How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle Week 33 – Prompt: Lurk

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

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

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

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IMG_2361

Previously:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Choices

Part 5

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t know the problem yet.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How long have you lovebirds been married?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honk. Honk.

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

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

“Tube door?”

“Yes.”

 

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

* * *

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

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

“Nope.”

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carol stroked his arm.

Victoria frowned. “Why…?”

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

The End

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

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58 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 31- Prompt: Scar

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

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

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

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Choices – Part 3

Victoria shut off the hallway light at the top of the stairs, and hesitated. She tiptoed to the bedroom window, the way illuminated by the streetlight across the road. Nerves tighter than a cat’s, she giggled and slapped a hand over her mouth. She crept to the window, but couldn’t see a living being through lazy rivulets of dark rain. No matter how she smooshed her face against the glass, it wasn’t possible to see straight down.

She drew the curtains and felt around for the bedside light switch. Except for the tick-tock of her wind-up clock, no other sounds came within hearing range. Heartbeat slowed to match the clock, she collapsed on the bed. Victoria stared at the ceiling oblivious of its existence.

A small displacement on the mattress beside her shoulder interrupted her reverie. Time had stood still for only a couple minutes. It was 7:37 p.m. “Marmaduke. See anything out there?” The tom settled on all fours as if ready to pounce, blinked and wiggled his ears. His head moved back and forth not unlike someone searching for the right words to announce bad news. “Guess I’m the only ‘fraidy cat here.” The cat stretched a hind leg and groomed himself.

“I might as well get into bed and catch up on my reading. Be right back.” Victoria rolled off the bed with the cat at her heels.

While brushing her teeth, the day’s latter events crossed her mind. She’d called a taxi to deliver her key to the auto club. By day’s end, two young studs, driving in tandem, delivered the car to the office after closing. Gold Membership had its merits. At last she smiled into the mirror, toothpaste trailing down her chin. Marmaduke turned tail and sashayed away, tail high in the air.

An insistent pounding on the side door erased the smile. Now what? She grabbed a towel, stumbled down the stairs, and stopped. The cat already waited below the stairs by the side door. She peered around the corner though a yellow cotton curtain covered the door’s upper window.

“Please help me.” A voice muffled and sobbing pleaded.

Victoria sprang into action, seized the cat,  and wrenched open the door. “What’s wrong? Come in. Come in. I thought you were at the school. I didn’t hear your car return.”

The wind carried the baby’s bawling from next door. “We didn’t go. Steve’s not home. My baby’s sick and a cab’s coming… to the hospital. Can you please watch my girls? They’re already in bed…”

“Sure, sure. Here’s the cab. I’ll hurry.” Victoria charged upstairs for her cell and purse. She yanked her coat out of the hall closet. Tenting it over her head against the fine mist, she slammed the door. What was the clunk when the door banged shut?

She noted the driver had parked too close to the house. The neighbor’s side door wide open, she raced inside and up the stairs. The layout different here, she stepped into the kitchen. Mother and howling baby careened towards her. “Careful. You don’t want to trip.”

“ThankyouI’mCarol. You’re a life-savor. Can’t reach my mother either.” The women held on to each other, one cradling her baby, the other supporting his mother. The cab driver didn’t exit the car to help the struggling women. Or open the back door. “Get in on the driver’s side.” Victoria rushed back to the house. The taxi reversed down the drive.

I’m in a stranger’s house whose husband gives me the creeps. What if he comes back before she does? The thought stuck like a scar.

She’d kicked off her wet shoes at the door. Barefoot in the center of the kitchen, she surveyed her surroundings. The furnishing was neat, but in need of serious updating. The kitchen cabinets begged sanding and repainting or complete replacement. Chipped paint and cracked doors frowned in embarrassment. Countertops showed wear past their due date and the floor tiles were of the old asbestos type. The sense of someone watching jolted her heartbeat. No-one else in the house but the girls, right?

A glance over her shoulder triggered an involuntary gasp. “Sylvie. I thought you were asleep.” Except for worried hands clutching and unclutching each other, the girl stood rooted to the spot, eyes glazed and unblinking.

“You remember me, right? You and Sarah came to visit the day I moved in?”

Her nod, though slight, proved she understood.

“You wonder why the baby stopped crying and why I’m in your house?”

Another slight nod. Eyes blinked shut for an instant and flicked open. The hands slowed their twisting. “Your momma took a taxi to the hospital with your brother. He’s sick. Want me to tuck you in?”

The girl gaped about as if looking for something. Or someone.

“Your daddy isn’t home either. That’s why I’m here.”

The girl tilted her head, brow furled in thought. Victoria held her breath and waited. I don’t know a thing about kids. Hope I don’t spook her.

Sylvie loosened her hands, smoothed her long pink princess nightie, with tiny steps approached her and grabbed her hand. With a shy smile to break many hearts to come, she tugged till Victoria followed. In the bedroom’s doorway, a long forgotten question popped into her head. “Do you need the bathroom before bed?

The girl shook her head.

“No school Saturday but a girl needs her beauty sleep.” Victoria smiled and pulled back the covers. The girl slipped in, eyes wide and searching. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here till someone comes home. Sleep tight. Maybe you and sister Sarah will visit again soon.”

Sylvie smiled. Sarah twitched and sighed in her sleep in the other bed.

The long-suffering roar of a mutilated tailpipe shredded the quiet night.

To be continued

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


62 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 30 – Prompt: Reach

To meet the mind behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

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

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

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

I’ve decided to expand last week’s story titled Choices. Read Part 1 here.

 

“Sit tight.” He thundered past to turn around. The shake and rattle faded with distance, but not for long.

Oncoming headlights of a single car pierced the shroud of hammering rain against her windshield. The wipers quit upright in mid-sweep as if stunned. Steve’s car howled closer behind her and stopped alongside. Victoria bit her lip, but scurried out of her car into the waiting and open door beside her. The stink of stale cigarettes, wet rags, and rancid grease punched her in the face before she shut the door. Phew.

“Good thing you came around the corner close to the sidewalk. I’d hate to push your car in this rain. ” Where to? His eyes roamed her huddled frame without apology.

“The Bradley Assurance Building downtown. Please.”

“Didn’t your mother never tell ya to look the person you’re talking to in the eye? What a scared little mouse you are.” He hooted and bobbed.

The grating voice in her ear over the earsplitting broken-Mack-truck noise gave her a headache. Purse to chest, she withdrew a hand to press against the drumbeat in her head. She sucked in a deep breath through her mouth, snapped on the seatbelt, and drew herself up straighter in the bucket.

“Let’s not talk.”

“Get over yourself, will ya?” He whipped a smoke out of his breast pocket.

“You’re not going to smoke that!”

He smirked and narrowed his eyes. “My car. My rules. Seems to me I’m already doing you a favor—What’s that saying about beggars and such?” He tapped the cigarette tip on the steering wheel and stuck it into the corner of his mouth.

Victoria sank deeper into the seat. Someone’s horn sounded over the cacophony in her head. She peered out the window. The traffic around them had swelled. Rain still swamped the windshield. Whish-whoosh, the wipers labored. Swoosh-whish. The wail of an ambulance drew closer. Steve eased to the curb with the rest of the traffic. He didn’t light the smoke.

“If ya hafta know, I quit for the third time a week ago. Sucking on these babies calms me down, ya know.” He turned to her with a lecherous grin. “You look like a drowned cat…”

She flinched and sidled closer to the passenger door, forehead to the cool window. The ambulance passed and commuters snaked forward again.

“Touchy-touchy. I’m telling ya like it is so you can fix yourself when you get to work.”

“Where are you going? This is the wrong way.” Victoria hated the shrill sound of her voice.

Eyes ready to burst out of her head, she jerked forward, hands raised toward the dash. The seatbelt restrained her.

Steve withdrew the soggy cigarette and shook with silent laughter. “I knew it. You’re a scared little mouse, aren’t ya? I’m going around the block to drop you in front of the building, not across the street.”

“Oh.”

“About your car? Want me to take care of it?”

“No-no. I’ll call the auto club. You’ve been more than helpful. Your wife must be worried what’s keeping you. Can’t thank you enough.” The front door of her building came into view. Soggy pedestrians with dripping umbrellas high-stepped around each other in squelching shoes.

Steve flicked on his signal and edged to a sloshing stop and flung his hand on the back of her bucket seat. He jiggled black caterpillar brows at her. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

“What are you—sixteen? It’s a figure of speech. Doesn’t mean what you’re thinking.” She wrenched open the door and stumbled into a river of streaming water searching for any opening along the curb.

“Careful now.” He snickered.

Without a backward glance, she slammed the door and sloshed her way up the stairs joining bedraggled employees rushing through the revolving doors. She charged forward, collapsing her umbrella and squeezed into an already crowded elevator. I hope my presentation goes better than my ride with Steve.

* * *

Dry and warm after a long disheartening day, Victoria curled up on the sofa, a tall Spanish coffee on the side table, a book, and Marmaduke in her lap. The now cold rain riddled the windows as if tired from plunging all day. She stroked the cat’s silky head. He leaned in against her palm and purred in a stupor. Now and again he shivered in delight. “Aren’t you my sweet, sweet boy?” One eye opened to examine her, a look of scorn on his face. He gave a heavy sigh and closed it.

“What’s with you, cat? Little Sarah next door said you look like a cow. You didn’t make faces at her.” The Tom shifted and coiled into a compact rope, paw pressed over his eyes. “A cow, she said. Good point, I think.” She poked the fur ball in a shoulder, but he ignored her.

“What a horrible day it’s been. Don’t let me start about our dreadful neighbor. I wanted to reach over and wipe the smirk off his face. Permanently.”

“Shh. What’s that?” Her knees bounced skyward; the cat bolted to his favorite window. Victoria’s heart hammered in her ears. Tiny hair she didn’t know she had, prickled on the back of her neck. Chest tight, her knees turned to water when her feet hit the floor. Rain fell with a lazy trickle now. Someone or something was poking around outside. Thank goodness she’d closed the drapes. No. The silly cat left an open space when he jumped on the window sill. She grabbed her cell, and paraphernalia, and switched off the lights on her way upstairs.

Nobody’s home next door. They’re at the parent-teacher meeting at the school. What on earth did they have to do with anything?

It wasn’t them she meant. It was Steve. She didn’t trust him.

 

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


36 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week 155

This challenge is open to everyone. Check out the rules below:

https://jfb57.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week155-2/

This week’s prompt:  … as time passes… + 100 words

100wcgu-72

Another Broken Heart

Samantha’s mother held her hand, breathed deep.

“My Granny Gracie prayed with each phone call and mail delivery. The letter arrived with good news five years too late.”

“What happened to her, Mom?”

“She died of a broken heart. Granny held on till the letter’s arrival, but she already lay at death’s door. For some, as time passes, love fades like a summer rose, but not for her.”

“Where had great grandpa gone so long?”

“They thought he’d drowned on the Titanic, but he’d sustained a brain injury and suffered with amnesia for years. Her funeral almost finished him.”

“Another broken heart.”

“Shattered.”

The End

 

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

 

 


58 Comments

#BlogBattle – Week 14

Come join us. For details, check out

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

This  week’s prompt is …frog… + up to  1,000 words

No More

Frankie’s nerves were as brittle as her fingernails. She hated the house since the divorce, and everything else afterwards. Thoughts of selling it weighed heavy on her mind. The whole rigmarole involved overwhelmed her, but she had no alternative, had no idea what to do next. Would she survive the wait between selling and moving? Should she have called the priest?

She pretended to read the paper, but watched her five-year-old daughter at play instead. Thick black curls bobbed around the serious little face. Forehead pinched, Suzanne tucked her doll into the toy pram muttering under her breath. “Bad dolly. You go sleep. Now.”

“Dolly’s not bad, Sweetie. Babies are never bad.” Frankie folded the newspaper and tossed it on the coffee table. “Maybe it’s not her bedtime yet.”

“She not listen all day. Baby needs sleep to grow big and strong.” Her mouth in a pout, the little girl yanked the carriage handle and headed for the hallway. Where’d she learn those words?

“Suzanne, Mommy’s running your bath now.”

“Don’t want no bath now.” Leaving the carriage at the bottom of the stairs, she raced upwards as fast as her pudgy legs allowed.

Temperature adjusted and water streaming, Frankie poured in fragrant bubble bath and listened to the busy footsteps overhead. Then silence. “Mommy, what I come here for?” The girl’s call sounded puzzled.

Clamping down a giggle, her mother’s nose crinkled. “I don’t know. You didn’t tell me.” She sing-songed the words back to her daughter. Silence continued. Mandy, skulked out from wherever she’d been catnapping and tore up the stairs after her precious. Susanne soon thumped down the stairs, short arms under the black cat’s belly, whose legs hung limp as a ragdoll almost brushing the floor.

“Bath time, sweetie.”

“Mm-mm. My favorite. Strawberry.” Suzanne dumped the cat and pulled at her clothes. Mandy sauntered into the bathroom and hopped onto the edge of the tub, content to watch the suds froth. Suzanne bolted and climbed in, her mother close behind pulled off her purple Tee, then turned off the faucet. The girl squealed; Mandy curled her tail tight around her and relaxed on all fours for comfortable guard duty.

Crash.

Frankie froze, washcloth in mid-air. The cat recoiled and dashed towards the sound. “Sit tight, Sweetie. Mommy will be right back.” She handed Susanne the cloth. “Don’t move. I’ll only be a sec.” The girl, too involved with her singing, paid no attention. Twinkle, twinkle weetle star…”  One foot over the threshold, Frankie flashed a quick glance towards her daughter and dashed down the hall.  Mandy sniffed at the framed picture leaning upright against the baseboard. She stared at air and bounced about the room. Not again. At least no broken glass this time. Frankie scrutinized the empty spaces in the room, her face pinched, brows drawn. She plunked the picture on the coffee table and rushed back to the bathroom.

“Good girl. You waited for me. Out we come. One. Two. Three.” She plucked up her daughter wrapping a towel around her. “My, oh my. Somebody smells go-od.” The young girl clapped and shrieked. Frankie bit her lip as she clutched her daughter and buried her face in the girl’s damp curls, a frog in her throat.

“Tomorrow, we’ll buy a new pillow for the rocking chair in your room.”

“Can’t. The lady upstairs won’t like it.”

Lips flopping like a guppy, Jackie cast around for words but nothing came out. “W-w-what lady?”

“The lady that lives in my room. Can I have a drink, Mommy?”

“A small one, ‘kay? What does she look like?”

“Like a gamma, and gamma hair.”

Frankie fought to keep her voice light. “Is she a nice lady?” She set the girl on a kitchen chair and poured an ounce of water into a glass. Sounds like the lady I saw when we moved in, but that was seven years ago.

“She sits in the rocking chair and sings to me sometimes.” Frankie handed the girl the glass.

“Mommy. Let go.”

No-one and nothing is messing with my baby. Blinking to suppress determined tears, Frankie released the glass. “How about we have a girl’s night and you sleep in Mommy’s bed tonight.”

Suzanne yelped and clapped. The cat streaked into the kitchen, eyes black, fur standing on end. “Mandy we sleep wiff Mommy tonight.”

* * *

Her daughter asleep, the cat curled beside her pillow, Frankie crept downstairs. While she let the water out of the tub, she peered into the living-room. Strange. The picture wasn’t on the coffee table. It hung on the wall where it belonged.

Pushing fists into her mouth not to cry out, Frankie closed her eyes rooted to the floor. No more ifs or maybes. She’d made up her mind. Enough. Let us make it through this night. No more ghosts at the foot of the bed, nor children in the basement nor white-haired ladies singing to my child. No more falling pictures. 

Time to leave. Morning wouldn’t come fast enough. She shut off the lights and rushed upstairs to her sleeping, daughter. Not even the cat twitched when she slipped into bed. The rain outside picked up, the crimson maple thrashed the windows. Sleep didn’t come. The house creaked and sighed. Frankie tossed.

No more. Time to say goodbye.

Something or someone knocked on the bedroom door. The cat sprang up and glared at the sound. Frankie squirreled closer to her baby.

The End

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


53 Comments

Tailspin (Part 2)

Tailspin Part 1 is here

 

“You ‘usband…gold mine …Mon Dieu…accident…”

The words were muffled. Not an accident like Smitty’s daddy. No. Not my daddy. Please God.

“My Everett? Where he is per favore?”

Médecin d’examiner… I go home, wait news.

Grazie. grazie.” My mother’s voice cracked.

Mrs. Fournier flung the bedroom door hard in her haste towards the front door. I don’t believe she saw me. I reared back though my legs were leaden.

“Ma, Daddy’s going to be okay, right?”

“Shhh, Bella. No worry. Want nice glass milk? Where Caterina?”

“She’s—in bed—still sleeping. Mrs. Fournier put her down for her nap.”

Ma paced from kitchen to living-room to bedroom and back. Over and over again. I leaned on the windowsill, with one eye on the clock and the other on the road. I peeked at Ma now and again. Smitty and Franco were nowhere in sight. The floor creaked and complained in various spots beneath Ma’s endless wandering. I already knew each one by heart.

 

Twenty-eight stomach-churning minutes later, a taxi pulled up in front of our house. I’d only seen one once before. “Ma, why is a taxi here? Aren’t they for rich people?”

She made an awful noise. And then, I saw him.

“Ma’s forehead glistened; her face white as my sister’s new diapers. She grabbed my hand, a strangled cry lodged in her throat. She stumbled for the door like Frankenstein tugging at my arm, but I let go and rushed ahead. I dashed outside and down the stairs. A soon as he unfolded himself from the backseat, I exploded into his arms and almost knocked him over. He swayed against the car to catch his balance. I noticed the cane but it didn’t register. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…”

“I’m fine. See. Just a limp and a scratch.” He withdrew his bruised arm from the sling. With the other, he leaned the cane against his hip and reached into his pants pocket. I’d forgotten about the taxi.

Nien. No pay, Ev-rrett. We drink some beer soon, yah?” Mr. Schmitt, the driver, winked at me before he coaxed the taxi up the dusty street and out of sight.

Daddy hobbled towards Ma. I hung onto his jacket sleeve as if he’d vanish. Ma sagged against the doorway framework and slid down in slow motion, into a heap of clothing and useless limbs. She might have been a rag doll left propped against the doorjamb.

Her eyes fluttered. Claw-like hands covered her face and she began to wail, the sound sorrowful and lost. It reminded me of the loon’s cry on our lake: eerie and mournful; haunting and tragic. It was the kind of wail that made me feel helpless and more scared than I’d ever been in my whole life.

Daddy patted my shoulder and leaned over Ma. I let go of his sleeve. “Olivia, come inside. I. Am. All. Right.” He leaned hard on his new cane and extended the bruised hand. His voice came out in a hoarse whisper like he’d swallowed sandpaper, each word enunciated the way a person would with a mouthful of cotton. He cleared his throat several times. He reached for Ma’s lifeless hand and tugged. Rivers of tears zigzagged her cheeks; eyes staring, forgetting to blink. Her mouth quivered; hungry eyes devouring every inch of his face.

Caterina began to bawl. What timing. She was the baby and knew nothing about the accident. I knew a little and I wanted to shriek too.

I couldn’t leave yet. “Daddy?” My throat hurt to talk. “You won’t ever go back to that mine again, will you?” I committed to memory this tower of a man with a greed new to me. I don’t think he heard me. I wanted to stay, but my sister now howled. I rushed in to calm her though I had more important worries. I felt older than the eight-year-old girl I had been earlier in the day.

My Daddy had made it home—home in one piece. This time.

Smitty’s Daddy would never come home again. My Daddy made it home. Today, we were lucky.

###

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


69 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #163

Click below to join:

https://jfb57.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week163/

The prompt this week is …freedom… + 100 words

100wcgu-72

SEVEN Little LETTERS

“Let me explain—”

The uniform’s hand flew up. “Silence. Passport.” Crisp pages snapped between thickened fingers.

“Boris, see about the bag.” Uniform trousers swept past Mike. Slam.

“It’s a mistake.”

“Quiet.” The scarred fist smacked the desk; the chair creaked. “Travelling alone?”

“No. Yes. What’s this about?”

“I ask questions. Not you.”

“What about freedom of speech?”

The desk giant threw back his head and roared. “Your country maybe. This my country.” His mustard yellow teeth retreated.

“My mother—”

“What?”

“Sick…help her come home.”

Boris returned; they conferred.

“You have freedom visit my jail.”

“Lawyer—?”

“Boris fine lawyer.”

 

© 2015 All Right Reserved Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles


73 Comments

100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #157

To join in, click below

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week157/

This week’s prompt is and so it begins… +100 words

100wcgu-72

THE W.P.P.

Tom kicked the night table. “Lousy life.” The lamp crashed to the floor, yanked back by its cord. “Time for new coordinates.” He grabbed the whiskey bottle before it tipped. The neck tight in his fist, he guzzled the last mouthful and slammed it on the dresser.

His head snapped at the urgent fist on the door.

That your car on fire?”

Outgrown hair shoved aside, Tom snatched his knapsack and dashed to the bathroom window. Sweat streamed from every orifice. “Come-on, come-on.” He grunted and heaved.

The front door exploded.

Tom bolted.

And so it begins again. The Witness Protection Plan doesn’t work.

 

© 2014 TAK


93 Comments

Story in a Flash

THE SHACK

Swollen blueberries begged to be plucked only in sporadic patches. Soon Rita stripped all the fruit and wandered away from the railroad tracks in search of more. Birds twittered over each other and heat bugs whirled and clicked fast and loud as if anxious, and stopped—dead quiet. Stilled a moment, they began again. Craving quiet time, Rita had chosen to go picking on her own for the first time. She gazed about the perfect August morning: the sun edged higher,  cloud-stripped, the sky expanded. No humidity pressed against her.

Credit: Microsoft Clipart

Credit: Microsoft Clipart

A magnetic energy pulled her further. Stones and twigs crunched beneath her runners. Tall grass tickled her bare legs. She didn’t give her car a second thought. Amongst the trees, an extraordinary mirage emerged. Streaked crimson ponytail stock-still, Rita crept forward. Charming. Is it real? Her eyes squinted and rounded without her consent. In a compact clearing surrounded by a thicket of trees an enormous barrel lay on its side: weather-beaten and sun-bleached, but solid. She breathed in the fragrant scent of ferns even though the enormous tamarack and stately birch obscured the sun. A smaller than average door graced the barrel’s upright lid. On top, a rusted chimney pipe stuck out like a tired blossom stuck into a hat.

Head tilted, Rita circled the structure and listened. She discovered windows on either side, but too high to peek inside. In the back a drowsy vegetable garden snoozed, plants stretching towards the sun.

Am I dreaming? Rita halted and waited, but for what? Swallowing hard, she gripped her half-filled basket, sidled up to the door and knocked as if afraid to disturb the occupant.

“Hello, is anybody there?” No answer. She waited a beat, turned the knob and peaked inside. Wow—Ohmygawd.

She stepped inside, up onto the wide-planked floor. A shelf-like bed hung supported by chains beneath one window, a thin pillow and blanket in place. Beneath the other window, pressed to the wall and on its side, a large cable spool gleamed in the sunlight. A Tale of Two Cities lay open and face down on top. Impressive. Two thick tree stumps, well sanded, had been hallowed out like club chairs. Against the inside lid at the back of the barrel, hung row upon row of floor-to-ceiling shelving. An assortment of mismatched plates, chipped pots and pans, tattered books, colored stones and woven-grass baskets populated the long planks of wood. A scarred pot-bellied wood-stove stood guard over the humble room, its chimney pipe cold and crooked as a one-legged spider.

“I’m lost and hallucinating.” Rita peered right and left and back once more. The logical thing is to sit and wait. “Whoever lives here must come back—sometime.” She munched on her berries, eyes heavy, and climbed onto the bed. Maybe a nap…

* * *

A dark silhouette crossed to the bed with the stillness of a ghost. “Hmm.” A Cheshire smile widened, eyes hooded and akin to a Black Widow with a fly.


73 Comments

News Flash

I don’t want anyone to think I’ve suddenly stopped commenting on your blogs. First comment I clicked Reply on this morning disappeared. I tried again. Evidence of my presence is by Like only. That worked. A couple of blogs welcomed my comment as always. The rest not. Why do some (too few) work and others not?

Does anyone know what this is about? Yesterday, WP seemed fine. Is anyone else experiencing a similar problem?

It’s been suggested my comments may be in your Spam.

 

Thank you Microsoft clipart

Thank you Microsoft clipart