The Spot Writers – “What is Yellow and Stiff? What Looks Like a Deflated Beach Ball?”

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Watch for Cathy’s upcoming novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK.

We also welcome two new members to The Spot Writers: Phil Yeats and Chiara De Giorgi. Check out their websites at the end of this post.

***

What is Yellow and Stiff? What Looks Like a Deflated Beach Ball?

by Cathy MacKenzie

My Harry was the funniest person ever. Our friends said I was funny, too, but I could never top his pranks. He had always been the life of every party.

One evening, a mere three weeks before his death of a sudden heart attack, a group of us were at the Admiral Arms. We had ordered drinks and sat around the table, gabbing and waiting for the music to start, when Harry abruptly disappeared upstairs to the washroom.

In the lull between the first song and the second, he announced his presence with a loud guffaw, and sporting his trademark sly grin, descended down the winding staircase. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I hoped no one else saw what I saw.

He sashayed toward our table, grabbed my arm, and pulled me on the dancefloor. Snuggled against my husband, he led me into the dance steps, twirling me to Eddie Cantor’s “Makin’ Whoopee,” a song from the twenties, when we had married.

I smiled. Even at eight-nine, Harry still had “it.” I still turned him on, and I melted into him.

I basked in the warmth that coursed through my body until he ruined the moment when he ceased dancing, which caused everyone else to stop, as well. The music continued to play as it had during the sinking of the Titanic. How apropos, I thought later.

He broke away from me. With an exaggerated flourish of his arm and an even bigger grin, he reached into his pants.

Voila! He brandished a banana!

I couldn’t help but look at his crotch: deflated like an air-deprived beach ball.

Pfft! Gone!

beach ball

(My grandfather, Harry T. MacKenzie, always a prankster, actually played this prank on my grandmother, who was just as silly as he was. Unfortunately, he died when I was a year old, but my grandmother loved to tell this story.)

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under freebies, fun, Uncategorized

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

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

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

***

Ms. Spindle’s Retirement Gift

By Val Muller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except Mrs. Spindle’s repressed frown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mayday!

My birthday yesterday began with a cry. Not a gleeful cry, but a cry as in crying, weeping, sobbing. I’ve been having a horrid few days (horrid months, actually) what with the year anniversary of Matthew’s death on March 11,  my mother’s two-year death anniversary on March 24, his birthday on April 28, and then my birthday without two individuals I loved so dearly. I don’t even want to think about upcoming Mother’s Day.

When had I morphed into a sixty-something senior? I never imagined this day would arrive. But what did I think, that I was immune to time? The unfathomable happened when my thirty-six-year-old son died of an extremely rare heart cancer, so I’m definitely not “special.”

I’ve made lots of wishes in the past. One wish I never made was for my children to survive me. The natural order of death exists: grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren. Who expects the death of a child to be inserted between grandparents and parents? No, that was never a wish of mine. I had never considered such a situation, so how could I have wished for it to never happen?

But unfathomably it did.

I’m into the second month of the second year, and life is worse than the first year. I assumed it would get easier not harder.

It’s gotten so much harder. Some days I can barely breathe. Some days I swear I’m having a heart attack. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed. Some nights I don’t want to go to bed. My son is the last thing on my mind at night, the first in the morning. I always shed tears for him before I sleep and again upon waking.

I can’t go on any longer. How do I? How can I? My life’s not the same, and no matter what I or anyone else says or does, it never will be. I can’t wake up and say my day will be great, that I’ll ignore bad words spewed about me, or I’ll do “this” instead of “that” and I’ll feel better, or that my diet will start today and I’ll feel better once I’ve lost weight. Such mundane issues now. Who cares?

Nothing I’ll ever do for the rest of my life will make me happier. Or glad to be alive. Or grateful for what I have.

Nothing.

I know I’m wrong. I should be grateful. I have two other wonderful children. Gorgeous grandchildren. A husband. A home.

But I have such a void. And no matter what happens, it’ll never be filled. It’s as if I’ve fallen into an insatiable sinkhole that is determined to smother me. I can’t claw my way out no matter what I do. Because I can’t. It’s impossible. No matter what I do. It’s indescribable, actually. That’s my life now though my words are inadequate to accurately describe how I feel.

I was to have taken minutes at my writers group yesterday morning. Committed myself a month ago.  It’s been months since I’ve attended a meeting. I went to bed knowing I wouldn’t follow through the next day. How easy it is to promise something weeks or months—even days—before an event. I’ve never reneged on duties, no matter what they might be. Until recently.

I had nightmares I’d break down at the meeting and have to escape and wouldn’t be able to gather all my belongings, and I’d have to wait outside or in  the washroom and hope someone would find me to hand over my things, or I’d have to linger like an idiot and sneak back into the room after everyone left.  I don’t want to break down in front of others. My grief is mine. It’s private.  I don’t share,  at least not much, because no one can possibly know my agony, and everyone is sick of my gloominess and glumness and sorrowful posts. Because unless you’re in my shoes, you don’t know. And I don’t want you in my shoes.

I had thought I was in pain when my mother died a year before my son. I’ve horribly neglected grieving for her because I’ve been consumed with my son. But the pain over my mother’s death wasn’t this kind of agony and heartbreak though at the time I thought it was. That was grief. Grief is different than pain and agony and heartbreak and lack of  breath and nil motivation. Grief for a parent or a grandparent or a cousin or a friend, even a spouse, is so much different than grief for a child.

Yesterday morning, an hour before the writing group was to meet, one of my fellow writers messaged me a happy birthday and “see you soon.”

No, you won’t see me soon.  You may never see me again.

I hate I let people down. I hate I was a no show.  I hate people not knowing what I’m suffering—no, I take that back; I wish for no one—ever—to feel my pain. It’s too horrendous.

But I went to the meeting the day of my birthday, not that I cared it was my birthday. Got within five minutes of the venue and turned back. It didn’t help that “Broken Halos” came on the radio during the drive.

At noon, I met my granddaughter and her mother for lunch. I put on a brave front. I wouldn’t break down in front of a ten-year-old, not the daughter of my son. She suffers her own unimaginable pain. I can’t begin to comprehend hers; I only know mine. Hers: so much different than mine.

Hubby came home early from work. “It’s your birthday. I want to take you shopping,” he said. “You need new bras and undies.” I didn’t want new underwear. I could buy my own, thank you very much. But he insisted, so we went to The Bay at the mall. He means well. He’s sick of my grey bras and ripped panties. I am, too, but I’m comfortable wearing old friends although I always pray before leaving the house that I won’t be in an accident. How horrid that would be (for me!) if hospital staff saw my grossly discoloured, stretched, and torn underwear.

After hours traipsing the floors and numerous trips to dressing rooms, I ended up with three pairs of undies, three bras, and two pairs of jeans. All expensive. More money than I would have spent. “It’s your birthday,” he insisted at my every complaint. He wanted to buy me more clothing, too, but I was shopped-out. I was also disgusted with my looks when trying on the items. Rolls and cellulite and sag, so much more noticeable with fluorescent lights and three walls of floor-to-ceiling mirrors inches from my body, freaked me out. When had I gotten that out of shape? When had I morphed into my eighty-year-old mother? Never had I imagined I’d look the way I do now. But  what did a sixty-seven-year-old look like beneath clothing? Everyone tells me how young I look. Perhaps I did, once upon a time: before my son died. But I’ve aged ten years in the last year. And the clothed me looks one hundred percent better than the naked me.

I’m old. I’m disgusting.

I’ve let myself go over the past year and a half. My son died! That’s my excuse. Excuses are great! Always excuses! I can have those French fries, the cheesecake. The ice cream cone. The bags of Goodies and licorice. I can eat no food at all! The beer. The too-many glass of wine. What happened to my exercise regime? I had been on a routine once upon a time. But I’m grieving. I’m allowed, right?

I’m paying the price now. Or, at my age, would I look like this even if my son were alive?

I didn’t want new clothes yesterday. “Take me shopping after I’ve lost weight.”

“Today’s your birthday. We’re going today,” Hubby said.

We went to a pub for dinner afterward. I had two beer. Fries, too. It was my birthday. Definitely okay to indulge. But I formulated a plan: tomorrow—no, Monday; always Mondays—I’ll eat healthier. I’ll exercise. I’ll drink less.

“What’s wrong?” Hubby asked in between the fries and beer. “Your eyes are glazed over.”

“Nothing.”

“There’s something. It’s your birthday. Why are you crying on your birthday? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” I kept insisting. I tried desperately to hold in my tears. He wouldn’t understand. He hadn’t lost a child; I did. He couldn’t possibly understand.

“I’ll tell you later,”  I finally said, to shut him up.

Tears rolled down my face all the way home. I don’t sob and weep anymore. I don’t scream or rant or rave. I just tear. Big, bottomless tears that hide behind my eyeballs, tears that creep out every second of every day and careen down my cheeks. Silent tears. Puffy-eye tears. Sore-eye tears.

It was dusk, but I donned my sunglasses. Hubby makes fun of my sunglasses, that I wear them when there’s no sun. I wear them more and more often now.

We got home, changed into grubbies, and watched TV. I was glad Hubby didn’t question me. My pain, my agony, is mine alone. Even on my birthday.

Later, when on my tablet, I noticed a stranger had commented on my “Two Candles” poem on my blog that I had posted on Matt’s birthday.

“I’m so sorry,” she wrote. “It’s just really hard. Hugs.”

I  went to her blog and read one of her posts. She  was going on ten years without her son, who was killed by a drunk driver. Entering the second year after the death of a child, she wrote, is even worse than the first. During the first you’re still in shock and disbelief, but by the time the second anniversary rolls around, reality has set in.

How true that is! I was a tad comforted that how I’d been feeling was maybe sorta “normal.”

I continually see my son, unannounced (surprise! surprise!), entering the kitchen, sporting his sly grin. He’d sometimes carry an armful of clothing he needed mended. Oh, the repairs and hemming I’ve done for him. How I miss it even though at the time I inwardly cringed. Mending and ironing: two chores I’m not particularly fond of. Hubby used to comment that Matthew’s mending got done immediately whereas his would sit on my sewing table for weeks. In retrospect, I’m so glad I finished Matt’s clothes as quickly as I did and that I never complained. Such little things that comfort me.

Ironically, before I went to bed last night, I came across a friend’s Facebook post: “Please be patient with me. You see, I lost my child. And while it may seem like a long time to you, it’s every day for me.”

Yes, it’s every day. Even on my birthday.

 

Please be patient

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Two Candles

I’m eating a Boston cream donut today.

Boston cream donuts: your favourite kind.

Matt nine years old 001 (2)

Since your death I’ve eaten too many,

Always an excuse to eat one—or two.

 

Too many excuses to drink and eat.

 

Today’s your birthday in Heaven at 38

Where you’ll continue to age,

But here on earth, forever 36.

Matt19crop

Always 36.

 

In my solitude I insert candles in the donut,

Between my tears I light two wicks:

One for each birthday you’ve missed on earth.

 

boston cream

 

I make a wish—a wish that’ll never come true—

And blow out flickering flames.

 

Happy birthday in Heaven, sweet son.

Happy birthday, Matthew, my cherubic babe.

Matt baby

3 Comments

Filed under stories, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Perfect People” by Cathy MacKenzie

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

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published two anthologies: OUT OF THE CAVE and TWO EYES OPEN, two collections of short stories by authors around the world, to read during the day…or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror”…more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply good reads.

TWO EYES OPEN: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

OUT OF THE CAVE (milder stories for 13+): https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Cassandra-Williams/dp/1927529298/

***

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

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

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

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

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

Right!

So perfect little me never said anything.

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

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

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

“You’ll get it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP Stephen Hawking. RIP.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Heirloom” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is based on a Stephen Hawking quote: “The universe does not allow perfection.”

This week’s story comes to you from Val Muller, author of the middle-grade mystery series Corgi Capers. Find out more at www.CorgiCapers.com

***

Heirloom by Val Muller

They lived like those in Pleasantville or Leave it to Beaver. Or one of those old shows. Not that anyone would know. No one watched television shows anymore, let alone movies. No one had the time or the attention. They were all too perfect to spend so much time sedentary. No narratives longer than the 70-second clips people watched while they waited for their can or train or meal. Their workdays and exercise schedules and social events were all planned to the minute.

Those old programs caused too much thought, and too much thought led to unhappiness, and that was the Unperfect Old Way.

Thomas watched them from the roof, each person an even speck, miniature models in the cityscape below. Each one slim and muscular, the optimal body composition; each one as perfect as the cherry tomatoes he harvested. He opened the crate sent from the grocer. Each tiny bubble in the crate was designated to hold exactly one cherry tomato. Each would be cradled on its way to the grocer. Exactly zero tomatoes would be wasted in transit on the short trip to the city below. The coating on the inside of each bubble meant no early spoilage, either. He placed one tomato into each crate before sealing the crate and sending it down the elevator shaft to the courier waiting below.

Every day, each one of those tiny specks below would be allotted four cherry tomatoes. Or half a banana. Or a quarter of an apple. But Thomas’s concern was only the tomatoes. Thomas couldn’t be sure, since he didn’t leave his rooftop dwelling, but he suspected that the apple and banana and other farmers followed similar processes to create perfect produce.

In the building beneath him, each perfect little speck was allotted 100 square feet of living space and a small bathroom shared by members of the family. In the country, wood harvesters were tasked with building bunk beds and recessable tables that would fit cleanly in the 10×10 space.

When a baby was born, calculations based on life expectancy estimated the exact number of tomatoes that would be required to supplement the human’s nutrition bars These numbers were sent to a screen on Thomas’s rooftop farm, telling him how many tomatoes to harvest on any given day.

Somewhere else, where water was processed, a similar calculation told the engineers just how many gallons of potable water each person would consume each day. Somewhere, tailors received the exact measurements for garments required each week and month and year. Everything was calculated, from the amount of water required to cleanse a newborn to the amount of heat required to turn a person into their final puff of ashes.

It was perfection.

Politicians were required now only to reinforce rules already established. Computers kept birth rates, consumption, jobs all in balance. There was nothing to improve upon anymore. The world was in a state of balance.

The sun was sinking now beneath the tall skyscrapers, and Thomas pushed the button which would cover the plants from the elements of the high elevation that might harm the plants at night. Already, the gossamer film was absorbing radiant energy, converting it to a diffuse light that allowed the tomatoes to grow, even at night. In this lighted greenhouse, the fruit matured nearly twice as fast.

The light on Thomas’s elevator blinked, indicating a delivery making its way from the street below. Sunset. Perfect timing. Thomas smiled and hurried to his corner garden. He chose the largest two tomatoes, two huge ones larger than his fists. Both were roundish but not spherical, with several bulbous excrescences. Their weights were incredible; each seemed to hold twice its volume in water and nutrients.

Thomas brought one to his nose, and instantly the sharp, earthy smell transported him to his grandmother’s garden in the days before The Perfection. He wrapped the tomato in a slice of paper announcing water regulations for the agriculturalists and pulled the opaque black curtain down over the corner garden. Maybe it was just an old-fashioned belief, but Thomas swore that the heirloom tomatoes grew best when they got to rest at night. Same as people.

The elevator had finally reached the rooftop, and Thomas opened the door. The pungent odor of a whole fish hit him as he unwrapped the offering. “Thanks, Bill,” he said. He placed the wrapped tomato on the platform, closed the door, and sent the elevator down to his old friend, who was now just a speck on the sidewalk below.

He started right away, scaling the fish and filleting it. The waste he would grind and use to fertilize the heirloom garden.

The city planners allowed no extra energy source to cook food; the nutrition bars allocated to Thomas and everyone were edible right out of the package, as were the produce supplements he was allowed. They had calculated everything, from lighting needs to water heating needs, most powered by solar energy and man-powered gyms in the building below.

But the city planners and the computers that calculated things had let something slip. The impossibly high elevator required to transport people to their skyscraper dwellings produced an abundance of heat, and this had nowhere to go except to be vented through a shaft to the rooftop garden, where it helped establish a greenhouse under the night’s gossamer film.

Anyone but an expert gardener would require the heat source to produce the required quantity of tomatoes. Anyone else’s crops would suffer if the heat source was used to power the small oven that provided Thomas with cakes and fish and poached eggs and all sorts of contrabands, courtesy of his artisan connections across the city. He’d even rigged the heat source to power a small television screen and DVD player so he could watch movies and relive the time before The Perfection, like the dinner dates of old.

He plucked a handful of herbs from behind his blackout curtain. Freshly-picked was always the best. He wrapped the herbs around the fish and placed it in the oven. The aroma was apparent almost immediately, though there was no way the people in the building below could ever smell it. Thomas placed the other heirloom tomato on a plate and sliced it, salting it lightly just the way his grandmother used to do. Each slice was asymmetrical, imperfect, and delicious. It would pair well with the fish.

Perfectly, in fact.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Be Gone!

You drafted critters, I have you now. Not that I “want you.”

I want you gone!

And you will be. Very soon.

You’ve heard of Mice Busters? Yes, of course you have. Ghosts and otherworldly spirits must exist in the mice world as well as the human world.

Today, we retained the services of the Mice Busters. Mice Busters aren’t cheap. It’s fifty dollars a month to eradicate you critters and keep you at bay, but it’s, oh!, so worth it. I told hubby I’d give up eating out once a month to cover the expense. Worth it to me. Heck, I’ll even give up two restaurant meals a month to keep you under control.

So, you drafted f****** critters, take that!

An aside for you lovely, compassionate readers: This particular Mice Buster who attended  at our home today–the individual who will monitor our house for the life of our contract (well, unless he quits after tiring of critter bodies, traps, and bait)–advised us that he takes care of several other houses on our street, and even more on adjacent streets. I heaved several breaths of relief. We weren’t the only ones! Our house hadn’t been singled out by this slinky, sneaky species.

I’ll sleep soundly tonight.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Oliver and His BFF – a story of friendship

Oliver cover 2

The children’s book, OLIVER AND HIS BFF, is finally available, both in print and in ebook form.

Oliver is a rabbit with problems. Except for his Best Friend Forever Reggie, the other animal kids make fun of him for his clumsiness, trouble with schoolwork, and his big, floppy ears. They even pick on his name. Oliver handles everything with courage, respect, and good manners. With unexpected help from his BFF, Oliver discovers attitudes can change for the better.

OLIVER AND HIS BFF is illustrated with cute, whimsical drawings (black and white).

Book suitable for all children, but especially for children under 8. An early reader. Story involves various animals, not solely rabbits.

Angel Sharum illustrated the book, and Cathy MacKenzie (me) wrote the story.

Click here to purchase.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s About Time!

People have been clamouring for more of my mice saga.

Really?

“Love those meeces to pieces” and “Wow” and “The story could be worse” and “You’ll pull through this” and “It’s not as bad as you think” and…

The comments, to me personally and not on here on my blog, are similar. One person even told me to check behind my fridge and under my stove. Thankfully, I have a wall oven and a gas stove top, so I’m fine with the stove, thank you very much. But the fridge? Yes, I’m sure I’ll find treasures there. The other day, Easter Sunday in fact, shortly before our thirteen guests arrived, I happened to find a pile of peanut shells under a throw pillow on the couch in the “little living room.” We mainly use the great room and Hubby’s man cave, but it was still disgusting. The previous day, I opened a drawer in my grandmother’s ornate desk to find several turds. How they managed that feat is beyond me because there is no access behind the drawers.

Someone near and dear to me even had the audacity to email: “Hope you’re enjoying your new friends.”

YOU try to enjoy life with rodents and see how you fare. Literally, I’m constantly looking over my shoulders, watching where I step, examining my food…

NO, I’m NOT enjoying this period of my life. Sure, things could be waaaaaaay worse. But I don’t want “worse.” I want normal. The life I had before.

I can’t turn the clock back to “before.” Some things are impossible to rectify and revert, like the death of my son (I need to insert him into my every writing. Just because. I can’t help it).

But we—not me—”someone,” Hubby, exterminators should be able to put our house back in pre-mouse condition.

And today—SUCCESS!!!—Terminator coming on Thursday. I had to sic the fear of “something” into Hubby, and it worked! When I told him one exterminator company wanted upwards of $3,500 to assess and block any access holes, well–that spurred him into action. The company he uses at work charges $50 a month to take care of ANY critter/bug/insect/rodent/you-name-it, which makes me Happy Doobie!

It’s about time. Cause I’m at the point where it’s either this crit (me) or the “other” critters. One of us is about to leave this house. And I don’t think it’s the meeces….

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Dr. Trowbridge Looks Back – And Forward” by Millicent Hughes

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 Millicent Hughes. March’s prompt: How (or why) a young person decides what career (or path) to follow.

***

Dr. Trowbridge Looks Back ─ And Forward – by Millicent Hughes

Howdy, ma’am, nice festivities here for the wedding.

No, my Sylvia’s over there. Hot gossip a’flying, no doubt. You have a cordial, I see. Perhaps you would care to sit down. I been doctoring all night, but had to come see the young couple get off on their trip. Birthed both him and her, you know. I’m about beat, but let me have a sip of this raspberry shrub.”

Was my father a doctor? No, ma’am, he failed in the hat business.. I said as how I wanted to doctor, but there was books and schooling to pay for, even in them ancient days. Plus, nobody would believe you were a real doctor without you had an office and a horse and buggy. Not in the cards for my family.

My parents talked me into apprenticing as a tailor. Yes, Ma’am, you are right to laugh, but it’s the truth. Four long years cutting and stitching and not a drop of blood that wasn’t mine!”

“Oh, you heard right. I turned schoolteacher. I always had a mind for books, so studied the Latin book one day and taught it the next. The real reason for Latin was that I was studying medicine in secret. I’d teach ‘til I got money for a medical course, take it, and go back teaching again.”

Why? I guess doctoring was like a festering wound in me. I wanted to work miracles, not waistcoats.

The puppies started it. S’pose that was about 1830 or so, up in Bethel. I was just a little lad when an old neighbor saw me in the yard and motioned me over. “Come ‘ere, boy. Got a wondrous sight for a lad to see, right there in the shed.”

His hunting dog bitch whelped pups right there in front of me. We went from one animal to six within an hour. After that, whenever I saw the pups, it felt like I owned them.

When I was eighteen, the big thing happened. One morning two boys raced down the street past me. “Come on! Some old tramp just slit his throat! Right down the block!” Out of breath, they returned to running.  I did want to see it.  Maybe more than they did.

Dr. Hanford Bennett knelt in the dirt, bending over a body. Having ripped off his coat, he bunched it into a pillow under the victim, all the time looking over the surrounding crowd. Coming up close, I saw that he wanted another coat and I gave him mine.

“I need clean water and I need it fast,” he yelped. “And clean rags or linen. What I got ain’t enough.” Women flew off to find the items he needed.

The town barber, who pretended  to fix wounds, came out of the crowd and knelt by Dr. Bennett’s side. The patient kicked and struggled, spraying blood all over. The crowd began backing up, under the impression that death was imminent.

“Jim, get on his legs,” Dr. Bennett ordered the barber. “Lean forward and hold him down, a hand on each wrist. I can’t do anything against that struggling.”

“Need somebody to hand me things out of my bag!” The doctor demanded. I picked up the bag, which was just out of his reach and knelt on the opposite side of the body.

“Take the scissors out and give them to me handle-first. Then open the wadding and lay it on this fellow’s chest, ‘cause he’s just about to go unconscious.”

And so we went on, with me handing items and retrieving them, while Dr. Bennett cleaned up the jagged gash, not one of fatal severity.

Then he looked up at me, in a pretend dilemma. “Somebody can either hold these edges together or stitch the wound. Which you goin’ to do, boy?”

Of course he would do the stitching, but it felt, ma’am, like a tornado got hold of me. I wanted so bad to show him how well I could stitch! I had never put needle and thread to human, but I wanted to with all my might.”

“Look at how I’m holding this skin, boy. Put your fingers exactly where mine are and as I stitch, move down, holding the edges together just so. Ready? Put your fingers right behind mine.”

And so he stitched, layer after layer. It seemed like a long time, there in the dust with the sun beating down and the smell of blood rising up into our faces. Two ladies tried to watch and turned sick at the stomach.

Jim hovered over us and poured water when the blood obscured the wound. The dust turned into bloody mud.

​Dr. Bennett told Jim and me that we were doing fine and he was almost done. He had said that when he hadn’t even started, which is a trick I now use myself.

When we were finished, some folks took the suicide away on a door. Jim left us, laughing at the bloody picture Dr. Bennett and I made. I helped Dr. Bennett to his feet.

I told the doctor that I had always wanted to do doctoring, but my fortunes indicated otherwise. He returned his glasses to his pocket, then took me by the shoulders and stared right into my eyes. “Don’t let other folks dictate when you have a talent for something! If you truly want to study medicine, you can find a way. You’ll be a surgeon, I can tell. No one can stop you!”

So, from that experience and the puppies, well, hardly a day goes by that I don’t birth a baby!”

Yes? What say, sir? Dr. William Trowbridge at your service!  Yes, my horse is at the door, as always. Ma’am,  please  relay to my wife where I went!

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized