Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fruit of the Black Walnut

From Sarah Selecky: Write two pages, and start with the line, "I know the fruit of the black walnut."

  I know the fruit of the black walnut. It was given to me at the age of seventeen, and I have never forgotten it. Nor him.
  The fruit was handed to me already shelled. I was innocent of the effort exerted to offer me such a gift, for the fruit of the black walnut is protected by a hard shell, which is itself protected by a husk so thick it is nearly impossible to remove. If one wants the fruit of the black walnut at its richest, one must pluck the drupe while the husk is green. Even then, the nut must be smashed, ground underfoot, and pounded to remove the unyielding protective husk.
  The fruits themselves are no bearers of beauty. They are plain tan. But their taste is unlike any other: unforgettable, life-altering. Like him.
  I always see him against the backdrop of a cerulean blue sky. It is the same color as the creek that watered the black walnut tree. It is the same color as his eyes. I don't know if the sky was truly that color. Perhaps I have taken the cerulean of his eyes to paint the world of my memory. But a sky's color is unimportant; nothing about him was unimportant.
  They say the black walnut is a difficult seed to crack, even after one has disposed of the husk. The rigid shell doesn't yield its fruit to the weak of will. It reserves its prize for those cunning enough to break it. Only after the shell is broken, shattered into pieces no earthly hand could mend, can one pluck the fruit from its center.
  But I didn't know this, that it was the trail of destruction that allowed the gift to be so freely placed into the palm of my hand, into the warmth of my mouth, into the depths of my soul. So it warmed me in the chill fall air, transcending me to the heavens while the revengeful, black storm brewed.
  They say that wood from the black walnut produces one the finest heartwoods in the world. It must be. They use it for gunstocks.
    The nut will stain your hands, turning them a brown so dark they look black. That, at least, I know to be true, for my blue dresses have been recolored to a putrid brown. I did it myself. I used the dye of the black walnut.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Into the Earth

From Sarah Selecky: Write about what happened when she least expected it. Use the word "hen."

  She plunged into the earth, the rock and sand becoming as air and water to her. She had only to think about where she wanted to go, and she found herself swimming--flying?--in that direction. She knew of people who could fly through air, and people who could fly through water. But she had never heard of someone flying through the ground. She rather wondered if this is how the hen in the garden felt on first learning it could lay eggs. If she could crow like that hen, she would.
  Warmth rippled over her as she dove deeper, her curiosity to know how deep she could go before she was crushed driving her on. The pressure built, the weight of the world straining to pin her down. But the farther she went, the lighter she became. She no longer felt her body, a limitation to her soul, but was as a breeze on a warm summer day. She should be dead, without air; she shouldn't survive so much ground above her; the steadily increasing heat as she neared the planet's core should have melted her. Instead she had never felt so alive.
  "Stop!"
  So shocked was she by the presence of the high, commanding voice, that she obeyed.
 

Monday, December 29, 2014

More than Luck

From Sarah Selecky: Write a scene that involves a horseshoe.

  "Here. It's for you." I held out my gift, praying she wouldn't see how my hand shook. I was the strong one. I didn't betray my emotions, and my body wasn't supposed to, either.
  "What is it?" my sister asked, not reaching for my proffered gift.
  Did she really not know what it was? My arm faltered and bent. "It's a horseshoe."
  Steph rolled her eyes. "I know it's a horseshoe. But why are you giving it to me?"
  "For luck." It turned out to be more of a question. I hadn't thought she would reject my present. I was trying to make amends, after all. This was my step forward in healing our relationship. Did she not want to be close, as we were when children? Because that was what I wanted. No, I wanted something more. I no longer wanted to be just sisters, thrown together by some biological happenstance. I wanted to be friends. Good friends. Best friends. The kind that have inside jokes and call each other because we burnt the toast and suggest running out for hot chocolate. The kind that just showed up and knew they would always be welcomed. The kind that couldn't go more than a few hours without texting and receiving a text in return.
  "No, Noel. What am I supposed to do with it? Why would I want a horseshoe?"
  She didn't understand. Any of it. She never had.
  I shrugged and lowered my arm. "I just thought it was kind of neat. You know, for your wall."
  She sighed, a long breath that spoke of exasperation. "The wall is for things that are foreign, strange, that draw you in and make you wonder. It really isn't the place for a dirty old horseshoe."
  My fingers tightened around the iron half-circle. "No. Of course not. I'm sorry."
  "No biggie. Thanks anyway."
  "Sure."
  I stepped off the porch, heading to the car. It was a stupid gift, really. She was right. It belonged in the dumpster.
  I clicked the remote to unlock the driver door.
  "Hey, Noel?"
  "Yeah?" I answered, looking back to the door where she stood, leaning against the door frame. Hope sprung in my chest like the first daffodil of spring.
  "Thanks for stopping by."
  A frost came and killed the daffodil. "Sure," I said. "No problem. Glad you were home." I got in my car and drove away.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Age

Sarah Seleckly writing prompt for today. Write a scene that uses the words: bubbles, frayed, apology.

I was old once. It was a desperate time, with darkness and muted sounds and a certainty that life would never change. I was slow. Time was slow. Water dripped from the bathroom faucet with the regularity of a grandfather clock, marking the seconds and minutes but never the quarter, half, or full hours, content in filling my world with reluctant anticipation for the next drop. My rancid frayed sheets no longer comforted; I detested needing them for warmth. My slippers filled their soles with holes until they were nothing more than an object used to hide my bent toes and discolored toenails. Socks refused to stay up, instead slipping traitorously down to my swollen ankles, exposing my spotted legs and darkened veins. I ate only hardened bread; I drank only stale water. Everything was a discolored gray. Even bubbles from my spittle that dropped to the floor shimmered with rainbows of gray, never offering apology for their dullness.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The loaf

Today's prompt is from Sarah Selecky. Write a scene that involves the following: a loaf of white bread, a tassel, and a paper crane.

  The tassel hung from the shelf, unmoving, a thick layer of dust dulling its bright red strings to the color of dried blood. On the day it was worn it had represented hope, achievement, a step into the future. But now it more accurately represented himself--forgotten.
  He grabbed a fistful of flour and sprinkled it onto the clean table, feet away from the hanging tassel but miles away in his thoughts. As he added another handful of flour, he relived the day when she had graduated, the tassel swinging in front of her brilliant green eyes as she'd glanced around at the crowd of people surrounding her. He'd congratulated her, then stepped back to allow others to do the same. Her smile said she would make time for him, after. But he'd been crowded out by the others, pushed farther and farther from her until he had turned, shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and walked away.
  He blinked. The fluffy mound of flour sitting before him recalled him to his task. He scooped out the center of the mound, making a crater which he then filled with the cup of warm sugar water that had been waiting in a small blue bowl. He sprinkled two teaspoons of yeast on top, covering the surface of his inactive volcano, and leaned a hip against the table to pass the ten minutes needed for the yeast to react by staring out the window.
  His mind wandered back to that day. She had come by later, still wearing her cap and her smile, but had stayed for only a moment. It was the last time he had seen her until their run-in at the sandwich shop two days ago.
  He glanced down. The yeast was barely starting to bubble, taking on the appearance of sickly yellow warts on watery skin. But it was enough; the yeast was good. He carefully filled the crater with flour until he was certain the water wouldn't break through his mound; then he stuck his hand into the mound and squeezed, the squishy mix seeping between his fingers. He grabbed more flour and worked faster, mixing and kneading and adding until the dough no longer stuck to the table. He slipped the dough into the now-dry blue bowl and covered it with a faded yellow towel, then set it in the warm sunlight to rise while he cleaned up his table.
  An hour later, he dumped the dough back onto the table, pounding and stretching until he was satisfied with the texture, folded it and placed it into the waiting pan. He glanced at the clock as he set it into the corner oven's purple flame, and nodded once. It would be ready.
  When the bell chimed the opening of his shop door, the perfectly browned loaf lay on the table under the towel.
  "Dave," she said with a smile.
  "Hello."
  "I can't stay long." She glanced around at the shop, her eyes stopping on the tassels. "Oh, I wondered where that had gone." She moved to retrieve it, but paused when she saw towel.
  "You baked?"
  "Yes. It's for you."
  Unable to check her curiosity for even a second, she moved to the table, gasping as the towel slid to reveal the loaf. Her eyes shot to his face, searching. He searched hers in return, taking in the slightly tanned skin, the dark lashes, the lushness of her bottom lip.
  Without looking away, he slid the knife across the table to her. Their fingers touched as she took it.
  this time she moved with confidence, but he remembered when she used to ask where she should slice the loaf, looking at him doubtfully when he replied that she should cut wherever she wished. 
  She centered the knife three-quarters of the way from the end and the knife slipped easily through the warm bread. She stepped back to wait.
  Nothing happened. She glanced back at him, her eyebrows knit together and her lips turned down at the corners. When he didn't move, she dropped her gaze back to the loaf. Then she gasped.
  A paper crane, its head the color of the blue sky, wings the color of African violets, tail the color of sunlight, and eyes the color of his heart, rose into the air. Her face lit with wonder and pleasure, and she held out her hand, palm up. The crane drifted silently into it.
 

Table photo from here
 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Potato

We stopped the writing prompts for NANOWRIMO, but I've missed it. So here is Sarah Selecky's prompt for the day: Write about peeling a potato for at least one page. I'm so happy Deb responded to the prompt as well.

Peeling a potato should be easy, but I liken myself to a character I once read in a teeny-bopper book. She came from the upper crust and was visiting her friend one night. Her friend was middle-class, which meant they peeled their own potatoes. Well, this character joined her friend at the sink to peel potatoes for dinner, and while the friend peeled away, this girl worked at peeling just one single potato. When she was done, the potato was no bigger than a marble, but, to the girl's credit, perfectly round. The mother of the friend, out of compassion, made mashed potatoes instead of boiled potatoes so the girl wouldn't be embarrassed.
  I am not from the upper crust. So I have peeled many potatoes. However, I cannot seem to peel potatoes without cutting myself. My husband even bought me a special peeler that a lady at the Bosch store recommended as the best one. And, I still cut myself.
  My husband always washes the potatoes first, before peeling. But if you're just going to peel off the dirty part, why are you washing the potatoes? Peel them, then rinse them off to get off any dirt or grime that happened to come in contact with the internal outside of the potato. It's so much easier.
  Anyway, back to peeling. Why are the peelers so flimsy? I get that they need to curve around the cylindrical elements of the surface, but they don't. Instead they're running along billions of tiny tangents, carving out what doesn't suit them, leaving some parts of the potato as flat as the great plains, and other parts untouched, and still others tinged red because the potato mysteriously morphed into a finger, and the finger hasn't yet told the brain that it doesn't want to be skinned alive, chopped, and tossed into boiling water.
  I hope that I am alone in my angst with peeling a potato. However, given that this is an actual prompt by someone who only knows I exist electronically, because her mailing list says I do, I gather I am not alone. To those of you who suffer from potato-peeler-finger-scabbedness, I am truly sorry. I know how you feel, but that doesn't make it any better.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Homecoming

I thought this would be a great prompt for starting off NANOWRIMO, but it's actually kind of hard.

The bitter cold ate at my hands and my face, but I didn't move to warm either of them. Movement would give away my location, and I wouldn't risk either of us.
  Rocks clambering on top of each other reached my ears. My gaze shot toward the sound.
  I stared. Then I gasped and started running. He was here, riding toward me. It was really him.
  "Owen!"
  He started in his saddle. Then he was flying out of it and into my arms. "Marianne."
  I wrapped my arms around him and he pulled me tight, as though hoping that the force of our embrace could make us one, never to be separated again.
  Time stilled into a moment of eternity and I was complete. The part of me that had sat, twisted and smashed and out of place like the large piece of one puzzle trying to force its way into a spot for a much smaller piece of a different puzzle, turned, adjusted, and slid into place.
  "I love you." He sank his face farther into my hair and I held onto him tighter.

That's all. Off to write 500 words as a kick-off for Nanowrimo!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wake up

Today was a choose-your-own-prompt day from a list. This particular prompt was provided by Sabrina, in honor of Halloween. Although my response isn't very Halloween-ey. It didn't turn out quite how I wanted it to, but it is a start.



  Somebody softly nudged her small body. "Wake up, Sharon. Welcome to the world." She tried to lift the blanket from her brain, but it was too heavy for her little mind fingers to move.
 
  Somebody stroked her face. "Wake up, Sharon. It's time to change your diaper." She fought to see through the fog in her mind, but the clouds lingered, filtering the blinding rays of the sun.

  Somebody gently tapped her shoulder. "Wake up, Sharon. It's the first day of kindergarten." She struggled to fit the pieces of her brain into the right order, but she didn't know where they all should go.
 
  Somebody shook her. "Wake up, Sharon. Your driver's test is today." She shoved all the parts of her brain that she didn't understand into an unknown spot and ignored them.

  Somebody shoved her. "Wake up, Sharon. You're late for work." She blinked and ignored the emptiness in her mind.

  Somebody tugged her hair. "Wake up, Sharon. It's your wedding day." There was no room for quiet amidst the jumble of thoughts.
 
  Somebody rubbed her arm. "Wake up, Sharon. You've done it. Here's your new baby." Her mind refused to grasp what her arms held so tenderly.
 
  Somebody called her name. "Wake up, Sharon. You're last child is leaving the house." She didn't move, her mind numb from shock and fear.

  Somebody poked her arm. "Wake up, Sharon. It's time to take some blood." She replayed endless images in her brain that seemed so real.

  Nobody bothered her. She finally slept.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

This man who looks at me

He grows a beard for warmth and ease
And wears warm clothes against the breeze
His hat is green; his eyes are blue
This man who looks at me.

The brown upon his face is soot
and dirt and grime from under foot
No speck upon his face is new
This man who looks at me.

We wonder where he's been but then
we cross the street away from him
because he looks somewhat awry
this man who looks at me.

We look and judge and shake our heads
and wonder where he lays his bed,
and how he keeps his eyes so dry
this man who looks at me.

Perhaps he finds he likes it here
with people all around that share
the same free reign from night to day
this man who looks at me.

Unless I ask I'll never know
which way his dreams and whims do blow,
what words he'd use, what things he'd say
this man who looks at me.


Sabrina and Julie also wrote.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Deeper

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
Into the mud and the swamp and the dirt
Then leave me there to rot by the wayside
Only, please, don't take off your shirt

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
into those moments of embarrassment
that only seem to really ever happen
when being with me seems your every intent

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
into those feelings of insecurity
that often arise now that you've come to visit
and shadowed with doubt all of my perfect dreams

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
into those caverns and places unknown
share with me love's grand adventure
so that together we need never be alone

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
I want to walk through life by your side
You make me better than I ever imagined
And, yes, I said yes, I will be your bride.

Hahahahaha. That's all I have! Someone please do something better so I can post a link and redeem this post.

Ink stain

The prompt from October 14 was: Write about an ink stain, real or imagined. Deb and Sabrina also wrote.

  "There is no turning back," the shadow whispered.
  "I understand," the man said.
  "Good. You know the sign?"
  The man nodded. He had studied for four-and-a-half years, searching in the darkest rooms and glens of the kingdom to unravel the marks of the covenant. He would not turn back now.
  He took the black pen and signed the symbols of the everlasting bind: the square of no end, the cross of everlasting death, and the circle of the eye. He set the pen down and studied his writing. Then he pressed his finger into the center of the mark, binding himself for all eternity. When he pulled away, bits of his fingerprint remained behind.
  His finger was black from touching the ink. He took out his handkerchief and wiped at his finger. But the ink didn't come off. Instead, it slowly spread down his finger, turning the entire finger black. He rubbed harder. "What's going--" He glanced up but the shadow was no longer full of presence. It was just another empty, black shadow. The sign of the covenant was gone as well.
  His hand was now completely black. The ink crawled up his wrist and arm. Another spot appeared on his other hand, mirroring the original spot. It, too, spread to his hand and other fingers. The ink turned his tunic and pants black. It even spread across his tattered cloak. It moved with a purpose, gnawing his flesh, his organs, his bones, consuming him. He stepped back when he realized what the ink was searching for. He placed his hand on his chest as though to protect himself.
  But the ink took his heart, changing it until it pumped blackness through his body like en eternal fountain of death. There was a surge of strength, and then weakness conquered him.
  He stumbled against his chestnut horse, needing its support to keep from falling. The horse flinched from the man's touch, then shrieked as if in pain. The man watched in horror as the spot where he had touched his horse turned black. The blackness spread quickly, consuming the beast faster than it had the human.
  The man knew the instant the horse's heart had changed; the horse stood as still as a waiting shadow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

House on an island

I missed writing this prompt while on vacation. Deb and Sabrina each wrote.

  The bridge looked like wooden pallets stripped apart and placed haphazardly back together. Parts of the bridge were five boards wide, others seven. The boards on the left lay covered in dried salt, remnants of the ocean water that flew into the small lagoon on the wings of the wind before the fingers of the sun drank it up.
  Today the boards were dry, the water they bridged perfectly mirroring the tall trees surrounding the dilapidated shack on the tiny island. There were almost more trees than planks making up the shack. All the trees wore battle scars from the changing season except two dwarf evergreens standing as sentinels at the end of the bridge. I would have to walk through the evergreens to reach the door. They would sense my reason for coming and warn the Hakham.
  I stepped onto the bridge and the board beneath me shuddered and bent. I stepped back. Then I stepped on the outside board; it held firm. I walked along the single board until reaching the next section. There I tested the board before me, but it wobbled. I tested all the boards I could reach. The skinniest of them seemed the most stable, so I shimmied along it, careful not to touch the boards on either side lest they fall into the water and splash me. The same thing happened at each of the eight remaining sections of board except the last. On the last all the boards seemed firm. I hesitated.
  It was certain to be a trap. One slip into the water, one drop on my toe, and it would be over. Although what that meant I didn't know. I only knew I shouldn't find out.
  There were five boards in this section; it would take me six steps to get across. If I ran, one step on each board, I could make it across even if the boards fell away. Except the last step. I would have to jump.
  I moved back down to the midpoint of my current section. Then I ran. The boards fell away from me as soon as my feet touched them. I ran at a diagonal, my feet crossing over each other in haste. As the last board gave way, I jumped.
  I landed on the leaf covered slope and slipped. My feet flew out from under me and I tried to yank them back into my body. I was still too close to the water. Suddenly wooden planks appeared beneath me, keeping my legs and feet out of the water. I stood and quickly moved onto the land. The dock disappeared. I stepped forward, my foot touching wood, and the dock reappeared.
  With a sigh of relief, I turned to the A-framed shack. It was much nicer than it had appeared from the other end of the bridge. Double white-framed windows on the ground floor gazed over the bridge. A small balcony ran around the house, like the brim of a hat. Above the balcony, three triangular windows marked another floor, their angles matching the slant of the witch hat-like roof. Framed by the triangular windows, and well out of reach from the ground, was a door.
  The only door. The only way in.
 

A City of My Own

Writing prompt from Sarah Selecky: Write a scene about buying something new.

 
I stepped back. The towers were certainly tall, and one could imagine what all the lights would look like at night. And the water would certainly prove useful. Still, I wasn't certain.
  The man next to me must have noticed my hesitation. "There is much power in this city. It is one of the four most powerful cities in the world. I am positive you will be gratified with your purchase," he said.
  I nodded. There was power. The power of thoughts, the power of wills, the power of determination. But there were also many shadows. And death. And cats. Lots and lots of cats.
  "Why are there so many cats?"
  The man's eyebrows rose. "There are always cats in large cities."
  I shook my head. "They will have to go. I cannot have cats."
  He shrugged. "When it is yours, you many do whatever you like with it."
  I nodded once. They could go. And I would have my city. "That building will be moved as well. And the park. It shouldn't be here."
  I caught a glimpse of his smile out of the corner of my eye and frowned. There was no point in pretending anymore.
  "I will take it."
  "Fabulous." He yanked the scroll out of the blue sky next to him where only air had been. It shimmered silver in the rays of the morning sun. The lettering sparkled with emerald ink.
  I took out my life pen. The blood-red ink in the pen would make the scroll look like a Christmas decoration. Perhaps I could request a copy.
  "Just sign here," he said.
  I nodded and glanced once more at the city. A city all my own. A powerful city. One of the most powerful.
  I rolled my shoulders back. It was time.
  I signed the document with my soul.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A joining

Today's ten minute prompt. I really wanted to continue the story of Margaret and Greg, but since it's also my MIP, I'll have to go with something else.

Today an old man and a boy came by. But yesterday it was a woman. The woman came with want in her eyes and jealousy in her heart. A group slowly trudged up after her, all peeking through my holes. The woman stopped peeking through me, however, to peek at those around her. And she smiled. She smiled at the way they pushed and crushed to see what I made invisible.
  The man and the boy were different. The boy was curious, even though he knew what I hid. He had run his fingers down both sides of me. He yelled and played on one side but was happier on the other. Today, when he peeked through, he knew what he would see. But he still looked.
  The old man was confused. He had seen me before, too, but didn't remember. He knew me from when I was new. Of course, I block vision so that things may change on one side while remaining the same on the other. So what the old man expected to see, a continuation of what he saw, was not at all what he found.
  "What are we doin' here, Jimmy?" he'd asked the boy.
  "Nothin'. We're just wandering," the boy replied. But they weren't really wandering. For when you know where you are and where you are going, your feet find the way even if your heart is too busy to notice.


I may have to use this prompt again. There is a beauty in it that I didn't capture. But it would take more time than I have at the moment.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

read me

This prompt was actually for October 17th, but I was on vacation. So, Caitlyn, here I go.

  "Sir, we've got it."
  "Finally." I swiveled in my chair and faced the large, NASA-like screen. Nothing happened.
  "Where is it?" The screen was black. As though it was turned off.
  "I'm not sure, sir."
  "Well, figure it out." I went back to my Sudoku puzzle.
  "Ah, here it is."
  I glanced back up. The screen had gone blue, then the rainbow Microsoft logo flickered in the middle, sounding its familiar chime. Finally, the picture of a desktop appeared, the pristine beaches of the Seychelles Islands set as background.
  Some day, I would go there. If there was anything left.
  A file appeared on the screen. README.txt.
  "What is that?"
  "It's what we found, sir. It's what was stored in the woman's DNA."
  "Open it up."
  "Yes, sir."
  I scooted forward to the edge of my chair and leaned onto the desk. And I waited. Finally a little box showed up on screen. I squinted, but couldn't read the tiny print from so far away.
  "What seems to be the problem, Jeffs?"
  "It's requesting a password."
  "You've got to be kidding," I muttered. "Any ideas?" I asked louder.
  "Try 'All the world's a stage'," someone shouted.
  "No, 'In the beginning'," someone else shouted.
  "It's going to be forty-two!" someone stated.
  "I think it will be 'love'," the woman next to me said.
  "Jeffs? What have you tried?"
  "All of them, sir. Nothing is working."
  I looked at the file and leaned back in my chair. "Type: I want to read you."
  After a moment, Jeffs gasped. "It worked!"
  The file opened. In Hieroglyphics.
  "Anyone know Egyptian?" I asked with a sigh.
 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coffee

Today's prompt is from Julie: Write about a blindfold, a plane ticket, and a cup of coffee. So I went with a different scene for the characters from this prompt.

"It's coffee, Greg. It isn't going to kill anyone." I turned my back on him and tilted the coffee carafe just enough to allow a trickle of coffee into the mug in my hand. The toe of Greg's shoe tapped on the linoleum floor behind me and I tried to slow the trickle even more. "Are you sure you don't want a cup?"
  "I don't drink coffee."
  "That's right. A Tea-only man. So, what, is coffee not good enough for you? Too American?"
  "Coffee isn't American. It's African."
  I puffed out a breath of air. "Technicality."
  "The Africans would probably consider it a rather large technicality."
  I slammed the carafe back onto the coffee machine and spun. "Do you like--" Drops of coffee flew out of my cup and landed on his spotless light blue dress shirt.
  "Blast!" I set my mug down and wrenched open a drawer for a dish rag, grabbing the ugly puce one on top. I quickly dampened it in the sink, then grabbed his shirt.
  He tried to pry his shirt out of my hands. "Margaret, please."
  "Look, just stay still. I'm sorry. Let me get this out."
  "No, it's fine. Really."
  "Why do you always wear these stupid dress shirts anyway? You're always so formal. Don't you have at least one t-shirt that says "I love the Beatles" or "Americans are the ugly step-child" or something? I thought all Brits had at least one."
  "Margaret, stop." He wrenched his shirt out of my hands. "I'll take care of it."
  "Right. You going to rush it to the dry-cleaners?" I picked my mug back up and took a sip.
  He started unbuttoning his shirt. Right there. In the kitchen.
  I spat my coffee out, spraying his shirt even more, and slammed the mug back onto the counter. "What are you doing?"
  "I was removing my shirt. But apparently I should keep it on until you finish your coffee. You know, as a shield in case you--"
  "Shut up." But I smiled. I couldn't help it. His responses were always so disarming. "You can't undress in my kitchen."
  "I'm not undressing. I'm taking off my soiled shirt, not my pants."
  My gaze flicked to his jeans before I refocused on my mug. My face felt warm. Stupid Brit. "Ugh. Only you would use the word soiled. Can't you take it off in your room?"
  "You want your mother to notice these rather fine remnants of our conversation spotting my shirt when I walk past her in the next room? I would have to tell her where they came from."
  I scowled. "My parents won't even notice you. They're watching Blindfold."
  "What is that?"
  "It's an old movie. You know, Philipe Dunne's last film?"
  "Um, no."
  I shrugged. "Can't say I'm surprised."
  "What's it about?"
  I swirled the coffee around in my mug. "It's about this psychiatrist who has to help this guy, but the guy is in a secret location because he's wanted by the enemy, so the psychiatrist is blindfolded every time he goes for a visit."
  "Sounds fascinating."
  "It's actually quite--" I glanced at him. He was undoing the last button. The rest of his shirt hung wide open. His chest was carved with muscle like the model's on a calendar Louisa hung in her room when we were sixteen. Holy smokes, he was hot.
  He glanced up and caught me staring. And he smiled.
  I scowled. "Now you'll have to walk past my parents without a shirt on. Way worse."
  He wadded up his shirt with a shrug and something fell out of the front pocket. I swooped in and caught it. "What's this?"
  "It's nothing." He tried to grab it from me, but I twirled away and opened the meticulously folded paper.
  It was a receipt for a plane ticket to London with his name on it. For tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meeting

http://funmozar.com/red-rose/
The prompt for today is: Write a scene that takes place in a rose garden at night, from Sarah Selecky.

He stepped on a branch, breaking it. Aora spun toward him, backing toward the bushes behind her. She glanced from side to side like she might run, although there was nowhere to go. Not in the dark. Not when the garden obeyed him and every path she took would turn into a dead end. Even if she crawled through the bushes, the thorns would scrape her, tear at her dress, snag in her hair.
  But she didn't run. She didn't crawl. She straightened up, rolling her shoulders back and lifting her chin. "Here I am. Come and get me, Demon of Darkness."
  He frowned and stepped onto the path, knowing the shadows would hide him although he allowed the sound of his step to linger in the air. Her eyes, wide in the faint glow of the moon, flicked around him without focusing on him. She stepped back again, into the bushes, and they hungrily grasped at her hair and dress.
  "Bold words from one who shivers in the night, but not from the cold." He threw his voice into her head, knowing that there it would echo around her and she would not locate him.
  She pushed against his voice and he stepped back. She was stronger than he thought. The days had not weakened her at all. But she was till untrained.
  She lifted her chin higher. "We meet in the night because you are too cowardly to face me in the day."
  He stepped toward her again. "Day or night. Both are within my command."
  She would believe him. No one had told her otherwise, and the days were dark, darker than they had ever been. But he could not control them completely until he had her.
   He plucked a rose off a bush and stepped nearer, his step making another sound on the gravel path.
  "Stop!" she said, her voice strong. The air around her lit up, although she didn't seem aware that the night lessened to a pre-dawn gray. He would claim her, and she could never light the earth again.
  He placed the rose in the palm of his hand and gently blew on it. His breath of darkness carried it to her on the wings of the deep shadows.
  She stared at it and tried to back farther away. But there was nowhere else to go. He pushed the rose closer to her, the shadows of the night obeying his every whim. He spoke again, this time as a whisper in her mind. "A gift."
  A faint glow encircled her, the light around her swallowing his shadows. The light grew brighter as she reached for the flower. He clenched his teeth as the bushes behind her untangled from her back and straightened. The shadows fled.
  The rose slowly sank in the air. She quickly stretched forward and touched the flower, one finger to one blood red petal. The rose burst into flame and a chill of light zipped up his arm. He gasped and shoved against the light, forcing it back out through his palm, back to her.
  She shrank from the burning rose. The light around her vanished and the dark reclaimed the garden. The rose, suspended once again by shadow, burned until death claimed it. Then the shadows parted their fingers and the flower fell to the ground.
  He knew where it lay, but he did not look at it. Instead, he stared at her, trying to ignore the way his hand still tingled. Trying to ignore the lingering warmth in his arm. Trying to ignore the hollowness he felt at the extinguishing of her light.

Light

The light followed her. Aora hadn't meant for it to grow so large. She knew she needed to keep it small, hidden. She had only meant to give hope to one or two people, not realizing that with each person she helped, with each smile she brought to someone's face, the light grew. Having it large, billowing behind her in great clouds of pink and orange, made her vulnerable. He could find her.
  She ran over the barren land toward a tree without leaves, its scraggly branches stretching before it like fingers from the village's old herbal witch. It wouldn't offer any protection, but it was the only thing to run to, and she needed direction. 
  The clouds followed her, except now they billowed up into the sky, almost blocking the light, like a smoke signal declaring her location. And the were thicker, whiter.
  She ran faster, not slowing as she neared the tree. She stretched out her hand, grasped the narrow trunk, and whirled around to a stop, facing the way she had come. The bark cut into her hand, making it sting, but she ignored it.
  The cloud of light marched across the land, slower than she had run. Which meant it couldn't keep up. Her speed made it thicker, not faster. She could get away.
  She didn't move. The clouds, thicker than ever, could be hiding anything. Nothing but dead, blackened spindles of bushes lay between her and the forest, but the forest was still miles away.
  She should go. She should outrun the cloud of light. She should run all the way to the forest without stopping.
  But she couldn't leave the tree. Her fingers wouldn't let go. The tree, though bare and scarred and small, brought her comfort.
  The cloud came. She kept her hand on the tree and stretched her other arm open to greet it. It swirled around her, engulfed her, warmed her like a bright summer sun. She tilted her face up and closed her eyes. The warmth trickled from her face down her arms to her fingers, down her torso and legs to her toes. Her whole being felt light and warm, like the sun was within her.
  And then she began to cool. Her toes and fingers were first, then her legs, arms, torso. Then her face.
  She opened her eyes. The world around her was dark once more. The cloud was gone, but so was the warmth. So was the sun. So was the light.
  She wrapped her arms around her, finally releasing the tree, not caring about the blood left there from her scraped hand. Let him find it. It would do him no good.
  She turned and, focusing on the ground before her, walked slowly off, toward the forest. Toward the image of protection that would never be hers.

Sabrina also continues her story.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Darkening

"Go. Find her."
Ergal flew toward the black city and disappear into the pre-dawn fog. Only the tall, skinny dark towers of the obsidian city were discernible as the sky slid from starry black to dusky gray. But Rhaoul knew that somewhere in the depths of the scum and the rags of the darkness below walked Aora.
  He closed his eyes and sent his mind forward, searching again for the light that distinguished her from the darkened wretches huddling in the dead-end streets. His mind caught the traces of her on an elderly man, her light lingering around him like a soft smile. A middle-aged woman came next, her brightened shadow matching the graying sky instead of the ebony crevices in which she lived, betraying how the woman had felt Aora's forbidden touch. A stream of children huddled around the next corner and--
  Rhaoul reeled back in his saddle. Their souls radiated the warmth of the first rays of the morning sun.
  She had spoken to them.
  Blast it. She had to be stopped.
  Rhaoul leaned around the deadly iron spikes running the length of his horse's neck, resting a hand on the soft, wolfish fur covering the beast's back, and whispered into the coal-colored ear. "Azhram, fly." The beast snorted, its breath a misty gray in the cold air.
  Then it leapt forward, and they plunged off the cliff.

Sabrina also wrote. Check it out!
 
 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Luggage

Writing prompt for today, from Sarah Selecky: Describe a character by what he/she has packed in his/her luggage.

  Underwear. But not quite enough.
  Socks. Oh, here is a green one matched with a black one. Hmm.
  Ah, folded dress shirt. What? Only one?
  Slacks. Folded. Who folds slacks?
  Um, where are the pajamas? No pajamas?
  Oh, look, an automatic toothbrush.
  And floss. That is a good sign. It looks to be a new roll.
  But--where is the toothpaste? No toothpaste. Yikes.
  A book. Finally, something worth mention--what?! A Romance? Woah, that's quite the, um, cover. That's goes here, upside dow--under this shirt.
  Ah. Another book. Things to see here. Looks new, but . . . Oh, here's a corner turned down. Steakhouse. And another. Gym? But there aren't any . . .
  Oh. These aren't underwear. They're shorts? Yikes! And a speedo? But then, where are the--
  t-shirts
  shorts
  one pair of jeans
  cologne
  Dove soap? For extra-sensitive skin. Um, that gets tucked right over here.
  More socks, another book. Romance again. And a similar cover--wait, is that man not wearing any pants?
  More.... more... But....
  Hm. No underwear. At all.
  Oh, here is deodorant. That's good. But still....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Crumb

From Sarah Selecky: Write a scene where the crumb on the table has particular significance.

  I looked over the black table. Nothing. I smiled. She would never know.
  "William, what are you doing?" My mother walked in. I immediately turned and stood in front of the table. "Nothing, mom."
  "Then why do you have that guilty look on your face?"
  "I don't have a look on my face."
  My mother's eyebrows rose at the same time she smiled. "Hm. You have no look on your face at all?"
  I shook my head. "Nope."
  "Interesting. That would mean you have no eyes, and no mouth either. Guess I don't need to share this rice krispie treat with you." She grabbed the dessert off the counter behind her and opened her mouth wide.
  "I want some!" I cried out.
  "Oh. I though you'd already had some."
  "No."
  "Um-hm. Then what is this?" She tapped her finger on the table next to a spec of white.
  "I dunno." I shrugged to make it more believable.
  She bent down until her eyes were level with mine. I hated when she did that, but I kind of liked it, too. She was friendlier like that, but it meant I was going to not feel right. I shifted my weight to my other foot.
  "You know it is always better to be honest with me." She just looked at me. She didn't say anything more, didn't touch me, didn't push me to confess. She just waited.
  I looked away. "I ate a little bit."
  Her eyebrows rose and her lips puffed out.
  "I ate a whole one, I mean."
  She nodded. "You don't ever need to lie to me. Even if it means you're going to get into trouble. Because you may get into trouble, but you'll get into a whole lot more trouble by lying. Do you understand?"
  I nodded, even though I had only a vague idea of what she was talking about. "Can I have some of that now?"
  She frowned, and I knew I had said that wrong thing.
  "Do you think you deserve some of this?"
  I shook my head. "No." It was the right thing to say. And I had already had one. But I really wanted more.
  Mother sighed. "Do you know that rice krispie treats are my favorites?"
  I nodded. She had told me that yesterday.
  I watched anxiously as she broke off a piece. I rose onto my toes and settled back on my feet. She took a long time breaking that treat apart.
  "Here you go. But first, I want a hug."
  Anything. I hugged her. She held me even when I tried to pull apart. "Don't lie to me, okay?"
  "All right," I replied, wiggling out of her arms.
  She smiled. "I sure love you."
  "I know. Can I have that treat now?"

Just a page from real life. I love how I can tell when my kids have done something wrong. I hope it sticks when they're a little older. So, tell me, is the voice the voice of a child? If not, what words or phrases should be changed? Thanks for your feedback! And check out Sabrina's post. Her write is always fantastic.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October spells

This prompt is compliments of Caitlyn.

The moon was full. It was time to begin.
  "Ghost and ghouls, this night is yours
  to do your mischief upon these shores.
  So fly now, quickly, release your powers
  to all the earth from these dark towers.
  But don't forget to touch not that
  Which is forbidden from bat and cat
  Or else in air we'll find no breath
  And all be lost to endless death."
  She let the power of the chant ring around her. The orange demons flew through the air. The bats fled out the window into the sky. The air swirled once, then calmed.
  Sorcia closed her book and took a deep breath. It was done for another year. She ran a hand under her hair, brushing it away from her shoulders and neck. Then she closed her eyes.
  She shouldn't be in this position. Being the enchantress of all things death wasn't what she had dreamed of when she first discovered her powers. And she hated black and darkness.
  Although her dress fit nicely, she'd give them that. She ran a hand down her side. Yes, there wasn't another witch that looked half so good as she did. But she would look better in blue, commanding the waters of ocean and river, than black. And death got boring after a while.
  She had tried to tell her mother that. It was in the second year of her reign. Death, darkness, nightmares--they all were the same. She wanted to experience bending the sunlight, bringing people joy, calling down a spring rain or winter's first snowfall, causing a giant storm in a harbor--no, wait, that was death again.
  She sighed. Even though she longed to be someone else, she was bound to what she was. She was as linked to her dark calling as she was to her body.
  She sighed again and looked down at her cat, George. "Come on, then." He mewed once, then jumped on her shoulder. She gathers her skirts and spun. She was gone.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Plot Tips from Bob the Builder

My two youngest (4 and 2) are watching the Pet's Corner episode of Bob the Builder. And the set-up for the conflict is perfect.

Opening scene: Bob and his gang are supposed to build a pet's corner (a zoo for small animals) in the zoo. The details of the building are discussed (like concrete floors and why they're needed). The animals are coming from Farmer Pickles.

Set-up 1: Introduction of the conflict item during dialogue: the chinchilla.

Set-up 2: Farmer Pickles and Spud the scarecrow have a very difficult time trying to catch Charley the Chinchilla.
Spud isn't supposed to help deliver the animals (he always gets into trouble), but he gets to go as well.

Set-Up 3: Bob runs out of chicken wire. Wendy goes to the yard to get some. But there isn't any chicken wire there. They go to JJ's to buy some.

Conflict 1: The animals get delivered to Bob, but Bob isn't ready for them. Bob tells Spud and Travis the tractor
to take them to the yard where Wendy is (only Wendy isn't there anymore).

Set-up 4: Spud decides to leave the animals at the yard even though Wendy isn't there and even though Travis doesn't think it is a good idea. Spud and Travis leave to get straw.

Set-up 5: The animals escape and Pilchard the cat helps to collect all the animals. We see Charley get away.

Conflict 2: Wendy returns to the park with the chicken wire. Bob asks about the animals. Wendy and Bob realize that there is a potential problem and they head to the yard. Pilchard has all the animals rounded up. They put the animals into the new little zoo.

Climax: The man in charge comes by to check on everything and discovers Charley is missing.

Resolution: They all search for Charley. Pilchard finds Charley back at the yard and returns him to the park.

What I love is that we see how difficult it is to keep control of Charley before he actually escapes in the yard and gets lost. We also see that Pilchard can control the animals before he finds Charley, making Pilchard's rescue of Charley believable. It is so important in all of our writing to introduce the characters or conflicts on a small scale so that when the reader is presented with something big, it is believable.

Watch Charley's set-up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2doi3jQ6uXE

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alone

Julie provided the prompt for today. We're writing number 4. So, here's a death scene for my protagonist, dying by her worst fear.

I huddled next to the tree. Some of the people walking by noticed me. Some looked directly at me, paused in their walking, and then kept going. But most didn't notice me.
  I slid down the tree trunk to the ground and wrapped my arms around my legs, huddling for warmth and protection.
  No one had even spoken to me. Even when I had said something to them. It was as though they hadn't heard me.
  A tall, brown man headed up the path, carrying a load. Daniel! I jumped up and ran to him.
  "Let me help you."
  "No, I don't need your help."
  "Please, Daniel. Let me help."
  "Margaret, I don't need your help. I don't want your help. I'm fine."
  "But--"
  "Have a good day, Margaret." He walked away without even looking back.
  Louisa's smile came into view next and I ran to her. "Louisa! What are you doing? Can I help?"
  "Margaret. Um . . ." She looked around, then down at the ground. "I'm actually just trying to catch up to Daniel. Sorry, but I think I can go faster without you? I'm sorry. See you later." She hurried away and was lost in the crowd.
  Someone bumped my shoulder and sent me sprawling onto the ground. People moved around me, but no one offered to help me up. No one even touched me.
  I struggled to rise, then wandered back to the tree. The tree was safe. The tree made me almost invisible.
  Complete invisibility would be best. I should walk around the tree, walk off into the forest, and never come back. But I couldn't leave. I couldn't leave the people I loved.
  Mother and Father came next. I hesitated, but only for a second. Mother was helping Father walk; he was leaning heavily on her arm for support. I raced to his other side. "Oh, Father, what has happened? Here, let me help you."
  "No, child. I am fine. Thank you."
  "But I want to help."
  "Margaret, I don't need your help. Your mother and I are just fine."
  "Yes, dear," my mother said, "run along. We'll be just fine."
  "Can I help. Please? Please let me help."
  "Goodbye, Margaret," my father said. The sternness in his voice robbed me of any more protestations. I stood in the middle of the road and watched them walk away.
  My legs buckled and I fell. I couldn't move.
  A giggle, familiar and warm, sounded directly behind me.
  "Margaret, what are you doing in the middle of the road?" I looked over my shoulder. Ah, Alice. Just seeing her bright face gave me the strength to stand and smile.
  "Alice! What are you doing?"
  "Mary and I are going to buy some ribbons."
  "Oh, that sounds delightful. May I come? I could help you select something wonderful."
  Her smile disappeared. "No. I don't want you to come. I want it to be just me and Mary."
   Ice settled in my chest. The tears came quickly. I blinked at them and smiled. "Of course. I understand."
  Alice nodded. "Goodbye."  She skipped off.
  I understood. I understood perfectly.
  I let the tears fall. There was no use hiding them anymore. There was no one to be strong for anymore.
  I made my way back to the tree and sat. It didn't matter that the ground was dirty and cold. It didn't matter that I had no coat or shawl. It didn't matter that the air was growing colder by the minute and that it might snow.
  I laid my head down on the leaves and pulled my legs up to my chest. Then I closed my eyes and waited for the night to come, knowing it didn't matter if I woke up in the morning or not.

**
I'm not particularly fond of this, but let's be honest--it is supposed to be a ten minute writing prompt. And it took me a lot more then ten minutes. I think something like this would have to take a few days to work through. At least for this protagonist.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

House for sale

House for sale.
One house for sale.
One perfectly acceptable house for sale.
With rings of white
and rings of black
and lines that wind around clear to the back.

House for sale.
One house for sale.
One empty and forgettable house for sale.
It's clean on the outside
and dirty within.
Looks perfect when prospects appear rather grim.

House for sale.
One house for sale.
One lonely and desperate house for sale.
It won't keep you dry
and it won't keep you warm
but it will protect you in any large storm.

House for sale.
One house for sale.
One gorgeously handsome house for sale.
It isn't pink
but you could paint it blue
call five-five-five-one-two-one-two.

***
I suppose this is what you get when I read A Light in the Attic to my kids before they (and I) go to sleep. Deb and Sabrina also responded to the prompt.
Photo was found on Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lasagna

Ten minute prompt for today from Sarah Selecky: Write a scene that includes reheated lasagna.

I stumbled into the kitchen, swiping my hair from my face and tucking it behind my ear. Opening the fridge door, I searched through the shelves full of green, red, and orange healthy things. I finally glimpsed what I wanted and reached past the lettuce and peppers to the Tupperware with the red lid in the back, the only thing not fresh.
  Ah, lasagna. The perfect breakfast. Or lunch. Eh, it was 2:00. Linner?
  I popped a corner of the lid off, then slid the lasagna into the microwave. Forty-five seconds would be perfect: just enough to heat the middle, but not too long to warp the cheese.
  "Good morning, Margaret," a deep, male voice said behind me.
  That voice didn't belong to anyone who lived in this house. I spun.
  A very handsome man, dressed impeccably in jeans and a dress shirt, stood before me. His hair was short, brown, and his eyes a clear-as-a-crystal-lake blue. What on earth was this man doing in my parents' kitchen at 2:00 in the afternoon?
  "Who are you?"
  His gaze slid over my over-sized black hoodie and polka-dotted pajama pants. A curled strand escaped its prison and fell into my face. I forced it back behind my ear with a huff.
  "I'm Greg."
  I fell back against the counter. How had I forgotten that my father had invited the son of a friend to stay with us for a few weeks? I knew my father and mother well. This wasn't just a friendly visit. They were hoping something romantic would happen between the two of us.
  The microwave beeped and I yanked open the door. Grabbing the lasagna, I spun back around to get a fork. Greg stood in the way.
  "Excuse me. You're in my way."
  "Oh. Sorry." He shifted to the side and I yanked open the drawer. All the forks were the large size, and I only ate with a small fork. I rummaged until I found one that would fit in my mouth, then shut the drawer with my hip.
  Greg watched me. I hated when people stood around and watched me. Didn't he have anything better to do?
  "Buon Appetito," I muttered, plopping into the chair at the table.
  "Altre Tanto," he replied.
  I straightened up. "You speak Italian?"
  "I studied it a little in school."
  "Hm." I loved Italian. It was the language of music, of art, of--food. I cut into the lasagna and stuck a large bite into my mouth.
  Greg sat down across from me.
  I frowned. "Are you going to watch me eat?"
  He shrugged. "I don't have much else to do."
  "I prefer to eat without an audience."
  "You want me to leave?"
  "No. I just don't want you to watch me chew my food. Or listen to me. I hate when people make those little noises as they chew and I'm sure I make them, too."
  "I can go." He started to get up.
  "Yes, you probably should. Unless you want to sit with your eyes closed and tell me a loud, long, engrossing story. Those appear to be your two options."
  He smiled. "Oh, so I do have options." I stopped chewing. His eyes had lit up in the most charming way. And a small dimple appeared next to his lip.
  I dropped my gaze and shrugged, cutting another bite from the lasagna.
  He sat back in his chair. I peeked up at him.
"Once upon a time, in a land far away--"
  "You've got to be kidding me."
  He shook his head and closed his eyes. "...there was a cow."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rose

Its petals ranged
from white to darkest pink.
The green of its leaves
was a shadowed emerald
with no glint or shine
but perfect all the same.
It was in the middle of its bloom,
open and beautiful,
but with the lingering promise of more.

Her skin ranged
from white to palest peach,
as smooth as porcelain
or unblemished stone.
Her nails were unpainted
but still glistened in the light,
barely distinguishable from her skin.
Her touch, alone, appeared warm,
like the promise of a caress.

Together each distracted the viewer from the other.
The eye wandered from pink to peach to green and back,
unable to focus or keep still.
The black sleeve, velvet, faded unless focused upon.
Yet the rose made Rose's hand look like wax,
While Rose's hand made the rose look like silk.
Both beautiful.
And both false in their beauty.

The Floor

Sarah Selecky's prompt for the weekend was: Write a scene that takes place in the cereal aisle of a grocery store.

  White quick steps, on his tip toes.
  Black slow meanderer, feet firmly planted.
  Ooh, yellow jittery meanderer. A heal walker. I haven't seen one of those in a while.
  Pink tapper, small, next to a larger--what color is that? Pinkish blue?
  Runner, red and black. Running flat. That's going to cause problems later.
  Oh, man. Smelly, dirty--FEET?! Didn't they know they weren't allowed to shop naked?
  White, pristine and new. Practically dancing, lifting onto toes, settling back down.
  Uh-oh. Little ones. I can hear them coming....  Yup. Green is fast, pounding. Yellow following--oops, not just yellow, yellow with hints of blue. Ah, and pink comes last, small. Don't stop. None of you stop.
  Too late. Green stopped. And... Yellow has disappeared.
  I braced myself for the impact less than a second before it came. I should have been prepared. Whenever the little ones came in groups, there was always a--KABOOM!
  I flinched.
  The kids landed first, but I had braced for them. It was all the boxes that started hitting me, jabbing me with their sharp corners, that truly hurt. I tried to make myself hard, to keep from being damaged, but each cereal box corner felt like the wires of a cleaning brush digging into me. This number of boxes falling meant only one thing--the shelves were going to come, too.
  Green and yellow were back up, running. But pink one stopped. Tiny trembling hands touched me. And I was suddenly alert. Pink one was in the wrong place. Pink one would get hurt!
  I shifted, flexing, buckling, moving, and pink one slipped. Ooh, unicorn pocketed jeans. I angled up behind the jeans, just enough to get pink unicorn with the trembling hands sliding. And I moved until I slid her out past my end. I couldn't go any further, but I nudged main aisle until I felt his acknowledgement of her safety.
  I ached. I hadn't moved like that in years.
  And then the shelves came crashing down.
 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Home

  I lingered in the clouds and the darkness, watching the activity below. Everything was just as I remembered. The palace stood bathed in both sunlight and shadow, the numerous waterfalls producing a mist that, when needed, could enshroud the entire edifice. A scouting party of golden dragons was just returning, sailing on the wind that always hovered a hundred feet above the roof. Birds, excited by the activity, rose halfway up to meet them. The feeling of hope that always arose with the return of the scouts pulled at me and I drifted nearer. But then a dark dragon shot out below me, angling to intercept the scouts, and I pulled back to watch. When the dark dragon entered the light, a green stripe running from his head to his tail and branching onto his winds glinted in the sun like a million small emeralds.
  Blazar.
  I pulled even farther away, into the stormy clouds as I fought the darkness threatening inside me. Blazar, the queen's most trusted advisor. Blazar the traitor.
  He was supposed to be gone on a secret errand for the queen. His absence was the only reason I had returned.
  Seeing him again awakened the ache of the scar along my back and left wing. My wing faltered from the memory of the wound and collapsed upward, sending me into a spiral. I found against the blinding pain, shouting that it was only a memory, that it wasn't real. Just as I was about to plummet into sight of the guards, the memory of Zoran's voice cut through the darkness. "Ellya, let the light in."
  I opened my mind and found a hole in the darkness, a small seam of light. I mentally reached for it and clawed my way through. Then I was blinded by light and my wing caught and I soared back into the clouds. But not before I felt a guard probe my presence. I had been discovered.

Check out Sabrina's response to the 10 minute prompt, too.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Toothpicks

Writing prompt for September 25: Write a scene that includes the unconventional use of a toothpick (from Sarah Selecky). Are you ready for this one? Photo from here.

  "No, Carl. You're supposed to stick them up in the carpet like this." Joey took the toothpick and put it end up in the carpet so the point stuck into the sky. "That way, when she steps on it, it'll go into her foot."
  "Okay, Jo-jo. Like this?"
  Joey tensed the muscles in his hands and arms, then slowly relaxed them. "Carl, step on that. Right there. That one you just put down."
  "But, Jo-jo, won't it hurt?"
  "Step on it."
  "Uh, okay." Carl's shoe squashed the toothpick, breaking it into two. "I didn't feel nothin'."
  Joey blew out a slow breath. "You need to take your shoe off, Carl. Take your shoe off."
  "Oh, right." Carl slid his foot out of his sneaker. "And my sock, too?"
  "No, Carl, your sock can stay on." The words were said slowly, with a little pause between each one. "Now, I want you to place another toothpick on the ground. Just like the last one. Yup. Now step on it."
  Carl shot a doubtful glance at Joey. "Why do I want to step on it?"
  "Because I told you to."
  "Right." Carl lifted his foot, then placed it gingerly onto the toothpick. "I didn't feel nothin' again."
  "That's because you're putting the toothpicks FLAT! Now pick up that toothpick and place it up on its end, like this. Good. NOW step on it."
  Carl set his foot down, then sprang back. "Oww! That hurts!"
  "That's the whole point, Carl. Put the toothpicks into the floor so that it hurts when she steps on them."
  Carl shook his head. "That's really going to hurt her. I don't want to really hurt her. I thought we was just supposed to--"
  "The boss said to let her know it was him what sent us. This way, she'll know."
  Carl's shoulders drooped. "All right. But maybe we should warn her that they're here. Or we could just leave a sign that says, "Beware. Big Boss is about to pick your teeth," like we normally does.
  Joey shook his head. "We only leave the notes when it is too late. The boss only wants to frighten her, get her to see that his way is the only way."
  Carl bent over and placed a toothpick on end into the carpet. "Fine. But I still don't like it."
  Joey shrugged. They weren't around to do what they liked. They were around to do what the boss liked.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Fence

  I am not so old that I do not function. I serve a purpose--the same purpose I had when I was first created. Although I may not do it as well as I once did, I serve as a reminder to those on both sides.
  Do not cross.
  I used to keep people from even seeing. But time has put holes in me, as it does many things. I am no longer straight and tall and seamless. My edges have rounded, my knots have dissolved, and parts of me are missing. But I am still useful.
  If I was not, I would no longer exist. But I do exist because I have something to add to the world. I keep things safe. I keep people safe.
  I am not insurmountable. If you wanted, you would climb over me. If you wanted, you could cut me down. But you don't. I am tall, and I have just enough holes in just enough spots that people peek through to the other side and then leave. If I were as I once was, without blemish, people would wonder. People would climb. People would need to see the other side. But I have learned that a few glimpses of what people want to see satiates them.
  The interesting thing is that when they look they do not see everything they could see if I didn't exist. They do not see it all. And yet, they see enough. They find the balance between needing to know what I hide and needing to obey the unspoken rule that I create--do no cross. They enter with their eyes, catch a glimpse, think they know what it is I truly hide, and then leave, never to wonder again. They do not see which things change and which stay the same. They do not know that I hide much more than is visible in a small hole.
  There is a larger hole for the children than there is for the adults. Children are not so easily pacified by the belief that they know everything. Children will wonder until they pry boards loose or make holes bigger. Children don't want to just see; they want to experience: to touch, to hear, to taste, to smell. Children see, but know they don't understand and need more.
  There is a smaller hole for adults. They no longer want to touch, to hear, to taste, to smell. They know the feel by sight, the noise irritates them, they are afraid of dirt, and of the dirty. It is enough for them to see. But they don't see. They glimpse and think they see and think they understand and don't want more.

Deb and Sabrina also responded to the prompt.

Photo

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The door

I sat down to write about this picture and immediately knew it had to be a continuation of one of the other prompts I've done. So, if you missed the first introduction to Tryvan and Jack, you can find them here. Deb has also written about a Jack, continuing from other posts she's written.

 We stopped.
  "Are you sure this is ryerrr-it?" Jack asked, croaking out the last word. Since the change, he always had one word that croaked.
  I rolled his eyes. I liked being a rabbit and having eyes to roll at the stupid things he said. "It's a tree with a door in it, just like she said."
  "But, Tryyyy-van, croak, how can we be sure it is the tree and the door?"
  "Look around. Do you see any other trees with doors? Come on."
  He grabbed my arm. I flinched. When he had been lichen and I had been moss he didn't have fingers to grab me with. I still wasn't used to the tiny suction cups sticking to my hair. "Let's just be cerrrrr-tain this time. Not like last time."
  "Last time turned out perfectly. And The Lady even found a new recruit."
  "We still messed up--crrrroak."
  I sighed. "Fine."
  I leaned over and, placing my paw on the moss surrounding the tree, I sent my mind down, through the pink pads of my hands. The moss wriggled under my pressure and I lightened my touch. Its relief came as a collective sigh. My nose twitched as I formed the best image I could of the beast we were looking for: large, round nose, large, round eyes, triangle ears, and red. That was all the description we had.
  The moss giggled and tittered; I had never been met moss so silly. But then it sent an affirmative shout and went still. I rose back up on my hind legs. "This is the place."
  Jack nodded. We hopped to the door. I knocked with a hind leg. Then we waited.
  After many minutes the door creaked open, but nothing was visible from inside except two dots of brown light. I cleared my throat and said, "The Lady sent us."
  The door opened wider and my body shook in terror. Before us stood a round nose, round eyes, triangle ears, and red--but it all stood on the body of a fox.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

You have probably all read this already. If you haven't, I would recommend it. The story is great, but the voice is FANTASTIC.

From Goodreads: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Opening Scene: Support Group
Theme: Living our best lives today
Inciting Event: Meeting Agustus
First Act: Hazel Grace set-up
First Plot Point: Augustus gives her his wish for Amsterdam
Second Act--first half: Hazel is a grenade
Midpoint: Arriving in Amsterdam
Second Act--second half: Van Houten and Gus's illness
Third Plot Point: Augustus in the hospital
Third Act: Gus's death, Hazel's decline
Climax:
Final Scene: Gus's Eulogy for Hazel

I could read this book all over again just for the dialogue--internal and external. It's it so AWESOME.
  We could hear everything through the dear. "Are they here, Peter?" a woman asked.
  "There are--Lidewij, there are two adolescent apparitions outside the door."
  "Apparitions?" she asked with a pleasant Dutch lilt.
  Van Houten answered in a rush. "Phantasms specters ghouls visitants post-terrestrials apparitions, Lidewij. How can someone pursuing a postgraduate degree in American literature display such abominable English-language skills?"
  "Peter, those are no post-terrestrials...."

Or:
  Augustus Waters turned to me. "Literally," he said.
  "Literally?" I asked.
  "We are literally in the heart of Jesus," he said. "I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus."
  "Someone should tell Jesus," I said. "I mean, it's gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart."
  "I would tell Him myself," Augustus said, "but unfortunately I am literally stuck inside of His heart, so He won't be able to hear me."

The whole book is like this. It's witty and true and sad and funny and heart-wrenchingly good. If you've debated reading it, read it. Even though it is popular. Even though there is a movie (which I haven't seen yet). Even though....  Read it. Then let me know what you think!

Wanderer

Today's ten-minute prompt provided by Sabrina. Deb and Alison both wrote great things.

I have never been lost. Oh, I'm not speaking about being physically lost. I'm been stranded on the back roads of Zion National Park with a car stuck in the mud. I've been alone off the main trail with a shredded tire and pitched camp for the night. I've found myself in an empty café with a man in a foreign country who wanted more than I wanted to give. I've picked up hitchhikers and I've been the hitchhiker. I've ridden in numerous tow trucks with giant men and sometimes giant dogs as well. I've been stranded on the beach for weeks with no one to talk to, lonelier than I've ever been in my life (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky became my friends). But I've never been really lost.
  I've never wondered who I am. I've never wondered about my importance to my God. I've never questioned the path of my lift. I've questioned moments, wondering what to do, but not who to be. I've never wandered.
  And I wonder if I have missed something. Don't misunderstand. I've made mistakes--sometimes I've deliberately chosen the wrong. But I did so knowing what was right for me, knowing I was betraying myself, knowing that I would pay for it later. I've never wondered if there was a different way for me to live my life. I've never floundered in the dark, wondering if the path I was treading was the correct one for me.
  I am not a wanderer.
  I wonder what I've missed out on, what adventures I could have had. But I don't believe that I would be happier for wandering. I don't believe I would be different. I like the place where I am. I like my life. There are things I would like to change, mostly about myself, but they have to do with becoming more of the person I know I am instead of changing the person I am. And they give me the opportunity each day to live a little more honestly with myself and my God.
  To those who are wanderers, I take my hat off to you. Yours is a beautiful path. One I would love to hear about.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Abondoned Places

My writing group likes to take the weekends off from writing prompts, but I really liked this prompt from Sarah Selecky, and I've missed not writing a prompt today. So . . .


  Places I don't go anymore:
  The lake.
  Angie's.
  The world of secret doors and hidden traps created by laying bricks on their sides and building a labyrinth, then trying to maneuver 1980's star wars figures through while my brother decided that this wall moved or that door shut right before I got there.
  Into Tron. Or Tetris. Or Pit fall.
  The Salvato's.
  The sugarplum ball on Christmas Eve.
  Lisa's.
  The gelateria near the intersection of Via del Corso and Via dei Leoni nor the pizzeria between il Duomo and Piazza Santa Croce.
  Up the canyon with the Frankies.
  Camping alone.
  The dreamland of a limitless future where anything is possible.
  Portrait drawing class.
  With Steve to ballroom dance lessons.
  Sliding behind cars on snowy roads.
  Work.
  The courthouse to support my mother and say hi to Brent.
  The east side of Bountiful.
  Visiting the Hammonds.
  Toilet-papering.
  Haunted Houses.
  Bed with my hair wet.
  Hawaii.

Time's up. But this was fun. Both Sabrina and Deb decided to join in. Check out their lists.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Sign

One of my friends tagged this photo on Pinterest and I thought it would make a great ten minute prompt. Mostly, I'm excited to see what my fellow writers have to say. Here are Sabrina's and Alison's.

I studied the sign, my face within the shadows of my dark cloak. Someone knocked my shoulder and I pulled the shadows closer around me, rendering me unnoticeable.
  I glanced once more at the little coffee shop. Thousands of happy customers. Hum. I doubted that. Thousands of anything in this town was a bit extreme, unless mites or graves were the topic of conversation. But one creepy dude.
  A movement on the road caught my eye and I glanced up. A bit of brown whipped behind a dirty yellow taxi. I moved closer to the wall and huddled against it, waiting.
  A stream of shoe clad feet traipsed by on the brick sidewalk. I studied each one. Short, cutoff jeans with fraying edges, florescent pink tanks, blue suits with white shirts and red ties, a skateboard, a--ah, there it was. A dash of brown. A glimpse of bare feet with yellowed toenails.
  I counted to seven, then seven again, and once more. On exactly the third seventh count, I spun and grabbed the shadow of the tall man walking by, using both my hands, knowing he would struggle. The wrist twisted in my hands, jumping between shadow gray and tawny brown.
  "Relax, Tyron," I muttered. Then I yanked and threw the shadow into the wall next to me. His head smacked against the mudded stone and the shadows that had covered him fled, leaving him clearly visible, his dirty brown feet showing under his bark brown cloak. The hood of the cloak fell back and I studied the mud streaks on his face, the tired bags under his eyes, the way the whites of his eyes had turned yellow. A drop of spit slid out of his mouth and down his chin.
  I shook my head, then sent my breath to the dot on his right temple. He blinked, then glared at me. "What do you want, Synder?" he rasped. "How did you find me?"
  I lifted my eyebrows and jerked my head to indicate the sign. "One creepy dude. Looks like I'm not the only one who's noticed you lurking around."
 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Deer in the Path

This picture is today's ten minute prompt. And when I think of a deer in the road, I automatically think of Travelling Through the Dark by William Stafford. I was young when I first read it and my feelings about it are so conflicted that it still troubles me.
  However, this is a less traveled path (Yes, Robert Frost, that is for you--look, the wood is even yellow!) with no visible cliffs on either side. So, a different angle is necessary.

I stumbled out onto the road and glanced behind me. No one seemed to be following. Although I wasn't sure who I wanted to come. Father might try to offer me comfort, but there was no comfort to be found; he knew that, so although he might utter the words, they would ring hollow and linger bitterly between us. Daniel might come, but anything awkward made him uncomfortable, so he would make jokes and try to laugh. It would be a mockery to me. Mother wouldn't come. She never came this far into the woods. But Alice might come.
  I glanced behind me again and slid down the road a few more steps. I did not want to see Alice. If Alice came I would have to smile, I would have to pretend that everything was okay. I would have to act pleased with the arrangement and tell her how excited I was. I would do it better than father--she would never be able to detect the falseness in my words. But I did not want to lie, to pretend to a joy that I did not feel.
  I wanted to mourn.
  I walked down the old road some time, watching my feet, the sun filtering through the trees, touching my back without warming it. The road would eventually wind back around to the lake, but it would take hours. I wished it would take days.
  I clenched my teeth. I would run, if I had somewhere to run. But I, a woman with no possessions of her own except a piano that could never possibly be moved, had no where to go. Except back.
  I glanced up to see if I could find some comfort from the sky, but my gaze was caught by a deer standing in the road. It was so still, staring at me as though trying to figure out my soul. Its gaze made me uncomfortable and I shifted my weight to my other foot.
  We regarded each other for what seemed like a long time. I wondered if the deer would look upon my life as something to covet. But, really, our lives were the same. We both ran as though free, but at any moment the freedom would end--his with his death, mine with my marriage.
  I wished I was that deer. I would take the gamble of life and death for the chance to run through these woods forever.
  The deer shifted and disappeared, taking away the light with it.
  "I could have got that one if I'd had my gun," Daniel said from just behind me.


That's all. It would be interesting to take this further, but I have kids in different states of nudeness that should be fully clothed. Ah, writing. Maybe I'll get to enjoy you more tomorrow.
  And you should totally read Deb's because it is FANTASTIC! And Alison just wrote one, too.