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The Spot Writers – “Sally and Julius” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about something “summery.”

This week’s contribution 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.

***

“Sally and Julius” by Cathy MacKenzie

“Mom,” Sally asked, “isn’t it kinda neat that July and August, the best months of the year, are the longest?”

“Are they?”

“Yeah, 31 days. Two months in a row.”

“Hmmm, guess so.” Her mother stopped rinsing the dishes and gazed at the wall.

Sally was positive her mother was reciting the alphabet song: “Thirty days have September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one…”

Her mother wiped her hands on the dishtowel and faced her. “But I thought December was your favourite. And May, your birthday.”

“No, Mom, the summer months are the ones I like the best. And so did Julius and Augustus.”

“Julius? Augustus?”

“Julius Caesar. We learned about him in school. He had an ego, just like Marlene and Chloe. They think the world revolves around them, just like Julius did.”

“And who is Augustus?”

“Augustus is his nephew. Great nephew, I think.”

“I see.”

“So, do you know what Julius did? He named July after him, and he made it 31 days. That was the longest month back then.”

Her mother put down the dishtowel and glanced at her before pouring soap into the dishwasher.

“And then when Julius died, Augustus wanted a month after him, so he named the next month Augustus. And he had to have 31 days, too.”

“You seem to know a lot about them.”

“I do. We learned about them in school. Well, except for the months. I found that out by myself. On the internet.”

“Sounds like Augustus was a tad egotistical, too,” her mother said.

Sally giggled. “I think they were freaky. But then guess what happened?”

“What?” Her mother seemed intrigued, latching onto her every word.

“Then the year had too many days, so they had to take two away from February. And that’s how come February became the shortest month.”

Her mother turned back to the dishwasher, pushed the on button, and closed the door. “Interesting. You’ll have to tell Dad that story.”

“Maybe I will.”

When her father returned home from work, she relayed the story to him.

“It’s an interesting tale,” he said when she was finished, “but what’s so special about July and August? Why did they pick those months?”

“Julius liked the summer, Dad. And so do I. Augustus just took the month after Julius did. Not sure if he liked the summer as much as Julius, though.”

“But…”

She scampered off, not wanting to listen to anything else her father would say. His “but” said it all. He’d find holes in her story. She had to admit she was a bit confused. What about the other months that had 31 days? How come Julius didn’t make his month 32 days? Or perhaps way back then the months had less than 31 days and his was the longest. Maybe after Augustus died five other egotistical jerks came along and named months after themselves, too, and made their months 31 days. She’d have to Google it. Maybe there was more to the story.

But, for now, summer waited. She couldn’t waste any of it. It’d be over before she knew it.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Spirit Animal” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about something summery. Today’s piece comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series with several other books in the works. Check out her blog for news about upcoming releases at www.valmuller.com/blog.

“Spirit Animal” by Val Muller

It was the summer without vacations. Two of them cancelled already, and the re-rescheduled one for August not looking good, either. And with Benny being quarantined from friends, it was looking to be a summer to blemish the memory.

I kept thinking of my own summers, the freedom I had to bike with friends, to live outside until Mom called me in for dinner, to build secret campfires and clubhouses out of scrap wood. At seven, Benny was maybe a little too young to do all that on his own, especially without help. Our previous decision to cap the kid count at one seemed like a bad idea this summer. How much better might things be with a little brother?

Instead, it was up to me and Helen to make up for the global pandemic in Benny’s small world. Helen was doing her best, balancing work-from-home with summertime fun. And I’ve basically been on conference calls for the last ten weeks. I came out of the office for a coffee and I saw Benny there, looking dejected. On the most beautiful day in June, just sitting there on the steps staring at the carpet.

So for the holiday weekend, I knew I had to repair Benny’s summer.

We were watching a cartoon, something about spirit animals. Benny asked what that was, and that’s when I decided. “We’re going camping,” I said. “We’re going on a quest to find your spirit animal.”

“Camping?” Helen rose an eyebrow from the kitchen, where she was making dinner. “Where?”

With social distancing, I wasn’t sure campgrounds were even open. Benny looked at me expectantly. I opened my mouth and hoped for the best. “In the back yard, of course!”

So down to the basement I went, searching for my old gear. My tent, the sleeping bags. “It’s a two-man tent,” I reminded Helen, thinking back to our camping days.

“That’s okay,” she said with a little too much relief. “You boys have fun. I’m sure I’ll be okay having the house to myself for a night.”

That night, I remembered why grown-ups don’t camp so much. The humidity, the mosquitos. And, of course, the loss of that “I’m invincible” feeling of childhood and adolescence. Every rustling in the bushes on our three-acre lot, I wondered about our safety. Would a fox attack? Would they smell dinner on our breaths? And what about the bear everyone was posting about on the neighborhood Facebook page? At night, he owned the neighborhood. Even the coyote being tracked down the road would defer to the bear, I’m sure.

“What do we do now, Dad?” Benny asked. He sat on the sleeping bag in the tent, looking at me expectantly. He seemed so little, so young. I rustled his hair and gave him a hug. Sometimes I forget how much of a kid he still is.

“We should go out of the tent,” I said. “We need to find your spirit animal.” I smacked my arm. “And unless your spirit animal is a mosquito, we aren’t going to find it in here.”

“How do we find my spirit animal?”

I glanced inside at the warm glow of the television. Helen was finding her own spirit animal, no doubt. I didn’t know how to answer. I was winging this. I don’t honestly know what a spirit animal is. I’ve never had one of my own. I think it’s supposed to be some kind of vision quest or something. Not something I’m qualified for, really.

“I think a spirit animal has some qualities that you share with it. Something deep down inside of you. It’s powerful,” I hoped aloud.

“How will I know what mine is?” Benny asked.

“When you see it, you’ll know.”

We lit a small fire in the portable hibachi grill. We roasted marshmallows, and I wondered what kind of animals liked marshmallows. While we ate, a small brown toad hopped onto the patio nearby, perching on a damp spot.

“Is that my spirit animal?” Benny asked.

“A toad?” I glanced at its brown, warty surface. “I don’t think so, son. Do you like to eat flies?”

He laughed. “No, Dad, I guess not.”

We waited. In the distance, the crickets chirped, and some nocturnal bird warbled. Late-lingering fireflies blinked under the trees. An owl hooted.

“Am I a cricket?” he asked, moving his arms like a praying mantis.

We both laughed.

“I think you have to see your animal to know it,” I said. I looked at the toad again and wondered if that was my spirit animal. Just kind of sitting there. Being useless except for eating bugs. Maybe it would be good at conference calls. I shivered and shook my head. No. This was not my quest for a spirit animal. Tonight belonged to Benny.

I wondered what kind of young man he would be, what kind of man he would grow into. He was so young, so sheltered. What was this year in quarantine doing to him? Would he know how to socialize? Would he trust others, or be governed by paranoid fear? Would he follow what he was told without question? Would his basis for human interactions be movies? Cartoons where characters go on vision quests to find their spirit animal?

Was I a failure of a father?

At the end of our property, two eyes glowed.

“A fox,” I whispered.

Benny gasped and whispered to me. “Cool, but it’s not my spirit animal.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I just do,” he said.

We went to sleep that night without an answer to his spirit animal quandary. I woke in the middle of the night to the feeling that something was wrong. My first instinct was to check on Benny. He slept soundly next to me. I dashed to the house to peek in the living room window. Helen was sleeping on the couch, the TV still glowing, an empty wine glass on the table next to her. The glow from the house lights illuminated the camping area in an even twilight, and I turned to inspect the yard.

The humidity was stifling, but still I shivered. Something was off.

I turned around, and that’s when I saw it. The bear, the one everyone had been spotting. So far the neighbors had posted a picture from someone’s bedroom window, far-off and grainy; a picture of its muddy paw prints crossing the road; and several shots of its scat around the neighborhood.

This one was within striking range of me. It was brown—smaller than I thought it would be, but still a terrifying size, one that could tear apart dog or boy or man. And it was sniffing around Benny’s tent.

It’s a parents’ worst dilemma. Being useless to help your child.

I could have easily walked into the house to safety. But the bear was right next to Benny. I thought back to all the documentaries I must have watched, and I realized I knew nothing about bears. I thought I remembered that they like to leave people alone, that they are non-aggressive. But was I supposed to freeze? Play dead? One kind of bear, you’re supposed to raise your arms in the air menacingly to make yourself look bigger, I think.

And in the midst of my son’s life being threatened, I had the awful thought that my phone was in the tent, so there’s no way I could capture what would have been an amazing shot.

In an awful moment, the bear rose on two feet, sniffed the top of the tent, and let out a small groan, a grunt. What was it saying? Was the bear saying “Grace,” pre-dinner? And Benny the main course?

My mind raced with how I would tell Helen. It was then that I decided. I would scream. I would distract the bear and let it chase me. Maybe I would die, but that’s what parents were supposed to do for their children.

Something held my tongue. The bear turned to stare at me. Our eyes locked for an eternity. Stars lived and died. Planets crumbled.

I knew then I was looking at Benny’s spirit animal. Gentle, unprovoked, but with terrifying power beneath.

The bear grunted once, then lowered itself and walked nonchalantly back into the shadows of the yard. I knew Benny would be okay. Tonight and always.

I carried him inside a moment later, though, just to be safe. We slept on the floor next to Helen and her empty bottle of wine. I decided in the morning I wouldn’t tell Benny about the bear just yet. He would discover his power in his own time. For now, I’d let him be a little boy.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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The Spot Writers – “Can COVID-19 Solve the Climate Crisis?” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to find 5 words in a news article that jump out at you. Write a story using those words.

I picked these words, climate change, CO2 emissions, coronavirus, pandemic, and isolation from a news report commenting on the impact of the current pandemic on carbon emissions. I imagined a conversation between several of the graduate students in the climate change novel I’m working on when they were in high school. My novel begins in 2027, and this story takes place in the spring of 2020 at the height of the coronavirus lockdown.

For information on The Road to Environmental Armageddon, my climate change novel in the making for many years, visit my website (https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com) and read the posts in the Road to Environmental Armageddon category.

***

“Can COVID-19 Solve the Climate Crisis?” by Phil Yeats

The conversation happened via email chat. It was more like an argument than a normal discussion, but this wasn’t a normal time, and we weren’t normal teenagers. We were the four most dedicated members of our school’s environment club and trying to keep things going by meeting online. School was closed and the coronavirus pandemic had everyone in forced isolation.

A newspaper article about decreases in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the pandemic-generating a slowdown in the global economy triggered the discussion.

“That proves the climate change crisis is false, perpetuated by guilt-ridden liberals looking for reasons for self-flagellation and pleasure denial,” John wrote.

I stared at my computer screen, and I’m sure, the others did too. John’s big words and bizarre right-wing intellectual concepts came from reading conservative blogs. Not sites catering to yahoos, but ones favoured by climate change deniers who wanted to give the impression they thought about the problem.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“That Draconian solutions aren’t necessary,” John responded. I imagined him assuming one of the threatening poses he often used to reinforce his arguments. “If a natural event like the coronavirus outbreak lowers CO2 emissions by twenty percent and generates pledges for a low carbon path to recovery, it’s not an insurmountable problem.”

“GARBAGE,” I typed. “You suggesting worldwide responses haven’t been Draconian, and anyway, twenty percent is a number some extremist pulled out of the air. It will be like the economic downturn in 2008—emissions will decrease for a few months and bounce up bigger than ever in the next year.”

“Come on Dan, these chats are no fun if you two get into arguments,” Madison said. She was as passionate about the environment as anyone, but hated confrontations. She spent more time defusing arguments, usually ones between John and me, than expressing her ideas. Those attempts at peacemaking often involved touchy-feely stuff to calm John down, but that couldn’t happen when we were stuck in our various houses staring at our computer screens.

Emily, as usual, had the last word. She was our most cerebral member, fascinated by mathematics, and destined to attend some prestigious university on a monster scholarship. “Scientists and engineers have known how to curb carbon dioxide increases for years. It’s not the ability to act, it’s the will. Individuals and their governments, lack the will to act.”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Two Bears Bakery” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a “never have/had I ever” story.

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) has published two soft-boiled police detective stories in his Barrettsport Mysteries series. They’re set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community with very quirky citizens. The Amazon link for the more recent one is: https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

***

“The Two Bears Bakery” by Phil Yeats

“Never have I ever seen anything like this,” the stranger said as she handed him his change. He stopped with his hand on the handle of the exterior door. “Two-hundred-fifty billion dollars of debt we’ll never repay.” He walked away, leaving the door open, and the shop exposed to the blustery spring weather.

Her husband hurried from the tiny office behind their serving counter. He approached the door and wiped the handle with disinfectant before pulling it closed. The restraining spring hung free, another repair to make before returning to his ovens.

Their first day since the loosening of pandemic-related restrictions that forced them to close their little bakery had been successful. She’d sold almost all their loaves of bread and trays of pastries.

Welcome news because the previous night, as he mixed his tubs of dough, he had no idea how many he should make. Would they see hordes of customers or only a few?

“What was that about?” he asked as he settled onto the stool behind the counter. She’d been there since nine and deserved a rest. He’d mind the store until they closed for the night.

“No idea,” she said as she glanced toward the stairway to their apartment above the shop. “A stranger, so what can I say. Same for everyone who entered. None could resist unburdening little corners of their souls.”

“Everyone’s been alone for far too long. They need someone to talk to.”

“So it seems, and they had strange stories to tell.”

She placed her arms around his shoulders after collecting one of their few remaining loaves. “Been a tough day, we’re out of practice. I’ll make some dinner, and then we can relax.”

“But worth it, don’t you think,” he called as she climbed the stairs. “We belong here. Our regulars will return, and we’ll return to normal.”

He meant what he said. They had a hard life, running a mum and pop bakery in a North America overrun with big-box retailers. They’d raised two daughters who were married with children. One would arrive to help her mother in the morning. The second would be in the kitchen baking cakes to order. And their kids would rush about, causing mayhem, and entertaining the customers without forgetting their mandatory face masks and social distancing. They had everything they desired.

***

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 – “Carpe Diem” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “never have/had I ever.” Today’s writing comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Find out more at www.corgicapers.com.

The dandelion, pictured below, served as inspiration for this poem.

“Carpe Diem” by Val Muller

 

Val flower pic

Never had I ever thought

I’d wait for bread in line

Or that a Meatless Monday

Would happen in my time.

 

Never had I ever thought

I’d stare at empty shelves,

Or panic when I coughed a bit

Or gasped for breath if I yelled.

 

Never had I ever thought

I’d live to see the day

When the 1918 pandemic

Came back again this way.

 

Never had I ever thought

The schools would shut their doors,

That I’d wash my hands ‘til raw

After a dangerous visit to a store.

 

Never had I ever thought

I’d be shuttered in my home,

To work from screen and keyboard

And to communicate—alone.

 

Never in my busy life

Had I ever banked on this:

That time, my short commodity,

Was now given as a gift.

 

Never had I ever seen

Dandelions graced by the rain

While tiptoeing through chilly dew:

It was like childhood again,

 

That timeless sense of wonder,

The lack of any rush,

To watch raindrops melt off flowers

In the early morning’s hush.

 

Never I, since growing up,

Felt wonder flow so free

As when this time afforded me to sit

While the trees whispered in the breeze,

Or when I watched a honey bee

Floating through the trees.

And while the world slows down a while

In fear of this disease,

And stresses about washing hands

And worrying when we sneeze,

We’re forced to wait—actionless—

While Fates do what they please:

The beauty’s there for those who’ll see,

Who can take the day—and seize!

***

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 – “In Need” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about a chance encounter. Today’s tale comes to you (a day late) from (the very frazzled) Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series, who is currently teaching full time from home, while also writing, and watching her young kids, and corgis.

***

“In Need” by Val Muller

They. Just. Needed. To. Nap.

Why was that so much to ask? An hour or two a day or silence, without unending questions from a preschooler, without a million consecutive “no’s” from a toddler. Social distancing requirements said nothing about taking a drive, and that’s just what she did.

Why was the universe punishing her for it?

The car ride had been amazing at first. The two of them conked out in about twelve minutes, and Hannah sped through the country roads, enjoying the spring foliage and rolling farms. She cracked her window to let the fresh air wash over her, when suddenly the car was overwrought with stench.

Was it the baby? Had he soiled himself?

Or was it manure from the farm nearby?

There was no way to tell. She slowed a bit and opened the back windows, just enough to let the car air out. They’d be past this particular farm in about thirty seconds, so if it was manure, it would wash out of the car. If it was the baby, well…

The rushing wind did not wake the kids, and she drove a bit longer with the windows open. It was nice. Refreshing. Symbolic. Washing all the stress of the international closures, the pandemic, away. Nature had that habit—of making everything seem fine, normal.

Except that nature had a sense of humor, too. The wind curled the corner of the sleeping child’s favorite blanket and picked it up with just enough force that it overcame her gentle clasp and sent it sailing, like a kite, out the window.

Hellen slowed, but of course—of course—there were two cars behind her. She could not slow or stop on such a narrow road. The two of them saw the blanket fly out—they had to have—but they did not stop. The driver of the sedan directly behind her wore a mask and kept the windows up. The woman—at least Hellen thought it was a woman, wrapped up in gear like that—simply shook her head and kept driving. The truck behind the sedan slowed for a moment, as if pondering what to do, but ultimately decided to plod on.

Normally a blanket is just a blanket, but this particular blanket was a custom job, a quilt made of scraps of Halloween blankets, the girl’s favorite holiday. What’s more, it had her name embroidered using scraps from the household, and each one now had a unique meaning and a unique physical feel for the child. She often lulled herself to sleep running her fingers over the familiar stitching.

To say she would be devastated was an understatement.

There were no side roads and no driveways. Hellen kept going, wondering when she could slow or turn around, and where the blanket would be by that time. Finally, she came to a side road. It was dirt, and narrow, and rutted. Her minivan would never be able to turn around on it. Forget a three-point turn; she would be lucky to complete one in twenty.

So she simply stopped, put her flashers on, and gazed down the road as an unbelievably high number of cars rushed by on both sides. Wasn’t this a deserted road? In the middle of a pandemic? The road she had pulled down was situated at the top of a hill along a blind curve. Backing onto the road would be an invitation for an accident. How was she supposed to turn around?

Her only hope would be to drive down the rutted road and hope for a better place to turn. But how far down this rabbit hole was she willing to go? She glanced in the rearview mirror and imagined telling her daughter about the blanket.

It would not go well. She got out of the car and craned her neck down the road, hoping for a miracle. Couldn’t a gust of wind bring the blanket back to her?

Even if she were able to turn around, there was no telling where the blanket had gone. She hadn’t seen it land.

“Please!” she screamed.

Almost in answer, a deep hoooonk startled her.

Along the main road, a huge truck was coming to a stop. A man in a hat got out and waved. He was not wearing a mask.

“Need help? Broken down? Flat tire?”

Hellen shook her head. “Worse. My daughter’s blanket flew out the window, and when she wakes up, things are never gonna be the same.”

The man’s concerned face cracked into a smile. “Hold on.”

He hurried to his truck and returned, the blanket in his hand.

“This literally hit my windshield while I was driving. I was able to grab it before it flew away. I don’t know why I kept it in my cab. Something told me to.”

Hellen shook her head. “Even with the threat of the virus?”

He nodded.

She took the blanket and hurriedly reached back to cover her daughter. By the time she was finished, the truck driver was already in his cab, waving at her to back up onto the road. She got in the minivan and backed out, heading towards home. She waved a quick goodbye before realizing she never got to thank him, never got to know his name. But he was already gone, down the other side of the narrow road, followed by a line of cars, on his way to deliver more needed goods to more people in need.

***

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 – “Inspiration” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt was created using a random generator. Use these five words in a writing: suntan, paint, waterfall, inflation, exposure.

This week story comes from Chiara. Chiara is currently quarantined in Berlin, Germany, and doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects.

***

“Inspiration” by Chiara De Giorgi

You’ve probably heard of the “writer’s block” before. I’ve never suffered from it. Not one time. My inspiration is always sharp and present, come rain or shine.

Except the one time when it was not.

It was a supremely unusual feeling, and a supremely annoying one too. Where had my inspiration gone? Why play hide and seek then, of all times?

 

I had acquired a lovely cabin in the woods, facing a waterfall. Since it needed refurbishing, I had bought three cans of paint and spent an enjoyable three days painting it anew, inside and out. I hanged laced curtains at the small windows, threw knitted blankets and pillows on the sofa, put a brightly colored, woolen carpet on the floor. I spent the days on the porch and gained a perfect suntan. With no exposure to the media I forgot everything about elections, economy, inflation, and other equally worrisome news from the outside world.

One night I talked to the fire that was crackling in the fireplace. I was cradling a glass, half full with red wine, and moaned. “Where is my inspiration hiding?” I asked.

“It was never yours”, the fire replied.

Since the half full glass was my fourth, the fire talking didn’t bother me in the least. “How do you mean?” I asked.

“Inspiration is a free creature, a living creature. She goes where she wants, not where she’s wanted – or needed, for that matter. You may try and call on her, though. What do you want her for?”

“I’m not sure”, I confessed. “I guess I’m just waiting for her to come to me.”

“And why would she?”

“I don’t know. She’s done that before.”

“Maybe you’ve done something to upset her and now she’s eluding you.”

“Maybe. I’ve no idea, though. But I don’t think so.”

“Maybe you don’t need her, then.”

“Of course I need her! How can I write, without her?”

The fire crackled a bit, before answering.

“Do you remember what the world is like, outside this cabin?”

I grimaced. “I try not to. So many problems.”

“Exactly. And how is it here?”

I smiled. “It’s great! I wake up every day to the smell of pine and the sound of birds chirping and water falling. I love every minute of my days here.”

“So, maybe the people out there need inspiration more than you do. Don’t you agree?”

“Maybe…” I whispered, unconvinced. “But what about me? How will I write again?”

“Well”, crackled the fire, “I guess you’ll have to make a choice. Stay here and live in your dream world, or go back and write about it.”

I pondered its words for a couple of seconds, then gulped the rest of the wine. I didn’t answer.

“So: which one will you choose?”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “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/

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “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/].

 

 

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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/].

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