Category Archives: Fiction

Fiction Friday: The Other Place

Viewfromtheside gave “Something I have never done before” as a writing prompt this week. I love that premise. The fish-out-of-water theme is one of my favorite writing devices. So I decided to share the first chapter of a story I had squirreled away, The Other Place. I know it is a bit long, but I hope you ENJOY….

The Other Place

When he went to bed at 3:42 A.M. everything was all right.

Chick was bushed. It had been a long night at the club. He’d stopped three fights. (But one not quickly enough. He was nursing a sore spot on his chin from some john’s right cross. He’d have a bruise in the morning.) He’d gotten a dozen people into cabs, and had poured enough coffee into a dozen others so that they were O.K. to drive home on their own. The low point of the evening had been when Colby, the owner of the club, had given him a load of crap for taking a five minute break and getting a beer — one beer — when there were customers out side.

Oh well, screw it. Chick planned to sleep away the morning and start the whole damn thing over again when he woke up.

But he didn’t sleep in late.

At 6:04 a screech of alarm filled the room.

Chick jumped to a sitting position and tried to focus his still sleeping eyes. The words “What da…” left his lips as he tied to find the source of the noise. It was really loud, but it wasn’t a general alarm. The apartment building wasn’t on fire or anything. His eyes and ears zoned in on a what looked like a small propeller on the chest of drawers across the room. He  stumbled to his feet as he heard a bang from the room above and a woman’s voice shouting. “Alarm clock, you idiot.” He got to the propeller and focused enough to see that there was a round clock face set into the middle of its too thick blades. He picked it up and tried to find the off switch but his eyes couldn’t seem to adjust enough. He gave it a swat but the damn thing still screamed at him.

Shrill as it was, it wasn’t so loud that he couldn’t hear the angry muttering from the woman above, or her loud foot steps as she trudged down the steps toward him. With one quick angry motion she slammed open the door, crossed to him at the dresser, tore the propeller clock from his hands and switched off the alarm. “Glad to see you made it home all right.” She said as she fussed with the clock, making sure she had completely turned off the alarm, and not just put it in snooze mode.

Chick looked at her — or tried to look at her, his eyes still wouldn’t clear — “Get the hell out of my room, lady!” with as much of his bouncer voice as he could manage after two hours sleep.

At the sound of his voice the woman looked up at him. Her face fell in horror then she panicked and threw the clock at his face. “Stay away from me!”

Image courtesy: Clockaway.com

Image courtesy: Clockaway.com

The clock hit him in the right temple as he tried to duck out of the way. “Jesus!” He stammered as he half fell back. He had one hand to his his brow and the other out toward her. “Get the hell out of here, NOW!”

Caroline, the woman, shook with fear. She did not recognize the tall, muscular man standing in front of her, but she knew why he was here. They had done it. After several warnings and reprimands they had finally come through on their promise/threat of exiling her no-good, cheating, husband, Clay to The Other Place. This, she supposed, was his replacement from that side.

And she had hit him with the alarm clock.

In all the years with Clay, no matter what he’d done, she’d never thrown anything at him.

“I said get out of my room!” He barked at her.

“It’s not your room.” Caroline said as calmly as she could.

“What?” He yelled back at her. But Chick was beginning to come out of his fog of sleep. He knew this wasn’t his room. He was a bouncer, he didn’t need to get up until 3:00 in the afternoon, so he didn’t have an alarm clock. He certainly didn’t have a heavy brass alarm clock made to look like a boat propeller. And the room was smaller than what it should be. Chick had an efficiency apartment. It had two rooms, a bathroom and a bedroom/living room/ dining room/kitchen combination. This room was just a bedroom, it didn’t do double duty as anything else.

He stumbled backwards away from the woman until his leg hit the bed. “What’s going on here?” His voice was still loud and demanding but now there was uncertainty, almost panic, too.

“Please calm down and lower your voice.”  She realized that they were making too much noise. If they woke a neighbor with their arguing they’d be reported. She last thing she wanted was a peace man coming by to give them a warning.

“I don’t want to calm down.” Chick told her just as loudly. There was way too much weird shit going on in this situation. If he knew anything, he knew that the loudest dog was given the biggest berth.

A car came down the street fast and came to a noisy halt in front of the house. Caroline’s stomach sank. She didn’t know what the penalty was for hitting your husband’s government sanctioned impersonator, but it couldn’t be good. “Look, I’m sorry for throwing that thing at you.”  She was sorry, and not just because she was going to get in trouble for it.

He was still rubbing the spot. “Yeah?” He said with sarcasm, “Me too.”

The door bell went off down the hall.

Caroline hesitated and it rang again.

“You gonna get the door or you gonna wait for them to break it down?”

Caroline ran for the door and Chick sat down on the bed. He wondered how much trouble was he in? Was it possible that he’d broken into this house and fallen asleep in some one else’s bed without knowing it?

He heard the lock in the door click open and two women talking. The angry woman, the one who’d lobbed the propeller at his head, was calmer now, chagrined. The other woman was excited.

Caroline led her into the room and shrugged at Chick. then disappeared down the hall way again.

“O.K.” The second woman said in a very fast, very businesslike manner. “First, I apologize. I was delayed. I should have been here when you woke up to explain things, but… Well… I was delayed.” She was in her fifties and all the rushing she’d done this morning made her normally well made up face and hair look mussy and dank. She had large blue watery eyes that she dabbed at with a linen hanky. And she kept biting her lower lip so her lipstick only held on to the edge of her lips.

“Look” Chick said emphatically, “I don’t know where I am, I don’t know how I got here, I don’t know who that lady is, and I don’t know who you are. But I didn’t do anything wrong. And what ever is going on… I’m sorry.”

Caroline had come back in for the end of his disclaimer. She handed him a zip lock bag filled with ice chips wrapped in a dish towel. “My name is Caroline McAdams, this is my husband Clay’s bedroom, and you’re not in trouble.” She gave him a thin smile — it was all she could manage under the circumstances — and  indicated to  his face. “Put the ice on your forehead before it begins to swell.”

Chick did as he was told with the ice.

“And I’m Lucy Dingle.” The chipper, other woman told them both. “I’m your case worker.” She blinked her watery eyes toward Caroline while inclining her head toward Chick. “And, well I suppose you’ve guessed that Charles here is Clay’s replacement.”

“The name is Chick, no one has called me Charles since I was five.”

“Well, dear,” Lucy said as she fished into her large hand bag and pulled out a pair of glasses in a hard leather case, “your name is Clay now.” She handed him the glasses.

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCost...

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCoste frames. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I don’t wear glasses.” He told her, but this morning it sure felt like he needed them, his head ached and his eyesight has still not cleared.

“Put the glasses on, dear, there’s a good boy.” Lucy said with authority.

“Clay wears glasses.” Caroline explained.

“I don’t want to be your husband.” Chick argued. Then he realized how rude that sounded and amended it with a muttered “no offense.”

Caroline gave him the same brave thin smile and said very quietly, “Well neither did Clay, lately.”

“So what’s the deal here?” Chick asked. “And where IS here?” The birds had awaken outside the window and were cooing and twittering their welcome to the new day. Clearly he wasn’t in his little apartment on the 10th floor of a city block.

“Well,” Lucy sat on his bed with a flop and patted her brow with the hanky. “You see, 46 years ago the Freedom of Meanness Act went into effect. Each citizen was officially given a bank of 25 Meanness Event Warnings. If a citizen uses up his bank of warnings certain actions, by law, need to happen. The citizen needs to be removed from Crystal City and sent, as punishment to the Other Place.”

“Badham” Chick whispered. He knew all about the Freedom of Meanness Act. His biological parents had been reprimanded and sent to the Badham before he was born.

“Yes, Badham.” Lucy confirmed perkily. She plunked her large bag between them and began to pull out various contents from its interior. She found a black leather e-book and flipped it open and on. She took a second to review the file before turning back to them. “Well, it seems our friend Clay has had almost double the amount of Event Warnings allocated by FoMA.” She looked over to Caroline who was leaning against the chest of drawers and trying not to shake. “Its my guess that there would be a lot more if you’d filed any complaints.”

There wasn’t much accusation in Lucy’s statement, but Caroline grew stony at the reprimand. “I was under the impression that what happens inside the walls of my house was my business.”

Lucy shrugged and returned to her paperwork. “Well, as I say we had too many other E.W.s not to act.” She fixed her watery eyes on Chick and smiled. “We did a search in Badham and came up with you.” She looked at her e-book and read the report: “82% achievement record, 93% learning index, clean record.” She blinked back to him. “And you’ve got a similar build and coloring to Clay. You’ll do nicely.”

“I don’t want to be some FoMA replacement.” Chick told them. “I have a life in Badham. I’m happy there. I want to go back.”

Lucy steeled herself. She’d seen this before. Some times the replacements would just rather not be bothered with a better life. “Well,” She folded her hands on her lap and spoke to him like a middle school guidance councilor, “one could argue that familiarity  does not equal happiness. Or one could impress upon you that this is your big chance to fulfill your potential as a human being. But, frankly… you don’t have any choice.”

“Great.”

“Section 235, Article  17, states–”

“Fine.” If he was stuck, he was stuck, he didn’t feel like having this old bat reciting the code book at him. “I’ll stay. I wouldn’t want to break Article 17.”

But Caroline wasn’t happy. “Wait a minute. What makes you think he’s a better person then Clay?” She asked warily. “What did he do to get sent to Badham in the first place?”

Lucy turned her sugar coated, don’t-mess-with-me smile to Caroline. “Calm down Caroline.” She said very pleasantly.

Caroline took a deep breath. She knew better than to antagonize a FoMA agent.

“Sit down, there’s a good girl.”

Reluctantly Caroline took a seat at the opposite corner of the bed, making a triangle with Chick at the point and the women at the base. Lucy gave a satisfied smile toward Caroline and turned to Chick “Would you like to tell her Charles or shall I?”

“This blows.” Chick threw the ice pack to the center of the bed and turned away from the women.

“Then I guess I’ll tell you. Charles was born in the Other Place and raised by his parents until he was five when he was removed from their custody and sent to live at a group home.–”

Chick turned back to them to interrupt. “Which was run by two lesbians teachers who decided to move there and live with each other rather than stay here and live a lie.” Miss Karen and Miss Lynn treated him right. They took a lot better care of him than his drug addled parents ever did. “There are plenty of shitty people in Badham, but there are plenty of good ones too.”

“I thought I was giving the case history, Charles, did you want to take over from here?” Lucy smiled at him.

Chick returned the cheesy smile. “No, not really.” He turned away again. He burned with embarrassment at having his story told out loud.

“This was long before Act 71. Now children born in The Other Place are adopted back here immediately, of course, but up to 20 years ago they were assimilated back into that society.” She smiled satisfactorily to herself and glanced back at her e-book. “He did well in school and graduated from High School with good grades. He has worked a number of jobs leaving by his own will for a better paying position each time. His last job there was as ‘bouncer’ for Lucky Fred’s Bar and Grill.”

“Bar and Girl. It’s a strip club.”

Lucky Fred's matchbook

Lucy’s smile did not diminish. “How interesting.”

“I some how doubt you have those here.”

“No.” Lucy admitted. “But we’ve got something lined up that uses many of those same skills.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Coach of an elementary school wrestling team. You’ll also teach Math and Science.”

He shook his head, how was THAT like being being a bouncer. “I can’t be a teacher. I don’t even like kids.”

Lucy was ready for that complaint. “Well, not having seen one in 20 years, I’m not surprised.”

“I don’t know any thing about teaching math and science, or coaching for that matter.” Chick told her firmly. He wasn’t going to get railroaded into doing something he had never done before.

“Clay was a real estate agent, not a teacher.” Caroline reminded her.

“Well, since he hasn’t shown a house in six months, I doubt the real estate world is going to miss him.” Lucy dealt with Caroline first. “It’s time for Clay to have a mid-life crisis and start reexamining his choices. He’s about to have an epiphany that he needs to give back to the community. He will sign up for courses at the local college to pursue his teaching career.” Her eyes were watering from reading the little screen of her e-book for so long and she dabbed at them before continuing. “You start Fall Semester in two weeks. Between now and then you are going away to a retreat. You and Caroline have to confront YOUR past indiscretions. You are going to meet with a marriage councilor and the two of you are going away to rethink and rebuild.”

“HIS past indiscretions.” Chick told her firmly. “Can we keep that in mind? It’s not my fault that this Clay shit-head was such an idiot.”

The prim look on Lucy’s face hardened. “We don’t use curse words here Charles, except in extreme circumstances.”

“Yeah” Chick said dryly. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He couldn’t help but catalog the thousands of other, more potent, curse words he could have used.

“And we’ll keep in mind that you are not at fault for Clay’s actions.’ She threw a smile at Caroline. “Wont we dear?”

Caroline gave Chick an icy look. “We’ll do our best.”

Chick rubbed at his eyes, “Well, WE appreciate it.”

“Glasses Charles.” Lucy told him bossily.

“I told you, I don’t wear glasses.”

Lucy’s smile hardened. “Put the glasses on, dear.”

Chick finally obeyed and his vision instantly cleared. “So what’s wrong with my eyes?”

Caroline gasped and covered her mouth. He looked a lot more like Clay with those glasses on.

“When you were relocated this morning the technicians sprayed your eyes with a special formula to moderately numb the optic nerve.” Lucy told him sweetly. “The effect will wear off in a few days. You’re  scheduled for ‘laser surgery’ while you are on your retreat. And you won’t have to wear the glasses by the time you get back.”

Chick looked at her, “You people are insane.”

“It is essential that you look as much like Clay as possible these first few days–.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m already circumcised.”

Lucy chose to ignore him. “–Fortunately Clay has alienated his close friends, his parents are dead, and his sister no longer sees him.”

“Fortunately?” Chick shook his head.

“He’s never engaged in more than a half a minute’s conversation with any of the neighbors here. You’re not going to be working at the same place. So with a little physical touch up no one should notice that there’s been a switch.”

Caroline stood up. With his glasses on Chick could see that she was crying. “I might notice.” She said bitterly, but with a calm voice.

“Caroline, you know that this if for the best.”  Lucy said firmly, but kindly. “And you need to make the best of it.”

Caroline shrugged. “I always do.” She said blandly.

Lucy, satisfied with this half-hearted acceptance, turned to Chick. “And what about you Charles? Can you make the best of the situation?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He said dutifully.

“And you’re not going to cause any trouble, or attract attention.” Lucy pushed.

“No Ma’am.”

“I’m glad we can count on your discretion.” She smiled at his ‘good behavior.’

“Three bags full, Ma’am.” He said under his breath.

Lucy realized that he was being sarcastic. “Excuse me?”

Chick realized that he’d gone to far in pushing back. “Nothing.” He said a little chagrined.

“No, I heard what you said and I’d like an explanation.”

Like? Demanded more like. She’d been demanding things of him since she came in the room. He put aside his chagrin and looked her coldly in the eyes. It was his bouncer stare and he knew this puffy little old bat wouldn’t hold up against it.

Caroline intervened. “It was a joke.” She told Lucy, not really sure if it was a joke. “Yes, sir. No, sir. Three bags full, sir.” Caroline’s gentle smile soothed the old woman. “From the nursery rhyme.”

“I don’t see what a nursery rhyme has to do with anything.”

“Bah, Bah, Black Sheep.” Caroline sat back down on her side of the bed, diverting Lucy’s attention from Chick, breaking the starring match. “And he is the black sheep, he’s the one who is out of the loop, isn’t he?” She turned her smile on him and raised her eyebrow a little. That added inflection told him that he shouldn’t mess with a front line FoMA agent. She might look harmless, but she could make both their lives miserable. “I believe it is his ironic way of telling us that he’d like more information. Is that correct, Chick?” She asked just as cheerily.

Chick lowered his offense a little. He didn’t want to get into trouble. And Caroline’s use of his real name had earned her enough cred that he didn’t want to cause any trouble for her either. “Yeah.”

Caroline breathed a little easier.

Lucy considered them both. She decided to use this as an  instructive opportunity. “You will find, Charles, that while some gentle sarcasm is acceptable as part of friendly rapport, while more pointed sarcasm is considered offensive, and could very well earn you a meanness credit.” She smiled very hard at him. “You’ll need to watch your language.”

Chick took the reprimand. “Yeah, O.K.”

Lucy considered adding a lecture on how the proper word for the affirmative was “yes” not “yeah”, but she decided to let him slide on this. Clay, after all, wasn’t a stickler for proper language. He often employed slang. Perhaps Chick’s slippery grammar would add to his imitation of Clay.

She reached into her bag and pulled out another e-book which she handed to him. “You’ll need to study this.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a detailed biography of Clay McAdams.”

Chick fingered the little black device. As a bouncer didn’t need an e-book. He couldn’t afford one if he’d wanted one. He knew that over here they loved their gadgets, but most of what came over to Badham was used, the tech was out dated. Anything this new would have cost a fortune. “I, uh,” He tried to hand it back, but Lucy wouldn’t take it. “I don’t know how to use this thing.” He admitted reluctantly. “Don’t you have it printed out some where.”

Lucy gave a little snort, “We treasure our natural resources here, Charles, a paper book of Clay McAdams’ life and indiscretions would be a waste of far too many trees.”

Caroline shifted on the other side of the bed. This was her husband they were talking about. Clay had some good qualities. Did they think she would have married him in the first place if he didn’t have any good qualities? Did they think she would have stayed with him for fourteen years if she didn’t think there was something worth saving?

“No offense, dear.” Lucy patted her hand.

She shook her head. “None taken.” She lied. “I’ll show Chick how to use the e-book.”

English: EBook Reader from "Condor Techno...

English: EBook Reader from “Condor Technology Associates” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, that was one hurdle overcome. “Very good.”

Chick gave a low, grumbled “thanks.” He wasn’t used to admitting he didn’t know something. And he sure wasn’t used to having some one help him. His life had been pretty much sink or swim up to now.

“Caroline,” Lucy said evenly, “I’ve noticed that you’ve used Charle’s nickname twice so far in conversation.”

Caroline looked over to her, her eyes were brimming with tears again. “Yes.”

“Don’t you think you should start calling him Clay, dear, that is his name now.”

Caroline swallowed and ducked her head. Despite her best efforts she couldn’t help a tear from escaping her left eye. “Please don’t make me call him Clay.”

Chick looked from one woman to the next and his temperature rose a little.

How mean was this? How mean was it to sever every thread that linked this woman to the husband she clearly still loved? “Why?” He asked, a little too gruffly.

“Excuse me?” Lucy’s voice tensed again, Chick still wasn’t grasping the whole respectful tone thing.

“Why does she have to call me ‘Clay’?” Chick asked in a less offensive tone.

“Because, THAT is your name now.” Lucy let a little of her frustration surface.

“But we’re supposed to go on this warm fuzzy retreat and fall in love all over again. Why can’t Caroline decide to give me a warm fuzzy nickname while we’re there, and start calling me Chick?”

“I hardly think ‘Chick’ is an appropriate substitute for ‘Clay’.” Lucy hesitated.

“Well, I’m hardly a substitute for Clay, so it kind of fits, doesn’t it?” He picked up the e-book and held it against his chest. The unspoken offer was that he would be a good little boy and learn all about Clay McAdams, if Lucy would allow Caroline the dignity of not having to call him by her husbands name. He saw Lucy consider it. “Come on,” he coaxed with a little smile, “Chick McAdams, it has kind of a cool ring to it.”

It was an acceptable bargain. Lucy nodded. “I see you point.”

A little alarm buzzer sounded in her purse and she dug through it to find a beeper. She looked at it and sighed. It was another case. “I’m afraid I’ve got to leave you so I can take care of this.” She nodded at Charles. “Please begin studying that.” She turned to Caroline. “The Agency will, of course, settle any of your husband’s depts. Would you please gather any outstanding invoices.” The beeper buzzed again. She frowned at the little box. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” She handed both of them a business card. “Call me if there’s an emergency.” She re-packed her bag, “But,” she nodded to the beeper, “please do make sure it is an emergency before calling.”  She got up and headed toward the door. “I’ll be back at 6:00 pm.”

Caroline walked her out. There was short quiet conversation that Chick couldn’t make out at the door. Then Lucy said “It will all work out, dear,” before she opened the door and left.

Caroline came back to his bedroom after watching Lucy’s car drive off. “Um.” She stayed at the door. “Are you hungry? Would you like me to fix you some breakfast?”

Chick looked at the little propellor clock. It read 6:38. “Actually I think I could use some more sleep, if that’s OK.” He gave a little involuntary yawn. “I don’t usually get up til well past noon.”

Caroline nodded. “Clay sets the alarm so he can go for a morning run. But he turns it off and goes back to sleep more often than not.” She shrugged. “I don’t think any one will notice if you sleep in.”

“Good, cause I don’t think I got more than a couple of hours.” Chick looked at the e-book in his hands, “I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with this better once I’ve had a little more shut eye.” He yawned again. And maybe he’d wake up to find this had all been a really weird, bad dream.

She straightened up. “Goodnight then.” She shut the door.


Fiction Friday; Secret Watcher in the Sky

[Its Friday and that means a story prompt from ViewfromtheSide’s Blog.  This week we explore “Secret Watcher”.  I putzed around the house this morning wondering what the heck I was going to write about and then my hubby invited me along on a trip to the hardware store. Sure I said… but would he mind a quick side trip? Here’s our story…]

Trees

Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The trees were beginning to crowd the tarmac.

The road had gone from 2 lanes to one about a mile ago. Now the trees — lush with the previous night’s rain — had encroached on the shoulder. Their branches arched overhead playing a jazzy sonata of light/not light on the windshield as they alternately allowed or blocked the sun.

I’d reduced our speed to 25 (slower than the posted 30) to compensate for the fact that we really didn’t know where we were going. It wasn’t that we were LOST exactly, we just had never travelled this path before.

That was O.K. though because, although WE didn’t know where we were going, the GPS assured us that IT DID.

Our goal was a yarn shop in South Central Pennsylvania. I’d remembered how to get to their original location from a previous visit. Alas, that was a half a decade ago and the shop had since moved.

No problem. WE had an iPhone. WE were up for adventure.

After checking the yarn shop’s web site we plugged in the new address. In seconds our secret GPS watcher in the sky plotted a course over the scenic Seven Valleys to the new spot.

Away we drove.

The hiccup came when the roads of Pennsylvania decided that life is not as clear-cut as the GPS elves up in that satellite would have it be.

On the screen the little blue dot that represented our car passed the turn that would take us to the yarn shop. In the car we saw nothing but trees.

We RECALCULATED and found a second route.

One road crested  hill and turned from smooth asphalt to crushed gravel.

NO WORRIES — we had all wheel drive! And soon enough we popped on to another paved road.

Our blue dot moved along, obeying the GPS. It indicated a right turn. I made a right turn.

Artist Interpretation of GPS satellite, image ...

A few hundred feet in the trees began to crowd us. The asphalt again turned to gravel.  We considered abandoning our faith in the GPS and turning around, but the road wasn’t wide enough.

There was only one way to go and that way was FORWARD.

So we drove forward.

The road, if you could call it that at this point, got considerably worse. An irregular strip of grass and weeds grew between the tire tracks. The tire tracks became less gravel and more mud. My fingers tightened around the steering wheel.

Still, hovering miles above us Big Brother cheerily showed our little blue dot closing in on the little red dot of the yard shop.

The words “How the hell do they expect any one to find them out here?” were sputtered more than once.

Finally, FINALLY, we came out of the trees into a lane that skirted a barn yard.

A skinny black kitten eyed us than ran away (YES! a sign of life!)

We drove around the barn and saw a middle school aged boy hammering aimless at an old box

“Excuse me?” I said after rolling down the window. “Do you know where the yarn shop is?”

“Yarn shop?” He rolled the words around in his mouth like they were alien to him.

“Yes, we’re looking for a yarn shop.”

“I don’t know about a yarn shop… but the fiber mill is over there.” He waved the hammer in the vague direction of a long low gray barn. He was a pleasant enough fellow, but we had waisted enough of his valuable time. He had important things to do. That box wasn’t going to beat the hell out of its self you know.

“O.K. Thanks.”

Hmmmmm. The blue dot and the red dot appeared as one.  The GPS overlord seemed to think we had arrived at our destination.

We checked the web site again. This time we saw something further down the page that said “If you are interested in visiting please feel free to make an appointment.”

Ahh.

Beyond the long low gray barn was a paved county road and the GPS happily showed us the way back to civilization.

The eye in the sky didn’t get us to the yarn shop, but it was able to find us just a good. It had pointed us squarely at adventure.

compass


Friday Fiction: “When a Woman Remembers”

August 9, 1813, Somersetshire, England

imageseurope.com

Anne closed the attic door behind her. It was hot up there on the top floor of Kellynch Hall, but that was to be expected, given that it was the second week of August. She went to the small octagonal window and pushed it open.

A stir of a breeze kissed her face. She stayed there for a few seconds watching the carriage that transported her father and Elizabeth toward town. They were off to visit Lady Russell — the only person of worth this “scanty neighbourhood afforded.”

An invitation had been extended to Anne too, of course, but she claimed a headache.  The headache was real, she could feel the tension radiating across her forehead. Her father, Sir Walter — always quick to recognize a flaw in his second daughter’s complexion  — allowed that she did look more pasty and pinched than usual. And, as her remaining at home did not cause him any inconvenience,  he was quiet ready to allow it.

Anne felt a few moments of guilty discomfort over the deception as she walk through the house. Yes, her head was pounding, but, no, that’s not the reason she wanted to stay home.

Kellynch Hall was in disarray and she was not surprised that her father had fled for the calmer environs of Lady Russell’s manor. Every room Anne passed seemed to have at least one servant inside who was busy with preparations for the family’s upcoming exodus to Bath.

Thus far the Main Floor- save Sir Walter’s Private Study with its copy of the Baronetage and full length looking glass — were in the full swing of transition. The contents of the Parlour, the Library, the Sitting Room… were either being packed for the move or catalogued  and readied for the next inhabitants of the house.

The Second Floor was quieter. Anne had already packed most of her belongings. She had placed yellow cards on the boxes going to Bath and pale blue cards on the smaller number boxes that would be send ahead to the Musgroves for her visit to her youngest sister Mary this summer.  Anne had little expectation that either her father or Elizabeth had begun to sort through their rooms. Indeed the task would likely fall to her when the it could no longer be avoided. But THAT was a chore better off delayed.

As she climbed the skinnier stairs past the servant’s quarters to the attic she knew that no one had had time to get to this top floor yet.

That was good.

There were treasures here that could not be catalogued by a servant’s pen.

It was funny, Anne thought, how the heat and the dust of this place never bothered her as a child. It has been her favorite hiding place. It was here that she would come to read away an afternoon, or play adventure games with Mary.

Now — as she turned from the relative coolness of the window and faced the dim, hot interior — she was almost overwhelmed by the temperature, the staleness, the dust.

It had been nearly seven years since she had climbed those stairs and stepped onto the rough wooden floor of the attic. She had taken Lady Russell’s advice — again — and had decided to put away her remembrances of a certain young man. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Lady Russell had gently urged. And so Anne had brought her small box of treasures up to the attic and put them in a medium-sized trunk that no one seemed to care about. She’d put a broken birdcage on top of the trunk to keep a kind of sentry.

She had cried that day — the day she had finally, truly gave up Frederick. — Great gasps of tears accompanied each letter as she put it inside that box. And when they were all inside and she closed the box and tied it up with a blue ribbon she found she was not capable of additional tears. Her eyes ached  for want of crying, but her tears had turned to dust just like everything else in the attic.

The birdcage was still in place. 7 years of dust assured Anne that no one had been inside the trunk. She moved the cage, lifted the lid of the trunk  and removed the box. She looked at the blue grosgrain ribbon. The sailors knot was still in place, untampered with.

Anne slipped the ribbon from the box careful not to touch the items inside.

It contained: 1 seagull feather, 6 inches long, 1 smooth river rock, the size of your fist, 1 button from a the uniform of a junior Naval Officer, silver, and  24 letters.

The feather, rock and button she left in the box. Her mission was to expunge evidence of her long ago romance, not to revel in it. These items could be from any one. They did not implicate her broken heart.

But as she reached into the box to retrieve the letters her hand brushed the delicate feather. The whisper tickle it gave as it brushed against her skin brought her back to the days of a different summer… of stolen moments… of a teasing feather on her cheek… of the innocent giggles of a 19-year-old in love.

“I am over him.” She said out loud, determined, master of her own mind.

But the feather joined the letters as she placed them in her reticule.

More carelessly now she returned the box to the trunk, closed the lid, replaced the cage, retraced her steps to the window, did the latch, and found her way down stairs to her room.

Despite the summer heat Miss Anne Elliot rang the bell and requested a small fire.

It was to help with her headache, no doubt. — She did look dreadful pale. Lucy, one of the maids obliged. She left Miss Anne with a cool pitcher of lemonade and the promise not to be disturbed until supper.

Anne let minutes slip past by the dozen as she kept vigil over the small pile of letters on her night stand. She should not — WOULD NOT — keep them. But… she was having difficulty moving her hand to the pile to pick one up and place it on the fire.

When the Hall clock struck 1:00  she moved from the bed.

It was necessary to do what was necessary. It was time.

She grabbed the letters and one by one tossed them into the small flame. It would flare up as it hungrily devoured the paper, the ink, the words, the passion of her past, but soon enough it calmed back to a flicker not much bigger than a candle’s flame.

Anne was methodical, patient. One by one the letters disappeared. 15. 16. 17. 18. Then when she got to the 19th piece of folded paper she hesitated. It wasn’t the last letter wrote her. It wasn’t the thickest one in the pile. It was the date that caught her eye.

This letter was addressed:

bigstock-Old-paper-Series-27249407

Her hands shook as she unfolded the paper.

“Dear Anne,” read his beautiful strong handwriting, “My time is not my own today. Lots to do to prepare for our new adventure. I’m so busy I can hardly write. But I could not let the day expire with out wishing you the happiest of birthdays my love! Yours always, Frederick.”

Anne smiled and fed the letter to the fire. It went up the same as the others. But it had stirred something in her.

Regardless of how correct or devastatingly incorrect her decision to listen to her father and Lady Russell had been all those years ago… the letter proved as a reminder that he had loved her. She had not imagined that.

With equally measured patience she finished her task. The remainder of the letters disappeared to smoke and ash. She no longer had any proof that she had been loved …except for that proof she carried in her heart.

As for the feather… well she could have gotten that anywhere. That meant nothing, except to her.

Anne unpacked one of her hat boxes and pulled out her favorite everyday hat. She spent the rest of the afternoon neatly working in the white and gray feather, making sure it was properly secure and would not fly off in a gust of adversity.

She would wear that hat often, she thought. Because, although she followed Lady Russell’s advice and had put away her remberances of Frederick Wentworth, she would never forget him.

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Happy 226th Birthday Anne Elliot! My favorite Austen heroine!

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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As usual Friday’s blog is part of a writers prompt from http://viewfromtheside.wordpress.com/  Today her prompt was “Women”


Friday “Fiction” — How to Fold a Towel

I usually reserve Fridays for fiction writing. Armed with a writing prompt provided by WordPress blogger, SidevieW, I’ve spent the past month generating Friday’s fiction based on her theme. Today’s theme “DOING IT RIGHT” has less of fiction feel… Here goes…

Which is the right way?

Which is the right way?

Towel Wars

My mother has ONE way to fold a towel. The right way.

  • Lay the towel on a flat surface
  • fold the width of the towel in thirds
  • then fold it in half length wise
  • and fold in half again.

It makes for a nice compact square of towel-ly goodness.

Mom's method. Start with a flat towel. Four steps later... You've done it "the right way."

Mom’s method. Start with a flat towel. Four steps later… You’ve done it “the right way.”

Martha Steward folds her towels that way. So does Oprah. But, let me be clear… my mom did it first. (Maybe not first in the whole world, but before these two gals became daytime goddesses.)

Necessity being the mother of invention, mom came up with that method so they’d fit nicely into our linen closet. In fact, on laundry day, after the towels had been washed, line dried and folded (properly) and the linen closet reloaded to its towel storage capacity you couldn’t get anything else in there.

My mom must have had an innate sense of towel geometry. Her towel-to-linen closet ratio was absolutely pitch perfect.

The towels were so compactly and precisely placed in that closet that the first person to take a bath was in serious danger or toppling the whole works if they pulled out the top towel too gingerly.

And if the towel had been folded the wrong way, or had been placed in the closet askew… it just would not have worked. They wouldn’t have fit. That’s because there’s a right way of doing something and a wrong way of doing it.

We tried to rebel of course. As we came into our teen years we JUST KNEW that mom’s insistence that we fold the towels “in thirds and in thirds again” was just some 1950’s drivel — like dressing up and fixing your hair to go food shopping.

We tried:

  • folding them in half and then in half again (too wide and too flat).
  • foldeing in half (short side) and rolling. (too long).
  • kind of folding them and stuffing them in (known as the “brother special” — on the rare occasion that he did it at all — (um no.)

No, no. No. NO. Any job worth doing is worth doing right. So you might as well do it right the first time… because mom is only going to make you do it again… the right way.

When my parents downsized from our family home and looked for a condo I don’t think my mom took a folded towel with her on the real estate showings.  But I’m pretty sure she had that inner towel calculator going in her head. A condo without a proper linen closet wasn’t going to pass muster.

Perhaps it is my rebellious nature, my sheer laziness, or the configuration of our towel storage area but I do not use the 3 x 3 folding method mom favored. I fold my towels in half lengthwise, give them a 90 degree turn, fold in half again, then starting at the bound side (not the fold side) roll them tightly.

Crazy, I know, but it works. And, for us it’s just the right way of doing it.

My method. Start with a flat towel. Three steps later... towel nirvana. (OK I'm biased.)

My method. Start with a flat towel. Three steps later… towel nirvana. (OK I’m biased.)

Here’s an alarmingly loud video from “Ask the Decorator” that shows three ways to fold towels.


Secondary Character Saturday: Peeta Mellark

Josh Hutcherson played Peeta in the movie version of the Hunger Games [Image Courtesy: Wikia.com]

Josh Hutcherson played Peeta in the movie version of the Hunger Games [Image Courtesy: Wikia.com]

WHO: Peeta Mallark

FROM: The Hunger Games

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

BY: Suzanne Collins

PUBLIHED: 2008

PROS: Kind, compassionate, romantic, creative, artistic, loyal, humble, physically strong (he can wrestle and throw a sack of flour). Long before he and Katniss take the train to the Capital his selfless act of  giving her bread saves her from starvation. That act of kindness meant a beating for him, but salvation for Katniss and her family. And he did it with out any anticipation of a return favor on Katniss’s part. That kindness for kindness sake speaks volumes to Peeta’s personality.

CONS: He’s not tough enough for the Hunger Games. He hasn’t been training his whole life for it — either in the woods near District 12 or in the gyms of District 1, 2, or 3. His compassion and lack of survival skills might just get him killed in the arena.

ID Card from the Hunger Games movie [Image couresy: Wikia.com]

ID Card from the Hunger Games movie [Image couresy: Wikia.com]

MOST SHINING MOMENT: Peeta is a stand up guy in the toughest of situations. He never expects to win the Hunger Games — his own MOTHER lets him know that SHE doesn’t expect him to win — but that doesn’t mean he has to lose. He defines the parameters of what a personal victory means when he tells Katniss that he all he wants o do is die with honor.

“…He doesn’t just want to be a pawn in the Capitol’s game. He wants to “die as himself” (10.70). For Peeta, it is important that the Capitol knows that they don’t own him.” [Shmoop.com]

LEAST SHINING MOMENT: I get that Peeta is gob smack in love with Katniss, but I think his outing that love on live television with every one in the Twelve Districts and the Capital watching was bad form. It puts way too much pressure on Katniss and it just isn’t fair. I think his declaration was honest, but it was manipulative in retrospect. (Even if that wasn’t his intent.)

WHY I CHOOSE HIM: I choose Peeta because he’s the underdog of the story and I found myself pulling for him throughout. He’s the moral backbone of the story too. I loved Katniss’s strength and chutzpah (and creativeness, and self doubt and family loyalty) but there’s a tenderness to Peeta that just drew me in.

Katniss & Peeta - Vancouver Fan Expo 2012

Katniss & Peeta – Vancouver Fan Expo 2012 (Photo credit: Laríssa)

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Thus far I’ve only read The Hunger Games…but I’m working on Catching Fire and plan to read the rest of the series. Kindly refrain from spoilers. IF Peeta turns out to be a jerk in Mocking Jay please let me find out on my own, OK? OTHER COMMENTS and discussions are most welcome welcome.

More on the names in The Hunger Games... Well, they are strange, that’s for sure. If you’d like to “find out” what YOUR Hunger Games name is you can click HERE and follow the recipe / algorithm.
(I’d be Eless P Danceelm in District 12 btw.)


Fiction Friday — “Fairly Really Worth Sufficient For Me”

Faily Really Worth titleBy: Rita Baker-Schmidt

Geneva Spivey looked at her operator with concern. The android female on the other side of the telescreen was composed and pleasant, but she was talking gibberish. Almost nothing she had said had made any linear sense in the last 2 hours.

“What I’m trying to say,” Spivey spoke slowly and clearly into her com device, “Is… I think there may be a bug in the translator.”

Marion Teague, communications model 763985, Diadactic Achievement Institute, Station 17, smiled pleasantly. “I am trusted you’re dealings with political opponent. Its barons controlled these islands for more lender volitions. It allows governments to trim its vulnerability to unlike organizations.”

Spivey shook her head and tried not to say “Whaaaaat?” out loud. “See. That’s what I’m talking about. That made no sense at all.”

Teague, blinked her perfect, emotionless eyes and continued to smile, “If you move around onto Southward beginning Street you might run across numerous sound challenges to cover the proportion unbalance,” she suggested very unhelpfully.

The Earth bound communications officer reached for her keyboard and  typed in the diagnostic sequence again… and again got the same result. Everything was functioning within normal parameters.

Except … her  Com Bot on Station 17 had either lost her ability to speak or had lost her mind. OR there was something wrong with the equipment.

“Run another 15f8n2-B scan for me, please.”

As Station 17  made it’s slow orbit around the planet Marion Teague ran the requested scan, again, for her commander dirt side.

She shrugged as the results appeared on both their consuls. “Very nice submit, Captain.I will certainly digg it and in my view suggest to my friends.”

Spivey was stumped.

A minute later her interface device buzzed and the call she placed to support came through. Darius Plummer from Fairgoer Communications, the sub contractor that had designed the translator, greeted her with a smile. “Good afternoon, Captain Spivey, I understand there’s a bit of an emergency over there?”

She filled the programmer in on the situation  and adjusted the com device so the screen in front of her was split between Marion Teague’s some what fuzzy image from outer space, and Darius Plummer’s hi-def image from Palo Alto.

She up loaded a transcript from the last two hours for his review. Then she patched him in so he could hear, first hand, what was happening on Station 17.

“Hey Marion,” He said smoothly. Darius had installed the space station’s module and programmed Teague and the rest of the Bot staff up there. His time in space had been the most exciting 3 months of his life, and he looked at the androids circling above them almost as friends. “We gotta little mumbo jumbo going on up there?”

The Bot’s smile grew more “genuine” at seeing Darius’ face. “Ahaa, its pleasant conversation concerning this paragraph here at this webpage,I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting here.”

“Come again, darlin’.”

“Its been like this all afternoon.” Spivey complained.

“I create a leave a response when I appreciate a post on a site or if I have something to add to the discussion.” Teague told him warmly.

“And that made absolutely no sense at all.” Darius told her. He started to scan the readouts of the prior conversation.

“I found lot of great points in this post. You have done an impressive occupation and our entire community will probably be grateful to you” Taegue said slightly more emphatically.

“Yeah that didn’t really help.” A frown deepened as he scanned the increasingly odd responses from his friend.

Taegue tried again. “I’ve been surfing on-line more than three hours today. It’s fairly really worth sufficient for me. In my see, if all internet owners and bloggers made great content as you did, the net will be much much more helpful than ever before.”

“Internet?” Spivey asked, “What the heck is an internet?”

“It’s an ancient communication sharing tool, They used it way back when they first started using computers. But…” He held up his hand to hold the women at bay as he looked something up. “I’ll be right back.” His portion of he screen went blank.

“A undivided someone can help clamant favourable reception,” Teague said from space.

“Yeah, what ever.” Spivey said  under her breath.

“Captain Spivey.” Darius Plummer popped back on-screen. “I think our friend Teague has a virus.”

“Explain,” ordered Spivey.

“I don’t know how it happened but I think she’s been spammed.” Darius told the two women about spamming, and what a problem it was before it was outlawed in 2054. “Some how that spamming junk language has made its way to her programming and that’s what she’s been spewing out.”

“Well,” the officer demanded, “what the hell do we do about it?”

“I’m sending up a patch now.” He assured her.

Teague gave him a genuine — for an android —  smile “This submit truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how a great deal time I had spent for this info! Thank you!”

“How long before we know if it works?” Spivey asked.

Darius shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t even know if it will work.”

They had a three-way staring match for a moment. Then  Marion Teague blinked her perfect eyes and smiled. “Oh, that’s much better. Thank you Darius.” She turned her attention to Spivey, “I’m ready to give my report now Captain.”

Fairly Really 2

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All the gibberish is real SPAM from my SPAM folder. I figured if some one was KIND enough to send it to me the LEAST I could do was to use it as fodder for a story. Likewise, the character and company names are from unsolicited and dubious Emails that have made their way into my account (a surprising number of which beg to inform me that I have inherited a great deal of money!)


“Secondary” Character Saturday: Ivan, The One and Only

I’m breaking the rules today to bring bring you a PRIMARY character. A Primary PRIMATE in fact, The one and only IVAN!

[All Images from The One and Only Ivan]

[All Images from The One and Only Ivan]

WHO: Ivan

FROM: The One and Only Ivan

BY: Katherine Applegate, Illustrations by: Patricia Castelao

PUBLISHED:  2012

Cover of the audio book for the One and Only Ivan

Cover of the audio book for the One and Only Ivan. Click HERE to find the book on Amazon.com

PROS: Ivan is kind, caring, compassionate, understanding, a great artist, patient, thoughtful, brave and creative.

CONS: He gets frustrated at himself and his situation. He doubts himself.

QUOTE: “I am Ivan. I am a Gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.”

[All images from The One and Only Ivan]

[All images from The One and Only Ivan]

MOST SHINING MOMENT:  Ivan takes a chance. He risks his comfortable, boring life to help some one he loves, Ruby, the baby elephant, fulfill her dream.

LEAST SHINING MOMENT: Ivan is a pretty special guy. It is tough to think of “least” shining moment for him, but I guess, if pressed, I’d say it would be his moments of self doubt.

WHY I CHOSE THIS CHARACTER: This book is absolutely amazing. Ivan isn’t just a good character, he’s a good role model. I WANT to be more like Ivan!

I can’t remember who recommended it to me, but I put it on my Kindle and when it came up in rotation I was completely entranced. Officially this Newbery Award winner is for 9 to 12 year olds, but ever since I had the good fortune to moderate a book club for teens and tweens (several years ago) I have not been bashful about reading good literature for any age. And this is one of the best “Kids” books I’ve read in a long time. It had me sighing and laughing out loud. And it had me crying more than once.


Second Character Saturday: Glenda

“When all the stars have fallen down into the sea and on the ground, and angry voices carry on the wind, a beam of light will fill your head and you’ll remember what’s been said by all the good men this world’s ever known.”–Glinda the Good Witch

Cover of the Glinda of Oz

Cover of the Glinda of Oz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who: Glinda the Good Witch

From: The Wizard of Oz

By: L. Frank Baum

Published: 1900

The portrait of Glinda the Good appearing in G...

The portrait of Glinda the Good appearing in Glinda of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pros: Kind, protective, wise, thoughtful, brave, magical, friendly, and a strong female role model — her court is almost entirely made up of women. Her leadership style involves letting people figure things out on their own. She keeps a careful eye on the situation and guides them as necessary but she lets them come to the conclusions on their own without spoon-feeding them the knowledge or answers. She’s also there to help when called on.

Why I chose Glinda: I choose her because my daughter recommended this TED talk. Although Mr. Stokes speaks to the Glinda character in the 1939 Movie (and I’m going back to the source Glinda in the book) I think he hits the nail on the head. And it inspired me to choose her for today’s Secondary Character.

http://www.wellhappypeaceful.com/glinda-the-good-witch/

Billie Burke as Glinda and Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 movie of The Wizard of Oz [Image courtesy: Well Happy Peaceful]

Billie Burke as Glinda and Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 movie of The Wizard of Oz [Image courtesy: Well Happy Peaceful]


Secondary Character Saturday: Aliena of Kingsbridge

Hayley Atwell as Aliena in the miniseries based on the book. [Image courtesy: Ken Follett.com]

Hayley Atwell as Aliena in the miniseries based on the book. [Image courtesy: Ken Follett.com]

Who: Aliena of Kingsbridge

From: Pillars of the Earth

Cover of "The Pillars of the Earth"

Cover of The Pillars of the Earth

By: Ken Follett

Written: 1989

Pros: Strong, compassionate, loving, determined, resourceful, intelligent, resilient, self-sacrificing.

Aliena has a tumbled mass of unruly dark curls, a straight, imperious nose, soft smooth cheeks, large dark eyes and full sensous lips. She is slim but full breasted, and careless in what she wears, often going barefoot. [Ken Follett.com]

Cons: Emotionally reserved, at times aloof, stubborn and short-tempered.

Donald Southerland as the Earl and Hayley Atwell as Aliena in the miniseries [Image courtesy: TV Somthing]
Donald Southerland as the Earl and Hayley Atwell as Aliena in the miniseries [Image courtesy: Locate TV]

Prior to the novel  Aliena leads a storybook life. Then things start to go wrong. In short order she finds her father, the Earl of Shiring, thrown out of his castle and held in jail for treason. She is raped and her younger brother, Richard, has his ear cut off  before they too  are thrown out of their castle. But having promised her father that Richard will one day take back the title of Earl of Shiring she does everything in her power to toughen the boy and build a fortune.  That means denying herself  her one true love so Richard can be outfitted as a Knight.

Publicity shot for Pillars of the Earth with Eddy Redmayne (Jack) and Hayley Atwell (Aliena) [Image courtesy: xyz]
Publicity shot for Pillars of the Earth with Eddy Redmayne (Jack) and Hayley Atwell (Aliena) [Image courtesy: Eddie Redmayne Forum.com]

Best Shining Moment: Traveling over most of Western Europe in search of Jack. Because true love is worth it.

Least Shining Moment: Marrying Alfred (when she really loves Jack) because Alfred can outfit her brother as a Knight.

Why I chose Aliena: Aliena has the ability to look beyond appearances and see a person’s inner worth (or flaws).  She’s a hard worker who inspires the best in others. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, as she showed when helping to build the wall to protect the town. She knows her inner strength and she’s not afraid to use it.

Character relationship tree from Pillars of the Earth. [Image courtesy: Ken Follett.com]

Character relationship tree from Pillars of the Earth. [Image courtesy: Ken Follett.com]


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