How To Find What You Came Here For

Welcome to the worlds that populate my brain!
The short stories you find here are the product
of a vastly overactive imagination
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hot Chocolate

No matter how high she built the fire, Tara couldn’t get warm.  The sound of the wind whistling and howling around the house chilled her to the bone despite the comforting heat from the fireplace.
She shivered and pulled the heavy quilt tighter around her shoulders.  Jason had been so excited to book this cabin for the week so they could celebrate their tenth anniversary.  Of course, their actual anniversary was a little more than two months away…but the rates for the cabin were more than double in June so they were celebrating a little early.

Tara looked around at the small windows along the front of the cabin and listened for the sound of Jason stacking firewood on the porch.  The property manager had made a point of mentioning the storage building full of wood when they’d picked the keys up, and now she knew why.  Jason was going to be freezing when he came in.

She shivered again and stood up, gathering the bottom edge of the quilt up to avoid tripping over it—the gleaming wooden floors were tricky enough to navigate in three pairs of socks without stepping on the quilt.  He’d appreciate some hot cocoa when he came in, she thought.

She opened and shut four cupboards before she found the pots and pans.  The water burbled a bit coming out of the tap before it steadied into a solid stream.  It was ice cold, and it occurred to her to wonder how cold it would have to get to actually freeze in the well.

She filled the pot and gingerly shuffled across the kitchen to put it down on the metal trivet covering the burner.  Some maneuvering had the bottom of the quilt under her feet for warmth, and she turned her attention to the stove.

It was gas, and much older than her stainless steel electric one at home.  Careful to keep the quilt back from the stove top, she turned the knob for the closest burner. There was an immediate hiss of gas and the unfamiliar smell of rotten eggs…but no flame.

Tara stepped back and bent to peer at the burner, trying to troubleshoot the problem.  She turned the knob back to the off position and considered the stove more closely.  Maybe you had to start it on low and let it warm up?

She turned the knob to what she presumed was the lowest setting.  The markings had long since worn off the face of the stove, so she couldn’t be certain, but the hissing wasn’t as loud.  And still there was no flame.

She turned the knob back until the hissing stopped and then stared at the stove.  The quilt slid down her shoulders, forgotten in her frustration.

“OK,” she said, and jumped a little at the sound of her voice in the cabin.  This is ridiculous, she thought to herself.  I troubleshoot some of the biggest networks in the country.  Surely I can figure out one antiquated stove!

Reaching out she snapped the knob to the middle setting and frowned as the now-familiar hissing and smell failed to produce a flame.  In a burst of irritation she slapped the knob with the flat of her hand, and jumped back at the series of pops that ignited the escaping gas into a dancing ring of blue flame.

“Huh!  What do ya know about that?” she murmured, and took a closer look at the knob.  A cautious clockwise lowered the flame, and a more confident counter-clockwise turn raised it to lick at the bottom of the pot.

Not willing to risk the flame heating the water, Tara moved to the working burner’s mate and turned the knob.   Watching the burner closely, she pushed the knob in and was rewarded with another series of pops and a dancing ring of flame.  She smiled and flicked the knob off.

By the time Jason stamped his way through the front door, followed by a blast of frigid air, she was pouring creamy hot chocolate into two mugs.

“That smells amazing!” he moaned, breathing deeply.  “Did you have any trouble with the stove?”

Tara smiled at him and shook her head, “Of course not!”

I wrote and posted this short story last year, but I'm resurrecting it for the Write On Edge prompt this week...just because it fit SO well!

Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to leave a comment so I'll know you were here!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lost Colony

Singer slapped at the back of her neck and shifted to a more comfortable position while she waited for the rest of her group to catch up.  She’d been to just about every terraformed planet in the system, and no matter what color the sky, plants, or critters happened to be, they all had one thing in common: bugs.
If scientists could figure out how to turn a dead rock into a habitable planet, why couldn’t they do it without the bugs?  She let her mind wander while her eyes tracked back and forth across the red horizon.  Every few minutes she slapped reflexively at whatever bug had stopped by for a snack. 

“Singer!  Damn it Singer, where the hell are you?” The roar of their expedition leader bounced around the trees.

“Ten meters ahead, Freberg!” she yelled back, rolling her eyes.  Scouts scouted ahead, that was the definition of the job, but Freberg got nervous if he lost sight of her for more than a second or two.

She heard the group before she saw them.  They moved slowly around the massive trunks of trees that were an odd cross of pine and oak.  The leaves that covered the floor of the forest looked like they should rustle just like the ones back on Earth, but the oddly sibilant noise they made as the group passed over them added to the hostile feel of the place.

“Singer!  I’m tired of tellin’ you to stay with the group!”

She wondered, briefly, if the color of his face was an effect of the red sky and foliage all around them.  She glanced at the drawn faces of the other four expedition members and opted against deliberately aggravating their EL.

“Freberg,” she began calmly, “I have to move ahead of the group…I’m the scout.”  She dropped what was meant to be a calming hand to the thin man’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry, I won’t lose you.”

He jerked away from her hand and took a step back.  “Look, how far are we from the colony?”

“Not far, maybe one more hour if we move at a good pace.”  Her gray eyes swept over the horizon again.

“Fine.  Can we just stay together?  At least until we know the situation at the colony.”  The hand that pulled a cloth over his sweating face was shaking slightly.

“Yeah, no problem.”  She narrowed her eyes and took a closer look at him.  “You might want to take a pain block.  You let the headache get ahead of you and we’ll be carrying you back to the transport.”

Freberg rubbed the back of his neck and nodded.  They all had headaches—the shades of red covering the planet had that effect.  The colonists had goggles that provided some protection, but their expedition hadn’t been issued any.

Forty-five minutes later they passed the outbuildings of the colony and what little chatting there was fell silent.

The buildings were intact; there were no signs of a hostile attack either by a rival faction of colonists or anything else.  It was clear that the forest was beginning to reclaim the area cleared by the colonists, but everything else remained pristine.

When the silence became oppressive, Singer spoke.  “Let’s spread out in pairs and check the buildings.  Make sure you look in the cellars…and for God’s sake announce yourselves loud and clear.”

A reedy voice piped up from the back of their group, “I thought the colonists were pacifists…unarmed?”

Singer swung around and fixed her cool eyes on the skinny sci-geek, “A rake to the head will knock points off your IQ, which is exactly what’ll happen if you scare the crap out of one of these clod thumpers.” 

The group split up, leaving her with Freberg.

“So Freberg, what did you say the name of this colony is?” she asked, and grinned when fumbled a data disk out of his pocket.

“Hmmm…that’s interesting,” he frowned at the display.

“What is?”  She looked back to where he’d stopped walking.

“They named the colony Roanoke.”

She let the name sink in for a moment before she spoke again.  “Freberg, I don’t think we’re gonna find these colonists.  I don’t think anybody is.”


This post is the beginning of what I'm calling "Lucky Sevens."  The idea is that I'm going to try to write a short story every day that is exactly 700 words.  I'm hoping that this will help me take my writing more seriously, and maybe jump-start my brain on a novel idea...which I'm very short on at the moment!  If you'd like to join in, just leave a link to your Lucky Seven in my comments and I'll be happy to pop over and read it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ever After


You know that fairy tale?  The one where the beautiful but lonely girl (who may or may not know she’s really a princess), meets the wonderfully handsome and charismatic man (who definitely knows he’s a prince), and they fall in love at first sight?

Yeah.  That wasn’t us.
Hubby and I met through a mutual friend in college (hi there, AmyBeth!).  She’d convinced me that offering to play a role-playing game with a group of guys was an awesome way to meet…well…guys! 

Of course, turns out they were guys who mostly didn’t have much experience with girls, so I became one of the guys, which was fine with me.  I loved our group—funny, creative, intelligent, and most of all…kind.  We played late into the night, and occasionally straight through the night.  At the end of those all-nighters, we’d head over to the cafeteria in our slippers and have breakfast together.  

xkcd - http://xkcd.com/



It was during one of our group’s marathon gaming sessions that Hubby, who was not yet the love of my life…killed me.

And to make things worse, he did it during one of the few sessions I didn’t attend.  So I died in absentia, so to speak, with no opportunity to do anything to prevent it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of the basic tenets of our group was that our characters didn’t get killed off.    We worked hard on those characters; we created back stories for them and played according to their motivations even when it wasn’t in the character’s best interest.  I suppose any writer can understand the affection we’d developed for our characters—they were our alter egos, in a lot of ways.

And he killed mine.

In his defense, it was an accident.  A simple, but fatal, math mistake.

Once it was discovered what he’d done he was extremely contrite, but the damage was done.  He’d killed off the very first character I’d ever created.

I did forgive him…eventually.  There were other games, other campaigns, other characters.

He was engaged to my best friend.  I was engaged to his best friend. 

Then he wasn’t. 

And I wasn’t.

I liked him, but I wasn’t really thinking about him that way.  He was my gaming buddy—one of the guys, just like me.

Then he stopped by my apartment to visit one day, just like he’d done so many times before.  But then, while we were watching TV, he makes his move.  Picture it with me:

Huge yawn…

Both arms stretch over his head…

And when the arms come down, one just happens to come down across my shoulders.

*snort*

Yeah.  Classic, right?

There is no defense against that kind of sweet dorkiness.

I didn’t make it easy for him, though.  A co-worker suggested that he dump me after I’d sent out a series of mixed messages.  For reasons that still escape me, Hubby decided I was worth a little more effort.  We invited his helpful co-worker to our wedding…he didn’t come.

We’ve been married for nineteen years and it’s never been a fairy tale.  But then again, who wants the fairy tale, really?

I’ll take real life…warts and all...ever after.

Hey look...it's xkcd again!  http://xkcd.com/




This post is a response to a prompt from Write On Edge to write a memoir piece about our experience with someone else.   The single person I have spent the most time with, is my eternally patient Hubby.  I'm still glad he's not a prince, and I'm especially glad he's never wanted me to be a princess!  Thanks for stopping by - I appreciate all your comments!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Twitterpated

Thnx 4 the kick while I was down – I accidentally hit fwd on that email u sent and zipped it to the entire company #mightwannaduck So sry



This was a response to a prompt from Writing on the Edge - we were supposed to write a story using only the 140 characters...as if we were Tweeting.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Frozen


Growing up, I had the full complement of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and God only knows what else.  I loved them all, but not necessarily equally.

Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I guess it’s OK for kids, and when I was a kid Grandpa P – my mom’s dad – was my favorite.  He always seemed bemused by my affection.

When we got to Grandpa P’s house, I’d run through to the living room and wrap my arms around his big shoulders and give a gentle squeeze.  He smelled of Ben Gay, coffee, and bacon…no matter what time of the day it was.  If he could stand straight he was taller than any man I knew, and most of it was in his long, skinny legs. 

I knew rheumatoid arthritis was why they’d moved into town from their ranch when my mom and all but a couple of her sisters and brothers were grown.  I knew it was why he moved slowly and had a special chair in the living room.

But, as a kid, I didn’t really see the pain.  When we played cards, I saw that his gnarled hands seemed custom-made to hold the slippery rectangles.  I saw that they cupped perfectly around the bottom of the cup we used when we played dice. 

We moved away when I was thirteen.  Thirteen’s a bad age to be uprooted.  I was leaving behind the few friends I’d managed to make as an awkward, painfully shy tomboy.

My sister and I joined a youth group at our local YMCA and two months later we went to a camp in Michigan with them.  For the first time since we’d moved, I relaxed.  I had fun.

I expected to see my mom waiting in the parking lot when we got back, but she wasn’t.  Dread started sending cold tentacles into my stomach as time passed and neither of my parents came.

Finally, a vaguely familiar car pulled into the parking lot and one of our neighbors got out.  I didn’t really know her, but she explained to our chaperone that our parents had asked her to pick us up, and she’d forgotten.

A million questions swirled, but I couldn’t make myself ask them and she kept silent.

She drove us to her home, next door to ours, and helped us carry our bags into the living room.  We sat on the couch, and she sat on the chair across from us.

“Your mom and dad had to go back to Wyoming.  Your grandpa died.  We’re having macaroni and cheese for dinner.” 

She looked at us as expectantly, so I said the only thing that came to mind.

“Which grandpa?”

In that tiny pause before she answered, I was aware that part of me was thinking, “Please don’t let it be Grandpa P.”  I was hoping it was my other grandpa…I was horrified, but I couldn’t stop myself.

“Umm, I think it was your mom’s father.”  She told us to take our bags up to her daughter’s room, and she left to start dinner.

I put the bags away.  I ate.  I went to school.  I hugged my parents when they got home. 

I didn’t cry.  Ever.  I couldn’t.  The tears were sharp pieces of ice in my heart.  I was being punished for that terrible hope.

Almost a year later, I walked back into Grandpa P’s room for the first time and smelled Ben Gay, coffee, and bacon…and finally the ice I’d been frozen in ripped a hole in my heart big enough to let the tears out.




This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge (which used to be The Red Dress Club) - our assignment was to write about our worst memory.  I didn't pick my absolute worst, but on a pain scale of 1 through 10...this was about a twenty-five.  It was years before I could forgive myself for that moment that I wished my other grandpa - who I also loved very much - was dead instead of my Grandpa P.  I didn't feel like I deserved to mourn the way I saw my mother mourning, so every feeling I had simply froze until his familiar smells broke the ice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Slightly Off KILTer

I was in college the first time I saw a man in a kilt.

It was winter in Wyoming, so it was very cold - about 15 degrees below zero - and there was a constant, lazy wind blowing.  There's always wind in God's country, but in the winter it's too lazy to go around you and your hopelessly optimistic bulky clothes...it just goes straight through you and freezes your bones.

And that's when you're fully dressed with underclothes, thermal underwear, wool socks, jeans, sweats, t-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt, down vest, windbreaker, heavy winter coat with hood, Thinsulate cap, ski cap (with stylish, bank-robber ready eye/nose/mouth holes), Thinsulate gloves, heavy ski gloves, and long scarf.

Now imagine a tall, rather beefy man with legs that were quite hairy really, in what was apparently a plaid skirt that stopped a bit above his knees, which were not knobby at all.  I was immediately gripped by the fear that a stray gust of wind would answer that eternal question:  "What is he wearing UNDER that thing?"

It is that very reaction that a blogger I follow is counting on.

Motorcop  is typically good for a laugh, giggle, chortle, or guffaw.  Reading his blog is often like sitting down with my son to watch "Stupidest Criminals" or "Worst Drivers" on television...in the best possible way!

For the entire month of September, Motorcop and a friend of his, The Happy Medic will be wearing kilts.  Really, really cool kilts.

They, and others, are donning that most manly of male clothing in support of Kilted To Kick Cancer and to raise awareness of prostate cancer.  They're hoping to encourage men over the age of 40 to overcome their natural shyness, take control of their destiny, and get checked.

So pass the word, happy minions!  If you know a man over 40, and you're desperate for a gift they'll never forget, head on over to Alt.Kilt to get an unbelievably AWESOME kilt, and include a gentle reminder about getting on down to their doc for a quick check.  Better to blush for a moment than to find yourself mourning the loss of someone you love!