Category Archives: short stories

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Karen Ingalls @KIngallsAuthor

Nature Speaks by Karen Ingalls

 

NATURE SPEAKS

Why did my life spiral into darkness in a second? One minute I am married to my soulmate, a mother to a beautiful daughter, and owner of a successful bookstore. My friends asked me, “How do you have the perfect life? It is so easy for you.” They were right. I had the perfect life.

My husband was an engineer, and I opened a bookstore naming it Mile High Books offering old and new books, coffee or tea. Leather chairs and couches provided comfort to the patrons. Classical music played in the background. I loved going to my store enjoying the smell of books, coffee, and leather.

We had our first and only child, Lynn who also loved classical music and dreamed of being a ballet dancer.

One Saturday morning, my life changed forever. I had awakened with a migraine headache, which was intolerable. It was best if I stayed in a dark, quiet room until the medication relieved the blinding pain.

My husband, Miles volunteered to run the bookstore that fateful day. “Lynn and I can manage the bookstore today. You stay home and take care of the headache.” He leaned over and kissed me. “I love you,” were the last words I would hear him say.

I curled up, closed my eyes, and waited for the pain to go away.

A pounding on the front door and the continuous ringing of the bell awakened me. “This had better be important,” I muttered while staggering down the stairs. Two police officers with grim looks were standing on the porch. I collapsed when the words, fire, death, husband, daughter floated around my confused mind.

My once perfect life was unbearable with the memories of it everywhere. I sold everything, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Beetle, and drove west with just the clothes on my back and a photograph of Miles, Lynn and me. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t care.

 

The small cabin in the foothills of Costa Mesa, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean was my new residence. It was not a home. It was a place to sleep, eat and try to escape from my past.

The land was arid with brush, oak trees, scattered thistle weeds, and clay soil. Every evening, I walked down a short path from the cabin to a flattened area where I sat under a large oak tree and watched the sun dip into the ocean. One day at dusk, I leaned against the tree, closed my eyes and dreamed that Miles arms were around me while we watched Lynn ballet dance on a large stage. I could hear the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

When I awoke there were two limbs embracing me, and leaves and acorns were swirling around creating Tchaikovsky’s music. “Am I still dreaming?” The bark of the trunk and the limbs was rough and uncomfortable. I squirmed and pulled at the limbs. “What is happening? This is crazy.” I yelled for someone to help me, but the only words I heard were not human.

Ginny, you are a strong woman. Use your strength to get through this storm in your life. 

I pulled the limbs off, jumped up, and looked around expecting to see someone nearby. “Is anyone here?” I yelled again. Everything was quiet. A full moon radiated light around me.

Staring at the tree, I brushed my clothes, scratched my head, and said, “That was quite a dream, but how did those limbs wrap around me?” I shook my head trying to clear the confusion. “It was a beautiful dream of Miles and Lynn. I miss them so much.” With the sleeve of my sweater I wiped the tears. “I’ve got to get hold of myself. I’m losing my mind.”

The voice said. That was not a dream. I am here to help you.

“Oh, my God, I am going crazy. Trees don’t talk.”

Ginny, you are not going crazy. All trees talk, but humans do not listen. Do you remember your friend, Meredith who told you she talks to trees?

I nodded. “How do you…?”

I saw a friendly face of a kind, elderly man etched in the trunk. Every flora and fauna communes with humans, but they are too busy or unbelieving to listen and learn from us. 

I fell to my knees, grabbed a handful of soil, and watched it slowly stream out of my clenched fist. “This was my life. Time was going by with no troubles.” I opened my fist and let the soil out in one burst. “Then everything changed. My life was never the same. It is now an empty hand.” I sobbed and my whole body shook.

You are strong. Your faith is like my roots: stretching wide and going deep. 

The limbs stretched out, wrapped around my shoulders and leaned me against the trunk. Miles and Lynn are speaking to you through me.

Then I heard them say, We love you and will always be with you. Follow your heart.

The limbs were gentle and comforting. The rough bark was now smooth. My tears dried up, and I drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.

The warm and bright rays of the morning sun radiated through the tree’s canopy bringing warmth to my body nestled against the oak tree. Standing up, I stretched and looked out at the blue waters of the Pacific marveling at its majesty and beauty. I smiled as the words follow your heart floated around. “Wow! That was quite a dream.”

I walked a few steps on the path back towards the cabin. I stopped and looked back at the oak tree. “It might have all been a dream, but thank you.”

A thistle plant with its purple flower in full bloom was further up the path. I stopped. “You are beautiful, but your spikes are sharp.”

The spikes turned inward. Do not let fear hold you back.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. “Now I hear a flower talking to me. I am going crazy.”

The thistle plant swayed back and forth though there was no breeze. It bent forward bringing its flower near my hands. Touch me and accept my gift of peace.

I placed my hand on the purple flower and a deep sense of serenity swept over me. For the first time since the deaths of my family I was at peace. I whispered “Thank you.”

A short distance from the cabin porch, I saw the white silken top of a trapdoor spider’s home. I did not remember seeing it before and bent down to get a closer look. The trapdoor opened and a dark spider poked his head out. I stumbled as I tried to jump back.

The spider was small and ugly with fine hairs covering its dark brown body. He was frightening to look at, but his kind words put me at ease. You have walked by many doors, but you didn’t open them. 

“What is going on? I am hallucinating with all these voices in my head.”

You are not hallucinating. Your family is talking to you through the oak tree, the thistle and me. The spider moved back into his home and closed the trapdoor.

 

For days I paced around the cabin, reliving each moment and the words about strength, peace, and opportunities. I prayed and cried. I read about mysticism and nature.

One morning, I awoke and saw Miles and Lynn standing beside my bed. We will always be with you in your heart. Let nature continue to teach you.

 

The magnificent oak tree taught how to be strong of body, mind, and heart. Staying healthy and opening my arms to others became my ways of living.

I found beauty in my life and other people after removing my thorns of bitterness and self-pity.

My cabin was a trap shutting out people until I opened its doors and made it a home and retreat center. I added rooms for guests to stay and classrooms for teaching.

I called my new endeavor Nature Speaks, helping people to commune with and learn from all aspects of nature. When people open their hearts and minds to nature there are opportunities for a richer life.

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Karen Ingalls RWISA Author Page

 

 

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Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Suzanne Burke @pursoot

Thursday’s Child by Suzanne Burke

 

 

THURSDAY’S CHILD

By

Suzanne Burke.

Copyright 2019.

 

She hadn’t really intended this to happen. Oh, sure, she’d thought about it often enough, but thinking about something didn’t make it a crime. A convergence of circumstances had prompted her choice. Regret was such an outmoded commodity.

She checked her latex gloves fitted well, and flicked her dark eyed gaze across to where Peter Cameron lay, still and silent. “You brought this on yourself, Peter. Did you think me a complete fool?”

Carol moved across to the edge of the bed and stood over him. She reached down and flicked the blonde hair back from his forehead, then gently rested her hand there.

“You’re cold. Shall I fetch you a blanket?” Her laughter soothed her.

The man’s eyes were now open, and Carol revelled in the fear she witnessed in their blue depths. “Ah, there you are. How do you feel?” She laughed again. “Oh, silly me. You can’t feel anything. Can you? Such a handy little drug, and no taste I believe, especially in your malt whiskey.”

Peter Cameron’s blue eyes registered the words and Carol watched on as he commanded his brain to activate his fingers, his arms. He had no control of his voicebox. His brain refused to obey. He remained still.

“Oh, don’t fret so, darling. You’re not going to die … yet. The paralysis will last just long enough for my needs. It’s all in the timing. You need to helplessly contemplate what I may have in store for your immediate future.”

Carol walked away from him, and headed for the bar, whistling happily in anticipation. She placed his used glass and the bottle of Glenfiddich into her handbag, then poured a stiff belt of burbon into a paper cup, and seated herself comfortably on the sofa in the large living room and admired afresh the warm ambience of her surroundings.

“The best that all my money could buy.” Her voice brought her comfort.

She drained the cup and refilled it. When empty she crumpled it and placed it alongside the other items now concealed in the bag.

The wall clock reaffirmed that she had an hour remaining before company arrived. She nodded in satisfaction and rested.

With twenty minutes remaining she stood and checked on her captive one more time. “Not long now.”

A low groan came from the bed.

Carol gently stroked his cheek. “Are you terrified, my darling? Your eyes tell me you are. Good. That’s as it should be.”

Carol smiled in satisfaction and left the room, content to wait this out for a few minutes. At exactly 11.02p.m she heard the front door open and close again. A musical female voice called out, “Peter? Darling, where are you?”

Carol listened carefully from her dark space in the hallway. She held her breath as the woman came into view and she watched her enter the master-bedroom in search of her lover.

“Waiting in bed for me, darling? That’s different. I thought we were going to share a late supper.”

The woman sounded disappointed.

“He can be very disappointing. I agree.” Carol said from the doorway.

The woman jumped in fright and managed to say “Oh, my God. I’m not, that is, we aren’t, this isn’t.” She shut her mouth when her frightened eyes took note that her lover’s wife was standing in front of her wearing latex gloves and aiming a gun at her head.

“It isn’t what? An affair? Oh, please. Do you expect me to believe that you’ve come here to my home every second Thursday at 11.00p.m for 3 months to do something innocent?  Go ahead, enlighten me. I’m a reasonable woman. Convince me I don’t have a reason to hate you.”

“Please! I’m so sorry. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Oh, no, Thursday’s Girl. It means everything. The others meant nothing to him, therefore I ignored them. Ah, but you, you’re different. Turn around, let me take a closer look at you.”

Carol walked across to the shaking woman and prodded her with Peter’s handgun. “I said turn around.”

The younger woman nodded and hurriedly complied.

“He does love a tight ass. Long legs too. That’s always a bonus.”

“He doesn’t care about me. It’s a … a fling.”

“Nice try.”

“I’ll end it and never see him again. I promise. I’m sorry, please. Let me go.” The woman was sobbing now.

“Don’t you want to know how I know your special?”

The woman shook her head. “I’m not ….”

“Shut your stupid mouth and listen!” Carol barely controlled her anger and shoved the nozzle of the Glock into her rival’s chest.

She drew a deep calming breath and lowered the gun slightly. “I know, because he’s been happy. Happier than he’s been for many years. The only thing that’s different in his life since the advent of his peculiar behaviour is you!”

Carol fished inside the pocket of the coat she was wearing and drew out a small velvet box. “He brought you this little diamond trinket from Caliago. His jeweller of choice. It’s an engagement ring for you, Thursday’s Girl. The ring size is smaller than mine, and besides I only wear emeralds. My contact at the jewellers tells me it’s worth upwards of one million dollars. I do hope it’s insured. Give me your hand. Let’s try it on for size.”

The hand the woman held out was shaking. Carol nursed the gun, and held out the jewellery box. “Now place it on your finger. Don’t be stupid enough to flex your hand. Slide it on.”

The diamonds glistened as the ring slid into place perfectly.

“And lastly, should you think me presumptive, then don’t. You see our darling Peter visited our attorney to get the ball rolling for divorce proceedings. I can only wonder that he made such a stupid mistake. Our attorney was the one I recommended twenty-years ago. He earns every cent of the additional fees I pay him every month.”

Peter groaned again from the bed and his lover stood there watching on, too afraid to move.

Carol smiled. “How tragic love is. How very sad that you came here to end your relationship. Peter Cameron had never been denied anything in his life. He couldn’t take the rejection. He apparently decided that if he couldn’t have you, then nobody would.

The woman began to scream, and Carol laughed with pleasure. “Oh, yes, scream. Go right ahead! We do love living out here. There’s a righteous freedom in having no near neighbors.”

The woman was still sobbing as Carol sat next to Peter on the bed and shot her three times in the chest. She calmly watched as the body was flung backward by the impact and dropped to the floor.

Carol gazed down on her for long enough to see the faint hold on life vacate her eyes.

Carol checked the spandex gloves, satisfied that they’d worked as they should. She placed the weapon down for a moment as she removed the other things that she’d need from the bureau.

Peter’s arm felt like a dead weight as she wrapped the tourniquet around his upper bicep. The veins responded beautifully, and Carol inserted the syringe and watched in fascination as her husband’s body jerked several times. She watched him begin to foam at the mouth. She watched him die. “Heroin is so deadly, if you don’t get the dosage just right. I believe it’s referred to as a ‘hot shot’.

She placed the Glock in his right hand and checked to ensure the trajectory married up with the bullet’s impact on his dead companion. Carol squeezed his fingers closed around the weapon with his finger on the trigger, then let his arm drop and the gun lay loosely in the dead hand.

Carol stood back and admired her handiwork. Content now she hurried outside.

She ran to her car secreted behind a tall stand of trees and drove it into her driveway, behind the visitors Porche. She let the car idle and punched in 911 on her iPhone.

“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Please! Help me. I need help! Please!” The voice was frantic.

“I’ll help you, Ma’am, but I need you to calm down. Please tell me what is happening.”

“I heard a woman screaming! Then I think there were gunshots! Now I can’t hear anything. Please! Please, I beg you, please hurry, I think my husband is inside. Should I go in? I have to help him!”

“Please give me your address.”

Carol gave it.

“Do NOT enter the dwelling. Police and Paramedics are on the way. Stay on the line with me. Are you close to the house?”

“I’m outside in the driveway.”

“Please move away from the property. Stay away from the windows. They’re on their way.”

***

CNN breaking news.

“In breaking news! The body of United States Senator Peter Cameron has been found at his home. A crime scene now exists. Early indications from our sources indicate that another body has been found at the scene. Murder/Suicide has not been ruled out.”

“Tragically it was the senator’s wife who made the grim discovery. She is reported to be resting under sedation. In deep shock as these events unfold. Police at this stage don’t believe that a third party was involved in the tragedy.”

Carol listened to the excited broadcaster and smiled.

Then she settled down in her pristine hospital bed and drifted off to a contented sleep.

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Suzanne Burke  RWISA Author Page

 

 

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Fiza Pathan @FizaPathan

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

Dear Diary,

I had a wonderful day at school today. I got a star and I’m going to tell you all about it.

I’m eight years old, but I’m the tallest boy in the class. I, and the other kids in my neighborhood, study at the school down the block. Actually, our school was once something terrible; it was a disgusting Christian church, something called “Catholic.” The school officials tore it down and made it into a proper school for us kids.

So, I went to school today. I was the first one there so I got the biggest teddy bear to do my training with. The kids who were late got teddies that were way too small, the cheap ones that our soldiers stole from the hands of fleeing Jewish kids before they shot them in the head.

My teacher made us do our practice training in the morning. He handed us our daggers. We each checked with our fingers if they were sharp enough. Since I was early to class, I got to demonstrate. I put the dagger on the neck of the teddy and slit it the way my teacher had taught me to do. The other students followed me, but I was the best at cutting off teddy’s head.

“The jugular,” my teacher scolded another student who was cutting the wrong part of the teddy. “The jugular and do it slowly; it should make them cry.”

After dagger practice was over, we all sat and singing practice began. Singing is important; it touches souls and bring them closer to God.

We sang the national anthem. Teacher said I was the best singer and patted me on the head.

“Now, who knows a good English song, a hymn for our nation?” our teacher asked.

Every kid was stumped. They knew plenty of English songs, some of them were American. But you couldn’t sing those songs anymore. They knew “If I Was Your Boyfriend” by that Justin Bieber nonbeliever and “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, another group of nonbelievers—may the devil plague them!

But no one knew a hymn in English to our cause. Not a single kid. Well, everyone except me!

I raised my hand and teacher smiled.

He asked me to stand up and sing in place.

The other kids turned to look at me. They were jealous because they were not as smart as me.

I put my hands behind my back and stood straight like I do when singing the national anthem. I opened my mouth and began to sing:

We for the sake of Allah have come under the banner,

We for the sake of our Caliph have torn the world asunder;

We for the sake of our raped sisters will kill the ones responsible,

We for the sake of our nation will die, but not before we become incredible.

I didn’t know the meaning of raped, but daddy had taught me this song while we were fleeing India to come here, to this land of milk and honey. Daddy taught me a lot of songs and hymns as we fled India. We almost got caught, but our fake passports worked. Daddy is so smart. He is now working as a soldier here.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said, and he shook my hand. The other kids clapped, but some spat on the ground with disgust.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said again, holding me by the shoulders and looking into my eyes. “You are a gem of a man already. You get a star for this.”

And I did; a star made of metal shining like gold, the ones soldiers put on their uniforms. I was so proud that I couldn’t stop smiling.

The teacher then said it was almost time for prayers, but before that, did any of us kids know who we were deep in our hearts? Many kids answered:

“We are Allah’s blessing in flesh.”

“We are the terror of the Westerners.”

“We are the protectors of our faith.”

“We are true worshippers of the almighty.”

But the teacher said all their answers were wrong. I knew that too, because I knew the real answer. Teacher then asked me, “Tell me, son, who are we?”

I smiled, fiddling with my gold star before answering: “We are men who love death just as some people love their life; we are soldiers who fight in the day and the night.”

My teacher clapped, and so did the other kids, except for the ones who yet again spat on the floor and gave me angry looks.

We spent the rest of the day praying, going to the mosque that was once a church. They called it Lutheran, which sounds so ugly. I then came home, and here I am writing in this diary, which Daddy gave me to record the fun time I’m having here in this new country, the place where Allah truly lives with his beloved people.

I’m so happy to have earned my star. I’ll wear it tomorrow to the next beheading on the main square of those bad men who were trying to escape heaven, this place where we stay. I love beheadings. I take pictures of it on my uncle’s cell phone. I love the blood, snapped bones, and torn veins the best.

Tomorrow, our class will burn crosses at the beheading. I will burn not a cross, but a small statue of Mary, mother of that prophet who sinned against us. I’ve never burned her before, not because I haven’t gotten a chance to do so, but because . . . her eyes, her eyes when they look at me are funny.

Well, it’s time to go for prayers. I shall write later.

Yours always,

Alif Shifaq of the ISIS children brigade,

3 Bel Anif Mansion,

Sultan Saladin Road,

Raqqa,

ISIS Syria,

March 12, 2015.

*

After the fall of ISIS in Raqqa, an American soldier with his entire team were on the ground for inspection purposes. It was the year 2017, and the whole city had been razed to the ground.

The American soldier’s name was Emmanuel, and as he walked over the immense quantity of rubble, he spotted something.

It was a diary. A bit battered due to the bombing, but in good shape.

The hand of a preteen was found holding a pen beside it. The hand only. Not the rest of the body. The body had been incinerated.

Emmanuel lifted the diary and dusted it. He took it along with him, jumping over a pile of dusty teddy bears with their throats cut.

“City of the dead,” Emmanuel intoned, as he opened the diary to read. The first thing he read was an inscription in black ink from a fountain pen. It was done in calligraphy—skillfully done.

 

We are men who love death just as you love your life,

We are the soldiers who fight in the day and the night.

 

Emmanuel sighed and turned a page.

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Fiza Pathan RWISA Author Page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Beem Weeks @BeemWeeks

Dying for a Kiss by Beem Weeks

Dying for a Kiss

 

It’s like one of those stories you’d read about in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I mean, who ever heard of anybody dying from a kiss? Seriously! But that’s what happened to me—well, except for the dying part. Two weeks in the hospital—that’s the souvenir I brought back from my spring break.

Okay, let me back up to the beginning.

My parents’ hushed words pierce the wall that separates their bedroom from mine. This particular conversation doesn’t warrant status as an argument, though. And believe me, I know what their arguments sound like—lots of yelling, and maybe an ashtray or a bowling trophy gets thrown by Mom. I guess I’d classify this one as just another log of disappointment tossed on the bonfire that engulfs our family—our collective lives.

Dad is a dreamer. The problem is, dreamers make promises they’ll eventually have to break. He’s also the sort of man who’ll spend his last five dollars on scratch-off lottery tickets instead of household necessities, like food, or gas—or our long-planned excursion to Disney World during spring break.

Dad’s the one who sets it in stone over breakfast in our kitchen—Dad, because Mom refuses to play the bad parent anymore.

“Sorry, kids,” he tells me and my sister, Amanda. “We just can’t afford Disney at this time.”

Amanda, being nearly two years older than me, carries a heavier burden of disappointment than I do. She’s had more time to gather her own collection of tales regarding broken promises, cancelled plans, and the jettisoned idea of ever being a normal, well-adjusted family.

“I figured as much,” Amanda mumbles, dismissing herself from the table.

Dad tries to be sincere in his attempt to save spring break. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t go somewhere that’s almost as fun and exciting.”

When Dad speaks of somewhere, it’s usually a state-park campground in some far-flung forest up north.

Amanda hollers from the living room, “Just so you know, Daddy, I hate camping.”

I don’t hate camping—though it doesn’t exactly make my top-ten list of fun things to do.

*      *      *

A little backstory.

My parents met at a Beatles concert back in 1964. Mom claims love at first sight.

Dad, well, he’s been known to dispute her recollections on the subject. He’s fond of saying, “She had the hots for John Lennon, is all. I’m just the booby prize.”

Hippies, they were—and still are, even though it’s 1979 now. They only just recently (as in one year ago) got married—despite the fact that Amanda is almost fourteen and I’m already twelve. And though they’d both been college students when they met, neither has ever collected the degree they once intended to earn.

Mom works at the IGA as a cashier—minimum wage, with practically zero opportunity to advance into a higher tax bracket.

Dad? He’s dabbled in various occupations—sales, electronic repairs (TV’s mostly, maybe a few stereos), welding, landscaping, auto repair. Nothing ever really sticks for him, though. My grandfather (Mom’s dad) refers to my father as professionally unemployable. Granddad still blames him for making a mess of Mom’s life. They don’t speak, Dad and Grandpa.

Dad’s a good guy, though. He means well. He’s just not one for responsibilities.

So, anyway, the folded map of Michigan comes out, spread across the kitchen table. Mom eyes the places circled in red—those previous vacation spots. We’ve been all over the state: Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Traverse City during the cherry festival, Holland for Tulip Time. We even spent a few days on Mackinac Island three summers ago—though we didn’t stay at the Grand Hotel.

“It’s Andrew’s turn to choose,” Mom says, dropping the big decision in my hands.

Hiawatha National Forest had been my first choice the last time my turn came up. But Dad broke his foot, which cancelled our vacation that spring.

“The Upper Peninsula, it is,” Dad says.

Amanda despises me in this moment. “I told you I hate camping.”

*      *      *

Radio songs fill the van once we hit US 27 going north. The Bee Gees squawk about a tragedy twice before we’re even on the road for forty minutes.

“I hate that song,” Amanda complains.

Dad says, “Well, I like it.”

Mom tries to lighten the mood. “I spy with my little eye—”

“Please don’t!” Amanda begs. Without warning, she socks my shoulder, yells, “Slug bug red!”

“Ouch!” And just like that, it’s on. We’ll both of us be battered and bruised by the time we spy the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

“Slug bug green!” Thwack!

“Slug bug blue!” Thwack!

“Slug bug—oh, never mind. That’s not a VW.” Thwack!

“Hey! No fair!”

Blondie sings about her heart of glass and Amanda momentarily abandons our game—just long enough to sing the few lines she actually knows.

Many hours later, I’m the one who spots the top of the Mighty Mack! “I see the bridge,” I say, hoping it’ll irritate Amanda.

But in truth, she doesn’t mind losing this game. It’s not a thing to her anymore. She’ll leave us the day she turns eighteen—or even sooner, if she has her way. Grandpa promised to pay for her college, knowing my parents will never be able to afford it.

Evening spikes the sky with an orange-pink sunset by the time we find a campground inside Hiawatha. Dozens of tents and RV’s occupy the prime camping spots.

“Andrew and I will set up the tent,” Dad says, parking our van on the last vacant lot within sight. “You girls can get dinner ready.”

Kids—loud and rowdy, as Grandpa would say—run from lot to lot, chasing after somebody’s collie, darting across the road without so much as a glance in either direction.

“Too stupid to last long in this world,” Amanda says.

Mom gives her the eye. “They’re just kids, for crying out loud, Mandy.”

*      *      *

“Andy and Mandy,” the girl teases, laughing at our introductions. “That’s cute. Are you two twins or something?”

“Or something,” Amanda says.

Her name is Nora, this girl with short brown hair. Already fourteen—unlike Amanda, who still has another month. The tents across the street are her family’s—it’s their collie running wild.

“Five kids,” Nora says, answering my mother. “I’m the oldest. Three younger brothers and a baby sister.”

“Sounds kind of crowded, that many people in just two small tents,” I observe.

She looks right at me when I speak—like I’m really truly here, standing in front of her.

“You don’t know the half of it,” says Nora. “I asked if I could just stay home, sit out this vacation. That’s not happening anytime soon.”

*      *      *

Blue jean shorts and a red bikini top—that’s what Nora wears the following morning. And a pocket full of salt water taffy—which she gladly shares.

Mom’s not impressed. “Leaves little to the imagination,” she says, regarding Nora’s top.

“But you and Daddy used to skinny dip,” Amanda reminds her. “So how is that better?”

Mom’s hard gaze issues silent threats. Her words aren’t quite as harsh. “Aren’t you kids going boating?”

It’s not really a boat, this thing we rent; it’s more like a canoe—but only plastic. I sit in the rear, my paddle steering us toward the middle of the lake. Amanda has the other paddle, though she’s not really doing anything with it.

Nora sits in the middle—facing me!

I think Amanda is intimidated, not being the oldest for a change.

Nora talks—a lot. But I don’t mind. She tells us all about life back home in Detroit—well, the suburbs, really, a place called Royal Oak. She used to have a boyfriend, but he cheated on her. Her parents separated last year, intending to divorce, but her mom ended up pregnant.

“Amazing how an unborn baby can save a marriage,” Amanda says.

It’s after we bring the canoe in that Nora says, “Wanna go for a walk?”

Only, she’s not talking to Amanda. Amanda is already halfway back to our tent.

We end up in a picnic area near the lake, just me and Nora. She tells me more about herself, her family, what she intends for her future.

“You’re cute,” she says, sitting right beside me on a park bench.

My cheeks get hot, probably bright pink.

And she’s two years older than me, I think, as her lips press against mine.

My first kiss—well, first real kiss.

On her tongue I taste salt water taffy and excitement and all things possible.

What I don’t taste is the meningitis in her saliva.

Amanda intrudes, tells me lunch is being served at our tent.

*      *      *

It strikes without warning, leaving me confused, nauseated. Words tumble from my mouth, though I have no idea what I’m saying.

Mom’s hand finds my forehead. “He’s burning up,” she says. “We need to get this boy to a hospital.”

Only, I don’t hear it that way. What I hear is, “We need to get this boy a pretzel.”

“But I don’t like pretzels,” I mumble.

*      *      *

Two weeks later, I’m back home. It’s a blur, but my parents say I nearly died.

From a kiss!

Is that a Ripley’s story or what?

And what a kiss—totally worth dying for!

Well, almost dying.

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Beem Weeks RWISA Author Page

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 Books by Beem Weeks

JAZZ BABY BOOK COVER

Jazz Baby

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Slivers of Life

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Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Linda Mims @Boom_Lyn

Solace by Linda Mims

Solace

by Linda Mims

 

Eighteen precocious kindergartners stared as Carly walked into the colorfully decorated classroom. Carly hoped her smile was more reassuring than she felt. Was this a mistake? She spotted two six-year-olds who’d been in her charge on the first field trip she’d chaperoned. They gave her a friendly wave, and a true smile parted Carly’s pursed lips and lightened her heart.

 

Ms. Jones, the principal, asked all of the children to file around and shake hands with Carly, but some of them hugged her around the waist and Carly bent to embrace them. The huggers stared up at her and quickly turned away unsure how to behave.

 

After Carly shook hands and hugged them, she asked their new teacher’s permission to lead them to the circle in the back of the room. She’d read that schools were frowning on seating students on the floor, but their former teacher, Miss Mason, had valued the practice.

 

Miss Mason sat smack dab in the middle of “her kids” and shared her own childhood or read to them from her favorite stories.

 

So, hovering above the painted line, Carly squatted until she dropped. Sitting crossed-legged wasn’t as comfortable or as easy for Carly as the children made it appear. She smiled as they sank to the floor on legs like rubber bands.

 

The children sat on the painted circle touching their neighbors with legs, arms, or elbows. There was no jostling or whining from anyone about invasion of space. They needed to connect in this strange time, so it was okay for someone to sit too close.

 

Two little ones, seated across from Carly, couldn’t stop sniffling, so she held out her arms, and they came over. She pulled them down on either side of her and nuzzled them there. She wanted to join in. Be as free and uninhibited as they, but she held her feelings in check.

 

The children bowed their heads, but a few raised their eyes to cast envious glances at the two burrowed beneath Carly’s arms. She smiled around the room, looking for the ones Miss Mason had told her about. Johnnie, who was the biggest discipline challenge. Grown-ish Jenny of the fresh mouth and Einstein mind.

 

Carly recognized little unkempt Anna who caused Miss Mason enough anxiety to refer her family to DCFS. Diana Mason loved these children, and they loved her. The students spent more time with Carly’s daughter than with their own parents.

 

“Listen and I’ll tell you about the day little Ms. Mason broke the rules and made cookies for herself and her little sister,” Carly said.  “When her father and I were away from home, she wasn’t supposed to fool with the stove, but you guys know how feisty Ms. Mason can be.”

 

“She was a mischievous little girl,” Carly said with exaggerated feeling.

 

One of the little ones giggled and hurriedly stifled it when the others swiveled their heads to stare at her, disapprovingly.

 

“Children,” Carly said. “Ms. Mason would want you guys to smile as you remember her. She’d want you to remember the stories I’m about to tell you and think of her with love.”

 

***

 

Joe Mason waited outside the old brick building where, four years ago, his daughter and some of her colleagues had started their own small school. His wife was inside visiting his daughter’s kindergarten class, but Joe remained in the car.

 

He hadn’t agreed with Carly that this was a good idea. His family had spent a crushing two days grieving Diana’s sudden death and just when—maybe—the weight was easing, his wife sprung up.

 

“Oh God, Joe! Her kids.”

 

“I’m sure someone has told them,” he assured her, but Carly wouldn’t be comforted.

 

“They’re five and six years old, Joe. They don’t understand death. Can you imagine the confusion and anguish for those children? I have to go,” Carly said.

“They need to hear from me and know that it will be all right.”

 

She had made up her mind and Joe didn’t try to talk her out of it. Perhaps she needed this, too. He, on the other hand, couldn’t bring himself to think about Diana without feeling guilty. There was no peace for him as he shouldered the weight of his daughter’s death.

 

The night Diana died alone in her room, Joe had convinced himself that he’d heard her knocking for help. He’d been dreaming and in the dream, Diana had knocked on the front door. He was upstairs, and he wondered why Carly didn’t go to the door and let their daughter in.

 

She knocked in random succession maybe three times, but when Joe woke, he heard nothing. He lay there for a long while listening and wondering if someone had been knocking on the door for real.

 

It was 1:45 a.m. and outside, the sounds of jazz music told him his neighbor Jimmy was in his parked van, again.

 

Jimmy did that after a spat with his wife, Vanessa. That’s what the knocking had been. A radio commercial. Satisfied, Joe turned over and went back to sleep. It never occurred to him to wake Carly or to go check on Diana. If he had, his daughter could have gotten help, and she’d still be alive.

 

Joe couldn’t tell anyone. Carly and Diana were more than mother and daughter. They were best friends. Carly would never forgive him for, if nothing else, letting her remain asleep. God! The pain of losing Diana, compounded by his guilt, was eating Joe alive.

 

Inside, Carly carried her own guilt. Diana had been working herself to the bone raising money to keep the school afloat. More than just exist, Diana and her colleagues wanted the school to make a huge impact on the lives of their students and their families.

 

Diana wasn’t sleeping. She was losing weight, and more than a few times, Carly argued with her about taking care of herself.

 

“If you don’t take care of your own health, you won’t be any damned good to your students!”

 

“Mom, relax! What am I going to do? Die?”

 

“Your heart, Diana. Please remember your heart.”

 

“I do, mom. I think about my heart all the time. School is the only thing that prevents me from thinking about my heart. Can you give me a break? And don’t go to Dad with your suspicions.”

 

So, Carly gave her a break and she didn’t tell Joe that she suspected Carly was sicker than she was letting on.

 

***

 

“You smell like her,” said a little one who’d scooted over and was hugging Carly from behind.

 

“Let me smell,” said another, peeling his classmate’s arms from around Carly and nudging the child over to squeeze in.

 

“I wanna smell,” cried a young girl who had stopped twirling her hair around her finger and now stood.

 

Soon they clustered around Carly, talking and gesturing. Their little voices serious as they shared stories of the times Ms. Mason had been kind, or funny, or very, very stern. Their beautiful faces weren’t so sad now and they made Carly laugh. An hour passed and the pall over the room lifted.

 

Outside, the breeze blew leaves from the young trees Diana had planted across the grounds. Joe trained his eye on a leaf that floated across his windshield on the gentle breeze. Instead of drifting along, the green leaf frolicked and rolled on the air in front of him.

 

He’d never paid attention to leaves, and he wondered that this one seemed determined to hang right there, tumbling and playing in front of him. While Joe watched, the leaf floated down and lay on the hood as though spent. Then, to Joe’s amusement, it blew flat against his window and stuck there for a few moments.

 

The leaf stood on its stem and Joe bent to see it flutter across the car and brush Carly’s face just as she opened the passenger door. Carly started, then laughed and touched her face. Smiling, without even knowing why, they watched the little leaf fly off over the building and out of sight.

 

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Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Gwen M. Plano @gmplano

The Rosary by Gwen M. Plano

THE ROSARY by Gwen M. Plano

Young or old, we are all children at heart. This truth became apparent to me last December when I had neurosurgery.

Prior to the operation, a clerk handed me a stack of documents to sign—billing forms for the hospital and the doctors and several medical release forms that included a list of potential risks. My apprehension grew as I fingered through the papers and provided my signature. It was then that I wished that my mom could be with me. Like any child, I thought she could make it all better. But sadly, she had passed away nine months prior.

My mom was a person of prayer, and when I was young, she’d gather her seven children, tell us to get on our knees, and then proceed to pray. We’d follow her lead—usually protesting—and pray for family members, friends, and the unknown masses. Often, she led us in saying the rosary. Prayer was my mom’s response to any challenge or difficulty, and we had plenty of both on our farm.

Mom’s most common expression was, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” While some of us might curse or yell in frustration, Mom would say this phrase instead.  So, when one of my brothers sent a golf ball through the picture window, Mom called out “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” before scolding him. When we siblings squabbled with one another, Mom would mutter, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” before sending us to our bedrooms. Without exception, we grew up knowing that when Mom said “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” we were in trouble.

I can’t remember a time when Mom wasn’t praying. Whether washing the dishes, hanging the wash on the clothesline, working in the garden, or driving us to a sporting event or a 4-H meeting, Mom quietly prayed. I asked her about this once, and her response left an indelible impression.

“Life is short,” she began, “and we must use every moment to the fullest. People need our prayers, and some don’t have a family to pray for them like we do.”

I didn’t understand her comment about using every moment to the fullest until I grew older. But her explanation helped me grasp why she rarely watched television and why she rushed from one room to another throughout the day.

When Mom passed at ninety-two years of age, she left a legacy of beliefs and practices that had found a place in the heart of each of her children. We may have complained about kneeling on the hard floor, but even as little tykes, prayer became part of our lives because of our mother.

At her passing, we were bereft. Mom was our strength, our compass. She was the one we called about concerns, both large and small; she was the one we talked with about our hopes and dreams. Her passing left a huge emptiness that still echoes in our memories. When we sorted through her belongings, not so surprisingly, we discovered she had a dozen or so rosaries. I received two of them.

When I checked into Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, I took my mom’s wooden rosary with me. I felt her near when I held it, and this sensation gave me comfort.  I held the beads tightly and imagined Mom with me.

After the surgery, I was rolled into a room on the Pain Floor where all neurosurgery patients were housed. Next to me was an adjustable overbed table, and when I awakened, I realized that my mom’s rosary rested on it.

My nurse, Lucy, regularly came in to check on me, and each time she walked through the door, she sang a refrain which included the words, our lady of the rosary. I was surprised by this, because Cedars Sinai is a Jewish hospital. After Lucy left, an aide visited, and she explained that her sister was a nun, and my rosary reminded her of this sister. Later, the night nurse came in and told me about immigrating to the US and how she loved the rosary.

During my hospital stay, one staff person after another visited me and shared family stories and photos—all evoked by the rosary that rested on the overbed table. As I was preparing to leave, Lucy came in to say her goodbyes. She pulled a photo from her pocket.

“This is my mom,” she proudly stated. “I thought you’d like to see her.”

The image was of a petite woman, hunched over by time, smiling broadly at the camera. She stood next to her much-larger daughter, Lucy. I was stunned; she looked like my mom.

As the hospital staff came to say goodbye and wish me well, I suddenly realized that Mom had been with me the whole while. I had been loved and cared for by many at the hospital, but it was Mom who drew them near with her rosary.

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Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – A. M. Manay @ammanay

Mirror, Mirror by A. M. Manay

“Mirror, Mirror” by A.M. Manay

Set in the world of The Hexborn Chronicles

 

Shiloh stood in her teacher’s doorway, pulling anxiously on the end of a pink braid that had snuck out of her hood. Brother Edmun was in high dudgeon, ranting about insults and ingrates. A wooden crate sat upon the table, straw peeking through the slats. She could feel magic pouring out of it like waves of heat; it wasn’t dark magic, but it didn’t feel like good magic, either.

“Master?” she ventured. “Would you like me to make your breakfast?” She didn’t bother to ask about the box. He’d tell her if he wanted her to know – and, in his own good time, not before.

Edmun looked at her as though she’d appeared out of thin air. He waved her off. “Don’t bother, poppet. I couldn’t eat.”

Shiloh’s eyes strayed to the crate, but she said nothing.

“Go finish your essay from yesterday,” Edmun barked.

Taking her seat at her little desk with her back to the table, Shiloh could hear Brother Edmun unpacking the mysterious arrival. It was all she could do to resist the urge to peek when she heard the sound of a hammer. Under his breath, Edmun muttered a constant patter of unintelligible complaints. At last, she heard him pull out a chair and collapse into it. Carefully scanning the page once more for any mistakes, she stood to present her work to her master.

He looked down at the offering in her little hand, her words marching neatly across the page. Pen in one hand and her paper in the other, the glower slowly disappeared from his face as he read, leaving behind a hint of satisfaction. At last, he nodded, resting his unused pen. Shiloh exhaled in relief.

“Well done. A princess at the Academy could not have done better at twice your age.”

“Thank you, master!” Her smile lit up her eyes, which then strayed over Edmun’s shoulder to a mirror with gilded leaves and lacquered flowers hanging on the wall. The ornate frame looked out of place in the rustic mountain cabin.

“Don’t look in it more than you can help it,” Edmun ordered, calling attention back to her teacher’s face.

“Yes, master,” she replied. “May I know why not?”

Edmun hesitated.

“I can feel that it’s magic, master,” Shiloh continued.

He snorted. “I’m sure you can.” She waited for more, but knowing well enough not to press him.

Edmun heaved a sigh. “A man can give you a gift out of love, to please you. Or, he can send it as an insult, to remind you of errors and to caution you against repeating them. This mirror is the latter.”

“What does it do?” she asked.

“That is none of your concern,” he replied. “And that is all I will tell you. Go get a wand from the cabinet.”

Excitement sheathed Shiloh’s face. “We’re using wands today?”

Edmun glanced down at her from beneath his eyebrows. “Is there another reason I’d ask you to get one? Now, do it quickly, before I think better of it.”

 

***

 

The following evening, Shiloh picked up a clean rag and set about the dusting. Edmun was busy in the temple, preparing for the upcoming Feast of the Father. As soon as she was done in the house, she was to join him there. As usual, the red cabinet took most of her attention. The many books, wands, and magical curiosities inside had to be carefully wiped and returned to their accustomed positions. It was tedious work, but she was pleased that Edmun trusted her with the task.

Her work on the cabinet finally completed, she turned to dust the mirror and gasped. The silver surface had turned to black. A face appeared, and not her own. Shiloh took a step backward.

A man cocked his head to the side, a slow smile spreading across his face. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but Shiloh did not wait to hear the words. She ran, her head scarf flying behind her all the way to the temple doors. She threw them open.

“What?” Edmun demanded, looking up from the altar.

“The mirror,” she panted. “It turned black, and then there was a man…”

Edmun crossed the floor and took her by the shoulders. “What did he see? What did you say?”

“Nothing! I ran as soon as I saw him. I was only finishing up the dusting. Who was he?”

Edmun ran a hand over his mouth and chin and took a deep breath. “The most dangerous man in the kingdom. Silas Hatch.”

“The Hatchet?” Shiloh shivered. “The king’s spymaster? Why would he appear in your mirror?”

“Who do you think sent it? Hatch likely meant to speak with me, to threaten me. The king hates and fears me for reasons you well know.” His brows drew inward. “He gave you a right scare, didn’t he, poppet?”

Shiloh nodded. Edmun knelt to look her in the eye. “Now, if I were a kind man, I’d tell you that you need not fear him. But I’m not, so I’ll tell you the truth. You should be terrified of him. If you ever give him reason to believe you are disloyal to the crown, he will slit your throat with his own hands.”

“Why would I ever be disloyal to the crown?”

Edmun placed a hand on her head. “Good girl. Now, put that man out of your mind and help me ready the temple for tomorrow.”

Shiloh nodded, yet the ice of fear in her stomach remained; as did the look of worry on her beloved teacher’s face.

 

***

 

Shiloh sat on her bed in the loft above her father’s smithy. Upon her blanket lay an array of charms she’d just made for protection against all manner of hexes or ill-wishing.

The look upon the mirror man’s face had chilled her to the bone—something about the smile. It had been predatory. Proprietary. Wary. It had given her the distinct impression that the man’s interest lay not only in her master but in herself, as well. I will not leave my teacher unprotected.

She pinned one charm on the linen beneath her tunic. The others she gathered into an old handkerchief. She tied it tight and placed the bundle in her pocket along with a jar of paste.

She knew Edmun would already be in the temple performing his ablutions for the feast day. She let herself into his house and crossed warily to the mirror. She exhaled with relief to find it clad in its ordinary silver.

Carefully, she lifted the mirror off its nail and turned it face down upon the table. She held the pot of glue in the crook of her elbow and pried it open, then affixed seven charms to the back of the Hatchet’s “gift” to her master, one for each of the Lords of Heaven. She returned the mirror to its proper place and hurried to the temple before Edmun could scold her for tardiness.

 

***

 

At dusk, Edmun sat his tired bones into his favorite chair and looked balefully at the mirror. Given the visitation to Shiloh the night before, Edmun expected to see Silas Hatch’s face, yet as the pink light of sunset faded, the man did not appear.

“Perhaps tomorrow,” Edmun murmured. “I had hoped to get it over with.” He looked up at the mirror and realized that it was just slightly askew. Standing, he removed it from the wall. Turning it over, he found Shiloh’s handiwork.

Edmun smiled and shook his head. “My sweet, clever poppet. Too clever by half.” Sighing, he plucked the charms from the backing and set the mirror on the table, leaning against a water pitcher. Silas appeared in moments.

“Master Edmun, I feared you had forgotten the terms of our arrangement. There was to be no meddling with the mirror.”

Edmun swallowed heavily. “It was a momentary lapse,” he lied. “I thought better of it.”

Silas grinned. “You don’t have lapses. It was the girl, wasn’t it?”

Edmun said nothing.

Silas laughed. “It was. Ha! And what is she, only eight years old?”

Still, Edmun said nothing.

“She must love you as much as I did,” Hatch mused.

“What do you want?”

“Are you really teaching her mirror magic this young?” Hatch asked, brow raised.

Edmun closed his eyes and sighed. “Of course not. Evidently, I didn’t teach you your own well enough, as she defeated you with a handful of charms and some paste.”

The young man’s ears flushed. “Well, then,” he managed, “I shall have to redouble my efforts.”

“You do that. And Silas?”

“Yes?”

Edmun leaned in. “The next time you frighten that girl, it had best be after I’m cold in the ground.”

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A. M. Manay RWISA Author Page