How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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Beijing: Part 3

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

My iPad Mini tells me this picture was taken at 6:31 a.m. A thin fog hung over the city our first morning. Sue hadn’t slept well and had been up and down all night. My unconscious-self had not moved all night. I heard nothing. Sue picked up the wake-up call, “You wake up now.” After a quick shower, I felt refreshed and hungry. The previous meal hadn’t been substantial.

Morning has broken

Morning has broken. Taken before we left for breakfast.

Breakfast had started at 6:30 a.m. The eating area this time was on the second floor unlike the first one for dinner the night prior. There was no shortage of choices: buffet style for visitors from both east and west. The usual items such as bacon; sausages; eggs boiled or eggs to order; various familiar cereals; yogurt; bread to slice; rolls; butter and jams were available. As well, roasted potatoes, corn, pasta, congee soups, spring rolls, and a variety of vegetables and more were on offer. Of course, an assortment of juices, coffee, tea and sliced fruits: watermelon, cut-up oranges, bananas, sushi, and tossed and bean salads were available. Prior warnings, by the travel agency, about not eating anything not boiled, were uppermost in our minds. I passed on most of these, though the presentations made my mouth water.

Introductions: At 9:30 a.m., our guide, waited in the hotel lobby and the bus waited outside. The dazzling morning sun had burned off the fog and the fresh air smelled of glorious summer. What a leap from winter, which we’d left behind almost two days ago, to a balmy Chinese spring.

Our tour guide was called Robert in English. I believe he was 40-something. He had the hint of a tummy but otherwise has an average five-foot-five, or six-inch frame. He didn’t avoid eye-contact and his command of English was excellent.

Our bus driver didn’t need to speak but he helped the ladies step up into the bus. I evaded his assistance. I didn’t want help. I don’t need any—not yet. Our traveling companions, the English 8 Group were all retired and eager to start.

Jim and Carolyn (Canada)

Russ and Bonnie (Canada)

Ernesto and Lorena (Mexico). They have a daughter in Canada who fingered the travel ad

Sue and I (Canada)

Upon arrival at the Temple_of_Heaven, the ladies squirmed and the inquisition began. “Where are the washrooms, please?” Who knew the ladies all followed an unwritten rule: never miss an opportunity. My mantra had begun at Chicago airport.

Each squat had a door though / Thank you Wikipedia Commons

Each squat had a door though / Thank you Wikipedia Commons

Park Bathroom

  • Had both squat and pedestal toilets
  • Men’s and women’s washrooms across from each other, separated by sink area
  • No toilet paper supplied
  • shared sinks are in between the two
  • Both sexes wash their hands side-by-side
  • Soap supplied
  • Driers weak, no paper towels
  • Counters drowning in splashed water

I lucked out with a pedestal toilet, but the floor and toilet seat were a wet mess. How does this happen? Thank goodness I came prepared with my own paper and dried up the worst bits so my clothes wouldn’t get dirty. I managed not to slip and fall and I hadn’t even needed to use a squat toilet. I hadn’t thought to pack a change of clothing. My first flush was an oopsie. I forgot to put the paper in the basket and instead flushed it. The sanitary system cannot handle paper well due to the extreme volume of usage. We were stared at. I smiled, washed my hands and waved them around when the drier didn’t work. It felt strange standing shoulder to shoulder, next to a man, in what feels like the women’s washroom.

Temple of Heaven (the park)

Short sleeve weather?

Short sleeve weather? Why the coats?

The area was park-like and filled with young people, seniors and everyone in between. We had come dressed for summer and removed our light jackets. The day was warm and the air clear. Most of the locals wore wool everything, long sleeves, hats and quilted jackets.

Even the older folk stretched limbs (legs) against wrought iron fences or practiced Tai chi. The younger groups—most of them female—danced to music (comparable to line dancing or Zumba here).

Tai Chi and in Quilted

Tai Chi and in quilted coat

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A few of the older generation (gulp) were contortionists. Say what? I have pictures to back ME up. See. Ouch. My back and legs can’t do that. My teeth hurt to watch. How is this still possible at this guy’s age? He must be over 75 at least.

Ouch

Ouch!

The man in the red sweater holds something akin to a bird (as in badminton). Demonstrations for its use look similar to a soccer player keeping his ball in motion. The feet and ankles are kept active. An effective exercise, I think and your competition is a small white plastic thing with feathers you must not allow to touch the ground.

  • Hawkers everywhere, with shawls, scarves, kites, badminton-like birdies etc.
  • Hawkers were persistent but not rude
  • Young and old come to the park for exercise and fresh air
  • I saw no dogs walked
  • Birds taken for walks. Their cages were hung on tree limbs
  • It was the weekend, a Sunday
Elastic Man. How old are you?

Elastic Man. How old are you?

We had free time to wander the park for about 20 minutes. Throngs of people surrounded us everywhere we turned. I imagined all these people were occupants of the many tall apartment buildings around the park. Their belief is fresh air and exercise are necessary to a good life. I kept a low profile—I might have gawked once or twice—the locals stared openly. It is their country after all and we were the oddballs.

Next on February 3, Beijing Part 4, 

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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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


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Is it Real, or is it a Memory?

Hello bloggers, near and far; dear and dearer. I am alive. Yes, this summer is almost over and already sliding into memory. I meant to visit you right after Labor Day, but was sidetracked—I needed to catch my breath. Whew.

The best part is the kids are back in school. Life should get back to normal, whatever that is. I flipped my daily schedule upside down: work first and play later. This means blogging will not happen until the latter part of the day. I cannot be trusted on social media for an hour or two at a time. Twelve hours disappear before I even notice. Poof, the day is lost and I’m wiped. I wonder how long this setup will last. It’s failed before, but I must try.

No, the trees aren't changing yet. This is from last October

No, our trees aren’t changing yet. This is from last October

I managed to do some of what I’d planned this summer and even some I had not. The bottom line is I needed a break from my break. Yeah, I’m a wuss—a shock to me too. Oh, oh. Do I see you rolling your eyes?

I still have a mountain of unread books on my dining-room table, which hasn’t shrunk by much. Sigh. It will take a little time to work my way back and I may not manage to be quite as vigilant as before. I have missed so much of what’s been happening in Blogland and all of you, of course. I feel like a stranger. I will never manage a catch up, but I am on my way back. I hope there’s still a place for me at the coffee table.

Here’s a link I came across this morning. Fits me like a slinky dress. Some of you too, right?

http://www.thespec.com/living-story/6859752-13-things-you-need-to-stop-doing-to-be-happier-right-now/

Hugs all around. Mwah.

See you next Friday?


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#BlogBattle Week 49 – Prompt: Lollipops

Join us at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Drama

lollipop-356401_960_720 Pixabay

This is a type of Lollipop

Change

Nothing had changed in ten years. Liz hadn’t cared he wasn’t a romantic when they married. She’d accepted it. Why did it matter now? Was the sound of the clock ticking louder and louder towards her thirty-fifth birthday putting her on edge? Possible, but not probable. Her birthday was three months away. She yearned for something, something to change. Did the why matter? Sam was a good man. Eyes wide open, she’d married him, hadn’t she? Put aside yearnings and whimsy for married life.

Lost in thought, she started when Max the family poodle nudged her hard enough to knock her over. She landed bent over the kitchen counter. “Hi you—oh!” Liz squinted at the wall clock surprised at the time. “Thanks, boy. Better hurry and clean up.” She patted his woolly, apricot head. “Don’t want a nickname like painted lady and scare the other parents, do I?”

Before rushing out, she shut the door to the studio at the back of the old house. A warm glow filled her, as it did each time she admired the huge window Sam had insisted she have. No, he might not be romantic, so what silly goose? Still, Liz craved something. She didn’t understand what.

Her teeth chattered. The temperature must have dipped since early morning. Hands buried in yellow wool gloves, she drew her hat lower and clutched the white quilted coat at the throat. A throng of other parents at the corner stamped feet and circled round each other like piranhas in a fish tank. She laughed aloud at the thought hustling to the bus stop stomping as well. At the sound of crunching snow, several of the waiting looked up, waved or nodded. The shake and rattle of the school bus caught their attention. They turned as one. No one noticed Liz wave. The changing gears grated, whined, and stopped. The door screeched opened. Six-year-old Cat lumbered down the stairs first as always, wobbling past the throng of parents into her mother’s arms. “What a sight you are, darling.” Hat askew, blonde bangs and hair messy as a haystack, the girl’s face red from the overheated vehicle showed no concern. Her eyes glowed, a smile stretched across her face, missing teeth yawning.

“Mommy, Mommy. Wait till I show you my picture from school. My friend Nathan—he’s a artist like me—made a wonderful picture with me. My teacher wanted to hang it in class, but I said no.” Liz zipped her daughter’s snowsuit and wound the scarf round and round her head.

“I want to know all about your valentine’s party too, but not now.”

“Hey, I can’t talk.” Cat pushed the wrapping beneath her chin.

“Darling, it’s too cold to talk. Tell me at home. Let’s hurry. Mommy’s freezing. Aren’t you?” Liz caught her daughter’s hand. “Let’s run. Bet you can’t beat me.” Cat yanked her hand from her mother’s grasp and tottered forward like a miniature Michelin man. Liz stomped in place holding back.

At the bottom of their front steps, Liz swung the backpack over an arm, grabbed Cat beneath the arms from behind, and frog-marched them to the door. Inside Cat unwound, unzipped, tugged and wrenched, sweating like a lumberjack. “Darling, you’re hot.” Liz dropped to her knees, seized the bottom of her boots and heaved off the one-piece snowsuit.

Without missing a beat, the girl dumped the contents of her backpack on the floor. Wrapped chocolate kisses, a box of Reeses Pieces, and loose valentines scattered all over the floor. Hands shaking, a look of reverence on her flushed face, Cat unfolded a white sheet of paper, studied it for a couple beats, and nodded. She stood as if in a trance offering the gift to her mother.

Biting her tongue and blinking back tears Liz knew that look, understood the satisfaction and amazement her daughter was experiencing. Her heart swelled all the way to her throat. “Let’s see. Ooh.” She swallowed hard to push it back. “Wait till Daddy sees this. Your attention to detail is astonishing.”

“So, you like it, Mommy? Happy Valentine’s Day.” Cat drew invisible lines on the ceramic hallway tile with a stockinged toe, hands clasped behind her back.

Liz sank to her knees, clasping the girl as tight as she dared. “This is the best Valentine’s gift ever. Thank you. Come. Let’s make a special supper tonight to celebrate.”

“I’ll set the table. Want the dishes from the china cabinet?”

“Good idea. Wait. l’ll take them out for you. Your favourite tonight, roast chicken.”

Cat clapped her hands, stopped and tore down the hall.  “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Liz chuckled. “Don’t forget to wash your hands.” I’ll open a bottle of wine. It’s Valentine’s after all.

* * *

An hour and a half later, the doorbell chimed. Mother and daughter stared at each other. “Who can that be?” Cat turned to the door. “No, you don’t young lady. I’ll get it.” Shoulders back, Liz snatched open the door. Her jaw dropped.

“Are you Liz Wilson?”

She nodded if you could call it that. The deliveryman handed her a bouquet of yellow flowers, spun around, and disappeared down the drive.

“Mom, you’re letting in the cold. What is it?” Cat lingered down the hall knotting fingers together.

With gargantuan effort, Liz unglued her feet from the floor and closed the door. “Flowers.”

“They’re pretty. Who from?” The girl tiptoed within reach of her mother, extended a finger.

“Don’t know.” She held the cellophane wrapped bouquet away from her body, eyes feasting on them. Yellow. My favorite color.

“Open them.”

“What?”

“Doesn’t it say who they’re from? My teacher got flowers today. There was a card.”

“Oh. Yes. There is.”

A key in the door announced Sam’s arrival. He grinned. “They’re Lollipops. Like ‘em? Cat, these candy ones are for you.” His daughter squealed.

Blinded by tears, Liz grabbed Sam’s tie and pulled, crushing the flowers between them.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


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Ferry to Labrador

Luggage outside the door and breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Leave hotel at 9:00 to catch the ferry 30 minutes later.

Silly me. After breakfast, I told sister Mary we needn’t rush as bus boarding wasn’t until 9:30. At 9:01, the hotel phone rang. Everyone was on the bus. Waiting. What? We rushed out and I kept apologizing. Some eye-rolling commenced, but everyone seemed good-natured about it. I cast my eyes to the floor, praying for it to open and swallow me whole.

To give us all a different perspective from the bus, Francis moved our seating two rows forward each day. The wife of one couple, sitting across the aisle, began a tirade that the practice had stopped. She was wrong, and this was only day four. My first mistake was not ignoring her. I was reading after all. The second one was nodding (though non-committal), hoping the conversation was over. I turned back to my book. She called the guide, who explained he did move names every day, but she didn’t understand. He stayed calm and finally walked back to his seat.

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We arrived at the ferry in good time to board, bus and all. A hatch like a car hood yawned open and Shawn drove us inside. The holding area was already half-filled with vehicles. Francis led us up three flights to a wide, empty center, large enough for a big dance party. Facing the huge expanse of windows, bar-type tables and chairs hugged the perimeter

For health and safety reasons, an announcement came over the intercom advising the location of rafts and life jackets. I didn’t understand the rushed message. Deep water and the talk about it gave me the chills. The engines hummed. They became louder. We watched the door through which the vehicles had entered, descend and close like jaws on a shark.  I felt the ferry floor vibrate beneath my feet. We crossed from Newfoundland to Labrador across the Strait_of_Belle_Isle. The distance is only about nine or ten miles, but the ferry doesn’t travel in a straight line. The crossing took about an hour and can take up to ninety minutes.

Someone heard about a school of dolphins and fish. We raced to the poop deck, but all we accomplished was a sharp slap of freezing wind in the face when I opened the door. Also no whales. This tour had been added after the close of the tour season because the travel company had such an overflow of tourists interested in making this trip. No whales. No puffins and no lobsters. All gone. Moved off. We’d come too late to Newfoundland.

Upon arrival, our group was called to gather by the Information Desk for disembarking. The stairs were narrow and a fellow passenger with a cane in front of us tried hurrying. Mary warned him to take his time. I was shocked to see cars parked with a hair’s breadth between them. It didn’t take long for the cars in front of our bus to drive off and allow our exit. There wasn’t room to slide a sheet of paper between our bus and the car beside and in front of it. Shawn inched the bus back to open the passenger door. He barely squeezed inside himself.

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WE arrived on a strip of Quebec and drove through L’Anse aux Clair (cove of life), the road traffic moved at a crawl. Here you can change your watch back to Newfoundland from Quebec time. Fog rolled off the St. Lawrence, thick and soupy.

Today’s Chuckle:

A taxi driver picked up a nun. She noticed him watching in the rearview mirror after she got into the back seat. “Is something bothering you, my son?”

“I’m sorry, Sister. I’d rather not say.”

“Go on. I may be a nun, but I’ve heard a lot of things in my time.”

“I’ve had this fantasy, Sister, my whole life, of kissing a nun.”

“That’s alright, son. I can oblige, but I have two conditions. You must be Catholic and unmarried.

“I’m both of those, Sister.”

“Pull in there son.” She pointed to an alley.

Ten minutes later, they came out. The nun noticed the driver crying. “What is it, my son?”

“I lied, sister. I’m not Catholic; I’m Jewish and I’m married.”

“That’s alright, my son. I’m Kevin, and I’m going to a Halloween party.”

Next on February 12th: L’Anse Amour

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

For more related posts, click on Newfoundland / Labrador tab at the top of the page.


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#BlogBattle Week 44 – Prompt: Worm

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

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

happy-new-year-1105854_960_720

Initiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Liar. You thought my mother’s.”

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean, gone? Gone where?”

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

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

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

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

“But my brother ordered it for me special.”

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

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

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

“Two months?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi-dee-ho.” He grabbed his coat.

“Harry, didn’t you forget something?”

“What?”

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

* * *

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.


92 Comments

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year;

Pockets full of money and a belly full or beer…or wine if you prefer.  

Can it be five days till Christmas already? I popped in to wish my special friends in Blog World a Merry Christmas, a fabulous holiday season, and a Hap-hap-happy New Year. Here’s an Oldie but Goldie for a sing-a-long to put you in the spirit of the season if you need a nudge. I do. We have no snow and it’s warmer than usual for December.

Credit:   ChristmasTimeTV

My granddaughter dressed my tree this year, and even put the lights on—her first time at not yet twelve—because I’ve had tendonitis for the past six months and needed help. She took it a little easy on the ornaments, but the results are a colossal success and I’m grateful she was willing. This means we’ll have less to take down before my trip to Vancouver three days after Christmas. (Can’t let the cats have too much fun while I’m away or maybe cut themselves on broken bulbs, though they’ve been good as long as I took away the tree skirt).

Do you know anyone born on New Year’s Eve? This particular sister I’ll be visiting has missed birthday presents for 60 years.

Credit:  Sarah Robinson

I had no idea my cat Dickens, adopted last January, had FIV and gingivitis. I found out about his health conditions when I took him to the vet shortly after adoption. He’s lost so much weight in the past few days, I took him to the vet two days ago. He’s lost more teeth and his gums have been a bloody mess.  He’s on pain killers and antibiotics now and already his coat looks less mangy today. How I hate forcing kitties to give them medication. On the other hand, it’s a bonus not to bleed to death myself while fighting with them. The pain meds are thick enough to smear on a paw, but the antibiotics are thin as water and he’s not forgiving.

Dickens is the tan one; Lady G. is brindle.

Dickens is the tan one; Lady G. is brindle.

November had me chained to my desk. I’d participated in NaNoWriMo though I hadn’t registered. At the last moment, a friend challenged me and unprepared, I dove in, thinking no way would I complete the task ahead. Had it not been for Karen, I would have given up by day ten—my first brain drain–but she, the competitive type, kept me at it because no way was I pooping out first. Now I have a book of short stories to edit in the New Year and maybe, maybe, I’ll complete that circle too. I tell you to stay accountable. November paid off much better than last summer had workwise.

If I had not had your kind and generous support all year, I have no idea how I might have moved forward towards my long-time goal: indie publication. Thank you. Thank you for the jab in the ribs whether you had any idea or not. I could not have done anything without you, my supportive community, and I plan to return the favor again soon in 2016. I have been mostly absent since the summer, but it has been worth it. I appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness, each and everyone of you.

It’s been an unusual, but exciting year for me. Thank YOU.  Thank you. I had no idea what a wonderful world I’d entered when I began blogging four+ years ago. I am close to 500th posts. Close, but still a few to go.

 

Credit: gabychest

Or maybe you’d prefer a more honkytonk version:

Credit:  TheChiefEmperor

Happy New Year!

Hip-hip-hooray 2016

Hip-hip-hooray 2016


39 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 33 – Prompt: Lurk

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

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IMG_2361

Previously:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Choices

Part 5

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t know the problem yet.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How long have you lovebirds been married?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honk. Honk.

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

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

“Tube door?”

“Yes.”

 

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

* * *

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

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

“Nope.”

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carol stroked his arm.

Victoria frowned. “Why…?”

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

The End

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


107 Comments

*Applause, Applause*

 

I wrote my About Page four years ago today. It appears I’m off the radar at WordPress, however, because no notification of my blogoversary has arrived yet. Woe is me. NO matter.

It’s been an exciting time and I count myself most fortunate to have met so many fascinating bloggers. Some of you have stuck with me from the beginning to present day. Yes, it took time to meet one at a time, but I’m exhilarated to be a part of this kind and nurturing community.

At last I’m writing thanks to the discovery of Word Press and blogging. I hope with time I learn and improve this amazing and fulfilling craft. You have been most generous in your support and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Credit: Microsoft PP Slide art

Credit: Microsoft PP Slide art

This anniversary seems the perfect opportunity to celebrate you, and to go on hiatus. I haven’t been firing on all pistons of late and need to rejuvenate. Instead of whining, it’s time I do something about it. I plan to clean up and complete impatient writing projects for which I’ve had neither time nor energy, and to add new ones.

See you in September, kids. Wish me luck. It feels strange to cut myself off for the summer, but I’m doing it because I must. I miss you already.

Credit:  AK47bandit