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The Spot Writers – “Go Fish” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. August’s prompt is to use these five words in a story or poem: besides, fishes, inn, owing, born.

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.

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

MISTER WOLFE (the sequel) coming soon!

***

“Go Fish” by Cathy MacKenzie

Amber looked up toward the large blue-shingled house, which was so unfamiliar to her. What little they’d moved into the house two days previous was in disarray. The bulk of their furniture and other possessions weren’t due to be delivered for another week. Until then, the family would sleep at the Riverside Inn and spend days at the house.

According to her mother, there was plenty to do at the new house. “Dad has to mow the lawn, and I have to clean,” she’d said. “You kids can organize your rooms.” She had smiled. “And play, too. Summer will soon be over.”

Right, Amber thought. Organize our rooms? What is there to organize?

She was thankful she didn’t have to deal with school the same time as the move. But Labour Day would soon be upon them, marking the end of summer vacation. Luckily, her parents had bought a house in the same neighbourhood, so she and her brother, Julien, would still be attending the same schools.

Her mother couldn’t understand why it had to take so long for their furniture to be packed up and delivered. “Spencer, why don’t we rent a truck and move ourselves? This is ridiculous,” she had spouted. “We’re less than ten blocks away, for Pete’s sake.”

Apparently, the end of July was the busiest time for movers in their area, and Amber’s father wouldn’t admit he had procrastinated calling the moving company. She knew he had messed up when she overheard him arguing on the telephone with the company. She was glad he’d apologized or they might never have gotten a moving date.

Amber liked their new house, which was much larger than their previous one. The grounds were more spacious, too. Numerous colourful flowers grew alongside the house, mostly all foreign to her, although she did recognize the daisies.

And, of course, she was familiar with rose bushes that bordered one side of the fish pond.

But what good was a fish pond without fish?

“I can’t believe there’s no fish,” she said, glancing at her brother.

“Yeah, according to Dad, the previous owner said they died.”

“I don’t know why we can’t get more.”

Julien sighed. “Mom can’t be bothered. She figures Dad won’t help out and then it’ll all fall on her. In the spring she said we can get some. She hates the thought of them in the cold all winter. You know her.”

“But goldfish are supposed to survive over the winter. Though I don’t know how.”

“You’re supposed to make sure there’s a hole in the ice so the fish can breathe while they hibernate.”

“If they hibernate, why do they need a hole in the ice?”

Julien glared at her. “I don’t know. Just what I’ve read.”

“Dad says you read too much.”

“Yeah, well Mom says you daydream too much.”

She ignored him and stared into the pond. She shook the unopened container of fish food, which she had grabbed off the shelf in the garage.

“I’m going to sprinkle some food on the water. Maybe if the other people had fed them, they’d still be alive.”

“No sense feeding dead fish,” Julien said.

Ignoring her brother, she unscrewed the lid and sprinkled flakes on the water.

“It’s probably old. That’s why they left it,” Julien said. “Outdated. Not good for anything. And you know what? If the owners said they hadn’t fed the fish for two years, it’s probably more like five. Everyone lies.”

The flakes floated together for a few seconds and slowly separated.

“The poor dead fishes,” Amber said, swiping at her eyes with her left hand. She’d been teary lately, which was unusual for her, probably owing to the stress of the move. She was only twelve, but her hormones would be raging sooner than later. And more tears, she figured.

She shrieked. “Look! What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“There.” She pointed. “Isn’t that a fish?”

While she watched, another bright orange fish swam alongside.

Another appeared.

And a fourth.

The last two were a paler orange. Almost translucent.

“I don’t believe it,” Julien said. “They can’t have survived for this long.”

“Look, they’re jumping at the food. We have to go tell Mom.”

“No, we can’t tell her. She’s got enough on her mind. Besides, if you tell her, she’ll freak about them all winter long.”

“What, then? We don’t tell anyone they’re here?”

“We’ll just come down and feed them every day. Then, over the winter, we’ll make sure there’s a hole in the ice. We can surprise Mom in the spring, once the snow is gone.”

“Mom wasn’t born yesterday. Don’t you think she’ll find out?”

“How will she find out? Besides, once she knows these fish survived, she’ll be more receptive to getting more.”

“What about Dad? Should we tell him?”

“No, Dad’ll only tell Mom. They don’t have secrets, remember.”

“Yeah, right.” She’d heard her parents talk enough about how marriages shouldn’t have secrets, no matter how small. She giggled. Her father hadn’t shared the moving van story. “Okay, it’s our secret? No one else’s?”

“Yep, it’s our secret.”

“Oh, I love secrets,” Amber said, already anticipating telling her mother. She might even tell her the moving van secret.

***

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 – Poseidon’s Consort” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is to use the following words in a poem or a story: besides, fishes, inn, owing, born.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Learn more at http://www.corgicapers.com.

Poseidon’s Consort by Val Muller

Shivering in the sea breeze in the setting sun, Amphitrite made her way to the only inn in town. She already missed the calm, perpetual whirl of the ocean, the warmth of water. The air made everything feel too cold and open, even as it carried the comforting, salty scent, reminding her that home was only a few steps away…

Besides, she reminded herself, this little trip was her choice.

The inn smelled of humans and earthy, old, stagnant scents. The air lacked the fluidity of water. Someone was cooking a stew or a chowder, but it smelled more of chickens and boiled onions than of fishes.

Amphitrite approached the innkeeper. She had to do this, she reminded herself. Poseidon had been raging too long, and she needed a break. Why she was the only being who could calm his tempestuous rage was beyond her. Normally she just dealt with it and kept the balance of the sea, but tonight she had enough. Not even the dolphins or the whales could calm her.

“Needing a room?” the innkeeper asked. He wiped his hands on a rag and sized her up. His eyes remained dim, seeming unimpressed with what he saw.

She nodded and adjusted the scarf around her hair, her dry and baggy clothes, trying to absorb his accent. Humans had such awful nuances in dialect and diction. But before she could answer, a man broke through the door, his hair wild and eyes wide, no doubt owing to the wind battering against the door.

“Storm! Tempest!” he yelled. “Poseidon’s enraged!”

A barrage of men, mostly sailors, hurried in and pushed past Amphitrite. The innkeeper screamed over their frantic din, their worries over Poseidon’s mood and the fate of their ships.

“Must be a spat with his missus,” one said.

The innkeeper’s hands grew heavy with the coins he collected as all the rooms were rented out, two or three or more men to a bed. Desperation and panic at the storm turned to banter as the men turned to drinking and tales. The innkeeper could finally turn back to Amphitrite, forgotten and pushed to the corner. He apologized for the lack of rooms. Amphitrite smiled, letting her hair out of its scarf and letting her eyes glow like sea jewels. She did not disguise her voice but instead let it flow melodious like the sea. Before long, he’d invited her to his own private quarters, recent widower that he was.

She smiled, knowing after a night with her, once she returned to the sea to calm her husband’s rage, the innkeeper would rename the inn for her and send her golden coins each week, ones that sparkled when the sun filtered through the saltwater. She would feed his business, for a time, with her little trysts to dry land, allowing her husband to rage now and then, driving business to the inn. How fun it would be to see how many coins the innkeeper would send her way.

She let her dress slip from her shoulder. The innkeeper was nothing special, but he was an authority figure here in this little town by the sea, whatever it was called. What harm could it do? After all, she thought as she led him to his room by the hand, like a mermaid or a siren pulling a catch beneath the waves, why should Zeus have all the fun?

***

The Spot Writers:

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 – “The Tree of Dorian Gray” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is a story about a tree of (any type of) significance that is cut or falls down.

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 Tree of Dorian Gray

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

Do you remember the first time you acted badly? I mean consciously. Like, for example you told a lie and were aware that your lie would damage another; or you stole something with the clear purpose of hurting someone. Me, I think I was seven, and I did both.

 

I was angry with Toby, my neighbor and class-mate. We had spent a whole afternoon together at his place, working on a school project. It was about ecology. We built a model of a landscape with pebbles and leaves, I think it was really cute in the end. The following morning, Toby fell down the stairs while he was carrying the model. He broke his arm, and the model. Miss Brown was very sympathetic and gave us another week to bring in another one, but I was upset. He should have been more careful. So I planned my revenge.

A few weeks later, it was Laura and Mindy’s turn to present their project, I think it was a pyramid or something, I don’t remember. Anyway, during lunch I stole it and hid it inside Toby’s schoolbag. Then I went to Miss Brown and told her I had seen Toby steal and hide the girls’ model. Toby was punished, both by Miss Brown and his own parents, and I felt bad. Not enough, though, to gather enough courage and tell the truth.

I was ashamed of myself for what I’d done, and ran to the woods, screaming and crying. I stopped by a large tree and told it everything. When my speech was over, I realized I could blame Toby: hadn’t he crushed our model, nothing would have happened. I felt better at once, and I went back home.

 

After that, I got used to going to the large tree every time I did something that bothered my conscience. Soon I noticed that the tree was slowly rotting away. The more the tree decomposed, the less my conscience bothered me, until one day I realized I could do anything I wanted and not be bothered at all.

By then I was older and read “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. How I loved that book! I named my tree “The Tree of Dorian Gray”, and felt completely free for the first time in my life. I could be and do whatever I wanted, the tree would rot and I would stay spotless. Incredibly, none of my malfeasances caused people to dislike or accuse me. It was always somebody else who paid the price in the end.

I should have known that it couldn’t last forever.

 

When the first injunction reached me, and then the second, and the third… I realized something must have happened. I went to the woods and saw: Where so many tall trees used to grow, concealing “my” tree from the view, now was a construction site. There were no trees anymore.

 

I know what awaits me now: injunctions will keep coming and coming, every wrong I’ve ever made in the dark will be exposed.

It’s over.

***

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 – “Ponderosa” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story about a tree of (any type of) significance that is cut or falls down.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. You can read the ebook for just $2.99. The series, like the following story, is inspired by events of her childhood with a dash of whimsy and a serving of imagination.

***

Ponderosa By Val Muller

Today she would be a cowboy. She chose her cut-off jeans—because that’s what a cowboy would wear in the stifling summer heat. Buttoned up a checkered blouse. Donned her leather belt, the one with the two holsters. Stuck her two cap guns in and tied a red bandana around her neck. She wiped Froot Loop crumbs off her face and donned her straw cowboy hat.

Outside, her clubhouse would be a one-room frontier home. Her sandbox today would be her open fire, where she could roast deer and squirrel and mutton—whatever that was. She’d have to hunt, of course, in the forest of pines at the side of the house.

In the suburban neighborhood, those pines provided a bit of magic. The ponderosa’s soft needles fell to the ground like a mattress and muffled sound like a blanket of soft snow. The dripping sap spoke of frontiers, not minivans, and the leafy branches blocked the view of four other homes.

It was that row of ponderosa pines that made her frontier play possible. The needles, brought to her clubhouse, created a mattress and play food that could be mixed with sand or water or dirt to imagine any type of culinary delight of the frontier. At certain times of year, the sap could be collected and made into frontier potions and salves.

She started at her clubhouse, as she always did, tucked away in the furthermost corner of the back yard. The pantry was bare: she’d have to go hunting. Carefully, she lowered her hat and unholstered her weapons. A kill could be waiting around any corner. She shot a deer in the nearby field, but she missed. The imaginary deer leapt away, its escape warning countless others.

She’d have to travel further from home. With a nod of resolution, she made her way to the ponderosa forest. Turning the corner near the garage, she froze. Her pulse raced behind her ears. The tree was—

Gone.

In its place, a pile of logs, like bones snapped and bloodied by a predator. But it was no predator. The real world came rushing in. The frontier silence gave way to the ordinary sounds of a lawn mower, someone’s air conditioning, and the neighbor’s old dryer. And there, at the center of the massacre, was her father.

He and a neighbor were efficiently piling logs into a wheelbarrow. A million questions circled her head, but she could utter none of them. Her dad looked up only after the wheelbarrow was full.

“Ell,” he said. “I thought you were watching a movie with breakfast again.”

She shook her head.

Her dad rubbed the back of his neck and glanced bashfully at the neighbor, who graciously hoisted the wheelbarrow and made his way to the back yard, through the newly-opened passage at the side of the garage.

“This was all supposed to be a surprise, Ell,” he said.

“What?” It was all she could utter—barely a syllable.

“A pool,” he said. “We’re getting a pool. The excavator’s out front.” He pointed to a giant yellow machine sitting in the road in front of the house. In the paradise of childhood summer, she had not heard it during her sugary meal or her frontier plans.

“Pool,” she repeated senselessly.

“It couldn’t get to the back yard. You know, to dig the hole. It couldn’t fit. We had to cut either the pine or the forsythias, and the pine was getting kind of big, anyway.”

Ell turned to the other side of the house, where the forsythia bush peeked at her tauntingly, as if boasting its own existence in the wake of her pine.

“Hole?” she said.

Her mother materialized from inside, as if sensing shock. She held out a shiny brochure. “See, honey? A pool. It’ll be ready within the next week or two. We thought you and your friends would love to—”

Ellen listened patiently without hearing as her parents explained the benefits of the new pool. Her eyes were directed by adamant fingers to the pattern chosen for the pool’s liner, to the color of the pool’s siding and even the style of the ladder.

But all she saw was the brute strength of the industrial era, westward expansion driving the buffalo to near extinction. How could they cut down her pine? She nodded graciously and left her parents to clean up the remains of her pine. She quietly went inside to pout.

Before she threw herself on the bed, she removed her holsters, her hat, and her bandana. Cowboys had no place in such an industrial world. As the mechanized pattern of the excavator lulled her into a nap, her mind filled with images of cool blue water and a lost city of Atlantis.

Tomorrow, she would be a mermaid.

***

The Spot Writers:

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 – “One Historical Romance” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: a cat stares at something behind its owner’s back. What does it see?

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.

***

One Historical Romance by Chiara De Giorgi

My roommate, Jenny, loves to read historical romances.

Historical romances are basically love stories: out of eight hundred pages, at least six hundred are devoted to detailing hot intercourses and describing massive male chests and backs that are as vast as Greenland, but since in the remaining two hundred pages a king, a battle, a stronghold – or something of the kind – are featured, then they’re called “historical romances”. I also suspect the term “love stories” is widely despised.

So, anyway: Jenny loves those books. Recently, she’s seeking out all those that are set in Scotland, where the manlier men in the world apparently live: men that are so manly, they can wear a skirt! (The reason I know all these things, is that I normally sit next to Jenny while she’s reading, so as to peek at the pages and read along. Sure, sometimes I fall asleep, but that is normally not an issue, because when I wake up the hero and the damsel are still setting fire to the woods with their uncontrolled passion, just where I had left them.)

Sorry, I lost my train of thought.

A few nights ago Jenny threw a party. I really don’t like it, when Jenny throws a party. All those strangers prancing around the flat with their dirty shoes, claiming all couches and armchairs… it’s irritating. So, as usual, I stayed out of the way, half hidden behind a curtain. I was very still, and I scanned the crowd. I like to observe and deduce, I know things about people at first glance, that you wouldn’t believe. Once Jenny made me watch “Sherlock Holmes”: finally, a kindred spirit! Of course he had to be fictional.

Anyway. There I was, doing my thing, when he entered the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stared at him from my hiding place, considering my options.

Suddenly, Jenny realized I was staring at something right behind her and she turned around. Damn it, now she was facing him, and her reaction was exactly what you can expect. She gasped and dropped her glass. He gallantly picked it up, while Jenny let her gaze slide all over his muscled body, his white shirt, and the sexiest kilt you can ever imagine. He looked like he had just jumped out of one of those historical romances, and Jenny was clearly determined to become his damsel. Could I allow such a waste of manhood? Of course not.

I quietly slipped out of my hideout and slowly made my way towards the two of them, keeping my eyes fixed right behind Jenny’s head – I know it creeps her out when I do that.

When I reached them, Jenny was flirting shamelessly and even shifted just enough as to conceal me from his sight. Unperturbed, I brushed up against his legs with a special technique of mine, tripping him up. He caught Jenny’s arm so as not to fall – not what I had wanted. But he had noticed me, and I knew he was mine.

He stroke me on my head and between my ears, baby-talking to me. “And who’s this beauty?”

I seized the moment and jumped in his arms, then I curled up against his formidable chest. Jenny was already defeated, but I lifted my eyes, stubbornly staring behind her head. There was nothing, of course, there’s never anything, but she doesn’t know that, does she?

***

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 – “Promise” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is “a cat always stares at something behind its owner’s back. What does it see?” Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Girl Who Flew Away (https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away/dp/1941295355) and lots of other works for children and young adults.

***

Promise by Val Muller

Meowser always ignored me. Always used to, anyway. He had his own existence, and I had mine. I kept him fed, he kept me company. That was the deal, until my sister was able to take him home again.

Ellie was off for a three-year stint in Italy. Her husband was put on temporary duty there. Rehoming the cat, with all the required paperwork, quarantines, and the like, wasn’t up her alley, so she pushed the cat onto me.

I always pictured myself as a dog person, if I had a pet, that is. I mean, if I had one of my own. But here I was, just out of college. I couldn’t even keep a girlfriend for more than a month.

Ellie handed Meowser over right before she left. “He won’t be any trouble,” she said. “I promise.”

Ellie didn’t say goodbye to Meowser. That always struck me. I guess she didn’t want to cry about it. No need to make goodbyes more sentimental than they need to be. We fell into our ways, Meowser and I. Ellie couldn’t get back at Thanksgiving, so I sent her a picture of the cat sitting on the coffee table eyeing the ample feast. Ellie always got a kick out of things like that. She liked coming up with captions that assigned all kinds of human thoughts to the cat. I probably sent her a picture once a week or so. She posted them on Facebook, too, as if the cat still lived with her.

To me, though, a cat is just a cat. Meowser couldn’t care less about me except when it was feeding time, or if I got lazy cleaning out the litter box.

Ellie made it back during Christmas. Steve flew home to Minnesota, and she flew in to BWI to visit us. She stayed at my place, not Mom and Dad’s, and we all knew it was for Meowser. I don’t really buy the whole animals-have-emotions thing. Didn’t, anyway. But as soon as he saw Ellie, Meowser was a different cat. It wasn’t just that the two were inseparable. They anticipated each other. Meowser would hop off her lap ten seconds before she finished eating. When she’d get up for a glass of water, Meowser was already waiting at the kitchen counter. He was there when she went to the bathroom, to the door, to the couch. At the time, I told myself they were both just really good at reading body language.

Meowser turned psycho the morning Ellie left for Italy again, right after New Year’s. He hissed at shadows in the hallway. He clawed my face—I’ll bear his mark for life, three slashes on my right cheek. And he even bit Ellie. She cried, then, looking at Meowser like he’d betrayed her. Something in Meowser—a look, a feeling—made Elli’s face flush with guilt. “I’ll be back, Meowser. I promise, promise. I’ll come back for you.”

She pressed her forehead to his and paused for several moments. The cat seemed to calm. Then he went about his way, not bothering to watch as she left the apartment. Her promise had calmed him. We lived on, the two of us, for three more months of him ignoring me and me feeding him, waiting until Ellie could take him again.

It wasn’t until last night that Meowser stopped ignoring me. He was sitting on my chest when I woke up. I can’t tell you the adrenaline spike caused by the penetrating green eyes of a cat. Only they weren’t penetrating me. No, they were focused behind me, like on my pillow. Fixated. A focused stare and a blank stare all at once.

I knocked him off me and padded to the kitchen to feed him. But the usual tinkle of food into his dish had no impact. He sat instead on the counter, staring right behind me. We sat there until dawn, him freaking me out and staring and me being freaked out and staring back.

When the sun rose, I left the kitchen to get dressed, and he followed. Freaky cat. I bent down to pet him, and he raised his head toward my hand—but he missed. Only it seemed intentional. He was raising his head to be pet, only he was raising it at something directly behind me. I turned around, half expecting someone, but of course there was no one.

Freaky cat.

I pushed him away with my foot and closed the bedroom door to finish dressing, but his insistent meowing unsettled me. I opened the door to shush him, but his let out a wailing cry at the empty space behind me.

I turned on the TV to drown out the caterwauling. It was a commercial for an HVAC company, a terrible and memorable jingle. I sang along. It silenced the cat, but still Meowser stared behind me.

I thought I saw something walk across the room behind me, a reflection moving across the mirror. But when I turned, I was still alone.

A pizza commercial came on, but my usual appetite sparked by those kinds of commercials had diminished. I didn’t even want breakfast. I picked up the phone to call Mom. Something came over me, and suddenly I had to get Meowser out of my apartment. Surely Mom and Dad could keep him for Ellie.

The phone rang before I could dial, making me jump half out of my skin and drop it on the carpet. Meowser didn’t even flinch. Just kept staring.

It was Mom.

“Baby, turn on the news,” she said.

The news was already on—the pizza commercial had dissolved into a breaking story of a terrorist attack in Paris. A coordinated attack of vans and trucks driving into crowds. The confirmed death count was twenty-two and counting.

“I called Ellie as soon as I saw,” Mom said. She was sobbing. “She didn’t answer. Steve, either.”

“Mom,” I said. “Ellie’s in Italy. Paris is in France.” My mind briefly relaxed, worried only about Mom possibly having a senior moment.

“No, honey. Ellie’s there. Steve is on leave, and the two of them went to France. They were touring the city today and tomorrow.”

“They could still be out touring,” I said. “I mean, do their phones even work in France? I think calls are super expensive. They probably have their phones off. You know, so they can concentrate on their tour.”

But even as the words left my mouth, I knew the worst was true. I knew it because Meowser knew it. The cat’s eyes softened as the realization hit me. Ellie was no longer in Italy. She was no longer in France. Meowser meowed again and ducked his head toward the shadow behind me. His beloved Ellie. She always kept her promise.

***

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 Drought” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme: awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare. 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 Drought by Chiara De Giorgi

The alarm went off. Half awake, I tried to sit up as I heard the news on the radio.

The drought had lasted for so long, that Gap Lake had dried up, revealing a body. After the necessary examinations, it appeared that it belonged to a young man who had gone missing fifteen years ago. There was evidence that he had been killed: someone had hit him on the head with a hammer, or something similar. Then the murderer had dumped the body in the lake. The police stopped considering the young man as missing, and started investigating his murder. The reporter never mentioned the dead guy’s name, but he didn’t have to bother, I knew it was Liam Hunter.

Who would have thought that the lake would eventually dry up? How long would it take for the detectives to come knock on my door?

***

We had been dating, Liam and I, that summer of fifteen years ago. It was really just a fling, I was twenty years old, for God’s sake!

I used to work the late shift at the pub overlooking the lake, and he used to jog for an hour every night after work, before stopping by for a beer. He was always alone, as was I, so of course we started talking, then he started waiting for me to end my shift, walking me home… One thing naturally lead to another.

We were both only temporarily staying at Gap Lake City, that’s one reason why I considered our relationship nothing more than a summer interlude. My hometown was miles away, as was his. We would just be there for a couple of months, to work and save money for our ambitious projects. He wanted to go study law in Paris; I wanted to become a singer. A famous one, I mean. Most people can be decent singers, if they try, but to be extraordinary, well: that takes work. And money. Money for singing lessons, money to support yourself while you tour to find the right agent, money to maybe bribe someone into giving you a chance… If you have money, life’s so much easier.

Anyway.

One time the condom broke and I got pregnant. I asked him to split the doctor’s fee, to get rid of the baby, and he flipped. He claimed I couldn’t do that, it was his baby, too. He wanted us to get married, give up our dreams, and settle down at Gap Lake City, which was the perfect place to raise a child and start a family, with the woods, and the lake, and the friendly community. I could keep working at the pub, he would keep doing whatever it was he was doing at the time (I honestly do not remember), and we would be a happy family.

When I told him I’d do nothing of the sort, he threatened to reach my parents and tell them. I said that I didn’t care, so he promised he’d ruin my career as soon as I had one, telling everyone who would listen what an awful person I was, to put an unlikely dream before my own child and love.

I didn’t mean to kill him, I just wanted him to shut up. Or maybe I did want to kill him. After all, that was the only way to make sure he’d shut up forever.

I hit him on the head with a hammer I found on the pier, he fell into the water and stayed there. I tied a rope to his chest and filled his pockets with rocks, then took a small boat and dragged his body across the lake. When we reached the middle of the lake, I let go of his body. He’s been resting in peace for fifteen years, and I’ve become a famous singer. What would happen now?

***

The alarm went off and I woke up. I listened to the radio, but the reporter never mentioned a drought, or Gap Lake, or the dead body of Liam Hunter.

I called the studio and cancelled all my recording sessions for the week, then took my car and drove all the way there, just to make sure.

The lake’s still there, I am safe.

*****

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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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 – “Future Imperfect” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Winter to spring—a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. In 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/

*****

Future Imperfect by Phil Yeats

I strode toward the train station in the cold drizzle that passes for spring in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A large banner adorned the columns supporting the portico of the white marble edifice. It announced the grand reopening of the hundred-year-old building.

The celebration marked the completion a major west to east upgrade to the Canadian National Railroad by its new Chinese owners. The Quingzhu Corporation’s local representative had invited me to the May Day 2028 festivities.

I presented my personalized invitation to the security guards controlling the building’s formal entranceway. I would have avoided this event if I could, but as a consulting engineer with a business to run, I needed to maintain positive relations with large firms like the Quingzhu Corporation.

Inside, I noticed the renovations adhered to the building’s early twentieth century European style. The newly installed antique display board for arrivals and departures caught my eye. The numbers of trains at this end-of-line station was limited, so I anticipated no imminent updates. But I remembered with fondness the clattering noise I heard as a child when these old-fashioned display boards updated.

I was staring at the board willing it into action when an old friend from my university days tapped my shoulder. “Daniel, my old buddy. Long time no see.”

“Jason! How’s the intrepid investigative reporter?”

“Making a decent living, but no security.”

I shook my head and cast my eyes heavenward. “Similar story. Reasonable profit from most contracts, but without another coming down the pipe…”

“That’s what brings you here today, searching for your next contract?”

“Exactly. This company’s been good to me. They’re part of the growing Chinese Mafia, so I must keep them sweet.”

“If I were you, I’d approach your contact, do the obligatory glad-handing to line up your next project and get the hell out.”

“You expecting trouble? That why you’re here?”

“Yup.”

“Isn’t this a popular project? Quingzhu’s renovated the system, built up the passenger network and lowered freight rates. What’s the complaint?”

“The entire rail system’s in foreign, read Chinese, hands with no guarantee the good times will last.”

I eyed the bar, and the tables laden with finger food. “Okay. Long-term worries. They shouldn’t affect our enjoyment of this little party.”

Jason nodded toward a cluster of suits standing several metres away. “Investment execs. They’re here to make trouble because the last independently owned industrial company was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning. Our now emasculated national stock market is reduced to trading the shares of subsidiaries of foreign companies and the few remaining Canadian companies in banking and other regulated industries.”

“Come on! That bunch of stock brokers aren’t planning a riot.”

“Probably not, but a confrontation between the pro- and anti-Chinese factions is inevitable. It might occur today. Keep your eyes open when you partake of the treats you’ve been eying. If a food fight develops, skedaddle, just like we did in university.”

I laughed. “Join me for a drink?”

“Sorry, you’re on your own. I’m working, looking for a quote or two from your stock brokers.” Jason turned away. “I’ll see you around. Good luck with your next contract.”

I smiled as I headed for the bar but followed Jason’s advice and kept my eyes peeled. When I noticed security personnel slithering into the room, I positioned himself with my escape route in mind. Just like the old days.

*****

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 – “Departure” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “Winter to spring, a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”

This month comes to us from Val Muller, author of the young adult novels The Scarred Letter, The Girl Who Flew Away, and The Man with the Crystal Ankh. Learn more at www.ValMuller.com.

***

Departure by Val Muller

The list of arrivals and departures flashed on the screen. Abby shook her head, remembering the last time she’d been in a train station. It was way back in college, even before her parents gave her the clunker, that old Chevy that somehow got her the six hours to and from school.

Back in those days, the arrival and departure listings were still analog. The click-clack-shuffle as they updated the board was calming and exciting all at once. How many times had her heart raced as she saw how close she was to missing her transfer? And how many times her heart had sunk as she saw her train delayed.

With hours to kill during those college years, she learned her way around the train station. Knew the delicious sin of a McDonald’s meal followed by a coffee from the bakery stand. Or a pretzel and a lemonade. Then some window shopping at the high-end boutiques. All this without leaving the station, without being more than a glance away from her boarding instructions.

Then, of course, there was Joseph. Joseph Arden, professor. Lover. Deity. How many times had she merely sat in the station and fantasized about him? Their fling had been too brief. The spark was there, but he was worried about the ethics of it. Less than a decade separated them, but the caste of university culture made her untouchable. Their encounters, if they continued, would have to remain secretive, limited to late-night coffee and stargazing at midnight while reading poetry. They’d read “Ode on a Grecian Urn” in the moonlight and speculated on how their love was so much stronger for its secrecy, for its inability to turn mundane with the Everyday.

That was only days before he’d ended it.

He could never invite her to faculty functions. Their trysts would always end with shameful walks home at five in the morning, with loaded glances during lectures. It could never work, he’d said.

She’d moved on, of course, dating several guys since Joseph. None of them stuck, though. Not like him. He was the one—the one whose face visited her randomly during some cheesy romance flick, whose warm touch visited her in dreams without warning or provocation. He was the one she couldn’t forget, not after all the years.

She didn’t dare email him. She’d seen his face pop up a few times on social media in the “people you might know” section, but she didn’t dare click “invite.” She could never just casually be his friend. She would analyze every word, every post, for hidden meaning.

It had taken years to forget him just enough, and now the train station brought his memory racing back. She sighed as the electronic sign blinked. OAKTON—ON TIME—TRACK 4.

Oakton. The stop closest to the university. How many times she’d seen it. She glanced at the people seated in the waiting area for track 4. Many were college-aged, likely the newest generation of students at her alma mater. She watched their youth, the energy in their eyes.

And then her throat caught. There he was, Joseph Arden in the flesh. He was unmistakable. The same, save maybe some graying at the temples. The same kind eyes, the same warm shoulders bent over a book. He was alone. His left hand, the hand that held the book, was naked.

No social chasm separated them now, only a few years. She was a professional, on her way to a conference. No shame anymore. Could she do it? Could she just walk up to him? Would he just nod and smile and welcome her into his arms and his life?

She didn’t hear the click, but the shuffle of passengers at track 4 told her the Oakton status had changed to BOARDING.

She watched him, paralyzed. He finished the page and carefully placed a bookmark. Then he grabbed a satchel, threw it over his shoulder, and sauntered down the platform steps.

When the train boarded, she hurried to the waiting area and sat on the bench he’d been on. It was still warm. She watched the train pull away down the staircase in front of her, watched Joseph Arden once again depart from her life. His presence, she suspected, would be even stronger now in her dreams. He was her Grecian Urn, after all, their eternal potential never met. A relationship etched so far into her soul that it transcended the real world. The train disappeared from sight, saving them from the threat of an ordinary life together.

So she shouldered her bag and traversed the station to await her train.

***

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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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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November 11

I write a poem in memory of my son Matthew every month on the 11th. I don’t always post them to my blog but I am today, being Remembrance Day.

Matt13

Twenty months ago today

I laid my son—not his memory—

to rest.

 

With my every breath

I remember him,

whether my eyes are open or closed.

 

I see dragonflies, ladybugs,

faces in the clouds,

I find a coin beneath papers,

I feel gentle breezes, smell

the outdoors, listen to

whispers in the wind.

 

All for naught!

 

He’s above my computer,

watching while I work.

Some days I want to toss the canvas

through the window,

other days I grasp him to my chest.

 

These many months later

I still hear his last cries:

“I have a heart, Mom,

I have a heart.”

 

I’ll never forget.

 

I don’t want to forget.

 

I try to write my story—his story,

our story,

I need it told

but I face ruthless white

and can’t control tears.

How can I write of my dead son?

How can I put his death on paper?

 

Stately granite guarding remains

rises from the ground,

I caress the stone

and feel its warmth,

running my fingers over the etching

as if reading Braille,

Later when the sun exchanges

places with the moon—

after darkness covers day—

light will peek from Heaven

to highlight specks of blue and grey.

 

I’m a private person

living on repeat,

sharing sorrow with those who listen

and with those who don’t.

Another’s grief is uncomfortable,

and my pain’s not lessened with time served.

 

I didn’t ask for this position—

the grieving mother role—

I had prayed for miracles,

would have assumed the sun’s persona

and given him the moon

had I been able.

 

Death happened too suddenly—

too unexpectedly—

and before our next breath

he was gone,

without time for more prayer

or waiting for a miracle.

 

I’m not looking for sympathy,

I share to honour him.

I don’t need you to mop my tears

or quash my cries.

I fight my own battles

and survive my own wars.

 

I must keep his memory alive

until the day I die,

I need to remember.

 

So on this Remembrance Day

as I did last year and as I’ll do the next

and the next and the next and the next

until I die…

I honour the veterans

and though my son never served,

I honour him too.

poppy

Lest we forget.

+++

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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