Category Archives: Written By The BBB’s

New Stories Coming…

So, my friends, my fans of the Beer and Bacon Babes site- guess what?!?! New stories coming!

And not just ANY new stories! Stories from my fellow author at my press, Tigearr Publishing! We’re looking at Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, we run the fun range on awesome genres!

These are all published, super-TALENTED authors. I know that this blog has an audience of devoted, truly engaged readers so I am excited to offer such fabulous writers. I think everyone is really in for a treat!

You’re welcome- gear up- the next four weeks? Super fun!!

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http://tirgearrpublishing.com/index.htm

 

Sniper

My musical prompts were:

Heavy Metal: “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica
Pop/Rock: “Electric Feel” by MGMT
Country: “Strange Way” by Firefall
Instrumental/Soundtrack: The theme song from The Munsters
Wild Card: “Feel Good, Inc” by Gorillaz

I blended the Metallica and the theme from The Munsters . . .

_________________________

He lay on the gentle slope in the sunshine, the fulsome St. Augustine somehow failing to be soft beneath him. Somewhere he heard a band playing—practicing, by the sound of it, because they weren’t very good. The music had a carnival sound that made his head spin as if he were on a whirling ride. He was dizzy, could feel the turning of the world as it slowed. It was slowing, slowing to a stop.

Tuba. Too much tuba, honking like geese, punctuating the melody with big, fat, full stops that interrupted the flow.

He was bleeding. He was almost certain of it, could feel the trickling from between his shoulder blades, but he couldn’t open his eyes to look. The sun was bright, too bright, and the world was spinning, and he was dizzy. He seeped into the earth beneath him, blood and sweat and thin streams of tears that dripped past his ears, and despite the raging sun, he could not get warm. He was cold on the inside, and there was no blanket for that.

Class. The thought popped into his mind in the breaks between the band’s warbling notes. He had American History at one and he hadn’t done the reading. He’d come out here to read before class, had been walking across the grassy lawn . . .

A crack like lightning.

The band stopped abruptly, tuba geese halted mid-honk. Crows cried alarm and then went silent. The sudden absence of sound assailed him, made his head feel stuffed with cotton. All at once he was alone on the ride, in the world. The earth was claiming him, pulling him to her, trying to warm his freezing innards. He could feel himself melting to nothing. Dust to dust.

Another echoing snap, like the crack of a whip, and for a second his eyes flew open, but all he saw was cloudless sky and, at the very edges of his vision, the leafy green crowns of the oaks that lined the mall. He closed his eyes again. Too bright, too bright.

Slowly, sound filtered back to him. Screaming and shouting. Someone speaking through a bullhorn, but the words were mushy and made no sense.

The clock tower chimed “Jowett’s Jig” then mournfully tolled the hour.

He was late. And he hadn’t done the reading.

Beneath him the world slowed to a stop. His turn on the ride was over.

_________________________

In 1966, Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas clock tower and began shooting students and faculty on campus. While this submission is a piece of fiction, this historical incident—along with my own experience of the UT campus as an undergrad—informed and inspired the work.

 

Our newest member, Manda

Our newest member, Manda

The Game

Thanks, Ladies, for inviting me to post! I hope you don’t mind I went fannish with it. My prompts were:

Amy—The barn window lay at the corner of the field with one cracked pane.
Cameron—”Ohmigod! Like, gag me with a loon!” 
Erika—Rosemary is for remembrance
Jen—A shoebox full of receipts
Wendy—The day rock and roll died.

________________________

The barn window lay at the corner of the field with one cracked pane.

The barn itself, however, was conspicuously absent.

“Aliens?” John asked.

“Seems unlikely.”

“I was only joking,” said John.

“Were you? I can’t always tell.” Sherlock took one confident step forward into the vacancy, turned to look over his shoulder. “It really isn’t here.” And for the first time, he sounded honestly baffled.

“Right,” John said. “That’s the whole point.” And as Sherlock began turning circles, “Who moves a whole barn?”

“No sign of machinery.” Sherlock stopped short and pointed across the field, which was just beginning to show signs of spring. “What’s that?”

“. . . A cow.”

“Do they always look like that?”

“They . . . come in different colors . . .”

“Cows live in barns, though,” said Sherlock.

“Very good. With deductions like that you’ll have this solved in no time.”

“But there’s nothing,” Sherlock insisted. “No hoof prints, no stray bits of straw. Did the barn have a floor?”

“Probably.”

Sherlock’s shoulders slumped for a moment then straightened, his posture going from question mark to exclamation point. “Where are the rest of them?”

John lifted his eyebrows in a silent request for elucidation.

“The cows,” Sherlock said. “There must be more than one.”

“Maybe they went with the barn,” John suggested.

An accusatory finger shot out and from across the field came an answering moo. “Then why was that one out?”

“Why are you asking me?” John asked. “You’re the brilliant detective. You figure it out.”

But Sherlock only turned on his heel and started back toward the farmhouse. “I’m going home. Tell Mycroft his efforts were wasted. Next year for my birthday, he should buy me a scarf.”

“Don’t you want to know the answer?” John called after him.

“There was never a barn to begin with, John,” Sherlock called back.

And across the field, the cow mooed again in consensus.

________________________

Hard Candy Truth

It’s good to be back on the Writer’s group challenge! This time I had the following prompts:

  • Wendy: What really happens when you fall down the rabbit hole?
  • Erika: On the cover of National Geographic
  • Cameron: The dog told me to do it
  • Jen: Hard Candy Christmas

After a lot of waffling, I took poetic license with Jen’s.  

Ribbon candy, ribbon candy

How I remember you

Waves of color, sugar confection

Even a shade of atomic blue

Sine curves of bright pink

Seafoam green, popped up yellow,

Eyeful of electric orange

Like a perfectly packaged present

A plaid Christmas ribbon on white,

As a kid I’d wonder

What tiny paintbrush stroked so tight

Calling from Grandma’s china dish

Or the bottom of my Christmas stocking

You’d wait, so pretty, so alluring

For me to pop you into my mouth

Only to have your edges cut my cheeks

Your enormity battling with my teeth

Wait, how’d you get so sticky?

A lint ball from my stocking’s bottom

Stuck on your corner, fur on my tongue

Plastered blotches on the candy dish

From around the corner I spotted

The cat licking its whiskers

Tinged with atomic blue

My brother laughed from the sofa

His lips blaring electric orange

Ribbon candy, ribbon candy

I remember what I learned from you

So pretty on the outside

A mere veneer to your recycled inside

Bubble Trouble

We’ve been busy.  This site has fallen silent over the past months.  But life has a way of stabilizing again and bringing things back into balance.  Novels have been written, agents have been wooed or are being wooed and now, it’s time to return our attention to this place of creativity and whimsy.  It is simply too fun to let go.

So… we’re back!

Erika had the following prompts to choose from for her challenge:

Amy- Strawberry Bubble Gum

Cameron- It’s a proven fact that you never have double stick tape when you need it.

Jen- Opening line:  In the end it was the spiders that got her.

Wendy- Harry Potter meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer                                                                                   

Anyone who knows me would assume I would pick the Buffy and Harry prompt and that includes me.  I’m still shocked, but I chose… Amy’s.

**************************************************************************************************************

“Did bad people steal nice lady’s clothes?” I heard a piping voice above me.

I opened my eyes, blinking against the bright June sunshine.  Straightening my sunglasses, I squinted at the small figure hovering above me.  Wait, hovering? Yelping, I grabbed my towel and sat up in the chaise. “You… what are you?” I squawked as I covered my red bikini.

Stumbling, I stood and backed across the deck, searching for the sliding glass door.  My heart pounded.

“My name is Heddywn ap Heilyn ap Awstin,” he began. The air around him shone gold.

I cut him off.  “Whoa. Stop.  That’s a lot of names.”  My head was pounding from last night’s kegger.  Never again, I swore.

“I have sixteen more names, lady,” he replied, drawing himself up to his full height of less than a foot in mid-air.  He took his cap off in a sweeping motion and bowed. “And my service you have.”  His aura shifted to a cheerful yellow.

“Your what?”

“My service, help, for thanks to you, most beneficent provider of the victuals.”  He came closer and I drew back, my head bumping the glass door of my parents’ house.  Add the thump to my hangover and a merry drum circle of pain danced around my brain. Ugh, never again I silently repeated, staring at my unlikely guest.

He was adorable.  Dark hair, dimples, ravishing blue eyes, and, oh yeah, about ten inches tall with wings moving as fast as a hummingbird’s.  Wings.

I cleared my throat.  “Victuals?” I asked, proud that my voice didn’t crack.  Part of me wanted to duck inside and lock the door, but part of me couldn’t take my eyes of this itty bitty vision of perfection. I mean, a fairy?  In my parents’ backyard?

“Yes, victuals,” he said, waving an arm around the deck. “The best in our territory.  See the nectar.”  He pointed to the hummingbird feeder.  His aura changed again, transitioning from yellow to a brilliant blue.

“For the birds,” I said.  He ignored me.

“The salty, yummy goodness,” he continued, waving at the remains of yesterday’s lunch on the deck’s picnic table.

“Curly fries. Can’t argue with you there,” I said.

“Chewy, fatty, manna from heaven.” He pointed to the plate which had held this morning’s microwave bacon.  I couldn’t finish it, but the dish was clean now.

“Bacon.” I sighed. “That about sums it up.”

“But most munificent of all,” he said, flitting to and fro in the air, gesticulating as he spoke, “for us, you left… BEER!”  The air around him shone bright yellow again.

He swooped over a cache of beer bottles on the deck left where my friends and I had discarded them last night before heading out to the party.  I made a mental note to clean up.  It was still a few days until my parents got back from San Diego, but no sense leaving everything for the last minute.  Their view of their nineteen-year-old drinking was bound to be dim.

“Look, um, what do I call you?”

“I am Heddywn ap Heilyn ap Awstin–“

“Right, right, I got that.” I relaxed and sat down on a bench at the table.  My companion, or hallucination depending on your point of view, sat on a candle across from me.  “Look, would you be offended if I called you something else?”

“You wish to give me a title?”  He perked up and slicked his hair back.  I couldn’t see that he needed to worry.  Add another five feet and a few inches and he would be calendar worthy material.  He was strangely dressed.  His clothes were a bit of this and a bit of that, crudely stitched odds and ends.

“Yeah, right, a title.’  I thought for a moment. He was hot enough to appear on romance covers.  Well, matchbook size covers.  “Let’s call you… Fabio.”

Sir Fabio?”

“Sure, Sir Fabio.  Um, are you a fairy?”

“Fairy? Me? No, fairies are scary, grumpy, and huge.” Fabio’s blue eyes were wide and his aura changed to a bright turquoise.  I thought perhaps the changing shades represented the swing of his emotions. “I am a pixie.”

“A pixie.  Wow, I’ve never met a pixie before.”

“Excellent!  I am the first!” He flew up in the air like a shot and did a loop-the-loop. “Now, shall nice lady convey titles to my clan?”

“Uh, my name is Molly. Clan?”  Before I had time to think Fabio gave a shrill whistle and I winced as the yard exploded in color and movement.  One, two, three… six more winged beings emerged, their little high-pitched voices all talking at once.

Each pixie was dressed like Fabio in a bit of this and a bit of that.  Their wings caught the summer sun in an iridescent rainbow’s shine. The air around each diminutive being shone with changing colors.

After a few moments seven pixies alighted on my table.  The six newcomers lined up and Fabio marched before them, his wings neatly tucked against his back and his expression serious.  “Pixies of the Green House That Once Held a Black Cat,”  he said with a solemn air. I started, my parents’ cat Sebastian died a year ago.  Had these beings been here all along? Fabio continued, “This is Molly, She Who Left The Supreme Victuals, and she has decided to gift us all with titles.”

“Ohhhhh,” breathed the assembled pixies.  They all regarded me with wide eyes.

I rubbed my forehead, wondering what had happened to my quiet, recover-from-a-hangover day. “Right, okay, titles for everyone.”  Gazing at the group, though their clothes were rag-tag, there was no denying that these were beautiful creatures.  I had a sudden inspiration.  “You need special names, er, titles.”

I pointed to the first, a gorgeous little blond, a goddess in miniature. “You shall be Lady Charlize.”  Next was a copper-skinned little angel. “Lady Beyonce.” Finally, Lady Ginger rounded out the females.  My head was spinning, so I gave the males the first names that came to me: Prince William, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling.

What?  They seemed happy.

I sat back and watched as they cavorted and played, calling one another their new titles in high, squeaky voices.  Shifting fields of color radiated each pixie’s emotions through their auras.  Matching expressions to colors I began to figure out what each shade meant.  I got stuck on green until Prince William sidled up to Beyonce, glowing in verdant glory.  She radiated red and smacked him upside his perfect little head when he got too handsy.  Mystery solved.

As the shadows became long and my head felt better I decided it was time for me to change and grab some dinner.  “Fabio?” I called.

“Yes, oh glorious Molly?” he answered.

I could get used to being treated like this, I thought.  “Would you and your clan like some new clothes?”  It occurred to me that my old Barbie and Ken clothes were just sitting there in the garage.  Some were my sister’s, but Mom would never notice if I just took a few.

“You can do that?” Fabio asked,

“Sure, I think they’ll fit,” I said.

“First beer and now garments?” He shook his head. “We shall be like kings and queens amongst pixies.”

“Yeah, royalty, that’s it.”  I ran to grab the clothes.

Returning, I brought the group my flashiest, most Vegas-worthy doll garments.  I mean, why let them go to waste?

“We shall guard them with our paltry lives,” said Sir Ryan Gosling, hitting his tiny chest with one clenched fist.  Fabio, Beyonce, and the rest watched him and then hurried to copy his movements.

“Ouch,” mumbled Charlize, who had gotten carried away in her chest-thumping enthusiasm.

“Look guys, I mean, knights and ladies, I need to get going.  Don’t worry about the clothes.  They’re yours to whatever you like with.  I really need to think about getting this place cleaned up before my folks get home.”

“What is this ‘folks’?” asked Lady Ginger, toying with her fire-kissed locks.

“Those Who Rarely Leave Victuals,” intoned Fabio in a mournful voice.

“Oh, them,” said Ginger, her aura dampening for a moment.

“Yeah, them,” I said, “and they’ll pitch a fit if I leave everything like this.” I gestured to the remnants of various meals on the deck and throughout the yard.  I liked to be outside and it showed.  “I have to do the inside, too.”

“We hear your plea,” said Fabio, flying up to look me in the face.  He saluted. “We shall clean this yard for you.  It shall be as if we were never blessed with the victuals.”

“Thanks!” I raised my eyebrows. “Are you sure?”

“It would our honor,” he said and the other pixies nodded vigorously.  Fabio’s gleeful smile reappeared. “Perhaps, oh glorious Molly, we might finish such snacks as can be discovered?”

“Certainly.” I smiled back. “In fact, here.”  I ducked inside and grabbed a paring knife and a strawberry gumball.  On the picnic table I cut the gum into seven ragged pieces. “Here’s an extra thank you for helping me out.”

The humming of their wings filled the air as the seven crowded around the unassuming pieces.  “What is it?”  “Can you eat it?” “It’s very pink.”

“It’s bubble gum and you chew it.  Don’t swallow it.  You can flatten it out and blow air against it and make bubbles.  It’s fun, I promise.”

“Hmm, if you say so Munificent Molly,” said Fabio.  The others nodded, frowns on their faces, radiating a faint rose luster.  Annoyance? Doubt?  Oh well, I hoped they liked the clothes.  I needed to get some food.  I was starved.

***

The next day I peeked outside.  The back yard seemed empty.  Had I imagined yesterday’s crazy events?

I walked across the deck.  The yard, deck, and patio were immaculate.  Garbage, beer bottles, everything was cleaned up, as though it had never been.  The bubblegum was gone, too.

“Molly!” “Molly!” “Lady Molly!” My name was being called by many small voices.  I turned and stifled a giggle.  The clothes fit the pixies very well.  However, the pixies had little regard for the intended sex of the wearer.  I was treated to the sight of Brad Pitt in a ballerina tutu and Lady Beyonce in a white Liberace-style sequined tux.  Color combinations were also original.  For instance Sir Ryan Gosling looked quite fetching in a brilliant red and gold tartan plaid jacket with a purple floral wrap-around skirt.  Pixies didn’t wear shoes, but Sir Fabio had made my plastic sparkling doll pumps into a necklace.

“You all look… stunning,” I said, biting the side of my cheek to keep from laughing as the little folk bowed and preened in their new finery.

“We know,” said Lady Charlize, batting her eyelashes coquettishly, “but that’s not the best part.”

“It’s not?” I said.

“No, the bubbles,” she said with a sigh. “The perfection that is the bubble.  We have never experienced anything like it.”

“No other pixie has been so fortunate,” said Fabio in a serious voice.  “All envy us now.”

“Okay, pixies love gum,” I said, biting my lip now. “Good to know.”

“Do you have more?” asked Lady Ginger in her lilting high tones.

“Shh,” said Prince William. “The benevolent Molly has already bestowed so much upon us.”

I waved my hands.  “No problem, guys.” I laid another strawberry gumball on the table. “You all did such a great job on the yard.  It’s the least I can do.”

“Ohhhh, more bubble!” squealed Brad Pitt, spinning around in delight.  The other pixies capered and cried out in glee.

“A-ha!” came a new high-pitched voice.

I turned to the right side of the yard.  Seven more pixies flew over my fence and hovered above my deck.  They were dressed like my bunch had been yesterday, odds and ends, but they were also armed: screws, a nail file, a small screwdriver, half a scissors, all household instruments with a new purpose.  “So, it is true,” said their leader, an exquisite little female with blue hair. “There exists more of this ‘bubble.'”

“Go Away, Clan From The Big Tree!” scolded Fabio, his aura going deep red.  “This is our place and our bubble!”  His companions rumbled their agreement (as much as pixies can rumble). Weapons appeared from out of nowhere amongst my stylish group.

“We take the bubble!” cried the feisty blue-haired leader and the two bands converged upon one another.

“Wait, wait!” I cried, slamming my hand on the table.  They stopped and all the pixies hovered, watching me with weapons drawn.

“How about this,” I suggested, “You stop fighting and I give you another piece of bubblegum.  Then each side can have their own gum.”  I placed a second gumball on the picnic table.

There was a stunned silence.  Fourteen sets of eyes stared first at me and then at the twin pink spheres on the wooden table.

Two pieces of the strawberry bubble?” squeaked Prince William.

“Two?” echoed Charlize.

“Two,” I repeated firmly, “one for each side, but only if you promise not to fight.”

“Twice the bubble.”  My diminutive friends’ faces were beatific.

“Twice the flavor.”  Their fierce counterparts’ expressions were likewise entranced.  I wondered what on earth manufacturers had put in this gum that it had such an effect on the pixie population of Alameda County.

“Twice the happiness.”

There was silence.  I exhaled, blowing my bangs upward.  The tiny would-be warriors sounded a lot like a commercial.  “So, we’re good now, right?”

“So good,” squeaked Charlize. “Twice as much for the victor!”

“Wait, no fighting,” I said, but no one was listening to me, giant or not.

“For the bubble!” cried Fabio.

“The bubble!” screamed the other pixie clan.

And with that, the battle was joined.

"Bubble Trouble" A story by Erika Gardner

“Bubble Trouble” A story by Erika Gardner

P.S.  To My BBB Gals (That’s Beer & Bacon Babes to those not in the know)- I hope you noticed that I included all our favorites in this story: beer, bacon AND babes- LOL!  Love you, my writing friends!

Erika Gardner... a lover of all things dark chocolate, heavy metal and geeky

Erika Gardner… a lover of all things dark chocolate, heavy metal and geeky

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog or on her personal site www.erikagardner.com.  You can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.

Flyer’s Broken Wheel

Wendy had the following prompts to choose from:

And the band played on.

Snuck in the back.

I just took a shower from a cockroach from hell.

Tricycle with a broken wheel

Having just returned home from the SCBWI children’s writers conference, the tricycle prompt seemed fitting. I typically write young adult, but since I told many of the picture book writers that I didn’t know how they told an entire story under 350 words, I thought I’d try for a whimsical children’s story.

 

Flyer was a tricycle.

tricycle

His fire engine red paint sparkled under the blinking lights of the Christmas tree. Red and white tassels hung from his shiny silver bars.

Flyer belonged to a boy named Tucker.

214

Flyer went everywhere Tucker went. To the park. To preschool. To day care. And sometimes if Mom was in a good mood, to bed. As Tucker grew his legs got longer. He had to hunch to reach Flyer’s handlebars.

One day, while Flyer was riding Tucker around in front of his house, his front wheel split. Tucker cried and cried. Flyer felt sad, too. Mom assured them both that Flyer could be fixed and everything would be alright.

But everything was not alright.

Covered in spider webs, dirt and rust Flyer waited many years in the cold, dusty rafters of the garage. Then one day, a man below looked up from the garage floor and spied Flyer. He took out a ladder and began to climb. As the man’s eyes came into Flyer’s view, he recognized their blue sparkle. It was Tucker all grown up!

At first Flyer was excited, wondering if the grown up boy had come to ride him to the park and to day care and to preschool.

Tucker brushed the webs from Flyer’s tassels. He polished Flyer’s fire engine red paint. Tucker eyed Flyer’s front wheel and scratched his chin thoughtfully. He dug through his tool box and pulled out a big roll of black tape. Tucker taped the split in Flyer’s tire like a bandaid. Flyer was almost like new.

Flyer shook with delight and was ready to take Tucker to the park and to preschool and to daycare again. He straightened out his seat and held his handle bars up high. But Tucker did not sit on Flyer.

Instead, Tucker lifted a small boy and placed him on Flyer’s seat. The boy was much smaller than Tucker ever was. His feet barely touched the Flyer’s pedals. So Tucker pushed Flyer around with the boy giggling with joy. Flyer had never been so happy.

The End

Okay, maybe I’ll stick to young adult, but now I can say I wrote a children’s story in under 350 words. Thanks for reading!

Wendy is a former Disney Character, wife to a hunky Matterhorn Climber, mom to three amazing little boys, and an author. She is currently seeking representation for her dystopic YA novel INDIGO. You can find out more about INDIGO at her blog http://wendyspinale.blogspot.com/.

May I Take Your Order?

Time for another Writing Challenge. Here were my prompts:

Jen- Birthday Taco Cake

Wendy- When Oompa Loompas play Candyland.

Cameron- New England clam chowder with a side of whipped cream (but hold the potatoes)

Erika- A lonely place next to the sky

I spent many childhood summers in Cape Cod. I had to pick Cameron’s!

Casey sighed as she tied her apron around her waist and pinned her nametag to the brown waitress uniform.  Larry’s Famous Diner must be the only establishment in Massachusetts that required waitresses to wear uniforms that looked like they were from the fifties. She should be grateful, she told herself. Her aunt helped her land this job after only a week in Mashpee, and Lord knows, she needed the money before she started Boston College in the fall. Casey looked in the small mirror on the locker room wall and tucked a frizzy strand of brown hair into her ponytail.   She missed California’s non-humid summer days and wondered what her friends were doing.

The swinging door that separated the lockers from the diners flew open and Sylvia grabbed Casey by the elbow. “Come on. Have you already punched in? Fletcher’s got his tightie-whities in a wad this morning. He is barking at everyone in the kitchen, and the regulars are coming in early. It’s more than I can handle.”

“Okay, okay. I’m not late,” Casey said, following the much older waitress through the door. Sylvia just waved a hand at her and trotted over to her half of the restaurant, which was already filling with the old men of the town who wanted their coffee and their toast. They came every morning, bringing their chess boards, newspapers and local sports expertise.

Casey’s section wasn’t as full, but there was a family of six crammed into one of the booths, holding menus in front of their faces.  Larry, Boss-Owner-Host, made eye contact with Casey and pointed at the table in exasperation. Casey hustled to the table and smiled. “Good morning, I’m Casey and I’ll be your waitress today. Can I get you some coffee or juice to start?”

The menus lowered and Casey stifled a laugh. They were all wearing identical Red Sox t-shirts and shared the same shade of blonde hair and sunburned skin.

“Hi Casey! My name is John, and this is my family. First, I’d like you to meet my lovely wife Martha.” A middle-aged woman looked at her through thick glasses and waved. “Our oldest is Timmy; he’s about your age I’d say.” Timmy, engrossed in his cell phone, was clearly a couple years younger and more immature than Casey. “Those beautiful girls there are fourteen year-old Mary, and twelve year-old Nancy. The family runt is Nicholas. He’s six.”  Nicholas banged his menu against the table.

There was an awkward silent moment. “Awesome,” said Casey trying to wipe the look of surprise off her face. “Welcome. What can I get you?”

“We’ll take a round of waters and orange juices.”

Casey hurried over to the drink station behind the counter and wondered what information she would be given when she asked them what they wanted to eat. Sylvia was pouring coffee into cups that were lined up, assembly-style on a tray. “Sylvia, has anyone ever introduced themselves back to you and given you their ages?”

Sylvia gave her a quick glance and went back to pouring. “Honey, stuff like that ceased to surprise me ten years ago. People will tell you their life stories and still give a crappy tip.”

The morning rush continued, with a few familiar truck drivers sitting at the counter and two tables overflowing with the Presbyterian women’s Bible Study. The loud chatter of women’s high-pitched voices, the clank of cups on the tabletops, the din of clanking pans from the kitchen mingled with the ‘50s soundtrack that Larry insisted on playing from opening to closing.

A handsome man in dark sunglasses with salt and pepper hair and a strong masculine jaw line walked into the diner. Impeccably dressed in a navy blazer, white t-shirt, and designer jeans, he had an aura, and it breathed wealth and confidence.   The man had either just stepped off a yacht or a movie set, thought Casey. Trailing him, on the end of a brown leather leash, was a small Chihuahua. As the crowd noticed him, the volume of the place dropped several decibels, to the point that Casey could hear the dog’s toenails clicking across the linoleum and Frank Sinatra singing about the sunny side of the street.

Casey looked at Larry, who was frozen in his spot, and apparently forgot to tell the gentleman that dogs weren’t allowed. The man walked up to the counter, put one hand on the edge, pulled down his sunglasses with the other, and looked directly at Casey, drowning her in the darkest, sultriest eyes she’d ever seen. In a deep, voice of velvet he said, “I’d like New England Clam Chowder, hold the potatoes, with a side of whipped cream. To go, please.”  Casey, fidgeted with her apron, and stammered, “Of course, coming right up.”

She ducked into the kitchen and delivered the order directly to Fletcher. Fletcher’s volleyball shaped, bald head ignited. “What? Who dares to mess with my clam chowder? No potatoes? Am I supposed to frickin’ pick them out with chopsticks? Who is this idiot?”

Sylvia appeared behind Casey. “Shhh, Fletcher. He’ll hear you. Eunice swears it’s George Clooney. Now, please, be nice and get his order ready.”

Fletcher looked through the small plexi-glass window that separated the kitchen from the dining area. “George Clooney, you say. Clooney my ass. If so, he’s a long way from Hollywood.”

The two local boys who helped Fletcher wash and fry were looking over his shoulder. “They do make movies on location, you know,” said the lankier one. “It’s not unheard of. Angelina Jolie was in Chatham last April.”

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a star at Larry’s,” said Sylvia.

Fletcher scratched his head. “I wonder how he knows about my clam chowder. Whipped cream? Really? The stuff already has heavy cream in it.” He looked at the boys. “Why are you standing here? Shut up and fill the order, pronto. Put the whipped cream in a separate container.”

Within ten minutes, Casey brought out the order. The diners had resumed their chatter but it was definitely more subdued. Nicholas had left his family booth and was petting the dog. The mystery man was standing at the counter, talking to one of the truck drivers, his hand casually in one pocket, a graying chest hair poking out from his V-necked shirt. Casey handed him the order, blushing against her better judgment. “Here you go, I hope you enjoy it.”

“I’m sure I will. Thank you.” He paused and read her nametag. “Have a nice day, Casey.” He unfolded a wad of bills, paid, and left her a generous tip. As he strode out of the diner, the little Chihuahua following close behind, he winked and smiled at Eunice who immediately started fanning herself with the paper napkin.

After a moment of silence, the place started buzzing.

“He said he’s here for at least a month,” said the driver, Harold from Sureway Trucking. “He’s definitely a movie star, but he said he wasn’t allowed to tell me where the set was. They need to keep the riff-raff out, you know.”

“His dog’s name is Chester,” said Nicholas proudly.

Chester Clooney and his owner came the next morning and the next and ordered the exact same thing. By the fourth day, Fletcher had a separate pot with potato-less clam chowder. He had tasted it with the whipped cream and declared it added a richer, fuller taste. However, he would only add a dollop of whipped cream upon serving so the cream would gently slide its way into the hot soup.   Soon, others were ordering the clam chowder the same way.

By the tenth day, Casey was certain that everyone in Mashpee, Massachusetts had tried the clam chowder with whipped cream and no potatoes. At the end of the second week, Larry printed up new menus, with a line that read, Larry’s Famous, Famous Clam Chowder, an improved recipe from Larry’s Famous Clam Chowder, acclaimed by the stars, and served with a dollop of cream.

The other waitresses begged Casey for her early shift, but she wouldn’t give it up. She’d lived in California her entire life and had never met a star. Now she was in Mashpee, Massachusetts and had daily contact with one. Casey couldn’t wait to get to work each morning, for those thirty seconds when he pulled down his sunglasses, revealing his sultry dark eyes and placed his order. Not to mention his generous tips. Although she found it odd that he always ordered the same thing, paid in cash, and never stayed in the diner for long, she wasn’t going to argue. Truth was, she had gained a bit of fame for being the waitress who took his order.

Then, one bleak disappointing day, the visits stopped. No final goodbye, no last order. By the third day, the regulars were telling stories about how he had to rush back to Hollywood for an important meeting with Spielberg. They scolded themselves that they hadn’t asked for autographs. After a week or so, the diner settled back into its usual routine of chess playing old men, Bible touting Presbyterians, and chowder-ordering tourists.

One day, when Larry was going through the mail, he let out a holler and held up a white envelope. “Hey listen up guys, we got a letter from Hollywood.”  The place hushed and Fletcher emerged from the kitchen. Larry tore open the envelope and unfolded the paper inside. Anticipation hung in the air like thick maple syrup. He cleared his throat and read,

Dear Larry and all the folks at the diner,

Thank you so much for your kindness to me during my stay in Mashpee. I appreciate how you accommodated our needs as I’ve had a lifelong potato allergy and Chester will only eat his kibble if it has whipped cream on top. I can’t get true New England clam chowder in California, though the San Franciscans think they can fake it by putting it in bread bowls. If you want to see the fruits of my time in Mashpee, keep an eye out for “Mister Rong” this summer. It’s a new movie starring George Clooney.  I play his double in the stunt scenes. I know many of you thought I was the real George and I appreciate that you allowed me to stay in character while I was there.

Best wishes,

Tom Slovenberry

“We’ve been had,” screamed Fletcher, dropping a pot onto the floor. “He ruined my clam chowder! The cream was for that blasted dog!” Larry dropped the letter, his face white with shock. Casey pursed her lips and reached into her apron, clutching the few dollars of tip she had earned so far that day.

The only one who seemed unperturbed was Eunice. “I thought he was a little too stocky to be the real George,” she said.

Amy is a proud member of the BBB’s and is seeking representation of her middle grade novel Tunnels & Traitors. She’s currently working on another middle grade, The Renaming of Hubert Humphrey Lee. Check out her blog Sunny Spells at amymoellering.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seamstress of Verona

Cameron had the following prompts to choose from:

Amy- A red Harley Davidson and a time machine

Erika- I can’t find my favorite pink blouse

Wendy-  Unicorns, Mermaids, and Faeries, Oh MY!

Jen- Why do birds suddenly appear

…. And with Erika’s prompt, she wrote some “fractured Shakespeare” …

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16 July, 2013

Dear Diary,

I cannot find my favorite pink blouse. It is not simply a blouse, however; it is a lifeline. Let me take you back some several hundred years to its beginnings with us.

Romeo and I never, across these four centuries or more, learned from whence the pink silk received its magic. Draped as it was outside the tomb, my Romeo and I questioned not its existence; rather, we simply assumed advantage from it.

You see, on our escape from the tomb that late-July night, we possessed no dressing gowns or proper clothing to cover our frames. The embalming fabrics had proved worthless in both form and function; impractical in every possible sense. Romeo had graciously helped unwind the dressings from my slight frame just as readily as I offered assistance to him.

As sunrise approached and the time for our great escape drew necessary, we pushed aside the stones that covered the opening to the tomb and happened upon a lovely surprise: Drawn up in a massive heart-shaped bunting outside the tomb were more than a dozen yards of rose-colored silk.

Romeo, ever the gentlemen, wrapped me carefully in nearly all of the silk, tying the bodice tightly but leaving the skirt loose enough for me to run and climb. He spared only enough of the pink silk to fashion a modest codpiece for himself.

And away we ran. Through the catacombs, up to the surface of the burial grounds, and past the grave markers of simpler folks, we sought our freedom. Over the rolling hills and through olive groves we made our way to the remote village outside Verona that would be our eternal home. There, with little more than the silk that covered us and the love that sustained us, Romeo and I began our lives.

We had planned this part of the journey: We would live out our days in relative anonymity and poverty but would remain wealthy in our love. The poet, William Shakespeare, you see, did not know that the young lovers he created had ideas of their own. Suicide, we knew, was no admirable behavior. Defying the literary tragedy the poet wrote for us, we instead pooled our intellectual resources and chose destiny over fate. [Ask any writer of fiction and she will tell you of the autonomous ways of fictional characters-in-the-making.]

But I digress. The Bard of Avon created a tragedy filled with romance, rebellion, drama and a few healthy sprinklings of comic relief. Romeo and I, with the aid of the magic silk, created eternity. That eternity was unplanned.

In the early decades of our forever-on-Earth we suspected the silk’s power, noticing that only when wearing the silk did our health and stamina thrive. Without the silk, we developed weaknesses and ailments only cured by replacing the silk. Therefore, when our baby girl was born the April after our escape, I developed my talent as seamstress. Over these many years I have crafted, assembled, disassembled and remade the silk into hundreds of patterns to adorn not only myself and Romeo, but our beautiful daughter, Romiet. As she grew, I kept her safe with a piece of silk close to her body, only removing it to allow her to grow in body and mind from time to time.

After all these centuries, however, we now find ourselves at a stopping point. Romiet is 14, as, oddly, am I still. We are a family made up of three teenagers, two of whom are parents wielding no influence over the third.  Can one imagine any dynamic more destructive – even in the presence of the magic silk? Nevertheless, this is where we find ourselves on this late-July night in 2013.

Romiet has stolen the blouse.

As family dramas go, and as dramatic tragedies are written, daughters rebel against their mothers.

Romeit has stolen the blouse. She has stolen it to protect her own eternity.

My loving Romeo and I must now rest, at last. We have bathed in our 420-year romance and now it is time to succumb to Shakespeare, who wins the tragic ending to his tale.

If there is justice to be found in this tragedy, it lies in this truth: The beautiful young Romiet – who never bothered to learn my seamstress trade – must now live out her remaining centuries in a vintage pink blouse with poufy sleeves and a hideous, ornate collar – circa-1593 meets circa-1984.

Love,

– Juliet

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This post was written by Cameron, who has not been writing enough fiction this past year for her own liking, but is grateful still to be counted among the BBB Gals and who, oddly, has referenced Shakespeare in two of her three bbbgals posts.

At Last

Erika had the following prompts to choose from:

Amy- A parasol in an English garden

Cameron- Herman the hermit crab found a new home.

Jen- Buckle Hairy Fin

Wendy- What really happens when you fall down the rabbit hole.

After much agonizing and a couple of inspirational running sessions, she chose… Amy’s

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I hear voices on the wind. Once in a while, they call me still.

It started the summer I turned sixteen. My ten-year-old brother, Charlie, and I were staying with a great-aunt of ours in England while our parents toured the United States in support of my mother’s latest book.  Aunt Cora was  our father’s aunt, the much older sister of his mother, my late Grandma May.

“Don’t worry, Lucy,” my mom reassured me as she helped me pack.  “Your father has always been Aunt Cora’s favorite.  She dotes on him.  Poor old thing never really recovered from the loss of her younger brother.  He was only twenty-two. Grandma May said Cora always blamed herself for his death.”

“What happened?” I asked.  To my  teenaged self, the tragedy of dying young seemed romantic and intriguing.

“Hmm,” Mom said, folding pants with brisk, precise movements. “I don’t think I ever heard exactly.  Some sort of accident, in the garden.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling deflated.  A gardening accident hardly had the dramatic punch I hoped for.

“Nancy!” Came my dad’s voice. “Would you please explain to Charlie why he cannot bring Indiana Jones on the plane?”  Indiana Jones was my brother’s pet snake.

“Be right there, dear!” My mom smiled at me. “You can finish up here? You must be so excited– just think, England for the whole summer!”

A week later as I gazed upon Aunt Cora’s home outside Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, I was less than thrilled.   From the moment we set foot in merry old England it rained.  It poured when we got off the plane, as Aunt Cora met us and drove us east from Manchester, and  it was drizzling still as we unloaded our bags from her Land Rover.

Our family were minor aristocrats at some point, now we could only be called middle-class, but Aunt Cora’s home was large, old and had the look of a small-ish country manor house nestled between gentle hills and a canal leading to the River Don.  Eight bedrooms, she told us in the car, which was impressive, but only two  and a half bathrooms, which was less impressive, especially as one of those was exclusive to Aunt Cora.  At sixteen I spent a fair amount of time in the bathroom looking in the mirror.  Laugh all you want at those eighties hairstyles, they took a lot of time and effort to achieve.

Garden pathway along sunny flower wall leading into the distance“Tsk, tsk,” said Aunt Cora as she pulled into her circular drive with an expert hand.  At eighty-five she was a straight-backed, tall figure who oozed practicality and competence.  “Such a shame it’s raining on your first day.  Still, you’ll have ample time to explore later and I have plenty of indoor projects you’ll be a great help with.  Now, let’s see about getting the kettle on.  A cup of tea is just what we all need.”

Charlie and Aunt Cora, loaded down with luggage, headed into the house, but I hesitated, staring at the grounds around me. The garden was gorgeous, everything you could want an English garden in June to be.  At that moment the clouds parted and for the first time since Charlie and I arrived in England, the sun shone.

The flowers were still wet from the rain and the drops on their petals sparkled in the sunshine like diamonds.  Transfixed, I set my bags down next to the car and walked through the formal flower beds around to the side of the house where the foliage was more natural.  On the left side I followed a gold gravel walkway along a hillside with a gray rock wall, covered in flowers.  At the end of the path was a gate.  As I headed toward it, a girl just a little older than me emerged from a path to my right near a tumble of ruined stone behind the house.  “Hello!” I called.

She turned at the sound of my voice.  I was struck by her clothes, so different from my acid-washed jeans, sweatshirt and red Keds.  She wore a white calf-length skirt that flared below her hips, black thick-heeled pumps with an ankle strap and a V-neck lavender blouse with long sleeves that puffed at the shoulders.  A necklace of some kind caught the sunshine for an instant, the metal glittering around her throat.  Her long, black hair fell in soft waves down her back.  There was something about her struck me as strange.  Standing in the welcome sunshine I felt cold, but could not understand why.

The stranger also froze and for an instant our eyes met.  “Lucy?” I heard my brother’s voice calling me.  At the sound the girl turned and ran out the open gate, her fleeing feet not making a sound.  On impulse I ran after her, ignoring Charlie.  I raced along the path  to the river.  There was no sign of the girl anywhere.  Feeling foolish, I hurried back to Charlie.

3208763331_4a30150617_oThat night, trying to fall asleep in the soft feather bed of my light-blue guest bedroom, I replayed the odd encounter again in my head.  As I drifted off to sleep a worrisome thought passed through my weary brain.  I remembered what was off; in the bright afternoon sunshine  the girl had not cast a shadow.

The next morning, I stared out the window.  It was raining again.  “Come to England, they said,” I muttered. “It’s summer, they said.  Ugh, I say.”

“You said it,” grumbled Charlie from behind me.  “You done with breakfast?”

“Yep.”

“Aunt Cora wants to see us.”

“I’ll clear for you, my dears,” said Mrs. Hardy, a capable, pink-cheeked middle-aged woman who served as Aunt Cora’s daily help, secretary and sometimes nurse all in one friendly strawberry-blonde bundle of energy.  She reached for the dishes with a broad smile on her plump face.  They made quite a pair: Mrs. Hardy so short and round and our great aunt so tall and spare.

“Oh, Mrs. Hardy?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“I saw a girl in the garden yesterday, but she left before I could talk to her.  Do you know who she was?”

“Dark-haired girl?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh, that’s Stella, neighbor down the lane a bit.  Nice sort o’ girl,” said Mrs. Hardy, wiping down the dark wooden table with care. “You best be getting to your aunt now.”

I went, shaking my head at myself.  What a dork I am, I thought.

Cora’s bedroom was on the second floor and overlooked the canal as well as the green vista of the tree-filled countryside around them.  It was a pleasant room and displayed an unexpected streak of sentimentality in its owner, being full of mementos of her past.  Charlie gazed around with unabashed curiosity while Cora observed him from her desk with a certain tolerant humor.  “Who’s that?” he asked, pointing to two paintings above the fireplace of a man and a woman both with light brown hair and brilliant blue eyes very like Cora’s own.

“Those are my parents, your great-grandparents,” she said with a smile.

“And those people?” he pointed a series of three group portraits hanging on the opposite wall.  They showed a young woman and two children.  In each successive picture the woman changed little, while the children became teenagers and later young adults.

“That is me, pictured with your late grandmother, my younger sister May, and your late great-uncle, my younger brother, Thomas,” she said, her smile fading as she regarded the paintings.  “He was a very handsome young man.  May and I were never close, but Thomas and I shared a special bond.  Your father reminds me of him.”

I walked over to study the painting, wanting to a get better look at this namesake of my father’s who died so young. Like me and Charlie, Thomas was fair-haired.  Cora was equally fair, her shining flaxen hair piled high on her head.  My grandmother had her parents’ light brown hair and bright blue eyes, but Thomas’ eyes were deep brown, a striking contrast with his blonde hair.

“Strange to think I should be the last one left of us,” she murmured.

“Was he ever married?” I asked.  Once again, I had the feeling that I was overlooking a crucial detail, but I couldn’t see what.

Aunt Cora raised one eyebrow at me. “Thomas? Certainly not!  Of course, there were plenty of girls chasing him around.  They came from all over the county.  None of them were worthy of him… definitely not her.”  She spoke with vehemence, as though continuing an old conversation.

“Her?” asked Charlie in a bright voice, coming to stand next to me before the portraits.  “Who her?”

Cora rose and said, ignoring his question, “Come, come, as it is raining I thought you might want to poke through the attics.  I need you to bring down boxes so I can organize what is to be donated to next weekend’s church sale.  I am sure all those old toys and things will be quite amusing for you and it will spare my old bones immeasurably.”

“Okay,” said Charlie, with his usual good humor.  “Can I keep anything?”

Our aunt smiled once more. “Perhaps, but please check with me before you pocket your spoils.” She glanced at me. “Lucy, dear, I hope you will feel free to find something for yourself?”

I shrugged.  At sixteen I considered myself far too adult for old toys.  Aunt Cora seemed to know what was passing through my mind for she added, “There may be some jewelry or other trifles that would be more to a young lady’s taste.”

“Oh, um, okay.”  That did sound more interesting.  So I skipped the usual morning primping, pulled my blond hair into a high ponytail and joined my brother in the attic.

closedparasolAunt Cora was right, we had a grand time that morning.  I will never forget the thrill of unpacking the boxes and finding new items.  Most possessed the hilarity implicit in one generation’s perceptions of what previous generations found to be stylish.  For me, the clothes from the fifties, sixties and seventies were a riot.   Charlie was like a prospector, exclaiming on one find after another and then squirreling away his treasures.

Time went so quickly we worked right through lunchtime and Mrs. Hardy had to come and tell us to stop as she and our aunt were already done eating and she wanted to start clearing up the kitchen.

At lunch, as we enjoyed hearty sandwiches and  tomato soup, Aunt Cora took a break from her boxing of our finds to have a quick cup of tea with us.  “So,” she said, setting her clipboard down on the table and sitting across from us as Mrs. Hardy handed her a mug. “How did it go?  You’ve brought down enough for a half-dozen sales.”

“No problem, ” said Charlie, his face covered in grime, as he finished chewing. “I’ll even put stuff away again.  Look at everything I found!”  Leaping up, he began showing  off his stash, littered on the floor around him: a pogo stick, tinker toys, an Erector set, army men.  I glanced at Aunt Cora and rolled my eyes.  She smiled and gave an almost imperceptible shrug before leaning across the table and tapping it with one bony finger.  “Well done, Charles, although I cannot imagine however you will get all this back to the wilds of America with you.”

“Don’t worry, Aunt Cora,” he said with a grin. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Indeed,” she said. “Now wash your hands again before you eat after touching all those dirty things.” She stood and took her cup to the sink.  Rinsing it, she called over one shoulder, “And Lucy,  were you able to find anything for yourself?”

“Well, sort of, just one thing,” I said pulling my find out from beneath the table.

“Yuck, that dirty umbrella?” said Charlie, shaking his head at me as he waited for the sink.

“It’s only because it was so far back, hidden in the rafters,” I retorted, stung. “Besides, this isn’t just an umbrella.  I think they call this a parasol.”

There was a crash and the sound of breaking china in the sink as my aunt dropped the cup she was rinsing.  “Wow, Aunt Cora!” said Charlie. “You okay?”

She dried her trembling hands on a dish cloth and then placed the pieces of the broken mug in the waste bin.  Smoothing her shirt, she said, “I am quite fine, Charles.  Now, Lucy, what have we here?”

I held up my treasure.  “May I keep it, aunt?”

“Well, I quite agree with Charles, what a piece of rubbish,” she said, pressing her lips together in a thin line.

“See?” said Charlie. “Told ya’.”

“Shhh, Charles,” said Aunt Cora. “While it is quite dreadful, if you would like it, I can hardly deny you your choice, especially after so much hard work.  I do wish you had chosen something more suitable, but then, there is no accounting for taste.”

I felt myself flush and wished I could crawl away and hide.  It was awfully dirty, but somehow, when I touched the parasol I knew it needed to be out of the attic.  This was something that had to see the light of day.  Running one finger over its delicately carved wooden handle, I felt it again, the powerful impulse to clean away the grime and take it out– take it out in the garden.

I spent the afternoon returning rejected items back to the attics and the evening cleaning my new parasol with great care.  To my surprise, and delight, under its patina of dirt was an item of surpassing beauty.  The wooden handle was carved with graceful lines and the hand painted screen was white with lovely flowers in light blues and purples.  Exhausted, I gloated over my prize that night in my room.  Vindication replaced my earlier embarrassment as, other than a faint rattle in its handle, the parasol was perfect.

The next day broke sunny and fair and Charlie and I bolted for the outdoors.  He quickly found a friend in Mrs. Hardy’s youngest son, a twelve-year-old imp named James and the two disappeared to the Hardys’ home.  I did not mind being abandoned in the slightest.  I was longing to explore the garden and then envisioned a pleasant afternoon reading outside.  Seeing a few clouds on the horizon I brought my parasol.  The flowers seemed even brighter and more exquisite today in the sunshine.  As I went down the narrow track to the back of the house, I saw the dark-haired girl, Stella? She was once more coming from the path to the right near the ruins.  I raised a hand in greeting, but, just as yesterday, after a startled glance my way she ran out the back gate, soundless, her white skirts disappearing in the greenery toward the canal.

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As I investigated the various walks and secret corners, I found just the sort of bench I had hoped for, near some glorious pink hollyhocks.  I settled down with my book.  After a time the bright sun made it difficult to read, so, feeling quite well-prepared, I opened my beautiful parasol to shade my pages.

Like a murmur in the next room, I heard the sound of a man’s voice.  Glancing around, I saw that I was alone.  “Hello?” I called, but all I heard in response was the chirping of birds above me.

Returning to my chapter, I heard the voice again.  It sounded like he was calling someone.  I stared at the garden around me, but no one was there.   I shook my head, returning to my book, but no sooner had I begun reading when I heard the voice, clearer and closer than before.  This time I could make out words, “Where are you?”  Responding to the deep sadness in the tone I closed my book and parasol and, setting them aside, I got up to investigate.  Heading up the walk back towards the more formal gardens near the house  I ran into a vigorous older man crossing my path, his hair streaked with silver.

“Hullo,” he said with a wide smile, lighting up his wide-set gray eyes with a twinkle.  “You must be young Lucy.”

“I am,” I said. “How did you know that?  I’m sorry, Mr….?”

“I’m Graham, friend of the family, no need for titles with me,” he said, sticking one hand out in greeting.  “Cora told everyone you and your brother were visiting.  Come, it’s time for a spot of lunch.  I’ve been sent to fetch you.”

“Nice to meet you,” I said as we headed for the house. “So that was you I heard.”

Graham raised grizzled eyebrows at me. “I didn’t say anything.”

Frowning, I followed him inside where Aunt Cora was waiting for us.  Mrs Hardy had gone home to check on the boys.  “Ah, Lucy, I see Graham was able to find you,” my aunt said. She placed a hand on the arm of the tall, dark-haired girl next to her. “And here I have one more local to introduce to you.  This is our neighbor, Stella.  She lives a few houses down the lane.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Stella, dimples springing  to life in her pink cheeks as she smiled.

“You, too,” I said.

“My greetings to your mother, Stella,” said Aunt Cora.  “I hope you will pardon us.”

“Sure- time I was off,” said Stella, waving amiably. “Afternoon, Lucy, Graham.”

As the door closed behind her, I frowned.  Her hair was dark alright, but it was short and curly.  This was not the girl I had seen in the garden.

Before I could comment on this, Cora beckoned me to join them at the table. “Graham is one of my oldest friends,” she said.  “Why, he grew up on my parents’ lands back when this was still an estate.”

Graham smiled as we all sat down to eat. “Aye, you should have seen this place before the war.”

Aunt Cora’s smile faltered.  “Yes, everything was different before 1939.  Seems like another life.”

Seeing her mood change Graham launched into a series of funny anecdotes.  He worked as a university professor and he shared many wry observations on his students’ foibles.  Aunt Cora’s smile returned.

After our meal she went to lie down.  I offered to show Graham out.  He was an intelligent, humorous bachelor with kind eyes and a self-deprecating, dry wit.  Despite the difference in our ages, I found him easy to talk to.  As we stood by his car I felt comfortable enough to ask him, “I don’t mean to pry, but what was that bit about 1939?”

He leaned against his Volvo and pursed his lips. “Well, it was the start of World War II.”

“Oh, of course, stupid of me not have known,” I said, feeling my face turn pink.

“No, no, it’s part of the history books for your generation, but Cora and I lived it,” he said.  “More than that though, 1939 was the year Cora lost her brother, Thomas, and it was the year my sister disappeared.  It was an awful time.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.  “Was she younger or older?”

“Older, by two years,” he paused, his eyes far away, “Lorna was eighteen when she disappeared.  I was away at school at the time.  The term was just ending.  I came  home a couple of days… after.”

“After?”

“After Thomas died and Lorna disappeared.”

“Wow.  What happened? I mean, sorry… if you don’t mind me asking.”  It occurred to me that this might be a painful subject.

He seemed to understand. “It was forty-six years ago.  I’m fine.” He drew a deep breath and continued, “Of course, your aunt never got over Thomas’ death.  She always blamed herself.”

“I heard it was some sort of gardening accident?”

Graham snorted.  “You could say that, stones for a gazebo his parents were have built fell on him, the back of his head was crushed.  Cora accidentally dislodged a cart with the building materials that hadn’t been unloaded yet.  It rolled down the hill and into Thomas.  He had never had a chance. ”

“I thought gazebos were made of wood?”

“Not this one,” said Graham.  “It was to be quite the grand affair, but it was never finished.  Cora was distraught and refused to allow her parents to continue with the project- too many painful memories.  Then that September the Germans invaded Poland and the war changed everything.”

There was a silence and then Lucy asked, “But what happened to your sister?”

“No one knows.  The night Thomas died was his twenty-second birthday party.  This place was packed with people, celebrating.  My sister never came home.  Between the gala and the accident, no one realized Lorna was missing until the next day.  Cora has always been convinced Lorna left with a broken heart.”

“Why would she think that?”

“Thomas and Lorna were an item.  Cora said it wasn’t serious and that Thomas broke things off earlier in the week. Lorna couldn’t accept the break-up and tried to see Thomas at the party, but Cora asked her to leave.  Thomas backed Cora up and my sister was distraught.  No one knows what happened next, only that the next day, she was gone.”

“What do you think happened?”

Graham spread his hands out in front of him.  “After so many years wondering, I have no clue.  Her last phone calls with me were so lit up, she seemed so happy.  I can’t imagine her leaving, but there was no hint of any harm coming to her  and my family were never able to trace her whereabouts.  Of course, with the war, the chaos it brought, it was easier for a young person to disappear and start a new life as someone else.  After all, she was an adult.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“Again, after so many years, it’s  something I live with,’ replied Graham.  “Thank heaven for Cora, she’s twenty-three years older than me and she’s almost been like a third parent over the years.  First Lorna, then my folks died in the war.  Cora stepped in and helped with my education.  I know people think she’s stern, but she was always good to me.”

I smiled, thinking of my tall, strict aunt.  “She does seem pretty formidable.”

Graham wagged one finger at me in a chiding motion.  “You just say that because you are so young.  I’ve heard rumors of Cora herself being quite the social butterfly in her youth.  Why there are even stories of her parents shipping her off for a European tour so they could extradite her from the evil influence of some tall, dark and handsome local Lothario!”

I tried to picture my aunt as a young girl and stifled a giggle.  Graham opened his car door. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Lucy.  I hope you have a wonderful summer.”

Looking back, it was a wonderful time.  Our days passed and a kind  of routine came about.  We had chores, “projects” our aunt called them, but we had free time, too.  Charlie and I got to know Stella, Graham, Mrs. Hardy and her son, James, quite well, but not so with our aunt.   She was strict and fair, but held herself aloof.  She also had no patience for what she termed, “my girlish fancies.”

I continued to see the dark-haired young woman in the garden.  No one else had seen her and Aunt Cora seemed quite insulted that I should be “telling tales” when I asked after the stranger.  My aunt stared at me, as though trying to contain herself and then said in a flat, expressionless voice,   “Lucy, you will keep these delusions to yourself.  You are far too old for make-believe.  People will believe you have gone soft in the head.”

Seeing her opinion was so adamant, I decided not to tell her about the voice I heard in the garden.

On sunny days as I read under my parasol I could hear him, my stranger.  He was only a voice and he always said the same thing, in the same heartbroken voice. “My very own, where are you?”  I would sit listen so hard, trying to figure where out where the voice came from, but it seemed to be all around me and I knew, if I closed the parasol, the voice would disappear.

So it happened that one late afternoon I sat on my bench with the parasol open, listening.  I no longer bothered with the book.  What did some made up story matter when I had a real mystery to figure out?  Graham came striding up the path and stopped, gaping at me.  “What’s wrong, Graham?” I asked.

He pointed at the umbrella in my hand.  “Where did you get that?”

“What? This?” I looked at the parasol, closed it and then I regarded Graham. “I found it in the attic.”

Graham’s face turned red, then went white.  I stood, worried that he was having a heart attack when Aunt Cora followed Graham up the same path. “Ready for supper–,” she began, but stopped when she saw Graham staring me. “Oh, dear.”

“What’s wrong with him, aunt?” I asked.

Graham collected himself.  When he spoke his voice was flat, matter-of-fact. “That is Lorna’s parasol.  It was a gift from Thomas and her favorite possession.  She went everywhere with it.  It disappeared with her. Why was it in your attic?”

Cora held up an imperious hand.  “It is nothing.  I found it the day after the party.  I knew it would raise questions so I hid it.  Easier for everyone.”

Graham continued to stare at her.  A muscle in his forehead ticked.

“Every time I open it in this garden, he calls for her,” I said.  The two adults stared at me. “Don’t believe me? Listen.” I opened the parasol.

For a moment there was silence, not even a bird spoke in the fading light of a summer evening.  I saw Aunt Cora shift in impatience just before the voice came, calling her. “Where are you, my very own?”

The blood drained from Cora’s face.  “Thomas,” she whispered.

“I’ll be damned,” said Graham.  “He’s searching for Lorna, too.”

“I don’t understand, Thomas is dead, Lorna is dead.  Why is he searching for her?” I said, staring at Aunt Cora’s wretched expression.

Graham’s face twisted in pain. “Thomas was buried in hallowed ground, given a service in accordance with his beliefs.  He’s unhappy, but at rest, as he expected to be.  Yet Lorna has none of that.”  He glared at Cora and thundered, “What did you do with my sister?  Where is her body?”

“Honestly, Graham,” she said, turning away as though in distaste.  “She was never up to your intellectual standard.  You were so much better off without her.  As Thomas would have been.”

“She was loving and kind.  More than that, she trusted you.” His voice was now a steel whisper, taut with feeling. “She was my sister!”  Gray eyes met bright blue ones in a battle of wills.  “Now, where is Lorna?”

I had a flash of understanding.  Things I had been trying to figure out for weeks aligned themselves like puzzle pieces waiting to be fitted in a predetermined design.  “She runs to the river, she always runs to the river.” I realized out loud.

“What, Lucy?” said Graham.

The picture was becoming clearer.  “I thought she ran away because she saw me, but that’s not it.  She’s stuck, reliving the same moments again and again.  Like a phonograph needle on the words of a song.” I stared in horror at Aunt Cora as she drew herself up proudly.  “She’s running away from you; she’s always been running away from you.”

“I do not know what you are referring to,” my aunt said not meeting my stare.

“I’ve been seeing the last moments of her life.  Dear God, Aunt Cora, what did you do to her when you caught her?” I thought for a minute.  “You killed her, didn’t you?  And Thomas, he must have… did he see you?  So you murdered him, too?”

“Tsk, tsk, Lucy. I would appreciate it if you would endeavor not to be so melodramatic. It was a moment of deep pragmatism.  Thomas simply would not allow me to protect him from these crumpets that chased him.  Lorna was just the latest of a long line and she would not be frightened off.  Fancied herself in love.  I did my best for Thomas, I held her under.  When he found us, Thomas wasn’t sure if I had disposed of her or was trying to save her.”  Aunt Cora’s disdain was biting.  “When he realized the truth and would have betrayed me by allowing his weakness to control him, well, I had to protect my interests and his character.  My parents were always emphatic: you are nothing without your reputation… it was a simple thing.  Men always underestimate women.  I used a brick on his head.  I hope, I pray that he never knew.  Later, I released the cart and it crushed him.  My poor darling.”

She stared at us and then raised a revolver.  I swallowed, my heart rate rising.  I had no idea she carried a gun.

“You must understand,” Cora continued, “after all this time.  I simply cannot allow Thomas’ good name to raked through the mud and I certainly will not allow his final memory to be associated with that chit of a girl.  She was just like the others I drove off.”  Her face twisted into a grotesque mask.  “None of them was good enough for my Thomas.”

“Why?” asked Graham.  “Why did it matter to you?  Why was it so important who your brother married?”

My breath caught as the next piece of the puzzle slipped into place, something that had bothered me since the first time I saw my uncle’s portrait.  “Because he wasn’t her brother.  Thomas was her son.”

Graham turned to me. “Lucy, what are you talking about?  I knew them growing up.  Believe me, Thomas was her younger brother.”

I looked from Graham to Cora and saw in her eyes confirmation that the puzzle pieces spoke the truth.  I shook my head. “I should have known when I saw the family portraits.  We just studied this in biology.  It is not physically impossible for two blue-eyed people to have a son with deep brown eyes, I mean, gene mutation does occur, but it is genetically highly improbable.  Graham, you yourself told me Cora left the country to escape an entanglement with a dark, presumably, brown-eyed, ‘Lothario.’  In that time she did not tour Europe; she had a child, whom her parents introduced to the community as her younger brother.”

“Oh, good God,” said Graham.

My aunt’s square shoulders slumped, but then she straightened. “You are just like your wretched sister– all about yourself, never thinking about other people’s lives.  You’ll have to go, too.”

“What?” asked Graham.  “Why me?”

“Lucy is a child.  No one will believe her, especially with her babbling about seeing women in white this summer– most unstable, my dear– but, you are something else, a professor, well-liked, respected.  I cannot have you ruining everything.  After all this time, no one can know.”  Cora’s eyes burned with fanatical fire and she raised the pistol again, pointing at Graham’s chest.

“Aunt Cora!” I screamed. “No!”  As her finger pulled the trigger and the handle went back, I raised the only weapon I had, my parasol, and I cracked Aunt Cora over the head with it as hard as I could.  She went down, bleeding at the temple, her eyes closed.  I gasped as pieces of the handle clattered on the patio stones at my feet.

One of these pieces was small and shining.  Graham glanced at my fallen aunt, but instead he bent and picked it up.  It was a ring of gold, set with a single diamond.  Even at sixteen I knew that it was an engagement ring. Another puzzle piece came together in my mind. “We only have Cora’s word that Thomas and Lorna’s relationship wasn’t serious, and she’s the only one who said they broke up.  Remember, you said your sister was so happy.  Maybe they knew Cora would protest their engagement, so Lorna hid the ring in the parasol handle.  A large party like Thomas’ birthday was the perfect place to announce their marriage plans.  Cora might be unhappy, but it would be done, public.  They would be able to move forward.”

“There’s something engraved,” Graham said.  Squinting in the fading light he read, “To L-  For Always- Yours, T.”

As he spoke the words the golden sunshine of dusk seemed to gather itself together, forming the shape of a young man.  The air around him crackled and popped with electricity as, for a few fleeting moments I saw my great-uncle Thomas as he must have looked the night he died.  His eyes searched the garden, passing over Graham and me.  “Lorna,” he called, as I had heard him say so many times this haunted summer, his voice breaking on the words, “where are you, my very own?”

I was not surprised when a faint miasma appeared above the ruins of what would have been a very fine stone gazebo.  It grew stronger, outlines of silver light and sparkles of lavender.  All at once, she was there, a graceful specter wreathed in smiles, floating, almost dancing toward Thomas.  Lorna reached one hand out to Graham as she passed and pressed a ghostly hand to her lips, breathing a kiss to her brother before she joined hands with Thomas.  “I am here, my love,” she said. “I never left you.”

Looking back I suppose that the ghosts should have scared us, but they never did.  Aunt Cora with her burning, hateful eyes was far more frightening than these two spectral lovers, dancing for a brief moment in the summer air.  I had the sense of destiny being nudged back into place.

The images dissolved as the gold and the lavender joined, sparkling in a graceful phantom ballet, swirling in the twilight before disappearing, never to be seen again.

**************************************************************************************************************

I am forty-four years old now.  I’ve had twice the number of days as Thomas and even more than that were stolen from Lorna.  My parents decided that Aunt Cora was simply a sick old woman.  I think she was sick alright, but it happened long before she was old. She lived the remainder of her days in a very special hospital.  I’m told she was a model patient.   I often wonder what her life would have been like if she could have raised her baby as her son, instead of with the stifled longing of a pretend-sister.

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They found Lorna under the ruins of the gazebo that never was.  Around her neck was a locket– the necklace I caught a glimpse of every time I saw her.  Inside, Graham showed me, was a miniature of Lorna and Thomas: laughing, alive and in love.

Still, this isn’t a sad story.  Not any more.  Because now and again, as I am outside, in a garden, any garden, I will hear a man’s loving murmur on the wind and then the answering musical laughter of a young woman drifts across the breeze, and I know that they are together.  I do not know theology or religion and I do not hold the answers to life after death.  I can only say that somehow, somewhere, in the universe, Lorna and Thomas are together… for always… at last.

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog or on her personal site www.erikagardner.com.  You can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.

When Paisley was cool

I had the following prompts to choose from:

  • Erika-  When paisley was cool
  • Amy- A pink plastic flamingo in a Koi pond
  • Wendy- What happens at Band Camp, stays at Band Camp
  • Cameron-  My massage therapist, Fabio, is not a product of my imagination, really.

I really liked them all, however not being as clever as Wendy, I chose one, Erika’s.  Being in a bit of a melancholy mood over summers of my own youth, I concocted this.  Please be of a mind that I have never belonged to a country club or known a boy named James Dean.  Enjoy:

When Paisley was cool,
And I a young fool,
Fell in love with James Dean
By the country club pool.

He was smooth as can be,
When he whispered to me,
I was the prettiest thing
That he’d ever see.

Out under the trees
Floated bands’ melodies
And the scent of Jasmine
Blew by on the breeze

It was not rehearsed
And I deeply immersed
In a kiss that made
My pitter patter heart burst.

I will tell you this,
That first kiss was bliss
A sweet summer something
I always will miss

I was so innocent
And just what that kiss meant
Was a lesson in life
And how true love went

Summer ended, so cruel
James Dean left for school
Never saw him again,
That’s first love’s rule.

But I remember it now,
And a smile I’ll allow
Thinking back to the days
When Paisley was cool.