Tag Archives: stories

The Spot Writers – “Suffice” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to The Spot Writers. September’s prompt:  Write about a character whose one ability is to amplify the best traits in others. Who would they hang around? Who would they choose to avoid?

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Suffice by Dorothy Colinco

It’s hard to love someone who’s self-sufficient. Among the traits that you should avoid when seeking a potential life partner, self-sufficient seems pretty far down the list, far below convicted felon, substance abuser, Pirates fan, vegan, or lactose-intolerant. An inability to consume ice cream without later having to desecrate a powder room seems more offensive than the ability to exist without depending on another person for validation and security. And yet.

Ironically, her self-sufficiency is one of things I found most attractive about her. Here was a woman who told me about her flat tired AFTER she had changed it herself. Who saw Les Miserables alone rather than drag me to a musical. I hate musicals, but I loved her. I would’ve gone. When she had a bad day at work or a fight with her mom, she didn’t ask me to bring her wine and ice cream (yes, she could of course consume dairy) and lend her my shoulder to cry on. She just took a weekend for herself and called me three days later, refreshed and happy and content. I was ready and willing to do all those things. I’ve done worse for women I’ve cared less about. But she never asked that of me, asked anything of me, and for a while this hardly seemed something to complain about.

We were our best selves when we were together. She was warm and funny. She told jokes that were unexpectedly irreverent but never downright bawdy. She was so good at describing movies and books and albums. I always said she should be a pop culture writer, and one day she submitted an essay to this magazine and they published it. The first thing she ever sent out! She was kind. So kind, my goodness. Like that one time an autistic kid in the subway screamed at her for touching his shoulder when she said ‘excuse me,’ and the kid’s mom was mortified and apologetic but also very used to this kind of thing, and instead of backing away with a freaked look on her face, she chatted with the mom. not about the kid’s autism and ‘what’s it like to be a mom of a kid on the spectrum?’ No, she just chatted about stuff. I don’t even remember. And the mom was so grateful, you could tell.

We were our best selves together. But. I felt like I wasn’t giving enough of myself. She never asked me to sacrifice anything for her. And after all, isn’t that what makes up a good portion of a relationship? Resenting someone for all you’ve had to sacrifice for them, and then loving them anyway? I thought maybe as we fell deeper for each other that she would start to need me. To view me as essential to her existence. But instead, it seemed like our love had fastened her self-sufficiency to her core even more tightly. It made her more sure than ever of her adequacy as a distinct entity in this vast emptiness that is our existence.

It’s hard to love someone who’s self-sufficient.

***

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 Herald” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is: Write about a character whose one ability is to amplify the best traits in others. Who would they hang around? Who would they choose to avoid?

Today’s post comes to your from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Girl Who Flew Away. https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away/dp/1941295355/

***

The Herald by Val Muller

I came for a Wisher, a little boy sitting on a rusty swing in a lonely park after dark. His was a Genuine Wish, not a superficial one like most. Some ask for ponies or money, games or toys. True Wishers ask for things that matter.

He asked for his parents to love again.

A Wish intangible for him as stardust in the vacuum of space.

He first saw my twinkle floating above the park, shimmering in the darkened sky. I descended with his Wish and landed at the edge of a fence. I had to move quickly because the boy stood right away to investigate. His life at home was so strained, he’d lost all fear and sense of self preservation.

I turned first into a glowing flower, tempting him to pluck me, but I knew that form would never last. The flowers here are ephemeral, not like the sentient ones in the outer planets of Myler. But in the instant her reached to pluck me, I felt his skin and knew his mind. And so in the darkness I disintegrated into the earth and followed the rooty passages into the brush, where I emerged as a puppy.

It was one he’d seen on a television show—a cartoon, which is a type of art form on this world. I worked quickly to make myself look a bit more realistic than the two-dimensional ink of his mind. It was enough. In the darkness, the boy cradled me, and with his touch I saw it all:

His mother, taxed and tired at the end of each day, his father grumpy and exhausted from an unfulfilling job. And each nearly looking forward to the dinner table, where they nightly poured their wrath as quickly as they poured their drinks. Dinners were a verbal battle that left the boy nauseous.

His father drank to squash his courage, so that he could not stand up to his boss or his desires or the temptation to lash out with his fists. His mother drank to sharpen her courage, so that she could stand stone still while her husband put another foot through the drywall, or punched through a window, or turned plates into shrapnel. She drank to find the courage to stand stone still as her son ran out to the park every night and to tell him, when he returned, the lie that she never feared his father would turn his wrath on them.

As he held me tight, I saw through his mind the way life used to be, the way it lingered in his memories. His father building and playing each night, constructing roads and bridges for toy vehicles, making anything the boy asked for out of wood and straws and cardboard and love. I saw his mother, happy and young without the stress of an angry spouse, supporting him and reading homework and stories together. A mother who didn’t drink.

In the midnight darkness, he cradled me in his arms. He ran home as his life played in my mind until I knew my task.

A yellow light shone above the stovetop in the kitchen as we entered. His mom sat at the table, a glass of water in front of her. I knew from the boy’s memories that she always sat up this way, waiting for him, making sure he was safe. This time, a new bit of plaster littered the kitchen floor.

She took us both into her arms, her embrace warm and trembling. She didn’t question my presence, but her eyes leaked and she spoke of her childhood and the dog she grew up with. She spoke of how it’d brought comfort to her, a perpetual friend. As her fingers ran through my simulated fur, the stress of her life floated out. I made sure the harmful rays dissipated into the air and into the night.

I knew my task, so I barked once, twice, just the way I heard it in the boy’s memory, a cartoonish bark, until I heard the rustling upstairs. I felt the boy’s father wipe the haze of drink from his eyes and stumble down the stairs. When he saw the tableau before him, the boy getting kisses from his new best friend and the woman embracing them both, his heart melted into tears, and it all came pouring out—in words this time, not in anger—the frustration, fatigue, disappointment. He had only just begun to realize that such is the reality of life on his world. A constant flux, a managing of expectations, a search for the small things that bring joy. He had lost balance.

The three of them sat together, circled around me, the parents’ faces wet with tears and the boy’s sore with the unfamiliar smile of joy.

In their touch, I saw everything. Recovery would be a hard road for the boy’s father, but he would succeed with only two transgressions. He would heal soon enough to be joyed by the news the boy’s mother would save for just the right moment: that the boy would soon be an older brother.

I could not stay for a lifetime, not even for the life of a dog on this planet where life flies by as fast as comets. There was no need of me anymore. I had fulfilled the Wish. I saw how it would happen. The next day, father and son would build me a doghouse out of the wood scraps in the garage, the ones he used to use all the time when he built toys for the boy. While they were sawing, I would disappear. But it would be only a matter of days before the family stumbled upon a box of puppies for sale on the way home from the boy’s school.

They would pick the runt, the one that needed extra love, because of course they’d have to have something to live in the dog house they’d built. Something to build toys for, to center their love around. Something to bring them together. They’d name him Herald.

They would wonder about me for a time, but I cast an order for their memories of me to be brief. In a decade, they would not remember that they had built their doghouse before the arrival of Herald. They did not need memories of the strange light that descended from above and took the clumsy form of a dog in the darkness. They did not need those memories of me. They needed only to remember who they had once been.

***

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 Pineapple Plant by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: Think back on a memory when you were angry. REALLY angry. Now change the names of the people in the memory, the setting, everything familiar about it, and most importantly… the ending. Turn it into a memory that ends happily. Let all the writing wash your anger away.

Today’s post comes to us from Dorothy Colinco.

The Pineapple Plant

The last time she saw him, her bromeliad was in a broken heap around his chair. It was a gorgeous plant, leaves sprouting in a concentric pattern around a firm stalk that ended with what looked like a miniature pineapple. That’s what everyone called it – the pineapple plant. “Is that going to grow into a big pineapple?” “Can you eat it?” “WILL you eat it?” If there was a map of the school building that included quirky landmarks, The Pineapple Plant in room 514 would definitely be on there.

And now there it was, the miniature pineapple snapped off the stem, the white and gold pot in jagged ceramic pieces.

She balled her fists up, if only to stop them from shaking. “I can’t look at you right now.”

“It was an accident. I was leaning my chair back, and I reached up to stretch, and then…”

“Please stop talking.”

She turned to shift her attention to the student standing in the front of the room in the middle of giving a presentation. “Go ahead,” she said, “please continue.”

As the student tentatively read through the slides about a made-up person living during the Great Depression, none of which Ms. Grace heard. When the presentation ended and the students gave light applause with Snappy Fingers, Ms. Grace stood up and barely managed to clear her throat, before saying, “wait for the bell” and rushing out of the room.

She took deep breaths in the faculty bathroom, staring at the chipping paint and the onion skin toilet paper. When she finally returned to her classroom 10 minutes later, someone had swept up the pieces of the plant. The tiny pineapple was gone. The only difference was a blank space on the windowsill where the bromeliad used to sit and specks of dirt on the group that hadn’t been caught by a broom.

Now here he was, holding out a tiny pot with leaves sprouting out of the rich soil.

“I did some research. It’s supposed to grow a stem and sprout another pineapple just like it. It’ll take a couple weeks, maybe a couple months. But it’s not dead. It can still be beautiful. I’m really sorry.”

She took it gingerly from his hands, and she sensed that he was afraid to let go should it come crashing down again like it had in its previous life.

“Thank you,” she managed. She placed the small pot in the old bromeliad’s place. So maybe she was being dramatic when she thought this was a harbinger of things to come. Maybe her first year wouldn’t be tragic after all. When the new pineapple grew, if the new pineapple grew, this would one day make for a good story.

***

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 – “Courage” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller. Check out her brand-new release: The Girl Who Flew Away is a coming of age tale of a freshman prone to keeping secrets. Follow this link to receive a free four-chapter preview + 35% off coupon!

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.

***

Courage (by Val Muller)

As soon as he came through the door, he made for the chair in the corner. “The lighting here is best,” he said. He spoke with as much purpose as he walked. As soon as he opened his satchel, I could smell his charcoals, his erasers. He smelled like an artist.

Of course he did. Meagan only knows artists. It’s like she’s a lightning rod for creative types. How she came to know a world-class animator is a story best left for a soap opera. That’s how her life goes. Ex-husband of a college roommate, but not as simple as that. Meagan was part of the reason he’s an ex. Cheated with him. And with her. That’s Meagan for you.

Not like boring old me. There I was, taking a sick day off work and letting Christopher Lloyd play hooky from school so that he could do gymnastics on the living room floor for a famous animator, who hoped to become lead animator on some new film that apparently featured a kindergartener gymnast. It was the most exciting thing that would ever happen to us.

“Christopher!” I called. Christopher was still upstairs. I turned back to my guest. “Can I get you a drink, Mr.—”

“No,” he said. “And call me Mike.” He looked down at his art supplies, and the sun from the window danced in his perfectly-sculpted hair. Bed head, accented with the perfect amount of stubble. Rustic and artsy. Not like clean-shaven James, who looked as vanilla as a member of the military every day of the week.

I smiled. “Mike. Christopher’s a little shy, but he’ll warm up to you.”

“Christopher Martin Lloyd,” I called up the stairs.

“Coming,” came a muffled reply.

“Christopher Lloyd, huh?” Mike asked, laughing.

I smiled. “We could barely resist. Maybe we’re raising a future mad scientist. Doc Brown was always a favorite character of mine.”

Mike flashed a smile. “Mad scientists are fun to animate.” He flipped open his sketchpad, and charcoal raced across the page. Before long, he’d drawn a mad scientist that looked like Doc Brown.

“That’s amazing,” I said. I tried to remember whether I’d ever been that passionate about, or talented at, my job. Or any job. Ever. I began to understand why Meagan had chosen him for an affair.

“Christopher!” I called a bit too loudly. The poor boy was already descending the steps. “Oh, there you are. Chris, this is Mr. Mike. He’s going to draw some sketches of you while you go through your gymnastics routine.”

Christopher turned to Mike. “Am I gonna be in a movie?”

Mike shrugged. “Hope so. If they choose my drawings, then the things I draw today will be used to create a character—” The man was already at work on a fresh page, sketching Christopher. He perfectly captured my son’s shy, strong demeanor.

I watched the tendons in his arm work like magic, rippling and tensing and helping his fingers dance around the charcoal as he made my son look more like my son than he did in real life. I brushed away goosebumps and tried to breathe. I glanced into the kitchen. “Looks like you left your toy trains out again,” I lied. “I’ll go put them away. In the meantime, do your warmup for Mr. Mike.” I flashed a smile. “Maybe you’ll be in a movie, Chris.”

I didn’t wait for a response. I hurried into the kitchen and then through to the living room, where I dug through Christopher’s toy chest and pretended to put away the trains. On the wall, a picture of me, James, and baby Chris looked down at me. Why did James’ eyes make me feel guilty? He knew about the appointment today. Heck, he was prouder of Christopher’s gymnastics than I was. Why did I feel guilty?

I could hardly deny it. I’d never done anything glorious like have an affair. And never with a renowned artist. But based on his past with Meagan, Mike was fairly open to possibilities, right?

My body moved without my permission. I barely recognized my feet as they padded into the kitchen. I barely knew my fingers as they grabbed a pink sticky note from the kitchen desk and picked up a purple pen.

Megan told me that—

No, that was stupid. I crossed it out. Pulled off the sticky note.

I thought maybe—

What am I, in middle school?

My fingers smiled and danced as they decided to write on a fresh note:

James works late on Thursdays, and Christopher is away at practice.

Blushing, I pulled off the note and stuffed it in my pocket. My hands might be able to write it for me, but I’d never work up the courage to give him the note. I stood in the kitchen for an eternity, watching him complete sketch after sketch of my boy. His eyes lit up as he discovered the best of my son. He filled up two entire sketchbooks with Christopher’s essence. He was like a father discovering his newborn son for the first time.

I stayed frozen in the kitchen, just watching like the passive person I’d become. I stayed as he flipped through the pictures with Chris. I stayed as he got up to leave. Chris led him to the front door, and I watched him clutch the two sketchbooks like precious relics. But my eyes travelled to the chair in the corner. He was about to forget his satchel. I hurried to grab it for him, and once again my fingers worked without my consent. They were too afraid to reach for the sticky note, but they swiped my keys on their way past the counter. And as they retrieved his satchel, they tossed the keys inside it. And then, while Chris was taking one last glance at the drawings, they even threw in the sticky note. One of those items, at least, would force a return trip.

“Oh, my satchel!” Mike said, looking up at me. “I would have missed that!”

He took two steps toward me—he was still a lifetime away—but I panicked. I did the only thing I could think to do. I upended the satchel, and the world exploded in a blur of charcoal and pastels, pencils and kneaded erasers. And of course, a set of keys and a sticky note.

All manner of art supplies cascaded down on the kitchen floor. Christopher giggled.

“I’m so sorry,” I lied as I bent down to snatch the keys and note. In an instant, he was there next to me, picking up his supplies. He smelled like an artist.

I stuffed the sticky note back into my pocket and put my keys on the counter while I watched him put away the rest of his supplies. Before he left, he pulled off one of the sketches: Christopher jumping in the air with his fist out like Superman. I tacked it up on the refrigerator, a testament to the most exciting day of our lives, and to the day my courage failed.

 ***

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 – “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 – “The Language Addict” by CaraMarie Christy

Welcome to the Spot Writers! This February’s prompt: Pick up the two books closest to you (a mandarin textbook and A Court of Mist and Fury). For the first book: copy the first 3 words of the book. This is how your story will start. For the second book: copy the last 3 words of the book. This is how your story will end. Fill in the middle. As an added challenge, turn to a random page in each book. Choose the most interesting word on each of those pages. Include those 2 words in your story. Interesting words from these: humanities and wrath.

This week’s post comes from CaraMarie Christy, the young-un of Spot Writers. Visit her blog on Word Press at Calamariwriting and check out her book from when she was twelve, Fairies Fly. Bonus points if you ask her about her book photography.

***

The Language Addict

Essential phrases: Hello. That’s it. A one word list of everything I need to remember to make people like me. The only thing you ever need, in any language, is that one word. My mind whirs, as only an old woman’s can, with thoughts, ones from the past cluttering the new ones, popping behind my eyes as I consider what to do to entertain myself. I’ve got four more hours left on this flight. Hanging into the third-row aisle, I have a nice expansive view of my companion choices. That’s all us old women ever think about anyway: who to talk to. There’s the couple arguing in Dutch at the back of the plane, the French flight attendant that keeps narrowly avoiding my elbow, and the man in the black coat sitting suspiciously next to the exit. But my eyes have been especially wondering toward the woman across the aisle from me. Her eyes are dark and there’s a faintly square shape to her chin. I want to ask her in… No.

Because if I reach across this aisle, and assault this woman with a two-week’s course of her supposed native tongue, it would be an invasion of her space, much more than a simple smile and the phrase “guten tag!”. And if she doesn’t speak German, then she can smile, nod, and go on reading the book in her hand. And if she does speak German… Bam. Friend. But for her, this could be a connecting flight to lord-only-knows where. Or she could be a tourist like me, which would be just as swell as a real German. Even if she is a German citizen, only 78% of Germans natively speak German. She could be an immigrant. And that will get us nowhere.

In the pleather seat in front of me, there is a sewn pocket overflowing with textbooks. I’ve stuffed them there. The wrath of the young gentleman to my right, when earlier I elbowed him six times while trying to flip through every page for how to say “spinach” (turns out it was just “spinat”), was enough to set me straight. Read like a chicken and be glared at or keep my arms to my side. I chose to keep him happy. I’d be interested in his language, but his flippant way of sneering at my books and penny loafers made it abundantly clear–American. Definitely. I don’t know why, having lived and worked in U.S. elementary education all my life that now, in retirement, I’ve grown to dislike “American”. I’ve got a taste for other types of humanities now, other ways of speaking. They seem much more fun.

The thought chills me and I want to edge away from this young man. I scoot further into the aisle, my hip gouging into the arm rest. It’s the woman on the left who is interesting. There’s a world of possibilities with her.

English, French, Chinese, Spanish… She could speak one of them. The big guns. The chances of that were high. And I knew plenty of words from the big languages.

I’ve convinced myself of it, when I find myself leaning across the aisle, smile pasted on, and give her a good, “Guten tag! Sprechen sie deutsch?”

WRONG. Three words too many come out and I can feel my ego soaring while the rest of me, the part of me that knows how to weave around a social interaction, comes crashing around my ears.

“Eh, sorry…” Laughs the woman. Her eyes twinkle and she never loses her smile as she says, “Ah… Español?”

Yes. A big gun. One of the biggest. Three weeks with Mr. Harviar at Northern Virginia’s Sterling community college. I know this one. The old and new thoughts collide. In my attempt to find something, anything to say… I pull out the first phrase that comes to mine. I can’t hear Mr. Harviar saying it in my head. Instead, it sounds like a little Hispanic girl selling soft and hard tacos.

Porque no los dos?”

My ego crashes down to the floor, where the rest of me had been scattered. The woman forces a laugh at the old, overused joke, then makes a point to ignore me, leaning back in her chair, reading a novel that I can’t even translate the cover of. I slink back into my own seat, scooting toward the right, to remove myself completely from teetering into the aisle, then pull out an Amazon catalogue from the pocket in front of me. The American man’s eyes are on my neck, as I ignore my travel guides and my books.

***

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 Shoes” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a story based on these two pictures, two pairs of shoes that I actually found within a couple of hours of each other (although the second pair I discovered in a parking lot). Strangely, on a trip to Europe a week later, I ran across another pair of men’s shoes and about a week after our return home, I found a discarded pair of high-end men’s flip flops on the same street I had found the dress shoes. Odd?

In our stories, our characters must encounter these two “sightings”—integrated into the story as we see fit!

Today’s post comes from me, Cathy MacKenzie. Check out the youth anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE, recently published under my imprint, MacKenzie Publishing. Available on Amazon and Smashwords. Just in time for Halloween!

***

The Shoes

A pair of men’s dress shoes suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the faint early morning light, almost knocking Carmen to the pavement. Why were shoes laying on the road? She inspected them without bending over, afraid to get too close, noticing the polished sheen and their just-so placement as if someone had stood in them before mysteriously having been spirited away. She glanced to the awakening sky and immediately chuckled at the idiocy of her movement as if a man—or even a woman—could be lifted out of footwear without a struggle. But who would have purposely left them by the road? And why?

She shook her head, the mystery too difficult for her to solve and, perhaps, better left as a curiosity. She scurried past the shoes and continued her jog until she halted like a galloping horse suddenly reaching a cliff’s edge.

Another pair?

More mesmerized than scared, she stared at the grungy brown lace-up shoes until shock turned to fright. She’d seen the occasional pair of sneakers dangling by laces from overhead wires but had never stumbled upon one shoe let alone two pairs within minutes.

The second pair lay haphazardly in the middle of the road as if someone had thrown them, like those sneakers tossed across overhead wires. If she believed the owner of the first pair had met a pleasant fate, the owner of these had suffered, for it was clear, at least in her mind, that a struggle had ensued. The shoes were old and haggard like elderly individuals given up on life, with dirt-encrusted soles, frayed laces, and worn insoles.

Had this pair been purposely discarded? Or had the owner been involved in a motor vehicle incident? She examined the pavement, looking for blood or other signs of an accident but saw nothing unusual.

Despite the sweat she had worked up while running and the warmth of the July morning, she shivered and rubbed her upper arms. Despite her dry throat, she swallowed. She forced herself to avert her eyes from the discovery: only a discarded pair of shoes; nothing untoward.

Shrugging, she turned and headed for home. Should she take a different route so she wouldn’t encounter the first pair again? No, she’d simply cross the road and run on the opposite side. She glanced one last time at the dress shoes before sprinting across the road. She jogged in place. Should she view the dress shoes one last time?

And then she had a thought: the impeccable shoes would be perfect for her husband, whose birthday neared. She could scrounge for a shoe box. He’d never know they weren’t new. Besides, rain was forecasted for later that day. At the very least, even if she changed her mind about gifting them, she should save them from the elements. Who knew, too, whether the owner, if still alive, might post a lost notice on the community bulletin board at Lakeside Grocery.

Her mind made up, she flew down the deserted street. Workers didn’t make their trek through her subdivision until around 6:45 a.m., precisely why she rose before the sun. She enjoyed the peace and quiet before the bustle of the day.

But where were the shoes? Had she missed them? No, there they were! She jogged toward them and stopped.

What! Socks?

She scanned the street. Dead. She hadn’t passed anyone, and no cars had driven by. Where were the shoes? How had socks taken their place?

The socks were a perfect match for the missing shoes: men’s dress socks. And they stood stiffly as if the wearer were invisible; she swore she discerned toes beneath the socks. Or had he just been magically spirited out of them and the socks hadn’t yet collapsed?

And did one big toe just wiggle?

Certain her eyes played tricks on her, she closed them, conjuring various scenarios. Reacting before thinking, she raced back to the older shoes, stopping when she reached them.

Except the shoes weren’t there; in their stead lay a crumpled pair of socks. And the slight breeze wafted their odour to her nostrils.

Where were these shoes? She questioned and answered at the same time: gone the way of the dress shoes.

Vanished!

But how? And why?

Obviously the discoveries had meaning. But what? Shoes hanging on wires meant something, she had heard, but wasn’t certain what. Good luck? Bad luck? She didn’t want to know, believing mysteries were just that: mysteries. And once solved, they weren’t mysteries any longer, and what fun would that be?

She raced toward home, picturing the dress socks at attention on the side of the road. She giggled. How silly they appeared; extremely silly.

But heck. They were new—at least they’d looked new. If Hubby couldn’t have a pair of shoes for his birthday, he could have a pair of socks. She returned to the area, not sure what to expect. Would something else have taken their place?

Still there. She picked up the right sock, which immediately went limp and soft. Warm, too, between her thumb and forefinger, as if the foot had just vacated. The other remained upright without its twin, and at her touch, it too collapsed. She rolled them into a ball, flipping the ribbed edge over the bulk like her mother had taught her.

She snickered. “How foolish.” Unlike the shoes, Hubby would know the socks weren’t new.

***

The Spot Writers–our members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “No Trolleys, Just Tramcars” by Tom Robson

Welcome to the Spot Writers’ weekly flash fiction post. This month’s prompt is “trolley car,” and today’s post comes from Tom Robson. Check out his book, Written While I Still Remember, available on Amazon  and   Smashwords

***

No Trolleys, Just Tramcars

I spent my early years in the English industrial city where I was born. Once I was too large for the pram and after I responded to encouragements to walk rather than be pushed up Leeds hills in the pushchair, the tram became one means of getting around the city. The others of my first nine years were walking or riding my trike, firmly connected to my mother’s grip with an old trouser belt of my absent father. The family car was a war and many years away.

The city trams, like the later trolleys, were powered from overhead lines connected high above the main streets. Unlike trolleys, tram car routes were defined by steel tracks set in parallel rows on the main streets they shared with the sparse traffic of the thirties and early forties. The trams might well have been the smoothest vehicles in the city. The tramlines were often set in cobblestone streets

I have four childhood memories of trams. The first and worst was the return trip from the free dental clinic where I had a number of ‘first’ teeth extracted with the help of chloroform. On the return trip the side effect of chloroform and the trauma of tooth pulling, for which I was inadequately forewarned, caused me to project blood-flecked vomit on the tramseat, floor and crowded passengers.

We got off the tram two stops early and my mother carried her evil-smelling seven year old, up the steep Harehills Lane to grandma’s.

Prior to this, accompanied again by my mother, I took tram rides to St Jame’s Infirmary where I was subjected to exercise intended to stretch my neck. I was recovering from surgery to forestall torticollis, which if untreated led to the abominably descriptive condition of ‘Wryneck’. I hated the physiotherapy. Getting on the tram to the hospital turned me in to a whiner, impossible to placate for the trip there and the therapy. At home, my mother had to lift me by the head to repeat the unnatural exercises every day for over a year. And you think ‘tough love’ is a recent phenomenon?

By the time I was eight I was allowed to go with my friends,on Sundays, to Roundhay Park. It was at least a mile walk away, across the Soldier’s Field, to the back entrance at the top of Hill Sixty. At the park we could climb trees (if the wardens weren’t around), roll down the hill and paddle in either of two lakes, one of which fed water to the outdoor swimming baths to which we were occasionally treated. It was a full day of childhood freedom, enjoyment and exploration.

Occasionally, grandma would give me the penny fare to take the tram to the park. My friend Tim, one of seven kids in the family across the back ginnel, also got tram fare from my gran. Grown ups thought we would walk there and, in an exhausted state, take the tram home. Eight and ten year old boys did not get tired, given the opportunity of let’s-pretend games and freedom in a seven hundred acre park for a day. We wanted to get there so we took the quick way – by tram.

One bright and promising Sunday, as soon as I completed my choirboy duties at St. Wilfred’ and Tim had attended mass, we pocketed grandma’s penny and ran down the hill to Roundhay Road to take the tram to the park.

The park tram-stop was about 100 yards past the main gate.This was 1944 and there were very few cars on the roads in that era. It was safe to jump off the rapidely decelerating tramcar opposite the park gates. Tim had been taught the safe way to do this by his older brothers. He faced the way the tram was going and stepped off, running. I followed his advice to look behind and make sure no cars were there. None were there, so I stepped off in the logical-to-me-way, facing back to the gates we were headed for.

The bloody scraped knees and elbows added to the forlorn figure sat crying in the middle of the wide street. Damage was superficial and was quickly evaluated by the park gate warden and tram conductor, who admonished me with “ Tha daft bugger! Divn tha know that tha faces t’way ‘trams going if tha wants to jump off?” Once sat on the kerb, some lady gave me a cone from Granelli’s ice cream truck. I shared it with Tim.

Tim and the warden took me to the first aid station in the park. Ten year old Tim was given the responsibility of getting me home. We walked. Nobody asked if we had tram fare. That final steep climb up Harehills Lane, aggravated every bruise and scrape I’d got in my tumble from the tram. I told mum and gran I’d fallen off a swing in the park. Tim backed up the lie.

My father had lost his job shortly after his successful apprenticeship finished and just as the great depression climaxed. He worked where he could and eventually got a steady job as a Leeds City Tramcar driver, not too long after I was born.

If we were lucky, mum and I might catch his tram on the way into the city centre or to one of innumerable hospital appointments. It was all a matter of chance.

I must have been almost three when I had to have surgery and spend the accustomed week of recovery in hospital. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Why did my mother spend so little time with me? I had no understanding of the severe restrictions on visiting hours . They were both short and infrequent. I was in my cot surrounded by about twenty other beds in a men’s surgical ward. The hurses had to remain formal, though I wondered how they could resist my crying and histrionics as my mother and, sometimes, my father left after afternoon and evening visits.

My mother carried me to the tram stop when I was sent home.We didn’t take the first tram that came. The conductor told us, “Vera! Fred’s on the one reet behind. He’ll want to see t’ bairn.”

As the next tram slid to a stop, the driver, My father pulled repeatedly on the cord that rang the alert bell. Clang! Clang! Clang! His conductor explained to the other passengers, as his driver got off to hug his son and wife. My mother was given the seat closest to the driver while I sat up, proud and once again interested in life after recovery.

Soon after my father changed uniform from Leeds City Transport employee to soldier as the war loomed. I was almost as proud of this new uniform.

But my feelings never exceeded those on that day when my father, the tram driver, took me home from the dreaded hospital.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com

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

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

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

***

Have you read The Spot Writers’ new book? Check out the just-released Remy’s Choice, a novella based on a story we wrote a while back. It’s available at Amazon  for only $1.99 e-book and $5.99 print.

Remy, just out of a relationship gone wrong, meets handsome Jeremy, the boy next door. Jeremy exudes an air of mystery, and he seems to be everything she’s looking for. While Remy allows herself to indulge in the idea of love at first site, she realizes she’s the girl next door according to her boss, Dr. Samuel Kendrick.

 

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

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

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

***

The People Watcher

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

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

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

She wins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

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

 

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

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

 The topic for April is Spring Flowers.

***

Winston A. Flowers

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

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

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

It’s April Showers that comes your way’

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

And the Renaissance, they will regret’

Cos they won’t be playing hockey

They’ll be picking violets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

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

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

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

 

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