Saturday, September 12, 2015

Flash fiction: Creeping away from danger

David desperately looked around him as he heard the loud explosions crashing over his head. He wondered how he would ever get out of here. If he could only escape. He made a solemn promise to himself if he got out he would never come back to this place again.

Yet, with each opportunity, he returned.

The first time David came under fire he crawled into a ball and tried to wish it away, but the gory images and crashing noises infiltrated his brain. Despite this, still, he returned. Hoping to emerge with a different outcome each time. But it never happened.

In the past this place had always been compelling to him. It was a destination David visited frequently. Lately, the appeal had turned to fright and the violence was getting out of control. During previous visits David always managed to dodge any dangers, but this time felt trapped with no way out.

He abruptly ducked.

"Oh that was a close one," he thought to himself.

David shuddered at the thundering noises, vivid images and that near miss from just mere moments ago; he crawled to the nearby steps. Slowly, David crept his way out of the immediate danger in the darkness and moved into the light. Once he reached the top he made his way down the corridor until he reached the safe haven he knew to be at the end of the way.

The moonlight danced in and out of vision, but there was enough streaming light to help guide the way to safety. Only a few more steps until he reached his refuge.
David spoke out loud for the first time in what seemed like hours.

As he approached the doorway he whispered, "Mom," then a little louder, "Mom!" 

He was grateful to hear a quick response.

"Mom, I had a nightmare. I dreamed about the video games again. This time it really, really scared me!"

His mom had previously advised him to give up the first person shooter games, but he always went back despite her warnings. She gave him a hug, allowed him to sit. He felt safe again.

"Next time I swear I will stay away from those games and play something else. I mean it this time."

Friday, September 11, 2015

Flash Fiction: A shocking betrayal

All morning Sandy had a nagging feeling. No reason why she felt this way, but she just couldn't shake it. With a deep sigh she turned her attention to happier things.

Tomorrow was her and Jim's 10th anniversary, and they planned to celebrate in style. First, dinner at the swankiest restaurant in town. Jim made reservations a month ago, even getting one of the coveted terrace tables overlooking the city. In the morning, they'd set sail, head down the coast, just the two of them.

Sandy spent the morning packing suitcases and buying food to stock the boat's kitchenette. Jim had left at the crack of dawn to ready the boat for their excursion.

Things had been wonderful lately. That other woman who'd almost shattered their marriage was almost forgotten. It was a shocking betrayal, but they'd spent years healing from Jim's infidelity. Their marriage was now solid. Jim had been the perfect husband since ending the affair, so supportive to her, especially after her beloved aunt died shortly afterward. He'd handled all the finances.

As she bagged the food, brief thoughts of the brunette Jim had been involved with flashed through her mind. Sandy pushed those thoughts away. There was no way Bernadette would occupy even a moment of her thoughts. Not this week. Not this anniversary. The thought of Jim cheating still hurt, but Sandy found forgiveness. Why she was thinking about this now she had no idea. Suddenly the nausea returned.

Sandy was just about finished when she had an impulsive idea. Packing up some cheese and crackers, she grabbed a bottle of wine.

"An impromptu picnic while we ready the boat will be a great way to start our celebration," she said half-aloud.

With a quick glance in the rear view mirror, Sandy smiled at the radiance reflecting back. Yes, life was good. Sandy pulled into the parking lot neighboring the harbor, suddenly feeling sicker. Ignoring the feeling she opened the cabin's door. All was strangely quiet. Where was Jim?

She went inside and pulled the curtain to the sleeping quarters. She couldn't believe her eyes. The wine dropped, shattering.

Bernadette spoke first.

"Jim, what is going on? She wasn't supposed to be here until morning. All these years of planning...what about the inheritance?"

"Sandy, you shouldn't have come," Jim said.

Jim reached under the mattress. The last thing Sandy heard was the click of Jim's gun before she turned to flee.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Flash Fiction: Encounter at daybreak

A new day brings new beginnings...

Linda and Patrick's relationship had been a chaotic one from the start. When they met, both had been coming off from tumultuous relationships and each was still filled with baggage from these previous attachments.

It had been 10 years, and Linda was sitting in a coffee shop booth thinking back to that single day.She remembered how they first met at this shop neither one frequented, but both happened to be sitting in on the same morning. The sun hadn't yet risen, and the darkness suited the state of mind both were in on that day.

Despite his gloomy mood, Patrick noticed Linda and grinned. Linda smiled back. She heard a voice, but it took her a few minutes to process what was happening.

"A bit humid out this morning," Patrick had said.

"Just a little," Linda replied, suddenly feeling awkward.

She looked up and there sat Patrick smiling. After a few minutes Linda felt less tongue-tied and conversation flowed easily. The duo talked for hours, until they realized it was already closing in on noon.

"I have to get going," Linda said, remembering an appointment she had and would probably be late for; suddenly not wanting to go.

Patrick eased her hesitance by inviting her for a date for the following Friday evening. She quickly agreed.

It wasn't long before the two became a couple and decided to get married. Soon afterward the chaos began. His ex-wife and her ex-boyfriend continuously caused discord; Patrick had gotten passed over for a promotion and Linda lost her job. The stresses were too much on the relationship and after two years they'd parted ways, eventually getting a divorce.

As the years went by, they never spoke. Linda had moved out of town. Both had wondered "what if" many a time, but neither tried to contact the other.

On a muggy August evening, Linda decided to go for a ride, and ended up driving around all night. Just before daybreak she found herself in front of the same coffee shop she'd ventured into so many years before. Parking the car, she went in, ordered a coffee and shrunk deep into the booth.

Suddenly, the silence was broken.

"A bit humid out this morning", a male voice quietly said. Linda looked up and smiled.

After several hours, Linda and Patrick walked out together into the sunrise, hand-in-hand.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Flash Fiction: Mistakes

Due to their high-powered careers the two had parted ways because they couldn't find a location where they could both work. They'd closed up the apartment in Connecticut to head to their respective new jobs in different cities.

Is it too late to repair a mistake?

Beverly leaned up against the window of the bus taking her from Washington D.C. to New York City. It had been two years since she'd gone back to the northeast. Patrick had no idea she was coming.

Initially, they had vowed to work the distance out, but the 12-hour days were not conducive to a long-distance relationship, and their once-intense closeness began to erode. 
It had been a long time since they'd talked. Beverly even deleted his cellphone number out of her phone. Their last argument had been terrible and regretful words had been said by each of them. With each passing day Beverly knew she'd made a mistake.

After a lot of reflection Beverly decided the money and prestige was not worth this misery. She quit her job and took a much lower profile one in order to try and patch things up with Patrick. Next, she sold the BMW and figured she'd rely on public transportation in the Big Apple; she bought a one-way bus ticket to New York City.

Five hours later Beverly arrived in New York, checked into a hotel and went straight to Patrick's apartment. To her dismay his name was not on the door buzzer. His apartment, #522, was listed with an empty slot.

Beverly sat down on the step and sobbed.

"I waited too long," she said half to herself, half out loud.

Not realizing an hour had passed, Beverly was still perched on the step. An older woman came out of the building and gently asked if she was OK. She couldn't answer at first.
The woman just quietly put her hand on Beverly's shoulder. Between tears Beverly told this kindly stranger the whole story. Suddenly, to Beverly's surprise, the woman gasped and took a step back. Confused, she looked up through tear-streaked eyes.

"I'm sorry dear, I didn't mean to upset you further, but my name is Mrs. O'Brien. I own this building. I know Patrick well. He moved out two days ago after he quit his job on Wall Street to move down to Washington D.C."

"He didn't tell me much, only that he'd made a huge mistake."

Monday, September 7, 2015

Poetry - Wild and free
Photo credit: Leigh Goessl
All her life she felt trapped
Wanting liberation
Always just out of reach
A desired salvation

Released from the shackles
Feeling free as a bird
All ready to embrace life
Her past started to blur

First she ran to the playground
Swung high up on the swings
Danced around a grassy field
Finally free to spread her wings

A chance to start life over
Fresh beginning and new start
Time to live life to the fullest
Her old life she can depart

Her happiness to be found
By living wild and free
For the first time in her life
She's free to be who she wants to be

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Memoirs: The toys I grew up with

Photo credit: Leigh Goessl
Growing up in the 1970s was a lot of fun. In those days we didn't have many bright, flashy, blinking or video-centric games the kids of today play with, but even though our toys were simplistic in nature, we had some pretty nifty toys.

Most of the toys I grew up with were made of durable wood. Our parents didn't have to worry about breakage and replacements over the course of time, and boy could these toys withstand some rough play. A few of these toys are still manufactured today, but they don't seem to be able to compete with the electronics and plastics that fill the toy shelves today. It does make me smile though to see a few retailers bringing back "retro items" in those simple boxes.

It seems like only yesterday my siblings and I used to take our brilliantly colored wooden blocks, augment them with Lincoln Logs for extra finesse, and sit for hours building architectural wonders which grew into small cities. In between tall buildings we developed towers and other structures with our Tinker Toys for additional flair.

I also have warm recollections of going to visit our great-aunt and playing Pick-Up Sticks. In those days, even the Pick-Up Sticks were made of wood; the excitement of concentrating and trying my hardest to grasp a stick without moving the others was always thrilling. I actually found my old set (one of the few toys to escape the donate pile) a few years back and I immediately brought those home. 

Colorforms were another wonderful pastime, I can recall how fun it was to take those sticker-like characters and magically pose them in the scenery; my favorite was "Snoopy", although "Wonder Woman" was pretty neat too. All we needed was that piece of cardboard with those small plastic pieces to create stories and our imaginations took us through all sorts of adventures as we strategically placed our colorforms across the mat.

One of the fondest memories I have is of my best friend and I trekking our Charlie's Angels dolls into the woods and setting up camp. We craftily found ways for our dolls go on fearless adventures, climbing through the dangers of the woods to fight crime and solve mysteries. In our campsite we used fallen leaves as blankets, and we tied twigs together to create cots for them to sleep in between excursions. 

As much as I loved playing with those dolls in the woods, the rustic surroundings weren't exactly glamorous and I desperately dreamed of the Charlie's Angels' Hideaway House. Our family didn't have a lot of money and I knew it was a distant wish. I'll never forget the year that there was a big package under the Christmas tree with my name on it and when I had opened it, it was the Hideaway House! To this day I have no idea how my mother managed to find the money for it. 

Santa does indeed work in mysterious ways. My dolls and I were very happy and proud to have a home to relax in after battling the dangers of the woods.

Today, as I browse through the toy aisles, plastic toys with digital enhancements dominate the shelves. While they have a certain appeal and attraction, they just don't hold the same magnetism the toys of yesteryear did. Kids quickly move on from one electronic fad to the next and modern toys don't hold their attention the way those charming wooden ones held ours.

Before one fad ends, another one has already begun, and last year's "hot" toys are quickly forgotten, the majority of toys today aren't "timeless", although there are a few out there that still exist.

For my son, it was all about the PlayStation then later the XBox, but every so often he'd sit down with his baby sister and play with brightly colored blocks. As I watched them build their own architectural marvels together, I'd sit back and quietly smile. Despite all this wild technology progress happening, some things just don't change.

What were your favorite toys when growing up?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Humor: Finding bugs in the house

RedRue Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported w/Attribution
I've lived in the northeastern region of the U.S. for most of my years, but several years back we relocated to the mid-Atlantic region. All in all, it's been a positive move and we've experienced many wonderful things.

Of course anytime something positive occurs, there is usually something else to accept as a trade-off which ain't as sweet as honey and biscuits. Being new to the south, I learned that with the loveliness comes some ugly stuff to contend with too.

Bugs! Funky bugs, big and small. Now we had bugs in the north, but the ones in the south are something else.

Our particular house guests were icky little flying red beetles, brilliantly colored, but icky just the same.  I later learned they were called box elder bugs. The first week we began to move in they appeared and took up residence in two of the bedroom windows. At first we left them alone since they were confined between the glass pane and the screen, figuring we'd be a bit hospitable and besides, we had other moving priorities.

While routinely finding bugs in the house, all was peaceful. Initially, to combat the problem, I just pulled down the shades to make them go away and life was good. I also made sure I didn't open these windows.

However, those red buggers quickly wore out their welcome when they invited all of their friends and family to stay. Not only did they bring company, but they decided to wheedle their way into two other rooms' windows too. They were obviously getting in from outside, but dangit, from where?

One day as I was scrutinizing their habits and to see if I could detect the "door", I saw their secret entrance! I didn't want to spray because I believe most bugs should be given a chance to hit the high road before they get whacked, so I took measures to barricade it off, hoping this would do the trick. It failed miserably. Geez, these bugs just couldn't take the hint they were unwelcome.

Turns out there were more entrances than one because after blocking it up, those pesky buggers still managed to find a way to squiggle those crusty little bodies in. At this point, the weather was still a bit cold, so they'd freeze to death over night and we'd get rid of them in the morning, but those bugs just kept coming back.

Day after day I watched to see if I could unlock the deepest, darkest secrets of our wretched little winged and feeler friends to see if they'd trust me enough to reveal the clandestine doorway to the great outdoors. My plan was to gain their trust so we could lock 'em out once and for all. Several years later I'm still trying to figure out this puzzle, but in the meantime, I'd learned some nifty new things.

Gosh, those bugs sure do like to mate! Day after day I'd see dozens of couples using my window sill as their nesting ground where they would deposit tons of eggs as their rent payment. Have you ever seen bug eggs? It's weird they look like regular chicken eggs, but a lot smaller and darker in color. Never in my life did I ever think I'd get to see a bug egg up close!

That's it, time for the hard core measure - yep, time to spray. And spray we did. That worked . . . for about a day. Religiously my husband and I sprayed the bugs and then got rid of the eggs, and we'd breathe a collective sigh of relief that we can finally open the windows and get some air in.

To our dismay, two days later they're baaack. So we'd spray again and this time left a couple of dead corpses on the window for their friends to view and mourn, hoping this would act as a deterrent. Ha!

Oh, they came around all right, I sat there one day and watched bug after bug "kick" their dead buddies off the window sill. Hmmm, I thought, maybe they are giving their dead crusty friends a proper burial. For a brief moment I considered how thoughtful these icky flying creepy crawlers are. So I asked a friend of mine, who used to work in pest control, about their rituals. He told me they weren't engaging in some interment ceremony, they were feasting on their pals. Doesn't sound like mourning to me, but with all of those dead bugs, it must have been a hell of a celebration with all that food!

It was April, maybe bugs celebrate Thanksgiving in April. They have a lot to give thanks for considering they were not only living rent-free, but in a sneaky way getting us to supply their feast too.

So we up the ante and begin to spray the windows, the bugs and the hatching baby buggers. I swear these bugs have the horror movie mentality (you know the one - the cardinal law of horror movies which states if the characters have sex, it's guaranteed they'll meet an untimely end). Well, these critters insist on mating in my windowsill and despite getting "sprayed in the act" with the handy dandy bug spray, gosh darn it, this still doesn't work. In fact, they'd taken up permanent residence in the den windows and continued their reproductive quest from there.

We'd effectively reduced the number of houseguests, but they just couldn't grasp the idea they've worn out their welcome and they were being kicked out. Finally, we pulled out all the stops and pulled out the industrial vacuum cleaner, took the windows apart and found more of their clever little hiding places. That industrial vacuum sucked them all into vacuum bag eternity, then we washed the sills down and removed any sign of their existence.
We did this in the hope the survivors would take off, fly the friendly skies and go reproduce somewhere else. What's funny is they did. Once we discovered their secret hideaway, they moved out into the mulch in front of the house.

We're anticipating next April simply to see if they return for an annual bug Thanksgiving jubilee. 

Update: Since this was originally written in 2008, the box elder bugs do not come in swarms anymore, they keep to the mulch outside, however, I do find some holdouts still visiting my windows several months out of the year.