The Spot Writers – “A Reason Not to Work Retail” by CaraMarie Christy

Welcome to the Spot Writer’s! This month’s prompt is The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.

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 2006, Fairies Fly. Bonus points if you ask her about her book photography.

***

A Reason Not to Work Retail by CaraMarie Christy

“Hello, welcome to Dream Dresses!” I smile, but when my boss only gives me a half-approving nod I add, “How are you ladies doing today?”

“Good, how are you?” One of them mumbles.

“Great.” I’m not doing great. My feet hurt like hell. “Just so you know, all our rompers are on sale for eighteen dollars today, ladies.” And even at that price, I still wouldn’t buy them.

My boss gives me a big sunny smile. It’s like a gold star around here. But she loses it when she realizes she has to finish the schedule for next week, so she calls me up to guard the register while she’s bent over the employee binder.

A woman across the store watches me step behind the counter. There’s a floral romper in her hands, from our newest collection, just out of shipment this morning.

She dashes up to my counter and slams the romper onto the table, wrinkling every inch that I’d just ironed before we’d opened the store and gives me a hard stare. She keeps staring as she demands, “Five dollars.”

Five dollars? Did she want five dollars off? Because there was no way an outfit like this was going to be five dollars. Not with the way Dream Dresses operated. Not even if there was a giant tear in the butt. That’s what insurance is for. No discounts, no haggling of any sort, no returns without a receipt… Good old, corporate America.

“THIS IS FIVE DOLLARS, CORRECT?” the woman says, louder because I’m floundering. I want to tell her to get out of the store if she’s going to look at me like that. Like it’s my fault that the dress isn’t the price she wants. Like I’m trying to steal money from her.

My boss pulls her head up from the employee binder and snaps for me, “Eighteen dollars, ma’am. Show her the price tag. We don’t do discounts.”

This riles up the customer. She waves the romper in my face and then waves it at a rack. There’s a five-dollars-sign where she’s pointing, all right. Only it says, “five dollars all purses!”, not, “five dollars anything you want to be five dollars!”.

My hands are tied, I’d like to go in to the system and change it, but getting in trouble is not worth making. I repeat the price my boss said. My customer grinds her teeth and glares.

Five dollars.”

“Eighteen.” I repeat again, like the well-trained robot that I am.

Five.” “Eighteen.” “Five.” “Eighteen.” “Five.” “Eighteen.” “Ten.”

Jesus. I want to scream no. I want to scream at her that my job is not worth giving her a discount. That every item in the store has a code. I scan the code and it gives me what the item is worth, not the other way around.

The woman wrinkles the romper one last time, flicks her nose up into the air, and tosses it across the counter at me, “I don’t want it then.”

I want to fling it back at her as she walks away. Instead, I squeeze the register tight and smile for the next customer.

***

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 – “Kijiji People” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “The Sound of Silence. Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.” This month’s story (real instances with identifying items changed to protect the guilty!) comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her publishing company’s second anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, on sale August 1, 2017, on Amazon and other venues.

***

Kijji People

Kijiji People are as bad as Walmart People but in a much different way. If you’ve seen the comical, yet freaky, photographs online of Walmart customers, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, be happy!

The comparison is a rough one—a stretch! Who cares what Kijiji People look like? Ninety-nine percent of the time, one doesn’t see them, unlike the in-your-face Walmart People. And, really, we don’t care what Kijiji People look like—we simply want their money. Now that I ponder, I suppose that’s how the CEOs of Walmart feel, too; just give us your hard-earned dollars.

Me? I’d love it if KP lived up to their promises. I suppose “promise” is a strong word as is my comparison to WP. Not like KP carve words in stone when they reply to an item. But why do they send a million emails asking “Is this item still available” and after my responses of “Yes, it is. Would you like to see it? I’m available at your convenience,” not another word! I’ve learned my lesson, though; now my response is a simple “Yes!” and the email is deleted so my inbox isn’t clogged with junk.

Funny, as tech savvy as I proclaim to be, yesterday I discovered I don’t even have to type any words. Three handy dandy options are listed at the bottom of Kijiji’s email: “Yes, I do,” “No, sorry,” “Yes, it’s still available.” Click the pertinent one, hit send, and you’re done!

Our garage is full of items I’m trying to sell. I insert “price is firm” at the end of my ads. I’m not interested in bargaining; my prices are more than fair. I’m not listing something for $60 in the hopes I get $50; that’s not MY nature, but that seems to be the nature of Kijiji People. They want bargains—or, at least, to think they’ve worn you down so you’ll give them one.

I’ve had people try to get me down to $35 on a $100 item. I’ve had people bicker over $5 and end up walking away without purchasing. Once in a while I do lower my price; I guess it depends how desperate I am at that moment.

One day, a woman came to purchase a vest. It turned out to be too small for her, but I upsized her to a jacket. She only had $20 on her, the price of the vest (doesn’t anyone carry money any longer?), so she gave me the twenty as a deposit until the following day. The next day, a couple of hours before she was to return, I received an email: “Would you take $50?” Umm—no!

One individual, who came to view the snow blower, said “I’ll take it. I’m not even going to argue with the price.” “No, you’re not,” I replied, “because I’m not going any lower.”

Another woman wanted to purchase my Keurig carousel, listed for $10. The plan was that we would meet in her neighbourhood whenever I was in her area. A few days later, we agreed to meet in a supermarket parking lot. “I’ll park at the far end of the parking lot, facing the highway. I have a red Porsche, with a black soft-top. Will be there at 1:00.” Should be simple, right? Well, I waited . . . and waited. I finally checked my phone to find her message: “I’m over by the donation bins, in the corner of the parking lot. I have a blue Ford.” I looked to my right: there she was. WTF! She had to pass by me to park where she did, and not a car was parked in the area when I arrived. Piss on her; if she can’t come to me, I’m not going to her. And we sat like that for fifteen minutes. I ignored her texts: “I’m here, where are you?” “I have to leave in ten minutes.” “Hope you get here soon.” “Where are you?” I wasn’t budging. She had said she had an appointment at 1:15. At 1:10, I sped off. I flicked my finger at her when I passed.

Some KP are plain sneaky! I had, what I thought was, a rush on tennis racquets. I had a price of $25 each or $45 for the pair. I told Hubby I had an offer of $40 for the two. “They’re worth more than $50 each,” he said. I thought $25 was fair, however, but wished I hadn’t reduced the two to $45. So I changed the ad to one at $25 and ignored the guy with the $40 request. A couple of days later, I had two more emails about the racquets. “Yes, I still have them,” I replied to both emails. “$25 each.” One reply: “A couple of days ago they were two for $45!!!!!!!.” (Yes, a whack of exclamation points!) He scared me, too, cos he sounded mad. Luckily, I hadn’t yet given him my address.

Another guy wanted grease guns. “Ten dollars each,” I said. “I have three.” He wanted all three at the $20 price I had listed. Ooops—typo! I replied that they were three for $25, not three for $20. I never heard back from him even though he’d been eager to immediately pick them up. He has our address, so I’m freaking! And over $5?

Who knows what these people can do. Piss them off, and they can reply to one of your other ads, pretend they’re coming for that item, and instead, come to plunder or ravage! Or perhaps they reply to other items and become the no-shows to exact revenge, to get you excited and then deflate you all in one breath.

A guy emailed me about the table saw, which was priced at $100. “I just broke my saw, and I’m desperate to finish my project. Can I buy yours at $50?” Umm—no!

I’ve spent precious hours, upon request, taking specific photos of items, emailing, and posting them only to receive replies, “Nope, not what I’m looking for.”

One guy emailed me about six times in ten minutes regarding Hubby’s bicycle. “Could you meet me at Tim Horton’s on Dickson Street at 6:30 tonight? I just moved here and don’t have a car.” I felt sorry for him, so I made arrangements with Hubby, emailed the guy back, and off we went at 6:00. And we waited . . . and waited. A no-show! Unbelievable! There went our Friday evening.

One bargain-hunter KP wanted my outside oil lamps, listed at $50 (firm!). She offered me $25. I replied back at $50. Thirty-five dollars, she wrote back. “Nope, $50,” I said. “Forty dollars is my limit,” she replied. I let her stew for a couple of days. I really did want to get rid of the unsightly things. I sent her another email: “Okay, $40.” A relative picked them up a few days later, and the woman sent me a nice email later that night: “I just love the oil lamps. I guess one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

A woman wanted the $25 filing cabinet. She hadn’t looked at it in person but sent an email: “Would you take $15? I can come today at 3.” “Sorry,” I replied. “It’s $25 firm.” No further response.

Previously another woman had come to buy the filing cabinet after asking for the dimensions. After arriving and realizing it was legal-sized and not letter, she left in a huff. “That’s why I sent you the dimensions,” I yelled at her departing vehicle.

Despite the bad, one breath of fresh air blew in. A young guy arrived at my house to purchase my old bicycle, sight unseen, on behalf of his sister. It was $50, and he handed me three twenties. “If you don’t have change, don’t worry about it,” he said.

The Kijiji People who never show up at the agreed-upon times—or any time—are the worst! You wait and wait. Has common courtesy blown out the window? (The bicycle guy was, obviously, worse than these other no-shows.)

I check my ads. I scan my emails. (Ugh! A message from “Jim” asking if the tennis racquet is still available. What to do? Is it really a “Jim” or one of the previous guys back in action?)

I wander to the door, peek out the windows, pace the house. I want to scream. SCREAM! These Kijiji People drive me crazy!

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “Ombrophobous” by Dorothy Colinco

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

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

***

Ombrophobous

 

The rain brings with it

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

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

an apathetic hue of gray not seen elsewhere,

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

and makes eyes weep without feeling or reason,

burning chemicals,

evidence of humanity’s callousness and cruelty.

 

The rain takes away

the graceful spine of the delicate foxglove,

forcing it into a painful arch,

denouncing its beauty and form,

the brightly-colored chalk ground into the rough sidewalk

declaring a child’s name,

their early attempts to announce their identity

and presence in the world,

the laughter shared on a baseball diamond,

the sound of a leather connecting with wood and metal.

 

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

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

now indistinguishable from precipitation,

though both are born of sorrow.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Reaching through the Years” by Val Muller

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

Today’s story comes from Val Muller, author of The Girl Who Flew Away. The word she chose is “psithurism,” which is the sound of rustling leaves, a sound that contends only with the ocean in terms of her favorite things to hear. The tale is inspired by a moment of inspiration that came while she was comforting her toddler, who was ailing from a double ear infection.

Reaching through the Years

By Val Muller

It was cool for June. I stretched out on the futon, the toddler lying on my arm. My fingers already started tingling, the weight of her growing body cutting off my circulation. The wind blew through the open window, but I wasn’t cold. Her feverish body warmed me.

Sure, I felt sorry for her. A double ear infection and four erupting molars. But still, every time she moved, she wailed. The breath from her mouth felt hot against my neck, and her screams pierced my eardrum. Why wouldn’t she just sleep?

The world was covered in a gossamer film, the haze of fatigue. When was the last time I slept through the night? I mean, really truly slept? When was the last time a piercing wail didn’t startle me through the baby monitor, or the giggling coo of a baby wide awake at 4:30 in the morning, ready to play?

A fussy foot kicked me in the liver. Or maybe the spleen. Whichever one hurt more.

Why wouldn’t she just sleep?

Fatigue hung on me like a weight. My limbs felt heavy and old. I looked down at my legs stretching a mile before me, bare toes pointing toward the open window at the edge of the futon. The sun had set, but its glow still touched the sky. Weren’t little kids supposed to go to bed early? This one never slept.

The twilight glow shone through the window, accenting the shape of my knees, the muscles of my thighs. So big compared to her tiny body. Those legs would take so much energy to move, and just thinking about getting up from the futon seemed an impossible task under the weight of exhaustion.

My arms felt like bricks now, and I couldn’t imagine how to get through the next few minutes, or weeks, or months. My muscles ached from carrying her around all day: the ear infections had left her reverting to her baby days of needing her skin to be next to mine, of needing her heartbeat to hear my own.

When was the last time I was alone in a room?

My spirit shrunk under oppressive thoughts: the weight of unwashed dishes, of trash needing to be taken to the curb. When was the last time I showered?

The sun sank lower, and the twilight darkened a bit. A breeze from the window kissed the drapes, tickling my toes. A whooshing sound rode the wind, almost like the lapping of ocean waves against the shore. I had to check out the window to make sure the mountains had not been replaced with a sea.

Delirium?

No, psithurism. Wind rustling through the trees. It had always been one of my favorite sounds. There was something magical about the summertime, about how lush and lively the leaves were, and how they seemed to be calling to each other each time the wind blew.

The cool breeze felt warmer, and I looked down again at my legs. They looked smoother, younger, more powerful. Why had I thought a moment ago that they felt so old and tired? I felt like an athlete again, like I did in high school. I wanted to spring up and run a mile.

I turned to the child next to me. Her eyes were nearly closed now, and her breathing was becoming steadier. The wails each time she moved were replaced by soft whimpers.

Her body against me felt like a feather, and I remembered the weightlessness of youth, the weightlessness of possibility and protection, of knowing my parents were right there to save me from anything and everything. I cradled her a bit tighter as she fell to a steady sleep.

In an instant, I had a vision of myself—a much older self, less fit, and lonelier. A self whose limbs actually ached and whose aged fatigue was actually oppressive. And for an instant, I was decades older and looking into the room, borrowing the eyes of my younger self, looking at myself on the futon with my toddler daughter. For an instant I admired my youth and treasured the way she needed me for everything.

What was happening? I could feel myself reaching through the decades, grasping this moment. Savoring it. A supernova of possibilities exploded through my brain lasting only a second. How could I be myself in the present and yet feel myself in the future all at once? Was this moment a wish being granted? Maybe I was an old woman, eighty or ninety perhaps, or maybe I had just blown out the candle for my 100th birthday party, making the silent wish to relive a moment of young motherhood once more, to feel the soft touch of baby skin clinging to my arm for comfort. Maybe this moment was one of the most peaceful in my life and would stand in my memory for years to come. Maybe it was my dying memory, and the universe was allowing me one last chance to peek through my younger eyes before passing into the ether.

The breeze kicked at the curtains again, and the odd sensation was gone. I looked over at my daughter. The pain seemed gone from her face, and her chest rose and fell evenly now. The fatigue was gone from me, but so too was the insane adrenaline. I no longer wanted to run a mile. I no longer wanted to escape to my bed.

Psithurism.

I held my daughter tight and fell into a gentle sleep as the trees whispered their secrets in the twilight air.

***

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 – “That One Time I Got Punched on Stage” by CaraMarie Christy

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 CaraMarie Christy.

***

That One Time I Got Punched on Stage

It is basic knowledge that a troupe of actors should get along with one another. There is the occasional twitter of “who is sleeping with who” and “he misplaced my prop before a crucial scene”, and these might cause some tension behind the curtains. But “hatred”, when your fellow actor is the only comrade you have in your fight against any viewing audience, is never a term to take lightly. When an actor gets too much venom in their blood, it can destroy a show. Which undermines the actor creed: the show must go on.

So, when I found myself sprawled out on the ground, the audience gasping, I was quite confused. And my heart sunk as I realized that I was the target of all the evil that this tiny, brainless hack of an actress had. I was knee deep in her venom. And every thought hitting my head was that my “lifesaver” had been the one to send me spiraling into the water, crashing to the stage. My blood boiled, cheeks flushing red as I forced myself to push up to my knees. The audience was silent. My mother, in the fourth row, had her fist clamped over her mouth, her eyes wide.

My blocking had said step between the women, interrupting their discussion, to pour a glass of “poisonous” wine. One of these ladies had disagreed with what we had planned. Gabby, the red-haired freshman with an outrageous bob, whose ego had been inflated when she had been cast in a speaking role instead of a servant, was the culprit. Something in her tiny brain had snapped. I knew I was right to move, I could picture the notes about it in my head, scribbled into a corner of my script. At first, when I’d come forward, she had nudged me with an elbow, prodding me back a few steps. When her prods only got her a half-raised eyebrow, she began tugging at my vest, pulling me so that she could continue her improvised babble with her fellow lady. But I found she was running out of clever things to say and the scene wasn’t moving forward. So, playing the deceitful servant, I’d reached for her “wine”.

At last, crying to her companion about how dreadful the rain was, Gabby punched me in the chest, shoving me out of the scene entirely and knocking me clean off my feet. Her “poisoned” wine went flying through the air. It landed somewhere offstage, onto a stagehand judging by the whispered curses behind the curtains.

I was up on my knees and seething, staring at the drops of grape juice on my white serving shirt. With one finger, I pointed to an actor at random offstage, gesturing to them out of sheer madness and praying someone else could solve this girl’s mess. From the wings the Lord General appeared, a football playing junior who had wandered in to theatre. He was not supposed to come on stage for another act. But in his giant hand was my lost cup.

“Are you all right there, chap?” In three steps, he was hauling me up and putting the drink in my hand. Looking at the drink, my heart felt lighter. Here was a fellow actor. Here was a comrade throwing me a life preserver.

“Weary, my lord! But I thank you for catching my mistress’s drink.” I yelled, hiking up my boots. “Many a man has had much worse fall from such a woman.”

And the audience laughed. And from the look on Gabby’s face as she drank, I might as well have punched her back.

***

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 – 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 – “Grading on Effort” by Val Muller

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 story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the young adult books The Scarred Letter, The Girl Who Flew Away, and The Man with the Crystal Ankh. Her novels with Barking Rain Press are discounted to $2.99 from now until May 14.

Grading on Effort

By Val Muller

Everyone on the faculty glared at Mr. Becket. They all knew, even though the principal didn’t lay the blame. They all knew it was him, his policies in Gourmet Foods, that was making them all suffer through this ridiculous policy.

“And so,” the principal finished, “we are implementing the policy as of this semester, that we will only grade students on their effort. Too many grades have been given out subjectively, and we just can’t have that anymore.”

The faculty groaned. They’d all read the editorial written by Stephen Smitchen. The one criticizing an unnamed Gourmet Foods teacher of showing favoritism in his gradebook. Stephen Smitchen had prepared Hasselback potatoes, a recipe that required arguably (as his editorial asserted) more culinary skill than Mr. Becket’s required “rustic smashed potatoes.” And yet Stephen was deducted points because the precise cuts of his Hasselback recipe “contradicted the rustic nature of the recipe.”

It was one of those stories that garnered national news attention, an easy topic for clickbait and teasers on the nightly news. And thus the principal’s hands became tied to defend the school’s policies in front of a national audience.

And the school’s policies lost.

The memo was printed on Pepto-Bismol pink paper, and the roomful of them looked sickly, like the memos were there to cure the faculty’s collective stomachache. Martin Flemming wrinkled the corner of his memo as he read: …effective immediately, students will, be allowed to appeal grades, by writing a short essay explaining the effort they put into the assignment. If they can assert, that they put in a valid and admirable effort, then their grade must be changed irregardless of the actual product produced. The rubric, for their essays is printed below…

Martin’s eye twitched at the principal’s use of “irregardless” as well as the excessive use of commas. Shouldn’t a principal understand how to use English correctly? Or at least hire a proofreader? In any case, this policy was bad news. How could he hold students accountable in his Medieval Literature course if he was only allowed to grade on effort? He thought back on all his years of teaching. So many essays written with gusto that were completely…wrong.

You just can’t argue that Beowulf was written to mirror the struggles of modern man. Effort or not, that essay was just inaccurate. And that essay last year, the one arguing that Chaucer was influenced by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? No amount of effort could justify that conclusion. Unless Chaucer had a time machine.

Martin raised his hand.

“Mr. Flemming?” the principal asked. “You have a question?”

“More of a statement,” he said, clearing his throat. All eyes turned to him, hungry mosquitoes ready to bite. “An anachronism is not something subjective. It’s fact. So if—”

But the principal was already shaking his head, his eyes glossed over at the use of the difficult vocabulary word. “If you have specifics about English or History, you’ll need to consult your department chairs.”

Several other hands raised. It was going to be a long meeting. Martin turned to the one tiny window not covered by the meeting room’s light-blocking blinds. It was a nice day. The birds were singing, and the sun looked warm and pleasant. He looked back at the faculty. By the time the principal got through all these questions, the sun would be setting before he’d had a chance to go home and run.

He tucked the pink memo into his bag and shuffled toward the door. The principal gave him an irritated glance, but it would be okay. In the morning, after his mind had been cleared with a long run on a sunny afternoon, Martin could explain to the principal just how hard he’d tried to stay at that awful faculty meeting. Maybe the principal would be amused. Maybe he’d get written up.

Martin shrugged as he stepped into the sun.

He enjoyed his run irregardless.

***

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 – Faded Beer Cans by Cathy MacKenzie

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.

The story that follows is by Cathy MacKenzie, who didn’t exactly follow the prompt. She was never REALLY angry…

***

Faded Beer Cans by Cathy MacKenzie

I’d always hated how John discarded empty beer cans throughout the house and around the yard. Hubby was never too impressed either. When I found one, I’d mutter and moan, “Dratted John and his beer.” We’d find them out of sight in the weirdest locations: behind the television, beside an ornament, under the couch, as if he were a two-year-old hiding toys. But when he appeared in person, I’d forget to chastise him. Or perhaps my memory intentionally faded.

And then John died.

A horrid vehicular accident stole John’s life when a drunk driver in a Chevy Cavalier careened across the centre line into his 2009 Chevy Silverado. My son died in my arms at the hospital two hours after I received the dreaded phone call that every parent fears.

Later, in fitful sleep, I pondered the accident. John enjoyed a beer—or two (or more!)—after work and into the evening. He also cherished his truck. He’d never drink and drive. But what if he had? He could easily have caused such an accident if he weren’t so conscientious. And shouldn’t a truck survive a compact car?

Fate, I surmised. Dratted Fate.

And Death.

And Dying.

And Life’s Horrific Circumstances.

And Incidents we have no control over.

Parents can’t hold their children close every second of every day. Especially adult children.

I enjoy a beer—or two. Sometimes too early in the day. Was I becoming an alcoholic?

Between my gulps and tears, knives glared. Pills danced.

“I’m stronger than you,” I chanted. “I have other children. I have grandchildren. As hard as it is, I must live.”

Spring cleaning taunted me after Hubby carved his initials, RTG, in the dust on the coffee table: a subtle hint; he wouldn’t chastise me for my lack of cleaning, not when grief consumed me.

But inadequateness and guilt weighed on my soul, and I grabbed a rag and furniture polish. On my tippy toes, I stretched to the top shelf in the living room. I swiped the damp rag across the surface and encountered a foreign object. What was it? Afraid to knock something over, I retrieved the step stool from the pantry.

I positioned the stool. And reached.

A beer can.

Bud Light.

Heavy.

Tears careened down my cheeks. My sweet boy. Gone before his time.

I once thought he stuck cans wherever convenient, too lazy to return to the kitchen. But no, he was simply impish. And after his death, I discovered he discarded empties at other homes, as well.

But only empties. This can was unopened.

“Don’t cry, Mom.” I hear his echoes through the house. “Oh, Mom, stop!”

Oh, dear sweet son, how I miss you.

In memory of my son Matt, who did leave beer cans everywhere—but only empties.

April 28, 1980 – March 11, 2017

***

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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Thirty-Seven Years Ago

Thirty-seven years ago a babe was born,
But eight-pound Melissa
Became ten-point-six Matthew,
Would I cherish a cherub boy?

 

You charmed me with chubbiness,
Wide blue eyes, generous smile, 
Wiggling limbs in white flannel,
“A football player,” a nurse proclaimed!

 

You grew and grew, handsome and smart,
My middle child of compassion and heart,
Always there with helpful hands,
Drying tears, yours and ours.

 

Did that nurse know you’d be a Brady fan?
The Patriots stirred your heart
As did Kyla and Abby, your two loves,
Who lit your world on fire.

 

I dubbed you the Tin Man—
“All I want is a heart”—
Luck should have been on your side,
But your hearts were doomed—all three.

 

“I got a heart, Mom, I got a heart!”

Joy and weariness lined your words,
I wept for another mother,
A death to save a life.

 

Life went horribly wrong,
Exchanging “I love you” on Tuesday
To watching you go on Saturday
After I promised you wouldn’t die.

 

Though comforted you phoned loved ones,
I wish I’d said, “Wait a while,
There’ll be more hearts,”
Despite your famous words, “I gotta go.”

 

A three-month roller coaster ended,
Days alternating between life and death,
Could we have done more?
Should we have gripped you tighter?

 

I miss you, my dear impish son,
So much you’ll never know,
Endless days I crave to die
So I can join you in peace.

 

Instead I add tears
To white wine and Bud Light.
“Gotcha, Mom,” you say,
When I spy a discarded can.

 

I hold on though I want to go,
I gulp another breath
And pretend I never cry,
“I’m okay,” I say when asked.

 

Tears aren’t the way to begin a day,
Nor to end the night,
But weeping starts and doesn’t stop,
I shouldn’t be without my child.

 

Horrid clichés mark my soul:
Life takes the good before the bad,
Gone before your time,
Children shouldn’t predecease parents.

 

Why does my heart beat fast
When yours stopped too soon?
I’d trade places if I could,
But your voice echoes, “Oh, Mom, stop!”

 

Your father called it Matt’s Moon,
That glow the morning of death
When God swiped your unassuming soul

To improve His holdings in Heaven.

 

Rest in peace, my dear son,
At home upon the hill,
I’ll forever cherish my cherub boy.
Fuck cancer. Fuck, fuck fuck!

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The Spot Writers – “Dino Express” by Dorothy Colinco

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

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

Dino Express by Dorothy Colinco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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