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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/

 

+++
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 – “Achievemephobia” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare.”

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/

*****

Achievemephobia by Phil Yeats

 

Alan awoke with his heart pounding. Had lightening or thunder disturbed him, or was it a noise in his apartment? He lay in bed listening as his heartbeat slowed. The electric heat ticked, the fridge hummed, and somewhere, water dripped. Outside his windows, the night appeared benign.

Did a dream wake him? He only remembered the vaguest details of dreams, and those details invariably surfaced slowly.

Alan thought back to the previous evening. He’d sat in bed finishing the first draft of a chapter for his new book, then checked his email, his social media sites, and did some web surfing.

He lifted the lid of his laptop and tapped the space bar. It didn’t come to life. He hadn’t fallen asleep while surfing. He’d shut it down, not abandoned it to go into sleep mode.

An image of the cover of his first novel flooded his consciousness, emerging like an old Polaroid print on the very popular ReaderGuy blog. An annoying flashing banner pronounced it mystery novel of the month. Was that the problem? Had the ReaderGuy discovered his totally obscure self-published novel?

If he did, the notoriety and attention it brought would be a disaster. It would bring sales, the ReaderGuy trumpeted the fact his book of the month designations increased sales by hundreds, even thousands. They brought many struggling writers a lifeline they really appreciated.

But Alan didn’t covet sales. He desired nothing more than publishing the book and giving or selling a few copies to writing colleagues and the odd stranger. And he detested thoughts of media attention. The last thing he wanted was a reporter from the local newspaper interviewing him. And the possibility of a book review in the Globe and Mail—God forbid.

As his sleep-befuddled brain activity improved, he realized the flaw in his logic. If he’d seen such a posting on the ReaderGuy’s site, he would have remained awake all night worrying.

Alan grabbed his laptop, fired it up, and Googled Amazon.com books. When the Amazon site came up, he entered Tilting at Windmills in the search bar and hit enter. He scrolled down the thumbnail pictures of books with the same title until he found his familiar cover picture.

On the electronic version’s page, he scrolled down to the sales rankings and checked its position. One million, six hundred and eighty-five thousand, four hundred and twenty-three—what he expected for a book that hadn’t sold a copy for several months. When he checked, the paperback ranking was equally dismal.

He sighed as he returned the computer to the nightstand. No sales meant it was a dream, a real nightmare, but nothing that actually happened. He could sleep without worrying about reporters calling at all hours.

*****

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 – “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/

+++

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 – “Dragons Go Out in the Cold” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers.

The current prompt is a story about something nice and unexpected happening on a gloomy day.

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.

***

Dragons Go Out in the Cold

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

March, 1st

We’ve reached the top of the mountain just before midday. It’s been a wonderful day since sunrise: the sky is clear and blue, not a single cloud is to be seen, and the temperature has been seriously mild, considering it’s still Winter.

We quickly set camp not far from the spring: the water is chilly, crystal clear, pure, and fresh. I love it.

Sam is lighting a fire, I’m supposed to make notes about our surroundings, looking for the best place to spot the dragon, but I don’t need to do that. I already know where we should go, I’ve explored the area quite a few times on my own.

There’s a dragon hiding on these mountains. It’s a handsome beast, huge and massive, with greenish scales all over its body. You can’t imagine how wide its wings look, when it glides from above. I can’t wait for Sam to see for himself.

The only problem is the weather: it’s too good. Dragons go out in the cold.

 

March, 3rd

No sightings, yet. The sun is shining, the days are gloriously warm, and Sam is getting impatient. The silence, the stillness of this mountain is broken only by the burbling water in the creek and the chirping of the birds.

 

March 5th

Now I am getting impatient. I believe there never were so many cloudless days in a row! I’d hate it so much to go back without spotting the dragon! People do not believe me. Maybe they wish I were right about the beast: who wouldn’t be excited at the thought that dragons are real? If Sam is unable to corroborate my claim, though… I can already see their condescending smiles, their heads gently shaking. I couldn’t bear it.

Please, please, please: let there be clouds!

 

March, 6th

YES! Finally!

A strong wind shook our tent early this morning, before sunrise. The weather has definitely changed: grey clouds have been chasing one another across the sky for hours. We barely managed to heat up our coffee before it started to rain: big, fat raindrops that fell almost lazily at first, but soon gained strength and hurt when they hit you.

We spent the day inside the tent. Sam dozed and snored the day away. I was too excited to go back to sleep. As bad as the day was getting, though, it was not bad enough.

As night fell, we ate some dry meat and cereal bars, feeling quite miserable.

I just hope this awful weather gets worse.

March, 6th – later

We heard it! Oh my God, we heard it!

It was too dark to see anything, but the noise was unmistakable.

I shook Sam awake and made him listen. First he heard the flapping: powerful wings beating in the storm. He was already trying to explain the noise away, when the scream came and he went pale. His eyes were huge and his mouth hung open in disbelief. I just smiled and nodded, then mouthed: Dragon.

I hope with all my heart that the sun doesn’t come up tomorrow. We’ll walk to the spot from where we can keep an eye on the cave and he will see.

 

March, 7th

I’m still trembling.

The day started as gloomy and dark as it could be. We wore our raincoats and climbed up to the cave, then hid behind a rock and lay in wait. Sam had barely spoken one word since last night.

Three hours later, we looked like drowned rats and had not seen nor heard anything. I could see that Sam was becoming impatient, but he was very excited, too. He wanted to see. He wanted to believe.

Then we heard a cracking sound behind us, and suddenly a heat wave hit our backs. We slowly turned and… two baby dragons were watching us! They were slightly smaller than we, had a thick tail and fleshy wings. And they spat fire. Not enough to burn anything, especially under such a pouring rain, but still.

Sam was about to pass out, but I slapped him hard and he came back to himself.

The two babies cackled and hopped towards us, beating their wings in the most peculiar way. At last I understood their meaning: they wanted to play!

I started mirroring their movements and they were delighted, I was so happy that I started to laugh and they laughed back – at least, I think that’s what they did.

We had been at that for a good while, when we felt the air move behind us. We slowly turned and went numb. Mother was there. Sam started whimpering and I elbowed him. He coughed and stopped. I was trembling myself. What would Mother do? The slowest seconds passed, and then the two babies (puppies?) reached Mother, jumping and flapping their wings, shrieking all the time. After a heartbeat of consideration, Mother plunged her huge head towards us, one of her eyes as big as my own head. I swallowed noisily and thought I was going to die in the gloomiest day mankind could remember. But it was not to be. Mother purred, and puffed a wisp of smoke out of her nostrils into our faces. After that, she spread her formidable wings and took flight, her offspring close on her tail.

***

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 – “Perfect Sailing Weather” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The current prompt is a story about something nice and unexpected happening on a gloomy day.

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. Last week, 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/

 

*****

Perfect Sailing Weather by Phil Yeats

Neither rain, drizzle, nor fog kept me from my favourite outdoor activity. Well, fog presented a problem, but rain and drizzle, especially when accompanied by strong winds, were beneficial.

My favourite outdoor activity is sailing and my punishment of choice, the International Contender single-handed racing dinghy. That five-metre-long beast is low to the water, extremely lively, and any fool who tries to tame it will get soaked. Rainy weather is inconsequential.

My father died while I studied for my final university exams. His sudden traumatic passing didn’t prevent me from graduating near the top of my class.

My mother didn’t fare as well. In fact, she fared very badly, falling into a psychological black hole she appeared incapable of escaping.

My little sister decided she must devote the summer after she finished her second year at the local community college caring for our mother. I offered to help by moving home and finding a job in the local area.

My decision left me with a decent job but little free time because our mother refused to accept any outside help in the house or grounds. I was stuck maintaining our extensive grounds to her exacting standards. It was a frustrating responsibility that occupied my free days in decent weather. I coveted rainy ones, the rainier the better, as my chance to escape.

Friday, July thirteenth, I woke to rain pelting off my window. “Great!” I announced to the walls before leaping from my bed.

I rushed through breakfast and arrived at the sailing club as the wind died down. Damn, I shook my fist at the grey skies and misty drizzle. Don’t you dare clear.

Half an hour later I pushed Boondoggle into the lake, jumped aboard, and hauled in the sheet. We shot ahead, propelled by a breeze that might produce an exciting sail. I bore off as I pushed out on the trapeze wire hoping to coax her onto a plane, but there wasn’t enough wind.

Three hours later, I abandoned hope of finding more wind. The rain had increased, but the wind had dropped to a pleasant breeze. I tacked and headed for the club.

I’d beat across most of the lake when I spotted another sail, the only one I’d seen all morning, in the distance near a lee shore. The sail dropped, leaving the boat bobbling in the lumpy waves produced by the overnight wind.

As I headed toward the apparently disabled craft, I noticed a figure struggling to control the flapping sailcloth.

“You okay?” I yelled as I approached the boat.

She tried to rise but quickly dropped back into the boat as it rocked violently. “I’m fine, but the centreboard broke, so I, like, can’t control anything. It just slides sideways.”

I came alongside and grabbed her gunwale. I released my sheet and Boondoggle slowed. My momentum turned us onto a better trajectory, one that should clear the uncomfortably close rocks. “Anyone with you?” I asked.

“No, alone, like you are, and I was doing fine until the stupid board broke.”

I sighed, thankful she’d been alone in the small two-person dinghy. “Help me hold the boats apart, and I’ll ease us away from the rocks. Then we can figure something out.”

After pushing aside sailcloth strewn over the bottom of her cockpit, she slid to the rail. She produced a bumper on a lanyard and dropped it between the boats before grabbing my shroud. She smiled, “Got it.”

I was impressed. She may have been metres from crashing onto mean looking rocks, but she had her wits about her. I pulled in enough sheet to establish forward momentum without causing Boondoggle to heel, and we eased away from the shore. After putting some distance between us and the rocks, I let the sheet out, and we coasted to a stop.

“Where’s home?” I asked.

She pointed across the lake to somewhere near the sailing club. The club was three kilometres away and upwind, but the shore we’d pulled away from was rugged and swampy without good road access.

I decided we should tow her boat across the lake, but we’d never keep them side by side without damaging one or both. We’d tow hers behind mine.

A few minutes later, she had everything in her boat secured and a painter joining her bow to my stern. She crawled into Boondoggle, and we set off.

The rain stopped, and the sun emerged. She stripped off her wet-weather gear and a dripping wet sweater.

I offered her a dry sweater I had in a sealed storage locker. She pulled it over her head. A few seconds later, her blouse emerged from under the oversized sweater. Her hands emerged from the sleeves, and she settled down beside me on the windward deck.

“Much better now,” she said smiling.

“You went in when the board broke?”

“Yeah. It broke while I was beating toward home. I fell over to windward and ended up hanging onto the rail. I thought I was already soaking wet, but I was much colder after I got back on board.”

“But the boat didn’t capsize?”

She shook her head. “I climbed over the stern, and it was about half full of water. I bailed it out and tried to resume sailing, but I couldn’t do anything. We slid sideways toward those rocks.”

The slow beat home towing another boat provided time to get acquainted. I’d discovered a feisty young woman one year younger than me who would also go sailing alone on a gloomy, rainy day when sensible people stayed indoors.

*****

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 – “The Unexpected” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story about something nice and unexpected happening on a gloomy day.

This week’s story is from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, available on Amazon and other retailers. www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

 

***

“The Unexpected” by Cathy MacKenzie

 

“What time is it, Mommy?” Sadie asked, rubbing her eyes.

“It’s just after midnight, sweetie. Go back to sleep.” Her mother pulled the covers up to her chin. “See you in the morning.”

Sadie watched her mother cross the room and flick the switch, making it dark again. She hated the dark and wished it were always daylight. Her parents laughed at her when she shared that at dinner. “Silly girl,” her father had said, but his words were spoken with love.

She closed her eyes, not that it made any difference. At night, with the light off, it was dark whether her eyes were open or closed. She pictured sheep jumping over the white fence as her grandmother once advised her. Sometimes that helped her sleep. “One…two…three…” she mumbled.

When she opened her eyes, it was morning; not a sun-bright morning camouflaged behind pulled-tight drapes, but enough light that signified night had ended. She crept from bed and parted the drapery. A dull, dreary day. She longed to crawl back into bed but heard her parents talking in the kitchen.

She slipped into her housecoat and slippers and tip-toed downstairs. The lights were on, giving the appearance of a happy day. The comforting, familiar sight of her parents and the greasy smell of frying bacon perked her up.

Her father sat at the table, reading the morning newspaper as he always did before work. Her mother faced the stove, tending the bacon.

Her father looked up. “Hey, sweetie. Sleep well?”

“It was too dark, Daddy.”

“Nights are always dark. I’ve explained that to you. The sun needs to rest. That’s why we have the moon.”

“But the moon wasn’t out last night.” At six, Sadie wasn’t too astute about light and dark or things that went bump in the night, but she was aware something hadn’t been quite right the past few days.

“The moon might have been hidden behind a cloud,” her mother said.

Sadie peered out the window. “It’s supposed to be morning, but it’s still dark.”

Her father set down the paper and stood. “I have an early meeting. I’ll see you both later. Try to have a happy day, Sadie.” He patted her on the head and kissed her mother on the cheek.

Sadie waited until the front door groaned behind him before speaking. “Is it going to rain, Mommy?”

Her mother glanced out the kitchen window. “Looks like it might.”

“Can we go to the park before it rains?”

“Oh, sweetie, I have so much to do today.”

“But we could go now, and then when we get home, you can do those things.” Sadie forced her mouth into the downtrodden expression that always changed her parents’ minds, especially her mother’s.

“Oh, okay, but only for a little while. It’s a miserable day out there.”

After breakfast, they left for the park, a ten-minute walk from their house. Usually, the park bustled, but it was quiet, no doubt due to the inclement weather.

Sadie skidded down the slide and cavorted on the monkey bars. Though she enjoyed herself, it was lonely without other kids. Her mother pushed her on the swing as if sensing her isolation.

“It’s still dark, eh, Mommy?”

“It’s definitely going to rain.”

“It’s spooky when it’s dark like this,” Sadie said. “Kinda like Halloween.”

“Halloween is months off.” Her mother leaned over and hugged her. “We should go.” She glanced at her watch. “Almost eleven. One more push before we go.”

Sadie knew better than to argue with her mother, especially on such a mood-less day. She gripped her mother’s hand, and they rushed down Sycamore Street, crossed to Oak Avenue, and scurried up Beaumont until they reached number 85, their townhouse.

The past week had been dreary and distressing. Her mother took her outdoors everyday for fresh air no matter the weather, but lately there seemed no point. As soon as they were on the steps or the sidewalk, it rained. Or the menacing clouds darkened with such intensity that the only sensible thing was to return indoors.

Her mother was right again, for they barely reached the top step before the rain pelted. As soon as they were inside, her mother turned on every lamp in the living room and flicked every light switch in the kitchen, giving the appearance of a sunny day. Sadie liked how bright the rooms became, certain her mother’s mood changed along with the room’s glow.

Sadie spent the rest of the morning in her bedroom. After lunch, she sat in the living room, ignoring shadows along the wall and trying not to fret about unknown atrocities hiding behind the heavy brocade drapes. Her mother relented and allowed her to watch a half-hour children’s cartoon show. She then reclined on the floor, leafing through magazines.

The afternoon passed quickly. Around four o’clock, Sadie heard sirens and scampered to the window, parting the drapes in time to see a police cruiser zoom by, a usual occurrence in their neighbourhood.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

Her mother raced into the room. “What is it, Sadie?”

“Mommy, look.” She pointed outside. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Her mother stepped toward the window. “What, Sadie?”

“The sun, Mommy! See the sun?”

***

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 – “Winterlude” by Phil Yeats

 

Welcome to The Spot Writers. In honour of these mid-winter postings, this prompt is a story that incorporates the words “will winter ever end.”

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. Last week, 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/

*****

Winterlude by Phil Yeats

 

He stood in his living room window watching water drip from the eaves. She stole up behind and wrapped her arms around his waist.

She sighed. “Back home, people will ask ‘will winter ever end?’ Me, I’m saying ‘why can’t it last forever?’.”

He twisted around until he faced her. “I’m a farmer. If winter doesn’t turn into spring, I can’t plant my crops. You can return to your urban home once the snow melts and roads become passable, but I’ll be here a year from now. If this year’s crop fails, I’ll have nothing to eat.”

“If I stayed, and helped you plant, nourish and harvest your crop, I could stand here gazing out this window as the snow melts a year from now. I’d be so happy.”

“And mind the horse you’ve fallen in love with. Don’t forget her.”

“I’ll never forget Buttercup. If anyone suggested I would spend a winter living in an isolated farmhouse with no electricity, riding a horse and milking cows, I wouldn’t believe them. Now, I’d like to live here forever.”

“But my fair-haired young friend, it isn’t to be, is it?”

“No. I must return.”

He strode to the kitchen and pumped water into the kettle. “Should you explain?”

“Five years ago, I was an art school student. With three friends, I created a dot.com company that generated and marketed computer art. It’s done well and now makes me more money than my real art because I’ve devoted myself to keeping the company going.”

“The others have shirked their responsibilities?”

“Mostly my fault. I was good at it, especially the marketing stuff. I took charge, and it became harder for them to contribute.”

“What happened?”

“We decided I would take a two-month painting break and they would manage.”

“I see. Your-two-month long hiatus extended to four, and probably another one before the track’s passable. Why aren’t they searching for you?”

“I contacted my colleagues after we rode to town in December when the weather improved. I also checked in with the lady at the little police detachment.” She paused, taking the cup of tea he offered. “You remember, my one trip to civilization.”

“How can I forget! You could barely walk when we arrived, and I wondered if you’d survive the ride back.”

“Yeah, it was hard. I’d ridden a lot as a teen, and took Buttercup out several times before our big trip, but it was much harder than I expected.”

He strolled to her easel and gazed at the portrait she was painting. It caught him standing in the window staring across the snow-covered landscape while holding a steaming coffee cup. “What did you imagine I was considering? The upcoming planting season or the mysterious siren who landed on my doorstep.”

“Nothing mysterious about me. An early winter storm hijacked my painting trip. And I can’t sing worth a damn. I’d make a terrible siren.”

He laughed. “Singing may not be your forte, but you’ve been adept at the luring part of the siren myth. But you haven’t answered my question.”

“I hope you were thinking about me, considering my coming departure and when I’ll be back.”

“Perhaps I was.”

“And will you welcome me?”

He pointed at the unfinished portrait. “Does he look like he’s planning to rebuff you?”

*****

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 Mailboxes Thief” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers.

This month’s prompt is to write a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes.

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 Mailboxes Thief by Chiara De Giorgi

 

I first heard of the mailboxes thief at my friend Joan’s place.

 

It was a lazy sunny afternoon, and we were both dozing on her brand new deck chairs by the swimming pool. Her neighbors were on holidays, and we were enjoying the sun and the silence.

From time to time I opened my eyes behind my sunglasses and took a look at the clouds, apparently the only things that attempted to move and change. They were few, tiny and scattered. They hardly moved, to tell the truth, but they slowly changed shape, stretched or just dispersed. There was no wind, so the trees surrounding Joan’s garden were still and silent. It was so warm, even the birds seemed to have gone to sleep.

I dipped one hand in the water and scratched my nose with the other. I was thinking maybe we should chat and gossip a little bit, just to give a purpose to the afternoon, when I heard a noise coming from behind the high fence. Something was scraping against the pavement just outside Joan’s property.

I lifted my head and noticed that Joan was doing the same. Of course, that was going to be the highlight of our afternoon.

“What’s this noise?” I asked.

Joan put a finger on her lips and got up from her chair. She quickly tied her sarong around her hips and gestured to me to do the same.

I followed her to where she kept a couple small tables and a few piled chairs, which we climbed in order to see behind the fence: a man was dragging a brilliant red mailbox, still attached to its pole. He was tall and sturdy, he wore a worn-out baseball cap and overalls but no shirt – it was hot, after all. He walked slowly, with an intent look on his face.

I turned to Joan and mouthed: “What’s he doing?”

She smiled and motioned me to jump down the table.

We went back to the pool and stood under the beach umbrella while Joan poured some lemonade into two tall glasses.

“He’s the mailboxes thief”, she explained after a long sip.

“The mailboxes thief?” I repeated, perplexed.

She nodded. “He’s well known, especially in this part of the town. Have you never heard of him?”

“Not at all!” I cried, sitting down. “Tell me everything!”

She sighed and sat next to me.

“There’s not much to say, really. He steals mailboxes from unattended properties.”

“So why aren’t we calling the police?”

She smiled. “Because no one wants him arrested.”

I laughed. “And why not? Is he paying all the bills he finds?”

“Much better. He swaps mailboxes.”

I still did not understand why people were protecting this guy.

“Okay, that’s enough. Spill! Now!”

“He swaps mailboxes and people get in touch with one another in order to retrieve their mail. It’s as easy as that. The interesting thing is, the thief picks and chooses which mailbox to swap with which one. And most often than not, the encounter with your, let’s say, swap-partner, is life changing.”

“How so?”

She shrugged.

“Some meet their future husband or wife, others find a business partner. There was a woman who wished she could learn how to play the violin but couldn’t afford to take lessons. She met a sad and retired violin teacher who was glad to teach her for free. Someone was about to be evicted and found a couple who were looking for a house sitter. A single dad who had recently moved in the area met an unemployed teacher who agreed to take care of his two little kids. And so on, I could go on forever. In the neighborhood everyone keeps track, and everyone secretly hopes the mailboxes thief will hit them.”

“Yes, it sounds amazing. I’ll make no secret of it: I wish the mailboxes thief stole my mailbox!”

Joan laughed. “And so do I, believe me. I don’t even know who I’d wish I met, I just wish for a life changing experience.”

We both sighed a dreamy sigh, and soon it was time for me to go home.

 

I’ve been hoping that the mailboxes thief would come and get my mailbox since that afternoon, but so far this has not happened. I’m seriously considering moving to Joan’s neighborhood, to make things easier for him.

Would you like to know who I wish he swapped my mailbox with? I thought hard about this question, and at last I know.

I wish he swapped my mailbox with his own.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “New Year’s Resolution” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, with elements of suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

***

New Year’s Resolution by Cathy MacKenzie

The whoosh of the wind almost knocked Callie to the ground. She was aware the winter wind was in a rage but hadn’t expected it to be this bad. She managed to stand and struggled back to the motel room. Thankfully, the porch extended the length of the motel units, with the two ends enclosed, so she could easily open the door and get in out of the cold.

She looked out the window. The mailbox across the road had blown off its pole and lay on the pavement, waiting for disaster from an oncoming vehicle. She pictured hers and Dan’s house and hoped the flimsy plexiglass around the swimming pool remained intact. Nearby trees would wreak disaster, too, should one of them topple. Would Dan bother checking, or would he be luxuriating in the man cave, cut off from the world’s realities?

She should have stayed home rather than running off like a spoiled brat, especially on New Year’s Day. But would it be too much for her husband to pay attention to her once in a while? Seemed all Dan wanted to do was watch television. He was a movie freak but would watch movies over and over, not realizing he’d already seen them. Two minutes into a movie and Callie recognized a repeat.

Did he even know she wasn’t at home? Several times over the past six months, she’d left the house in the afternoon and gone to the mall. He’d still be sitting in front of the boob tube when she returned, none the wiser. She snickered. Boob tube? How apropos.

This time, though, she’d been gone three days. She had every intention of returning home. In fact, she’d already decided to return the following day. Four nights would be enough to jolt her husband back to reality. He’d have missed her so terribly that he would never again ignore her—but if he wanted her home, why hadn’t he telephoned or texted? She had checked her phone every hour. Nothing. Playing hard to get, no doubt. They’d played silly games in the past.

She yanked the dingy drapes across the window, plopped to the queen-sized bed, and flicked on the television.

The next day, she checked out, cringing at the bill for a second until realizing the money would be well spent if some sense had been knocked into her husband.

She sped home, anticipation coursing through her loins. She had missed him terribly. The feeling would be mutual; she was certain of it.

She pulled into the snow-covered driveway and parked behind his truck. She unlocked the side door, jumping at the shrill beeping. Though they’d cancelled the alarm system, the deafening noise would be enough to scare away even a fearless robber.

She dropped her purse on the counter and flung her coat at the kitchen stool.

She glanced around the kitchen, noting the clean table and empty sink. If he’d cooked, which he must have if he’d wanted to eat, he had cleaned his mess. Score one!

She ambled down the hall. Quiet. Too quiet. Where was he?

Despite the sun shining through the living room windows, the ceiling light glowed at the top of the stairs going to the basement.

She stopped. That noise. Was someone down there with him? 

She shuddered. What if he was angry? What if he never talked to her again? What if he wanted a divorce?

Had she gone too far?

The voices ceased and music blasted, the tell-tale sound of the television. She relaxed. Dan liked the volume loud. But at ten in the morning? She smiled. Definitely bored. A good sign.

Soundlessly, careful to hold onto the railing, she descended the carpeted staircase.

He was sitting on the couch when she reached the bottom. Thank God he was alone. If he’d had another woman, she didn’t know what she would do. Serve her right, though, for trying to teach him a lesson. She regretted her actions, but she’d make it up to him. A New Year’s resolution formed in her head.

“Hi, honey. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

As usual when he was pissed off, he ignored her and continued to stare at the screen.

She crept toward him. “I’m sorry. I just felt like I needed to teach you a lesson. I wanted you to miss me. I wanted to feel needed.”

She sat beside him and grasped his arm. “I was wrong, though. I shouldn’t have gone this far.”

She leaned over to kiss him. Her lips grazed his cheek.

“Honey? Dan?”

His blood pressure machine perched precariously on the armrest. After suffering a heart attack a few years previously, he religiously—and fanatically—checked his pressure.

She touched his face, and his head plopped toward his shoulder. The blood pressure machine fell to the floor.

***

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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