Homework Gone Awry: And Now For Something Completely Different

Stuart rubbed at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. The words on the page still weren’t making much sense. He wasn’t sure if it was fatigue or his inability to grasp the benefit of understanding the intricate social system of a German cockroach.

The latch on the door behind Stuart clicked, and then clacked. The sound of shuffling feet materialized in to Darryl sliding across the living room floor. His hands were deep in the pockets of his tattered bath robe. The hems of his pajama pants left trails in the dust. Stuart’s gaze followed as Darryl stopped in the middle of the room. Through greasy bangs a concerned look flashed across his eyes.

“Hey, listen. Ya hear that?”

Stuart looked around the dim room. “Hear what?”

“Shh. Quiet.”

In all fairness, Stuart didn’t know what he should have been listening for. It may not have on any other day, but the noise that resembled the painful regurgitation of a distressed sheep took him by surprise. The shock lasted only a moment before he was hit with an intense aroma.

“For the love of Christ, my mouth was open!”

Stuart turned away, the book in his hands now flattened against his nose. He looked back to see the concern in Darryl’s eyes turn to mischief and a sly smile cross his face.

“Ya like that do ya?” Darryl pursed his lips and raised his nose, “There’s a hint of something special there, it’s sort of Oakey.”

“It’s like you just shit a burning log is what it’s like.”

“Come on now, probably won’t be no lasting effects.”

“Go kick a ball Darryl.”

Darryl dropped his head and continued across the room, “Don’t go gettin’ all hurt, you’ll live.”

“I know I’ll live, it’s you I’m worried about!”

Darryl didn’t answer as he passed through the darkened bathroom door.

Stuart sighed, “I need to find a new place to live.”

 

*******

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

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Mary, Part 3

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As the sun rose the next morning, there was an unusual chill in the air.  Brenda stood huddled in her housecoat, watching out of her bedroom window as thick, grey clouds were building in the north.  She decided at that moment that it would be the perfect day to make a fresh batch of Strawberry Scones, a particular favourite of Mary’s, and to stop by for her weekly visit.

Brenda made her way to the kitchen, set the oven temperature, and then began collecting ingredients. She took the eggs, yogurt and strawberries from the fridge, the flour, butter and sugar from the pantry, and the baking powder, soda, and vanilla from an upper cabinet.  She measured each ingredient carefully, then mixed and kneaded them together in a large glass bowl.  She scraped the mixture out onto the floured counter, formed and cut the dough into eight perfect triangles, then transferred each piece onto a baking sheet which went straight into the waiting oven.  After setting the timer she was off to freshen up and get changed.

The scent of fresh baking began drifting through the house just as the buzzing timer called out.  Brenda donned one of the oven mitts that hung on the wall beside the stove top and removed the golden brown scones from the oven.  After allowing them to cool for a moment she divided them on to two separate plates, one she covered with a clean tea towel for the journey next door, the other she set on the kitchen table.  She picked up the covered plate of scones and then was out the front door, pausing only to pull in the morning newspaper and toss it on to her husband’s tattered old recliner.

Brenda made her way up the walkway and through the side gate to Mary’s back door.  After knocking three times, and even ringing the bell, the door remained unanswered.  Brenda tried the door knob and was surprised when it turned freely.  She stepped into the porch and called out Mary’s name, but there was no reply.  The house was quiet; the creaking floor boards under Brenda’s feet were the only sign of life as she made her way up the steps and into Mary’s kitchen.

The house was dark except for the dim glow of artificial light coming from the entrance to the living room.  Brenda entered to find the blinds drawn and an ornate lamp casting faint shadows throughout the room.  Mary was almost totally obscured, sitting far back in an oversized arm chair. Brenda spoke Mary’s name again, out of acknowledgement more so than any hope of a response.

She came closer then, stepping over an empty picture frame lying on the floor, and placed a gentle hand on the cold porcelain skin of Mary’s arm.  Mary looked so peaceful sitting there, a contented smile frozen to her face.  Hand written letters were scattered across her lap and the exposed seat of the chair.  She was holding a picture of Harold close to her heart with her right hand.  Her left hand, clad with an old sock, rested gently against her cheek.

 

 

Mary, Part 2

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Now, it would be easy to dismiss Martin for the simple fact that he was a sock puppet, but to Mary he was so much more.  Martin was charismatic, funny, but most of all a good listener.  Mary was so happy to have someone to share her life with again.

Each day for tea, Mary would set out the good china tea set on a freshly polished silver platter.  It consisted of an ornate Wedgewood Jasperware tea pot with matching cups and saucers that her Aunt Ruby had purchased while visiting family in England, and had given to Mary and Harold as a housewarming gift.  Mary was very proud of the set and only used it on special occasions.  One of the cups which had a small chip in its soft blue finish was used to hold a few fresh cut taken Gardenias from the planters that her niece Jessica had brought to brighten up the front steps.  After tea they would often play a hand or two of Bridge.  Being the gentleman he was, Martin would usually let Mary win.

In the evenings they would relax out on the veranda, swaying away the hours in an old rocking chair.  On particularly nice nights they would even stay out to watch the sun set.  Mary’s neighbours remarked how nice it was to have her out and about again, even if they were somewhat concerned that she was not to be seen without a sock on her left hand.

Late one night, after enjoying a particularly beautiful sunset, Mary retrieved a small box hidden in the back of her nightstand and retired to the living room.  She sat down in one of the matching wingback chairs and placed the box on her lap.  Between the chairs was an old Tiffany style lamp atop a simple wooden side table.  Mary reached under the white and green stained glass shade and pulled chain.  She sat then in the dim light, staring at the box, her free hand caressing the plain wooden top.  Not wanting to be rude, Martin waited quietly while Mary collected her thoughts.

When she was ready, Mary opened the box and removed a small bundle of letters that Harold had written her while he was away fighting in the war.  One by one she unfolded each letter and read them aloud to Martin.  They described Harold’s travels through Italy with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.  Although he omitted many of the more terrible truths of the war, Mary could sense his sadness.  At the end of every letter he expressed how much he missed her, and how in love he was with her.

Mary told Martin how proud she was of Harold, and how scared she was at the time that he might not return.  Of course Harold did come home, late in October of 1945, and they were married a few short days later.  She explained how from that moment until Harold was taken from her for good, they had not spent a single day apart.

Mary shared how difficult the past three years had been, waking up every morning without her soul mate beside her, adjusting to a life lived alone, and doing her best to hold on to the home where they had raised their children and grown old together.  She told Martin how desperately she wanted to see Harold again. Martin did his best to console Mary.  He told her how brave she had been to carry on, but that now she could rest easy.  Harold was waiting for her, and she would be seeing him again very soon.

 

 

Mary, Part 1

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The past three years had been a trying time for Mary, as anyone who had lost the love of their life after 66 years of marriage could attest to.  No one would have imagined that Harold, who had been through so much in his 87 years of existence, would be run over by the 3:30pm bus as it made its way downtown on an otherwise pleasant spring day.  Unfortunately neither did Harold.

It’s not that Mary was completely alone.  Family members in the area would stop by every now and then to drop off groceries or check on the house, but mostly to make sure that she hadn’t gone crazy and started collecting cats.  Mary’s next door neighbour Brenda would stop by once a week with a care package, sometimes a small casserole but more often than not a sweet snack.  While Mary appreciated the gestures there was still something vital missing from her life.  And so, one day she took things into her own hands, quite literally.

It had rained without interruption for the previous three days, but Mary awoke that early summer morning to the warmth of the sun on her face and the sound of Sparrows chattering in the distance.  She sat up in bed, shielding her eyes against the light, and somehow knew that it was going to be a special day.  After breakfast which consisted of a cup of black coffee and a piece of toast, she decided to tidy the house.

Mary slid open the window above the kitchen sink and then grabbed a feather duster from the cupboard below.  She shuffled into the living room, dusted her small collection of Blue Mountain Pottery figurines, and then the cluster of family photos hanging on the south wall.  Mary gave only brief glances to the faces from the past as the ostrich feathers wiped clean their wood framed enclosures.  She paused at one though, brought her frail fingers to her lips, and then held them against the glass.  Beneath her affectionate touch was Harold, standing tall in his Khaki Battle Dress a short time before being deployed.

Once finished in the living room Mary decided to focus her attention on the bedroom.  She was clearing out various boxes and bags from the closet when something rather unexpected was found.  Stuck in between an old suitcase and the back wall was one of Harold’s socks.  Now, there weren’t many of Harold’s belongings left since their children had convinced her it was time to “clean up” late last year, so it did come as a bit of a shock.

Mary sat on the edge of her bed, staring at the sock in her hand as a fresh sense of loss overtook her.  Memories of the life they had built together unraveled in her mind like scenes from an old movie projector.  Eventually though, a wonderful thought took root.  As it grew, so did the first genuine smile Mary had known since Harold’s passing.

She stood and made her way to the basement and then into the laundry room.  In one corner was her sewing machine, tucked away in its table, with a small stool underneath.  On the wall was a cupboard which Harold had built to store her sewing supplies.  From the cupboard Mary retrieved her fold out sewing box and a small orange Tupperware container.  She placed them on top of the sewing table along with Harold’s sock.  Mary pulled out the stool and sat down on the cold vinyl seat.  From her sewing kit she pulled out a case of needles and a half used spool of black thread.  She positioned the sock on the center of the table and considered her next step.

To the casual observer the sock itself was nothing special.  The elastic at the cuff was beginning to show, the plain black fabric was fading and thinning at the heel.  At least it had been washed before being misplaced; Mary noted the distinct, although faint, floral scent of her favourite fabric softener.

Mary removed the lid from the Tupperware container and pushed a finger through the contents until she found and removed two large Jade buttons.  Those particular buttons had come from a much cherished rain coat that Harold had given her on her fiftieth birthday.  Sadly it had been ruined after being caught in the closing door of Harold’s 1976 Buick Electra.  Mary had always disliked that car, even more so after the incident.  Mary was not able to mend the resulting tear, so she had kept the buttons as a memento.

Mary fought the tremors in her hands as she wove the needle and thread through the fabric of the sock.  After a few minutes of creative stitching and the addition of the Jade buttons she deemed the project complete.  She turned the sock over once, then twice, inspecting her work.  She grabbed the cuff and without hesitation, slipped her free hand inside.  She adjusted and raised her left hand, and that was when Martin came to life.

 

 

Michael

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“Michael, is that you?”

“Yes Charles, I’m here.”

“Where… where are we?”

“In a safe place Charles.”

“I can’t feel my legs. Why can’t I feel my legs?“

“It’s for the best.”

“Is this… Oh God no. It was you all along, wasn’t it? But why?”

“The reasons why will serve you no purpose. Not now. Focus instead on what is to come.”

“Michael please, I can’t…”

“I’m afraid you don’t have a choice Charles. You see, I’ve decided to make you my special project. The others, the cases that bolstered your career, they were gifts. I have decided you will not be like the others.”

“But, Rachel and Casey, what will they…”

“What will they do without you? Well, let’s talk about that shall we? Young Casey, abandoned by his father, how long do you think it will be before he starts to act out, to get in to trouble? And Rachel, she’ll be so heartbroken, so scared. As young and beautiful as she is, it won’t be long until another comes along to replace you.”

“Don’t do this Michael, please…”

“Focus Charles! You are responsible for everything that is about to happen. You brought this upon yourself, and on your family.

“No…”

“It’s time. Let’s begin.”

 

*******

 

This was written awhile back in response to a prompt that Sacha Black had sent out requesting “208 words on a villain”, but since I apparently don’t deal well with deadlines when it comes to writing I did not submit. It did however seem like a good post for today. I hope you enjoy it.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

The Flood – Part 20

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The first drops of rain hit my face. I wipe at them and my hand comes away the colour of red clay. It hardly registers. I’ve been running on pure adrenaline, but I can feel the tank is almost empty.

Whatever the hell those things are, I’m positive they’re toying with us. They never get closer than about thirty feet out, and they’ve been doing circles around the boat and the barn for the last twenty minutes. They’re trying to wear us down, and it’s working.

Tess is calling to me. She’s wrapped in a blanket, propped up against her sister. Her face is gaunt, her eyes are hollow. It hurts me so bad to see her this way that I nearly forget what’s going on around us.

“Tess?”

“Dad, Grandma says it’s time. It’s time to make all the bad things go away.”

She pulls back a corner of tarp. I don’t know what it is, but the chaotic tangle of wires and repurposed machinery has John’s name written all over it. It’s beautiful. That’s the only way I can put it. It doesn’t make sense, but it feels important.

I’m distracted by a commotion in the water. They’re coming for us. I can see their dark eyes for the first time, and I sense no hesitation.

My hand is drawn to the small red button set on one corner of the machine. There’s an audible click as it hits home, and then the world is bathed in light.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue

 

 

The Flood – Part 19

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I’m flat on my back. There’s a trickle of warmth on my left temple, and a hint of copper on the air. The girls are screaming, but it sounds like they’re at the far end of a tunnel.

“Dad! It’s coming back!”

I feel more than hear the impact. It’s like someone hit a tree with a sledgehammer. I manage to get up on all fours in time to see the creature’s wake moving away from us.

“Oh my God, there’s another one!” I follow Zoe’s shaking hand. This one is bigger. It’s pushing hard against the current and coming right for us. I reach out for the girls, “Get in the middle. Stay down!”

The front of the boat lifts at least two feet out of the water and then slams back down. I’ve got a shoe in my face and Tess is sprawled on top of my legs. Zoe rights herself and edges toward the back of the boat. Tess picks up the journal and cradles it in one arm while brushing at the cover with her free hand. I heard the hull give that time. I scramble to get upright and cold water soaks into the knees of my pants.

I think I’ve lost track of them, until a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky and I spot them about fifty feet out. They’re moving away from each other as they come closer to the boat. Oh God, they’re flanking us. I think this is it.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue

 

 

The Flood – Part 18

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The sun is setting. At least I’m pretty sure it is. You have to pay attention to the subtle change in the colour of the clouds from day to night. The sun hasn’t broken through at all the last couple of days.

It’s been hours since the girls said a single word in my direction. Tess hasn’t even looked at me. I got mad at her earlier. She was crying, but I thought she was faking it. I didn’t realize that her tears had run out. We’re all dehydrated. I need to be more careful.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. There’s not much else to do. I’ve been wondering what we could have done differently. How we could have been better prepared. I wonder about John. I come up with scenarios where he is still safe. Where most people are safe. Maybe even Janine. The problem is I’m not a very good story teller. I am pretty good at lying to myself though.

The wind picks up. It’s warm, and there’s a hint of moisture that I’m not fond of. The clouds are shifting around us, twisting and turning in on themselves. Out of nowhere there’s a flash of lighting that hits somewhere behind the barn. The sky cracks like it’s trying to split apart. We’re all frozen, waiting for what’s next. It doesn’t come from above us though. Something hits the front of the boat hard. I reach out to stop myself from falling, but my hand slips.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue

 

 

The Flood – Part 17

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We’re out of food. Any trees that are still above water have all turned black. Even the bloody sky is wrong.  Oh, and we’re being stalked by some unseen creature that may or may not want us as a snack. Everything sucks. Every. Single. Thing. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.

I’m trying to stay as low as possible but still keep an eye on the water. So far there’s no sign of movement. This strikes me as being both good and bad. Sure, we’re not being terrorized at the moment, but there’s nothing else out there either. No Ducks, no gulls. They’re all gone.

I huddle back down in the boat and pull a blanket up to my chin. For the first time in my life I’m truly scared about not being able to keep the girls safe. Without that, what good am I?

Tess is holding the journal close. Her eyes are half closed, she’s just staring at the floor of the boat. Zoe is running her fingers along a length of rope, back and forth. She’s shaking. I can see tears forming in the corners of her eyes.

“Dad, what are we supposed to do?”

“I… I have no idea. I really don’t.”

“We have to do something. We have to at least try…”

“I don’t know! Stop it! Please!”

Zoe turns away, her hands covering her face. Tess shifts over to sit with her sister, staring me down through wet eyes. Shit…

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue

 

 

The Flood – Part 16

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We’re all hiding under bits of tarp trying to keep dry. The rain started about an hour ago, it’s a pain in the ass but thankfully it hasn’t amounted to much. Zoe’s leaned up against the side of the boat. I can’t see her eyes but judging by the rhythm of her breath she’s sleeping. Tess is somewhere under the ball of blankets to my right. I can hear her whispering, either to herself or to the journal, but can’t make out the words.

The sky is dark. There’s no wind and no noise except the steady patter of rain drops. I’m about to drift off myself when the boat shifts in the water, like something is rubbing up against the hull. It’s happened a few times before, usually a tree branch but once or twice something man-made. This feels different.

It happens again, harder this time. I realize I’m holding my breath. Zoe is jolted awake, “What the hell?” My hand is shaking as I touch my index finger against my lips. Zoe goes pale and shrinks back when she sees the look in my eyes. Tess is peeking out from under the fringe of her blankets but stays low.

There’s nothing else for what seems like an eternity. Both Tess and Zoe are watching me. I don’t want to look, but I have to know. I raise my head up. Off the bow there’s a distinct ripple on the water, and a dark shadow moving away from us.

 

*******

 

Wonder what’s going on? Start here -> The Flood – Prologue