May 10 2014

you look a little
pale today
{story a day}

Haley picked ten white daffodils because they were Billy’s favorite. Ten months, that’s how long he’d been lying in that bed, machines beeping with the persistent music of forced life. Some days, the rhythm of his breathing matched the pulse of her heart. Other times, she couldn’t find him anywhere, even as she sat there, holding tight to his hand.

When she walked into the lobby of the hospital, a wall came up around her. She stood near the door, flowers in hand, until she knew it was over.

She bent down then and placed the bouquet gently on the floor. And then she crushed each blossom, just the way she’d seen her mother extinguish a cigarette.

Outside, the sky refused to stop screaming blue.


I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
Haley and Billy returned today, unexpectedly. This was a combo of a couple of prompts from the last few days.




May 8 2014

let’s get lost
{story a day – desire}

Lou drove the old green pickup into the car wash bay for the six thousandth time. Every time he headed over for a wash and wax, Betty told him he better watch out, that truck was only held together with a prayer and song, and if he washed either one off, he was done for.

But Lou liked things clean. He hated those people that just let their cars stay dirty all winter long, dirty enough that some wise guy could write WASH ME on the back window. That was just pure laziness if you asked Lou. And lack of pride. Even though his truck was 13 years old, it was always clean, even the rusty spots.

He still remembered the day he’d paid The Green Queen off, some nine years ago now. That night, he’d taken Betty out for a nice steak dinner, and then they’d headed down to the lake to sit at the pier and feed the ducks while they made plans for what they could do with that extra $389 a month. Course, then they’d ended up getting in a fight, because Betty had her eye on a blue Subaru down at Al’s lot, and Lou wanted to sock that money away for a rainy day.

It took about a year before Betty wore him down, and eventually she got her Outback and they both forgot the argument and just remembered the bald eagle they’d seen at sunset that night, flying out over the water. It was the first time either one of them had seen one in real life, and man, what a sight. Better yet, it had put a quick end to their bickering—for once even Betty was speechless.

The next day she looked up what an eagle sighting meant on that internet site with all that animal totem spirit stuff, and when Lou got home from work and sat down in the foyer to unlace his steel-toed boots, she told him it was a sign of courage and freedom, peace and fertility. And then she laughed real hard and went off to the kitchen to finish stuffing the pork chops. He wasn’t sure what she was laughing about exactly, but he had a feeling it was aimed at him. And he knew better than to ask. That laugh was just one step away from a brawl, and he was just too tired after another 12-hour shift.

So he’d done what he did most nights, pretended not to notice and cracked open the beer she handed him when he walked in, and during dinner he kept his head down and his voice quiet, and then cleared everything up and washed the dishes while Betty watched her shows. Life wasn’t perfect, but it worked okay for them most of the time, and if anyone had walked up to Lou on the street and asked if he was happy, he wouldn’t have stopped to think too long before he said yes.

Course that didn’t mean he never got mad, or sad, or sick and tired of things. Especially dirty vehicles. And so here he was again, scrubbing salt and road spray off the sides of a truck he never thought he’d still be driving, after another long day humping molds at a job he never thought he’d still be working.

Lou kinda snorted to himself then, shaking out the rag he kept behind the seat for wiping the tires. You just never know where life is gonna take you. But he’d been getting there for a real long time in this old truck, and The Queen was damn well gonna be nice and clean and shiny when he arrived.



I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
The prompt for this piece was “Write A Story Where Everything Hinges on Your Character’s Most Desperate Desires.”
I’d call this a beginning, perhaps a first chapter.




May 6 2014

ashes to ashes

i always knew you could sing

your very existence is music,
wind rustles and breeze whispers
howls of moan and humming creak

i hear you finger tapping tunes
in the night of dark glass
against the cold window between us

i always knew it was you
absorbing years and belting them
back out as harmonized sustenance

as a teenager i would run to you
cry on your rough-cloaked shoulder
while you plucked my brokenheart strings

you always listened and i always remembered
to look up into the green gold eyes
of  your long standing deep rooted ballad

to find the leaf of your only regret:
your eternal inability to waltz
in the wallflower forest of forgotten

i’d stand up then, arms placed just so
on the shoulders of a stand-in barkcloth partner
and box step through the shade

of your resonant silence



This poem was inspired by THIS video I came across featuring music
that was created from the rings in a slice of tree trunk, it’s enchanting.
Also linking in over at dVersePoets for Poetics, join us!





May 4 2014

rush hour
{story a day – 640 words}

Julie opened the door of her Odyssey and was hit with a wall of musky, sweat sock stench. “Jason!” she yelled back through the still-open kitchen door, “get down here and get your lacrosse stuff, I’m already late for work!”

She could still smell it, five miles up the road, even after she’d rolled down all but her own window, hoping to avoid ruining the hairdo she’d so carefully sprayed into place. She should have known better, she did know better, and it took about thirty seconds for those thirty minutes spent drying and curling and combing to become a complete waste of time.

She closed the windows, ignored the mess swirling around her ears, and turned on the radio, hoping she wasn’t too late to catch the Business Report. “Okay, deep breaths,” she reminded herself, and in an almost involuntary reflex, reached for the mug of coffee that was not in its holder.

“Oh, so it’s going to be one of THOSE kind of days.”

She said this aloud as she reached for her bag, the giant vermillion designer tote Bill had given her last Christmas, so happy with his purchase that she didn’t have the heart to tell him how much she hated red. I mean, had he ever, once, in 26 years of marriage seen her wear that color? But she had simply smiled and thanked him, too exhausted after all the holiday prep to do much else. And it was just a bag, right? Her co-workers had ooh’d and aah’d when she had carried it in on January 2nd, and joked that she must have been a very good girl for Santa to put something so expensive beneath the tree.

After a while, it became a badge of sorts, she carried it with her everywhere she went, and though she still didn’t care for the color, she had to smile when she thought about why Bill had picked it. He had asked once how she liked it, and during the course of the conversation mentioned that he had stood in the store trying to decide between black and red for 15 minutes, and then chose the color of love.

But the bag, sitting on the passenger side floor, was now six inches out of reach. She really wanted to tell Jason to dump her coffee in the sink before he left, so the cat wouldn’t knock it off the counter and stain the new carpet. She stretched an inch farther, and then another, and another, until her fingers caught the metal logo tag dangling from the handle. “Success!” she grunted as she straightened back up, just in time to see that she was veering straight for the guardrail. She had managed to pull the bag up onto her lap, but the thing was so big it got caught underneath the steering wheel, and by the time she got it free and cranked to the left, it was too late to stop the collision.

She felt the van start to tip and for one split second thought how it was a good thing she’d forgotten her coffee, because she would have been scalded. Then glass started breaking and tires started screeching and when it all stopped, it didn’t matter what she’d left behind.

Back at the house, Jason heard his friend Joe out front honking his horn, and he raced down the stairs to grab some breakfast on his way out the door. He saw his mom’s travel mug, filled with still-steaming coffee, sitting on the granite countertop. He pulled out his cell and dialed her number, but Julie never picked up. “Maybe she forgot her phone, too,” he muttered, and left the coffee where it sat, jogged out to the car, ripped open a strawberry Pop-Tart and laughed at Joe’s jokes all the way into school.



I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
The prompt for this piece was “640 Words–including the words musky and vermillion.”




May 3 2014

five bites, five sips,
five days a week
{story a day – 100 words}

Mabel sat in the cafe and watched the blond woman three tables over chew her salad with the kind of concentration that made her compulsion obvious. Five bites, 20 chews each, fork down on the table in between. The cup of tea on a squarely-placed napkin lifted, sipped, returned precisely back to center. Five bites, five sips, and the grey-suited lady stood, gathered her things and walked out the door. Mabel always made her move before the waitress came to clear the table. She survived on this leftover lunch, but somehow, she felt better off than the woman who paid.



I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
The prompt for this piece was “100 Words.”




May 1 2014

getting home
{story a day}

“Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred.”

She counted out the last five steps she had in her. The gash on her arm was still oozing blood, despite the five layers of t-shirt she’d tied around the bone-deep wound. Just getting that done had taken forever, with only one hand and her teeth for assistance.

She’d been exhausted before she even started walking again, and who knows how much blood she had lost along the way.

Haley thought she was being smart when she drove up to the cabin the night before the storm. They were calling for serious flooding, and while it might be rusty, run down, and ramshackle, the tiny shack sat at the top of the hills ringing the lake of the town she lived in. She figured her chances were pretty good up there, not as good as the people’s who got in their cars and drove far away, but she couldn’t do that, she couldn’t bring herself to leave Billy lying in that hospital bed, even if he never did open his eyes again. They had a contingency plan for the patients in place for emergencies, so he would be safe until she could get back to see him.

The doctors told her two weeks ago that it was hopeless, all they could do was keep him breathing, day in and day out. Inhale, exhale, again and again, until the end of time. Or electricity, whichever came first. But she couldn’t just walk away. So she’d packed a backpack with a week’s worth of tuna and chocolate, and headed up the hills on her bike. It had taken her most of the day, given how out of shape she was, and how many times she had to stop and walk all the steep ones. But she got there before the storm hit, built herself a nice fire with the wood Billy had always kept stacked in the shed, filled every container she could find with fresh well water (calling that stuff fresh was a stretch if you asked her), and settled herself in for the long haul.

It started raining right around midnight, thunder crashing, lightning flashing, tree limbs dropping like matchsticks. And it kept going for two full days and two full nights that weren’t much good for sleeping. It was creepy being up there in the woods all alone, creepy wondering what was happening down in the valley. She had her cell phone with her, but in order to get reception she had to walk half a mile down the hill, and she wasn’t about to do that in this weather. So she read four books from the raggedy collection they kept on the shelf for overnight guests, even though she’d read all but one before. The distraction was better than nothing.

She also ended up wishing she hadn’t been so worried about extra weight in her backpack and packed herself a couple bottles of wine. But she survived, both the storm and the fear and the boredom, all of which were both worse than she’d expected and better than being dead. Or like Billy. So she tried not to complain, not that she had anyone to complain to, she tried to just wait things out until she could get back into town.

The rain began to let up in fits and starts on the second afternoon, but the sky stayed dark and the wind kept whipping, so she didn’t even bother going outside until the next morning.

What struck her first was the silence. No birds, no traffic, no wind. Just the occasional drip of water, and as she walked down the driveway, the sound of water rushing through what used to be ditch. When she got to the road, she saw how bad it was. Trees were down everywhere, blocking the road in both directions, and she knew that when she got closer to town, wires would be down along with them. She also knew that riding her bike would be next to impossible.

So she closed up the cabin, packed her bag with more water than tuna this time (and more chocolate than both), and headed down the road into town. Already, the road was steaming from the heat of the sun, worms and tiny frogs littering the surface, and she started sweating before she hit the first bend in the road, the exact place where Billy’s motorcycle had slid out from under him. What she saw there brought her up short. A huge old willow tree was down, blocking the road, right where the shoulder broke off into gully. She was going to have to climb her way through it.


She’d been carrying her cell phone, waiting to get to the spot that had reception, but she shoved it back in her bag for dryness sake, and started threading her way though the branches. She had to hoist herself up and over the slippery moss covered trunk, and by the time she came out of the tangle she was both soaked down to her underwear, and filthy. Of course, a change of clothes hadn’t been part of the essentials she’d tossed in her pack, it hadn’t even occurred to her that she’d need them.

“Some survivalist you are,” slipped out from under her breath, but at least the road looked clear for a ways now, and she figured it wouldn’t be too long before the sun dried her halfway back to comfortable. That’s when she saw the dog.

The Beast, which is how she would later think of him, had come from the woods to her right, silently, with that menacing kind of walk she knew signaled danger. He was big, part Rottweiler and who knows what else, filthy, and looking at her like she was food. At first she just kept walking, calling out friendly Good Doggy’s and inching her way slowly around the turf he’d claimed, hoping she could slide past his territory and therefore, his anger. It was when she decided to reach into her backpack for a candy bar to offer as toll that he lunged, clamping down on her forearm as she dangled the bag in mid-air, trying desperately to find what he wanted. Too late, her hand landed on the slick wrapper of a Hershey bar, but before she could pull it out, the dog grabbed the whole bag and went running.

“My phone!” she screamed, and almost took off after him, but then she looked down at her arm. It had all happened so fast, she hadn’t realized how good the damn dog got her, she could see white bone glistening up through a five-inch gash, pulsing blood as fast as she was breathing. At least the dog never came back while she patched herself up, he must have been too busy trying to break into those three cans of tuna. “I hope all that chocolate kills you!” she yelled into the woods as she finally stood up to start walking, scared now of every movement, of the blood seeping through her makeshift bandage, of all the unknowns ahead on the road still before her.

After about a mile, she started feeling dizzy. That’s when she started counting her steps, in sets of one hundred, to give her mind something to do besides thinking about pain and the possibility that she might not make it into town. She was thirsty, her feet hurt, her arm throbbed and she thought, several times, about lying down, right there in the middle of the road and giving up.

But, Billy.

So she forced herself to keep moving, counting the same set of numbers again and again, until finally, she knew she was close to that spot two miles from town where you got that great view of the valley. It was right on the crest of a hill, and she thought she was going to collapse before she made it to the top.

“Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, nine-nine, one hundred.”

And then she was there and she stopped in her tracks, destroyed by what she saw. Water, everywhere, a lake five times the size of the one that usually nestled so pretty between the hills. From this spot you could see the whole town. She could see her house down on Johnson Ave., three-quarters of the way under water. One yellow peak and the old tired chimney sticking up through a rug made of liquid.

She sank to her knees.

And she howled to a sun that still burned in the sky, blind to the depths of destruction.

In the distance she heard a dog, howling back in her direction. She had no idea which way she should run.



A little something different today, I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
Today’s prompt was “Getting Home.”  A rough draft to get things started, I’d love to know what you think.