To Those Who Wait

From the first Occupy Daily Prompt/Blog Propellant “Picture Prompt.” I had fun writing this, so decided to give it the ol’ once over and re-post.

i see you

It’s a pelican’s life. Foggy mornings, calm waters, and blessed, blessed fishermen. The human kind.

Argus was one of the feathered fisherman who kept a special place in his heart for his human comrades, and Pedro, a human fisherman, liked the feathered fishermen like Argus. They understood where each was coming from: There’s the sea and therein are the fish.

As a young bird still learning his way in the world, Argus found Pedro after a long, mostly unsuccessful day looking for food. On that day, Argus stood on the end of the pier, frustrated and hungry. His mother never told him there’d be times like these and he wondered what to do about the pain in his belly. The seagulls taunted him. Swooping and screaming, always either begging, bullying or scavenging. Eating crap. What did they know. Fish are fish. Whatever the other humans ate, who didn’t fish, was crap.

Argus looked the other way, ignoring the gulls. It was the first time he saw Pedro. Pedro was tying up his boat. He then picked up a bucket and dumped an amazing amount of delicious fish back into the water.

Argus took a step forward, and stopped. He looked back toward the seagulls. Two of them were fixed on Pedro. Argus learned early on, in circumstances like these, you just gotta flap like hell to keep the damn seagulls away if you were going to get anything from the likes of Pedro. As the two gulls flew in, Argus ran across the pier, wings out stretched, mouth agape, and gave the loudest squawk he could to threaten the gulls, but it was too late. The rest of the flock had swooped in, making all that racket like the hysterical freaks they are. There was nothing for Argus to do, but hang back on the pier and wait. And hope.

To Argus’ surprise, Pedro stopped throwing fish away as soon as the gull flock arrived. “Shoo! Git!,” Pedro called out, waving his arms. “Git! Go on! Shoo!” he repeatedly scolded until the last one left. Pedro moved over to the side of his boat where Argus and a couple other yearlings expectantly stood.

“You kids, now. You ought’a learn right what yer folks taught ya. Don’t be waitin’ for no more handouts, ‘K?” He repeated his admonishment as he threw out the rest of what he didn’t want. Pedro’s scolding did no good, of course. Argus and his friends would come to always count on to him to throw his unwanted fish away.

It was late one day in winter when Argus decided the float along side Pedro’s boat slip was as good as any place to stay the night. Argus knew he was supposed to be back with all his family and neighbors, but here, next to Pedro’s boat, it was quiet and calm. Just a few clanging sounds, water lapping against the other boats, and no one else but live-aboard fishermen like Pedro. Argus liked the solitude.

A flicker of light caught Argus attention, and he turned to see that Pedro was staring at a small box that looked like it had light moving inside it, like the sun reflecting off the ripples of water. He knew better than to climb aboard, but Argus had to get a closer look. He quietly padded up to the window behind Pedro. To his amazement, there were tiny fishermen, just like Pedro, in that little square space. Pedro just sat there, watching them.

Every night afterward, Argus would quietly watch the tiny fishermen in the square on Pedro’s boat. They leapt and jumped, hid and snuck around corners. They were very, very good hunters, concealing themselves from notice before making their kill. And every time they got their prey.

One day not long after Pedro returned in his boat from hunting fish, Argus tried hiding behind a post, just like the tiny fishermen he’d watched in the small box. Argus figured he’d make a move like the tiny hunters and swoop up all of Pedro’s unwanted fish before the gulls or his friends got to it, but a couple of gulls came after him right off, teasing him about pretending to be such a tough guy.

The next day, Argus tried hiding again. This time, he kept to his hiding place and did not make a move. None of the other birds seemed to notice he was there. He tried it the day after that, and the day after that, and still no one seemed to notice him.

On the fifth day Argus chose his moment, and from his hiding place behind the post, he stormed Pedro’s boat with a loud screech, startling all the other birds and frightening them away. He landed on the back deck railing of Pedro’s boat, and gave his wings a little flutter before settling down.

“HA!” Pedro exclaimed. “I seen you, all stealth-like the past coupl’a days, back there, behind the piling. Wondered what you were up to. Way to go! You showed them!” Pedro threw him a huge handful of fish that Argus caught it mid-air.

“Oh, HO! Right on, buddy, good catch! Here…some more!” and Argus made another clean catch of another handful of fish.


OLWG #3: Nothin’ Special

This week’s Online Writers’ Guild prompts are:

  1. I have to find a way to tell them
  2. Nothin’ special
  3. This was not what she needed right now

Woman-Sitting-at-Desk-Exhausted-Work-in-Front-of-HerAfter the month she had, the last thing Paula needed was her manager laid up with pneumonia.

“Six weeks?!”

“Give or take, but yeah,” the department director said. “This means I’ll need to you to jump in with Sean to get that proposal finished.”

Paula resented everything about her job, but this really put it over the top. Filling in for her manager will mean staying late and starting early. Her husband will have to get the kids ready for school, pick them up after soccer and gymnastics, and make dinner most nights. She dreaded telling him the bad news. She dreaded the silent treatment she was in for.

Maybe sweeten the sour deal with an offering. Like, more sex. Not that he complained, but she knew. More sex. Or, maybe let him get both cars fully detailed, which he had complained about. After all, it’s just money. Speaking of which, Paula thought, since we’re going there, let him sink more of their hard-earned/even harder to save dollars into that bottomless pit project of his. On the weekends she’ll make two breakfasts: pancakes for the kids and Denver omelette and all the bacon he wants, instead of making everyone miserable with her tofu-is-food-too scrambles.

As her mind turned over her options, Paula thought again about how many hours she’d be stuck at the office, never mind the work she’ll probably have to bring home. She was going to have to offer up a whole plate of concessions.

Sean knocked gently on her office door and cautiously opened it. “I can see you’re doing what I’ve been doing.”

“What’s that?”

“Thinking of what all you’re going to have to do to make up for all the time here at work in the next six or so weeks.”

Paula smiled and sighed. “Yeah. I was thinking how much more exhausted I’m going to be after making good on all the bribes I’m going to have to hand out.”

“What’cha thinking you’ll have to do?” Sean asked.

“Ooooh, nothin’ special. Just, become a short order cook on the weekends, ready with a special meal for anyone who demands it. A hooker, whenever and wherever wearing whatever. Watch our bank account dwindle to zero. But, hey, at least the cars will be sparkling and that completely useless project of his will be done so he can move on to the next useless and ridiculously expensive project.”

“I hear ya!” Sean laughed. “I’m going to rock the pink tutu look for the next six weeks. My daughter will be thrilled.”

Paula waved Sean in. “C’mon. Take a seat. Let’s get to it.”


OLWG #2, and other such skullduggery

“And other such skullduggery,” Sarah read the blog prompt aloud to herself. “Hm.”

Sarah highlighted the word, right clicked, selected “Search Google for ‘skullduggery'” and clicked again, certain the search engine would only do its best to come up with actual words that might be similar.

She was surprised the following popped up:



“Mom?” her 12 year-old son called out from his bedroom. Sarah didn’t reply. She kept typing. 25 minutes on the clock to finish a reply to the prompt. Sunday mornings her only free time to write.

“Mommy? I think I need to go to the emergency room. Mom?”

“Ask dad,” Sarah snapped.


Sarah heard John walk upstairs from where he’d been watching the news in the kitchen, admonishing their son as he approached the boy’s room, “Hey, what’s up bud? Don’t bug mom, remember? Sunday morning’s her time, we don’t bug her. What’s up?”

Sarah disappeared again into her writing exercise. She didn’t notice John standing in front of her until he interrupted. Her mind a million miles away, she stared at him for what seemed like a full minute before replying.

“What do you mean, too much sugar. How much sugar?” she finally said.

“He says he ate a whole bag.”

“WHAT? Has he been sick? Thrown up?” Sarah rushed out of the living room.

“I don’t think he ate a whole bag, but yeah, he’s pretty sick.” John said as he followed her upstairs.

Sarah sat next to her son, curled up in his bed, and stroked his sweating forehead. He was shivering and shaking. John stood in the doorway with the two other children, who had come to the room to see what would bring their mother out of her Sunday morning seclusion.

“I don’t feel good.”

“Dad said you said you ate a bag of sugar.” The boy nodded his head. “What bag? Out of the kitchen?” The boy wagged his head. “What bag, bud? Show me. Now.” The boy reached over the edge of his bed and pulled out from under it a Trick-or-Treat sack, about the size of a paper grocery bag. A few candies remained.

Both Sarah and John’s eyes widened, followed by simultaneous scoldings. “That bag of candy was full of all your candy and your sister and brother’s from Halloween! We hid that bag! How’d you find it? How long has it been under your bed? Did you eat all that all at once last night?”

The truth finally came out in Dr. Schoonmaker’s office. The boy hadn’t wanted to disturb his mother about breakfast, and his dad wasn’t up yet, so he stayed in his room and ate the candy he found last month in the back of the freezer (when he was looking for the ice cream he knows his mother hides back there). The family was sent home with instructions for the boy to eat a couple of large spoonfuls of sugar-free peanut butter, a high fiber and protein diet for the next couple of days, plenty of water and a long bike ride later that afternoon to get the blood pumping to help flush out his kidneys and liver.

Sarah announced in the car on the way home she would change her “me time” schedule to week nights, after she made sure everyone had a healthy dinner and she’d made a clean sweep of under the beds and any other secret hiding place in the house. And, no more ice cream, either.

I think I wrote this within 60 minutes. I was watching TV at the same time, so a lot of start and stopping. 😉 The On-line Writer’s Guild prompts this week are: Mom, I need to go to the emergency room; How much sugar?; And other such skullduggery. Check it out:

What a Nightmare: OLWG #1

She walked in to see me banging away at my keyboard.

“Not you, too!”

I finished my thought and paused to look at my old muse. “Yes, yes. I see you stopped in on TK to harass him. I like the name he gave you. Annie. Annie, Annie, bobanny, fee, fi, fo, fanny. Annie!”

My old muse stepped in front of my table, arms crossed. “You guys don’t learn.”

“Oooh, I don’t know about that.”

I returned my attention to my laptop. Four minutes had passed on the timer. Gotta get back at it.

Untitled-1A cool breeze blew in the back of her hospital gown. Mortified to realize she was standing in front of her fourth-period social studies class, Mrs. Wilson did her best to hush the students’ tittering.

“Hey Mizz Wilson,” Thomas jeered, “why don’t you write on the blackboard, you know, what you were just saying about the United States government. Cuz, I don’t know how to spell ‘Senate!’ Show me how to spell, ‘Senate!’”

Thomas’ gaggle of goofs let out a loud laugh and gave Thomas high-fives. How desperately Mrs. Wilson wished she could wake up, regardless the pain she would feel if she was able to manage it. The anesthesia had too strong of a hold for her consciousness to break through.

“Come on, Mizz Wilson! Show us! Show us! HAHAHA!” the class kept heckling.

“I never said I’d show you…that’s not what I said…what it said… what was said…” Mrs. Wilson tried explaining; tried getting control, but her body was frozen in place and the words jumbled, tossed and turned around in her head.  Desperate for escape, she wondered if could manage to jump out the window, make a run for it…

The classroom faded. Hushed sounds filled her ears. As Mrs.Wilson came to, she was grateful to open her eyes to a hospital room. Her husband looked up from his phone and smiled.

“There she is! How ya feel?”

“I feel …. like I’m done being a Junior High School teacher.”

The 3 prompts for OWLG #1 are: A cool breeze blew in the back of her hospital gown; She did her best to hush the classroom; That’s not what it said. 

Always a fun exercise in creativity! Grab the one prompt that resonates and force-fit the other two to work with it. Such a blast!

Can’t do the timed-writing thing unless I do this at lunch. Wrote in 30-ish minutes. Took 15 more (or so) tonight to tweak.

If you haven’t yet, check out the Old-is-new-again Online Writer’s Guild!


JacobThe August sun made its slow and steady climb over the eastern horizon, wrapping Maribeth’s home in a warm yellow blanket, and alighting its interior in a soft amber glow. Sitting with a cup of coffee at the breakfast table, she thought back to a similar morning, so many years before, when Jacob showed up, out of the blue. Maribeth always thought it was curious that that day, when he came back, had started off so beautifully. She wondered, as she did from time to time over the years, how differently things might have turned out had Jacob stayed away.

Mornings have always been Maribeth’s favorite. Calm and quiet, she reveled in having the house to herself. Most especially when, like that morning, these many years ago, her family slept in a bit.

On that particular morning she remembered slipping out of bed, mindful of not disturbing Mitchell. These days a bulldozer knocking down the house wouldn’t wake him. But back then, she’d gently shut the door behind her and tip-toe down the hall, careful to avoid the three squeaky spots in the floor boards. She’d pause a moment to listen outside her children’s bedroom door, and when she was satisfied there wasn’t a peep from the baby or rustling of bed sheets from the twins, she’d continue her silent trip downstairs.

Once in the kitchen, she had the usual debate with herself whether to start the kettle before going out to the outhouse. She knew she would not be that long, but should that kettle start boiling before she got back, her the morning calm would be shattered. That whistle could spook a horse. Even if she left the kettle lid off, her presense in the back yard might set the goat to bleating and then the dog to barking. No one would remain asleep after that. They would come clammering downstairs, cranky from being so abruptly awakened, and then start in to pestering her with ornery demands to be fed, cajoled and otherwise seen to. Mitchell included.

She decided, as she almost always did on these solitary mornings, a trip to the outhouse could wait a bit. She instead went about preparing the morning meal. After all, waking up to the smell of brewed coffee, muffins in the oven and frying bacon would go a long way to keeping her family’s foul morning moods at bay.

Opening the ice box, Maribeth let out an exasperated sigh. Mitchell had failed to bring in eggs from the coop the evening before. So much for not disturbing the animals in the backyard. She removed the kettle from the burner, grabbed her house coat from its place on the back porch, pulled on her muck boots, and walked out the kitchen door.

Her head bowed; her thoughts lost in mild irritation with Mitchell, Maribeth was half way across the yard before she noticed someone sitting under the big oak. A man. She slowed her pace as she took in the unexpected sight. The goat was eating out of the man’s hand and the dog was sitting at his side. Maribeth froze.

It was Jacob. Greying hair and horribly thin, never mind the fact he was sitting with his back turned, Maribeth could still tell it was him.

Jacob and the animals seemed unaware of her presence and Maribeth took quick advantage, rushing back to the house. She’d wake Mitchell and then sit with the children in their room while Mitchell shooed Jacob off the property, preferably with the threat of his hunting rifle by his side. But the dog let out a woof and ran to her, and Jacob called out before she could get inside.

“Uh, heyya there, Maribeth.” Jacob paused, waiting for her to turn around and reply. Maribeth did not move from her position at the door. Nor did she turn around.

“Maribeth?” Jacob paused again, then continued. “Sorry to come calling like this, and on a Sunday morning and all, but, well…Here I am.”

Maribeth remained speechless and motionless. She raised her eyes upward, toward her bedroom window, hoping, praying her husband had awakened at hearing a man’s voice in the yard.

“Mind if I…” Jacob ventured.

Maribeth turned her head to the side and snapped, “Yes. I do.” She walked into the kitchen and slammed the door.

I started this story with a particular idea in mind, but almost as soon as I started to type, it took off in a different direction. The only constant is a woman opening a door surprised to see a familiar but unexpected man.

Easter, Shmeaster

Allison opened the back seat door, picked up her summer hat, and with great effort, shoved the two daffodils she cut from her front yard through the woven straw of the hat. The giant yellow blooms stuck out at odd angles like alien insect antennae. It was the only way she knew how to show up to her cousin’s annual Easter brunch in the required Easter bonnet.

“You look great,” her husband Garrett said, with a you-look-stupid smile.

“F you” she mouthed. Garrett donned an oversized safari pith helmet, which sank below his eyes. He flashed another toothy smile.

“Much better,” Allison remarked.

Allison and Garrett’s sons were already out of the car and at the front door, banging away at it as if they were at the castle gates.

“That’s…stop it, guys!” Allison scolded as she and Garrett caught up to them. “So rude. Don’t do that!”

“MOM! They’re already doing the Easter egg hunt! God! We’re gonna miss it!”

“We’re sooooo late! It’s your fault! We won’t get any eggs!”

The door opened and a woman no one recognized smiled and ushered everyone in.

“Hi,” the woman said with an extended hand, “I’m Leena!”

“Hi Leena. We’re Allison and Garrett and …” Garrett started to introduce his children, but the boys were in the door, through the hall and out the kitchen to the back yard in a flash. “…and those are, well, were, ours sons, Gabe and Ben…”

“Oh! OK, so how do you know Barbara or Jerry?”

“We’re Barbara’s cousins. I mean, I am,” Allison said. “Barbara’s my cousin. Once removed, or something.”

“Well, then, we’re related! I guess. I’m married to Barbara’s sister’s husband’s brother,” Leena said with her index finger bouncing back and forth through the air.

“In-laws,” Allison clarified.

“Yes! That’s right! Love your hats!” Leena quickly segued, without taking breath. “Where’d you get that?” she asked Garrett as she hooked her arm in his, pulling him to the kitchen while obviously leaving Allison ten steps behind. “It’s so cool! Is it from Africa? I’ve never been, have you? Is that where you got it? It’s so cool!”

God, I hate Easter, Allison thought.

Rain’s Respite (Revised…a bit)

I recently read a blog post that reminded me of Rain’s Respite. I wrote it about 3 years ago. It’s a favorite of mine, but it irked me a bit. It wasn’t quite right. So, I’ve taken a stab at a few revisions.

…you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you….

junk shop windowI stood just inside the doorway for a little while to get my bearings, glad to get out of the sudden downpour.

A large cowbell attached to the door on a protruding metal brace was still clanging. I didn’t remember it from before. I stared at it as it continued to wobble and clang while my eyes adjusted to the dark interior.

“I know. Makes me crazy, but there it is.” An old woman was standing at the end of the register counter, hand on a hip, eyes also fixed on the cowbell.

“ ‘s wet out there,” she continued as she lowered her gaze to me.

“Yeah. Plenty.”

“You gonna just stand there looking out at the street or you gonna look around?”

I gave the old woman an apologetic smile and stepped farther into the place. “Of course. I’ll browse.”

With feigned interest, I made my way down the first aisle in front of me, absently taking in the flea-market selection of odds and ends. The time-worn junk store was well-known in my city, at least to those like me and my friends who liked to spend weekend afternoons crawling through antique malls, consignment stores and thrift shops. The place had its fair share of classic junk shop crap, and I bet a few items could be considered valuable antiques, but it was more like the old-time curiosity galleries that used to line beach front boardwalks.

Shrunken heads peered out from behind glass merchandise cases, or under bell jars on wooden pedestals. Who knew if they were actual shrunken heads or novelties made in Japan in the ’50s. They looked real enough. Large bins of polished rocks, sea shells, marbles, plastic doll parts, unmatched Tupperware containers, nails, nuts and bolts of all sizes, and unopened rolls of Christmas wrapping paper were tucked into corners and beside shelves. An assortment of ceramic figurines were just about anywhere you looked, along with various pottery pieces and tableware. Musky smelling used clothing from no particular era of fashion hung on various clothes racks, with very worn out shoes scattered on the bare cement floor below. The occasional large specimen jar with a deformed piglet floating in formaldehyde would pop out at you as you turned the corners of the narrow aisles, and taxidermies of just about every sort of creature were everywhere, from the ceiling rafters to niches under crates and between shelves and display cases. This included a large German Shepard at the entrance, facing out, which I assumed was once the owner’s dog, placed in the very spot it used to sit or lay, watching people walk in or walk by. Looking up, you saw a myriad of black velvet paintings, the centerpiece of which was a reclining female nude with a handwritten Post-it note stuck to the frame that read, “Gorgeous Glenda is anitomicaly (misspelled) incorrect. What’s missing? Guess right and get a penny for the gumball machine.” On a previous visit with friends someone finally figured out Gorgeous Glenda didn’t have a belly button.

“You looking for somethin’ in particular or you just wastin’ my time?” the old woman asked.

“No. Just browsing,” I lied. I was listening to the rain beating down on the roof, trying to gauge when would be a good time to head back out, rather than having my usual fun poking through the flotsam and jetsam.

“Cuz we don’t have no security cameras in here so I has to stands here while you shop. If you ain’t shoppin’ then I just assumes you go on ‘bout your business elsewheres.”

I couldn’t help letting out a laugh. “I’m not casing the joint, ma’am. I’m just browsing.”

“Well, I’ll just stands here while you just browse then.”

“OK,” I replied, pretending not to notice her snark.

I wondered if someone actually tried shoplifting something from the place. I mean, what is here that is so valuable to make someone want to shoplift? I studied the shelves closely. What would I want so badly that I’d shoplift something from here? I looked at a jar with one of the deformed piglets. Probably one of those. I’d never pay money for one, but it would make a great gag at work. I’d anonymously leave it in the lunchroom. I could just imagine the official memo the next morning about respecting common office areas and not to leave personal items in plain view.

As I continued my aimless wandering, still listening to the downpour outside, I spotted a set of glassware exactly like the kind my grandmother had: thick, gold/orange molded stemmed glasses with facets that replicated ornate leaded crystal. A sledge-hammer wouldn’t break the stuff and it was my grandmother’s pride and joy.

“Your grandma or old auntie have a set of those?” The old woman’s voice came from her place up front. I didn’t understand how she was able to see where I was from there.

“Thought you said you didn’t have security cameras in here.”

“That’s right we don’t. I can tell where you are just from the sound of you walkin’ around. Anyways, everyone’s grandma had a set of those glasses. Everyone always stops there and says, ‘Oh grandma had a set of these I remember these.’ ”

“They were my grandmother’s special occasion glasses. She loved them.”

“Yes, ma’am. That they were. They all did.”

“So, where do you keep the things everybody’s grandfather used to have?”

“Over yonder there, by that big clock.”

I looked around for a big clock. There were several. “Which one?”

“That big ol’ one goes almost all the ways to the ceiling.”

I spied it and instantly remembered seeing it before. I noticed its pendulum was still. “Didn’t that used to run?”

“MmmHmm. But it broke. Got over-wound or somethin.’ ”

“It had a very loud, deep chime, right?”

“Worse than that cowbell, I’ll tell ya.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I liked it.” I was now standing in front of the giant clock. I hadn’t really looked at it the times I’d been in the old store before. It was a massive thing, looking as if it was carved from the entire trunk of the oak used to make it. The pendulum alone was at least six feet in length and the clock face had to be just as wide in circumference.

“Where did you guys find it?” I asked the woman.

“It just showed up one day. Someone left it out front. Helluva time getting it in here.” She paused and continued, “Someones told me it looked a lot like the clock used to be in that old train station, downtown.”

“Well, it certainly would have had plenty of room in there. No wonder it was so loud,” I remarked mostly to myself. “Ever been?” I called out to the old woman. “The lobby is huge, with ceilings that go up four or five stories. And all that marble! Amazing place.”

“Nope. Never been on a train.”

I meandered back to the front to take a peek out the front door. The rain had let up a bit. The old woman was still standing at the end of the counter with her hand on her hip. I turned back and looked at the shelves full of books near the check-out counter.

“You have a lot of what looks like first editions,” I said. “Bet you could actually do better selling those online, you know, like through eBay or something.”

The old woman shrugged. “I’ve read every single one of them books,” she proudly stated.

“Yeah? Any of them any good?”

“Sure. I guess. People had a different way of seein’ things back then.”

“Recommend one for me? To buy?”

She looked at me with a faint look of surprise. “Nah, you don’t want them. You take a look at one of those over there,” and jutted her chin toward another bookcase of beat-up paperbacks. A copy of I’m OK, You’re OK was prominently displayed among them.

“I’ll think I’ll pass on those, but thanks.”

The old woman, the stuffed German Shepard and I were silent for a moment; the three of us staring out the glass front doors.

“So, you done browsin?” she asked, still staring out at the street.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.” I headed for the door. It was still raining pretty hard, but I knew the rule of the third time being the charm. The old woman wouldn’t ask again nicely, if you could classify her previous inquiries as nice, if I was there to shop or waste her time. I gave the stuffed dog a pat on the head and opened the door to leave. The cowbell started clanging.

“You come back and maybe next time that ol’ clock be workin’ again.”

“What, that monster and this cowbell? Are you kidding?” I smiled at her and she smiled back.

“Damn thing,” she muttered.