How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle 6 – Prompt: Cowboy

Find the Rules at Rachael Ritchie’s blog: http://wp.me/p7rsge-cB

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Prompt:  Cowboy

Words: 990

The Devil is in the Details

Anita picked up the cordless and counted down the speed-dial list with a finger. No wooing, nor scheming, nor monetary enticements had worked. She had made the effort each time with high hopes. Nothing had changed in five years. She drew in an unsteady breath. The phone chirped in her ear. Once. Twice. And again. A tired female voice answered.

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“Hello, Grandma, that you?”

I’m not your grandma, darnit. Simmer down, Anita. She rolled her shoulders and pasted a smile on her face. Everyone knew a smile traveled through the telephone and out the other end. “That you, Sylvia? How are you? How are the boys? What about Emma?” Her face hurt but she maintained the smile though her jaw quivered and her eyes leaked.

A pause and an impatient sigh. “Everyone is fine. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”

“You’ve been on my mind. Miss the kids like crazy.” Anita bit her lip. There, I’ve said it. “Haven’t heard from them in ages. Something wrong with your Skype? I guess everyone has things to do and places to go.”

“Grandma, they’re busy with homework, baseball, and ballet. You know how it is.” A door slammed. Rowdy arguing followed; a girl’s shrill voice sliced through her brothers’ booming power struggle. The sounds muffled a moment. “Quiet. Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” A muffled drone filled Anita’s ear, then the sound of footsteps clomping on ceramic.

“Are you there, Sylvia? Can I talk to Emma… please?” Anita’s heart thrummed. How can she refuse? I know Emma’s there.

“It’s just—alright but make it quick. She has ballet in a few minutes.”

“Before you go, I have an idea. It’s been so long, I thought I’d come up to see you all for a couple days. Save you fare and travel time. Don’t want to be any trouble. I’ll stay in a hotel. How about it?” She ran a sleeve over her eyes, the smile cemented in place.

“I’ll have to talk to Phil. See what his plans are.”

“I don’t mind staying with the kids, if you have special plans—save you a babysitter.”

In the silent pause, Anita pictured her daughter-in-law’s eyes roll. “They’re teenagers and Emma is ten now. Here she is.” A hushed drone and a young voice gushed through the miles between them. “Hi, Grandma. How are you? I miss you.”

“Bless your heart. I miss you too, and your sweet face. We haven’t Skyped for months. How about this weekend?”

“Maybe. Gotta go, Grandma. Mom’s waving her car keys at me.”

* * *

“She offered to visit again, Phil. I can’t manage it: me working, you never home, the kids with their lessons and friends.” Sylvia paced before her husband, each point punched onto the pads of her fingers with a lacquered nail.

Her husband threw his arms in the air. “What do you want from me? The guilt of turning her down is killing me. Guilt over making extra work for you is too. Can’t keep putting her off forever. Figure something out that works. Get it over with, okay?”

“She’s your mother and a lonely old woman. I’m not up to playing nursemaid. I work all day, too, and have a household to run. Will you at least be around to help out?”

Phil pulled out a chair. “Sit. You’re making me dizzy.” Hands shoved in his pockets, he paced.

* * *

Separated from foot traffic, a bird of a woman sat in a wheelchair. Dark, wraparound glasses too large for her, covered half her small face. She clasped a red carry-on on her lap. The airport attendant behind her held up a sign with two words: Anita Martin. Phil rushed through the Arrivals door, his wife took her time behind him.

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“Mother? Are you all right?” Sylvia crashed into him at his abrupt stop. The attendant nodded and melted into the crowd.

“I’d recognized that voice anywhere.” Anita raised a hand for a shake. “That you, Sylvia? Good to see you both. You still have those cowboy boots you bought in Texas. The hesitation of your left foot since you busted your knee in football has always been a dead giveaway.”

“What’s with the chair, Mom.”

“Those are some ugly glasses, Grandma.” Sylvia made a face. She always spoke before thinking.

His mother-in-law ignored the affront, offering a weak smile instead. “It’s a long walk in today’s airports, sonny.”

“Gotcha. So… are you walking or riding?”

“Riding if you don’t mind. Too many people around and I’m slowing down these days.”

“You’ve lost weight haven’t you, Grandma? You’re not sick, or anything?” Sylvia studied her mother-in-law’s slight frame with a frown.

Anita clenched her teeth. “Don’t you worry about me. Let’s roll, sonny. Can’t wait to see Emma and the boys. Will they have classes tonight?” Leaning forward, she pursed her lips and hugged the case in her lap closer. “I can’t believe I’m here. The flight attendants took good care of me. Did you know they don’t serve free meals anymore?”

* * *

A supporting arm beneath his mother’s elbow, Phil guided her through the open door Sylvia had keyed open.

‘Powder room, Grandma?”

“Call me Anita. Please. Your timing is wonderful. Where…?”

“Around the corner and down the hall, first door to your right.”

The older woman toddled forward, a hand on the wall as if for support. Sylvia watched and sucked her teeth. She elbowed her husband’s ribs. “Something’s wrong with her eyes.”

“She’s fine. Just tired and shaky after the flight.”

“I believe she’s going blind, Phil. We’ll be stuck with her forever now.”

“Hush. If that’s true, we have to do right by her.”

Sylvia’s jaw dropped.

“Your mom and dad have each other. She can’t live alone—and so far away.”

“But…”

“She’s my mom, Syl. Oh my god. It just hit me. Being an only child is a curse.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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#BlogBattle 5-Prompt: Adore

Find the Rules at Rachael Ritchie’s blog: http://wp.me/p7rsge-cB

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Prompt:  Adore

Words: 780

Oh, Henry!

Love of learning amused and absorbed him. A good-natured boy, Henry hid a quick and vicious temper but when he played, he played to win. “Giving up already, lads?”

His cousins William and Charles slid from their horses. Fair-haired Charles, the more outspoken of the two, pursed his lips. “Henry, give it a rest. My backside is raw as a side of mutton. We can hunt again another day.”

Brow furled, William curled his lip. “The hounds need water and a rest as do I. The early spring sun is hot and burns, does it not?”

Henry sized up his companions beneath dripping lashes. Perspiration slid from his ginger hair to his flushed cheeks. He swiped a sleeve over his face. On the cusp of his eighteenth birthday, his energy and stamina exceeded theirs though they were of similar age. The hounds yelped and clustered around. “All right, men. Point taken. Methinks I need a tankard of beer to cool off. Follow me.”

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The horses dispensed to the care of the stable grooms, the young men joked and jostled each other like schoolboys up the dusty path to the main building. Large-boned but lean, Henry, the tallest, strut with a confident swagger, kicking up dirt behind him. Long strides thrust him a fair distance ahead of his cousins. Inside the palace, he raised his voice. “Cook. We have need to quench our thirst and meat to fill our bellies. Hurry, else I expire.”

Hearing the commotion in the dining room, Henry’s grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, hastened to his side. “The physicians say your father is weak and may not last the night. Eat your fill but hurry.”

Henry’s father, the king, had been ill for some time but his imminent death chilled him. Arthur, the first-born, had died. His mother had, too within a year. Henry had not been the favored son though his father strove to protect him from harm as second choice of heir to the throne. Now he might die within hours. He had never considered anything in life but continued study and the eventual rise to the role of Archbishop of Canterbury. His mother and grandmother had groomed him since birth.

Lady Beaufort hurried away.

Charles and William gaped at the news. “You’ve been heir to the throne since Arthur died. You knew your father wouldn’t live forever and as the only son left…” Charles patted Henry’s forearm.

Over-heated staff scurried in and out of the kitchen. They placed tankards of beer before the young men. Steaming platters of fragrant meats and pies and fish arrived in a flurry of countless hands.

Henry slumped in his chair. “Alas, I did—and did not. These seven years since Arthur’s death, I considered this often, but I am not for ruling. I prefer my books and music, jousting and wrestling. King? I do not want it.

“Father and I had a terrible row about a year ago. I told him I couldn’t do it. I had never seen him so angry. “‘You must carry on the Tudor line,’” he said. “‘This will be your responsibility after I am gone, like it or not.’” He laid hands on me as if to kill me. Wish he had, then I would not have this terrible weight on me.” He dropped his head in his hands as if to crush his face.

William grabbed a drumstick and sank his teeth in to the bone. He ripped off an enormous bite; juice dripped down his golden chin stubble. Mouth too full to speak, he chomped and nodded.

Charles surveyed the offerings but held back. He punched William’s upper arm instead. “Listen, Henry. It will be fine. You are smart and have a fair face. Who doesn’t adore you? Think of all the wenches and ladies-in-waiting at your disposal. King by day and seducer by night…”

“How can you speak thus or even entertain such depraved thoughts? I am not the sort to partake in the pleasure of the flesh before marriage. This is a sin. Stop right now.” He raised a sweaty palm.

Face pale as goat’s milk, Lady Beaufort reappeared wringing her hands. Henry jumped up before she covered half the distance between them. He slogged after her, chin to his chest. His cousins avoided eye contact and bent to the task at hand: the agreeable indulgence of mouth-watering food.

* * *

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Henry’s coronation occurred two months after his father’s burial. Lady Beaufort enjoyed herself at the banquet but died one day later on his eighteenth birthday.

Henry took to politics after all. A new era began in part due to his intelligence and forward thinking: some changes good; others less so.

 

The End

 

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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#BlogBattle 4 – Prompt: Iridescent

Find the Rules at Rachael Ritchie’s blog: http://wp.me/p7rsge-cB

Genre:  Fairy Tale

Prompt:  Iridescent

Words: 990

Oliver Goldglimmer

Flapping knobby hands, she coughed and sputtered. The air cleared of sooty smoke, Olive Goldglimmer blinked at her surroundings. “Oh, that hurts.” She rubbed her tender tailbone. “Might I not have a soft landing once in a while?” A vigorous chorus of robins overhead drowned out her words. “I’m talking to myself again, aren’t I?”

Olive studied the multi-hued flowers above her. “So sorry. I didn’t mean to crash into you, pretties.” Feet straight out in front of her, she slumped over her knees to relieve pressure from her battered vertebrae. “Where the heck am I? I’ve never been here before.” Rubbing a cheek, she further smeared her soot-sprinkled face. “Have I?”

A fleeting thought occurred to her. Finger pointed in the air to hook it, her eyes bugged out at the sight of the string tied there. “What’s that for? Let’s see, I-I-I… Can’t remember. Can’t do spells. Can’t fly… Might as well die.”

“Divine colors, these flowers.” Fingers reached upward to stroke the velvet stalks and feathery softness within her reach. My home is in grazing fields filled with red clover, yellow buttercups, and lush grass for those big animals—cows, I think. Sorry, I’ve squashed a few of you. I better get off, hadn’t I? Dear, dear.”

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Olive rolled her squat six-inch body from one side to the other, pushing off with an elbow. “I did not forget how to stand. Been doing it all my life, haven’t I? Come on-n. I can do this. Come on-n.” The rolling motion found her face in the dirt. She giggled. Her knees knew what to do. A push with her hands and she tripped over her long, shimmering gown. “Dear, dear. The young fairies have the right idea with their short skirts. Not appropriate on someone of my age.” Erect at last, she swayed to steady her balance. Her gray-streaked hair, once cranberry, had fallen out of its pins. Tiny fingers hastened to secure it back together and out of her face. “I must look a sight. Still talking to myself. Well, so what.”

“Sorry flowers. I didn’t mean to crush you.” Lined face softened, she blew a kiss, one foot already poised to toddle through the forest of blossoms. Home. What if I’m lost for good this time? A flicker of brilliance in the crushed greenery attracted her attention. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear. My pouch of found and rescued treasures.” She flushed with guilt and pleasure, the pouch clutched to her ample bosom.

“I remember—I cast a spell… What was it? I had it… Oh, dear. Oh, dear.” Oh, for Petey dragon, never mind. It’ll be a long walk home.”

Olive trudged and trudged. The sun slid toward the bruised horizon like a raw yoke on a fingerprinted wall. The temperature cooled. Birds chirped less, weary from their daylong concert. Floral smells scented the air. Olive pushed on in a never-ending field with not a creature in sight.

Someone or something whistled, drawing to her. The sound pierced her ears. A teenage boy, she guessed, in torn pants and a faded plaid shirt, repositioned his straw hat. A blade of grass in his corner of his mouth, he looked neither left nor right.

She flew into his face and tumbled earthward. “Yoo-hoo. Ouch.”

He brushed at his face as if flicking off a fly.

“Hey, you. You, Tom Sawyer person, you. Stop!” Olive skipped behind him to catch up. That’s when it hit her. “He can’t see me.” In desperation, she grasped a pant leg and hung on. Swish-toss. Slam. When had he stopped?

He growled, combing his surroundings. “Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Down here. They call me Olive. I’m lost.” Olive pulled with all her strength till she found his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know what or where you are but get away from me.” He switched the stalk of grass to the other side of his mouth and tramped on. Dusk drifted downwards like a gray fog, stealing the little light left. The moon rose cheesy yellow, face in a smirk as if It had heard a bad joke. A stone’s throw away, a dark shack surfaced out of the ground.

Olive sensed rather than saw her aura light up a hair-thin stroke at a time. It must be the last day of harvest because this happened the same time last year. Her heart swelled with dizzy exhilaration, knees weak and bendy. All her magic had not vanished—not yet—though her ability had lessened. She had not minded ageing, nor the forgetfulness, nor the loss of vitality—well, a little. Losing her spark, her zest for life had caused sadness, yet she understood the map of life.

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She shook off her reverie. The boy approached the cabin. In her excitement, Olive fell out, arms waving, wings fluttering. Up. Down. She floated. “Wait, wait.”

Hand on the doorknob, the boy dropped his chin, paused, and turned to the darkness fully arrived. A crazed yell tore out of his throat. He yanked open the door and slammed inside. Up-down, Olive floated, a streak of vacillating glow like a light posse.

The door squeaked open. A rifle barrel preceeded the boy. “Stop. What are you?”

Olive reared up and flew into his face. “Don’t shoot. Let me explain.”

* * *

The boy had listened and nodded.

“I live in a place called Aurora. Will you help find it?”

“My pleasure. I know my way around a fairy tale or two. Name’s Tom Sawyer. Pleased to meet you, Olive Goldglimmer.

Maybe for the last time, Olive’s wings opened iridescent and supple as in the days of her youth.

“Come inside. Can’t do anything tonight. Hungry?

“I could eat. Have you nuts or berries?”

“A real fairy. Shoot. Never heard of any your age. Know something? You remind me of my grandma—the one my author wouldn’t give me. Everybody has one, don’t they? Even me.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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#BlogBattle 2 – Prompt Thorn

Find the rules at Rachel Ritchie’s blog here.

Genre: Fan Fiction

Prompt: Thorn

Words: 920

Thorn

She slept long and deep. The man paced and stopped. “You’re awake.”

Piercing jade eyes glowered in the near dusk. Thick sheets of dark hair covered her like a blanket.

“You’re curled so small. Let me help you.” His blood raged when they touched. Knees limp as young clover, he kept his balance. The girl slapped away his hand and rose unaided. Spellbound, he watched her gaze about—a head shorter than he—blue-black tresses swung in slow motion, her movement fluid as water.

A low whistle escaped his lips. “The Creator made you a different design. Interesting. I like.” Man stroked his chin. Chest and arm muscles bulged. He circled her with the ease and stealth of a cat, while his blood stirred as never before.

“Who are you?” The words came slow and spaced apart. She tilted her head.

“I’m…I’m Man. The Creator gifted you to me.”

“What is gifted? What is this place?”

“Paradise.” With open palms, he swung muscle-bound arms about. Bird chatter, insect thrum, and the soft rush of waterfall crammed the garden air. “This is all ours.”

The girl yawned heavy-eyed.

“You are Woman.”

“Wo-man,” she said, sampling the new word. “Wo-man.”

“Come. I have much to show and teach you.” She drew back from his touch.

~*~

Days faded into weeks. Where one walked, the other followed. The two roamed the spectacular garden, eating a multiplicity of fruits and nuts abundant to them.

“Have I seen everything? I feel we’ve walked in circles. What’s in the middle of this garden?”

Man bit his lip. “There is something—the most extraordinary tree in the heart of Eden.”

“Show me.”

He could not deny her. “There are rules. You must promise.” She ignored him, traipsing ahead. He tapped her shoulder, chin pointing. They entered a grassy clearing. A snake slithered across their path. Sssss.

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“Stop here,” he said a hand on her shoulder.

“Wow.” Woman gasped and pulled on his hand. “What is this tree?”

“Forbidden fruit—The Tree of Knowledge. Everything is ours but not this.”

“Why not? This makes sense to you?”

“Enough. We must leave.”

The next day, Man could not find her. Desperate, he searched everywhere. “Woman. What are you doing here again? Stand back.”

“They reflect my image. Se-e-e.”

“You’re playing with fire. Come.”

Another day, Woman disappeared again. He found her in the orchard once more. “You mustn’t come here ever again! Temptation is great.”

On her third visit, she crept closer and gaped, entranced.

“Go ahead. Touch it.” The voice drew her like a magnet.

“Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Here I am. Sssss.” An over-sized, brown frog-like face peered out among the branches, spiked tongue flicking.

“I’ve seen you before. You speak?”

“Come closer. Closer. I won’t bite.” Hypnotic murmurs tugged till the woman lost all resistance.

Snap! She plucked the lustrous orb and thrust it into her mouth. Juice oozed over her chin. “S-o-o good.”

Man materialized out of thin air. “What have you done?”

“Taste.” She brandished the bitten apple beneath his nose. The sky dimmed, the garden faded into dull shadows of gray. The wind shrieked and blew a wild streak of swirling breath around them. The animals hushed and disappeared.

“No. I can’t.”

“Why can’t you do something I want for a change?

“No.”

“I’ll play your favorite games all night if you wish. Come o-on. You won’t be sorry.” She twirled the red and white fruit before his mouth.

Man tore into the offered fruit. Before he swallowed, thunder crashed and lightning ripped the sky.

“OUT. No more free lunch for you. A deal’s a deal.”

“I’m sorry, my Creator…”

Woman pouted. “Wuss. Don’t blame it on me. You could have said no.” She fixed a claw-like grasp on his forearm.

Man’s mouth flapped.

“Don’t look at me.” Woman stopped, pensive. She flung his arm away, aware of their nakedness for the first time. Examining a grove of massive leaves, she seized Man’s wrist. “Help me tear this off. She shielded her body from the angry rain and his ever-watchful eyes.

“Rip off another.” She winced, tracing a map of his frame in her head, from shoulders to waist to heels. “This one’s for you. For heaven’s sake, cover yourself.”

“All is not lost, Woman. We still have each other.”

“Sure we do. And a bun in the oven. I see you’ll to be a thorn in my side for the rest of my days.”

The rain pelted their tender skin like buckshot though they had no knowledge of what that was. The wind bawled and churned. “Where will we spend this night of fury?” Rain and wet hair lashed her face. One hand braced against the leaf, she spun round to place an open hand against his chest. “Well? I need to dry off and soon.”

Man shook his head, free hand raised to the sky in supplication. Fingers of lightning shot towards the ground followed in a nanosecond by a deep grunt of thunder.

The Creator roared in anger. “As you said, Man. Not all is lost. Now you must work hard for a living instead of savoring the cushy life I had planned with her for you.

Man hung his head. When he glanced up, Woman shook her head. “Let’s go. Do I have to do everything around here?”

The lashing rain turned to a fine drizzle. The animals peered around bushes and from the trees and watched two round-shouldered figures trudge into the night until they vanished.

The End

© 2017Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.


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#BlogBattle – Week 63

Prompt: Hero

Words:  1461

Genre: Drama

Check out the rules:  https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/

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Image by Pixaby. No  attribution required.

Butterfingers

The family reunion lurched into full swing.

Will Bailey’s back dug into the battered picnic table Stick-like joints folded elbows to knees like a grasshopper enjoying the sun. They unfurled with a snap, a closed fist smashing a wayward volleyball from shattering his head. Crack.

“Wow. Did you see that, guys?” A crimson-cheeked fat kid raced forward, slack-jawed.

Perspiring teenage boys and girls milled around Will, anxious hands patted his back and shoulders. A hand still at half-mast, his booming laugh replaced a self-satisfied grin. ”It’s nothing. Back to your game boys and girls. Which side is winning again?”

The boys, rowdy and energetic, high-fived. A reedy boy leaned forward. “I can’t believe the girls whooped that wild ball so hard, Uncle Will.” Adam’s apple bobbing, he smirked at his friends. “Surprise. Surprise.”

A raven-haired girl fought her way through the throng and crossed her arms. “The girls? It only takes one, buster, and that would be me—Penny.” She poked a thumb into her chest. “Little old me.” Hoisting herself to full height, the curvy girl stood no more than four feet from naked heels to the top of her head. The boys snickered and shook their heads.

“You do have a mean serve, girlie. Maybe you’ll learn to straighten it before you kill somebody?” He pointed at his nephew. Intermittent gasps sputtered in the crowd. A couple girls whispered, heads bowed, stealing glances at his hand. “When’s the last time you hit the ball half that hard?” He churned the air with open palms. “Go on and play fair.” The boys shuffled off elbowing each other. Will folded his gangly form once more, eyes closed, face to the sun.

Hot and limp from chasing the ball, someone threw a T-shirt heavenwards. “Last one in lake is a loser.” Bare feet pounded the sand, churning it in all directions as they passed organizers filling the park’s stone barbeque surfaces with meat. The sound and smell of sizzling burgers already worked on their appetites. Soggy tees soared like damaged birds only to nose-dive with a thump. Unzipped shorts followed, marking a wide trail to water’s edge. Dozing sunbathers and excited children at play in the sand slowed the rambunctious flock. They wove in and out around them, pushing and tugging, shouting and squealing at the top of their lungs.

Will ran a hand through thinning white hair and smiled. He dropped his hand and studied it. After all these years, he still wasn’t used to it. He turned with a start at the light hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t hear you come up, Josh.”

The reedy nephew pleated himself on the bench beside him. “Dad’s always saying I look more like you than him. Weird, isn’t it.”

Will studied the seventeen-year-old, a corner of his mouth twitching. “Seems so. A hardship, is it?”

“No-o. A comment—is all.” Josh toed the patch grass. “Good to see you. It’s been a long year since the last family picnic. We never see you.”

“You know I can’t drive, right? Can’t afford one of them fancy cars, neither. Even if I had a license, they probably wouldn’t renew it at my age. Something on your mind, Josh?”

“Not really. Wanted to talk without interruption. How you been keeping?” He squinted over his shoulder, breathing in through his nose. “I’m famished. Given the opportunity, I’d eat a whole cow not just a couple burgers. Why does food always smell so good outside?”

Will chuckled, pushing hands against the bench to rearrange his lean rump on the hard surface. “Fresh air and exercise, I suppose. I’m good for an old geezer and the shape I’m in. Thanks for asking. What I’ve missed—can’t lie—was playing sports and the freedom to do as I pleased.” He lowered reflective sunglasses to peer over the top. “Is that your mother bringing food?”

Changed to a dry Tee, Josh rubbed his chest and belly. “That’s mom. Bless her.”

“Son, my hat—is it under the table? The dang sun is frying my brains like steak.” The high-pitched clang of an iron dinner bell pealed in the distance. “Thanks. That feels better already.” He raised a hand in salute to Josh’s mother.

“Why don’t we move you and your chair into the shade? High noon. It’s hot enough to fry bacon on my nose.”

“About time you put your hat back on and moved out of the sun. Can’t chat—don’t want a stampede. The young ones are over eager now the food’s ready.” She chuckled, a buttery sound. “Later, Will.” Plates smacked down, she was gone.

“More comfortable in the chair, Uncle Will? Let’s eat.” Half the burger disappeared in one bite. He chewed, a look of bliss on his face. A raspy noise like someone coughing up sandpaper forced his eyes open. “What?” He bit off another hunk.

“It’s a pleasure to watch you eat. I used to put it away too when I was your age. Don’t want much nowadays.”

“Why do you come to these reunions? Nobody pays attention to you. I don’t even know half my cousins—there’s new ones every year—you can’t know many. The older people are busy cooking, serving and packing up again. Why do you bother to come so far to sit ignored?”

Will chewed and looked away. “You’re all the family I have. No fun living alone in the retirement home. Still enjoy counting the additions to this huge family every year. My friends are gone or dying. I’ll be gone soon, too.”

“Are you sick? Why don’t you live with us? Never understood why you didn’t in the first place. You wouldn’t be lonely in our house. Guaranteed.” Josh leaned over the plate in his lap, earnest brown eyes studying the man he wanted to know.

“Your father has badgered me for years. Can’t do it, son.”

“Why not? You’re Dad’s only brother. Why the heck not?” A crimson river of heat rushed from his chest, over his face, to the roots of his pale blond brush-cut.

“You have your hands full with six aunts and cousins, never mind your mother’s side of the family. I have good 12-hour care. I’m good.” A quick wink and he speared a forkful of potato salad. “You’re right. Food tastes a hundred times better outside.”

Josh dove into the salad and bit into the second burger, thoughtful, eyes assessing his uncle. He swallowed and cleared his throat. “How come no one talks about what happened to you? I want to know, but Dad always makes excuses. I’m not talking about idle curiosity, understand?”

“Nothing to tell.”

“You’re a hero and nobody talks about it. I don’t understand.”

Will heaved a deep breath, wiping his face and hands with a crumpled paper serviette. Like I said, nothing to tell, but if I can answer, I will. What do you want to know?”

Josh grinned scraping together the last of the salad on his plate. “Easy one to start. Why does no one call you Bill Bailey? Why only Will?”

The coughing-sandpaper sound began low and grew in volume. “It’s nothing to do with the song. I was named William, shortened it to Will by my teens. Once I heard about the song, I made it clear my name was Will and nothing else. I’ve had the song hummed enough times to lose my sanity.”

The boy slapped the folded paper plate against his knee, then grew serious. What happened to your legs? Dad says you never married.”

It was the Vietnam War, son. I drove a jeep over a landmine… End of story. About not marrying—why sentence a young woman to a life of caretaking when she can do better?” A shadow of sadness flickered across his face and vanished. He handed the half-finished plate to the boy. “I’m done.”

“And the finger? What happened to the top half? Do you mind if I ask?” Nervous hands slid up and down his thighs.

This time, Will honked when he laughed. His nephew heaved his webbed sun chair closer, exhaling.

“That’s a funny story—stupid if you want to know. About 20 years ago, I worked a table saw, moved the wrong way, put my hand out to catch my balance, and well, lobbed it off. Passed out—don’t know how long. Afterwards no one could find it.” He shook his head. “Dumb accident.”

Neither of them spoke for long minutes.

“I want you to promise you will come visit more often and stay over a few nights.”

 

Once Josh’s friends knew him better, they liked hanging around Will. No one noticed the wheelchair after a while. His habit of stabbing the air with a finger when excited was another matter.

The End

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


73 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 61

Prompt: Surfer

Genre:  Drama

http://blogbattlers.wordpress.com

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Busted

“Know what it means caught in the act? Well, I wasn’t. Didn’t do nothing.

“I had a life long ago, but it got boring fast. Sure, I wanted a little excitement. I worked hard at a job that sucked. Yes, I said it. The wife knew I hated it, but what could she do except complain there was never enough money. Yeah, she worked at this and that—babysitting, was a cashier once, sold Tupperware. Nothing in the real world so her pay added up to birdseed. Said it was her job to bring up our kids, not hand them off to someone else. Anyway, it probably wouldn’t have worked ‘cause we had a new kid every other year—four times…”

“Hey, slow down. Chill. Want to get us killed?” His passenger reached out to grab the wheel only to be shouldered back.

“Thirty plus years I’ve been bowing and genuflecting at the altar of the Boss Man. See? Had kids and a mortgage, responsibilities. Is that all we’re on this earth for—to toil, sweat, and die. The company kept laying off and cutting back the last fifteen years. Got gut rot. Call backs no guarantee. Can’t throw your seniority away so I hung on. Stashed dough in tins and jars, preparing for the next cutback. The only thanks at home were hands out for my hard-earned dough.

“The kids are grown and gone. About time. We had a house because of the sweat on my brow. Wants to sell the house. Wants half of everything. Nope, not from yours truly.” He smacked the steering wheel, open palmed. “I’d like to get my hands…”

“Geez Louise. Pull over. You keep wandering over the line.” Mike tapped Charlie’s arm with a fist, but again he shrugged him off.

“I’m fine. Keep getting these letters from her lawyer, and…”

“Thought we were going fishing. Any new fish stories?” He leaned in to fiddle with the radio.

“Leave it.” Charlie groaned, withdrew a cigarette from his shirt pocket, and tapped it on the steering wheel. Before he reached the car lighter, Mike flicked his Bic, offering a light. Blowing smoke through his nose, he nodded, squinting through the windshield. “My best man and blood brother. How long have we known each other? Forever, right? Haven’t seen you in a year and you can’t listen for five minutes.”

“What do you need, man. Shoot.”

“Never mind. I’ll figure it out.” Charlie shifted his weight in the old mustang’s bucket seat. Though the air conditioner blew full tilt, his balding head glistened where thin red hair had once flourished. Wiry brows drawn in a frown, his ruddy cheeks shone, too.

“You got a lawyer, right? What’s the worst you can expect?”

“Half of everything and then there’s the thing about my pension she can claim…”

“Whoa, where did that trucker come from? I’d say he’s in a hurry to hell.” Mike rubbernecked the back window.

“Talk about reach out and touch someone. He almost wrote his name on my car. That was too close. Look at him go.”

“Want I should drive?”

“Nah, I’m okay. You still have all your hair. I just lost mine.” Charlie honked when he laughed. Mike didn’t sound much better. “When you said to slow down, I remember a bunch of cars ahead of us.” He checked the rear view. “Nobody but us now.”

Mike steepled his hands. “Start at the beginning. What was the tipping point? Any idea?”

“Not sure. Other than working in the mill, I developed an interest in computers. You might say I had a gift. Learned to fix them. Easy. Soon, friends, and everybody called for help. Patty complained because I fixed them on my off days. Said I wasn’t available to her. Wasn’t charging money. What did she know? I don’t work for free. The money was good. Women were needy. One in particular—but nothing happened. She wanted me, I know, but I’m a married man, right?” She kept calling with problems and soon her wide-eyed gazes got to me. I felt sorry for her. Lonely, I guess. Anyway, I promised to look in on her now and again. I loved the attention. Who wouldn’t? She was a lot older than me but looked pretty good.

Got home late one night and Patty’s sitting in the living room—sprang at me like a panicked cat. Said she’d found an e-mail on my computer from a woman. Didn’t know she knew about computers. Saw my car on the street in front of an apartment building, she said. How did she track me…? She spied on me? I never spied on her. Told her people e-mailed for repairs. Had to change my password.”

Mike ran a hand over his full head of dirty blond hair and adjusted his watchband. Staring out the passenger window, he exhaled. “Can’t fault her for worrying, can you? This is her marriage too.”

“You’re not listening. She’s out to get me no matter what or how.”

“What else happened?”

“Sometimes—you know when shifts change and it’s hard to switch your inner clock and sleep’s not your friend?

“Yeah?” Mike cricked his neck.

“I cranked on the computer in the middle of the night a few times. Television’s a joke except for sports. Got into Chat Rooms. Real interesting. Lots of people with crappy lives. I was flabbergasted how real these people were. Soon I was on there every spare minute. Met a couple women in my area. Yeah, we met for coffee a few times. What’s wrong with that? Again Patty, the detective, managed to match unspecified fragments and attacked me with accusations of fooling around online.”

“In your defence, you said?”

“Checking my online investments.”

“You do investments online? Is it safe?”

“I do some, but am not sure about going hog wild. No.”

“You lied to Patty?”

“How did I lie if I’m not using real money? Was studying if I’d be any good with real money.

“Patty had the nerve to ask how much I’d kissed away in my online trading. I said I’d made thousands—couldn’t help it. Her eyes got so big.” He snorted. “Still, none of her business.”

Bug-eyed, Mike glared at his friend. “None of her business? She’s your wife and the mother of your children. What is wrong with you? So did you invest real money or not?”

“Here’s the kicker. Got past my password, again. Printed the chats and shook them in my face. Time for strange women and not her. Stuff like that. I didn’t check investments. I wasn’t an ordinary web surfer. I was a liar, an unfaithful husband, looking for trouble. Oh, yeah. Then she screamed about house stuff, the broken steps, no new appliances. What about the furnace? Yada yada. Nothing I did was good enough. No wonder I found ways to spice up my life. In the morning, she was gone.”

“Where is she now?”

Charlie raised and dropped a shoulder. “She called so I have her cell. Said she’s getting a lawyer, an apartment—not coming back—blah-blah-blah.”

“How long had the chats been going on?”

“Whose side are you on, Mike? I have her lawyer hounding me. I even said let’s start over. I begged. That hurt. Nope. No way. Nada. Any idea how I make this go away? Not lining no lawyer’s pockets. No sir.”

Mike stared ahead. Mouth clamped shut, he manoeuvred his lips back and forth.

“Well?” Nostrils flared, he peered at his passenger.”

“Pull over. I don’t think you’ll like what I have to say.”

“Hit me.”

“Ever go to work tired, make mistakes?”

“Tired. Yeah, so? Night shifts are great for catching some shut-eye.”

‘You get away with not working? And get paid?” Mike slapped his forehead.

“No biggie. Everyone does it. We cover for each other. An hour here and there.”

“You don’t care about anybody. Are you crazy? What if you drop a load, kill somebody from your crane?”

“You and hoity-toity Lenore are so perfect, right? You’ve never done anything you’re sorry for?”

“Get serious. Sorry? Only because you got caught. Pull over, I said. You planning to skip out on your ex? They’ll find you, and you’ll pay, sooner or later.

“Watch me because I can.” Lips clamped, Charlie wiggled thorny brows in his direction.

“Pull over. I want no part of this.”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere.” Charlie smirked, an ugly twist to his lips. Checking his mirrors, he slowed and pulled over. They were alone on the road. He turned to Mike with a cruel squint. “We’re stopped. Now what?”

“My bag. Open the trunk.”

“Okie-dokie.”

Mike bent to reach inside.

“Nobody calls me crazy.” Charlie slammed the trunk lid with all his might. “Guess you drowned fishing. Wuss.”

The End

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

~ ~ ~

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!

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.

 


63 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 55 – Leviathan

It’s that time again. To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor / Fantasy

cat-843457_960_720 white

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3

SNAGGED

Part 4

“What do you mean, ‘because of magic’?”

“You can’t imagine my shock when you showed up—on Leap Day. It’s a sign.” Maggie paused to pour a drink, but changed her mind hands aflutter. Where was I?”

“What did Zero mean about Nelda?” Lisa massaged Mozart’s ear. Euphoric, he leaned into her caress, eyes pinched shut, weaving on her lap drunk with pleasure, his purr lowering by decibels.

Rubbing her chin, Maggie paced two steps forward and back again. “How did the cat find you? I see the special bond between you—maybe that’s it.”

“Are you avoiding the question? Again?” Lisa stood, the feline deposited on the sofa. “Are you listening?” Hands on hips she stamped a foot.

Palm open to shush her, the woman in black continued. “Wait—the hair on your shirt. He must have followed it. Yes. That’s it.” She tapped a closed fist to her forehead, then hesitated, appearing to listen to something only she heard.

“Sit down, Lisa. I’ll start at the beginning. At first, when the Zika virus arrived families dwindled, I wanted to help Zero and his sister. They were unsure whether to go or stay. Of course, I wanted Zero to stay.” She looked up to underscore her point.

“Oh.” Lisa supressed a yawn.

“I was in a corner. Most of his family gone, and though Nelda decided to hang in, Zero kept dithering. You’ve seen the rare books I collect, some are two and three hundred years old. I came across a book of spells and of course had to try them. The arrival of this book turned me around.

I made mistakes, but they didn’t hurt anyone. Until Nelda.” Fingers entwined, she worked them back and forth, lost in a world of her own. Shaking herself back, she continued. “My life’s been a roller coaster ride—of  Leviathan proportions—since 2016 when Nealy slipped through my fingers. Exactly four years ago.”

“I don’t understand. What? A levia—“

“Sorry, like my dad I make weird associations. It a humungous roller coaster in Canada’s Wonderland. My life exactly, whoosh up one way and down another at breakneck speed. It a wonder I haven’t suffered heart failure since she vanished.” Fingers splayed, she patted her chest.

“I still don’t get it.” Coiled on the couch in sleep, Mozart yawned, and opened an eye at the long-winded explanation. Lisa smiled.

“Nelda understood I wanted her brother to stay and was willing help, even if we had to use magic. The magic excited her. I was merely desperate.

“We needed a black cat. I had Viper, but he refused to cooperate. Nelda held him down though he squirmed. Useless cat. He broke free and flew out the cat door as I finished the spell. When I turned back to her, Nelda was gone. Poof. I’ve tried and tried to get her back without success.”

“What does this have to do with me? Why am I here?” Lisa’s fingers reached for the cat’s ear. He sighed. She cleared her throat. “What about me?”

Viper sailed into the sitting room sliding across the wood floor until the area rug stopped him. Mozart snarled. Viper hissed. One black, one white, they eyed each other, fur raised, ears lowered. Mozart said something and licked a paw. Viper cocked his head. The women held their breath. Nothing happened.

“I have an idea. What time is it? Seven hours till midnight. I’ll get the book. Maybe this is my lucky day after all.”

Lisa shot to her feet. “No. Wait.” Maggie vanished through the curtained doorway. An eruption of heavy books thumping to the floor thudded from the bookstore.

Within minutes, she rushed back, stopped dead by the sight of the cats’ peering up at her. No hissing, nor fighting as if by agreement. Or magic. Glancing from the toms to Lisa biting her lip, Maggie nodded to herself. Hugging a thick, tattered volume to her chest, her eyes glistened. “I don’t know what happened here, but I like it. Viper is super territorial or was. Strange.” She grabbed Lisa’s hand. “Come help me.”

The girl shrank back. “What are you doing?” She flashed a glimpse at her cat, whose ears pointed slightly to the sides and forward. He stared back, unblinking and appeared to approve.

“I was right. There is something about your cat. He’s going to help me get Nelda back.”

“Oh, no you don’t. What about Viper? He’s sitting still. Seems logical to give him another try.” Lisa scooped her white bundle of joy. He nipped her finger. “Ouch. Sorry.”

Maggie flipped pages back and forth. “Come on. Come on. Where is it?” Except for the rustle of fine paper dancing back and forth between the leather covers, no other sound broke the silence. A film of perspiration glistened on her forehead. Mouth dry, she licked her lips. “I’ve tried so many spells, I can’t decide. I thought I’d put the book away for good after this morning’s attempt. I know not to waste time on that one.”

Lisa and Mozart’s eyes met. Hers widened and bulged. “What did you say about this morning? You mean your spell plopped me here?”

“Here it is—I think.” Maggie sat on the floor, book open on the coffee table. Viper, ever watchful, had not moved since Mozart had words with him. Head tilted, he was the picture of a sleek black panther in miniature.

Lisa sank to the farthest reaches of the sofa cushions. She listened to words, most she did not understand except one. “Wait, you said purgurtory. Shouldn’t it be purgatory?”

Maggie blinked. “What?” She began again. Viper stared at a spot on the wall.

Lisa caught the flash of a green dress. The woman looked familiar. A jackhammer clattered in her head.

* * *

Lis-s-aaa. Where are yo-uu?

The End

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


65 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 53 – Bun

To celebrate, the one-year anniversary of #BlogBattle we will not be writing a new story for the battle. For Week 53, Rachel at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/  has suggested the following:

  1. Choose one of your #BlogBattle stories from the past year
  2. Edit it however you would like
  3. Reblog/repost it next week on Tuesday, March 15th.
  4. Make sure you specify the genre and the theme word

Voting will be done from the compilation of awesome stories presented!

Genre: Humor

Theme Word: Bun

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Bun?

 

Clunk. Sylvie plonked the groceries on the floor by the front door. Shrugging off her coat in a rush, she headed to the kitchen. Halfway, she made an about face, hung her coat in the closet and grabbed her shopping bags.

Her cell spun on the counter, but she ignored it while it vibrated in circles. Purchases stored, she put on the kettle and dropped into a kitchen chair. The Thompsons and Millers were due at seven; she had time to change her planned dessert. What shall I bake special for tonight?

The kettle clicked off. She sighed and rose to make tea. The aroma of herbed roast beef filled the kitchen. Mr. Crockpot, her ever-faithful helper, hard at work again. She peeked through the glass lid and gave it a loving tap. Okay, five minutes—maybe ten—and I’m off to set the table.

***

Half an hour later Sylvie laid out fresh clothes and headed to the shower. She frowned into the mirror, turned this way and that, smoothed faint lines around her eyes and stroked her temples, caressing hints of gray threaded through mousey brown hair. Time for a color. Forty-one in a month. Imagine… Stop!

As always, the front door clicked open and slammed shut at exactly six o’clock. Sylvie smiled and rushed down the hall to meet her husband while inserting an earring. Arms outstretched, she rushed to embrace him.

“George, darling.”

Eyes aglow with pleasure, he let out a bark of laughter, caught her in his arms, and spun them around a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

***

At 6:51 p.m., the doorbell chimed. “I’ll bet my favorite shoes that’s my mom and stepdad. Always first. Always early.” Sylvie arranged pots on the stove in readiness for turning on during cocktails.

“Mom and Dad Thompson. Come in, come in.” George kissed his mother-in-law’s powdered cheek and shook hands with her new husband, the lucky owner of dense cloud-white hair. “Welcome to our home, Frank.” Before he dispensed with their coats, the doorbell announced another arrival. “Mom. Dad. Come in.”

Sylvie tossed her apron into a kitchen chair and joined the families, waving them into the Great Room. The still bare fields and garden were spectacular through the wall of unadorned plate glass windows.

“How are the twins doing at university?” her mother asked.

“They’ll be finished in less than two months and have to face the real world,” George said, a faraway look in his eyes. “How about drinks?” He rubbed his hands with zest. “The usual for everyone?” Nods and echoes of agreement ensued. “What will you have Frank?”

“What?” George made a drinking motion. “Whiskey, neat.” He looked about not knowing the routine.

The parents settled into their established seats. The women sank into the sofa facing the garden and the men into La-Z-boys across from them, footrests popped up at once.

General greetings exchanged, George delivered drinks on a tray and raised his glass. “A toast to our health at this happy gathering.” Glasses extended, nodding and hear-hears resonated around the room. The seats too far apart, only the mothers clinked glasses.

“Excuse me, one moment.” George disappeared around the corner. Upon his instant return, Sylvie sprang from her chosen hard-backed chair and exchanged a glance with her husband. He presented a white plate to the room. “Look what came out of the oven.”

“What’s this about done? Gun? What did he say? His new stepfather cupped a hand to his ear and squinted at his wife.

“He said nothing of the sort,” she said, eyes twice their usual size. One hand grazed Mrs. Miller’s lap. They gawked at each other, then at Sylvie.

“I said, look what I found in the oven.” George grinned wide. The tip of his ears crimson tinged, he tipped the plate several degrees.

His father scratched his chin, wiry salt and pepper eyebrows squished to attention over his nose. He studied the faces around him. “So?”

George set the plate on the coffee table and wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist. They grinned like children with a secret. Sylvie leaned her head back against his shoulder. Both mothers gaped at each other, their husbands, then back at the young couple while their spouses sat with mouths flapping.

George’s father shifted in his seat. “Will somebody say something? What in heck’s going on?”

 Blinking, her mother leaned forward, voice soft, hesitant. Cautious. “How do you feel about this, Sylvie?”

“Mom, I’m fine—ecstatic. Aren’t we, George?” He nodded. They rocked side to side, his arms wrapped around her, chin on her shoulder.

“I need another drink.” His father raised an open palm. “No, I’ll fix it myself. Haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Dad,” George said, his voice subdued. “We’re having a baby.”

His father’s brows shot heavenward. “Why didn’t you say so in plain English?” Empty glass in hand, he hugged his son and placed a resounding smooch on his daughter-in-law’s cheek. “Do the boys know? Bet they’re excited.”

“You’re the first to know.” George said. “I only found out an hour ago.” He suppressed a smile in his wife’s hair.

The grandmothers shook their heads and heaved themselves off the sofa to join the hug-a-thon. “It’s like starting all over again,” said her mother to Grandma Miller. “I wouldn’t want to do it.”

George’s deaf stepfather scrambled out of the chair and raised his glass. “I’ll drink to that. What are we celebrating?”

“We have a bun in the oven,” his wife shouted in his ear over the melee.

“We do? Take it out before it burns.”

The room rang with laughter. He joined in too though he still appeared confused.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: Pixabay. No attribution required.


81 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 52 – Prompt: Hair

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor

Part 1

 

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SNAGGED 

Part 2

What makes you think you’ve leaped inside a story? Maggie stepped back, a smirk on her face. The man in shorts stopped pacing. His and Maggie’s gazes met. She snorted and retreated again, hands steepled as if in prayer. Lisa examined her black attire: Straight long dress, shoes and short, spiked hair. Cool hair. Fortish? Is she a witch?

“What the heck is going on here?” Lisa squirmed in her seat, flinging the now empty glass back and forth.

“More water, dear?” Maggie leaned in plucking the empty glass out of her grasp. “Sit tight. I’ll be back.” As if floating on air, she swept out of sight.

Lisa’s mouth dropped, eyes drifting around room. Weird in sort of a neat way. This isn’t real, though. Can’t be. Holding her breath, she bent forward. “So, are you going to answer my question?”

“What’s that?” He stopped pacing and shook his head as if to clear it. Glancing over a shoulder, he caught both customers, bodies slanting forward, ears twitching. Lisa followed his stare. “Aren’t you two expected somewhere?” The tall one weighed the antique book in his hand raising his brows at his partner. She shrugged, returned her book to the shelf, and yanked his sleeve to do the same. Maggie materialized watching the exchange with a full glass of water dripping with condensation. Chins to chest, the pair skedaddled to the exit.

“Have another glass. This water is special.”

“How.” She shot Maggie a look, raised the glass to study the clear liquid. “I’m done being polite. Will someone please answer my question?” Eyes shut tight Lisa stamped her feet where she sat, slopping water to her lap and the carpet, sending a tattered slipper into the air.

Maggie glided to the front door, punched numbers into a keypad, and flipped to the CLOSED sign. “I have a sitting room in the back. We’ll be more comfortable there.”

Lisa gulped the remaining water and set the glass on the floor. “First things first. Is your name Zero?”

Something passed between the two friends. He lifted the back of his wrist drawing circles with a forefinger on the watch face.

“What a bizarre watch, or is that some new technology—Zero?” She concentrated on his reaction like a hawk.

“I’ve had it two ye…” His head whipped up, a flush rising from neck, to face, to ears.

Lisa’s mouth dropped flapping like a baby guppy.

“You’ve had a shock and are still dehydrated. Don’t worry. All will be fine.” Maggie studied Lisa’s wardrobe. Let’s arrange a change of clothing first.”

“Not necessary, because I’m… going home.” She yawned. “I’m so tired.” The woman led her to the back of the store, the man trailing behind them.

“Weird. This is a real bookstore. Are you an antiquarian bookseller? I don’t see any new books.  I’m… I’m talking a mile a minute, aren’t I?”

They reached a curtained doorway. Maggie pushed the man in shorts back into the store.” You stay there. We ladies need privacy.”

* * *

Hours had passed. The cat refused to come out from under the bed. From the balcony, Mya checked the parking lot for her sister’s car. Right car. Right plates. Still there.

Hungry, she peered into the fridge. Nothing but bread and eggs. Typical Lisa. The freezer however, had two store bought pizzas, a couple Ziploc bags of deli soup, a bottle of vodka, and two glasses. She grabbed a pizza, slapped it on the counter and turned on the oven.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a blur of movement. Crash. Bang. The books clattered to the floor. She rushed into the sitting room. One book lay open. She didn’t believe her eyes. “Lis-saaaaa. What’s going on here? Where are you-u-u?”

* * *

Dressed in a pale green dress identical to Maggie’s black one, Lisa folded her clothes and exited the bathroom. She dropped the bundle. A hoarse, mournful voice called her name. Lis-saaaaa. What’s going on here? Where are you-u-u? Hands clamped over her ears, she swayed and grit her teeth.

“What is it?” Maggie gathered up the shirt and leggings.

“Didn’t you hear her call me? I keep hearing my sister’s voice. Something’s wrong.” Ear to a shoulder, she waited to the count of ten. No more Mya. “Wait. Lisa grabbed the shirt. “What is this white thing?”

“Hair of some kind. Wrong color for you. Do you have a cat?” She made a roll of the clothes instead of refolding them and abandoned it in a kitchen chair.

“I do. Mozart. He was curled on my lap when I…” Lisa rubbed her forehead. The white strand stuck to her head.

“You’re okay now. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll call Zero.” She pushed Lisa towards the sitting room. Sticking an arm around the curtained doorway, she waved an invitation.

 

Lisa sipped her peppermint tea, lost in thought. ”What is this place?”

“I mentioned Crow Lake, I believe. Don’t you remember?” Elbows on his knees, Zero edged to the front of the sofa chair.

“Ye-es, but how did I get here? It hurts when I pinch myself, which means I’m not dreaming. All I wanted to do was to read, but I showed up here instead. What month and year is it?”

“February 29th, 2020,” he said. Maggie nodded.

“No it’s not. Too warm for February. There’s no evidence of snow. Wait! Did you say 2020? Are you pulling my leg?”

He shook his head. “What year did you think it was?”

“Silly, 2016, of course, February 29th”

“You’ve heard of global warming? We have only one season anymore and are luckier than most. Four years ago, the Zika virus reared it’s ugly head and has now swept across the globe. Between deaths and people cutting their losses and leaving, we’ve lost three-quarters of our population since it began.”

“Weird. Why does this sound familiar?”

To be continued…

 

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


72 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 51 – Prompt: Trace

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor

book-2869_960_720 Pixabay

SNAGGED

She snapped shut the laptop. It’s now or never.

Decision made, Lisa grinned. Excited fingers combed through short chocolate brown hair. No freelance work on the calendar. Either way she would have cleared it. The day looked more promising by the second. Coffee pot. Check. Popcorn from the previous night. Check. The stillness in the apartment sang to her. Heaven. Armed with refreshments, she padded to the Easy-boy, grabbed a blanket, and cranked up the footrest. The dozen or so novels laced in dust on the side table soon landed in her lap. A white cat with long silky hair jumped onto the foot support. “Mozart. Lonely sleeping alone?” He padded over her ankles and knees. Lisa scooped all the books but one, returning them to the table. The cat settled in her lap, stared into her face and purred. From habit, she caressed his soft head. “I don’t remember this one.” Chin on folded paws, he relaxed, one eye watchful. “Crow Creek, it’s called. Look. Bird silhouettes streaking across a cobalt sky. A remarkable cover. I don’t recall…”

Lisa’s hand snaked toward her coffee mug. Book propped against the cat she slurped the hot liquid and turned to page one. Mozart raised his head, bumped against the offending nuisance. “Settle down.” The mug returned to the table, she moved the book closer soon lost in the story.

The idea had been to pull up stakes long ago. Both still single, Zero and younger sister Nelda couldn’t agree how or when. They had been born in Crow Creek, but the population had dwindled from 100,000 to a quarter of that. The Zika virus had wiped out both parents and half their relatives. How does anyone leave them behind, alone with no one to visit their gravesites?

* * *

The store window looked real. She squinted over her shoulder. Dozens of bicycles and riders whizzed by on the tree-lined street. Birds chirped. The air smelled clear as crystal mountain air. Not one motor vehicle in sight. Nothing but quiet as if someone had muted the sound on a movie set.

She became aware of persistent knocking, pounding on wood. “Lisa. Open up.”

Spinning round, she saw no one, but recognized the voice.  “Lisa. What’s wrong with the cat? Open up.”

Her sister’s persistent voice gave her a headache. I must be dreaming.

“Why is the cat howling? Are you okay? Bang. Bang. “I’m calling the super. The poor cat.”

She heard it too, but far away. A cat bawled and bawled. The ratty slippers were hers as were the red leggings and fleece man’s plaid shirt she’d picked up at the flea market. She had dressed for a cold February day that morning. Now the sun’s heat sent rivulets of perspiration everywhere. A bump against her elbow sent her stumbling. Lisa squeezed her eyes tight. This was real. It hurt. She massaged the tender spot.

“Sorry. You all right?”

He leaned in, grabbed her shoulders, and steadied her. They were eyeball-to-eyeball. Blue-gray eyes searched hers. “Where am I? You can let go now.” She brushed invisible fluff off her shoulders and arms.

“You don’t know? How’d you get here?”

“I asked you first.”

Lips pursed, he let out a low chuckle. “Crow Creek.” Hands shoved into pant pockets he rocked forward and back. He made no secret of sizing her up, cooler then she by far in his T-shirt and tan shorts. “Aren’t you hot in that?” he said pointing with his chin.

“Wha-at? Not possible.” She pulled the front of her shirt away from her skin, shaking it and looked around again. “Doesn’t anybody but you talk around here?”

“Lady, slow down. Which? Crow Creek or your shirt?”

Lips pinched together like a lipstick-eaten hyphen, she glared at his chin, resisting the urge to look into those eyes. You’re enjoying this far too much.

“You have a name?”

“Do you?” She poked an index finger not quite to his chest.

“Manners, manners. You want help. Be nice.” He toed the cement walk. She moved closer to the shop wall into the shade.

* * *

A door slammed into a wall somewhere far away. “Lisa!”

“Me-oow.”

“Mozart. Where’s my sister?” Mya leaned forward. He backed away, yowled and flew down the hall to the bedroom. “Lisa?” She checked the rooms one by one. The bathroom door open proved empty as well. Something caught her attention. The laptop lay closed on the sofa table. Closed. Closed? She scrutinized the living room and the Easy-boy: the forever stack of books, a mug of cold coffee and a book face down on the carpet. Odd. No trace of Lisa, though.

“Everything okay in here?” The super hovered in the doorway, changing feet, a frown chiselled on his face.

“Sure. Lisa must have forgotten we had a date and stepped out. Thanks. I’ll wait.” He had already disappeared before she finished. How’d you get to be super? Unhelpful…

* * *

“Since you won’t play fair. I’ll introduce myself first.”

Lisa rubbed her temples. Her sister’s voice called and called from some distance. The buzzing in her ears sounded like a hornet’s nest. Hot. So hot. “Water. Is there water around here?” Eyes closed, she leaned against the shop wall.

Arm around her shoulder, he helped her inside the store. “Maggie. A tall glass of water please?” He nodded at the couple customers who turned in curiosity. The bookstore owner placed a cool damp glass into her hand where she sat in the armchair on the far side of the counter. “Anything else I can do for you?” The man drifted in and out of her vision behind the Maggie character.

“I wanted to celebrate this leap year with my nose in a book. I don’t often have time. It appears I’ve leaped into the story Instead.” Cool glass to her cheek, Lisa leaned around the woman. “Tell me your name isn’t Zero.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.