Tag Archives: Fiction

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – ONE

What did he say?” Janet’s face suddenly loomed between the stainless steel counter and shelf. Her eyes were wide, larger than normal with her hair tucked into a cap.
I shook my head. “Nothing you need to know. I split the order ticket and slipped it over to her. “Don’t put onions on that burger. The guy is allergic.”
Come on, don’t avoid the subject.” Janet smirked, her upper lip curling in that distasteful smile. Why did I always tell her my secrets?
I clicked my tongue and tossed my hair over my shoulders. “He said he’d do it. ‘Easy stuff.’ Says it’s actually a pretty regular request.
Janet’s jaw dropped open and she gave a little yelp. “Really? Boy, I would never…” She dwindled off, her thoughts gravitating in that little head of hers.
Hey!” An old man appeared just inside the swinging doors, his face crude and unshaven. “I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes out there just to get a cup of coffee. Do you think that’s a possibility or what?” Spit flew from his mouth as he spoke.
Sorry about that, sir.” I replied, forcing a smile. “I’ll be right out.”
Good,” he grunted, swinging the door hard behind him.
I rolled my eyes and took a seat on the old wooden chair we leave in the kitchen for breaks.
Aren’t you going to help him?” asked Janet, the sound of popping grease started to fill the room.
That grump can help himself.”
Janet laughed. “Just hope that Tommy doesn’t walk in. I’m sure you remember what happened last time, “she added with a serious undertone.
I shrugged. Tommy was as horrible a manager as she was a waitress. I sat back and pulled my cell out, maniacally scrolling through my friend’s latest updates.
So that’s it. You’re really going to do this?” Janet peeked back through the counter. “Don’t you think, you know, there are other ways?”
I shrugged. “It’s gotta be done. Easy stuff,” I repeated with a grin.
Hmph!” I heard the rattle of a basket and paper as she plopped the burger in. I stood up to retrieve it, happy that at least would have one satisfied customer when I walked back out. Maybe even a decent tip for once.
Janet range the bell giving me a sharp look then slid the order over. I hated that damn bell and she knew it. As I grabbed for the basket, she kept her hold firm on the other side until I finally looked up at her. “Just remember,” she said in a low tone, “once it’s done, there is no coming back from it.”

I pinched my lips and gave her a slim nod. Janet may be nosy, but she was always looking out for me. I often wondered what I would doing if she had never moved in next to me. Probably still laying on my couch waiting for my mother to call. A few bottles on the floor, a few pills down my throat. 

She let go of the basket and turned back into the kitchen, giving out a loud sigh.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I can handle it. One more week and it will all be over. I promise.”

She looked up and gave a a weak smile. “I hope so.”

I left the counter, feeling somewhat better about our conversation.  It wasn’t until I had crossed through the double doors back into the main room that I realized the burger had onions on it. And the grump was talking to Tommy.

MESA VERDE CAMPFIRE STORY

(This was for a hitrecord.org challenge to write a campfire story in regards to our National Park system.)

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill creating Mesa Verde National Park. Situated in Southwestern Colorado, the park houses handfuls of canyons that cut the through the dry mesa revealing the ancient clay cliff dwellings that are built into its sides. Although varying in size, none of the structures come short of extraordinary. The limits of construction and accessibility to create these hidden Ancestral Puebloan palaces is wonder of its own to observe.

Guided by park officials, you can walk through the abandoned abodes, manageable only through a series of ladders and steep canyon ledges. And yet, as you pass through the key-holed doorways and circle the ceremonial Kivas, one tends to get the feeling that another may be watching, hidden within the dark caverns that you don’t explore.

There are many theories as to why Ancestral Puebloans left their skillful and strategic homes. Though it is called Mesa Verde, green is far from the color you see when exploring this park. Overrun with mountain shrubs, junipers, and pinyon pines, the mesa appears to thirst for water. Is that what drove the people away?

Or is there another reason? Evidence shows that many of the “spiritual doorway” of the dwellings had been sealed shut and even Kivas burned. Was there something these people sought to destroy or escape from but found the only way out was to leave? Perhaps fear drove them out of these magnificent homes? And if that’s true, could this dark spirit still remain among the ruins?

Some say to never stay close to the canyon’s edge on a full moon’s night. For when the moonlight crosses the doorways left unsealed, something shadowy rises from beneath it. Upwards, it climbs the vertical walls, clinging to the gasping roots that sprout from the clay. They say it seeks the living to partake in a drink of the soul.

The unsuspecting are always the first to be caught in its murky haze. Left paralyzed by the darkness, they surrender to the spirit, joining it to forever dwell in maze of caverns below the solid ground. Never again to look upon the face of the sun.

DAY DREAM

Does she know that I dream about her every night of the week?

Elise walked coolly toward the file room, hips swaying to some unknown rhythm that I so desperately wanted to become part of. From behind my stack of papers, in Accounting Department C, I watched her.

Everyday. 10:32am sharp. There she was appearing from those dull elevator doors to file Monty’s notes from the morning meetings. She was Monty’s assistant the rest of the time, but from 10:32 to 10:36, she was my pleasure for the day.

There was nothing else interesting about this office. What else was a man of my age to do? Stare at Wendy over in cube three who doesn’t even understand how a hair dryer works? Or try to make conversation with Phil in cube nine that spends most of his time looking up cats dressed in knitted sweaters? Or Fran in two that always wants tell you what little Maurice did at school today? Hell, there wasn’t even a window in Accounting Department C to look out. Not even a god-forsaken cloud could save me from the cesspool of boredom that creeped around this place.

But Elise, on the other hand, was some kind of shining star that just lit up the place. Everything else could be put behind me when she walked in. Her blonde curls bouncing around that elegant face, so perfectly manicured. Tailored dresses and skirts that were skin tight, but to the point that it was classy, none of that trash that other girls try to pull. Putting her in a room makes it tens time better.

No. A hundred times better.

She is what makes this place bearable. But then, just like them all, that light is swallowed by the ding of the elevator and the click of her hills tapping on its slated floors. The sound of monotonous clicking and buzzing phones reemerge, complementing the ever graying walls.

I sigh and slide my next purchase request in front of me and wave my computer back to life. One day, I will actually talk to her. I just have to think of a good thing to say. She’ll notice me then……

AFTERNOON

Not sure where I want to go or if I’m even going anywhere on this one…but that’s just what excerpts are…

My back was aching again. I pushed the fabric cart forward trying to diminish the pain, but it kept sweeping up my spine. Pausing in the hall, I lightly pressed my fingers on the lower part of my back and straightened.

Four more hours to go. These sheets weren’t going to wash themselves.

I stooped back down and headed for the elevator.

A young girl waited there, dressed in a yellow pleated skirt holding tight to a small blue purse. Her face was scrunched as she stared down at the patterned carpet of the hall.

Hello.” I smiled warmly.

She glanced quickly at me and then brought her eyes straight back to the floor. I frowned. I usually at least get a smile back from young ones.

The elevator dinged and slid open, inviting us into it’s dull metallic shimmer. I waited for her to walk in and then shifted my weight to slide the cart across the threshold, feeling by back tighten as I pushed.

Stubbing in the plastic button for level one, I turned and asked, “What floor, hun?”

She shrugged and continued her downward look. Her right hand tightened on her purse.

Alrighty,” I whispered under my breathe. “Hopefully one it is.”
A strange, nas
al whine began to come from the corner where she stood as the elevator began it’s descent. Her face wrinkled and tears began running from her eyes.

Surprised by the girls reaction, I asked, “Do you have a fear of elevators or something?”

She shook her head violently, wiping her hand across her nose. “No….it’s just…”

My eyes widened as I waited for her to finish the sentence, which took some effort as she struggled to composed herself.

I’m pregnant,” she finally said.

The elevator dinged as the shiny doors slid open. Unsure of how to reply, I stood at the doors motionless. Do I comfort her? Or should I be looking for her parents? Why was she by herself anyway?

But before I had decided on the answer, the girl rushed past me in a daze and began sprinting down the hall. I watched as she ran out the glass door and turned towards the street.

FINE

The memories are heavy in here.

I laid my head on the carpet. Body sprawled out, taking up all the space I could. The heat was heavy, too. Invading the air, it pressed its weight against my skin. The mugginess soaking me in afternoon spoil.

I breathed in deep, drenching my lungs. It was never enough, I thought. I could never do enough.

Images played through my mind. Nights spent staring out the window to the stars, her arms reaching around to point out the constellations that surrounded us. Days with paper and markers spread all over the floor, careless even to worry about the dark purple and blue that had begun to coat the carpet. Morning sleeping warm in the plush bed, comfort surrounding me. Her golden eyes the first thing I would wake to. Good morning.

I sat up, my spine curved into the posture as I kept my head low. Sweat rinsed my skin, keeping my clothing taut. I had ran hard that morning, running from some invisible force. I felt that if it I slowed for too long it would catch me. Nipping at my heels I could feel it start to envelop me, tightening my chest. Squeezing out breaths I kept moving – even when the tears finally did start running down my face.

A soft knock at the door, “Karen? Are you all right in there?”

I exhaled and deflated onto my folded my knees. “Fine, dad. Really. I’m just stretching.”

Ok, then. Just wanted to make sure.” I hear him shuffle on the stiff carpet, pausing for a second. After a moment’s contemplation, likely him listening through the wooden hollow core door, he moved on down the hall.

Fine, that’s what I keep telling myself. Yes, it’s been hard but I’m fine….We knew it was coming, said our goodbyes…there were some dark days there, but I’m fine now. Fine. Such a frigid word. One syllable, neat and clear. End of conversation. I’m fine.

She had been diagnosed last year with stage three breast cancer. It came as a shock but when you have the kind of parents that avoid the sterile halls of doctor’s office at every opportunity, it couldn’t be a surprise. Stage three is tough, with the cancer growing beyond it’s beginning bounds and the start of lymph nodes being overtaken. But it’s still beatable.

First came the mastectomy. She had been so nervous, removing a part of her body that was private and yet some factor of being a woman. Why, I’ll look like a boy! she said to me out of the blue one day. I just smiled and told her she was mistaken. She didn’t need breasts to be beautiful.

Then came the radiation therapy. That’s always been a funny thing to me – radiation. We try so hard to avoid the toxic in our lives yet there we were, shining it right on her. It helps, the white coats assured me. It helps, I told her while she was throwing up after the first time. It helps, I told her when we had to use a wheelchair just to get back to the car.

And through the whole time there was chemo. Injecting drugs straight at the source to get rid of it all. With it went her fine blonde hair and her appetite.

None of it worked. Metastatic – that’s what the white coats called it. It went beyond the lymph nodes and dug deep into her bones and organs. The cancer was taking over and it was leaving us with a woman I hardly knew.

Months passed and we kept on fighting for that small chance. But in the last month, she’d had enough. She so badly wanted to have the strength to bake a meal for my father. Or even just to put on her nice clothes and go out. But no matter how hard she tried, they always ended up sitting tight on the couch, her falling asleep on his shoulder with a microwaved dinner cooling at her knees.

I didn’t want those to be the last images of my mother. I tried so many times to trade my reality for nostalgic dreams. Failure was met with each childish attempt. Depression loomed at my edges until it finally wrapped around me like an indisposed blanket. Even in her weakest hours, she asked about me. I worry about you. Where is that beautiful smile that I love so much? At least I could give her that.

Then she was gone.

The golden light that lit up her eyes faded and her breathe silenced. No longer a person. A body to be buried. Dust.

I’m fine. Really, I’m fine.

JUST FINISHED: Where They Found Her

Author: Kimberly McCreight
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

While summers tend to get me in the mood for westerns and literary classics, the fall makes me long for mysteries and thrillers. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight fits right into that mystery calling.

This is a fast-paced popular fiction read starts with an affluent town being rocked by the murder of a newborn child, found partially buried in a creek.  The story circulates around four women’s perspectives, each carrying their own piece to the puzzle. There is Molly – city girl turned small town journalist with a sad history. Sandy – teenage dropout with a sad-looking future. Barbara – the know-it all supermom with the truly sad life. And lastly Jenna – a character known to the reader through cryptic journal entries and from Sandy’s thoughts.

One fact that I enjoyed about this book – and also hated – was the idea that everyone is connected somehow. A play on the six degrees of separation, if you will. Why the hate, too?

**SPOILER ALERT**

Well, personally, a murder plot such as this one would never unfold so closely tied. Everyone, I mean everyone played a crucial role in order for the murder to even play out. It is one of those impeccable timing conundrums that I’m never too big of a fan of.

**END SPOILER ALERT**

If you’re in the mood for a murder-mystery quickie with some small-town drama, this read may be for you.

FEVERISH

PART 1

Sweat perspired on my forehead, glossing it like a shiny plastic doll. The heat was rising out of my head at an alarming rate, warming my thoughts to mush. I couldn’t think straight; everything was a magical blur of words and sounds.

The hard toe of my black Salvatores gently tapped the grey berber that covered the room. Puh. Puh. Puh. The rhythm brought some comfort to me. Something familiar, consistent.

There was a lady across the way. Mid-thirties, blonde, attractive. She wore a short navy blue skirt and polished white top. Her neck was curved to the right as she flipped through a magazine. Her long nails scratched the surface.

“David?”

I looked up. A woman stood at the door of the office entry, questions posed on her face. A pleasant face though.

“Yes,” I got up tugging my briefcase along, “yes, that’s me.” I smiled briefly and offered my hand. She returned it with a casual shrug and motioned for me to follow.

We filed past rows of glass doors. Each tightly closed with people inside bent over desks, their eyes constricted to screens. I caught a glimpse of one office that housed a plant. It’s bright red flowers a striking contrast to the bleakness that surrounded it.

“Here we are.” She stopped abruptly at a door labeled ‘Conference.’ “Good luck,” she said with a smirk.

I pushed on the faux gold handle and entered the room. A draft of cool air surrounded me as I looked around. The long windows at one side had been covered by a dark curtain, secured neatly at the sides. A long boardroom style table held most the space with recessed, circular lights along the walls perimeter. At the end sat a man slumped over a stack of papers and writing feverishly.

“Sit,” he commanded, not bothering to look up.

I made my way to the opposite end and drug out a chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. I rubbed the soft arm rests with my hands, flushing the material. It occurred to me after some time that the man had stopped writing and was observing my behavior. His face was cold and wrinkled. His glasses barely hung onto his paunchy face, his body an overflowing tub of grease.

“David, is it?” His voice separated by the effort to speak.

“Yes, sir. David Urnst.” I sat up and straightened my tie.

He made a mark on the paper in front of him. “Ohio?”

“Yes, Cleveland. Born and raised there.”

He grunted. “Kids?”

“No.”

“Wife?”

“No.”

“Family?”

I paused and looked at the grisly man. “At one point.”

His laughed stifled into a cough and he continued. “Past?”

“Accountant.”

He nodded and continued to write. “I could have guessed that. Future?”

I bit my lip. This answer was the crucial one. A wrong answer here and I would lose it. Or at least that’s what they told me. It would mean back to the grunge. Just another day, like everybody else.

“Tester.”

The man looked up, surprise covering his face. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” I smiled.

He raised his eyebrows and wrote down a long note. “Very well then. You may go.”

I looked around. “That’s it?”

He nodded. “See yourself out. Veronica is not the best at knowing when these little things are over.” He ginned, exposing his yellow teeth.

I got up but paused at the door. “When will I know?”

“Two weeks or so.”

“How?”

He sat back in his chair and looked at me for a moment. “You’ll know. There won’t be any toe tapping for home after that point, though.” He winked. “No such thing as a home really.”

I nodded and went out the door. No such thing as a home repeated in my head.  What did that mean?

At the end of the hall Veronica waited with door help open into the waiting room. I noticed the bright red flowers were now wilted as I passed.