Change of Season

The first morning rays were breaking the horizon, illuminating the scattered clouds as if the world was on fire. Lynn shielded her eyes and checked the clock on the dash for the third time in the last five minutes; Jordan was almost half an hour late now. Wishing she had hit the snooze button a few more times Lynn leaned back in her seat, nobody deserves to be woken at five o’clock on a chilly autumn morning only to be stood up.

There wasn’t much for scenery at the timeworn roadside truck stop. It was on a flat stretch of land just outside of the city. Most likely built in the fifties, the plain cinderblock building with flaking white paint held a family restaurant and a small convenience store tucked off to one side. Four tired fuel pumps sat out front of the shared entrance. In a world of marketing and brand recognition it was truly just a place to stop because you needed fuel or a quick bite to eat. Not having much else to do Lynn passed the time by speculating about the lives of the other highway travelers as they came and went.

Currently sitting at a window seat in the restaurant was an older gentleman hunched over his breakfast special. His leathery face hidden by an unkempt silver beard, tired eyes keeping watch over his Peterbilt sitting out by the exit. What if he was a poet, creating works that would rival the masters, but too insecure to share with the world? On his way back to an immaculate BMW was a well-dressed business type, a double-double in one hand and a smile on his face. What if he had just told his boss to shove it and left his nagging socialite wife the keys to their downtown apartment so he could run off and start over with his high school sweetheart? It made Lynn ponder briefly what someone would think of her, a young woman sitting impatiently behind the wheel of her little Mazda, a stone’s throw from the middle of nowhere.

Lynn had recently accepted a job at Hemmett Supply Co. as support for the out of town sales group. It was grunt work but for the most part she enjoyed it, and with one exception everything was going well. Lynn’s first solo project was a proposal for a newly acquired customer. Due to incorrect information submitted by one of their vendors Hemmett lost the bid. Lynn’s boss, John, was upset but understanding. Jordan on the other hand, who had championed the account, was furious. He screamed at her over the phone for almost five minutes straight. Lynn felt terrible about the situation but there was no way to fix it. After a couple of weeks things seemed to get back to normal though, to the point recently where Jordan had insisted on Lynn coming out for a ride along. John thought it was a good way to “mend some fences”. How could she disagree?

Any hope of escaping the day’s adventure vanished as Jordan’s Acura barreled into the parking lot at a reckless velocity. Lynn exited her car and locked the doors as he pulled up beside.

“Hey buddy!” Jordan called from his open window.

“Hi Jordan.”

“You ready to go? Big day ahead of us, I’m really excited to have you out here!”

“Happy to be here.” Lynn said with a forced smile. Excited was definitely not the word she would have used.

Lynn opened the passenger door of the RDX, dropped her laptop bag in the foot well and her water bottle into the door pocket. The cold leather seat creaked as she sat down and buckled up. Even with the window down the aroma of last night’s intoxication still lingered. The oversized sunglasses Jordan wore concealed them but Lynn could imagine heavy lids with blood shot eyes beneath. Immediately Jordan accelerated out of the parking lot and on to the highway.

“Big day! Thanks again for coming out, been waiting a long time for this. Here, I got you a coffee.”

Jordan grabbed a to-go cup from the center console and forced it into Lynn’s hand. Not wanting to be rude she took a swig. The coffee was bitter and had a strange aftertaste but Lynn did her best to hide any misgivings.

“Do you like it? It’s my special blend.” Jordan said.

“Nice.” Lynn said, not wanting to cause any undue tension.

Even on a good day Jordan made her feel uneasy. While she hoped it was just the hangover there was something different about him today, something that didn’t bode well.

As they drove on Jordan explained who they would be seeing and what issues might be brought up. They briefly discussed office politics but it was mostly Jordan complaining about how terrible everyone was. After a short time they ran out of things to say so instead sat quietly as the landscape rolled past.

The sun was creeping higher in the sky, flashing in and out of view between the trees that lined the road; Aspen’s with their changing leaves signaling the new season, slender Pine trees pointing tall towards the heavens. Lynn was watching the tree line, hoping to see some of the local wildlife, when Jordan broke the silence.

“So what made you come out here anyway? You’re from the coast right?”

“Most recently, but that’s not really where I’m from. I like to move around, experience different cities and their culture.”

“You’re not running from anything are you?”

“No. Just trying to find myself I guess…”

Lynn paused, suddenly feeling light headed. She shook her head gently and blinked a few times, trying to drive the sensation away.

“Just in time.” Jordan said with a satisfied grin.

Lynn’s vision began to blur. She tried to move or speak but her body refused to respond. Without warning the car quickly slowed and made a sharp right hand turn. As everything went black the only sound to be heard was of car tires on a gravel road.

Lynn forced her eyes open, trying to focus. The room was cold and dimly lit. She was laying on a tarp which covered an unforgiving wood floor. Her coat and boots had been removed, her hands tied behind her back and legs bound at the ankles. The rope was coarse and tightly wrapped, the pressure was uncomfortable. Immediately in front of her was a worn leather recliner and next to it an old lamp with a large Bear figure at the base situated on top of a simple looking end table. There was a window above the recliner but it was obscured by plastic and faded curtains which gave only an impression of the trees beyond swaying in the breeze.

Lynn began to shiver, her breath ragged. Trying to get herself under control she became aware of someone, or something, rustling around just out of sight. Suddenly Jordan ambled in front of her with a brief look back, checking for signs of life. Lynn’s first instinct was to shut her eyes, to buy some time, but instead she quietly held Jordan’s gaze.

“Oh good, you’re awake. Can I get you anything? Another coffee maybe?” Jordan laughed low and continued on his way.  “That was rhetorical by the way.”

“You’re making a mistake.” Lynn said.

“Shut your mouth. I know what I’m doing.”

Fumbling to attach a sheathed hunting knife to his belt, Jordan came back to Lynn and knelt down inches from her face.

“Let me explain something to you. Things are hard out here. My customers are struggling to stay in business which means more pressure on me. I bust my ass twelve to fourteen hours a day just to keep up. And then to top it all off, I get people like you coming in and making the whole situation that much worse!”

Lynn turned from his harsh gaze, “I’m sorry. It was a stupid mistake.”

“Shut up!” Jordan roared, standing once again. “You’re useless! A waste of space! It’ll be the last time you cause trouble for me though.”

As Jordan moved back across the room Lynn swiveled her head to follow his path, he stopped in front of a large metal cabinet and threw the doors open. Straining to see the contents of the cabinet it became clear to Lynn how serious of a situation she was in. Assortments of rope, chemical containers, and tools were stacked inside. The tools were ugly, implements of torture no doubt built with purpose by Jordan himself.

Lynn started sobbing quietly, she pleaded with Jordan. “Please untie me. I promise I won’t fight. Please…”

Jordan paused for a moment, then turned to Lynn with an unpleasant smile and said “Maybe… Yeah, maybe I will untie you. That could be even more fun.”

Jordan unsheathed the hunting knife and knelt down to cut the ropes from Lynn’s wrists and ankles. Lynn flinched and a whimper escaped her lips.

“Oh I’m sorry, did I get you a little there?”

Jordan returned the knife to it’s sheath and moved back to the cabinet. He began whistling an unusually chipper tune as he gathered items in preparation for what was to come.

Suddenly there was a dull thud followed quickly by throbbing pain and vision awash with stars. Jordan fell to his knees, right hand covering his cracked skull, blood seeping between his fingers. With his left he fumbled for purchase on one of the cabinet shelves to stop from collapsing completely but only succeeded in scattering most of the shelves contents aimlessly on the floor.

Lynn dropped the heavy cast Bear lamp, now bloodied, bits of scalp and hair sticking to it like a grotesque fungus. With Jordan crumpled on the floor, barely conscious, she bent down to grab the hunting knife from his belt.

Lynn stood back and scanned the room. It appeared to be a small log cabin; rustic might have been the word if the situation was different. To the right of the recliner and now empty end table was a small room, door slightly ajar, an old army surplus cot and some discarded clothing on the floor. Beside the room was a makeshift kitchen. On the crudely built countertop sat an old camp stove along with a few well used cast iron pans and cooking utensils. Empty whisky bottles were piled up in the corner. A large water container mounted to the wall had a hose hanging down into an enamel basin. Just off of the kitchen sat a compact table and single wooden chair with Lynn’s coat draped over the back. As she moved toward it she was abruptly pitched forward by Jordan as he fell into her, arms around her waist.

“Bitch…” Jordan said.

Lynn screamed. Struggling to remain upright she swiveled quickly and plunged the hunting knife into his upper back. Jordan cried out in agony and dropped to his knees. Lynn immediately followed up with a powerful kick to the groin, as Jordan folded to the floor he exhaled sharply and then was still. Grabbing the lengths of discarded rope Lynn quickly bound his hands and legs to ensure there would be no more surprises.

Exhausted, Lynn staggered to the kitchen chair and sat, watching Jordan while she caught her breath. After a moment she leaned forward and pulled her coat onto her lap. Digging in the front right pocket she quickly retrieved her cell phone. A single bar on the service indicator danced in and out of view so she took a chance and dialed, after a short pause it began to ring.

“John speaking.”

“Hi John, it’s Lynn. Listen, I’ve been trying for almost two hours now to get ahold of Jordan and I haven’t been able to get through, cell reception is brutal out here so I’d like to make my way back if that’s all right with you, maybe work from home for the rest of the day.”

“Jesus. Lynn I’m really sorry, I’ll touch base with him and find out what the hell is going on. I know he’s had a lot of pressure on him lately but that’s no excuse to leave you stranded. I appreciate you making the effort, head home and we can talk in the morning.”

“Thanks John, I appreciate it.”

With that the phone fell silent. Lynn walked back beside Jordan and knelt down in much the same way he had only moments before.

“Well Jordan, I’m sure this didn’t turn out quite the way you expected, did it? You made the whole process too personal and that made you reckless. I don’t know where your anger comes from, but it was your downfall.”

Lynn put the exposed tip of the hunting knife to Jordan’s side, he recoiled slightly but gave no response save for a low groan.

“On the other hand I am anything but reckless. I learned from the best and was a very keen student. They’re never going to find your body Jordan, soon enough your feeble existence will all but be forgotten.”

Lynn stood and surveyed the cabin once more, taking inventory of anything that would prove useful for the task ahead.

“Well, guess I’d better get to work.”

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People Change – An Experiment

People change.
They leave and they come and they go.

People change.
They aren’t the same as they were yesterday.

People change.
They have good days. They experience kindness, and know small steps lead to amazing things. The world is beautiful.

People change.
They have bad days. They get hurt and turn inward. They believe stories that speak to their fears. The world is full of darkness.

People change.
They use perceived slights to feed the hatred growing inside. They build walls. They think something is being taken from them by people who don’t look the way they do. They refuse to see what they have taken away from others.

People change.
They see sadness in someone else’s eyes, and it stays with them. They see injustice, and they know it’s not how things should be.

People change.
They know the road is long, that sometimes you rest, but you don’t have to quit. They choose not to be afraid.

People change.
They aren’t the same as they were yesterday.

People change.
They leave and they come and they go.

 

 

*******

 

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

 

Reddit Writing Prompt – Immortal (For Sarah)

The prompt,

You’re one of the universe’s few immortals. You’ve witnessed stars forming, studied life on remote planets, and seen the evolution of numerous sentient life forms. Today you were laid off after working at McDonald’s for twelve years.

*******

“What the hell happened?”

“No idea. Mark pulled me into his office and blabbered on for, like, twenty minutes, and then he’s just like, you’re fired.”

“Son of a bitch.”

“Right?” Kipp leaned back against the driver’s door of his Chevy Cobalt. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from the inside pocket of his jacket, “I just, I don’t know what to say.”

Pash crossed her arms and sneered, “You know, I bet it was Cynthia. She’s had it out for you forever.”

“Cynthia? Really? So twelve years is down the tubes because I wouldn’t make out with her at the Christmas party last year?” Kipp dug a lighter out of his front pants pocket and lit the cigarette.

“Christmas party? Isn’t she like eighty years old?”

“She’s only sixty three Pash,” Kipp half closed one eye and gazed off into the distance, “We connected on some really weird level.”

Pash’s lips were in a thin, tight line as she watched Kipp.

“Hey, she was hot when she was younger. You get a sense for these things after a while.”

“Wait, did you say twelve years?”

Kipp took a long drag from the cigarette, “I don’t even know why I’m upset. Shit, the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done, and after twelve years I couldn’t do any better than a bloody fry cook?”

Pash looked Kipp up and down, “Seriously dude, how old are you?”

“I don’t know that I’ll ever understand this place. I didn’t know there was such a thing as being petty before I came here.”

“I was like, not even in kindergarten twelve years ago…”

“What’s the saying? Something about a train wreck, or a car accident maybe. You can’t look away. That’s me I guess, I didn’t look away, so here I am.”

“But you don’t look…”

“Even that shithole out on the edge of the Cygnus Arm, bag of dicks those guys, but at least they didn’t pursue extinction on a daily basis.”

“What the hell’s a signus arm?”

“I mean honestly,” Kipp exhaled a stream of smoke through pinched lips, “I’ve seen balls of slime that were more supportive of each other.”

Pash’s eyes were wide, focused on the pavement in front of Kipp.

“No really, slime balls. That was out past, what the hell was it called? I think it was in the Columba Supercluster anyway. Granted they had the collective acumen of paste, but they were good to each other,” Kipp looked toward the sky and smiled to himself, “Anyway, if I was waiting for a sign, I’m pretty sure this is it.”

He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. He pulled cards out one by one and let them spin to the pavement. He palmed the last, it was brightly coloured and covered in strange writing. He removed a small stack of bills and held them out, “Here, take it. You’re a good kid Pash, and I sure as hell won’t be needing it anymore.”

Pash stared at Kipp, her mouth slack. Slowly she reached out and grabbed the money.

“Alright, stay cool, or whatever the hell it is you kids say these days,” Kipp dropped his empty wallet to the pavement and then lifted the card in front of his face. He drew the tip of his index finger along a metallic strip on the edge. There was a faint pop, and then a distinct absence of Kipp.

Pash licked at her lips, looked to her left, and then to her right. She folded the bills and slipped them into her pocket, and then lifted the visor cap from her head and smoothed out her dark hair, “I think I need a day off.”

*******

This is for my friend Sarah who said I should check out the Reddit Writing Prompts, and then for days hounded me nearly to death to see if I had written anything. Okay, so she actually only asked me once in passing. It’s nice to try something different once in awhile, even if it makes you realize that you’re getting old and have no idea how young people talk to each other. Anyway, here’s the Reddit link in case you want to see some of the other responses.

 

unsplash-logoMohdammed Ali

99 Words #26 – The Raven

“Anything?”

“No.”

Sean squinted and rubbed at his earlobe, “I thought you said they’d be here soon?”

“Yes. Soon.”

“But, you said that, like, twenty minutes ago. And twenty minutes before that.”

Torben focused a dark eye on Sean.

“Soon. Got it.” Sean looked back past the ridge, and over the clutch of snow tipped Spruce trees, “It’s just, I need to know they’re alright.”

Torben turned. He stretched out his neck and shifted on his feet, “It’s time.” He spread his wings and launched into the air, feathers shining like obsidian in the light of the rising sun.

*******

unsplash-logoDean Truderung

Inspire Your Audience

I wanted to share something important for my 100th post, and this is immediately what came to mind. It was written as my tenth speech for Toastmasters, the project was to “Inspire Your Audience”, and I chose to do so by highlighting three quotes. It was one of the hardest projects I’ve done to date, not necessarily because of the subject matter, but because I wanted to do it justice. I hope it brings you some inspiration, or motivation as the case may be.

 

*******

You Are Dying

This is the opening line of a spoken word piece by Shane Koyczan called “Pinned to the Dish.” In this he speaks about regrets and missed opportunities. He asks,

What Are You Waiting For

It’s easy for us to resist change even though our current path leads to all kinds of unproductive situations. We make excuses because we’re afraid. We say things like, I’m not good enough. I don’t have time. Or it’s too late, I’m too old. Well, the first two are easy, you are, and you will if you make it a priority. The last one I struggle with, because I often hear it from people who are far too young to have anything to complain about. And so, in response I offer you quote #1.

It's Never Too Late

I like this one a lot, but the problem is that George Eliot didn’t say it. It actually comes from a passage in “The Ghost in the Picture Room” written in 1859 by Adelaide Anne Procter,

 

No star is ever lost we once have seen,

We always may be what we might have been.

 

What I’m learning lately is that for many the most productive and rewarding years of their life aren’t until much further down the line. In fact, there are people all around us who have changed direction late in life and had a huge impact. George Eliot didn’t write quote #1 but was in fact a renowned author. She didn’t publish her first novel until the age of 40. I said she, because George Eliot was the pen name for Mary Anne Evans.

1200px-George_Eliot_at_30_by_François_D'Albert_Durade

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I shouldn’t have to explain why a woman might want to adopt a male pen name in the late 1800’s, or today for that matter, but what I like to take away from this is that she wanted to write, and she found a way.

 

 

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Link to image

Annie Proulx is the author of five novels, including The Shipping News and Postcards. You may be more familiar with a short story she wrote that was later turned into an Academy Award winning movie called Brokeback Mountain. This past November, at the age of 82, she won a National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. This was amusing to her as she didn’t start writing fiction until she was 58.

 

 

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Link to image

This is Charles Bradley, also known as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”. He was 62 years old when he released his first studio album, “No Time For Dreaming”. It was named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 50 albums of 2011. The follow up, “Victim of Love” came out in 2013. “Changes” was released in 2016. That same year, in October, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He fought hard and it was thought to have gone in to remission, but on September 6, 2017 he announced that he was cancelling all upcoming tour dates to focus on treatment as it had moved to his liver. 17 days later he passed away at the age of 68.

Welcome to quote #2,

The Problem Is

According to the internet this comes from the teachings of Buddha, but it’s actually based on a much longer passage in the third book of the Don Juan series, Journey to Ixtlan.

There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time … If you don’t think your life is going to last forever, what are you waiting for? Why the hesitation to change?

 

 

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This is my mother in-law, Jane Arams. In September of 2014, just before her 62nd birthday, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastic Colon Cancer. She passed away in July of 2016. I had never experienced a loss like this before, but watching a life that was once so vibrant, diminish as it did, made me realize how much I take for granted every day.

Shortly before she passed, I found out that she had always wanted to see the Penguins at the Calgary Zoo, but didn’t get the chance. At that point she had been admitted to a palliative care facility and there was no turning back. It was something so small, but it still sticks with me today. Never mind that she won’t see her grandchildren grow, or get to experience retirement, even though she hadn’t needed to work for a number of years. It opened my eyes to all that I don’t make time for, or that I set aside, waiting for “one day”.

None of us lives forever, but some small hope comes in the form of quote #3, and the closing line of “Pinned to the Dish”,

Don't Panic

I have struggled over the past few years with putting perceived obligations to work and to my family ahead of my own needs. I resisted steps to change because I didn’t want to let certain people down, but the fact is, by playing small and setting aside my hopes and dreams, I was in fact letting everyone down, most importantly myself. The way I look at it, life is like an emergency situation on an airplane in that you need to put your own mask on first. By taking care of yourself, by being happy and living your best life, you are giving everyone around you permission to do the same. With this realization in mind I decided to take some very small steps in a new direction.

This pile of paper (you’ll have to use your imagination here) represents 47,000 words of my first novel. I have a plan in place to self publish this, and a collection of short stories before the end of the year. I’m generally pretty hard on myself, but it’s a fact I am not extraordinary. If I can do this then anyone can. And so I ask all of you,

What Are You Waiting ForWhat can you do in the next thirty days to begin the journey to fulfilling your dreams? There’s still time. Don’t wait any longer.

Thank you.

 

99 Words #25 – Boots

marcus-cramer-426515

“Get the gun outta my face!”

“I said gimme your boots man…”

His hair was soaked with sweat. One eye was almost swollen shut. The cuffs of his jeans were damp. There was a ragged hole at his thigh with a ring of crimson soaking into the material and trailing down his leg. His feet were scratched and raw at the soles. The pinky toe on his left foot was missing the nail.

“Listen, I don’t want any trouble.”

The man steadied the revolver and pulled the hammer back, “Take ‘em off and walk away, won’t be no trouble.”

 

*******

unsplash-logoMarcus Cramer

Written in response to Carrot Ranch Communication’s January 18, 2018 Flash Fiction Writing Challenge prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots.

January 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

 

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

Mary, Part 3

Mary3c

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

Mary2

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

Mary1b

 

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