How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle – Week 61

Prompt: Surfer

Genre:  Drama

http://blogbattlers.wordpress.com

mustang-317509_960_720

Busted

“Know what it means caught in the act? Well, I wasn’t. Didn’t do nothing.

“I had a life long ago, but it got boring fast. Sure, I wanted a little excitement. I worked hard at a job that sucked. Yes, I said it. The wife knew I hated it, but what could she do except complain there was never enough money. Yeah, she worked at this and that—babysitting, was a cashier once, sold Tupperware. Nothing in the real world so her pay added up to birdseed. Said it was her job to bring up our kids, not hand them off to someone else. Anyway, it probably wouldn’t have worked ‘cause we had a new kid every other year—four times…”

“Hey, slow down. Chill. Want to get us killed?” His passenger reached out to grab the wheel only to be shouldered back.

“Thirty plus years I’ve been bowing and genuflecting at the altar of the Boss Man. See? Had kids and a mortgage, responsibilities. Is that all we’re on this earth for—to toil, sweat, and die. The company kept laying off and cutting back the last fifteen years. Got gut rot. Call backs no guarantee. Can’t throw your seniority away so I hung on. Stashed dough in tins and jars, preparing for the next cutback. The only thanks at home were hands out for my hard-earned dough.

“The kids are grown and gone. About time. We had a house because of the sweat on my brow. Wants to sell the house. Wants half of everything. Nope, not from yours truly.” He smacked the steering wheel, open palmed. “I’d like to get my hands…”

“Geez Louise. Pull over. You keep wandering over the line.” Mike tapped Charlie’s arm with a fist, but again he shrugged him off.

“I’m fine. Keep getting these letters from her lawyer, and…”

“Thought we were going fishing. Any new fish stories?” He leaned in to fiddle with the radio.

“Leave it.” Charlie groaned, withdrew a cigarette from his shirt pocket, and tapped it on the steering wheel. Before he reached the car lighter, Mike flicked his Bic, offering a light. Blowing smoke through his nose, he nodded, squinting through the windshield. “My best man and blood brother. How long have we known each other? Forever, right? Haven’t seen you in a year and you can’t listen for five minutes.”

“What do you need, man. Shoot.”

“Never mind. I’ll figure it out.” Charlie shifted his weight in the old mustang’s bucket seat. Though the air conditioner blew full tilt, his balding head glistened where thin red hair had once flourished. Wiry brows drawn in a frown, his ruddy cheeks shone, too.

“You got a lawyer, right? What’s the worst you can expect?”

“Half of everything and then there’s the thing about my pension she can claim…”

“Whoa, where did that trucker come from? I’d say he’s in a hurry to hell.” Mike rubbernecked the back window.

“Talk about reach out and touch someone. He almost wrote his name on my car. That was too close. Look at him go.”

“Want I should drive?”

“Nah, I’m okay. You still have all your hair. I just lost mine.” Charlie honked when he laughed. Mike didn’t sound much better. “When you said to slow down, I remember a bunch of cars ahead of us.” He checked the rear view. “Nobody but us now.”

Mike steepled his hands. “Start at the beginning. What was the tipping point? Any idea?”

“Not sure. Other than working in the mill, I developed an interest in computers. You might say I had a gift. Learned to fix them. Easy. Soon, friends, and everybody called for help. Patty complained because I fixed them on my off days. Said I wasn’t available to her. Wasn’t charging money. What did she know? I don’t work for free. The money was good. Women were needy. One in particular—but nothing happened. She wanted me, I know, but I’m a married man, right?” She kept calling with problems and soon her wide-eyed gazes got to me. I felt sorry for her. Lonely, I guess. Anyway, I promised to look in on her now and again. I loved the attention. Who wouldn’t? She was a lot older than me but looked pretty good.

Got home late one night and Patty’s sitting in the living room—sprang at me like a panicked cat. Said she’d found an e-mail on my computer from a woman. Didn’t know she knew about computers. Saw my car on the street in front of an apartment building, she said. How did she track me…? She spied on me? I never spied on her. Told her people e-mailed for repairs. Had to change my password.”

Mike ran a hand over his full head of dirty blond hair and adjusted his watchband. Staring out the passenger window, he exhaled. “Can’t fault her for worrying, can you? This is her marriage too.”

“You’re not listening. She’s out to get me no matter what or how.”

“What else happened?”

“Sometimes—you know when shifts change and it’s hard to switch your inner clock and sleep’s not your friend?

“Yeah?” Mike cricked his neck.

“I cranked on the computer in the middle of the night a few times. Television’s a joke except for sports. Got into Chat Rooms. Real interesting. Lots of people with crappy lives. I was flabbergasted how real these people were. Soon I was on there every spare minute. Met a couple women in my area. Yeah, we met for coffee a few times. What’s wrong with that? Again Patty, the detective, managed to match unspecified fragments and attacked me with accusations of fooling around online.”

“In your defence, you said?”

“Checking my online investments.”

“You do investments online? Is it safe?”

“I do some, but am not sure about going hog wild. No.”

“You lied to Patty?”

“How did I lie if I’m not using real money? Was studying if I’d be any good with real money.

“Patty had the nerve to ask how much I’d kissed away in my online trading. I said I’d made thousands—couldn’t help it. Her eyes got so big.” He snorted. “Still, none of her business.”

Bug-eyed, Mike glared at his friend. “None of her business? She’s your wife and the mother of your children. What is wrong with you? So did you invest real money or not?”

“Here’s the kicker. Got past my password, again. Printed the chats and shook them in my face. Time for strange women and not her. Stuff like that. I didn’t check investments. I wasn’t an ordinary web surfer. I was a liar, an unfaithful husband, looking for trouble. Oh, yeah. Then she screamed about house stuff, the broken steps, no new appliances. What about the furnace? Yada yada. Nothing I did was good enough. No wonder I found ways to spice up my life. In the morning, she was gone.”

“Where is she now?”

Charlie raised and dropped a shoulder. “She called so I have her cell. Said she’s getting a lawyer, an apartment—not coming back—blah-blah-blah.”

“How long had the chats been going on?”

“Whose side are you on, Mike? I have her lawyer hounding me. I even said let’s start over. I begged. That hurt. Nope. No way. Nada. Any idea how I make this go away? Not lining no lawyer’s pockets. No sir.”

Mike stared ahead. Mouth clamped shut, he manoeuvred his lips back and forth.

“Well?” Nostrils flared, he peered at his passenger.”

“Pull over. I don’t think you’ll like what I have to say.”

“Hit me.”

“Ever go to work tired, make mistakes?”

“Tired. Yeah, so? Night shifts are great for catching some shut-eye.”

‘You get away with not working? And get paid?” Mike slapped his forehead.

“No biggie. Everyone does it. We cover for each other. An hour here and there.”

“You don’t care about anybody. Are you crazy? What if you drop a load, kill somebody from your crane?”

“You and hoity-toity Lenore are so perfect, right? You’ve never done anything you’re sorry for?”

“Get serious. Sorry? Only because you got caught. Pull over, I said. You planning to skip out on your ex? They’ll find you, and you’ll pay, sooner or later.

“Watch me because I can.” Lips clamped, Charlie wiggled thorny brows in his direction.

“Pull over. I want no part of this.”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere.” Charlie smirked, an ugly twist to his lips. Checking his mirrors, he slowed and pulled over. They were alone on the road. He turned to Mike with a cruel squint. “We’re stopped. Now what?”

“My bag. Open the trunk.”

“Okie-dokie.”

Mike bent to reach inside.

“Nobody calls me crazy.” Charlie slammed the trunk lid with all his might. “Guess you drowned fishing. Wuss.”

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

~ ~ ~

Rules of the Battle

  1. 1500 wordsmax (effective May 2016)
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related.
  5. State theGenre of your story at the top/bottom of your post.
  6. Post your stories on the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month, by 11:59 PM PST
  7. Go for theentertainment value!
  8. Put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section, and/or include a link to a battle post (not a page) in your own blog post (it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post).
  9. Use the hashtag#BlogBattle when tweeting your story.
  10. Let us know if you have a Facebook author/writer page so we can LIKE it to stay connected.
  11. Have fun!

The poll for voting will be added the Wednesdays after the Tuesday Story Posts. You’ll have until the Monday prior to the Next Story Tuesday to read the submitted stories & vote for your top three. That gives you two to three weeks to read and vote! Please consider the expert use of the theme word when choosing.

The Winner and the next theme word will be announced the following day, on Wednesday.

 


76 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 60

BlogBattlersBadgePrompt: Duplicitous 

Genre: Contemporary

smashed-879876_960_720 Pixaby no attribution reqd

Crushed

“It was home—old and decrepit—but ours. Every nut and bolt. We stayed on when Frankie had to quit the mine ten years earlier. It was rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and feet. He had trouble holding a coffee mug—I stopped pouring him a full cup. No need for him spilling it and burning himself, right? He wanted n0 help—had to do it himself. You can’t blame a man for that, can you? Then we found out he had chronic silicosis from the mine. The house went downhill after that.

“I was raised in this little house and barely finished high school when my parents decided to visit Niagara Falls—they’d never had a honeymoon, you see. Well, they never made it home. Some crack-up on the highway, a huge pile up of cars and them in the middle of the wreckage. No. I won’t talk about it even after all these years. I have outlived them by more than double their lives, but it still hurts. You know. Lucky for me, Frankie kept showing up to help in the garden and looked after things needing to be repaired. We knew each other since first grade but were never friends or anything. Till…

“We married not long after—him my best friend from day one. Of course, he moved to my house afterwards. Where else would we live? The smell of that lake is in every pore of my being. I have to see it every day and wonder if I’d know how to breathe without it. Frankie had already hired on at the mine after high school. With experience under his belt, he soon enjoyed the position of drift foreman. Then the arthritis began in his forties, and wore him down. The damp underground didn’t help either. A few years later, he couldn’t trust his hands and walking hurt—even standing took work.

“The kids were grown and gone to the city by then. No opportunities in this little village. Anyway, young people want to leave home, don’t they? My son became a school principal with two kids already in the workforce, and my daughter, a textile designer, had twins finishing university. The young people came to visit every summer and loved the clean air and quiet, the only noise the echoing croak of ravens especially when the city kids wanted to sleep in.”

“Excuse me. The snack cart is here. Do you want anything?” Needles stopped clacking. The rattle of glasses and wobbling rubber wheels clanked outside the doorway. The talking woman waved the question away.

“We were satisfied with a simple life, food on the table and a dry place to sleep. A warm and safe place to raise our kids, you know?  Small comforts, not greed.

“The vultures in polished shoes descended from whatever high tower in a big city. Their offer, distasteful and arrogant, broke Frankie’s heart. It was hurtful and insulting. What did these suited— so young— know about real life? Those duplicitous, land-hungry, double-dealing shysters wanted to raze our homes to build what on our lakefront property? A huge retirement home on the water, they said. Ha. I believed not a word. My money’s on a casino so they can steal more cash from unfortunates and a hotel to keep them here until they’re sucked dry.

Where were we supposed to go, Frankie and me? Him with his disability check and me who’d waitressed only that one summer before we got pregnant. I had another three months to wait before the old age pension kicked in, not enough money between us to move to the city where everything cost a mortgage.

“Some days worse than others, my Frankie in constant pain, didn’t need their harassment. Where on God’s green acre were we to live our remaining years? The neighbours called a meeting in the Legion Hall. We swore to stick together and not give in. Every day someone showed up knocking on our doors. Talking-talking. Got so bad we shut our windows and doors. Can you believe they stood outside and jabbered on and on because they knew we still heard them from inside? Then they called a meeting at the Legion where we hollered no-no just-go.

Mrs. Stirling died from the constant pressure, I’m sure, her a widow since her husband died in the mine years before. Her kids sold the house faster than you can snap your fingers. Guess they’d rather erase their memories of home. Why had they not considered preserving the house for their own retirement like a few of their generation? Everything they needed for a good life was here—boating, fishing, swimming, friends. The perfect retirement community without huge costs and low property taxes. True you had to drive 20 minutes to the next town for most necessities, farther if you needed bigger items. In the beginning, we’d had two wonderful grocers, but no more. Diminishing returns, you know as the population moved away.

Still.

We didn’t need much after Frankie had to retire early. The mine closed a couple years later —the gold mined out, you see. Small businesses moved out as did inhabitants.

“One by one, the neighbours gave in to the fast-talking robots in dark, gleaming suits. None of them young anymore, sick with age or injuries from the mine, living on disability, needing money to make ends meet.

It was the pain that killed Frankie and the silicosis robbed him of breath. I knew he wanted to die and I came this close to helping. As always, he saved me from the decision though we’d agreed upon a plan. Always thoughtful to the end. Lost without him, I thought I’d perish, wishing I would. It was as if someone had ripped out my heart.

“My kids and grandchildren left for the drum and hum of Toronto and Montreal after the funeral and I was alone. Yes, they had begged I come live with them, half the time with my daughter and half with my son. Not for me I told them. I have my house and a few friends. Though Frankie and I visited both our  children years before, we hated the noise, too many cars, and the awful pollution. Everything rush-rush, honk-honk. No way—forget it.

“Didn’t those city boys come calling again knowing I’d just lost my Frankie. This time, they sent a woman to wear me down. I’d talked to my son, but he held no faith with my holding out forever. There were only three of us left and I wasn’t about to be next to throw in the towel. I told the shellacked, skinny-butt female no way was I leaving the only home I had ever known. Is this what I’d lived my whole life for? To be forced—forced—out of the home I’d made, to land in some strange somewhere for my retirement. Not right, I said. She didn’t budge. A tough cookie, this one. Is this a good job for a woman, wearing down old men and women? Widows? Widowers? Sick people? Me?

“Two weeks after Frankie’s funeral there were only two of us standing fast. That’s when it happened. I saw the shiny new Bentley or was it a Mercedes—doesn’t matter—cruise up the road. In my haste, I fell and broke my hip inside the door. Maryjane, the long-time widow across the road, heard me scream. I must have passed and remember nothing. She called the doctor and we had to wait 30 minutes for the ambulance she said. We don’t have an ambulance service in our village, you see.

“I haven’t been home since the accident. Nobody will tell me anything about my house or if the last neighbour gave in. Pneumonia is killing me and I am still in a plaster. My children don’t visit. It’s like I’m dead already, except for the pain. I have no idea where I am or what place this is.”

“Not true, Mom. I visit every day and Paul flies in as often as his work allows.”

The silver-streaked head stirred towards the voice. “Who are you talking to? There’s nobody here but me.”

The younger, blonde woman sprang up, dropping knitting to the floor.  “Mom, I’ve told you many times, we never abandoned you. I had you transferred to Toronto as soon as medical staff allowed, to have you close, to visit you daily.”

“Who are you? Nurse. I want to call my daughter.” The woman’s voice lowered to a whisper, her stare painful, and eyes damp.

The End

Rules of the Battle

  1. 1500 wordsmax (effective May 2016)
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related.
  5. State theGenre of your story at the top/bottom of your post.
  6. Post your stories on the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month, by 11:59 PM PST
  7. Go for theentertainment value!
  8. Put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section, and/or include a link to a battle post (not a page) in your own blog post (it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post).
  9. Use the hashtag#BlogBattle when tweeting your story.
  10. Let us know if you have a Facebook author/writer page so we can LIKE it to stay connected.
  11. Have fun! Check it out at http://blogbattlers.wordpress.com

The poll for voting will be added the Wednesdays after the Tuesday Story Posts. You’ll have until the Monday prior to the Next Story Tuesday to read the submitted stories & vote for your top three. That gives you two to three weeks to read and vote! Please consider the expert use of the theme word when choosing.

The Winner and the next theme word will be announced the following day, on Wednesday.

* * *

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For More #BlogBattle stories, check out the tab above

 


63 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 55 – Leviathan

It’s that time again. To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor / Fantasy

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Part 1    Part 2    Part 3

SNAGGED

Part 4

“What do you mean, ‘because of magic’?”

“You can’t imagine my shock when you showed up—on Leap Day. It’s a sign.” Maggie paused to pour a drink, but changed her mind hands aflutter. Where was I?”

“What did Zero mean about Nelda?” Lisa massaged Mozart’s ear. Euphoric, he leaned into her caress, eyes pinched shut, weaving on her lap drunk with pleasure, his purr lowering by decibels.

Rubbing her chin, Maggie paced two steps forward and back again. “How did the cat find you? I see the special bond between you—maybe that’s it.”

“Are you avoiding the question? Again?” Lisa stood, the feline deposited on the sofa. “Are you listening?” Hands on hips she stamped a foot.

Palm open to shush her, the woman in black continued. “Wait—the hair on your shirt. He must have followed it. Yes. That’s it.” She tapped a closed fist to her forehead, then hesitated, appearing to listen to something only she heard.

“Sit down, Lisa. I’ll start at the beginning. At first, when the Zika virus arrived families dwindled, I wanted to help Zero and his sister. They were unsure whether to go or stay. Of course, I wanted Zero to stay.” She looked up to underscore her point.

“Oh.” Lisa supressed a yawn.

“I was in a corner. Most of his family gone, and though Nelda decided to hang in, Zero kept dithering. You’ve seen the rare books I collect, some are two and three hundred years old. I came across a book of spells and of course had to try them. The arrival of this book turned me around.

I made mistakes, but they didn’t hurt anyone. Until Nelda.” Fingers entwined, she worked them back and forth, lost in a world of her own. Shaking herself back, she continued. “My life’s been a roller coaster ride—of  Leviathan proportions—since 2016 when Nealy slipped through my fingers. Exactly four years ago.”

“I don’t understand. What? A levia—“

“Sorry, like my dad I make weird associations. It a humungous roller coaster in Canada’s Wonderland. My life exactly, whoosh up one way and down another at breakneck speed. It a wonder I haven’t suffered heart failure since she vanished.” Fingers splayed, she patted her chest.

“I still don’t get it.” Coiled on the couch in sleep, Mozart yawned, and opened an eye at the long-winded explanation. Lisa smiled.

“Nelda understood I wanted her brother to stay and was willing help, even if we had to use magic. The magic excited her. I was merely desperate.

“We needed a black cat. I had Viper, but he refused to cooperate. Nelda held him down though he squirmed. Useless cat. He broke free and flew out the cat door as I finished the spell. When I turned back to her, Nelda was gone. Poof. I’ve tried and tried to get her back without success.”

“What does this have to do with me? Why am I here?” Lisa’s fingers reached for the cat’s ear. He sighed. She cleared her throat. “What about me?”

Viper sailed into the sitting room sliding across the wood floor until the area rug stopped him. Mozart snarled. Viper hissed. One black, one white, they eyed each other, fur raised, ears lowered. Mozart said something and licked a paw. Viper cocked his head. The women held their breath. Nothing happened.

“I have an idea. What time is it? Seven hours till midnight. I’ll get the book. Maybe this is my lucky day after all.”

Lisa shot to her feet. “No. Wait.” Maggie vanished through the curtained doorway. An eruption of heavy books thumping to the floor thudded from the bookstore.

Within minutes, she rushed back, stopped dead by the sight of the cats’ peering up at her. No hissing, nor fighting as if by agreement. Or magic. Glancing from the toms to Lisa biting her lip, Maggie nodded to herself. Hugging a thick, tattered volume to her chest, her eyes glistened. “I don’t know what happened here, but I like it. Viper is super territorial or was. Strange.” She grabbed Lisa’s hand. “Come help me.”

The girl shrank back. “What are you doing?” She flashed a glimpse at her cat, whose ears pointed slightly to the sides and forward. He stared back, unblinking and appeared to approve.

“I was right. There is something about your cat. He’s going to help me get Nelda back.”

“Oh, no you don’t. What about Viper? He’s sitting still. Seems logical to give him another try.” Lisa scooped her white bundle of joy. He nipped her finger. “Ouch. Sorry.”

Maggie flipped pages back and forth. “Come on. Come on. Where is it?” Except for the rustle of fine paper dancing back and forth between the leather covers, no other sound broke the silence. A film of perspiration glistened on her forehead. Mouth dry, she licked her lips. “I’ve tried so many spells, I can’t decide. I thought I’d put the book away for good after this morning’s attempt. I know not to waste time on that one.”

Lisa and Mozart’s eyes met. Hers widened and bulged. “What did you say about this morning? You mean your spell plopped me here?”

“Here it is—I think.” Maggie sat on the floor, book open on the coffee table. Viper, ever watchful, had not moved since Mozart had words with him. Head tilted, he was the picture of a sleek black panther in miniature.

Lisa sank to the farthest reaches of the sofa cushions. She listened to words, most she did not understand except one. “Wait, you said purgurtory. Shouldn’t it be purgatory?”

Maggie blinked. “What?” She began again. Viper stared at a spot on the wall.

Lisa caught the flash of a green dress. The woman looked familiar. A jackhammer clattered in her head.

* * *

Lis-s-aaa. Where are yo-uu?

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.


61 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 54 – Feather

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor / Fantasy

brandy-402572__180

Part 1    Part 2

SNAGGED

Part 3

“Let’s start again. This is my friend, Maggie, owner of this wonderful bookstore.” The man in shorts spread out his arms. “I love the smell of books, don’t you? You’re right. My name is Zero, but how did you know?” He stroked the Big Ben watch face with a forefinger, one eye on his wrist and the other on her.

“What?” Lisa swung a searching look from Maggie to the man. “This is creepy. I mentioned before, I picked up a book—no idea where it came from—and began reading. Wait. The title said Crow Lake.” She set the cup and saucer on the side table, rubbed her temples, and cricked her neck. “Crow Lake— like this place. You can’t help me?”

“Sheer coincidence, I’m sure.” He stretched across the space between them and patted her knee. “Wouldn’t you agree, Maggie? Maggie? Where are you?”

“Settle down.” The woman in black bent over the table and deposited a tray of glasses and a bottle of brandy.

“None for me thanks. I have a monster headache squeezing my brain.”

“Sorry to hear that. Here. I brought you water.

“You have a cat? I hear it, but where is it?” Lisa searched the floor.

“I do, but—

“Mee-oow.”

“Ow. My head.” Arms raised to grab a lopsided weight spiked to her head, Lisa resisted the urge to scream. Maggie cackled a crone’s laugh, holding her sides, spiked hair weaving. Eyes glazed, Zero bounced out of his chair to lend a hand. The cat hissed. He stepped back, shoved hands into his pockets.

Blank-faced, Lisa’s eyes widened at the unexpected bundle dropped into her lap. “But— But— Mozart?” The white fur cloud stood on his hind legs, raised a paw and patted her cheek, then again with an unwavering stare, and again. His purr grew from a low whirr to a vibrating rumble. She hugged him. Front paws raised, she lifted his light frame like a baby. Head tucked over her shoulder he pushed his nose into her neck, purr steady and deep. “Have you come to take me home?” She drew a jagged breath, silver tears leaking though she blinked to stop them. “What am I saying? How did Mozart get here? How did I?

Zero cleared his throat. He thrust a box of tissues at her. “Handsome cat. I’ve never seen one this affectionate. Maggie’s cat toms around the neighbourhood coming home only when the pickings are distasteful.”

“Watch what you say about Viper. He never took to you either. Brandy?” Maggie poured before anyone answered. Gripping a snifter, she took a large swallow and coughed. Zero thumped her between the shoulder blades. “That’s enough.” She took a smaller sip.

“I don’t understand why I’m here, and my cat? And, how? This is too bizarre.” She stamped her feet, the Tom’s ears twitched; he gave her a sour look. “Sorry.”

Maggie passed her a snifter. “Do you believe in magic?” She searched the depths of her own glass before raising an elegant black brow.

“You’re serious? No. I do not. That’s make-believe for kids and fairy tales.” Mozart continued to purr. She stroked his long silky fur with utmost care. Raising his head again, he patted her cheek and sighed.

“What if I said magic is real? Would you believe me?” Eyes dark, voice humorless, she nodded swirling the glass, studying the gold liquid sway to her manipulation.

“Do you? Can you send us home?

Nervous, Zero sipped the liquor, ears flaming red. “Tell her about Nelda. Tell her.” He paced two steps forward and two steps back in the awkward space. Lips compressed, Maggie shook her head.

“Your sister?” Lisa’s voice croaked

“How do you know that?”

“I told you, from the book I started before I popped into this place. Where is Crow Lake exactly? Show me a map. Where’s your computer?”

Zero hooted. For a man with eyes a girl could drown in, he laughed like a donkey. Lisa’s jaw dropped. Mozart sat up blinking at him like an owl, one eye at a time.

“What’s so funny? I Google stuff all the time. What’s wrong with that?”

“What you call computers are extinct.” Maggie extended a wrist sporting a nautical-type watch similar to Zero’s. Observe. Poking dials and sketching shapes on the watch face with a forefinger, she pointed it towards the wall. A holographic map projected on the wall.

“Wow. How did you do that? No laptops either?

“Nope.”

“What country are we in?”

Maggie snapped off the hologram.” You won’t find Crow Lake on this map.”

Zero glared at Maggie pointing his almost empty glass at her. “Why won’t you tell her?”

“You heard her. She doesn’t believe.”

Lisa and the cat regarded the sparing pair across the room from each other. Left. Right. Left. “What’s this about? Nelda? Magic? What?”

Zero dumped his snifter on the coffee table. I need air. Deal with it Maggie. Once and for all.” He hesitated, turned back, wearing a thoughtful expression. “Excuse me.” He directed an abrupt nod towards Lisa and fled.

A deafening, protracted silence bounced around the mint green walls. Not even the familiar ticking of a clock echoed in the hush. Mozart licked a paw, cocked his head and chose another.

Maggie spoke first. “This hasn’t been my best year. I’m in a bit of a pickle.” She glanced over her shoulder to the back door. Maybe it’s a good thing you don’t believe in magic. I’ve made a couple troubling mistakes of which I’m aware—because of magic…”

“Can you fix them?”

“As my father liked to say, ‘That would put a feather in my cap, if I wore one.’”

To be continued…

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.


65 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 53 – Bun

To celebrate, the one-year anniversary of #BlogBattle we will not be writing a new story for the battle. For Week 53, Rachel at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/  has suggested the following:

  1. Choose one of your #BlogBattle stories from the past year
  2. Edit it however you would like
  3. Reblog/repost it next week on Tuesday, March 15th.
  4. Make sure you specify the genre and the theme word

Voting will be done from the compilation of awesome stories presented!

Genre: Humor

Theme Word: Bun

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Bun?

 

Clunk. Sylvie plonked the groceries on the floor by the front door. Shrugging off her coat in a rush, she headed to the kitchen. Halfway, she made an about face, hung her coat in the closet and grabbed her shopping bags.

Her cell spun on the counter, but she ignored it while it vibrated in circles. Purchases stored, she put on the kettle and dropped into a kitchen chair. The Thompsons and Millers were due at seven; she had time to change her planned dessert. What shall I bake special for tonight?

The kettle clicked off. She sighed and rose to make tea. The aroma of herbed roast beef filled the kitchen. Mr. Crockpot, her ever-faithful helper, hard at work again. She peeked through the glass lid and gave it a loving tap. Okay, five minutes—maybe ten—and I’m off to set the table.

***

Half an hour later Sylvie laid out fresh clothes and headed to the shower. She frowned into the mirror, turned this way and that, smoothed faint lines around her eyes and stroked her temples, caressing hints of gray threaded through mousey brown hair. Time for a color. Forty-one in a month. Imagine… Stop!

As always, the front door clicked open and slammed shut at exactly six o’clock. Sylvie smiled and rushed down the hall to meet her husband while inserting an earring. Arms outstretched, she rushed to embrace him.

“George, darling.”

Eyes aglow with pleasure, he let out a bark of laughter, caught her in his arms, and spun them around a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

***

At 6:51 p.m., the doorbell chimed. “I’ll bet my favorite shoes that’s my mom and stepdad. Always first. Always early.” Sylvie arranged pots on the stove in readiness for turning on during cocktails.

“Mom and Dad Thompson. Come in, come in.” George kissed his mother-in-law’s powdered cheek and shook hands with her new husband, the lucky owner of dense cloud-white hair. “Welcome to our home, Frank.” Before he dispensed with their coats, the doorbell announced another arrival. “Mom. Dad. Come in.”

Sylvie tossed her apron into a kitchen chair and joined the families, waving them into the Great Room. The still bare fields and garden were spectacular through the wall of unadorned plate glass windows.

“How are the twins doing at university?” her mother asked.

“They’ll be finished in less than two months and have to face the real world,” George said, a faraway look in his eyes. “How about drinks?” He rubbed his hands with zest. “The usual for everyone?” Nods and echoes of agreement ensued. “What will you have Frank?”

“What?” George made a drinking motion. “Whiskey, neat.” He looked about not knowing the routine.

The parents settled into their established seats. The women sank into the sofa facing the garden and the men into La-Z-boys across from them, footrests popped up at once.

General greetings exchanged, George delivered drinks on a tray and raised his glass. “A toast to our health at this happy gathering.” Glasses extended, nodding and hear-hears resonated around the room. The seats too far apart, only the mothers clinked glasses.

“Excuse me, one moment.” George disappeared around the corner. Upon his instant return, Sylvie sprang from her chosen hard-backed chair and exchanged a glance with her husband. He presented a white plate to the room. “Look what came out of the oven.”

“What’s this about done? Gun? What did he say? His new stepfather cupped a hand to his ear and squinted at his wife.

“He said nothing of the sort,” she said, eyes twice their usual size. One hand grazed Mrs. Miller’s lap. They gawked at each other, then at Sylvie.

“I said, look what I found in the oven.” George grinned wide. The tip of his ears crimson tinged, he tipped the plate several degrees.

His father scratched his chin, wiry salt and pepper eyebrows squished to attention over his nose. He studied the faces around him. “So?”

George set the plate on the coffee table and wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist. They grinned like children with a secret. Sylvie leaned her head back against his shoulder. Both mothers gaped at each other, their husbands, then back at the young couple while their spouses sat with mouths flapping.

George’s father shifted in his seat. “Will somebody say something? What in heck’s going on?”

 Blinking, her mother leaned forward, voice soft, hesitant. Cautious. “How do you feel about this, Sylvie?”

“Mom, I’m fine—ecstatic. Aren’t we, George?” He nodded. They rocked side to side, his arms wrapped around her, chin on her shoulder.

“I need another drink.” His father raised an open palm. “No, I’ll fix it myself. Haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Dad,” George said, his voice subdued. “We’re having a baby.”

His father’s brows shot heavenward. “Why didn’t you say so in plain English?” Empty glass in hand, he hugged his son and placed a resounding smooch on his daughter-in-law’s cheek. “Do the boys know? Bet they’re excited.”

“You’re the first to know.” George said. “I only found out an hour ago.” He suppressed a smile in his wife’s hair.

The grandmothers shook their heads and heaved themselves off the sofa to join the hug-a-thon. “It’s like starting all over again,” said her mother to Grandma Miller. “I wouldn’t want to do it.”

George’s deaf stepfather scrambled out of the chair and raised his glass. “I’ll drink to that. What are we celebrating?”

“We have a bun in the oven,” his wife shouted in his ear over the melee.

“We do? Take it out before it burns.”

The room rang with laughter. He joined in too though he still appeared confused.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: Pixabay. No attribution required.


81 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 52 – Prompt: Hair

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor

Part 1

 

book-301447_960_720

SNAGGED 

Part 2

What makes you think you’ve leaped inside a story? Maggie stepped back, a smirk on her face. The man in shorts stopped pacing. His and Maggie’s gazes met. She snorted and retreated again, hands steepled as if in prayer. Lisa examined her black attire: Straight long dress, shoes and short, spiked hair. Cool hair. Fortish? Is she a witch?

“What the heck is going on here?” Lisa squirmed in her seat, flinging the now empty glass back and forth.

“More water, dear?” Maggie leaned in plucking the empty glass out of her grasp. “Sit tight. I’ll be back.” As if floating on air, she swept out of sight.

Lisa’s mouth dropped, eyes drifting around room. Weird in sort of a neat way. This isn’t real, though. Can’t be. Holding her breath, she bent forward. “So, are you going to answer my question?”

“What’s that?” He stopped pacing and shook his head as if to clear it. Glancing over a shoulder, he caught both customers, bodies slanting forward, ears twitching. Lisa followed his stare. “Aren’t you two expected somewhere?” The tall one weighed the antique book in his hand raising his brows at his partner. She shrugged, returned her book to the shelf, and yanked his sleeve to do the same. Maggie materialized watching the exchange with a full glass of water dripping with condensation. Chins to chest, the pair skedaddled to the exit.

“Have another glass. This water is special.”

“How.” She shot Maggie a look, raised the glass to study the clear liquid. “I’m done being polite. Will someone please answer my question?” Eyes shut tight Lisa stamped her feet where she sat, slopping water to her lap and the carpet, sending a tattered slipper into the air.

Maggie glided to the front door, punched numbers into a keypad, and flipped to the CLOSED sign. “I have a sitting room in the back. We’ll be more comfortable there.”

Lisa gulped the remaining water and set the glass on the floor. “First things first. Is your name Zero?”

Something passed between the two friends. He lifted the back of his wrist drawing circles with a forefinger on the watch face.

“What a bizarre watch, or is that some new technology—Zero?” She concentrated on his reaction like a hawk.

“I’ve had it two ye…” His head whipped up, a flush rising from neck, to face, to ears.

Lisa’s mouth dropped flapping like a baby guppy.

“You’ve had a shock and are still dehydrated. Don’t worry. All will be fine.” Maggie studied Lisa’s wardrobe. Let’s arrange a change of clothing first.”

“Not necessary, because I’m… going home.” She yawned. “I’m so tired.” The woman led her to the back of the store, the man trailing behind them.

“Weird. This is a real bookstore. Are you an antiquarian bookseller? I don’t see any new books.  I’m… I’m talking a mile a minute, aren’t I?”

They reached a curtained doorway. Maggie pushed the man in shorts back into the store.” You stay there. We ladies need privacy.”

* * *

Hours had passed. The cat refused to come out from under the bed. From the balcony, Mya checked the parking lot for her sister’s car. Right car. Right plates. Still there.

Hungry, she peered into the fridge. Nothing but bread and eggs. Typical Lisa. The freezer however, had two store bought pizzas, a couple Ziploc bags of deli soup, a bottle of vodka, and two glasses. She grabbed a pizza, slapped it on the counter and turned on the oven.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a blur of movement. Crash. Bang. The books clattered to the floor. She rushed into the sitting room. One book lay open. She didn’t believe her eyes. “Lis-saaaaa. What’s going on here? Where are you-u-u?”

* * *

Dressed in a pale green dress identical to Maggie’s black one, Lisa folded her clothes and exited the bathroom. She dropped the bundle. A hoarse, mournful voice called her name. Lis-saaaaa. What’s going on here? Where are you-u-u? Hands clamped over her ears, she swayed and grit her teeth.

“What is it?” Maggie gathered up the shirt and leggings.

“Didn’t you hear her call me? I keep hearing my sister’s voice. Something’s wrong.” Ear to a shoulder, she waited to the count of ten. No more Mya. “Wait. Lisa grabbed the shirt. “What is this white thing?”

“Hair of some kind. Wrong color for you. Do you have a cat?” She made a roll of the clothes instead of refolding them and abandoned it in a kitchen chair.

“I do. Mozart. He was curled on my lap when I…” Lisa rubbed her forehead. The white strand stuck to her head.

“You’re okay now. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll call Zero.” She pushed Lisa towards the sitting room. Sticking an arm around the curtained doorway, she waved an invitation.

 

Lisa sipped her peppermint tea, lost in thought. ”What is this place?”

“I mentioned Crow Lake, I believe. Don’t you remember?” Elbows on his knees, Zero edged to the front of the sofa chair.

“Ye-es, but how did I get here? It hurts when I pinch myself, which means I’m not dreaming. All I wanted to do was to read, but I showed up here instead. What month and year is it?”

“February 29th, 2020,” he said. Maggie nodded.

“No it’s not. Too warm for February. There’s no evidence of snow. Wait! Did you say 2020? Are you pulling my leg?”

He shook his head. “What year did you think it was?”

“Silly, 2016, of course, February 29th”

“You’ve heard of global warming? We have only one season anymore and are luckier than most. Four years ago, the Zika virus reared it’s ugly head and has now swept across the globe. Between deaths and people cutting their losses and leaving, we’ve lost three-quarters of our population since it began.”

“Weird. Why does this sound familiar?”

To be continued…

 

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


72 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 51 – Prompt: Trace

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor

book-2869_960_720 Pixabay

SNAGGED

She snapped shut the laptop. It’s now or never.

Decision made, Lisa grinned. Excited fingers combed through short chocolate brown hair. No freelance work on the calendar. Either way she would have cleared it. The day looked more promising by the second. Coffee pot. Check. Popcorn from the previous night. Check. The stillness in the apartment sang to her. Heaven. Armed with refreshments, she padded to the Easy-boy, grabbed a blanket, and cranked up the footrest. The dozen or so novels laced in dust on the side table soon landed in her lap. A white cat with long silky hair jumped onto the foot support. “Mozart. Lonely sleeping alone?” He padded over her ankles and knees. Lisa scooped all the books but one, returning them to the table. The cat settled in her lap, stared into her face and purred. From habit, she caressed his soft head. “I don’t remember this one.” Chin on folded paws, he relaxed, one eye watchful. “Crow Creek, it’s called. Look. Bird silhouettes streaking across a cobalt sky. A remarkable cover. I don’t recall…”

Lisa’s hand snaked toward her coffee mug. Book propped against the cat she slurped the hot liquid and turned to page one. Mozart raised his head, bumped against the offending nuisance. “Settle down.” The mug returned to the table, she moved the book closer soon lost in the story.

The idea had been to pull up stakes long ago. Both still single, Zero and younger sister Nelda couldn’t agree how or when. They had been born in Crow Creek, but the population had dwindled from 100,000 to a quarter of that. The Zika virus had wiped out both parents and half their relatives. How does anyone leave them behind, alone with no one to visit their gravesites?

* * *

The store window looked real. She squinted over her shoulder. Dozens of bicycles and riders whizzed by on the tree-lined street. Birds chirped. The air smelled clear as crystal mountain air. Not one motor vehicle in sight. Nothing but quiet as if someone had muted the sound on a movie set.

She became aware of persistent knocking, pounding on wood. “Lisa. Open up.”

Spinning round, she saw no one, but recognized the voice.  “Lisa. What’s wrong with the cat? Open up.”

Her sister’s persistent voice gave her a headache. I must be dreaming.

“Why is the cat howling? Are you okay? Bang. Bang. “I’m calling the super. The poor cat.”

She heard it too, but far away. A cat bawled and bawled. The ratty slippers were hers as were the red leggings and fleece man’s plaid shirt she’d picked up at the flea market. She had dressed for a cold February day that morning. Now the sun’s heat sent rivulets of perspiration everywhere. A bump against her elbow sent her stumbling. Lisa squeezed her eyes tight. This was real. It hurt. She massaged the tender spot.

“Sorry. You all right?”

He leaned in, grabbed her shoulders, and steadied her. They were eyeball-to-eyeball. Blue-gray eyes searched hers. “Where am I? You can let go now.” She brushed invisible fluff off her shoulders and arms.

“You don’t know? How’d you get here?”

“I asked you first.”

Lips pursed, he let out a low chuckle. “Crow Creek.” Hands shoved into pant pockets he rocked forward and back. He made no secret of sizing her up, cooler then she by far in his T-shirt and tan shorts. “Aren’t you hot in that?” he said pointing with his chin.

“Wha-at? Not possible.” She pulled the front of her shirt away from her skin, shaking it and looked around again. “Doesn’t anybody but you talk around here?”

“Lady, slow down. Which? Crow Creek or your shirt?”

Lips pinched together like a lipstick-eaten hyphen, she glared at his chin, resisting the urge to look into those eyes. You’re enjoying this far too much.

“You have a name?”

“Do you?” She poked an index finger not quite to his chest.

“Manners, manners. You want help. Be nice.” He toed the cement walk. She moved closer to the shop wall into the shade.

* * *

A door slammed into a wall somewhere far away. “Lisa!”

“Me-oow.”

“Mozart. Where’s my sister?” Mya leaned forward. He backed away, yowled and flew down the hall to the bedroom. “Lisa?” She checked the rooms one by one. The bathroom door open proved empty as well. Something caught her attention. The laptop lay closed on the sofa table. Closed. Closed? She scrutinized the living room and the Easy-boy: the forever stack of books, a mug of cold coffee and a book face down on the carpet. Odd. No trace of Lisa, though.

“Everything okay in here?” The super hovered in the doorway, changing feet, a frown chiselled on his face.

“Sure. Lisa must have forgotten we had a date and stepped out. Thanks. I’ll wait.” He had already disappeared before she finished. How’d you get to be super? Unhelpful…

* * *

“Since you won’t play fair. I’ll introduce myself first.”

Lisa rubbed her temples. Her sister’s voice called and called from some distance. The buzzing in her ears sounded like a hornet’s nest. Hot. So hot. “Water. Is there water around here?” Eyes closed, she leaned against the shop wall.

Arm around her shoulder, he helped her inside the store. “Maggie. A tall glass of water please?” He nodded at the couple customers who turned in curiosity. The bookstore owner placed a cool damp glass into her hand where she sat in the armchair on the far side of the counter. “Anything else I can do for you?” The man drifted in and out of her vision behind the Maggie character.

“I wanted to celebrate this leap year with my nose in a book. I don’t often have time. It appears I’ve leaped into the story Instead.” Cool glass to her cheek, Lisa leaned around the woman. “Tell me your name isn’t Zero.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


93 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 50 – Prompt: Pure

To join in the fun, click below:

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Genre: Drama / Humor

old-709377_960_720

A Little Malarkey

Grandma Mercy had no patience for wimps nor fools. In her book, Sidney fit both categories. “How’d you ever hook up with a fool like him?”

“Now MeeMa. What’s done is done. No point tempting your blood pressure. He’s a good man.” Celeste paced the hundred-year kitchen, stepping on the creaky spots she still remembered. Freckled and ponytailed, she looked closer to eighteen than thirty. ”I’d like tea. You want tea? Where’s the kettle?”

“Sure. Made double chocolate brownies yesterday. The man’s hands are softer than a baby’s brand new skin.” Grandma reached into a cupboard for the treat tin and another for cups and saucers.

“He’s a scholar. A University Prof. What’s wrong with that?” She watched the gas flame catch beneath the beat up kettle. “Where’s the one I bought you for Christmas?”

“The man’s never done an honest day’s work. What? This one still works. New means better, does it? How long you known him?”

“Off and on—about five years. Why don’t you like him?”

“I said no such thing. So he’s a scholar, but a mighty slow thinker. Asked him did he want vanilla ice cream with his cherry pie at lunch. Both homemade, I told him. I thought we lost him in a black hole somewhere till he blinked and dipped his head, which I took for a nod. I guessed right ‘cause he dug in. I wonder how long does it take to pick out a pair of socks every morning.”

“You’re talking about my husband. My husband.” Celeste, arms crossed, watched Grandma Mercy arrange brownies on a chipped plate. The kettle whistled. She snapped the knob to off and carried the boiled water to the kitchen table. “Brownies smell heavenly. Oops. Forgot the sugar for your tea.”

“You’re my favorite granddaughter, ‘course you’re the only one, but I hope you haven’t made a huge mistake. Who’s gonna look after who? Tell me that.” She stirred the tea with vigor, studying the dark liquid.”

“These aren’t the old days, MeeMa. We aren’t farming or homesteading. I guess we’ll look after each other.” Celeste reached for the older woman’s hand. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”

Gray eyes, still clear and sharp, studied her over the rim of the teacup. “I wonder.”

“What do you mean? You’d met him before and never said one word. Why now?”

“Sure twice for about five minutes and what—a year or two ago? I had no idea you were serious about him. Tell me. Who proposed to who?”

Celeste’s jaw dropped. Tea spilled into her lap and onto the placemat. “Ow-ow-ow. Darn. Darn. That’s hot.” She jumped up unzipping her jeans and hobbled to the bathroom.

Grandma removed the wet placemat and dried the table and chair. “You okay?”

No response, except for gushing water. Then silence. A towel wrapped around her waist, Celeste returned to the kitchen. “No damage done. I’ve hung the jeans on the shower rod to dry. What time is it?”

“Knowing Gramps, he and Sidney won’t be back for hours. I hope he doesn’t bore the boy to distraction. Sit. More tea?”

Celeste took a sip. The tea had cooled. Brows raised she drank again. “Now he’s a boy? Please.” She looked away and smiled in spite of herself.

“So, you did the proposing, eh. I knew it.” Grandma slapped the table. Cups and saucers rattled. Teaspoons twitched and slid.  “There’s no order anymore. I don’t understand it.”

“If you must know, we proposed to each other. This is absolute malarkey. What’s it matter?” Tea finished, she huffed, throwing her hands in the air.

“Book smart is one thing—common sense is another. Who’s wearing the pants in this family? Seems to me he’s a bigger wuss than one of them lap dogs.”

The creak and rattle of the old farm truck announced its imminent arrival. Rounding the corner, it swung into the gravelled yard in a cloud of dust, scattering the few free roaming chickens. And skidded to a stop. “I guess Gramps proved me wrong. Bless him for not overwhelming the poor boy with our country ways.”

One door creaked open and slammed. Then the other. The women gaped. Singing? Not one voice, but two, each carrying his own tune like cats in the night after a date gone wrong. Grandma Mercy winced. “Gramps doesn’t drink, nor has he ever carried a tune even in church, not that he’s carrying one now.”

Gripping the table for support, she pitched forward upsetting her chair. Shuffling on twig-thin legs, she aimed for the door. Celeste close on her heels clutched her towel. Grandma Mercy flung open the door, feet apart, arms crossed. “Well, what have we here?”

The men, arms around each other, continued singing, eyes aglow, silly smiles pasted on stupid faces. Grandma stomped a foot. The screeching stopped, a look of pure mischief on their confused faces. “I thought you were out buying a riding lawnmower.”

Sidney and Gramps wove this way and that. If either lost his balance, they’d both end in the dirt. “Hello, Precious.”

“Don’t you precious me. You’re drunk.”

“Old Sam Waters wanted to sell me a broken down mower, but Sidney talked me out of it. He knows machinery. The boy’s smarter than he lets on.” With a free hand, Gramps patted Sidney’s chest.

“You don’t drink. He put you up to this?” Grandma pointed with her chin.

Faces scrunched, the men gawked at each other. Grandpa shrugged, losing his balance. Sydney tumbled over him. Hooting as if they’d lost their minds, they separated, attempted rising to their feet, but fell again.

The door slammed as if a high wind had come up. Grandma and Celeste were gone.

“Guess Sidney’s not such a wuss after all. He’s still a fool.”

The End

 

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


84 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 49 – Prompt: Lollipops

Join us at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Drama

lollipop-356401_960_720 Pixabay

This is a type of Lollipop

Change

Nothing had changed in ten years. Liz hadn’t cared he wasn’t a romantic when they married. She’d accepted it. Why did it matter now? Was the sound of the clock ticking louder and louder towards her thirty-fifth birthday putting her on edge? Possible, but not probable. Her birthday was three months away. She yearned for something, something to change. Did the why matter? Sam was a good man. Eyes wide open, she’d married him, hadn’t she? Put aside yearnings and whimsy for married life.

Lost in thought, she started when Max the family poodle nudged her hard enough to knock her over. She landed bent over the kitchen counter. “Hi you—oh!” Liz squinted at the wall clock surprised at the time. “Thanks, boy. Better hurry and clean up.” She patted his woolly, apricot head. “Don’t want a nickname like painted lady and scare the other parents, do I?”

Before rushing out, she shut the door to the studio at the back of the old house. A warm glow filled her, as it did each time she admired the huge window Sam had insisted she have. No, he might not be romantic, so what silly goose? Still, Liz craved something. She didn’t understand what.

Her teeth chattered. The temperature must have dipped since early morning. Hands buried in yellow wool gloves, she drew her hat lower and clutched the white quilted coat at the throat. A throng of other parents at the corner stamped feet and circled round each other like piranhas in a fish tank. She laughed aloud at the thought hustling to the bus stop stomping as well. At the sound of crunching snow, several of the waiting looked up, waved or nodded. The shake and rattle of the school bus caught their attention. They turned as one. No one noticed Liz wave. The changing gears grated, whined, and stopped. The door screeched opened. Six-year-old Cat lumbered down the stairs first as always, wobbling past the throng of parents into her mother’s arms. “What a sight you are, darling.” Hat askew, blonde bangs and hair messy as a haystack, the girl’s face red from the overheated vehicle showed no concern. Her eyes glowed, a smile stretched across her face, missing teeth yawning.

“Mommy, Mommy. Wait till I show you my picture from school. My friend Nathan—he’s a artist like me—made a wonderful picture with me. My teacher wanted to hang it in class, but I said no.” Liz zipped her daughter’s snowsuit and wound the scarf round and round her head.

“I want to know all about your valentine’s party too, but not now.”

“Hey, I can’t talk.” Cat pushed the wrapping beneath her chin.

“Darling, it’s too cold to talk. Tell me at home. Let’s hurry. Mommy’s freezing. Aren’t you?” Liz caught her daughter’s hand. “Let’s run. Bet you can’t beat me.” Cat yanked her hand from her mother’s grasp and tottered forward like a miniature Michelin man. Liz stomped in place holding back.

At the bottom of their front steps, Liz swung the backpack over an arm, grabbed Cat beneath the arms from behind, and frog-marched them to the door. Inside Cat unwound, unzipped, tugged and wrenched, sweating like a lumberjack. “Darling, you’re hot.” Liz dropped to her knees, seized the bottom of her boots and heaved off the one-piece snowsuit.

Without missing a beat, the girl dumped the contents of her backpack on the floor. Wrapped chocolate kisses, a box of Reeses Pieces, and loose valentines scattered all over the floor. Hands shaking, a look of reverence on her flushed face, Cat unfolded a white sheet of paper, studied it for a couple beats, and nodded. She stood as if in a trance offering the gift to her mother.

Biting her tongue and blinking back tears Liz knew that look, understood the satisfaction and amazement her daughter was experiencing. Her heart swelled all the way to her throat. “Let’s see. Ooh.” She swallowed hard to push it back. “Wait till Daddy sees this. Your attention to detail is astonishing.”

“So, you like it, Mommy? Happy Valentine’s Day.” Cat drew invisible lines on the ceramic hallway tile with a stockinged toe, hands clasped behind her back.

Liz sank to her knees, clasping the girl as tight as she dared. “This is the best Valentine’s gift ever. Thank you. Come. Let’s make a special supper tonight to celebrate.”

“I’ll set the table. Want the dishes from the china cabinet?”

“Good idea. Wait. l’ll take them out for you. Your favourite tonight, roast chicken.”

Cat clapped her hands, stopped and tore down the hall.  “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Liz chuckled. “Don’t forget to wash your hands.” I’ll open a bottle of wine. It’s Valentine’s after all.

* * *

An hour and a half later, the doorbell chimed. Mother and daughter stared at each other. “Who can that be?” Cat turned to the door. “No, you don’t young lady. I’ll get it.” Shoulders back, Liz snatched open the door. Her jaw dropped.

“Are you Liz Wilson?”

She nodded if you could call it that. The deliveryman handed her a bouquet of yellow flowers, spun around, and disappeared down the drive.

“Mom, you’re letting in the cold. What is it?” Cat lingered down the hall knotting fingers together.

With gargantuan effort, Liz unglued her feet from the floor and closed the door. “Flowers.”

“They’re pretty. Who from?” The girl tiptoed within reach of her mother, extended a finger.

“Don’t know.” She held the cellophane wrapped bouquet away from her body, eyes feasting on them. Yellow. My favorite color.

“Open them.”

“What?”

“Doesn’t it say who they’re from? My teacher got flowers today. There was a card.”

“Oh. Yes. There is.”

A key in the door announced Sam’s arrival. He grinned. “They’re Lollipops. Like ‘em? Cat, these candy ones are for you.” His daughter squealed.

Blinded by tears, Liz grabbed Sam’s tie and pulled, crushing the flowers between them.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


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#BlogBattle Week 48 – Prompt: Chasm

To join us and / or to meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content– let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

**********************************************************************

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

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Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 3

“What is that awful noise? ‘There birds in here?” Raising her bird’s nest bedhead, Grace unglued a puffy eye. “Wha…?“

Frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr.

Blinding light suffused the room. She rolled over, face pushed into the pillow.

“Never known you to sleep this late. Everything okay, baby sister? Here. Brought you coffee.” She plunked a mug on the night table and dropped into the tub chair alongside, already fully dressed in Khaki pants and white blouse. “Polly, talk to me.” She sipped her coffee.

Her sister rolled over; grabbed her glasses. Squinting at Grace, her fingers fumbled for the coffee. “Why’s it so darn bright?” Grasping the pillows, she swooshed them against the headboard, and scooted back, leaned in and sighed. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“It’s past nine—you didn’t answer my question.” Grace lifted her mug. “You look like something the cat threw up.”

“Says you. Truth is I didn’t sleep well, at-all, at-all, at-all.” She slapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. I fell as if into a chasm at the first hint of day.

“Oh? Do tell.” Grace’s eyes wandered to the window as if she could care less, ever watchful from the corner of an eye.

“Tommy called last night. I didn’t pick up.” Polly turned her cup round and round studying its contents as if reading tea leaves. “Terrific coffee, sis. You’re looking perky. You had me worried last night.”

“Uh-huh. This is news? Boohoo for Tommy. What’s really eating you? Don’t bother fibbing ‘cause you can’t fool me, like you think you’re doing.”

“Duh.” Polly made a face. “Better get up if I want more coffee.”

“Cut the crap already, what did you get into when I went to bed?”

“Nothing.” Hazel eyes innocent and enormous, she bowed to her coffee.

“We’re sisters, but you are trying my patience.”

“You heard any rumours about family secrets—being the older first child—you know?”

Grace’s mouth dropped. “What are you talking about?” Forehead furrowed, she swung her head around like a puppet, blinking, scanning the files in her head. “This isn’t like you. What’s going on? Is Tommy blackmailing you into marrying him?”

Polly snorted, coffee splattered over the lily-white bedcoverings. “Sorry-sorry-sorry.” She bounced out of bed hauling off the stained candlewick bedspread and top sheet. “Forget Tommy. He’s not news.”

Grace grabbed the bottom of the heavy spread. “Laundry tub, downstairs, I think. I’ll start the soap and water. Bring the vinegar?”

“Here. What do you know about granddad and Uncle John?” Polly swished the soapy water while her sister added the vinegar.

“What an odd question. I have no idea what you mean.”

“Uncle John was not to be trusted. Dad worked his fingers to the bone in Grandpa’s business.”

“Oh yeah? What if you’re wrong? How about breakfast. I’m starving. ”

Polly watched her sister through lowered lashes. “Wrong? I don’t understand. Dad was the good son. Worked and slaved—he saved Granddad’s grocery store from ruin. Uncle John was the black sheep. Everyone said so.”

“Or scapegoat. Help me lift this in the tub.”

“What?”

“Let’s play what if. Coming?”

“What if what?”

“Both Dad and Uncle John worked for Grandad, right? What if Dad had a gambling problem?”

“What? No way.”

“What if he had sticky fingers and helped himself to the till and the store check book.”

“I don’t believe you. Is that why—?”

“Why, what? You want eggs or oatmeal? Why, what?”

“Nothing. Eggs. You too? Great. I’ll do the eggs.” Polly opened the fridge.

“Back in a shake. Have to rinse the bedspread.”

“I’ll do it. It was my fault.”

“Thought you’re doing the eggs? Get cracking. When I return, I’ll expect answers. Tut tut.”

* * *

“Grandma’s spread is good as new. It’s in the washing machine now. You still look like last week’s leftovers. Why couldn’t you sleep and why all the questions? Good. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

“Coffee?” Polly grabbed the pot and poured two cups. “Going to the attic today?”

“Tut tut. Come on. Clean slate. What’s on your mind?”

Her mouth full, the younger woman chewed and chewed. And chewed. Eyes growing by the minute, she swallowed hard. “I found something in one of the boxes last night.”

Eyes narrowed, Grace clutched the mug to her chest, still as a statue. “What?” Her voice gruff, she cleared her throat.

“It’s better I show you. Be right back.”

Lost in thought, Grace jumped at her sister’s reappearance. Polly thrust the paper under her nose. Studying her sister’s impassive face, she dropped into her chair. Arms around her torso, she rocked in place. The air sizzled with tension. Grace fanned herself with the birth certificate. The women stared at each other.

“Anything else in the box you found this?”

Polly blew out a breath. Her body sagged. The words spilled out in a tumble. “Know anything about this?” She gripped her fingers till the knuckles turned white.

Grandpa handed over the business banking to Uncle John when dad’s bad habits surfaced. The checks to cash were for his gambling debts. He paid them off in person, in cash. Uncle John didn’t want a paper trail.

“And the birth certificate? Why was brother Frank a secret?” Her voice, though a whisper, cracked.

Grace exhaled loud and long. “Mom couldn’t kick dad out, but she’d had it with him. He up and disappeared one day. Frankie was born a year before you, but he wasn’t right…died. You came seven years later.

“Before dad left—“

“No. Grandpa lived to see Frankie. Not grandma. It would have broken her heart. Everybody’s gone now. I’m glad I’m moving into a gated retirement community. Too many ghosts here. You should come.”

Polly shook her head, hand up open-palmed. “I don’t understand, then who…? Not Uncle John, of course, because he was…

“I guess he wasn’t.”

“He’s my fa…?”

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles