Spite and Malice

lavendar eyesI noticed her the moment she walked in the coffee shop. She paused to scan the room. As soon as she saw me, she walked to me. Her face was oddly expressionless.

“I am looking for you,” she said.

“Oh? Well,” I said playfully. “Here I am!” I beamed at the girl, who couldn’t have been more than fourteen years-old. I had no idea who she was.

Short and very slight, she was the most striking beauty I’d ever seen in a man or woman. Jet black hair hung down past her waist, the sunlight reflecting iridescent strands of Safire. There was not a blemish on her stunningly perfect heart-shaped face. Her large eyes were deep lavender with bright flecks of gold, outlined by thick, jet black lashes and elegantly arched brows. Transfixed by her beauty, I couldn’t help gazing at her the way a little child openly gapes at something that fascinates them.

“May I sit with you?” she asked.

“Of course,” I gestured somewhat grandly to the chair opposite me. She took the seat, leaned a little bit forward over the table with her hands in her lap, and stared intently at me. I didn’t move muscle.

“This book you are reading, it is good?” She asked, gesturing with her head to the novel in my hand. Her head moved in a kind-of reverent nod as she spoke. Mimicking her a bit, I nodded in reply.

“You will tell me about it. Please.”

“Uh…I just started it, actually, so I have no idea what it’s about. Not yet.”

She was silent, now searching my face, for what, I wasn’t sure. I felt my cheeks flush.

“So, how can I help you?” I snapped. I needed to take charge of the strange situation. “You say you’ve been looking for me…” she started to reply, but I put up my hand to stop her, “…but, I think you mistake me for someone else; someone who looks like me, perhaps?”

“Your mother told me what you look like and where to find you.”

I flinched. “My mother? My mother…my mother died years ago. You must have me mistaken for…”

“Yes. She died when I was five years-old.”

A strange girl mentioning my mother years after her death was downright weird. I was suddenly comforted knowing I was in a public place with many people around. Adjusting my posture to an upright position, I put my inherent no-nonsense sensibility into play.

“I don’t have a clue who you are. I never met you. But, if you knew my mother, like you say, though I find that highly doubtful, given how young you seem to be…” the girl started to reply but I stopped her with a flash of a upheld hand. “If you knew my mother, then you know that, were she here, she would insist you answer my questions, so,” counting off on my fingers as I went, “how do you know my mother, who are you and, how the f…how in the world do you know who I am?”

The girl lowered her head almost to the surface of the table before looking up again to meet my gaze. “Your mother is a friend of mine. She is very amusing! I like her very much. She taught me the card game she calls Spite and Malice. She says, with more practice, I will become very good, and one day I will win and she will lose.”

As she spoke, a smile broadened wide across my face. “My mother taught you Spite and Malice…when you were very little?”

“You have other questions,” she said. “I must reply as you requested.” I gestured for her to continue.

“My name is Amrusha Koshi. I live here, in the city …”

“With your parents, I assume?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

I shrugged. “You seem young. How old are you?”

“I will be fourteen in two months.” I smiled. I was right about her age.

“My auntie lives with us, as well. And I have an older brother. Do you want to know their ages as well?”

“No, no. Not necessary. Please, continue. You’ve not said how you know my mother. I mean, I have to assume your parents were clients of hers, or maybe your aunt?”

“She came to see me two weeks ago.”

I did not completely fathom what Amrusha said. “She? Who, she? Your aunt?”

Amrusha shook her head. “Your mother. We are speaking of your mother.”

“Amrusha, can I get you something?” I abruptly asked. “Maybe something to drink? A soda? Water? Tea?”

“Yes, thank you. I would like tea, please. Black. Or Oolong, if they have it. No sugar or cream.”

I excused myself and walked to the counter to get Amrusha Koshi—the very odd and very beautiful fourteen year-old, who knows her black tea from her Oolong tea, and who apparently was visited by the spirit of my long-dead mother for the specific reason of teaching her how to play the card game Spite and Malice—a mug of English Breakfast. Neat.

As the barista prepared Amrusha’s mug and topped off my coffee, I watched her. She sat still, staring straight in front of her, when suddenly she let out a loud, high-pitched giggle, which drew looks from others in the coffee shop. Just as suddenly, she went silent and still again.

I placed the mug of tea in front of her and asked her why the laugh.

“Your mother!” Her incredible eyes were bright and wide. “She is so very funny!”

“Yeah….Mom was a very funny lady,” I quipped.

“The answer to your last question…”Amrusha started to say.

“Oh, I’m sorry…what was my last question?”

“How I know who you are.”

“Ah, yes. How?”

“I assume the answer is obvious, because I have told you. I know your mother. She is my friend.”

I drew in a deep breath and took a moment to gather my thoughts. “And, so, Mom, my mother, came to see you…in a dream, perhaps?” Amrusha shrugged. “…and apparently knew I was here at this particular coffee shop, told you what I look like and told you to drop whatever you were doing and come find me? Is that it?”

“Not exactly. She…”

I interrupted her. I needed an explanation planted firmly on the ground, not riddles flying overhead. “My mother, from the great beyond, told you to find me here today, at this hour. Here, in this place.”

“Yes.”

“It’s just that…not including how strange this all is…I don’t come to this place often. At least, not regularly.”

Amrusha was nonplussed. “She said you were here, told me what you look like,  and asked me to come see you, as I have said.”

Curiosity superseded my disbelief. I had to ask. “Did she say why?”

“No.”

Was this kid playing me? If so, why? I narrowed my eyes at Amrusha and asked in scolding tone, “Do your parents know you are here? Or, where you are? And, most importantly, why you are here?”

I waited for her to respond, but Amrusha didn’t reply. She blew air over her hot mug of tea before taking a tentative sip and set the mug back on the table.

“OK. Whatever,” I shrugged.

My mother never gave any credence to anything she couldn’t actually see, touch or hear. Ghosts did not exist, except as the Holy Ghost, a Halloween costume, or in summer campfire tales. She certainly did not think anyone could talk to someone who died. This girl telling me she’s been sent by my mother, of all people, was kind-of funny.

“Ironic, to say the least,” I muttered to myself.

“What is ironic?” Amrusha asked, herself now looking a bit confused. I shook my head. I wasn’t entirely sure if she was asking after the meaning of the word, or why I found the situation as such. Either way, it was clear Amrusha possessed absolutely no sense of irony.

If Amrusha hadn’t mentioned Spite and Malice, my mother’s all-time-favorite, best-way-to-kill-the-time card game; if she wasn’t so unaffected, or if she possessed an inkling of a sense of irony, I could write the entire encounter off as nothing more than being the unwitting punk of some geeky teen prank. But, I believed Amrusha. I believed this strange girl befriended the ghost of my mother.

“Ya know,” I ventured, “I thought I spied several decks of cards, in the bookcase, over there…” Amrusha turned to see where I had indicated. “Why don’t we play a game of Spite and Malice. I’ll give you a few pointers of my own.”

Amrusha paused and then let out another high-pitched giggle. “Your mother said to me just now that you do not play well, but if you happen to win, I am to accuse you of cheating!”

Tears instantly welled up in my eyes. Whenever I happened to win at Spite and Malice, my mother always teased it was only because I was cheating.

“Oh, my dear girl,” I reached across the table. Amrusha raised her hands from her lap and held them open to me. I grasped them both. “You don’t know how much it hurts to miss your mother.”

Amrusha smiled.

“Has anyone told you that you are a very beautiful girl, but also a sort-of odd little thing?”

This time she frowned. “All the time. My brother, in particular. He calls me ‘weirdo,’ and tells me that I am to leave him alone. He is very mean to me.”

“Well, brothers can be like that. Don’t worry. He’ll grow out of it, eventually. Maybe. Anyway, c’mon. Let’s play some cards.”


Inspired by the prompt: You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

Online Writers Guild #12: No, We’re Not

chickenvacationAre we there yet?

Are we where?

There! Are we there?!

I don’t know what you mean.

I’m asking, are we there?

Well, I suppose.

Then, why are we still driving? I want out.

OK, but then what?

What?

Then what?

You said we’re there, so that’s what.

We’re no longer there.

WHAT?

We’re here, not there. There is back…there. Now we’re here. Oops, no, sorry, now we’re here instead of there. The other ‘there,’ which is also back there. With the other ‘there.’ Oh, and now, here’s a new ‘here!’ Aren’t road trips fun?

No, not really.

Aw, c’mon. This is fun! Why would you want to be there when there is so much here to see?

Why? Because I want to sleep. In a bed. I want to eat a meal. At a table. With utensils. I want to walk, not be transported in a vehicle. I want to stop moving. Stay put. I don’t want to be here. Here is not there. I want to be there. So, I’m asking: Are we there yet?

(I swear, kids these days)

What?

Nothing.

You say something?

Forget about it.

Seriously, did you just say something?

Hey! Forget about it, OK?! Leave me alone!

Alright! Jeez!… All I was asking, was if … if we have yet arrived at our destination.

And all I’m saying is, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

OK, but does this journey include ever getting there? I’m hungry and I’m tired. And, I have to pee.

(sigh) Whatever.


This week’s OLWG prompts are: Are we there yet?; These kids today; Scram. And, guess what? I wrote it AND edited within the 25 minute rule!

Six Words Say It All

A literary arts organization I follow on Facebook occasionally posts, “In six words or fewer, write a story about…” and people reply with their miniscule stories. Fun thing to share! Here is the prompt from yesterday:

In six words or fewer, write a story about a first time.

  • The butterflies danced in my stomach.
  • “I can do that!” Then did.
  • On stage: terror, then euphoria.
  • Wrote six-worded story, this one.
  • Earth far below, she leapt forward.
  • She felt the secured rope knot.
  • Tentative at first, I surrendered.
  • Extreme trepidation buoys my intricate preparations.
  • Blood ruined my silver sharkskin pants.
  • Downy wings unfold, bravely stretching skyward.
  • Time of death: six forty-five.
  • The students parted seas while walking!
  • Hesitantly approaching the door of hope.
  • Mother called me, I was busy.
  • Screaming. Cut. Painful. Crying. Messy. Laughing.
  • Ouch.

Family Anthem

Road-TripOlivia started singing at the top of her voice when the chorus came around.

Well I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m going…I’m on my way, I’m taking my time, but I don’t know where…Goodbye to ROOWZEE, Queen of Corona…See’n me and Julio down by the school yard…” Olivia continued humming along, her head pulsing to the rhythm.

She and her father Jason cleared the city about 20 minutes before; the seemingly endless sight of buildings, row houses, strip malls, concrete and asphalt finally giving way to empty rolling hills of tall spring grass and the straight line of highway stretching out in front of them. The uncluttered expanse made Olivia feel like all that crap could actually be left far behind.

The chorus came around again. Olivia blurted again at full voice, “See’n me and Julio down by the school yard!

“It’s not ‘see’n me and Julio’,” Jason said.

“Whatever.”

“It’s, ‘See you, me and Julio’,” Jason corrected.

“ ‘K. Whatever.”

The song played on, but Olivia sat quietly, unaccustomed to talking to her father. She’d been on this stretch of freeway before, when they used to go see her grandparents. Even as a little kid, she was amazed at why, except for the giant green exit signs indicating a road to places unseen, there was nothing out here. Just empty hills and the highway signs. Enormous highway signs, always looking new and shiny, as if someone finally noticed there was something to see of the world out here, beyond the city. Smaller, colorful signs promoting fast food joints, hotels and gas stations, made it seem like those unseen places were some sort of meccas; better than the city, something fantastic and not to be missed, out here, in the middle of nowhere.

The next song started and this time Jason started to hum the tune.

“Know this one?” he asked.

“Nope,” Olivia said.

“No?! Really? C’mon…you don’t know ‘Little Pink Houses?’”

“Nope.”

Oh, but ain’t that America, for you and me,” Jason sang the chorus as loudly as Olivia. He turned and smiled, giving her a wink and continued singing, “Ain’t that America, … something to see baby, ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah…Little pink houses for you and me.” Olivia stared out ahead at the highway, trying to hide a smile. Jason kept singing,

…he says Lord, this must be my destination… (da dumm dadumm dumm…) those old crazy dreams just kinda came ‘n went…OH BUT AIN’T that America, for you and me…!

Jason slapped the steering wheel with his hand, bobbing his head back and forth with the beat. Olivia kept her head turned away, making every effort to hide she was biting her lip to keep from laughing.

What do they know, know, know…Go to work…sum sum dum dummm” Jason mumbled his way through the lyrics and then yelled at the top his voice, “AND VACATION DOWN AT THE GULF OF MEXICO!! OOO YEAH!” He added an extra “umpf umph” through his teeth, accented with more head bobs.

“Oh my God, DAD!” Olivia whipped back around and smacked Jason on the arm. “Stop it!”

Jason mockingly winced, lifting his arm to shield himself. He sang even louder, twisting his face into one of those expressions everyone thinks singers make when they are belting out a song. . “… hey we’re something to see BAYBAY,”

“DAD!! Ohmigawd STOP IT!” Olivia feigned humiliation, holding her forehead in her hand, “Oh, My, God, you are like, so freakin’ me out right now.”

…Little pink houses babe for you and me, OOO YEAH…. OOO YEAH…”

The song ended. Olivia lurched forward and hit the scan button on the radio.

“Oh, hey, now… that was a good station, kiddo.” Olivia repeatedly hit the scan button. “Not going to find much of anything else out here,” Jason cautioned. “Get my CD case out…”

“No!” Olivia snapped. “I’ll find something.”

The radio scanner landed on Mariachi and Norteño stations, a talk show, several Country stations, a man extolling the love of Jesus Christ, and a classical music station before coming back around to the oldies station they’d been listening to.

“Told ya,” Jason said.

Olivia turned off the radio and sat back in her seat with dramatic sigh. To Jason’s surprise, she did not turn on her phone and put in her earbuds.

They drove in silence for a while, staring at the road ahead. It was peaceful. Just the sound of the car speeding over the freeway; a kind of peace neither of them had known in a long while.

“You gonna let me drive some?” Olivia eventually asked.

“Yeah? Sure! Of course. You need some freeway experience.”

“Cool.” Olivia gave her father a quick smile.

“After lunch, then,” Jason thought a second before continuing. “Next exit, we’ll get something to eat. Good time for a break anyway.”

“ K.”

Jason smiled back at his daughter. They sat in silence a while longer before Olivia slowly leaned forward and turned on the radio again, just as Elton John started to beg to not let the sun go down on him.


Wrote this a while back based on two prompts: 1) “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” (Carl Sandburg)  2) Road Trip

Burnt Lasagna

My response to OLWG #5 is an alternative approach this week: The story starts here, on tnkerr’s On Line Writer’s Guild.


burnt lasagnaSusan sat on the couch as Daniel instructed. He wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t looking her in the eye. He sat down next to her and didn’t take her hand. Oh, boy, she thought. Here it comes.

“Susie…I, uh…” Daniel shook his head. Susan waited, which only made Daniel more anxious.

“Yeah, um. I…” Daniel paused, fiddling with his fingers a moment before starting again. “I…think we…that is, I mean, it’s just…oh, hell!” He threw his hands in the air and stood up. Still struggling with what to say, he thought of something he hadn’t before.

“See, the thing is, I…met someone.”

Susan’s eyes widened as she stifled a laugh. Her reaction threw him off. Impulsively, he doubled down.

“I have! I met someone…and, I love her! A lot! And, well, I’m just gonna say it: she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Even my dog likes her. A lot!”

“The dog likes everyone!”

“I’m serious.” Daniel was defiant.

“OK,” Susan said. “Have it your way. You’re a two-timin’ sonofabitch. Ha! Go figure.”

Daniel bristled. “You think I wouldn’t do something like that? Couldn’t do it? I am all man, Susan. I got around, a lot, before I met you! I had my pick! Women love me!”

“Which explains why we met on EHarmony.”

Daniel was in it now. He had to be quick on his feet. “I was in a slump.”

“That’s what Tinder’s for.”

Daniel didn’t know what else to say.

“Anyway,” Susan stood up and gave Daniel a pat on the shoulder. “She’ll leave you after you’ve made her eat whatever that thing is your mother calls ‘lasagna’.”


 

OLWG #5: Waiting for Prompts

Untitled-1[SCENE] A bare stage. Three people sit at a long fold-out table, facing the audience. All three are staring straight out, expressionless. One has a laptop open, another has a lined yellow note pad and pen, the third has a leather bound journal.

They sit like this for three minutes.

Actor #1 takes out a smart phone from a pocket and begins to scroll through app screens. The other two actors turn their heads slowly toward Actor #1 and stare, still expressionless.

Actor #1: (staring at his smart phone, he stops scrolling a moment). “Wait, is that a monkey?”

The two other actors slowly lean into Actor #1. All three stare at the phone. They hold the position for a minute.

Actor #2: “No.”

Actor #3: “Wait. That is a monkey!”

All three actors lean in closer to the phone.

Actor #1: “That is a monkey.”

Actors #2 & #3 sit back in their chairs and resume staring out at the audience. Actor #1 resumes scrolling on his phone.

Actor #3 turns his head away from the others and looks up a bit, as if at a clock. “You think he’ll be here today?”

Actor #2. “It’s Sunday.”

Actor #3 keeps looking at the clock. Actor #1 keeps scrolling on his phone.

Actor #2 lifts his legs and puts his feet on the table. The other two do not look at him. Actor #2 leans forward and removes his shoes. The other two do not look at him. Actor #2 wiggles his toes.

Actor #2: “There’s a hole in my sock.”

The other two actors slowly turn toward him and lean way in to inspect.


Time’s up! Only got two of the three prompts in this week, but I wanted keep to the 25 min. rule.  The Online Writer’s Guild prompts this week are

  1. There’s a hole in my sock
  2. Do as I say, not as I do
  3. Wait, is that a monkey?

The irony being I don’t like ice cream

You guessed it: Another re-post of an old post. Editing can be fun!


No-ice-cream-sign

Maybe I don’t like ice cream because it’s cold. I mean, I’m one of those people who prefers tap water to ice water. I’ve never liked Slurpees, Slushees, shaved ice, or frozen margaritas. I haven’t tried it, but my guess is I would prefer beer the way the Brits like it: at room temperature.

As a kid, I would always ask—politely, because my mother did not raise a wild urchin, as she like to remind us from time to time—to not be served ice cream with birthday cake. If there was one thing I hate, it’s melting ice cream all over perfectly-wonderful-by-itself birthday cake. I always get astonished looks. “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

Well, me.

I’m also not a sweets-nut. I don’t hate sweets. No one really hates sweets. I’m just saying I can take dessert or leave it. I will eat the birthday cake, but not always the frosting. It used to crack my grandmother up to watch me eat around the frosting, mining out only the cake. One time when I was clearing out the fridge, I found a slice of cake way in the back. It had molded. I am not kidding. “Who lets a piece of cake mold?!” a friend of mine admonished (this is the same friend who asked the same question about ice cream). As I say, I can take it or leave sweet stuff, but I ought to make a more regular habit of cleaning out the fridge.

So, when I saw the prompt that asked to write about an ice cream flavor that is the essence of myself , I had to stop and think. Is it still “ice cream” if it’s not frozen and not sweet? What would that actually be? A bowl of Alfredo sauce? Perhaps. With lots of garlic. Sprinkled with roasted pine nuts and served over spinach fettuccine. Now, that I could eat a whole bowl of. Yum.