It is simply wonderful to see the exchange and connection formed among supportive authors, who not only encourage each other, but selflessly share advice, news and opportunities, as well as the occasional creative challenge.
You may remember we started a picture challenge for authors(the authors of the fb BooksGS group have been more than supportive of the idea;), where two authors send each other a picture and dare each other to write a story about it in 500-1,000 words. The story may be related to their books or not, whatever they want, and the genre is not set. The point is to use it for practice and then share on each other’s blogs, twitters, facebook, etc., connecting authors into an even more tightly woven net.
I am happy to say the challenges are still alive and kicking, so here is Aditi Kaushiva’s reply to Traci Sanders and her picture on Aditi’s blog.
My Escape by Aditi
It is simply wonderful to see the exchange and connection formed among supportive authors, who not only encourage each other, but selflessly share advice, news and opportunities, as well as the occasional creative challenge.
The sky was cloudy. Not gloomy, but fluffy white clouds. Just the way Meg liked it. Cloud watching had recently become one of her favourite passtimes.
Mummy was gone now, that awful car crash taking her life, and Meg was sad. She looked back over her shoulder at her dad who was conducting his orchestra with furious energy spawning from his wand. The deep wrinkle on his forehead and the hard, thin line of his lips piled more heavy stones into her little tummy, stacking a wall like tetris, but black and heavy, and without any of the fun.
He was preparing for another concert and kept dragging her to rehearsals, because that kind doctor lady told him to spend more time with his daughter. Meg liked this big shell-like opera house, but she would have preferred to run around. Instead, she had to be quiet, to sit and wait. Ever since she had lost a tiny pony toy under the seats and made noise looking for it, her father forbade her to bring any toys or even books. All she had to do with herself was look through the window.
She was happy when it was cloudy, because one of the clouds was her angel friend. She knew it wasn’t her mom. The angel cloud told her. Well, only with his thoughts, because he too didn’t want to make her daddy mad. He was some kind gentleman who dropped by when she was lonely and he just talked to her, telling her stories about all the places he’d seen from up there. He couldn’t remember who he had been before becoming an angel, but it made no difference to Meg. He was a friend. She had never told anyone about him. She guessed only kids could see him anyway, as kids usually do. Today there was no story. She was really sad today. It was her mum’s birthday. They would usually go to mum’s favourite restaurant in the evening, all dressed up, Meg would have spaghetti, and mum and dad would dance afterwards. So today she didn’t want a story. Her angel friend in the sky knew. He just hummed quietly to the tune her dad’s orchestra was playing, floating in the sky, above his sad little friend.
The music suddenly stopped. Her father leaned on his hands on the edges of his conducter’s stand, his wrinkle getting deeper and his knuckles white. He was far from happy with how the orchestra sounded. They were perfect but he didn’t hear it that way.
He hissed through his teeth. They played again, although they knew they were playing well. He had always been tough on them, tough but fair, and they loved and respected him. They knew how hard he’d taken his wife’s death and they knew he’d need to heal through work. But they were getting tired, and they knew they couldn’t possibly sound the way he wanted it whatever they did.
He still wasn’t happy with the sound. His heartbeat was getting louder and louder, interfering with the music. And that wretched dark skycreeper cloud was watching him from the sky again. The widower thought he was going crazy. He’d noticed Meg look in the same direction, but it was obvious she hadn’t seen the same, ominous cloud, else she’d be afraid. The conducter wiped the cold sweat from his forehead, passionately waving his wand, waving off the memories which kept rolling before his eyes like a recurring slideshow. His wife’s hair, the sparkle in her eye, she and Meg running into each other’s arms… her bare shoulder peeking from under the sheet, their kiss, her blood-covered body splattered over the car seat, the guilty driver also dead in his car, twisted metal jammed into metal, Meg’s tears, his helplessness… And again, his wife’s shiny face, her smile, her scent, she making him omelette…
The grey skycreeper cloud, his demon companion kept leering at him, and his angry, demonic, relentless whisper getting louder and louder.
‘Go to her! Let everything out. She needs you!’
The music seemed to be battling with the whisper and the conducter’s heartbeats, and the louder it got, the faster the memory slideshow rolled, till he felt as if suffocating.
The conducter screamed inside his head. But it wasn’t inside his head. The orchestra stopped playing. The scream was real. Meg jumped in her seat in fear, her chin started to quiver and tears rolled down her face, piling new grief tetris-stones inside her. The players rose quietly, leaving their instruments and exiting the concert hall without a word.
The skycreeper seemed to be stretching his hands towards the window now.
He broke. He knelt and hugged his daughter so hard he thought his heart would melt into hers. Their tears blended and they stayed like that for a long time. His heartbeat got calmer, her tetris wall folded.
The taste of hard liquor, bar fight, losing his job, losing site of the road before him, brakes screeching, metal blending into metal, glimpses of a woman’s face across from his through the curtain of his own blood just before he died… The skycreeper’s own memory slideshow flashed before his eyes as he finally remembered who he’d been.
And then the skies cleared.
That night, dancing with his daughter in his wife’s favourite restaurant, the conducter felt sad, but at peace.
‘I saw something in the sky today, Meg…’
‘Me too, daddy…’
‘But it’s gone now…’
‘Mine too, daddy…’
She smiled, her mother’s sparkle twinkling in her eyes. He smiled back. They danced on and the music sounded good.
Wolfgang Schimanski provided me with this photo as a challenge to write a story about it. As horror-inviting as it was, little Meg kept whispering to me that things are never as dark as they may seem.
Sharing Wolfgang’s story here, with his kind permission. Nice having such a distinguished guest!
Here is Anita Kovacevic’s pic and my response to her challenge. Cheers!
The Old Classic Gypsy Cab
The old Gypsy cab stood abandoned in an alley way in Toronto’s east end. In the upper Beaches you might say, the lower Beaches being a little bit closer to Lake Ontario. The odd thing was no one had noticed when it arrived or who had left it there. The vehicle had a white top, possibly a convertible with a blue body and looked to be from the 1950’s. And it was in mint condition, not a scratch on her.
The neighborhood kids that played in the area came close to look but for some inexplicable reason did not come closer than a few feet from the car. It was as if some unknown force field surrounded the car and kept everything and everyone away from it. Local squirrels, cats, racoons and other critters stayed well clear. Something deep within their animal souls was telling them to stay clear.
The vehicle was not blocking any access to garages, gates, etc. so even though the people that lived adjacent to this laneway knew the vehicle was there, they kind of ignored it. They went on with their daily lives of getting up, getting the kids and themselves ready for school and work and repeated that cycle the next day and the day after that.
Even the pigeons and sparrows and other birds that constantly relieved themselves on anything that was and was not in their flight path, plotted courses away from this mysterious vehicle. So the pristine car remained that way until one day in mid- summer of the year 2015, a gang of neighborhood hoods decided to invade this laneway for some drinking, drug smoking and other unsavory activities.
The leader of this group of malcontents called himself Big Joe. He wore leather pants, black boots and a leather vest that indicated he was down with the Sons of Anarchy. His face was pock –marked and his hair was shaggy, greasy and his big belly hung over his tight pants jiggling not merrily with every step. His second in command was Ratso, a skinny wisp of a punk with eyes that blazed like coal fires. The third in this motley group they just named Tag. Because everywhere that Joe and Ratso went, Tag tagged along. And to round off this group of model citizens was a lady who was anything but with a handle of Court. Her real name was Courtney but it got truncated quickly in response to the favors she provided on the local basketball court after hours. Court was there for the party and to keep the group happy. They provided the drugs and booze, she provided herself and quite frequently at that.
Imagine the surprised looks on these ingrates faces when a classic looking gypsy cab was sitting right in their favorite party spot under a shady maple tree. Saying that this rag tag band of biker wannabees was not happy would be an understatement. So big Joe looked the situation over and ordered Tag to key up this fine looking ride a bit. Why? Because they could of course… and who was going to stop them. They should have asked not who but what as Tag was much too dumb to ignore the warning he received to stop and not come any nearer. He thought it was just a head rush from the crack they all smoked an hour ago and proceeded to step over the invisible border, set of keys in hand ready to carve a logo of his own design into the beautiful vehicle.
What happened next was truly astounding as a hand attached to a translucent arm appeared and grabbed our friend Tag, lifted him right up off the floor and threw him full force against the nearest fence with a force so terrible it snapped Tag’s scrawny neck like a twig. The rest could not believe their eyes. Court ran over to Tag and screamed as Tag’s head was hanging limply at his side hardly supported by the neck that connected the two at all. Big Joe, like the fearless leader he was and the coward for that matter, sent Ratso into the fray. But Ratso had not survived on the streets of Toronto for all this time to meet the same fate as that dullard Tag and beat a hasty retreat back to the mouth of the alley.
Big Joe, now alone with a frantic Court and a dead Tag, pulled out his totally illegal handgun and started peppering the car with bullets. But the bullets never struck the car; instead they just seemed to drop like they hit a bullet proof wall…which in fact they did. Except for one which ricocheted and imbedded itself right into Joe’s frontal lobe dropping him dead like a stone. Court had seen enough and she took off faster than a sprinter with a case of the runs and her torn up fish net stockings could carry her. And the Old Classic Gypsy cab remained right where it was until its unearthly driver decided to move it to another location. If you were to ask Court or Ratso, they would most likely tell you to “Let Sleeping Cabs Lie”. If they could get the words out after what they had just seen!
Wolf Schimanski’s book on Amazon
(This story is my reply to Linda Ann Ramirez’s photo challenge. Thank you, Linda. It is also an addition to the novel I have been working on for over four years – The Forest of Trees. It is told by a subordinate character, Mrs Jackson, an abused woman who is just so afraid and empty. She is one of those characters you want to grab out of the book with your bare hands, shake by the shoulders, hug some sense into, and make her change her life for the better. Whenever I write about her, I feel heavy and sad for a long time. If I don’t write about her, I feel as if she’s even sadder, to think that even I’d forgotten about her. Stories have this magic power, which is not always white.)
He’s finally gone. Everyone has gone actually, the farm workers, my husband, the kids… All off to somewhere or other. Well, all except for the youngest, but he’s asleep downstairs.
So here I am, in the attic, digging through a box of my old stuff, digging for my past, digging for some pride, for traces of me, glimpses of who I used to be when I was happy.
My name is Florence, Florence Jackson. Well, people used to call me Florence, till I got married and everybody started calling me ‘that poor Jackson woman’. And they’re right; I don’t blame them. I should have known from the start. The first time he insulted me, the first time he hit me, the first time he got drunk and forced himself on me, the first time he cheated on me. Yes, my husband did, even before he was my husband. And I was so endlessly stupid, so beguiled by his sexy, mischievous smirk, so misguided by taking his physical strength for mental power, thinking he would protect me from bullies, so naive to trust him when he said I deserved his ‘schooling’ me, so blindly in love. Well, blind enough to think it was love.
Funny enough, I was so good at convincing myself, that I convinced everyone else I was doing fine and didn’t need their help. Or so I thought. Everyone soon gave up on me and stopped trying to lead me on the right path. My dad hadn’t been in the picture anyway, and mum was weaker than me. I was married, pregnant, quickly became a mum of five, constantly surrounded by violent men; my husband, his dad, their farm workers and my growing sons. The twins grew into the spitting images of their dad and grandpa, and I hated them for it. By the time the girl came, I was a shell. I could barely remember there was such a thing as love. I thought she’d grow on me with time, but no. I was brain-washed and emptier than a beggar’s wallet. Then I bore two boys again, a few years apart, no changes. And all Jacksons. The youngest is now three but I think he won’t escape the cruelty written in his blood.
No peace, no joy, no laughter – such is my life. Bitter insults, heavy hands, the taste of blood in my mouth blurring out the taste of soup. I never fought back. I never defended myself, or my children. I never tried to run. What’s the point? The Jackson men would just hunt me down and rail me back in. Teach me some manners, too. Some more manners, in their own particular way which leaves you barely able to walk. I am too weak. I am too sad. I am a coward. I don’t deserve my children. I don’t deserve myself. I can’t love any more.
But HE could. He always could. My brother. My trustworthy Henry. This little boy in the pale photo gripped by my shaking hand. Two years older than me, he always had my back. Always. He always believed in me. Took the blame for me when I broke something. Put the village bullies in their proper place if they disrespected me or mum, or anyone for that matter. Broke his leg once, jumping into a raging river to save clumsy moi from drowning. Lost a thumb nail trying to fix a window I’d broken using dad’s heavy hammer. Didn’t cry a bit. Pulled my hair a bit, but combed it as well. Whistled in the meadow so I could dance to the tune. Oh how I loved dancing!
I met Jackson when Henry was in the army. Henry was so proud to serve, and so helplessly furious when I married Jackson in his absence. He knew Jackson, he knew his breed, he’d met plenty of them in the army, too. And he knew me, only too well.
When he came back, he was the only one I couldn’t convince. He saw through my disguise, through my smiling lies, he saw through my sparkling eyes and into my horrified soul. And Jackson knew he knew. The two of them were like raging werewolves, no words wasted, just brute force. But Jackson wasn’t alone. They never are. Old Jackson had Henry imprisoned and I was taught to forget the incident and my brother, by means of a baseball bat behind a locked door. The lesson was revised several times for better retention.
A few years later, I heard from a passer-by that Henry moved up west, got married and started a lumberjack business. I know he hasn’t forgotten me. I know what they did to me, had a pretty good idea of what they had done to him, and I was only too happy to hear he was far, living a new, better life, far away from my cursed weakness.
My brother. Somebody’s caring husband. A fun dad. A boss, tough but fair. A friend. My brother.
Now I remember love. It’s just a distant breeze but it warms my heart. I remember love.
(Final photo edited from Zedge)
The following photo was sent to me by author Damon Shulenberger, to write a short story and maybe try to incorporate my books or characters into it. So keep a lookout for glimpses of my children’s penguin book Winky’s Colours, adult urban legend The Threshold and the yet unfinished novel The Forest of Trees:).
‘Yo, Damon, why are you shaking so hard, bird-man? Relax, dude, enjoy the sun…’
‘You’d be shakin’, too, if you’d been where this perching portal took me last night, Miguel, trust me… you’d be shaking so hard your wings would
‘Oh really??? You think you’re so tough, Damon? OK, so tell us your tale, but then prepare to be dazzled by mine…’
‘Now, boys, boys, boys, calm down. No need to shed testosterone on such a fine day. We’re all friends here, right?’
Sunbathing in between her two friends and looking down on the sandy beach, Felicia unclawed the perch just enough to be able to snuggle up to Damon a bit closer. She chirped on, pacing her sounds to cajole him into telling.
‘But pray tell, dear Damon, what fabulous adventure did this perch portal provide you with last night?’
‘Well, I’m not one to brag, but…’
‘Sure you’re not, Brag King!’, Miguel mocked, sulking on his side of the perch.
‘Oh shush, Miguelito! You’ll get your turn!’
Felicia was tough but her beak smiled and she winked at him with so much mischief that the feathers on his chest doubled and ruffled.
‘It was cold,’ Damon continued with a gloomy tone adding drama to his words. ‘It was so cold that I could barely fly. I thought my claws would fall off how cold it was…’
‘OK, we got it, hombre. It was cold. And then?’
‘I mean it was freezing and only ice all around. White ice and the black ocean. And some weird-looking animals, all black, or white, or black-and-white…’
Miguel hid his head in his wing and started pretending to snore. Felicia jumped on the perch slightly and he almost fell off.
‘What the h…?!’
‘Pssssst. Go on, Damon. Then what happened?’
Felicia stretched her neck to get some sun on it, but listened on. She was good at multitasking. She had already scolded Miguel, pooped on a very cruel lady who passed close to the perch tugging on her poor dog’s leash like hell, and was still listening to Damon for support. She was pretty darn pleased with herself.
‘And then there was this tiny, little penguin there…’
‘Tiny and little are synonyms,’ Miguel whispered below his chin.
‘And he decided to go on an adventure and find colours. Risked his life, too. Almost died. But he found colours. And,’ he stopped for dramatic effect. ‘He found true love.’
Damon wiped a teardrop from the corner of his eye. He shifted on the perch and started daydreaming. Felicia was enchanted, quietly humming some romantic tune and dancing. Miguel was hopping nervously. He had an idea.
‘Girlie story, but fine. You can have it,’ he smirked. ‘OK, my turn now. Last night… ooooh, you’ll never guess this…’
‘Just tell the tale, macho. I told mine.’
‘All right. Don’t be so impatient. So, I flew to this biiiiiiig city, I mean really big, like skyscrapers, towers, motorways, subway…’
‘Big. Got it.’
‘Damon, play nice now.’
If Felicia’d had eyebrows, the one seeing Damon would have curved up.
‘And I landed on top of this huuuuuuge glass tower in the centre of the town, on the tallest part of this enooooormous building…’
‘Anyone ever tell you you have issues with size?’
‘Let him talk. No psycho-babble.’
‘Anyway…’ Miguel was now pacing the perch like a general, beak high up, wings attached at the back. ‘This tower was cursed… its threshold made people disappear… vanish into thin air… nothing… nada… gooooone big time.’
‘There he goes with the big again. Why didn’t you just cross the bloomin’ threshold yourself and save us all this biiiiig boloney?!’
‘Stop it, Damon. Miguel, weren’t you just a bit scared?’
‘Meh, scared?!?! Me?!?! Felicia, honey, you know me! Scared is just a word that rhymes with dared…! Not like this freezin’ penguin-lovin’ romantic!’
‘That’s it! I’ve had it!’ Damon shouted and flew up.
‘Wanna get a piece of me, eh? Come and get it, softie!’ Miguel grinned.
Felicia calmly sat below a shower of feathers as the two males did their silly fighting ritual. She knew them both too well. She let their skirmish continue till their empty-threat growls started to turn into whining and moaning, as their claws actually did occasionally scratch each other’s heads. Then she rose into the air, like a primaballerina and sat back down. The boys settled on each side like school kids caught redhanded at cheating by a sexy, young teacher.
‘Isn’t anybody interested in MY story?’ She flapped her wings gently and sighed.
‘Sure, chiquita, go on.’
‘We are listening.’
‘OK, I travelled to a small town,’ she glanced at Miguel, ‘with a big forest,’ she glanced at Damon now. ‘The town was your average place – all sugar on top, nice scenery, kind neighbours, but filthy, evil secrets rotting below the surface…’
Miguel gulped at her scary voice and dreadful glare, and Damon started hyperventilating.
‘But the trees there were magical. They helped the children and the magic folk sort things out…’
‘Magic folk?!?! You too, Felicia? Girlie stuff? Next you’re gonna tell us there were unicorns!’
Miguel could not hide his disappointment, and Felicia blushed, quietly clearing her throat.
‘But the leprechaun and the fairy really did…’
‘Oh no, no, no… you won’t drag us into that girlie fantasy tale of yours… Filthy secrets lurking below and leprechauns just don’t mix!!! No, no and no!’
‘Miguel, wanna go for a bite somewhere?’
‘Sure. Just us – guys.’
Felicia sulked for exactly three seconds as the boys flew below the perch and let the portal take them to another dimension.
‘Finally some peace and quiet,’ Felicia smiled. ‘You can come out now, Tallulah,’ Felicia chirped towards the portal. ‘Just be careful not to spill your pixie dust around. We’d never be able to pick it all back out of the sand.’
And the two girlfriends chatted happily till dusk. All girlie stuff. Well, all about boys.
Friendly comments always welcome, just like the ratings and reviews for books. Thanks for the challenge, Damon.
So happy to host two completely different indie authors in a battle of wit, challenging each other with pictures to write stories. A double-whammy sandwich post with two great stories for free. Keep reading and sharing!
This is in reply to the picture Wolfgang sent me.
You’ve Been Challenged – Round 3
In 800 to 1000 words, write a story about this picture. Image provided by Wolfgang Schimanski
“My precious. Where is my precious?” The creature crawling along the floor whispered to itself.
Nameless gave it a brief glance, sizing it up in a moment as a non-threat. Between how thin it was, its posture screamed more loudly than words the creature was not a fighter. The fact that it did not have a collar around its neck, however gave him pause when it turned to glare at him and hold out its hand.
“Give me my precious. I know you have it.” it hissed at him.
Caught with his head up, and his eyes roaming when he wasn’t in the Sands or the cells, he cringed inside expecting to feel the searing lash of his master’s whip. He flicked his eyes at the dark robes ahead of him, and hurried to resume his proper place a long pace behind his master’s left shoulder. The creature behind him hissed in vexation, and scuttled after him.
Torn between the need to obey his master, and his instinctive reaction to someone approaching him aggressively, his feet started pattering out his signature dance steps there on the hard stone floor. The break from his normal silent steps finally attracted his master’s attention, and Gartal turned to see what was going on.
“Gives me my precious!” the creature demanded, the gravely voice hissing against the stone walls with a sound similar to when the walls crawled with Her littlest Children. Though his master has stopped, the boy child did not stop dancing. He remained in place, pattering out his readiness to kill.
“Imp! I though you had been banished from this Arena! Get away from him!” Gartal growled, stepping towards the creature, his hand raised in preparation to strike.
“They took my precious. Give me my precious and I leave. You have my precious!” The imp pointed at the child, and Gartal looked at the slowly quieting fighter.
“What do you want, imp? If it will get you out of here, without having to soil my hands on your filthy hide, just take it!” Gartal groused, turning his back on the pair, and looking up to the ceiling where several crystals had shifted colors. “Make it quick, or I may let the Silk warm up by killing you. Would do you both some good.”
The imp charged forward, his hand outstretched to snatch free the child’s red loincloth. His charge was met with an explosion of activity. The child caught his hand before it could close on the cloth. Thumbs locked together, the child wrenched the imps arm into an unnatural angle, forcing it to produce a wet crack as it bent. His feet pattered across the stone floor as his momentum built into a devastating that was never delivered. Gartal heard the crack and the sudden tempo of dancing feet in time to whirl, “Silk! Stop!”
The child briefly halted where he stood, then toppled over as his inertia forced his body to continue in the direction it had last been traveling. As he toppled to the floor, the imp jerked his loincloth free and wrapped it around his head. Then, with a hissing cackle, it scuttled down the corridor into one of the more dimly lit areas.
Neither the child nor his master heard the unhealthy wheezing abruptly stop when it vanished because Gartal had already begun flogging the child for acting without orders. Once more the Silk whip drove home the imperative that shaped the boy’s life: Obey exactly and immediately.
The above piece of flash fiction could easily fit into the early life of Nameless the main character in K. Caffee’s Followers of Torments Saga. If you are interested, you can find her work on Smashwords or Amazon.
Here is my story from the picture supplied by Katheryn Caffee. Hope y’all enjoy it !
THE CAT THAT KNEW TOO MUCH
I am a cat. But not just any cat. A cat who knows too much, way too much. Why is that, you ask? Glad you did as it’s too complicated to answer with a simple one liner. Call me Boris; I was born as part of a litter of five. I am a bonafide Persian with a little bit of Heinz 57 thrown in for good measure.
My Daddy was a Preacher and my Momma was an alley cat. Kind of the other way around actually but it sounds cool, right? Daddy would chase down any available Kitty Kat in sight and take care of business like the Tom he was and Momma was left holding down the fort and providing for all of us offspring.
We lived in a loft with an interesting family named Johnson whose first names not co-incidentally started with J. John was the patriarch, Joanne the mother and the kids were Jason and Jasmine. And they had the gall to call me Boris but I didn’t feel too bad as my brothers and sisters names all started with other letters as well. I guessed, no I knew that it was a human/cat thing.
All of us kittens grew up fairly normal learning the key elements of litter box training, chasing after cloth mice and then real ones, but most importantly to stay out of John’s way when he was writing. He was extremely focused when he was working and he worked the crime beat for a major metropolitan newspaper. We all learned pretty quickly what the repercussions were when my brothers and sisters tried to play with his printed pages; a nasty cuss, a boot in the behind, or a squirt of water from a spray bottle that he always managed to have handy. And all of us kittens hated water, except me of course because I was the odd duck…oops kitten of the bunch.
I would not go near John when he was writing but if he ever left any printed pages lying around, all bets were off. You see, I had a gift that no other cat or any animal for that matter had, I could read. I devoured his research and bylines like my brothers and sisters did voles, mice, chipmunks and even the occasional small bunny, in season of course.
John was working on a particular complex story about a Financial Services company that rose from the ashes to become one of the key players in the industry and in the Stock Market in the matter of a few years. This was sounding too purrrfect to me to be true. Normally, it would take years for an organization such as this to rise to prominence. Something smelled really fishy, even more so than that Friskies fish pate we get served once in a while which my brothers and sisters gobbled up like starved calves. I, of course, knew better. I read the ingredients and realized we’d be lucky if a trace of a fish fin was actually in this by-product concoction.
John, through meticulous research, traced the company back to a mysterious individual that appeared at the same time that this company began its rise to market dominance. What made my whiskers curl even more was that John could find out very little, if anything, about this mysterious and exotic individual. Strange and unexplained things were happening in the city especially after this company and its elusive chairman appeared on the scene.
I was fascinated and would sneak on silent pads into John’s office whenever the opportunity arose and I let my siblings know in certain terms I was not to be disturbed. I had the sharpest claws and I knew how to use them. The more I found out, the more frustrated I became. I could read but I couldn’t tell anyone as after all we cats don’t have vocal cords and all a lot of meowing would get us is a trip outside in that nasty -20 degree weather we’ve been having.
To make a long story short, curiosity got a hold of this cat and I just had to see through my own slit eyes what was going on with this long haired, dusky and according to John, extremely dangerous Russian. I was going on a road trip to find out what the scoop was and I mean that literally. But that will be a story for another day and another time. My immediate problem was going to be how curiosity was not going to kill this cat. Because I just knew too much.
Wolfgang’s thrillers are available on Amazon, storming the genre with his unique voice!
Author Marcia Weber Martins wrote a great story for my guitar-pic challenge. Enjoy her tale!
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE
I had travelled to the city for job interviews (don’t ask – only maybes, nothing promising), and I’d just missed my buss home. The ride back would take three hours, and the next bus was in an hour. The last of my money was gone, just about covering the return bus-fare, leaving me with enough for this no-good, chocolate-covered donut which was now soothing my unemployment stress and lulling me into believing the best. I descended the steps next to the river bridge, and strolled along the cobble-path. It was empty, working hours still lasting for the blessed/cursed employed and school-kids. I liked the quiet, city noises in the background reminding me of reality.
A big manmade stone would serve well to relax. The job-hunt, family finances gripping tighter than an 18th-century corset, kids sick and hubbie laid-off… talk about a headache, right?
The stone was not empty. There was a book on it. I looked around for a possible owner. Nobody. Wiping the donut grease on a mother’s must-have wet hankie, I let curiosity shorten my wait.
No book. It was a leather-bound diary. The letters were neat, appearing like print from a distance. I swallowed my embarassment like a pill, read a passage, then skimmed. I unbuttoned my jacket a bit. Air grew thicker, my heartbeats louder, palms sweating.
‘Peter is unhappy. John is not around to talk to him man-to-man, and he won’t be back. Damned plane crash! Peter is only ten. I don’t know what to do. He won’t talk to me. His friends… Nobody knows why. ‘Moody teenagers,’ teachers said. My boy is pale, distant, quiet… I have to do something. Have to get back to work now. Think about this later.’
‘Peter forgot to lock up the bathroom. Had no idea why he locks himself in. Now I know. Oh the bruises! The scars! My hug hurt him. He pushed me away, sent me outside. He was hysterical, so I left. He wouldn’t talk at all. He let me tuck him in with cocoa. He tossed and turned, talked in sleep. Norman-something was mentioned, tears, screams, fear… The babysitter arrived. Time for my night shift.’
The lump in my throat seemed stuck in there and wouldn’t budge.
‘He made excuses about falling. Norman is 15, he said. Rough and tough. Nothing to worry about, he said. I skipped work to visit school again, talk to counsellor and teachers. All surprised. Yes, they know Norman, they would look into it. No, I couldn’t get his parents’ address. Peter came home with a busted lip. Locked himself in the bathroom. I shouted, I begged. My boss called, laid me off. Only the night job left now, cleaning public toilets. Who cares! I called some people and found out where Norman lived.’
‘Oh good, she’s going to talk to the mum,’ I thought.
‘No mum around. Norman’s dad was home. Drunk, high and armed. I twisted my leg falling down their stairs. Went to the police. Nothing they could do. I couldn’t file charges – no damage done. But they would look into it, they said. I asked friends to help. Nobody would. ‘Just tell Peter to stay away.’ Friends turned out to be acquaintances. Back to school. Teachers annoyed, warning me to stay away from Norman for my own good, not complicate things. I walked Peter home that day. Quietly.’
This was all beginning to sound familiar. My son had gotten quiet, too. A nasty bug started gnawing inside me. Today’s entry next.
‘I am desperate. Need work to get food. Need to keep Peter happy. Did the worst possible thing yesterday, after night shift. Got drunk. Peter left to school by himself, leaving a note. ‘I’ll be fine. Went to school.’ Some mother I am! Showered, dressed, called teacher – refused to talk to me, busy she said. I called the police – someone will look into it. Cleaned Peter’s room to calm myself down. Notebooks ripped, filled with threats. Trousers shoved under the bed smelled of urine, fresh blood stains around the zipper.’
I was choking on my own tears. Next passage, same date, last entry.
‘I am sitting by the river, thinking about everything. I was never a scholar. No ambition, just looking to get married. Did so, had a baby, husband died. Two jobs, low pay, no prospects, but had my son. My jewel! The only thing I did right in life! And now this! No friends, no connections, no money, my fault… I can’t help him. He’d be better off without me. Some family would adopt him, live the way he deserves, good school, away from Norman. Yes, better off without me…’
I dropped the diary and jumped up, scanned the water, thinking the worst. Nobody around.
Then I saw two boys coming under the bridge. The bigger one pulled the scrawny one by the rucksack, dishing insults learned without comprehension. The smaller boy tried to run away, but couldn’t. I rocketed towards them, to give Norman a piece of my mind and save Peter.
A woman’s silhouette appeared, fragile, skinny, plain. She stopped in front of them and said nothing. They stopped. Peter hid tears and shame in his jacket, falling to the ground. Norman stood, ready for a fight, spite masking fear. I froze, ready to jump in at any time. The lady said nothing. She unclenched her fists and turned her face from Peter to Norman. She spread her arms wide and hugged Norman. Awkward, firm hug. She wouldn’t let go. She whispered something to Norman. His arms relaxed. He hugged back, tears washed his face. She let one hand reach Peter’s hair and stroked him gently. He rose. Norman fell down to his knees, crying. She kneeled and hugged both boys.
My mobile alarm vibrated. I hurried to catch the bus, go home, hug my son. And talk to him. Really talk.
(This story is my response to a dueling challenge sent to me by author Marcia Weber. I couldn’t help it, so I linked it to a worldwide anti-bullying project I have been involved with for over a year now, called Inner Giant, but also to the character of Emma in a novel I have been working on for the last 3-4 years. I hope I have more to tell you about both projects by next year.)