28 January, 2022

Fiction Friday - The Dance

Dinah was spinning and twirling and twisting in a fury of movement. She was everywhere. She was everything. She was ON. 

Dinah danced like no one was watching.

Everyone was watching.

No one understood, but they were all watching. They couldn't hear the music in Dinah's head.

The 14-year-old swished the scarves in her hands so that they made a whirlwind around her as she gave herself up to her dance in the courtyard between the buildings of old town. Townspeople stopped their passage through town to stare, mesmerized. Workers in the surrounding buildings stopped working to look out their windows and doors at this girl.

She was a phenomenon. 

Some had observed her before. Completely at random - no regular day, no regular time, no regular season - Dinah would suddenly appear, dancing in the courtyard to unheard music. No one noticed her arrive, and few saw her leave. Some whispered that she must be on drugs. There was no reason for the rumor, but even if true, no one cared.

Dinah's scarves swirled. Her body twirled, her head dipping low and high as her feet turned and stomped and tiptoed in the magic pattern of her mind. Faster and faster, higher and lower, until she collapsed to the ground, half covered by the colorful patterns on the scarves. 

The locals in businesses turned back to their business. 

Passersby who had stopped to watch applauded, waiting for her to rise and take a bow.

Dinah stayed on the ground, not hearing the crowd through the trance in her mind. After the crowd cleared and the sun was going down, she'd sit up, brush off the dirt from her hair and clothes, and look around as if trying to remember why she was there. Then, with a nod to herself, confirming what she already knew, she'd walk the path to her home in the next district.

Sometime - maybe soon, maybe not - she'd be back. When the muse called, Dinah answered.


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.

25 January, 2022

Vietnamese is Killing Me!

I have taken an obnoxious lover and, anxious as I am to be rid of him, I keep going back for more torture.

This "lover" is the Vietnamese language. Studying and paying for lessons is the torture.

Vietnamese is like a nasty, neglectful, annoying lover, who sends you into the arms of your ex - also terrible, but slightly less terrible - lover. In this scenario, Mandarin is my ex-lover. Another difficult language, but when I'm screamingly annoyed with Vietnamese, switching over to my Mandarin story books or character review and practice feels like sighing in the arms of a comforting old love.

...Let me be clear, I don't know what it's like to run from one bad lover back to a former bad lover. But I get that it happens, and that's kind of what studying Vietnamese feels like sometimes.

I have no ear for the different sounds I'm supposed to hear in Vietnamese, and the language is different through the different parts of the country - which you wouldn't think would be an issue as long as I remain in the Central coast, but people move here from everywhere, especially with Covid surges in the big cities of Hanoi and Saigon, so my minuscule use of Vietnamese garners pronunciation corrections that are not the same corrections I get from my teacher!

Urgh. So frustrating.

It's annoying, and feels impossible. It seems like I put so much time and effort into this "relationship" only to reap minimal reward. (I can read more traffic signage now. Woop.) Mandarin is like pulling up a cozy blanket and sitting in a comfy chair reading a good book. (I'm reading the Frog and Toad series in Chinese. Nostalgia.)

Will studying a language kill me? Of course not really, but soon I'm going to have to consider whether it's worth spending the time on it when I should be doing other things that bring more immediate value to my life.

This is the first in a new series of posts I want to write, about life, or aspects of life, especially expat life. No politics, no controversy (I hope). Questions always welcome!


21 January, 2022

Fiction Friday - The Key

A note of business: Blogger has a new habit of preventing me from commenting - either replying to comments or adding my own. It did this once before, but only lasted a few days. I have been unable to reply to your comments on the last two Fiction Fridays now, and don't know when it will work again. Just want you to know, I read your comments and intend to reply whenever the powers that be allow me that skill once again. 

Aunt Marla was the key to everything. Jaden wasn't sure how she knew, but as she looked at her Great-Aunt's portrait hanging in the main hall of her parents' house, she was sure that it was so.

She had been away at school when Aunt Marla passed, and although she had gone to the funeral, this was her first time visiting her parents since they saw each other at the memorial across the state. Last night she'd had a terrible time sleeping in the guest room. This was not her house, as her dad inherited the old family homestead from Aunt Marla. He was the oldest of his generation, so it was fitting.

Jaden's mom came down the stairs like a cat, making Jaden jump by greeting her with a hand on the shoulder. "Good morning, hon'. Early for you, isn't it?" She turned down the hall to the kitchen, making a one word suggestion: "Coffee?"

Jaden gave a silent salute to Aunt Marla and turned to follow her mom to the kitchen. She'd never woken before her mom when they lived in the same house. It was disconcerting to see her tousled hair, drooping, sleepy eyes accentuating how old her mother had grown in the past years. She moved like an automaton going through the motions of grinding coffee, filling the reservoir with water, lining the basket and pouring in the grounds before pressing the button. Jaden was mesmerized, and instinctively knew not to speak yet.

Minutes later, coffee in hand, Jaden asked, "What do you know of Aunt Marla?"

"I know she had an aversion to redecorating. Can you get a load of these ancient cabinets?"

That wasn't what Jaden meant, but this was her dad's aunt, so Mom's answer wasn't a surprise. "Dad never said anything?"

"She was superstitious. A lot of crazy amulets and ... trinkets and garbage like that from her husband's travels, that she thought had some kind of meaning or something." She sipped on her coffee and Jaden watched as the caffeine brought a light of consciousness into her mom's eyes. "I met her once or twice, but always excused myself when she started talking about the crazy stuff."

"Hmm... Maybe I'll ask Dad about her."

"Why so curious? Just because this house is weird?"

"Weird. That's a word." Jaden watched her mom carefully over her mug as she took a long drink of hot coffee. "Noisy. That's another word." Jaden had barely slept, hearing noises from the attic, and as she went downstairs with her insomnia, different noises coming from the basement. "Maybe it's just old, but yeah, there's something weird about this house." 

Could they be natural sounds of wind blowing through the attic and some old boiler clanking in the basement? Sure, they could, but they didn't sound that way to Jaden. Too intentional. Too directed. Aunt Marla was the key, but she'd have to wait for her dad to help her find the right lock to fit the key.


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.

15 January, 2022

Fiction Friday - In Disguise

Mina took extra care to get ready before leaving. It was trickier when she had to go to the docks. People were rude, altercations happened, and Mina didn't want a ding on her rep for some other person's poor choice.

After watching Max get conscripted for stupid mistakes - her brother had no control of his mouth, sometimes - the whole family was extra vigilant. Mina trained herself in disguising her features so that the Sky-Net cameras might be tricked. A person could ding Mina's rep, but at least the Sky-Net based government dings for "being in the wrong place" could be avoided if something happened. 

In the riots last year, anyone who was caught on camera leaving the area got a ding. It was important to take the time to avoid those critical dings.

Today, Mina's eyes were made-up to look extra big, and she wore the round glasses she favored for this alter ego. She had snapped a thick pad into the top of her hoodie so that with the hood up she'd trick the cameras into thinking she was taller. She'd hunch her shoulders up as she walked too, to maintain the illusion. Cotton wads in her cheeks changed her facial structure and she practiced a different walk for a few paces. A slight shuffle, different from her usual stride, should help fool any eyes on the street.

The horrible thing with Sky-Net is that it wasn't just cameras sending images up to the sky for interpretation; Sky-Net paid people on the ground for details, too. No one knew who were the spies. Mina thought the woman on the corner by the bus-stop was one of them. She watched too much. Mina's mother said they recruited from especially poor people because they'd be the most likely to sell out friends and neighbors for an extra buck.

In the end it didn't matter. When Mina went to work, or a meal with friends, or the library, or volunteering at the pet shelter, she was herself with no alteration. Going any place she couldn't be sure of the crowd, she modified. 

Leaving her bedroom, Mina peered around and listened for her mother. She couldn't be seen leaving, or her own mom would be a liability. Hearing running water in the kitchen, Mina shuffle-walked straight to the door, pulling it shut as quietly as possible behind her.

In the kitchen, the water stopped and her mom crossed to the living room window to look out and see which disguise her daughter was using today. She frowned for a moment, then turned on the radio to the government-sanctioned news. She'd have no peace until Mina returned.


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.

07 January, 2022

Fiction Friday - Make the Punishment Fit the Crime

Thom ran down the street as fast as he could. He was only eight, and he wasn't a fast runner. His mom always said he needed to lose weight and in this moment, he wished he had followed her diet plan more often. 

Would he make it home in time? People were waking up from their midday rest all over the neighborhood. He could only hope his house was still quiet.

It had been fun though. Thom had snuck out of the house and gone over to Mat's while his mom and sister rested. Mat was lucky to have a gaming system. His parents had more money, sure, but more importantly, his mom didn't think video games were from the devil. 

They'd done this before, but today time got away from Thom and when a neighbor knocked on Mat's front door, he realized his mistake. The neighborhood was waking up.

Thom ran past the tourists drinking beer at a popular neighborhood restaurant, ignoring their "hello"s. Why did tourists always want to talk to kids? 

He ran past the convenience store, dodging the bike that was pulling in to park.

He tripped over a curb and flailed his arms to keep upright, then turned down the side street to his house. Would he be able to get in quietly? Fortunately it was a warm enough day that the windows were wide open. The door was, too, but only because the front room was his mother's favorite place to take her rest.

Thom opened the gate just enough to squeeze through. If he opened it wider, it would squeak loudly. He ducked to stay below the front windows, and stepped carefully toward the house, even as he worked to calm his breathing. When he was close enough, he popped his head up to peek in at the bottom corner of the window. 

No Mom.

He ducked down again, thinking fast. The door stood open because she had been napping there. Thom had planned to climb in his bedroom window, but maybe he could just go in the front door? She wasn't in sight... was she in the kitchen? Checking the bedrooms?

Thom crept up to the door and leaned in the doorframe. Nothing. He stepped into the living room, breathing easier, and carefully crossed the room to the hall leading to his bedroom. At the archway that separated the living room from the kitchen, Thom stopped. Did he hear a floorboard creak? It wasn't his step that made the noise. 

Just then, a giggle, and Jenny jumped out around the corner from the kitchen. "Gotcha!" she shouted with a 6-year-old's glee. His mom stepped up, arms folded, doom on her face, and hovered behind her daughter, who was now doubled over with laughter. "Haha! Thom's gonna get it!" She danced out of the kitchen, leaving Thom to face his mother. 

"Well?" she asked him.

Thom's eyes grew wide in feigned innocence. What excuse could he give? "I got up ... to... well..." Words failed him. There could be no excuse, but if he blamed Mat their gaming days were over.

His mom stood in silence, staring down at him. 

Thom stood in wide-eyed silence, staring up at her.

Finally her eyes rolled up and arms unfolded as she turned back into the kitchen to get on with her day. "Wherever you were, you're grounded for two weeks."

Relief rushed through him. He got away with it! Gaming with Mat was worth losing two weeks of freedom! 

As he hurried to his room, lighthearted, his mom called after him. She must have seen the joy two-weeks' grounding gave him. "A month!" she shouted. She might not know what he had done, but if he felt okay about two weeks' grounding, it wasn't punishment enough.


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.