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The Spot Writers – “The Drought” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme: awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare. 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 Drought by Chiara De Giorgi

The alarm went off. Half awake, I tried to sit up as I heard the news on the radio.

The drought had lasted for so long, that Gap Lake had dried up, revealing a body. After the necessary examinations, it appeared that it belonged to a young man who had gone missing fifteen years ago. There was evidence that he had been killed: someone had hit him on the head with a hammer, or something similar. Then the murderer had dumped the body in the lake. The police stopped considering the young man as missing, and started investigating his murder. The reporter never mentioned the dead guy’s name, but he didn’t have to bother, I knew it was Liam Hunter.

Who would have thought that the lake would eventually dry up? How long would it take for the detectives to come knock on my door?

***

We had been dating, Liam and I, that summer of fifteen years ago. It was really just a fling, I was twenty years old, for God’s sake!

I used to work the late shift at the pub overlooking the lake, and he used to jog for an hour every night after work, before stopping by for a beer. He was always alone, as was I, so of course we started talking, then he started waiting for me to end my shift, walking me home… One thing naturally lead to another.

We were both only temporarily staying at Gap Lake City, that’s one reason why I considered our relationship nothing more than a summer interlude. My hometown was miles away, as was his. We would just be there for a couple of months, to work and save money for our ambitious projects. He wanted to go study law in Paris; I wanted to become a singer. A famous one, I mean. Most people can be decent singers, if they try, but to be extraordinary, well: that takes work. And money. Money for singing lessons, money to support yourself while you tour to find the right agent, money to maybe bribe someone into giving you a chance… If you have money, life’s so much easier.

Anyway.

One time the condom broke and I got pregnant. I asked him to split the doctor’s fee, to get rid of the baby, and he flipped. He claimed I couldn’t do that, it was his baby, too. He wanted us to get married, give up our dreams, and settle down at Gap Lake City, which was the perfect place to raise a child and start a family, with the woods, and the lake, and the friendly community. I could keep working at the pub, he would keep doing whatever it was he was doing at the time (I honestly do not remember), and we would be a happy family.

When I told him I’d do nothing of the sort, he threatened to reach my parents and tell them. I said that I didn’t care, so he promised he’d ruin my career as soon as I had one, telling everyone who would listen what an awful person I was, to put an unlikely dream before my own child and love.

I didn’t mean to kill him, I just wanted him to shut up. Or maybe I did want to kill him. After all, that was the only way to make sure he’d shut up forever.

I hit him on the head with a hammer I found on the pier, he fell into the water and stayed there. I tied a rope to his chest and filled his pockets with rocks, then took a small boat and dragged his body across the lake. When we reached the middle of the lake, I let go of his body. He’s been resting in peace for fifteen years, and I’ve become a famous singer. What would happen now?

***

The alarm went off and I woke up. I listened to the radio, but the reporter never mentioned a drought, or Gap Lake, or the dead body of Liam Hunter.

I called the studio and cancelled all my recording sessions for the week, then took my car and drove all the way there, just to make sure.

The lake’s still there, I am safe.

*****

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 – “Snowball” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story including the words, “Will winter never end.” This week’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Girl Who Flew Away. Given her own experiences with several snow nightmares, her challenge was an attempt to keep the tale positive.

***

Snowball by Val Muller

Taylor was always precocious, one of those kids who could teach the teachers, and they usually resented him for it. The idea came to him during a lecture on The Great Awakening and its subsequent movements during a particularly dry session of US History.

Taylor had recently sold out of the mega-pack of chocolate candy he’d picked up at the local discount warehouse store. The bag cost him $19.99. He sold the candy for 50 cents a piece, or 2 for 75 cents, making an easy $50 during his bus rides to school that week. In fact, he’d made hundreds this year already, selling everything from gum to soda to granola bars, all at a tax-free, cash-only profit, to hungry middle schoolers.

Problem was, it was starting to become a bore. He needed something else, something more than money. Something exciting.

“…power,” his teacher said, summarizing the lecture. “The church enjoyed power and influence during the Great Awakening. Remember this. The test is on Thursday.”

In the hallway, all the kids buzzed about the weather.

“It’s supposed to snow like four feet,” someone shouted.

“And it’ll start Wednesday night. That means no school Thursday.”

“Or Friday!”

“Four day weekend!”

“At least!”

“No history test,” someone cheered.

“It’s not certain. Could be a bust.”

“We all have to wear our PJs inside out.”

“And flush ice cubes down the toilet.”

“Yes, spread the word!”

Taylor shook his head at the childish superstitions that held even in the eighth grade. But then he had an idea.

He wore a light blue button-down shirt and his father’s snowflake tie. His navy blue suit was accentuated by shimmery blue boots. The outfit spoke of Jack Frost and snowy mornings. The mutterings began as soon as he reached the bus stop. Taylor gently placed a huge hiking pack on the ground, and the crowd of middle schoolers gathered round. A few had already taken out their money.

“You’ve heard of inside-out PJs,” Taylor said. “And flushing ice cubes down the toilet.” He did his best to capture the power and passion of a revivalist. “But the most effective way to encourage snow is none other than through the stomach. That’s right, there’s nothing Old Man Winter loves more than a snowball!”

Here, he flung open his pack to reveal a stash of those god-awful pink coconut snowball cakes. He’d gotten three cases of 30 at the warehouse. The two-packs wholesaled at 80 cents a piece. Retailing here at $2 a pack would earn him a cool $100.

“Bring on the snow,” he shouted as he took their money. “Cancel quizzes, cancel tests, cancel school. Will winter never end!”

The kids were still talking about it when the bus filled in, their hands sticky with the pink mess. The bus driver must have radioed ahead about the disturbance: Principal Stanley was waiting for Taylor, hands on hips and toe tapping at the front entrance.

For an instant, Taylor saw his entire endeavor fail in the flames of detention and a phone call home, a young entrepreneur put out by The Man. But then he saw it. The flash of nostalgia in the principal’s eye at the sight of the pink fluffy treats. Taylor knew he was safe. A little graft never hurt anyone.

“Principal Stanley, can I interest you in a snowball?”

The principal was a minute late for morning announcements that day, and he left a sticky pink smear on the intercom system.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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


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

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The Spot Writers – “What Do Elves Do After Christmas?” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. In our last prompt for 2018, we had to use the following words in a story: stables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes. Today’s prompt comes to us from Val Muller, author of the YA novel The Girl Who Flew Away and The Scarred Letter, a modernization of Hawthorne’s masterpiece.

What Elves Do After Christmas by Val Muller

Most of the elves were at the festival. They’d be there a week longer—every year, the festival ran from Santa’s return until January 6. It was a time to celebrate, to burn off the adrenaline of the Christmas rush. Hot chocolate spiked with crème de cacao and harder stuff, too; candy cane casserole, gingerbread mansions. The feasting hall boasted a swimming pool filled with marshmallows. And, oh, the reindeer games!

For most elves, Christmas was life. It was their only purpose, and Santa’s insistence on waiting until January 7 to begin planning for next year left many elves feeling glum. Which is why, decades ago, the festival was established. It gave the elves purpose while Santa rested and recovered on his yearly stay-cation with Mrs. Claus. For elves, otherwise, two weeks of idle time would be a prison sentence.

It was existentialism, really. But only Ronnie knew it. He was the only one who used his vacation days to read. Or think. It wasn’t even New Years, and he’d already gotten through Hamlet, The Life of Pi, The Stranger, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead—for good measure. Together, the works had wracked his brain. He planned to tackle some Kafka next, and read The Myth of Sisyphus before being summoned back to work.  

He’d read enough to know the elves had become defined as what they did every day, 353 days a year. They were cogs in the Christmas Machine.

The arctic sun rose as high as it was going to, and Ronnie took advantage of the midnight darkness to take a walk. The roads of the North Pole were paved, but the festival meant no one was available to plow, so the pavement remained covered in drifts of snow. Colored light strings showed the way to the Grand Hall, their incandescent bulbs melting some of the snow and causing icicles to form on the wire.

Ronnie passed several mounds—the huge mailboxes, now empty and covered in snow, that would fill in the later part of the year with letters from children asking for sleds and snow globes and dolls and technology.

As he trekked away from the Christmas village, the trees shrouded the perpetual darkness, their piney arms bending in defeat. Ronnie had seen a television show once—televisions played nonstop in the workshops, blasting Christmas movies and TV specials 24/7. It had been about an elf who wanted to be a dentist. Everyone acted like it was the most absurd desire in the world, to want to shake off the mortal coils of toy-dom.

But standing in the twilight snowdrifts and looking back at the colored lighting running up to the Grand Hall, and the gaudy lighting it threw up into the sky, Ronnie could understand that. All year, he had been in charge of placing computer chips. Almost all toys had them nowadays. His name seemed superfluous, even. Ronnie? Why call him Ronnie? He might as well be Chip-Placer. Or maybe give him a serial number. That’s all he was. A cog in a machine.

But what was the alternative, he wondered as he looked over the winter wasteland. Where could he go? Who would employ an elf other than Santa? Humans were known to be prejudiced against the pointed-eared little people. Ay, there’s the rub.

What lay beyond the North Pole? What fate awaited him if he were to leave?

*

The faint echo of a drunken Christmas carol wafted toward the stables as Ronnie opened the door. The stables were maintained by a skeleton crew these few weeks, so the reindeer remained fed as they recovered from their Herculean ordeal. A pile of curly-toed shoes peeked out from the hay, and the snoring of drunken elves suggested the reindeers’ keepers were well-provided for during the festivities.

Ronnie selected one of the reindeer overlooked for Santa’s sleigh ride this year. One of the Dashers, a young one, seemed especially restless. Maybe he, too, wanted to leave this place. So Ronnie saddled him up and left the stables. The gaudy lights of the Christmas village disappeared into nothingness as he rose toward the moon and toward his future.

He could be anything, now. Anything at all. Even a dentist.  

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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


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

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Writer Wednesdays – Drew Lankford

Today, I interview Drew Lankford.

Drew at Pa Bunks 2 (2)

Drew lives in Murfreesboro, TN, with his three beautiful children and sometimes beautiful cat. He has published four books of poetry: For You, Limitless, Lollipops, and Fluffy Socks. He has also published widely in journals such as Skive, 34th Parallel, and Living with Loss.  Unclear of its tone or direction, he is currently hard at work on his fifth collection of poetry.  Most of his encouragement as a writer comes from his friends at the writing workshop that meets weekly at the local library. Besides writing, Drew loves listening to music, going on long walks, and playing with his children in the backyard.

Q.  How long do you write daily?

I write between 2-3 hours daily depending on how well things are going. If the writing gets tense and seems to be going nowhere, I go for a long walk.

Q.  What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is graduating from Austin Peay State University with an MA in English Creative Writing. That was tough study, and I’m proud to have made it through.

Q.  What is your major emphasis now?

Right now, I’m working on writing. Besides caring for my children, it’s all about writing. Nothing will get written on its own.

Q.  What are you currently reading?

I am reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Her writing looks so simple it’s amazing. She’s one of the best, ever. Besides Austin, I’ve started re-reading some of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Q.  What is your favorite book?

I’ve got to go with two here: The Call of the Wild and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Q.  Which contemporary authors are you reading now?

Billy Collins is one of the coolest authors we have with us today. His imagination is incredible. Also, I enjoy reading the playful and lighthearted M.C. Beaton mystery books.

Q.  What are your goals?

One goal is to have ten collections of poetry finished by the time I’m fifty. That sounds like a good number to me. Also, I’d like to try writing something off the grid: a collection of essays, humorous tales from the classroom, things like that.

Q.  What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working hard on the fifth collection of poetry. If it makes sense, the collection is lifting off a bit–its shiny head in the wind–and I want to keep it down, but I know I can’t restrain it. I’ve got to let go and see where it leads. That’s what I’m working on.

Q. What do you hope to get from writing?

I always want to learn more about myself and others. I love to see how far we’ve come and the possibilities of the future.

Q.  If you could tell your younger self something about writing what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that writing is like life. There are unpleasant times and there are pleasurable times, and the trick to the whole thing is to stay at it, no matter what.

Q.  What did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was a child I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. I made it to high school, not bad, considering.

Q.  What do you do for a full time job?

At this time, I’m between jobs and that gives me time to write. Trust me, I’m taking advantage of the time.

Q.  What are your feelings about ethics used in writing about historical figures?

Accurate history must be based in truth or it becomes fiction. If the author is honest and tells us if his or her work is based in fact or fantasy, that would ease much tension.

Q.  Where can we find your work?

www.dwb.publishing.com

or through any normal online locations.

+++

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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Writer Wednesdays – Marie McGaha

This week, Writing Wicket interviews Marie McGaha.

Marie is an ordained minister, addictions counselor,  author, and editor. In real life, she’s a wife, mother, and Nana who loves being in the mountains. She and her husband, Nathan, are members of The Patriot Guard Riders and supporters of Neptune Warriors.

NatenRieAnniversary (2)

I asked Marie:

Q: Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?

I’m not what you would call trendy. Most of what I write is Christian-oriented, and I write what I feel God puts on my heart to help others.

Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

(I seriously don’t know how to answer that.)

Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Most of what I have written over the past several years has been about my own life experiences related to the 30+ years I have in ministry. As far as writing fiction, my characters aren’t necessarily based on real people, but are a conglomeration of people I’ve known.

Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Seventeen.

Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Making authors pay to be published.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

Other people’s books! The life of an editor means I spend more time getting other people’s work ready to be published than I do my own. But I do have books coming out next year. First, the sequel to Shine His Light Lessons In Life, titled Shine His Light 2 Directions In Life, and Christy Diachenko is currently working on the voice over for Shine His Light Lessons In Life, which will be out on Audible next spring.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be?

A teacher. I actually went to college with the idea of being an English major, so I could teach high school English.

Q: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

For me it is. Much of what I write is based on my ministerial practice and experience, and biblically based.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

Trying to give them a personality that is likable, yet flawed and real without them seeming too arrogant. I have the greatest husband and I use a lot of him in my male characters, and I also use my sons’ attributes and flaws to round out the characters. None of the male characters are just one man in my life, but a mix of the good men I love.

Q: What do you like least about writing?

The rewrites. I want to do it perfectly the first time so I don’t have to go through a long editing process, but so far, I haven’t hit perfection!

Q: What’s your favourite part of writing?

When I finally hold that book in my hand and know I’ve actually completed something I started.

Q: How many hours a day do you write?

That would be another thing I dislike about writing—there’s never enough hours to write as much as I want. Life keeps interfering and I have to tend to things like cleaning house, cooking, letting dogs in and out and in and out… plus, I have to edit other people’s manuscripts, plus all of the promotions I do, as well as the time required for my ministry, and then there’s grandkids…. I need more hours in the day!

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

When I first decided to be a published author it was because I wanted to be remembered for something, but as I’ve gotten older, that’s been tempered with the desire to make a difference in the lives of others. There are so many hurting people out there, and if any of my life experiences can help, then I feel as if I’ve really accomplished something.

Q: What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)

I was sexually abused by two uncles from the age of 3 until I was about 11, and that of course, has had a lifelong affect on who I am and how I’ve lived. Coming to terms with that type of abuse isn’t easy, and learning to forgive an abuser is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. So, that period of life and the after effects play a huge role in what I write.

Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book? Did it bother you to do so?

Out of someone else’s book or my own? I’ve edited chapters out of other people’s books, but I’ve tossed entire manuscripts of my own. I’ve read them and thought, wow, that’s crap and started over from scratch. I always put my work away for at least a month before re-reading it. It gives me distance and the ability to read it without my mind seeing what should be there and really isn’t. That way I am more objective and can see my errors.

Q: What motivates you (in writing or otherwise)?

Other people. Through the years of counseling, working with probation and parole, and being a minister, I’ve met countless people in every walk of life and I’ve found that there is much more that binds us together than what separates us. One of the things I’ve remained involved with is prison ministry, although it’s gotten much easier with the internet. The federal prison system has an email service for inmates, and I correspond with prisoners all over the country. I send them daily devotionals, and we have a weekly group called Free To Live that covers subjects like addiction and anger management.

Q: Are you ever upset when you’ve finished a story, that your characters have said all they’re going to say?

Yes. My favorite story by me is Cross The Line. It’s set just after the Civil War and involves a former Southern belle with a former slave. I love the story, the dynamics between the characters, and their relationship. I was so sad when their story ended.

Q: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Not really. Fiction is like our dreams, anything can happen and it makes perfect sense.

Q: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I would have to say a bear… I own Dancing With Bear Publishing that is named in honor of my late husband, J. Bear Marler. So, if there is such a thing, my spirit animal is the bear.

Q: What books have you published?

Fiction:

Cross The Line

One Good Man

Closure

Non-fiction:

Comfort & Joy book one: forgiveness

When God Talks, It’s Time To Listen

The Root, The Shoot, The Fruit

Shine His Light Lessons In Life

Fictionalized Non-fiction:

Freedom Worth Dying For

 

For more information on Marie:

www.mariemcgaha.com

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMarieMcGaha/

https://twitter.com/Marie_McGaha

https://thelightofjesus.blogspot.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/mariemcgaha/

www.dwbpublishing.com

https://www.instagram.com/dwb_publishing/

https://www.facebook.com/DWBPublishing/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DWBFanPage/

https://beforeitsnews.com/contributor/pages/254/684/bio.html

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dancing-with-bear-christian-publishing-2a076b37/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariemcgaha/

Media Kit

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

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The Spot Writers – “If You Can’t Kill It, Make It Your Friend” by Chiara De Giorgi

The current prompt: News these days contain a plethora of depressing stuff from floods and wildfires and other environmental problems, to mass shootings, to refuge problems and other political and social crises, to whatever you like as your favourite example. Write a story focused on one or more of these depressing occurrences and give it a happy ending.

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.

***

If You Can’t Kill It, Make It Your Friend by Chiara De Giorgi.

Up to 60% of the human body is water. If left without water, a human being dies in three or four days. That’s seventy-two to ninety-six hours. Plants die: a desert is what you have when there’s no water. No water means nothing alive. Water is life.

But water is death, too.

Have you ever noticed how many times water is involved in a natural disaster? Floods, heavy rains, hurricanes, tsunamis… Water can save you from burning in a fire, but then water can freeze and kill you with hypothermia.

After losing friends, family, and belongings to water, in one form or another, more than enough times, I realized I hated it. And yet, the supremely annoying fact was, I couldn’t live without it. I felt helpless when, during a torrid summer, all I could dream of was a lake of crystal clear water to dive into; a frothing waterfall; an iced glass of pure water.

Water had become an obsession. I feared it, I craved it.

I spent years researching ways to survive without this hateful dependency on water, trying to figure out a way to substitute it with something, anything else. I even went so far as designing living beings that were not carbon-based, thinking that maybe it would be possible to operate just a small genetic modification on humans, to make them not water-dependant.

It didn’t work, nothing worked. I was left sad, frustrated, empty-handed, and alone.

Then one day I woke up with a totally different strategy on my mind: if you can’t kill it, make it your friend.

If I could not come up with a way to survive with no water, I’d come up with a way to survive too much water.

My studies changed direction: no more chemistry, biology, and genetics. I turned to myths and folklore.

When I felt ready, I moved to Maldives. There are often hurricanes and tsunamis there, lots of unexpected water, and it’s a lovely place when the weather’s good.

When the rain started falling, and the wind started blowing, and the earth started shaking, and the waves started climbing towards the sky, I was there. While everybody was fleeing to the backland, I ran to the beach. While everybody was wearing a raincoat, I stripped down to my bikini. While everybody screamed for help, I let out a triumphant cry and dove.

See, I am a mermaid, now. Too much water will never kill me, and I’ll never suffer from the lack of it, as oceans are limitless and everlasting. I won’t ever lose my friends and family to water, and it will never steal my belongings again. I won. If you can’t kill it, make it your friend.

***

The Spot Writers – Our Members:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The Spot Writers – “Shadows Hanging over Us” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s post 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/

The current prompt: News these days contain a plethora of depressing stuff from floods and wildfires and other environmental problems, to mass shootings, to refuge problems and other political and social crises, to whatever you like as your favourite example. Write a story focused on one or more of these depressing occurrences and give it a happy ending.

***

Shadows Hanging Over Us by Phil Yeats

Moe plunked his coffee on the table and slumped into a plastic chair, slouching until his chin was level with the table’s surface. “Despite today’s bright sun and oppressive heat, four shadows darken our world.”

“Oh, God, what now,” I replied. Moe, the scruffy overweight killjoy in our midst, had outdone himself with his theatrical entrance and outlandish statement. “Have the four horsemen of the Apocalypse descended upon us?”

“Super,” Jen interjected, smiling. The stately blonde always treated Moe’s outbursts as jokes. “Death, famine, war, and conquest. Which one will you describe first?”

Moe looked up, eyes mere slits. “Why should the horsemen of our modern devastation align with the biblical ones? We’re facing an existential crisis, and you two should bloody well appreciate it. But go ahead, mock me, everyone does.”

Jen was a law student and social activist, and I, an ecologist studying the impact of climate change. We, more than Moe, the philosophy student and jack of no trades, should realize humanity teetered on the brink.

“What’s your greatest threat?” I asked.

“Weapons of mass destruction.”

Jen stared wide-eyed. Getting under her thick lawyer-in-training skin was incredibly difficult, but Moe had inexplicably accomplished it. Somehow. “Are we back in Iraq with George Bush?”

“Symbolism,” Moe retorted. “Weapons of mass destruction are symbolic of our ability to unleash weapons of incredible destructiveness since the atomic bombs that ended World War II.”

Jen wasn’t ready to concede. “But international agreements have effectively controlled the nuclear threat.”

Moe snorted. “But more countries are developing nuclear arsenals, and the new weaponry isn’t limited to nuclear bombs.”

I jumped into the fray hoping to bolster Moe’s case. He’d been madly in love with Jen for months but never bested her in the verbal love jousts he initiated. “With the North Koreans possessing nuclear weapons and dingbats in Washington and Moscow controlling the largest nuclear arsenals, the nuclear threat must have increased dramatically.”

Jen attempted a diversionary tactic. “I suppose you’ll blame the current refugee crisis on these ‘weapons of mass destruction’.”

Moe refused to acknowledge her contention. “The next threat is global warming.”

She snorted, gazing at the ceiling. “Another issue that’s amenable to political management. You need more compelling arguments.”

“Not so. Governments are not curbing their militaries, and the political situation for global warming is no better. Talk and highfalutin’ pronouncements but no action. Consider our so-called progressive government. A few weeks ago, Trudeau walked back from his commitment to tax companies for their carbon emissions. Then when the US government announced they would lower gas mileage requirements, our government meekly followed their lead.”

Jen wagged a finger. “Your biases are showing. You’ve always been anti-Liberal.”

“We live here so I find Canadian examples, but the problem’s global. We’re not reaching our Paris Accord targets, and even if we do, it won’t solve the problem.”

Jen took a deep breath and leaned forward towering over the slouching philosopher. “Your arguments are meaningless. History shows that when humanity needs to, it finds the will to act dramatically and effectively.”

“Not this time,” Moe responded, sitting up with his eyes glinting. “Modern weapons are so powerful and fast-acting they provide no response time, and climate change has too much inertia. If we stopped increasing emissions tomorrow, temperatures would increase for decades.”

Jen and Moe appeared ready to increase the intensity of their sparring perhaps leading to the romantic encounter Moe sought, but I wanted to hear about the remaining shadows.

“Horseman number three?” I asked.

“China,” Moe said as he settled into his seat with the coffee he hadn’t touched.

“China,” Jen spluttered. “You’ve already had weapons of mass destruction, so China’s growing military might is derivative.”

Moe shook his head. “I’m talking about their rapid economic growth. Their political-economic model with an autocratic government directing a market economy beholden to itself is more efficient than our western model of democratic governments and unfettered free market economies.”

Jen’s shoulders slumped, but she hadn’t abandoned the fight. “China will self-destruct as her citizens demand more freedom.”

“You hope, but China has no democratic tradition to dampen the intoxicating allure of wealth and influence. Meanwhile, our western democracies are trapped in downward spirals, unable to mount any opposition to the Chinese juggernaut. If democracy is dead and the Chinese model is the future, we’ll have Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

“We now have weapons of mass destruction, environmental collapse, and efficient economies managed by ruthless autocrats. What’s modern horseman number four?” I asked.

Moe crushed his now empty coffee cup. “I felt four distinct shadows. The final one, a fearsome creature, part lion, part man, remains enigmatic.”

“Bloody hell,” Jen exclaimed, turning to me. “You got it right when you mentioned the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Our atheist philosopher friend has had a religious experience. He’s seen the beast in William Butler’s Second Coming slouching ‘toward Bethlehem to be born’.”

“So, the end is nigh,” I said, pushing matters a little further.

“Damn right,” Jen replied as she tugged Moe from underneath the table. “We should get it on.”

I smiled as Jen led Moe from the café. She looked determined, but his face displayed the silly grin of a surprised lottery winner. The downtrodden knight had finally won a joust.

***

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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