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

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.