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The Spot Writers – “Monster in the House” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. October’s prompt: “write a story inspired by what’s outside your window.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, coming early 2020. Watch for it!

***

“Monster in the House” by Cathy MacKenzie

I lay in bed, not daring to move. That noise. What is it? Someone’s broken into the house is my first thought, but I’d have heard the beeps of the alarm system—wouldn’t I?

They’re at the front door. Outside—no, definitely inside. But how? Was I that sound asleep I didn’t hear the alarm? Didn’t Hubby hear it?

Hubby is beside me. Fast asleep. I can’t see him in the dark. I’m too afraid to open my eyes, but I’m positive it’s dark.

Quiet now—no, there it is. Definitely at the front door.

My heart thumps against my chest. I clutch Hubby’s arm. “Wake up,” I whisper. My fingers press into his flesh. “Someone’s here.”

“Wha—what’s wrong?” His voice is thick with sleep.

“Shush. Someone’s at the front door.”

“What? Who?”

“Shush,” I say again. “Shush.”

Silence.

Nope. There it is again.

“At the front door. Someone’s here. They’ve broken in.”

“Someone’s in the house?”

“Yes!”

Maybe it’s not the front door. But it’s somewhere close by. There! Again.

My eyes are open now, but it’s as if I’m blind. I point in the darkness. “Down the hall.”

The noise is down the hall, by the bathroom. Mere feet away.

“It’s an animal.” A squirrel?

“Go back to sleep,” Hubby says. “There’s nothing here.”

Three days ago, we moved into our new-to-us house. I’m not attuned yet to these different night sounds. What creatures might lurk in the dark? Or in a nook or cranny we haven’t yet discovered. The house could be haunted for all I know.

The intruder—or intruders—isn’t mice. I’m familiar with the soundless pitter of those rodents. This commotion is far from soundless.

But in the house?

Hubby sits. “Your imagination again.”

Last night, I heard an unmistakeable noise and woke him up. It could have been mice then as it was a weird sound in the walls. Turned out to be the furnace. The previous owners forgot to turn off one of the in-floor heat zones, so the furnace turned on occasionally at night.

He plops back to the bed.

“There!” I poke him in the side and sit, clutching the linens to my heaving chest. “Definitely down the hall.” The sound reminds me of an elderly person on crutches, with his bad leg dragging on the floor.

If Hubby doesn’t hear it this time, he needs to return to the doctor to get his ears unplugged.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Shush, you always talk so loud.”

Silence except for my thumping heart that’s about to blast from my chest.

“There! You must hear it now.” The shuffling is louder. Must be an animal in the house. Hubby has a habit of leaving the garage door wide open to the elements. Maybe it’s a raccoon. A family of raccoons made their home in our attic a few years ago. Could a raccoon have snuck in?

“Hmmm… There is something.” He gets out of bed and sneaks down the hall. Turns on the hall light.

Silence.

Where is he? Has the “monster” gotten him?

He’s been gone too long.

“Where are you?” My voice is too low for him to hear.

The light finally goes out.

“Nothing there,” he says, returning to bed.

I hear it again. The sounds are louder. Shuffling. Scratching. Hubby hears it, too; I can tell by the change in his breathing.

I shriek. “It’s outside. Behind my head.” Someone’s spying on us. That one-legged man?

Hubby peers out the window by our bed. “Probably a branch rubbing against the window.” He turns on the bedside light and looks out again.

The noise increases as if the creature—animal or human—is afraid of the light. Shuffling. Scratching. Screeching.

“Raccoon,” he says. “Raccoon in the compost bin.” He shuts off the light and comes back to bed.

“You can’t leave it,” I say.

“I’m not going out at three in the morning.”

The raccoon eventually calms down. Maybe it falls asleep. Maybe we do.

***

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 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 – “It’s Done, and It’s a Relief” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story in which mistaken identity plays a major role.

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.

***

It’s Done, and It’s a Relief by Chiara De Giorgi

“So, it’s done.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“Is it?”

“Why, of course.”

“If you say so.”

“Do you have doubts?”

“No, no, of course not.”

“Because you should have talked before, you know.”

“Hey, don’t get upset. I said it’s fine.”

“Well, you don’t sound like you’re fine.”

“But I am, I swear. I just hoped that it could all be solved in a different way. It’s all in the past, now, though, and I’m fine.”

“I surely hope so, after all the discussions, and after all that poor guy has been forced to go through! If you had to offer a different option, then you should have talked earlier. Now it’s too damn late!”

“Don’t I know that? Do you think I’m stupid? I’m not going to raise doubts now, for C’s sake. I was just talking, You know, letting it out a bit.”

“All right, all right. No need to get touchy. I guess we’re all a little shaken.”

“Yeah, it’s not something you normally have to deal with.”

“Let’s hope it won’t be necessary to deal with it again in the future.”

“On that, we agree.”

“Well, then. I wish you a good night.”

“Thanks. Good night to you.”

 

Robert tasted his drink, then sighed and put it down.

He was convinced they had taken the right decision: after the difficult operation, their old father would be better off at the nursing home with 24-hour care.

He loved the old man, and the thought of letting him go was unbearable. Their father wouldn’t have surgery. “Let Nature have her own way”, he had said. But Robert couldn’t do that. Couldn’t bear to see him die. So he and his brother Liam had tricked him into the hospital, where he was taken care of. That was one month ago. Now his brother had finally driven the old man to the nursing home. It was done, and it was a relief.

 

Peter dropped the phone on the kitchen counter and sighed, then poured himself a generous glass of whiskey. Yes, it was done, and yes, it was a relief. But he still thought that there might have been another way to deal with their partner in crime. They could have arranged for him to go away, to settle down in some exotic island, away from everything. Killing him shouldn’t have been their first option. But his cousin Andrew had been adamant: once one thinks about talking, the thought never goes away until it’s been acted upon. And then it would be too late for all of them. Neither of them wanted to end their life in prison. So they had taken Simon out. Everything had gone as planned and he, Peter, had been the one in charge of disposing of the body. Peter smirked and took a sip from his glass. Of course it had to be him. Andrew would never get his hand dirty. Anyway. Now there was nothing more to be worried about.

***

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 – “New York 2019” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. September’s prompt: mistaken identity—a story where a mistaken identity plays a major role.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

MISTER WOLFE (the sequel) coming soon!

***

New York 2019 

Although Jane often read horoscopes and took quizzes, she had never been upset over the outcomes, but this one was too ominous to ignore. As a result, she and Ned would have to cancel their annual trip to New York City.

We’ll go somewhere else, she thought. Anywhere but New York. Togetherness mattered, not the destination. No way would she enjoy herself with such a dire premonition hanging over her.

She’d make up an excuse, for Ned wouldn’t understand. He’d laugh, call her a silly cupcake, but in the end, he’d acquiesce. Couldn’t she be tired of the same place every year?

She broached the subject over dinner. “Let’s go somewhere different this year.”

“But it’s tradition,” Ned said. “We love New York.”

“I know, but can’t we skip a year?”

“Why?”

Silent for several seconds, she sighed. “You’ll make fun of me.”

“I won’t.”

“You will.”

“I promise I won’t.”

She produced a paper. “I took a quiz on Facebook that tells a person when and how they’ll die. It told me I’ll die by a sniper’s bullet in New York City in 2019.”

Ned, rolling his eyes, ignored the proffered sheet.

She glared at her husband. “You promised you wouldn’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing. It’s coincidental but kind of farfetched, don’t you think? A sniper? And this year?”

“We go every year. What’s coincidental about that? I can’t go. I’d be peering over my shoulder every second.” She laughed, trying to lessen the impact of her demand.

Ned sighed. “Okay, we can go somewhere else. Atlantic City?”

***

Jane and Ned settled into the Atlantic City Hotel. After a sumptuous dinner, they strolled the streets, which bustled with tourists. Throngs of people congregated at casinos and bars, but everyone minded their own business. Ned felt he and Jane were inconspicuous.

“What a beautiful evening.” Jane glanced at the sky. “Another hour until the sun sets.”

“A beautiful night for sure.” Ned had barely spoken the words when he noticed a young man approaching. Drunk, he figured, but his long dark coat was uncharacteristic of the mild temperature. His skin prickled, and he gripped his wife’s hand. When the man made eye contact but quickly passed by, Ned relaxed.

Then, almost immediately, shots rang out. Seconds—or was it minutes?—passed before he realized Jane had fallen. People screamed and raced away while others dropped to the ground as his wife had.

Ned collapsed beside her, cradling her head in his arms.  “Jane!” He crushed his wife to his chest. Tears careened down his cheeks, disappearing into her grey hair. Images appeared before him in slow motion: Jane wearing a wedding gown, Jane birthing two children, Jane’s welcoming greetings at the kitchen door.

“9-1-1,” someone shouted.

Later that evening, the police advised Ned that he and Jane had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The deranged individual, a native of New York, who had recently relocated to Atlantic City, had aimed indiscriminately. Jane had been the sole victim.

Weeks later, Ned discovered the Facebook print-out he had neglected to read:

You will die by the hand of a New York sniper in 2019.

“Oh, Jane, you misread everything,” Ned mumbled.

***

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 – “A New York Reunion” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story in which mistaken identity plays a major role. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Find out more at www.CorgiCapers.com.

***

A New York Reunion by Val Muller

With her son moved out–he was on a three-month surveying expedition in Africa, and largely out of contact for the duration–the house was too quiet. How many times could she vacuum and dust Rob’s room? An absent son left no messes to clean. Funny, all those years when cleaning and cooking and laundry seemed never-ending. And now what she wouldn’t give for a son or a husband to care for.

Janet knew she’d have to downsize. It wasn’t really the money: Micheal’s life insurance policy had paid for the house and left her a modest safety net. Her job at the college paid all her bills, so she saved Micheal’s nest egg for retirement. But she was too young to retire. She had too much life left. And the house kept her too tied to her son and late husband. She was an empty-nester now. Now it was time to focus on herself.

Which is why she found herself in the City. The college was out for a brief fall break–yes, even special collections librarians got the time off–and she took the four-day weekend to bus into the city. She stayed at a modest hotel outside of Manhattan (it was still ridiculously expensive, but what the heck?). She decided not to do all the touristy things. She’d seen the sights before, done all the touristy things back in her college days. This time, she visited local shops, looked off the beaten path.

Which is what brought her to KatKafe. She’d stopped in expecting a cup of coffee only to find the KatKafe was actually a book store, with no caffeine or cats to be found. She browsed the shelves. The books were all so new and supple. Nothing like the fragile collections she housed at the library. Here, she could actually handle the books, touch their pages, indulge for enjoyment and let down her guard.

This morning, during a walk through Central Park, she remembered the tapestry she’d hung on her dormitory wall. Everyone had a tapestry back then, it seemed. Hers was from freshman year, a highly-stylized illustration of a dozen or so angels meeting on the head of a pin. They were surrounded by celestial miasma. And didn’t that perfectly capture her personality in college? It was all about possibilities and pushing limits.

And there were the handfuls of friends in various circles, ones she still saw on social media but not personally in years. Decades. Gosh, she’d gotten old. There were her junior-year apartment-mates: Jennifer, Jess, and Jenn (the 3 J’s, they were called). Then there were her library cohort buddies: Matt and Ashley and Riley. And a handful of friends from the hip-hop club where she bravely but pitifully practiced her dancing skills.

There was Henry, of course. There was always Henry. He was the one that got away. After two years of on-again, off-again, they simply drifted apart. She always suspected they were too passionate about each other. The intensity of her feelings scared her, anyhow. Made her stupid and irrational. But isn’t that what love does? With Micheal it had been different. Words had come easily to her. Her heart didn’t flutter stupidly when he entered the room, but intellectual conversations flowed prodigiously. Micheal was more like a comfy hoodie. Henry was like bungee jumping. And you can’t bungee jump every second of your life, can you?

Janet was flipping through a book about the cosmos when she saw him. His hair was gray now, but its wild cowlicks were unmistakable. When he looked up from his book–he was also browsing in the section on natural sciences–the sparkle in his eye pierced her heart. Isn’t that just like fate, to throw him back at her in a second chance.

“Henry?” she screamed. But she didn’t scream it. She didn’t even say it. Her mind willed it, but her mouth would not comply. Her heart fluttered ridiculously, just as it had always done. Why did Henry make her so stupid? Just. Say. Hi. You are a grown woman. What is wrong with you? She forced herself to think of things scarier than talking to Henry. Childbirth. Her son leaving home. Losing her husband. This is nothing, you silly cow. Say. Hi. To. Him.

She cleared her throat and he looked up.

Oh, come on, she plead. But her brain-body sabotaged all efforts. Say. Something.

He smiled. That same lopsided smile that melted her heart. “I see we have similar tastes.” He pointed with his eyes to her book.

“You know I’ve always fancied space,” she managed.

“Same,” he said.

Her mind raced, but every word in the English language meant nothing.

Say. Something.

“I’m here alone,” she said. The words surprised her. So she was going for blunt honesty? Desperation, even? Maybe. Maybe she was tired of being alone. “I mean, my son is grown and moved out. And my husband’s been gone for…” He was cocking his head. Was this a good thing? Should she stop talking? She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I just thought, after all these years, why beat around the bush anymore, right? You’re here, I’m here. I thought this was an actual cafe, and I really need a coffee. Would you–care to join me?” She realized she ought to smile, and she was shocked to find herself already beaming, without her knowledge.

He smiled back and grabbed the book out of her hand, bringing it to the cash register. “My treat,” he said. “I always thought the way to a woman’s heart was through books, not drinks.”

She raised an eyebrow and nodded. Henry had certainly grown more assertive, too. She eyed his fingers as he paid for the books. Not a wedding ring to be found. Last she’d heard, he’d been married, but he wasn’t big on social media, and she was too ashamed to stalk him. Maybe the stars were finally aligning.

“There’s a great shop right down the block. We can get a cup, and I know a little park bench we can snag.” He handed her the newly-purchased book.

“Thanks, Henry,” she said.

He looked confused. “Good guess,” he said. “That would be something if it were right. It’s James,” he said, taking her hand.

Her hand went limp for just an instant before she firmed it up and laced her fingers with James. He was neither a warm hoodie nor a bungee jump. He was somewhere in the middle. Like a new flavor of coffee and a book she’d never heard of. And maybe that was just what she needed.

***

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 – “Go Fish” by Cathy MacKenzie

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 Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

MISTER WOLFE (the sequel) coming soon!

***

“Go Fish” by Cathy MacKenzie

Amber looked up toward the large blue-shingled house, which was so unfamiliar to her. What little they’d moved into the house two days previous was in disarray. The bulk of their furniture and other possessions weren’t due to be delivered for another week. Until then, the family would sleep at the Riverside Inn and spend days at the house.

According to her mother, there was plenty to do at the new house. “Dad has to mow the lawn, and I have to clean,” she’d said. “You kids can organize your rooms.” She had smiled. “And play, too. Summer will soon be over.”

Right, Amber thought. Organize our rooms? What is there to organize?

She was thankful she didn’t have to deal with school the same time as the move. But Labour Day would soon be upon them, marking the end of summer vacation. Luckily, her parents had bought a house in the same neighbourhood, so she and her brother, Julien, would still be attending the same schools.

Her mother couldn’t understand why it had to take so long for their furniture to be packed up and delivered. “Spencer, why don’t we rent a truck and move ourselves? This is ridiculous,” she had spouted. “We’re less than ten blocks away, for Pete’s sake.”

Apparently, the end of July was the busiest time for movers in their area, and Amber’s father wouldn’t admit he had procrastinated calling the moving company. She knew he had messed up when she overheard him arguing on the telephone with the company. She was glad he’d apologized or they might never have gotten a moving date.

Amber liked their new house, which was much larger than their previous one. The grounds were more spacious, too. Numerous colourful flowers grew alongside the house, mostly all foreign to her, although she did recognize the daisies.

And, of course, she was familiar with rose bushes that bordered one side of the fish pond.

But what good was a fish pond without fish?

“I can’t believe there’s no fish,” she said, glancing at her brother.

“Yeah, according to Dad, the previous owner said they died.”

“I don’t know why we can’t get more.”

Julien sighed. “Mom can’t be bothered. She figures Dad won’t help out and then it’ll all fall on her. In the spring she said we can get some. She hates the thought of them in the cold all winter. You know her.”

“But goldfish are supposed to survive over the winter. Though I don’t know how.”

“You’re supposed to make sure there’s a hole in the ice so the fish can breathe while they hibernate.”

“If they hibernate, why do they need a hole in the ice?”

Julien glared at her. “I don’t know. Just what I’ve read.”

“Dad says you read too much.”

“Yeah, well Mom says you daydream too much.”

She ignored him and stared into the pond. She shook the unopened container of fish food, which she had grabbed off the shelf in the garage.

“I’m going to sprinkle some food on the water. Maybe if the other people had fed them, they’d still be alive.”

“No sense feeding dead fish,” Julien said.

Ignoring her brother, she unscrewed the lid and sprinkled flakes on the water.

“It’s probably old. That’s why they left it,” Julien said. “Outdated. Not good for anything. And you know what? If the owners said they hadn’t fed the fish for two years, it’s probably more like five. Everyone lies.”

The flakes floated together for a few seconds and slowly separated.

“The poor dead fishes,” Amber said, swiping at her eyes with her left hand. She’d been teary lately, which was unusual for her, probably owing to the stress of the move. She was only twelve, but her hormones would be raging sooner than later. And more tears, she figured.

She shrieked. “Look! What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“There.” She pointed. “Isn’t that a fish?”

While she watched, another bright orange fish swam alongside.

Another appeared.

And a fourth.

The last two were a paler orange. Almost translucent.

“I don’t believe it,” Julien said. “They can’t have survived for this long.”

“Look, they’re jumping at the food. We have to go tell Mom.”

“No, we can’t tell her. She’s got enough on her mind. Besides, if you tell her, she’ll freak about them all winter long.”

“What, then? We don’t tell anyone they’re here?”

“We’ll just come down and feed them every day. Then, over the winter, we’ll make sure there’s a hole in the ice. We can surprise Mom in the spring, once the snow is gone.”

“Mom wasn’t born yesterday. Don’t you think she’ll find out?”

“How will she find out? Besides, once she knows these fish survived, she’ll be more receptive to getting more.”

“What about Dad? Should we tell him?”

“No, Dad’ll only tell Mom. They don’t have secrets, remember.”

“Yeah, right.” She’d heard her parents talk enough about how marriages shouldn’t have secrets, no matter how small. She giggled. Her father hadn’t shared the moving van story. “Okay, it’s our secret? No one else’s?”

“Yep, it’s our secret.”

“Oh, I love secrets,” Amber said, already anticipating telling her mother. She might even tell her the moving van secret.

***

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 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 – Poseidon’s Consort” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is to use the following words in a poem or a story: besides, fishes, inn, owing, born.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Learn more at http://www.corgicapers.com.

Poseidon’s Consort by Val Muller

Shivering in the sea breeze in the setting sun, Amphitrite made her way to the only inn in town. She already missed the calm, perpetual whirl of the ocean, the warmth of water. The air made everything feel too cold and open, even as it carried the comforting, salty scent, reminding her that home was only a few steps away…

Besides, she reminded herself, this little trip was her choice.

The inn smelled of humans and earthy, old, stagnant scents. The air lacked the fluidity of water. Someone was cooking a stew or a chowder, but it smelled more of chickens and boiled onions than of fishes.

Amphitrite approached the innkeeper. She had to do this, she reminded herself. Poseidon had been raging too long, and she needed a break. Why she was the only being who could calm his tempestuous rage was beyond her. Normally she just dealt with it and kept the balance of the sea, but tonight she had enough. Not even the dolphins or the whales could calm her.

“Needing a room?” the innkeeper asked. He wiped his hands on a rag and sized her up. His eyes remained dim, seeming unimpressed with what he saw.

She nodded and adjusted the scarf around her hair, her dry and baggy clothes, trying to absorb his accent. Humans had such awful nuances in dialect and diction. But before she could answer, a man broke through the door, his hair wild and eyes wide, no doubt owing to the wind battering against the door.

“Storm! Tempest!” he yelled. “Poseidon’s enraged!”

A barrage of men, mostly sailors, hurried in and pushed past Amphitrite. The innkeeper screamed over their frantic din, their worries over Poseidon’s mood and the fate of their ships.

“Must be a spat with his missus,” one said.

The innkeeper’s hands grew heavy with the coins he collected as all the rooms were rented out, two or three or more men to a bed. Desperation and panic at the storm turned to banter as the men turned to drinking and tales. The innkeeper could finally turn back to Amphitrite, forgotten and pushed to the corner. He apologized for the lack of rooms. Amphitrite smiled, letting her hair out of its scarf and letting her eyes glow like sea jewels. She did not disguise her voice but instead let it flow melodious like the sea. Before long, he’d invited her to his own private quarters, recent widower that he was.

She smiled, knowing after a night with her, once she returned to the sea to calm her husband’s rage, the innkeeper would rename the inn for her and send her golden coins each week, ones that sparkled when the sun filtered through the saltwater. She would feed his business, for a time, with her little trysts to dry land, allowing her husband to rage now and then, driving business to the inn. How fun it would be to see how many coins the innkeeper would send her way.

She let her dress slip from her shoulder. The innkeeper was nothing special, but he was an authority figure here in this little town by the sea, whatever it was called. What harm could it do? After all, she thought as she led him to his room by the hand, like a mermaid or a siren pulling a catch beneath the waves, why should Zeus have all the fun?

***

The Spot Writers:

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

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

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

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

 

+++
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 Tree of Dorian Gray” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is a story about a tree of (any type of) significance that is cut or falls down.

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 Tree of Dorian Gray

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

Do you remember the first time you acted badly? I mean consciously. Like, for example you told a lie and were aware that your lie would damage another; or you stole something with the clear purpose of hurting someone. Me, I think I was seven, and I did both.

 

I was angry with Toby, my neighbor and class-mate. We had spent a whole afternoon together at his place, working on a school project. It was about ecology. We built a model of a landscape with pebbles and leaves, I think it was really cute in the end. The following morning, Toby fell down the stairs while he was carrying the model. He broke his arm, and the model. Miss Brown was very sympathetic and gave us another week to bring in another one, but I was upset. He should have been more careful. So I planned my revenge.

A few weeks later, it was Laura and Mindy’s turn to present their project, I think it was a pyramid or something, I don’t remember. Anyway, during lunch I stole it and hid it inside Toby’s schoolbag. Then I went to Miss Brown and told her I had seen Toby steal and hide the girls’ model. Toby was punished, both by Miss Brown and his own parents, and I felt bad. Not enough, though, to gather enough courage and tell the truth.

I was ashamed of myself for what I’d done, and ran to the woods, screaming and crying. I stopped by a large tree and told it everything. When my speech was over, I realized I could blame Toby: hadn’t he crushed our model, nothing would have happened. I felt better at once, and I went back home.

 

After that, I got used to going to the large tree every time I did something that bothered my conscience. Soon I noticed that the tree was slowly rotting away. The more the tree decomposed, the less my conscience bothered me, until one day I realized I could do anything I wanted and not be bothered at all.

By then I was older and read “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. How I loved that book! I named my tree “The Tree of Dorian Gray”, and felt completely free for the first time in my life. I could be and do whatever I wanted, the tree would rot and I would stay spotless. Incredibly, none of my malfeasances caused people to dislike or accuse me. It was always somebody else who paid the price in the end.

I should have known that it couldn’t last forever.

 

When the first injunction reached me, and then the second, and the third… I realized something must have happened. I went to the woods and saw: Where so many tall trees used to grow, concealing “my” tree from the view, now was a construction site. There were no trees anymore.

 

I know what awaits me now: injunctions will keep coming and coming, every wrong I’ve ever made in the dark will be exposed.

It’s over.

***

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 – “Images” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story involving a tree of (any type of) significance that has either fallen or was cut down.

This story (albeit a week late) comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, coming soon!

***

“Images” by Cathy MacKenzie

“You can’t let him cut down that tree, Mom.”

“Oh, sweetie, it’s just a tree.” My mother peered down at me. “What’s wrong?”

“The tree. I want that tree.” I stomped my feet. “It’s mine.”

Mom flailed her arms. “Stop it right now. For one thing, it’s not your tree. Mother Nature owns trees, not us.”

“Is so my tree. Dad told me so.”

I ignored the tears welling in her eyes and prayed they wouldn’t cascade down her cheeks. I might not be able to ignore them then.

Mom didn’t say anything. Had she given up on me—in disgust? Or could she not be bothered? I tried her patience many times.

When she continued to act as though I wasn’t there, I returned to my room, where I fell to the bed. Life was hard for kids. I desperately wanted to be an adult so I could do what I wanted and not take orders from anyone.

Then again…

I got up from the bed and looked out the window. The tree was in plain sight, at the edge of our property. It wasn’t that big to be causing so much trouble, but it was healthy with an abundance of leaves that fell in the fall, especially when the wind blew. When Dad planted it the day I was born, it was about as tall as him. Apparently, I sat beside him, snug in my infant’s chair, while he dug the hole.

And now, crabby old Mr. Aaron Drummond was raising a stink because leaves were falling onto his driveway. What a crock.

“It’s too close to my property line,” he’d bellowed, pointing to our house. “Look at your yard. It didn’t need to be anywhere near my property.”

“I realize that,” Mom had replied. “My husband thought the line extended another three feet.”

“That ain’t my problem. Move it, or I call the city hot line. Or I cut it down myself.”

“We have no choice,” Mom had mumbled as we walked away, leaving Mr. Drummond cursing under his breath. “Your father definitely planted it too close to the property line.”

“Can’t we move it?” I had asked.

“Birch trees don’t like to be disturbed. It’ll die if we disturb it.”

“So you’re gonna just let it die without giving it a chance?”

“Sweetie, it’s just a tree. We’ll plant another, okay?”

“Mom, I don’t want another. I want this one.”

Mom had ignored me then, too.

I closed my curtains and went back to bed. My father’s face flashed in front of me.

The next morning, I woke to unusual sounds in the front yard. I raced to the window and spread the curtains. There was cranky Mr. Drummond, axe in hand, hacking at the tree. Mom’s words that birches don’t like to be disturbed rattled through my head. Too late. Those sores wouldn’t heal.

Neither would mine—or Dad’s. He had been killed by a felled tree while out in the woods cutting firewood. Mom found him late that evening after he didn’t return for dinner. I was four. I vaguely remember him. Mom said I must have blocked him from my mind because I should remember him more than I do. Maybe so.

But even though my father comes to me in dreams, the only face I see is the smiling one in the frame on my dresser. And now, the tree that Dad planted will appear in my dreams, too.

***

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 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 – “Our Big Old Chestnut” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is a story about a tree of (any type of) significance that is cut or falls down.

Today’s post comes from 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/

***

Our big old Chestnut by Phil Yeats

 

I checked the caller ID after my phone chirped. “Hey Sis, what’s up?”

“Damn tree, it’s broken another window.”

I sighed, unsurprised by the abrupt announcement without as much as a hello, how are you. That’s how our minimally communicative family behaved.

“The old chestnut, I suppose.”

She snorted. “What else. It’s old, rotting, and too damned close to the house. A bloody limb broke off, but Mum won’t let us cut it down.”

I checked my appointment calendar. “Two meetings this morning that I can’t avoid. I’ll head out as soon as I’m clear.”

“Here between five and six?”

“Looks like it.”

 

At one, I left the city that had been my home for two decades to the town where I lived as a teenager. My formative years hadn’t been easy ones. We lived in an isolated off-the-grid house that complicated most activities, but the real problem was my father’s strange beliefs.

He’d sit for hours reading his bible but didn’t attend church. We didn’t belong to any known Christian congregation, but he based his life on the insights he gained from his readings.

He never tried to influence me, or expect us to follow his example, but it made us different, outcasts from society. I followed my own muse until my eighteenth birthday. On that morning, my almost non-existent father announced that his bible reading taught him it was my duty as his son to leave home and never return. He didn’t just kick me out. He provided a substantial nest egg that would, in his view, provide for the college education I needed to find my calling.

And what about my mother, you might ask? She was an enigma, seen but seldom heard, and never known to express an opinion. And my little sister? She was only twelve when I left.

Ten years later, I returned to the family home. My father had died, and I thought my mother and sister, now twenty-three and living at home, would need me.

My first homecoming was a strange event. Mother didn’t acknowledge my presence and my sister appeared incapable of dealing with the bizarre situation. But we made contact, and she eventually learned to approach me when dealing with our mother become too difficult.

 

This time, I bought a new window pane at the nearest glass shop the evening I arrived. In the morning, I climbed the tree and removed the broken limb. I discovered our chestnut was beyond hope, so soft a screwdriver sunk in to its hilt.

After installing the window pane, I found my sister tidying the already spotless kitchen. “You’re right about the tree. It’s unsafe, it must go.”

“But Mum won’t agree. It’s her house, she pays for everything and well, she makes all the decisions.”

I sighed, dreading the confrontation I couldn’t avoid. I’d been home two or three times a year in the decade since my initial return after my father died. During those trips, she never appeared. If I needed to discuss something, I visited her private sitting room. The meetings never went well.

 

“Come in Jacob,” she said when I knocked on her door. I was taken aback because she didn’t bark in her normal fashion. In fact, she sounded almost pleased to welcome me.

“Come stand by the window,” she added when I hesitated inside the door. “I watched you trying to repair our old chestnut. You’re here to tell me it must go.”

I nodded, and she continued before I said anything. “I remember watching with trepidation as you climbed into the highest branches, and Margaret with her dolls in the shade below. She was so timid, afraid to climb to the lowest branch. They’re among my few fond memories.”

She abandoned the window and strode to the door. “I assume you and Margaret will dine before you return to the city. Tell her I’ll join you.”

I stepped through the door. “And she should contact the arborist before that sickly old tree does any additional damage.”

***

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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