Tag Archives: short story

Ashes

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

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

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

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

Paul moved out the day after the jewel was delivered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only available for free until May 31st, 2012

Reflections of Swans (#AtoZChallenge)

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A to Z Reflections Post

From the hosts of the A to Z Challenge:

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

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

 What I have to admit was my frustration/failure:

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

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

My pleasure:

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

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

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

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

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

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

18,00+ words in 26 days. Ouch.

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

A to Z: The Complete Swan Rise Series

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Open House: Trespassers Welcome

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

Welcome to… Swan Rise Apartments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week #1: A to G

All, Tumbling Down

Basement Boogie

Children in the Hall

Doggie Doings

Equivocation Elite

Fire(escape)

Ground, Breaking

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Week #2: H to M

Holidays, Haunts and Hearts

Imaginings of Love

Jung, @Heart

Kindred Spheres

Laundry Room Mafia

Mrs. Beatty

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Week #3: N to S

Not What They Seem

One Man’s Ceiling…

Pollination in the Parking Lot

Quack, Quack

Retraction of Gravity

Super, My Super

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Week #4: T to Z

Thieving Ways

Underneath It All

Vertically Challenged

Weather Man, Oh

Xanthippe

Yeah…Life Goes On…

Zenith: Arising

Impressions of Perfect Fifths

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Marc Chagall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author’s Note:

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

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

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

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

Remember: comments are always welcome.

Yeah…Life Goes On… (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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So…

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

Life happens after death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Xanthippe (#AtoZChallenge)

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

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Man’s Ceiling… (#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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Amy’s dad was not thinking about the neighbors. His wife said  he just wasn’t thinking when he bought Amy her first drum kit. They lived in an apartment building (“For gosh sakes!” she cried out when she saw the set up) and had neighbors to both sides and one on top and one underneath. Even with the carpeting and his “feeble” attempt at soundproofing, the complaints lodged sent Amy and her drums to the basement, where she practiced until the new super took away those rights in her teens.

This had been the buzz around Swan Rise, off and on, over the years. It settled down to one major thing, that most agreed on:

Noise. The residents of Swan Rise Apartments were not partial to extra noise.

Oh, it was fine during some holidays, and was accepted during big sporting events (don’t try to have a quiet evening at home during the Super Bowl!). New Years Eve-kinda, sorta-but even that was tame in comparison other big blow outs. The illegal fireworks that boomed around on July 4th sent most of the building dogs skittering and whimpering under beds, into bathtubs, or frantically into the laps of their owners, trying to hide in human comfort.

The constant vacuumers, their OCD levels of cleanliness taking over almost daily, were a scourge to anyone who was housebound in any way. If you were sick and stayed home from work or school, you just had to hope that the apartment above you had been hoovered clean already. The vibrations didn’t resound for long in one spot, unless you lived under apartment 4H; it was a surprise that the vacuum cleaner did not bore it’s way down to 3H.

Teens played their music loud, and was tolerated only to the degree of the attitude of the teen. The surlier, dirtier looking, and less helpful ones had little to no leeway. A more straight laced teen didn’t get a complete pass, but there were gentler ways to “offer” noise guidance. Amy had been a well liked young lady, so her drumming was accepted, overall, until she took up with “that boy.”

Swan River Parkway lay with only a four lane road separating the speeding cars and Swan Rise Apartments. Everyone who moved in said they only had trouble sleeping the first few nights. They soon became inured to the almost constant whooshing by; it was only the squeal of tires and the “THUMPTHUMPTHUMP” of an accident that broke into their consciousness.  If you looked up to the windows that faced the parkway, you’d see many faces gawking, a highrise rubbernecking.

Quiet is how most wanted to live. The hum of everyday life folded in upon itself as the residents went about their days.

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The Golden Princess: An Un-Fairy Tale

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Once upon a time…King Midas touched his daughter and she turned into gold.

His despair was genuine, as was his outrage, all swiftly turning into self-loathing and shame. He fled his court, wailing at the travesty brought upon him by his golden touch. He never returned.

The Golden Princess was left behind. The hand that had reached out to her father in his anguish was still outstretched. Her still face reflected the the concern she had for him, her shoulders slightly hunched; all immobile. Except…

She was aware.

Aware of all that went on around her. The King’s advisers tried to keep decorum, waiting (in vain) for Midas to return. That lasted only so long. A bloody power struggle for the rule of the land ensued, as the only true heir was a lovely gold statue.

Whatever gold items that had been left behind were taken: either to support the efforts of the warring factions, or stolen to create a new life somewhere else. The Golden Princess was the last artifact of The Midas Touch remaining in one piece.

She was aware of all the plotting, the treacheries, the betrayals. She heard her father both cursed and praised, although the praises were for the gold he created. She heard grief about her own loss, from servants and from lords, and she heard some of the tales of those who wished they had bedded her…and more.

Awareness was a curse unto itself.

Time passed. Long giving up counting the days and nights, she knew not how long. Moved around now and then, new faces appeared, new voices heard. They long since stopped calling her Princess Marygold. The Golden Princess became her own legend.

The worst, or so she thought at the time, was being placed into a dark room. Hearing the bolt and lock clack and snick so loudly, she remained in darkness for an uncountable determination. She screamed and cried and wailed and keened…all inside her golden self.

No one heard. No one heard anything of her for a very long time.

Voices. Loud yells…and screams. Clashing of metal on metal, explosions shook her, waking her out of her stupor. “I’m here. I’m here!” she wanted to bellow. She wanted light, freedom, release. It had gnawed at her.

She was aware of the sound of the lock being broken, of the bolt driven back, of the door flung open and torch light coming in. The joy she felt at these things, taking in the unknown faces. The men, battered and bloody, whooped and grinned when they saw her. She heard shouts of “The Golden Princess!!” from these men and then outside of her imprisonment.

Lifted up and out, with great effort, the men brought her up to the throne room. Or, what was left of the room. She was aware there was blood along the way, bodies strewn. Damage…damage to the walls, stairways crumbled, light streaming in from what had been the west wall of the hall.

The Golden Princess was placed down in a shaft of light that streamed in from the gaping wound of the castle. The men talked continuously, starting at her, running their hands all over her. All over her. They stopped only when one man yelled to them, as he walked over and they parted for him, going to  knee.

“Please,” she thought with urgency. “Please, find a way to release me.”

In a language she was unfamiliar with, he spoke to his horde. They brayed in unison at times to his speech, the rest of the time they were rapt in attention. When he was done, as one, they stood, and cheered, cheered, cheered!

If she could have shed tears, a dam would not have been able to hold them. She did not know these people, but to be in the light, to not be so alone…

They removed her from her castle, her home and prison of so long. She was aware of being put on a cart and moved, screaming inside when a covering was placed on her, again hiding out any light. She was aware of the voices, the animal noises, the movement of the cart, then being hoisted off the cart and brought inside.

She was aware when the covering was taken off, and she was equally aware of the immense heat around her. A cauldron, large and blackened, fire raging underneath it,  took up a good part of the room. New men surrounded her, black with soot and grease and sweating.

Their rough hands brought her to the edge of the cauldron. She was aware of their laughter, their horrid, filthy jokes. Vile, vile men, they handed her with no care. They dropped her on the floor, and her outstretched hand…her outstretched hand…one of them took red hot glowing pincers from a smaller smoldering bin, and she was aware as he took great care in separating that hand, at the wrist, the thinnest part.

She was aware of the noise it made as it hit the floor.

Great peals of laughter surrounded her now. The hiss and noise of the fire and cauldron goo mixed with the glee of the men. Many hands now were on her, and again she was aware she was lifted. A count started; they all joined in, and what she assumed was three, they tossed her.

She was aware of the hands letting go. She was aware of the short flight in the air. She was aware of the horrible heat. She was aware of the splash she made, and the sinking down, and the melting away, and she was aware, aware, aware…

She was aware…they found a way to release her.

 

2011 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Doc Stovepipe’s Medicine Show: Mississippi Lil (#REN3 Blogfest, Week 1 )

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Renaissance was smack in the middle of nowhere, as far as Lil felt. She was tired of being run out-of-town after town, them taking unkindly to Doc Stovepipe’s Medicine show rolling in and fleecing the rubes out of their money.  Renaissance looked like more of the same. They had passed through a sparse forest (Doc called it The Culdees), but she just wanted to keep on passing through. Home was north, past the mountain range, and for the first time in years all she wanted to do was go home.

“…and now, the paragon of deliciousness, the temptress of all men’s dreams-ladies, watch your husbands!-the cream of feminine beauty, our very own…MISSISSIPPI LIL!” Doc waved his trademark stovepipe hat with a flourish and Lil came out from behind the draped sheet to a cacophony of applause and whistles (the men) and gasps of outrage (the women). She couldn’t blame the women: she wasn’t comfortable, really, with what little she wore. Calf high laced boots, stockings, a too short flounce black skirt and a red trimmed bustier that had seen better days. Her shawl of a feathered boa protected her chest only so much. Tall feathers also adorned her hat. They gave her some shade and a prop to use, especially if there was a problem with her costume during the dance. There always was one.

Lil danced to the percussive tapping of Doc’s feet and his banjo picking fingers. He was gifted, the bastard, she’d give him that. It had just been a long time since she had loved him enough to run away with him. Lil sang, she acted in his little skits, she was flirty. All things  “good” Medicine Show acts needed to be.  She looked for diversion while she forced the smile that would help sell his piss water elixir. She had to if they wanted to eat tonight. Lil had other plans besides eating dinner as well.

Not that one. Nope. OK…kinda cute… nope…she’s clinging too tight and oh, the language. Nope. Nope. Hummm...” Lil thought all along, as she scanned the men. One stood out. “Not too tall, not short at all, a worker, by the looks of him. Not one to be in a store. Good.”

While hawking, Lil sidled up to the young man-younger than she was by a good ten years, she figured-and found out his name was Gid. Gid Jacobs, farmer’s son, farmer’s hands and back and arms. But clean, no dirt under his nails, and fairly well-groomed. His mama did a good job with him. Lil approved. She felt the strength of his arm, grasping it when she “accidentally” stumbled into him. “Meet me behind the wagon after the show,” she whispered to Gid. He nodded, transfixed, as she had brushed her breast against him before passing the hat around the crowd.

Doc’s routine to seek out a saloon after a show served her well. Lil seduced the farm boy, letting him take her against the buckboard. She promised him more of the same, much more, if Gid would just do one little thing for her. Gid said he would, that he had never in his life seen anyone as pretty or as wonderful as she was. He told her he loved her.

Mississippi Lil smiled as she folded her arms around Gid, pulling him against her as he shuddered. His head drooped onto her shoulder and both of them closed their eyes, panting.

Doc saw the whole thing, out of plain sight, hiding  behind a shed.  The magics sparked off of his clenched  fist.

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Welcome to Renaissance, the shared world setting for The Rule of Three Blogfest. As one of the hosts of this month-long writers challenge, it’s been with great anticipation for this to begin. Please visit and support my co-hosts:  Damyanti Biswas Daily (W)rite , Lisa Vooght Flash Fiction, JC Martin, Fighter Writer.

While of course I am not eligible for any of the prizes, it’s still a blast to write something for this challenge. Comments are always wonderful and I DO hope any and all of my readers will take a look at the other postings. Click on the silly face icon below to find the other writers who are part of this.

The next prompt posting will be on Friday, October 7th (check back here for the prompts) and then the next section of the story will be on Wednesday October 12/13. Stay tuned for part two of Doc Stovepipe’s Medicine Show.
Our list is now closed, but you can follow the other writers of #REN3 Blogfest by clicking below: