Monday, May 16, 2016

Limitations (or, Why I am Not Finishing StoryADayMay)

I’m a quitter.

That is hard for me to say. I don’t give up on things that I commit to do. I don’t change my mind, back out, give my regrets and walk away. I finish what I start.

But not this time. This time I quit. And it makes me feel better to say so.

Last September I participated in StoryADay September. I wrote twenty-five short stories over the course of thirty days. It was amazing. It was fun. I loved the challenge of birthing a fresh idea every day. I loved the feeling of having a bottomless well of possible stories waiting for me. I was excited for StoryADay May.

What I have learned: May is not September. For me, the timing of this particular challenge matters. Way more than I ever thought it would.

May is a transition month. School is wrapping up. That means all of the usual: get the kids in bed, out of bed, fed, homework finished. Plus all of the end of year activities: concerts, field trips, graduation ceremonies. May is also the start of baseball season. Add in at least two practices a week to all of the above. It makes for a busy month.

Now, let’s add the kicker. In September I wasn’t working. Now I am working full-time.

The end result is that I truly do not have enough time to generate a new idea every day, develop that nugget of an idea into a story that is ready for me to play with, and write it. Yes, I have time to write (almost) every day. I can squeeze in a little bit of work on whatever project needs me. But I just can’t crank out a short story every day.

I fought this truth for a while.

Then the nightmares came.

I was waking up in the middle of the night, in a panic because I was worried about a story that I hadn’t written or a story that I needed to write the next the day. I was tired. I was stressed.

It wasn’t fun.

Trying to cram in something that wouldn’t fit was threatening to shatter my relationship with writing. I had to let it go.

I am writing every day. I am working on a couple of short stories, a narrative nonfiction piece, and revisions to my novel. I am not a slacker. I am not a failure. I am recognizing my limitations and moving forward.

Damn, it’s hard being a grown-up.

When have you been a quitter? In retrospect, was it the right call for you?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Day 11 of StoryADay May.
The Prompt: Write a story in which the setting is key.

Our life has been full of things left unsaid. For some people, silence happens because they are afraid to speak, afraid for someone else to know what lies in their truest of hearts. For us, silence was the ultimate expression of truth.

Mom always told me that words were empty, hollow. You can say anything. What’s really hard, what really shows who and what you are is your actions. We were women of silent action.

I never heard my mom tell me that she loved me. She never said it, because she didn’t need to. Everything she did showed me that she loved me, that I was the piece that her heart couldn’t live without.

I miss her. I want to feel that essential again. So I am here. I am looking for her in the place we shared. Our beach.

With my eyes closed, the murmur of the waves against the sand almost sounds like her voice. I know I already said she wasn’t a woman that believed in words. But that didn’t mean we didn’t talk. We would sit here, planted in the sand, our toes tucked under the warm, gritty upper layer. I would wiggle my toes deep, burrow into the colder sand below, just water-logged enough to feel like silk. I would tell her about school, about boys. She would listen. She would give me advice. But the her-ness of the moment was always in the touch of her hand. On my arm, smoothing my hair, rubbing my back while I cried.

I open my eyes now, almost expecting to see her settled next to me. She is not. Instead I get the flickering silver of moonlight dancing with the frolicking ocean. Waves hit the beach, sending splinters into the air. Sparklers.

I lick my lips. I taste of salt. I can’t tell if it from the sea or my own tears.

And then I laugh. The last time we were here together, I asked my mom why this was the spot was ours. What was it that drew us here?

She told me this is where we started. I had no idea what she meant, and I kind of wish I hadn’t asked for clarification. She laughed. She had had three beers while we sat and watched the sun send orange shards that melted into pink sherbet across the surface of the water. That might have been two beers too many. I don’t think she would have told me what she did without the malty taste of beer in her mouth.

This spot was were I was conceived. Not literally where I sit now. I don’t think I could park myself on the sand knowing that that had happened here. But behind me, near the swaying stalks of beach grass. Nestled between two dunes.

This has always been our spot. Always.

I am crying again. I want her here so that I can say goodbye. That’s why I’m here. To replace a moment that I didn’t get to share with her. She was gone hours before I even got the call. I didn’t get to tell her goodbye. More importantly, I didn’t get to show her goodbye, hug her into the beyond, my hug a promise that all would be well, I would see her again.

I want to give us that moment now.

My hand falls to the box at my side. Carved from drifted beach wood, polished smooth by the motion of waves and teeth of sand. Gray like her eyes.

I lift the box to my chest and hug it tight. We stand. I carry us forward, into the water. It is still sun-warm. The waves wrap around me. When the water reaches my waist, I lift her above my head. I don’t want the waves to pull her from before I am ready. Before I have given her goodbye.

The water at my chest, I lower the box and hold it at the water’s surface. I slip off the lid and set it on a passing wavelet. It drifts away from me. I watch until it is gone.

I let the box follow, what is left of Mom resting inside. Tendrils of her are teased into the air by the gentle breeze. She glistens in the moonlight as she rises. I watch her drift in the air for a moment, then turn my attention to the rest of her in the box. She is leaving me again. But this time, I have sent her off.

I have shown her goodbye.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Not All Horns Belong to Unicorns

Day 9 of StoryADay May.
The Prompt: Write a story based on the ugly duckling structure, with a life-changing moment or realization or event that comes in the middle.

Once upon a time there was a girl who found herself in a bit of a predicament. That girl was me.

Like many girls who found themselves in such a predicament, I went to the boy who helped me get myself into the predicament in the first place. I imagined that he would sweep me up, carry me away, love me forever. Instead he said “That’s too bad. Good luck with that,” and walked away.

I went to stay with my Aunt Trudy. A solid back-up plan for a fair number of girls, I’ve been told. The idea was that I would bear my predicament, then give away the fruits of my labor. I would be free to return home, return to my life, as fresh and clean as I was before I got into this mess.

Nine months is a long time. I had no friends, no school, no distractions. It was me and the tiny little life that I was growing from scratch. How could I not love him? How could I bear to give him away? He was mine. He is mine.

When the time came, Aunt Trudy called her friend Liza. Together, they helped me bring Salvador into the world. Liza brought extra blankets and a bassinet. She planned to tuck him in, take him away. I didn’t let her. I convinced Aunt Trudy to let me and Salvador stay with her. Here I could be a widow. There would be no avoiding the shame and ridicule if I returned home.

He was beautiful. Sleepy brown eyes. Dark brown hair that swirled over his pink scalp. A perfect pink pucker for a mouth. Aunt Trudy was worried about his head, though. “Childbirth is hard,” I told her, “even for the baby.” She was worried about the peak on his brow. The shape his skull had taken on to be able to fit through the birth canal. I wasn’t worried. I knew it would take care of itself.

At two weeks of age, Salvador still had his peaked head. Aunt Trudy made me take him to the doctor just to get checked out. The doctor was even more concerned than Aunt Trudy. He called it a “bony protuberance.” He wanted to schedule surgery. He wanted to remove it.

I said no. It is part of Salvador, part of what I grew inside me. It makes him special. There was no way to tell what might happen if we removed it. Or what he might become if we let his life take it’s natural course. That was what I wanted to see. What he would become.

When Salvador was five, Aunt Trudy brought me paperwork to enroll Salvador in kindergarten. I thought it was a terrible idea. Salvador was an incredibly quiet boy. He would spend hours sitting silently in a chair, staring into the air in front of him. I had no idea what he saw there, what he was thinking. He never told me. I knew that other children wouldn’t understand. I worried that teachers might not understand, that they would punish him for not meeting their limited expectations.

Aunt Trudy was persistent. Pushy. I finally caved and agreed that Salvador could leave me every weekday morning for three and a half hours.

The mornings were long. I missed him.

But I only had to make it through three of them. On the third day, the principal called me to a meeting. Salvador was waiting for me in his office. I pulled my boy onto my lap, kissed his growing forehead. The principal described the morning’s events. The teasing, taunting, name-calling that my Salvador had listened to in silence. He is such a good boy. He did not fight back, just turned the other cheek.

The principal thought that perhaps Salvador would be more comfortable staying at home with me. He wasn’t like the other kids, the principal said, he didn’t quite fit in with them. I smiled. I knew my boy.

Salvador and I had lessons at home for the next ten years. I would bring him books and other things. I would read to him, explain what I saw in the world and on the news. He listened, soaking it all in.

Aunt Trudy found it somewhat disturbing that Salvador never spoke to her. Despite my assurances that he was fine, that he would speak up if he had something important to say, Aunt Trudy brought in another “professional.” A cute little speech therapist. She claimed that she would have Salvador talking within three months. I was willing to give it a try.

For two weeks she came to the farm and took Salvador out into the fields for therapy. She said that she was trying to get him connected to the earth, to nature. He was nature, I thought to myself. I didn’t understand how he could be any more connected.

I followed them once. I watched the cute little thing settle Salvador onto the grass, criss-cross applesauce. I watched her settle herself in front of him. I watched her take his hand in hers. She spoke softly, looking directly into his eyes.

She was trying to take him away from me. Steal his tender heart from me. I couldn’t have that. I fired her. We were better off alone.

My once little boy was now a teenager. Hormones brought on all the changes you would expect in a young man. For Salvador, there was an added bonus. His peak began to grow. The change was subtle, but I saw it. It became pointier, taller. Like a horn. A single horn. My boy was magic. He was going to become a unicorn.

I watched him. I waited. I couldn’t wait for the day that he became what he was always meant to be.

Today he turned thirty. He has not grown in ten years. He has not changed. He is frozen. Stuck. A silent boy in his own little world with a lump on his head. Apparently not every ugly duckling grows up to be a swan. But he is still my ugly duckling. My boy.

Tonight I took him on a special birthday tour. We have made only two stops so far, but it has been a magnificent journey.

The first stop was at the home of a small country doctor. I cut off that doctor’s bony protuberance (you know what I mean) while Salvador watched. I swear I saw him smile.

We then visited the home of a cute little speech pathologist. I held Salvador’s hand. I guided it and the knife, helped him to cut out her tongue.

Now we are headed for home. The home we share with Aunt Trudy. Salvador wants her to be put on display. He doesn’t have to say the words out loud, I know this is what he needs. He wants her imperfections, her misunderstood and unique traits to be put on display. He wants to watch as this small community gathers round to tease, taunt, and name-call.

He is my special boy. Of course I will give him what he wants.

Aunt Trudy’s flaws are on the inside, though. We will have to open her up for all the world to see.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Day 8 of StoryADay May.
The Prompt: Write a story with a Cinderella story structure: try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, life-changing moment.

I roll over and have a stare-down with the clock. I blink before the numbers blink over. I lose.

5:32. In the awful early morning.

I am wide awake. I am antsy. I need… something.

I need to go back to sleep, but that is not happening. I am on. I know that I won’t shut down again until at least eleven tonight. Out of bed it is. I definitely lose.

Halfway to the door, I figure out what I need. I need coffee.

Kurt must hear the gentle slap of my bare feet hitting the wooden floor. He is in the kitchen when I get there.

“What are you doing up this early?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Might as well start the day, right?”


He doesn’t look like he is buying my peppiness. I’m not buying it, so why should he?

“I need coffee,” I say. I pull a mug down from the cabinet. My favorite mug. Plain white on the outside. It looks boring, innocent. But when you tip the mug and look inside ‘You’ve been poisoned’ is scrawled in black across the bottom of the mug. I smile at the end of every cup.

“You don’t drink coffee,” Kurt says. “Only tea.”

He’s right. I have never had coffee. I drink tea. Black tea, green tea, herbal tea, it doesn’t matter what kind, I’ll drink it.

But today I need coffee.

“I know. But today I want coffee.”

“I didn’t make any this morning. I’m having a breakfast meeting with Jared. I was just going to have coffee then.”

I sigh. It figures. On the morning I want it, he doesn’t make it. “I’ll make it,” I say.

I move across the kitchen to the coffee maker. In the cabinet above, I find filters and coffee. I feel Kurt’s eyes on my back as I put a filter in the basket and scoop in some grounds.

“That’s probably too much,” he offers. He must immediately turn and leave the room. I hear the heavy soles of his brown dressy shoes clip down the hall.

“That’s not too much,” I mumble under my breath. I pull the carafe free from the coffee maker and step toward the sink. The glass carafe slips from my hand and falls to the floor, missing my toes by an inch. Of course it shatters. Why wouldn’t it?

“Dammit!” I yell.

“You okay?” Kurt calls. I don’t hear his feet move. He wants me to say yes, that everything is fine, under control. He wants to move on with his day.

I give him what he wants.

“I’m fine,” I call back. I stay frozen in place until I hear the front door open and close.

I am surrounded by chunks and shards of glittering broken glass. My feet are bare. I hate the sight of blood.

I lean along the counter, stretch my arm as far as I can. I manage to snag the edge of the towel hanging from the front of the stove between two of my fingers and pull it to me. I fold it in half and bunch the ends in my hand. I bend to the floor and use my make-shift broom to clear a path to the door.

I walk back to the bedroom and get dressed. Jacket, keys, purse, and I am out the door. Kurt can deal with the glass when he gets home.

I need coffee.

I drive only four blocks before I park my car and get out. This is the largest shopping center in my small town. A string of ten whole stores linked together. Parking for about a hundred cars. It’s massive. For here.

I walk toward the shop on the end of the string. ‘Two Brews’ blinks in blue neon in the front window. I feel like there is a story behind the name, one I’ve heard before, one I should know. It’s a tiny town. I’ve heard all the stories, right?

Right now I don’t care about the name. I only care that this is the only coffee shop in town. At the door, I slip my hand around the wooden door handle and pull. Instead of swinging open, the door pulls me forward. I stop just short of thunking my head on the slab of wood. That’s when I notice the sign hanging directly in front of my face. ‘Closed for remodeling. Grand reopening May 29th.’ Today is May 27th.

“Shit.” I turn and look out at the parking lot. My car looks lonely, sad. There are no other cars at this end of the lot. At the far end is a cluster of four cars. Even my car seems to not belong.

This morning is so off that I can’t even remember the other nine stores in this strip. So I walk. I look. I am hoping to find coffee.

At the farthest end, close to the cluster of cars I find what I need.

‘Titus Travel. When you just need to get away from it all.’

I forget about coffee and open the door.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Day 7 of StoryADay May.
The Prompt: Write a story containing only dialogue.

F: Uggghh. It’s hot.
M: I don’t think it’s that bad. We’ve got some shade from the tree. Maybe you’re running a fever?
F: Why would I have a fever?
M: Your leg.
F: Huh? It’s broken. Why would that give me a fever?
M: Infection.
F: With what?
M: The bone broke through the skin. Look at it. Anything could in there. Start multiplying.
F: Ew.
M: Even if you don’t have a fever and infection now, I bet it’s just a matter of time.
F: Really?
M: Yep.
F: How do we fix it?
M: Standard treatment is antibiotics.
F: Do you have that?
M: No. I’m on vacation. And I’m a plumber. Why would I carry antibiotics?
F: I don’t know.
M: Nah.
F: What?
M: I just had a thought. Probably a bad one.
F: Something to fix my leg?
M: Kind of.
F: What?
M: I don’t think you’re going to like it.
F: Tell me. I’ll do anything. I don’t want it to get infected.
M: We could cut it off.
F: Cut it off?!
M: Just a thought. I told you you wouldn’t like it.
F: How would that fix anything?
M: If you don’t have the leg, it can’t get infected.
F: But it’s my leg.
M: You won’t need it if it gets infected. The infection would eventually get into your blood. You’d die.
F: How could we even cut it off?
M: I’m sure I could find a sharp piece of metal in the pile of debris. I could make something work.
F: Wait. If you cut my leg off, I’d bleed. A lot. I would bleed to death.
M: I could use my belt as a tourniquet. It would slow the bleeding. Maybe enough to keep you alive.
F: Maybe??
M: Maybe. I can’t say for sure how it would go. I just know it might be your only chance.
F: I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a good idea.


F: Hey. Do you have anything to eat?
M: I had some jerky in my bag.
F: Can I have some?
M: My bag flew out of the plane when it ripped open.
F: Damn. I’m hungry.
M: So am I.
F: How long can people survive without food?
M: I’m not sure. A few weeks I think. On average. But you, you’re fighting an infection, trying to heal a broken leg. I don’t know if you’ll last that long.


M: I really think we should cut off your leg.
F: I told you, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
M: Listen. It’s a liability right now. An opening for infection. If I cut it off, and you survive, you lose that liability. You have a better chance. Plus, we could roast the meat.
F: What meat?
M: Your leg. Human legs have tons of muscle. Protein.
F: You want to eat my leg?
M: If it keeps me alive? Sure.
F: What do you think it tastes like?
M: You specifically?
F: No. Human “meat.”
M: Probably like jerky.
F: Would you share it with me?
M: If you survive.
F: I wish we had some salt.

Friday, May 6, 2016


Day 6 of StoryADay May.
Prompt: Write the Real You

(Disclaimer from Susan: Like everything I write, this piece contains me. It also contains not-me. I leave it up to you to decide which bits are which.)

I am not a failure.

Most people would say that I am a success. But there would be the slightest moment of hesitation, the tiniest of pauses. I hear it every time someone praises my accomplishments.

I am never the winner of the big prize. I am never best in show, at the top of my class.

I am firmly rooted in the upper echelon of mediocrity. Before you say “Oo, but you’re good with words,” let me confess that I stole that phrase from an Indigo Girls song.

I was on the short list for the FBI, but not offered a position as an agent.

I was runner-up for Miss Teen Florida.

I was the puppeteer inside Audrey II instead of playing the part of Audrey.

This is my life. Always the bridesmaid. Never the bride. Never the best, but I’ll do in a pinch.

I keep moving. I keep trying on new roles, new skills. I am okay to good at everything that I set out to do. But never amazing. I haven’t found my thing. I am a Jack of all trades and master of none (again with the word-thievery).

Yet again, I am trying something new. An unexpected opportunity has fallen into my lap. The pay is good. The job demands a certain skill set. Cunning, planning, secrecy, bravery, determination. I have those things. The question, as always, is do I have enough to be great.

The job is simply explained. Kill Durrant Sarna. Make it look like a natural death.

I am tired of being almost the best. I will make myself the best at this thing.

Or die trying.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Day 4 of StoryADay May
The Prompt
Write a story in the first person

I hate bananas.

My roommate quickly peeled hers and shoved a huge bite into her mouth. She looked like she enjoyed it, like it tasted good.

The skin was a bright unblemished yellow. It looked friendly, pleasant. So I followed her lead. I peeled the thick skin off the fruit and took a bite.

It was awful.

Smushy. Grainy. Slimy. A combination of all the wrong textures.

I gagged. But I choked the bite down. I didn’t want to insult my roommate.

Then the smell hit me. Moist. Heavy. Food gone past its prime. Overripe. I gagged again.

I hate bananas.

I add this to my short list of things I know about myself.

My pinky fingers are double-jointed.
I prefer green jello to red.
I can only fall asleep lying on my right side with my hands tucked between my knees.
I was born yesterday.

That’s how it feels anyway. My memory begins yesterday at 2:16 pm. I woke in this bed, in this room, in this gown.

Nothing happened before that moment.

They say I have a head injury. Total amnesia.

They say I was attacked yesterday morning. Someone hit me hard enough to erase me. But not hard enough to kill me.

They say I’ll remember who I am eventually.

They hope.

I don’t know if I hope or not. That really depends on who I was. I don’t know yet if I am someone I want to know. Or someone I’m better off forgetting.

Apparently I made someone angry enough to want to crush my skull. I don’t think that makes me optimistic to know me.

Maybe this is my chance to start over. I can make myself into anything. Anyone.

I close my eyes to let myself imagine. Brainstorm who I want to be. I take in a deep breath.


I smell the candies he always carries in his pockets. The candy he always has in his mouth. The warm malty caramel smell that washed over me just before the bat swung.

I remember.

And he is here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Day 3 of StoryADay May.
The Prompt:
Take the last line from your favorite book or choose one from the list below. Now write a short piece that ends with that line.

1. No one has claimed them yet.
2. “Let me tell you about it.”
3. Everything must go.
4. “Make me pretty.”
5. And it was still hot.

I am hungry.

Hungry enough that I have considered breaking off a sugary shingle, shoving it into my mouth, swallowing it whole. But I know the sugar wouldn’t fill me for long. In an hour, or less, I would be ravenous again.

I need protein.

And fat.

I have it. Tucked into the corner. Nestled in two cages. My protein trembles. But I can’t eat it.

This year, I am smart. I have a plan. A better plan. I have always lured lost children with my sweet treat cottage. I have trapped them in cages, fattened them up, threatened them with fire. In previous years I have made the threat reality. I have roasted them. Snacked on their succulent young flesh.

But they are small. This year I have a bigger plan.

I will wait for their families to come looking. I will trap them all. Roast them all. The bounty of fresh meat will let me sleep soundly through the long winter.

The hunger gnaws. I grow impatient.

I have turned on my oven. When it’s hot I will roast.

No one has claimed them yet.

Monday, May 2, 2016

What Happens in Vegas

Day 2 of StoryADay May
The Prompt
Write a story containing all of these words from a fourth grade spelling list.


I blame Joel. It wasn’t his idea, but this is still his fault. I was joking when I said we should go to Vegas for the weekend. He jumped on the idea. Laughed. Said we should get married while we’re there.

I didn’t laugh.

I didn’t look at him, either. I focused on the frayed edge of my thumbnail. “Do you want to?” I asked.

He dropped down on his knees in front of me, waited for me to meet his eyes. Then he nodded.

I pushed out a short laugh. It was a proposal run in reverse.

So we did it. For the first time in my life, I left the state of New Mexico. I was nervous. I was scared. Shit. I was terrified. But I was with Joel.

He drove us through the night.

I bounced my gaze back and forth. First I watched Joel. He watched only the road ahead, looked for rabbits bounding into his path. Then I turned my eyes to the desert around us.

The window rolled down, I let the cool night air wash in and over me. I leaned my head against the frame of the window and closed my eyes. I held out my hand, let it fly in the wind we created as we passed through the night. I drifted.

A hand touched my shoulder. My eyes flew open and my arms bolted up, pushed away.

“Leigh. We’re here.”

I nudged my mouth into a shape sort of like a smile. “Sorry.” Before he could tell me again that it was alright, I turned and looked out the window again.

“Holiday Shores?” I asked.

“It was the only place off the strip I saw with a vacancy sign.”

“Where is the shore?”

Joel pointed over his shoulder. “Several hundred miles that way, I think.”

I grabbed his shirt and pulled him close. Dropped a kiss that said far too little on his lips. “You are a dork.”

“Yeah. But you like it.”

I shoved him away and climbed out of the car.

The sun was barely over the horizon but the air was already full and heavy with heat. I pulled what little hair was still held in my hair tie free and rearranged the wind blown strands into a bun. Mmmm. Cinnamon bun. I was hungry.

“I’m starved,” I said. “This shuttle didn’t provide meal service.” I thunked the hood of Joel’s car.

“I’ll relay your complaint to the tour director,” Joel said. “Let’s see if the stunning shores contain a restaurant.”

He moved beside me and slipped his arm around my waist, pulled me tight to his side. “Ready?” he asked.

I twitched my head up. As close to a nod as I could give him. I locked my thumb tight into his belt loop and pushed at the base of his spine. He took the cue and started walking, pulling us toward the Holiday Shores.

We walked up the steps and stopped at the front door. Fifteen panes of dusty fingerprints obscured our view of what waited inside. I reached out for the faux brass handle and pulled. The door swung open, revealing peace and chaos. Audio silence. Visual cacophony.

I tuned out the bright clutter, the fake flower leis and brittle plastic toys. I kept my eyes locked on the front desk. I Joel staring at the side of my face. I didn’t give him anything to see. I pulled us to the front desk.

Benji stood behind the desk. At least, that’s what his nametag said his name was. He looked like a Benji. Scruffy. Sandy brown hair. Deep brown eyes. A bright smile. Too sincerely friendly to be working in what appeared to be a fifth-string Vegas hotel.

I couldn’t deal with the chit-chat. I let Joel talk to Benji. I scanned the countertop. A display of dollar-a-pack collector cards caught my eye. Garbage Pail Kids. I hadn’t seen those since I was tiny. I pulled a pack from the display and held them out to Benji. “Can I charge these to our room or do I need to pay you for them?”

Maybe I interrupted some deep-guy conversation. Both Benji and Joel stared at me for a moment before Benji spoke. “I’ll add them to your bill.” Benji looked to Joel. They exchanged ‘the look.’ The ‘is she crazy- no, at least I don’t think so’ look.

“Sorry. I haven’t seen these in a while. I thought they were hilarious when I was little.”

Benji just smiled and slid a key across the counter.

Joel reached for the key and slipped it in his pocket before I could read the room number. Fine by me. I had no intention of touching it.

“Breakfast?” Joel turned to face the doorway behind us. Bright purple letters screamed ALL YOU CAN EAT BUFFET.

I raised an eyebrow and wrinkled my nose.

“It’s food,” Joel said.

I wasn’t convinced.

“What’ve you got to lose?” he asked.

“What have you got to gain?” I shot back. “Dysentery?”

“It’ll be fine.” Joel slid his hand down my spine, nestled it into the hollow at the base where it belonged. “Look, no corpses,” he said when we stepped into the restaurant.

I looked around. “No live bodies either.” A dozen or so empty tables were scattered across the floor between us and the silver train of steam tables. Not a waitress or cook in sight.

“Hello?” Joel called in an effort to raise the staff from wherever they were hiding.

Benji popped up at Joel’s elbow. “Oh. It’s seat yourself. Grab what you want. I’ll add it to your room charge.”

He disappeared again.

“Weird,” I said.

“A little,” Joel agreed.

“A little? What would make it big weird to you?”

He thought for a minute. “If the mayor were here.”

“The Mayor?”

“Yeah. Frank Sinatra. Old blue eyes.”

“He wasn’t the mayor, I don’t think.”

“That was his nickname.” Joel scrunched his brow and looked at me. “Right?”

I shook my head. “Uhm, no. I think it was Chairman of the Board.”

“Oh. But that would still be big weird. Frank Sinatra. Here. Now.”

I laughed and wrapped my arms around Joel’s neck. “I’m gonna marry you someday,” I whispered into his ear.

“I’m still hoping for today.” His breath fluttered against my ear. I still didn’t know if I was hoping for today or not. We were in Vegas. Quick weddings were half of why Vegas existed in the first place, right?

This is where I am. Held in Joel’s arms. About to eat from what might be the buffet to end all buffets via food poisoning. Trying to decide if today is my wedding day.

This is the moment when we are joined by Elvis. He walks through the door in his sparkly white suit, dark shades blocking my view of his eyes and half of his face. His dark hair is slicked back, an ebony reflection of the harsh fluorescents overhead.

Joel and I separate enough to stare. I am surprisingly unsurprised. It is Vegas, after all. But there is one detail that catches my attention. Elvis has a parachute strapped to his back.

I cut my eyes to Joel. He is already turning my way. “Where is his airplane?” Joel whispers.

“I heard that,” Elvis says. He moves straight toward us. “You two gettin’ hitched or what?”

Joel’s hand finds mine. His fingers interweave, gripping me, holding me here. With him.

“Mayyyybeee,” Joel stretches the word out, gives me a chance to cut him off.

“Yes,” I say. “We just needed an Elvis.”

I lift Joel’s hand in mine and kiss his knuckles. I will vanquish myself here, in Vegas, with Elvis. What will remain is Joel and I. Us.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


It's the first day of StoryADay May!!
Write a story in 30 minutes.
Choose a character. Back them into a corner where they must do the thing they would never do.


I swore I would never touch her.

We all did. That was the first thing we had to pledge. Before Lady Elira would relax the charms that guarded the massive wooden door, let us into her haven, her world.

I didn’t understand fully what I was pledging at the time. But it didn’t matter. I would do anything Lady Elira asked. She saved me. She saved us all, I imagine. Not that we talk about it. We’d all like to forget our weakest moments.

In the interest of disclosure, I’ll give you the gist of my moment. Bear. Huge black bear. My sword knocked away by a clawed paw along with two fingers. Moments from being dinner, Lady Elira blew the bear away. Vaporized it.

Then she returned my fingers, tucked me into her chariot and brought me to her home.

She offered me sanctuary. Safety. All she asked in return was that I not touch the maiden in ice.

I’d love to touch her.

I’d love to shatter the ice that surrounds her. It is so clear, so perfectly formed, that it looks like a thin pane of glass. I’d love to punch through it, lay my hands on the delicate beauty it encases.

Lady Elira says that a single crack in the ice would kill the maiden within. The ice keeps her, preserves her somehow. Without it, she will die.

So I don’t touch.

I can look at her, though. And I do. All the time. I watch her face. I imagine she listens to our conversations. I see flickers of amusement crinkle the corners of her eyes, tweak the tips of her lips.

I see the fire burning in her eyes. I imagine that it burns for me.

I watch her now. My dusty boots thrown up on the table, a mug of cider clasped in my hand. The chatter of Lady Elira’s men surrounds me. I am not part of it. I am in my silent bubble, my eyes locked on the maiden’s.

A crack of thunder peels at the door. The huge slab of wood splits down the middle, then crumbles into a shower of splinters.

My boots hit the floor. My sword swings free, ready to slice the intruder, protect the maiden.

The doorway frames the empty night.

The men and I look at each other. We shift, uneasy on our feet. It’s hard to fight what you can’t see. Harder when you don’t know if anything is even there.

I move. Ten steps take me to the foot of the maiden, put me between the empty doorway and her frozen form. I will die for her.

Benley steps to the doorway, tips his head around the frame, looking for the unseen enemy. He is greeted with a blast of fire. He is gone.


It will destroy her.

I have to get her out of this room, away from the flames that reach like tentacles now into the room.

I turn to face her. I have to move her. I have to touch her.

I spread my hands wide, tenderly brush my finger tips against the surface of her shield.

Her eyes light. I know I don’t imagine the burst of brilliance this time.

The ice shatters, falls at my feet. I open my mouth, a wail of despair already bursting from my throat as my eyes lift from the glittering ground to take in her face one last time.

Her hand snakes around my wrist. “The lady lies,” the maiden says as she spins and pulls me with her through the remnants of flames and into the night.