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.

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.

17 August, 2022

Tuesday Tales - #IntrovertProblems

Oops! I'm a day late.

I'm way off this week. It's been exhausting. We have new neighbors. She's as social as I am introverted.

Let me be clear: I like this woman. She's nice, she seems intelligent (although we haven't had any deep conversation yet), her kids are nice... I know she's reaching out and trying to make more friends in the community, so I'm being as social as I can, but there comes a point when I crash. I'm "out of spoons" if you know the Spoon Theory.

First, we'd see her in the street. Or see the nanny bouncing the baby on her knee in their front portico. The baby loves Brett. Of course she does; all children do. The toddler loves him too, but we don't see her as often.

Then, one day, our gate was open and she and the baby came over.

Cultural note: In Vietnam - or at least in this area - if you're home, everything is open. Windows and doors, to keep the air flowing in the tropical summer. The gate, if you're open to guests (I suppose. That's how I read it anyway.) During Covid, we were pretty diligent about keeping the gate shut, but we're more relaxed now.

So she and the baby came into the house. { This is extremely unusual! We do not entertain! } We all sat in the living room, the baby mostly interacting with Brett. There was some conversation, but she was easily distracted by her phone. I know she works "online" so I imagine she must be working all the time.

It was nice and friendly. I had a positive feeling after that interaction.

The next day, she came over with the baby and another little girl ("my maid's niece"). I was in the back room, relaxing in the bean bag with a book, when Brett came back to inform me that "we have guests". So I abandoned my book and did my hostess-ly duty to come and be social. The neighbor was more on her phone this time, but still social.

Two days later, she came over with the baby and the toddler. I was working on my computer, but abandoned my work to sit and be social. She was on her phone most of the time.

By now, I believe Brett has inadvertently taken the role of surrogate father. Maybe the dad travels, maybe they're divorced - not my business - but commandeering my husband so your baby can get snuggles is not cool. ... if that's what's going on. I don't know! She's on her phone all the time!

The other night, we came home late and she was sitting by her gate. Seeing us pull up she immediately invited us over for coffee. We declined because at that hour we'd never sleep. The next morning I woke to a message on my phone inviting me to join her for coffee. I do not answer any messages (unless urgent, from family) until after I've done my meditation, exercise, and usually not until I'm dressed and ready for the day. This time, after my workout, I messaged back to suggest that she and I go out for coffee later this week. 

I'm looking forward to our coffee tomorrow. Maybe, away from children and husband, we can actually talk. Really, I want to be a good neighbor. I do value having a friendly neighbor. We just need to establish boundaries. Especially because my "office" is out in the open plan living-dining-kitchen area, so I'm visible from the street. I need it to be known that my being visible doesn't mean that I am available.

Brett can set his own boundaries. If he wants to walk the street with a 1yo in his arms for 20 minutes in the afternoon, that's his business.

...Re-reading this, I realize I've painted a very negative picture. I'm not going to edit it: these are my first impressions. As I've said, she's nice, smart, and I look forward to getting to know her better... but my introverted nature can't hold up under constant social bombardment.



13 August, 2022

Fiction Friday - Fighting Giants


I read the Bible every year, and catch myself thinking about backstories to characters that are not told. For example: A lot is said about four of the disciples. What about the others? What was Adam and Eve's relationship like before the fall into sin? How awful/exciting would it have been to live on the ark for all those months? Today's prompt came from my husband, who wondered aloud what David's older brothers might have gone through watching their youngest sibling kill a giant.

The horn sounded, instigating a flurry of activity in the camp. My brothers and I left our breakfast and hurried to rejoin our units and form the battle lines. It was a daily humiliation: That giant Philistine taunts us for a bit, with no movement in the battle. We were in a stalemate. He was calling for one-on-one combat, but no one was stupid enough to try to fight Goliath! 

"Eliab!" I thought I'd heard that familiar voice talking with some of my fellow soldiers. Sure enough, when I turned to the voice I saw my youngest brother David standing there.

Like I didn't have enough pressure! "Why are you here? Where are your sheep? You heard the battle horn didn't you? Just have to see the battle, huh?"

"What have I done wrong?"

"Go away. You shouldn't be here."

"Oh, but Dad sent down some bread and cheese. It's with the supply master." I glared at him and David turned to walk away. What a relief. It was bad enough that he came down at times to play the harp for King Saul; he had no business with the battle.

My relief was short-lived when I saw David further down the line, questioning soldiers. I could hear one of them explaining, "Yeah, the king will give anything to the one who..." It was well-known in the camp that if anyone succeeded in killing Goliath the reward would be great. But he was nine feet tall! He was a giant - solid muscle, with weapons too strong to go against. It was madness.

Soon, David had run off into the center of the camp. "Good thing, too," I thought. "Stay with the supply master, or better yet, go home."

The sun rose higher, shortening our shadows, as we stood in un-moving battle lines. My leg was starting to cramp, when I noticed movement near the center of the line. I took advantage of the distraction to stamp the cramping leg and watch. King Saul was coming from his tent in the camp and soldiers were parting the way. Like everyone else, I stared, dumbfounded. He rarely left his tent these days.

Wait. He was leading... David? The king's armor bearer was laden with all the battle armor, but David wasn't wearing any. "What is he doing?" I muttered. 

"Eliab, isn't that your brother?"

"Yeah...but," I was too far to hear, but King Saul, his armor bearer, and David stopped behind the line and talked for a moment. I groaned in embarrassment. David was in the king's presence more often than I was, with his harp and music. Just never in public. I'd never hear the end of this.

The lines parted and my little brother walked through to the front. I couldn't see him through the soldiers, but could see the movement. So could Goliath. From his height, he could see everything. He was already laughing when David came out in front. "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" he bellowed.

Great. Now, thanks to my kid brother, we've pissed off the giant! His taunts were more personal now, like he was offended. Then he stopped and appeared to be listening. Oh no, what flowery words was David saying? I couldn't hear everything, but his voice rose a few times. "...I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty..." mutter, murmur, "...For the battle is the Lord's..."

Why did he have to shoot his mouth off at Goliath of all people? My heart was in my stomach as I saw Goliath moving forward, raising his spear. He was going to skewer my brother! David might be a pain, but he was still my brother.

Then there was a whoosh, and the whole company gasped to see a rock land deep in Goliath's forehead. His eyes crossed and he collapsed. 

No way. Soon the Philistines were running and we had to pursue them, but I stopped when I got up to the giant's body and saw David lifting the head out of the dirt. He'd cut it off after Goliath fell. David looked up at me and smiled as if this was just a normal day. I had no words, but a lot of questions.

"Eliab! Come on!" My questions would have to wait. Duty called.

Reference: The story of David and Goliath is told in the book of  I Samuel, chapter 17. The Bible does tell us that Eliab was less than happy to see David, but not a lot more than that about Eliab.


09 August, 2022

Tuesday Typeset - Book Report Time!

(There's no good "T" word for a book report.)

I recently finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. And I have thoughts. (Don't worry, No spoilers)


I saw the movie years ago. Have you seen it? If you have, you can understand why I wish I'd read the book before seeing the movie. I knew where it was going. But at least I didn't remember all the details. So as things unfolded I could either remember, or wonder - "Wait, was that bit in the movie or not?" And now I'm tempted to watch it again to compare.

But only a little tempted.

For being an edge-of-your-seat thriller of a movie, the book managed to be "put-downable". I think a big part of that is how the book is laid out. There are two main protagonists. NOT A SPOILER: By the title, you can guess that there is a "girl" and she is "gone". The other protagonist is the primary person seeking her. 

The book is written in alternating perspectives: the missing person, and the seeking person. So at the end of each chapter, you know automatically that the particular part of the story you just finished will not be continued in the next chapter. Put. Down. Able. 

I started Gone Girl near the end of June and just finished it two days ago. That's a long time for 415 pages!

The whole way through, you know who you are rooting for. But by the end I was left with a feeling that the main characters (more than just the protagonists) were pretty undesirable people.  Bleah.

I wouldn't want to be like any of them.
I hope I'm not. 

But I wish I could write characters like that. Flynn did a good job of making sure no one in the story is universally "bad", but overall, after reading about this whole event, they come out unlikable. Still... I'm left with the realization that in my own writing, people tend to be "nice". Boring. I think I need to work on that!

I gave it ⭐⭐⭐⭐ because it was well-written. The story was engaging and the characters were well-rounded. I do recommend it. Maybe if you read it, don't put it down each time you know the perspective will change, and you might get through it faster than I did! 

So, reader, any book recommendations? Comment below!

06 August, 2022

Fiction Friday - Safety


Devon chewed his cuticles in the darkened theater. How long would this last? He scrunched his knees up and tried to curl into a ball in the seat. Maybe indoors, in the warmth, he could grab some zz's. A storm was raging outside, and it had been building up for the last three days. He couldn't sleep out there.

Devon was on the run. It wasn't his fault! He'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now the Rostro gang were after him.

He shuddered and pulled his coat tighter around him. They'd got him, once. That's why he was running now. He didn't know anything. He didn't have whatever it was they thought he had. They didn't believe him. So yesterday when he saw his chance, he'd made a run for it. He had to knock one guy out with a makeshift club. Hopefully that guy wasn't dead. Devon wasn't a killer.

He couldn't go home. They had his ID, so they knew his address. Devon had to use one of the small bills he always kept in his shoe to buy a ticket at this retro-theater. He didn't want to spend much money at all, not knowing how long he'd be running. 

The theater played oldies, so tickets were cheap. This week was all John Hughes. That was good. There were a lot of people, so he could get lost in the crowd. Devon had taken a seat in the back row, corner, where he could lean his head back and sleep. If sleep would come. 

Even as he tried to relax, Devon's mind was running full-steam ahead. If he could somehow manage to stay in this theater, hidden, would he be safe? At least he'd be out of the storm. That thought gave him some comfort. As long as he didn't screw himself by getting caught before they locked up tonight.

Safety was a relative thing. Safe for now was good, but how long could he keep this up?

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.

02 August, 2022

Tuesday Trauma - And Then And Then And Then

Whew! I have good reasons for being absent lately, but I hope I'll be back soon. (not really "trauma" but, well, read on.)

You know about the bike accident. That was on a Monday.

And Then... that Friday we were called in for our 4th Covid shot. So I was standing around in a crowded "line" for an hour, trying not to get jostled. Walking was okay by then - slight limp - but if I stepped wrong or was bumped and twisted, I felt a twinge in that pulled tendon area. So I was a bit tentative and probably easily irritated. Plus it was hot and crowded.

And Then... we had set an appointment at a tattoo studio for the 25th. That was one week after injury and I was sitting and holding my leg still for about two hours. This appointment had been set a month ago. It wasn't too bad, didn't strain my injury much, but meant being upright and not elevating it for that time. I was still in the "rest and elevate" part of recuperating. So I rested it more in the coming days. Good thing I had planned to rest and not go too far afield, because things got worse. Not the leg, just in general...

(And Then...) It had actually started Monday morning, when I woke with a sore throat. Of course. Covid vaccine, Covid symptoms. I hadn't had too much pain around the injection site and counted myself lucky. Not so lucky, it turns out! The sore throat faded that Monday, and didn't keep me from my appointment, but the next day and the next were worse. And then the lungs (a bit), and then the sinuses. Stupid Pfizer. This mess is annoying! Astra-Zeneca was kind to me!

And Then... The daughter of an old colleague of mine from my theatre in Delaware has been in Vietnam a couple weeks, and this past Sunday they made it to my town! So of course we had to meet up so I could show off some of my favorite places! This lovely, fun, interesting woman was a kid when I was in Delaware, so I "knew" her, but only in the way a 20-something "knows" the kids that participate in an event with them. I think we were in Oliver! together, and maybe one of the Christmas shows. It was fun to catch up, but it became a very, very late night for us old fogeys!

And Then... Since the Covid jab side-effects started, I have not had a decent night's sleep even once. Well, maybe once. I thought I was out of the woods until I stayed out past midnight with the youngsters. Now I'm back on the insomnia circuit.

July has never been my favorite month. It's just traditionally not kind to me. Do you have a good or bad month of the year?

Now it's August. I have high hopes.

19 July, 2022

Tuesday Tales: Only in Vietnam

                                                                    Break My Stride

 Ain't nothin' gonna break-a MY stride!

Well, maybe something will.

Today, as I cycled home from my writing group, I took a corner too wide - avoiding two motorbikes riding side by side - and then saw a bicycle coming at me and over-corrected... right down the edge into a rice paddy.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Narrow lanes, unpredictable traffic, and I was jacked up on delicious Vietnamese coffee to the point that I had the jitters. It was a Perfect Storm of circumstances!

At least I landed in the soft, muddy rice paddy, and not in one of the concrete irrigation ditches! 

That's it, really. That's the story. 

Several people came to help me out of the mud. Two men from the coffee shop I'd just passed helped lift out my bike, and one of the girls I'd avoided as I turned the corner rode next to me as I walked my bike home. People really are lovely and helpful here.

My bike seems fine, but my hip is out of whack for now. And I did something to my right big toe - a cut? a bruise? All in all, it could've been worse. I know one woman who lost a finger in an accident. Although, she was on a motorbike. (One reason I stick to the bicycle.)

Anyway, I'm limping around the house today. That little accident has, in fact, broken my stride!

15 July, 2022

Fiction Friday - Ideal Age


Presley looked around her bedroom. It was immaculate. The cleaners had been in yesterday to ensure that.

Every corporately sanctioned picture hung perfectly straight. Her own artistic choices gone. The brushed green walls would be wiped down of fingerprints tonight. Everything looked "perfect". She sighed. After her morning shower she'd dropped the used towels down the chute instead of hanging them. She straightened the bed out of habit. Corporate would be in tonight to change linens.  Now, she swiped a hand over the perfectly polished plum-wood dresser top. Bare. Devoid of all the knick-knacks of Presley's life. The corporately sanctioned mirror frowned back at her above the naked surface.

Not naked. One corporately sanctioned lamp. One corporately sanctioned silver tray that an individual could use to store their jewelry, brushes, make-up, what-have-you.

Presley stared at her face in the mirror. No make-up today. All that was gone. Over.

She had reached the Ideal Age. Make-up was for corporate risers. Make-up was for corporate cogs, rising or not.

The door sealed shut behind her with a shhhooop, and she was in the hall, looking at the door. Out of curiosity, she tugged at the handle. It didn't budge. Sealed.

It was fine. It was inevitable.

She looked into the guest room, equally sanitary. After she backed out, that door "shhoop"ed at her, too.

At the landing before turning down the stairs, the guest bathroom door hung open. It was probably the same, but Presley went through motions. She stepped in. She looked into the empty medicine cabinet. She pulled open the shower curtain. Corporate would be in later. She would have opened the window, if there was one. Let them sue her for that! But there was no window, so her spiteful thought died inert.

She was down two steps before the "shhoop" caught up with her. She descended in a cloud of irony. Presley only had this 2-floor condo because she was one of the corporate risers. In her position, she was granted her choice of a spacious single condo or a 2-storey one. She liked the separation afforded by the second floor. Social activities downstairs. Visitors: downstairs. Overnight guests could be upstairs, but that was limited. Corporately sanctioned, only. Family. Approved paramours.

By the time she reached the lower level, Presley had regained her sense of pride. There would be many important people at the ceremony. There would be cheers. All for her. Because she had reached the Ideal Age. The Corporation was magnanimous in their gratitude.

Living room. Perfect. Pristine. Not a hint of Presley remained. Yesterday's cleaners were efficient, she had to give them that. She crossed into the dining area, grateful for the open-plan layout so she was spared the patronizing "shhoop" of a door locking itself for its final time. Corporate coached you on many things, but that was one thing they never prepared you for: the sounds of your life being erased.

The kitchen hadn't been done yet. She had free reign to make whatever she wanted for her breakfast. Whatever mess she wanted! Steak. And eggs. Toast - so much toast! Bacon. Orange juice. No! A mimosa! Presley laughed at herself for her indulgence and poured the orange juice and a bottle of champagne into a pitcher. No one would complain. She could show up to her ceremony in any frame of mind she wanted. The driver wouldn't care.

Presley was full. Too full. She'd been maintaining her appropriate corporate size for so long she'd never indulged in that much food at once. Toast lay un-eaten. Only half the steak was gone. A large belch escaped and she giggled. 

Ideal age. What did that even mean? It meant the corporation deemed her past productivity. She had served her purpose. They'd celebrate her today and put her to rest. It was over. She poured some more mimosa from the pitcher, spilling as she did so. Never mind. It would be cleaned.

In her youth, Presley had thought it a great plan. In her youth, she didn't want to grow old! Who wanted that? Failing health, failing independence, failing mind... "By all means," young Presley thought, "Take people out of action before that happens." The corporation had determined the Ideal Age, and everyone knew what it was. 

The corporation ran everything. There were no surprises.

An alarm beeped and Presley raised her blurry eyes to the clock. Yep. On time. No surprises. She slammed back the mimosa and refilled her glass before carrying it out into the hall, and down the elevator. The first floor was crowded with people, applauding as she exited the elevator. A corporate limousine was waiting outside. At least they allowed everyone applause, comfort and luxury in their last moments of riding to the ceremony that would end her time. In the old days, no one was applauded on their last day, because no one knew when the last day would come. 

The Ideal Age was a good plan.

Presley sipped on her mimosa the whole ride, and exited with unexplained tears in her eyes.

"She's so proud of her accomplishments!" someone shouted.

"Tears of joy for a great life!" another voice rose above the applause and cheers.

It was over. She was the Ideal Age.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

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.

05 July, 2022

Tuesday Titles: Stranger Things

Have you watched Stranger Things on Netflix? Wildly popular.


 

I watched season 1, and really enjoyed it. My horror-movie-buff husband has gotten me into these kind of "strange" shows.

Season 2 was clearly written on the hype from season 1. Slightly less shock-and-awe, IMHO.

Season 3 lost me somewhere along the line. 

When season 4 came out, I told Brett, "You can watch that without me." We have a few shows that we watch together - wait for each other to be available and in the mood, etc. - and we each have shows that we can watch when the other is otherwise occupied. It works for us.

What you must understand is that my desk is in our open plan kitchen/dining/living area. So when he's watching TV during the day, 9 times out of 10 my headphones are on to ignore it. But I've also gotten into  the Pomodoro technique, which means getting up and taking a break every 25-30 minutes. So during my breaks and pacing the living area, I've caught bits of Season 4. Looks intriguing.

The other day Brett informed me that Season 4 is a million times* better than Season 3, the season which put me off the series. 

*hyperbole. I don't remember if he used any number, but he liked it better so far.

So today, when he watched season 4, episode 5, I sat with him from beginning to end. And now, while he works in the evenings I play catch up.

But each episode is over an hour long! Good grief. How do people watch so much TV these days?

26 June, 2022

Technical Difficulties

I am resolved to be more diligent about blog visiting and reading. I did well right after A to Z, reading all the reflections posts and revisiting several. Then, with very little positive response from all of that visiting and commenting, I kind of thought, "Well, forget it! I'm trying to interact with no response. I'll stick to my tiny blog with few comments."

But that's negative thinking. And I have found some I enjoy and want to stay up with. So I'm going to be more proactive, add blogs to my reading list, etc.

Today I was going to revisit and add to my list.

I can still do that, but I can't comment! I am visiting blogs and not allowed to comment. There's a little pop-up saying something about checking my Google settings. But I haven't changed my google settings in ages. Even if something changed when I got a new laptop a couple months ago, it's been fine until now. So what gives?

I checked my settings.

They said to ensure Cookies are enabled. They are.

What gives?

For now, I'm here! I'm visiting and reading, and wishing to share comments!

Soon, I hope, I will have this technical issue resolved and then I can begin my new initiative of interaction.

25 June, 2022

Fiction Friday - The Nose Knows


The antiseptic smell hit her in the face and nearly made Parqa gag. There might be people who hated hospitals more than she did, but Parqa doubted it.

Her hatred was born of years of repeated visits during her childhood, several surgeries, and extended stays. Now as an adult, she was returning to her gag-inspiring past as more and more friends and family members took ill or died. When her uncle was in hospice care, it was less terrible. He was still at home, and his home smelled the same. Mostly. A little chemical-y, after the hospice set-up was in place. If he'd lived further away, maybe she wouldn't have that to compare hospitals to, but he lived in town, so how could she not visit?

That was the thing. Parqa had inherited the family duties. Or obligations. Whichever way your mind chose to see it. She was the one doing the visiting these days. Her long ago childhood illnesses and ailments - and their subsequent treatment - had culminated in Parqa's extraordinary immune system.

"Good morning Parqa!" called out the entry nurse. "Who are you visiting today?"

"Mrs. Lopez?"

"Oh, good! She'll love having a visitor. Let me see... Room 302."

"Thanks Brandi." She knew most of the regular nurses by name.

Mrs. Lopez had been Parqa's mother's neighbor for years. Two single, senior, women, they looked out for each other - running errands, sharing coffee, inquiring after each other's children. Mrs. Lopez' kids lived far away though. It was unlikely they'd be able to make the trip.

Parqa might hate hospitals, but she loved being here for Mrs. Lopez. She would come again, if Mrs. Lopez held on long enough.

As soon as she left Mrs. Lopez' room, Parqa visited the public restroom. She scooped handfuls of water into her mouth and spit it out, trying to rinse the hospital flavor out. It didn't help. Feeling the bile rising, she hurried out of the hospital. There was a coffee shop at the end of the block. The strong aroma of beans roasting and a good strong cappuccino would obliterate the horrid taste-smell memory.

Coffee was always the answer.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

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.

21 June, 2022

Tuesday Tirade

I am livid.

I recently joined a writing group, and found that I enjoy it. It's nice to write and getting immediate feedback. So I've been regular there for three weeks.

Yesterday, one woman - I'll call her Karen - came in and announced that her daughter has Covid. Her grown adult daughter who lives with her. The daughter had tested positive a week ago, but Karen had not gone to get tested yet. I don't know why not.

Two of us put on masks after hearing that, but no one left. In my mind, I was thinking, "This is a responsible adult. I know they have a large, 3-bedroom house. Maybe the daughter is self-isolating. Because surely she wouldn't come to the group otherwise."

Tonight, she posted in the groups chat that she has Covid.

Livid!

I believe Covid has a 3-day incubation period. (Yes? No?) So on Thursday I'll go get tested. I pray that I will be negative. I wore my mask, except for when I was taking a drink of coffee or water. I hope it was enough. But that was yesterday. If it wasn't enough, it's too late now!

Livid! Who does that? Irresponsible, careless people, that's who.

18 June, 2022

Fiction Friday - No Simple Trips


I read the Bible every year, and often think about backstories to characters that are not told. Why did Rebekah favor Jacob over Esau? What was Adam and Eve's relationship like before the fall into sin? How awful/exciting would it have been to live on the ark for all those months? Today I'm considering the more obscure story of Balaam's donkey...

It was early, but I was already out in the paddock with the other donkey when I heard my master coming for me. My big ears perked up at a sound of something hard and crunchy knocking together as he walked. Yum!

Balaam was a good master, I suppose. He never overused my services. I know he preferred to ride on me than on the other donkey he owned. Since he was walking my way today, I figured we were going somewhere. Why not? It was a nice enough day for it.

"Hello there!" Balaam said as he approached. He was reaching into his bag with one hand, reaching out to stroke my ear with the other. "How'd you like to go visit a king?" he asked as he pulled a pear from his bag. He held it just out of my reach for a moment, as usual. The tricks we have to do for humans!

I brayed, as he expected, and he let me take the pear from his hand. "Good girl. It should be a simple walk. Smooth road. Not too far." 

As we left the paddock, I saw a large group of men waiting for us. They rode on other kinds of animals, mostly horses. Some camels, I think. They were dressed differently than my Balaam. Wore things on their heads. Longer robes. This was a bigger deal than I thought. I held my head up as we joined the group and started down the road.

The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The men in our group chatted easily with each other. I felt good to be a part of such an important party. There's a first time for everything! 

A first time for everything, indeed! Something bright was in the distance on the road. It was strange. A light in the middle of the road, and all this crowd of men and animals were headed straight for it! I felt my steps slow as we drew closer, but Balaam urged me on. He was talking to the man riding next to him. 

Nope. Nope, nope, nope! That glowing thing had wings and a fiery sword. And even as we got close it was not moving from the road! What was a donkey to do?

I turned off into the field on the side, and kept walking. Better safe than sorry. But Balaam started beating me! I knew he carried a stick on him when we rode, but he'd never used it before, except maybe a gentle tap to tell me to start moving. "Why are you hurting me?" I tried to ask. Couldn't he see we could be chopped in two by that sword?

There was no choice, so I moved back onto the road. There was laughter from the group we were with, and a lot of chatter for a few minutes, but the being with the sword was gone, thankfully. Had I imagined it?

Walking on, as we rose into some hills, there were vineyards all around. I like the smell of vineyards. I don't know if humans can smell the delight of grape vines, but I brayed in joy at the smell. Overall, this was a pleasant trip.

No. Not again! That same being, with the big wings and fiery sword was in the way again! What was it doing? Now we were walled in on the path, with guarded vineyards on both sides. I tried to tell him, but Balaam heard my braying and just leaned down to stroke my neck. Nice, but not what I needed. Humans never listen. 

He was still urging me on, using his stick gently on my hind quarters. I didn't want a repeat of that earlier episode, so I kept walking. I edged over as close to the wall as I could. Closer. A little closer. 

"Ahh! You stupid animal! You've crushed my foot!" Oops. That was Balaam's voice. His stick came up again, in anger. He struck me again, and it stung. As I looked to where the being had been, it was gone. I moved away from the wall. The whole party had stopped to inspect and then wrap Balaam's foot. I tried to tell him, "It wasn't my fault! Would you rather have a crushed foot, or be cut in half by a fiery sword?" but he didn't understand me.

We were on our way again, but I was keeping my ears down. That thing had come upon us twice, and no one seemed to notice but me. What was happening? 

The road narrowed. We were between a drop-off and a mountain side when I caught sight of the thing with the sword again. Nope. Not doing that. 

I lay down, there in the road. Now I knew what to expect from my normally peaceful master, but better his stick than a sword! He stepped off me and started hitting me again. 

I cried out again, "What have I done to make you beat me these three times?" even though he wouldn't understand me.

But this time he did! He stopped hitting me and stared at me. Then, seeing the looks on the faces of our company, he yelled, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I'd kill you right now." 

I knew he was saying that for his audience, for all eyes were on us. And I know Balaam. Never once had he hit me before. So I asked him, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?"

His stick lowered and he looked around at the others. "No," he shrugged. I looked ahead at the angel of the Lord with its sword raised. Balaam's eyes followed mine. His jaw dropped and his eyes went wide. The stick dropped from his hand and he dropped to his knees. No one else did anything. I guess they still didn't see what we could see.

Boy, did that angel make me feel good! It told Balaam that I'd saved his life by leaving the path. It told him that if I hadn't done that, Balaam would be dead, but I would have been spared. I had done the right thing. I knew I did!

Reference: The story of Balaam's donkey is told in the book of Numbers 22: 21-33. For the reasons as to why the angel of the Lord was in the way, you'll have to read the surrounding verses. The story in the Bible includes this trip, but the donkey's perspective isn't given. The point when Balaam actually understands his donkey, is however stated in the Bible. My little tale above is pure conjecture.