Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunkering Down

      I have been a neglectful blogger lately. Life has seemed busier than usual this fall. So today I'm feeling grateful for Hurricane Sandy for forcing me to slow down for a bit. The boys are home from school and we're all cramming in some extra time on our favorite electronic gadgets before the inevitable power outages. So I thought I'd catch you up a bit on what my little clan has been up to lately.
      Saturday was the last soccer game of the season. It was a picture perfect New England autumn day and I was feeling a little sentimental. I even wrote a poem on my Iphone while I was watching the game. I'm not much of a poet so here goes...


I wish I was a photographer.

I could capture the last of the crimson leaves clinging to oak and maple.

I could capture the way the dew looks like diamonds as it springs off a swiftly kicked soccer ball.

I could capture how the players' breath steams in the cool October air.

I could capture the rainbow of players united in love for the game.

Alas, I am a writer.

      But clearly, I am not a poet. Anyway, both boys won their last games. It was particularly nice for Owen since it was the first game his team won this season. The players were pretty good as individuals, but it took them a while to get the hang of playing as a team. Every kid gets a medal for participation (go ahead and make your commentaries about that), but there are two additional awards that are given to specific kids—one for “most improved” and one for “good sportsmanship”. Guess who's a good sport? I'm really proud of this:
My good sport.
      Fall also means that Cub Scouts are in full swing. Our local Boy Scout Council organized a huge event along the Charles River. There was CPR training, snow shoe relay races, shelter building, a zombie themed obstacle course, a ropes course, and so much more. But the highlight of the day was the world record breaking longest derby car track in the world. It was built to look like one of our favorite Boston landmarks, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.

Pretty cool, eh?

      As you know, Halloween is fast approaching. Owen told me he wanted to be a knight so we Googled some images to get ideas for his costume. He found this drawing....

No pressure. Really.

        I had a bolt of inspiration one day in Walmart (now that's a phrase you don't hear every day!)  when I came upon this solar auto-shade in a bin of random clearance merchandise.
       With the help of some florist wire, a paper plate and some duct tape, I turned it into a helmet, bracers, and boot covers. I made his cloak, tabard and scabbard from leftover curtain fabric and some scraps of felt. An old belt of mine and Owen's wooden sword completed his ensemble. This project made me feel like the McGyver of costuming. 

Not bad, eh?

      Finally, our theatrical world has been indirectly taking up my time. Hubby and I have to take turns doing shows so the kids will be properly fed and cared for. He just wrapped up an excellent production of Deathtrap. A local review called him “hunky”. Who am I to argue? So next is my turn for something theatrical. In a couple of weeks, auditions begin for a production of Moon Over Buffalo that I'm directing. It's a madcap farce about a troupe of actors.
       Meanwhile we're all hunkering down waiting for Sandy. We're ready though. We've put away or secured everything outside. We all took nice long hot showers this morning in case we don't have hot water. We've stocked up on batteries, flashlights, candles, and non-perishable food. Most importantly, we have enough red wine and Halloween candy to last for a week. See you soon Sandy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Broken but Getting Better

            I finished the chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we were reading and said goodnight to my eight-year-old son James. We hugged a little longer than usual. Our fifteen year-old cat Sammy died in his sleep the day before. It wasn’t unexpected, but we were all feeling a little extra emotional.
            A few minutes later while I was trolling Facebook and Twitter working in my office I heard him crying quietly. Of all of us, James took Sammy’s death the hardest. At first, I decided to let him try to work it through on his own. But after a few minutes his cries only became louder. I went into his room, crawled into his bed and held him tightly. Sobs shook his little body as he clutched a picture of Sammy to his heart. “I would do anything to have him back! Why did he have to die?” he cried.
            I had no words to mend his broken heart. For years, James brought Sammy with him when it was time for bed. Unusually patient for a cat, Sammy would purr while James brushed his teeth, clutching Sammy his shoulder like a baby. I held James tightly and rubbed his back. I started to cry, not from grief but from feeling helpless to make James feel better. He continued to keen until it was time for his older brother to get ready for bed. I called down the stairs and told Owen brush his teeth.
            He came into the bedroom and looked at James.
            “Did one of his fish die?” Owen asked.
We have a tankful of guppies that multiply and die pretty regularly.
            “No. He’s still sad about Sammy.”
            “Oh,” he said looking thoughtful. “James, would you like me to say a prayer?”
            His question didn’t take me by surprise nearly as much as the slowing of James’ sobs and his nod of ascent.
            Owen knelt upon the bed. In one hand was the Celtic cross I gave him for his first communion. In the other hand, he held a sword-shaped “amulet of protection” he bought at a renaissance festival.
            “Dear Lord,” he began, his head raised up toward the heavens. “Please watch over Sammy and Rusty in Heaven. Please watch over Grampy and Aunt Donna. Please watch over Thor and Rust and...”
            “Darth,” James added thinking of another citizen of his fish tank whose life was cut short.
            “Yeah, Darth,” Owen said. “And please watch over all the fish we never named. Especially the babies that got eaten by their moms...”
            Owen looked at me to see if he had said the wrong thing. I couldn’t hold it in. I laughed out loud. Then he and James joined me. In the space of a moment we went from heartbreaking sobs to an uncontrollable giggles. In this life there is good stuff and bad stuff. If you can find a way to laugh in the face of the bad stuff, you won’t stay broken for long.

Mama’s Losin’ It

            I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. This week’s prompt was to answer the question, "What's broken?"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trifecta Challenge: Death Takes a Nap

            This may have been one of the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story.  This week’s Trifecta challenge was to write in 33-333 words about the personification of Death. The idea came to me while lying on the chiropractor's table staring at a model of a human spine. It is the first story I’ve ever written that casts my real self in a fictional situation at my real life job selling mattresses. Everyone needs a comfy place to sleep. Everyone.

Death Takes a Nap

            Gooseflesh rippled across my skin at the sight of the tall black figure
            “Oh God. Not yet,” I whispered.
            “Don’t worry Victoria. It isn’t your time,” he said. “I’m here for a new mattress.”
            I expected his voice to be a raspy baritone like Clint Eastwood. Instead, Death sounded a little like Elton John.
            “A what?” I asked stupidly.
            “A mattress. I’m not sleeping well lately.”
            “Work stress?”
            “No my dear. I am content with my occupation. I would sleep, ‘the sleep of the just’ as they say if only I had a decent mattress. I’ve been sleeping on a pallet of straw. It’s probably a hundred years old.”
            “You’re probably the first customer to tell me that and mean it literally.”
            “I always speak literally. Occupational hazard.”
There was an awkward silence and I forced myself to think of him as just another customer.
            “Do you sleep on your back or your side?’
            “Do you get hot or cold at night?”
            “I’m always cold,” he said sounding weary.
            “Give this a try. It’s a plush memory foam pillowtop.”
            “Wouldn’t firm be better for my back?”
            “Not necessarily. A heavier person who sleeps on his back would need something firm. But since you sleep on your side and you’re...” I paused to think of the right word. “Slim. A softer mattress will offer you better support.”
            “Fascinating. Would you mind?” he asked, handing me his scythe and climbing onto the bed.
I looked around and realized the mattress department was deserted
            “There is an energy keeping everyone out of this area while I’m here.”
            “Will I remember this happening?”
            “I’m sure you’ll never forget it. You know, I’ve never laid on something so comfortable. You have done me a great service Victoria.”
            “Maybe you’ll return the favor some day,” I said handing him back his scythe.
            “I do believe it will be quite some time before I see you again,” he said with what might have been a smile.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

100 Word Song: Lying

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

            I’m linking up this week with 100 Word Song. This week’s inspirational tune was “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. I’m picking up with the story of Henry and Karen. You can check out their previous moment here and the rest of their story here.

            Henry stared at the ceiling, knowing  this mistake would haunt him forever. This internship was a bribe from his father. It was too good to pass up. Now loneliness was the price of this privilege.
            “Maybe we dodged a bullet,” he told her. “Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.”
            He tried not to see her touching her now empty abdomen. She was so good at being strong, but her hope had bled away.
            He’d be back from Chicago, he had said. But it wasn’t the truth. Tears streamed down his face as he dreamed of babies with her violet eyes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Caught and Bought

            “Not everyone can be bought,”  she said.
            “Aw honey, I don’t want to buy you. I just want to rent you for a while.”
            He caught her arm as she raised it to slap him. They stared at each other for a moment and she lowered her hand to her lap. He signaled to the waitress for another round.
            “Just listen to what I have to say. You’ve been on the run for months. I know you didn’t empty his account. You must be short of cash.”
            “What do you want Manny?”
            “Believe it or not, I need your help sweetheart. I’m in a fix. The IRS wants to put me away, but they’re willing to cut me a deal if I reel in a bigger fish.”
            “You’re going to rat out Joey? Do you have a death wish?”
            He shrugged and tossed back the rest of his drink as the waitress set down their replacements.
            “I figure I’ll be okay if he goes away for long enough. Besides, it’s rat him out or go to jail. Loyalty has its limits.”
            “Okay, fine. You made a deal. What does that have to do with me? I don’t know anything about Joey’s business. I figured he was into something shady, but I kept my head in the sand. I don’t know a damn thing.”
            “You know who he was hanging out with. You know where he spent his time. All you have to do is give them something to work off of and they’ll do the rest.”
            She rubbed her face with her hands, feeling defeated. Manny had found her after being on the run for three months. She had gotten lazy—stayed too long in one place. It could have been worse though. If it Joey had found her, she’d probably be a Jane Doe in a morgue somewhere.
            “And what do I get out of it?” she asked.
            “You get enough cash to stay out of sight for a while—at least until he goes away. You could settle down somewhere and use your real name. Maybe go back to being a blond. Come on honey, how much money do you have left? How much jewelry could you possibly have had to pawn?”
            “You’d be surprised,” she said, gazing into her glass. “Joey thought he could buy me too.”
            “Sounds like it worked.”
            “No Manny. Like you said, he was just renting me for a while.”
            “Think about it.  My new friends at the IRS could make life on the run a little more comfortable.”
            Manny finished his second drink in one swallow and stood up. He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.

           I’m linking up with this week's Write on Edge’s prompt. We were challenged to write a piece that begins with the line, “’Not everyone can be bought,’  she said.” and ends with the line, “He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.”  This piece continues a thread I started with the short story “Circling the Drain”. Check out the much expanded version of "Circling the Drain", which will be included in the upcoming collection "Precipice" from Write on Edge.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Trifecta: Uneasy

            “It’s only an hour,” she told the reflection in the bathroom mirror. “You can do anything for an hour.”
            She made a mental checklist of everything she’d need and forced herself to take slow, deep breaths. But nothing could loosen the tightness in her chest and stop her shaking hands. She knew that stepping outside her comfort zone was supposed to be good for her, but she still felt  uneasy.
            “Are you almost ready to go?” he asked, tapping on the bathroom door.
            “Yeah. I guess,” she said opening the door.
            “You look terrified.”
            “Just a little. You promise me there will be a nice glass of bourbon waiting for me when I get home.”
            “No problem. Why did you volunteer for this when it scares you so much?"
            She shrugged, thinking back to the meeting where they called for volunteers.
            “Nobody else came forward.”
            “Honey, you’re going to be great. Besides, it’s just a handful of Cub Scouts. How bad could it be?”

            I’m linking up with Trifecta this week. This is a piece of highly realistic fiction. This week’s word is “uneasy".

1: causing physical or mental discomfort
2: not easy : difficult
3: marked by lack of ease : awkward, embarrassed <gave an uneasy laugh>

Please remember:

    Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.

    You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.

    The word itself needs to be included in your response.

    You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.