When the fog comes in off the water, it makes me think of where I grew up.

We got a lot of sun growing up. During the summer we’d walk to the park to swim practice. I’d take off my shoes and walk barefoot, dancing on the hot pavement to keep from burning my feet. Summer also brought warm rains and we’d go out and splash in the puddles, glorying in the water pounding down from the sky. We’d come back inside, shivering, and our mom would make us grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Everything grew there and the dirt was good earth, black and crumbly between my fingers.

The fog, though, was my favorite. We lived near a freeway, so there was always noise. On a foggy morning, I’d wake up to the noise muffled or even silent. I would lie in bed, holding myself still, willing the relative silence to continue. Eventually a car would drive by and I would get up to look at how closely the fog had encroached.

Some days it was just a little foggy, enough to mask the Mormon temple on the hill. As the sun burned off the fog, the temple would reflect the light first. For a long time I thought that temple was a spaceship, and I think, perhaps, that watching the sun catch the tallest spire when the rest of the valley was still swathed in grey may have had something to do with that idea.

Once in a while the fog would engulf my small world. I could barely see the houses across the street. The looming trees above them were mere hints, slightly darker shadows. The world was truly quiet then, or at least as quiet as I, a city girl, had ever experienced. The sky felt low, oppressive, overpowering, and I often wondered if the top story of the house would still be there if I went upstairs. I loved the muted world. I opened the window to feel the air, heavy with water, come in, and I could feel it flow down to my feet. If I left my hand outside long enough, beads would form, beautiful, but not reflecting anything because no light was bright enough to pierce the fog and pull colors from the droplets.

The rest of the house woke up eventually, the sun burned off the fog, and the sounds of normal life resumed. All that day, though, I would remember the heavy blanket that covered my world and muffled it for a little while.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Kameko Murakami challenged me with “When the fog comes in off the water, it makes me…” and I challenged littlewonder2 with “Winston Churchill versus the mummy. Use as many actual Winston Churchill quotes as possible in your piece.”


She was sitting at the bar looking tired and lost. She was also quite attractive, though he was sure she didn’t feel particularly interesting right then. He knew he could change that, at least. He was good at that. Everyone seemed to think of him as a harmless old widow, but a surprising number ended up in bed with him. He smiled, remembering a few of his more interesting companions.

The stool next to her was empty. He walked up to the bar a few seats away and began chatting with the bartender. He was here often enough that they conversed easily. The bartender was a young, handsome man who seemed amused by the considerably older man’s ability to coax women to bed. Both of them had standards; neither would sleep with a married woman or even one just involved with someone else. They weren’t willing to hurt anyone, and, in a world of rakes and rogues, that gave them a place to begin a friendship.

After a few minutes of light banter, the older gentleman looked over at the woman. “Hello, my dear. Would you mind if I sat next to you? I’m rather short on company tonight and you look like you could use someone to talk to.”

She blinked up at him, surprised and a little wary. Her expression softened as she took in his appearance. He was at least seventy years old, quite dapper, and he had a kind face with many laugh lines. He looked comforting and comfortable. She did not enjoy people hitting on her, but he seemed genuinely interested in her company, not just her cleavage. 

“Sure, why not.” She smiled.

“You should do that more often. It brings out the green of your eyes when they catch the light. May I buy you a drink, since I’m taking up your time?”

“Um, sure, I guess. I’ll have a gin and tonic.” She sounded slightly wary now, suddenly not as sure as she had been that his intentions were honorable.

Over the next two hours, she changed her opinion again. He really was a sweet old man. His wife had been dead for about ten years, but when he talked about her there was still joy and love in his voice and his face. They had been together for almost forty years, had three children, and had traveled extensively. She, in turn, told him about her breakup six months ago. She had not been happy, really, but she hadn’t expected him to cheat on her, either, and she was still recovering from that blow to her ego. She was a nurse and loved her work. Some days, like today, she was exhausted by the end of her shift. She worked hard and did well, but it was a difficult profession, especially since she did not have family or really close friends in the area. She had moved here five months ago, determined to start over and make a better life for herself, but it was not moving very quickly. She listened avidly to his travel stories and wished she could visit some of the exotic places he described. He did not ply her with drinks, but he paid whenever she asked for another. Near the end of the evening she switched to fruit juice so she could sober up and get home safely.

He walked her to the door of the bar and told her how much he had enjoyed the evening. She found herself thinking about how nice it would be to see him again.

Over the next two weeks, they saw each other three more times, always at the bar. After the third time, as their discussions carried on until closing, she impulsively asked if he would like to come over to continue talking. She did not have to work in the morning and the idea of going home to her empty apartment was suddenly too dreary to contemplate. He agreed and followed her home.

She made hot chocolate and put together a plate of crackers, cheese, and cookies. He appreciated everything and was, as always, quite courtly. She enjoyed his company, his sometimes wicked sense of humor, and his intelligence, and she felt more comfortable around him than around any man she could think of. She told him all of this when she was tipsy enough to blurt out her innermost thoughts, then blushed furiously and muster that he could just ignore that.

He gathered her into his arms and hugged her. “I take that as a high compliment, my dear. Please don’t be embarrassed.”

She leaned into him, smelling a whiff of pipe smoke and brandy. She snuggled closer as he began to rub her back. Non-sexually, she told herself, but it felt very good. It kept getting better, too. He took his time, making sure she was relaxed and happy. She looked up at him to ask if he was comfortable and found herself kissing him instead. This was not a bad thing, she decided, enjoying the kiss.

Events continued to unfold at a relaxed pace, both of them enjoying sensations and feeling relaxed and happy. At one point she stopped and said, “I’m sorry to ask this, but, well, can you get it up? I know older men sometimes have a problem.”

“Oh, no, my dear. I took my pill; I’m sure we can figure out how to get my rocket to stand up straight enough to give it a good polish.”

She laughed out loud and settled back into his arms.

They spent the night together.

The next morning, as courtly as ever, he made a simple breakfast, ate with her, and then took his leave. They agreed to meet at the bar the next week. They discussed the previous night, agreed that it was enjoyable for both parties, and agreed that neither was looking for a relationship. They parted as friends, both happier for the dalliance.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Brad MacDonald challenged me with “‘I polish the rockets and swallow those pills.’-Monster Magnet” and I challenged Allyson with “‘All our kids are screaming but the ghosts aren’t real’ U2, Get On your Boots”


The idea of the social contract is that people have an agreement to form a society and be governed by the laws of that society. Another piece of this, though, is that people within the society agree to certain things between themselves. One of these things is how to deal with areas in which we have little or no expertise. Lawyers, doctors, scientists, or any profession which requires a high degree of study and specific knowledge fall into this category. We give them money and they provide us with the benefit of their knowledge.

That’s how it is supposed to work, anyway.

There are people, despicable people, who decide that their job is not to fulfill their side of the social contract. They decide that their job is to get as much money as possible out of those poor schmoes stupid enough to come to them, generally more than those people can afford, just because those people are desperate.

This one took everything. We had a contract, but he decided that he would charge us for a whole lot of little things that weren’t specified. They weren’t specifically excluded, either, though, so when I went to another one of his profession to ask, I was told that it was legal. Not ethical, but legal.

We needed him, my wife and I. We needed his help and he cleaned us out, took our money to the bank, strung us along, and eventually said he couldn’t help us. He’d listed a bunch of possibilities to start with, but when it came down to actually doing something, he never did. I’d lay bets he laughed all the way to the bank. He took another pair of suckers, convinced us he was a good guy, that he knew what he was doing, and then he took our hope and smashed it.

My wife is dead now. She killed herself when the last little bit of hope was extinguished. We had a future, even with this last hope gone, but she could not live without some hope in that arena. Maybe she wasn’t imaginative enough. I don’t know. All I know is that this person left us with nothing to try again, no way of making it better. We were bankrupt by the time he was done with us and we had nothing to show for it. Our savings, our house, everything, was gone, all in pursuit of the false hope he was selling.

I’m writing this letter because it’s time to make sure that he doesn’t take anything from anyone else ever again. I’m sure he has hurt people before, and if I don’t do something, he’ll hurt others. Maybe this makes me despicable, too, but I have nothing to lose. He goes down, then I do, and it’s over. No one will miss me, I think. No family anymore, nothing left to hand out. The only thing I will leave is the lack of a person who takes advantage of people like us.

I used to be a sniper. I can be one again. This man, this awful creature, this poor excuse for a human being, took everything from me. I’m just returning the favor.

You should really check out Michael’s piece this week – he did an amazing job with the prompt I gave him.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bran macFeabhail challenged me with “Write about something despicable. ” and I challenged Michael with “You’ve been keeping a bottle of champagne for five years, waiting to celebrate something specific. Tell the story leading up to finally getting to drink the champagne.”

The dogs of war

“Which one of you did it? Which one of you started this war?”

The boys cowered in the corner, clearly terrified of the hulking man bellowing at them. None of them answered; one whimpered.

“Fess up, you lot, or it’s the dogs for you!”

A low growl came from the shadowed back of the room. One of the boys began babbling.

“It was all of us! I mean, we didn’t mean to. We didn’t want any of this to happen. We were just pushing buttons! Who would be stupid enough to leave a real missile silo unguarded? We thought it was a mock-up or something! It was just a place Hank found, a tunnel, and we went in to explore. You aren’t supposed to leave dangerous things out like this! We’re teenagers. We were just screwing around. We were doing what teenagers do, and we didn’t know it would hurt anybody. Honest.” He abruptly stopped talking and leaned his head on the wall. After a few moments, he added, “We didn’t know anyone would die.”

The large military man sighed. The dog came from the back of the room and sat next to him, a large, hulking beast, a perfect match for the man. The four boys, seeing the dog, sat up a little straighter. The reality was less terrifying than any imagined creature.

“You have loosed the dogs of war. You have killed off at least a third of the world’s population in one day, and another quarter, at least, will die from what comes afterwards. You have no idea of the number of lives you cut short because you were stupid children who wanted to push buttons. If I had my choice, I would feed you to my dog, but I doubt that would be accepted any more readily than your actions. That many people dead is a statistic. If I kill you four, however much you deserve it, people will hate me. You are four faces, four young, stupid, faces, on which their hopes and dreams can be pinned.” He sighed again. “You are going to spend the rest of your lives atoning for this mess. It was a stupid act that changed the world, and you are going to do your damnedest to make it better.”

The boys just stared at him, wide-eyed.

“Here’s the deal. I will not tell anyone what you did. At this point, they’re blaming anyone and everyone in power. No one will know it was you. Trust me on this; you never want them to know. Everyone lost someone dear to them. Most people lost more than one. If they knew, they would tear you limb from limb, and I am not exaggerating. Do you understand?”

The boys nodded in unison. The one who had been babbling said, quietly, “Yes, sir.”

That was the end, and the beginning.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Grace O’Malley challenged me with “Fess up, you lot–or it’s the dogs for you!” and I challenged Mediocre Wayne with “Flying in the dark, completely comfortable.”

On writing

“I believe that writers run out of material, I really do.” – Brian Wilson

I don’t believe that writers run out of material, or at least not exactly. I will rebut this a little with a quote from one of my favorite authors:

“If you only write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count and those words aren’t going to wait for whether you’re inspired or not. So, you have to write when you’re not inspired and you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you…..when people come to me and they say I want to be a writer, what should I do, I say you have to write. Sometimes they say, well I’m already doing that what else should I do, and I say you have to finish things because that’s where you learn from. You learn by finishing things.” – Neil Gaiman

There are days that I don’t want to write. Since Katja was born, there have been more days that I don’t want to write than days I do. There are a myriad of things to write about if I just look around a little, but I am tired. At the moment, it is 6:30 in the morning. I have been up since 4:45, fed Katja and gotten her back to sleep, gone for a 1.5 mile run in 24 degree weather (one of my toes went numb!), and done dishes. All of those are things that I can write about. Katja’s contented snuggling when she finished her bottle, the streetlights making the frosty grass sparkle, coming home to a warm house, the satisfaction of creating order from chaos: each of these could be the beginning of something interesting, be it short or long. Each could provide a snippet of a novel, a scene of contentment or thoughtfulness, or  a description of fighting for something, even something as small as wanting to be the best person possible for those you love.

I think that writers suffer from a couple of problems when they are focused on trying to write. One is that they get so wrapped up in their writing that they forget to lift up their heads once in a while and look at the world. When I get particularly stymied, sometimes I will go someplace very busy. I will sit on a bench and watch people. I see how they interact with each other and wonder why. I look at how they dress, how they move, how they present themselves to the world. I think about what I might have in common with them and what I might not, what their day might be like, and why they react that way. I see kindness and cruelty, laughter and pain, and the stories start running in my head again. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. A brightly woven scarf on an otherwise very mousy person, for instance, or a small act of kindness, unexpected.

The other problem I see is fear. We write for an audience, whether or not that is our primary goal. I write here because I need to sort out the world, but I know there are a few people who read it. I choose my words carefully (or I try to, at least) and I am very aware that I have an audience, even though it is small. That sometimes chokes my words. I sit down to write and I start thinking too much about what it might sound like to someone else. Once I’m thinking about that, it is almost impossible for me to write anything. I think it sounds stupid or inane or that no one will get past the first paragraph without giving up in disgust.

I had an English teacher who had us write a page in five minutes at the beginning of every class. We didn’t have to write anything in particular; if all we wrote was one word or one sentence, that was fine. We just had to write. As we got better, as the year progressed, she began giving us topics, but we still got a good grade on the exercise if we filled a page. It seemed somewhat silly at the time, but it taught me that sometimes I just need to start writing, even if I don’t feel like there is anything to write about.

I have been singing all my life. I am not amazing, but I’m not bad. I enjoy singing. I don’t much like performing, though, for the same reason that writing is sometimes difficult. I do not like feeling judged. I doubt that anyone really does. There is a song that helps me a little, though, that I first heard on Sesame Street when I was fairly young and have loved ever since. It’s called Sing (Sing a Song) and it is, as far as I can tell, originally by the Carpenters.

Here are the lyrics that make it easier to keep singing and writing and trying:

Sing, sing a song,
Make it simple, to last your whole life long
Don’t matter if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear,
Sing, sing a song.

It doesn’t matter if these words are never read or if my music is never heard. I still need to write and I still need to sing. Both of these make my life fuller and more interesting, make me happier, make me pay more attention to the world.

I believe that writers only run out of things to write about if they allow themselves to stop paying attention to what is going on around them or allow themselves to be controlled by fear. If you want to write, write. If you don’t feel inspired, look out the window, take a walk, take a break, and then sit down and write anyway. It won’t always be easy; it often isn’t. Sometimes, though, the pieces you like least while you are writing them, those pieces that come from a complete lack of inspiration, can turn out to be quite good when you look at them again.

Just sit down and write. Put words on paper or on a screen. Even if it’s just one word, over and over, it may develop into something more.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with “”I believe that writers run out of material, I really do.” -Brian Wilson” and I challenged Tara Roberts with “”I speak for the dead.” Don’t go the Orson Scott Card route, please. Make it scientific rather than psychological.”

A purple love story

She sat in front of the simple mirror, running the boar-bristle brush through her ebon hair. She smiled as she thought fondly of her handsome fiancé for whom she waited with trembling excitement. Their love was deeper than the deepest ocean and, according to their families, they fit together like hand and glove. They had fallen in love at first sight, and today would be another full day spent together, a joyous meeting of the minds. Tomorrow they would be married, and her heart yearned for him.

The door to her private bower was flung open with great force as he stumbled over the miniscule threshold. “My love!” he exclaimed passionately as he landed on his well-formed knees. “At last we shall have time to truly know the bliss of each others’ company!”

She noticed that his clothes were exceptionally sturdy, but even so there were small patches and rents just as her patient handmaidens were forever repairing in her appealing garments. She felt a frisson of excitement at this evidence of their similarity.

She stood and extended a hand to help him up, her delicate sleeve sweeping the small table clear of all of the bottles and colorful jars. She had learned early to make sure to put caps back on bottles, so the mess was minor. In any case, she had more important things to consider. “Ah, darling! How I have desperately awaited your arrival! We have such pleasure to look forward to for the rest of our blessed lives.”

Their fingers met–hers lovely and delicate, his rough and strong–and they both sighed at the electric magnetism that coursed through their bodies. He was suddenly hungry for her, and she was throbbing in places she had thought herself too innocent to know about.

She blushed and pulled away, but he pulled her to his manly chest and breathed in her intoxicating scent. She pushed futilely against his iron muscles. “We must not!” she whispered. “Not until tomorrow!” He reluctantly released his powerful hold, his fingers brushing her alabaster cheek. “I suppose you are right,” he said.

They proceeded to the private nook in which the servants had set up an intimate repast. He pulled her chair out with a flourish that ended with the chair in pieces against a wall, and a servant quickly brought another. She sat down, flustered by his might. He settled across the small table from her. She picked up a succulent grape and reached across to place it into his inviting mouth. Her other arm knocked over the sturdy water pitcher. Both ignored the servant who put the replacement carafe on another table just out of reach.

He bit the grape gently and pulled it out of her fingers, then leaned forward to kiss the delightful extremities. The garnet wine next to his well-turned elbow spilled in a flood over her ivory dress. She stood up quickly, tripped over her chair, and managed to sprawl in a way that left her looking radiantly mussed. A single, jewel-like tear crept down her fair skin.

“Are you all right?” he gasped.

“I believe my leg is broken,” she sobbed daintily.

He rushed to pick her up, forgetting, in his haste to be dashing and romantic, that tripping over her broken leg would probably not help matters any. He came down on the table with a resounding crash, and when he stood, white-faced, his arm was at a very unnatural angle.

Servants came rushing in to help, but he manfully waved them away, the rippling bicep on his unbroken arm making her gasp a little with desire despite her pain.

“I shall take her to the car!” he cried.

The servants looked very worried, but acquiesced, as they must.

He gently picked her up, feeling her faint as he put her over his muscular shoulder. “You’ll be fine, beloved.” His gallant voice was ground between his teeth, but he was determined to take care of her as he had promised her family he would.

Unfortunately, the path to the car included stairs.

As the lovers lay next to each other in pristine white traction, only their fingers touching, they both felt the depth of their love through that subtle caress. They knew that once they were both healed, they would have the wedding of their dreams and ride off into the sunset, forever for eternity.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Major Bedhead challenged me with “Give me your purplest prose, your heaving-est bosoms, your ebony-est hair, your single-est tear slipping down your alabaster-est cheek, your manliest man, your most delicate-est of maidens. Unleash your inner romance novelist.” and I challenged Fran with “Globe lilies and glide paths: include them in your piece.”

Famous does not equal right

Unfortunately, this guy I grew up with is now famous. He’s a star in the music world. I wish I had been nicer. Everyone who knew both of us knows that he holds a grudge and that I’m the subject. He’s still angry. He makes it very clear in his latest video. I have to hear what’s in his head.

He’s an ass.

I was the beautiful one. Not just in high school, but elementary school, too. I was the one that all the boys fell in love with. I was popular, the center of attention, a cheerleader, and not a very nice person. I’m not very nice now, either, but I am seeing a little more of what other people see. If nothing else, I will try to be more careful just so this doesn’t happen again.

He was the geek, the nerd, the guy no one wanted to be seen with. He was the person you went to if you needed help with your homework, but you never actually said hello to him in the hallway. We called him Urkel, if that makes it easier to imagine. He had a huge crush on me, and I ignored him. Every time he tried to do something nice, I would laugh at him. Sometimes I would even get other people to laugh, too. I mean, seriously. Why did he think I would pay attention to someone like him?

In the video he has me sweeping stairs at the end. That’s not true. I have a perfectly good job. I’m a secretary for a really big company. I’m good at my job, too, and I present a pretty face to the public, which always helps. People come in really angry about something, but they are always nice to me.  I might not be very smart, but I am not as low as he shows me. He’s just being mean.

I’m trying to be nicer to those people, the unattractive ones. I try to at least pretend to listen to them, and I am getting better at turning down weird looking guys more gently. I don’t laugh at them anymore. I’m engaged to a great guy who tells me I’m beautiful every single day. He has a lot of money, too, so I might not have to work a lot longer. I am smart enough to get a good lawyer for a prenuptial agreement, though. I’m not going to be dumped for someone younger and prettier when he gets tired of me.

Famous guy I grew up with? Fuck you, too. I’ll bet you aren’t nice to people now that you don’t have to be.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, R.L.W. challenged me with “Watch the music video for Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” – Use the song as inspiration or dress your protagonist in an outfit from the video.” and I challenged Cheney with “Wayland the Smith in the modern world. What would he be like here and now?”


“Your father traveled a lot.” She smiled. “In some ways, though, it seemed like he was here. He sent postcards and letters from everywhere he ended up, at least once a day, sometimes more. He was very involved even when he was across the country. Open a box!”

He pulled the top box from the pile and took off the lid. Four stacks of postcards were arranged to fit neatly. He picked up a small stack and flipped through them.

“Welcome to Sunny California!” proclaimed the first over a picture of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge. The other side was a chatty, cheerful note about tourists wearing shorts and obviously just-purchased sweaters. There was also a promise of chocolate, and he had a vivid memory of the dark, slightly bitter taste of the small pieces, carefully doled out to make them last.

A picture of a desert with mesas on the horizon, with a description of the heat in Phoenix making the roads a little bit soft, was next. “I went for a walk before the sun came up and the ground was still hot from yesterday!”

The next, a picture of pouring rain seen through the windshield of a car, had a different tone. “It’s been a long couple of weeks. I miss you both so much. I’ll be home soon after you get this and they’ve promised at least a month with no travel. We can catch up and I’ll fix everything around the house. I can tuck Nate in every night, too.”

He showed that one to his mother, and she teared up and sniffed, then smiled. “We were lucky that time. He didn’t have to ship out for six months. It was so nice to have that much time with him.” Her smile turned to a grin. “Well, except for his socks left all over the house. Small price to pay, though.”

He reached back in and picked one at random. A picture of Hawaii from the air, with “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful” across the top. The back read, “Hi, darling. I can send this because I know you’ll laugh. You are the best part of my life, and I can imagine your smile as you read this.”

He looked up and saw that his mother had gone back to sleep. He opened another box and settled in. When she woke up, they’d go through more memories. She was in her last few days, and he wanted her to be as happy as possible. For all the times his father had been gone, he did make her happy.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with “”The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.”” and I challenged R.L.W. with “”We are, all of us, in the gutter…but some of us are looking at stars.” – Wil Wheaton”


“Hey, kid. Sonora just broke a toe. You’re up tomorrow. Make sure you’re ready.”

Just a few words and her life was going to change drastically. She’d be going from a company dancer to a principal dancer because of a broken toe.

She called her family. “You have to come out. I know it’s a two hour drive, but I can comp your tickets, and I’m playing the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is a huge step up for me. I’ve been a snowflake for years, been the backup for Sugar Plum for the last two years, and this is my big break. I need to know you’ll be there.” She paused, listening, and then said “Oh, great! I can’t wait to see you!”

Rehearsal time. She found her partner and they started to work. They’d practiced it before, of course, but there was a new intensity now that he knew he’d be on stage with her tomorrow. They danced well together, though, and after a few run-throughs they decided that it would be fine. She checked in with costuming, glad that she was the same size as Sonora. They had her try on the costume to make sure. It fit perfectly.

She went out to the quiet, empty stage. The music played in her head as she practiced her solo parts, dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy, spinning across the floor. Tomorrow she would be in full makeup, dancing with the whole company and the audience watching, but for the moment it was her time to feel the music and make sure there wasn’t a stumble or missed step.

She went home to her small apartment, ate a little, took a hot shower, and went to sleep, deeply happy at the thought of the next day’s stress.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Sherree challenged me with “Life as you know it, will change tomorrow (and you’re not getting married).” and I challenged Tobie with “Loki and Eris”