How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle – Week 60

BlogBattlersBadgePrompt: Duplicitous 

Genre: Contemporary

smashed-879876_960_720 Pixaby no attribution reqd

Crushed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

Rules of the Battle

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

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

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

* * *

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

For More #BlogBattle stories, check out the tab above

 


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#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.


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.


72 Comments

Tailspin

Tired of waiting, I paced from the front room to the kitchen. Hurry up, Ma. What’s taking so long?

I pulled the curtain aside. Franco and Smitty raced up and down the dusty road. Anxious to join them, I gazed over my shoulder at the kitchen wall. The long arm on the cuckoo clock crept one tentative lurch at a time. I slumped into a chair again. Ma!

My baby sister, Caterina, stacked and whacked her blocks on the sloping linoleum. She jabbered baby talk, drool sliding down her chubby chin and onto her chest. I peered at the clock again. Tick. Tock. My chair creaked; I couldn’t sit still. A hint of last night’s spaghetti sauce and Ciabatta bread still hung in the air.

Urgent fists pounded on the front door. The baby’s jaw shot up. She clutched a red block in mid-air. With heart thumping and ears burning, I raced to see who it might be.

Mrs. Fournier, from across the road, shifted from foot to foot on the veranda, clasping and unclasping her reddened hands. A bleached cotton headscarf, worn in the bandana style, covered her hair as always. I didn’t know if she even had hair. Her face chalk white, she chewed on her bottom lip. “Excusez-moi…Maman, Rosalia?”

“Shopping. She’ll be home soon. What, Mrs. Fournier?”

“Téléphone—not worry, mon enfant, you only eight—où…?”

“At the P&G, I think. You want me to find her?”

Non—Oui!” She nodded, head bobbing like a tethered balloon. “Vous allez. Rapide.” She clapped her hands like a school teacher.

“I can run fast, Mrs. Fournier. You look after Caterina?” I pointed to the baby, grabbed my sweater and ripped across the lawn. Telephone. Never good news. Where would Ma go first?

 A few minutes later, my lungs burned and my side pinched. Pebbles from the gravel road attacked my bare calves. A penny loafer flew off. I staggered and pitched forward onto the sharp stones, sprang up and shoved my foot back inside. My scraped hands burned. I rounded the corner and tore up the concrete sidewalk on Godfrey Street, the main street in town.

Mrs. Kowalski and Mrs. MacDonald blocked my way. They regarded me with interest as I danced around them.

“You need to use the bathroom, dear?” Mrs. MacDonald stooped over me as far as her arthritic back would allow.

“No. I’m looking for Ma. Did you see her in the P&G maybe?”

“Yes, Rosalia, she’s there.”

“Saturday busy. Everything is okay?” Mrs. Kowalski the nosey one asked, her eyes sharp and probing as a crow’s.

“Thank you. Bye.” I rushed up the sidewalk to the end of the block, through P&G’s door and smack into Ma in line to pay. She swerved against the supporting pillar beside her. The carpetbag partially-full of groceries, swung at her side. The edge of the wooden handles collided with my hip.

“Ma, Mrs. Fournier says come home quick. She’s home with Caterina.”

“What is it, Rosalia?” My mother’s eyes, bright a moment before, faded and her face took on the washed out color of our neighbour’s kerchief.

“I don’t know. She said telephone. You think it’s about Daddy?”

“Excuse. Excuse.” Ma pushed her way to the counter and grabbed the checkout lady’s forearm. “You take, Giselle.” She heaved the cloth bag, handles clacking, to the cashier. “I come later pay.  Go home now.” Customers who’d moved back to make room, patted her back and shoulders. Smitty’s mother was one of them. Lips pinched tight, she closed her eyes and nodded.

I clutched Ma’s hand; we rushed through the door. People stepped out of the way. I tugged her arm all the way home for three endless blocks, her body stiff as the Tin Man. I peeked at her face. I hoped the news wasn’t bad. “Come on Ma. We’re almost home.” Lips moving without sound, she stared straight ahead.

I dropped her hand and sprinted ahead up the stairs to open the door. Ma staggered in behind me. Mrs. Fournier grabbed her arm as soon as we crossed the threshold. The bedroom door slammed in my face. I hunched forward with my ear to the door.

 

End of Part 1

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


86 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #144

To join the fun, checkout

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week144/

This week’s prompt is …the black dog walks alongside me… + 100 words

100wcgu-72

WHO GOES THERE?

Something scraped against the window. Winston bolted upright, thick Einstein-like hair askew. “Who’s there?” Heart thrashing, he gasped for breath. As crusted eye-lids unglued, he scanned the bedroom. Shadows lurked like black tombstones, details indistinct, even of his virginal bed.

Depressed for months, he’d lost interest in life and slept the indifference of the dead. He grabbed the covers with shaky hands and tossed them. The black dog walks alongside me no more.

 

In the semi-darkness Winston made his bed, showered and dressed. No need to write a note. Peaceful at last, he progressed down the hallway with purpose. The basement door sighed shut behind him.


127 Comments

Beijing Part 4, Day 3 (cont’d)

We wandered to another part of the park where parents laid out their child’s ‘resume’ hoping for a marriage connection / partner. A woman yelled at me when I tried to take a picture. Seems it’s bad luck to be photographed. I understood it puts a pox on the intended. I laid low and managed a non-intrusive video on my iPad mini but I cannot upload it. Sorry.

Spring in all its glory

Spring in all its glory

Interesting nuggets about marriage:

  • Either you pay for a matchmaker ($$$ if you have lots—probably not) or your mother struggles along in your best interests with or without your knowledge
  • We encountered children in the park, but the majority were boys—yes there were girls—the odds appeared greater than the statistics
  • The ratio: 140 boys are born to 100 girls nowadays
  • Dating services are now common and do a vigorous business, but many cannot afford them and anyway MOM has your best interests at heart
  • Young people pursue good careers and work long hours with lengthy travel times to and from work
  • There is no time to date
  • More and more young people prefer to find their own mate
  • Some young men hold down several jobs and still cannot afford a house or apartment
  •  Every potential bride wants a house or apartment. As well her family expects a bride price—even in the country—a sort of dowry
  • Mismatches between city vs. country / education vs. job level mean less chance of finding a marriageable partner
  • Stories abound about established career women. A female with a good job may be willing to stand in as breadwinners if even a younger male would co-operate. After all, her clock is ticking, but without a job of his own, he’ll shy away.
  • Rich men spent much time and money choosing the right bride through matchmakers since the ratio of females versus males are so uneven
Wikipedia Commons

Wikipedia Commons

More tidbits about the people:

  • Diabetes and high blood pressure high
  • Exercises morning and evening, especially seniors
  • China is second highest consumer of sugar after India
  • They add sugar to everything
  • Different breakfast by area / region
  • Average man’s breakfast is in Beijing: steamed dumplings and buns, dim sum, and soup
  • Use straw to drink soup
  • Mandarin is the main official language
  • Written language is the same everyone in China, only the dialects are different

Next on June 20th, Beijing Part 5, Day 3 (cont’d)

  1. Temple of Heaven
  2. Tiananmen Square

 


43 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Jacqui

Behave Yourselves

 

Thank you Google.

Thank you Google.

My fickle pen rushes…

Morgan paced like a panther. “You know me. I do what I like.”

“You-know-me-I-do-what-I-like.” Wally’s sour mouth puckered.

Hey stop.

“You dare use that tone with me?”

“Slam-the-door-she-heard-me.”

You’re fighting? Behave yourselves.

“Sorry, sweetheart. I’ve had a dreadful day. Georges-is-unreasonable.”

“Sweetheart? You haven’t called me that in…we’re in agreement then. My choice of destination.”

What? Isn’t this sudden? You can’t change directions whenever you please.

“Destination? I-thought-I’d-explained-I-can’t…”

“Can’t or won’t? You work for me, remember?”

“But the project—”

Enough. I need a break from you two. My wrist’s shot and I have to pee anyway.


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Can You Handle a Surprise?

February 26th I had the sweet opportunity to attend the launch of Time and Place, a cultural quarterly. Nervous as a cat (cliché, I know, but I was nervous), I swallowed hard and went into neutral mode—think the idling of a car while you wait for a green light. This was a two-fold occasion. I also read a story I’d submitted! Yes, me.

Each submission required the significance of time and place regarding origin of story. (Noted at bottom of page.)

photo (4) Time and Place Cultural Quarterly

Tangled

It has begun…my worst nightmare. Myrna-Jo Bourke blinks and stares into the gas-lit fireplace. Nail-bitten fingers smooth her creased forehead. She frowns at a rap at the door.

A lanky girl, cinnamon hair streaming, soars through the finished basement to the Easy Boy and her grandmother’s arms. “Why are you sitting in the near dark?” The girl squints and pulls back for a better look. Her small hand brushes the rough cheek. “Grammy, are you okay?”

“Of course, I’m all right.” Myrna-Jo offers a fake smile and plunges closed fists into her lap.

Thin lips clamped, Lilli slips out of the light embrace. “Your cheeks are wet. Why?” Stepping away and examining the room, she flicks on the light switch.

Grammy’s glance drops and rises. The half-lie slips out between wobbly lips. “I’m happy to see you.”

The young girl leans in again and lays a warm satin cheek against her grandmother’s. Arms steal over rounded shoulders and circle her neck. “No-one hugs better than you.” Lilli breathes in the baby-powder scent of her grandmother’s neck, sighs, and tightens her embrace.

“Can I help you?”

Giggles tinkle like tiny crystal wind chimes. “I almost forgot.” Her nose scrunches. “Mum wants you to come to supper Saturday. For your birthday.”

Myrna-Jo’s eyelids flutter. “Birthday?”

“You didn’t forget did you, Grammy? Wait till you open my special surprise.” Lilli rocks on stocking feet, hands twirling at her sides.

“Such excitement over a little birthday…”

“But it’s your seventieth.” Pink-faced, bunched hands rise and slip underneath her chin.

“Seventieth?” The voice cracks. A spotted hand pats the bun. “Seventieth. And you are how old?”

“Stop teasing, Grammy. I’m eleven. Remember the hot pink dress you gave me last August?”

Myrna-Jo’s eyes wander. Time rushes headlong with a mind of its own. If only I could slow its….

Lilli grins. “You’re coming, right?”

“Where?”

“For supper Saturday, didn’t I just say?” She searches the drawn, clouded gaze of the woman in the recliner. “Grammy?”

Eyes dart left and right as the woman claws her throat. “Who’s my most favorite grandchild in the whole wide world?”

“Silly, I’m your only one.” Fidgety, Lilli caresses the cloud-white hair. “What will you wear?”

“Wear?”

“I know—your green pantsuit—makes your eyes look like emeralds.”

“Oh… Come and help me dress, will you…?”

“Okay, an hour before supper. Gotta go. Mom is setting the table.” She plants a kiss on the cold cheek and scurries away. At the door, she hesitates. “Grammy?”

“Hmm?”

“Love you. See-ya-bye.” Slam. Thump. Thump. Thump. She avoids a collision with her mother on the landing.

“There you are. Thought I’d have to come down. Wash up.”

“Mum, is Grammy all right?”

* * *

Myna-Jo listens to chairs scrape overhead and buries her face. How long before I end up like my Aunt Sylvie. Can I lay this burden at my family’s door?

Another glance ceiling-wise, then she gazes into the rhythmic flames as if answers are written there.

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

A short time ago, while working on another short story, I rummaged around in my head for a particular phrase. My brain refused to cooperate for a moment. Because of my age, this made me wonder about memory / word loss and its beginnings. What happens when you are aware of what’s happening to you? What if you loved writing?This story is the result of those meandering thoughts, somewhat abbreviated due to word limit.

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

This has been printed with the permission of Ninth Floor Press ISBN 978-0-9919730-0-2

Editor: Ed Shaw. Submissions: ninthfloorpress@gmail.com


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Dust to Dust

This is a blow-by-blow of my journey into pre-arrangement for the time when ah…my departure from the tiny footprint I have imprinted on this planet arrives. I will post in several segments each Friday. This is to give those who haven’t thought about it an idea of what might transpire: expect the unexpected.

Monday, December 9

I want to throw up. I can’t put this off any longer. The days on the calendar flip on and off and race forward. I must be ready when the time comes. I’ve decided not to dwell on my strangled thoughts, but will leap in with open arms as I imagine a bungee jumper does her first time.

I feel in a trance, suspended somewhere I don’t recognize. Who am I? I called The Funeral Home earlier this morning but had to leave a message. A man by the name of Rick returned my call at 1:45 pm, and after several tries, we settled on an appointment for 10:00 a.m. the following Friday. What? That’s the 13thFriday the 13th.

I’m not paranoid—all right, I suppose I am—a little. My stomach lurches and my head weaves.

Friday, December 13

The 13th arrives but I must cancel my appointment. The day before, my granddaughter fell in the school yard and cracked the top of her head. She’s home in bed now and I can’t leave her. After the school bus left earlier with the younger one, I rushed to reschedule my appointment a minute after nine. Now that I’ve made the first move, I can procrastinate no more. This undertaking (no pun intended) isn’t going to get any easier with time. I want to cross this off my list while I am able.

The internet is down, the cable is dark and the phone is a blankness of silence. What is the universe up to today? Conspiracy or salvation? Every few minutes I try the phone but reach a vacuum, yawning emptiness.

Five minutes before my scheduled time slot, the line cleared and I rang through to arrange another meeting for the following Tuesday. There, I feel better already. No Friday, the 13th. Lucky me—I think.

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

Tuesday, December 17

It’s time again. My eyes won’t focus, my stomach jitter-bugs and I feel light-headed and forty degrees of nauseated. I do hope I stay in control and not lose it.

Rick is pleasant and somehow I notice, good looking. I’m still here aren’t I? If I hadn’t poked fate or borrowed trouble, I’d never have noticed, would I? We wouldn’t be meeting, would we? Of course, a black suit, shoes shellacked to a blinding shine and mischievous blue eyes will do that for a man. “Can I get you a coffee?” he asks.

I shake my head because my tongue is in knots, but I want to scream to the likes of, “HELL NO! You have coffee in a place like this? Isn’t it disrespectful guzzling black gold among those who can no longer enjoy a cup with us?” Then, my mind settles a bit and is dry as cotton gauge and full of holes. I’m afraid I’ll become lost in there soon.

“Are you all right?” His voice is soft and too close.

”I’m fine. Let’s get to it.”

“You sure I can’t get you a coffee?”

I cave in and nod. At least a mug of coffee will give me something to do with my hands. The mug warms them and the drink is outstanding. I like mine black these days which means I taste the deepest flavour good or bad and damn, this is good. Why wouldn’t it be? Good people pay a lot of money to a place like this. The least they can do is serve the best coffee my money can buy.

Each time a new subject comes up, Rick leaves the meeting room and I am alone too many times. Not well organized, I think. If I can nitpick, I must be doing okay. I pat myself on the back, but I won’t lie, I am ticked the process isn’t more methodical and less a waste of my time.

The meeting reaches its end. I remember little. Rick gives me a dollar figure. The cost is four times more than I expected or planned for. “I need to process all this.”

He nods. “Take your time.”

I’m woozy and floating again. Does helium come in through the air vents to calm grieving families?

* * *

This is copied from my journal. Tune in again next Friday if you’re wish to read another segment.


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Flash in the Pan – Mental

“When’s the last time you saw her?”

“Hmm… ‘bout two months…I s’pose.”

“She’s your wife. Don’t you know…?”

“Kat pulled this trick plenty of times before.”

O’Brien gazed forward and nodded towards his partner behind the double-sided mirror. Shuffling the papers on the table, he nodded. “I see—you stopped worrying after too many disappointments.”

“Yeah. You know. I gave up. She’s mental, you know…”

That a medical term?” The detective peered up beneath his lashes.

“No doc told me nothing. She was messed up see…”

hanging lightbulb“Was?”

“Was…was—the last time I…”

“You kill her?”

“No way Jose. Do I look like a murderer?”

“What’s a murderer look like? Go on then, but don’t leave town.”

Cluckie checked the mirror, smoothed his black hair, and wiped his mechanic’s hands on his work-pants. In a flash, he was gone.

* * *

Newspaper headlines the next morning: Missing wife found, accused of shooting husband.

~ * ~

This is the new Fall Quarter of Flash in the Pan. The theme is Disturbed.

The word limit for Mental is 150 words. I used them all.

Check how to join:  http://mommasmoneymatters.com/flash-fiction/