30 December, 2022

Fiction Friday - Seeking Safety

In my recent Bible reading, I read a prophecy that I know well, but I wanted to portray it in a different way. I hope no one will be offended by the literary license I took with this passage.

Mila crouched in the rocks and watched for movement. The valley below was well-sheltered, and she'd stay there all night if it looked safe. But safety could change in a moment. The floor of the valley was littered with old bones, which could mean it was abandoned, or could mean it was an active dumping ground. So she watched for movement. Animals, people, anything coming out of hidden crags or caves in the shadowy rocks.

"Show yourselves," she whispered as she made herself comfortable and pulled a dried cake of fruit and nuts from her pack. 

Soon enough an old man came out of a pathway beneath her vantage point. He was walking with a staff, and appeared to be talking to himself. She smiled. One crazy old man was not a major worry. The old man was undeterred by the scattered bones, and walked straight into the middle of the valley, looking around at the bones and scrub brush around his feet as he went. He'd probably cross straight through and be gone in a minute.

He stopped and stood still, apparently listening. Mila listened, too, but heard nothing. Not a whisper of wind. What a strange old man!

With a jerk he raised his arms up to shoulder height, the staff in one hand, the other splayed, palm facing down. He called out loudly in a language Mila did not know. After calling out a few sentences, he lowered his arms and waited.

Mila was so intent on watching the curious old man that at first she did not see the movement on the ground. It started as a stirring of dust, as of mice or moles digging their way out of holes in the ground. Then she noticed it. No mice. No moles. The bones themselves were sliding around. More bones were coming up out of the dirt. The movement increased, sped up, and intensified as bone connected to bone. Her eyes widened in shock. She wanted to move but found herself glued to the spot. Dozens - no, hundreds - of skeletons were coming together and standing around the man. More and more emerged every moment.

She squinted down at the skeletons she could see best. Was that - tendons? Mila felt a convulsion in her gut and controlled her sudden urge to vomit. Tendons were growing out of the bones, connecting them together as they stood there, as even more dry bones came together into bare skeletons. There were surely over a thousand skeletons growing in the valley now. Her jaw dropped open and her throat dried up. When muscles knit themselves together around the shoulder of one tall skeleton, Mila's own muscles found their strength and she scooted back from her hidden perch.

The old man was shouting to the valley full of bones again. It was more like a valley full of disgusting, skinless people, now. Whatever he said, those bones started moving, and so did she. 

As quietly as Mila could manage, she got her feet beneath her and rose into a low crouch. She wanted to keep eyes on what amounted to an army of the dead, but she'd have to turn around to run. 

She rose slowly and stepped backwards with care. One of the muscle-covered skulls turned it's eyeless sockets in her direction. Could it see? Without eyes? Mila froze, petrified by the red, fibrous, muscles moving the face into a gruesome, eyeless, sneer. The skulls atop the skeletons around that first one were now turning in her direction, too. She needed no more proof of danger. She turned and ran as fast as she could back the way she came.

The sound of bones clattering against the rocks as they clambered up the side of the valley followed her. Or was that merely the echoes of the terror in her mind?

Reference: The story of the Valley of Dry Bones is a famous passage from the book of  Ezekiel, chapter 37, verses 1-14. I've been reading too much Stephen King lately, and wanted to consider this from a horror perspective. The only characters in the Biblical story are the prophet Ezekiel, God - who was telling him what to say, and the bones themselves.

04 December, 2022

Non-Fiction Friday on Sunday

No fiction this past weekend. I got Covid.

Actually, I think I got it last weekend. Starting on Sunday I had a tickle in my throat. Monday the tickle was gone, but I was sneezing a lot. I figured I had a cold. Colds move through my system more quickly here in the tropics than they used to up north.

By Wednesday I had a low-grade fever. On Thursday I told Brett that if the fever was still active the next morning, I should go get a Covid test. Friday morning we went to the clinic.

To be honest, I've been staying home and avoiding my husband since I started feeling bad, so it was less about diagnosing myself and more about the fact that on Sundays (today) I'm supposed to be at our school to help with homework. 

Not with Covid!

I tested positive, so Homework Help was off. Since I've been presenting symptoms for a week already, I figured a follow up test on Wednesday should be fine and I'll be back in action by the weekend. I'm sleeping on a cot in the living room, and Brett has been fine.

Until today. This morning he told me he has a sore throat. We can guess what that means!

Personally, I blame this on being social. On Thanksgiving we were down in the historic district of our town, hanging out with a new friend - a tourist who was only here a few days. That night, when we parted ways, I gave her a hug. We'd had fun! I felt like I had a new friend! Brett is not a hugger. He did not hug her. Days later I presented symptoms of what turned out to be Covid. 

This interaction is the only break in my usual social activity. I've messaged her to check on her health, but heard nothing in return.

And THAT, my friends, is as good a reason as any for me to remain a confirmed introvert!


26 November, 2022

Fiction Friday - The Prophet

I read the Bible every year, and catch myself thinking about backstories to minor characters, or musing about particularities of a situation. I recently read about one of Isaiah's prophecies that struck a funny chord with me. I hope you like this story that was inspired by it.

Abigail walked her cousin up the lane into her house. "I'm so glad you came, Cerina. Judea must seem provincial after your move to Damascus. You'll have to tell me all about it."

"Nonsense," Cerina said. "I can see that a lot has changed here since I left. Like what do you do for entertainment these days?"

Abigail shook her head. "Not much lately, with the kids' school and - oh, you know, in this depressed economy - I've actually started working." Seeing her wealthier cousin's eyebrows go up she back pedaled. "Oh, nothing major, just a little sewing work when I have time. Every little bit helps. It can go on like this forever." There were entertainments for the wealthy, of course. She hoped Cerina wouldn't expect her to pay for something like that. 

An idea came to her. "Oh! While you're here we should go see the prophet!"

"Prophet? Like a seer?" Cerina had been to seers and mediums in Damascus. She never would have thought Abigail would open her mind to that.

"Well, sort of. Only..." Abigail hesitated. If she said he was a prophet of the Most High God, Cerina might think she was backward or old-fashioned. "You'll just have to see. Let's go today!"

As they were walking out toward Isaiah's usual hill, she said, "I hope he has good things to say today. He's always right."

There was only a small crowd when they arrived. "Oh good," Abigail said, "We can get nice and close." As they moved nearer, she noticed the crowd was in flux. People were coming and going, only lingering for a few minutes, not like his usual speeches.

Up at the front, Isaiah's son Shear-Jashub approached them and explained. "My father has been commanded by God to demonstrate symbolically what the Lord plans for Israel's enemies among other nations." He continued talking but the women were too stunned to hear him. Abigail blushed in embarrassment at the naked prophet sitting in the dust before them. Cerina's look of shock turned to amusement. "Great Prophet, indeed!" she smirked. 

Abigail caught Shear-Jashub's arm before he moved on to a group of newcomers. "Won't he say anything? Please. My cousin has come so far."

He looked at the two women, Cerina openly staring at Isaiah. He looked at Isaiah, then responded, "He may. It's not a vow of silence. He's not spoken much these months, but you may wait if you like."

Months? Seeing her cousin agape at what, to her, must look like a dirty pauper, Abigail grabbed her arm and tugged her away. "Let's visit the marketplace instead." 


A year later, Cerina returned to visit Abigail. "Is that Great Prophet still around?" she teased.

"Oh, that was such a failure!" Abigail could laugh about it now. "Of course he's still our local prophet, but I haven't tried to go back since that day."

"No? I'd've gone back every day. We must!"

"We must?" She didn't love revisiting the past.

"Of course!" Cerina looped her arm through her cousin's. "I believe you, you know. That he knows things." She began moving them to the front door. "And that young man explained it was just a kind of visual demonstration, whatever it was supposed to mean." Cerina was content to let greater minds decipher such mysteries. It had been an amusing day back then, but she wanted her cousin to have her chance to show off.

"Oh, okay," Abigail turned to pull the door shut behind them, thinking surely by now he'd be normal again.

The women bought some raisin cakes off a street-side vendor as they walked through town, chatting, laughing, nibbling their treat.

Almost no one was around when they arrived. Abigail felt a knot grow in her stomach. Isaiah's son approached them with no sign of recognition and walked the last hundred feet with them. He recited the same spiel about a visual demonstration.

"No! No!' Abigail hurried ahead. She began shouting at Isaiah, still naked, only much dirtier. "What kind of prophet are you? You're out of your mind! What is the point of this? Tell us something!"

Cerina pulled Abigail away with Shear-Jashub's help and he explained further. "Isaiah has been speaking the Lord's prophecies of warning, but many do not hear. They close their ears. Now he must show them. They will close their eyes. The prophecies will happen as the Lord has said. Let those who see and hear understand." He ushered them off the small hill with a blessing.

That evening, Abigail was quiet through the family dinner. Cerina quietly explained to Abigail's husband what happened. He turned to his wife and reminded her, "Isaiah is a great prophet. Remember the things he has said that have already come true in just the last few years? We cannot always understand these things."

A year later, when the Egyptian captives were led away naked, Abigail remembered Isaiah. She went to his usual hill and there he was, dressed as normal and prophesying that a virgin would give birth. "That'll be the day," she muttered as she left. "Then again..."

Reference: This story is based on a brief mention in the book of  Isaiah, chapter 20, verse 3. The culmination of Isaiah's "3-years of nudity" prophecy is told in  verses 4-6. I love this because Isaiah was a prolific Major Prophet. If you've heard Handel's Messiah, a lot of that comes from the book of Isaiah. As I read this tiny selection recently, I thought of Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and their portrayal of prophets. We have Isaiah's words, but what did the common people think of him?

23 November, 2022

Tuesday Time Management

I read an article recently about preventing dementia and alzheimers. (The article popped up in the automatic news feed on my new phone, and it's gone now, so I can't cite the source, sorry.) It's the same stuff I've read before: basically, be healthy. (duh) But one pointer hit me differently.

I knew that doing puzzles - doing things that exercise your brain - is a good way to help prevent these types of diseases, but this article specifically stated that doing puzzles isn't what helps: learning new things is what helps. 

When your brain is learning something, new connections are made. When the brain is active, it prevents stagnancy (my word - again, I can't find the article anymore). 

Well, I'm studying languages, so that counts. I'll tick that box off the list.

That got me thinking, if it's about connecting things in the brain in a different way to keep it active, what about "learning" that's not traditional learning? Not studying a new skill, but just doing things differently? 

I am a creature of habit. Especially in the morning I have several tasks to be done, in a specific order, before I can decide what's my first thing to do that day - sit at my laptop, go to the market, have coffee out at a cafe? Routine, according to the article, also allows the brain to get lazy. We don't want a lazy brain!

So for the last few days I'm doing things differently. I've gotten up and dived into writing before anything else. I've watched comedy shorts on YouTube instead of meditating first thing. I'm being more social (gasp!). I think I even joined a book club! (I went, once, and they are just starting a new book that I can read if I want to join the discussion at the next meeting. So I guess that means I've joined. It's not like there's a sign-up.)

I'm exhausted. But I think it's a good thing. 

What do you think? I wish I could link up the article, even though most of it was stuff we've probably all read before, but do you think "learning" could be taken as "learning to do the same things in a different way"? It surely can't hurt.

11 November, 2022

Fiction Friday - Going Home

Jaden moved her car down the long gravel drive, feeling her foot lighten on the gas pedal as the house drew near. The lighter her pressure on the pedal, the tighter the knot in her stomach grew. The house now loomed huge in her windshield. It cast an ominous shadow over the lawns around it. 

Maybe she should have visited her parents sooner, or helped them when they moved here to Great Aunt Marla’s old house.

The car stopped, but Jaden didn’t move. She sat. Chewing her lip. Staring at the big green Victorian structure. Dormer windows, shades half-way down, stared back at her. The minutes lengthened. Who would flinch first? 

“What?” The thought broke Jaden out of her trance. “Ridiculous.” 

Still, what would she find inside? Were her parents okay? That weird phone call had thrown Jaden for a loop, no doubt about it. So here she was. Better get this over with. The sooner she saw her parents and verified all was well, the sooner she could meet Joaquin in New Orleans. The thought lightened her heart. A smile brightened her face and a happy sigh escaped. 

She laughed at herself. If Joaquin could see her now! She shook her head and pushed open the car door, sitting there for another minute. Joaquin. Well, she’ll have stories for him later. 

She breathed deep, not yet committing to closing the car door. Pine and humus assaulted her senses as if the house was exhaling it in her direction. All was quiet. “Hmm…,” she thought. “That’s odd.” Back home, her parents would at least come to the porch when a car approached. 

But this wasn’t her home. She didn't know this house. Maybe the house buried sound. Maybe they honestly hadn’t heard her car. Maybe they were both in the back, far away from the noise of tires crunching on the gravel drive. She slammed the car door loud, hoping to draw some attention as she walked up to the house. 


As she climbed the steps to the broad front porch, she considered calling out. No. The house was quiet. They may not be home. Her hand raised to knock on the door. What, and who, would be inside?


Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. Today's fiction was "flash" when I wrote it in my writing group a month ago. It is now a part of my current NaNoWriMo project. Does it make you want to know more about the story?

If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

09 November, 2022

Tuesday Trials - Wednesday Edition

"Insomnia Energy"

That's my new phrase that I just coined yesterday.

Have you ever had insomnia so bad for days and days, and each morning you tell yourself, "It's fine - I'll take a nap later," but then later comes and you just... Don't?

Insomnia Energy.

You go through your day as usual, not dragging, maybe even amped up. Then at night it happens again and the next morning you think, "Well, maybe I'll nap today," but you still just ... Don't?

Insomnia Energy.

For over a week now I've been running on 3-5 hours of sleep a night, and occasionally on those days I might doze for a half-hour or so while reading a book in the afternoon. I feel tired in the evening, but then don't sleep properly. (No stress, just an old injury from a car accident flaring up.)

Meanwhile, I'm getting over 2,000 words every day for Nanowrimo. I go walking or riding to the store or a coffee shop as usual. Keep the house clean. Life is just ... normal! Like the sleep deprivation isn't even happening at all!

I wonder how long this will last...

01 November, 2022

Tuesday Truth - Nanowrimo

Today's truth is that it's the first day of November, aka the first day of National Novel Writing Month. This month I will be writing a total of 50,000 words of a new novel.

That may mean even less posting here. We shall see.

For today, I got 2,055 words! In a 30 day month, 50k would mean about 1,667 each day, but I have set my personal goal at 2,000. I did this because I know there will be days that the words just aren't coming. Days of writers block, or days when my schedule explodes around me and barely have time to write a sentence. If I'm pushing for at least 2k, then when I'm a little below that it will be okay.

So I'm off and running on a new book for this month. And I'll be around here when I can.

Are you doing Nanowrimo? Have you done it before? How do you hope to achieve your goal?

15 October, 2022

Fiction Friday - Dangerous Power

I read the Bible every year, and catch myself thinking about backstories to minor characters, or musing about particularities of a situation. Today, I intend to clear up the pop culture misunderstanding about Jezebel. I feel as though people use "Jezebel" in relation to loose morals. We are not told anything about that. She was, IMHO, more like a power-hungry, evil, murderous woman. The following is just one example from the Bible, embellished by yours truly.

The servant bowed to the queen and left to fetch more wine. Queen Jezebel watched him leave with a smile of satisfaction. All was going well. She was entertaining the prophets of Baal - a key step in maintaining her power. One must keep the devout satisfied with food and wine.

When the servant reappeared with the wine, her husband the king was mere steps behind. He pushed through the curtained doorway, a deep scowl on his down-turned face. She watched him cross the room to the side table where the servant poured him a goblet of wine. Something was wrong.

Her prophets discreetly gave him space, but it wasn't enough. Jezebel clapped her hands to get their attention. "Gentlemen, please leave us!" They did as they were bid, leaving half-drunk cups and not-yet-empty plates on nearby tables, window ledges, or any surface available. The servant remained near the table to pour wine. She caught his eye and made a quick movement of her head toward the door. He scurried out.

Ordinarily, she'd greet Ahab by moving closer and putting a hand on his arm, or some other gentle touch. His face told her this was not the moment. She watched him drain his goblet and pour another, not touching any of the delicate dishes and edible delights spread around the serving table. "What's wrong? Why aren't you eating?"

"Oh, nothing. It's just - Naboth won't sell me his vineyard!" He was used to getting his way. He was the king, after all. Jezebel scowled. He was king, but she was much better at taking advantage of the position.

"So?" she asked, crossing the room toward him. He turned to her in surprise. Only his queen could speak to him like that. "Aren't you the King of Israel?" She took his shoulders and looked him in the eye. With a smile she said, "Cheer up. Eat something. I'll get you that vineyard." It was gratifying to see a relaxed smile on his face at her words. 

She left the room and sent the servant in to attend to him.

After a brief campaign of letters and messengers, all was in place. The city elders of Naboth's town proclaimed a major event for all the people to attend - such a thing had never been seen! Naboth attended as expected. Jezebel's lackeys were there, too. They spread rumors and lies. "Naboth! He doesn't deserve to be here!" "Don't you know he has cursed the king?" The crowd was easily riled up. Soon Naboth found himself being forced out of the city. Stones rained down on him.

That evening, Queen Jezebel accepted a private messenger into the chamber where she and King Ahab were dining. "My liege," the messenger bowed deeply to the king, then turned to Jezebel. "Naboth has been stoned and is dead." She gave an elegant nod, and he backed away the way he had entered.

A wicked smile crept across her face. "There you are, my king. Go. Take that vineyard you like. There is nothing in your way now."

Reference: The full story of Naboth's vineyard is told in the book of  I Kings, chapter 21. This particular portion of the story is based on verses 4-15. The Bible mentions Jezebel a few more times, but I like this story for its perfect "someone is in my way so I must murder them" vibe.

11 October, 2022

Tuesday Truth

Short post today. I'm curious about families.

On a TV show I was watching recently, two kids were abducted. The older brother took care of his sister as well as he could, even including holding her tightly when she was scared. The little girl clung on to her brother any time she could. She trusted him and followed his directions to try to save them both.

Then there were the two grown up siblings in a sitcom who always share their troubles and advice.

I cannot imagine being that close to any of my [four] siblings. The closest I was to a sibling, she flat out told me one time - before I told a story about a night of partying - "my sister doesn't do that" so I didn't tell the story. We don't want to know all the good, bad, and ugly about each other. We love each other, but kind of at an arm's length, I guess.

Of course, there's the movie "The Good Son" and other examples of horrible siblings.

It seems in movies and TV, either siblings are devoted to each other or horrible/estranged. It seems off. Even when my little brother had no contact with us for eight years, after he and his two tiny daughters re-entered our lives, we all pitched in to help with the kids while he sorted out the logistics of moving, living, working. He truly seemed flummoxed when I responded, "Of course. You're family," to his thanks.

We come together and stand up for each other. We love each other. But other than jobs and maybe church stuff, I couldn't tell you how any of my siblings spend their time. 

Are we weird? If you have siblings, are you close? Are you distant? Or do you relate to my perspective that "we love each other, but don't want to live up each other's butt"?

08 October, 2022

Fiction Friday - In the Surf

I love my life. Walking on the beach with my giant mug of tea is one of the best parts of my day. I could live a life of reasonable luxury, if I wanted to move away from the water, but why would I? Instead, I have a small job to augment the trust left by my parents.

So okay, there are holes in this life I love. My parents died when I was 20. Not exactly a kid, but still. It's a hole in my life. I'm very lucky that they were able to leave a trust fund for me. It's not huge; we weren't millionaires, but by working part-time to pay daily expenses, I can use the money for the house near the beach.

You think I'm wealthy 'cause I have a beach house? No. I live small, so I can live here. It's a tiny place, but it works for me. And it's not on the beach, but a block and a half away. No beach views, but easy to walk to. So I do. Every day. I really love this life.

Yesterday I was out as usual, and saw my neighbor walking. Not exactly "neighbor" - she lives around the corner in one of the big houses overlooking the beach. We see each other out here a lot. She's nice, but not someone I know well. 

Pam always takes her black lab, Nova, to run through the surf. She was walking away from me, too far ahead to call out to her, but I didn't see Nova. Curious. She's usually running in and out of the surf in pace with Pam.

As they say, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

I wanted to walk up the beach the way Pam was going, but it felt too much like following. Instead, I rolled up my jeans and went straight for the water. Take a minute, squish sand in my toes and savor the Earl Grey. Nice. Really, what more could I ask for? 

A shadow moved on the water a little way out - Nova! She was swimming toward me. "Hi, Nova!" I called out, in case she wasn't sure who was standing here. She'd been for a swim. Pam was quite far away from us now, but it didn't matter. Nova would race up the beach to her owner.

As Nova neared, I could see she was carrying something in her mouth. 

"Nova?" I asked. "Whatcha got, girl?" 

There in the shallow water swirling around my ankles, she dropped a human hand. Bile rose in my throat and my cheeks puffed out to prevent the involuntary spew that was coming. The bloated chunk of flesh was severed above the wrist and Nova had gripped the protruding arm bone in her teeth. She stood there wagging her tail and looking up at me for approval. Did she expect me to throw it? A macabre version of fetch?

I looked around. Pam was moving toward us, a small figure in the distance, moving at a snail's pace. No one else was out. It wasn't the season for it. The inch-deep water kept washing in and out, but the hand was heavy enough it wasn't going anywhere. I jumped as the bone swung in the wave and touched my ankle. Nova jumped next to me. She thought it was a game. I reached out one shaky hand to pet her head. "Good girl."

Pam had some kind of official position in this small beach town. Maybe she'd know what to do with the hand. All I knew was my morning beach walk would be changed forever.


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.

04 October, 2022

Tuesday Typeset - Book Review III

Last week I finished an awesome book I highly recommend.

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. 

It's a fascinating story told from the perspective of an adult with autism. It was published in 2002, and is set in the "near-future" - so, sort of sci-fi? - although the setting is very normal, modern, USA. With one exception: no one is born autistic anymore. Our narrator (primary narrator, others pick up the tale in some scenes) is a grown adult, born before the miracle cure was created. 

Wait... futuristic medicine... Yes, I guess this qualifies as sci-fi. It just doesn't read like sci-fi.

It reads like a story about a man who is considered disabled, works in a job with other "autists" (word from the book) in a department of a large corporation where specific tasks are suited to these rare abilities. He deals with bias from his boss, misunderstandings from some "normal" friends, but treated as a normal friend by others. 

I love the way the author got into some specifics of difficulties he has. He has to talk to the police at one point, and one of the officers doesn't understand why he gets tongue-tied, but we as the reader are in his head, hearing why the frustration prevents words from coming. It's impossible not to feel empathy and compassion, and to want to do better in my own life.

I won't give away any plot points, because I highly recommend this to anyone. Especially anyone who touches on the autistic world from the outside. I have a niece and a nephew on the spectrum, so I want to know more, but I don't deal with it on a daily basis.


27 September, 2022

Tuesday Typhoon!

Today we receive our first typhoon of the season!

As I write this, there's just a little light rain outside. Windows and doors are open, electricity is on; all is well. Last night we read that this typhoon was due to make landfall an hour ago or so. (Monday evening, US time.)

Typhoon Noru! You might have heard about it on your evening world news. (Then again, maybe not. I know other big storms are cropping up that might be closer to you.) If it didn't lose strength crossing the East Sea, this was due to be the biggest storm to hit Vietnam EVER!

I guess that's why I'm using all the exclamation points. It's big news! 

Last night's report said it would make landfall in either our town - Hoi An - or another city in our same province, at around 7am today. In that report, wind speeds were expected to be 165-185kph. That sounds really high! I try to be as metric as I can, since I live in the metric world, but kph... hmm. A quick search told me 165 was about 100mph.

Okay, that's better. In my time living in Delaware, I've seen hurricanes of up to 120+mph. At least now I had a frame of reference.

That was last night.

This morning, the latest is that Noru hung about catching her breath in between the Philippines and here. She is now due to strike our coast later this evening, at 183kph (113mph). I'm happy with that, because again, been there, done that... BUT "been there, done that" in a country where buildings are built with hurricane safety measures. Where houses are slightly more spaced out. Where there is infrastructure to prevent catastrophic flooding. So now I'm just curious what this will look like here.

I do believe the houses around us are strong - brick and poured concrete - and I know the city has been improving the flood drainage in the past few years. But it's the human error that causes trouble, isn't it? The new guy across the street from us just embellished his house with a lovely balcony, and framed it in potted and hanging plants. Yesterday, while the rest of us were bringing in outside furniture and tying back tall plants, he didn't. I'm anxiously watching for the moment he takes his 12 potted plants and 9 hanging ones inside!

I'm waiting for one of those potted plants to go flying.

The market was lively yesterday, and everyone seemed very happy. Vendors were happy to be selling as much as possible before having to close for two or three days. Customers were happy because they were getting stocked up. Kids were happy because a typhoon means no school.

We're good. We're well-stocked. I cooked a Vietnamese chicken and rice dish last night so we have a bunch of leftovers in case the power goes out. Our stove is propane, so even without electricity we can still fry an egg or boil noodles. Our garden umbrella is down. Plants are tied back. The hammock and its frame are folded up and stored inside. I know the rules. Been there, done that.

Love our landlord for tying back the plants!

Since I started writing this, the rain has picked up but the wind is still minimal. Motorbikes are still passing on the street. Rain or not, this is still the calm before the storm.

So now, we wait...

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.


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.


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!


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.


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. 


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.

30 August, 2022

Tuesday Tirade - TV Tastes

There's a new Game of Thrones show out, which means there's a new crop of "I'm proud to say I've never watched ..." social media posts. 

I've seen posts of this nature for GOT,

for Tiger King,

for the Kardashians,

and other shows I can't think of off the top of my head.

It seems like a weird kind of snobbery. Who cares what you don't watch? Sometimes people go online and ask for recommendations of new shows or movies to watch, but I have never seen anyone ask what they shouldn't watch. (Unless they're asking ironically, to bait the trolls.)

It's probably just a sign of the times. Or a sign of the division inherent with a lot of social media. No discussion can follow a blatant "you are a moron for watching this" post. In real life, if I happened to say something about GOT to someone who hadn't watched it, they might very calmly say, "Oh, I haven't seen it." I don't know. It's never happened yet. It's all on social media.

During Covid, Tiger King was all the rage. Popular opinion is that the boredom of lockdowns had a lot to do with its popularity. Brett watched it. Which means it was often on in the same room with me. I watched the first couple episodes, and decided it wasn't my cup of tea. Still, I'd sit down while it was on sometimes. Why all the rage against a TV show? Or against people finding entertainment in true-crime drama? (Because that's what it is.)

I hadn't intended to watch Game of Thrones, either. I knew it was based on an unfinished series of books. (and honestly, the books are really fat and the covers looked boring.) One day a few years ago, Brett and I were talking about what to watch that night, and I said, "I feel like watching something with dragons," to which he said, "Hey! I'm pretty sure that Game of Thrones show has dragons in it!" So we started the series and liked it well enough to keep going.

I am a snob in my own right, but generally I keep it to myself. In my life I have considered myself a coffee snob, a beer snob, and yes, a movie snob.

But I'm older and wiser now. What you think is good coffee is fine, just please don't make me drink it! 

I still feel that I'm a beer snob, but I drink a lot of cheap Asian beer anyway. 

I've married someone with very different taste in movies than I prefer, and he is a bit snobby about it, as I am. (sorry Brett) BUT we make it work and we respect each other and can have a civilized discussion about our very different tastes.

So basically, with age I've learned the wisdom that everyone is different, and as long as they aren't hurting people, their choices are their own. What someone watches doesn't hurt you, so stop being a snob about it!

24 August, 2022

Tuesday Tardiness (Wednesday)

Yes, yes, I missed yesterday. I'm missing a lot of days, but that's okay.

I wanted to follow up from last week, since I expressed a lot of mixed emotions about my recent interactions with our new neighbor.

We had coffee together, out at a coffee shop, just the two of us. As I expected, it went well. I learned about her life, her past, found out a bit more about her situation, and just had a pleasant time. She is a devoted mother, going through a divorce, and working from home. 

She did not spend the time on her cell phone, as she did when she came to our house. However, after about a half hour or so of talking, she pulled the phone out to show me a picture of something, and soon I was immersed in picture after picture of her kids. Just the little ones. Who I know already.

Now, I like her kids. They are sweet girls. But I'm not, in general, a "kid person". They are fine. But I know what her kids look like. In this case - two little girls under the age of three - they haven't changed a lot. Most of the pictures looked the same to me, but we saw picture after picture after picture. 

She really loves her kids. It's sweet, how happily she will spend 20 minutes just flipping through the pictures. Kind of how - back in the day - old people would pull out photo albums and tell their grandkids all about each and every photo.

Anyway, we saw her again out in the street by our house the other night, and I've invited her to a wellness event I like to go to. We're still friends, and boundaries have been established. I think all is well.

Now excuse me, I have to go lie down. I've been way too social in these last couple weeks, so I'm always exhausted.