Tag Archives: fiction

Another contest I didn’t win……….

Obscura Journal hosts a short-story contest where they provide two pictures and you bridge the gap between those photos.

I entered once before and did not win.

Well, I am nothing if not consistent. I didn’t win again. 😎

But I don’t want my short little story to go to waste. So, I will share it with you.

Click here first to see the pictures (oh and I guess you can read the actual winner’s story if you must) …. then read on for my  interpretation of how those pictures make sense together.

Help Me

Thomas stumbled toward Ryan’s bed, leaned down, and shook his brother to wake him in the wee hours of a misty September morning. He raised his pointer finger toward his mouth and slowly uncurled it. Ryan started to speak but Thomas stopped him with his other hand, which reeked of marijuana smoke and cough medicine.

Ryan stretched his arms above his head and looked toward the retired milk crate next to his bed.  The hands on his grandfather’s watch revealed it was only 3:00 am. Ryan tilted his head, listening for the familiar sounds of sirens that often filled the night air. But this night was absent the common warning screech and Thomas’ urgency lost its logic. Ryan rubbed his eyes as Thomas searched for his brother’s shoes.  On the way out the front door, Thomas grabbed their sweatshirts and a crumpled brown grocery bag. Ryan grabbed his Rubik’s cube.

They marched through the hazy mist with Ryan leaning back into Thomas’ left-handed push. The older brother was agitated and frantic. As keys jangled in his free hand, he mumbled to himself something about “money, a lot of money” and “how was he going to get it”. He stopped twice under streetlights to look more closely at the keys on the large brass ring, refusing to answer questions or even look at Ryan.

Thomas only let go of his brother’s shoulder when they reached the doors to the library. After a quick scan of the area, Thomas unlocked the glass doors. He returned his grip on Ryan and ushered him over to the olive green couch in the empty reading room. Then he motioned for Ryan to sit down and threw the brown bag onto Ryan’s lap. Thomas immediately started pacing and Ryan nervously worked to solve the puzzle in his hands and in his thoughts.

He knew too well that nothing good ever came from Thomas’ pacing.

Behind them, a man in a striped suit with his jacket tightly buttoned flung the doors open and rushed toward Thomas. But Thomas stopped him just inside the threshold and whispered, “Not yet. Let me leave first.”

“Hey Ryan, I’ll be right back,” Thomas yelled over his left shoulder, as the man escorted him out with the same pushing motion that landed Ryan in the library’s lobby.

Ryan set aside his cube and squinted at the books on the wall. They were all so thick with lots of letters in their titles. Without his glasses he couldn’t be sure but he imagined there wouldn’t be a single picture among their dense pages. He wished he had brought his comic book. Curious, he turned his focus to the bag’s contents – a piece of charcoal, a sketch pad, and a soft green apple.

Thomas knew Ryan loved to draw. He even complimented his work when he wasn’t too busy pacing. Just as Ryan opened the pad and positioned the charcoal, an older man came in through the doors. He walked slowly over and joined Ryan on the couch. As the man started talking about the big wall of books, his dusty scent distracted Ryan and tickled his nose.

Just after Ryan sneezed, the old man pulled out a handkerchief. He covered Ryan’s face with it and Ryan fell asleep gripping the piece of charcoal. His sketchpad dropped easily to the floor.

When Ryan woke up, he found himself on at least the second floor of an abandoned building. He noticed the charcoal was beginning to stain his sweaty palms. In his imagination, the air smelled like home and he hoped it was close by. He scanned the opening to the room below hoping for Thomas but heard only mumbling from beneath the rickety staircase. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw a rat scatter away with his apple. He dropped the charcoal as he screeched.

Instantly, heavy footsteps pounded on the staircase until a shadow appeared over Ryan. His shoulders curled as he scooted into the corner.

The man in the striped suit fanned a stack of money at Ryan’s face.

“Your brother’s a real hero. He owes us cash and he gives us you instead. Turns out you might be worth more anyhow.”

Ryan could barely breathe as the man crushed the charcoal with the toe of his black shoe. Then, chuckling, the man lowered his pudgy finger into the dust and mockingly wrote “Help Me” on the wall and turned to go back downstairs.

Laughter erupted when he returned to the older man below. Smoke rose through the holes in the stairs and Ryan grew increasingly nauseous. The morning sun shone through the slits in the dilapidated walls and shed light on the true horror of his situation.

The rusty hinges on the front door groaned and Ryan heard Thomas’ shaky voice declare, “I have the money. Give me back my brother.”

“Oh thank God,” Ryan thought, grateful that the worst possible truth might not be real and that his older brother could still be his hero.

And then he heard a crack, as the man in the striped suit bent Thomas’ arm backwards to prevent him from reaching the stairs, “No, actually the boy is better. We’re keeping him. Someone’s coming over in a few to check him out.”

Thomas stammered, “No. A deal’s a deal. I have the money.”

“That’s right,” the man agreed, “but you have a lot to learn about the rules. When you’re late, there’s hell to pay.”

The jovial tone of the men shifted when Thomas clicked the hammer on his freshly polished 45.

“Whoa, there. We outnumber you. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“This will fix the stupid that’s already been done.”

Ryan fainted when the third gunshot echoed up the stairs. He collapsed just a second too soon to hear his brother’s footsteps on the stairs and the man in the striped suit pleading, “Don’t just leave me here, man. Help me.”

And then there was artwork………….

My mother-in-law is an artist – although, she would never tell you that.

She has always liked to draw, but it wasn’t until the past decade that she started taking her artwork seriously. She has taken classes and paints whenever she has the chance.

So, who better than to create artwork for The Alligator Purse?

My mother-in-law, right? I completely agree.

And this is why………….

When panic is a good thing………

Apparently we will be talking about the big “S” word next – synopsis – because a real-live literary agent just asked me for one for The Alligator Purse. Yikes.

So I am a little panicked – but I am also all sorts of motivated.

That’s good, right?

This is where you nod your head wildly in agreement. Thanks.

When I got the email, I waited an entire 15 seconds before writing back (didn’t want to seem desperate), politely thanked her for her interest, and asked if I could have a little time to write, uhm I mean, tweak it. That was on the outside. On the inside, I felt like this poor woman.

Sadly, I am minus the adorable shoes and the cute up-do. Yes, I might really be screwed. 😎

I wanted to scream – “that is amazing – but are you serious?” And then, “what exactly do you mean by that?”

So I am guessing that writing and submitting a synopsis might be a tad of problem if you have not finished your book yet – but maybe it won’t be – we shall definitely see.

Here is what I know so far…

If you want to write and submit your work, you will definitely want to consider investing in the Writers Market. It’s basically a listing of who is buying, what they are buying, and how they want it served up on the page. If you are thinking “that would save me a heck of a lot of time,” you’d be absolutely correct.

But the Writers Market also has helpful articles and a glossary of literary terms. So I went to my literature bible and looked up synopsis. I kind of thought I knew what it meant – but this might be a big deal so I wanted to be sure.

According to WM, a synopsis is “a brief summary of a story, novel, or play. As part of a book proposal, it is a comprehensive summary condensed in a page or page and a half, single-spaced.”

That is what I thought. But it kinda, sorta sounds like you need an ending. Dear heavens. Now what?

Well, Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent with Books & Such and she wrote this post about crafting a pitch. It covers 11 essential questions that should be answered when an author is trying to sell her book.

Then, I found this…The Novel Synopsis at Fiction Writers. Whew. I have also heard that you do not want to give away the ending of the book.

I don’t know if it addresses everything, but this is where I am going to start.

Right now.

So, bye bye.

And, yes, I will post my synopsis when I am done. Just promise not to laugh at it.

I mean it, Pinky Swear it .

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Pssst…..I’ve Got a Secret……….

Today, my article on story secrets is hanging out in prime time at Writer Unboxed. You can check it out here. And if you are looking for Chapter One of The Alligator Purse, you can find that here.

Book Review – Defending Jacob

Over at A Reason To Read…..

The Alligator Purse……………

When I was in 3rd grade, I used to sit on the sidewalk and write (really bad) poetry.

In high school, I was on the newspaper staff – assigned to horoscopes, if that tells you anything – and was the editor for the school’s literary magazine. I continued to write really bad poetry and a few other things.

I majored in English in college and pretended that I would like to someday write the “great American novel”.

What that really meant was that I would like to have already written the great American novel. All the work behind me and the Pulitzer prizes rolling in.

After college, I wrote federal law enforcement policy and forgot I had any creative ambitions.

Then I moved to India and started this blog. It has been 99% non-fiction and I thought I finally found my writing niche.

That is, until I joined my latest writing group and one of the members told the group about a fiction contest. The maximum word count for submissions was 1,000 words. I thought, “I can do that”.

So I wrote my first fiction piece in nearly two decades. Not only did I lose the contest but I also lost my inhibition for writing fiction.

I don’t know where this will lead, but I have actually started a novel and I would love to hear what you think of its first few pages. Please be honest. But if you hate it, don’t just say you hate it. Please tell me why.

Mostly I want to know if you would throw the book against the wall or if you would keep reading it. And if you love it, by all means, share!

What say you…………..

The Alligator Purse
Ellen Weeren

May 2, 2012
“My daughter Savannah just doesn’t understand why seeing her is so difficult for me. She was there again today…”

In the café’s dark bathroom, Savannah pulled out a pink and white box from a crumpled brown bag. She chewed on the end of the packaging to tear through the plastic wrap. The looped letters of the name on the label offered so much hope and promise, but she could only muster up hesitation. In her solitary world, the implications of a baby were tremendous.

She entered the stall and locked the door. Even with no intention of using the seat, Savannah found it important to wipe down the stool. Then she lifted up the tattered edges of her skirt and squatted to take the test. With one shaky hand on the metal wall and the other holding the plastic wand, Savannah followed instructions for the first time in years. The brownish tint of her urine and its pungent odor surprised her. But the stream was steady and it didn’t take long to soak the stick.

Reading the pamphlet that came with the test while she waited for an answer proved unhelpful. There was nothing in it about what to do next. Savannah focused on the explanation, “if two lines appear, you are pregnant.” She believed she shouldn’t hope to bring a child into her situation, but she couldn’t help but wonder if a granddaughter would bring her mother back into her life.

When the results appeared, Savannah collapsed back onto the toilet seat. Momentarily, she weighed the many decisions before her but her head began to hurt. Savannah looked at the stick once more, wrapped it in toilet paper, and through it in the trash can hanging on the wall. She steadied herself and unlocked the door. As she digested the news and its impact, she walked toward the marble sink.

Savannah held her trembling hands under the tepid running water while she looked at herself in the mirror hanging over the sink. A ghost of her former self stared back. She blinked her eyes to scare away the vision, then reached for a towel. As she wiped her face with the warmed cloth, she leaned in closer to the mirror and pulled at the thinning skin around her dark eyes. Her cracked fingernails trapped dirt and grime that might not ever escape.

Her wavy blond hair now hung in matted strands around her sunken face and no longer resembled her mother’s. Her tailored clothes were stained and hung loosely on her diminished frame. As she lowered her arms, she caught sight of the red tract marks that had replaced the sparkly bracelets she once wore. She wiped them with the towel and wished they could disappear.

It was the first time she had really seen herself up close in months and she didn’t recognize the figure reflected in the silver glass. It shouldn’t surprise me that my own mother won’t speak to me, Savannah thought to herself. Maybe it was a mistake to come here.

She rushed out of the bathroom and headed toward the front door. Just as she was leaving the café, Elizabeth rounded the corner at the end of the block. Savannah froze when she saw her mother headed her way.

She knew it was most likely that her mother would once again dismiss her as merely a memory. Savannah wondered if Elizabeth even admitted to having a daughter any more. She watched her mother navigate the crooked sidewalk while trying to balance her shopping bags, as if they were the only things requiring her immediate attention.

Her mother wore a dark red suit and matching shoes with a slight heel. The long sleeved jacket she wore was buttoned to the top and her fitted skirt stopped right above her knees. Her blond curls were piled into a loose twist and wavy strands hung comfortably around her face. Even her makeup looked freshly applied – her cherry-colored lipstick still glimmered.

Savannah knew that Elizabeth was on her way to the café to meet her fiancé Brad for their regular Tuesday lunch date. Feeling pressure to be the first one at the table, she’d want to arrive a little early. Savannah stood in front of the café’s large picture window hoping that something could change. As Elizabeth looked around her daughter, presumably trying to find Brad, the chilled May mist settled on Savannah’s face and a quiver snaked down her spine.

Brad had warned Savannah to stay away but she didn’t fear him noticing her there. She felt sure he’d be too busy on his Blackberry to give credence to anyone not in business attire. Her worn raincoat was ragged enough to never fully draw in his eyes. Just to be sure, however, she kept her back to the café’s entrance and moved a little further from the entrance. The rain droplets from the large green and white striped awning gently washed her mousy hair as she tugged on one of the matted clumps.

When Savannah saw Elizabeth drawing closer, she turned toward her and uncrossed her shivering arms. She wanted to be noticed without seeming confrontational. But, as Savannah expected, her mother hustled right by into the warmth of the café. Their shadows barely even whispered to each other.

Through the sizable front window, Savannah watched her mother plaster on that familiar smile, crinkle up her nose, and give a puppet wave to the hostess by slightly tapping together her fingers against her thumb. Then she pointed to her favorite table in the corner of the restaurant and started walking toward it in front of the hostess.

The hostess followed her back to the secluded table. As the hostess scraped the wooden chair across the rustic floor, Elizabeth shooed away the menu.

Savannah closed her eyes and remembered her mother’s order. The menu hadn’t changed in thirty years and neither had Elizabeth’s selection. Savannah could almost hear her mother say it, “I’ll have the cup of tomato soup and a half sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato. Please do hold the may-oh-nnaise.”

Savannah opened her eyes and saw Brad sauntering by, predictably late by five minutes, guaranteeing he would not be the one left waiting for someone else to arrive. He tapped away at his Blackberry with his left thumb as he opened the door with his other hand. Savannah’s eyes followed him as he entered the restaurant. She hated to admit how handsome he really was but, in moments like this, it was hard to deny. He appeared so focused and determined. The rain shining in his thick black hair gave him a just showered look. Savannah understood why Elizabeth was drawn to him. It was why she stayed that remained such a mystery.

 

Brad entered the café and sat down at the familiar table without looking up at Elizabeth. She simply waited for him to be done with his email or text or whatever it was that had captured his attention at the moment. She fumbled with her engagement ring and the over-sized stone at its center as she patiently anticipated the inevitable question.

“What’s she doing outside?”

“Who?” Elizabeth pretended to wonder.

“Nice try,” he answered, finally putting his phone down next to his fork on the table. “You know it’s not fabulous that people might see her here.”

“She is my daughter,” Elizabeth reminded him.

“You must remember she represents everything I am not.”

“Things weren’t supposed to be this way. She should’ve graduated from college this month. This isn’t easy.”

“Let me say that differently. She represents everything we are not.”

“I know,” Elizabeth said now fiddling with her napkin.

“Why don’t they ever bring over menus?” Brad asked and raised his hand to call over the waitress.

 

In front of the café, Savannah’s stomach filled with bubbles that erupted in her abdomen and rose to her throat. Instinctively, she lowered her right hand to her belly and rubbed it softly side to side. Rather than linger abou, she walked around to the back of the restaurant and spied the dumpster.

The cobblestone alley was wet with rain and slime. Savannah carefully side-stepped the overstuffed bags lining the narrow corridor of trash. She ignored the stench, knowing that the discarded scraps would be delicious and plentiful. The dainty women inside the café most often left their meals half-eaten, pretending to be full. The reality of it was they feared gaining even an ounce of additional weight, especially in a restaurant staffed by beautifully young and too-thin college students who flirted effortlessly with the male guests dining there.

As Savannah tipped her waist gracefully over the edge of the moss green dumpster, she looked for the freshest fare. She easily found a chicken salad sandwich in a clear plastic take-away container that had hardly been touched. The lettuce under the croissant was not yet wilting and the tomato still sweated with moisture. She stumbled when she picked up the container and saw the familiar alligator purse.

Forgetting her hunger, she tilted her head and dropped the sandwich. It had to be the purse she remembered. She knew it was. Her father had special-ordered it for her mother on their last trip together to Paris. The swirled “E” on the front and the bag’s taffy orange tint were undeniable. It was Savannah’s go-to purse when she played dress up as a little girl.

She wondered why the purse was there. Her mother loved that purse and so did she. From Savannah’s way of thinking, it simply did not belong in the trash.

Carefully, Savannah slid her hand in between the dumpster’s edge and her stomach to buffer it from the jagged ridge along the top. She leaned further in and grabbed her mother’s old purse. As Savannah turned away from the trash container and its rotting contents, she sunk to the ground. Purposefully, she pulled her knees to her chest and the purse up to her delicate nose. The putrid smell of the garbage could not mask Elizabeth’s beloved lavender perfume. She drew in the scent, leaned back her head, and became seven years old once again.

 

Teetering…..

Soo….

Not so long ago, I told you about the Bridge the Gap writing contest over at Obscura. I submitted a story. Well, two, actually.

I didn’t win.

With either story.

Boo.

But it was a great experience because I have not written fiction in a v.e.r.y. long time. It was a fabulous way to try my pencil at it once again.

And, don’t tell, but I had a lot of fun with it.

Just in case you don’t remember, the contest organizers post two seemingly unrelated pictures and entrants must write a story (in a 1,000 words or fewer) to bridge the gap between them.

Before you read my story – you might want to check out the photos – I promise it will make a lot more sense if you do.

And if you want to read the story by the chick who won, you can do that too, I guess. 😉 Seriously, congratulations Elizabeth.

If you want to compete against join me in the next contest, click here. Just kidding, click here (pinky swear this time).

And now ……

Teetering
by me

Chuck rocked back and forth in his mother’s old wooden rocker in a perfect hypnotic rhythm. He slowed only once to pick up his rooster so it would stop pecking at the holes in his camel-colored work boots. The tip of one of the rocker’s runners tinked against the blue Ball mason jar that sat on the splintering porch and held his drink. He leaned slightly forward and squinted his eyes just enough to form a “v” with his burly eyebrows. The distant wrecking ball drew in his focus.

As the ice in his drink trembled, his wife stood up to walk away. She had asked him a thousand times not to use that jar – it had been her aunt’s salt container and the only tangible reminder she had of the woman who raised her. The melodic ice coldly reminded Mae that her aunt was gone. Chuck simply ignored her pleas until she finally gave up asking. Now she just mumbled when she saw him using it. He liked the way the tinted glass masked the liquid inside, making it impossible to tell if it was sweet iced tea or watered-down Jack Daniels sweating along the inside of the glass. And, dammit, he could drink out of whatever vessel he wanted. Surely he had earned that much.

In the front yard, their grandson Trevor aimed his bb gun at the imaginary planes overhead. His battlefield was the abandoned airport that sat just off in the horizon. Trevor was training independently to join the Army because of its promise of a chance to avenge his father’s death. Five more birthdays and he could sign up officially. He ran over to the porch to grab his grandfather’s tattered straw hat right off his head. It was Trevor’s favorite helmet because it smelled like cigars and simultaneously protected his pale skin from the blazing sun and him from the enemy shots being fired from the air.

Watching Trevor, Chuck remembered the fight in the town over whether or not that airport should even be built. The farmers worried that the pollution would ruin their crops and the pilots would steal away their children to faraway lands. The town’s up-and-comers touted job growth and increased tourism. Decades ago, Chuck’s mother and father sat on that very porch and tried to make up their own mind about where they stood, ultimately deciding it didn’t matter much what they thought.

They believed progress had its own momentum and it was better not to be in the way. So, they did what they knew best and prayed that their own hens eggs would have thick enough shells to protect them from the fumes and that visitors would find more interesting things to do on the other side of town.

They didn’t realize praying for Chuck’s son Scott would be important too. They were unaware of the need to hope that he wouldn’t be enticed by the Marine recruiter’s offer to see the world. For generations the family flew a flag just outside the front door and instilled the very virtues of God and Country that made a military career appealing. Even still, they couldn’t know that watching planes take off every day would make Scott wonder what was beyond the horizon that had kept Chuck and the family safely rooted on the farm.

But Scott did sign up for duty and successfully completed his first tour. Upon returning home, his plane landed on the runway closest to the house. He was disappointed that he had to walk off the plane and could not just parachute into the yard. The whole family sat on the porch to celebrate his return. They cheered when the wheels came down and thanked God that the prayer they didn’t even know to pray had been answered. Chuck raced to the airport while Mae set the table with all of her son’s favorite foods.

Scott got married, had Trevor, and eventually signed up for tour number two. Chuck begged him not to tempt fate, but to instead focus on the equally important role of being a father. But Scott believed his country needed him. So the plane on runway number 12 took him away again.

This time the family knew what to ask God for when the wheels lifted. They pleaded that Scott would walk off the plane safely once again.

And Scott did return home – but this time in a casket draped with an American flag. The family imagined he also held a Bible secure in his hands.

The town named a park after Scott and called him a hero. There were headlines and then talk of statues. Townsfolk praised Scott’s character and commended his parents for doing such a fine job in raising a true American champion. Little did they know Scott’s parents would have gladly changed histories with Tommy Hattaway’s family. That idiot sat behind bars for robbing banks and stealing cars, forever smirking as if he had actually gotten away with it all.

Chuck and Mae often wondered if it was better to be so proud of a son who was lost or to be able to visit a son who still had a chance to live. They turned their anger to the airport that kept taking Scott away but never really gave him back. Chuck could not let go of the guilt that smothered him – the guilt of his child dying before him. He’d led a hard life of working the farm, smoking, and drinking. Scott died valiantly but way too young, his only vice being patriotism.

The wrecking ball on the tarmac rocked as Chuck rocked. Slowly and methodically, working up to full strength. As the ball struck to demolish the first of the buildings, Chuck was startled out of his trance. His foot kicked the mason jar near the rocker, toppling it. His watered down drink trickled across the porch with shards of blue glass in it. The ice began to melt.

Little Bee – a book review at A Reason To Read………

When I am not writing, I am reading – and then writing about it. Today, I was a busy bee over at A Reason To Read – A busy Little Bee….

Still Alice by Lisa Genova – another book review

I have been busy over at A Reason To Read – you can find my latest book review there. 😎