How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


#BlogBattle Week 10

Anyone can join. Check out the rules below:

This week’s prompt is …loop…

Threw Me For a Loop

I answered the ad though details were sparse. The 30th of May loomed large. A guy needs to have a place to stow his stuff. Carting it around in my car wasn’t my style and living out of a suitcase even less. Even cheesy motels added up to serious money in short time. Six-thirty worked fine, the creaky voice had said. I hadn’t given it much thought afterwards, but the voice had almost put me off.

* * *

The place stopped me in my tracks. I threw on the brakes and melted a couple inches of asphalt and overheated the tires. An unfamiliar neighborhood, this. I double checked the circled house number in the folded newspaper ad. Yup. The roadway mailbox read 1002. A perfect match! I smiled for the first time in maybe three months, my freshly shaved skin taut across my cheeks. Today my luck might change. Maybe. The turn-of-the-century mansion rose above rich green lawns surrounded by bountiful flowers of every color. Like a red jewel, it glittered high on the hill at the end of the driveway, each side safeguarded by young pines saplings. The lane seemed shorter than I’d thought.

The closest neighbors were a couple empty lots wide on either side. I suppose at one time older buildings had been torn down and the lots abandoned. I hauled myself out of the car and put on my suit jacket. It appeared nobody was home. The stillness, except for the twitter of birds, and the buzzing of bees, struck me right away. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. City air didn’t smell this good. The sweet scents of almost country cleared my head. I zigzagged up the crumbling cement stairs and rang the doorbell. The sonorous chimes echoed deep inside. I waited, back to the door, the imperfect, weed-riddled lawn yawned large.

My cell read 6:32 p.m. I leaned on the doorbell again, longer this time. Once white and perfect window frames begged scraping and fresh paint. Thuds and shuffles, unhurried, but steady, advanced towards the door. Afraid to scare whoever opened the door, I stepped back grazing my ear on the flaked paint.

Two locks turned, a chain slid through a chamber. The door opened a crack wide enough to display an shadowy eye. “Yes,” a reedy voice said.”

“Oh, hi. I’ve an appointment with Mrs. Alexander-Cook. We talked on the phone this morning? Name’s Talbot—Mike.” I almost pitched forward for a handshake but figured this wasn’t the time.

“Yes, you’re that young man. Come in.  Come in.” The inch gap widened and I slipped inside. So many windows at the front of the house. Leaded glass I presumed. “Follow me. We’ll sit in the parlour.” Thud. Shuffle. Thud. Shuffle. Her short steps dragged along the hardwood floor. I checked for rubber marks of her cane but found none.

As an impatient guy, I had the urge to pick up the bird of a woman and carry her in the hope we’d arrive before I turned forty. Paintings decorated the short hall walls. I thought I recognised a Matisse, A Woman Reading. It had to be a print. Who hung something of that value out in the open?

“Sit anywhere you like, Mike. A glass of lemonade perhaps. I took the liberty… Tell me about yourself.”

“Thanks. Can I pour for you Mrs. Alexander-Cook?” She had to be wiped after that painful shamble. How old might she be? Maybe a hundred? I half-filled two glasses and handed her one.

“Thank you. You sound a thoughtful young man.” She settled into a champagne sofa chair, brocade, and tucked the cane between the cushion and inside of the chair, feet inches off the floor.

I took a swallow. I hadn’t realized my thirst. “S-o-o-o good.” Even for a guy who enjoyed his brewskis, this tasted like ambrosia. I opened my eyes and caught the old lady scrutinize me, wearing the most divine smile, the brightest twinkle in her eye. For a fraction of a second, I recognized the beauty she had once been. The picture threw me for a loop. She wasn’t a hundred after all. Though her hair was white as cotton and face creased, her skin radiated pink as she blushed.

“Sorry Mrs. Alexander—“

“You can shorten it to Cook. Easier, don’t you think?”

“Okay. I’m 34, a soon-to-be divorced father of a four-year-old boy. I work downtown at Elliot and Elliot Engineering in Research and Development. For the past three months, I’ve moved from hotels to motels all nastier than the last. I’d held out hoping for a reconciliation, but my soon-to-be ex-wife refuses to reconsider.” I cleared my throat. Damn, how long would Christie’s unwavering alienation burn this raw? What about Junior and me? I squirmed in my seat.

Mrs. Cook raised an open palm, fingers curled and disfigured. “I’m 79 and have been a widow for almost five years. My children want to sell this house because I’m too old to live alone. Imagine that. My children treating me like a child.”

“I’m sorry Mrs. Cook. Does this mean—? I’m handy and enjoy fixing things, sanding, painting, keeping busy. Could work, right?”

Eyes aglow, she reached for her cane and slid her tiny frame out of the overstuffed chair. “Don’t you want to see the rest of the house? What if you don’t like it?”

Mike jumped out of his chair, placed their empty glasses on the coffee table tray and grabbed it. “Lead the way Mrs. C. Oops. That slipped out. No disrespect. Honest.” His ears bloomed scarlet, but Mrs. Cook giggled, a sound not unlike a gurgling spring.

“By the way I still enjoy cooking and am good at it. Do you like to eat?”


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


On the Yangtze River: Day 14, Part 4 (Three Gorges Dam)

The Wu Gorge was on our schedule for 4:30 p.m. with dinner on our return at 8:30. However, the day turned wet with light rain and mist by midday. A PA announcement advised dinner changed to 5:30 with departure at 6:30. Adding insult to injury, dinner was then rushed to end at 6:00 with the same departure time. I wondered if this was a worthwhile endeavor because of the wet spray and low ceiling clouds. I thought maybe an adventure awaited and against my better judgement, rushed to catch the bus with our group.

Robert, our first guide in Beijing, had another group on-board. When we left for the Three Gorges Dam, he took the English Group 8 under his wing. A local man, Max, was our bus excursion guide. I don’t believe he knew how to do anything but smile and appear happy. Even over the loud speaker, his soft voice and thick accent were difficult to understand and he wasn’t informative. At one point, Robert pitched in to help.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

The weather grew more miserable as we  continued. We arrived after an hour or so. Already, it was too dark to see anything but we were hustled into the Visitor Center. The women had the Happy House as the first order of business. We lined up for tickets to see the indoor replica of the gorge. It was beautiful and I took photos.

My hands shook with excitement, grateful we’d arrived safely, and ecstatic to see this perfect model (the reason for these shaky pictures).

The real deal wasn’t in the cards. Whose idea was it to go ahead with this tour so late? Might anyone be anything but dissatisfied? I was, wouldn’t you be?

All manner of souvenirs we’d seen everywhere were displayed in the gift shop: pearls, various colors of jade, tee shirts, as well as books about the Gorges. Ten minutes to shop and then outside into the drizzle with the local guide (Max) to the observation area, which I couldn’t make out. The pillars he pointed out were swathed in mystery like in a bad Sci-Fi movie, similar to Mount Olympus in the clouds, all mist and vapor with an inky black void below.

Robert announced our urgent return by 9:30 because the ship had been scheduled to go through the locks by 1:00 a.m. I had doubts about the bus tires in the rain as we rushed back. What a waste of another hour plus the cost of gasoline.

Rain, and dark proved to be bad companions for an enjoyable tour. I decided to disregard negative feelings, but in truth I should have paid attention to my gut. The trip was a waste of three-and-a half-hours driving in rain and biting my nails to stubs.

Upon our return, crew members with flashlights lit our way back from the bus to the ship because of the dark and slippery conditions.

“Watch your step.”

“Welcome back.”

“Watch your step. Be careful.”

“We missed you.”

Cheesy, I know, but I was miserable, and couldn’t help half-believing the words after I’d heard them a half-dozen times. Jokingly, I said, “I missed you too.”

Weird what wet weather and misery will force me to do. I almost believed their words—not.

~ * ~

Next on January 9: On the Yangtze River: Day 15, Part 5 (the locks)

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

© 2015 All Right Reserved TAK


Flash in the Pan – Demented

Katherine dropped the scotch tape and peeked around the corner at the spectacular tree. Warmth and cheer radiated from the fireplace; joyful carols played a touch above a whisper. She hugged herself. Two gifts left to wrap…the best ones.

Brandon tramped into the overpriced kitchen. Feet wide apart, he tossed off his jacket and loosened his tie. “What’s all this mess?” Wrapped boxes and gift bags littered the table.

Unapologetic, Katherine’s voice wavered. “These are a few gifts for a new friend I’ve invited for Christmas.”

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

“Christmas isn’t for strangers, it’s for family—except mine, that is.”

“But this is a time for giving, good will…”

“Is that a doll? For you? Are you demented?” He persisted forward until mere inches separated them.

Katherine grabbed the baby doll. “It’s for the orphan girl who’s coming to dinner.”

Brandon staggered as if punched. He cleared his throat. “A little girl? Here?”

~ * ~

The Fall Quarter of Flash in the Pan is coming to the end. The theme is Disturbed.

The word limit for Demented is 150 words. I used them 150.

Check how to join:


Flash in the Pan – Tablecloth

MH900437986“Tony, slow down.  You’re going to choke.”

Rosa’s husband swallows, grabs his wine glass and glugs it like water. Spilled drops trickle down his double chin onto the bib he’s fashioned. He rolls his eyes but avoids her gaze. One hand yanks out the chin apron and chucks it to the floor. “Can’t a man eat in peace?”

He rises with a lurch. Wine spills, stringy pasta sprawls, and glass shatters on the tile. With a bark of laughter, Tony gawks down at his belt.

Cheeks on fire, Rosa covers her face. “Saturday night and I can’t take you anywhere.”

~ * ~

The word limit for Tablecloth is 100 words. I used all 100. Check out for the rules and join us.


Sunday Snippets – Blog Hop #7

Check it out. Jennifer Eaton of has initiated this Critique Blog Hop. Read the rules and sign up. You’ll find the other submissions at the bottom of this post.


~ * ~

Thank you for your continuing and constructive comments. The first part of today’s snippet is here:

This piece is from a story titled, Afterwards, about a woman coming to terms with the past after something happens in the present.

~ * * ~

Sylvie picks up the wine glass and takes a generous swallow.

I should not have poked at that hornet’s nest.

She presses her lips together. How might I have known? After all, old friends go for coffee, don’t they? Catch up? Talk about how their lives turned out? Normal stuff, right? Curiosity is all it was. Innocent, yet I was playing with fire, and knew it. Shoudacouldawoulda. “STOP IT!” Sylvie covers her face with purple-veined hands, drops them, and rubs the table’s polished surface in a circular motion.

After my mother died, you sent a card, George. Not an ideal time for remembering you. Yes, your gesture warmed my numbness, almost made me smile, but confused me, too—it made me remember what I had long buried—or so I thought.

I was cautious about sending a thank you, long after I’d expressed my appreciation to everyone else, but I did anyway. Then your Christmas card arrived on the first anniversary of mom’s death. I perceived no harm in sharing a coffee after forty-some years. I admit it, I was interested to see you, and, your eagerness, well… Sylvie rubs her temples and closes her eyes.

I’d already heard life hasn’t been kind to you, so it’s no understatement that you’re in bad physical shape. At least I tried to feel something, but cannot. I’m unable to reach down deep enough to find any emotion. You see, George, I haven’t forgotten what happened back then, but it appears you have, or choose to.

~ * * * ~

Click on over to these great writers to read and critique what they’ve posted!


Flash in the Pan – Ecstatic

MB900285297“Thanks a lot. I’d said no, hadn’t I?”

“You don’t understand, Sis.”

“What’s to understand, Ali?” Jennifer straightened, and blew frizzy hair out of her scarlet face. Fingering the softness of her cashmere sweater, mouth puckered, she threw it across the bed.

“I wore it once—for my Valentine’s…”

“I’m ecstatic for you.” Jennifer hissed. “I now pronounce you Ali and spaghetti stain.”

* * *

The word limit for Ecstatic is 75 words. I used 63 words today. Check out for rules and contributions.


Sunday Snippets Blog Hop #3

Check it out! Jennifer Eaton of has initiated this Critique Blog Hop. Read the rules and sign up. Sounds like a fun way to get good feedback.


I offer these next 250 words from Leap of Faith. The beginning can be found here:

* * *

“That new girl, Irene, is stealing from everyone. No-one lost anything until she arrived.”

Olivia, Reddy’s mother, cut thick slices of crusty olive bread. She stirred a thick zuppa on the stove and filled shallow bowls for their supper. With shaking head and busy hands, she watched father and daughter sparing, but kept quiet.

Everett put his hands on his hips and copied Reddy’s hand toss. He rolled his eyes and sat down at the wood kitchen table. “It’s up to the teacher to right this, not you. Come sit.”

The room was too small even for the miniature table, let alone a man of his girth. Her mother set down a bowl in front of Reddy and brushed the short coiling wisps of hair which framed her face. “Mia bella,” her mother whispered, sat down and crossed herself. “Nel nome del padre,” she began…

After supper, hours of daylight still remained before the sun withdrew into the horizon. Her father excused himself from the table. Reddy bounced her knee up and down beneath it. Her mother tightened her lips as she cleared the dishes away. “Come, Rosalia.”

Reddy groaned and slumped in her chair. “Okay, Mama, I’ll help with the dishes, but can I go outside for a while after? It’s still light out. Please.”

Mother and daughter eyed each other. Reddy hated this tug of war between them. “Small time,” her mother said as she pinched her thumb and forefinger together.
Reddy dashed out of the back door.

* * *

Click on over to these great writers to check out and critique what they’ve posted!


Flash in the Pan – Frightened

The wind shrieked and pummeled the old cottage with golf ball-sized hail. Roof tiles twirled airborne. Driving rain lashed the windows like buckshot.


“It’s only a summer storm, honey,” Leila shouted in the dark. “Don’t be frightened.”

Her cousin, a criminal lawyer, collapsed heavily on the barn-board floor.

“Sophie,” Leila patted a frosty cheek. “You never were outdoorsy, were you?”

A groaning sigh rumbled. The old oak crashed and the roof pitched inward.

~ * ~

The word limit for Frightened is 75 words. I lassoed 73 words today. Check out for rules and contributions.


Flash in the Pan: Listless

The humidity gripped Sylvie like wet paint smothering a wall. Her hands, dry and chapped, burned like acid in the heat. She raised her skirt to wipe her face; no neighbours would see.

“Where’s my dinner?” a voice rasped.


Listless, she looked at the wagon, prayed the babe still lived, and swung the axe. The confused chicken laid her head on the stump to rest.


Check out Flash in the Pan at  M3 for rules and contributions. The word limit for Listless was 75 words but only 65 were utilized.



When a lady takes to her bed, she wears feminine nightwear and smells like an angel. She arms herself with bonbons, Puffs tissues for her sniffles, something entertaining to read and a nice cup of tea. And lots and lots of pillows to add to her snoozing comfort.

Or so I’ve heard—someplace. Maybe I’m confused and lost in the wrong era.

If this is remotely true, I am no lady. The Puffs have been useless because I blew a hole through like I’d fired a cannon—and had to wash my face afterwards. Cheap paper towels were more up my alley. Bonbons, you ask? My taste buds went on a metallic vacation so I couldn’t enjoy them. Nightwear? Good old flannel-type PJs for me. Something to read, you wonder? My eyes have been much too heavy for reading; my sinuses are still under attack, and my face hurts like it’s been a punching bag.


A sore throat is what started me down this road. Next came fits of coughing so deep, I’m surprised my lungs aren’t shredded to ribbons. My ears are still plugged and my eyes don’t care to focus for longer than it takes to grab my adult sippy cup. To do anything takes more energy than I can muster and I still sweat like a construction worker.

I’ve clocked more hours sleeping in this New Year than awake. I’ve no idea what’s been happening out in the real world for the past ten days.

Five days I’ve lolled in bed, but I’m getting fleeting thoughts about joining the human race again. However, I have a short attention span. It’s possible all that sleep has made me lazy . . . and my sinuses are still messed up.

Happy 2013 to me.

On the bright side, I had first-rate company assessing my every move. I drank gallons of water to quench my thirst and made a million trips to the bathroom, always escorted from and to bed. No amount of hacking or tossing dissuaded my protector from leaving my side. My Lady Gaga slept hanging over my shoulder to keep an eye on me.  For four days! Such patience and loyalty—from my kitty? Wow.

Now I face 600+ e-mails in my Inbox and am overwhelmed simply thinking about a catch up. Please bear with me. I’ll do the best I can, but my mojo is still broken and I cannot promise every single one will get answered.