Not in the Job Description

It seems this week the plan for the Friday Fictioneers is to take a road trip somewhere, courtesy of Ted’s photo prompt. This picture has been chosen for us by our encouraging host, Rochelle Wiseoff-Fields. Please note: all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only.

Sad to say, last Thursday my cell phone fried its inner workings instead of properly charging. Since my cell phone has been my only connection to Friday Fictioneers — my computer refuses to visit Inlinkz — I was in offline mode and missed reading a lot of the responses. To make matters worse, in the process it cracked its Blue tooth so no data could be transferred, which means my icon was lost along with everything else. 😦

The good news is: on Tuesday I got this neat little Samsung phone with all the bells and whistles. 🙂
The bad news is: I still have to figure out how to use it.
The even better news is: along with my new phone I got a tablet! I’ve been wanting one for awhile now.
The bad news is: I still have to figure out how to use it. 😦

But I trust with one or the other I’ll be able to post my FF response, so here’s my tale. (I’m going to assume this photo setting as the on-ramp to a bridge.)

Photo prompt © Ted Strutz

The young husband frantically waves to the guard and indicates his wife, who’s obviously in serious distress.

The guard signals him to follow and dashes to his emergency vehicle. “Another one,” he calls to his partner as he jumps in and flips on the flasher.

His partner hops in beside him. “What’s with this bridge anyway that so many babies want to be born on it?”

“An easy landing for storks?” The guard glances in his mirror to be sure the couple is keeping up.

His partner’s looking pale. “Sure wish they’d pick a hospital roof. I don’t deliver well.”

Free Book: When Night Comes

When Night Comes: Free on Amazon for one more day.

When I got Dan Walsh’s e-mail on Sunday I wanted to quickly do a write-up and and tell you all about this great book that’s free on Amazon right now. Sadly, the days have slipped by and there’s only day left to get this fast-paced suspense novel.

The story opens with Sergeant Joe Boyd arriving at the scene of a possible homicide. “Check it out, Joe. It’s pretty strange,” patrolman Hank Jensen told him.

Homicide or not, they definitely had a dead body in that bed. There was no mistaking that familiar smell… Boyd guessed the boy probably died late last night, or in the early evening. He walked to the bed and looked down at the body, then at the kid’s face.

Yeah, that’s weird.

As Sgt Boyd was contemplating this mysterious death, Jack Turner was arriving in Culpepper, GA, as a guest lecturer at the invitation of his old history prof and mentor, Thomas Thornton. Jack, with his Master’s in Military History, was planning on giving a series of lectures on WWII.

Within days Jack has several bizarre dreams. It’s like he’s gone back in time to the scenes he’s been describing in his lectures, being part of the action as it unfolds. And Jack isn’t the only one having dreams. Two students are dead after experiencing bizarre hallucinations that seemed to drive them mad.

Forced into this puzzling situation, Jack wants to discover the cause of his strange dreams. He teams up with Rachel, an old acquaintance, now an attractive young teaching assistant at the university. Together they do some investigating — but someone’s determined to stop them.

For me this book is a keeper, one I can read over several times and still shiver with the thrill of the story. And it’s a bonus that Jack returns in a second and third book in the series.

Dan says in his e-mail, “The Kindle version of When Night Comes is absolutely FREE for the next 5 days. If you enjoy reading it, there’s a sample chapter for Book 2 at the end, and an Amazon link.”

And now there’s only one more day! So if this book sounds appealing, here’s the link to Amazon .com. And here’s the LINK to his BLOG.

The Two Sisters: A Tale of Perspectives

“Thank you so much, Carl.” Pearl took the box from her cousin’s arms and set it on the table in her hallway. “I feel so privileged to be entrusted with these heirlooms! You can be sure I’ll take good care of them.”

“Sure. Whatever.” Carl shrugged. “I still think we should just burn them. Why dredge up old bones? As I recall,  Mom had a lot of “old bones” she worked over.”

“Maybe.” Pearl smiled sympathetically. His mother, her Aunt Matilda, seemed too focused on bones of contention.

“But you’re young yet,” she said. “When I was your age the past was ancient history; I was out to remake the world. Since I’m retired I think more about our past and what we’ve inherited. I’ll try to be discreet, though, when I compile the Family History. If the Aunties wrote anything nasty about someone I certainly won’t record it. Maybe I should even tear those pages out of the journals?”

“Who cares? I’m sure most of the folks they wrote about are dead now. Anyway, suit yourself, I’d best be off.”

“Chip off the old block,” Pearl murmured after the door was shut. She looked at the stacks of books in the box and thought of the two sisters, Mabel and Matilda. Each of them had her own way of looking at life; each recorded her perspective in these journals.

The years had been good to Mabel and Matilda, both of them lived into their nineties before they passed away. Both women had kept journals most of their lives and after their deaths Pearl heard that all their journals were going to be destroyed. Hoping to write a family history book someday she begged permission to look through them before the grim sentence was carried out. Then her cousins decided since Pearl was the only one in the family with enough patience to pore through them, and prudent enough not to blab the contents, she could have the lot.

Pearl had breathed a sigh of relief; so much information would have been lost! Now the precious books were in her hands. She carried the box to the coffee table, set it down and started sorting the collection into years.

Skimming through Aunt Mabel’s slapdash version of the late 20’s, Pearl could picture her so clearly, a teenager eager for life. She smiled. Aunt Mabel would have been a flapper! It will be interesting to see how she coped during the Depression years, Pearl thought. Good thing she couldn’t see the future right then.

She set 1928 down and slowly leafed through the years to 1985. At this point Mabel was widowed and lonely at times, yet enjoyed outings with her children and grandchildren. Then Pearl picked up her journal from 2000 and noted that she still found interesting little news items to report every day. Perhaps a caller popped in or she took a walk. If Mabel couldn’t get out she wrote about the weather and other things she observed from her window.

Spring blossoms excited her; birds in nearby branches were noted in her books; she described in detail the trees turning color in fall. She mentioned the activities of her neighbors. She wrote with humor about the Y2K panic. Thinking back, Pearl could see again how Mabel’s eyes had twinkled when she talked about the disaster that was “going to put us all back in the stone age” and how it fizzled.

Yes, that was Aunt Mabel. Always interested in life and the people around her, always ready to visit and relate humorous little stories that gave everyone a chuckle. She stayed as active as she could for as long as possible and when she was too frail to get out family members stopped in to share her good cheer.

Then Pearl picked up one of Aunt Matilda’s 1990s diaries to read, but soon found herself fighting sleep. “Nothing much happened today” was the most frequent entry, coupled with complaints about the rheumatism which kept her from getting out or the fact that no one had called.

Pearl remembered Aunt Matilda telling her once, “I never phone anyone. They might be busy when the phone rings and I know how I hate that! I don’t want to be a bother. Anyway, if they want to talk to me, they know my number.”

Another time she complained, “Seems like whenever I do phone someone they’re quick to say they have something pressing and have to run. Folks these days are just too busy to talk.” Though Pearl was sympathetic and never contradicted, she got the feeling folks were eager to get away from Matilda’s rehash of all her woes.

As elderly widows these two sisters had lived together for over fifteen years, looked out the same windows at the same changing scenes, but one had seen beauty and one had seen monotony.

Pearl could remember Aunt Mabel grabbing her raincoat and umbrella, off for a walk in the rain while her sister sat by the fire with her sore joints and wouldn’t do handwork or read for fear she’d ruin her eyes. Mabel went out to search for life while Aunt Matilda expected life to come in and tickle her. Which seldom happened, sad to say.

Such a shame, she thought as she closed the bleak diary. She stood up and walked over to the window, savoring the bright morning. She watched a robin dashing in and out of the sprinkler spray.

“Now,” she said, “I know some people I should be calling.”

Nature Makes Cats Too Smart

It’s time for another round of Friday Fictioneers, the delightful group hosted by our devoted and tactful host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. If you’d like to join in the fun, check out her blog and click the blue frog to add your own 100 words to the melee.

The picture today was donated by Dale Rogerson expressly for today’s prompt. The copyright belongs to her and you need her permission to borrow it. No doubt there’ll be many different tales spun out of this photo; I myself came up with two. I’ll go with my first idea, revised and hopefully clarified.

So, gentle readers, here’s another dose of Winnie’s wry wit and wisdom.

From their hotel window Winnie observed the commotion below. “It’s that irritating cat again. Up in that tree, smug as can be. Third time this week.”

Raylene and Winnie watched the crowd milling around. The owner wrung her hands; someone shouted orders; someone fetched a ladder. Perched on his branch Sir Whiskers blinked superciliously.

Winnie rolled her eyes. “Imagine bringing your cat on a holiday!”

“And it loves to lead a merry chase. Sir Whiskers seems to relish having everyone scrambling after him.” Raylene shook her head. “Nature shouldn’t make cats that smart.”

“Or people that dense.”

Will’s Cooking Skills

Will set the bubbling pot of stew on the table beside the biscuits he’d just taken out of the oven. Then he tossed another chunk of wood into the stove. With the storm crashing outside like it was — the wind whistling in through whatever cracks it could find — he wanted the fire to stay good and hot.

He sat down at the table and bowed his head for a short grace — a prayer that the food would be edible as much as blessed. “Well, now let’s see what you’ve come up with, Will, my boy. Maybe this time…”

He ladled soup into his bowl, then stretched his long legs out under the table and reached for a biscuit. Still nice and warm. Can’t be that bad. The thing crunched when he took a bite, something like the cracking of a stick of kindling, but his teeth didn’t make much of an impression.

He dropped the biscuit onto his plate. It landed with an hopeless thunk. “I just gotta learn to bake!” He blew his frustration out in a long stream of air. “While I still have some teeth to eat with, that is.”

His thoughts jumped across the fields to the next section, where his brother Jim would be sitting down to a delicious supper, surrounded by his family. Will gazed out the window, imagining them gathered around the table. He could almost smell the meal. Grace was an excellent cook; Jim and the children would be well fed.

Thou shalt not covet thy brother’s wife, nor thy brother’s wife’s cooking. But I’d sure like to have one of my own. She doesn’t have to be pretty or so talented, Lord, just an old-fashioned girl that can cook like Ma and Grace.

He jumped when another crack of lightening lit up the yard, followed immediately by a heaven-splitting boom and a fresh wave of rain. The whole cabin seemed to shudder. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm be over soon!

Loneliness squeezed Will’s chest, making him struggle for his next breath. Even if she isn’t the best cook… If she’d just be here with me tonight when the wind’s howling so wild. We’d wrap ourselves up in a blanket by the fire…

In a flash he saw again Rosanne’s cheery smile — a smile that would have warmed up his cabin perfectly on a night like this. Was she happy now with that school teacher who swept her off her feet and took her away to the city? Why did I dawdle around about it? Why was I so bashful? Why didn’t I ask her first? Will blinked and tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Will jerked the reins on his runaway thoughts. Smarten up, old boy. No point crying over spilled milk, as Mom always says. Things are what they are. He picked up the biscuit again, broke it into his stew, and poked it around with his spoon. That’ll soften it up some.

He took a spoonful of stew, frowning at the flatness of it. Maybe Grace could show him what to put in stew to give it some flavor. Then he shook his head and scolded himself. Hey, it’s food and you’re hungry. Just eat the crummy stuff and stop thinking about what it lacks.

He was about to take another bite when someone pounded on the door. Will jumped to his feet and hurried to the door, wondering what fool would be out on a night like this.

He flung open the door and saw a young man standing there. His Nash Rambler stood nearby. Though it was dark, Will thought he saw a face in the passenger window.

“Sorry to trouble you, but I hope you don’t mind me stopping awhile in your drive. The storm was getting so bad I couldn’t see a thing. And my sister’s terrified driving in all this lightening.”

“Don’t worry. You’re welcome to park there. Why don’t you both come in and wait out the storm inside where it’s warm.”

“Thanks so much!” The young man hurried back to the car to get his passenger.

Will cast a guilty glance toward his table. If only he had some decent food to offer. “I was just about to have a bite to eat. What about you folks,” he asked as the two young people stepped inside and shed their coats.

“Brought our own,” the young man said, holding up a sack. “Hope that’s okay. We’d expected to stop somewhere en route, but then this storm came up and I drove like mad to get where we’re going. Our older sister’s just had a baby and Vickie here is going to help her for a few weeks. We’re James and Victoria Franks, by the way. From Empress, on our way to Hatfield.”

“I’m Will McKinley.” He shook hands with his visitors. “You’re not that far from where you wanna be. Once the rain lets up it should only take you another twenty minutes or so.”

Vickie gave Will a great big smile. “Thanks so much for letting us stop over like this. It’s so fortunate James saw your lights.”

“For sure,” Will agreed heartily. He stared into her soft grey eyes and wondered if she could hear his heart pounding double time, louder than the rain outside. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm last all night!

Oh, well. Hatfield wasn’t far away, if he should want to go visiting there some evening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One day, over at The Write Practice, our assignment was to write a fiction story about someone, giving special attention to developing the main character. I’ve shared with you the scene in Will’s farm home — then added the travellers arrival so as to give the poor guy a glimmer of hope. 🙂 So what do you think of Will’s character? Is he likeable or not, and why?

Troy’s Wake-Up Call

A writing prompt I did one time. We were to give someone a weird day in an alternate universe. I decided on a successful businessman suddenly stuck in a body that won’t move.

WHAM!

As a reward for our recent hard work, our sales team had chosen to spend a few days at a resort renowned for its golf greens. I was flying in with my small plane and everything was A-okay. Visibility was great; the tarmac stretched out invitingly; my landing gear was unfolding as it should.

It would have been a perfect landing — if only those crazy birds had stayed put.

In my descent I could see the hotel and fairway on my left in the distance. I also took note of the winding stream below as I brought my small plane down, focused on the strip of asphalt ahead. I never saw the two birds they say rose up from the river below. I only felt a violent jerk as something hit the prop and I lost control.

I woke up flat out on a bed, hearing blimps and bleeps from machines and soft voices. Definitely hospital sounds. I tried to open my eyes or turn my head, but my body was like stone. I couldn’t stay awake.

I came to later, hearing familiar voices right near my bed. My wife, Lacey, my mom and dad. They were murmuring, talking about the crash of a small plane, a bird in the prop. Some memory started coming back to me. I tried to open my eyes, to make some noise. I tried moving my hand, my foot — anything to let them know I was awake — but my body refused to cooperate. I couldn’t even tell that I even had arms or legs. Maybe I didn’t? Had they been amputated? That thought scared the living daylights out of me.

“How long do you think it will be until he comes out of this?” I could hear the fear in Lacey’s voice.

Another voice, professional, yet kind. “We can never be sure. A lot of patients with similar injuries come to within a week or two. Some don’t.”

NO! I don’t want to lie here another week or two, I want to get up, move around. Then his last words buzzed around in my brain, torturing me. Some don’t. Ever.

“What are the chances that Troy will live a normal life?” Dad’s voice.

“That’s impossible to determine until he wakes up and we assess how much neurological damage has been done. But we really shouldn’t be discussing this here. Some patients do hear even if they can’t respond.”

Hours passed — or was it days? I came to many times and tried to move, but it was like someone had set me in concrete. What I wouldn’t give to at least say a few words, find out what was going on! When the doctor was in the room I tried my hardest to scream, but not even a squeak came out.

I lived for the visits of my family. Lacey brought Kyle and Tianna. They were full of questions “Why can’t Daddy open his eyes?” Lacey explained, “Daddy’s in a coma. It’s like he’s asleep. But maybe he can hear us, so talk to him.”

“How long will he have to stay there?” Poor kids. They didn’t understand, but they tried.

Lacey urged them to tell me things about their day, so Kyle told me about school. Tianna told me about the new girl on our street. Their voices were like a lifesaver to a drowning sailor. If only I could communicate just how much those visits meant to me.

I made a vow. When I come out of this, I’m going to tell them every day how sweet their voices sound.

Even the medical people brightened my dark world. How I wish I could tell them that! I knew from the few comments the nurses made right by my bed that they were moving me, washing me, but I felt nothing. Much as I hated to be so helpless, their snatches of gossip as they worked with me reassured me that I was still in the land of the living.

Then came that marvelous day when my eyes opened.

If you only knew what it’s like to live in a dark shadow for days — or was it even weeks? — and then one day be able to see light and color and living, moving people. Wonderful is far too small a word. It’s like saying the Grand Canyon is large. And to see the faces of Lacey, the kids, my parents, standing around me with great big grins. To see the hope shining in their eyes when I said my first words.

The only thing better was the day I took my first shuffling steps. This was the first step of my new life as a husband, a father, a son. Thank God for second chances!

“Can You Trust Me?”

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by the kind and longsuffering Rochelle-Wisoff Fields. And today J Hardy Carroll has offered the photo prompt. If you’d like to participate in the Fictioneers prompt, check with Rochelle at Addicted to Purple.

When I first saw this picture, my mind went back to when we lived in Montreal and saw the result of what locals called “un reglement de comptes.” Someone wouldn’t pay their dues — or pay due respect — and there’s be this untraceable explosion.

Photo © J Hardy Carroll

“Can You Trust Me?”

“So whatta ya think?” The realtor tried for upbeat. “Can you see this for your meetings? Needs a little work, of course.”

Pastor Ivan surveyed the disaster. “Rumor has it this was a result of not paying the mob’s “protection” fees.

The realtor’s smile disappeared. “Maybe. I’m sure they won’t bother you guys, being’s you’re a church and all.”

Ivan sighed. Lord, this IS affordable. But it looks hopeless.

“Son of man, can these bones live?”

The Bible quote startled Ivan. “What?”

The realtor turned to him, puzzled. “Eh?”

Ivan grinned. “You know, maybe this will work — with God’s help.”

Back story:

I could fit this tale into 100 words because Pastor Ivan knew his Bible and exactly what this question implied. The story is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Here the Lord takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, representing the scattered, defeated House of Israel, “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.”

As Ezekiel watches, the bones come together, muscles and sinews start to connect them, then flesh appears. The spirit of God breathes life into them. “…and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army.”

“And (I) shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” (Verse 14)

So the quote Ivan heard in his mind implied, “Can you trust me to bring something vibrant out of this hopeless mess? And can you trust me to defend it?”