Category Archives: freebies

The Spot Writers – ‘Kiss this Right’ by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story or poem using the following words or images: memory, mist, moonlight, mosaic, mask.

 

This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

“Kiss this Right” by Chiara De Giorgi

 

There’s a memory I chase,

One which times threatens to erase.

 

We were kissing in the moonlight,

It was on midsummer’s night

And the wind blew soft and warm

Who could foresee the storm?

Quick the mist surrounded us,

Sudden chill clung like a mask

To our bodies and our minds.

Still today the terror finds

Its way to my poor, weak heart.

Did I think it would not hurt?

Then the memory gets shattered,

I don’t know what I remember.

It’s like an old-fashioned mosaic,

Like a page with splattered ink

And to this day I cannot say

Why the kiss did break away.

Have I dreamt or have I lived?

Was it real, or have I wished?

 

Once a year’s midsummer’s night

Maybe I can kiss this right.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Mistaken” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story or poem using the following words or images: memory, mist, moonlight, mosaic, mask.

This week’s contribution comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon. MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, coming soon! As well as MY BROTHER, THE WOLF, the last of the series.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

“Mistaken”

Mist masks
Memorable memories
But moonlight
Magnifies
The mosaic—
Moody,
Muddy.
Mortuarial.

***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “Hatless” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about someone who always wears the same hat for some secret and/or mysterious reason.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Find out more at www.corgicapers.com.

***

“Hatless” by Val Muller

I hate the cold. Absolutely hate it. Nome, Alaska? Not exactly tropical. You’re not allowed to complain about the cold until you’ve wintered in Alaska.

What I wouldn’t give to get out of here.

Sitting here in my car, heat blasting, I wonder: Am I really going to leave? I’ve got a security deposit, but it’s kind of like chewing off your arm in desperation, right? Just leave that and run. Heck, the landlord deserves that bonus. Never going to find a new tenant in the middle of this Ice Age.

But part of me thinks I’m crazy for doing this. A plane ticket and two suitcases. And that’s it. Just fly somewhere tropical and start over.

Crazy.

But crazier than moving to the coldest town I could find as soon as I came of age?

I pull my hat lower and grab the door handle. I could just as easily walk back into my apartment. Status quo is easiest. And the cost of leaving this ice prison is a high one. Even though I hate the cold, there’s something about your own bed, your own clothes. Am I really just going to leave it all?

I pull the hat away just for a moment and cringe as I look in the rearview mirror. This is what everyone will see. This will be their first impression—everyone’s first impression—for all eternity. I’m not sure which is worse, the ones that try to ignore the scar but just end up staring at it, or the ones who ask about it outright. You’re not allowed to complain about fitting in until you’ve lived with this kind of atrocity etched into your face by your own father.

But 30 hit hard. On the way to work, glancing in the mirror, I wondered: am I really going to wear this hat forever? Am I really prepared to hide from this scar for the rest of my life? To the extent that I will remain in self-inflicted exile? For what? To wait for death?

Really.

And then I saw it on TV. A commercial for a cruise line. Those palm trees, the warmth of the sun on those bronzed bodies. What I wouldn’t give to live there. I think once I knew what warm sunlight felt on the skin. It’s like a nearly-forgotten dream.

But they don’t wear winter hats in the tropics. Everyone I meet will ask me about the scar. And then I’ll have to get into it: the alcohol, the abuse, the countless foster homes, the point of life being simply to survive. And then I’ll endure the pity, the embarrassment for having asked.

I cut the engine and pull the hat back on. Jingle the keys. Take a step toward my apartment. And then a demonic gust comes out of the north and chills my soul. So I hurry back to the car, turn on the engine, and gun it toward the airport.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Spot Writers – “New Year’s Resolution” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “unfinished business.”

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. Last December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

***

New Year’s Resolution by Phil Yeats

In our staff break room on January second, four years ago, I announced that I would finish my novel by year’s end. On the following January second when I entered the break room for my morning coffee, I received a lot of flack with several people commenting about unfinished business. Their voices dripped with false sincerity as they asked when I’d have my earth-shattering novel finished.

It was my fault. I was far too vociferous when I announced my resolution the previous January. I waxed poetic about the book and insisted timely completion was critical.

The comments were even more pointed during the next two years, but today, as I approached the break room on the morning of January second, I had everything under control. I came in early, took my coffee to a prominent table, and tucked my carrier bag underneath.

My colleagues filed in, collected their coffee or tea, and the first group approached my table.

“How goes it with the never-ending battle with your literary muse?” my chief tormentor asked. He swept his arm around the room. “You really must get it finished. We’d all buy copies.”

I smiled sweetly, reached into my bag and pulled out a copy. “Hot off the press, and for you, a special price, twelve dollars.”

They all came forward and meekly purchased their copies. I didn’t leave the break room until I’d sold all the copies I brought with me.

Back in my office, I counted my ill-gotten earnings, two hundred and sixteen dollars., The libations after my seven-thirty draw at the curling club that evening would be next. And after choir practice on Thursday evenings, we always went to the pub. My friends in both places had been just as dismissive of my chances of finishing the book as my work colleagues. After they’d succumbed to their guilt and bought a book, I’d have sold the fifty copies I ordered.

Who suggested selling books was difficult?

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “New Beginnings” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “unfinished business.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon. MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, coming soon!

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

New Beginnings by Cathy MacKenzie

“We need to go,” Tim said. “Now.”

Lisa glanced up at her boyfriend. “Right now?”

“Yes. It’s time.”

“But I’m not ready.”

“Well, get ready.”

Five minutes later, Lisa appeared from the bedroom. “Do I look okay?”

Tim smiled. “You look gorgeous. As always. But it’s dark. No one’s gonna see you.” He snatched his car keys from the hook.  “Doesn’t matter. Let’s go.”

Half an hour later, Tim parked the car by the wrought iron fence, and they walked to the gate.

“I’m not sure I can do this,” Lisa said, gripping his hand.

Tim glanced over. “Sure you can. No one will know.”

“But…”

It was his turn to grip her hand. “It’s okay. I gotta do this.” He flicked open the trunk and withdrew the shovel.

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, quit asking.” He scanned the area. “It’s late. And dark. There’s no one here.”

The full moon illuminated the cemetery, highlighting grey pillars reaching to Heaven.  Some short and squat. Others tall and skinny. Mark had been skinny. He took after his father.

She gulped in a great breath, surprised the air was so fresh. What had she expected? The smell of death? Decay? Decomposition? Perhaps. Except they were several yards from the first row of graves, and the death smell couldn’t travel that far, could it? And those nearest gravesites were old, from the 1800s. The most recent were at the back. Any odour should be long gone after that many years. She shook her head. Quite being so silly, she admonished herself. She’d frequented the cemetery previously. No smell existed.

Tim slammed down the trunk lid.

“Sssh, quiet,” she whispered. “Someone might be around.”

“Look around.” He spread his arms. “No one’s here.”

“Could be someone behind the bushes. Or in the trees.”

“Hush, woman. There’s no one.”

She leaned into him. Inhaling his cologne. Gentleman Musk. She had bought it for his birthday the previous month. She took another deep breath. Fall, her favourite season, was in the air. Cooler temperatures always arrived mid-August. She’d miss that tell-tale sign if she left, and she hated the thought of leaving Halifax and moving a thousand kilometres away.

Tim was adamant he must finish what he’d started.  But what had he started? A new life nineteen years previously? Sex. That’s all it was. But, they’d been married, so it was more than sex. Their life together was to have lasted forever. A match made in Heaven. All that jazz. But was anything forever?

“Unfinished business,” he’d said. “It needs to be done.”

Unfinished business. Ironic. Not even the new year, but it was as if he must make a fresh start. New city. New job. Cut ties with family.

But he—they—couldn’t leave without Mark. He had to go, too.

They walked the rest of the way in silence.

“Here,” she whispered. “Here he is.”

Tim thrust the shovel into the soil. They hadn’t buried the urn as deeply as she’d expected. Perhaps Tim had known his son would be unearthed. That this wasn’t his final resting place.

Tears cascaded down her cheeks. This was wrong. But she kept her thoughts to herself. Wouldn’t do to upset Tim, and the task was undeniably harder for him. Mark was his flesh and blood, not hers. His son. She hadn’t had children. Discovered during her first marriage that she couldn’t conceive.

Tim had changed since Mark’s death. Not yet six months since he died. And when Tim got the transfer, he pretended he didn’t want it, but she knew differently. She hadn’t wanted to leave with him although he had expected her to jump for joy and obey, as usual. She had been so done with him numerous times but kept going back. “Give me a bit of time,” she had said. “I’ll come later.” He hadn’t been happy, but he didn’t argue as much as she had expected. Secretly, she was glad. It was her way out of their relationship.

She clutched his arm. She did love him. At that moment, anyhow. Felt his anguish. But any love she’d had for him over the past year of their time together had slowly vanished. “You okay?”

“Yep. Almost done.”

The moon shone on the silver lid half buried in the soil. She teared. Such an untimely death. But was any death timely?

He reached down for the urn. He brushed away the dirt and grasped it to his chest. “He’s back.” He smiled. “I have him back.”

“Janine won’t be happy.” Her heart thumped. She should have kept her mouth shut.

“She won’t know. She’ll never know.” He set Mark on the ground, picked up the shovel, and tossed dirt haphazardly into the hole.

What would Mark think? Would he be happy to be removed? To be taken kilometres away to a strange place? And Janine. She’d never liked Janine, Mark’s mother, Tim’s ex-wife. But the woman grieved as any mother would and faithfully visited him. Was it fair to let her sit with him, talk to him, mourn over him? Kneel by an empty hole?

“Tim, no. We can’t do this.”

“What?”

“This. What about Janine?”

“To hell with Janine. He’s my son, too.”

“But…”

He walked to the edge of the cemetery and threw the shovel into the woods. When he returned, he picked up his son. “You with me, or what?”

“Yeah, but…” She eyed the woods. What would happen when someone found the shovel? And the grave. So obviously disturbed.

Disturbed.

Her boyfriend looked as disturbed as the grave. A madman shedding tears.

“I’m going. You come or not,” he said.

She stood, rooted like the trees bordering the cemetery. She couldn’t do it. Couldn’t walk away with stolen ashes. Mark deserved to be left in peace. Dead or alive, his mother deserved her son. The thought of her coming to his grave, not knowing it was empty—no, she couldn’t be a part of this.

He turned. “Well…”

“No, I—”

“Fine. Stay. I’m going.”

They hadn’t been happy the past few months. It was more than Mark’s death. Simple life getting away from them, and she deserved more. She hadn’t given notice—to her employer or her landlord. Perhaps she had known all along she wasn’t going to leave with him.

She raced to the woods and picked up the shovel. Tim was still visible in the dim light. She could easily catch up.

He was unaware she’d crept up behind him. She held the shovel above her head, and the scene played out in slow motion: Tim dropping the urn, Mark hitting the ground and his ashes scattering like lime, Tim falling…dead…

The shovel felt weightless in her hand. She lowered her arm.

She couldn’t do it.

“Tim, we should take the shovel with us. Your fingerprints are on it.” And now mine, she thought.

Tim turned. “What?”

“The shovel.”

“Yeah, okay.”

 New beginnings, she thought. Now that Tim’s finished his unfinished business.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Dinner with Mrs. Claus” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to title the story “Dinner with Mrs. Claus.”

This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

Dinner with Mrs. Claus by Chiara De Giorgi

Hello, and welcome! Please, come on in, help yourself to some mulled wine. Excuse me if I don’t sit with you, I still have some preparations to do.

You know, it’s just once a year that I have the family reunited under this old roof, and I want everything to be perfect. It’s a lot of work, of course it is, but I love this time of the year. The smell of roasted almonds and sugar; the sound of the wood crackling in the fireplace; the whole world outside, silenced by a thick blanket of snow; the balls of colored yarn, chased by the cat before I knit happy Christmas sweaters… They indulge me and they all wear theirs – I know they’re too funny to be fashionable, but it’s a sweet kind of fun, it tastes like tradition and love – it tastes like family.

Christmas is all about family, after all, isn’t it?

I love it when Mr. Claus returns from his trip and we all cheer, then we sit and have dinner together. We chat, we laugh, we exchange tales, small presents and hugs… now, that is Christmas!

Pinocchio always has lots of adventures to tell, honestly, that boy! He’s always up to something, and the three little pigs are constantly giving him ideas! And the girls! I swear they get prettier every year. Last Christmas Cinderella had dyed her hair blue and you couldn’t believe how lovely she looked! Prince Charming was stuck in the traffic, so Snow White borrowed the seven-league boots from Puss in Boots – he was already drunk, you see – and was there and back with the poor prince in a matter of minutes. Between the boots and my Christmas sweater, she looked a bit like a scarecrow, but adorable nonetheless.

Pass me those napkins, would you? I want everything to be perfect, although I know that nobody would mind if we ate cookie dough out of the bowl. Oh, the fun we have! It’s such a wonderful, festive time, it gives me such a boost! I swear it’s better than a pot of coffee, he he he. I cherish the memories for months, I wrap myself up in them as if in a warm blanket.

It will be good for you to be with us this year, you’ll see. Please, invite whomever you wish, from whatever realm: everybody is welcome. On Christmas night, you can be with your loved ones and keep them in your heart for as long as you want. Oh, don’t ask me how. You know how. It’s magic. It’s love. Aren’t those the same thing, in the end?

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “Dinner with Mrs. Claus” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to title the story “Dinner with Mrs. Claus.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon. MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, coming early 2020. Watch for it!

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

Dinner with Mrs. Claus by Cathy MacKenzie

I set down my beer and picked up the remote, lowering the volume on the television. Had I imagined the thud at the front door? I listened for the doorbell. Nothing.

Another noise. As if someone kicked at the door.

I flicked on the outside light and peered out the window. A Mrs. Claus stood on the top step.

I opened the door. Nope, she wasn’t the real Mrs. Claus, for this one was too young. Her blonde hair curled around the white fur of the Santa hat as if she’d been wearing the hat for months. Snowflakes dotted the red of the hat. I eyed her svelte figure beneath the matching red coat.

“I’m making dinner tonight.” She smiled slightly but didn’t move as if waiting for an okay to enter the house.

I scanned the yard for a vehicle, barely seeing anything through the shower of snow. My car, parked in the driveway, would soon be unrecognizable as a vehicle. I shivered, wishing I had driven it into the garage. Where was her vehicle? I looked around again. No other vehicles in sight. Had she borrowed Santa’s sleigh? I listened for the grunting of reindeer—I’d heard they made those types of sounds.

“Well?” she said.

I shook my head at my silliness. And for ignoring the beautiful woman facing me. “Sorry.” I took three bags from her. “Come in.”

She kicked off her heavy boots and trudged to the kitchen as if she owned the place, setting the remaining two grocery bags on the counter. I added the ones I carried.

She removed her mid-length wool coat and handed it to me. “My hat stays. What about you? Where’s yours?”

My Santa hat was under the Christmas tree. “I’ll get it.”

On the way, I hung Mrs. Claus’ coat in the closet. I located my hat amongst the gaily wrapped gifts, positioned it on my head, and headed to the kitchen.

She had opened a bottle of sparkling wine. Rosé. “Here you go.” She held out a glass, one of the crystal glasses usually saved for special occasions. Was this one such occasion?

She eyed the cookbooks on the shelves, humming and hawing as if performing the eeny-meanie-catch-a-red-nosed-reindeer chant. “This one,” she announced, thrusting out Special Pastas for Special Times. “What do you think?”

“Fine by me. You’re the boss.”

She giggled. “I am, aren’t I?” She tilted her glass to lips as red as Rudolph’s nose. Her eyes sparkled like tree lights.

I sat on the stool and watched her bustle around the kitchen, taking this pot and that pot, selecting one spice and then another, pausing occasionally to sip the wine. The aroma of garlic soon permeated the room. With a spatula, she flipped the shrimp and scallops as if she were a well-trained chef. Water soon boiled.

“Want me to add the pasta?” I asked, feeling guilty.

“Nope, I’m good. You relax.”

I adjusted my hat. “Okay, but I need to remove my hat. This heat is getting to me.” Was the wine or the stove making me sweat? Perhaps it was the company.

Mrs. Claus examined my face. I thought she was going to reach out and touch it at one point. “I’m getting a bit hot, too, truth be known.”

“So, we’re done?”

She quickly faced the stove. “Done?” Her voice faltered. “Done…as in dinner?”

“Done as in the Christmas charade, Missus Claus.”

Her shoulders relaxed, and she glanced at me.

My burden lifted, too. I hadn’t realized I’d been so uptight.

“Okay, Mister Claus. Yes, we are done.” She pointed to the ceiling light, which hung low over the kitchen island, and beckoned with her little finger. “Come, give me a kiss.”

I looked up. Mistletoe. Where had that come from?

Mavis and I had a simple Christmas tradition in our household. We never ignored mistletoe. After dinner, I planned to propose another. No more silly tiffs. My bed—our bed—had been cold and empty the previous night.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Consignment Sale Santa” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “Dinner with Mrs. Claus.” Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Find out more at www.CorgiCapers.com. Val, who usually writes by hand, is currently typing this tale with a wrist brace because of… well, you’ll have to read the story to find out. This one’s based on truth, or at least it starts that way.

***

“Consignment Sale Santa” by Val Muller

Molly

This was the scariest Santa there ever was. Mommy used the term “aggressive,” which she says means someone who acts like Charlie at school. No one likes Charlie.

So there I was playing with a dollhouse at the cob-sigh-mint sale when Santa comes down the aisle between boy clothes and costumes, shouting “Ho, ho, ho.” He walked slow, like the robot at Martin’s that tries to come get you. I don’t like the robot at Martin’s probably more than I don’t like Charlie.

They’re both aggressive.

He saw me right away, even though there was other kids playing, too. He came right over, slapped me on the shoulder and said “Ho, ho, ho” again, like he was a robot and that was the only thing he was built to say.

I did what any kid would do. I jumped onto my mom. Moms protect you from anything.

Mom

Like when you try to give a cat a bath. That’s the only way I can describe it. When that Santa came down the aisle, Molly spontaneously developed physical prowess and coordination that defied the laws of gravity and physics. She jumped up at me, expecting me to catch her.

I always thought that moms need about eight arms, and today spoke to that certainly. This “Santa” they had looked impressive. I think his beard was the real deal. He sure looked the part. Old, but in a timeless way. Energetic, but controlled. He was practically perfect for the role, except he seemed to have let it get to his head. He walked in like he owned the place, slapping kids on the shoulders and spouting out holly-jolly from both sides of his—

Anyway.

I’ve never heard a “ho, ho, ho” louder than what came out of his mouth. No concept of Indoor Voice whatsoever. When he came over to Molly, I knew we were in for something. He singled her out, as if he were one of those hounds that smells fear. “Little girl, I’m headed over to that chair for any children who want pictures with me.”

I was holding three toys in my left arm and looking at a doll that I was holding in my right. Things were going unusually well, me finding great deals on consignment toys for Molly and her cousins. When she jumped up at me like that, motherly instinct kicked in. I dropped the doll and caught Molly while simultaneously catching the doll in my left hand and balancing the three other toys in my grasp.

Really, it was amazing. I deserve a trophy.

But the brunt of Molly’s thirty-something pounds landed smack in the palm of my hand. None of it supported by my arm. Pretty sure wrists aren’t made to support that kind of surprise. I managed long enough to get a picture—after much hemming and hawing and torment on Molly’s part—of Molly sitting with Santa. Not on Santa’s lap, mind you. And who could blame her?

No, Molly was sitting on the lap of Mrs. Claus. The saintly woman accompanied Santa, giving apologetic looks to the customers every time Santa’s cheer was a little too jolly. Her look told me immediately they were married in real life and she was kind of just along for the ride.

It was nice what she did, though.

Mrs. Claus

When I saw that poor woman with the little girl, I knew I had to help. I saw the exact moment her wrist gave out. Saw it in her eyes. Her girl jumped up into her arms like a cat avoiding a bath. Poor lady didn’t realize what had happened, though. She was too focused on protecting her daughter from the traumas of my husband.

James means well, but my if he isn’t just a bit too eager to play the most emphatic Santa you’ve ever seen. James shaves his beard exactly one day each year. January 1. Out with the old, in with the new. Then that maniac starts growing it again so it’ll be long and impressive by the following November, just in time for him to play Santa.

I can’t tell you how many children he’s scared over the years. “Santa has to be confident,” he always tells me. “You don’t run a toy empire being polite.” I never intended to play Mrs. Claus. Sure, they pay extra for two instead of one, but it’s not about the money. I’m the protector of children. When they’re afraid of James, they’ll sit on my lap for pictures. I have a calming presence. Always have.

Which is why I stepped in and offered to drive that Mom and her daughter to the hospital. It was clear she needed that wrist looked at. I saw her wince in pain simply pushing the camera button on her phone. That’s no minor sprain.

But of course, an injured wrist is no emergency, and the wait at the ER was going to be long. She insisted I just drop her off and leave. She’d take a taxi home. But that poor woman would eat up all her consignment sale savings paying for a taxi. Better to spend that money on gifts for the kids. I had time, I told her. I’d wait.

But a three-year-old doesn’t know the meaning of the word. We tried reading to her, letting her watch the small TV screen in the waiting room, lettering her play with the tiny assortment of waiting room toys. But she wasn’t having it. And the Mom looked so miserable. The pain was taking its toll.

So I did what any Mrs. Claus would have done. I offered to take that little girl to the McDonald’s across the street.

“There’ s a playground too,” I told her mom. “That’ll tire her out.”

The mom looked at me thankfully, completely trusting. This would be her Christmas gift.

Molly

Mommy got a new brace for Christmas. It’s super cool. It makes her wrist look like the Incredible Hulk. She said Santa gave it to her, but I think it was Mrs. Claus. She’s the one who took me to McDonalds, and then brought me back to Mom after I fell asleep on the playground slide.

Did you know Mrs. Claus has superpowers? She went up to the counter and got the nice lady to give me all the different Happy Meal toys. So now I have one of each. A complete set! All the kids at school will want to see them. And they’ll be so surprised to hear I ate dinner with the real Mrs. Claus. She answered all my questions about elves and reindeer. Did you know elves drink sugar water, like hummingbirds? And reindeer can only fly when it gets super cold.

I’ll let all the kids at school have a turn playing with these toys.

All the kids except Charlie.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “Me Time” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use the following words or images in a story: whirlwind of leaves, wizened old man, lonely call of an owl, crackling fire.

***

“Me Time” by Val Muller

There he stood, in the strip mall in front of Tropical Palms Spa. His skin tingled from his facial, and his muscles were so relaxed he could melt. He sighed and glanced back at the neon palm tree in the window. Of course, there was nothing tropical about it, it being located in the middle of Hudson, Ohio. But that was the point, to go somewhere away from it all. Near a national park, it was a good place to get lost.

And getting lost was easy to do. He’d taken his doctor’s advice and started Intermittent Fasting, eating only during an eight-hour window each day. Gone were the days of keeping gingerbread cookies at the ready, eating one practically every five minutes. Without the chill of his wintry abode, he didn’t need that much insulation anymore, and the extra weight was bad for his knees.

He wondered if his wife would even recognize him after his sabbatical. He’d lost countless pounds and dropped so many pant sizes that he could wrap himself in his old clothes threefold. His energy had increased, just like the doctor said it would. He went for walks now, long walks, wondering how in the world he used to conquer all those lists and deadlines.

The checking once, twice; the playing moral judge. It had all been so taxing, so ubiquitous, so constant. Who was he to determine naughty or nice? His therapist was right: it was time for parents to start looking after their own children’s behaviors. Santa needed to look after Santa.

His elves, he’d sent off to a holiday in the tropics. The coconuts and rum would be good for them; after all, they lived on carbs. They would be back just after Thanksgiving. That would be plenty of time for them to run maintenance on COAL 2.0, the new program the rep installed. It was a fully-automated system that assigned kids gifts or punishments based on algorithm.

It scanned their parents’ social media posts, monitored phone conversations with grandparents and friends, even tapped into school security cameras and data from the NSA. In mid-December, it spit out a list of kids good, bad, and neutral. Then, it assigned one of a small range of toys—about twelve possible options, including rocks for punishment (coal was not environmentally sustainable)—based on age and behavior.

There was really nothing Santa needed to do. The program sent the gifts to homes via drone delivery. He could still ride on his sled, but the ride would be mere ceremony. He would be back in time to catch a Christmas movie with the missus while enjoying a hot chocolate (if it was still during his 8-hour feeding, and not fasting, window).

He stepped off the curb, and a whirlwind of leaves swirled from the side of the parking lot onto the sidewalk, surrounding him and playing with the stubble on his clean-shaven whiskers. The cold made his face, fresh with the facial, tingle. He shivered, for a moment missing his plush red robe. He heard the lonely call of an owl and turned around. The lot was largely deserted, it being the middle of an October work week, and he examined the Halloween décor in the windows.

He envied Halloween. It was everyone’s job to give out candy. And that, said his therapist, is how it should be. The world had no right to demand a single entity be responsible for billions of toys each year. That was too much for any man. A flashy jack-o-lantern in the window mocked him with its smug confidence.

He gritted his teeth and reached for a cookie, but there were none, of course. The therapist had blamed sugar—in part—for the Breakdown. Santa sighed and noticed a Costco across the street. He couldn’t help himself. He’d been working on thinking of himself and his wife only—as his therapist directed—but his mind naturally went to buying in bulk. He would just take a peek.

Inside, the store was already decorated for Christmas. They must have sold out of their Halloween items long before October 1. Sparkling colored LED lights on magnificent plastic trees. His body—his old body, the fat one, the one before his recovery—in miniature, carrying a heavy sack, standing on a mirrored music box. And Christmas cookies. A box with 96 of them for $8.99. He smiled, remembering the good old days and how that box would make a nice midnight snack. He reached in his pocket and fingered the ten-dollar bill. Crisp, but not as crisp as those cookies looked.

And then he heard the pitter-patter of children. A check of his watch let him know school must have been let out. The kids ran up the aisle examining the Christmas wonder. A little boy—that was little Timmy from Twinsburg—was pushing his little brother (Joey—he was such a good little boy) to get a closer look at the tree display.

“Naughty, naughty,” Santa muttered, reaching for his list.

But he had left his list at home. The therapist told him to destroy it, but Santa had opted to store it in his drawer instead.

“Hmmm,” he said, gritting his teeth. He picked up the box of cookies and walked to the register to pay.

Out in the parking lot, at his rental car, he put the remaining half-box of cookies on the passenger seat and brushed the crumbs off his shirt. In the window’s reflection, he looked like a wizened old man, not a holly-jolly one. He shook his head as he got in and pushed the start button.

“On, Dasher,” he said, chuckling. Then he reached for another cookie.

Across the street, the smug jack-o-lantern was still watching him through the window, with beady eyes and an insistent LED smile. Dash him and all his goblin friends, Santa thought, watching a mother load bags of candy into her trunk. The woman’s two young daughters—the Beardsley twins—were bickering about who got to have first pick of the Halloween candy. Neither even gave a thought to helping their mother.

Santa cringed and stuffed a handful of cookies into his mouth. The sugar made him feel much better.

“North Pole,” he typed into the rental car’s GPS. It was a long drive, according to the map that appeared. He’d need a lot of cookies. Luckily, the rental car’s on-board computer had a way to search for stops along the way. He would need one at least one every few miles. Yes, it would take quite a while without his trusted team. But at least when he got there, there’d be his wife, and an endless list of names to double-check while sipping hot chocolate in front of the crackling fire.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Whispering Tree” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story inspired by what you see out your window.

This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

The Whispering Tree by Chiara De Giorgi

The tree was the first thing I noticed when I looked out the window the day the real estate agent showed me the apartment. One branch, long, thin and bare – it was Winter – reached to just beneath the window sill.

In just a year or two, on a stormy night it will scratch the window pane, I thought.

I don’t know why the thought thrilled me. A tree branch scratching the window pane on a stormy night sounds like something out of a horror tale, but I guess it appealed to my romantic side: there I was, renting an apartment in one of the busiest cities in Europe, and yet there was a tree outside my bedroom, whose branches would scratch the window as if I were living in a cabin in the middle of the forest.

I moved in shortly after that first visit and for a few weeks forgot all about the tree and its branch. I was busy unpacking, buying and assembling IKEA furniture, hanging pictures and mirrors on the walls.

Then suddenly it was Spring, and I opened the window. The thin branch was now full of small leaves, tender green and delicate. I smiled and silently encouraged it to grow stronger and reach higher.

Seasons came and went, and by the following Spring the branch had finally reached my window. I looked at it and I can swear I heard its voice. Here I am. Now you have to let me in.

I quickly closed the window, then stared at the tree through the glass. I needed curtains.

I’ve probably never bought anything with such urgency: the same night, the whispering branch was hidden behind lace curtains.

A few days later, though, I realized I missed the view from my bedroom window: the soft pink sky at morning, the golden sunsets, the children playing in the nearby garden, the elderly strolling along the street, the dogs, the cats, the birds… I pulled the curtain aside and peered out. The branch was bare and withered!

I opened the window at once and asked the tree: What happened to you? but I got no answer. I felt sad and weirdly responsible, so I removed the pretty curtains.

The following day, the tree was as alive and lush as before, and I thought I must have imagined everything. However, I didn’t dare open the window, in fear that I’d hear the branch speak to me again. That’s why it scratches my window pane at night, every night. It wants to tell me something, it wants me to let it in, but I think a whispering tree belongs in a horror tale, which is where I don’t want to end myself. I’m never opening my bedroom window again.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com/

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, freebies, Uncategorized