Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Dozen Roses

Day 30 of StoryADay September (the last one!!).
The Prompt:
Jeff  was walking to the parking garage after work when he comes upon a flower stand full of beautiful roses. Jeff decides to buy a dozen roses for his lover. 

Jeff slows to a stop, the riot of color drawing his eye. Roses. Red, yellow, white, pink. Blue? He reaches out, glides a finger over a velvet petal. If red signifies love, and yellow friendship, what does blue mean?

“Hey,” Jeff calls to the man behind the stand, competing with the ear buds planted in his ears. The man pops one bud loose, releasing a stream of thrashing guitar into the air. “What do the blue roses mean?”
“I don’t know man,” he shrugs. “I’m just here to take the money. Why don’t you Google it?”

Jeff watches as the man replants the dangling bud. He has a fleeting thought about kids and work ethic, then realizes there are probably only five years between their ages. He takes the kid’s advice, pulling out his phone and typing blue rose meaning into Google.

When the entry appears, Jeff’s eyes bounce from the text on his screen to the roses and back again. These aren’t supposed to exist; blue roses are a myth, white roses tinted with dye. Fake, in other words. The color represents mystery and the unattainable.

Jeff pulls a single blue rose from the basket, lifting it close. The blue was deep, rich, evenly spread throughout the petals. He doesn’t think they’ve been dyed. The rose taps his nose, perfume crawling into his thoughts. He closes his eyes. “Bridgette,” he breathes out her name.

Jeff’s eyes open, focusing on the kid again. Jeff lifts a hand, waving it to get the kid’s attention. “A dozen of these blue.” The kid pulls a sheet of green plastic from a stack, bundles the roses and twists a rubber band around the bunch.


Jeff slides the cash from his wallet, trading the kid for his prize. They are perfect. Just like Bridgette. Jeff nods at the kid, then continues to the garage and his car.

As he drives, the scent of the roses fills his car. He has to fight back the images of her to maintain sight of the road in front of him. He sees her, looking back over her shoulder, her eyes skimming over him. He sees her, lounging by the pool, lowering her book and sliding her shades to the top of her head to look in his direction. He sees her, tipping her head back, a laugh bubbling up, oblivious to how it affects him, makes his toes curl in delight.

He pulls to a stop at the curb, walks to the front door and rings the bell. He hears the dead bolt click free, then the door swings open, bringing them face-to-face. Finally.

“Can I help you?” Bridgette asks as her puzzled eyes take in the flowers and the man’s face behind them.

“These are for you,” Jeff says as he pushes his way in and kicks the door closed.

Bridgette turns to run. Jeff smiles. Time to attain the unattainable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Human Shrapnel

Day 29 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
In no more than 600 words write the ending of a story. This is effectively the final scene, the denouement, the resolution or however you want the story to end.

(This is the ending of a short story in which a woman travels back in time to prevent the death of a friend. The friend’s death had resulted in her group of friends drifting apart. She will do anything to keep them together, but has a hard time finding the way to make that happen.)

I finally figured it out. There is a way to keep our odd little family together. Someone HAS to die. Just not Trevor.

When Trevor died, it blew us apart, we couldn’t hold the pieces together. When I saved him, the same thing happened. The only difference was that Trevor was still alive. I still lost you. We were all still miserable. And alone.

I’ve realized that something has to change; our family has to move forward. We have to lose one piece to keep the rest together. The piece we need to lose is me. I have to die.

I know that sounds crazy. But it’s true. I’m the least important member of our group. I may have been the nucleus that our family formed around, that drew us all together. At this point you could take me out and the rest would remain intact.

I bought a gun this morning.

I’m going to go to Trevor’s apartment again today. I’ll be earlier than I was before, and I won’t knock on his door. When he finds me dead in the parking lot he won’t go to work. He won’t die. But I will be gone.

You will all shift and adjust, I’m sure. But you will be fine. You will all stay together. You will move on.

I didn’t know if I should tell you or not. I finally decided to write all of this down, explain the story. I need you to know how much I love you, how much I want you to be happy. I would do anything for you.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Day 28 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
Write a story with a character who has a difficult decision to make. Put this character in the setting you observed and use your sensory detail in the story.

I step out of the gas station into the midnight dark, silvered moonlight filtering through the trees and splashing onto my skin. I shiver, the air cold against my wet skin.

I start to walk away, no idea where I am going. No idea where I am. I lose my balance and start to fall, catching myself against the trashcan. I look down at my feet. One black stiletto heel, one foot bare. I kick off the shoe.

A wave of sour milk, rotten fish, stale coffee washes over me. I lift arm, sniffing myself. The stench isn’t me, but I don’t smell right. I smell like iron. I look at my other arm, the hand at the end still braced against the trashcan. I push away from the smell and shuffle out into the empty parking lot.

The asphalt is cold and rough against my bare feet. I ignore the bite of small rocks, focused on reaching the street. At the sidewalk, I stop, look left, then right. Which way? Where should I go?

I close my eyes, trying to remember how I got here. I remember sliding a short purple strapless dress over my head. My hands move, sliding over my arms and stomach. Instead of smooth and silky, the dress and I feel sticky. I open my eyes, looking down. I am wearing a short dress, but the moonlight obscures the color. I see sprays and splotches of glistening liquid everywhere I look. I am covered in sticky goo.

I pull my mind back to the bigger issue. Where to go? I hear cars, a highway, so I turn to the left and start walking. The wind gusts, swirling crinkly leaves around my feet and raising goosebumps on my exposed skin. I cur in, wrapping my arms around my torso, picking up the pace of my stumbling shuffle to almost a run.

I don’t see the dog until after I crash into it and tumble to the sidewalk. The dog darts a few steps away, then turns back, sidling up to me. I scramble back, scooting on my butt, hands, and heels as the dog creeps closer. He is sniffing, his lips curled back, exposing sharp white teeth. He is close enough to bite, but instead I feel his tongue slide along my shin. His eyes meet mine as he pulls away, then moves in closer, lapping at my leg.

I sit. I let the dog clean my legs and arms, pretending that I don’t know what he is licking away. What is smeared across my skin.

I push the dog away and clamber to my feet, turning to the sound of car tires buzzing on the pavement. I run. The dog follows.

We reach the overpass. Bright lights shine on the roadway below. The dog and I stand in the dark sky. I watch the cars speeding under me, disappearing, going somewhere. The movement of the cars pushes the air, the wind blowing warm and acrid in my face as I step up onto the railing. I decide to follow the cars.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Star Gazer

Day 26 of StoryADay September
The Prompt:
The Secret.  Your character has one, or knows about one. Will it be kept, or disclosed?

“Tell me something no one else knows.”

Tyler turned his head to look at Karen, then down at their fingers threaded together. Why did girls always ask this? Every girl he let get even a little bit close wanted more, wanted to crawl inside his brain and investigate everything hidden inside. “You see that star, right there? The really bright one? It’s not actually a star. It’s a planet. Venus.”

Karen turned her head from the sky back to Tyler’s face and glared. “Yeah, I know. I wanted something no one knows.”

“No one bothers to look at the sky anymore,” Tyler responded. He was surprised that she knew that already.

“I do. My dad used to take me out all the time to look at the stars. We would pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and stay up until dawn looking up at the sky.” Karen turned her head back to the stars and pointed. “That bright one, just underneath Venus. That’s Regulus. It’s part of Leo.”

“The lion Hercules slayed.”

“Or the lion that scared off the girl.”

“What?” Tyler’s eyes dropped from the sky again, his body turning on the car hood to face Karen.

“There’s a competing myth. Supposedly the story that inspired Romeo and Juliet. Two young lovers were planning to meet under a tree. The girl got there first, was scared off by a lion and dropped her scarf. The boy saw the scarf and the lion, thought the girl had been eaten, and killed himself.”

“I have never heard that story.” Tyler looked at Karen. Really looked at her. He had never met a girl that paid attention to the stars, let alone knew something about them he didn’t. She might be able to handle his secret.

He turned back onto his back, looking up at the stars and remembering the two he told before. Lynn, the girl he thought he loved. She thought he was crazy and refused to ever speak to him again. Rachael, who thought it was awesome and told her friends. She wanted to go with him. He moved to new town to get away from her.

Karen was different. He could feel it. He wanted to tell her. “What are you thinking?” Karen’s voice brought him back to her.

“I want to tell you something. Something real. That almost no one else knows.”

She smiled, rolling her body to face him. “Okay.”

Tyler reached over, turning her face up to the sky and pointing, “You see that smaller star, slightly yellow, right by Regulus?”

Karen looked for a moment, then nodded, “Yeah.”

“That’s Mars.”


“That’s where I’m from.”

Karen laughed. “Right. Women are from Venus, men are from Mars.”

Tyler turned her face back to him. “Really. I am.” He stared at her, willing her to believe him and somehow be okay with it. She stared back.

“So, what now?” Karen tightened her grip on his fingers.

“That’s kind of up to you.”

Karen closed her eyes, as if she could see the future unfolding on her closed lids. He thought maybe she could.

She opened her eyes, the clear blue sparkling like the galaxies splashed in the sky above them, then leaned close, resting her lips on his. “We’ll figure it out,” she grinned and kissed him again.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Interview

Day 25 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
Write a story that revolves around a character with a ‘fatal flaw’ who, as a result, commits a fatal error that has a tragic result. Use a frame story to reinforce the flaw.

Smith flipped open the front cover of the case file. It had taken all day to convince his sergeant that he could handle this case, persuade him there wasn’t any need to get the FBI involved. Smith had one day. One day to interview Dr. Chase Gordon. One day to get him to confess.

The sheets in the file were in reverse chronological order. Smith flipped quickly to the last page, wanting to think through events from start to finish.

Kimberley Bryan, 24. Grad student at NYU. Found hanging from a ceiling fan by her roommate. Dr. Gordon had been treating her for OCD.

Nate Green, 30. Construction worker. Jumped off the top of a forty-foot scaffold during his lunch break. Dr. Gordon had seen him once for anger management.

Chelsea Snow, 42. Stay at home mother of five. Found drowned in her bathtub after swallowing a bottle of Percocet. Seeing Dr. Gordon weekly for bipolar disorder.

Three suicides. All seeing Dr. Gordon within a week of their deaths. Police didn’t see a connection until Mrs. Snow’s husband came in convinced something was off. He had seen Chelsea depressed before. None of the signs were there in the weeks before her death. He wanted records from Dr. Gordon, transcripts of his wife’s sessions. He threatened to go get them on his own if the police wouldn’t investigate.

Parks was the detective assigned to go talk to Dr. Gordon, see if anything felt off. Twenty minutes after leaving Gordon’s office, Parks pulled his car to the side of the road, put his service weapon in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

Gordon was brought in for questioning. Carpenter and Munoz interviewed Dr.Gordon for two hours, all of it caught on tape. The three detectives watching from a neighboring room saw nothing out of the ordinary. Carpenter and Munoz left the interview, walked down to the evidence locker where they obtained two knives. Each of the men slit his own throat.

That was yesterday.

Smith closed the file. He didn’t know how Gordon was doing it. Somehow he was hypnotizing people, planting a command for self-destruction. Smith wasn’t worried. He knew he would be okay. He couldn’t be hypnotized. Smith planned to watch Gordon closely, figure out how he was doing it, and use that information to force a confession.

Time to get started.

Smith opened the door to Interrogation Room 3. Dr. Gordon was already inside, sitting behind the small table. His feet were shackled to each other and the bolt in the floor. His hands were cuffed together, cinched tight to a bar on the table, restricting his movements. Dr. Gordon looked relaxed, unconcerned with the charges or his captivity. He smiled at Smith.

“Ah, another detective. I told the others everything I know. Which is nothing.”

“You’re not responsible for the deaths of these people?” Smith tossed out the handful of photos in his hand, three civilians, and three detectives. They spread across the table.

Gordon took a moment to look them over. “I’ve met them all. Spoken with all of them. But I did not kill any of them.”

“I know. What I want to know is how you got them to kill themselves,” Smith settled into the chair across from Gordon, leaning his elbows on the table.

The right side of Gordon’s mouth quirked up into a crooked smile. “People make choices. I can’t be responsible for all of them.” Gordon paused, his eyes traveling over the faces on the table again, coming to a stop on Nate Green. He managed to tap the photo with the tip of his middle finger. “This man reminded me of my son. They didn’t look anything alike; it was the energy inside. The sense of invincibility. My son never took my advice, listened to my warnings. Mr. Green didn’t, either. He felt he didn’t need me.”

“Is that why you made him kill himself?”

Gordon laughed. “I warned him of the fallacy of invincibility. He ignored my warning.”

Smith changed tacks. “What happened to your son? When he didn’t listen?”

“He fell from the sky. Much like Mr. Green. Jeff stepped out of a plane, believing a thin piece of fabric would slow his fall.”

“Sky diving?”

Gordon nodded once.

“People do that all of the time. Usually it’s okay. Sometimes things go wrong. Your son took a risk.”

“He thought he was invincible. That he could live forever. Many of my patients share this delusion. If they do the right things at the right time, all will be right in their world. It’s a myth. Shit happens, as they say.” Gordon leaned back in his seat as far as his arms would allow, giving the light above access to his well-buffed nails.

Smith’s eyes were drawn to the glint of light off the hard surface, watching the gentle motion of the finger back and forth, the light tracking across the surface of his retina. After a long moment, Smith’s eyes lifted to Gordon’s face, watched the man pull his lip in between his teeth and bite down gently.

“I don’t think I have anything else to say.” Gordon broke the silence. “Perhaps we can talk again tomorrow?”

Smith blinked hard, then nodded. “Yeah, maybe tomorrow.” He gathered up the pictures, stacking them neatly before leaving the room.

The next day, Detective Ohara opened the file for the case against Dr. Chase Gordon. There was a fresh sheet on top, describing the death of Detective Smith. Smith was found dead in his home, apparently having consumed a box of rat poison.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Becoming Bob (Three Microstories)

Day 24 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
Click on this link.

Flick through the gallery and pick the first three pictures that catch your attention. Now, write a short, 50-100 word story for each. No more than 100 words each. (Note: The first piece is 110 words, I cheated a bit)
(Images in this post were accessed at the website listed above, and credited to the U.S. National Archives.)

“This feels really weird. Why are we doing this?” Marcy squirmed inside her shell.
 Photograph of Acetate Foil for Laminating“I’m working on a treatment for anxiety,” Bob replied. “The idea is that the acetate will wrap around you, embracing you like a warm hug. This should make you feel relaxed, less anxious.”
 “Well, it’s not warm, like a hug. And it’s rather stiff,” Marcy tried to lower her arms, but they were stuck sticking out like the limbs of a scarecrow.
 “Hmmmmm. Let’s try adding more,” Bob continued wrapping Marcy, working from her toes up to her neck.
 “Don’t cover my face, I’ll suffoca-“ Marcy’s words were cut off by the acetate enveloping her head.

South Beach Has the Longest Stretch of Public Beach in the Miami Area. Thousands of Retired Persons Have Settled Here in Inexpensive Residential Hotels Built Within Walking Distance of the Beach. The Area Now Faces Problems of Over-Development.Bob emerged from the waves, his deep tan glistening, the sunlight reflecting off water and salt scattered across his skin. He made his way to the outdoor shower, rinsing the salt before it could dry his skin. Bob wanted to look good for Marcy. He needed to appeal to her, earn her trust.
Clean and relaxed, he took a moment to practice his smile in the mirror and perfect his wavy locks. they were still not as perfect as Marcy's.

Rockport's Barbershop 02/1973

Bob’s first professional haircut made him angry. The man didn’t understand that Bob hated his hair in his face, hated the straight strands that poked in his eyes.
Squirming in the chair hadn’t made the man stop. Bob scrunched his face tight, imagining what he could do to the man with the straight razor sitting on the counter.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Attic

Day 23 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
Before she knew it, she was just another set of eyes in a dusty attic, waiting for the stairs to creak.

Before she knew it, she was just another set of eyes in a dusty attic, waiting for the stair to creak. She didn’t expect the day to end like this. But, that’s what they all say, isn’t it?

He was cute. He was holding a puppy, letting the little ball of blonde fur lick his face. Her first thought was a wish that she were the puppy. The thought caught her off guard, making her blush. She had waited for the blush to fade, then walked over to say hello.

His smile was bright, so large it lit up his eyes when he turned to answer her hello with his own. His voice was deep, tinged with an accent she couldn’t quite place. The sound rolled from him, smooth, like silk sheets sliding over her thigh. She blushed again. Where did that thought come from? He saw the pink graze her cheeks. He had her already.

He let her hold the wriggling puppy as he told her stories about the puppy’s antics at his house. The puppy fell asleep in her arms, one paw resting on her chest. He feel silent, both of them staring at the paw, rising and falling with her breath.

Eventually he broke the silence, asking her if she would like to see his house. She stared into his eyes, seeing nothing alarming in their depths. The puppy trusted him. She trusted him. She said yes.

She carried the still sleeping pup, the man’s hand on her arm guiding her steps to his house. It stood on the front half of a large lot, carefully manicured lawns spread both front and back. Butter yellow, it stood looking out at the street through two stories of large windows. Cedar shingles climbed to the roofline, broken by a small hexagonal window in the attic. She thought the house looked just as nice as the man and his dog.

She walked up the stairs and through the door without an ounce of hesitation. This was her third mistake, the one that sealed her fate.

Across the threshold he closed the door and took the puppy from her hands, nestling it in a bed near the front door. He filled her hands with his own and leaned in to kiss her, the spell upon his lips.

She felt her knees get weak and leaned further into the kiss. She felt him curve around her but did not realize the reason. She was shrinking, forcing him to bend to maintain the contact until she lay on the floor, asleep.

Her eyes opened here. At first she saw only dust floating in the shaft of sunlight pouring through the small window. She tried to turn her head, but could not. She pushed her eyes to the periphery, catching glimpses of the other dolls with wide-eyes stares that surrounded her, waiting for the man to come for a visit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Meet at the Gate

Day 22 of StoryADay September
The Prompt:
Write a short story about a family gathering where things don’t quite work out as expected. It can be a social event at work or a family holiday that goes spectacularly wrong, you choose.

“We made it!” Kendra grabs Megan’s hand, pulling her close for a hug. Megan squeals, lifting Kendra into the air and spinning them both around.

The squeal fades into silence. “Wait. Where is everybody else?” Megan turns again, this time looking for the rest of their family. There is no one else here. The two stand alone, facing a giant golden gate splitting a fence that appears to stretch into infinity. The other side of the fence is shrouded is mist, the sights and sounds of the inside muffled. A sign hangs to one side of the gate “Gate open 4:00 - 4:30 pm daily.”

“It’s almost four, right?” Kendra asks, turning Megan’s hand to look at the watch on her wrist.

“We only have a minute. Why isn’t everyone else here?” Megan is still turning her head, waiting for her mom and sister to appear.

“Did everybody drink it?”

“I think so. We each had a glass. Your dad told everyone to drink the whole thing.”

“Maybe it takes longer to work for some people? That happens with alcohol, I heard. Some people are drunk after one beer, others can drink like, twelve, before they’re drunk.”

“Maybe,” Megan squiggles her lips into a frown. “What if they don’t show up?”

“Where else would they go?”

“This isn’t the only option, you know.”

“But it’s our family. We’re all good people.”

The conversation comes to a stop as the gate starts to swing open. Kendra and Megan watch the movement, stepping back to avoid being hit. The gate comes to a stop, exposing a tunnel through the misty clouds. Like the fence itself, the tunnel seems to stretch into infinity. They still can’t see what they are about to enter.

They lock hands, walking together into the unknown.

The walk is long. Eventually they hear the clang of the gate closing behind them. They turn to look, but cannot see the gate. “Maybe they’ll get here later. The gate will open again tomorrow,” Megan tries to comfort her cousin.

When they turn to continue, they are surprised to see something other than mist. A small hamlet is spread out before them. It looks warm and inviting, if you overlook the absence of people.

“You know, maybe you have to be REALLY good to get here. Mom liked to play slot machines,” Megan gives Kendra a worried look.

“Your sister totally cheated on her math test. I saw her copy off of Brent. She didn’t deserve to be here,” Kendra takes a few steps toward the nearest house.

“Really? Your dad kissed my mom. When your mom was still alive. He cheated, too.”

“Take it back.” Kendra takes a running leap at Megan, intending to punch her. She disappears in mid-air.

“Whoa,” Megan looks at the space formerly occupied by Kendra.

Megan moves to a bench near the path, sinking to a seat. She takes a deep breath, then pulls a deck of cards from her pocket, dealing out a game of solitaire. “Someone good will come along eventually. Right?” she says to no one at all.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Day 21 of StoryADay September
The Prompt:
Your character is being forced into something they do not want to do: an arranged marriage, eating their broccoli (!), working for someone they know is evil. So he or she is running away to avoid it. Suddenly there’s voices nearby/a light flashes on/someone steps into the passage ahead…Your character stops, heart pounding, afraid of discovery.

Tucker is almost asleep when he hears it. A squishy slithering. A squelching slide. His eyes pop open as his heart jumps to a pounding pulse in his throat. “Jacob,” he pushes the whisper past the obstruction. A moment later he pulls a deep breath in and lets loose with a shriek, “Jacob!”

The room is silent, then bursts to life with the flick of the light switch. Jacob stands in the doorway rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Tuck. What’s wrong?”

“There’s something under my bed. I heard it.”

Jacob groans. “This again? I looked last night. There’s nothing there.”

“I heard it, Jacob. I swear.”

A long sigh from the door. Jacob drops to his knees and crawls across the carpet, peering under Jacob’s bed as he moves. “Dude, there’s nothing there. You’re almost eight. Aren’t you getting kind of old for imagining ghosts?”

“It’s not a ghost. It’s something slimy. I heard it dragging its goo.”

Jacob is on his knees next to Tucker’s head. He drops his own head onto Tucker’s pillow. “Tuck, there’s nothing there. I looked. Please just let me sleep.” Jacob scoots his head closer, dropping a kiss onto Tucker’s head before rising to his feet. He pauses at the doorway, his hand on the light switch. “Goodnight, punk.” Jacob flicks the switch and disappears down the hallway.

Tucker stares up at the ceiling, imagining he can see it in the darkness. He is stone still long enough that sleep starts to creep back up, pulling on his eyelids, making them drift closed. The sound again. Directly under his head.

Tucker imagines the slimy thing sprawling tentacles out from under the mattress, reaching across the floor. He stands in the middle of his bed before taking a flying leap as far across the room as he can. He hits the floor running, his hand slamming the light switch up as he spins to look back at his bed.

There is nothing there. Tucker stands in the doorway, his breath coming in sobbing gasps. He turns to his closet, pulling the door open and grabbing his sleeping bag from the corner.

“What are you doing?”

Tucker turns to see Jacob blocking the doorway. “I can’t sleep here. The thing under my bed is going to eat me, I know it. I’d rather sleep outside!” Tucker tries to push past Jacob, but his brother is twice his size and stops him with one arm.

“Tuck, you can’t sleep outside. It’s snowing.” Jacob hugs his little brother. “What if we trade rooms? You can sleep in my room. I’ll sleep in here. My room doesn’t have a monster under the bed, right?”

Tucker nods, gives his brother a huge hug, then scurries down the hall to nestle into Jacob’s bed. Jacob is right. There is no monster under this bed. He sleeps.

Just after dawn he wakes to the sound of his mother screaming. Tucker runs down the hall to his room, where his mother stands in the middle of the floor. Tucker skids to a stop, his feet sliding through the slime that covers the bed and much of the floor. It is splashed with blood. “I told him there was a monster under the bed.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Good Samaritan

Day 18 of StoryADay September
The Prompt:
A stranger to a remote area encounters a family with a mysterious and troubling past.

James enters the kitchen, stamping mud off his boots at the door. The stranger stands quietly behind him, trying to get a look at the room and the woman in it without making eye contact.

“Who is this?” Beth asks, a warm smile lighting up her face. “Another good Samaritan?”

James laughs, stepping aside to allow Beth a good look at the man. “This is Caleb. He helped me get my truck out of the mud. I offered him dinner as thanks.”

Beth steps forward to shake the man’s hand. “Welcome, Caleb. Thanks for helping. This happens every time it rains. I swear, it’s almost like he drives into the mud on purpose!” Beth meets James’ eyes for a moment.

“Well, have a seat, gentlemen. Dinner is almost ready.”

Caleb steps fully into the room, carefully scraping his boots on the rug and latching the door behind him. “Can I use a washroom? I’d like to clean up a bit,” he holds his muddy hands out for Beth’s inspection.

“Sure, right this way,” James pops up from his seat at the table, leading Caleb into the hall, which is lined with closed doors. “Second door on the right. You can look around a bit, if you’d like, but please stay out of that room,” James points to the last door on the left.

“Okay,” Caleb gives James a confused smile before entering the bathroom, closing the door between himself and the strange old man.

James hurries back to the kitchen, “I told him to stay out of the room. We’ll see if he listens.”

“They never do,” Beth says with a sigh, setting a large platter of meat loaf next to the mashed potatoes already on the table. “Thank God!”

Caleb reenters the kitchen to their laughter. He smiles, even though he doesn’t understand the joke. “Thanks for dinner. A warm meal will be nice. It’s cold out there.”

“No problem, dear. You eat up, now,” Beth pushes the platter of meatloaf his way.

Dinner is quiet. James and Beth eat ravenously, bordering on rude. Caleb is more polite, but just as quiet.

Beth hurries from the table the moment she is finished, piling her dishes in the sink before scurrying down the hall. Caleb’s eyes follow her, wondering what the hurry is. James shrugs to Caleb, even though he knows exactly where Beth has gone, what she is doing.

The men finish eating in the continued silence. Finished, Caleb stands and places his dishes neatly in the sink, adjusting the ones dumped in by Beth.

Beth reenters the room, a wide smile on her face. She gives James a nod, indicating that everything is ready.

Caleb turns to the couple. “Thank you so much for dinner, but I should get going, I have a long drive ahead of me. If it’s okay, I’ll just use your washroom before I go.”

“Sure, sure,” Beth says, waving him down the hall.

Caleb heads down the hall, his eye caught instantly by the door standing ajar. It is the last door on the left. The room he was told not to enter. He quickly averts his eyes, darting into the bathroom and closing the door. He wouldn’t look. They told him not to go in. But why? What was in there? Why did they point out not to go in, when all the doors were closed?

By the time Caleb exits the bathroom, he is twitchy. He can’t keep his eyes from the door. He wants to push open the door, walk in, and see what’s inside. Willpower wars with curiosity. He takes a step closer to the partially open door, then stops, listening for any sounds from inside. The house is silent.

Curiosity wins. He takes the last step, placing his hand flat on the door, pushing, but barely. The door swings open without a sound. Caleb follows the movement of the door, crossing the threshold and walking in.

It is a bedroom. Sort of. There is a raised platform in the center of the room, draped in linens. A woman sleeps. She is lovely. Caleb’s gaze caresses her delicate face, her rich mahogany hair, the silk that covers her arm. He moves closer.

He does not hear James and Beth enter the room behind him.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” Beth’s voice is little more than a whisper behind him.

Caleb spins, his face heating with blood and nerves at being caught. “I’m sorry, the door was open, I didn’t mean…”

“It’s okay, son. No one can resist.” James steps to Caleb, placing a hand on his shoulder and turning him back to the sleeping woman. “Now you have to kiss her.”

Caleb turns his head, “What?”

“You chose to stick your nose in a room you were told not to enter. You have to follow through. Kiss her.” This is not a request, James voice is commanding. “You better hope she wakes up. We can’t let you leave and tell if she doesn’t.”

“But,” Caleb starts to make excuses why.

“Now. Time’s a wastin’,” James prods Caleb in the center of his back.

Caleb stumbles forward, his thighs now pressed against the platform. He stares down at the sleeping woman. She is lovely, but he doesn’t want to kiss her. What if she wakes up? More importantly, what if she doesn’t? These people might kill him, bury him out in the acres of fields, never to be found.

He leans forward, bringing his lips close to the woman’s. There is a light, unpleasant aroma drifting up from her. A hint of sulfur, a touch of almondy sweet. He swallows back a surge of bile, then closes his eyes and leans forward, resting his lips gently on hers.

The smell intensifies, sending him reeling back from the platform. The woman sits up, a smile beginning to decorate the otherwise vacant face.

“She’ll be better soon,” Beth says, rubbing Caleb on the back. “You two will be happy here together, I’m sure.”

“I can’t stay,” Caleb blurts, trying to make it to the door.

James blocks his progress. “But you will. I insist. You’ll understand when you have a daughter of your own. You’ll do what it takes to wake her. You’ll see.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Day 17 of StoryADay September
Today’s prompt is about the inner self of your character trying to break out, to be seen, to be heard, to simply be acknowledged.
Think along the lines of being present in a group, yet you’re being discussed as if you were not there.  Now multiply those feelings by 100 for your character who, for reasons you will develop, cannot (at the moment) speak up for themselves.

“Tomorrow is your wedding day,” Miriam says, as she places a platter on the table.

Elize drops the mug in her hand, splattering cider across the skirt of her dress, the mug skittering across the floor until it crashes into the wall to my right. “No,” Elize says. “Dad promised!”

She’s right. Paul did promise, Miriam. Miriam does not acknowledge me, as usual.

“Your father is dead, Elize. Things have changed. I cannot provide for both of us.”

“I can work, mom. Let me earn my own way.”

“And make yourself forever unwedable? That is not what your father wanted.”

No. Paul wanted her to marry me. He knew Elize can free me.

“He didn’t want me to marry someone I don’t love!”

“Maybe you should hear who you’re marrying before you decide you don’t love him.” Miriam moves to Elize, trying to slip her arm around Elize.

I lean closer, not wanting to miss the name.

“I’m not in love with anyone, mother. It does not matter who you have planned.

The bitterness in her voice makes me cringe. I hope that Elize will love me.

“Elize, please. Just give this a chance. Give Jarrot a chance.”

“Jarrot?” Elize and I cry in unison.

“He’s old, over forty.”

“He’s healthy. He makes a good living, he can provide for you, Elize.”

“Mom, he’s the undertaker. I will be constantly surrounded by death. How can I be happy with that?”

H fancies, boys, Elize. That’s the bigger issue. She does not hear me.

“You will adjust, dear. That’s what every marriage is. Adjustment.:

“I don’t want to adjust. I want love, mom. You and dad had it. Why can’t I?”

The room is silent. Miriam searches for words, but cannot find them. Finally, she speaks. “It is done, Elize. Get some sleep. It will make more sense in the morning.” Before Elize can protest, Miriam has moved into her room, closing the door firmly between them.

Elize follows Miriam with her eyes, her mouth hanging open. “It will NOT make more sense in the morning. This will never make sense. And I will NEVER do it!” She yells this last at the closed door.

She turns, scanning the room, searching for a solution. She looks to me.

Elize, it WILL be okay. We can fix this. You have only to ask.

She moves closer, stopping mere inches away. Her hand drifts up, coming to rest gently on the frame surrounding me. “I wish you weren’t just a painting. I wish you were real. You’d get me out of here, I know it.”

I am real, love. Just stuck. I want to touch her.

“You are the only thing I have left of him. The last thing he gave me.” She laughs. “What will Jarrot make of you, I wonder?”

I draw in a quick breath. Don’t give up. Ask, girl! I think for a moment that she hears me. Then her eyes get a far-away look, glazed and dreamy.

“I remember my dad singing a song to me when I was little.
            You are my love, my light
            A beacon in the darkest night.
            In my hear it’s you I see
            Won’t you please come back for me?”

I smile, feeling the warmth rise as her voice echoes through me.

“Elize,” I say, stepping from the frame.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Widower

Day 16 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
They had been married sixty years. She always did the cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning around the house. He has just returned home after the funeral and finds himself alone to figure it all out for himself.

I buried Fran today. Yesterday was our 60th anniversary. Yesterday she died.

Alone. I am alone. It’s been so long since I was last alone that I am uncertain what comes next. So I sit.

The TV is on, but I don’t see or hear what is happening there. I see her. Moving through her day. My day.

Bustling. The word that described her best. Always in motion, taking care of the house, taking care of me.

I am hungry.

Fran would make me bacon and eggs. But yesterday happened. Fran is gone.

I walk to the kitchen, find eggs and butter in the fridge. I have to look in three cabinets before I find the pans.

I have forgotten how to cook eggs, if I ever really knew. They are burnt on the edges, the yolk still runny and raw. I eat them anyway.

I am back in the living room before I realize that Fran will not take my plate from the table. I start to go back, planning to soak the plate in the sink. I stop, laughing. It doesn’t matter. I won’t be here tomorrow. Let it sit there.

I turn, and head for our bedroom instead. I open the closet and reach up, pulling down stacks of blankets and extra pillows, scattering them on the floor. There it is. I lift down the box and carry it to the bed.

Sitting, the box beside me, I lift the lid. On top is the document. A single sheet of paper, folded once in half. I have seen so many of these, I do not need to open it to remember what it says.

It says that Fran was mine. To have and to hold. To be my life mate. For 60 years. Not a day more or less. She knew she had an expiration date when she signed. I just honored the agreement.

I move to the fireplace with the page in hand. I pull a match from the tin, light it, and hold it to the corner of the paper. It wouldn’t do for someone to find this later. I drop the burning page onto the grate, watching until it is nothing but ash.

I return to the box and pull out the other item. My reset button. Tomorrow I will wake in a fresh, new, twenty-year-old body. I will begin looking for my next life mate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Day 15 of StoryADay September.
The Prompt:
Write a short story about two people meeting up for the first time. They may have emailed, texted, tweeted or whatever, but this is the first time they’ve met face to face.

Malia shifted her eyes away from the wine glass in her hand to the cell phone buzzing on the bar top. A smile grazed her lips as she turned the phone face up to reveal the text message.

I’m here. Sorry I’m late.

Malia turned, surveying the crowd in the lounge between her and the door. He stood near the front desk, dressed in jeans pressed to a crease and a pale blue button-up that strained around his biceps. He looked better in person than in his pictures.

I’m at the bar. Malia texted back. She turned her back to the door, allowing him the opportunity to look her over without her eyes on him. She could feel his eyes glide over his shoulders, down the smooth back of her short black dress. Her smile grew.

She heard his footsteps close, then felt his hand come to rest on her shoulder. She turned into him, kissing him on the cheek. “It’s great to finally meet in person.”

“You look amazing,” he managed to choke out. He coughed to clear his throat, “I think our reservation is ready.”

Malia skimmed a hand down his arm, appreciating the play of muscle beneath his shirt. Her eyes flickered up to his, “I thought maybe we could just skip it?”

A beautiful blush started at the neck of his collar, then crept up his neck and bloomed across his face. The rush of heat released his scent into the air. Malia pulled it in, savoring the aroma. She licked her lips, and swallowed a rush of saliva.

He swallowed in return, then slid his arm around her waist, watching her face closely for approval. “That’d be okay,” he whispered, leaning so his mouth brushed her ear. “If you’re sure.”

Malia nuzzled her nose in the tender hollow behind his ear, then ventured her tongue out for a lick. “I’m very sure,” she breathed out in a sigh that triggered all the small hairs on the side of his neck into a dancing frenzy.

Malia pulled back, then slid her room key out from under her cell phone. “Come with me. I have something I think you should see.” Malia led the way from the bat to the elevator. He jumped to catch up, resting his hand on the small of her back to reconnect.

Malia leaned in the corner of the elevator, breathing deeply to catch his scent over the stale elevator aromas. This one will do nicely, she thought.

In her room, Malia turned the lights on, then dialed them down to dim. Standing in the middle of the room, she beckoned him closer. He obliged. Malia unbuttoned his shirt, dropping it to the floor. His jeans followed.

Malia stepped back, admiring the view. Layers of muscle draped his frame, unguarded by fat. I like my boys lean, Malia reached out a hand, dragging one finger along the washboard of his stomach. “Mmmmm,” she purred.

He reached out for her, but she swatted his hands away. “Just watch,” she said, stepping a few feet away and reaching behind her to pull down the zipper. She shrugged the dress forward, dropping her cover onto the floor.

He screamed.

“Thank you,” Malia said to the man. “Adrenaline makes the meat taste sweeter.”

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Smile

Day 14 of StoryADay September
The Prompt:
Write a story from the perspective of someone in a piece of art.

“Come sit for me,” he says. This man who has lured many before me. I have heard that some girls left in tears. But I see a glimmer of what is to come, so I nod my agreement.

He tucks my hand into the crook of his elbow and leads me through the crowded streets to his studio. I expected chaos inside, his mind exploded out into the room. Instead all is order. Contraptions hang from the ceiling and cover a long table. A single easel is propped in the middle of the room. A low stool placed in front of it.

“Please. Sit,” he gestures to the stool and I lower myself onto it, my eyes tracking his movements as he prepares paints and brushes.

He begins to paint. He is silent as he works, and looks more at the canvas in front of him than he does at me. I expected conversation. A seduction, perhaps. 

After an hour, the light begins to fade. He asks me to return the next day, so I do. Again, all is silent. I watch him as he works and the glimmer intensifies. I see him, ill, dying, gasping for his next breath, his head cradled on the king’s lap.

The sight is pleasing to my eye. I smile.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Day 13 of StoryADay September
The Prompt:
Write about an odd couple. No, your characters don’t have to be an actual romantic couple. They can be siblings, classmates, friends, enemies, or anything in-between. But you do need to have a couple (two people), and they do need to be at odds. Their personalities and their motivations should be dramatically divergent. Try to exaggerate their differences and see what action transpires. 


Angela dropped the bag on the floor and hoisted her hips onto the counter, her legs swinging, pounding a rhythm on the cabinet doors.

Darren sighed, but managed not to roll his eyes as he picked up the bag of supplies and placed it on the counter next to Angela. “I hope you didn’t break the eggs.” He started to unpack the contents. Flour, sugar (white and brown), eggs, butter, baking powder, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk, and the vial. Darren lined them up neatly on the counter and turned to find a bowl.

Angela picked up the vial, turning it around to view it from all angles, before tossing it into the air and catching it.

Darren spun and snatched it out of her hands. “Could you try to be careful? We can’t get more. Plus, I’m not sure what will happen if you get this on your skin.” Darren placed the vial on the counter next to the stove, well out of Angela’s reach. “Measuring cups? Spoons?”

Angela spread her legs, pulling the drawer underneath her open. She reached in, pulled out the spoons and cups and slid them down the counter where they crashed into the bowl. Darren jumped, then glared at Angela out of the corner of his eye, before biting off a “Thanks.”

She smiled at him, then grabbed the bag of sugar, pulling the top open. Into the drawer she went again, this time coming out with two mixing spoons. One she slid down the counter. The other she used to pull a scoop of sugar out of the bag, lifting it into the air and tipping the contents slowly into her open mouth. Darren slowly turned his head and stared. “You want some?” Angela held the spoon out to him.

“No.” Darren pulled the bag of sugar from her hands, measuring out a cup into the bowl. He added butter and brown sugar. “Mixer?” Angela pointed to a cabinet behind him. She watched him put the mixer together, plug it in, and begin creaming the butter and sugar together. He was so focused that she was able to stare without apology.

Once the eggs and vanilla were added, Darren began carefully measuring the flour, sifting it into a second bowl. “Why don’t you just dump it in? You’re making this take forever.”

“Baking’s a science. You have to measure carefully, and mix things in the right order for the cake to be good.”

“Who cares if it’s good? We’re just going to put that in.” Angela pointed to the vial across the room.

“It has to look good to convince him to take a bite. It has to taste good to get him to eat enough to work.”

Darren worked without looking at Angela, allowing her to stare again. She was surprised he didn’t feel the heat of her gaze and look up.

The batter almost complete, Darren turned and retrieve the vial. The cap in one hand, he stared at the vial.

“What?” Angela asked.

“I’m not sure how much to use.”

“All of it?”

“Do you think he’ll taste it?”

Angela shrugged, then reached out and tugged the vial from Darren’s hand, upending the contents into the batter.


“Better safe than sorry.” Darren stared at her, his mouth actually hanging open. Angela thought it was cute. “I want to be sure it works.”

The batter was poured into a pan and disappeared into the oven.

Darren leaned against the counter, finally giving Angela his attention. “Why do you want to do this, anyway?”

“He annoys me. He keeps calling me baby, like I’m an irresponsible little kid, or something. And he wears too much cologne. Why did you agree to help me?”

Darren looked into her eyes and stepped closer, a grin lifting the corners of his mouth, but not altering the intensity of his gaze. “I want the power, of course.”

The Only Woman in the Room

I received The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is still a Boys' Club by Eileen Pollack through a Goodreads Giveaway.

Get settled, I have a lot to say.

This book focuses on Eileen's personal experience as a woman in math and physics. She tells stories of her interactions with classmates and professors in high school and college. She also goes back to visit many of those professors and classmates thirty years later, after she has changed careers and become a writer.

Eileen does an amazing job of describing her experience. Her story is one of uncertainty, not knowing if she was good enough, and seeking that affirmation from others. Even when she returns to Yale thirty years later, she wants her professors to tell her that she is good enough.

I spent most of this book absolutely getting what she was saying at the same time that I wondered why my experience was so different. I took similar courses to the ones she describes in high school, and a few in college. Often I was one of only a few women in the course. I watched women around me say they couldn't do it, and move on to other things. But I never had someone tell me I couldn't do something because I was female. I was wondering where I was in Eileen's story.

Then I got to a chapter titled "The Women Who Don't Give a Crap." Eileen encounters a group of women scientists who have given themselves this name. They heard all the same things Eileen did growing up, received the same lack of support and encouragement. Their response is to say "That's okay, I'll do it anyway."

Ah, here I am.

While I still struggle to remember any specific instances of someone telling me no, I'm sure they happened. My response to criticism or suggestions that I can't do something has been to take what I believe has value, and dump the rest. I'm assuming I was somehow wise enough to dump any "You can't do that, you're a girl," comments.

The question I have and that I think Eileen may have been too shocked to ask the women who don't give a crap is "Why?" Why do some women not give a crap? Why do other women give a crap to the point that they don't follow their dreams?

Eileen doesn't really try to answer this in her book, but you could conclude from what she does say that it stems from encouragement and support.

I'm not sure that's the case. At least for me.

So this morning, on my long walk, I though about why. Why am I a woman who doesn't give a crap? I had to go way back, before middle school, before upper elementary school even. Here's what I came up with.


I was a free range child. Summers for me meant being outside from sunrise to sunset. Finding things to do while my mom was at work. I made all of my decisions for the day on my own (or with the input of friends). I made up whole worlds. Those summers taught me that I could create any reality I wanted. That I could do and be anything.

So of course I could do math. Of course I could be a doctor. Or an actor. Or an astronaut. All you have to do is imagine yourself there, and then see the path.

But you know what helps you imagine yourself there? Seeing other people like you already there. This was not an obstacle for me, I could imagine myself anywhere regardless of who was already there. But many people can't. They need to see that someone like them has successfully traveled the path before them.

Perhaps the biggest thing we can do to get more women and minorities into fields that they see as closed to them is to make the fact that women and minorities are already in those fields more visible. Include them in textbooks, for example.

My greatest success as a college science teacher may have been the semester I assigned my students the task of writing a scientist's biography. I gave them a long list of people to choose from, but there was a catch. There were very few names on the list that students recognized. The list was biased. It was skewed to favor women and racial and ethnic minorities. Faced with a list of people they hadn't heard of, my students had to come up with some way to choose. Some chose a name at random. Some did a little research, seeking out a scientist that they identified with.

At the end of the semester two students, one an African American woman, the other a woman on the autism spectrum thanked me for giving them that assignment. Each had chosen a woman like them. Each student had signed up for the class to meet their science requirement. Both now realized they could be scientists and ended up changing their majors.

Representation matters.