How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


61 Comments

BlogBattle Prompt – Resolved

BlogBattlers are back. Let the games begin in 1000 words.

Read the rules here:  https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/rules/

Genre: Tall Tales (a tough one)

Prompt: Resolved (words 987)

Resolved

Have I ever told you the story about Grandpa Muckle’s house? No? Annie’s 10-year twin nephews leaned forward where they sat on the floor cross-legged.

After our grandfather died, your father and I helped clear out the house. We were eighteen and twenty. Rick positioned the painter’s ladder beneath the trapdoor to the attic. He had waited a long time to peek inside that forbidden place, but he paused.

“Go on. You don’t expect monsters, do you?” I concentrated on the square in the ceiling, too. Chewing on the end of my ponytail as was my habit, I thought I’d choke on it.”

“Grandpa wouldn’t allow us to explore up there, remember,” Rick said. “I’ve always been curious why.”

“Maybe he never finished it like Dad.”

Your father blew out a breath and gave me the look. Thick Styrofoam clad the removed board.

“Flashlight.” I poked him in the ribs with the one in my hand.  He heaved himself through and sneezed.

“Bless you. What do you see? Anything interesting?” He disappeared into the dark, wordless.

More curious than nervous, I sprang up the ladder after my brother. With a click, the room flooded with light. We gaped like dazed children, pulling dust covers off in a hurry: four white chairs; a matching table; a single bed and dresser; a dollhouse and an ornate trunk. Everything white except for the trunk, which was painted a slick ebony shine. Smooth white-painted walls encased the room. Rick dropped into a chair and I slid into another. The chairs spit us out on the floor, bouncing back into shape toward the trapdoor. They wobbled like rubber, the legs bendy and weak to accommodate our weight and size before pop and shriek.

“What happened” My eyes rattled in my head like in a cartoon.

“What is this?” Eyes glazed with shock, Rick’s voice cracked. “Is this the Twilight Zone? I don’t know what to make of it. Do you?” He surged upright, then paced the black and white tiled floor. Hands deep in his pockets, he slumped against the wall. The wall stood firm.

Attribution: Pixabay

Image Attribution: Pixabay

In one corner, the trunk beckoned. Dust motes danced over top as if in invitation. Childhood dreams of treasure chests and pirate’s treasure awakened again. My brother’s voice faded. The chest waited. I struggled with the lid. No go. Locks require keys. I didn’t see one. “Help me open this.”

Rick lost no time patting down the lacquered box. No luck.

“Seems strange it’s sitting off the floor. Is that a skid under there?” I pointed.

Rick clutched the bare wood. “Help tip this over.” We stooped hip-to-hip and heaved in unison.

The trunk weighed less than it looked. A half-dozen grunts and huffs later, it lay on its side. Rick found something taped to the bottom. Whoever guesses what gets an extra cookie.”

The twins elbowed each other. “The key—the key.”

“You’re both right. Your dad fitted it in but it refused to turn. He tried and tried. Nothing. What to do?”

The boys shared a probing stare, freckles bright. “Oil can.” They high-fived.

“Aren’t you smart? Great answer, but it still didn’t work.”

“Did you see inside the trunk or not?” Trevor’s face reddened.

“Patience. Sometimes patience conquers all.”

His brother breathed deep, the chords in his neck engorged. “What did you find? Something good, I hope.”

I raised a palm. “The key wouldn’t work because someone had bashed the lock. With a screwdriver and hammer, my brother somehow worked his magic. The lid lifted like a charm and guess what?”

“What? What? Pieces of silver?”

“Rubies and diamonds?”

“Something better than that.”

Faces incredulous, the boys squinted. “No way. Nothing’s better than gold or silver.”

“Inside—wait—inside lay a white robot, an R2D2 look-alike—sort of.” The boys scrambled onto their hands and knees.

“No way. Did it work?”

“Did you charge it?

“Hey ho.” Rick called from the hall, “What are you guys doing?”

“Tell us about Grandpa’s attic and the robot in the trunk. Did it work?”

Rick pointed a finger at his sister and pursed his lips. “You didn’t.”

Taupe-penciled brows peaked, she crossed her arms. The boys frowned contemplating their aunt and father.

“Did it work? Come on, Dad.”

A silent deliberation transpired between brother and sister. “Come here boys.” Rick flopped into the center of the sofa. “You know Aunt Annie tells tall tales, Right? Remember the one about fool’s gold in the backyard?

Three sets of eyes scrutinized Annie. “You wouldn’t.” she said.

“What part of the story did I interrupt?”

“The robot, Dad—in the black chest.”

“Of course, him. He had a note taped to his gray metal chest.

I have no experience and no action. I’m worthless. Sorry.

“What happened to it, Dad?”

“You know this is Grandpa Muckle’s house. Your aunt liked it so much, she renovated it and hoped future Muckles will too. You haven’t seen the attic?”

“So, what about the robot and the crazy furniture?” Trevor brayed.

“Your aunt made up the story about the crazy furniture—it’s make believe. The robot—you have to see for yourselves. Let’s get this resolved. Come on.”

Rick pulled down the new-fangled stairs to the attic and led the way. He hit the lights.

“Look at this. There’s furniture, but it’s ratty old patio stuff, a dog carrier, and a sewing machine…Where’s the robot? Trevor, the older twin, scurried from corner to corner and stopped dead. He laughed and laughed. “Come here brother.”

“This stovepipe tinman is no robot. Aunt Annie, when you tell a tale, it’s a tall one.”

“But, no treasure? That sucks.” Trevor backed away. “Where’s the trunk? Did you check for secret compartments?

His father shook his head. “No trunk.”

“The only true thing is this black and white floor. You got me, Auntie. You too, Dad.

Younger brother whooped. “Hey, Trevor, is that a suit of armor?”

The End

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Advertisements


27 Comments

Recuperation and Shopping

Though tired from the long haul from Thetis today, Mary and I stayed up to watch the Magnificent Marigold Hotel DVD, Part 2. The original is still vivid in my mind, but I cannot remember the second part at all.

The New Year had already slipped into day three. I had lost all track of time. The day overcast, everyone tired and sluggish, we voted to sit around, read and relax. No one thought of television till after dinner when Jean or Michael suggested Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01p6j8z

Another day of drizzle. Monday, Michael returned to work after two weeks’ vacation. The rest of us took our sweet time lollygagging along, finally headed to the village of Deep Cove shopping area. I looked up from the bottom of the inlet to this breathtaking view of the mountains. Straight ahead in the center is Mount Seymour.

Mural on a building in Deep Cove

Mural on a building in Deep Cove

About twelve years ago when I last visited, the area thrived and bustled. Now businesses had moved and premises were empty with slim pickings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Supper offered a new treat: vegetarian shepherd’s pie. Impressive. A fantastic facsimile in look and taste. You wouldn’t believe the complicated recipe. Know the price of pecans? This is an expensive recipe because you need a cup each of hazelnuts (filberts or pecans, well chopped) and walnuts.

Tuesday, it drizzled. I hate shopping anytime, but I wanted to bring gifts back for the family. We headed to downtown and Commercial Drive following a late breakfast. I hustled up one side of the street and down the other. Neither Mary nor I was interested in classy new stores. Jean showed us fantastic second-hand stores because we find them more fun. By 2.30 p.m., having skimmed every store, I found wonderful earrings for my granddaughters, necklaces for my daughter(one a blue Swarovski crystal) and a new ring for me. In Newfoundland, I saw a ring that called to me, which I wear on my right hand. This time I had bought one for my right (both coasts covered). We stopped for coffee and a sit in a favorite Italian restaurant Jean raved about.

img_2665

Exhausted, we headed back to Jean’s for a snack. The sky opened. Rain sluiced the windshield hard, then slowed to a drizzle again.

After dinner, Jean played jazzy tunes on her baby grand. Wish I’d taped at least one. We’d saved the second half of Downton Abbey from the night before and watched the ending.

L-R: Jean, Mary, me

L-R: Jean, Mary, me

Morning began at 4:00 a.m. Jean drove us to the airport while Michael slept. He had work in the morning. Traffic non-existent, we fast-tracked to WestJet Departures. Kiss-kiss. Hug-hug and it was goodbye.

Mary printed the boarding passes with a transfer in Calgary. Neither of us had brought credit cards in hopes of spending less. We were in Vancouver, after all. No one deals in cash anymore. How were we to pay for our luggage? A friendly attendant took our luggage, tagged the bags, and accepted our debit cards. Yay.

My purse set off an alarm. Did I have any liquids or aerosols in my carry-on? The security employee was polite. “Please open your bag.”

“Oh!”

I’d forgotten stowing a mini bottle of water inside while removing laptop; electronic devices; loading trays; removing shoes; showing boarding pass; dragging my handbag, and carry-on. Whew. How many hands do I have? Not enough.

“Would you like me to pour out the water and return the bottle?”

“If it’s not too much trouble.” I sagged with relief.

“No trouble.”

I’m surprised my bag didn’t need to be x-rayed again. I’d made the same mistake on the way to Vancouver. No bells went off. I walked through with an almost full, regular size bottle of water in my purse. Not thinking, Mary had carried foaming hand soap for sister Jean in her carry on. They confiscated it, of course.

Through security, we had ten minutes to board..

I should have nodded off on the plane but watched the sun come up instead.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Calgary, our gate changed at the last minute and boarding delayed 16 minutes. Three hours and twenty minutes to Toronto. Homeward bound.

 

Next time on December 16th A surprise

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

For more related posts, click on Abbreviated Vancouver

 


69 Comments

Trinity and Port Union

I smacked the alarm at what appeared to be 7:14 a.m. What? Guess no breakfast, I thought. Lucky for us, it was only 5:15. The alarm hadn’t been properly set. Mary groaned, intent on staying in bed a while. I took my time getting ready: a treat not to rush my shower or share the vanity, while I painted my face awake.  The morning began with an upset tummy, but with time for breakfast, I wasn’t going to miss it.

Newfoundland Facts:

We stopped at Mirabella Artisan Gift Shop mid afternoon. The shop put on coffee just for our tour group or so we heard. Mary bought me one while I joined the line to the powder room. The washroom had a shower and if you wished to use it, you had to register with the desk. Really? The room was larger than required for a toilet, sink, wastebasket and baby change table. I wonder if it had been a bedroom at one time. Why hadn’t I asked? I forget what Mary purchased or did she? She used to be an avid shopper but has toned down the habit in the last couple years.

Ring IMG_2904

 Surprise, surprise. Though I am never interested in ‘more stuff’ other than books, an adorable sterling silver ring caught my eye. The extra 30% off special didn’t hurt either—better than costume but at a lower price than gold.

TRINITY BAY Quick Facts:

  • Trinity surrounded by the bay
  • Anglican church built by the merchants
  • Catholic Church never had electricity. They couldn’t afford it (too few Catholics).
  • First Court
  • Stocks and whipping post
  • First smallpox vaccine introduced here
  • Strict building code: must be all wood
  • Can only use 5-inch clapboard in downtown area
  • Have a Heritage Committee
  • Center for Tourist Attraction: actors re-enact people of the times 150 years ago (merchants interacting with farmers and other everyday life interactions)

Mussel Quick Facts:

  • Mussels main food of star fish
  • Wraps arms around mussel till it opens its shell
  • Mouth is where stomach is
  • Insert stomach where mussel is to consume
  • Mussels can’t swim
  • Barrels across lake in rows attached with rope
  • Rope lengths dropped at intervals for mussels to attach (they like to cling)
  • When full, fishermen shuck them off the rope
  • Drop rope into water again till more mussels attach
  • Big market for them now
  • Shipping to Germany

(Rope lengths dropped at intervals for mussels to attach)

PORT UNION Quick Facts:

* * *

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Three guys go to the washroom. The first guy finished announces aloud, “I’m from Saskatchewan. We all wash our hands after using the urinal.

The second guy finishes and announces he’s from Quebec. We all scrub our hands afterwards and he proceeded to scrub.

The third guy announces, “I’m from Newfoundland and my mother taught us not to p*** on our hands.

* * *

Next on June 10th – Bonavista

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

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


61 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 54 – Feather

To join the challenge, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Humor / Fantasy

brandy-402572__180

Part 1    Part 2

SNAGGED

Part 3

“Let’s start again. This is my friend, Maggie, owner of this wonderful bookstore.” The man in shorts spread out his arms. “I love the smell of books, don’t you? You’re right. My name is Zero, but how did you know?” He stroked the Big Ben watch face with a forefinger, one eye on his wrist and the other on her.

“What?” Lisa swung a searching look from Maggie to the man. “This is creepy. I mentioned before, I picked up a book—no idea where it came from—and began reading. Wait. The title said Crow Lake.” She set the cup and saucer on the side table, rubbed her temples, and cricked her neck. “Crow Lake— like this place. You can’t help me?”

“Sheer coincidence, I’m sure.” He stretched across the space between them and patted her knee. “Wouldn’t you agree, Maggie? Maggie? Where are you?”

“Settle down.” The woman in black bent over the table and deposited a tray of glasses and a bottle of brandy.

“None for me thanks. I have a monster headache squeezing my brain.”

“Sorry to hear that. Here. I brought you water.

“You have a cat? I hear it, but where is it?” Lisa searched the floor.

“I do, but—

“Mee-oow.”

“Ow. My head.” Arms raised to grab a lopsided weight spiked to her head, Lisa resisted the urge to scream. Maggie cackled a crone’s laugh, holding her sides, spiked hair weaving. Eyes glazed, Zero bounced out of his chair to lend a hand. The cat hissed. He stepped back, shoved hands into his pockets.

Blank-faced, Lisa’s eyes widened at the unexpected bundle dropped into her lap. “But— But— Mozart?” The white fur cloud stood on his hind legs, raised a paw and patted her cheek, then again with an unwavering stare, and again. His purr grew from a low whirr to a vibrating rumble. She hugged him. Front paws raised, she lifted his light frame like a baby. Head tucked over her shoulder he pushed his nose into her neck, purr steady and deep. “Have you come to take me home?” She drew a jagged breath, silver tears leaking though she blinked to stop them. “What am I saying? How did Mozart get here? How did I?

Zero cleared his throat. He thrust a box of tissues at her. “Handsome cat. I’ve never seen one this affectionate. Maggie’s cat toms around the neighbourhood coming home only when the pickings are distasteful.”

“Watch what you say about Viper. He never took to you either. Brandy?” Maggie poured before anyone answered. Gripping a snifter, she took a large swallow and coughed. Zero thumped her between the shoulder blades. “That’s enough.” She took a smaller sip.

“I don’t understand why I’m here, and my cat? And, how? This is too bizarre.” She stamped her feet, the Tom’s ears twitched; he gave her a sour look. “Sorry.”

Maggie passed her a snifter. “Do you believe in magic?” She searched the depths of her own glass before raising an elegant black brow.

“You’re serious? No. I do not. That’s make-believe for kids and fairy tales.” Mozart continued to purr. She stroked his long silky fur with utmost care. Raising his head again, he patted her cheek and sighed.

“What if I said magic is real? Would you believe me?” Eyes dark, voice humorless, she nodded swirling the glass, studying the gold liquid sway to her manipulation.

“Do you? Can you send us home?

Nervous, Zero sipped the liquor, ears flaming red. “Tell her about Nelda. Tell her.” He paced two steps forward and two steps back in the awkward space. Lips compressed, Maggie shook her head.

“Your sister?” Lisa’s voice croaked

“How do you know that?”

“I told you, from the book I started before I popped into this place. Where is Crow Lake exactly? Show me a map. Where’s your computer?”

Zero hooted. For a man with eyes a girl could drown in, he laughed like a donkey. Lisa’s jaw dropped. Mozart sat up blinking at him like an owl, one eye at a time.

“What’s so funny? I Google stuff all the time. What’s wrong with that?”

“What you call computers are extinct.” Maggie extended a wrist sporting a nautical-type watch similar to Zero’s. Observe. Poking dials and sketching shapes on the watch face with a forefinger, she pointed it towards the wall. A holographic map projected on the wall.

“Wow. How did you do that? No laptops either?

“Nope.”

“What country are we in?”

Maggie snapped off the hologram.” You won’t find Crow Lake on this map.”

Zero glared at Maggie pointing his almost empty glass at her. “Why won’t you tell her?”

“You heard her. She doesn’t believe.”

Lisa and the cat regarded the sparing pair across the room from each other. Left. Right. Left. “What’s this about? Nelda? Magic? What?”

Zero dumped his snifter on the coffee table. I need air. Deal with it Maggie. Once and for all.” He hesitated, turned back, wearing a thoughtful expression. “Excuse me.” He directed an abrupt nod towards Lisa and fled.

A deafening, protracted silence bounced around the mint green walls. Not even the familiar ticking of a clock echoed in the hush. Mozart licked a paw, cocked his head and chose another.

Maggie spoke first. “This hasn’t been my best year. I’m in a bit of a pickle.” She glanced over her shoulder to the back door. Maybe it’s a good thing you don’t believe in magic. I’ve made a couple troubling mistakes of which I’m aware—because of magic…”

“Can you fix them?”

“As my father liked to say, ‘That would put a feather in my cap, if I wore one.’”

To be continued…

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


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.


84 Comments

#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.


62 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 48 – Prompt: Chasm

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  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 around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

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

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

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

coffee-667052__180

Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 3

“What is that awful noise? ‘There birds in here?” Raising her bird’s nest bedhead, Grace unglued a puffy eye. “Wha…?“

Frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr.

Blinding light suffused the room. She rolled over, face pushed into the pillow.

“Never known you to sleep this late. Everything okay, baby sister? Here. Brought you coffee.” She plunked a mug on the night table and dropped into the tub chair alongside, already fully dressed in Khaki pants and white blouse. “Polly, talk to me.” She sipped her coffee.

Her sister rolled over; grabbed her glasses. Squinting at Grace, her fingers fumbled for the coffee. “Why’s it so darn bright?” Grasping the pillows, she swooshed them against the headboard, and scooted back, leaned in and sighed. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“It’s past nine—you didn’t answer my question.” Grace lifted her mug. “You look like something the cat threw up.”

“Says you. Truth is I didn’t sleep well, at-all, at-all, at-all.” She slapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. I fell as if into a chasm at the first hint of day.

“Oh? Do tell.” Grace’s eyes wandered to the window as if she could care less, ever watchful from the corner of an eye.

“Tommy called last night. I didn’t pick up.” Polly turned her cup round and round studying its contents as if reading tea leaves. “Terrific coffee, sis. You’re looking perky. You had me worried last night.”

“Uh-huh. This is news? Boohoo for Tommy. What’s really eating you? Don’t bother fibbing ‘cause you can’t fool me, like you think you’re doing.”

“Duh.” Polly made a face. “Better get up if I want more coffee.”

“Cut the crap already, what did you get into when I went to bed?”

“Nothing.” Hazel eyes innocent and enormous, she bowed to her coffee.

“We’re sisters, but you are trying my patience.”

“You heard any rumours about family secrets—being the older first child—you know?”

Grace’s mouth dropped. “What are you talking about?” Forehead furrowed, she swung her head around like a puppet, blinking, scanning the files in her head. “This isn’t like you. What’s going on? Is Tommy blackmailing you into marrying him?”

Polly snorted, coffee splattered over the lily-white bedcoverings. “Sorry-sorry-sorry.” She bounced out of bed hauling off the stained candlewick bedspread and top sheet. “Forget Tommy. He’s not news.”

Grace grabbed the bottom of the heavy spread. “Laundry tub, downstairs, I think. I’ll start the soap and water. Bring the vinegar?”

“Here. What do you know about granddad and Uncle John?” Polly swished the soapy water while her sister added the vinegar.

“What an odd question. I have no idea what you mean.”

“Uncle John was not to be trusted. Dad worked his fingers to the bone in Grandpa’s business.”

“Oh yeah? What if you’re wrong? How about breakfast. I’m starving. ”

Polly watched her sister through lowered lashes. “Wrong? I don’t understand. Dad was the good son. Worked and slaved—he saved Granddad’s grocery store from ruin. Uncle John was the black sheep. Everyone said so.”

“Or scapegoat. Help me lift this in the tub.”

“What?”

“Let’s play what if. Coming?”

“What if what?”

“Both Dad and Uncle John worked for Grandad, right? What if Dad had a gambling problem?”

“What? No way.”

“What if he had sticky fingers and helped himself to the till and the store check book.”

“I don’t believe you. Is that why—?”

“Why, what? You want eggs or oatmeal? Why, what?”

“Nothing. Eggs. You too? Great. I’ll do the eggs.” Polly opened the fridge.

“Back in a shake. Have to rinse the bedspread.”

“I’ll do it. It was my fault.”

“Thought you’re doing the eggs? Get cracking. When I return, I’ll expect answers. Tut tut.”

* * *

“Grandma’s spread is good as new. It’s in the washing machine now. You still look like last week’s leftovers. Why couldn’t you sleep and why all the questions? Good. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

“Coffee?” Polly grabbed the pot and poured two cups. “Going to the attic today?”

“Tut tut. Come on. Clean slate. What’s on your mind?”

Her mouth full, the younger woman chewed and chewed. And chewed. Eyes growing by the minute, she swallowed hard. “I found something in one of the boxes last night.”

Eyes narrowed, Grace clutched the mug to her chest, still as a statue. “What?” Her voice gruff, she cleared her throat.

“It’s better I show you. Be right back.”

Lost in thought, Grace jumped at her sister’s reappearance. Polly thrust the paper under her nose. Studying her sister’s impassive face, she dropped into her chair. Arms around her torso, she rocked in place. The air sizzled with tension. Grace fanned herself with the birth certificate. The women stared at each other.

“Anything else in the box you found this?”

Polly blew out a breath. Her body sagged. The words spilled out in a tumble. “Know anything about this?” She gripped her fingers till the knuckles turned white.

Grandpa handed over the business banking to Uncle John when dad’s bad habits surfaced. The checks to cash were for his gambling debts. He paid them off in person, in cash. Uncle John didn’t want a paper trail.

“And the birth certificate? Why was brother Frank a secret?” Her voice, though a whisper, cracked.

Grace exhaled loud and long. “Mom couldn’t kick dad out, but she’d had it with him. He up and disappeared one day. Frankie was born a year before you, but he wasn’t right…died. You came seven years later.

“Before dad left—“

“No. Grandpa lived to see Frankie. Not grandma. It would have broken her heart. Everybody’s gone now. I’m glad I’m moving into a gated retirement community. Too many ghosts here. You should come.”

Polly shook her head, hand up open-palmed. “I don’t understand, then who…? Not Uncle John, of course, because he was…

“I guess he wasn’t.”

“He’s my fa…?”

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


67 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 45 – Prompt: Dive

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  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. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

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

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

woman-933488_960_720

Goldilocks?

An unusual number of parked cars clogged the street in front of her apartment. Sandy grumbled and turned left twice to the underground garage, at the back of the building. She reached for the remote but it wasn’t on the visor. “Where the…?” An impatient car horn sounded behind her and inched forward closer. She tapped her horn back at him. Wait. The driver laid on the horn again like there was a fire.

Though early spring and breezy, Sandy’s armpits soaked through her light jacket. Blinking in concentration, she pawed the passenger seat, in the crevices, and on the floor. No luck. Her head snapped at the thump on her driver’s window unable to identify the face bent towards her.

“Open the window.” A man’s voice growled the words, and pixel by pixel, she discerned a human face: short clipped beard, mustache, angry brown eyes, nose skimming the glass. “Well?”

She snapped into action and cranked the handle a couple times. “Sorry. I’ve misplaced my remote. Let me in with yours and I’ll be out of your hair.” She wound up the window, forced a smile and set her hands on the steering wheel. Eyes bulging, he threw his hands into the air. Muttering something colorful, he slapped the window again, and stomped off. Heart racing like a thundering locomotive, her focus on the garage door, Sandy gripped the steering wheel. The double-door creaked and yawned open. Without skipping a beat, she lurched forward and around the corner to her designated spot.

Parked, then out in a flash, she noted the remote on the floor on the driver’s side. She dashed towards the trunk, grabbed her parcels and raced to the elevator. She did not intend to share the pleasure of his company in such a cramped space. Before the door slid shut, a hand plunged to the button on the wall outside without success. Muscles tense and rigid, Sandy shrieked and watched the door slip to its final destination. “Yes!”

The elevator stopped on the third floor. Sandy grasped the handles on her shopping bags and backed into a corner. Old Ma Murphy, as the the tenants called her, tapped her way into the elevator, the splitting image of the famous Einstein. “Hello, dear. Don’t you look a fright. Everything okay?”

Sandy raised a clutch of bag handles to her chest and exhaled. “Sure. I’m good. Had a tense moment with a nasty driver.”

“One reason why I never took up driving, especially these days.” The door creaked shut an inch from Ma Murphy’s behind. She poked her cane at the scruffy carpet. “Mrs. Swain is home from hospital. In need of pleasant company, she said. Going to make her tea.”

Sandy glanced at the red floor numbers. Creak. Creak. They stopped on five. Old Ma Murphy pointed the stick at her packages. “Ever wonder if you spend too much money on nonsense?”  She said, “Tsk-tsk,” circled round and shuffled out, shaking her head. “Young people these days.” The door scraped to a close and rocked upward taking its sweet time to the 11th floor.

Her floor was empty.  Already smells of early suppers cooking reminded her she’d forgotten lunch. Dropping the bags in front of 1105, Sandy fished for keys in her purse. She came up empty. This isn’t happening. It’s not happening. Hairline damp, she stamped her foot and tried again. Teeth clenched, fingers fumbled and clawed. They closed around the key ring. A door slammed in the hall, but she didn’t look up. Instead, she stabbed the lock and pushed the door with more force than intended.

Inside, she leaned against the closed door, eyes and ears on alert. Something odd hung in the air. A sixth sense held her back, wary. There couldn’t be anyone else in the apartment. She’d made enough noise to wake up the dead, hadn’t she?

The kitchen on her right, she tiptoed inside. No one and nothing. Why is it, she wondered, when you think an intruder might be in your house you don’t run for help? Instead, you choke on your heart, crossing fingers no one’s there. She grabbed the meat cleaver off the counter and almost called out, ‘Is someone here?’ Stupid question. Would an intruder answer, ‘Yes, me, the intruder.’ Living- and dining-rooms clear. Nothing worth stealing anyway.

Short of collapsing from tension, Sandy crept down the hallway. Had she shut the bedroom door before going out? She turned the knob with exquisite care, and pushed in the door, not allowing it to slam. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. One door left: the bathroom. She listened. Not a sound. A strong aroma of orange blossom bubble bath enveloped her.

Beyond terror now, Sandy wrenched the door open. A body took a dive beneath the bubbles, red-painted toenails trailed in the air. She’d recognize them anywhere.

“Clarisse. What are you doing here?” Hand thrust in the water, she shoved the head down, panting and collapsed on the floor. “How’d you get in?”

The body popped up, short hair clinging to scalp and face, gasping for air. A pale hand swept across her eyes and over her forehead, teeth gleaming like piano keys. “What a way to greet your little sister. Don’t you check your texts? We’re celebrating your promotion.”

“How’d you get in?”

“You gave me a key, silly.” Clarisse arched ink-black brows and rolled her eyes. “I buzzed and buzzed until a cute guy with a beard and mustache let me in.”

Sandy dropped the cleaver and covered her face. “You almost gave me a stroke.”

“Drama queen. Out—and then it’s your turn. We have a double date tonight.”

“Who? Not…”

Clarisse wiggled wet eyebrows.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


42 Comments

#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.


46 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 8

This week’s theme is: Madness

To join, Check out http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Madness

Mickey prowled the house. She paced from room to room, flicked through all 60 TV channels. Nothing interesting after another rotten day at work. I can go to the gym. No, don’t want to.

She hadn’t realized how graveyard still her house had become till her cell intoned the tinny version of a Rolling Stones top hit. Having wandered into the kitchen, she peered at the wall clock. Probably a telemarketer at 7:00 p.m.

An excited voice droned into her ear before she managed a hello. Yanking the cell away, she made a face and sighed. “I can’t understand a word. Can you slow down? Please” Working fingers through straight cinnamon hair, she prowled the length of the room.

A few words jumped out of the garbled rush, “…cruise…skill…question…”

“No thanks!” Her voice hung in the air, loud and ugly, as she flipped off the phone. “Why’d I pick up the darn thing?” She threw herself onto the sofa, limbs loose and sprawled like a rag doll.

She sat up. Attentive. What’s that? At first Mickey thought she’d imagined the faint sound. A baby crying? None of her neighbours were associated with any. She waited, then jumped up rushing to investigate outside the front and side doors and the windows open to the cooling May evening. The dead-end street remained silent. Empty. Lifeless. Waiting. Waiting for what? Stop it! Back and forth she strode down the hallway from the living-room to kitchen and back again. Listening between floor creaks.

“Meow.”

“We do not have a cat.” A laugh simmered in her throat and she set it free till she cackled, beside herself. Wiping aside tears, she opened the front door again. Nothing on the porch or on the road. No cats anyway, which wasn’t unusual. The two old ladies with cats lived further up the short street and kept them housebound.

This is crazy. It’s as if a cat’s in the walls. She laughed again but didn’t sound merry at all. Ears plugged, head light, her heart bumped and ground.

“Meow.”

Mickey yanked the broom out of the cleaning cupboard and poked about the kitchen beneath the chrome table and chairs and into all the empty corners. She continued through the bedroom, dining-room, living-room, and even the bathroom. She listened at the walls careful not to scape an ear on the white stuccoed living-room.

“Meow.”

Where is the darn cat? Slashing her broom like a saber, she tore up the L-shaped stairs to the second floor. Inside empty closets, in half-decorated bedrooms, around and behind unpacked boxes she poked and crawled. Nothing. Down the stairs and two short flights more to the basement she raced. Lights on, she surveyed the rec room: burgundy carpet and orange couch. Bleh. No turning down free anything thanks to her husband.

A basement window stared half-lidded. The only one without a screen. Open. The only one not painted shut. Stupid. Stupid. Up on the milk crate beneath the window she’d last opened it, Mickey removed the supporting pole and latched the window shut. “All quiet on the subterranean front.” She giggled, a nervous vibration. A cleansing breath in and another one out, then another; her heart slowed to a steadier beat. Laundry-room. Check. Furnace room. Check. Closet. Check. Behind the bar. Check. “No cats and no mice. All is quiet. ”

The broom back in the cupboard, she realized night had fallen. A glance at the clock announced 10:15. Wow, over three hours gone. Is this place haunted or what? Work tomorrow. Bedtime calls. I’m talking to myself now?

***

“Meow.”

Wide awake, Mickey had no idea if she was dreaming or not. Heart thrashing like a revving rocket, her eyes shot open. She couldn’t breathe. Where are you? What are you? Lightheaded and limb-rigid, she drew in air a silent gasp at a time.

“Meow.” The tone sounded angry and much too loud and close.

If it’s real, I bet the darn cat’s on the window’s ledge. Almost confident the cat yowled on the other side of the screen, she leaped out of bed. Hands swift behind the curtain, she wrenched the window pane down.

Miaow.”

“Shutup-Shutup.”

“Meow-Miaow.”

Hands over ears, Mickey shut her eyes and clenched her teeth. “You’re driving me crazy.” She grabbed her alarm clock-radio, pillow and blanket and slammed the bedroom door headed for the sofa. Sleep did not come. The plaintive meow persisted although weaker. She tossed and turned until the alarm jarred her into consciousness and onto the floor.

***

Tony sauntered in after his night shift as she finished applying mascara. “I’ve never been so happy to go to work as today.”

“Uh-huh.” He appeared tired as he kissed her on the cheek and headed towards the kitchen.

“Wait. I have to tell you— This house is haunted or something.” She rushed through the details until breathless.

Brow furrowed, her husband stared at her long and hard from the door jamb he leaned against.

“What? It’s madness, isn’t it. You think I’m crazy?”

”I hear it too. Wait here.” He flung the bedroom door aside. Mickey watched one-eyed around the corner as he pushed back the curtain. He roared with laughter, a belly laugh so deep he almost growled.

He called over his shoulder. “Come here.”

“Why?”

“Come here. You’re going to pee yourself.”

“Like I didn’t all last night?”

“Meow.”

Tony stretched out a hand towards her. “Come on,” he said shaking with mirth.

“Ta-da.” His eyes grew large and he rushed to catch her as Mickey folded into the floor.

A cat pinned between the inside window pane and the screen glared back with dark, curse-hungry eyes. “Miaow!”

#