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Topics - Emery

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Review My Work / One Hundred and Twenty-Three Days, approx 500 words
« on: February 21, 2017, 09:09:03 AM »
I'm going back to shorts and flash fiction to work on techniques. Just curious what you guys think. Here, I wanted to work on an iceberg kind of thing--more beneath the surface. And also, I want to capture emotions better. Have the readers empathize. Anyway, as always, any thoughts are welcomed.

PS sorry about the single spacing. I copied the file from a google docs thing and it won't let me double space on here. If a mod wants to try, go for it.


One Hundred and Twenty-Three Days


     Wyatt opened the door to Eli’s room for the first time in one hundred and twenty-three days. He flipped on the airplane shaped lights hanging from the ceiling and felt bile climb into his throat as he watched
motes of dust dance in the light.

    Standing in the doorway, he studied the blue bedspread pulled taut, the stack of board books on the bedside table, the chest of toys under the window. He imagined waking Eli for school and felt something rip open inside his chest.

    Wyatt walked across the room and knelt close to the sheets, his knees cracking as they’ve done since the accident, and pulled back a corner. He inhaled. Strawberries like his soap had been and a slight tinge of sweat. He put his face down onto the pillow and closed his eyes. The puddle of tears formed silently.

    He stood abruptly and made the bed quickly. How long would the bed hold his scent? How many more days before the room smelled like an attic and not his boy? He wiped the tears with the back of his arm and crawled over and opened the closet.

    Eli had been a collector. Wyatt had given him a tupperware container to keep his treasures in. He sat down cross-legged and pulled the box from the corner and pried the lid open. Acorns, a bag of jellybeans, rocks, a paper airplane. His hands shook as he closed the lid and pushed the box back to the corner, tears flowing freely. He could still  hear Eli’s voice as he explained they needed the acorns in case they got hungry. Too soon, he thought.

    Wyatt laid back, the 0.38 lodged in his belt pushed into his lower back, and he felt himself sink into the carpet. He wished the world would split and swallow him. He’d been carrying the gun with him since he’d gotten home, even taking it to the columbarium. He didn’t know such a thing existed before; everyone he’d known that had died had a gravestone and a spot in the earth. He’d sat before the flat marble front and stared at their names, hoping that at some point the reality would seep into his mind and make it easier to pull out the gun. He was ashamed he couldn’t even do that.

     Wyatt stood, his legs shaking, and hurried from the room. One hundred and twenty-three days since since the accident, four weeks at an inpatient rehab facility learning to walk again, and three days at home. Eighty-one hours.

     Wyatt stumbled down the stairs and went into the garage. He pulled a bottle of vodka from the ice in the freezer saved for deer meat and tossed the cap to the ground. He drank and prayed for numbness, for forgiveness, or just to forget. He took out the snub-nosed handgun and placed it on his workbench. Maybe tonight, he thought.
 

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Review My Work / His Eye is on the Sparrow--short scene
« on: January 27, 2017, 04:49:20 PM »
Hey guys, so this is a short scene in the last part of a novelette or novella. My main question is with tenses. I want to start in simple past, give a flashback where I wanted to drop the tense back to simple past to give some immediacy, and then switch gears back to the 'present'. It sounds confusing, but I think it'll be clear my intentions in the scene. Just wondering if it works or suggestions to handle this. I like the scene where it is, and I know the easiest answer is to move the summary/flashback to an active scene earlier, but just curious if this will work:


Becca woke up wrapped in the down comforter. The sun was just breaking and sent a warm orange glow into the bedroom. Her muscles ached and her head felt like it was full of broken glass.

After Troy had finished with her, she had locked herself in the bathroom and soaked her wounds in the replica clawfoot tub. She kept a bottle of Pinot Grigio hid behind her makeup, which she had from the bottle and studied her bruises, turning red and purple. Deepening into her.

She had seen this coming. Sideway glances that Troy had given her over the years, arguments when he’d held her shoulders too tight and too long, the sense that violence kept a steady current under his expressions, like silt whipping in a stream. And she had brushed it off. Said to herself that maybe he wasn’t a great husband, or even a good person, but that didn’t make him a monster. And it was worth it, anyway. That’s what she’d told herself.

But lying in the steaming water, draining the bottle, listening to him rip apart their home, she knew it wasn’t. She had known about his affairs for years. His hunting trips when he would come home smelling like perfume and sex and alcohol. She’d seen some of the knowing nods the guys would give each other when they talked about it. She even followed him once to the Eagle Inn and watched as the prostitutes came and went like an assembly line. She’d justified her affair with Eddie by Troy’s actions, but it didn’t need to be justified. She hated Troy and had fallen in love with Eddie.

And maybe a couple thousand wouldn’t get them far, but she was okay with that. She could get a job, who wouldn’t want her selling something for them or working a front desk. And Eddie could do something, too. She knew he would be able to keep himself on a straight path for her.

She’d made her decision and got out of the bath and wrapped herself in the cotton robe. Afraid to open the door, she sat on the floor another hour and until she heard the phone ring and then the front door slam and the roar of the Charger turning over. She watched out the window as Troy sped down the driveway.

She hurried from the bathroom and locked their bedroom door. The room was a disaster; the drawers emptied and clothes tossed around. The lingerie chest had been thrown across the room. The mattresses flipped over. She smiled and walked over to her jewelry armoire. Too large to flip over, the drawers had been open and rummaged through but left in place. She pulled out the bottom drawer, filled with beaded necklaces and pendants, and lifted the latch at the front. The false bottom raised and she pulled out her prepaid cellphone.

Her fingers  trembled as she pressed the numbers. What would Eddie say? Had it all just been talk?

The phone rang and she’d waited. Two. Three. Five rings and then the message that the voice mailbox had not been set up.

Maybe it was good thing, she’d thought. I’ll sleep on it. Clean myself up in the morning and tell him in person.

She had fallen into a dreamless sleep and with the sun baking the room, she rolled out of bed and gingerly put her feet on the floor.

“Yes,” she said to herself. It all still felt right. She started to pack her clothes.

3
The Writers Circle / Character Arc
« on: January 21, 2017, 09:24:40 AM »
This is something I struggle with articulating, which I think is hampering my work. It's probably different for everyone, but I think I've got a good handle on story structure, scene and sequel, Acts etc. I feel like I can craft a good external plot. And in my mind, there's a character arc, but I'm not sure it gets to the page as clearly as I want.

Here's an example of something I'm working on: Eddie lives a life of quiet desolation. He's content to work menial jobs, make just enough to get by and buy some beers and entertainment. But when an opportunity falls into his lap for a heist that may net him thousands, he takes the chance. He's pushed over the brink by realizing that the affair he's been having with a trophy wife of a up-and-coming detective will never amount to anything because of her desire for material comforts. By the end of the story, he's pushed so far that he commits murder to cover his tracks and is ultimately killed by the husband of his mistress.

Most of what I write are tragedies and crime stories. And my main character usually ends up in a darker place, or dead, than he started. How can I articulate this clearly to myself to keep the character arc on track? Do I even need to do so? I want to write a singular statement of want vs. needs. Or desire and struggle. Or just he goes from point A to point B. Is that even something y'all do? Do you just let the external plot and internalized thoughts show the character arc and not worry about clearly articulating?

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All the Write Questions / Help with story structure
« on: January 11, 2016, 12:29:06 PM »
I know there are mixed opinions regarding story structure and the value of it, but I need some help with working my story into the terminology.

As background, I've completed a 1st/2nd draft (first draft was so bad that I did a complete overhaul and thus the 2nd draft is more a 1st draft). After reading through and fixing some character issues, on my second read-through it felt like something was off with the structure. I think I've determined that the 2nd half of my 2nd Act is a little light and thus the climax felt rushed. In order to fix this, I've looked more closely at story structure and am working with the following terms: inciting event, key event, plot point 1, pinch point 1, midpoint, pinch point 2, plot point 2, climax, resolution. My problem is that I'm trying to retrospectively fit my story into the structure and am not sure I'm 'getting it'. Primarily with pinch points and the 2nd plot point.

Here is a brief premise: Ethan lives a lower-middle class life (stasis) and gets a call from a detective his sister is missing (the inciting event of the missing sister which happens off screen). He decides that the police will not take a missing lower class drug addict seriously and leaves to investigate himself (key point or plot point 1?--he leaves his current state to a new environment and starts his hero's quest, but I still feel like he could go home at anytime). In the town, he has a confrontation with several who know her, building the background of her life (Still Act 1?). Her body is found in the marsh (Plot point 1, I think. This is the point of no return, where he is locked into the quest.)-->Act 2.

This is where I come off the rails a bit. His prime suspect is found murdered and Ethan is now a suspect in that. I see this as the midpoint (and luckily it falls about midway) as the stakes are raised and his quest has changed a bit--now he must act to clear his name as well as the moral obligation to his sister. Ultimately, he uncovers information (The 2nd plot point?) that leads him to torture a pimp and then uncovers who the John was that likely killed his sister (or is this the second plot point). I have a good handle on the climax and resolution.

I'm getting hung up on what constitutes a plot point and what makes the pinch points. Are the pinch points where the antagonist appears again? I had a scene where Ethan's car is broken into and then I need a second I think--most of after the midpoint was a quick path to the 2nd plot point. In a mystery, could the pinch point be a change in course of the MC--like the discovery of information or a clue? Does it, or should it, have direct impacts from the antagonist?

As convoluted as my question is, it's clear I don't have a firm grasp here. Any help or guidance is appreciated, particularly with the Act 2 and the plot points.

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All the Write Questions / Intrusion v. close POV
« on: December 22, 2015, 10:45:32 AM »
I'm not sure if this is a common problem, but hoped that perhaps someone could point me in the right directions.

Here's my problem (I think): I have problems getting to a close psychic distance with my main character in 3rd person POV and not have areas where I, as the author, intrude. So I avoid it and then people frequently read my work and want to know more about motivation and the internal struggle on the protagonist.

It's convoluted, but here's an example:

Charlie walked into the Handlebar, a dive bar with a chipped concrete floor and tables constructed from crates. More accustomed to places that needed reservations and coats, he shuffled across the floor to the bartender. -- It's a bad example, but I highlighted the clause that bothered me. I might be wrong, but this is clearly me, the narrator, telling the reader information about Charlie.

So then, I look at direct thought:

Charlie walked into the Handlebar, a dive bar with a chipped concrete floor and tables constructed from crates. Jesus, he thought, this place smells like dog shit as he avoid touching anything and shuffled to the bartender.

I feel like through the direct thought I get the same point, but I feel like it's jarring to jump from him walking in to the place to inside his head. And I'm not a fan of "he thought" "he wondered" etc. So...

Charlie walked into the Handlebar, a dive bar with a chipped concrete floor and tables constructed from crates. The place smelled like dog shit. He navigated across the room, avoiding contact with any surface, and tapped on the counter.

Here, the 'the place smelled like dogshit' confuses me. It's not the 3rd person narrator, it's a indirect thought from Charlie. Is this okay? Does this bother readers? I know it's very common in modern lit, but for some reason it feels like cheating to me. I'm not sure.


So, my question is, does anyone else struggle with authorial intrusions and how do you change it to flow into the narrative. My solution, as of this morning, is to utilize free indirect thought. Any other ideas? Am I missing something? Am I overthinking this?

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The Writers Circle / Opening Lines--Examples and Inspiration
« on: August 11, 2015, 10:32:07 AM »
I've done a few searches and see a thread similar from years ago that kind of fizzled but I wanted to start fresh.

Openings are hard for me (and apparently everyone else) and I love to find examples where I feel like the author nailed it. It's inspirational and motivational for me.

However, I don't like mindless lists either. The top 100 opening lines, etc. It's a nice project but I feel like it needs to broken down further to help myself grow. Why is it a great line? What works? Does it go against convention and if so, how did they manage it?

So, my intentions here are to have a poster present an opening line they love, and then explain why. Opening the forum up for discussion on it and then onto the next line.

It'll probably fizzle too, but here we go:

In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.
-Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

It's simple, nothing extraneous and sets the mood, tone, and characters of the story. The line works so well even though the first thing that stands out to me when I break it down is the double use of 'were'. Telling in the opening line. Twice. Then there's the vagueness, "In the town". Part of the reason it works for me is the distance and the creation of this odd setup. 12 words total and by the end of the sentence I have a sense of what kind of story I'll be reading.

The rest of the paragraph:

In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. Early every morning they would come out from the house where they lived and walk arm in arm down the street to work. The two friends were very different. The one who always steered the way was an obese and dreamy Greek. In the summer he would come out wearing a yellow or green polo shirt stuffed sloppily into his trousers in front and hanging loose behind. When it was colder he wore over this a shapeless gray sweater. His face was round and oily, with half-closed eyelids and lips that curved in a gentle, stupid smile. The other mute was tall. His eyes had a quick, intelligent expression. He was always immaculate and very soberly dressed.


Again, almost all telling and yet by the end I am completely engrossed with the characters and the question of 'what the hell is going on here?'

So, I'll put it out there for discussion and see if there is any interest in continuing this sort of thing. Otherwise, I'll keep hitting the tennis ball against the garage.

7
The Writers Circle / A shameless ploy
« on: July 16, 2015, 02:40:33 PM »
http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=57705.0

I'm all out of wit, please vote.

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Review My Work / Tough Choices
« on: July 16, 2015, 02:39:34 PM »
I'm sure seeing my name you opened this link thinking a stellar piece of fiction awaited, and it does...just not here.

http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=57705.0

Please take some time and vote is you have not already.

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The Coffee Shop / Can you spare a minute?
« on: July 15, 2015, 09:46:52 AM »
And vote in the flash fiction challenge? Lots of entries to pick from, making voting even more important!

http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=57705.0

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All the Write Questions / Pretty Please
« on: July 15, 2015, 09:46:00 AM »
Make sure you visit the flash fiction challenge and vote. Lots of entries to pick from, making voting even more important!

http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=57705.0

11
Wow! So the response was incredible and all the pieces are strong. I originally planned on having the photos with every piece but it's just too large. Plus, I think this is more true to life. Where do you get inspiration from and how does that translate onto the paper?

Please note that the stories exceeded the character length for the postings--basically there are two postings for the pieces so make sure you read through them all.

Also, please PM me if something seems off. A lot of stories and multiple rounds of cut and paste to get everything to work!

Anyway, so voting is open.


Domesticated

My father may be an ordained pastor, but he’s one crazy bastard. He’s a real holy-rolling, snake wrangler if you’ve ever seen one. He’s been catching snakes in the Tennessee mountains since he was a little boy.  Mama says she ain’t sure which is safer—chasing women or snakes. They both bite. Some’s poisonous and some ain’t. I don’t want to tell her Roscoe chases both.

When a rattlesnake escaped during Sunday service, I herded the congregation out to the parking lot. I was looking for my wife and kid when Roscoe grabbed me by the collar and wrangled me back inside. “Left the lid open, didn’t ya, Boy?”

“No.”

He smacked the back of my head. “Don’t you lie to me now. You know what the Good Book says ‘bout liars.”

“It’s always my fault. I don’t see why you got to mess with them poisonous ones. They’re dangerous.”

“I love that snake more than I do your Mama. Had her ten year. She damn near cost me my marriage. You find her now. I mean it.”

I hunkered down and looked under a pew.

“Don’t you get mad when she bites you neither. Ain’t the snakes fault.” He opened a little cardboard box, caught a mouse by its tail. “You didn’t giver this mouse like you’s suppose to neither.”

“I found her, Daddy!”

“Annie?” I swung around, caught my hip against a pew. Like a tomato vine twined around a stake, it coiled tight against my little girl and propped its head on her shoulder. “Put that down!”

The snake flicked it’s tongue at Annie’s neck. She giggled.

“See, nothin’ to worry about. Lou’s always had a thing fer youngerns. She’s taken a likin’ to Alley there.”

“Her name’s Annie!” I lowered my voice, held out my hand. “It’s gone be alright. Just. Don’t. Move.”

Roscoe dangled the mouse by its tail. “You poor thing. You hungry, ain’t ya? Come on. Come to daddy.”

“Tell me you got that anti-venom.”

“Hell no. Run out two years ago. Shit’s expensive. Come here, youngern. Ri-cheer. Sit down. There ya go.” He dangled the mouse out to it. Jiggled it. Annie grabbed the snake’s rattler and shook it like a Mexican maraca. Monkey see, monkey do. I damn near pissed myself. Roscoe grinned. “She gone grow up to be one of them there snake charmers. You watch and see.”

I flipped out my pocketknife. I meant to gut that son of a bitch.

“What you gone do with that?”

“I’m gone kill it.”

“To hell you are! Lou is a fully-domesticated rattler. She’s as gentle as a good woman ought to be.”

The door to the sanctuary creaked open. Mama said, “Have you seen Ann—OH, ROSCOE! You damn fool! I told you!”

The snake went limp, slipped off Annie and bolted toward the pulpit.

“I should a thought of that, Junior. Them snakes, they just like me. Can’t stand to hear that loud ass damn mouth!”


MOTHER AND CHILD


Harry stood in the nursery-room doorway, staring at the empty crib. Ten minutes ago the baby cried out but he was busy with her mother. Priorities. He reached inside and flipped the light-switch near the door. No power. Light from the full moon made an odd criss-cross pattern on the bedding, reflecting brightly on the sheet next to the Teddy bear. The shadows vibrated as if alive when a gust of wind blew across the Thames and rattled the window.

He closed his eyes and waited for his night vision to recover, listening for the child’s breathing. She can’t be far. Eyes still closed, Harry sniffed the air and smiled. He turned away from the crib and faced the corner furthest from the doorway. Opening his eyes he entered the room, the scent grew stronger. Something moved in the corner. His eyes narrowed as he super-focused. A whimper, muffled by the blanket over her head, betrayed her hiding place. He could see a faint silhouette. In one quick movement he lunged forward, grasped her shoulders and lifted her high. The child screamed.

“Now, now, little one. Not to worry. Let’s go see your mum. She’s waiting for you.”

Giggling with delight, Amy wrapped her arms around Harry’s head and planted a kiss on his nose. He carried her down the hall to the adjacent bedroom. On the bed lay a woman. Eyes closed, pretending to sleep. “Scoot over, Mummy. Make room for your little girl.”

It took only a glance for the toddler to realize her mother wasn’t really asleep. She pounced on her and delivered more kisses. Shirley couldn’t resist the barrage and broke out laughing. The game was on. She tickled Amy into submission. “And what are you doing out of bed at this time of night, young lady?”

“I heard noises downstairs, Mummy.”

Harry said, “Wait here, I’ll go check the fuse box. Something’s knocked out the mains.”

As Harry descended the spiral staircase to the first floor, he noticed movement directly beneath. Too late. The blade went deep as it penetrated below his sternum. A violent twist insured it was fatal.

Shirley heard footsteps in the hall and called out in the darkness. “I guess you didn’t find the problem, Harry?” The door opened slowly in response. A knife slashed out from the shadow gliding through the doorway. It was over in seconds.

The intruder walked out the front door of the Whitechapel house whistling a tune, thinking about his next victims. The rush of adrenaline quickened his heartbeat as he licked the blood from his knife. All was right in Jack’s world. He said to himself, Grandpa would have approved. London will be terrified.


A hard day's night

I came from nowhere and I knew everything. Like a jewel I used to rest in a faraway safe. Eternity was mine. I thought it was.

The day my life changed it had been raining since morning. At the time of course I was not aware of it : I was told later, it became part of my story. A few days earlier, I had sensed a growing tightness around me. I felt squeezed and pressed and heaved. I got stuck in the same position for hours on. It took ages to move a leg, and my body seemed heavier by the minute. I remember I loved putting my fingers in my mouth to suck, but even that had become such an effort that I gave up the habit in the latest moments. I was like a prisoner in his cell, but the cell was narrowing as the sentence went on. It was becoming rather unpleasant at first, then just about bearable : more would be pain.

I had been used to softness, bathed in deep, regular sounds, as in the deepest ocean . My hearing was  muffled, the beats were the flow I followed. Sometimes, irregular sounds broke up, from far away, like one of those old vinyl records played on too slow a motion. The world around me was dark, warm, humid, and quiet : I expect the first men on earth, in the heart of their caverns, had the same secure feeling. I believed peace was endless.

When suddenly a big tumult occured, a murmur changing into an avalanche. Something caught me and tightened around me, clenching like gigantic ferocious jaws on my flesh. I suffocated from the dreadful hug. I was pushed and urged forward, a helpless vessel at the eye of the storm. It went on for so long ! I was the Titanic sinking for ever and ever! I was terrified. I struggled and I wanted to die. Until I was so exhausted and weak that I gave up fighting. And it happened : a sudden stroke of blinding light. Noises, so loud and acute. The coldness on my skin. And most of all a terrible pain in my chest, where my lungs unfolded for the first time with the pressure of air. My own screams were an awful distress for me and a great joy for the rest of the world. My empty cot was going to be fulfilled at last !


Daily Mail

Monday 6th July 2015

Major Fire at St. Paul's church, miraculous escape for an abandoned baby

A major fire broke out on Sunday afternoon at the St. Paul's church situated on the outskirts of the city. The incident occurred a couple of hours after the last mass in the morning and hence no casualties were reported. But what surprised the fire fighters, when they barged into the church with their hoses, was the cry of an infant.

Tom, one of the first to enter the church said “The main door was locked and we broke it open. The smoke was filling up the hall fast as most of the windows were closed. But my attention was drawn to the cries of a baby coming from the back. I rushed in that direction and was shocked to see a baby in a mini crib lying alone on one of the benches. I grabbed the crib and rushed out to the paramedics.”

The baby is now said to be safe and out of danger.

The priest, questioned about the baby, remarked "It's truly a miracle! The church was scheduled to be closed for the next couple of days for minor repairs. Nobody would have heard the wails of the baby from outside and it would definitely not have survived. Whoever abandoned the baby probably was not aware of this. Though the church has suffered damages due to the fire I am glad at least a young life was saved.”

The cause of the fire is still not known and investigations are on.


Chicken

“Jessssss,” Charlie hissed. “You’re facing the wrong way!”

He knew if she didn’t turn, the reverend would smack her nose. “Jessssssssie.”

“Okay. Okay. Geezzzzzz.” She stuck out her tongue. “I thought I sensed a mouse.”

“Well get into role or that imagination will be the only meal you get,” Charlie warned just as the crowd surged forward.

Many rough hands later, and multiple bruised ribs, the brother and sister were put back in a large wicker basket.

“Do you smell chicken?” Jessie’s eyes glinted in the darkness as her head darted from left to right. “I’ve been smelling chicken all night.”

Charlie rolled over, trying to get comfortable. “This whole state smells of chicken.” Finally he found a spot. “I probably won’t be able to eat chicken ever again.” He let out a long relaxing hiss. “I’d happily starve first.”

“You could try fish.”

He steered one eye towards his sibling. “Pleassssssssssee. Can you honestly imagine me underwater?”

She smiled. “Yes I can.”

Charlie turned away. “I never know when you are teasing.”

“Good.”

Their next stop was in a desert. Charlie could never tell which one.

“Arizona,” his sister volunteered only after he had forked his tongue in and out between the gaps of bamboo prison often enough to get splinters.

“What took you so long to chime in.”

“I was hoping you’d get caught.”

“Remind me why we’re together?”

She snuggled up close in the basket, wrapping him securely in her much much larger coils. “Because we’re family, silly.” She squeezed so suddenly, so hard, that two tiny dust rings puffed out Charlie’s nose.

It was then, deep in his mind, Charlie’s brain came to the conclusion that she might kill him.

“Oh yeah.” He tried to slither away.

“Failed!” Jess laughed and squeezed him all the harder.

When he came to they were in a different state.

“You missed tonight’s show.” Her belly looked full and her skin looked healthy. “No supper for you.”

It hurt when Charlie tried to move so he decided not to. He asked her instead, “What was on?”

“Chicken.”

It felt strange for Charlie to be thankful. But still… he was.

The next morning was colder than any Charlie remembered. He felt it at every joint when he moved.

“W-W-Wel-c-come to Ca-na-da.” Jessie looked like misery.  Curled up so tight, Charlie couldn’t see her  moving at all. “C-come oo-ver heeerrre, and g-give your ssssssissster a b-b-big c-c-uddle.”

‘Now!‘ screamed his tiny brain.

Charlie didn’t hesitate. Both fangs punctured her beautiful diamond black skull and went in as deep as he could shove. He gave his sister every last drop of his poison.

She didn’t even struggle. Knowing her, she probably basked in the warmth of his last breath. Jessie always had to one-up.

The reverend threw Charlie out on the streets. Jessie had been his star.

His first Canadian winter sucked ass. Really.
 
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Charlie told himself in Spring.

Forking out his tongue, it searched for chicken.


Delivery Service

What a mixed bag of post this morning: a brochure for baby furniture, which I’ve put to one side, and a garden catalogue. That one’s straight for the bin. Small third floor flat, you see, and my back’s not what it was. We had a house once, but Maurice was the gardener and I’ve not kept it up. It’s hard remembering him with his tidy rose beds: so admired.

I keep the inside nice though. Especially the nursery. I dusted again just this morning. There’s a smooth firmness to the cot frame, a washing powder smell on the sheets, soft fur of the teddy against my cheek. The weight of her in my arms: I can almost feel it if I close my eyes. But not that. Not the harsh lights of the hospitals with the doctors holding me down as yet again it’s “Mrs Carswell, we’re so sorry. It’s very common this early.”

Maurice refused to try after a while. Too concerned for my health I suppose. And now it’s too late anyway. He grew roses for me instead.

A knock at the door. I reach for the stick. Plant the stick: drag, stick, drag, stick. My slippers aren’t on and I can feel the heat building up with the carpet friction. It’ll hurt later, but there’s a pleasure in it now, it warms the foot and keeps my mind from Maurice. It’s ok; I have a cream, for the foot at any rate. When I get to the door, there’s only the retreating back of a jacket.

“Hello,” I call out. The figure halts and stomps back up. It’s a young man carrying a parcel and a gripe about the twice-climbed stairs.

“Mrs Carswell?”

“That’s me.”

“Sign here.”

I shout a ‘thank you’ after him; Maurice always said manners made you friends, and he was right. So many came to the funeral to see him off, it was quite a show.

Back in the living room, I place the parcel carefully on the table. The postmark’s from London. We lived there once, when Maurice was here. A little red brick terrace with tidy box hedges. No one I know lives there now. It’s been years, and since Maurice, well, it didn’t seem right to go back.

I place my hands on my knees and pull the tweed skirt smooth. There’s a slight shake to the fingers, but there probably is anyway. It doesn’t mean anything.

Reach forward, slice the tape. Amongst the wrapping there’s a birth certificate and a framed photo of a girl called Rose. Wants to meet her father, she says. She’s eighteen, by the dates.

Bloody Maurice. Another mess to clean up. Seems it was only me that couldn’t. He was quite the family man. Well, I have no use for these; they go right in the bin.

Afterwards, I sit in the nursery, my head against the bars so I can reach in, smooth the sheets, stroke the teddy. It’s almost nap time.


Firefighter

Clementine? I have to go.

The church is burning, Clementine.

I know you want me to stay with you. I have called  my mother, and she will be here soon. I am late as it is. The rest of the guys will be kitted up by now, and in the thick.

Clementine, don’t howl so. It breaks my heart. I know how you rely on me, sweet girl. I know you are still there.

Let’s talk while we wait for mother.

Look, here is your album. Our wedding day. Wasn’t that fine? Oh, and look, the cottage in Springfield, where we lived before …

Clementine, do you think it is good for you? Looking at pictures of Bonnie? I think we will move right on. God needed Bonnie, Clementine. He wanted that perfect girl right by His side.

No sweetheart, I’ve told you a million times. It wasn’t your fault. Don’t wail so. It wasn’t your fault. It was an accident.

Now, here’s mother.  Be brave for me Clementine. I have to go. Bill’s on vacation and young Mike will be waiting for me – I’m the guy with the hose, Clementine. They need me.

Now, there’s Mother just coming in the back door. She’ll take good care of you.

What’s that? Yes, of course you took good care of Bonnie. It wasn’t your fault, Clementine. I’ve been telling you for ten long years. Forgive yourself, my darling. Come back to me.

Do you remember how we used to walk down to town of an evening, and watch the people going by? We’d drink a beer, in Ryan’s and then walk slowly home, with the sun setting low on the Prairie. Ah, Clementine. I loved you so. I still do you know.

Here’s Mother now, coming up the …

You went where?

You went to Ryan’s tonight? No. I told you only walk down to the lake and back. You always walk down to the lake and back.

I have to take a shower now and again. I have to eat. I have to live my life somehow, and you, my sweet love, my darling. You always take Lucy, on her leash,   down to the lake and back.

Clementine, why did you go to Ryan’s? Did anyone see you?

No, my darling, Bonnie didn’t go with you. Bonnie is gone, my love. Did anyone else see you?

Please, be calm Clementine. Mother is here now. I need to know. I do remember. I know. I know it is ten years since she went. Since we walked back from Ryan’s to see the farm on fire, and Lucette, the babysitter, screaming, her face black with tears.

I know. I know, my love. Ryan’s is so close to the church, Clementine. So close.

Mama? I have to go. I’m sorry. I’m afraid Clementine might have become confused. Can you see what she is clutching in her hand?

I have to go Mama. I have to go and put the fire out.

12
The Writers Circle / Are you visually inspired?
« on: June 29, 2015, 01:20:32 PM »
If so, check out the new flash fiction challenge:

http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=57567.new#new

 ;D

13
Review My Work / Feeling inspired
« on: June 29, 2015, 01:17:35 PM »
Then check out the new flash fiction challenge:

http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=57567.new#new

 ;D

14
Writing Games & Challenges / Flash Fiction Challenge #106
« on: June 29, 2015, 01:15:48 PM »
I'm not sure if this is a legit prompt, but I'm going to try it, 500 words or less (not including title) inspired by one the below photos:







Since the pictures are so varied, I'm not going to add any words/phrases that must be included. Just go for it. Throw your own characters in there, make up new ones, or none at all.

I thought at first just to include just one photo, but that's not how we are judged as writers. Our stories are placed against others and judged on their individual merits regardless of the surrounding works. Meaning, I feel justified in asking people to compare stories inspired by a snake handling preacher against an empty crib.

Let's go for a deadline of July 12th (I'm sure a lot of vacations are ongoing) by midnight. PM me the entries.

And sorry there are no rainbows or butterflies, that's just not how I roll.

Oh...someone with ability please sticky. Thanks! ;D

15
The Writers Circle / How to handle making incidents into stories
« on: June 19, 2015, 09:15:12 AM »
How do you guys handle this? Or do you?

Here's where I am currently. I feel like the powder keg of Southern racial issues--the police brutality, socioeconomic disparities, and now the mass murder in an AME church--could be a powerful piece. However, I'm having trouble feeling the characters who would inhabit the stories. If I wrote it now, it would be cardboard characters moved around to tell the story that I want to tell.

So, I guess my question is, do you guys ever back into your characters or are the characters there before you start the story? If I have a seed of an incident, how do you suggest developing that into a true story with a character arc? Would you simply start with the characters and then organically let the scenes happen (if they do) or would you write the scenes and try to develop the characters within them (I'm scared this would create muddled and confused characters)?

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