Love from hate

My parents met over a shared hatred. I think it’s hilarious that such incredible, steadfast love came from something they both hated deeply.

I am a musician. I play four instruments. Well, five, if you count the cello, but I’ve only been learning that for a few months, so it doesn’t really apply. I am first chair in violin for an internationally recognized orchestra, and my music actually pays enough to help support my family. I consider myself lucky.

I grew up with music all around me. I could never get out of practicing; since both of my parents are musicians, there was time set aside every day for each of us to practice while the other two worked on the house, read, or commented on the music. In my case, I usually got comments and suggestions. At the time, it really bothered me, but it made me a much better musician. I still have that habit of practicing every day, and it has stood me in good stead throughout my life.

My parents met at a rally in 1979. I was surprised to hear that people hated a style of music enough to actually protest it. Of course, now we can put days of music of any variety on an iPod, but then it was live music, records, or radio. I guess when you have limited options, you get really irritated if one of the options is overwhelmed by music you don’t like. My mother was at the rally with some other guy. She cracked a joke about how many conductors it takes to change a lightbulb (no one knows – no one is watching!, if you needed the punch line) and the guy she was with didn’t laugh. My father, who was standing behind her, chuckled. He had heard the joke before, but it is a good joke, and those never get old. My mother turned around and smiled at him and they began to talk. The guy she was with wandered off eventually, overwhelmed by the musical geekitude.

My parents stayed up all night talking, happily skipping the riots, and when they went home they wrote letters. Neither had much money at the time, so running up the phone bill was not an option. That means I have months of letters back and forth, discussions about every facet of life, arguments about music, and protestations of love.

They’re so cute!

They eventually got married and settled into a life of making music and raising me. I was lucky to end up in this family. I’m not sure my talent would have flourished without the intensive practice.

The rally was against disco. In a very real way, if disco had not died, I would not be here today.

For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, I was challenged by Laura with “If disco didn’t die, I wouldn’t be alive.” I challenged Kevin Wilkes with “Tell the story of the most important piece of furniture that you own.”

One small thing

For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, I was challenged by Drake, who gave me the prompt “Write something about an event or situation that is common knowledge from the perspective of an inanimate object that makes people rethink how they would normally feel about it.” This week’s response was quite short, but I think it works. I challenged Debra.

There was a loud noise, and suddenly I was aware. Another noise followed almost as soon as I slammed into a wall and sank in. The sound of running feet could be heard, briefly, then silence.

Lights came on and voices began.

“Pretty straightforward. It’s a suicide. I hate these. How do you explain to someone that their family member hated life so much he wanted to do himself in? Especially this time of year.”

Another voice, lighter. “Powder burns on his skin make sense. Nothing looks weird. Let me look around a little just to be sure.”

There was the sound of rustling, paper moving, and furniture being shifted. Suddenly there was a light on me.

“Hey, boss.” The lighter voice sounded unsure. “Boss? If he was sitting over there, how did a bullet hit the wall here? And how many people miss when they’ve decided on suicide?”

Heavy steps came toward me, and another, brighter light shone into the hole.

“He couldn’t have fired a gun at that angle. It’s physically impossible.”

The lighter voice came in again, quietly. “Not ruling this a suicide, then?”

“Nope. Call the murder team and don’t touch anything.”

You think you have a hard life?

For this week’s Indie Ink Writing Challenge, I was challenged by the always interesting Miranda; the challenge she issues is at the end. I challenged Melissa R, who responded to my prompt here.

I had fun with this one – thanks, Miranda!

Being the middle kid kind of sucks to start with. You aren’t as special as the first born or the baby, but you have all the responsibilities. It’s even worse when you’re from a family as weird as mine. I mean, how many people can say that their dad ate them and then threw them up again? Add to that the reputation that being in charge of the Underworld gives me, and I end up with a pretty lonely life.

There was, of course, Persephone, but since she was my niece, I really wasn’t comfortable doing much. Gorgeous child, really, but she was always getting into trouble and eventually got me embroiled, too. I didn’t do anything to her, just set her up in the guest room and let her be. We had dinner together pretty regularly, but she didn’t eat much. I guess you’ve already heard that story, though.

A lot of people seem to have this idea about predestination. I am here to tell you that you make your own decisions. Have you met my father? Not the brightest bulb, and not someone who could set up that much complexity. I mean, there are the Fates, but once you’ve sat in their weaving room and heard them swearing about someone screwing up the pattern again, you realize how much choice you really have in life. You could do anything. It might kill you, but then you’d have me for company. That’s not too bad, is it?

That brings us to the question of good and evil. If you make your own choices, then you decide whether to be good or evil, right? The thing is, though, that no one thinks they are the bad guy. I should amend that –there are a few of you who are really very screwed up (and this coming from a guy who was thrown up by his father!) who want to hurt other people. They like being bad guys. In general, though, when people make decisions, it’s because they think it’s the right decision. Who is to say that you wouldn’t make the same decision coming from exactly the same situations?

If everyone is doing the best they can, the best they know how, then what is good and evil?

It’s perception, that’s all. I know. I’m supposed to judge these people. Sometimes they’re doing things that hurt other people because they can’t get out of their own heads. Sometimes they just aren’t that bright. Sometimes what they see as the greater good is more important.

The underworld isn’t too bad. I make people spend a few years really understanding what effect their actions had on other people, but once they get it, once they really comprehend what they’ve done, there isn’t more punishment. They get to join the community. It’s very polite down here, let me tell you. If anyone screws up and hurts another person, they’re back in the learning zone for a year or two. That’s pretty good incentive to not screw up. Not as much as getting dumped out of an airlock, but you can’t have everything. Of course, generally I only tell people about the torture part. That’s all they really want to know anyway. I get to be all-knowing down here, too, so nobody lies. Wouldn’t that be a relief?

I have to get back to what I was working on. We have an especially nasty little bugger coming down soon, and I need to make plans for him. People in power almost never have a clue how much they’ve hurt people. I wish they could live in a tenement while they were still alive. I know, it’s not going to happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

My prompt this week was “Hades, souls, good vs evil.”

Becoming reality

My latest piece for the Indie Ink Writing Challenge came from Greg Perry. The prompt is at the end. I challenged Michael Webb, and I really enjoyed his response.

I read about this when I was very young. It was science fiction then, no possibility of reality. When the shuttle landed for the final time, I thought it would remain in the realm of fiction, that we would never truly experience this unexpected beauty. Over time, though, people began to reach out to space again. I think the space program piqued our collective imagination and we simply could not let it go.

I am very old now, old enough that everyone treats me as if I am made of the thinnest china. I have enough money, finally, to do what I want, and I wanted to see this, so I am here, one of few people watching this first performance, this communication through art.

The music begins. The dancers are still, holding themselves carefully motionless. It isn’t exactly like the book, of course. There is a framework of sorts so the dancers can push off at certain points, change direction. The artists are still playing with this format. Leaving the limitation of gravity is both freeing and confusing.

The dancers begin to unfold, echoing the increasing complexity of the music. This performance was three people, using each other to propel themselves into forms and postures that no one on earth has ever been capable of before this. The audience was very small. I was watching, of course, with my few most beloved. Only a few other ships had been allowed. The important part of the audience surrounded the framework, flecks of light in what we see as a jellyfish-like body. They are intelligent and can communicate in our languages, but those languages are flat, to them. They use their whole bodies to talk. These dancers have been learning their language over years, and finally, we, the people of Earth, can speak to them in their language.

The dance has no up or down; that does not matter here. It is fluid grace. The dancers who began this, these three, are not traditionally shaped dancers. They are strong and limber, but they are not tiny. They do not work as dancers on Earth because they are not small enough to be lifted, thrown, and spun. They are dancers who danced for the love and the joy of it, then discovered this, the possibility of using their joy to speak.

The music is driving, fast, intense, and the dancers respond. They are pushing themselves hard, sweat dripping off and beading in the lack of gravity, adding hundreds of points of reflection to the already exquisite dance. One hooks an arm around another and they spin, the third coming in to join, a three pronged star spinning in ways that don’t seem possible. It’s like the first time I saw a Lomcevak performed in an airshow. My eyes could not figure out what the airplane was doing; it was moving in too many different directions at once. These dancers cause the same reaction – awe at their beauty and a wish to know how they do that. Not that it’s something that I will learn at this time in my life, but the temptation is there.

One dancer catches a part of the frame and spins off, following a piece of music which is suddenly in counterpoint. The two spinning continue, shifting their directions by pushing each other and bouncing off of pieces of the frame. The music pauses abruptly, and the dancers stop, too, holding fast to parts of the frame, their stillness more startling than their movement. Three distinct pieces of music begin, different rhythms that periodically match up. The dancers match the music, moving at different speeds and intensity, touching when the music matches, drifting back to their own dance when it separates again.

I am mesmerized. I never thought I would be so lucky as to get to see this beauty, gorgeous people in amazing motion, communicating fluidly while taking complete joy in the movement.

The main audience, surrounding the frame, expresses its approval as the performance ends. They surround the dancers, touching gently, lights dancing in excitement. These three dancers have brought us closer to equality than any amount of talking could ever do, and we can begin a new kind of discussion. Dancers and musicians as ambassadors is not something I thought I would ever get to see, but these three understand the aliens better, I think, than anyone else can. They learned by doing, allowed themselves to be laughed at when they had the equivalent of a horrible accent, and they proved that they could learn this beautiful complexity.

I am happy.

The prompt was “Your dream concert. Any artist/band, any venue, any time. Tell me about it.” This is an homage to Spider and Jeanne Robinson’s book Stardance (I can only find links to the trilogy), which I deeply love. It isn’t exactly the same story, but there are pieces of it included. If you haven’t read any Spider Robinson, I’d suggest you start. Oh, and if you like puns, check out the Callahan books…

Best served…

For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Bewildered Bug challenged me, and I challenged Miranda with “If life were made of moments, then you’d never know you had one.” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods. My challenge is at the end.

Karl had been tracking his prey for weeks, learning the patterns. It was a dangerous move, but it was the only thing he had left. The courts had failed him, letting the criminal who had ruined his family go free. Negligent manslaughter. They said it was an accident, and accidents should be forgiven.

Karl was not in a forgiving mood. He’d lost his unborn child and his wife to this man. The man had said he was tired, not paying enough attention. He pretended remorse, but Karl was sure he could see through that, see the thrill that man had gotten from hitting another car and then driving away and letting them die. He’d driven away because he was afraid, he claimed, but Karl knew he was trying to get away with it, to not be blamed.

Well, Karl blamed him.

This morning was the culmination of weeks of work. As soon as the verdict had been handed down, he’d begun to plan. He found the man, followed him, figured out the best time to do this. He’d even researched the make and model of car. He had disabled the airbag and sliced the seatbelt so far back that it wouldn’t be noticed. He had disabled the safety features on his own car, too. He had no intention of surviving this.

Every morning, the man came to a stop at a deserted intersection between 6:37 AM and 6:44 AM. He was very precise. Karl waited two blocks away where he could see the headlights. He’d timed everything so he’d be up to killing speed by the time the man pulled away from the stop sign. There were no streetlights, and Karl drove with his headlights off. Today, everything fell into place. The man was there, as planned. Karl started from his designated spot, sped up, and reached the necessary speed just as the man pulled out. He saw the man’s face turn towards him in horror as Karl’s car slammed into him.

Karl’s last thought before he died was “Gotcha.”

My challenge was “You were just in a bad car accident. What goes through your mind just before you black out?”


The Indie Ink Writing Challenge was harder for me this week, but fun, as always. Blackbird challenged me (the challenge is at the end), and I challenged Katri.

The two men watched as she finally awoke. She stretched tentatively, then luxuriously, as she realized that she didn’t hurt anywhere anymore. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and started when her calves, rather than her knees, were at the edge. She shook her head, visibly confused, then tried to stand as they came into the room. She pushed off the bed and they caught her as she fell. She expected her feet to hit the ground sooner.

“It does get better,” the tall man said gently. “You just have to give your brain a little time to adapt.”

“I don’t understand!” she cried as she reached up to brush back the long hair she no longer had. “Where am I?”

“You are in a hospital.” The short man guided her over to a chair, settled her in, and handed her a cup of water, which she held very carefully. “You were very sick for a long time and there was no cure, so…”

She cut him off. “My husband. He said he’d have me frozen, but I don’t remember that.” She paused, and a stiff grin flitted over her face. “I guess I wouldn’t, though, would I?”

“We haven’t actually found a cure. We found something even better. You are an early beneficiary of an innovative medical procedure.” The tall man smiled. “I helped develop it, and the test subjects have almost invariably done very well. You are young enough that your adaptation should be fast.”

“How long was I frozen? When can I see my husband?” She sounded very stressed, almost panicked.

“I’m sorry. Your husband has not been brought back yet. It takes a lot of time and work–and no small amount of luck–to get one person up and running. You were under for 68 years.”

“I don’t know anyone anymore, do I?” She paled a little, took a sip of water, breathed deeply, and let her chin fall to her chest. “I want to go back to bed.”

They left her alone and she slept.


When she woke up, she said, to no one in particular, “Okay, I’m up. I’m ready to talk.”

Within a few minutes they were back at her door carrying a large tray of food and another glass of water.

She began to eat. “So, what did you do to me?” she asked between bites.

“In layman’s terms, we performed a brain transplant. Sometimes, patients come into the ER and are beyond our ability to help. We can keep the body alive, but the mind is gone. If this patient happens to be an organ donor, and the family agrees, it is occasionally possible to transplant the brain of a popsicle–er…cryogenically preserved individual–into a donor body.”

“There are a lot of hurdles. The donor body must be a nearly perfect match. Even small variations in blood type, immunology, or neural structure can scuttle the entire thing. You are on quite a few drugs right now to suppress the donor immune system and ease the transition. You won’t be able to go outside of this room for a while yet, and you are going to have to take a pretty intense drug cocktail for the rest of your life, but so far, everything looks good.”

“I have a new body.” She took a few more bites as she pondered the information. “What do I look like?”

The tall man took a mirror out of his breast pocket. She took it with suddenly trembling hands. The face that gazed back at her was not hers, but it moved when she raised her eyebrows and licked her lips. She shook her head, watching the bald visage with fascination.

“I’m not me anymore!” The mirror fell from her hand, shattering on the tile floor.

“You are you, though. Your brain and thought patterns are the same,” the tall man replied clinically. Then, with a little more compassion, “You’ll be okay. It’s just going to take a little while to adjust.”

She turned to him, her eyes glittering with fury. “How would you know?” she challenged.

“I was the first human subject. I fell over a few times, too. I am almost a foot taller than I used to be, and I was Jewish. Believe me. It gets better, and you’ll eventually get used to your new body. Our brains are good at adapting. That’s how we have survived so long.”

She sat for a few minutes, toying with her food, then sat back. “You should bring in chairs for yourselves. I want to know everything that has happened since I was frozen.”

My challenge this week was “And when I/he/she looked in the mirror, I/he/she didn’t recognize the reflection staring back.”


Another week of the Indie Ink Writing Challenges. This week I challenged Lazidaisical, and my challenge this week came from Mare. My challenge is at the end of the post. This one is all fiction.

Having mild OCD has its benefits at times. I can tell when someone has gone through my stuff. Today, I got home and everything was just a little off-balance. The books on the coffee table didn’t line up perfectly. A drawer was slightly open. The sugar and flour tins were switched. They have their places and they don’t get put back wrong. Once something is in the right place, it stays there. I called the cops and explained what I was seeing. They sent out an officer, but he seemed rather bored.

“So nothing was taken?”

“No. Things were just moved. I’ve looked through everything and it’s all still there.”

“I’m not sure what to say, ma’am. Unless something has been taken or damaged, there isn’t much we can do. Does anyone else have a key?”

“My mom, but she wouldn’t go through my stuff.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, though I could tell that he really wasn’t, “I can’t help much. We’ll keep this on file for you, though, in case anything else comes up.”

I bought new locks and had them installed that night. For the next week or two, there were no more strange events, so I chalked it up to the universe messing with me.  Then a friend of mine called and asked what story I was going to be in.


“A reporter was over here asking questions. He said he was writing a story about you and needed some background information.”

“I’m an accountant and I don’t do anything particularly exciting. Why would anyone do a story on me?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m calling. He seemed nice enough. I didn’t tell him anything really private or anything, just that we grew up together. He knew where we grew up and what some of your old jobs had been, so whoever he is, he sure does his homework.”

“I really don’t know. Thanks for calling, though. Hey, want to get lunch sometime soon?”

The conversation wandered to other topics, but I was thinking about the filing cabinet that held all of my historical information: jobs, addresses, notes from friends. I knew where he’d done his research. After we got off the phone, I checked the cabinet. The files showed signs of having been examined.

The next day at work, my boss said that they didn’t generally encourage interaction with the press, but he was excited to hear what award I’d be getting. He asked if I was allowed to tell him.

I stepped into his office and sat down, shaking a little. I explained everything that had happened, including the fact that I wasn’t, so far as I knew, winning any awards or having anything written about me. My boss looked concerned.

“The cops can’t do anything unless something is really wrong, and I don’t know if anything is. Everything is just getting weird.”

He asked me to keep him up to date, said he’d call me if the reporter came back. I said that I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, but I certainly appreciated the thought.

This went on for another week, people calling to ask what was going on, excited about the prospect of knowing someone famous. The descriptions of the reporter varied, but all of the changes were things I knew could be done with makeup. There was always one feature that stood out, so the rest of his face was not memorable. A big, crooked nose dominated his face in one case and prominent cheekbones in another, so I didn’t actually know what he looked like.

I started worrying that I was being followed. I was afraid of my own shadow. I installed more locks, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was always nearby. It had been a month since someone had come into my house and looked through all of my things, and all I knew was that he was doing everything he could to get to know me better without actually talking to me.

I came into work a little early one morning and found a single red rose on my desk. That did not improve my day. The next morning it was a typed note. “You look good in blue. You should wear that suit more often.” He was talking about the suit I was wearing right then, which meant he saw me coming out of my house and he got to work before me. I called the cops and they dutifully bagged the evidence, but they didn’t find fingerprints or even any useful smudges.

Every morning there was something new. Coffee, made just as I like it, from my favorite coffee shop. A bagel with lox and cream cheese, freshly toasted. Tickets to a play I was considering attending. He was beginning to anticipate my moves, and I was beginning to be very afraid.

The final moment came just a few days ago. Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” was playing from my computer as I got to work, earlier than usual, hoping to catch him at whatever he was doing. Someone touched my shoulder, and as I turned I felt a blow to my head.

He took me with him to his house. He has me locked in a small room. I still haven’t seen his face, but that damn song, forever to be known as the stalker song, at least in my head, is always playing. He feeds me well, talking from the other side of the door about the idea he had for the food and how he makes it especially for me. He tells me I’m beautiful, that he can’t keep his mind off of me.

I asked why he hadn’t tried to get me to come on a date. He said, sadly, that it didn’t work that way.

I don’t know what he wants or what he’s waiting for, but I don’t think it’s going to be good for me.

My challenge was “Someone wants to get to know you better, whether you want him to or not.”

Time machine

In general, I try to respond fully to Indie Ink Writing Challenges. If one approach is not working, I try another tack until I can come up with something that works. This time, though, nothing really worked well, so I am just going to respond without trying to be creative or particularly interesting.

I challenged Head Ant, and my challenge this week came from Manju: “You stumbled into a time machine. What would you do?”

Short answer: destroy it.

I’ve read a lot of science fiction and fantasy over the years. There are basically two ways of looking at time (at least from the SF/F end of things). One is that every choice you make branches off another timeline, so every possibility exists in some alternate universe/timeline. It makes more sense if you think of it as tree branches, every fork in the branch being another choice. The other option is that there is only one time, only one truth, and that any changes you make will affect the world in ways you cannot imagine or comprehend. This is the idea that forms the basis for so many stories; someone goes back in time, changes a tiny thing, and when they come back the world is completely different.

In the first case, the tree branches, what you do with a time machine won’t really matter. You’ll be jumping to parallel possibilities, but another you will still be enduring whatever it is that you used the time machine to escape from. That has never made me very happy. In the second case, you can’t predict the changes that will occur when you “fix” something, and you may end up with a worse outcome than you had originally.

“Go back in time and kill Hitler before he can start the Holocaust!” What if another dictator pops up, even worse? “Stop the nuclear meltdown!” It could happen again, worse for the delay. “Warn people of the earthquake/tsunami/hurricane!” Ever heard of Cassandra? That didn’t work out too well. “Go back in time and make lots of money!” That would change my life in huge ways. It might be fun, but, at the same time, my life right now is good. It might hurt at times, and it is not perfect, but this is the life I, we, have built, and I don’t want to change it, especially not in unpredictable ways.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So does power in government. Unless you plan to keep going back and tweaking one tiny thing at a time, you don’t know what you’ll be changing or who you will be hurting by changing the past. You can’t see every sparrow fall. You don’t know if the overall picture will be better or worse. How do you know if you’ll have the time machine to go back and fix things once you return to the future that you’ve just changed?

Perhaps I am a coward, but I think we should deal with the world we have. We should do as much good as possible in our lifespan. Futzing with the past might change the present, but it won’t change human nature, and that is generally more dangerous than anything else.

A day at work

The Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week had me rather stumped.

I challenged Sir, and my challenge this week comes from Cope. “A story written in the second-person about a day at work.” Luckily there wasn’t too much specificity; a day at my work would probably be good bedtime reading.

You get dressed for the day, coveralls over basic clothes. Nothing fancy for this job. You drive to work, park, and walk inside.

The noise and smell hit you hard. The piles aren’t too big this early, but they always leave a stench behind. The trucks are starting to move out, engines roaring to life, workers clinging onto the sides, comfortable though slightly precarious looking. You head over to your truck, say hello to the others, and swing up to your position. The truck rumbles out the huge bay door and the day has begun.

You’ve gotten used to the smell over the years; the only time it gets to you is right when you walk in. Once you are on the truck, though, it isn’t too bad unless something really awful comes along. You yell over the engine to talk to your buddy standing next to you.

“How was your weekend?”

“Not bad. I caught a baseball game Sunday. They lost, and the umps were idiots. They called a guy safe when everyone saw that he wasn’t! What about you?”

“Normal stuff. Yardwork. We had a barbeque with a couple of my wife’s friends from work.”

The truck slows and stops, and you both jump down. You grab the can, hook it up to the lifter on the truck, and jog to the next one while your buddy puts the first can back. This street isn’t too bad today. The pile of diapers on top of one can is pretty nasty, but you’ve seen worse. One of the houses was just foreclosed and the fridge must have been full because there’s a mess of slimy stuff in one can. At least it’s done fast. There’s a torn up mattress by one can, a $20 pinned to the top, and you drop it in to the driver before dumping the mattress in. Nothing exciting so far.

You see a shining arc of glass bottles fly in from the next can and swear a little under your breath. That’s what the recycling bins are for, but some people are just too lazy to use them. They fill up the piles, though, and they could be reused. It always makes you a little angry that people can’t be bothered to take a couple of seconds to
rinse out a bottle and dump it in the container.

The morning goes fast, the rhythm of the work unbroken. You talk while you ride the truck, don’t bother when you’re pulling cans. You switch off every block so you aren’t always pulling the full ones.

Lunch. You strip off the top half of the coveralls and sit outside. There’s a picnic table in the middle of the dump. The trucks are offloading, getting ready for the afternoon run. Your sandwich is pretty good today, steak from the weekend barbeque.

The afternoon gets hot, the sun beating down. You’re working an upscale neighborhood now. You wonder sometimes about the stories behind the junk. The bloodstained towel, the rocking chair in pieces, the random bits of things that people throw away. You can tell which houses have children, dogs, vegetarians, meat eaters, drinkers, and people who like to cook by what they throw away, and you wonder if anyone ever thinks about the stories told by their garbage.

The day ends and you head home. There’s a plastic cover on the seat so you don’t have to think about the smell staying in the car. You drive with the windows down, enjoying the fresh air. You pull into the garage, lock the door, strip, shower, and drop your clothes in the wash. Just another day.

My little brother used to love garbage trucks. I’m not sure why that matters.

Scent memories

Another week in the Indie Ink Writing Challenge! Nicollette challenged me this week. I challenged Miss Ash.
If you’d like to be part of the Indie Ink Writing Challenge, go to this page and sign up – we would love to have you involved!

She sat on the porch, rocking, drinking cold lemonade. The glass was sweating under her fingers, and it started to slip as she tightened her fingers. Her granddaughter reached over and set the drink on the table.

“Smells bring back such vivid memories.”

“What are you remembering, grandma?”

“Every spring we’d go down to the creek at the bottom of the hill. The water was so cold that my teeth hurt when I stepped in. The first nice day of spring all of us and the cousins would finish morning chores and take off at a dead run to get there first. We’d wade in knee deep, watching our feet start to turn white, and we’d stay in until we couldn’t stand it. We’d run out and flop onto the bank, our feet aching with cold. I loved our first day of spring.”

“It isn’t spring, though. What summer memories were you thinking of?”

The old lady sighed. “One year there was a murder. Matt’s head…well, it wasn’t pretty. All of us found him. There was blood drifting through the water. That’s what we saw first. Then he was there, under water, eyes open, rocks scattered over him. We knew it wasn’t an accident. We stood on the bank and stared until Carrie started crying. Jimmy went to get help, then. We just sat down, not touching the water. We didn’t know what else to do.”

“Who killed him?”

“My brother.” She sighed again. “He was in love with Matt’s sweetheart, Em. Matt knew it and kept at him about it. I guess he pushed too hard. My brother was at home, doing his chores, when the police came. He went with them easily. Mama’s face was anger and sorrow and fear all wrapped up. They decided it was temporary insanity or some such. I didn’t see him again for years. Mama visited every week. When he came back he was very quiet.”

“You mean great uncle Jason? He was always so gentle, though!”

“Yes, Jason. The other boys just stayed out of his way. They used to look up to him, and I think when he came back and didn’t have that anymore it hurt him.”

“You stayed close.”

“I’m the only girl and he was always my protector. I never got over that.”

“What smell triggered this?”

“The scent of cotton blossoms. It always takes me back to blood in the creek.”

My challenge this week was “The scent of cotton blossoms.”