How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


8 Comments

Rocky Mountaineer: Now What?

So ends the excitement of an excursion nearly a year-and-a-half old. I relived this trip in the sharing and feel letdown like you do when your vacation is over and it’s time to unpack and go back to regular life.

Thank you for taking the time to visit, read, and comment. My deepest apologies for not joining in the conversation. I have not been online regularly for numerous reasons. My focus in life has changed; I’m on the go and not often home as I had prior to going MIA. Again, I am overwhelmed, my finger in too many pies but life changes and we must adapt.

Railtrail Path pointers Railtrail Oct2018

I have joined a writers’ group but have not produced anything new in over a year. I finally began a new piece I struggle writing at the 1350-word mark. I began about a week ago and am thrilled to pieces. Thought I’d lost my mind until now because I couldn’t sit still long enough nor think clearly to compose a coherent sentence.

Railtrail fall dead trees IMG_4756 Oct2018

The end of July, I had to let my cat Dickens go. One day he was fine and three days later, he was full of water. His heart was strong, so that wasn’t it. It could have been his liver or maybe cancer, the vet said. I recalled much later that he had started the sniffles again. The vet also said they could draw the water but it would come back. Dickens and I adopted each other January 24, 2015, when he was about a year and a half. I had no idea he had FIV and gum disease but we worked through that. Though Lady Gaga gave him a hard time, she’s still needy as heck and wanders around the house crying when not snoozing.

There have been many surprises and roadblocks in the past year-and-a-half. I still haven’t new glasses except for cheaters and can tolerate the laptop screen only for short sprints. I would like to read more, too. Sigh.

I’ve saved packets of day trips in reserve and as opportunity presents itself, I may post about them but make no promises. You are welcome to drop by anytime. I’ll leave a couple pies (will apple and lemon meringue do? maybe cherry?), cooling on the window sill and a hot pot of coffee if you have time for a drop.

Halloween Pumpkin Time

Left this posting to the last minute and could not get into my site today. Ready to call Ghostbusters, I decided to log into WordPress like a stranger (or a first-timer) to find the login. It’s a long way around but it worked. Seems I’ve missed WP changes, too.

Thank you ALL, sincerely, for the camaraderie, laughs, and smiles over the past years. I miss my friends in the blogging community but haven’t the energy to return the favour at present. I hope to focus what time and effort I can muster to get back to writing and promise to visit when I can.

Happy Halloween everyone!

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Advertisements


5 Comments

Rocky Mountaineer: On the Rails Again

The alarm on Mary’s cell woke us. After a long and restless night, I peeled myself off the sheets. Thank goodness, I had woken in the night and turned on the air conditioner. The room had cooled to a comfortable temperature. A couple minutes later, around 5:30 a.m., the hotel phone bleeped. We had not requested a wakeup, but I suppose due to the previous night’s blackout, staff did not want us to miss our bus.

We rushed through dressing and were out the door, our bags left for pickup inside our room as we had found them the day before. Complimentary coffee service waiting in the hotel lobby cheered disgruntled bleary-eyed early risers. The time: 6:00 a.m.

Our bus arrived. The tour split into two groups: one to Lake Louise, the other to Banff.

At Rocky the Mountaineer station, our driver backed in, parallel parking next to another bus already there. Within minutes, another bus arrived and did likewise beside us, and another and another. What syncopation. What timing. Such grace like a well-practiced ballet. A radio operator called out drivers one-by-one to line up beside the train. The buses followed one another in a Congo line, pulling up as close as they could to the adjoining railway car assigned to each tour group. The same staff from the previous day greeted our party with cheery smiles and enthusiastic voices as we ascended the steps inside. The atmosphere created was of old friends meeting again.

As promised, our gift voucher purchases from the previous day awaited on each passenger’s seat. My one-size-fits-all black silky sweater pleased me. With tax added, it cost 35 cents more than the voucher allowed. Being less than a dollar, this amount was waived.

The breakfast cart arrived with cranberry and apple juice cocktails. The cranberry juice gave the apple juice a rosé hue; the apple flavour reigned. Parfaits were also available instead. Next came fruit salad and a decadent croissant, jam, and butter. Following this, the chef served a combination of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns with a smattering of corn for colour, and three roasted button mushrooms from his cart. Divine. No toast in sight, but I did not miss it.

After breakfast, an attendant collected money for purchases and any returns.

Due to the blackout at the hotel the night before, the train manager announced each passenger would be gifted a trip journal for the inconvenience. I expected a gratuitous knockoff notebook. Wrong. The padded navy cover might be moleskin. Made in Italy, on the back, there is a large B with Pierre Belvedere’s name. The front shows off Rocky Mountaineer brand insignia and their name. I guesstimate about 240 or so lovely pages.

Quick Facts:

  • Salmon Arm: foodie groups would be interested in the organic farming
  • Modern buildings
  • Have invasive Mountain Pine Beetles
  • Shuswap Lake: looks like letter H from the air
  • Cannot buy cabins/houses here—never go on sale
  • Rent houseboats instead
  • Houseboats have all the amenities, including large screen TVs
  • One Rule: must bring houseboats ashore at night in case a storm blows in
  • Sicamous: Houseboat capital of Canada
  • Sicamous means squeezed in between, a First Nation’s word
  • Houseboats are self-sufficient, the lap of luxury, even Jacuzzis

~ * ~

Why such a fuss over the journal? I l.o.v.e. notebooks. You wouldn’t believe my stash. That’s a whole other post.

~ * ~

Next on September 21 – Rocky Mountaineer: Freights Trains and Mountains

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


6 Comments

Vancouver Again: What Now?

As promised, the store stood tall and proud, its windows reflecting a dull sky. I picked up a decent brand familiar to me, which happened to be on sale. A dollar saved is a dollar earned, is it not?

We walked and walked for miles and hours beneath an overcast Vancouver sky. I kept forgetting where we were and had to remind myself this was not Toronto where the buildings seemed dwarfed by the giant ones here. Tired, we trudged past Joe Fortes Restaurant, a landmark seafood restaurant and chop house, and a popular attraction with actors and people in the music business. It is said you never know whom you will bump into. Of course, one must make a reservation. Instead of waiting in line, a patron walks right in. Especially when new ships come into Vancouver Harbour, I heard this is a hopping place.

The hotel at last; I was ready to kick off my shoes and catch a snooze. By six or so, we ventured out to dinner across the courtyard to Café One in the other tower. Why hadn’t anyone suggested we bring sunglasses? I snapped awake from my lethargy at the sight of the foyer’s bright orange walls right and left. A seating area on one side encouraged relaxation and Wifi. On the opposite side, a bar and baby grand invited patrons to enjoy drinks and music but not open for business this early.

Most tables were in front of a wall of windows, which overlooked lush and soothing greenery. A sign suggested waiting to be seated. Were we with such and such tour? Yes. The wait staff person could not find the special and abbreviated menu for some time. Seated at a table for two I noted the crisp and flawless white tablecloths and sighed sinking deeper into my chair. The menu found, I ordered roasted chicken breast, which came with various scrumptious baby beets and sweet snap peas. The baby greens salad was not good. The restaurant mildly busy, service wasn’t bad.. I took our time with coffee and Mary with dessert.

Stuffed, we headed back to our room for a little reading and TV. Nothing interesting on so we prattled on as females will. Mary kept reading, then decided to try out the pool. No robes in the closet, she called the desk and a nice man delivered two robes on hangers within minutes. How is that for service at a large downtown hotel with 746 rooms and suites?

I tried out the high bed and chose the softest pillow. Why do they have so many? Though too many lights on, their distraction soon lost all significance as I melted into dreamland.

Vancouver Quick Facts:

  • Population: 2.4 million
  • A working not residential city
  • Expo 1986 put Vancouver on the map
  • Expected 15 million people; 22 million came
  • Prince Charles and Princess Diana opened Expo
  • Princess Diana fainted after a 3-hour tour of Expo
  • A jump in immigration by 60,000 followed Expo from Hong Kong due to 1997 repatriation to China and the 1989 Tiananmen Square situation
  • Pushed up real estate prices
  • http://thelasource.com/en/2016/05/02/expo-86-the-bubble-that-never-burst/

~ * ~

Next on June 20th – Vancouver: A Bus Tour Anyone?

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


9 Comments

North to Alaska: Creek Street Shops and a Tram Experience

As we left Dolly’s house by the back stairs, Mary noticed the guide from the tour we latched on to in Juneau. We scrambled to join the group, wondering how much we’d missed. As we joined the people clustered around the guide, Mary talked to a woman in an unobtrusive jacket with an emblem on the breast. She tsked the tour did not belong to the cruise but was an independent. We mentioned there had been no problem in Juneau. “We’re almost finished so I guess you can stay.”

She led us down a path to the shops on Creek Street and the tour was over. At least the drizzle had stopped.

I laughed at the many advertisements for the shops. Mary wanted to take the tram ($2.00 USD) up a high hill for a fantastic view of the town. Whoever had given her information about it said the entrance was up the hill. Which hill? “Are you sure she meant this hill.” I hated wasting my time. On and on we trudged. No tram entrance. The hill levelled out; we accosted a couple coming toward us, who did not give specific directions but pointed down the hill. We stopped at one of the shops, then asked another passerby. Back to the tourist-filled sidewalk, we meandered through the same shops for the third time.

“There it is.” Mary had the look of someone who knew where she was going all along. A family of five joined us. Maybe because the Cape Fox Hill Tram happened to be red, I immediately thought of Dr. Who and his telephone booth. The buttons for operation are the same as you find in an elevator. The over 200-foot incline took about minute before we stopped more than 100 feet above the harbour.

We had no idea what we’d find at the top. Straight ahead double doors enticed us into a lobby, which appeared to be a hotel. Fantastic seating with deep sofas and chairs faced a working gas fireplace and a switched on flat screen. Out the back door were gardens and more totem poles. On the other side of the lobby, magnetic food smells and brewing coffee drew us in. The best seats by the windows overlooking Ketchikan were taken, but though almost noon, the restaurant was not busy. I felt invisible as no server approached our table until Mary lassoed a waitress for the Wi-Fi password. I only wanted a simple coffee. Not Mary, who perused the menu; muffins took her fancy. When a waiter finally stopped by, he said they had none.

“But they’re on the menu. What kind do you have?”

“I’ll check.” He disappeared. We waited and waited. We waited some more and grabbed a waitress, asking after our server. Mary’s blueberry muffin finally arrived. It wasn’t oven-warm so we decided it hadn’t just been baked because service had taken so long and we’d been told they had none.

We caught up on email, ate, drank and left money for the food and left. Who has all day to wait for service?

Traipsing back to Creek Street and the many quaint shops, I no longer found them appealing and voted for a return to the ship for a proper, if late, lunch.

The day finished with an enjoyable viewing of LaLa Land in the ship’s theatre. Prior to seeing the movie, I’d heard there were opposing camps regarding this production: those who love it and those who do not. I loved it. Popcorn arrived late once again, during the latter part of the movie and we were drawn to pinch a bag each on the way to our room. One last look outside confirmed we had missed the sunset again. The skyline appeared bruised in shades of purple, pink, orange, and yellow.

Night, night.

~ * ~

If you’ve never tried it, here’s a chance to see what a tram is like.

Next on June 22nd – North to Alaska: Art Auction Confusion

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


9 Comments

North to Alaska: Bet You Don’t Know These Quick Facts!

Wish we hadn’t missed the city tour bus to the Skagway Gold Rush Cemetery. A store clerk mentioned it too late and we were already bone tired. I don’t visit graveyards as a rule, but historical ones are intriguing. An interesting character popped up when I did a little research on my iPad later. Read about Jeff “Soapy” Smith here.

Read about the Slide Cemetery and the Pioneer Cemetery here.

Mary and I knew Mother’s Day would fall during our cruise but booked our holiday anyway. Like mothers everywhere, we deserved a special treat since we were away from home and family. The Lido Market, where most of our meals had been eaten buffet-style, ran short of lobster tails, the main event on the menu. Guests were asking for two and three tails at a time. Our turn came and only one tail was available. We’d have to wait. My dander up a touch, I grabbed Mary’s arm and we skedaddled in search of fine dining—the Rotterdam (again)—for our celebration dinner. After all, we had dolled up for festivity. Though there were other restaurants to choose from, we liked this one and knew where to find it.

Again asked if we’d accept sitting with others, we agreed. On my left, an Australian couple: she a teacher turned calligrapher and her husband, a pediatric physician, deaf in one ear since age five.

To Mary’s right, sat a 20-something single woman with limited food preference or on a special diet, who had pre-ordered a personal size veggie pizza. The couple next to her came from England, the husband originated from Australia. I did not talk to his wife because she sat too far away across the huge, round table. She was deep in conversation with a 50-ish woman and her father from the States. Grin. United Nations of sorts.

I ordered the Surf & Turf (a lobster tail and filet mignon). The waiter offered to cut the lobster out of the shell for all the females. O-h-h. Is this service or what? I splurged on a glass of divine Cabernet. I never eat dessert but had black coffee instead, which tasted scrumptious. Why was it worlds apart from the type served at Lido Market buffet? Were we still on the same ship? Unbelievable.

Filled to the brim with food and wonderful conversation following a long and leisurely dinner, we vetoed any activity other than shoes off, feet up, and thoughts of bed.

Earlier in the day before we glammed up

Bet You Didn’t Know: 

  • 1916 Dr. William Skinner Cooper, founding father of ecology
  • Also founding father of Glacier Bay
  • 1925 Glacier Bay declared a national monument with help from President Calvin Coolidge
  • World Heritage Site
  • Second largest wilderness site in the world
  • Majority of visitors arrive by cruise ships
  • 7 tidewater glaciers found here
  • Carbon Monoxide off the scale more than any other place
  • Carbon dioxide makes seas acidic, bad in cold waters like here
  • National Park Service: study climate change in our own lives
  • Fastest glacier retreat (melting) since 1850 (a sign of global warming)
  • Evaluation of warming atmosphere is a warming ocean
  • 43 countries have scientific study about heating up, locked in heat, rising water
  • Sea levels rising here
  • Home to moose, wolves, black, brown, and Grizzly bears, orcas, humpback whales, otters, dolphins, and salmon to mention a few
  • Example of John Hopkins Glacier: 1 mile wide by 12.5 miles long (a seal sanctuary)
  • John Hopkins Glacier still advancing (not reducing)

I’ve gathered a ton of information but don’t want to bore you. The above are a few highlights.

Images Glacial Bay

What is the difference between an iceberg and a glacier?

An iceberg is what breaks off (calves) a glacier and usually sits 10% above water.

Glaciers are a combo of snow and ice and collected junk/debris, and entirely above water.

~ *~

Next on June 1st – North to Alaska: Ketchikan Beckons

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


Hong Kong, Come Along: Part 2

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

On our return from the light show the night before, we had no trouble getting on the crowded subway. One lady offered her eight or ten-year-old daughter’s  seat to RJ. His wife had found a seat, but he and I stood, hugging poles.

A pictorial on the wall illustrated passengers should give up a seat to the elderly, the disabled, and to pregnant women. RJ’s hair color was a dead giveaway. Mine is colored. Maybe that’s why he was offered the seat first. (Nope, likely because he’s a man, or I looked younger. Sigh.) Since he refused, I was next on the woman’s agenda to do her good deed of the day. She persisted; I sat, feeling guilty.

At our last stop in the subway, we passed a Seven-Eleven (these are popular here) and thought we knew where we were in relation to the exit until we passed another one. A young couple approached and gave directions in wonderful English.

 *

Breakfast hadn’t been half as nice as our previous morning in Macau at the Sheraton. We later surmised there were more restaurants in the 118-story hotel. Today’s permitted restaurant was a lowly one with disappointing offerings.

Sue and I liked arriving early expecting the food will be fresh before others’ eyes and hands. We were the first of our group and misinterpreted the greeter’s actions when she knocked over a couple folded and steepled serviettes. A strange look crossed her face when we chose a table and sat, but she made no comment. Chinese people a row over kept staring at us. When more of our group arrived, they were directed to another section where only Caucasians were served. Oops. Was this a faux pas? Had we broken some rule by sitting in the Chinese Only area?

My breakfast:

  • Dry croissant and bun with orange marmalade and strawberry jam
  • A plateful of watermelon, cantaloupe, and pineapple with whipped cream (yummy)
  • One sausage and a hard-boiled egg
  • 3 cups of coffee (quite good)

Long after breakfast, our bus driver stopped around 9:30 a.m. for our 10-minute bathroom break and a walk around at a couple tourist shops in Golden Bauhinia Square. Notice the huge golden flower Bauhinia.

The Goddess of the Sea Ceremony is like a grand opening of a cruise ship for the Chinese. More images here. Smoked pigs are offered on platters as a gift to Tin Hau who protects fishermen and ensures plentiful fish.

Courtesy of  China Daily Asia official channel

Quick Facts:

  • 272 outland islands
  • Still keeps border separating from China
  • Need visa to cross to China from Hong Kong
  • Population over seven million
  • 1980 nothing here but farmers
  • Kept English names of streets and places
  • Army no longer in Hong Kong / now comes from China
  • Keep own laws. Police govern Hong Kong.
  • Don’t need cars to live here
  • Lots of taxies (red with gray roofs), buses, subways
  • Cheap transportation
  • Not much parking provided at workplaces
  • Lots of toll booths

We continued on to Longevity Beach at Repulse Bay. What were we supposed to do here? We couldn’t swim. Another Seven-Eleven beckoned across the road. No thanks.

Sue spied color and people in the distance, which looked like a festival. We decided to see what was happening and were startled by a handsome young local (25 – 30-ish), showering outdoors (yes in his bathing suit) slathering on soap as if he needed it. I hope he hadn’t noticed me blush. His English was quite good and he asked all the usual questions: where were we from, what were we doing there etc.

We continued on and happened upon Tin Hau Temple with hordes of people making offerings. (I know I had taken pictures there but found none on my iPad.) Soon we had to return to the bus.

~ * ~

Next on January 12thth Hong Kong View-a-thon

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical but plan to at least visit here before the end of the month. Thank you for your supportive reading, re-blogging, and tweeting. Your continued follows are immeasurably appreciated.  XX

January, Jan, Month, Year, New, Day, Holiday, Calendar


Cruising the Yangtze, Part 1

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

My apologies for the scarcity of photos in this post.

I awoke at 5:50 A.M. Outside, the weather appeared dull and overcast with a veil of hazy fog—not smog—I hoped.   I called it misty because we were on the water after all. The previous night, we’d set sail around 10:00 p.m. but were stationary when Sue and I set off to breakfast.

Image Courtesy of RJ, Early morning mist

Sue had played with the alarm clock the night before, not sure how it worked. To her relief, it buzzed at 6:20 exactly as she’d set it. but we hadn’t needed it. I have no idea why we woke so early. Might it have been the low hum of engines stopping?

The shower tiny, but efficient and shoved into the corner of the small space, had a rounded, two-door closure, which met each other in the center for a snug fit. I’m pleased to report the water was hot and stayed inside the enclosure though I had sparse elbow room to move around.

Breakfast

We made it to the Early Bird breakfast (7:00 – 7:30) for the free coffee and arrived at 6:55. It was pleasant to linger over three coffees and sweet rolls. Why were we told the coffee was free? All buffets were inclusive as part of the complete tour package.

I didn’t take inventory at our later breakfast (8:30 – 9:00 A.M.) but had a hard-boiled egg, buns covered in sunflower seeds, strawberry jam, yogurt (plain and watery, but sweet—maybe too sweet), white cheese slices. No need to rush to the Early Bird the next day as the coffee was free at the regular breakfast as well.  I had a giggle over this. What was Ivy, our presenter the previous night, thinking when she advised it was only free at 7:00 A.M.? Maybe it was the way she said it that we’d misunderstood. I had the feeling she was quite proud of her English and I confess it was quite good and 1000 percent better than my Chinese. Maybe she meant coffee was available for early risers?

Click HERE to read about the Battle_of_Red_Cliffs

I chose to pass on the morning excursion to the Red Cliffs (9:00 – 11:00), not because I had a need to be alone, but because I wanted some free time, and to wash out a few things and relax. Sue, however, looked forward to this tour.

Click HERE for images of red+cliffs ruins in Chibi

While I enjoyed my afternoon lazying in a deck chair on the balcony, the maid came in to make up the room. I told her she didn’t need to; we would. No. She had to. Throughout this trip, I noticed rules were written in stone and never changed in any way. No adjustments nor skipping or replacing items or details. After making the beds, the maid made her way into the bathroom and came right out again. “One towel and one face cloth missing,” she said. Eyes wide, her hands and voice trembled. I almost laughed aloud.

“I washed some tee shirts and wrapped one in the towel to draw out the water faster.” I pointed to the second deck chair.

“You can give to Laundry.” She pulled herself together and reached for the pricing brochure on the desk.

“Maybe next time,” I said even as I had no intention of following through with my lie. I unrolled my Tees and handed her the towel and face cloth. Her body relaxed from head to toes.

The Yangtze is a true yellow and dirty, harboring floating junk here and there. All the junk was small with a few branches, not large chunks of anything. I couldn’t help picturing someone emptying a bucketful of cigarette butts as I saw those as well. In spots I noticed large and small ripples as if there were a sandbar underneath—I hoped not. I knew the ripples weren’t from the ship stirring the water because we weren’t moving. I waited for the excursion group to return.

Image courtesy of RJ. This boat is a mystery.

Rusting barges and tugboats transported coal, sand, and gravel alongside and then past our ship. I couldn’t imagine anyone fishing in this river. Would they? A blue ship with three white decks cruised by. Automobiles took up every square inch of deck space. I don’t recall their makes or models. and remember wondering if any every slid off.

After Sue left on the Chibi tour, an alarm sounded over the intercom. A loud announcement in several languages advised this was a fire drill but to stay in our cabins. The drill was for the ship’s crew. Soon after, we were given permission to leave our cabins. I decided to go to Reception to use the Internet.

The second floor presented a throng of crew members in life-jackets over smart blue uniforms. My guess is a health and safety meeting was in progress. A handsome, thirtysomething male in a navy uniform (the only one with gold braiding on the cuffs and outfitted with a life-jacket as well), stood aside to allow me past. Shoot, Don’t you just love a man in uniform? Each and every one replicated a super handsome male or was that just me? Face burning, I plodded through the testosterone-filled lobby to the front desk. On the way back, I stumbled along again, as they all appeared to watch though their meeting continued. For once, I found myself the only female in a room filled wall-to-wall (maybe not quite) with smiling, receptive (maybe distracted) men. Sigh.

~ * ~

Next on July 28th: On the Yangtze River, Part 2

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


56 Comments

#ShortStory

I confess sci-fi is not me. No way am I up for this week’s #BlogBattle prompt. Instead, I offer this short story for your weekly entertainment.

 

Heart Burn

I never understood her—my mother: blonde, a goddess, svelte and self-assured like my older sister. I was the dark one, the disappointment. How had that happened? I could not be more different from them: neither as smart nor as trim. They chummed together like girlfriends, leaving me out in the cold.

***

She promised to meet me at Starbuck’s Saturday morning. I arrived early. My heart pounded and the acid in my stomach burned like the searing edge of a hot knife churning pirouettes. She breezed in like she owned the place. The shop almost empty, I was easy to find.

“Mother,” I said, “new suit?” She always dressed well. She had the figure for it, of course.

“Are you all right dear? You appear flushed.” She reached across the table and checked my forehead with a cool hand as if I were a child. “I’ll get the coffee.” A pat on my shoulder and I watched her heels clickety-clacked across the stone tile floor.

I gulped air in hopes of calming down, but she returned too soon.

“Still black, I take it. Thought we’d splurge with a couple brownies.”

Brownies. One minute she told me to lay off the sweets and the next she offered them. Either I was losing my mind, or she was. I took the lid off my coffee cup to cool it quicker.

“It’s clear to me, dear, you’re upset about something. Man troubles? School?” Flawless, penciled brown brows rose to perfect peaks.

“You came.” The words popped out before I realized I’d said them aloud. I clamped hands to my mouth.

“Yes. You invited me. Remember?”

“I’m surprised you made it—so busy with all your clubs—and Melissa.” I watched her face. None of her thoughts showed.

She had the decency to blink, false lashes aflutter. Her flaming pink mouth worked like a fish out of water. “What is wrong with you? I love you both the same.”

The audacity of the lie. “I’m not in the least like you or Melissa. I don’t match—don’t fit.”

“How old are you?”

“You don’t know?”

“I mean at 21 you’re acting like a six-year-old.”

“You and Melissa—always together, joining clubs, chapters this and that, whispering, laughing.”

“Do you like or enjoy these groups and societies?”

“Well, no—but you never have time for me.” Bile fought to strangle me, but I fought back. “Then you send me away to school. I wanted to attend college in our hometown but no, it had to be university.”

“Lily, dear, what’s this about? You’re fifty miles from home and in your last year. Are you taking your medication? You’re not yourself.”

“How would you know? Here’s the other thing, my coloring is so much darker than anyone else in the family. Melissa is like you. I’m nothing like you two, I’m loose fat…” I swallowed the howl threatening to undo me. I will not cry. I will not!

“You take after your grandmother, Esther Maria, on your father’s side. You know this. What a Spanish beauty—you look exactly like her, same thick hair and smoky eyes.”

“Right. A fat beauty with fat hair. Am I adopted?”

“Nothing about this conversation makes sense.” Mother picked up a napkin and fanned herself. She scanned the half-empty coffee shop with ice blue eyes.

I almost heard the gears in her head grinding, devising lies. “Easy to tell me whatever you want. How did you find time to visit me at last?”

Her look made me squirm. “I told you about the obligations I couldn’t break. I’m here now. Look, sweetie, your grandmother died before you were born. You’ve seen her pictures and heard the stories. This is crazy. ”

“So now I’m crazy?” I wanted the talking to stop. I didn’t like it anymore.

“Have you had headaches lately, or trouble sleeping?”

I shrugged. What had that to do with anything? “You love Melissa better, don’t you?”

“Take my hand. I have five fingers. Which one shall I cut off because I don’t need or want it?”

“What?”

“Which daughter means less to me than the other?”

“You’re always talking in riddles.”

“Tell me which one and I’ll chop it off.”

“No. you won’t. You’re just saying that.” I slouched in my chair but did not break eye contact.

She stared me down. I flinched. Her chair scraped the floor. An iron grip clutched my arm. “Let’s go.”

The End

Images courtesy Pixabay

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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.


59 Comments

On the Yangtze River: Day 13, Part 1

(Sorry, no photos for this post)

I awoke at 5:50. Outside, the weather looked dull and overcast and / or foggy—not smog, I hoped.   I called it misty because we were on the water after all. The previous night, we’d set sail around 10:00 p.m., but were stationary when Sue and I went to breakfast.

Sue had played with the alarm clock the night before, not sure if it would work. It buzzed at 6:20 a.m., exactly as she’d set it, but we were already up.

The shower tiny, but efficient, had a rounded, two-door closure, one shoved toward the other till they met in the center. If I hadn’t been forced in front of this seam blocking water like a shield, the floor would have been drenched. I’m pleased to report the water was hot.

 

BREAKFAST

We went to the Early Bird breakfast (7:00 – 7:30 a.m.) for the free coffee and arrived at 6:55. It was pleasant to linger over three coffees and sweet rolls.

I didn’t take inventory at breakfast 8:30 – 9:00 a.m.), but I had a hard-boiled egg, buns covered in sunflower seeds, strawberry jam, yogurt (plain and watery, but sweet—maybe too sweet), white cheese slices. No need to rush to Early Bird the next day as the coffee was free at the regular breakfast as well. What was Ivy, our presenter the previous night, thinking when she advised it was only free at 7:00 a.m.? Maybe it was the way she said it that we’d misunderstood. I had the feeling she was quite proud of her English and I confess it was quite good and 1000 percent better than my Chinese. Maybe she meant coffee was available for early risers?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Red_Cliffs

I chose to pass on the morning excursion to the Red Cliffs (9:00 – 11:00), not because I had a need to be alone, but because I wanted some free time, and to wash out a few things and relax. Sue, however, looked forward to this tour.

Images of Red Cliffs Ruins in Chibi

https://www.google.ca/search?q=red+cliffs,+images+of+ruins&rlz=1C1EODB_enCA562CA564&espv=2&biw=1093&bih=514&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=z3eLVJXOJJegyASA0IHoCQ&ved=0CCoQsAQ

While I enjoyed some lazy time sitting on the balcony, the maid came in to make up the room. I told her she didn’t need to, we would. No. She had to do it. After making the beds, she’d gone into the bathroom and came right out again. “One towel and one face cloth missing.” Eyes wide, her hands and voice trembled. I almost laughed aloud.

“I washed some tee shirts and wrapped one in the towel to draw out the water faster.”

“You can give to Laundry.” She pulled herself together and reached for the pricing brochure on the desk.

“Maybe next time,” I said even as I had no intention on following through with my lie. I unrolled my Tees and handed over the towel and face cloth.

The Yangtze is a true yellow, and dirty, harboring floating junk here and there. All the junk was small and a few branches, not large chunks of anything. I couldn’t help picturing someone emptying a bucketful of cigarette butts as I saw those as well. In spots I noticed large and small ripples as if there were a sandbar underneath—I hoped not. I knew the ripples weren’t from the ship stirring the water because we weren’t moving, but waited for the excursion group to return.

Lots of rusting barges and tugboats transported coal, sand, and gravel. I couldn’t imagine anyone fishing in this river. Would they? A blue ship with three white decks passed by. Automobiles took up every square inch of deck space. I can’t recall what make the cars were, though.

After Sue left, an alarm went off. An announcement over the PA advised this was a fire drill, but to stay in our cabins. The drill was cancelled a while later, and I decided to go to Reception to use the Internet.

The second floor was chock full of crew members wearing life-jackets over gorgeous blue uniforms. It appeared a health and safety meeting was in progress. A handsome, thirty-something man in a navy uniform (the only one with gold braiding on the cuffs and outfitted with a life-jacket as well), stood aside to allow me past. Face hot, I plodded through the other end of the same group again as I burned my way to Reception.

 

Next on December 19, On the Yangtze River, Day 13, Part 2 (

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page

© 2014 All Right Reserved TAK