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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/

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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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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/

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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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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.

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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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Writer Wednesdays

I’ve started a new feature on my blog. Every Wednesday, I plan to showcase one indie author. I’ve sent invites to my writer friends, and thus far, I’ve had a great response.

Of course, this is, I suppose, mostly self-gratuitous as I’m trying to promote my book, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK. But in the process, the authors who participate will be promoting their works, as well. And every little bit of advertising helps, right?

I’m doing this on a first-come, first-served basis. Wednesdays are booked for the next several weeks, but I don’t want “empty” Wednesdays while I wait for people to return the questions/answers, so I’m offering this to subscribers of my blog, too.

If you’d like to participate in “Writer Wednesdays,” send me an email (writingwicket at gmail.com) that you are interested. I will then forward you a list of questions to answer. Return them, along with a photo of yourself and a short bio, and voila! you’ll rate a spot on a future Wednesday. The only “catch” is that you must be a subscriber to my blog, which is a small price to “pay,” right?

I won’t have time to personally let everyone know the date of their interview, but since you, as a subscriber, receive an email every time I post to my site, you’ll see your interview when it appears. Thursdays are designated for The Spot Writers (an online, flash fiction group I belong to–free fiction!!!), and I might post one other day a week. With Writer Wednesdays, that makes, maybe, three posts a week. But the “delete” button is handy if you wish to ignore an email.

If you are reading this post and aren’t a subscriber, please subscribe. And if you want to be featured on a future Wednesday, email me at “writingwicket (at) gmail.com”.  I will  reply with the questions to be answered.

Happy Writer Wednesdays!

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics. Buy it on Amazon. Also available locally from the author and at other retailers.

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The Spot Writers – “Myself” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about a character who finds an object that had been lost.

This month’s story comes to us from Val Muller. She is the author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series (www.CorgiCapers.com) and the YA coming-of-age tales The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away. She is taking the prompt a bit more metaphorically. It is inspired by David Bowie’s video “Thursday’s Child” (https://vimeo.com/240799507), a video which has always intrigued her.

***

Myself

By Val Muller

The kid was finally down for a nap. There was finally silence. Peace. She sighed and looked around the room. The vacuum cleaner sat in the corner, its cord unraveled and covered in stickers. Its canister was full of beans, dirt, sand, and dog hair and needed to be emptied. The carpet was sprinkled with dried bits of Play-Doh. The dog’s head was stuck under the couch as it tried to reach a half-eaten bag of Veggie Straws that had spilled earlier. Its front legs struggled to reach under the couch, scattering more beans onto the carpet.

Note to self, she thought. Put beans on top shelf of pantry from now on.

In the kitchen, a trail of water led from the dog’s water dish to the toddler’s doll house in the living room, where it filled the toy bathtub and toilet, already starting to warp the wood of the toy furniture. The trail seeped into the carpet in a serpentine line. A half-eaten bowl of Cheerios sat on the Mickey Mouse child’s table in front of the television, absorbing milk.

To her right, the kitchen sink overflowed with dishes. The dishwasher had become a repository for beads and sand dumped there during an unexpected phone call yesterday, and she couldn’t find the energy to clean it or hand-wash the backlog of dishes that had accrued.

It was all too much. She went to the bathroom. Closed the door. At least she could have thirty seconds to pee unencumbered, without a toddler asking “whatcha doin’ in there?” or sticking her little fingers under the door. She washed her hands and dried them on her pants: the hand towel was missing. Likely, it had been used to drag water from the dog bowl to the doll house.

She looked in the mirror and sighed. When had she last brushed her hair? Like, really brushed it, while looking in a mirror and using styling products? Last week? Last month? It might have been years ago, before the toddler.

A stranger stared at her from the mirror. Her eyes looked tired. No, not tired.

Dead.

That was it. She was dead inside. She was a function. She got chocolate milk out of the refrigerator when asked. She kissed boo-boos and tied sneakers. She quelled tantrums. Couldn’t a robot do as much? A twinge of guilt pricked her stomach. She was ungrateful. She had a healthy toddler. That should be enough.

She stepped out of the bathroom and plopped on the floor to pluck stickers from the vacuum’s cord. On the hearth above the fireplace sat two books she’d put there at Christmas—Christmas a year and a half ago—that she planned to read. But what was the point now? Each time she sat down to read, something interrupted her. An accident, a request for a snack, a cup of milk being dumped on the dog. No, better not try to get into something like a book. Best to use nap time to clean the house.

She was almost finished removing the stickers by the time she realized she was singing: music was still playing from the living room speaker. It was The Wiggles, and she had been singing to “Five Little Monkeys.” She hurried in to stop the music, and it still echoed in her head. She didn’t even mind it anymore. It was even familiar. Comforting.

What?

What had become of her that she didn’t even realize she was singing along to kids’ music? When was the last time she listened to something of her own choosing?

She needed to get out. A trip to the mailbox. A box awaited, sent by her parents. They were cleaning out her late grandmother’s home, and they mentioned they’d be sending some old photos Grandma had kept over the year. She returned inside, using a broom handle to push the rest of the Veggie Straws out from under the couch. The dog gratefully consumed them.

The first few photos in the box were recent: baby’s first and second Christmases, first and second birthday parties, first time swimming. She flipped through the stack. The pictures aged. Here, her graduation from college, arm around Grandma. Then, a photo she’d sent of herself in her college apartment. She’d forgotten about that space tapestry. It had graced her wall for all four years of college. She always maintained that crazy idea—that she was a stellar traveler, and her life on Earth was just one of her lives, just one experience of many. She insisted that her very vivid dreams were her soul’s way of remembering all of her other lives. Her nickname had been Supernova.

How could she have forgotten about that? She still had that tapestry somewhere, didn’t she? And when had she last had a vivid dream? Maybe you died inside when you stopped dreaming.

She kept flipping. Back through the college and high school years. There were the pictures of her art show. Her high school exhibit, Nebula, had gotten her a free ride for two years in college. Good grief, she’d forgotten the scope of that final project for college, the one that got her national acclaim. The canvas took up the entire wall of her dorm room. She’d had to transport it to the show in sections. And now each section was boxed up in the basement, stacked under a disassembled crib.

There was that whole wall in the office. It had been empty since they moved in. Maybe she could hang it up again…

She flipped through the photos, going back in time to her days as a swimmer, her time on the debate team, her summers at the beach, the time she colored her hair blue and purple. Her first ear piercing, and her seventh. Her days in elementary school gymnastics, her role in the kindergarten school play, her dozen-and-a-half lifetimes that had passed since her birth.

An aged picture of her in ripped jeans and a Starman t-shirt reminded her that she had loved David Bowie. She remembered that now. Why was she content with The Wiggles? Where were her Bowie CDs? She hurried to the garage and dug through her car, under the crusted layer of cereal that seemed to cover everything. Under the copies of The Wiggles and Disney soundtracks and pouches of applesauce and travel packs of disinfectant wipes. There they were, at the very bottom of the center console, interred more than three years earlier. Her Bowie CDs.

She flipped through them. There is was: David Bowie. The 1969 album. She hurried inside and replaced the kid CD in the living room player. “Space Oddity” started playing. It played softly, and she kicked up the volume.

She closed her eyes, rocking back and forth in the living room, listening to the tale of Major Tom, risking everything to follow his dream of space travel, even to his ultimate detriment. But he went. He risked things. He didn’t leave the book on the mantle for fear of interruption.

The song drew to a close, and she hit “repeat.” The intro started up again, and she kicked up the volume, wondering how loud she could make it before waking the kid.

The guitar tickled her mind. The drums pounded with her heart. She ran her fingers through her hair, remembering how she used to toss it around in college. Wild and teased with hairspray, like it had been kissed with stardust.

She kicked up the volume some more so that her hearing took over. The sight of the messy room faded. She listened again to the tale of Major Tom. What had he discovered in those moments in space? What insights did he gain? How much had he grown? What would his next life bring him?

He wouldn’t have been bothered by stickers on an electric cord, or sand in the dishwasher. Those things were irrelevant.

He would have bought paints by now, reclaimed the office, reclaimed a dream.

He was a space traveler. He glowed brightly. He was remembered by all. He was a Supernova.

Emily kicked up the volume again, planning the décor for a home office renovation, her mind igniting with the names of all the paint colors she’d need to paint a nebula. Major Tom’s name echoed on the track.

Major Tom was dead in the end, sure, but not dead inside.

And neither was 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/

 

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The Spot Writers – “On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The June prompt is to update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn’t consistent with the original legend.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, will be available for purchase by the end of June. “Follow” her website www.writingwicket.wordpress.com for updates and/or “like” her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WolvesDontKnock/.

***

“On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam” by Cathy MacKenzie

Peggys Cove, a small rural community on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay, is one of Nova Scotia’s most visited landmarks, picturesque with its lighthouse and deadly waves crashing against the huge boulders. According to local legend, a young girl named Margaret was the only survivor of a shipwreck off Halibut Rock, near the cove. (Peggy, of course, is the nickname for Margaret, hence the name of the cove.) Margaret/Peggy was found by a fisherman who took her to his home, and she was adopted by this man and his wife. No doubt, they all lived “happily ever after.”

In this fictionalized story, I’ve brought Peggy of the Cove into the modern world, where we find her floundering in the Atlantic Ocean…

When Peggy spat out salty water, it was as if she were in the throes of a nightmare, for why was she in the water? But her predicament was real—too real.

She gasped for breath and tread water. She scanned the vast waters. What—a lighthouse?

She was a fan of lighthouses and immediately recognized this one as the lighthouse at Peggys Cove. Peggys Cove, the place where legends began and ended. An abundance of lobster chowder and buttery biscuits. All varieties of fresh seafood. Tourists who disregarded the dangers of the rocks.

She’d been there several years previously and had even admonished several carefree teens who bounded over the boulders as if they were invincible. “Watch for the black,” she had shouted. “Don’t go near the edge. If you tumble, you’ll disappear forever.” They ignored her, of course, so she let them be, and they were fine in the end, thank God. She wasn’t certain what she would have done had one of them toppled into the sea. Would she have jumped in? Nope, not her. Be reckless in your life; suffer the consequences.

Consequences. Was she suffering consequences? What had she done to deserve this?

Her head ached, and the shark-infested waters didn’t calm her nerves. It was a wonder a shark hadn’t shown its face yet. If it did, she wouldn’t fare well.

She made an effort to swim toward shore, where relentless waves slapped against a wall of boulders. Would the waves crash her to the rocks? Wet rocks were slippery and dangerous, and she wouldn’t manage to get on shore even if she reached land. Barefoot, she would slip and slide on the rocks, and if she slid back into the water, she wouldn’t make it a second time. She had amazed herself she’d made it thus far, not that she knew where her journey had begun.

How the hell had she ended up in the water? Why the hell couldn’t she remember? What the Sam Hill—her father’s favourite expression.

Sam!

Samuel Reid, her fiancé.

She shivered and swallowed more water. She found it ironic the more she drank, the thirstier she became.

She was slowly losing strength. She must get to shore.

What had happened to her? Journey—a boat! A cruise boat. They had been on a cruise. A seven-day cruise out of Manhattan. Her memory was returning, albeit slowly. They had boarded the ship at Manhattan, with ports of call at Portland, Bar Harbour, Saint John, and Halifax, ending with two days of cruising from Halifax back to New York.

What “leg” of the cruise was she mired in? Did she “disembark” on the way to Halifax or on the return journey to Manhattan?

More nerve-wracking, how had she ended up in the ocean? No one could accidentally fall over the forty-eight-inch railings. No amount of booze would cause her to be drunk enough to jump into the sea. Someone had to have pushed her.

Horror stories assaulted her. Husbands and boyfriends who wanted to be rid of their partners. Someone had pushed her, and who else but Sam? But why? They loved each other, didn’t they? She did, at any rate, and had always thought herself to be a good judge of character.

They were to marry in December, two weeks before Christmas. The wedding had been planned—by her, of course—and invites mailed. Two months from now. A big wedding, too. Gifts had already poured in. They were both popular, having graduated Dalhousie in June. No jobs yet, but such was life. The jobs would come, though, and they’d end up happily married, forever after, with the proverbial white picket fence and two-point-five kids—if that stat was still correct. She hadn’t checked recently. And who’d have half a kid, anyhow?

They’d taken out life insurance policies four months previously. Sam’s idea, wasn’t it? She hadn’t thought much about it—until this moment. “Might as well get coverage now,” she remembered him saying. “One less thing to do after we’re married.”

She spat out more water. Was she getting the bends? No, from the little she knew about the condition, the bends were when you were deep underwater, your brain exploding within your skull. She was above the sea, but still dangerous and brutal. The sea claimed whatever and whomever at will.

She must reach the rocks. She was confident she could grasp hold and haul herself up no matter the eel-like surface. And someone would be there to rescue her.

Please, God, let someone be there.

Figures and distances weren’t her forte. How much farther? How much longer could she last? Not that it mattered. She must keep swimming. Move her arms, kick her legs. Nothing to it, right?

Her life depended upon it.

Sam. Had he really done this? Why? Why, oh why?

They’d been drinking; they always drank. Who didn’t? “One more glass of wine?” he had asked. “Sure, just one,” she had replied. Booze was free onboard. They’d purchased the beverage package.

Wait! Who had purchased it? Him or her?

No matter. Didn’t matter. Gotta reach shore. “Please, God,” she mumbled. “I’ll never drink again if you save me.”

Didn’t everyone bargain when death neared?

No, death wouldn’t come for her. And when she found Sam, well, she didn’t want to think what she would do.

She forced her arms to dig deep into the water, inch by inch. Where was the splash of her feet? Shouldn’t she hear the splash? Wasn’t she kicking?

Forget it. Keep going. She was moving. The rocks were closer. Black rocks, but she’d manage. Just get me there. I’ll handle the rest.

She pretended she was a mermaid. Mermaids existed in the water. She’d live if she were a mermaid. Who knows, maybe she was one.

Kick! Kick, kick.

Her feet were numb, so maybe she had developed a mermaid tail. Flap! Flap, flap.

Nearer. Almost there. A few more kicks. A few more flails of her arms.

The water was warmer. She was warmer. Another sign of death?

She was close. So close. So close…

“Please, God, don’t let this be a mirage.”

She touched the sharp edge of a rock. A big rock. A boulder.

“I’m safe,” she muttered.

She looked up. A cliff. Too high. She’d never scale that.

She latched hold, her hand slipped, she swallowed water.

She reached again.

She managed to hoist herself onto a low-lying surface, where she lay, panting. The October sun shone across her. Warm. No breeze, no dastardly wind. No crash of the waves against the rocks.

Anyone there? she wanted to shout, but she possessed no strength.

Let me rest. Just let me rest.

 

Note:

My story “Margaret of the Sea” (perhaps a bit too dark, but that’s what the guidelines wanted!), another fictionalized account of Peggy/Margaret, will be published in an upcoming anthology titled Creatures in Canada – A Darkling Around the World Anthology, by Lycan Valley Press. This anthology consists of one “legend” story per province in Canada, a story that could have only happened in that particular province. My story was selected for Nova Scotia. Book will be available on Amazon.

***

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/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Cerebus” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is among the most difficult I’ve tackled. In fact, when I shared it with my student writing group, they were all stumped. Update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn’t consistent with the original legend.

Today’s post comes from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Learn more at www.CorgiCapers.com. And if you like modern twists on mythology, check out her supernatural mystery The Man with the Crystal Ankh: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Crystal-Ankh-Hollow-Book-ebook/dp/B01N75XTGK/

***

Cerebus by Val Muller

 

“Where are we?” asked the largest of the heads.

“I’m thirsty,” answered the middle head, craning its neck in search of water.

“Meow,” said the third.

“Meow?” the other two repeated.

“Meow,” confirmed the third.

“Where are we?” asked the largest head again, its eyes devoid of intellect. An affront to its position. I sighed. That should have been me—head head, brain of Cerebus. What was Ambrus doing in my spot? If I were still in charge, I would have crushed ten souls by now. Twelve! And the three of them were just standing there.

“You’re on Earth, you twits,” I answered. “Don’t you remember anything?”

“Earth?” repeated the largest head—my head—in Ambrus’s lame voice. He said it the way you remember a dream you just woke from, a dream you’ll forget in the next moments. “It’s very bright up here,” he complained.

“Yes,” agreed the second head. It had to be Mikula. He had taken Ambrus’s place as middle head.

We all turned to the third head. “Meow,” it said.

I looked down to note that I was licking my paw. Of all the undignified…I growled at myself, but it came out as more of a purr. In fact, I found myself thinking about finding a nice cardboard box to curl up in.

How atrocious.

And what the hell is cardboard?

“I’m confused,” said the largest head. I glanced at him. I couldn’t help but admire his—my—chiseled jawline, its bone-crushing teeth, its fiery mane of hair, more lion than dog. Oh, but those vacant eyes. I narrowed my own.

“When are you not confused, Ambrus?” I asked. Ambrus was our brawn, not our brain. He did what I told him. He devoured souls when I didn’t feel like it, he pounded his head into the rocks of the underworld to create cavernous cave-ins. He told us when we needed sustenance. Pure beast. He did none of the actual thinking.

“Meow,” said the third head.

“Wait,” said Ambrose. “What’s going on?”

I growled—trying to make it as purr-less as possible. Any imbecile could see what had happened.

“We were sent up and forward,” I said.

“Up?” asked Mikula.

“Forward?” asked Ambrose.

“Meow,” said the third head.

“Up.” I motioned to the surroundings with my paw. I was surprised at how dexterous the feline appendage was. I pointed to the alleyway, the buildings, the glowing lights of the city.

“And forward.” I pointed to the airplanes in the sky, the automobiles, the indicators of the current era.

“But why?” asked the idiot who occupied my head.

This had literally been explained to us moments ago when we were still in Hades and still in our own era.

“We’re being proactive,” I said. “Sorting and gathering souls for Hades. Things were getting crowded. Gods, haven’t you read Dante’s Inferno? We’re supposed to scare up some people into behaving better. Hades is tired of dealing with so many down in his turf. We’ve got to slow down the influx of souls.”

Mikula nodded like it was the first he was hearing of all this. That’s all he ever did. Agree and obey.

The third head meowed. I wished the other two would just bite his head off already. There were fewer things more useless to me than cats. And here I was…

“When we transported,” I explained, “we were supposed to be sent somewhere deserted. You know, to fully materialize. Hades can see all, but he apparently missed that there was a mangy alleycat right here, licking its damned paws just as we arrived. The sheer force our arrival crashing into its existence, and my head was taken by idiot over there, leaving Ambrose’s head ripe for Mikula’s taking. And me…” I meowed so loudly I felt sick and forced up a hairball.

A human walked by, talking into a sparkly device. The three heads turned to gauge my reaction.

“I thought we were bigger,” Ambrose said. Indeed, the human had towered over us. “We used to be able to devour men in a single gulp. That I remember.”

“Souls have no size,” I said. “In this world… “ But what could I say? How could I justify Cerebus’s new diminutive size with talk of limited resources of the laws of physics in the real world? These partners of mine came from an alternate dimension, and they barely understood anything. It was pointless. We weren’t going to devour souls anytime soon. And we certainly weren’t doing Hades any favors.

A human walked by. “Meow,” I said, swallowing my disgust.

“Awww,” the human said. “Are you lost, little kitty? Stay right here.” She disappeared into a doorway and emerged a moment later with a little can. She flicked the top, and it made the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. I leapt to her feet and devoured the sweet ambrosia that was trapped inside. Fish and liver pate. I couldn’t remember a thing in Hades I liked better.

When I finished, I glanced up. Music from an open window above the alley had lulled the three idiots to sleep. Their body was warm and their breathing, rhythmic. I purred once and leapt into the crook of their front leg, snuggling in for a nap. Before I fell asleep, I admired the clean paw I had just licked. Its calico pattern was something to rival the finest artisan’s work. Then I licked it some more, just to be sure.

It’s what cats do, after all.

* * *

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.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “A Fuse for a Book” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has lot of fun.

***

A fuse for a book by Chiara De Giorgi

My elderly upstairs neighbor is very cute, but quite deaf.

She’s also lonely, especially at night. Her small flat suddenly becomes too big, the emptiness of it filling every inch. And she can’t sleep if she’s alone. So she turns on the TV while she lays in bed, waiting for sweet slumber and hopefully some happy dreams.

This is all very moving, and I feel sorry for her. That is, until at 2.00 am she turns in her sleep and accidentally presses all the buttons in the remote and the volume goes up and a crazy zapping starts, right over my head. Which happens more often than seems reasonable, especially at 2.00 am.

I tried banging on her door once, but of course she couldn’t hear me. She slept on, while people in China could hear her TV proudly announcing Germany’s Next Top Model. So I bought myself some earplugs, which I keep next to my bed, just in case RTL jingle brutally and suspiciously intrudes into my dreams at some ungodly hour.

Once I thought, why doesn’t she goes to sleep with a book, for goodness’s sake! And right there and then, an idea was born.

The first book I left in her mailbox was an ancient and pretty copy of Jane Eyre. She disregarded it completely, as I could easily tell the following nights.

So I tried slipping a slim Agatha Christie mystery under her door. Again, no luck.

Desperation and insomnia were gripping me, so I tried leaving the whole Modern Herbalism Collection (seven hardbound tomes) on her doormat. No success. My elderly neighbor was happily and unwittingly spending her nights lulled by the worst possible TV programs, while I was going crazy for lack of sleep. My eyes were bloodshot, my skin was grey, I put the car keys into the fridge and tried starting my car with a ham slice… I needed a new idea.

One morning, I went down to the basement by mistake (I was basically sleep walking and missed the front door of the building while going to work) and a brilliant idea stroke me.

That night, around 10.00 pm, when I heard my neighbor turn the TV on, I tiptoed down to the basement, reached the fuse box, and removed the one that granted power to the sweet old lady’s flat. And There Was Silence.

I slept like a baby, woke up happy, and went to work with a renewed spirit. Before leaving the building, I put the fuse back. Let her call Maintenance!

Which she did, after a week of me removing-and-replacing the fuse, but no one ever found what was wrong with the TV, or the cables, or anything.

My elderly neighbor finally started reading the books I had anonymously given her. I’ve been dropping a new book in her mailbox every week since then, and we’ve both been sleeping peacefully ever since.

I keep removing the fuse at night and putting it back at morning, though. You can never be too safe.

***

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.com/

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