audience slowly changed from exuberant to confused. Everyone was still on their feet and wondering what to do. The conductor ran out of the pit and around to the stairs that took her to the stage. Others converged from the wings of the stage.  Everyone running to Celeste. And suddenly, Sophia realized what had happened. She had noted Celeste’s pregnancy when she had first taken the stage. Something has happened with the baby. She could feel it. She knew it. Her years of experience as a midwife pulled her from her seat and drove her to the stage. She ran toward the fallen diva, pushing her way through the group of people who now surrounded Celeste. “I’m a midwife, let me through.” And they parted to let her approach. She knelt beside Celeste and took her left hand in hers and placed her right hand under her shoulder. In tears, Celeste turned toward the confident calming presence at her side. “My baby!” she sobbed. Sophia murmured, “Ssh, ssh, it’s okay,” as she looked into the beautiful green eyes. Celeste whispered “Help me,” and Sophia assured her that she would. “May I examine you?” Celeste nodded.

Sophia asked several nearby men to grab the drape and hold it up to create a barrier. She called to a woman to find pillows and blankets. Once the famous singer was cushioned and concealed from the crowd, Sophia pushed the cape out of the way and reaching under the multi-layered skirt, moving aside her undergarments (thank goodness the singer was too uncomfortable to wear pantyhose) and felt her way to the cervix while keeping her eyes focused on Celeste. She questioned her in a low voice, pausing to hear the answers. “Are you having pain?” “Has your water broken?” “How far apart are the contractions?” With her experienced hands and nose she knew the answers before Celeste replied. Beneath the singer’s signature perfume, Sophia could smell blood and the unique scent of amniotic fluid. She was hoping the cervix was not fully dilated until her fingers told her the truth.  Oh dear! The baby was crowning! She would have to move quickly.

Looking up into the eyes of the man across from her, Sophia ordered “Get towels, twine or rope, a sharp knife, and a cigarette lighter. This baby is coming now!”

Startled, the small huddle jumped to obey, and the requested items were quickly gathered.

“Sterilize the knife blade in the flame of the lighter and cut two lengths of twine a few inches long. Bring the towels here, we will need them to catch the baby. Is there something soft we can use as a receiving blanket?”

When everything was done to her specifications, she turned her attention back to Celeste and asked, “Are you ready?”

Celeste simply nodded. “Good,” Sophia replied,”Then get ready to push. I think you’re going to have the easiest delivery in the history of opera.”

With practiced hands, Sophia brought the baby into the world, wiped her off as best she could, checked to see that she was healthy and whole, and handed her to her mother. Someone beside Sophia assisted, handing her what she needed. Then Sophia tied off and severed the umbilical cord, and delivered the afterbirth. Someone placed a warm damp rag in her hand and held a small basin of clean warm water at her side.  She sponged everything clean.

With her tasks finished, Sophia looked at Celeste gazing into the eyes of her daughter. “I’m afraid your gown and cape are ruined.” Celeste smiled beatifically, “I’m sure my cleaners can take care of them. You have taken care of the most important part. Please tell me your name.”

“Sophia.”

“That’s perfect. Thank you, Sophia.”

Sophia moved to the side as Celeste’s retinue produced a wheelchair and packed up mother and child. With the stage clearing and the audience gone, Sophia paused to consider her situation.  Gently, a strong pair of arms placed a coat around her shoulders. Sophia turned to see a handsome gentleman with twinkling eyes and realized he was the one who had assisted with the birth.

“Would you please join me for a cup of tea?”

Sophia smiled and nodded. A cup of tea would be perfect right now.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Clean Trousers

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a historian. A pair of trousers plays a significant part in the story. The story is set at a crossroads  in the medieval age. The story is about movement.

*******

It happened every time! Just as he jumped down from the wagon, someone went by and splashed filth that soaked his trousers and shoes. The smell was particularly odious today or maybe it was just the fact that fresh horse dung now covered him from his toes to mid-thighs. It would have been less of an issue at the end of the day, but his day was just beginning and he was supposed to meet the Abbott this morning. He could hardly go calling at the monastery in his current state. Although Heaven knows the Abbott must have encountered worse things in his work it was hardly the impression Karl wanted to give.

So he stood there with the fecal matter slowly sliding down his legs debating how to handle the situation. And was nearly run over by the next wagon going through the crossroads. He was splashed with more filth, this time reaching his tunic, shoulder bag and even a small dab on his cheek. Startled, he finally had the sense to step back from the intersection. Seeing a tree on one corner, he headed there to consider his predicament.

He pulled his satchel open and dug to see if he had anything with which to wipe himself. Finding nothing useful, he sat down under the tree disheartened. How could he face the Abbott? If he didn’t appear as promised, the Abbott might not grant him an audience. If he didn’t get an audience with the Abbott, Karl would not get access to the monastery library, which held manuscripts going back to the founding of the monastery and older. Karl had looked forward to this day since he was a young lad. He had learned from the priest in his local village that the monastery library held documents older than the priest, older than the oldest person in the village and he had been filled with wonder. What would such documents look like? What languages were they written in? The priest had taught him Greek and Latin, so he hoped that he would be able to read at least some of them. What secrets would they reveal? He had prayed fervently for the day he would be old enough and learned enough that the priest would give him a letter of recommendation. That day had finally arrived and he was covered in horse manure. He was cursed!

As he sat there “bemoaning his outcast state” he failed to notice the appearance of a young woman at his side until she spoke.

“You appear to be in dire need of a new set of trousers,” she remarked.

“You are correct and unless you happen to have one, I would appreciate being left to my misery,” he replied.

“Well, then today Providence appears to have smiled on you.”

At that comment, Karl raised his head to appraise his companion.

A beautiful young woman smiled and held a pair of clean trousers toward him. Astonished he rose to his feet and tentatively reached toward her offering. She did not flinch and relinquished the cloth when he had grasped it firmly. She nodded toward a wagon parked behind the tree. “You can change back there. Then we will see what we can do to clean the rest of your person.”

Still taken aback by her offer, he paused walking toward the wagon, “What can I offer in exchange? I do not have much money, although you are welcome to what I have.”

She smiled again. “I am not asking for your money, although coins are always useful.”

“Then what can I give you?”

“You are going to the monastery, are you not?”

“That is correct… how did you…”

“You will visit the library, will you not?”

“That is my fervent hope, although I haven’t met…”

She interrupted him again, “Then you will bring me knowledge.”

“But I…”

“The library holds many documents. Some are very old. You will ask to view these documents. One of them is the Scroll of Diana. You will not be able to read it. So you will copy the symbols you find. On each visit, you will copy another set of symbols and bring them to me. Be certain to copy them exactly as they appear and in the same order.”

“But how…”

“It is not necessary for you to understand everything. As a woman, you know I am not allowed in the monastery. Yet, that document was written by a woman and intended for women. The information the scroll contains is of no value to you nor to the monks who added it to their collection, except as a trophy of ancient writing.”

“Goddess knows I would give much more than this pair of trousers to see the scroll with my own eyes. Since that is unlikely in the present circumstance, your eyes will have to serve mine.”

“Now move quickly, or you will not catch the Abbott when he is in his best temper.”

She pushed him toward the wagon with the trousers. He obeyed and exchanged his filthy pair for the clean ones she had given him. He tied his belt and headed back toward her. She had a damp rag in her hand with which she wiped his face, his tunic, his bag and finally his shoes.

“There! You are once again presentable. Now hurry! You must catch him while he is holding audience.”

Karl headed down the road toward the monastery and then looked back. “How will I find you?”

“In the same manner which we met today.”

“Will you at least tell me your name?”

“Sylvine,” she smiled. “Now go!”

Karl reached the monastery within the hour and was pleased to find the Abbott still receiving petitions. He presented the letter and voiced his request to be allowed access to the library. The Abbott was in a pleasant mood and seeing a potential candidate, granted Karl’s request. Then, putting his arm out in a gesture of welcome, he announced, “I will escort you there myself.”

Surprised by his offer, Karl almost refused, and then thinking better, accepted the Abbott’s invitation. Karl followed him down a long hallway to a large armored wooden door with heavy locks. In front of the door, the Abbott whispered to a friar perched at a small desk. The friar looked at Karl and nodded to the Abbott, then gestured for Karl to approach.

“Brother Hermann has taken a vow of silence as part of his penance,” the Abbott noted for Karl’s benefit.

The monk slid off his stool and pulled a large keyring from his robes. Starting at the top of the door, he systematically began unlocking all of the locks. When he had finished he stepped aside and pulled the door open. The Abbott bowed slightly and ushered Karl into the most beautiful place he had ever seen. The air was dry and smelled of leather and must. The light was subtle and Karl noted that none of the shelves were in direct sunlight. It reflected into the room from the clerestory windows.

“So, my child, what were you hoping to see here?”

“Father Abbott, if I might beg your indulgence. I would like to see some of the oldest  manuscripts.”

“Ah! My child, you know that they are written in ancient languages. Something recent would be more accessible… “

Karl stopped him with a gesture, “Father Abbott, I have been studying Latin and Greek. And I had hoped that even if I didn’t understand everything, that perhaps I might glean something of value by seeing the old things.”

The Abbott was in a good mood, and assented. “Very well my son. We will go to the section with the  oldest scrolls. You must be careful with them for they are quite delicate and will tear easily.”

“Yes, Father Abbott. I understand.”

When they reached the bins holding the scrolls, Karl could not hide his amazement. “They are indeed old, Father Abbott. Thank you kindly for your generosity.  But I should not keep you from your duties.”

“It is my pleasure, my child. I can remain to assist you.”

“Certainly, you must be very busy and Brother Hermann can assist me.”

“It gives an old man comfort to see one such as yourself expressing an interest in our library. Very well. I am working on a translation and will be just over there,” as he pointed to an alcove with a high desk and stool. “When you want to look at a scroll, carry it carefully to a table before attempting to unroll it.”

“Yes, Father Abbott. Thank you, Father Abbott.”

There were so many scrolls, and Karl was excited to touch them all. Then he remembered the young woman’s request and began to search among the scrolls. He carried one after another to the table, unrolled them slightly and then carefully rerolled them and returned them when he realized they were not what he was seeking.

The Abbott noted his diligence and frequent trips back and forth, so paused in his task. “My child, what is it you seek? You do not seem to be satisfied with any of them.”

Startled, Karl hesitated. Should he ask the Abbott for the Scroll of Diana?

“I was looking for some ancient Roman text to see how well my Latin might fare.”

“Then the Marcellinus you pulled and put back should have been an adequate test.”

“Of course, Father Abbott. My apologies for disturbing you.”

The Abbott returned to his work. Karl continued his search more quietly, spending slightly longer with each scroll so that he did not attract the Abbott’s attention. He had reviewed two dozen when he saw it. Smaller than the others it had fallen to the bottom of the bin. It appeared to be more ornate with gilt handles and neatly trimmed edges. He reached for it gently and cradled it to the table. As he began to unroll it he noted it was more beautiful than anything he had seen. There were delicate engravings in the margins. This must be the scroll Sylvine was describing. He searched through his satchel for his copybook and a  quill. As she had requested, he started to copy the symbols he found, and then realized he did not know whether one would read them across or down, left to right or right to left? So he decided he would copy the symbols as if they were in a table. That way, Sylvine would be able to rearrange them or read them in whichever order was necessary.

Karl became absorbed in his efforts and did not hear the Abbott’s stool scrape on the stone floor. He started when the Abbott’s hand landed on his shoulder.

“I beg your pardon, Father Abbott.”

“My child, you are quite good as an amanuensis. Brother Hermann will be jealous. You have really captured the text well.”

“Thank you, Father Abbott.”

“Would you like to return another day to continue? Perhaps you can copy some things for me.”

Karl did not disguise his pleasure at the invitation. “Oh yes, Father Abbott! I would gladly return and even more gladly provide my services to you.”

“Very well! Please return tomorrow morning and report to Brother Hermann directly.”

“Thank you very kindly for your generosity, Father Abbott.”

Karl left the monastery walking on air and made his way back to the crossroads to share the good news with Sylvine.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The Guardian

Story prompt:  The story’s protagonist is female and a guardian. A light plays a significant part in the story. The story is set at a crossroads in ancient times. The story is about illness..

*******

The wait seemed interminable. She had been charged with her burden for centuries. In that time, nothing much had changed, or so it seemed to her. She watched the people come and go. They could not see her, and if they could, they did not see her. A woman was still an invisible thing. A possession at best. A burden most of the time. She was chosen for her inconspicuous nature.

And her innate talents. Invisibility was the most notable of her skills. The rest were less called upon. She could bedazzle and confuse. She could divert and distract. And she could eliminate a threat if needed without calling attention to herself or to the object she guarded.

Day after day, Year after year. Century after century. She waited. She was charged with protection and must remain at her post until she was discharged and replaced by another like herself or it became no longer necessary to protect it. She wondered which would come first. She had been chosen and sent to discharge the previous guardian by taking her place. She did not know what happened to her predecessor. When she appeared at the appointed place, the other acknowledged her presence, saluted and disappeared.

It was a good thing she was patient. And immortal. The object she protected gave off light which provided sustenance to the guardian. She did not age as humans do. She had no need for food. She used the light to create shadows. The object itself could not be moved. It had been placed there so long ago that no one remembered who had made it much less how it came to be there. The crossroad in front of her was much newer although she had diverted it from being square in order to protect her charge. And she regularly had to push away inebriated men who wandered too close. They never knew what happened. They would be stumbling in one direction and next they knew they were stumbling in another. She used the shadows to make the place inhospitable, so no one in their right mind approached it. She could cause shivering and invoke ghost bumps in anyone who even looked in her direction, so most would hurry on after a single glance.

Until today. He was persistent, this one. And he was not under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Which meant it was a little more difficult to push him off. She tried her usual tactics. She lobbed flashes of light in the opposite direction. She resisted him when he attempted to walk straight. Although he did not seem to see her, he seemed to be determined to walk toward the object.

She blew cold wind and made him shiver. He shivered and came forward. She attempted to induce fear. He felt it only for a moment and pushed on.

She put up a wall. He pushed against it. Felt its height. Tried to ascertain its width. Stood back to reassess and pushed again. He was very strong. She could feel his resolution. The force behind him. He wanted to come in and he was aiming for the object she guarded! I

n the millennia she had been there, no one had attempted deliberate entry. This was uncalled for… She did not want to eliminate him. He was young and strong. It would be a waste to take his life force. She did not like waste. And she did not want to use her powers now.

She walked through the wall and appeared beside him as an old woman.

“Young man, will you take a moment to assist your old mother?” She tugged on his sleeve.

He glanced at her, “Not now old woman!” and shook her off.

She morphed into a beautiful young woman in the attire of the harem and tried again.

“Master, please assist me” she pleaded coyly as she stroked his back.

For a moment, he hesitated. “Please return to your master. I do not have time to dally with you.” And he turned back to the wall.

Her resources depleted, she disapparated and returned through the wall. As passersby started to notice him, she thoughtfully disguised him by placing another wall behind him. This was going to take some time.

She reappeared in front of him in her current form. She was taller than him and in the garb of the guardian she was an imposing figure. He stopped probing the wall when he saw her. “Please let me in!”

“No one enters.”

“I must enter.”

“Why do you wish entry?”

“I must enter.”

“That is not sufficient validation to support your request.”

Realizing she would not bend, he dropped to his knees. “I am begging you, please let me in.”

“Again, you have not provided justification for me to disregard my duty. No one enters.”

“But you can let me in…”

“I cannot. To do so would violate my oath and the trust placed in me.”

“He never told me there would be a guardian.”

“That is not my concern.”

“There must be a password or a code” he muttered to himself. Then to her, “There must be some circumstance under which entry is allowed. Surely, you have gone through the portal?”

“That is not part of my duty. I am here to prevent entry until my replacement arrives.”

“That’s it! I could be your replacement. So you need to let me in.”

“Unlikely. All the guardians are emissaries of the Goddess.”

“That’s it! I am here on behalf of the High Priestess of She-lor.”

“State your business.”

“My grandmother has sent me. The Temple has been desecrated. The priestesses are dying. Someone must go through the portal to obtain the wisdom to heal them and return the Temple to the Goddess.”

“And why would they send you? You are not an emissary of the Goddess.”

“Because I am the only one strong enough to go through the portal and return. My grandmother, Hel-es-ia, consulted the ancient texts. The Armageddon is upon us. She told me to find the portal and gave me this location. I have instructions to enter the portal and go to the Pleiades, to Maia. There I will locate the Temple and ask for the wisdom as foretold in the ancient texts.”

“And yet, they did not give you the information necessary to pass by me.”

“My grandmother did not mention any obstacle to entering the portal.”

“She did not read carefully then. Surely she must know that no one enters?”

“She gave me this medallion to exchange when I arrived at my destination.” And from a pouch around his neck he pulled an ancient coin.

At the site of the gold piece, she dropped to her knees and bowed her head. “Holy Mother! I am at your service.”

“You will let me enter?”

“Yes. Come quickly. I must cover your entrance.”

She let down the wall between them, still keeping the wall behind him in place.

“Wait! I must create a diversion.”

“Why?”

“The portal is very loud and bright when it is opened, so I must create a ruse of light and sound to distract any passersby from learning of its existence.”

She raised her arms to the heavens and called forth a thunderstorm from a cloudless sky. The people near the crossroads heard the distant rumble of thunder and hurried to reach their destinations. When the storm was in full effect, she gestured to him to go behind her. As he passed her he saw a bright light and heard the roar of swirling space and time. With a small gesture of thanks, he stepped into the abyss. The portal closed behind him. The storm gradually abated.

The guardian resumed her post.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Crash

I crashed this week. Fibro flare. Precipitated by the death of my 13.5 year old, 80 lb yellow lab, Penny of Perpetual Motion. I barely got out of bed. Everything hurt. My hair hurt. And most of all, my soul was hurting. I finally went back to work today for 4 hours and my office mate barely spoke to me. I must have offended her in some way and I didn’t have the energy to ask her about it or to deal with it.

Today, I called the vet to help my mom’s ancient three-legged Siamese leave this world. I was horrified to find he was still alive last night and hadn’t eaten in three days and she had twice asked someone else to take him out for burial only to be told “He’s still breathing.”

Mickey was her last mental/emotional barrier to leaving her home. She felt no one would adopt him. Even though I’ve already promised her that my hubby and I will take all three of her cats if something happens. At any rate, it wasn’t right that Mickey should suffer. I told her last night that she should give him permission to go and that if he was still alive in the morning she needed to call the vet. I called the vet. I didn’t give her an option. And I asked the vet to meet me at Mom’s at 2:15 after I got off work.  The vet asked me if there was any possibility she would be saving the cat. I told her I was pretty sure he was too far gone. He hadn’t moved in four days and he’d had nothing to eat or drink in three days.

I called Mom on my way to her house and told her the vet was on the way. She was still in bed so I told her she had half an hour before the vet got there to get her act together. Mom acquiesced and was up and in the living room by the time I got there. The vet called to ask if we still needed her and I told her that Mom said he was still breathing earlier. So she headed in our direction. And I went out to check on Mickey. When I touched him he was hard as a rock so I knew he was gone. When the vet got there, she said “Let’s make sure.” She picked him up and he was stiff as a brick. She said “I’m good, but I’m not that good.” Meaning there was no help she could give him. She got out a heavy duty body bag and I moved him outside where the snowy landscape would keep him until someone could bury him.

I know what she’s lost. I had so much pain from losing Penny I couldn’t cope. Yes, I know she’s in a better place where she can chase the ball again. And I miss her. As one of my friend’s put it, “I can’t even imagine trying to fill that big hole.” Penny was a very big presence in my life, as Mickey was in my mom’s life. Farewell faithful friends!

Penny and Thomas_12Sep2008

Overwhelmed

It can’t be just me… Life seems to catch up and then overtake me and like a tsunami I wash up on the shore wondering what the hell happened… All my good intentions lie strewn about like so much flotsam… swallowed and vomited up… still recognizable but now I need to gather them back together. Dust them off. Clean them up. Straighten them out. Sort them into categories. Restore some semblance of order.

I struggle. I want to take better care of my senior mother, my senior pets, my neglected husband and myself. And I want to write. And then fibromyalgia confines me to my bed unable to think for a week. And my mother has weekly appointments with physical therapy and the chiropractor and the ophthalmologist and the dentist and the radiation oncologist. And my dog, Penny, needs weekly vet visits. And my husband hates his job and wants to quit. And the house needs cleaning. And I want to be there for my friends as they cry for lost loved ones and rejoice at the end of cancer treatment. And my body craves sleep. And then I can’t sleep until it’s almost time for the alarm to go off. And I go to work because I need health care and money to pay for food and shelter and vet bills….

A Charmed Life

It’s easy to forget to be grateful. Although I try not to, it just happens sometimes. I start ranting and raving and then the reason becomes clear and I stop.  And say thank you. So recently I was reminded again that I lead a charmed life. And I am grateful.

I travel for work. I stay in hotels. Often, the hotel rooms have residual energies. Those energies seem to be attracted to me, especially while I am sleeping or attempting to sleep. I tend to talk to them and tell them exactly what I think of having my sleep interrupted.

In December, I was in San Antonio at one of the newer hotels. I gave up the Emily Morgan after the elevator trapped me for half an hour when I talked back to it. And anyone can feel the ghosts in the Crockett and Menger without even entering them. So I wasn’t expecting any encounters. Monday and Tuesday passed without incident. On Wednesday night I returned to my room about 11pm. I  noticed the note from the housekeeper thanking me for leaving a tip and realized I needed to get change. So I thought about getting a drink in the hotel lobby. When I was unable to convince anyone to join me, I turned on the television. Noting that one of my favorite programs,  NCIS, was just starting, I decided to run down to the lobby and get change and come back and enjoy some guilt-free tv watching. So I got the change, came back, changed into my nightgown and propped myself on the pillows to enjoy the show. At midnight, House came on, so I stayed up to watch. At 1am another episode of House came on and I watched most of it. When I started drifting off shortly before 2am, I turned off the tv and the lights and turned over.

At 2am I was pulled awake by the sound of something sliding down the louvers on the inside of first one closet door and popping it open and then the other door – brrrrrrpppp POP

I started ranting out loud. “All I want is to get some sleep and you can’t leave me alone long enough…” and got up out of bed, walked around the corner and checked the mirror over the sink to make sure there wasn’t anyone in the closet before going over and closing them again. Still ranting aloud, I went back to bed and laid down. And then I smelled it. The aroma of flatulence. And my rant went on “I can’t believe you farted in my room. How could you?!”

Seemingly inspired, I decided I needed to go to the bathroom and went in to use the facilities. I did not bother closing the door, since I had the room to myself. And while I was peeing, I heard it. Someone let a fart rip from the bedroom.

OK, I am NOT alone. Did I freak out? Not in the manner you would expect. I yelled “Really?! Ok that does it now I’m mad” and I flushed the toilet, washed my hands, went over and turned on all the lights and stomped over to the desk chair and sat down arms crossed.

“What was the plan? I don’t think it was a very good one. I’m guessing you think I am rich and you would be right but not in a money way. I have friends and family who love me, a job I love, a warm home and a devoted husband…” I went on in this vein for a few minutes as I mulled my options. I was not about to look under the bed – that’s the last thing you do in the horror movies for a good reason. If I called the front desk, I could panic him and I did not know if he had a weapon. He had to be fairly small to fit under my bed and I was guessing he was young, male and probably Hispanic.

At some point, I heard a rustle from that side of the bed as if he was considering coming out, and I made my decision. I grabbed my wallet and my phone and still talking I headed to the closet and pulled on my jeans, my shoes and a jacket.

“You know what. We’re all human and humans make mistakes. I think you’ve made a mistake. I am going to take a walk and when I get back, you better be gone… for both our sakes.

I unlocked the door and stepped into the hallway. Noting the close quarters at this end of the floor, I headed toward the elevator still debating what to do.  In front of the elevator bank I hesitated until I heard the service elevator activate, so I pushed the button and headed for the lobby. Once in the lobby there were people around. Staff at the front desk. Other guests. I plopped in a chair and put my feet up to think.

As I sat there pondering my next move, a gentleman in a suit came over. “Ma’am? Are you all right ma’am?”

I didn’t respond trying to pull my thoughts together.

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Are you all right?”

Finally, I said, “I’m trying to wrap my head around what just happened to me.”

He sat down in the chair next to me and waited. “What happened?”

I started… “I’m used to having visitors who aren’t human disrupt my sleep. I stopped staying at the Emily Morgan because they wouldn’t let me sleep.”

He replied, “Oh yeah! We get about 15 people a year who come over from the Menger in the middle of the night saying ‘I can’t spend another night there’.”

So I told the story about the closet doors and then smelling the flatulence, because they can manifest smells. But, they can’t fart. They don’t have bodies. They don’t need to fart.

He offered to send someone up to check the room. I accepted.  He gave the instruction and continued to sit and talk with me. He told me a story of a quilt on a plantation in Louisiana that kept pulling up when he pushed it down. He finally kicked it off the bed only to find it neatly folded over a chair the next morning. I knew he understood there are some things that can’t be explained by what we know of physics.

We continued to talk. He offered to have the lock checked for key access. I agreed knowing they wouldn’t find any one other than housekeeping and me. We continued to talk. Finally, he offered to give me a new room for the third time telling me if I didn’t move now it would take 45 minutes because the books were closing. So I took him up on the offer and he went with me to the room with a bellhop’s cart and stepped out while I threw everything on it. Then moved me up to the 37th floor on another tower. By the time I slipped between the sheets again I was stone cold sober and still too keyed to sleep at 4am.

And I was grateful. Gratitude for the spirit guides that protect me and who woke me from a sound sleep to keep me safe. Grateful for the seemingly one-sided conversations I have with those guardian angels that probably unnerved a would-be thief enough to deter him from his task. Grateful to the night manager who talked me through my thought process and moved me to a new room.

I lead a charmed life.

Blame it on NaNo

Many of you will recognize that NaNo is short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month (www.NaNoWriMo.org). Because I am in the throes of trying to write a “novel” this month. (Whatever that means!) I have been negligent about my posts here. My sincere apologies.

My hope is that I will find some portion of my NaNo material that I can also use here. Yes, I still hold down a day job. Yes, I still have family to care for. Yes, I hold chronic pain at bay (sometimes). So you see, we can’t do it all, no matter how much we try. At least I tried and I learned I can’t do it all. (I really should let the rest of you speak for yourselves. Some of you are really impressive!)

Thank you for your readership. I promise to post something more interesting by the end of the week.

Short Story – The Map of Family Honor

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a surveyor. An eye plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a council chamber in the medieval age. The story is about family.

*******

Ivan cleared his throat and waited. The man across the room continued to read through the large scroll in front of him. Ivan’s knees were getting stiff and his back was starting to ache from standing still.And he knew there was nothing else he could do but wait.

After nearly an hour, the man turned to Ivan and nodded once. Ivan stepped forward and presented the scroll he had been holding. The man accepted it and then unrolled it. Glancing through the contents he harrumphed and then quickly rerolled it loosely and handed it back to Ivan and went back to reading.

My lord, what shall I do?

Go.

Go where, my lord?

Do you know what that scroll represents?

Yes, my lord.

Then go.

But the council needs to review it, my lord.

I represent the council.

My lord?

I have reviewed it.

Begging your pardon, how does that resolve the problem, my lord?

It does not resolve it.

With no disrespect, my lord, my family can not continue under this cloud of ignomy.

Why not?

My lord, it is imperative that we earn our living honestly and without recrimination.

Why should that be so?

We have always been able to make our way without harming others and it is a matter of honor to us that we continue doing so, my lord.

And if I tell you that you must leave?

I dare not leave until this issue is resolved and our good name cleared, my lord.

I am a busy man, I don’t have time for petty squabbles.

My lord, the land granted by the king and the honor of family are not small matters.

They are unremarkable if I say so.

My lord, I am hopeful that you will change your consideration.

And why should I?

Because this map also affects the border of your estate, my lord.

What???

Perhaps you would like to review the map again, my lord?

Give it here!

Gladly, my lord.

The man behind the desk snatched the scroll from Ivan’s hands and smoothed it out on his desk.
After several moments he gasped and looked up.

You have told the truth. My God in heaven, how could this be?

My lord, perhaps you are familiar with Lord Mandraker?

Of course, of course… go on…

Then, my lord, you may also be aware of the accident that befell him some months ago?

Yes, what of it?

He lost an eye, my lord.

And? Will you get to the object of this reference?

Yes, my lord. It is well known that Lord Mandraker’s remaining eye was not his good one.

Must I pull every detail from your lips one by one?

No, my lord. I did not wish to presume upon your good nature nor to speak ill of Lord Mandraker.

Then why bring up his name?

My lord, if you would please observe the signature on the corner of the map.

My God!  The signet is that of Lord Mandraker, himself!

Yes, my lord. And the date.

Why, it is only 3 months ago.

Exactly, my lord.

Well that does change the nature of this discussion. Now, go.

My lord?

Can you challenge Lord Mandraker openly?

No, my lord.

Then leave me to my thoughts and trust that I will handle it appropriately. As you know, the council meets tonight. I will present this issue before the council for discussion. And as you know, I must tread carefully so that we can resolve the boundaries without loss of face for Lord Mandraker.

Yes, my lord. I will take my leave of you now.

Godspeed!

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Divided

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a fortune-teller. A sword plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a swamp in the future. The story is about hatred.

*******

Esmelda lifted her skirts and stepped across another wet area. The swamp was dark and getting darker. If only she’d refused to tell that couple their future. If only when the card came up she had  palmed it. If only she had lied to them about its meaning. If only… if only…

But that wasn’t the way it went. She was too forthright, too honest… like the card…. although apparently not as astute as the card itself or she wouldn’t be in this mess now.

Shit! She swore as she sank into a mud puddle and lost her shoe. She knelt down and snatched the muddy slipper back from the ooze that was trying to absorb it whole. Then she took off the other one and put both shoes in her bag. It was easier to proceed barefoot.  She could feel more with her toes and avoid sliding into the worst slime as she continued through the swamp.

When she finally saw the light glimmer through the vines and trees, she sighed. Thank Goddess! She was almost there. She started to move forward and felt something slither from under her step so she quickly retracted her foot. No sense getting careless now that she’d almost reached her goal. She needed to proceed cautiously. Swamps were notorious for sinkholes and quicksand and creatures best left to their own devices. Another shuffle of movement off to her left and again she held her breath and her pose, waiting. Something big lumbered away and she breathed again. Moving tentatively so she could retract each step if needed. She slowly swayed forward one carefully placed foot at a time. Lifting her skirts as needed to avoid the slimier things and the burrs that would snare them.

Finally she stood on a clear spot of dry land a short distance from the small cabin. As she struggled to make her breathing more even, she planned her entrance. This situation wasn’t going to be easy to explain, although luckily she knew the cabin’s inhabitant very well and could anticipate which answers would cause the most consternation. And as she collected her thoughts she went back to the day that started this whole nightmare.

It was almost a year ago now. The young couple had come to her seeking advice as lovers often did. And as many before them had been, they were from families locked in ancient tribal feuds with each other. Their love had crossed the biggest boundary and now they wanted to be together permanently. And yet the animosity between their families made both of them afraid to tell even their closest friends. No one knew they had come to her. No one knew they were together at that moment consulting her. She had taken out the cards as usual to assess the situation. She had laid them carefully on the small table in front of her. Most of the cards were predictable, the Hanging Man, portent of change, didn’t worry her. None of the figures indicated a major barrier until the very last card. The Queen. And not just any queen. The Queen of Swords. She could have been salvation itself except for one small problem — she was reversed.

True to her calling, Esmelda had advised the young couple to wait. Things were not as they appeared and the time for change was not yet. The Queen of Swords was clear and astute and forthright. All admirable qualities.  Except that when turned on her head, she was vengeful and dangerous. She told of hidden things and dishonest dealings.

The young woman recognizing the card’s import had gasped in horror and thrown an accusatory look at her beloved. “How could you?!” she cried as she fled out the door. The young man, shocked at the young woman’s outburst and rapid departure, had reacted badly. He had grown angry; and Esmelda watched the murderous rage rise. She had urged him to caution and he had cast her aside and stomped out the door.

Because of her ability to sense his thoughts she knew she would have to act quickly to avert a major disaster and possibly another reason for the two families to continue their feuding. So she cast the spells her grandmother taught her and ran out the door after the young man. She had no idea how long it would take but she needed to stop him.

It had taken much more work than she had anticipated. She quickly reached the young man and bound his anger away. She regretted the amnesia she forced on him (and subsequently the young woman, as well), but it was necessary.  The two families were centuries deep in curses and retribution. She had spent months just unwinding the threads and ropes to pave the path so that the couple might find their way back to each other. She had to be careful as she worked that she didn’t undo the fibers that would bring them together and she had strengthened the bonds that would ultimately tie them.

Now she had to go forward to the beginning. She tapped on the door of the cabin and heard a chair scrape back and a rush of movement as the cabin’s occupants greeted her at the door. They were not surprised – the dog didn’t bark and the cat remained on her perch in plain sight. Even the bird continued to sing prettily in his cage. The woman who answered the door did not even blink as she invited Esmelda in. Noting her bare feet she brought over a basin of water and a warm clean towel after Esmelda was seated. Then she produced a steaming pot of tea and poured a mug for Esmelda.

So, the work is done then?

Yes, it is complete.

Then we are ready for reunification?

Yes.

Good! I have everything in readiness.

All right, please proceed.

A short while later a young couple arrived at the cabin door. They were obviously deeply in love and seeking her advice as young lovers often did. And in her usual fashion, Esmelda laid out the cards on the small table in front of her. The Hanging Man appeared again. Ten of cups. Five of pentacles. Two of wands. And there she was. The Queen Swords. Only this time, she was standing on her feet.

Esmelda breathed a sigh of relief and the couple turned to each other with joyful expressions.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Mercy

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a shopkeeper. A door plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a ship in ancient times. The story is about mercy.

*******

He stretched and yawned and sat up. Being in hyperspace always made him sleepy, so taking a few years nap while the parsecs sped by was refreshing. The ship should be leaving hyperspace and reaching spaceport soon. He got up and looked around. Everything seemed to be humming along smoothly just as it had before he laid down. He ambled forward to the con. All systems were running smoothly. He checked to see how long before they docked and was pleased to see he would not need to wait much longer. After milennia traveling through hyperspace he had gotten pretty good at estimating how long a nap should last and usually woke before the alarms,

As if in answer to his thoughts, the ship began preparing to exit hyperspace. The hum of the engine changed frequency and soon became a low drone. The downshift was smooth and would have been imperceptible to many lifeforms, As an immortal with hypersenstive hearing however, it might as well have been a space cannon at close range. He removed the earplugs he wore during hyperspace jumps and put them back in his pocket.

The ship was an ancient model although still serviceable The replicator could reproduce any parts he needed and since he was familiar with every sonic weld and atomic bolt, it was easier to maintain it than purchase something “modern.” He had upgraded the shielding and the hyperspace drive so the ship was deceptively fast and easy to hide in plain sight.

As the spacedock appeared on the emulator, he moved toward a door at the rear of the craft. The door would have appeared to be completely anachronistic to anyone he encountered, but since no one ever saw the inside of his ship, he chose a model that pleased him. It was black and shiny and slightly ovate with squared corners at the top. The polished brass handles gleamed in the light of the instrument panel. He pulled it open and stepped through. The atmosphere was cooler and drier than the main cabin. The infrared lighting activated when he pulled the handle so he could easily see the neatly labeled cubicles. Almost full – plenty to offer the patrons he expected to greet in spacedock.

He felt the ship settling into position and the docking mechanism engage. Good! He was hoping for brisk business so he could get back underway quickly. It did not suit him to linger anywhere for long. It aroused less suspicion from the species he met if they didn’t have too much time to think.

He walked through the room to the far side and opened the airlock. Everything was ready so he opened the portal and turned on the sign that indicated he was ready for business.

The first customer was tall, blue and tentacled with seven eyes encircling its elongated head.

Using the universal translator, he signaled his greetings remembering not to smile. This particular species considered smiling irrelevant and highly suspicious. Old habits are hard to overcome and he was unable to prevent his eyes from lighting up. Luckily, the patron was looking at the shelves and he quickly hooded his gaze.

The creature pointed with a warty appendage.

“Ah, yes! A rare vintage. Marvelous notes of iron and carbonate.”

The creature hesitated and pointed to another shelf.

Keeping his eyes on all the appendages to avoid shoplifting, he nodded.

“Silica and boron with a lovely undertone of titanium.”

The creature nodded.

“Shall I wrap it for you?”

The creature nodded again.

“Very well that will be seven bars of idremium.”

A tentacle reached forward with the appropriate currency while other appendages reached for the package.

“Thank you for your business.”

The creature sloozed away.

A moment later a hooded being glided forward.  This time Sven smiled. For he understood this one well.

“Ah you have a refined palate. I have a lovely vintage for you.”

He slid open a drawer to its full length. Beautiful blonde hair and a delicate face emerged as the drawer slid open, followed by her body clothed in a pale pink bustier, then matching panties and garter belt followed by pale pink stockings and finally tiny feet tucked into pink stilettos. The hooded being inhaled deeply.

“I told you this one was something special. The price is 1700 idremium bars.”

The hooded being bowed in assent and passed the currency across the counter.

At that moment the delicate creature in the drawer stirred and her eyes fluttered. The customer sighed in satisfaction.

Sven watched the exchange and felt something stir inside him. He pushed the currency back to the customer quickly with a brief apology, slammed the airlock shut and signaled the ship to leave spacedock immediately.

In moments they were once again in slipstream. He could not take his eyes off the beautiful creature in the drawer. And watched as she came out of the suspended animation state in which she had been kept for several thousand years. She turned to him confused. The world around her so different than anything she might have encountered in her lifetime.

She had no idea he had saved her yet again. In all his dealings over the past 7,000 years, he had never been able to give her over to the creatures who sought his services. Creatures just like he was – doomed to feed on the living.

He smiled at her and she smiled back. With the current state of technology it was so much easier to keep her. To hold her in hibernation so she would not suffer, would not age. And this way she was almost as immortal as he was himself. He had found her in a place no mother would want her daughter at an age when she was still too young to be there. And he couldn’t destroy her beauty even then. So she traveled with him until she reached the perfect age. And then he had discovered the early art of cryogenics. So he had been able to suspend her, perfectly ripe, perfectly delicious, and as the technology changed he had upgraded the systems that maintained her at this perfect point. But he had never had the heart to sell her nor to take her for himself.

He was not sure how she had awakened now since he had not started the process which would reanimate her. Although it hardly mattered. She was here. She was alive.  She was so beautiful.

“I’m hungry,” she murmured.

“I’m sure you are, my dear. What would you like to eat, Mercy?”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs. (You should also know that they double-dog dared me to write a vampire story since it’s not my genre and that I needed to include stilettos…. )

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Doubt

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a shopkeeper. An dog plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a dock in the industrial age. The story is about doubt.

*******

Sylvia looked around the shop. No one left. Good! She went to the front and locked the door, turning her sign to indicate the shop was now closed.  Then she went to the back room and traded her apron for her coat and hat. She tucked her reticule under her arm, took one last look around and headed out the back door, locking the door behind her.

It was a pleasant spring evening, so she took the longer route home that took her past the docks. As she ambled along enjoying the warm spring breeze she pondered on her life. She had a small pleasant apartment facing the river that she shared with her mother. Her mother would have dinner piping hot and waiting for her when she got home.

She paused on a bridge to admire a tall ship sailing into port. The crew looked so tiny in the distance as they scrambled to furl the sails. She continued across the bridge to the dock. She waved to the harbormaster and to the stevedores she knew as she passed.

Commotion just ahead along her path caused her to wonder about its source. Shouts and curses and a couple started screams seemed to be making a beeline for her location.

Stop him! Get him! Quick!

Then she watched as several people seemed to be upended and dropped on their keisters.

Oh! Oooh! Ouch!

Then she saw it. A small dog no more than a foot high was running and dragging a rope behind. She paused and then instinctively stooped down holding out her hand. With her other hand she felt in her pocket for a piece of cookie she’d plucked from the barrel as she was tidying up the shop. As the pup suddenly turned and ran straight to her, she held her ground with her eyes cast down so the dog would know she meant no harm.

The brown and black mutt slowed in its tracks and suddenly its tail was wagging so hard the dog seemed to be dancing.

Come here, she coaxed. I’ve got a treat for you.

The pup finally reached her and hesitantly took a bit of the cookie. As she was looking it over, she determined it was a female and appeared to have been through some hard times with multiple scars and matted fur that was partially worn off around her neck by the thick rope tied around it.

Just then a man burst through the edge of the crowd nearest her. He was panting and sweating profusely. When he saw the dog he advanced slowly as if hoping to surprise her. Sensing his purpose the dog ran behind Sylvia’s skirts and cowered.

“You there! Gimme back m’ dog!”

“Pardon me, sir, but how would I know it was your dog?” she inquired sweetly.

The man paused, surprised by her forwardness. Then sputtered, “Whadaya mean how’d you know the bitch is mine?”

“O’ course she’s mine, I’m chasin her ain’t I? Who else would chase her mangy carcass this far?”

“Well sir, many people have reasons for chasing dogs and not all of them are because they own the dog.”

“She took my blasted sausage!”

“That fact does not imply ownership, it merely implies a possible encounter over food.”

What is her name?

‘What!? Are you crazy?! Gimme my dog!”

No, she said simply. I have no way of ascertaining your ownership and you appear to mean this poor mongrel harm. If she is indeed your dog, you must have named her?

Why would I bother naming that bitch? She’s a worthless mutt! Now, gimme my dog!

“No,” Sylvia replied calmly.

The man started sputtering and appeared to be considering lunging for the rope, but Sylvia held her ground and the crowd around her watched curiously.

A voice in the crowd hollered.

The man glanced around at the growing crowd and reconsidered. Tucking his shirt back into his pants and pulling his belt back up he, grunted and turned. “Aaah you’re right, she’s a worthless bitch – she’s all yours,” he mumbled as he stomped off.

As soon as he was out of sight, Sylvia bent down and picked up the rope.

“Well, Dolly, I guess we can go home now.”

And they turned back toward the apartment.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Courage

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a grocer. A dress plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a cave in the far future. The story is about courage.

*******

Purevan, took one more look out over the precipice. No. No way down from here. She looked across the horizon. Nothing but rocks. No sign of movement. She ducked into the cave she had spotted on her way across the wasteland. There wasn’t much here. Hard to tell when it was last used. She estimated it had probably been millennia since anyone had been through here based on the knee-deep dust that covered everything.

She shoved a layer of dust off a higher surface to use as a seat. She needed to think and she thought best sitting down. When she had cleared enough of the detritus of time to seat herself without falling into the miasma, she made room for her feet and gently lowered her backside onto the newly cleared, now stable surface. Thanks to her spaceskin and internal breathing apparatus, she was immune to the powdery earth. Although a fall would have been inconvenient, it would hardly have been fatal.

Now, where was she… Currently, she was seated in a cave on a planet in an unknown galaxy in D sector.  She had been on this planet for awhile, although with binary suns it’s more difficult to discern the passage of time. Based on the length of her hair and fingernails which had grown several millimeters, she had been here for many days although not months.

She was not hungry thanks to the recycling system built into her spaceskin that could convert almost any elements into basic sustenance. And since the suit could also extract water or if necessary construct water, she was not dehydrated.

Mostly, she was lonely. Although she did not want to try engaging in conversation with her pursuers, since she did not want them to know where she was.  She missed her customers. The other shopkeepers who used to greet her in the morning as she opened the little store on a narrow street in a small village now many light years away.

The day had started like any other. Turning on the lights, checking the produce for spoilage. Restocking the shelves. Funny how even in such modern times when replicators were everywhere, people still felt a need to seek out fresh food. Or maybe it was the chance to see other people. It certainly was not about money. With trade and barter exchanges, everyone was able to acquire anything they needed or wanted.

Near lunchtime she had closed the door and walked across the street to a little clothing shop. There was an interesting garment that had caught her eye. She had never seen one like it. Bright, deep colors. An iridescent sheen. Flowing folds of fabric. A completely decadent item in a time when everything had a purpose and nothing was wasted. It took up so much space – even in the shop window there was no room for anything else. She had asked Emaya to let her try it on. Space knows where Emaya had found such a thing. And when Purevan put it on over her spaceskin as the ancient image had depicted it, she felt magical. It swirled about her as she swayed and turned to view her reflection.

She was just about to ask Emaya the exchange, when suddenly a pair of armed strangers entered the shop.  She slid backward into Emaya’s office hoping they had not seen her and ran for the back door of the shop. She heard Emaya demanding an explanation, and realized she could not leave her friend to face these intruders alone. She carefully slid out of the dress and marched to the front to stand next to Emaya. She caught Emaya’s warning look and steeled herself. She was not going to abandon her without a fight.

Emaya refused their demands, although what those demands were was not exactly clear to Purevan. Finally, the two had bound Emaya and were coming forward in an obvious attempt to take her out of the shop, when Purevan stepped in front of Emaya to hold them back. Emaya was yelling. Purevan was pretty sure Emaya was cursing them although Purevan did not recognize the language and the words did not register in her translator.

Suddenly Purevan found herself sliding toward the floor and the next thing she knew she was here on this lonely planet being pursued by hungry-looking humanoids.  She pinched herself again and the pain confirmed she was real. She kicked the dust layer in front of her just to see the powder form a cloud.  She was about to kick it again when a voice firmly said “Stop kicking me.” It was not plaintive or whining. It was not an order, but it was definitely not a suggestion either.

She was about to demand an explanation when she felt her arms and legs being surrounded and held. She started to struggle and the voice said “Stop.”

Her heart rate was elevated, her breathing was rapid and shallow, she felt like she would explode and then she felt a gentle hand patting her face and repeating her name. “Purevan. Purevan. Stop struggling and wake up.”

She awoke to see Emaya bending over her with one hand patting her face. When she recognized her friend, she smiled. “You are not harmed? But I thought…”

“Ssss, sss. All is well, Purevan.”

“But the strangers, they were going to hurt you…”

“My brothers?! Hardly. They would be answering to my mother if any harm came to me.”

“I do not understand…”

“Do you remember trying on the garment in the window?”

“Yes, it was so beautiful”

“You spun and spun to see the colors swirl”

“Yes, I remember. It felt so magical”

“You had vertigo and when my brothers got here they thought your eyes were unmatched so they were shouting at me to help you. You ran over to me and then suddenly you fell to the ground. I have been trying to rouse you for several moments.”

“Oh thank you! I am so relieved.”

“Let us close our shops and go to a restaurant for dinner. My brothers will cover the exchange since they believe they have caused you trouble.

Yes. It has been a very long day…

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Living with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis for the last 15+ years….

Fighting Fibromyalgia

Reblogged from Creating Chronic Pain Awareness (You can help!).


September is Chronic Pain Awareness Month!  Some of us (and/or our loved ones) are dealing with Chronic Pain on a daily basis.  Sadly, our pain does not end come October 1.I would like readers to share this post (if you don’t mind) and, if you would like your story included, please answer the questions below.  Be sure to link it back to Tracy Rydzy at http://ohwhatapain.wordpress.com or post it as a comment.  Also, please feel free to include the Chronic Pain Awareness logo above on your blog to let others know that you support Chronic Pain Awareness Month and the “Oh What a Pain Chronic Pain Awareness Forum!”  My hope is that by sharing our personal stories, we can create awareness of what it isactually like to live with Chronic Pain and how best to cope with it!

I have created a…

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Short Story – random prompt

Our usual story prompt service (www.katfeete.net/writing/specific.php) was down, so we created our own using random internet lists and 20-sided dice.

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and an engineer.  A number 2  pencil plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in Club Atomic in the past. The story is about magic and sorcery.

*******

Deirdre pushed her glasses back up her nose and squared her shoulders.  She had to go in the door of Club Atomic, and to do it, she needed all her courage. She didn’t fit in and she knew it. But a dare was a dare, and a double-dog dare was do or die.

The guys at work had been egging her on all week. They were waiting inside to see if she’d really do it.

Being an engineer automatically made her suspect and a female engineer was unheard of. She had two female classmates the entire time she was in Michigan Tech. So when she got to Breuer and Sons, she came highly recommended, and immediately became the target of her male coworkers. She couldn’t bring herself to call them “men” because none of them had grown up except the owner, Mr Breuer. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to protect her from the daily barrage of practical jokes. Deirdre was used to it. The guys at Michigan Tech were the same way:  All nerds who acted like they’d never seen a woman before. Well they were going to see one tonight.

She watched as other groups of women and couples entered the club until she had a feel for it. Then walked up to the bouncer. He looked her up and down carefully.

“You might want to lose the glasses, sweetie, if you want to see any action tonight.”

Then he pulled back the rope and let her pass. She knew the glasses didn’t match her outfit, yet she needed them to see, so she was at a disadvantage. Deirdre shouldered her way through the crowd, keeping a tight grip on her purse as she moved toward the bar. The music was pulsing so loudly, it thudded in her chest. When she reached the bar, she struggled to make herself heard above the din. She had never ordered a drink in a place like this so finally she just pointed to an evil looking concoction with black liquid that glowed in the dark on a passing tray and the bartender nodded. He brought it back to her and hollered “Twenty-one!” She looked at him with a puzzled expression. Finally pointing to her purse and repeating the number, he made her understand he needed $21 for her drink. Shocked at the price, she opened her bag and pulled out her wallet and carefully counted out fives and ones for exactly $21. He looked at the money she’d laid on the counter and looked back at her. She blushed when she realized she’d forgotten a tip. So she reached in her wallet, threw down a couple more singles, then quickly took her drink and backed away as he just shook his head.

Now to find The Boys, as she called them in her head …

She struggled toward a wall where she could get a good layout of the club. The dance floor ceiling appeared to be at least 4 stories high with hanging platforms and cages and balconies on each floor that surrounded the dance floor on three sides. The dance floor itself glowed and pulsed. Part of the lighting must include blacklight bulbs she realized as anything white took on an ethereal glow. Where would a bunch of engineers be in a place like this …

She studied the room and each level of balcony. Then she saw them. Directly above a woman with a very lowcut dress that appeared to be in danger of a wardrobe malfunction at any moment. Typical! She looked around for a path to their level. No obvious staircases or elevators. Then she saw the ropes. They glowed when the blacklight hit them, but she hadn’t realized they were moving and people were being pulled up and lowered down. She watched a woman walk up to the rope, wrap her right leg around the rope just above a large knot, then balance her drink and her handbag on her left side before grabbing above another knot with her free hand. No sooner had she done so than she started to glide upward until she was pulled through a hole in the floor of the next level. Guys gathered right below to look up her dress as she ascended.

Shit! This was what she had to put up with every day, why, why, why did she put herself through this on her day off. Gamely, she made her way to the rope and tried to copy the woman she had just watched. She didn’t quite have the knack so by the time she reached the next level her dress had slid up to reveal her lacy black bikini underwear through her pantyhose. She heard wolf whistles and clapping. Thank goodness she’d managed not to spill her drink! Although she had been tempted to pour it on the gawkers right beneath her, she didn’t want to waste her money or have to buy another one.

When she finally reached them, they were still so busy watching the woman below that they didn’t notice her at first. Then Burt happened to glance her way, did a doubletake and nudged Norb, who nudged Dick. Then George let out a low whistle and said “Baby you just turned my floppy disk into a hard drive.” She tensed as they started to surround her, and then she realized they didn’t recognize her. She decided she was going to have some fun with them. She dug in her purse and came up with a pencil and small notepad.

“P-p-please, you will h-h-help m-m-me?” she stuttered with a strong European accent she had learned imitating her grandmother. They gathered closer, nodding and murmuring assurances that they would LOVE to help her.

Ohhh Kay. Please my English is not too good. Please to give me phone number for, how do you say,  polizei?

Oh nooo, baby. Why do you need the police?

I have…. how do you call it… problem?

What problem, baby? You’re with us now, we can fix anything.

Anyting?

Yes, yes, anything.

She switched back to her normal voice while putting her glasses back on, “Then how do I get rid of the circle of assholes that is surrounding me?”

They all jumped back and gasped. “You!”

“Yes, you jerkwads, it’s me, Deirdre.”

“But, but, but, you look so, so, so…. so pretty.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… tell it to your shrink. Now each of you knuckledraggers is going to write down your home phone numbers using my little pencil here. And don’t try to give me a fake one.”

Burt took the pencil and notepad first and started to write then yelled, “Ouch!” And started shaking his right hand, although it was quickly apparent that he was trying to shake something off. “Get it off me!”

“Stop yelling! I told you not to try giving me misinformation. Please write your correct telephone number and the pencil will release you.”

“What the?!” Finally realizing she was probably telling the truth, he complied. Once he had finished writing the pencil no longer clung to his fingers, so he attempted to hand it to George. George leaned backed saying “No way! I’m not taking it!”

“You have to,” Deirdre reminded him. “If you don’t, you won’t be able to leave this circle.”

Of course, George tried and found his feet firmly glued as did the others. Only Burt was able to move outside of their tight group.

“I’m going home.  I’ll see you guys next week. Here, George. Take the pencil.”

George hesitantly took the pencil and pad and quickly wrote his number and handed off to Dick. Dick reluctantly took the pencil and pad. Then paused to examine it.

“Looks like an ordinary Number 2 pencil. Why is it sticking to my hand?”

“Just write your number and pass it on, Dick.”

When Norb had written his number and given the pencil and pad back to Deirdre,  the rest of the men prepared to leave. She placed the pencil and pad back in her bag.

“Wait – what are you planning to do with our numbers?”

“I’m making sure you guys go home to your wives and that you are really nice to them for putting up with your philandering asses. Now scoot!”

As the last one headed for the door, she took a long pull from her drink. It was extremely tasty. Hmm… as long as I’m here, I might as well enjoy it.

*******

With thanks  to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Balance

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a prostitute. An eye plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in the industrial age. The story is about balance.

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She looked over the edge. The water was a long way down. She turned around to see the way behind her. To one end of the bridge, there was a stone gate that appeared to be locked. And from the other end, she could hear footsteps. Thank goodness for the fog. She had a little time, although she had only one option if she didn’t want to get caught. She needed her arms and legs as free as possible. She had to rid herself of all extra clothing, so she stripped off her cloak and her boots and stockings, her petticoats made a nice bundle and she used her belt to hold it together.  Knowing it might be a problem if she didn’t move quickly, she tied the bundle to her waist. And then slowly lowered herself over the side. Steel bridges were a marvel of beams and wires and thanks to her circus upbringing, they were just another playground for Cornelia Del Arte — also known as Highwire Nell.

She quickly  swung from the main beam to the wire and then the next until she was concealed under the main bridge by one of the beams. She heard the voices above her and knew they were looking for her. As long as they couldn’t see her, they should not be able to find her.  She held still and waited for them to tire of their search. She didn’t look down. Her parents had trained her well to look where you want to go. If your eyes looked down you would go there, and successful trapeze artists and high wire walkers assuredly did not.

How far she had fallen since those days! Her parents would not recognize her painted and perfumed to please the men who paid for her company. This line of work was not her first choice, and she had finally seen an opportunity to leave both the occupation and the men and women who had first forced her into it and then kept her from leaving. It was a daring move – many of the other girls had died or been killed trying to get out. And she was at the point that she could accept death if it meant she never had to endure another groping, drooling fool.

After the footsteps faded and she could be sure they wouldn’t come back, she contemplated her next move. The underside of the bridge eventually led to shore in either direction, so it was a matter of which side could be more easily mounted when she got there.

She looked down river to the next bridge and examined the shore on both sides. She could probably scale the next one a bit easier, so she started working her way along the beams and cables. She moved slowly so as not to attract attention, although it was unlikely between the fog and the dark and  anyone on the bridge would be partially blinded by the streetlamps. She paused to listen and shivered as a chill wind caught her. Then she saw it. Right in front of her. An eye. Staring straight at her and only a few feet away peering between a beam and a cable.

She held still. The eye blinked once. She felt no animosity and so she moved forward slightly.  The head turned and she saw both eyes.  She sighed with relief.  It was only an owl. She quickly moved past it to the far end of the bridge and picked her way along the wall to the next bridge. She repeated her tightrope walking act back to the top of the next bridge.  Peering over the edge, she saw no one approaching so she quickly dressed and heaved herself over the wall onto the bridge. Then she made her way to the opposite side of the river. Ahead she saw a bakery and a woman sweeping the street. Rubbing the rouge from her face, she made her way toward the woman,  keeping her eye on freedom.

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Movement

Prompt is:  The story’s protagonist is female and a ruler. A book plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a blizzard in the future. The story is about movement.

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She sighed. Snowing again. How was she supposed to feel motivated when she couldn’t even go outside much less stroll through the village. Her advisers didn’t want her to go out into the snow since they had more trouble protecting her when they couldn’t see.

She picked up the book again then threw it down in frustration. Books were no substitute for being able to meet her subjects and talk to them. She had yet to learn what people really felt from books. She needed her interactions with shopkeepers and mothers and schoolchildren. She yearned for a chance to stop at the candy store and load her pockets with sweets before heading to the park. Sometimes she walked the path. Often she sat down next to someone on a bench and simply engaged them in conversation. They all knew who she was, so no one was truly surprised to meet her. Some people actually went to the park looking for her to tell her what they thought or felt on a particular issue. Since her visits were sporadic and based on having a two hour slot in her calendar, there were usually enough different people around that she got a fairly broad perspective – at least of the kinds of people who went to the park. She sometimes went in the evening and one time convinced her guards that a midnight stroll was perfect on a warm summer night. They were not happy but they managed to keep her safe. And she was grateful.

It amazed her that in a time with everyone nanochipped and cataloged there were still those who managed to slip through the cracks undocumented. The tracking center, Enterprise Validation Indemnification Level,  knew where every citizen was at every moment. They had pictures and current video from the ubiquitous cameras in every surface and it was all linked to the nanochips which were linked to the data on each person. Every relative, every friend, every encounter carefully and eternally documented. There were no secrets. Not really. Except for unmanifested desires. If someone looked up a topic or searched for a word, the data centers tracked their biological response to the request and to the answer – heart rate, pupil dilation, breath – there were no tendencies that were not tracked, coded, and outcomes were predicted.

Freedom was an illusion. It seemed that everyone was free to go wherever they wanted and do whatever they wanted. But everything was already known. The questions a child asks his mother or her teachers. All tracked. The curious were encouraged. The more questions, the better EVIL personnel could categorize the child, predict the best career paths and steer – No! They would say “guide” the child to an appropriate outlet for her or his energies and predilections.  Not every child is a superstar, but those that were had every advantage science could provide. Education was a duty of the state, just as food and shelter and healthcare.

The late bloomers sometimes lost opportunities, but that was the price exacted for the good of the state. Every child was well cared for. Every child was loved equally. While almost anyone could have a child and every child was carried to full term, the actual caregivers were men and women genetically and mentally suited to the task at each age, not the biological father and mother who had other duties. Every child was a sibling to every other child.  Certain people were of course sterilized soon after birth based on genetic abnormalities that would not fare well during procreation. Others were altered at a later age if unwanted tendencies such as addiction or aggression manifested. There were still babies with chromosomal abnormalities – XXY, XYY, Down Syndrome, etc. These aberrations in the genetic code did not make a person useless to society and were considered to contribute to the overall good of diversity. Only the characteristics that would prevent the person from reaching full potential based on wilfulness or perversion were considered for elimination.

She picked up the book again, sighing heavily as she gazed out the window at the snow. She couldn’t leave and she didn’t want to stay. And yet… maybe she should… She considered for a moment longer and then tossed the book on the table and reached for her cloak.  As she hurried toward the door she recalled a quote from an ancient source named Farragut:

Damn the torpedoes! …Full speed!

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Hunger

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a tinker. A dog plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in an inn in ancient times. The story is about hunger.

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As she came to the crossroads she noted the sun would be setting soon. She glanced over at her cart. Her dog had obediently seated himself as soon as she paused to gather her thoughts. The cart wasn’t that heavy – she only had basic tools. And he was a big dog, so she wasn’t afraid of overworking him. However, neither of them had eaten since yesterday and while it was hard on her, she knew she had to find something for him soon. Business had been slow – it seemed no one needed a tinker.

She spied an inn not far ahead and decided it was worth the risk. She didn’t normally approach the larger businesses for fear of being recognized. She headed toward the back door near the kitchen hoping there might be something she could repair in exchange for some food.

As she neared the entrance she heard the laughter from the front room. Someone must have told a great joke because the entire place had roared with mirth. The noise raised a longing she had almost forgotten. She quickly turned from the sound and approached the open back door. An older woman was seated on the stoop wiping the sweat from her neck with her apron.

Good day, Mistress! Do you have anything that needs mending?

The woman eyed the dog warily and grunted.

“Oh, you needn’t worry about him, as long as you don’t mean me any harm.”

The woman didn’t respond so she continued, “We were only hoping to do a little work in exchange for bread and a bit of meat.”

And then she was babbling, “We could use something to eat and only want to earn it honestly…”

And finally sobbing, “We’ve not had any takers since yesterday noon and I’m getting worried for him. He’s all I have in the world and I just can’t lose him.”

She broke down and fell to her knees in front of the woman…“Please?”

And then there was silence punctuated only by her sobs and an occasional guffaw from the front of the inn.

Finally, the woman spoke to her gently with a crack in her own voice,“How long have you been away from home?”

Surprised at the question, she paused to think – how long since she had felt the welcome of her family and friends? How long since she had slept in a comfortable bed? How long since she had laughed with her brothers?

She stammered, “I-I-I don’t know… We’ve been traveling…” she broke off, afraid of revealing too much.

“Come here, child. I have one just your age that I haven’t heard from in a long time. The world is not a kind place and I worry for her sake that someone will show her how downright mean it is. Let’s get you and your dog some food and then we can see what work is available. You’re in no shape to work now.”

The kindness of the innkeeper’s woman was too much. She sobbed harder and then the woman put her arms around her and gathered her in.

“There, there. No need to cry now. There, there,. it’s going to be all right. You’re safe for now.”

Safe! Of all the hungers she felt, she had forgotten the one that meant the most…

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story: Afraid

Story prompt:   The story’s protagonist is female and a baker. A tree plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a deserted highway in ancient times. The story is about cowardice.

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She carefully covered her baskets of bread to keep them from getting dusty as the horses went by. Dusty bread doesn’t sell as well and she needed to sell all her loaves today.  She had seated herself under a tree at a busy crossroads. The day was hot and dry, so the tree provided a small measure of shelter from the heat of the sun. There had been very few passersby today so she had sold only a couple loaves. She had hoped for a better place but the choice of location was not hers to make. She could only follow what they told her to do. In another time and place she might have more power to control her fate. Or maybe if she had more strength of character.

It was useless to wish for what she didn’t have. She was born in this place, in this time and she was considered to be of little value. Her father was a baker and so she learned by watching him. She was forced to work as soon as she could follow directions. There is no time to be a child when you are born poor. When her father died she kept the bakery going so her mother and brothers could continue living in the hovel behind the ovens. Her brothers were usually the ones selling the wares while she did all the baking. That way no one saw her.

Until last week…

The soldiers came through the village and took every bit of food they found and everything of value. She had been too afraid to beg for her family. They begged. She hid. Afraid of what the soldiers might do to her if they found her. They were big and their shields and weapons clanked ominously as they moved through the village securing it for the empire. There was very little time and when the soldiers reached her family’s market stand, she had secreted herself in an old flour urn. And her family faced the soldiers without her.

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.