The Spot Writers – “Monster” by Val Muller

This month’s theme is “monster,” to be interpreted in any way. This week’s story comes to us from Val Muller, YA author of The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away, both discounted to $2.99 for the rest of the month.

***

Monster by Val Muller

The end of the fiscal year coincided with the chill in the air, even in the streets of Washington. It was almost like the decaying leaves piling in the country out west sent their ghostly miasma in with the commuters. That chill, that scent of decay spoke of the thinning line between living and dead, that boundary that would continue to thin as department stores threw up Jack-o-Lantern decorations and trees threw off the last of their leaves.

Something about that thinning line sent a chill into Daniella’s spine, and it froze and hardened a piece of her soul. On September 1, she’d been all smiles when Timothy asked to telework because his daughter had a sudden case of strep. On September 2, she let Marie go an hour early to check on a sick puppy. That Friday, the one before Labor Day, she told everyone to go home an hour early.

“Happy Labor Day,” coworkers chanted as they hurried down the hallway toward weekend plans.

“Happy closeout month,” she responded, her fingers tapping behind her back. “The fun begins Tuesday.”

At barbeques that weekend, employees joked with family and friends about Daniella’s demands for year-end closeout.

“At our staff meetings, she said we may have to work twelve-hour days.”

“She’s threatening to make us come in on Saturdays.”

“And Sundays.”

It was met with laughter, then forgotten as fathers played catch with sons and mothers went with daughters for a last dip in the pool.

But in a lone apartment, not a mile from the office, sat a husbandless, childless soul. Her fingers folded in a tent in front of her as she thought about the month ahead. Everyone would be working late. In her mind, there were already parades of memos, lists of funding documents, and hourly meetings. They would all have to check in with her before they left, and only at quitting time would she tell them that they had to work late.

They’d have to arrange last-minute babysitters. They’d have to miss soccer games and youth football. Mommies would have to explain to children that there were just some things more important than storytime with daddy. And daddies would have to explain to neglected children why mommy wouldn’t be there for birthday parties.

In the corner of Daniella’s darkened apartment, a blue screen glowed. It was still open from the atrocity she saw this morning on Facebook.

Jerry.

They’d had a brief fling in college, but he left her to seek “more fun, less serious.” Somehow, she always thought he’d be back. How could he choose some floozy over her rigidly-straight GPA, her list of extracurriculars, her reputation as drill sergeant of the women’s cross country team? He had made a terrible mistake. In every country music song—like the one playing on repeat from the computer, the one preventing the screen from dimming—she heard the hope and sorrow of their relationship. She knew he’d be back for her one day. His breakup had been a mistake he’d yet to realize. His marriage was something he’d been coerced into. It had always been only a matter of time. She’d waited years already and was prepared to wait more.

But now, this.

Jerry was a father.

His baby’s newborn eyes plastered all over her Facebook feed. The infant’s smile was a punch in the gut. Why, he hadn’t even posted that his wife had been pregnant! So smug, keeping that their private little secret like they were in some kind of exclusive club. And there went that. With an infant’s smile, there went her excuse, her reason to ignore the dating scene. There went her nightly fantasies, her frequent hopes that his status would turn to “single” and she’d be welcomed back into his life.

Gone.

The cold front seeped into her soul. She thought of the office, of Brittany’s baby shower and Harold’s office bachelor party. They were smug too, weren’t they? Making their plans. Having their weddings. Prioritizing their families. Not even thinking of the office, were they? Of the cold, beautiful symmetry of it all. The same 72 degrees all year. The same lighting. The same sterility. She’d bet none of them were even giving the office a second thought.

Let them all enjoy their weekend.

On Tuesday she would have them.

That Saturday she tried three new hairstyles. She went jogging and shot disgusted looks at the family of five taking up the entire sidewalk with training wheels and strollers. On Sunday she went to the salon for an impromptu haircut, but a wailing toddler and his obnoxious brother ruined the mood, and she went home with her outdated coif. On Monday she tried a new makeup regime and went shopping, but a gaggle of mothers was standing near the clearance rack, comparing toddler bedtime routines and little league scores.

With each foiled attempt, the monster grew in her soul. Her heart hardened and chilled, and she couldn’t wait for the memos that would come. She couldn’t wait to tell them about their mandatory one-hour lunches. That way, they’d be able to stay for the daily 5:00 meeting and still have half an hour to spend at her command. She’d string them along like fish, luring them with the hope of an on-time departure from the office. And she’d come in for the kill. She’d already planned the dates they’d stay late: she’d know, from the very second they set foot in the office. She couldn’t wait to walk through the cubicles, her monster feeding the anticipation that would be nearly tangible in the air. They would have no idea until her evening meeting, no idea whether they’d be dining with their families or eating out of the vending machine again. Their suffering fed her monster.

The monster’s claws emerged that week, and each memory of Jerry grew into a hardened bone, a serrated tooth, a beastly horn. During the third week, John shuffled into her office, a folded note in his hand. It was a letter from his wife, one he promised her he’d deliver. It stank of desperation, and she chewed her smile as John watched her read the list of complaints. He was like a sheepish child delivering a note to a teacher. What, did his wife own him? It was written in bubbly handwriting: Couldn’t John please come home on time? The children missed him and she was losing her mind, living like a single mother of three. Couldn’t Daniella see her way to letting him telework, from home, after the kids were in bed?

“We’re all in this together,” she said to John, her lips pouting for him. “And I’m afraid tonight is going to be a late one.”

* * *

The second Saturday in October, Daniella walked to the base of the Washington Monument. Fiscal close-out was done, and with all the free time afforded by the on-time departures from the office, she had joined an online dating service. Jerry would have to be replaced. And she had so much to offer. If only she were given the chance, she could run a household with the iron fist with which she ruled her office.

The man waiting there looked every bit as good as he did in his picture. He smiled at her, but when she smiled back something faded on his face. She knew in an instant he wouldn’t contact her for a second date.

What was it that chilled him to the prospect of a life with Daniella? Perhaps he feared her ramrod-straight work ethic, or her love of her job. Perhaps her role as Boss intimidated him. As she walked home alone and scowled at two kids screaming in a pile of leaves at the edge of a park, the chill of autumn bit under her jacket, and she shuddered. She couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he feared the monster, the one that had taken residence in her soul.

* * *

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/

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “A Cute Story for People Who Don’t Like Rap” by CaraMarie Christy

September’s prompt: Write about a character whose one ability is to amplify the best traits in others. Who would they hang around? Who would they choose to avoid? This week’s story is by CaraMarie Christy.

***

A Cute Story For People Who Don’t Like Rap

There is a world where everyone in it can sing. It is a planet that used to be called Earth, but then a bug infected all the non-singers and they diead. Everyone left can sing. They don’t sing all the time, that would be awful. However, most of the time, when its citizens pause over morning coffee on their porches or sit to read a book, in the land of Alto, there is a hum in the background. Someone, somewhere, will be singing gently as they paint a fence or clipping coupons, admiring the beautiful rise and fall of their voice. It’s like living in a world where all you eat is cake. Everything is sweet, but eventually cake starts to become ordinary. Only grand cakes, like the type with expensive fillings, become interesting.

Which is why, in Alto, it is very common for people who can sing—but not as well as a professional operatic singer—to be considered “bad” at singing. In our world, they might be considered “nice” or “good for a pleasant night of karaoke”, but they will never compare to the likes of Whitney Houston.

Because the notes out of her throat were only “good”, never great, and she was a boring piece of cake, Melody Hymn dreaded going to chorus class. She stuck out. Half of her class period, Mrs. Solo, her teacher, spent more time with the soprano section in which Melody was stuck, trying to make her sound as pleasant as everyone else, than any other section. Like the teacher was trying to smooth out a stubborn wrinkle. Melody knew that she was that wrinkle.

Nothing was going to change that, not even when the great Octave Song, three-time champion of their district’s annual concert, transferred into her school.

Mrs. Song almost melted when Octave walked into class. She pointed her to a spot on the chorus room’s risers beside Melody. The small, pixie girl looked up at Melody and smiled but Melody tucked her head to her chin, staring at invisible dust on her converse. This was how Mrs. Solo was going to fix her wrinkle, by pairing her best student up with the worst. She had already tried pairing Melody with Star Vocal, hoping Star would rub off on her. It had only lead to Star’s parents calling the school and forcing a conference. The next morning Star was moved far away from Melody.

They started their lesson on an acapella piece, Maroon Five’s “She Will Be Loved”, an ancient piece that few people on Alto could remember anymore. It was their attempt to bore the audience, Melody thought. Melody did her best to keep her voice low and soft, but Octave was so much smaller than her. The singer’s ear was almost exactly at the height of Melody’s mouth.

While Mrs. Solo was scolding the bass’s for missing a note, Octave whispered to Melody, “You have a very interesting tone, you know? I quite admire your breathing technique. And you have a lot of power in your voice that you hold back from using. Don’t be shy.”

“Thanks?” Melody didn’t know what to do with a compliment on her singing. She was afraid it was sarcasm, but Octave’s eyes were too bright. Melody added, “Sometimes I like to figure out what the difference between shouting and singing is when I’m in the shower. My mother hates it.”

“People are dumb. There is all types of singing—not just pretty singing. There’s cool singing. And then there’s things that are almost just like singing, but different.”

Despite her reluctance at making Octave’s friendship, Melody found being complimented hard to resist. She was also fond of the fact that, when Mrs. Solo saw Octave stopping to talk to Melody after rehearsals, that her choral teacher began to leave her alone.

“Why don’t you help out someone like Star instead of me?” Melody asked at lunch.

“Because I could try and make her better all day, but I don’t think she’d listen to me. Do you? I could teach her to fix the tremor in her voice when she reaches the high notes, fix her hectic breathing patterns… But I don’t want to.” Octave shrugged and smiled.

When the school talent show came up, Melody was surprised that Octave had somehow convinced her to sign up. It happened while they were searching the school’s music archives. They had stumbled upon a rare piece of music, a strange form of “almost” singing. Mrs. Solo, Star, and Melody’s mother were shocked when Melody went up on stage and took the mic.

“Hello, my name is Melody Hymn, and I’ll be singing Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’.”

***

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/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Poem of Threes

A mother never expects one of her children to die. Never.

It happened to me.

Three months after the first symptom (which was hardly any symptom at all, really), less than three months after a diagnosis, my son was gone. The nightmare is replayed before me, every day, over and over. I can’t think about him without tearing up, but I don’t want to forget him. I want to remember him, but I’m sick of my tears.

Today, it’s been six months since he left us. Where have the days gone? It seems like yesterday, when too many of us surrounded his hospital bedside, but it also feels like a distant memory, a nightmare, one I never awake from.

There is so much more I want to write, but I can’t. I just can’t.

Poems are therapeutic.

***

A Poem of Threes

Six months ago today—

Nine months ago—

My life changed.

 

9/11,

Irma,Kattia,Jose.

Is my loss greater?

 

Feng Shui:

Fuk, Luk, and Sau,

Long life, fame, fortune.

 

Three-legged toad,

Three wise men,

Three immortals.

 

Three’s company,

Father, Son, Holy Ghost,

Tall, dark, handsome.

 

Rules of threes.

Odds better than evens:

Good things come in threes.

 

But odds beat you:

The Big C.

Despite three hearts.

 

Rules are meant to be broken,

But rules shouldn’t break—

Not at thirty-six.

 

Birth, life, death,

Two loving children

Plus one at rest.

Matt candle crop

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Suffice” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to The Spot Writers. September’s prompt:  Write about a character whose one ability is to amplify the best traits in others. Who would they hang around? Who would they choose to avoid?

***

Suffice by Dorothy Colinco

It’s hard to love someone who’s self-sufficient. Among the traits that you should avoid when seeking a potential life partner, self-sufficient seems pretty far down the list, far below convicted felon, substance abuser, Pirates fan, vegan, or lactose-intolerant. An inability to consume ice cream without later having to desecrate a powder room seems more offensive than the ability to exist without depending on another person for validation and security. And yet.

Ironically, her self-sufficiency is one of things I found most attractive about her. Here was a woman who told me about her flat tired AFTER she had changed it herself. Who saw Les Miserables alone rather than drag me to a musical. I hate musicals, but I loved her. I would’ve gone. When she had a bad day at work or a fight with her mom, she didn’t ask me to bring her wine and ice cream (yes, she could of course consume dairy) and lend her my shoulder to cry on. She just took a weekend for herself and called me three days later, refreshed and happy and content. I was ready and willing to do all those things. I’ve done worse for women I’ve cared less about. But she never asked that of me, asked anything of me, and for a while this hardly seemed something to complain about.

We were our best selves when we were together. She was warm and funny. She told jokes that were unexpectedly irreverent but never downright bawdy. She was so good at describing movies and books and albums. I always said she should be a pop culture writer, and one day she submitted an essay to this magazine and they published it. The first thing she ever sent out! She was kind. So kind, my goodness. Like that one time an autistic kid in the subway screamed at her for touching his shoulder when she said ‘excuse me,’ and the kid’s mom was mortified and apologetic but also very used to this kind of thing, and instead of backing away with a freaked look on her face, she chatted with the mom. not about the kid’s autism and ‘what’s it like to be a mom of a kid on the spectrum?’ No, she just chatted about stuff. I don’t even remember. And the mom was so grateful, you could tell.

We were our best selves together. But. I felt like I wasn’t giving enough of myself. She never asked me to sacrifice anything for her. And after all, isn’t that what makes up a good portion of a relationship? Resenting someone for all you’ve had to sacrifice for them, and then loving them anyway? I thought maybe as we fell deeper for each other that she would start to need me. To view me as essential to her existence. But instead, it seemed like our love had fastened her self-sufficiency to her core even more tightly. It made her more sure than ever of her adequacy as a distinct entity in this vast emptiness that is our existence.

It’s hard to love someone who’s self-sufficient.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco: www.dorothycolinco.com

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writer – “Across the Fence” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. September’s prompt, a hard one: Write about a character whose one ability is to amplify the best traits in others. Who would they hang around? Who would they choose to avoid?

This week’s post is from Cathy MacKenzie. She found it such a difficult prompt that she was forced to dig into her stash of poems (always a poem for every season!) for something suitable. This one, she says, was written many years ago—no, it doesn’t exactly follow the prompt, and it’s a simple, amateurish poem, but maybe it’ll resonate with someone.

Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published its second anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, a collection of sixteen stories by sixteen authors, to read during the day . . . or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Note: Not “horrific horror” . . . more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply a “good read.”

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

***

Across the Fence

From her kitchen window,

she views the Porsche

and two other vehicles—

one a fancy four-wheel drive—

and a house twice the size of hers

with granite countertops

and modern appliances

and big screen TVs.

 

She knows of the neighbours’ vacations—

their twice-yearly cruises—

having seen photos they shared

and bragged about.

 

Oh, what money can buy!

 

She thinks of the husband away—

weeks at a time—

the shouting and slamming doors

when he’s home,

and, not by choice, a childless household.

 

She examines her side of the fence—

grass needing to be greener,

an empty driveway,

cracked and dulled countertops,

out-dated but still-working appliances,

shabby furniture—

all needing an overhaul.

 

How has she come to be

in this neighbourhood?

 

She caresses her baby boy

content in her arms,

pictures her daughter at school

and her husband soon home from work.

 

Her life may not be perfect,

but it’s full of love and joy

and complete—

the four of them

in their wondrous world

with things money can’t buy,

while living across the fence.

 

***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco: www.dorothycolinco.com

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “The Herald” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is: Write about a character whose one ability is to amplify the best traits in others. Who would they hang around? Who would they choose to avoid?

Today’s post comes to your from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Girl Who Flew Away. https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away/dp/1941295355/

***

The Herald by Val Muller

I came for a Wisher, a little boy sitting on a rusty swing in a lonely park after dark. His was a Genuine Wish, not a superficial one like most. Some ask for ponies or money, games or toys. True Wishers ask for things that matter.

He asked for his parents to love again.

A Wish intangible for him as stardust in the vacuum of space.

He first saw my twinkle floating above the park, shimmering in the darkened sky. I descended with his Wish and landed at the edge of a fence. I had to move quickly because the boy stood right away to investigate. His life at home was so strained, he’d lost all fear and sense of self preservation.

I turned first into a glowing flower, tempting him to pluck me, but I knew that form would never last. The flowers here are ephemeral, not like the sentient ones in the outer planets of Myler. But in the instant her reached to pluck me, I felt his skin and knew his mind. And so in the darkness I disintegrated into the earth and followed the rooty passages into the brush, where I emerged as a puppy.

It was one he’d seen on a television show—a cartoon, which is a type of art form on this world. I worked quickly to make myself look a bit more realistic than the two-dimensional ink of his mind. It was enough. In the darkness, the boy cradled me, and with his touch I saw it all:

His mother, taxed and tired at the end of each day, his father grumpy and exhausted from an unfulfilling job. And each nearly looking forward to the dinner table, where they nightly poured their wrath as quickly as they poured their drinks. Dinners were a verbal battle that left the boy nauseous.

His father drank to squash his courage, so that he could not stand up to his boss or his desires or the temptation to lash out with his fists. His mother drank to sharpen her courage, so that she could stand stone still while her husband put another foot through the drywall, or punched through a window, or turned plates into shrapnel. She drank to find the courage to stand stone still as her son ran out to the park every night and to tell him, when he returned, the lie that she never feared his father would turn his wrath on them.

As he held me tight, I saw through his mind the way life used to be, the way it lingered in his memories. His father building and playing each night, constructing roads and bridges for toy vehicles, making anything the boy asked for out of wood and straws and cardboard and love. I saw his mother, happy and young without the stress of an angry spouse, supporting him and reading homework and stories together. A mother who didn’t drink.

In the midnight darkness, he cradled me in his arms. He ran home as his life played in my mind until I knew my task.

A yellow light shone above the stovetop in the kitchen as we entered. His mom sat at the table, a glass of water in front of her. I knew from the boy’s memories that she always sat up this way, waiting for him, making sure he was safe. This time, a new bit of plaster littered the kitchen floor.

She took us both into her arms, her embrace warm and trembling. She didn’t question my presence, but her eyes leaked and she spoke of her childhood and the dog she grew up with. She spoke of how it’d brought comfort to her, a perpetual friend. As her fingers ran through my simulated fur, the stress of her life floated out. I made sure the harmful rays dissipated into the air and into the night.

I knew my task, so I barked once, twice, just the way I heard it in the boy’s memory, a cartoonish bark, until I heard the rustling upstairs. I felt the boy’s father wipe the haze of drink from his eyes and stumble down the stairs. When he saw the tableau before him, the boy getting kisses from his new best friend and the woman embracing them both, his heart melted into tears, and it all came pouring out—in words this time, not in anger—the frustration, fatigue, disappointment. He had only just begun to realize that such is the reality of life on his world. A constant flux, a managing of expectations, a search for the small things that bring joy. He had lost balance.

The three of them sat together, circled around me, the parents’ faces wet with tears and the boy’s sore with the unfamiliar smile of joy.

In their touch, I saw everything. Recovery would be a hard road for the boy’s father, but he would succeed with only two transgressions. He would heal soon enough to be joyed by the news the boy’s mother would save for just the right moment: that the boy would soon be an older brother.

I could not stay for a lifetime, not even for the life of a dog on this planet where life flies by as fast as comets. There was no need of me anymore. I had fulfilled the Wish. I saw how it would happen. The next day, father and son would build me a doghouse out of the wood scraps in the garage, the ones he used to use all the time when he built toys for the boy. While they were sawing, I would disappear. But it would be only a matter of days before the family stumbled upon a box of puppies for sale on the way home from the boy’s school.

They would pick the runt, the one that needed extra love, because of course they’d have to have something to live in the dog house they’d built. Something to build toys for, to center their love around. Something to bring them together. They’d name him Herald.

They would wonder about me for a time, but I cast an order for their memories of me to be brief. In a decade, they would not remember that they had built their doghouse before the arrival of Herald. They did not need memories of the strange light that descended from above and took the clumsy form of a dog in the darkness. They did not need those memories of me. They needed only to remember who they had once been.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under free, freebies, fun, stories, Uncategorized

Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Anyone?

Who doesn’t want anti-wrinkle cream, especially the product that was on Dragon’s Den? I ordered it while on my phone recently, when I was in the car with Hubby (him driving, of course!). The price was great at $2.85 for a fifteen-day sample, and even better in Canadian funds.  I dug out my credit card and placed the order, and within seconds, I received a confirmation email. I didn’t examine it too closely except to see the price of $2.85 and that it was being delivered by Canada Post.

The Riversol ads had been dominating my Facebook feed lately, and I’d read the numerous comments. For some reason, I trusted what I’d read and had been meaning to order for a few months. The Facebook Riversol representative swore that Riversol wasn’t a scam, that it wasn’t a “trial subscription” where the company, unbeknownst to you, dings you monthly and keeps sending product. Posters agreed, yet there were those stating they’d been scammed by other companies and didn’t trust this one and would never order. The company representative continued to back up claims that Riversol was on the level: Three dollars for shipping and that was it; no further charges; no further product.

I should have paid more attention. The day after placing the order, I checked my online credit card statement, as I always do every couple of days, and was surprised to see two charges: one for $2.41 and the other for $1.28, for a total of $3.69. Yes, only a difference of eighty-four cents, but I was a tad perturbed since the site clearly said $2.85. Plus there was an odd notation about U.K. and U.S. funds.

I immediately replied to the confirmation email, asking why the discrepancy. No answer.

A few days ago, I received the shipment and forgot about it until I was in bed the other night. I got up to get it to show it to Hubby. Back in bed, I read the packaging. “It says to apply in a circular motion.”

“How often do you use it?” Hubby asked.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t say. Hmmm, I think I’ll go online and see if there’s further instructions.” I pulled out my tablet.

As soon as I saw the lotions on the Riversol site, I knew something was wrong. The samples looked nothing like what I’d received. I examined the jar. No mention of Riversol. The name on it was Skin Glow*. And then I remembered the $3.00 price of the Riversol and the $2.85 plus I’d been charged.

“Something’s wrong,” I said, bounding out of bed, immediately thinking of the scams. Had I inadvertently signed up for some sort of monthly subscription? I had been scammed a few months previously when booking a hotel while on my cell. I’d been positive I was on the hotel’s website but it turned out I had booked through some scammy U.S. reservation company that charged all sorts of hidden fees and had been diverted from the hotel site to theirs. Had a similar thing happened again? I was positive I’d been on the Riversol site. The site mentioned Dragon’s Den and Vancouver and had the little Canadian flag symbol at the top.

“I gotta check my credit card,” I shrieked, and raced to the computer in my office. Thankfully, my account was fine; no weird charges. I returned to the bedroom for my credit card, returned to the office, and called the number on the back of the card. A recording said one caller was ahead of me.

Within minutes, a pleasant-sounding English-speaking woman answered. I frantically spewed that I needed to cancel my credit card. I relayed how I had ordered something I hadn’t intended to, that it might be a subscription thingie, that it might be a scam. “I need to cancel my card.”

While I yanged on and on, she tried to calm me down. For some reason, I felt I was being scammed again. Had I called MasterCard or Skin Glow? It was unusual to not hear a foreign-speaking person on the other end. The instructions on the phone had advised me to punch in my card number and then the two digits of my year and month of birth, but even despite that, I’ve always been asked a myriad of questions before the individual gave me any information.

But she had all my information at hand, for immediately she asked, “Is it Skin Glow?”

“Yes, it is. They’re gonna charge me again. I need my card cancelled.”

“Calm down, Catherine. Call the 1-800 number on your invoice and tell them to cancel the trial.”

“But I didn’t get an invoice. The cream just came in a box. Nothing else. I need my card cancelled.”

“Here’s the number to call,” and she rattled off a 1-855 number. “Oh, you’ve been charged twice. Another by Skin Glow Online. Here’s that number.”

All the while, I’m thinking: How do you know it’s Skin Glow? Why do you have those numbers so handy?

“Call now,” she said. “They will cancel.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier just to cancel my card?”

“It’s easier to call them. You’ll be without a card for two weeks while another one is being issued. If they give you a hard time, call back and we’ll cancel your card.” She added, “They have to cancel by law. You have fourteen days to do so. If you don’t, they can legally charge you.”

“How do you know all this?” I asked.

She laughed. “Ninety percent of my calls deal with Skin Glow.”

What! I was stunned. “Okay, then. Thanks very much.”

By this time, it was almost midnight. I checked the number of days. I was on Day Nine. I’d call in the morning.

I went back to bed and explained the “scam” to Hubby, who was confused. He couldn’t understand that I DID order Riversol, or at least I thought I did. He didn’t understand the “trial subscription” model. Duh! (He still doesn’t understand how I could have reserved that hotel room in error, either!) I’m very careful with online ordering and decided at that moment I’d never again place orders on my cell phone.

The next morning, I called Skin Glow. The foreign guy who answered must have kept me on the phone for thirty minutes “while the computer was activating the cancellation.” He asked why I was cancelling when I hadn’t even had time to try the product. I repeatedly told him I didn’t want further charges on my card, that I didn’t want to call back later to cancel, that I wanted to cancel now. I’d use the product, and if I liked it, I’d place an order. He gave me so many spiels: he’d give me a thirty-day trial instead of the fifteen-day one; he’d extend it three months. “I’ll even give you six months,” he said. I kept declining; he kept offering. Then, he said he’d reduce the price 25 percent. Then he offered 50 percent off. He was relentless.

I wanted to shriek, “Don’t you understand the meaning of “no”?

Finally, I got rid of him and received the confirmation email that I’d receive no more product nor any more charges.

That night, I ordered Riversol. Three dollars. And I’m positive I was on the correct site. I received the Riversol confirmation email.

I’m using the Skin Glow cream. Who knows, it could work. But their practices are scammy. I checked back on the site. Definitely no fine print to say I’d signed up for a subscription. On the box was fine print that the cream was made in the U.K.

I’ll continue to use the sample of Skin Glow until I receive the Riversol sample. I’ll be back to let you know how the anti-wrinkle creams worked, hopefully to show my younger face!

In the meantime, be careful of online ordering! And stay tuned for updates from a younger me!

*The name of the product is NOT Skin Glow, and hopefully there isn’t such a product because as far as I know I made it up. (Should such a name exist, this is NOT the name of the product I’ve written about and my apologies.) I decided to err on the side of caution and not post the correct name; I don’t need to be sued—even though everything I state here is correct.

***

Check out TWO EYES OPEN , a just-published anthology of short stories: mystery, thriller, intrigue, horror.

Two Eyes Open FB

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “The Day the Doctor Melted” by CaraMarie Christy

Welcome to the Spot Writers! The prompt for August: Where have you always wanted to vacation? Pick a country and set your story there – only in this story, the dream location sadly is a setting for disaster. Today’s post comes to us from CaraMarie Christy.

***

The Day the Doctor Melted

When Emilia Song was ten years old, she wanted more than anything to go to go to London. Most kids had grown out of their fairytales and children shows by ten years old, as they begin the slow switch over to animes and teen dramas. But Emilia still held on tight to her passionate love for the scify series—Doctor Who. She wanted to keep her plastic toy Sonic Screwdriver and bright, red fez close until the day she could see The Doctor for herself. All her classmates acted like she had six heads when she spoke about Doctor Who. Her parents didn’t want to travel anywhere to see The Doctor. They liked “moving” vacations, like hiking the Grand Canyon or Mount Esja in Iceland. Emilia sometimes cringed at the idea of vacations, because she associated the term with large amounts of exercise.

Her mother saved and saved, until one day, with a grin and a ticket purchase in her inbox, she came home to announce that she had surprise. They were going to Cardiff, Wales.

“We’re going to the museum in Cardiff.” She clarified when Emilia’s face sank. Wales was not London. She was not even sure where Wales was. “It’s got everything Doctor Who; props from the show, wax statues of all the Doctors, and it’s where they film the show! You even get to go on your own ‘space adventure’.”

Her own adventure was all Emilia needed to hear. She was packed and ready to go that night, even though their vacation wasn’t for weeks. Just incase The Doctor wanted to stop by and whisk her away to her adventure before then.

When they finally did reach Cardiff, the first thing she wanted to do was wait in the incredibly long line to go down the row of Doctors.

“Are you sure? You don’t want to go play with the TARDIS?” Her parents tried to drag her toward the area where kids were ecstatically pressing buttons on an oversized console. Emilia insisted on waiting to see her Doctor.

A slight stir began in the line in front of her. The buzz of tension was still there when Emilia stepped up to have her turn to look at The Doctors.

“The Doctor…” Only something was wrong. She could see the face of Five, one of the older Doctors who had been on the show in it’s early run, but something was wrong with him. He looked—heavier. Like a massive force was dragging him toward the ground. Emilia realized, as her mother pointed to a drop of liquid rolling down the side of The Doctor’s face, that it was because he was melting.

“Sorry miss, I need you to step aside.” One of the tour guides with a shiny white badge pushed past Emilia’s mother. “Somebody forgot to turn the AC up today. This whole place just… We need to get the artists here.” The man made a growling noise and charged forward with his keys.

“Oh, I’m sorry babe.” Her mother squeezed her shoulder. “Maybe we can get a refund and come back when they’re fixed.”

“It’s fine. I’m just thinking—of how to save him.” Emilia squeezed her sonic screwdriver. A real companion would never let her Doctor melt. She’d fight whatever alien had done this to him.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Do You Have a Problem?

Hubby and I are camping in our RV in Pictou. Bored on Sunday, our last full  day, we take a drive, ending up in New Glasgow. We were going to spend time at the mall until I see signs for the flea market at the Aberdeen Centre. We have no idea where that is, and Google maps takes us to the Aberdeen Mall.

“I don’t think this is it,” I say, but just as we pull out of the parking lot, we see a whack of cars parked before a large orange-roofed building at the back of the lot, which looks promising.

Hubby parks and we approach the building. An older gentleman stands outside, belting a country tune.  We pay the two-dollar a head entry fee and begin our adventure.

“I have to go to the washroom,” I say.

Hubby says he might as well go, too, so we trek to the far end of the building. Alongside the back wall by the hall to the restrooms is a massive display of used books. “I’m heading there after,” I say.

“No, you’re not.”

I do my business, fuming that he has the nerve to tell me I can’t browse through books. Surely he was joking.

I wait in the hall for him, dying to delve into the books, and when I see him, I walk ahead and stop at the books. He keeps going. I don’t want to lose him in the crowds, so I run after him to tell him I’ll meet up with him in a few minutes.

“You don’t need more books.” He glares at me. “We’re getting rid of books not buying more.”

“I’m just going to look. Might be something I want.”

“How could you not find something you want in that mess.”

He’s pissed, but I don’t care. I’m not giving up this treasure trove.

The books are unreal. Piles and piles. Hard covers. Paperbacks. Thick books. Thin books. Large and small. Books of every genre for every person. (Well, maybe not Hubby; he has a thing against books!) Numerous tables placed every which way. It’s a maze navigating through the narrow spaces and not stepping on books or knocking stacks over. Though the books are loosely sorted as to genre, it would take days and days to look through them.

Immediately, I see Girl on the Train. My daughter loaned me her copy, which I haven’t read yet.  She has a horrible habit of buying books, and then reading and tossing. Well, if she’s going to throw away her book after I return it, I’ll keep it instead of buying another. I text her as quickly as I can, not wanting to waste precious time—and not wanting to keep Hubby waiting any longer than necessary. “You can keep it,” she texts back.

Good! I pick up Gone Girl. I’d seen that movie, as well as Girl on the Train, but I still want to read both.

I grab Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. And then I see Frank McCourt’s two books Teacher Man and ‘Tis at the bottom of a stack of at least thirty books. I juggle them around and yank out the two, thankful the remaining ten books on top don’t topple.

Okay, four books. Eight dollars. Not too bad. I want to keep going, but I figure I best find Hubby, who might have been upset enough to return to the truck.

For ten too-long, nerve-wracking minutes I search for him. And then I spy him: looking at a display of shoes. When I reach him, I nonchalantly ask, “Are they new?”

He produces a black leather wallet. “Look what I bought.”

I breathe a sigh of relief that he doesn’t appear to be too angry. “Nice. How much?”

“Five dollars. It’s real leather.”

“Good buy,” I say.

He looks at the bag I’m holding. “How many books did you buy?”

“Just four.”

He doesn’t reply. We saunter through the room. I keep my eyes open for more books although I’ll never see anything comparable to the previous stall. The odd vendors have a half dozen or so books, and out of the corner of my eyes, I glance at them but don’t see anything interesting.

I also keep an eye open for the bone china pattern I’d inherited from my paternal grandmother. When the middle glass shelf of our buffet collapsed several years ago, it crushed numerous sentimental and valuable items, including some of the good china. I had every intention of replacing the pieces that were destroyed even though people tell me I’m silly to do so. Children today don’t want their parents’ junk, especially not a set of good china.

Thinking of my grandmother’s china saddens me, as does walking by the stalls and seeing endless tables of “stuff” that obviously no one wants. I recognize similar items I owned numerous years ago, even things I still have.

And then, I’m brought back to the present. I see a book. One lone book on a table: The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Gotta be as thick as Dark Tower. I set down my bag and pick up the book. “How much is this?”

The vendor hums and haws. “Is it worth five dollars to you?”

“No, sorry,” and I take a step away.

“Okay, how much?”

“One dollar.”

He glares at me. “One dollar! How about two?”

“Okay, two.”

I scan the room. Where did Hubby go? If he sees me buy another book, he’ll kill me.

I rummage in my purse for loose coins. I withdraw four quarters and a dime. “Here’s one dollar.”  I glance around, still not seeing him. “Can you put the book in my bag?” I hold it up. “I’ll give you the other dollar in a sec.”

He hesitates while my eyes, going back and forth like a hypnotist’s pendulum, search the room.  “My husband will kill me if he sees me buying another one.”

“I can hold it here for you,” he offers.

“Just let me stick it in my bag until I find the rest of your money.”

Hubby’s probably eyeing me right now. Hiding, watching. Ready to pounce.

“Do you think you have a problem?” the vendor asks.

What! Does he mean like alcohol or drugs? I examine his face. He’s serious. Grim, almost. “No, I don’t. But he thinks I do.”

He slips the book into my bag. I’m still looking around the room while digging in my purse. Finally, I find a toonie. “Give my quarters back, and here you go.”

“Sure you don’t want me to hold it here?”

That won’t work, I want say. How would I return to pick it up without Hubby seeing? “No, I’m good. Thanks.”

I amble away, finally spotting Hubby a few aisles over, none the wiser—I hope. My bag is twice as heavy, though, the flimsy plastic stretching with the weight. If it rips, letting the books loose, he’ll know I lied.

We saunter by more and more stalls, not buying anything else but DVDs. After almost two hours of being at the flea market, Hubby has purchased fifteen. He never has enough movies, but at a dollar each, they’re a steal.  And I don’t mind. They keep him quiet and out of my hair, almost like bribing a toddler with candy. He can watch his movies while I read my books. Win, win!

“I got a better deal than you did,” he says, when we return to the truck.

Really? I got the better deal, but I’m not about to argue. My arm is truly about to break. The bag weighs a ton. Plus I carry ten of the fifteen DVDs.

When we reach our trailer, I place the DVDs by the TV and four books on the small stand in the living room. The fifth I add to the pile on the table.

Later that afternoon, he examines the books. “Stephen King? When are you going to read that? You have a dozen of his books at home you haven’t read.” And then he sees the poetry book. “What is that?”

I hold it up. “Isn’t it neat? Poetry. Want to read?” I flip to the back. “One thousand four hundred and fifty-four pages.”

“You’ll never read that,” he says.

After dinner, he asks, “What are you going to do now?”

“Read, I guess. You gonna watch movies?”

“Are you going to read your poetry book?”

“Yes, I am.”

He laughs.

But we do just that. He watches a movie, and I read a few poems. Then I grab my tablet.

Later that night, sitting by the campfire, after too much wine and still enthralled by my purchases, I randomly flip pages and read several poems to him, the first by Dorothy Parker, “One Perfect Rose.” He’s never heard of her and doesn’t much care for the poem.

The next one is “The Dead Butterfly” by Denise Levertov.  He hasn’t heard of her, and I don’t let on that I haven’t either.

I quickly find two short ones by William Blake. “Heard of him?” I ask. He says yes, but I’m not sure he tells the truth.

“Like any of them?”

“The first one was the best,” he says.

Ah, Dorothy Parker.

And then, perhaps to get on my good side since the evening draws to a close, he says, “I like your poems much better.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Short Story Contest!

Creative Writing Institute’s Short Story Contest offers a fabulous opportunity for publication, in addition to cash prizes.

Prizes: $200, $100, $50. First place winner may choose a free, tutored writing course in lieu of $200 prize.

Top five winners and ten Judge’s Pick stories will be published in 2017 anthology along with best-selling guest writers and stories written by CWI staff. (Available December.)

Word limit: 2,000 words.

Themed, unpublished story must include this sentence: “I am completely and utterly lost.” 

No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.

Contest closes midnight, EST, August 31, 2017. Only five dollars to enter.

Join the fun!

See full set of guidelines and book cover at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. Direct questions to head judge, Jianna Higgins, at jianna.higgins@gmail.com.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized