Friday, December 18, 2015

Free Fiction: Holiday Delight

“Butter?”

“Check.”

“Garlic?”

“Check.”

“Hot sauce one?”

“Check.”

“Hot sauce two?”

“Check.”

“Chicken wings?”

“Check.”

“Secret ingredient?”

Phillip sighed. “You know, other people make cookies for the holidays. Not hot wings.”

Oscar paused in his reading over the handwritten recipe he had tweaked through the years. The pencil marks were faded, some ingredients were written in, others scratched out, and the paper’s corners were soft, bent, or missing, but the recipe still remained viable. “Other people are silly and sentimental.”

“But that’s what Christmas is—“

Oscar held up a hand. “I do not hold with that sort of frivolity. Spicy chicken wings are what is called for at this time of the year. Not gooey cookies, not fudgy pies, not figgy pudding, or whatever it is that everyone makes.”

Phillip rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner. He heard this every year. It was getting to be almost a set play. Oscar wound himself up, making his protests grander each year, until he sounded like he made proclamations. Phillip loved playing the part of disbeliever and devil’s advocate. “But everyone loves cookies.”

“Everyone will love these wings. Now,” Oscar said. “Secret ingredient?”

“Check,” said Phillip. “Shall I stay and be your sous chef, or do you want me to leave you to your own devices in the kitchen?”

Oscar placed a quick kiss on Phillip’s cheek. “Stay, of course,” he said, breaking his pompous attitude down into his naturally warm personality. “Keep me company.” It almost seemed as if his eyes twinkled before he reverted back to his puffed up posture. “And gaze upon the magnificence that will be created.”

“Oh, brother!” Phillip said.

“Now, where’s the ceramic mixing bowl? I don’t think they turn out as well when I use the metal one. Something to do with the acids, I’m sure.”

“Right here.” Phillip opened a cupboard and pulled out the bowl. Before handing it over he leaned out his cheek. “Pay up first.”

Oscar bestowed a soft kiss on the corner of Phillip’s mouth. “There.” He took the bowl. “Now, where is the whisk?”

Phillip grinned. “That’s gonna cost you more.”

Saturday, December 12, 2015

oh youth, you are impressive

This past week, I was just so impressed by some younger people. I had occasion to sit at a dinner table with some 20-somethings, and the conversation ranged all over the place -- from making hard decisions on finding yourself and defining goals, being brave enough to have really tough conversations with parents, to some fun and esoteric science topics, to current events in the world where they had thoughtful positions and knew the news to back up what they thought. It was entirely enjoyable! I also had occasion to see them joking and joshing each other, which would have made them seem immature and silly, except that it was plainly raucous good fun.

It was an excellent reminder to me that when I write younger characters that I can give them extraordinary depth, and not just rely on some shallow concept that they haven't experienced enough of the world to form thoughtful convictions.

Also, it made me very hopeful for the future. There's often sentiment floating about how the newer generations just aren't good enough, or are ruining things, or whathaveyou, and I'm sure that's true of certain delinquent individuals, but overall, I think the younger generation is going to overwhelm us all with their intelligence, perseverance, general industriousness, and warmheartedness.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Free Fiction: Lunch Chat

I'm not at all sure where I'll go with this, but I think these two have a lot of conversations in them. :)


~~
Ivan finished his walk over to the cafeteria, checked his cell phone and then put it securely away in his pocket. His stomach rumbled slightly. He’d skipped breakfast and his body wasn’t happy about it. Being hungry, he grabbed a full sandwich, a side of fries, an apple, and a pudding. The apple he might save for later, if he needed something in the afternoon and didn’t have time to get out of his cubicle.

A few of his co-workers sat at a round table near the window, and one or two looked up as he put his tray of food down, but most kept their eyes glued to their cell phones. Two played brightly colored games, two checked the news, and the rest seemed to be texting or e-mailing. After the first initial nod of greeting, nobody looked up from the screens except to locate a morsel of food.

Ivan took a bite of his sandwich. He itched to get his own phone out, but he’d promised himself to have a few minutes of downtime from the screen. His ophthalmologist had warned him to give his eyes a break during the day. So, Ivan focused across the room. Nothing interesting was going on there. He looked at the people at the table. Half wore wristwatches. All but one wore jeans. All the women had earrings. Only one person had red hair. This game was very boring.

Ivan took another bite of his sandwich. He allowed his gaze to float randomly across the room. Most of the people in the cafeteria were on screens of some sort. A few had laptops open and were tapping away, some scrolled across reading devices, most stared intently at their cell phones. One guy smiled when Ivan looked at him.

Ivan started to track away, about to catalogue the color of the carpet, but realized he’d been smiled at and checked again. The guy gave him another smile, looking directly at him. He motioned to the other people seated at his table, who were all busy staring at their devices. Then he brought one hand up to his ear, pantomiming a phone, and then made a dramatic frowning expression. He shrugged. Then he pointed to his food and then to a nearby empty table.

Ivan nodded yes. He collected his tray and walked over to the table, meeting the guy there. He’d seen this guy around a few times and was pretty sure he worked one floor below, possibly in accounting.

“I’m Ivan,” he said. “I work upstairs in logistics.”

“Joel,” said the guy. “Accounting. Want to have a real conversation?”

“Sounds weird,” Ivan joked, “but I’ll give it a try. I might be rusty.”

“Just like riding a bike,” Joel said. “Once you start, it all comes back to you. Want to start off with easy topics?”

“Sure. I like eating lunch, and the traffic this morning was a bit congested.” Ivan dunked a fry in the little puddle of ketchup he’d squirted into a little paper container. “I really like ketchup.”

“I approve of ketchup,” Joel said. “And I agree, traffic was congested. I’m considering asking for an alternate work schedule so I can get here early and leave early to avoid the worst of it.”

“Alternate work schedule,” Ivan said. “Is that on the list of approved topics?”

“Only one way to find out,” Joel said. “Just keep talking.”

Sunday, November 22, 2015

enormous beet

Getting back to the beet I over-peppered yesterday -- it was an enormous beet. Check this out (quarter added for perspective):


It did make it very easy to peel the beet and then chop it up. Much less peeling when you only have one beet that takes the place of at least four smaller ones.

Sexy Snippets -- Link!

This blog has writers posting some sexy snippets -- way steamier and hotter than I tend to write -- a good resource if you're feeling unsure about what book to pick up next.  A snippet might light your fire!

The Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog: Sexy Snippets for November

a lesson about pepper

My inexpensive grocery store pepper grinder is about empty (the plastic sort that has an adjustable plastic top), and I thought maybe I could refill it, and not need to purchase another grinder, so I bought just the peppercorns. But, alas, no. There's no way to get the plastic top off without breaking it. So, I have a bounty of peppercorns and no grinder.

Or do I?

I have an infrequently used coffee grinder that can perform the service of grinding! I snatch that out of obscurity from the cupboard and put it to work. I'm happily grinding peppercorns left, right, and center. The problem? I'm used to gauging pepper amount based on how many times I'm grinding the little plastic device and the already ground visual of it, not the pre-ground version of it.

I got a bit carried away, and added way too much pepper to some roasted beets I was making. Those beets were delicious! And my mouth burned for at least a half hour after. Lesson learned. Maybe. Today when I prepped dinner in the slow cooker, I still went a little heavy on the pepper. I bet dinner is going to be amazing.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Free Fiction: Regular Afternoons

Back to Oscar and Phillip!

*****

Phillip picked up his phone on the second trill. He didn't recognize the number. "Hello?"

"Phil? It's Christa, from three houses down?"

It took Phillip a moment to remember who she was. Thin, young, light brown hair, married to a dweebish guy who drove off early in the morning and came back late at night. "Christa, hello. What's going on?"

"I was hoping I could ask you a really big favor?" She sounded breathless and stressed. "I'm stuck in traffic? There was some kind of accident?" Every sentence ended in an uplift of her tone so that it all sounded like a question.

"Yes?" Phillip tried to figure out what she could possibly want, and waited for her to get to the point.

“My husband won’t be home for a while? I was supposed to be back in time? From grocery shopping? But this accident will make me late?”

Now Phillip had a possible guess what Christa needed, but he waited to let her say it. “Yes?”

“My kids get off the bus in five minutes? There has to be an adult for the drop off? Could you stand in my driveway?”

Behind her, he could hear the wail of sirens. A chill ran through him, settling in his chest. Oscar sometimes came home early, and possibly through that same road. Phillip started walking. “I’ll be there,” he said, using his most reassuring voice.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” For once, she was sure of herself, and not questioning every sentence. “I’ll be there as soon as I can?”

After hanging up, Phillip pulled on his shoes and a coat. A glance down the street showed the bus already beginning its entry into the neighborhood. Phillip took up his post at the bottom of the driveway and waited the interminable ten minutes for the bus to loop through the neighborhood, letting each child off in their designated spot.

The bus stopped in front of Phillip and Christa’s children descended. Both were little girls, about a year apart in age, with pixie-shaped faces and enormous eyes. One had red ribbons in her hair and the other had green. Phillip had no idea what their names were, but he waved at them and hoped they remembered him from around the neighborhood.

“Where’s mom?” asked Red, the older of the two.

“Stuck in traffic,” he said.

“I want mommy!” said Green. She balled her hands into little fists and looked thunderous.

The bus driver gave Phillip a wave and drove off.

“She’ll be here in a few minutes,” Phillip said. The little girls had their coats on and it wasn’t very cold, so staying outside wouldn’t be a problem. At least, for a little while. Phillip didn’t have a key to their house, and he didn’t want to bring them to his house.

“Let’s lean your backpacks against the garage and play a game while we wait for your mom to get here, okay?”

Red thought about that for a minute, but Green squealed and ran to dump her backpack.

“Let’s play Superhero!” she announced and then pointed to herself. “I’m the Superhero. You need saving!”

Red nodded at Green, and then Phillip. “Okay. I'll play that.”

Phillip put on an act of wringing his hands. “Help, help, help!” he moaned. “If only a superhero was here!”

“You’re doing it wrong,” Green said. She was clearly displeased.

“How should I do it?” Phillip asked, and wondered if their mother would ever arrive.

“Like this,” Green said, and flung herself around in a frenzy of fake agony.

Phillip waited until she was done. “That might be a bit more than I can do,” he said. “Maybe we could play another game. Do you like to sing?”

“No!” Green said. "No, no, no!"

“There’s mom,” Red said, pointing to a car.

The car pulled into the driveway, and behind it another car continued on and then pulled into Phillip’s driveway. Oscar was home.

“Thank you!” Christa said as she climbed out of her car. “I don’t know what I would have done.”

Phillip waved and wandered away. “No worries,” he said as he departed. He left them behind and trotted back home where Oscar got out of his car and waited.

“Hey,” Oscar said. “Making friends in the neighborhood.”

“Getting kids off the bus. Christa said there was a car accident that held her up.”

“There was. It looked bad,” Oscar said, and hugged Phillip. “I’m glad to be home.”

The chill that had settled in Phillip’s heart fifteen minutes ago thawed and he hugged back. “I’m glad you’re home, too.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

artsy and craftsy

I was in a store today that sold some higher end clothing, and I noticed that the scarves and hats were priced quite high. Some of the styles now are very much about getting a home-crafted look, and several of them had that look as well as the steep price tag. I also have a few friends who do a lot of knitting and crocheting and sell their wares at seasonal craft fairs. The scarves, mittens, hats, etc. they spend hours making do not sell for anywhere near these amounts. They've explicitly mentioned that they can't price the things too high or they won't sell. Now, granted, the store has some luxury of being there each day whereas the craft fairs are very temporary, but it just seems so odd. Anyway, I've been working on a few items for gifts for later on, some scarves and hats (hence my attention to the matter), and I was thinking these items might not be in as much favor as much as if I'd bought something from a store, but now I'm wondering if that's fully true.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

squash, so divine!

I've got a story coming out that features romance and a nifty little caper where zucchini are concerned. In anticipation of that, which may still be a little ways out, I'm sharing some photos from this past summer.

Some fantastic coloration of the edible squash. And zucchini growing, hidden, in the garden.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Free Fiction: The Hidden Park VI

Saturday morning again, and Annabelle walked Duchess early. Both her fathers propped themselves up at the kitchen table, coffee mugs raised to their mouths while they blearily looked at each other. She'd have preferred they come with her, but they both looked like the work week had beaten them black and blue and purple all over.

It was a fine morning, and the air was warm, the sun shone bright, and Duchess trotted like she would bring home a blue ribbon in prancing.

Nothing else had happened all week, after her Monday adventure, except a very uncomfortable conversation with her parents about stranger danger, so now Annabelle's curiosity had raised again. She'd first noticed the park a week ago, and she wanted to know if it still held a tinge of uncomfortable magic, or if it would be ordinary.

Behind the pharmacy, the green space appeared the same as before. It stood quiet and unattended. The bowls of water and kibble were full.

She took Duchess to the middle of the space and stood there, turning in a circle and looking out. She noticed a dog sleeping in a patch of sunlight near a tree, on its side. He raised his head, sleepy and tired, and then put his head down again. His muzzle was white, in contrast to the dark shag of the rest of his fur.

"Hey there, pup," Annabelle said. She approached very slowly. "Are you friendly?"

Duchess whined in greeting.

The dog shifted its weight and leaned up. Annabelle approached it, and he licked her outstretched hand. "Good boy," she said, and scratched behind his ears. He closed his eyes, pleased.

"You've met Georgie?" came a voice behind her, and she turned to see the man. "He's an old puppy, but he's got a big heart."

"He's sweet," Annabelle said.

"That he is," the man agreed. "Not a lot of days left to him, though. He's enjoying his time sleeping in the sun."

Annabelle stopped rubbing Georgie's ears and he pushed his nose into her hand to encourage her to pet him again. She scratched the back of his ears again. Duchess stretched out next to Georgie, thumping her tail behind her, and leaning gently into Georgie's side. Georgie opened his mouth, looking as if he were smiling.

"You help the dogs, don't you," Annabelle asked. She'd been afraid of the man before, but Duchess trusted him. And now Georgie trusted him.

"Yup. Much as I can. Not a lot of me to go around, but I stretch it out."

"I'm glad," she said.

"They deserve every bit of love we can give them," the man said.

"They do," Annabelle agreed. She and Duchess stayed there for a long time, keeping Georgie company, before finally saying goodbye and going home.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

late night editing

I'm feeling a little bleary-eyed as I've been up late editing. And drinking coffee.

Maybe this wasn't such a great idea, but I can't regret it because I made some tangible headway to getting something all done and submitted! I'll regret it tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

the joy of a rough draft

I finished a rough draft today! *dances*dances*dances*

And it feels so good!

Getting a story done is a strange road to follow -- I start with an idea, and it always changes as the words come out on the page, and then I have to figure out how to get away from the detours and back to the main idea, but sometimes the detour is a *better* concept. And that's what happened this time. I had some trouble navigating a sticky spot in the plot, and then let it sit for a while, and while I was doing something else completely, how to fix the issue occurred to me, and of course, the idea made the entire thing even better than it would have been originally! Ah, brain, you work in mysterious ways.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

the inner mystery of pancakes

I had occasion today to be making flapjacks for others for breakfast. I don't often make pancakes, and when I do, it is usually just for myself, so I have a lot of forgiveness if I undercook them. But when cooking for others, there's a lot of pressure to make sure the pancakes are golden on the outside and cooked through. But you can't tell without piercing them, and the hole in them would look a bit ugly. So, the chef must guess, based on the outside, and the time on the griddle. I am happy to report, my pancakes came out very well indeed, but it involved a lot of luck!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

angry forms

I was going to post such a vitriolic rant...but I've run out of steam for the moment. I'll get my dander back up again about it at some point. But, since I am in a calm state of mind, I just wanted to say, I am annoyed by forms that are angry. Filling out paperwork and forms is something we all have to do, on-line or on paper, and we put up with it. But sometimes you come across *angry* forms. You know the ones I mean. Lots of bolding and underlining and italicizing and harsh colors. You can almost see the person or people putting the form together, angry themselves because it is never filled out correctly, (or worse, they love the power they hold to force those filling these out to give up so much privacy, so much personal information). All that anger goes into the form, with short, terse language, and dire warnings of 'this will be returned to you', or 'this will be utterly shredded and we won't even inform you about it' if you don't fill out every single box. Why so angry? Why so angry that during the long, long process of developing this form that you *stayed* that angry? Would it hurt so awfully much to develop a pleasant form, or even a neutral one?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Free Fiction: Umbrella Renegade

Phillip pushed on the brake pedal and the car slowed to a stop, still out on the street and yards away from his driveway. The windshield wipers flicked back and forth, clearing his sight. In the backseat waited four bags laden with groceries, and intentions to make a roast duck dinner as well as a cinnamon bread for dessert.

Paused in the middle of the road for safety, Phillip didn't dare drive any further. Oscar traipsed near the curb, vainly stumbling after an umbrella that turned its handle away with the gusting wind at every attempt Oscar made to grab it.

The umbrella was overly large, the sort used at golf tournaments, and with a smooth convex exterior, and only a slippery button at the very top instead of a more useful rounded spike to grab at. The wide girth of the canopy kept Oscar reaching around and around, not quite grasping the handle. Just as he stretched out, the wind would blow and the umbrella would dance, roll, and jig away again.

Oscar took one step down into the street and finally caught the recalcitrant umbrella. He lifted the umbrella over his head triumphantly and Phillip said a little prayer that it wouldn't work like a lightning rod and call down fire from the sky.

Oscar looked over and realized Phillip was there, holding up traffic in his honor. Oscar looked up at the umbrella, shrugged, and then waved at Phillip. Then he did a sort of shuffle tap dance step in a puddle of water, kicking up a spray, and a quick little jump in the air. In his younger days, he'd have kicked his heels together and landed with time to spare, but he still gave a darned good impression.

Phillip pulled the car into the garage and came around to peer at Oscar, still in the rain. "Having fun?" he asked.

"I wasn't," Oscar said. The handle of the umbrella curved over into a rounded cane and he twirled the entire thing around his wrist. It didn't quite make a full revolution given its enormous circumference, but it looked spectacular anyway. "But I decided to hell with being grumpy about it."

"Good for you!" Phillip called out, although he did not step out into the pattering rain. "What're you doing out there anyway?"

"Edna called and needed me to come close some windows for her," he said, referring to an elderly neighbor down the street. She still stubbornly lived on her own, keeping her freedom and independence, but she did sometimes need a little assistance. "Wooden frames swelled up with the humidity and rain. I got most of them unstuck, but there's one that's going to need super human strength to get it moving again. Or I can go over and close it when it stops raining."

"What're you doing staying out there?" Phillip asked. He watched water drip off Oscar's nose.

"Why, I suppose, I'm coming in for soup." Oscar bounded forward. "And a kiss!" He caught Phillip up in a strong hug and planted a drippy, wet kiss on Phillip's forehead, dampening him from head to toe in transferred rainwater. "There," said Oscar. "That's much better."

"You're incorrigible!" Phillip called out after him, but even though he was now wetter than he'd wanted to get, it was worth it for catching Oscar is an incredibly rare buoyant mood, and the priceless memory of Oscar battling the umbrella.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

strange weather, strange time of year

The days lately have been down and up -- first it is cold, then rainy and warm, and then plunges down into cold again. If I had written this weather into a story, it would seem hardly believable! But I must remember these days, I'm sure the strangeness of it will come in handy for a story sometime, somewhere. Sadly, though, it looks like it will chill down again for Halloween, which means hats and gloves and heavy jackets for the spookiest night of the year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

oh, come on, NFL, don't be like that

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/nfl-fines-deangelo-williams-for-raising-breast-cancer-awareness-during-breast-cancer-awareness-month-150703165.html

The NFL has a lot of issues, but this shouldn't be one of them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

enormous moon in the sky

While driving yesterday just after sunset, it was impossible to not notice the immense moon hanging just above the horizon. So large, it almost looked like someone had replaced the real moon with an impostor, for a joke, one that seemed four times larger than normal. It was truly captivating to gaze at it, and it gave such an impression of how large the moon truly must be, yet because it is so familiar and in the sky each night, and so far away, it seems like something simple and small.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Free Fiction: Artistic License

A little more Oscar and Phillip this week, and a Halloween theme!

~~~

“Make them a little rounder on the bottom,” Phillip suggested. He pointed to the area he meant and outlined the space with his fingertip. “Then more narrow in the corner here. It’ll give a sort of surprised and angry look at the same time.”

“I don’t want surprised. I just want angry. And scary,” Oscar said. He swiped at the pumpkin with his marker, drawing over the lines again.

Phillip grabbed the cleaning cloth and poured more rubbing alcohol on it and then wiped away as much of the marker as he could from Oscar’s artistic styling. In the dark, with a candle in the pumpkin, the ghostly marks would hardly be noticeable. “Give it another go.” Phillip turned to his own pumpkin and considered his options. He wanted motion and movement, possibly a story to be told in the expression. Could the pumpkin be looking behind itself? Would there be something frightening there, causing Mr. Pumpkin to run scared? Yes, and a partially open mouth, trailing away at the corners would enhance that expression. Phillip made his final sketch and then started to score the pumpkin skin.

Next to him, Oscar grunted with frustration. “I think I’m just going to wing it,” he said. “I can’t quite get it as angry as I want it to be.” He started digging into the pumpkin’s flesh with a sharp knife. The actual cutting took less time than the drawing and soon the pumpkin’s face emerged. Mean little slits shaped the eyes and the nose was ignored entirely in favor of a sharp-toothed mouth grinning widely. Finesse had nothing to do with this, the pumpkin's features were shaped by sharply defined holes and basic geometry. The gleeful, vicious expression glared out of the pumpkin, obviously now pledging its allegiance to all things evil. Done, and obviously satisfied with his project, Oscar leaned in to see how Phillip’s had developed. “That looks great.”

“Thank you,” Phillip said. His scoring technique took longer, but it allowed for different amounts of light to escape the pumpkin. Holes let out all the light, but thinly peeled away pumpkin flesh allowed an eerie glow to develop. His pumpkin looked frightened. Phillip smiled. “You know,” he said, “yours looks like it is scaring mine right out of its wits!”

“It does,” Oscar agreed.

“We should make sure to position mine in front of yours. It’ll make a tableau.”

“You know I love a good tableau,” Oscar said, teasing.

Phillip pushed him in the shoulder. “Stop,” he said, but without much weight to it. “Now,” he said, and turned to look meaningfully at the floor behind them. “Only four more pumpkins to go.”

“Next time, we aren’t stopping at that farm stand,” Oscar said.

“You say that every year.” Phillip smiled, and moved the two finished pumpkins to make room for more.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

free fiction tomorrow

Oscar and Phillip will be back for a little Halloween humor tomorrow. I really love returning to them, they're very comforting and interesting characters. But I have not forgotten about The Hidden Park, and will get back to that soon.

Meanwhile, it is fall, and my attention is turning to the thought of soup. I've been reading recipes, and made a very nice chicken soup the other day. Now I'm thinking about a potato soup that I saw, it looked easy, which I like, and also tasty.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Free Fiction: Rough Day

I had a little inspiration for Oscar and Phillip!

~~~

The meeting at the end of the day ran long, which meant the underground parking area was locked and Oscar had to hunt down a security guard before he could be allowed egress. Leaving late meant the traffic flow clogged up in the direction he needed to travel, inching him along in slow increments. Every traffic light burned red all the way down the strip.

His neck ached from the tension and stress, and his right ear felt stuffed up. Hints of a headache hovered at the edges of his attention and weariness dragged at his limbs. Oscar’s mouth tasted bitter from too much black coffee too late in the day.

The weather mirrored his dark mood. Fall shortened the hours of sun, leaving shadows grey skies dimming early. Clouds stuffed up the heavens and cascaded a bleak, chill rain down on the streets, and his windshield. One windshield wiper refused to behave, and thump-squeaked its way across the glass in a regular rhythm that could not be drowned out by anything on the radio. The car’s headlights weren’t quite enough to illuminate the wet pavement, and he kept his speed down. It made his drive home twice as long.

Oscar pulled into the driveway and remembered the garage was unavailable due to a cleaning project he’d put there himself over the weekend. The tops of his shoulders were soaked through by the time he dashed into the house.

But inside, all was different.

Phillip called out to him the moment his entered. “You’re home! I’m so glad!” And the air was saturated with a rich buttery, oniony smell, and the crisp scent of toast.

Oscar shed his sodden jacket and pulled off his wet shoes. He headed to the kitchen, where the warm lights were on fully bright and pulsating. Cheerful music tumbled out of speakers and Phillip stirred a pot of something delicious on the stove.

“I made French onion soup,” Phillip said, pausing long enough to plant two noisy kisses on Oscar’s right cheek, and give him a one-armed hug with his free hand. A pile of shredded cheese awaited on the cutting board, next to tower of toast. “Five minutes in the oven and it’ll be ready. Sit and relax. There’s red wine breathing and ready to pour.”

Oscar didn’t move. He pulled himself closer to Phillip and pressed his face against the back of his love’s head. He closed his eyes and just breathed it all in.

Phillip stroked his arm. “Rough day?”

“It’s better now,” Oscar said.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Hidden Park, Part V

“Paul, I’ve been thinking.”

“Uh oh,” said Paul. “That’s when things start to get dicey.”

Bryan laughed. “Stop it, or I’ll put mayonnaise on your sandwich.”

Paul adopted a fearful expression. “You wouldn’t dare!” Then he sobered. “Seriously, what topic are you thinking about?”

Bryan paused in his sandwich making. “Hold on a moment.” He stood at the counter, with two sandwiches in progress, so he quickly finished them. He plopped them onto plates, added a dill pickle spear next to each, and brought them over to his husband, who waited at the kitchen table. It was just before midnight on Monday, and they were both comfortable in their bathrobes and shorts, but tired. They’d each been at their laptops, dealing with work concerns and necessary e-mails long into the evening. Bryan could feel the long day pulling at him, even as his stomach reminded him dinner had been hours ago.

“These look good,” Paul said, but he didn’t touch the sandwich yet.

“Thanks,” Bryan said. “I’ve been thinking about Annabelle and how she met that man over the weekend. It’s probably nothing, and the guy was just interested in Duchess, but there are bad people out there.” He thought about Annabelle upstairs, sleeping in her bed, with Duchess curled around her, and something clenched tight in his gut. He wanted to keep her safe, and let her grow up into an independent person. Sometimes the conflict between the two goals kept him completely off-kilter.

“And you think we should have a talk with Annabelle about being aware and not taking chances, and all that good stuff?” Paul asked.

“Yeah.” Bryan shook his head. “I hate that the world is so scary and dangerous and we have to have these conversations with her, more than once.”

“I know, but it’s a good reminder.” Paul ran his hand over Bryan’s forearm. “She’s a smart girl, and we can trust her.”

“Oh, I trust Annabelle. It’s all those other people out there that I’m not so sure about.”

“She’s growing up. We can’t follow her around all the time,” Paul said.

“We could try.” Bryan lifted an eyebrow and Paul laughed.

“Black trench coats and walkie-talkie wristwatches?” Paula asked. “Shall I put in an order for fedoras?”

“I look good in a fedora,” Bryan replied.

“Devastatingly handsome,” Paul said. “Now, let’s eat our sandwiches, and get to bed. Mornings are too busy, so we’ll talk with Annie tomorrow after school. Sound good?”

“Very.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Hidden Park, Part IV

The moment the school bell released her, Annabelle hurried. Her dads were both very aware of the clock and if she arrived home too late after school, they both started imagining all the worst things. So, Annabelle had learned not to dawdle, and she knew exactly how much extra time she had if she ran instead of walked, and how quickly she could cover a single extra neighborhood block.

Annabelle tightened the straps on her backpack and she scurried down the sidewalk, not quite running, but faster than her usual walk. Her books banged against her back as she hopped a curb and scooted between two parked cars. There were three additional blocks to get to the grey stone building next to the hidden park and then three additional blocks on her return path. Less than ten minutes for that distance, but she wanted time to actually look at the building.

She’d tried to look at it on the internet, pulling up sophisticated maps and first person views, and something wonky had happened. Either the information wasn’t there, or someone had done a bad job, because everything was blurry. Sometimes, she thought the entire search was jinxed, because their wifi went down, or her laptop forced installations. Her dads were considering allowing her a smartphone, but so far none had materialized. She was hopeful for the upcoming holidays, though. They rarely let her borrow theirs, because they contained confidential work information. But it meant she didn’t have access to an app for maps.

Annabelle braced herself against a tree and stood there panting. The front of the grey building rose in front of her.

People streamed out the door of the gray stone building, shaking hands and talking. Everyone was dressed well, with shined up shoes or strappy sandals, and even a few had on real hats, not just baseball caps. Women fluttered by in gauzy floral print dresses and men seemed like they had stepped out of the past, with charcoal grey or brown suits in broad cuts.

Annabelle noticed the man from before and he caught her eye. It took him a moment to cross the street, as he waited for a car to zip past, and then he walked over. He, too, was dressed in an older-styled suit, with his hands in his pocket. She could see he wore suspenders from the gap created as he stepped up onto the curb.

“No Duchess?” he asked.

“I’m on my way home from school,” Annabelle said. There were people everywhere around them, so she wasn’t worried. “What is that place?”

He looked across the street at the building and smiled. “It used to be a church,” he said,” but the congregation grew older and dwindled. Now it’s in the process of being a theater. We’re all working on putting on our first production. Want a tour of the inside?”

Annabelle grasped at the straps of her backpack. What she wanted was to run home. “Sorry. Maybe later. I need to get home.” She moved away from him and headed directly into the throng of people, then raced home, with minutes to spare.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

First Draft: *makes done hand motions*

I've got a 7+ k short story draft done, and headed off for its first round of beta review, and I'm feeling pretty darn pleased about it. I've been so stupidly busy this past year that it has been nearly a year since I've written anything more than the delectable Free Fiction Friday stories, so this is momentous to me. Granted, it is in the draft stage and not the 'accepted to be published' stage, but one step at a time, and each story needs to be polished in its own way. Thanks to everyone for sticking with me.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

beatbox at the gas station

I needed gas this morning and while it pumped I noticed the air supply station -- it was turned on and while people were fussing with their tires, it was dealing with its air supply by releasing some air in increments, making for a very distinctive beat box sound! I don't have the skill, but someone with such skill could have easily done a little rap or ditty with the air supply behind. It seemed to me to keep very good time, while I was listening. Sometimes it is the smallest observances that are the most delightful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

white daffodils

I don't remember where I was when I took this picture, but I recall loving the beautiful flowers. A memory of spring, even as summer hazes us toward fall. Spring will come again.

Monday, September 7, 2015

summer is back

I thought it would perhaps tend toward fall now that it was September, but the temperatures all weekend have been melting everyone. If there were mercury in any of the thermometers anymore, it'd pop right out of the top, cartoon like. Good luck to everyone trying to get some sleep, especially if (like me) you don't have an air conditioner!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Free Fiction: The Hidden Park, Part III

“Hey, look at that, it’s the last farmers’ market. I forgot all about it.” Dad patted down his pockets until he found his wallet. He checked the interior. “I’ve got enough to cover a few treats. How about you?”

Pop checked his own wallet. “Pretty flush for a Sunday. Might even be able to swing some groceries to bring home. Too bad we forgot our cloth bags. We’ll be shamed for using the plastic ones!”

Dad laughed. “How will the family ever survive the dishonor?”

They stood on the driveway that entered into the space behind the line of shops. The parking lot bulged full of tents and tables, everything laden with culinary delights. Annabelle could see rows of green leafy vegetables that stretched for nearly the entire length of the lot. People thronged all around, and vehicles were scrunched in haphazardly along the sides. Many vendors had their trucks backed up to their tables, using the space as storage and pantry all in one. The green spot off to the side bulged with vehicles parked like sardines, although haphazard sardines to accommodate the various trees.

“But the little park,” Annabelle said. She had Duchess’ lead in her hand, and Duchess looked around, clearly excited by the multitude of people, smells, and activity.

Dad glanced at the space. “I see what you mean now. Never noticed it before. It’s smaller than I thought it’d be from your description.”

“I think it’s just an odd piece of lawn, honey,” Pop said. “Let’s take a look at the stands and see what we want to get.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “If you see the man from yesterday anywhere here, point him out to me. We can ask him how he knows Duchess.”

“Okay,” Annabelle agreed. She was disappointed. Yesterday the park had seemed special. Tucked away and quiet, she’d thought it was a hidden place, a secret known only to a few. With all the cars parked on it, she could see it was really only a strip of green, and nothing very interesting after all.

She followed her two fathers into the depth of the farmer’s market. Everything seemed frenzied and rushed. The vendors smiled behind their wares, confident in the knowledge that at the end of summer, everyone was seeking out that last fresh taste of vegetables before a cold winter.

With a limited budget, they chose their purchases carefully. They bought crusty rolls from one place, nearly black-red tomatoes from another, three kinds of cheese from a third, and kettle corn. Then they settled in a small free space at the end of one table to enjoy their finds. Pop rushed off at one point to bring back a loaf of bread for dinner later, and Dad sagely chose an early apple pie from another vendor. They dug in with plastic forks, ate half the pie, and forced themselves away to save the other half for later. Annabelle bought two meatballs from a food vendor and gave one to Duchess, and split the other with her dads. Pop slipped Duchess slivers of cheese.

With a pat to his belly, Dad stood up from the table. “The bank has hit rock bottom. Time to head home, what do you think?”

“Agreed,” said Pop. “Annie? How about you?”

The sunshine, fresh air, and rich food had made Annabelle very tired. She longed to take a pleasant Sunday afternoon nap. “Oh, yeah,” she said.

As they picked up their things, she glanced back to the small green space. The grey stone walls were more visible now that some vehicles had vacated the space. As she turned away, she realized that the door in the wall had been open. She looked back quickly, and saw the bushy tail of a dog vanish into the dark space, and the door shut closed. Her curiosity flared again.

After school tomorrow, she decided. She’d go take a look at the front of that grey building.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

sunlight pouring

I got into a short discussion with someone the other day because in regular conversation, I had said something akin to: watch out for sunlight pouring in through your car window, it'll melt an object left on your dashboard. And got looked askance at until I corrected to "sunlight beating in". But I maintain that I like "sunlight pouring". And I wrote a few impromptu sentences on twitter to make myself happy.

Here they are in a group!

(1)
Sunlight poured through the car window, raising the temperature inside, and melting all the chocolate intended for Ted's date that night.
(2)
Ted raised the window shade and sunlight poured into the room, illuminating his empty bed; if only the chocolate hadn't melted yesterday!
(3)
Ed contemplated his dirty clothes on the floor, sunlight pouring across them and the carpet, highlighting all the melted chocolate stains.
(4)
Had he made a mistake, Ed wondered, to reject Ted's ruinous chocolate gift, and reject Ted, then go on a chocolate ice cream binge anyway?

Oh, sometimes, I make myself chuckle....

Monday, August 31, 2015

delving the mysteries of the closet

I mean an actual closet, not the metaphorical one. ;)

I needed to find several items--a charger for a tablet, a specific pocketbook, and some pens. Somehow, someway, all the pens and pencils in my home have wandered away. I knew I had a stash of them somewhere, but where?

Between having some family stay for awhile, a household emergency, a friend stay for a while, and other life events, the things in my closets have been moved around a lot. A lot, a lot. Stacked, rearranged, and re-ordered. (Who doesn't need to go through the stuff they hide in the closets? I am no different.)

I thought maybe it'd take me a few hours, this past weekend. No, it took an entire day! But I did it. Like a scientist studying the layers of the earth, I dug and dug. I found a bag full of pens! Soon, I found the purse I wanted. But not the charger. Where could it be? At the very bottom-most box, in the very bottom of the bottom-most box, of course. But, I found it!

Along the journey, I found photos of years gone by, knickknacks I didn't even know I'd saved, more papers (the papers will never end, paperless society hurry up and get here), piles of clothes, empty boxes to things well in use, and wire upon wire upon wire. I don't know if these wires go to anything manufactured in this century. But yet, I'm afraid they might go to *something*, and so I am not yet throwing them out. I tucked them back into their box, and shoved them back into the closet. A task for another day.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

more awesome things I have done today

Most of the day is gone now, and I was industrious practically all of it. I'm not quite done with the evening, either. I still have a few tasks I intend to conquer before bedtime.

A continuation of the list of awesome things I've done today

- made food, ate food (not surprisingly, on these days of focus and concentration on cleaning, sometimes I don't make time to do this)
-- folded laundry
-- started more laundry
-- folded laundry again
-- cleaned off the deck
-- washed dishes, cleaned counter-tops, swept and mopped the kitchen floor
-- sorted more papers (I have papers, papers, everywhere!)

I look around, and I feel quite proud of the amount of work I have accomplished. My own sweet little home feels much less like a wreck, and more like a place in progress!

Awesome Things I Have Done

I have two days to get as much done in my home as humanely possible. I have well far more to do than I can get done, it is certain that I will end the weekend without completing everything necessary, so of course, I am prioritizing. And, of course, it is easy to get distracted and actually do the things that aren't necessary (but perhaps you'd rather do) than the things that are necessary.

So, instead of making a To Do List. I am making a list of things of things I accomplish, as I get them done. I have labeled it: Awesome Things I Have Already Done

This will keep me motivated. I like to see the list grow!

I am also writing the list down in fantastic colors, like purple and green and pink and yellow. That was the first thing on my list -- find out where I stashed my colorful pens!

So:

Awesome Things I Have Already Done

-found pens
-started laundry
-worked out
-sorted a lot of paper
-paid bills
-sorted even more paper
-talked to a friend (caught up) on the phone

Off to do more things!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Free Fiction: The Hidden Park, Part II

“Dad?” Annabelle moved her scrambled eggs around the plate with her fork. She looked up, waiting for a response. “Pop?”

Both her fathers were at the counter, finishing up their own plates for breakfast. Pop pulled toast from the toaster and quickly put them down on the plates, then Dad shoveled eggs over. They each brought their own plate to the table.

“What, sweetie?” Pop asked.

“Do you know that park behind Main Street? The small one with the trees?”

“Park?” Dad asked. His face drew down into a scrunch of thoughtful consideration. “I don’t recall there being a park back there.”

“Well, maybe it isn’t a park,” Annabelle said. “It could just be someone’s lawn. It was just behind that big, grey stone building there. I don’t know what it is. I think a church? You know, behind the pharmacy.”

Pop scratched at his chin. It was Sunday and he was clean shaven all week long because he needed to look good for his job as an attorney, but on the weekends he let his whiskers grow. Annabelle always loved it best by the end of Sunday evening when he looked scruffy and rough, like a cowboy instead of a lawyer. “I’m sure I’ve been back there, but I can’t seem to recall what it looks like. Why do you ask?”

“When I walked Duchess yesterday, we went back there, and there was this guy—“ As soon as she said that, both her fathers became serious and tightened up. “And Duchess really liked him, and he knew her name, even though I didn’t tell him.”

They relaxed a little. “That’s interesting,” said Dad. “You didn’t recognize him?”

“No.”

“I wonder if Duchess knows him,” Pop said. He looked to the floor, and Duchess was there, sitting quietly beneath the table. She looked up hopefully, her attention flicking to the plates of eggs, and then back to their faces. Pop scratched the top of her head. “We’ll make sure you get a treat, don’t you worry.”

“We’ve only had her for six months,” Dad said, “she did have a life before we adopted her. That’s probably it.” Dad was an engineer. He designed and built air handling systems, and was the more practical of her fathers. He made lists and knew facts and figures. If Annabelle wanted help with math or science, or sports, she asked Dad. If she needed assistance with poetry or literature, or difficult logical thinking that required leaps of faith, she asked Pop.

“Still,” Pop said, “I am curious. I’d like to see this park, not a park, or whatever it is for myself.” He glanced to the windows, where sunshine splashed on the sill. “Gorgeous day for a walk, and that’s one of the reasons we got Duchess. So she could be our personal trainer and get us all out of the house more.”

“Perfect,” said Dad. “There’s a hardware store across from the pharmacy. I need some new work gloves and need to replace a broken drill bit. We can all go for an after breakfast stroll.”

Under the table, Duchess shifted to lean against Annabelle’s shins. Her fur was soft and luxurious, and her body was warm against Annabelle’s bare feet. “Okay,” said Annabelle.

“Now, eat your eggs before they get cold,” Dad said.

Pop laughed. “I was going to say that, too!”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

reading more

I haven't been writing as much as I'd like to lately, so I am going to start trying to read more. Reading excellent stuff always gets me revved up and energetic.

I've got Paradox next up on my list, by Chris Quinton ( http://chrisquintonwriter.blogspot.co.uk/ ), one of my favorite writers (and a dear friend of mine). I'm excited to get into it! It won third place in the Rainbow Awards, too!

Check out her works here: http://chrisquintonwriter.blogspot.co.uk/p/published-titles.html?zx=f2d03f514379a7d

peaches and yogurt

Mmmm, got a special treat today.

Fresh, Southern peaches, ripened to perfection, and a high end yogurt. Dipped together, they are perfection!

Goodness, I do love late summer when everything ripens!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Free Fiction: The Hidden Park

Annabelle had never noticed the small grassy area before. Tucked behind a row of stores and off to the side of the rear parking lot, hid a gorgeous little green space. Duchess pulled at her leash, eager to get her paws off the hot asphalt and onto soft grass, and Annabelle allowed herself to be dragged forward. It was often hard to stop the powerful young golden retriever mix. Since her adoption only a few months ago, her once shy demeanor had blossomed into a more appropriate boisterousness. Annabelle liked the personality Duchess seemed to be developing, though she did miss the calmness of their early walks.

Parking signs on metal shafts jutted out of the ground on two sides of the lot, warning about parking only for customers and all others would be towed. The remaining two sides of the grassy rectangle were bordered by the grey stone of an old building. A door sat at the far edge of one wall, looking rusty and old and hardly used. The grass was trim and lush, however, and obviously well cared for. Someone spent time taking care of the small space. A handful of trees scattered across the green, providing shade and allowing dabbled sunlight to filter through the fluttering leaves.

Duchess pulled Annabelle forward and they entered the lovely little space. Once inside, Annabelle saw two white ceramic bowls near the disused door. Water filled one to the brim and the other was full of dog kibble. Duchess tugged on the leash and Annabelle moved forward.

Duchess lapped at the water and sniffed the kibble, but didn’t eat any, which was unusual. She liked food of any sort and tended to snarf up anything within reach.

Now that she was in the green space, it felt quiet and secluded. The cars on the street just thirty yards away hushed into a background rumble and the normal street sounds and voices of people were barely audible. Annabelle rubbed the spot at the bottom of Duchess’ ears and felt suddenly uneasy. There hadn't been any signs posted about keeping out, but the space didn't feel like Annabelle was supposed to be there.

“C’mon girl,” Annabelle said. She tugged at the leash and Duchess came with her until they reached the edge, where grass turned into parking lot. Duchess whined and sat down.

Annabelle shook her head. “Let’s finish our walk.” She tugged on the leash, but Duchess resisted.

“She don’t want to go yet.”

Annabelle looked up. An older man leaned against one of the thicker trees. He wore work gloves, jeans that were dirty at the knees, and a thin plaid shirt. Beneath his baseball cap, his face creased into well worn lines when he smiled. “What?” Annabelle said.

“She wants to say hello before you go,” the man said.

Duchess whined and whirled around, tugged against her harness and leash, eager to reach the man. The handle slipped from Annabelle’s hand and Duchess trotted over to the man.

He squatted down, removed his work gloves, and gave her an energetic rubbing. “Good dog,” he told her. “You’re a good girl, aren’t you?”

Duchess basked in the praise. She dropped to the ground and rolled over. He rubbed her belly, and then she bounced to her feet again.

“Got a home now, don’t you, Duchess?” he said to her, still rubbing her head and neck, then massaging the fur around her shoulders. “That’s good. That’s the best. You deserve it. Had a rough time before, didn’t you. Poor thing, poor girl.”

Annabelle stared at the man. Now that she wasn’t as frightened, he seemed much kinder, especially since Duchess obviously approved of him.

“Go on now, finish your walk.” He gave her one last pat, and Duchess whirled around and trotted back to Annabelle, dragging her leash behind her.

“She’s a sweetheart,” the man said. “Anytime you need to visit, you’re both plenty welcome.”

“Thanks,” Annabelle said. She waved politely and the man waved back, and she set off with Duchess. This time the dog followed obediently. She risked a look back after about twenty feet, and the man was still there, leaning against the tree and watching them. He waved again and so did Annabelle.

Annabelle didn’t attempt to look back again. Duchess seemed very happy and they were safely on their way. As she thought over the interaction, Annabelle realized—she’d never called Duchess by name while they’d been there, had she? She was pretty sure she hadn’t. A chill ran down her spine. How had the man known Duchess’ name?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Clouds, you disappoint me!

The Perseid Meteor Shower has been going on for the past couple nights, and all we've had in the local area are clouds, clouds, and more clouds!

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower

With very little moonlight, it is supposed to be a spectacular display this year, and the clouds are having their little display of prominence! Normally, I'm very pro-cloud. They're pretty, they bring some rain when it is needed, they shield me from some too-harsh sunlight when I'm out exercising, but this week I think they have gone too far! ;)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sundays are for organizing

Saturdays are for recovering from the previous week, and then once you've recovered sufficiently, you can then attack all the bazillion things that need to be done. Up for today are various errands, paperwork, cleaning, paperwork, yard work, paperwork, catching up on e-mails, paperwork, organizing household items, and paperwork. There's always more paperwork than anything else!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Free Fiction: Pre-Focused

This short little bit will probably make more sense if you've read last week's ficlet, but I think it should stand on its own very well, too. It's actually set in the midst of Focused, but it is from Frank's perspective!

~~~

Frank had the side of the van open and he was puzzling out why the ladder suddenly didn’t fit the allotted slot when Mike lugged a full toolbox into its storage space.

“Can you see what’s in the way?” Frank asked. He’d been dreading trying to stretch or crawl into the small space. Once upon a time, he might have, but he was padded out with a few dozen heavy meals that now got in the way, permanently. Mike was stellar at weaseling into small spaces.

“Sure.” Mike climbed into the cargo space, eyeballed the slot, and then reached an arm deep into the recess. “Try now.”

Frank pushed and the ladder slid into place. “Thanks.”

“It was some old work gloves in the corner. Must have fallen out of something.” He paused for a beat. “Hey, Frank.”

Frank turned. “Yeah?”

“Do you remember that guy today? The one with the glasses.”

“Guy?” Frank thought about it for a moment. He’d been on the job long enough that he didn’t pay too much attention to the people. He worked one contract site, then the next, and all the people blurred one into another.

“He let us in to the lock down spaces and played babysitter,” Mike prompted.

Frank dredged up an image, but the guy was nondescript at best. Not too tall, not too short. He wore glasses and had the same waxy complexion that all office workers seemed prone to. Nicer than most employees who needed to waste their work time helping out contractors, though. He had been pleasant. “I guess,” Frank admitted. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Mike said. “He caught my attention. I thought he was sort of interesting.”

Frank groaned. “You and your interesting. What is it with you and these nerdy guys? They look at their shoes when they talk to you instead of eye to eye.”

Mike grinned and shrugged. “Not this one. He spent a lot of time looking me in the eye.”

Frank groaned again, louder and more forcefully. “Ah, Mike. These guys eat soggy shredded rice cakes for dinner.”

“We’re here for at least three more days. I thought if we needed help for something, we could use him. I might get a chance to talk to him a little more.”

“Fine, fine.” Frank shook his head. “Just remember, you gotta wait until after the job is over. Nobody wants a repeat of that business like we had with that skater creep you found ‘interesting’,” he stressed the word, “at that job last summer.”

“Never gonna happen again,” Mike promised.

“Okay,” Frank said.

“One more thing?” Mike asked.

“Yeah?”

“Can you tell George?” The words were hardly out of Mike’s mouth when he backpedaled ferociously, and scurried away. “I’ll get the rest of the stuff!” he yelled from yards away, headed directly back into the building. He passed George, who had an armful of materials.

George emptied his load into the van and then leaned against the side with a knowing frown. “Tell me what?” he asked.

Frank covered his face with one hand and groaned.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

headaches, little and mechanical

Had the car into the shop today for somewhat pricey repairs. Potholes ruin everything on cars, but those ruined bits must be fixed.

Other than that scheduled, expensive headache, I also ended up with a wee bit of a real headache. Work's been having trouble maintaining the climate inside -- the heat has been creeping up, and sometimes the air isn't right and it gets amazing humid and the air seems dead, and stuffy. I read a funny article talking about that, what with the new scientific research into how offices are too cold for women, because they've been set for a 154 lb man from the 1960s. (154? How do scientists pick these numbers? Why not 150 lbs? Why not 155 bs?) In the article, it said there are only two office temperatures: too hot, too cold. So, so true....

On a happier note, I will have a little ficlet up for reading tomorrow. It's associated with last week's little fic, and looks at the perspective of the situation from one of the other characters.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Free Fiction: Focused

Jordan preferred not to wear his glasses. The world became fuzzier and friendlier when the glasses came off. Instead of sharp edges and frowning faces, he saw blotchy colors and heard intonations. People schooled their features more strictly than their voices, but their words and inflections betrayed them. Jordan more readily perceived the truth of them instead of the fa├žade when it was all out of focus. Being one step away from frowning countenances and glaring eyes kept him more on task and less distracted.

He took care not to squint when he removed his glasses. In a society accustomed to laser surgery and contact lenses, glasses one day and gone the next were barely noticeable. Obviously, he wore his corrective lenses when he drove to and from work, but in his cubicle he tucked them into a drawer. His eyesight was good enough that he could see the computer screen and perform his work, but past the half-barricade of the cubicle rampart, everything grew blurry and indistinct.

Usually, Jordan also donned earbuds. Nifty, wireless, high-fidelity earbuds that he’d ordered from a specialty store and that were designed to cancel ambient noise as well as provide excellent sound quality. Jordan adored his earbuds. But sometimes the buds made the inside of his ears a little sore, and he lamented not purchasing the older style headphones that went on over the ears. He’d been a bit vain in that decision, and the irony did not go unnoticed. He removed his glasses so he couldn’t see the fads and fashions of his co-workers, and yet he’d succumbed to wearing stylish electronics so he wouldn’t look outdated or weird to them. Today, no matter how he adjusted them, the buds wouldn’t fit quite right, so he left them out.

The ebb and flow of office traffic didn’t disturb him too much and the low-voiced conversations about children, gardens, sales at the supermarket, cats, dogs, idiot drivers during the morning commute, upcoming vacations, and the like were mostly easily ignored. One co-worker’s nasal, grating voice could cut through the air like a clam rake, disturbing everything and everyone, but the other co-workers usual shut her down as quickly as possible. No one had the stamina to converse long with her.

Sometimes people congregated for extended periods and their voices grew louder, and sometimes the conversations weren't about harmless things like surprising roadwork popping up in dense traffic areas causing frustration, but about other, more personal things. Rocky relationships, heartbreaks, and health problems. Jordan eavesdropped, because he couldn’t focus on his work with the distracting conversations. Some days, he grew annoyed at the disruption and banged away at his keyboard, or took himself off for a walk through the corridors.

But, then the contract employees showed up. The company had been hired to change out some wiring in the floor and ceiling and update some electrical panels, and were scheduled to be there for at least three weeks.

They were messy and noisy, and they got in the way. They left ladders in the most annoying places, and heaps of wires, and bits of trash strewn all over the carpet. Two of them were older, grizzled, with variously ample potbellies. The third was younger, and smaller. He was thin, and could squeeze into the tightly spaced ceiling or floor just far enough to keep the project going. Friendly, outgoing, and genial, it was hard not to watch him. His forearms were muscled and tan, and he wore a ragged, faded baseball cap with a logo that Jordan couldn’t identify. His jeans had a distinctive rip at the knee, which he wore almost every other day. The other pair he wore were beige cargo pants with a splash of dark green paint on the lower left rear hem. He wore a different blue company t-shirt every day.

Jordan started keeping his glasses on and his earbuds out.

He strained his senses to listen to their idle chatter, and he hopped up from his seat whenever they needed someone to help them with anything—an extra pair of hands, a brief trip to a locked-down area that required a chaperone, or just traffic control for the rest of the office. He learned that the young contractor’s name was Mike. The older two were Frank and George, and Jordan found himself happy for their amiable personalities and coarse wit. They made each other and Mike laugh all day long with wry statements and observations on the human condition, particularly the human condition in an office full of wiring. It made Jordan glad they’d come as a group, because they were far more interesting that way.

On the final day, they packed up their things and did a last vacuum for debris, and Jordan reluctantly watched them go. As the door closed behind them, and the sounds of the office returned to the previous level of dullness, Jordan slipped off his glasses and tucked them away, and then inserted his earbuds. It wasn’t quite lunch and he had the rest of the day to suffer through. It seemed odd to return to old habits, but without the blurred vision and constant music in his ears, Jordan wasn't sure he could put up with his co-workers for the remainder of the day. Next week would have to take care of itself.

He kept his glasses off at the end of the day as he walked out to his car. Everything seemed too harsh with them on, although he’d need them to drive, but for these last few moments, he preferred the blobs of color and unresolved images of the world.

Then, a blob of blue moved against his car.

Jordan reached into his pocket and fumbled with his glasses.

“Hey, there,” a familiar voice called.

The glasses slid into place and the world came into focus. Mike was leaning against Jordan’s car, and he was smiling. “Hi,” Jordan said. He slowed to a stop, unsure what was going on.

“We finished up today,” Mike said, “so the contract is over. Which means, technically, that my company is no longer associated with your company.”

“Oh?” Jordan replied, still not comprehending.

“Which also means, I’m not restricted from having only a professional relationship.”

“Oh,” Jordan said, now feeling an odd combination of enlightened, happy, and dumb. For all that he spent a lot of time listening to conversations, he wasn’t particularly skilled at having them, he decided.

Mike tilted his head. “Did I get the wrong idea? Or aren't you interested?”

“Definitely interested.” Jordan pushed his glasses up farther on his nose. “Just, uh, caught off guard.”

Mike laughed. “You didn’t think we needed that much help this whole time, did you? I was making up all sorts of excuses to get you to help us. George and Frank never had so much fun teasing me!”

Jordan gaped, and then closed his mouth. “And I thought I’d been so discreet!”

“Who cares,” Mike said. “The rest of your office is too busy talking to notice anything about anybody but themselves. Now, how about dinner?” Mike came closer to Jordan, and reached out. He gently tugged the glasses off Jordan’s face, and then kissed him.

Pulling apart, Jordan realized Mike was near enough to be in focus, even without his glasses, and that up close he was even more appealing than when he was just a fuzzy blob. “Yes,” Jordan said. “Absolutely.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

four hour clean fest

I've got about four hours this afternoon to get as much cleaning done as I possibly can. And also some cooking (to make lunches for the work week). It's a lot of cleaning that needs to be done. I've got to focus, get organized, and jazz myself into a frenzy of accomplishment.

Ready? Set? Here I go!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Discovery Anthology

Queer Sci Fi held a contest -- write 300 words or less, and tell a story. A whole bunch of plucky authors -- including me -- gave it a go, with some amazing results.

I don't usually write in the sci fi genre, so this was a great challenge for me! My first try at it didn't even turn out to be sci-fi, so I had to try again, and I will tell you, there's a lot of fussing to do when you can't go over 300 words!

More information on the contest, an excerpt, and buy links can be found here:

http://queerscifi.com/announcement-discovery-qsfs-second-annual-flash-fiction-contest-2/

Friday, July 17, 2015

Free Fiction: Evening Walk

The night was exceptionally quiet and calm as they walked through the neighborhood. Oscar’s work had run late, so dinner preparation began late, and then they’d lingered over their empty plates, talking. Now the dishes soaked in the sink, not even washed, as the sun sunk into the horizon, and they’d promised to return to finish clean-up. But first, they’d wanted a chance to walk a route around their neighborhood on a rare summer day with low humidity and the last golden splash of sunlight.

The air washed warm across Phillip’s arms as they meandered from one block to the next and even the mosquitoes seemed to be placated for the evening. Only a few brownish beetles buzzed through the night, occasionally clutching at the fabric of Phillip’s shirt. Oscar noticed and brushed them away, and the beetles opened their wings and vanished into the darkening evening.

A few other people were out, jogging intently or slowly following their dogs as favorite sniffing spots were heavily investigated. Warm lights illuminated a few windows in the houses they passed. A baby cried in one house and the outline of a man shifted in the recess. He must have picked up the child because the next cry came out in a jiggling up and down manner meant to protest being soothed. Some houses remained dark, and Phillip wondered if the residents weren’t home or if they’d gone to bed early. It was a gorgeous night to leave open the sash and allow fresh, cool air to stream in. Tonight’s sleep would be deep, rare, and heavenly.

They passed a house with a party out on the porch. The entire residence was lit up like Times Square, blaring brightness against the creeping gloom, with even the garage wide open and exhibiting all the bikes, brooms, and odd assortment of gardening tools. Chairs had been stuffed onto the porch into every corner, and people moved into the house and back out, carrying wine in long stemmed glasses, and cans of soda. It definitely seemed like a family affair. Older people rocked contentedly in a group and children raced between them and the indoors, and then back out again, past adults who scolded them lovingly. The hubbub of their banter cascaded out into the yard, unintelligible except for an odd word or two by the time it reached the sidewalk where Phillip and Oscar glided by. It felt warm and happy and it both buoyed Phillip and dragged him down.

Oscar reached out and gripped Phillips's hand. In the scant light, he turned to search Phillip’s face. “We can have a party and invite all our friends,” he said.

“I’d like that,” Phillip replied. His family wasn’t really that small, but they were scattered far enough away that visiting was not a matter of popping over for a quick chat. He missed them keenly.

“Okay,” Oscar said. He kept holding Phillip’s hand, warm and solid, and they finished their walk hand in hand, the whole way back.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

hot hot summer

It's the middle of July now and the weather is getting warm and humid. It's sticky all day and then sticky at night. I love going to walks, but the bugs and the heat make it a challenge!

And the deer are coming out of the woods and eating all sorts of things. I can understand them eating everything in sight in the spring, when there's not a lot to eat, but now? They have so much to choose from! Why must they nibble off all my rosebuds? And the tops of my tomato plants?

Plus, the Japanese beetles are buzzing about in full force, looking metallic and gorgeous, and causing a ruckus and chewing things up, and I saw another cucumber beetle in the garden two days ago. My radishes never developed -- my thumb of radish death strikes again!

But today I had my first ground cherry and it was as sweet and wonderful as I remembered from last year. So it goes, and goes and goes. I must remember to cherish the good things.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Free Fiction: Block Party

Oscar and Phillip are back! It's the 4th of July weekend over here, so of course, there's a block party.

~~~

"And then we labeled all the boxes so that the next time we needed to inventory them, we wouldn't have to!" Carlson laughed at the end of his story and the rest of the group around him laughed as well.

Oscar opened his mouth to show some teeth, nodded, and backed away from the group very slowly. They didn't seem to notice as he left the group, they just closed ranks tighter together as someone else began another tale about saving receipts.

Safely away, Oscar took a deep breath to restore his equilibrium. His lemonade was low, so he bee-lined straight for the snack tables.

After filling his cup, he gave the table a hard look. There were several kinds of salads, at least four of which were pasta salads, and bowls and bowls of crunchy chips, but nothing had yet come off the grill. He could smell the tang and salt of cooking meat in the air, promising hamburgers and hot dogs and barbequed chicken, but nothing had yet made its way to the table. Oscar nabbed a piece of cheese from a plate. He'd already filled up on handfuls of baby carrots dipped into creamy blue cheese dressing and mushroom caps filled with bread crumbles. He'd avoided the guacamole. Whomever had made it had stirred baby peas into and it looked odd. He stuffed the whole piece of cheese into his mouth and chewed it, then grabbed another.

He spotted Phillip far away across the lawn, talking to another swarm of people, though Phillip was actually laughing genuinely. Oscar recognized a handful of their closer neighbor friends. Phillip was smart. He'd surrounded himself with people he already knew and liked. Oscar had dared to blaze a trail into uncharted territory. He'd foolishly wanted to meet new neighbors. The attempt drained away almost an hour of his life he'd never get back.

Phillip turned and stared straight at Oscar and a warm feeling crept up from his toes all the way to his scalp where it prickled. Then, as if Phillip had read his mind, he waved good-bye to the people near him and walked straight over.

"Not having a scintillating time?" Phillip asked. He rubbed one hand across Oscar's shoulder. "And they're trying to starve you as well. Not even a veggie burger available yet?"

"No," Oscar said.

"Some purist named Dave only wanted to use real coals, and he didn't even have them started until noon," Phillip said. "He made everyone with a gas grill wheel it home."

"Good grief," Oscar said, then added, "And the guacamole has peas in it."

"Barbaric." Phillip trailed his hand down Oscar's back. "Come on, then. We're one block from home. We'll come back a little later." Phillip's hand pressed low and then released, coming to find Oscar's hand and twining their fingers together. It left no doubt how they'd fill their time.

"Just don't tell me about labeling boxes in our attic."

"I told you not to talk to the neighbors on the west end of the street." Phillip gave a mock shudder. "They're all accountants over there."

"It all makes sense now," Oscar said.

"I know something that makes even more sense," Phillip said, and tugged. They left the block party in the dust.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day

A very happy Father's Day to everyone out there. I hope everyone has good weather, good food, and good company for a very nice day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Free Fiction: Rose Gelato

"Let's go in here."

Jordan shrugged acquiescence, maintaining the imperative nonchalance and apathy required to be accepted into a new school, and a new social group. He followed Frederico, Sophie, and Raz into the gelato store.

"Hey, babe." Frederico's bad boy slouch and knowing wink earned them flirtatious giggles and four free scoops of gelato from the pair of counter girls.

Sophie picked pistachio, Raz chose raspberry, naturally, and Jordan couldn't resist the mysterious flavor of rose. With a raised eyebrow, Frederico followed suit.

Frederico winked at Jordan, and they hung back from the others.

"Why rose?" Frederico asked after they ducked into an alley to lick their confections. There were dried pink rose petals swirled into the gelato, intensifying the sweet, flowery flavor. It tasted like June, the newness of summer and sunshine, and reminded Jordan of his grandmother's garden.

"Never saw rose before. I've had vanilla, chocolate, and all the other ones they had. I like to try new things."

"That's good."

"Why'd you pick rose?" Jordan countered.

"Because you did." Frederico leaned in and touched his lips to Jordan's. Heady with rose fragrance, his lips were both cool and warm cool.

Jordan stared at him as they parted. Frederico winked again. "Let's catch up to the others." So, they balanced their gelatos, picked up their feet, and ran.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Free Fiction: In Love With Capsicum, Part III

"Tell me about the first time you realized you could eat spicy food."

Carl and Mike dawdled in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, sleeping and waking, curling around each other and then stretching free. Sunlight poured in through the cracks in the curtains, warning that afternoon was growing closer and morning about to become a memory. They lingered in bed, letting the day pass by.

"Only if you tell me about the first time you realized you couldn't," countered Mike.

Carl laughed. "You first."

"I was five," Mike said. "And the whole family had gathered at our house for a party, to watch a football game on tv. My uncle was in the kitchen. I adored him, so I was always trying to hang around him. He's a funny guy, and he likes to see how far he can push things. Sometimes he goes too far, but it's more because he's so enthusiastic, not because he's mean."

"Uh oh. I hear a warning in that statement," Carl said. He shifted in the bed and rubbed his foot against Mike's.

"Uncle Leslie. Which is an unfortunate name," Mike said, "of course. I think he tried to outgrow it."

"Makes sense."

"So, he was making hot wings for the game. There were containers of spices and melted butter and trays of chicken wings, and a big bowl he was mixing everything up in. He had a bottle of hot sauce that he was squirting into the bowl. Well, he saw me, and wanted to have a little fun. He said, dip your finger in the sauce and tell me what you think."

"Oh no."

"Oh yes. So I did. And I licked my finger and told him it was good. Which it was. I'd never had anything like it. So then, he pulls out an entire chicken wing and gives it to me, and tells me to eat it."

"Which you did."

"Of course. But by then, it was sort of getting a little hot. But it was really delicious, so I ate the whole thing." Mike sat up straighter. "Then, he gave me another one and told me to go eat it in front of my mom."

"Oh no!" Carl sat up straighter in the bed. "Tell me you didn't."

"I didn't realize it." Mike shrugged. A sly look came into his face. "Now, you have to understand. Uncle Leslie is my dad's brother, not my mom's."

Carl frowned a little, wondering why it would matter.

"I find my mom in the living room and I much on the chicken wing, but she isn't watching me, so I call out to her. Everyone looks my way. I've got wing sauce smeared all over my face and fingers, and I'm just a mess, but I do as I was told. I munch on the chicken wing. My grandmother gasps, but my mom just laughs a little. Then she comes over to me and takes what is left of it, and marches me back to the kitchen." Mike raised the pitch of his voice, "Is this your doing, Leslie?"

Carl laughed. "Your mom doesn't sound quite like that."

"No, her voice is way higher," Mike agreed. "My uncle admits it and starts to apologize. Then, my mom grabs the bottle of hot sauce and splashes a whole bunch on the chicken wing and takes a big bite out of it. Uncle Leslie's jaw practically drops to the ground. My mom finishes the chicken wing and throws out the bones. Then she pushes me toward my uncle." Mike spoke in his high voice again, "You started it, so you can clean him up. And next time, you should make the wings hotter. These ones are barely noticeable."

"Seriously?" Carl asked.

"Seriously. Then she turned and walked off, and didn't even look back."

"So, Uncle Leslie didn't know your mom could handle the heat."

"Nope. She's even tougher than my dad, and he's pretty resilient when it comes to spice."

"So, you were going to inherit the ability no matter what." Carl felt more than a little envious. His ability to handle heat was meager at best.

"Pretty much. Which is why my mom didn't freak out. She knew I was probably going to like it, rather than have a meltdown."

"That's awesome."

"My Uncle Leslie got his revenge, though."

"Oh?" Carl leaned against Mike's side. Sleepiness was growing on him and he thought closing his eyes for a few minutes would be nice.

Mike snorted. "He took me to the bathroom to clean up, just like he was supposed to. Those towels were ruined!"

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

results of the great closet clean out

The great closet clean out is over. I started work at about ten and finished at about four. Six full hours of wrestling and wrangling commenced. Almost all the stuff was pulled from its resting place, resorted, and then returned. I believe the organization to be much superior to the previous. Linens should be more accessible than ever before, and less frequently needed items are buried deeper than ever before. Some things are folded neatly and tucked away into boxes.

Also, some items were dragged out into the light of day, and actually discarded! A few of the items seemed appropriate to give away to others who could use them better than I (or actually use them, rather than their hoarded condition that I conferred upon them). All in all, it was a good day of organizing, although I am convinced my closet items were multiplying. I swear there was more stuff put back in than taken out. Worse...I did waylay some of the items into a different room. So now there's just a new pile of stuff waiting for me to sort it out.....

Monday, June 8, 2015

a rare day

I have most of today to myself (a very rare occurance, perhaps this happens twice in a year?) and I've got big plans.

First, I am going to attack the giant mess in my closet. This project has been languishing for months. Stuff has been pulled out, stuffed back in, and pulled out again. Because of other projects, chaos has reigned and it is to the point where I don't even know what is *in* the closet. So today, I do that overhaul.

If (when!) I get it done, whatever time is left, I will devote to editing or writing.

Now to the bigger question -- coffee or tea to keep me perked up and fiendishly organizing?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dreamer theme with Lex Chase

for those who like interesting blogs, Lex Chase is doing a monthly blog on different themes each time at the DSP (Dreamspinner Press) blog, which can be found here: http://dreamspinnerpress.com/blog/2015/05/21/dream-lex-chase/
And there's a giveaway, too!

week in round up

It has been a busy week. In no particular order:

-- I bought some white globe radishes at a farmers market and now I'm in love with trying different radishes. The white globe radishes were mild, firm, and succulent. I bought some seeds at the store (5 different kinds!) and dug up a bit more of the yard, and have put three kinds in. They only take about 25-30 days (except one kind that takes 55 days, but I haven't planted that sort yet) and I am hoping I will have amazing radishes in less than a month. The last time I tried to grow radishes, it was a disaster. I let them go too long and ended up with inedible woody roots. I've got the end date on the calendar this time, though. I'll pull the radishes and hopefully there will be a feast!

-- I don't actually consider myself much of a gardener. I like to do a small plot and a few things, particularly tomatoes, because they taste magnificent out of a home garden and are completely unlike the tasteless things at the supermarket (note to self: go get a copy of The Dorito Effect, since I heard a fascinating interview with the author, it takes on this topic), but I have found myself talking gardening quite a lot lately. Everyone around me is engaged in worrying about wilt, fungus, blight, and beetles. I'm starting to think we're lucky to be able to grow anything at all!

-- Went dancing last night and had a lovely time. It was quite like being back in high school and going to the prom! There were way better snacks at this one, though, including ice cream. My dress was yellow and long. I felt pretty, oh so pretty. ;) I haven't any idea what to do for a story about dancing, but surely something will occur to me.

-- I worked very hard on finishing up the 300 word challenge and got it submitted. I'm super impressed with this little ficlet. It was in a genre (sci-fi) that I almost never write in, and the challenge of thinking about the future was...challenging. Generally not my strength, but it was good to flex those muscles! One of the hardest parts was thinking about the names -- surely future generations will have entirely different kinds of names than we have now, but how to guess? check out this super interesting name bubbles visual graphic over time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVh2Qw5KSFg I keep watching it over and over again, because you can't catch it all on one viewing, and have taken to pausing it to study the graphic. This thing is mesmerizing!!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Free Fiction: Decisions, Decisions

On Wednesday, Phillip asked, "What should we do this weekend? My hike with my naturalist group got canceled and the Sunday flag football practice is postponed until Monday night since they needed the field for an all day ultimate tournament."

"Hmm?" Oscar tore his attention away from the news article he'd been reading. "Oh, anything. We always talked about going on a trip. Go to the beach, or stay over night in the city. We could catch a show and visit some museums. Check out if they have any festivals planned."

"I suppose," Phillip said.

"Or we could pick a project and get it done. You wanted to mend the broken tile in the breezeway. Fix the drainage in that low spot in the yard. Stain the deck?" Oscar tried to remember the other projects. There were at least a dozen. He had them jotted down somewhere, but the piece of notepaper was not close at hand.

"We could do that," Phillip said.

"You think about it and let me know."

On Thursday, Phillip asked, "I've been thinking about the weekend."

"Did you decide which project to tackle?" Oscar asked. He really hoped it wasn't the drainage one. He'd checked the weather and it was supposed to be hot and humid. The thought of digging up the yard didn't appeal.

"No projects," Phillip said. "I was thinking we should do something fun."

"We could always invite the neighbors over for a barbeque. And we could take a trip into town and look at those carpets you were interested in. Maybe catch lunch at a little bistro."

"Those are possibilities."

"Let me know. I can pick up steak and chicken for the grill on my way home from work tomorrow."

"Hmm," said Phillip.

Oscar went back to slogging through his far-too-full e-mail box.

On Friday, Phillip said, "About the weekend—"

"Oh!" Oscar interrupted him, suddenly remembering that he'd forgotten an important voice mail message. "Lola called. There's some sort of charity event all day Saturday that she wanted us to volunteer for."

"She called me too. I donated money and got us excused from the volunteering."

"Oh, good." Oscar turned to look Phillip over. "Does that mean you've decided about our weekend plans?"

"Almost. I'll let you know."

On Saturday, Phillip whispered into Oscar's ear, "Wake up, dearest."

Oscar creaked both eyes open and stretched a little. The weekend had finally arrived. "So, what are we going to do today?"

Phillip feathered a touch down Oscar's side. "Stay in bed all day. I haven't had you all to myself for far too long, and everything else can wait until next weekend."

Oscar shifted his weight around so he could look at Phillip. His lover had a very self-satisfied, smug air about him. He also looked positively delectable. "That sounds perfect."

"I thought so too."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

ficlet coming

I'm working on an Oscar and Phillip ficlet for tomorrow, for the Free Friday Fiction. It has been awhile since I visited with those two, I realized I missed them!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

decompressing, and a cookout

It has been a wonderful weekend so far. I've caught up on my sleep (wow, naps, so enjoyable! If I could go back in time, I would tell the little version of me to make the most of them!) and nibbled on good eats, and relaxed, and spent some time wandering about outdoors looking at the garden. Later today there's a cookout planned (picnic, BBQ, clam bake, wienie roast, party, what-have-you), which should be a fun time. No writing going on this weekend; I'm filling my cup, as it were.

I hope everyone out there is having a pleasant weekend, too!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

an unhappy cat tale

This story is not for the squeamish, or for anyone who doesn't want to hear about sad, awful things. But it happened, and I want to recount it.





I was traveling yesterday for the Memorial Day weekend. It was a lovely day and I didn't need to get anywhere fast, so I was going the speed limit. At one point, I had two cars built up behind me, so I pulled over to the side and let them pass as they both obviously wanted to travel much faster than me. After I did that, about a mile or two or three (I really wasn't quite paying attention to that aspect), I saw the outline of an animal in the road, and I slowed down.

It was a cat, grey and stripy, and it was very reluctant to get out of the road on my side. Next to it, near the middle, but definitely on my side of the road, was another cat, lying down, still alive, but obviously hurt. It was also grey and stripy, very possibly a littermate of the unhurt one. It was also obvious that no amount of help was going to save the injured cat, but I was now worried about the other one. If it continued to try to stay with its buddy, in the road, it might also end up being hit. That, at least, was something I could do something about, if only a little thing.

I had to go past, as there wasn't anywhere safe to stop, and turn around in a mile or two, so it took me maybe three or four minutes to get back to the spot. A few cars passed me going the other way while I did this.

I was worried about how to move the cat. I didn't have anything very useful in the car like a board or anything, and I didn't want to get scratched or bitten in case it had a reaction to me. I did have gardening gloves, so I put those on after I found a spot to pull off to the side of the road. I could see the unhurt cat skulking in the vegetation off to the side. It obviously wanted to be near, but all the traffic was in the way.

The hurt cat in the road had been avoided by the other cars, for which I was thankful, because it wasn't additionally flattened. (I had flashed my lights to warn the oncoming cars there was something ahead.) There wasn't any blood. It looked intact, but it was definitely in worse condition and most likely already dead by the time I returned. I got it over to the side, off the road. (I was a little concerned other drivers going by would think I had hit the cat, which I had not, but there was nothing to do about that.) There was no way to tell where it might have come from, possibly the house nearest, but the house looked unoccupied for the moment, and really, it didn't look like anything could be done for the poor cat. Maybe it was a little bit of discourtesy on my part, to not follow through at that point, but I left then.

It seemed to me it was one of those two vehicles in front of me that had hit the cat. Of which I am angry and guilty. In thinking I was being courteous by letting them go past, I had allowed them to speed along. Sometimes there is nothing to be done -- cats and other animals do dart out. Later in the drive, a rabbit scurried across the road, and if it had been closer to me, there would have been nothing I could do. But

I at least didn't want the other cat in the road, and I'd made as sure of that as I could.

So, I'm left with the fact that one of those other drivers hit the cat, and didn't stop to do anything about it. (Triple damnation: they were speeding, they hit the cat possibly because of that factor, and then didn't stop to even check to see what they had wrought.) And then all the other drivers (more than 5, less than 10, I didn't count exactly), who also passed the two cats (although they may not have seen the second, uninjured one) and would surely have seen that the injured cat wasn't quite dead, and also didn't stop to do anything about it -- not even to pull the cat off the side of the road. (Perhaps a lesser thing, but it would have been less than five minutes out of their day, as it was mine, to take an action.)

In the circumstances of a wild animal, I can see why -- squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etc., may be dangerous to approach, and I would not have done it either. I suppose I'm just disappointed in the whole thing, and in the people.

So, if you're driving this holiday weekend, please take a moment to slow down, and then another moment to think beyond your own small bubble. Thank you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Updated! Available story linking post

With Cotton Candy Deceit releasing yesterday, it was time to update my overall story links post. I keep it here: Stories by Tray Ellis , which is a sticky post that stays at the top of that online journal, but I will also paste the whole thing below.


~*~*~*~



Cotton Candy Deceit

Jack Abbott has forbidden his son, Zeke, to attend the local circus. When Zeke goes against his wishes, Jack must rescue him from the clutches of a world he once escaped, but only at the cost of his lover, Jonas. Returning to the circus brings back nightmares, but Jack learns that Jonas is still alive. Now an opportunity arises for Jack to rescue Jonas as well as Zeke, and to stop the dark dealer at the circus… forever.

How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings

A free extra that goes with this story can be found here: The Nightingale's Confection

Molly and Irving are getting married, but some very real sparks are also flying between Irving's best man, Everett Donnelly, and Molly's brother Jake. After all the speeches and traditional activities are over Everett finds Jake to see if they can make a little romance of their own.

Never Waste a Good Left Turn, part of the Random Acts of Kindness Anthology


Anthology:
It’s often said there’s not enough kindness in the world. The men in this collection want to change that by reaching out a helping hand to a stranger or friend in need. They prove that an act of compassion—no matter how big or how small—can make a difference.

Never Waste A Good Left Turn:
Just about every morning, the friendly hatchback let Leif take a difficult left hand turn on his way to a stressful, uptight IT job. Leif appreciates the mystery man’s kindness, but doesn’t think much about it until he finds the hatchback in a ditch and Jason trapped behind the wheel. Now Leif has an opportunity to repay all those left hand turns, if he can figure out how to deal with a free spirit in his home.

Pouring a Brick
High-energy Spence joins a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school looking for adventure and meets Will, an advanced practitioner of the gentle art. After training for a tournament, Spence realizes that pushing the boundaries may be the only way to take their friendship to the next level.
The Way to a Fisherman's Heart, part of the Snow on the Roof Anthology
Jim loves fishing, but there's more than just the water and fresh air that lures him out to the fishing hole. Franklin is often there, with tips and tales of a well-spent lifetime of angling. Will Jim find out if the attraction is mutual, or will this be the one that got away?

Nuts, Bolts, and Chihuahuas
And two surprise free extras for this story that can be found HERE and HERE
TJ has been spending his summer learning how to manage the family hardware store. He expects another ordinary work day when he stumbles into a brawl involving Arlo, a frequent customer he’s been flirting with. If TJ survives this fight, he wants an explanation, and it should start with where the extra-smart dog came from.

Free Reads
Alligator on the Green, part of the Please Don't Feed the Alligators Anthology
Hal's husband, Julian, is a tall tale teller, and he is bending the ear of an important socialite at a party. Worse, he's embellishing the story of how he and Hal met, complete with a swampy golf course and an alligator.

As part of the Free Fiction Friday group, most Fridays I put up a short ficlet. These are generally unedited, randomly inspired, and a great opportunity for me to explore topics and ideas that may not need an extensive (long) story, or to return to characters for bits and pieces of their lives ( I have at least that I find myself gravitating back to). For readers, it is a perfect way to get a sense of my style! Check out the Free Reads link here.