Tag Archives: MacKenzie

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

Welcome to The Spot Writers.

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

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

***

Dragons Go Out in the Cold

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

March, 1st

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

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

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

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

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

 

March, 3rd

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

 

March 5th

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

Please, please, please: let there be clouds!

 

March, 6th

YES! Finally!

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

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

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

I just hope this awful weather gets worse.

March, 6th – later

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

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

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

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

 

March, 7th

I’m still trembling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

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The Spot Writers – “Perfect Sailing Weather” by Phil Yeats

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

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. Last week, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

 

*****

Perfect Sailing Weather by Phil Yeats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s home?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Much better now,” she said smiling.

“You went in when the board broke?”

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

“But the boat didn’t capsize?”

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

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

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Unexpected” by Cathy MacKenzie

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

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

 

***

“The Unexpected” by Cathy MacKenzie

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was too dark, Daddy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s still dark, eh, Mommy?”

“It’s definitely going to rain.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mommy! Mommy!”

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

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

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

“The sun, Mommy! See the sun?”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

 


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

 

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The Spot Writers – “Rear View Mirror” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s topic is: something nice and unexpected happens on a gloomy day.

This week’s post is by Val Muller, author of the coming of age novel The Girl Who Flew Away. Surrounded by high school students all day, many of her works revolve around the lives of teenagers finding their place in a less-than-ideal world.

***

Rear View Mirror by Val Muller

“Are you serious?” Ms. Martel asked. She leaned back in the creaky chair, arms crossed, staring straight ahead at the principal.

“Quite,” said Principal Hutt.

“You want me to eat with these kids? The thirty minutes of the day I have free, and you want me to spend it with my four discipline problems?”

The principal nodded. “You know we’re all about creative solutions here at Echo Academy, Ms. Martel. ‘Discipline problems’ are really just young people reaching out for help.”

“Texting while in class and blowing off assignments is not reaching out for help. It’s just ignoring their responsi—”

But Principal Hutt had already turned away, working on his next email.

“I’ll expect to see you in the dining hall this afternoon, Ms. Martel. And I’m sure your students will find it something to look forward to as well.”

 

The cafeteria—dining hall, rather—smelled like teenagers and toddler food. It was a miasma of chicken nuggets, wilted vegetables, and teenage angst. And there in the center of it were her four nightmares, the ones who made Ms. Martel dread coming to work each day.

Tommy Sutherfeld, Elayna Cunningham, Marko Jacobs, and Lilliyanna Roth. They sat there like protagonists in The Breakfast Club, unaware of the gravity of their behavior issues. Did they realize they spoiled every Third Block Literature class? Did they realize they were like black holes, sucking out the ambitions and concentration of all other students in the room? Did they get up in the morning wondering how disruptive they could be, or were they simply that uncaring that they didn’t realize how much of an impact they had?

And now, with her paper bag lunch, Ms. Miriam Martel was tasked with the terrible job of—what? Babysitting them? It wasn’t that. Principal Hutt had said something far worse. She had to reach them.

Tommy smiled and raised an eyebrow. “‘Sup, Ms. Martel? The Hutt told us you’d be here today.”

Tommy scooted over to make room for her.

“Hi,” she said.

“We didn’t mean to get you in trouble,” Lilli said.

“Trouble?”

Elayna looked down at her lap. “We didn’t mean to have the Hutt force you to eat with us. That is, like, the worst.”

“Oh.” Ms. Martel opened her lunch bag, pulling out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“Is that really what you eat for lunch?” Tommy asked. “Or did you bring that because you knew you’d be eating with us?”

“I didn’t find out until this morning,” she said. “Principal Hutt called me in before school.”

“I stopped eating PB and J in like fifth grade,” Tommy said. “Why do you eat that?”

Ms. Martel shrugged. “It’s fast. It’s cheap.” She eyed their lunches. Two of them had footlongs from Subway. Two were sharing half a pizza, probably leftover from last night’s dinner. She fought the threat of a flushing face. “I’m saving to replace my car, or at least fix it,” she said.

“What’s wrong with it?” Marko asked.

“Starter, I think. I don’t know. Sometimes it just stalls.”

“Alternator, maybe,” Marko said. He was always talking about cars. And researching cars. On his phone. During class discussions. During classroom observations with Principal Hutt.

“Well…” Ms. Martel forced a smile and unwrapped her sandwich, taking a bite.

“If you’re going to be eating with us all week, like the Hutt says, we can get you Subway,” Lilli offered. “I mean, it must suck to be stuck with us. You probably have teacher things you like to be doing during lunch. My parents say I’m dragging them down all the time. And now I’m dragging you down, too.”

Ms. Martel shook her head. “That’s nice of you, but I’m okay—I mean, peanut butter is relatively healthy…”

“I haven’t even started my Macbeth project,” Tommy blurted. “I just wanted you to know. I haven’t turned it in because I’m just a complete slacker. There’s no excuse. If I turn it in, will you be able to eat with the teachers again?”

Ms. Martel inhaled, stalling for time to think of a response.

But Tommy continued. “It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I’m the worst. My parents pay all this money to send me here, and I just can’t force myself to care. No offense, Ms. Martel, but learning about witches and ghosts or whatever, written in Old English, just isn’t my top priority.” He sighed. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to fail my parents’ expectations. You know, being a failure.”

“I—” How was she supposed to reach these kids?

“See, grades just don’t matter,” Tommy continued. “Not everyone gets As in high school, and some people who get As turn out to be real—” He stopped himself. “I know, think of a smarter word,” he said. “See, I do listen to you in class sometimes, Ms. Martel. My point is, didn’t, like, Steve Jobs fail out? Or Bill Gates? The system just can’t hold some of us. It’s like a prison. You have to break out of the system. I promise I’ll do big things one day.”

“We’re gonna open up a garage,” Marko said. “Refurbish old cars. You know, like old punch-buggies and Mustangs and all that.”

“A boutique garage,” Lilli said. “I’ll be their marketer. We’ll appeal to nostalgia.”

“That’s another vocab word you taught us,” Tommy said. “Nostalgia.” He patted her on the shoulder and rubbed against her jacket, tugging it a bit. Ms. Martel scooted over. Principal Hutt wanted her to get close, but this was too much. She didn’t want to actually touch them.

She left lunch with two bites taken out of her sandwich, a stomach ache, and an impending headache. At the end of the day, Principal Hutt called for her to stop by on her way out.

“Looks like you’ll have to eat with them again tomorrow,” he said.

“Why?” Ms. Martel asked.

The principal pulled up an attendance report. “The four of them skipped the rest of the afternoon classes.” He shook his head. “I wanted you to reach them, not make them worse.”

“Look, I—” But Ms. Martel stopped herself. There was no point trying to explain things to Principal Hutt, who wasn’t even in a classroom more than a few minutes each day. “Okay,” she said. “Tomorrow, then.”

She walked to the parking lot and reached into her pocket for the key.

Empty.

She never took her key out of her pocket. When would she have possibly—

“Son of a—” She spoke aloud.

“Think of a smarter word, Ms. Martel,” said Tommy, behind her.

She spun around to see him smugly twirling her keyring around his finger.

“You little—”

He held his hand to stop her, and he pointed to the visitor parking spots. There was Marko, leaning against her car. Lilli and Elayna were there, slurping smoothies from the place down the street.

“You stole my—”

“Fixed, not stole,” Tommy said. He handed her the keys. “Though we did take it for a test drive to make sure it worked.”

“We left you a berry smoothie in the cup holder,” Elayna said.

Marko smiled. “We cut class and took your car to the autoshop. Our mechanics teacher always lets us bring in our cars to work on them. You have a Honda. Super easy to find parts for. We found you a new alternator. It works good as new now.”

Tommy tossed her keys in the air, and she caught them. “Maybe at lunch tomorrow you’ll bring something better than PB and J, huh, Ms. Marko?”

She smiled as she got in her car and listened to it start up right the first time.

“Maybe I will,” she said and watched them smile at her in the rearview mirror as she drove away.

***

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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