STORY THREAD; May 26 – June 8 Flash Fiction Contest “Family Secrets”

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11 thoughts on “STORY THREAD; May 26 – June 8 Flash Fiction Contest “Family Secrets”

  • May 26, 2016 at 1:38 pm
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    Appearances are Deceiving

    Kyle strode unhurriedly down the sidewalk toward home. He caught sight of his next door neighbor Janice as he approached his home. She was leaning on the rustic-looking rail fence that fronted her home, watching his approach. A smile came unbidden to his lips as he caught her eye. Janice had been his neighbor for quite some time but they’d only been friends for a couple of months. They’d become much closer in that brief time than Kyle thought possible.

    It hadn’t been an easy thing, though. When she first appeared in her adjoining back yard, Kyle had been enjoying the sunset. One moment he was alone, observing the transition in blissful solitude. The next, she was there, eyeing him like a tigress examining a mildly offensive morsel of meat. When he’d said hello, she’d just turned and left him alone without speaking a word. Kyle saw her refusal to speak to him as a challenge, so he made it a point to greet her pleasantly on the occasions that their paths crossed. She’d seemed almost as surprised as he had been when she one day returned his greeting.

    The ice broken, they’d become the best of friends in an incredibly short time. They did almost everything together and spent entire nights talking together so often that their neighbors thought they were lovers. In spite of their closeness, that had never happened. Kyle did care deeply for Janice but considered her a friend. For her part, Janice had never so much as hinted at any deeper feelings for Kyle. The look in her eyes as he strolled up to the fence told him that this might be about to change.

    “Hi,” he greeted the lovely, red-haired woman. “Wasn’t the sunset beautiful?”

    “Very. Tonight will be even more so,” Janice responded in her dusky, musical voice.

    “No clouds, full moon, just about perfect,” he agreed, surveying the sky where the first stars were just beginning to reveal themselves.

    “Perfect,” she repeated huskily.

    Kyle felt cool fingers touch his cheek and turn his head. His eyes followed until they locked on Janice’s gaze. She had dark, deep eyes that suddenly seemed bottomless. He felt as though he was being drawn into those orbs, his awareness immersed in immeasurable depths. He was vaguely aware of Janice speaking to him before all conscious thought ceased.

    He woke suddenly, alert and uneasy. He recognized the room he was in as Janice’s parlor. He was lying on the sofa, bound hand and foot. He began casting about for a way to free himself when he suddenly became aware of another presence. As when they first met, Janice seemed to appear from nowhere.

    “You’re awake,” she observed. That’s good.”

    “Janice, what’s going on here? If this is some kind of joke -”

    “It’s no joke, my love. Be patient and I’ll explain. Are you comfortable?” she asked.

    “I’m distinctly UN-comfortable, tied up like this. Now let me up, will you?”

    The beautiful woman sat down on the sofa and seemed to gather her thoughts for a moment, then launched into her unbelievable explanation.

    “Kyle, beloved, I have a small confession to make,” she began hesitantly. “I’m a vampire. Oh, not one of those soulless monsters in books or movies. I don’t kill for pleasure or drain people of all their blood. We’re people, different, but people nevertheless.”

    “Shh, shh, let me finish,” she admonished mildly as Kyle started to speak. He subsided as she continued. “A lot of the common myths about us are so wrong, mostly the based on ignorance or fear. A few things, though, are accurate. We do subsist on blood, we live a very long time and our ‘condition’ can be passed on. One fact that’s not well known is that we mate once, that union being for life.”

    Kyle began to see where this was leading and was at once flattered and dismayed.

    “Why me?” he broke in. “You could have any man you want. We both know that.”

    “Indeed I do, but in all my life I’ve never met another like you. You have shown me nothing but respect and care, staying even when I tried to drive you away. You have never assumed anything, never demanded or expected that which most men see as their due. You have proven true and worthy and I have chosen you as my mate for all eternity.”

    “Janice, you know how I feel about you but I can’t -”

    “But you can. You will. It is almost painless and then we’ll be together forever.”

    “You don’t understand!” Kyle implored.

    “I understand perfectly and in a moment, so will you.”

    Slim, strong fingers turned Kyle’s head and lifted his chin, exposing his jugular vein. Janice stretched out on the sofa, lying on top of him. He felt her lips touch the skin of his neck in an open-mouthed kiss. A second later he felt her fangs delicately pierce his skin and draw in her first taste of his lifeblood.

    Suddenly she jerked away convulsively, gagging and spitting. She staggered across the parlor, retching. She wheeled on the bound man, eyes blazing.

    “What manner of creature are you? No man has such foul ichor running through his veins!” she shouted.

    “I tried to tell you. I’m not a man, not even as human as you are. Vampires aren’t the only legendary creatures in the world.”

    Shock and confusion still twisted the lovely vampire’s features.

    “My people evolved on a completely different track from humans, from all animal life. I’m a cousin to the trees and grass and a brother to the rose and ivy.”

    “You’re a plant?” Janice asked incredulously.

    “That’s right. Where do you think the myth that babies come from the cabbage patch got started?”

    “You’re telling me you’re a walking cabbage?”

    “Well, no. My family is actually more akin to root vegetables. You’re probably the only vampire in history to try to get blood from a turnip.”

    Word Count: 997

  • May 27, 2016 at 8:50 am
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    Emmylou

    Emmylou is a professional spinster, a hater of men. Cocooned in her virginal bed, tucked in tightly. ‘Thou shalt not’ embroidered above her, she despises everything that doesn’t conform to her narrow view of how things should be. She lives alone in the small terraced house where she was born. Her job as a librarian is the only outlet she has, books are her friends, their smell and feel of them always brings her pleasure.
    Having looked after her parents until they died within weeks of each other, Emmylou is suddenly without a sense of direction. Freedom from their increasingly petulant demands leaves a vacuum; she is frightened. Retirement looms. How will she spend her time? Her library desk has always acted as a protective barrier between her and the general public. How will she survive without it?

    Many years ago a young man rode over the horizon, on a motor bike, not a dashing white charger. Emmylou was totally in love for the first and only time in her life. Strange and disturbing urges swamped her; she knew these feelings were wrong, but there was no one to tell her what was normal and what was not. She confided in the only person she trusted; Aunt Carla.
    Aunt Carla was worldly and exotic, a complete contrast to Emmylou’s mother; it was difficult to believe that they were sisters. With her flowing dresses and tousled blonde hair, Aunt Carla embodied everything that Emm’s mother was not.

    “It’s perfectly normal to have these thoughts, darling.”
    Aunt Carla could always sooth away her fears.

    It was with some trepidation that Emmylou brought her young man home to meet her parents. Their reactions were usually negative, and this time it was no different. The couple sat there in tense silence as Emm’s father hurled a barrage of questions at him.

    “Now, tell me my boy, what do your parents do for a living?”

    “My father is a carpenter, Sir, and my mother keeps house .”

    “Have you always lived in Surrey?”

    “As long as I can remember.”

    “Do you have brothers and sisters?”

    “No, Sir, just me.”

    “Do you have a job?”

    “Of course, Sir, I am a trainee accountant,”

    Alan breathed a sigh of relief as they left the house.
    “Is he always like this?”

    “Usually, but this time he was even worse.”

    A week went by without a word from the young man. Emmylou was puzzled. Had her father really scared him off ? His phone always went to voicemail. After another week a letter arrived at her house.
    “Dear Emm.
    Please forgive me, you know I am very fond of you, but, with my studies and everything going on at the moment, I can’t commit to a relationship. I hope you will remain my very dear friend.
    Yours, Alan.”

    Emmylou was devastated; she locked herself in her bedroom and cried for a week, resisting all entreaties to come out. Gradually, a new Emm emerged – a cold and resigned one. What was the point of allowing ones self to feel, only to have those precious feelings dashed. In future there would be no more vulnerability, emotions only led to hurt, so she wouldn’t let them hold sway.
    And so it remained.

    Let us move forward some forty years. Emmylou is coming to terms with the loss of both her parents in a short space of time. Now that the funerals are over and all the goodbyes’ said, she begins the impossible task of clearing out a lifetimes’ clutter. Emm climbs nervously through the narrow opening into the attic’s dark interior; the ladder seems precarious. Dusty cobwebs hang from the beams and she recoils as a spider runs over her foot. Stacked in a corner are piles of old newspapers, and behind them are several cardboard boxes. As she throws the newspapers down to the floor below, the dust cloud makes her cough. Old wireless parts and electrical plugs are thrown haphazardly into the boxes. Moving aside the largest box, carefully avoiding more spiders, she sees the glint of metal. Uncovering an old trunk, Emms curiosity is aroused.

    As she opens the trunk Emmylou feels that she is snooping on someones’ deepest secrets. She imagines her parents watching her. Looking over her shoulder, with beating heart, Emmylou slowly lifts the lid. Casting aside old legal papers she uncovers a bundle of yellowing letters tied up with ribbon.
    Emmylou is hooked.
    Sitting down on the dusty floor of the attic she opens the first letter. It is addressed to Fairfield Adoption Agency. Inside the envelope is another sealed letter :

    ‘My dearest boy.
    You will by now know that you are adopted. I need you to know that it was never my decision to let you go. I hope and pray that your adoptive parents will love you as much as I do. Although I may never be allowed to see you, you are never out of my thoughts.
    Yours with affection .
    Your mother.’

    This is too much to take in; that her cold and austere mum should have had a love affair. Emm can’t quite believe it. The only person alive who might know the background is Aunt Carla.
    Aunt Carla is old and frail, but she greets Emmylou warmly. A shadow passes over her face as she sees the letter.
    “My dear child. I don’t know how to tell you .” Aunt Carla hesitates.

    “ I need to know,”

    “You may not like it, are you sure?”

    “Of course, I have to know.”

    “It was wartime, your mum fell in love with a soldier; she was just seventeen. After he left to go back to the US, she found out she was pregnant. In those days, unmarried mothers were shunned by society. Our parents forced her to have the boy adopted; it broke her heart.

    “Did she ever see him again?”
    Aunt Carla hesitated, not quite looking at Emmylou.

    “Only once, when you brought him home eighteen years later.”

  • May 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm
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    THE LOOK

    I didn’t think I was cold, at least I didn’t feel it inwardly. But when Ana left, she had this to say to me, in her endearingly faulty English:

    “Go get you a heart, Danny.”

    I really did love Ana, but there you go – I obviously didn’t demonstrate it enough. Her leaving actually woke me up to the fact that I might be lacking something. It hurt and I suddenly felt that I needed to correct whatever was up with me so that I could try to avoid that kind of hurt again.

    I’d heard a work colleague talking about psychotherapy sessions she was having and they seemed to be helping her. I managed to catch the name of her therapist – I wasn’t going to ask her outright – and it was easy to find the contact details on the Internet.

    Our first sessions were rather mundane; Olga was simply gathering background information from me. During the third session, though, she came out and asked me something:

    “Danny, why are you finding it so difficult to talk to me, do you think?”

    I thought I’d been quite talkative, at least by my normally muted standards, and I told her so.

    “But you are telling me facts, details … you are not touching on your feelings.”

    “Well, that’s why I’m here, Olga,” I protested. “I want to be able to show my feelings. That’s what I want you to help me with.”

    “So, we make progress then, Danny. You have not said that before.”

    I was sure that I had, but Olga seemed pleased that we’d passed an obstacle, and I was pleased that she was pleased.

    In subsequent sessions, we began to pick apart my failed relationships. Ana was still stuck in my mind so we started with her. As I spoke, I began to see how she might have looked on some of my habits as not being quite the stuff of a loving relationship: my not returning her calls during the day, when all she wanted to do was to tell me she loved me; my reluctance to kiss or even hold hands in public; my insistence on spending every other weekend at my mother’s, when she was alive, leaving Ana at home … the list went on.

    We moved on from Ana and worked through my other serious girlfriends. I discovered that I’d treated each of them more or less the same as Ana, and they’d all left me. My first impulse was to kick myself, but Olga soon put a brake on that.

    And then she guided me gently towards the root of my difficulties. In one session, she turned off the lights, asking me to close my eyes and think of the time when I’d been happiest. It wasn’t hard – my thoughts jumped straight to my childhood and life in the family house. I was an only child and never wanted for anything. There was always food on the table, good clothes, toys aplenty, trips to the seaside …

    “And your parents, Danny?”

    “My father was a quiet chap – a good man, but he kept himself to himself. He died when I was ten. My mother? Well …”

    I paused. I loved my mother and was devoted to her until she passed away. But there was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

    “Danny?”

    “I loved her very much.”

    “But?”

    Olga had caught something in my tone. I searched my heart and was about to give up looking when it came to me.

    “Hugs.”

    “Sorry, Danny?”

    “Hugs. She never gave me hugs. She never hugged me.”

    “So what are you saying?”

    “She never … perhaps she never loved me?”

    Olga turned the lights on and I sat in the chair, blinking.

    “Danny, I do not think you can come to that conclusion. You are British, and … well, they are not as demonstrative as other peoples. And your mother was from another generation – one which was naturally more reserved.”

    I was obviously looking a little shell-shocked following this double revelation, so Olga, for once, was quite direct.

    “I think we have turned over an important stone, Danny. Perhaps your, shall we say, ‘coldness’, is assimilated behaviour. If you never received physical affection when you were young, for example, it would be hard for you to know how to give it.”

    I headed home, lost in thought. The hugging thing seemed straightforward, but I’d never questioned my mother’s love for me before, and now I was in terrifying doubt.

    After dinner, I got out some old VHS tapes of holidays and Christmas parties we used to have with the extended family; I was looking for something.

    I laughed and cried as the washed-out images flashed across the screen; I had really had a happy childhood, at least on the surface, but there were moments of sadness – old pets, a favourite uncle, my mother … all now dead.

    My mother … that Boxing Day when she dressed me up as one of the three wise men at the annual family party, me doing a little dance, and … then I saw it.

    I rewound the tape again, and again, and again. I got closer to the screen and focussed on my mother as I danced.

    There was no mistaking it: the look on her face as she watched me was one of love – pure, intense, maternal love. I knew now that for at least one moment she’d loved me, and if she could love me for one single, silly moment, then it wasn’t a stretch to assume that the same would be true for most other moments. She may not have hugged me but she did love me, I was now convinced of that.

    I felt a glowing warmth in my heart that I’d never felt before: filial love, with hindsight fully requited. I sat back to bask for some minutes in this new sensation. Then I picked up the phone to call Ana.

  • June 1, 2016 at 4:58 pm
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    The Cadillac Witch

    Sometimes your subconscious wakes you in the middle of the night because you’re going to piss the bed if it doesn’t. Then there’s the other nights when it has been creeping through your dark house, in the form of a shadowy spirit, slipping from dim corners to pitch-black crevices because something evil has attracted it from your tired body. It watches as the evil thing stalks up the stairs, hesitating for a moment to listen before it turns a doorknob and enters the house’s only other occupied room. Alarmed, your subconscious comes running, all attempts to remain hidden are forgotten, back to where you’re sleeping, oblivious to the imminent danger lurking up the hallway. It jumps back inside you, where it’s safe, but awakens you to the terror it has just witnessed.

    I sit up in bed breathing heavily and trembling for a reason I don’t remember. Maybe a bad dream, though my mind is clear of any lingering nightmares. But still, I’m unsettled. I toss the covers aside; my only thought is to make the short trip up the hall to my parent’s bedroom where they’ll make me feel safe.

    Past the bathroom, past the laundry room, I walk. My parent’s bedroom is the first door on the left, at the top of the stairs instead of the master bedroom where I sleep. I stand outside their door. It’s slightly ajar when it’s usually shut tight. That bothers me, but I put a hand against the outside and push it open slowly. I know without knowing that there’s no one in there, but I enter anyway.

    “Mom?” I say softly. “Dad?”

    There’s a smoky smell to the room that reminds me of our days in our log cabin in Montana. I make my way through the dark to my mother’s side of the bed. Though my teenage body is the same size of hers, there’s usually a warm spot where I can climb in close to her until morning when I walk, cloaked in my cowardliness, back to my room. The spot is there, but she isn’t. The huge lump where my father would be resting isn’t there either.

    “Mom? Dad?” I call louder this time.

    Light. That’s what I need. I walk over to the wall and flip the switch. I involuntarily squeeze my eyes shut to ward off the offending brightness. When I open them again there are colors that shouldn’t be there. My mother’s favorite color scheme is blue, green, and white, her college colors, but the room now has a fourth palette. Red. The walls are splattered with the ugly color. The bedspread is drenched in the same shade. And the carpet, which my mother spent weeks trying to decide upon, has been ruined with the unmistakable color of fresh blood.

    Unable to take my eyes off the grisly scene, I stumble backwards out of the door. My heart is racing with fear that the blood it’s furiously pumping through my veins might soon join its kin, there, drying in the bedroom.

    I run in the opposite direction that my subconscious took. I make it through the dark house with the expertise of someone who has snuck out at least seven times. I fumble with the locks of the front door before tossing it open and running down the porch into the yard. I spin around to look back at the house that has now been transformed forevermore into a monster inside my mind. I know I’ll never live there again. Maybe my lingering glance over its familiarity is my way of saying goodbye? I don’t know, but I get my bearings and run in the direction of our nearest neighbor who lives a mile away.

    I’m almost out of the yard when, out of the corner of my eye, I spy a light coming from my father’s shed. That’s curious. I keep running but I detach my subconscious from my body. I glance over my shoulder and slowly stop when I see it just standing there barely perceptible in the dark.

    “Go,” I command it. “I’ll get help.”

    My socked feet ache as I run up the gravel road. In my mind, I see myself standing outside the shed’s door. It’s open just a fraction, but enough to peer through.

    Inside is a hulking figure clothed in black. It’s crouched over something, or someone. I can tell from its movements that it’s eating. It stops suddenly and holds its head up and sniffs the air. Its long black hair, slick from perspiration and mottled with blood, falls past its shoulder where it’s spiked at the ends. Its head snaps to the left and the spikes gorge themselves in the wood just above where I’m watching it.

    “Gabrielle,” it says with a deep, and surprisingly, pleasant voice that belies the blood and pieces of flesh on its face.

    I stop running, frozen in place, still half a mile from my neighbor’s house. They won’t be able to save me. If my parents weren’t able to hide me from him then I know I’m not safe anywhere. Besides, how am I supposed to explain to them that my brother has killed my parents and is now in the process of devouring them?

    “Gabrielle,” he says again. “I’m coming for you next.”

    I slam the shed’s door shut and run back to the house. I fly through the house back to my parent’s room. Seeing the murder scene causes my subconscious to flicker and wane, but I regain my composure and shut off the light. That’s better. Under their bed, through the floor, in a space deep inside the earth that my parents thought they kept secret from me, I find their wands.

    I turn on the dusty road and begin walking back towards the house. I’m probably going to die in the next few minutes, but big brother is coming with me.

  • June 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm
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    Family Secrets
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    His eyes still picture her in the pristine state just minutes ago. After he picked her up from the airport they grabbed the closest five-star hotel and made love as if there was no tomorrow.

    A fresh breeze now blows at the terrace window of the 24th-floor restaurant. The view is great, but all that is no comfort. This afternoon they will have to face the dragon: Mr. Ricardo Bellini, the elder.

    Richard, the younger, knows well that their relationship will only have a future if his father can envision her integration into their very diverse family operations.

    “Tanya,” Rick’s voice carries a portentous vibe, “whatever happens… I love you.”

    Her eyes reciprocate but her mind is elsewhere: “What if we don’t mention it at all?”

    “It’s one of the first things he’ll find out.”

    He downs the remainder of a glass of Montrachet, 2007 vintage, an excellent year. “Let’s go through the list one more time.”

    She says it with a frown: “Okay.”

    “You killed Sharon at the prom.”

    “Shannon.” His weakness with names never ceases to annoy her.

    “Shannon. And nothing came out of that?”

    “They ruled it an accidental overdose. A no-brainer, considering her record.”

    “And then the other two.”

    “Carol developed a conscience and infected Herb. They thought they’d get away with it if they came clean.”

    “Technically they were just witnesses.”

    “Witnesses my ass– but yes– technically… it could have worked.”

    “Why the acid?”

    “I figured if the police found the bodies they’d dig deeper. I wasn’t sure my mother would stick around if she had found out. Not after the killing spree dad kicked off earlier that year.”

    “Instead they started digging because they didn’t find bodies.”

    “And nothing came out of it. Now they’re just two missing persons that will never be found.”

    “That’s certainly a good thing. Then… your mother’s suicide.”

    “Please!”

    “She jumped off a bridge right in front of a truck.”

    “She was on her way to a plastic surgeon when the cops caught up with her. Life in prison just wasn’t her idea of old age.”

    “Occupational hazard. Should be okay.”

    Tanya issues a laugh but the tension returns. She pushes back: “You used to work as a contract killer, too.”

    “Only during college, making ends meet. My folks had lots of expenses at that time.”

    “Your father’s mess.”

    “It wasn’t a mess.”

    “They had enough evidence to drag him into court as a serial hate killer.”

    “Not enough to make it stick. My father is the prototype of a saint, a model citizen… Plus he came up with an alibi.”

    “For three out of five murders.”

    “One would have sufficed. Having an alibi for all could have raised suspicion.”

    “Okay… and why then do you think he’d have a problem with the Allentown thing?”

    “The massacre?”

    She takes a deep breath and he a look at his notes: “Seven bodies, two partially dismembered. One head never found – looks too much like a crime of passion.”

    “Why is that a problem?”

    “My father believes crimes must be intentional. Otherwise they are signs of character flaws.”

    “Er… I had to make it look like rage?”

    “Go on.”

    “Lots of that stuff happened back then. Came with the neighborhood there.”

    “You really have to learn to pick your partners.”

    “I have. That was over a decade ago.”

    “And since then…”

    “Three to five hits a year. International.”

    She retakes the initiative: “What about your time as a hit man – how many?”

    “Fourteen.”

    “Within…?”

    “Four years. Then I graduated. With honors.”

    “Women?

    “Four.”

    “Children?”

    He hesitates. Her eyes dig into his: “Children?”

    “Collateral damage.”

    She doesn’t take that for an answer.

    “Two.”

    Disgusted, she turns to the window: “Yikes…”

    “There was a time frame. And they were always together.”

    “Ah, come on! You were sloppy.”

    “I took out the entire family. No pain, no sorrow.”

    “How sensitive of you.”

    “Don’t be cynical. I’m not the problem here.”

    She realizes that, eases up: “I know… I’m a bit worried.”

    She takes her glass. Her hand trembles but only for a moment.

    He loves her that way. Those lips, eyes screaming for help – though he knows nothing could be further from the truth.

    “It’s going to be okay.”

    “Famous last words.” Her smile is beyond vicious.

    Those breasts… Their ecstatic encounter upstairs briefly re-enters both their minds but he’s right back to business:

    “By now I’m fully white collar. You should try that.”

    She’s not so sure: “Arms trafficking is white collar?”

    “I only touch money.”

    “And the occasional wet matters?”

    “You do have a way with words.”

    “A Cold War term.”

    “A bit before your time.”

    “Two uncles. KGB. Entirely legal… But they are wet. Bloody… dirty, if you wish.”

    “I outsource. Remember?”

    “Okay…” She accepts that with a nod. “And between hit man and arms trade there was a spell in politics?”

    “Lobbying.” He eases up. This is safe territory.

    “Bribes.”

    “Of course.”

    “Blackmail.”

    “That’s what I said.”

    She leans back. “I hate politics.”

    “Most people do, but it’s a paycheck.”

    She takes her glass again, now as cool as a cucumber: “Well… this brings us to the point.”

    “Right.”

    She takes a sip.

    “I think it should come from me.” She looks like a martyr now.

    “Like a confession maybe.”

    “The wolf offering his life to the victor?” She throws her head backwards, exposing her throat in unconditional surrender.

    Should he take her again? Right here and now?

    But she sits up straight, puts down the glass, rearranges hair and cleavage, then folds her hands on the table, and, dead-seriously:

    “Mr. Bellini, there is one more thing you should know.”

    The tension is palpable.

    “My father is not a Democrat.”

    Outside, the wind hTjolds its breath.

    “He is a member of the Republican Party.”

  • June 4, 2016 at 5:30 am
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    ‘Liam, see me after class please.’ I look pointedly at my wrist watch which I have taken to wearing after mobile phones were banned in the school classrooms.

    ‘Yes. Miss, knows I’m bloody late ag’in.’ Liam walks to his desk and slams his satchel down on the floor; shoulder slumped, hangdog expression. He pulls out a battered exercise book and a bitten down pencil, and commences to write the date and the title of the text type ‘Exposition> Narrative’ we were examining in this particular class.

    The rest of the class glance over and then return to their writing activity titled ‘My family ___________!’ Students have to write that title and give a one word response to what they felt about their family using an active verb and then explain reasons why. I had thought that would be an easy introduction to writing persuasive texts by getting students to write about something familiar.

    I was expecting ‘My Family Rocks’, ‘My Family Sucks’ and ‘My Family Buzzes’. It was a small town with the 60 degree perimeters mentality firmly entrenched in minds for generations.

    They have to write their drafts in notebooks before redrafting to an electronic document. I watch tears drop from Liam’s eyes onto his exercise book. The bell rings and the students leave except for Liam.
    ‘Miss, I am sorry. Bein’ late. Ain’t my fault.’
    ‘Do you want to talk about it? Do you want to see the counsellor? Maybe she can help?’
    He shakes his head disconsolately. I let him go out into the school jungle yard where he will be distracted in the melee from what is obviously bothering him.

    That night I correct the exercise books. Some funny, some sad, some absurd and some well written accounts of family life.
    I open the second to last book.

    My Family hates (me)

    1 weeks ago was me aunt Mindy’s birthday. She supposed to be me dad’s sister. We went to RSL club for it. She and her boyfriend. The latest one, she hangin’ with ‘im. How long this is gointa be, is anybody’s guessing. She got drunk a whole lot. as usual. she gets real mean when she sinks a few bears. She starts by carryin’ on and swearing a lot. Then she looks at me a lot. She turns to Dad and calls ‘im a bloody arsehole theif (sic) Mum looks really like she wants to run from the place and go ‘ome, but for Dad’s sake, she stays. as usual Mum’s the one trying to hold peace.

    ‘Mindy, she says, ye need to watch yer mouth. She’s a scared look and is lookin’at me dad stern like he was the one that did summat wrong.

    Rick ya fuckin’ bastard. Look at me! Aunt Mindy roars at ‘im like a lion in pain. (simile – Miss) Look at ‘im. She points at me. She staggers over and puts ‘er face close to mine. Her breath is foul. I snuck a shot of whiskey when Dad weren’t lookin, but hey, her breath is like a pub dunny uncleaned a month. She points out to Dad that we have the similar nose shape, eyes and ears. Hardly unusual, as that she’s me aunt. Genes ya know. Then she starts.

    Ya fucken thief, Rick., You and Liz took ‘im from me. Just because the bitch coudna ‘ave any of yor own. I was only a kid of forteen. You bastards, took ‘im, me only son.
    She turns to me. ‘Yor my baby.’ Her hands cup my face. I pull away. I look at ‘er like she burnt me with one them bloody flamethrowers the CFA use to burn off.
    ‘aunty your drunk.’

    ‘I ain’t drunk enough.’ she has this look of a fox cunning, in her eye. ‘Liam, baby, you seen you birth certificate?’ I musta looked a bit surprise, (sic) because she turns to me mum and dad and says loud to ‘em. ‘Yeah, I bet ye ain’t showed ‘im whose the mother on the birth certificate, has yers?’ She turns to her latest and tells ‘im, ‘com’on mate. I am getting outa ‘ere. Too many arseholes and people pretendin’ to be yer family, and love ye, when they really ain’t.’ They leave, but not before she tries to kiss me. I pull away from her. I look at me mum and dad, see the hurt in their faces and hers. Don’t know now what to say or do. I love ‘em, and I love her.

    They showed me the birth certificate, that night. She had me just before her fifteenth birthday. Me birthday was last month. Me Dad, a local farmer engaged to some city girl with a cashed up family. He got drunk at the pub, with mates and saw me Mum aka Aunty Mindy at a basketball game. She were one of the winning premier team. He were nineteen, nearly twenty. They took ‘er and a couple of the other kids down to the river. She – a virgin. She was third in ‘er class. They said she mighta been good enough for the Olympics. She was that good, runnin’, pole vault, basketball and hockey.

    Anyway, she ends up pregnant, don’t she? The farmer married. His new wife pregnant at the same time as Mum, ‘cept she were married. Mum was just an underage Koori kid. Me dad’s family paid me Uncle Rick and Aunt Liz to look after me and gave them a monthly allowance so long as they don’t let on who me dad is. They’d raised Mindy because they lost both their parents in a car smash when Uncle Rick was twenty-four and Mindy twelve. Me half brother is John Mac Taggett.
    ******

    I put down the essay with a pained sigh. Liam Williams and John Mac Taggett could have been twins, except for Liam’s warm coffee coloured skin and John’s pale skin. The same facial features, the same way of walking and many similar mannerisms. They even sounded alike…

  • June 4, 2016 at 1:54 pm
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    The Passage (Chapter 4 of Edgar Poggit)
    by Alice Nelson ©2016

    The sirens blared all around Edgar Poggit, but he heard nothing. The Guards of the Territory were preparing for…what? They had all been arrogant enough to believe that their beloved machine was impenetrable, now they had no real strategy to stop whatever it was Maisie had planned for it.

    “All it took was a girl, an HC no doubt.” Poggit said to himself. But Maisie was much more than a Human Creature, she was something that even Edgar Poggit didn’t understand. He stared down at the bed where Maisie Winslow once was, her eyes burning through him. She discovered something vital while in Building 21, of this Edgar had no doubt.

    Just then, two Guards of the Realm approached, “The Elder Titus wants to see you Mr. Poggit.” Edgar was expecting this, he brought her into their world, now Titus would make him pay for it.

    “Certainly,” Edgar said calmly.

    _________________________________________________________

    Maisie could hear the deafening sound of the alarms, could sense that she was somewhere outside of her body. “Where am I?” She asked.

    “Here and there,” came a voice, “Don’t worry Maisie, you’re safe.” She felt safe, then Maisie retreated back into a sleep state.
    ____________________________________________________________

    Titus made his case in front of the entire council, and was ready to make an example of Edgar Poggit in front of the whole of The Between. The council gallery was filled with spectators —Titus wanted as many people as could fill the place, to witness this moment.

    “Edgar Poggit!” Titus proclaimed in front of the hungry crowd, “You will be sent to the Kwanesum for a period of no less than 3 years.”

    The Kwanesum was a dark world, used as a place of banishment, the way HCs used prison to punish those that broke their human laws. Titus finally had a way of ridding himself of the pompous little Edgar Poggit, and he would be able to humiliate him in the process. The usually morose Elder was gleeful.

    Edgar Poggit glanced at the old historian Oswald, a conspirator of sorts, and an expert of the ancient texts. Oswald nodded, and Edgar closed his eyes and silently said some incantations of the old language.

    Titus laughed, “What are you doing Mr. Poggit, praying to the human God?” The crowd laughed along with him.

    The laughing stopped when a swirling wind funnel appeared in front of Edgar Poggit. It slowly opened into a passageway from The Between into the human world. The guards backed away, Titus and the other Elders stood in stunned silence. With a tip of his bowler hat, Edgar Poggit stepped through the opening, and smiled jubilantly as the doorway that connected the two worlds quietly closed.

    It would be hard to track Edgar since he entered through an unauthorized access point, one of seven secret passages created by the original elders during the first wars. Still, he didn’t have much time, he had to find his old friend before the Elders found him.

    ______________________________________________

    “He’s gone isn’t he?” Maisie asked.

    “It’s what’s supposed to happen Maisie, don’t worry,” That same soothing voice said.

    Maisie’s worry instantly vanished, and she fell back into her dreams.

    ______________________________________________

    Edgar Poggit found a phone and dialed a number, “Only use this in an emergency Edgar,” She told him. This was an emergency if there ever was one.

    The phone rang at least a dozen times, finally she picked up. “Hello Finn, we need to talk.”

    “I can’t talk now,” she said “Where are you?”

    “I’m in that foul place the humans call Las Vegas, come get me dear, it’s repugnant.”

    “That’s hours from where I am. Go to The Venetian Hotel and get a room under the name Seymour Menkin —I’ll meet you there.”

    “Is this one of your safe houses Finn?”

    “No Edgar, you don’t get to pry. I’ll see you in 3 hours.”

    Finn Quinn was there in 2 hours and 48 minutes to be exact. The former facilitator, and only friend Edgar Poggit ever had, reluctantly met with her old chum —she owed him that much…he did save her life after all.

    Finn laughed seeing Edgar still in that silly hat, and a suit that hadn’t been in style since Patrick Macnee starred in that old ’60 series The Avengers.

    “Well hello Finn, you look absolutely human.” Edgar said with a scornful smile.

    Finn rushed inside, she looked nervous and Edgar had a feeling she knew exactly why he was there.

    Suddenly Finn blurted out, “It’s the girl isn’t it, the one you brought back with you. Did she merge with The Machine?”

    Edgar was stunned, and it wasn’t easy to shock him, “How could you possibly know that Finn?”

    “I had to do it Edgar, there was no other way.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The girl, Maisie, she’s my daughter.” There, she said it. After all this time, it was a relief to finally tell him.

    Edgar Poggit stumbled backward, this was one of those rare times where he wasn’t prepared in the least.

    “She couldn’t stay here with the HCs,” Finn continued, “her gifts were too much for them. I knew you could guide her, Edgar, I knew she would thrive with you.”

    Edgar Poggit’s eyes narrowed, now it was Finn’s turn to back away, “You did this to me. Risked my standing with The Elders for a…a” His eyes widened and he asked, “Is her father an HC?”

    Finn nodded.

    Edgar Poggit stared at his old friend in disbelief.

    “She’s special Edgar. This can’t be stopped, it’s been prophesized.”

    It was then that Edgar remembered something he had read on the cover of the ancient text, ‘It is beginning.’ Neither he nor Oswald thought it held much significance, but now Edgar wondered if Maisie was this beginning the cover spoke of…but the beginning of what?

    As dangerous as it was, he would need return home and retrieve the ancient book. Edgar Poggit smiled, he always did enjoy a challenge.

    LINK TO Chapter 1

  • June 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm
    Permalink

    Ryan’s Secret

    Ryan and Nathan were sitting in their favorite restaurant enjoying their wine while waiting for their entrees. Nathan asked, “Have you told your family yet?”

    Ryan looked down. “No. Sorry.”

    Nathan said, “The longer you put it off, the harder it’s going to be. Not only that, we’ve been together six months now. I’d really like to meet your family. Are you ashamed of me?”

    “Of course not. You should know better than to ask me that.”

    “Sorry.”

    “What if they get upset? Sometimes parents get that way when their kids tell them they’re gay. What if they disown me?”

    Nathan replied, “Considering the way you’ve spoken of them, I highly doubt they’ll disown you. I can’t guarantee they won’t get upset. My parents and brother accepted it. Keep that in mind. Maybe it’ll help.”

    Ryan asked, “When did you tell them?”

    “When I was in high school.”

    “Did you tell other people back then?”

    Nathan pointed to the scar above his right eyebrow. “I did. Big mistake. I shouldn’t have come out at school.”

    Ryan gasped. “Oh my God. I’m sorry. I assumed you got that from a childhood accident. I was thinking playground.”

    “I’ve always wondered why you never asked.”

    “I figured you didn’t want to talk about it.”

    The waitress came with their food.

    “It looks great. Thanks.”

    “It sure does. Thanks.”

    She smiled. “You’re both very welcome.”

    They were enjoying their lasagna in silence when Ryan pulled his cellphone out of his pocket.

    “I thought we weren’t bringing cellphones in here anymore.”

    “I’m sorry. I forgot to take it out of my pocket. I silenced it, but it kept vibrating. Someone’s trying hard to reach me.” Ryan looked at his phone. “My mother called me four times, and my sister sent me a text.”

    “You should read it.”

    Ryan read it and became pale.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “My father had a massive heart attack. He’s having emergency surgery.”

    “Oh Ryan, I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

    “Drive me to the hospital. Now.”

    “Do you want to finish eating first?”

    “I lost my appetite.”

    Nathan raised his hand and stared waving. “Carrie! Carrie!”

    The concerned waitress returned to their table. “Is something wrong?”

    Nathan replied, “Could you please give us the check and pack up our food? We have to leave. Family emergency.”

    “Of course.”

    “You’re the greatest.”

    They arrived at the hospital and pulled into a spot in the parking garage. Nathan said, “I’ll wait for you here.”

    “Why?”

    Nathan replied, “You haven’t told your family about us. How would you explain me?”

    “I’ll introduce you as my friend. I’ll tell them the rest soon. I promise. Just not today. Please. I need you with me.”

    “Okay.”

    After checking in they went to the waiting area and walked up to the two women sitting by the window. Ryan asked, “How’s Dad?”

    May replied, “We don’t know yet. He’s in surgery now.”

    Ryan and Nathan sat down.

    May asked, “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

    Ryan replied, “Oh yes. Sorry. This is my friend, Nathan. Nathan, this is my mother, May and my sister, Rachel.”

    Rachel asked, “How long have you two been together?”

    “What?”

    May said, “We already know you’re gay, dear.”

    “You knew? How?”

    May turned to Rachel. “How did we know?”

    Rachel replied, “I’m not sure. We had a hunch?”

    Ryan said, “Good enough. I can accept that. Has Dad figured it out?”

    May responded, “We’re not sure. We didn’t mention it because we weren’t 100 percent sure. Also we didn’t know how he’d react. We didn’t want to stress him out. He’s much too stressed as it is. That’s partly what got him into this mess. The doctor’s been trying to talk him into retiring before his job kills him. He’s old enough now, but he’s not ready to let go of it yet. Maybe this ordeal will help change his mind. After he recovers, let’s tell him. We shouldn’t have secrets.”

    “You’re right, Mom. In answer to your question, Rachel, Nathan and I have been together six month. I’m sorry I haven’t said anything before.”

    The doctor came to them and said, “The surgery was a success. He’s in ICU. Those of you who are immediate family can see him. Please make it brief. Right now the most important thing for him is rest.”

    After the doctor left, everyone got up except Nathan.

    Ryan said, “Why don’t you come too? They probably won’t say anything. If they do, you can be a brother.”

    Nathan replied, “That’s not necessary. How about I get everyone some coffee and meet you back here.”

    Mother, son, and sister replied with yes at the same time.

    Nathan laughed. “You’re all coffee lovers like me.”

    At the elevator May said, “Nathan’s a very nice young man. Let’s tell Dad your secret soon. Just not today.”

    Rachel said, “I like him too.”

  • June 7, 2016 at 7:50 am
    Permalink

    The Memsahib

    The ‘Memsahib’ was holding court in a four-generation gathering of the family, a rare enough event. Isobel, her daughter, wondered how the nickname from colonial days had followed her to the nursing home in Dumfries. She didn’t look like the Memsahib of old. That large and imperious woman had shrunk to a pale imitation of herself. Yet she retained a fragile dignity, rooted in the ebbing memories of her former life.

    “No, Mum,” Isobel was explaining. “Edward’s *your* son. This is *my* son, Duncan.”

    “Oh, aye,” said the Memsahib, unconvinced.

    Duncan often tried to persuade Isobel to relax and go with the flow, but Isobel couldn’t help trying to set “The Memsahib” straight. After all it was she, not Duncan, who over several years now had taken the endless rambling, tearful, calls of her mother and talked her into enough lucidity to carry on. The younger generations find it easy to go with the flow, she felt. They didn’t feel the pain of the day-by-day disappearance of the vibrant and cheerfully domineering figure her mother used to be.

    “And these are Duncan’s two young’uns,” continued Isobel. “Julia and Fraser. You remember them?”

    “Of course,” said the Memsahib, or Great-Grandma as the children called her. “But they’re not twins. I thought Edward had twins?”

    The children laughed at the thought. Julia was 15, and Fraser only 7.

    Duncan sensed his mother tensing and put his hand on her arm. “Yes, Edward has twins. Fraser, tell Great-Grandma about the play you’re in at school.”

    As Fraser began in his childishly ponderous way to outline the plot of Charlotte’s Web to his great-grandmother, Duncan felt a recurrence of the feelings of guilt that had prompted this trip north. Fraser, he realised, had only seen his great-grandmother twice before, and both times when he was too young to have any real memory of her.

    Duncan knew his mother felt he was careless with family relationships. She said he didn’t connect emotionally with the situation, but issued abstract advice to her as if from a psychological textbook.

    Yet he had his own boyhood memories of his grandmother to connect with. He remembered from when his grandparents came back to England for a time, his grandmother a larger-than-life, jocular figure, always teasing when he came into the room:

    “Skinny malinkey long legs, big banana feet
    Went tae the pictures an’ couldnae find a seat.”

    It seemed she had a joke or song for every occasion – “Aw ye cannae shove yer granny aff the bus …” – and would lash the children into line with the edge of her mischievous tongue as she bustled the aunts aside to bring the roast beef to the table. He, the young Duncan, no older than Fraser was now, would be sent into the living room to see if the menfolk needed another beer. He would enter the thick cloud of cigarette smoke and political argument, empty the ash trays and refill the glasses.

    That had been a magical and half-exotic world, an English cottage full of Scots, stuffed with furniture, pictures and ornaments harvested from Mauritius, Malaya, and Hong Kong. Then one day, they packed up and were gone again, back to the colonies. For Duncan it was hard to square these domestic recollections of his Glaswegian grandma in her pinny with the stories of her elevated life as the wife of a high colonial official – apparently a life of balls, bridge tournaments and bossing servants. There was more than one life in this woman, he felt.

    “Julia, why don’t you show Great-Grandma the photo album you put together?” he said, snapping out of his reverie.

    On her last visit south Isobel had brought boxes of the Memsahib’s photos “They were everywhere,” she had said. “In every drawer, down the back of the sofa, in envelopes, boxes. Everywhere.” And Julia had set to imposing order on the pictorial relics of a life.

    Julia sat on one arm of her great-grandma’s chair as she opened the album.

    “Who are these people, Great-Grandma?” asked Julia, pointing to a faded photo with three rows of men in suits or formal national dress.

    “Oh, that’s your father in the middle …” Her accent suddenly sounded quite English.

    “She means *my* father,” whispered Isobel.

    “… and his staff. Indians, Chinese, Malays. He was bringing them in to replace the British. That was his job.” Her eyes seemed to rest on one figure in particular, a handsome Indian man.

    “And this picture, Great-Grandma,” said Julia. “You’re wearing your fox fur. I’ve got it here. It was in the dressing up box I had when I was little.”

    She leaned over and pulled the old fox fur out of her bag and passed it to her great-grandmother, who took it and ran her hands slowly through the fur.

    “Gupta. That was his name. Deepak Gupta.”

    She paused for a long time, memories struggling to coalesce. “Very good looking. And such a fine dancer. I loved to dance with him. We set tongues wagging. It’s why we came home that time. He wrote to me, you know, but your father burnt the letters. And then the governor had him moved to India. They pretended it was promotion, but I know he didn’t want to go.”

    “He’s very handsome,” agreed Julia. She turned over the page to some more pictures. “What’s that hotel? It looks fabulous!”

    “That’s Raffles, in Singapore, my dear. The boats always stop there and we stay sometimes.” She paused again, stroking the fox fur and lost in half-forgotten memories.

    “Except the time I stayed in the convent.”

    “The convent?” said Isobel. “I’ve never heard about that.”

    “They sent him the child, you know. A bonny wee thing. When he went to India.”

    The Memsahib looked at Isobel, who was dumbstruck, then called over to a nurse, “Stewardess! Take me back to my cabin, please. It’s been a long journey, and I need to freshen up before we arrive in Singapore.”

    [996 words]

  • June 8, 2016 at 9:53 am
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    Love and Consolation

    We were occupying a Muslim evacuee house in Ludhiana, India, when we had to flee from Pakistan.This house we shared with my mom’s sister’ family. The houses were joined together in narrow lanes. A car could not enter these lanes, but that was no problem, as nobody owned a car. A few who were well off had 2 or more bicycles. It was a huge area where more than 1000 families had forcibly occupied the Muslim houses and there was no check. There was hardly prevailing any law and order.The same must be the scene there in Pakistan with the occupation of the houses of the Hindus and Sikhs by the Muslims.

    We, 5 brothers and cousins, had no equipment to play. We could not afford even a second hand football. Boys are boys and they can find the ways to satiate their urge to play. So, we quarreled, shouted , jumped and made a lot of noise and fought with dried branches of trees using them as swords.Our parent’s reprimand had no effect on us. Swordplay and killing with them were the main weapons during that era. Very few people owned guns or rifles and those who had, rarely used them. It was just a prized possession for them and to show off.

    We had no dreams, no goals,an aimless life, a struggle for existence with our parents’ meager income. Yeah, we did crave for proper and tasty food which was not very rare. To have a nice life never came to our minds. Still, we were far from unhappiness and created means for fun and frolics. Surprisingly, we never felt jealous of those who were better of.

    Opposite to our house lived an inspector of schools with two grown up sons and a daughter and another young daughter who was just 6 years old. They were very well off as they had 4 bicycles and also electricity for which we had to wait for 6 or 7 years. His wife became insane because of the loss of many members of her maternal family. The inspector often chided her for her constant wailing. Other ladies of the area said that the blighter was neglecting her because she no more cooked and was also useless in the bed, which I could not understand.

    They never quarreled and made no noise. We were often counseled by our parents to learn a lesson from them, which did have the timely effect on us, that was forgotten after a few hours and we resumed our rowdyism which was our only pastime.

    His grown up daughter became friendly with me and often I did errands for her, especially bringing novels on rent for her. The cover often had a poor but beautiful girl, who was not properly clothed. She had asked me to keep it as a secret which I did as I adored , nay worshiped her. And not because she often gave me an apple or a banana. I was simply enamored by her, more so of her shapely breasts. I was 14 now but still did not know anything about sex.Our birthdays were never celebrated and there was not even wishing-phishing

    One day I happened to ask her,” There’s never any noise from your house, you never quarrel. Our parents often chastise us to learn from you people.”
    She did not answer and then sighed.”It’s far better to have your fights than to having no relationships.”
    I nodded to please her, but it was a rigmarole to me. She could guess it. She laughed,”It’s so because we don’t even talk to each other, not even to our father who ill- treated our mom and was responsible for her death. That’s our family secret and you are the only one to know it. No one has ever bothered to know of our plight. No one cares for us. Oh, hell!”

    She kept quiet for a long time, then she laughed, to my surprise there were tears in her eyes.”My brother, Shiv tried to be fresh with me, when I told my elder brother about it, he chided me,” He is an extrovert and outgoing. you are simply imagining things. Mom’s insanity has crept into you. Now they are not even talking to each other and I have not bothered to know the reason.”
    I could not understand it, but did nod to show my sympathies.
    She kept quiet for a long time and then ruffled my hair,” I hope you have not toldl anyone about the books I read.”
    “I can never betray you, didi [sis].”
    She cuddled me,”Romie, you’ll remain my friend.Forever. Promise.”
    “All my life.”
    “I have faith in you. Only in you! Come close to me.” I obeyed.
    She kissed me on my lips,which surprised me to no ends. I felt an inexplicable sensation which I never had before.I felt dazed.She took me on her lap.”You’ never talk about it to anyone that I kissed you.”
    “That’ll always remain our secret.”
    She tightened her embrace,”You’re a doll.” And kissed me fiercely, I tried to respond and bit her lip.
    She half shrieked ,’Ooi,’ and then chuckled,”You are too innocent you will learn I’ll teach you.”
    There and then, I decided to marry her when I start earning.

    It was not to be, eventually, she got married. I remained still endearing to her. That was some consolation.

  • June 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm
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    TIME’S UP!!!

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