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The Spot Writers – “Spirit Animal” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about something summery. Today’s piece comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series with several other books in the works. Check out her blog for news about upcoming releases at www.valmuller.com/blog.

“Spirit Animal” by Val Muller

It was the summer without vacations. Two of them cancelled already, and the re-rescheduled one for August not looking good, either. And with Benny being quarantined from friends, it was looking to be a summer to blemish the memory.

I kept thinking of my own summers, the freedom I had to bike with friends, to live outside until Mom called me in for dinner, to build secret campfires and clubhouses out of scrap wood. At seven, Benny was maybe a little too young to do all that on his own, especially without help. Our previous decision to cap the kid count at one seemed like a bad idea this summer. How much better might things be with a little brother?

Instead, it was up to me and Helen to make up for the global pandemic in Benny’s small world. Helen was doing her best, balancing work-from-home with summertime fun. And I’ve basically been on conference calls for the last ten weeks. I came out of the office for a coffee and I saw Benny there, looking dejected. On the most beautiful day in June, just sitting there on the steps staring at the carpet.

So for the holiday weekend, I knew I had to repair Benny’s summer.

We were watching a cartoon, something about spirit animals. Benny asked what that was, and that’s when I decided. “We’re going camping,” I said. “We’re going on a quest to find your spirit animal.”

“Camping?” Helen rose an eyebrow from the kitchen, where she was making dinner. “Where?”

With social distancing, I wasn’t sure campgrounds were even open. Benny looked at me expectantly. I opened my mouth and hoped for the best. “In the back yard, of course!”

So down to the basement I went, searching for my old gear. My tent, the sleeping bags. “It’s a two-man tent,” I reminded Helen, thinking back to our camping days.

“That’s okay,” she said with a little too much relief. “You boys have fun. I’m sure I’ll be okay having the house to myself for a night.”

That night, I remembered why grown-ups don’t camp so much. The humidity, the mosquitos. And, of course, the loss of that “I’m invincible” feeling of childhood and adolescence. Every rustling in the bushes on our three-acre lot, I wondered about our safety. Would a fox attack? Would they smell dinner on our breaths? And what about the bear everyone was posting about on the neighborhood Facebook page? At night, he owned the neighborhood. Even the coyote being tracked down the road would defer to the bear, I’m sure.

“What do we do now, Dad?” Benny asked. He sat on the sleeping bag in the tent, looking at me expectantly. He seemed so little, so young. I rustled his hair and gave him a hug. Sometimes I forget how much of a kid he still is.

“We should go out of the tent,” I said. “We need to find your spirit animal.” I smacked my arm. “And unless your spirit animal is a mosquito, we aren’t going to find it in here.”

“How do we find my spirit animal?”

I glanced inside at the warm glow of the television. Helen was finding her own spirit animal, no doubt. I didn’t know how to answer. I was winging this. I don’t honestly know what a spirit animal is. I’ve never had one of my own. I think it’s supposed to be some kind of vision quest or something. Not something I’m qualified for, really.

“I think a spirit animal has some qualities that you share with it. Something deep down inside of you. It’s powerful,” I hoped aloud.

“How will I know what mine is?” Benny asked.

“When you see it, you’ll know.”

We lit a small fire in the portable hibachi grill. We roasted marshmallows, and I wondered what kind of animals liked marshmallows. While we ate, a small brown toad hopped onto the patio nearby, perching on a damp spot.

“Is that my spirit animal?” Benny asked.

“A toad?” I glanced at its brown, warty surface. “I don’t think so, son. Do you like to eat flies?”

He laughed. “No, Dad, I guess not.”

We waited. In the distance, the crickets chirped, and some nocturnal bird warbled. Late-lingering fireflies blinked under the trees. An owl hooted.

“Am I a cricket?” he asked, moving his arms like a praying mantis.

We both laughed.

“I think you have to see your animal to know it,” I said. I looked at the toad again and wondered if that was my spirit animal. Just kind of sitting there. Being useless except for eating bugs. Maybe it would be good at conference calls. I shivered and shook my head. No. This was not my quest for a spirit animal. Tonight belonged to Benny.

I wondered what kind of young man he would be, what kind of man he would grow into. He was so young, so sheltered. What was this year in quarantine doing to him? Would he know how to socialize? Would he trust others, or be governed by paranoid fear? Would he follow what he was told without question? Would his basis for human interactions be movies? Cartoons where characters go on vision quests to find their spirit animal?

Was I a failure of a father?

At the end of our property, two eyes glowed.

“A fox,” I whispered.

Benny gasped and whispered to me. “Cool, but it’s not my spirit animal.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I just do,” he said.

We went to sleep that night without an answer to his spirit animal quandary. I woke in the middle of the night to the feeling that something was wrong. My first instinct was to check on Benny. He slept soundly next to me. I dashed to the house to peek in the living room window. Helen was sleeping on the couch, the TV still glowing, an empty wine glass on the table next to her. The glow from the house lights illuminated the camping area in an even twilight, and I turned to inspect the yard.

The humidity was stifling, but still I shivered. Something was off.

I turned around, and that’s when I saw it. The bear, the one everyone had been spotting. So far the neighbors had posted a picture from someone’s bedroom window, far-off and grainy; a picture of its muddy paw prints crossing the road; and several shots of its scat around the neighborhood.

This one was within striking range of me. It was brown—smaller than I thought it would be, but still a terrifying size, one that could tear apart dog or boy or man. And it was sniffing around Benny’s tent.

It’s a parents’ worst dilemma. Being useless to help your child.

I could have easily walked into the house to safety. But the bear was right next to Benny. I thought back to all the documentaries I must have watched, and I realized I knew nothing about bears. I thought I remembered that they like to leave people alone, that they are non-aggressive. But was I supposed to freeze? Play dead? One kind of bear, you’re supposed to raise your arms in the air menacingly to make yourself look bigger, I think.

And in the midst of my son’s life being threatened, I had the awful thought that my phone was in the tent, so there’s no way I could capture what would have been an amazing shot.

In an awful moment, the bear rose on two feet, sniffed the top of the tent, and let out a small groan, a grunt. What was it saying? Was the bear saying “Grace,” pre-dinner? And Benny the main course?

My mind raced with how I would tell Helen. It was then that I decided. I would scream. I would distract the bear and let it chase me. Maybe I would die, but that’s what parents were supposed to do for their children.

Something held my tongue. The bear turned to stare at me. Our eyes locked for an eternity. Stars lived and died. Planets crumbled.

I knew then I was looking at Benny’s spirit animal. Gentle, unprovoked, but with terrifying power beneath.

The bear grunted once, then lowered itself and walked nonchalantly back into the shadows of the yard. I knew Benny would be okay. Tonight and always.

I carried him inside a moment later, though, just to be safe. We slept on the floor next to Helen and her empty bottle of wine. I decided in the morning I wouldn’t tell Benny about the bear just yet. He would discover his power in his own time. For now, I’d let him be a little boy.

***

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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The Spot Writers – “The Man in the Detective Hat” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “someone always wears the same hat because of some secret and/or mysterious reason”.

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 Man in the Detective Hat by Chiara De Giorgi

As a child, I was often alone. Alone, but not lonely. In fact, I would spend hours playing outside with my imaginary friend. At least, I think he was imaginary… I’m not sure of anything anymore, these days. Reveries and reality overlap and leave me baffled and wondering.

Who was that guy I spent hours and hours with, exploring, pondering, looking for meaningful answers? And why was he always wearing a hat? I remember wanting to ask him to take it off, but I never dared.

Now, what was his name again? Did he have a name? If he was an imaginary friend, he might not have had a name, unless I gave him one. Did I give him a name? Maybe not. It wasn’t necessary after all. I would walk, climb a tree, swim in the lake, ride my bike in the woods… and he would be there with me, always ready to talk, explain, ask poignant questions. But never giving answers, now that I think of it.

I had to understand everything all by myself, he just helped me reason, find the answers to my own riddles.

Maybe that’s why I never asked him why he never took off his hat. It was a funny detective hat, but it wasn’t funny on him. Hey, what if he was a detective for real? What if he was investigating my family, what if he wanted to frame me or my parents for some terrible deed? I sure hope he was my imaginary friend, and not some real detective.

What’s that thing in the corner of my closet? Wait, is that… Oh, my. It’s a detective hat! How peculiar! What is it doing here? I don’t remember ever having one. It looks… It looks exactly the same as my childhood imaginary friend’s. Now, if this were his hat, it would mean he took it off, he he he. I wonder… How would I look in it? I’ll put it on and look at myself in the mirror. There.

Goodness! I look like him! Same height, same body structure, same complexion – pale and a bit rough. Even the same expression in the eyes, thoughtful and wise.

Oh, gosh. That was unexpected.

I am the man in the detective hat. I know, now, why I can never take it off. Look what happened when I did. No, you don’t want to know, trust me. Just forget you ever met me. And should you find a detective hat laying around somewhere, please leave it there. Don’t ask questions, just close your eyes and quietly go away. Some mysteries are supposed to stay unsolved, some questions need to remain unanswered forever.

***

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 – “Hatless” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about someone who always wears the same hat for some secret and/or mysterious reason.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Find out more at www.corgicapers.com.

***

“Hatless” by Val Muller

I hate the cold. Absolutely hate it. Nome, Alaska? Not exactly tropical. You’re not allowed to complain about the cold until you’ve wintered in Alaska.

What I wouldn’t give to get out of here.

Sitting here in my car, heat blasting, I wonder: Am I really going to leave? I’ve got a security deposit, but it’s kind of like chewing off your arm in desperation, right? Just leave that and run. Heck, the landlord deserves that bonus. Never going to find a new tenant in the middle of this Ice Age.

But part of me thinks I’m crazy for doing this. A plane ticket and two suitcases. And that’s it. Just fly somewhere tropical and start over.

Crazy.

But crazier than moving to the coldest town I could find as soon as I came of age?

I pull my hat lower and grab the door handle. I could just as easily walk back into my apartment. Status quo is easiest. And the cost of leaving this ice prison is a high one. Even though I hate the cold, there’s something about your own bed, your own clothes. Am I really just going to leave it all?

I pull the hat away just for a moment and cringe as I look in the rearview mirror. This is what everyone will see. This will be their first impression—everyone’s first impression—for all eternity. I’m not sure which is worse, the ones that try to ignore the scar but just end up staring at it, or the ones who ask about it outright. You’re not allowed to complain about fitting in until you’ve lived with this kind of atrocity etched into your face by your own father.

But 30 hit hard. On the way to work, glancing in the mirror, I wondered: am I really going to wear this hat forever? Am I really prepared to hide from this scar for the rest of my life? To the extent that I will remain in self-inflicted exile? For what? To wait for death?

Really.

And then I saw it on TV. A commercial for a cruise line. Those palm trees, the warmth of the sun on those bronzed bodies. What I wouldn’t give to live there. I think once I knew what warm sunlight felt on the skin. It’s like a nearly-forgotten dream.

But they don’t wear winter hats in the tropics. Everyone I meet will ask me about the scar. And then I’ll have to get into it: the alcohol, the abuse, the countless foster homes, the point of life being simply to survive. And then I’ll endure the pity, the embarrassment for having asked.

I cut the engine and pull the hat back on. Jingle the keys. Take a step toward my apartment. And then a demonic gust comes out of the north and chills my soul. So I hurry back to the car, turn on the engine, and gun it toward the airport.

***

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 – “Unfinished Business and New Beginnings” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “unfinished business.”

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.

***

Unfinished Business & New Beginnings

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

Dear New Year,

May you be happy!

I don’t have any promises for you. I don’t have any propositions or resolutions either. What I do have, is a bunch of unfinished business from last years. All the things I decided to do or be in the past few years… I’ve been slowly working my way through them.

First example is a classic: the gym. My subscription is almost two years old, now. For a while I go three times a week, then I skip three months in a row, then I start going again. Every time I tell myself that what’s important is not the times I stop, but the times I start over. Quite silently – not to brag – I’ve managed to go once a week for the past four months now. Granted, once a week is not that much, but it’s once a week more often than I did the previous months. My goal: keep up with the good habit!

Another, related, topic is diet, or better: nutrition. Same story as the gym: I manage to cook and eat healthy food for a while, then do a cheat day, which becomes a cheat week, then a cheat month, and we’re back to square one. What I noticed, though, is that the “cheating times” have been getting shorter, although more frequent. As a result, I ended Old Year with less pounds on myself than I had at the beginning. If all goes well, when you’re finished I’ll be even slimmer.

(Excuse me while I bite into this chocolate bar. It’s been lying around since Christmas: another unfinished business from last year!)

I’m finally getting the language certification I started studying for years ago.

What else? Getting to the bottom of my TBR list seems a bit far-fetched, so I won’t even mention it. I could get to the bottom of this unfinished bottle of wine- easily done!

So, see: picking up the trail of my unfinished business from last years is the way to go. For the rest, I’ll just try to take one month at a time, tasting each moment, feeling alive.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

+++

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

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The Spot Writers – “New Year’s Resolution” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “unfinished business.”

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. Last December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

***

New Year’s Resolution by Phil Yeats

In our staff break room on January second, four years ago, I announced that I would finish my novel by year’s end. On the following January second when I entered the break room for my morning coffee, I received a lot of flack with several people commenting about unfinished business. Their voices dripped with false sincerity as they asked when I’d have my earth-shattering novel finished.

It was my fault. I was far too vociferous when I announced my resolution the previous January. I waxed poetic about the book and insisted timely completion was critical.

The comments were even more pointed during the next two years, but today, as I approached the break room on the morning of January second, I had everything under control. I came in early, took my coffee to a prominent table, and tucked my carrier bag underneath.

My colleagues filed in, collected their coffee or tea, and the first group approached my table.

“How goes it with the never-ending battle with your literary muse?” my chief tormentor asked. He swept his arm around the room. “You really must get it finished. We’d all buy copies.”

I smiled sweetly, reached into my bag and pulled out a copy. “Hot off the press, and for you, a special price, twelve dollars.”

They all came forward and meekly purchased their copies. I didn’t leave the break room until I’d sold all the copies I brought with me.

Back in my office, I counted my ill-gotten earnings, two hundred and sixteen dollars., The libations after my seven-thirty draw at the curling club that evening would be next. And after choir practice on Thursday evenings, we always went to the pub. My friends in both places had been just as dismissive of my chances of finishing the book as my work colleagues. After they’d succumbed to their guilt and bought a book, I’d have sold the fifty copies I ordered.

Who suggested selling books was difficult?

***

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 Beginnings” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “unfinished business.”

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. MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, coming soon!

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

***

New Beginnings by Cathy MacKenzie

“We need to go,” Tim said. “Now.”

Lisa glanced up at her boyfriend. “Right now?”

“Yes. It’s time.”

“But I’m not ready.”

“Well, get ready.”

Five minutes later, Lisa appeared from the bedroom. “Do I look okay?”

Tim smiled. “You look gorgeous. As always. But it’s dark. No one’s gonna see you.” He snatched his car keys from the hook.  “Doesn’t matter. Let’s go.”

Half an hour later, Tim parked the car by the wrought iron fence, and they walked to the gate.

“I’m not sure I can do this,” Lisa said, gripping his hand.

Tim glanced over. “Sure you can. No one will know.”

“But…”

It was his turn to grip her hand. “It’s okay. I gotta do this.” He flicked open the trunk and withdrew the shovel.

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, quit asking.” He scanned the area. “It’s late. And dark. There’s no one here.”

The full moon illuminated the cemetery, highlighting grey pillars reaching to Heaven.  Some short and squat. Others tall and skinny. Mark had been skinny. He took after his father.

She gulped in a great breath, surprised the air was so fresh. What had she expected? The smell of death? Decay? Decomposition? Perhaps. Except they were several yards from the first row of graves, and the death smell couldn’t travel that far, could it? And those nearest gravesites were old, from the 1800s. The most recent were at the back. Any odour should be long gone after that many years. She shook her head. Quite being so silly, she admonished herself. She’d frequented the cemetery previously. No smell existed.

Tim slammed down the trunk lid.

“Sssh, quiet,” she whispered. “Someone might be around.”

“Look around.” He spread his arms. “No one’s here.”

“Could be someone behind the bushes. Or in the trees.”

“Hush, woman. There’s no one.”

She leaned into him. Inhaling his cologne. Gentleman Musk. She had bought it for his birthday the previous month. She took another deep breath. Fall, her favourite season, was in the air. Cooler temperatures always arrived mid-August. She’d miss that tell-tale sign if she left, and she hated the thought of leaving Halifax and moving a thousand kilometres away.

Tim was adamant he must finish what he’d started.  But what had he started? A new life nineteen years previously? Sex. That’s all it was. But, they’d been married, so it was more than sex. Their life together was to have lasted forever. A match made in Heaven. All that jazz. But was anything forever?

“Unfinished business,” he’d said. “It needs to be done.”

Unfinished business. Ironic. Not even the new year, but it was as if he must make a fresh start. New city. New job. Cut ties with family.

But he—they—couldn’t leave without Mark. He had to go, too.

They walked the rest of the way in silence.

“Here,” she whispered. “Here he is.”

Tim thrust the shovel into the soil. They hadn’t buried the urn as deeply as she’d expected. Perhaps Tim had known his son would be unearthed. That this wasn’t his final resting place.

Tears cascaded down her cheeks. This was wrong. But she kept her thoughts to herself. Wouldn’t do to upset Tim, and the task was undeniably harder for him. Mark was his flesh and blood, not hers. His son. She hadn’t had children. Discovered during her first marriage that she couldn’t conceive.

Tim had changed since Mark’s death. Not yet six months since he died. And when Tim got the transfer, he pretended he didn’t want it, but she knew differently. She hadn’t wanted to leave with him although he had expected her to jump for joy and obey, as usual. She had been so done with him numerous times but kept going back. “Give me a bit of time,” she had said. “I’ll come later.” He hadn’t been happy, but he didn’t argue as much as she had expected. Secretly, she was glad. It was her way out of their relationship.

She clutched his arm. She did love him. At that moment, anyhow. Felt his anguish. But any love she’d had for him over the past year of their time together had slowly vanished. “You okay?”

“Yep. Almost done.”

The moon shone on the silver lid half buried in the soil. She teared. Such an untimely death. But was any death timely?

He reached down for the urn. He brushed away the dirt and grasped it to his chest. “He’s back.” He smiled. “I have him back.”

“Janine won’t be happy.” Her heart thumped. She should have kept her mouth shut.

“She won’t know. She’ll never know.” He set Mark on the ground, picked up the shovel, and tossed dirt haphazardly into the hole.

What would Mark think? Would he be happy to be removed? To be taken kilometres away to a strange place? And Janine. She’d never liked Janine, Mark’s mother, Tim’s ex-wife. But the woman grieved as any mother would and faithfully visited him. Was it fair to let her sit with him, talk to him, mourn over him? Kneel by an empty hole?

“Tim, no. We can’t do this.”

“What?”

“This. What about Janine?”

“To hell with Janine. He’s my son, too.”

“But…”

He walked to the edge of the cemetery and threw the shovel into the woods. When he returned, he picked up his son. “You with me, or what?”

“Yeah, but…” She eyed the woods. What would happen when someone found the shovel? And the grave. So obviously disturbed.

Disturbed.

Her boyfriend looked as disturbed as the grave. A madman shedding tears.

“I’m going. You come or not,” he said.

She stood, rooted like the trees bordering the cemetery. She couldn’t do it. Couldn’t walk away with stolen ashes. Mark deserved to be left in peace. Dead or alive, his mother deserved her son. The thought of her coming to his grave, not knowing it was empty—no, she couldn’t be a part of this.

He turned. “Well…”

“No, I—”

“Fine. Stay. I’m going.”

They hadn’t been happy the past few months. It was more than Mark’s death. Simple life getting away from them, and she deserved more. She hadn’t given notice—to her employer or her landlord. Perhaps she had known all along she wasn’t going to leave with him.

She raced to the woods and picked up the shovel. Tim was still visible in the dim light. She could easily catch up.

He was unaware she’d crept up behind him. She held the shovel above her head, and the scene played out in slow motion: Tim dropping the urn, Mark hitting the ground and his ashes scattering like lime, Tim falling…dead…

The shovel felt weightless in her hand. She lowered her arm.

She couldn’t do it.

“Tim, we should take the shovel with us. Your fingerprints are on it.” And now mine, she thought.

Tim turned. “What?”

“The shovel.”

“Yeah, okay.”

 New beginnings, she thought. Now that Tim’s finished his unfinished business.

***

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 – “Dinner with Mrs. Claus” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to title the story “Dinner with Mrs. Claus.”

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.

***

Dinner with Mrs. Claus by Chiara De Giorgi

Hello, and welcome! Please, come on in, help yourself to some mulled wine. Excuse me if I don’t sit with you, I still have some preparations to do.

You know, it’s just once a year that I have the family reunited under this old roof, and I want everything to be perfect. It’s a lot of work, of course it is, but I love this time of the year. The smell of roasted almonds and sugar; the sound of the wood crackling in the fireplace; the whole world outside, silenced by a thick blanket of snow; the balls of colored yarn, chased by the cat before I knit happy Christmas sweaters… They indulge me and they all wear theirs – I know they’re too funny to be fashionable, but it’s a sweet kind of fun, it tastes like tradition and love – it tastes like family.

Christmas is all about family, after all, isn’t it?

I love it when Mr. Claus returns from his trip and we all cheer, then we sit and have dinner together. We chat, we laugh, we exchange tales, small presents and hugs… now, that is Christmas!

Pinocchio always has lots of adventures to tell, honestly, that boy! He’s always up to something, and the three little pigs are constantly giving him ideas! And the girls! I swear they get prettier every year. Last Christmas Cinderella had dyed her hair blue and you couldn’t believe how lovely she looked! Prince Charming was stuck in the traffic, so Snow White borrowed the seven-league boots from Puss in Boots – he was already drunk, you see – and was there and back with the poor prince in a matter of minutes. Between the boots and my Christmas sweater, she looked a bit like a scarecrow, but adorable nonetheless.

Pass me those napkins, would you? I want everything to be perfect, although I know that nobody would mind if we ate cookie dough out of the bowl. Oh, the fun we have! It’s such a wonderful, festive time, it gives me such a boost! I swear it’s better than a pot of coffee, he he he. I cherish the memories for months, I wrap myself up in them as if in a warm blanket.

It will be good for you to be with us this year, you’ll see. Please, invite whomever you wish, from whatever realm: everybody is welcome. On Christmas night, you can be with your loved ones and keep them in your heart for as long as you want. Oh, don’t ask me how. You know how. It’s magic. It’s love. Aren’t those the same thing, in the end?

***

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 – “Consignment Sale Santa” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “Dinner with Mrs. Claus.” Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Find out more at www.CorgiCapers.com. Val, who usually writes by hand, is currently typing this tale with a wrist brace because of… well, you’ll have to read the story to find out. This one’s based on truth, or at least it starts that way.

***

“Consignment Sale Santa” by Val Muller

Molly

This was the scariest Santa there ever was. Mommy used the term “aggressive,” which she says means someone who acts like Charlie at school. No one likes Charlie.

So there I was playing with a dollhouse at the cob-sigh-mint sale when Santa comes down the aisle between boy clothes and costumes, shouting “Ho, ho, ho.” He walked slow, like the robot at Martin’s that tries to come get you. I don’t like the robot at Martin’s probably more than I don’t like Charlie.

They’re both aggressive.

He saw me right away, even though there was other kids playing, too. He came right over, slapped me on the shoulder and said “Ho, ho, ho” again, like he was a robot and that was the only thing he was built to say.

I did what any kid would do. I jumped onto my mom. Moms protect you from anything.

Mom

Like when you try to give a cat a bath. That’s the only way I can describe it. When that Santa came down the aisle, Molly spontaneously developed physical prowess and coordination that defied the laws of gravity and physics. She jumped up at me, expecting me to catch her.

I always thought that moms need about eight arms, and today spoke to that certainly. This “Santa” they had looked impressive. I think his beard was the real deal. He sure looked the part. Old, but in a timeless way. Energetic, but controlled. He was practically perfect for the role, except he seemed to have let it get to his head. He walked in like he owned the place, slapping kids on the shoulders and spouting out holly-jolly from both sides of his—

Anyway.

I’ve never heard a “ho, ho, ho” louder than what came out of his mouth. No concept of Indoor Voice whatsoever. When he came over to Molly, I knew we were in for something. He singled her out, as if he were one of those hounds that smells fear. “Little girl, I’m headed over to that chair for any children who want pictures with me.”

I was holding three toys in my left arm and looking at a doll that I was holding in my right. Things were going unusually well, me finding great deals on consignment toys for Molly and her cousins. When she jumped up at me like that, motherly instinct kicked in. I dropped the doll and caught Molly while simultaneously catching the doll in my left hand and balancing the three other toys in my grasp.

Really, it was amazing. I deserve a trophy.

But the brunt of Molly’s thirty-something pounds landed smack in the palm of my hand. None of it supported by my arm. Pretty sure wrists aren’t made to support that kind of surprise. I managed long enough to get a picture—after much hemming and hawing and torment on Molly’s part—of Molly sitting with Santa. Not on Santa’s lap, mind you. And who could blame her?

No, Molly was sitting on the lap of Mrs. Claus. The saintly woman accompanied Santa, giving apologetic looks to the customers every time Santa’s cheer was a little too jolly. Her look told me immediately they were married in real life and she was kind of just along for the ride.

It was nice what she did, though.

Mrs. Claus

When I saw that poor woman with the little girl, I knew I had to help. I saw the exact moment her wrist gave out. Saw it in her eyes. Her girl jumped up into her arms like a cat avoiding a bath. Poor lady didn’t realize what had happened, though. She was too focused on protecting her daughter from the traumas of my husband.

James means well, but my if he isn’t just a bit too eager to play the most emphatic Santa you’ve ever seen. James shaves his beard exactly one day each year. January 1. Out with the old, in with the new. Then that maniac starts growing it again so it’ll be long and impressive by the following November, just in time for him to play Santa.

I can’t tell you how many children he’s scared over the years. “Santa has to be confident,” he always tells me. “You don’t run a toy empire being polite.” I never intended to play Mrs. Claus. Sure, they pay extra for two instead of one, but it’s not about the money. I’m the protector of children. When they’re afraid of James, they’ll sit on my lap for pictures. I have a calming presence. Always have.

Which is why I stepped in and offered to drive that Mom and her daughter to the hospital. It was clear she needed that wrist looked at. I saw her wince in pain simply pushing the camera button on her phone. That’s no minor sprain.

But of course, an injured wrist is no emergency, and the wait at the ER was going to be long. She insisted I just drop her off and leave. She’d take a taxi home. But that poor woman would eat up all her consignment sale savings paying for a taxi. Better to spend that money on gifts for the kids. I had time, I told her. I’d wait.

But a three-year-old doesn’t know the meaning of the word. We tried reading to her, letting her watch the small TV screen in the waiting room, lettering her play with the tiny assortment of waiting room toys. But she wasn’t having it. And the Mom looked so miserable. The pain was taking its toll.

So I did what any Mrs. Claus would have done. I offered to take that little girl to the McDonald’s across the street.

“There’ s a playground too,” I told her mom. “That’ll tire her out.”

The mom looked at me thankfully, completely trusting. This would be her Christmas gift.

Molly

Mommy got a new brace for Christmas. It’s super cool. It makes her wrist look like the Incredible Hulk. She said Santa gave it to her, but I think it was Mrs. Claus. She’s the one who took me to McDonalds, and then brought me back to Mom after I fell asleep on the playground slide.

Did you know Mrs. Claus has superpowers? She went up to the counter and got the nice lady to give me all the different Happy Meal toys. So now I have one of each. A complete set! All the kids at school will want to see them. And they’ll be so surprised to hear I ate dinner with the real Mrs. Claus. She answered all my questions about elves and reindeer. Did you know elves drink sugar water, like hummingbirds? And reindeer can only fly when it gets super cold.

I’ll let all the kids at school have a turn playing with these toys.

All the kids except Charlie.

***

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 – “Shut Up and Listen to Me” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use the following words or images in a story: whirlwind of leaves, wizened old man, lonely call of an owl, crackling fire.

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.

***

Shut Up and Listen to Me” by Chiara De Giorgi

Now, just because I’m a wizened old man it doesn’t mean I can’t tell a story. Oh, the stories I can tell! Sit here with me by this crackling fire, and listen.

Do you know I’ve met a fairy? She actually lived inside my pocket for a good while. She wasn’t beautiful, on the contrary. She was pretty ugly, in fact. She had a fat, crooked nose, and eyes the size of a pinpoint. She also did not smell good. But she had stories to tell that I could in turn tell others, so here I am.

When she wanted me to listen to her, she called me. The sound she made was like the lonely call of an owl. A great sadness came over me as soon as I heard it, and it didn’t leave me unless I listened to the fairy’s tale. She would tell me of huge monsters, bloody and truculent wars, terrifying calamities. She would scare me to death, and soon afterwards she’d tell me about graceful creatures, acts of extreme courage, unbounded love. It was an emotional roller-coaster, but I was addicted to it.

One day she left me forever, in a whirlwind of leaves. I begged her not to go, but she wouldn’t listen. I was devastated, but at last I found a way to survive: I tell the stories she taught me. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy.

So, you see, my encounter with the fairy was both blessing and curse. It was a blessing, because she was a magical creature who freely gifted me with her magic. At the same time, though, it was a curse, because I’m compelled to revive her memories over and over again in order to stay sane.

Will you therefore please just shut up and listen to me?

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

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The Spot Writers – “Werner’s Syndrome” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use the following words or images in a story: whirlwind of leaves, wizened old man, lonely call of an owl, crackling fire.

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. Last December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

***

Werner’s Syndrome by Phil Yeats

The wizened old man gazed, as he did most mornings, at the world outside his woodland cabin. A whirlwind of colourful autumn leaves swirled past his window, and his trusty friend, an old owl, stared as immobile as a statue from a nearby tree limb.

He’d learned when only thirteen that he would never be normal. Stunted growth, arthritis, and cataracts already dominated his life. Operations to replace the cataracts with plastic lenses improved his vision, but the other signs of aging marched on relentlessly. His life expectancy at thirty-two was measured in years, not decades.

After breakfast, he split logs for his evening fire. His only strenuous activity; he had to accomplish it in the morning when his strength was greatest.

Half an hour later, he set the chunks of split firewood and kindling beside his hearth and positioned his easel in the brightest part of his woodland cabin. Drawing was his life, his only solace from the cruel fate nature bestowed on him.

He spent the morning generating illustrations for a children’s book. At noon, he set them aside and turned his attention to his private drawings, therapeutic ones that kept him sane.

The young woman from the publishing house arrived in mid-afternoon. She studied each of the drawings he’d set aside. “Perfect,” she said when she arrived at the last one. “We never reject any. You wouldn’t believe the fights we have with our other illustrators.”

He picked up the manuscript she’d given him when he received the commission. “Don’t see what’s so difficult. You read the book and draw the images it generates.”

She smiled as she strolled to his easel. “What have we here?”

“Images from my imaginary life.”

She shook her head. “A naked woman like a model from a figure drawing class and two tykes dressed like they could be from that book.”

He took the sheet, tore it from top to bottom, and handed her the pieces. “There you go, two separate drawings.”

She handed them back. “I must go, get your drawings to the office before quitting time. New manuscript that’ll be perfect for you arrived this week. I’ll get it to you once the editor decides.” She smiled, nodding toward the drawings in his hand. “In the meantime, I’d pay for a drawing of me in a pose like that one.”

“I’d need photos to work from.”

She skipped out. “Watch your inbox. I might do it.”

Darkness fell upon his woodland glade as he prepared his evening meal. Afterwards, he lit the fire he’d laid that morning. When it was crackling nicely, the lonely call of an owl, perhaps the one he’d seen perched in his tree, pierced the quiet night. He shredded his therapeutic drawings and fed the fragments into the fire.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

 

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