Tag Archives: free stories

The Spot Writers – “Locked Room Mystery” by Phil Yeats

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

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. In December, 2019, 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/

***

“Locked Room Mystery” by Phil Yeats

The dishevelled old detective stood on the suburban patio. Moonlight cast soft shadows, and wisps of mist swirled up from the distant shore.

He pointed at three rectangles of mosaic tiles set in the concrete. “Could they mask a removable panel?”

His new partner, a bright young officer who’d recently graduated from detective school, crouched beside the glass shards that created a blue and green seascape with dolphins and mermaids. She focused her torch on the panels’ edges, then pulled out a penknife and probed a seam.

“Possible. What’s the relevance to a murder victim discovered inside the house?”

“No idea, but it always pays to collect the evidence before reaching your conclusions.”

Later, after the crime scene technicians raised the panel, she stared into an underground passage. “What made you suspicious?”

“Memory of a mystery I once read. An incongruous observation generated the solution.”

***

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/].

 

Leave a comment

Filed under free, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Head Games” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “someone always wears the same hat because of some secret and/or mysterious reason”.

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. In December, 2019, 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/

***

“Head Games” by Phil Yeats

Yesterday was momentous. Not globally momentous, but a day that was destined to alter my life for the coming decade, maybe longer. It began like most days over the past two years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days. Back then – we’ll approximate it as three years ago – I lost my secure job as a tenured university professor. Firing a tenured professor is almost impossible, but I found myself unemployed. The School of Neural Psychology, a university department, closed its doors. All staff, including tenured professors, were terminated.

Fast-forward to yesterday. After breakfast, I plunked my dilapidated Tilley hat on my head and stepped onto my front porch. While completing my errand – its purpose isn’t important – I encountered two neighbours. I was pleased but careful not to show any emotion when both kept glancing at my bedraggled hat. For those three years, I’d worn it in sun, rain, or snow in spring, summer, fall, or winter every time I left my house. No one mentioned it, but everyone noticed my tattered headgear, and I never explained why I always wore it.

Back home, my old boss, the school president from when it was disbanded, followed me to my front door. She broached the reason for her visit after I made coffee. “I’ve finally fulfilled the promise I made to everyone when our research institute closed. New school, new university, new name – I never liked the one chosen to please our original sponsor – but a similar mandate. Are you interested in rejoining your old colleagues?”

I hesitated. “I’m okay. Inexpensive lifestyle, and adequate resources from severance, savings, and rent from two apartments on this property. My needs are covered, and I have no dependents or expensive obligations.”

“Fine, but that fails to address my question. And before you confuse matters with additional dissembling, I’ll mention two things. First, I’ve read the two papers you’ve published since your forced resignation. Both are insightful contributions to your field—”

“Loose ends, papers that described work completed while I was working.”

“Garbage. Those weren’t tidy-up-after-I-retire papers. They’re forward-looking, raising issues that demand further investigation.”

“Whatever. And your second point…”

“That stupid hat! A meaningless game you’re playing, teasing your neighbours with the mystery of why you always wear that decrepit rag on your head. You’re bored. You should return to your chosen career and leave your neighbours in peace.”

***

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/].

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “The Mystery of Hinklehorne’s Hat” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “someone always wears the same hat because of some secret and/or mysterious reason.”

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

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

***

“The Mystery of Hinklehorne’s Hat” by Cathy MacKenzie

Mr. Hinklehorne was a short, stout man. Looked old, but every adult looked elderly to pre-teens. I discovered that fact when I turned sixty-three, became a grandfather for the first time, and suddenly realized how ancient I was.

We never knew his first name. Back then, kids respected elders. No need for a child to know an adult’s first name, not with Mr. and Mrs. the norm.

Hinklehorne had been the school janitor for as long as I’d attended Hillcrest Elementary. I’d heard he’d been hired while the school was being built, which meant he’d been there for over forty years. I couldn’t imagine someone choosing janitorial work as a career. Or perhaps he’d fallen into it accidentally, never intending to stay. Watching him doing menial work at his age spurred me on to better myself.

He never removed his hat. At least, not that we ever saw. But he must have when he showered or slept. Still, Pierre and Bruce, my two best friends, and I always surmised about the odd-sized floppy, grey atrocity that seemed glued to his head, for even wild gusts of wind didn’t dislodge it. You know—how a person’s hand automatically goes to his head when he senses a breeze. Nope, no matter the strength of the wind, that old hat remained steadfast, and Hinklehorne never reached to his head to keep it on.

Pierre, Bruce, and I made up numerous stories explaining why Hinklehorne continually wore that hat, and we imagined every one of them to be true. We had so many explanations, though, that we couldn’t choose just one.

We shared our stories while we lazed under the largest oak tree in front of the school. For some reason, we never discussed Hinklehorne when we were elsewhere.

Pierre believed that Hinklehorne fell asleep under that very tree we sat under, and when he stood, a low-lying branch plunged into the top of his head. His parents took him to the hospital a few days later, but by that time, its roots had entwined around his brain, so the doctor couldn’t remove it. Pierre reasoned Hinklehorne didn’t remove his hat because he wanted to hide that piece of wood sticking out from his head.

Bruce thought Hinklehorne’s mother had repaired the inside band of his hat with Krazy Glue and he put it on his head before it had dried. Thus, his hat was stuck for all time. Yes, the hat looked that old!

My story had a fairy tale feel to it. I liked the idea that while Hinklehorne sleepwalked one night, he gazed out the window and wished upon a star, asking for a hat to cover his deformed head. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize he’d be stuck with it forever.

The others thought my story was silly, but theirs weren’t much better. Bruce added a second explanation, which made me think he was just trying to one-up me. As if it was a competition.

“He was in a fire,” Bruce said. “His house burnt down and he just barely escaped. Except, when he was running out, stuff fell on him. His entire head fired up. Left him with a zillion scars. Ugly scars. He can’t show his head because his hair doesn’t grow there anymore.”

I had to admit that Bruce’s second explanation was the most plausible—though in a way it was similar my story with Hinklehorne’s deformed head—but we still didn’t know for sure.

I enjoyed sharing these stories with Jason, my first-born grandchild, and he’d laugh. Kids are so much smarter today than in my time—too smart for their britches at times. Though Jason giggled at the silly stories, he seemed enthralled with my words. Took him away from his electronics, if only for minutes out of the day, and my daughter praised me. She’d long ago quit harping at him.

I was seventeen when Hinklehorne died. We lived in the small community of Ashville, where everyone knew everyone. My parents were adamant we attend the viewing and funeral, especially since he’d worked at the school for as long as he had.

The summer he died was my last summer home before I would start university. Brian’s family had moved away two years before. Jason? He’d been in prison since he was sixteen.

Though I didn’t particularly want to see a dead person, I was excited. A “viewing” meant there’d be an open casket. I could solve the mystery of Hinklehorne’s hat!

The funeral home was packed, making me claustrophobic. But once I had a good look at Hinklehorne’s head, I’d be history.

I slowly approached the coffin, wishing Pierre and Bruce were with me. Solving the mystery would have been more fun with them by my side.

I stopped in my tracks. My heart thumpety thumped against my chest. I couldn’t believe it. The hat was still on his head!

I took another step closer. Hinklehorne was definitely dead. No heaving chest. No twitching lips. His hands were clasped tight, resting on his chest atop the pristine silk sheet.

The hat! I needed to lift it a bit. So I could see underneath. But could I do it? Come on; you’re seventeen. You can do it!

Various scenarios rushed through my head. The stories my friends and I had shared. I couldn’t believe I’d finally be solving the mystery.

I glanced around. No one was watching me. I could easily reach in and out of the coffin in two seconds.

I raised my arm. Stretched out my fingers. I was inches away.

I stepped backward.

I couldn’t do it. Too spooky. It was bad enough looking at a dead person, let alone touching one.

Let Hinklehorne take his hat mystery to his grave. Everyone, even in death, deserves a secret, right?

When I told Jason the funeral home story, he agreed with me.

I did solve one mystery, though. Hinklehorne’s first name. Hector. Hector Hayes Hinklehorne. Kinda had a nice ring to it. Jason thought so, too.

***

 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/].

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Hatless” by Val Muller

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

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

***

“Hatless” by Val Muller

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

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

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

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

Crazy.

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

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

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

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

Really.

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, freebies, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “New Beginnings” by Cathy MacKenzie

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

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

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

***

New Beginnings by Cathy MacKenzie

“We need to go,” Tim said. “Now.”

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

“Yes. It’s time.”

“But I’m not ready.”

“Well, get ready.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But…”

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

“Really? Are you sure?”

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

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

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

Tim slammed down the trunk lid.

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

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

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

“Hush, woman. There’s no one.”

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

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

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

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

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

They walked the rest of the way in silence.

“Here,” she whispered. “Here he is.”

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

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

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

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

“Yep. Almost done.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Tim, no. We can’t do this.”

“What?”

“This. What about Janine?”

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

“But…”

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

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

Disturbed.

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

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

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

He turned. “Well…”

“No, I—”

“Fine. Stay. I’m going.”

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

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

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

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

She couldn’t do it.

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

Tim turned. “What?”

“The shovel.”

“Yeah, okay.”

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, freebies, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers -“Come as You Are” by Phil Yeats

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

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

***

“Come as You Are” by Phil Yeats

The invitation was odd: Dinner tonight, 6:30, come as you are – Mrs. Claus. Nothing else but an address and a cryptic postscript. ‘We know what you’re wearing’.

I didn’t know a Mrs. Claus, but the address was nearby, it was already 5:45, and I hadn’t started cooking. My jeans and a golf shirt like I wore to work every weekday shouldn’t cause any embarrassment.

I laced on my boots and donned my coat. I mean, I couldn’t venture forth into a December night without a coat and boots. Who would I meet, and what would they be wearing?

Come as you are reminded me of my first term at university, the only one I spent in a students’ residence. One Saturday morning, meddling colleagues intent on developing camaraderie in the dorm knocked on doors at six. They insisted everyone come as they were for breakfast. They enforced the edict by dragging everyone from bed and herding them to the dining room dressed as they were. The few early risers they caught in the showers arrived wearing only towels.

That was ten years ago, and the present situation was hardly comparable. But there was much to be curious about. Who was Mrs. Claus? Why did her invitation say come as you are? And the postscript had rather sinister implications.

Several questions. I loved a mystery. I hurried to the address.

The meal, red or white wine and an extensive buffet was great, but it lacked the mysteriousness I’d psyched myself up for. Mrs. Claus, as I guessed, was not her name. Most of the participants were people she knew, ones she’d invited days earlier. Only a few strangers like me had received the enigmatic last-minute invitations.

Our hostess, a young woman new to the neighbourhood, had chosen an unusual method to meet other young adults. The come as you are instruction was simply a tease, and the postscript an outright lie. Or was it? I departed two hours after I arrived, hoping it was a lie.

***

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/].

Leave a comment

Filed under free, Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

***

Dinner with Mrs. Claus by Cathy MacKenzie

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

Another noise. As if someone kicked at the door.

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

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

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

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

“Well?” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine by me. You’re the boss.”

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

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

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

“Nope, I’m good. You relax.”

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

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

“So, we’re done?”

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

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

Her shoulders relaxed, and she glanced at me.

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

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, freebies, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Shut Up and Listen to Me” by Chiara De Giorgi

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

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.

***

Shut Up and Listen to Me” by Chiara De Giorgi

Now, just because I’m a wizened old man it doesn’t mean I can’t tell a story. Oh, the stories I can tell! Sit here with me by this crackling fire, and listen.

Do you know I’ve met a fairy? She actually lived inside my pocket for a good while. She wasn’t beautiful, on the contrary. She was pretty ugly, in fact. She had a fat, crooked nose, and eyes the size of a pinpoint. She also did not smell good. But she had stories to tell that I could in turn tell others, so here I am.

When she wanted me to listen to her, she called me. The sound she made was like the lonely call of an owl. A great sadness came over me as soon as I heard it, and it didn’t leave me unless I listened to the fairy’s tale. She would tell me of huge monsters, bloody and truculent wars, terrifying calamities. She would scare me to death, and soon afterwards she’d tell me about graceful creatures, acts of extreme courage, unbounded love. It was an emotional roller-coaster, but I was addicted to it.

One day she left me forever, in a whirlwind of leaves. I begged her not to go, but she wouldn’t listen. I was devastated, but at last I found a way to survive: I tell the stories she taught me. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy.

So, you see, my encounter with the fairy was both blessing and curse. It was a blessing, because she was a magical creature who freely gifted me with her magic. At the same time, though, it was a curse, because I’m compelled to revive her memories over and over again in order to stay sane.

Will you therefore please just shut up and listen to me?

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Werner’s Syndrome” by Phil Yeats

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

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

***

Werner’s Syndrome by Phil Yeats

The wizened old man gazed, as he did most mornings, at the world outside his woodland cabin. A whirlwind of colourful autumn leaves swirled past his window, and his trusty friend, an old owl, stared as immobile as a statue from a nearby tree limb.

He’d learned when only thirteen that he would never be normal. Stunted growth, arthritis, and cataracts already dominated his life. Operations to replace the cataracts with plastic lenses improved his vision, but the other signs of aging marched on relentlessly. His life expectancy at thirty-two was measured in years, not decades.

After breakfast, he split logs for his evening fire. His only strenuous activity; he had to accomplish it in the morning when his strength was greatest.

Half an hour later, he set the chunks of split firewood and kindling beside his hearth and positioned his easel in the brightest part of his woodland cabin. Drawing was his life, his only solace from the cruel fate nature bestowed on him.

He spent the morning generating illustrations for a children’s book. At noon, he set them aside and turned his attention to his private drawings, therapeutic ones that kept him sane.

The young woman from the publishing house arrived in mid-afternoon. She studied each of the drawings he’d set aside. “Perfect,” she said when she arrived at the last one. “We never reject any. You wouldn’t believe the fights we have with our other illustrators.”

He picked up the manuscript she’d given him when he received the commission. “Don’t see what’s so difficult. You read the book and draw the images it generates.”

She smiled as she strolled to his easel. “What have we here?”

“Images from my imaginary life.”

She shook her head. “A naked woman like a model from a figure drawing class and two tykes dressed like they could be from that book.”

He took the sheet, tore it from top to bottom, and handed her the pieces. “There you go, two separate drawings.”

She handed them back. “I must go, get your drawings to the office before quitting time. New manuscript that’ll be perfect for you arrived this week. I’ll get it to you once the editor decides.” She smiled, nodding toward the drawings in his hand. “In the meantime, I’d pay for a drawing of me in a pose like that one.”

“I’d need photos to work from.”

She skipped out. “Watch your inbox. I might do it.”

Darkness fell upon his woodland glade as he prepared his evening meal. Afterwards, he lit the fire he’d laid that morning. When it was crackling nicely, the lonely call of an owl, perhaps the one he’d seen perched in his tree, pierced the quiet night. He shredded his therapeutic drawings and fed the fragments into the fire.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “We’re in this Together” by Cathy MacKenzie

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

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

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

***

“We’re in this Together” by Cathy MacKenzie

Walter rubs his hands and shivers. Night is drawing to a close, and morning will soon be upon him.

He throws another log on the fire, humming a sorrowful tune that came to mind. He can’t remember the name—or the words—so he sings his own. Nonsensical phrases he’ll never repeat even if he had a friend.

Loneliness. Grief. Sadness. Where’s the happiness he once enjoyed?

“Silly me,” he mumbles, knowing darn well where his joy went. The way of everything good: a wife, kids. A home. A job.

Not that he needs a job at his age. His meagre pension covers his expenses. He’s thrifty. Has to be. Enjoys it, actually, as if proving he can overcome any obstacle.

He tosses another log into the fiery mass. The resulting sparks remind him of autumn leaves blown about by the wind. He’s careful to keep the fire contained within the metal rim. Mustn’t play with fire: a haunting refrain from his childhood. He didn’t know much about fires then and never played with matches, but his parents still spewed the words.

He stares into the crackling pit. Flames rise, higher and higher. Out of control. In the distance—the far distance—he hears screams. Shrieks. Smells burning flesh. Oddly familiar. But no, he’s never smelled anyone burning. That would do him in, for he’s read that burning flesh is an odour one never ceases smelling. His sense of smell remains intact even though the rest of him’s gone to crap.

Despite that, he inhales. A huge deep breath that relaxes him.

No horrific smell; nothing but the smoky pine of the campfire.

And the screams? A lonely owl crying in the night.

The vision? Gotta keep that out of his mind. Nothing exists around him but his tent and trees. The moon. And darkness except for the hypnotic fire that’ll die if he neglects it. That’s what happens with neglect: death and heartache.

The fire is fine. Contained in its container. Nowhere for it to go. He should never have lit the fool thing, but every time he camps, he feels compelled to do so. A mysterious force that commands, “Light me, light me.” And he does. His penance, he figures.

He’s never enjoyed camping, but the dark shrouds him from himself. He can pretend he’s twenty-five when his life stretched before him. He can ignore the white hair, the mottled skin, the discoloured fingernails. Nasty yellowed toenails, too, but his feet are hidden in his haggard hiking boots.

It’s impossible not to feel close to ninety when glimpsing a wizened face in a mirror. A stranger—no one he knows. He sighs and rubs his palms against his dungarees. Who’s he kidding?

He doesn’t consciously look at himself except for shaving, but sometimes the bathroom mirror draws him in, forcing him to shout at the invisible person behind it. “I’m alive! Foxed you, eh?”

He stares into the darkness, somewhere behind the trees. “Hey, God, I cheated death, didn’t I? Or was that your plan all along?”

God shouldn’t take the innocent, but He doesn’t care. Too many gone too soon. Too many too young.

The fire dances. He blinks, swearing he can see his wife. Yes, there she is! For a second.

Then gone.

His son and daughter. Sees them, too, but for a lesser instant if it’s possible to cut an instant in half. He didn’t have his children as long as he had his wife and barely remembers what they look like. But, no, there they are. Their faces rise with the flame, and they screech, “Daddy, save us. Save us.” His wife’s arms wrap them close. “Hush, my babies, hush. Everything will be okay,” she says. “We’re in this together.”

He’s positive she’d have said those last four words. She used to comfort him with the same words when life didn’t go quite as planned—minor blips on life’s stage now. We’re in this together.

Yes, she would have said those words when she comforted the children. When he wasn’t there to save them. When they must have called out to him, “Save us, save us.” He should have been there.

They thought he was.

But he wasn’t.

He returned home to an inferno, the flames devouring their home. Firetrucks surrounded the house. Firemen with hoses battled an undefeatable rival. Helplessly, he stood. Hopelessly, he fell.

Despite fisticuffs with everyone blocking his way, too many stronger arms held him back.

He heard no screams. Smelled no burning flesh. He couldn’t even form the horrid images of what transpired. Their deaths. What must have been in their minds?

Their charred remains were found, the three entwined together as if seeking warmth from the cold. We’re in this together. Would the words have comforted their children as they’d once comforted him?

He leans back. “We’re in this together,” he yells to Heaven.

He prays his family heard.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “I’m so sorry. We should have been in this together.”

***

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/].

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, Uncategorized