Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWrimo 2013: Anatomy of a Ghost

My characters are whispering at my ears. My fingers are starting to itch to pick up a pen and start writing. ( I am going to try writing long hand first and then typing over this year. We'll see how long that lasts.)  So close now. November and its mad addictive rush of words. I can count the hours now, the minutes.

A faux cover for this year's probable nano novel....


Monday, October 21, 2013

Storming the Castle Wall

It has been awhile since I've come around here... Thought today was a good day to work in a little writing prompt work.  A little entry that came from a The Write Practice prompt on storming castle walls.


Daisy and Doodle sat deep in contemplation like a pair of matching twins- knees to their chins, heads cocked to the right, fingers drumming on said knees, wings draped gracefully at precisely 100 degrees.  That is, as much as a diminutive dragon and her fairy rider could look like matching twins.

In front of them, stretched a long wild flower strewn grass field in various stages of mid-October decay-- that is shades of gold, russet, burnt umber, all shimmied over with a gray cast and a coating of dripping rain. On the other side of that lay a muddy, murky moat, a thick boxwood hedge, and the real object of their contemplation, the outer sandstone wall of the castle.  As walls go, it wasn't particularly fearsome in and of itself.  Four stories of interlocking stone rising out of the plain and topped by a few guards.

The "how" of getting through, around, across, over... that wall and into the castle proper had been the key thought occupying their minds for the better part of two weeks. Ever since they had foolishly accepted the assignment  from Headmaster Jayne to "Drop the Winter Ice Crystal into the Wishing Well at the center of The Castle's front courtyard."  It had seemed like such a simple task to complete.

That was before they had discovered the hazards of the wall from Hades. So far, among other things, they had encountered poison mist (Doodle sitll had burns on her front legs from that stuff), fiery arrows that came in heavier and heavier waves until they had been forced to retreat or light on fire, and a magic bounce back force field that appeared to stretch around the entire castle from about two feet above the archers heads until someplace higher than either Daisy or Doodle could fly.  They were currently recovering.from having buckets of anti-fly bespelled water thrown over their heads when they tried to sneak into the castle through the gate to the kitchen gardens.  Hopefully it would wear off soon.

"We have another two months of this, don't we?" Daisy's gloom depressed even the bell notes of her voice tinkle.

"Harumph," replied Doodle, equally depressed.

In tandem, two sets of shoulders slumped, dropping their wings to an undignified and improper 130 degrees.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Silent Room: Part 9


Number 11

Number 11 woke from what felt like the hundredth ever-changing nightmare. The only thing that stayed the same was that in each and every one he was being chased by spidery men dressed in long black robes, the words "Eight Watchers of the Ancient World" whispering in the shadows.  Maddening villains.  It felt like days had passed, and yet the sun was only just now rising.  Sitting there in the early dawn light, he slumped against the wall and wished, wished so hard he hurt with it, that he could fall asleep and just simply sleep.

He supposed vaguely that he could just let them catch him in his dream. That maybe that would end the dreams.  But then... he could hear their voices as if in memory rising in chant, "He will take the program. He must!", and he would struggle on away from them. He had let them get close once. Let them almost take over.  It had been so close, the moment of acquiescence rising within him like the tide drawing toward the moon.  He had felt almost like he would burst with the relief of it.

And then he had caught sight of a face hidden within the dark folds of one of the hoods. An unearthly face, gray and drawn, with a bony nose beneath strange burning eyes.  Eyes filled with anticipation and glee and banked fire that promised to eviscerate, incinerate, his very being.  The chill that had swept through him had been enough to draw him suddenly  back at the last, gasping as though he breathed in air from which all the oxygen had been burned away. He had wakened to find himself in a darkened attic room in this empty, forsaken land.

Looking out, he saw that at last the sun had risen just enough to fill  the world with a dim grayness and a drifting early morning mist. Time to get away from his dreams, he thought. If he couldn't sleep restfully, he certainly wasn't sticking around for another restless battle. Shaking his arms and shoulders to rid himself of his exhaustion, he stood and headed for the doorway and its ladder down to earth.  



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WNP: Mountain Zip Line

WNP: He pulled on the helmet and secured the strap.


He pulled on the helmet and secured the strap.  His harness was already attached to the trolley.  Checked. Triple checked. And checked again.  Wind whistled around him shrill and forceful, pushing  him with little shoves toward the cliff face.   He reached back one more time to feel the secure weight of the search and rescue kit strapped to his back. He was just stalling now.  He pulled on the thick gloves and grabbed the handles of the zip line, trying to ignore the creaks and groans he told himself were not from lack of use or disrepair.  Looking out from his small rocky shelter near the plateau where the helicopter had dropped him, he watched the clouds piling up along the horizon and the stretch of their long shadows shifting over the green plain so far below.  He kept his eyes toward the horizon and off the rocky crags and jagged ice sheets below him.  No use thinking of that.  It was still the only way into the canyon.  He checked the straps of his kit one more time.  It was somebody else's life now if he didn't get a move on.  He took a deep breath and jumped.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Silent Room: Part 8


Number 11

Number 11 woke slowly from sleep.  The steady thrum of a heart beat faded slowly away into nothingness as consciousness returned.  When he finally opened his eyes, it was to find only the disorienting combination of utter silence and a darkness so complete he wasn't sure if he was waking or sleeping. He opened and shut his eyes, trying to find even a ray of light somewhere in his surroundings.  The cocoon of darkness closed in on him and for a moment, with the steady thrum and unreality of dreams still caught in his memory, he feared himself to be a grown man trapped in the suffocating envelope of a womb.

He had read a story about that once. About a man who was sewn into a synthetic womb and kept there for month after month, year after year of experiments.  What if he had been sewn into a synthetic womb while he slept? Ice clawed at his throat.  He tried to think of details from the story, but the where and the when and the why of the story slid sideways away from him, scattered into the darkness like the clattering toenails of so many invisible rats running for cover.

Hazily, as if through cobwebs, the memory of a darkening attic in the fading light of the sun came back to him.  Maybe he was still there.  He strained his eyes for any hint of light- a star standing out in the door frame, a tractor beam flashing across the fields.  Nothing. He refused to cave again to the madness of his nightmares and continued to strain his eyes.

At last, when he had given up and begun to think he would have to wait through all the slow hours until dawn might come, he noticed  a dim light emanating from beneath his left sleeve.  Sliding it up, he found a watch he didn't remember being there earlier. Its face glowed with a pale green-white light. It read 7:00 pm 9-9.  Holding his arm up and out from him, he used the dim light of the watch face to illuminate the room.  He found the slant of the roof above him and the vague outline of the door frame off to his right. A deep sense of relief washed through him.  Beyond the door frame was complete and utter darkness.   He sighed. The clouds must have come in to cover up the stars.   He let his arm drop back down to his knee, careful to keep his sleeve rolled up, and simply stared at the watch face.  Maybe he could let it lull him back into the oblivion of sleep.

The 9-9 of the date rearranged itself in his mind into a neat squat 81.  It had a weight and solidity to it, that was stronger than the wafting balloon sensation of the nines alone.   How odd.  He had never thought of numbers that way before, he didn't think.  He let his mind wander on from the 81, thinking of other numbers, tripping his way through the familiar numbers of the times tables and feeling the new strange weights of these numbers too.  His eyes slid shut and his thoughts drifted gently on, the numbers the times table giving way to simpler strings of 1's and 0's   At first they were only a few solo numbers scattered here and there and then as they carried on, they grew into forests of 1's and 0's, all rushing through his mind faster and faster. Suddenly he found himself emptied out into a narrow hallway.  Shadows hung around him heavy and think.

Number 11 pushed out with his hand as though shoving away a tapestry and found himself standing instead in a dark and dreary  room made mostly of stone. Above him  the ceiling disappeared, its repeating arches nearly obscured by darkness. He was not alone.  His attention caught on the man to his left.  The man sat slumped in a wheelchair garbed only in the faded green fabric of a hospital gown.  His head rested against his chest in the uncomfortable weight of a medicated slumber. Drool wet the front of his gown in a large ever widening patch.  His feet were bare and blue in the chill of the room.  On his head, which had been shaved clean, were plastered  layers of monitoring and control patches. Led lights glittered across the surface of the patches is ever shifting patterns.  He wondered what they were monitoring. He looked closer.  The man looked familiar. Did he...

A sound drew his attention away.

At the center of the room eight shadowy figures stood gathered around a Watching Table. Their dark black hoods hung low, obscuring any view of their faces. From where he stood, he could now hear the faint mumbling noise of speaking voices, although the longer he listened the more the sounds settled into a single equal strand of sound.  As though, really, the figures were all merely eight representatives of one mind, speaking together in collective unison.  His mind struggled to put the pieces together.  Eight. Collective. Unison. He pushed against the shadows clouding his thoughts, seeking an answer.  Was he watching the Collective of the Watchers at work?

Something in their attention seemed to shift, and they stiffened abruptly. As one they raised their right arms to hover eerily above their heads.

"No, it is not possible. He cannot do this."   The voices of the robed men rose, their attention focusing in taught as a bow string. 

"We will break his power. One cannot drain us so. We will not allow it!"

Number 11 felt the man to his left  begin to twitch, as though he was the target of a thousand competing commands. He hardly knew where to look, who to watch.

"He will take the program. He must. He doe not have the antidote within him. He cannot break our hold."  The last words echoed like a somber shout of command in the stone arches.

"Together then!"

As one they brought their hands down upon a single spot within the Watching Table.

He saw them shiver and appear to be pressing forward into the very table itself.  Suddenly he felt as though his head were caught in a vice grip of curved nails boring down into his skull, his body stretching thin as though he were being dragged forcefully into the body to his left.. He began to scream, as his vision faded down into a diminishing circular tunnel filled only with pain.  . The last image as he blacked out was of the Watchers disintegrating into a black mist and disappearing into the table.




Friday, September 13, 2013

The Silent Room: Part 7


Grenfelder

Grenfelder had been sitting with his eyes closed for what seemed like hours, trying to ignore the ever deepening hollow of hunger in his gut from not eating and the nearly unbearable itch of his head and wrists where they were strapped to the wall, when he began to get the distinctly prickly sensation of being watched. He opened his eyes slowly in the half light, letting the wildly spinning world settle into into one solid image.  When his vision finally cleared, there was now a blue flashing light on the wall above the door that had not been there earlier.  As he stared the light slowly began to expand from a rather fuzzy blue ball into an ever larger image of an orange haired doctor. As she resolved into sharper edged image, she looked to be standing just inside the door of his cell. Idly he noticed that her top knot was a bit askew and her white coat hung just a little off kilter.

"Ah, there you are," the soft tinkling voice echoed inside his head, followed by a laugh. Her laugh was brittle with an almost hysterical relief laced over its surface. Over her shoulder he could see numbers counting slowly down toward one on a large digital clock.  He wasn't sure if seeing this doctor was a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps, somewhere in between beating him, starving him, and chaining him to a wall, they had also slipped him something with hallucinogenic properties.  He hoped. If they hadn't and his mind was making up its own images, it wasn't boding well for his chances of standing up under torture.  Good thing there wasn't much that he could tell them.

"One moment while I adjust the app," she lifted her hand and moved it about in mid air. Then she let it drop abruptly where she dusted her hands together, pleased. "There we go. Now, I've only got a minute or so yet.   Can you get to that desk over there?"  She extended her arm and pointed at something off to his left. Following the direction of her hand with his eyes, he found a squat fat wooden desk sitting against the wall.

"That wasn't there before!"  His voice was rusty with dehydration and disuse.

"I used the program visual manipulation app downloaded to your chip. The same one that lets them manipulate your world perceptions for imprisonment, actually.  You are still bound, but your mind won't recognize that when you are in the sim.  You can get up quite easily now and walk over to the desk. Never mind all that about the hows and whys though. You have to get the envelope in the drawer."

"Huh?" Even as she spoke, he realized that he was no longer bound, and he dropped his arms down in front of him to begin rubbing at his wrists where the bands had held him fast.

"The envelope. In the desk drawer. Get it. If you can get hold of it before the simulation ends, you'll be able to read it even after the rest of the visual manipulation disappears. A kind of technical programming loop hole thing. "  A ding sounded behind her, and she startled abruptly even as her image began to shudder and shrink, " Now get the envelope!"

The last was said fiercely, nearly at a shout, a moment after the image of her had shuddered out of existence.  He stared dazedly at the blank wall where she had been standing, then looked back at the desk.

What kind of a dream was this, anyway?  Had she been real?  He had been prepared for torture, wheedling, that kind of thing.  But help of some kind from a scattered doctor? That he hadn't been prepared for.  Maybe it was a trick they were playing. Well, even if it was, it was more interesting than sitting here.  He got up slowly and made his way to the desk. The desk had a single drawer with a brass handle.  Carefully he grasped the handle and slid the drawer out to find a slim white envelope inside it.  He reached out and picked it up.  Even as his hand closed over the paper, he felt the room begin to spin.

He closed his eyes for a moment and focused in on the smooth texture of the envelope in his fingers to steady himself, only to feel the paper slipping slowly away.  His eyes snapped open as he made a quick lunging grab to catch back the falling letter, only to wrench his neck and arms painfully against the straps holding them to the wall.

He groaned to find himself back in the holding cell where he had started.  The doctor had said the letter might come through with him.  He wondered if it had.  He glanced down to the floor. Nothing. He glanced toward where the desk had stood.  Oddly, the letter still hovered in mid-air near where his hand had been in the sim.  "Sure enough.  Visual manipulation and technical loop hole thing at work," he muttered.

It reminded him of all the strange stories his father used to tell him about creating your own personal dreamworld with only a string of code or opening boxes with your mind. He should have guessed they weren't just stories.  His father never did anything without an intention behind it.  There had been a trick to that one.  Something about...  He set to work trying to see if you could open an imaginary envelope hovering in mid air with only your mind.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Silent Room: Part 6


Dr. Adelheid

Dr. Adelheid stood alone in her office. 

Her long white coat swung softly in the currents created by the ventilation system as her hand rested on the edge of the ornate oval frame of the mirror behind her desk. Methodically, she thought through the codes and the list of "proposed signs for partial immunity", the same as she did every night as she fell asleep. At the end of that, she took a moment to review her doubts and emotions. One last chance to look for any reasons not to go ahead with hack..  Was this really the moment?  Was it really worth risking everything?  Had she really taken every possible precaution?  If she ran out of time, if anyone of the upper echelon of Watchers had their eyes turned in her direction... 

She thought again of the disturbance in the Resting Commons that afternoon.   The patients had been decidedly restless. And they were never restless. Ever. They were too drugged by chemicals and false images to do something as dramatic as twitch a finger, let alone be restless.  But this afternoon, for the space of a few minutes, they had not only twitched their fingers, they had slightly, so slightly she had almost missed it, shifted positions in their chairs. In all her years of working for the Institute, that had never happened before.  

If there was a window past the Watchers’ absolute control, then it would be today and only today that she mind find it. Tomorrow the new prisoners would all have been moved on. With one last deep breath to gather her composure, she started.

 "Initiate Time Out."

The heavy clunk of the door lock sliding into place sounded behind her. A beep notified that the countdown timer had started.  In the mirror she checked the door to make sure that the bar glowed blue.  Sealed for fifteen minutes.  Already that was down to 14 minutes, 52 seconds.  

She pushed back the fear before it had a chance to take hold and pressed the button hidden on the side of the mirror.  A wave of energy washed out into the room, creating a reflective bubble around her.  For as long as she stood in this energy bubble, provided the Sensors hadn't noticed the energy surge and set out to break down her door, anyone watching through the monitoring cameras would see only that she was spending a great deal of time standing there, hand on the frame, studying herself. Vanity was of course not one of the best traits to be accused of having, but at least it was a forgivable one in the catalog of forgivable and unforgivable.

Mirror image in place. Check.  System hack, pending. 

The mirror shimmered silver for what seemed an eternity, the silence of the room nearly drowning her with its thickness under the steady counting of the clock.  Another twenty seconds had passed.  She waited for the hack to do its dirty work and give her mainframe access.

Then the words she had been waiting for flashed on the screen.

ACCESS GRANTED

Below that a faintly silhouetted keypad glowed at the bottom of the mirror screen. With shaking fingers she typed in the codes. The words flashed faster this time.

NEW PATIENT INTAKE  

ACCESS GRANTED

Small squares representing the video feeds for each of the holding cells lined up, covering  the screen.  So many squares. Too many squares. Somehow she held the rising bile at bay over how many there were. There would be only a lucky one or two that reached the safe sanctuary of her guarded halls. She couldn't give them their lives or their minds back, but she could give them care and kindness.  And she could watch and wait and hope, hope hard, for a day like today to come, when maybe just maybe, she had a chance to make a difference.  She forced her mind back to the task at hand and put the images on slideshow. She had one shot at this…  13 minutes 38 seconds.

When she reached the end of the feeds the first time without finding even a hint of a possibility among them, she had to fight back waves of overwhelming fear and guilt, She hadn't seen what she needed to see. What  if she wouldn’t see it? What if it had never been there to see in the first place, and she had taken all this risk, abandoning her patients to the Watchers?. She forced herself to take a deep breath and center herself. Then she went back to the beginning of the images and started again.  9 minutes 21 seconds.

On the third pass, with 2 minutes 19 seconds remaining on the clock, she finally found a sign. Two gray blue eyes staring back at her through screen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Silent Room: Part 5



Number 11

Eventually Number 11 had gotten up the ladder and into the second floor room.    By then it was... well, it should have been nearly dark, making it impossible to make out more than an empty room, but somehow the sun seemed to be giving one last blast of light to help him out.  The room was both more and less than he had hoped for back on the ground looking up.

The more was that it was scrupulously clean.  Not one dust mote dared to hang in the air or find a home on the smooth wood of the floor.  The less was that the there was literally nothing else in the room but him.  Not even a box that could be used as a chair. Nor a light switch.  Not even a book.  (The last made him depressed, though when he tried to think if he had ever seen a book, he couldn't pull up a mental image of what one even was or think why he would want one. )

Brushing the stray thoughts aside, he took a careful walk around the room, looking for any trap doors  or staircases that might let him down into the lower half of the building while there was still sunlight. (He didn't find any.)  Until at last, the sun decided it had had enough of a last hurrah and settled the world officially into near dark..  In that brief gloaming of near dark before the shades of night had fully fallen, he settled himself as comfortably as he could onto the floor near the doorway where he could lean against the wall but still look out and see the light of the stars as they began flickering into existence.

After darkness fell, so thick he could barely see more than the doorway opening out, he sat for a long time with his head rested back against the wall just listening to the silence of the country- all sighing winds and singing tree frogs and humming cicadas- and tried to puzzle out the how and where of this strange place. Eventually his overworked mind gave up, and as his eyes drifted closed and he slid into sleep,. one last unnoticed thought formed in that breath of space between waking and sleeping. The country's not so silent really.  Kind of like the Silent Room.  


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Update on the Status of The Silent Room Series...

I have  not been posting any further prompts in this series, but  it has not been forgotten :)

I have continued working on it in bits and bursts as I get a prompt that feels like it fits. While it has still (mostly) kept to the basic premise of a prompt  series,  the story was just getting complicated enough, I thought I should reach a bit of a resting place in the writing of it before I continued on with posting them.  Look for them to begin posting weekly again, starting next Thursday.

Addendum 11.2.13

for those looking for ...er...missing thursday updates, this serial has not been forgotten. just my minor edits to the sections I have already written have taken a back seat to my nano plotting and planning.  that and my slight error in editing myself into a bit of a story "faultline"... will hopefully revise myself out of it shortly.  will hopefully begin posting these again soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WNP: A Rainy Day

Have let myself get out of the Tuesday morning habit of writing prompts. Here's a start back into the prompt writing...


Write Now! Prompt: They huddled under the bus shelter as the rain and wind got heavier.

For 7:30 in the morning, it was incredibly dismal out, though Reyna.  The wind gusted past carrying scraps of sheet metal and broken branches from the work site down the street, pushing everyone back into the bus shelter as far out of the rain and wind as they could get.  Several strands of her long blond hair pulled free from the hairband tying it back, whipping it across her eyes and chin.  If only the bus would hurry up, just this one morning.

She gave a short nod of hello to the workman in gray coveralls whose shoulder she was now pressing into and worked to shove her hair out of her eyes and mouth and back behind her ear..

"'Sup," he returned the greeting with his own flick of the chin.

One of the teens at the far side of the shelter cracked a joke she couldn't quite make out. Loud peels of laughter broke out, and one of the younger girls was laughing so hard she nearly fell over into the rather large puddle forming just outside the shelter.  Luckily one of her friends grabbed her back.  It did nothing to calm the shouts of laughter, however.  With a tired sigh, Reyna put her hand up to her forehead to try and rub away the wrinkle of worry and frustration that just wouldn't quite relax and to push away irritated thoughts at why these teens to make it out of bed before 8 on this particular summer morning..  It wasn't their fault she was having a bad day.  She should be glad they were making the best of this midwest take on a monsoon rain.

Down the street there was a loud squeal of brakes, and the dark form of the Number 2 materialized through the gusting mist and pouring rain.

"Bus!" yelled one of the teens, as it came to a halt in front of them and swung open its doors on a puff of air. A moment later everyone was piling in out of the rain as fast as they could go.  Luckily no one needed to get off at this stop today.  A moment after that she was in a warm dry seat and breathing a little more easily.  Reyna looked at her watch just as they pulled away from the bus stop a full minute and a half early.  She felt her lips curl up into the beginnings of a smile.

Maybe this day had a good chance of turning around after all.

Friday, June 14, 2013

WNP: Familiar

WNP: "She sang a song I’d never heard, and yet it felt so familiar."

I was sitting in a corner booth, over under the mirrors and behind the long wall of books at The Library, when I first heard her sing.  It was a small eclectic bar and coffeehouse that sometimes had poetry readings or musicians of an evening. Someplace I'd been going after work for months to swig a beer or sip a cup of coffee, pretending to myself I was writing the Great American Novel in my battered composition books. Mostly though, I was just writing scribbles.   Fragments of thought; bits of story; random associations; little pieces of words that didn't quite make a poem. None of it had yet coalesced into "something more".  I used to think that, hopefully, if I kept showing up at the page, the story would to. One day.  Or so I liked to comfort myself.

She sang a song that night I'd never heard, and yet it felt so familiar.  Like a long drink of water shivering down the core of my bones. That night, I wrote my first complete set of song lyrics.

~excerpted from an interview on the source of inspiration with Adele Simons, lyricist

Monday, June 10, 2013

Objects of Inspiration

I have been seriously enjoying the "writing areas" photos on other people's blogs, so I thought I would share a bit of a view of my own.  Here is a view of  some of the objects of inspiration, sitting near where I write.  The smaller frame represents the words it contains, but it also represents Anne Lamott's admonition to keep a small picture frame on one's writing desk to remind [me]  to take things "bird by bird" and "frame by frame".  And Bear (or Bickley or Golden Eyes, depending on my mood) is my chosen artist totem from working through the Artist Way by  J. Cameron.



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Memory to My Grandmother

This is a piece I had written, in part, about my grandmother who recently passed away.

Back in February, the church I attend offered a really lovely "celebration of the arts" weekend--  with artwork created by other members of the church being displayed and with several creative workshops. One of those workshops was a writing workshop called "The Old Sewing Box: Stuff and Inspiration" led by Greta Holt.  (She recently had a piece published in the journal Center for Mennonite Writing called "Surviving".  It is about a woman in a beauty shop in Botswana who has learned that a friend in South Africa has died. HERE  is the link if you would like to read some of her work.)

In that workshop she had us do several timed writing prompts, and then at the end, challenged us to write a 500+  word piece out of that writing over the next several months.  This "essay" is the piece that I ended up writing over the past few months. The poem scrap at the start is from my response to the painting Modernity in a prompt at the workshop.  The rest came as I reflected on the meaning and importance of family memories in the wake of my Grandmother's decline in health and then passing.



Swirls of Memory: Abstract Collections of the Past

paint curls
like the wood shavings and metal filings of the past
piled up and decorated
what was once
the leftover, the pushed aside
now remade, repurposed
the ordinary elevated


Behind each of us stand a long line of relatives, forefathers and foremothers, whose lives beget our life.  When you are young, deaths of loved ones seem far off.  Present in the stories of our aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers. Something that happened to those faded people in the black and white snapshots of the 1920s who are brought back alive to us in the stories told about them. Those stories are precious cargo, though they didn't seem so at the time. If we are lucky, if we pay attention, we have those old photographs as well as the new photographs, new recordings of our family and loved ones, to carry with us.

Because one day... an ordinary day… we will find ourselves the remaining keepers of those memories. Those shadowy stories that dimly haunt the corners of our minds like slides kept in a box until we remember one evening to have out the old, now nearly obsolete, projector.  All that may be left for us to remember of these amazing people that are the lines of our past.

This week contained such an ordinary day for me when, as Moses described it in his long ago books in a desert land far from our own, my grandmother was gathered to her fathers.  The last, at 96, of my living grandparents.  My images of her are more than the others in some ways, her living longer into the pathway of my own life.

I have the child memories of her as I do of my other grandparents.  Of sweeping her dining room carpet with a manual sweeper while hopping from one bare foot to the other in my blue dress. Of eating her home canned Bing cherries for dessert, the precious glass jar of glowing dark red cherries having been brought up from its place among the rows of other jars in the basement and poured out in a glass serving dish for us to feast upon in winter. Of sitting quietly in a rocker reading a book next to all her displays of vibrant, healthy house plants (I did not inherit her indoor green thumb).  Of taking long walks after dinner - down past the old farm where she grew up and then later raised a family, or down around the dam where my aunt Irene once skipped school to go ice skating.

But I also have the more grown up memories. Seeing her strength at surviving the loss of her husband in her early eighties and then in learning to live alone. She had married at 20, and never lived alone before that. Of watching her go through the process of letting go of home and possessions, moving forward at every step with decisions before they were forced. Of phone conversations once she'd moved to Fairmount, and then Lincoln Center, about music or what other family members were up to or what it was like cooking apple butter in the copper kettle over an outdoor fire. Of birthday cards coming every year without fail. Last year I was lucky enough to receive two handmade birthday cards as she wanted to make sure she had sent me one.  Of listening to my mother and her siblings discuss what the best decisions for her were when she was no longer fully able to make those decisions herself. Of the way she'd light up if she held a harmonica or accordion in her hands and got to play for a few minutes. Of her smile, always ready to welcome you.

For all the memories though, they are only snapshots. Bits of life captured to carry forward and for which to be grateful, but which are still only a small part of the whole. Something, she reminded all of us of when we discovered decades of her journals stacked up neatly in her closet. Something few of us had known she kept. 

Here is an entry of a memory told in her own words from Feb 11 2005,

My first day at the Home.  I didn't have to cook meals or wash dishes. Just sat at the table and ate and enjoyed the meal with people.  I knew some of them.  But nobody talked. Perhaps a Quaker's meeting.

Swirls of memory left from ordinary days.

WNP: The Silent Room: Part 4


Prompt- "He positioned the ladder directly below the window and started to climb."
Another round in what is turning out to be my "the silent room" prompt series...

(Number 11)


He found himself sitting in the middle of a grassy lawn in front of a rather unique two story building. It had no windows, a front porch with a railing but no roof, and two doors set one above the other in the center.  In looking to the right and the left, he found that in every other direction were flat plowed fields as far as the eye could see. No people working. No faint blush of new growth on the ground.  Only tilled rows of turned brown earth running east to west. 

At first he was a bit disconcerted to find himself in such a strange location. He didn't remember having ever been here before. He'd never been out of the city a day of his life, he was sure.  Inside the green circle closed in by fields, there were no cars, no bikes, and no other people visible. Not even a good farm road led up to the place as far as he could tell. Without actually standing up, that is. Only this rather odd two story building in front of him.  Then it dawned on him that he didn't even know his own name, so the chance that he would not recognize what something was, or remember why he was here, was probably par for the course.

Why is it, he thought, that I don't know my own name? 

Glancing down at his clothes, he found a series of numbers stitched into the heavy fabric of his gray work coveralls.  11- X72H109. Hmm. Perhaps his name was all those things?  Or maybe he was just the first part? And the last part was his surname? Were names usually made up of numbers? Somehow he didn't think so.  Shaking his head, he decided it didn't matter for the moment. He’d call himself Number 11 for the time being, and he set himself to start studying the house and field around him more closely by first getting himself to his feet. Maybe that would help this strange empty vacuum of memory. 

Standing turned out to take a great deal more energy and coordination than he would have presumed. First he had to try to get his arms to hold his weight so he could shift his legs underneath him. When he finally had mastered that, his legs became the uncooperative bits. First his left leg went out, then his right leg. At long last he got his feet solidly planted and his legs under him so that he could stand in a straight, if rather swaying, position. He braced his elbows and hands as tightly against his waist and legs as he could to steady himself, and closed his eyes to hide the great leaping swoops of house and sky that were now shimmering before him. That helped, sort of. When the world finally stopped tipping, he opened his eyes slowly one at a time.

The first realization that struck him was that the first floor door, which had been partially blocked from view by the broad front porch and its railings when he had been sitting, had multiple two by fours nailed across its bottom half. He huffed softly and then looked up at the door on the second floor. Well, door frame, he amended, as the door on the second floor was completely missing, and stood out against the pale yellow paint of the building like the black gap in the mouth of a seven year old when he'd lost a tooth. Vaguely, Number 11 wondered if he knew any seven year olds with gaps in their teeth. He didn't think so, but if he didn't, why would he think such a thing?

After pondering the likelihood of a seven year old appearing shortly to help him out of his predicament (none appeared), he decided to get on with matters.  Why was he needing to decide something anyway, he wondered? Why couldn't he just do something? Too many imponderables, again.

He managed to lift his right leg forward in a semblance of a step. Then he repeated with his left.  That took all the energy he had for awhile, and he stood swaying and staring at the door.  For a minute he thought about sitting down to take his rest, but then the thought of standing back up.... He stayed standing.  After a awhile, he made another attempt at walking. This time he managed about six lifts of his legs before he had to pause and rest. 

When eventually he got to the steps, he decided not to climb them. They were too steep for his current leg lifting abilities. Instead, he continued on around the house to the right. The fields on that side of the house ran a different direction to those in front of the house, he noted, and ran north to south. Or south to north, depending which direction he was walking. Besides that, there was nothing but the neat patch of grass around the building (dared he call it a house?) except for a few straggly weeds along the foundation.

By the time he got back around to the front, his legs had begun to work in what he considered a more normal "step-step" rhythm.  This time he climbed the steps without much problem and made it at last to the blocked off front door. 

Up close, he could now see it was a metal door with an inset lock and no door knob.  That looked even less promising. He gave it a push. Nothing. He heaved at it with his left shoulder. Again nothing.   He took a few steps back to the edge of the porch and gave it a full out running leap of a shove, letting the entire left side of his body slam into the door. All he got for his troubles was a bruised hip (where he had jumped too low and caught the top two by four with it) and a goose egg (where he'd cracked his head against the door in whiplash from the jar to his hip).  On landing, he slid rather gracelessly to the porch floor like a sack of potatoes tumbling down  in one long thump, thump, thud. Slumped on the floor, he stayed where he landed for a long time, only taking a moment after awhile to shift over slightly more onto his back, and stared up at the blue sky and its drifting white clouds. Thinking nothing. No one came. Eventually, he noticed that the shadows of the place had begun to change and the light to dim. He sat up abruptly.

Sitting outside for the night, or alternately, finding a way into the house after dark and being stuck inside without knowing what was in there in the daylight, neither sounded too nice. Climbing down off the porch, he took two more turns around the house, looking for... anything. On the second round, he found it. A ladder buried in among the weeds at the foundation on the left side of the house. He wondered how he'd missed it earlier. With  hard pull to get it free of the grass, he hauled it out and brushed it off.  The thing was wooden with a rather old and peeling coat of white paint. 

Carrying it back to the front of the house and up onto the porch, he set it up against the wall below the open door frame. It stopped about three inches below the open door. Doable, if it a bit dangerous.  He rocked the ladder back and forth to see how stable it was on the porch floor (and to get his courage up; heights were not his favorite thing, he was sure) and was shocked to feel it slide into the porch. Looking down, he discovered there were two neat grooves carved into the porch floor that he had failed to take note of earlier. Excellent.

Nothing for it now then, he thought, and putting his right foot up upon the first ladder rung, he began to climb.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day: Trillium Hunting



Today was a brilliantly beautiful  start to the month of May- bright sunshine, warm balmy air, a feeling of spring having really truly sprung.  It made me think of trillium hunting with my mom when I was growing up.  Every year on May Day she would pile us into the car and take us out to this special spot in the woods, out away on back roads across the fields from home. I remember we had to pass under the stones of an abandoned train underpass covered in a rainbow of graffiti to get there. At least, that is how I remember it.  Usually it would be after school. Sometimes, if we were lucky, it would fall on a Saturday and we could spend a longer time there.

In the back of the car she would have a picnic packed- sandwiches and carrot sticks and chocolate chip cookies- and we would eat our picnic before we wandered out among trees to search for what we might find.   A quantity of may apples like their own mini forest on the ground;   Jack-in-the-Pulpits in their fresh green jackets; And if we were very lucky (and nearly every year we were!)  a few delicate white trilliums, sometimes painted with pale pink stripes, to mark the start of May.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Silent Room continued... Part 3


From a writing prompt with Copper taken from the website writing prompts,  The Silent Room prompt series continues. (see the writing prompts page on the side or click the tag for the silent room if you would like to read earlier prompts in this story; and no, no idea where I'm going with this...)

Bailey

When he stepped through the doors Bailey found that The Silent Room was not in fact silent..  It had a thrum to it, a faint unstable hum that began to rattle his teeth the longer he paid attention to it.  While he was noticing this, his escorts- two guards dressed all in black protective gear- stepped back, leaving him standing frozen on a small hexagon plate set flush with the surrounding tile floor.  Frozen, because he had been immobilized by an unseen force field. Behind him he heard the doors swish shut, closing at the last with a sharp clang that then seemed to run on and on round the walls of the dimly lit white dome.

Round and round it went, as though slowly rising upward in a giant reverse marble roller of sound, until it at last ended in small series of tiny wobbly loops of dying sound at the very top of the dome.  Then it rose up and out, and left in its wake only a hollow empty space and the dull teeth rattling thrum.   A moment later a giant arm came rushing out of the wall directly in front of him and clapped a helmet on his head.

"This is it," he thought. "Goodbye, world."  And he remembered no more.


Across the country, several communities woke to find themselves stretched out on the hard lumpy ground of the open fields outside town. Along with all their neighbors.  Upon rubbing their eyes and fighting the adrenaline rush from waking up with a shocked start, they found that, no, they were not dreaming, and yes, they were actually still in a field. Dressed only in the light weight of their night shirts and patterned cotton pants, their sleep caps and eye masks. One woman noticed she was missing her eyeglasses; another noticed there were grass clippings mixed in with his hair; and they all noticed before too long that their feet were bare and cold in the early morning chill.  As though they had wondered here and then laid down to sleep some hours before. Hopping from foot to foot, confused, and facing a rather long trudge back home, they were not happy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

WNP: Bottle in the Ocean


WNP:  He stood and threw the bottle into the ocean. “All done,” he said.

(continuation from The Silent Room prompt per Lyn's suggestion)

Grenfelder

Far away, on the Eastern Shoreline, another man stood with a green bottle in his hand.  It was sunset, the sun having sunk down so low into horizon, that its light shimmered out from it like a great long highway paved across the choppy waters in gold and mauve and tangerine. The bottle held the last of the containment formula that was still free from the specialist forces that had been sent to track it down.  He had fought, thought Grenfelder, for as much of his life as he was able, to keep it free and safe. That time was over. He could only hope that someone else would pick it up and fight in his place.

With a flick of his wrist and the full force of his back and shoulder behind it, he tossed the bottle as far out to sea as his will was strong enough to send it.  It settled into the highway of light and bobbed there for moment as if waving goodbye.  Then the sun slid a little lower, pulling its highway in behind it, and the bottle disappeared from sight.  When they came him for him minutes or was it hours later, the specialist force that had been tracking him for five long years, they found him merely sitting in the sand, staring at the darkening sky with its first glimmering stars, as if he had been waiting for them all along, and they had simply been too slow to catch up.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Author Intisar Khanani: Cover Reveal and Giveaway!

One of my very dear friends happens to be an indie author in young adult fiction.  She published her first novel Thorn last year and has been hard at work writing her next works since then.  Today she sent out notice that the first book in her series The Sunbolt Chronicles would most likely be released sometime in early June. Having been a beta reader for one of her early drafts, I am very much looking forward to seeing the final story.  

Here is a look at the new cover (isn't it gorgeous?) and story blurb:


Sunbolt:

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she conceals her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to bring down the powerful and corrupt Archmage Wilhelm Blackflame. 

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she has to escape with her life.


If you would like to read more about Intisar and her work, check out her website and spring newsletter, or if you would just like to participate in the giveaway competition for three free digital ARCs of Sunbolt and signed bookmarks go here for more details.  The giveaway is international, and the ARCs should be available mid-May.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Lights

(from a writing prompt of my friend Copper)
 " the lights glowed softly in the window..."

The lights glowed softly in the window like a Kincaid painting, or maybe a Norman Rockwell drawing, she mused.  Abigail was moseying home after a midnight candle service at church. She didn't come out  walking often enough to appreciate her small town at night.  It was special, this town, with its  soft gaslights and gleaming porch lights.  

At the moment her attention was caught by the gleaming lights of the small twenty four hour diner. It was situated across the street from the local college and just down the street from her own tiny two room apartment.  She had, really, rented the apartment for its ready access to the diner.  2 AM writing sessions felt much  more sacred and hallowed somehow when you sat curled up on the bench of a diner booth with a cup of steaming  hot coffee to hand and surrounded by fellow, similarly working, night owls.  In fact... tonight was a good night to write. She had that story installment due. She fished around in her over-sized purse until she came up with her notebook.  Yep. A good night to write.

Three minutes later she was lost to the glowing lights and the steaming coffee, curled up in a booth and wandering in her story world.

WNP: The Silent Room


WNP:  "a strange calmness came over him when he entered the silent room"

THE SILENT ROOM

Bailey

He had always been afraid of The Silent Room. Everybody was.  It was the horror hanging over your head throughout childhood. The monster worse than your worst nightmare.  The insidious fear of it pushing you on into adulthood doing only what was expected. Staying always within the lines to avoid the ultimate punishment of That Place. The room where your soul would be stolen away. Your body left as nothing but a vacant empty shell to be pushed around the endless corridors of the Institute.

But when he spoke a word too far, and his world fell apart, and it came time to actually step through Its doors, he found only that a strange calmness came over him.  After all, they had already stolen his life away in fear and silenced thoughts, silenced speech, silenced action. What did it matter then if they made it final?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Synchronicity: Mulling It Over


Synchronicity. That strange blend of coincidence and actually paying attention to the world going on around you and taking up the challenges it has on offer.

I've been working my way through the Artist Way book by Julia Cameron with several friends, so that particular word has been on my mind a lot lately.  The trying to pay attention to its presence anyway.  One of the things that has surprised me is the sheer volume of artists and writers going on about their process or how they look at their art- in books, on the tv, on the radio, in other people's entries on newspapers and blogs.  That kind of stuff, its very energizing for me. (Even if it is also a bit like an addiction where I can't get enough and am always craving more.)  Maybe because I'm just starting out in  the writing regularly business and am still trying ... desperately, intentionally... to figure out how to make the stories come out onto the page, well, like stories.  I've started to try to write them down when I notice them or hear them and to put down some of my thoughts on them as well. Not sure yet if that will change the actual writing much, but it surely does make them stick a little harder in the memory bank.

Here are two such quotes that have been kicking around my mind, like a pick up game of soccer, since I heard them.

Dunya Mikhail (exiled Iraqi poet)--  "I still feel that poetry is not medicine- it's an xray.  it helps you see the wound and understand it."

Joann Sfar (French graphic novelist)- "Reality is to an illustrator what exercise is to an athlete."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

WNP: Snap Shot

WNP: Jose sat down across from him....


Jose sat down across from him. The table between them littered with small piles of scrunched up paper covered in spidery lines of smudged black ink, a half dozen empty bottles of Ale-8 and IBC Root Beer, and the cracked remnants of a bag of blue corn chips. Reg refused to raise his head from where he was pounding it against the table. He had been here for two hours already and still nothing...

A hand grabbed a handful of his black curls and hauled his head upward until one dark brown eye could meet his blue gray ones. Jose managed a serious glare for all of about three seconds until he actually got a good look at Reg, then his face slowly broke with amusement until a few seconds later he had let go and was leaning back against the cracked vinyl of his own bench, howling with laughter.

"What, man?"  Reg straightened upright with a snap and disgruntled snarl.

"Sorry, sorry,"  Jose tried to speak through his  choking bursts of laughter, vaguely waving his pointer finger at Reg's head until he finally managed, "... your,  your face.... it's..." At which point he gave up and just laughed as tears began leaking out of the corners of his eyes. 

Reg launched out of the booth and toward the back of the diner where a thin strip of mirror ran along the top of a long counter, receiving several startled looks from other patrons as he whipped past.  Dropping his forearms down on the counter, he leaned forward and peered into the mirror.  A mass of jagged red and green lines ran across his forehead and down his left check, a few lines of words in smudged black ink overlying them.  With a groan he sank down onto a stool and buried his face in his arms. This day was going to be so bad. Sam was going to kill him.

Eventually he felt a tug on his arm, trying to haul him up and off the stool.

"Come on, Reg.  You can still be the winner in the ink war."  For which he got a fierce glare over his left shoulder.  "Come on. Up and at 'em. We have to be back home in like five minutes or mom is going to kill us. A little soap and water, and you'll be back to normal."

"Yeah, but I still don't have a letter or a picture for Sam." The last almost a long drawn out wail.

"Maybe you should just leave the ink then," Jose managed between renewed puffs of laughter. "She'll give you a grace period I'm sure."  Then he hauled him off the stool, slapped a wet paper towel into his hand, and began dragging him back toward the front door of the diner.  He snagged a heavy  bag off the bench of the booth as they walked by that Reg hadn't noticed before, and wait for a minute while Reg gathered his own pens and paper.

"What's with bag?" Reg grumbled as he slid into the front seat of Jose's beater. He swore he was going to fix it up, but..

"It's not a beater," Jose huffed as he walked around and slid in the driver's side door. He tossed his bag onto Reg's lap with a thump.

"I didn't say anything." Reg defended, unzipping the bag as he spoke.

"I can hear you thinking it."

Inside the bag was a homemade blank book whose cover had been collaged with what looked suspiciously like photos of him and Jose. He pulled it out to get a closer look.

To Sam From The Dynamic Duo was hand printed at the bottom. He gave Jose a sideways look before opening the book.  Inside, scraps of his crumpled up attempts at birthday poems and drawings for Sam from the past two weeks had been carefully smoothed out and glue-sticked to the right hand page. On the left side Jose had written his interpretation.  Next to a black heart he had written  "we miss you already"; for a scrap of bad poem about her hair and charm "we think your awesome and beautiful and top stuff"; for a blue mountains scene that had actually been for a school project "just think of all the peace and quiet without your two rowdy brothers".  He had wondered what had happened to it.

Reg flipped to the last page. It was the page he had been pounding his head against when Jose had found him ten minutes ago. The page was a mass of black words with every other one scribbled through, and several dark lines of red and green running down it where Reg had finally given up and attacked the page with some of his other color pens.  Next to it Jose had written "In fact, we love you so much, we can't even find enough words to tell you."  Underneath it he had put in a photo their mom had snapped earlier that summer of the three of them sprawled on a park bench after hiking through the Gorge for several hours in the heat. They were dirty and exhausted and smiling. Sam was sitting between the two of them. It was a good picture.

"You did this?"

"Bro?  Sam is thirteen as of today and bitter, bitter, bitter that you and I are going away to school in three days without her. You think I'm coming home from school at Thanksgiving to find out she's cut holes in all our t-shirts and painted hate messages in black nail polish on the bottoms of our skateboards?"

Reg just bumped his fist to Jose's, too emotional to reply with more than a soft, "Thank you." 

"I got your back, Bro. I got your back."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

WNP: Burnt Toast


WNP:  an awful smell arose from the toaster

T scraped the knife carefully over the top of her blackened toast, trying not to flinch at the sound or to dig too deeply. Or to waste the three minutes remaining of her five minute break. It had been deeply demoralizing to smell the burnt bread wafting through her kitchen door and into the bedroom where she had been parked re-writing a flawed paragraph in her final essay.  Finishing her attempt to reclaim her bit of bread, she pulled open fridge. Two cans of diet coke stared back it her.  She let out a groan. This was her last piece of bread without even any butter or jam left to fancy it up. She really needed to grocery shop.  Later. No time now.  She glanced at the clock again. One hour and forty minutes till she had to leave the house with the printed version of her final essay. Worth 30 percent of her grade.  The adrenaline shot cleared her head, and a moment later she was back at the computer screen revising frantically, toast forgotten.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WNP: Beginning


WNP- "While standing in line, I was tapped on the shoulder..."

The start of my detective career and the beginning of my first case (the Search for the Missing Bracelet Charm) began in a very a simple manner.  I was perhaps eight or nine at the time and had been waiting in line at the history museum with my class (We were on a field trip to watch  the Life and Times of Clementine During the Gold Rush of Forty-Nine.), when I was tapped on the shoulder very precisely three times. Behind me in line was a pale girl with large gray eyes and a trembling lip. "Have you seen a small silver charm in the shape of an umbrella?" she asked. And that was the start. I remember all of this very clearly, because I had just finished reading my first Nancy Drew book the night before and had carefully started a notebook titled "Sleuth Notes" into which I carefully entered all the relevant details of my first cases. Such as what movie we were going to see, and what my first client looked like and said.

Elizabeth Harden
Age 12
Excerpted from an essay application to "Kids are Sleuths Too" Training Camp

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WNP- Broken Glass


Slivers of glass radiated out in a sun shaped patterned. The rays reaching out toward the corners and hidden spaces with unerring certainty.  Real sunlight broke through the clouds and sent a shiver of light across the room. Rainbows danced under its passing.

"I think you broke it," her little sister's voice from the door broke her contemplation.

Ruefully she shrugged with a nervous half smile,"Yeah. I think I broke it, too."

Friday, January 25, 2013

WNP: Gardener's Bounty

prompt:  "The backyard gardener stopped as his shovel hit something solid."

Thunk. The sound shocked him as much as the sudden jolt of reverberation firing up through his arms like a thrum of electricity.

Shaking out his right hand, he pulled the shovel out of the hole he had been digging and tossed it to the ground off to the side. Peering down he tried to see what might have caused the problem. Unfortunately the chestnut tree was casting rather a long shadow over it in the early morning light. Carl looked at his watch in frustration, then dropped to his knees to get a better look.  The evening primrose bush he was attempting to transplant from his sister's old house to her new one sat calmly behind him, its root ball wrapped in thick burlap.  He saw something rather large on the left side of the small hole where he had just been trying to widen it.  Just his luck. A big rock to try to dig out before he had to leave for a work meeting.

He pulled the well worn leather glove off his right hand and fished in his pocket for his cell phone.  A moment later he had his sister on the line.

"Natalie, there's a rock."

"You can't get it out easily?"

"No."

 A heavy sigh from too many late nights and too much unpacking carried over the line to him.  "Alright, I'm coming out."

Soon the patio door slid open behind him and Natalie came out to join him. His niece Ainsley, all pig tails and sleepy eyes, trailing after her in her fluffy bunny slippers.

"Can I just move the bush to the right a foot?" He had a bad feeling that was too simple a solution.  Natalie could be very... decided.

"Absolutely not.  It'll through off the whole balance. Let's have a look at this rock." Somehow Carl managed to keep from rolling his eyes.

After four minutes of contemplation the three had decided that it might not in fact be a rock but the dented corner of a tool box. Natalie went and got her trowel to start digging away at the sides of the hole, and Carl started digging down from a little further out. Ainsley curled up on the ground next to them as she had been ordered out of the way, sitting Indian style with her fluffy slippers set carefully off to the side. Her sleepy eyes had been replaced with bright ones and cheeky over energetic grin as she practically bounced in place. 

After about twenty minutes they finally worked it out of the ground.  To the top of it, sealed in plastic, a letter had been taped that read through the smudges of dirt simply "To the Finder".

"Maybe we should wash our hands before we open it?" It was agreed, and the trouped back indoors, Carl carrying the case (after having brushed it off as much as possible) and Ainsley her slippers.  They walked through to the laundry sink and then carefully washed their hands.  Natalie found a letter opener to slice the plastic and fish it out. The envelope was remarkably pristine for having been hiding out in the ground for a long enough amount of time for the grass to have settled in over its head.
Inside was a small white slip of paper covered with a few short lines of spidery handwriting to match that written on the front of the letter.

Dear Finder,

I am going to hope that you are a gardener and not someone building a pool.  Inside are all the heirloom seeds my husband collected from his gardening over the years.  He is gone now, and I am moving where they can't be of use to me.  All those years of collecting, I just couldn't quite throw them out. Hopefully you will find these helpful in your new gardening adventures.

Ann Carter

 Carl opened the box, and inside were hundreds of little labelled envelopes.  "Guess you'll be needing me a little more regularly as a gardener, eh, sis?" She grinned at him, then started flipping through envelopes, dreaming of late summer bounty.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Memory Beyond Memory

(from a photo writing prompt of my friend Copper)

As she watched, the old photograph began to pulse and hum as though slowly coming to life. A breath more and she found herself standing behind the dusty counter of an old style general store.  The man from the photo seeming to grow larger, to draw nearer.

A gust of wind passed in and through, scattering the layers of time, flooding the world's sepia tones with color.  A moment later she stood there face to face with her great grandfather. Up close she could see the twinkle in his eye, the quiet quirk to the corner of his lips, as though he had heard a good joke just outside the front door from a passing neighbor and still carried the quiet laughter rumbling in his chest.

Friday, January 18, 2013

WNP: That Box


(Write Now Prompt - "I pried the lid off the box with a crowbar.")

After a lifetime of wondering what was in That Box, that glorious packing case in the corner of my uncle's living room, I was about to find out what was in it. He who had traveled round the world thrice and then backwards round the world another several times, taking it with him always; it must be filled with all kinds of treasures. Even if it was just small bits of personal treasures- stone and sand and bits of riff-raff from all the places he had been, it would be exciting to myself who had never been anywhere. Suppressing a shiver of excitement as I stood there surrounded by other curious family (Uncle Bory had passed a way a fortnight before and had left me the case in his will), I pried the lid off the box with a crowbar. The box was filled bubble wrap and styrofoam packing.  Giving a grin to the relatives, I began to dig through the layers.  I, we, were not prepared for what I found.

All of his dogs--  a Great Dane, a beagle, and two black labs- commemorated in taxidermy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WNP: Under the Train Clock

(a Write Now Prompt:  "What do you mean today's not Friday?)

Kory looked at the careful block printing lined up on the tiny square of notebook paper clutched in his hand. His damp shirt hung askew, and his left shoe was untied and trailing a line of mud behind him. A harried swipe to his forehead left his wayward hair standing on end as he huffed in annoyance at his forgetfulness.  The paper, which was creased and smudged with dirty water, didn't look much better. In fact it looked very much as if it had been ripped from someone's pocket spiral and then promptly dropped in a puddle.  (Which it had.) He read it again just to be sure.

Friday. Under the clock. Train Station. 4:00 pm. Or else. Kennedy.

He looked around frantically, then let his eyes settle on the board holding the clock. It had Gate 3 in bold letters across the top of panel.  The clock also read 4:57. Late. So very late.

A quick visual search of the area did not produce a cynical red head tapping her foot and giving him the stink eye.  Where could she have gone? And why had everyone else picked this week to go out of town, forcing him to be the one responsible for picking her up?  Kennedy was going to kill him.  

He had gotten so focused in on his research he'd almost missed the snooze timer going off on his computer planner for the umpteenth time.  He was so close to solving the formula. He could feel it. Not, he admitted to himself with a sigh, that he would have been any less involved in his books and theories if he hadn't been close to a solution.  Thank heavens Kennedy knew him well enough to have set a back up timer on his computer, or he'd have never remembered.  Maybe he could call her.  Scrabbling through his pockets, he searched for his cell phone.  An image of his cell sitting on the shelf above his computer where he had plugged it in to charge earlier this afternoon floated through his mind. He could feel the panic level beginning to rise.

A tug at his sleeve brought his attention to an older Indian gentleman standing in front of him. He blinked once or twice, trying to place the familiar face.  Coffee shop? Bookstore? Post office?  No. Where else did he go?

"Kory Evanston, no?" the man's soft voice repeating itself for the third time brought him back to the present. Train station 4:00...or 4:58. Late.

"Yes.  Have you seen Kennedy?" he blurted, then nearly slapped his own forehead at his stupidity. Of course the man didn't know Kennedy. Fortunately his question was interrupted by quiet laughter as the man handed him a second square of paper torn from his pocket notebook. This one dry and neatly folded. Vaguely he wondered how the man had gotten a piece of paper from his notebook.

As he took the paper, he saw the hooked curve of scar running the length of the man's thumb from a fishing accident. He felt memory clap into place. The owner of the curry shop in the corner where Kennedy had made him go to lunch before she left. Saying, not only was it her favorite shop, but absolute tradition as well. She had made especially sure to introduce him to Mr. Kapoor. That meal had been amazing.

"Yes. Not for a few days though. Not since you were here before.  She left you this though. Thought you might show up early, apparently."

The early part was enough to snag his thoughts back from alternating waves of anxiety over finding Kennedy and memories of the tasty saag paneer he'd enjoyed. "Early? But I'm late."

"It's Thursday." 

It took a minute for the meaning to sink in. Thursday. Not Friday. Quickly he bent his head and unfolded the paper.

Trial run. See you tomorrow, sucker. Kennedy.

 Sure enough. She'd set his timer for a day early.  His whole body went limp with relief and a huge smile cracked his face. He hadn't forgotten her after all. She'd have never let him hear the end of it.

 The man held up the white bag containing a styrofoam take-out box he'd been holding in his other hand. "She also thought you might want dinner."

"Saag paneer?" he asked hopefully as he took the bag.

The man gave him a wink before turning to head back to his curry shop. Kory took his dinner and nearly danced back to his car and his research. He hadn't forgotten Kennedy after all.

It was only as he slid in behind the steering wheel of his Blue Beater (a Kennedy nick), sweet relief still coursing through him like a double shot espresso, that the terrible truth of the matter began to sink in. He was going to have to do this all over again tomorrow. The remembering. The showing up. On time. Evil. His twin was evil. 

The elderly bird-like woman, carefully picking her way across the wet parking lot with her cane and her umbrella, saw him begin hitting his head against the steering wheel and then did her best to pick up her pace and get away as quickly as possible.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Write Now Prompt (WNP): Drought

Prompt was "Four Weeks and the Rains Still Haven't Come"

A veritable Dust Bowl. That's all Sid remembered his father saying before he drove off that last morning. The dark dust billowing up in great gusting clouds behind his red truck as he drove down the farm lane and out toward the highway and then drifting slowly out over the wire fences and deadened grass of the pasture.  He had sat on the front steps cradling his mug of orange juice. Felt the pinch of the boards against the back of his knees, and the rapidly disappearing cool of the stone steps in the early morning sun under his bare feet, already stubbed and dirty from a round of tag with Bertie. Bertie was his shaggy mutt collie, lolling under the maple tree with his tongue hanging out.  Afterwards there were a thousand explanations, bitter recriminations, tears, screams, A lot of hustle and bustle. Of changes he couldn't quite make sense of. But those few words spoken spoken in his father's deep craggy voice as he adjusted his cap and loped down the steps to slide in behind the steering wheel encapsulated his father.  A quiet man of few words, but a lover of words all the same, who always had one eye to the weather and the other to the work that needed doing.

Bridge

(from writing prompt with my friend Copper.)

Bridge

I feel, standing here on the flagstones of 2013’s entry gate of January, that this year is like a bridge stretching out before me.

I can see the lines of its guide wires and the  arc of its beginning to stretch up up so high. But most of it is still obscured by the sheets of mist and the curtains of fog blowing in form the bay somewhere off to my right.

On my back I have my rucksack.  It’s pretty bare bones but really all the tolls I’ll need. My black gel pens, my composition notebooks, my eating list ever rotating on its four day schedule. On my feet I have got my hiking boots of time and intention. Somewhere in the fog I hear my friends and family are calling out their thoughts and encouragements, but still it is my bridge to cross. My space to add to with my bricks of words.