Category Archives: Romance

A to Z: The Complete Swan Rise Series

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Open House: Trespassers Welcome

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

Welcome to… Swan Rise Apartments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week #1: A to G

All, Tumbling Down

Basement Boogie

Children in the Hall

Doggie Doings

Equivocation Elite

Fire(escape)

Ground, Breaking

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Week #2: H to M

Holidays, Haunts and Hearts

Imaginings of Love

Jung, @Heart

Kindred Spheres

Laundry Room Mafia

Mrs. Beatty

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Week #3: N to S

Not What They Seem

One Man’s Ceiling…

Pollination in the Parking Lot

Quack, Quack

Retraction of Gravity

Super, My Super

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Week #4: T to Z

Thieving Ways

Underneath It All

Vertically Challenged

Weather Man, Oh

Xanthippe

Yeah…Life Goes On…

Zenith: Arising

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Impressions of Perfect Fifths

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Marc Chagall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author’s Note:

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

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

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

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

Remember: comments are always welcome.

Zenith: Arising (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to ALL the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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Goodbye…

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

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

Swan Rise fell in November of 2005.

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

Construction began in the early fall of 2006.

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

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

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

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

Hello…

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Author’s Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks all!!!

Stuart

Yeah…Life Goes On… (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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So…

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

Life happens after death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vertically Challenged (AtoZ Challenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was looking for a sign.

Retraction of Gravity (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE)

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The inhabitants of Swan Rise Apartments carried the weight of their lives with them. Some  soared in moments of true elation, ecstasy, flights of fancy, but otherwise they were grounded through the daily realities. Others rarely ever rose above a situation. They’d trod through the days, milling around and about and passing by all the other tenants. The building was a center of gravity, keeping them in place from 1960 to 2005.

No…not all of them.

As the children grew, their universe expanded. As it expanded, they moved faster and faster away, seeking to fly off on their own and leave the parental orbit they’ve circled around. Eventually they acquired their own gravity force and rarely returned; too many seemed to have anti-gravity packs on them, with a time limit attached that says “Stay and hold back on  your life,  or move on.”

Then there are the divorces, those that stay after the dissolution of vows, those that leave. How many hearts can be broken in forty-five years? Until an explosion sent all the residents adrift in space, many homes lost their centers, the things that brought them together, holding them in place. Their collective dissolved, and the energy used to keep them in place was exhausted.

A growing number seemed to just be passing by. They settled for a short stay and left little to no trace of their moving on. This happened more and more as the years passed; the attraction and hold of the building fading, flinging out the new, holding onto the old.

Many did grow old in Swan Rise. Many left in the way most don’t like to talk about.

The dead…

So many, as the years passed by; tiny notices by the mail boxes, relating in only a few words the release of another from the grounds. With the eventual removal of that paper on the wall, the last tie was severed for many. When the Whistler died, and then soon after his wife, there was a hollow wind passing through the ground floor that many felt. Others were more fleeting. The one murder in the building held for a long time through the whispers, fears, and for one, relief.

Gone, the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, grandparent, a number who lived a life alone, pets…so many pets. All those no longer earth bound.

Miraculously, no child died in the living history of Swan Rise. That grief was spared, until the explosion.

The foundation kept the building secure in place; the bricks, wood, plaster, glass, metals, ceramics gave it heft to hug the world it became for the many. Carpets and flooring were laid, furnishings and decor placed, and residents made their apartment a home. It had a mass that attracted them, mutually intense.

The building kept its own gravity, until parts of it were hurled away in a horrible blast and brought down to Earth by a greater force.

Quack, Quack (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE)

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The trickling of Swan River ran for miles. In some places it opened up wide, creating lake-like conditions, before it would narrow out again as it meandered from North to South. Along the course of this waterway ducks, geese, swans and other fowl took  residence. Most would leave during the winter months, their snow bird trek for warmer climes part of their nature. Over the years, with weather fronts changing, there would be times small flocks would not leave, making the river their home year round. This soon became the true barometer for many of the Swan Rise Apartments residents: when all the birds flew south, they knew they were in for a very cold, most likely very snowy, winter.

The river ran to lake size just opposite of Swan Rise complex; many apartments had views that overlooked it. A walking/bike riding path had been laid down years ago, with wooden and stone foot path bridges connecting the two sides at the narrower parts. Benches were placed at intervals along the way, and there were spaces to sit and have a picnic during the warmer times, which some hardier souls did even though they had to deal with territorial geese and their leavings.

Families and couples strolled, joggers jogged, and assorted wheeled instruments moved around the edges of the water, but never owned it. Swan River was the province of  the wild life, and life, death, love and hostilities were played out here in full view.

A scene from an early spring:

The numbers of ducks and geese have increased, and there is constant flow of swimmers, drifters and those folding their heads into their wings for sleep while others keep watch. Pairs are seen more than not: the bright green or blue colored heads of the drakes are bobbing along, overseeing their hen, their mate, she of varying shades of browns. She is the one you hear, the “quack quack” we associate them with, far lighter then the heavier honking of the geese, and very different from the swans, who have yet to return.

Large groups are swimming around various parts, many by the bridges when humans are by, hoping for food.

Not all, though. The center of the body of the river is empty. By the West bank is a drake, green headed; by the East bank, a hen, a mottled light brown. Whatever signal is given, whatever the prompt, they both turn towards each other in unison. Their speed is matched at they swim towards each other, the echoes of their movements played out in the otherwise still waters. They meet almost exactly in the middle, a slow turn around each other. She vocalizes twice during this do-SE-do. With the sun reflecting around them, they swim off together, she in the lead, he watchful and close behind, as they join the larger groups to the north.

Two different viewings of the same scene:

(1) Lev sat in his apartment most days looking out the window; days when the weather was nice he’d sit on his terrace. After his wife died, his son tried to get him to move, but Lev had no need to move, yet. Knowing his father’s penchant for star gazing, Seth bought him a telescope years ago. Lev used it some nights, as was intended; during the daytime, he’d watch the river life when he could.

It happened that he was focused at the right time, witnessing the coming together on the water. Transfixed from start to finish, in what really amounted to not a lot of time, Lev was brought to tears. He brought his head away from the scope, sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. He felt it was just like that, with himself and Anna. Both survivors of the camps, set free but adrift after liberation, at almost opposite ends of a muddled land…yet, they found each other, and swam towards and around  together, until she died, a little more than two years ago.

Lev sat remembering, anguish mixed in with all of the happy memories they shared. After a time, he got up and went inside. Lev called Seth, asking if he would come over that evening. “Bring the family,” he asked.

(2) Amy was four years old and loved the park. She loved feeding the birds, chasing he birds (although repeatedly told not to), throwing sticks in the water, running and spending days like this with her mommy and daddy. They were holding hands while they watched her scamper, warning her when she got too close to an edge.

“Looky!” she called out, pointing, and the three of them stood transfixed, in their own ways, watching the ritual taking place before them.

Amy clapped her hands and yelled “YAY!” when the ducks swam away; she then did a little dance as she scampered along the path.

Stephen and Kattie, her parents, followed after, hugging each other, and both had wistful smiles plastered on their faces. They met up with Amy, who had scooted ahead, to the foot bridge. Amy was looking over the edge, on tippy toes, trying to find the pair of ducks among all the others milling about.

Stephen surprised them both, and himself (in all honesty), when he took Kattie’s hand and got down on one knee.

“Will you marry  me?” he asked, eyes twinkling.

 “We already are, silly.”

“I know. I’d do it again…will you marry me?”

“Say ‘YES’ Mommy” someone shouted.

She hesitated, heart skipping a beat. “Yes,” she finally said, and was swooped up in a hug/kiss by both her husband and her daughter.

Two quacks, among others, could be heard.

Ducks Swimming

Pollination in the Parking Lot (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE)

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The cars in the parking lot were blanketed in yellow gold pollen. Microgametophytes, the seed plants wind borne gift of life, did not all reach its intended destinations, but settled onto the vehicles, giving their drivers a morning’s unwanted dusting. Some sneezes, a cough, a brushing onto pants and shirts, light jackets for an early spring morning…the plants and flowers were trying to mate, and the autos and Swan Rise residents got in the way.

This was a yearly occurrence, some worse than others. Intrusions into the day to day that most knew were coming but dreaded all the same. Pollen counts were always “the worst we’ve seen in years,” forgetting other years when the same statement was proclaimed. The cars got washed, the allergy sufferers suffered, and the parking lot doings went on.

Other mating rituals could be found through most of the year, but it was only the “damned yellow seed” that bothered many. Building dogs tried to mate, sniffing around each other (at least those that had not been snipped), and cats yowled during their seasons, the feral cats drawing their housed brethren to the window sills high above. Birds nested on the overhang and the roof, and bugs of all types found solace in cracks and loose mortar. No one talked about any rodent problem: there was NO rodent problem, even if the Laundry Room Mafia ladies said they saw a few quick scamperings while their salvo of gossip swirled the stagnant hot laundry room air.

There has long been a legend in the building of a prostitute that took up shop at the darkened edge of the lot. A large elm tree spread it’s branches and leaves over a large section, encasing the trunk and roots in deep shadows. A few coming-in-late dwellers said they were approached for “a date” by a young woman. She was tall in her stilettos, leggy and curvy in “all the right places” (said one of the husbands in the building, who asked to remain anonymous). All the tales said she was rebuked and sent on her way but prying eyes saw, some car tops had distinct imprints,  and the police came and reports were made, but this intruder was never caught.

She came in on an evening breeze, a pistil to the desires of the movements of the stamen, and like pollen, she only lasted so long.

Not What They Seem (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, click HERE)

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nathan lerner: girl with two faces, 1932

You know it’s all different behind closed doors
The smiles and nods in the hallways
The outside face, to you, presented
Covers the same as a locked refuge.
 
Maybe not all; some are the same, always
Pleasant, mean or fragile
But, there is mostly truth once bolted inside
Thin walls do not mask all they should.
 
Who cries, who screams, who silently fumes;
What gets shattered, what’s endangered, what’s ignored;
Where has the love gone, how, in some has it grown;
Which nest is left empty, emptier than the norm?
 
Open up, and the public face arrives
Laughter and forgiving, meals and gifts
Last only so long; Nothing real lets slip
There is turmoil in the best of houses
Quiet relief in the rest.
 
When the lights go out
One by one
What was enacted on two stages
Is swept under the rug.

Mrs. Beatty (The #AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building

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The blast sent bricks, metal, furniture, and Mrs. Beatty, raining down on the parked cars and beyond.

It took hours to clear all the debris. Photos were taken for insurance purposes, information was taken, and the injured were carted to hospitals and the dead…the dead were taken away, for a second and final time. Mrs. Beatty was the last to be removed  from the scene.

Her daughter, Cynthia, with tear streaked cheeks and neck, viewed the left side of her mother’s face. It had relatively remained unscathed, which the forensics team had noted in detail in their reports. The medical examiner stated, when asked, that she had most likely died instantaneously and felt nothing past the initial burst.

This was no solace to Cynthia and was a complete lie for Mrs. Beatty.

A modicum of awareness remained while she flew through the air. It was only instants, moments, a trickling of time, but she had enough presence for things to flit through. “David” was the last mental picture she had before she, indeed, “died instantly” before hitting the SUV.

Veronica James and David Beatty married in the late fall of 1959; she felt that the changing of the season, with the colorful array of leaves, was a splendid backdrop for the life she intended to live with the man she loved. David thought of fall as a season of dying and endings, and to him it was slightly depressing, but he did not tell her he felt that way, ever. They lived with her parents in their basement until the summer of 1960, when they moved into Swan Rise Apartments.

Cynthia was born in 1963, and the Beatty’s moved into the first two bedroom apartment that became available. They hadn’t thought of moving away. In the three years since they took up residence the couple had grown into the vertical community of the building. It was close to shopping, the bus stopped right in front, and David found that while their might be more exciting places to live, this suited him fine. Veronica was happy here, so he was happy here.

As the years passed, he noticed changes in her. Never totally an outgoing woman, Veronica (never Ronnie) slowly withdrew from places with large crowds. They gave her headaches, she said, and that “itchy” feeling. Shopping was done very early in the morning, or very late in the evening. Eventually David took over most of the shopping duties. They would socialize with family, but their friend base dwindled with each gently rejected invitation.

“Nothing is wrong” she’d say when he asked. He let things sit. Cynthia pushed her as she was assailed by her teen years. Veronica just smiled, or stared off, letting it roll off her back. David had suggested she see someone; Veronica tried, going one time, and never talked about why she did not go back.

She remained pleasant, growing quieter, smiling when he came home, holding his hand when they went to bed. They watched TV and read, played a couple of card games, went to very few movies.

It was Cynthia who got her mother to join the tenants committee. There was a big stink over changes in the building, loss of the playground in the back, elevator repair issues, leaks, the water heater and more. She dragged her mother down with her and finally offered her services to take the minutes (Veronica had been in a secretarial steno pool when she met David, and would help him at home; she taught Cynthia how to type). Veronica could bury herself in the writing, being part of the proceedings while still distant. It suited her, and she kept it up, long after Cynthia moved away.

David passed away years later. All the old timers in the building came to pay their respects, leaving platitudes and condolences and food. Cynthia stayed with her mother for a couple of weeks, both of them needing to make that contact. She asked her mother to move in with her when she was feeling that Veronica was not strong enough to live alone, but the decline was a foregone conclusion.

Over thirty years living in one place…it was hard, very hard to let it go.

Veronica continued to take minutes at meetings. Her interactions with others in the building were light, but all knew her. She became friendly with “the boys” (Marc and Sean) when Marc found her struggling with dropped groceries early one Sunday morning. He helped her upstairs (she had a bruised knee from tripping, which resulted in the fallen food, but she wouldn’t say so), she made them both cups of tea, and formed a nice bond. Sean was included in later; they spent some holiday meals with her when Cynthia was “busy” and visited with her every Christmas after they left the building.

Patty was happy to have her as a sounding board as she railed at the stupidity of the other building residents. The Laundry Room Mafia found her easy to deal with to get their ways, even though they joined in on her sorrow over their own deceased spouses. New tenants and old would open doors for her and they’d get a polite “thank you”. The children would careen past her slow gait down the hallways, and they would make her smile. They always got good treats at Halloween from her.

She was loathe to complain about things, and would only report stoppages and leaks to Andres the super when these things had to be fixed. At first, the smell of gas was not strong in the kitchen. She pooh-poohed it away, thinking that it was just the old stove being an old stove. It was during one of Cynthia’s rare visits that brought the stove problem to Andres attention.

Chastising her mother, Cynthia had her mother call Andres immediately. He didn’t answer the phone (it was a Saturday, and he was watching a game and couldn’t be bothered) but Veronica did leave a message that “there is a gas smell in the kitchen.” Cynthia tried to get her to leave with her until it was fixed, but all she got was a promise not to use the stove until the super did something about it, and to leave the windows open. She could live on microwave and toaster oven cooked food until then.

Veronica did just that, but the temperature dropped two nights later and a passing thunderstorm was sending water into the apartment window. Veronica, woken out of her sleep, closed the windows and went back to bed.

They remained closed for two more days. Veronica wanted a cup of tea.