24 September, 2022

Fiction Friday - Run For Your Life


A mournful howl pierced the night. It lingered in the air as a call to action. Cameron froze, wide eyes struggling to find the source of the howl. There was nothing. No movement apart from the swaying tree branches, barely visible as dark shadows across the open field.

Another howl rang out and Cameron spun to his left. Wolves? Coyotes? What kind of animals lived around here?

He dropped into a crouch and peered around. It was no use. The moonless night was too dark for his gaze to penetrate. He slowed his breath, tamping down the urge to flee. Think, Cameron. You're out in the open, with at least two animals nearby. Another howl. Maybe three. Or was that the first wolf again?

On the one hand, being in the open would make it easy to see them coming. On the other, they could be watching him right now and he'd never know. This was crazy. He couldn't squat here all night. Already, Cameron's knees were complaining. If he was going to run, better to do it now, before all his joints froze.

The wolves (or coyotes) were howling messages to each other. He didn't even try to count how many there were. It seemed like two, but maybe there were three or four at each spot the howls came from. Hyper-alert now, Cameron slowly rose from his low squat. He stayed low, bent as if looking for something.

A few tentative steps. Going slow seemed the safest way to relocate nearer to the boundary of the field. The howling stopped. Cameron stopped. 

Too late, he realized he should have timed his movements with the howling. Time to test his luck. Cameron took off in a sprint toward the path, praying the parking lot and comfort station were nearby.

Behind him, he heard one howl and - was it his imagination? - the sound of many paws breaking through the underbrush below the trees and chasing across the grass. It was the run for his life.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment. Today's story came from a 15 minute fiction sprint during the writing group I attend most Mondays.

21 September, 2022

Tuesday (ish) Truth

"Truth" as in "This is what I believe is true." I do not have 100% proof as to the factuality of what I am about to relate. Here we go:

I think I had a heart attack recently. It was a few weeks ago, and since I wasn't about to go to the hospital, I'm not really telling people about it. This blog is anonymous,  so I've decided to put it out here for posterity, in case something else happens later.

Here is what happened:

I was washing dishes, and suddenly felt strong pressure, as if someone was pressing their fist - or the wide end of a baseball bat - into my sternum. I leaned on the counter for a moment, but it didn't go away. The pressure started climbing up my chest, slowly. I was having trouble catching my breath, so I retreated to the bedroom to recline in the cool dark. Maybe that would help.

The pressure grew up to my throat, and I focused on breathing. At this point, tears were coming to my eyes because I was confused and in pain. But I didn't want to panic over nothing, so I worked on relaxing as much as I could. 

Gradually, the pressure eased and my breath came more easily. I waited a few more minutes to calm myself and take some deep breaths, before returning to the kitchen. During this time, I think I started laughing at myself: Was it a heart attack? Was it a gas bubble? SO OFTEN on TV and in movies, someone thinks they are having a heart attack, go to the hospital, undergo a battery of tests, only to find out that there was just a big gas bubble or some other harmless thing. 

I'm not going to do that! Seriously? Pay for a hospital visit and testing to find out what? A)Yes, you had a heart attack. Now you must alter your life in these ways. Or B) No, it wasn't a heart attack, but you should alter your life in these ways. 

Not worth it, IMHO.

Here's the thing, people. I am genetically highly likely to have a "cardiac event". On a scale of 0-3, my bloodwork came up a 9. My blood pressure is LOW; my cholesterol is healthy. I eat healthy. (Since moving to Vietnam, I have a diet high in turmeric and garlic, both good for the heart.) I exercise regularly. My heart situation is purely courtesy of my dad and his dad and others who came before.

After finding out I was a cardiac risk years ago, I started a pinterest board for heart health. After this "heart attack" I looked through symptoms common in women. Apart from the obvious ones that I felt in that moment, during the weeks leading up to a heart attack, many women complain of: 

  • Insomnia
  • Excess fatigue.  
  • Nausea. I don't often feel nausea, but shortly before this I had felt it during some of my yoga workouts. 
  • Many women also mention a high stressor leading up to the event. (Not relevant to dredge up here.)

So, I think I had a heart attack. I'll happily continue on in ignorance of the medical truth, just with this personal truth in my head, and will watch for the next one.

17 September, 2022

Fiction Friday - Lovely Villain


Tam poured tea for herself and her guest, into two delicate china cups. The tea had all been laid out on the sideboard, and when Rayna arrived, Tam prepared the cups and brought the tray over to the table. "I'm terribly sorry about the miscommunication." Her gentle smile led credibility to her soft-spoken words as she stirred her own tea. Rayna smoothed her hands on her legs and watched Tam lean back, the lovely cup in one hand and its matching saucer in the other. "You see, the word came that Teegan was out, so of course, he's..." Tam's eyes flickered down to her knees and back up. "... done." A stern look came into Tam's beautiful eyes as she gave the final word on Teegan.

Rayna picked up her cup and saucer and stirred with a tiny spoon. This was how it went with Tam. Tea, beauty, and polite conversation. Conflict caged in propriety. "But nobody cleared that with me." Rayna made her protest in a matching gentle tone. Teegan was part of Rayna's team. She should have been consulted, but what was done was done. One didn't raise one's voice to Tam. 

Tam shrugged an apology. "Again, Mr. - ahem - informed my office directly." She sipped delicately at her tea cup. "You may, of course, take your concerns to him if you wish." It was a safe bet no one would ever attempt that. The only way up was through Tam. Only Tam knew that she was the end of the line. She always said she was taking orders... usually over a cup of hibiscus tea, always with a smile, always in a sweet, calm voice.

Rayna sighed and sipped her tea.

"Can you cover the lost personnel?" Tam inquired, her eyebrows arched over her cup.

Rayna set her cup down, rubbing her brow with one thumb and forefinger. Contradicting Tam would be career suicide. She was a sweet, lovely woman, and she was just following orders. Rayna was in a tricky situation. "Ugh... I mean..."

"Please, think carefully, as we share our tea. Don't answer in haste." She raised her cup in a silent toast, sipped, and added, "I'd hate to lose you, too."

Rayna forced a smile and mirrored the toast. Her mind raced. She sipped in sync with Tam. Could she adjust things? Sip. Was she due for Teegan's fate if she couldn't? Sip. The room felt warm. She opened the top button of her blouse. Sip. Her eyes blurred - what was the problem she was trying to solve? She stared blankly at the flowers in a vase behind Tam. Tam. "Um, I'm sorry -" Her own voice sounded miles away. "What was the question?" Her mind pushed out the slurred words while crawling through a web of conflicting thoughts.

"I think you know, dear."

In minutes, Rayna collapsed in the over-stuffed chair, her cup of poisoned tea spilling onto the floor. Tam gave a "Tch" sound and moved to press a napkin over the spill. "That will stain." She rang a small bell for one of the men to come take care of Rayna. There was work to be done, and she needed her space in proper order.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment. Today's story came from a random phrase ("Lovely Villain") that a friend threw out in conversation a couple nights ago.

13 September, 2022

Tuesday Twist!

So, you know we started an English center. Recently parents have been pulling their kids out of classes. We heard that some parents were concerned that their kids' grades weren't going up. ...Which makes no sense because our classes started on June 8th, so there have been no school grades to compare, and we only recently got to the point of doing the first tests/assessments within our own curriculum.

(Personally, I think those parents are trying to make an excuse so they don't have to tell their dear friend - our local business partner - that they don't want to pay for classes.)

Anyway, we listen. We want to address parental concerns. So we decided to offer "Homework Help" once a week. A non-class period of time when kids can come in to the school and get assistance with their English homework from a native English speaker - myself and my husband Brett. This is a trial for this month, to gauge interest.

Honestly, because I think the parents are making up this complaint, I thought "Homework Help" would not be popular. But at least we could say we offer it!

Twist!

Sunday was our first "Homework Help" time. One kid was there before we even arrived. Another came shortly thereafter.

Then a MOB of kids (eleven, to be exact) came in the doors. WHAT!?!

Oops - another twist! It turned out these were some of our students whose parents wanted them to take an assessment test to see whether they could be moved up to a higher level. (It was poorly scheduled by front office staff. The students should have been at staggered times.)

So I stayed with the two Homework kids and Brett did the testing. Then one more girl came for Homework Help, but she hadn't brought her book or notebook or anything. I think she had been asked to come in by one of our staff, just to show interest. 

All told, there were four kids at Homework Help on our first day. That's four more than we expected. And two are loosely connected with staff members, so I'm guessing there were only two students who genuinely wanted help.

I hope we helped them. It was kind of chaotic and loosey-goosey. I'll be interested to see what happens next week.

Maybe I should gently suggest that our staff do NOT feed us students. Kids who have legitimate issues are not getting the help they could if our time is split between them and these forced kids. Am I wrong? What would you do?

09 September, 2022

Fiction Friday - An Imperfect World


In a perfect world, Maya wouldn't be here. In a perfect world, she wouldn't have to be. It didn't look familiar, but this was definitely the address from the envelope.  She passed through the revolving door with her arms hugged tight around her. In the swanky hotel lobby Maya pulled down the visor of her ball-cap. No way. This couldn't be right.

More steps, trying to get out of the way of people coming and going. Her eyes searched. For what? For whom?

Seeing a uniformed waiter heading her way, she ducked behind a wide pillar, only to crash into the ashtray stand behind it, knocking them both into a clanking, clattering, dusty pile on the polished marble floor.

A trio of hotel staff materialized in an instant. So much for keeping a low profile.

"Are you all right, Miss?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine," she answered, keeping her head down.

One man uniformed as domestic staff had already righted the ash tray and was working to sweep up the mess. The one speaking reached down a hand to help Maya up. Once she was vertical, he offered a small clothes-brush for her to dust herself off.

The third man, with the most impressive uniform, supervised. As Maya returned the clothes brush with a grateful smile, she heard a sharp intake of breath from the supervisor.

He lifted her cap off her head. "No. Maya? My Maya?" 

It wasn't how she had wanted to meet her father.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment. Today's story came from a 15 minute fiction sprint during the writing group I attend most Mondays.

06 September, 2022

Tuesday Typeset - Book Report Two

A week ago I finished reading an older book that I'd never heard of:


Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

When I bought my Kindle, it came preloaded with a bunch of books, and this was one of them. I knew nothing about it. During brunch one day, I made a short list of short books that were on my Kindle, that I could read quickly to help meet my Goodreads reading goal for 2022. At just a little over 200 pages, this was one of them. 

Only today, as I did a search for the cover art, did I learn that it was published in 1958!

It's timeless, because it takes place prior to and during the colonization of Africa. That's as specific as it gets. We know it's in Africa, but not where in Africa. We know that it was a long time ago because of old traditions, lack of technology, and lack of global influence in the characters' lives during the first half of the book.

I don't want to say too much, because I highly recommend reading it. It's banned in some places, or at least it was banned. It's a short, easy read, with a rich story. Especially if you appreciate other cultures. If you don't like reading about lands foreign to you, maybe you wouldn't like it.

That's all I'm willing to say because I don't want to give anything away. To me, it was a fascinating look at a time and place I could never imagine.

 

02 September, 2022

Fiction Friday - The Door Opened


The squeal of the hinge awakened Diyetta in a snap. In the darkness the door opened, scraping across the hard floor as it did. A smell of rust flaking off the unseen hinges reached her. The room stayed black. The darkness had been palpable before, and instead of light streaming in through the door, it seemed that the darkness blackened. The only thing streaming in was a waft of dusty, stale, ancient air that gave solidity to the air and filled Diyetta's mind.

She could taste it. The dust of the past - rotting bones, withered tree roots, death - swirled around Diyetta, now snaking into her nose, her mouth, her lungs. The hard, cold surface beneath her gave no comfort. Stone cold. A mausoleum. More death.

Her death?

Diyetta was choking on the smothering darkness. Her mind swam with images of long-dead relatives. She coughed. A sputtering, dry cough. Her lungs were leaden, not releasing any of the poison air inside. 

After the creaking hinge, all fell silent. How had the door opened?

"Hello?" she managed to choke out. Her voice sounded foreign. Echoes bouncing off the walls tore at her ears and reached through her core to squeeze her heart.

Heart racing, lungs gasping, eyes blinded by the dark, Diyetta did the only thing she could think of. She crawled toward the door. Whatever was on the other side must be better. 

As one crawling under the smoke layer of a burning house, she hoped staying low would keep the rotting texture of the air out of her nose. With each inhale, she pulled her t-shirt over her nose and mouth, an extra measure to avoid contamination. 

Diyetta felt the edge of the open door and moved around it toward her freedom. Or so she thought. Crawling on, slowed by stopping to cover her nose at each breath, she felt the frame of the door jamb. Diyetta used all her strength to move her face and head across that unseen boundary, only to die on the doorstep. 

No t-shirt in all the world could have prevented death from invading her lungs and taking her life. 


It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment. Today's story came from the prompt "The Door Opens" in a writing group I attend most Mondays.