Sunday, September 30, 2012


A single guitar player plucking along the side of a coffee bar in the art district wasn’t a unique site. 

The public responded with quiet indifference, occasionally dropping loose change into the open case at his feet.

He nodded appreciatively at the meager tips, but kept his head in the music. If he allowed himself to be concerned with totals he wouldn’t find the determination to keep playing. It could mean the difference between making it to the power company by five and another night burning candles just to find the bathroom. At least he had bought two weeks with the water company.

He pushed the thoughts away and strummed the opening chords to a Johnny Cash song. Out of his peripheral he caught a woman stop in the middle of the side walk. She held a chubby little boy by his free hand as the other gripped a pastry from the coffee shop.

By the second verse she had vanished. He wished admiration could buy him a meal at the end of the day, but it was a temporary salve to his wounded pride. He did his best to appreciate the moments as they were few and scattered.

He wrapped up the song and received a handful of broken applause from the patio area. As he nodded a silent thanks in their direction he noticed the woman was back again. She walked up to him, a cup of coffee extended towards him.

“I thought it might be nice to have a warm drink with all that singing,” she explained as she offered him the drink. “Its just black, there’s cream and sugar in the bag.”

He was stunned and extended his own hand to accept out of reflex more than conscious effort.

“That song was one of my dad’s favorites. He used to play it over and over in the evening.” Her eyes wandered to a past memory as a sad smile crossed her lips. She blinked to shake it away and smiled warmly at the guitarist. “I just wanted to say thank you and let you know you sang it beautifully.”

“Thank you,” was all he could manage at first. “Wait, I can pay you for the coffee. You didn’t need to do that.”

“No, no please.” She waved him off refusing the change he fished from his guitar case. “Please, it’s the least I can do to repay the gift of a good memory. Best of luck to you.” She took her son’s hand and led him away, stopping for a brief moment to drop an offering into the case.

He watched them walk down the street, his own sad memories swelling to the surface as she carefully guided the little one between other pedestrians and laughed at something he had said.
Once they turned a corner and were lost from his view, he looked down into the case and caught his breath in his throat. A twenty dollar bill stared up at him from the handful of nickels and quarters splayed against the felt.

He snatched it from the case and shoved it in his pocket with the wad of ones and a lonely five all stored away safely. Paper money always stayed out of the case, just as he always started a street set with a few of his own quarters in the case. He hated to see it empty, and the thought of some jackass grabbing any real money out of the case was a paranoia he could never shake so he followed these two rules with unshakable dependence.

He started in on another cover, more modern this time and meeting the approval of the patio crowd.  A girl he figured to be about his age climbed on top of the newspaper box across the sidewalk from him. She crossed her legs and propped her elbows onto her knees while resting her chin in her palms. She stared intently at him as he started another verse.

He did his best to ignore her, but was growing irritated with her game. It wouldn’t be the first time some punk teenager gave him a hard time.  The coffee shop owner let him play outside the patio as long as he didn’t cause any disruptions. He had some major convincing to do the last time he broke a kid’s nose for heckling him.

He rationalized he wouldn’t hit a girl so he would just have to ignore her. At least until her boyfriend showed up and gave him someone he could legitimately hit.

He finished the song and took a moment to sip on the coffee at his feet. He glanced at the girl hoping she would grow tired of her game, but she only adjusted one of the electric blue braids on the side of her head and tucked it behind her ear against her dark hair. Half her mouth curved into a grin, her darkly lined eyes never leaving his face.

He rolled his eyes and started another song.

Three songs, twelve dollars and some change later she jumped down from the box and walked directly towards him.

“You look like you could use a break.”

He stepped back overwhelmed by the determination emanating from the petite frame in front of him.

“Uh, I wasn’t really planning…”

“You could use something to eat. Get inside for a few and thaw out.” She stared him down, intent on having her way.

He reached in his pocket and felt the few precious bills inside. “I don’t really think I…”

“My treat. I owe you.” She smiled up at him and raised an eyebrow, challenging him to try and say no.

“That’s cool of you, but there’s no reason for that.”

“Of course there is. I can’t just walk away with a free concert, and I only have my debit card. Lunch it is, okay?”

He felt his traitorous stomach grumble and couldn’t come up with another excuse so he shrugged and pulled his guitar strap over his head. “So are you going to tell me your name, or should I make one up?”

She held out her hand, “Veronica.”

He shook her hand and for the first time returned her smile. “James. So is this a hobby of yours? Taking street musicians out for lunch?”

“Only the talented ones that happen to be good looking and have a promising future,” she didn’t hesitate with her answer, catching James off guard. He felt his face flush and he cleared his throat, unsure how to respond. “Don’t be so shy. You will need to learn to accept compliments when you’re famous.”

“Ha! Famous? I’d settle for uninterrupted power service.” He ran his hand through his hair immediately regretting the admission.

“I think we can manage that.” She started down the street and he followed close behind. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kipper the Amazing Dog

"No way. Absolutely not."

Logan hugged the ratty looking dog to his chest. "But he doesn't have a home. Look, he doesn't have a collar and he was eating garbage under the porch."

His mother sighed, indicating her patience was reaching its limit with her stubborn son. "I'll give you until Sunday to try to find his owner. If no one claims him, he goes to the pound. We don't need a dog."

Logan released the dog long enough to squeeze his mother in a grateful hug.

"Ugh, and take some shampoo outside and wash him off. He stinks like he rolled in something dead. And he stays outside! Don't try sneaking that dog into the house or that's the end of it." She turned her attention back to making dinner as Logan raced outside with his new friend.

She had kept her word and let the dog reside on the back porch while Logan littered the neighborhood with "Dog Found" posters. He was still working on a plan to convince her that the dog needed to stay when they were packing for the beach on Saturday.

"Can we please bring Kipper?"

"What's a Kipper?" Mom asked with half her attention while stuffing towels and coolers into the back of the car.

"My dog. I named him Kipper."

She stopped shifting the beach items and rested her forehead against the open trunk door. "You named it?"

"He needed a name. I like it," a small defensive voice replied. Why did it feel like he had done something wrong?

"It's harder to get rid of an animal once you name it."

"Oh," was the only response he could manage. At least now he understood why he still had a baby sister. A soft hand ran over his hair.

"I'm sorry sweetheart, but we just can't keep him."

He won with a final plead to bring Kipper to the beach. He had hope that he could talk his mom out of the pound the next day.

Kipper yipped frantically in Logan's ear rousing him back from his semi-conscious state. He was dazed and unaware of the rising wave pulling their tiny bodies higher into the air.

The wave crested over their heads separating the pair for a few frantic moments. Logan's lungs burned from the salt water he sputtered past his lips. His arms paddled with the last of his strength when he was buoyed back up by a small, furry body tucked under his arm.

Kipper grunted with the effort of fighting to keep them both above the surface. The water began to pull again and Kipper yelped in warning. Logan dug his fingers into Kipper's fur, desperate to keep hold of the dog. No one else had heard his shouts for help. Only Kipper had swam out to save him.

When the waters receded and peaked, Logan released an ecstatic shout as he viewed the shoreline for a brief moment before being forced under again. He kicked and clawed at the water to reach the surface. The entire time his left hand secured in Kipper's fur.

He was determined not to cry, but his arms and legs were so tired and his eyes burned. His right arm stopped pulling at the water and his left hand loosened it's grip on Kipper. He could hear the insistent yips and barks directed at him, but was too drained to fight against the tide any more.

His small head slipped under the surface for only a moment. A strong arm pulled him clear out of the water and laid him across a board. He fought to call out to Kipper between hacking coughs.

"He's good. We got him," a reassuring voice informed him.

Logan managed to open his eyes enough to see Kipper standing on a surfboard, tail wagging with joy. A young surfer sat behind Kipper, paddling them both towards the shoreline.

"You're a lifeguard?" Logan croaked from his raw throat.

The man that had pulled Logan from the water smiled at his small companion and shook his head. "Not a lifeguard. They weren't as close as Jesse and I when we spotted you. Everyone was trying to get to you. We just got there first."

Logan nodded his understanding right before his stomach decided to purge the salt water he had swallowed. The surfer patted his back and patiently waited for him to finish.

"Feeling a little better now? That stuff can be wicked."

Logan could only close his eyes and rest his cheek against the board. He felt the small swells rise and fall as they rode into shore.

A gentle hand nudged him awake. He heard his mother's shrill voice calling his name. He was handed over like a parcel and clutched fiercely by the recipient.

A cluster of voices and shouts washed over him. Someone wrapped him in a blanket and for the first time he was aware he had been shivering.

His mother sat on the beach, her arms wrapped around his tired body, and sobbed with relief. She called out her gratitude to several people and answered questions in single word answers, but she refused to allow anyone to take Logan from her arms.

"Sorry, Mom," he whispered into her bright pink sundress.

"No no no, don't say sorry. Don't. I should have realized before...I'm sorry," her voice broke off with a fresh wave of tears. She sniffled with surprise as a familiar bark disrupted her breakdown.

"It's you."

Logan stirred at the tone of her voice. It wasn't like the previous times she had addressed Kipper, like she was smelling something unpleasant.

It was grateful.

"And you said I couldn't keep him," Logan smirked.

His mom laughed despite the circumstances. "Alright, alright. Keep the stupid dog."

Logan sighed with contentment. He now owned the most amazing, smartest life saving dog that existed.

"And don't call him stupid."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Princess Grace

The waiting crowd was growing rowdier with each passing minute.

They were out for blood.

"I expected a different set of class with such a fancy location." Layla rolled her eyes at the upscale antique furnishings surrounding her. She was more comfortable in her standard janitor closet with concrete floors and a single light bulb with a pull string. The pale blue silks hanging as a bed canopy seemed as repulsed by her presence as she was by theirs.

"Well, baby girl, you know the smell of blood brings out the dogs. The scenery makes no difference to them." Sal shrugged as he handed over a familiar strip of satin. "Thought you might want to wear this."

Layla pulled the pale pink sash through her fingers shaking her head at the silver rhinestones spelling out "Princess Grace." She didn't have to look to know Sal had dug out her matching warmer robe. "This time is different, Sal. And when I say this is the last time, I really mean it."

"I'll just make sure they are put away safely."

Layla looked up when she heard the sadness in his voice. "Why is this time bothering you so much?"

Sal remained silent and refused to meet her eyes with his own. His lips parted as if he had something to say, but pinched them closed again and shook his head. "I'm not the one to be worried about. You need to focus on getting your mind set." Sal flashed a smile as he picked up a roll of white tape off the dressing table. "Did you want me to tape your hands for you?"

Knowing the discussion about Sal's reservations was not going to be productive, Layla cracked her knuckles on each hand before offering them to her trainer. "Why break tradition now?"

His soft laugh eased the tension between them, and for a moment Layla could believe it was four years earlier.

Sal had been tough on her, but it was for her benefit. There was never a question about why she was willing to put herself through such ordeals. A dead father and a drug addict for a mother weren't exactly the ideal providers of food and shelter for Layla and her sister. Losing focus could mean going hungry for a week. While she might be willing to suffer the consequence as a penance, she couldn't watch her baby sister Sophie licking cracker crumbs out of a plastic sleeve trying to quench the gnawing in her gut. Sal made sure to always remind her what was on the line.

She glanced over her shoulder at her reflection in the gilded mirror. She didn't look much different either. She had maintained her sweet expression despite the horrors she had seen at too young of an age. Her wide blue eyes and delicate nose still portrayed an innocence that deceived most men into thinking she needed protecting.

They only needed to see her deliver a left hook to an unfortunate face to understand she could take care of herself.

Layla snapped back to the present when the door to her dressing room opened. Adam and Caleb, two other members of her loyal team, entered the room wearing the same wary expression as Sal.

"We ready?" she chirped trying to ignore the less than supportive atmosphere.

"Just about. They wanted to know if you were set and they would start the intros." Adam tried to return the fake cheerfulness. Layla heard the strain in his voice and narrowed her eyes.

"I want to know what the hell is going on and I want to know now."

Sal and Adam became interested in the pattern of the rug, but the large figure in the doorway that acted as the muscle of the group drew a deep breath. "Someone should tell her. Sal?" Caleb crossed his arms and filled the doorway with his massive frame to indicate no one would be leaving the room until Layla was filled in.

Sal tore the end of the tape and smoothed the edges around her wrists. He didn't release her hand but pressed it between his palms. He exhaled a weighted sigh and met her eyes. "We're all just worried. You've got a lot more on the line than you ever had before, and this fight won't be easy."

The omission in his statement was clear. He wasn't sure she would win. Losing was never never acceptable to her, but this time it was life altering.

Layla ignored the flutter of panic. They had never doubted her regardless of the opponent. "What am I missing? What has you guys all freaked out?"

Adam rubbed his face then met Layla's for the first time since he had walked in. "Alright, imagine if King Kong and a ninja had a baby. That's what we are talking about."

"Um, what?"

"She's studied martial arts so she's not your typical boxer. On top of that, the chick is a beast. Actually, I have my doubts if she is legitimately a chick at all. Pretty sure I saw a mustache. You know those weight lifters from countries with seventeen consonants?" Caleb smacked Adam's chest before he dug any deeper. "Ouch! Dammit! Don't ask me to tell the truth if you don't really want me to then!"

Layla exhaled trying to extinguish the anxiety creeping into her nerves. She tried to banish the prospect of losing her first fight when a realization raced through her body. "Where is Sophie?"

"Safe," Sal answered.

"Mason should have her across state lines by now. Don't worry about her." Caleb was a bear of a man, but his gentle sincerity was clear in his eyes. Layla allowed herself the small comfort of knowing they couldn't get to Sophie. All that mattered was she was safe.

Sophie was the only reason Layla had returned to the fight circuit, and insisted it would only be for one over hyped fight. Of course the Carson brothers had found an opponent that promised blood.

"Just do me a favor?" The three men nodded before they even knew the request. "Don't let my stupid sister get involved in anymore fights."

Adam chuckled. "Or at least not bet her own take on herself when the odds are against her?"

Layla shook her head in disbelief at her sister's stupidity. She was naive and stubborn with a desire to outshine her sister at any cost. When Layla had stepped away from fighting, Sophie was determined to crush her legacy. She made the grievous mistake of going in solo and getting involved with a horde of soulless bastards. Yes, even in underground fighting there were ethics to follow.

"Can I have just a minute by myself?" The men obliged and moved towards the door. Sal paused, placed his hands on Layla's shoulders and turned her to face him.

"This is no different than every other fight before. You are faster and smarter. Strength only counts if she can catch you and no one ever has." He ran a finger down the bridge of her nose. "I have yet to see another fighter with a face as beautifully intact as yours. Keep it that way." He smiled as he pinched her chin between his thumb and first finger. Layla couldn't help but smile at tactics. Only Sal would attempt to appeal to vanity under such circumstances, but the distraction was a welcome one.

Layla nodded and swallowed down her trepidation as he left her to her thoughts.

She glanced back at the mirror. She smirked knowing her gym addiction had paid off. She was toned and chiseled without looking like a scary body builder. Her Barbie doll face was glammed up like the old days and she topped the look off with her pageant sash. She couldn't help but laugh and remind herself she was undefeated. She looked the same and had the added benefit of years of practice. She put on her robe and left the room convinced her record would remain intact for one more fight.

Adam led their group towards the growing roar of the crowd. She hardly registered the shouts of support as her opponent was announced. Zaria didn't sound like an intimidating name. But then her ring name didn't exactly invoke fear either.

Layla closed her eyes and focused on the deep bass thump of the intro song she had chosen years before. She felt the press of the crowd surrounding her as she made her way to the makeshift ring, allowing Sal to guide her with his hands on her shoulders.

"And now ladies and gentlemen, it is my esteemed honor to introduce to you all an undefeated treasure. She was retired and has returned only for tonight to spill some blood for your entertainment. Please welcome the lovely but deadly Princess Grace." It was difficult to form a complete thought as adrenaline surged with the volume of the crowd that had shown up to bet on their old favorite.

Layla slid off her robe and sash before opening her eyes to see Zaria.

All the fear and doubt she had fought off filled her veins with ice. Adam's description turned out to be horribly accurate. Layla even agreed with the question of gender as she sized up the enormous woman in front of her. She maintained a steeled expression, but Zaria sneered sniffing out Layla's concern.

"Just like we talked about. Quick feet, sure hits." Sal's voice in her ear wasn't providing the normal comfort she expected. "You are going to be fine." He squeezed her arm and released her to the snake pit.

Clenching her jaw and fists, Layla made her way to the center of the ring. She had to consciously force herself to ignore the instinct to run the hell away from the menacing creature moving towards her. She forced herself to listen to the zealous announcer trying to drown out her rational thoughts.

"Ladies, I know you don't need me to tell you the rules, which is great since you both know there aren't any. Just make sure to give these people their money's worth." With that he stepped off the over sized Persian rug designating the ring for the match.

Layla stepped back claiming her space and felt another surge of adrenaline. The same that always rushed to greet her seconds before the opening bell. Her old friend returned and brought with him a helping of confidence. Layla smiled for the first time at the beast in front of her. The primal instinct of tearing her enemy apart overwhelmed her fear and she hopped from one foot to another.

She was ready.

The metallic resonance from the starting bell was quickly drowned out by the crowd's enthusiasm. Layla began to circle the edge of the rug with lithe steps like a cat stalking prey.

Zaria's steps were heavier, but had a noticeable grace for her large frame. Layla scanned for any additional clues and quickly realized Zaria wasn't willing to give away much. She knew she would have to draw her out to find her flaws.

Layla closed in and faked a jab. She was rewarded with a bone crushing kick to her left side.

Breathless, Layla stumbled backwards fighting to stay on her feet. The adrenaline masked most of the pain, but she was fully aware of her broken rib. She fought to draw in a breath and maintain focus. Zaria had swiftly changed the odds.

She shifted her stance and concentrated on avoiding the tree trunk that was Zaria's right leg. She decided to wait for Zaria to instigate the next move and focus on a defensive strategy. She had worn out larger opponents before and overwhelmed then after they expended themselves. It was the only strategy she had for the present.

Not wanting to waste an opportunity, Zaria charged.

Layla processed the sight of Zaria's fist rising to meet her face and managed to sidestep at the last second while landing her own fist under the giant's chin.

Zaria grunted and stumbled but was otherwise unfazed. She charged again, this time anticipating Layla's speed. As Layla tried to step out of the way, she extended her arms and snatched her into a crushing bear hug.

Layla felt her feet leave the floor as her ribs screamed in protest from the unwanted pressure. Fear of suffocation fueled her as she pulled her head back and returned it with a snap. Her forehead connected with Zaria's face and the first blood was shed. Zaria released her with an anguished moan to clutch her nose.

The crowd roared with appraisal and Layla knew she had bought a few seconds to recover. She fell back to the edge of the rug by Sal. She couldn't distinguish his shouts of encouragement from the surrounding mob. Her side was starting to demand her attention and breathing was difficult. She knew she needed to end things quickly.

She rushed at Zaria and drove her fist into her gut. Zaria grunted but regained focus behind watery eyes. Layla retracted her arm to strike at Zaria's wounded face, but Zaria connected first.

Layla's head snapped back from the force of the punch to her nose. Her vision flashed white before she watched the crowd rise past her. She didn't notice her body land at their feet, but she felt the warmth of her own blood across her face.

That bitch broke my nose!

Her eyes watered and her brain fought for control of her surroundings. She was amazed as her vision tunneled out like the ending to an old movie. Darkness crept into the edges leaving her just enough sight to watch a panicked Caleb swim against the tide of the crowd to get to her.

She smiled knowing Sophia was safe. That was all that had mattered.

Her cheek rubbed against the intricate rug and she thought about how surprisingly soft it was before slipping into unconsciousness.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Company Appreciates Your Loyalty

Pacing only increased her anxiety so she busied her mind straightening the runner on the floor and dusting the hall table with the edge of her apron. She glanced at the clock.


He was three minutes late. He had never been late. What if he didn't show today?

A figure darkened the frosted panes of glass in the front door. Only a short rap could be heard before she yanked the door open. At the sight of the familiar navy suit and black case, her anxiety eased and her perfect hostess persona regained control.

"Mr. Smith! I was getting worried. It's not like you to run late." She stepped to the side to allow his entrance.

He bowed his head in apology. "I'm sorry to hear you were worried. I had some trouble with my previous appointment that I wasn't anticipating." He made his way down the hall to their usual meeting place at the kitchen table. "I'm disappointed in myself for the oversight. First appointments tend to run over the allotted time. I'm sure I can find some way to make up for disrupting your morning." He patted the black case he set on the table.

"Oh, I'm sure that won't be needed," she replied, but her eyes followed the case like a child told to not ask grandma for the gifts stashed in her purse.

Mr. Smith's long, elegant fingers deftly flipped open the latches on his black case. "All the same, why don't you tell me how we can improve your life this week."

"Actually, I think I'm very close to reaching a balanced state. I didn't think we would ever get there. I was beginning to wonder if you were just feeding me lines to keep you coming back." She gasped at her own admission and felt her face warm with embarrassment. "I didn't mean to imply that you..."

"It's quite all right. Most of my job is to keep your trust until you achieve your balanced state. You aren't the first to question the process, but I'm grateful you persevered." He opened the sleek case in front of him. Rows of glass vials lined up neatly against the velvet lining housed a rainbow of pharmaceutical options. "I believe you said you are close, but not quite there so we have room for improvement."

"Well, just a little. I've noticed that little things cause more agitation than they should. A dish left in the sink, a toy on the floor or..."

"Or an appointment running late?"

She lowered her head feeling ashamed of her earlier display. However, the entryway was quite clean and pulled together now as a result of her nervous energy. "I thought the Allcam was meant to take care of that sort of thing?"

Mr. Smith nodded slowly as he carefully examined the options in his case. "Unfortunately, The Company has noticed an issue with Allcam recently. It starts out quite effective, but over time clients are building a tolerance to it's properties."

"So it's not just me?" she straightened back up with an eagerness in her voice.

"Not at all. The Company has found an alternative that is being received very well and yielding positive results among my clients." He pried a vial filled with violet capsules from its bed. "Luxcious," he proclaimed as he set the vial in front of her. "A marked improvement over the Allcam formula. I think if we add this to your regiment, you will see quite a difference before I'm back next week."

"Add? I thought you implied the Allcam wasn't working?" She picked up the vial and held it with reverence. New options were always fascinating to her. So much potential for improvement in a tiny pill.

"The Company has discovered an interesting benefit of Allcam. It was never it's intended purpose, but beneficial to our clients all the same. It has cosmetic uses, improving skin tone primarily. I've noticed you have more of a glow to your face." He examined her face with his clinical, gray eyes. "Yes, there is a difference there. I would suggest keeping the Allcam, but of course that is just a suggestion. It won't have any effect on your balanced state."

She touched her cheek and smiled. She had noticed the change, but attributed it to the peace from her balanced state. "What a nice surprise! Of course I'll keep it then."

"Very good. Now what about the rest of the family?" He began plucking out various vials that already comprised their daily routine. They would need the supply replenished in addition to any other changes.

"Well the kids have been taking their dailies and I haven't heard so much as a sniffle in months. The only issue is the window between the end of the school day and dinner time. They seem so unfocused and almost rambunctious. I can't get them to settle into their homework or do their chores as efficiently as I would like."

Mr. Smith tapped a manicured nail against his bottom lip. "This isn't uncommon. Fortunately, I think we might have something to help." He reached for a vial, but this one contained a liquid and was topped with a dosage dropper. "Five drops in a glass of water each day when they arrive home from school. It needs about twenty minutes to take effect, but I think you will be pleased with the results."

He held the vial out to her, and she accepted it with a wary look. "What does it taste like?"

"A very pleasant berry flavor. We tried several flavors and this one was the best received. It's like a refreshing, fruity drink that a child's palate appreciates."

She nodded in agreement, her hesitation resolved. "I'm willing to try anything." She set the vial next to the growing collection in front of her.

"And your husband?"

She cleared her throat and nervously shifted in her seat.

"Is something wrong?"

She forced a smile and shrugged. "I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I've explained it to him so many times, but he just refuses his dailies. He says its unnecessary and that...," she took a deep breath. "He says it's just a way of the government controlling us. He thinks the company is actually run by the government and is some sort of conspiracy." She met Mr. Smith's disapproving gaze and felt the need to defend her husband. "He had a difficult start in life and is suspicious of anything new. I'll keep working on him."

Mr. Smith reached across the table and patted her hand with sympathy. "It's alright. I think as men we are genetically more stubborn. You haven't done anything wrong. It's a shame that he is missing out on a better life."

She breathed a sigh of relief. "I don't know what to do about it though."

"The solution is actually simpler than you think. Does he take coffee in the morning?"

She nodded.

"His dailies are a capsule filled with granules. Simply open it up and add it to his morning coffee. The flavor of the beverage is strong enough to mask any taste of the granules, and they dissolve completely. In just a few days you should see a noticeable improvement in his demeanor. In a week or two he should be more open to discussing a full regiment."

Her shoulders relaxed with the promise of a new plan. "That could work. I'll start tomorrow then."

"So I take it you won't need more of these this week?" He picked up a vial of gray capsules that was among the others in front of her.

"No, I have enough for the week." She grinned as she collected the other vials. "However, next week I should need a refill."

"I'm sure you will." He snapped his case shut and rose to his feet. "Always a pleasure to see you. Until next week?" He headed towards the front door without waiting for her response.

"Same time?"

He paused before exiting through the door and turned to smile at his eager client. "Absolutely. I think the issues that held me up this morning will have been resolved by next week's appointment."

She watched him as he walked down the brick walkway leading to his car provided by The Company. The corporate logo was elegantly painted on the side of the door with the motto "Offering Better Living Through Chemistry."

Her neighbor across the street caught her attention with a frantic wave at Mr. Smith. He was due for his next appointment.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Indifference Part 1

This entry is unlike my previous posts. It is not meant to be a stand alone work, but rather the first in a series of an ongoing story told from the perspectives of different characters. I am currently in chapter 4 slump with another project and its making me crazy. I thought this might be a way to achieve a larger story without the pressure of the words "chapters" and "book". I'm not too sure where this story will end up just yet, but it's about the journey, not the destination, right?


The brutal August heat was defeated after the sun had set. The wind off the ocean pulled cool breezes across the pier as waves slammed against the wood pilings. During the day while the pier was overrun with tourists, it was difficult to hear the ocean over the boisterous chatter. The evening had grown late and stretched into night sending most of the people home, leaving Caitlin lost in the cadence of the waves.

She sat sideways on one of the benches by the railing, hugging her knees to her chest. She watched the foaming crests of waves as they approached the shore, rolling over each other relentlessly. The moderate lights of the pier only allowed her vision a short range before the water was swallowed by the black night. She had realized it was a lack of the moon that drowned out the light, and accepted the poetic justice the universe offered her as a sign of empathy.

Caitlin was so involved in her thoughts of self pity, she had failed to notice someone had decided to watch the ocean only a few feet away from her bench. He leaned against the railing on his forearms, staring out into the night in the same direction she had been watching. She felt an uneasiness creep up her spine from his quiet proximity. He wore a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, blocking any peripheral view of his face. His common baggy jeans didn't offer any distinction, but his heavy black boots were out of place for an ocean pier.

She fixed her eyes back on the ocean, but kept a subtle watch over the stranger. They maintained their standoff for several minutes, neither openly acknowledging the other was aware of their presence. She visibly stiffened when she noticed his head turn just enough to see past the hood of his sweatshirt. He caught her reaction and lowered his head in defeat. Caitlin watched him more openly as he clutched the railing and rocked back on his heels, stretching like a cat.

"Well, would you prefer to just sit here and act like we don't see each other, or can I actually talk to you so I don't look like some sort of stalker?"

The tension slid off her shoulders as his face came into view. He wasn't the terrifying escaped felon she had pictured. He was probably her age and not bad to look at. Then a small reminder flicked the back of her mind that Ted Bundy had been attractive.

"Sorry, I don't think I've got much to say right now." Caitlin tucked her chin back against her knee and stared back out into the ocean.

"I actually think you've got a lot to say, but it's just not meant for me to hear."

Caitlin looked up again through narrowed eyes. He just shrugged and gave her a half smile. "None of my business. I get it." He approached her bench and gestured to ask permission to sit. She tucked her feet further back to allow him a seat, but gave no friendly indications. "I would however, like to know how long you plan to stay out here though. It's getting cold and I've got to work tomorrow and would like some amount of sleep before the sun comes back up."

She was doing her best to suppress her inner bitch, but he was incredibly invasive at a time she least wanted interrogations. "Why do you care?" she snapped.

"I didn't stand there for the last hour and a half making sure no one bothered you just to leave you to fend for yourself now when it's even later." He shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and leaned against the back of the bench and closed his eyes. "I guess I could just sleep here, but that would be sort of counter productive to my whole protective image."

Caitlin couldn't hold back the small laugh that bubbled up from her chest. He opened one eye and smiled back. "Laughter? Does this mean you're done feeling sorry for yourself and ready to leave?"

"Not quite." Her smile faced as her reason for hiding on the pier came back to the forefront of her thoughts. "What time is it anyway?"

He pulled a phone out of his pocket and glanced at the illuminated screen. "Eleven twenty two."

Chewing the inside of her cheek, Caitlin calculated the hours since she had left her apartment and if it was safe to go back yet. "No, definitely not ready to leave." She shifted her focus back to the persuasive stranger. "If you're going to baby-sit me, you could at least tell me your name."

"I kind of like this mysterious thing I have going on."

"So you just don't want me to be able to identify you in any way to the police later?"

"Hey now. All this time standing out here making sure no one bothers you and suddenly I'm the threat?"

"I dunno. Maybe you just didn't want anyone to steal your victim." Caitlin shrugged. "I'm not too sure how all that works. I never had much of an urge to kill a stranger at random. Now killing someone I know..."

"Ah, that's a feeling I can relate to. The someone you know part, not a stranger." He extended his hand. "Myles."

"Caitlin," she responded, offering her own hand into his. She was surprised by how calloused they felt for someone so young. She turned his hand into her other hand to look at his palm. "What exactly do you do for a living?"

He jerked his hand away and stuffed it back in his pocket. "Oh, I work on cars. Not exactly helping my hand modeling career."

"Well it's at least more interesting than sitting in a classroom all day listening to lectures about business ethics."

"There are worse things you could do than be in school." Myles settled back against the bench and closed his eyes again.

"Depends on your perspective," Caitlin mumbled into her sleeve.

"At any rate, you still have two weeks of summer before classes start."

Caitlin felt her stomach twist. Two weeks would be an eternity. Two weeks of avoiding her apartment, acting like everything was fine when she actually was there. Two weeks with nothing to distract her from the constant presence of her now ex-boyfriend.

Tears started up again and she forced her thoughts to shift to any other direction. She cleared her throat and tucked a loose strand of blond hair behind her ear. "So what were you doing out here? I mean before you were stalking me."

Myles sat back up when he heard the quaver in her voice. "Stalking? First I was a potential serial killer and now I'm a stalker? Good to know I managed to make you feel safer." He smiled at the sound of the small laugh she managed. "I was just clearing my head, going for a walk. I realized you were alone and it was getting late. Just didn't feel right leaving you sitting there like that."

Caitlin took a deep breath to ward off a fresh set of tears. Already raw from her three year relationship being torn away, the statement from a stranger that she didn't deserve to be left alone was overwhelming. She wiped at her eyes, hating that she felt like such a girl. She stretched her legs out and decided she was in need of a change of subject and scenery. "I think I need a drink. How about you come with me?"

His eyebrows raised at Caitlin's abrupt change. "I dunno. I need to be at work pretty early and..."

"Just one, please?" Caitlin got to her feet and offered a hand to help Myles up. "I owe you for protecting my virtue." She knew her eyes were rimmed with red and her hair was a victim of hours of salty wind, but she pouted her full lips in the way that always got men to agree with her.

Myles watched her act with a critical look on his face, but Caitlin refused to relent. "Maybe another time. I can walk you out to your car."

"Don't bother," her eyes darkened and she turned to storm off. She called back over her shoulder, "I can find my own way to the bar."

She only managed a few steps before Myles caught up to her. She couldn't suppress a satisfied grin as she looked up at an irritated Myles. "Changed your mind?"

"Do you always get your way?" His earlier tone of amusement had evaporated, but Caitlin continued to smile.

"Most of the time." She wrapped her hands around his arm and led him off the pier.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I ended up on Goodreads tonight. For all three of you that will actual read this, it's a site that let's you share with your friends what books you have read (or intend to read) and if you opt to, your reviews and ratings of these books.

I don't know why I read reviews after I read a book. It's like the equivalent of reading YouTube comments after laughing hysterically at a funny video. You're bound to become concerned for the future of humanity since nearly every internet dweller seems to be swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Book reads are infinitely more terrifying. These people have actually devoted attention span to reading a book and have put together a thoughtful review, not some random, text speaking moron with no hopes of ever becoming a productive member of society. (Yes, text speak is stupid. If you do it outside of actual texting, seriously re-evaluate your priorities in life...and then smack yourself for being an idiot.) When I read a negative review after completing a book I enjoyed, I feel defensive. I suppose none of us like our preferences to be attacked, but I go all insecure, high school girl and think "What's wrong with me?"

A big part of this stems from my fear of intellectual snobs. I've known many, and still do. Most I call friends, but I'm not a fan of this side of them. They believe they are more intelligent than you and therefore your opinions and thoughts are inferior and a waste of time, along with whatever you hold dear. (Okay, I didn't say they were close friends.) I carefully edit myself around these people. These people love to post reviews about why you are stupid for liking such an insipid story.

What does this have to do with Goodreads and this blog? Thanks for pulling me away from the shiny object.

The reviews. Basically, it digs at one of my huge fears. I'm comfortable knowing you can't please everyone. People have different tastes, different interests and that's how we keep things interesting. What scares the hell out of me is the cold, gut ripping reviews that tear a book to shreds. Was that necessary? Did you get your rage out on the poor author that wrote that? Oh, and by the way, where the fuck is your book? What have you accomplished that gives you so much power to judge? That's right, it's in a spiral notebook with scribbles of sad poetry in the margins.

Maybe that's all I need to remember. These people are just ugly in general and nothing will make them happy aside from that oh so deep indie book they read when they were fifteen that just totally understood and spoke to them. Is that something I can tolerate though? I'm a very non confrontational person, and most days a nice person (once I have coffee). I can take critiques pretty well and I come around to tough love without grudges. Cold blooded ripping to shreds by intellectual snobs? Not so much.

Let me give you a clear example: Twilight. Unless you have been living in a cave, you know the premise. I read the series, twice actually. It was a guilty pleasure that I was sucked into, but didn't think was "the greatest book of all time" as many believe. Why did I read it a second time then? Thanks for asking. I was trying to figure out what drove me through them to begin with. I was more analytical the second time around, and by the end of Breaking Dawn, I was pissed! I realized each book was 99% foreplay, and right as everything was about to get awesome, someone busts into the room and interrupts the hot action.

What. The. Fuck.

This was especially true about the last book. I thought, alright, she is totally going to redeem herself. We've got hoards of vampires showing up, the bad guys are on their way, werewolves are multiplying...battle royal four books in the making. Then it all comes crashing down because...Alice shows up with a kid. Seriously?Not cool. And the first three books were just a build up to the one and only fight with a "mysterious" villain (did anyone NOT know it was Victoria?). But the one fight was actually good! Her bad guys were really great! The rest....well...

See how easy it is to hate on a book? And I actually enjoyed aspects of the storyline. Here is where my respect for the author comes in. It's a success. I know not everyone agrees, it depends on your definition of the word. I have never wanted to be a writer to be some thought provoking, life changing, literary award winning author. I write because I enjoy telling a story. My sole purpose is to entertain and provide an escape for a few hours to a reader. Why isn't that enough? That's what Myers did. She created characters that love or hate, you know the names. She entertained. Myers-1 Haters-0 So take your Mary Sue and Gary Stu crap and move on already.

By the way, I am so fucking sick of those terms. The next time some unoriginal, holier than thou idiot uses them, I'm going to punch an Emo kid in the face. Don't make me punch an Emo kid. They are suffering enough already. Grow up and use big kid words. Your Mary Sueing is just as one dimensional as the character you are referencing. Wow. The irony.

I guess this whole blog is just a vent of my fear. For all I know, it might never even be an issue since I actually have to complete a work in order to sell it. I just thought on the off chance that one day I do get to where I dream about ending up, someone might look here and realize I'm a human being.

Try to be gentle.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Glass Cages

The azalea petal was cool and smooth between her thumb and first finger. She rubbed it back and forth until the tender flesh of the flower tore and rolled up like a pill bug. She reached to enjoy a second petal, but was pulled by her other arm with a fierce yank and forced to leave the vibrant pink blanket.

The advancement up stairs reminded her how tight her shoes pinched her toes. She had tried to remove them in the car and was stopped with thwack to her knee. They weren't her shoes. She wanted her soft soled cream shoes not the shiny, stiff beasts that made her waddle and grunt.

Their offensiveness continued as she entered though a large door and crossed a hard tiled floor. The clack of the shoes against the tile reverberated up her legs and assaulted her ears. One hand was still held hostage so she clamped her ear against her shoulder and covered the other with her free palm. She tried to sit to remove the shoes, but was held by the wrist and could get no closer than hovering  a few inches above the cold floor.

Mama pulled her to her feet, wagged a stern finger in front of her nose and jerked her towards a large wooden counter where the tall man from home stood waiting.

He wore his usual stern look, but was less threatening than normal. An invisible weight pressed his shoulders and shrunk his hulking form. He didn't smile as they approached, only offered a nod of recognition.

She sought the lining of Mama's coat and rubbed it between her thumb and first finger. The satin held Mama's warmth and slid across her fingers.The soothing moment was disrupted by a sharp rap to the back of her hand.

"I swear! You will rub a hole right through. People will think I wear moth eaten clothes."

She sucked the back of her hand with her pudgy pink lips and tried not to cry. Mama didn't like when she cried.

Mama tugged on the itchy lace collar around her neck and straitened the stiff velvet of her skirt. The dress was for someone less round and chaffed her armpits. She had tried to wriggle out of it like the shoes, but the buttons were down the back and she couldn't reach them to escape.

Once she was deemed presentable, Mama grabbed her wrist and led her after the tall man down a hall towards a large, dark door with a shiny plaque. Her nose wrinkled at the strong stench of tobacco followed by a noisy gagging in her throat. Mama's firm thunk on her back stopped the noise, but her stomach curdled the same.

A round man in a white coat looked on through small wire spectacles, his expression was observant, but dissaproving. He motioned to the adults to sit while she was shuffled to the back of the room. There was no where for her to sit, but a round table squatted on top of a fancy woven rug. She crawled under the shelter of the table and began tracing the looping patterns of the rug with her small, chubby finger.

She heard only a murmer of voices around her. She reached the end of the rug where small tassles trimmed the edge and began stroking the tiny threads with her palm, over and over as the voices slipped away. She didn't hear things like, "for the best...betterment of society...among others with similar retardations".

She was lost in the red and cream swirls of the rug and the silky tassles until a sharp voice crackled through a box on the round man's desk. She stared open mouthed at the source of the voice waiting patiently to hear the box speak again. She noticed the tall man looking back at her and her eyes grew wide. He shook his head and released a somber sigh before turning back to the man behind the desk.

She heard the heavy step of hard soled shoes approach the door before an authoritative knock rapped on the wood. A brief grunt of acknoledgement admitted a broad woman in a startched white dress with a small matching cap pinned to her head. The round man at the desk pointed to the table and the lady in white crossed the room to peer under the table.

She wasted no time in trying to retrive her small body pressed against the wall. Her hands were cold and firm as they wrapped around her upper arms and started to pull. When she resisted, a firm pinch was delivered above the elbow.

Her response was a shrill scream followed by frantic swats that caught her own face rather than the assaulting woman. She yanked on her hair and tore at her ears, welts raised on her cheeks where her nails raked her face. She screamed with fury and with fear more than the pain of rough handling.

She was abrubtly stopped by a stinging slap across the face. She sat stunned into submission and was extracted from her haven by a pair of icy claws. With no sense of her own to support herself on her legs, she was hoisted under the lady's arm like a lamb being taken to slaughter.

The sight of her mothers powder blue skirt brought her back and she hysterically called out the only word she knew other than her own name. "Mama! Mama! MAMA!" She struggled and kicked screeching at Mama who sat stiff in her chair, one hand clutching a shiny blue pocket book on her lap, the other white gloved hand covering her mouth trying to hide her horror. Her eyes rimmed red and were moist with tears she fought to control.

The tall man didn't look back.

She shrieked and carried on as she was lugged out of the room and down the hall towards a pair of double doors. Her confusion interrupted her fit and the sudden change was mistaken for submission so she was set back on her feet.

She turned back to the front entrance that led to the sun soaked azaleas and began to panic. She wanted to go back the way she came. She wanted to leave with Mama.

She was redirected through the double doors with a firm hand on the back of her neck. Once through the doors her throat burned with the smells of bleach and urine and her throat began to gag. Her head lolled shoulder to shoulder as the cold grip on her neck shook her and sharp words hissed in her ears.

She listened to the buzz of the fluorescent lights above and tried not to think about her sore feet. Her face stung from being smacked and her neck was sore from the restraining fingers digging into her soft flesh. She knew there would be more. She could never help the things she did. All the treatments in the world couldn't change little Janie.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tick Tock

One of the greatest gifts life provides is the uncertainty of the hour of death. Everyone knows it is inevitable, but the circumstances and time are a mystery. It becomes almost possible to forget during the day to day that at some point in time, a final breath will be drawn.

Sandra had that gift stolen from her.

The clock set up a few feet in front of her ticked away the few remaining minutes of her life. Even if she had worked out of the ties binding her wrists to the chair, she couldn't have stopped the hands. The time would press on regardless if she ripped the gears from the box.

She had promised to scream until her lungs failed her, but it was her strength that was giving out. She was ashamed to concede she was giving up the fight. Her body was exhausted from hours of adrenaline surges instigated by fear, her wrists chaffed from struggling against plastic ties and her throat raw from unanswered screams for help.
The isolated room was concrete and steel, reinforcing the concept that escape was impossible. The rancid smell of the vomit on her shirt burned in her nose as her parched mouth begged for relief.

Sandra had watched nearly twenty four hours pass on the face of the clock with only her fear of his promised return to keep her company. Despite her best efforts to avert her gaze, she couldn't help but stare in terror at the impressive display he had left for her. Stainless steel trays boasted multiple tools that would have been better placed in a sterile surgical room, or possibly a dental office. He had explained the use of each item in detail, although his intents were most likely not the approved uses.

Her stomach retched at the sight of a small hooked pick, but her body didn't even have bile left to relieve the gagging.

The clock indicated only two minutes left of her twenty four hour exile. A small thought in the back of her mind prayed it would be quick, but she knew from the leering grin he had given her upon his departure, the process would last long past her begging for him to end any suffering.

Sandra felt her chest begin to heave, fighting for breath as sweat beaded across her face and trickled down the back of her neck. Deep from her gut, a primal sob formed and belched from her throat. She fought for air against her cries and felt her heart ready to burst from her chest.

There was no moment of peaceful resignation she had once imagined. No wave of clarity explaining the meaning of what her life had been meant for. Only horror.

One minute.

Against her conscious will, her body began to struggle against the restraints. Her ankles chaffed and tore to no effect against the straps pinning them to the chair legs. Her wrists were scraped raw and bleeding, but she continued to flail and sob, panic possessing every inch of her soul.

Finally, both hands of the clock stood straight up pointing triumphantly at the twelve.

Sandra heard a bolt being shifted on the other side of the heavy steel door.

Her senses dulled and turned numb. She couldn't even hear the piercing scream escape her lungs as the door opened.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thank You for Holding

Jason never understood why people complained about having to work in the corporate world. He couldn't imagine a more perfect job. The massive herds of bodies moving through the building each day increased the average percentage of stupid the company employed, detracting attention from his own work ethic. He learned early on it was all about knowing the system: clock in and out on time and don't leave the phone on unavailable and they would hand you a customer service award.

He laced his fingers together behind his head and reclined in his ergonomic chair admiring the certificates tacked to the cubical wall. His cube mate Brian had tied him in number of awards the previous week and he was anxious to reclaim his title of master of the cubical.

"Are you ready to have a powerful day?" Brian asked grabbing his headset off the charger.

"My positive attitude says yes I am!" The plethora of motivational posters in break rooms around the building had become integrated into their daily conversations.

A flashing red light on Brian's phone chirped. "Looks like I'm up first!" He settled into his chair and cracked his knuckles. "It's a beautiful day a Wholesome Foods! My name is Taser, how can I help you?"

He started opening bookmarks on his desktop. "Wow you don't say? A human finger? How interesting. Do you have the packaging in front of you?"

Jason turned his full attention to Brian's call. They hadn't received an "I found a body part in my cereal" call in quite a while.

Brian grinned at his cohort knowing he had scored. "Alright sir, if you could be so kind to examine the package for me and check the front of the box. Now is this one of the specially marked packages marked "surprise inside"? Oh, it's not? There should be an ingredient list on the side panel. Yes, that's the one. Uh huh. Now do you see in the list the words "human finger"? No? It may be more generalized and listed as "human parts". Of course I'm being sincere, sir. Here at Wholesome Foods we care about quality control and all ingredients should be properly labeled. If that finger isn't on the list then we have some restructuring to look into. Hello?"

Bryan shook his head. "Two minutes? Lame. That call was gold! That was at least five minutes handed to you!"

"Nah, dude was sketched out from the beginning. Why do they try body parts? Don't they realized they stand a better chance saying it's a mouse or a roach?"

Before Jason could respond his phone lit up with an incoming call. "My turn!" He pressed the button on his ear piece and connected the call. "The Wholesome Foods family is so glad you called today! My name is Suzy, how can I make your day brighter? ... Sorry about that, I have a bit of a chest cold and it seems my voice is a little husky...Well thank you so much. I hope to feel better soon, too. What can I do for you today?"

A new email popped up in Brian's inbox and he groaned.


Brian started a game of Tetris, waiting for his next call. Jason would kill this call easily and probably get her to take the survey at the end.

"I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed your recent purchase of Oaty O's. You must have the palate of a starving Ugandan toddler. Those kids will eat anything."

Jason spun his chair around and held up his hands to ask what Brian was doing.

"That's wonderful that you donate to starving children. You should consider shipping them a box of that sawdust flavored garbage you purchased...I'm sorry, this cold has me in such a snit. Oh thank you, thank you dear. Now lets get back to you. Oh could you excuse me for one moment?" Without moving the headset, Brian started to clear phlegm in his throat. "Oh, I'm sorry. Just one more moment."

He continued his less than hygienic purge as a wad of paper sailed past his head. He stifled a laugh as Brian mouthed the word 'nasty' at him.

"Alright dearie, I think we've discussed your fondness for Oaty O's to the point of slow painful death. Would you care to speak to the soulless automated system and provide feedback? Wonderful, just hold the line while I connect you."

He transferred the call and gave Brian a smug grin. "Three minutes, so that counts and I'm golden for another five before I get another call. And that is why I am Master of the Cubical."

"Not right now you aren't. I'll get ahead this time, too."

"Good morning boys! How are my superstars today?" The shrill pep of Mindy the supervisor descended upon them.

"Shining bright as ever, Mindy!" Brian answered.

"Mindy, you look great today." Jason added.

"Oh my, thank you so much, Jason. You always say the sweetest things."

"Normally I would call that shade of green vomit, but on you its more of an avocado. Very lovely." Jason flashed a wide smile as Mindy fumbled for a response.

A waving hand a few cubes over saved her. "Gotta get back to work! You boys never need a supervisor intervention. Makes my job so much easier." She scuttled off to help whoever belonged to the frantic hand and Brian's phone indicated a new victim.

"It's a glorious day at Wholesome Foods. Zeus would be happy to listen to your mortal complaint or compliment."

Jason shook his head and laughed. Wouldn't be long until Brian was offering to decimate fools with thunderbolts to right the caller's wrongs.

"Hey Jason," a less than enthused voice greeted.

"Sup, girl. How's it going?"

Sheila leaned against the frame to the cubical wall and blew her bangs out of her face. "I'm going on break. Wanna come with me?"

"We've only been here twenty minutes."

"Yeah, but its been a real shitty twenty minutes. I need a smoke."

"Nah, I'm good for a bit."

Sheila shrugged and turned to leave when she heard Brian tell his caller 'Zeus does not forgive such pathetic mistakes'. She raised an eyebrow at Jason. "I will never understand how you two weren't out on your asses months ago."

"Zeus will smite the incompetent oaf that dares to disappoint you!"  Brian waved to Sheila as she rolled her eyes at him.

"It's all about the charm. We've got more than we can handle."

Sheila snorted. "Charm, sure. If that's what you call it." She turned and walked off, then immediately changed direction to avoid Mindy.

Jason's phone alerted another call and he smiled. Five minutes was up and time to earn five more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


A little tug adjusted the platinum blonde bangs of Addie's wig to where she wanted. Smoothing out the last of the large curls around her face, she decided she would be a redhead before the day was over.

The reflection in the yellowing mirror of her tiny bathroom was as flat as the expression gazing into it. Addie watched herself as she took a final drag of her cigarette and blew the smoke into her face. She plunked the butt down the sink and tugged her mini skirt into a more reasonable position and strutted out the door.

Matt was waiting in the hall. She never let him wait inside the apartment. His response as she walked out was brighter than she wanted, and she realized too late the skirt was a poor choice. She chewed the inside of her cheek and silently berated herself for such an obvious oversight.

She led him out to the late morning air towards the small diner on the corner. Matt followed behind, hands in his pockets, eyes fixed on the movement of her skirt slowly climbing up the back of her thighs with each step.

She slid into the sticky vinyl booth that grabbed at the back of her legs. Matt smiled at her and cleared his throat about to speak, but Abbie cut him off.

"I got you a present." She rummaged in her large canvas shoulder bag and produced a plastic hula dancer and stood her in the center of the table. She bobbled back and forth pouting a painted pink smile at her new owner.

Matt leaned back and half smiled with confusion and amusement. "A dashboard hula girl?"

"Uh huh."

"But you know I have a motorcycle."


"Where exactly does one place a dashboard hula girl on a motorcycle?"

"Oh fuck if I know, Matt. It's a gift. Just accept it and use your creativity." She waved off his question with a flick of her hand and sipped on the near stale coffee in front of her.

Matt tapped the tiny dancer and started her repetitive sway again. "Thanks for the present."

Addie exhaled her irritation and returned Matt's grin. "I think I'm moving to Montana."

The warmth chilled in Matt's eyes as his mouth fell open. "What are you talking about?"

"Montana. I think I'm moving there," she repeated as plainly as if she was reading the greasy menu on the table.

She politely waited for whatever question Matt had next, but he could only stare at her while he processed her statement.

Addie grew tired of lingering silence."Do you think there are farmers or cowboys there?"


"Montana. Did we start discussing somewhere else?"

"I've never been to Montana, but I'm sure it's not like some Steinbeck novel you read."

"You're thinking of Oklahoma. Why would I want to go there?"

Matt let out an incredulous laugh and gripped his hair in his hands. "Why the hell would you want to go to Montana? Why do you want to leave at all?"

"Why not?"

Her tone was sincere and stunned Matt as much as her original declaration. He pinched the bridge of his nose trying to find something of substance to grasp in the discussion. "Uh, because people don't just pick up and move to Montana. What's in Montana?"

"I'm not sure. Bears maybe? Mountains? Not a lot of people though. I'm sick of so many bodies everywhere."

"And when did you come up with this idea?"

"On the way over here. I just realized nobody talks about Montana, so maybe it's some big secret. Like I'm missing something."

"Or maybe nobody talks about it because there's nothing to discuss. Did that occur to you?"

Addie considered this for a moment before deciding. "People don't share good secrets. You have to find out for yourself." She examined Matt's face, uncertain of the expression. Addie distracted herself by springing a stray curl in front of her face. She pulled the lock straight against her nose and chin and released it four times before speaking. "I'm leaving today, or maybe tomorrow. Depends on the bus schedules. I just have to go before Frank comes around collecting rent."

She jumped as Matt brought his fist against the chipped laminate table top. "Addie, knock it off! You aren't going anywhere so stop with all this bullshit!"

Tiny embers of fury prickled up the sides of Addie's neck, creeping into her face and flushing her cheeks. She hissed through clenched teeth, "Just because I let you screw me a few times doesn't give you the right to tell me what to do."

Matt leaned across the table, his eyes sparked with the same angry fire. Addie felt his hands grip her knees and slowly pull them apart. She didn't flinch or try to pull away as his hands slid up her legs, thumbs pressing into the soft flesh of her thighs. "You let me screw you?" The pressure under his thumbs increased. "I don't remember you complaining. I do recall you coming back for seconds though."

Addie stared him down, refusing to acknowledge anything beyond his words. The firm grip on her thighs was just less than painful, and quite familiar. She moved further to the edge of the bench in his direction.

Matt recognized the challenge and released her legs. He leaned back against his seat and crossed his arms. "And you sleeping in my arms afterwards each night? Did you let me do that to? All just for my benefit?"

Addie considered the answer he needed to hear most. She carefully watched his face as she broke his heart with a simple, "Yes."

Painful surprise registered in his eyes and he suddenly became fascinated by the grimy salt shaker at the edge of the table. "Then I hope you figure out the secret to Montana."

Addie nodded and pulled the strap of her bag over her head. She peeled herself off the ratty vinyl bench and got to her feet.

Matt heard the clomp of her heeled boots against the floor, refusing to see her go. The bench next to him sank under the weight of Addie's knee. He imagined each curve he had explored with his hands and his mouth as she pressed her body against his side.

"Please stay, Adelaide." His voice barely broke a whisper, but the words pierced and stung. He felt her body shrink from its usual confidence and found his own to look at her again. With his face turned to hers, he pressed his forehead against hers, the errant blonde curl brushing against his cheek. "You can't keep running away. Whatever you are hiding from will catch up to you eventually."

She allowed a small sigh past her lips. "It already did."

She pulled herself back to her feet and adjusted her skirt. Matt kept his eyes lowered, focused on the tops of her knee high boots.

Addie reached over and tapped the hula girl again. She rocked back and forth to the rhythm of Addie's steps as she left the diner.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Would you like some guilt with that cake?

So I'm about to do that thing I said I wouldn't do, but its my birthday so I'm giving myself a pass.

I felt I needed to check in on my little home here. Its a little sad and dull, but I have an amazing friend who is on board with taking some pictures for me to liven the place up. However she is currently gimping around on crutches after a freak injury chasing down Frankie Munoz...I mean  Channing Tatum. It was totally Channing Tatum, because who tries to run down Frankie Munoz for a picture? Nobody I know, that's for sure.


It may look neglected, but I think about it regularly and I'm disappointed I haven't managed to produce more as I had originally intended. Of course I thought I would be able to put out a story each week, and quickly realized that was a lot of stress. I get stressed and my creativity collapses.

So I figured every two weeks was reasonable, which it is, until something bigger creeps into my mind. I have only neglected this space because not one, but two new seeds have sprouted into what might one day grow into actual books. Its early yet. I usually get fired up about a story and plow away for some time until I wake up one day and realize its terrible.

Its the inevitable fourth chapter. Its my nemesis. Its scarier than clowns. You know clowns are creepy as hell, thank you Tim Curry and Stephen King. I do find it ironic that Tim Curry as a clown is much scarier than him portraying a demon in Legend, even with the bad ass make up. The green goblin dude though...stuff nightmares are made of. Kinda like chapter four.  When I reach that milestone I just don't know where to go with it. Its too early for an actual crux in the story, but if I don't move something along it will be be at a dragging pace. I am refusing to let chapter four kill me this time.

I've made an arrangement with a friend that is also trying to get back into writing. Every two weeks as of May first we  have to hand in something to each other to prove we have been making progress. It won't be about critiques and such, just giving each other deadlines.

I know part of it is procrastination, but there is more to it. Fear. I want this to work so much that the thought of it not working scares me. (See goblin/clown reference above and multiply by a full sized Easter bunny costume. Yeah, that scary.) I have a huge admiration for people who know what they want and charge with no intention of taking prisoners let alone the words "I can't".

I have an amazing friend who took her first scary leap, and she will succeed because she is one of those people. She wants to write, and needs to be writing. She needed inspiration one day, so I found a prompt consisting of four words. In under an hour she killed it. See for yourself:

When she tells a story, there is something so honest and moving in her words I can't help but be engaged and fully invested in what I'm reading. She has other stories in her blog too. Go check them out and tell her I sent you with a gallon sized Starbucks.

So, with her bravery as inspiration and a new deadline I'm laying another one down here. Back to two stories a month, that includes April. I slacked so I have to cowgirl up and get it done. I'm telling all of you so the guilt alone will motivate me, but feel free to send a snide remark my way now and again.

In the spirit of all this, I might possibly be taking a writing class this fall. Through a serious of totally random events (which is pretty much how everything happens in my world) I discovered a class in the fall being taught by a professor I know. Why is she so special? Well, this woman stopped me in the middle of campus one day to tell me that I needed to do something with my writing and not let it go to waste. That will stick to you like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth. Its not a definite, but I know she's full of tough love and that's what I need.

At this point I just need to keep moving forward.

This rant has been brought to you by the birthday angst of "oh great another year and still nothing."

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Ryan couldn't will himself out of his car. He stared dismayed at the sight of the dingy single story building in front of him. This couldn't possibly be the home base of the company that had sought out his talents, spent months recruiting him before offering an obscene starting salary.

The memory of his father's mocking laughter while calling him a fool socked him in the gut. He frantically checked the address he was given against the faded numbers by the double glass door, and was disappointed for a fifth time when they matched.

"Idiot," he chastised himself. Going back home wasn't an option. He had brought all his possessions under the premise of free room and board along with the other outrageous benefits. From where he sat, there didn't look to be enough space for a break room let alone the modern furnished apartments he had seen photos of in his orientation video.

He crumpled the printed email and threw it on the floor. He couldn't come up with an alternative, so he pried open the car door and pulled himself out into the open air. He hesitated to lock the door, but reconsidered with a look around the vacant parking lot and trudged towards the entrance.

A simple white stencil reading Isis Laboratories imprinted the glass that slid open to admit his entrance. The interior was a surprising contrast to the homely contrast to the outside. Modern and simple, but sophisticated and designed by someone with a tasteful eye. 

The young woman behind the receptionist desk was chosen with the same refined discrimination. Coffee colored hair framed a bronzed complexion set with two rich brown eyes. She was pressed and professional and rose from her desk to meet him halfway.

Extending a well manicured hand his way, Ryan lost his words as she addressed him with a radiant smile. "Mr Dunbar, welcome." She made no mention of his prolonged wait in the parking lot that could clearly be witnessed from her seat.

"Uh, you know who I am?"  Ryan shifted his weight on alternate feet as customary when he was in the presence of an attractive woman.

"Yes, of course. I'll let Dr Stone know you have arrived." She motioned to the leather couches adorning the lobby. "Please make yourself comfortable. Should only be a few moments."

She gracefully crossed the floor and placed a call in a hushed voice.

Ryan eased onto the nearest seat feeling overly self conscious. His khaki pants had creased during the long drive and he could feel the wrinkled back of his once ironed shirt. His college years had been spent inside a lab leaving his personal fashion sense lacking, but he had made his best effort to be presentable only to look as if he had slept in his clothes.

The receptionist returned with a silver tray carrying a coffee spread. "Dr Stone is occupied and sends his apologies. He asked if you wouldn't mind granting him a few more minutes."

"Of course, is it a bad time? I know I'm a little late, but I..."

"No, not at all. Just an unexpected delay. Shouldn't be long, but you can enjoy some refreshments." She set the tray on the side table next to him and cordially poured a cup before returning to her desk.

The delay allowed Ryan more time to process the fine setting around him, and raised more questions each moment that passed.  What was a high tech lab doing in a remote area disguised as an inconspicuous remnant of a strip mall? How could they employ the thousand man team they boasted with no satellite locations? And what was in his coffee that tasted so amazing?

"Excuse me?" He stopped at the realization he did not know the super model in training's name.

Graciously she understood his hesitation. "Eve."


"My name? Its Eve. Could I get you something?"

He waved away her hostess duties. "No, no I was just wondering what was in the coffee. Its delicious." And while you're at it, warn me if I'm being lured into a sadistic plot where I'm the subject of a twisted scientific experiment?

"It's butter toffee flavored. One of my favorites. I'm glad you like it."

"You always have coffee ready? Doesn't seem like a lot of traffic going through here."

"I'm always prepared for a new arrival. You were scheduled, remember?"

Ryan dropped his view into his cup, cheeks flushed. "Oh yes. Do you have arrivals often?"

"It can vary," she responded with another polite smile. Ryan understood she wasn't going to volunteer any information so he returned to his coffee.

He noticed a lack of any advertising depicting the lab and its purposes. The walls were adorned by serene pictures of landscapes save for one large vintage portrait depicting a mother and her child hanging as a focal point on the wall across from him.

He was about to question Eve about the origin of the painting when a door clicked open. A stocky form in a white lab coat entered the room.  Ryan rose to his feet, nerves firing off anxiety.

"Mr. Dunbar?" The older man asked raising a white eyebrow.

"Yes, yes I'm him. I mean, that's me." Ryan stammered and fumbled with the coffee cup still in his hand. He passed it back and forth between his hands looking for an appropriate place to set it.

"Just leave it on the table. Eve will handle that." He stepped back to hold the door open, indicating Ryan should follow.

He smiled at Eve before stepping into a sterile,white hallway.  It was a striking contrast to the rich warm colors of the lobby. Several feet down an alcove in the wall housed a stern faced security guard. Ryan took note of the firearm he wore should anyone not think the six foot muscular frame wasn't intimidating enough.

"Alright Mr Dunbar," Dr Stone stopped at the desk. "If you could remove any personal items such as a wallet, cell phone, keys and put them here." The guard offered a small plastic bin which Ryan filled with the contents of his pockets. In exchange, Dr Stone handed him an ID badge and his own lab coat, noting it was blue not the starched white of his employer.

The security guard snapped a lid on the box of Ryan's possessions and placed it in a small hatch in the wall. As he pressed a combination of numbers on a keypad next to the small door, Dr Stone explained the items would be in his personal room at the end of his shift.

"If you could please face this wall and be still for just a moment." He motioned to a translucent panel on the wall and Ryan stepped forward. The screen illuminated with his image and he was directed to turn to his right then left.

Formalities completed they walked to the end of the hall to the only exit option of an elevator. The doors slid open to admit the two men and Ryan struggled to put on his coat in the tight space. Dr Stone pressed a button illuminating a down arrow, the only option other than an up arrow.

"I apologize, but things will be slightly out of order for you today. The post you have been assigned to has been unmanned for nearly twenty four hours so I will take you straight there. Your orientation will have to wait, possibly as late as tomorrow. He tapped away on a tablet while making disapproving faces. "Yes, I think that's the best option at this time."

Ryan cleared his throat trying to determine which question to ask first, but his hesitation cost him the opportunity again as the elevator shuddered to a stop and the door opened.

Dr Stone pressed forward not affording Ryan the chance to take in the surreal room around him. The natural subterranean setting was exposed and adorned with glass water features. The floor was smooth and polished glinting veins of quartz. The serenity of the room was maintained by two more armed guards standing watch at a station of monitors. Dr Stone steered their direction right to an opening in the stone wall. Ryan struggled to keep pace despite his legs being twice the length of Dr Stone's.

They approached a large set of steel doors inside the archway of stone. Dr Stone walked up to a panel similar to the one at the first guard station. The screen illuminated with his face, name and "plus 1".

"Alright, now to make sure the system set you up properly." He motioned at the panel and Ryan stepped in front of it. Again the image of his face appeared this time acknowledging his name. The doors pulled open with a groan contesting their weight.

Ryan ignored the sense of trepidation creeping up the back of his neck. He did his best not to consider what needed to be contained by steel doors and stone. It didn't occur to him at the time that they were just as necessary to keep unauthorized persons out as much as appropriate parties in.

Dr Stone led him through a labyrinth of stone turns with the occasional door tucked into the walls. Ryan soon realized he could never find his way around if left alone.

"You will have an escort for some time to help you find your way. It can be quite daunting at first, but you pick it up faster than you think. Here we are." He stopped at the next door they came to, another steel presence with "P-32" etched into the metal at eye level. He plucked Ryan's badge off his jacket and slipped it into the door handle setting off a click and the door swung open.

A small service lift was on the other side. It was clearly meant to accommodate a single passenger, but Dr Stone took a deep breath and fit himself  in next to Ryan's lean frame. The lift pulled them upward into the stone and Ryan was silently grateful he didn't have claustrophobic issues.

The lift birthed them into Ryan's new post. The room offered a three hundred and sixty degree view of a grass field leading down hill to various clumps of trees. Several monitors around the room were powered off and Dr Stone set to the task of bringing the room back to life.

"Now where could your subjects be hiding?" Various boards and screens lit up and hummed, but no other signs of life appeared. "Lets draw them out." Dr Stone grinned at Ryan as he pressed a small blue button. A marble fountain in the grass bubbled up and trickled water into it's surrounding pool.

"They will hear the water and come to investigate. They know an offering of some sort will be available for them." Another button push and the ground near the fountain opened. A pedestal with a tray of fresh peaches rose from the ground and warmed in the sun.

"Ah, I told you that would work."

Ryan turned his view to the direction of Dr Stone's and stifled a shocked gasp.

Coming into view as she climbed the hill was a young woman in a red shift cinched at the waist with an elaborate beaded belt. She moved towards the peaches and called over her shoulder. 

"You will start with only recorded observations. You will need to keep specifics to each subject who you will learn to identify as individuals. I'm not as familiar with this lot so you will need to rely on the last observers notes. You can access them here," he tapped on a keyboard bringing up a roster on the adjacent screen.

Ryan's jaw fell open as more women ranging in age from young girls to middle aged women crested over the hill heading towards the peaches.

"These are my subjects?" His voice could only manage a whisper as he tried to process what was happening.

"Lovely aren't they?" Dr Stone watched the group with a cold scientific eye.

Dr Stone's reaction was nearly as chilling as Ryan's first official observation. They women were all so similar, they had to be related. They each shared the same hair color, skin tone and warm brown eyes. The same shades and features as the stunning receptionist he had met upon his arrival.

He was certain Eve was a close relative to his new subjects.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Her Confidence is Tragic

Thomas had never become a fan of Gwen's neighborhood. She called it "historical", but the small rows of renovated cottages in her neighborhood were surrounded by a depreciating city increasing it's crime rate on a regular basis.

He had offered again to find her a new place, and like every time before she politely refused.

"This home has personality. You can't just buy personality off a listing."

He smirked and leaned against the bookcase. "Sure you can. They call it curb appeal."

Gwen narrowed her eyes at the remark and restrained her bold auburn curls with a silk turquoise scarf. Thomas didn't bother asking her to consider a less conspicuous ensemble. Her ruffled white shirt and stiletto boots over jeans read more modern day pirate than heiress. He knew it would be a wasted battle, like the cottage.

Gwen knew what she wanted even if no one else had any idea why she would.

"Ready?" Thomas pulled his keys from his pocket as a twitch of movement by the sofa got his attention. He cringed suspecting a rat or other vermin had found its way inside of Gwen's vintage abode, but the creature slowly crept into sight, shocking him more than any rat could.

"Uh, Gwen?"

"Hmm?" She continued rummaging her purse, not processing the fear in her brother's voice.

"Would you care to explain how the hell a leopard got into your living room?" He pressed against the bookcase trying to recall if it was better of worse to maintain eye contact.

"What? Oh! You mean Bobo!" She dropped her purse to the floor and crossed the room to the over sized feline. "Silly, he's not a leopard. Just a fancy kitty!" She scratched under the animals chin evoking what may have been a purr, but Thomas was certain could be a growl.

"Gwen, there is no way that thing is a domestic house cat."

"Of course he's not domestic. You know I like foreign things. The man I bought him from called him exotic." She pressed her face into the cat's, "And yes hims certainly is!"

Thomas shook his head in disbelief. "Gwen, it can't be legal. Even if it is an animal you could keep, you would need a license or something to own that kind of pet."

"He sold me one of those too, so no problem." She shrugged off the conversation as Thomas had so often seen their mother do when her mind was set.

"Fine, but when that thing eats your face off while you sleep, don't cry to me about it." He stepped through the front door anxious to put brick walls between himself and the carnivorous beast. He ran through his list of attorneys mentally selecting the most appropriate one to call when Gwen got arrested for taking the cat out for stroll through the park.

Gwen followed close behind, but reversed her direction with a "I forgot something!" She popped back out a moment later with a book in hand.

"Since when do you speak Italian?" Thomas asked eying her copy of translated Shakespearean comedies.

"I don't. I just like to leave it out on the table. Makes people think I'm interesting."

Thomas evaluated her look for a second time wondering how she could think anyone would think she wasn't intriguing, well odd maybe, but certainly not in the normal category.

A short while later they were seated at their usual table on The Ivy patio. It was one of many indulgences he offered to keep her content. Thomas watched as Gwen casually peeked at the paparazzi perched across the street like vultures circling their pray. It took all his restraint to tell her they were not going to recognize her.

Gwen had auditioned for a new reality show and landed a roll. She was the only "name" amongst average citizens by being associated with her father's name. He had built a financial empire in high end real estate long before it was career trend of the week. He had sustained high profits through recessions, scandals and embezzlement investigations. Gwen came into a small fortune when he passed, and also landed on the pseudo celebrity radar making the production company trip over themselves to place her in the cast.

Thomas had to admit the idea had merit. It was somewhat of a murder mystery theatre, each week killing off a cast member while they tried to determine who among them was the killer. It lost its entertainment factor the moment he realized the producers were gearing the lead role of psycho towards his sister. What would land them better ratings than an eccentric millionaire playing a serial killer? He had the foresight to know the general public had a hard time discerning reality from television and put in a call to an old friend in the studio.

The following week, Gwen met her demise on the show.

She wasn't disappointed as she had the dramatic exit of being pushed out of an eighth story window landing in courtyard fountain. It was one of the few highlights that made any noise in the reviews. Unfortunately, it left her with a disillusioned sense of stardom.

Gwen ordered her usual grilled veggie salad then began her routine of meticulously separating each vegetable into its own distinct section of the plate. She also removed all the lettuce and placed it into the spare bowl the waitress knew to bring without asking. Moving counter clockwise around the plate she worked one veggie at a time before moving to the next.

"Mother was asking when you might visit?" Thomas hadn't bothered to ease into the subject. Gwen would be uncomfortable regardless.

She slowly chewed on her asparagus, a full forty three jaw crunches before answering. "I don't know. I've been pretty busy with screen tests."

Thomas knew the lie was coming before it passed her lips. "Gwen, you should see her. It would help her."

"Or snap her completely. Remember the last time?" A visible tremble shook her shoulders and the rose from her cheeks drained. She absently fanned the pages of her book lying next to her plate.

Thomas remembered it too well. He should have turned Gwen away as the nurses had already warned him Mother was having a difficult day. She had maxed out her medications potential and her physician was in Barcelona for three weeks. Since she refused any doctor but him, new medication regiments would have to wait.

Seeing Gwen triggered the memory of a small auburn haired girl playing in the mud while wearing her mother's new designer gown that was intended for a red carpet premier the next night. She had screamed foul, hateful insults that no six year old should ever receive from a mother, and she repeated each and every colorful obscenity to the grown but fragile young woman.

Thomas had yet to forgive himself for hurting Gwen that day.

"She's been doing better. Asks about you, how you are, what you like to do. She even watched your show. Every episode."

"She did?" Gwen didn't look up from the pile of tomatoes she was concentrating on.

"Even cried after your exit, but kept saying you looked so beautiful even when playing a corpse."

"She said that?" This time she looked up to find sincerity in his big brother's face.

"You know I don't lie to you." Thomas patted her fork wielding hand.

Gwen shook her head and pushed around a ruby tomato. "No, Tommy. You don't." Her vision slipped past his shoulder and her thoughts shifted. He recognized the look of a celebrity spotting.

"Gwen? Will you come?" He fought to keep her in the moment before it was lost.

She bit the inside of her cheek and scrunched her eyebrows together. "Maybe."

An involuntary sigh escaped from Thomas. Maybe wasn't a yes, but it was better than the stonewalling he had hit for seven months.

"I think that's Grayson Pax two tables down. I should introduce myself." Gwen dropped her fork and dabbed the corners of her mouth.

"Grayson who?" Thomas began to turn around, but was shushed by Gwen.

"Don't look! Sheesh!"

"You want to walk up and interrupt his meal, but I can't casually glance at the man? Who is he?"

"An up and coming director. Likes darker films and prefers casting new faces. Heard a rumor he is considering a script based off of Poe poetry."

"And you are hoping to get the role of the Raven?"

Gwen tolerated most of her brother's teasing, but not about her career aspirations. She refused to comment and rose from her seat.

"What are you doing?" Thomas' voice was admonishing and parental.

"Just going to say hello." She picked up her coffee and headed towards his table.

Thomas refused to watch, but the audio was enough.

"Oh my gosh! I am so sorry! Shoot, I hope it wasn't hot still!"

Thomas released a burdened sigh and resigned himself to play his own greatest role, damage control for his damaged sister.