Friday, August 13, 2010


Fiction Friday Prompt: The conversation took off when Louise mentioned Bruce Willis.

Louise straightened the books on the shelf and adjusted the pictures on the mantel. She rearranged the couch pillows until they were just so.

“That’s the fourth time you’ve done that,” Roger said.


“The fourth time. Those pillows are fine.”

Louise ran her finger along the edge of the coffee table to remove nonexistent dust. “I just want to make sure everything is perfect.”

“He’s just a boy. He won’t care.”

Louise carefully perched on the couch, careful not to disturb anything. “And you’ve never met him?”

Roger sighed. “No. I told you about my baby sister. Reese was a free spirit. Her year in Europe turned into a life choice. She married that man in Serbia or Latvia or wherever. She never brought him or the boy home to meet the family. Once she got to Europe, she stayed.” Roger quickly brushed away a tear. “And now she’s gone forever.”

The doorbell made them both jump. Louise straightened the couch pillows once more as Roger went to open the door. Louise stepped up behind him.

A large woman filled the doorway. Her entire body slightly quivered, like she couldn’t hold herself still. “Mr. and Mrs. Ridgeway?”

“Yes.” Roger moved to allow her to come in.

“I’m Mrs. Pickney. From the agency.” She spoke in short bursts, machine gun fire of a verbal sort. She burst into the room and toward a chair. In her wake floated a boy. He settled in the chair beside her. “This is Dmitri Ivanovich.” She gestured but didn’t look at him.

Roger and Louise moved to the couch.  Mrs. Pickney pulled reams of paper from her large case. “Paperwork. Usual stuff. Mr. Ridgeway. Your signature.”

While Roger and Mrs. Pickney reviewed the papers, Louise studied the boy. His hair was long, the back brushing his shoulders and the front his eyebrows. Brown running to blonde. He wore long tan shorts, a blue t-shirt with a plaid shirt over. Rows of Silly Bandz ran up his arm from his wrist. Black Skechers with short white socks. Just a typical 10-year-old boy.

No, not so typical. He sat perfectly still. And his eyes held a deep sadness.

A flurry of papers caught Louise’s attention. “Okay. That’s it. Here’s my card. If you need me. Call anytime. Another appointment.” Mrs. Pickney scattered her comments toward them as she and Roger moved toward the door. “Good-bye. Dmitri.”

The boy still never moved. He didn’t even acknowledge the woman’s comments or departure.

Louise smiled at him. “Dmitri, we’re glad you’re here.”

“Div,” he said. He still didn’t move, just stared across the room at nothing.

“Okay, Div.” Louise smoothed her dress and Roger sat in the chair vacated by Mrs. Pickney. “They sent us the boxes of your things. We put them in your room.”

“ ’K.” Still no movement.

Louise smiled again. “I didn’t open them. I didn’t want to bother your things. I’ll help you put things away if you want.”

No response.

Roger said, “School doesn’t start for a while. You should have time to get used to things around here before you have to do that.”

No response.

Roger looked at Div for a few seconds, sat back, and wiped his eyes again.

Louise swallowed hard. “We have a few kids that live around here. About your age. And the man next door has a pool. He lets kids use it when he’s home. He’s a nice guy. Kinda looks like Bruce Willis. And....” Louise trailed off and swallowed hard again.

“Die Hard.” Div said.

Roger sat up and looked at him. “Reese’s favorite movie.” He smiled. “You watch that movie with your mom?”

Div nodded, a single tear tracking down his cheek. “Yippee-kay-yay.” A small smile played along his mouth.

Roger smiled, too. “I like the first one, but the second movie at the airport is my favorite.”

Div turned to look at him. They began to compare the explosions and bad guys and Bruce’s actions between the two movies.

They would always remember that the conversation...and their family...really started when Louise mentioned Bruce Willis.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blind Date

Fiction Friday prompt: Pick two established characters, either from your own work or others’. Now write the scene/story of their meeting.

Paul stood at the entrance of the café and took a deep breath. He didn’t normally do blind dates. But his buddies had been bugging him lately. He didn’t date much, hardly ever got out of the cottage in the forest. So they had encouraged him to sign up on eHoney, a matchmaking site. Now he had to face his first match.

What if kept running through his head. Couples and families pushed past him and into the café. “Move it, buddy,” one dad growled at him.

Well, sooner I go in, the sooner I can leave. Paul smoothed the fur on his face and around his ears, pulled open the door, and entered.

He scanned the crowded diner. Cubs ran among the tables. Voices roared from the back, a large party it seemed. Near the window sat a lone female bear. She wore a blue bow above one ear, the signal she had emailed him she would wear.

Paul pushed through the fuzzy bodies and approached the table. He carefully observed her before making himself known. She wore a simple blue dress with white dots; a filly apron was around her waist. Her fur was carefully groomed. Paul liked the light brown color. He smoothed the fur around his ears one more time and stepped up to the table.


She looked up at him and smiled. “You must be Paul.” She gestured for him to sit.

A waitress appeared almost immediately. “You folks ready?”

Paul looked at Mary and she nodded.

“Cold porridge, please,” Mary said.

Paul smiled as the waitress turned to him. “I’d like porridge, too. But make mine blazing hot.”

The waitress left. Mary shifted in her seat a little, smiling a small smile.

“You like porridge?” she asked.

“Oh, yes. Hot porridge, especially. I eat it regularly.”

“I haven’t met many male bears that like porridge,” Mary said. “What else do you like?”

They talked about various things, mostly small things, trying to learn more about each other.

As they left the café, full of porridge and information about each other, Paul cocked his arm.

“Would you care for a stroll in the forest?”

“I would love it. Long walks in the forest are my favorite things. One day I hope to live in a cottage deep in the forest, a place that could only be found by someone who’s lost.”

Paul chuckled deeply. “Let me tell you where I live.”

They walked arm in arm among the trees.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Déjà vu

Fiction Friday prompt: Use a McGuffin in your story.

I find myself in a room, not very large. I’m not sure how I got here. The room seems strangely familiar. I quickly check the whole space, nosing into each corner, but find nothing.

The walls and floor seem made of oak, solid construction. I move toward the door of the room and tentatively stick my head out. A long hallway stretches from the room, with a few rooms off each side. I can see the hallway bends to the left in the distance.

The air seems still. I hear a faint ticking but nothing else. I walk down the hallway, glancing into the rooms on either side. These rooms are also empty. When I reach the turn, I suddenly feel like I’ve been here before. I don’t know when or why, but the feeling is strong and undeniable.

The hallway continues and branches. I stand at the junction, wondering what to do now. Suddenly a thought overwhelms me. The treasure! I must find the treasure. That’s what I was doing the last time I was here, seeking the treasure.

Without thinking I take the left hallway and speed up. Rooms flash by on the left and right, but I don’t stop or even glance into them. I turn left again and then again. Suddenly, I hit a dead end.

Why is that here? I push against the wall, trying to find a way through it. I know this is the right way but the wall is solid. I slowly turn and begin to pick my way through the hall again, no longer certain of where I’m headed.

I pause and glance in a couple of possible directions but reject moving into those hallways. In one room I see a red ball. I move in and investigate but it is unremarkable and I move back along the hallway.

I turn a corner and suddenly know exactly where I am. The ticking is louder but I ignore it. That has nothing to do with the treasure. And I must find that treasure. I know this is the right way.

I move along, turning right, right, left, left, right. A wall painted bright blue looms in the distance and I speed up. That’s the treasure’s location. I know it.

I turn at the blue wall and run along it. I shoot through the opening at the end of the blue wall. The treasure! It’s here! I run straight to it.

* * * *

Dr. Roddrick clicked the stopwatch. He turned to Dr. Singh. “2:47. Slightly slower than last time. But we did adjust the maze a bit.”

Dr. Singh watched the small white mouse nibble on the cheese. She reached down and stroked the mouse along the spine. “This one does love the cheese. He always seems to remember the main route through the maze. Next time we’ll make more alterations to the path. See if he can keep up the pace. If so, we may have made a breakthrough in this memory drug.”

Dr. Singh scooped up the mouse and his treasured cheese and returned him to the cage.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lucky Coin

Fiction Friday prompt: “In her right hand a woman holds a loaded gun, in her left, a coin that just came up ‘tails’…NOW WRITE…”

Tails. Amy looked at the coin in her hand. She flipped and caught it again but held it her fist without looking at it. She hoisted the rifle on her right shoulder and looked up at the Rapunzel tower.

Her dad had built it for her when she was 8. Amy touched the frame around the door as her mind drifted back. He had built it in one weekend. The only true gift he had ever given her. A gift of time, wood, and sweat. Not really a replacement for all the absences and half-hearted apologies. But she had enjoyed playing here.

Amy stepped inside the door. She saw the pictures faded on the walls, surprised that the crayon had not washed away or melted off. She smiled at the childish efforts to make sense of her world. She stroked images of her mom and Deigo, the faithful dachshund. Flowers and sunny meadows; castles and princesses. And the stalwart knight, the knight that never came.

As Amy began climbing the stairs, she flipped the coin over and over in her left hand. The coin had been her dad’s, too. His lucky coin, the one he used with his “clients.” She had found it among some papers in the desk at home. She remembered the first time he had taken her on a “client visit.” He even asked her to call the coin, to make sure the mark—the client—trusted what was happening.

Amy fumbled the coin and her face heated at the memory. She caught the coin and dropped it in a pocket. She arrived at the top room and looked around. She couldn’t make out much in the darkened space but a few shapeless lumps scattered on the floor. Remnants of her childhood dreams.

She moved toward the balcony door. It opened stiffly. Amy carefully put pressure on the balcony floor. It held. She held onto the hook inside the door as she placed all her weight on the balcony. At least Dad could build a sturdy building.

Amy walked outside and took in the view one more time. She took out the coin and looked at it again. Both sides. Tails on each side.

No child should be a part of stealing someone’s life savings. No child.

Amy readied the rifle, tossed the coin, and shot. She lost sight of the coin but heard a faint clink as it hit the balcony again. She found it after a quick search and held it up toward the sunlight. A perfect hole through the middle. She flung the coin as far as she could from the balcony.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Legendary Curse

I struggled with how to approach this prompt. As I read it now, I see some places I would rework but overall I'm happy with this result.

Fiction Friday Prompt: Write about a man with an impossibly bad streak of luck on his birthdays, who, as his 40th birthday approaches, is scared of what might happen.

The detective rapped on the door of room 201. He eyed the man who opened the door—around 5’9”, blue polo shirt with hotel logo, khaki chinos, loafers. The man was not smiling and clutched a white envelope.

“You the one who called?” the detective asked.

The man nodded.

“Your name?”

The man flushed a bright red. “Sorry, officer. I’m Dan Anderson, day manager.”

“Detective Brim.” They did not shake hands. “Why did you call, Mr. Anderson?”

“This.” Anderson thrust the envelope into Brim’s hands. “And that.” He pointed to the right.

Brim’s eyes swung to the right. Bathroom. Brim stepped into the room and to the bathroom door. The tub was full of ice. Some trails of pink were laced through the ice. On the floor were several towels, some with blood. Brim turned and scanned the rest of the room. A small suitcase sat on the floor. The bed was rumpled but not turned back. Shoes lay on the floor. The rest was just your standard hotel furnishings.

“Whose room?” Brim asked.

“Isaiah Haynes. Checked in day before yesterday. Ordered room service a few times.”

“And now?”

Anderson shrugged. “Don’t know.”

Brim looked at the envelope. FOR POLICE IF NECESSARY was in bold letters across its face. Brim was glad he was wearing gloves.

“Anyone else handle this?” he asked Anderson.

The manager’s face flushed red again. “No, sir.”

Brim waved a hand. “Let’s wait downstairs for my colleagues.”

In the lobby Brim carefully opened the envelope. He slid the envelope itself into a plastic bag; then he slid each page into its own bag. He laid the encased pages on a table and began to read.

Police Officer or Emergency Person:

My name is Isaiah Haynes. My birthday is June 30. You are probably reading this letter the day or two after that date. I’ve written this note because I know that something would happen to me. I’m cursed, a birthday curse. Each year something happens on my birthday, each year since I turned 13.

That year I became violently ill after having Pop Rocks and Coke at my birthday party. My parents had to have my stomach pumped. Doctor said I could have died. In years after that I would have accidents or bad luck or a death in the family, each time on my birthday. My grandmother was attacked by a man hiding in her backseat. My dad was knocked out by a treated business card and robbed. My brother was severely injured by an exploding lava lamp. Car wrecks. Broken bones. Coincidence I’ve been told, but I don’t think so.

At 22 I was severely electrocuted by urinating on an electric fence; yes, I was drunk at the time, but still almost died. At 31 I received second and third degree burns when staying at a monastery. Police could determine no cause; they said I just burst into flames. Now, another nine years later, I’m turning 40. I don’t know exactly what will happen this time, but I took no chances. I’ve locked myself in a hotel room, only eating when I must. If you are reading this, something has happened. Please call my parents and tell them.

Brim looked at the phone numbers listed at the bottom of the letter. He shook his head. Cursed? Ha! But he should still call the parents. Who knew exactly what was happening. He heard Anderson answer the hotel phone and have a very heated discussion. He walked to the desk just as Anderson hung up the phone.

“Trouble?” asked Brim.

Anderson shook his head. “No, just an insistent wrong number. The person wanted to talk to a Dr. Smith. Insisted that this Dr. Smith was staying here. Why would a transplant expert stay here?”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Bequest

This is my first attempt at [Fiction] Friday. I'm surprised at the way this piece developed; it's very dialogue-heavy and dialogue is not my strength. Overall, I'm please with it as a first draft with no editing.

“What did the lawyer say?” Mark asked as soon as Dianna closed her phone.

Dianna swiped her eyes and swallowed hard. “Everything’s mine.”

“Everything?” Mark swallowed the whoop that burbled in his throat. “Your uncle left everything to you?”

Dianna turned to her purse on the counter and began to sort through it. “Yes.”

“That’s great, honey.” Mark bounced on the balls of his feet. “Now we can get married. We have a house and…well, whatever else he had.”

“My uncle’s dead. That’s not great.”

Mark froze, then moved to Dianna’s side. “Of course not, hon. That’s not what I meant.”

Dianna kept rummaging through her purse. “I know what you meant.” She pulled out a key. “Well, I’ll be back soon.”


“I’m going over there to see what’s in the house. I’m sure there are some things to deal with there.”

Dianna moved toward the door. Mark caught her arm and pulled her into a hug.

“I’ll go with you. You shouldn’t be alone now.”

“Sure. Okay.”

In the car, Mark continued to list off plans for the future weeks. Dianna sighed.

“Mark,” she said, “we need to talk about my inheritance. Uncle Mort was…unusual. He was always experimenting, trying to improve nature. I don’t know what we’ll find at his house. You need to be prepared for odd things.”

“Like what?”

“Well, one year he bred a vegetarian tiger. Seemed like a good idea, except the tiger required an entire lawn for each meal to get enough nutrients to live. His experiments always seemed right, but nothing ended up working out.”

Mark pulled the car to the curb and turned toward Dianna. “There’s a tiger at your uncle’s house?”

“Not anymore. He died a couple of years ago. But I’m not sure what will be there.”

“Tell me more about these experiments.” Mark pulled the car back into traffic.

Dianna sighed again. “Not always experiments. Sometimes inventions. Once he made a collar that helped dogs understand human speech.”

“That’s great!”

“You’d think so. But dogs seem to find it difficult to understand humor or exaggeration or symbolic language. Misinterpretations led to injuries, some serious.”


“Once Uncle Mort mused that he was so hungry he could eat a horse. His dogs attacked a police mount. That was one of the lesser incidents, as I understand.”


Mark pulled the car into the long drive and parked in front of the house. They both looked up at the towering structure.

Dianna opened the door. “You can wait here. I—”

“No! I’m not letting you go into that house alone. Who knows what dangerous things are in there. No, I’m coming.”

Mark jerked open his door and strode around the car to meet her. Together they walked up the steps. Dianna unlocked the door and they entered.

“Housekeeper has been coming in, keeping things tidy,” Dianna remarked.

They walked among wires and gears, machines large and small. Mark turned toward the kitchen and Dianna moved into the office. She began thumbing through files, looking for bills and correspondence.

“Six months.”

Dianna turned toward the kitchen. “What did you say?”

“Nothing,” Mark called back.

She turned back to the work.

“Six months. I just need to wait six months.”

“Stop that!”

“After six months this can be mine and—”

“I said, ‘Stop!’”

Dianna couldn’t believe her ears. Mark was arguing with himself. Both voices were his. She quietly moved toward the kitchen.

“Dianna will disappear. I’ll inherit, sell this place, head to the islands.”

“I’ll wring your scrawny neck when I catch you, bird brain.”

Dianna rounded the corner to see Mark chasing a blue and yellow parrot around the room. The parrot fluttered toward her and landed on her shoulder.

“This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen,” said the parrot. Dianna started. The parrot sounded like her. Not only was it her voice, but it was just what she was thinking when the parrot landed on her.

Mark stopped. “That bird!” he said. “What’s the deal with that bird?”

“I don’t know,” said Dianna.

The parrot spoke in Dianna’s voice again. “He’s gone crazy. What could that bird have done to him?”

“It sounds like you,” Mark said.

“A minute ago it sounded like you.” Dianna cocked her head. “Hmm. Let me try something.” She paused and furrowed her brow.

“Chocolate cake with sprinkles. Vanilla ice cream on the side.” The parrot’s Dianna voice echoed through the kitchen.

Dianna smiled. “The parrot said what I was thinking.”

“Absurd.” Mark began to back away.

“I think you should leave now,” Dianna said. “And don’t call me again. Just be gone.”

“But, Dianna,” Mark said.

“The wedding’s off. The wedding’s off,” The parrot sang.

When Mark didn’t move, Dianna showed him the pistol from the office. “Leave now. Or I’ll move the parrot close to you.”

Mark turned and walked from the house. Dianna heard the car screech away.

“I know what you’re thinking,” the parrot said. “I agree. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Siren

The wail sounded from somewhere but Toby couldn’t find the source. A sound like no one he had ever heard. Not an ambulance or police car. More long and drawn out.

Toby got out of his parked Ranger. He slowly turned in place, scanning the road, the sidewalk, the nearby nooks in the building. Nothing but that sound. Only a few people were scattered around him, some looking toward him and others just walking along.

Didn’t they hear it, too? Toby moved toward the sidewalk and the sound increased. Walking closer to the building, Toby saw a man inside the store. He held something to his lips. Perhaps blowing into it; Toby couldn’t be sure.

Suddenly someone grabbed him. “What are you doing here?”

Toby looked up into the face of a man wearing a blue shirt, an employee of the store.

“What are you doing here?” the man said again. He gave Toby a slight shove. “Go on, get out of here.”

Toby stood, stunned and transfixed. Behind the man, Toby heard a familiar voice.

Juliet said, “Just what do you think you are doing?” The man turned. “Keep your hands off him.”

“He’s with you?”

Juliet almost stamped her foot. “Yes, he’s with me.” She rubbed Toby’s head. “Come on, boy,” she said. “Let’s get back in the truck.”

With a glare, Juliet moved toward the Ranger. Toby trotted behind her, panting. At least that infernal whistling wail had stopped. Toby jumped back into the bed.

“No, boy, in here.” Juliet held the door as the dog jumped out of the bed and into the cab. “I’ll open the window for you, but I want you in here for the ride home.”