The Spot Writers – “The Vampire” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. March’s prompt: How (or why) a young person decides what career (or path) to follow.

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.


OUT OF THE CAVE (milder stories for 13+):


The Vampire by Cathy MacKenzie

Nancy jumped. What was that?

The book she’d been reading, A Nightmare of Vampires, lay beside her. Had she fallen asleep? “Darn, now I’ve lost my place,” she mumbled.

She tiptoed to her bedroom door. Carefully she opened it and peeked into the hall.

Dark. Quiet. No—what was that?

A shadow. At the end of the hall.

Was that Nathan, her seventeen-year-old brother?

Once Nancy’s eyes grew accustomed to the dark, the shadow morphed into a vampire—a real life vampire. A female vampire! Heading to Nathan’s room!

She wanted to keep watching, but she was a fearful. Vampires were bad creatures. They sucked the blood out of you and where would you be then? But that’s why she wanted to be a vampire. She wanted control: control of her destiny, control of others.

She liked the look of blood, the thick red, coppery scent. She’d tasted blood previously, when she cut herself, sometimes on purpose, so she could lick her skin until she had lapped up all the red. The taste wasn’t bad, actually, but not as sweet as she had expected. She worried—if her dream to be a vampire came true—whether she’d be able to stomach strange blood. That was perverse and unnatural, wasn’t it?

But it would be fun to haunt the night, to soar through the sky—vampires did fly, didn’t they? She considered herself a people person, at least that’s what her teacher had recently said. At the time, Nancy thought “people person” was a label for yapping fools who didn’t shut up, but she later learned the connotation was desirable. People were supposed to be sociable, talkative, and interested in others. Nancy was all of those: all the requisites for a female vampire.

She hesitated. She’d love to confront the vampire in the hall and converse with it, but she snuck back to her bed.

Katherine Krimmins was an excellent writer, and Nancy immersed herself in the story again, picturing herself as Vanessa the Vampire. She was aware most vampires were male, but this was the twenty-first century. Couldn’t she be whatever she wanted?

The next morning, she met her grandmother, who was visiting for a couple of weeks, on the stairs, and told her that she wanted to be a vampire when she grew up.

Granny’s eyes grew wide. “What! A vampire? How do you know what a vampire is?”

“I know what they are. I’ve seen them.”

“You’ve seen vampires?”

“Well…just one. Last night.”

“Oh, you must have had a bad dream. A nightmare.”

“No, Granny, I saw one for sure.”


“It was going into Nathan’s room.” She pointed behind her. “I saw it.”

“Oh, Nancy, you silly girl.”

“No, Granny, I saw it.”

“It’s not nice to tell fibs.”

Nancy pouted. “I’m not. And that’s what I want to be when I grow up.”

Her grandmother hugged her. “Oh, sweetie, if you want to be a vampire, you can be a vampire. You can be anything you set your mind to, but you’re only twelve, so I’m sure you’ll change your mind dozens of times before then.”

Nancy relaxed. Even if her grandmother didn’t believe her tale, she had, at least, agreed she could be a vampire. Her mother, though, would have a different opinion.

“Let’s go eat breakfast,” Granny said.

They entered the kitchen. Her mother, busy at the counter, greeted them. Nathan appeared seconds later.

Nancy couldn’t help but notice his flipped-up collar. “Nathan, your collar is skewered.”

His face flushed. Up to no good, she thought.

He glared at her. “Shut up, Nancy.”

Their mother wagged her wet fingers. “Kids, behave.”

When Nathan sat at the table, his collar flipped down.

Nancy gasped and whispered to her grandmother. “Granny, see? Vampires do exist. They suck the blood outta you, just like one did to Nathan last night.”

“Sweetie, what are you talking about?” Granny asked.

She motioned toward Nathan. “Look at Nathan’s neck. See the red blotch? That’s dried blood. That’s where the vampire got him. Sometimes they don’t kill you, you know. It all depends how sharp their teeth are.” Nancy figured she’d be a good vampire. Suck up enough blood to satisfy her urge but not enough to kill.

Nathan, his face even redder, yanked up his collar. “What you guys looking at?”

Their mother growled again. “Kids, hush. Sit down, Nancy and Granny. I have eggs and bacon.”

Nancy ignored her mother and whispered to her grandmother again. “See, I told you I saw a vampire.”

Granny leaned in to her. “I believe you, sweetie. I saw the red mark. But let’s keep that our secret.” Her eyes glistened.

Was she crying?  She looked sad.

“You missing Grampie?” Nancy asked.

“I am, sweetie.”

“Sorry, Granny.”

“Life goes on. Companionship is a good thing. I think being a vampire would be a good occupation when you grow up,” she said.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Millicent Hughes:



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The Year of Firsts

The Year of Firsts

Matt candle crop

The year of firsts ends today,

What is this current year?

A year of seconds?

Is there a label for future years?


How did a year pass so fast

And yet so painfully slow?

I relived each day—

Three hundred and sixty-five.


Not wanting to remember,

Not wanting to forget

You walking through the door,

Your smile betraying antics.


We mucked with Mother Nature.

Did we do too much?

Did we do too little?

Guilt consumes my soul.


Flowers withered, trinkets exist,

Photos and memories abound,

Remains encased in silver or bronze

And within a wooden tomb.


A headstone highlights your grave,

Sun dancing upon blue and grey,

But you are as scattered and hidden

As your cans of empty beer.


Nine months I carried you,

Today I carry you ‘round my neck

And within my heart and mind,

Your death etched upon my face.


The first horrid year ends today

But every breath brings more,

You’ll remain an eternal mirage,

Forever unreachable until I die.


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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 (


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:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Millicent Hughes:



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The Story – In a Nutshell


After returning home from a two-month vacation, I noticed peanut shells on the floor by the television cabinet. On the opposite side of the living room, I found shells on the fireplace hearth.

“What’s all this?” I asked Hubby.

“Hmmm, that’s odd. Your grandkids?”

Yeah, sure, blame my grandkids. My daughter had been watering the plants and collecting the mail, but I was quite certain she wouldn’t let her kids run around our house, discarding peanut shells.

“No, it wasn’t them,” I replied.

“Well, ask her, you never know.”

Later that day, Hubby slipped into a pair of shoes he’d left in the kitchen and found a small, round chocolate in one of them. Yep, you guessed it: my grandkids again—according to him!

I suppose they could have dropped a chocolate, even on purpose, into his shoe. More probable a candy in a shoe versus peanut shells in the living room. But I doubted it.

That evening, Hubby opened the door of the cabinet to turn on the television. What! A pile of peanut shells on top of the receiver.

“Okay, THAT wasn’t my grandchildren,” I said. “They’d never open the door and throw shells in there.”

I asked my daughter if the kids had nuts while in the house. Nope. She was in and out as quickly as she could. “But thanks for blaming us,” she said.

Hubby and I discussed the situation that evening. We’d had mice in the past but hadn’t seen any for a couple of years, so I thought we were done with them. But do mice hoard nuts?

Squirrels? Had squirrels invaded our house? THAT was a horrid thought. Squirrels cause way more damage than mice. And how would we get rid of them?

The last time we had bought peanuts was in November or December, and we went away early in January. The peanuts were on the kitchen counter, in a basket, and they were all gone when we left. This meant that critters had scoffed the nuts while we were home! I remembered how Hubby had accused me of eating all his peanuts. I did have a few, yes, but not as many as he had accused me of—at least, I hadn’t thought so. I tried not to eat many as I was trying to lose weight, but when food is in plain sight, it’s hard to ignore. Hubby had taken a bowl every evening and disappeared to his man cave, but I remembered thinking at the time how they disappeared, and I did wonder if I had eaten more than I had thought. Gah, the guilt! But suddenly, everything made sense! It was mice! Or squirrels! It wasn’t me! How dare Hubby blame me.

After we ate dinner, Hubby set three traps: two by the television and one on the hearth. He sat in the living room, watching TV.

Low and behold, a few minutes later a mouse sauntered from behind the TV, heading straight for the peanut butter in the trap. Right by Hubby’s feet. With the TV full blast.


After we went to bed, a trap snapped. We discovered the next morning the dratted critter managed to evade it but had a good feed. I also made another discovery.

The chocolate in Hubby’s shoe? It was an M&M. I had given Hubby a bag of M&Ms for Christmas. When he showed me the chocolate in his shoe the previous day, immediately I thought of the M&Ms, but it was still on the kitchen desk.

But that morning, something made me pick up the bag of M&Ms. Yep: empty! They had shredded the end of the bag. All gone.

I was sick to my stomach. Critters on the counter. Critters on the desk. Critters in the TV cabinet. Critters on our fireplace. And those were places where we found evidence. Where else had they been roaming? Where were they hiding? And still hiding!

These dratted rodents had a field day for the two months we were gone. While the cats are away, the mice will play.




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The Spot Writers – “Clark’s Memorial” by Millicent Hughes

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 Millicent Hughes.


Clark’s Memorial by Millicent Hughes

Real nice to see you this morning, sir. Haven’t seen you since … well, you know…. My own boy, Clarkie, Clark Hamilton … fallen like a leaf from a tree. Well, our boy, our Danbury boy, ain’t that right, sir?

Yes, the pain of his death has worn off a bit, thanks for asking. The official notice was just a deadly shock. But since I got that letter from Richmond, the real letter, from that officer, I truly do feel better.

A thinkin’ person wants an explanation, you know. Just some answer as to how a little wound ends up to kill a man when doctors do battlefield amputations and the men live. ‘Course, I s’pose all the docs nurse them officers like they was Queen Victoria, don’t you think?

Died real noble in battle, you say? That idea might satisfy some, but it didn’t satisfy me!  I wanted the real truth and nothin’ but the truth. I knew my boy was not a victim of another young man, a boy with a gun just like his’n.  I wasn’t turnin’ a blind eye with some twisted idea of ‘glory in the grave.’

What say? Oh, what you heard is true, all right. Clarkie was wounded at Cedar Creek there in Virginia. but it ain’t where he died nor what he died of. Not by a long shot. I had the report he was taken to Richmond, so he must have come off pretty good to survive the battle and go on the cars to that prison.

No, that ain’t a tear! Why you think that, hey? No, sirree, bob!

Say, rather than tell you about it, I’ll let you read that letter for yourself. I carry it in my billfold. Nice enough that that officer cared to send it, let alone tell his mother and me the actual fact of the matter. Here, did you want to see it?

No, don’t refuse like that, sir. It ain’t real personal, like you say. I want to publish this letter to the world. That’s why I carry it ever’wheres. I want to show people that ain’t a drop of humanity in them Confederationist devils. Why the decent population down south don’t riot agin ‘em, I don’t know.

And one man dared to tell me the truth. He wrote me this letter, sir, namin’ it plain. My son, Clark Hamilton, met with murder, murder by starvation. Starvation by the fools in them Confederate states.

No, that officer din’t have nothin’ to do with our boys, just happened to be there is all.

I’m sorry you ain’t got the courage to read it. I’ll just put it back in my moneyfold for anyone who’s interested.  P’rfaps next time you’ll see fittin’ to take a look.

Nice seein’ you again, sir.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Millicent Hughes:



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It Only Takes One

Check out the March issue of  Open Heart Forgery, a free local publication in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’ve had several poems published in this pamphlet of a magazine. It’s actually not hard; if there’s room and one’s poem is reasonably okay, it’ll be published. (At least, that’s my understanding.) Poems must be a maximum of 28  lines long and a max of 43 letters wide. Only one submission per author per month and a max of four poems per year. One must be a resident of HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality).

Here is my poem, “It Only Takes One”:

The night is hollow and cold,
and I’m alone in blackness;
I’ve never liked the dark,
don’t like what I can’t see.

Stars are funny creatures,
resting and hiding by day;
They emerge at night to party,
when their florid faces glow.

They glare at us, those stars,
spying upon us in the quiet;
And we stare back at them,
seeking fruitless fantasies.

I’ve never liked the dark,
Don’t like what I can’t see;
I beg I beg upon one star,
Please let my wish come true.

New post on Open Heart Forgery

March 2018

by ohforgery


View Issue vol. 9, no. 2
ISSN 2369-6516 (Print)
ISSN 2369-6524 (Online)


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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!!):  (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:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Millicent Hughes:



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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:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Millicent Hughes:


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Twenty-four Minutes?

I’m okay with rejections of my writing. I have a thick skin (most times), and I’ve received numerous rejections.

It’s wonderful to receive a timely rejection because you can move on. You can trash your story, revamp it, or resubmit it to another publication.

I’ve never trashed a story (I’m too vain for that.) After a rejection, I’ve mostly resubmitted it elsewhere. Looking back, I should have revamped instead of resubmitted.

A couple of years ago I wrote a short story. I wasn’t happy with it, so I let it sit. I pulled it out the other day and revamped it. Totally revamped it. It’s now a horror story instead of a mish-mash of useless words (okay, it wasn’t quite THAT bad!).

I had found the perfect market for that story and spent the last three days rewriting it. I was SO happy with it when finished. It was the perfect submission for this particular publication.

I sent it off today at 4:12 p.m.

I expected to hear back within a couple of months—or more—but at 4:36 I received a reply.

My heart thumped with thankfulness. My head exploded with excitement. My wallet (imaginary, of course) bulged with bills. I had a sale! The publication liked my work so much they had to immediately reply for fear I might sell it elsewhere.

My stomach sank. My ego evaporated. My wallet weakened.

No sale!

A rejection!


I was stunned beyond belief. Within twenty-four (24!) minutes I’d received a rejection?

This unknown person from this prestigious publication had crushed my ego within thirty minutes. That’s the fastest rejection I’ve ever received for anything!

Who receives a rejection within thirty minutes?

My first thought, of course, was that my story was so horrendously horrible that this individual had to get rid of it immediately. My second thought, which didn’t come to me right away, was perhaps this publication was on the ball.

People today want instant gratification. No one wants to wait.

Sure, it’s great—wonderfully amazing—to receive a timely rejection so one’s work isn’t tied up unnecessarily. That writing is then set free: free to submit elsewhere.

But still. Twenty-four minutes? That’s gotta be a record in anyone’s resume.

Twenty-four minutes? I’m still stunned.



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Pragmatic. I used that word the other afternoon when we were discussing remodelling our kitchen. Hubby has grandiose visions whereas I’m definitely simpler and more “pragmatic.”

We had a biting a discussion on pragmatism and what that meant. I’m not a dictionary, as much as I’d love to possess all that knowledge in my head, but even though I had never used the word before, the usage in my sentence was correct.

“Practical, realistic,” I told him.

Hubby thrives off debate, however.

So, later, when we sat before the fireplace, trying to stay warm in this Mexican cold snap, he brought up the subject again. Frustrated, I raced upstairs to retrieve my faithful tablet and the definition app.

“Pragmatic does mean practical and realistic,” I said, “just as I told you!” I didn’t let on it also means “hardnosed” and “hard-headed,” which I believe was the gist of his dispute.

Then he had to argue about the sentence I had used, which neither of us could remember. So we bickered about that for a bit.

Hubby always thinks he’s right. No use arguing with him. Even when he knows I’m right, he doesn’t quit. And I can’t stand arguing.

We both gave it up.

Pragmatic. That’s what we both are: pragmatic.



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