CHEER DOWN

STARTING TODAY AND CONTINUING THROUGH THE MONTH OF DECEMBER, I WILL TAKE A BREAK FROM WRITING NEW POSTS. I WILL, INSTEAD, REPOST SOME OF MY EARLY STORIES, MANY OF WHICH MY NEWER READERS HAVE NEVER SEEN. IN THE MEANTIME I WILL BE DOING SOME WORK ON A COUPLE OF NEW PROJECTS AND WILL BE BACK TELLING STORIES IN 2023. I HOPE YOU ENJOY THE MONTH AHEAD READING MY HOLIDAY-THEMED POSTS!

BUT BEFORE THAT GETS UNDERWAY, I’D LIKE TO START WITH SOMETHING NEAR AND DEAR TO MY HEART. AS YOU ALL KNOW BY NOW, I AM A GREAT LOVER OF THE BEATLES, IN PARTICULAR GEORGE HARRISON. TODAY I’M SHARING A STORY I WROTE ONLY TWO YEARS AGO. IT’S MY TRIBUTE TO GEORGE WHO PASSED AWAY ON THIS DATE IN 2001. UNLIKE JOHN, GEORGE SLIPPED PEACEFULLY INTO THE NIGHT, DYING THE WAY HE LIVED – WITH HUMILITY, FAITH, PEACE AND ACCEPTANCE. HIS PASSING WAS A GREAT LOSS AND A SOMBER DAY FOR HIS FANS.

I WAS 13 YEARS OLD WHEN THE BEATLES CAME INTO MY LIFE AND I’VE TRIED TO LISTEN TO THEIR SONGS EVERY DAY SINCE THEN. THANK GOODNESS FOR THEM AND THEIR MAGICAL MUSIC! A WORLD WITHOUT THEIR SONGS WOULD BE A MISERABLE PLACE. HERE IS “FOUR-HEADED MONSTER”.

Famous? Fame was not the goal. Money was not the goal. To be able to know how to get peace of mind, how to be happy, is something you don’t just stumble across. You’ve got to search for it.”

So said George Harrison when the Beatles split up after only eight years – an incredibly short time when you think what a phenomenon they were. As John Lennon once sang: “So Captain Marvel zapped us right between the eyes!”, their music zapped us between the eyes and amazed us. It was like no other.

The Fab Four, The Lads, The Mop Tops, The Four-Headed Monster; those were just a few of the names given to the group. They skyrocketed to fame in the U.S. after appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and the following year performed before 56,000 screaming Beatlemaniacs in Shea Stadium. I was there and that awesome day remains one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. In 1970 John Lennon recalled the show as a career highlight: “At Shea Stadium, I saw the top of the mountain.”

Sadly, George and John are no longer with us. Today marks the 19th anniversary of George’s death – stricken by a cancer that ravaged his once healthy and supple body. And in 1980, John, the peace-loving, anti-war, anti-violence activist, was senselessly gunned down by a madman whose name will never cross my lips.

There are no words that can express how deeply the Beatles touched our hearts and souls. We embraced them and their music changed us forever. In all the world there is only one group with the word ‘mania’ attached to its name: the greatest band ever – the Beatles! 

ZAP!!

NAR © 2020

“I tell you, Larry, there is no other band, there will never be any band like them ever, for eternity. They are the best. I say to you Larry, here in 1965, that the children of 2000 will be listening to the Beatles. And I sincerely mean that.” – Manager of the Beatles, Brian Epstein, talking to Larry Kane, a journalist starting his career at the Top 40 music station WFUN Miami.

EVENING IN PARIS

Grandma Lila and I always had a closeness few people get to experience in their lives.

My mother Zoey learned she was pregnant with me when she was 14 years old – too young to drive and too old to play with dolls. The boy she said was the father did what any teenager would do in that situation; he denied everything and bailed on her.

Abortion was not open for discussion. Grandma Lila told my mother in no uncertain terms that getting pregnant was irresponsible but ending a baby’s life was unforgivable. As far as Grandma was concerned Zoey had two choices: she could stay home and help earn money by doing work with her – sewing pearls and little bows on ladies panties – or go back to school until it was time for her baby to be born. She’d rather die than be seen in her condition so Zoey opted to say home with Grandma.

Even though it was the lesser of two evils, as far as my mother was concerned staying home was like being in prison. She and Grandma Lila sewed for hours while watching soap operas, cleaned the house and cooked meals. Zoey didn’t go out and never saw her friends. She got bigger and more uncomfortable with each passing month and couldn’t wait for the pregnancy to be over. Finally on a chilly November morning just before Thanksgiving Zoey’s water broke and Grandma Lila brought her to the hospital. Zoey was in labor for almost two days when the doctor finally decided to do a C-section. Then the unthinkable happened: there were “complications” and my mother bled out. She died in the delivery room.

Grandma Lila was devastated at the loss of her only child. My mother never had the chance to see me, hold me or delight in that new baby scent. When I was placed in my Grandma’s arms, she swore to protect me for the rest of her days. She took me home and held me tight as she settled in her rocking chair, her soft woolen shawl draped over us both. That’s where our bond began, wrapped in a shawl delicately fragranced by the hint of gardenias from Grandma Lila’s perfume, Evening in Paris.

From day one Grandma Lila was my champion. It was she who fed and bathed me, watched me take my first steps and sat up with me all night when I had scarlet fever. We baked cookies, played in the backyard sprinkler and laughed together watching I Love Lucy. Grandma put me on the school bus in the morning and greeted me every afternoon when I got home. She took me to piano lessons, Girl Scouts and soccer practice. Grandma was there for every concert, spelling bee and sports event. As I got older she sweetly explained the “birds and bees”, careful to answer only the questions I asked and not overwhelm me with too much information.

When I started dating, Grandma Lila would give me a little wink if she approved of the boy or a rub of her nose if she didn’t but she never interfered. Then I met Steve and she told me he was “a real keeper”. Steve asked for Grandma’s blessing before he proposed to me and she walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. And she was the first to hold our daughter Jenna just hours after she was born.

Months turned into years and Grandma Lila started spending more time in her rocking chair wrapped in her beloved woolen shawl and looking out the window. She was old and frail now but the thought of putting her in a nursing home never crossed our minds. Steve and I took care of her until the very end, just as she took care of me for so many years. I began wrapping Grandma’s shawl around my shoulders as I sat on the sofa watching TV; it brought me comfort and sweet memories of my life with her.

It was right after Thanksgiving, just a few months after Grandma passed away, when I returned home from shopping and was struck by the familiar fragrance of gardenias wafting through the house. Maybe Steve surprised me with flowers but gardenias blossomed in spring and summer, not late fall. As I walked by the living room I saw Grandma’s shawl wasn’t on the sofa where I left it; I found it draped over her old rocking chair and neither Steve nor Jenna had moved it. I picked up the shawl and held it to my face, inhaling the fresh scent of Evening in Paris. Tears filled my eyes; I knew that Grandma Lila had visited us that day. I miss her so very much.

NAR © 2020

TRADITIONS

Black Friday means nothing to me nor to any sane person I know. It has been a long-standing tradition of mine to start writing out my Christmas cards the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, I am one of a diminishing group who still writes letters, birthday greetings and Christmas cards, affixes stamps and brings them to the post office. I send many more than I receive and that’s ok because I’m not looking to receive cards; it’s not my intention to ‘guilt’ people into sending me Christmas greetings. I enjoy sending cards in the mail although this year it may take me longer because of my wrist. That’s ok; they’ll eventually get done. I hope my cards bring someone a little bit of joy and brighten up their house with Christmas cheer. 🎄 🎅🏼 🕊️

How many of you still mail Christmas cards?

NAR © 2022

CALIBAN O’DOULE

There was once a very old man who lived deep within the dense dark forest. He liked to eat morels, mushrooms, berries and the little rodents who had the misfortune of getting themselves caught in the very old man’s traps. But the most delectable meals for him were plump little boys and girls lost in the woods – a rare but finger-licking scrumptious delight.

Or so the legend goes.

One unseasonably warm and sunny day in late November many years ago, young Ethan Collingwood and his even younger sister Penelope were on a journey, an expedition of sorts. It was really just an assignment handed down by their mother – to gather the chestnuts that grew near the dark forest and bring them home for Thanksgiving dinner.

The woods were once abundant with huge chestnut trees which were greater than 100 feet tall and more than ten feet wide. The nuts they produced in late fall were small, about the size of an acorn, and sweet with a flavor almost like a carrot when eaten raw. After roasting, the flavor got nuttier and took on an almost candied sweetness. Besides Mrs. Collingwood’s perfectly cooked juicy and tender turkey, the roasted chestnuts were the highlight of their meal. Ethan and Penelope’s mouths watered at the thought of Thanksgiving dinner just one day away.

With strict orders from their mother not to go too deep into the dark forest, the siblings chatted happily on this warm November morning, baskets dangling from their hands for collecting lovely chestnuts. But when they arrived at their destination there were no chestnuts to be found. All the trees near the dirt road were barren.

Let’s go into the forest just a tiny bit further” Ethan suggested.

Penelope protested. “But mother said…” and Ethan cut her off with a wink and a shrug. 

Just a tiny bit further. As long as we can see the road, we’ll be fine.” Ethan was, after all, one year older than his sister and big brothers always know best. And so Penelope agreed.

And Ethan was right, for only twenty steps deeper into the woods, chestnuts covered the ground. Brother and sister began collecting the delicious nuts; for each one they put in their baskets, they popped one into their mouths. They kept chattering away as they walked, collecting and eating chestnuts with every step they took. In no time they had gobbled up so many nuts, they grew tired and needed a rest. They propped themselves against the mighty trunk of a chestnut tree and quickly fell asleep.

Time went by as time is wont to do. Day had turned to night and the warmth of the sun had been replaced by a biting wind.  When the young ones awoke, they were disoriented and cold and their baskets were only half full. Mother would be so very disappointed. But Ethan, being a bright lad, had an idea.

Let’s return home and fill our baskets with chestnuts along the way! Mother will be delighted when she sees all the nuts we collected and will forgive our tardiness.”

Penelope sprang to her feet, cheered on by Ethan’s plan, but as she looked around, she realized she had no idea where they were. Penelope burst into tears and Ethan inquired why she was crying; surprised by her answer, the boy looked around and saw that they were indeed lost. Ethan felt like crying himself but refused to let his sister see his fear. 

Don’t cry, Penny. All we need to do is follow the trail of chestnut shells we discarded and we will find our way home.”

Encouraged by this brilliant idea, the siblings began retracing their steps but when they spotted a tiny ramshackle of a hut hidden among the trees, they knew they had walked in the wrong direction. The children realized this was the home of Caliban O’Doule, the very old man who liked to eat plump little boys and girls lost in the woods, and they were sorely frightened.

The moon began creeping out from behind a cloud, casting strange and horrifying shadows wherever the young ones looked. Low hanging branches took on the appearance of bony arms and fingers ready to snatch them away. As the crooked limbs inched closer, Ethan and Penelope turned to flee but were stopped dead in their tracks. Looming before them was Caliban O’Doule himself. He wore an ancient, threadbare cloak and his long, scraggly grey hair and beard reached his knees. His eyes were piercing blue and cold as a tomb. Brother and sister were too terrified to move.

Licking his lips, the very old man raised a gnarled hand and patted the top of Penelope’s blonde head. His stomach rumbled and he grinned. “Well, what have we here? Guests! And just in time for dinner.”

Ethan and Penelope screamed loudly, scaring off the hundreds of bats hiding among the branches. “Hush now or you’ll wake the dead” warned the very old man. “Why all the fuss, children? You are lost and far from home … so far that no one can hear your screams.” And grinning once again, the very old man placed a gnarled hand on each child’s shoulder and turned them around. “Please join me in my little hut. I’ve not had company in ages. Please. I insist.” And he gave them both a little shove.

Clutching their baskets and each other’s hands, Ethan and Penelope slowly walked to the hut. The very old man reached over their heads and pushed the door open. “After you” he said, chuckling. Ethan and Penelope cried silently as they entered the hut; they knew they never should have disobeyed their mother and now their fate was sealed. The very old man lit a stubby little candle and pointed to a wooden bench in the corner. Ethan and Penelope scrambled to the bench holding onto each other for dear life. Their round faces were flushed and stained with tears.

The very old man shuffled over to the bench and took their half-full baskets away. “Tsk, tsk! This paltry sum will never do! I prefer a large portion of chestnuts with my meal, don’t you?” he asked and laughed softly. Penelope and Ethan stared in petrified silence as the very old man walked to a large bushel and filled their baskets with chestnuts. Turning, he handed each one their basket and said “Now, up with you and come with me. Don’t try to flee; you’ll only end up deeper in the dark forest. And for pity’s sake, stop weeping like babies!”

Penelope and Ethan did as commanded and the trio walked for what seemed an eternity. “Keep walking, younglings, eyes forward. We’re almost there.”

They followed the moon-lit path which grew brighter with each step. They began walking a bit faster; the faster they walked, the brighter the path became. Then suddenly the very old man yelled “Now, run!” and the children bounded out of the woods holding their chestnut baskets tight. 

Ethan and Penelope looked around in bewilderment; they were on the road leading to their house and the very old man was nowhere to be seen. They raced home as fast as their little feet could carry them and nearly fell through the door into their cozy, sun-filled kitchen. Mrs. Collingwood let out a startled squeal and dropped her cooking spoon onto the floor with a clatter.

“My heavens, children, you scared me half to death! You’re home so soon! Hardly an hour has passed! Were you racing each other again?” their mother asked a breathless Ethan and Penelope.

“Oh, mother!” cried Penelope. “You’ll never believe…”

“How many chestnuts we found!” interrupted Ethan, stepping in front of Penelope. He balled his hands into fists behind his back – their secret signal to stop talking. They proudly gave their overflowing baskets to their delighted mother who rewarded them with mugs of steaming cocoa and freshly baked sugar cookies.

Ethan and Penelope never again mentioned that day in the woods or their encounter with Caliban O’Doule; but every time they walked on the dirt road by the entrance to the forest, they paused for a moment and peered inside.

NAR © 2022

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

NB – In 1904, a gardener noticed that a chestnut tree in the New York Zoological Park seemed to be suffering from a mysterious blight. The disease was ultimately traced back to a variety of Asian chestnut that had been imported to Long Island, but by then it was too late. The blight spread, and within 40 years, nearly every American chestnut was dead.

THE TENANT

A recent photo of my house on the left.
It seemed much larger and prettier 60 years ago.
Where’s our little garden out front? 😔

My childhood home was a brand-new two-family brick house in The Bronx. It was the end house of a row of ten attached houses that looked exactly the same: each house was the mirror image of the one next to it. We were fortunate because we had a corner house which meant one side of the house was unattached, giving us a bit more property and providing access to our backyard via a walkway from the front. All the other homeowners gained access to their backyards through a door in the master bedroom or from the basement.

We lived on the first floor – my mother, father, sister Rosemarie and I – and always rented out the top floor. Over the years we had many different tenants ranging from an older couple and their unmarried daughter to newlyweds from our church. Almost all our tenants were people we knew; very few were new faces via word of mouth or people answering an ad posted in the local grocery store window.

Like most Italian families, we made good use of our large basement. We converted it into a comfortable open concept living space complete with bathroom, kitchen/dining room, TV area, a laundry and sewing room for my mother and workshop for my father. It was where we ate all our meals, did our homework, watched TV and basically hung out.

The basement had an iron girder running along the ceiling which supported the framework of the house; three floor-to-ceiling iron posts were positioned approximately10 feet apart and were attached to the girder. The cement floor was covered in a light-colored linoleum and the kitchen/dining area was painted a cheery yellow and white. One day my Dad came up with the idea to drill two holes about 20″ apart in one section of the girder. Using an indestructible S hook, he attached a wooden chain swing to the girder for me and my sister to play whenever we were unable to go outside. Pretty clever of him and great fun for us! When not in use we simply took the swing down and stored it away.

We only used the first floor for ‘formal’ entertaining and sleeping. There was a nice living room, a kitchen, dining room, bathroom and two bedrooms – the master for my parents and a second room shared by Rosemarie and me. The design of the second floor which we rented was very similar to the first floor with the same number of rooms and basic layout. With my mother’s permission, and only when my parents were home, certain tenants were allowed to use the laundry room in our basement. Mom was very circumspect as to who she allowed into our basement and not every tenant passed muster.

My parents rarely left me and my sister alone during the day and never at night; however, one evening they had a wake to attend and our tenants were not at home to watch over things. Our parents were reluctant to leave but Rosemarie and I pleaded with them to let us stay home by ourselves; after all, they were only going to be gone for an hour or two.

My parents finally relented. They didn’t want us thinking they were treating us like babies so, without our knowledge, they asked our good family friend John Barbato who lived across the street to keep an eye on the house. John was a retired NYC cop and when he was asked to keep an eye on something you can bet he took his task very seriously.

After Mom & Dad left, Rosemarie and I settled down in the basement to watch TV; all was quiet and we weren’t the least bit uneasy about being left alone for the first time. We were watching our favorite show, Dr. Kildare, gazing into Richard Chamberlain’s dreamy eyes, when there was a sudden commotion out in the backyard. We heard running down the stairs, a dog’s loud barking, banging on our door and a man’s gruff voice. We clutched each other’s hands and huddled close together on the couch in fear. Then we recognized the voice of John Barbato shout out “Rosemarie! Nancy! Are you in there? Is everything ok?”

Relieved but still rather apprehensive, we peeked through the back door window curtain and saw John brandishing an official police flashlight. He had a concerned look on his face as he reined in his skittish German shepherd ‘King’ who was literally chomping at the bit. King was always friendly around us but in his frenzied state we decided it would be wiser to keep the chain lock on the door. Opening the door just enough for John to see us, we asked what was going on, if everything was alright. John, apparently reassured to see us safe and sound, immediately tried putting on a nonchalant face as he pulled King away from the door with a “Quiet, boy. It’s ok.”

“Oh, hi girls” John replied breathlessly. “I was just taking old King here for a walk. You, know – getting our nightly exercise – and just stopped by to say ‘hi’. You and your folks watching TV?”

John was not a good liar; Rosemarie and I knew right away this was not an ordinary social call. One look at our friend with his agitated guard dog and a huge NYPD flashlight that could knock someone out in a single blow was not normal behavior for John. We told him our parents were out for a while and we were fine. He seemed content and with a self-conscious chuckle said “Well, ok. I’m right across the street if you need me. Goodnight, girls.” John instructed us to close the door and secure it with the deadbolt, which we did. Then he was off, King huffing and puffing at his side.

Rosemarie and I looked at each other as if it to say “What was that all about?” We returned to watching TV, both aware that we were sitting just a bit closer to each other than before John and King showed up. I couldn’t help asking myself one question: if John thought our parents were home and we were all peacefully watching TV together, why did he shout out our names and ask if we were ok? 

Less than an hour later, Mom and Dad returned and asked how our first evening alone was. 

“It was fine” Rosemarie replied, “except something strange happened with John. He and King came by looking all nervous and asked us if everything was alright. We talked with him for a few minutes and he left when he saw we were ok. He reminded us to lock the door with the deadbolt.” 

My father didn’t even take off his coat. He went straight upstairs to use the phone which was odd because there was a phone right there in the basement. A few minutes later he came back downstairs and said he had to go talk to John. When Dad returned, he looked agitated and Mom quickly announced it was late and shooed us off to bed; we didn’t even get to watch the end of our show! From our bedroom Rosemarie and I could hear our parents talking but we couldn’t make out what they were saying.

The incident with John and King was forgotten until four days later when the third house down from us was broken into via the basement door. Items were stolen but worse than that – the woman living there had been assaulted. That scene with John and King at our basement door came rushing back to us. That was when my father admitted that John told him he was certain he saw someone sneaking around the back of our house the night my parents were out. If there was someone lurking around our house that night, they were gone by the time John and King arrived. Who knows; maybe someone was scared off when they heard John and his agitated dog approaching.

Fortunately, the woman who had been attacked was not badly hurt and was able to give the police a good description of her assailant. He was quickly apprehended and the revelation of who he was shocked everyone, especially my family.

The intruder was our very own upstairs tenant.

NAR © 2022

Me (L) and Rosemarie on the original front steps,
Palm Sunday 1955
What our swing looked like.

SNOT BUCKET

Denise at girlieontheedge hosts Six Sentence Stories, where she challenges us with one simple rule: write a story comprised of 6 sentences – no more, no less. This week’s prompt word is : ETERNAL and this is my story.

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

So yesterday was our babysitting day for Colette; you all know Colette – my precious dropped-from-the-sky fluffy cloud filled with sugar-coated Gummy Bears, that sweetie-pie cutie-face who I love with every last aching bone of this decrepit body (my decrepit body, not Colette’s; she’s only 3 years old – I’m 103).

Now, ordinarily Colette is all the above-mentioned nouns, adjectives and what have you as you can plainly see by this pic:

But yesterday she was more like this (FYI this is not Colette; I would never embarrass my grandchildren like this; actually, I would, but I shall refrain from doing so today.

Like most three-year-olds, Colette is going through many stages; this one happens to be the phase where she’s seeing just how far she can push those buttons, how long she can stall doing what we ask her to do, how many hours she can go without sleep which is taking a toll on everyone and if that weren‘t enough, the poor thing has a cold, the full Monty complete with coughing, sneezing, bubbles from her nose and even a little vomit thrown up for good measure.

To make matters even more exciting, she didn’t want to sleep in her crib, opting to sleep on the twin bed in her room with me as her pillow. My brilliant plan was to wait until she was asleep, then gently extricate myself from under her but when I tried to move, it was impossible and as luck would have it she was sleeping like a log, dead weight on my aching wrist which was at this point howling like a caged wild animal.

But being the loving, patient Grammy that I am, I took one for the team, resigning myself that I was there for the duration and making myself as comfortable as I could, all things considered; what I did not fully realize at the time was – having just come off a horrendous cold last week – how terribly compromised my immune system was and while I cuddled up on the bed with Colette, her little germs silently crept up my chest and found their way into my body ensuring that the cycle of the eternal cold will continue with no end in sight – *cough, sneeze, cough*. 🤧

NAR © 2022

OOFAH!

Still have lots to write; just gonna take me a bit longer to do it!

PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections in my arthritic wrist. If you’re unfamiliar with PRP, a vial of the patient’s blood is placed in a centrifuge for about 15 minutes until all the good stuff rises to the top. It’s then injected into the aching joint. Significantly reduces the pain compared to cortisone and much safer for you.

Round two for my left wrist in a few weeks, then my spine. Meanwhile, right wrist must stay immobile for a while. I can wiggle my fingers and type but the cast and discomfort are slowing me down.

Don’t think I’ll be writing out too many Christmas cards this year. Hey, could be worse!

NAR © 2022

NICE DAY FOR A WEDDING

“Well, we got lucky, sweetheart; the rain held off. Ella, are you ready? The musicians are waiting for my signal.”

I could hear the sound of my dad’s voice but his words were garbled like I was under water and my thoughts were being carried away by the current. When I didn’t answer, my dad motioned for one of the musicians and told him to “just keep playing”.

My dad and I were always close, even more after my mom passed away last year. He knew me better than anyone; when I didn’t answer his question, he stood silently by my side waiting patiently. I knew he was concerned and I loved him more than ever for not pushing me.

We were standing at the doorway to my future. A hundred or so guests sat far enough away so that I could not see them nor could they see me. The top of a white tent far down the pathway on the left side was barely visible – the tent where my groom James was waiting. 

We fell in love with the view of this breathtaking winery after attending a wine tasting with friends. All we could talk about for weeks afterwards was how lush and green everything looked; James said he couldn’t think of a more beautiful spot to get married. Next thing I knew we were engaged and now, at the worst possible moment, I was having doubts.

My relationship with James was meteoric; we met at a bar where we were both plastered. I had just split with my long-term boyfriend and on the same day learned that my mother had pancreatic cancer. James’ fiancé had just broken off their engagement after learning she was pregnant by some other guy and was going to marry her baby daddy. Needless to say we were both miserable; even in a drunken state our antennae went up and we found each other, commiserated, got even more drunk, went back to his place and had sex.

What should have been a one-night stand turned into a relationship and in record time we were “a thing”. James is a doctor which impressed the hell out of my mother and she fell instantly in love with him. He was wonderful to her; that’s something I will never deny. Mom kept saying what a great catch he was, how I shouldn’t let him get away. Her dying wish was for us to be married. 

And why not? We weren’t kids, we both had great jobs, we wanted the same things in life and we were in love. But shortly after my mom passed away, I began to feel not so much in love with James as I thought I was. Sweeping away the detritus of negative thoughts from my head, we set a date for the wedding. How could I break a promise to my mother? How could I ignore my commitment to James? My heart told me one thing while my brain told me another. I shut out the voices in my head and they were quiet for a while. Today, on my wedding day, my brain was screaming at me.

The pathway leading to the tent seemed incredibly long and I could easily imagine myself escaping down one of the side paths between the hedges. What kind of thought was that for a bride on her wedding day? I was not one for fanciful imaginings; what I was feeling was very real. My knees buckled slightly and my dad steadied me.

“Talk to me, kiddo.”

I turned to face my dad. “Daddy” was all I managed to eke out before the tears started. I hadn’t called my father Daddy in years. 

Dad magically produced a handkerchief. “What’s going on, honey?”

“This doesn’t feel right, Dad. I’m about to marry James because of a promise I made to Mom.”

“Ella, if you want to back out, I’ll stand by whatever decision you make. But it’s best for everyone if you do it now, not after you’re married.”  

My dad’s love for me was boundless and all I could manage to say was “But you spent so much money to make this day perfect.”

Dad put his hands on my shoulders. “Damn the money and damn the promises. All I want is for you to be happy. If you think this is a mistake, say the word. My car is parked right outside.”

“What about James?” I asked biting my bottom lip.

“I’ll talk to him privately, Ella. Don’t worry about that.”

I looked at my dad and quickly nodded. He reached into his pocket and handed me the keys to his car.

Go on now. I have some explaining to do.” He kissed my cheek and took off down the aisle.

NAR © 2022

In response to Sadje’s picture prompt on What do you see #158 October 31, 2022

Flashback Track Friday #92

First off, I must apologize for these damn BIG apostrophe marks! Nothing I can do about them except change my site theme and that’s not gonna happen so please excuse me. Here’s a guest post I did for Songshine Sounds. It was an honor and a thrill. I just love doing this stuff! I hope you enjoy my post; the best is yet to come! 🎶

Songshine Sounds

Welcome once again to Flashback Track Friday. Each week, one of us will present a song to you, and out of that song, will prompt you with a question.

Another guest post today from the wonderful Nancy, The Sicilian Storyteller. And what a treat we have this week! Over to you, Nancy.


Time for a little Slowhand… and by that I mean Eric Clapton, one of the most successful and influential guitarists of our generation. Rolling Stone Magazine’s List of“The100 All-Time Greatest Guitarists” ranked Clapton #2 – no small feat. Can you guess who came in #1? I think I’ll save that icon for another post.

Now I’m sure most of you would associate Clapton with Cream – and you’d be right – but did you know that was not the first group he belonged to? Like most famous guitarists, Clapton started out playing with local bands and in…

View original post 410 more words

PASSING THE BARRE

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #191,
based on the image above from Shutterstock

Kessa Hopkins practically floated through the entrance of the Joffrey Ballet School; auditioning for the world-renowned academy was a dream come true for her. The road ahead wasn’t going to be easy. This was only half the battle; if she passed today’s audition she would have to pass a second, more difficult audition if she hoped to be accepted to the school. Joffrey’s admissions are highly competitive and only 4% of students go on to graduate. At least for now she had her toe in the door.

Kessa felt her first exhausting 90-minute audition went well but it was impossible to read the faces of the judges. When she was done the head judge thanked her for coming and said the review board “would be in touch”. Two weeks later, when the email from Joffrey finally arrived, Kessa was too nervous to open it. When she finally worked up the courage to read the email, she held her small drawing pad up to the computer screen and very slowly revealed one word at a time:

“Dear Ms. Hopkins,

We at the Joffrey Ballet School are pleased to inform you …”

“pleased to inform you…” Kessa stared at those four words for an eternity before letting out a scream that caused her cat to race out the room, paws frantically skidding against the wood floor as he made his escape. Kessa crept up to the computer to read the email in its entirety, praying she hadn’t misread the opening line. Relieved that everything was copacetic, she pushed the print button on her computer. Snatching the paper from the printer, Kessa jumped onto her bed, read and re-read the letter at least 10 times, folded it neatly and placed it under her pillow. Then, before anyone could say “on pointe”, she leapt up and pirouetted around her room until she was dizzy. 

“They liked me! They really liked me!” she breathlessly exclaimed to her reflection in the mirror. Then it hit her: she had to do this a second time, even better than the first. Euphoria dissipated into self-doubt; Kessa bounded up the stairs to her safe place – the loft where she spent hours painting and clearing her head. Kessa painted ballet dancers in the impressionist style using quick, loose brush strokes; she had an impressive collection of more than two dozen pieces of artwork in her loft.

Kessa was the real deal, a genuine hat trick with beauty, brains and talent. She was also her own worst enemy, quick to be overwhelmed with anxiety and self-doubt about her ability to succeed. As she painted she thought about the email from Joffrey. Okay, so she passed the first round; that was great. Now she had two weeks to prepare an eight-minute original routine as part of her next audition.

The email went on to explain that everyone would be dancing to the same piece of music – “Gymnopédie No. 1″ by Erik Satie. No notices would be sent out after the second audition; acceptances and rejections would be announced in person at the conclusion of the audition session. Kessa imagined how awful it would be being rejected in a room full of people. Talk about pressure! With that thought in mind, Kessa decided not to tell any of her family or friends about her auditions; she’d much rather surprise everyone with good news instead of hearing their sad words of consolation. 

The next two weeks consisted of Kessa planning her dance routine and sketching the ballet positions she planned to incorporate into her program. This was her tried and true method – plan, sketch and practice. Once Kessa knew her routine was solid, she would create paintings using her sketches as reference.

Time always seemed to fly by when Kessa was on a deadline; now the day of the audition was here. She packed up her art portfolio with the plan to pass the time during the auditions by sketching the other dancers. When Kessa arrived at the school, she was surprised to see only six other people had received callbacks. She barely had time to warm up when she heard her name. Kessa didn’t mind auditioning first; she’d be relieved once it was over and she could sketch the other dancers.

It didn’t take the judges very long to make their decision. Only two of the six dancers passed the audition; Kessa was not one of them. Upon hearing the news, Kessa’s heart sank; she closed her eyes for a few seconds letting the reality sink in, then turned and walked back to her corner of the room. While she was putting her sketches away, someone approached and said her name. Looking up, Kessa recognized one of the judges. “What could he want?” she wondered. Standing, she asked “Yes? What can I do for you?”

I was hoping you’d show me your etchings” was his response.

Despite her disappointment over failing the audition, Kessa had to laugh. “Sorry, that sounds like an old pick-up line only in reverse.”

The man laughed, too, and replied “Very quick on the uptake, Miss Hopkins! I admire that. Talent and a sense of humor, too.”

“Not talented enough, apparently” Kessa quipped.

“What happened today was unfortunate but if it’s any consolation, you were in the running. It’s a tough field, Kessa. You knew that going in.” His response was honest and he had a refreshing way of speaking. “But at the moment I truly am more interested in your drawings. May I?”

Kessa didn’t mind showing anyone her sketches; she was proud of her work and pleased this man took an interest. After a few moments he asked “Do you paint as well?”

“Oh, yes. Oils mostly” Kessa replied, intrigued by his curiosity. “In fact, I think I have one of my smaller paintings with me” and she started rifling through her portfolio, pulling out an 8×10.

The man took the canvas from Kessa and walked to the light near a window, examining it closely and speaking softly to himself. He turned to Kessa. “Tell me, do you paint ballet dancers exclusively?”

“Yes. Ballet and painting are my passions. Excuse me but who are you?”

“Oh, forgive me! My name is Julius DeWitt. My father is Dean of Admissions here at Joffrey.”

“Oh, I see” Kessa said, not quite sure how to react to that information.

“Kessa, I know your heart was set on attending Joffrey. Not passing an audition is a bitter pill to swallow. I was in your shoes once and what I thought was the end of the world was actually a blessing.” 

Intrigued, Kessa asked Julius what he meant.

“It would be much easier for me to show you. Please, Kessa. Come with me.”

Julius had a pleasant way about him and Kessa was curious. Gathering her belongings, she followed Julius down the hallway to a large, glass enclosed room. A plaque on the door read “The Julius and Cecile DeWitt Art Gallery”. 

Kessa looked around questioningly; the room was empty. “I don’t understand, Mr. DeWitt. If this is an art gallery, where are all the paintings?”

“We’re just getting started, Kessa, and are about to begin our search for an artist to fill these empty walls with beautiful paintings. After seeing your drawings, I believe you are that person. I would like to name you as Joffrey’s permanent resident artist.”

Kessa was stunned. This was not the direction she thought her failed audition would take her. “Mr. DeWitt. I don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything, Kessa. Let me explain what we’re all about and then, after you’ve had time to think, you can decide.”

But Kessa’s heart was already doing jetées and pirouettes; she knew what her answer would be. 

NAR © 2022

BARK AT THE MOON

This was the sixth night in a row that a nightmare woke me up. I’m a sound sleeper but something was throwing me off and this past week did a number on me. I felt drained and on edge. Now it was 2:00 AM and I was craving a cigarette. I got up and scoured my apartment hoping to find a smoke – which I didn’t – and thinking about why I was having these constant nightmares. I mean, nothing different happened in my life, except I’d started smoking again. 

And there was also her.

Last weekend I went to a party and this gorgeous redhead walked up to me and asked me for a light. I’d quit smoking about eight months earlier but for some reason – call it a security blanket – I continued to carry my Bic around in my pocket. This chick was way too hot to let her slip through my fingers so I reached into my jeans and pulled out my lighter. 

I flicked my Bic and damn(!) if she didn’t cup both her hands around mine as I lit her cigarette. She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, the smoke encircling her head. All the while her eyes never left mine. She had the palest blue eyes I’d ever seen and the contrast against her red hair and mouth was bewitching. Then she did something to me no woman had ever done before; she took the cigarette from her lips and placed it between mine. That move was so intrinsically sexual, I couldn’t think of anything else but possessing this woman. I took a long drag, that familiar heat singeing my lungs. 

We shared her cigarette and when there was nothing left, she took me by the hand and led me into the bathroom. Locking the door, she turned her back to me and leaned against the sink staring at my reflection in the full-length mirror. She hiked up her skirt and I was not surprised to see she wasn’t wearing panties. She said two words and they weren’t “Happy Halloween”; I didn’t have to be told twice.

Fifteen minutes later we left the bathroom together. I went to get us a couple of drinks and when I turned around, she was gone. I searched everywhere but couldn’t find her. Just like that – the greatest bathroom sex I ever had and now she was gone. And I was left craving her and another cigarette. That was the night I fell off the wagon.

Now I needed a smoke so badly I tried to salvage butts from the trash but they were all buried under a soggy coffee filter. I had no alternative but to head out to the all-night 7-Eleven

I grumbled and dragged myself out of bed. I switched on the overhead lamp and immediately cringed and looked away; the damn light hurt my eyes too much.  Squinting, I staggered into the bathroom and splashed water on my face. Grabbing a towel, I wiped off and looked in the mirror. Holy shit! What I saw startled yet intrigued me. My eyes had changed from brown to ice blue. There was no denying that woman had done a number on me.

It was now 2:30 AM. I threw on yesterday’s clothes, turning up the collar of my leather jacket. Before venturing out I grabbed my shades. Stepping outside, I was momentarily caught off guard by the number of freaks walking around; then I remembered Halloween was just winding down for many partygoers. A bright moon cast strange, elongated shadows across the walls. Dressed in black clothes, I must have blended in with the silhouettes for no one took notice of me. 

As I entered the store I was pleased to see there was only one other customer – a nondescript woman wearing a hooded cape. I stood behind her at the register and when she turned to leave, I was blown away to see it was the redhead from the party. She looked directly at me, gave a little laugh and left without so much as a word. I was glad my dark glasses hid the lust in my eyes. I quickly bought my smokes and bolted from the store.

I looked up and down the street; nothing – she was gone. Then I spotted her standing across the street watching me. “Ok” I thought. “This is gonna be interesting.” As soon as I started heading toward her, she turned and began walking away. She walked slowly, her cape swaying side to side, and I followed her just as slowly. She took her time and I had no doubts she knew I was there. She climbed the steps to an old apartment building; I followed. She casually walked up three flights of stairs and down the hall to the last door where she stopped, removed a key from her pocket and unlocked the door, leaving it slightly ajar as she stepped inside. If that wasn’t an invitation, I didn’t know what was. I entered the apartment and closed the door behind me.

The room was awash in moonlight streaming through the window where she stood staring up at the night sky. I lit a cigarette, took a long drag and handed it to her. She placed the cigarette between her bright red lips, took a couple of puffs and tossed it out the window. She turned to face me and shrugged off her cape. Of course she was naked; I would have been sorely disappointed if she wasn’t. She loosened her hair and a cascade of long crimson tresses escaped and flowed silently over her flawless body. Her hair shimmered in the moonlight; the fragrance of strawberries and honeysuckle filled the room. She was intoxicating.

She drew me closer and parted her lips in a sultry smile; it was then that I saw her delicate fangs. I was aroused, my cock throbbing. A deep passion rose in me and I groaned with a fierce hunger. I turned my head and willingly offered her my neck. She feasted on me, then gave herself up to me with shameless abandon. 

Whatever I had become that night didn’t matter. Nothing mattered any more. My savage blood boiled as I barked at the moon.

NAR © 2022

THE HAUNTED WIND

This was the second story I ever wrote back in 2017.

Monastic specters floated seamlessly between the leafless trees of the old forgotten cemetery. Round-eyed owls hooted from crooked branches while huge black crows swooped in and perched on weathered headstones. Sensing their imminent demise, the blind field mice scurried to and fro, frantically searching for safety. Alas, not fast enough for that one pathetic rodent chasing his own tail. The crow snatched him up and carried him off into the darkness. The weak and small have no rights in this most dreaded of places. 

It wasn’t always this mist-enshrouded wind-swept graveyard; many years ago the cemetery was a pastoral spot surrounded by blossoming trees and shrubs.  It was lovely and visitors would come by frequently to pay their respects and linger for a while on a nearby bench. 

High on a hill above the cemetery stood the Old Dutch Church. The property was expansive with an outstanding view of the Hudson River. The focal point of the church was the belfry with Its majestic wrought iron weather vane that could be seen for miles. 

One stormy night in late October while parishioners were awaiting services for the feast of All Hallows’, a giant thunderclap boomed, followed by an enormous lightning bolt which struck the weather vane. The lightning coursed its way down to the belfry, instantly setting it on fire. Within moments the entire church was engulfed in flames, imprisoning all inside. Horrified townsfolk who were still outside tried valiantly to save their friends, to no avail.  

The wind blew sparks into the cemetery, setting the trees ablaze. The smoke was black, the air thick with an acrid stench. Those outside the church fell to their knees crying pitifully, covering their ears to block out the agonizing screams of the tortured. Finally, after what seemed an eternity in hell, the screams stopped and an eerie silence followed. 

Suddenly what was left of the church came crashing down, leaving nothing but a mountain of ashes and the grotesque twisted remains of the once glorious weather vane. 

Forty-seven souls perished that ghastly night. No bodies were found to be buried and the church was never rebuilt. Eventually people stopped coming to the cemetery. The only denizens there now are the interred – the owls, the crows, the blind field mice and the forty-seven specters seeking final rest. 

The haunted wind is eerily unsettling this Halloween night … or is it the wind? 

NAR © 2017

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS

Papers and leaves were snatched by the gusty autumn wind and scattered about the street like so many pieces of flotsam and jetsam.  It was getting dark and Frederick knew he had to find his wife Helene before something bad happened, before she hurt herself – or worse. Helene had been terribly distraught this morning – more so than usual – and judging by the quantity of bourbon missing from the bottle, she was also probably quite drunk. Another horrible fight with his mother, Frederick assumed. 

Shoving his hands into his coat pockets, Frederick hunched his shoulders against the cold harsh wind. As he searched the streets for Helene his mind began to wander back to a time years ago when things were better, back to when Helene was whole. How happy they had been, just the two of them so in love. They bought a cute brownstone soon after getting married, living there blissfully by themselves, making plans for the future. 

When Helene learned she was pregnant they were ecstatic; she even began knitting a baby blanket. Then the miscarriage happened, followed by three more. Four babies lost and a multitude of dreams crumbled and forgotten. Helene had to have a hysterectomy and fell into a depression. No babies ever for the young couple – only the two of them alone in a sad, empty house. Frederick urged Helene to consider adoption, but she refused and her depression deepened. How could one woman bear a sorrow so heavy?  

A few months later Frederick’s father committed suicide, due in no small part to his mother’s constant badgering and belittling. Not wanting his mother to be alone and despite Helene’s protests, Frederick moved his mother in with them. He thought Helene and his mother might provide some companionship for each other but the two women soon began arguing. Helene could do nothing right in Frederick’s mother’s eyes. She even went so far as to flaunt Helene’s inability to have a baby, taunting her by saying she was a dried up empty vessel, a disappointing failure. 

Now, as Frederick walked rapidly through the streets, he tried to figure out what had happened earlier. He had arrived home from work to find the door wide open and the house in disarray. Dishes were shattered on the kitchen floor. The phonograph had been knocked over, his mother’s favorite record smashed. Frederick had called out but no one answered. He’d frantically raced through the house, stopping at the entrance to his mother’s room; her door was slightly open and he could see she was asleep, curled up in her bed. Helene’s coat and purse were hanging on a rack by the front door but she was nowhere in sight. 

Suddenly Frederick snapped back to the present as he spied Helene at the train station; she was standing perilously close to the edge of the platform. Cautiously he walked toward her and whispered her name. Helene whirled around and Frederick was shocked to see the crazed look in her eyes and the cuts on her face. Helene tried to run but Frederick caught her. He cradled her in his arms as they walked home. 

When they reached the house, Helene began giggling like a little girl and told Frederick she had a surprise for him. Bewildered, he followed her up the stairs to his mother’s room. Helene motioned for Frederick to be quiet as she tip-toed to the bed. She threw back the covers, revealing his mother’s bloody body, knitting needles deeply embedded in her neck. Frederick recoiled in horror. Helene grabbed her knitting needles and lunged at him, stabbing him repeatedly while screaming maniacally “This is your doing! You brought her here! This is your fault! ALL YOUR FAULT!!” 

Gasping his final breath, Frederick collapsed to the floor in a bloody heap. The last thing he saw was Helene plunging out the bedroom window.

NAR © 2019

SCREAMING OUT FOR HELP

It was 7:00 AM when Jason Peterson’s cell rang. Reaching for the phone he saw the call was from Dr. Philip Zane. Jason froze. How long had it been since he last heard from Dr. Zane – twelve, possibly thirteen years? He hoped never to hear from him again. With great reluctance he answered the call.

“Dr. Zane. It’s been a long time. I assume there’s been a development.” Jason said with a strange combination of indifference and dread.

“Yes, Jason. Your father is showing signs of coming out of his coma. Considering the circumstances, I thought you’d want to be here when he wakes up” was the doctor’s response.

The only news Jason wanted to hear was that his father was finally dead. But no! The bastard refused to give up without a fight, damn him! Calming himself, Jason said “Thank you for the update, doctor. Please let me know when my father is fully conscious. ‘Considering the circumstances’ as you said, I want to be the first person to see my father when he‘s conscious. I’m sure you understand. Goodbye.”

Gregory Peterson had been in a coma ever since Jason bashed in his head that night of unspeakable horror in the Peterson house.

Jason was only fifteen when he called the police in a state of panic screaming out for help. His family was dead, butchered by his father, Gregory. When the police arrived at the house, they discovered four people savagely murdered, an unconscious man crumpled on the floor and Jason locked in the basement. The victims were taken to the morgue, the injured man transported to a high security hospital and Jason brought down to the police station.

The detectives sat in stunned silence as Jason described the events of that night:

“I was at Mike and Dan Kelly’s house smoking weed. Mike and Dan got really stoned and passed out around 1:00 so I left. When I got home I found everybody dead. My grandma and little brother Jake were tied to chairs. They’d both been shot in the head. My mom and sister Janice were on the sofa. They were naked and beaten so bad I could barely recognize them. They’d been raped, too. My dad just stood in the middle of the room, staring straight ahead like a crazed animal. He was clutching a huge bloody wrench.

Then he saw me and snapped to life. He came at me like a wild man swinging that wrench. All I could do was run, try to get out of his way. I stumbled and fell on top of Janice. Her blood was all over me and I scrambled away as fast as I could. I saw the gun on the floor and dove for it. I pointed it at my dad but it jammed. I threw the gun at him and he lunged at me but the wrench slipped out of his hands. I grabbed it and swung at him. He was gonna kill me, too, just like he killed all of them. I had to do something to protect myself so I bashed him over the head. I hit him pretty hard and he went down. I dropped the wrench and ran to the basement. I locked myself in and called 911. It was horrible, a nightmare. How could he do something so awful?”

And he broke down, sobbing.

After checking out Jason’s story with the Kellys, the police saw no reason to detain him. The dead were buried, Jason moved in with relatives and Gregory languished in a coma. The years went by.

Three days after the call from Dr. Zane, Jason heard from him again. Gregory was conscious and speaking but repeating only one word: “Jason”.

It was evening at the hospital, that twilight time when patients sleep and hospital staff chat quietly. A bored policeman sat outside Gregory’s room, dozing. He checked Jason’s visitor’s pass, did a cursory pat-down and told him he could go in. Gregory was asleep, neatly tucked in and handcuffed to the bed rails. In the dim light he looked old and frail. Jason flipped the switch flooding the room with light.

Abruptly awakened, Gregory mumbled his disapproval. Approaching the bed Jason could see the apprehension in his father’s eyes as he focused on his son’s sneering face.

Bending close so that their faces were just inches apart, Jason whispered menacingly “I wish you died that night, old man, just like everyone else. I should have finished you off. That was sloppy of me. Think how much easier if would have been without having this to deal with all these years. Well, we can’t have you spilling the beans now, can we?” Jason removed his cell phone from his pocket, the same one he used to call the police that grisly night. Smugly he thought how stupid the police were not asking to see his phone. It was laughable but then again his performance down at the station was magnificent. By the time he was finished every cop wanted to hug him and make all the terrifying images go away. Smugly he showed his father one selfie after the other; each one was of Jason standing over the bodies of his family, his victims. The final images were graphic videos of Jason raping his mother and sister. Too bad their mouths were taped shut; he would have love to have heard their screams.

With each photo Jason grinned as Gregory became more and more agitated, his breathing labored and his eyes bugging as his face turned crimson. He opened his mouth to cry out but only silence filled the room.

What a shame to remove such works of art” Jason said as he deliberately deleted each photo, unfazed by the fact that Gregory was in extreme distress. He smiled coldly as his father died before his eyes. If only he could have bashed in his head just one more time.

Slipping into character, Jason strolled to the door of his father’s room and flung it open, screaming out for help.

NAR © 2021

MISS JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

Their house sits high upon a cliff
With water and rocks all around.
But something stinks, just take a whiff;
You don’t need no bloody bloodhound.

Such a lovely couple when they were out;
Good looking and dressed oh so fine.
There was never a reason for people to doubt
Their union was anything but sublime.

However, one thing could not be denied:
The young lass she never did smile.
With eyes often red as if she’d just cried,
A certain fear one could sense for a mile.

As fine as they looked, one dared not approach;
They were cloaked in a dark shroud of danger.
She seemed to annoy him and he would reproach
With words filled with malice and anger.

She was prim and proper, always quiet and shy,
While the blade acted pompous and proud.
It was obvious to all; we soon found out why:
He liked mocking her in a voice overloud

A week or two passed with nary a sight
Of the couple we called Jekyll and Hyde.
We all had our theories which gave us a fright,
A feeling Miss Jekyll had horribly died.

Some folks say our claims are nothing but folly,
People getting carried away with their thoughts.
But Hyde came to town like a peacock so jolly,
To pick up a large jar he just bought.

Now on Hyde’s arm is a red-headed floozy
As flashy as the peacock himself.
Her perfume smells cheap while he is all boozy.
And a jar with Miss Jekyll’s head sits on a shelf.

NAR © 2021

The 5 Stages of Grief for the Struggling Writer

This guy. I’ve been following him for a few months now and I’m not even sure what his name is. He’s dark yet funny, mysterious, complicated, strange, quite brilliant and always entertaining. And he’s got me hooked. I decided to share this piece because it spoke to me; hell, I could have written it! I think it will speak to anyone who blogs and/or writes and wonders why they bother to do it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (In case you’re wondering about those rather large apostrophes, it seems the WordPress theme I have won’t allow me to get rid of them so I apologize for their presence. Please try to ignore them and just read the post!)

Intellectual Shaman

1.

(Denial)

“I have talent, but nobody recognizes it but me.” –said by an Anonymous failure.

I was here, at one point, years ago, although, I don’t know if I thought I had talent, or not. I was watching movies about genius writers and submitting mediocre English papers to my high school teachers. They would give me advice on how to improve, and I would promptly ignore it. Afterall, they just couldn’t understand my genius. Needless to say, I did poorly in my English classes. I watched Finding Forester, and believed myself to be like Jamal Wallace—hated for my abilities.

2.

(Anger)

Anger occurred after college, when I decided to write a fantasy novel of over 200,000 words. I couldn’t understand why Stephen King was getting published, and I wasn’t. I wasn’t even getting rejection letters in the mail. Any response that I got, was an automated email. I…

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A LIVING NIGHTMARE

Covered by what felt like a plastic tarp, Stanley Collins tried desperately to figure out where he was and what had happened. All he knew at this moment in time was that he felt colder than ever before. It was claustrophobic and there was something dangling from his toe. But, perhaps the most terrifying realization of all was the fact that he was completely paralyzed. Even his eyes and mouth refused to open but his mind raced on.

Gotta think, gotta think! Why am I here and how did I get here?” 

Suddenly he heard a voice. Was it real or in his head? Stanley’s brain strained to hear – “Ok, let’s see who we have here. A John Doe and Stanley Collins, both for tonight. Damn! Two autopsies. Looks like I’ll be getting home late again. Let’s start with our John Doe.”  

Stanley’s brain screamed frantically “Autopsy?? Wait, I’m alive, I’m alive!!” 

“Think, you fucking jerk!” Stanley’s brain admonished him. “Just calm down, count to ten and think.” Some thoughts starting wriggling around his brain. He remembered working for a used car dealership. What a laugh that was! The entire time he worked there, he never sold a single car and jokingly called himself “the non-commissioned salesman”. Of course, he was fired. 

After that he applied for a job at a casino. He had no experience so the only job he could get was sitting in a back room sorting poker chips by denomination. That turned into a fiasco, too, when he was caught pocketing a couple of $100 chips. “You asshole!” his brained screamed. Fired again AND he had to return the chips! 

Two jobs down the toilet. His wife Betty called him a loser and she was right. 

“But what happened  after that? How did I end up in a refrigerated morgue drawer awaiting an autopsy … and I’m not even dead?! Think, Stanley, think! “  Stanley’s brain raced inside his unmoving, unfeeling head. 

“Wait a second. I remember! Betty kicked me out. I couldn’t get a job. I had no money. I had nothing … nothing but my house key. So while Betty was out I went to the house. All the furniture gone, my clothes weren’t there and all Betty’s things were boxed up. There wasn’t even anything I could pawn! I walked into the kitchen, turned on the gas stove and knelt down, resting my head in the oven. And that’s how Betty found me … dead from gas inhalation. Only I wasn’t dead! The mother of all fuck ups, I couldn’t even do a good job killing myself!”  

Just then Stanley’s drawer was pulled open. He was wheeled to an ice cold metal table, all the while his brain screaming “Wait! Stop! I’m not dead! Can’t you hear me?? “ 

Suddenly the screeching sound of an electric saw jolted Stanley’s brain. He screamed in agony as the saw tore through his chest. Was it his brain screaming? Was he screaming? Could anyone hear him? 

The only sound was the piercing squeal of the saw.  

NAR © 2022

*Originally published in 2018

SOMEONE WILL PAY

Roger Newcombe was a nasty, mean-spirited man; his only companions were his little Welsh corgi Magpie and his wheelchair. Roger had no family or friends; over the years he had alienated everyone who ever cared a whit about him. Even the postman fell victim to his bitter tongue and resorted to delivering the mail as quickly as possible, his hat pulled down low over his eyes. 

The only things Roger had plenty of were bad memories and schemes.

It wasn’t always like that for Roger. True, he was a plain-looking man, never handsome, but he was a trusting soul and kindhearted. Roger felt out of place at his parent’s extravagant dinner parties and never wanted to attend but as the only heir of the richest man in the county, it was his obligation to make an appearance.

That’s when he saw the alluring Loretta Spencer, a new serving girl with a tiny waist, long legs and shocking auburn hair. Roger was smitten at first glance but was too shy to stare let alone talk to Loretta.

Kindness and a trusting nature went only so far and the young single women who came in contact with Roger were not attracted to him. Only Loretta paid him any attention with a barely perceptible wink of an eye and a shy but innately sensual smile. One fortuitous day Roger happened upon Loretta preparing the table for dinner; the two struck up a conversation which developed into a flirtatious friendship which in turn blossomed into a romance. Roger’s parents were livid about the relationship but Loretta encouraged Roger to be a man and speak up for himself and their newfound love. His parents were too stunned by Roger’s sudden display of courage to respond.

No one was more surprised than Roger. He had always been resigned to life as a lonely bachelor; now he’d fallen madly in love with a servant in his parent’s employ and he didn’t care who knew. He was enthralled by Loretta’s bewitching ways, intoxicated by her erotic education in lovemaking. Roger could not believe someone as beautiful, beguiling and seductive as Loretta could love him in return. They were married within a year and went on a grand honeymoon to Wales. Upon their return, they settled into the Newcombe’s lavish estate. 

Roger accepted a job in his father’s company, sitting in his office all day doing very little and making a great deal of money which Loretta freely spent. She was a happy and pampered wife. Her relationship with Roger’s parents was estranged and she saw them only at dinner but being married to Roger made all her dreams come true.

That peaceful scenario was suddenly shattered when Roger’s parents were killed in a plane crash while on vacation. Roger was devastated by the loss of his mother and father but that was not the end of the shocking news for Roger and Loretta.

At the reading of Mr. and Mrs. Newcombe’s wills, Roger was struck dumb when he learned his mother’s last wish was for their home to be renovated into a rehabilitation facility for children with disabilities. In his father’s will, a new president was named for the company; it was Jonathan Whittaker, the current vice president. Roger was spitefully and embarrassingly overlooked, being left only an insignificant amount of money. 

As the only heir, Roger fully expected to be left the Newcombe fortune and named president of the company. He didn’t really want the job – just the prestige that came with it. He could delegate his key employees to do all the work while he sat back and watched the company flourish. Now he and Loretta had no home and very little cash. Roger deeply regretted giving Loretta free rein to his money, buying so many expensive and unnecessary items. He loved her and was blinded by her charms. He was also too proud to try to return or sell the items to recoup his losses.

Loretta, being as smart and clever as she was beautiful, wasted no time setting her sights on Jonathan Whittaker, the new president of the company. Like a tigress on the prowl she hunted him down, dazzling him with her seductive ways. She finessed her way into his head, whirled her way into his heart and squirmed herself into his bed. Loretta convinced Jonathan to relieve Roger of his position at the company which he did immediately. While Roger was out of the house one afternoon, Loretta stealthily cleared out what little money he had stashed away in his safe and quickly served him with divorce papers. As soon as she was free of Roger, Loretta would marry Jonathan and she would once again be the wife of a wealthy man.

Roger was reeling; he could not believe how his life had completely fallen apart. His parents were dead, the only home he knew was no longer his, he had no job, no money and no wife. In a desperate plea to Jonathan Whittaker, Roger asked for and was granted a pension from the company – just enough to get by each month. He begged his father’s lawyer to intercede on his behalf and was given permission to live in the small annex house next to the Newcombe estate. Roger felt there wasn’t much more that could go wrong in his life.

He was mistaken. 

One day as Roger was entering the annex house, he looked over at his old family home and saw Loretta pass by one of the upstairs windows. “What was she doing there?” Roger wondered. He went to the house to confront her; Loretta was packing the last of her things when Roger showed up. After a heated conversation Loretta brusquely walked by Roger, her suitcase smacking him in the back of his knee. Roger lost his footing and fell down the stairs. Loretta slowly walked down the stairs, looked at Roger not knowing or caring if he was dead or alive, and stepped over him. She calmly walked to the front door and left the house, closing the door behind her.

The next day Roger was found lying at the foot of the stairs; he was alive but he was paralyzed from the waist down. Now Roger Newcombe felt nothing in his heart but bitterness, anger and resentment. All he did was sit in his wheelchair by the window of the annex house with Magpie on his lap. With every stroke of the little dog’s soft fur, Roger thought “Someone will pay.”

That was the only thing that kept him from losing his mind.

NAR © 2022

LITTLE BEAN

I was on my way home from my daily walk this crisp October morning. The sky was a startling blue with the sun burning so brightly it could have been August in Vermont. Only the brisk wind that swirled through the red and orange Autumn leaves reminded me that it was Fall. I wrapped my favorite wooly scarf around my neck, tucking my long hair inside, and instantly felt a welcoming warmth.

Earlier in the week I spotted a group of white-tailed deer and hoped I would see them again today. I never go out walking in the woods without my old Nikon – a rare find at a local tag sale. It was in surprisingly good working condition. Now the walls of my little cabin were strewn with framed black and whites – memories of my treks throughout the changing seasons.  

As I made my way down the trail toward my house, I noticed droplets of blood on the dirt – a sign that the white-tailed does were in estrus. By May the fawns would be here. I instinctively patted my belly where my own “Little Bean” was beginning to grow. I was just twelve weeks along with the most precious gift from my husband Jeremy, no doubt the result of his recent shore leave in August. My baby and the fawns would arrive at the same time.  

Rounding a bend in the trail I spotted a white-tailed buck and doe under the trees. They were rubbing the sides of their faces together, possibly whispering words of affection. As quietly as possible I slid open the front of my camera case and began snapping photos. When the deer noticed me, they leapt away as gracefully as the falling leaves.  

I continued down the path to my cabin which was now in sight. I stopped to pick up a few particularly beautiful maple leaves; even now, nearing the end of their lives, they were perfect creations. I thought again of the fawns and “Little Bean”.

The house was chilly; I lit a fire and prepared myself a cappuccino. I was certain I was able to get a dozen photos of the deer which I would develop later in the afternoon. There was something I needed to do first. After placing my things on the table, I sat down to write to Jeremy. He’ll laugh when he reads that I finally captured the canoodling white-tailed deer. I kissed one of the red leaves and tucked it into his letter. I smiled as I read my closing line: “My darling, be home soon! All our love, Maggie & Little Bean”.  

NAR © 2022

 FFFC # 189, hosted by Fandango

ACT NATURALLY

Couple in the Forest – Image credit; Shahzin Shajid @ Unsplash

Hand in hand, the two ran quickly and quietly from the main house until they were far enough away to feel safe. By now it had gotten quite foggy and they had trouble seeing, which was okay; if they couldn’t see then they couldn’t be seen. They slowed down to a walk and then found a secluded spot where they could be alone.

Daphne plopped herself onto the soft, thick blanket of moss, pulling Henry down with her. They laughed, then remembered this was all hush-hush. “Shh” they both said, giggling, fingers pressed against their lips. “We could get in serious trouble if we’re caught” Henry warned.

They had been waiting for weeks for this chance to be alone and now that it was here they were both feeling a bit nervous and unsure; it was, after all, the first time for both of them. But they were determined.

“So, were you able to, you know, get some?” Daphne asked shyly yet excited, wide eyes staring at Henry. 

“Yeah” Henry replied, “but it was more difficult than I thought. I drove to Pelham and tried to buy some there but no luck. I saw a vending machine in a 711 but it was empty.”

“So where’d you get them?” Daphne asked, engrossed in Henry’s story.

Henry lowered his voice and whispered conspiratorially “In my father’s nightstand” and he softly laughed while Daphne gasped and put her hand over her mouth.

Won’t he miss them?” Daphne asked, concern in her voice.

“Nah, he had a whole bunch and I only took a couple so he probably won’t even notice. I was surprised to find them; I didn’t think he and my mom did it anymore.”

Daphne looked deeply into Henry’s eyes and whispered “I’m ready. Are you?”

“Definitely. I think we’re the only ones of all our friends who haven’t done it” and the twosome drew a little closer. 

I can’t wait to see what it feels like” Daphne said softly as Henry reached deep into his jean’s. 

They got comfortable on the mossy blanket and Henry slowly took it out. Daphne laid back and whispered “I want you to put it in my mouth, Henry, just like they do in the movies” and Henry smiled. He withdrew one packet and carefully opened the foil wrapper. His hands were shaking a bit but tonight was the night and nothing was going to stop them.

Daphne stroked it lightly, enjoying the feel of her fingers around it, excited by the new sensation in her mouth.

Remember, nice and slow at first, ok Daphne?” Henry said and she nodded slightly.

Henry leaned closer and struck a match, igniting the joint in Daphne’s mouth. She took a drag and immediately began to choke and cough. Handing her a bottle of water, Henry took the joint from Daphne and took a drag. He, too, convulsed in a fit of coughing.

I think we need to take smaller hits, Henry. At least that’s what I’ve heard” Daphne suggested and it didn’t take long before they got the hang of it.

They smoked about half the joint and Henry started laughing. Daphne had no idea what was so funny but she started laughing, too. Before they knew it they were rolling round on the moss laughing hysterically. Henry managed to get the words out while gasping for air. “My parents are still getting high!” 

Daphne thought that as the funniest thing she’d ever heard and coughed out the words “Yeah, and they tell us not to”. The two sixteen-year-olds laughed and made little snorting noises as they shared a few more hits off the joint. “You stole your father’s stash” squealed Daphne, barely able to talk straight. And they cracked up again.

When the hysteria died down a bit, Daphne asked “Jeez, Henry, I’m starving. You got anything to eat?”

“Oh, shit. No, I got nothing and I’m hungry, too” Henry mumbled. “Let’s go back to the house. They must be serving dessert by now. But be very quiet and remember to act naturally.”

“Yeah, I’m cool” Daphne slurred. 

And the two somehow found their way back to the house, stumbling and giggling the whole time. They were acting anything but natural.

NAR © 2022

Written in response to: Sadje’s What Do You See – #155

https://youtu.be/vJYyKxgmL0k

CROSSROADS

There he stood at the crossroads of his life. He was 56 years old and made more career changes than he cared to remember. He never seemed to find his niche, his place in society. He was adrift, never knowing which direction to take.

Now he was unemployed again; it was not for lack of trying. He was an indecisive man. The only true and clear decision he made was marrying his wife. She was his anchor when he began to drift, his lifeboat when he was drowning in the sea of life.

On this crisp autumn day, he was suddenly consumed with the urge to take a walk, clear his head. His wife offered to go with him, but he declined saying thanks, but he needed this time by himself to think. He wouldn’t be gone too long.

His wife suggested he wear his new yellow windbreaker; if he lost his bearings, as he was often wont to do, he’d be easily visible. And so he donned his yellow jacket and took off to find himself.

Now here he stood at the crossroads of his life, literally. He had a terrible sense of direction and had no idea where he was. As he looked around, he realized he was truly screwed for he blended in perfectly with his surroundings – bright yellow and golden autumn leaves were everywhere and he was in the midst of them.

At that moment he cursed his wife under his breath. He wanted to wear his beloved purple jacket but no, she suggested he wear the yellow one. Because he could never make up his mind, he did as he was told. And now he was lost without a clue which way to go, surrounded by bright yellow and golden autumn leaves.

And to think he went off to find himself. Now he wondered if anyone would find him.

NAR © 2022

Written for  FFFC # 188, hosted by Fandango

Flashback Track Friday #88

Hey! Look what I just wrote!

Songshine Sounds

Welcome once again to Flashback Track Friday. Each week, one of us will present a song to you, and out of that song, will prompt you with a question.

A special treat for you this week, as The Sicilian Storyteller has agreed to take time out from her busy schedule, and to write a guest post for us. And she even has a double-whammy this week, two blinding track by one of our favourite artists. So, without further ado, over to you, Nancy.


John Lennon, whose anniversary we celebrated only last Sunday. One of the most well-known and recognizable people of all time and founder of the legendary Beatles, John was a singer, musician, songwriter and peace activist. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in history. That is an incredible achievement.

Starting with the world-famous “All You Need Is Love”, his songs were adopted as…

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BROKEN GLASS

Today was a very bad day for me and I came this close to going to the emergency room. That was the last way I wanted to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon in the fall. Has anyone noticed emergencies seem to crop up at the most inconvenient times – in the middle of the night, on the weekend or holiday – whenever it’s impossible to track down your doctor?

“What was the cause of this emergency?” you’re wondering. I shall tell you: intense stabbing pain in my lower back causing my legs to tingle and radiating down to my knee and up to my neck. The slightest move caused unbearable pain. This was not the first time something like this has happened but it definitely was one of the worst and it threw me for a loop; I had been recovering nicely after a recent flare up.

I have advanced arthritis from my neck down to my knees, spinal stenosis and sciatica. With the incredible work of my physical therapist, I had gotten to a point where I was feeling great and no longer needed to take any pain meds. Now I’m back on the meds and I hate their side effects but I must weigh my options.

This has been with me in various degrees since 2003 when I had a botched meniscus repair. In 2008 I fell three feet off a deck and landed full force on my left hip, badly fracturing it. The impact was so tremendous that I must have been stunned because I felt no pain … until I tried to move. I had no idea my hip joint was totally severed. I needed emergency surgery and a hip replacement. The operation went very well and rehab was a breeze, but the broken hip and the meniscus repair were likely the beginning of my other ailments. It was all downhill from there.

The pain from the meniscus repair was ever-present and arthritis had set it. It was determined I needed a total knee replacement which was done in 2011. I went into that surgery expecting a full recovery; after all, I’d seen advertisements in health magazines and posters in doctor’s offices showing people playing golf, tennis and going skiing after a TKR. I was not one of those people who sprang right back into action. After months of rehab I was still feeling pain. I had to take the stairs one at a time and every so often my knee would buckle. It was no cake walk. In fact it was a complete failure and a few years later I was back in the hospital for a total knee revision. If you never heard of a knee revision and decide to Google it, I suggest you watch the video on an empty stomach.

Have the surgeries improved my life? Yes, but not to the degree I’d hoped. I know I’m better off having had the operations but one would think my leg would be bionic after four procedures. 

To add insult to injury I developed spinal stenosis; sometimes the pain in my back was so intense I could barely walk or sit up straight. It worked its way up to my neck and made itself at home. I underwent multiple epidurals and nerve blocks, to no avail. How the hell could all these medical procedures not help? It’s frustrating and despairing; I fell into a depression and started having anxiety attacks. I lost weight, lost hope and lost the will to live. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone, not even my precious grandchildren. 

My husband was by my side constantly; he became my support system, my coach, my shoulder to cry on and my shadow. He drove me to every session with my psychologist, took me to physical therapy and prepared my meals. He did all the shopping and laundry. He was there to sooth me during a crying jag or a panic attack. The man was a saint. If it wasn’t for him and my physical therapist I don’t know where I’d be today or what condition I’d be in. Going for deep tissue massage twice a week for months was the only thing that brought me relief and I still go to physical therapy once every week. Fortunately I am no longer depressed nor do I have anxiety attacks.

So what was the cause of today’s day from hell? I saw my pain management doctor on Tuesday, October 4; she gave me a series of trigger point injections in my lower back – something I’ve had many, many times before. The next day I noticed a slight pain in the left side of my lower back. By Thursday that pain had intensified; it wormed its way up to my neck and wrapped itself around my hip, down to my knee. By the weekend I was absolutely good for nothing. I wrote this post today to take my mind off the pain; it was horrible and memories of when I was at my lowest came flooding back.

Usually I have very little pain and feel good. I’ll have a flare up when a procedure goes wrong or the weather is bad or I trip on the rug or I lift my granddaughter onto the toilet or I just do something stupid which I know I shouldn’t do. I am like a broken glass that’s been glued back together. Every time someone tries to use the glass it crumbles and breaks into pieces.

Well-meaning friends tell me to rest up, take it easy and I’ll be fine. Give yourself time to heal, they say. What they don’t understand is this is not a broken toe that will mend itself and be healed forever. What I have will never fully go away and I will never be completely healed. What they don’t know is how difficult it is for me to get into and out of the bathtub, to stand under the shower to wash my hair, to dance with my husband or to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Today was a bad day but the pain will slowly fade and I will feel better again. No one has to tell me how much worse my situation could be; I know there are multitudes of people who have it far worse than I do and there are times when I am ashamed for feeling sorry for myself. Everyone’s pain is their own and everything is relative.

We all have our crosses; this is mine. I take nothing for granted. There are days when I’m walking on sunshine and then there are those days when I feel like I’m walking on broken glass.

I wish you all good health. May you never have to endure the pain of broken glass.

NAR © 2022

A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE

She was one of those high society girls, confident and accomplished in many things. Her mother made sure the hired help taught her how to provide for herself and maintain a proper house should she ever find herself in a position where she needed to do so. 

“You must never totally rely on a man to do things for you” the girl’s mother admonished. “Your father was a weak man and a drunk. If I hadn’t found a publisher for my memoirs, we’d be destitute. I managed to write and tend to everything around the house while your father was off chasing daydreams. Because of that I learned to become a strong woman and you shall be one also.”

She remembered her father; how she adored him. If he was ineffectual, she never saw that side of him. All she saw was the fun-loving man who loved her beyond the moon, sang silly songs, made her laugh and bought her penny candy. He took her to the carnival and picnicking by the lake, tilting at windmills and searching the sky for clouds in the shape of dinosaurs or butterflies or whatever his imagination created. 

If he was drunk, she didn’t realize. Once or twice she asked why he wasn’t at work and he would laugh saying he’d rather spend his time with her; work would always be there tomorrow. But work was not there the next day and he drank himself into oblivion.

When he became sick from too much liquor, she knew something was terribly wrong. The house was quiet except for the sound of his wet cough. Then one day he was gone and it was as though he never existed. It was just her, her mother and the hired help in the large house. Her mother was busy with her publisher and it was the kindly household staff who taught her to be resourceful.

And so she grew into a self-assured, self-sufficient woman. She was the perfect combination of a woman of substance able to fend for herself but one who also delighted in the company of a gentleman who could well and ably provide for her. Her mother said she must learn to tell the difference between an honorable, well-respected man and a foolish dreamer with no goals in life. She must be vigilant not to become attracted to a man like her father who was full of empty promises.   

She was wooed by many young men – those belonging to the polo club who knew how to sail and play croquet and turn heads at garden parties. There were others who caught her eye as well – the ones who labored on the docks or skillfully shoed horses and dabbled in boxing in the back rooms of the local pubs where people shouted out their names and placed bets on who would win.

The dandies from the yacht club were pale and thin; they wore foppish clothes and were sparkling clean and looked down their long pointy noses at anyone who did not meet their standards. Their lives were empty and shallow and they didn’t even know it.

The hirsute boxers and dockworkers with tanned faces and rough hands wore patched pants and frayed shirts and had perpetually dirty fingernails. They worked hard and played harder; they drank beer in the pubs, sang songs and told bawdy jokes. They were happy with a lust for life and love despite having just a few coins to rub together.

One group of men was strong with twinkling eyes and roguish smiles while the other group was flaccid, dull-eyed and mealy-mouthed. And when time came for her to choose between one or the other, she chose one from her station, her peer, a seemingly substantial gentleman – the peacock who lived next door who gave the appearance of being his own man but was simply another empty vessel with nothing to offer. She soon learned he was a callow, selfish fellow with an overbearing mother and a useless father.

The girl’s mother did not approve of the lowly blacksmiths and boxers but she knew the insipid gent who claimed to adore her daughter would amount to nothing and she warned the girl: “I see your father in him – an inflated, aggrandized ne’er-do-well.” But the daughter would not listen. She was accustomed to men treating her with kid gloves. The thought of rough hands with dirty nails against her pearly white skin made her cringe.

How ironic could it be that the domineering mother of this man-child did not approve of her, the one he fawned over? “She may play the role of a woman of substance but she is only a pretender after your wealth. Her father was a nothing, a drunk, and she was tutored by the blacks who worked in the kitchen. You, my son, can do much better.”

But he couldn’t do better for he was a fool and he could not hold on to her. He cried into his pillow every night and cursed when he saw the one he cherished about town with a boxing dockworker who was ten times the man he was.

The pugilist treated her like a queen at all times – in the presence of others as well as in the privacy of their own home – and the woman of substance found she quite liked the feel of calloused hands on her spotless breasts.

NAR © 2022

GUEST POST: LOST IN A SWIRL

One of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read,
this deeply touched my heart.
By my friend Paul Griffiths, The Birkenhead Poet –
I’m sharing for all to enjoy and
so I’ll always have it no matter what may come my way.

She is lost in a swirl of emotions, yet she dances as tears fall from her eyes.
Lost in the moment, as the world takes little notice and passes her by.
Spinning slowly in circles lost completely, she is engrossed in the dance.
Caught up in the silence of the moment, totally entranced.

Staring straight ahead into the nothing she sees what is and isn’t there.
As the world goes spinning around her, she is lost in her feelings too numb to care.
A vortex of mixed up emotions tumble around, in the spin cycle of her mixed up mind.
Cutting loose from the reality of her day to day existence and the ties that do bind.

Wrapped in a soft black silken sheet of the night she dances away.
The times getting late but she chooses to stay.
She has danced herself into tomorrow, she’s danced til her poor feet are sore.
Passing the point of exhaustion, she can’t dance anymore

Like the little ballerina atop a music box she starts winding down.
As she looks out for someone to come to her rescue but there’s no one around.
She screams a scream so loud her lungs almost burst; it’s a cry full of pain.
Because she knows the dance is over and it’s back to the reality of her life once again.

PTG © copyright.

PRECISION

John Black always kept his implements in the finest condition, each one hanging on the rack with incredible precision like soldiers standing at attention.

His tools were always lined up by size, depending on his needs. They were clean and sharp at all times, at the ready whenever he needed them.

There were saws that could cut down the largest tree and mallets meant for pounding huge spikes into posts. He had screwdrivers and files of every shape and size, pliers to yank out the largest of nails and wrenches to loosen pipes rusted together for years. His planes could shave off the thinnest slice of wood and his blades could cut through the toughest leather.

John Black scrubbed his tools clean after each use; they were gleaming, just waiting for his next job. Whenever the call came, he was ready.

The calls came every day and into the night; John Black was a busy man. No one ever called him; he found his own clientele. 

John Black was not a carpenter or a plumber; no, his job was of a different nature and his instruments were weapons meant to inflict the most pain a human could endure. For you see, John Black was a psychopath, a stalker of the innocent, a torturer and a murderer.

Oh, yes, his tools served him well, sated his sadistic needs. His victims were so easy to find for John Black was an unassuming man. 

John Black lives everywhere so keep your doors locked and never go out alone, even to check your mailbox for he could be living right next door. And October is his favorite month, his time to spill as much blood as possible.

Scary business, isn’t it?

NAR © 2022

Written for Sadje’s What do you see #154