Chocolate

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The aftermath of dinner service covered every available flat surface. Saute pans had been stacked up on one side of the range top. Smoke from the broiler billowed and twisted under the harsh fluorescent hood lights, the temperature maxed to burn off bits of meat and fat.

Sam piled up empty containers and food stained utensils to move them to the dish pit. On the way back he slipped on the red clay tile floor where a bowl of soup had been dropped and not cleaned up properly. Sam stretched an arm out, looking for purchase, but only managed to bump the faucet on the bain-marie as he crashed down to his knees.

He stood with a groan, pushed the faucet back, then swore to himself. Chef was warming chocolate for the dessert course. The bowl was now half full with water. Sam swore to himself again. It was ruined. He wiped his hands on his apron, then ran to the back storage room to find more.

 

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Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

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This started as a prompt from a writing group that I attend put on by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. We were asked to write down ten things about chocolate. I did, but also had a scene come to mind from my previous life as a chef, so I used it to write this piece. Another aspect to the prompt was a scene building map, this is something I’m going to go into more later, but I can see how it helped bring this to life and I’ve added it to my writers toolbox.

Now to some not so good news. I hate breaking promises, but unfortunately I will have to today. The plan was to have my new website ready to launch this week, but it’s just not there yet. For the sake of what I have going on in my life at the moment, like finishing William for the CBC Short Story Prize, developing the first of a series of three books we’re launching in the spring, and that I am likely starting a new job next week, I am pushing the launch back to November 1, 2019. This is a big deal for me, and I want to do it right. I’ll also be relaunching my social media presence, or maybe just having more of a focus on it, and I’ll have details on a new collection of short stories that you can get for free in December. So, long story short, the freight train isn’t really slowing down, the journey takes a little longer to complete sometimes than you think.

Speaking of social media, in case you didn’t know, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Maybe see you there?

 

William

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William rocked forward in his seat as the horse’s footfalls slowed and the streetcar came to a stop. He lowered himself down to the dirt road and waited. When the streetcar pulled away, he shuffled across Yonge Street and headed east along Upper Gerrard.

With the noise and confusion far behind him, William slowed his pace. He focused on the rows of narrow brick houses. Some had their curtains drawn, others let in what dreary daylight was available. One had the window glass on the main level pushed open, letting the smell of cooking vegetables waft down the street.

William left the sidewalk and limped up to one of the brown painted doors. He leaned a hand against the frame and looked to the window beside. An old woman sat in a plain chair with a pressed wood back. She worked two knitting needles in slow and precise movements. William faced forward and lifted a key from his pocket. He set it in the lock, turned it, and pushed the door open.

He stopped in the doorway of the parlour and removed his hat. His landlady set her knitting on her lap and looked up over the frames of her glasses.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Doyle.”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Summerhayes.”

“I trust your journey was successful?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Your leg acting up again?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Mrs. Summerhayes pursed her lips and returned to her task. William turned, reached out for the banister, and eased himself down the stairs to his room.

 

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Image by Verone Solilo

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William was my response piece from this years Voice & Vision collaboration. 15 artists and 15 writers are paired together and tasked to create something unique based on each other’s work. You can learn more about my contribution and a lot of other amazing artists and writers here.

I was very fortunate to be paired with Verone Solilo this year, when I saw her piece, Victorian Row, I fell in love instantly. You can see more of Verone’s work here, I look forward to seeing Victorian Row hanging on my wall very soon.

I had more to share with William’s story, so I’m developing a larger piece to submit to this year’s CBC Short Story Prize. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Life has been busy this week, and on top of it I’ve got a bit of a cold slowing me down. That means all the exciting news I have for you gets pushed back another week. Only one more week though, I promise. Stay tuned!

 

99 Words #33 – The Safebreaker’s Daughter

Her daddy worked with the Overton crew. Best safecracker on the west coast is what they said. It was like a magic trick. He did it all by feel. Never left a mark.

She worked the same way, except it wasn’t money she was after. When she’d touch you, it would last just long enough. She’d look at you, and you’d forget about anything else. Before you realised what happened, it’d be too late.

Her daddy always told her that if you’re gonna do something, do it right. What she knew how to do, was break a man’s heart.

 

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This piece is in response to the August 29 Flash Fiction Challenge from The Carrot Ranch.

August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

August 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Photo by Gabriel Wasylko on Unsplash

 

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 26

“Drop your weapon and put your hands in the air!”

Sonja lowered her gun. She looked from Mark to Christopher. The flashing lights and shouting disoriented her. Thoughts of what her future looked like ran through her mind and tears formed in her eyes. Sonja let out a sharp breath and then raised her gun toward the flashing lights. Three sharp pops sounded over the melee, and Sonja fell to the ground.

 

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Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 22

Mark sat on a bus bench with a wood slat seat and a billboard for a back. He was beside a smiling realtor’s face that someone had drawn a curled moustache and soul patch on. He shifted forward with his elbows on his knees. The flash drive twisted in his hands as he flipped it open and closed. It was bright blue with a silver cover, and had a logo on the front that Mark didn’t recognize.

A cold wind pushed against his face. He squinted and looked up into what was left of the day’s light, then checked his watch. It showed ten minutes past nine. Mark pulled at his collar and sighed. The cold was one thing, but the hint of rain in the air bothered him most of all.

Mark heard tires on the gravel laneway, and then headlights swept across the parking lot and the bench where he was sitting. The car stopped a few metres away. The driver’s door opened, and a silhouette stepped out. The low rumble of the engine did not cease.

The silhouette walked forward. When it moved in the path of the headlights, Mark could see it was Detective Kohli. Her face was masked in shadows, but Mark thought that she looked tired, or nervous. It was something he could relate to.

“Hello, Mr. Odera.”

“Hi,” Mark said.

“Do you have the flash drive?”

“Yeah, of course.” Mark held up the drive by the key ring.

Detective Kohli held out her hand.

Mark stood and stepped toward her. “I hope this will do some good.” He set the flash drive in the detective’s hand.

“Thank you, Mr. Odera. It will do more good than you know.”

Mark looked over to the second car door when it opened. Another silhouette walked out into the light. Christopher had his hands in his pants pockets, and a wide smile on his face. Mark turned toward Detective Kohli and froze. She had her pistol sighted between his eyes.

Christopher raised the flat of his hand. “Wait,” he pointed toward Mark, “I have an idea.”

 

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Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 20

A smile spread across Sonja’s face. “Perfect. I will text you the details.” She locked eyes with Christopher. “Thank you, Mr. Odera.”

Christopher leaned forward with one elbow on the table. “Tell me that’s exactly what I hope it is.”

Sonja reached out and ran the tips of her fingers down Christopher’s face. “Then let me make all of your dreams come true.” She closed her eyes and leaned in for a kiss.

 

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Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 18

Christopher sat in the wrought iron bistro chair with his back straight, and his legs crossed. The lines of his fitted, grey suit were crisp. One polished leather loafer bounced ever so slightly. He faced out to the sidewalk but did not appear to pay much attention to the people walking back and forth. Even if he had, it would have been impossible to tell through the dark lenses of his sunglasses.

Christopher didn’t turn when the seat on the other side of the table pulled out and the person he was waiting for sat down. Instead he lifted his mug from the table and took a sip.

“Mr. Marston.”

“My dear Sonja, why the formality?”

“You shouldn’t have gone to the funeral.”

Christopher turned his head further away. “It’s not a big deal. I just wanted to see how they would react.”

“If they knew anything at all you could have ruined it all right then and there.”

“It’s fine.”

Sonja sighed and rolled her large, hazel eyes. She looked away and tucked a stray wisp of light brown hair behind her ear. 

Christopher smiled. “It was… exhilarating. Being that close to them. Looking in their eyes.”

“It was stupid.”

“Whatever.”

They both stared straight ahead. Christopher kept one hand on the mug. Sonja crossed her arms and tapped at her bicep with a short cut fingernail.

“Have you booked the tickets?” Sonja said.

“Of course. I told you.”

“You keep saying that, but I haven’t seen the proof.”

“Would you like me to wave them around and present them to you with fanfare or a string quartet?”

“Of course not.”

“Then don’t worry. We leave tomorrow night.”

“Good.”

“What about the gun?” Christopher said.

Sonja’s face lost all expression. She looked to the eyes of each person walking by. “What about it?”

“Did they find it?”

“Yes. Two days ago.”

“And the prints?”

“Only hers.”

Christopher smiled. “Excellent.”

“Don’t be too proud of yourself, we’re not done with this yet.”

Sonja leaned forward and pulled her buzzing phone from her pocket. She glanced at the number, and then answered the call. “Detective Kohli speaking.”

 

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Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 17

Mark sat at his kitchen table with the binder closed in front of him. His phone was beside it to the right. The screen was dark.

He ran a hand over the cover of the binder. It was shiny and smooth where it hadn’t been doodled on. It smelled of plastic like those little dolls that Liz used to play with. Mark let out a deep breath and pulled the zipper along the edges. The spine creaked when he drew the cover open.

It was filled with lined paper that had yellowed at the edges. Mark flipped through but it was all from when Liz was a kid, mostly quick sketches and notes about boys she liked. Some girls too, he noticed for the first time. At the back was a plastic folder with three pockets. In one was a woven bracelet and three pennies. The second was empty. The third had been coloured over with pencil crayon. It bulged in the middle. Mark lifted the flap and fished around inside. He took out a flash drive and held it in the flat of his hand.

Mark watched it for a moment, unsure what to do. He looked across the room, closed his fingers around it, then stood and walked to the living room.

Mark sat down on the couch. With his free hand he lifted his laptop from the side table and set it down on his knees. He pushed the lid open and stuck the flash drive into one of the USB ports. When the computer woke up and the window opened, he slid his finger along the track pad and clicked on the only file folder. Mark scrolled through and opened each file and picture. With the audio files he only listened to the first few seconds. He was not sure what they meant but got the feeling it wasn’t good. After he had opened all of the files, Mark closed the lid of his laptop and stared at the wall.

 

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Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 15

Mark sat with his hands on his lap. He looked around the bright apartment. It was like something out of a design magazine. Clean and modern, with the right amount of kitsch.

Poppy came into the room, set a mug down in front of Mark, and another at her own spot at the table. She sat down and wrapped her hands around the mug. “She really didn’t talk about us?”

“Maybe, I mean, she didn’t come right out and say anything. Or I didn’t pay attention.” Mark sat up straight. “Not that she would have been trying to hide anything, I’m sure. I hope it wasn’t because she thought I would have a problem with it. She was just Liz, you know? Things were the way they were. It wasn’t something to make a big deal of.”

Poppy smiled and her chin quivered. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“Plus, as sad as it is to say, we haven’t talked a lot lately. I’ve been busy with work, and…”

Poppy reached out and set her hand over Mark’s. “Don’t you dare blame yourself for the distance. She could have done better too.”

“Yeah, well, we both could have I guess.”

“You’re not alone. Everyone struggles with it.”

“Does that make it better?”

Poppy shrugged. “No, but sometimes it’s easier when you know you’re not alone.”

“I suppose so.” Mark took a sip from the mug. The coffee was strong but had just the right amount of sweetness. “Things were, I don’t know, good with you guys?”

Poppy smiled. “They couldn’t have been better. She really was amazing. We had even talked about getting married. One day, anyway.”

“Wow, I had no idea things were that serious. I mean…”

Poppy held a hand up. “It’s okay, Mark, really.”

Mark frowned and watched his hands. “That kind of connection, it’s special. I’m sorry things turned out the way they have.”

Poppy wiped away a tear at the corner of her eye. “Me too.”

“This is a stupid question, but you knew her better than me, I guess. What they’re saying, about the money, and the…”

“It’s not true. None of it. The Liz I knew could never be capable of the things they’re saying,” Poppy said.

“Good. I mean, me neither. It’s just that I see the things they’re saying on the news, and I get confused.”

Poppy nodded.

“Sorry, we don’t need to talk about it.”

“It’s okay.”

They sat in silence for a time, staring at the table and sipping their coffees.    

“Listen,” Mark said. “I know this is a weird question, but did Liz have an old binder with a bunch of flowers and doodles on it? She had it since we were kids. I… I thought about it the other day. I’m not sure why.”

Poppy twisted her lips and looked up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I think it’s upstairs. Did you want to see it?”

Mark stammered at first. “Yeah. If I could, that would be great.”

 

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Image by Kaleigh Kanary