Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

Lonely Hearts

image

He’s downstairs waiting for you,” said Dad, balancing on his cane.

He was Danny, the terrific guy I’d managed to snag thanks to an online dating service.

“You going out again? You were just out the other night. This fellow is rushing things… doesn’t he have anyone else to spend time with?”

Dad’s tone was disgruntled. Illness and old age had made him waspish.

“I won’t be out late, Dad. I’ll be home in time to say goodnight.” I finished brushing my hair and glanced at the mirror. I’d never be beautiful, but the face that smiled back at mine was pretty – full of happy anticipation.

“I don’t like this online dating stuff,” said Dad. “Back in my day, we met people at church or through family. We sure as hell didn’t meet ‘em on some machine!”

Dad had been one of the reasons I’d looked into an online dating service. Working full time and entertaining him in the evenings didn’t leave much time for meeting men the traditional way. Besides, I was tired of waiting for my prince to come. I was young and I was lonely. I wanted my chance for love.

“That fellow could be anybody. You’re too trusting. I don’t like him.”

“Dad, please. Danny’s a gentleman. I’ve met his parents. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”

“He’s not good enough for you. You could do better. Even your girlfriends say so!”

Stung, I answered more snappishly than intended. “What they say or think isn’t important. Now stop it, Dad – I’ve got to get ready.”

With sour mutterings, Dad turned away.

Since that magical morning several weeks ago when Danny and I had driven past my office, intent on playing hooky for the day, we’d been seeing each other regularly. Before him, my life was lonely. Now there was happiness and fun.

Maybe even love.

We were living our own fairytale… or would be, if people would leave us alone.

Dad didn’t try to hide his dislike of Danny. Neither did my girlfriends, who had a habit of making cutting remarks: he was too short; too shy; too awkward.

Like Dad, they told me I could do better.

It wounds a person to discover that people closest to you don’t always have your best interests at heart.

Dad’s an old man. I understand his feelings. He’s afraid of losing me.

It’s the attitude of my friends that hurts. I’d expected them to be happy I’d found my soulmate. Instead, they bruised me with their criticisms. But I guess I understand them, too… lonely, themselves, they didn’t want to lose a fellow member of The Lonely Hearts Club.

I almost let them ruin things for me. I almost looked at my sweet guy through their jaundiced eyes.

But love won out…

Did I give two figs if Danny was an inch shorter? If he tended to be quiet and shy around others?

We had something special. To hell with the unhappiness and acid opinions of others. This was my life.

After one final look in the mirror, I hurried downstairs where my guy was waiting.

__________________
Word Count: 519
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. This week’s challenge (found here) was to continue an author’s story that had already been posted to #FFC41 over the past 41 weeks. I chose to continue Heather B Costa’s story, All I Need Is You (found here).

The Great Gamal

2014-01-28-14-15-20_0066

Sheik Gamal, young, handsome, rich and used to commanding his little corner of the world, knelt in the grass, concentrating with all his might. His car failed to appreciate his greatness; it sat unresponsive on the side of the road, refusing to heed his command that it ‘GO!’

The Great Gamal was angry. How dare even inanimate objects defy him! He struggled to get his frustration under control.

Hidden from the view of strangers was the small bottle that was never far from his side. Offering up a prayer for patience, he opened his eyes. He took a quick look at his surroundings, making sure no one was in sight. Reassured, he reached beneath his flowing white robe, pulling out the smoke-colored bottle.

It had come to this.

Forced by circumstances – in this case, the stalled vehicle that refused to abide by his will – the Great Gamal, his noble brow furrowed, decided it was time for action. With deliberation, he began to rub the smoky glass of the ancient bottle, his long, slender fingers making small circular motions while he chanted a magical incantation.

A wisp of green mist suddenly appeared. Out of the mist stepped Jeannie, a beautiful woman dressed in a skimpy outfit, sporting a blond ponytail, and looking suspiciously like a former TV star.

image

“Master!” she cried, her voice conveying happiness. Her large eyes sparkled with anticipation. “Oh, thank you for calling me out, Master! It was getting cramped inside that small bottle.”

The Great Gamal sighed. “I need your assistance, Jeannie.”

“Dear Master! Your wish is my command!”

He looked at her, his face grim. “Yes, well, don’t err this time – understand? Otherwise, I shall seal your bottle and toss it into the farthest ocean!”

Jeannie’s eyes grew moist. “But, Master! My wish is only to please you. That little, um, situation with your father was most regrettable… but my intentions were honorable.”

The Great Gamal pursed his lips. One never knew what to expect when dealing with a genie – especially his Jeannie. She was capricious.

The last time he’d requested her assistance it was to keep his too inquisitive father engaged until he could complete a deal he’d brokered with American oil barons. That had backfired. Jeannie had conjured up a storyteller, a busty siren who called herself Scheherazade. Jeannie instructed her to keep Gamal’s father occupied while Gamal completed his secret transactions.

Night after night, Scheherazade held his father spellbound with stories of princes and palaces and distant battles fought for love and power. The problem was that once Gamal had completed his deal, he wanted his wise father to again turn his attention to earthly matters. Instead, Scheherazade continued to enthrall the old man, who made her his chief wife rather than lose her wonderful stories. He remained as addicted to those stories as an American teenager was to video games.

It is unseemly, thought the Great Gamal.

“No more excuses, Jeannie. I have a specific reason for calling you. If you please me, I shall let you remain outside your bottle for a month.”

“Oh Master!” Jeannie cried. Filled with joy, she clapped her hands together. “What is your wish, Master? I shall grant you whatever you desire!”

“It’s that damnable automobile sitting over there,” he said, pointing in the car’s direction. “It has again stopped working!”

No longer able to contain his frustration, he jumped to his feet. It was with irritation that he looked up at the heavens and shook his fist. “A camel! A camel! My kingdom for a camel!”

Jeanie crossed her arms against her chest, and gave her upper torso a quick shake and –

Poof!

A large brown camel materialized out of a giant plume of gray smoke.

image

The Great Gamal looked at the big, dumb animal in disbelief. “Jeannie! What is this? What have you done?” he cried.

“It’s a camel, Master,” replied Jeannie, her tone uncertain in light of her master’s apparent distress.

“I can see that! What is it doing here?”

“You asked for a camel,” said Jeannie, confused. Her master could be a very difficult man to please.

“I didn’t mean it literally, you fool! Have you never read ‘Richard III,’ you silly twit? I was taking literary license!”

Shaking with anger, the Great Gamal struggled to find the packet of cigarettes hidden in his robe. He needed a smoke; his Jeannie drove him crazy. Damn, where were those cigarettes? Finally he located the pack but it was empty. In disgust, he threw the empty pack to the ground and stamped his foot.

“Oh, Master!” Comprehension dawned suddenly in Jeannie’s eyes. “Now I understand! A camel!”

Before the Great Gamal knew what she was about, Jeannie again crossed her arms, gave her trademark shake, and –

Poof!

A packet of cigarettes fell out of the plume of gray smoke, dropping at the feet of the Great Gamal.

image

Stupefied, he simply stared at the cigarettes. Finally, he looked up at Jeannie. “Cigarettes?”

“Yes, Master! Camels!”

“Cigarettes,” remarked the Great Gamal to himself in disbelief. “She sends me a packet of cigarettes.”

Realizing she’d blundered yet again, tears began to leak from the corners of her beautiful eyes. “I just never get things right. I guess this is why I came in last in Genie Class.”

Morose, she sank down to the grass, staring at the small bottle that was her home. “I guess you’re going to toss me into the ocean – and I get seasick so easily.”

Something in Jeannie’s sad voice caught the Great Gamal’s attention and he sighed. It was always like this with Jeannie. She drove him mad, was totally ineffectual, but she always managed to worm her way back into his good graces.

“Don’t worry,” he said, handing her the hem of his robe to dry her tears. “I won’t toss your bottle into the ocean.”

Sitting down next to her, he shook his head. “I guess we’re stuck with one another.”

“You won’t seal me up for a thousand years, will you, Master?” she asked.

“No…you make me crazy, but I suppose I’d miss you…”

Jeannie smiled. “You are such a good Master.”

She folded her arms across her chest and gave a quick shake. Another plume of smoke and then a cell phone dropped into the Great Gamal’s lap. It began to buzz.

Bemused, the Great Gamal answered the phone. “Hello?”

“Jake’s Towing Service – we hear you need a tow. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”

The Great Gamal watched the cell phone dissolve as the call ended.

Jeannie giggled, kissing her Master on the cheek.

The Great Gamal smiled.

Sometimes his life was like a sitcom.

image

__________________
Word Count: 1,118

Author’s Note: This whimsical tale is written in response to Keith Channing’s photo prompt on his blog, Keith Kreates, which can be found here. The picture of the gentleman kneeling on the ground was the prompt.

Photo credit (first photo) – Keith Channing.

Contagion

imagesEGPGPNO6

Her husband approached, a goofy, eager look on his face. Irritated, she looked up from her conversation.

“A rose for a rose,” he said, handing her the flower with a flourish.

“Elliot, please.” She frowned, turning back to her guest.

She was Stuart’s boss. I hated the frequent evenings in her company we were forced to endure. I watched her ineffectual husband, the faithful jester, currying for favor, each attempt doomed to failure. The pair’s unhappiness was viral, a contagion threatening to spread.

Urgently, fearfully, I whispered in Stuart’s ear. “Promise we’ll never be like them!”

Stuart, looking away, yawned.

__________________
Word Count: 100
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to a challenge issued by VerbalVerbosity (found here) to write a 100 word fiction based on the word ‘jester.’

Hearts in Africa

image121

“Hey, Gram, who is this?” asked Samantha, studying the yellowed photo she held in her hands.

Sam was home from college for the weekend. She was helping Joan get the house ready for sale; it involved going through all the things stored in her grandmother’s attic. It was a bittersweet task for Sam, one that left her with mixed feelings. Her beloved ‘Pop’ had died over a year ago, but Sam still grieved for him.

So did Joan, and that was one of the reasons she wanted to move on. After four decades of a happy life spent in the aged Victorian, Joan had decided it was time to take her life in a new direction. This was no easy task. She and Dave had been happy in the old house. They had raised Sam’s mother there. Unexpectedly, they ended up raising Sam, as well. Sam was now off at school for months at a time, and Dave… well, Dave was gone. Suddenly, their comfortable old Victorian seemed too big, too empty… and too filled with memories of a wonderful man who had been bigger than life.

The house was filled also with an accumulation of the bits and pieces of their lives. The dusty attic had become the repository of happy moments from their past. While it was comforting and safe to live in the presence of old memories, Joan had always been a realist. She knew the time had come to forge a new life for herself.

Brushing back a lock of thick, silvered hair, Joan glanced at the photo. Suddenly, a sweet smile lit up her face. “Well, well… what do you know… Sam, wherever did you find this?”

“In that beat-up old box in the corner, the one stacked under all the Christmas ornaments.” Sam turned the photo over and read the faded writing on the back. It looked like her grandmother’s handwriting. It read: Bobby – Tanzania – 1968.

“Who is Bobby?” she asked again, handing the photo to Joan.

“Bobby Monahan… I haven’t thought of him in years. Wasn’t long after this photo was taken that we went our separate ways. He stayed on in Africa; I came home.”

Joan stood up from her kneeling position and slipped the photo into the back pocket of her jeans. She brushed the dust from her hands and thighs. “I don’t know about you, Sammy, but I could use a break. How about some tea?”

“Sure,” replied Sam, following her down the stairs. “You were once in Africa? I never knew that!”

Joan grinned and, in that moment, looked like the mischievous twenty something she’d once been. “There’s a lot you probably don’t know about your old Gram.”

Sam smiled. “You’re the youngest person, I know – and the best!” Sam slipped her arm around Joan’s waist and they headed toward the kitchen. Sam loved her grandmother. When her parents had died in an automobile accident, it was Joan and Dave who had taken the five-year old in. Sam had few memories of her parents; Joan and Dave were the only mother and father she’d ever known.

Looking at her still attractive grandmother, Sam wondered why she felt so unsettled to learn Joan had possessed a prior life she hadn’t known about. Naïve of her, perhaps, but she had always thought of Joan and Dave as people who lived quiet lives of service in the small town of Hatfield, Indiana. Until his death, Dave had been the rector of Saint Barnabas Church, their small Episcopal parish. Sam’s memories of her youth consisted of church suppers, choir practice, Sunday sermons and community service. It sounder drier than it actually was; Sam had loved the security of it all, and the members of the small parish who looked out for her as if she belonged to them. All of Sam’s memories were good ones, warm and golden. Her Pop had been a good man – a man who made a difference in the lives of others.

Coming across the photo, learning that Gram had once been in Africa, noticing the tender smile when looking at a long ago photo… well, it bothered Sam. It upset the everyday trajectory of her life. It confused her, and she wasn’t sure what to think.

Joan put the teakettle on to heat. She then pulled the photo out of her pocket and looked at it again. “Bobby Monahan… I wonder what became of him…”

Feeling Sam’s eyes on her, Joan looked up. “Bobby was my first love.” She smiled then. “They say you never forget your first love…”

“Gram, how did you end up in Africa, of all places? Did you go to Africa with Bobby?”

Joan laughed softly. “No, no… Bobby was already in Africa by the time I’d gotten there. He’d been out of medical school about two years at that point, and had been assigned to Tanzania as part of the Peace Corps.”

“The Peace Corps! Gram, were you part of the Peace Corps?”

“Don’t look so surprised!” replied Joan, enjoying her granddaughter’s incredulity. “I was just a few years older than you when I decided to join the Corps. It was a special time… 1968. I was just out of college, longing for adventure, wanting to do something that would have an impact on the lives of others. JFK had been dead several years by then, but those of us who remembered him continued to be inspired by his message. He called upon Americans to take an active role in making things better throughout the world. It was a heady time, Sam… we believed – each of us – that we could create a better life for all.”

Joan sighed. “We were so young, so earnest… My parents were scandalized when I told them I was joining the Corps. They were good people, simple people, and their dreams for me involved a teaching job and a good husband – and settling down here in Hatfield. Their plans certainly didn’t include my traipsing around the world with a bunch of ‘do-gooders,’ as my dad put it.” She smiled at the memory.

“Yet that’s how you ended up, teaching school in Hatfield… didn’t you meet Pop while teaching school here?”

“I did. His niece was one of my students, and I met him at a school assembly.”

“That’s a long way from Africa, Gram.”

“In more ways than one,” said Joan.

Sam watched her grandmother set out two teacups and a few cookies on a plate. “Well, go on… tell me about this young doctor who stole your heart. And to think I thought Pop was your only love,” she teased.

“Your Pop was the best man I ever knew. I love him even now. Miss him, too… terribly.” Joan finished pouring the tea and sat down across from Sam. “Bobby Monahan was a long time ago.”

She blew on her tea, allowing her warm breath to cool it while she gathered her thoughts. “He was so intense, and so committed to taking care of the people in the small village where we were placed. Bobby was part of a small medical team, working long hours, inoculating the villagers, teaching them basic hygiene.”

“What about you? Were you a nurse?”

“Me?” Joan chuckled at the idea. “No, no. I was a teacher. Oh, Sam, what a time that was.”

“So, what happened?”

“We fell in love,” she said simply. “In love with Africa, with life… with each other. We were young, excited. We had a shared passion for helping others. Unfortunately, Africa didn’t love me as much as I loved her. I became very sick over there, almost died. I lost a lot of weight. After a year, I came home, never to return.”

“But what about Bobby?”

Joan shrugged. “What about him? I couldn’t return to Africa, and his life was there. At first, we held onto the idea I might return when better, but my doctor said my constitution couldn’t take it. We wrote long, intense letters for several months, but then we began to drift apart. It almost killed me to give that man up… or maybe it was the dream. Either way, it hurt me. Oh, I did yearn for him and the life we might have had in Africa…”

Joan shook her head at the memory. “My poor parents… they were so worried about me. I was living in Indiana but my heart was still in Tanzania. I was like a zombie when I first got home, Sam… wandering around the house, thin, gaunt… aware that if I couldn’t get back to Africa, I’d lose Bobby.

“It just wasn’t meant to be.” Joan looked again at the photo. “Life had another plan for me. I recovered, and I got that job teaching school that my parents had wanted… and then I met Dave.”

“You ever have any regrets, Gram, about not keeping in touch with Bobby?”

Joan smiled. “No. That was a long time ago. When I met your grandfather, the past was just that: the past. Dave and I were happy; we had good lives. You know, you don’t have to go to Africa to make a difference in the lives of people. Dave made a difference here in Hatfield every day of his life. I like to think that I did, too.”

Sam reached across the table for her grandmother’s hand. “You sure made a difference in my life,” she said quietly.

“My good girl,” said Joan, patting her hand. “Now, let’s finish up our tea and get back to work. We have a lot of stuff to box up and crate.”

Sam watched her grandmother swallow the last of her tea. Joan rose, then, and went to the sink to rinse out the cup.

“Ever think about contacting him now? You could, Gram. Just to see how he is, find out if he ever left Africa.”

“I wouldn’t know where to start,” said Joan, drying the cup.

Sam said nothing. Looking at her grandmother, her heart was full. She made a mental note.

Nothing was impossible with the internet…

Samantha stood up and approached her grandmother, and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. She then rinsed out her cup.

The two women worked in silence, a silence that was sweet.

__________________
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to two challenges. First, Keith Channing’s photo challenge, found at KeithKreates (here); and second, Esther Newton’s writing challenge (here) to write a story around the words yearn and zombie.

Photo credit: Keith Channing

Kitty

image

He watched her stroll toward the entrance of the apartment building.

Cloaked in the blackness of night, he felt invincible.

He got out of his car, slamming its door shut. That sound, jarring in the quiet darkness, surprised the young woman. Frightened, she glanced his way and then started walking faster.

It was no good – he caught her easily. Cruelly, he plunged the steel blade into her back. Again! Again!

“My God, my God!” she screamed repeatedly. “He’s stabbing me!”

Windows that had been left open were quickly closed, curtains pulled tight, lights turned off.

No one wanted to get involved.

__________________
Word Count: 100
This story is written in response to VelvetVerbosity’s challenge to write a story based on the word ‘cloak.’ The tale is based on the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964. After getting off work in the early hours of the morning, Kitty was murdered in front of her apartment building. Later, police investigations revealed that individuals nearby heard the attack or observed portions of it, but did not intervene.

Better Angels

image

He and the dog were seated at the corner of the busy intersection. Every day for a week, I’d spotted them on my ride to work. He was middle-aged, scruffy, bearded. The dog, a German Shepherd mix, sat quietly by his side, and with gentle brown eyes surveyed the passing traffic. Next to the dog’s water dish was a sign: HOMELESS. HUNGRY. PLEASE HELP.

“The cops should do something about that guy,” said Doug. “He doesn’t belong in this part of town.”

“I feel bad for them… I wonder if the dog’s hungry?”

Doug laughed. “Does he look hungry?”

No, I guess he didn’t.

I studied the man next to him. “He doesn’t look too good, though…”

“Probably shoots the cash he gets straight into his arm. Well, he won’t be getting any of my money. He probably makes more in a day than we do.”

“How do you figure?”

“The world’s full of suckers – don’t be one of ‘em.”

Doug pulled out his phone and started checking messages.

As we waited for the light to change, I watched the man. He stared straight ahead, not looking at the cars, apparently used to being ignored.

Doug looked up. “All the taxes we pay for social programs… why are these people still on the street? Isn’t that what Welfare’s for? There are shelters… If anyone’s homeless, it’s because they want to be.”

I thought of my grandfather. He’d been no stranger to hard times, but he’d always shared with those who had a need. My father would get exasperated with him, but Pop would smile. “There but for the grace of God go I,” he’d say. He believed it, too. My brother and I were fortunate; we never did without. In truth, we were a little spoiled. Pop would chide us for our selfishness, admonishing us to let our ‘better angels’ prevail.

Where had my better angels gone? Pop wouldn’t have weighed a man’s need before trying to help him.  Why did I?

Opening my purse, I withdrew my wallet. Inside was a ten. I beckoned to the man. “Here, take this.”

He looked at me and smiled. “God bless.”

As we pulled away, Doug frowned.

“It’s two lattes at Starbucks,” I said quietly. “I can afford it.”

“That’s not the point. People like you are part of the problem!”

Maybe he’s right. Or maybe not.

When Doug looked at the man, he saw a social problem. I saw a person. I’m not naive: I know I didn’t change anyone’s world with a ten dollar bill – unless you count my own.

I dropped Doug off in front of our building.

“You coming?”

“Not today… think I’ll take a sick day.”

“You’re not sick!”

He was wrong. I was sick of my apathy, and only just realizing it.

Disgusted, Doug turned away.

I pulled out my phone and Googled a number.

“Jefferson County Food Pantry,” answered the woman.

“How can I help?” I asked.

Better angels…

I drove past my office.

__________________
World Count: 498

This story is in response to a challenge by ThainInVain to write a 500-word flash fiction based on the prompt: while driving to work one morning, you decide to drive past the office and keep on driving.

The story is also influenced in part by a quote from Charles Dickens: ‘…So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.’ (Charles Dickens, ‘Barnaby Rudge’)

Inside The Room

image

I clung tightly to Richard’s arm as we entered the gray-tiled room.

“Are you ready?” asked the officer.

I took a deep breath, then nodded.

He whipped back the sheet, exposing the battered face.

Richard started to cry, but in the confusion one thought sustained me: Not her.

__________________
Author’s Note: This micro-fiction is written in response to Lillie McFerrin’s weekly challenge to write a ‘Five Sentence Fiction’ (found here). The word for this week’s challenge is ‘confusion.’

The Things That Matter

“Life was simpler back then,” said Daddy.  “The ‘fifties – they were the good years.  The best years…”

His head rested against the several thin pillows the nurse had left.  He spoke softly, his voice rising just barely above the muted sounds coming from the room’s TV.  Looking at his face, a small lump began to form in my throat. It had been that way off and on ever since we’d gotten word the chemotherapy wasn’t working.

“Tell me more, Daddy,” I said, stroking his hand.

My father’s hands. 

I’d always loved those hands. They’d once been strong, forever busy with some task or another. Gentle, too, whether he was caressing one of his babies’ heads or comforting one of our several dogs.

Now those hands were still.  One, light as a feather, rested securely in mine.  Safe.

I’m here, Daddy, I’m here…

He gave me a tired smile. “Well, Janie, back then, we didn’t need much to entertain ourselves. It ain’t like that today.” To illustrate his point, he nodded in the direction of the TV, its screen flashing images of some reality show.

Daddy had never been much of a one for TV.  I guess that’s because his own reality was sweet enough – a sweetness that included me, mama and my three little brothers. He used to say he didn’t have time to sit and stare at some box. He had a farm to run and a family to clothe and feed.

Daddy was the rock of our little family. He spent his prime farming a small patch of land nestled in the hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. Like his Pa before him, he spent most of his waking hours on an old John Deere. In the evening, after putting the machinery away, he’d sit down to a late dinner, too exhausted to do more than eat and then go to bed.

Even so, he always had a moment to kiss us kids, ask how our day was, and remind us to help Mama with the chores.

Sunday was the best day of the week for our family because that was the day Daddy would put aside his farm work. It was the Sabbath, and he and Mama always made sure we were cleaned up and dressed in our best clothes.

Sundays meant mornings spent in the small yellow church not far from Tom Jefferson’s house. We’d listen to Reverend Gibson and get our dose of weekly religion. I suspect Daddy would have rather slept in on those Sunday mornings, considering he was up at the crack of dawn every other day of the week, but Mama was determined. We would go to church on Sundays – and we would go as a family.

There wasn’t much Daddy wouldn’t do for Mama, and the same was true for her. They were a loving pair, and they never seemed to run out of things to say to each other. It stayed that way for nearly half a century, until Mama passed away one wintry morning ten years ago.

I was living in New York when the call came that Daddy’s cancer was back.  Clinton, my youngest brother, said things were bad and if I could come, now was the time.  The urge to go home, to see Daddy, to view my beloved Blue Ridge mountains and everything they stood for, nearly drove me to my knees.

You see, I have a lot of good memories.  Memories of Sunday afternoons spent playing Scrabble on the front porch with my brothers.  Daddy and Mama would be holding hands, slowly swaying back and forth on an old porch swing.  That was life for us… enjoying each other’s company, our home, and talking about the things that made up our days.  And the mountains, those beautiful mountains, they were the peaceful backdrop we lived our lives against.

Guess Daddy was right: we never needed much in the way of entertainment. We had each other.

“You know what your Mama and I used to do for fun when we were dating?” Daddy’s voice cut short my musings, recalling me to the hospital room where the two of us now kept company. It sure was a long way from the old front porch.

“We’d borrow my Pa’s old yellow station wagon and drive out to the small airfield on the outskirts of town.

“That little airfield ain’t there no more; it wasn’t very big, a couple of landing strips was all. We’d park by the side of the road just as dusk was falling, and watch the last of the planes coming in.”

image

I grinned. “Gee, that sounds exciting.”

“Damned right it was,” he said, a slight smile on his face at my teasing. “Weren’t nobody around but me and your Mama – and those planes. We’d sit there sharing kisses and stories. Lil always was one for telling stories. She’d spin some good ones, too, stuff about people and far-off places.”

He closed his eyes. “You know, if I try real hard, I can still see those planes coming in for a landing… I can hear Lil’s voice, remember those kisses as nighttime approached.

“Such good years…”

Daddy opened his eyes and looked at me. “Guess you got your love for telling stories from Lil.”

“I guess I did, Daddy.”

It’s true. From Mama I got my love of story telling, and I’m glad Mama lived long enough to see my name on the front cover of a book.

But Daddy?

From Daddy I got my heart, and my understanding that reality isn’t something we see on a television screen. Reality, the best kind, is being with the people you love, working for them, working with them. It’s the everyday stuff that makes up our lives.

It’s who we love, whose hand we take the time and trouble to hold.  It’s what really matters in this world.

I watched Daddy close his eyes again. “I’m awful tired, Janie. If it’s all the same to you, I think I’m gonna close my eyes for a while.”

I lifted his hand and kissed its palm. “You go ahead and rest. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

And, Daddy… thank you.

__________________
Word Count: 1,032
Author’s Note: This story was written in response to Keith Channing’s photo challenge, found at KeithKreates
(here).

The Client

“Let me get this straight, sir,” I said, setting the teacup aside. “You wish to hire our firm to babysit your daughter?”

Smoothing back a lock of silver hair, the doctor shook his head. “Not precisely, Mr. Tate. My daughter requires a companion, someone who can persuade her to think before she acts. There have been past difficulties… contretemps with both the media and the public… my hope is that you’ll be able to smooth over any possible future awkwardness.”

“Fair enough. If I may ask, how old is your daughter?”

The doctor hesitated. “Her emotional age is seven. There are communication issues… delayed speech. A specialist is working with her.”

“How severe are the issues?”

“She grunts.”

This dismayed me. I hadn’t expected this level of difficulty when I agreed to take Dr. Stein as a client. “Sir, I’m uncertain whether our firm is appropriate for your needs… perhaps a nurse?”

He sought to reassure me. “No, Mr. Tate, your firm is exactly what is needed. Trust me, you’ll quickly attune yourself to her moods and learn to anticipate her behavior.

“I don’t think I need remind you,” he continued in a clipped European accent, “this is a very lucrative opportunity for a neophyte firm…”

I nodded assent. Tate & Cross was only beginning to assert itself amongst a field of public relations giants. We needed the doctor more than he needed us.

I paused, studying his well-appointed office. Its Old World flavor was both claustrophobic and imposing. A painting of a woman in 18th century costume dominated one wall.

“My wife,” said the doctor quietly, noting my interest. “Elisabeth. She died a number of years ago. Strangled. An unfortunate affair. My son was in the house at the time… there was a question of culpability.” His eyes clouded with pain.

“Your son?” I frowned, wondering if the firm would be responsible for him as well.

“He’s dead, Mr. Tate. A fire… he always feared fire…”

“Tragic. Perhaps the trauma led to your daughter’s communication problems.”

“She was not yet… born.”

“But your wife, you said she had died.” I blushed suddenly, realizing my faux pas. “Miss Stein is the child of a second marriage, of course.”

“Not quite.” He pressed the intercom.

A female voice responded. “Yes, Viktor?”

“We’ll see Frankie now.”

Raising the teacup to my lips, I froze when Miss Stein staggered into the room.

The seven-foot creature walked unevenly, as if the action of putting one foot in front of another was foreign to her. This was no child. It was difficult to assess her age. Her mottled complexion was gray; her brown eyes lifeless. I tried not to stare at signs of scarring around her neck and wrists.

“Sit, Frankie,” commanded the doctor. She dropped heavily into a chair.

“Frankie, say hello to your new friend, Mr. Tate.”

Dead eyes turned in my direction.

“You and Mr. Tate shall be very good friends, Frankie,” said the doctor. “Understand?”

Frankie tilted her head. I shivered, glimpsing something of the grave in those inscrutable eyes.

She flexed her fingers and grunted.

images (4)

__________________
Word Count: 518
Author’s Note: This flash fiction is written in response to ThainInVain’s challenge to write a story in which a public relations firm’s newest client is a PR nightmare. ThainInVain’s weekly challenges can be found here.

100-Word Challenge for Grown-ups – Week #146

Kate Loveton:

Just one hundred words to tell a story, and what a job she’s done! Enjoy Tess’s poignant story. Note how well she underplays the emotion and how, in doing so, she pulls us in.

Originally posted on How the Cookie Crumbles:

To join in, check this out:

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week146/

This week’s prompt:  …with your going comes the past…

100wcgu-72

ALWAYS

Busy hands, but racing heart—nothing helped—washing; ironing; packing. Tears leaked and memories replayed.

When I grow up, I’m gonna marry you.’ The scrawny blonde boy with bruised knees and scabbed elbows; dirty nails and muddied shoes—perfect. My heart twists still.

“Let’s go, Ma. We’re ready to roll.”

I grab the snacks and wink. “What’s the rush? You heading somewhere special—college maybe?” With your going comes the past, but though soon you’ll be a man, you’re still my precious boy.

“Hey. Put me down!”

“Swing your partner, dosie-doe.”

“Enough.”

“I’ll be home for Christmas.”

Not Thanksgiving?

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

“Never.” Always.

View original

Post Navigation

johnandmargaret1607

A great WordPress.com site

Samantha Smith

Living life to the fullest with a pen and camera in hand.

Uncertain Tales

Musings of K R Thoroughgood

Musings of a Literature student

My life through a syllabus

Threewheelergran

Reading, Writing and Riding a Trike

Blog Rest and Play

Shall we dance?

MusoandBookworm

Music, books and everything else that matters...

Words on a blackboard

In a world of poems, words steal love and put it on a blackboard

The wolfe dialogue

The challenges and whims of an aspiring novelist

THE MOVING QUILL

Fictional bits and Writing bytes

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,479 other followers