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The Spot Writers – “Death in the Family,” by Tom Robson

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The title of this piece is the prompt for this month and comes from Tom Robson, author of Written While I Still Remember, a Patchwork Memoir.

***

Death in the Family.

There is an irony in this prompt which requires me to publish a story, on line, on the occasion of my eightieth birthday. Achieving this milestone brings the reminder that death looms large. Yet I am the exception that proves the rule that the males on either side of my family tree don’t last too long in this life. Both grandfathers just made it to seventy. My father’s body succumbed, before he reached sixty, to the long term effects of wartime malaria and breathing in noxious substances working at an oil refinery. Uncles passed long before their spouses, while  many of the females lasted well into their eighties and even ninety. Perhaps I have inherited a preponderance of their genes.

More irony. At birth I was not expected to emerge without damage. Birthday minus one, through to delivery I had refused to somersault, seeming determined to be born feet first. In 1936, even at the prestigious St James Infirmary in Leeds, extended breech births to first time mothers were risky. Perhaps the fifteen minutes of fame that fate entitles us to, were the first minutes of my life when the medics saw that I was alive and apparently undamaged. My mother often told me that I cheated death when I was born.

I was never allowed to deal with death and loss as a child, teen and young adult. In consequence, funerals were alien experiences and occasions to be avoided.The first funeral I attended was my fathers, when I was 34, married and with a family of my own. My children did not attend their grandfather’s funeral.

To put this avoidance in perspective, I grew up in wartime Britain. Every day, death was in the news. Two uncles were taken. Conversation around their deaths excluded myself and my young cousins. But all three of us heard our grandfather’s ale-stimulated opinions of the U-boat attacks, the navy that refused to stop for survivors and the blame that could be attached to Churchill almost as much as Hitler. But he did not argue about our evacuation to the countryside after another son was killed in an air raid, before he even enlisted in the army.

After the war, there was a polio outbreak  where we lived. It took the lives of a few children but there was no gathering of schoolmates at the burial service. Fear  of contagion was more powerful than the need to grieve during  that particular summer vacation.

In my early years of teaching my best friend was killed in a car accident. I should have read the eulogy I prepared but I could not bring myself to attend the service and face friends and students at the school where we both taught.

The surprising consequence was that my stumbling excuse that I couldn’t deal with the ending to his life, was understood by many of our friends and colleagues. My generation of Brits kept ‘a stiff upper lip” but often it was because we avoided confronting death. Many understood. We were discouraged from being in the presence of its aftermath. We did not intimately know death. We did not confront it. We did not talk about it.

I was sixteen when my father’s mother was eighty. In her declining years she would spend time living with which ever of her children agreed to take care of her. She would live with one until it was agreed that another wanted her or felt guilty enough to take a turn. My father was her youngest and I was the youngest of her many grandchildren. We had been close in the war years when my mother and I spent time living with and helping her.

That winter of 1952-3 she came to the warmer south of England to live with us. I gave up my bedroom to sleep on a cot in the “front’ room; that vestige of Edwardian lifestyle which was only used when people who had to be impressed came to visit. This teenager quickly spoiled its pristine appearance.

We had our Christmas dinner at my nearby aunt and uncle’s house. In the evening we were joined by various family friends. My aunt and her mother were avid card players. The preferred game was Partner Whist. Aunt Mabel organized sixteen or twenty of her guest into two person, teams to compete for the 1952 Christmas Cup.I partnered my grandmother. This delighted both of us.

I am not sure whether we won because we were the only sober couple, the only pair who treated the game seriously or whether my aunt cooked the results. My grandmother was almost delirious, still talking about how well we had played as we took her home and persuaded her that it was way past her bedtime.

On Boxing Day morning, we let grandma sleep in. My uncle arrived on his bike about 11:00am. He was making his Boxing Day round of visits to friends and relatives, enjoying a drink at each stop. He would be sleeping at one of his visits when he could be persuaded that he was no longer capable of riding his bike to the next ‘pit stop’

As he arrived we could hear my grandmother moving around and I was eventually asked to tap on her door and tell her “Bert is here!”

I did this and when there was no reply I opened the door, assuming my hard-of-hearing grandma missed my too gentle knock.

Grandma was in an untidy heap on the floor, her dead body reflected in the mirror on the wardrobe door.

I cried for help in a voice strangled by sobs. My father came and ushered me out of the room, calling on my mother to look after me and for Bert to help him.

After the doctor visited and signed the document certifying that she had suffered a fatal heart attack, the undertaker had been called and my uncle sent home to comfort his wife, daughter of the deceased, I had to be attended to.

To this day I do not understand why I was removed from the presence of my grandmother and why I was left alone and unwelcome at her funeral. I vaguely recall a statement from one of my parents that “it was better if I stayed away. It was not…” ;and the rest of the reasoning has gone but it was something like”funerals are no  place for children!”

I was sixteen. I was trying to believe that I was no longer a child. I had spent many days and nights, of the six years my father was away at war, at his mother’s home in northern Leeds, where she would be taken, by train, to be buried. I did not realize then that I needed to say goodbye. I only knew I was sad and I wanted to be there.

Instead, one of the many calls that Boxing Day afternoon, on our new-to-us gadget, the telephone, was to my friend Pete’s mother, asking if I could stay with them for a few days. Less than four hours after her death I was delivered to the Appletons, sat down at their late lunch of Christmas left-overs and given my choice of playing pieces for the evening game of Monopoly.

There had been a death in the family. Someone I loved dearly had passed away. Why was I not invited to say goodbye?

My grandmother left a reminder. I love to play cards. The only thing I do left-handed is deal cards. The only thing my father did cack-handed was to deal cards. My right handed grandmother, who taught both of us to play, also dealt left handed. I’ve been reminded of grandma many times in the sixty five years since she left, when asked, “Why are you dealing  left handed?”

* * *

The Spot Writers – our members are:-

RC Bonitz:         rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson     https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Quantum Life of Mr. Bubbles” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme is “a death in the family.” Today’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Scarred Letter, a novel about confronting the truth in a world that lives a lie.

***

The Quantum Life of Mr. Bubbles by Val Muller

Her large eyes popped open as she examined the fish. “Daddy, Mr. Bubbles looks thinner today.” She scrunched her nose and eyed me askance.

I tried not to miss a beat. “You think he went on a diet?”

“Not that kind of thinner. A different-fish-thinner.”

“Hmmmm.” I pretended to read the nutrition information on the cereal box, but she wouldn’t drop it.

“And his tail is darker.”

“Hmmmm.”

“Daddy, what happened to the real Mr. Bubbles?”

Nothing escapes a five-year-old. She pulled herself into the seat next to mine. What could I tell her? That Mr. Bubbles was floating his way toward the city’s sewage treatment plant? That her daddy had driven across the county to find the only aquarium open at 6 a.m.? That he’d been waiting when the store opened to purchase the fish that looked the closest to Mr. Bubbles?

When I looked up from my cereal box, she was standing up on her chair, eyes cross and hands on her hips. “Tell me the truth. What happened to the real Mr. Bubbles?”

So I took a deep breath and said what any father would say. “Mr. Bubbles was a very curious fish, and he went exploring in the furthest corners of his fish tank until one day, he saw a strange glow. You know what it was?” I looked up, stalling for time.

“The lamp?” She raised a little eyebrow.

“No,” I said, channeling high school physicals and sci-fi and late-night philosophical discussions from college. “It was a wormhole. A gateway to another universe.”

“What?” She looked again at the fish. Then she slid down in her chair.

“You know: quantum physics.”

“Won ton physics?”

I shrugged. “Sure. It’s the idea that there are all kinds of different worlds out there, each one just a tiny it different from the last. So in this universe, I look like me. But in another one, I might have a beard.”

She smiled at the idea.

“And so Mr. Bubbles went through the wormhole and found himself in a very similar universe. He found himself in a very similar house occupied by a very similar goldfish.”

“And is there a ‘me’ in this other universe?” she asked.

I nodded, glad she was buying in. “Only, the other you has curly hair and likes artichokes.”

She scrunched her nose. “Ewww!”

I smiled. “And Mr. Bubbles met the fish that looks almost like him. And they had a fishy conversation and decided to send the new fish here to live with you. And Mr. Bubbles is going to stay in the new universe. You know, to check things out.”

Her eyes moved from me to the tank and back again.

“Honey, do you understand?”

She studied my eyes, then nodded. “I do, daddy. But it’s okay. It doesn’t take won-ton physics to know that Mr. Bubbles went to Heaven. You don’t have to be sad about it or make up stories for me. It’ll happen to all fish someday. Then she gave me a hug, grabbed the box of cereal, and made her way to the couch.

A moment later, the chirping of cartoons filled the room, and I watched Mr. Bubble’s doppelganger swim from one side of the tank to the next, oblivious to the fate of his predecessor or the complexities of won-ton physics.

***

The Spot Writers—our members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “The People Watcher, by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “People Watching,” and today’s tale comes to you from Cathy MacKenzie.

If you need editing or formatting for print and/or e-books, check out Cathy’s website: www.mackenziepublishing.wordpress.com

***

The People Watcher

She sits across the room from me, her eyes dark and filled with tears. I’ve never seen her before, don’t know her name. Perhaps her eyes are always dark. She entered the room late, after everyone was comfortably situated.

She stands, obviously ill at ease because she sways a bit and her eyes dart around the room several times, her eyes stopping on individuals, examining their faces as if she can delve deep into their souls. But she can’t, of course; no one can. She falls back to the chair alongside the wall. If she were a teenager, she could have been a wallflower, one of those pitied girls ignored by guys at school dances. I sympathize, for I’m one of those wallflowers, but I’m not bothered by it. I quite like it, actually.

She glances around the room again, and her gaze lingers on a male. She stares at him for a long while until he senses someone’s eyes on him, for he looks up from his conversation with a female and immediately catches the watchful eyes. Their eyes lock, both glare unwavering as though a game in which the winner is the one who averts his or her eyes the last.

She wins.

It’s as if he can’t stand the look of her, for he drops his eyes, pretends he’s never noticed her, and jumps back into his conversation.

She remains seated, now viewing the wall where I am as if it’s a work of art, a masterpiece one can’t ignore. But she’s embarrassed. A splotch of red splatters each cheek. Her eyes well up. More than embarrassed. Sad, upset. Dejected? Unloved?

Suddenly, Loser grabs the arm of the woman he’s with and steers her toward the exit. Winner watches them leave.

I look back at her. A slight smile graces her face as if the sun suddenly transformed a gloomy day. A healthy flush spreads over her face, her eyes morph into a light blue, and her lips curl to reveal even, white teeth.

She stands and smooths her skin-tight skirt. She unbuttons the top button of her blouse, picks up her purse from the chair beside her, and heads to the exit. Loser has to be long gone by now. I don’t think he’d linger, waiting for Winner to appear. I don’t think she wants to see him either.

But what do I know? I’m just a people watcher. I enjoy being a fly on the wall, but I have to be on guard at all times. Who knows when one of those people I don’t watch grabs a fly swatter or another similar instrument?

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “One Hundred and Two,” by Val Muller

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “People Watching,” and today’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter. In this young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original, Heather Primm is adept at people watching—so adept that her entire existence is threatened.

***

One Hundred and Two by Val Muller

“The fever’s back,” she said, nudging her husband in bed.

His mouth hung open, a snore escaping. How could he sleep at a time like this? Why didn’t he have a sensor, too, one that set alarms off each time the baby tossed or turned? The kid’s fever had woken her out of a deep sleep, even though the child was breathing peacefully.

“Did you hear me?” she asked.

His eyes popped open. “Wha—?”

“Her fever. It’s 101.8.”

“Okay.” He started to turn back over, but something in her face must have stopped him. He sat more upright instead. “So the fever is 101.8…”

“So what are we supposed to do?”

He shrugged. “I’ve never had a baby before.”

She rolled her eyes and hoped he could see it in the darkness. “I haven’t, either.”

“So why would I know what to do when you wouldn’t?”

She sighed, allowing her huff to disturb the night. The baby stirred in her arms.

“Give her Tylenol,” he said.

“I did.”

“Good, then. That’s what the doctor said to do if she ever has a fever…” He slid down into the bed and pulled the cover over himself. Before long, he was snoring again. Had he even awoken fully? Would he remember the conversation in the morning? What was it about guys—hard-wired to sleep through emergencies?

She propped herself up against the pillow, cradling the baby in her lap. She pressed the button on the forehead thermometer. 101.5. Maybe it was coming down. The doctor had said 102 was the temperature of concern. But was 101.5 close enough? Should she go to the hospital? What if she went, and they sent her home? And then her new baby would be exposed to a whole host of germs from the ER. And then what?

Then again, what if she didn’t go? And the fever got worse and worse. And got to 105, even. Could a baby even live at 105? What if she fell asleep and woke up, and the baby’s fever had risen, even with the Tylenol? What kind of a mother would allow that to happen?

She broke out in a sweat. It was 2 a.m. Emergency walk-in hours at the pediatrician started at 7:30. It would be an eternity.

* * *

She stood in line in the hallway, waiting for the pediatrician’s door to open. In front of her sat a mother with twin boys, each dancing around in the hallway. They didn’t look too sick. The mother was scrolling through her phone.

Behind the first woman stood another, a mother of a toddler boy. He was seated at her feet, playing Plants versus Zombies on her ipad. Really? Video games? The boy coughed, and the crinkling and crackling in his lungs sent the blood racing through her veins. How could his mother let him play a video game when his lungs sounded like an earthquake?

Behind her, a tired looking girl and her mother shuffled up. The mother sat down, cross-legged. The girl rested her head in mom’s lap.

“First timer?” the mother asked.

She nodded.

The mother glanced at the baby in the carrier. “Your baby looks fine.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve been through it once.”

She allowed herself a deep breath, and she turned to the other mothers, whose blood pressures all seemed half of hers.

“But her fever is—”

“It’s not about the number. You’ll know. Trust your gut, and you’ll know if something’s wrong. If something were truly wrong, you wouldn’t be here. You’d have gone to the ER hours ago.”

She turned a moment longer to people watch. These mothers were not concerned. They were patiently waiting for the office door to open.

And now, so was she.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “People Watching,” by RC Bonitz

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and A BLANKET FOR HER HEART. The topic for this month is people watching.  DANGEROUS DECISIONS is available now. I hope you enjoy it. RC Bonitz

AMAZON

 ***

People Watching?

The park bustled with activity, children loud and boisterous, old folks walking slowly on the paved paths, soccer games in the fields. Mark loved to spend his lunch times in the midst of all that pleasant, happy energy. The sky was almost clear of clouds, blue as blue could be, and he turned his face to the sun, relishing the warmth that soaked into his skin.

An elderly man with a walker shuffled toward him and he greeted the fellow with his usual friendly “hello.” The man ignored him and continued on his way. The rebuff bothered Mark not on bit. Some people were simply made that way, grouchy, shy, or uncomfortable speaking to a stranger. Untroubled by such encounters, Mark never ceased to greet strangers, always hoping for a more positive response.

A woman sat on a bench, listlessly tossing bites of bread to very active pigeons scrabbling for the treats. She looked to be his age or thereabouts, no more than thirty-five or forty, but there seemed to be no energy in her movements.

“Hi. Those pigeons look hungry,” Mark said.

She looked up at him, a defeated expression on her face. “They like to eat.”

He nodded and smiled. “Do you come here a lot? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

She shook her head. “Who are you?”

“Mark Thomson. And you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she muttered.

He frowned. He liked to chat up people that he met, but this woman didn’t look promising. He tried another track. “Do you come here to people watch?”

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “Do you?”

He grinned. “I’m a people greeter. A simple “hi” can brighten up a person’s day.”

She gave him a half smile. “You like doing that then.”

“You’d be surprised at how many friends I’ve made that way.”

She let the smile blossom and crossed her hands in her lap, nervously twisting and untwisting the fingers. “That’s nice.”

“How about you? Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

Color rose in her cheeks. “You’re hitting on me?”

“Not at all. You just seem like you could use a friend right now.”

She stared at him, her expression softening as she did. “Just coffee?”

“Just coffee.”

“Meg, that’s my name. And thank you.”

He offered her his arm as she rose from the bench. “My pleasure.”

 ***

The Spot Writers- our members

 RC Bonitz

rcbonitz.com

 Val Muller

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

 Catherine A. MacKenzie

https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson

https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Winston A. Flowers,” by Tom Robson

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from Tom Robson, author of WRITTEN WHILE I STILL REMEMBER a patchwork memoir. If you want to know more about the author, find the book online at Amazon.com.

 The topic for April is Spring Flowers.

***

Winston A. Flowers

He was surprised it had remained a secret for this long. But it was not surprising that his phenomenal success in the two months since his call-up to the majors had led to research into his background.

He’d always lied and said that the middle initial was for Abraham. Some had even called him Abe while he was playing in Binghampton, though there had been wild and increasingly frequent chants of “Winston! Winston! Winston!” as the goals kept coming. And that had continued since February when he been promoted to the parent club, the expansion Renaissance, in Quebec City. And, to the amazement of all the pundits, they had reached the playoffs. Those same pundits had determined that Winston Flowers’ goal scoring feats had been largely responsible for the late surge which got them there.

And now he was, all set to take the opening face-off of the play-offs at the Maple Leaf’s rink where, it seemed, many of the Leaf’s supporters were waving daffodils. If he was hearing it right the words they were singing were,

It’s April Showers that comes your way’

He won’t be playing when we get to May.

And the Renaissance, they will regret’

Cos they won’t be playing hockey

They’ll be picking violets.

He’d seen the verse a couple of days ago, on line from The Toronto Globe and Mail. Some researcher had discovered his baptismal name.

He had been a spring baby. His mother had said that, after she gave birth to her fifth son, she feared she’d never get to use one of the names she’d picked out for the hoped-for daughter. So he was Winston April Flowers. And a Toronto columnist had questioned how an expansion team could pin its hopes on a hockey player called April? Could be worse! Mom’s other choice of names for the never to happen daughter was ‘Spring Flowers’.

The rhythmic, derogatory chants of “April! April! April!” kept raining down from the stands. They ceased, midway through the second period after he scored his third goal and then – when checked, very late and very illegally by the Leaf’s goon, – April clearly won the fight that ensued.

At game’s end, a six zero thrashing of the home side, he returned to the ice to acknowledge his selection as man of the match. The traveling Renaissance supporters were gloating as they chanted “Winston! Winston! Winston!”

As he entered the tunnel to the dressing room a Leaf’s supporter, obvious from the paraphernalia he wore, leaned over and handed Winston his daffodil. “Nice game, April!” he praised.

Winston April Flowers accepted both with a broad grin back at the donor.

***

The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Sunflower,” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is “spring flowers.” This poem comes from Cathy MacKenzie (an old poem from her “archives” since she forgot about writing something new for today). Check out her website at the bottom of the post.

***

The Sunflower

The fragile crayon picked, a soft pastel,
Out of the waiting tray of rainbow shades,
Brushed onto the outline a sunshine belle,
With grace and form, subtle beauty cascades.

The loving smoothness massaged in the light,
Gives birth to a once-pale flower,
Blossoming into a beaming yellow bright,
Its hidden root grasping so much power.

How stunning, she says to the mirror,
Its sturdy stalk rising high to the sun,
The seeds she’ll scatter, growing dearer,
Buds bursting forth, living has begun.

Later…

She snatches the fragment, the broken end,
Posing naked beside her in the looming tray,
The pastel crayon, stiff, unable to bend,
Breaks easily, shades of betraying grey.

The scratching of the jaundiced piece
Scrapes across the outline as she mourns,
Covering the smudged paper, hiding a crease,
While a brighter one laughs and scorns.

The sickly pallor on the leaves do wave,
Colouring the roughness, the grain peeking,
Applied like a shovel attacking a grave,
The wilted sunflower leering and weeping.

 

***

The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Lavender Peony,” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month simply: spring flowers. This tale takes a darker twist on that theme and comes to you from Val Muller, author of the YA reboot The Scarred Letter—fighting for the truth in a world that lives a lie.

***

The Lavender Peony

By Val Muller

Maude Stevenson hated parent-teacher conferences. It seemed teachers wanted to meet about everything these days. She dreaded the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month—conference afternoons, when the teachers cleared satanic little slots in their schedules to call in parents to address the misbehaviors of their children. Not to mention the need for two afternoons of daycare.

The sitter had cancelled, so Rose would just have to come along. “What’s this about, Rose?” Maude asked her daughter.

Rose sat in the back seat, mixing a concoction in a paper cup. She’d been playing in the back yard since school let out, and Maude allowed her to take along the concoction of ground leaves she’d made. “I don’t know, Mommy.” Rose shrugged and then looked out the window, her second-grade mind already distracted by spring’s burgeoning flowers.

“Did you hit someone? Say something rude? Did you forget your homework or cheat on a test?”

Rose shook her head. “I don’t know what this is about, Mommy. I try to be a good girl.”

Maude sighed and pulled into the school parking lot. The clock on the dashboard blinked 2:43. The meeting was for 2:50. Somehow Mrs. Spencer had the conferences timed to the minute like that. 2:50 exactly.

As she got out of her car seat, Rose asked her mother, “Do I have time to pick a peony from the school garden?”

“Are you allowed to pick peonies from the school garden?” Maude asked.

Rose shrugged. “No one will miss just one flower.”

Maude looked at the clock. What else were they going to do for the next seven minutes? “Alright,” she sighed.

Inside, Maude knocked on Mrs. Spencer’s door. A smile greeted her. “Just two minutes,” Mrs. Spencer announced from behind her desk.

Maude looked at her watch. 2:48. Really, now! Maude craned her neck to peek into the classroom. It was empty, otherwise. Rose was busy playing with her peony, which now sat in the paper cup, chanting to the flower. To be a kid again—and be able to lose all sense of time to imagination. Her mind too tired to entertain itself, Maude checked out the artwork lining the hallway. The children had been given a coloring page with spring flowers. Some of them also featured animals—frogs, deer, chicks, bunnies.

“Honey, where’s yours?” Maude asked.

Rose shrugged. “Mrs. Spencer didn’t want to hang it up, I guess.”

Maude didn’t have time to respond. Mrs. Spencer called her in. Inside, the woman sat behind her large desk. She motioned to two chairs on the opposite side. Each chair was meant for a second-grader. Rose sat, her legs comfortably resting on the floor. Maude sat, her knees angled up awkwardly. Her hands hung nearly to the floor.

Mrs. Spencer seemed not to notice.

“I’ve called you in,” she said, without further introduction, “because of some concerns I had for Rose’s flower story.”

“Her flower story?” Maude asked.

Mrs. Spencer kept that same smile. It had all the semblances of caring and warmth, though it was missing those qualities in actuality. The teacher’s eyes reflected that same mannequin-like quality. Maude shivered. “You must have seen them in the hallway. I hung all the appropriate stories out there.” She held up a blank sheet. It contained the outline of a rose garden with an owl perched overhead. She flipped it over. A series of blank lines graced the back side.

“The children were to color the picture and then write a narrative about what is happening in the picture.”

“A narrative?”

Mrs. Spencer smirked. “You know—a story. Some children wrote about a gardener. Others wrote about helping animals or saving the environment by planting more greenery—you know, to offset carbon footprints. All stellar examples of stories.”

“And I take it my Rose’s story was a less than stellar example?”

The teacher’s smile faded. “Mrs. Stevenson, I had to hold myself back from contacting School Counselling about this little tale.” She opened her desk drawer and slapped a sheet of paper onto the desk. On the bottom corner was drawn a red frowny face.

“What on earth could Rose have written about that got you so upset?” Maude asked. She looked at her daughter, and Rose offered a knowing smile. Maude raised an eyebrow.

“This story of hers—The Lavender Peony—is about a flower that—” She glanced toward the door and then lowered her voice—“kills people.”

Maude bit her tongue to keep from laughing. “Just a child’s imagination, I’m sure.”

“Mrs. Stevenson, the level of detail is alarming. She’s got potions in here—lists of ingredients I’d never heard of. I had to Google some of these. Wolfsbane and hemlock. It’s witchcraft, I tell you. There’s got to be somewhere she learned of all this. In the story, the main character makes a potion and spreads it on a flower, and the flower has to thus obey commands. And the main character instructs the flower to kill people. There are three murders in this story, Mrs. Stevenson. Three. Little Rose over there could be the next school shooter if we don’t watch out.”

Maude felt the humor drain from her face. “Mrs. Spencer, I’m sorry that my daughter’s story offended you, but to compare a little girl with a vivid imagination—to compare that to a school shooter is beyond asinine. It’s insulting! What should we do, call the Inquisition, and then the police? Or should we just send her to a shrink? Are flowers now considered a weapon? You know, Mrs. Spencer, I thought long and hard about whether to homeschool Rose, as I did last year, and now I’m beginning to regret my decision to send her to public school. I’d like to talk to your principal.”

The panic registered on Mrs. Spencer’s face immediately. “Let’s not be hasty here, Mrs. Stevenson. Perhaps there was just a misunderstanding.”

Maude allowed her eyes to travel deliberately from the paper on the desk to the hallway. Knowingly, Mrs. Spencer nodded, took four pieces of tape from her desk, and shuffled out to the hallway. Maude stayed seated and watched her hang Rose’s flower story prominently above the rest.

Then she turned to her daughter. “I told you, Rose, not to let out the secret recipes.”

Rose shrugged. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I thought she’d think it fictional.”

Maude shook her head. “You never know who you can trust, Rose. This better be the last time.”

Rose puckered her lips, holding up the peony. “Shall I?”

Maude nodded. Rose stood slowly and placed the peony in the center of Mrs. Spencer’s desk, bits of the leafy concoction clinging to it.

The lavender flower caught the light from the classroom window as Mrs. Spencer watched her two guests exit the room. It was only after they left that she noticed the flower sitting there rather audaciously—as if it had its own personality—a peace offering from a little girl that nonetheless sent shivers down the teacher’s spine long after its pedals had withered and the offending Rose had been promoted to the third grade.

***

The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Spring Flowers,” by RC Bonitz

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and A BLANKET FOR HER HEART. The prompt for this month is “Spring Flowers.”

SPRING FLOWERS

Spring flowers. Little blue crocus’ popping up in lawn and gardens. Or are they purple? My age has brought on color blindness, or perhaps it’s due to sixty-nine years of diabetes, whatever, I can’t tell you whether something is truly blue. We’ve got yellow flowers popping up though too. I had the name a few minutes ago but have lost that too. And pansies, we planted a bunch of them the other day. Love the brilliant splashes of color. Unfortunately, rabbits love them too. The whole bed of pansies disappeared overnight.

Lots of things are disappearing lately. The arctic ice, calm weather (have you noticed how much stronger winds are these days?), various kinds of animals that need cooler temperatures to survive, just to name a few. It’s a good thing mankind is united in its efforts to minimize the warming of the atmosphere.

Oh, of course we are. Buying cars that generate six hundred horsepower, which undoubtedly burn gobs of gas. Producing such cars, well of course GM has to make big profits. I use that as an example but the disease if quite widespread. Electric companies in America that lobby to keep burning polluting coal, oil companies that drill new wells instead of moving themselves into alternate forms of energy, industries throughout China that pollute so much people need to be breathe through masks. And we have politicians who do nothing but call each other names.

How much longer will we have Spring flowers? Will our grandchildren see them? Will they even see a season called Spring?

***

DANGEROUS DECISIONS is available now. I hope you enjoy it. RC Bonitz  AMAZON

 ***

The Spot Writers- our members

 RC Bonitz

rcbonitz.com

 

Val Muller

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

 

Catherine A. MacKenzie

https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

 

Tom Robson

https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Service,” by Tom Robson

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for February is to use the following in a story: “How could she (or he) do a thing like that?”

This week’s flash fiction titled “Service” comes to you from Tom Robson. Check out his new website/blog at www.robsonswritings.wordpress.com

***

Service

He opened the back door, took off his boots, walked through to the kitchen and there she was, hiding behind her mother who was cradling the baby, Dolly.

He’d only stopped for a couple of jars at the Miners Arms in Billy Row. That wasn’t much of a delay, but Vera had got home, walking the six mile journey from Crook, before him. His instinct was to put the fourteen year old over his knee and give her a good thrashing. Before he could make his move to pull her from behind Emma’s chair, his wife said, “Slow thisen down a bit, Tom. We’ve got it sorted. She’s going back.”

“That’s if Mrs Milburn will take her. Stupid girl might have lost me one of my gardening jobs as well by running away. If tha’s not packed thi bags our Vera, Thou’d best do it now. We’re walking back there today. D’you hear me?”

Vera cowered as she pushed past her father then ran upstairs to the room she shared with four of her sisters.

“Div’n that girl know how hard it is to find work around here. The pits laying miners off. No factory work for girls and there’s fewer families can afford to employ servants.  Not that I believe in that, but now she’s out of school our Vera needs to work, even if all that’s available is slaving away for some rich lady.” Tom Oliphant ranted at his wife as she nursed the youngest and, she hoped, their last. Doreen was their tenth.

Emma knew that Vera might have ruined the opportunity to work for Mrs Milburn, one of the colliery owners wives. She feared what her volatile husband might do to Vera if the situation could not be fixed

“Sit down Tom!’ she urged. “I know you want to walk her back there today. There’s still enough daylight. Can I tell you what happened?”

Tom interrupted. “She were fine when I left, and so was Mrs Milburn. Our Vera spoke up well for hersen. Told Mrs Milburn all the things she does around here to help you cook, clean and care for the bairns. She wanted her to start work right way and I was going back with Vera’s belongings tomorrow. What did that gormless daughter of ours do to mess things up after I’d left? Has she cost me one of my gardening jobs with her feckless behaviour? How could she do a thing like that?

“Vera’s nervous face edged round the door from the hallway. ‘I am sorry, father. But as soon as you left that Mrs Milburn was horrible. Gave me a long list of things that needed doing, and then the cook wanted me to help her. And when Mrs Milburn caught me peeling potatoes instead of doing the work she’d set for me, she hit me with a broom and chased me out of the kitchen. She was screaming at me. I were crying as I were cleaning out the fireplaces in t’ bedrooms. I wanted to come home.When she checked up on me again, she said she expected me to work faster than this. When she went away, so did I. I ran back here.”

Her father cut off her elaborate explanation. “We’re working class, Vera. As long as there’s upper class controlling the money we have to do as they tell us. That’s life in the nineteen twenties. There’s talk of protest marches and hunger strikes to bring about change. But it won’t happen today, lass. Time for you to go say you’re sorry and hope she takes you back. And say it as if you mean it, just like I have to lie to those thieving sods all the time.

“I am sorry, father. If she’ll give me another chance I’ll do whatever she tells me.” said the contrite daughter.

“Trouble is, our kid, you have to do it even though you hate doing it. P’raps she’ll be a good mistress. And I know the cook, Mrs Charlton is a good sort.” Now go say your goodbyes again. I’ll carry your bag the six mile walk over the top to Crook.” complained Tom.

“And six back!” his wife chipped in. “But I bet you’ll find a pub or three to visit on the return trip. And send our Elsie in. She’s my big help now our Vera’s a working lass! I’ve made you a sandwich cos you won’t be here for tea. Now ger on, the pair of you before it’s dark.

Father and daughter set off from Tow Law over the fields and moors by Castle Bank, picking up the road, as daylight failed, through Sunniside, Billy Row and Rodimoor to the Milburn’s house.

Mrs Milburn greeted father and daughter with an icy aloofness which was melted by Vera’s tears and sobbed apology. She pleaded to be given another chance at the maid’s position her father had begged  for his oldest. The lady relented and offered one final chance.

Vera Oliphant took the offer but hated her job and all the others for the ten years she was in service between leaving school in 1926 and marrying ten years later.

Nobody is quite sure what hour Tom Oliphant staggered home that night, but it was long after 10:30pm, “last orders” at the final pub he refreshed himself at on the twenty four miles he walked that day.

And Vera found it strange having a bed, and bedroom all to herself, after her first day at work.

~*~

 The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

Tom Robson: www.robsonswritings.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

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