Tag Archive | family

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.”

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 – 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.

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….

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 – 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.

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 7: The Historian

I’ve recorded a lot of thoughts and opinions over the years. It’s an occupational hazard when you are in my line of work.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done is try to write this letter.

Words have always come easily. Of course, I was busy recording life as it happened. It’s not so hard to write down what you see and hear.  Just the facts. Most of the time anyway. Okay, yes, I did embellish on occasion. Just for fun. Just to make it more interesting for the reader.  I’m sure James Thurber was recording a historical event in “The Night the Bed Fell on Father” and that every word was true in the best sense.  There’s been such a flap lately over storytellers and whether they should be held to the same standards as reporters. Why should they? Storytellers serve a different purpose than reporters.  Historians are more like storytellers than reporters. And as Machiavelli says, “History is written by the victors.” Doesn’t bode well for Truth, does it? I don’t want storytellers to give me the Truth. I want a tale that’s on the edge of belief. I want to be transported. I want my imagination stretched. I want my boundaries tested. I want to see what might be instead of only what is.

This letter has to contain the Truth. It has to convey the information without making it more than it is. If I make too much of it, she’ll panic, and I don’t want that. If I say too little she will also panic. So I’m struggling to find exactly the words that will make it okay for her.  So she won’t be alarmed. She will know it’s all right and that we will go on. She’s busy you know. She has the kids and her husband and her job. For all I know she’s not even home now. Her job requires a lot of travel. She may not even get the mail for a week. And she lives so far away. We’ve kept in touch. She calls. She emails. I write letters. I hope she shares them with her kids. I think it’s a lot easier to hand a piece of paper to someone. Although the newer technology allows sharing with lots of people all at once. It’s not the same. If you hand someone a piece of paper they may feel more obliged to read it. I mean really read it.  Not just skim over it like part of the din of ever-present media. It’s easy to skip over a post – blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. If someone pauses and presses the “Like” button you’ve made an impact. If they stop and comment you’ve really made a dent. If there is nothing, it’s a whisper drowned in the roar of the ocean.

A letter makes people stop. It holds their attention. It doesn’t have to compete in the same way as other media. That’s why I have to be careful to make sure this letter is just like all the other missives I’ve sent to her. I suppose I could just post it and hope it gets lost in the cacophonous sea of updates, but then one of her friends will be sure to see it. And they’ll tell her. And we’ll be back where we started. No, I have to put it in a letter, in the same manner I usually do. At least this way she’ll have the letter that tells her all about the cancer and the treatment. And even though I’ll be gone, she’ll be okay. And she’ll know I love her.

*******

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

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

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

The Golden Bubble

Recently a friend of mine was talking about her six children, all of whom are homeschooled. She worries for them, because they have a more limited exposure to the world, that others may try to take advantage of them. And I was reminded of a tool given to me by one of my teachers, the Golden Bubble. Also called the Golden Egg, this tool is a kind of forcefield that helps to protect the energy of the one enclosed and also helps those around them.

The principle is, by completely surrounding oneself with a golden mesh that allows only love to pass through in either direction, the wearer protects her/his energy from psychic attack. In addition, because the mesh works both ways, the wearer cannot issue an attack on others.

It is important to ensure that the bubble or egg is a complete form with no gaps under the feet and no areas that are scrunched or wrinkled. The sphere or ovoid should be whole and should completely and smoothly enclose the wearer. The form is infinitely flexible and can be visualized in any way that helps to convey the concept. Some children may find the idea of a forcefield to be easier to understand. Others may find a soap bubble like the ones they’ve blown to be a better way to see it. Some may think of it in terms of golden light or an aura. And still others will relate more closely to the eggshell. It doesn’t matter how the concept is taught as long as they get the idea of a golden glow that protects the wearer and spreads light and love.

Mothers, fathers, or other caretakers can create a bubble around the ones they love and wish to protect before sending them out to face the day. And anyone can learn to put one on for themselves. A child who knows how to create the bubble for herself will recover more quickly if she feels the one her mother made has worn off. And anyone who suddenly finds herself or himself in a fearful situation can put on the bubble to gain courage to do what’s right.

Yesterday, my friend reported back to me that she had taught her children to put on the Golden Egg at my suggestion. And one day when they had company, her daughter Annie, who was usually so good, was acting up, so my friend grabbed her daughter and took her upstairs and demanded to know what was going on.  Her daughter blurted out “I’m sorry, Mommy. I forgot to put on my egg.” Relieved, my friend helped Annie put on her golden egg, and they both returned to the family room in a better frame of mind.

So my reminder to myself is to put on the Golden Bubble.  It’s not about me (most of the time) and I can be more helpful to others (and myself) if I am able to Spread the Light. 🙂

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This link from ROFLCat.com may bring a smile:

http://www.roflcat.com/images/cats/I_Has_A_Force_Field.jpg

How do you know when it’s the last time?

It feels like the season of loss… My dad left us at the end of March 2010 and we lost Delilah two weeks later.  In Spring 2011 we lost Jezebel.  And this year we lost our baby –  a beautiful black and white tuxedo named Thomas (after the main character in “The Aristocats” – “Abraham Delacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, O’Malley the Alley Cat”).

We were given his mother, Lucy, while she was pregnant, so we were there for his birth and held him within moments of his entry into this dimension.  And now we’ve held him as he left it again.

Thomas had so many endearing habits – if you walked by his corner of the kitchen counter he would reach out a paw to grab your clothing and pull you toward him at which point he would vigorously lick your nose. When I took a shower he would wait patiently for me to come out and express his concern that all that water wasn’t good for anyone. And he would try to help by licking the water off an arm or a cheek.  He didn’t feel well enough to do either of these things for the last month. His most unusual habit occurred when I sat on the toilet – he would crawl into my pants down by my ankles and snuggle in and purr. The only way to get away was to pull my legs out of  my pants and leave them and him on the bathroom floor to pick up later.

The Saturday before we let him go I had just returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria, and had been hoping he would have the strength to make it until I got home. He looked so weak and yet he was obviously glad to see me.  He gifted me with his pants stealing habit one last time on the Saturday before we let him go.  And I recognized it as “the last time.”

Sunday night we had left him in his heated bed in the bathroom. At 4am we were awakened to his pitiful cries.  He had dragged himself out of the bathroom into the hallway.  So I went and picked him up and brought him into bed with us.  So he snuggled down between us under the covers purring – one last time.

On Duality

Like you, I often feel torn in two directions (sometimes more).

Wanting to be more available to spend time with my mom and wanting to spend more time writing.

Wanting to grow my hair down past my waist like it was in my college days and wanting to chop it short and dye it purple just to shock people.

Wanting to spend more time on my music and wanting to read more novels.

Wanting to look for a new job and wanting to create that new job.

Luckily I never want to spend more time cleaning  (although I sometimes wish I wanted to spend more time cleaning).