Category Archives: Elderly

His Time Capsulated: #FridayFictioneers

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russell-working

PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer

His Time Capsulated

Everyone thought Russ was a gardening savant. Thought that of himself at times, but he knew the real reason why he took up this “hobby.” It wasn’t to please Connie. An excuse, embarrassed to admit he had buried a Time Capsule in his backyard when he was a teen.

Embarrassed he forgot where it was and what he buried. Forgotten all about it.

Damn getting old.

Finally finding it, he knelt, creaking. Waited a moment, hoping he’d left words of wisdom that would spread; maybe some treasured thing from the past.

Inside, just a note:

Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30!”

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The above is a photo prompt challenge from Addicted to Purple by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields that she calls Friday Fictioneers . The rules for this prompt are simple:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt.
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with a beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.

A lot of people join in; the variety of the personal takes on the prompt is what makes this fun. Take a look at what the others wrote, and maybe join in on the creative fun.

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Reflections of the 2018 #AtoZ Blog Challenge: The Abysmal Dollhouse

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A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

For all the information you could ever want about the AtoZ Blog Challenge, Click:  Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

This was my fifth AtoZ Blog Challenge:

The rules are simple: During the month of April, you commit to writing 26 blogs, each day based off the run ot the alphabet. Up to you how you do that. Blog hop around, read and comment on other blogs, build a community. Don’t sleep. You had to sign up through the AtoZ main page. From that, most people chose and announced their Theme (more below): I signed on late, missed that, and, well…I had no idea what I was going to do up to two days before it started.

Yes, I am that unorganized.

I actually had another idea that I thought would be funny, but when I realized the main character I wanted to use was verbotten, the idea lost all its allure. Quelle dommage. That had me in a bit of a spin; I asked on Tale Spinning if anyone wanted to see me continue some previous storylines that I liked, or should I try something new. I got two: TWO, and only two, requests. Hence, The Abysmal Dollhouse.

I have written TAD stories since 2012. Almost always positive comments. A few followers suggested I should add more to the oeuvre and publish it. Hemming and hawing, procrastinating, all my usual excuses for not committing fully added up to one fact: I didn’t.

Scared? Insecure? A rough number of years on so many levels? No motivation? Creativity and passion just drained away?  Lump them all together and I just never carried it through, letting the ideas pretty much just lay there, occasionally bursting forth. Definitely not often enough. Tale Spinning was pretty much an empty space for the last couple of years.

In actuality, boredom with my life, and myself, kicked me in the arse.

I’m what is known as a Pantser: I don’t prewrite, rarely have an outline, especially for continuing series that I like, and only have a basic idea that I use as a jumping off point. When I started off this round of TAD, I just thought I’d continue on my “Monster of the Week” stories, letting the letter of the day create my title, which then started my writing for the day.

One thing I do do (hee hee. Oh, sue me) is take a little bit of time for research. In this case, I just went online and found a whole bunch of Weird, Murder, or Haunted Houses around the world. I chose a number of places that I thought would be great prompts for every day of the challenge. Didn’t use even half of what I found, this go around.

Something happened that changed in me really early on in the process: I started creating a backstory/mythology for the series and began to drop hints and clues about the backgrounds of The Unfolding Doll and the Shopkeeper. Yes: I started to shed my pantsing and began-gasp!-planning. Not 100%, still no outline, but things were starting to gel and I got much more invested in what I was writing.

I look at it this way: X-Files had many episodes of Monster of the Week, with episodes of their mythology scattered here and there. A MOTW episode could still give us more background info on Scully & Mulder while kinda sorta avoiding the BIG story. Character development and whatnot. That’s how I was viewing all this.

Then the next change happened: I got some new readers, who commented, questioned, told me what they liked, and I felt they were really invested in what was going to happen next. I had that in 2016 with that year’s storyline (link at top of the page), but not to this extent. It kind of added to the challenge for me; it definitely altered my thinking on the storyline.

The ending may seem rushed (it was) but I had dropped hints and clues in many of the stories. It’s hard to fill in all the details when I was trying to limit the daily posts to around 1,000 words. Many people will skip a long posting, and I know I lost potential readers for that reason. Nothing I can do about that. I’m sure many will pass up this reflection for the very same reason. Quelle dommage, part two.

For those who might have missed the main posting where I dropped a lot of clues, go to the “I” posting: In The Absence Of…

A couple of more things: please bear with me.

One thing I’m “frustrated” with are the posts that I thought I was being witty with. Alas, alas, alas.  Too gimmicky? Too obtuse? Spot on? No idea: no feedback. Jabber Wonky was my attempt to play on the Jabberwocky poem in Alice in Wonderland (which gave me the reason to rhyme what goes on in The Child’s mind). I used some of the verbal tomfooleries in the piece, more as an homage; In Quoth the Riven, I think it was pretty obvious. I actually wrote following the path Poe’s poem took. One of my favorite pieces by him.; Orchestra! Curtain! Lights! was my wink to one of my favorite things-animation. It’s the opening lyrics from “The Bugs Bunny Show” theme song. My story has nothing to do with Bugs & Daffy, but Orchestra! was my jumping off point for the tale.

I did not blog hop as much as I was hopping to. I always say I’ll do more, and I did, this year, but I fall far short of others. My apologies. I did happen to come across some wonderfully written blogs along the way and picked up some new blogging friends. I’d like to thank (in no particular order): David, Debs, Sharri, Ms. Wolf, Iain, Jo, Jacqui, Varard, and Melanie. If I’ve forgotten anyone, please forgive me. As to previous readers/bloggers: thanks for sticking with me. Roy: didn’t make that many mistakes this time around, eh?

Special thanks go to Arlee Bird for starting this whole thing, and to the hosts who share the duties. It’s been a blast of a month. Next year? When the time comes, we’ll find out.

Thank you, everyone.

Yowling, It Came: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Yowling, It Came

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Separating itself from its shadowed corner faster than it ever had, the Unfolding Doll felt its prey before it saw him. He had drawn his blade from the figure on the ground. The doll noticed the Shopkeeper, having grabbed her broom, begin her finger placements. But the prey was turning towards her, too fast. Too fast. As it took it all in, the Unfolding Doll grabbed The Serpent House and flung it at the back of his head. Connecting, it slithered down in pieces.

Off balance for only a moment, the attacker, the murderer, the child turned to see who was behind him. He noticed only the Unfolding Doll’s knife, long and sharp, and bringing up his Vorpal blade, he snarled. “WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE!!”

Smashing into the display in front of him, dollhouses were jettisoned off their perches. The Unfolding Doll leaped on top of the showcase in front of it and bounded towards its quarry.  Its blade came sweeping down, going for the throat, but the Vorpal blade came up quickly, deflecting the attack.

The doll threw itself at the murderer, wrapping its linen body around him, tightening and squeezing, folding in. He struggled, trying to pry the thing off of him. Down they both went, bones cracking in him, rents being made in the doll from his blows. They tumbled over the floor, under the tables, into the displays, onto and around the soldier lying there, a growing pool of blood leaking out.

He wrestled his blade free and with a slice cut through the Unfolding Doll’s restraining left arm. He leveraged himself up by grabbing one of the display cabinets, toppling more houses to the floor.

All through this, the Shopkeeper held her broom and chanted subvocally. The air in the shoppe grew dense as she worked on eliminating this threat. Eliminating this…thing, that killed an innocent, killed what was hers, killed what she had loved. Malcanisen was suddenly at her side, guarding her. His growl was terrifying, but he gave her a needed boost. She focussed her emotional energy into her focal point, sparks flying off around her. As the killer took a step towards the Unfolding Doll, the Shopkeeper let loose a blast that took him in the side and sent him flying over the soldier’s still form and partially into the front display section.

The Unfolding Doll bent to pick up its knife with its right hand, the left arm hanging by threads. The Shopkeeper noticed that it was already beginning to mend itself; she had some power left and gave it to the doll. The arm was reforming quicker, and the various rents around its body were stitching themselves, sealed and whole once again.

Regaining his wind, the killer groaned, pain lancing through his middle where he hit the frame. He picked up his head and saw his Vorpal knife just past his hand. He raised himself enough to grab hold of it. In doing so, he noticed what else occupied the display area.

Muirhouse was there. Hated, hated house. Besides it…’NO!” he bellowed. From the dollhouse came the voice of the woman he despised more than anything. “Mine, mine, mine,” it beckoned. Standing on shaky legs, he grabbed his Vorpal knife in both hands and then crawled onto the shelf. On his knees, blade held high above Muirhouse, he yowelled out his pain, his fear, his anger, his deep, deep hatred.

The Shopkeeper yelled “NO!” as the Unfolding Doll vaulted onto the display, shoving her blade into his back as he drove his Vorpal blade into the house. The cut was deep but not fatal, and they thrashed and went after each other, trying to end the other’s existence.

The injured monster kicked the Unfolding Doll. It rolled along the parlor floor, coming too close to the flames in the fireplace. Standing just in front of the window was the hated Mrs. Harris. She had been looking out and up, but now was witness to the invaders of her home, her prison.

“Child,” she grimaced, “It is almost 4:00 pm.”

For a moment, he froze. Only a moment, where every despicable thing ever was done to him played an encore in what was left of his mind. He howled, ran over, and skewered Mrs. Harris. One jab, then a second. He pulled his Vorpal blade out, raising it out and back, and brought it through an unbroken arc. Mrs. Harris’s head slid off her neck, rolling onto the throw rug.

He had forgotten the Unfolding Doll. It had not forgotten him, watching the scene play out. Its knife, lost somewhere in the window display, reformed in its hand. It took its knife and slowly made its way along the fireplace mantel, tap, tap, tapping the blade.  He turned just as the doll plunged the blade, driving it into his shoulder.

Tripping over an ottoman, he tumbled onto the floor, the Unfolding Doll following. He was by the fireplace, losing blood along the way. Without a thought, as the doll pounced on top of him, he shoved his hand into the fire and, hand blistering, brought out a burning log of wood, knocking the flaming pile out of the fireplace. The logs rolled this way and that, setting first the rug on fire, which caught with speed. The fire spread, fast and deadly, its hissing noise an exclamation of what it was devouring.

The Shopkeeper did her best to contain the fire, Malcanisen at first trying to drag her away from the flames. The power that had waned was full again, and she used it to the shoppe’s advantage. While the window area was apart from the rest of the shoppe, the fire burned bright and hot. Flames leaped out, catching onto some shelving, cremating a few dollhouses in its way, but it did not become the tsunami of destruction it wanted to be.

Broom in hand, the Shopkeeper walked over to display window. Nothing remained of Muirhouse except for ashes and a burnt display flooring. Also gone were the Muirhouse’s woodshed and two other dollhouses she had just placed there: the Movie Palace and the Carousel Pavilion were gone as well.

She checked the soldier; he was still living, but just so. Walking towards the back of the shoppe, the area with the least amount of damage, the Shopkeeper found the Saint Michael’s Hospital dollhouse. She brought it over to the soldier, placed its entrance close to his side, and unlatched the front. The shopkeeper asked Malcanisen to turn his duty over to this man. And he did, staying by his side.

As the Shopkeeper went around the shoppe, righting a cabinet, picking up and replacing the fallen houses, the broken houses slowly faded away. One by one, new dollhouses appeared, taking the waiting spaces, placards in place with the house’s legend.

The front door and the display case, taking the worst of it, mended itself, but it was not a quick fix. The counter with spider web cracks was fusing together, and slowly the shoppe began to feel whole again. Some chirppings of “Mine, mine, mine” were starting to be heard, silent through all the altercations. The Shopkeeper just said “Hush” as she went around, putting in the finishing touches.

She waited a long time near the shadowed corner, searching for any movement, any unfolding of shadow to light. None came. By the time she gave up, the shoppe was whole again, new houses in place, debris cleaned up and gone, the door and window area immaculate, and a new door chime was in place, waiting to tinkle upon someone’s arrival.

The Shopkeeper went to her back room, turning on the light. A fresh, warm orange glazed scone was waiting for her, alongside a cup of the finest Earl Grey’s. She moved her padded chair so that she had a better view across the shoppe. She sat, nibbled her scone, sipped her tea, stared out at the shadowed corner, and cried.

“Sarah,” she grieved.

Monday April 30th: Epilogue

 

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Candy Striper: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

The Candy Striper

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The old man took his time entering the store. Stooped over his cane, his face drawn and blotchy. His cap was low on his head; it was easy to tell that the only hair on his head came from his ears.  His glasses were thick, even with the progress in the eyeglass industry. The Shopkeeper took this all in, waiting for him to cross over into the shoppe. The door chime tinkled a little longer than usual.

She smiled at him. “May I offer you any assistance?”

“If it’s OK with you, I’ll just look around. Yes?” he asked. She nodded. “Good. Thank you. This is a very…interesting shop you have.”

“Thank you. Please let me know if you need any information…or help,” she offered one more time, and one more time he refused.

The Shopkeeper went to stand behind the main glass-encased counter. She had to shush a few of the Dollhouse’s pleas of “Mine, mine, mine,” excusing their desperate cries as just noise from outside when she noticed the man’s raised eyebrows.  He turned to look out the window; what he could see was the same empty street he had been ambling along. He smiled, shrugged, and began to look around.

The Shopkeeper studied him. He was gaunt, with sunken eyes, hollow cheeks. She noticed that every few steps a grimace would mar his face. He was short of breath, and occasionally he wheezed.

He examined many of the Dollhouses, reading the legends neatly handwritten on their display placards. He made a few small grunts if he bent over too far on some, a harsh rasp escaping his lips.  The Shopkeeper noticed a sharp, horrid look on his face as he stood in front of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée. She hurried over to his side, grabbing her broom along the way.

The Unfolding Doll was approaching him from behind, out of the corner shadow, knife in hand. The Shopkeeper spoke a few warding words under her breath, placed her hands in a pattern on the broom handle, and brought the broom down, separating the space between the doll and the old man.  The Unfolding Doll stopped in its tracks. It canted its head to the right, button eyes focused on the Shopkeeper.  It brought the knife up to waist level, but let it drop. Gliding backward, The Unfolding Doll oragamied itself into the shadow in the corner. All this happened in the few seconds it took for the man to get his composure back.

“I would like to show you a special Dollhouse. I think this is one that would be of interest to you,” she offered to the man. This time, he allowed her help.  He followed her to the opposite wall, nearer to the front windows. She stopped him in front of a double-floored straight line designed dollhouse.  The man stared, took a step back like he wanted to retreat out the door, but The Shopkeeper went over and opened the front of the Orange County Hospice.

He stared; just…stood there and stared. The beds lined the long ward, separated with colored drapery.  Some of the beds were occupied, chairs as well. At the end was a large picture window, sectioned off by a frosted glass wall. It was exactly like the one he had just left, unsettling him so that escaping from there seemed preferable.  His aimless walking led him here.  It was sterile clean, bright and open. He hadn’t been ready-not yet-to surrender when he had left the hospice with such heaviness. This…this was different.

He noticed a young girl walking towards him, a closed book in her hands.

“May I sit with you, Charles?” she asked. “I looked for you at your bed, but John in the next bed told me you were out here in the sunroom.” She looked out the window as she sat. “Such a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Charles nodded at the Candy Striper. She was wearing her candy cane red and white striped pinafore, a natural smile on her face that continued into her eyes. He looked at the book she was holding.

Her smile broadened. “Yes, I have your favorite. I borrowed it from my brother. “She began to read; Charles found himself relaxing and settled back into the chair.

They traveled together over the clouds, hand in hand, flying with Michael, John, Peter, and Wendy…Wendy Lady. The adventure took him to Never Never Land, fighting pirates, living in a hollow tree, saving Tinkerbell’s life. He relished the reading, the escape into a world he loved, and in this… he forgot how much pain he had been in before.

Charles had nodded off at some point. A deep snore woke him up. The candy striper was still there, but the book was closed, bookmarked for a future read. Her smile was addictive, a similar one he felt beginning on his face. On the small glass-topped table in front of him was a tray of delight: baked goods, and all ones that Charles loved.  Chocolate Eclairs, Napoleons,  and a large mound of chocolate covered Rainbow Cookies that he and his father had loved. “Take what you’d like, Charles,” she said. He sampled and ate, and was more than sated. It had been a long time.

When he patted his stomach and sat back in the chair, Anne, the Candy Striper, tilted her head back to the ward. “Mr. Roman says he could beat you in a wheelchair race. Are you up for the challenge?” she asked, the excitement in her voice was evident.

“You bet. I am ready for any challenge!” he exclaimed. Anne helped Charles to his wheelchair, Mr. Roman already waiting.  They nodded at each other, wrapped their hands around the tops of the wheels.

“Ready! Set!…” called Anne.

The Shopkeeper approached the dollhouse and closed the front. She smiled as she heard laughter and friendly shouting noises from within. “Good,” she said out loud, moving back to her counter and picking up her duster. She was speaking to the shadowed far corner. “Good. This one will never be yours.”

The Unfolding Doll was surrounded by shadow. The knife in its hand glinted of its own accord. It could wait, as its wielder could wait as well. Both thirsted for the Shopkeeper but knew this was not the day. The Unfolding Doll crept from the far shadow into The Serpent House, the dollhouse closest to its corner, to play.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

This story is an edited version of one that appeared here on October 22, 2011. If you want to read & compare the two, click on this link: Candy Stripe Ward: A Tale of the Abysmal Dollhouse. 

I rewrote this more to fit my current voice with The Abysmal Dollhouse. Not a major reworking, but one I am happier with. Hope you like it.

Keening At The Bell and Ram: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Keening At The Bell and Ram

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Disappointment did not settle long on the Shopkeeper’s shoulders. The ache inside was a sizeable force that moved her along, binding her to her duties. The sudden unfolding of that horrible memory brought to visual life, did its damage. As it had done before, and she feared it would do so again. She had lit every light, tied back or moved anything that would hinder even the slightest bit of light, all in the effort to dispel as much of shadow as she could in the shoppe. At least, for now.

The far right corner fought her. It wasn’t a lost cause, but it was a strain to contain.

For a short while, things were uneventful. She tidied and dusted, swept and mopped, moved dollhouses around, adjusted displays to her best. There were grumbling sounds coming from all around her; the commotion was a disturbance that put off the houses. They were much settled in their place. Let others come to them. The claiming was the satisfaction.

She placed dollhouse after another in the window, but nothing was feeling right. Ten times she fussed; ten times she returned them to their resting place within the shoppe. The eleventh attempt felt right. Making sure it was just so, the Shopkeeper rummaged in the cabinet underneath the display window, looking for the things that would best showcase its new charge.

Creating this display gave her a focus. A green mat, the color of fresh, healthy grass, was laid down. The piece was next, and she outfitted it with wooden benches that sat along the outside wall. She anchored a tree and some bushes to the mat, creating a path of gravel, from a jar kept for just so,  that led to its door. She fussed a bit more but felt it was right as it was. Brushing her hands together set off a small cloud of earthy dust.

With a “tsk,” she went to retrieve her duster and bin.

An old man had been watching from the street. He had been shuffling along, tan cap pulled down over his forehead, still squinting from the sunlight. The movement in the window caught his eye and slowed him down, and then to a stop when he noticed what was placed in the window. He watched as the details came together, so intent was his attention he barely noticed the Shopkeeper after the first moments.

“Well, I’ll be,” he muttered to hisself, as it all came together. “Well, I’ll be.”

He stood for awhile just staring, losing hisself in what stood before him, and what was dredged up from inside. It was the rolling in of the clouds overhead, cutting some of the sun glare, that caused him to shuffle along again, but this time into the shoppe.

“Howdedo,” he said, noticing the Shopkeeper and doffing his cap. Turning away from her, he looked at the other side of what caught his attention. “Looks like rain. It’s not raining yet. It looks like rain,” more of a mutter than a statement. No answer required.

The Shopkeeper smiled. “May I be of any assistance?” she said to his back.

“Well, I’ll be. It’s the spittin’ image of The Bell and Ram. The Bell and Ram.” He turned his head slightly towards her. “I spent a good part of my youth there.” Turning back, his entrancement caused him to forget her, the shoppe, the weather. Behind the pub is where he and his mates would sneak smokes, drain glasses of beer that were snuck out to them by Tom’s older brother. That bench is where he first kissed Jenny, she kissing him back so hard they fell off of it and laughed on the ground.

Sitting under the tree, telling all the ghost stories that slithered about the B&R: devil worship and child sacrifices. The Lady in Gray who would sip from your mug and whisk you away, keening and wailing loud enough to wake the dead, from the basement and through the walls. The stories only became chilling when they were finally old enough to be inside on storm laden nights, with the wind tearing around and down the chimney, sounding like the Lady was just waiting to sip and take.

The first peal of thunder sent him shuffling inside, more scurry than a shuffle. He had been cold and moved himself to sit near the fireplace. The old man noticed, rounded the bar, and brought him a pint.

“Looks like rain,” he said, receiving the drink with both hands. “Looks like rain, and a lot more.” He took a swallow as the keep went back to tend his station.

Staring into the roaring fire, listening to the wind’s keening,  he repeated: “Looks like rain, and a lot more.”

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Ancient Ram’s Inn can be found in Gloucestershire, England. Built in 1145, it has many stories of devil worship, murders, child sacrifices, and the good old Lady in Gray.  Like anything with that age, it has a very colorful history.

A follower of this blog might recognize the old man, The Weatherman, from another AtoZ series I wrote. He just felt right for this.

What We Hold Onto: The Abysmal Dollhouse (reblog Jan 2, 2012)

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What We Hold Onto

The Abysmal Dollhouse

January 2, 2012

The late December air outside The Abysmal Dollhouse smelled like snow; it was either a pleasant promise or a horrible threat, depending on how you felt about this turn of the weather. The Shopkeeper had been busy decorating, dusting, and defending herself inside the shop. Most of the time was spent puttering around, but there was just as many times when she had to… sidestep mishaps.

She had already frosted the windows, hung garlands of greens, reds, and silver. The blue and white lights twinkled on and off, in various patterns and in complicated loops throughout the store. Many of the dollhouses were opened wide, reveling in the joyous patterns that were presented for all of them. Many, but not all. Those… Those are not ones that even the season allowed them to join in.

The front door opened with a tinkling of bells, and a heavily bundled older woman entered, closing the door behind her, checking to make sure it was firmly closed. The shop was warm and cozy, allowing her to undo her knit scarf, unzip her parka, and take off her gloves. She left her hat on, just in case.

Looking around the store, she smiled broadly. It was transformative, that smile, and The Shopkeeper could not help but smile broadly too. It was infectious.

“Can I help you, Mrs…”

“Miss. Miss Singleton.”

“Oh, but you…”

“Miss…Singleton,” she said, losing part of her smile, as she glared at The Shopkeeper.

“Of course,” acquiesced The Shopkeeper. “Welcome to my shop. How may I help you?”

“I’m not sure. I was just on my way home, and I noticed the dollhouse in the window, and the lights, and…oh, you did a marvelous job decorating. I assume it was you. Was it?”

The Shopkeeper nodded. Her smile returned, enjoying the compliment.

“Wonderful. All these dollhouses…so many different styles. I was never interested in such things when I was a child, or even as I grew older. Do you mind if…”

The Shopkeeper lifted her hand, palm up, an invitation. “Of course not. Stroll around, and if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them for you.”

Miss Singleton put her gloves in the pockets of her parka, and in an unconscious way tugged her sweater down. She ran her fingers through her fine white hair as she took her time studying the miniature displays. She said “Thank you” as an afterthought, transfixed as she was by not only the delicate craftsmanship but the stories the placards told.

The variety of the houses captivated her. Some, Ms. Singleton sensed, were not “right”, so those she avoided in as wide an arc as she could in the cramped store. She noticed some houses behind glass, against the back wall, and these radiated more ill ease. She shook her head, laughing a bit at herself. “They’re just dollhouses, silly old woman,” Ms. Singleton said to herself in a whisper.

The Shopkeeper walked around and shut a few of the dollhouse exteriors. Ms. Singleton thought she heard voices from those being closed…all sounding like “No!” or “Mine!

“I’m sorry to distract you,” said The Shopkeeper. “I should oil the hinges of these. They make such awful little noises.” Walking over to the back wall, she drew a heavy looking black curtain across the displays.

Miss Singleton’s attention wandered back to the open dollhouse in front of her, offhandedly remarking that it was all right, she understood. She was bending over an antebellum-style Southern mansion: the Nottoway Plantation, the placard mentioned. “At any given time, 200-300 slaves worked the fields. Many died and were buried outside the plantation grounds. During the Civil War, Mr. Nottoway took 200 slaves to Texas. None made it back.”

With each dollhouse, Miss Singleton noticed all the details, the furnishings that looked just right. The craftsmanship was uncanny, and she deeply appreciated the work that went into what she saw.

She was most enamored of le Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée, with its Wall of Death. Miniature skulls of differing shapes and sizes, and a magnifying screen so she could read the mini signs, each describing how the death occurred. She covered her mouth when she began to laugh out loud at “Death by Stupidity,” and ended up chuckling to herself, wondering about all the stupid things she saw in her long life that could have caused someone to die from it.

The Death by Stupidity skull’s jaw began to move…

“Shhh!” The Shopkeeper tapped the dollhouse, surprising Miss Singleton. “I’m sorry to intrude, and I did not mean to startle you. I think there is a dollhouse you should see. Follow me, please?”

Miss Singleton let herself be led away. She looked back, once, and thought she saw tiny movements from the Wall of Death and thought she heard tiny sing-song voices coming from the dollhouse. She shook her head and looked away, back to where The Shopkeeper was taking her.

“Here, Miss Singleton. I think you might appreciate this dollhouse.”

The Shopkeeper gestured, and Miss Singleton stood stock still.

“That looks like the house I grew up in,” she said. “How…oh, look.” Examining the exterior, she was filled with memories of climbing out of windows, running in and out of the doors, anything to play wild outside. She turned the dollhouse around, inspecting all the sides.

She stood up and made eye contact with The Shopkeeper.

In a whisper: “This IS my house!”

The Shopkeeper bent over the house, touched a part of the roof, and the house opened up.

Every room was identical to what Miss Singleton remembered. Details in miniature were exact, from wall coverings and paint colors to the furnishings. She explored every room, one at a time, picking up items from each location, and then carefully putting them back.

“My room…” and it felt, to Miss Singleton, like it had been forever since she had been so happy, so free, as her eyes wandered around “her room.” Bed, books, desk…all there; and, lying next to the bed…

He rose up on his hind legs and barked at her, waiting for her to get off the bed. She dove off the mattress, giving the large German Shepherd a huge hug, driving her hands into his fur. He huffed and tried to wiggle out of her embrace, but the dog was no match-this time-for the strength of a girl who loved her dog.

Wiping away tears, she got up, looked out the window, and noticed what a beautiful day it was outside. Dressed all ready for it in tee-shirt, shorts, and sneakers, she opened the door.

“Come on…let’s get out of here!”

The dog bounded after her, as she ran past her sister’s room (knocking on it really hard), flew down the stairs and bolted out of the front door. Her laughter was mixed with her companion’s barking the whole way.

Catching up with her, he ran circles then between her running legs. Down she tumbled, her smile broader and her laughter deeper, and they wrestled together on the lawn, and she didn’t care if she got grass stains on anything. She was happy, and she was with her dog. The dog.

The thing she loved most of all.

The Shopkeeper had been watching all of the joy and merriment happen to her. She heard the squeals of giggles and barks…straitening up, she knew she was not alone.

Turning to her right, The Unfolding Doll was motionless, fixated on Miss Singleton’s escapades. The Shopkeeper noticed there was no knife present, and she relaxed a bit. She had never seen this behavior before from the doll, and never had felt this sense of…calm, either.

They stayed like that for a short while. The Shopkeeper’s attention was brought back to the dollhouse with a slamming of the front door, and she noticed the young Miss Singleton now seated in the dining room, her companion lying at her feet, and she doing her best to put her feet on him. He grumbled and moved; she did as well.

More than satisfied, she closed the dollhouse, snapping it shut. The Shopkeeper had kept The Unfolding Doll in her line of sight. The doll’s head turned slightly, its glass eyes locked onto The Shopkeeper’s, who was expecting the worst. They stood that way for close to a minute, neither moving.

“I…,” began The Shopkeeper, but the moment she spoke The Unfolding Doll faded back into the dark parts of the store. The Shopkeeper was alone. She patted Miss Singleton’s house, and before she walked away, she heard the sound of feet running up stairs-both human and canine-doors being knocked on and then slammed…and always laughter mixed with barks.

Going to the front of the store, The Shopkeeper looked out the front window. It was snowing; that deep heavy looking all white snow that covered all outside. She smiled, enjoying the silent pleasure before her, and the pleasure that she had experienced, and shared. It brought back her own memories before she took over the duties of overseeing the shop. Good memories, mainly, and know that she found comfort in her life, then and now.

“Well, that was a start,” she said, turning away from the window, speaking to the back shadows of The Abysmal Dollhouse. “If you can hear me, you can have pleasure too. It does not always have to end in violence. You can have what she has.”

No answer. She had not expected one.

But, as she said, it was a start.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

Author’s Note: Wow. Six years ago. My life, and head & heart were in a very different space then it is now. I have not edited this piece, even though I see, now, that it def does need it, especially if I want it to fit into what I am currently putting out. I just hope you enjoy it. Still means a lot to me.

Gluten for Punishment: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

(CR) Barbara Heimoff Lardizabal

Gluten for Punishment

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Nothing looked familiar, but that seemed to be the way things went nowadays. Arthur felt he was in the right place, was sure of it, but then, again, in the next moment, he was just confused. Arthur paused before the facade of a place with no sign, old but not decrepit, a large window display whose interior was obscured by the glare of the sunlit reflecting off of it. He wasn’t sure anymore of what he was hoping to find. “No way to know if I just stand here,” he thought.

The doorbell tinkled as he entered, and again when he closed the door. Looking around, his shoulders slumped and he let out a soft sigh. Arthur took in his surroundings, finally turning to the woman who was watching him, waiting. No one else was in view, even though he thought he heard some muffled words in the distance. She looked the part of a store employee: fastidious white shirt, black skirt, and a gray apron. Prim, came to his mind.

“Do you work here?”

The Shopkeeper smiled and nodded. “Can I be of any assistance?”

Arthur, eyes wandering, let his feet follow. Dollhouses. Row upon row of dollhouses, all different styles, all, he noticed immediately, with such details.

“Um, yes. Yes. I was looking for a place that I could have sworn was in this location. Could have sworn. But,” his eyes raised to meet hers, “nothing seems to be where it should be, anymore.” He paused, looking at the walls and displays around the shoppe. “No, nothing is the same.”

The Shopkeeper joined him by his side. “Tell me about what you are searching for. Maybe I can be of help.”

“Um, well, yes, maybe.” They continued walking, stopping, he contemplating the dollhouse in front of him, she contemplating him. “Maybe.”

Replicas of houses began to have mixed in other structures: theaters and museums; hospitals and castles; motels and stores; places of pleasure, of memories, and some…some that just did not feel right to Arthur. Those, he passed by quickly.

He thought he heard brushes of conversation, laughter, animal barks, crying, screams, but looking around, no one else was there with them. “It is all right, Arthur. Everything is all right.”

Standing up straight, Arthur faced the woman. He did not remember telling her his name and was about to say so. But, something startled him, to her right and just over in the next aisle. He left her side, walking to what caught his eye. Joints cracking as he bent to look, Arther’s face became radiant. The Shopkeeper smiled and returned to her counter.

The bakery. His memories swirled of all the tastes of the freshly baked goodness. The smell gladly assaulting his nostrils, breathing in the aroma, closing his eyes to add to his sense of smell, taste.

The service counter was just as he remembered it. Cookies of all types, pastries, cakes, pies. Special delights, like his favorite, a Charlotte Russe, paper sleeved cake filled to the brim with fresh made whipped cream and topped with a Maraschino cherry, with the stem.His dad’s favorite Rum Balls. His mom’s favorite anything sweet. Danish and crumb cakes, strudels, Strawberry Short Cake, and Black & White Cookies.

Arthur was drooling.

“Hello, Arthur,” Mrs. Glibert called to him, behind her place at the counter. “Rye bread is fresh, as your mother likes it. Here.” She handed him a slice of the loaf. The texture was perfect, soft and flavorful, with the crust having that golden baked perfected crunch.

“But, but, um, it’s gluten. I break out in a rash. My stomach tumbles. My…”

“Hush, here. Try it,” she insisted gently.

Arther tentatively took a bite. It was heaven in his mouth. Then another-to hell with getting sick from this. He finished the slice, licking his lips, searching for any stray crumbs. He wanted more.

Mrs. Gilbert handed over a large Black & White; the cake-like cookie still warm and soft, the chocolate and vanilla icing gooey. Arther took it over to one of the small tables with their wire-backed chairs and set about to polish off this treat that he hadn’t had in way too long.

The door opened. “Hey Artie,” the guys called to him as they came in. Ricky, Eugene, and Steve ran to the counter, errand running for their moms but also looking for their favorites.

“Boys, boys, one at a time,” Mrs. Gilbert smiled as she fussed over them.

They brought more of the smell of the bakery swirling around them as they joined Arther at the table. He was almost finished with his B&W and thinking about another. Neighborhood kids in a neighborhood place that had the feel of home. Arther was happy to be here.

The Shopkeeper looked around her empty shoppe,  taking in the memory of freshly baked goodies. She walked to the shoppe door, locked it, turned the sign to read “Closed for Lunch,” and went to her back room for a chocolate chip scone and tea.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays, since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The G & R Bakery in the photo above once existed in the Bronx, NY. The photo was taken by Barbara Heimoff Lardizabal; you can find more of her work at Bronx Pictures 92.

Now I want a real Black & White!

Either Or: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

3

Either Or

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The Shopkeeper and the Unfolding Doll neither moved towards or away from the other. Brandishing her broom, the Shopkeeper turned it vertically and lowered the straw bristles, close but barely kiss the floor. She held it at arms length. The Doll, matching her in height and volume, continued to just stand and aim her button eyes at the Shopkeeper.

Her shoulders and the back of her neck were tightly taut. The cathexis on the Unfolding Doll’s confrontational stance, unusual for it to be so blatant, had her mind racing through Protectives that, she hoped, would diffuse what was occurring. The thought of it escalating to the Breakage of so many years…no. She could not let it get to that point.

A slight movement of the Doll’s feet, a fraction of an inch closer. The Shopkeeper poured her concentration onto the broom and shoved down. The hand-bound rugged head bit into the floor between the two of them, vibrating with the Shopkeeper’s force. Placing three fingers of each hand around the handle top and middle, the Shopkeeper envisioned the pattern that would ensorcell the Doll.

Will alone, they fought against the other. Eyes and buttons locked on each other, neither giving an iota. Noises began to seep in from the shoppe around them. The dollhouses, the replicas, the shadow boxes, the cabinets of curiosities…things were moving, rearranging themselves. Plaintive sounds began, first almost a call and response, then merging into an infinite cannon of feelings. There were no words, but the meanings were clear: it was fear, despair, anticipation, hunger, longing, madness. It fed the Doll. It bolstered the totem that was the broom.

The shadowed corner where the Unfolding Doll emerged had been lengthening, tendrils of dark unshapes moving towards the Doll. The Shopkeeper had noticed it when it began to advance, then lost sight of it as she focussed on what was before her. As the cacophony emitting from the houses grew, the Shopkeeper felt a lessening. Stealing a glance, she saw the shadows spool back towards the far corner. Bringing her gaze back, she let a small smile escape.

The knife that the Unfolding Doll had held, had threatened with, was gone. The clenched fisted hands were looser, beginning to lose firmness. Pulling energy from around her and moving it into the broom, the Shopkeeper loosened the broom head from the floor and swept it towards the Doll.

It backed away, slightly at first but with each movement of the broom towards it, the Unfolding Doll. fell back. The Shopkeeper advanced, the Doll retreated. Getting to the middle of the shoppe, the broom and keeper stopped. The Unfolding Doll did not.

Shuffling backward, it reached the far corner, meeting the shadow that was reaching out. The Doll’s button eyes never left the Shopkeeper as it moved further back into shadow, piece by piece folded in until all that was left was the corner and its shadow.

And at the edge of the shadowed corner, two bodies.

The Shopkeeper was by their side in an instant. She placed her broom on the floor, creating a barrier between the three of them…really, the shoppe as well…and the shadows. As she bent down to inspect the two, she became aware that the stringent chorus had died down and the radiating emotional vibes were depleted.

Now, instead, were faint callings of “mine, mine, mine” coming from two different areas of the shoppe. It remained in the background of her awareness as she analyzed what was before her. The woman had been emitting sounds of pain as the keeper had advanced on the pair. The sound intensified when her body jerked and spasmed.

The Shopkeeper turned her eyes to the closest of her dollhouses that were of medical origin: The Waverly Hills. It would have to do if this woman was to survive. She stood, walked over to the replica, and brought it over to the woman. Setting the sanitorium beside the woman,  another spasm increased the sound of her pain. As the Shopkeeper turned her attention to the man, she heard the front wall of the dollhouse creak open.

She stared down at the man. The back of his head was caved in. Knife work decimated his torso, arms, and legs. No medical unit was of any use to him. Some things were beyond her and her miniature dwellings.

Again, she turned to the closest of items displayed. She thought for a few beats, thinking of what lies within, but in the end, she had to do what needed to be done and walked over to the next aisle. Carefully, she lifted the mausoleum setting from the Westminister Presbyterian Churchyard and just as carefully placed it down beside what was once a man.

Picking up the broom, The Shopkeeper returned it to its spot behind the counter. She picked up her apron, tied it firmly around her waist, patted down her skirt, checked to see that the top button of her blouse was secure, and stared across the shoppe at the corner of shadow, waiting for a return to order.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

The two locations mentioned towards the end are real: The Waverly Hills Sanitarium and the Westminister Presbyterian Churchyard. At this present time, I’ll just leave it at that.

Take Care: A Tale of the Abysmal Dollhouse

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Wheelchair

 

The storm clouds had moved along with the wind, leaving behind a still, grey day. The heavy downpour had come down on a slant, washing the dusty windows of shop. The glass glistened as the headlights of passing cars fractured off the puddles, the brief flashing of light creating a strobe effect on the items on display. Dollhouses littered the shelving: Victorian, Tudor, Colonial, Craftsman, and an Abbey. All stood at a slant, showing the open side, the rooms, staircases, floors. The placement also allowed the outside features to shine, the gables, balconies, bay windows, and wrap-around porches, adorned with miniature plants, rocking chairs, and welcome mats.

The bright reflective bursts caught the eye of Mark, who was passing by, but at a slow steady pace. His head had been turned to the ground, hands in his pants pockets, shoulders taught. The light drew his eye to the display, and his feet followed. He studied each house, taking in the details, admiring the color scheme of some, others the aesthetic beauty of the architecture. Mark’s wandering eyes and feet led him to the door to the shop. It was a plain glass door, wooden frame, with nothing to announce the name of the place of business. He found his hand reaching for the door handle, but he really couldn’t figure out why.

Behind the glass, behind the dollhouses, The Shopkeeper had been watching Mark as he viewed her safe houses, appraising him, the way he observed, his slow steady examination of her wares. She checked the dark corners of the shoppe and let out a wistful sigh. Some of the houses hungered, and she wished them appeasement, yet this man was not for them. The Shopkeeper shushed them before Mark had completed turning the door handle and entered, the action causing the hanging doorbell to sound.

The Shopkeeper took in his appearance, which through the window gave him a yellow/sepia hue. Inside, things did not change all that drastically. While he took a few steps in, looking around, she observed his color choices were dull, and his clothing, while well kept, was far from being stylish. He looked lived in and comfortable in what he wore, but his body language suggested more.

“May I help you?”, she asked.

Mark looked up from the Carriage House he was staring at. “No, thank you. I…I’m just looking, I guess.” He paused, his shoulders frowning, turning his head to the left, away from the Shopkeeper. “I’m not even sure why I came in. Dollhouses,” he swept his arms, palms up, around the room, “are not really an interest of mine. My ex was into it, and my daughter. Mom, too.” Mark shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry. Not sure why I’m telling you any of this. Is it OK if I just look around?”

The Shopkeeper nodded, picking up her duster, for there was always dust in the shop. The flakes swirled in the sun beams as they slanted through the windows. Today, they weren’t visible…until it settled down on top of the many surfaces. Mark brought in his own dust trail, and he was leaving it around the shop as he went from dollhouse to dollhouse. She followed him out of the corner of her eyes, marking where she had to concentrate on dusting, later.

She heard him stop walking. His shoes had been making a tap tap tapping as he walked; when he stood still to look, and he bent down, the shoes gave a little squeak, adjusting to the new stance. This time, it was a full stop. No noise from his shoes. No “hmmm” or “huh?” or just regular breathing. Stillness. The Shopkeeper turned and looked at Mark.

He was frozen in front of a traditional style dollhouse. Two floors, an attic with dormer, wide porch, shutters on the windows, wood detailing, the front door with two windows on either side and five windows on top, with the middle window directly above the door. The house in pristine white paint. Mark was staring hard. He gasped for air, realizing he had been holding his breath.

Turning the house around, he let out another slight gasp. “My house. This…is my house.” He stood up, looked around, found The Shopkeeper. “How? This is my house.”

The Shopkeeper walked over to stand by his side. He followed her as she bent down to look inside the house, adjusting it so they faced it squarely on. Mark began to point out some of the details to her. The layout was the same. The decor, the same:  paneling in the dining room, the soft blue scalloped floral pattern wallpaper that ran from the front door to the kitchen, up the stairway to the halls on the second floor, the wood floors with it’s various rugs and runners. The tables, chairs, sofa: same as it ever was.

Mark forced himself to look at the bedrooms, the ones on the second floor, and the den that had been converted to one on the first floor. He reached into his room, stopping to look at The Shopkeeper, waiting for permission. She stood, did a light dusting sweep of the houses’ roof, and moved back to the front of the shop. Mark bent back down and touched the bed. It felt soft and inviting.

His eyes and hands traversed through each room, taking in the memories each invoked. The kids room, converted from the guest room after his divorce, was as they had left it after they both stopped coming, college then marriages, ending their obligations to be there, to be with him weekly. His parent’s bedroom, full of his mothers’ things, which she valued above anything else most of the time. The walk-in closet crammed with her clothing, shoes, pocketbooks, hats. Her cane leaning against the nightstand.

Mark kept his eye on the cane for a short while. He started to reach in but stopped, closing his eyes, his right hand locked just outside of the room. He breathed in deeply, letting the air escape slowly. Three times. Opening his eyes, he moved his arm.

Piece by piece, Mark removed items from her room, placing them down on the side of the dollhouse shelf. The dressers, the rocking chair, foot stool, pictures hanging on the walls, the bed, night table, the cane. He emptied the closet of all the clothing, making neat piles on the shelf next to the furniture. He was looking at an empty room, save for the wallpaper she loved. Mark stripped that off carefully, leaving the white walls underneath without blemish as best he could.

The kids bedroom was next. It was easier to strip away everything in there, things that would never be used again. Removing everything on the second floor, leaving his room alone. Marks’ excavation, of digging down to the basis of the home, continued downstairs. He methodically removed the items and decor from the living room, foyers, kitchen.

The bedroom nee den stopped Mark dead in his tracks. His eyes got blurry, wet, forcing him to wipe at his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. Leaning against the back wall was another cane, next to a walker, next to a wheelchair, next to an oxygen tank. The hospital bed was in the center of the room, which had been denuded, sterilized down to it’s bare bones.

Mark knelt on the floor, slightly rocking back and forth on his heels.  “Sorry, Dad,” he whispered, as he cleansed the room as he had done with the others. When he finally took the hospital bed out of the room, he held it up, examined it, had trouble putting it down, but he eventually did.

While this last task was going on, he had faintly heard The Shopkeeper moving around him. Looking down once the room was emptied, he noticed that all of the familial life pieces had been removed. In their place was new furniture, the stuff one fills a house and makes it a home. Mark wasn’t too surprised to see that it all was in his tastes, design and color.

He filled up the house quickly. Mark moved his things into his parents’ room, adding a few new things that he found left for him. The kids room was returned to guest room status, and he transformed his own room into a second. He moved to the first floor, laying down wall to wall carpeting, then bringing in the chairs, tables, sofa, big comfy chairs with big comfy pillows, large screen TV and fixings.

Mark took his time when it came to refurbish the bottom bedroom back into a den. Executive office chair, desk, computer, stuffed full bookcases and shelving. It was comfortable, and he finally relaxed.

The doorbell rang. Mark got up from the padded chair, walking towards it in his socks only, not wanting to mar the new carpeting. As he got closer to the door, he noticed a familiar face peering in through the left side window at the door. Mark stopped short. He hadn’t seen her in years, lost touch with her, missed her all this time.

He reached out and opened the door.

“Donna.”

She smiled at him, bottom teeth still slightly crooked, head tilted to her right, eyes shining. She had on the red dress and white stockings with red hearts on them, the same as she wore that one Valentines Day.

“Are you going to invite me in?,” she asked.

Mark did, watched her walk a few steps down the hall and into the living room.

“I really like what you did with the place,” she said, whirling around. “Feels like home.”

Mark smiled deeply and went to join her.

The Shopkeeper turned the dollhouse around, the front facade facing out towards the aisle. She gave them the privacy they both deserved.

*******************************************

Author’s Note:

I haven’t written a “The Abysmal Dollhouse” tale in quite awhile. It has been a favorite of mine of the different story line themes that I’ve come back to explore. If you’re new to these tales, here are two links to check out:

What We Hold Onto

The Abysmal Dollhouse: Collected (sort of)

I hope you enjoy them. When I can force myself to write, I still feel there is more to tell.

Let me know what you think.

Queen’s Gambit (A to Z Blog Challenge)

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**To start from the very beginning: From the Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas

** To read the first parts of this story line: Offending Elm and  Perhaps the Dog

Queen

“Queen’s Gambit”

The Case Files of Inspector Khazarian

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. The skeletal body of David Sosenko was thoroughly examined. It was determined, by the damage done to a few of his ribs, that he had been shot three times, close up. The dog tags led them to his life: his mother had looked for him when he disappeared, as did the army. The report filed listed him missing almost exactly twenty-one years ago. If this was related to the woman in the tree, and Rovas felt the two were connected, they finally had a time frame. It was time to connect the dots.

Mrs. Sosenko died ten years before. “A weakened heart that finally gave out,” said her long time neighbor. “She never stopped hoping David would come back. He was the light of her life.” Gil brought Rovas and Berrak up to speed, stopping in for coffee and debriefing. There were no other relatives that mattered. Second or third cousins, so far removed from the family. They checked, but came back with nothing notable.

“Gil, what are you not telling me, um, us?” Rovas asked, watching Gil play with his cup but not drinking.

“Dole,” he said. “Chief Inspector Dole is a little…irritated that you’ve been…involved in these things.”

“Involved, or did he say ‘sticking his damn nose into things that he shouldn’t?'”

Gil held back a laugh, but smiled. “Close enough. He’d like to have a word with you, and soon.” He turned to Berrak. “I’m sorry, but he was very specific that he spoke only with Inspector Rovas.”

Berrak nodded in understanding. She still took Zarian’s hand in hers, squeezing gently to ground him and hope he would not get too angry.

“Gil, we have some information ourselves. We were just going to call you with it just as you drove into our driveway. Zarian?”

“Since we found out that Sosenko was listed as AWOL, Berrak tracked down some members from his unit, as well as his C.O. We,” he nodded towards his wife, “may have a lead on the girl. David had a few close friends and with the help of the CO, who is still serving, we tracked them down and spoke to them on the phone. No one had believed David Sosenko would have ever disappeared on his own. He had been well respected by leader and peer.”

“Yes, we found that out as well.”

“Ah, but Berrak went a different route with his best friend Phillip. He was reluctant at first-we had him on speaker phone-he gave up one secret that he had held back all these years: David was in love with a non-Jewish girl. Her name was Merry, or Meredith. Her parents, especially her mother, was vehemently against their seeing each other. When Merry could they met privately, away from where she lived.

Phillip did not know her last name nor where they met. Sosenko never volunteered the information, and Philip never asked. The only thing he mentioned was he was in love with Merry from Magic County. Called her Merry Magic. He was just happy for his friend, and worried at the same time.”

“Worried?”

“The mother threatened him one time with a gun, aimed at his head.”

Gil called the station to check with police in Magic County; small as it was, he didn’t think he’d have to do a wide search for a missing Meredith, as long as their data was up to date. While they were looking, Berrak was on the home computer looking up town records and their local newspaper morgue. Rovas paced back and forth between the kitchen and his study, listening in on one end, looking over a shoulder on the other.

Gil yelled out “Got it!” at just about the same time Berrak found a likely Meredith.

“Müller; Meredith Müller. She was never reported missing by her parents. Last known records for her had her as a graduate of Magic High School,” he beamed at that name.

“She had a job at the newspaper right out of college, a receptionist,” Berrak added. “She was only there a short time before she just never appeared again. The editor I spoke to had known her from school. He never thought she’d just leave like that.”

Rovas got on the phone with the Magic police. He got answers almost immediately to his questions and wrote them down. “Small communities,” he said as he clicked off on his cell. “The parents are still alive. Let’s go-now.”

“Zarian, why the rush?” she asked, grabbing a light jacket on the way out.

“Mrs. Müller is in the hospital. Terminal ward.”

******

Gil had to use his badge to get him past the nurses desk. It took a little bit more persuasion for the nurse to allow  his “consultants” to join them. Upon entering the slightly darkened room, they noticed an older man sleeping in a chair next to a wizened looking woman. Rovas noticed that she was hooked up to the monitors and had two IV lines going in. He was sure the pain medication dose was high, but the woman in the bed still looked drawn out.

Mrs. Müller looked in their direction. “What the hell do you want? Who are you?” Her voice was a harsh rasp, and Berrak took a step closer to Rovas.

Rovas explained who they were, and why they came.

“Get out! Get OUT!” she screamed, waking up the man, who tried to calm her down without much success. He was asking what this was all about when the nurse came in, fussing at the trio for upsetting her patient. Just before she got them 100% out of the room, and as she was closing the door, Rovas said: “Mr. Müller…we have news about your daughter.”

He walked over and opened the door, letting them all back in. He inclined his head to Rovas, who began to tell him what they had found: the body in the tree, the yellow fabric and gold ring, and then the body of David Sosenko.

“That Jew bastard,” came a weakened voice from the bed. Mrs. Müller was glaring at them all, but especially at Rovas. “I warned him-and her-that I was not going to allow my daughter to marry a kike! I warned them, both of them.”

Mr. Müller went over to his wife. “Katie, what did you do? What did…”

“I did what you wouldn’t have. I put an end to it. I followed her to those woods. She had on her Sunday best dress, that yellow taffeta that you both liked so much on her. She and that hebe were kissing by a tree…hell, I warned them. I snuck up on them…” she went into a coughing fit for a few moments. Her husband gave her the drink of water she demanded.

“I snuck up on them, yanked her out of his dirty hands, raised the gun and fired into his Jew heart. Bam! Down he went.”

“What about Merry?”

“She was wailing and screaming like a banshee. I turned around and hit her in the mouth with the gun to shut her up. She fell, but still moaning and bitching away. I told her to stop making noise. She didn’t listen, like she never listened to me. I hit her a few more times with the gun grip. I stopped when she stopped.”

Gil broke the silence that followed. “Her teeth?”

“Picked ’em up and put them in my pocket.”

“And…?”

“Buried that bastard. Got the shovel from the truck and dug as deep as I could. Tired me out. I wasn’t gonna toss my girl into any grave with a hebe. That’d be just what they would have wanted. I put her over my shoulder, but I couldn’t carry her no more. Dragged her to that Elm you found her in. I was resting against it, put my hand to the trunk buy my hand plunged in a ways. I checked and saw there was enough room for her…and it was far enough away from him.

Her dress tore as I grunted her into the tore. Before I was finished, I noticed that there was something on her ring finger. A gold band. A Goddamned gold band. That little bitch had married that Jew!! I tore up her dress and shoved it and the ring in her toothless mouth!”

No one asked her why she was telling them now. It was plain the woman had little time left.

Mr. Müller asked if he could have a word with his wife, alone. They left the room, Berrak closing the door behind her. She went over to Rovas, needing him to hold her. Gil was on his phone with the local police, asking for someone to come over and take Mrs. Müller’s statement, when the nurse rushed out of her station to the Müller room.

Rovas and Berrak arrived right after the nurse, Gil on their heels. What they saw stayed with Berrak for a very long time.

Mr. Müller was standing over his wife, tears streaming down his face. He held the pillow that had been under his wife’s head. The monitor above her bed recorded her death.

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“The Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas” is my theme for this year. Cold case files for the good inspector to delve into, trying to make sense &/or solve. My plan is to use a variety of genres within this overarching theme to allow me to play and, of course, challenge myself. Some cases might bleed into another case. Most will be stand alone. We’ll see, won’t we?

As to the Blogging from A to Z challenge, I’ll let the words of Arlee Bird (founder of said challenge) tell you what this is all about:

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 4 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends.

So, join me (and the over 1600 other blogs involved) starting on Friday, April 1, 2016 and ending on Saturday, April 30th. Comments and such are always welcome. I hope you enjoy the stories.