Tag Archives: family

The Spot Writers – “Pigeon Phobia” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The September prompt is to use these five words in a writing: carrot, lily, moustache, esophagus, pigeon.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, is available from her locally or on Amazon, to great reviews.



Pigeon Phobia by Cathy MacKenzie

The final time I visited Granny in her fourth-floor condo, I was ten. I didn’t know exactly how old she was then, but the brown spots on her hands, her stooped shoulders, and her grey, frizzy hair showed her years. For as long as I could remember, she sported a bit of a moustache, and the stubby hairs rubbed against my face whenever she kissed me.

She used to stand by the sliding door that opened onto the balcony and talk to Stella. “I see you, Stell” and “What are you doing, Stell?” were her usual questions. No one answered, of course.

I had never seen Stella standing on Granny’s balcony, never even met her as I far as I knew, nor did I know why Granny talked to this mysterious, invisible woman several times a day.

The pigeons were in full force, though, swooping down to the balcony. They pooped on the wicker furniture, on the side tables, and on the railing. I swear those beady eyes looked right into the living room. I eyed their scruffy feathers and scrawny beaks. So close, I could touch them.

One day, Granny stomped from the living room into the kitchen, yanked open the fridge, and pulled out a bag of carrots. I sensed what was coming and moved out of her way.

Yep, she hurled those carrots, one by one, with a strength a frail, elderly woman didn’t normally possess. “Get away, you dratted creatures,” she shrieked.

As hard as she threw, though, she didn’t hit any.

She gasped after yelling at the birds and covered her mouth. “Stell, I’m so sorry if I disturbed you. Go back to sleep.”

She turned from the door, and a sad face overtook her surprise at seeing me. “Sorry, Carmen. It’s those damned pigeons. How I hate them.”

“Can we go out to sit, Granny?”

“No, we cannot. Not with those dratted pigeons ruining everything. Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow we’ll go out.”

I was at Granny’s condo for six days that last time, but “tomorrow” never came. The pigeons continued their tirade, almost taunting her. She wouldn’t go outside with them perching on the railing as if they owned her balcony. “I dare you,” they seemed to say. “I dare you.”

I would have yelled “double dare” back, but that would have given the pigeons the attention they craved, and Granny wouldn’t have liked that.

Visits with Granny are as fresh in my mind as if they happened yesterday, but many years have passed. The pigeons aren’t as bad as they once were. Maybe they were never that bad. When one lights on the balcony, I shoo it away.

I hate the sunlight as much as Granny hated the pigeons. The afternoon glare hits the sliding door most days and highlights my age spots, similar to those that lined Granny’s hands and arms.

I have no grandchildren. No husband. No siblings.

But I have my memories.

I cough, remembering how Granny wheezed and hacked every few minutes. I had always thought her coughing a nervous habit, but she suffered bouts of heartburn and inflammation of the esophagus, so perhaps not.

I peer down from the fourth floor balcony. I can just barely see Granny’s headstone. “Hush now, Granny, the pigeons won’t hurt you anymore.” I cover my mouth and giggle. “Oh, Stell, I hope I didn’t wake you.”

If I lean over far enough, I can see Stella’s headstone, too.

Yesterday I visited Granny and left an orange lily, her favourite flower. I stopped by to say hello to Stell, too.

Strands of shoulder-length grey hair whip across my face. The wind whispers. Or is it Granny?

“Hush, Granny. Sleep tight.”


 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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


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


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Oh, Dragonfly

Barbasol Championship - Round Two

(September 11, 2018: Eighteen Months)

Oh, Dragonfly

It soars
Up and down,
Over and across,
Swooping like a crow,
Soaring like an eagle,
Its shadow dark,
Larger on ground than in air.

Zooming over the glistening water,
Teeny wings unfolded,
Almost scraping the water
And then coming toward me,
Wings spread like an airplane—
Or an angel.

Is it trying to catch my attention?
I watch,

Even with grandchildren
Laughing, splashing, yelling,
It remains
Bold, soundless,
Flying in, flying out.

My vision blurs.
My throat constricts.

Could it be?

They say dragonflies are
A symbol of resurrection,
The deceased returning:
A fairy sprinkling dust
Or an angel planting kisses.

I watch you zoom by,
Disappearing for seconds,
Returning just as quickly
And landing on my knee—
A sign of good luck!

My son, is that you?

Oh, how you loved the pool,
The lounger you reclined upon
Rests in the same place.

I see you there,
Deep in thought,
Eyes closed,
Soaking up too much sun,
But I don’t admonish.

Not anymore.

No matter where you are:
Floating forever in eternity,
Twinkling with the stars,
Sleeping on the moon,
Dancing with the clouds,
Marvelling at mars,
Or returning to earth
If only for moments
As a fleeting dragonfly,
I’ll take what I can.

I’ll grasp every sign:
Every whisper,
Every breath,
Every touch.

Even if not you
I’ll pretend,
I’ll hold memories dear
To my chest,
At my breast,
Within my heart.

I sigh…
Oh, dragonfly,
Where have you gone?

I watch and wait.

You don’t return.

But that’s okay
For I’ll wake another morning,
I’ll search another day.


In memory of my beloved, always missed son Matthew. Gone eighteen months today.

As Matt said numerous times the last too-short eight weeks of his life after we were given the diagnosis: “F*** cancer.” I echo his sentiments. (Can you imagine: two months from diagnosis to death!?)

I’ll miss you until my last breath.

Matt alone (2)



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 local retailers.



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Oh, My Gosh!

Earlier today I posted the blog piece I had written yesterday. Remember how I said we caught one of those dratted critters at least two weeks ago? Remember the “flakes” in my appliance cupboard?

Well, yikes!

I hate to say this, but my house is a mess. Truly, I haven’t cared about much since my son died last March in 2017 (sorry…I always find a way to add him into my stories). No excuse, I know (re the mess). Plus, we were in Mexico for two months this winter. Yes, another excuse.

So, Easter is this weekend and we have guests coming for dinner Sunday. (Okay, just family, but when I have “guests,” no matter who they are, I like to have a clean house.) So, I’ve been toiling the entire day, cleaning under the kitchen sink (no turds, thankfully!), as well as two of the bathrooms. I vacuumed, dusted, wiped baseboards. GAH! You name it.

Somewhere along the line, I tackled the kitchen, which is the cleanest room in my house cause I know about bugs and stuff, and how grease and grime and leftovers attract EVERYTHING under the sun. Nonchalantly, I swiped the cloth between the toaster oven and the unit that holds the wall oven and then decided to do a better job. So I moved out the toaster oven a tad.

And low and behold! Carrot ends. I was flabbergasted and sick to my stomach. Was there more? I hefted the oven off the counter. Sure enough. More carrot pieces.

Ever since returning from Mexico, Hubby has been “into” carrot juice. We bought a $200+ juicer and tons—and I mean tons—of veggies. Every Saturday, we replenish the supply. And every evening before bed, he washes his veggies and gets them ready for the next day. And the next morning he makes his juice. And every morning, I take apart the juicer, throw the pulp into the compost (I have tons already frozen for stews and sauces—more than we’ll ever use, thank you very much!), and wash the zillion plastic pieces. Quite frankly, I’m getting tired of that chore, but I do it every morning with love in my heart—without complaint.

And every night, I tell him: “Please take the veggie dregs to the compost bin before you come to bed.”

I thought he heeded my words, but obviously not. Does he ever listen to me? Thus, the dratted mice have been climbing to the counter and transporting carrot tops and bottoms behind the toaster oven. And to think I’ve been cooking and lingering in the kitchen, not realizing they were there! Some carrot hunks were bright orange, so the detective in me knew the invasion had been recent. Some were withered and dried, which meant the onslaught had been ongoing. But for how long? Probably ever since we bought the juicer!

Wasn’t stealing our peanuts and M&Ms enough????


I emailed pics to Hubby. Of course, he called me within minutes. “What are those pictures?” I had to explain. Several times! He thought it was a pic of the floor!!! REALLY????

He doesn’t understand that four plus four equals current mice!

So, we are still infested. Big time.

Where in the heck are they hiding?

I’m checking over my shoulders more than ever. Not even sure I can eat in this house again despite the fact I have turnip boiling and chicken roasting for dinner tonight.

Thing is, Hubby puts more than carrots in his juice. He uses turnips, parsnips, cabbage, celery, apples, and pears. It appears out of all those veggies/fruits, mice like carrots the best. All of those dregs were in the little compost container on the counter, yet all I’ve found (thus far) is carrots.

Am I going to find more bits and pieces elsewhere?

I need a drink!

A big one! Bigger than this…



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The Spot Writers – “Death in the Family,” by Tom Robson

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The title of this piece is the prompt for this month and comes from Tom Robson, author of Written While I Still Remember, a Patchwork Memoir.


Death in the Family.

There is an irony in this prompt which requires me to publish a story, on line, on the occasion of my eightieth birthday. Achieving this milestone brings the reminder that death looms large. Yet I am the exception that proves the rule that the males on either side of my family tree don’t last too long in this life. Both grandfathers just made it to seventy. My father’s body succumbed, before he reached sixty, to the long term effects of wartime malaria and breathing in noxious substances working at an oil refinery. Uncles passed long before their spouses, while  many of the females lasted well into their eighties and even ninety. Perhaps I have inherited a preponderance of their genes.

More irony. At birth I was not expected to emerge without damage. Birthday minus one, through to delivery I had refused to somersault, seeming determined to be born feet first. In 1936, even at the prestigious St James Infirmary in Leeds, extended breech births to first time mothers were risky. Perhaps the fifteen minutes of fame that fate entitles us to, were the first minutes of my life when the medics saw that I was alive and apparently undamaged. My mother often told me that I cheated death when I was born.

I was never allowed to deal with death and loss as a child, teen and young adult. In consequence, funerals were alien experiences and occasions to be avoided.The first funeral I attended was my fathers, when I was 34, married and with a family of my own. My children did not attend their grandfather’s funeral.

To put this avoidance in perspective, I grew up in wartime Britain. Every day, death was in the news. Two uncles were taken. Conversation around their deaths excluded myself and my young cousins. But all three of us heard our grandfather’s ale-stimulated opinions of the U-boat attacks, the navy that refused to stop for survivors and the blame that could be attached to Churchill almost as much as Hitler. But he did not argue about our evacuation to the countryside after another son was killed in an air raid, before he even enlisted in the army.

After the war, there was a polio outbreak  where we lived. It took the lives of a few children but there was no gathering of schoolmates at the burial service. Fear  of contagion was more powerful than the need to grieve during  that particular summer vacation.

In my early years of teaching my best friend was killed in a car accident. I should have read the eulogy I prepared but I could not bring myself to attend the service and face friends and students at the school where we both taught.

The surprising consequence was that my stumbling excuse that I couldn’t deal with the ending to his life, was understood by many of our friends and colleagues. My generation of Brits kept ‘a stiff upper lip” but often it was because we avoided confronting death. Many understood. We were discouraged from being in the presence of its aftermath. We did not intimately know death. We did not confront it. We did not talk about it.

I was sixteen when my father’s mother was eighty. In her declining years she would spend time living with which ever of her children agreed to take care of her. She would live with one until it was agreed that another wanted her or felt guilty enough to take a turn. My father was her youngest and I was the youngest of her many grandchildren. We had been close in the war years when my mother and I spent time living with and helping her.

That winter of 1952-3 she came to the warmer south of England to live with us. I gave up my bedroom to sleep on a cot in the “front’ room; that vestige of Edwardian lifestyle which was only used when people who had to be impressed came to visit. This teenager quickly spoiled its pristine appearance.

We had our Christmas dinner at my nearby aunt and uncle’s house. In the evening we were joined by various family friends. My aunt and her mother were avid card players. The preferred game was Partner Whist. Aunt Mabel organized sixteen or twenty of her guest into two person, teams to compete for the 1952 Christmas Cup.I partnered my grandmother. This delighted both of us.

I am not sure whether we won because we were the only sober couple, the only pair who treated the game seriously or whether my aunt cooked the results. My grandmother was almost delirious, still talking about how well we had played as we took her home and persuaded her that it was way past her bedtime.

On Boxing Day morning, we let grandma sleep in. My uncle arrived on his bike about 11:00am. He was making his Boxing Day round of visits to friends and relatives, enjoying a drink at each stop. He would be sleeping at one of his visits when he could be persuaded that he was no longer capable of riding his bike to the next ‘pit stop’

As he arrived we could hear my grandmother moving around and I was eventually asked to tap on her door and tell her “Bert is here!”

I did this and when there was no reply I opened the door, assuming my hard-of-hearing grandma missed my too gentle knock.

Grandma was in an untidy heap on the floor, her dead body reflected in the mirror on the wardrobe door.

I cried for help in a voice strangled by sobs. My father came and ushered me out of the room, calling on my mother to look after me and for Bert to help him.

After the doctor visited and signed the document certifying that she had suffered a fatal heart attack, the undertaker had been called and my uncle sent home to comfort his wife, daughter of the deceased, I had to be attended to.

To this day I do not understand why I was removed from the presence of my grandmother and why I was left alone and unwelcome at her funeral. I vaguely recall a statement from one of my parents that “it was better if I stayed away. It was not…” ;and the rest of the reasoning has gone but it was something like”funerals are no  place for children!”

I was sixteen. I was trying to believe that I was no longer a child. I had spent many days and nights, of the six years my father was away at war, at his mother’s home in northern Leeds, where she would be taken, by train, to be buried. I did not realize then that I needed to say goodbye. I only knew I was sad and I wanted to be there.

Instead, one of the many calls that Boxing Day afternoon, on our new-to-us gadget, the telephone, was to my friend Pete’s mother, asking if I could stay with them for a few days. Less than four hours after her death I was delivered to the Appletons, sat down at their late lunch of Christmas left-overs and given my choice of playing pieces for the evening game of Monopoly.

There had been a death in the family. Someone I loved dearly had passed away. Why was I not invited to say goodbye?

My grandmother left a reminder. I love to play cards. The only thing I do left-handed is deal cards. The only thing my father did cack-handed was to deal cards. My right handed grandmother, who taught both of us to play, also dealt left handed. I’ve been reminded of grandma many times in the sixty five years since she left, when asked, “Why are you dealing  left handed?”

* * *

The Spot Writers – our members are:-

RC Bonitz:         rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson     https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/



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The Spot Writers – “Family Secrets” by Deborah Dera

Welcome to the Spot Writers segment for this week. This week’s contribution comes from Deborah Dera. The prompt for the past few weeks has been to choose an item and write about why your character stole it. Deborah’s piece morphed a bit from the prompt, and is in no way, shape, or form a true story.


Next week’s prompt will come from RC Bonitz, author of A LITTLE BIT OF BLACKMAIL, A LITTLE BIT OF BABY, and A BLANKET FOR HER HEART.




Family Secrets


I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it, but I always convinced myself I had to try – again, and again, and again. The private conversations worked for a couple of days, resulting in the sudden disappearance of his secret stash and several hours of lucidity. Family interventions resulted in tears, promises, and – at most – two or three weeks of cleanliness. Getting picked up for possession should have resulted in about a month of sobriety, but it didn’t. There were too many suppliers in the prison.


When Rex was up for release, my mom asked if I’d take him in. He’s always looked up to you, she said. He’ll listen to you. You’re a great role model.


And I believed her. For some reason, I really believed her. I convinced myself I could rehabilitate my baby brother; make him see the right path.


For a little while, it seemed to be working. Rex lost his license, so I was driving him to work each day. Most nights, after work, I’d drop him off at his meetings – a different flavor for each night of the week. He started drawing again and spent some of his spare time helping me with lawn upkeep and chores around the house. He seemed happy.


Then – out of the blue – he just wasn’t. He’d sulk when I dropped him off at meetings. At night, he’d shut himself in his room. It got to the point where I wasn’t even sure he was consuming more than coffee each day.


Maybe he needs a really good inpatient program, my husband suggested. I can talk to him.


I didn’t want to hear it or believe it. I didn’t want it to be real. Things had been going so well and all I wanted was for my baby brother to be whole again.


So that’s why I did it, really. I had a good reason.


It was the night I went to pick Rex up from a meeting and found he wasn’t there. He was always waiting outside promptly at 7:15pm. There were always stragglers inside, socializing, but he never wanted to participate. After waiting for 10 minutes, I put the car in park and headed inside. I pulled a tall, lanky woman aside and asked if she knew where Rex was.


Rex? Rex hasn’t been to a meeting here in… oh… 3 weeks or so.


My heart sank.  I drove aimlessly around the neighborhood that night, trying to remember where some of his old haunts were. My stomach knotted when I spotted him across the dark school playground, huddled near the slide with two other guys. I circled the block and pulled up slowly near the playground gate. I rolled the window down enough for him to see who it was and parked my car at the curb. I waited.


Rex had his back to me but looked around as the others noticed me. I watched as he made some sort of exchange with the guy to his left, then shaking hands with the guy to his right. He turned towards me, head low and hands shoved deep into his pockets. He opened the passenger door and slid in nimbly. He seemed sober.


Hey, sis! I remember the cheer in his voice; his happy-go-lucky attitude. He really didn’t know what was wrong with the situation.


I took a breath. I don’t know what was going on there, and I don’t really want to know. What I do know is that you broke the terms of our agreement. So when we get home, you can pack your shit and get out of my house.


Rex looked stunned. No, sis, no. You don’t understand. I’m totally clean. Totally. I just… I have to pay a few people. I owe these guys some money and…


He trailed off, realizing how ridiculous it sounded, telling me he’d shifted from user to dealer. My heart broke into a thousand pieces.


At least… can I at least have until morning? I need to pack up and make some calls in the morning. Just until morning?


I nodded my agreement. I was angry, but not completely cold-hearted.


We parted ways as soon as we got out of the car. I didn’t want to look at him. I felt betrayed. I went into my room and cried until my husband came in. He listened and didn’t judge, and then suggested I talk to my brother to find out if he was in real trouble. If for no other reason than to make sure we weren’t going to find trouble.


An hour later, I crept down the basement stairs and softly spoke his name. No answer. I gently knocked on the makeshift door, but still no answer. I pushed the door open, carefully and quietly, and flipped the switch inside. Rex wasn’t there.


I’ll never forget what I did see, though. Dozens and dozens of dime-sized baggies. Pills, powders – spread around his room. My brother really had shifted from a user to a dealer and I stood, stunned, as a wave of emotions coursed through my veins. Then I saw it – the syringe – and I realized I was only fooling myself. Neither was great, but knowing he was using and dealing was even worse. Suddenly, holding onto my anger like it was a lifeline, I turned heel. In the basement utility closet I found a 13 gallon garbage bag. I went back to my brother’s room and put every single baggie, box, and related supply into the bag, knotting it tight at the top.


Flipping the light off on my way out, I stopped at the closet and grabbed another bag, dropping the first one inside. I had an irrational fear of the first bag ripping.


I barreled up the stairs and marched past my bewildered husband, straight out the front door and to my car. Peeling out of the driveway, I drove straight past the town dump – too easy. I hopped on the highway and drove for 45 minutes – north – I don’t know why I chose to go north. I chose an exit, at random, and drove around until I found a big box grocery store. At the back of the building, I found the dumps to be about half full – and that’s where I tossed the bag.


When I arrived home, two hours after leaving, I stayed silent. I kissed my husband gently and went straight to bed. The overwhelming anger turned into utter exhaustion, and I was consumed by a deep, dark sleep.


The next morning, Rex was nowhere to be found. When I checked his room, it looked like it had been ransacked, though I suspected he was the only one to blame. He was, very likely, too high to realize what he’d done with his stash, but he remembered me telling him to leave.


I haven’t seen him since.




The Spot Writers- our members: 

RC Bonitz

Val Muller

Catherine A. MacKenzie

Deborah Dera




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