How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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#ShortStory

I confess sci-fi is not me. No way am I up for this week’s #BlogBattle prompt. Instead, I offer this short story for your weekly entertainment.

 

Heart Burn

I never understood her—my mother: blonde, a goddess, svelte and self-assured like my older sister. I was the dark one, the disappointment. How had that happened? I could not be more different from them: neither as smart nor as trim. They chummed together like girlfriends, leaving me out in the cold.

***

She promised to meet me at Starbuck’s Saturday morning. I arrived early. My heart pounded and the acid in my stomach burned like the searing edge of a hot knife churning pirouettes. She breezed in like she owned the place. The shop almost empty, I was easy to find.

“Mother,” I said, “new suit?” She always dressed well. She had the figure for it, of course.

“Are you all right dear? You appear flushed.” She reached across the table and checked my forehead with a cool hand as if I were a child. “I’ll get the coffee.” A pat on my shoulder and I watched her heels clickety-clacked across the stone tile floor.

I gulped air in hopes of calming down, but she returned too soon.

“Still black, I take it. Thought we’d splurge with a couple brownies.”

Brownies. One minute she told me to lay off the sweets and the next she offered them. Either I was losing my mind, or she was. I took the lid off my coffee cup to cool it quicker.

“It’s clear to me, dear, you’re upset about something. Man troubles? School?” Flawless, penciled brown brows rose to perfect peaks.

“You came.” The words popped out before I realized I’d said them aloud. I clamped hands to my mouth.

“Yes. You invited me. Remember?”

“I’m surprised you made it—so busy with all your clubs—and Melissa.” I watched her face. None of her thoughts showed.

She had the decency to blink, false lashes aflutter. Her flaming pink mouth worked like a fish out of water. “What is wrong with you? I love you both the same.”

The audacity of the lie. “I’m not in the least like you or Melissa. I don’t match—don’t fit.”

“How old are you?”

“You don’t know?”

“I mean at 21 you’re acting like a six-year-old.”

“You and Melissa—always together, joining clubs, chapters this and that, whispering, laughing.”

“Do you like or enjoy these groups and societies?”

“Well, no—but you never have time for me.” Bile fought to strangle me, but I fought back. “Then you send me away to school. I wanted to attend college in our hometown but no, it had to be university.”

“Lily, dear, what’s this about? You’re fifty miles from home and in your last year. Are you taking your medication? You’re not yourself.”

“How would you know? Here’s the other thing, my coloring is so much darker than anyone else in the family. Melissa is like you. I’m nothing like you two, I’m loose fat…” I swallowed the howl threatening to undo me. I will not cry. I will not!

“You take after your grandmother, Esther Maria, on your father’s side. You know this. What a Spanish beauty—you look exactly like her, same thick hair and smoky eyes.”

“Right. A fat beauty with fat hair. Am I adopted?”

“Nothing about this conversation makes sense.” Mother picked up a napkin and fanned herself. She scanned the half-empty coffee shop with ice blue eyes.

I almost heard the gears in her head grinding, devising lies. “Easy to tell me whatever you want. How did you find time to visit me at last?”

Her look made me squirm. “I told you about the obligations I couldn’t break. I’m here now. Look, sweetie, your grandmother died before you were born. You’ve seen her pictures and heard the stories. This is crazy. ”

“So now I’m crazy?” I wanted the talking to stop. I didn’t like it anymore.

“Have you had headaches lately, or trouble sleeping?”

I shrugged. What had that to do with anything? “You love Melissa better, don’t you?”

“Take my hand. I have five fingers. Which one shall I cut off because I don’t need or want it?”

“What?”

“Which daughter means less to me than the other?”

“You’re always talking in riddles.”

“Tell me which one and I’ll chop it off.”

“No. you won’t. You’re just saying that.” I slouched in my chair but did not break eye contact.

She stared me down. I flinched. Her chair scraped the floor. An iron grip clutched my arm. “Let’s go.”

The End

Images courtesy Pixabay

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Have You Met Luna Saint Claire?

Horns blare! Drumroll, please. It is with pleasure I introduce guest Luna Saint Claire who today shares background information about her début novel The Sleeping Serpent.

Luna is a costume designer and author residing in Los Angeles with her husband, a philosophy professor. She loves blues rock and Indie music, often setting her Pandora station to Damien Rice. Her personal style can best be described as eclectic bohemian. Though she now enjoys running and yoga, she spent years of her youth in the ballet studio. Her part Native American heritage informs her work as a designer and influences her storytelling.

final-hi-res-sleeping-serpent-cover-ebook

 Thrilling as The Girl on the Train, twisted as Gone Girl, and tortured as Wuthering Heights.

 

Losing Myself

by Luna Saint Claire

Vampires are real. Not the paranormal kind with blood and fangs, but rather emotional vampires—the ones who use manipulation and compulsion to seduce. Charming and magnetic, they appear to be perfect—the answer to your prayers. Truth is, they have targeted you.

I think we have all been there on some level. When you meet someone who you connect with—someone who seems to know who you are, and what you need. It happened to me when I met a charismatic healer. I was hitting middle-age, mourning my youth and beauty, and bored with my conventional and circumscribed existence. He had a keen ability to quickly identify my vulnerability—often called the inner wound—and hook me through my lack of self-esteem, vanity, and fears. He made me feel beautiful and important to him, and gave me confidence, opening me up to the possibilities surrounding me. Being married, I, fortunately, didn’t have a romantic relationship with him. Yet, he still had influence over me. He was a shaman and yoga master who used the power of Kundalini for the dark side of self-interest—his desire for wealth and fame.

teaser-she-was-the-storm

A dark healer hooks their victim in the chakra that holds their wound—where they are weakest. In the seduction phase, he showered me with his attentions. He made me feel a part of him—of something larger, and somehow more alive. Before I knew it, I was caught in the spider’s web, struggling for survival, craving the drug that was his flattery, approval, validation. Then slowly and methodically he began tearing me down. It may have started with an argument where he lost his temper and then apologized, excusing himself by saying he was frustrated or had a stressful day. Over time it escalated to berating until I barely registered the verbal abuse. If I was unavailable at work or didn’t pick up his call, or couldn’t respond immediately to his demands, he would threaten to end our friendship. When he flew into a rage, I would be the one to apologize for causing his distress. He played a cat and mouse game of pushing me away and then reeling me back in. I couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning him, but I no longer recognized myself. I had become a shadow of my former self and my self-worth had been shattered.  

I wasn’t the only one bound to him. As a successful healer with his own celebrity, he possessed an entourage of beautiful, successful Hollywood women. He ensured we each believed we were the most important person to him.  I excused his behavior, saying he was nervous with a fear of abandonment, but I didn’t know about narcissistic personality disorder. Persons with this disorder do not have the capacity to love, treating others as an appendage. They operate on instinct to procure what they need, though they will never feel gratified. Just like in a vampire story, a narcissist drains another’s life force in the attempt to fill the echoing emptiness within. His affliction was the cruelest inhumanity, and his pain and suffering could never be assuaged. The extreme drama he created when his demands were not met were a plea for validation and stemmed from his fear of abandonment. The rages and meltdowns provided a euphoric high empowering him in the face of feeling worthless. I felt compelled to fix him, even though I knew I couldn’t.

How much longer and at what cost could I continue to open my veins to quell the storm that tormented him? Like many of the other women who had become ensnared in his cannibalizing web, I was faced with the choice of bleeding to death or reclaiming my life. I learned from a friend in 12 Steps about chasing the high, trying to regain the elation once felt in the initial phase of a relationship, be it with a drug or a person. Getting it back had become my obsession. The craving, desperation and painful longing—that was the addiction talking.

review-the-vegas-reader

Once I disentangled myself from him, I reflected on what had called the relationship to me. It had been my fear of aging—of becoming invisible—no longer having heads turn when I walked into a room, no longer feeling desired. Weathering this personal storm was a valuable experience that made me stronger and wiser. It is only through such an eroding experience that I believe one can transform. Whether by free will or fate, my encounter with a narcissistic sociopath provoked a storm that shattered my perception of identity, duty, morality, and self-worth. The storm didn’t blow in from the outside. I was the storm. Its turbulence forced me to confront the darkness, uncovering my secrets and my pain. 

Purchase ↓ Available on Amazon (booklinker) myBook.to/SleepingSerpent

US   UK   AU   CA   iTunes   B&N   Kobo

Contact Luna:   Website   Amazon  Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads   Pinterest   Instagram   Tumblr   Spotify

 

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Beijing Part 8: The Pearl Store and Summer Palace

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We left the hotel at 9:00 a.m.

Upon entering the Pearl building, we were bustled into a small room with folding card chairs. Our pearl instruction lady described the different types of pearls: fresh water and salt water and advised the former as best. The many colors pearls come in surprised me: gold, pink, black for example. She presented round and irregular samples as well as the reasons for the various colors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl

Thank you Microsoft

Thank you Microsoft

After this quickie presentation, we sprinted behind the pearl instructor lady into a larger, showier room featuring thick royal blue carpet and plushier chairs. Models, dressed in formal wear, appeared on the catwalk to showcase and model pearl necklaces and earrings. I wasn’t enthralled, but still astonished by the flashy show, and I cannot lie, the jewelry was gorgeous. The fashion ladies withdrew and The Group 8 were bid to again follow by a forward flourish. With a dramatic pull on a set of double doors, a whole new world materialized:  a magical place, with lights so bright they blinded at first. Rows and rows of glass cases, shiny as the jewels themselves, glittered up and down the aisles. I swear a saleslady appeared for every customer. I noticed only one male clerk. A tour group left as we arrived. The showroom hummed and bustled like a beehive. New sales staff seemed to emerge out of thin air as needed.

Set up in one corner, I noticed a coffee and wine bar with bar chairs. No, nothing here was free to pacify/massage the customer. A list of hefty prices hung on obvious display. Avoiding sales staff who followed you like a shadow is thirsty work, but I wasn’t buying anything. I’ve never cared about pearls and most jewelry my whole life (except earrings). Why would I buy them at this age and at astronomical prices?

Lorena and Bonnie in our group bought jewelry. The remainder of our non-buying members huddled together and made for the door at the first opportunity. We found an unbelievable treasure while we wandered around till everyone finished shopping. The walls displayed every size of oyster shell you never imagined, with plaqued descriptions underneath. However, we weren’t allowed time to peruse this ‘oyster museum’ and were hustled out to the bus. Why? We had to go. The French group had arrived. Service to one tour bus at a time, please and thank you.

See the 'pearled' cream. One is for day, the other night.

 See the ‘pearled’ cream. One is for day, the other night. Amazon sells this too. I checked.

A clerk pushing Pearl skin cream caught my attention and said, “This will make your skin look 20 years younger.”

“Can I have a written guarantee?” I asked.

“Sure.”

Such a quick response. “What good is it if my face is young and the rest of me is sagging?”

“Madam, you can use it all over your body.”

“Look at me,” another clerk piped in. “I’m 70.”

We all tittered because she could not have been a day over 29. I gave her kudos for her quick comeback, though. I hope she’s worth her weight in gold. I bought the cream, didn’t I? What a sucker!

The Summer Palace

The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

                                           The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

I enjoyed our tour of the Summer Palace. The park is enormous (over 700 acres, taken up mostly by Kunming Lake); a peaceful place to spend the day. It has a long, remarkable history. This will give you a better outline and will take less time to take in. Enjoy.

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/summer.htm    (2.53 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ple6S_pjFzU (l.09 min)

The Marble Boat

                                                                  The Stone Boat

The Men’s and Ladies’ washrooms were again across from each other with a communal sink in between. The ‘facilities’ tiny cubicles with elbow-knocking walls. I don’t take up much room but had a difficult doing the deed. Ouch. Lucky for me, the door I happened upon offered a pedestal toilet. I heard later, the rest were squats. It was dark as well and I could hardly see. You want to watch for puddles on the floor.

Bridge to a point on the water

                                                     Bridge to a point on the water

Quick Facts on Education:

  • Kindergarten is bi-lingual (Chinese and English)
  • Government-paid until age 15
  • School 7:30 to 4:30 p.m. five days per week
  • For better school must pay $6,000 to $12,000 extra per year
  • Sometimes extra classes on Saturdays
  • Music lessons at school (not outside in music school)
  • Beijing has 70 universities
  • University cost for 2 semesters  $3,500 / year
  • College costs $1,700 / year
  • 70-80% Chinese kids go to college in Beijing
  • School vacation in winter 21 days (for travel)
  • Summer vacation in summer (2 months for travel)
  • $40,000 – $50,000 to study in U.S. paid by parents
  • http://news.at0086.com/China-Universities/The-university-fees-in-China.html

 

Up Next on March 10: Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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My First Post #myfirstpostrevisited

I’ve been shanghaied nominated by Willow and Judy to re-blog my first post. Thank you, both. I don’t usually participate in blog hops as I’m always frazzled. Thank goodness this required only five nominees.

myfirstpost-revisited

A tag started by a blogger/writer called Sarah Brentyn, asking us to revisit our first ever blog posts!

I had begun another blog titled Who Knew but after several months I deleted it due to the friendly spam I received each day. There was no Spam blocker there and no, it was not a WordPress blog. I screwed up my courage and started again on July 2, 2011. Here I remain.

Okay the rules

Obvious rules:

  • No cheating. (It must be your first post. Not your second post, not one you love…first post only.)
  • Link back to the person who tagged you (thank them if you feel like it or, if not, curse them with a plague of ladybugs).

Other rules:

  • Cut and paste your old post into a new post or reblog your own bad self. (Either way is fine but NO editing.)
  • Put the hashtag #MyFirstPostRevisited in your title.
  • Tag…um…tentwotwelve five (5) other bloggers to take up this challenge.
  • Notify your tags in the comment section of their blog (don’t just hope they notice a pingback somewhere in their spam).
  • Feel free to cut and paste the badge to use in your post.
  • Include “the rules” in your post.

Completely silly rules that someone  made up as they typed:

  • Drink a glass of wine, bottle of beer; cup of coffee; mug of herbal tea. or whatever floats your boat after you hit “publish”. (In other words, toast yourself. Go you!)
  • Read the post out loud in a Mickey Mouse voice.

who to  nominate 

Linda

Terri

Lucy

Teagan

Glynis

Hello, World!

Let’s cut the crap! None of us is getting out of here ALIVE (much to my surprise—I don’t THINK so!). I’m making the choice to make the most of it. Hopefully I’ll grumble, whine and complain all the way to…you know where: that last vacation in the sky (none too loudly). You CAN stand out in the crowd and make everyone else miserable OR you can try to look on the bright side. There always is a bright side, isn’t there?

I’m a grandma and keep busy looking after my two grandkids. I read voraciously. I like my bookclubs because they aren’t boring. We eat, drink and talk books (eat and drink are the operative words). I’ve started golfing. I try to exercise although I can’t always manage to squeeze it into my day. I enjoy my friends and family. What else is there?

I’m economical  by choice. I get riled when people act like we have nothing to lose. Money doesn’t grow on trees; neither do our seemingly endless resources. Call me cheap if you want to but if you don’t know the value of a dollar by your mid-thirties, in your old age you WILL be poor. How will you survive? Everything keeps going up except for body parts being tugged downwards by gravity. Only two things are certain in this life and even the best of us can’t avoid them: death and taxes.

My quest is to grumble as quietly as I can manage to as Mother Nature disowns me inch by painful inch. I’ll TRY to own up to what’s happening and try to own it but I hope to find some joy into the journey.


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#BlogBattle 8 – Prompt: Melody

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

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Western

Prompt:  Melody

Words: 750

The Best of the Best

Bob’s tea cooled on the table beside him. “I bet there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t heard of you. Your husband must be proud.” The young reporter slid to the edge of the armchair. He had not been keeping regular notes. Perspiration beaded his forehead though the temperature wasn’t hot. He drew out an overlarge cloth hankie out of his breast pocket.

Sixty-five-year-old Annie pursed her lips. Hair, like a fluffy cloud, she patted her husband’s hand on the patterned horsehair sofa between them. “Young man, I earned a living doing what I do best. It’s how I met my Frank.” She smiled over her shoulder for a long moment, then switched her attention to the eager visitor.

Bob stuffed the damp hanky into his pants pocket.“But you were a woman. The best sharpshooter ever. How’d you do that?” Pencil in one hand and small writing pad in the other, he waved them around.

“Practice.” She held his gaze. “How’d you learn to read and write?” Her tone signaled he had overstepped.

Coarse blond brows squished together, he pressed back into the chair. “How’d you learn to read and write?” he repeated after her.

horseb-2062043_960_720-pixabayShe muttered to herself, but the reporter, absorbed, did not understand. “This generation…” She shook her head. Her husband’s laugh sounded like a bark.

“How old were you when you started practicing. I mean how many years did it take to get good, you know?”

“We were poor and had a lot of mouths to feed. Hunting with my father, I trapped small animals for food from the age of five. He died when I was six and by seven or eight, I used his old rifle to hunt. I was good from the start. Natural-like. Mother didn’t like it, but I learned to shoot a variety of guns. I helped feed our household of five siblings and hunted enough game to sell to the grocer.” Annie clasped hands to her chin. “It was hard times. Mother married again but her new husband died soon after and left her with a new baby—another mouth to feed.”

“You were a tomboy with all that hunting, I bet…”

“We were Quakers. I never wore pants like a boy and didn’t climb trees for fun. After supper, we gathered around Mother singing hymns. One melody stayed with me all these years, though I no longer remember the words. By ten I was sent to live at an orphanage. In exchange for work, I received a basic education and learned to sew. The Edingtons were good to me.” Annie closed her eyes and leaned back into the sofa.

“But when did you join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show?”

“Mr. Stannard, is it? You are impatient. Some years after I met Ducky, here.” She tipped a shoulder toward Frank. “Do you know how we met? A hotel owner invited me to a shooting contest with the Frank Butler. I was fifteen—and I beat him! And everyone else.” Face aglow, she giggled like a young woman.

“I didn’t mind.” Frank cleared his throat. “Once I laid eyes on that pretty girl, I was lost. Sure better than me.”

“A year later, we married. Been together almost half-a-century. We traveled everywhere: Spain, Italy, and Paris; even to England to perform for Queen Victoria. We still ate a lot of beans.” Annie arched her back and bent forward as if to stand. Her husband, older by ten years, helped her to her feet.

“Wait, are you leaving? I still have many questions…”

annie-oakley-391456_960_720-pixabay“About twenty-five years ago—in 1901 was it? We were in a train wreck. Annie suffered a spinal injury, which paralyzed her for a long while. She had many operations but came back, shooting and performing. The last few years her health has deteriorated. She’s frail and tired.”

“You starred in movies, too, didn’t you?”

Frank gave the reporter a long look, his wife supported in the crook of his elbow. “My wife is not well. Perhaps another time? See yourself out. Good day.” He whisked Annie out of the room.

Bob Stannard remained glued to his chair, blinking. With narrowed eyes, he gaped at the paper and pencil in his hands. Two words stared back at him: Annie Oakley. He grinned. No notes, but he had met the best sharpshooter in the Old West. She doesn’t look so old. Her skin is smooth as a baby’s. I’m coming back.

The screen door slammed on his way out. “Oops, Sorry.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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Beijing Part 7: Ming Tombs

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the Great Wall, a mid-day meal awaited in a local restaurant.

Lunch:

  • Spring rolls (exactly 8)
  • Fish balls with red and green peppers
  • Fried chicken
  • Eggplant with tomato and green peppers
  • Rice
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Soup
  • Cut up orange wedges for dessert
  • Tea
  • The usual one small (free) glass of beer, pop or water
The Spirit Way, original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which only one has been excavated (Ding Ling)

The Spirit Way: original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which one only has been excavated (Ding Ling) 

Ming Tombs: where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried (1368-1644).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfynyPLm4Q0    (3.04 min)

If you would like a more in-depth version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1BqspVU2HA  (8:43 min)

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building and no, no Chinese person would dare steal this money.  

Laundry: 

  • Hung on rope strung the length of apartment balconies
  • Clothes  hung on hangers: socks, T-shirts, sweaters, trousers, shirts, blouses
  • Did not notice any underwear or bedding

 On the way to dinner:

Robert and the driver appeared to converse more than usual. Robert’s cell rang. He talked at length. The call completed, he started another. Both he and the driver seemed tied to their phones for an unusual amount of time. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, yet it occurred to me something might be up. I can pull a rabbit out of any hat, real or imaginary.

Our bus pulled over to the curb and Robert announced he had to leave. The driver would take us to the restaurant, he said. He gave no explanation, but it wasn’t hard to see he was upset. Sue and I looked at each other. We couldn’t see any of the other’s reactions in front or behind us.

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Heavy traffic surrounded us. After Robert hopped off, we drove on for a short distance still in the inside lane. Vehicles crawled bumper to bumper. Another bus slowed next to ours. Sue and I sat on the left of the aisle watching through the window. I squeezed my eyes shut as a bicyclist, with no room to spare, whizzed by between our two buses. I almost had a heart attack.

The other bus moved on. We remained stock-still in the curb lane. Traffic rolled past. I thought the young fellow on the bike might have caused an accident. Traffic shifted moving past, yet our bus waited immobile. Why? By now, the whole group craned necks and raised eyebrows around the seats at each other. We noticed together, a car parked in front of the bus. Another five minutes or so dragged past. What could be happening? A man in a construction vest walked up to the car’s driver window brandishing his arms. I had no idea the car had an occupant. No translation was required. Move now he indicated. Nothing changed. A 20-something Chinese guy in black pants and a white shirt appeared at the side of the bus. The door flew open and he jumped in. The door slammed shut and I don’t recall any words exchanged with the driver. The parked car inched forward. Our bus did as well.

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In minutes, we turned into a driveway and a man, who might have been Security or Police, stepped in front of the bus. He waved his arms and shouted through the windshield and looked as if he wanted to push the bus back. What was going on? Words passed between the man outside and our driver or between the driver and the new passenger who hadn’t taken a seat. Too much going on to follow. The uniform vanished. The bus door opened again and the young man jumped out signaling for us to follow. I felt like a lamb on the way to heaven’s gate or maybe hell’s? All were silent, heads bowed as we passed through an alley and a maze of cars and another lot into a restaurant. I flashed my Travel Tour ID towards an approaching waitress. She led us to Table 6 which displayed our tour group name.

One of our group noticed the young man worked as a waiter there. The picture became clear. This had been an orchestrated event. Before Robert rushed off, either he or the driver had pre-arranged for our escort. The driver had stalled until the black pants and white shirt found us. The driver couldn’t leave the bus to walk us to our destination since there wasn’t room to bring the bus closer. I don’t even know if he spoke English. What teamwork!

By the time dinner finished, and we fidgeted, wondering about our return to the hotel, Robert showed up as if nothing had happened. He looked much better than when he’d dashed off. His voice, I noticed, was still a little odd. At least to me, his reason for the sudden disappearance was suspect.

“I had to see about my next tour,” he said to our obvious curiosity.

 IMG_0249

Dinner:

  • Soup with fresh chopped tomatoes
  • Rice
  • Shrimp with egg and green peppers
  • Corn with lima beans and carrots
  • Sweet and sour chicken balls
  • French fries (surprise)
  • Chicken with fungus and green peppers
  • Green leaf vegetable like spinach but not
  • Chopped mushrooms and green peppers
  • Eggplant, light spice

We returned to the hotel around 8:30 p.m. I picked up my laptop from the room and returned to the lobby for free WiFi access. I had trouble and asked the guy at reception for help. He looked at the list available and pointed to one, even though the words weren’t in Chinese. “Maybe, this one?” His choice didn’t work. He shrugged. I went off on my own, but soon became frustrated and worn out. I wanted nothing more than my bed. I gave up on e-mail.

Finally day's end

Finally day’s end. This is how my brain felt as well. 

Next on March 3rd: Beijing Part 8: Pearl Stores and Summer Palace

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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

 


46 Comments

#BlogBattle 7 – Prompt: Shine

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

Genre:  Folklore

Prompt:  Shine

Words: 700

See No Evil

COUNTRY LIVING HELD NO INTEREST FOR ZELDA, but she changed her mind after meeting Harvey. A red-haired free spirit, she jumped at the chance to attend a party with the well-to-do stranger. Well, they had crashed grocery carts and he apologized by buying her a coffee. Now, the idea was nothing but hard work.

No rain for months, dust stole inside though Zelda had wound the windows tight. Lost was not a place she liked. The gasoline level in the Dodge Dart hovered around a quarter tank. Where was that fancy house Harvey said to meet him at the party?

A thermos empty of water lay on the passenger’s side of the car’s bench seat. Her small purse leaned against it. A white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel numbed her hands but she paid no attention. Where were the farmers or cows?  The only living creatures soared overhead. What were they? Buzzards? No, not large enough. Crows? Why so many and nothing else around?

Zelda passed a dilapidated shack. Hope flared. She slowed. Nobody. Nothing moved in the crushing heat. Parched and sweating, she swallowed to work up saliva without success. The crows swarmed lower, beady eyes scanning the interior of the car as if on a mission.

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An enormous lump in her throat brought tears to her eyes. She unpeeled her grasp on the steering wheel and pounded it with the heel of her palm. Had she taken the wrong country road? What if she ran out of gas? A mere three or four hours of daylight remained. What if the crows surrounded her car? Creepy.

Like a shimmering mirage, women in long summer gowns dotted an expanse of velvet green lawn straight ahead. Men in black ties and fancy suits bent an ear to them, swirling filled glasses. A smile as broad as Saturday night replaced Zelda’s earlier sagged cheeks. A Victorian-themed party.

Zelda beeped the horn and turned into the long drive. No one took notice. Puzzled she beeped again, catching a glimpse of her glistening forehead and frizzy hair. She drove to the back of the mansion. Where were the cars? Too hot to think, she snatched the white purse and headed to the trunk for her luggage. “Whoa.”

A David Niven character studied her movements as if memorizing each one. Hands deep in his pockets, his eyes were sharp as a bird’s.

“Harvey. That you? Thought I’d taken a wrong turn. What is this place? Where are the other houses?”

Knees limp as cooked noodles, she remembered his slow smile from the one other time they had met. He snatched her bag. “Come. It’s cooler inside. Freshen up and we’ll dance your cares away.”

And how they danced, he the perfect partner, self-assured and charming. She did not remember how the night ended.

~ ~ ~

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By morning, the air had cooled. Zelda’s body ached in all the wrong places. The urge to stretch overcame her before she opened her eyes. She screamed but what came out was the yowl of an angry cat. She noted with horror how she itched from the scratchy grass where she had slept. Outside? In the grass? A compulsion to groom gripped her. She choked on her own black fur. Fur? But it does shine. I’ve gone mad, haven’t I? Where is the mansion?

The rattles and clicks of a hundred crows swooping and calling to each other broke the silence. To the uninitiated ear, it sounded like raucous laughter over a private joke. One called to another and they plunged like bullets for the skulking black cat in the overgrown field.

“Zelda. Come back. Has no one told you the love of money is the root of all evil?”

 

A mansion had existed one hundred years before. One sad night a meeting of magicians had pushed their luck too far. Someone changed a famous woman named Lady Noir to a black cat and no one knew how to change her back. The magicians dispersed. When asked, they had no knowledge of the lady’s whereabouts.

Every summer afterward, a handsome man invited an attractive woman to a party where the mansion once stood and she too disappeared.

End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay

 


53 Comments

Beijing, Part 6: The Great Wall

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

I ate too much again at the buffet-style breakfast. We English 8 met in the main lobby at 8:30 a.m., then traveled an hour or so by mini tour bus to the mysterious Great Wall.

A few facts about the Wall:

  • Sticky rice soup and mortar were used to glue the bricks together
  • Started -200 BC
  • Has been worked for over 2,000 years
  • Bullet holes from last battle still evident
  • Needs expensive maintenance due to time and tourism
Some shops

                                                                              A few shops

What a happening place. Tour buses clogged available parking space. Small shops galore offered touristy goods for sale, from postcards to fridge magnets, hot tea, cold drinks and all sorts of knick-knacks. One, a department store type business, carried everything you might imagine. Would you pay $39 USD for a T-shirt or $25 for a kid-sized one? Would you pay six or seven dollars for a two-inch square fridge magnet? They also carried silk, jade, pearls, life-size Terracotta warrior replicas and furniture. Prices included shipping. For the life of me, I couldn’t sort out the prices aside from the shipping costs out of curiosity.

Approaching the Wall Steps

                                                                Approaching the Wall Steps

We left the tourist traps behind and headed uphill to the entrance of the Great Wall. We saved shopping time for later. The walk was steep. We rubbed elbows with people from all over the world (figuratively).  You don’t dare touch anyone. A light drizzle began and Sue and I escaped inside a battlement. Inside and out we meandered. Hordes and throngs of people stared at us everywhere. Our English Group 8 wandered off in different directions with an agreed on time to meet at the large department store halfway down the hill.

Looking ahead

                                                                            Looking ahead

Carolyn lost her camera on the Great Wall. She’d taken off her coat due to overheating and left it on a ledge and walked away. Ten minutes later, she realized it was missing. Dreading it would be gone, she and her husband retraced their steps anyway. Had it been me, I would have cracked under the stress and gone into shock. Forget going back to be heartbroken.

A Steady Climb

                                                                       A Steady Climb

Surrounded

                                                                           Surrounded

When Robert heard the story, he insisted on checking if the camera had been turned in. What were the chances of such luck?  He knew who to ask and was informed an announcement had been made over the Great Wall loudspeakers about ten times regarding the camera. A security guard had picked it up and turned it in. Each of us rejoiced as if it had been our own camera. Carolyn glowed.

http://www.history.com/topics/great-wall-of-china/videos/seven-wonders-the-great-wall

 Higher Now

                                                               Higher Now

At Ground Level Again. Most of these women are over 80, I'm sure, but energetic as 20-year-olds.

At ground level again: most of these women are over 80, I’m sure, but energetic as 20-year-olds.

Beijing driving and cars:

  • Rush hour is all day long, not at any specified times
  • Driving restrictions by last two digits of license number / odd vs even
  • Penalty for ignoring, sometimes 100 points
  • Drivers have 12 points per year
  • If you lose your points for the year, you must redo license.
  • If caught driving drunk, or even after 1 glass of wine or beer, can lose license forever
  • 3 million more cars since the Olympics
  • Cost of a car (i.e. Hyundai), $10,000 each, manufactured in China
  • An Elantra in 2005, cost $25,000 U.S.D.
  • Lots of new models now because more citizen able to afford cars
  • They like German models
  • Gasoline 7.8 Yuan per liter, about $1.30
I'm still standing

                                                                      I’m still standing

~ *~

Next on February 24th – Beijing, Part 7: Ming Tombs

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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

 


57 Comments

#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


60 Comments

Beijing Part 5

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Temple of Heaven:

The entrance to the Temple is a wide avenue meant for masses of foot traffic. It is clean and well-traveled, not only by foreigners like us but by the Chinese people as well. I did not see wrappers or bottles lying around anywhere.

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Click below for a three-minute video, which explains better than I can. Sorry for the advertisement. The first few seconds will show you the exercise in the park again but keep watching. Those pink feathers the man is tossing with his feet are the Badminton birdie I had referred to earlier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mo6_cskvhQ

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The English 8 Group (us) had removed our light jackets. The sun rose higher and the temperature grew warmer, yet around us, young Chinese ladies wore (wool?) leggings under skirts, long sleeved jackets, heavy pants (no jeans) and high heels. I love heels and wear them on occasion, but not in this kind of environment. There were lots of stairs to climb and broken concrete and uneven bricked areas all around. How they walked in those shoes without breaking their necks, and for so far and long, I cannot imagine.

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  • The park area is 660 acres
  • Commoners were not allowed inside its gates until 1918
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • All the buildings were refreshed prior to the 2008 Olympics
  • Although the doors remained open, visitors are barred from entering. We fought for a spot to look inside from the blocked doorway but could not make out much.

Forbidden City:

We walked until our feet screamed for mercy. Again washroom locations were uppermost in our minds and where bottled water could be purchased. The following video is an hour and a half long. I cannot remember all the interesting history we learned, but take time to take a peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XRcwAAsNz8

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Lunch:

The bus driver dropped us at the restaurant. The French group followed soon afterward as well as lots of locals. All platters of food were automatically delivered and placed on the large lazy Susan in the center of the table. Choices of one (small) free glass of soft drink, water, or beer were again offered. All the food served was family style. Our plates for eating were smaller than some bread and butter plates at home.

  • French fries (What? Shocked us too)
  • Deep fried, breaded white fish (mild taste)
  • Cooked cauliflower
  • Noodles (tasty)
  • Thinly sliced beef and cucumber platter
  • Beef meatballs with onions and green peppers
  • One large egg pancake (the size of a dinner plate)
  • White rice
  • Soup with ribbons of Nori in it (I didn’t try it)
  • Green tea
  • Peeled oranges, sections pulled apart and arranged on a plate for dessert

Note: Veggies were not plentiful like they are in the Chinese food we order in the West. They appeared to be more for decoration, except for plentiful onions in meat dishes, along with a few slices of green pepper. I ate till my tummy felt happy. I had no complaints about the food.

Tian’anmen Square

We set out on foot as the bus couldn’t bring us closer to the Square. Shortly before entering the grounds, we passed a strip mall across from the Square featuring souvenir shops and the like. Sue asked if we might shop, but Robert shook his head. Not a chance. We had a tight schedule. (Check out the writing on the building, a different spelling again.)

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The Square is so huge, the danger of being trampled during a ceremony or demonstration crossed my mind. The Square accommodates one million people. That’s the size of 90 American football fields. Soldiers still patrol the area,  although they look way too young and of slight build.

  • The monument of the heroes of the revolution is here

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  • The Great Hall of the People (in the background)

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  • The Museum of Chinese History and Revolution. We were there at the wrong time and it was closed. I don’t believe we had been scheduled to visit anyway.

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  • The Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where Mao lies embalmed in a glass case since his death in 1976. We did not go inside the Hall either. This building is at another end of the Square.

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http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/BeijingInformation/BeijingsHistory/t1141051.htm

Dinner:

Tsingtao beer was served, the best beer in China we were told. Ernesto ordered a bottle. I had the one small free glass a change from the water I drank all day. Sue preferred pop or water and the rest chose water.

  • Sliced sausage, fungus (think of weird mushrooms) and cucumbers
  • Cooked green salad (leaves of some kind)
  • Rice
  • Chicken with carrots and cucumbers
  • Duck meat with celery
  • Chicken with celery
  • Battered deep fried fish
  • Sesame bread plus onions and peppers (can’t remember what this looked like)
  • Spring rolls (exactly eight)
  • Soup (forgot to write what kind)
  • Watermelon slices for dessert

Offered separately, for which we needed to pay, were special coffees and ice cream. The waitress quoted 20 Yuan for either (about $4.00 Cdn / approx. $3.30 USD). Sue pointed out the prices posted over the ice cream freezer were 3.50 and 5.00 Yuan. Nope. The price was 20 Yuan. Non-negotiable. We must have stuck out like tourists. With money.

Our restaurant had been backed onto a park-like setting with a large pond of stagnant water. It wasn’t clean and had ugly, black and swampy plants growing in it.

We had time to kill before the bus came at 6:30 to drive to the Opera. Some of our group decided on a walk in the park. Sue and I chose to sit and take a load off. We’d done enough walking all day. My feet shrieked and uttered profanities. No wonder—they must have walked 50 miles on our first day out.

Beijing Opera 7:30 p.m.

Before the performance, a demonstration was given on stage of a male performer applying face makeup and donning a costume with a dresser assisting.

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This is not an art form I appreciated, although the costumes were colorful and dazzling. One of the men in our group complained he couldn’t even catch a nap.

We arrived at the hotel somewhere between nine and ten o’clock. A jam-packed day three had ended. My brain, over-saturated with information, shut down. Goodnight Beijing. Hello, pillow and bed.

~ *~

Next on February 17th – The Great Wall

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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