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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The Spot Writers – “Courage” by Val Muller

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

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

***

Courage (by Val Muller)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Coming,” came a muffled reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megan told me that—

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

I thought maybe—

What am I, in middle school?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

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

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The Spot Writers – “The Trophy” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. March’s prompt is to use these five words in a story: builder, chance, trophy, glory, unexpected.

Today’s post comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has a submissions call for stories for an upcoming anthology titled TWO EYES OPEN, which call ends March 31, 2017. The theme: thriller, mystery, horror. Check out MacKenzie Publishing’s website for further particulars. www.mackenziepublishing.wordpress.com

***

“The Trophy” by Cathy MacKenzie

Pete stared at the unexpected snow piled outside the window of his front-room office. The wind had abated, leaving huge drifts. Could he even open the door? Although he detested winter, he’d take a chance at the snow, which was preferable to staring at a blank screen—though both were glaring white canvases, daring him to choose: write or shovel.

Once a builder, Pete had aspired for his own construction company but had given up on that dream.  The glory he sought would surely come when he wrote a Pulitzer-prize winning novel, but that dream had never materialized either. Suddenly, he was left with nothing: no job, no novel.

Even his wife had left him. “You’re too much a dreamer,” she had screamed before slamming the door in his face.” Later, he laughed. Good thing you had an escape. His belly would have hurt even more watching her fat butt waddling through a tunnel of packed snow, which had been the case the previous year when there’d been so much snow they’d only been able to access the side door. And even then, it had been a literal tunnel. Truth be known, he was glad she left because, by leaving first, she had voided the pre-nup they’d signed several years previously. Not that he had anything to give her in a settlement.

When he stepped outside, he found the snow to be light and fluffy. The newscaster had forecast colder temps, so the snow would harden overnight, but he’d worry about that later. For now, he needed a drink.

He ambled to the local bar, a place he frequented often. The guys there knew him. No one admonished him. No one nagged. No one made him feel guilty. Yes, he was glad for the umpteenth time that Alice had left. And of her own free will, too. He was one lucky man!

He and Joe commiserated while they drank. Joe, on marriage number four, had one too many whiskeys while Pete consumed several beer.

A shadow covered Pete before he realized the room had darkened. Joe, in his stupor, was oblivious to the change.

A voice bellowed. “What are you doing?”

Pete looked up. Alice. “What are you doing here? This is a men’s establishment.”

“You’re my husband. I have a right to be here.”

“No, you don’t. You left, remember?”

Alice held firm. “And now I’m back. Like Arnold.”

“Arnold?”

“Schwarzenegger. The actor. The governor of California?”

“Right. Him. Yeah.”

“Come home now, Pete.”

“I need another drink.” Pete slammed down the empty beer can, motioned to the bartender for another, and eyed his friend. “Joe, you awake?”

Joe tilted his half-empty glass on the counter. “What do you want?”

“Are you awake?”Pete repeated.

“Of course I’m awake. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“And Alice is here, too.”

Joe glanced at Pete and then at the hovering figure. “Hey, Alice. How’re you?”

“Fine, Joe. You?”

“All’s good.” Joe slugged another mouthful. “Yeah, all’s good.” He stared at Alice a moment before speaking. “So, what’s this I hear? You left Pete?”

“No, I did not leave Pete.”

“Pete said you did. He’s been gloating about his freedom.”

“Oh, you don’t say. Pete? What say you?”

Pete gripped his beer. “Hmmm?”

“Come on, Pete. Time to go home,” Alice said.

Joe giggled. “Pete, you have a trophy. Hold it high.”

Pete frowned.  “Trophy? Alice?”

“Alice is a trophy, yes. She’s twenty years younger than you. Isn’t that a trophy bride?” Joe snickered.

Pete stared at his drink. Trophy? He didn’t think so. But he hadn’t much success at a job or a novel or…nothing. Yeah, he’d better grab a trophy—any trophy—while he could, even if she did have a fat butt. “Alice, sweet. So good to see you.” Was that enough? “I’m sorry. I appreciate you so much. Let’s go home.”

Alice smiled and latched to his arm. “Come on. Home it is. Snow is in the forecast. You may have to shovel in the morning.”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

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

 

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TWO EYES OPEN!

Two Eyes Open FB

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS! Submit your stories!

DEADLINE MARCH 31

MacKenzie Publishing is accepting fiction submissions for its second anthology, stories for 18+, titled TWO EYES OPEN (horror, suspense, thriller, mystery, etc.).

Submission deadline: March 31, 2017

Payment: $10 Canadian per story, paid via Paypal

Word count: 2,500 to 5,000 words
Publication date: August 1, 2017

MacKenzie Publishing does not accept material that has been published previously, either online or in print. By submitting to MacKenzie Publishing, you are assuring you hold the rights to the work and grant MacKenzie Publishing the right to publish the submitted work. MacKenzie Publishing will require exclusive rights to the stories until December 31, 2017.

To Submit:
Paste info and document in the body of an email (no attachments) in this order:
-Title of story, your name, email, word count
-Story
-Bio (up to 150 words)

Email stories to MacKenzie Publishing at: TwoEyesOpenAnthology@gmail.com

Put the title of your submission in the subject line.

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The Spot Writers – “Toddler Glory” by Val Muller

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

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

***

Toddler Glory by Val Muller

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

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

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

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

But only just a while.

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

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

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

Motor skills. They always manage to impress parents.

We make eye contact. The room is all smiles.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

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

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

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

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

Peppa Pig.

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

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

And that’s why the room is all smiles.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

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

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Language Addict” by CaraMarie Christy

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

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

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The Language Addict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porque no los dos?”

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

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

 

 

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