How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle 3 – Prompt: Air

Find the rules at Rachel Ritchie’s blog here.

Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Prompt: Air

Words: 970

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Kitten or Mouse

Julie pressed back against the wall of the Fish and Tackle shop as if to melt into the paint and woodgrain. He had found her. No other reason for his appearance in this crack in the world atop the U.S./Canada border. Three years. Why now? Stroking her windpipe, the relentless thumbs and her struggle to break their pressure flashed before her like a bad movie. He breezed past in his signature Mercedes, still the same one, looking neither left nor right, a silver streak in the sun.

Weak-kneed, she gulped lungs full of fishy autumn air. Her paralysis abated; a headache blossomed.

“Are you all right, Miss?” A chubby teen reached out in support of her elbow.

Oblivious to his approach, Julie screamed. Hands clenched to her chin, she nodded but tracked the car’s disappearance over the boy’s shoulder. Up the hill, she slogged on leaden legs to the parking lot. No shopping today. The teen squinted and shook his head.

A miracle, he lived. So, Markus had evaded both jailers and creditors. To save his neck, he’d wanted to sell their real estate business, but she vanished after the choking incident. Not possible without her signature—unless, he had finagled her autograph. Of course, he had, or he’d be dead. Teeth clattering like loose Chicklets, she backed the car in behind the little green house on the dead-end street.

Inside, she locked the doors and snapped the blinds shut. Nerves jangling like unraveled electric wires, she turned on the black and white portable television, the sound turned off. Front door to hallway, to the kitchen, and back she paced. Why was he here?

The landline rattled a rotary grumble. Other than old Widow Schumacher across the road, no one phoned her. She picked up. “Hello, Anna?” Tense, her voice cracked. “Anna… is everything alright? Anna…” Julie slammed the phone into its cradle, a sob choking her. Wait a minute… She peeked between the curtains in the front room. Eyes closed, Anna relaxed on her verandah, face toward the milky fall sun.

Julie massaged her knotted forehead. Could be a wrong number. Right? Marcus showing up is a coincidence? What’s he want? He wouldn’t recognize me after the work I’ve had done. My voice… Shoot—my voice hasn’t changed.

The walls closed in like sentries—bad ones—pushy, determined, smothering. How did he get this number? He doesn’t know my name. Get a grip, Julie. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Br-r-r-ring. Julie jumped back though the whirr originated in the kitchen. She tiptoed to the curtains. The widow’s chin had dropped to her chest.

Neck and shoulders clenched, her tension grew in drowning waves. The black phone droned on like a loud purr, like his voice purring, purring like a cat, watching the mouse sweat and then bam! He always won—later if not sooner.

The first time had been over her signature and a password. He said she’d never leave him. He wouldn’t allow it. The next time she knew he’d finish the job because his mouse had fled. What did he want now? Three years ago she had an escape plan and a nest egg. This time she had no time to plan, but her nest egg safe, grew.

The phone stopped; the silence eerie like a yawning vacuum. Julie stood at the edge staring into the abyss, ready to jump.

Br-r-r-ring.

“Stop.” Julie covered her ears. She found herself peering through the curtains again, the widow gone.

Silence slammed into her like a brick wall. Time to get out of the house. She grabbed her purse.

Br-r-r-ring.

What if it isn’t him? She picked up the receiver.

“Hello, kitten.” His practiced smile burned into her ear. “I like the red hair. Some people have been anxious to pin your disappearance on me—but without proof…” He raised his voice, the smile erased. “I want my briefcase back…”

Julie laid the receiver on the small table, grabbed a scarf, and tiptoed out of her house. The car in neutral, she coasted down the incline to the street. This mouse isn’t your plaything anymore. She high-tailed it with no clear plan in mind, other than crossing the border into Maine. If he knows about the hair, he knows what I look like. How did he find me?

First things first. Lie low in Maine for two or three days.

* * *

She stayed away an extra day. Hair mahogany and lips watermelon pink, she parked a block away from home and strode up the street to Anna’s in sandals instead of heels. Hidden behind bold sunglasses, she scanned her house. It wore a look of abandonment and melancholy. She knocked. No Anna.

Nothing stirred not even the fallen leaves. Across the street, she picked up four daily papers left in her absence and checked the mailbox. Heart on the verge of imploding, Julie tried the back door. The phone rested on the table as before. She hung it up to stop the awful beep. The newspapers dumped in the trash, she retrieved the latest one. Flashes of blue without sound earned a switch-off. How long before he knocks on my door?

Lightheaded, her heart continued the Watusi. Water on the boil for tea, Julie dropped into a kitchen chair and unfolded the paper. A three-car pile-up exiting the Canadian side took the lives of one man and sent three others to hospital. The kettle whistled. She examined the wrecks in full-color. A shiver passed over her. Something familiar… “Shut up!” She slammed off the offensive shriek.

The deceased, a Canadian, remains unidentified until next of kin… Anyone with information…

1983 silver Mercedes Benz 300 SD…

R.I.P. Better you than me.

Free. Free. Free at last. No peering over my shoulder.

By the way, Markus, your briefcase is safe.

The End

Image courtesy of Pixabay

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles


65 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 16

You ought to check out Rachel’s blog below, for the rules and join in:blogbattle-award-1

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The prompt this week is …spaghetti… + up to 1,000 words

Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

Lois packed an overnight bag. She hadn’t been away from little Ryan since his birth almost 18 months earlier. There was no alternative; she had to go. One last check: cosmetics, extra socks, a change of clothes, toothbrush. Everything else she’d borrow from her mother. She took a deep breath, zipped and carted the bag to the front door where she dropped it.

“Parker, I’ve loaded the dishwasher and set the timer.” Hands on narrow hips, she glared at the newspaper concealing her husband in the living-room. “Parker!”

The rustle of paper shuffling broke the tense silence. “You say something?” He lowered the paper to reveal watery blue eyes, one eye engrossed in the print and the other flickered in her direction.

“I know neither of us is happy with this situation, but I have to go.”

“Why can’t one of your lady friends look after Ryan?” The paper rose by millimeters creating a wall again.

Lois marched to the Easy Boy and flattened the paper to her husband’s knees. “Look, I’d take him with me if I could, but my hands will be full. My mother needs me.”

He folded the pages and dropped the bundle on the floor. “Don’t be like that. We’ll manage. Just one night, right?”

“I’ll be back by lunchtime or mid-afternoon. You’ve read the instructions. Any last minute questions? He’s a little boy and an easy kid. You won’t have any trouble.”

* * *

The next day, Lois rolled into her driveway tired, but happy. Her mother’s tests had gone well. Hair pulled in a ponytail hinted of not too distant younger days instead of her current 35 years. She retrieved her paraphernalia from the trunk and scanned the neighborhood. So good to be home. The smell of fall already hung in the air though the trees hadn’t changed color yet. Laugh lines engaged, she hummed to herself as she strode to the front door.

Wouaaa.

“No!”

“What th…” Lois kicked off her shoes and dropped her bags. Ryan never kicked up a fuss. She dashed towards the howl in the kitchen. Her jaw dropped. The kitchen had been redecorated in red noodles. Both father and son were covered in spaghetti and tomato sauce as well.

“Come on, little man. You like this sh—stuff. Yum-yum.” The baby’s hand collided with the spoon and sent it flying in his mother’s direction. She stepped back in time to avoid a splatter. “Thank gawd you’re home. Look, Mommy’s home, Ryan. Isn’t that nice?”

“Mama-Mama.” Grubby fingers working, chubby arms stretched to reach across the distance.

Ryan wriggled and crawled from the center of the kitchen table, sauce and spaghetti stuck all around him, his little face covered from his hairline downwards. Only his eyeballs appeared untainted. His mother snatched him before he reached the edge. A giggle bubbled up her throat, then grew to an enormous belly laugh as his gummy cheek stuck to hers. Parker sucked in a quick breath and chuckled too. The boy pulled back, eyes wide as he examined his parents and put a gooey hand to his mouth and joined in. Lois pointed a finger at her husband’s head and hooted. “You have more food on your head than hair.”

“Mama-mama.” Ryan rocked himself in his mother’s arms, thumb already in his mouth.

“Mommy’s home, baby. Let’s clean you up. It’s past your nap-time.” Lois ruffled his thin blond hair not unlike his father’s.

“I guess I’ll start on the kitchen.” Parker ducked his head and made a clucking noise.

“One question. Why didn’t you put him into the highchair?”

“He fought like a tiger—arms and legs spun like a propeller. He’s a strong little kid.”

“What’s for lunch? I’m starving?”

“Oh. A can of soup and a bun okay?

“See you in a bit, I’m dying to hear about your time together.”

* * *

Changed and showered, Ryan asleep, Lois poured a coffee in the sticky kitchen. “The stained laundry is ruined. By the way, what did you do with the soiled diapers? They’re not in the diaper pail.”

“Phe-ew. I didn’t know what to do with them, but I had to get them out of the house.”

Eyebrows raised to sharp peeks, she set her mug on the table. Parker squirmed in his seat, a flush rushed from his neck to his ears like a bruise. He twisted the mug in his hands.

“I’ve never been alone with Ryan before. I had to think of something fast.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking everywhere but at his wife. “What do you do with them?”

She sat back in her chair arms folded and head tilted. “I told you. They all go into the diaper pail. What did you do?”

“I buried them in the backyard.”

“Wha— Maybe you ought to bury all the spaghetti stained clothing as well.”

The End

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


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100-Word Challenge for Grown-ups – Week #155

Come join the fun; click below for instructions:

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week155/

This week’s prompt:  … READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! … + 100 words

100wcgu-72

ROCKET MAN

Sydney stared at his news-printed hands and pant knees. Palms half-way to his lap, he froze. Rising from the floor with a loud sigh, he headed to the kitchen sink. Hands scrubbed, he grit his teeth and pulled on an earlobe, a habit from childhood when trouble brewed. “Dang-blasted contraption.”

The front door slammed and shoes clattered on the hardwood. Mabel’s nose poked around the hallway corner ahead of her. “Easy-peasy, right?” Her chin and smile wobbled.

Red-faced, Sydney held up the extraneous parts, his comb-over slipping.

“It’s a steam mop, not a rocket ship. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!”

When have they made sense?

 

© 2014 TAK


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Plan A, B, and C

What’s going on with my fingers? Have I somehow rubbed off the prints we’re all endowed with at birth? I know you can’t see them, but I always pictured these invisible lines as working the way the rubber fingers we wore at work (on our forefinger), to flick through lots of paper, or to count piles of money.

Here’s a crazy idea. Maybe these little digits need a light sanding. You know, like roughing up old walls to help new primer or paint stick? Don’t mind me, when I’m desperate almost anything is worth a try.

Some days, I have no problem at all. My attempt to turn the page of a magazine, newspaper or the pages of a book is successful; other days I’m all thumbs. I pinch the page at the bottom corner and rub using my thumb on the top side and my forefinger and middle finger on the bottom. Nothing.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

Plan B: I wet my forefinger (I lick it when no-one’s looking—don’t tell) and try again. By now I’m not only frustrated, I see red. Why won’t the stubborn pages separate? I don’t swear as a rule yet a string of words I’ve never heard before spew out of my mouth and surround my head like a blue cloud.

Time for Plan C, the last and most ridiculous endeavor: blow at the bottom outer corner of the paper. For no particular reason, and a surprise to me, on occasion this works. I haven’t resolved why, and this also makes me wild.

In a coffee shop not long ago, I opened a novel to enjoy with my Java. I noticed a man close-by, reading. I don’t like to intrude but sometimes I’m uncouth. Seeing a stranger anywhere, with a book in his or her hand or underneath an arm, is enough excuse to strike up a conversation, “Whatcha reading?” This time I didn’t get a chance, though.

This man—about my age, maybe a day or two older—appeared immersed in his hardcover. Darn if he didn’t experience the same challenge of turning pages as I have. How is it he was familiar with my Plans A, B and C? As he blew the pages apart, I almost laughed out loud and had an urge to clap, but I restrained it. I may be ill-mannered by asking total strangers silly questions, but I wasn’t about to call attention to myself. It was a comfort I’m not the only one with this affliction..

I’m still stumped why I can’t turn pages more often now than in the past. Are my no-longer-agile-fingers to blame, or can I use the excuse it’s the paper’s fault?

A light bulb just went off: the next time I’m in this fix, I’ll stick my fingers into the jam jar before I pinch the pages. I’m positive this will work. Why hadn’t I thought of this before rather than struggle through all my hit-or-miss Plans?

Do you have an answer to this dilemma?


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Flash In The Pan – Dinner

“Oh—my—GOD!”

“What?”

“Says here Michael McClusky married Susie Penny.”

“I heard that. It’s strange how he found her, asked her to dinner and tied the knot lickety-split.”

“It’s forty-five years since he cheated on her and had to get married, right?”

“Something like that. What happened to the shotgun wife?” Barb asked.

“Divorced after twenty years and three kids. Didn’t need a shotgun neither; she lied to him and her daddy.” Mary stared at her sister, eyes bulging.

“Susie was broken-hearted for years afterwards. I can’t believe she forgave him.” Barb scratched her nose and squinted at the newspaper.

“I don’t know; he’s dead now.”

“What?”

“Yep, a week after the wedding.”

“Was it natural?” the sisters squealed together.


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This is Awkward . . .

Most days I get breakfast, read the newspaper and putter around, or attack tasks / projects I can’t avoid. Lately, there have been a ton of those  and I’ve been buried under lots of paper. In spite of concentrating so hard, a few days ago, I noticed something different:  SILENCE.

I live in the basement level of the house I share with my daughter and her family. The dehumidifier is going all the time. Or at least it was.

The hot water tank in the laundry-room was replaced about a month ago. Because of the water spill during the switch, I moved the dehumidifier in there to dry up the wet cement floor (decided not to spend the extra money finishing the floor). I shut it down afterwards.

In the past few days, the temperature has been going up outside. Yesterday felt like 35 degrees Celsius. Duh, time to put the dehumidifier back on. I decided not to move it back into the dining / kitchen area and left it where it was—a good thing too.

My dehumidifier is either having an identity crisis or is on strike. I can’t remove the water container—not that it’s full anyway but I keep checking—it keeps icing up inside. When I unplug it, the ice thaws and leaks (on the cement floor, thank goodness). I wonder if a good swift kick might help.

I’m was used to the constant hum it makes; why did it take so long to realize I live in tomb-like silence? Have I forgotten I have a radio? What does that say about me? I am not deaf if that’s what you’re thinking. My problem is neither my hearing nor memory. How can anyone be so busy she doesn’t stop to put some music on?

Anyway, I’ve no alternative. We are expecting a hot, dry summer (as in where’s the rain?). I’m ready to eat nails because I need to go shopping and don’t want to. My dehumidifier is only three years new. Drat.

By the way, now that I think of it, silence is golden or haven’t you heard that somewhere too? My worry is after I swallow the nails I will be screaming and it’s all my dehumidifier’s fault thus breaking the golden silence.


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The Uninspired Chronicles – Reboot

For rules regarding the Uninspired Chronicles, go to:

http://riatarded.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/the-uninspired-chronicles/

~ * ~

When I have an idea clamped in my teeth, I can’t sleep. I switch on the bedside light every ten minutes. ON to scribble something I don’t dare forget. OFF again. Good night. ON again. OFF again. So I lose a little sleep now and again. It’s just not often enough to be worth it!

On the other hand, when I have a brain cramp, I entertain myself  in unusual ways. Some efforts never work. Some work once in a long while. You have to have a sense of humour every now and again. I do try. More today than yesterday etc.

These are a few of my favourite prods (yes I need prodding, so I prod when I must).

Will it be a nudge, a poke, an elbow or a push this time? Let’s have a look.

1. Free write for 10 minutes about the first thing that pops into my head:  onions, the Easter bunny, what my grandkids did lately.  Aanything will do no matter how ridiculous.

Ninety percent will be garbage but usually a pattern will form.

2. Try prompts. A box of randomly selected words from the newspaper waits on my desk. The work spinach again? Ugh. Stinky socks—stinky socks?  Must I?

Sometimes this is even FUN.

3. I keep an envelope of pictures:  interesting faces, odd objects, shapes. I stare until I go cross-eyed. Something will come sooner or later. Sometimes much later.

Other times I just get a headache.

4. If staring doesn’t work, I head to the kitchen to chop, slice and dice until I end up with soup.  At least I’ve gained SOMEthing as well as a sense of accomplishment!

Not what I wanted but beggars can’t be chosers. (Apologies for the cliche.)

5. Do a brain dump when times are good. Plan ahead for the blocked days. Having some of these is a miracle but having something handy might help when I need it. Save everything.

Where did I file that great stuff I dreamed up last month? Why can’t I find it?

6. Writing often seems to keep the ideas coming. Life gets in the way, though.  There isn’t time enough for everything I want to do each day. Maybe I’m just too disorganized.

If all else fails or even when it doesn’t, I turn up the music. Remember marching bands? They still  get my heart thumping and rev me up.

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe next time. . .

I am such a fraud!

When I’m bored and can’t bang my head against the keyboard anymore, I try online challenges (something for everyone). Another reboot: I am energized by exchanging ideas, opinions and thoughts with amazing bloggers.


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Baby, It’s C-O-L-D Outside!

Yesterday it rained all day. Like a day in late spring, it was also warm (16 degrees Celsius)—hard to get my head around.

This morning, the world was white as alabaster and the trees looked like Christmas. Snowflakes crowded each other as they raced towards earth, swirling downward—huge, fat and abundant.

Because I don’t understand, I’m a bit worried. What the heck is REALLY going on? Some scientists say bah humbug. Others warn us. What’s believable? The saying goes there are two sides to every story. Are there two sides or is there only one? WHICH one? Is this a warning or is it just the weather repeating itself from another time in history—the Ice Age ? After the Ice Age? What? Maybe I’m just scrambling here. . .

I’m no scientist but I wonder if we shouldn’t all be doing SOME-thing MORE. But what? Where I live in Canada, we’ve had an unusual winter (again after 2010/2011). Today, we had icy roads which caused slowdowns and a tri-zillion vehicle accidents following yesterday’s rain and mild weather. Exits were closed because of pile-ups. Traffic crawled because of road conditions. Even the school bus was late—super late. Thank goodness our next door neighbour decided to take his little guy to school himself after we waited and waited for the school bus. Would I like him to take Hanna too? Yes please and thank you! I had another (sick) little one sleeping in the house so I couldn’t make the trek.

This has been another peculiar winter though a little different from last year. We’ve had (less) snow, only three times this winter. The weather’s been so unseasonal again; little green spring shoots were confused and peeked above the surface several weeks ago. With this sudden cold spell, they’re probably done for. Last year we had snow after the robins had already arrived and a couple of days into the new spring. Little green shoots got disoriented then too. With hardly any snow this past winter, what will the ground be like for planting season this year I wonder?

I know that recently tornados have devastated countless communities and reigned havoc on incalculable innocents in the U.S. I tend to believe that there are also more of those than before. Weather has been reigning countless adverse / unexpected changes EVERY-where. Can we turn a blind eye anymore?

Just like misery loves company, this is food for thought. Just saying . . .


20 Comments

Let Me Count the Ways

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. This morning was one of them. There’s a certain order to my day usually. I start out by reading our skinny local newspaper. It’s what I’ve been doing for six or seven years with breakfast and the habit is hard to kick. In all that time, I’ve actually missed receiving my paper only once. The other two times, well . . .

I ran up the stairs to the front door. No paper. I looked to the right of the stairs and then to the left. We haven’t any snow so it wasn’t buried. I called out to my daughter to check her bathroom. Nothing. I called the newspaper. It’s all automated now. After I punched in my phone number and then my house number as directed, a mechanical voice informed me that another paper would be out to me later the same day. It arrived in less than half an hour!

I didn’t know what to do with myself while waiting. Having this extra time at the wrong time of day didn’t suit me. It upset my schedule. I couldn’t even eat breakfast without my paper—I was out of sorts.

Why do I mention my daughter and son-in-law?  We’re all in the same house. I live in the granny suite down stairs. Since I have only one daughter this is a win / win situation for both parties. For the most part. As least so far.

My only child, a daughter, was gone from home. I’d hosted ESL students but quit after ten long years. It was a waste of money living in that big house all by myself. The property taxes alone were making me cringe once I’d been retired two years.

I thought it was a good idea if both my daughter and her husband and I sell our houses and buy one for all of us? Bear with me here. This was her inheritance, only earlier than usual. It was also about my golden years. Get the kids used to having me around and when the time came that I needed help, well, I’d be handy and so would they. Right? Sort of.  It’s a good thing I’m patient. I know they are a busy young family but what’s convenient for me is sometimes the opposite for them. Like the newspaper this morning.

After lunch I went upstairs to babysit my four-year-old granddaughter. She took one look at me, ran down the hall and came back with today’s paper in its plastic bag, “You forgot your newspaper,” she scolded.

“Where did you find it?” I asked stunned. (I’d forgotten…?)

“It was in my bathroom,” she informed me dramatically, handing over the paper like the miss-know-it-all  she is.

Sometimes my son-in-law likes to check out the paper before he leaves for work. It seems in his hurry to get out the door, he used the other bathroom (today) and forgot that it’s my paper and that I’d be looking forward to reading it. With breakfast. Same as the last three years. Like the weekly flyers he forgets to save for me instead of trashing when he’s finished. Also weekly.

Luckily the day got better as it went along.


35 Comments

Them’s Fighting Words

I don’t know if it’s maturity, experience or just plain crankiness. It appears I’ve become a nitpicker!

In the past few years, I’ve been noticing sloppy publishing in our local newspaper, which is skeletal compared to say The New York Times, and in the novels I love to devour as rapidly as I can. No matter how quickly I zip through some of them, I can’t seem to miss glaring typos. I recently read Stephen King’s tome 11/22/63 and except for the overuse of the word obdurate, I found no glaring typos. Do they even edit his books anymore?

I can’t speak about magazines as I rarely read them. Is it just me or are the proof-readers slacking off? Is this another job class that has disappeared from the workplace?

Our local newspaper, for instance, seems to have MORE corrections to sales advertising than I’ve been aware of in recent years. Daily. And it varies. Then there are the news items, some of which are printed from other papers from across the pond. This is a small sample I found on just two separate occasions because they JUMPED out at me. Maybe I noticed them because my glasses were clean.

  • …Michael minds the net during a friendly against the…(on the front PAGE!)
  • The man later retreated to home on…
  • In icons had intended to start shipping the…
  • Obama pointed point out that…
  • What some say is still is biggest problem…

Probably there is no use making a big deal about it and I’m not sure that I am, but why is this happening more rather than less? Is everyone in such a hurry to publish that the thought is: “Oh well, who’s going to notice anyway?”

I keep noticing and I don’t like it! What are standards for anyway?