Tag Archives: MacKenzie

The Spot Writers – “Where Is the Love?”

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

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.

***

“Where Is the Love?” by Cathy MacKenzie

 

I don’t have to look at newspaper blurbs

To find five words

That jump out at me,

I don’t need to see

Ones that’ll stand out.

 

The ones that’ll shout

To me

Are these three:

Covid, social-distancing, death—

Seniors taking their last breath—

And these two:

Health and ICU.

 

This month of June

Couldn’t come too soon

But not much has changed,

The world is still deranged

And crazy.

 

People are lazy

And lackadaisical,

Recognizable,

Ignoring masks

And other tasks.

 

What happened to social-distancing

And outdistancing,

Groups of ten

And wise women and men?

 

Summer is here,

We want to be near,

But without health

What is wealth?

Money or not,

Life can’t be bought.

 

I fear I exist

And co-exist

In a dream,

A nightmare

From which I’ll never wake

To give my head a shake.

 

Despite upheaval

And evil,

Can we pray

For words to say

That won’t hurt

And phrases we won’t blurt

Without thinking,

Without blinking

An eye?

 

I look to the sky

And pray for change,

That we may re-arrange

Priorities

And help minorities,

That peace can prevail

Despite a gale.

 

Where is the love

Once sent from God above?

***

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 – “Floating in a Tin Can” by Chiara De Giorgi

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

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.

***

“Floating in a Tin Can” by Chiara De Giorgi

Never had I ever thought I’d find myself one day floating in a tin can, like David Bowie’s Major Tom, far above the Moon… and yet, here I am! Of course I really hope I’ll keep in touch with Ground Control and make it back to Earth, but for the time being I just want to enjoy the ride, as they say.

It all began during the 2020 pandemic. People were scared, for a while confusion reigned, but in the end, slowly, things went back to normal – with a couple improvements, if I’m allowed to say so, given that so many didn’t make it.

One big change was that private and independent investors poured money into cryonics research. What’s cryonics, you ask? Cryonics is the preserving of a human body at low-freezing temperatures. Why would one decide to be frozen, you want to know? Well, let’s say you’re suffering from a medical condition that science isn’t able to cure. You have your body frozen and then thawed in the future, when doctors will know what to do. Sweet, don’t you think? I thought so and I had money enough to invest in the project. Moreover, I signed my body off to undergo the procedure in case I became ill with the 2020 virus and would die of it. Which happened.

Admittedly, those were quite the chaotic times, so I don’t blame Cryonics Ltd. for forgetting my body was under ice for about fifty years – when an undergraduate looking for the restroom got lost in the labyrinthine basement and found me.

The world I was resurrected into was quite different from the one I had died in. I couldn’t keep my enthusiasm at bay. Not only was I cured, I also became a celebrity and got rich again in a matter of days.

In the years I had slept away, science and technology had improved hugely. I felt like a toddler in a candy shop, I wanted to know everything, and everybody indulged me.

I could have paid for this space trip, but it was hardly necessary, as any ad company in the world is willing to pay me a ridiculous amount of money just for the honor of putting my face on their products. Space travel is quite common these days, although still a bit expensive. Not everyone can afford it, but I’m happy to report that life conditions have also improved hugely for the majority of the Earth’s population. There are of course reasons for it, one of them being that the Moon is being colonized at the moment, and those who accept dangerous jobs up there are the ones who wouldn’t fare well on Earth.

Anyway. As I was saying, space travel is quite common. What isn’t that common, though, is time travel.

I am the willing participant in a research study on time travel – it seemed the next logical step to take.

So if you get this message, please reply. It will be corroborating evidence that it works. Thanks!

***

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 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 – “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 – “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 – “Me Time” by Val Muller

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.

***

“Me Time” by Val Muller

There he stood, in the strip mall in front of Tropical Palms Spa. His skin tingled from his facial, and his muscles were so relaxed he could melt. He sighed and glanced back at the neon palm tree in the window. Of course, there was nothing tropical about it, it being located in the middle of Hudson, Ohio. But that was the point, to go somewhere away from it all. Near a national park, it was a good place to get lost.

And getting lost was easy to do. He’d taken his doctor’s advice and started Intermittent Fasting, eating only during an eight-hour window each day. Gone were the days of keeping gingerbread cookies at the ready, eating one practically every five minutes. Without the chill of his wintry abode, he didn’t need that much insulation anymore, and the extra weight was bad for his knees.

He wondered if his wife would even recognize him after his sabbatical. He’d lost countless pounds and dropped so many pant sizes that he could wrap himself in his old clothes threefold. His energy had increased, just like the doctor said it would. He went for walks now, long walks, wondering how in the world he used to conquer all those lists and deadlines.

The checking once, twice; the playing moral judge. It had all been so taxing, so ubiquitous, so constant. Who was he to determine naughty or nice? His therapist was right: it was time for parents to start looking after their own children’s behaviors. Santa needed to look after Santa.

His elves, he’d sent off to a holiday in the tropics. The coconuts and rum would be good for them; after all, they lived on carbs. They would be back just after Thanksgiving. That would be plenty of time for them to run maintenance on COAL 2.0, the new program the rep installed. It was a fully-automated system that assigned kids gifts or punishments based on algorithm.

It scanned their parents’ social media posts, monitored phone conversations with grandparents and friends, even tapped into school security cameras and data from the NSA. In mid-December, it spit out a list of kids good, bad, and neutral. Then, it assigned one of a small range of toys—about twelve possible options, including rocks for punishment (coal was not environmentally sustainable)—based on age and behavior.

There was really nothing Santa needed to do. The program sent the gifts to homes via drone delivery. He could still ride on his sled, but the ride would be mere ceremony. He would be back in time to catch a Christmas movie with the missus while enjoying a hot chocolate (if it was still during his 8-hour feeding, and not fasting, window).

He stepped off the curb, and a whirlwind of leaves swirled from the side of the parking lot onto the sidewalk, surrounding him and playing with the stubble on his clean-shaven whiskers. The cold made his face, fresh with the facial, tingle. He shivered, for a moment missing his plush red robe. He heard the lonely call of an owl and turned around. The lot was largely deserted, it being the middle of an October work week, and he examined the Halloween décor in the windows.

He envied Halloween. It was everyone’s job to give out candy. And that, said his therapist, is how it should be. The world had no right to demand a single entity be responsible for billions of toys each year. That was too much for any man. A flashy jack-o-lantern in the window mocked him with its smug confidence.

He gritted his teeth and reached for a cookie, but there were none, of course. The therapist had blamed sugar—in part—for the Breakdown. Santa sighed and noticed a Costco across the street. He couldn’t help himself. He’d been working on thinking of himself and his wife only—as his therapist directed—but his mind naturally went to buying in bulk. He would just take a peek.

Inside, the store was already decorated for Christmas. They must have sold out of their Halloween items long before October 1. Sparkling colored LED lights on magnificent plastic trees. His body—his old body, the fat one, the one before his recovery—in miniature, carrying a heavy sack, standing on a mirrored music box. And Christmas cookies. A box with 96 of them for $8.99. He smiled, remembering the good old days and how that box would make a nice midnight snack. He reached in his pocket and fingered the ten-dollar bill. Crisp, but not as crisp as those cookies looked.

And then he heard the pitter-patter of children. A check of his watch let him know school must have been let out. The kids ran up the aisle examining the Christmas wonder. A little boy—that was little Timmy from Twinsburg—was pushing his little brother (Joey—he was such a good little boy) to get a closer look at the tree display.

“Naughty, naughty,” Santa muttered, reaching for his list.

But he had left his list at home. The therapist told him to destroy it, but Santa had opted to store it in his drawer instead.

“Hmmm,” he said, gritting his teeth. He picked up the box of cookies and walked to the register to pay.

Out in the parking lot, at his rental car, he put the remaining half-box of cookies on the passenger seat and brushed the crumbs off his shirt. In the window’s reflection, he looked like a wizened old man, not a holly-jolly one. He shook his head as he got in and pushed the start button.

“On, Dasher,” he said, chuckling. Then he reached for another cookie.

Across the street, the smug jack-o-lantern was still watching him through the window, with beady eyes and an insistent LED smile. Dash him and all his goblin friends, Santa thought, watching a mother load bags of candy into her trunk. The woman’s two young daughters—the Beardsley twins—were bickering about who got to have first pick of the Halloween candy. Neither even gave a thought to helping their mother.

Santa cringed and stuffed a handful of cookies into his mouth. The sugar made him feel much better.

“North Pole,” he typed into the rental car’s GPS. It was a long drive, according to the map that appeared. He’d need a lot of cookies. Luckily, the rental car’s on-board computer had a way to search for stops along the way. He would need one at least one every few miles. Yes, it would take quite a while without his trusted team. But at least when he got there, there’d be his wife, and an endless list of names to double-check while sipping hot chocolate in front of the crackling 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/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Impatient Passenger” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story inspired by what you see out your window.

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/

***

The Impatient Passenger by Phil Yeats

 

I stared from the front window of my second-floor apartment in an old urban house as I waited for my early morning coffee to brew. A woman standing on the curb attracted my attention. She was young, perhaps twenty-five years old, and decently dressed, like someone heading for the university or a job that didn’t require formal clothes. It wasn’t her age or attire that caught my attention; it was her nervous demeanour.

She shifted from one foot to the other as her head swiveled, glancing left and right. When a gap developed, she stepped onto the road and stared at the oncoming traffic. Seconds later, she leapt onto the curb as a dark grey econobox swung toward her and screeched to a halt. The rear passenger door flew open, she dove inside, and the door slammed shut. More screeching of tires and honks from annoyed drivers as the car recklessly charged into the traffic.

I noted nothing particularly distinctive about the car or its passenger, but her nervousness and the obvious haste of the car’s driver left me imagining the strange events that could generate these observations. Was there something sinister, or just people in a big hurry?

***

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 – “Pencil” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story inspired by what you see out your window. This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Find out more at www.corgicapers.com

Pencil by Val Muller

val pencil

When I was born, my mother told me I could be anything. Dad wrote the first draft of a thesis that went on to earn the Nobel Prize in Physics, disappearing to the college and never coming back. Each night, Mom tells tales of what Dad must be doing. She imagines him in a glass case somewhere, under shining lights, being admired by passers-by as the brains behind the thesis. Mom has spent her whole life jotting down phone messages in the Jones’s kitchen. It’s not the Nobel Prize, but it sure helps the Jones family keep up their appointments.

“We all have a purpose,” she always says.

Me? I wasn’t sure of my purpose until this August, when I was placed in Rob Jones’s backpack. Turns out I’m going to be a School Pencil. Mom told me that’s important because school is the foundation for everything else in life. Maybe Rob Jones will earn the next Nobel Peace Prize. Not in Physics, though, let me tell you.

Mom sent me off with a smile, knowing my life would already turn out better than Brother’s. We don’t really talk about the incident with Rover, but I’m glad Rob keeps my backpack on a hook out of Rover’s reach.

*

There’s an important physics test this afternoon, and I can’t help wondering if I’ll be chosen. After all, physics seems to run through my veins—my lead, that is. I’m sure I can help Rob ace the exam. After countless hours in the dark, Rob opens the backpack and reaches for the pencil case. His fingers grasp an erasable pen—don’t even get me started on the Paper Mate family—but then think better of it and choose me instead.

Now is my time to shine. The test is on Objects in Motion. This is easy stuff. Dad raised me on this like nursery rhymes before he left. I prepare to write my response when—Rob, what’s happening? His hand is getting sweaty, tarnishing my beautiful yellow shine. Now what’s he doing? Chewing my eraser! Rob, you know this stuff. No need to abuse me. Just write the response already.

Finally, he starts to scrawl something. He needs to brush up on rotational motion a little, but he’ll get partial credit, at least.

Now what? Ouch! He’s chewing on me. My smooth yellow coat is tainted with bite marks. My mind races with flashes of Rover. I see bits of Brother’s splintered body all over the kitchen floor, and I wonder if my fate is the same. The pressure is relieved by a gentle crunch.

An actual divot.

My dignity gone, I no longer care about the test. I just want to get out of there. My mind races. Maybe Rob can toss me on the ground, and maybe I’ll be picked up by that girl in the corner. She has a glitter pencil case and keeps all her pencils sharp one-hundred percent of the time. She never chews on her erasers, that’s for sure.

Rob slams me on the desk to go ask the teacher a question. I will myself to roll off the desk. Rob hears me fall and hurries back to pick me up before continuing on to the teacher. At the teacher’s desk, Rob’s sweaty hands plop the test down and then take out their frustration on me.

“I’m not sure I understand the question,” Rob says.

The teacher isn’t buying it. “This is all from the review packet,” he says. “If you were paying attention last class, and if you had studied, this would be easy stuff.” Indeed, the teacher motions to a stack of tests that students have already finished.

I realize in horror that Rob hasn’t studied. He doesn’t care about physics.

His frustration bends me—literally. He holds me between two hands, and he bends me in an arc.

“I did study,” he says. “This stuff is just too hard.”

The teacher’s expression remains skeptical.

“I think I need more time,” Rob says. “An extension.”

The shake of a head. “I can’t do that, Robert.”

The boy shakes. He’s angry now. The arc he’s creating with me sharpens, and my wood starts to creak and crack. Rob, stop. Stop this madness.

In my panic, I look up at the ceiling, where three pencils are stuck in the asbestos ceiling. Shot like arrows, no doubt. How many years have they been there, their lead impotent?

The tension becomes unbearable. Splinters break through my paint job. I snap in two, my lead exposed to the world, a small shard of wood landing at the door near the teacher’s feet. I’m sharpened lead on one side, eraser on the other, and a splintery mess in the middle.

The teacher just shakes his head. “I take it you’ll be repeating the class next year if you keep up this attitude,” he says. Then he looks down at me. “Looks like you’re going to need a whole lot more pencils.”

The teacher holds out his hand, and Rob slams me into it, both halves of me. I remain in his hand long enough to see him hand Rob a new pencil, a black Ticonderoga one. As if to say I wasn’t good enough for him. As he walks across the room toward the trash can, I realize my fate. Mother will never see me again. Instead, a high class snob will take my place and probably charm Mom into adopting him.

Or worse. With Dad out of the picture, who knows what charms that Ticonderoga will grace Mom with.

The day is long as I await my fate. It comes in the form of a squeaky cart rolling down the hall. A tired sigh as a custodian upends the trash can, tossing me with other detritus into a black plastic bag. Before long, the bag is closed around me, and all become darkness.

***

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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The Spot Writers – “The Botanical Mystery Writer” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. August’s prompt is to use these five words in a story or poem: besides, fishes, inn, owing, born.

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 Botanical Mystery Writer by Chiara De Giorgi

 “If you need me, I’ll be at the inn!”

I stepped outside and strode to the car. As soon as I sat behind the wheel, I regretted my words. The whole point of me staying at the inn for a few days was to get away, to have more space, to be quiet and finally be able to concentrate and write. The twelve chapters I was owing to my editor were screaming to be written, but there was always something more urgent, more important, more… I don’t know.

It was so frustrating! I had been so happy, when my agent had called me! Guess what? I sold your botanical mystery series! It’ll be a success, I tell you! It is as if you were born to be a botanical mystery writer! Yeah, well: apparently I was also born to be the wild card for my family, especially after that fateful phone call.

The advance from the publisher was good enough for me to quit my job as an underpaid waitress at the lousy diner just outside town, and my brother and sisters were quick to take advantage of the situation, Since you’re not working, please take Mother to the doctor’s tomorrow. Since you’re not working, please be a good auntie and pick up the twins after ballet class. Since you’re not working, please go to the grocery store and buy food for everyone. And so on. I’ve been so busy with everybody else’s needs, I haven’t had the time to sit down and write, yet. And my first deadline is coming up, in just a week. That’s why I booked a quiet room at the inn in the woods. I shouldn’t have told them.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, I muttered while driving up the winding road. They had never taken me seriously, neither me nor my ambition to become a writer. This world needs people who work with their hands, not people who play with their words. Why don’t you do something useful, something worthy? Do you really think you’ll be able to live off your books? And what’s a botanical mystery, anyway?

I gripped the steering wheel and grunted. Oh, I so wanted to show them! Maybe they’d been boycotting me on purpose.

Suddenly I pushed the brake pedal. I had never noticed that sign before: a B&B right up the hill. Not the inn everybody knew about. The sign said “B&B He Fishes – The Perfect Retreat – 4 miles”. If I met fishermen, they could assist me with the plot twist I was considering, which involved the attempted murder of a fisherman. The B&B was only four miles on the left, while the inn was twelve miles up north. It would save me precious time, besides being somewhere nobody would be able to find me.

I quickly typed a message and sent it to all my siblings: “If you need me, I WON’T be at the inn”. Then switched off the phone and turned left.

***

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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