How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


#BlogBattle – Week 14

Come join us. For details, check out

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.


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.


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


On the Yangtze Day 16, Part 7: Ghost City and Stairway to Hell

I had never considered how precious a pen might be. I’d brought four with me and lost one. Almost out of ink, I began worrying what I’d do without one. I liked gel pens but had no idea they run out so fast. At home I’d pull another one out of my basket of dozens. Why hadn’t I brought more?



Cauliflower (lemon flavoured); red kidney beans and chick peas; fruit salad (with bananas, ugh); spicy red leaves (yum); tendons of beef mutton; mixed 5 kind of bean salad

Sliced oranges; cantaloupe (honey dew); whole pears; sliced red cabbage, sliced cucumbers; grape tomatoes; chunks romaine and red cabbage; chopped hard boiled eggs; raisins; real crumbled bacon


French, Italian and Thousand Island (none of these are what we recognize as such)


Rice ball, duck breast in brown sauce; stir fry vegetables, bacon of Sichuan style; baked sweet potato; stewed beef brisket; pasta with mushroom cream sauce; steamed egg; stewed sliced fish in tomato sauce; steamed white rice; duck and pickles soup; cream of corn soup, and buns

* * *

The 3:00 p.m. extra excursion was reinstated: Ghost City Tour and Stairway to Hell (in place of cancelled Goddess Stream Tour previous day).

To visit Hell and Ghost City, we climbed (we were told) about 500 steps. No, it wasn’t continuous. The ground levelled out at intervals and showcased temples and statues and bridges etc. I stopped counting after 10 or 11 steps as I huffed and puffed to keep up with the crowd. With no illusions about completing the ascent, I soldiered on. Talk about a workout in muggy weather yet!

Heaven Hill under Construction

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Look waayy up! Model of Temple of Hell.

Model Temple of Hell

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Too many groups crowded around their guides, some with megaphones. It was too noisy and congested. I gave up listening.

The way down sloped at a steep angle and I was careful not to fall on my face. The road was paved and wide enough for a car, but used for traffic. Members of my group had disappeared. Some had lost interest. I came down alone.

At one point I saw no-one and heard only birdsong and my runners thump against the asphalt, then, another set of footfalls clunked behind me. My heart in my throat, I stopped to pretend-fix my laces and caught sight of a man fiddling with his camera. I wasted no time hoofing forward till I went around a bend in the road and saw people milling around. As well, I came upon a disfigured man, lying on the ground begging. This was my second experience since Shanghai.

At the bottom, we’d come through an open market. This time a particular display caught my attention. I stopped and bought a bottle of wine (either Great Wall label or Dynasty). After a brief negotiation, I paid 50 Yuan or $8.30 USD.

Outnumbered thousands to one, I found myself surrounded by Chinese tourists and the loud chatter of Chinese voices. Taking a deep breath, I approached the closest open mini-bus and said the name of our ship with a dramatic question mark attached. The driver nodded. Everyone stared. We waited to fill two more seats and proceeded to the top of more stairs. The driver stopped, I jumped out and booted it down the stairs, down the long walkway to another dark semi-enclosed market where everyone gaped. At least that’s how it felt. I noticed guys eating noodles, bottles of wine on offer (drat), lots of soft drinks, beer cases, and other food stuffs.

Hot and sticky, all I wanted was a shower and to cool off. I’m surprised my legs held me upright after all the stairs I’d scaled in the past couple hours. Aha. I forgot how we’d left for the excursion. I was guided the same way back through two, or was it three, ships anchored side-by-side.

After a quick shower, I went out on the balcony for some air. An almost breeze teased me. Smoking in the state rooms wasn’t allowed and alarms were installed in the ceiling. Puffing outside was okay. Tourists hanging out over their balconies sent smoke clouds and some of the smell settled in our room.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie  (I can’t believe how crooked the imprint is)

Tonight is our last night on the cruise ship. Time to dress up for a fancy Captain’s Farewell Dinner.

This is the only time we had a menu for any meal on the cruise, not even at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner. This was a dress-up affair again and I felt tall in the four-inch spikes.

After dinner we paid up our chits and packed our bags, which were deposited in the main lobby. A new adventure awaited the next day.

 * * *

Additional links:

This link gives brief blurbs about the various ghosts.

This one provides a 4.12-minute tour, but is difficult to understand.

* * * 

Next time on January 30, Chongquin, Day 17, Part 1 (Flight to Guilin)

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

© 2015 All Right Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie


100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #157

To join in, click below

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



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


100-Word Challenge for Grown-ups – Week #139

Please checkout for this challenge.

This week’s prompt is …but even when I listened carefully… + 100 words




 Those are tulips—I think. I prefer roses in dark velvet hues. My favourite is carmine—a deep merlot. Someone said carmine looks like dried blood. What a thought.

“Still awake? Time for the toilet and a nap.”

Her voice, pleasant at first, offended my ears. I watched her face for a hint of meaning. The sounds finished, jumbled and empty.

“Ellen, let’s go.” She clapped, then tugged my arm, but even when I listened carefully I couldn’t understand.

Who is this now?

“You’ve stared at that painting enough.”

My vision blurred and lip stung.

“Nurse is busy today,” she said.

The word no escaped me.


100-Word Challenge for Grown-Ups – Week #131

To join, check out Julia’s Place and  ‘What is 100WCGU?‘  This week’s prompt: when the night demons visit.



A wispy-haired woman stabbed wood into the yawning woodstove. Jason read at the kitchen table. The autumn wind rattled the windows and shook the dilapidated farmhouse.

“Louder, son.”

He paused and cleared his throat, licked his forefinger, and turned the page. The kerosene flame flickered and hurled giant silhouettes around them. “You can’t hide when the night demons visit.” He leaned closer to the meagre light.

She slammed the lid lifter and glared down at him. “Demons? What demons?” Insistent pounding silenced her. “Did you bolt the door?”

Eyes bulging, Jason shook his head.

“Let us in.”

“Who’s us?”

“Freddy and me.”

“But. You’re. Dead!”


Can You Handle a Surprise?

February 26th I had the sweet opportunity to attend the launch of Time and Place, a cultural quarterly. Nervous as a cat (cliché, I know, but I was nervous), I swallowed hard and went into neutral mode—think the idling of a car while you wait for a green light. This was a two-fold occasion. I also read a story I’d submitted! Yes, me.

Each submission required the significance of time and place regarding origin of story. (Noted at bottom of page.)

photo (4) Time and Place Cultural Quarterly


It has begun…my worst nightmare. Myrna-Jo Bourke blinks and stares into the gas-lit fireplace. Nail-bitten fingers smooth her creased forehead. She frowns at a rap at the door.

A lanky girl, cinnamon hair streaming, soars through the finished basement to the Easy Boy and her grandmother’s arms. “Why are you sitting in the near dark?” The girl squints and pulls back for a better look. Her small hand brushes the rough cheek. “Grammy, are you okay?”

“Of course, I’m all right.” Myrna-Jo offers a fake smile and plunges closed fists into her lap.

Thin lips clamped, Lilli slips out of the light embrace. “Your cheeks are wet. Why?” Stepping away and examining the room, she flicks on the light switch.

Grammy’s glance drops and rises. The half-lie slips out between wobbly lips. “I’m happy to see you.”

The young girl leans in again and lays a warm satin cheek against her grandmother’s. Arms steal over rounded shoulders and circle her neck. “No-one hugs better than you.” Lilli breathes in the baby-powder scent of her grandmother’s neck, sighs, and tightens her embrace.

“Can I help you?”

Giggles tinkle like tiny crystal wind chimes. “I almost forgot.” Her nose scrunches. “Mum wants you to come to supper Saturday. For your birthday.”

Myrna-Jo’s eyelids flutter. “Birthday?”

“You didn’t forget did you, Grammy? Wait till you open my special surprise.” Lilli rocks on stocking feet, hands twirling at her sides.

“Such excitement over a little birthday…”

“But it’s your seventieth.” Pink-faced, bunched hands rise and slip underneath her chin.

“Seventieth?” The voice cracks. A spotted hand pats the bun. “Seventieth. And you are how old?”

“Stop teasing, Grammy. I’m eleven. Remember the hot pink dress you gave me last August?”

Myrna-Jo’s eyes wander. Time rushes headlong with a mind of its own. If only I could slow its….

Lilli grins. “You’re coming, right?”


“For supper Saturday, didn’t I just say?” She searches the drawn, clouded gaze of the woman in the recliner. “Grammy?”

Eyes dart left and right as the woman claws her throat. “Who’s my most favorite grandchild in the whole wide world?”

“Silly, I’m your only one.” Fidgety, Lilli caresses the cloud-white hair. “What will you wear?”


“I know—your green pantsuit—makes your eyes look like emeralds.”

“Oh… Come and help me dress, will you…?”

“Okay, an hour before supper. Gotta go. Mom is setting the table.” She plants a kiss on the cold cheek and scurries away. At the door, she hesitates. “Grammy?”


“Love you. See-ya-bye.” Slam. Thump. Thump. Thump. She avoids a collision with her mother on the landing.

“There you are. Thought I’d have to come down. Wash up.”

“Mum, is Grammy all right?”

* * *

Myna-Jo listens to chairs scrape overhead and buries her face. How long before I end up like my Aunt Sylvie. Can I lay this burden at my family’s door?

Another glance ceiling-wise, then she gazes into the rhythmic flames as if answers are written there.


A short time ago, while working on another short story, I rummaged around in my head for a particular phrase. My brain refused to cooperate for a moment. Because of my age, this made me wonder about memory / word loss and its beginnings. What happens when you are aware of what’s happening to you? What if you loved writing?This story is the result of those meandering thoughts, somewhat abbreviated due to word limit.


This has been printed with the permission of Ninth Floor Press ISBN 978-0-9919730-0-2

Editor: Ed Shaw. Submissions:


Flash in the Pan – Mind

Maxwell sauntered down the hospital corridor with new man Luke in tow. “Here’s the other patient shower room. Hey George. Come meet your new helper.” A bug-eyed bald man appeared from behind the curtain.



“Nice day, Maxwell. Who’s this?”

“Luke is here for the summer. You’ll train him?”

“Sure, sure. Of course. Glad to help.” George’s spray-can clattered to the mosaic floor.” He bent to retrieve it.

Maxwell whispered. “Watch this.” He flicked on the shower.

“Dear, dear. Oh no.” George raced to mop water down the drain.

“Why doesn’t he…”

“Lost his mind.  Can’t think to shut it off.”

~ * ~

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

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

Click: to check out the rules and join.


Not Cinderella’s Slippers

It all began last month on September 26th. I’d slipped into Walmart to pick up canned cat food. My precious puss, Lady Gaga is spoiled, I agree. Her breakfast consists of a large tablespoonful of Iams (wet) beef, lamb or chicken, and a quarter- cup of Iams dry food. I always make sure her cupboard is well stocked in case a world-wide shortage should occur.

I wasn’t in a hurry; I roamed the store. Office supplies were on sale after the back-to-school fever had subsided and I went a little crazy. We’d had the odd cool night already so I moseyed over to the shoe department. I should never grab a buggy in any store because then I’m tempted to fill it up. I looked at slippers: purple this time. I chose a soft fuzzy pair, slip-ons—thick and spongy inside. Lovely.

I had to try them on as soon as I arrived home. Heaven couldn’t fit better. Four days later I was a physical shipwreck. If I sat, I couldn’t get up, because first one hip and then the other had stiffened up and ached. By the third day, I groaned as I hoisted myself out of the firm leather living-room chair while babysitting after school. My six-year-old granddaughter heard me and thought that was funny. “Babcia, is getting old,” she giggled behind her hand and wouldn’t repeat herself when I asked what she’d said.

This pain had come on too suddenly. Why? What was the cause? I’d started to drag one leg as if it were a lead post (without the normal flexibility of my knee half-way) and then the other. I rolled out of bed the third and fourth morning certain my hips had been smashed or battered in the night.

I slipped my feet into my cozy slippers; I kicked them off again. A light came on. This was déjà vu. Last winter I had purchased a pair of slippers as well and kicked them off shortly afterwards. They had also been a cushy pair I loved on sight—and at least a couple of days until I realized they were cursed, or I was, if I continued to wear them.

Moral of my story: four days after I kicked off the slippers from Hell, I’m not as stiff or tight, and my hips aren’t killing me. I can sit and get up; to walk, I don’t drag my legs across the floor. I’m almost back to normal. I don’t hurt in the morning after sleeping. Heaving out of a chair no longer is necessary.

MorgueFile free photos

MorgueFile free photos

Can you believe this? If it hadn’t happened to me, I might be doubtful. I promise every word is true. I wonder if my alignment hadn’t been messed up because of something about the slippers. The first time, last winter, when I decided to ditch the (new) slippers, I figured my reasoning might be a fluke but after this second time, I don’t know what kind of slippers to trust now.

All summer I have worn the better style of thong inside and out, and am back in them again. Has anyone had a similar experience? With slippers?


Flash in the Pan – Go

“Don’t go, Bobby.”

“Nobody’s lived in that shack for years. What’re you scared of?” Bobby’s irises grew blacker; his grin wider. “’Fraidy cat, Dixon. ‘Fraidy cat, Di…”


“Hey, watchit.”

Loosened fists at his sides, Dixon grit uneven teeth and flushed to the roots of his ginger crew-cut. “Okay. Nothing else to do.”

The sagging veranda creaked and moaned beneath their grubby sneakers. A weathered shutter hung by spider spit.

Wikipedia Commons

Wikipedia Commons

“Weird—no broken windows. See anything?” Bobby yanked the doorknob but it separated in his hand. He fell against Dixon and they tumbled on their rumps.

“Ouch, I got a sliver on my butt. Get off me.”

His friend snickered. “Uh, this is boring. Come on.”

“Let’s try the back.” Dixon massaged his backside.


“Ow!” they hollered and collapsed to their knees as the cane thwacked bare calves.

A sandpaper throat cleared. “Something I can do for you boys?”