Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Plugged In -Writing Club Exercise

May 8, 2018

Writing Club Exercise

Time Limit: 25 minutes

Prompt: "Your grandmother asks you to fix the internet.  As you pull out the cord, she yells, “Not that one!” and promptly disappears."

Plugged In

            Sam groaned as the screen of his cell phone lit up.  The text read, “Need your help.  This gizmo froze on me again.”  
            Sam typed in response, “Be over in 5.” 
He had just set up Gran’s modem yesterday and wired her in.  “Forget dial up.  It’s slow as molasses.  I can’t get online and get with the times,” she’d said.  
Sam offered to give her lessons on how to use the internet, but she declined.  "It would be adventure," she assured him.  She hadn’t done a good puzzle in a while.  
Before Sam reached Gran’s front door, he knew there was a problem.  Her house was lit up inside like a Christmas tree.
He knocked.
            Gran hollered from the other room, “Sammy, Sonny, I’m a little tied up at the moment.  Come on in. Door’s unlocked.  Mind you don’t trip over my deliveries.”
            Sam opened the door and found his way over the myriad the amazon boxes.  They were stacked to the ceiling in some places.
Sam’s mouth dropped open as he saw Gran. She was dressed in her favourite floral dress, but it was frayed at the edges and burnt in places.  Her gray hair was puffed up around her face, standing on end. Wires wound everywhere throughout her entire living room like jungle vines.  Poor Gran was wrapped multiple times round.
“Are you ok, Gran?”  Sam asked anxiously.  “What did you do?”
“I think I broke the internet.  I tried to 'upload',” she huffed.  
Sam tiptoed over the cords to reach Gran, getting zapped once or twice.
“I’m a mite charged at the moment, but I’ll last.  Setting up my smart home.  Wasn’t as easy as it sounded in the ad.”  A puff of smoke exited her mouth in a big “O” and she wheezed.  Gran looked exhausted.  Probably up all night according to the full scale mess in the house.
            Sam tried to untangle the wires around her arms and legs.  How on earth did she get so tied up?  He was getting nowhere.  He lugged an armchair over to Gran and gingerly helped her to sit.  He got zapped a couple more times as frazzled cords resisted a tug.
            “I guess cutting you out is a bad idea.  Better unplug things first.”  
            Sam headed to the desk trying to make heads or tails of where anything was plugged in.  Sam fiddled with the mess of wires knotted at the back of the router.  Green wires twisted in with red wires. Big black wires coiled into a spiral-like snake waiting to strike.  
            “Gran what did you do since I was here yesterday?”
            With a tired grin, Gran answered, “Been getting up to speed.  Things are so much different than they used to be.”
            As Sam finally found the outlet in the wall, he gave a good pull.
            Gran suddenly jumped to life with a start, “Not that one!”
Gran disappeared.  His phone read, “I may be a little analog, but I think I just joined the digital age.”


Our group came up with some really good stories.  That's the reward of writing together, hearing a bunch of amazing stories, everyone wandering off along different tangents from the same starting point.  Everyone has a different style, life experience and thought process.  
This prompt was tough.  I admit, had I more expertise with technology, it would have been much easier.  Write what you know, in this case when the prompt came out of the box, it's write as best you can on the given topic.  
To me the internet is an adventure.  It existed in my childhood, though it really wasn't something that came into my childhood home until I was on the verge of leaving.  During university is when I really experienced the world wide web, but with its slow trawling pace page to page, I didn't have the patience to wait. I love to regale my kids of my pre online life and they stare in disbelief.  Yup, no cell phones or iPads.  I love the reaction I get when I tell their peers my first computer had a whole 4 megabytes. 
I wonder what I would know by now had I have had access to the information I do now.  My kids are learning to code in class.  I would love to learn, I love learning language of any sort, math included. An old dog can learn new tricks.  I am of the mind that anyone can learn anything if they can read.  One niggling little fact stops most of us though, time.  As a child, you definitely have time on your side.  As an adult reality of necessity stops most of us in our tracks.  
Alas, Cinderella, you don't get to go to the Leisure Ball.  You have to work first.  Pay checks to earn, houses to clean, children to feed and nurture, physiology to support (exercise keeps a body healthy).  The work is never done.
Unless you are one of those scholarly few whose mindcraft becomes their livelihood....

Mindy's Cookout -Writing Club Exercise

March 27, 2018

Writing Club

Time: 20 minutes

Prompt: "Despite a few fatalities everyone agreed that Mindy's first cookout was a success."

               So they say when writing, go outside your comfort zone, push boundaries.  
              
Well, the first thing I thought of when the prompt was read was canibalism.  How else can a fatality at a cookout be positive?  On a more subtle direction, I guess it's a "fatality" if you drop a nice cut of steak in the dirt.  No 5 second rule when you're outside.  But hey, I didn't think of that in the moment.  So this one headed off on a macabre bent.  I didn't use the prompt line in the story, instead I let it be a perspective.  I am hesitant to post it because it produced one ugly word baby.  Sometimes, though you can't take yourself too seriously.  When you've got 20 minutes to produce a story, you don't have time to ponder.  And hey, you definitely don't have to like Mindy.


            “Are you remembering to turn it every 15 minutes?”  Craig was making himself a nuisance. 
            Mindy thought the roast smelt just fine.  She imagined her nosy neighbour roasting on a spit, complete with pineapple in his mouth -that would shut him up.  Instead, she gave a fake smile, one showing her teeth.  “Of course, I read the manual.  I was the one who assembled the pig roaster after all.  I’m surprised they’d ship it this far south.”
            Mindy stared at Craig’s fleshy physique.  
            “You know, nowadays drones deliver everything ordered on Amazon.”  Craig interjected.  “Even to the Amazons.”
Actually, the delivery had come via cute UPS pilot.  Mindy could just eat him up.  She offered him a stake, but he quickly declined.  Many more deliveries to make and the like, but Mindy had insisted.  
            Flipping a blond pigtail braid off her shoulder and turning her back to Craig, Mindy gave the handle on the spit a heave.  The conversation was over, Craig, take the hint.  She didn’t want to listen to his nasally voice the rest of her life, ugh!
            But Craig droned on, “Did you use the sauce so it doesn’t try out?”
            “Yes, like I said, I did.  Everything should be a go for sunset.”  She swatted a mosquito buzzing around her ear.  “Darn blood suckers, can’t have them contaminating the meat.”  Mindy lit a citronella candle.  
            Craig wandered away for all of 5 minutes to fiddle with the knives at the table, “I think I smell something burning.”
            Mindy snapped, “I don’t need help!”  She swung a barbeque flipper and nailed Craig in the face.  
            Craig startled, tripped over the rocks around the old fire pit the clan used for cooking, bashing his idiot skull good.  He was out cold in the ashes.  
            More roast for her, Mindy smiled.  “Oh, well, I guess we can make it two for dinner.”
            That would really impress the elders and earn her a good husband for the choosing. She didn’t want to marry Craig anyways. Mbuntu was more her style.  
            The dinner ceremony would start in a few hours.  She better get the extra roast onto the rack so she could really prove she could bring home the bacon.

If the Walls Could Speak -Writing Club Exercise

Jan 30, 2018
Another fast flung story from a writing club session. 


Time allotted: 25 minutes. 

Writing Prompt:  "Due to being cursed, the walls of the house start talking and they won’t shut up about embarrassing moments in your life."

If the Walls Could Speak

“Swinging the sledge hammer, that’s what it’s come to?”

Jack Horner’s reply was a heavy swing from his shoulder.  Plaster and latham flew everywhere.  

“Well, that wasn’t nice.  It’s only the truth that’s leaking out of the pipes. You’ve never been a decent plumber and your head’s not too plumb at the moment either, not when you’ve had one too many.  Bad hair cuts that is.  Wasn’t the best idea to save a buck by trimming your locks yourself was it.  Ended up looking like a billy goat for six weeks. Kind of Gruff!
No wonder you ended up marrying that troll, Bertha.  Wasn’t she a prize catch.  No wonder she kept you close under the bridge of her nose.  Not to hard when you stand all of 4ft 11inches tall.  You got the short stick of the bargain there, you’re in the running with Rumpelstiltskin.” 

            Jack responded with another swing.  Determined to find that voice between the walls.  Surely it had to be his brother Peter hollering through the duct work.  

            “You’re no better than the blind mice, only they squeal when they run. Better look out for the farmer’s wife, she’s already halved your assets with a big knife.”

            Jack yelled, “Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her.”  Where was Peter anyway?  As Jack peered between the walls he saw nothing but empty space and cobwebs.  
  
“Hey, Jack, remember the time you brought home that long-eared brunette, Jill.  You sure can pick’em.  One to many in the drink, you not only lost your shirt.  
Old Bertha took you for your pants too when you divorced.  That old woman use to live a shoe, with that many children, really what could she do?  
She wasn’t about to have that mule braying about the barn yard.  Couldn’t even fetch a real milking cow.  That would have made her jump over the moon.  Should have counted your beans instead of climbing that stalk.  You made an ass of yourself on that deal. Beanstalks and broomsticks, pipe dreams and Pied Pipers leading you all the way to Hansel and Greta’s candy house. One bad investment after another.”

            The walls silenced at the buzz of a chainsaw.  Jack ran the blade across the entire wall.  

            Water spewed everywhere as Jack struck a pipe.  

            A gurgling voice sputtered out, “The itsy-bitsy spider isn’t washed out just yet. Cinderella had a fella, who he really was, I just couldn’t tell ya.”  Just then the wall all came tumbling down just like Humpty Dumpty all over Jack.  

            This little plum Christmas pie real estate deal was really a soured lemon full of curds and whey.  He never should have trusted little Miss Muffet as she sat there on her tuffet at the bank.  She never told him the walls could talk.

This story is all told, now it’s time to fold.  

Monday, 7 May 2018

Somnificance - a short story



The small bird hit the window with a smack.  It probably died instantly, a broken neck.  Katrina rushed to snatch up the sparrow before Bailey could grab it.  The dog had a penchant for dead things.  Pulling on gardening gloves, she grabbed a shovel, scooped the broken bird and marched to the edge of her garden.  Bailey joined in the procession, wagging his tail.  As she buried the bird, Bailey spotted a squirrel and ran after it.  Katrina returned to moving boxes from the boat to the porch.

Three generations shared the split log cabin over the years.  Situated on a jut of rock dipping into Lake Huron, it made for a solid retreat, resting on a sharp-edged and defiant promontory, pointing westward into the water. Face to the wind, weathered, but still standing after a century alongside a stand of wind-whipped pine.

Would all this silence be screaming in her ears in a couple months?  Early retirement had chosen her rather than the other way around.  Downsizing and payouts.  Jump off the ledge or get pushed. 

Katrina leapt and reflexively chose to land at the family cottage.  

No turning back.  David was long gone.  As the end of work loomed, they came to see they were on different paths. Katrina announced her retirement.  David toasted Katrina and left the party with his blonde protégé, evidently he was interested in more than promoting her career.  

Katrina signed divorce papers the next day.  

The same day, she decided to head north. The townhouse sold in a week.  What she couldn’t cart along by boat, she packed into storage.  There was time to decide if this move was permanent, to decide what came next.  

Her neighbour, Miriam, accused her of stepping out of the current.  Maybe she was. Why winter in such a place?  Why be holed up in a Lincoln log hut like a recluse?  By spring, you’ll be nuttier than a squirrel.  Promise me you’ll call.  Was there even a cell tower close?

The scent of multiple seasons of must and mothballs sent Katrina into a coughing fit as she crossed the threshold. This was it, the ultimate way to prove your self-sufficiency –going off grid.  The solar panels were installed, the gas tank for the generator was full, wood pile stacked high.  As the water pump primed, Katrina gave a cheer.  It echoed through the trees and over the water.  A couple of ducks took flight from the lake at her proclamation. Bailey looked up at her from an enthusiastic tussle with a ball, oblivious to the significance of running water in the house.

The cabin sat as her mother left it when she took ill.  After sitting empty for two summers, Katrina expected dust and maybe a mouse or two to scatter when she opened the door.  She wasn’t expecting to be haunted.

Her parents followed each other, one after the other to the grave.  The doctor called it broken heart syndrome, Dad couldn’t live without Mom.  His heart just stopped.  Thirty-eight years of marriage, thirty-eight years of orbiting each other.  

The stuffed fish mounted over the fireplace was her father’s edition to the décor. A banal detail in a hunting cabin, but maybe a mandatory one.  Every year, as they opened the cottage, her father would recount the hard-fought battle to reel in his prized pike. 
When she was five, she asked her Dad, ‘Do fish have eyelids?’  
Her father, so large in that moment, answered, ‘They don’t need em, when you’re underwater, your eyes don’t dry out.’ 
Ghosts, she was going to lodge with ghosts all winter.  
As she ran the feather duster along its faded scales, she could hear his voice.  Her father wiped down Blinky’s scales right along with her.  Blinky just stared with an empty wide-eyed gaze.  What a stupid name for a fish, but it left Katrina tearing up.  

Sweeping down rough walls, chasing out spiders and dust, Katrina carried on cleaning.  She pulled the dust covers from the furniture and folded them. Kind of like removing vestiges of an old life, like shaking out the curtains.  This space was solely hers to redecorate later. 
A mishmash of furniture hand-me-downs gave the room a far-flung eclectic look.  The love seat, a threadbare red plaid, was the sole survivor of a three-piece set from Aunt Marg’s house.  Aunt Marg became a Steinman when she married Uncle Fred.  They were gone too, leaving Katrina, the last in the line of Wainwrights.

As Katrina began to unpack boxes, she still hadn’t come across the coffee grounds.  She wouldn’t make it a week, not without caffeine.  It was in the second last box.  As she set a can on the counter, there was a scurrying of tiny feet through the cupboards below.  Katrina was housemates with a whole community of mice.  She should adopt a cat.  She smiled.  David hated cats.  

There was a time, she’d imagined a boy with David’s golden curls and sometimes with her hazel eyes, definitely not her nose.  Her father would have swung a puffy red lifejacket over his head, tying the twill tape ties tight and herded him down to the water just like he'd done with her all those years ago.  They’d float out in his rowboat with a lunch pail full of peanut butter sandwiches, sliding grimy earthworms onto a hook and drop a line in the water.  It was never about the fish, Katrina knew that now.

Perhaps she and David might have made it with a child.  ‘But babies don’t work well to patch what needs mended. Truth be told, it only tears holes bigger with the strain.’ Her mother whispered in her memories.  

All the hustling and sweating just to sink into a Muskoka chair at the end of the dock with a coffee.  At least that was the way Katrina pictured it all those years while she put in long hours to pay for a city escape.  One more client.  One more payment to purchase solitude.  David never stayed long when he came, didn't care for still life in primitive.  Forget the wild fauvist colour of a sunset.

Bears, or was it Bulls, can gore away the better part of a life’s work in one run of the market.  It had been a mistake to leave business to David.  His moods rose with tidal crests and sank with its fall.  Reading signs and omens between lines on newsprint loaded with a powder keg of pomp and spectacle.  As David’s realm crumbled when the recession hit, he sought out long shot stocks even harder to recover his loss.  That was when Katrina really lost him.  

Outside under the stars it was so clear.

No point wishing for what could have been.  Bailey scratched at the door.  Katrina threw on her coat, heading out the door after Bailey into the twilight. 

Katrina threw a stick for Bailey to fetch.  He splashed into the lake, breaking up the reflected sky.  A crisp clear sky spilled over with ink and peppered with stars while she had cleaned.  A vast expanse of nothingness made visible with the disappearance of the sun. 

‘Got to rest sometime.’  She heard her dad say, ‘Halley’s comet only comes into view every three-quarters of a century.  Get your nose out of that book and come outside a spell and marvel at the universe.’  

She watched her breath puff into clouds. 

Her phone lay silent on the desk inside.  Nothing pressing anyways.  Well, she longed for silence.  Now she had it.  One hundred calls a day tending towards insanity down to none.  

Mosquitos buzzed about her ears. A constant rush of the wind through the cedars joined with the pounding of her pulse in her ears.  Both steady, somnolent and significant as autumn’s exit. A world tending towards sleep, time enough for it.
Bailey pushed his soft head into her hands.  Katrina ruffled his ears.  Bailey nudged in closer.
            
In the absence of city light, the stars glowed like beacons, the milky way a dense spattering spill dividing the black ink of the sky. Katrina could almost imagine them being poured out, their light streaming towards the earth.  Hoary hosts shining and spiraling like Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Nightwith a consoling crescent moon overhead.  

A slice of the heavens painted in an asylum, Van Gogh sketched studies of the sky from his own wilderness of sorts. 

            Things seen in the heavens, stars, distant swirling galaxies, already spent and burnt out like her efforts to reach this same point, days, months and years ago.  Reaching earth, a picture of what was, like the photo of her and David on her nightstand.  Old light from moments before.  Who knew if they were still shining somewhere up there now?  Uncertainty being certain in almost every sphere.  To walk abreast another a blessing no matter how brief, for you weren’t walking alone.  You never know how close you step towards threshold to eternity.
            A meteor shower sprinkled light across the black sky like sparks. Katrina’s hair grew out silver waiting to leave the city.  Now here in the void, she wondered if she would last.  A tiny corpuscle lost in a vast, wild array.  
Small bodies wandering through independent systems, doing their duties until they were needed no more, floating freely through the void, colliding as they will and interacting in predictable ways. Remnants of exploding stars forever falling until they hit bottom.  Wildly winging moths flirting with disaster by the porch light.  

            David was always on a different trajectory than hers.  She loved him once, she loved him still.  He hadn’t reached his pinnacle yet.  One day he’d be ready to plummet back to earth.  Pity that those who soar the highest often arch back down so sharply to fall the farthest.  Part of her wished she’d be there for the spectacle.  It had been a rush to be part of his sphere.  The noise, the play by play of economies as titans chose whether they took sugar in their coffee.  All the smaller stars emulate those on top.
            Katrina took her perfunctory bow and left the room.  Her moment had passed.

            She read somewhere that the largest star in Van Gogh’s painting was actually Venus. A planet named for goddess of love and beauty rotating contrary to the other orbs, rising to face the sun in the west and bedding into darkness in the east.  A slow kiss to the waking in passing trajectories.  Lovers turn away.

As she stared at the heavens, the only star Katrina could pick out was Polaris, the north star, shining bright like the point of a stellar compass.  Sailors navigated by the stars, so did explorers.  Katrina knew which way was north.
True north, fixed and unchanging, and then there was magnetic north, ever migrating as the magnetic molten heart of the earth stirred.  Her compass point shifted from David.  Katrina, explorer of the stars, adjusting her inclinations, searching for her true north. 

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Leached

Writing Club
May 3, 2016

Writing Prompt:
His feet were already numb.  He should have listened.

Could he blame it on the bullfrogs?  Say he fell in trying to catch a big one?  Ma would never buy it, but Pa might.  Cole was always chasing things that slithered, buzzed or croaked...and you couldn’t turn down a double dare. 

         James had bet a fiver that Cole couldn’t beat him home.  Crossing the swamp should cut his distance home in half.  Now he was kicking himself, not only would he be losing the bet, but he would be doling out the contents of his piggy bank and his allowance would be gone for a month if he was lucky.  Probably more. 

         This would be the first and most likely last time Cole would attempt to take the short cut across the swamp on the way home.  He would call it like it was now.  A quagmire more ways than one.  The most moronic moves he’d ever made.  Cole could have bet James that the soles of his feet looked wrinkly like raisins, probably more like pickles, like they had been soaking in brine.  His feet were already numb.  He should have listened when Pa lectured him about how dangerous the swamp was.
  
         At first, it was all good as Cole left the trail and walked out into the marsh grass.  Dragonflies whizzed around the tall grass.  From all around him, the frogs pleasantly croaked a tune in unison.  The whole swamp was alive and inviting.  The ground felt squishy, but relatively solid beneath him, but just ten or so steps later, it changed to sponge.  Sinking slowly, brown ooze rose up over his sneakers with each step.  That should have been as good a sign as any that he should have turned around, but nope.  

         A few steps more and then the ground gave way and he was swimming, tangled in a mat of reeds and grass.  Splashing and scrambling, Cole managed to find something solid, a fallen tree worked as a gangplank to a small island of scrub grass and a tangle of gnarled and dwarfish trees.  Cole struggled along on his hands and knees in search of firm footing.  

         Plodding along in ankle deep mud towards the trail he’d come from only to fall again.  Grabbing a branch, he lifted his foot, fighting against the suction, his sneaker came free with a  juicy slurp.  With a heave, Cole got himself up onto a branch of a crooked little tree and sat to catch his breath.  

         After slapping a few mosquitos, he snapped off a branch and started to scrap the mud off his pant legs and his shoes.  Dang it, his shoes!  His new white sneakers were ruined and Ma would have his hide.  His legs were kind of itchy.  Rolling up his pant legs, he saw the slimy black bodies.  Ewwww! Leaches!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Words Light Wildfires

June 18, 2017

Words fell like snow,
Like ashes.
Burning through. Smolder in the dark.
Bits of paper and ink like
Destructive little darts.
Crushing little morsels that sour on the tongue.
Hold them in and they eat you from the inside out in acrid bitterness bites.
Release them to the air so foul,
To rest upon the unattended and unintended ear.
Words light wildfires.

The hand you burn now, later you might wish to hold.

Best to set words loose to sear the page.  
Write it out by heart.
Punch lines.
A simple piece of paper set upon by rage, breathed in fire forged.
As coals cool, sent to dive bomb the waste bucket.
Venting catastrophic spew.
The trash can take it.

Inferno diverted.
Cooler heads prevail.
Long term treasure spared.




Friday, 27 April 2018

Marsh Mellow

April 24, 2018

Another story from writing club.  

Time limit: 25-30 minutes, well honestly, I am not sure because this prompt took every available second!  

Prompt: Everyone chose a word on the spot and then wrote them down. Then we read them off. The goal: make a story with the chosen words.  (I chose sycamore.)

1.    Raccoon
2.    Sycamore
3.    Cow
4.    Marshmallow

Marsh Mellows

Beneath the tree Samuel sat for hours. It had become his quiet space, a place for reckoning and peace.  Why Pa had chosen this sycamore of he never knew?  Pa had been gone for many years now, gone soon after Samuel was half as tall and toddling around down by the brook at the bottom of the hill.  

He fell in up to his neck the day the tree was planted.  Pa had left his work and chased after Samuel’s squeals as he floated.  Samuel laughed as he remembered he’d been half way to the marsh before Pa pulled him out.  Pa hugged him and tanned his hide good.  Big firm hands like bear paws could put you back on your feet or make you wish you’d minded Pa’s words.  Marsh mellows, Pa had laughed, it ain’t good to stay angry.  The marsh mellows everything.  The pair listened to the crickets and singing frogs.

The wind whispered through the leaves, thoughts and memories of how he and Molly picnicked there in the shade. The trunk wasn’t near as thick then, but the tree made a nice shadow in the afternoon sun.  Molly met him many a time to read to him.  She was so sure she could learn him some words, but words had never been his friend like Molly.  She’d left him though once she’d grown.  Gone off to school in the big city and never returned to sit beneath the tree with him. 

Meanwhile Samuel had grown, fenced one thousand acres of land, watched over his father’s cattle.  Old Billy had joined him then.  The old retriever was a mean beast when it was time for milking. He’d round up the herd and have them at the barn for milking lickty-split.  Never was such a good dog.  Too bad he’d met up with that rabid raccoon.  Could have saved him if he’d had shots like they’ve got now days. Samuel buried his hound beneath the sycamore.  

Through the years the roots probably cradled the Old Billy’s grave.  Samuel wasn’t sure of the exact spot.  That didn’t matter now.  The grass grew long in the field.  Samuel’s days of herding cattle were all but memories.  

Beth came into his life late and blew out like a brief candle flame.  She shared the shade of the tree and Samuel’s home.  No living children followed.  Beth just couldn’t carry them and all three babes laid to rest the day they were born.  As husband and wife, Samuel and Beth, together they sought the peace of the fields. To sit and just be, in grief of empty arms and yet full.

She was buried just off the south of the tree with a simple stone.  As one hand rest upon the soil, Sam marveled at the stillness of the earth. Everything moved above it.

Samuel had never wanted to climb the tree, to reach higher, to see more.  As his chest rose and fell tighter and tighter.  He knew deep within.  He didn’t have to climb the tree to see Jesus.  He’d have a good view right here.