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The Spot Writers – “The Vampire” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. March’s prompt: How (or why) a young person decides what career (or path) to follow.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published two anthologies: OUT OF THE CAVE and TWO EYES OPEN, two collections of short stories by authors around the world, to read during the day…or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror”…more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply good reads.

TWO EYES OPEN: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

OUT OF THE CAVE (milder stories for 13+):  https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Cassandra-Williams/dp/1927529298/

***

The Vampire by Cathy MacKenzie

Nancy jumped. What was that?

The book she’d been reading, A Nightmare of Vampires, lay beside her. Had she fallen asleep? “Darn, now I’ve lost my place,” she mumbled.

She tiptoed to her bedroom door. Carefully she opened it and peeked into the hall.

Dark. Quiet. No—what was that?

A shadow. At the end of the hall.

Was that Nathan, her seventeen-year-old brother?

Once Nancy’s eyes grew accustomed to the dark, the shadow morphed into a vampire—a real life vampire. A female vampire! Heading to Nathan’s room!

She wanted to keep watching, but she was a fearful. Vampires were bad creatures. They sucked the blood out of you and where would you be then? But that’s why she wanted to be a vampire. She wanted control: control of her destiny, control of others.

She liked the look of blood, the thick red, coppery scent. She’d tasted blood previously, when she cut herself, sometimes on purpose, so she could lick her skin until she had lapped up all the red. The taste wasn’t bad, actually, but not as sweet as she had expected. She worried—if her dream to be a vampire came true—whether she’d be able to stomach strange blood. That was perverse and unnatural, wasn’t it?

But it would be fun to haunt the night, to soar through the sky—vampires did fly, didn’t they? She considered herself a people person, at least that’s what her teacher had recently said. At the time, Nancy thought “people person” was a label for yapping fools who didn’t shut up, but she later learned the connotation was desirable. People were supposed to be sociable, talkative, and interested in others. Nancy was all of those: all the requisites for a female vampire.

She hesitated. She’d love to confront the vampire in the hall and converse with it, but she snuck back to her bed.

Katherine Krimmins was an excellent writer, and Nancy immersed herself in the story again, picturing herself as Vanessa the Vampire. She was aware most vampires were male, but this was the twenty-first century. Couldn’t she be whatever she wanted?

The next morning, she met her grandmother, who was visiting for a couple of weeks, on the stairs, and told her that she wanted to be a vampire when she grew up.

Granny’s eyes grew wide. “What! A vampire? How do you know what a vampire is?”

“I know what they are. I’ve seen them.”

“You’ve seen vampires?”

“Well…just one. Last night.”

“Oh, you must have had a bad dream. A nightmare.”

“No, Granny, I saw one for sure.”

“Where?”

“It was going into Nathan’s room.” She pointed behind her. “I saw it.”

“Oh, Nancy, you silly girl.”

“No, Granny, I saw it.”

“It’s not nice to tell fibs.”

Nancy pouted. “I’m not. And that’s what I want to be when I grow up.”

Her grandmother hugged her. “Oh, sweetie, if you want to be a vampire, you can be a vampire. You can be anything you set your mind to, but you’re only twelve, so I’m sure you’ll change your mind dozens of times before then.”

Nancy relaxed. Even if her grandmother didn’t believe her tale, she had, at least, agreed she could be a vampire. Her mother, though, would have a different opinion.

“Let’s go eat breakfast,” Granny said.

They entered the kitchen. Her mother, busy at the counter, greeted them. Nathan appeared seconds later.

Nancy couldn’t help but notice his flipped-up collar. “Nathan, your collar is skewered.”

His face flushed. Up to no good, she thought.

He glared at her. “Shut up, Nancy.”

Their mother wagged her wet fingers. “Kids, behave.”

When Nathan sat at the table, his collar flipped down.

Nancy gasped and whispered to her grandmother. “Granny, see? Vampires do exist. They suck the blood outta you, just like one did to Nathan last night.”

“Sweetie, what are you talking about?” Granny asked.

She motioned toward Nathan. “Look at Nathan’s neck. See the red blotch? That’s dried blood. That’s where the vampire got him. Sometimes they don’t kill you, you know. It all depends how sharp their teeth are.” Nancy figured she’d be a good vampire. Suck up enough blood to satisfy her urge but not enough to kill.

Nathan, his face even redder, yanked up his collar. “What you guys looking at?”

Their mother growled again. “Kids, hush. Sit down, Nancy and Granny. I have eggs and bacon.”

Nancy ignored her mother and whispered to her grandmother again. “See, I told you I saw a vampire.”

Granny leaned in to her. “I believe you, sweetie. I saw the red mark. But let’s keep that our secret.” Her eyes glistened.

Was she crying?  She looked sad.

“You missing Grampie?” Nancy asked.

“I am, sweetie.”

“Sorry, Granny.”

“Life goes on. Companionship is a good thing. I think being a vampire would be a good occupation when you grow up,” she said.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “Satan’s Donuts” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story involving hunger. The hunger does not have to be literal. Today’s post comes to us from Val Muller, author of the YA novel The Girl Who Flew Away, available from Barking Rain Press or anywhere books are sold.

***

Satan’s Donuts by Val Muller

Her stomach growled even before her alarm sounded. A tired swoosh of the hand turned on the television, and the merciless Morning News came on with something warm and bubbly resounding on the screen. It was the perky and very fit, athletic, and blonde reporter Janet Simmons. She was speeding down the sidewalk—backwards, always backwards so she faced the camera—in beautiful high heels and speaking into the microphone without even sounding winded.

The camera stopped as she turned briefly, revealing her mornings destination. Simmons was known for her fun local features on the morning news. This morning, she was standing in front of the heavily advertised Satan’s Donuts.

Sally giggled. It wasn’t really called Satan’s Donuts, of course. It was called Satin Donuts. You know, because of how smooth they are when they slide down your throat. One after the next.

Not that Sally would know. She had stayed on her diet everyday for the past four months and had already shed 20 pounds. But that was the easy weight. Now, her body seemed to have reached what it believed to be ideal weight. Her doctor disagreed, encouraging her to lose the extra 10.

Satan’s Donuts happened to have its shop just four blocks from Sally’s office downtown. They had already wallpapered the mail room with flyers for free donuts to celebrate their grand opening. Several co-workers had brought in boxes over the past week, taking advantage of the BOGO offer.

At work, donuts were everywhere.

These were not regular grocery store donuts or even national franchise donuts. These were the kind that Sally could smell as soon as she walked into the office. They smelled expensive. They smelled like they were made of ingredients of higher caliber then Sally traditionally ate or cooked with. They smelled like they were worth the calories.

These Donuts were Gourmet.

And there, on the screen, sitting at the 1950s-style counter on a Satan-red and chrome stool, was Janet Simmons. Skinny and smiling in her trim pink suit. In front of her, the store owner had set a dozen donuts, lined up along the counter so that the camera could pan them slowly and excruciatingly.

The camera paused as the owner cut a small slice of each one. Kind of like a pizza. Sally watched as thin and perky Janet Simmons picked up the First Slice.

This one was a traditional Boston cream. But it made the national franchise brand look anemic. It was like a giant puff pastry. The entire donut was just about as big as Janet Simmons’ trim face. The camera panned in for a close-up. The dough looked airy and soft. The custard filling glistened in the light, and the chocolate ganache on top looked good enough to be a meal on its own.

Janet Simmons bit into her little slice and exclaimed all kinds of heavenly sounds to let the viewer know exactly what they were missing. She put down the remaining portion of her little sliver and moved on to the next donut.

Yes, she was going to sample all 12. But it was clear her producer and an eye on the clock because she started speeding up her little taste test. She hurried through the powdered jelly and committed blasphemy when she shoved a double chocolate into her mouth without truly savoring it.

She didn’t even really give the maple and bacon donut the time it deserved.

Simmons did finally pause for the birthday cake donut, a rainbow-speckled wonder that looked good enough to die for. The pink of the sprinkles perfectly matched her suit.

Sally winced. Her mouth watered. A rough calculation suggested that even with her small bites, Janet Simmons had just ingested about 500 calories worth of goodness.

That’s right, Sally had researched it. Each of those donuts topped out above 800 calories. They were a dieter’s nightmare. And they were giving Sally a headache.

Her stomach growled as the segment on TV finally came to an end. And of course a McDonald’s commercial appeared, displaying an egg and cheese sandwich magnified to take up the entire 60-inch television.

Sally turned off the TV.

Her stomach growled as she pulled on her shorts and workout shirt. She checked the weather and tied her shoes. A glance in the mirror made her smile. She lifted her shirt to check out her abs. Sure they were nothing like Janet Simmons’– all the world would know, after Janet’s little visit to the yoga studio last for last weeks’ feature—but they were defined, and they were progress.

Sally headed through the kitchen to the front door and eyed the box of chocolate protein cereal that waited for her to finish her run. That and half a banana wouldn’t even equal what Janet Simmons had eaten that morning. And that was its own kind of victory.

Sally locked her front door and pounded the sidewalk at a brisk pace. A good run, she learned, was the best way to beat the hunger, and to look just a little more like Janet Simmons.

 ***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco: www.dorothycolinco.com

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Library” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. November’s theme: write a story set in a library. This week’s post comes from Cathy MacKenzie.

Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published its second anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, a collection of sixteen stories by sixteen authors, to read during the day . . . or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror” . . . more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply a “good read.”

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

Also available: OUT OF THE CAVE, the first anthology, suitable for 13 and up:

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Stephen-Millard-ebook/dp/B01ICAWBVU/

***

The Library

“We can’t go in,” Mark said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Cos it’s locked up. And . . . your father— why would you want to?”

“Ya,” Anthony chimed in. “Why?”

I ignored them and continued walking toward the steps while my friends Mark and Anthony lagged behind. I didn’t realize they had stopped until I heard them yelling.

I turned around.

“No!” they said in unison.

I moved toward them. “If I’m okay going in, you guys should be, too.”

Mark latched onto my hand.

What male kid grabs a guy’s hand? Only Mark.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Mark said.

The three of us were fooling around after school, trying to stay out of mischief. I’d gotten into trouble recently when I stole a chocolate bar from Plum’s Grocery. Mom hadn’t seen the theft, but I gave myself away when I started munching on it before we reached the car. I should have waited until we were home, after the groceries were out of the car and I was safely in my room. Mom almost sent me back into the store to fess up and apologize, but she was cold and cranky, so she had flung her arms in the air and said she would deal with me later.

We had unconsciously veered toward the abandoned library outside of town—at least they had. I was the leader, and that’s where I wanted to go. Not sure why. To see the scene of the crime?

I didn’t want to do any more bad deeds, but the yellow police tape, which had turned a mustard colour since the last time I saw it, had been removed from the building. The front door wasn’t nailed shut and the windows weren’t boarded up, so who was to say we weren’t allowed in?

“Look. It’s just a building,” I said, pointing.

That wasn’t the case, though. The library was huge and old, monstrous like a mansion with secret passageways and strange rooms, like conservatories and ballrooms and billiard rooms.

I liked books—not that I read much—but I pretended, and the younger librarian—not the old one, Mrs. White, whose name matched her hair and gave me the willies—used to help me pick out the best books. (Years from now maybe I’ll read, when I’m ancient and crotchety like Mrs. White.)

“Come on, guys. It’ll be fun,” I said.

Not many abandoned buildings exist in our town of Prattsville. Heck, in this place, where everyone knows everyone, nothing is secret except probably in the minds of parents—like my mother, especially—who think the worse about their kids. And why not? There’s nothing for us to do except get into mischief—and worse. Nothing as bad as murder, though.

Mark dropped my hand, no doubt suddenly realizing he was clutching it.

“What do you want to do, Parker?” Anthony asked.

“Go in,” I said, without hesitation. “Let’s explore. Why did they close it anyhow?” I snickered, knowing more than them about what had taken place there shortly before it closed, but that wasn’t the reason for the closure. Just coincidence and damn progress. A bigger building, not necessarily better, on Main Street instead of at the outskirts of town.

“Dunno,” Anthony said.

Mark was silent.

“You in, Mark?” I asked.

He’d have to say yes. What else could he say? The odds were against him.

We crept to the front steps. The cool November wind picked up. Snow wasn’t in the forecast, yet I swear I saw flakes swirling through the trees flanking the building.

I was glad October was over; Halloween and all that. October was the scariest month. November denoted the start of winter. December, Christmas. One good month out of the last three of the year.

I shouldn’t be afraid. Not in November.

But I was.

And I knew why.

I shuddered.

My two friends shivered. From the cold.

They didn’t know. Not everything.

We gripped each other’s hands while walking up the steps. I pretended to be more scared than I was because that made them feel better. Plus, I didn’t want to arouse suspicion.

The double wooden doors loomed in front of us, with its two polished lion-head brass doorknobs and the tiny, grimy windows inches from the top, much too high for us to peek through.

I grabbed hold of one lion’s head, hoping it wouldn’t bite off my hand, and we walked into the monstrosity of a room. Dark, damp, dingy.

Mark produced a flashlight and swung it around.

I scanned the room. Nothing out of the ordinary. Wall-to-wall shelving and aisles of free-standing shelves. I expected to see discarded books the movers had knocked from shelves and couldn’t bother picking up. I had hoped there’d be something interesting. A best seller. A first edition. A limited edition. But, nope, no books.

Empty. But eerier with the flash of light.

And chilly and creepy, like all abandoned buildings. A surplus building waiting for the demolition crew. When would the town tear it down? What do I know? I’m just a kid, right? A stupid kid, with not enough sense to tie my shoelaces. That’s what Mom says.

I expected it to look different. I didn’t ask their opinions. As far as I knew, they hadn’t stepped inside in forever, and I doubted either had returned any books they’d checked out—had they checked out any or even read them.

I shouldn’t judge. No one can clue in what’s in others’ minds.

“Let’s keep, going,” I whispered. “Down here.”

My father had always admonished me: “Be a leader.” Look at me now, Father, I almost shouted, but he couldn’t hear, no matter how loud I shrieked. No, he would never hear me again. Mom could never again say, “Just wait until your father comes home.”

He’s been gone for almost two years now—twenty-three months, two days, six hours to be exact. Died in this very building.

I stepped four paces until I heard my friends creep behind me. Tip-toeing as if we had to be quiet and not wake spirits. Or whatever creatures slept in deserted libraries. Maybe book fairies? That’s all the rage now. Hilarious, as if fairies flit around putting books in odd places for people to find, read, and leave somewhere else for another individual. Ya, right, as if people are really gonna do that and not keep the books to fatten their shelves.

“Down here,” I said, heading to the back rooms out of the public’s view. Rooms for cleaning supplies, storage, whatnot. These items would normally be stored in a cellar, but cellars are basements, and the library had been built on a concrete slab. No cellar.

Along the way, I touched the shelving. Cold, hard metal reminding me of ornate sterling silver candlesticks.

I paused at the two small washrooms—one for men, one for women; gender neutrality was unheard of when the library had been built. Even when the building bustled with bookworms, no one made a stink about washrooms. Mom says there are three large washrooms in the new library, but I haven’t been there yet. No desire to; not anymore.

Miss Scarlet used to sashay to the female washroom. Sometimes, when no one had been about, I leaned on the door, listening to female sounds while she was inside. She was the younger of the two librarians, the prettier one, in her early twenties. Oh, so young. Much closer to my age than my mother’s. She’s the one who helped me locate books. Of course, I never read what she suggested, but I checked them out and returned them the next day, eager to see her again.

My father, apparently, was eager to see her, too, but I didn’t know that until near the end.

Scarlet. The red. So much red.

My father. Killed by one of the top metal shelving pieces, which was found alongside his body. Mrs. White found him in the back of the building, in one of the never-used rooms, shortly before the building had been vacated, after Mom thought he had abandoned us to take off with Miss Scarlet. I guess the odour got to her one day. For an old biddy, she still had her sense of smell.

Miss Scarlet is missing.

My father’s murderer has never been found.

I was careful to remove all fingerprints.

I dare you to find one clue!

***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco: www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Monster” by Val Muller

This month’s theme is “monster,” to be interpreted in any way. This week’s story comes to us from Val Muller, YA author of The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away, both discounted to $2.99 for the rest of the month.

***

Monster by Val Muller

The end of the fiscal year coincided with the chill in the air, even in the streets of Washington. It was almost like the decaying leaves piling in the country out west sent their ghostly miasma in with the commuters. That chill, that scent of decay spoke of the thinning line between living and dead, that boundary that would continue to thin as department stores threw up Jack-o-Lantern decorations and trees threw off the last of their leaves.

Something about that thinning line sent a chill into Daniella’s spine, and it froze and hardened a piece of her soul. On September 1, she’d been all smiles when Timothy asked to telework because his daughter had a sudden case of strep. On September 2, she let Marie go an hour early to check on a sick puppy. That Friday, the one before Labor Day, she told everyone to go home an hour early.

“Happy Labor Day,” coworkers chanted as they hurried down the hallway toward weekend plans.

“Happy closeout month,” she responded, her fingers tapping behind her back. “The fun begins Tuesday.”

At barbeques that weekend, employees joked with family and friends about Daniella’s demands for year-end closeout.

“At our staff meetings, she said we may have to work twelve-hour days.”

“She’s threatening to make us come in on Saturdays.”

“And Sundays.”

It was met with laughter, then forgotten as fathers played catch with sons and mothers went with daughters for a last dip in the pool.

But in a lone apartment, not a mile from the office, sat a husbandless, childless soul. Her fingers folded in a tent in front of her as she thought about the month ahead. Everyone would be working late. In her mind, there were already parades of memos, lists of funding documents, and hourly meetings. They would all have to check in with her before they left, and only at quitting time would she tell them that they had to work late.

They’d have to arrange last-minute babysitters. They’d have to miss soccer games and youth football. Mommies would have to explain to children that there were just some things more important than storytime with daddy. And daddies would have to explain to neglected children why mommy wouldn’t be there for birthday parties.

In the corner of Daniella’s darkened apartment, a blue screen glowed. It was still open from the atrocity she saw this morning on Facebook.

Jerry.

They’d had a brief fling in college, but he left her to seek “more fun, less serious.” Somehow, she always thought he’d be back. How could he choose some floozy over her rigidly-straight GPA, her list of extracurriculars, her reputation as drill sergeant of the women’s cross country team? He had made a terrible mistake. In every country music song—like the one playing on repeat from the computer, the one preventing the screen from dimming—she heard the hope and sorrow of their relationship. She knew he’d be back for her one day. His breakup had been a mistake he’d yet to realize. His marriage was something he’d been coerced into. It had always been only a matter of time. She’d waited years already and was prepared to wait more.

But now, this.

Jerry was a father.

His baby’s newborn eyes plastered all over her Facebook feed. The infant’s smile was a punch in the gut. Why, he hadn’t even posted that his wife had been pregnant! So smug, keeping that their private little secret like they were in some kind of exclusive club. And there went that. With an infant’s smile, there went her excuse, her reason to ignore the dating scene. There went her nightly fantasies, her frequent hopes that his status would turn to “single” and she’d be welcomed back into his life.

Gone.

The cold front seeped into her soul. She thought of the office, of Brittany’s baby shower and Harold’s office bachelor party. They were smug too, weren’t they? Making their plans. Having their weddings. Prioritizing their families. Not even thinking of the office, were they? Of the cold, beautiful symmetry of it all. The same 72 degrees all year. The same lighting. The same sterility. She’d bet none of them were even giving the office a second thought.

Let them all enjoy their weekend.

On Tuesday she would have them.

That Saturday she tried three new hairstyles. She went jogging and shot disgusted looks at the family of five taking up the entire sidewalk with training wheels and strollers. On Sunday she went to the salon for an impromptu haircut, but a wailing toddler and his obnoxious brother ruined the mood, and she went home with her outdated coif. On Monday she tried a new makeup regime and went shopping, but a gaggle of mothers was standing near the clearance rack, comparing toddler bedtime routines and little league scores.

With each foiled attempt, the monster grew in her soul. Her heart hardened and chilled, and she couldn’t wait for the memos that would come. She couldn’t wait to tell them about their mandatory one-hour lunches. That way, they’d be able to stay for the daily 5:00 meeting and still have half an hour to spend at her command. She’d string them along like fish, luring them with the hope of an on-time departure from the office. And she’d come in for the kill. She’d already planned the dates they’d stay late: she’d know, from the very second they set foot in the office. She couldn’t wait to walk through the cubicles, her monster feeding the anticipation that would be nearly tangible in the air. They would have no idea until her evening meeting, no idea whether they’d be dining with their families or eating out of the vending machine again. Their suffering fed her monster.

The monster’s claws emerged that week, and each memory of Jerry grew into a hardened bone, a serrated tooth, a beastly horn. During the third week, John shuffled into her office, a folded note in his hand. It was a letter from his wife, one he promised her he’d deliver. It stank of desperation, and she chewed her smile as John watched her read the list of complaints. He was like a sheepish child delivering a note to a teacher. What, did his wife own him? It was written in bubbly handwriting: Couldn’t John please come home on time? The children missed him and she was losing her mind, living like a single mother of three. Couldn’t Daniella see her way to letting him telework, from home, after the kids were in bed?

“We’re all in this together,” she said to John, her lips pouting for him. “And I’m afraid tonight is going to be a late one.”

* * *

The second Saturday in October, Daniella walked to the base of the Washington Monument. Fiscal close-out was done, and with all the free time afforded by the on-time departures from the office, she had joined an online dating service. Jerry would have to be replaced. And she had so much to offer. If only she were given the chance, she could run a household with the iron fist with which she ruled her office.

The man waiting there looked every bit as good as he did in his picture. He smiled at her, but when she smiled back something faded on his face. She knew in an instant he wouldn’t contact her for a second date.

What was it that chilled him to the prospect of a life with Daniella? Perhaps he feared her ramrod-straight work ethic, or her love of her job. Perhaps her role as Boss intimidated him. As she walked home alone and scowled at two kids screaming in a pile of leaves at the edge of a park, the chill of autumn bit under her jacket, and she shuddered. She couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he feared the monster, the one that had taken residence in her soul.

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco: http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Ombrophobous” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to the Spot Writers, bringing you your weekly dose of flash fiction. The prompt for this month: Check out these 10 fancy nature words. Choose one of the words, and make it either the title or theme of your post, and build your story around that.

This week’s story comes to us from Dorothy Colinco. She chose the word ombrophobous, meaning rain-shunning. Dorothy likes to say she has self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder, which probably influenced this writing. A lot.

***

Ombrophobous

 

The rain brings with it

thunder that begins in the sky and resounds in one’s soul,

unkind clouds that jealously block the sun’s bright reach,

an apathetic hue of gray not seen elsewhere,

a stirred cocktail of pollen, which forces its way into lungs

and makes eyes weep without feeling or reason,

burning chemicals,

evidence of humanity’s callousness and cruelty.

 

The rain takes away

the graceful spine of the delicate foxglove,

forcing it into a painful arch,

denouncing its beauty and form,

the brightly-colored chalk ground into the rough sidewalk

declaring a child’s name,

their early attempts to announce their identity

and presence in the world,

the laughter shared on a baseball diamond,

the sound of a leather connecting with wood and metal.

 

It is no wonder, then, that I do not stand in awe with my face towards the heavens with the cursed drops fall.

And those who welcome rain do so only to hide their tears,

now indistinguishable from precipitation,

though both are born of sorrow.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Dino Express” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s post comes to us from Dorothy Colinco.

This month’s prompt: These objects should appear in your story: a train, a pink post-it note, and keys. One of your characters must be an animator. One of your characters (it doesn’t have to be the animator), must share a name with a famous public figure, and this coincidence must come up in the story.

Dino Express by Dorothy Colinco

He stared at the preliminary sketches of the scaly cartoon dinosaur, one that admittedly looked too scary for a children’s show. As he transferred those images onto a digital sketch pad, he mused, not for the first or last time, how his name had once again dictated his path in life. Though the actor Jeff Goldblum starred in many films, the one most people remember is Jurassic Park, as they liked to remind him, Jeff Goldblum, the not-actor.

“This is my friend, Jeff. Jeff Goldblum, actually. Not the actor, obviously. Ha ha.”

“Let me introduce you to Jeff Goldblum. The one who wasn’t in Jurassic Park.”

He had to give them credit for finding different ways to use the same idea multiple times, kind of like the folks at the cough syrup companies, who created lots of different coughs and offered the same syrup, marketed as different blends, to treat them.

He thought about how strange it was that while he was so aware of the other Jeff’s existence, the actor had no idea about this Jeff, let alone how their lives were intertwined.

On this particular occasion, Jeff the animator for the producer Imaginext, gave the creative team, who had yet to live up to their name, a great idea. It was decided that since Jeff Goldblum shared a name with an actor on Jurassic Park, what better for him to illustrate than the very prehistoric subjects of the film? But the show couldn’t just be about now extinct dominators of the Mesozoic Era, it also had to feature locomotives. The creative idiots had looked at one graph indicating that trains were back “in” with the tots these days, so they decided to kill two birds, descendants of prehistoric reptiles, with one animated stone. Thus, Dino Express was born, and it was up to not-actor Jeff to bring it to digital life.

How was he going to pull this off? Dinosaurs didn’t exactly bring to mind inventions of the Industrial Revolution.

He needed a break. Some coffee, maybe a croissant. He usually didn’t let those flaky pastries around his sketches – grease stains were his mortal enemy – but he deserved one with chocolate oozing out as a bonus. He scanned his cluttered desk for his phone and keys. Sketches covered every square inch of the table, dotted here and there by fluorescent green and pink Post-Its where he left himself notes and comments. “Teeth are too pointed” and “no – Mickey Mouse” they said. He found his keys, and he noticed the way the metal glinted right below a stegosaurus’s neck. He slowly lowered himself onto his chair with the weight of a new idea. Once again, his name inserted itself into the narrative.

Later, he pitched the idea with the new sketches fueled by coffee and a splendid chocolate croissant.

“So,” the most creative of the creative team said, “the dinosaurs… BECOME trains?”

“Yes,” said Jeff Goldblum, “precisely.”

“But the two are separated by millions of years!” said another very creative person, as though it was Jeff’s idea to pair terrible lizzards with 19th Century transportation in the first place.

“Life,” he said, with a contemplative pause, “finds a way.”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Toddler Glory” by Val Muller

Welcome to March! This month’s Spot Writers’ prompt is to use the following words in a story: builder, chance, trophy, glory, unexpected. This month’s post comes to us from Val Muller, author of the YA novel The Man with the Crystal Ankh, a story about the power of music to tap into our subconscious side—even if it means opening our mind to the supernatural.

This month’s story, however, is inspired by a toddler, who came to mind immediately with this particular combination of words.

***

Toddler Glory by Val Muller

There’s Mom. Sitting at the This-Is-Not-For-Babies again. Tap. Tap. Tap. Those keys are so cool when Mom presses them. She’s so fast. They sound like this: TapTapTapTap. TapTapTapTapTapTappedy Tap.

They make an even funnier noise when I press them because Mom screams in between each tap. Like this: Tap. This. Is. Not. For. Babies. Tap. Tap. Tap. WaitINeedToSave! Tap. Tap. NoUndoUndoUndo! Tap. Tap. Tap. NotWithStickyHands! Tap.

See, I have to pause in between each tap for dramatic effect.

And then I usually get placed on the carpet with some crunchy snacks. Crunch. Crunch. They make a funner sound than the keys, so I eat them for a while.

But only just a while.

Because Mom is back at the This-Is-Not-For-Babies.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

Mom keeps eyeing me, like she knows what I’m thinking. I have to throw her off guard, so I pick up my Mega Blocks. I squeal and smack the blocks against each other. Then I stick two together. Mom smiles. “Good job, my lil builder,” she says.

Motor skills. They always manage to impress parents.

We make eye contact. The room is all smiles.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Her guard is down. Now is my chance. Going on two feet is suspicious, so I crawl a little bit, then sit down again. Mom raises an eyebrow. I smile and coo. I’m still holding the MegaBlock sculpture. I wave it in the air like a trophy. Nothing to see here, Mom. Nothing to see here.

She lowers her guard. Something in the other room attracts her attention, an unexpected ringing. I like the sound, but I like an unguarded This-Is-Not-For-Babies even better.

I toddle to Mommy’s table and pick up the glowy mouse that Daddy taught me how to use. Daddy is always so proud when I learn to use technology. Glowy mouse has its own sound: Click. Click. Click. The screen changes with each Click, and I squeal. Click. Boring. Click. Boring. Click. Finally, there it is. The red and white picture. Daddy calls it the “YouTube.” Mommy calls it the “Not now.”

I click click click until I see her. My hero. My love. Now I push some keys. Tap. Tap. Tap. And she starts singing.

Peppa Pig.

The familiar bars of her theme song come on just as Mommy re-enters the room. She takes one look at me and shakes her head. But it’s okay because she’s smiling. She’s smiling because she knows:

The This-Is-Not-For-Babies is for babies after all. Just like Peppa Pig. And just like everything else.

And that’s why the room is all smiles.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Punctuality” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use the following five words in a writing: marble, TV, evil, butcher, couch.

Today’s silly post comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE, horror stories for 13+. Twenty-one stories by twenty-one authors. Available on Amazon and Smashwords. Makes a GREAT Christmas gift!

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Stephen-Millard-ebook/dp/B01ICAWBVU/

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/648922

***

Punctuality

Barrett wasn’t called Barry the Butcher for nothing. He was an excellent meat carver, could name every cut and knew precisely how long to cook each to perfection. Amy, his wife, a vegetarian, wasn’t exactly impressed by her husband’s skills, and while Barrett barbecued and seared, Amy boiled and sautéed.

Their marriage was strong and loving. Every night, they’d watch TV while reclining on the couch, their bodies entwined. Barrett’s butcher shop did so well, he one day brought home a marble statue for Amy. Just a gift for my sweetie, he told her. And it wasn’t even her birthday! How nice was that?

Barrett, as precise and punctual as his wife, closed his shop at precisely 5:30 p.m. through the week and at 4:00 on Sundays, which was never a busy day. He’d spend thirty minutes cleaning up and would then head home. Barrett had timed his stride using the watch Amy had given to him on his last birthday: fifteen minutes exactly from office to home.

One Sunday at 4:02 p.m., a brush as soft as a butterfly wing caressed Amy’s face. She touched her cheek at the unusual occurrence, and warmth coursed through her body.

When the clock reached 4:46 p.m., Amy wondered where her husband was. He should have been home at 4:45. She put aside the pot of potatoes, her heart beating erratically. Where was he?

Amy decided she’d wait until seven o’clock. If he hadn’t appeared by then, she’d go look for him. In retrospect, she should have gone much earlier. He’d never been late previously without calling, so why had she waited that night?

At 5:21, while eying the clock, a cold breeze hit her face. What was that? She rubbed her arms and her heart shuddered. Barrett? Should she go or wait? No, she had resolved to wait until seven, and punctilious Amy didn’t back down from her decisions.

At 7.01 p.m., she had donned her coat and was out the door.

Barrett’s shop, both the interior and exterior, was dark when she arrived. She pounded on the locked door. He’d never given her a key, and at that moment, she wondered why that was. She walked around the building, to the back door that opened into the alley where the garbage cans were located. That door, too, as she expected, was locked.

What to do?

Was he fooling around? He had eyed Myrtle Davison, who lived two blocks over. Amy had never before seen such a look of lust in her husband’s eyes. Had he deserted her, cleaned out their savings? No, without her signature, he couldn’t withdraw more than a thousand dollars from their joint account. He could have absconded with money he’d hoarded from the shop—if he hoarded money. Barrett sometimes used the wall safe if he couldn’t reach the bank before the close of day. But no, he wouldn’t leave her, not like that. Their marriage was perfect.

Or did she live in that fictional place called Candyland where everything was sweet and delicious?

Within minutes, Amy quit her pondering and called the police. What else could she have done? Her husband was missing, after all. She must report him.

The police broke down the door of the butcher shop to find Barrett dead in a pool of blood behind the counter. The officer made a rash determination that he had severed his left arm at 4:02 p.m. because the watch, which he wore on his left wrist, had stopped at that precise moment, no doubt when the amputated limb hit the concrete floor. His heart must have stopped then, too, otherwise why hadn’t he sought help? At least that’s the quick judgement the police officer made

But Amy remembered the cold flash at 5:21 and, though she didn’t dispute the officer, knew he’d passed at that exact moment. Thinking of the cold flash brought to mind the earlier warmth that had spread through her, and she realized Barrett’s soul had touched her when he fell, telling her it was okay, that he loved her.

Amy couldn’t live with herself. Though she’d always poo-pooed women’s intuition, she should have realized something was amiss, and had she done so, she would have been out the door at 4:03 p.m. and reached her husband’s shop before 4:30. He would have been alive!

Instead, because of her inaction, he had suffered a horrible accident and passed on. Alone. In a pool of blood.

How could she have allowed such a catastrophe? Evil, evil woman, she admonished herself.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Butcher” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter, a young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic. The prompt is to write a story using the words “marble,” “TV,” “evil,” “couch,” and “butcher.”

***

The Butcher by Val Muller

Mel Buccarelli sipped her tea and eyed the stack of papers. The little bastards. Waiting til the last minute to turn in their term papers just because Professor McDougall insisted on a liberal late policy in his course syllabus.

Of course he did. Papers must be turned in at least twenty-four hours prior to the course’s final exam. Even though those papers were assigned well before Thanksgiving. It sounded great for him, for his students, for the various helicopter parents that seemed to follow their kids to college. Wouldn’t want the little cupcakes to feel too stressed out about coursework or deadlines or anything like that.

No one gave a thought to the poor teaching assistant who actually had to deal with the papers. The poor teaching assistant who now had twenty-two term papers to grade in twenty-four hours. Not to mention that she had her own final exam starting in just eight. Who scheduled 10 p.m. exams, anyway? She needed several hours to study.

It wasn’t humanly possible, was it?

If each paper took an average of forty minutes to grade—say she cut them down to thirty. Maybe if she just—no, no. She needed to study for her exam. Would Professor McDougall give her an extension? Likely not, as she had to grade the exams as well. He was always a stickler for deadlines with her—ironically.

But she couldn’t afford to piss him off. There was such a waiting list for professors in search of TAs. If she got canned, he’d have a dozen students knocking on his door seeking interviews. He’s replace her without blinking, and there would go her fellowship, her tuition payments, her stipend.

No, she had to grade these papers. Ugh. They were terrible, too. So dry. So devoid of passion. The handful of students who turned them in last month were the ones going places in life. These twenty-two slackers? Good luck to them. Why couldn’t she be like the other graduate students? Lounging on the couch, enjoying a show or two on TV, and sipping wine while reviewing notes for exams?

She tapped her red pen against her marble composition book, the one that held the exam notes she was supposed to studying. The sound of pen against cardboard invited a memory.

Her mother had been sitting at the kitchen table, grading a stack of papers with a bright red pen. The way the ink flowed as her mother wrote fascinated Mel’s fourth-grade self. The thick cursive loops looked like something a wizard might write in a spell book. It was like they held their own power. Maybe it was right, what they said about her mom. But if she did have some kind of weird talent, did she use it for good or for evil?

“Mom, someone in my class has a brother in ninth grade. I heard they call you Mrs. Butcher up at the high school.”

Her mom’s face melted into a smile, but she didn’t look up from her grading.

“Do they call you that?”

“Yes. Not to my face, but yes.”

“Why?”

Her mom scribbled on another paper before answering. “They call me that because I’m very strict with my grading.”

“Strict?”

“It’s for their own good. When you get to high school, you’ll understand. There are just some teachers you’ll have who just want you to achieve your best. So they’ll be really tough on you to make sure you do the best you can do. They won’t settle for half-effort. Understand?”

Young Mel nodded. “Like how Dad makes me go back and vacuum the car if I miss too many spots?”

Mom nodded. “Exactly like that. So that you do it better the next time. I do that with students’ papers. They call me Mrs. Butcher because they say I “butcher” their papers, leaving a bloody mess.”

Mel looked at the red ink staining the papers. It did look a little like blood, like her mom had hacked the paper to bits with her words. Mel’s little lips cracked into a smile. She hoped one day she would grow up to become a teacher.

Mel’s cheeks tingled with the smile brought on by memory. But the smile, revealing the grim reality of the ungraded stack of essays. These kids really did deserve to have their term papers ripped to shreds. They were terrible. Barely cited, horribly researched, and written without the semblance of passion. How would they learn if she just sent them through the ranks? She uncapped her red pen. It was the expensive kind, the kind filled with real liquid ink that you could see sloshing around through the little window.

The kind that looked like a vial of blood.

Mel smiled as she flipped open the next term paper. “Okay, cupcake. I hope you’re ready for a little intellectual surgery. Maybe I’ll earn my own nickname before the semester’s up.” She smiled as the ink bled across the page in wide, sweeping loops.

Just like the ones Mrs. Butcher used to make.

* * *

The Spot Writers:

Val Muller: www.valmuller.com/blog

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

Dorothy Angle

CaraMarie Christy

 

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The Spot Writers – “Drinks with Dialogue” by Tom Robson

Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s belated contribution comes from Tom Robson, author of  WRITTEN WHILE I STILL REMEMBER  and many short stories. The prompt was “the no-phone restaurant.”

***

Drinks with Dialogue

She was still talking, unaware that I had stopped fifteen yards behind her on the busy boardwalk. I turned to count the group we’d just passed, resting on the bench or BBQ picnic table or simply leaning against the stout horizontal beam that separated the walkway from the harbor waters some ten feet below.

“What are you looking at now?” was the question that interrupted my counting. My wife had backtracked to join me.

“Nineteen.” I replied and I pointed to the group who were oblivious to the attention I was paying them. I was no more than four paces away and Barb urged me to keep my voice down.

“No need!” I responded.  “Eighteen of their minds are lost to texting, talking or whatever on their devices. I bet the phone of the one there,the one in the front smoking, has died. Look at her! She’s begging her friend to let her use her phone. And that’s the only face to face communication among all nineteen. And Ms Smoker’s friend is ignoring her plea.”

“So why stop to poke your nose into their business? Let’s go. They are beginning to notice your staring. And I’m sure some can hear you.”

“Not a chance! They’re all “Phone deaf!”

“You and your obsession with people addicted to devices. Give it up!You’ll never change the trend.”

“Trend? Trend? You had it right when you used the word ‘addicted’. It’s a way of life. There’s more than three generations that can’t exist without a device immediately available to them. They are lost and incomplete without them.”

My wife had heard it all before. With a “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ she turned to continue our Saturday afternoon walk along the waterfront boardwalk. I dutifully rushed to catch up with her.” Let’s stop for a drink.” I urged. That bar they’re outside is new. Let’s have a drink in there. I like the notices by the door. Can you read them?”

“You know I can’t! So, tell me, what do they say?”

Unable to hide the delight in my voice, I read all the messages  displayed. “Abandon your device all ye who enter here. Cell free suds! Mouth to mouth conversation available. Talk to me!  Listen to someone!”

“Do you think I’m going to drink in a place that agrees with your technological extremes? If it’s banning cell phones, tablets, lap tops and any devices, it won’t last the month.” Barb was already inching away.

Before I could persuade her to accompany me in support of a business that was trying to discourage i-phone dependence, the door from the “Talkers Tavern” flew open and an angry young woman, clutching her cellphone, was ejected by a large doorman.

“You can’t fricking do this!” She loudly protested as he blocked her efforts to rejoin her friends inside. “I have my frickin rights! Look at all of them over there!” And she pointed at the nineteen who had earlier captured my attention.” Eighteen of them were still attending to their device communication, oblivious to the disturbance the reject was creating.

“Those people left quietly when they chose to use their phones!” responded the doorman.

Right on cue, two of the city’s finest, the bicycle mounted patrol policing the busy boardwalk, emerged from a gathering crowd. While one tried to calm down the irate woman, the other questioned the doorman.

I strained to hear what both said to the still angry woman, after they had heard both sides of the dispute. The woman was not going to win her argument. But one constable agreed to accompany her back in so she could gather her friends. But he insisted on taking her phone from her until they came back out. She argued, but relented.

The doorman prevented any bystanders from following the pair into the ‘Talkers’ Tavern.’ The remaining cycle cop requested that the gathering gawkers move on. A crowd was gathering and it was changing from curious to questioning  and could become hostile.

My wife knew she had to get me away from taking sides in a no-win situation. She took my hand and said “ You can buy me a glass of red on Murphy’s terrace. On the way back to the car we’ll have to go past the ‘Talkers’ Tavern’ and we can see if it’s still in business! I have a feeling it’s not going to last long.”

Police sirens came closer and we watched as the blue lights turned from Water Street into the car park adjacent to the ‘Talkers’ Tavern’.

I knew my wife was right yet again. Murphy’s it would be!

***

The Spot Writers are:-

RC Bonitz         rcbonitz.com

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

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

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

 

 

 

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