The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write
a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees,
This week’s story comes from Cathy
MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological
drama, with elements of suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships, is
available from her locally or on Amazon.
New Year’s Resolution by Cathy MacKenzie
The whoosh of the wind almost knocked
Callie to the ground. She was aware the winter wind was in a rage but hadn’t
expected it to be this bad. She managed to stand and struggled back to the
motel room. Thankfully, the porch extended the length of the motel units, with the
two ends enclosed, so she could easily open the door and get in out of the cold.
She looked out the window. The mailbox
across the road had blown off its pole and lay on the pavement, waiting for
disaster from an oncoming vehicle. She pictured hers and Dan’s house and hoped
the flimsy plexiglass around the swimming pool remained intact. Nearby trees
would wreak disaster, too, should one of them topple. Would Dan bother
checking, or would he be luxuriating in the man cave, cut off from the world’s
She should have stayed home rather
than running off like a spoiled brat, especially on New Year’s Day. But would
it be too much for her husband to pay attention to her once in a while? Seemed
all Dan wanted to do was watch television. He was a movie freak but would watch
movies over and over, not realizing he’d already seen them. Two minutes into a
movie and Callie recognized a repeat.
Did he even know she wasn’t at home? Several
times over the past six months, she’d left the house in the afternoon and gone
to the mall. He’d still be sitting in front of the boob tube when she returned,
none the wiser. She snickered. Boob tube? How apropos.
This time, though, she’d been gone
three days. She had every intention of returning home. In fact, she’d already
decided to return the following day. Four nights would be enough to jolt her
husband back to reality. He’d have missed her so terribly that he would never
again ignore her—but if he wanted her home, why hadn’t he telephoned or texted?
She had checked her phone every hour. Nothing. Playing hard to get, no doubt.
They’d played silly games in the past.
She yanked the dingy drapes across the
window, plopped to the queen-sized bed, and flicked on the television.
The next day, she checked out,
cringing at the bill for a second until realizing the money would be well spent
if some sense had been knocked into her husband.
She sped home, anticipation coursing
through her loins. She had missed him terribly. The feeling would be mutual;
she was certain of it.
She pulled into the snow-covered driveway
and parked behind his truck. She unlocked the side door, jumping at the shrill
beeping. Though they’d cancelled the alarm system, the deafening noise would be
enough to scare away even a fearless robber.
She dropped her purse on the counter
and flung her coat at the kitchen stool.
She glanced around the kitchen, noting
the clean table and empty sink. If he’d cooked, which he must have if he’d
wanted to eat, he had cleaned his mess. Score one!
She ambled down the hall. Quiet. Too
quiet. Where was he?
Despite the sun shining through the
living room windows, the ceiling light glowed at the top of the stairs going to
She stopped. That noise. Was someone
down there with him?
She shuddered. What if he was angry? What
if he never talked to her again? What if he wanted a divorce?
Had she gone too far?
The voices ceased and music blasted,
the tell-tale sound of the television. She relaxed. Dan liked the volume loud.
But at ten in the morning? She smiled. Definitely bored. A good sign.
Soundlessly, careful to hold onto the
railing, she descended the carpeted staircase.
He was sitting on the couch when she
reached the bottom. Thank God he was alone. If he’d had another woman, she
didn’t know what she would do. Serve her right, though, for trying to teach him
a lesson. She regretted her actions, but she’d make it up to him. A New Year’s
resolution formed in her head.
“Hi, honey. I’m sorry. Please forgive
As usual when he was pissed off, he
ignored her and continued to stare at the screen.
She crept toward him. “I’m sorry. I
just felt like I needed to teach you a lesson. I wanted you to miss me. I
wanted to feel needed.”
She sat beside him and grasped his
arm. “I was wrong, though. I shouldn’t have gone this far.”
She leaned over to kiss him. Her lips
grazed his cheek.
His blood pressure machine perched
precariously on the armrest. After suffering a heart attack a few years
previously, he religiously—and fanatically—checked his pressure.
She touched his face, and his head plopped
toward his shoulder. The blood pressure machine fell to the floor.
On this blustery snow day, I’m reminded of summer camp….
In my early teens, my parents sent me to Camp Farthing, a church camp in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, about four hours from our home outside of Montreal. During those two weeks every summer, I never saw one unhappy camper. Everyone smiled and laughed.
I went for several years. Two years into it, one of my good friends asked about the camp and became one of us even though she didn’t attend my church. She was more popular than I, of course, and continued as a camper until she was old enough to become a counsellor herself, which I never knew until it was too late for me to emulate her.
We were bedded eight girls to a rustic cabin without running water or heat, four bunkbeds in four corners, and one female counsellor who slept in a nearby cabin with the rest of the counsellors. One of my cabin mates often lounged on her bunk naked from the waist up save for her white bra. From what I could see, her breasts were about the size of mine, and I copied her until our counsellor yelled at us to don our shirts.
Saturday nights were bath time: skinny dipping in the lake. Thankfully it was at ten o’clock. On the dot. Thankfully, too, the nights were pitch black. Towels wrapped around nakedness, we proceeded in single file to the water, where we tossed our coverings and barrelled off the long wooden dock. The cold assaulted me. The boys’ camp was across the lake. Were they there, behind the trees, spying on us?
We showered in a large communal shower room, which was worse than Saturday nights. When we brushed our teeth and washed our faces, we lined up like cows at a trough. The long narrow, shallow sink was the length of the washroom. Spiders and other bugs and insects descended from the taps when the water was turned on.
A separate cabin existed for arts and crafts. I enjoyed crafts but only went once. Supplies galore lined numerous wide tables in the room that was larger inside than it looked from the outside. The craft that day was to make a gift to be presented to another crafter. We picked names. What to make? Use your imagination, the leader said. I roamed the forest for inspiration. I wracked my brain. Time ticked. We had two hours. More time ticked. My stomach heaved. My mind was blank, a sort of “writer’s block.” What was I to do? With minutes to spare, I glued moss and leaves to a piece of thick bark. What was it? A funky work of art?
The evening’s event reminded me of the Academy Awards except we were lowly campers without fancy clothing. My turn to present a trophy arrived too soon. A wave of horror flashed across the recipient’s face. Mystified looks on the faces of the other kids in the room made me want to slither through the cracks in the floor. I received a lovely book of blank paper. A diary or a journal. Talk of my abominable gift spread throughout the camp. Fingers jabbed at me like tree limbs.
Mail was distributed during dinner. Letters. And packages: tins of cookies and squares and fudge. My mother wrote about the ranger tower they’d bought for the backyard. I couldn’t wait to get home to see what a ranger tower was. I wrote back, “Could you send me some treats?” and “What is a ranger tower?” Mom mailed a tin of her yummy brownies that arrived in crumbs, the pieces too little to bother with.
Campers received letters. From boyfriends. The excitement on their faces was contagious. I wanted letters! One year, about a month before the start of camp, I mailed two letters: fake return addresses, fake boy’s names. My boyfriends. But I was excited! I waited and waited for my name to be announced, so I could walk to the front of the room and receive my booty. The other girls would be so jealous! Two boyfriends! And I waited. And waited. When camp was almost over, a counsellor handed me two envelopes. “These came early. We forgot they were here.”
We took turns at KP (kitchen police). Plates and silverware were placed on a table. KPers cleared off plates, washed and dried dishes and utensils, and neatly replaced the items. One day a fellow camper snatched a plate from me. “I want that.” She smiled. “It’s a game I play. For luck.”
“How do you mean?”
“Like if I dry that plate, I’ll receive mail tomorrow. It’s like bargaining with God or skipping along the sidewalk and not stepping on the cracks because something bad will happen if you do.”
I played her game the following night and tried to swipe the bowl before someone else did. She laughed. “You need that bowl, do you?” I grabbed it from her, but nothing good came of my plea.
In the evenings, we hovered around the proverbial blazing bonfires, singing “Kumbaya, My Lord.” The mournful tune tore at my heart. I couldn’t sing, but I mouthed words, shivering and praying wayward sparks didn’t ignite my hair.
I pretended to like camp. My siblings and I had been taught to respect our elders. My brother, a year younger than me, went to the same camp but different weeks. He didn’t like it either. I don’t remember my three younger siblings going.
Welcome to the Spot Writers, bringing you your weekly dose of flash fiction. This week’s post comes to you from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. You can learn more at www.CorgiCapers.com. The prompt was to write about autumn.
The Mouse War
By Val Muller
The chill in the air was bitter. Though the dogs seemed to love it, Allie hated to stay outside with them. The stink bugs, somehow, managed to survive—finding comfort in the warm crevices of the laundry room and the utility room near the furnace. Probably in the attic as well.
She wondered what else was up there.
Coming in from the cold, she turned on the kettle for some hot tea. Then she reached for her travel mug. If she had to drive to work in such weather, at least she’d be warm when she got there. But upon opening the drawer of lids, she shuddered and turned off the stovetop. There it was, staring at her, mocking her, making her skin crawl.
A mouse turd.
Oblong and brown and intrusive.
Sitting on the lid of her favorite travel mug.
She slammed the drawer shut, imagining all the tiny particles that had escaped into the otherwise clean kitchen. Then she reached for her phone.
“Greg,” she said as soon as he picked up. “There’s a mouse in the kitchen. We’re not eating anything cooked from home until it’s taken care of. Got it?” Her voice trembled and her heart pounded. She struggled to form every word. She could just picture the mouse urinating and defecating on all the food they had eaten in the past few days. How long had it been there, anyway? When was the last time she’d opened the lid drawer? It hadn’t been this cold since—since—March?
And now it was almost winter again. Who knows how long the mouse had been desecrating her kitchen?
She shuddered and checked the clock. She had just enough time to make it to McDonalds for a cup of tea—how ridiculous was that? She eyed her two dogs with a frown.
“Aren’t you guys supposed to catch mice and things?”
They lowered to the ground, heads pathetically on their paws.
She bit her lip and threw them a treat. “Alright, I’ll forgive you this time. But you’d better catch that thing. And soon.”
She lingered coming home. Made an extra-long grocery stop. Went to the post office for stamps she didn’t need. Anything to give Greg a chance to buy and set some traps. By the time she got home, the sink was filled with sudsy water—hopefully all the lids were becoming clean—and the drawer was cleaned out save for one cylindrical mouse trap.
The kitchen smelled of cleaning solution.
“Thanks, Greg,” she said, smiling. “I picked up a rotisserie chicken from the store.”
Greg laughed. “Because you won’t cook in here again until the mouse is gone.”
She nodded as she put a box of cereal in the refrigerator. “Just in case,” she said, eyeing the open box on the counter suspiciously.
Greg shook his head. “Now this trap is supposed to be humane. Kills right away. Makes a loud click¸ though. But that way, you won’t have to see—”
Allie held up her hand. “I don’t need to hear anymore. We’ll just hope he’s caught.”
“Okay, but you know there might be more than one.”
Allie shook her head. It wasn’t even a possibility. One mouse was bad enough. But a family–a colony? No way.
They ate with the television on so that Allie didn’t have to hear the click. Before going to bed, she peeked in the drawer. The cylindrical trap still registered “empty,” and there was a new mouse turd in the drawer.
“Stupid mouse,” she muttered.
Her sleep was filled with nightmares of amorphous things crawling over her body, leaving little trails of dust and dirt and turdsy bits. She awoke to a loud snap and checked the clock. 2:19. Could it be the mouse? Could they be so lucky to catch it so quickly?
The next morning, she peeked into the drawer. The trap indicator was set to “caught.”
“Got him!” she called up to Greg. Then she took the dogs for a nice long walk while Greg disposed of the trap and cleaned out the drawer once again.
The next morning, there was a chill in the air. Allie came in from letting the dogs out and once again turned on the kettle. Then she reached into the newly-cleaned drawer for a newly-cleaned lid.
And there it was, once again, searing through her blood and her mind.
A mouse turd.
She looked menacingly at her dogs as she reached for the phone.
The theme of this week (“I’m so cold my bones have frozen”) is appropriate, as winter temperatures seem to be here forever, at least for author Cathy MacKenzie. Her most recent publication, BETWEEN THESE PAGES, is a compilation of 18 short stories. The book is available on Amazon and Smashwords:
Until Vivian heard her husband’s voice, she wondered if she had actually spoken.
“What?” John said.
Despite the cold, warm relief rushed through her body at his reply. She yearned to touch him, but her arms were bolted to her sides. Icy crisps filled her mouth when she attempted to speak, but she made another attempt.
“So cold. Freezing.”
“You’re always cold,” John said.
“No, it’s truly cold, John. It is. So cold I can barely breathe.” She swallowed more frosty crystals, which melted as they cruelly descended down her throat. John was a raging furnace, especially in bed, unlike Vivian who was continually chilled and craved his warmth on winter nights. A vision of the two of them snuggling in bed formed before her.
Panic set in when he didn’t reply. “Can you hear me? John?”
“I hear you.”
“Cold. Very cold. Where are you?” Vivian said. The arctic hardness weighting her down was colder and longer-lasting than any other she had experienced. She hated the cold, always had.
“I’m here. Can’t see.” Though it took great effort to open her mouth and Vivian felt she should conserve her energy, she had to talk to her husband. Had to know he was near despite the glacial dankness.
Vivian heard a muffled reply. At least she thought she did. Had he spoken? Why couldn’t she see him?
“Can you see me?” she said.
In the muted silence, time remained still. Frozen. Could they be? Or was it just her? Vivian remembered the day—or thought she had. Had she and John gone skiing, as they usually did on the weekends? It was still winter, right? To whom was she talking? Was John there?
“What’s happening? Where are we?”
“I…not sure,” he said, hesitation and uncertainty obvious in his voice.
“Are we in a dream? Am I dreaming? I can usually wake myself out of a dream, when I want to. I want to now. But I can’t.”
“Vivian, that’s hogwash. If you can do that, then you’re not really asleep. I’ve told you that before.”
“Just humour me. Try to wake yourself up, John.”
Vivian heard nothing in response but the cold. Could one hear cold? Certain she could, she shivered though tightly encased in her arctic prison. Pressure numbed her ears as liquid trudged down her eardrums.
John was trying to wake up, she knew it. Both of them must awake from the horrid dream they were immersed in. But when had they ever shared the same nightmare? When had they ever discussed dreaming within a dream?
“No, I’m still awake,” John said. “Or asleep. Whatever I am. Nothing’s changed.”
Vivian would have sighed in desperate resignation, had she been able to. But a swallow of another clump of ice crisps was all she could muster.
Silence ruled. Although it seemed a lifetime elapsed, Vivian knew it was merely minutes. How could a life pass by that fast?
“Vivian, you there?” John’s voice sounded weaker.
“Yes…here. But… I’m sinking, John. Sinking somewhere…not sure where… I…” She closed her mouth, then parted her lips. The life sucked from her. Although unable to utter her last words—“I’m so cold my bones have frozen”—she suspected John already knew.