How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle Week 54 – Feather

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor / Fantasy

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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.


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.


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.


87 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Grown-ups – Week #151

For information how to join, click link below

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week151/

This week’s prompt is …as I rose in the dark… +100 words

100wcgu-72

WHO-WHO?

I tossed and turned, but sleep eluded me. A quivering shadow snaked past the window without crunching footfall. An owl hooted. As I rose in the dark, the front door exploded. Books and debris battered the walls and floor. Knick-knacks smashed and glass shattered. I dove beneath the covers.

Breath ragged and muscles cramped, sweat shot out of my every pore. I smelled bad. I’d once heard this cottage was haunted but— A Halloween trick, then?

“Derek—that you?”

The door slammed shut. Hair drenched, I peeked out and gasped air. Flashlight beams flickered about.

“Who’s there?”

Creak.

“Why are you in my bed?”

“Uncle Frank?”

 

© 2014 TAK


51 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Grown-ups – Week #141

To join in the fun, check  out

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week141/

This week’s prompt is ‘but there are so many seeds’ plus 100 words

100wcgu-72

SEEDS

Morgan paced, red lips set in a thin flat line. Clickety-clack, click. Three steps forward; two steps back. “How can she get away with this?”

“The public won’t have a clue.”

She whirled a scarlet nail towards her daughter, eyes black as onyx. “But there are so many seeds of half-truths and outright lies here.”

“This book is trash! Forget it.”

“Grievous insinuations—still, she didn’t name names…”

“So. Is it true about Warren Beatty? Who’s Cesare?”

“Ssh.” Morgan peered over her shoulder. “Where’s your father?”

“Why are you whispering?” Alexa jiggled flawless, penciled brows. “Spill.”

“Nothing to tell.” Arms folded, Morgan raised her designer chin.


27 Comments

Only Two Weeks Until Christmas

Are you still scrambling, as am I, checking off lists and / or scratching your head? Are you in a panic for that one stocking stuffer—something unexpected and special—the icing on the cake?

What the heck do you get Aunt Mary, or Betsy, or Uncle Phil? They have everything, right? I would like to make a suggestion.

First of all, sit down and take a deep breath. Feel better? I thought you might. I do not have a crystal ball and anyway, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’d likely drop and break it before I learned to read the messages within, but YOU can work some magic.

It is no mystery I am proud to suggest you click on over to http://redmundpro.com/book-store/ftp5/ and order copies of any one or all of the sizzling Flash Anthologies you’ll find at your fingertips.

Hurry. Time’s a-wasting and Christmas will not wait. Give the gift of laughter, bewilderment and surprise: small morsels wrapped inside as few as 50  and as many as only 150 words.

Go. Make your favorite people happy. If you wish to buy flash ebooks, use the code GIMME10 for 10% off through this month. Don’t forget #1 is always free.

OF SPECIAL NOTE:  Many of the authors of these anthologies donate their payments to MAGIC Foundation. http://magicfoundation.org which works around the world with children with growth and genetic disorders. True, yes?

Hurry while there is time. Check the right-hand bar on this page for a preview of all the lovely covers. There are now five to choose from.  Get them all. The latest is Finding the Path, but don’t stop there.

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