Tag Archives: MacKenzie

Dear Matt

(Yesterday’s sad event)

 

Dear Matt,

 

We stand before you, burying you again:

Seventeen months after your death,

One day ahead of the first anniversary of your burial,

And tears are as fresh today as then.

 

I’m not in denial—none of us are,

We know you’re gone,

But like a broken record

So many unanswered questions abound.

 

I’m elated to be with your siblings this weekend,

We’re celebrating in style—not!

That’s only an expression

That came to my inebriated mind.

 

Perhaps we’re in reflection mode,

Enjoying each other as we did

When you were with us,

And, oh, how I wish you were here.

 

Perhaps we think of other things:

Sadness, happiness—who knows.

I’m not privy to others’ minds.

I only know mine.

 

We all grieve differently.

Everyone misses you.

Everyone sheds tears

In their own way.

 

We brought Bud Light with us,

We pray, we speak, we remember.

We won’t forget you.

We never will. I never will.

 

I miss you so much, my son,

My middle child,

My only planned child,

Ironically, the only child I didn’t want.

 

A contradiction, for sure (there’s a story there!),

But all turned out okay in the end:

Your birth, your life.

All was okay until I couldn’t save you.

 

I tried.

I tried so hard. With all my might.

I’d do the same for your siblings,

But I’m not God.

 

This world isn’t all about me;

I know that.

I’m just a peon in the universe,

Feeling bereft without one of my children.

 

Existing with a horrid hole,

Quashing aches within my soul,

Searching for a missing puzzle piece

Lost forever.

 

With every breath I miss you,

I shout to the Heavens,

I shriek to God,

How can this be?

 

I want to say, “Rest in peace, my son,”

But that’s such a cliché,

And who knows, really, what you’re doing

Or where you are.

 

No one knows.

No one knows.

Me?

I just want the impossible.

 

RIP, my son.

Rest in peace.

Matt Headstone Kenzieville

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The Spot Writers – “Land’s End” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The July prompt: a character finds an object that had been lost. (In this tale’s case, a person!)

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, is available. https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

Land’s End by Cathy MacKenzie

 Annie dashes across the jutting rocks, her flowing gown clotted with crimson, and pauses to catch a breath. A menacing black ceiling threatens to descend upon her. She balances precariously on tiptoes to grab the sole gleaming gem. The wind hurls wet hair across her face, jarring her to reality.

She glances around. Adam might be following. She shudders in the cold before continuing her trek.

A few more feet. The cave lies ahead, and Adam isn’t aware of it. She told no one about the cave, knowing she might need its shelter and protection against an evil that might befall her someday. 

The cave was her discovery—and her secret.

 ***

Sherry scanned the newspaper article about the discovery of a human bone washed upon the shore at Land’s End the previous day. The beach had been aptly named since it was the last beach of five heading eastward. Steep cliffs and boulders sheltered each individual beach, making them private. The remains of several dilapidated and almost-non-existent huts dotted the landscape. Although one had to be careful traipsing in the brush, that area was half a kilometre from the beach, and most beachgoers remained on the sandy side.

She had trampled through the brush section many times but had never stumbled upon anything of importance nor had she fallen down abandoned wells. She figured the gossip about sightings and strange occurrences were based on legend and folklore.

She usually frequented Turtle Bend, the beach adjoining Land’s End, but the previous day an unknown force had lured her from Turtle Bend to the other area, which was when she discovered the cave. She hadn’t had time to enter it, which gnawed at her. What lay inside?

“Corey, I’m running out for a bit.” She placed the newspaper on the table and waited for an answer. Had she yelled loud enough?

Corey, glued to the TV, relaxed in the den down the hall. If he hadn’t heard, she could leave and return before he even knew she’d left.

If she had more time, she could walk the thirty minutes to Land’s End, but it was almost eight o’clock. She needed to get there and return home before dark.

***

 Shrouded in darkness, Annie crouches on the rocks. Though the night transformed the bloodstains into a patterned fabric, she feels dirty. She allows the soaring waves to rush over her.

Numb from the rawness of the chilled water, yet refreshed and clean, she creeps along the cliff’s edge. Once she reaches the cave, the storm will shield her, and she’ll be safe. The ocean will be her protectress from evil.

If Adam frequented the beach as she did, he might have found the cave, but he doesn’t enjoy the ocean. Despite living near the water, he never learned to swim, but he assured Annie he would be able to save himself if the need arose.

 ***

Sherry traipsed from her car to the beach. The wind had picked up since she left home, but the sun hadn’t fully set. In the distance, black symbols marred the glaring yellow police tape that cordoned off a small rectangular area. The words CRIME SCENE, DO NOT CROSS designating the area where the bone had been discovered became clearer the closer she approached. When she neared the ocean’s edge, she turned left and scrambled over the boulders. She hadn’t gone very far before the water lapped at the rocks. Spray spit at her legs. Salt coated her lips. Just a few more feet.

Exhausted, she finally faced the cave. She dug her feet into the sand, thankful she could do so. The wind had blown her about like a rag doll. What a foolhardy decision. Would she be found if she had an accident? Several times she had almost fallen.

She gathered her damp, tangled hair into a ponytail, wishing she had tied it back before she left home. She searched her pockets for the penlight flashlight she had grabbed before leaving and switched it on.

She shuddered at the eeriness of the cavernous hollow. She advanced a few steps and shone the flashlight, the thin beam threatening to rip apart the abrasive walls. Water, reminding her of tears, dripped hesitantly over the uneven surface. She wiped her face with her sleeve.

She continued toward the back of the cave, where the light illuminated scattered bones. She had never seen human bones previously, but that’s what they were. They had been gnawed and chewed by wild animals.

The longer she stared, the more her tears flowed. Flashbacks gripped her in a vise; her body winced under the pressure. Her own bones constricted, about to snap like frozen vines. She clutched the flashlight, afraid she’d drop it and become stranded as Annie obviously had—Annie from her dreams. Sherry hadn’t known her as Annie then, merely an unnamed female bearing innocent features.

Until the bone washed up on shore. And then Sherry’s dreams made sense.

The remains were believed to be that of Annie Creamer, who had disappeared in 1892. The story still spewed from people’s lips, everyone craving an unsolved mystery. Back then, the townsfolk had accused Adam of her death, but he had denied it. Everyone knew he had beaten his wife on more than one occasion. Everyone knew, but no one had done anything to stop it.

***

 Annie curls up on the cave floor. She ignores her tears. The enormity of what she did unfolds before her as if watching a play at Ulysses Theatre. Is Adam physically able to search for her? Can she return to face her fate? Surely once the truth is revealed, the noose won’t be looped around her neck. Or would it?

What is the truth? Will anyone believe her? Wives are supposed to obey their husbands, no matter what torment men bestow upon them. Will females forever be treated as chattels? Will a day come when women can stand alongside men to be treated as equals? It won’t happen in her lifetime, but she often dreams of herself in a future time.

She falls asleep, hugging herself in the dank cavern.

***

Sherry followed the flashlight’s beam while leaving the protection of the cave. When she emerged, the wind rushed at her face. Glad she had donned a windbreaker, she pulled up the hood before clambering over the rocks to the safety of the beach. While the wind howled like a tormented soul and pelted harsh shards of salt water onto her face, she gazed across the endless ocean.

“Annie. Annie, where are you?” The voice, distinctly male, came from far away, the words fading as quickly as Sherry heard them.

Sherry stood transfixed. Though she wanted to run, she also wanted to stay. Despite her confusion, she remained rooted. What lay below the wet sand and how far could she sink? If she dug her sodden sneakers into the darkened mass, she could disappear into its depths, never to be seen again. She had always felt conflicted about her lapses into the past. Had she lived a prior life? Her confusion intensified after discovering the cave, and the washed-up bone added more mystery.

Having lived in Briarwood since birth, Sherry grew up with the knowledge of Annie’s plight but had always considered the dreams as a result of being aware of the legend. Until that moment, standing before the ocean’s passion and madness, she hadn’t realized she lived the legend.

The moon illuminated wild whitecaps rushing across the vast expanse. Sounds swept in off the water, the waves unleashing pent-up emotions and hushed voices.

“Sherry…Sherry…Sherry.”

A white form appeared. Corey’s unruly hair sprouted from the top, and brown eyes glowed from its centre.

Corey?

Fear coursed through her. No, it was Adam. Adam yelling for Annie. Adam searching for his wife in the dark.

“Annie…Annie…Annie.”

Waves thundered against the boulders, obliterating further sounds.

The ghostly image exploded into red splatters.

Sherry touched her chest. Blood? She couldn’t determine for sure, not in the dark, but an acrid smell wafted into her nostrils.

She stumbled, her feet slogging into the sand.

“No!” Her voice echoed, startling her. Had she yelled that loudly? She must get back to her car. Needed to get away from the voices. Needed to see Corey.

When she reached the car, her heart stopped its incessant pounding. She stood on solid ground again. She swiped her hand across her brow. Had she smeared blood on her face? She unlocked the door and jumped in. After the engine roared to life, she turned on the interior light and pulled the rearview mirror toward her. Her face, though ashen and wet, wasn’t smeared with red. Her hands were clean. No blood on her clothing.

With a fervour she hadn’t experienced while on the beach, a pleasant warmth flowed through her. Corey. She couldn’t wait to see him and regretted not having told him she was going out. If he had discovered her absence, she hoped he hadn’t worried.

She headed home to Corey, who loved and treated her as a man should. Now that Annie had been found, both Annie and Sherry could rest 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.ca/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “A Christmas Tale” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The June prompt is to update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn’t consistent with the original legend.

This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has lot of fun.

***

A Christmas Tale

“Guys, I don’t want to repeat myself, but rules are simple: one story for Christmas, one for Midsummer, one for Halloween. You’re always late, and I find myself publishing scary stuff for Christmas and dealing with the fairy folk in November. Santa and the reindeers are always complaining that, by the time we publish something Christmas-related, it’s almost time for eggs and bunnies. Who, by the way, are pestering me because they want to be featured as well. I mean, come on! Why must you always be so lazy? Use your brain for something useful, for once, and give me something worth publishing at the right time. Shall I remind you, that last year our Winter issue featured a story about Zombie Fairies? A pathetic attempt to merge Midsummer and Halloween, no doubt, and yet you delivered it so late it was already Christmas by the time we managed to print it! I can’t do this anymore. You’re the greatest disappointment and I would close the magazine down at once, were it not for those fluffy reindeers expectantly looking at me. To be honest, I’m also a tiny bit freaked out by all those magical creatures. I mean, they’re sweet and all, but what would happen if they got angry? I don’t even want to think about it. So, please, I beg you: concentrate and write.”

The editor-in-chief left, his unfinished cigarette forgotten in the ashtray, dropping ash on his desk. No one spoke. The clock ticked and tocked, and the faucet in the restroom dripped. Drip. Drip. Drip. Someone had left the door open. Again.

“Well…”

“Yeah.”

“After all, you know: he’s right.”

“I must say, I liked the Zombie Fairies piece, though.”

“At least we always try to be original.”

“You mean ghoulish.”

“I mean our stuff is never predictable.”

“Guys, he’s not complaining about the quality of our work, he just needs us to be on time.”

“Hey, it’s not easy writing stuff about Christmas when you’ve just booked a week at the Bahamas.”

“Why, doesn’t Christmas happen at the Bahamas as well?”

“Yeah, you just need to wrap up some loving feelings in sugary goodness coated with pink little hearts, et voilà! A Christmas story ready to be printed out.”

“That’s not original, though.”

“Nor ghoulish.”

“We don’t really need to be ghoulish.”

Knock-knock.

“Who’s there?”

“Er, hi. May I come in?”

“Sure, Mr… Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

“My name is Santa, you might have heard of me.”

“…”

“I overheard you speaking, and it is my understanding that you’re facing some sort of difficulties because of me and my sweet reindeers.”

“We… er… I mean…”

“I wonder, therefore, if you wish me to be of assistance.”

“Hey, why not? We need inspiration: we have to write a story about you!”

“Ho Ho Ho! What a coincidence! I can tell you some very personal stories about me. After all, I am Santa. I know each one of you.”

“You do?”

“Of course! You, for example, devilish child!”

“Me? What? Why?”

“In a time when finally, finally!, children started being rational and stopped believing in me, so I could seriously consider retirement, you campaigned for me! You convinced all your little friends that the poor old man does exist and loves all the children and the least we can do is believe he’s real! You devilish, devilish child! Me? Loving children? Ha! All I want is to permanently move to a desert island in the middle of the ocean, with a giant drink in my hand and a beautiful, curvy blond by my side, and never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever see a child again!”

“I’m sorry, I guess? I had no idea…”

“Of course you hadn’t! And, by the way, where has all that fierce love you had for me gone now? You aren’t even able to crank out one little story for me in one year!”

“Well, we’re trying to…”

“You’re trying, what?  I remember of you as well, you know.”

“Oh. Ahem. Really?”

“Sure! You’re so smart, in fifth grade you stole all of your classmates’ letters to Santa and signed them yourself, thinking you’d get twenty-five presents!”

“I’ve always been a resourceful kid.”

“A liar, you mean.”

“Come on, children’s lies are not really lies…”

“Is that what you tell yourself?”

“I… No, I actually…”

“What? No words? You? Nice writers you are, the lot of you! But I had enough of this. I am here to put an end to all your Christmas-related issues.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Think of it like the ultimate Christmas present, from Santa himself.”

“Sounds great!”

“Yes, I am great, as a matter of fact. May I have a coffee, please?”

“Sure! Sugar?”

“Two.”

“Cream?”

“A drop.”

“There you go!”

“Mmmmh, smells divine. I’ll just set it aside for the moment.”

“And why’s that?”

“First, I have to eat.”

“Eat? Wait, we should have some crisps somewhere…”

“Don’t bother, I don’t need crisps.”

“…”

“Guys, have you noticed the reindeers? Why are they circling us?”

“I’ve no idea. It looks like they’re glaring at us, doesn’t it?”

“Now that you mention it, it does, yes.”

“Do I sound very stupid if I say that it looks like they’re going to eat us?”

“Actually, yes, you do sound stupid. But I admit I agree.”

“Mr Santa… Are you going to let your reindeers eat us?”

“Not completely, no. I want some bites as well.”

“I’m not sure this is going to help us with the difficulties we’re experiencing regarding a Christmas story, to be honest.”

“But of course it will help you! Didn’t you want a ghoulish tale?”

“…”

“Rudolph, go on: first bite’s for you.”

***

The Spot Writers:

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 – “On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The June prompt is to update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn’t consistent with the original legend.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, will be available for purchase by the end of June. “Follow” her website www.writingwicket.wordpress.com for updates and/or “like” her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WolvesDontKnock/.

***

“On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam” by Cathy MacKenzie

Peggys Cove, a small rural community on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay, is one of Nova Scotia’s most visited landmarks, picturesque with its lighthouse and deadly waves crashing against the huge boulders. According to local legend, a young girl named Margaret was the only survivor of a shipwreck off Halibut Rock, near the cove. (Peggy, of course, is the nickname for Margaret, hence the name of the cove.) Margaret/Peggy was found by a fisherman who took her to his home, and she was adopted by this man and his wife. No doubt, they all lived “happily ever after.”

In this fictionalized story, I’ve brought Peggy of the Cove into the modern world, where we find her floundering in the Atlantic Ocean…

When Peggy spat out salty water, it was as if she were in the throes of a nightmare, for why was she in the water? But her predicament was real—too real.

She gasped for breath and tread water. She scanned the vast waters. What—a lighthouse?

She was a fan of lighthouses and immediately recognized this one as the lighthouse at Peggys Cove. Peggys Cove, the place where legends began and ended. An abundance of lobster chowder and buttery biscuits. All varieties of fresh seafood. Tourists who disregarded the dangers of the rocks.

She’d been there several years previously and had even admonished several carefree teens who bounded over the boulders as if they were invincible. “Watch for the black,” she had shouted. “Don’t go near the edge. If you tumble, you’ll disappear forever.” They ignored her, of course, so she let them be, and they were fine in the end, thank God. She wasn’t certain what she would have done had one of them toppled into the sea. Would she have jumped in? Nope, not her. Be reckless in your life; suffer the consequences.

Consequences. Was she suffering consequences? What had she done to deserve this?

Her head ached, and the shark-infested waters didn’t calm her nerves. It was a wonder a shark hadn’t shown its face yet. If it did, she wouldn’t fare well.

She made an effort to swim toward shore, where relentless waves slapped against a wall of boulders. Would the waves crash her to the rocks? Wet rocks were slippery and dangerous, and she wouldn’t manage to get on shore even if she reached land. Barefoot, she would slip and slide on the rocks, and if she slid back into the water, she wouldn’t make it a second time. She had amazed herself she’d made it thus far, not that she knew where her journey had begun.

How the hell had she ended up in the water? Why the hell couldn’t she remember? What the Sam Hill—her father’s favourite expression.

Sam!

Samuel Reid, her fiancé.

She shivered and swallowed more water. She found it ironic the more she drank, the thirstier she became.

She was slowly losing strength. She must get to shore.

What had happened to her? Journey—a boat! A cruise boat. They had been on a cruise. A seven-day cruise out of Manhattan. Her memory was returning, albeit slowly. They had boarded the ship at Manhattan, with ports of call at Portland, Bar Harbour, Saint John, and Halifax, ending with two days of cruising from Halifax back to New York.

What “leg” of the cruise was she mired in? Did she “disembark” on the way to Halifax or on the return journey to Manhattan?

More nerve-wracking, how had she ended up in the ocean? No one could accidentally fall over the forty-eight-inch railings. No amount of booze would cause her to be drunk enough to jump into the sea. Someone had to have pushed her.

Horror stories assaulted her. Husbands and boyfriends who wanted to be rid of their partners. Someone had pushed her, and who else but Sam? But why? They loved each other, didn’t they? She did, at any rate, and had always thought herself to be a good judge of character.

They were to marry in December, two weeks before Christmas. The wedding had been planned—by her, of course—and invites mailed. Two months from now. A big wedding, too. Gifts had already poured in. They were both popular, having graduated Dalhousie in June. No jobs yet, but such was life. The jobs would come, though, and they’d end up happily married, forever after, with the proverbial white picket fence and two-point-five kids—if that stat was still correct. She hadn’t checked recently. And who’d have half a kid, anyhow?

They’d taken out life insurance policies four months previously. Sam’s idea, wasn’t it? She hadn’t thought much about it—until this moment. “Might as well get coverage now,” she remembered him saying. “One less thing to do after we’re married.”

She spat out more water. Was she getting the bends? No, from the little she knew about the condition, the bends were when you were deep underwater, your brain exploding within your skull. She was above the sea, but still dangerous and brutal. The sea claimed whatever and whomever at will.

She must reach the rocks. She was confident she could grasp hold and haul herself up no matter the eel-like surface. And someone would be there to rescue her.

Please, God, let someone be there.

Figures and distances weren’t her forte. How much farther? How much longer could she last? Not that it mattered. She must keep swimming. Move her arms, kick her legs. Nothing to it, right?

Her life depended upon it.

Sam. Had he really done this? Why? Why, oh why?

They’d been drinking; they always drank. Who didn’t? “One more glass of wine?” he had asked. “Sure, just one,” she had replied. Booze was free onboard. They’d purchased the beverage package.

Wait! Who had purchased it? Him or her?

No matter. Didn’t matter. Gotta reach shore. “Please, God,” she mumbled. “I’ll never drink again if you save me.”

Didn’t everyone bargain when death neared?

No, death wouldn’t come for her. And when she found Sam, well, she didn’t want to think what she would do.

She forced her arms to dig deep into the water, inch by inch. Where was the splash of her feet? Shouldn’t she hear the splash? Wasn’t she kicking?

Forget it. Keep going. She was moving. The rocks were closer. Black rocks, but she’d manage. Just get me there. I’ll handle the rest.

She pretended she was a mermaid. Mermaids existed in the water. She’d live if she were a mermaid. Who knows, maybe she was one.

Kick! Kick, kick.

Her feet were numb, so maybe she had developed a mermaid tail. Flap! Flap, flap.

Nearer. Almost there. A few more kicks. A few more flails of her arms.

The water was warmer. She was warmer. Another sign of death?

She was close. So close. So close…

“Please, God, don’t let this be a mirage.”

She touched the sharp edge of a rock. A big rock. A boulder.

“I’m safe,” she muttered.

She looked up. A cliff. Too high. She’d never scale that.

She latched hold, her hand slipped, she swallowed water.

She reached again.

She managed to hoist herself onto a low-lying surface, where she lay, panting. The October sun shone across her. Warm. No breeze, no dastardly wind. No crash of the waves against the rocks.

Anyone there? she wanted to shout, but she possessed no strength.

Let me rest. Just let me rest.

 

Note:

My story “Margaret of the Sea” (perhaps a bit too dark, but that’s what the guidelines wanted!), another fictionalized account of Peggy/Margaret, will be published in an upcoming anthology titled Creatures in Canada – A Darkling Around the World Anthology, by Lycan Valley Press. This anthology consists of one “legend” story per province in Canada, a story that could have only happened in that particular province. My story was selected for Nova Scotia. Book will be available on Amazon.

***

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 – “A Fuse for a Book” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has lot of fun.

***

A fuse for a book by Chiara De Giorgi

My elderly upstairs neighbor is very cute, but quite deaf.

She’s also lonely, especially at night. Her small flat suddenly becomes too big, the emptiness of it filling every inch. And she can’t sleep if she’s alone. So she turns on the TV while she lays in bed, waiting for sweet slumber and hopefully some happy dreams.

This is all very moving, and I feel sorry for her. That is, until at 2.00 am she turns in her sleep and accidentally presses all the buttons in the remote and the volume goes up and a crazy zapping starts, right over my head. Which happens more often than seems reasonable, especially at 2.00 am.

I tried banging on her door once, but of course she couldn’t hear me. She slept on, while people in China could hear her TV proudly announcing Germany’s Next Top Model. So I bought myself some earplugs, which I keep next to my bed, just in case RTL jingle brutally and suspiciously intrudes into my dreams at some ungodly hour.

Once I thought, why doesn’t she goes to sleep with a book, for goodness’s sake! And right there and then, an idea was born.

The first book I left in her mailbox was an ancient and pretty copy of Jane Eyre. She disregarded it completely, as I could easily tell the following nights.

So I tried slipping a slim Agatha Christie mystery under her door. Again, no luck.

Desperation and insomnia were gripping me, so I tried leaving the whole Modern Herbalism Collection (seven hardbound tomes) on her doormat. No success. My elderly neighbor was happily and unwittingly spending her nights lulled by the worst possible TV programs, while I was going crazy for lack of sleep. My eyes were bloodshot, my skin was grey, I put the car keys into the fridge and tried starting my car with a ham slice… I needed a new idea.

One morning, I went down to the basement by mistake (I was basically sleep walking and missed the front door of the building while going to work) and a brilliant idea stroke me.

That night, around 10.00 pm, when I heard my neighbor turn the TV on, I tiptoed down to the basement, reached the fuse box, and removed the one that granted power to the sweet old lady’s flat. And There Was Silence.

I slept like a baby, woke up happy, and went to work with a renewed spirit. Before leaving the building, I put the fuse back. Let her call Maintenance!

Which she did, after a week of me removing-and-replacing the fuse, but no one ever found what was wrong with the TV, or the cables, or anything.

My elderly neighbor finally started reading the books I had anonymously given her. I’ve been dropping a new book in her mailbox every week since then, and we’ve both been sleeping peacefully ever since.

I keep removing the fuse at night and putting it back at morning, though. You can never be too safe.

***

The Spot Writers:

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 – “Jason’s Revenge” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) recently published his first novel. A Body in the Sacristy, the first 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/Body-Sacristy-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07CK94SKV/

*****

Jason’s Revenge

By Phil Yeats (a.k.a. Alan Kemister)

Jason sidled through a secondary entrance and headed home. The posse caught up within a block. When one of his grade twelve classmates kept him behind to explain a lesson, he knew they would.

“Hey, Romeo,” a posse member exclaimed. “You should be hustling the delectable Ellen McNair, not helping pathetic losers who can’t do their homework.”

“What!” Jason replied. They always tormented him, but this thrust was unexpected.

“Don’t give us that shit. We saw you and Ellen with your heads together. You better get your member in there before Butch beats the crap out of you.”

Jason turned to confront his adversaries. If they told their distorted story to her boyfriend, his life was toast. He knew she was trouble and avoided her like the plague, but she’d cornered him with endless questions about her classwork.

“I was helping the dumb bitch. Ellen hasn’t a clue about math.”

“Careful, dude,” one replied. “Ellen’s okay, and we’ve heard she’s hot for you.”

“No way! She wouldn’t acknowledge my existence if she didn’t need help with her homework.”

Knut, the head of the posse, shook his head. “You got it wrong, man. Ellen thinks you’re the deep, dark intellectual. The guy who’ll be leaning back in his fancy black leather chair in the executive suite when Butch is digging ditches.”

Jason shook his head and sauntered away, hoping they only meant to tease him. His nonchalance was fake. If he stayed and argued, they might turn violent.

“Trust us, man,” Knut called out. “Come to the beach tomorrow afternoon and give her a little encouragement. She’ll melt in your arms.”

 

The next afternoon, Jason spotted Ellen talking to three girls. No way she’s interested but maybe one of the others… “Hey, Ellen, how’s it going?”

“Bugger off, you stupid twerp. At school, I might need your help with an assignment, but here…” she gazed at the bikini-clad girls and macho guys, “I have better things to do.”

Within seconds, Butch towered over him, rhythmically pounding his right fist into his left palm. Off to the side, Knut and his posse were killing themselves laughing. Jason realized he’d been set up.

Butch launched his attack before Jason could talk his way out. He ducked the first blow and landed two good punches before Butch’s size and strength prevailed. Jason went down.

After a vicious kick, Butch and three girls sauntered away without giving Jason another glance. The final girl, a cute pixie with glasses who always wore her long brown hair in a ponytail, knelt beside Jason. Her name was Kristin.

“Are you okay?” she asked as he struggled to sit. She put her arms around him and gave him a big hug. It hurt, but he didn’t care. “That was like so totally unfair.”

Jason glanced at Knut’s posse as Kristin helped him to his feet. They were no longer laughing.

Jason and Kristin strutted past Butch and Ellen to the snack bar where Jason purchased sodas. They snuggled on a bench and sipped their drinks. The rest, as they say, is history.

*****

The Spot Writers:

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 – “Painted Red” by Eric Egger

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from a guest writer to the group. Eric Egger is founder and publisher at Freedom Forge Press, a press dedicated to celebrating freedom and the spirit of the individual.

***

Painted Red

By Eric Egger

 

Every “i” had been dotted, every “t” had been crossed. Charles glanced at his beachside café, surveying every detail. The menu sparkled. The chrome napkin holders reflected the setting ocean side sun. The café’s pristine magnitude was overshadowed only by the pride in Charles’ eyes.

William poked Xavier in the ribs. Their roommate had worked so hard for his new business, and evening-before-opening-day-jitters wasn’t making him any more relaxed. The guy needed a laugh. They couldn’t wait to see the look on his face…

They did it just as rehearsed. William arrived with a stack of mail dated two weeks prior and a look of concern. He pretended to emerge from the sidewalk, spotting Xavier randomly.

“X, I think this is yours.” William held out an envelope from the credit card company.

Xavier feigned surprise. “Damn, I was wondering when that bill would arrive. Where the hell was it?”

William case his eyes downward just like they rehearsed. “Sorry, man. This whole stack of mail musta slid behind the couch.” He spoke louder than necessary, seeking Charles’ reaction in his periphery.

But Charles was all business. He’d spent hours battling city hall for permits, researching state and local laws, taking all the right people out to dinner… and all he ever talked about was all the red tape he had to slice through to open up a simple beach-side restaurant. Rules this and regulations that.

William flipped through a few additional envelopes and put on his best and most convincing look simulating both horror and shame. “William, there’s one here for you too…uh…it looks like it might be important.”

The government seal was easy enough to grab off the city’s website. The rest almost came naturally. “Board of Business Equalization and Regulation,” the city hall mailing address, even some official sounding text about “applicant’s proposed color scheme was deemed not in keeping with the objectives of the Board of Equalization action zone.

Charles’ eyes popped open as he grabbed the letter and quickly read its contents. His demeanor shifted as nervous energy transformed almost alchemically into righteous indignation.

“Where was this letter, Bill? It was postmarked two weeks ago!” The rage was building.

“Sorry Charles, like I said…behind the couch. Is it about your café?”

“Those bastards said they’re denying an occupancy permit because the color scheme of my umbrellas and awning aren’t uniform and don’t match the city’s approved color palette. What the fu—reaking hell am I supposed to do about that now? I was supposed to have my opening day tomorrow and they sent this two weeks ago and I’m just seeing it now for the first time because you constantly let the house become a hobo crap pile!”

“Whoa, Charl—” William began a feigned protest, but couldn’t finish as Charles made a bee line for the door and slammed it closed behind him.

Xavier looked sheepishly at William. “Think we should tell him it’s just a joke?”

“Nah, he’ll be ok, just needs to blow off some steam.”

***

The next morning William and Xavier looked for Charles in their apartment but couldn’t find him anywhere. He hadn’t come home last night, and the roommates were getting worried. They walked a few blocks over to the café, where they found a bleary eyed and paint splattered Charles painting over his awnings.

“All right! Hey, first customers!” Charles greeted his roommates with a sleep deprived grin. “No problem, I took my phone to the hardware store, matched up the color from the approved color swatch and painted all the umbrellas and awnings overnight. The website said any letter with deficiencies that weren’t structural or safety related could be used as a temporary occupancy permit as long as I maintained adequate records to prove that I made the changes scheduled a re-inspection within 21 days of the letter. Even though it was 2 weeks ago, I still had 6 days left. So I’m officially open for business!”

Xavier and William looked back and forth sheepishly. The prior maroon and navy combination had looked just fine, but the custom paint-over-fabric job had not gone well.

William started to speak, intending to fess up to the prank when a white SUV sped up. An officious city badge brandishing man approached the group waving a yellow piece of paper in his other hand. “Zoning and Ordinance Enforcement, I’m here on official business! There have been several complaints. This is a cease and desist demand ordering the halt to the opening of this business concern for non compliance with the city’s gentrification zone guidelines. We’re trying to gentrify this part of the city, boys. That means making it look like a place people would want to come and spend money, not making it look like someone painted a sleep deprived elementary art project in the dark!

***

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/

Eric Egger http://www.freedomforgepress.com

 

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The Spot Writers – “What is Yellow and Stiff? What Looks Like a Deflated Beach Ball?”

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Watch for Cathy’s upcoming novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK.

We also welcome two new members to The Spot Writers: Phil Yeats and Chiara De Giorgi. Check out their websites at the end of this post.

***

What is Yellow and Stiff? What Looks Like a Deflated Beach Ball?

by Cathy MacKenzie

My Harry was the funniest person ever. Our friends said I was funny, too, but I could never top his pranks. He had always been the life of every party.

One evening, a mere three weeks before his death of a sudden heart attack, a group of us were at the Admiral Arms. We had ordered drinks and sat around the table, gabbing and waiting for the music to start, when Harry abruptly disappeared upstairs to the washroom.

In the lull between the first song and the second, he announced his presence with a loud guffaw, and sporting his trademark sly grin, descended down the winding staircase. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I hoped no one else saw what I saw.

He sashayed toward our table, grabbed my arm, and pulled me on the dancefloor. Snuggled against my husband, he led me into the dance steps, twirling me to Eddie Cantor’s “Makin’ Whoopee,” a song from the twenties, when we had married.

I smiled. Even at eight-nine, Harry still had “it.” I still turned him on, and I melted into him.

I basked in the warmth that coursed through my body until he ruined the moment when he ceased dancing, which caused everyone else to stop, as well. The music continued to play as it had during the sinking of the Titanic. How apropos, I thought later.

He broke away from me. With an exaggerated flourish of his arm and an even bigger grin, he reached into his pants.

Voila! He brandished a banana!

I couldn’t help but look at his crotch: deflated like an air-deprived beach ball.

Pfft! Gone!

beach ball

(My grandfather, Harry T. MacKenzie, always a prankster, actually played this prank on my grandmother, who was just as silly as he was. Unfortunately, he died when I was a year old, but my grandmother loved to tell this story.)

***

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 – “Perfect People” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. April’s prompt is based on a Stephen Hawking quote: “The universe does not allow perfection.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published two anthologies: OUT OF THE CAVE and TWO EYES OPEN, two collections of short stories by authors around the world, to read during the day…or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror”…more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply good reads.

TWO EYES OPEN: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

OUT OF THE CAVE (milder stories for 13+): https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Cassandra-Williams/dp/1927529298/

***

Perry, a writer friend, used to read my work. He lived down the street and popped in whenever he had writer’s block. Seemed he had writer’s block more often than not. Did he have ulterior motives, something more than curiosity at a fellow writer’s writings? He was a dear friend, so close he could have been my husband, but I was happily married to the perfect guy in the perfect marriage, so I didn’t need Perry.

Perfection, right? Or was it a matter of perception?

Perry had fawned praise upon my writing in the past, given me 5-star reviews, sometimes 4 stars. Once in a while, he’d tell me a story was crap, comments I took in stride, for I’m a writer, and writers must have thick skins. And sometimes my stories were crap!

Praise is nice, when it’s warranted. I’ve always asked for honesty.

He was a self-proclaimed editor, too, and edited my work in the past. Edited miserably. I’ve found numerous errors and inconsistencies in stories he previously said were perfect. But I never said anything, not wanting to rile him up, for I was certain he’d be upset I caught things he’d missed. But that was okay. They were my stories, and he edited out of the goodness of his heart. You get what you pay for, right?

Right!

So perfect little me never said anything.

“Let me read a book of your short stories,” he said one day.

“Yeah, okay,” I said. “I’m working on a book now, in fact.”

I was happy someone wanted to read works that might be hidden from the public forever. “But be honest,” I said. “I want honesty.”

“You’ll get it.”

I emailed my book of twenty-two stories to him.

A few days later, he sent me his two-page critique. Two stories were trash (crap!), despite the fact both had been previously published in publications, which meant others had enjoyed them. Four stories were 5-star; eight were 4-star, seven were 3-star, and one was a 2-star.

I didn’t totally agree the two stories were trash, but I deleted them from the file. I had another I could add to the book that I would send for his quick review.

He told me what was wrong with the non-5-star stories. All opinion, of course. I was a tad upset with his comments on the 2-star story, which I thought was one of my perfect stories, but after sleeping on it, I realized he was right. The ending didn’t make sense, and neither did happenings beforehand that resulted in the ending. I revised it “to perfection” and thanked him profusely for his perception. Perfect perception, to be honest.

According to him, several of the 4-star stories could be 5-star stories if I did “this” or “that.” I reread each one, his comments forefront in my mind. I concluded I liked most of them as they were. They would turn into different stories had I revamped them. In one story, the main character would be an evil person had I followed his wishes, which was totally not the gist of my story.  I didn’t even understand his comments as they pertained to a couple of other stories. It was as if he hadn’t read them carefully enough.

I incorporated most of his other suggestions, the mistakes and inconsistencies, which would up the level of the 3-star stories (according to him).

I hadn’t realized Perry was God until I emailed him, advising him of my changes and non-changes. I gave explanations. I perfectly profusely thanked him.

They were my stories, after all, and the author is ultimately responsible for her stories. It’s the writer’s prerogative to accept or reject an editor’s changes and suggestions. Not to mention, in this case, that he was a friend; he wasn’t a paid editor. Besides, every reader has different likes and dislikes, different opinions. No story is perfect to each person.

I’m not perfect, but I am a perfectionist. I agonize over each word choice, check each comma, double-check each spelling. Despite that, my stories will never be perfect.

He lambasted me in a reply email because I hadn’t “obeyed” him one hundred percent. I was stunned! Umm, gee, I had incorporated the majority of his changes, even deleting two stories! Who was he? Perfect Perry? Yup, apparently so.  His opinion obviously ruled.

Who was Perry to say this story needed “that” or that story needed “this”?

Yes, all you writers and editors: I realize a writer is so close to her own work that she can’t see the forest for the trees. (And yes, I know clichés are a no-no. I’m trying to make a point, and sometimes a cliché, an already established statement, brings out the point better than a made-up phrase.)

As I said, I was shocked at his reaction. I politely emailed back. I explained my reasoning. Aren’t I entitled to my opinion? Opinions are opinions, are they not? And who’s to say his opinion tops another individual’s? I also didn’t realize I had to accept his every comment/change.

I expected him to apologize for his abruptness. He could be having a bad day. I’ve lashed out in the past, later regretting words said in anger from an unrelated incident. In fact, he recently lambasted me and seconds later apologized.

But there were no apologies. (Perfect people don’t apologize. What need do they have for apologies?)

He replied again. And again. Both times telling me where to go, telling me to f***off (stopping a smidgen short of using that exact phrase), something along the lines of: “You’re so perfect, carry on. You don’t need me! You need someone to spout praise when it isn’t warranted. Try to sell your books to a universe that yearns for perfection. I’m done.”

I was more than shocked; more than pissed. He didn’t deserve the satisfaction of a further reply. He’s perfect, remember? Nothing I can say will satisfy him (not that I need to satisfy him). I even said I was sorry in my first email. I was sorry? For what?

I wanted to ask: Is your opinion perfect? Are you Perry Perfect? Is that your middle name or your last?

I wanted to say: A little politeness would go along with your so-called perfection. And you’re not a full-fledged editor; you’re a writer, as I am.

I hadn’t realized he expected me to take his every word as gospel. I never expected his offer to read my stories would hurt our friendship—end it, actually. I miss his unexpected visits. I miss his conversation. He had an opinion on everything. Had run-ins with others, too, now that I look back, due to his self-claimed perfectionism, but this was my first battle with him. I should feel special it hadn’t happened before.

Anyhow, life proceeds—for perfect people and for us peons, the non-perfect humans. Perfect Perry has moved on, to a more perfect neighbourhood. To more perfect people, I guess. I’ll be around. He knows where to find me, but those pigheaded perfect people live in their own perfect glass bubbles.

Ironically, the last story I emailed him, the one to substitute the two I had trashed, was titled “Perfect People.”

I’m still a lowly writer, trying to find readers. And who knows, Perfect Perry may be right about my stories. The universe will reveal that in good time. But even the universe must allow differing opinions. Even Stephen Hawking would agree, wouldn’t he?

Perry: I hope you’re happy in your perfect world.

Stephen Hawking: The universe may not allow perfection, but certain people living here think they’re entitled to it. It’s an entitled world now, you know.

RIP Stephen Hawking. RIP.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “Heirloom” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is based on a Stephen Hawking quote: “The universe does not allow perfection.”

This week’s story comes to you from Val Muller, author of the middle-grade mystery series Corgi Capers. Find out more at www.CorgiCapers.com

***

Heirloom by Val Muller

They lived like those in Pleasantville or Leave it to Beaver. Or one of those old shows. Not that anyone would know. No one watched television shows anymore, let alone movies. No one had the time or the attention. They were all too perfect to spend so much time sedentary. No narratives longer than the 70-second clips people watched while they waited for their can or train or meal. Their workdays and exercise schedules and social events were all planned to the minute.

Those old programs caused too much thought, and too much thought led to unhappiness, and that was the Unperfect Old Way.

Thomas watched them from the roof, each person an even speck, miniature models in the cityscape below. Each one slim and muscular, the optimal body composition; each one as perfect as the cherry tomatoes he harvested. He opened the crate sent from the grocer. Each tiny bubble in the crate was designated to hold exactly one cherry tomato. Each would be cradled on its way to the grocer. Exactly zero tomatoes would be wasted in transit on the short trip to the city below. The coating on the inside of each bubble meant no early spoilage, either. He placed one tomato into each crate before sealing the crate and sending it down the elevator shaft to the courier waiting below.

Every day, each one of those tiny specks below would be allotted four cherry tomatoes. Or half a banana. Or a quarter of an apple. But Thomas’s concern was only the tomatoes. Thomas couldn’t be sure, since he didn’t leave his rooftop dwelling, but he suspected that the apple and banana and other farmers followed similar processes to create perfect produce.

In the building beneath him, each perfect little speck was allotted 100 square feet of living space and a small bathroom shared by members of the family. In the country, wood harvesters were tasked with building bunk beds and recessable tables that would fit cleanly in the 10×10 space.

When a baby was born, calculations based on life expectancy estimated the exact number of tomatoes that would be required to supplement the human’s nutrition bars These numbers were sent to a screen on Thomas’s rooftop farm, telling him how many tomatoes to harvest on any given day.

Somewhere else, where water was processed, a similar calculation told the engineers just how many gallons of potable water each person would consume each day. Somewhere, tailors received the exact measurements for garments required each week and month and year. Everything was calculated, from the amount of water required to cleanse a newborn to the amount of heat required to turn a person into their final puff of ashes.

It was perfection.

Politicians were required now only to reinforce rules already established. Computers kept birth rates, consumption, jobs all in balance. There was nothing to improve upon anymore. The world was in a state of balance.

The sun was sinking now beneath the tall skyscrapers, and Thomas pushed the button which would cover the plants from the elements of the high elevation that might harm the plants at night. Already, the gossamer film was absorbing radiant energy, converting it to a diffuse light that allowed the tomatoes to grow, even at night. In this lighted greenhouse, the fruit matured nearly twice as fast.

The light on Thomas’s elevator blinked, indicating a delivery making its way from the street below. Sunset. Perfect timing. Thomas smiled and hurried to his corner garden. He chose the largest two tomatoes, two huge ones larger than his fists. Both were roundish but not spherical, with several bulbous excrescences. Their weights were incredible; each seemed to hold twice its volume in water and nutrients.

Thomas brought one to his nose, and instantly the sharp, earthy smell transported him to his grandmother’s garden in the days before The Perfection. He wrapped the tomato in a slice of paper announcing water regulations for the agriculturalists and pulled the opaque black curtain down over the corner garden. Maybe it was just an old-fashioned belief, but Thomas swore that the heirloom tomatoes grew best when they got to rest at night. Same as people.

The elevator had finally reached the rooftop, and Thomas opened the door. The pungent odor of a whole fish hit him as he unwrapped the offering. “Thanks, Bill,” he said. He placed the wrapped tomato on the platform, closed the door, and sent the elevator down to his old friend, who was now just a speck on the sidewalk below.

He started right away, scaling the fish and filleting it. The waste he would grind and use to fertilize the heirloom garden.

The city planners allowed no extra energy source to cook food; the nutrition bars allocated to Thomas and everyone were edible right out of the package, as were the produce supplements he was allowed. They had calculated everything, from lighting needs to water heating needs, most powered by solar energy and man-powered gyms in the building below.

But the city planners and the computers that calculated things had let something slip. The impossibly high elevator required to transport people to their skyscraper dwellings produced an abundance of heat, and this had nowhere to go except to be vented through a shaft to the rooftop garden, where it helped establish a greenhouse under the night’s gossamer film.

Anyone but an expert gardener would require the heat source to produce the required quantity of tomatoes. Anyone else’s crops would suffer if the heat source was used to power the small oven that provided Thomas with cakes and fish and poached eggs and all sorts of contrabands, courtesy of his artisan connections across the city. He’d even rigged the heat source to power a small television screen and DVD player so he could watch movies and relive the time before The Perfection, like the dinner dates of old.

He plucked a handful of herbs from behind his blackout curtain. Freshly-picked was always the best. He wrapped the herbs around the fish and placed it in the oven. The aroma was apparent almost immediately, though there was no way the people in the building below could ever smell it. Thomas placed the other heirloom tomato on a plate and sliced it, salting it lightly just the way his grandmother used to do. Each slice was asymmetrical, imperfect, and delicious. It would pair well with the fish.

Perfectly, in fact.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

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