Category Archives: pleasant memories

Ponderings: Sunday Stealing Questions

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PONDERINGS

Quote from Host Bev Sykes of sundaystealing.blogspot.com and the blog “Funny the World”.

Welcome to Sunday Stealing.
This feature originated and published on WTIT: The Blog. Here we will steal all types of questions from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent questions. (Past hosts include: Our first – Judd Corizan, Mr. L, Kwizgiver and Bud) Cheers to all of us thieves!
This week’s questions were originally from: Thought Provoking Questions

1. Do you own your things or do your things own you?

I’d have to say both. There are a lot that’s “When in doubt, throw it out!” and (too many) that are “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

2. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?

Hard one. I live too much in the past, and the negatives surface way too often. New ones: that’s a fear, already, as I get older.

3. How do you deal with someone in a position of power who wants you to fail?

Happened to me way too often; it’s why I prefer working for myself, but I can be a real PITA to myself as well. In the past, keep going on until I can find a way out (job; etc)

4. What do you have that you cannot live without?

Friends and family.

5. When you close your eyes what do you see?

Whatever is running through my mind at the time. Vivid thinker.

6. What sustains you on a daily basis?

Hope. Wavers way too often.

7. What are your top five personal values?

  1. Living with a positive moral value system
  2. Empathy
  3. Openness in communication, thoughts, experiences
  4. Humor
  5. Being creative

8. Why must you love someone enough to let them go?

It’s a hard thing for me: see above-living in the past. If they really need to leave, I hope it’s to their betterment, in whatever way they wanted.

9. Do you ever celebrate the green lights?

Big time. Biggest thrill is hitting a long patch of green lights while driving. Try 2nd Ave (Manhattan) in the middle of the night. I’ve made it from 91st street down to 12th without a red light.

10. What personal prisons have you built out of fears?

Having to push myself to leave the house.

11. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?

Get my work published.

12. Why are you, you?

Heart and mind. I do not think linearly, mainly non-conformist, question authority, am a bit rebellious, and I embrace my inner child and my inner darkness. Pretty sure it all comes from seeing others and going “that’s not how I want to live.”

13. If you haven’t achieved it yet what do you have to lose?

I assume this goes with #11. Procrastination gets in the way; fear of never achieving it. I see the problem there.

14. What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?

Hectic. Painful. Lonely.

15. Is it ever right to do the wrong thing?  Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

Both depend on who/what sets the judgment of “wrong thing/right thing.” One example: people were fined (arrested?) for cleaning national parks during the “shut down.” I think that’s a no brainer: clean up the garbage.

16. How would you describe ‘freedom’ in your own words?

Nothing left to lose. Yeah, I know.

17. What is the most important thing you could do right now in your personal life?

A mutual love, caring, sharing, enjoyable, and respectful (of each other) relationship. Oh, wrong answer. Right now, stop procrastinating. 

18. If you could ask one person, alive or dead, only one question, who would you ask and what would you ask?

My dad. “What drove you to survive through the things you experienced?”

19. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

The process of sharing fun learning experiences without needing an end product.

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Todd, Summoning

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ChairandChisel

©ChairandChisel

TODD, SUMMONING

Elwina, blood cousin, thrice removed, of the albino prince of the Dragon Isle, grasped Hellbringer, the Demon Sword, in her ebon armored right hand. The armor gleamed, polished and pristine. Eldritch black sparks cascaded down her left arm, fist raised on high.

High being optimum, standing at just over seven feet. With those heels? Ahem.  I had to stretch my neck back to see if another weapon was being equally grasped. Nope. Just her fist, which was formidable enough as is.

I had done the Sacred Dance of Interpretation, sacrificed the Two Glazed Legs of a Chicken (they were yum), and dropped a drop of Ceremony Wine into the Silver Chalice of The Dead God. Poof! She appeared. Angry, but she was here.

I had summoned here in the dungeon cell of my place of habitat. Twenty foot ceiling, plenty of light pouring through the barred high windows, and wall to wall Enchanted Weeping Stone. The black shag carpet was a nice touch; mother did well in that respect.

Elwina stamped a mighty thump on the carpeting, which wasn’t the effect I think she was going for. It was followed, though, with a booming, echoing voice, amplified by the curly-cue helmet she wore.

“Todd, Master of the Flickering Candle, Supreme Master of the D20, Devourer of Smoked Meats, Keeper of the Chilling Collectables, and Scion of Queen Yen-Tah,” she paused, whether for a breath or effect, then continued, “Why have YOU summoned me hence?”

“Um,” I stalled, bowing as far over as my cinched pants would allow. “Um, my lady, I do not think “hence” means what you think it means.” I unbowed. “You see, hence means…”

Her left sparkly hand was suddenly in front of my face, mere inches from my nose. As the tip of proboscis began to emit the aroma of a summer BBQ, I knew enough at that moment to not let the “Ouch!” leave my lips.

Bits of stone, from the walls, shattered, dropping onto the shag with her next words.

“Am I here to amuse you, Todd? Do you think I am a Jester?” Her already red eyes, glaring at me through her armored head, were ablaze. “Do I make you laugh?”

I felt my mustache and eyebrows singe.

“Chaos forbid, O’  twelfth Princess of The Dreaming City. Farthest thing from my mind. Please forgive my, um, basest of conjectures.” Bowing again, not as deep as before, because I wanted to keep an eye on Hellbringer, I added: “I am but discarded foliage adrift in a hailstorm.”

I waited, hoping I had abased myself just enough.

Elwina lowered her twinkling fist, at the same time slamming her demon sword into its scabbard. Not too gently, she pushed me back enough that I almost lost my footing. A few feet separated us now.

“Well?” The word bounced around the room. Thunder was in her voice. Very, very frightening.

“Methought, m’lady, um, you might behoove a simple, tiny request. A wish.”

She stood stock still and silent. I took that as a good sign. That, and Hellbringer was still sheathed.

“Tonight marks the beginning of the Centennial Celebration of the War That Should Never Have Been. The Dowagers of the WTSNHB have prepared for this eve for the last decade. Everyone who is anyone in Evermore will be there.”

“So?” Her hand went ever so quietly to the hilt of her damned sword.

I mumbled incoherently. My heart was in my throat.

She took off her helmet and through it at me. My shoulder throbbed. Better than it hitting me square in the face.

“My gods, are you a man or a slithy tove? State you wish. Now! What did you summon me here for, Todd?”

I was still rubbing my shoulder.

“Yeah, um, well…It’s a big night. An event. Happens only once a century.” Her eyes narrowed, a deep depression formed between her at the bridge of her nose. She swept a lock of her red hair out of her face, having fallen with the tossing of her helmet.

She stared.

I bowed.

“Um, Lady Elwin, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to this most illustrious ball?”

The silence that followed felt as if another century had passed before she spoke again.

“Are you, Todd, asking me on a date?”

I stood, looked up into her eyes, and nodded.

“About frigging time! Why do you think I spent the time polishing my best armor?”

Once outside, passing by my mother and assuring her I would be back at the appointed time, Elwina drew Hellbringer and commanded it transform itself into a Coach and Four.

We arrived at the ball fashionably late.

I did not make it home until a week later, but that is a tale best told at another time.

 

AtoZ Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

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#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

AtoZ Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

Starting Monday, April 1, 2019, the AtoZ Blog Challenge begins again.

This will be my sixth time that I am throwing my creative hat into the challenge. I have mainly produced serialized stories that work as short chapters. They have been of various successes, judging by the commentary and friendships I have developed through the challenge.

I am working on taking last year’s story line (The Abysmal Dollhouse) and re-working it into a novel. I’ve been working on it since May/June of last year. That’s why there haven’t been any TAD stories here since the end of April.

So, surprise.

I still love The Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas (April 2016) and The Apartment Building: Swan Rise series (April 2012). I hope to return to both of those one day and take them  to the next step, as well as The Kitsune-Mochi Saga (not an AtoZ story).

AND NOW, THE 2019 THEME REVEAL

A CAR IN THE WOODS



1959. An abandoned car is found in the woods, not near any road, surrounded by trees that left little room for a car to wind up where this one did.

It was discovered by hunters Todd Wilson and Barry Carter. They were following an 8 point Buck for a long winding chase. The Buck kept his life that day. Todd and Barry stopped in their tracks when the sun, which could barely peek through the dense foliage, glinted off something shiny where nothing shiny should have been.

The car they found was in near pristine condition. A cherry red Thunderbird convertible with a 430ci Lincoln Interceptor J-code engine, power steering, power brakes, power windows, a power seat and a new power top.

Nothing was found to identify the owner or even how it got there. Retracing their tracks, they made it back to their truck, eventually, as they got lost once or twice,  and high tailed it to the sheriff’s office.

Inquiries were made. Nothing came of it. It was a puzzle to Sheriff John Miner for the rest of his life, which wasn’t as long lived as he had hoped it would be.

Todd and Barry, meanwhile, made their find profitable, earning free drinks at the Barn House Bar from folks who wanted to know all the details.  As the tellings went on, the story…grew. And it spread to nearby towns, especially one where Todd and Barry went drinking.

People searched for the car. They traveled the forest, thought they saw it, but didn’t. It was the talk of the county. The searching went on for a short while.

Until a group of four High School students did not come home. Neither did a couple of people from the first search party. Then a few more in the second group, looking for both the kids and the two adults who were nowhere to be found.

Then, the stories began.


I hope you return for the 26 parts of A Car In The Woods. Comments are always welcome.

If you are interested in joining the AtoZ Blog Challenge, you still have time to sign up. Just click HERE and you will be directed to their home page with all the info you will need. Good luck if you do. It’s a lot of fun. Either way, I hope you come back and see where the Car takes us, as well as visiting other blogs that have joined in the fun.

An Ear For It

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“Ladies, gentlemen, Willkommen! And Bienvenue! Welcome! I am your hostess, Ginny Sinclair.” She paused for applause, or some recognition. “Thank you. Well, you are all in for a treat tonight, and I am glad you have taken that step, that chance, to fill your hearts with the music of love among those who love music. Welcome, to our twelfth “Speed Dating for Songbirds!” If I may paraphrase Pablo Picasso: “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

“Our previous get-togethers have helped many of the participants find their perfect duet partner; Contraltos find their Altos, Bassos harmonious with the Sopranos of their dreams. Tonight, I’m sure many of you will get to star in your own Musical of Love.”

Ginny looked out at her crowd. Many were obviously nervous, with a few more put-upon faces dotting around. The smiles of anticipation filled her enough. She hoped. Each gathering drew smaller crowds. Ginny smiled with outer confidence as she walked in the light of the room, her red dress’s sequins casting out tiny bursts, her idea of enchanting them all. Herself as well, as her insides were wavering and withering, counting how many First Seating envelopes she was passing out to the men and women.

Brave face on, she continued her spiel. “I’m glad, so many of you partook of the lovely Italian buffet that Mrs. Chang laid out for us tonight.” A smattering of applause went round, as Mrs. Chang went into the kitchen to take a nap. “Just a reminder, the food is included in your admission price, sadly the wine is not, but…” She looked around, making sure to make eye contact with all, “…but, your hearts, ears, and voices, they are the main course.

Please open your envelopes. They have your Opening Numbers seating. The first of your heartstrings to be plucked. Let the beautiful music of this night begin.” As the assemblage started to make their ways, she added: “Break a leg, but not a heart.”

Charles still had his small plate of linguini with, he thought, clam sauce, in his right hand. The left held a glass of red wine and the envelope. He fumbled a bit, trying to spill or drop anything, finally managing to open the envelope. Pulling out and unfolding it, he looked at a musical notation sheet. Charles saw that he had to find the Middle C/Treble Clef table. It was clever, he thought, and frustrating at the same time. The lighting had lowered when the hostess finished her into.

He was hoping to find the compliment to his clean Tenor. Looking around, he didn’t notice that he was walking right towards Ginny until he bumped into her, spilling some of his wine, dropping the sheet of paper, and almost dumping his plate of linguini. Her red sequins glittered across his face, hiding his blush, as they both knelt, gingerly, to retrieve the seating invitation.

Their heads bumped into each other.

His “ouch” came at the same time as hers, causing them to hold. There was a melding, a perfect counterpoint to the other, rich and, he felt, melodious. They grinned, stood, and Ginny pointed Charles in the correct direction. He nodded his thanks and set off to the table that had been right behind him.

Charle’s first partner was already waiting at the table. Leaning away from the table, he noticed the amount of black she sported, from hair to makeup to dress to fingernail polish. It was those nails that took in his attention as he sat and introduced himself. Silence, except for the drumming of her right hand’s nails on the tabletop, a staccato version of Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt Abhanden Gekommen.”

“Yeah, I’m lost to the world, too,” he thought. He introduced himself again. A long rest took place as she stopped tapping, placing her hand flat down. He waited for the return name. Instead, she took a deep breath, held it, and then purred belted out part of a musical number from “Damn Yankees.”

“Hi, Lola,” Charles answered, glad she forewent the Kinks song. So, he wanted to keep this going, took his deep breath, and sang out “I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I’ve information vegetable, animal and min…”

“DING! DING”

Ginny had rung the bell by her side. “Gentlemen, please move to the table to your right.”

As he got up to move, Charles saw Lola look over to her next. He didn’t say anything as he moved along.

The rest of the evening proceeded to fumble along. Every opening number was met with an interlude, some dialogue, a parting, and the next act would be dinged to change scenes. Some of the women there was really nice harmony going on, meshing but falling flat by the ring of the bell. Others were audition nightmares. Off tempo, musicals versus opera, pop versus blues, folk versus death metal; world apart styles.

In the end, he was a solo act again.

Charles realized he still had his plate of linguini, ice cold now and congealed. He had brought it table to table, losing the wine glass somewhere along the way.

A shrill “You leave. Now!” brought his attention to Mrs. Chang by the kitchen, bus bin on a table to her right where she was flicking ashes from her cigarette as she pointed to it.

Charles quickly moved to deposit the plate and food. At the same time, Ginny, who had been busing the tables at the end, came quasi-running with a single glass that held no wine, not even a drop.

They bumped into each other again. Again, their “Ouch!” rang out true, blending and moving into laughter. Apologizing to each other they continued to laugh.

Mrs. Chang harrumphed and moved them along, locking the door to her restaurant behind them. If they had looked, they would have seen her mouthing something that could have been a song, but in reality, was a string of very inventive curse words.

Ginny and Charles stood there on the sidewalk, smiles plastered on their faces that were slowly starting to fade. It was late, very little foot or car traffic around them. The awkward silence that dropped around them was broken by squealing brakes caused by the traffic light turning red. The glow from the headlights surrounded them.

Charles mouth quirked shyly upwards. Looking at Ginny, he thought of a song by Chicago that had held him ever since he first heard it. “Nothing to lose,” he thought, and began to sing:

After all that we’ve been through
I will make it up to you, I promise to…”

Ginny’s smile resurfaced as he sang. She picked up the next two lines:

And after all that’s been said and done
You’re just the part of me I can’t let go.”

They finished the song together in perfect mellifluousness.

One More Thing: #FridayFictioneers

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caged-liz
PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

One More Thing

My ex walked out.

She cheated on me. Twice!

Got fired from a job I hated.

Car repossessed.

Bought a cheapo replacement.

Crashed it. DUI.

New job: nervous breakdown.

Got fired.

Fell off a curb; broke my leg.

Got addicted to Fentanyl.

Tried a twelve step. Fell off at #3.

Had a cat. It ran off, after scratching me all over.

Caused an infection.

Bandaged from head to toe. Sent home.

“Friend” thought it’d be funny to lock me in a cage for Halloween.

Scared the kids. Police arrested us both.

~
~
~

I really like you. Care for a second date?

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Author’s Note:

It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to do this:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

His Time Capsulated: #FridayFictioneers

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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.

Epilogue: Zephyr, A Caress: 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. Please check back on Monday, May 7th, for my Final Reflections. Thank you.

zephyr

Epilogue: Zephyr, A Caress

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Grief lasts as long as it will last. There is no timetable when it should end, no scale for how deep it should be. Nothing to say grief won’t return. It is its own living thing, and it either eats away at you or strengthen your resolve to go on, to mourn, to let go.

The Shopkeeper embraced hers as an inner sore: on the outside, she presented herself as was her norm. A freshly starched white buttoned blouse, the top button fastened, her fingers assuring her of this fact. She smoothed down the black fabric of her ankle-length skirt. Putting on her apron, she winced, tying it a touch too tight. She left it as it was, as she had done every time since…

In the many weeks since the incident, the Shopkeeper took her time getting to know all the new dollhouses. They appeared, without ceremony, taking residence in the places of the ones that had been destroyed. Malcanisen remained by her side as she ambled about. She still found some of the debris scattered in the most unlikely of places around the shoppe; but, once found, they simply faded away once she wasn’t looking.

This new crop of minature replicas had wants and needs, just as the previous tenants of her shoppe had. When the opportunities presented themselves, they murmured the same “mine, mine, mine” as the ones now absent. But, things were not status quo as before. Far away enough that it brought something new to the Shopkeeper: worry.

There was a balance shift with the new: more unhappiness, more anger, more depravity. These dollhouses outnumbered those that exuded more peaceful memories and needs. The Shopkeeper did not like this new shift at all. Yet, there was little she could do about the denizens about her. Only another upheaval could, hopefully, tip the balance in the other direction, creating a more harmonious setting.

What she could do, she did. Once she had the feel of the new she began to rearrange the placement of the houses. The darker abodes were situated near lighter natured dollhouses; when she could cluster them, she did. There was a stabilizing effect for a short while, but distinct grumblings permeated the shoppe after the first reshuffling. Twice more she shifted locations around the shoppe; on this third try, the houses seemed to accept their lots. The Shopkeeper was pleased, but not entirely happy.

The window display took on a whole new life. A magnificent replica of the Castle of Goeie Hoop stood there, majestic in scope, taking the whole of the display space. Many called out for their due when the new door chimes tinkled; sometimes many hushes from the Shopkeeper was needed to silence them. Occasionally, when she was at her counter, waiting, sounds of gunfire could be heard. The Shopkeeper would look over with a scowl; the noise ceased. Always.

She had begun to avoid the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée best she could. The Wall of Skulls underwent a thorough cleansing of what had been displayed before. All forty-two specimens were new, with new nameplate labels. She had glanced at them early on, missing a few, especially Sigurd. She felt them all yearning to tell their stories, their need overwhelming. It disturbed her deeply; she kept it locked, a drastic change in her dusting duties.

It was one skull in particular that had her in knots. While she was privy to some ghastly knowledge from many in her care, there was that one: she wasn’t ready for it, wasn’t sure if she would ever be ready to hear the telling of this one’s tale.

The label only read “Child.”

Duster in hand, she busied herself around the shoppe, doing her best not to glance towards the empty far corner.

*** *** ***

The soldier only vaguely remembered the incident. He had a new scar that was painful if he placed any real weight on it. He had no concrete awareness of how he got this scar or even the when or the where. All he knew was it ached at times, and was only one of many scars all over his body. He carried it like the others.

There was a stiffness in his right hand, the outer two digits especially. His EMT buddy said it was probably a bad case of Trigger Finger since they sometimes get locked into a bent position. He was able to release them, so he didn’t bother checking out a doctor for it.

“Look, Tom. A Zayat ahead. I could use a rest stop.” His companion, Mary, tired easily, but he was more than fine with that. Her recovery from her stabbings was labeled a miracle by the nurses that tended her. His EMT buddy thought so too, having read Mary’s charts, even though he wasn’t supposed to.

Tom had awakened one day at the hospital, sitting by Mary’s side, no idea how he had gotten there. He remembered tracking Mary’s assailant, and that was it. The next thing, he’s by her side, an aching scar, stiff right hand, and an awake Mary staring at him. Her smile filled her face when she saw he was awake.

The nurses had told her all about the guy who had brought her in, most likely saving her life. They said he sat by her side more days than they kept count, talking to her comatose form, keeping on eye on her while she was out. He disappeared for a bit, and they all thought he had given up hope, but-surprise-he was back, and just after she, also, was back.

They talked for a long time, first about her attack and the aftermath. Mary was upset that her assailant had not been found, but was also relieved that there had been no further sightings or attacks. Tom was a reassuring presence for her, and she wound up being the same for him.

After her discharge, they got closer. Close enough to the point that he easily asked her to come with him: he needed to travel, come to some peace in his being with the loss of his brothers, and the guilt he still felt for falling asleep while on sentry. She agreed, without a second’s thought.

The Zayat was simple but more than sufficient, as all the others they had stumbled upon. They rested, found fresh food and water, and stayed for a few of the religious occasions that happened around them. Mary had an idea that Tom readily agreed to: they were given permission to stay and help tend this particular Zayat, for the time being, keeping it clean, helping with any chores that needed doing, and welcoming other travelers seeking shelter.

Their lives, for the time being, was enriched by this Zayat, the Jivitandana Sangha, and they enriched it, finding peace and love.

*** ***

The Shopkeeper was resting in her back room, fresh scone devoured, a second cup of tea steaming by her side on the table. She had closed her eyes, leaning into her padded chair. Malcanisen was at her feet; on her feet, more accurately, snoring away. Cleaning around the shoppe, tending to those who entered, the houses that wanted: it all still left a hole in the whole affair.

She had thought with the death of the murderer, the vengeance sought and achieved, that she would be released from her binding. As the Unfolding Doll seemed to have been. There had been nothing left of it from the fire that consumed Muirhouse and its woodshed. There had been no shimmering from the far corner, now less shadow filled than it had ever been. She was left, and it was gone, and the pain in her heart was so severe at times, the grief that subsided but rose again, and again.

Something prevented her from moving on. She racked her memory of everything that happened after that night at the Carousel, her then grief turning into a burning pledge of hatred and revenge. Promises made, from her and…promises made, but not kept, it seems, for her.

Collecting herself, she began to breathe in deeply, hold the breath, and let it out slowly. She continued this, calming herself into a single path of breath. It eased through her, a wind of her own making. It carried out a host of inner turmoil, a monsoon of sadness. She rested for a long time.

Until.

She came awake instantly. The Shopkeeper wasn’t sure if she had dreamed it, or…but, no, there it was, slight but there. A tap, tap, tapping…and it was near, so near.

Malcanisen bounded out of the back room. The Shopkeeper jumped out of her chair and ran through the threshold into the shoppe. Stopping suddenly by her counter, she looked around the entire area, looking under, behind, around; no one was there. Malcanisen sat down, eyes on her.  Tears that she thought she had been finished shedding started to well up once again as her heart shattered once again.

Until.

She glanced down. On the top of her counter was a knife. Long and sharp looking, it had a sheen that caught the light in the shoppe and sent spiraling of colors into the air, a prism of steel. She took hold of the hilt of the blade and brought it up, level with her heart, and held it there.

Looking in the far corner, it was again clouded in the deepest, darkest shadow.

And it was unfolding.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

Here we are: the end of this year’s AtoZ Blog Challenge. During the month of April 2018, the challenge required that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. On Monday, May 7th,  there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers. If you travel back to the main page of the AtoZ Blog Challenge, you’ll find other blogs that participated. Many, I’m sure, will pique your interest, as many did mine.

On May 7th, all of the participants of the AtoZ Challenge are asked to post a reflection on the month’s process: afterthoughts, explanations, frustrations/elations, and whatever else may come to mind.

****After you read the Z post on Monday, April 30th, I will be asking YOU for questions, ponderings, or suggestions you might still have. I found a number of editorial mistakes when I copied and pasted the stories into a Word file (thank you, Grammarly) and already did some (minor) editing. So, if you’ve been with me all along, or just finding your way into The Abysmal Dollhouse, April 30th will be a good time to pose what’s on your mind. I will do my best to answer/address all on the reflection (mentioned above).

Any queries must be posted by Friday, March 4th.

As to what happens next with Tale Spinning &/or The Abysmal Dollhouse…time will tell.

Thanks for reading along.

Take Care: The Abysmal Dollhouse (Reblog Sunday)

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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.

Wheelchair

Take Care

The Abysmal Dollhouse

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 the shoppe. 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 sunbeams 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 its 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 kid’s 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, footstool, 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 kid’s 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 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 its 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 kid’s 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 refurbishing 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.

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Author’s note: I thought this would be a nice piece to put after yesterday’s Y post for the AtoZ Blog Challenge.

Monday, April 30th, brings the final post, Z, which will serve as an epilogue.

On May 7th, all of the participants of the AtoZ Challenge are asked to post a reflection on the month’s process: afterthoughts, explanations, frustrations/elations, and whatever else may come to mind.

****After you read the Z post on Monday, April 30th, I will be asking YOU for questions, ponderings, or suggestions you might still have. I found a number of editorial mistakes when I copied and pasted the stories into a Word file (thank you, Grammarly) and already did some (minor) editing. So, if you’ve been with me all along, or just finding your way into The Abysmal Dollhouse, April 30th will be a good time to pose what’s on your mind. I will do my best to answer/address all on the reflection (mentioned above). Any queries must be posted by Friday, March 2nd. 

As to what happens next with Tale Spinning &/or The Abysmal Dollhouse…time will tell.

Thanks for reading along.

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.

Real Neat Blog Award: Peachy Keeno

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real_neat_blogger_award

So, second time in two weeks, I have a blogging award. Never heard of this one before, but it was created by Dear Kitty: Some Blog in 2014.

I was nominated by someone new (to me) who I discovered, again, through the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. The blogger behind A Creative PTSD Gal is busy busy busy. She writes from the heart, and it has been a pleasure to discover her. Two blogs, a whole big family, life…and she does it. Not everyone can. Since she writes a bit more personal items, I don’t think it’s in my wheelhouse to go deeper into her reasons. Check out the above link and I think you’ll be pleased you did. Thank you for the nomination. I hope I can remain neato keeno.

Here come the rules:

The Rules:

  1. Display the award logo: DONE
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog: DONE
  3. Answer the questions of the one who nominated you: See Below
  4. Nominate 5-10 bloggers: See Below Below
  5. Ask them 7 questions: See Below Below Below

PTSD Gal’s Questions for MOI:

  1. What is the most difficult part of your artistic practice? I try not to write during the day because of interruptions (phone calls, mail, meals, life). I usually like starting about 11:00 pm EST.
  2. What has been the most difficult thing to date that you have written about? My one man play based on my father. He was a survivor of Auschwitz.
  3. Do you limit yourself to edits? Not sure how to answer this one. I hate editing, but I know it has to be done. I’ve gotten better as I’ve aged, like a fine cheese.
  4. Snack or no snack when writing? Beverages always; snacks only when my taste buds cry.
  5. What or who encourages you to keep posting to your blog? Right now, I push myself. It keeps me from negative things.
  6. What did you want to grow up to be when you were little? A scientist &/or a comic book writer.
  7. Do you have a writing buddy? (Dog, cat, fish, snake etc…) Nope. I’ve got dust. Does dust count?

Bloggers I nominate are:

Seven Real Neat Questions:

  1. What car would you own if money is no question?
  2. What author would you like to sit down with and pick their brains?
  3. What is your favorite story about Winter?
  4. If you had to “Kill Your Baby” (talk to Stephan King) in a book/story you’ve written, who are you most sorry you had to do in? If you haven’t, who should get the axe?
  5. What book have you read more than once?
  6. One of these is real: Magic (Paranormal) or UFO’s. Which one, and why?
  7. What is YOUR favoriteist blog posting from your blog(s)? Please copy and paste your link here