Tag Archives: writers

The Spot Writers – “Ms. Spindle’s Retirement Gift” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story in which one character plays a prank on another. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter, the young adult reboot of Hawthorne’s masterpiece, and Corgi Capers, the kidlit, canine-packed mystery series.

For this month’s rotation, we’re featuring guest writer Eric Egger, publisher at Freedom Forge Press, who will write this prompt with the added challenge of connecting it to the theme of freedom, as with everything having to do with FFP.

***

Ms. Spindle’s Retirement Gift

By Val Muller

Robbie Stewart was the kid she had every year. He came in different names, different bodies, he took different courses. But he was always there. Every iteration was a natural leader or especially talented, or at least had the potential to be, but he always squandered his natural charisma for ill and chaos. Sometimes he riled up the rest of the class. Sometimes he set off another conflicting personality and made a 90-minute class last all afternoon. Sometimes he popped into Ms. Spindle’s head as she tried to fall asleep. Or when she was cooking, one of his irritating antics would replay in her mind, causing her to burn dinner. Sometimes he appeared as a character in a movie or television show, ruining her immersion.

For thirty-seven years she had put up with the Robbie Stewarts of the world. For thirty-seven years she grinned and bore it. She’d always planned on going for just three more. Three short years to round her career to an even forty. Just three more years of Robbie Stewarts. But last month’s faculty meeting had put an end to that. The new initiative, following the latest educational trends, dictated that next year neither she nor any other member of the faculty at Piney Field High School would be allowed to hold students accountable to deadlines. Adhering to deadlines was not part of the academic standards, and it was harmful to student learning.

Theoretically, the Robbie Stewarts of the world could turn in every single assignment from September onward at the end of June. She knew this because Robbie Stewart, sitting in third block study hall, had gotten wind of the new initiative and was questioning her about it.

“So if it was next year, then if I held on to all my assignments and turned them in on June 1, you’d still have to grade them?” he asked, his mouth cracking into a smile. His face was oily with acne, and his teeth needed flossing.

She did not answer, but she suspected her involuntary cringe was all the encouragement he needed.

“And what if every student did the same? You would have to grade every single assignment from every single student on June 1.” He stifled mock concern. “That would take you hours. You’d have no time to yourself. Not on weekends, not on evenings. It would almost mirror the way teachers make students feel. Having assignments intruding into all our waking hours…” He was mumbling now, taking the joke beyond its natural stopping point, making a few other students chuckle. “…would barely even have time to shower, let alone eat.”

Luckily, this particular Robbie Stewart would graduate in a few weeks, but another would replace him, and next year’s R.S. would surely take full advantage of the new late work policy, exposing all the loopholes before the administration team even had a chance to address them.

“It’s not worth it,” her husband agreed over dinner that night. “You put in your time. Not everything has to be neat and even. Thirty-seven is just as good as forty.” Indeed, the difference in pension was a mere seventeen dollars and fifty-three cents a month if she stayed the extra three years.

“I won’t get my forty-year service pin,” she said. “Or my watch.” The district gave a fancy, engraved watch to all teachers who made it to the forty-year mark.

Her husband smiled. “I’ll buy you a watch, Mrs. Spindle. Any color you want. Even gold.”

She thought about Robbie Stewart. This year, he was big on taking pictures of assignments and distributing them to classmates. He didn’t charge for this service; he did it for the fame. She’d caught him in October with a copy of the vocabulary quiz, one he’d gotten from a recycling bin at the end of the previous school year. She’d caught him using his watch to send texts with answers to the fifteen-page history packet right before the due date. She’d tried to turn him in twice, but each time, Robbie Stewart cleared his phone so that when Admin searched it, they found nothing incriminating.

Except Mrs. Spindle’s repressed frown.

Robbie Stewart was on her mind that night as she agreed to the retirement with her husband. After that, her teaching took a noticeable dive. She relied on decades’ worth of material for the final weeks of the year. She took sick days to accommodate several three- and four-day weekends. She allowed students to view more movies in one month than she’d allowed in the last five years. And while they watched, she just stared and stared. The time was growing short. She had only days to make her move.

She had been watching carefully, these new smart devices students had. There were watches and jewelry and little fobs you stuck to your sneaker. They tracked movement, sent alerts and notifications, and even browsed the web.

Robbie Stewart had the most impressive watch of them all. It was a blue one, a unisex band not too thick. It was a serene blue, too, the color she imagined retirement would be. Whenever he got a text, the watch glowed, a pulsing blue light. And she knew he could send texts from it, too, and access the Internet. She wasn’t sure the details of how it worked; she knew only that she desired that watch more than she desired her service pin or the platinum-colored watch the district would have bestowed upon her three years hence. It was a symbol of the menacing power of Robbie Stewart.

She popped in another movie and opened her laptop. Years of creativity, repressed by student apathy and teenage angst, came flooding out. Her years of teaching journalism and research papers mingled together in the cauldron of her brain, coalescing into the perfect concoction. It was fed by the renewed energies allowed by her recent long weekends and lack of lesson planning. It was the inspiration of a career’s worth of self-indulgence, all packed into a single moment.

She experimented with fonts and columns, with stock art and bylines, until it looked the part. She left the class alone to watch the film and trotted to the copier. She photocopied the article once, then photocopied the copy and its copy until it had that worn-out look that made it seem genuine, like something the main office would distribute.

And then she left the bait. When Robbie Stewart’s class came in, she left it tucked between the chair in front of him and his desk. It stuck out just enough to intrigue the lad. Before she started the film, she channeled all her years of teaching Shakespeare. With a performance worthy of an Emmy, she feigned concern.

“Students, I seem to have left an important article somewhere. If you happen to see it, please turn it in to me at once. No need to read it. In fact—” she hesitated and tried to make her face turn red and then pale— “It’s actually a bit controversial. It has nothing to do with you, mind you. Just with some policies going to be implemented next year.”

She stifled a smile as Robbie raised an eyebrow. As soon as her back was turned, she heard him snatch the article. She made a show of searching under several student desks as the movie commenced, not minding the young lad reading quietly at his desk.

As the students shuffled out, Robbie tossed something in the trash, leaving the room especially quietly. She waited until they all left. The room was silent and full of the emptying scent of teenagers. As the air cooled and freshened, she bent down to unroll a wad of paper. There was her article, well read. High school senior expelled as smart watch reveals cheating; college admission rescinded. She smiled again at her use of quotations from the principal of the nearby county who was apparently receiving some kind of award for his groundbreaking sleuthing into student technology. Even the superintendent had been quoted, confirming the district’s ability to search student devices without warning.

She chuckled. If the article were true, Robbie’s watch probably contained enough evidence to get him expelled three times over. Too bad it was just really good fiction.

She wadded up the article to return to the trash when something twinkled in the trash can. There it was, in all its glory: Robbie Stewart’s blue watch. Abandoned for fear of it being a snitch. Her article had been more convincing than she thought.

The watch felt cool around her wrist, but it warmed almost immediately, and she swore she felt youth making its way from her skin into her blood and up her arm. She went to the main office right away to arrange leave for the rest of the year. Who needed to work three more years to make an even forty? She left school smiling, her trophy sparkling serenely around her wrist in the early June sun.

* * *

The Spot Writers is seeking another member. Have what it takes to write one flash fiction piece per month? Want it published on four different blogs? Need other flash pieces for your blog content? It’s a great way to stay motivated to write—and write for an audience. If interested, contact Val for details!

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Eric Egger: www.freedomforgepress.com/blog (guest this month)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Perfect People” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. April’s prompt is based on a Stephen Hawking quote: “The universe does not allow perfection.”

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/

***

Perry, a writer friend, used to read my work. He lived down the street and popped in whenever he had writer’s block. Seemed he had writer’s block more often than not. Did he have ulterior motives, something more than curiosity at a fellow writer’s writings? He was a dear friend, so close he could have been my husband, but I was happily married to the perfect guy in the perfect marriage, so I didn’t need Perry.

Perfection, right? Or was it a matter of perception?

Perry had fawned praise upon my writing in the past, given me 5-star reviews, sometimes 4 stars. Once in a while, he’d tell me a story was crap, comments I took in stride, for I’m a writer, and writers must have thick skins. And sometimes my stories were crap!

Praise is nice, when it’s warranted. I’ve always asked for honesty.

He was a self-proclaimed editor, too, and edited my work in the past. Edited miserably. I’ve found numerous errors and inconsistencies in stories he previously said were perfect. But I never said anything, not wanting to rile him up, for I was certain he’d be upset I caught things he’d missed. But that was okay. They were my stories, and he edited out of the goodness of his heart. You get what you pay for, right?

Right!

So perfect little me never said anything.

“Let me read a book of your short stories,” he said one day.

“Yeah, okay,” I said. “I’m working on a book now, in fact.”

I was happy someone wanted to read works that might be hidden from the public forever. “But be honest,” I said. “I want honesty.”

“You’ll get it.”

I emailed my book of twenty-two stories to him.

A few days later, he sent me his two-page critique. Two stories were trash (crap!), despite the fact both had been previously published in publications, which meant others had enjoyed them. Four stories were 5-star; eight were 4-star, seven were 3-star, and one was a 2-star.

I didn’t totally agree the two stories were trash, but I deleted them from the file. I had another I could add to the book that I would send for his quick review.

He told me what was wrong with the non-5-star stories. All opinion, of course. I was a tad upset with his comments on the 2-star story, which I thought was one of my perfect stories, but after sleeping on it, I realized he was right. The ending didn’t make sense, and neither did happenings beforehand that resulted in the ending. I revised it “to perfection” and thanked him profusely for his perception. Perfect perception, to be honest.

According to him, several of the 4-star stories could be 5-star stories if I did “this” or “that.” I reread each one, his comments forefront in my mind. I concluded I liked most of them as they were. They would turn into different stories had I revamped them. In one story, the main character would be an evil person had I followed his wishes, which was totally not the gist of my story.  I didn’t even understand his comments as they pertained to a couple of other stories. It was as if he hadn’t read them carefully enough.

I incorporated most of his other suggestions, the mistakes and inconsistencies, which would up the level of the 3-star stories (according to him).

I hadn’t realized Perry was God until I emailed him, advising him of my changes and non-changes. I gave explanations. I perfectly profusely thanked him.

They were my stories, after all, and the author is ultimately responsible for her stories. It’s the writer’s prerogative to accept or reject an editor’s changes and suggestions. Not to mention, in this case, that he was a friend; he wasn’t a paid editor. Besides, every reader has different likes and dislikes, different opinions. No story is perfect to each person.

I’m not perfect, but I am a perfectionist. I agonize over each word choice, check each comma, double-check each spelling. Despite that, my stories will never be perfect.

He lambasted me in a reply email because I hadn’t “obeyed” him one hundred percent. I was stunned! Umm, gee, I had incorporated the majority of his changes, even deleting two stories! Who was he? Perfect Perry? Yup, apparently so.  His opinion obviously ruled.

Who was Perry to say this story needed “that” or that story needed “this”?

Yes, all you writers and editors: I realize a writer is so close to her own work that she can’t see the forest for the trees. (And yes, I know clichés are a no-no. I’m trying to make a point, and sometimes a cliché, an already established statement, brings out the point better than a made-up phrase.)

As I said, I was shocked at his reaction. I politely emailed back. I explained my reasoning. Aren’t I entitled to my opinion? Opinions are opinions, are they not? And who’s to say his opinion tops another individual’s? I also didn’t realize I had to accept his every comment/change.

I expected him to apologize for his abruptness. He could be having a bad day. I’ve lashed out in the past, later regretting words said in anger from an unrelated incident. In fact, he recently lambasted me and seconds later apologized.

But there were no apologies. (Perfect people don’t apologize. What need do they have for apologies?)

He replied again. And again. Both times telling me where to go, telling me to f***off (stopping a smidgen short of using that exact phrase), something along the lines of: “You’re so perfect, carry on. You don’t need me! You need someone to spout praise when it isn’t warranted. Try to sell your books to a universe that yearns for perfection. I’m done.”

I was more than shocked; more than pissed. He didn’t deserve the satisfaction of a further reply. He’s perfect, remember? Nothing I can say will satisfy him (not that I need to satisfy him). I even said I was sorry in my first email. I was sorry? For what?

I wanted to ask: Is your opinion perfect? Are you Perry Perfect? Is that your middle name or your last?

I wanted to say: A little politeness would go along with your so-called perfection. And you’re not a full-fledged editor; you’re a writer, as I am.

I hadn’t realized he expected me to take his every word as gospel. I never expected his offer to read my stories would hurt our friendship—end it, actually. I miss his unexpected visits. I miss his conversation. He had an opinion on everything. Had run-ins with others, too, now that I look back, due to his self-claimed perfectionism, but this was my first battle with him. I should feel special it hadn’t happened before.

Anyhow, life proceeds—for perfect people and for us peons, the non-perfect humans. Perfect Perry has moved on, to a more perfect neighbourhood. To more perfect people, I guess. I’ll be around. He knows where to find me, but those pigheaded perfect people live in their own perfect glass bubbles.

Ironically, the last story I emailed him, the one to substitute the two I had trashed, was titled “Perfect People.”

I’m still a lowly writer, trying to find readers. And who knows, Perfect Perry may be right about my stories. The universe will reveal that in good time. But even the universe must allow differing opinions. Even Stephen Hawking would agree, wouldn’t he?

Perry: I hope you’re happy in your perfect world.

Stephen Hawking: The universe may not allow perfection, but certain people living here think they’re entitled to it. It’s an entitled world now, you know.

RIP Stephen Hawking. RIP.

***

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/

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Transcendental Beauty” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about why or how a young person decides what career or path to follow. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the poignant coming of age tale The Girl Who Flew Away (https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away-ebook/dp/B06XKDFXTZ).

***

Transcendental Beauty by Val Muller

“An egg candler? You mean, as in candles?”

I nodded and smiled, but Mom’s brow was doing that thing again, that squinty thing it does when she’s mad.

“An egg what, now?” Dad asked. He peered over the folded edge of his newspaper. “A handler, like as in, a packer? You want to work at a factory, son?”

I shook my head. How could I make them understand? “Not a handler. A candler. Remember that old cartoon we watched at Uncle Mike’s house? The one where the farmer holds up all the eggs to a candle until he finds the egg that has the chick in it?”

My mom’s brow was now a map of the Grand Canyon.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Well, that’s what I want to do.”

Dad’s newspaper fell to the table. “So you want to spend your life holding up eggs to candles? Am I hearing this right? You’re taking five AP classes so you can hold an egg to the candle?”

The air grew dense.

“Are you taking drugs?” Mom asked.

“No!” I felt my face flush. “It’s just—” I tried to picture the German classroom, to picture the beauty of it in a way that my parents would understand. The way Frau made everything soft and welcoming. Even the German language sounded like soft poetry the way she spoke it. “For Easter, Frau Beckham let us make eggs.”

“Make eggs?” Mom asked.

“Who the hell is Frau Beckham?” Dad asked.

“His German teacher,” Mom said. She lowered her voice. “I think he has a crush on her.”

The blush rose to my ears.

“Aren’t you supposed to be learning German in that class?” Dad asked. “Is it a cooking class? Home Ec is for girls.”

“We’re learning German,” I insisted. “She was giving us the directions in German.”

“The directions?” Dad asked. “On how to be an egg candler?”

“No, the egg candler wasn’t Frau’s idea. She had us decorate Easter eggs. We blew the yolks out and then decorated the eggs. Now they’re hanging on a tree on her desk. Mine is the one right in front.” I swallowed a smile. “It’s pink with a purple heart in the center.”

“You blew the yolks out? In the classroom? On desks where kids sit?” Mom asked. “She could give someone salmonella that way.”

“You just make a little hole on each side,” I explained. And then you break the yolk and then blow it all out into a bowl. If we were in Germany, we would have used the eggs in the bowl to cook something.”

“Good thing you were in a public school classroom, then,” Mom said. “That all seems rather unsanitary.”

“She had the desks all covered. She brought these little table clothes, and she set them each with lots of napkins and even some chocolate eggs. And her dress matched, too. All very spring-like.”

Dad rolled his eyes and picked up his paper again. “Looks like our son has spring fever for this Frau.”

“Maybe I should call the school,” Mom said, her voice so much less dismissive than Dad’s. “This all seems rather unhealthy. And an egg candler…” She scrolled through her phone screen. “The median salary is laughable, James. This is not the job for a son of ours. Not one who is bound for college.” She put her phone down and squinted at me. “I think I will call the school about this Frau, planting ideas in your head of making you a bum.”

“Yeah, son. A factory job is no place for you.”

“Mom, an egg candler is not a bum.” I turned to Dad. “And you don’t know what my place is, anyway. Besides, it wasn’t Frau who got me thinking about that kind of a job.”

My parents looked at me, my dad’s eyes glaring over the paper.

“In English class, we’re discussing Existentialism. The idea is that nothing really has meaning until we impose it. So this whole idea that we have to go to college…”

“James!” Mom scolded.

“…and work fifty weeks a year just to spend tons of money on a two-week vacation…”

“You’re on thin ice, boy,” Dad said over the paper.

“…and work to exhaustion at college just to find a competitive career that will make us sleepless at night and stressed during the day…”

My parents exchanged glances. I, in the middle of them, felt their impact as if I were caught in a firing squad. But I couldn’t stop myself.

“So instead of sitting behind a desk all day, or stressing about clients, or worrying about competition, why not find something amazing, like the simple beauty of an egg? Why not look inside the beauty of nature every day? It’s very Transcendental, actually. Emerson and Thoreau would—”

But that was it. Their looks had killed me. I swallowed hard, like swallowing over an egg stuck in my throat, before getting up to do the dishes. I had to hurry: I had lots of work to do for my five AP classes if I had any hope of getting into a good college.”

***

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/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Too Much Silliness” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use these five words: riot, tear, leaf, bread, nurse.

Today’s post comes from Cathy MacKenzie. “Like” her WOLVES Facebook page to keep up to date on her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK (coming soon!!): https://www.facebook.com/WolvesDontKnock/  (No! This book is not about werewolves or vampires!)

***

Too Much Silliness by Cathy MacKenzie

The outside commotion dragged Natalie from her dinner. She peeked out the bedroom window to darkness, but when flares soared high into the sky, she saw police brandishing their guns. A full-blown riot!

She yanked the drapes together as if blocking the scene made it less threatening. The action reminded her how she closed her eyes when she didn’t want someone to see her—as if doing so made her invisible. Such silliness!

Returning to the kitchen table, she demolished the last of the bread and soup. The soup had cooled in the few minutes she’d been in the bedroom. She closed her eyes, imaging the horror outside—outside on her very street, right outside her window! How could that be?

The world had changed; violence was the new normal. Unknowingly, she had picked the right profession. Nurses and doctors were in demand. At first, she hadn’t been certain she could follow through with her chosen career, but gradually, during her forty-plus year as a nurse, the sight of blood became her new normal.

Except she wasn’t working any longer and missed those days at the hospital.

She missed her husband, too.

She let her face drop to her hands, ignoring the tear that plopped to the table. Her sweet Bill. Whatever in the world had she been thinking?

She dipped her index finger into the blob, which had increased with the addition of several more tears, and traced the outline of a leaf. The shape resembled a teardrop, reminding her of dear Bill. A teardrop leaf. She snickered. How silly!

She smacked the blotch, surprising herself.

She sighed and returned to the window, peeking between the drapes. The din had lessened though a throng of people still lingered.

She went to the closet and withdrew an almost weightless box from the top shelf, placing it on the floor and removing the lid. Ah, her nurse’s cap, which she hadn’t worn for the last ten years, not after she’d been forced from the hospital due to her age. At least that’s what she told herself.

In reality, she had been fired for drinking blood, caught in the act by a sickly patient who had screamed at the discovery. Natalie had tried to wheedle her way out of the predicament, but blood dripping down her chin was the only evidence needed.

A policeman had the audacity to ask if she were a vampire. A vampire? Hadn’t they gone out with the dark ages? Had they ever been real?

“You’re too silly. I’m not a vampire.” Her words had been spewed to deaf ears—except for the dratted patient who had given Natalie away. Natalie had wanted to throttle her white, turkey-gobbler neck.

She sighed and twirled her waist-length hair into a bun, ensuring it lay neatly on top of her head. Had she really been fired because of the blood? She had convinced herself she had been fired due to her age, which gave her a legitimate reason to hate her employer and the staff, who had been itching for her to resign for years. Luckily, she had managed to keep her pension. She had worked the requisite thirty plus years; no one had the right to snatch that from her,

What a load of crap! It wasn’t against the law to drink blood. And silliness to boot! So much silliness that no charges had ever been laid. The hospital, not interested in adverse publicity, wanted to forget the incident. Old Mrs. McNaughton, the woman who had caught her in the act, was senile and adamantly refused to testify. They had no case even if the hospital had wanted to press charges.

Natalie’s supervisor at the hospital had declared her a nut case. Natalie grimaced. After over thirty years at the same hospital, she should have held the supervisor positon, not some upstart twenty-year-old who didn’t know the difference between a needle and a thermometer.

“What kind of imbecile drinks blood?” Natalie’s supervisor had added after declaring her a nutcase.

“Me,” Natalie had said. “I was thirsty.” She kept a straight face but inside her guts constricted with glee. She had known it was the wrong reply, but she couldn’t help herself. She had whispered it, though, so only the supervisor heard it, which made the younger woman even more irate. But the telltale blood was the nail that kept the lid on the coffin, so to speak.

“Never mind,” Natalie had said, “I quit,” even though she was aware she was a tad late; she had already been fired.

She had paid no never mind to the awe-struck onlookers, snatched her handbag and her pristine white cap that had fallen from her head during the “excitement,” and raced from the ward. She hadn’t set foot in that hospital since. Wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing she might be sick.

Without more pondering, she set the cap on top of her head. It sat perfectly, wedged on her bun, but just in case, she secured it with two bobby pins.

After a final look in the mirror and a minor adjustment—must look presentable, dearie—she closed the door behind her and descended the three flights of stairs to the ground level.

The evening was darker than usual with the streetlights destroyed by rioters, but riots meant injuries. Injuries meant blood. No one would see. A dark corner would exist, somewhere, away from the cops and the flares.

She licked her lips in anticipation. Her dear, sweet Bill flashed in front of her. She prayed she could snare a wounded, unconscious man. Alive was best, one who resembled Bill. Poor Bill, gone much too soon, but she had enjoyed his last moments of breath even if he hadn’t.

She snickered. Much too much silliness! She’d never find another Bill.

***

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/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers! “Valentine’s Day” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this week is to use these five words in a story or poem: riot, tear, leaf, bread, nurse.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the poignant YA tale The Girl Who Flew Away, a story of friendship, family, addiction, adoption, and forgiveness.

***

Valentine’s Day by Val Muller

Why on Earth would she agree to babysit her niece and nephew on Valentine’s Day? Allison took a deep breath and closed her eyes, making the living room full of children disappear for a few seconds. Her own seven- and five-year olds were rambunctious enough, but to take on a toddler and a crawler at the same time?

Allison tried to remember what it had been like. It was hard being new parents, and Melanie and James had only been at it for a couple of years. Their little Brucie, the crawler, still wasn’t sleeping through the night, and Marianne was going through her terrible twos. No wonder Melanie and James needed a break.

Still. Did they have to go out on Valentine’s Day?

In the middle of the week?

After hopping their kids up on chocolate and lollypops?

Allison opened her eyes again. The television blared Peppa Pig, but before she could come to terms with the fact that she knew the episode by heart, she noticed little Brucie’s mouth. It was outlined in bright blue, and the color was dripping down his chubby cheeks in long, sticky lines.

“Marianne, don’t let your brother eat your lollypop,” she sighed. “He’s too little for candy.”

Marianne’s eyes flashed, and she took a handful of Lego Duplo blocks and chucked them across the room. She sputtered a string of gobbledygook that sounded like witchcraft and then crossed her arms in anger. Then she hurried to the bookshelf and flung several bedtime storybooks with the fervor of one ready to start a riot.

“Mom, Marianne didn’t do it,” Amy said. Amy, the seven-year-old. The only one adult enough to offer any assistance.

Allison chuckled at that thought. A seven-year-old as an adult. This was her life now.

“Well then who did?” Allison asked.

Amy pointed at her brother. Adam smiled guiltily, revealing a row of blue teeth. In his hand was the offending item. “Adam, Brucie’s too young for candy, okay?”

The kindergartener shrugged. “It’s Valentine’s Day. Everybody deserves candy.”

Something about this annoyed Marianne, who was already on the verge of tears. She charged Adam in an attempt to steal his lollypop.

“Pop!” she screamed.

Adam resisted, his hand knocking to the ground the plate of bread and butter he’d insisted on for dinner and then promptly ignored. The plate flew like a frisbee and hit Brucie on the forehead. The baby wailed immediately.

Allison hurried to pick him up. This better not have left a bruise. Melanie and James were still in that honeymoon phase of parenting where they cared about every little injury. They’d probably take off work to bring the baby to the pediatrician to check for a concussion or some other injury they researched on the internet. Allison kissed the wound to no avail.

Meanwhile, Adam and Marianne were coming to blows.

“Amy, please help!” Allison asked.

The seven-year-old shot a “why me?” look.

Marianne ran to the carnage of books and ripped out several pages, shredding them and throwing them in the air like leaves.

Allison shot a look at her daughter. “Please, Amy” Allison begged. “Help mom out this evening, and I’ll take you to Target to pick out any toy you want.”

At that, Adam froze. “Me too?” he asked.

Allison sighed. There went the money she saved by not hiring her own babysitter and taking a date night of her own. Instead, she agreed to babysit for her sister’s kids and allowed her husband to work late.

“I guess,” she sighed. “If you help take care of Brucie and Marianne.”

Adam sprung into action. A roll of tape materialized from nowhere, and he dove into action, putting together the torn pages like a nurse sewing together a patient. Marianne stared, captivated at the process.

Amy picked up little Brucie and took him to the bathroom, where a minor fuss indicated that his face was being washed. A moment later, the four of them were sitting on the couch just as a new episode of PJ Masks was coming on. Allison couldn’t help but smile. It was an episode she hadn’t seen before. A rare treat. She snuck into the corner of the room and plucked three of the chocolates her husband had given her before work this morning. She popped one in her mouth and hid the other two behind her back. These were quality chocolates, not to be shared with children. Not even mature seven-year-olds.

She eyed the bottle of wine on the living room table but decided she could wait until Melanie and James came to pick up the kids—and until the hubby returned. For now, in the warm glow of the television and the soothing sweet of candy, the chocolate was enough.

***

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/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Sulfur” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about a fictional something that should be left in the past. Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the poignant YA novel The Girl Who Flew Away: https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away-ebook/dp/B06XKDFXTZ

 ***

Sulfur By Val Muller

Even in Georgia, the day was brisk, leaving streets empty. It was the first week of January, and most people still had their Christmas decorations up. Was it to make the cold snap feel less brutal? Or maybe the Southerners simply hibernated when temperatures dropped too low: the decorations would come down when they could move again.

In any case, it worked out well for Andrea. She’d used extra perfume this morning—“holiday sparkle,” it was called, and it paired perfectly with the pine needle potpourri she stuffed into her satchel. If he asked about the scent, she could claim she was just being seasonal. Celebratory. That’s what people looked for in a nanny, right? A celebratory nanny would never have been involved in a—no, she had to move past it.

She took a deep breath and double-checked the address on her phone. Yes, this was it. 13450 Hummingbird Lane. His name was Mr. Weinstein, although her expansive Internet searches could not tell her whether he pronounced it as steen or stine. A forgivable offense, but given her situation, she couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.

He answered the door holding a handkerchief to his nose, then he dabbed his red nostrils and invited her in. He closed the door behind her before reaching a hand and offering a shake. She told herself not to hesitate and to grip firmly, glad she was wearing thick leather gloves against his germy hand.

“Andrea Climbury,” she said.

“Goob to meet you,” he said. “Excuse the mose.” He motioned to his head, obviously congested.

“Of course,” she offered. At first she frowned at his lack of introduction—she still didn’t know how to pronounce his name. But then her face broke into a smile. With a stuffy nose, there was no way he could smell anything about her—pine tree or otherwise. She swore with the last interview, the sulfur ruined everything.

“Come on into the study,” he said, checking his watch. “Elissa is just finishing her map.” His face drew into a smile at what must have been Andrea’s surprised expression. “She still maps. She’s only three,” he said. “I mow, my ad made her sound a bit older. Unintentional. She’s a bit precocious, is all. She loves books.”

“I certainly do love to read to the little ones,” Andrea said. “It’s one of the reasons I answered your ad. At my last job, books were a big—” She caught herself. “And I’ve worked with children of all ages.”

Mr. Weinstein motioned for her to sit on the couch. She glanced around the study. The books were all leather and looked older than even Mr. Weinstein. They had to be worth at least twice what he paid for his house. Several rare volumes sat open on pedestals.

“Elissa loves to read,” he explained.

He retrieved Andrea’s resume from his desk and joined her at the other end. “So, Ms. Climbury, I see you’ve moved here from up north. Andover, was it? Now where do I know that town? I’ve never been to Massachusetts, but the name sounds so…”

Andrea sighed. This was it, then. He’d make the connection and she’d be on the search for a job again. If Georgia wasn’t far enough, then where in the world could she go? Distract him, stupid!

“Yes, there was a little girl there. Madison. She loved to read, too. That’s how—” She forced her face into a smile. “Anyway, I was, um, heartbroken when her parents decided to send her to boarding school.”

He nodded, but his face was elsewhere, trying to retrieve a memory. Then it relaxed. “That’s right! Andover. Late last year—Andover was the site of that, well. I don’t know what to call it, actually.”

The Portal to Hell. That’s what the media had called it. The house that randomly opened up in a sinkhole filled with what appeared to be smoldering magma. Unexplainable by geologists, architects, and city planners. A new tourist destination for fans of nearby Salem, and witchcraft, and the occult.

Andrea scratched her nose, and it burned with the familiar scent. She feared she’d remember the scent as long as she lived. To be fair, Madison had been a nice girl. Even to this day, Andrea blamed the books. They’d turned the child into a young Dr. Faustus. And then all it took was a passing taunt on the way home from little Madison’s rival. A few Latin chants later, and little Jenny’s house had become a portal to Hell.

Madison’s parents told Andrea the decision for boarding school was unrelated to the sinkhole incident. It wasn’t completely clear they knew their daughter was to blame. So what if Madison had been standing on the rim of the smoldering crater when the fire department arrived? But Andrea suspected they’d put two and two together. Why else would they send their daughter off to Wisconsin?

Same reason Andrea was down in Georgia.

Andrea looked up to see that Mr. Weinstein was frowning at her. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You probably don’t like talking about that very buch.” He sniffled. “I’m sure it was traumatic for your town.”

Andrea turned her face to sniff out the pine scent of her satchel. It helped cover the itchy sulfur that had infused itself into her on that fateful day. “In any case,” she said, “I’m eager to start in a new position right away. Like I said, I love working with kids.”

A pitter-patter on hardwood interrupted the conversation. “Speak of the devil,” he said, “here’s little Elissa now.” He turned to a wild-eyed little girl in a pink, frilly tutu with a sequined purple witch hat. “How was your map? You ready to do some reading?”

“Yes!” she squealed.

Andrea looked around, searching for the stash of children’s books that had to be somewhere. But little Elissa was already busy pushing a wooden stool up to a pedestal stand containing a very old, leather-bound volume.

“The Necronomicon,” she chirped, offering a toothy toddler smile to Andrea and her father.

Mr. Weinstein turned to admire his precocious little daughter. “Miss Climbury, I’m sure the two of you will get along just fine. I’ll leave the two of you to get acquai—”

But when he turned toward Andrea, he saw only an empty couch, felt the draft of the front door opening to the cold, and even through his congestion caught the faintest whiff of sulfur among pine.

***

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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/

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Needle in a Stack” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story that takes place in a library. Today’s post comes to us from Val Muller author of The Man with the Crystal Ankh and The Scarred Letter. Val just finished up a blog tour for those two young adult books. You can find the full tour here, where you can learn interesting tidbits about her childhood, her writing career, and her works: http://www.valmuller.com/2017/10/25/writer-wednesday-my-blog-tour/

Author’s note: The following story may or not be inspired by the fact that I cannot think of the perfect wedding gift for someone very special to me who may or may not be reading this post and whose wedding may or may not be less than a week away.

Needle in a Stack by Val Muller

Fun facts:

  1. On Fridays, the Westfield Library shuts down early–at 5 p.m.
  2. On Saturdays, it doesn’t open until 10 a.m.
  3. Driving from Westfield Library to Thomasville takes three hours. Add another twenty to get to the east end and to find parking near the chapel. Leave time for last minute hair and makeup before the photographer shows up, and that means I’d have to leave the library no later than 9:40 to make it to the pre-wedding photo session on Saturday.
  4. 9:40 is twenty minutes before the library even opens.
  5. The library has a security system at the front and rear door that’s activated an hour after it closes—when the librarians and custodians leave. The system does not monitor movement within the library during the night.
  6. The custodians leave the supply room unlocked all the time.

I had the perfect wedding gift chosen for my sister: a sterling silver heart wrapped with the infinity sign. After meeting with my mom to put finishing touches on the centerpieces, I returned the heart to the store. It cost me a $5.50 restocking fee. Luckily, I hadn’t gotten it engraved yet. That was Thursday night.

For years, since Dalia was still in the womb, Mom has been recording her thoughts, tidbits of our family history, milestones of Dalia’s life, in a handwritten, black leather journal. And now the journal was ready to become Dalia’s most treasured wedding gift. While Mom was loading the centerpieces into her SUV, I snuck a peek at the journal. I read enough to get the brilliant idea, the idea for a gift my sister would value as much as Mom’s journal. Perhaps moreso.

When I was too young to remember, my grandfather used to take Dalia to the library in Westfield. They have a children’s section painted in whimsical murals, and the entrance to the children’s stacks is guarded by a life-sized paper mache dragon. Dalia loved the library but had always been hesitant to read, so my grandfather apparently drew cartoons all throughout the children’s library books. His drawings featured a cartoon rendition of Dalia dressed in a princess costume. It was the way he got Dalia to read. She’d read through the pages looking for the pictures of herself.

Mom mentioned in the journal that she wished they’d kept one of the books, or taken a picture at least. Grandpa kept this up for over a year before the librarians caught him and made him stop defacing the books.

Of course that was two decades ago, but some of the books have to remain. They’ve got to. It’s what I’m banking on. Just one book, just one is all I need.

More fun facts:

  1. Sometimes on Friday nights, the custodians hang out in the lobby, having a drink.
  2. Crouching behind a stack of industrial-grade toilet paper and paper towel rolls while you wait for the custodians to finish drinking can really get to the hamstrings.
  3. There are no emergency lights in the library. If you don’t have your own flashlight, you have to rely on the flashlight app on your phone to search the stacks.
  4. When searching a library in the middle of the night, it would be wisest to arrive with a fully-charged phone. Or at least a charger.
  5. Because you can’t really leave once you’re locked inside with the system armed.
  6. You’d think you could identify old books by how worn their spines are, but you’d be wrong. Some of the oldest books hold up the best. Some of the newer ones are the first to fall apart.
  7. You have to open the books to check the copyright dates.
  8. Sometimes, in the darkness, a life-sized dragon made of paper mache can really get the heart racing.
  9. If you try to remove a library book without checking it out, the red light will flash, even if the library is closed.
  10. If you try to leave the library before the system is disarmed the next morning, it will cause a loud alarm, which summons the police officers who are stationed right down the block.

None of this will matter when I see the look on my sister’s face. It’s three hours to Thomasville, and I’ve got something better than a journal, and just in the nick of time.

***

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/

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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?

***

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/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized