Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Truck Stop

I didn't even know why I had come back. Obligation. Guilt. Or maybe, a sense of curiosity. It didn't matter. I could tell that nothing had changed in the few years I had been gone. The same buildings sat empty on Main Street. The towns one light continued to blink yellow after 9pm any night of the week. Over privileged teenagers still used the Dairy Queen parking lot to turn around in.

Home was on the outskirts of the town. I smirked at the idea that anyone would call this place a town or suggest that it was large enough to have outskirts. But, that is how my mom always referred to the location of the small two bedroom stone house the six of us lived in. "Just drive past the truck stop and go another 2 or 3 miles and you'll find us there on the outskirts of town," she'd instructed more than one delivery driver.

The truck stop was just ahead. The neon light was partially burned out, but I would have known the smell of diesel and baking grease anyway. Turning into the parking lot, I decided I had better buy a soda and some snacks. The 5 of us kids may not be living at home anymore, but it was likely the cupboards would be bare. A can of corn or baked beans. Some tomato paste and a family size can of Foldger's original were all that ever seemed to inhabit those shallow spaces that the dishes did not overtake.

The glass doors were heavier than I remembered them. The customers lighter. It looked as if times had been hard in the town. I watched as their thinly disguised stares moved off the steaming cups of coffee and smudged chalk menu to follow me around. Bruce sat on his usual stool. He raised his hat with his oil blackened hand. "Well hell's bells! If it ain't little Miss College back in town." He spit into the can that always sat to the side of his stool. The habit had always disgusted me.

"Hey Bruce! How are you doing?" A genuine smile spread across my face as I crossed the black and white checkered floor to give him a hug. "Bruce. The only person I truly worry about from this town. The one person who ever showed me any kindness!" He felt small in my embrace. Times had been hard.

"Now turn 'round and let me get a good look at you darlin'." Lifting my hand just over my head, he nudged my shoulder gently. I happily spun in a circle, bowing slightly when we were face to face again.

"Well? What do you think now that I am all grown up? Am I everything you hoped for me and better?" I felt like that little kid he use to protect from the older, meaner, privileged kids that loved nothing more than to torment me. I realized his response still meant a great deal to me.

"You got some spiffy duds, that's fo' sure. You've done become a nice lookin' young lady, but you are far from grown up little Missy." A slight pink warmed my cheeks. Whether it was from pleasure or embarrassment, I couldn't say. "Now, why you back in town sweetheart?" He eyed me suspiciously, as if I'd given him reason to be doubtful. "You got some pretty boy on a string jus' waitin' to take you 'round the world or what?"

"Nothing like that. I was just feeling a little homesick and thought it was about time I came home to visit my mom. I thought I would stop in here and pick up a few things for the cupboards and refrigerator first. How is she doing?"

Bruce sat down hard on his stool. He chewed a bit before spitting and then he turned to me to answer. "You know your Mama baby. She' a well-respected, hard-workin' women who ain't never been wrong 'bout a thing in her whole life. She gonna die that way too."

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What game do you love to play or watch?

I love Scrabble. I can't watch. Not really. I only pretend to watch as I mentally play other people's tiles for them and grimace when they trade in those lovely Q's, Z's, V's, J's, and X's.

Damn Words with Friends (a Scrabble knock-off) for allowing me to access this game any time I want. It's meant for sleepless nights in front of a glowing screen.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Line

The surrounding area was enveloped in steam as the machine creaked and hissed its way into the air. Cindy looked down at her small town home. It was everything she knew. "Was," she thought. "It was my home. It's not my home anymore." The thoughts floated through her mind, their real meaning laying ahead in a future that she could not fathom.

A flaring orange light caught her attention. She looked between the swirls of steam that continued to rise. "That was my school. I guess I'll never kiss Bobby on that playground again. Or feel the sting of Mr. Hathwart's sting. That will wipe the smirk off Mary Jane's face. I wonder what she is going to have to look forward to now?"

Another flare erupted on what use to be the far end of town. Mr. Frampson's sheep pen, she was sure. "No more of Mr. Frampson's sweet goat milk for breakfast or Mrs. Frampson's pie and cookies." She sighed and turned away from the devastation. Her small group was the last to evacuate and the only one to head north.

Acalde Jensen was talking. "We are not out of danger yet. We still have to get through the ashes and other shooting debris. If we make it through that, we can touch down a good distance from the volcano and resettle. Our scouts found another freshwater lake, good soil, and an abundance of wild life close to the Brookfield tribe. We are on friendly terms with them."

Murmurs from the adults filled the small chamber. Cindy went back to watching the red-orange lava sizzle in the lake and consume the few buildings still standing.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


"Apply In Person" the last line of the ad read. Cheng folded the small piece of paper and put it back in his pocket. Adjusting the straps on his shoulder, he took a deep breath and blew it out as if through a straw. It was the only trick that his counselor had taught him that ever worked. His palms sweaty and nerves a little less janglly, he walked to the low dusty brown building with the faded green door.

Inside, it sounded like a war had erupted. He hesitated, his hand hovering over the worn door knob. "It's just a test to see if I'm ready for this," he muttered under his breath before gripping the knob and turning it over. Pulling up the rest of his resolve, he yanked the door open before he could change his mind. His gaping mouth showed his astonishment. Men in mail shirts and metal hats chased one another, swords clashing inches from their bodies. He knew he should turn and leave, but he was awestruck and unable to move his body.

"Hey! You here for an acting role or for the assistant director position?" The man was tall, remarkably thin, and probably in his 50's. A tangled mesh of long hair hung behind his shoulders, a touch of grey coloring his uneven beard and his temples. His eyes danced in a yellow mist which sat too close together on his dark weathered face.

"Ye-ye-yes sir," Cheng stammered. His heart thumped against his ribs and echoed in his ears.

"Yeah?" The man laughed a shrill choked laugh that didn't fit with the sounds of war. "So you want to be an actor and director just like all those other fools. Well, you can only be one right now, so which is it? Actor or director?"

Cheng closed his eyes to the confusion. He wondered if any of this was real. Maybe he was in a dream or had opened a portal to another time and place. He sucked on his lips for the thinnest of moments. "No," he thought. "This is all just part of some test." He looked the man in the chin, his eyes out of his reach and culturally inappropriate to look directly into. "I want to be more direct-er," he said with little confidence, but great ferocity.

***Daily Writing Practice***

Happy Rewrite

Rewrite this sentence so that it is less cliche: "And they lived happily ever after."

The memory of the young couple's joy lived on in the stories passed down from mother to child, from generation to generation,from then until now.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Lake

The waves lapped at my feet as I stood on the shore and stared at the distant lights. The cold water sent chills up my spine as it climbed over my knees and up my thigh. It welcomed the tears and heaving of my chest without judgement. Silently, gratefully, I gave it all space the world had neglected.

***Daily Writing Practice ***


It's a beautiful warm and sunny day. Everywhere I look, young people are celebrating the day through idleness and friendship. A couple walks slowly down the broad sidewalk, hand-on-hand, licking ice cream cones. A small group of students sit on a blanket laughing, their bodies rolling like waves with good humor. Others sit on the ledges and planters.

Clutching my books, I dodge the dancing shadows cast by the tall maples and oaks common on campus. I strain to hear under the conversations for the slightest hint of his heavy footfall. My eyes dart between the groups of people, under the benches, and over my shoulders. I am constantly gripped by fear, paranoia, anxiety. Heaviest on my soul is the envy I feel toward those idle and careless moments the others take for granted.

If only I could hide from the always judging eyes of the Father. Then, maybe I too could enjoy a few minutes of idleness.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Captivate (or any derivative thereof)

I am a human being. The living- breathing- blood- pumping -through- my- arteries- type human being. I am young, curious, and intelligent. But, I have a deadly virus. A computer virus. Please! Keep your distance so that I don't infect you.

My name is Xelha. I have dusty blonde hair, blue eyes, and glasses. I use to weigh a buck ten. I was incredibly thin! I doubt I weigh less than 247 now. I am quite literally growing exponentially. It's the virus.

You think I am crazy. I didn't believe it myself at first so I don't blame you. Believe me when I tell you I am just an obvious case. One that is at such a late stage, it is impossible to dismiss I have an illness. There are many more like me all over the world. You've probably talked with one at the office water cooler or cursed at one driving down the road. We are everywhere and we spread quickly!

I have the recluse variety. You know. The kind of illness that keeps me from abandoning my abuser. Only, its not so much an abuser as the source of the infection. My computer, or rather, computers. I think there is a term for it. If you give me a second, I can google it. Yes! There it is! Stockholm Syndrome.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes. I am a human being with a computer virus. My symptoms present themselves at all hours of the day. I must be within reach of a computer at all times. I am help captive to their electrical pulses and twinges. On the rare occasion I have to leave the house, I attach one (or several) to my physical being. These constantly evolving devices feed off of me like parasites. And I depend on them like a drug addict depends on his next hit.

No, no, no, no. Physically there isn't anything wrong with me. Well, nothing that a little exercise wouldn't resolve. The weight gain and bad vision are just side effects of being sedentary and staring at a screen for hours on end.

Why am I telling you this? Because someone has to be aware. Someone has to recognize how serious access to technology is becoming. Someone has to help me and my infected brothers to break free and remember how to live. Someone has to find a cure!

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, July 8, 2011


From my place on the bridge, I could watch the gondolas being steered down the Gran Canal.The murky water parted to let the narrow bows through, leaving small ripples in an otherwise glass-like surface. The boats were filled with tourists, their pasty white excessive skin deceiving the efforts they had made to blend in. The gondola drivers, by comparison, were the vision of health. Skin bronzed by the sun and muscles built by the daily pushing of poles in the thick muddy bottom. With each push and pull, the sludge from the bottom would wind its way up, further clouding the surface of the water. It told the sad truth of this scene: looks were deceiving.

I didn't first view this little scene with such seeming cynicism.No, far from it!  Young, strong, and with thoughts of immortality, I first set foot on this land famed for its olives and kindness. I viewed the dirty city with glasses tinted with ambition and ignorance. It was a beautiful sight to behold and in an instant, I lost my heart. Every young girl that walked by, her dark hair flowing in the wind and her hips swaying to the rhythm of the city, could have been my princess. The tall aged buildings with their magnificent histories and awe-inspiring paintings could have been our palaces and country homes. Even the smell of ripening fruit mixed with decaying fish and salt from the ocean sprays carried inland by the wind was an exotic aroma that spun my head. Venice, in my mind, was not a city, but heaven on earth.

And it was in this lilting attitude that I walked through the first several weeks. I laughed with my friends; walked a great deal just to marvel at the sights, sounds, and smells; sat under the stars when they showed themselves; sang in the streets; wooed many women; and truly began to feel home. 

It was on Tuesday night, the eighth week after my arrival at an unknown late hour, that I stood in this very same spot on this very same bridge. Lanterns hung at the end of the gondolas, the boats flitting about on the canal like hundreds of fire flies in a farmer's field, when I learned that life was not always as it seemed. The occupants were quite. Their collective voices came up from the dark water as a loving murmur that caressed my soul while the soft glow of the windows fell to bathe my body. I drank it in, once again becoming drunk on the elements of the city.

I turned to venture toward my apartment. A few blocks later a sound unlike any I had heard before pierced my brain and drew from it an overwhelming curiosity to find the source. Slowing my steps to better hear the direction of the noise, I found myself needing to turn right into an unlit through-way. The tall buildings intensified the darkness of the late hour. To another it would have served to arrest their curiosity and send them back to the safer path. In my immaturity, I only hesitated before setting foot on that dark path, not considering the unpleasantness that I would find.

Placing one hand on the rough brick wall, I walked tentatively along. My eyes sought for light, opened wide as they were. I found little of it. Only a rare glint of a star in a piece of glass or shattered mirror. The sound came stronger and I stretched y imagination to identify it. It was at once low and high. Both deafening and impossible to hear. I didn't know then that it was the sound of the death of hope and possibility, a grief so deep that the resulting hole could never be filled. This loss was completely out of my realm of existence.

Suddenly, I tumbled sideways, the wall supporting my travel having ended a step earlier. Catching myself before more than my knee met with the concrete, I stood up and played mime until I encountered another wall. This wall was less sturdy. A creaking sound came from it if I applied little more than half the pressure I was capable of. My fingers scraped over the occasional gaps. It wasn't until a particularly shattered section sunk beneath my skin that I understood the wall was of an old dry wood. Even in the deep cover of night, I knew it held none of the charm of the buildings I had seen on the flowing streets.

My surprise was ended by a loud howling of the grief I have already explained. Forgetting the throbbing and sting of my palm and the collecting wetness of what I assumed was blood loose from my vein, I continued forward. At a corner, just on the other side of a large garbage bin, the light of Satan jumped on the wall. Spirits leaped and fell with the sounds. Sinking to the ground, I dirtied both knees to crawl over the ground and peer around the corner.

There, I saw a woman, inconsolably pulling at her hair and filthy garments. Her screams were loud, unforgiving, filled with rage. Behind her, a man stood, slumped over. Wretched groans seemed to come from his frame although I could not see his face. A young man of about my age stood behind him, dry-eyed but clearly driven to grief. His red face and clenched hands looked murderous. Sliding a bit closer, I could see the devil's light was a small fire in a barrel. The spirits were the shadows of the three occupants of that small space. What I had taken to be a mound of earth on the theater of the wall was the body of a young woman
Her stillness shouted her death. Pain still gripped the lines of her face. A greenish-yellow color tinged her skin and explained the sights and sounds. And still, she was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. 

I sank back to my side of the wall. For hours, I listened to them howl, moan, and choke. In my bosom, I felt their grief and understood their desperation and disappointment. The death of this unknown woman impacted more deeply than any other event in my life. I mourned her loss. Slowly, there sounds subsided and still I remained. As the sun started to lick the sky, I rose and began the tortuous walk back to my apartment.

Having reached it just as the sun rose above the horizon, I tumbled into my bed and slept fitfully. Raising my arms in surrender, I pulled my body out of bed just before tea. The mirror reflected back my pale face and swollen eyes. No amount of water helped wash away the misery of the night before. The bronze coloring of my skin I had gloated about only days before had vanished. In its place was the skin tone of a tourist. 

That's when the first inkling of life's deception snuggled in. Those visitors to this fine country, the ones floating in gondolas, taking pictures of architecture, and laughing in the street were the blessed ones. The ones prone to lavish excess and ease of life, falling on the right side of an invisibly drawn line. They were the ones who knew little of grief and everything of hope and possibility. It was the bronze and olive colored residents with the deceptively strong bodies that toiled in the sun and died in back streets. Grief were there constant companions.

I could never look at the river, the woman, and the wonderful buildings with the same awe. For the next 40 years I became a slave to the city, doing what I could to spread compassion, opportunities, and hope. My undertaking emptied my chests and stunned my friends. I don't know when it turned my skin bronze and robbed me of the trivialities I had been so accustomed to living with. As I reflected from above Gran Canal and listened to the murmurs of lovers underneath the soft glow of lights, I knew my life turned out to mean something. If not to my peers, then to the people who aspired to more. But most importantly, It meant something as large and beautiful as the city of Venice meant to me.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


"I've got it! I'll be fine!" I said pulling my arm away from both my husband and our friend. I was nearly 9 months pregnant and had stumbled over a frozen rut of snow and ice. "Seriously!" I said with a great deal of annoyance as the men grabbed everything they could possibly carry out of the trunk and had attempted to free the loaf of bread from my hands.

Finally they left me to fend for myself. Gracefully, I maneuvered over the ruts and into the clear path of the driveway. Not seeing a patch of ice, I slipped, my feet going out from under me and the weight of my body coming down hard.

As the men rushed to help me up, I shouted out, half in tears and half in laughter, "Don't worry! The bread broke my fall! But I think we'll need a new plan for lunch."

*** One Minute Writer ***


The warm waves washed over my feet and ankles. The salt stung the small sore on my foot. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Alex approaching timidly. Never before had he seen something so vast, something that reached to the ends of the Earth. "It's okay darling. Come wade with me," I beckoned as another ocean wave rushed over my feet.

*** One Word ***

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Palace

It was only a mud-thatched hut and a very small one at that. A great weeping willow held it in its soft green branches. The dry straw and earth colored walls looked dreary among the riot of colors: soft green grasses, wild flowers as far as one could see; the cold blue and white of a distant mountain. A dusty trail lead from the front door to the small creek bed not more than 20 yards away. An aged wheelbarrow sat to the left of the house half buried by the long branches of the weeping willow. At night, the soft glow of a fire could be seen through the open windows and merry laughter competed with the song of the cicadas.

Yes, it was small and quaint. If the saying is true that a man's home is his castle then my father's house was a palace and I, a Princess.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


It seemed only a moment for the thick clouds to roll in. The dark color and sooty texture warned of dangers to come. They devoured wispy clouds that had stayed to frolic in the open blue pasture. Trees bent to their will. Leaves scattered like mice in a field. Lightning  struck out from the clouds and the ground shook in terror as the awesome power of mother nature was released. I stood at the door, my skirt flapping the wild beats of my heart.

Slowly, I crumpled the letter in my hand. "Dear Love," it said, "Meet me when the Night Jasmine blooms under the watchful eyes of Aphrodite. There I will make myself known to you on June 19th." 

In Aphrodite's presence stood a man drowning in disappointment as the rain washed over him. Clasping the knife in his hand more tightly, he stabbed it into the heart of an old oak tree. He wondered why his newest love had stayed away. He wondered if he was truly the man who could offer her salvation from the putrid world.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I blew the whistle again. I just didn't understand what was so hard that these people just couldn't get it right. "No, no, no! You have to reward for the positive behavior. Keep the treats in your hand until she does the trick." Nods and agreement. Enthusiasm. But not the faintest sense of understanding.

I gave the treats out to the class again. "Let's try it again. This time remember, you are here because you wanted to train your dog. After class, in 10 minutes, if you've decided it would be better for someone else to do the work, I can give you information on private trainers. Ready. Tell your pooch to sit."

*** One Word ***

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What's It Like?

It's uncertainty, desire, and hope being plucked from the soul one piece at a time. It's name-calling followed by a push, an accidental slap, some theft, and then cruelty just because they think they can. It's tears and threats, fearful apologies and turned backs that encourage anger and indignation to rise in a mother in defense of her cub. It's wishing it were another child, any other child, but never your own.

It's what it is like to watch your child fall victim to a bully and his friends.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, June 10, 2011


He woke up late. Well, later than usual anyway. It was a few minutes after 7 a.m. when he climbed into my bed. Jill was right behind him. Snuggling with both of them, I whispered, “I can’t believe you are almost a first grader!”

Joe lay perfectly still as if this was a new revelation for him. Then he spoke in a voice that sounded near tears, but also filled with joy. “I am so happy that there are only two more hours of school that I could cry.”
He didn’t cry, I don’t think. He bounced. He bounced through breakfast; through getting dressed and putting his shoes on. He bounced to his back pack and out the door. He didn’t walk to school. He half ran and half bounced. With a quick hug a block before the front door of the school, he ran down the sidewalk and into the building.

When I picked him up 2 and a half hours later, he nervously handed me his report card. “Does it say I know enough to be a first grader?” he asked me, doubt distorting the tone of his voice. I put off giving him an answer until we made it home. Once home, we snuggled up in my bed and went over it one line at a time.

“But did I learn enough?” he asked. I smiled at him and said I thought he had. Then I read him the brief note from his teacher which ended with ‘Good luck in first grade Joe!’ I thought he was going to bounce through the walls and maybe even the floor. I think it is safe to say he is very excited!

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


Madelyn moved one of the two dozen roses to another location within its vase. Finally happy with her futzing, she bent over the bouquet and breathed in their sweet heavy scent. They’d arrived that morning and with delight she had put them in an old vase with a little plant food and a lot of water before placing them in front of the mirror. Looking them over one final time, she pondered who they could be from.

“An admirer, obviously,” she thought, “but whom?” She thought of the various men and women who had knocked on the dressing room door or schemed to get past security. They had all been excited star-struck fools. None of them seemed capable of such an expense. “Maybe it’s a more distant, refined admirer.” The though bemused her and she began to imagine what the man would look like.

She saw him, tall and athletic. Dark hair and glittering dark eyes enchanted her. He was the perfect tall, dark, and handsome specimen. In her imagination, he wore a tailored suit. His boring white shirt was set off by a brilliant red tie.  Reaching forward, she stroked the side of her reflection, pretending it was his. Madelyn giggled as if he said something funny and turned, flipping long golden locks she didn’t have over her shoulder.

She looked up. Carol was silhouetted in the doorway. She stepped in applauding Madelyn’s creativity, but the smile on her lips made it clear she was mocking her maid. “When you are done having your clandestine affair, make sure you tidy up my dressing room. “ As she spoke, she lifted the silk slip she wore as in the love scene over her head. Dropping it to the floor carelessly, she added, “and do make be sure that gets ironed before tomorrow night’s performance.”

Madelyn averted her eyes from the perfectly formed thin body as she scooped up the slip and rushed from the room, leaving her dream far behind her.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Thursday, June 9, 2011


He shot through the gym doors as quickly as he was allowed. Once his shoes touched the hard brown earth and he was freed of the constraints of indoor school rules, he took off as fast as his legs could take him. He ran across the hopscotch boards and four square boxes to the sidewalk. Following it past the playground, the soccer field, and the preschool park, he turned to his right. The grass jumped up to tickle his ankles and the wind rustled his hair.

He ran on. The field met with the dirt path that aggressively cut across it and his feet turned kicking up gritty sand. Through the woods he ran, emerging only to leave the dirt path for the concrete one. Slowly, he gained ground. Step by step, he drew nearer his goal. He rounded another corner and could see the finish line. The orange cones marked the end of the race and the joy of claiming his prize.

I looked into his happy eyes as he approached. A smile spread across my face and I pounded my hands together. He didn't smile in return. Instead, his focus seemed to fall to to the ground only to be trampled by dozens of other runners. He stumbled to a stop, turned and took two steps back. Bending over, he picked up his  escaped shoe and tried to put it back on quickly.

Two steps later, he stopped again to retrieve his shoe. I gestured for him to come over. Carrying his shoe, he hobbled over as quickly as he could. Looking at it, I wondered if there was anything I could do. The metal buckle and velcro extension had snapped off. The shoe was irreparable, but somehow it needed to be salvaged if I wanted to restore his hope of finishing the race.

Thinking quickly, I pulled the clip out of my hair. It fell in my face obscuring my view. Helping him put his foot in the shoe, I pulled the loose strap tight and fastened it to the tongue before securely tucking the other end of the clip between the wall of his shoe and his foot. Even though it wasn't as great as Macgyver could have done --no duct tape-- I was confident it would hold long enough for him to cross the finish line.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


"It's so hard to write when the TV is on. I am just too distracted and then my stories echo what I've just seen." I knew Marcia would understand. She loved to write, but had her own struggles. For instance, she couldn't write anywhere but the Corner Bistro. She claimed it had the vibes and caffeine she needed to be successful.

"Turn off the TV," she said.

*** One Word ***

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Dread made me cold and I pulled my shawl tightly around my shoulders. I didn't know why I had come. The outcome had been decided two weeks ago when John stood mute before the judge. I knew he was innocent, but couldn't readily admit to it. My husband would have beat me senseless and I would have lost both my boys and my daughter. They were just young children, each of them no taller than my waist. I just couldn't lose them.

The door opened and the tall man in front of me stood to his full height, obscuring my view. All I could see were John's muddy feet. He must have been pacing the floor of his cell last night. I wished he had spoken, said something. I knew his silence had been measured. By remaining silent, he was protecting his own family and mine as well. He was also asking for his own death.

I heard rustling and refocused on what was happening in the small square. A large crowd had gathered. Some were crying, begging for mercy. That group must have been his family. Others were celebrating the entertainment. The man in front of me called over to another man. "They've got him tied down now."

I bowed my head. I had prayed for two weeks for his release. Now I prayed for a quick end. I knew it would not be painless. I could hear men grunting as the first large stone was lifted and settled on to the plate. I imagined the immense weight of it pressing down on him. My chest ached as I rushed to catch my breath. Tears soaked my collar and discolored my eyes.

The judge asked him to admit his guilt. More grunting and a soft thud was the only answer. I could feel my lips tremble as I prayed more fervently for a miracle. I had emptied my lungs and forgotten how to take another breath in. Feeling dizzy, I sat on the ground. The earth trembled with the effort to move the next stone on top of the plate.

Women began screaming and children bawled. I rocked back and forth, not caring if a foot pressed into a hand or leg. Violently I drew in the air John had been deprived. Over and over I moved as the cries and cheers grew fewer. When all was silent, I looked up to see the large mound of boulders piled on top of him. His arms, legs, and head stuck out from under the plate. His body seemed deceivingly intact, but I knew it was as broken as my heart and my future.

Slowly, I gathered up my skirts and my basket and headed home. My husband would be in from the fields soon and the children still needed tending. I would have to wait.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Monday, June 6, 2011


Dear Aaron,

I thought of you today. I was driving down I90, talking to my mom through the hands-free, and flipping stations. I stopped on the oldies station. Can you believe the music we sang at the top of our lungs while speeding down Main Street is now played on the oldies station? The oldies station! I always thought of that as my grandfather's generation of music. God, are we really getting that old?

No! That isn't it. I'm not old enough to be anyone's grandma. I still have two little kids. One isn't even old enough for school yet. And you have that beautiful son of yours. What is he now? Nine months, I think. I know he isn't a year yet. The weather is still too warm.

He must be crawling by now and calling out for his dada. I bet he is absolutely precious and I am even more certain that every time he babbles those syllables you get that crooked smile I have always loved. I would have walked over hot coals to give you a kiss when you smiled like that at me. I only saw it come out in the most innocent situations, but it was so languid it felt a little dirty. You must know by now how seductive  your smile is.

But that was all such a long time ago. We aren't those young love struck teenagers anymore. Look at us! We've grown up and moved our own separate ways! We have beautiful families and are so much wiser. Thinking of all the time that has passed makes me feel old.

Did I mention that "I've Finally Found the Love of a Lifetime" by Firehouse came on the radio this morning? It made me think of you.



*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Saturday, June 4, 2011


The day dawned hot and humid and stayed that way late into the evening. I rushed from place to place, carefully laying out an assortment of snacks: pretzels, chips, salsa, and cheese dips. Soon my friends would arrive, ripe with anticipation and desire to see the cup in winning hands. Only overtime would decide between Bruins and Canucks.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, June 3, 2011


The lights had gone off hours ago. Aside from the sound of my bunkmate breathing and the occasional footsteps of someone passing by, it was perfectly silent. Quietly, I reached under the boards supporting the mattress and pulled out the fork I had stolen from the kitchen my first day working in the mess hall. It had dulled over the last several months. It didn't matter. It would have to do.

Pretending to roll over, I moved off the edge of the bed and lowered myself cautiously to the floor. My bunkmate snorted in his sleep, some old memory tickling his funny bone. I remained still until I heard a set of footsteps disappear. Rolling across the floor, I stopped when I bumped into the wall. Supine, I reached up with the fork and carefully began scratching it across the wall. The only movement was my arm moving and inch up, an inch down, an inch up. My body lay quiet even as my nerves and muscles screamed for a break.

When I was done, I rolled back to the bed, dove under the covers as the next set of footsteps sounded, and then carefully replaced the fork between the board and the mattress. In the morning, I would sit Indian style and meditate. Each of the 472scratches marked a day spent confined in my cell and a day closer to going home.

*** One Minute Writer ***


Her hair was tied back in two little ponytails that started just behind her ears. Thick red ribbons held them in place. The sun kissed her cheeks, giving them a rosy glow. Mostly, I noticed her eyes. White and shiny. Filled with the joy of an innocent life. A smile to match. Emily was my sweet little girl, just four years old.

I saw her twirling in her fire engine red dress. It flew through the air like Little Red Riding Hood's famous cape when she skipped through the woods. Her white socks reached up as if they were going to grab the flowing hem of the dress and remind it that it should be gently brushing her knees. All the while, her black Mary Janes clicked on the sidewalk. 

That was last week. This morning she wore an identical red dress. The hem of her dress rested lightly on top of her knees. Her socks stroked the hem, happy to have contact.  Her Mary Janes were silent. I reached down and stroked her hair which had been pulled back into two ponytails and tied with a new red ribbon. A brush had painted her cheeks pink, but there was no glow. Her eyes were closed. At first glance she looked to be asleep. But I knew better.

Rob placed a kind hand on my shoulder. "Are you ready Isabelle?"

After nodding yes, he walked me to my seat and then took the one next to me. We held hands.

"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust..." Pastor Rob began.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Applicant

Josephine's head dropped into her hands as the letter fell to the floor. Another rejection. How many, she didn't know. She'd stopped counting a couple of months ago. Having rubbed her forehead and eyes, she stood up and walked to the small patio behind her small rental. A neat stack of papers sat under a garden rock on the little bistro table. Two black pens lay next to the stack. All she was interested in was the mug of tea.

Picking it up, she wandered back into her home and to the fainting couch in front of the window. Legs curled under her and the warm ceramic nestled between her hands, she looked out over the quiet street. She sat silently until the tea cooled. Setting the mug down on the little side table, she picked up her phone and did the unthinkable.

"Hello Adam. " Josephine rubbed her forehead again. "I'll be there on Monday. Have the packet ready." 

Adam clicked his tongue three times. "It's good to have you back on the team Jo." Then he hung up. Josephine didn't expect anything more from the conversation. Having made the call, she stood up to count the ammo and sharpen the blades. No reason to put off packing until the last minute.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I counted three red blips on the little black box as I hung my keys up. Four messages. The air rushed out of my lungs leaving me feeling deflated as I contemplated the likely messages. One from JoJo. Surely she had received the message I left her yesterday explaining that I needed a doctor's authorization if she planned on returning to work earlier than the first note indicated. I could imagine her tirade about how Patricia the Pachyderm should not have to suffer her absence. That would have been tolerable if Patricia hadn't been so antsy lately, proving JoJo correct.

There would probably be a message from Eric as well. He'd want a full explanation of why I was adding an additional 100lbs of food for the goats. "Was it a typo? No! Well, how much food does one goat need!?" he'd ask rhetorically. The problem wasn't with the goats. It was with the children dropping more on the ground than into the mouths of the goats. Happy customers brought in business. Goat food equated to happiness and that was not something Eric had ever understood about this business. I wondered if his parents had ever let him feed the goats.

Who else? Oh Cyndi "with a y and then an i". The Diva of Darlington, I'd taken to calling her behind closed doors. I couldn't imagine what would be wrong with her working conditions, but something always was. Past requests  flashed through my mind: making the pachyderm dung smell better; ordering less vivid balloons to help with her hangovers; requesting reimbursement if her manicure or pedicure chipped due to the nature of her work; and my all time favorite of imposing fines on animals that were too loud and startled her. At least, after the initial headache, her requests presented some humor.

These three were a three ring circus onto themselves. Sometimes I forgot that I worked for the zoo.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Monday, May 30, 2011


John sat on the floor, the plastic green G.I. Joe figure gingerly clutched between his thumb and forefinger as he pretended it was parachuting from the plane. Little John sat facing him, his matching figure clutched in his sweaty three year old palm. Slowly the man floated down to the Earth, dodging enemy fire. John continued with his mission. "Red Fox has landed. All family present," he said into his imaginary government issued walkie-talkie.

Pointing at another of the G.I. Joe troopers on the ground, he signaled him to move forward. From invisible tree to invisible tree, the unit of 4 plastic figures advanced through the dense forest, their rifles trained on shadows and rustling leaves. Little John kept his man quietly imprisoned behind his chubby fingers as his father slid the soldiers across the floor.

Finally the team grouped together at the leg of the chair, the predetermined meeting point in case they were separated during the fall. John signaled the scout ahead. He was gone three anxious minutes before returning and gesturing that they could make it to the first hut without fear of being seen. Pantomiming a walkie-talkie, John whispered "We have Go. We have Go. Radio silence in 3, 2, 1." 

The men quietly moved to the first hut. Hearts beating, they scouted for the next safe location. Slowly, they made their way across the small village one hut at a time. At the last hut, they dropped to their bellies and broke off into two teams. John and the scout, Mark, slithered into the brush just to the left of the door of the hut. They waited. Little John watched his father crouched by the couch with fascination.

John watched as the small flame licked to life, consuming the roof of the hut in a matter of seconds. Two men came running out, shouting in jarred syllables. One at a time they fell to the ground, dead. He waited a few more seconds. No one came running. No shouting. No sounds other than the continuous hum of the forest. He stood, his rifle aimed at the unseen enemy and quickly went into the hut. Mark guarded the crumbling door of the hut as John rapidly lifted the badly beaten body of his captain from the floor.

He was repulsed by the sweet smell of drying blood and strong odor of urine that clung to the captain tighter than the captain was able to cling to him. The heat was intolerable. Smoke stung his eyes and dirtied his lungs as he pulled the body through the door, emerging from between flames. Mark swung his gun wildly from side to side, more fearful of what he couldn't see than the unforgiving flames reaching ever closer to him. Together, the two men made it into the deep cover of the forest and 25 yards down to the stream.

They met with the other two men. Quietly they washed the captains failing body in the stream, rinsing away the sweet and foul smells. Lifting the walkie-talkie, John whispered into it once again, "Red Fox out of the hole. Papa fox in tow. Family ready to reunite at the old picnic grounds." Securing the captain to John's back, the four men moved through the deepening night to the pick-up zone.

At the clearing, they heard the welcome sounds of the Heli chopping the air. It blew a refreshing wind through the grasses and deep brush. Mark scouted it for safety. Reassured that it was their own men, the four stumbled out of the brush and were escorted into the helicopter. Relief flooded John's wrecked nerves as they lifted into the air. 

"Daddy?" Little John whispered, touching a father that was further than across the living room away. "Daddy? Will you play with me?"

John let out a deep sigh. "Yeah, yeah. Let's play," he said. As the little G.I. Joe men clashed into each other, threw grenades, and launched missiles, John sent up a little prayer for the many men and women he knew still lay under those leaves and inside those little huts.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Sunday, May 29, 2011


He sat down at the counter, giving the waitress at the other end his eyes and a raised finger. A moment later, a cup of steaming coffee sat before him. He ordered a slice of cherry pie and slicked his hair back in the men's room. As he sat back down on his stool, he unrolled his shirt sleeve and took out a pack of Marlboro. The waitress came over a second later with a clean ashtray.

"You know," she said snapping her bubblegum. "You got everything right, except the sideburns."

*** One Word ***

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Rental

The top was too short, the bottoms too long. The bow too tight and shoes too wide. The only thing right was that it was black and white. Looking at him, I understood his regret of saying his "I do's" in the monkey suit.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


Thick clouds blocked the sun's rays and muddled time. I woke, unsure if it was still night or had turned day. My eyes stung and my head ached. I strained to read the time but saw nothing more than red squiggles before having to close my eyes. Tired from the effort, I spread my arms and legs into the shape of a crippled starfish.

The right side of my body bumped against something. Quickly I retracted my limbs. Squinting through still stinging eyes, I made out the shape of a body. An arm, shoulder, neck and head full of hair lay next to me. The rest seemed to be buried beneath the covers. It didn't move, but my mind was spinning like the tea cup ride at the county fair.

Images blurred on the canvas of my blank brain. I slid out of bed pulling my nightshirt down over my hips. Standing up, I glanced at the alarm clock. It was early; 6:15a.m. A buzzing went off in the next room. The bodies chest rose and fell rhythmically. The buzzing grew louder, more insistent. On tip toes, I ran around the side of the bed and into the next room to slam my hand down on the snooze button.

I turned to leave the room, call my friend Sharon, when I heard a rapid succession of footsteps run across the hall, stopping in front of the door. The handle turned slowly. I Pushed myself against the wall, willing myself to be as small as possible or even invisible. Finally, the door opened. My son stood in the doorway, rubbing his eye, one hand on the handle. "Is it school today?" he asked.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Friday, May 27, 2011


Steadily, I raised my hand in the air and brought it gently down on the wiggling child's wild hair. "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" he yelled with each stroke as if I were beating him over the head.

"If you held still it wouldn't pull," I said, fatigue filling my voice.

He continued to wiggle, throwing up a hand to block me from continuing to brush that area.  "Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!" he bellowed again, removing his hand to reveal the now unruly hair that had once been tamed.

"Stand still, will you?" I growled and brought the brush down again.  He dodged to the side, causing the brush to rake lightly over his ear.

"You're hurting me!" Glee colored his cheeks. I grabbed the top of his head and turned it so I could see his eyes back to the mirror.

"Don't move on pain of death." My voice was low and measured, heavy with seriousness. I gripped the brush tighter and brushed his hair, relieved he was acting the role of a statue. With a last flourish, I laid the brush down and placed my hands on his shoulders. "What do you think?"

He brushed a hand over the strict lines the brush had made in his damp hair. "It's perfect," he responded, a happy color in his cheeks again.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Reporter

Johnny was an icon in the investigative reporting world. Known for his tough questions, persistence at getting the responses no one wanted to give, and making his subjects want to scamper into hiding, his meticulous practices won him every conceivable award in journalism except the IRE. He probably would have won that too, if he hadn't decided to investigate mob boss Frankie Costello. Instead, he received a pair of concrete shoes and a one way trip to the bottom of the East River.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


Shela held the boy to her. He kicked and screamed, unhappy with the empty gesture, until he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Misery dripped down her insides, making her feel cold in the 100+ temperature. She hated her predicament, but even more so, she hated the people who had left her there. Unnamed men and women whose knowing eyes lost the battle with their frozen hearts. Caring souls who only truly cared for themselves. Sitting in the tunnel, she listened to the desperation that took more lives everyday. She would survive for her son. She had to! But Shela wondered if her son would survive now that she was too dehydrated to nurse him.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Friday, May 20, 2011


She looked down into the small face, just waiting for the eyes to open. Impatience was eating her alive. That, and frustration over her own forgetfulness. How could she have forgotten her soul amulet at home? She knew better! And to do so while traveling? One would think she was still a mere child. Her hair bobbing to the silent rhythm of curses running through her head, Moria looked at the etched green face in her hand. Nothing had changed.

"For heaven or damnation's sake," she muttered angrily under her breath, "wake up won't you!" Her conscience slept on and she so desperately needed to speak with it. Moria laid her head back against the cold steel wall. Even with her eyes closed, she could see the passing constellations. She'd traveled through the Certamen System since she was a child. She knew the layout of this rather large star system as well as anyone could. "If only I hadn't forgotten my soul amulet," she berated herself. Her soul and conscience always consulted over life's big decisions.

This was certainly one of life's big decisions.

She squeezed the amulet in her palm. Only that morning Jax-Sen had proposed to her. It shouldn't have been any big deal. Many sentient beings had approached less evolved beings with proposals. It was part of their Time of Duty, lifting the unfortunate out of the repression imposed by not having soul and conscience fused within their marrow. The Utopia of Wholeness is what they purportedly peddled. A somewhat rare commodity, it always came at a cost. For many still evolving beings, it meant misery at seeing the society one lived in through different eyes, a Sentient's practiced eyes, and then great joy at being able to improve one's society through one's own abilities. A short term loss as an individual for a long term gain as a society.

But Jax-Sen had asked for something very different. He offered a varied and complex arrangement. He offered to skip the Seeing and give her practiced eyes, eyes more powerful than any other low level Sentient was given. It would make her Holy, an untouchable in the leagues of her own people. It could be hers, if she agreed to his price. Was the cost of rising up worth what was being asked of her? She needed her conscience to guide her.

The amulet continued to sleep peacefully, unaware of her predicament. Moria felt uneasy. She had no clear feeling of right or wrong. Only vague connotations attached to words like Holy and murder. A textbook comprehension based on what other societies had written. Holy was good and murder was bad. At least that is what she remembered from her childhood school books. But what did that mean when compared to one another? Did they both have the same weight? She couldn’t determine that from her black on white knowledge.

That, in itself wasn't unsettling. No. That was just a fact of being near the bottom rung of evolution. It was the deep, primal recognition of being near something so important that agitated her into such a state of distress.

Moria closed her eyes again. Attempting to settle her unrest, she began emptying the air out of her lungs in a low whistle. She could feel tension easing out of her long muscles. Her chest squeezed tight, trying to hold onto some of the air, but Moria forced it to continue flowing into the low whistle. Not until the cells begged for air did she find quiet. Although she had been sitting in solitude, the long corridor felt empty for the first time since Jax-Sen had spoken to her.  The pressing crowd of her reproaches and thoughts pushed aside, she sensed the closeness of Serenus. A planet named by the Deities for its calm, unchanging landscape and climate.

“Moria.” came Jax-Sen’s soft monotone voice.

Air rushed into Moria’s lungs. She snapped her head up, her body gasping for breath. “Jax-Sen.” She was startled and her usually high pitched voice came out as a squeak. She looked at the hulking sentient standing over her. His face looked down into hers. The small spheres of his eyes growing larger in the dim hall accentuated the strong structure of his skeleton. A smooth layer of dark skin hid the actual bones themselves. It looked moist and she wondered, not for the first time, if her fingers would be wet if she touched him. The low light caused an odd mingling of shadows and glistening skin. It made it easy for Moria to restrain herself.

Her discomfort returned. Slowly, Jax-Sen’s lips turned up forming a wry smile. Her conscience amulet warmed in her hand. Surely it would awaken soon. “Have you made a decision?” came Jax-Sen’s soft voice again.

“I… I… My conscience has still not awakened,” she stumbled over her words. Jax-Sen relaxed, the tension in his stance dissolved. His wings sloped down. His perfect white teeth showed between his parting lips as they curved up into a smile. Moria saw a flicker of something move over his eyes. “Kindness,” she thought. “That’s what kindness looks like on an Angelus face.”

“We will be over Alcedonia in a moment. I will disembark then. Come with me. Let me raise you to the station you belong.” He took her hand. It was warm, warmer than her amulet. She walked with him, enchanted by his silken touch, his willingness to give her a life she would never again be offered. Warmed by the touch of a High Sentient. Forgotten, her amulet began to cool in her hand.

Having reached the Disembarkment Bay, Jax-Sen released her hand. “I will be transporting myself. I assume you still rely on artificial means to survive in the atmosphere?” he asked, his left eye brow arching higher than his right. Moria confirmed his assumption with a nod of her head. She felt her hair bounce near her face and the some of the old thoughts began whispering deep in her brain. Jax-Sen moved the hair away from her eyes, tucking it securely behind her ear. The motion wiped the whispers from her mind.

“I will meet you on the landing dock after your descent,” Jax-Sen said, the wry smile returning to his lips. With that, he turned and walked to the South side of the Bay. Moria felt her enchantment lift, just slightly, and took a moment to look around. She noticed the departing passengers, some by their own means but most with artificial support. As she settled back into her skin, she couldn’t help but wonder if she had agreed to his proposal. She looked at the little green etched face. It had become very cold and it continued to sleep soundly.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Thursday, May 19, 2011


We were born on the same day, too small to know the harshness and warmth of the world we would struggle through. We'd grown up together, spending more time together in the back yard than I could possibly recount. She was my everything. My playmate as a child, confidant as a young teen, accomplice when I rebelled against my parents, protector and guardian when I needed her to be.

Not that I realized it during all those years.

It wasn't until I moved away, married and had children that I understood how important she had been to me. My childhood stories were flooded with her presence. She had, in many ways, shaped the person I became. I wanted to see her again even though half a world separated us. It wasn't likely it would happen. I didn't even know if she was still there.

Then my father died and I had to go home.

Flying over the deep oceans, I thought about what would happen when I drove up to the house. I wondered if she would be there waiting for me. I wondered if she would console me. I felt crazy thinking these thoughts. Perhaps she was a diversion for the scarier issue, my father's demise. A lump formed in my throat as memories involving the two of us and she rushed through my mind..

I held my mother close for the brief moment of stillness she could offer.

As she flitted about straightening frames, fluffing pillows, and generally fussing, I found my way to the backyard. There she stood dressed in deep yellow. Her skin was rough and dark from years spent outside in the sun and the snow. She stood tall and strong, still confident in her declining years. She had aged well. I ran to her, wrapping my arms around her thick trunk and then falling on my knees at her roots crying heavy and hot tears.

Tears for the loss of my father, my own expected immortality,  and for my childhood.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***