Online Writers’ Guild #11: The Waiting Room

The waiting is the hardest part. Sitting. Sitting, not moving. Sitting for one minute, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes. Jeffery looks at the clock on the wall. Five minutes.

The flowers are all over the wall. They flutter and bend each time the oscillating fan on the side table blows air over their field, but the clock doesn’t do anything. Six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes, nine minutes. Why doesn’t the clock move? Why?!


Jeffery catches it. This time. This is a good thing. The carpet is still. Good. This a good thing. Carpets are still. He catches it this time. This is a good thing.

He carefully raises his glance to face whatever is across the room. Feet. A woman’s feet. Now a child’s feet. Now the child’s feet are gone. Now they’re back. Jeffery cautiously moves his eyes to the left. A man’s feet and then the same child’s feet. The child’s feet go up, one at a time. They don’t come back. Jeffery slowly, very slowly, raises his glance. Knees. The man’s knees. The woman’s knees. Now whole legs. The man’s. The woman’s. And the child’s. On the man’s legs. The child’s chest. The man’s chest. The woman’s chest. Her chest. Her chest. The child’s face. The child’s face looking at Jeffery’s face.

Behind the child’s face the flowers flutter and bend left. Then still. Flutter and bend right; flutter and bend left. Then still. The child’s face is pink. Now purple. Now green, with each sweep of the fan. The child’s eyes are pure black. The child’s hands are growing toward Jeffery, long green fingers growing, growing, changing color to pink, purple, black, green, with each sweep of the fan. The flowers flutter and bend left over the child’s orange face. Then still. Flutter and bend, and twist around the fingers, growing and growing, faster and faster…


A woman’s voice. Calm. Insistent. Her hands on top of Jeffery’s shoulders. Jeffery forces his eyes open. A placid, smiling face of a woman with her hands on Jeffery’s shoulders. She pushes on Jeffery’s shoulders, forcing his knees to bend. She bends her knees as well. Throat. Shoulders. Chest. They sit. Chest. Hello, my name is…Dr. Brenda Chatsworth. Red letters. Black letters. Not moving. This is a good thing.

“It’s OK, Jeffery. Here.”

Her hand. Not green. This is a good thing.  A white paper cup. Clear liquid. Fingers, not growing, this is a good thing, and a pill. This a good thing.

“You’re Dr. Chatsworth,” Jeffery says staring at her name tag.

“Yes. You can call me Brenda.”

“You are not Dr. Anderson.”

“No. That’s right. I’m not.”

This week’s OLWG prompts are:  Wait for it!; Can I call you Brenda?; It will tarnish

Over There

The smoky skies this past week reminded me of a post from several years ago:

Writing prompt: Take the first sentence from a favorite novel and make it the first sentence of your post.  

wild fire

She stood up in the garden where she’d been working and looked into the distance. Beyond the hills to the south, a giant cloud reached high into the atmosphere.

Large thunder clouds appeared almost every afternoon in summer, but this mass of cloud looked somehow different. A tinge of pink and a bit of dark brown colored the cloud’s edges.

The frantic tone in her husband Toby’s voice broke her concentration.

“Eve! Evie!” Toby’s face was flushed, his eyes wide with obvious panic.

“That was Ken. On the phone. There’s a wildfire started in the Jefferson last night and…” Toby paused as he took in the cloud in the distance.

“Oh, God.”

“So, that’s…smoke?” Eve asked, somewhat surprised.

“Yes,” Toby said. He took in a deep breath and then looked all around, his eyes darting around the whole horizon.

“But, it’s so white. You sure? How close is it?” Eve demanded.

Toby shook his head. “Could be this side of the park, could be over to Branchesburg. Who knows. Can’t tell from here.”

“Ken didn’t say?” Eve asked. Toby shook his head.

“Looks more like a thunderhead,” Eve protested, “like those, head-for-the-basement type clouds I remember from home. I’ve not seen anything like that before around here. Toby, are you sure?”

“That’s smoke, Evie… Jesus. That’s a lot of smoke.”

“No kidding.”

Eve and Toby stared at the cloud, both lost in dreadful thoughts of the last time a wildfire broke out.

That fire was not close to them, but the devastating effects were felt by everyone in the county. Their church asked members to put up firefighters coming in from all over the state. Eve and Toby agreed, but then they got a call from a guy at Toby’s work looking for a place to put up his sister’s family, because the Red Cross shelter was full. The experience of strangers in the house was awkward and chaotic, but it’s what you do in times like these. Staring at the growing cloud, Eve wondered if Toby’s co-worker would return the favor, should their need arise.

“Come on,” Toby said quietly. “Let’s make some calls.”

“You go ahead,” Eve replied. “I’ll stay here. I want to keep an eye out.”

OLWG #10: “C” is for Cancel…

…as in, “Cancel that Cancer. All Clear.”

good news

TNKerr, the author of AOOGA-The Unofficial Online Writer’s Guild, as well as his own blog site, announced he received the good news that the year of treatment, positive thinking, listening to what his doctors, nurses, therapists, wife, children, friends and family told him to do, along with all the rest that goes into “battling cancer,” worked. He is fully on the mend.

Many of us are enduring cancer, either as a patient, or as someone providing additional care and moral support for another undergoing treatment. So, the news that someone made it through is uplifting.

The time was the prognosis was almost certainly fatal. As a child, I remember the overwhelming feeling of shock and sadness when we learned that a member of the family or someone we knew had been diagnosed. These days, the initial shock and sadness remains, but it’s followed by what would have previously thought unbelievable: A sense of hope, that, however awful, however trying the months ahead will prove to be, full recovery might just be possible.

I have to hold to this hope because so many in my life are, or have received cancer treatment. The most recent is my manager’s husband. His condition is such that she must take family leave. There are three other cancer diagnosis scenarios at my workplace in the past two years. A few years ago one of my sisters underwent a long 18-month ordeal with throat cancer. One of my brothers-in-law has undergone treatment for four separate diagnoses over the past decade, and currently is undergoing what can only be described as treatment for a cancer so aggressive, he must be routinely scanned and treated throughout each year of his life. He says all he can do is live life one treatment at a time. An old acquaintance has survived two bouts of leukemia and feels much the same way: Live life one day at a time/one treatment at a time and always hope for the best.

Of course, there are the losses, which is why we feel such dread when we learn of a diagnosis. A grandmother and an uncle were the ones to introduce me to the terrifying world of cancer, followed just a few years later by a brother. Cancer was thought of as something that happened to older people and chain smokers, not young men in their prime. Since my childhood, I can count on both hands the family, friends and others with whom my life has crossed paths who have succumbed to cancer.

I always dream of a time when disease of any sort can be, at best, eradicated, or at least, managed. I mean, who doesn’t dream of that outcome? Who doesn’t aspire to live life as best we can with a simple chronic condition, rather than a painful and debilitating disease, and with the hope that, when the time comes, we pass quickly and quietly in our sleep? Or die laughing, as my other grandmother did (Truly. While playing Pinochle with friends. Someone told a joke that really hit her funny bone. She let out a huge laugh and collapsed face down on the table of a massive stroke. Never knew what hit her).

Now, if you’ve read through the post to the end, you may wonder why I bolded a couple of words. The highlighted words are this week’s OLWG writing prompts: Unbelievable; Well, my wife told me…; I’ve dreamt that before.

Three cheers for my blogging buddy, tnkerr! I expect your celebrations involve something to do with NM, hockey, disc golf, drawing, family, friends, and, of course, writing!

OK redhead

(Looks nothin’ like me, btw…)

Maren’s Gift

Maren stared at the gift-wrapped box beside her bed. A present sitting beside the bed for her to find when she awoke was unusual, but not surprising.

 The family gift giving tradition dictated that a gift must include something in the presentation. It had to be, at the very least, elaborately wrapped, even if that elaborate wrapping was the most bizarre or ugly thing anyone had ever seen. It ought to come with a riddle on the tag, forcing the recipient to not only to guess the identity of the giver, but the content of the gift . And lastly, it should show up in an unusual or unexpected way, like the gift Maren found sitting beside the bed of her parents’ guestroom on Christmas morning..

She put on her robe and slippers and headed to the kitchen. The gift-giver was probably lurking nearby. It was too much of a big set-up to not want to be around to witness her reaction. Maren decided to pretend she didn’t see it. Not mention it. That’ll show them, she thought. Two can play at this game. As she made her way through her parents’ large rambler, she could hear the rest of the house waking up. Excited nieces and nephews harassing their parents to get up so they could tear into the contents of their stockings, water rattling through the pipes (probably her father, who insisted he be the first to shower), footsteps crisscrossing the floor boards above, and her parents’ cat meowing at the back door.

Maren was mildly surprised to find her mother and younger brother Jefferson already in the kitchen preparing breakfast; the usual Christmas morning fare of blintzes, apple cinnamon compote, sausage links, bacon, fried eggs and mint hot chocolate. Or leftovers from Christmas Eve dinner, if that suited. Maren poured a cup of coffee, wrapping her cold fingers around the hot mug and hovered over the warm steam for a moment before taking a sip. She plopped down in a chair at the kitchen table.

“Can I help?” she asked. Her mother gave a little startled surprise. “Oh! I didn’t hear you come in! I’m surprised to see you…I…what…what are you doing here?”

Maren made a face. “That’s a weird thing to say, Mom. Why wouldn’t I be here?”

Her mother didn’t answer. She looked over to Jefferson, who did not look up from his task. Maren’s mother went back about her business, but kept giving Maren confused glances every now and again.

Maren’s mother’s confusion concerned her. Her mother’s health in the past year was notably fragile. Could  this the first sign of actual decline, she thought? Is this how people first notice dementia, or, God forbid, Alzheimer’s? Maren looked over to her brother, hoping to make eye contact and confirm that he also thought her comment strange, but Jefferson kept his focus on cooking.

The ruckus of the rest of the family upstairs  came booming downstairs with Maren’s nieces and nephews leading the way, making a beeline for the living room. Maren’s eldest sister Karen entered the kitchen, declaring a very merry Christmas to everyone. She gave Maren the same slightly startled look as their mother.

“What are you still doing here?” Karen asked.

“What do you mean, what am I still doing here? Why are you being so weird? Jeff!?”

Jefferson lifted a hand of caution, “Hey, it wasn’t my idea. Obviously it didn’t work. Told you so,” he turned from the stove to look once at his mother, Karen, and then Maren before returning to his cooking.

From the living room came protests from the children that everyone better hurry up and get in the living room to see what Santa brought. Maren jumped up with her coffee and went in to the living room, followed by Karen. All activity came to an abrupt halt. Their eldest brother Ivan, his wife, Karen’s husband, and all their collective brood gave Maren the very same look of astonishment.

“She’s still here,” Karen flatly announced, making her way over to her family.

“It didn’t work?” Karen’s husband asked.

“What didn’t work!?” Maren demanded.

Maren’s father spoke. “You saw the gift in your room, right honey? Ivan?” he continued, turning to his eldest. “You put it in there like we discussed, right?”

“Yes, I did! Like you said to…put it on the bedside table so she wouldn’t miss it,” Ivan replied.

Maren smiled and, digging in deeper to her plan to pretend she didn’t notice the gift when she awoke, innocently asked, “What gift? I didn’t see anything.”

Karen, Ivan and their father left the living room and headed down the hall to the guestroom without a word. From the stern looks on their faces, Maren could see that they were taking the situation a little too seriously. “Oh, c’mon, guys!,” she called after them. “I’m just having some fun.”

“Breakfast is ready, if anyone wants it,” Maren’s mother announced as she and Jefferson came into the living room. Their father yelled from the guestroom, “It’s here! Maren! Why didn’t you open it? Maren!?”

Maren could feel all her family’s eyes on her, including the children, who strangely seemed no longer interested in their stockings. Her father, Ivan and sister came back into the living room with bewildered looks on their faces.

Jefferson broke the silence, “I told you guys it wasn’t a good idea.”

“Yeah!” Maren replied defensively.

“Who doesn’t open a gift left for them beside their bed, anyway?” Ivan asked, sounding a little angry.

“Me, that’s who! My God, look at you! I mean, it’s just all part of the gift game, right? You’re all so…intense! No one’s having any fun but me, apparently. ” Maren quipped.

Maren’s nephew Darren had slipped unseen out of the living room moments before and was now standing beside his mother. “Mom, it’s not there. It’s gone.”

“What?” Maren’s father demanded. “I…we just saw it, right there, beside the bed!” Darren shrugged. The entire family headed back down the hall to the guestroom. This time Maren followed. When she walked into the room she saw the gift was gone.

“Well, obviously Karen or Ivan removed it, or Dad,” she insisted. Her siblings and father shook their heads. “Then, Darren…huh?” Maren turned to face her nephew. “You joining in on the fun? Having a little fun with your auntie?” The boy shook his head and ducked behind his father.

Jefferson grinned. “Told ya. And now, Maren, it’s gone.” He went back to the kitchen.

Maren headed off after him, “What is going on?! Jeff! Seriously, this is probably the craziest prank anyone has pulled off with a gift. Where is it?”

Jefferson grabbed a plate and served himself breakfast. He took his meal to the kitchen table, sat down and began to eat.

“Jeff! C’mon, what is UP with this?” Maren let out a nervous laugh, trying to lighten the strangely serious mood. Maren’s parents came in to the kitchen, solemn looks on their faces.

“Maren, sit down, please,” her father said. She did as instructed. He continued, “Maren, honey, what’s the one thing you’ve always wanted?” he asked.

“Uh, dunno,” Maren flippantly shrugged her shoulders, “a long vacation in the Bahamas? Win the lottery? George Clooney?”

Her mother made a face. She drew in a sharp breath and said, “You’ve always asked for a chance.”

Maren shook her head, confused. “Yeah, well, sure. I have always wanted a chance, I guess. Who doesn’t want a chance? But not like, as a gift…is that what you’re saying? You gave me a chance as a gift?”

“Yes,” her mother said flatly.

Maren didn’t know how to respond. Her parents looked at her with such disappointment, and as the silence grew longer between them, Maren felt deeply embarrassed.

It was true. A chance is all she asked for. It was one of her favorite complaints. She wanted a chance to prove she had what it took; to move up and farther along in her career. A chance to see the world. A chance to meet her childhood hero. A chance to turn things around and start over with her recently estranged husband. A chance to make things up with her best friend from college. All the things she aspired to; her ambition to achieve amazing things; to kick all her bad habits and compulsions; her dreams of starting over…a chance is all she ever wanted.

“Ya know, you’ve had so many already,” Jefferson said, breaking the silence, “and you blew all of them. Each one, no matter what it was. I told Mom and Dad they couldn’t give you another chance, even if they wrapped it up for you in shiny paper and a pretty bow for Christmas, but that you’d somehow manage to blow it.”

Jefferson was looking straight at his sister with that wry smile of his. He got up and cleared his plate. Their parents followed him into the living room, leaving Maren alone.

“OK! Let’s get goin’!” Karen’s husband declared.

Maren heard her family start exchanging  Christmas presents and opening stockings. She surreptitiously made her way back to the guestroom and sat on the edge of the bed. Laughter and shrieks from her nieces and nephews, and cheers and applause from the adults came in waves down the hall and through her closed door as she stared at the spot beside the bed where the gift once stood.

OLWG #9: One Ra’s Family

This week’s Online Writer’s Guild prompts are: Come hither; He had a really hard time shaving today; Ra, the sun god

It was a perfect morning. The sun held back the cowering rain clouds to the tops of the foothills by the sheer force of its brilliant radiance. Ray couldn’t wait to get to work.

He woke his teenage son, Stu. “Come on, buddy. Let’s go. Up, up!” He clapped. “Let’s go!”

The boy groaned and slowly sat up, rubbing his face. Ray called again from the hall as he headed downstairs. “Now Stu!”

“I’m UP!” Stu growled.

Both men skipped showering. Ray made them a quick cheese sandwich for breakfast, and rushed out the back door. On his way to his truck he called for his Border Collie, who came running at full speed from his doghouse. In a single long leap, the dog jumped in the cab and took up his spot in the truck, happily panting, also eager to get to work. Ray’s young daughters came running out of the house, followed by their sullen older brother.

“Can we go with you today? Please? Please?” asked Tiffany. She bounced on the balls of her feet, making the best imploring, sad face she could. “You said we could!”

“Not today, honey.”

“DAD!” yelled Basha, “You promised. Not fair!” She crossed her arms and stamped her foot, also doing her best with the sad face bit.

“Not today. I didn’t say you could come along today. I said sometime it’d be OK, but today is going to be a very long day. It’s the height of the season, kiddos. We are going to be working nonstop, probably past dinner. That’s too long for you guys to come along. You’ll get bored and I can’t leave just to drive you guys home.”

A cacophony of protests broke out from all three children. “Stu can drive us home!” “Dad! I’m going to the Mariner’s game with Harley’s family tonight! You didn’t say I’d be there all day!” “Mom’ll come get us!” “If Mom comes gets them, can I go back with them too?”

“Mom will do nothing of the sort,” Ray’s wife Heather said as she walked up to the truck. The children stopped yammering, knowing further argument was pointless. Heather handed Ray a paper grocery bag through the window, which he placed on the seat next to him. The dog and Stu peered inside.

“Just leftovers, sodas, a couple apples. Also treats for the dog,” Heather said. Ray leaned over to give her a kiss, but she playfully recoiled. “Not with those whiskers! Yikes.”

“Come on, girls,” she continued. “Another time.” The girls fussed and whined about promises made. “Ray, Stu does have plans tonight. Harley’s family can pick him up at the winery,” Heather suggested.

“Tell you what,” Ray said to his daughters as he started the engine. “I’ll bring the falcons home tonight and tomorrow morning we can work with them a little bit before Stu and I have to get back to the winery, OK?”

Tiffany and Basha jumped up and down, clapping and cheering.

“For just a little while, though, OK? Right?” The girls nodded. “It’s my busy time of year and we can’t tire out the birds. But I promise.”

(The Sun God Ra is typically pictured wearing a Falcon headpiece, which reminded me of an article I read some time ago about vintners hiring falconers to rid their vineyards of starlings. Ra had several children, three of whom are Shu, Tefnut and Bast. One of his wives/consorts is Hathor. Hence the play on names—and yes, I took time to look all this up. Suffice it to say this took longer than 25 minutes!)