Welcome

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my experiment.

I don’t consider myself an on-purpose writer. It’s something I’ve stumbled my way into. That’s not to say I’ve never written, just that I never took any pride in it, never thought I had anything to offer. It took my oldest son giving me permission to write badly before I found the courage to intentionally take on a blank page without the threat of an empty slot in a gradebook.

The trouble is, I’m an old lady trying to make sense of something I’ve previously made no effort to understand. So in other words, I’m not here to try to tell what I know, but to collect whatever I can that could be helpful for anyone trying to improve their writing, myself included.

 

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New Year Poem

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Merry Christmas is now

put into old boxes.

Away from the chimney

Are the neat red soxes.

The trash is overflowed

With bows and with wrapping.

On couches and armchairs

The people are napping.

All of the great presents

Are tucked into crannies.

Back to their warm houses

Have gone all the grannies.

A new year has started.

The old year has ended.

Breathe deep the fresh season.

Let old hurts be mended.

Your Application Has Been Processed

The heavy, unpainted metal door grated and squealed when I pried it open as if ages had passed since it’s last use. Unmarked, set back in shadows, and facing the alley it was the only one that corresponded with the address on the document I’d received. Inside, I made my way along a winding hallway, lit by a single flickering bulb. I stumbled on the broken concrete and pondered the splotchy red paint. Finding, at the end of the hallway, a reception room where a life-size animatronic Barbie Doll smiled at me over the counter, my decision to personally resolve the damn discrepancies in my application wavered.

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A cheery voice issued from the doll. “Please state the reason for your visit, and your concern will be addressed in the order it was received.”

I glanced around the otherwise empty room. “Isn’t there a real person here I can talk to?”

There was a mechanical hum and click as the Doll’s head tilted and the eyelids opened and closed. “This office has employed forty-two processing agents for over a century. Your application will be processed in two to four weeks. Thank you for your patience.”

“That’s great, but can I talk to a processing agent?” I asked, noting a shadowy movement through the translucent glass of the door behind the doll.

“Your query does not meet requirements. You may submit questions with a Q-ninety form, which can be obtained online.” It blinked again.

I’d come to clear things up not argue with a machine. Sizing up the animatronic, I decided: if it could move from where it stood, it wouldn’t move fast. A quick jump and lunge later, I stood staring at the bizarre sight behind the door. Papers, applications, floated from one empty desk to another. Stamps and pens at each desk moved in rhythm.

Before I could fully comprehend the ghostly scene, the animatronic caught hold of me and hauled me out of the building. It blinked at me from the doorway and in a deep voice said, “You have violated protocol S-fifteen. Your application has been denied.” Then the cheery voice returned. “Have a nice day,” it said, just before slamming the door in my face.

Standing there, staring at the old door, I realized my father was right:  trying to fund my paranormal research through this agency was a dead end.

Who is Going to Dinner?

“Hey guys, dinners on me.” Ted thrust an arm in the direction of a local bar and grill on the corner. The three, dressed to the nines for the big meeting, entered the establishment where a gray-haired, waitress, her attitude sagging just like her skin, led them to a booth.

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Jack stood back and motioned for Jill to slide in ahead of him. “I’ll have a daiquiri.”

“The same for me.” Ted rubbed his head. “On second thought make it a whiskey.”

“I’ll just have Perrier. My doctor said I should stop drinking, on account of my bad liver.” Jill’s face scrunched with the conveyance of the information.

The waitress dropped some menus on the table and left to get their drinks.

“I really don’t know why I bother going to doctors though. All they do is take my money.” Jill began perusing the menu.

The waitress returned with their drinks.

“We’ll all take the house special.” Ted snatched the menus from his coworkers and handed them back to the waitress. “We’re celebrating a successful hostile takeover.

“Merger, Ted.” Jack pounded his fist on the table. “For the last time, it was a merger.”

“If it hadn’t been for my quick thinking it would have been a hostile takeover.” Jill sipped her Perrier. “Did you see the way their overstuffed CEO deflated when I started explaining things? Too bad my doctor can’t be so enlightened.”

“Ask not what your doctor can do for you, ask what you can do for your doctor.”

“Can it Jack, don’t you ever think about anybody but yourself? I pay my doctor a fortune to tell me I’d have more fun if I were dead. So, I don’t need a stupid lecture from you.” Jill wagged her finger in Jack’s face.

“Hey guys, no need for any of that, I think you’re both swell.”

The waitress moseyed up to the table with two plates in one hand and a third in the other. Each plate topped with a greasy burger and a pile of fries. Ted shoved a couple of fries in his mouth.

“I don’t have a doctor. I can take care of myself. In fact, I removed my own spleen last week. True story.”

“You can’t remove your own spleen. The person to remove the spleen is the doctor.” Jack lifted a bun off his burger and studied the innards.

“I am a doctor.”

“You’re no doctor; You’re an accountant.”

“Who even cares, the two of you are giving me a throbbing headache and, I think, the air in here is polluted. You know I can’t be brilliant if I’m polluted.” Jill took a bite of her burger, spit it out, and dropped the whole thing back on her plate. “I can’t eat this. I’m leaving.” Jill stood to leave, but Jack was still examining his burger.

“You can’t leave yet.” Ted swung the arm he was holding the burger in, and ketchup flew from it and splattered Jack across the face.

“The true measure of a restaurant is in fulfilling its promise of better food served to its customers.” Jack wiped the ketchup from his face and stood.  “This, Ted, is not better food.”

“Guys you can’t leave now. B.B. King is going to come on stage any minute.”

Jack and Jill ignored the plea and sauntered out of the establishment.

“He probably just wants us to pay.” Jill clutched her purse.

Jack held the door open. “You and I have cast our caps out of this dive, and now we have no choice but to follow them.”

Burning Day

Flames licked the edges of the wood piled around Patricia’s feet. It wasn’t the idea of burning alive that bothered her. It was the way she’d gotten here and the one who’d lead the mob to her door.

In her line of work, a good burning was one of the few perks. But she preferred it on her terms, not at the mercy of a fool who she’d protected and provided for. His profits had more than doubled since he brought her on, and no one had touched him or his property, not even once. She knew better than to expect it to go on forever, but a nod of professional courtesy would have been nice.

The mob continued its pointless chanting. She wondered who’d come up with that nonsense. Likely they read it in some book on the occult. Silly things like that always had a way of cropping up.

The smell of burning rubber stung her nose. It was a pity to burn these shoes.  Leather didn’t stink nearly as much. If she’d had a few minutes warning she’d have had time to change into the leather ones.

Time to change.

She laughed.

Within the mob, heads tilted and faces drooped in confusion. Their chanting tapered off and died.

Oh, but the smell. She scrunched up her face, trying to block it and tested the ropes around her wrists. A splinter from the stake stabbed the side of her hand. This was a good knot. She’d not get her hands free until the flames gnawed down the ropes. She sighed. They always had to use a wooden stake—so cliché.

Her slacks caught, and the delicious sting started at her ankles. The man-made fibers melted in the flames, sticking to her skin. She let her head rest against the stake and embraced the pain. It validated the pain on the inside. No one understands the pain on the inside, not until you have a mark they can see on the outside.

The flames climbed.

The mob stared. Jaws were dropping. She scanned from one side of the group to the other. There were many faces, yet all one face, all with the same expressions, all with the same thoughts behind their judgmental eyes.

Why isn’t she screaming?

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She loved the moment they collectively realized her strength. That moment when judgment and fear lost its power and higher reasoning started to trickle in.

You can’t kill what you don’t understand. You can hate it, fear it, judge it, but you can’t kill it.

Her flesh burned. There was an all over agony. It never got worse than this. Once it spreads over the midsection, the pain level stabilizes. A mind can only process so much.

The flames would soon catch her hair. It always made for a terrible smell. This meant it was time to turn inward, to leave the flames and the confused faces of the onlookers. Her thoughts convened on the point of inner light. The fire within burned bright and white. This was her true fire, her true form. Everything external, the pain, the mob, the stench, these all faded. Power coursed through her even as her body sizzled and died.

The incredible heat from inside her burst forth in a sudden flash the consumed it all. The woman, the stake and the mob’s fire. The stunned mob stared at the pile of ash they believed they had created.

“See there,” an old woman said. “God has judged her.”

With head nods and shoulder shrugs, the crowd agreed and dispersed. Murmurings of disappointment trickled among the young.

“I thought there’d be more screaming,” said one.

“She could have at least chanted or something, like a proper witch,” said another.

Patricia listened from among the ashes, letting her new form take shape.  It would be a while yet till she could form wings, but when she did, she would burst forth from the ashes and rise on the currents of the wind.

“You cannot kill what you don’t understand,” she thought with great satisfaction. These people would not know her when they saw her again. They would all still be the same, but she would be new.

 

Angry Confrontation

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Studying the paper resentfully, a fire smoldering inside her, stoking it with one log of discontent after another, logs about which she had never spoken a word of complaint, Janet finally exploded. When she blasted into Kent’s office, she was blazing so hot he could do nothing but nod at her demand for a word with him.

“Really?” she waved the paper at him. “After fifteen years slaving for you, with all that you know I’m capable of, you still hand me these little chores like I’m nothing more than your maid. I’ll have you know, that this company needs me, you’d be a disaster without me because you don’t even know how to use the ERP. Hell, I bet you don’t even try. You just sit here and say, ‘oh well, no worries, Janet will take care of it,’ but someday Janet isn’t going to take care of it, and if you think for one minute…” she continued to spew sparks about the menial tasks she would no longer stoop to and about the endless, thankless, flow of report requests and other such munitions, as he sat, blinking and slack-jawed, taking in the inferno raging before him.

When at last she’d spent all her fuel, he calmly stood and said, “Can I see that?” pointing at the paper she’d been waving about.

He glanced over the paper she’d triumphantly thrust at him and began laughing while pinching the bridge of his nose like it was a spigot to the faucet of the humor which had apparently begun to well within him. Quelling the flow, and shuffling through the piles of paper on his desk, he smiled at her. “You’re right Janet, this company would be a disaster without you. Which is why,” he finally found what he was looking for and passed it to her, “I meant to leave this on your desk.”

She glanced between the envelope and her boss, feeling spent and confused.

“I was wondering where I left my to-do list,” he added with a grin.

The contents of the envelope settled like a wet blanket over her glittering embers—a letter of promotion, complete with a significant raise, a note of thanks and a gift card for a night out on the company.

“I’m so sorry…” she started, horrified at her previous raging.

He put up a hand to stop her. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been wondering if we’d ever find your fuse. It’s good to know you have one. And I promise to be more careful with my lists in the future.”

Graduation Advice

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Hank wasn’t much for heart-to-hearts, and he hated the thought of coming off as a know-it-all, knowing so little as he did. Yet the other grandmother, an old hawk of a woman, having just swooped in on the graduation party was eyeing his grandson there like a tender little field mouse, all graduated and ready to start his real life, so vulnerable to the sorted advice he was sure to be getting, Hank couldn’t stand the thought of Joe not living life to it’s fullest. Sure there were kids who ought to resign themselves to settling down and being useful, but not his grandson. That boy was smart as a whip and curious as a bobcat, and he ought to get out there and see whatever this big old world might have in store. So Hank overrode the protests of his aching bones to rescue Joe before that woman could dive in and shove a bunch of sensible advice down the poor kid’s throat.

He patted Joe on the back “Now I know what it’s like to be a young feller, to have the whole future spread out in front a you, like a big old smorgasbord complete with a big old apple pie, but you gotta keep your wits about ya, if you know what I mean. Don’t go eatin’ all of one thing and makein’ yourself sick.”

“Okay grandpa,” Joe replied, blinking. “I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.”

Hank could see he’d confused the boy and cursed his own half-witted way of thinking. “Now I ain’t complaining, I loved your Grandma, God rest her soul, and a course I’m powerful proud of your pa, but you’re young; get out and live a little. See when I was your age, I couldn’t see but one thing for me ta do, had my eyes glued to that there apple pie so to speak. I done it all out, but gol danged if I don’t wish I’d taken a risk or two, tried a little-o this and a little-o that, ‘stead of shovin’ all a one thing in my mouth ’till I just couldn’t fit in a bite of nothing else. That’s alls I’m saying. Ya understand?”

“Yeah, I think so.” The smile playing at Joe’s mouth looked like comprehension to Hank and, he felt his pride in the boy straighten out his tired, old back a little.

~~~

A growing sense of concern setting her on edge, Patricia watched her son-in-law’s backward father speaking to her grandson. The old fool was probably telling him to find a nice girl and settle down, but as far as she was concerned he could take his idealistic, religious nonsense and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Her grandson was far too good to be wasting himself on some simpleton and a flock of kids.

As soon as Hank shuffled off, she swept in to pluck any seeds of the old-fashioned codger’s thinking from her grandson’s mind before they could take root and grow into life-sucking weeds. “Joseph, I’m so proud of you.” She knew

praise always prepares young minds to open up to ideas. “Now there are going to be a lot of people telling you that now is the time to settle down, start a career and a family, but don’t listen to them. You have far too much potential to stick around here and waste yourself on this tired little town. Don’t do what I did, getting tied down wasting your whole life on people who will never appreciate you. If I hadn’t got married, I could have been an engineer; I have the degree for it, you know. You go out there and experience things, get a good education, not at this pathetic excuse for a college either.”

“Yeah, sure grandma.” Joseph frowned a little and pointed toward Hank. “Actually, Grandpa Hank was just…”

“Don’t listen to that old man, he’s got a head full of the dirt he’s farmed his whole life. He’d plant you just like his wheat if he could.”

“But…”

“Joseph trust me, if you don’t get out and try things now, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

Joseph opened and closed his mouth, smiled and said, “Sure grandma, anything you say.”

Patricia sighed with relief, she was sure she’d gotten through to him—might have just saved her grandson from a life a misery. Perhaps she’d get herself a new necklace to celebrate. Now that her good for nothing husband had finally expired, she could buy whatever she wanted.

Magic Mirror

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Emma stood on the blue sofa and stared at the mirror. Grandma would scold if she came out and found her like this. The new upholstery had been expensive. There were all new rules now that the sofa was blue. Emma had liked the old upholstery better. Grandma never yelled about her feet on the old upholstery. She listened for any sound from Grandma’s room, ready to slink back into her bed on the floor at the first hint of movement.

It wasn’t her face she looked for in the glass. It was what might be behind the mirror, had to be behind the mirror. Grandma’s two owl paintings stared at her and, under them, the pink sofa where her mommy always sat when she came to visit, always in the corner closest to the television, always tired, always pushing Emma off her lap.

There had to be more inside the mirror, if she could just find the right magic, if she could wish hard enough, there was another world—a better world, a world with magic and fairies, a world where no one hit children or called them names, a world where a knight or a prince was there to rescue children from mean people. She’d heard about it in a story once, and she wished she could go there. She wished long and hard all the while staring into the mirror. Surely a fairy good mother, a king of goblins, even a jabberwocky would listen, would hear her pleading.

Her eyes burned from staring. The sofa stood solid behind, under the pictures of owls on the opposite wall—no flicker of magic, no face beside her own, not energy ripples in the glass.

She sank onto the blue sofa, tears in her eyes again. This time she let them come. No one wanted her, not even the Jabberwocky.