Category Archives: anthologies

Nyctophilia: #defythedark contest

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Well, I’ve been away for over a month. During that time, I’ve started writing a number of things, but all of it was working towards story ideas I’ve had rolling around for a bit. All of them are in different stages…and almost every piece is for a future novel, or novella. Hence, not for Tale Spinning.

My SO brought a Figment contest to my attention that actually intrigued the two of us: the Defy the Dark New Author Contest. I had given up on submitting anything to Figment because of the usual  “heart (like) my story & I’ll like yours” mentality, which rarely ever translated into the merit of the story. Yes, I did that last year with Birdsongs: The Virtuous War. I learned my lesson and stayed clear of that type of “whoring” for votes.

What’s different about Defy the Dark New Author Contest? The likes/hearts don’t mean a thing: there is an actual YA editor (Ms. Saundra Mitchell)  who will read and judge the work on its merits. This is for eventual publication in an anthology by HarperCollins. Combined, the two things got me writing a just under 4,000 word short story entitled Nyctophilia.

FYI: Nyctophilia, as defined by Dictionary.com, is: a love or preference for night, darkness.

My description/”blurb”:

On the coast of the British Isles lies beautiful Bournemouth. At the turn of the 20th Century, it is a quiet, peaceful destination. A retired London Chief Inspector makes his home there with his wife, their house cared for by a local towns girl, Miranda. By day, most agree that the views of Bournemouth are spectacular. By night, the Spectacular views Bournemouth in an unsavory way…an old “friend” of the inspector comes to visit, and he  very much prefers all that the night has to offer.

Please CLICK HERE to take you to my newest story, Nyctophilia. If you with to leave comments, you can do so either at Figment or here on Tale Spinning.

Lisa Vooght entered the same contest with an extremely compelling tale called Rain’s Gonna Come.  Very powerful, a story you will be glad you read.

Thanks one and all for sticking with Tale Spinning. I hope I’m not gone another month before posting something new.

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Ashes

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Even after reading about all the possible side effects, Jean wore her mother around her neck daily. Others complimented her on her memorial diamond pendant, with many commenting about it afterwards, not all in a favorable light. Compressed into a stunning jewel, strung and embraced in an array of silver filigree,  the late Mrs. Deidre Ann Cabochon glared from her daughter’s chest.

Cremated only a month previously, the ashes were mixed with snippets of her hair, and all was distilled to the carbon left behind. These were sent into a press, to duplicate the forces of nature. Extreme heat, 1,000,000 p.s.i., and time…and from the passing of the deceased came a new jeweled existence.

Or so Jean thought, even though the price was high on many levels.

Her husband, Paul, disagreed to the cost, both financially and emotionally. He was never fond of Deidre, a woman he found narcissistic and shrewish, and if he had been honest with anyone he would have loudly pronounced how glad he was that his mother-in-law was dead. Paul saw how Jean suffered during her mother’s long lingering illness, how she put “that woman!” on a pedestal, even while being ordered about and verbally demeaned at every turn. Jean just turned the other cheek, said it was the woman who gave her birth and raised her, and that was that.

Paul moved out the day after the jewel was delivered.

When she got the package, Jean cried as she opened it, and cried as she held it out to examine it. Jean asked Paul to attach the clasp for her. He went behind her as she moved her hair aside and did as she asked. There was a soft “snkt” sound; Jean let her hair down and turned around to give Paul a hug. She held him, lowering her head onto his right shoulder, pressing her body against his, tears leaking down, which he felt through his shirt.

Paul also felt the diamond pendant digging into his chest. Uncomfortable as that was, he felt…more. There was something emanating, a negative grasping, and it hurt on a much deeper level then the prick of the necklace pressed against him. Pushing away was hard but Paul moved a few feet backwards, seeing the pain in Jean’s face but he found himself unable to answer her question of what was wrong.

She needed comforting the rest of the day, and each time Paul’s horrible feeling deepened. He felt lethargic, and depressive thoughts flayed him, making deeper cuts as the day progressed. By the time they went to bed-Jean still wearing “her mother”-Paul was ready to slash his wrists. In her sleep Jean rolled over to the edge of the bed, as Paul, awake, did rolled to the opposite side. There was a lessening in his chest, and things felt calmer as he went to the bathroom (down the hallway), and still when he went downstairs to the kitchen for a cold drink.

Sitting at the kitchen table until dawn, Paul went back upstairs. Each step was agony, and when he got to their bedroom door, he knew. Grabbing his clothes, he woke Jean up.

“Get rid of that necklace, Jean. Let her go, or I will…”

“You’ll what?” she said, belligerently, rubbing her eyes, up on one elbow.

“I’ll leave. That thing…something is wrong with it.”

An argument ensued, words were said, many that could not be taken back or apologized for, many that Paul had heard from Deidre’s mouth only months before. Jean came towards him in fury and tears; Paul bolted with his clothes, changing in the car before running away.

Jean grieved doubly now. She started to lose interest in eating, slept poorly, wandered aimlessly, and while all around her said she was in the grips of depression, none would say so to her face. She would talk about her mother in one breath and be scathing in ridicule in the next, tearing apart friends, family, and co-workers alike with a viciousness that was “not like her” (or so they said).

Hollow eyed, sallow skinned, Jean played with the jewel almost constantly. She shortened the chain the one time she removed it, making it a choker, in so many ways. Her belligerence became so brutal that she was told to leave her job, that she was creating an unhealthy work environment. She spat in her bosses coffee when she got up to leave, gave her the finger, and slammed the door on her way out.

Jean sat in the dark, in her living room, gripping the arm rests of the chair she had inherited from her mother. She contemplated many things, but they were about the others, what they had done to her, nothing was her fault, and why were they all crazy? She had bought a 1.4 litre of Irish Creme, Deidre’s favorite, and killed it in one sitting. Feeling queasy, Jean left the house to get some fresh air.

She thought getting in the car for a drive upstate was a good idea, at the time.

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Author’s Note:
There is more to write about Jean. 845 words is not enough, but it’s enough for me, today.
There actually is a business of putting the ashes of the deceased into jewelry. Some of it is done as described in the above story; the rest are hollow receptacles for the cremated ash. I was told about this by my SO, who loves medical and scientific things, and it has been filtering around my noggin…
until a short Associated Press piece caught my attention: “South Korea has seized thousands of smuggled drug capsules filled with powdered flesh from…”
….well, the rest would be telling where I want to take this whole thing. Suffice to say, reality is just as bad as fiction, n’est pas?

Click here to read The Complete AtoZ: Swan Rise Apartment Series

Only available for free until May 31st, 2012

Reflections of Swans (#AtoZChallenge)

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A to Z Reflections Post

From the hosts of the A to Z Challenge:

This is your time to tell us about your A to Z experience.   Share your pleasures, your pains, your setbacks, your gains.   Who did you meet along the way that you found to be especially helpful or inspiring?  Did you have a favorite blog post?   Or a favorite series?   Which blogs did you discover during April that you will be returning to in the future?

             Express your gratitude or vent your frustrations.  If you’d do this again, let us know why.  If you hated it. tell us why.  We want you to tell your A to Z story to the rest of us and tell it in the way that suits you best.  Like the Challenge itself, this Reflection post is your creative outpouring.  Be it prose, verse, song, video, or images, you can express yourself in anyway that you like.

 What I have to admit was my frustration/failure:

My lack of really exploring and commenting on other blogs. I tried, but so many things just prevented me from doing anywhere near the number of visits I intended to do. That, to me, is my own let down.

I do intend to go back and visit some of the bloggers who have visited me, and to explore others, during May. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: late comments and views are better than no comments/no views.

My pleasure:

Just plain out discovering the characters of Swan Rise, and the building itself. This was (as tired as I got of writing/blogging at times during the month),  very satisfying as a writer. The feedback and encouragement was gratifying unto itself, but I found great satisfaction with what I was producing. Can’t always say that.

For all the links to MY A to Z stories, CLICK HERE! I’m very proud of what I produced.

My favorite:I have asked readers if they had a favorite story of the 26: the ones that did answer seemed to gravitate towards Mrs. Beatty. I really liked her; I’m also not sorry I killed her off (so there). She still has more to her story: I only covered a few periods of her life.

Amy, for some reason I haven’t figured out yet,  became my favorite character. She came out of nowhere;  I wrote the B post with no knowledge of her before that, no planning. I know I did not explore her enough (to my satisfaction). Not sure why, and I’m not sure (yet) what more there is to write about Amy. That will happen when I tackle the second draft.

Will I do the AtoZ Challenge again (and why is my pudding barking at me?):

In all honesty, I can’t answer where my head will be in a year (well, eleven months). It’s an amazing, frustrating, sometimes daunting, challenge. I did not write any of my posts months ahead of time. Most were written to order (I scheduled them to post at 12:15 am) the day before they were due to appear. Some were written the day due, sometimes scrambling to produce;  I only wrote ahead a few times, sometimes doing two or three in one day (had to do that the two weekends I went away). I’d just schedule them out. Nothing was written before the event began.

18,00+ words in 26 days. Ouch.

That, to me, is what the challenge was about. So..will I do it again? Ask me next Feb/March.

A to Z: The Complete Swan Rise Series

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Open House: Trespassers Welcome

Swan Rise Apartments went out like an exploding lamb; it came in like a sleeping lion… but the building, and its inhabitants, did not always remain so. They lived lives that were hungry, playful, sleepy, lusty, fearful, agitated and on the prowl; they reared their young, and did what they needed to survive in this vertical village.

Welcome to… Swan Rise Apartments

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…and so, the story unfolds. 26 interlocking stories set in the world of Swan Rise Apartments, all written for the A to Z Challenge that ran throughout April 2012.

You’ll find links to all the stories below; each one stands alone, but many have roots and connections in other chapters.  As a whole, it tells a story of the lives that swirl around apartment building life.

Each Sunday, I’ll re-post these links in case you missed any and for your ease in finding them.

The stories will remain up only for the month of May. As of June 1st, I will be taking all of the stories down from Tale Spinning so I can work on a larger second draft of the work. Some of the earlier pieces need fleshing out, and discoveries I made along the way need their roots dug deeply in the beginnings.

May 30th will be your last chance to read, and comment, on these stories. Hopefully, you’ll eventually hold an expanded version in your hands.

Comments are always welcome no matter when you read the story.

Week #1: A to G

All, Tumbling Down

Basement Boogie

Children in the Hall

Doggie Doings

Equivocation Elite

Fire(escape)

Ground, Breaking

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Week #2: H to M

Holidays, Haunts and Hearts

Imaginings of Love

Jung, @Heart

Kindred Spheres

Laundry Room Mafia

Mrs. Beatty

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Week #3: N to S

Not What They Seem

One Man’s Ceiling…

Pollination in the Parking Lot

Quack, Quack

Retraction of Gravity

Super, My Super

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Week #4: T to Z

Thieving Ways

Underneath It All

Vertically Challenged

Weather Man, Oh

Xanthippe

Yeah…Life Goes On…

Zenith: Arising

Impressions of Perfect Fifths

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Marc Chagall

His hands played along the surface of the violin, tracing the patterns worn into the wood. Slight depressions,  imprintings of someone’s fingering, their palm, chin, sweat. Empty of catgut, Avram, the luthier, caressed and stroked the violin that was given unto his care for restoration. He closed his eyes, held the violin to his nose, and breathed in its history.

The drawing of the horsehair bow that had slid along the strings left intermittent grooves in the wood. They showed where a well loved piece was played,  how the violinist drew against the grain of the violin itself. Clumsy or a style, it was all the same to Avram: this was a well loved instrument, that was apparent, and it would become one again.

He noticed the nicks, the dimples in the varnish, the grain of the wood, the stains not readily perceived, but there. There was a very slight crack near the base of the right F-hole, the chinrest needing to be replaced, a refastening of the tailpiece and scroll. Sitting on his wooden stool, Avram kept the violin out of direct sunlight, a strain for his eyes but a blessing for the instrument.

The tuning pegs were worn down, without sheen. Avram could tell that the strings had been replaced, often, their lifespan given to the music: either no longer playing true, losing the desired tone, or snapping in the frenzy of the player.  That did not matter to Avram. He would eventually make a new marriage, adding the G first, then the D, followed by the A and E. He would attach them at the base, up the bridge, along the neck and finally connect them all to the pegbox. All would then be tuned, in harmony, restored.

This though, was still a ways to come. All in due time…

Eventually, time for music to be lifted out and carried, vibrating its musical message to others. Time for this violin to find new hands, a new lover, to be held towards and against the player, to communicate and be in tune once again.

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Author’s Note:

I was given a newspaper article by my SO about Violins of Hope, a project of restored violins that had a history of pain: they came from musicians who “experienced” the horrors of the Holocaust. There was a concert in Charlotte, NC in April 2012. The violins are now back in Israel.

This immediately got my writing gears in motion: I have plotted out titles of chapters, an outline, for what I will be working on next. I plan to get a first draft done of all this while it is still “hot” for me; then, in June, I’ll put this aside and start working on the second draft of the Swan Rise stories.

This was just to whet your whistle. I will NOT be posting any of my Violin stories on Tale Spinning after this: I want it to be marketable for an agent/publisher, if worthy. I WILL be looking for readers along the way, to form a small core group, maybe our own writers group, so if you’re interested, please EMAIL me (please don’t post it here: my email can be located on the right sidebar).

As to Tale Spinning: I’ll be dropping some pieces here and there throughout May, as the story comes to me or I find a fun prompt that inspires. Please check out my backlog of past pieces; there is a lot here, and if you’re new, well…then they’ll be new to you as well.

Remember: comments are always welcome.

Zenith: Arising (#AtoZChallenge)

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The A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to ALL the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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Goodbye…

The wrecking ball wrecked, the explosives exploded, and all the debris was carted away. Stone, bricks, glass, wood, metal piping, aluminum, copper, brass, steel, plastics, rubber hoses, cables and…among the detritus there were also bits and pieces of lives mixed in: slivers of dolls and toys; charred papers that once were whole books,  someone’s thesis or love letters, wills, documents, pictures; cloth that, in some pieces, you could see patterns that illuminated a sun dress or once expensive curtains; some bones, those of the pets that were never found. So much life mired in destruction.

Swan Rise Apartments was no more; really, it hadn’t been for months. The property was condemned: the damage from the explosion and fires were too great. Part of the foundation was in shambles. Inferior piping was found to run through the remaining section of the building, and some of the landings were precarious in any hope of their holding up. The majority of the building inhabitants were not allowed to retrieve their belongings. They all settled, out of court.

Swan Rise fell in November of 2005.

That winter was fierce, and building anything was held off for months as ice storms and heavy snows blanketed the area. There was also litigation for wrongful deaths, finger pointing, bribes not paid, fines not paid, union disputes, haggling over bids, and planning…lots of planning. The real estate was too valuable to leave an empty lot.

Construction began in the early fall of 2006.

The wild life that floated up and down Swan River ignored all the doings. They lived too far away to be inconvenienced beyond the initial blasts. They’d fly over for the morsels that were tossed from workers meals, carelessly done so in the already made squalor. The birds let their presence be known in a number of different ways, many times being cursed out by a construction worker who was “hit.”

For close to two years the area morphed from gravel, dirt, weeds, and the past into a new edifice of metal, concrete and glass. Swan River Road was bustling with traffic, the sprouting of other buildings and businesses growing substantially from 1960. New construction always brought gawkers around, rubberneckers ogled the cranes bringing girders to be placed, and the welding and gluing and mortaring and tarring  brought things to a standstill all too often, much to the chagrin of the other inhabited area.

2008, and a new renamed building was erected, zoned for two extra floors, standing seven stories tall. Taking far longer than anticipated, the building management was chomping at the bit for all the lost revenue. They made it a condo, and had nice down-payments in the bank for all of the apartments by the time the construction was complete. There was a waiting list, and would continue to be one in the years ahead.

The tenants of Mallards Crossing Condominium moved into their new residences.

Hello…

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Author’s Note:

April 2012 comes to a close and this year’s AtoZ Challenge with it. 26 posts about Swan Rise Apartments and its residents. 24 stories; two poems (one free form; one sonnet).

If you were wondering, I wrote 18,032 words during the month; if you add in The Whistler is Dead, it is 18,493 words in length. Not too shabby.

Please note that these stories will be left up only through May 2012.

I will then take them offline as of June 1st, as I plan to put this whole thing through an editors pen and a second “draft.”Quite a lot of the early ones need some fleshing out, especially the two poem posts, so I hope  to bring it over 25,000 words; more, if I get really ambitious.

From there, it will be query letter time.  If an agent or publisher only sees this as tainted goods (already published) then I WILL go the self publishing route, but there will be a lot that was never intended for the AtoZ that I had in mind and little to no time to write. The reaction on the comments and in emails has been so positive that I’d be silly to let this just lie here solely on a blog.

Thank you to all of my readers. You’ve been my “beta” testers, my writing cohort, as I’ve explored this story as you have: day by day. I made many discoveries along the way, and very few of the original titles I “planned” out remained. I never knew there was a murder in the building until I wrote it into one of the stories, a throw-away line that had a life unto itself. Mrs. Beatty was only a small dot to me when I wrote the first story: she became a loved character to many of you (and me as well). So many others in the building took on more weight (Amy came out of nowhere, and I’m glad she did), and a few will get some expansions when I work on this over the summer months.

A big Thank You goes to Lisa Vooght for being my sounding board, playing editor and  finding some of my outright mistakes, and for all of her support. She is an amazing writer in her own right and you should check out her creative fiction blog, Flash Fiction.

I also want to thank Arlee Bird (founder of the blog fest: click on the logo heading this blog post to go to their site) and his co-hosts for running this and giving over 1500 bloggers a chance to spread their wings (and go a little crazy in the process).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of interwoven tales. This was both tiring and exciting for me as a writer.

Comments are always welcome, no matter when you read the stories.

Did you have a favorite of the 26? I’d like to know which one(s) were for you and why.

That’s always a big help and a blessing for a writer: feedback.

Thanks all!!!

Stuart

Yeah…Life Goes On… (#AtoZChallenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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So…

Taking its last breath, Swan Rise Apartments released its denizens. A forty-five year microcosm of life, crawling through the hallways into apartments and behind closed doors. Unfettered, except by memories and, for some, scars mental or physical, the inhabitants moved on.

Life happens after death.

Dragana’s claws were sharpened after she dealt with what she had done. She rode Andres unmercifully, constantly deriding, belittling, and scorning him. He payed, with interest that would never stop accruing, for his infidelity (she could never prove there were more, but she knew…she knew). He had to beg for any intimacy, and it was given only when Dragana wanted it more than he did.

Andres was investigated for negligence. Cynthia, Mrs. Beatty’s daughter, told anyone who would listen that her mother had called about the gas smell. She was there when the call was made, so “…yes, it was heard first hand!” Nothing ever came of it for him: the building management insurance paid for damages and a suit went on for years for negligent homicide. That is still in the court system. Andres was fired, in more ways than one. He and Dragana went upstate where he worked in maintenance, sans cigar chomping, sans kingdom.

Katie, Amy’s mother had fallen in love and remarried by the time Amy graduated from college. She missed her daughter fiercely, as Amy remained in Boston. Amy would contact her on Skype and text often, and while Katie felt they saw each other in person too infrequently, she realized they found a strong bond. They stayed in the area due to the jobs she and her husband had, but she planned to bring up moving to New England once they finally retired.

The Weather Man got older, as did his wife, and they both moved into the basement apartment of a two family home in the same neighborhood. He continued to wander the streets, often stopping near where Swan Rise was, and stare at the car accidents or up at the stars on clear nights. One early winter night he did not come home. He was found on a bench in the playground down the road, reclining, eyes open and staring to the heavens.

Frank had been starting to go out on dates in the last year of the building, joining numerous online dating sites. Most of them were no more than first dates, but he was starting to get the hang of it when the building went to pieces. He moved closer to work, still a studio apartment, but this time the woman he saw that attracted him…he talked to her, in that building’s laundry room. Telling the story of the demise of Swan Rise, folding clothes and embellishing some facts, Judy laughed at appropriate moments, listened attentively, commiserated, and smiled with Frank. They went out for coffee and began seriously dating less than a month later. They now have a very active two year old (William) and are expecting in the Fall.

The Laundry Room Mafia was dispersed. Their power base destroyed with the rest, they went fleeing to different parts of the country. Oldest children found themselves sharing their lives again with a parent. Ida and Bella stayed with theirs, while Helen and Evelyn soon went into elder living communities. Dotty, their Capo, was never the same after the destruction. The devastation was more thorough for her: all of her belongings, all of her cherished keepsakes, her photo albums, all of her hoarded life’s items were gone, and Dorothy did not handle it well at all. She went from assisted living to a nursing home in a very short time. Her daughter was on her way to visit her, the first time in two months, when Dotty passed away.

Marc and Sean remained married. They were horrified and tragically upset at the news of Mrs. Beatty’s death, and they attended the wake and ceremony service. “The Boys” became rocks of support for Cynthia during the ordeal. They soon became friends, and grew to treat each other like family Every Christmas was spent together, Marc and Sean welcoming Cynthia as they did her mother.

Bob and Beth Fields, after his heart attack recovery, continued to celebrate the holidays. They moved near their son and his family, and every occasion was a special treat. Susie and Vicky, their grandchildren, learned how to have fun from Bob. Grandma Beth had the “Stern Eye!” but she was a lot of fun too, just more when it was just the three of them. Bob slept best when he and Beth held hands.

The “prostitute in the parking lot” saw the whole thing from her apartment window in the building across the way. She had been sitting having a cup of coffee and just looking out. Her husband was out of town, again, and missed the whole thing. Running into the bedroom to throw on some clothes, she pushed her upstairs neighbor to get dressed and out. She found his underwear under her top sheet later and laughed uncontrollably.

James Davis had lost a lot in the building: his parents and his dog had died in years past, and his marriage ended here. He was glad to pack up what he could (his apartment was on the other side and only got some smoke damage) and he moved to be closer to his sister and his niece, Sara. He was a good uncle, and he too found a life mate after leaving. Sara’s teacher fell in love with him the times they intermingled when he would drop her off or pick her up at school. Sara was embarrassed, but the next year it didn’t matter to call her Aunt Annie.

Seth told his father about what happened to Swan Rise. Lev listened, but didn’t know what Swan Rise was or why the young man in front of him was bothering him. Lev was looking for his wife, although he could not for the life of him remember her name, and this was upsetting him. The young man was patting his hand, telling him to calm down. Lev started to yell, then cry. He found himself being held by his son, and he didn’t know why.

Merry got married and moved out just before the explosion. She moved into his apartment in the city, where they lived together for four years before getting a divorce. Some time passed, Meridith began dating again and two years later got engaged again. She eventually got another dog, who she loved very much and the dog loved her back.

Patty was Patty, and she wound up ruling the next building she moved into. She had a couple of affairs over the years, and got older, and had plastic surgery, and had more plastic surgery, and dyed her hair, and had tummy tucks, and she lived a long plastic life in a plastic world of her own making.

Amy stayed in Boston. Her music was really her life, in school and with the band she founded, The Swans. She sang, played the drums, composed most of the songs they ripped through, and eventually got a small label to work with them. Amy found time to graduate and to fall in love. She married a year after her mom did and got accepted into a music Graduate/Doctorial program soon after that.  Amy took her time: in her second year of grad work she became preggers (as she like to say), and months into the process, when she was really showing, her daughter (they knew it was a girl!) was swirling around, arms and feet and elbows and knees making a syncopated beat on her mom’s swollen belly. Like mother, like daughter, like mother…Amy was happy.

…and in the evening she’s a singer with the band.

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Xanthippe (#AtoZChallenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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“This is what I can tell you, Detectives. First, she was poisoned. The effects were wearing off and are definitely older than the bludgeoning. The victim was stabbed next, twice in the abdomen, the softer tissue. From the blue tint of her lips, she was still alive when her pillow was finally used for suffocation. Someone wanted this woman dead.”

Detectives Dibny and Wayne,  investigating Doris Bertram’s murder, looked at each other. Dibny wanted to say that this was just overkill, but the look on Wayne’s face held him back. They thanked the forensics doc and headed upstairs to their desks: Wayne to look over the notes he’d already gone over a close to a dozen times that day alone; Dibny to find out what his wife packed him for lunch.

The notes were the same each time Wayne looked: no forced entry; door found ajar; fire escape gate was unlocked and wide open; a variety of fingerprints from tenants and family here and there (not a compulsive cleaner, which Wayne cursed at: it only added to his headache); women’s footprints in the blood of the victim-same size as the victim, and about fifteen others in the building, as well as her youngest daughter; no blood splatter to be found on any clothing; no prints on either murder weapon used-wiped clean; no fibers found; etc. etc. etc….

…that all led to a great big pile of nada. The detective threw the folder together, dumped it on the corner of his desk, and went out for lunch.

This was one case he never got to close. Retired now, it bothered him occasionally, especially when he reminisced while visiting Dibny’s grave.

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Doris Bertram, late of Swan Rise Apartments, ex-president of the Tenants Association, was mourned by her two grown children (the oldest more then the younger, truth be told) and an assortment of friends and neighbors. Two people in the building were glad she was gone; one of the two not happy about the method, but in the long run, happy nonetheless.

Patty smiled a lot in the days after Doris was found. Being reinstated as president only matched her glee. In the end, she just found this exciting, and wound up using it to push through a lot of “extras” for the building. Each change she sought and won was a victory for her, and Doris’ murder helped her achieve more than she had previously. When she went out (without Mrs. Beatty), which she did often, she’d offer a silent toast to Doris, not in good wishes at all.

Mrs. Beatty was saddened by the murder, and made more fearful. Since her husband had died, she grew more and more afraid, and this was the “straw that broke the cake” (she could never remember adages as they were supposed to be).  She had thought someone had been in her apartment: some clothing was missing, as well as the embroidered handkerchief that David had made for her. Now she was sure of it, and after the meeting she needed extra fortification, visiting the Frolicking Lamb and then making arrangements to have heavy duty dead bolts put on her door and to replace the two door locks she already had.

*****

Dragana had replaced her husbands keys exactly where he left them, exactly where he had left them every night since they had moved in and he took “this stinking job.” He was snoring away as usual, beer vapors expelled with each “sqoink” he made. She stood over him, the dim shine of the moon and street and parking lot lights illuminating him through the slats of the window blinds. The shadows sliced him into pieces, and Dragana wished she hated him more than she loved him or needed him.

In the morning, the building was abuzz with Mrs. Beatty’s finding a door ajar, and then finding the dead Doris. Andres was put off balance, and he glanced at his wife out of the corner of his eye throughout the day. She ordered him out of her hair, doing more odd jobs for her this day than normal, and he did it with tail between his legs. She batted the cigar out of his mouth, stomped on it, and for once he just turned and walked away.

“Sleep with MY husband? You bitch!” ran through Dragana’s mind, taking away the small satisfied smile that occasionally crept onto her face. Patty came out of the elevator at one point and saw the change in Dragana’s face. Their eyes locked, and Patty was the one to break contact this time. She also stayed out of Andre’s way after this, not really knowing why but knowing it was the smart thing to do.

Dragana sat in her overstuffed chair, watching the shopping network, ordering a few things she did not need. She waited the day to see if she had made any mistakes, but the detectives only questioned her about seeing anyone hanging around the building who should not be there and if she knew anyone who had a grudge against “the victim.” Dragana brought up the prostitute that had been seen in the lot that the police did nothing about, and that Patty hated her and Mrs. Beatty was her stooge in all things.

She had planned this for awhile, finding out about her bastard husband and “that bitch” by overhearing some of the gossip from the Laundry Room Mafia. They “shushed” when they did find her listening, but it had been too late.

She had gone on an out of state shopping trip, buying a skin tight full body cat suit (cash). On the same trip, she stopped at a surgical supply store and purchased a number of items that she did not need and three that she did: sterile gloves and covering for her head/hair and shoes.  Later that night she saw Mrs. Beatty and Patty leave; she “borrowed” the building keys, went into Mrs. Beatty’s apartment, and since they were just about the same size, took shoes, a pair of pants, a blouse, and at the last minute, the embroidered handkerchief. Patty was larger than Dragana, and as much as she hoped to pin this on her, it would not have been smart.

Andres had come in, smelling of sex, but went and took a shower before she had a chance to accuse him. He drank three beers and went to sleep, dead to the world. Dragana put on the cat suit and then put Mrs. Beatty’s clothes on over that. Going up the stairway, she waited at the top landing until all the dog walkers were in for the night. She put the surgical items on, took out the master set of keys, and opened Doris’s door…for the second time that day.

Earlier in the day she had been inside,  when Doris was “entertaining” her husband in his workshop. She had put some rat poison in some of the open beverage containers in the fridge. Enough to get her sick and woozy; not enough, she hoped, to kill her, yet.

Doris was staggering, hand on her stomach, and fell to her knees. She clutched herself, thinking she had food poisoning, and groaning so much she did not hear Dragana unlock the door, enter and close it behind her. She opened her eyes in time to see the Buddha being lifted, then swung towards her head.

Dragana had blood on her, but the energy she used to lift the heavy statue, and the jitters she felt, drained her from using it a second time. A second time she needed, obviously to her, as Doris was still alive. Dragana went into the kitchen and took a knife out of the teak block on the counter. Straddling over her, Dragana plunged the knife into her stomach twice. The blood spray sickened her, but still Doris would not die.

Reaching over to the couch, Dragana took one of the chintz pillows and put it over the pleading lips she hated so much. It didn’t take much pressure (Dragana was not doing well herself) to push the pillow down. Finally…finally, Doris was gone.

Dragana stood up, stepped in the blood, and walked over to the window in the living room that had the fire escape. She opened the window and the grate that Doris never locked, and climbed out. She almost cried out when she saw a figure below her: “that idiot Weather Man!” but she stood stock still. It was then she also noticed the bloody footprints. She took off the shoe covering and carefully reentered the apartment, leaving the window and gate wide open.

Making her way far around the body, Dragana opened the front door and crept out, leaving it ajar so as not to make any more noise then was needed. She went down the stairs to the basement and took off all of Mrs. Beatty’s clothes. Using her husband’s keys, she opened the elevator door (the elevator was on the 4th floor and had been for awhile) and went down the rungs to the shaft’s floor.

There was the black plastic bag she had left earlier. Using Mrs. Beatty’s handkerchief, she wiped off as much blood as she could, trying to make sure nothing would leak onto her when she undressed. All of the purloined materials went into the bag; the bag went underneath the oily trash her husband was supposed to clean up, but never did (and never would).  She set fire to the surgical items, a rotten burning smell that just intermingled with the garbage, and scattered the melted pieces around the base.

Cat suited, she made her way quickly to her apartment, removed it and wadded it into a ball, tossing it to the back of her walk-in closet that was already brimming with clothing.

Naked, she sat on the edge of her bed and shook.

Weather Man, Oh (AtoZ Challenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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The Weather Man rode the elevator with a daily proclamation, the steel enforced walls girding him the fortitude to meet the day. When he first moved into the building with his wife and dog, it was always a “Fine day to you!”, a tip of his hat, and a gaze that never faltered. He and his moved about, coming and going at all times of the day, seemingly living to just enter or disembark and greet all encountered.

“Oh, it’s cold outside.”

“Oh, the rain is coming.”

“Oh, it’s Summer now.”

His walking shoes were seldom replaced for boots; only on the muckiest of days. Dark pants, plaid or plain shirt, and padded elbow jackets were his uniform, and only a parka covered that during the height of the winter months. Never a cross mien, never an unkind word, but you’d know about the weather of the day, wanting it or not, as he passed you by.

When his dog was alive, they were as one. Quiet, looking forward, a quick comment, and then out with a nod. The two would wander the streets, up and down the road, crossing the avenues, into the grassy plains. And walk…the two would walk. Returning only delayed the inevitable: they’d be out again, sooner than later, with the same report of mother nature being extolled if you ran across them in their outings.

Then the dog passed onto the hereafter, and The Weather Man seemed lost. Rarely venturing out with his wife to begin with, he now was a solitary figure following the same pathways he and his friend always took. At first there was a jingling upon his arrival or departure from the Otis contrivance; a slight tinkle as his hand reached into his jacket pocket. Soon that mystery was solved, as The Weather Man wound his dog’s leash and tags around his right hand and wrist, openly, and made no mention of it.

If an accident occurred on the parkway, The Weather Man would wander over and stare. Up and down the road he’d go, looking at the destruction from as many angles as he could, as if studying it for later use. Hands in his pockets, he’d then meander away from the building for hours on end.

He was seen, often, at The Frolicking Lamb, keeping his head down as he nursed his dark lager. The Weather Man always sat with his back against the wall, at the rear of the pub, and most said they always felt one eye on them when he was around, but they could never be certain. It was said that Frank, Ted and Ardel, who had newly came over from the emerald isles, were seen walking into the Lamb but went running out after noticing him there. They wouldn’t talk about it, and that was all there was to that.

It was also said that, on clear nights,  The Weather Man would climb out onto the fire escape of Swan Rise and climb to the top. There he would sit, with a scrap of paper, short nub of a pencil, and the leash bound to him like skin. Notes would be made, a code he had known before but now was finding it slip away. A flash of light would startle him, but it was only a high beam reflected off low lying fog, and he’d return to trying to recall what he was good at, once.

The Weather Man forgot, and in his forgetting he let go of the past: all his crimes (as said by some; heroic duty, as said by others), all his loves, all his cares, but the weather.

“Oh, it is still cold out.”

Vertically Challenged (AtoZ Challenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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Amy slipped the lock then snuck out onto the roof. One A.M., and she was still flying. Three acceptance letters in one day, with her prime choice school the last one she opened but the one she wanted most. She wedged a book she hated (“War and Peace”) between the door and jamb so she wouldn’t get locked on the roof. Then she wrestled the door stop cinder block onto the mostly closed door to prevent anyone opening it easily. She wanted some alone time, just her and the night sky, with whatever stars and moonlight that would shine through on this cloudy but warm evening.

Amy unfurled the quilt she brought with her, took off her sandals and knapsack, and stood in the middle of the blanket her grandmother made for her, a long time ago.

“Boston..Here I Come!” she shouted, in a very thrilled hushed voice. It was 1:00 a.m., after all, and she wanted no intrusions as she celebrated. Getting into the school she dreamed about was a chance for freedom, both musically and personally. While things had definitely gotten better with her mother, Amy still wanted to just be away. Needed to just be away.

Laying down on the comforter, she folded her hands behind her head and stared at the night sky. She quieted herself down, listening to the thumps of her excited heartbeat, and tried to match the rhythms with her breaths. Clouds passed her by, and the Earth turned, shifting the placements of the stars above. Sighing, Amy lifted herself up on her elbows, pulled over her knapsack, and took out the bottle of wine she “liberated” from her mom’s stash.

Uncorking was a struggle that caused her to giggle, and grunt a bit in the effort as well. The cork popped out and Amy told it to “shhhhhhh,” giggling as she took a swig from the opened red. It felt good going down, and while this was only the third wine she’d ever had, she deemed it “The Best Ever!”

It was half empty when she decided to take off her clothes and Moon Bathe. She’d never done anything like this before, and…well, “Why not?” she thought.  She was laughing, shushing herself as she removed her shorts and tee shirt, and then  got really quiet when, resolve at hand (well, the bottle had been in hand up to this point; she gently put it down), she undid her bra and then took off her panties. She covered her breasts with her right arm and covered “down there” with her left hand and then looked around to see if anyone could see her. This caused her to get a fit of the giggles that she had a hard time stopping.

Plopping down on the quilt, hurting her tush in the process, Amy buried her head in her raised knees until she both stopped the giggling and calmed down from the slight anxiety she felt. Resting her turned head in such a way, she got a glimpse of night, and it relaxed her, and her breathing returned to normal, and the beating of her heart was an accompaniment she was used to.

Amy stretched out, wading the knapsack up and using it as a pillow, and felt at peace…and a little bit naughty. She finished the wine in spurts, and as the hour drifted along, and then passed on towards three, Amy redressed slowly, her striptease now in reverse. Clothed, Amy again laid down, fluffed out the makeshift pillow, and closed her eyes.

Sleep came to her as her eyelashes met,  a kiss good night, pleasant dreams, pleasant future to come.

Unbeknownst to Amy, at 1:00 A.M. at Swan Rise Apartments…

Lev was on his terrace, eye glued to this telescope, searching the heavens, but not remembering who he was searching for…

Frank was looking out his window, apartment lights off, watching Meredith being kissed and held tightly by a man…

Doris, woozy, was trying to ward off her attacker, and fell when she was struck in the head by her own Buddha…

Marc was in bed, staring out the bedroom windows at the moon, a hand on Sean’s stomach as he snored….

Mrs. Beatty was dreaming of David, her beloved, and called out his name three times…

…and, if she had really looked, Amy would have seen The Weather Man sitting on the roof by the fire escape, his back to the wall, facing away from her, with his head tilted up to the same night views. If he had turned around, he would have seen Amy, but he did not when she arrived; he did not when she undressed, nor when she dressed, nor while she slept. The Weather Man just sat, head raised to the skies…

He was looking for a sign.