How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


61 Comments

Is it Real, or is it a Memory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugs all around. Mwah.

See you next Friday?


76 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 60

BlogBattlersBadgePrompt: Duplicitous 

Genre: Contemporary

smashed-879876_960_720 Pixaby no attribution reqd

Crushed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

Rules of the Battle

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

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

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

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

For More #BlogBattle stories, check out the tab above

 


53 Comments

A Freestyle Writing Challenge – 10 minutes on the clock…

I was tagged by Sally Cronin at https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/  – who promotes authors, musicians, painters, photographers and shares lots of advice for a healthy lifestyle on her blog. Even as she promotes others, she is an author of many books as well. Check her out, her blog is a smorgasbord of awesome information.

This is what you have to do…

1 Open an MS Word Document

2 Set a stop watch or your mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat

3 Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!

4 Fill the word doc with as much words as you want. Once you start writing do not stop.

5 Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (its only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules)

6 You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. However, if you do, it would be best

7 At the end of your post write down ‘No. of words = ____” so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.

8 Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers).

***

I set my time for 10 minutes (I cannot reread this or I’ll start tinkering).

My challenge is: If you had your time over, what profession would you choose and why?

I had to think about this question as I cannot imagine doing anything differently in my life. I’ve always known what I wanted to do and have gone after it. I wish writing hadn’t taken a backseat to my working life, marriage, a family and divorce but that’s how it goes. I’m back writing now and that’s all that matters.

We live in a small Northern Ontario town. The only office I had seen was the town doctor’s: his receptionist’s desk with patient records and all kinds of paper. I made up my mind I would work in a large office and write a book. Around age eight the cast was set. Everything in my life fell into place one way or another, although not always in the order or manner I anticipated. Let’s face it, like anyone growing into life, impatience dogged me and it still does.

I had friends who couldn’t make a decision about anything, needed to find themselves, were confused about what to do with the rest of their lives and that always perplexed me. On the other hand, I also have believe I was born lucky. The next step always seemed to lead me to the next one and so one. If I ran into difficulties or roadblocks, they didn’t last long. The next thing came along.

I have always been happy as me. No matter who had what, I felt no need to compete. My focus was never the biggest house, car, or a closet full of clothes. More meaningful were a few good friends, lots of books, new experiences both good and bad.

Regrets? I’ve had a few. Possibly that is the human condition, but once one door closed, I never looked back, wasn’t even tempted. Whether this is a good trait or not, I cannot say. I seem to work on the premise once something is over, I file it, shut the door and go to door number two and three and so on.

No. of Words: 331

9 min 23 seconds

***

These are the people I would like to tag for this challenge, but none are obligated in any way to take part. This is a fun post. Do pass it on.

Sheri Mathews – http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/

John Howell – http://johnwhowell.com/

jleahy http://tribalmystic.me/

 Donna Parker – http://yadadarcyyada.com/

Kate Loveton – https://kateloveton.wordpress.com

 

Should you accept this challenge, scroll down for your question. Do not peek until you are ready to start typing.

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My challenge to YOU:  What is the next technological device the world needs now?

 


74 Comments

Wuchan: Day 12, Part 3- The Cruise Ship

A quick supper was offered shortly after our arrival on the cruise ship. Although, we’d been provided with a meal during our flight, I have no memory of what it had been. Salad is all I remember at dinner on the ship around 8:00 p.m. Most everyone in our group tucked into romaine salad because we’d been told food served on board was washed in bottled water. Our first non-Chinese food in 12 days!

No spirits were free on our first night, but local beer and wine were promised beginning with the next day’s lunch and onward. Of course, we could purchase a bottle of wine if we wanted one.

Soft drinks, water, coffee, local beer and wine would be gratis, as much as we wanted. Any alcohol, other than the local product supplied, had to be purchased. (i.e. Australian wine: Jacob’s Creek was $40.00 a bottle) Chinese wines are competitive world-wide and supposedly quite good. I didn’t understand why imported wine was on offer. Why not push their own top-of-the-line wines for tourist sampling and free advertising?

The Wine Market and Drinking Habits in China (not same as tour guide informed)

http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-region/asia-pacific/the-wine-market-in-china-opportunities-for-canadian-wine-exporters/?id=1410083148667#d

The Importance of the Yangtze River:

 

Sue had trouble opening our room safe. We advised the Registration desk and a young girl with limited English arrived. She wasn’t successful, but left for help. It took some finagling and at last, the man (non-English speaking) set the safe to rights.

Our room was a little cramped, but that’s to be expected and we’d lucked our with a balcony.

After our welcome, yet unexpected buffet, (I can’t remember anything but the greens and lots of vegetables), I asked one of our group if I he had a corkscrew I might borrow. Indeed he did. Meanwhile, I took a chance, (adventurous me) and asked at the bar  if I might borrow a cork screw temporarily. They gave me one. Remember the wine I purchased off Nanjing Road during our previous day’s shopping spree? It was good, considering the price of wine on boardindeed a bargain.

There wasn’t time to allow my wine to breath. Still, it wasn’t bad at $12.00 CAD (label name Dynasty, the other one advertised as decent, had been The Great Wall, I think). This is around the price we’d pay for a similar product at home.

I enjoyed two half-glasses before bed while typing up my China notes. Sue wanted to sleep so I cut it short. Other nights I’d been the party pooper; tonight was her turn. I would have liked to stay up another half-hour to complete my notes, but it had been a long day and I fell into bed. The ship had begun to move and I fell asleep.

For the first time since the start of this trip, I felt my cat, Lady Gaga’s absence and missed my fur ball. We’re only half-way home, and I don’t know if I can wait that long to see her. I wonder what she’ll do when I get home. Will she pout and turn up her tail, or come running for a hug?

IMG_0997

 NOTE:

I have been fighting with WP last night and the past two hours this morning. It kept freezing up on me. Now I have a headache.

~ * ~

Next on December 12, On the Yangtze River, Day 13, Part 1

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page

© 2014 All Right Reserved TAK


99 Comments

Dust to Dust – Part 2

  https://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/dust-to-dust/    (previous)

***

Thursday, December 19, 10:00 a.m.

I’ve thought of nothing else for the past two days and expect to conclude my business at The Funeral Home today. Rick has called after our last meeting and left a message about all the numbers he’d worked out. I’m sure he’s made some horrible mistake and plan to go over the itemized list with care.

I arrive a couple of moments early. This time the parking lot is empty except for two other cars, unlike my last visit when the lot was half-full and an attendant opened the door when I arrived. My guess is no-one is in residence or there are no services this morning. Why am I thinking about these details? Don’t think. Finish your business and get the hell out of here.

I am about to drop into a comfy chair when Rick comes around the corner. “Come in. Come in,” he says as if this is a social visit and we are old friends.

No sooner do I take a seat at the table in the same meeting room as last time when a lady arrives and hands me a steaming cup of coffee. “Thank you.” I’m startled and a little floored by today’s efficiency. I can’t help wonder if today is a busy day and they want to push me through or, and I can’t help myself—that’s the way my brain works—they want to hustle me through before I change my mind. Well, business is business, right? A cartoon cloud hovers overhead of a skillful and seasoned used-car salesman: keep talking and don’t let them think till the dotted line is signed.

We begin with small talk which soon irritates me because we’ve already been there last time. I don’t want to be friends; I have something important on my mind. I’ll never see you again, I hope, and not even then.

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

“I’d like to see a breakdown of the numbers you quoted over the phone.”

“I haven’t printed up the invoice yet in case you have some adjustments to make.”

I shake my head. “I want the cremation, but don’t understand why the cost is so high for a pine box, a shroud and a small service. I’ve decided I don’t want the DVD, which should cut out another $500.00.”

“That’s been removed. I’ll print out the breakdown. Excuse me a minute. How’s your coffee?”

“Great and I’m fine, thank you.” How I’ve mellowed. This is a business transaction after all. Think numbers and negotiate, accept or reject.

I sit and wait. And wait. What’s taking Rick so long? What’s happened to the ‘Slam- bang-thank-you-ma’am’ service when I arrived?

Good thing I’d brought a book to pass the time. Rick returns. I’m anxious to close this chapter and go home. If I close my eyes I know I’ll slide off the chair and into an exhausted sleep. He’s all business. Is it because my impatience is evident or is it because I look the wreck I feel?

We go over the numbers. I’m flabbergasted. Everything I’d agreed to is in black and white. Each service and every single person has his or hand out for a piece of the pie. I think of vultures.

***

Next week I’ll go through the breakdown of expenses. I’m told years ago an invoice showed one figure: the total. The breakdown may shake you up somewhat as it did me. As well, funeral expenses have doubled every ten years over the past 30 years. Some points I want to leave with you to ponder:

  1. Should you buy life insurance to cover funeral expenses? Will the payout cover the costs in 20, 30 or more years?
  2. Should you pre-pay your funeral? This is money someone else is benefiting from and earning interest on, not you.
  3. In Canada, pre-payments do not go to the funeral home but to a trust company. This protects clients in the event the funeral home goes bust. Why / how do they go bust? Hanky-panky / mismanagement just as in any other business.
  4. Did you know, depending on your age, you can make payments over many years? Keep in mind, interest is tied to making payments and is over and above your initial contract cost.
  5. Cremation is fast becoming the service of choice. A friend of mine paid for her mother’s funeral a few years ago, nothing fancy, and the cost was $30,000.00
  6. Have you heard of No Frills cremation? I didn’t until after I’d made all my arrangements, but I I’m going ahead with the contract I signed.


40 Comments

Flash in the Pan – Deranged

Harry flicked his Bic lighter. Click. Snap. The round bartender’s teeth clenched. Two stools down, Benny gawked, mesmerised. His carpenter’s hands ironed denim thighs.

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

Click, Snap. “What’s you lookin’ at?”

“Nothin’.” Benny rocked in time with the click—regular as a metronome.

“You smoke? Here—I quit.”

Fast as a frog plucking flies, Benny snatched the prize.

“See you around.” Harry vanished.

Click, snap. The bartender smacked his towel hard on the bar. Benny bolted, his beer only half-gone. “That boy’s deranged.” No-one paid attention.

Late that night, smoke and fire-trucks’ lament dominated the dark. The tavern crackled like kindling.

~ * ~

A new Fall Quarter of Flash in the Pan has begun. The theme is Disturbed.

The word limit for Deranged is 100 words. I used them all.

Click: http://mommasmoneymatters.com/flash-fiction/ to check the rules and to join.


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More information Required

And so it begins.

First my knees failed…no, not correct; they didn’t fail, they gave out on me. The smooth elasticity I’d always enjoyed changed to creaking not unlike a dull saw stuck in wet wood. No problems with mobility yet, I just can’t bend my knees and get back up again.

Later I developed a hole in my chin—not a physical hole you understand, but whatever’s happened I seem to dribble or drip, especially anything the least bit greasy. I’ve ruin too many new—yes new—tops to greasy spots.

I’ve been saving myself for this? I’ve been saving myself for retirement and seven years in, I win the ticket to fall apart?  Not on your life!

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Thanks Alphonse Karr. It’s not just your name that hints you are obviously not a woman. What were you thinking when you said those words?

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

I’ve changed in increments until I don’t know who the hell the woman in my bathroom mirror is, or where she came from. Eyebrows, skin tone and texture, and cheeks have all changed. I am not the same.

A new surprise awaited me yesterday. My daughter bought a truck a month ago. Something wasn’t right with the brakes. To get work done she we had to drive to the next city: on the highway; morning traffic; four lanes of crazy people (they’re always more high-strung on Thursdays); a zillion cars, trucks, vans and transports and everyone’s in a hurry because the weekend starts in one day. This is not just any weekend, but a long weekend. I had to tag along because the truck was to be dropped off for repairs and my daughter needed a ride to work.

I don’t do highways, at least not well. In a matter of life and death, I might manage a two-lane highway if it has ever been familiar to me. Unless, since the last time I’ve driven in the area, a recent town or suburb, or one of those mega malls has mushroomed, I’d be lost.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

Bottom line is I had to follow my daughter and her truck. Traffic around me filled and faded, zoomed and whooshed, and I lost track of her truck. Transport trucks on either side of me, I couldn’t go around the guy who’d cut in front. Claws for hands, clutching the wheel till bloodless, I saw an opening. My retired brain has been in the slow lane for a while and I almost broke my neck twisting this way and that to gauge my entry into the new lane. I’ve no idea if I had sweat on my forehead or if the ceiling of my car had sprung a leak when the sky opened up to add to my anxiety.

Stop. Start. Traffic at a snail’s pace; traffic at breakneck speed. By the time we arrived at the garage, I wasn’t even a basket case (as the saying goes), I was melted brains on the front seat. I sagged and couldn’t move.

When had I turned into this wuss?

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

What a laugh. I’m so changed after yesterday, I’m never driving on the highway again; if it’s a matter of life or death, I’ll call a taxi…or a limo. And I will close my eyes because duty calls and I’ll get through it.

I didn’t stay the same. I quit the highway forever.

One more thing, at two o’clock I had to repeat the process in reverse. It’s a wonder I have any hair left.


9 Comments

Flash in the Pan – Parboiled

“Don’t drip into the sauce, Alejandro.” Marina dabbed a towel over her face and sighed.

In Pastry, Rick’s face shone like a deformed beet on steroids, ready to split and explode. He cleared his throat and hopped from side to side. “Stop dancing, Rick,” she snapped. “Or have you something to tell us?”

The pastry chef glared at her and set down the water bottle. “I need to take a walk.” Guffaws and laughter sent him sprinting.

“Don’t forget to wash your ha-ands,” a girly voice offered.

“Back to work, gang.”

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

“When is the air-conditioning repair coming?” The busboy slinked into the kitchen. “You think this is hot, try the restaurant. Customers’ brains must be parboiled— they’re skipping dessert.” He smirked at Rick’s return.

“And ours are barbecued. Two more hours troops. Chop, chop,” Marina scolded benignly.Rick tossed his hat.

“Don’t you dare…”

“Kiss my a**.”

“Sure thing, sugar.”

~ * ~

The word limit for Parboiled is 150 words. I used all 150. Check out http://mommasmoneymatters.com/flash-fiction/ for the rules and join us.