How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


65 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 47 – Prompt: Forest

To join in the fun and / or 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 aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat 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/orinclude 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.

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

chest-371386_960_720 Pixabay

Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 2

Part 1 here

Grace’s eyes swept the attic one last time. Enough for one day. Her sister grumbled, teetering on the ladder, an arm hugging a box and the other white-knuckling the beam.

“You okay, baby sister? What’s the matter? Out of shape?”  She stooped near the top of the folding ladder with a chuckle. Forehead glistening, Polly glared back, face a blistering red. “Going to live to your 60th birthday?” She shrieked with laughter till she choked with a coughing fit.

Polly stumbled to the floor below and released her box. Thump. Folded at the waist, she gasped for air, knees clutched as she heaved. “Make way. Coming down.” Grace sing-songed in a cheerful voice. The ladder quivered and creaked beneath her weight. Her sister already halfway to the kitchen, booted the box down the hall. A tap gushed water. A cupboard door slammed. Arms around her box, Grace peered around the corner. Her sister gulped water as if it might be her last chance to drink. She grinned and whacked the wall with the flat of her hand. Polly spun round, the glass grasped tight, eyes huge behind tiny granny glasses.

“Something in the dust you ate? Settle down, Grace. Aren’t you thirsty and tuckered out?” She grabbed another glass, filled it with water and handed it to her sister, who glugged it too. Simultaneously, the women dropped into chairs eyes locked on each other. Polly broke the stare first. Slamming her glass on the table, she giggled like a school girl. “You should see your face.” Yanking the kerchief off her head, she wiped her forehead. “I’m all sticky. Mind if I take a shower first?”

“Go. Where’s the day gone? I’ll rustle up something to eat. What do you feel like?”

“Surprise me.” Polly, rescued overnight bag in her hand, had made her way half-way to the bathroom, her voice faint.

* * *

 “How many boxes do you suppose there are?” Polly settled on the floor in front of the sofa, slicing the air with her mug. “A couple dozen?” Tucking the fluffy white robe from her sister’s guestroom around her knees, her chin pointed at the ceiling.

Eyes glazed, Grace shrugged in her pink velvet robe and stifled a yawn.

“Did you see the trunk buried beneath the boxes? I’m anxious to peek inside first thing tomorrow. What if it’s locked?”

“We’ll find a way.”

“Grace, are you all right? Too much, too soon? You haven’t had time to recuperate after the flu. Off to bed with you.” Led by the arm, her sister toddled down the hall to her room. “Sleep as long as you like. Don’t you dare get out of bed till you smell the morning coffee.” Polly pulled back the covers and padded the mattress. “First, hugs.”

The boxes in the living-room had lost their appeal. Plunked on the carpet like discarded presents, Polly eyed them with trepidation, but only for a moment. Ignoring her cooling coffee, she tore the top off the nearest box, her curiosity overpowering. Envelopes of bills and receipts bound with disintegrating elastic bands filled the box to the brim. Mouth pinched, she removed layer upon layer of envelopes. Disintegrating rubber crumbled in her hands and onto the gray carpet. On the bottom lay a large record book. She flipped through the pages, stopped and blinked. Wait a minute. What is Uncle John’s signature doing on the checks? The bills were in her grandfather’s name. Some checks were for five hundred and one for a thousand dollars made out to cash. Strange. Why cash and why such large amounts with Uncle John’s signature?

A page floated into her lap, less yellowed than the book pages. Light-headed as if floating in a dream, Polly dropped the book and unfolded the paper, heart clenched like a fist. Unable to focus on the writing, she closed her eyes. Why am I so nervous? This has nothing to do with me. Her head hurt as if gripped in a vice. She peered at the writing. A birth certificate? Still the words swam in a murky fog. She gripped the sheet and brought it to her nose. Too close. Back again, the words became clearer, sharper. Polly dropped the paper as if her hands burned and stared into space. Not possible. She covered her face, rocking against the foot of the sofa.  No. No. No.

Her cell chirped in her handbag on the sofa cushions. Not wanting to talk to anyone, she ignored the phone, but as always her curiosity won. She dug the cell out of her purse.  Tommy. Why didn’t he give up? How many times did she need to explain she liked her singlehood? Re-marrying was not in her future. She chucked the phone to the cushions concerned with more important matters.

This must be some kind of mistake. She planned to do a birth record search online, but not tonight, though tempted. This latest development had sucked the life out of her. Not confident she would sleep, Polly threw the paraphernalia back into the box anyway, shut off the lights, and tiptoed to the guestroom, the unsettling evidence clasped to her chest. She stopped at her sister’s door, her ear to sleeping mumbles. A chilling thought struck her. Sometimes, a forest of trees hides what you’ve always known or thought you had.  

To be continued

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


68 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 46 – Prompt: Indian

To join  and / or 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 aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat 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.

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

Attic Window Pixabay

Along Came Polly

Grace rolled up her sleeves. Where to start? The attic had twenty years of dust hugging every surface. The deep footprints she made reminded her of an old horror movie with no idea which one. She knotted a kerchief over short, auburn hair. Even this slight movement stirred a cloud of fine powder. A roaring sneeze shattered the spooky silence. Eyes stinging from the force of the unexpected eruption, she covered her face. No point putting off the inevitable anymore. She’d put the job off for weeks already. Moving day loomed large. So much to do in six short weeks. Grace uncovered her face and sneezed again. “Maybe I should vacuum first.”

The Kirby, too heavy to lug up and down the ladder, she loaded the old canister model into an orange plastic leaf bag, heaved it over her shoulder and mounted the ladder again. Good idea, but was there a plug? The low-watt, naked bulb hanging on a cord wasn’t much help. She scrambled down the rungs again for a better bulb and flashlight.

No matter how careful, she stirred gagging clouds in her path. The bulb, too hot to change, Grace flicked on the flashlight and ground her teeth. More slow work. Feathery cobwebs clung in clumps in the corners, undulating as she passed the light in columns over the wall surface. No plug on the first wall, nor the second. She stamped her foot, realizing too late what she’d done, and choked on particles of stirred up dirt, again. Shoulders slumped she wanted to give up. “Work with me,” she said with clenched teeth to the watching shadows. A distant sound from downstairs caught her attention. Head cocked she froze to listen. The muffled dong of her doorbell called to her. “I’m coming,” she said aloud though no one heard and grinned to herself. A reprieve. Down the ladder, she plunged fast as her throbbing legs carried her.

“I’m coming.” She wrenched open the door. “Polly—what a surprise. Come in. Come in.” Her sister, a fuchsia overnight bag at her feet, smiled wide, and threw open her arms. Grace blinked, chin tucked over her sister’s shoulder. “Your timing couldn’t be better. I finally made it to the attic but haven’t accomplished a thing today.”

“Isn’t that the reason you invited me?”

Grace stood back. Squinting, she studied the face before her. “I did? When?”

“A month or so—I think. I wondered what you’d find after all these years… If my missing diary might be in one of the boxes.”

Grace chuckled. The back of her hand erased the frown lines from her forehead. “I remember. Funny, I finally made it up there the day you decide to come. How long can you stay?”

Polly clutched her purse and luggage. “As long as you like. Phew. You smell like dust and mouse droppings. Tea first.” She dropped the small bag by the closet door and kicked off her sneakers. “Traffic was brutal. Seems the whole world is either going to the beach, cottage, or a driving vacation.” She swooped down the hall to the kitchen as if she lived there. “Supposed to be high eighties by the weekend.”

Grace already had cups out and the kettle on. The kitchen smelled like a bakery. A batch of cranberry bran muffins cooled on the counter from earlier that morning. “Guess we better put a dent into the junk upstairs before the heat hits. Muffin?”

“How’s it up there today?” Polly ran a hand through her mud-brown hair. “Like the cut?” She turned her head this way and that.

“Lovely.” Grace reached over to stroke the springy curls. “Dark and dusty. I found a plug up there for the vacuum. Hope it works.”

* * *

The plug worked fine. The women vacuumed and wiped down every surface with a dampened cloth. Polly wasted no time digging around inside boxes. “Why don’t we take some of the more interesting ones downstairs to poke through at our leisure?”

They worked in silence, the howl of the vacuum between them. Polly whooped over the noise. Grace switched off the power. “What?” Her eyes grew enormous.

Polly approached her sister. In each hand, she clutched two golf ball-size balls, all striped red, white and blue. “Remember these? Indian rubber, right? How many could you juggle? Three—no—four at a time.”

“Four. I must have been about nine? You wanted to sell tickets for a show starring yours truly. Already a wheeler-dealer at six.” A faraway look in her eye, Grace grabbed two balls, tossed one to the floor and snatched it as it sprang past her shoulder.

“Wheeler-dealer me. I wonder could you still do it?”

Grace shrugged. “Tennis balls were better for juggling off a wall, though. These babies kept punching me in the face until I acquired the proper feel for them.”

Polly giggled. “Remember the night Mom thought you’d been in a fight when you showed up with a black eye? She didn’t believe you blinked and slam!”

“It hurt like… Hey we’re done here.” Grace dropped their find into her apron pocket. “Pick a box. I’m curious what we’ll find—maybe even lovesick Polly’s teenage diary. Come on.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

 


67 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 45 – Prompt: Dive

To join  and / or 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 aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat 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.

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

woman-933488_960_720

Goldilocks?

An unusual number of parked cars clogged the street in front of her apartment. Sandy grumbled and turned left twice to the underground garage, at the back of the building. She reached for the remote but it wasn’t on the visor. “Where the…?” An impatient car horn sounded behind her and inched forward closer. She tapped her horn back at him. Wait. The driver laid on the horn again like there was a fire.

Though early spring and breezy, Sandy’s armpits soaked through her light jacket. Blinking in concentration, she pawed the passenger seat, in the crevices, and on the floor. No luck. Her head snapped at the thump on her driver’s window unable to identify the face bent towards her.

“Open the window.” A man’s voice growled the words, and pixel by pixel, she discerned a human face: short clipped beard, mustache, angry brown eyes, nose skimming the glass. “Well?”

She snapped into action and cranked the handle a couple times. “Sorry. I’ve misplaced my remote. Let me in with yours and I’ll be out of your hair.” She wound up the window, forced a smile and set her hands on the steering wheel. Eyes bulging, he threw his hands into the air. Muttering something colorful, he slapped the window again, and stomped off. Heart racing like a thundering locomotive, her focus on the garage door, Sandy gripped the steering wheel. The double-door creaked and yawned open. Without skipping a beat, she lurched forward and around the corner to her designated spot.

Parked, then out in a flash, she noted the remote on the floor on the driver’s side. She dashed towards the trunk, grabbed her parcels and raced to the elevator. She did not intend to share the pleasure of his company in such a cramped space. Before the door slid shut, a hand plunged to the button on the wall outside without success. Muscles tense and rigid, Sandy shrieked and watched the door slip to its final destination. “Yes!”

The elevator stopped on the third floor. Sandy grasped the handles on her shopping bags and backed into a corner. Old Ma Murphy, as the the tenants called her, tapped her way into the elevator, the splitting image of the famous Einstein. “Hello, dear. Don’t you look a fright. Everything okay?”

Sandy raised a clutch of bag handles to her chest and exhaled. “Sure. I’m good. Had a tense moment with a nasty driver.”

“One reason why I never took up driving, especially these days.” The door creaked shut an inch from Ma Murphy’s behind. She poked her cane at the scruffy carpet. “Mrs. Swain is home from hospital. In need of pleasant company, she said. Going to make her tea.”

Sandy glanced at the red floor numbers. Creak. Creak. They stopped on five. Old Ma Murphy pointed the stick at her packages. “Ever wonder if you spend too much money on nonsense?”  She said, “Tsk-tsk,” circled round and shuffled out, shaking her head. “Young people these days.” The door scraped to a close and rocked upward taking its sweet time to the 11th floor.

Her floor was empty.  Already smells of early suppers cooking reminded her she’d forgotten lunch. Dropping the bags in front of 1105, Sandy fished for keys in her purse. She came up empty. This isn’t happening. It’s not happening. Hairline damp, she stamped her foot and tried again. Teeth clenched, fingers fumbled and clawed. They closed around the key ring. A door slammed in the hall, but she didn’t look up. Instead, she stabbed the lock and pushed the door with more force than intended.

Inside, she leaned against the closed door, eyes and ears on alert. Something odd hung in the air. A sixth sense held her back, wary. There couldn’t be anyone else in the apartment. She’d made enough noise to wake up the dead, hadn’t she?

The kitchen on her right, she tiptoed inside. No one and nothing. Why is it, she wondered, when you think an intruder might be in your house you don’t run for help? Instead, you choke on your heart, crossing fingers no one’s there. She grabbed the meat cleaver off the counter and almost called out, ‘Is someone here?’ Stupid question. Would an intruder answer, ‘Yes, me, the intruder.’ Living- and dining-rooms clear. Nothing worth stealing anyway.

Short of collapsing from tension, Sandy crept down the hallway. Had she shut the bedroom door before going out? She turned the knob with exquisite care, and pushed in the door, not allowing it to slam. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. One door left: the bathroom. She listened. Not a sound. A strong aroma of orange blossom bubble bath enveloped her.

Beyond terror now, Sandy wrenched the door open. A body took a dive beneath the bubbles, red-painted toenails trailed in the air. She’d recognize them anywhere.

“Clarisse. What are you doing here?” Hand thrust in the water, she shoved the head down, panting and collapsed on the floor. “How’d you get in?”

The body popped up, short hair clinging to scalp and face, gasping for air. A pale hand swept across her eyes and over her forehead, teeth gleaming like piano keys. “What a way to greet your little sister. Don’t you check your texts? We’re celebrating your promotion.”

“How’d you get in?”

“You gave me a key, silly.” Clarisse arched ink-black brows and rolled her eyes. “I buzzed and buzzed until a cute guy with a beard and mustache let me in.”

Sandy dropped the cleaver and covered her face. “You almost gave me a stroke.”

“Drama queen. Out—and then it’s your turn. We have a double date tonight.”

“Who? Not…”

Clarisse wiggled wet eyebrows.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


42 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 44 – Prompt: Worm

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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 linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude 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.

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

happy-new-year-1105854_960_720

Initiation

The clock said ten past noon, but it was five o’clock somewhere, right? Tara twirled the generous celery stalk in her Bloody Caesar in careless coils, head in a fog. A splodge of drink splashed onto the island countertop. She ran a finger over the wet splosh and plunged it into her mouth. Waste not; want not. She didn’t laugh.

The highball glass clasped against her chest, she circled to the window over the kitchen sink. Hefty storm clouds gathered thick and low, gray as grimy mop water. Freezing rain blistered the glass and refused to abandon the pane. Like me. Frozen, grasping. She swirled the celery again and took a bite. Lifting the glass to eye level, she said aloud, “Happy New Year Baby,” and took a swig of Clamato and vodka, the reckless splash of hot sauce a slow burn down her throat. Her eyes bulged. A hack attack overtook her. She reached for more Clamato, then vodka, but put it down again. Today I celebrate January 1st. Alone. No need to get plastered and maudlin.

Tara shook her head. Waves of chocolate-colored hair grazed her shoulders and danced around her somber, pixie face. Something click-clicked in the silent house. She held her breath, froze listening—not the storm—what then? The creak of the front door and a jangle of keys—and brazen footsteps. Fixed to the ceramic floor like a post, she shot out a hand to ward off the intruder. “You!” The word exploded out her throat, leaving her weak and baffled. She set the glass on the island and slumped her petite frame over the surface to brace herself.

He halted mid-stride, his back stiffened. “Hi-dee-ho and all that.” The smile slipped a degree and lifted again. “Seems I’m in time for cocktails and lunch?” He looked about. “Maybe?”

“You have a nerve. Get out. Get out.” Tara glowered, staring him down with every ounce of strength in her hundred and five pound body. ”You copied the keys?”

“Settle down. I came to wish you all the best for the upcoming year.”

“Answer the question.” Her color bloomed from flushed to flame-red. Fists clutched into knots, she banged the island’s laminate top. “You copied the keys? How dare you?”

He had the grace to blush to the roots of his blond crewcut. Coat unbuttoned, he bounced from heels to toes, an innocent smile plastered across the face she once found attractive. “Let’s not fight. Fix me one of those, will you?”

Tara gasped, disbelief on her face. “Where did you think I’d be when you planned to rifle through my house? The divorce is final. You don’t live here anymore.”

Plunging hands deep into his pants pockets, Harry lifted colorless brows as if in surprise. “Where else would you be in this weather?”

“Liar. You thought my mother’s.”

“You used to be a sweet, loving woman. My, you’ve changed… Drinking alone in the middle of the day… Won’t share a drink with your husband…”

“Ex. Ex-husband.” To control her internal tsunami, Tara wrapped jelly-like arms around her middle and leaned against the sink cupboard. “You’re a liar and now a thief. How I allowed you to worm your way into my life, I’ll never understand. Once was more than enough. You’re nothing but a worm with a capital W, a sneak, a schemer. How had I been so blind?”

He altered his gaze from side to side and back again, everywhere except her face. “All’s I want is my wine-making kit. The one my brother gave me.”

Her voice harsh, Tara croaked out a hoarse laugh. “You had plenty of time to claim it all. Everything’s gone.”

“What do you mean, gone? Gone where?”

“Gone. Gone. Hand me the keys. Now.” She lurched forward, open-palmed, teeth gritted till they ached.

He blinked in quick succession and rocked on the balls of his feet. “Who’s the thief, Tara? Gone where?” His voice shook, squeaked like a child’s.

“Keys first.” She drew in a ragged breath, and waited, shoulders taut. A headache hammered at her temples.

He blanched, a lost expression on his face for the first time in the year since divorce proceedings began. Tara’s heart softened. No. His scheming…

“But my brother ordered it for me special.”

“Harry, you better sit.” She guided him to the kitchen table and chairs where they’d enjoyed many a meal during their seven-year marriage. “I’ll get you water.” He remained immobile, a stature carved from stone. “Here. Drink up.” He blinked at the glass, but didn’t lift a hand.

“I never believed you’d go through with it.” He plucked at the crease in his pants, muttering as if to himself.

Tara dropped into a chair facing him knee to knee. “I feel terrible. I do. The thing is you had nine long months to collect the rest of your things. How many times had I reminded you? Two months ago, I cleared out the basement and garage and hauled everything to Salvation Army.”

“Two months?”

“Yup. A week after I asked you the last time and mere days before the decree absolute.” I don’t want to feel bad for you. Leave. Go already.

“How’s about a shot of vodka instead?” His chin pointed to the water.

She scrutinized his face, gauging her next move. “Okay, one shot, and you leave. I’ll not join you in a drink.”

He considered for a nanosecond and searched her face as if he’d never seen her before. “When did you get so tough? I remember the ‘fraidy cat who jumped at her own shadow.” He sprang from the chair. “One for the road and I’m out of here.” She snatched the bottle and poured.

He gulped it in one swallow, stared at the empty glass, and slammed it on the counter.

“Hi-dee-ho.” He grabbed his coat.

“Harry, didn’t you forget something?”

“What?”

“My keys? I won’t ask for my razor back.”

* * *

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.


39 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 33 – Prompt: Lurk

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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 linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude 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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

IMG_2361

Previously:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Choices

Part 5

 

“What’s going on?” Carol hovered at the top of the stairs.

Steve slipped both hands into his pant pockets. “Seems the neighbor can’t open her door.” His wife tore down the stairs and peered over his shoulder.

“Victoria. What’s wrong?” She grabbed the doorknob.

“Let me.” Her husband’s hand covered hers. He shouldered his way past.

“Can you fix it?” She grabbed his sleeve.

“Don’t know the problem yet.”

Straightening her shoulders, Victoria spun round, lips like a hyphen. Will this night never end? She punched numbers into her phone. “I’m calling a locksmith. Thanks anyway.”

“A locksmith at this time of night? Maybe Steve can help.” Carol stepped outside. Steve was already turning up the adjoining driveway.

“Hello. For some reason, my key doesn’t work.” She raised a forefinger, then changed it to an open palm. “Yes, it’s a deadbolt.” She turned from her waist as if to shield her conversation from the man standing two feet from her. “I see. I did hear a loud clunk on my way out earlier.” She nodded and gave her address. “Thanks.”

Since the rain had dissipated, the night air seemed warm, the of scent fall’s leaves pungent, a reminder winter hung in the background. Carol lingered behind the privet. “Come over for coffee till they get here.”

“Thank you. It’ll be only fifteen or twenty minutes. The locksmith lives close by.” She studied her shoes a moment till Steve turned to leave.

His wife safe in the house making preparations, Steve paused at the bottom of the driveway. Victoria stumbled, reached out a hand to prevent a full body collision. “What’s your problem? Why do you hate me?”

His jaw set in a hard line, he stared her down, eyes cold and steadfast. “You don’t remember me.”

Her head shot up. “Remember you? I know nothing about you. I’m new in town, remember?”

“You best think on it.” He gave an ugly laugh. “Let’s go or the wife will think we’re up to no good.” He snorted and jogged up his drive leaving Victoria on the sidewalk, mouth dropped wide enough to catch fireflies.

“Honey, I’m ho-ome.” He yanked the door open wide. “You coming?”

“What are you two up to out there?” Carol gazed down from the kitchen landing

“Don’t lurk, Carol. It doesn’t become you. We were discussing the problem with her door.”

Victoria rushed in and squeezed past Steve. “Sorry, dear neighbor. My brain’s sawdust. I’m dying for a coffee. The baby’s doing well. Still sleeping?”

Carol nodded. “So far, so good. Sit.” She pointed to the set table.

“Thank you. Nice. Can you believe it’s after 10:00 already? I hope the locksmith is as good as his word.”

Steve hung back, shoving hands into pockets and removing them again. He slumped into the chair next to his wife, across from Victoria, who buried her nose in her mug sipping the hot liquid.

“How long have you lovebirds been married?”

Carol beamed and reached out to caress her husband’s forearm. “One and a half years.”

Victoria blinked to cover her surprise. “I see.”

“My first husband and I divorced. Enough said. What about you?”

“Divorced. Do you mind a nosey question about Sylvie?”

“You mean why doesn’t she talk? She’s always been a quiet child—like her father—she talked around age three, then less when Sarah started talking. By the time Ryan arrived, she’d stopped completely.”

Wide-eyed, Victoria searched the girls’ mother’s  face across the table. She clamped her mouth shut, but couldn’t break eye contact.

“We had her checked. Physically she’s fine and has no hearing problems. The doctor wants to send her to a therapist, but feels she’ll talk when she’s ready.”

Honk. Honk.

“Must be the locksmith. Thanks. Talk later. Bye.” She sprang out of the chair, grabbed her belongings and flew out the door, slamming the wood and storm doors harder than necessary. An A to Z Locksmith Please van glowed white next to her house. A short male with thinning hair nodded in her direction. “Take your time.”

Breathless she explained about the clunk when she’d slammed her door earlier.

“Tube door?”

“Yes.”

 

“Could be the key cylinder fell inside the door.”

* * *

The next morning, mousey brown hair gathered in a ponytail, Victoria lugged groceries through her now fixed side door. Steve slipped outside as she ran out for another load. “You almost gave me heart seizure.” Jaw clenched she ignored him and proceeded with her task.

Leaning against the house, he glanced over his shoulder. “We need to talk.”

“Nope.”

“Let me ask you one thing. Is your father’s name Stephen Hackett?”

She flinched, tightening her grip on the groceries. “He died five years ago. What’s it to you?” She lowered the bag back into the trunk. “What do you want?”

“Didn’t your mama never tell ya to look the person you’re talking to in the eye?  Look at me when I’m talking. Think. Better go inside.”

Victoria gaped like a baby bird working its beak, waiting to be fed.

* * *

Little did Victoria know what lay in store when Carol invited her to dinner a week later. The food was delicious, the company pleasant, yet an electric tension crackled in the air.

Over Spanish coffee, Steve cleared his throat and dropped the bomb. “We played as children a handful of times. You were twelve and I nine. Do you remember me?”

Victoria strained to read his face. “No-o.”

“My mom delivered Avon and saved old samples for you?”

“Vaguely.” She squirmed in her seat, hands clutched in her lap.

“We were poor and I hated you who had everything. I couldn’t believe when you moved here. Small world.”

Carol stroked his arm.

Victoria frowned. “Why…?”

“Stephen Hackett was my father. Ditched us like yesterday’s leftovers when I came along. Didn’t give us one crummy dime in support. Went back to his real family. You got it all, and me—nothing—not even him.

The End

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


45 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 32 – Prompt: Mars

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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 linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude 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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Choices

Part 4

Sporting a practiced smile, Victoria smoothed Sylvie’s brow. “Sleep.” She straightened like an automaton and headed for the door. Hand on the jamb, she glanced over her shoulder. Good. The girl’s breathing sounded steady and even.

Heart strumming like a Spanish guitar, she sprinted down the hall to the kitchen. A car door slammed. She seized her purse and coat off the chair, but froze when a key slid into the lock and Steve bounded in, but halted with a jerk at the top of the steps, a foot suspended in mid-air. Cocky as a barnyard rooster, he plastered on a smirk.

“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” He wiggled bristly black brows pantomiming the likes of Groucho Marx of vaudeville and slapstick fame.

Clearing her throat, Victoria proceeded to throw on her coat. “Maybe you should first ask where your wife is. She’s at the hospital with the baby.”

“What’s wrong with my son?”

“All I know is he has a high fever and won’t stop crying.” She bit her lip. With the little contact she’d had him, she’d never looked at his face. She did now, startled by his puzzled voice. He had that suave dark look about him Latin men exuded, but on him it came off as arrogant. A curl hung down his forehead adding to the Sal Mineo look she’d seen in old movie magazines her mother still hoarded.

“Your wife took a cab to Emerge. I’ll stay with the girls if you want to find her.”

“I wouldn’t mind spending more time with the girls either.” He crossed burly arms across a broad chest, leaned against the door frame, and snorted.

“Keep your tone down.” Fists clenched till her nails cut into her palms, Victoria listened for activity from the bedrooms. “It’s the least I can do as repayment for the other day.”

“Cozy. Already we’re exchanging favors. What’s next? Christmas cards?”

Mouth flapping like a fish out of water, words failed her. Victoria slapped her purse and tried again.” What is wrong with you? Where have you been living? Mars?”

Steve rocked back on his heels squinting down his nose at her. “Little Miss Perfect has all the answers.”

“Wha…?”

“I got a wife needs me.” Nostrils flared, he blew a noisy breath. Color rose in his cheeks as he spun away and down the stairs in a huff.

Victoria fanned trembling fingers against her breastbone. What’s his problem? This has to stop.

Lost in thought, muffled voices dragged her back to the present. Whipping off her coat, she tip-toed towards the sound. Talking, then laughter. Sylvie wasn’t in her bed. Victoria gasped, a fist to her mouth. By the light of the half-opened bathroom door, she made out two forms in Sarah’s bed, her older sister’s head on her shoulder while she mumbled in her sleep. Mesmerized by the sleeping twosome, she remembered three sisters cramped in a bed during her own youth, out of necessity not choice.

She dared peek into the bathroom mirror and shrank back. She might as well be naked: face pale as a ghost without her usual makeup and lips bloodless and grey as a corpse. Instead of crying with humiliation, she hastened to laugh inwardly. This is last minute after all, an emergency.

Back in the kitchen, she paced, looked around for a book, a magazine. Anything. The wall clock above the art-cluttered fridge showed 9:15 p.m. She flicked on the light in the living-room. A stack of movie magazine littered the coffee table. She laughed out loud. Carol and her mother were cut from the same cloth. She grabbed the heap and settled into a kitchen chair. First, tea called to her.

Victoria checked the kettle, plucked a mug from the drain board, and rummaged in her purse for the Ziploc bag of teabags she carried. The kettle shrieked. She poured the water and jumped sky-high at a disruptive jangle. Water spilled all over the counter. Oh great! It buzzed again; the ringing insistent. She threw a tea towel on the flood and followed the noise.

“Hello?” She stretched and twirled the black cord around her fingers. “How’s the baby?” Victoria let go and watched the rubber covered wiring spring back to its original curly shape. “Wonderful news—yes, he left here about ten minutes ago.” The clock on the fridge wall read 9:33 p.m. “See you soon.”

Victoria cleaned up the wet mess on the counter. The tea cooled past her liking, she drank it anyway, rinsed the mug and returned it to its last place. The magazines returned to the coffee table, she dropped into a kitchen chair to wait already checking her cell for missed calls or messages. Nothing. A yawn reminded her how long the day had been.

A distant, but building drone, fragmented the silence. Soon the noise drowned out the steady tick tock of the clock. A car door slammed, and then another. A murmur of voices outside and then inside the kitchen. The baby asleep, Carol smiled wide, eyes shining. Dressed and prepared to flee, Victoria squeezed her arm as she headed to the door.

“Wait. Don’t go yet. Back in a sec.”

Steve gave her a darting gaze and disappeared down the hall.  Victoria shifted her weight and admired the floor.

“Would you like tea and a sweet?”

“Maybe another time. You must be tired. Goodnight.”

Nerves dancing a rumba, Victoria hastened down the drive. She blew out a breath unaware she’d been holding it. She slipped her key into the lock.

Nothing turned. Nothing touched. Nothing moved.

She stomped on the rubber door mat and flapped her hands.

“Problems?” The nasal voice dripped with sarcasm over the low privet fence, separating their properties.

To be continued

 

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


58 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 31- Prompt: Scar

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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 linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude 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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

Part 1

Part 2

Choices – Part 3

Victoria shut off the hallway light at the top of the stairs, and hesitated. She tiptoed to the bedroom window, the way illuminated by the streetlight across the road. Nerves tighter than a cat’s, she giggled and slapped a hand over her mouth. She crept to the window, but couldn’t see a living being through lazy rivulets of dark rain. No matter how she smooshed her face against the glass, it wasn’t possible to see straight down.

She drew the curtains and felt around for the bedside light switch. Except for the tick-tock of her wind-up clock, no other sounds came within hearing range. Heartbeat slowed to match the clock, she collapsed on the bed. Victoria stared at the ceiling oblivious of its existence.

A small displacement on the mattress beside her shoulder interrupted her reverie. Time had stood still for only a couple minutes. It was 7:37 p.m. “Marmaduke. See anything out there?” The tom settled on all fours as if ready to pounce, blinked and wiggled his ears. His head moved back and forth not unlike someone searching for the right words to announce bad news. “Guess I’m the only ‘fraidy cat here.” The cat stretched a hind leg and groomed himself.

“I might as well get into bed and catch up on my reading. Be right back.” Victoria rolled off the bed with the cat at her heels.

While brushing her teeth, the day’s latter events crossed her mind. She’d called a taxi to deliver her key to the auto club. By day’s end, two young studs, driving in tandem, delivered the car to the office after closing. Gold Membership had its merits. At last she smiled into the mirror, toothpaste trailing down her chin. Marmaduke turned tail and sashayed away, tail high in the air.

An insistent pounding on the side door erased the smile. Now what? She grabbed a towel, stumbled down the stairs, and stopped. The cat already waited below the stairs by the side door. She peered around the corner though a yellow cotton curtain covered the door’s upper window.

“Please help me.” A voice muffled and sobbing pleaded.

Victoria sprang into action, seized the cat,  and wrenched open the door. “What’s wrong? Come in. Come in. I thought you were at the school. I didn’t hear your car return.”

The wind carried the baby’s bawling from next door. “We didn’t go. Steve’s not home. My baby’s sick and a cab’s coming… to the hospital. Can you please watch my girls? They’re already in bed…”

“Sure, sure. Here’s the cab. I’ll hurry.” Victoria charged upstairs for her cell and purse. She yanked her coat out of the hall closet. Tenting it over her head against the fine mist, she slammed the door. What was the clunk when the door banged shut?

She noted the driver had parked too close to the house. The neighbor’s side door wide open, she raced inside and up the stairs. The layout different here, she stepped into the kitchen. Mother and howling baby careened towards her. “Careful. You don’t want to trip.”

“ThankyouI’mCarol. You’re a life-savor. Can’t reach my mother either.” The women held on to each other, one cradling her baby, the other supporting his mother. The cab driver didn’t exit the car to help the struggling women. Or open the back door. “Get in on the driver’s side.” Victoria rushed back to the house. The taxi reversed down the drive.

I’m in a stranger’s house whose husband gives me the creeps. What if he comes back before she does? The thought stuck like a scar.

She’d kicked off her wet shoes at the door. Barefoot in the center of the kitchen, she surveyed her surroundings. The furnishing was neat, but in need of serious updating. The kitchen cabinets begged sanding and repainting or complete replacement. Chipped paint and cracked doors frowned in embarrassment. Countertops showed wear past their due date and the floor tiles were of the old asbestos type. The sense of someone watching jolted her heartbeat. No-one else in the house but the girls, right?

A glance over her shoulder triggered an involuntary gasp. “Sylvie. I thought you were asleep.” Except for worried hands clutching and unclutching each other, the girl stood rooted to the spot, eyes glazed and unblinking.

“You remember me, right? You and Sarah came to visit the day I moved in?”

Her nod, though slight, proved she understood.

“You wonder why the baby stopped crying and why I’m in your house?”

Another slight nod. Eyes blinked shut for an instant and flicked open. The hands slowed their twisting. “Your momma took a taxi to the hospital with your brother. He’s sick. Want me to tuck you in?”

The girl gaped about as if looking for something. Or someone.

“Your daddy isn’t home either. That’s why I’m here.”

The girl tilted her head, brow furled in thought. Victoria held her breath and waited. I don’t know a thing about kids. Hope I don’t spook her.

Sylvie loosened her hands, smoothed her long pink princess nightie, with tiny steps approached her and grabbed her hand. With a shy smile to break many hearts to come, she tugged till Victoria followed. In the bedroom’s doorway, a long forgotten question popped into her head. “Do you need the bathroom before bed?

The girl shook her head.

“No school Saturday but a girl needs her beauty sleep.” Victoria smiled and pulled back the covers. The girl slipped in, eyes wide and searching. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here till someone comes home. Sleep tight. Maybe you and sister Sarah will visit again soon.”

Sylvie smiled. Sarah twitched and sighed in her sleep in the other bed.

The long-suffering roar of a mutilated tailpipe shredded the quiet night.

To be continued

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


62 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 30 – Prompt: Reach

To meet the mind behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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 linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude 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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

I’ve decided to expand last week’s story titled Choices. Read Part 1 here.

 

“Sit tight.” He thundered past to turn around. The shake and rattle faded with distance, but not for long.

Oncoming headlights of a single car pierced the shroud of hammering rain against her windshield. The wipers quit upright in mid-sweep as if stunned. Steve’s car howled closer behind her and stopped alongside. Victoria bit her lip, but scurried out of her car into the waiting and open door beside her. The stink of stale cigarettes, wet rags, and rancid grease punched her in the face before she shut the door. Phew.

“Good thing you came around the corner close to the sidewalk. I’d hate to push your car in this rain. ” Where to? His eyes roamed her huddled frame without apology.

“The Bradley Assurance Building downtown. Please.”

“Didn’t your mother never tell ya to look the person you’re talking to in the eye? What a scared little mouse you are.” He hooted and bobbed.

The grating voice in her ear over the earsplitting broken-Mack-truck noise gave her a headache. Purse to chest, she withdrew a hand to press against the drumbeat in her head. She sucked in a deep breath through her mouth, snapped on the seatbelt, and drew herself up straighter in the bucket.

“Let’s not talk.”

“Get over yourself, will ya?” He whipped a smoke out of his breast pocket.

“You’re not going to smoke that!”

He smirked and narrowed his eyes. “My car. My rules. Seems to me I’m already doing you a favor—What’s that saying about beggars and such?” He tapped the cigarette tip on the steering wheel and stuck it into the corner of his mouth.

Victoria sank deeper into the seat. Someone’s horn sounded over the cacophony in her head. She peered out the window. The traffic around them had swelled. Rain still swamped the windshield. Whish-whoosh, the wipers labored. Swoosh-whish. The wail of an ambulance drew closer. Steve eased to the curb with the rest of the traffic. He didn’t light the smoke.

“If ya hafta know, I quit for the third time a week ago. Sucking on these babies calms me down, ya know.” He turned to her with a lecherous grin. “You look like a drowned cat…”

She flinched and sidled closer to the passenger door, forehead to the cool window. The ambulance passed and commuters snaked forward again.

“Touchy-touchy. I’m telling ya like it is so you can fix yourself when you get to work.”

“Where are you going? This is the wrong way.” Victoria hated the shrill sound of her voice.

Eyes ready to burst out of her head, she jerked forward, hands raised toward the dash. The seatbelt restrained her.

Steve withdrew the soggy cigarette and shook with silent laughter. “I knew it. You’re a scared little mouse, aren’t ya? I’m going around the block to drop you in front of the building, not across the street.”

“Oh.”

“About your car? Want me to take care of it?”

“No-no. I’ll call the auto club. You’ve been more than helpful. Your wife must be worried what’s keeping you. Can’t thank you enough.” The front door of her building came into view. Soggy pedestrians with dripping umbrellas high-stepped around each other in squelching shoes.

Steve flicked on his signal and edged to a sloshing stop and flung his hand on the back of her bucket seat. He jiggled black caterpillar brows at her. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

“What are you—sixteen? It’s a figure of speech. Doesn’t mean what you’re thinking.” She wrenched open the door and stumbled into a river of streaming water searching for any opening along the curb.

“Careful now.” He snickered.

Without a backward glance, she slammed the door and sloshed her way up the stairs joining bedraggled employees rushing through the revolving doors. She charged forward, collapsing her umbrella and squeezed into an already crowded elevator. I hope my presentation goes better than my ride with Steve.

* * *

Dry and warm after a long disheartening day, Victoria curled up on the sofa, a tall Spanish coffee on the side table, a book, and Marmaduke in her lap. The now cold rain riddled the windows as if tired from plunging all day. She stroked the cat’s silky head. He leaned in against her palm and purred in a stupor. Now and again he shivered in delight. “Aren’t you my sweet, sweet boy?” One eye opened to examine her, a look of scorn on his face. He gave a heavy sigh and closed it.

“What’s with you, cat? Little Sarah next door said you look like a cow. You didn’t make faces at her.” The Tom shifted and coiled into a compact rope, paw pressed over his eyes. “A cow, she said. Good point, I think.” She poked the fur ball in a shoulder, but he ignored her.

“What a horrible day it’s been. Don’t let me start about our dreadful neighbor. I wanted to reach over and wipe the smirk off his face. Permanently.”

“Shh. What’s that?” Her knees bounced skyward; the cat bolted to his favorite window. Victoria’s heart hammered in her ears. Tiny hair she didn’t know she had, prickled on the back of her neck. Chest tight, her knees turned to water when her feet hit the floor. Rain fell with a lazy trickle now. Someone or something was poking around outside. Thank goodness she’d closed the drapes. No. The silly cat left an open space when he jumped on the window sill. She grabbed her cell, and paraphernalia, and switched off the lights on her way upstairs.

Nobody’s home next door. They’re at the parent-teacher meeting at the school. What on earth did they have to do with anything?

It wasn’t them she meant. It was Steve. She didn’t trust him.

 

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


49 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 29 – Prompt Ride

The brains behind this challenge can be found at

#BlogBattle

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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 linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude 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 this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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

Choices

Victoria hated long-distance driving. Hazel eyes gritty, she pulled into her new street and coasted to the curb. The red brick house still charmed her as much as the first time she’d seen it a month earlier. The realtor must have hired someone to trim the lawn and sweep the driveway. Was that a special service? She blinked bleary eyes for moisture and chuckled. Birds twittered along the tree-filled road graced with only eleven houses and an elementary school tucked in one corner of the dead-end street. She flicked off the car radio and gaped with wonder. The sun sneaked over the horizon. Sleepy heads lingered in dreamland in the safety of their beds early on this Saturday.

Six months ago, Victoria wouldn’t have imagined any of the recent changes in her life: a promotion, the move 600 miles to a strange town and a house. A house, not an apartment. She released the brake and drifted into the driveway, the Chevy’s motor a soft purr.

Meow.

“We’re home, Marmaduke. Come on. I’ll show you around.” She glanced into the rear-view mirror before slipping out of the car. She vibrated with excitement.

Meow.

She grasped the cat carrier from the back seat, keys already pointed towards the side door. “Gotcha. You’re going to love it here. So will I.”

The side entrance area was small, understandable for an 80-year-old house. She tripped up the handful of stairs to the main floor. “Oooh.” The living-room furniture had been arranged the way she’d planned in her head: the taupe sofa in the center of the space, facing the fireplace, her black area rug laid between the two. Down the hall boxes marked ‘kitchen’ cluttered the counters. The table and chairs were arranged for instant use. A huge basket wrapped in cellophane sat dead center. Coffee, tea, and mugs waited within. No need to search through her own boxes yet.

Meow. 

“I know, sweetie.” Zip. “Out you come.”

The white and ginger-smudged cat poked his head out and sniffed, pointed face cautious. He leaped towards the couch, changed direction and looped down the hall to investigate. Victoria stepped out to the car for her coffee-maker and luggage. While the coffee brewed, she slipped upstairs. Her bed set up beneath the sloped ceiling in the story-and-a-half awaited only sheets and blankets. “Oooh, Sam, what a jewel you are.” The spare bedroom had also been put to rights.

She’d anticipated the movers’ arrival first due to her own late start and the realtor had agreed to let them in, but this was far beyond her expectations. Too early now, but I must call Sam before lunch to thank her.

* * *

Marmaduke sprang out of her arms into a Meerkat look-out stance. She clutched at the cat, but he escaped to her feet, front paws on the armrest. He gawked at the intruders, tail thumping against the cushion. Victoria sat up and locked eyes with two raggedy children in her living-room’s threshold, hands clutching each other.

“Hello.” She rubbed her eyes. It was still daylight. Noting the mug too close to the edge of the coffee table, she pushed it back to safety. Guess I fell asleep… She swallowed a yawn.

“Your cat gots spots like a cow. You gots kids?” The shorter girl peered over her shoulder and stepped forward dragging her older sister along. The taller girl’s eyes grew by the second.

“No, I don’t. What are your names?”

“I’m Sarah—I’m four. That’s Sylvie—she’s seven. She don’t talk.”

“Nice to meet you. How’d you get in?”

Sarah giggled into her hand. “We comed in the door. You gots cookies?”

Victoria shook her head. “I just moved in—haven’t bought groceries yet. Where’s your mother?”

“She’s asleep on the bed with my brodder. He’s our new baby.”

“Where do you live?”

“Next door.” Sarah pointed in the direction of the side door. The girls spun round and raced down the stairs and outside before Victoria hopped off the sofa to follow. She watched the ragamuffins sprint down her drive hands clasped as if glued together.

From an all adult building to a house and now to kids in the neighborhood… What a ride the last month’s been. I hope this isn’t a mistake.

* * *

Marmaduke swooped from one window sill to another till he’d settled on the one fronting the street. “Say hello to the school kids for me since I’ll never see them.” Victoria stroked his head before leaving each morning at 7:00 and sometimes long after suppertime upon her return. The cat settled in the same spot all day seemed to never move.

Over the next month, she saw little of the neighbors except in passing, but she heard plenty through her open windows during the early fall. The baby bawled loud and hearty. His father, Steve’s rusty Ford broadcast its comings and goings with a howling muffler.

One Friday morning the sky opened up and gushed rain as if it might never stop. Victoria became drenched in the short sprint to her car. Running late, she gunned the Chevy out of the driveway and around the corner, where it quit. Not another vehicle in sight, she tried starting it. No luck. Again. Nothing.

She whipped out her phone to call CAA, but couldn’t hear for the deafening noise. Passing in the opposite direction, her neighbor, Steve, stopped and smirked. He wound down his window as did she. “Need a ride?”

Her head bobbed like a dashboard dummy. What choice did she have?

 

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


48 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 26

Check out the originator of this challenge at

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The rules are easy:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – 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!

~ * ~

This week’s prompt:  Head

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

* * *

Grandpa Jones

The house looked more tired than a couple years earlier when I’d last driven past. I braked, tumbled out of the car and gawked. My feet plodded across the gravel country road as if drawn by a magnet.

Angry shouts rang out. Hands hammered bare wood. The racket rose from the old house across the road. I broke into a run. Old Grandpa Jones still occupied the hovel, a well-shared joke in the county, though no-one had seen Grandma in years.

It turned out Grandpa wanted out and pushed on the front door knob but it wouldn’t budge. He cussed and kicked without success. For one thing the door opened inward and he pushed out. It was also warped more than ever since the recent rain; the only door in or out of the house.

“Let me outta here. Let me out.” A gummy voice bawled inside. Open palms slapped the door.

“Calm down, old man. Step away from the door.” I expected it to crumble from the blows on the other side, but it held fast. “Stand clear. I’ll put a shoulder to it.”

The quiet on the other side yawned loud.

The warped door groaned but didn’t shift a sliver in its frame, yet I felt rather than heard disintegration within where my shoulder encountered the wood and pitched me forward. Ow. that hurt. I folded over my knees to catch my breath and regroup. Overhead, the door shattered as a chair seat bulged through a hole inches from my face. The chair yanked out, rheumy eyes stared at me through the splintered gap.

No-one knew Grandpa’s age, but for a reedy fellow with a bedraggled beard, greasy white hair and no teeth, he appeared strong and tenacious.

“I guess you didn’t need my help after all.” I had to talk though I’m a man of few words.

“I can’t get out through this here hole. Get my axe in the woodshed.” He pointed a thickened, yellow nail to the left. “Move along young man. That-a-way.”

I took one last look at what one might call his abode with kindness. I wondered what held the wood fibers together and conjured up spider spit and dirt. The weary shack had no business standing at all.

I spun round and gave the house another gander. The structure had sunk lop-sided and cockeyed. No-one had seen it happen, but I heard talk the recent hard rains were responsible for the slippage of a lot of the old properties. It’s a wonder the wind hadn’t shoved once too hard leaving a confusion of dried kindling strewn about, yet it had hung on like a drunk weaving in the elements, loose and somewhat upright.

“Stop gaping, young man. Action gets the job done. Move it.” My face burned. The old man’s impatience took me back to childhood days when everything I did was open to criticism. I forced myself forward and rushed back with an ancient, rusted axe.

“Stand back,” I said.

Grandpa Jones had other plans. “Give it to me, handle first. It’s my house and I’ll wreck it any way I must.”

I learned something that day. You can’t judge any exterior by appearance or your pea brain idea of it, man or structure. I also experienced the shock of my life.

Grandpa Jones axed the door. His vigorous thrusts shook the house to quivering. Each lunge of the axe sent the house lower, the mud still fresh from the latest rain. He’d demanded I leave with no thank you, but I sat in my car instead and watched. Why, I will never know. I laughed and laughed—thought I’d lost my head. And then, it happened.

Noise to my ears rather than pleasure, birds and crickets sounded louder and busier. I hadn’t noticed them earlier. Though mid- morning, the temperature had shot upwards. I whipped out my trusted hanky to dry my forehead and had already removed my suit jacket. The crack of the axe continued. Ticked by the old man’s ingratitude, I started the engine. I glanced back one last time. A groan and rumble stopped me. The outdated shelter collapsed, tumbling into itself. My heart plunged. Stupid old man.

I rushed towards the house.

Please don’t let the old man die.

* * *

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